Sunday, November 28, 2010

Break Ke Baad

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 26th November, 2010
Time : 115 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : Danish Aslam; Co-writer : Renuka Kunzru; Music : Vishal - Shekhar
Starring : Imran Khan, Deepika Padukone, Lilette Dubey, Shahana Goswami, Yudhistr Urs, Navin Nischol, Sharmila Tagore

This is one of the films where you know exactly how everything will turn out from the beginning. You know the central characters love each other right from the opening credits, you know how every twist and turn will resolve itself. And your only hope is that the director & script writer make it so much fun that you still enjoy yourself. They try but don’t succeed.

Imran is Deepika’s neighbour and classmate from time immemorial. He’s the calm, measured one, the one who sorts things out, the one who makes sure the relationship keeps going ahead. Imran works with his Dad at their cinema hall, hates it there but doesn’t know what he wants to do. Deepika is the fiery, flighty one. She is very sure she’s going to be an actress, even though her mom (Sharmila) is dead against it. She gets admission in a course in mass-comm in Australia and decides to go for it. How does Imran & her relationship survive this huge test ? Will their love survive ?

I liked the opening credits but hated the opening scene (Imran in front of a mirror, very corny). Deepika came across nicely, pulled her role off and looked stunning, right from her opening scene in a low slung sari. All characters were so half baked, however, that it doesn’t hold your attention. All conflicts are storms in a teacup as well and in real life would never threaten a lifelong relationship. So what we’re left with is the music (v uninspiring), the acting (Deepika was good, the rest were patchy) or the jokes (few funny moments, some from Yudhistr, some from Deepika and a couple from Lilette)

So, we’re left with a sometimes funny, rarel interesting, mostly boring film which struggles to hold our interest, especially break ke baad….

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Three Kings

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 1st Oct, 1999
Time : 114 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : David O. Russell; Co-writer : John Ridley; Music : Carter Burwell
Starring : George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Cliff Curtis, Nora Dunn

Quite simply one of the best war movies that I have seen. Illustrates extremely simply the emotions and consequences of war – bereavement, loss, pain, suffering, abuse of power, the question of there being no right or wrong, greed, corruption, camaraderie, loyalty, ethics and most of all, the fallacy of war itself. The hollowness of the thought that war leads to peace or comes without significant collateral damage.

George Clooney and three other soldiers discover a map which points to locations where they believe Saddam has stashed gold stolen from Kuwait. They decide to make an unauthorised trip to get the same for themselves. However, they soon find out that things are not that easy or what they seem and find themselves dragged into the thick of things between local Kuwaiti’s and the remnants of the Iraqi Republican Guard. A journalist is also tracking the story and along with the entire setting and other cast also help add to the overall tension.

The scripting, performances, photography and editing of this film is exemplary. George Clooney is every inch the smooth soldier, who is calm, not hawkish or blood thirsty, the man with the plan, who is looking to look the other way but then when some events occur, is equally unflinching in his decision to dive right in purely on humanitarian grounds. Mark Wahlberg is really good as the trigger happy soldier, the new father who just wants to go home and would rather not get involved. Ice Cube plays an interesting character as well. Ready to follow but yet has a mind of his own. And the fourth soldier, well-meaning white trash, Spike Jonze is clueless, absolutely willing to follow his idol, Mark Wahlberg to the ends of the earth.

Script-wise, the most amazing thing is that it brings out messages very subtly – America’s clueless foreign policy, Saddam’s greed, the blind, unthinking way soldiers follow instructions and how power just always seems to corrupt. Editing ensures that the edge of your seat and you become inseparable. And the sets throw up one surprise after another – the caves that they visit are reminiscent of Aladdin’s caves – yielding one surprise after another.

