Monday, May 28, 2007

Movie Review - Pirates of the Caribbean

This is one of the most confusing movies I have ever watched. Let me give you the plot details... and you decide whether this movie is worth the 150 minutes you are going to spend on it.

In the first two movies, there were only 2 groups of people, and there werent too much of double crossing or triple crossing. In this, there are four groups of people, with subgroups inside them, that double, triple, quadruple and penta cross, completely crippling the story and our interest factor in the movie. In the end, the movie makes you wonder if this is what Crazy Mohan would come up with, if he had to write an action movie.

OK let me give you the storyline.... Just drag your mouse over the blank section to read the text... Spoilers start here.
See, basically this movie is about Geoffrey Rush, meeting Chow Yun Fat, to bargain for the map the Davey Jone's locker, where he can find Jack Sparrow, with whose help he can get to the Shipwreck Island, where 9 different pirates can decide on... Wat to have for breakfast.... and debate.. PIRATE LAW !!!

In one of the scenes, a character quips, 'does Jack plan all this or does he just make it up as he goes on...' I have a feeling the writers were talking about themselves when they thought it up. The sequences are pointless to a large extent, some of the dialogs are confusing and the reasoning completely ad-hoc. For example, why does Turner's father, at the end of the movie say... "You know she cannot come with us?",
when he very well knows Swann has already been to the Davey Jone's Locker and has returned successfully?

What is the initial intent of trying to get Jack Sparrow back. Was it to kill Davey Jones, or was it to reach the Shipwreck island on the Black Pearl, one of the fastest ships on earth, or... what?

There also seems to be no specific logic in the kind of deals people made... I frankly do not know when deals were made... through email maybe? because frankly there could not have been so many deals forged without some sort of lightning communication. And if Chow Yung Fat already had a deal with the British, why did they attack him at his bathhouse? Hmm.

Finally what was the rationale behind Becket not firing even one shot while two ships cannonaballed him?

Spoilers ended there... and see this movie is going to be released in Sathyam. I would advice you to not go near Thousand Lights for the next 1 month or so. I am sure there would be a huge yuppie crowd which is going to come out saying "oh what a 'mind blasting' movie"... or words to that effect. YOu would end up wanting to bash their heads in with a cricket bat...

This is a gloriously pointless movie... it would have been nice if the director had intended it that way.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Movie Review - Pan's labyrinth

The selling point for this movie... for me to watch a 'CGI extravaganza' was the fact that this movie got a 20 minute standing ovation at some film festival. I felt, if so many people could appreciate something in this movie, why not give it a try? I watched the movie... and I was impressed.

Movies, like Narnia and Bridge to Terabithia were good movies in their own right... they appealed to the clan of humans who had still been pooping in their nappies at the turn of the century. The movies did not attempt to retain the innocence of the children... their heroes. Children performed humungous feats of strength, like battling chimeras and mountain lions and jumping across oceans. The stories in itself did not have any charm other than giving parents a feeling that probably this is what the children wanted to see.

Pan's labyrinth distances itself quite safely from such tripe. The story has all the ingredients to charm a child, and still manages to interest adults too. This movie has managed to maintain the innocence of the lead character. A 12 year girl... she thinks her mother is 'sick with baby'... her expression for the being pregnant. The child has very simple explanations to everything that happens around her, which kind of takes us back to "Life is Beautiful" for a moment. The story in itself also has a sort of an Enid Blyton simplicity to it, with the slight grotesqueness of Roald Dahl's children's stories. The blood, the violence, the deaths and the slightly dark surroundings may not be exactly suitable for all children, but plays its part in keeping adults too interested. The CGI in this movie plays its part more in astounding us.. into thinking... "Now they can do this?". It is a pity this movie never got to hit the screens in India.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Movie Review - Karuppusamy... Kuthagaikkarar

I do not know why I watched this movie. But I had nothign else to do. The movie is as people would put it, 'Village subject based youth movie', is about a girl who sees her mother in a man... and falls in love with him so that she can study better. Hmmm. I feel you are confused. Are you not? I am too.

Karan, I have a feeling is the new age Sivaji Ganesan. He has plenty of opportunity to overact, and acts for everyone else also in the movie. The heroine does an excellent impression of a wet sponge. She is almost always leaking water from her eyes. The rest of the cast is mostly hair... I did not know everyone in Madurai walked around with hairballs instead of faces. The hair density of the rest of the cast, makes our dear Teeyar look like Cho Ramaswamy.

Anyway enough of the slander. This movie is pure tripe made to look like one of those Veyyil, Kadhal movies that survived on the "locals doing local things" feel. In the end it manages to look like a wannabe Kadhal... and Kadhal is not a movie that you would want to imitate. Certainly not.

