Monday, June 14, 2004

Movie Talk -- Hum Tum, 35 minutes in

Is it possible to call a movie the worst movie ever made 35 min. in? Probably if it is a Bollywood movie. Ofcourse, it is far to easy to criticize a Bolly movie. So I will try to go easy:

1) Is it too much to expect having Indian cartoon characters in an Indian movie? The recent Shaadi Ka Ladoo had western cartoon characters. And in Hum Tum, it looks highly unprofessional to have western cartoon characters speaking Hindi dialogues. Looks like bad dubbing.

2) Why does every Hindi movie aspire to be a 'Dil Chahta Hai'? Dil Chahta Hai was great, and every other rip-off will always be a wasteful and pathetic effort.

3) If every Indian hated Boom, then why is the music for Boom ripped off for 'Hum Tum'?

4) Have Indian men in Bollywood never fallen in love? Have these Indian men never had an actual conversation with a woman in their life? If they had, then they would have know how to write dialogues and scenes for a screenplay.

5) When will foreign cities stop be misrepresented in Bolly movies?

6) Marriages. Marriages. When will marriages be stopped used as a cheap backdrop for movies?

7) Enough with Dilwale. The end.

8) Ofcourse, people still see such movies and actually like them. And then the same people think 'Boom' was a bad idea. WOW.

At this point, it seems it will take a miracle to salvage this waste of a movie. Easily one of the worst movies EVER made. And that is being kind. Ofcourse, I am the wrong person to say anything about this movie. One must have the ability to overdose on sugar to watch this. Forgive me if I like my chocolate cake with a little bit of a mocha kick.

Oh wait. Abhishek B. has just entered the movie. Surely, there is no hope for this one :)

Movie Talk - Yuva, really. Which Yuva?

Once again, the same problem, repeated again. A promising movie which falls flat because of the length (all Bollywood movies have to be more than 2.5 hours) and the lack of a valid screenplay.

A good story structure and a few good scenes put together do not make a movie. When will they ever learn? The movie starts out with the three characters interacting on the famous Calcutta bridge. Then the movie breaks into each individual story and shows how the 3 people end up on the bridge. So far so good. It is atleast an interesting try. Now in case if anyone does not know the movie is shot in Calcutta, the director has made sure that the famous bridge is in every other scene. Apparently, everything in Calcutta revolves around this famous bridge :) But where is the intellectual side of calcutta? Where are those famous coffee houses where brilliant minds met and fought about the future of the country? And when a coffee place is shown, it is Coffee Day, the new franchise template hang out.

And once the story converges back to the bridge, it starts to fall apart. Predictable would be an understatement. And the bridge fight scene also contains some CGI graphics, which really are a significant improvement over previous bolly movies. Ofcourse, one can notice the graphics when a computer generated car passes through one of the actors (Abhishek). So not a perfect blend of CGI but getting the movies are moving in the right direction apparently.

Once again, we are to lament about what could have been a good movie. Cinemaah, you are right with all your comments :)

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Movie Talk -- Different Cities, same praise

1) City of God -- This movie finally saw the light of day on an official DVD/Video release on June 8, after being delayed few times by the producers. The movie was to be released on DVD firstly in Feb, then in March, and then another April date was pushed back to June. The first 2 dates made sense in typical Hollywood fashion -- re-release an Oscar nominated movie in the theatres to grab some extra cash because of the hype. But the April postponement makes no sense. Nonetheless, the movie is finally here.

Is the movie worth the wait? Yes. Is the movie that good? Yes. Is this the sort of movie that Western critics love to praise? Yes. This is exactly the movie which the intelligent western critics can debate about -- how a third world country is ravaged by corruption, poverty, violence and lawlessness. The perception that corruption does not exist in the West is a myth -- one only needs to look at how insurance companies, lawyers, and even certain election results to know the truth. But when it comes to foreign cinema, the West judges movies with cultured lenses.

So what is the movie about? The movie outlines the slums inside and outside Rio, it shows how crime starts at the lowest level and spreads until it takes over the entire system, it details all the major players involved in drug and corruption traffacking.
There are hardly any adults in the movie with the criminal gangs ranging from 6 - 18 years of age. There are some 4 year olds with guns in their hands and some mid 20's who know to use a knife as well.

