Thursday, July 30, 2009

In Bruges

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : June ‘08
Time : 107 minutes
Director & Writer : Martin McDonagh
Starring : Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Clemence Peosy

Colin: After I killed him, I dropped the gun in the Thames, washed the residue off me hands in the bathroom of a Burger King, and walked home to await instructions. Shortly thereafter the instructions came through - "Get the fuck out of London, you dumb fucks. Get to Bruges." I didn't even know where Bruges fucking was.
Colin: It's in Belgium

Hilariously funny first half, and I mean almost hysterically funny, switches gears in the second, almost becoming a different film. Am not sure the ending is what I would’ve written, but my abiding memory was of the very, very funny characters and the very, very funny first half.

Two assassins are sent to Bruges (its in Belgium as Colin Farrell also discovers!) to lie low after a kind of botched assignment. Colin, an Irishman, comes in thinking its going to a shithole and he sees nothing that convinces him otherwise. The medieval beauty of the place, passes him by, while it enchants his partner, Brendan, who is more inclined towards history and culture.

They find out they have to share a room, they find they have nothing in common, they realise they may have to wait longer than they anticipated and this agitates Colin, who would rather be back in the UK. Brendan, the elder partner, is calmer about it, more mature and willing to go with their boss, Harry's instructions, which were to wait for his call. The call, finally comes, but they’re out of the hotel, resulting in them receiving an F-word filled message from Harry via the hotel receptionist (or co-owner as she not so subtly points out). When he does get through, the fun begins. Am not saying anything more for fear of taking away the surprise.

Suffice to say, we witness English / Irish humour at its best, we meet crazy characters including a midget, who is the hero of a film being shot in Bruges, a very pretty producer whom Colin is instantly besotted with, her ex-boyfriend who doesn’t take too kindly to Colin’s advances, some ‘elephantine’ American tourists who don’t take kindly to jokes about their size and a tower attendant who is rude in a very ‘dutch’ kind of way and petty down to the last ten cents (again in a very Flemish kind of way).

The second half went in a different direction, becoming much more serious. It was still interesting, keeps you hooked but the abiding memory, even when its all over is of Colin swearing at everything around him in his fake Irish brogue. And that was just one of the things that was hilariously funny….

Brendan: We shall strike a balance between culture and fun.
Colin : Somehow I believe, Ken, that the balance shall tip in the favor of culture, like a big fat fucking retarded fucking black girl on a see-saw opposite... a dwarf.

Colin : [beating a tourist that he believes to be American] That's for John Lennon, you Yankee fuckin' cunt!

Clemence: There's never been a classic movie made in Bruges until now.
Colin : Of course there hasn't. It's a shithole.
Clemence: Bruges is my home town, Ray.
Colin: Well, it's still a shithole.
Clemence: It's not a shithole!
Colin: What? Even midgets have to take drugs to stick it.
Clemence: Okay. So, you've insulted my home town. You were doing really well, Raymond. Why don't you tell me some Belgium jokes while you're at it?
Colin: Don't know any Belgium jokes, and if I did I think I'd have the good sense not to... hang on. Is Belgium with all those child abuse murders lately? I do know a Belgium joke. What's Belgium famous for? Chocolates and child abuse, and they only invented the chocolates to get to the kids.
[Ray sees Chloe's shocked expression]
Colin: What?
Clemence: One of the girls they murdered was a friend of mine.

I think it was brilliant – and all the above is just a sample…there's more, plenty more. Enjoy !

Married Life

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : Mar ‘08
Time : 91 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Ira Sachs; Co-Writer : Oren Moverman
Starring : Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams

Slow moving period drama about crossed connections. A married man falling for a younger woman feels that he cannot leave his wife as she wouldn’t be able to bear it. But he wants the happiness & companionship that the younger one provides. He confides to one of his really close friends, Pierce Brosnan, who after one look at the girl, promptly decides he must have the girl for himself.

How this complicated web is woven and unwoven, is what the movie is about. I think, the pace and the ordinary-ness of the characters we witness, is what goes against the film. All the performances, possibly deliberately, are muted. And the whole film kind of gets over without our even realising it. One of Pierce Brosnan’s most underplayed roles for sure.

Nothing much here to make me recommend it too much, unless you’re a diehard Pierce fan.


Rating : 5/10
Release Date : June ‘08
Time : 189 minutes
Director : KS Ravikumar; Writer : Kamal Hassan;
Starring : Kamal Hassan, Asin, Mallika Sherawat

Kind of like Sivaji, this is an out and out star vehicle. Just Kamal Hasan instead of Rajni. All else is equally implausible. And we see Kamal in ten different disguises, essaying roles as vastly different as a devout Brahmin in the medieval ages to an American assassin to a Punjabi song-belting Sardarji to a Japanese kung-fu master. We see Asin portray the role of the ‘janam-janam’ ki wife, keeping pace with her husband in all era’s.

