The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de motocicleta)

US Presidential hopefuls take RVs, Che went on a motorcycle. The point is you need to go on a road trip to become a successful leader of the people

Ee Adutha Kalathu (Recently)

Strange and familiar make an appearance together for the first time in Malayalam cinema and the pair is a hit

Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl

Four feisty ladies, upbeat music and a handsome conman. Anushka gets Ranveer. Bollywood gets Parineeti

Das Boot (The Boat)

Best WWII film ever, in fact the best war film ever. In true German fashion, restraint is applied by shooting the entire movie inside a U-boat

Neelathamara (Blue Lotus)

Blue lotus shares the same stature of blue moon in Malayalam, so do good remakes. This one bucks the trend.

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Sep 27, 2008

I am Legend

Another one of those movies predicting the human apocalypse and the redemption beyond. Here humanity's only hope is Will Smith, the ace virologist although only about one percent of the human race is left. There is another 10% who have mutated to some kind of gruesome blood sucking bi-peds, there only hope is also Will Smith. They don't know that or couldn't care less.

In the second half of the movie a messenger of God appears before Will in the form of a woman and her son(presumably) going to a survivor's community supposedly existing in Vermont. Dr.Smith denies the existence of such a community, denies the existence of God, only to be wiped off into a legend just before the closing credits come up on screen, hence I am Legend.

Sep 22, 2008

American Rhapsody


American Rhapsody although not a made for TV movie, stops falling into that category thanks to Scarlett Johansson and a pair of Romanian actors who play the role of foster parents to Scarlett's character. Director Eva Gardos tells her own story of spending her early childhood behind the Iron Curtain and re-uniting with her parents in Canada some years later.

Sep 19, 2008

Iqbal


If I do a two way comparison of Iqbal it'll be like this, (IMHO) Iqbal is better than Lagaan in showcasing the spirit of cricket in Indians(I hope no Lagaan lovers are listening) but cinematic qualities of Kukonoor (the director) improves in his later films like Dor.Iqbal gave us Shreyas Talpade, who mentions in one of his recent interviews that how after Iqbal he was flooded with offers to portray sport-stars, but he held off. And that has paid off for Shreyas who has finally become the leading man in Shyam Benegal's Welcome to Sajjanpur, after playing Sharukh's sidekick in the mega hit Om Shanti Om.

Iqbal is about a mute village teen who is obsessed with cricket. Not only is he obsessed with it, it turns out that he bowls pretty well too.It is a story of the triumphant under-dog which'll appeal to the masses, although it is toned down to the everyday level of reality compared to the Bollywood fare. The film has Naseeruddin Shah and Girish Karnad, two of the stalwarts of Indian cinema as cricket coaches who come across the talent of Iqbal(Shreyas Talpade.) Agreed that Shreyas has given an above average performance in the movie but then again he is the central character. The person who struck me was the girl who played Iqbal's sister Khadija in the movie - Shweta Prasad. Although I've not seen her national award winning performance in Makdee, she is a natural actor who acts as literally the 'mouthpiece' for her mute brother in this movie.

I do not know how well it did at the box-office. Nagesh Kukonoor movies all start off with no fanfare, then it is usually the mouth to mouth publicity that drives them forward. Although Kukonoor of the 2005 or 2008 is not the no-namer US returned engineer trying his hand at directing movies with no-name actors, he has grown to become a force to reckon in Indian Parallel Cinema.

Sep 18, 2008

Nadiya Kollappetta Rathri

Suresh Gopi is at it again: Playing a brainiac cop who punches hard and uses English for his punch lines stressing words at the wrong points. Along with a bunch of dumbass assistants who are there for the purpose of doing the hard work and asking crucial questions which could only be answered by His Braininess Mr.Super Cop himself, this is another cop character for Suresh Gopi who doesn't want to shed his police gene. Can't blame him either. If all the roles the producers are willing to offer him are the cop roles, with the meaty ones going to the superstars - Mammootty and Mohanlal, the man has to do something to survive in the industry.