The film is intelligent, well thought out and well planned. It provokes thoughts by planting stimulus rather than hammering it in. I really wish we could make Indian films like this…


Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 19th Nov, 2010
Time : 135 minutes
Director, Writer & Music : Sanjay Leela Bhansali;
Starring : Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Shernaz Patel, Suhel Seth, Monikangana Datta

Imagine a collection of beautiful still photo’s featuring the same people in different settings. Now set them on slide show. Add some music in the background. Could you now call it a feature film ? That’s my biggest issue with Guzaarish…

I’m struggling hard to articulate all the things I didn’t like about this film politely. The fact that it’s a senseless film masquerading as a pseudo-intellectual one ? Or its picture perfect in terms of sets, camera angles, lighting at all times (even in court or while brushing teeth, anytime, anywhere) ! Or all that humbug about it teaching you to love life (it most definitely doesn’t) ? Or the fact that it desperately tries to manipulate you emotionally, leaving no tear undropped during the film ? I think every character in the film sheds a tear or two, even if they come for a couple of minutes only…I mean everyone ! That must be a record of sorts ?

Even the acting prowess of India’s best looking and most electric screen lead pair is not able to redeem the film. The music is nice (a bit too jazz-ish, a bit too heavy at times) but its nice. And as mentioned before, its stunningly picturesque – every production set designer should learn from this film on how to spend money by building lavish sets, colour coding everything etc.

Hrithik is a quadriplegic for the last 12 years (some confusion on whether its 12 or 14 but let that pass) ever since a magic trick went wrong. He used to be the worlds best magician and now, thanks to damage to his spine, he cannot do any physical function apart from controlling his neck, even though his mental faculties remain intact. Aishwarya is the devoted nurse who looks after him, taking complete care of him. Hrithik seems to have coped well – he’s written a book, given speeches on how to live with dignity and also runs his own radio station. One day, suddenly, without any catalyst or reason, he decides he wants to die and appeals for euthanasia. Most of the film is about this ‘fight’, the battle to choose his own death.

Other sundry characters include Suhel Seth as a simpering doctor who alternates between huge grins and sad faces with moist eyes, Shernaz, as Hrithiks lawyer, who alternates between feistiness and sad faces with moist eyes, and Aditya who comes out of the blue as Hrithik’s student for magic and alternates between inane jokes, silly behaviour and sad faces with moist eyes. You get the idea ?

What gets my goat is that its un-intelligently made. With a little bit of more thought, less creative push, it could’ve actually been an interesting film. Most galling is the lack of character development. What is the paraplegic thinking, what goes on in the nurses mind ? Why are the doing what they’re doing ? Most things in the film, Hrithik’s behaviour, Aishwarya’s actions, Shernaz, Suhel even the lawyer and the judge, never make sense or we have no way of knowing their motivations. And since we cant understand any of it, the film drags, like a Chinese water torture (shown in the film), it dulls the mind, scene by excruciating scene. And the dark colours of the film aid and abet depression.

I really think that no one in the industry moves better than Hrithik. There is a grace and ease of movement about him, a fluidity while dancing or even just shimmying around, that places him head and shoulders above everybody. This is aptly demonstrated once again in the film. I really do believe that Aishwarya remains the most beautiful woman on screen. And her emoting has steadliy got better. Again, this film does everything to convince you of the same. Apart from that its tough to find a single redeeming feature

This is a storyteller who, possessed by an idea, didn’t bother to flesh it out properly. Either that or I’m one of those dumb idiots who just does not get it, who cannot recognize a thing of beauty if it waltzed right in front of my eyes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Due Date

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 5th Nov, 2010
Time : 100 minutes
Directors: Todd Phillips; Writers : Alan R Cohen, Alan Freedland; Music : Christophe Beck
Starring : Robert Downey Jr, Zach Galifianikis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis

“Dad, you were like a father to me”

Robert Downey Jr is a very angry man. Due to a series of unfortunate events, he was chucked off from his flight, shot by a federal marshall (albeit with a rubber bullet), put on a no-fly list and is now without any ID, wallet, credit cards or money. And he has to get back home in time for his baby’s birth. Also, his only choice is to drive cross country with the man responsible for all of this, Zach Galifianikis (and his dog).