Talking about imitations, Karan overacts as a mimicry artist. He is called Xerox, because he can imitate any person on earth. He had pretty low standards I suppose, because his imitation of Rajini in Murattu kalai stopped with a handlebar moustache and white clothes. He could not even get the SS stare right. Meenakshi (the wet sponge) is Kanakambaram or one of those other flower names common in Thamizh Nadu... and is a school topper who falls in love with Karan. Karan apparently reminds her of her mother... I am not surprised... if all the men are hairballs, anyone with a pencil thin moustache is a woman... right?

Anyway Karan falls in love with good intentions in mind... 'ie' to make the sponge study. I am sure she would not have studied even the cover page of her textbooks... with the amount of loitering around she does with Karan. Hey do not mistake me, she is a sponge... and is already wet. She cannot soak in any more knowledge...

Then things happen... more hairballs turn up and wave sharp metal objects around. There are more self righteous talks about 33 percent reservation for women, and Abdul Kalam havign great plans for single women... There is a photograph of Kalam or Gandhi whenever Karan begins his monologues. I do not know how every other character listens, but I want to quickly squirt some quickfix into his mouth everytime he he opens it. He periodically visits the hairball family to plead for the the sponge to study. He usually ends up either black or blue in the face and body.

Some time later, there is a fight and the movie ends. And oh I forgot to mention... there is a song before the fight. Infact more than one song. In the end, the moral of the story is that Karan could become a really nice character artist if he could just tone down on the jaw movements and overacting.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Movie Review - The last king of Scotland

I am Tendulkar if the movie is McGrath... clean bowled over. This is a very nice movie. I've watched other Africa-centered movies,... The Constant Gardener, Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond... and what else ? I do not remember the others, but this movie should be remembered for... surprisingly, it's humour !

The first half of the movie is definitely mirthful, and is in sharp contrasl to the pretty heavy second half. I am talking about halves here... because, the attrocities of Amin come as a complete surprise to Garrigan, the main character, breaking the movie clearly into two... one humourous the second gruesome to say the least.

Ok let me backtrack a bit... this movie is about a Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan who gets to become a close confidante... a 'chief advisor' to Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator. He gets introduced to Idi Amin (a memorable scene), and Amin likes him immedietely because he is Scottish. He gets the opportunity to work with Amin, who appears, at the beginnign as a slightly violent but benevolent leader of the masses. "This is Africa, if you are not firm and violent, you will get killed", Garrigan reasons to justify the violence he sees. At the same time, Idi Amin charms Garrison by exposing his humourous side. When Amin tries to convince Nick to stay with him in his palace, the tone is almost childlike... Garrigan gets fooled.

Garrigan too has his own personal corrupting elements. He gets enamoured initially by the opulence in Amin's castle, and settles down there... cannot blame him, his only other option is the malaria infested jungle hospital.

Then he awakens from blissful ignorance to all the killings going on around him, and begins to doubt Amin. His initial reaction is to run away, to Scotland, but is once again persuaded to stay back. The proves to be his undoing. He gets caught between trying to protect Amin... his friend, and trying to stop Amin... the violent mass murdering psychopath... The final few scenes come as a shock to almost everyone in the theater. The adjective 'tasteful' will not exactly be fit... but I did not see any excesses. Hmm... you might not want to take my word for it... my previous movie had been Grindhouse. I kind of enjoyed it to say the least.

The movie has, among other things very nice performances by Forest Whitaker, and by James McAvoy. Hard to believe this guy's most mentionable role was as a fawn called Tumnus in Narnia.

The movie has been running in Sathyam for a while, i suppose it is worth the time you spend for it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Movie Review - Chennai 600028

Monday morning... 7.30 route number 12. One more boring week of novel reading and insipid engineering subjects... the only thing that used to actually keep me going was the chant of Saturday... Saturday... I used to spend the entire week looking forward to saturday mornings in Somasundaram ground and a nice round of cricket with friends.

Those were the days, when Somasundaram Grounds were dominated by this fearless bunch of Lungi boyz, or the Mark Waugh team. The captain looked uncannily like Mark Waugh... only darker and shorter. His strokes were wide... not in choice but in scope... and was limited to only one swing, starting from behind the shoulder and ending behind the other shoulder... the arc wide... and if by chance, this arc intersected the arc made by the ball... we usually ended up buying another tennis ball. This deadly stroke was played to ward off every delivery...

