Thursday, May 31, 2012

Arjun : The Warrior Prince

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 25th May, 2012
Time : 96 minutes
Director : Arnab Chaudhuri; Writer : Rajesh Devraj; Music : Vishal - Shekhar
Starring : (voices of ) Yudhveer Bakoliya, Ila Arun, Ashok Banthia, Ravi Khanvilkar, Sachin Khedekar, Vishnu Sharma

Its well made, the animations lavish & good (not upto par with the usual Disney but getting there), its interesting from a kids perspective but… in the interests of stylization / focusing on Arjun, it makes some serious deviations from the actual Mahabharat, it reduces other significant characters to almost being a caricature, (again, just to make Arjun shine brighter) and it also ends quite abruptly
Am not going to go into the story for obvious reasons. In an interesting twist, the story is narrated by a maid to a young prince, who fancies himself to be a fearsome warrior. Through her eyes we see the events unfold, we see the dilemma’s that present themselves in life and in battle for Arjun, we see how bit by bit, he becomes a true warrior instead of merely being a skilled combatant.

The music is very good, excellent lyrics (Piyush Mishra) and great vocals (the likes of Sukhwinder, Shankar Mahadevan amongst others). The quality of Hindi used in the dialogues is also commendable, even though my kids found it a bit hard to follow. There are some fantastic breathtaking moments of animation – the palaces, the scenery, some of the stunts that are really well done. And most of all, I enjoyed some of the questions that are posed to Arjun while he’s growing up. Would you fight your own guru ? How would you abandon fear ? Should you do whats right even if it means disobeying your king ?
However, as a diehard fan of the Mahabharat, I found it really hard to digest the various deviations they made from the actual story- more so given the fact that young children walking away from the movie will feel that is what really transpired. The first meeting with Karan, the swayamvar, the coronation ceremony in Indraprastha, the meeting with Krishna – for reasons not totally clear, they’re shown differently. Also the might of Bheem, the righteousness of Yudhishtra and the valour of Karan are given short shrift, just to make Arjun stand out.

Also, the animation, while beautiful in parts, lacked the detail / depth of Disney or Pixar, which even today never ceases to amaze me. While here they will show a lovely forest, in Disney films you can see an individual leaf flutter in a tree of the forest. I also missed the inherent humour that resides in most western animation features, though Shakuni was probably a good attempt at getting there.
So, while there is a lot going for it, there are, equally, a raft of flaws as well. Just to promote the culture of animated features in our country, though, would recommend everyone to watch this one in the theatre. And to make sure our kids get interested in our glorious epics, would recommend taking them to the theatre as well.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Love, Wrinkle-Free

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 25th May, 2012
Time : 107 minutes
Director & Writer : Sandeep Mohan; Music : Vivek Phillip
Starring : Shernaz Patel, Ash Chandler, Seema Rahmani, Sohrab Ardeshir, Ashwin Mushran, Arika Silaichia, Marianne Borgo, Theron D’Souza, Tensin Dasang, Guneet Monga

Shernaz is over forty, resents that she’s getting booted out of the church choir (her mom sang till sixty after all) and otherwise seems to have a pretty chilled existence, running a restaurant in her spare time.

Ash, Shernaz’s hubby, is also pretty chilled out, struggling to break out of his middle management job selling underwear, hating the young turk (the National GM, Marketing's nephew) who’s been foisted upon him at work.

Arika, their daughter, is a sarcastic teenager (are there any other kind, you can ask quite fairly ?) who somewhere is still coming to terms with the fact that she was adopted and that she looks different from her parents

Ash meets Seema at a salsa dancing lesson. Her boyfriend, Theron, seems interested in his business ideas. She seems interested in him for his flexibility and his Marlon Brando Godfather imitation.

The salsa classes happen at a club owned by Sohrab, the local don, eager to prove his Portugese blood runs deep. He yearns for a grandson and has almost given up hope from his dopehead, good for nothing son, Ashwin

Add a priceless antique football, a statue which is pissed upon, an unexpected good news, some misunderstandings and you have a hotch potch movie where things happen yet remain where they are.
What I liked were some of the characters, their quirks and some of the dialogues. The photography was beautiful, presenting some of the natural beauty of Goa, its lanes, alleyways and houses / architecture. The music was lovely, adding a nice mood to some scenes.

However, just because its Goa doesn’t mean everyone has to be eccentric and talk funny. Some of the characters come across as jokers rather than real. The story meanders, doesn’t seem to go anywhere. And it fails to really leave an imprint.

I guess this is what I would call an intelligent time-pass film. Its not going to grab you or live with you for a long time but is nice enough to draw into its gentle, slow paced world while it lasts.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Men In Black 3

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 25th May, 2012
Time : 103 minutes
Director : Barry Sonnenfeld; Writers : Etan Cohen, (based on the Malibu comic by Lowell Cunningham); Music : Danny Elfman
Starring : Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Penant, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Nicole Scherzinger

It’s a nice story, mixing time travel with our friendly neighbourhood agents & exotic aliens, and has a neat emotional twist at the end. But it isn’t as cool or as much fun as the previous editions.

We have a snarling alien (Jemaine), imprisoned for over 40 years, seeking revenge from the man who shot off his arm & took him prisoner. We have a time travel machine that requires jumping from great heights. We have Agent O (Emma) taking over as head of the agency. We have a Griffin (Michael), who can co-exist in several dimensions at once. We have J, who despite being Senior Agent, wants a pay raise. And we have an ageing, weary K, who seems to have some secrets weighing heavily on his shoulders
The time travel is quite an interesting aspect, allows us to get a scenery change from Manhattan as we know it. Also, without giving too much away, there are certain intriguing aspects of the time travel shown, certain questions raised which require reflection. The logic (if there is such a thing in a film about a government agency dealing with aliens) doesn’t hold all the way through though, making you wonder ‘why?’ in certain places.

