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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen June 29, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Guys….what’s with all the Bay-bashing!!! I seriously fail to understand why Michael Bay is assumed to be the edifice on which American Cinema stands. Poor guy just makes his own brand of porn which not surprisingly has a large number of takers – what’s the big deal!

Coming to the movie itself, I must admit I didn’t really enjoy the previous installment as much I as might I have wanted to – the main reason (pretty much the same for everyone else) being the incomprehensible action sequences between the Bots. Revenge of the Fallen doesn’t improve much on that count but paradoxically was more enjoyable since I knew what to expect. To put it very simply, the sequel literally provides “more bang for your buck” when compared to the first one – and nothing else. In recent days, there was a lot written about the scenes shot in the native IMAX format. Most of it is hyperbole – first of all there are just about 6-7 minutes of such footage but since most of the film comprises of similar mayhem, there isn’t anything memorable here. I also felt that the regular IMAX up-conversion work was a little patchy. So, there is nothing you’d lose if you don’t check this one out on an IMAX screen.

Most folks from the previous film are back – John Turturro was a nice surprise though. Michael Bay can never be faulted for the amazing visual effects he employs – even if they don’t have the intended impact on the viewer. After watching the first Transformers movie, I neither had the idea that a sequel was coming nor did I want one to transpire. Though I enjoyed this film too, I would prefer to see Bay stick to making more traditional action explosion flicks.

Unless you are an inveterate member of the Michael Bay Hate Club you would want to watch this one. If it interests you (and as you might know if you have been following stuff about this movie) you do get to see “Nigger robots who can’t read”, “Decepticon testicles” and a “robot humping Megan Fox’s leg”.

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Arundhati February 2, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Sometimes you just can’t explain why a film is successful. The slick poster campaign and promos might have caught everyone’s eye but is Arundhati really the blockbuster masterpiece it is made out to be? At this point of time there is no doubt that it has gone on to become a blockbuster but I really wonder how it became one. A major reason could be some of the extremely glowing reviews it got because atleast from the murmurs I heard most of the audience didn’t seem too impressed.

Arundhati is quite a misleading title in the first place. It should actually have been called something like Jejamma Mahatyam. Honestly, this movie is more like an upgrade to SFX filled semi-devotional flicks which have been helmed by Shyamprasad Reddy and Kodi Ramakrishna in the past. And before you get gung ho about “SFX filled” let me remind you that the implicit assumption here is: “more SFX” = “great SFX”.

Once upon a time there lived a great lady called Arundhati (Anushka) – who is reverred as “Jejamma”. Her brother-in-law is this sadistic sex maniac called Pasupathi (Sonu Sood) who’d rather stab and rape a woman if she’s causing trouble to him performing the act in normal circumstances. Once he’s banished by Jejamma from that place, he joins/becomes an Aghora which kinda makes him immortal. Poor Jejamma is only left with the option of burying him alive and three generations later when Arundhati is reincarnated again, buried-alive-in-grave Pasupathi wants revenge. Can Arundhati survive the onslaught? Watch the film if you really want to find out.

Supernatural tales like these more or less have a similar plot so everything depends on how you can make the ongoing events engrossing. Atleast for me an overload of crazy mindless visual effects doesn’t do the trick. To give credit where it is due, it doesn’t make you sleep either. However, all said and done I did enjoy some part of it purely because of the craziness and (un)intentional funniness. I couldn’t stop laughing whenever Sonu Sood’s character lets out an “Aaeee Bomali!”. In fact he is the best part of the film. Anuskha is fine but just because she is the main protagonist it doesn’t automatically translate to an exceptional performance. Sayaji Shinde is highly irritating along with a bunch of other characters.

It is more or less confirmed that Arundhati will be remade in Hindi – I wonder if those who are keen are buy the remake rights actually saw the film or are just going by its phenomenal success. In my opinion, Arundhati is the most overrated Telugu film in recent times – it is too illogical even if you give some consideration to the fact that it is based on a supernatural theme. Still the mindlessness provides for some fun and that might be the only reason one might want to watch this. In any case, I am sure the curiosity factor would draw you to the cinemas (if you haven’t seen it yet).

