Monday, July 21, 2008

Lets Enjoy


Rating : 5/10
Running Time : 107 Minutes
Release Date : Oct ‘04
Directors & Writers : Siddharth Anand Kumar & Ankur Tewari ; Music : Midival Punditz
Starring : Aashish Choudhary, Roshni Chopra, Arzoo Govrikar, Dhruv Singh, Shiv Pandit, Yamini Namjoshi, Dhruv Jagasia, Jaspreet Uppal, Sahil Gupta, Kabir Singh, Piyali Roy

Timepass film, showing what are the things on minds of the young today (sex), what are the issues they face (mostly with the opposite sex), what do they do (party) etc

Its actually a few sub-plots and some different interesting characters who get together for a huge party in a Delhi farmhouse. The owner of the farmhouse, Armaan, is back from Canada and one of the persons he wants to get in touch with is Shreya, his ex, who he’s not stayed in touch with in the 4 years he was in Canada. We have Shreya and her couple of friends – one of whom is a ‘fast’ girl and another who’s on the slower side. We have Raghu and a very cute Reena, who are celebrating their 5th anniversary at the farmhouse and Reena has decided unilaterally that tonight is the night catching Raghu a bit unprepared. We have a group of three friends, Happy, Bunny and Sodhi, who lose their way a bit on the way to the farmhouse and end up trusting a Mr Bharat Bhushan a bit too much. We have a gay male designer (are there any other kinds ?) and his good looking leggy female entourage. We have a guitarist named Karan. And most endearing of all, we have a very well played local rustic lad, Rajinder, who wants to make it big in the world of modeling and see’s the party as his big chance. Add a couple of smoked out DJ’s, lots of music, a nice pool, a big, showery dance floor and you have all the ingredients for a big party. And, lets not forget a frog named Poppat…

Issues are the shallowness (since there are so many characters, we don’t really get under the skin of anyone), the dialogue being a bit forced / unnatural, trying to be too cool and youthful and the lack of a spark / a big event. It’s a collection of small things and events – nothing big happens, nothing which truly enthralls you or captivates you.

Its interesting as a premise, reasonably interesting to watch but when it ends you wonder what it was all about – it needed something stronger as a central thread to bind it together. Not bad, just about ok…

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kismat Konnection


Rating : 4/10
Running Time : 155 Minutes
Release Date : 18th July ‘08
Director : Aziz Misra ; Writer : Sanjay Chel / Rahila Mirza ; Music : Pritam
Starring : Shahid Kapoor, Vidya Balan, Om Puri, Vishal Malhotra


Its possibly over-intellectualization, but I don’t like the central message / theme of the movie. That someone or something, can really change your fate and make things start to go well. In a nation obsessed with astrology, numerology and riddled with superstition, I think the last thing needed is reinforcement.

There are other flaws as well leading to a low rating – it has too many slow moments, too many songs, too many PJ’s. And overall its biggest issue is predictability…you can predict every twist, every turn in the film with eyes closed, including the not so surprise twist in the end. It’s a classic boy meet girl story, with its inevitable downs, then becoming up and then down again, before the final crescendo.

There is a blatant attempt to cash in Shahid, who does well / ok, holds his own. But several songs, shirtless moments etc are testament to an attempt to take advantage of his Jab We Met popularity. Vidya Balan tries to be girl next door and does ok at that, however, she fails miserably as soon as she tries to look hot (as in the end-credits song, for example).

Its light though, Shahid and Vishal Malhotra have some good moments, there is also a nice angle about how those good in studies don’t necessarily turn out to be that good in real life and the icing on the cake is Himani Shivpuri’s ‘watch your tone’ dialogue, used twice with good effect…

Go only if you really like either of the lead pair or have absolutely nothing to do. Actually scratch the latter part of that thought.

