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The Climax Cop-Outs March 8, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, Films, Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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First of all, it is so hard to come across genuinely good Telugu flicks – and when I thought I did; in comes a terrible feel-good climax to ruin what made me actually feel good about the whole movie. My grouse is mostly directed against Leader and to a small extent – Ye Maya Chesave. There aren’t any spoilers here so continue reading even if you haven’t seen any of the films.

To begin with Leader – I must say it was a really engaging political thriller but most importantly it was bang on when it came to highlighting the moral dilemma of being a good politician. There was point where the movie should have ended but Sekhar Kammula gives you a cringing idealistic conclusion which pretty much undermines the entire film. I thought the feeling of “being cheated” in the end could only be delivered by Hollywood psychological thrillers but now I have to extend that list. Go watch it and you’ll know what I am saying. In any case Rana delivers hands down the best performance by a debutante ever.

Coming to Ye Maya Chesave – honestly I wasn’t really complaining about how it should have ended. I just felt it was just a wee bit inconsistent (and somewhat feel-good) with what went before but nevertheless it was a still a sensible conclusion. Then a couple of days later I happened to read that Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya (the original Tamil version) ends differently. I then checked out the last 15 minutes of that film and was extremely pleased to find that it was exactly how I expected/wanted the film to end. I was also equally sad that Gautham Menon didn’t (or couldn’t) end the Telugu version in the same way. How can one blame him since he was forced to include a “happy” climax when he remade Kaakha Kaakha in Telugu a few years back.

I keep reading and hearing about how Telugu audiences do not like sad (or rather un-triumphant) endings and to have one clearly spells disaster. It is impossible to prove or disprove a proposition like that. But I am hard pressed to come up with at least one instance where an otherwise excellent film was rejected by the audience just because of an unhappy end. I’d be glad if anyone could point me to a few.

All said and done, don’t miss Ye Maya Chesave – as far as love stories are concerned this is as good as it gets. Naga Chaitanya fits in very well but I can’t imagine him as a “regular” hero for at least a couple of years. The one walk away with the accolades is Samantha (wonderfully voiced by Chinmayi). And then there is also A.R Rahman’s splendid score which complements the movie so well.

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Movie Roundup: 18/12/2009 December 18, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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1) True Crime (1999)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Isaiah Washington

Definitely among Eastwood’s lesser works, this one’s just an above average drama-thriller about a reporter trying to save a death row inmate from execution. Works mostly for Eastwood’s presence – can be easily skipped otherwise.

2) Below (2002)
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Davis, Olivia Williams

A really well made horror flick about a crew trapped in a submarine under water and – creepy stuff whose explanations seem to lie in secrets held by certain members of the crew. BTW, this flick was written and produced by Darren Aronofsky. It featured in some year-end list of the best sci-fi films of the decade and that’s why I checked it out in the first place.

3) Lorenzo’s Oil (1992)
Directed By: George Miller
Cast: Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Peter Ustinov

I really have mixed feelings about this one. If it weren’t “based on a true story” this would have been in my list of most emotionally manipulative movies ever. Lorenzo’s Oil traces the story of the Odones who perseverance against all odds to find a cure for their son Lorenzo’s debilitating ALD syndrome. It is incredible what they ultimately achieve but portraying it as an overly triumphant battle against an unjust and uncaring world seems too contrived. I honestly felt that a few of the alternative viewpoints presented by other characters to the Odones were quite apt given their circumstances. On the whole it’s a really engaging watch and you do get to learn a thing or two about biochemistry. This film came out in 1992 just a few years after the original set of events transpired. Once you watch this I am sure you’d want to know what ultimately happened to Lorenzo in real life.

Movie Roundup: 16/12/2009 December 16, 2009

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1) Chicago (2002)
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah

Now this is what I call a musical!!! Not that I’ve a lot of them to be able to judge but from what I’ve seen this completely stands out be it the format or the entertainment quotient. A satirical take on media and celebrity fame, this one is embellished with awesomely choreographed numbers (by Director Rob Marshall himself) commendably performed by the cast. I only checked this out due to the initial buzz generated by the first trailer of “Nine” – which is getting mixed reviews right now but still managed to bag prominent nominations as the awards season begin. You should check this out even if you are apprehensive about musicals – thisĀ  just might be the one which might would your conception about them.

2) Sneakers (1992)
Directed By: Phil Alden Robinson
Cast: Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, River Phoenix, David Strathairn, Sidney Poitier, Mary McDonnel

Sneakers is the ideal hi-tech heist flick. It has everything you’d want in one – unbelievable plot and gadgetry, fast pacing, loads of humor and excitement (and as always) a few words about friendship and loyalty. The charming cast is an icing on the cake. Also check out James Horner’s catchy theme.

3) Death of a President (2006)
Directed By: Gabriel Range
Cast: Hend Ayoub, Brian Boland, Becky Ann Baker

It’s amazing what these guys have achieved with their 2 million budget. Still having been publicized as the most controversial film of the year/decade – I wished it went much further than the usual post 9-11 flicks. The shock value of the premise – the assassination of the then President George W. Bush and its aftermath – works very well; especially the way they’ve used the mocumentary format. The visual effects are superb and the movie also is quite effective as a thriller – much better than other films dealing with similar themes. Tone down your expectations about what you’ve heard about this one and you’ll surely relish it.

Movie Roundup: 15/12/2009 December 15, 2009

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1) Terms of Endearment (1983)
Directed By: James L. Brooks
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, Danny DeVito

Now this one’s a real tearjerker. Most of the film feels like one of those familiar indies about dysfunctional families with quirky characters but then it gets so real when death comes into the picture…it becomes really hard not to be moved. This is one of the really few movies where I had a tough time stopping my tears. And it has this amazing theme (btw a really bad version of this plays as the call waiting tune of a mobile service provider – Airtel or Idea I think!) which is so evocative – especially once you’ve seen the film. If you objectively look at it, the whole “terminal illness” angle seems manipulative but like I said, it seems so believable that you won’t have a reason to complain. Quite an unforgettable film!

2) Role Models (2008)
Directed By: David Wain
Cast: Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Jane Lynch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb’e J. Thompson

A comedy in the Apatow tradition – far less outrageous yet packs in a lot of crowd pleasing laughs. Rudd and Scott end up in a community service program where they have to pair up with “troubled” kids to mentor and bond with them. Fun ensues with all the familiar themes you come to expect with such films. I liked this one a lot more than other prominent comedies which made a splash last year.

3) The Lost Boys (1987)
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland

You can’t escape at least a few of the big budget vampire (close cousins also include fallen angels, zombies, werewolves) movies ready to invade the screens in the next couple of years – and if you’ve also taken an oath to stay away from the Twilight Saga; then “The Lost Boys” is your perfectly respectable initiation into the genre. It might not be the purist’s idea of a vampire flick (it might even be seen as a parody) but I couldn’t bother about that as long as it kept me entertained. The Coreys are absolutely hilarious but don’t go near those direct-to-DVD sequels just because their names are associated with them.

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

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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.