The Day The Earth Stood Still December 22, 2008

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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If you ever wanted to find out how it would be if the Earth stood still, then step right into the nearest theater where this film is playing. And mind you, it is not the doomed earthlings in the film for who the earth stands still but the viewers who paid to sit through this. Honestly, prior to its release no one seemed to have great expectations from this flick and I ventured only with the hope of catching a mindless VFX filled saga. Alas, that wasn’t to be. In fact, it kept reminding me a lot about another awful disaster movie 10,000 B.C which came out at the beginning of the year.

Supposed to be a remake of an old 1951 film, TDTESS is about some alien race who sends their representative Klaatu in human form (Keanu Reeves) to Earth in order to set in motion a series of events which will save the Earth from destruction by humans. He lands on Earth in a giant sphere shaped UFO guarded by a huge Iron Man lookalike. Initially Klaatu wants to address the United Nations but once his request is denied he is quite pissed off. A few more belligerent actions by earthlings convince Klaatu of his mission. There’s one biologist Helen (Jennifer Connelly) who seems sympathetic to him and tries to help but on realizing his intentions she now tries to convince him – with the help of a Noble Prize winning Professor (John Cleese) that humans always change in favorable ways whenever they are on the “brink of disaster”. Klaatu isn’t convinced and meanwhile some mechanical locusts begin their saga of destruction. What is it that finally makes Klaatu change his mind?

To find out the mindblowing answer either watch the movie or if you have been unlucky enough to have seen this film, you should be able to take a correct guess (Clue: Helen has a stepson). TDTESS is such a hopeless film that you don’t even feel like hating it. It does such a wonderful job of not offering a single inspiring moment that you never really make the mistake of expecting something from it. The CGI work also isn’t impressive – especially the UFO and giant robot look quite tacky.

If you’ve noticed, the number of reviews for this film appearing on the web have been less than the number of articles about Keanu Reaves’ limited facial expressions (some Bollywood producer should take a cue and remake this with John Abraham). The other prominent cast including Jennifer Connelly, John Cleese and Kathy Bates are no better either. Bates – used as a stand in for the usual “US President in a Disaster Movie” role looks especially embarrassed being a part of this venture. Watch this only if you are having problems falling asleep.

Speed Racer October 1, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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The Wachowski Brothers’ follow-up to the Matrix trilogy was possibly the biggest bomb of the summer. It cost $120 million to make and recouped only 75% of that amount worldwide. Though the visuals impressed everyone, the film didn’t win favor with most reviewers. The only reason I wanted to watch this was the visuals. I had seen the trailer and it was hard for me to not want to watch it. So I did (on the big screen where this film’s impact is the most).

The film is based on an animated television series of the same name that I had never known. So my take on the film does not come with the excess baggage of either love or hatred for that series.

The film is the story of Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) who, as the name suggests, is a race car driver. His dad (John Goodman) builds race cars while his mom (Susan Sarandon) and girlfriend (Christina Ricci) cheer him on as he does them proud winning race after race. His success brings an offer from a rich industrialist, Mr Royalton (Roger Allam), which Speed chooses to reject. Royalton threatens to destroy Speed’s career but Speed and his friends have other plans.

This is a film aimed at children with a simple good finally wins over evil plot. The fact that this is a children’s film becomes very clear a few minutes into the film (and that helped me prepare for it). For those who don’t catch it early on, the film also features a young kid and his pet monkey. However, this isn’t apparent from the trailers or the promotional material. I believe this is probably one of the major reasons for its disappointing performance.

The Wachowskis writing and directing a kiddie flick. Who would have thought? But even more surprising is the fact that a studio was willing to back the project at such high costs.

It does have other flaws too but the one thing that really won me over in this film is the seamless integration of live action and CGI. There is so much crazy car action happening in this film but for most part it didn’t strike me as abnormal for the real world. In my mind, I was watching a cartoon that looked like it was from the real world.

Overall, it wasn’t a memorable film but worth sitting through. If you are a kid, you’ll probably enjoy this. If you are not, prepare to watch a children’s film and you can at least be wowed by the superlative visuals.

Dasavathaaram June 15, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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The loonnnng wait is finally over and the reviews are out. Some have called it magnificent while others have called it disappointing. It’s actually both – magnificent being the effort and disappointing (relative to the hype and hoopla) being the outcome. And yes, Kamal Haasan is responsible for both. Dasavathaaram could have been a brilliant chase thriller set in the backdrop of the age old philosophical debate about the existence of God. However, along the way Kamal’s high ambitions come in the way of his self-indulgence and the the latter dominates most of the movie (add to that some extended uninteresting bickering scenes between Asin and Kamal) after the highly interesting first half.

