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Quel maledetto treno blindato (The Inglorious Bastards) August 21, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Italian, Movies, Reviews.
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In anticipation for Quentin Tarantino’s latest film (it releases today), a local theater recently arranged a screening of Enzo Castellari’s 1978 film, which is the inspiration for the title and part of the premise. This is a fun film that is filled with action, excitement and humor. It isn’t the most sophisticated piece of filmmaking but a very well-executed one nonetheless.

Think of it as a crass, crazy version of The Dirty Dozen. A group of American soldiers are being shipped off to a military prison when they are attacked by the Germans. In the ensuing melee, they escape. As they try to get to the safety of Switzerland, they are caught up in a mission to steal a warhead from under the Nazis’ noses.

Armed with a promising premise for an entertaining movie, Castellari rarely deviates from the main plot and ensures that the film chugs along at a rapid pace. Even the ridiculous love track is so short and inconspicuous that it doesn’t make much of a difference despite the fact that it is totally unwarranted and is inelegantly crammed into the script. While this isn’t the sort of film where you’d nitpick the flaws, the pace and focus surely make it easier to overlook them.

If you’re really looking forward to QT’s Inglourious Basterds, this one should raise your excitement levels. It certainly whetted my appetite. Even otherwise, this is an amusing adventure that you should enjoy unless you expect your exploitation films to be more refined.

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Pineapple Express September 21, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Written by the team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg after the success of Superbad, Pineapple Express is a stoner comedy directed by David Gordon Green (George Washington, All The Real Girls). Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) is a process server who is always high. After getting a very rare strain of pot called Pineapple Express from his dealer Saul (James Franco), Denton goes about his job with the next task of serving a drug lord. He happens to witness a murder and runs away. But he drops the Pineapple Express, which could be used to identify him. So, Denton goes on the run with Saul. The rest of the film deals with how they get out of this mess and develop an improbable friendship along the way.

Producer Judd Apatow’s popular comedies are very appealing but the formula is starting to feel familiar now. The situations are considerably different but the characters are starting to develop a certain familiarity. If you’ve seen Superbad or Knocked Up or one of the other Apatow produced R-rated comedies, you sort of know what to expect from this movie. Crazy characters that you would probably never want to know but who actually have a heart and an unexpected normalcy about them. Outrageous situations that ensure hilarity. An unlikely bond between two individuals. Some humor based on the occupation of one of the main characters. And more.

However, the familiarity didn’t affect my experience much. I still laughed as much as anyone else. The novelty in this film then is the action, which is also effectively used to make us laugh.

If you do think about it the film can seem stupid and pointless, especially because most people wouldn’t be able to relate to the characters or the extreme situations. But who goes to a stoner comedy to identify with the characters and find meaning. So, I’d say this should be quite an enjoyable experience for those who’ve enjoyed other R-rated comedies from the Apatow stable.

Tropic Thunder August 16, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Ben Stiller’s new directorial venture is a fun ride featuring a superb cast. The film is about the botched up shooting of a war movie in Vietnam. The film in this film features a five time Oscar winning method actor who dyes his skin black to play a black man, a fading action hero most famous for a disaster movie double trilogy and a drug addicted star famous for his fart comedy. When the young director of the doomed war movie is threatened by his studio boss for not being able to control the egoistic stars, he decides to put them in the middle of some real action to make his film more natural and things go hilariously wrong.

The film, written by Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen (not the Oscar winning Ethan Coen) is pretty much a bunch of satirical/comic scenes woven around this premise, primarily taking aim at Hollywood – from studio executives to agents to actors and directors (and this is the strongpoint of the film). But the actual plot itself, if anyone is interested, is uninteresting. Most of the film is over-the-top fun featuring a lot of big laughs and also a few that fall flat. The film also features some sidesplitting fake trailers (reminded me of Om Shanti Om more than Grindhouse).

The cast has a great time in this film. Robert Downey Jr is a riot and Tom Cruise is a very pleasant surprise (it took me a while to recognize him). Ben Stiller is also quite good and gets a lot of screen time. Jack Black gets overshadowed and I didn’t find the flatulence and drug gags funny. Matthew McConaughey and Nick Nolte are the other recognizable names while more show up in short cameos (watch out for Tobey Maguire in the Satan’s Alley trailer).

Watch this film if you are game for an outlandish R-rated comedy but remember that isn’t about the plot as much as it is about the humor.

