December 31, 2007
New year announcements: Found lots of CDs of obscure movies here: trashy horror movies and trashier Mithun fare-all coming up for your special behoof in January'08!
December 24, 2007
With the approaching year-end, I am compelled to do come up with my “top 10” list for 2007. These are not all Oscar worthy, merely what I had fun watching. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. The Namesake: The movie that Tabu deserves an Oscar for. The movie that catapulted Irfan Khan into being the true crossover star that he is (take that Aishwariya- your comparative movies: “Last Legion” etc.- suck big time).
2. The Darjeeling Limited: Easily my favorite movie of the year. Adrien Brody proves he can be endearing and handsome, Owen Wilson simply proves he can actually act, and – well he proves nothing, but simply blows me away. Now I am compelled to watch all o Clive Barker’s movies…..
3. Honeymoon Travels: This was serious fun- it easily qualifies as one of the most underrated movies of the year. Boman and Shabana are brilliant, and I am SO in love with Abhay Deol….mmmmmmm yummy!
4. Bommarillu: SO good! I love Siddharth, and I love this movie for helping me “crossover” and appreciate cinema in other languages. We DO NOT see the boy walking away with the girl in the end, but we believe he will….I guess this one also helped me finally appreciate romantic movies. Good Stuff.
5. Cheeni Kum: I finally learned to appreciate Amitabh. This was a fun watch, and Tabu again proved that she is one of the most talented actors in Bollywood history.
6. Unnale Unnale: I was almost not going to include this- it appeared to be a run-of-the-mill romance after all. But an O. Henry-esque ending saved the day and this movie oh so gloriously. Bonus: A bearable Tanisha for once!
7. Die Hard IV: On the list for its sheer entertainment value. Also kudos are in order for the presentation of an aging male Hollywood star without the ignominy of sagging man-boobs and idiotic self-applause. Bruce cracks jokes on himself and wins the day against tech-terrorists with unmatchable panache.
8. Bhul Bhulaiya: Akshay, you finally made me believe you are a true star- I ignored Vidya’s idiocity and even thought kindly of Shiney and Ameesha, while I was awestruck by your entertainment skills.
9. Spiderman III: Yes yes, I know the movie sucked, as did Spidey himself (SUCH a sissy boy!). But Topher Grace and James Franco cannot be denied applause for their amazing presence and charisma.
10. Salam-e-Ishq: Another underrated movie that single-handedly revived Govinda’s dead career. Salman, in a dumb hairstyle, nevertheless blew me away (when does he not?). Sohail Khan went SO unappreciated, though he was truly raunchily funny.
Note: You will find that the list misses out on much miscellaneous popular cinema. This is deliberate, since I have no admiration of it! :D My biggest crib against 90% of cinema today is the fact that while the clothes, special effects, cinematography etcetera all rock, the story and script seem way behind. We appear to be falling all over themselves applauding movies whose story has either been done million times in other countries (Chak De), or is so wafer thin it cannot hide behind all the gyrations of all the babes in the world.
December 1, 2007
Cast: Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards.
Caught a sneak preview of this as well today- yup we at Apni are getting lucky that way.
The plot: Lyra is a little girl who lives in a alternate earth-style planet in an alternate universe. She is an orphan living in a university, kept there by her uncle, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig). Interestingly, each person on the planet has a creature that lives with them 24-7: each creature, known as a demon, is more like a "familiar", whose life is somehow bound with the person's.
Kidman) visits the university, and somehow pressures the professors into sending Lyra with her to the north. The professors are unwilling to do so, but because of Mrs. Stuart's influence with the government (and for another reason we will learn later), they let her go, but only after gifting her the golden compass- that somehow works only under Lyra's fingers to reveal to her any answers that she may seek.
Lyra is seduced by Mrs. Coulter's beauty and obvious powers- but once with her, the charm soon wears off. She realizes that Mrs. Coulter is behind the disappearances of children in the land- she is helping the magesterial government run secret experiments on children, using them as guinea pigs to test a vaccine that will separate people from their demons. Lyra is horrified and runs away, being rescued by the "Gyptians"- Gypsies of this alternate world, who are in league with Lord Asriel.
Lyra takes the help of Lorek Byrinson, a renegade white bear, and successfully rescues the kids from the gobblers (the folks who run the experiments). Lorek also wins kingship of the white bears via a fierce fight with their king.
