Movie Review: Amazing Spider-Man2

I am a sucker for superhero movies. I rarely ever dislike them. So, my reviews are unabashedly biased in their favour. More often than not.

But this time, that’s not the case. Because Amazing Spider-Man is not really a super-hero movie. It’s a Romtion movie. I am not sure if I am coining a new term. But what I mean is that AS-2 is a romance drama disguised or wrapped up as an action movie.

Why do I say so?

A big part of the movie is dedicated to Peter’s estranged (and non-existent) relationship with his parents who left him at his uncle/aunt’s doorsteps, his maturing relationship with Aunt May, his on and off and on and off romance with Gwen Stacy, a confused friend (Harry Osborn), a distraught fan (Electro/ Max) and life in New York. Somewhere in there is a bit of a thriller plot about what’s really going on at Oscorp, the power politics, the hidden secret projects, a dying Norman Osborn, and so on. And somewhere towards the end, are a few well choreographed action sequences. And a mechano-Rhino.

Should that matter?

Not quite. A the Dark Knight taught us, Superhero movies can be as much about heroic action as they can be about the internal conflicts, the moral tussles and great character depth.

Is AS-2 that then?

No. The movie drags on for most part.

So, what went wrong?

While Peter’s story has always been the conflict between his personal sacrifices and the greater good, one wonders whether the construct is stretched too thin. Next, the adversaries. In the spiderman arc, most of his archnemesis have a human side too, whether its Otto Octavius or Norman Osborn. So is the case of Max/ Electro this time. However, unlike the other instalments, Max does not ring a strong connect this time round, and his self-obsessed insecurity complex works only because Jamie Foxx desperately tries to pull it off. Jamie Foxx is wasted as Electro, even as he shines as Max. Harry Osborn on the other hand is blah, at the best.

Andy Garfield, I think, is a finer spiderman, with a little more of the spidey charisma and humor quotient than Tobey Maguire. And he plays the conflicted yet responsible Spidey very well. Emma Stone seems continuously clearheaded about not having too many expressions, but is probably still an improvement over Kirsten Dunst in the looks department. Jamie Foxx, in his effort to make Electro credible, makes a worse caricature of himself than Suniel Shetty. Dane DeHaan shows promise as Harry, only to make it a rather unfulfilled one by the end of it as the new Green Goblin.

One expects long shots and droolworthy action sequences. And when they are there, they are as good as any that you’ve seen. But they are fewer.

The editing leaves a lot to be desired.

And before I forget, James Jonah Jameson has no role this time. How could you Webb?


Net net – the movie did not work for me. Slower pace, confused positioning on the dark side for a rather clean super hero, lack of action, and not so awesome electric adversaries.



Movie Review: American Hustle

As a child, my trips back to my native village involved a 2 hours+/ 40+kms leg on the narrow gauge train connecting the railhead of Darbhanga with the interiors of Darbhanga and Madhubani. On this leg, there would be vendors selling eatables that I’d not find elsewhere. Like – 12 masala 13 swaad (12 spices 13 flavors). It was a collection of 13 candies (the tiny hard candies, the most famous of them being the orange candies that most of us would have had as kids) – with the first 12 being individually flavored and colored, and the thirteenth being a mixed flavor (almost the equivalent of garam masala)!

I watched American hustle with a lot of expectations. The star cast seemed intriguing, and so did the setup. And the movie is 12 masala 13 swaad.

This year’s oscar battle now has two stark black comedies. Set in the 70s, the movie about two cons, Bale and Adams, caught and further enlisted by FBI agent Cooper, to bring down several congressmen, mayor and the mafia. Lawrence plays Bale’s wife (referred to as the Picasso of Passive Agressive Karate) in an interestingly complex marriage. Because thats what they do. They fight and they fuck.

AH1The movie is hilarious, and the drama perfect. The actors are brilliant. The cinematography realistic. The script average. There are many flaws, but they don’t matter so much, when the entertainment value is so high.

