Showing posts with label movie review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movie review. Show all posts

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) - Movie Review

Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub.
Even after a million years, the scientists and moviebuffs of the future will be delighted to know it.

Directed by Benh Zeitlin, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is a compelling piece of art about a mystical land of the beasts and love of a father and his daughter. 
The plot is set in the fictional island/community called 'The Bathtub'; a secluded locality on the other side of the wall of civilization. The movie follows the lives of it's residents leading a life of beasts and in particular HushPuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry).

The movie is narrated as experienced and understood by it's 9 year old protagonist HushPuppy. This transforms the audience into a mystical world innocence and a universe built over interesting ground-rules. The equation of life on The Bathtub is simple; even though the dynamics are harsh and unforgiving. The man and the beasts are one and the same. The inhabitants are uneducated, have no jobs, eat uncooked meat, make merry and do not cry in the face of hardships. Everything and everybody living is considered meat; all part of the grand buffet of the universe.

The story takes a turn when the melting of polar ice and an imminent storm poses permanent submersion of the island. The inhabitants have to either choose between facing extinction or evacuation. While most of the inhabitants relocate, a handful of people including our protagonists choose to stay back.

The best part of the movie is the father-daughter relationship and of course HushPuppy's mystical world and its revelation over 90 minutes. Wallis as HushPuppy is an absolute delight (youngest actor ever to earn an Oscar nomination for the leading role). Her emotions are real, actions affable and dialogue delivery impeccable. The charm and innocence lending an undeniable sincerity to the narrative and the plot.

Strong animals know when your hearts are weak.
Dwight Henry (first time actor) portrays the complex character of Wink; striking the balance between a concerned father and the fearless beast of the community. His concern and love for is daughter in the most unorthodox ways forms some of the best moments in the movie.

In spite of an offbeat plot and narrative, the outcome is exceptional. The camera is consistently shaky, but the background music more than just makes up for it and any other technical irregularities. The music succeeds immensely in simultaneously painting the dual picture of the grim situation and the cheerfulness in its protagonists.

There are also subtle social messages driven in the movie such as the preservation of nature, ecological balance and even man-beast relation. But it not what makes the movie an above-average experience. In the run-time of 90 odd minutes, one can't help being smitten by HushPuppy and life in The Bathtub.

In the end, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' packs a compelling narrative and powerful performance in a heart warming story. One of the spectacular movies made in the recent times. Do not miss it.

My rating: 8.5 / 10

Related Trivia:
  • Quvenzhané Wallis was five years old when she was chosen for the role
  • Dwight Henry is a first time actor and a victim of Hurricane Katrina

Friday, February 1, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) - Movie Review

Based on a novel by the same name, 'Silver Linings Playbook' may not be the most memorable of movies. But it definitely has an inescapable charm driven by an ensemble of affable characters and sterling performances. 

A testimony to that being the 8 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

Written & Directed by David O. Russell (director of The Fighter), the movie deviates to a large extent from the book as well as genre of RomCom (Romantic Comedies). 

The movie follows the life of Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) and his near ones. Pat is a mentally not-normal person who has recently rejoined his parents after a brief stint at a correctional facility. We soon learn of his strained relationship with his wife who has sought a distance from him through a legal restraining order. 

However, Pat refuses to accept the fact that his wife has left him for good while everyone around him is convinced about it. He refuses to accept that the fact is determined to set things right and get back to his previous life; so much so that it defines his craziness.

Along the line, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence); someone more mysterious and crazier than him. What follows next is no big surprise. But, how it unfolds is surprisingly fresh and quite charming.

Coming back to the ensemble of impressionable characters and sparking performances.

Jacki Weaver plays Dolores Solitano (Oscar nominated performance for Best supporting Actress); the caring mother who defies the court's suggestion to bring her son back home from the mental institution. Her portrayal of the over protective and concerned mother makes an noteworthy performance.
Robert De Niro is cast as Pat's father (Oscar nominated performance for Best supporting Actor); a pensioner and die-hard fan of the local football team. He delivers an impressionable performance in a character that juggles between being a loving father, superstitious gambler, an angry husband and even a man who can beat up his 30 year old son to teach some discipline.

Chris Tucker (as Danny) and John Ortiz (as Ronnie) cast as Pat's cell-mate from the facility and neighbor respectively. They both lend valuable laughs with their spirited performancess.

Anupam kher + Cast of Silver Linings
Veteran artist Anupam Kher plays the role of Dr. Cliff Patel, the consulting psychiatrist for Pat & Tiffany. His screen presence is brief and character not very significant to the plot. The Bollywood audience have seen him delivering more powerful performances. 

Frankly speaking, Pat's character suffers from few inconsistencies. His level of craziness is inconsistent along the length of the movie. Several times during the movie, one is unsure if Pat is really crazy or is it just has anger management issues. 

Bradley Cooper has done a better than average job in portraying Pat (Oscar nominated performance for Best Actor). He is very convincing in the first half of the movie after which the inconsistencies surface. 

