Monday, January 30, 2012

#272: Mujhse Fraandship Karoge

Mujhse Fraandship Karoge, released in 2011, is an attempt to make a movie centered around the social networking boom in India. Something about it is so business like it makes you think the decision to make the film might've been made by a bunch of corporate biggies sitting in a boardroom saying 'Let's make a movie on Facebook. Its the in thing.' Another would've said ' Yes something for the 14-18 age group... ' A third would've pitched in saying ' Yes, we can take a bunch of newbies and the costs will be recovered quickly because the stars costs would be practically nil.' And thus a writer must've been summoned and the film put on floors. Watching it on DVD I can only speculate that this might've been the course of events because while there's nothing wrong about that kind of a process something about it is so formulaic that the fun of watching it is diminished because of these set-pieces.

So what do I mean by a formula ? It means ensuring that the mediocrity of sections of the film is shored up by amping up some of the other sections. The effort is not to make a good film but get the right elements in to make it commercially worthwhile. Let's break it down for Mujhse Fraandship Karoge - inexperienced actors give unimpressive performances but the film's peppered with a really good soundtrack. Similarly an average screenplay is helped by some heavy duty marketing. Its just the way the cookie is meant to crumble- there's enough reason for the target audience to turn up and the moment that has happened, the film has recovered its cost. But thats about the business of the film, what about the content ? Firstly a convincing turn by Saba Azad as Preity- a stuck-up college student but a talented photographer who doesn't like Vishal (Saqib Saleem), a talented writer in the same college. Their friendship is what the movie is about but the struggles are too easy to have a buy-in from the audience. A wonderful score by Raghu Dixit works well in making the audience forget all the flaws that the story comes with. The filmmakers also do well to make the film under two hours- but there's again a business sense in here. Shorter movie also means more screenings in the same theater but anyway but that's that. The bad things - some manufacturing factory type performances by the supporting cast and a screenplay that even under two hours feels longer.

I might've ranted here a bit how watching this film feels like watching a film that's driven by business decisions rather than creative choices but I will also concede here that perhaps at my age I have outgrown a movie that's made around the social media generation of 14-18 year olds. Maybe, I have not been very tolerant of the movie here because I belong to a different generation but then a good movie is always a good movie irrespective of the age of the audience right ? And on that slightly defensive note, I recommend that you guys catch the movie only if you want to know what a new-age movie meant for 14 year olds would be like.

Rating: 4.8/10

Thursday, January 26, 2012

#271: Coriolanus

In Coriolanus, Ralph Fiennes plays the title role of a man without fear, a brave commander for whom Rome's sovereignty is of paramount importance. His mother, Vanessa Redgrave, plays a lady frail in appearance but not in will, someone who is proud of the manner in which her son conducts himself. The bonding between her and Coriolanus serves in setting not just the tone for the film but also in defining a critical plot point in the second half. The tenor of the relationship is intense and so is the film and with that one word as his guiding light- "intensity"- Ralph Fiennes playing the role of a son, a husband and a warrior captures everything that's good about Coriolanus.

On the filmmaking end of it, John Logan, the acclaimed writer of stories such as Gladiator and The Aviator is in fine form as he weaves one of Shakespeare's relatively unknown tales with perfection. The storytelling is swift but passionate. Logan's script in the able hands of Fiennes who also directed the movie is complemented by an unflinching dedication to the character of Coriolanus. And it is this single-mindedness of the story that serves the film well. Gerard Butler as General Affidius isn't bad either though his is mostly a supporting act. An imposing background score by Ilan Ashkeri keeps reminding us that this is a film about strong values like honor.

At 124 minutes, Coriolanus is a riveting action-drama that doesn't overstay its welcome. It boils steadily but surely and leads on to a climax that is one of the strongest in recent times. All in all, its a film that deserves a watch and how !

Rating: 7.6/10

Saturday, January 21, 2012

#270: Don 2

I had read a review once where the phrase 'assault on your senses' had really caught my fancy. I wondered if I will ever get to use it on my own. And then Don 2 happened.