Renner is the Mayor, of italian descent, who is trying to do a lot for New Jersey, and Bale and Cooper set up a sting operation to nab him and others. How this entire operation unfolds, and what it means for the Adams – Bale relationship, the facades of each character, and the layers underneath that, the unfinished ice-fishing tale,  the conclusion- thats what its all about. Its a savory delight, and you have to relish it.

The movie’s opening shot, involving bale’s comb over, is a quirkily funny moment which sets the context for whats coming our way. Bale is in good form throughout the movie, having put on a significant amount of weight and a paunch to fit the role. Amy adams is delightful as Edith/ Sydney, and brings oodles of deceit, sexiness and vulnerability to the character. I haven’t seen silver linings, so this was my first real exposure to Jennifer Lawrence. And boy of boy! Is she brilliant in this one? She is a rockstar in this movie, and probably some of the most hilarious moments of the movie ride on her. Renner and Bradley ooper are good foils, but are heavily overshadowed by the three in top form.

The other piece thats near perfect is the contextual setting, right with the get ups and the hotels and the neighborhoods, to the language and the dialogues. The incident was semi-ready-made, but the treatment is what makes the movie is a joy. There seems to be a new trend in the US where the revisit to the retros is the new new. Probably given a shot in the arm by Mad men.

What did not work for me is the oversimplified plot and the corresponding plotholes. Some of the con jobs that are pulled off are too simplistic. Makes you wonder if the folks at the receiving end were that naive back then. Maybe. Maybe not, because the focus of the movie seems to be the stylistic narrative, the subtle and not-so-subtle humor, definitely not the script.

The movie does keep you glued and thoroughly entertained, and one can see why it would be one of the favorites for the oscars. Enjoy it. And while I saw the screener version (and hence the uncut version), I am sure the deleted scenes from this movie wont affect the movie as much as the deleted scenes of Wolfie did.

Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Wolfie! Wolfie! Wolfie! Wolfie!! Woohoo!

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) simplifies the uberpaced life on the wall street by showing how to create a pump-and-dump “trading” business  with a bunch of no-gooders, and in the process, snorting his and many others’ way to a big money, decadent lifestyles, wine women drugs and glory.

The story of Jordan Belfort is out there, in his own words, for those who want to read it. The penny-stock-broker-swindler-sales-guru, has been the subject of two movies now, and is the inspiration for many, I’d think. His was a life of excesses. And hence, it makes for great storytelling. The exaggerated sex, drugs and money – its all interesting. Its an anti-hero, and like most sinful guilty pleasures, there is joy in rooting for the perceived villain who seems to be winning all the time. In a way, Belfort represents our own deeper darker desires.

Back to the movie, the stamp of Scorcese is there, and the movie is undeniably funny almost all throughout. The narration in some of the serious moments of movie can make you fall off the chair, especially scenes like the one where Jordan crawls to his car after ODing on Lemmons 714. The cast is super-awesome, with Donnie (Jonah Hill) worth a million bucks, and Max Belfort, Brad, Rugrat and others adding to almost every scene’s worth. Matthew McConaughey in a short cameo is great fun.

DiCaprio pulls off another oscar-nomination-worthy performance. Though, I often got a feeling of a repeat. A feeling that I had seen this act before. That over-emphasized dialogue delivery, those expressions. I didn’t see anything new.

The best thing about the movie is the clarity with which each of the part-characters is developed. You can’t but not notice how the decadent soullessness of Jordan and Donnie is different from that of others like Rugrat, Pinhead, Chester and Brad.

The downer of the movie is its length. At a full 3 hours, with about 150 minutes of drugs, profanity, and zoned out conversations, there are several times when the movie seems to be stretching thin. The dragged out relationship with Naomi, the multiple identical looking scenes on the trading floor, etc. slow the movie down. There is also an overdose of the overdose. The drugs seem to be the central prop running throughout the movie. Naomi could have been a good counterfoil, but she is not.

