Monday, November 15, 2010

Golmaal 3 - TWO and HALF stars

Golmaal 3, the third part in the Golmaal sequel is a family comedy that plays upon the ‘can’t stand each other’ element.
Rivalry between two groups and the funniness in what ensues has been captured comically, but only some of the time. Kareena Kapoor plays a snazzy role and is thankfully not in her ultra glamorous guise. Mithun, Arsha Warsi, Shreyas Talpade, Johnny Lever, Tushar Kapoor and Sanjay Mishra contribute to the moments, you will actually find funny.

This movie tries hard to make you laugh in its ride of madness but it gets boring, on and off.

The film is good in parts but does not live up to all the hype. It often felt like Rohit Shetty and the production house were just trying to make a killing on the buildup created by the previous 2 films, in this series.
Interestingly, new characters in this 3rd part were far better than the characters who repeated their act. Some jokes were silly and one does wonder what all is passed of as comedy. An irritating sound which almost acts as a sad reminder to laugh adds to some of the alleged comic confusion. Surely there are some "laugh out loud" moments, but these are few, given that this is supposed to be a good comic movie.

Johnny Lever as Puppy Bhai is fabulously funny with his "short term memory loss" problem punctuated role. Also Mithunda’s ‘I am a Disco Dancer’ and other songs cheerfully take you back to the 80s. A special mention for Sanjay Mishra as Daga, one of the 2 sidekicks for Johnny Lever, he hilariously misspells English words - don’t miss his dialogues, they are funnier than they sound!

The film does seem long and the script, weak. Overall Golmaal 3 is not as funny as it is made out to be. Watch it only if you are a die hard Golmaal fan or of one of the actors, else just wait for it to come on TV, soon.

The Social Network - FOUR stars

If you, like me thought Facebook was just another social networking site created by some Silicon Valley geek, this movie will make you think again.

Actually the beauty of David Fincher’s The Social Network is that it is not just about Facebook, it is about a far bigger question - what drives us to do what we do, and how we do it?

Critics and movie goers alike are going to rave about this movie for sometime, and it will surely create a buzz during Oscar season.
David Fincher’s smooth direction, Reznor and Atticus Ross’ sharp soundtrack and Aaron Sorkin’s slick screenplay present an unbeatable package. Based on the novel “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, The Social Network beautifully narrates a story of the human drama behind the successful social networking site Facebook.
Love, betrayal, greed, passion, jealousy, ego – all interesting human elements have been explored well in this film. This movie could have easily ended up as a documentary with facts and data being put forth in a boring format, but you’ll notice that this movie runs like a thriller!
The film format glides deftly between various events in different points in time, never reminding the viewer that it is longer than 2 hours. The movie begins and ends, seamlessly – such is the efficiency in direction. Also, the viewer is just told a radiant tale in an unbiased fashion, one that he must assess and judge for himself.
All the actors have done a brilliant job, given that the director apparently does 50 high-speed takes for every scene. Justin Timberlake shines as the savvy Napster creator Sean Parker, his delivery of the role is so fascinating that you forget early on that he is Justin Timberlake.
So go watch this "must see" poignant story of the story behind our beloved Facebook. It is very entertaining with its witty dialogues, amusing moments and that really real people narrative.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Peepli Live - THREE and 1/2 stars

A movie that can make you laugh, think and also kick you in the gut - all at once!

Director Anusha Rizvi takes a serious issue like farmer suicide and presents to us a thoughtfully crafted mirth package. The film is filled with unfamiliar faces who add realness to a painfully real storyline. Except for Raghubir Yadav, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Naseeruddin Shah all the other actors are relatively new. One wonders how Anusha has extracted brilliant performances from the entire cast, I for one often forgot that they were acting out roles.