Dark Knight



Rating : 6/10
Running Time : 152 Minutes
Release Date : 18th July ‘08
Director & Co-Writer : Christopher Nolan; Writer : Jonathan Nolan;
Starring : Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman


Its complicated, too many sub-plots, too long with ‘interval’ coming when you’re actually expecting it to end but all that is compensated for by some funny one-liners (mostly by the Joker), good acting overall, especially by Christian Bale who’s made the part his own and finally some sensational stunts…two in particular were simply awe-inspiring !

The plot is the biggest let-down. Batman is after the mob, for a kind of final clean-up and somehow the Joker gets involved to try and finish Batman / save their money etc. I wish they had kept it that simple but then there is a young, upcoming D.A. who’s trying to clean up the mob through the legal channels, there’s Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was previously with Batman and is now with the D.A, there’s the public who is now split between supporting Batman and being against him for using ‘illegal’ methods to nab the criminals, there’s a Chinese mafia/ lawyer guy who’s in charge of the mob’s books and keeps their money. And there is another guy who thinks he’s discovered the identity of Batman. With inspiration from Chandler Bing, could it be more complicated ?

The Joker is played well by Heath Ledger – not as over the top as Jack Nicholson’s number a few years ago but with the right shade of madness…Maggie is good in a very small side-part but seriously lacking in sex-appeal. After the likes of Kim Basinger, Alicia Silverstone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman or even Katie Holmes in the previous episodes, she is (not literally but otherwise),a distinct light-weight.

The stunts are what really saves it though – there were two or three (can’t reveal more for fear of spoiling it for to-be watchers) which had me nodding my head in admiration and high-fiving with my son. And Christian Bale is now Batman…cant think of anyone else for this part.

Worth a watch, once, if cool stunts and things like the Batmobile or the bike above turn you on.

Contract



Rating : 2/10
Running Time : 122 Minutes
Release Date : 18th July ‘08
Director : Ram Gopal Varma ; Writer : Prashant Pandey ; Music : Amar Mohile, Sanaa, Bapi-Tutul
Starring : Adhvik Mahajan, Sakshi Gulati, Zakir Hussain, Sumeet Nijhavan, Upendra Limaye


I would like to put out a contract against Ram Gopal Varma’s ego. I have an issue with a person who treats the art of cinema so disdainfully, calls his film company a ‘factory’ and makes 3-4 films in a year.

Contract showcases nothing new – either in terms of story or cinematic treatment and is further let down by clich├ęd dialogue, wooden performances and an unrealistic ending that leaves itself open to the horrifying prospect of a sequel. The story, that of an ex-army guy, who’s family is killed in a mass bombing and now seeks revenge by becoming a terrorist, is clearly old hat. His rise up the ranks of the underworld / terrorists is almost too easy – maybe that’s how it happens in real life, I cant claim to know any better – but it just seems too simplistic. And we’re also exposed to gore, deaths etc to make it worse.

Adhvik is ok – slightly wooden but has potential in terms of physique and looks. Sakshi Gulati is an improvement vs Ramu’s previous muse (Nisha Kothari) but then so would most people on the planet be, so that’s not saying much. Maybe with the right role, she could be better. The others seem to be sleepwalking through a performance which doesn’t demand too much in terms of emoting or dialogue delivery. And we are further subjected to really weird camera angles and the gritty, yellowish, dark photography that is de rigueur in all of RGV’s films.

Couldn’t wait for it to end. Go on, RGV, I dare you to make a sequel to this one ! I think after your recent disasters, even you will struggle to find backers in the future.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hancock


Rating : 6/10
Running Time : 92 Minutes
Release Date :11th July ’08 (India)
Director : Peter Berg ; Writer : Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan
Starring : Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Jae Head

Hancock is the world’s first scruffy superhero who doesn’t give a damn. All superheroes so far have always been smooth, clean-shaven (not a moustache or even long sidebars between them), PR savvy, politically correct, with secret identities, uniforms, fans, adoring public, and a bevy of beautiful women after them.