At what time Farhan Akhtar abandoned substance for hollow style, I don't know but not only is Don 2 is his poorest effort in cinema (one could say he sings better), it is supremely idiotic in its essence. Relying solely on Shahrukh's antics was a very weak strategy and it didn't pay off at any point during the film.

The good things you ask ? Well maybe the opening five minutes, Boman Irani's busy mean presence and some cheesy lines that weren't meant to be.

In two words - Stay away!

Rating: 1.9/10

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

#269: One Day

One Day is one of those few films adapted from a book whose screenplay is written by the author himself- David Nichols. It is an interesting piece of information because most of Hollywood prefers to get a different screenwriter from the author and in Adaptation we got a good window of how that process typically works. And it is an arduous one at that. Why it must've worked particularly for One Day perhaps is because it is an unusual love story. Imagine a movie unfolding with every five-six minutes spanning events for one whole year. There is a constant churn in character motivations, sometimes smooth, sometimes with a jerk but at all times there's an in-built anticipation of 'what happened next year?' and that's where One Day derives its biggest strength from.

The he film stars Anne Hathaway, a sweet unambitious, tolerant girl who can't wait to be loved enough in life and Jim Sturgess, a good-looking, happy-go-lucky charmer. Their paths cross on graduation day in college and since then the two keep in touch over the course of very many years where destiny leads them onto different directions. One Day is a film that requires you to be patient through the first half of the film and its second half rewards you for your patience. As the two key characters evolve over time, you get drawn into each character's problems and start empathizing with each of them. There's no one right or wrong between the two and its hard to not like both.

The movie's helped with a couple of nice finishing touches towards the end that could very well leave you moist-eyed. Anne Hathaway packs in an extremely convincing portrayal of the girl-next-door and Sturgess supports her well. David Nichols' screenplay if not taut is at least not boring. Things move briskly without any apparent flaws and by the time it ends, it just about becomes a fulfilling watch. Overall,One Day isn't the kind of movie you need to give an arm and a leg for but it's the kinds that's quite likely to steal your heart.

Rating: 7.2/10

Monday, January 16, 2012

#268: Duck Soup

I had said this elsewhere on this blog that as far as Marx Brothers films go, there's Duck Soup and the rest. Watching it for the third time last night in two years did everything to reaffirm the belief once again. Some lightning-paced wit, tummy-churning gags and a surfeit of funny lines make for a breeze of a watch.

There's no other point to be made here except about two gentlemen named Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar. The duo wrote some of the songs and composed the music for the film. In an already bizarre situations-led script, the equally funny songs leave no breathing space to recover from the hilarity of the gags.

If one had to sum it up, it won't be an exaggeration to say that one hasn't lived till one has seen Duck Soup.

Rating: 8.9/10

Saturday, January 14, 2012

#267: Sherlock Holmes

It is a bit unfair to say so but to review the first Sherlock Holmes after the second is a bit like cuddling with your boner after the orgasm. Some might even say that such an indictment is harsh but that is a fact. So impressed I was with the second edition that I thought it was necessary for me to see the first one all over again. So the DVD was bought and the deed was done. And here are a few observations from the exercise.

Holmes is obviously shown as a master of many skills and Robert Downey Jr. does full justice to the character with his brawny avatar of Holmes. The wit is unmistakably Guy Ritchie's but the delivery by Downey is pretty much on the mark. His chemistry with his Man Friday, Dr. Watson played by Jude Law is a definite highlight but again it is this mood of 19th century London that is most impressive about the film. The horse carriages, the Tower bridge being built (an entire sequence in the DVD is focussed around this and makes for a fascinating viewing), the raw action sequences- all these set pieces have this mood, this uncanny old London mood that is seeped into the movie through its art direction and cinematography that takes the cake for me.

Mark Strong as the antagonist is a devious instrument employed by Ritchie to match Holmes' intelligence and the oneupmanship between the two makes for an interesting buildup. A disappointment however is the climax that is a very cliched 80s Bollywood style fight sequence that defies logic as much as gravity. Rachel McAdams has a substantial part that she does justice to. Another winner is a fabulous soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. Richie's Holmes is undeniably charming but quite different from his namesake as envisioned by Conan Doyle. For a few of my friends that distinction didn't work for them, for someone like me, it worked just fine. I guess its just a matter of choice. But leaving that aside, the film works like a classic thriller where the audience is keeping pace with the protagonist to solve the crime at hand.

