August 30, 2008 at 9:59 am (Uncategorized)

There are times when the sheer beauty of the background takes your breath away. The colours, the contrasts simply intermingle to give you an O experience. Throw in a masterful script and powerful performances and you have a masterpiece at your hands. Unfortunately Americano lacks the last two things though it is visibly very appealing.

The story of our life in the end is not our life, it is our story. This film so young at heart, is set against the backdrop of the Running of Bulls Festival at Pamplona (Fiesta de San Fermin) where three backpackers from the states are spending the last few days of their holidays and meet a beautiful Spanish chiqua and an undercover agent. Before you dismiss this as another slasher film, hold on. It is a completely different genre. The only blood you will see during the movie is a bloody gory bull fighting scene which the director tries to justify. Bull fighting is seen as an ethical issue with PETA organizing a protest outside the venue. There is a beautiful exchange of dialogue where Adela ( the role of Spanish girl played oh so sensually by Leonor Varela) questions whether the American way of killing animals with a gun is above questioning since bull fighting at least gives you an honorable way of going away. She does a brilliant job of making the bull fighting tradition so suggestive and carnal

The actual running of the bulls scene is done brilliantly with handheld cameras and unorthodox angles. It looks dangerous enough for me to never go there. As our hero begins to wonder whether he should go back, Adela takes the three of them to rural Spain where the real difference in culture (skinny dipping shows up). The movie does a good job of presenting the good, the bad and the ugly parts of the Spanish customs. Apparently, if a guy loves a girl he can throw stones on her. Talk about tough love eh.

I connected very deeply with the movie since the central theme of following the beaten path or risking it all on the road less traveled which bugged me a lot during my final days in Europe. But I didnt give in to the temptation. Did our hero do it? go watch the movie,you lazy asses.

Unlike most other movies the second half of Americano is way better than the first half which just seemed some mish mash of good individual scenes. Enjoy this movie for its great music, beautiful cinematography but don’t expect a life changing experience. At the most you’d want to go to Spain to enjoy the beautiful natural scenes (and the chicks of course). Dennis Hopper is in a blink and you miss role. Joshua Jackson is suited for his character with perfection and he plays it with elan.

The movie tells you to do what scares you. Go watch a non mainstream movie. You might end up being pleasantly surprised.

Genre: Romance, Drama

Rating: Yawnnnnnn

Go watch it with: A spanish chick,  as part of your movie club, a tasteful friend

Go watch it for: The view, running bulls scene, end of teen life crisis, lesson in sensuality




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O mumbai meri Jaan

August 28, 2008 at 7:00 am (Uncategorized)

Crash in 2004 with its intertwining stories created a new genre of its own and its success has prodded film makers like always to try and copy the formula with varying degrees of success. bollywood can never be far behind,can it? The trend was started by Life in Metro(or something like that) which was a mish-mash of Hollywood movies put together. Copy from one,it is plagiarism. copy from many,it is research.

Mumbai has been the subject of Bollywood movies since the beginning. Bollywood has started thinking out of the box every once in a while. and MMJ is a bold step in the right direction. With no A league stars and a new team as well, it comes out with shining colors specially considering the mindless crap Bollywood dishes day in and out.

The start is very promising with a global perspective thrown in. Zinedine’s infamous head butt is attributed by a perennial Muslim-hater as unjustified. The issue of sensational/unethical journalism is also introduced. But among all the stories the one that stands out is the one played out by the constables who are introduced in a very poignant manner. A woman has been raped by a police man and the constable questions whether being a policeman means that one is no longer subject to the inadequacies of the homo sapiens. The july train bombings form a backdrop for this movie. The bombing scene is done very effectively and the director convinces you that special effects are not necessary to carry your point across. A man traumatized by the incident and another coffee vendor who decides to take revenge on the society by making hoax bomb calls are the other stories.

The director uses irony and chance beautifully in the script- almost Quentin Tarantino style. The journalist, a big supporter of cheap thrills journalism finds the boot on the other foot when she loses her to be hubby in the incident and her channel wants to do a story on that. masterful. Soha Ali Khan comes up with a subtle yet powerful performance. The use of lights in the morgue scene is done with text book perfection.

