July 31, 2007

Potter News

For all fellow Potter fans out there:
Check out the following link to Rowling's chat transcript at the Leaky Cauldron: http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/2007/7/30/j-k-rowling-web-chat-transcript

July 28, 2007

Kum Cheeni is perfect for me

Title: Cheeni Kum
Year: 2007
Tabu, Zohra Sehgal, Amitabh Bachchan, Swini Khera, Paresh Rawal

O my God O my God
I stand corrected.
Amitabh Bachchan can actually act! And he actually made a movie that is chock full of my favorite actors: Zohra, Paresh and Tabu- hooray!

I think I stopped liking Mr.
Bachchan's acting since the movies he made in the 80s. Not even after his so-called comeback in the 2000s could I bring myself to get over my dislike. And then he does this.

(Amitabh) plays the chef/owner of "Spice 6," supposedly the best Indian restaurant in London. He is a eccentric bachelor, living with his mom (the always amazing Zohra) and occupied in his work. His next door neighbor Sexy (Sweeni), a little girl dying of cancer, is his one friend and confidant.
One fine day, in walks Neena (Tabu), a tourist from India, and piques Buddhadev with her criticism of the Hyderabadi Zafrani Pulao of the restaurant. Of course they become friends soon after, followed with mutual attraction and a tentative courtship.

The evening they announce their relationship to Buddhadev's mom, Sexy relapses and is accompanied by Buddha to the hospital. The next day, Neena too has to go back to India- her father (Paresh) is sick.
Buddha follows
Neena to Delhi to talk to her father about their marriage. Her father is Gandhian, a cricket-lover and chicken-lover, and appears to be eager to view Buddha as a friend rather than as a prospective son-law. When Buddha does muster the courage to bring forth his suit, the conflict in the movie surfaces: the father cannot imagine his 32 year old daughter getting married to Buddha's 64 years, and even attempts a hunger strike to prevent it.

With the united efforts of
Neena and Buddha (following the advice of Sexy and Buddha's mom), Paresh finally comes around. And accompanying that, on the other side of the world, is Sexy's demise. Despite that pang, all's well that ends well- the movie sweetly closes with the now married Buddha and Neena, Buddha's mom and Neena's dad in Spice 6, sharing a meal and planning to go see a cricket match.

What I liked:
1- The movie has many scenes which are basically simple conversations, executed so well that they pique your interest, not bore you to tears. Conversations between Tabu and Bachchan, Zohra and Bachchan, Sweeni and Bacchan: all are brilliant and engaging, yet simple. I was reminded of the comparatively insipid conversations between Preity and Abhishek in "Jhoom Barabar Jhoom."
2- Tabu is a marvel- to my eyes, she is a actor right up there with Smita Patil and Shabana. As much as I have gushed over her in "The Namesake" in these pages, I am eager to gush again. She easily assumes the character of Neena and brings an effervescence delightful to behold.
3- Sweeni is a remarkable actor as well, as is Zohra. I honestly wish Zohra many long and happy years of life, so that we may continue to enjoy her efforts. Amitabh was amazing- for once subtle yet emphatic.
4- It is always a pleasure to see Delhi in movies- I am transported back to my days there. The climatic shots at the Qutub reminded me of photo shoots I did there- I wonder what happened to the pix- I shall do more this time I go back.

Note: Another similarity between "Cheeni.." and "Jhoom..."- both have the title song being repeated throughout the movie- but in "Cheeni..," unlike the other movie, one doesn't sicken of it!

All in all, it's fabulous- if you have been like me and not seen it till now, then do so asap!

July 27, 2007

What to see...

Now that the whole summer movie wave is over, I am at a bit of a loss of what to see next; looking for 60s-70s Bollywood movies, which are usually campy and fun (Bindu! Pran! Helen!). Also moving house, preparing for a test and dividing time between 5 separate audits- so a bit crushed for time.

Read "....Deathly Hallows" a couple of days ago- which left me wildly wanting to know what the heck happened to the Durseleys and the rest of the Weasleys, and who the heck married Draco- felt bad for that kid when it was all over. Not so much for Snape though- if anything, I admired his guts. Have you read it yet? Do you have questions bothering you from the book?

Gotta line up more Indian movies to see.... :) Suggestions people?

July 25, 2007

Never ever Jhoom to this..

Title: Jhoom Barabar Jhoom
Year: 2007
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Lara Dutta, Bobby Deol, Preity Zinta.

Lot of celebrity connections to this movie, which is why I set myself up before hand to take kindly to it. Shaad Ali (the director) is from Kanpur (my hometown), and was my cousin's (the Tandons) neighbor. Plus I worked with Aki Narula (the costume designer) as his assistant for 1.5 yrs (that was my pre-auditor life). I wanted to like the movie for their sake.

I couldn't manage that.

