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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Feb 27, 2012

Pranayam

Blessy won’t be making 3D any time soon. Like we care, right? Blessy’s style of moving making is one dimensional, his stories absolutely require characters not to have any depth. But then again I can’t go on my spiteful tirade against Blessy  because he at least makes movies, I am just an armchair critic.

From my armchair, actually a couch, Pranayam is one of the better Blessy movies, the credit should go to Mohanlal and Anupam Kher. Two phenomenal actors doing a remarkable job within the set one dimensional framework. Jayaprada has done okay, then again poignant female roles in Malayalam only require expertise in various degrees and categories of crying – sobbing, weeping, sniveling, moaning, bawling, whimpering, screaming, blubbing, wailing – are like the navarasas of acting skills necessary in a Malayalam actress’s repertoire. It also helps if you are a classical dancer or a Kalathilakam. 

I was wondering whether we didn’t have any homegrown actresses who could’ve replaced Jayaprada in this role. Late Srividya and Jayabharathi come to mind. They obviously didn’t make it into Blessy’s mind while he was  doing the casting.

Although shot in color, characerization is typical Blessy – black and white with no greys. In the white corner we have the three main characters – Anupam Kher, Jayaprada and Mohanlal along with Anoop Menon as Anupam Kher’s son and there is the girl who plays Anoop Menon’s daughter. Every other significant character is in the black corner, all of them qualify as outright demons with little or no understanding of human condition besides theirs. 

While the movie tugs at the heartstrings occasionally, all that tugging was precipitated by the cinematic liberty taken by Blessy by creating the characters in black corner who are devoid of any greys. My favorite hippie era poet singer, the sounds of Leonard Cohen haunts this movie, so does Blessy’s personal philosophical injections via Mohanlal’s dialogs. Digital butterflies and birds show up at strategic scenes a la M.Mukandan Velliankalu and dragon flies (ref: The Legend of Khasak.)

Inspite of all this I am immensely glad Blessy is making progress – Kaazcha and Tanmatra were tortures, Calcutta News was forgettable, Palunku was actually watcheable, Bhramaram was okay if you take it as a pyscho-social thriller and now we have Pranayam which compared to his first two movies could be deemed a classic. Worth watching, while you are at it try those 3D glasses to get some depth.

Feb 25, 2012

The Company Men

The Company Men is like Lifetime or Hallmark movie for men. Lifetime or Hallmark movies are not what are called cinematic classics, they often showcase B-movie actors or actors-wannabes. But usually if you find yourself accidentally watching one of these movies you realize they are quite entertaining despite the lack of star power, CGI and money because they deal with  current topics like a headlining abduction or a heart wrenching tale of a mother’s fight for her son’s life. The bottom line is audience can relate to them. Same with The Company Men though it has A-list stars in its credits.

The Company Men has Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner and Chris Cooper as working men facing job loss and financial insecurity. It is the only feature film that I’ve come across that showcases the 2008-2010 recession as it main theme. Every working (wo)man who held a job, lost a job or precariously held on to a job or had someone they know laid off should be able to relate to this film without much effort. Couple that with some powerful performances – esp. Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones and direction that keeps everything in check – that makes a genuinely watchable movie.

Feb 22, 2012

Tokyo Sonata

All the awards it won had puffed up my expectations about Tokyo Sonata. It is an interesting, ordinary film, about the life of a nuclear family in Japan. It can viewed as an effective socio-cultural commentary about urban life in Japan at the turn of twenty first century. 

The actors have been honest in their portrayals, the characters are well thought out and executed. Although set in Japan this can be a story that can happen anywhere, we are just viewing it through a Japanese lens (hehe aren’t all lenses originally Japanese – Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji…)

Feb 21, 2012

Reservation Road

Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo are the reason I wanted to watch this movie in the first place. Both are good character actors and if they are together in a movie it had to be interesting. Reservation Road tackles a delicate and explosive human issue and pits these two fine actors on two sides of the fence.

Somehow the depiction of the crucial incident which leads these two men to cross their paths didn’t make enough impact on me as it should have. Moreover Jennifer Connelly’s role and her dialogs fell short of the grieving mother she portrayed. The tension between the men is tangible, with one living the life of a deer in the headlights(the pursued) and the other bursting forth with the rage of the pursuer.

It is an interesting movie to watch without expectations and then let yourself be amazed by the performances of the two main actors.

Feb 1, 2012

Ladies vs Ricky Bahl

It had an interesting title, looked as if there were a tad too many ladies in it for my liking, better keep that for later – that was my initial thought when I first heard about this movie. Then Parineeti Chopra and Screen Awards night happened. The clips they showed at Screen Awards where Parineeti won the best female debut of the year presented Ladies vs Ricky Behl as a sort of dark, gritty independent flick for which people usually win acting awards. Nothing like the Yashraj films lively rom-com(or con) it turned out to be.

It must be one of the films Anushka Sharma and Ranveer Singh had to do for their film contract with Yashraj Films (3 films?) Anushka sure seems to have talent and Yashraj Films has made a wise choice investing in her, considering her earlier films – Rab ne Bana di Jodi and Band Baja Baraat were hits at the box-office.

In Ladies vs.., the ones who steal the show are the ladies. Three rather unknown faces - Dipannita Sharma, Aditi Sharma and Parineeti Chopra are the life of the movie. All three of them have exceled in their roles, but it is Parineeti who takes the cake as the fiesty and fun loving loud mouth Dimple Chaddha. Infact so much so that as a viewer I find it a bit disappointing that Ranveer Singh’s character fell for Ishika(Anushka) after a couple of meetings and not for Dimple.

The story of a set of ladies trying to outsmart a con man is contemporary. Script and camera keep in tune with the times and the theme. You can blame it for predictability, but then again this is not Tarantino, we are watching a Bollywood movie dressed for commercial success. Incredibly cool songs(very Punjabi-sh beats), the kind that will make you thump your foot on the gas, zoom past like a flash of light while being thankful to some invisible force that bestowed you with life so that you could enjoy this music. Good work, Salim-Sulaiman! Some may not find it as appealing as Band Baja Baraat, but I like it because the acting credits are spread out over a wider group of actors and not just Anushka and Ranveer. All in all, a good entertainer.

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