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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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99 May 18, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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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!

Contract July 21, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Contract is like an unimpressive debut film coming from a Ram Gopal Varma wannabe. Sadly, the fact is that Ramu himself made it but the good news is that he’s made far worse films before. Still, that doesn’t give you a reason to go check this one out even if you are a fan of him.

This is the most amateurish take till date about the story of a cop infiltrating the mob and trying to catch the big fish while fully being an accomplice in their activities….not to forget his internal conflicts when he does all this. Right from the beginning you know this one isn’t going anywhere. Even a realiable regular like Zakir Hussain is made to play the role of a terrorist whose portrayal would make the ones in Sunny Deol’s flicks seem far intellectual and realistic. There is asbolute apathy on the part of the writer and director in every frame. It’s like they said to each other “Let’s make this film so that no one ever touches this genre again”. Even the addition of quirky characters like that of Amrutha Subhash (who plays Upendra Limaye’s wife) doesn’t help for long. Debutant Adhvik Mahajan is a potential Mohit Ahlawat – now that’s good or bad you decide. The only person who makes some sort of an impression is Prasad Purandare.

But to give credit where it’s due Contract isn’t so bad a film that it’ll make you bang your head against a wall…..inducing sleep is all it does. In his blog Ramu said that he just wants to make “thousands of films” – and films like Contract will definitely help him achieve that quickly. Nevertheless, his next August release “Phoonk” looks interesting and I’ll definitely be watching out for that one.

This one’s just another of Ramu’s bad films which you can safely ignore and the fact that I watched it immediately a day after “The Dark Knight” made it more difficult for me to appreciate it even a little no matter how hard I tried.

The Dark Knight July 19, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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The most awaited movie this summer finally arrives in theatres. Film geeks have been churning out post after post on the blogosphere awaiting its arrival and the phenomenon isn’t going to stop post-release. Almost every critic worth his salt has raved about it. If you thought Batman Begins was super, wait till you watch The Dark Knight. It meets all the expectations and then some.

A question that everyone is asking themselves is whether this is the best superhero movie ever. Before you go there, you might want to ask yourself if it is a superhero movie. Batman was always one of the most identifiable superheroes because he didn’t have real superpowers. In his two Batman films, director Christopher Nolan (who has dabbled in noir more often than not) has employed a dark tone and a lot of logic to make Batman feel very real. He continues that in this film, making it feel like a crime thriller more than a superhero movie. If we still were consider it a comic book superhero film, I’d say it tops my list (and that of so many more).

The film is centred around three major characters. Harvey Dent, the white knight of Gotham, who provides people with the hope that he can change things for the better. Batman, the dark knight of Gotham, whose work seems to have worsened the crime in the city. And finally the Joker, a psychopathic killer who terrorizes the city with his own crazy, unpredictable but believable motives for doing so. Will the white knight take Gotham forward? Will the Joker ruin Batman and Gotham? Can the Batman still stay incorruptible?

The screenwriters (Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, who’ve worked together on Memento and The Prestige) devise this film to take forward the story of Batman and Gotham. The film isn’t about superheroes. It is about criminals and crime fighters and how they affect each other. It is about the emotions, the motives, the psyche. It is about rules. It is about those who live by them and about those who follow none. The remarkable screenplay is driven around these ideas and not around the villains or their dumb ideas for world domination or the action sequences. Newer situations and conflicts are created, ensuring that the movie doesn’t feel repetitive (and that is always a problem for sequels). Everyone has a good reason for their actions. Everything is as realistic and logical as it has ever gotten in a comic book film. Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Following, Insomnia) created a successful reboot for a dead franchise and he takes it a step further this time. His contribution to the film – the detail, the tone, the vision, the execution – is superlative.

I loved the designs of the vehicles, weapons and the sets the first time (production design by Nathan Crowley). They are even better here. Wait till you see the Batpod in action. I was totally blown away by its introduction in the film. The action sequences are also much better this time around. The Joker’s makeup is very natural and the extended lips create a great effect. But the best part is the visualization of Two Face. It could scare the shit out of many.

Christian Bale continues his wonderful work (I especially like what he does with his voice for Batman) in the role that opened many doors for him. The late Heath Ledger brings the Joker to life in a delightful performance. Aaron Eckhart is well cast as Harvey Dent and he very much feels like someone whom people can instantly like and put faith in.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is a suitable (many will say better) replacement (for Katie Holmes) for the part of Rachel Dawes, who is caught between the two knights (no, it isn’t a perfunctory love triangle). Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox play their supporting parts to perfection while Gary Oldman as James Gordon is just as convincing and even more integral.

