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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Jan 28, 2009

A Mighty Heart

Angelina Jolie is Mariane Pearl - the woman with the mighty heart. The film follows the kidnapping and the search for Wall Street Journal journalist, Daniel Pearl. The strength of this movie is its solid characters. There is the character of Mariane Pearl, the wife of Daniel Pearl and then there is Asra Nomani - Daniel's colleague from work who in a way leads the search along with Ms.Pearl. Then there is the Pakistani side - the real investigation team headed by CID chief,Javed Habib(played by Irfan Khan.) All these people are what moves the story along, because apart from the search there is not much of a story. An interesting movie because Hollywood has tried to stay out of a Hollywood movie.

Jan 27, 2009

Sivaji : The Boss

My first Rajnikanth movie ever. I have seen half an hour or stray bits of Rajni movies before. A song here, a song there or a youtube clip of Rajni's superhuman antics which he employs even to light a measly cigarette. That is what I call respect. It is the first message I get from the movie messiah of the Tamil masses. Respect.

He respects even a lowly cigarette, that he gives his time and his skills to perfect the art of putting it into his mouth. This one movie has revealed to me the reason for Rajni's godly status - he respects you, you could be the lowly of the lowly and he is the filmstar who makes millions but he will show you respect where you deserve it and he doesn't mind being the butt of jokes himself. Something Malayalam superstar Mohanlal could do in the eighties before he ascended the superstar throne, not anymore.

Rajni movie requires a different set of standards to analyze. You cannot compare a Scorsese film with a Rajni film. For that matter you cannot even compare it with an RGV film(much closer home.). It'd be a classic case of mulaku bhaji vs caviar(Caviar makes me gag, so much for sophistication!)

Shivaji is entertainment for the masses. The spectrum of viewers could be varied as a farmer from Kumbhakonam to a South Indian NRI in Boston. The one thread that binds them all is their love for Rajni movies. These movies have only one aim - to showcase Rajni. There would be a namesake story, a fair doe-eyed heroine (definitely of non-Tamil origin, preferably North Indian), plenty of stylish songs featuring Tamilians' penchant for neon colors and numerous fights to showcase Rajni's pre-Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon era stunts which probably CTHD copied.

I am not going to venture into the story, because there is not much of it and the story is besides the point anyway. Shivaji was the most expensive Indian film at the time of its release, in April 2007. It was an unprecedented hit, not only in India but in all of the overseas markets it was featured. The director is S.Shankar and the music is composed by A.R.Rehman. Comedian Vivek's lines in the script have more humor than the most humorous Malayalam of the current times.

There is nothing to analyze nor is there any haloed message to bring home. This movie upholds the first principle of movie-making - to offer an escape from reality. You have the guarantee that there is no hard-biting reality, only fantasies - loud and colorful with a predictable good ending and a Superman who can do almost anything you ever wanted to.

Jan 19, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire



Good things, first. It is definitely a feel good movie. A Dickensian tale about Mumbai. When it is Dickensian you've to start in the under belly of society and there has to be cute downtrodden little children. Mumbai has both - the slums and the unbelievably cute pint sized entrepreneurs.

Vikas Swarup's novel about a boy from the slums who is about to win a billion dollar in a TV quiz show caught Danny Boyle's eye. Dev Patel caught Boyle's daughter's attention thanks to his performance in a British TV series. Voila! Dev Patel lands the lead role in Slum Dog Millionaire.

It is an entertaining movie about India. A movie has to be set somewhere, right? This one is set in the slums. There is this whole hoopla about the disgusting portrayal of India in the movie. Well,it is a matter of logic and ensuring monetary returns.. If a movie has to be made about India, in India, with Indians in it by a foreigner(or an Indian) who is aiming at western markets - it has to be either about religion & self-discovery (like The Darjeeling Limited, The Guru etc) or about our biggest selling point - poverty and subsequent degradation of life in slums and/or red-light districts (like Salaam Bombay!, Water) or you have to be Merchant-Ivory. Slum Dog as the name obviously suggests falls in to the second category. For a change it has a happy ending, a nail-biting and emotional ending, just the way Indians like their movies to end. Of course, there is a happy song just before the credits roll because Danny Boyle wanted to make a quintessential Bollywood movie. Looks like he succeeded.

Except that if this 'Bollywood' movie was made by an Indian, Golden Globes wouldn't have known of its existence nor would A.R.Rahman(the music director) of the movie would've featured in the Oscar shortlist. IMHO A.R.Rahman has composed only one worse musical score than this one in the recent past and that'd be for Yuvraj.

In my view SlumDog Millionaire is the one rare movie about India that'll keep the ticket counters ringing in the West. You cannot blame Danny Boyle for making an interesting movie that the majority of the audience liked to watch. It just shows he is good at what he does. About the awards, those might be a tad overrated. O, what the heck, come on India, it could promote some slum tourism in this depressive economy.

Mongolian Ping Pong

An idyllic film set in Mongolian childhoods. The children of the vast grassland come across a ping pong which they mistake for an ethereal pearl. It is one of those laconic foreign movies that is interesting because it shows us a window to a strange and interesting culture far beyond our worlds.

Jan 12, 2009

300

The best thing about 300, in my eyes, is its graphical presentation style, visually immaculate and captivating as history itself. Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopyle, where Spartan king Leonidas leads an army of 300 elite hoplite (because they have left behind son(s) in Sparta to carry on their names) against the massive army of Persian king Xerxes.

Zack Snyder's direction is impressive, so is Gerald Butler's physique which he worked to achieve in order to play the role of Leonidas,. But what makes the film the hit that it was is its art direction and special effects.

There is one glitch though, a serious one from my non-American eyes. The 'freedom rhetoric' that is peppered through out the film. Come on, we are not in the US of A, after 9/11, trying to mobilize troops to go fight the terrorists from Middle East. This is Sparta, in 480 BC where slaves outnumbered free Spartans. Sparta was a hostile territory for progress, sandwiched between two mountains with a land that required a lot of effort to produce some yield, slaves were Spartan's solution to work the land. Spartans spent so much time in military training because they lived in constant fear of slave uprisings. All that 9/11-ish glorified talk about 'preserving freedom and liberty' looked out of place coming from a Spartan.

Spartans were great warriors, they lived and died to defend their land and their kin. That point should have been emphasized instead of the twentieth/twenty-first century talk about fighting to preserve the values of a free world. Review - 2.5/5 (The film is an artistic achievement, but the moral direction it took fails to satisfy me.)

Jan 11, 2009

Cycle

Cycle is a mediocre Malayalam movie that has come out in a period that'll be known in Indian regional cinematic history for really bad Malayalam movies. It is the film debut of Sreenivasan's son Vineeth Srinivasan who is already well known as a playback singer.

It doesn't have a story to write home about, but it does well with what it has. It has one of the 'RamjiRao'-ish plots where the main character's are trapped in a do or die situation, with a bit of comedy and romance thrown in. There are no superstars to spoil this simple broth and two youngsters who are in the lead roles act convincingly. Btw Vineeth Srinivasan's and his leading lady's wardrobe looks pathetic even to someone like me who has absolutely no fashion sense.

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