We see why / how even the Tsunami could’ve done some good, how biological weapons could be deadlier than nuclear ones, how the state- both in USA and India –could easily be misled. I really liked Kamal’s performance as the Brahmin – the rest of the performances were hidden by too much make-up. Asin was good, too much screaming possibly, but that was hardly her fault.

Again, as in Sivaji, unlikely that we will have too many more such grand epics from Kamal Hasan. So for that reason, and that reason alone, it may be worth a watch. Else, I couldn’t understand what the hype was about.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 24th July, ‘09
Time : 130 minutes
Director & Co-Writer : Soham Shah; Co-writer : Renzil D’Silva; Music : Salim-Sulaiman
Starring : Imran Khan, Mithun Chakraborty, Sanjay Dutt, Danny Dengzopa, Shruti Hasan, Ravi Kishan, Chitrashi Rawat

There used to be this PJ in our college days, the type that comes on 9X’s ‘Bakwaas Band Kar’ these days.

“Ek baar char ande (eggs) fall from the top floor of a very tall building (Empire State, if you so please). Girte, girte, who sab zameen par gir padte hain. Saare toot jaate hain bas ek ande ko kuch nahin hota. Ek scratch bhi nahin aata. Batao kyun ? Kyunki Jaako Raakhe Saayan, Maar sake Na koye…”
That PJ about sums up the film and despite copying from some very good films like 13 Tzameti and detective stories like Byomkesh Bakshi’s ‘The Porcupine Quill’, they’ve still managed to make a hash of it. A hi-adrenalin first half gives way to an increasingly implausible and convoluted second where unnecessary love, revenge and jealousy angles detract from the main, simple storyline, which I wish they’d left alone.

A betting syndicate, run by Sanjay Dutt, ferrets out lucky people (via a slightly bleached looking Danny Dengzopa) and then makes them go through various death defying feats, in which only the survivors win. The first half still manages to hold it together as we find out these ‘lucky’ people, we play some funny games including the one with the lighter, we find out what are the different compulsions which are making people accept to be a part of this enterprise etc. Along with the sub-continental lucky ones, there are also some foreigners added in (some of them strangely speaking Hindi) but these are only as ballast.

Some of the little inconsistencies that made me cringe
• Why was a serving Major-General having to go to private hospitals and cough up huge amounts for an operation on his wife ? Haven’t the producers heard of Command Hospitals ? They’re free…it’s a minor defect but one that could so easily have been avoided.
• The smell of blood will make sharks go into a feeding frenzy and make all converge, making the rescue act we were shown well-nigh impossible
• The last set-up, was just too silly and too filmy.
• The end destroyed any shreds of credibility that had remained thus far. Basically, the director and scriptwriter fell in love with some characters and ensured their survival and well-being against all odds. Most of the limited audience in the hall was laughing at the end and I’m sure that’s not the desired response in an action thriller

Imran acted decently, despite some awkwardness in the unnatural dialogue while flirting. Sanjay, Danny and Mithun all reconfirmed their screen presence. The little package from Chak De, Chitrashi Rawat, continued to entertain. Ravi Kishan provided some of the funny, psycho type moments, especially the hilarious ‘itna sannata kyun hai bhai’. Shruti has a mixed review, she’s undoubtedly good-looking and has thankfully taken after Sarika in this department, but her dialogue delivery is a bit forced. Plus her role was not clear, was she meant to be a tough cookie or a softie ? Again, not clearly sketched out by the film makers, probably not her fault and so more evidence needed on her.

I know what happened here. The makers felt compelled to throw in distracting elements – love songs, item numbers, silly sub-plots and a farcical in their desire for commercial gain. They could’ve achieved far more success by just keeping it simple.

The Wrestler

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : Jan ‘09
Time : 111 minutes
Director : Darren Aronofsky; Writer : Robert Siegel
Starring : Mickey Rourke; Marisa Tomei; Evan Rachel Wood

This is a compelling slice of life, shows us nothing extra-ordinary, just a few days in the twilight years of a WWF wrestler but delivers a film that despite being slow paced, keeps you hooked till the end.

Mickey Rourke stars as a ‘retired’ wrestler who’s struggling to make ends meet. Who’s only source of revenue are exhibition fights and the autograph signing sessions prior to them. Who’s not met his daughter for years. Who has a crush on this cute lap-dancer. Who tries, against his grain, to do a regular job in a supermarket. And who’s clearly suffering health-wise from something bad.