Unfortunately for Pat, Forrest Gump & Raymond (from Rain Man) have pushed the bar for such characters till exosphere. 

Unmistakably, the single largest charming aspect of the movie is Jennifer Lawrence's performance as Tiffany (Oscar nominated for best Actress). Tiffany is an instinctive, emotionally spontaneous and the girl next door with a mystery buried deep inside her. Jennifer portays this mystery and craziness with a flair and conviction that makes the audience curious and connect with her role. Her acting is convincingly consistent all along the movie.

Another highlight of the movie is that the movie never slips into pure comedy mode. In over a large part of the movie, the plot takes itself quite seriously. The part in which the not-so-normal protagonists try to make sense of the seemingly abnormal world is quite convincing. 

In fact, the serious confrontations between Jennifer & Pat about each other's craziness forms some the most powerful moments in the movie. 

In spite of a plot that strikes the right balance between seriousness and romantic drama,  'Silver Linings Playbook' is a movie made special by sterling performances. 

My Rating: 7.5/10 

ps: I've intentionally NOT include a link to the trailer. They seem to be giving up too much about the movie. Avoid if possible.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Les Miserables (2012) - Movie Review

It wouldn't be just to review this movie in isolation to the masterpiece from Victor Hugo. So, I wouldn't even attempt to do it. All the more when Les Miserables (2012) remains so faithful to the novel. After all, who dares flirt with near perfection.

The Plot:
For the unaware, Les Miserables is a timeless tale; one that will test the corners and the depths of the heart and stir up every emotion residing in there.

Set in the early to late 19th century, the tale follows the life of Jean Valjean enslaved by the law for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's dying son. After serving 19 years for the petty theft, he gets released on parole. But then, the society humiliates him further into desperation & hatred. Finally, a priest takes him in, offers food, wine and shelter. Allow him to rest from pain and wrong; motivating him to give up hatred.

Jean Valjean then decides to give up his old life and to start afresh. Only this time around devoting his life to the way of god and righteousness in the process breaking his parole. But it wouldn't be easy as Inspector Javert (his parole officer) will stop at nothing to put him in chains.

What follows is a heart wrenching tale that puts Valjean's conscience to test in turbulent times. Can Valjean walk the path of righteousness till the very end? Can he keep his promises against all odds? Will his past haunt him and those he care about? Will he finally learn to let go, forgive & love?

The Review:
Prior to this, there have been at least 12 movie attempts based on this novel; the earliest of them (in English) being in 1909. As Victor Hugo pointed it out himself, "As long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless". One can easily replace the word 'useless' with 'irrelevant'.

Even the smallest characters (if there were such a thing) in the novel have such interesting persona about them. Their battles of the heart and mind, even though set against the backdrop of the Paris uprising in 1860's are still relevant today; and across the world. That's what perhaps makes 'Les Miserables' a timeless classic.

The 2012 adaptation on the big screen is worth every penny. The director, Tom Hooper (King's Speech) has done full justice to the novel deserving 8 Oscar nominations including the 'Best Picture'. The movie drags you into a magical world right from the first scene and the first verse. The visualizations are near perfect and the technical aspects equally flawless.

The performances by the actors are brilliant. Most of them have lived upto the high expectations of the novel; few seem to have surpassed it.

The novel introduces Jean Valjean as someone with of extraordinary physical and mental toughness. Hugh Jackman (6' 2") fits right into the description and delivers a convincing characterization. His acting and voice modulation are commendable. He personifies the man who has to frequently break the law to keep his conscience. He brings out all of Valjean's rage, hatred, confusion, fear, doubt, joy, bliss, possessiveness, love in vividness worthy of the Oscar nomination. I hope he wins it.

Inspector Javert is a man who follows duty without a conscience. He only sees things as lawful or otherwise than right or wrong. Russell Crowe meets expectations of this character. His voice has a natural essence of authority that lends some advantage.

Anne Hathaway surpasses expectations as Fantine, the lady who has been wronged in all possible manner. A hard working single mother, burning at both ends to keep her child alive. Look out for her rendering of 'I dreamed a dream'; one of the most powerful moments of the movie and also most poignant moment in the tale.

Another actor who surpassed expectations is Samantha Barks in her role as Éponine.

Why this movie works:

The Narrative: The most appealing aspect of this movie is clearly it's musical narrative. This is perhaps, the most successful mainstream Hollywood movie in over a decade with this narrative. The lyrical dialogues and background music makes the saying more powerful. It is commendable how the actors have balanced their acting and singing simultaneously.

Overlapping dialogues: One of the beautiful things that music allows is to have overlapping dialogues presented in the same tune. This has been used to great effect several times in this movies. In multiple scenes, protagonists sing out their lines (unconnected to each other) in the common tune leading upto a crescendo.

Renderings/Lyrical: No better way to express your emotions than to sing it out. Les Miserables is a treat of some of the finest musical pieces. Here are my top 5 picks (in the order) from the movie.
  1. I dreamed a dream - Fantine (Anne Hathaway) - The undisputed No.1
  2. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables - Marius (Eddie Redmayne)
  3. On my own - Eponine (Samantha Barks)
  4. One Day More - (Several actors from the cast)
  5. Javert's Suicide - Javert (Russell Crowe)

I think, if you haven't read the book, you're missing something big in life. If you skip the movie, you wouldn't realize that something this-good even exists.

