Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Artist

Rating : 9/10
Release Date : 24th February, 2012 (India)
Time : 100 minutes
Director & Writer : Michel Hazanavicius; Music : Ludovic Bource
Starring : Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, John Goodman

How do we deal with change ? Do we embrace it, resist it, ignore it ? And what about when we realize we are wrong ? Are we big enough to correct ourself or do we let our ego and pride get in the way ?

Fascinating questions, raised provocatively by a beautiful film and left elegantly upto us to answer as we deem fit.
Jean Dujardin is a big star of the silent movies era. He is also a nice person and seems to get along with everyone, except his wife. He dances well, has a charming air about him, has a great sense of humour and generally everything is going as great as it possibly could. He accidentally meets Berenice, helps her get a role as an extra and is nice to her. She has a crush on him but is not able to express her feelings directly. And then talking movies arrive. And things change…

The film is so amazingly well put together, so well shot, there are sequences which make you want to stand up and applaud much as you would applaud a painting that connects with you. The scene when Berenice enters his dressing room and caresses his suit. When he pours his drink over his reflection in the glass table. When he stands in front of the shop window in front of a suit.

There is a poignancy in the movie, a degree of romanticism that runs throughout the film. All actors excel in their performances. Jean is perfect, embodying the old world charm of that era. Berenice is amazing as the peppy, full of life person who takes to talkies like a fish to water. James Cromwell and John Goodman complete the cast with great acting in their pivotal roles. And special mention of the dog who plays a meaty role well, pun intended.
The minimalism of being a silent film and black and white seems to enhance the other senses – you notice the expressions, the photography, the little details and the excellent background score even more. It’s the perfect way to showcase a movie about the silent era, bringing back that charm and nostalgia as you watch events unfold. An unmissable film.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 24th February, 2012 (India)
Time : 130 minutes
Director : Mandeep Kumar; Writer : Abhijeet Sandhu; Music : Sachin-Jigar
Starring : Ritesh & Genelia Deshmukh, Tinnu Anand, Om Puri

A rare Hindi film where the second half is better than the first. Some genuinely nice moments are interspersed amidst a slightly stretched storyline, some awkward songs and a predictable first half.
Rickshaw driver Ritesh is a good buoy. Genelia,who hilariously interviews a classic Alpha Punjabi male while skeet shooting, is not. Rebelling against her fathers wish to get her married off early to the above prize chump, when the opportunity presents itself she stages a ‘kidnapping’ with the bewildered Ritesh and runs away.
The first half is the now often seen bubbly, sprightly girl paired with the quiet, decent guy. It began to wear thin after a while and I feared the worst during the intermission, but that’s when the second half took a far more pleasant, surprising turn.
Ritesh & Genelia essay roles that they’ve each done many times before. He is always the straight laced guy. And she always packed with that little extra fizz. The only novelty here is seeing them heretogether & that too almost immediately after their marriage. So I guess saying ‘the lead pair has no chemistry’ is ruled out. Tinnu Anand plays the long suffering father well. But the show stealer is Om Puri who plays his role with panache. Dialogues like ‘paanch lakh aur bada do’, ‘naye kism ki angrezi’ flow easily & naturally from him.
The continuity guy had a few off days during the film – several mistakes. Apart from ‘O re piya’, none of the other songs worked. There is a certain sequence (the ring scene) lifted straight from an English film. And I think there is an intrinsic struggle throughout on whether to stay real or to get filmy.
However, when you walk out of the hall, it’s the delightful moments that linger with you. I’m probably being slightly generous in my rating here but as my wife said, Thank God, it wasn’t yet another of those mindless, slapstick variety that passes today in the name of comedy.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 24th February, 2012 (India)
Time : 133 minutes
Director : Bennet Miller; Writers : Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin based on the book by Michael Lewis ‘Moneyball : The Art of Winning an Unfair Game’; Music : Mychael Danna
Starring : Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman

"Okay. People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn't be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs. You're trying to replace Johnny Damon. The Boston Red Sox see Johnny Damon and they see a star who's worth seven and half million dollars a year. When I see Johnny Damon, what I see is... is... an imperfect understanding of where runs come from. The guy's got a great glove. He's a decent leadoff hitter. He can steal bases. But is he worth the seven and half million dollars a year that the Boston Red Sox are paying him? No. No"

I wonder when they will begin to buy IPL teams this way was one of the many thoughts in my head as I left the hall. It’s a true story and once again proves that neccessity is the mother of invention.

