Sunday, March 08, 2009

Pineapple Express

Another good comedy from the Judd Apatow line.  Definitely worth a watch if you like stoner comedies.  As with most comedies, they screw up the ending by stretching it out unnecessarily.  Oh wait, it must have been the 'extended' edition on the blu-ray.  Was that some kind of punishment for not going to the theater?  

I don't know why some comedy movies decide towards the end that they suddenly want to become action movies, e.g. Blue Streak.  The first Bad Boys is the only one that pulled off that transition well.  But I digress.

Seth Rogen and James Franco are hilarious together.   As with any other Apatow story, there's some genuinely funny stuff thrown together with the usual dose of potty/poop humor.

Danny McBride as 'Red' (first from left) was brilliant.  I saw this guy in another horrible movie called 'The Heartbreak kid' and he was only good thing in it.

If you are renting it, make sure you don't choose 'extended version' on the disc.

Man on Wire

I had heard about the documentary 'Man on Wire' before I watched it win the Oscar.  I hadn't seen any of the documentaries nominated this year, but it beat a Werner Herzog movie to the award and that was enough to pique my interest.

Thanks to Netflix streaming, I was able to watch it yesterday.  I was 10 minutes into the movie when I realized that I was on the edge of my seat watching a non-fiction, documentary film.  As a young man in the 70's Philippe Petit pulled off a stunt where he walked on a wire between the tops of the tallest buildings at the time, the twin towers of the WTC.

The documentary shows how he and his motley crew of friends and other interested parties helped him plan and achieve his dream.  For me the most fascinating part of the movie was when Philippe explains his helplessness when he waits for the twin towers to be built so he can realize his dream.  The movie combines footage from Philippe's young years practising wirewalking along with staged scenes explaining how they got all the equipment and manpower needed to the top floors of both buildings to give us a fascinating account of the events.

If you are into documentaries, this is a must-watch.  

Ghajini and Delhi-6. The difference?

I watched Ghajini in Hindi yesterday. I still think the movie dies along with the death of Asin's character, but the new climax was definitely easier to sit through compared to the hero vs twin villains fight sequence from the original.

I guess that's the difference between having an actor like Aamir who has no problems asking questions that might make the writer/director uncomfortable and an Abhishek, whose performance has more or less been in proportion to the quality of the direction. His stature as a big star helps too, no doubt. The newer climax is more plausible within the realms of the indian cinema's hallowed tradition of hero vs villain deathmatch endings.

If a regular 'masala' entertainer could benefit from him presence, it's no surprise that his decision to take over directorial duties for Taare Zameen Par worked wonders for that movie. 

You want to know what happens when an actor doesn't question and lets the director's stupid ideas take fruition? Watch Delhi 6. OMG!! What a painful movie to sit through! I can't believe this came from the same team that gave us 'Rang De Basanti'. But wait. That one had a certain Aamir Khan in it. D6 is poorly written to begin with. The melodramatic acting was unbearable at places. Surprisingly the BGM by ARR was uninspiring. If a dud like Yuvraaj can get the sort of attention it did from ARR, I wonder what went wrong with D6.  Ghajini's background score had a few new pieces too.  Perhaps the awards season took its toll on ARR after all....

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Ithukaa Ivalo buildup??

Sivaji has pretty much dominated the Indian news/entertainment sites for a few weeks now. It's like people can't get enough of all the photographs, interviews and reviews. But not one of them will mention how the movie really is. For me, it was too long (at three and a half hours), too noisy and made me think that if Rajni had accepted to do Mudhalvan, I wouldn't have had to go through this.

Aside from Suman's appearance, Shriya's dancing and the pictuization of Athiradi song (to an extent), I can't think of one other memorable moment.

$15 + all that wait - wasn't worth it.

If you excuse me I have to take a nap ... I have a bad headache.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Freedom Writers - Old Bottle, New Wine

Sometime ago, I had seen a trailer for Freedom Writers on some other DVD. It seemed like yet another underdog(s) story, but I put it on my list anyway. I never get tired of underdog stories, inspite of the fact that I am going to know pretty much how the movie is gonna end.

If its a sports team, they are going to get to the finals and its going to end with the whole stadium applauding for the heroes even if they lose in the end. But I have liked every single underdog story I have seen. Coach Carter & Glory Road are among the more conventional ones. Million Dollar Baby is not really in the same category, but that's the basic story thread. The goofiest two of all were 'Dodgeball' & 'Bad News Bears', which was worth seeing just for Billy Bob Thornton. Akeelah and the Bee was another one that benefited from the kind of performances that will keep you interested inspite of an inevitable ending.

