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Movie Roundup: 21/12/2009 December 21, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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1) Funny People (2009)
Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Eric Bana, Jason Schwartzman

I had a strange uplifting feeling at the end of Funny People. I can’t recall too many films which made me feel that way (this year at least). Like a lot of people have said, you either love this film or hate it – I am definitely in the former group and can easily vouch for this as one of the best films of the year. Unfortunately, for Judd Apatow it bombed unexpectedly – the main reason seems to be its branding as a regular Apatow comedy and failing to deliver on that particular count. That’s not to say it isn’t funny – just that its a lot more than being funny. This is a heartfelt film about comedy, love, friendship and coming to terms with all of them. There have been many glimpses of these in Apatow’s previous films but this is where he really opens up like never before. Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen are lovable and the rest of the Apatow regulars lend great support as always. Funny People is a great film – the only thing sad about this is that not too many have seen it.

2) The Warriors (1979)
Director: Walter Hill
Cast: Michael Beck, James Remar, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, David Patrick Kelly

Walter Hill’s cult classic is a trashy film set around street gangs. What makes it special is its bold visual technique – the graphic novel feel which is rather commonplace now but groundbreaking during its time. Apart from this there is absolutely nothing here (No wonder Tony Scott is working on a remake). It has a lot of elements which speak for its cult status – unprecedented bad acting being just one of them. At 90 minutes, it’s nevertheless fast-paced mindless fun.

3) Beautiful Girls (1996)
Director: Ted Demme
Cast: Matt Dillon, Timothy Hutton, Uma Thurman, Noah Emmerich, Natalie Portman, Lauren Holly, Michael Rapaport

I’d never have seen this film – thanks to the deceptive title and poster art which clearly scream – multistarrer mushy romcom alert!!! Thankfully it also included a bunch of glowing reviews splashed all over the cover which reassured me a bit. And how different and refreshing it turned out to be from what I imagined! Centered around a group of late twenty something friends who decide to have a school reunion, Beautiful Girls is a brilliant coming-of-age tale of extremely relatable people in equally relatable circumstances. Again, don’t be too mislead by the title – this one’s honestly a hardcore guy flick. Timothy Hutton tops the performances and his thread is incidentally the most interesting. I especially loved it because it is far more honest and a lot less pretentious than other similar-themed flicks. A must watch…

All the Best November 6, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Rohit Shetty’s fetish for car porn just got worse, his gags have become a lot more sillier and predictable – yet All the Best makes you laugh-out-loud for a satisfactory duration of its run-time enough to make you leave the theatre with a smile on your face.

This one’s a very traditional comedy of errors (supposed to be based on the play “Right Bed Wrong Husband” and also with a strong resemblance to the Kamal Haasan starrer Navvandi Lavvandi/Kadhala Kadhala) with the usual mix-ups and the ensuing mayhem – which is so unoriginal that you can correctly guess almost every forthcoming situation. Still, the actors seems to get their timing right most of the time and do succeed in tickling your funny bone. But beware that a film like this only works when you watch it in a theatre with a large crowd.

For me the best part of this movie is to see Sanjay Dutt back in form – especially after that horrendous Blue. He doesn’t do comedy much but has always delivered the few times he’s tried. As always Ajay Devgn manages to be very funny in Rohit Shetty’s films. Fardeen Khan and the girls have nothing much to do. Johnny Lever is quite impressive and he actually gets a meaty role after a very long time. Another surprise is Sanjay Mishra who brings down the house every time with his one note “Just Chill”. The rest of the supporting cast also delivers mostly.

If Rohit Shetty could have let gone of those unbearable car, action and song sequences All the Best could have been a memorable comedy; but I am sure he is so addicted to them that wishing something like that is a big joke. In any case this one works just fine for a lazy weekend watch.