The film succeeds on several fronts. It gives a fascinating insight into the world of wrestling, the steroid pumping, the faked stunts and choreographed moves, the enthusiastic fans and the strange lives of the wrestlers who reach their sell by date as they live for the autograph sessions and the weekends where they meet others of their ilk but have to somehow find a way to make the week go past and a way to keep the money coming in.

It shows Mickey struggling to get his life together – when he tries the job behind the fresh meat counter – he has some good days and some clearly bad ones. And some good customers and some clearly bad ones, who’re fussy and finicky to the point of distraction. His daughter clearly has no interest in her father and one doesn’t really blame her as you cant just turn up after several years, with a couple of gifts and hope to make things ok. He also has to find love and companionship and here he is irresistibly drawn into the arms of a cute lap dancer, but one who has strict rules about mixing business with pleasure.

But it succeeds most of all, in showing the ultimate dilemma he faces…whether to go quietly or to crash and burn in a blaze of glory ? As his abused body begins to protest violently, the medical opinion is clear – stop the drugs, stop the wrestling and take it easy or else. And Mickey tries, tries hard. For the sake of his daughter, Marisa Tomei and life.

For me, it was also fascinating to watch Mickey Rourke. The abiding image I have of him in my head is the chocolate faced yet devious boy/man in ‘Nine and a Half Weeks'. To watch him now, the muscle-bound, almost ugly, pumped up man was a bit of a shock and almost morbid in a way. It suited the character almost perfectly though, as you sensed a very similar life path and trajectory.

In the end the choice he took made sense and was beautiful despite the tragic undertones. As was the film….

Sivaji, The Boss

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : June ‘07
Time : 185 minutes
Director & Writer : S Shanker; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Rajnikanth, Shriya Saran, Vivek, Suman

This is a Rajnikanth masala movie through and through. If this genre appeals, go for it as you wont get any better and may not get too many more. Else, please avoid at all costs.

The premise, though hardly relevant, is that of an NRI who returns and wants to do good, open up universities and hospitals which will be world class but free. But obviously doesn’t find it easy in terms of getting permissions, has to grease a few palms and then some more. Has to deal with politicians who are only interested in their percentage. And also runs foul of a person who is a power broker and runs colleges / hospitals and fears his business will run aground if Sivaji succeeds in his mission. All these forces combine to reduce Sivaji to a pauper and put him behind bars.

Sivaji then decides no-more Mr Nice Guy and from then on nothing can stop our hero. He comes up with an interesting way to liberate black money and then uses that to fund his venture and ensure every village and township of Tamil Nadu prospers. In all this, he also finds the time to woo (hilarious courtship) the delectable Shriya Saran and sing many a song in fancy locales (the Guggenheim at Bilbao among them) and elaborate sets. He also does his trademark moves with chewing gums and coins, changes more dresses than Imelda Marcos and has several disguises designed to fool cops and others but never the audience.

Like I said, its great if you like this kind of stuff. I don’t think over-the-top agrees with me anymore. And this one is so blatantly over the top, that even James Bond, Superman and others of their ilk will shudder to go there.

The International

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : Feb ‘09
Time : 118 minutes
Director : Tom Tykwer; Writer : Eric Singer
Starring : Clive Owen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ulrich Thomsen

Standard fare, a spy thriller where its known right from the beginning who’s the villain & who’s the hero but we judge the film purely on how much fun we have watching one take down the other. The script is quite implausible, the dialogue ordinary / normal and as there are no fancy cars or fancy women, its understandable why this didn’t make the screen sizzle. Clive Owen’s coldness added to the lack of heat and is matched only by the German villain’s, though in the latter case it was probably deliberate.

What’s good here are the locations, they picked nice cities and didn’t just go for the obvious landmarks but some interesting venues. There is a good shootout scene in a museum, interesting just for the sheer scale and audacity of it all and another chase in Istanbul on the rooftops. Armin Mueller-Stahl (from Eastern Promises) continues to impress me for the credibility he brings to the screen.

Buy the dvd only if its on a bargain sale – the kind where if you buy something else, you get it free. I saw it on a flight and that’s probably the best place to watch it, as its decently paced and simple to understand even after you’ve downed a couple of drinks.

Two Lovers

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : Nov ‘08
Time : 110 minutes
Director & Co-Writer : James Gray; Co-Writer : Ric Menello;
Starring : Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Vinessa Shaw

This is one of the films I didn’t get. Sure, there was a good performance by Joaquin Phoenix (worthy of an Oscar nomination ? Not really, I think that’s more reflective of a bare cupboard), decent one by the two women, who also happen to be the lovers.