Nadiya Mather, the main character in the movie is played by Kavya Madhavan. This is one of the rare times a female lead gets a double role. Kavya also plays the role of Nadira, Nadiya twin sister. While Nadiya is an ace shooter, Nadira is the more docile classical dancer. On the fateful night, Nadiya boards Sowparnika Express which goes from Chennai to Mangalore and she is murdered in her First AC compartment. The movie has shades of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, but it is not quite that either. Two other murders happen in the same AC coupe on that same night, both are women traveling alone. One is Shreya Mariya(Suja) an NDTV reporter and the other is Thulasimani, a dancer played by Suja Karthika. If you ask me, both murders are totally useless to the plot, probably that's why Agatha Christie left them out in the first place in the original story.

Director K.Madhu succeeds in keeping the audience from leaving halfway thru' the film, which is an achievement considering the fact that if you have seen one Suresh Gopi (as)cop movie you have seen 'em all. Kavya gives a good performance in the roles of twins showing as far as acting is concerned she could be trusted with any role.

The most serious flaw of the movie is a scientific one. We can see that Nadiya and Nadira are identical twins and not fraternal twins. Let me put it this way, atleast no effort was put into making them look not identical. Identical twins have the same blood group because one egg and a sperm creates two people by splitting one fertilized egg. Super cop Sharaffudin Tharamasi IPS (Suresh Gopi) solves the murder case based on the fact that Nadiya and Nadira have two different blood groups. Hard to believe if you know science. They could have gotten Kavya and say some one like Gopika and claimed them they were twins or they could have had Kavya do both the roles but had a good make up expert work on Kavya so that she could look as two different persons, the argument of different blood groups would have worked. In a story where the murder is committed by a surgical blade, they should have cared to get the medical facts straight.

There are other interesting characters who inhabit the confines of the first AC compartment which is the scene of three brutal murders. Suraj Venjarammoodu as Thattamangalam Muthu the Ticket Collector with his trademark Thiruvananthapuram accent which stays put no matter what the name and place of origin of his character is one of them. Bindu Panicker excels as the stereotypical mother of female actresses, one of the passengers. Shammi Thilakan as Tharamasi's side-kick Sudarshan wearing colorful pants and turtlenecks with a belt over the turtleneck, is bound to unleash a red/yellow/orange jeans fashion tsunami in Kerala! Siddique has a funny wig and is a music maestro called Ghulam something, then there is a heavily made up Urmila Unni and a bevy of the other characters that one tends to forget. All in all because of the suspense element the movie is bearable and the director has somehow succeeded in keeping the audience interest barely alive till the very end. Good for him.

Sep 17, 2008

Clockwatchers

Clockwatchers is female camaraderie in the big city before there was Sex & the City. I got a VHS tape from the library thinking that it could be a chick flick from the eighties that I can mindlessly watch (or not watch) on our old TV while I sorted thru' two weeks worth of laundry. It turned out that it deserved more than mindless watching.

It follows four female friends at work. Work means temping at a big Corporation where nobody knows your name but will admonish if your a stitch on your hemline is off because you are damaging their corporate image. Toni Collette, Parkey Posey, Lisa Kudrow and Alanna Ubach are the corporate serfs, each following a dream of their own, trying to get out of their monotonous existence.

The movie could also be seen as a female version of Office Space where you deal with emotions in the raw form, rather than making fun of it like in Office Space. A more serious look at a similar issue, although I would not call it same. The end destination of both the movies was to give an unexpected blow to the corporate entity that was eating away the life of the characters. While Office Space achieved it with on your face "fire", ClockWatchers uses a more subtle and understated route to reach the destination. And I was wrong thinking it was an eighties film, it was from 1997, two years before the underground hit Office Space came out. Kudos the director Jill Sprecher.

Sep 4, 2008

Akasham


In Akasham director Sunderdass gives Harishree Ashokan his first full length role as a character actor. Ashokan's antics as a comedian used to serve as a warning to stay clear of movies in which he had acted. But then again I understand the reason he continues with that style because that is what people accepted him for and that is what earns him his bread and butter.