Don’t let the unnecessarily slow beginning put you off, just be a little patient and the screenplay will be running at top speed, taking you along with it

The characters are so beautifully detailed that I was reminded of some of the Hindi Premchand stories one read, in school. This film is well written and excellently executed. Music by Indian Ocean and others is relevant and kept to the minimum. The woman characters dazzle with their appropriateness and genuineness

If there was a mini Oscar for originality in treatment of serious topics with a touch of mirth, this movie will win hands down!

The best part about Peepli Live is that it never gets preachy. It just places circumstances in a satirical format and succeeds in touching the viewer far more than a serious book, documentary, or article on the same theme would have done – to an audience anywhere in the world

It was sad but not very surprising to see very few people in the cinema hall. But the ones that did come out to see this movie, would have gone back with some perspective built, albeit without their own knowledge :)

Definitely a MUST WATCH film!

ps: don’t miss the potshot taken at Monsanto, with a similar sounding name – no, I wont tell you the name here
pps: you will fall in love with an old bed ridden woman who plays the protagonist's mother. She will sway you with her spunk

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception - THREE and 1/2 stars

Don’t miss Chris Nolan’s trippy film Inception! This is not a perfect movie, but is surely a one time must see on the big screen.

Inception is a wonderful marriage of a brilliant psychological drama and mind-blowing tech-special effects. The movie’s tag line, “your mind is the scene of the crime” says it all.

If you are a Chris Nolan fan and have adored his Memento, Dark Knight etc. you will love Inception as well. I wonder where he gets his unique movie ideas from, does he steal them from other people’s minds while they're dreaming??

This movie can’t be easily defined, and in this lays its interesting mystery. I was glad to see a packed house for a movie I thought was too complex, and would normally only have a handful of people watching it. People even clapped as some of the technological movie making marvels in it unfolded. I was reminded of Matrix, in the way this movie was made; of course the stories are very different.
Please expect sequels, as this one will go down as a trend-setter in movie making history. And don’t let anyone tell you the story before hand, like I said earlier the fun is in its vagueness. That, some of us might need to be told the story afterward, is not something we’ll discuss in detail here :)

Chris Nolan surely has a way of making films that are interactive more than most directors. He makes you question, think, feel, wonder while he keeps you entertained. Given the complex psycho drama nature of the plot, you’ll find yourself talking about Inception long after you have left the cinema hall.

Inception is 2 ½ hours long and I must admit, for all its visual & musical excellence it did feel a bit elongated somewhere in the middle. Though some amount of vagueness in stories is acceptable, I must say that this one pushed the envelope just a bit. And these by far are the only critique I have for this movie.

Inception the mad movie will surely create an Oscar buzz for all the tech related awards, originality and of course for a stellar performance by Leonardo Di Caprio. Seriously, is there a role this guy can’t pull off?

The zero-g flights in this visual masterpiece and the demonstration of time stoppage in various dream levels will leave you thrilled.
And I am happy that finally someone has taken the issue of dreams seriously enough to make a movie about it. For long I have felt like a lone ranger in these kinds of discussions, not any more I hope!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Raavan - TWO and 1/2 stars

I am not surprised that this movie is getting mixed reviews - it has its wow moments just like it has its mediocre instances. Not one of director Mani Ratnam’s best movies, but Raavan could have been one of his bravest

I have heard a lot of people say that this movie is boring but Raavan with its numerous failings and incongruities, is not dull or dreary

1. Raavan’s cinematography itself makes it worthwhile going to the cinemas to watch it, once. Santosh Sivan and Mani have always been a heady combo, they don’t disappoint as far as the visuals go
2. Brilliant acting by Priyamani, Vikram, Abhishek and Aishwarya. They shine through an otherwise loopholed and flawed movie, cant say the same about Govinda though.
3. A bold story, nice interpretation of an Indian classic. Don’t know what people mean when they criticize the movie for not being contemporary enough. It is Mani’s elucidation of the classic we all know and his interpretation is not bizarre