This movie is a 9/10
The novel will forever remain 11/10

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Django Unchained (2012) - Movie Review

Yes, the old jungle saying is still true."Nobody can film a bloodbath better than Tarantino and none can spill blood more beautifully than his characters". 

Surprise to none, Django Unchained, written & directed by Quentin Tarantino is indeed a glorified account of blood sputtering revenge; set in an age of nobody's seen no nigger on a horse.

In keeping with the code of Tarantino-esque school of film making, the first scene sets the tone and standards for the next two-and-half hours to folow.

Opening credits flash in over sized block RED letters to the tune of Django by Luis Bacalov.

Django, have you always been alone? Django, have you never loved again?
Love will live on. Life must go on... You cannot spend your life regretting.
Django, you must face another day.

The protagonist, Django (Jamie Foxx) and few other slaves in chains are being dragged barefoot across a forest on a chilly night. They come across Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz); a German dentist turned bounty hunter looking for our protagonist.

Sooner than than you know, Shultz lures Django to join him in the bounty hunting business. Django unsurprisingly accepts the ludicrous offer of killing white men and even getting paid for it. Then we're told of some German mythology and also of Django once having a wife who is now the property of Calvin Candi - a hard core slaver, powerful and wealthy man in Mississippi. The duo then decide to travel South and retrieve the girl. The rest of the movie is a no-surprise tale of Django becoming the fastest gun in the South.

In spite of excellent story telling, the plot never by itself becomes the highlight of Tarantino movies. This time around too, his movie will be remembered for 2 things - A set of impressive characters and some convincing satire on human nature/morality. Full credit to Tarantino for introducing 4 more characters and in such stye. The actors have done equally well in  characterization.

 Christoph Waltz (Oscar nominated for this performance) steals the shows in the beginning with all his flamboyance. Watch out for the scene where he draws comparison between the business of bounty hunting and Slave trade. Calling one as 'Cash for corspe' and the other as 'Cash for flesh' trade.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays the hard core slaver madman. In one convincing scene, he tries to justify why the niggers are a submissive lot and need a master. (I couldn't help remembering the squirrel-rat analogy with German-Jews from Inglourious Basterds).

The best performance in this movie comes from Samuel L. Jackson. His portrayal of 'Stephen', the black caretaker of an estate will perhaps be the most memorable part of Django Unchained. He portrays the role of an old man confused with his hierarchy in the social order. 
Having spent 7 decades as the estate care taker, Stephen behaves like a master and looks down on other colored folks.

Over the course of the movie, Jamie Foxx's Django transforms from a lost soul to a legend and to put in his own words - 'One in a thousand Nigger'. Once he is armed, there is no stopping.

The intensity of gun shots and blood sputtering in this movie sets new standards. The gore is just one part of it. The choreography of the bloodbath is replete with close-ups and slow motion that one can be certain of director's over indulgence.

In the end, Django is a glorified tale of brutality on slaves and one man's revenge with the gun.  
Will be loved by Tarantino's fans.
Rest will wonder, yet again - "What was so special"?

My rating: 7.5/10

Personal rant: 
Call it Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds or Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's movies don't seem to be too different from one another. They all conform to the same plot/thinking.
An underdog protagonist. Meets a mentor. Trains on combat skills. Seek vengeance. Connect these with blood & gun shots. Your movie is served cold. And in blood.
Not that Quentin Tarantino has an unassailable lead in depicting bloodshed. Tim Burton, Sylvester-Rambo-Stallone and his expendable men are catching up fast. It's about time something fresh comes from the superstar director. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lincoln (2012) - Movie Review

Lincoln (2012) infuses life into the history books; unlike any other on this topic. This winner from Steven Speilberg is a delight for historians as much as the Oscar jury. With a total of 12 nominations that include Best Picture, Best Direction, Best performance in the lead and supporting roles, Lincoln leads the race for the Oscars (85th Annual Academy Awards).

As the American civil war (1861-1865) between the United States (Union/North) and the Confederate States (Confederacy/South) draws to an end, it puts a nation and it's leader through a great test - one that will define both for the time to come. This biopic vividly captures the dynamics leading to one of the most proud moments of American history and perhaps the world as well.

During the course of the war, Abraham Lincoln exercised his warpowers to pass the Emancipation Proclamation - a temporary war-period arrangement that liberates (not having to return back to their masters) the captured slaves. While Lincoln was captivated with the idea of abolishing slavery, the confederate states and a large majority of the congress do not share his enthusiasm. The people too look at the arrangement as an act of negotiated peace than a permanent solution.

As the war reaches its final days, Lincoln is fully aware that his and warpowers will end and the judicial reversal of the Proclamation inevitable. He has to push for the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US constitution thereby formally abolishing slavery. Lincoln has to walk a tight rope. Not only does he have to convince the Congress against the popular sentiment, but also race against the time to get it done. If the forces of the South surrender before ratification, they will most likely negotiate to keep their slaves - a condition that his cabinet won't mind.