London Dreams November 6, 2009

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When I was glancing around reviews for this film I came across many people complaining about how this is an awful “rip-off” of Amadeus. Agreed, that the basic characterizations of Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan are inspired from the latter film’s protagonists but calling that a remake or a rip-off makes me wonder if they actually have seen that film. Another recurring complaint is about how it fails to match Rock On!! – well…why on earth does one expect it be a Rock-On!! when the makers never promised anything like that.

Anyways, Vipul Shah’s latest directorial venture is a suprisingly effective old-school tale about friendship and jealousy. It doesn’t take much time for anyone to realize that the whole rock-band thing is nothing more than a backdrop to this story. Arjun (Ajay Devgn) – an extremely ambitious guy whose sole aim in life is to perform at Wembley. However, as he comes closer to acheiving his dream his limelight is effortlessly stolen by his carefree childhood friend Mannu (Salman Khan) – who ends up dealing a double blow by wowing the crowds and wooing his girl. Arjun decides to get back at Mannu by bringing him down in everyone’s eyes – albeit he also has guilt pangs for doing the same.

Most of the film is quite breezy and a lot of fun while not deviating much from the main plot but it gets rather inconsistent (and ineffective) when things start getting a bit serious. Yet, one has to applaud Vipul Shah for the mature way in which he handles the last portions of the film (especially if you’ve seen in his last two films how cringeworthy he can get when it comes to melodrama). If London Dreams fails it is only because the writing in the second half (the emotional scenes) does not do justice to the intensity of the actors involved – which is why those portions don’t seem so heartfelt. Shah admitted in an interview about excising a lot of those scenes due to the runtime which answers to an extent why that part didn’t work.

Another thing is probably Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s score which has its share of great and not-so-great tunes. This aspect is rather glaring because all the average numbers turn up only in the concerts (with the exception of the wonderful “Khwaab” track which I must say covers most of the failings of the second half).

But it is hard to keep picking flaws when you have the powerful duo of Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan in superb form. Ajay’s grudge in the movie is that everybody loves Salman – it’s no wonder the latter’s role is written keeping that aspect in mind. Whether you love or hate the film, you cannot but be charmed by Salman. The box office still has not been completely kind to him but the superstar has truly begun to shine again. Asin, Rannvijay Singh and Aditya Roy Kapoor are just passable.

For me London Dreams worked completely because I haven’t seen a film in a very long time which had such an authentic “feel-good” vibe about it. It could have been a lot better but given its merits the flaws are very easily forgivable. Go for it…

Prayanam June 1, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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You fall in love with a girl you see at an airport and make up your mind to make her fall in love with you before she catches a plane to go and get married to her fiance. Would such a thing work in real life? Well, in all probability not but the bigger question – Does Chandrasekhar Yeleti’s Prayanam work? Hmm…intermittently.

After trying his hand not so successfully at making a regular Tollywood actioner, Yeleti does a U-turn to make a full fledged comic romance with quite an interesting premise. But apart from the basic plot there is hardly anything in the screenplay that holds your attention. The onus here is more on the individual performers to get their act right and this is where the film scores much better. Manoj has always been considered a fine actor despite not having a single hit till date; and here he succeeds once again in a completely different role from his previous ventures. He is quite charming as the smitten loverboy especially because this is a part you generally do not expect a regular hero to play (with the exception of Siddharth I think – but even his films manage to slip in a fight scene or two).

The female lead Harika is absolutely bland bearing a single facial expression throughout. No matter what the situation, her reaction (which is complete non-reaction) is always the same. The pick of the lot is Kalpika who arguably steals every scene she is featured in. To quote Anupam Kher from a forgettable film – She is just “too qweet”. Going by the scenes in the first half, I was actually expecting a parallel romantic thread to brew between her and Tamim (another great find), but nothing exciting like that happens and disappointingly both their screen times are largely reduced in the second half. Janardhan also shines especially in the “Ugra Naram – man with muscle” story narration episode with Brahmanandam. The latter has ample footage but isn’t given a well etched role like the others.