The movie, which is said to be based on a true story outlined in a book by the same name, is fact paced and shot beautifully. This is a real visual treat and the camera is used amazingly to take us on a criminal ride through Rio's underbelly, or the upper starta which feeds on the underbelly. The pacing of the story, using flashbacks, is highly effective and adds to the mood of the movie.

2) My Sassy Girl -- What is Love? How do two people meet? Why do two completely different people like each other? What happens when they start falling in love?
Some many movies have tried to answer these questions. Some succeed and some end up failing miserably.
My Sassy Girl is another such movie tackling the question of love, life and everything in between. It takes a light hearted approach with even the dramatic serious moments shown in a tender light. The movie is based on real-life internet postings about the writer's relationship with his girl-friend. And the end result is a highly watchable and enjoyable movie.
Hollywood is planning to remake this in 2006. One can wonder how much of the original story will be trashed in the Hollywood blender.

3) Musa the Warrior -- A Korean epic outlining the battles between the Yuan and Ming Dynasty in 1300's China. The movie drags on and on... For lovers of such battle epics, this one might be a useful watch; for others, missing it, will do no harm. One positive note is the expressive and perfect acting of Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hero).

4) San Geng (Three) -- A series of 3 seperate short movies by three different directors. Two of the 3 short stories have similar undertones and infact could have taken place in the same apartment complex, whereas the third one in a Thai tale.
a) Memories (by Jin-woon Kim) starts off at a fancy residential compound (complex) which proclaims to make dreams come true. A husband seems to be having nightmares and gradually we learn that the nightmares are because of his missing wife. The movie is spliced with shots of the missing wife as she tries to return back home to her life.
The two stories come together in the end but along the way are some chilling and nervy moments.
b) Going Home (by Peter Chan) -- This is the best of all the 3 stories. A cop moves to a building, slated for demolition in a month's time, with his young son. Most people are moving out and the building only seems to have one other resident. Or so it seems. What are ghosts? Can dead people be revived? What are memories? The movie is chilling at times and slowly unwinds towards a surprize but not unexpected ending.
c) The Wheel (by Nonzee Nimibutr) -- Are puppets possessed? Are curses real? Can spirits be only evil? The story takes place around a Kohn stage troupe. This is the weakest of all the three movies and stands on its from the other two.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Movie Talk -- Slash, Rip, Silence, Poetic

1) Harry Potter 3 -- Ah, how can one critize this movie? Critics are so busy gushing over this movie, maybe because they have to take own kids to see the film, maybe if they say anything bad, the newspaper would be flooded with hate mail....

So here's a review for fans of the Series -- This is the best movie of the year. It is totally fun. Time flies by in a second. You will not have more fun in a theatre. Sure, it is darker than the other two, but what a great movie!!!!

And now for a review from a sober point of view -- The movie is not as long as the other two but still needlessly drags on.  Sure it is a bit darker than the other two, but ultimately feels like a waste of time. One can only wish if like in the movie, time can be reversed and the 2.5 hours wasted on seeing this movie be gained back.

2) The Butterfly Effect – Flutter. Flutter. A butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the planet, a tidal wave results on the other side. And so goes the Chaos Theory. The Butterfly Effect uses this notion of Chaos theory to create a scenario along the lines of trying to move backwards and forwards in the Space-Time field. A rip in any part of the field will subsequently alter the forthcoming events; that is if something is changed in the past, the future will be altered accordingly. The movie moves in such rapid pace between reality, perceived reality and altered reality that the lines blur, somewhat. Does the movie work? Yes, in the story line it is trying to show. Is the movie going to be trashed by critics? Yes. The movie has all the ingredients that American critics love to bad mouth. Does the movie achieve its purpose? Yes. It shows the chilling effects if one wishes to try to change their past -- one could end up being more unhappy, more miserable or worse, one could find themselves in a situation where one can never get out of. The movie is worth watching, worth thinking about, and better, worth thanking that we didn’t take the other road in the past. Because if we had taken that other road, we would not have been here. And that surely would have been worse.