Not so nice…
1. The movie is overdramatic, in every which way – music, dialogue delivery decibel levels, use of water and other props, cinematography even! Raavan would have been a far more powerful movie had it been subtle in its execution. The essence and complexities of the human element is lost in its overpowering technical wizardry
2. A R Rahman’s music usually has the competency to come out of even a horrific movie unscathed. But in Raavan his music is loud, jarring, unnecessary and confusing in most places. It actually acts as an irritant in an already over-theatrical movie
3. Mani had a great story at hand, but didn’t go all out with it. He should have been braver and shown the various layers of his Raavan’s personality, unashamedly. But he held back maybe because he got too involved in the commercial-technical facets of the movie. Consequently, the movie’s human constituent loses out where production value has gained
4. I wonder if we should forgive Mani for underestimating the knowledge of the Indian audience by spelling out some of the corresponding Ramayana scenes onto our faces
5. And the movie's ending was a complete let down, it was a final proof that by then Mani Ratnam's concentration had moved far away from his creative instincts

So if you are a big fan of classy cinematography, this movie is a must do, that too in a cinema hall. Otherwise do catch it once on TV or DVD just to see what a great movie this could have been, if Mani had stayed with his original idea giving its characters his undivided attention…and not gone overboard with the technicalities, quite literally!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hurt Locker - THREE stars

Hurt Locker [HL] is a film about war but without the endless mind numbing explosions and gunshot sounds. The explosion sounds and scenes you will hear and see in this film are so aesthetically done that one might forget the seriousness of the situation momentarily, and sit to admire the brilliance with which these are captured.

HL is an Iraq war film with a different perspective. It is not the usual exhaustion inducing, pro or anti Bush rant about the war in Iraq. HL is a story about an elite American bomb disposal squad stationed in Baghdad.

The squad has a recent maverick joinee, Sergeant James, who goes about disposing explosives like he were peeling an orange. Though James is brilliant at what he does, his team is insecure around him because he doesn’t follow the safety norms and is capable of putting his own and other people’s lives in danger.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, who won and Oscar for directing HL concentrates on the events that unfold in the everyday life of the war front liners. She uses the hand held camera and minimal music to keep the authenticity of the happenings intact.

HL is like a thrilling poignant documentary that makes you feel the heat without using too many Hollywood style effect enhancers

This is not a feel good movie, and you are not going to walk home all hopeful and motivated to change the world around you. It is surely worth watching once, given that it is a unique war film which talks about the smaller picture ie an average soldier and does not indulge in the larger so called picture, which as we all know by now was anyways bare. Through the story of a bomb disposal squad, Bigelow accentuates the futility of the Iraq war, without lecturing us about it. Without much ado she is able to silently explain to us why the characters behave the way do - and that in itself is an extraordinary achievement!

All said, I do however cynically wonder if this was a film made just to change the image of the US soldiers demeanor in Iraq, eg. their excesses with the Iraqi prisoners - almost as if Bilgelow wanted to say, "hey, the US soldiers suffered too you know!", that brings me to another question, "is that why she won the Oscar?"

Julie & Julia THREE and a 1/2 stars

Julie & Julia [J&J] is a mouth watering movie. Don’t get me wrong but all the French food cooking, food discussions and the erotic sounds you will hear after foods have been tasted by the two Js, will surely whet your appetite.

This movie is about hunger - the hunger of two women in search of their vision and their resilient pursuit of it. They live decades and worlds apart, but they have one thing in common [amongst others], their love of food.

J&J is based on two real life stories, that of Julia Child and Julie Powell. These were two women who lived in different eras, wanted to excel in French cooking, and went about sharing their learnings with the rest of America. People who have single mindedly pursued something in their lives will surely identify with this film and enjoy it immensely, especially women.

Director Nora Ephron who is also the writer glides you through the movie at a pace that will remind of the books that you read from cover to cover without wanting to get up. She has deftly merged two stories and made one very watchable film

Meryl Streep and Amy Adams both do immense justice to their roles and one often forgets that they are playing roles in J&J. Meryl Streep unsurprisingly delivers a fabulous performance getting the nuances of Julia’s very cheerful persona, right

Both J & J have very supportive husbands, the types who encourage their beloved wife's experiments in the kitchen and put up with their obsessions with a smile. Wish there were more such husbands around!