In the end, it comes to either winning the civil war or abolishing slavery. But not both. This equation opens up the plot for some very interesting drama.

Can Lincoln kill two birds with one stone? Can he push an idea before it's time has come? How will he convince the Congress against the popular sentiment? 

Will he pursue unconstitutional means in getting the constitution amended? Will he keep the war going, endure loss of lives and money to buy more time? Can he keep the war updates a secret untill the voting?

And well, add to all this the turbulence in his own personal life; strained emotions with his wife and son.

Why this movie works:
As it is evident, there are several parameters and people influencing the the dynamics and each one of them connected to every other. Lincoln (2012) shines not only for the immense research that has gone into the script but also for how intriguingly these nuances are dramatized. Director Steven Spielberg asserts his genius yet again in binding the several threads of the story to the common end.

The acting department is a powerhouse to say the least. Lincoln is popularly known to be calm, composed and confident. But Daniel Day-Lewis (2 time Oscar winner) takes you on an exploration of Lincoln-the-lesser-known and the grey shades of his personality. The president hops from being an inspiring leader to a perturbed father, a repenting husband, an advocate, a negotiator and at times, even being a dictator. As the movie explores the twin faces of the president, the vivid portrayal of the Lincoln's character is clearly the high point of the movie.

Daniel Lewis fits right into the role - in form and character. His humanization of the legend - all his confusion and conviction truly deserves a third Oscar. 

The acting from the supporting cast is equally brilliant. Sally Field (2 time Oscar winner) is cast as the first lady and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the rebellious son. David Strathairn plays the Secretary of State and Tommy Lee Jones (Oscar winner) plays Thaddeus Stevens, one of the party leaders who has a difference of opinion with Lincoln.

The technical aspects of the production are also top notch. The lighting and sets takes to back to the 19th century and the war scenes are as real as they can get. In the end, Lincoln (2012), is a winner and deserves half a dozen awards at the 85th Academy Awards. If you enjoyed Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List and Munich. you'll most certainly like this too.

However, it might take a bit of patience to appreciate the nuances. After all, the civil war and the politics behind getting an amendment passed is not a very popular topic.

My Rating: 8/10

Related Trivia:
  • Liam Neeson was first chosen for the lead role. After the project started, he decided to drop out
  • Steven Spielberg spent 12 years in research for this movie
  • Initially, the movie was conceived of as a bio film exploring Lincoln's entire life story. Later it was decided to cover the last 6 months of Lincoln's life
  • Daniel Day-Lewis had his reservations in taking on this challenging role. Eventually, it was Leonardo DiCaprio who convinced him.
  • In 2012, Tim Burton also made a movie titled, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"

About Daniel Day Lewis:
  • Several times offered and turned down the role of Aragorn (Strider) in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  • Zack Snyder offered him the role of "Jor-El" in Man of Steel (2013). Role went to Russel Crowe in the end
  • Was considered for the role of Jesus Christ in The Passion of the Christ (2004)
  • He won 23 acting awards for his performance in There Will be Blood, including the Oscar.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

INK (2009) - Movie Review

Thought Provoking | Mystery | Adventure

INK (2009) is well conceived and equally well presented. Written and directed by Jamin Winans, this movie blends innocence, mystery and suspense in all the right ways to deliver an engaging and thought provoking watch.

Having said that, INK (2009) may not appease everyone for it demands a certain level of innocence even to indulge in the plot.

At the outset, this movie is a battle between Angels and Demons for the soul of an 8 year old girl. But dig a little deeper, INK strikes the right balance between being a fairy tale, mindfuck and sci-fi thriller all at the same time.

The movie introduces an alternate plane of reality; one inhabited by Storytellers (read Angels) and Incubis (demons). Both of them have a world of their own that transcend time and space. Every night, they descend to earth and influence human lives/souls. 

The storytellers (angels) give good dreams to people and inspire positivity. On the other hand, an Incubi (demon) gives nightmares and turns people into narcissists who don't care enough about their loved ones.

In addition to the storytellers and incubis, there are another set of creatures called the drifters. Drifters are sort of dead-but-not-totally-dead creatures.

The protagonist INK is a drifter and a shame/guilt ridden ugly creature. One night, he steals the soul of Emma (Quinn Hunchar) and sneaks into the world of Incubis. Emma is separated from her father John (Chris Kelly). The angels put up a brave fight but in vain. INK is determined to deliver the girl's soul to the Incubi; prove his loyalty and become one of them.

In the living world, Emma's body goes into comatose state. The Storytellers, Allel (Jennifer Batter) and the blind pathfinder (Jeremy Make) stay back in the human world. At the same time another storyteller Liev (Jessica Duffy) follows INK into the Incubis world to rescue Emma's soul.

From here on, the story unfolds in parallel tracks in parallel worlds. The director has visualized the three worlds very distinctively using the lighting; the effects are crafty and convincing.