Those were the days when cricket cheering was limited to catch phrases like "Well ma Well ma... well shot ma... " words I am sure would bring a smile to me when I am 90. And oh those were also the days when nothing... not even the early India - Australia series would deter us from walking those few kilometers to the ground, lugging 2 bats apiece, every Saturday morning.

Chennai 600028 captures the essence of that kind of purposeful life. A life mainly dedicated to playing cricket, and taking pleasure from little else. It is not the "Iqbal" kind of 'triumph of human spirit' movie. It is more of a glorified social commentary on the lives of the Lungi Boyz... the Well ma gang.

Their love lives, their squabbles and thier drinking interspersed with some nice songs (Uvan has excelled in this movie) and lots of montages of happenings in teh cricket field. The movie in general has an easy-going feel to it. The director never really stays on a subject for more than 3 - 4 minutes, and in general the movie is edited poorly.

But still, it is like sitting outside a ground and following atleast 3 crciket matches at teh same time. You follow one game for abotu 2 overs... and then switch onto one other game.. and then return to the first game only to moev onto the third game in a while. In the end you get glimpses of each game, but the fact remains is that you have been entertained solidly.

The story is narrated pretty much the same way, with plenty of lose ends and tangential storylines. If ever you get bored with something, just wait a bit and the entire movie changes. I was reminded of a Roger Ebert line.... "The screenplay was like someone had thrown the entire bunch of papers into the air and had presented the scenes in teh order the sheets came down"...

And yes... the fact remains that yuou have been entertained solidly for the 150 minutes. It is a nice aimless movie, though not a must watch.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Movie Review - NAI

"Naan avan illai..." is something you would say to defend yourself from your friend if he had seen you outside the theatre playing NAI. It's common to remix old songs and movies... usually it is done after giving due credit to the original creator. In the case of NAI though, Balachander is not even mentioned for writing the story. On watching the movie the truth is revealed. Apparently, the old man had requested his name be taken off the 'credits' if you may, on watching the rushes.

Anyway, as far as I understood, the movie is about showcasing 5 women, and making the audience guess the cup sizes of each one of them. With Malavika's and Namitha's playing a prominent part, there is little else of screen space to show any semblence of a story or anything else for that matter.

Jeevan plays Gemini Ganesan of the orignial, but talks the same way in each one of the 6 roles he plays. Apart from different hair styles, he does little else to display different personalities. Absolutely insipid presentation and dialogue delivery. His way of talkign is so uniquely insipid that you need no further evidence to link all the characters he plays.

The makers needed space for 6 songs, and 2 fights. So the dialogues are from a cartoon book... The dialogue writer is some sort of Mani Ratnam whith a more concise vocabulary. Usually the wooing dialogues go like this...

Jeevan with weird hairdo : Naan vandhu London la 1000 kodi ku sondha kaaran
Girl : Wow. Enakku London pidikkum
Jeevan : Oh nice, enakku India pidikkum
Girl : Enna kalyanam pannikareengala?

The entire movie is narrated from the court room, and if you thought the wooing scenes were low on interest value, the courtroom scenes were Enron shares. The narration also holds no tension with a song thrusting itself in.. pardon the pun, every 4 minutes or so. Jeevan keeps saying the movie title a few million times in a weak attempt at humour.

There is an attempt to bring in a level of contemporariness to the story, by including DNA matching and truth serum tests, but try as they may, it is impossible to salvage the weak storyline and weaker presentation by the main actors. I suppose it is too late to say 'avoid it', but the do not watch the movie even when shown on TV, on the day it is impossible to go out in the streets in Chennai. I mean... ofcourse... the day MuKa dies.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Movie Review - Flags of our fathers

A new evening. A new movie. This time since there was nothing else to watch other than Chennai 600028. I was saving it for the weekend adn so I watched Flags of our Fathers... their fathers. The oremise.. teh story reminded me of Conrad Brean (excellent role by de Niro) in Wag the Dog.. saying "One little image of one smart bomb falling down a chimney... and the American public bought the war". I suppose the same thing had happened even in World War 2.

America had been in the war for over 4 years, and money was running short. They needed to raise 13 billion... otherwise their war was over. What do they do? Once again I was reminded of a Wag the Dog reference. The character Stanley Motts played by Distin Hoffman saying.. "What was I thinking !!! We have a war and we do not have a hero??? We NEED a hero..."

The American public needed a hero, a champion who would epitomize America's victory in the war... for the public to bank roll it. And just as Hollywood producers now turn to their media managers and PROs to increase a movie's worth before its release, the American government turned to its media division. Iwo Jima got caught in the lime light and that image of the second flag being raised... played a significant role in raising part of 13 billion dollars needed for the war.