That, in short, is what the film is about. A guy, who is a little weird / lives with his parents, and suddenly has to choose between two women. One, who’s kind of arranged, daughter of a family friend. And the other, a neighbour, also a little weird, a bit self centered, in love with someone else but not sure, seeking advice and comfort from our guy.

And finally, our guy decides. Its slowish, mildly interesting at best, but never really grabs you and makes you feel for any of the characters. The one scene, though, that was really enjoyable was when Gwyneth asks Joaquin to join her & her friends for a party. Watching this nerdy, geeky, weird guy transform in the cab and on the dance floor was good fun.

I think the key issue here was lack of involvement. None of the characters were truly that nice or interesting enough to make me care. And without that, this was just another ship that passed me by at night…


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : Aug ‘07
Time : 114 minutes
Director : Greg Mottola; Writer : Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg;
Starring : Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader, Eva Stone, Aviva

Two nerdy high-school kids, fast friends, decide that they must have sex before reaching college. Their best, and in their eyes, almost only chance lies in this cool party where they’re requested by these hot chicks to get the booze. So far, so good, but then all else doesn’t go to plan, rather goes spectacularly wrong, not just bad but ‘superbad’ !

They enlist the help of another friend, they get fake id’s, they meet mobsters, they get into fights. And they meet two hilarious cops, who clearly have a unique way of looking at things, who have a need for the limelight, a sense of humour that is politically incorrect, a desire to do things their own way.

It’s a nice film, some laugh out loud moments and genuine surprises but it kind of stopped there. Seen too many teen flicks for anything more than mild interest in the genre. And I’m probably the wrong target audience, so my comments are also ‘unfair’ in that sense. Watch if the genre interests you, its as good as such films can get is probably a fairer way of putting it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Le Premier Jour Du Reste De Ta Vie

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : July ‘08
Time : 114 minutes
Director & Writer : Remi Bezancon
Starring : Jacques Gamblin, Zabou Breitman, Deborah Francois, Marc-Andre Grondin, Pio Marmoi

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Simply brilliant way to tell a story…

This tells us the tale of the Duval family, comprising parents and three kids (2 boys and a girl), by showing us only 5 days in their life, though spanning some twenty years. We watch the kids grow, the parents age, the characters develop, deal with death and loss, celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and really understand what makes the individuals tick.

Its amazing how much we can learn about people merely watching them go about their lives over five days.
• Papa Duval – drives a taxi, is a very loving father (though has a hills and valleys kind of relationship with his kids), not very demonstrative as most men are, and is fighting against his father most of the time, struggling to find recognition and love, which he feels was always denied to him

• Mama Duval – lovely, trying to cope with middle-age, seeking her own place in the household (as most housewives are), joins a course in college and much to her delight, even shares some classes with her daughter

• Daughter Duval – much to her dismay, has to share some classes with her mom, we watch her grow from a little girl, looking up to her eldest brother, to a woman struggling to find love within her family and outside

• Eldest son – the rebel of the family, cant wait to get out of the house, wants to make his own mark, doesn’t think much of his father or younger brother though does try to be protective (till he falls in love) of his younger sister

• Younger son – the odd one, quiet, artistic, part DJ / part connossieur, finds hidden reserves of discipline and dedication when given an unexpected opportunity by his grandfather

How they interact with each other, how their relationship develops and how each one of them in their own way finds peace and love is shown in the most beautiful, real and gripping way possible

People in Hindi cinema who write complicated and convoluted plots have much to learn from this little gem in terms of script writing, editing and narrative style. And actors who exaggerate (don’t think I need to name them) can learn much from the excellent understated performances of each of the actors. All in all, a lovely slice of life film that makes us look inwards into our own relationships and actions…

Bride Wars

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : Jan ‘09
Time : 89 minutes
Director : Gary Winick ; Writer : Greg DePaul, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael ;
Starring : Kate Hudson, Anne Hathway, Bryan Greenberg, Chris Pratt, Steve Howey

This is a concept made for India. Its about two best friends, who ever since they were kids, have wanted to get married at a particular venue, the Plaza. Both co-incidentaly get engaged at the same time, and then due to a quirk of fate, it becomes obvious that only one of them will get to fulfil her dream, while the other will have to choose another venue. And neither of them is in a mood to compromise !