The chopped off scenes might have made me understand the movie a little differently, but nevertheless. Wolfie is shameless fun to watch, and Belfort is that poster that you’d want to but will never put on the wall.

I’d go with a 4 on 5 for this one.



Movie Review: 47 Ronin

To say 47 Ronin is good – would be wrong. TO say 47 Ronin is bad – wouldn’t be right either.

There are three things that you expect from a Samurai movie –

1. Major philosophical discourse about pride and honour. Check.

2. Lots of high quality sword fight sequences. Not Check.

3. High quality art of war kinda strategy. Not check.

So, 1 on 3. That should be bad. What makes it worse is the unwanted element of Tengu (demon) forests and shapeshifting witches. And a Keanu Reeves who’s shuffling with Matrix part trois and Constantine. He talks in a laboriously husky voice, and an air of mystique. Not required.

ImageSo, in short, the movie doesn’t quite deliver what I had expected it to deliver. And hence, it’s a bad movie.

So, what makes me take a somewhat neutral stand? The production values are slick. Some of the cinematography is top class. The short but sweet action sequence towards the end is very well done.

The movie is long. There is no need for you to go for the 3D version on this one.  I would recommend that you skip this one. If you want an alternate recommendation, I’d go with 13 Assassins, or Red Cliff.

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller- you surprised me on this one. Excellent performance. Absolutely wonderful.


In a simple way, the movie is an underdog story of sorts. Look at it another way, its a movie of self discovery. Walter, a negative asset manager at the Life magazine, is a witty, charming, world saving guy, all in his head. In reality, he is a general nobody, who has a habit of zoning out at key moments into the secret life. That is, until he finds himself on a journey to recover a negative, the number 25, that must be the cover of the last edition of LIfe.

Ben is astoundingly brilliant as Walter, and adds a level of comic timing and maturity to his role that i haven’t associated with him so far. For me, he has always been a bit of a goofball, who does movies like Meet The Fockers, or A Night At The Museum. SLOWM is not a goofy comedy. Its a pleasant and nice movie, with some hilariously comic moments that are not antics backed, but are script and screenplay backed. However, the part that impressed me more is when Walter Mitty is being the real Walter and not the subconcious one. Down to his pocket notebook, where he keeps his expenses, or replies in a matter of fact way that he chose Yemen as his route because of the $84 airfare.

The rest of the cast is fairly average, with the exception of the three minutes of Sean Penn. “When I like something, personally, myself, I stay in it. I find the camera to be a distraction.” The love interest, the sister, the mother, the colleagues, the transition manager, etc etc etc. – all of them are strictly average. But, such is the towering presence of Ben Stiller in the movie, that you dont mind these props.

The movie has some breathtaking cinematography. If there was ever to be made a case for Greenland, Iceland and Afghanistan as a tourist destination, this movie is one. Some of the shots are breathtaking. And the shots of Iceland before the eruption of the volcano are picture perfect.

Its a taut, nice and fluid movie, and and an immensely enjoyable one. A heartearming tale. I would go with a 3.5 on 5 for this one. Go watch it.

Zero Dark Thirty – Entertaining Without Being SuperHeroic


I  had a lot of apprehensions about watching this movie. For one, I was afraid of super-heroics. Second, it could a little too loaded on the American vantage point, and how they’ve figured out everything too easily, and hence, a little too biased. Third,  if neither of the above, then a boring docu-drama. Fourth, making it seem too either too profound or too easy.

My point is that there are so many reasons I may not have liked the content of the movie. And with all those apprehensions, the movie was sitting comfortably on the queue, giving space to the others. (Note: The last Oscar movie pending for me is Amour after this. And I still think its between Lincoln and Argo. Though Argo may win because of overcompensation)

Last night, the biwi insisted, and I agreed to take the plunge.