Hancock thinks nothing of pinching a woman’s butt, clearing away a line of kids to get an ice cream, or rescuing a whale by simply tossing it out into the sea (and sinking a sailboat in the process) or even drinking all day. He doesn’t have a secret identity or uniform or any fans (in fact the opposite) or beautiful women after him. Right from his first rescue mission – when he breaks the road when he takes off, then hits & breaks a freeway sign which in turn hits and damages several police cars chasing the baddies and then how he tackles the baddies by beating their car against several buildings and damaging property worth $9mn, you know you’re in for something different.

And then there is a twist in the middle that was brilliant, I wasn’t able to spot that coming (and neither was Hancock), which made things more interesting briefly. But I feel the director / writer wasn’t quite able to decide what to do / how to end it and the movie kind of petered away in the end. Also, somethings weren’t explained fully – didn’t make sense. I like clarity of rules ie Superman is man of steel except around kryptonite or Sandman is very strong except when wet etc. Here, this part was not so clear.


But the unkempt, grungy, unsmiling yet wise-cracking Will Smith, the delectable Charlize Theron (looks gorgeous even while playing a normal housewife) and some lovely situations (the crowd reaction after he rescues a PR agent, for example) ensure you have a lot of laughs and enjoy the film. It was interesting to watch a superhero movie that breaks all the rules. And just for that, its worth a watch…

PS : I also liked the way they adapted the international movie poster for India by including the Taj...more power to India !!

Friday, July 11, 2008

KungFu Panda


Rating : 6/10
Running Time : 92 Minutes
Release Date : 4th July ‘08
Director & Writer : Mark Osborne & John Stevenson ; Writers : Jonathan Aibel & Glen Berger ; Music : John Powell, Hans Zimmer
Voices of : Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan


It made me laugh but is not a classic. There is a very good take-off on all the good old kung-fu movies, with moves like ‘the Wuxi finger hold’ (or something like that), places like ‘Pool of Sacred Tears’ and ‘The Sacred Peach Tree of Heavenly Wisdom’, fighters like the tigress, crane, monkey etc using exotic styles like tiger claw, white crane and monkey kung fu. The animation is exquisite, as with all DreamWorks films, with really lovely touches like petals flying, the grass rustling, the ripples in water etc. And there is lots of fun, as we watch a huge, overweight, ungainly, wise-cracking paunchy panda demonstrate his skills (or the lack of them) at kung fu.

However, I feel this is a movie which I would be able to watch only once or maximum another time, while I can (& I do) see the animated classics, several times. There are two things which make the difference to me – one is the dialogue – movies like Ice Age had brilliant dialogue, with several ‘layers’ – some jokes which kids got and some others which were meant for adults. This one was pretty average as far as the dialogue was concerned, nothing brilliant and missed the layering almost completely. The second is the lack of multiple, endearing and characters – whether it was Finding Nemo or Jungle Book, both had several beautifully sketched, distinct, whimsical personalities (the amnesiac fish, Doreen, the turtle or Bruce, the vegetarian shark from the former & Kaa, Colonel Haathi, King Louis or the evergreen Bagheera and Baloo from Jungle Book). In KungFu Panda, too much time is spent on the Panda, too little in making us get to know the other characters and their idiosyncracies.

Kids, though, loved the movie. I enjoyed it too, despite all the intellectualisation above. And its for sure worth the price of a ticket.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Caramel


Rating : 6/10
Running Time : 95 Minutes
Release Date : 9th August 2007 (Lebanon) / 4th July ‘08 (India)
Director : Nadine Labaki
Starring : Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Elmasri, Joanna Moukarzel


This is a good example of a slice of life film. Nothing really big ever seems to happen but it showcases what everyday life can be. Full of little details, uneventful, yet busy, filled with small victories and cluttered with frequent disappointments.

