Thursday, April 22, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 26th March, 2010
Time : 98 minutes
Directors & Co-Writers : Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders; Writers : William Davies & Cressinda Cowell (based on her novel); Music : John Powell
Starring : (Voices) Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrerra, Christopher

There can be few whackier films than this one. The opening statement from the title character, Hiccup, sets up the story…

“This is Berk. It's twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It's located solidly on the Meridian of Misery. My village. In a word? Sturdy, and it's been here for seven generations, but every single building is new. We have fishing, hunting, and a charming view of the sunset. The only problems are the pests. You see, most places have mice or mosquitoes. We have... dragons”

Hiccup is the little pipsqueak son of the huge red bearded Viking leader, Stoick. He is the bane of the village, very un-viking in his looks and demeanour, shunned by elders and his own age group kids. He dreams of slaying a dragon but is clear that the axe / sword and other Viking weapons of choice wont do. He builds a contraption and attempts to shoot one down. And then life is never the same again.

The dialogue and sense of humour is excellent throughout. For example, their teacher, Gobber’s, unconventional method of teaching his young pupils on how to slay dragons ‘on the job’ leads to one comic situation after another. Hiccup’s crush on Astrid, another pupil, also has far-reaching consequences. The way Hiccup is always run down by everyone also makes for funny moments. Sample this…

Gobber: If you ever want to get out there to fight dragons... You need to stop all... this.
Hiccup: But... you just pointed to all of me.
Gobber: Yes... That's it... Stop being all of you!

The animation is outstanding, great stuff from Dreamworks, colourful, bright, vibrant and in parts, awe-inspiring. And each of the characters is beautifully built, understandable and interesting in their own right. The great thing on top is that there are subtle messages throughout the film on how to bring up kids, what goes on in their heads etc, which is far more preferable vs being beaten on the head with messages akin to a sledgehammer as done in most Hindi films (incl the most recent travesty named Paathshaala).

I think I’ll close with the self-mocking way Hiccup talks about how his Dad treats him…
Hiccup: And when he does, its always with this disappointed scowl, like someone skimmed on the meat in his sandwich.
[Imitating his dad with a Scottish accent]
Hiccup: "Excuse me, barmaid! I'm afraid you brought me the wrong offspring! I ordered an extra-large boy with beefy arms, extra guts and glory on the side. This here, this is a talking fish-bone!"


Rating : 2/10
Release Date : 16th April, 2010
Time : 135 minutes
Director : Milind Ukey; Writer : Ahmed Khan; Music : Hanif Sheikh
Starring : Shahid Kapoor, Ayesha Takia, Nana Patekar, Saurabh Shukla, Sushant Singh

Sitting on a slab of ice for 30 minutes or a hot metal pipe for 15 or a bed of nails for 5 minutes. All are roughly equally painful as watching Paathshaala. Maybe that was their intent, their way of teaching us Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

The film is ostensibly about the commercialisation of the education system. So we have a venerable principal (Nana Patekar) who is grumpy, instils fear in teachers and students alike. We have very wooden characters in the form of teachers / students. And we have a new, sickly sweet teacher (Shahid) who charms one and all. And then for reasons unknown to them, Nana gives in to crass commercialism, starts overcharging parents, making the students undergo humiliation after humiliation, all in the name of making more money. What is happening ? How will the situation resolve itself ?

The lack of intelligence demonstrated by the makers in terms of putting together a coherent script / story makes it impossible for any good to come out of this effort. What they show is so far removed from reality, that you keep sinking lower and lower in your seat. Even the acting is bad, Shahid sporting basically Look A and Look B, as depicted in the photographs in this review. Since none of the actions of any of the characters makes sense, even seasoned actors like Saurabh Shukla, Sushant Singh look hammy.

I actually saw this film in a youth lounge. Which is what the afternoon screening in the multiplex seemed to have become, as kids with high disposable incomes chose this as the best way to beat the summer. About 20% disappeared midway, I guess preferring the heat to the film. And the rest of us, I guess, just weren’t brave enough !

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Prince : Its Showtime

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 9th April, 2010
Time : 137 minutes
Director : Kookie V Gulati; Writer : Shiraz Ahmed; Music : Sachin Gupta
Starring : Vivek Oberoi, Nandana Sen, Aruna Shields, Neeru Singh, Isaiah, Dalip Tahil, Sanjay Kapoor, Mayur Puri

I’ve seen mosquito nets with fewer holes than the script here. The characters are insipid, including a heroine with a severe lip synch problem, a villain with a snarl and a prosthetic arm and CBI agents who seem to be brain dead. I wanted to say that this film is juvenile, made for fifteen year olds, but then I realized I knew a few very smart early teen kids.

Its all about a thief, Prince, supposedly the world’s coolest & most professional (their words, not mine) and a coin which contains a memory chip that can scan / transfer / store a persons memory. Prince’s memory has been erased, so he now has no recollection of anything (shouldn't this make him like a baby, with even no motor skills ?). There is, however, a succession of women who claim to be his girlfriend, Maya. And a succession of people who want the coin. Which he doesn’t remember where he kept.

More than the chip, I would like the bullet repellent that Prince seems to possess. His Plan A for the opening heist involved him going in to the toilet, in disguise, in a very heavily guarded facility, coming out as another person yet no closed circuit camera picking that up. Plan B involved him running 50 metres in the open with many security guards firing at him but of course, jaako raakhe saaiyan maar sake na koi. Even later, people keep shooting at him with fancy automatic weapons, while he runs or motorbikes in the open yet none strikes him. When one finally does sneak through , he gets thrown backwards about 50 metres…backwards, not forward…Actually, all this wouldn’t matter, as logic takes a backseat even in Bond movies, but then it begs a tight, witty script or a charming, lovable central lead.

We get Vivek Oberoi. Who seems to equate facial contortions to acting. Who inspires as much empathy as the 7th robot in the 9th row in I-Robot. And mouths lines like ‘I’m in. Its time to win’ or ‘Its showtime’…

Someone seems to have forgotten that all the stunts, exploding cars, skimpily clad women and the black leather threads amount to nothing if there isn’t a cohesive story or charming lead to hold it all together…In Race, we felt for Saif. Here we feel for no one. This missile is very badly misdirected…