Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blue Valentine

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : December, 2010
Time : 112 minutes
Director, Co-writer : Derek Cianfrance ; Co-Writers Cami Delavignie, Joey Curtis; Music Supervisor : Joe Rudge
Starring : Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka

Never seen a film which captures the desolation leading up to a break up as well as this one. A couple which falls in love and gets married now finds themselves growing apart even though he is a good father and faithful husband and she is a caring wife.

He is unambitious. She works for a doctor and dreams of a better life. She is crushed by the logistics of day to day life, the everyday burdens we all seem to carry heavily upon our shoulders, especially when money is an issue. He is happy being a father, a husband and cannot fathom what is going wrong.
Things are brought to a head when he plans a romantic weekend, just with his wife, their child left with grandparents. Will they find true love again ?

The movie is remarkable for its lack of histrionics, brilliant acting, screenplay and realistic portrayals. There is all the drama of a couple drifting apart due to no clear reason, not one big thing but hundreds of tiny little things which are laughable by themselves. There is the drama of one being content and the other restless. The anguish of one still in love and the other just carrying on, visibly so.

Love is a strange bird. I find more and more couples today struggle to remember what it was that made them fall in love, to remember the good and hold it in their heart vs all the tiny irritations of day to day life. This movie is a good reminder of what could be.

The Mechanic

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 28th January, 2011
Time : 93 minutes
Director : Simon West ; Writer : Richard Wenk, Lewis John Carlino; Music : Mark Isham
Starring : Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn, Jeff Chase, Mini Anden

There is probably nothing in this film that you’ve not seen before. Its about an assassin who trains the son of his mentor to become one, after killing the mentor. What makes the movie watchable is Jason Statham who displays all the skills which I’ve admired in him right from the days of Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels….

The film has portions which are unbelievable as is the case with most action films – shootings in the middle of the town, a secret hideout that doesn’t really seem very hard to find, bomb blasts but no sign of cops and sending a replacement killer for an important job without prior agreement etc.

The key to enjoying this film is to watch Jason shed his ‘action / Brit’ image and try his hand at something a bit more. Silent, introspective, thoughtful, the assassin he portrays is happy to do the bidding of his boss but not ready to be made a fool of. The relationship with Ben Foster is well brought out, as we see a wastrel gradually become an admirer and then a convert to Jason’s methods. In performance terms though I found Ben a bit cold and that’s why never cared for what becomes of him.

Its an enjoyable film if you know what to look for and what to ignore

Another Year

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : November, 2010
Time : 129 minutes
Director & Writer : Mike Leigh; Music : Gary Yershon
Starring : Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville, Oliver Maltman, Peter Wight, David Bradley, Martin Savage, Karina Fernandez, Imelda Staunton

A beautiful film showing the different ways we humans seek unhappiness or refuse to confront our problems head on.

We meet a woman who just wants to sleep, wants sleeping tablets but is unwilling to confront the issues which are making her insomniac. In a telling moment, when asked to remember the happiest moment of her life she can think of nothing

We meet Mary, who just wants a man and to be liked, though not necessarily in that order. Bright, vacuous (her car purchase telling us all we need to know about her ‘upstairs’ control room) and vivacious, fighting hard against age, desperate to find a man to the extent that she will hit upon almost anyone. Is a secretary but hates being called that.

We meet Ken. Unfit. Drinks more than your friendly neighbourhood fish. Smokes. Bemoans the change around him. How the friendly pubs have all become bars and lounges (its so true in UK, BTW, know several which have done so). How the young are noisy and intolerant of the elders. And he would love to have a companion.

We meet Joe. Bright. Helpful. Happy. But all the time being asked whether he’s found someone yet. And he just may have a surprise or two in store there.

And, most of all, we meet Tom and Gerri. The couple through whom we meet everyone else. The couple who are very relaxed, comfortable with each other, perfect companions, enjoying the different stages of life together. Who don’t really understand why people struggle so hard for happiness.

Its an interesting contrast provided – the happy couple vs the individuals and their issues. We see it all over the course of a year, with different seasons showcasing different chapters and introducing new characters. The contrast between Tom and his helpless elder brother was also nicely shown, underlining once again the importance of keeping pace with the times and the perils of over dependency (in this case on his wife).

It’s a slow, gentle movie. Barring a few minutes, there aren’t even any raised voices. Its all about characters, building sketches for us of different people. And I found it very interesting…

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Luv Ka The End

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 6th May, 2011
Time : ~120 minutes
Director : Bumpy ; Writer : Ashish Patil; Music : Ram Sampath
Starring : Shraddha Kapoor, Taaha Shah, Jannat Zubair Rahmani

After a long time saw a youth film which got its lingo, tonality just right. It didn’t sound wannabe, the characters were endearing, it was fresh, peppy, touched on taboo topics and will possibly appeal to those who either belong to the well heeled youth or aspire to.

Rhea (Shraddha Kapoor) finds out that her boyfriend, Luv (Taaha), the man she was about to entrust her virginity to on her 18th birthday, is a total Casanova. She now wants to get even. Joining her in her admirable quest are her best friends, the well rounded, spunky Jugs and the vacuous, looks obsessed Sonia and an unlikely ally, the nerdy Kartikeyan. Helping Luv in his quest are his friends, the plump, women obsessed, Gollu, who’s throwing a party where only women wearing mini skirts will be allowed and Timmy, who’s so much into his looks / exercise that he talks to his biceps.