The film revolves around a women’s beauty salon – where women go through through understandable rituals like hair cuts and other more mysterious ones like waxing, threading, colouring etc. It follows the lives of the three women who work there (Rima, Nisrine and Layale) and the people they come in contact with including one of their permanent clients, Jamale, an actress who frequently goes for auditions, a seamstress who does their aprons (Aunty Rosa), a traffic cop who has a crush on Layale.

The movie is filled with memorable moments like the Nisrine and her fiancee’s altercation with the police, Auntie Rosa and her prince Charles, Lili’s make-believe world where the neighbours are waiting for dinner, the traffic fines are letters from her lover and her plane is always ready to take-off, Layale’s secret lover who is a married man and her trials and tribulations with him, Nisrin’s mothers coy bees-and-flowers talk with her daughter prior to her wedding.

I enjoyed the pace of the film. Its never too slow to grip you yet is leisurely enough to think about life – the one shown on screen and our own. I enjoyed thinking of different incidents and comparing them to life in India – thinking at times ‘this could never happen here’ or ‘that’s just like us’. For example, the altercation with the policeman could very easily have happened in India. But the politeness with which the cop spoke throughout the incident, could never have happened here. It’s the kind of film which doesn’t bother to tie-up all the ends yet when it finishes you suddenly realize you’ve learnt about another culture. Likeable, yet not every ones cup of tea.

Original name : Sukkar Banat, A Lebanese film, released in India as part of NDTV's Lumiere series

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Jaane Tu


Rating : 9/10
Running Time : 155 Minutes
Release Date : 4th July ‘08
Director & Writer : Abbas Tyrewala ; Music : AR Rahman
Starring :
The Gang : Imran Khan, Genelia D’Souza, Karan Makhija, Sugandha Garg, Nirav Mehta, Alishka Varde
The Fiancee’s : Manjari Phadnis, Ayaz Khan
The parents : Ratna Pathak Shah, Naseeruddin Shah, Jayant Kriplani, Anuradha Patel, Kitu Gidwani, Rajat Kapoor
Others : Sohail and Arbaaz Khan, Pratiek Babbar, Paresh Rawal


Don’t read this review, don’t think too much…just pick up the phone and book your tickets for the movie…Done that ? Now proceed with my thoughts on this beautiful cinematic experience that makes you feel young again.

Right from the time the ‘watercolour’ treated opening credits flash on the screen, you see some young kids singing the old Hindi song ‘Jaane Tu…ya Janne na’ at the top of their voices in a car, you know you’re in for something different. Its youthful, exuberant, irreverent and cool…and all this without trying too hard. In short its zara hatke…but without seeming to be trying to be….

The story is not important here…its basically about two inseparable friends (Imran and Genelia) and how their relationship progresses (or not) and how it impacts those around them (their close friends, parents etc). What is important is how its been treated, how the situations simply flow, how the characters just seem to be doing what they do, however crazy, just naturally. It reminds me of Friends, with each person in the film having a very sharply defined character and the interaction between them seeming the most normal thing to do…even if someone appears in the film for 5 minutes, you know what they are about, how they would behave…whether its Genelia’s parents (Jayant Kriplani & Anuradha Patel), Imran’s (Ratna Pathak Shah and the delightfully dead Naseeruddin Shah) or even Inspector Waghmare (the delightfully alive Paresh Rawal).

The funeral in the beginning, the videocam introduction of the friends, the 2 characters on the horses (Arbaaz and Sohail Khan), the three people who meet towards the end in jail and all have nicknames from Jungle Book, the man at the end with the Godot placard…the movie abounds with lovely touches. However, none as brilliant as the interaction between the erstwhile Naseeruddin Shah’s painting and Ratna Pathak Shah and the whole Ranjhaur ke Rathore thing. That was pure genius, simply outstanding. Everyone acts very well – fits in perfectly – it would be unfair to single out the lead pair (who rock !) or anyone else for special mentions. The songs are lovely, flow smoothly into the film (I really loved Kabhi Kabhi Aditi and Pappu Can’t Dance).There are no item numbers (no skimpily clad blonde bombshells shaking legs and/or other body parts), there is no brand endorsement in the film (as compared to LoveStory2050, the comparison can't be more stark on both these counts). I thought based on the current bollywood trends you couldn’t have a successful movie without these two ? Just another example of ‘zara hatke’ thinking from the director / producers.