Surreal, very funny scenes are the order of the day. While buying weed (for his glaucoma), Zach (an aspiring actor for Two and a Half Men) recites paragraphs from Godfather for the dealer (Juliette Lewis). The response, when he finishes, is worth the price of the ticket. Or the tete a tete Robert has with Juliette’s kids while she and Zach are conducting their business.
Or the whole sequence in Western Union. Or the conversation about perms. Or the car masturbation sccene. Shakespeare the pirate. The man-made Grand Canyon. The Hoover dam built by the piligrims. The confusion between Mexico and Texaco. The Dads ashes in the coffee can and that leading to the ‘Circle of Life’. How a conversation about Robert’s wife’s possible infidelity leads on to a question about San Diego zoo.

There is no end to truly laugh out loud moments. However, it does get a bit unreal and too over the top towards the end, a bit too much to digest. But even in those moments it keeps you laughing and since it manages to connect you with its lead pair, painting their characters quite well, it manages to keep you interested.

While this one doesn’t have the cohesiveness, brilliance or longevity of ‘The Hangover’, it does have some of its madness and its unexpected, irreverent brand of humor. An enjoyable watch that will make you leave the theatre smiling…

Sunday, November 07, 2010

L'amour c'est mieux à deux

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 5th May, 2010
Time : 99 minutes
Directors: Dominique Farrugia, Arnaud Lemort; Writer : Franck Dubosc; Music : Thomas Dutronc
Starring : Clovis Cornillac, Virginie Efira, Manu Payet, Annalise Hesme, Laurence Arne

I’ve no idea how the French do it. Come up with delightful, quirky, romantic comedies so often and so effortlessly.

Michel (Clovis) is brought up on stories of great romance via chance encounters. His grandparents, parents, almost everyone he knows who are in love, met via fate. For him, its unthinkable that true love can start any other way. Vincent (Manu Payet), his best friend thinks completely differently. He is a divorce counsellor and for him one of the almost stated perks of his job are the desperate women he meets and beds.

One day, Vincent meets his current girlfriend, Nathalie’s, best friend Angele (played by Annalise and Virginie respectively). He thinks she will be great for Michel. And so with Nathalie’s help he proceeds to set up a chance meeting between Michel and Angele. The two hit it off really well, neither has ever been happier. Until Michel finds out it was contrived.

I enjoyed the conversations between Vincent and Michel. I enjoyed the way Michel is slightly flaky, going to the peace corps in Ecuador, dreaming of meeting his true love while a jazz band is playing etc. I enjoyed his reaction when a woman he least expects comes on to him in a not too subtle way. I like the way Vincent is equally business-like about his affairs, with no qualms, guilt or self-doubt, mixing business with pleasure with practiced ease.

Other key characters are a doting secretary, a disabled sister, a very aggressive costume rental store owner and a very expensive hand-made Mexican hat. But the film belongs to the idio-syncratic leads, each of them wonderfully real but loony enough to make interesting watching.

The end is slightly predictable but the characterisation fresh and the journey fun ! Enjoy…

Action Replayy

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 5th November, 2010
Time : ~140 minutes
Director & Co-Writer : Vipul Amrutlal Shah; Co-Writers : Aatish Kapadia, Suresh Nair; Music : Pritam
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Om Puri, Kirron Kher, Neha Dhupia, Rannvijay Singh, Rajpal Yadav, Sudeepa Singh

Take "Back to The Future" (a classic). Attempt Indianisation via heavy dollops of unwanted emotion, inane dialogue, silly characters, logical flaws and a ludicrous ending. And you get some idea of the angst I feel after having watched this film.

Aditya doesn’t want to get married to his girlfriend as he feels marriage leads to terrible things. Case in point are his constantly bickering parents, Akshay & Aishwarya. However, when on their 35th wedding anniversary they seem to be on the verge of splitting up, he suddenly cannot digest it, he rushes to his girlfriends grandfather’s place, gets into his time machine and travels back in time to try and make sure they love each other when they get married. Sounds illogical ? It is…

All characters are shallow, a horrible stereotype without any depth or likeability. Each person seems to be wearing floral, psychedelic colours and were denims even in existence in India in 1975 ? The shoddy animation in the beginning and slapstick ending ruins the film completely and the rather simple plot is stretched and stretched till our sanity is close to breaking point.

