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My Name is Khan March 12, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Along with rom-coms, movies with the backdrop of “terrorism” have in general been on my must-not-watch list – I hate both genres for similar reasons….unbearable cliches to be exact. Though Karan Johar has not lost his knack to entertain his second directorial foray into “serious” cinema slowly and regrettably turns laughable and cringeworthy like his previous flick. MNIK is still a very watchable film purely because of Shah Rukh Khan but his magic too wears out towards the end.

When I saw the first look of the film a couple of months back, the fact that the story and screenplay are credited to a certain Ms. Shibani Bhatija made the alarm bells in my head work overtime. In the past even seasoned film-makers who have handled “terrorism” haven’t moved beyond the stereotypes so it is wrong to expect K Jo-Shibani to do something groundbreaking. Surprisingly, the protagonist’s condition is not used to manipulate the audience and that’s just the one commendable aspect of the film. There are also a few well crafted moments when the film has to say something about discrimination but mostly goes overboard.

Most people have gone way out praising the movie – at least during the time of its release but now that the film has been reduced to a “medium hit” from “blockbuster” you know better. Still, watch MNIK for Khan.

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Southland Tales October 22, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Bizzare? Ludicrous? Atrocious? Insane?

I don’t know what sort of adjectives might adequately describe this film. At the very least, it was a very strange and confusing film. But that is a humongous understatement. I’d really want to call it an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions and it should easily fit into a list of the worst movie experiences of my life.

Since I can’t be sure that I even understood the film, there is no point in trying to describe the plot. It starts off looking like someone’s imagination of a distressing future. At one point I felt like the film was trying to be a statement on the current state of the world but maybe not. This long (145 minutes) film has far too many eccentric characters and undecipherable subplots. At the end, I had only questions and no answers. Is this film about terrorism? Is it about mad scientists? Or is it about the time-space continuum/4th dimension or whatever?

There is a scene in the film where an amnesiac Boxer Santaros describes the plot of the screenplay he has written along with his porn star girlfriend. You are almost certain that it is meant to be funny but it isn’t and it actually ends up being the plot of the film that you are watching and it isn’t funny anymore.

Like the aforementioned situation, there are some scenes in this film where you think that the makers are attempting to make you laugh. But you aren’t really sure if that is their intent or even that the scene in question is funny. So, you sit still and wait for a confirmation that never comes.

The most laughable piece of dialogue comes when one character tries explaining what is happening or might happen and talks about the “entire 4th dimension collapsing on itself”. I was laughing all right but I was really feeling bad for myself at the same time.

Enough about me. I wonder what the actors were directed to do and what was going through their minds. Did they understand the script when they signed the film?

The Rock has a bewildered look for the most part. Maybe his expressions were accurate representations of how he felt while acting in this film. He is better off sticking to his action films or comedies. And Sean William Scott gets to paste the same expression of gravitas through both his roles. Justin Timberlake is pretty much trying to look cool and deliver lines in that manner throughout and I couldn’t really figure out how his character featured into the script. For a film that is as befuddling, it has a sizable amount of narration by Timberlake and it doesn’t clarify anything at all.

I couldn’t find anything even remotely interesting in this film. And that makes me wonder who greenlighted this film. Even more perplexing is the fact that it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

My ire should really be directed at writer-director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) but since I don’t understand his vision, I don’t know what to say really. Southland Tales is a disaster not only due to its incomprehensibility but also due to its numerous subplots, confusing tone, its length, lack of cohesion, and more. I’d really like to forget that I ever saw this film but before I embark on that task, I would love to hear from someone who could explain at least parts of this film to me.

A Wednesday ! October 7, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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For once, one can claim rightfully that Bollywood had delivered a true edge-of-the-seat thriller. And that’s good enough reason not to miss this one. It all happens on a Wednesday as Police Commissioner Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher) sets out to handle the toughest case in his life. An unknown caller (Naseeruddin Shah) demands the release of 4 “terrorists” and in return promises to reveal the location of multiple bombs he has planted in different parts of the city. A few incidents later Commissioner Rathod realises that the guy isn’t joking and moreover that getting hold of him isn’t as simple as he might have thought. That’s pretty much of the plot one can reveal without spoiling the experience of people intending to watch it.

A Wednesday is a very well-intentioned film. It has a point to make and does it very well. But in the process it makes quite a few simplistic assumptions about important issues. If you really think – you’ll end up asking a lot of questions for which the film has no convincing answers. One needs to keep that in mind before watching this for the film’s intelligence is in its execution rather than content. This film never relies on snazzy editing techniques or any other visual paraphernalia to generate the thrills. It simply shows that all you need is a crisp screenplay devoid of unnecessary scenes to hold your audience’s attention.

Naseeruddin Shah is expectedly brilliant. His portrayal is so convincing that many questions which would otherwise have been raised about his character simply vanish when he is in charge of the proceedings. Anupam Kher is apt as the Police Commissioner. It’s actually Jimmy Sheirgill’s turn as the volatile tough-as-nails encounter specialist which impressed me the most. Probably the first time I’ve seen him in such an avatar. Let’s hope this gets him more mainstream roles.