The issue I have in reviewing Sherlock Holmes after the Game of Shadows is that I am comparing the two in reverse order. It makes the first installment look much smaller that it is. I remember when I saw Sherlock Holmes in theater in 2009, I was bowled over, thinking that it was perhaps as good a movie as any in that year. In retrospect after watching the Game of Shadows, I feel it pales significantly in comparison to the sequel. As a standalone though it is much better than your average Hollywood film and for that we owe Mr. Guy Ritchie a whole round of applause.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, January 13, 2012

#266: A Game of Shadows

Where does one begin while reviewing a movie like "A Game of Shadows" ? Should it be about the classy antiquated feel of the film or the breathtaking action sequences or the precise dialogues laced in wit and comeuppance. But since all of these are equally good perhaps beginning with Guy Ritchie, the man who brings it all together in a film so good, I don't find any qualms in declaring as the film of the Year, should be a fair starting point.

When the first edition of Sherlock Holmes released in 2010, it had its fair share of detractors. They said this isn't how Sherlock behaved in the books- he wasn't all action or brawn for that matter. They said Ritchie took far too many liberties with his lead character and probably killed the essence of Sherlock with his reinvention. My take on this was that an artist should have the liberty to reinterpret classics- that's where his creative genius comes in. Not every adaptation needs to stick to the original rules of the game. There's of course a charm in that genre too but one shouldn't rule out the immense possibilities of a slight departure in the recreation of a classic. And that's where Guy Ritchie scores and scores big as he continues his bold reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes with A Game of Shadows. And this one unlike the norm of sequels if bigger, better and even bolder.

Taking a cue from the Adventure of The Final Problem, the film is a classic cat-and-mouse game between the ace sleuth and his bete-noire James Moriarty, played by the mean-looking Jared Harris. As the antagonist in the scheme of things. Jared is as evil as they come with plans to spark off a world war between nations and profit from the subsequent arms race. Moriarty's character is aptly performed by Harris who is all class and élan in his manners - both civil and criminal. Robert Downey Jr. on the other hand is his counterfoil - rugged and swift. The race of oneupmanship between the two is as good as it can get even as Dr. John Watson played by Jude Law pulls his weight with an able hand. The highlight of the film however is the excellent choreography of action. It is here that Guy Ritchie has a grammar of his own that is constantly keeps you on a razor's edge. Not since The Dark Knight has a movie had such an incredible array of stunts that are guaranteed to leave your jaw open. At the same time, Kieron Mulroney and Mitchell Mulroney's writing is soaked in brilliance and the DOP Phillipe Rouselot contributes immensely in creating some unforgettable scenes of action. The art direction is once again top notch with little or rather nothing out of place.

So what is it that doesn't work about A Game of Shadows? If anything, perhaps a background score that's not as taut or mischievous as the first edition's. That's probably the only department that didn't lift itself up compared to the first part. Its not as if we didn't know it already but the film is irrefutable proof that Ritchie must count as one of the best directors in the world at the moment. What he has given us with A Game of Shadows is much more than a film, it is an indelible footprint in the history of film.

Rating: 8.4/10

Thursday, January 05, 2012

#265: Sex and the City

Personally, am not so much in favor of a series being made into a movie. In its essence I think it undermines the former. Its like how a purist wants to let a book stay as a book but movies do get made and opinions do get formed. Its perhaps also not fair that yours truly who has not seen the series is reviewing the film but here I am looking only at the film as a standalone. And in that Sex and the City is a massive disappointment.

It chronicles the problems of 4 women in the city of New York. Each is dealing with different issues in their lives ranging from parenthood to the usual commitment phobia. What the film lacks most is a storyline within these four tracks that is worth your time. None of the character's problems touch you because they seem superficial. The acting is mediocre to go along with it and in the process the overall quality of output that director Michael Patrick King is able to extract is next to nothing.

I saw the film with a Sex and the City series loyalist and it seemed to me that the only people who would be interested in the film will be those very loyalists. For anyone else, there's nothing to write home about. Even if its a review.