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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince July 27, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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I loved the first three films and the last two weren’t bad either but the latest installment is the only film which actually piqued my interest in the series. The previous films pretty much had stand alone plots and a little familiarity with the main characters and a few major incidents was all that you needed to follow. The Half Blood Prince is the only film in the franchise which explicitly sets the scene for an interesting finale.

Each film in the series has been getting darker and this one is no exception. The good thing is that this one is also a lot funnier than the previous two films. There is ample screen time given to characters other than Harry – who definitely make the proceedings a lot more enjoyable. As has been the tradition for every flick, the new major cast member to join this time is Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn who plays a significant role in this enterprise as the one who taught Tom Riddle the recipe to make himself immortal – a secret which Harry has to uncover.

The first 10 minutes or so was in IMAX 3D which I thought was very impressive mainly because this was the first time I saw a live action feature in this format. It is far more effective here than for an animation or even a motion capture feature. David Yates (Order of the Phoenix) successfully delivers another deserving winner in the franchise – which undoubtedly will be considered among the best in the series. It’s great that he will also be helming the final two films based on the last book. Along with Star Trek, for me the Half Blood Prince was the most satisfying summer blockbuster till now. Do catch the IMAX version (3D or otherwise) if possible.

Watchmen March 14, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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I was left with mixed feelings after watching this film. The Watchmen universe is intriguing. I haven’t read the graphic novel but I could sense that there was a lot that was left out of the film, especially the back stories of the characters that seemed to be very interesting. I wasn’t bored as I know some will be in the 166 minute film. I particularly enjoyed the visuals but I can’t say I that I fell in love with the film. It worked fine as a sort of a mystery film set in an alternate world but I am not going to recollect this film with fondness. I think I am getting ahead of myself. Lets backup a little.

Watchmen is considered by many as the greatest graphic novel (12 issues) ever and was also one of the Top 100 novels listed by Time (the only graphic novel to be on the list). Many thought that it was probably never going to be filmed due to the difficulty of bringing this rich and deep world to the screen in limited time (without considering the legal troubles it had to eventually face) but director Zack Snyder (300) and his team persevered and did what many famous directors before him could not. If you’ve got wind of the hype, you’ve probably heard all this and were just as excited as me to watch this.

Snyder and his team have certainly not failed. The film is well directed, carefully detailed and provides a superior visual experience. The cinematography and visual effects are assets and Snyder makes interesting use of the soundtrack. But the film is really about the characters, their conflicting moralities and crazy lives. This is the most interesting aspect of the film and it is the one thing could make me read the graphic novel but it is also the one thing that gets sacrificed due to the limits on screen time (yeah, 166 minutes ain’t enough).

However, the film isn’t very successful here. The characters that really play well in the film are Rorschach (played by Jackie Earle Haley) and The Comedian (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the actors playing them are the only ones that impress. In the Watchmen universe, Dr Manhattan (played by Billy Crudup) is the most important character and he says a lot of things that we probably need to think about but as a viewer, my mind was mostly focused on trying to understand everything rather than thinking. This character didn’t really work for me in the film. Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II and Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II are also somewhat bland though they get considerable screen time.

This film isn’t for everyone. Those who wander into theaters thinking of this one as a superhero movie with lot of action will be disappointed. A long and serious look at life through the subtext in a fantasy crime mystery might just not be the thing that you were looking for. Whether this film is about hope or the depths to which we need to plumb to get it is not clear enough to me. As a film, Watchmen wasn’t particularly absorbing. This convoluted tale of twisted crime fighters might not be for those who haven’t read the graphic novel.

Chandni Chowk To China January 19, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Exactly two years back Nikhil Advani came out with his magnum-opus bomb Salaam-e-Ishq. He seems to have done it all over again now with the much awaited and much hyped Chandni Chowk to China. The extremely well designed promos made CC2C seem like a crazy slapstick comedy with a liberal dose of Akshay Kumar’s martial arts skills thrown in. But one really finds it hard to believe that the writer-director team of Sridhar Raghavan and Nikhil Advani could end up with such an insipid boring film.

The plot which a masala mix of producer Ramesh Sippy’s own films like Seetha Aur Geetha and Sholay along with a dash of Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Hustle looks like a foolproof premise for a film in this genre. Sadly, apart from the intermittent laughs CC2C falls flat. Akshay Kumar plays a simpleton cook Sidhu who is mistaken (don’t ask how) to be the reincarnation of a legendary Chinese warrior Lu Sheng; who is now on his way to China to “fulfill his destiny”. Sidhu is fooled by his friend Chopstick (Ranvir Shorey) about the reason he is being taken to China – which really is to get rid of the evil lord Hojo (Gordon Liu). Hojo is also responsible for the separated-at-birth twin sisters (Deepika Padukone).

Until everyone lands in China, things seemed to be going pretty well – the unfunny silliness at times still gels well with the tone of the film. But things go wrong only when we are expected to take the whole thing seriously. Like I said before, the film is absolutely boring for most of the time and that is its biggest unforgivable flaw. The only memorable parts of this whole (mis)adventure are those two hilarious sequences – one in the plane with Akshay and Ranvir; the other being Akshay’s initial training session with Roger Yuan.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Akshay but this is honestly the film where I really loved him. In his last few comedy flicks he might have come across as repetitive but here he shows a different slapstick side of his which really saves the film from sinking completely. Ranvir Shorey also has his moments but they are are far and few. Roger Yuan is also fine. Deepika apart from being good eye candy has nothing else to do. Unfortunately, Mithun Chakraborty is saddled with a rather loud role which he seemed clearly uncomfortable with. The action sequences have nothing new to offer if you have seen any Kung Fu flick before – the “cosmic” kicks and punches seem more like improvised flying people stunts from South Indian flicks.

The music is quite good – credited to Kailash-Paresh-Naresh, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Bhappi-Bhappa Lahiri (just remixing the old hit – Bombay Se Aaya Mera Dost). I loved the “Naam Hai Sidhu” track. It’s one of those simple and earthy numbers like Haule Haule from RNBDJ which makes the film come to life whenever it is playing in the background. The end credits feature Akshay Kumar performing a self-aggrandizing rap number and ironically CC2C has turned to be the flick which might potentially be his first Box Office turkey after a long time; unless the opening weekend collections save it to an extent. Catch it only if you are a huge fan of Akshay Kumar.