This is the second film of this year (after “Aamir”) helmed by a deubtant (Neeraj Pandey) which has opened to rave reviews. And fortunately, unlike the other one it has performed pretty well at the box office – quite an encouraging sign. Whatever loopholes you might find with A Wednesday are only after you are done watching it. The almost breathless two hours as the film unfolds won’t give you a chance to do anything else than remain glued to the screen.

Eagle Eye September 27, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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From executive producer Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks studios comes a psychological thriller that you’d wish you never heard of. A fantasy of epic proportions set in something that looks like the real world. A film that assumes you’ve never heard of the term disbelief. A film that crosses the barriers of implausibility and sprints into the depths of stupidity.

The trailer of Eagle Eye has played all summer long in front of almost every film I’ve watched (and it got terribly irritating by the end of the season). At first, it seemed like it might be an enjoyable mindless entertainer. But the makers seem to have focused on only one of those three words. Despite that, the marketing efforts should ensure a much better opening at the box office than it deserves.

Though it is based on a premise similar to that used in films like Cellular and Phone Booth, this film is closer to Bruce Willis starrer Live Free or Die Hard. While highly implausible, I was able to enjoy that film because it didn’t seem to take itself very seriously. And that is the problem with Eagle Eye. There is a single joke in the film if I remember correctly. The film takes itself too seriously when the plot is not even half as acceptable as that of Snakes on a Plane.

Nevertheless, director DJ Caruso (Disturbia) seems to have somehow convinced his actors to believe in this script and act with a straight face. They even seem somewhat earnest, Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa, Love Actually) especially. Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, Indiana Jones IV) is passable while Michelle Monaghan (Mission: Impossible III, Gone Baby Gone) and Rosario Dawson (Death Proof, Sin City) get quite forgettable parts.

The film runs on paranoia, an aspect that could actually seem identifiable in current times (a couple of initial scenes do ring true), but it is taken so far that it ends up being very very laughable. The chase/action sequences also turn out to be quite irritating with Caruso using extreme close-ups in conjunction with jerky camera movements and fast editing. He even films some of the stationary scenes this way.

I don’t believe that the fields of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Pattern Recognition will reach the levels of competence that the over imaginative and relatively inexperienced writers of this film (John Glenn, Travis Wright, Hillary Seitz, Dan McDermott) foresee in a long long long long time. And therein lies my primary difficulty in being able to accept this crap (even if I was able to ignore all the senselessness). But then everyone is not aware of the current state in these research fields.

If you are looking for a run-of-the-mill thriller with a fantastical plot that you won’t mind believing, Eagle Eye might not be a bad watch. Otherwise, don’t go anywhere near this film.

The Kingdom September 27, 2007

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Releasing tomorrow, The Kingdom has terrorism at its center and is set in Saudi Arabia (shot in Arizona and Abu Dhabi). A terrorist bombing in an American neighborhood in Saudi Arabia causes FBI agent Fleury (Jamie Foxx) and his team (Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) to react passionately due to the death of a friend. Despite initial objections from higher officials, Fleury manages to get his team to Saudi Arabia to investigate the matter. His team is put in the hands of Colonel Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhoum) but their movements are restricted. Nevertheless, Fleury and his team, with ample support from Al-Ghazi, manage to ultimately nab the perpetrator of the terrorist act.

This film isn’t one for strong performances but the best one in the film comes from Ashraf Barhom who plays the Saudi Colonel. Jamie Foxx is likable. The rest of the cast is adequate but doesn’t have enough to do to make an impression though Jason Bateman gets some good one-liners.

The film starts off with the feel of a documentary and slowly transforms into a police procedural but finally ends up as a thriller. The screenplay by debutant Matthew Michael Carnahan (brother of Joe Carnahan who made Narc and Smokin’ Aces) is satisfactory for an action film but it is director Peter Berg (The Rundown) that does a smart job of bringing this to the screen. Though he manages to make an appealing film, the style that he uses to shoot the film is flawed. The hand-held camera seems to be making an impression on filmmakers. Paul Greengrass made superb use of it in United 93 and The Bourne Ultimatum and the impact was primarily because the style contributed to those films. Berg shows an example of overkill. He uses far too many jerks without any purpose. Also, there are innumerable close-ups when there is really nothing to observe.

Most people might not notice but this movie works on the audience like a jingoistic film even if there isn’t specific dialogue contributing to that aspect. It is mostly a one-sided look at the issues from an American perspective. It is really about four Americans going to a foreign land and succeeding against all odds in their mission of finding a terrorist leader with the help of one Saudi officer. An action film with an appealing setting that does require a suspension of disbelief. This film seems like that for most of its length but the last few minutes of the film redeem it to an extent. The makers do an about turn here leading to an ironic climax that delivers a significant message (that comes a bit too late to make an impression on everyone).

Despite a message in the last five minutes, this film is a conventional action thriller that keeps you engrossed even if you don’t care for the style. It also has its share of humor despite the grim subject. I believe audiences will enjoy this film as long as they don’t over analyze it and aren’t looking for a significant take on terrorism or politics.