Other interesting characters include Karthikeyan’s brother, who’s choice of password will linger in memory for long. Rhea’s Dadi, who’s choice of language lingers in Rhea’s parents memory for longer. The precocious Minty, Rhea’s younger sister, who’s negotiation skills will put bankers to shame. And Sonia’s mom, who’s trying desperately to be with it.

The entire film spans a period of less than 24 hours, keeps it very tight, has some interesting twists and doesn’t have a dull moment. The girl’s attempt to buy drinks, the BBC concept, the conceptualisation of Rhea’s revenge, the diva’s (Natasha & her gang) vs the ordinary (Rhea & her gang), all provide great entertainment.

The background score, the bright colours, the jokes (Jugs has some of the best lines), the banter, the well etched characters, the songs, the slickness…all combine to give us an interesting viewing experience. The acting is very good as well. Shraddha, while not being the hottest thing on legs, manages to look convincing as the vulnerable girl next door. Taaha looks every inch the slick charmer. Each one fits the bill as if they were made for this part.

Kudo’s to Y Films in being able to pull this off. Its not easy to get it just right, its quite a fine line. They made us laugh, they made us cheer, they made us care. Its said ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. Basis this film, it seems safe to say ‘Hell Hath no fury like a woman who’s been two timed’ !

Friday, May 06, 2011

Fast & Furious 5

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 6th May, 2011 (India)
Time : 130 minutes
Director : Justin Lin ; Writer : Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson; Music : Brian Tyler
Starring : Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Matt Schulze, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Joaquim De Almeida, Elsa Pataky

A classic ‘Boys with Toys’ movie, with nary a dull moment, high levels of testosterone, bulging biceps and beautiful babes and a plot that is so full of loopholes, requiring a suspension of disbelief so huge, it could hold up the Worli Sea Link and its proposed extension.

Set in sunny Rio, it involves Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and a motley crew taking on the biggest druglord of the city because they have a chip containing vital information about where his money is stashed. Why this chip is in existence or in the location it was discovered is never explained but then we don’t get any time to ponder over such questions. Fists fly, cars crash, guns gorge bullets and people generally strut around stiffly. A heist along the lines of 'The Italian Job' is planned. To add to the chaos, the US Govt sends their best guy, Dwayne Johnson to track Vin Diesel and his merry men and he certainly does his best to add to the beefy biceps quotient.

The story is not important. The attempt throughout the film is to make you go ‘oooohhhh’. To make you see stunts that you’d never seen before. And in this they succeed. You spend most of the film wondering what lies ahead, what outrageous feat is going to be attempted next. Special mentions for the outstanding background score which makes the heart pulsate throughout the film and for Gal Gadot who achieves the same effect in a different way.

Most of what they show would have even Bond or Tom Cruise of MI questioning rationality or sanity but then this film is not for the faint-hearted. Its one mind boggling stunt after another, held together only in the loosest sense by a simplistic storyline. And its fun. Crazy, but fun.

Chalo Dilli

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 29th April, 2011
Time : 116 minutes
Director : Shashant Shah ; Writer : Arshad Syed ; Music : Various
Starring : Vinay Pathak, Lara Dutta

Take every stereotype in the book. The Bong family that has to be carrying rasagullas. The Rajasthani goon who wears cool shades but also carry paan. The Delhi-ite who belches, farts, chomps noisily and eats gluttonously but has a heart of gold. And the Mumbai Miss Hoity Toity who runs a multi crore business, is strong / self dependent but eeks and shrieks at the sign of a cockroach. Now put it together in a road movie with a weak plot, stale jokes and clich├ęd situations. And you have a film that goes on and on and on before mercifully drawing to a close about 30-40 minutes too late.

Lara misses her flight to Delhi, has to catch one in cattle class which is diverted to Jaipur due to airport issues, and then when she hires a car to drive down to the capital, encounters a sleep-starved uncouth driver. In steps Vinay Pathak. Her co-passenger on the flight. Possibly the reason for her missing the earlier one. Surely the reason for her having to resort to music / headphones during the flight due to his loud chatter. And definitely the person who drives her up the wall as their journey encompasses an Ambassador, a bicycle, a camel cart, shared auto, a jeep and a train. Will they reach Delhi and what awaits them there is what is supposed to engross us through the film

An interesting premise is put to the sword here. A very weak script, a very poor dialogue writer (really cringe worthy, old jokes) and extremely amateurish production quality ensure that you see a film that feels like its been made on a budget. Acting by the lead pair is average but you feel for neither of them. Acting by everyone else is below average. The songs are very ordinary and the ‘Laila’ remix is downright awful, especially the crass video with Yana.

A piece of elastic can only be stretched so much and the film here tries to set a new record for doing so. Midway in the film you’re praying for the unlikely couple to actually reach their destination to relieve us. Or for them to be airlifted. Or for someone to come to their rescue. Anything but the amateurish sub plots that you see, all of which have been seen before.