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Peepli Live! August 15, 2010

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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While some early reviews would have me believe that this film is some sort of masterpiece, it isn’t quite so. Taking off on an interesting premise based on farmer suicides in India, the film manages to touch on quite a few aspects but where it succeeds most is in depicting the media circus. Debutant writer-director Anusha Rizvi manages to lampoon round-the-clock television news coverage in numerous scenes (most strikingly through one reporter’s in-depth coverage of the main protagonist Natha’s feces) more effectively than a film like Ram Gopal Varma’s Rann.

The film is filled with entertaining moments, many stemming from irony. However, the levity that dominates the film makes it hard to connect on an emotional level with a tragic situation. What could have been a thought-provoking take ends up just managing to bring attention to the issue. I was more moved by a single scene in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades depicting the plight of a poor farmer than this film in its entirety.

But maybe that was what Rizvi and producer Aamir Khan had aimed for. In that case, they’ve succeeded in delivering a nice little film here. Devoid of usual commercial elements, Peepli Live still manages to be an entertaining outing at the movies with a novel plot, a realistic setting that is captured quite nicely and some natural performances from mainly unknown actors (except for Raghubir Yadav and Naseeruddin Shah, whose shoes could have been easily filled by someone else).

Movie Roundup: 15/04/2010 April 15, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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This weekend I checked out Green Zone. If not anything else, the cold reception which greeted this film only only confirms the misgivings I had about The Hurt Locker. Green Zone brings back the awesomeness of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon once more and needless to say – their collaboration works big time yet again. The result is something which works quite well as a thinking person’s Iraq War Drama as well a purely visceral and relentless action thriller.

But then you hear cries about the film being so dated and cliched – ya right! what we really need is another groundbreaking film about noble US troops suffering in a bloody quagmire caused by ungrateful natives. The whole conspiracy angle in the movie is definitely dumbed down but that doesn’t take away a bit from what the film is trying to convey. Even if I disregard the plot, I must say I haven’t enjoyed a “war movie” (technically it can be called so) like this in a long time.

Another little gem I happened to watch was the Michael Caine starrer Harry Brown. This flick came out in the UK sometime last November but I am surprised not hearing about it in the awards circuit. The promos gave the impression that it was some kick-ass vigilante flick with Caine doing the kick-assery. Not exactly – I would have been still happy it were but Harry Brown turns out to be much more than that. It’s one of the most intense crime dramas in recent times.

I don’t know how much of the milieu portrayed in the film is accurate….the whole thing was pretty disturbing and at the end I was both angry and depressed about what I saw in the film. Comparisons to Gran Torino will justifiably be made but honestly they are two very different films. Harry Brown also has a theatrical release in the US later this month – just in case you want to watch in on the big screen. It is one of those rare films which look deceptively simple on the surface but totally blow you away eventually.

Greek Gods 101 April 7, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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It’s just three months into the year and we already have a couple of flicks based on Greek Gods. Are they the new successors to vampires and zombies? The box office performances of both have been encouraging but the films themselves haven’t found much appreciation to establish a genre.

The first one – Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief has (justifiably) been labeled as Harry Potter’s poor cousin. The HP films have set such high standards for fantasy flicks featuring teenagers that it is tough to watch any film in the genre without comparing it to the former. The Lightning Thief is definitely a well made film with the right mix of action, humor and VFX yet not great enough to warrant sequels (they are definitely being planned for sure). I’ve always found the Greek pantheon of deities extremely confusing. But they are a staple part of pop culture – especially in film and literature, so a film like this was to me a perfect initiation into that world.

Watching Clash of the Titans earlier this week, I felt quite at home with the characters but the film itself turned out be a bland CGI extravaganza. Even earlier, the promos didn’t excite me – I was just drawn in due to the hype surrounding it. The local posters were embellished with the funny sounding “From the Hero of Avatar” tag-line which nevertheless seemed to have been successful in drawing huge crowds. I watched the 2-D version but I don’t think I missed much….since the 3D post-conversion process has drawn huge flak from prominent folks recently.

Between the two films, I’d easily pick Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief over Clash of the Titans. In any case, if you’ve seen the trailer of COTT you’ve pretty much seen the entire movie.

Varudu April 5, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Do you want to know the secret of a successful marriage?
Do you want to know the secret of successful progeny?
Do you want to know the secret of a successful society?
Do you want to know the secret of a successful world?