Meanwhile, Lyra finds out that she is not an orphan- she is in fact the daughter of Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter (That is why the professors couldnt prevent Lyra from leaving with her). She wrecks' Coulter's face when defending herself, and the movie concludes with Lyra racing with her new friends to rescue Asriel from the Magisterial army. The field is left wide open for a sequel.
Pros: Nicole's vamp act, Dakota's precociousness.
Cons: It appears that the director used sets from Narnia(2006), and even bought 50% of the costumes from the older movie. The conclusion is somehow not satisfactory- leaves one feeling somewhat bereft.
Not to miss: Lorek's fight with the king of the White Bears.
Year: 2008 (Yup you read correctly)
Cast: Max Records, Catherine Keener.
The plot is pretty straight forward- Max is playing at home one evening dressed in a wolf costume. Having teased the dog and worried his mother to distraction, as punishment he is sent to bed without supper. In his room, a mysterious, wild forest grows out of his own imagination....where fearsome-looking monsters abound. Max conquers them with a scary look and he is made the King of the Wild Things. One day, lonely and homesick, and he returns home to his bedroom......to the same moment he had left at.
But the plot isn't the big deal about this movie- what is important is the interweaving of animation with "real" people and special effects. Despite all the effects etc, Where the.... does nothing for me- its probably just me...
Not to miss: James Gandolfini! James Gandolfini! James Gandolfini!
November 30, 2007
The Movie: Where the Wild Things Are
Where: Paseo Colorado, Pasadena
When: Tomorrow Afternoon!!!
The way it works: Approximately a year before release, a movie is pre screened before a small, select audience, to get feedback on the movie. Based upon such feedback, the movie, is edited, sometimes modified- often a movie is shot with multiple endings, and the pre-release screeing serves to help the producers decide how they want the final product to appear. It goes without saying that such a screeing helps rope in bloggers (thats me, yes) and critics to talk about the movie and get the buzz going.
Expect a full report tomorrow!!!
Needless to say, the painting was pretty awful- my skills today are what they used to be between grades 4-6- which honestly is still better than what I had anticipated. I also watched my first Telegu film last night as I worked; the movie was almost therapeutic in its absurdity- it'll come up this weekend on this blog.
I felt remarkably drained when I laid down my chalk after 2 hours of scribbling- emptionally wrung out, but definitely happy. Am determined to do artwork more often now- my fingers are rusty after years of neglect- but they'll be fine with some color added :)
November 29, 2007
November 27, 2007
Cast: Dilip Kumar, Vaijanti Mala, Ajit, Jeevan, Chand Usmani, Leela Chitnis.
What is the difference in the quality or content of a movie, whether it is in full color or black and white? Color or schema in a movie may suggest the tone of a movie (remember Schindler's List), but personally, I do not believe it makes a movie any greater or lesser.
Which is why I do not understand the re-release of colored versions of Mughal-e-Azam and Naya Daur. The movies themselves have stood the test of time, and are infinitely more memorable than 80% of the cinematic product delivered every day. Perhaps the addition of color is to create new memories of these movies in the minds of a new generation.....
But let us briefly discuss the plot:
Kundan embodies the modern, progressive man of the day, and wants to cut back on labor and mechanize the business. He brings in new machinary, which requires lesser, but highly skilled operators from the city- leaving the majority of villagers jobless. He further introduces a bus that shuttles between the train station and the village, which makes for faster transport, but takes jobs away from local horse-carriage drivers.
Aided by the villagers and a city reporter (Johnny Walker), of course Shankar's unprecedented win is in fact expected by the viewer- but the journey to ultimate victory makes the rest of the movie all that much worth-watching.
Also in the shadow of the main plot, we have a sub-plot of a love "quadrangle" of sorts: Ajit and Dilip love Vaijanti, who loves Dilip. Chand Usmani loves Ajit, who realises this by the time the movie ends.
It was actually really refreshing to see this movie again. The color really made no difference- except perhaps to highlight the utter ridiculousness of Kundan's outfits- his wardrobe, in an attempt to be "western", is utterly overboard.
There are huge holes in the plot-we aren't told why Shankar's horse needs another road to run on, which the villagers spend days building- I discussed this with a race track guy (a friend) and a construction guy (a client), and in their opinion an unpaved road may have been better for the horse- but whatever. The movie has really lovely songs (must download), and a boisterousness all its own- reminds me of why I love Bollywood so very much.