Brad Pitt is a failed baseball player and currently heading the Oakland Athletics. As he so eloquently puts it “there are rich teams and poor teams, then theres fifty feet of crap, then there is us”. He is referring to his annual spending budget on players. His is miniscule compared to the top teams and not only that, even his best players are being sold to make money. He is not going to be able to put together a competitive team for the year, given his budget.
Billy Beane: Would you rather get one shot in the head or five in the chest and bleed to death?
Peter Brand: Are those my only two options?

Along comes Jonah Hill, who comes up with a new, fiercely statistical way of looking at players, ignoring the conventional wisdom of scouts, managers, coaches, journalists and the entire establishment. He and Brad proceed to put together a team that has the support of no one, does miserably at first but then proceeds to go on an unprecedented winning run.
It’s a really thought provoking film and its principles can be applied to many fields, not just sport. Anyone who has done research or looked at statistics will know that the conclusion lies in how its interpreted and that can vary quite dramatically from person to person. So to find that quite a few players are undervalued because of the way we humans evaluate athletes is not altogether surprising. We judge based on looks, build, hair, recent form, our own preferences of playing style etc instead of focusing ruthlessly on the numbers, a kind of results per dollar spent kind of metric.

Scott Hatteberg: [Responding to being asked to play first base for the Oakland A's] I've only ever played catcher.
Billy Beane: It's not that hard, Scott. Tell him, Wash.
Ron Washington: It's incredibly hard.

Interweaving a human angle into the story, with Brad Pitts own failures as a player haunting him, his superstitions, his daughter, his personal style, his inability to deal with the obstinate coach (Hoffman) who refuses to buy into his methods make the film a gripping one. And the wry sense of humour that pervades the film helps a lot as does the diffident nature of Jonah Hill’s character and the way Brad and Jonah interact throughout the story.

Today moneyball, the system developed by the Oakland A’s is used in most league teams. What is surprising is that its not used in more business areas…food for thought…

“I know you've taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It's the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it's threatening the game. But really what it's threatening is their livelihoods, it's threatening their jobs, it's threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it's the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They go bat shit crazy.”

PS : I saw this movie during the MAMI festival last year but omitted to write the review then so its been a while…

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Safe House

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 17th February, 2012 (India)
Time : 115 minutes
Director : Daniel Espinosa ; Writer : David Guggenheim; Music : Ramin Djawadi
Starring : Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard, Ruben Blades, Nora Arnezedar, Robert Patrick

A movie which manages to keep you on knifes edge without really coming up with anything earth shattering / innovative in terms of storyline.
Ryan guards a CIA safehouse in Cape Town and thirsts for some field action. When a rogue CIA agent, Denzel, is caught and brought to the safe house, all hell seems to explode. Ryan and Denzel are the only survivors of the attack and now Ryan has to somehow keep him safe and in custody. Not an easy task as wave upon wave of attacks come their way and Denzel is quite keen to go his own way and make money by selling secrets.
The film, shot mostly around Cape Town, throws up some stunning locales (there is one aerial shot in particular of a car driving through the fields that is simply spectacular). Ryan essays his part of a rookie agent, fresh on the job pretty well and the interactions between him and the veteran Denzel are very good. Denzel does what he does best, combining a soft spoken philosphers role with some brutal sporadic action. The fine ensemble cast does justice to their parts as well and the action is quite intense and very physical.

While it tries to surprise you at different points in time, its not anything you’ve not seen before. Its old wine but packaged well, keeping you on the edge of the seat without quite bowling you over.

Ghost Rider : Spirit of Vengeance

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 17th February, 2012 (India)
Time : 95 minutes
Director : Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor; Writer : Scott M Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S Goyer; Music : David Sardy
Starring : Nicholas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Violante Placido, Fergus Riordan, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert

A real yawn inducing film with a wafer thin plot, sleepwalking in place of acting and nothing new in terms of presentation with visuals similar to the previous film.