The constables played by Vijay Maurya and Paresh Rawal (in one of his best performances to date) are the real heroes of the movie. Just like Crash, all the characters are neither black nor white, rather a tinge of gray( the constables take bribe but also honestly try to bring the crooks to the book). The movie starts losing steam with the Madhavan story which could have been cut from the script. but the director apparently wanted to show the IT guy’s perspective as well. Kay Kay Menon in another fiery performance tries to pass judgment on the entire issue by himself before he realises his folly. Irffan Khan brings to life an otherwise mundane character.

Some of the scenes are heartwarming for eg. a muslim listening to Md. Rafi (a muslim) singing “ab tumhare hawale watan saathiyo” but KK says that muslims are listening not out of patriotism but because it was sung by someone in their own community. A US returned friend of Madhavan tries to describe the post 9/11 scenario in US.

Backed by a strong script,brilliant performances and great direction the movie is a treat. The direction is noteworthy and camera work excellent. The idea of focussing the camera on different body parts of the characters fits beautifully with the theme of the movie.

It fails to hold out in the middle and becomes a bit too preachy by the end. The stories, though set against a common background do not criss-cross unlike Crash where all the stories come together in the end. Nevertheless, the movie is a signal that Indian junta is ready for some intelligent film making and not just mindless crap like singh is king.

The movie doesn’t present a solution to the mess around us. It does however remind you that when faced with such challenges, dust yourself off and keep on moving. because “jeena isi ka naam hai”

Go watch this movie, do Bollywood a favor.

Genre: Drama,Crime

Rating: They’ve got something there

Mumbai meri jaan

Mumbai meri jaan

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Bachna ae Deluded Beauties

August 27, 2008 at 8:29 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

The peaks of Switzerland, lavish Punjabi weddings, dance and song sequences at the drop of a topi. Yash Raj tries to recreate its magic of yore after having taken a clobbering at the box office over and over again. The tried and tested formula has new jabronees playing the same characters with a bit of a difference.

The movie is about remorse and reconciliation and as a statutory warning do remember to carry your handkerchiefs and be accompanied by your better half or be in a rowdy group who are there for the three hot chicks. The movie starts in the lush green fields of Switzerland where without being apologetic, the DDLJ thing is given a fresh breath of life. Well due credit to the makers foractually returning to an old geographical location but still coming up with some refreshingly new locales. With picture perfect bodies prancing around in snow covered peaks in minimal clothing, the story begins with our hero (18 years old) boasting about his exploits with a girl to his friends only to turn back and find the girl crying her eyes out. Remorseless, the guy moves to Mumbai with his live-in girlfriend. But the first mention of a commitment has him running out of the arrangement with the wrong shoes.

The first half with its witty anecdotes is a breeze. The hero’s sidekick (a modern day version of the transvestite Bobby) is an energetic addition to the mixture. Wearing funny quote t-shirts, he dishes out phenomenal advice to the hero to find a way out of the escapades. The background music is almost like an extra character. Opening the movie with the title song was a cheap trick which did however have the girls (and the guys) swooning.

Anyways, our hero finds the tables turned on him when the girl he loves refuses to marry him. He figures his present state is a result of his deeds from the past (AAaaaaahhhh our future is safe in the hands of such leaders). But Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned (or his husband who knows about her liaison).A wedding sequence, a few songs and 20 Dolce & Gabbana dresses later all is well in paradise as the girls forgive the hero just in time for Cinderella to realize she does need our hero. And they lived (kissed) happily ever after.

After the fare dished out by YRF in the recent past, BAH is a refreshing change. Siddharth Anand has finally reformulated the Yash Raj formula successfully. The star of the movie is definitely Ranbir Kapoor who carries the movie entirely on his shoulders. Minnisha Lamba is cute and cuddly. Bipasha Basu’s legs and cleavage make more of an appearance than her . She plays the second half character of a biyach with elan.However the big disappointment is the hot favourite Deepika Padukone who shone brilliantly in OSO. But when exposed in the movie with long emotional dialogues, she is found wanting. Ms. Padukone it is definitely time to go back to the acting school. The movie drags on a little too long and you almost wish for 2 intermissions. Guess, they could have cut on one song or two. Kunal Kapoor as a Sardar delivers a believable performance. Infact, the entire Amritsar sequence is done in a very non-stereotypical way without cutting down on the entertainment factor(take that, Singh is King)

The lesson is clear. If you are a playa, don’t go out and watch this movie. You are gonna come out depressed. Don’t go with your live in Girlfriend either. She might just ask you to marry her by the end of the movie. Go with your wife/husband and (try to) convince them that you are the best thing that could have happened to them.