I’ve deducted one point for the really ‘over the top’ ending – just the last few frames – it’s the only time in the movie when I could say ‘that’s not possible in real life’. But maybe it is and I’m just carping…I do know that I almost dread going for the next film, as I know after this its going to be such a letdown and Bollywood needed such a film in 2008

And I also do know that I haven’t laughed this much in a very long time – the first half truly delights you ! I want the DVD. I want to watch it again. I want a sequel. And all of this tomorrow !

Friday, July 04, 2008

Love Story 2050


Rating : 3/10
Running Time : > 180 Minutes (definitely feels like an eternity)
Release Date : 4th July‘08
Director & Story : Harry Baweja ; Music : Anu Malik
Starring : Harman Baweja, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani


I think I know what happened here. The Baweja’s spent so much money on the Australian locales and special effects / animation on the 2050 part that they ran out of money and employed themselves as the story / screenplay writers and also forgot to employ an editor. The result is a movie reeking with inane, hammy dialogue (the next time Harman said 'I dont need luck, I have love' in that goofy way of his, I swear the entire audience would've lynched him) , a story crammed with unnecessary sub-plots and silly twists and turns. And I honestly think they put every scene they shot up on the screen. They forgot the editor or his scissors…

He-man type, xtreme sport loving Harman falls for a Mills & Boon type, pink colour loving, Priyanka who writes a diary, scribbles hearts, and names toys ‘Winkydinks'. Harman woo’s her by breakdancing and doing all the silly things that work only in movies and never in real life. He also immediately transforms from an alpha male character into a mushy, soppy mass of goo, who breaks into tears at the drop of a handkerchief. Enter an uncle, a cliched mad scientist type, who has a time machine, some more very silly twists and turns, and we’re off for Mumbai 2050.

There are three glaring examples of sub-plots which didn’t need to be there at all
The two kids : Priyanka's siblings. Firstly I know of no kids like them, they’re irritating, try to be cute, are all senti-mushy-yucky and mouth sentences no self-respecting kids would. Secondly, there’s not one reason why they had to exist on-screen.
Harman Baweja’s Dad : again, the whole father-son relationship thing was unnecessary. The story wouldn’t have changed one iota, if Harman had simply remarked ‘mera koi nahin hai’ and we would’ve saved fifteen minutes of screen time
The whole Hoshi angle : an unnecessary caricature of a villain they introduced in the 2050 part of the film.

Come to think of it, they could’ve just shown Harman and Priyanka to be dating already, spared us the whole courtship thing and gone ahead directly with the 2050 part. So whats good about the film ? The locales in Australia are very nice, well-chosen and for a change its not about Sydney, the opera house and Sydney harbour but something more interesting. Priyanka is all pouty, but looks decent, even in red hair. And the futuristic animation / special effects are good. Not great, but good and with a couple of nice touches (the Kantabai hologram and the paan-making robot were interesting thoughts).

Harman can dance, look good but is overly made-up (the lip gloss is too prominent) and is very bad at dialogue delivery. His character, during courtship, is also shown doing a couple of things which are very silly (getting up while a rollercoaster is moving and stealing a toy) and kids may take up on that. And eets long, this movie, very painful and eets very, very long (some 30-40 people left midway into the second half, after having shelled out Rs200 for the preview).

I went more for the 2050 part but unfortunately it’s the Love Story part that dominates – they don’t let go even in the 2050 part and spoil that too. When I first heard the toy name ‘winkydinks’, my instinct was to get up and run. I didn’t obey it and sat through. Big mistake. Big. Huge !