I guess this pretty much tells you that I was going to like Freedom Writers even if it was going down the beaten path. But it wasn't like that. It is not about a sports team, but a group of students who find themselves in an integrated school in Long Beach, which has seen better days before 'these people' came in.

'These people' are the Latinos, Cambodians, Chinese & African Americans who come to school, but have no interest in studying. The teachers are more interested in whining about 'the good old days' rather than try and interest these kids in a basic education. Most of these kids will dropout and become drug dealers and bums, if they survive all the violence around them. Life doesn't hold much a of a promise for them until their new teacher Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) comes to teach them junior grade english.

She faces the usual 'You don't know us', 'You don't have to live our lives','You are white' nonsense, but that is where all comparisons should end. From then on, the direction and the writing is unconventional (in a good way) and that's a relief considering that we know where it is all going to go.

The movie is also based on a true story and that might explain the presence of a side story about Erin's battle at home which indicates that life is not very simple and paying a lot of attention to one thing you care about takes away something from another.

All in all, this is worth renting. I thought that the promotional material did a bad job of convincing people to see it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Chennai - 600028

I haven't written anything since December, in spite of the fact that I have been watching at least 5 movies a week. In this time, I have had the pleasure of watching fantastic movies and as much as I wanted to scribble a few lines about movies like 'The last King of Scotland', 'The Queen' and 'Mozhi', I couldn't find the time. Damn! Work gets in the way of everything these days.. Even an absolute dud like Maayakannadi that left me seething, couldn't bring me back to the blog, but I have to say a few words about this one.

I didn't have the slightest expectation from 'Chennai 28', but it was about street cricket and that was reason enough to watch it. The last time one of Gangai Amaran's sons directed something, the result was utterly pathetic (Bambarakannale).

This movie isn't short on cliches but the lack of a 'hero' character is a big plus. I would pick a flick like this over any Ajith/Vijay movie every time. I had a great time watching it. Of course, it helped that I was crazy about playing cricket as a kid and I could identify all the little things associated with it.

It's far from perfect. There are 5 people speaking at any given time in the movie and the acting feels straight out an amateur drama, but beyond all that, its a very simple story told in a fashion that suits it. There is no grandiose fight sequence, nothing to glorify any single character. Most of the sequence are straight out of life.

The pick of the actors was Premgi Amaran (thats really how it's spelt) who has a couple of great scenes and most of my friends would surely identify with his 'Enna koduma saar idhu?' and 'Saroja.. Saamaan nikalo' and I was rotf-lmao while my better half was wondering what the joke was about.

It's a welcome change and I hope more people think about small and entertaining movies like this. I hear it's doing very well in Chennai and that's a sign to so-called 'Heros' of Tamil cinema as what people really want to see.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

deja vu

Doesn't the title explain it all?? At least, this is how I interpreted it after watching Denzel's latest. You've seen a million movies just like this one.

Trust me. I don't have anything against time travel movies. If exploited well, the results can be anywhere between delightful (Back to the future) and adequate (Frequency, The Lake House etc.). deja vu makes a complete mess of it. The rules are not clear. You see, in any time travel setup, it is important to establish the rules. If you make them up as you go, it is so frustrating, like having to use cheats to get past a tough level in a video game.

Anyway, among the few things that save the movie from being a complete waste of your time are Denzel's class A performance (yet another one) and Adam Goldberd's small presence as the 'uber geek in-charge' of the time travel mechanism. The only thing that's new is that the terrorist is not an Islamic fundamentalist.

Watch it if you like Micheal Bay action movies. This one however is from Tony Scott (Enemy of the State & Man on Fire).

I hope someone from Gabtan's circle watches this and gets 'inspired' enough to remake it in Tamil. Me thinks that watching Gabtan traveling back in time to stop terrorists would be worth the effort.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tsk. Tsk. Why do they make me take the gun everytime?

Yesssss. I wached it! I loved it!

Its definitely not in the league of Narasimma or Gajendra, but ample care has been taken so that the movie will be an affront to anything with half a brain.

There are two Vijaykanths in the movie. One is Perarasu or 'Chinnayya', a villager out to avenge his father’s death and the other is a CBI aapeesar who wants to prevent Perarasu from taking the law into his own hands.

There is a fantastic flashback sequence where the 7-8 year old twins are shown leading a happy life with their father when fate tragically intervenes to separate them. However, the CBI gabtan still needs a flashback to know about his past life!!!!! I wonder if gabtain is trying to spoof himself. He has ESP like powers as usual which makes it all the more surprising that he needs a third party to narrate his past. Awesome stuff!!!

The director has dutifully made a to-do list and checked these entries off:

Superb twists. Gabtan is introduced as a thoziladibhar who reveals he is CBI to catch a fake CBI aapeesar.