The plot entails a chance encounter of Preity and Abhishek, who are engaged to Bobby and Lara (respectively :D), while they are waiting for their fiances on a train station in London. They quibble, and then fall in love with each other instead. Turns out they were both fibbing about the fiances- both are in fact single and like each other, but are now comically stuck in their own lies. So now they do get Bobby and Lara to act like they are engaged to them- until eventually, Bobby and Lara decide they like each other instead. Which conveniently leaves Abhishek and Preity to 'fess up and the movie ends on that note.

Honestly, the plot isnt bad at all. It may have worked very well. However, some things work against it:
1- The least of the problems: Preity looks shrewish, tired and middle-aged.
2- Even bigger problem: Abhishek is playing a character who is essentially a amalgamation of Bunty... and Bluffmaster, and that is honestly a bit old. All that does for me is remind me of the older, better movies, and rue this hash of a cinematic piece.
3- Biggest problem of all: the conversations between Preity and Abhishek are so long that they become tedious, to the extent that I was actually more entertained by Bobby (whom as a general rule I tend to dislike) because of his smaller, tighter scenes. Same goes for Lara, who was at least fresh-faced and nicely taken in small doses. The movie would have been really helped by some sharp editing- the US runs 138 minutes, and honestly, 110 minutes would work way better.

Also unavoidable: Amitabh, acting as the storyteller/sutradhaar. Aki, I completely understand that he is a street-musician in London- but the costume is simply a rainbow version of Steve Martin's apparel in 1979's The Jerk!

One nice bit: Abhishek and Bobby's nice little homage to Amitabh and Dharmendra's side-car montage from Sholay. (See Mr. Director? I do empathise with and understand all the bon mots and scenarios you have set up- thats all very well, but the movie still doesnt work!)

All in all, I wouldn't recommend this to you, unless you were watching this on DVD and could fast forward through all the dragged-out scenes. In fact, I couldn't muster the inclination to write about it for 2 weeks after having watched it. Avoid!

July 17, 2007

On Hitler

I was really disturbed yesterday, when I found that one of my young cousins in India holds some admiration for Hitler. The young man is impressed by Hitler's power (!!!). I think the problem is that since India has a comparatively small Jewish population, the full horrors of the Holocaust remain comparitively undiscussed there. Additionally, students in Indian High schools learn an overview of Western History, which familiarizes them with broad facts, but not the details of what really happened.

When I came to California some years ago, I made many friends, some of whom are from the Jewish faith. Two of these friends, who I deeply cherish because they are both 65+ years of age (and hence have oodles of experience I lack), are from families of Holocaust survivors. This has given me some degree of insight into, and has turned me extremely intolerant towards Hitler and his beliefs. The argument may be made that he should be studied since there is much we can learn from his life, which may prevent such cruelties from ever being repeated. To which I say- the murder of approximately 6 million people is a fact that does not require any deep study to horrify. Murder is murder- made even more horrendous when 1.5 million (approx.) of the dead were children. I think we can all easily remember these numbers and warned forever.

But maybe the Holocaust was not enough- since we don't appear to have learnt our lesson yet, and there we see history being repeated in Darfur and Kashmir.

That was my tirade for today- a huge deviation from my usual blogs, but I was really agitated.

July 16, 2007

Shoot Lokhandwala, movie director-wala, actor-wallas, and everyone else associated with the movie

Title: Shootout at Lokhandwala
Year: 2007
Cast: Sunjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty, Arbaz Khan, Rohit Roy, Shabbir Ahluwalia, Amitabh Bacchan, Amrita Singh, Vivek Oberoi. Way too many people, so a photo may help:

Celebrity connection: Turns out Vivek Oberoi is my 1st cousin's 2nd cousin- which is neither here nor there, since he obviously has no clue I exist. Honestly, the boy needs a couple of decent movies, where he for once does not play a gawky college boy or hit man- he appears to be stagnating badly.

Good things first: the movie was shot beautifully; the camera work is brilliant- sometimes gritty, always real and classy. All the actors redeemed themselves remarkably well, except Tushar Kapoor who I still think needs to basically stop acting asap- or at least simply devout his acting abilities to his sister's soaps. Not to miss: Shabbir Ahluwalia and Rohit Roy, who are more than brilliant in their pieces. Amrita Singh is good- Amitabh is irritating. And I do not care a whit how Sunil Shetty acted, 'cos I love him!

So what went wrong? I think the director was simply trying to cover way too many bases. The story is basically surrounding a shootout in the Lokhandwala residential area (Bombay), between the Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) and some perpetrators from the underworld mafia (no, I will not call it Mumbai- I never remember to, until its way too late anyway). The movie essentially covers the events that led to the event: dominated by the ATS, with the mafia members all dead.

This could have been simple sailing, but the director adds a lot of clutter, which interferes with the flow of the movie. There are many, many songs, which should have been limited to two at most. Then there is a LOT of emotional background provided for each of the police officers and gang members, which gets tedious, boring and confusing. Dealing with police-mafia interactions would have kept the movie crisp- instead, the mushy emotion muddies the waters to beyond redemption. Lastly, the director makes no stand for himself. He does not make clear where his sympathies lie, but instead poses the question to the audience as to who is at fault- the criminals or the police for their barbarism and intolerance. The question iteself is posed in a very half-hearted way, and closes the movie on an unsatisfactory note.