The devil, Ciaran, is interested in a boy, his son, Fergus. The mother, Violante, and Cage try to protect him and keep Ciaran at bay, aided and abeted by Idris. Ciaran also has a helper, Johnny, who changes form midway through the film.

Once the novelty of Cage transforming into a skeleton on fire & riding a bike goes away, there is precious little the film has to offer. And we see the above visual so many times, in close up and from afar, that there is zero excitement left post the halfway point.

The end, when it arrives, is weak & tame. Nicholas Cage looks old and bored (don’t know which is worse). The others fail to excite. The music, in the rock realm throughout, desperately tries to rouse some enthusiasm but only ends up grating on the nerves.

The film seems to have been made simply because a sequel made commercial sense even though it lacks a core, enticing idea. The entire movie is shot in a grey, black palette and that very much sums up your mood as you leave the hall.

Woman In Black

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 17th February, 2012 (India)
Time : 95 minutes
Director : James Watkins; Writer : Jane Goldman, based on the novel by Susan Hill; Music : Marco Beltrami
Starring : Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciaran Hinds, Sophie Stuckie, Misha Handley, Jessica Raine

Daniel Radcliffe, a widower for the last four years, is still unable to come to grips with his wifes death. Even his charming four year old son is unable to bring a smile to his face. A lawyer by profession, his work is also suffering and he is sent to a village to sort out what seems to be a routine succession of a house left behind by a lady.
However, he is clearly & strangely unwelcome in the village. The house seems haunted. Kids seem to die young, by committing suicide. And it all seems to be linked to an often seen apparition of a woman in black.
Daniel Radcliffe is impressive. Having only seen the first Harry Potter, have only seen him as a kid. Here, he looks grown up but not totally. There is still a little bit of a child in him which helps him retain his endearing qualities. The story itself goes along predictable lines, scaring in bits, building tension right from the beginning.
I am not a fan of the occult. Prefer to stick with the rational, that which can be explained logically. I will struggle to explain or cope with the way this one ended. Nothing we’ve not seen before, nothing much to take away home.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ekk Deewana Tha

Rating : 2/10
Release Date : 17th February, 2012
Time : 140 minutes
Director & Writer : Gautham Menon; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Prateik, Amy Jackson, Babu Anthony, Manu Rishi, Sachin Khedekar

A Hindi remake of Gautham Menon’s Tamil film Vinnaithandi Varuvaayaa

There was a joke in the film about Amitabh Bachchan and Mohanlal. I found that funny.

There was a conversation between father and son towards the middle, with the father, Sachin Khedekar, coming across as quite chilled out despite being a ‘Maharashtrian Brahmin’. I found that interesting.

I found the rest of the film excruciatingly painful. Flawed in terms of its storyline, the characters, the dialogues and I even found issue with the make-up…

The film is about a young boy, falling in love with his ‘neighbour’. His landlords daughter, actually, who lives upstairs. Courting her essentially by stalking her. And trying to convince her to love him back by blurting his feelings for her at the drop of a hat. He doesn’t seem to believe in things like becoming friends first. Events that unfold are much in the same vein and he even finds a willing accomplice in his mentor, a cameraman, played by Manu Rishi.

Because of the stalker hero, in the entire first half we’re treated to the sight of Amy walking either towards the camera or away from it multiple times. Sometimes, for variety, while walking away she looks back. Sometimes she just walks straight on. And they vary her clothes too, to establish that she looks good in all sorts of dresses including jeans, salwar kameez and sarees.
In a film like this, based on improbable and implausible love, what is necessary is a lead pair so charming they make you forget the flaws in the story. A boy who endears himself as a lovable rogue. A woman who bedazzles so much that we are blinded to everything else around them. Both, Prateik (was that strawberry lipstick he wore during the film ?) and Amy (who's skin colour varied from shot to shot), fall way short of the mark here.
Manu and Sachin, in fact, were the only two who came away with any credit for acting.

Locales are nice, music is nice but cannot rise above the film. Its also not converted fully into a North Indian / Hindi film, retaining a distinctly South Indian flavour & sensibility that also doesn’t work.
Love, they say, is a many splendoured thing, alive with all the colours of the rainbow. The love shown here was anything but. Plodding, indecisive, monochromatic. Instead of inspiring you to greater heights, it only made you do silly things. Unfortunately this is one remake which didn’t work at all…