In Akasham, none of his over-exaggerated comical mannerisms are there. He is the father, the provider of a small family of five which includes his wife(Jyothirmayi), 2 daughters and his mother(KPAC Lalitha.) Everything is fine with his family life and his work as a mechanic in a car workshop run by a considerate boss(Innocent) till he becomes a suspect in a bomb plot thanks to some facial similarity with the real terrorist. T.A.Razak the story-writer wrote the story with Ashokan in mind. The haunted dog-schizoprenia angles gives a lot of scope to over-act, which thankfully Ashokan has not exploited. But it is not a role which calls for subtle acting either. Ashokan is ok, not heart-rendering as his fellow comedian Salim Kumar's first character role in Achchan Urangatha Veedu. Review: A passable movie in a time when things are not going great with Malayalam cinema.

Sep 2, 2008

Saawariya


Every frame of Saawariya is a visual poem. I have said this quite a few times in this blog lately, I have to repeat it again - Hindi films are going places, where they have never been before. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is known for creatic cinematic verses like Devdas(which I didn't like much), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam(again not one of my favorites although not due to the treatment but due to my basic dislike of the core story), Khamoshi etc. This is perhaps the first Bhansali film that left a positive impression on me.

As is the case with most things in life, it is good to watch a film without expectations. Ranbir, son of yesteryear Bollywood stars, Neetu Singh and Rishi Kapoor and the namesake of his grandad Raj Kapoor(Raj Kapoor's real name was Ranbir Raj Kapoor) stars opposite Anil Kapoor's daughter Sonam(yet another Bollywood Kapoor, but totally unrelated to the first khandaan of Indian cinema - The original Kapoors which includes Ranbir's whole family right from his great grand dad Prithviraj Kapoor to Raj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor and so on.)

Based of Dostoevsky's story White Nights and translated in to tinsel by Bhansali and his art-director Omung Kumar, Saawariya is a Bollywood musical in the tradition of old style musicals. Although they took the elevator to Bollywood by the virtue of their birth when many others are still panting up the stairs, Ranbir and Sonam do exhibit a flair for acting. But the one who steals the show with her acting prowess is Rani Mukerji as Gulabji the vivacious prostitute. I shouldn't forget to mention 96 year old Zohra Sehgal as "Lillipop." Now did we really need those characters? Probably not. It reminds me of the question my Russian friends have asked me quite often, "why do you Indians spoil good food with all that spice?" It's all upto you to decide whether we need more spice(characters) or not?

Saawariya bombed at the box-office. Ranbir and Sonam seemed to have escaped unhurt. If you peel away the rich veneer of the set and the costumes, Saawariya is not the usual Bollywood staple. The core story is left untouched. St.Petersburg is transformed to an ethereal blue-green-ultra marine-turquoise world. I cannot but marvel at the amazing flight of artistic expression acheived by art director Omung Kumar and the talented camera man Ravi K.Chandran(the cinematographer who started off wielding camera for Malayalam films) whose lens captured it in mind-blowing frames. Of course all thanks to freedom they were given by the director. As some one who was trained in a visual profession, the sheer artistry of the scenes make up for all its flaws.

Om Shanti Om and Saawariya were released on the same day. If I were to choose the first day-first show ticket I'd have chosen OSO for its entertainment value. Saawariya will be reserved for the day when crowds would've thinned out, the movie hall virtually empty and I could lie back and be enveloped by the rich deep blue hues of a fantasy land. If Saawariya made a rather hasty departure in your part of the world as it did everywhere else then this is a movie best fit to watch on your new wide-screen television. My review: unbelievable visuals, good songs and eye-candy actors.

Sep 1, 2008

Gone Baby Gone


Gone Baby Gone is typical Lehane. It is funny that I didn't notice it till the very end, although I've not read this particular novel of his. Again not very funny if you consider my reading habits(reads more by accident than due to habit these days) and memory (once past thirty smog moves from LA into your memories, permanently.)

It is the dark, blue collar side of Boston, Ben Affleck is attempting his first Clint Eastwood venture. Turns out almost as good as the master. Boston-Lehane-Eastwood team did it with Mystic River back in '03. Sean Penn picked up a statue on the Oscar night for it. Here Affleck in his directorial debut puts his kid brother Casey in Sean's place. The kid does good, a restrained performance from him and a mature attempt at direction by his older sibling.

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