On earth, Allel fights Incubis to unite John with his daughter. In the Incubis world, Liev risks her own life to save Emma's soul. What follows is a roller coaster adventure that sifts through the concepts of timespace continuum, afterlife, chaos theory, subconscious mind and the 'beat of the world'.

The beauty of this movie is in how the plot is unveiled over time. In fact, even the premise remains a mystery for a long time keeping the viewer curious. Full credits for the writer/director for choosing a script like this and presenting it so convincingly within the available resources (read low-budget). The performance by the supporting cast is average.

The movie ends with a subtle message on introspection into our lives, on the choices we make in life and its implications on people we care about. If you liked Dark City and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you'll most certainly enjoy INK (2009).

An interesting thought form the movie:

The downward spiral of humans

  • Man has a weakness
  • He feels flawed
  • Flaw leads to guilt
  • Guilt turns to shame
  • Man hides shame with pride and vanity
  • When pride fails, despair takes over
  • Despair leads to destruction
It becomes FATE ..
Something's gotta stop the flow!

My Rating: 8/10

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Khiladi 786 (2012) - Movie Review

There are two reasons why Bollywood churns these no-brainer multi-starrer movies every 15 days. One is to make a lot of money and the other is to make a point - "Bloody hell, I can do it. So what are you going to do about it?"

Khiladi 786 throws that question in your face right in the very first scene.

How you answer that question will decide if you will find the movie entertaining or otherwise. If you can surrender to the theology that masala
movies need no plot and do not conform to the laws of physics; Khiladi 786 is quite enjoyable. The movie is original, actors convincing, the VFX great and the humor works. 

This movie has no resemblance whatsoever with the earlier Khiladi movies. One wonders why the dead/dormant series was even revived after 12 years. 

The movie thrives largely on fresh humor rather than the charm of it's protagonist - Khiladi. The dose of humor is clean and regular;the characters succeed in making you laugh without behaving cheap or dirty.Mind you, that is a steep ask from a Bollywood comedy these days.

All men in the hero's family have numbers instead of first-names. The father (played by Raj Babbar) is 70 Singh (Sattar), uncle (played by Mukesh Rishi) is 71 Singh (Ikhatar), our protagonist gets to be 72 Singh (Bahattar) and his long lost brother is 73 Singh (Tehattar). Add to it that none of the elders in the family were able to find an Indian bride for themselves. Neither is 72 Singh getting any luckier.

Mansukh (played by Himesh Reshammiya) is a marriage broker who lies his way in to arranging an alliance between meets the local don's sister and 72 Singh. Mithun Chakraborty is cast as Tatya Tukaram Tendulkar aka TTT, the don and Asin Thottumkal as Indu Tendulkar, the female lead.

Akshay Kumar is undoubtedly one of the finest actors in Bollywood. He can act, dance, cry and even fight better than most of his peers. With a role like this, he cannot fail.

Asin's role demands keeping her mouth shut and looking pretty at the same time. There are none more talented when it comes to it; genuine mirror-cracking material.

This has to be Himesh Reshamiya's most decent outing as an actor. He delivers the funny lines and expressions without looking like a buffoon. Good or bad, one can always rely on him for catchy tunes (the title tune for one). This dude never disappoints even when he is co-writing the script and co-producing the movie at the same time. I wonder if this was supposed to be a comeback movie for Khiladi or Himesh. 

Mithun and Raj Babbar too lend their limited yet noticeable contributions. There is also a sparkling cameo by Johnny Lever as inspector Bhalerao Kambli. He utters a lot of tuzya mai la and something in between them.

The brightest spark in the supporting cast is Rahul Singh. He plays Azad Reddy, a local goon with heavy Hyderabadi accent. Some of his dialogues and scenes involving him form the most laughable moments of the movie.

The two-and-half hours of unnecessary nonsense that is called Khiladi 786 isn't entirely unwatchable. The director (Ashish R Mohan) has done an average job in binding the random music videos and comic scenes into a plot. However, what he has excelled in is hurling men and automobiles into unbelievable trajectories in the air. The VFX & slapstick is so neat that it can give Rohit Shetty a complex. 

The movie delivers on its two promises - humor and slapstick. Some decent comedy that doesn't get dirty or stoop to being buffoonery. 

Avoidable, yet not something you will regret.
My rating: 6/10

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Talaash (2012) - Movie Analysis

*** This is not a movie review but an analysis with spoilers on the plot and the other nuances of movie experience. If you haven't watched the movie and intend to do so, please skip reading this. ***

There are two kinds of movies that the connoisseurs relish. The ones that awe you with a brilliant story and the others that delight you with great story telling. Talaash (2012), directed by Reema Kagti and starring Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherji, Kareena Kapoor and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead is really an average story told convincingly well.

Talaash not only revives the genre of movies comprising of Bluffmaster, Superstar, Karthik calling Karthik and Dhobi Ghat but also succeeds in raising the bar a notch higher.

