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Movie Roundup: 14/12/2009 December 14, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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I haven’t got a chance in the last few weeks to catch any new flicks in cinemas, so I thought I’d start writing regularly about films (both old and new) which I do catch on DVD every now and then.

1) Orphan (2009)
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Isabelle Furhman, Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard

“There is something wrong with Esther” – Indeed!

Quite a few people touted this to be the next horror cult flick but the box office returns weren’t that encouraging for this one. In any case, this is a thoroughly creepy flick which had me entertained throughout. It’s a nice take on the “Evil Child” genre which works for its novel premise and most importantly the “evil child” herself – played to perfection by Isabelle Fuhrman. There are times when it looks cliched but proceedings are quite gripping with the scares and laughs coming in at the right times. It’s a must watch for horror movie fans looking for something different.

2) Joshua (2007)
Directed By: George Ratliff
Cast: Jacob Kogan, Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga

I happened to watch this just a few days after Orphan and the first thing which strikes you is that Vera Farmiga is again playing the mother of an “Evil Child” and incidentally in both the films she happens to the first one to have suspicions about the child (not to mention in both the films the child inflicts immense psychological mayhem on her that she is moved to an asylum in both cases). Joshua never attempts to be a horror flick like Orphan but is an intelligent thriller which is quite creepy nonetheless. Again, a lot of the film depends on the child protagonist – played by Jacob Kogan who is excellent. Worth a watch if films in this genre interest you.

Also, don’t blame me if this movie changes the way you look at children again….

3) The Mist (2007)
Directed By: Frank Darabont
Cast: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones

Would you rather be eaten by B-movie monsters or ritually sacrificed by an End-of-Days religious cult? That pretty much sums up The Mist. It sounds rather silly but Frank Darabont does indeed deliver a commendable entertainer. It’s part horror-comedy and part social-commentary packaged in a B-Monster movie format. Strongly recommended.

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Phoonk August 24, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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It’s superstition…till it happens to you! I had found that line quite catchy and also a few of Ramu’s recent blog posts/interviews on the subject made me quite eager to check out his latest offering Phoonk. He also cited his inspiration from Yendamuri Veerendranath’s Tulasidalam where at the beginning the husband is an atheist while the wife is a staunch believer and towards the end they switch places.

However, after watching Phoonk I wish I hadn’t read anything about it and instead expected a timepass horror flick. Because Phoonk turns to be just an average horror movie filled with stock characters who make you laugh more than necessary. And it is quite deficient in spooky moments too. I couldn’t find anything new or different from any other flick except that the “bhatakti aatma taking revenge” is the not cause of bodily possession…but is instead a disgruntled couple performing black magic. The so called conflict between the beliefs of the protagonists are not convincing either. After all, in every horror film doesn’t the protagonist not believe in the supernatural but ends up using the help a tantrik to get rid of the cause of trouble!

I guess the film would have been lot scarier if some of the characters looked/acted normal than like in a Ramsay Brothers movie. One sincere piece of advice to Ramu – Please don’t use more than one dream sequence to generate false scares. It’s quite an outdated technique and highly irritating. Phoonk also suffers from a stuffed-toy/showpiece camera-angle overload. That worked so well in “Bhoot” but here it is very annoying. Generally, I hate it when members of the audience make catcalls and pass comments while watching a horror film but in this case for once I thought it was justified because the movie wasn’t scary at all and neither was able to sustain my interest.

If you want to watch this film then please remove the notion (if you had one like me) that you’ll be treated to some intellectual horror saga which will challenge your beliefs. Sometimes Ramu disappoints you with his films and sometimes with what he says about those same films prior to release. Phoonk falls into the latter category. As a mindless flick for horror fans it’s just about ok.

Cloverfield January 21, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Produced by J J Abrams (Mission: Impossible III) and directed by his protégé Matt Reeves, this low-budget film is the successful product of a viral marketing campaign that has transformed into the biggest box office opening for the Martin Luther King weekend.

A video tape is retrieved from the ruins of what was formerly Central Park in New York City. The case is called Cloverfield. And what we get to see in this film is the content of this tape.

Yes, they have to use a hand-held camera, so be prepared for a lot of shaky footage (there have been reports of people puking in the theater). The film is quite short though, at under 90 minutes.

I enjoy watching disaster movies despite the fact that they are quite formulaic. Shooting it from the perspective of the protagonists brings something new to the genre and the experience is completely different. The film gives you a chance to voyeuristically feel the experience of being under a sudden attack. I enjoyed the film despite its shortcomings.

The format also means that the filmmakers can get away without providing unsatisfactory explanations. Be prepared.

The characters in this film are not at all strong. There isn’t a great attempt from screenwriter Drew Goddard to flesh them out either. This is quite common in the genre but for this film, I believe it works because, after all, it is supposed to be video footage of unknown people and it would be quite unlikely that one tape can tell us a lot about so many people. Casting unidentifiable actors is definitely a plus due to the premise and I can’t actually remember any of the actors in the film (except for the Zooey Deschanel look alike, Lizzy Caplan) just like I wouldn’t remember anyone from a You Tube video.

Another thing that works in the film is the monster. It shows up at regular intervals but doesn’t stay on the screen for long (not a new idea really) and that works much better than showing it running around town tearing up high-rise buildings every few minutes.

The film is heavily dependent on the idea and its execution, which was quite satisfactory. Technically, this film succeeds and for a limited budget of $25 million too. The visual effects are excellent, cinematographer Michael Bonvillain makes you feel like you are really watching something shot by an amateur and Reeves ably helms the film. Whether you like this movie or not depends primarily on how the idea appeals to you and how good you expect the film to be.

Mantra December 31, 2007

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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One doesn’t get to see too many suspense/horror flicks in Telugu….this one works precisely for that reason and more importantly towards the end (unlike most bad flicks of this genre) the audience isn’t made to feel like morons.

A desolated bhoot bangla called Mantra Nilayam turns out to be the grave for every inhabitant. Mantra (Charmme) owns that place and has to rent it out to get over her financial difficulties. One prospective tenant wants someone to occupy the house for a period of 3 months successfully before he’d move in. Circumstances make a vasooli guy Hero (Sivaji) and his gang take up that residence for a specified period. However, when one of his friends also gets killed he begins to investigate the truth about that house.

This movie has its required quota of entertaining false scares and enough humor to keep you engaged. But some sound effects were too jarring (I don’t know if it was the sound recording or the sound system in the theatre). Overall the makers have succeeded in giving the film a slick look barring a song (featuring some unknowns) which looks straight out of some B grade soft porn flick.

Front benchers were hooting away to glory at the much-publicized Charmme’s “Shakira” style song….but it was extremely awkward to say the least. From the last time I saw her in a film she seems to have grown disproportionately in all possible dimensions. Most of the film rests on Sivaji and gang’s shoulders who have done a pretty good job. I found it to be fairly enjoyable spook show on the whole.