3) Elephant – A poetic tragedy. Gus Van Sant simply places his camera in the corridors of an average American high school, choosing not to take sides, choosing not to judge students, teachers, parents but simply to follow them, simply to listen to them, and simply to observe. The most chilling scene occurs when the two students arrive at the school ready to kill fellow students and teachers. The audience knows what is about to happen before it actually does -- Columbine, indeed! The surreal approach to the movie takes the edge off the horror though the Critics believe it adds more chilling effect. The movie is not chilling as it could be, but it does leave its mark. In the entire movie, there is one forced scene -- the kiss between the two boys is not needed. But in a movie which refuses to take sides, show any resolution, maybe it simply is meant to be there. How often in life do we do things which serve no purpose? The ending might leave one unsatisfied, and ask “What was the point of that movie?”. That is a difficult question to answer. But the movie deserves a look, just for the plain message that screams from the silent corridor walls – “Don’t turn a blind eye to the obvious”. In a country which promotes violence, which bombs other countries at will, which shows nothing but gun killings on regular tv, should it be a surprise that the youth (whose minds are so easily influenced) take to random killing for fun? Why is so much time spent on blaming other sources but not facing the obvious problem? Violence, hatred need to be curbed. And having guns around will never lead to any resolution.

4) Battle Royale – One of the most chilling movies ever made alongside the German movie, The Experiment. The Experiment dealt with adults placed in situations of power. But Battle Royale has young high school kids dealing with power, survival and inner violence. While Elephant might have been poetic, Royale is graphic and gory. But it is riveting, it shakes you up even if you are used to watching Yakuza slice and dice movies. The movie is based on Koushun Takami’s book of the same name. Inside the front cover, Takami wrote “I dedicate this to everyone I love. Even though it might not be appreciated”. True words indeed. How can such a work and a subsequent movie be tolerated? Well it can be. The movie presents an alternate future where the unemployed youth are a threat to the adults. So each year, the adults randomly pick a class of students and send them to a remote island to play ‘Battle Royale’. The game will be over only when a single student survives. For this to happen, the single student should kill all the other students. If a single survivor does not exist, then the necklaces around the student’s neck would explode killing every single student with no winner. The students are randomly given survival kits with each kit containing a different weapon – a gun, a knife, an axe, a frying pan, an electric stun gun, a grenade, a pair of binoculars, etc. It is up to the student how they choose the weapon. Once a student kills another, they can acquire their opponent’s weapon. Simple, isn’t it? Takeshi Kitano plays the teacher overlooking the class involved in this game. When survival is at stake, how do people change? How do young kids, already with hormones raging, react? If any of the above interests you, then this movie is worth a watch. If not, staying away will not be a problem.

5) Zatoichi – Ah, the Blind Swordsman is back. Takeshi Kitano revamps the legendary tale with computer aided tricks while paying homage to the works of Akira Kurosawa. The setup includes familiar elements – a samurai, a struggling ronin, helpless villagers, oppressive rulers, rival gangs, the village idiot who dreams of becoming a samurai, geishas seeking revenge, the inn keeper, the gamblers. But Kitano leaves his style on the movie and the result is a poetic, peaceful slumber. It is unfortunate the movie is being released on the heels of Kill Bill, as some of the sword killing scenes will be compared. But Zatoichi is the real stuff, the stuff from which Tarantino drew his inspiration, and Kitano takes the sword kills a step further than the previous Samurai filmmakers. A must watch for lovers of the genre.

6) Van Helsing – Here is a movie which people love to hate: a big summer Hollywood blockbuster. So is it really that bad? Almost. It does have some really good effects, some neat film-making, and some good story lines. Kate Beckingsale, fresh from her ‘Underworld’ role finds herself on the other side of the Vampire hunt. She has been totally misused in this role – her beauty and charm are covered up with layers of makeup and poor costumes. Hugh Jackman really does not do anything worthy in the movie except show up and say the lines. The comedic element is present, with some minor references to a Bond like gadgets lab. The story line is not bad, one wishes it could have been given the full support of better acting and better direction.