Plot Analysis: In an age of Bollywood where the norm is to outsource the script, lyrics and dialogue writing to the perverted retards, Talaash is a serious deviation. The credits for writing include critically acclaimed biggies such as Farhan Akhtar, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap. This wise investment has thankfully paid off and compensates for the obvious loopholes the story.

The plot isn't anything new and frankly speaking, is something that can  neatly fit into 2 episodes of a TV serial. To be even more candid, every TV serial that touches upon supernatural has told us this story at least a dozen times each.

However, the real revelation of Talaash is the beauty with which the plot unravels; the plot grows wide while as the characters gain depth simultaneously.
Characters and characterization: The key characters in the movie are deglamorized (except for necessary bling on the call girls) lending a realistic look and feel to the story. Surjan Singh Sekhawat's character strikes a fine balance between guilt, curiosity and righteousness that drive his actions as well as the plot. Aamir Khan looks tough and cries convincingly; doing justice to the role of an upright cop and a guilt ridden father.

Shekhawat's wife and the psychic neighbor have comparatively little screen time but lend valuable perspective.

The tricky and challenging aspect of the plot and its characterization was undoubtedly that of the beautiful ghost - Simran/Rosy. This one aspect had to be perfect for the rest of the movie to be convincing. 
The writers have succeeded in keeping the obvious from being glaringly-obvious. Kareena Kapoor slides effortlessly into the role of a call girl; the pretty face concealing the obvious and her seductive eyes concealing the real meaning of the dialogues.

The movie starts with a certain seriousness, sustains it all along and concludes equally well. No clown characters retrofitted in the name of comedy, no item numbers or even hero-heroine escapades to Switzerland for a dance. That for a Bollywood movie intended at mass-audience is quite commendable.

Even though the context of the plot is deep rooted into prostitution, extortion and murder, the movie doesn't really get into either skin-show or violence. The subject is handled maturely and characters don't even get preachy on any of these topics.

Kareena Kapoor has done a good job with the key dialogues that needed to be delivered while attracting least attention or focus. Thinking of which, her seductive eyes taking away the while

Unlike, Om Shanti Om (that sits pretty high on my personal list of hate-movies) the climax is far more subtle and convincing. The plot sets enough groundwork (the psychic, dead son and a believing wife) before summoning the supernatural to solve the puzzle.

A spooky thought: In a certain scene, the psychic lady asserts that spirits at unrest choose to reveal themselves to people who are sad, depressed and in pain. The spirits confuse such people to be one of their own kind.

That is spooky interesting enough to mull over.

My rating: 7/10

Engaging watch and good story telling of a tale you've heard at least a dozen times before.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Expendables 2 (2012) - Movie Review

The Expendables 2 (2012) is silly and nostalgic. Silly to the extent of being humorous and and nostalgic to the extent of gratification. However, in spite of a zero-plot and sub-zero intelligence, the movie still manages a visit to unexplored territory. 

The most ostensible aspect of the movie is it's star-cast; which respectfully is a who's who list of Hollywood action figures assembled from across multiple generation. Directed by Simon West, the movie has Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins and others.

When you have have so many biggies under one roof, there are only two things you can do. Either get really serious in business or party really hard. The director here just decided to party. 

Expendables 2 is definitely not your Avengers. It doesn't even look in that direction. The theme here is NOT how do good guys team up against the evil. The question is, given a gun and a knife who can kill more people in under a minute. Now, that's unexplored territory and 30 seconds into the movie, one knows what is coming. 

All characters in Expendable2 are very straightforward, both the good guys and the bad ones. Every single one of them is above the law, devoid of emotions, combat trained, hot-head, bloodthirsty and has an unlimited supply of ammunition. Their objective in life too is equally simple. Blow up the buildings and automobiles. Anything that has two legs and walks, either kick it in the face, shoot it in the head or stab it in the heart. Actually, even the glamor girl (Nan Yu) of the movie dispenses a dozen-and-half people herself without breaking a sweat.

That is the kind of silliness that Expendables2 celebrates. It becomes humorous when the old guns Stallone (66 yrs), Arnie (65 yrs), Norris (72 yrs), Bruce Willis (57 yrs) and Van Damme (51 yrs) compete with each other in painting the town red. It is as though, every time they pick up a gun, hundreds of men magically volunteer to get their heads blown or severed.

Now about nostalgia and gratification. Let's admit it; the 103 mins of runtime is a dream come true for every action buff. Good thing that the movie is presented in good humor. The movie actually makes fun of itself and the lead characters. watch out for Chuck Norris cracking 'Chuck-Norris' jokes, Bruce Willis making fun of Arnie's 'I'll be back' line, Stallone's Museum comment and many more such gems. 

Of the star cast, Van Damme is the most charming and Statham the most lethal. One can't help but grin at Van Damme's trademark kicks, Noris' one-man shows, Bruce Willis' one liners, Stallone's I'll-Kill-You looks and Arnold with the big guns. All of which are reminiscent of different periods from the yesteryear's of Hollywood. Extremely nostalgic to see'em all in one plot and in one frame.