Now, after all the praise the question still remains. Should you watch it? The answer isn’t a resounding yes. If you’ve liked Batman Begins and have caught a whiff of the hype, you’re probably going to see this (if you haven’t already) irrespective of my opinion. But there are others who didn’t like that film much. Some found it too dark. Some found that the action or entertainment wasn’t enough. Others found it complex. Maybe they expected a popcorn movie and ended up with something else. If you are one of those, I wouldn’t particularly push you to watch this.

P.S. As I eagerly await Nolan’s sequel to this film, I prepare myself to understand that it will be hard to top this. So, anything that is at least close to matching the original is good enough for me.

Gone Baby Gone October 18, 2007

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Ben Affleck’s directorial debut is a crime thriller with a conscience. Set in Boston, the film revolves around the abduction of a four year old girl. Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), a detective who finds lost children along with his partner Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monahan), is brought into the case to help the police due to his knowledge of the people in the area. Police chief Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) is not impressed but instructs his senior detectives, Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton) to cooperate. As the investigation progresses, the team find some leads but something goes very wrong bringing the case to an abrupt end. However, Kenzie becomes emotionally attached and he investigates further to uncover the truth behind what went wrong.

The screenplay (by Affleck, who co-wrote Good Will Hunting, and Aaron Stockard) is based on a novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River). Affleck does a splendid job in writing and directing this film. He creates the right mood to feel the characters and the neighborhood. The dialogue is superb, especially in the first half of the film. Just when you think this could be a simple thriller, it kicks you out of your comfort zone. The rest of the film changes tracks to a brooding moralistic drama. Affleck directs this smartly and manages to keep you guessing as the motives of each of the characters unfold.

This film is well cast and provides the scope for multiple actors to shine. Casey Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Ocean’s Thirteen), who is also winning over critics with his performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, is impressive as Patrick Kenzie. His brother’s faith in him is not misplaced. Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris are good as usual, with Harris getting the better part. Amy Ryan, playing the alcoholic mother of the kidnapped child, is very effective. Michelle Monahan is adequate but she doesn’t get the scope to impress.

The film has its share of twists to keep you engrossed but this is not the fast-paced popcorn thriller. It has a heart and a mind as well. Watch this if you are looking for an intelligent thriller that leaves you thinking. I was still wondering about the climax, its implications and what was right/wrong when I left the theater and I am sure many will have the same experience.

We Own The Night October 11, 2007

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Set in 1988, the film is about Bobby Green/Grusinsky (Joaquin Phoenix), who is the manager of a nightclub in New York. Born in a family of police officers, Bobby doesn’t follow in the footsteps of his father (Robert Duvall) or brother Joseph (Mark Wahlberg). He even changes his last name to hide his relationship with the family. A drug investigation brings Joseph to Bobby’s nightclub in search of Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov). Soon Joseph and his father are targeted by the Russian mafia and it is up to Bobby to help his brother and father using his inside knowledge and connections.

The film has satisfying performances but this isn’t the film for outstanding work. When you watch the promos of this film, it seems like this would be a thrilling movie about the conflict between two brothers on opposite sides of the law. However, those promos are misleading. The film really revolves around Joaquin Phoenix’s character. Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes and Mark Wahlberg play convincing supporting parts. I was expecting the film to revolve around Wahlberg and Phoenix but Wahlberg gets very limited time and little scope for histrionics. This isn’t the right role for him after The Departed. Mendes’ character (Bobby’s girlfriend) doesn’t get a suitable sendoff but she does get some scope to perform.

Director James Gray (Little Odessa, The Yards) clearly knows how to create an atmosphere. He creates the right mood for the film and narrates the story at a leisurely pace. Despite a competent helmer, the film doesn’t make a great impression, mainly due to the writing. At the end of the screening, I had two words to describe this film: “nothing special”. The screenplay, also by Gray, seems too convenient at times. One big question that one asks at the beginning of the film is about how Bobby is able to hide his identity effectively from the gangsters despite still meeting his family every once in a while. Similar questions keep popping up. In spite of the logical flaws, the main drawback is that the film doesn’t offer any thrilling moments and avid filmgoers could easily predict the events that unfold.

Overall, this is a well made film that could appeal to those who enjoy crime dramas. However, it has nothing new to offer. Michael Clayton, which is also releasing this weekend, is receiving rave reviews from critics and might make a better watch.