Firstly, when you expect to see him don ten different roles you also rightfully expect each of them to be memorable. But half of the avatars (or maybe more) are totally redundant to the movie – a couple of them border on ridiculous…in the last category especially being the Sardar pop singer and the unusually tall Pathan – which in large part can also be attributed to the awful dubbing by S.P Balasubramanyam in the Telugu version. Also, his English lines for the scientist avatar (the main hero) are equally bad. In the beginning of the movie, I had to scratch my head for a while to figure out that “Khayaas theory” was actually “Chaos theory” when he explains the butterfly effect. I am sure Tamil viewers wouldn’t have to complain about this aspect of the movie because when you see how brilliantly Kamal dubs for “George W. Bush” and “Chris Fletcher” you cannot but assume that he’s done a similar job for the rest of the characters too.

Incidentally, Dubya and Fletcher are two of the most memorable characters in the film. I never expected that Kamal would actually incorporate Bushisms too….Nice job at that! The ex-CIA assassin Fletcher avatar has been wonderfully conceived and special care has also been given not just to his appearance but also his lines. However, these two characters make an impact only if you understand the language and the context (in the case of Bush). What everyone ultimately will remember from this movie is the bumbling Tamil cop Balaram Nader…in the Tamil version it’s supposed to be a Telugu cop called Naidu. After a couple of scenes simply his appearance on the screen makes you crack up. Kamal has played memorable oddball comic characters in the past and now he can prouldy add this one to his list. I strongly felt there should have been more screen-time devoted to this character. The rest of the avatars don’t strike a chord at all.

Apart from this one-man show, the VFX team needs to be given a standing ovation. Now don’t come to the conclusion that this film is devoid of the tacky SFX so prevalent in South Indian films. The thing is they get it right most of the time and when they don’t; the tackiness still gels with the tone of the film without descending into ridiculousness. The thing which they’ve achieved to perfection (and which you might not take notice of) is the seamless amalgamation of the scenes featuring multiple Kamal Haasans. There are lots of them in the movie and mind you…these are not scenes where one character is simply talking to the other with his back facing the audience or just two characters coming face to face with each other in the left and right frames. Only on watching this can one realize why this one took so long in the making – even a simple scene can become extremely complex because of the presence of multiple avatars. Also, the camerawork (Ravi Varman) is splendid…especially use of zoom-in and zoom-out shots. Himesh Reshammiya can get away with his forgettable tunes only because songs aren’t an integral part of this film. Devisri’s background score is really good – notwithstanding the fact that the main theme is lifted from the first theatrical teaser of Spider-Man 3.

Dasavathaaram fails to be the masterpiece it was intended to be be only because the not-so-interesting avatars eat into the interesting premise in the second half of the movie, but I strongly feel this one be given a fair chance purely for the efforts of Kamal Haasan and director K.S. Ravikumar.

10,000 BC March 9, 2008

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Somebody had to make the campiest period flick ever but I didn’t expect Roland Emmerich would helm that. He never had the critics rooting him but I’ve loved all his “disaster flicks”. This time however, he really delivers a true blue disaster.

First and the foremost thing which comes to your mind is – What was the necessity of splattering all the promos and posters with the “spear tooth” (the big f****** tiger) and woolly mammoths (the big f****** elephants) when they actually have exactly about 10 minutes of screen-time combined. Would you have forgiven Spielberg if dinosaurs appeared in Jurassic Park only for 10 minutes! And those 10 minutes are the only justification for calling this film 10,000 BC for the people in this one seem to be living definitely not before 1000 AD.

Now comes the grand plot. Old Lady Oracle – The Chosen One – Save the World….If these three phrases sound alien to you then either you are too dumb or you don’t watch Hollywood flicks (in which case you might want to give this a try and probably end up liking it). For the rest, let’s pray together that Hollywood writers are cured of this plot device….we’ve had more than enough of those. Still, despite all this I wouldn’t have complained if the film was even a tad less boring. Those 109 minutes seemed like forever.

The screenplay and the dialogue is so bad and funny that atleast it could have been one of those “so bad it’s good” flicks but sadly it cannot be so because as the unsuspecting viewer the feeling of being royally cheated overrides everything else. Mr. Emmerich – brace yourself for next year’s Razzies and everyone else please save your money for something else.