What is interesting in this movie is the disparate understandings of this significant event by the involved parties. The soldiers who raised the first flag, came back to the USA and who became part of the 'bond drive', did not want to be perceived as heroes, because they, as soldiers did not do much towards the victory. The people who wanted to use this excellent photograph as the poster for propaganda, thought of them mainly as prize resources.
The reason why the second flag was raised, was seen through the soldier's eyes... as primarily army politics, while the general public viewed the reason behind raising the flag as a staged photo opportunity. The politicians wanted to encash on this to further their bigger level plans. Neither of the intentions were dishonourable, except possibly the politician's view, which, to quote Colonel Nathan Jessop saying, "Grotesque as it may seem, their existence is absolutely necessary..."

That was the story, a really interesting and topical story, with the current war going on. The difference being that, WW 2 was necessary. There was a clear threat and clear agression on the part of America's enemy. The reasoning behind the current war not compeletely clear to the people and yet the US Government has come back with the most powerfully staged photo ops in history.

This shot of the flag being raised was the seed for such a marketing concept and has been done in as suave a way as possible. The movie in general talks about how each view of the war, is in essence a necessity in the broad scheme of things.

The final statement... "There are no heroes in real life... just ordinary men doing ordinary things... but the heroes are made as and when are needed", suits the cynical attitude of today's society. This is a slow moving movie, I did not like the way the events had been sequenced, but still a movie worth its 2 hours running time.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Movie Review - Periyar

There was a man... a rebel, who could not tolerate a lot of idiotic customs followed in society. He fought against society, won some lost some and could gather a tremendous following. Just like any successful leader, he realized very early in life, to target one part of society, that was purportedly superior to the rest and play the politics of separation to gain the afforementioned following.

This man's agenda was simple. Even in 1930s, when the Brahmin population in Thamizh Nadu was only 3 percent, he made broad claims that they controlled all of society's wealth. What he comfortably neglected to talk about was the percentage of educated public that was brahmin.

What is also comfortably neglected was that he directly asked for 50 percent reservation in government jobs and doctors without understanding whether there were enough doctors and educated people to fill government jobs. What was interesting is that he never started any schools which could teach the downtrodden, but directly demanded jobs for the downtrodden.

How things further played into his hands was the stupidity of Rajaji to have created the Kula Kalvi Thittam, almost as a chariot for Periyar to ride on.

What was more criminal on Periyar's side was that he would shamelessly combine Brahmin bashing with Hindu hatred, inspite of the rest of the 97 percent of the population following the same 'stupid' Hindu religious superstitions.

What was even more criminal on Periyar's part was the fact that he would hit the idols of the gods with slippers, something that he himself had been beaten with as a child. The slipper is something of an underlying theme in the movie.

What completely exposed Periyar for the blackguard he is, was when he proclaimed August 15 as a day of mourning because only Brahmins would rule India.

What was shameful on Periyar's part would be his usage of Brahmin wealth and means to propagate anti-Brahmin thoughts and fervour.

What is most criminal is the way the movie has been made portraying Periyar as a great thinker with only noble intentions in mind. Great leader he was, but most of his thoughts were short sighted and most of intentons suitable only for the sewage.

What is extremely heartwarming is that the Chennai audience understood the shameless propaganda that goes on in this movie and hence have carefully avoided it. This movie is suited for people who still think it was the Brahmins who made the state the way it is now. This movie is a vessel for inebriated college guys who could not get a job because of their own stupidity to gloat over and blame their inefficacy on 'corrupt' Brahmins. This movie is basically for people who have no intelligence but yet do not want to take the blame for it.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Movie Review - Spiderman 3

There are some movies... that are so bad that you will not even enjoy abusing them. There was this movie called 'Marine' with John Cena which had absolutely NOTHING... neither new nor old... nothign at all. It just had John Cena chasing down bad guys and destroying them. I thought there could not be another movie that is worse than "Marine". This is by far the worst movie ever from Hollywood and it would take the likes of Rob Reiner, the weasel (whats up buuuudy) and Rob Schneider together to make a worse movie.

Then I watched Spiderman 3. I stood corrected. I have newfound respect for Rob Schneider. His movies can even be entertaining. Not even that Kashmiri movie that I saw in 1985 on DD... was as bad as Spidey 3. That movie had a story that was logical in all its negative IQ splendour. Spidey 3 had colours and sound. Thats it... thats where all similarities with 'movies' end. There is nothing else in Spiderman 3 that would make anyone... who can poop without help... call it a movie.

Nothing new in S3. You recognize old but necessary characters like the Spiderman, the aunt, the friend and the girl friend. They all are still in the same city and keep talking pretty much the same way about the same mundane things. You know the director has to keep stressing that superheroes have normal lives too. The only problem is that apart from those normal lives, superheroes seem to have terribly cliched superhero lives.