Character's faithful to gabtan utter 'Chinnayya' rather than 'Ayyo', 'Amma' or 'Appa' indicating their affection for gabtan even in their dying seconds.

Gabtan kicks the goondas and they fly and fall 100 meters away.

Gabtan’s gun always fire bullets in slow mosson.

There is a female lead whose presence feels like an afterthought (she has exactly 3 scenes, one of which has her calling gabtain's cell phone immediately after gabtain CBI proclaims that only his team has his cell phone number).

There are no bakistan dheeviravaadhis, which is disappointing (two times in a row [Sudesi inclusive]). Gabtan seems to have made up his mind that evil politicians are first priority now.

I think Prakash Raj is utterly broke from having produced ‘Poi’. I can't think of any other reason for him to stoop to this level.

Anand Raj has a 'different' role. I mean, he is not a bad guy this time. But he wins the award for the 'Second most irritating Malayalam speaking character in a tamil movie'. The Most irritating prize is firmly with Sathyaraj for his soporific 'Malabar police'. Of course, this means we'll hear 'aayaalu' (that man), 'eeyaaalu' (this man), ‘ivvade’ (here) and ‘Saaarrey’ (Sir..) only a thousand times each.

I think the next Vijaykanth movie should be extremely easy to make. They should do a highlights segment from each of his last 4-5 movies and we’ll have another feast.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The bike and the Thatha

Movies like 'The World's fastest Indian' come and go every year. Most of them are sports movies and repeat the same 'Triump of Human Spirit' tale. Some play it to the hilt, some are above average, and there are a few that you don't mind sitting through. ('Dogeball - A true underdog story' is an exception from this general classification, probably because the sport is run by the ADAA - The American Dodgeball Association of America).

In TWFI, Anthony Hopkins plays ... no not the Indian (Not that he wouldn't try it. He has played a black guy before). He is Burt Munro from a place in Newzealand that most Kiwis havent probably heard of. His dream is to do a speed trial at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on his 'Indian' (a bike from the 20s). It is a classic tale of the spirit being so willing, that it drags the flesh along.

He has waited all these years. He is living on welfare and spends most of his time on his bike even if he is not on it. He is too devoted to the Indian that when neighbors ask him to maintain his lawn, he decides to burn it down, so he won't have to. An angina attack later, he decides it is time to go to Utah for he may not have the time.

Like I said, you know this story. Thats not the main thing. What is worth watching is how Burt Munro endears himself to everyone he meets and sometimes gets things done by using his age and helplessness in a smart way. Some of the things he does are so outrageous that the people who stare at him in helplessness do so only because they do not want to shout at a very old person. There are some fun moments between Burt and his neighbor's kid.

The movie mixes the 'fish out of water' (Kiwi in the US) and 'triumph of human spirit' situations in a good way and although it is a drag at times, it doesnt get to the point where you want to skip chapters.

Serial Repetition

Recently, I read an interview of Gautham (by Sudish Kamath, me thinks) where he spoke at length about VV and cop thrillers in general and among other things, he suggested that there would be a third cop movie from him thus completing a trilogy like (Ram Gopal Varma, Kieslovsky, Satyajit Ray etc.) I dont understand this 'trilogy' concept. Is there something unique to the number 3 that I don't get? Comments welcome.

Anyway, after watching 'Policekkaran -2: Trials and tribulations of DCP Raghavan' I hope there isn't a third installment ever. Its a funny feeling. I did not like this movie for the same reasons that made Kaakha Kaakha stand out. The KK hangover is everywhere to be seen. Gory shots of dead bodies, Long-haired bad guys, Upright police officer hero, even the names of characters (Maya, Ilamaaran) keep reminding you of KK. Did Gautham think this would help?

Other things that don't help the cause - Kamal's english dialogues. Its never been the grammar. Its just that the choice of words are straight out of some James Hadley Chase pages. Referring to the killer's (male) partner as his 'Kadhali' are homophobic at best and in bad taste. This reference to the sexual orientation of the killers could have been avoided for one reason and one reason only, which is that it plays no visible part in the crimes or choice of victims. And they do rape only their female victims.

I was told that the cinematography was a highlight. Sadly, I could only watch a thiruttu print. (No shows in Salt Lake City. If only the producers associations could do something constructive rather than fighting over election issues, I would be happy to pay 5 bucks for a download). However doing a full 360 with a camera can only "be confusuing", which is not a substitute for "depicting confusion".

The editing is good at places. There were a couple of wows in the title sequence, but for the most part, the editing only manages to give u the feeling that you are in a 'masala' picture. The lesser said about the chase sequences, the better. Haven't these guys seen Ronin or the Bourne movies.

Verdict - Very average. Like the average of 'Kaaki Chatti' and 'Kuridipunal'.