November 26, 2007
November 20, 2007
Cast: Tanushree Dutta, Rahul Khanna, Jimmy Shergil, Sharman Joshi.
Oh my goodness! What an awful awful awfulllll waste of time this was! Someone (namely the director ) has to have been smoking something to even assume that this rubbish would make any sense.
Here is the plot: Remo (Rahul Khanna) is a eligible bachelor, who lives alone, but has the complete support of Siddharth (Sharman Joshi) his best friend and business partner. Sid sets Remo up with a blind date, Sophie (Tanushree Dutta) whom he ends up eventually marrying. What Remo does not know is that Sophie is having an affair with Sunny (Jimmy Shergil) behind his back. Sophie gets Sunny to shoot and kill Remo.
And then comes the twist in the tale- Sophie has been playing Sunny too- she is actually Sid’s girlfriend, and together they have managed to paint Sunny in a corner- his fingerprints are on the gun that shot Remo, and he goes to jail.
We are then (mis) treated to a flashback: Sid is actually Remo’s step-brother- his dad had left his mom to marry Remo’s mom, and which drove Sid’s mom to the dad’s murder and madness (huh? Yep, I agree). HOW actually, despite all this, Sid and Remo ended up best friends and business partners- we do not know (??!!). Regardless- Sid and Sophie are chilling somewhere in Mauritius when Remo- basically comes back. He didn’t quite die, and Sunny had blurted the truth to him and the police to save his own skin (WHYYY didn’t the police simply nab Sid ‘n Sophie??- Who cares??!!).
Lots of bloody fighting ensues, Sid and Sophie die in each other’s arms, and Remo decides to donate a bunch of money that will take care of Sid’s mom in her asylum. End of story.
How utterly idiotic! The cast is utterly disjointed, the dialogs are excretory, and no one apparently knows the basics of acting. Ms. Dutta compensates for lack of thespian skills by pouting and wearing wet, filmy outfits. Jimmy, normally a good-looking man, has strange blond high-lights that make him look really old. Sharman and Rahul are usually not bad actors- but here they have basically decided to desecrate whatever body of work they have managed to put together. What the heck were they doing in this movie anyway??? I give up…………………..
But apparently I didn’t give up entirely, since I tortured myself with yet another dumb movie:
Title: Nanhe Jaisalmer
Cast: Dwij Yadav, Bobby Deol
Nanhe (Dwij Yadav) is a guide in Jaisalmer, and takes visiting tourists on rides on his camel. He is ten and knows multiple languages owing to his job, but doesn’t go to school. He also has a fake-pretend friend: Bobby Deol, the movie star, playing himself. (COULDN’T they find ANYONE else???)
All he wants is to meet the matinee-idol, which happens one day when the star visits the desert city for a movie shoot.
And they become friends….but hang on a minute- it’s apparently all in his head. Bobby may/may not have actually visited- but we do know that the “friendship” bit was all in Nanhe’s head. Anyways- all this somehow has inspired him to study, and he grows up to write the story of his experiences in novel format, that wins (what else?) the Bookers Award, which is presented to him by Bobby himself (assorted laughter, sniggers and giggles).
Oh man- so unintentionally funny! Bobby wears weird “rockstar” outfits, which when the credits rolled, I found had been designed by his own wife! WTH- is she trying to get a divorce? He looks terrible- aging and sagging, in tight outfits meant for a teenage-boy. Look for yourself:
Seriously dude. tsk tsk tsk.
Dwij however is another story- he is a consummate actor, and stops the movie from becoming utterly despicable. Unfortunately for all of us, Bollywood (and for that matter, even Hollywood) has few movies that have kids in starring roles.
November 18, 2007
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Salman Khan, Rani Mukherji, Zohra Sehgal.
How is it, that I watch a entire movie, and still prefer Salman's 10 minutes to Ranbir's 2 hours??? How is it that I prefer Rani's 1/2 hour to Sonam's 2 hours?
Lets try to analyze why, beginning with the story. We find Raj (Ranbir), a singer, comes to town, and meets Gulab (Rani) a prostitute- and they become friends. Keep in mind, the town, and for that matter the entire movie is a fairy-land-type set of peacock blues and greens- looks like Mr. Bhansali has been to the Venetian (a casino in Las Vegas, for those who have kept away from the western United States) too many times and under the influence, has coughed up its replica in his movie. That would have been fine, but it is BORING to see the same backdrops for 2 hours! If I wanted to do that, I'd go see a play! Whatever.