So, should you take this Prayanam? My answer would be a resounding yes if I have to compare this with some other recent “blockbusters”. However, as a film coming from Chandrasekhar Yeleti this isn’t quite up to the mark but then again everday I encounter life size hoardings of upcoming potential blockbusters like Pista, Ride, Current, Aa Okkadu, Naa Style Veru and what not – which makes me feel I was extremely lucky to watch Prayanam.

99 May 18, 2009

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Thanks to the Film Producers-Multiplex Owners stand-off, there hasn’t been any new Bollywood offering for a while now. Citing the relevance of it being released during the IPL season, the producers of 99 somehow managed to get it out. 99 claims to be the the “coolest crime comedy of the year” – a claim which it admirably lives up to. I noticed that in a few reviews/articles about this film, the directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK have been mentioned as debutants. For those who are not aware, a few years back these guys made a wonderful “crossover” film called Flavors which you should definitely watch. Their latest effort just proves that they are here to stay.

The basic narrative of 99 is similar to Guy Ritchie’s caper flicks – so you have people chasing money, people chasing other people and money jumping places before everyone finally gets what they deserve. The crime backdrop in this one centers around betting and match-fixing in cricket – that’s why it is set in the year 1999. A rather interesting insight which the film constantly seems to allude to are the nascent birth of now ubiquitous pop cultural phenomenon like mobile phones, the Internet, Coffee shops and Bhojpuri Films! 99 is smartly scripted with great humor and unlike similar themed flicks is a lot more believable as there is quite a bit of time devoted to detailing individual characters and their actions. Some have complained about the long runtime resulting because of this but I had absolutely no problems with it.

Most importantly, the primary reason everything in this film works so well is its delectable cast. Kunal Khemu and Boman Irani have the greatest screen time and are delightful. The former is also looking quite good sans his long locks. Mahesh Manjrekar as the local gangster AGM impresses once again – this is the only kind of role he seems to excel in effortlessly. Cyrus Broacha is quite hilarious with his usual brand of humor. Despite having short parts Vinod Khanna and Soha Ali Khan are very impressive. The best accolades should however be reserved for newcomer Amit Mistry who never fails to bring the house down. His scene with Kunal (a glimpse of which is seen in the promos) is the highpoint of the movie.

Technically too the film looks good. The musical score (Roshan Macado, Mahesh Shankar, Shamir Tandon) suits the tone of the film perfectly. The title sequence seemingly inspired from Watchmen is also quite catchy. Going by Bollywood standards 99 is an almost flawless work which is immensely entertaining and equally clever – go for it!

Kick May 13, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Not quite sure if many folks are being too generous to this film or quite likely my tolerance levels have hit rock bottom. Well, I absolutely hated this film but more importantly I dread hearing that word “Kick” which seemed more painful to me than being at the receiving end of a real one.

Ravi Teja plays a character whose every action (and I mean every single action) in life is solely determined by whether he “gets a kick out of doing it”. So that you do not mistake him for just an adventurous person who likes to takes risks, he takes the pains to remind you in every other scene that whatever he did in the previous scene was only because he “got a kick out of doing it”. Technically, that means atleast for half of the film’s runtime Ravi Teja or someone else is constanly telling you this profound truth in our hero’s life lest you forget. The humor and action constantly compete with each other to disappoint you the most – the former wins for most part until the latter delivers a final blow towards the climax where a seemingly impossible heist is pulled off casually just to remind you that bad action sequences aren’t going away from Tollywood anytime soon.

Ravi Teja, Ileana and director Surender Reddy may have finally have a hit (going by the intial reviews and collections). BTW, this film also marks the Telugu film debut of Shaam who is just about the only likeable thing in this movie. Though I didn’t feel too upbeat about last week’s Veedokkade; in hindsight that seems like a masterpiece now, so rather check that one out if you want to see a flick in a similar genre.