Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 29th June, 2012
Time : 136 minutes
Director : Marc Webb; Writers : James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves, based on the Marvel characters created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko; Music : James Horner
Starring : Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Dennis Leary, Sally Fields, Irrfan Khan

Take the original film. Add few layers of intrigue, some degrees of greyness, reduce dramatically cuteness and finally inject some great action. Voila, I present the Amazing Spiderman

It’s the same, yet its new. He is an orphan, brought up by his uncle & aunt, but there is some intrigue about what his father was doing, the circumstances of his death. He is still bitten by a spider but then comes up with certain stunts on his own. He still does fall for someone but it’s Gwen, not Mary Jane. And there is a villain, Lizard man but to a degree its his fault, in some ways, his own creation.
Andrew Garfield brings something refreshing to the character. He is not all sweet & saccharine but has a look about him, a certain something in his demeanor which suggests there are secrets, a darker side, some hidden abilities to him. And all this without losing the friendliness and the fun. I fell for Emma Stone in Zombieland. Spiderman’s girlfriend always has to play second fiddle but here she manages to infuse it with some steel, showcasing intelligence and feistiness, which make her essential to his life.
Dennis Leary has always been a favourite of mine and here, as the police captain, Gwen’s father, is a treat. Martin Sheen brings some gravitas to the role of Uncle Ben and it’s a delight to watch Irrfan bring his trademark deadpan delivery to a brief but hopefully a role that fleshes out more in the future.

The scene where Andrew gets up in the morning and discovers his strength after having been bitten the previous night, could not be any funnier. The repartee between Emma and Andrew is fun & frothy. And the action sequences are impressive. I’ve always felt that in this era of special effects its becoming progressively tougher to be able to elicit ‘oohs & aahs’ from the audience. After all how much can you show in slow motion, how many cars can you blow up etc. To the credit of the director, he manages to astonish us in a few places with the help of 3D and some well thought out camera angles.
There are some giant tarantula sized holes in the script, lots of very implausible events, things that don’t make sense. Also, somewhere at the back of my head, couldn’t help but feel that it was too soon for a remake, with the original still fresh in my mind. Isn’t ten years too soon to be doing another version ? Having said that, I enjoyed it immensely…

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gangs of Wasseypur

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 22nd June, 2012
Time : 120 minutes
Director, Co-writer : Anurag Kashyap; Writers : Zeishan Qadri, Akhilesh, Sachin Ladia; Music : Sneha Khanwalkar
Starring : Manoj Bajpai, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Jaideep Ahlawat, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Piyush Mishra, Reemma Sen, Richa Chaddha, Zeishan Qadri

“Then there was the whole concept of coal mining, which is a culture unto itself, the most dangerous occupation in the world, and which draws and develops a certain kind of man.”
Martin C. Smith

Manoj Bajpai wants revenge on Tigmanshu Dhulia who had treacherously killed his father.

Sometimes there comes a story which has an epic kind of sweep. Spanning generations, introducing several characters, all caught up in empire building, love, lust and enimity. There isn’t much point to them, the protagonists aren’t clearly defined, the storyline meandering, their lives entwined in the events that befell the nation and the small town that the story inhabits.

Set in the backdrop of Wasseypur, a small part of Dhanbad, capital of India’s coal belt, numerous characters come and go. India gains independence, Emergency is imposed, coal mining is first unionized and later nationalized. However, the story, at its core remains about Tigmanshu’s star rising ever higher and Manoj building his own empire from humble origins, while seeking revenge.

There are times when you wish things would happen quicker. That there were less characters. Or that there was a point to some of them, who are introduced to either only die or shine bright for a few frames before being forgotten.

The environment is beautifully captured, including the lingo, the mannerisms whether it’s the abject despair of the poor mine worker, condemned to live his life in the black shafts. The bestiality of the butcher, as he hacks away at his meat. The cowardice of the cops. The empty bravado of the minister’s goons. Or the naked lust as hungry men eye their next catch, the woman to slake their base desires, even as the wife lies at home, pregnant.

However, there are several things which let the film down. For a film set in the coal belt, we see very little of it. Apart from one memorable scene where, caked in the black coaldust, a few men fight for their lives and another where coals water absorption properties are highlighted, there is too little was about the black mineral and much more made of ancillary businesses. National events of importance are also given short shrift or brushed over, their impact shown quickly, transitions happening smoothly rather than in real life where each change creates havoc in such a tiny eco-system.

Great camera work, flawless performances, several one-liners and very catchy music keep you engaged, though, as our two key protagonists slug it out and religion comes in, with different sects of Muslims engaging in war amongst each other. The story moves forward with a Godfather-esque gait, a kind of glacial majesty, in stops and starts, not always making sense. But then, isn’t that how real life is ?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rock of Ages

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 15th June, 2012
Time : 123 minutes
Director : Adam Shankman; Writers : Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb, (based on the Broadway Musical by Chris D’Arienzo); Music : Matthew Rush Sullivan
Starring : Julianne Lough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Mary J. Blige, Angelo Valderrama

Make no mistake. This is a Bollywood film. Not just a film about music, but a proper musical, where actors burst into spontaneous song to express how they feel at the slightest hint of angst or happiness. Where there are clearly etched out heroes and villains. And where at the end, there is the obligatory showdown / climax where all characters come together, put their hands in the air and sing “Hallelujah” till they orgasm.

I liked the nubile charms of Julianne Lough, the vampish role of Malin Akerman. And have liked Tom Cruise ever since I saw his boyish smile in Top Gun. So I liked it overall.