The Forbidden Kingdom April 25, 2008

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This martial arts script seems interesting.
Hmm.. not bad. It will need a big star like Jackie Chan or Jet Li.
Wait a minute! There’s two sizeable roles here. How about putting Jackie Chan and Jet Li together? That should guarantee box office returns.
Thats a sensational idea. But will it appeal to a larger audience in North America? How about putting an American in the middle?
Super!
Now, who wrote this?
John Fusco.
I should get him to work on a rewrite immediately.

It is possible that the film was conceived this way. Maybe it wasn’t.

As you can figure out by now, an American boy is at the centre of this film and he is crazily devoted to kung fu cinema. After an unforeseen turn of events involving an altercation with the local thugs and a shooting incident, the boy gets hold of the weapon of the Monkey King, a warrior from ancient China (presumably). Now the boy is magically transported to an unknown land (where fortunately, the friends and foes can speak English). His mission is to deliver the weapon back to the Monkey King and free him in the process so that he can overthrow a truant ruler. He is accompanied on his mission by a drunken kung fu master, a monk and a girl bent upon revenge. He also learns kung fu along the way and it stands him in good stead in his world.

The teaming of Jackie Chan and Jet Li is obviously the big deal in this film but I wouldn’t say that this film is tailored specially for the pairing. I am not sure if fans were expecting to see them pitted against each other but that isn’t the case here (though they have one enjoyable duel). Nevertheless, they work well together. Jet Li is especially hilarious as the Monkey King. The younger cast members, Michael Angarano (Sky High) and Liu Yifei are likable.

The film is really an action comedy with an element of fantasy. Director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little) maintains the comic tone throughout except for a small part towards the climax where he attempts to involve you emotionally. The comedy in this film might not make you roll on the floor but it is amusing enough. The film does have some good locations/sets and pleasing cinematography but there isn’t an attempt to enchant the audience with the visuals. When Yuen Woo-Ping (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill, Matrix) choreographs the action sequences, you can be sure they are first-rate and obviously the two J’s look good executing them.

Despite the epic setting, this fantasy isn’t an epic. It isn’t a classic and it isn’t trying to be. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining entry in the martial arts comedy genre that is aimed at an audience looking for a fun night out. Fans of the genre and the two lead actors should definitely enjoy this non-serious adventure.

Krishna February 11, 2008

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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You might be forgiven for thinking that V V Vinayak and Srinu Vaitla directed this film together because, while the action and mind games are typical Vinayak stuff, the comedic elements (especially the oppressed turning oppressor aspect that includes a drunken thrashing) seem straight out of Vaitla’s book. This is quite a prototypical big-hero action film that is saved by the humor, which I believe is the primary reason for its box-office success (helped further by the weak competition during the favorable Sankranthi season).

Writer-director Vinayak isn’t new to gimmicks but he repeats some of his tricks this time. Flying vehicles aren’t as interesting now even if he replaces the Sumo with another SUV or even a lorry. One has to say, though, that some of the vehicles fly quite beautifully. Nevertheless, this isn’t the best thing in the film.

Brahmanandam is.

He isn’t the star of the film but he is the one that makes you laugh most and it is hard to not remember him first. Ravi Teja is obviously one of the more entertaining stars around and he does his job without really standing out this time. Trisha gets precious little to do but she looks good and her hard-to-miss-or-forget tattoo placement is something that I expect will feature in a lot of discussion among the audience. And then there is Mukul Dev as the main antagonist. He seems to be imitating his brother but his work here is better than what I’ve seen him do in Bollywood.

The songs in the film break the momentum every single time and are a bit of a pain to endure as the tunes aren’t special and neither are the visuals. The audience let out a collective sigh when the final song commenced. Ironically, it was the best of the lot, the typical pumped-up prelude-to-the-climax number lifted shamelessly (composer Chakri could have probably been forced to so) from Vidyasagar’s Gilli number Appadi Podu (and watching Ravi Teja dance isn’t quite the same as watching Vijay dance). The lyrics are especially lame. “Taratha ettukupotha” filled with gibberish and the mixed language “Tu mera dilbar O priyathama” are cringeworthy instead of being hip or something. Lyricist Chandrabose might have written the songs keeping the masses in mind but I think he is capable of much better.

This film entertains for a considerable amount of its length, thanks to writer-director Vinayak’s adept handling of the comedy and the performances of the actors in those scenes. Watch it if you must, but only for the humor.