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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.

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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.

Movie Roundup: 15/03/2010 March 15, 2010

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After The Hurt Locker trumped Avatar at the Oscars, quite a few people celebrated its win as a triumph of substance over style. I don’t quite get it – The Hurt Locker has been acclaimed as the best drama about the Iraq war but I actually thought Avatar had a lot more things to say about “war”. For me The Hurt Locker was just a gritty thriller set around the activities of bomb defusing squads – a group you generally don’t encounter in a “war film”. If the film actually tried to say something about the war – it just didn’t get through to me.

The movie begins with a quote “War is a Drug” which is supposed to be the underlying thought of the whole enterprise – yet the tone of the movie comes across as being so blatantly pro-war. Even with the most generous interpretations, I couldn’t really figure out what the film was trying to convey and that’s why I can’t think of it beyond a “gritty thriller”. Do check it out – for it’s a film which is so open to interpretation that it could mean something completely opposite to what I expressed – and isn’t that exactly why it has received so many accolades!

Talking about the Oscars, until a couple of weeks back I wouldn’t have imagined any other film except ‘Up‘ (though I admit I haven’t seen a few of the other acclaimed films in the list) taking home the award for the Best Animated Feature – also given the fact that it was nominated for Best Picture too! Yet, once I saw Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, it was impossible for me to choose one. The film works purely because Anderson’s quirkiness translates so well to an animated-film setting. No doubt Pixar’s films work for adults but I wonder if Fantastic Mr. Fox would hold appeal for anyone else except adults – and no…. it isn’t because it has risque jokes or anything like that. Don’t miss this if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s unfortunate that the film grossed a measly 20 million despite the overall acclaim.

3 Idiots March 12, 2010

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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I love Rajkumar Hirani’s brand of “feel good cinema with a message”. I wish more young filmmakers made such films. This was a very well planned and executed film. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I’d love to watch it again. Kudos to Hirani and co-writer Abhijat Joshi, the cast (especially Aamir Khan, Boman Irani and Omi Vaidya), composer Shantanu Moitra and lyricist Swanand Kirkire (loved the Give Me Some Sunshine number). Since the film has received enough praise (and it has been a while), I’ll focus elsewhere.

If there is one thing I truly wish the film hadn’t done, it is the deification of the Rancho character. I mean, come on! In the past, Hirani carefully made his characters and situations idealistic without going over the line but this time he crosses it some.

Then there is the issue of credit to Chetan Bhagat. They did borrow the theme from his book (that doesn’t mean he deserves credit for the success of the movie) and they did tuck the name away in the end credits somewhere (did they feel like Bhagat was going to walk away with the credit? I’m sure Aamir gets the most credit even if Raju is the most deserving). So yes, I think the makers are clearly to blame for hiding his name.

And finally, I’ve always felt that it is hard to adapt a book for the screen and make it seem better than the book or equally as good for the readers. This is because when you read the book, you create this world in your mind. It is hard for anyone to recreate that personal experience. Another huge roadblock is the restrictions on duration that do not allow filmmakers to capture the content or the detail to the extent that a reader would like. So, whenever someone tells me that a film is not as good as a book, I never take them seriously because not everyone seems to understand or take into account the differences between the two media and the process and the limitations that come with the territory.

Having read the book, I had some mixed feelings while I watched the film. I had to consciously brush away the memories. In the end, they were two separate experiences, both of which I enjoyed thoroughly.

A Christmas Carol November 26, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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I wonder if Charles Dickens’ beloved classic was really suited for a 3-D motion capture adaptation. Except the promising first few minutes, most of what comes after turns out be a rather bland and soul-less rendering of Dickens’ tale.

In recent times, Robert Zemeckis seems to have lost his touch even though we can overlook The Polar Express and Beowulf purely for their technological innovation of a new form of storytelling. Sadly, A Christmal Carol is a pretty late arrival to even get away with the “technology” excuse. Ebenezer Scrooge’s original tale was both bleak and touching (still one of the very few stories I really loved as a kid) and where the film falters mostly is in the latter aspect. Jim Carrey does his best in multiple roles and that’s definitely among the very few things which make this movie watchable.

You might want to watch this if this is your first IMAX-3D flick – or better still wait till December 18th to catch the real biggie.