Raj meets Sakina (Ms Kapoor, who btw is NOT his sister- different Kapoors, for those of you (again), who are far removed from Bollywood movie family histories). He is in love- she is too: but with someone else. Sakina is waiting for Iman (Salman) to come back to her- he is out of town for a year, on some business we are told nothing about. Raj tries every trick in the book to attract Sakina (even kick-boxing exercises- weird) and she begins to give in- a little- when Iman comes back. he leaves with Sakina, Raj acts loopier than ever, end of story.
Dear Mr. Bhansali:
The casting for the movie was excellent, including (but not limited to):
1- You did well in getting Salman as Iman- his act of the ardent older lover is almost absurd in its ease- his gentle flirting with Sakina's grandmother is a splash of adorableness and humor- his romansing of Sakina is completely ethereal- he justifies himself as romance personified in the limited time provided to him ably and well.
2- Ms Mukherji is beautiful- the most elegant prostitute on the planet, I am certain. She is looking prettier than ever here, and you are to be congratulated for it. Her wit sparkles- mmm but hang on a minute- she, for at least me, manages to overshadow the heroine completely.
3- Zohra is a grandmother I would have liked to have- we need more Zohra in Bollywood! Thank you for recognizing this need.
But also, dear Mr. Bhansali:
1- Vegas casino replicas should not serve as movie sets for the entire duration of a film.
2- Kickboxing isn't a dance form. Ranbir just appears idiotic when he does that- makes me fear he wants to bop Sakina on the nose.
3- Please make sure you have a story before you make a movie. Filling a film with songs makes it a musical, but even musicals must have a more than a wafer-thin storyline to give them substance.
We thank you for your patience,
Apni East Indian Company
Aside: Ranbir's voice reminded me of Sanjay Dutt's. He also bears a slight facial likeness to Mr. Dutt from the late 70s-early 80s- did anyone else note that?
Here is how it went down:
Title: Om Shanti Om
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Shreyas Talpade, Deepika Pudkone, Kiron Kher, Arjun Rampal.
Its the 70s, Om (Shahrukh) is a junior artiste in Bollywood- in love with superstar Shanti (Deepika), whom admires from afar. His mother (Kiron) and friend Pappu (Shreyas) support him through thick and thin.
Since this movie is a spoof of all Bollywood movies ever, he does meet and become friends with Shanti, and is about to propose, when...he finds out that Shanti is secretly married to Mahesh (Arjun), and expecting his child.
Om is reconciled with this- Shanti's happiness is his happiness- until he finds out that Mahesh is planning to marry a rich producer's daughter, and kill Shanti in a fire to silence her forever. He tries to save Shanti, but they both perish instead- in a fire started on set by the wily Mahesh.
Fast forward 30 or so years-
Om had been reborn the night of his death as Om Kapur, the son of a Bollywood superstar. Today he is a movie star himself. He slowly remembers his previous life, meets up with his ex-mom and Pappu again, finds Shanti's lookalike, and brings Mahesh to justice. End of story.
But the story is not the point here. The movie is basically a collection of spoofs, inside Bollywood jokes and the unabashed masala that the Indian movie industry is famous for, loosely stuck onto a rehash of the 70's hit Karz. Movie stars parade in and out of the frames, laughing at themselves sportingly enough. Despite all that, I just didn't feel satisfied with it- it just didn't seem enough. I feel I was expecting substance in a movie that never even attempted to pretend it had any!
Pros: Shreyas Talpade is a rising star- and Ms. Pudkune did well enough as well., as did Arjun Rampal- he should stick to villainous roles, and not smile :)
Cons: Brilliant jokes and spoofs aren't enough to make a successful movie- case in point: Hot Fuzz had every spoof in the book, but also a story- which made for a brilliant movie. Om.. had the former, but not the latter- but that's just my two cents!
November 16, 2007
Cast: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook
Steve Carell is a star- how do we know that: very simply: without him, this would have been a non-movie, despite Juliette Binoche's greatest efforts. He comes through- endearingly, engagingly, he comes through with a performance that moves you despite everything.
Its a simple enough story.
Dan is a widower with 3 daughters, who he has conscientiously raised one since his wife's death 4 years ago. He takes off with his daughters to his parents' house (which looks like it is in Maine) one Thanksgiving weekend.
