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Yuganiki Okkadu (Aayirathil Oruvan) February 12, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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In production for almost two years, Selvaraghavan’s magnum opus is finally out. To be honest, though I had high expectations from this film I kinda figured out it might in the end turn out be that great – given the track record of modern “period fantasies” in Indian cinema. I couldn’t have been more wrong – Yuganiki Okkadu totally blew me away! It’s bold, it’s original and most importantly – absolutely engrossing till the very last frame. The latter aspect could also be attributed to the fact that almost 40 minutes of footage from the original Tamil version were chopped off for Telugu audiences.

Yuganiki Okkadu begins as a rescue mission to an unknown place find the whereabouts about an archaeologist who had gone missing in search of a lost Chola Kingdom. I cannot give away anymore of the plot without major spoilers. Selvaraghavan (who also wrote the film) beautifully blends adventure, historical fiction and the supernatural – and it is precisely this expert plotting that mostly earns the film its brownie points. It is also very humorous in some of the most unexpected places. This is also a film where the elaborate set-pieces and VFX seem so much a part of the film – rather that stand out as the lone USPs in plotless blockbusters. But then this isn’t a film for a casual viewer or someone whose idea of a film is a “family entertainer”. There is uninhibited blood, gore and raw sexuality which is sure to alienate a considerable number of people.

The casting is again spot on. Karthi (his second film after three years), Reemma Sen and Andrea are the naughtiest trio you’ll see on screen for a very long time – especially the risque moments between them are a hoot. Parthiban excels in a major supporting role. G.V Prakash again comes up with a great score. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a Telugu movie so much in recent years and I can be pretty sure no one is going to bring out a movie like this in the future unless Selvaraghavan tries being even more awesome.

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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.

Star Trek May 14, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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While the Wolverine failed to start the summer with a bang, Star Trek makes up for it with its heady mix of action, humor, drama and space mumbo jumbo in what is a thoroughly entertaining reboot/sequel/prequel/requel (you will know what I mean when you see the film).

Now, I am no Trekkie. I have seen a few episodes of the television show when I was younger and found it to be campy fun but I don’t recall much. So, my evaluation of this film is practically comparison free.

What I loved about this film is the way director J J Abrams (M:i:III, Lost) and his writing team (Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who have also written Abrams’ M:i:III, Michael Bay’s Transformers and its upcoming sequel) have managed to reboot the series while still connecting it to the previous installments – a novel idea that is possible only for a series like this one (again, you will know what I mean when you see the film).

The effervescent young cast is impressive. Chris Pine (Just My Luck) makes a charming Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Heroes) is effective as Spock. Zoe Saldana (who coincidentally played a Trekkie in The Terminal) plays the xenolinguist Uhura and is involved in a suprising romantic angle.  Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) provides some humorous moments as Scotty. Also featured are Eric Bana (Munich, Hulk) as the evil Captain Nero, John Cho (Harold of the Harold and Kumar movies) as Sulu, Anton Yelchin as Chekov and Karl Urban as Bones. If you’ve been following the buzz, you would also know that the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, is also part of the film.

There is a lot of action in this film and all of it is very well done. The visual effects are first rate. There are some complaints from the fans about the production design of this film but I did not find it to be particularly inadequate.

If you are scientifically inclined, be warned that the science in this film will not “compute”. Despite the risk of finding some of the material silly, this is an entertainer that you wouldn’t want to avoid unless you are allergic to space adventures. And no, you don’t require any prior knowledge of the series to enjoy this (although a little bit of info can improve the experience).

Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D July 26, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Based on the 1864 Jules Verne novel of the same name, this is a 3D film (also playing in 2D) starring Brendan Fraser. Fraser plays Trevor Anderson, a scientist of some sort manning a lab that might soon be closed down. His brother, a Vernian (apparently someone who believes that the center of the Earth is exactly as Verne described in his book), has been missing for a few years now. When some clues regarding his possible whereabouts emerge, Fraser goes in search for his brother along with his nephew (you need a kid in this sort of movie) and a mountain guide (a girl, as you might have guessed). Then, obviously, they fall down (yes, to the center of the Earth, which they find to be as Verne describes) and the rest of the film is about their adventures as they try to find a way out.

There is nothing particularly interesting or imaginative in the way that this film has been made. The makers know their target audience and they fulfil their duties in trying to appeal to them without trying to innovate. This formulaic adventure has a few laughs and some not-so-new thrills where the protagonists almost get killed (dodging a dinosaur, a ride through a mine where a part of the track is missing, escaping carnivorous plants and so on).

The 3D format is definitely the film’s USP. Since, there aren’t too many films made in this format, it always has an appeal. That said, the makers could have surely come up with better ways to use it.

This is a simple-minded adventure that should appeal to the kids and adults looking for something that their inner child will appreciate. Remember that the 3D format considerably enhances the film’s impact and it might not be worth watching in 2D or on DVD.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull May 25, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford team up once again to bring us another adventure in the life of Henry Jones Jr. This time he is old. The year is 1957. The KGB is involved. A crystal skull with mysterious powers is in the middle of things. The genre-defining formula is firmly in place. The action is thrilling. The humor matches expectations. This escapist adventure is an enjoyable ride that isn’t far off from its predecessors.

Harrison Ford gets a chance to have some fun again at his age and he takes it with both hands. Karen Allen has been the best female performer of the series by far and she still has the same spark. On the other hand, Cate Blanchett is terribly miscast and sticks out like a sore thumb. The surprise for me is Shia LaBeouf. I didn’t mind him in Disturbia and Transformers but here, he is quite impressive as Mutt Williams. John Williams’ score also plays its part in elevating the thrills.

After watching this film, there was one thought that kept coming back to me. There is one primary difference between the Indy films and others in the genre. That difference is Steven Spielberg. There are three things that define this series for me – the thrills, the humor and the pace. Spielberg and his team do a masterful job of executing the thrills while maintaining the rapid pace and keeping the audience entertained. Whether you like the movie or not, you have to praise these guys because it is quite difficult to achieve this (and not many films can match this quality).

In my mind, the plot has never been a strong point in the series and it still isn’t. The supernatural/paranormal/spiritual/occult aspects of the plot have defined the series, so don’t expect it to get realistic now. When I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was extremely unhappy with the climax. And then there was human sacrifice, pulling the heart out of a human being and eating monkey brains in Temple of Doom. Some aspects of these films can bring down your final evaluation of them but they are still very entertaining and this one is also like that. Without spoiling it for you, I will say that one of the early rumors about the plot is true.

If you’ve enjoyed the first three films, you should like this as well (unless you’ve had enough of the formula and don’t care to see it repeated). Expect to have fun and you should be thoroughly satisfied. Burden this film with high expectations or comparisons and the experience will not be as good.

P.S. I wouldn’t mind another film in the series as long as Spielberg helms it.