Category: Comedy, Romance


Bachna ae haseeno

Bachna ae haseeno

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The Assignment

August 27, 2008 at 4:08 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

While my fellows at ISB have been busy with their assignments from different courses, I decided to take up an assignment of my own. Listen to this. A guy who is a dead ringer for a feared criminal is implanted by the authorities to get rid of the said criminal. Reminds you of something? DON. well yeah but only if it had Ben Kingsley, Donald Sutherland and Aidan Quinn in it and the said criminal is not a cheesy don but an international threat- “carlos the jackal”

Aaah how I love Hollywood when it comes up with fictionalized versions of true stories. But in this case you have to be impressed with this guy. His real life story is far more interesting than the movie script itself. Wiki

The movie starts with a love making scene which bizarrely ends with a guy using his cigarette butt to squish a spider in his own web. This is immediately followed by a cafe bombing scene which has special effects straight out of…(wait for it) LOVE STORY 2050. Talk about creamy and corny. Much before the days of Osama bin Laden and his croonies, you could walk right into a meeting of foreing ministers and kidnap them and hold them for a ransom. I am not kidding you, this isn’t just a plot of the movie,it did really happen. A bunch of delegates from OPEC in Vienna were kidnapped by the aforementioned Jackal who had been outwitting CIA as well.

The story takes a leap of of 10 years ala our K serials(fortunately none of the characters has a bunch of Grey streaks or suddenly bespectacled) leading to an awesome sequence. We see a guy whom the director wants us to believe is the jackal (and does a convincing job of it) being chased by Mossad. Of course this is our hero who is actually a US navy seal. CIA soon comes after him with a plan to track down Jackal.and the inevitable training session. Unfortunately, this is where the plot loosens its grip. The training session is cheesy and the rationals provided behind the sequences can make you wonder whether you have strolled into lalaland. Our desi Don was never trained for behavior in the sack.Maybe we had very docile Dons in the 70’s.But one of the most powerful sequences is when the guy gets trained from an ex-girlfriend of the Jackal who proclaims ” He could kill you in a second, but instead he makes you come”. Now how didn’t this line make it to the best 100 quotes

This odd triad of Mossad, CIA and the Navy seal do succeed in their plan of turning KGB against the Jackal but a chance encounter at Heathrow throws a spanner in their plans and now the jackal is after the good guy. Our hero,tormented and destabilized, finds out that the CIA operative is using him like a pawn in his personal vendetta but still plays along to protect his family. They convince KGB that jackal is doublecrossing them.Of course the jackal is meant to be clever and outsmarts(outguns) the KGB agents leading to a final showdown between the two lookalikes where in case of mistaken identity the guy ……… let’s not spoil the plot.But apparently the Jackal’s terrorist days are over since KGB has turned against him.

Christian Duguay accounts for some very third rate direction. Ben Kingsley with his Arab accent must be scratching his bald head as to why he signed this movie. Donald Sutherland and Aidan quinn are OK. The weak part is again the plot which fails to hold together even though it is brilliant in patches. It tries to stretch your imagination in certain places.

The mistaken identity theme has been done to death over the years. Hell,even Shakespeare did it.There is hardly any novelty in the plot and insipid performances do not help. The cruelty and barbaric nature of Jackal at least gives you something to hate in the movie. My recommendation would be that saturday evening if you have something better to do,then do it. You might just want 2 hours of your life back.




The assignment

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The (F)art of war

August 26, 2008 at 6:07 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

If there is one thing that I would like to take away from this movie, it has to be the long worn out cliche- “Names can be deceptive”. With a name taken from the oft-quoted war strategy text by Sun Tzu (remember Martin Sheen in Wall street), one would have expected atleast some kind of a sensibility to the plot, if not business school strategy classes material. But the moment you see Wesley Snipes on the cover, you know what awaits you.Before he was sent to jail for some tax fraud (if I remember correctly) , Wesley became famous for the Blade trilogy with his garlic shooting machine. But he will always remain the poor man’s version of the black action hero or Will Smith.

The introduction scene is actually not too bad. As the director tantalizingly gives you glimpses of his hero, as he dangles from a multi-storey building you actually take your hand off the eject button. But man, are you in for some disappointment. As the opening scene draws on, you see the defense minister of North korea being given some special treatment by 14-15 year old chicks. Man, talk about axis of evil. So, we realize that our hero is a covert UN agent whose identity does not exist. This one line should be enough to tell you the rest of the plot which is hardly imaginative or creative.