The frustrations and trials one has to go through to realize one’s dream are captured well in J&J without making it trying. There is a fine balance in how the similarities between J&J are portrayed without diluting their individuality or the distinct contexts they live in

I loved the scenes where - 1. Julie articulates her love for butter 2. She realizes that the veteran Ms Julia is not a big fan of hers, but she anyways continues to love her, 3. Her expression of how she continuously feels Julia around her in mind and spirit etc. etc.

So Julie & Julia is surely a one time watch. Stephen Goldblatt's fresh cinematography and Alexandre Desplat's suitable score complete the film’s fine package

Friday, February 26, 2010

Karthik Calling Karthik – THREE stars

Karthik calling Karthik [KCK] is a unique intriguing film by debutant director Vijay Lalwani. KCK is surely a first of its kind, for Bollywood. It is good to see young first time directors take a plunge, head first with gusto. Kudos to Farhan and team for having the courage to go off the beaten path and produce a movie that is dark and real, something most producers would not go anywhere near. My first impression was that it reminded me of Haruki Murakami’s novels and characters.

Any movie that has Farhan Akhtar involved usually scores well on aesthetics, cinematography, music and screenplay. No surprises on any of these fronts, KCK has high production value, I even loved the way the credits rolled in the beginning.

Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is apt and adds panache and style to an already sleek movie. Only in a few places the music was louder than required. All the songs are worth listening to repeatedly. In fact the music CD is worth buying.

Deepika Padukone shows promise with her acting skills and looks lovely, but I wonder if she is still carrying the burden of an unnatural gait from her modeling days. Her movements and poise seem awkward and out of place, not always fitting and going with the flow.

Farhan Akhtar seems to do justice to what he touches; producing directing acting singing…gosh the list goes on. He plays the lead role in KCK and has also produced it. He has put in a brilliant performance and mind you, he doesn’t have an easy role to play in this psychological thriller. Strangely he and Deepika make a good pair. Their onscreen intimate moments seem real and natural.

The middle part of the movie has many funny scenes, which though sound out of place in a serious movie like this, is actually what makes the movie more interesting. It would have been too serious and intense to watch it otherwise. I must say that the humor has been very thoughtfully and cleverly placed, and does not stray away from the grim main storyline. It just helps carry the film forward.

The pace of the movie is mostly appropriate given its concept. The thrill and tempo are kept up even though you can guess some of the twists. Have given it a rating of 3 and not a 4 because the first half does drag a little.
IMP: Please don’t allow anyone to tell you even some of KCK's story before you watch it.

A definite one time watch, do catch it. But remember this is not one of those light hearted fun flicks that you want to see to getaway from your own problems.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Name is Khan - TWO stars

My home is filled with die hard SRK fans, and yet we found My Name is Khan [MNIK] boring. If ever I was to give one word reviews to movies, that would be it for MNIK – BORING

Though very difficult, let me try and begin on a positive note - In MNIK, SRK pleasantly surprises by pulling off a badly written role [not to mention script] with conviction. Wish I could say this about everything else in the movie. The character he plays suffers from a kind of autism, and I must admit nowhere does SRK look ridiculous or act like he is trying too hard

Apart from SRK the only other positive factor worth mentioning in MNIK is the cinematography by Ravi K Chandran. MNIK can pass off as a subtle sales pitch for tourism to the US of A; such is the brilliance of the colors and exotic spaces Ravi splashes onto the screen

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy give bearable music, but I think like us they too thought a lot was going to happen and made the music accordingly. The music seems to exaggerate what is happening; very non impactful scenes receive music that is meant for life altering events

Kajol rarely delivers a less than brilliant performance, but in MNIK she seemed overused and passé. Of course one did see glimpses [only] of her natural talent in the highly emotional scene where she loses her loved one and again later when she confronts SRK in a stadium.