The movie in the end, with lots of blood and an unintelligent plot will not be remembered for higher standards of film-making. It'll more likely be remembered as one action-party that all Hollywood biggies showed up at.

My Rating: 6.5/10 
My fav line:
      Arnold: I'll be back.
      Bruce Willis: No. you've been back too many times. This time, I'll be back.

Suggested reading: Movie review of The Expendables (2010) -

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - Movie Review

Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) is a worthy conclusion to one of the most acclaimed and entertaining superhero franchisee of our times. 

TDKR succeeds in the rare feat of achieving 3 things at the same time; offering something more to the audience, doing justice to the comic series and last but not the least, lead the legend of Dark Knight to a logical and convincing conclusion.

This movie is set 8 years after TDK ends and Batman takes the fall for Harvey Dent's death. The city of Gotham is now governed by the popular Harvey Dent Act which has succeeded in putting behind bars almost all of it's criminals. The crime and civil unrest is at an all time low without the need of Batman. The city of Gotham is just as calm as before the big storm.

On the other hand, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is torn between his inability to either leave behind Batman or the death of Rachel Dawes. He keeps to himself and refrains from ever going out of Wayne manor. Enter Bane (Tom Hardy), a man who the legend says was born in hell and is on a mission to destroy Gotham. Add to it the fact that Bane is lot more faster and physically stronger than Batman.The Dark Knight is forced to come back from exile and confront his biggest nemesis till date. What follows is an action adventure to save the city of Gotham. However, that's just for the uninitiated (In Nolan's own words).

Deep down, this movie is lot more of something else altogether. It's not really about the battle for Gotham. The first two movies of the series followed Bruce Wayne becoming more than just a man; a symbol of uncompromising values and a silent guardian. TDKR is about the epic conclusion to the legend; unbecoming of both Bruce Wayne and Batman.

Batman stood by certain uncompromising ideals and Bruce Wayne had to make personal sacrifices. Both endured pain for reasons beyond their control. Eventually, either one of them had to break. This movie is really about this journey of the protagonist. 
The movie ponders over bigger issues. How long can Baman be the silent guardian of Gotham? Will he ever learn to let go? Will the city ever learn to stand up and fight the evil within? Will the rich and the oppressed ever make peace with each other? Can there ever be a Gotham without Batman? What then becomes of the legend?

TDKR takes you through a roller coaster adventure. One replete with witty one liners, spectacular visual effects and brilliant performances. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine reprise their roles as Commissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox and Alfred. However, the pick of the actors is Christian Bale for a brilliant performance that makes audience relate to Bruce Wayne more than the Dark knight.

Having said all that, TDKR is definitely not without loopholes. There are one-too-many cliches and in fact, last 5 mins is entirely devoted to hootes and whistles. However, one will have to admit, even when Nolan plays to the galleries, it still seems cinematic brilliance. 
At 2 hours and 44 mins, the movie is long but doesn't really appear so inside the movie hall. Once the Games Begin, there is no slowing down or looking back.

In the end, I can't really choose if TDKR was well made or better concluded. I found both the journey and destination equally entertaining.

My rating:
  • As a standalone movie - 8/10
  • As a conclusion to the Dark Knight series - 9/10

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire hunter (3D) - Movie Review

Based on a novel by the same name,‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ takes the concept of fantasy to a whole new level of silliness. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and is co-produced by Tim Burton, this movie narrates the nonexistent secret life of the the 16th President of the United States. Walk into this one only If you're looking for some cheap thrills and have a stomach for blood and gore.

The plot is devoid of intelligence or wit except for the tagline, 'You're either a patriot or a vampire' - reminiscent of a very similar statement by another contemporary US president.
The young Abraham watches his mother die of unexplained symptoms. He grows up to learn that vampires are not a myth but a reality walking the streets alongside men. Driven by vengeance, he sets out to find the one particular vampire and kill it. In the process, AB befriends Henry Sturgess (played by Dominic Cooper) who teaches him the fine-art of the AXE and vampire hunting. Henry also convinces AB that it's not all about personal vendetta but fighting for a bigger cause. However, after the personal revenge AB retires to nation building. 

Silly enough; one fine day, the ruling elite of the vampires decide that it's about time they had an entire nation for themselves. All at a time when US citizen are busy fighting the civil-war. So, the now-president is forced into one last show-down. In between all this is Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead); AB's love interest and Henry's own little secret.

First of all, let's extend the axe it's due credit. As evident from the trailers, the movie is more about the fine-art of the axe than the president himself. With 3D and a budget of 69 million dollars, Timur-Burton duo have created plenty of camera-wow-moments.

Clearly, this movie is an indulgent extravagance for those that relish close combat, blood spills, vampire slaying, knives and the fine-art of it. Apart from this, movie fails in every other department. Benjamin Walker looks appealing as older Lincoln; only in costume and posture. However, the dual lives of the Abraham Lincoln is neither consistent nor convincing. Dominic Cooper is the pick among the cast with a charming screen presence.

If you're looking for morals or the struggle of one man or the struggle of a nation; sorry there isn't any of these. Timur-Burton specialize in a very specific skill-sets. there is plenty of that and nothing more. 