Avoid- or concentrate on Rohit Roy, Amrita and Shabbir (and of course Mr. Shetty) and bear the rest of the mess!

July 12, 2007

Summer Movie Madness!!!

OK this is scary- I had put up the blog title pic of the week earlier this morning, in introduction to this meta post to come. This afternoon, my husband pointed out that msn.com has the SAME (YES! SAME!) combo of Harry/Transformers/Ratatouille pix. That is WEIRD! But maybe its not completely uncanny- after all, all 3 movies have hit the screen in the past 2 weeks, and are doing extremely well at the moment. Its just scary (not entirely convinced its complimentary) that I am thinking like the MSN creative directors.

Exclamations and bewilderment aside, I am enclosing reviews of all 3 summer blockbusters, which I have watched over the last 10 days, in this meta post; so lets begin.

Title: Ratatouille

Divine, beautiful, fantastic and more. I completely identify with Remy, the rat with a penchant for cooking. he does not give up (another trait of mine), and keeps at it until either the task is achieved or aborted! Remy rises from the trash heap to one of the finest restaurants in Paris, in the process winning his friend Linguini his inheritance and (of course) a girl. If you love food (and you must!), you cannot miss this movie.
Quibble: None at all.
Not to miss: Remy and his masterly maneuvering of Linguini in the kitchen!


Title: Transformers

Not so bad-it could be way better. Too much time is spent in resolving the romance of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his girl, and I do not take kindly to teenage romance movies at all. For me, and any other Transformer fan, the fun begins when the Autobots and Decepticons enter the screen, and ends when they leave. Loved the fights between Megatron (leader of the Decepticons) and the Optimus Prime (leader of the Autobots, if you have been living under a rock and are therefore sadly unaware).
Quibble: The boring, stretched-out Sam Witwicky romance.
Not to miss: Bumblebee!


Title: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix

Its great if regarded as a stand alone movie, separate from the book. If you love the book (as I do), you will miss Quidditch and the details that are missing. For those who insist the director cannot cover as many details as the book, I suggest we recall what a great job Peter Jackson did with Lord of The Rings. However, lets regard the movie in itself- it is thoroughly entertaining, but leaving the theatre you do feel that it was but a stepping stone between the last and the next installment. Everyone does a satisfactory job, especially Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), the newest entrants.
Too little of Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)- we demand more!
Not to miss:
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) teaching the other students "practical" Defence Against the Dark Arts!

July 6, 2007

Die Hard- kicking butt sans excuses

Title: Live Free or Die Hard
Cast: Bruce Willis, Timothy Olyphant, Justin Long, Maggie Q, Kevin Smith.

Yippie Yay......................McClane is back!

The theatre was full- a rare sight even on a Friday night like this. The opening credits rolled, and Bruce Willis walked in as Sgt. McClane- which solicited a groan from my husband "He looks SO old! Honey this means we ARE getting old too." I agreed- after all- Bruce was my 80s childhood hero, who I had seen gun down countless thousands of people in across a number of movies. However, by the end of the movie, the entire theatre was literally cheering when the closing credits rolled and my husband was convinced he was a teenager again- 'cos McClane (and yes of course, Bruce) is still the MAN!

Love the stunts, the mindless shootouts, the quick killings- its just so good to see John McClane take the system one more time. To top it off, he is not just fighting any 'ol terrorists- this time he is head to head against Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant), a former government employee determined to digitally disable the U.S. because the feds didn't agree with the strategies he wanted to have implemented in a post-9/11 scenario. It's a fire sale: where everything goes in three systematic stages if it's run by computer.

Anyway, back to the plot. It's up to McClane to transport a hacker, Matt Farrell (Justin Long- the Mac guy from TV), from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., whom the FBI believes may have assisted Gabriel. The journey to capitol hill and beyond, the struggle against Gabriel is the crux of the movie. And of course, if there was ever any doubt, McClance kills 'em all (even shoots himself!) and wins. Pure entertainment.

There is entertaining byplay between McClane and Farrell, and no romance anywhere in the movie (if you exclude Maggie Q's little aside with Timothy Olyphant), and its just cars bashing against more cars, helicopters, trucks, bridges and the like- fun! On the personal front, we do get to know that McClane is divorced now, and his daughter Lucy is in University. Along the way, Gabriel also kidnaps Lucy(Mary Elizabeth Winstead), making the fight "personal."

Minor Quibble: The conclusion of the movie is around the Baltimore area, which isn't exactly a teeming metropolis, but at the same time, isn't a dead town either. During the chase scenes etc., it seems the town is utterly deserted at times, while at other times, you see traffic in the horizon. If destruction of that magnitude would be happening anywhere, even with all systems down, I would still expect local residents to at least come out and gawk!-- OK OK, it is only an escapist fantasy I know.

Not to miss: Kevin Smith (Clerks and more) as "Warlock," the mega high-tech geek who assists McClane and Farrell in their quest, while sporting action figures in his techie den.