There is too much emphasis on looks, camera angles and clothing rather than the script. In the edit (quite a few jumpy cuts in the film, BTW) they seem to have forgotten simple things like what is it that Aditya tells his parents & grandparents to become friends with them and start living with them ? At the end there is a reference from each of the grandparents, while bidding goodbye to Aditya, saying they will miss him, miss his constant compliments but we never saw him interact with them or compliment them !

Akshay’s transformation was mildly interesting though his overall look was terrible. Aishwarya’s make-up looked odd but still looked good. And while Aditya showed some breeziness, the film struggles as a whole, purely due to script and edit issues. Neha looked good.

The sad part about this film is that with a little more effort, it could’ve been brilliant. In its current form, it is highly irritating…its a shame that 25 years after Back to The Future we werent able to make a film that could even come close...time for me to do some time travel and watch it again !

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Social Network

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 4th October, 2010 (USA)
Time : 121 minutes
Director : David Fincher; Writers : Aaron Sorkin, Ben Mezrich (based on his novel, ‘The Accidental Billionaires’); Music : Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Starring : Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Josh Pence, Justin Timberlake

How would you like to be the world’s youngest billionaire, one of the coolest internet entrepreneurs but totally without friends and a reputation of being an asshole ?

In quite an amazing behind the scenes look at the man behind 38.5% of my personal internet browsing time, we see how Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook (yes, yes, we all know it started as just a way for geeky Harvard types to connect with each other…but this goes into a bit more detail than that).

Mark is a geek. His social graces and knowledge of what to say or more importantly not say become painfully aware to us and his girlfriend, Erica, in a rapid-fire conversation occupying the opening few minutes. Mark’s angst at Erica then leads to Facemash, one of his first few internet inventions. Its so popular that it causes the Harvard server to crash. At the resultant hearing, an irritatingly smug Mark, instead of being contrite before the board, tells them they should be thanking him for exposing the weak security behind the server. The tone is then truly set for what follows…

Other key characters are Eduardo, a really nice, well meaning guy, no slouch himself on the net (gives Mark the algorithm that makes Facemash work) and is the co-founder and CFO of Or so he thinks. Sean Parker, inventor of Napster, golden boy with the golden curls, based in the land of the Golden Gate, is also an important player. He removes the ‘the’ from and also some other things / people. For a period he has Mark eating out of his hand. And there are the Winklevoss twins. Also from Harvard. Olympic rowers. And the guys who came up with the idea of a place for Harvard people to connect.

It’s a fascinating film with several layers. Its great to know how facebook came to be what it is, the story behind some of the features (relationship status, for example, including a place where it comes to bite one of the inventors). Its also interesting to see the dynamics behind some of the lead characters and how they are cast. Mark is cast as a smart guy but a prick. Shaun is made into a playboy but a little sleazy. Eduardo is a genuinely nice guy but perhaps out of his depth (FB may not have become what it is if he’d had his way). And the Winklevoss twins are as uppercrust, rich blue-blooded Americans as is possible, seeking a meeting with the President of Harvard accusing Mark of stealing their idea and where it was reassuring to see bureaucracy being the same in American educational institutions as in ours.

Another layer which was fascinating were some of the business calls being made. What was the philosophy behind FB ? Would you have expanded it the same way (via educational institutions)? When would you have introduced advertising ? An interesting case study by itself.

Quite incisive without quite trying too hard, gripping (great editing in terms of the flashbacks – hard to follow at first but excellent when you get the hang of things), nice choice in terms of the subject matter chosen (can imagine another film on Zuckerberg dealing with entirely different aspects of him / FB) and quite simply superlative casting make this a great watch. Cant wait to see it again !

PS : Loved the Tagline….