So to cut a long review short, looks like Karan Johar should stick to his “pink and purple” genre, am not sure if he is good at delivering serious stories. He probably doesn’t know how to tell a somber story in an interesting way. He needs to learn the difference between dreary and impactfully solemn.

The movie is dull not because it doesn’t have a story, but because no efforts have been made to make the story telling interesting to the viewers. More importance has been given to the look and feel of the film than its content. And it shows.

See this movie, only when it comes on TV, as I am sure it will - soon. Don’t spend any money on it, please! It is wasteful enough to put your time into it. And I am saying you should catch it when it comes on TV just so that you can see Ravi’s fabulous cinematography and SRK’s interesting rendition of an ill scripted role

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ishqiya - almost THREE stars

- First of all, director Abhishek Chaubey should be commended for his attempt at film making, it is difficult to believe that this movie is his debut film. It is a well thought out interesting film
- Vishal Bharadwaj has produced, made the music and written the raunchy dialogues for this film. One does feel his touches, though it does not have VB written all over it. This is a compliment to both Abhishek and Vishal, the former for being able to hold his own given such a strong influence around him, and the latter for allowing another to tell his story his way. Am sure this was tougher to achieve than we might think
- Naseer, Arshad and Vidya have done a brilliant job. I just wonder if Vidya could have sounded more rustic. She has worked hard, but is unable to hide her urbane diction completely. Nonetheless very good performances from all the actors, and if I HAD to pick the best of them, it would have to be Arshad. He dazzled with an almost perfect rendition of the various shades that his character is made to play out. He was especially good when he confronts Naseer on a road fight and another time when he allegedly discovers Vidya's true colors
- In true VB style the lingo is rustic, while this sounds very authentic and "in place" I wonder if he could have tried harder to make it more comprehendable, I for one didn't understand the dialogues sometimes, and do hope I didn't miss any jokes!
- VB is a brilliant music director and does have 2 winning songs [ibn e batuta & badi dheere jali] in the film, but apart from that the music sounds a little out of place and this is only because he has tried to mix modern and hinterland sounds. Nothing wrong with that, but I think a more small town version of Indian music would have carried this kind of film better. The music is not bad mind you, it just doesn't wow you like VB's usual creations. Badi dheere jali, sung by VB's wife Rekha shows his knowledge of classical music and Vidya who is trained in classical music does full justice to its lip sync [always tough for classical songs]
- There are some memorable dialogues in the movie eg. the conversation between Vidya and Naseer in the stolen Maruti Van, word exchanges between Naseer and Arshad when they have a fight etc.
- The humor is cool, timely and unforced - such 'uns are rare in Bollywood
- The kissing scene between Arshad and Vidya is one of the best I have seen in Bollywood yet. It reminded me of the steamy scene in Brokeback Mountain, when Heath Ledger meets his gay lover after a long time, who knows that amazing scene might have been Abhishek's inspiration. The cinema we were in was suddenly doused in absolute silence during this Arshad-Vidya scene almost as if it were a serious lesson in "how to kiss" [it wasn't!]. Of course soon people sitting in the front couldn't bear the silence and filled it with their own dialogues - "Arshad, mat kar yaar!!!" etc. etc. :)
- The movie's biggest strength is it's well rounded storyline and script with ample & intriguing twists and turns, all doing appropriate justice to the context
- And I have come to love the fact that our new band of directors are making the female protagonists in their films more realistic, meaningful and strong - that too without much ado
- So why is this movie an almost 3 and not a full 3? Ishqiya has everything going for it, but somehow it hasn't got the zaniness & pizazz, one would expect from this kind of a thriller. It felt like Abhishek was holding back and not letting loose his creativity, enough
- So, the movie is a one time watch, do catch it if you can, when you don't have to rush right now