Varudu answers it all and much more! Now, you might wonder why I’d write any further about such a groundbreaking film since it would obviously involve giving away spoilers. Well…the catch is that watching this movie comes with the risk of acute brain damage (temporary only…I hope!). I was able to confirm this condition in me because at one point in the movie I was actually cheering for the villain to sleep with the kidnapped bride and put our “Varudu” to a gruesome death. (There’s another part of me which says it’s a pretty reasonable wish and maybe my mind is alright after all – but let’s leave it at that for now).

If you’ve now decided you’d rather not watch the movie – here come the spoilers. The secret to all types of “success” mentioned above is the “Traditional Telugu 5-day Wedding Ritual”. Now, if you are really dumb to doubt something like that, Varudu even provides a scientific explanation to skeptics in one instance. Here it comes – It has been scientifically proved that putting Jeelakarra-Bellam (Cumin Seeds and Jaggery) on each other’s heads activates the “pathways of attraction” in the cerebral cortex of the people involved which results in them falling for each other instantly.

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(BTW, that was a two minute silence in memory of Science). In case you didn’t notice, with this film Gunasekhar successfully completes his trilogy of CGI-blunders (Remember Arjun and Sainikudu?). Maybe I am being a bit too harsh here. But someone loved the climax of Wolverine so much that they didn’t have any trouble composing shots of CGI Nuclear Power Plants with a CGI Kalyana Mandapam in a CGI countryside.

Varudu also boasts of the worst ever performance by a leading man. I’ve always admired Allu Arjun for his smart choice of films and the characters he plays – where his limited acting abilities fit in so perfectly; no wonder he reigns supreme over everyone else when it comes to the success rate of his films. In this film, the first thing which puts you off is his horrible diction. Also, in a lot of places he sports this obnoxious expression of smugness – which is a combination of a regular blush + “Wow…I am so stylish but see how I can still uphold and follow old traditions”. No wonder then…I was cheering for Arya!

Fooled by a Bad Trailer March 25, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Films, Movies, Reviews.
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If you happened to watch the trailer for Jim Sheridan’s “Brothers” and decide to check out the film – the only reason could be to find out why such a stellar cast and director are associated with such a beaten-to-death plot line. This is a film where you can make creepily accurate predictions about what is going to happen and when. The surprise is that the film actually works – it doesn’t really soar too high but the differential between what you expect and what you get is large enough not to have any complaints. It is one of those rare films where every rule in the book is followed faithfully but still the outcome seems fresh enough to warrant a look.

Coming to following “every rule in the book” here’s another one which just doesn’t turn out to be watchable but is undoubtedly one of the best films in its genre. I am talking about Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut “Whip It” with an awesome all-female cast led by Ellen Page. “Whip It” combines the familiar genres of the sports underdog and coming-of-age teenage flicks to concoct a delightful entertainer. I never really knew what Women’s Roller Derby was before but this was one of my best sport-in-a-movie experience for me. I feel really bad this was totally ignored at the box office despite overwhelmingly positive reviews (maybe the lackluster promos should be blamed for not generating enough interest). Has to be the happiest film I’ve seen in a long time – don’t miss it.

The Dystopian Extremes March 24, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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I am always up for a post-apocalyptic loner anti-hero flick and The Book of Eli seemed the perfect one (on the face of it at least). Yet, in spite of the Hughes Brothers impressive visuals the content turned out to be a huge letdown. Even halfway through the film, things seemed quite interesting – the unfolding plot appeared to be a tongue-in-cheek take on religion and power but at the end I actually felt like walking out of a religious sermon. I am more disappointed because this is probably the one film genre where I would least expect something like this.

Just a couple of days later I caught up another post-apocalypse movie – “The Road”. The only common thing between this movie and “The Book of Eli” is that both the films weren’t what I expected it to be. You keep hearing about how certain films are bleak, gloomy and depressing – “The Road” makes all of them look like kiddie fantasies. Watch it and you’ll know what I am saying. Every few minutes or so, I kept wishing something good would happen (even a little) just to make my movie-watching experience less disturbing. It is an authentic throught provoking study about humanity in the most dystopian situations ever. With great performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee – you would not want to miss this…..even though this is not at all an easy watch.

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