In the end, either you walk out with curses for the production team or deep appreciation for the axe and all that it can do.

Rating: 6/10. The rating is only an acknowledgement of the technical brilliance; no reflection of the plot or its intelligence.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) - Movie Review

Mr. Anurag Kashyap has always been guilty of indulgent film-making; Gangs of Wasseypur (GOW) assumes epic proportions. Wilderness and finesse seldom co-exist; neither do documentaries and commercial cinema blend. But then this is no ordinary movie. If I were allowed to make one comparison, viewing pleasure of GOW is strikingly similar to reading pleasure of 'Catch 22'.

Finally, a truly desi gangsta movie that has every aspect of Hollywood film making that one yearns for. GOW is raw, wild and very vivid in portrayal of rage and hate - animal instincts of humans. 

The Plot: As eminent by the title, the movie follows the gangs and the gang-wars in Wasseypur; a small town in the Coal Capital of India. Shahid Khan (Jaideep Ahlawat) is banished from Wasseypur for looting trains in 1940's; a privilege that the village had exclusively bestowed the Qureshi family. He takes refuge at a coal mine in Dhanbad under the coal mafia head Ramadhar Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Shahid secretly aspires to kill Ramadhar, take over his emapire; go back to Wasseypur and kill those that put him out of the town. However, Ramadhar comes to know of his ulterior motives and disposes him off (read, kills him).

Enter Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpayee), son of Shahid Khan with a single point agenda to avenge his father's murder. Before we know, Manoj Bajpayee has two wives and three sons between them and Ramadhar becomes an elected member of the people. The power and control is now divided between 3 parties, the vengeful Sardar khan, the coal mafia Ramadhar and the oppressed members of the Qureshi family. Pankaj Tripathi is cast as Sultan Qureshi, butcher and henchman wanting to kill Sardar Khan.  

The bloody fued for power, ego and vengeance forms the rest of the story. 

Don of Wasseypur
The Review:  The story is based on a exaggerated version of several real stories put together. Zeeshan Qadri, who is the story writer (who also plays a role in the movie) actually hails from Wasseypur.  

The plot isn't the most intelligent or original we've seen in the recent past. However, the success rides on the characters and narration. The movie rides on several protagonists, each of whom is either a Bewakoof (fool), Harami (bastard) or both. And all of them are trigger-stab happy and driven by either rage, hatre or misplaced sense of righteousness. Put in one word, the theme and plot of the movie is CHAOS.

What sets GOW several notches higher than any other desi movie is the raw depiction of this chaos and the finesse in capturing it. It is as though watching a disturbing video on high definition screen and with Dolby surround sound. While the content itself is discouraging, you cannot help appreciate the brilliance with which it is presented.

The casting is perfect and performances are stellar. It will surely be a hard time for the jury at all award ceremonies. I am sure more than half the nominations for the best performances in lead/supporting roles will come from GOW.

Look out for:
As the story is spread over 7 decades and 3 generations, the movie also mirrors the socioeconomic and cultural transformation that India went though during the period. Along the movie, you will notice the transformation from train-robbers to local-goons to armed gangs. 
From dhoti-baniyan to kurta-pyjama to bell-bottoms to polga-dots. 
From knives to country-pistols to hand grenades to automatic pistols. 
From bicycle to motorcycle to jeep to ambassador car. 
From country music to radio, to music bands, to Bollywood and eventually K-Serials.

This transformation blends very well into the narration and sets the stage for changing priorities and also evolution of gang-warfare. 

You better know:
  • At a run time of 5 hour 20 mins (both parts put together, GOW will test your patience for sure
  • With over 350 actors, the movie is easily 100 characters more than what average mind can register. At times one may even wonder, how are the two characters in one frame related to each other and to those that were murdered in the previous scene
  • Be prepared to sit through hazaar (a thousand) gaaliyaan (swear-words). All characters unabashedly pack a mouthful at every opportunity. GOW really makes Delhi-Belly look like a trailer. Even the female protagonists know their adjectives well. 
  • Anurag kashyap likes to leave his movies open ended; without an obvious conclusion. So, even after all the while, it might not all add-up.

Watch Trailer - GOW

My take:
GOW is consistent with Anurag Kashyap style of film making. De-glamorized presentation, humor blends with the script, gripping screenplay and a narrative that is noon-conforming to say the least. It shows when a creative team is let alone to pursue art without much worrying about RoI.

I'm sure Anurag & Co made this movie with the same fervor that Howad Roark would erect his buildings; uncompromisingly.

GOW may not appeal to those that seek definitive conclusion or a social message. Watch it if you like off-beat movies and there's a good chance you may even appreciate it. 

My Rating: 8/10.

Sneak Peak - Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 2): 
I have a strong feeling that GOW could be our very own bihari version of Godfather; a good one at that. However, the director has clarified that the sequel will explore honor, love, friendship and loyalty. Last but not the least, the hidden innocence in the misguided vengeful soul that knows nothing but to kill (source).