Cute small town girl, Julianne, meets cute boy, Diego, literally as soon as she steps of the bus in Los Angeles. He happens to work in Bourbon Room, a place run by Alec Baldwin, which is a live rock event paradise. The Room though is struggling financially and is also under ‘moral’ threat by the mayor (Bryan) and his uptight wife (Zeta-Jones), who blame it for all the evils afflicting their city (kind of the role Shiv Sena / BJP normally play in our country). Things will come to a head (pun intended), in a make or break fashion, when Tom Cruise, a legendary rocker, will come and perform. He symbolizes the filth and decadence that the mayor hates. And is wildly popular, so just might rescue Alec Baldwin.

Paul Giamatti plays Tom’s odious manager, Malin is the reporter asking the rock star tough questions. Russell Brand is the weird guy who ‘helps’ Alec run the place. And there are other assorted weirdoes including Mary Blige, a kind of ‘Madam’ with the heart of gold, who runs Venus Gentleman’s club.

The music is nice, though more pop than rock. There are times when you wish the characters just spoke instead of singing. There are times when you wish the story had more to it than being so predictable. It was the weirdness and eccentricity of Tom Cruise though, that made the film for me. You really never know what he’s going to do next.

I like the fact that mainline stars in the USA are able to do such offbeat roles in films. Catherine Zeta Jones, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Paul Giamatti are all legitimate leads in their own rights. And here they are, infusing the crazy, crackpot characters they represent with all they’ve got. Just for that, its probably worth a watch. But don’t forget, it’s a Hindi film through and through. Keeping that in mind may make it easier to digest…

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ferrari Ki Sawaari

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 15th June, 2012
Time : 140 minutes
Director : Rajesh Mapuskar; Writers : Rajesh Mapuskar, Rajkumar Hirani; Music : Pritam
Starring : Sharman Joshi, Boman Irani, Ritvik Sahore, Deepak Shirke, Seema Pahawa, Satyadeep Misra, Aakash Dhabade, Nilesh Divekar, Vijay Nikam

This is a modern day fairy story with a heart of gold. Slightly manipulative emotionally but forgivably so.

Sharman, a Parsi, chronic do-gooder, an honest RTO officer, probably below the new Parsi poverty line of Rs 90,000 pm, wants to send his son, Ritvik, to a cricket coaching camp at Lords, London. He’s a cinch to get selected but the only hitch is the Rs 1.5 lac fee. Many loan rejections later, the only way out seems to be via a wedding planner, Seema . Who’s willing to give him the amount as a gift if he can arrange a Ferrari for a few hours. So that a corrupt corporator's useless son can get married in it. The problem is, there is only one Ferrari in Mumbai. Belonging to Sachin Tendulkar.

Another problem is posed by Sharman’s dad, Boman Irani, who hates cricket, thinks most cricketers are salesmen. And is dead against sending his grandson for the camp.

The story line is simple and thankfully remains so through the film, with possibly my only issue being with the suicide angle and the breakdown towards the end. Else, it remains light, chirpy and cheerful all the way through. The film is lit up by some very well written characters and excellent performances. The waiter at the Mumbai Cricket Association who wants an autograph because in an inconsequential match 38 years ago, the cricketer had taken 8 wickets on a dead pitch. The bumbling but good hearted security guard at Sachin’s flat. Sharman’s boss who informs him that the wheels of loans against Provident Fund grind correctly but exceedingly slowly. The cop nicknamed Mahatma Gandhi. The corporators dramebaaz son. The cricket coach. The bubbly wedding planner. The gun happy corporator (the opera scene is a classic !). Sharman and Boman, who do an as expected great job. And above all, I loved the son. His smile lights up the screen and our hearts in a truly honest performance.

The background music, with the cricket song and also the title song deserving special mention. Keeps the mood effervescent through the film. Some moments, as mentioned above, and an unnecessary lavani number by Vidya Balan are the only discordant notes in the film, everything else being spot on.

The film is about our nations obsession with cricket. How it touches the hearts of millions. Of how some of our cricketers inspire a few hundred thousand to dedicate their lives to the sport. Its about the simple but sometimes forgotten values of life. Honesty. Behaving correctly. Doing good. And about something that most current newspaper headlines make us forget. That good things happen to good people…

Friday, June 08, 2012


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 8th June, 2012 (India)
Time : 124 minutes
Directors : Ridley Scott; Writers : Jon Spaihts, Damen Lindelof; Music : Marc Streitenfeld
Starring : Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green

Sometimes a film is more about the questions than the answers.

Who created us ? Why ? Was it just because they could ? Who created them ? Why is there a common drawing across our ancient civilizations, of a giant being pointing towards a uniquely shaped planetary system ? What will Prometheus, a mission in 2093 heading towards the same system find there ? And why is Weyland corporation funding the mission ?

Amongst the crew on board are David, a high tech robot, who’s designed to be as human-like as possible because humans are more comfortable dealing with one of their kind. The scientists who made the discovery of the common drawings, Noomi Rapace and Logan. The head of the mission, a fiercely independent Charlize Theron, for whom self preservation comes before anything else. An assorted bunch of scientists, geologists, security. And finally, Idris Elba, the captain of the ship, who’s just interested in flying the damn thing and in none of the other answers

I have rarely seen a film unfold with so little known about what lies around the next corner. Even the questions are revealed via drip feed. And therein lies the beauty of this experience. Yes, the special effects are stunning. The visuals breathtaking. The performances incredibly convincing. But what impressed me most was the sense of foreboding, the steady build of tension, of not knowing whats coming at you next

Prometheus. The Titan who tried to make men equal to Gods. The champion of progress. Who, for that sin was cast aside, made to suffer in eternal torment by the Gods. This film asked the questions. Hopefully the sequel answers them.