Sparks fly, friendships and relationships are put in jeopardy to ensure that they have the perfect wedding. Obvious solutions, suggested by their fiance’s – one of them getting married at another venue (‘do you know how long I’ve dreamed of this’) or doing a double wedding (‘it’s the one day for myself’) – are quickly and ruthlessly cast aside

The two friends soon turn to bitter enemies and the funny moments come when they dream up innovative ways to begin to sabotage each others wedding plans. The two characters shown are also contrasting types – one a ball-busting corporate lawyer and the other a much more pliable, dormant school teacher. However, these are never fully built up and the script lacks conversation / dialogue where the inner thoughts of the characters are explored and we understand what really is driving them. The role of their common friends is also minimised to point of implausibility – I mean, in reality, surely someone would’ve made one of them see sense ?

Its all quite obvious, very predictable (apart from the methods they use to sabotage each other – that was deliciously devious) but even so it was enjoyable for the journey and leaves you with one unshakeable moral of the story. Don’t mess with women and their wedding plans !

Race to Witch Mountain

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : Mar ‘09
Time : 98 minutes
Director : Andy Fickman ; Writer : Matt Lopez (from Alexander Key’s book
‘Escape to Witch Mountain’)
Starring : Dwayne Johnson, Anna SophiaRobb, Alexander Ludwig, Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds

Standard sci-fi flick with decently funny dialogue, some over the top characters, the mandatory love interest and too much implausibility all thrown in equal measure. Does it keep you hooked till the end ? Not really – the sheer predictability of it all does get to you after a while. The only thing that really kept me going is the cool screen presence of ‘The Rock’ – this guy is really good as an action hero and I’ve enjoyed his films like ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ and even ‘Walking Tall’.

So, some aliens land in the USA (where else ?), a top secret government organisation (what else ?) reaches the site first in an effort to capture the aliens and keep this fact secret from the unsuspecting Americans (their TV reporters are clearly not as enterprising as their Indian counterparts). The Aliens are actually formed like human kids, which is a nice touch, as it instantly makes us like them. They are on a mission to save their planet and the Earth (why else ?) and they co-incidentally run into ‘The Rock’ (who else ?), who helps them fulfil their mission, while picking up cute lady scientist along the way.

I’m a bit surprised it did as well as it did at the box-office (approx $ 100mn) but then we know the American’s can be very gullible – after all, they elected Bush twice !

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sankat City

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 10th July, 2009
Time : 120 minutes
Director & Writer : Pankaj Advani; Music : Ranjit Barot
Starring : Kay Kay Menon, Rimi, Anupam Kher, Yashpal Sharma, Manoj Pahwa, Chunky Pandey, Sanjay Mishra, Rahul Dev

After the two turkeys that I’d just seen previous to this, this one was like an oasis for a water starved desert traveller. Its a comedy caper, kind of ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, kind of ‘Fish Called Wanda’ and a little bit of ‘Oceans Eleven’. But its well put together, supported by a stellar character star cast and works…

It stars the following kooky characters
Faujdar Bhai (Anupam Kher) : mobster cum money lender, has a unique way of dealing with people who cant pay him. He lets them roll a pair of dice and if they get a 3, they have 3 days to pay him etc. He is also a devotee of a baba and though he does follow him in letter, he doesn’t always follow him in spirit.
Gogi (Manoj Pahwa) : Film director who would want nothing more than to get his now flop leading actor killed on the set so that his film becomes a hit. He wants nothing more than to retire and open a studio with his assistant director.

Lingam, The assistant (Sanjay Mishra) : helps out in any way, including not going to the toilet for many hours so that he doesn’t miss an important appointment for his boss. Will run the studio but has one precondition – Aishwarya must come for the studio opening, minus Abhishek
Pachisia, The builder (Yashpal Sharma) : owes Faujdar 2 crores, has a soft spot for pretty ladies and popcorn but not the stomach for them.
Guru, The car thief, (Kay Kay) : steals cars and does well for himself, along with old man Ganpat in a run-down garage, until he steals Faujdar’s car and money
Mona (Rimi) : street smart con artist, who’d conned the car thief on a previous occasion. Is friends with Faujdar’s driver who’s in trouble as the car got stolen on his beat.
Suleiman Supari (Rahul Dev) : will kill anyone, as per his self-confession, even his dad

The interaction between these assorted ‘madmen’ is good, the dialogue is very good, funny, the situations come naturally, don’t seem contrived. And while it does all ‘fit’ in the end, it doesn’t really do it with the brilliance of a ‘Lock, Stock’ – though maybe that is too high a benchmark. It drags a little bit in the end, the whole garbage dump sequence was a bit too long / unnecessary, but you are still kept on the edge of your seat, waiting for the madness to resolve itself.

Also, for a change, its not brainless, its not timepass, it has good performances and its better than the two crap films I saw recently – though maybe that’s too low a benchmark ! I enjoyed the film, a few laugh out loud moments and I’m sure you will too…