For eg: Spiderman suddenly says, "I think I will propose to Mary Jane" and the aunt comes up with an archaic story about how she and the dead uncle went ice skating in the Sahara... in their dreams. We had seen the same thing happen only 255234 times before in the earlier Spiderman movies. Usually seen with dialogues like.. "You gotta know what you gotta do..." and "Just ask yourself whether you would do what you wanted to do..." and "Would this actually make you do something better to yourself by not doing everything by itself". I really do not know how many rounds of whisky goes in before people write this trash... Thankfully such things were drowned by even more inebriated whistles in the CASINO theatre in Chennai.

Spidey also is eteranlly questioning himself... is attacked by evil thoughts/aliens and loses his powers to do 'good' to the world. Then timely advice by friend/aunt/dog/church bell... takes over and he regains his good spidey powers. Frankly if at all he had wanted to do any good, he should have slingshot the Spiderman 'reels' into space above and beyond, much ebfore they got a chance to corrupt us.

The S1 S2 mirros go on. There is the friend, who wants to wreak revenge on spidey, because he thinks he has killed the father. Then there is Mary Jane who is always aspiring to be something... and that somethign always eludes her. She wanted to be a singer, but it eludes her, she wanted to be a model... it eluded her.. and she fianlly wants to be a waitress... but she ends up on the floor... punched in the face by 'bad sipdey'. Pretty much like Kirsten Durnst... she had always wanted to act... and it will always elude her.

Tobey Mcguire. He had the same expressions in Seabuscuit as in Spiderman 1,2 an 3 and the same voice that he had as a kid asking for cookies. There is something innately idiotic about watching a 35 year old man whose voice has not broken yet, play an adult superhero with a 'Muraliesque' love interest. I cannot really put my finger on it... but I am sure if someone could... it would be a red button that would blow the entire Spiderman movie franchise off the face of the earth.

The earth is truly cursed if there is going to be a Spiderman 4. I would prefer an asteroid or global warming to that.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Movie Review - Perfect Stranger

There has never been a dearth of ambitious whodunits from Hollywood. All of them start out with the murder and all fingers pointing very clearly to one person. Every few minutes during the screenplay, there is purpotedly a 'twist in the tale'... and a new person emerges as the main suspect...but the nothing is obvious as that and so the least possible person ends up being the killer finally. In some cases like Primal fear, it pays off well, but in other cases like the Perfect Stranger, we end up being the victim. The mass murdered in this case being the director.

What differentiates the good movies from the bad whodunits ? Motive. And how th motive is revealed to us. In movies like Primal Fear and Usual Suspects, NOTHIGN new is revealed at the end except the killer's identity. The story essentially remains the same, and the way it is viewed is slightly adjusted. In other words, the perspective is slightly altered without an alteration of the facts.

In the recent whodunits, miss this quality. The movie is extremely slow paced with the suspects changing every 30 minuets or so, and the bulk of the partisan motive is shown as a chunk in the last 2 minutes when almost 80 percent of the theatre has walked out. The ending is a total let down. It is not worth wasting so 2 hours for this movie. Sleep. That would be more exciting.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Movie Review - Wild Hogs

John Travolta, William H Macy, Martin Lawrence and Tim Allen decide to do something about their completely washed up lives... and take a bike ride to the Pacific... I should say the story was almost autobiographical. None of these actors have done anything better than act in Sunday school plays in the last 4 years... unless you want to count Martin Lawrence as the bear with a Brooklyn accent in "Open Season".

The supporting cast of this movie also sounds like someone had run a fishing net through the sewers of Hollywood. Once great now discarded actors like... Ray Liota, Marisa Tomei make appearances and hold onto the movie like dud limpets.

Apparently this movie was intended to be a comedy... but clearly what has happend was that the writer had known only two 'funny' words in the english vocabulary. One is 'doodie', and the other is 'gay'. So we are doled heaps of the first and bushels of the next. We are treated to jokes like Macy bagging his poop because he is a computer programmer neat freak. We have a buff highway patrolman really liking the idea of four grown men sleeping together and wanting to join them. He follows them around and appears only when one of the four men or all four are undressed.I think those ideas are so much of a cliche that even writing about them became a cliche 10 years back.

On the whole, this is a movie that can be safely avoided. The story seems like something the 'Sideways' folks kept aside with a pair of tongs, and the jokes are straight out of something Bill O Reily might read in the restroom. The cast is actors even Hollywood is ashamed of and the movie... something that would run very hard and quickly to the Razzies.