When there, early one morning , he meets Ann Marie (Binoche). They DON'T exchange names, and he falls head over heels in love n first sight as she drives away...which leads to a slight problem, because later the same morning, she is introduced to him again- as his brother's girlfriend.
And then ensues a rigmarole of pretense- at first they deny the mutual attraction, then try to distract themselves with others, etc etc...
It is pretty obvious how it would end- the entire family finds out, and is promptly horrified, Dan and his daughters gain a mutual understanding, he ends up married to Ann Marie, and of course his brother (Dane Cook), finds someone else.
There is nothing complicated with any of this, and the movie is definitely not Oscar material. Regardless, Carell's performance lends substance and renders the movie immensely watchable.
Not a bad idea for a quiet night.
November 14, 2007
I am an artist, but haven't done any significant work for about 7 years now. That said, I have new paper and pastels in a corner of my bedroom waiting for me to begin on them. Why do I hesitate? Having not picked up a pastel in years, and I am undecided on a subject. All I can think of right now is oceans of color, and the female form- I am considering travel and poster -style art...anyone have any bright ideas?
Have also been reading a fair bit: I was introduced to "The Cat Who..." series by Irina, a co-worker, and I have done the series in full. There is little literary value here, but the novels are entertaining and make decent bed-side reading. I am eagerly awaiting the allegedly last book in the "Dune" series due out in a few months, or so the grape vine suggests. Am re-reading the Lord of the Rings- that is always relaxing. I am looking for Sam Pepys' diary...cant seem to get my hands on it yet....And I am pulling a childhood favorite from the library: Dr Doolittle! Will begin those this weekend, and hopefully be done with those before the India trip. I love reading for the joy of it!
Gosh- not a word about movies! I know "Om Shanti.." and "Saawariya" just came out, but I rather abhor Sharukh (despite "Chak de", yes) and am afraid of Saawariya- Salman I hear isnt portrayed very well, which kills it for me.
November 8, 2007
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Eva Mendes, Robert Duvall, Mark Wahlberg
Joaquin Phoenix has charm- loads of it, which enables him to carry “We own..” on his shoulders pretty much entirely. If we take him out of the picture, it has no legs left, despite the fairly gripping action sequences. The trouble largely lies in the fact that “We own..”'s director, James Gray, is too heavily inspired by Scorsese’s brand of movies, especially last year’s “The Departed” (both films share Mark Wahlberg as a key player).
“We own..” is centered at the drug wars of 1988 in urban New York, where drug lords and dealers are beginning to outnumber the police. Robert Grusinsky (Joaquin Phoenix) calls himself Bobby Green and works as a manger at El Caribe, a nightclub in Brighton. He is happy with his girlfriend Amanda (Eva Mendes), but harbors a secret: he is the son of Deputy Chief Burt Grusinsky (Robert Duvall) and brother of Police Captain Joseph Grusinsky (Mark Wahlberg). He is not proud of the family connection (why? It is never really explained), and therefore uses his late mother’s last name.
El Caribe is owned by Marat Buzhayev (Moni Moshonov) and frequented by his nephew Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov), who is a drug dealer. Bobby imbibes but does not deal, but things come to a head when Vadim shoots Joseph as payback for a drug raid. Incensed, Bobby joins hands with the police and does a short stint as a snail at Vadim’s head-quarters. He is quickly found and turns witness for the case against Vadim when the latter is nabbed by the police via a tip-off by Bobby.
Vadim escapes and Burt dies during an altercation saving Bobby from him. Bobby realizes at the funeral that he must now go on the offence to save himself and his brother from Vadim’s onslaughts….
The final showdown feels anti-climatic- with all the build-up to it, I somehow expected a little more. Once its all done, Joseph turns admin, while Bobby joins the police for good- Amanda has left him for good, and his personality has taken a 90-degree turn since the beginning of the movie. I don’t really understand Amanda’s leaving either- it isn’t well represented, and appears to be simply a ploy by the director to amp-up the angst quotient. Like I said when we started- if you have seen enough Scorsese, you are liable to be bored by this.
Pros: For the girls: Joaquin is gorgeous and oozing charisma, while Wahlberg is honestly rather cute too. For the boys: Eva Mendes’ sex-kitten act- though she overdoes it eventually. 2 sequences- Joaquin at Vadim;s HQ, and Vadim’s attack on the Bobby’s car- are really thrilling.
Cons: Been there, seen that.