The villain is quite boring, we don’t get to see or know too much about him, his powers or what makes him fearsome. Tommy Lee Jones looks old & Will Smith looks a bit jaded, unable to bring as much energy as he did. Even the jokes are fewer and more flat.

This one is quite different from previous MIBs. The first was quite physical (lots of fight sequences, chases) and conceptual. The second took the story telling and the humour up a notch. This one focuses too much on the plot (which is interesting) but misses out on both, the physical aspects and even the humour. Its interesting but not quite there.

Horrible Bosses

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 11th July, 2011
Time : 98 minutes
Director : Seth Gordon; Writers : Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein; Music : Christopher Lennertz
Starring : Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudekis, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Foxx, Lindsay Sloane

If you had a horrible boss, could you be tempted to kill him / her ? what if getting another job wasn’t really an option because of recession & other issues ?

That is the dilemma that our three leads (Jason, Charlie,Jason) find themselves in. Jason Bateman works for an autocratic, abusive, asshole (Kevin Spacey) who imposes impossible deadlines and lies routinely. Jason Sudekis's beloved boss passes away, leaving his idiotic cokehead son (Colin Farrell) in charge. And Charlie. Well, Charlie has a dilemma a lot of us would love to have. His boss, Jennifer Aniston, has the hots for him, really wants to have sex with him and will stop at nothing, including dressing up in next to nothing to get her man. (yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking but he loves Lindsay, is engaged to be married to her and doesn’t want to cheat).
Once they decide that death is the only option, several escapades follow till a reasonably surprising and satisfactory conclusion.
My issue with the film is quite simple – after they’ve chosen they want to kill their bosses – they go about it in the worst, most stupid way possible. They are three fairly intelligent men and what they do (breaking and entering, their methods of outsourcing and reconnaissance) beggars belief. As does some of the things that Kevin or Jennifer do as bosses – way over the top & definitely illegal.

The three leads make for a nice group with different personalities and styles. There are enough moments of humour to keep you engaged though the film does move a little awkwardly at times. The performances are good, enough to make the characters credible.
Things come together neatly, with the obligatory surprises & twists thrown in. some of the solutions thought off in the end, could’ve been thought of before they thought of the ‘lets kill our bosses’ option but then we wouldn’t have had a movie. In this film, the second half is better than the first, which is a rarity and probably worth the price of a ticket. As is the sight of Jennifer Aniston parading around in almost nothing…

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dark Shadows

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 11th May, 2012
Time : 113 minutes
Director : Tim Burton; Writers : Seth Grahame-Smith; John August (based on the TV Series by Dan Curtis); Music : Danny Elfman
Starring : Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Chloe Grace Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Bella Heathcote, Jackie Earle Haley

Another film suffering from an identity crisis. Struggling between a ghost / supernatural genre vs a comedy vs an emotional drama about love and family. It has its moments but has too many ponderous parts for us to really get into it

Johnny Depp is cursed to become a vampire by Eva, who loves him but cannot accept the fact that he doesn’t love her back. Anyways, if she cant have him, she cant let anyone else get him. In other words a classic scorned woman. And so he is chained and buried alive into the ground. Only to awaken 200 years later and find the world has changed, as has his family, with only Eva, thanks to her witchcraft, remaining a constant.
It has its moments of humour, not least while showing Johnny’s bewilderment at the changes in the world. “Bring my horses” or “Mephistopheles !” or his tips on wooing from the 15 year old Chloe, probably being amongst the highlights.

But there are too many characters, too many sub plots and too many emotions thrown at us for it to make sense.

Interesting premise, great acting but a lukewarm story and lack of focus consign it to remain in the dark shadows.


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 11th May, 2012 (India)
Time : 133 minutes
Director & Writer : Habib Faisal; Co-writer : Aditya Chopra; Music : Amit Trivedi
Starring : Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Gauhar Khan

Full marks for establishing the mileu, the people, the characters and the acting chops of the lead pair. Special credit for one of the funniest opening sequences in recent memory. The rest is a steady slide downhill as the makers cant make up their mind on what the film is really about….
It seems to be about an affair between a very feisty Parineeti and an almost psychotic Arjun. They also happen to be from warring political families with an impending election to boot. Then there are some twists, which didn’t appeal to me, and the film changes character completely in the second half.

It is set in the small town of Almora, UP. Where might is right. Gunfire is a means of celebration, expressing emotions. You press the trigger if you’re feeling good to enhance the mood or fire a couple of shots to let of steam when angry. Where race and caste matter above and beyond everything else and every little incident can rapidly become a life or death situation.
Parineeti is probably more the one to watch out for. An extremely expressive face, a range of emotions and a natural feistiness that suits her well. Arjun is going to take a couple of films to mature. There is something about him, he has a good screen presence but will need to work hard to get rid of the small town air about him, similar to what Ranveer is facing now.
So what was the film about ? Was it about the elections and the kind of rough and tumble politics of UP ? Or about Hindu vs Muslim ? Or about the affair between the two ? Or about the crimes that are committed in this country in the name of honour ? Or was it a mishmash of all of the above, touching upon all the topics but not sufficiently focusing on any…it just didn’t make sense to me…