Well, the director does try to be different and throws in some geo-political twist to the plot. China trying to open itself to the world. But again you know that someone is going to throw in a spanner(and if you have seen as many whodunnits as I have, you can actually tell who). There are a few cool chase sequences which ultimately land our hero in trouble, who being officially non-existant cannot be rescued by UN which actually seems to be involved in more murkier things than D company.

There are the usual suspects in the plot like any other action movie- the hero escaping from the clutches of the villains, an audio tape being chased by everyone, car crash, boom boom blasts and since our hero is an afro american he has to play basketball atleast once. Shady nightclubs, drugs, sweat-shops. Special mention for wesley disguised as a Sudanese guy at UN. Hilarious yet believable.

The movie does make a few pertinent points. China’s future (the movie was made in 2000) is an important issue throughout the movie and how people both within and outside China would like to sabotage its growth for their personal benefit. Seeing the movie in the backdrop of the Beijing Olympics actually lends testimony to the director’s fears. But his insistence on dragging Art of War into the context of the movie holds the movie back. The movie also allays to the fact that UN is losing its relevance fast and actually tries to preach that UN must resort to unconventional ways to keep its head above water.

The script is pretty shallow and there seem to have been some last minute improvisations which do not allow a steady flow. However credit is due to Christian Duguay(director) who is probably the only one to come out shining. The production values are the saving grace of the movie and make it tolerable. Wesley,at best is average. Donald Sutherland was completely wasted. Interestingly, Jet Li was to reprise the role played by Snipes. Hmmm, could that have made a difference?

The tagline of the movie is “Do you know who your enemy is?”. I know. It is crappy boring movies who try to use style over substance and fail miserably. Art of war, unfortunately falls in that category.

Genre: Action, Thriller(you got to be kidding me)

Rating: Nightmarish

wesley snipes in art of war

wesley snipes in art of war

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A few ground rules

August 26, 2008 at 5:01 am (Uncategorized)

As mentioned earlier, this blog won’t be about soon to be released movies. Rather I would be digging through the DVD library so that the next time you go out to rent a movie, you know what to watch and what to leave on the shelf.

Instead of a star rating system,I would be going in for a qualitative rating system which can be categorized into the following categories

1. Kill me,please kill me

2. Nightmarish

3. Yawwwwwwnnn

4. They’ve got something here

5. Gem

6. Palme d’Or material

Well that’s about it. Let’s go ahead and review the first movie.

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Le demarche

August 23, 2008 at 10:08 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I am not going to start a brand new blog by ruing about how long it has been since I last visited the blogosphere for posting or for reading. Crying over spilled perfume has never been my strong point.

Something which I have been strong at, though, has been criticizing left and right. I don’t even try to hide behind the curtain called constructive criticism but rather, just go flat out. Age has mellowed me down (I am 21, so you can guess how long this criticism streak has been going on). Since childhood, I have always wondered how a product,reduced to putty in my hands, would have come out better. Advertising was the first to have caught my fancy. I have never been a big fan of advertisements made to please the mind. That is not an advertisers’ job. The goal is to make the person rush out after watching the ad to buy the product/service, the key is brand recall. Anyways, I am digressing from my own goal. I shall continue this tirade against advertising in some other blog.

The lure of 70 mm has been intense for me as well. With time I have been drawn away from the theaters to my telly set and now to the comforts of my laptop. My 4 (arguable) year stint in IIT has done wonders for this passion having given me access to some of the best and difficult to catch hold of titles.

I intend this blog to be an unbiased critique of some of the splendors and duds of the cinematic world. The bias might show up in the selection of the movies as I intend to write this blog only about the movies which I haven’t seen so far. Please, expect only a few Bollywood movies to ever show up in this list (not coz I have seen all of them,rather coz I am unlikely to ever see one). Hopefully there would be quite a few international titles showing up.This blog would neither be a text book review, nor as some critics claim, would I be giving the layman’s perspective. Rather, simply put, it would be the way things ought to be (you’ll soon find out what I mean)

Roger Ebert has arguably been the most widely respected movie critic of our times(just ask wikipedia). It would be blasphemy to suggest that I would even come close to attaining those same heights. Satisfying my own thirst for a creative outlet and becoming widely “quoted” shall be my endeavor.

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