The movie runs for about two and a half hours (which is long), but is not boring. It’s very well paced, except for the probably the first five ten minutes as your mind settles into the rhythm. Watching a serious movie at home is different from watching it in a theater. Home has too many distractions to offer. Including the typical neo-urban habit of checking twitter, email ad facebook updates. So, does that mean score one for ZDT? Yes.

The movie, thankfully, doesn’t do too much of either of the problems I might have had. It shows the evil side of the pursuit, as well as the personal side. The tortures, the loneliness (“do you have any friend?” moment), the contrived judgement calls, the references to Iraq WMD fiascos. It’s detailed to the extent of being a documentary, heroic enough to seem like a victory, and yet does not go too crazy. It does not glorify anything, apart from the need for the job to be done. It’s a single minded (almost entirely fact based) retelling of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, and Maya’s (Jessica Chastain) focused pursuit of the most dreaded terrorist, with that one solitary important lead. The approximations make you wonder if it really happened, and whether one fine morning, we won’t again see a videotape of Osama Bin Laden. And therein, to me, is the biggest success of Katheryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s work.

Jessica Chastain starts of as an unlikely choice for being the centerpiece of this movie, but she is top grade. It’s very difficult to not come out of this movie and not root for as a top choice for best actress. The others needed to be good/adequate, and they all are. Jason Clarke is impressive though.

The ending makes you feel a little cheated, but its bound to happen in such movies. And as I mentioned, the movie is not really about heroics.

If you have time this weekend, do enjoy this one. I won’t go out on a limb supporting this for best picture like I would for Lincoln. But it’s a super fine movie. Loved it.

Where do I rate it? Probably, a 4 on 5.


(Image source:

Movie Review: Lincoln is intense, awesome, and gripping

When I started watching Lincoln this weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All I knew was that the movie was centered around the Thirteenth Amendment – which led to the abolition of slavery of colored folks/ blacks in America.

The movie starts with a scene from the civil war, somewhere after the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln and his famous  Gettysburg Addressthat we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. And quickly jumps forward to the point where Lincoln has been re-elected (1865) and his first term is nearing an end. It is at this stage that he decides to pursue the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment in the House of Representatives with all his energy, strength of character and conviction, and guile behind it.

The movie does a brilliant job of representing the three facets of Lincoln – the President, the lawyer, and the personal family side. The quality of reasoning, as you’d witness in some of the scenes (with Seward, Stanton, Stephens, Yeaman, Beasley, and others) can  be appreciated way better when you notice the next moment of deep agony and self doubt he has as a father and a husband. The iron hand that deals with the matters of the nation is as weak as any father’s hand when it comes to a quasi-rebellious son who wants to enlist. His relationship with his wife Mary is handled delicately, yet adequately. Daniel Day Lewis brings to life one of the most respected historical figures for not just America, but across the world. As Grant observes – By outward appearance, you’re ten years older than you were an year ago. To which Lincoln replies – Some weariness has bit at my bones.


There is a scene where the attack at Fort Sumter has started and after an inordinately excessive amount of shelling the Fort still is holding up. Waiting for the final confirmation to arriveStanton Is all worked up. And that’s the moment Lincoln chooses to launch into another of his trademark stories. Stanton – “I don’t believe… that I can bear … to listen to another one of your stories right now!” Ah! The moment.

The other standout performances in the movie – Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens is funny as well as deeply relatable. The scene where he holds himself back while absolutely humiliating Wood and Pendleton– “How can I hold that all men are equal, when here before me stands, stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior, endowed by their maker with dim wits, impermeable to reason with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of hot red blood…. So low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you!”

Stevens sums up the story – “The greatest measure of the nineteenth century, passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America”. I was hoping that the movie won’t conclude the way it did, for I did not want to be reminded of the folly of men that leads to assassinations.

The screenplay and dialogues are absolutely impeccable. While the creators might have had it easy with several documented records of what was said on several occasions (speeches and what nots), it’s thir ability to create those moments and the set pieces that lead to those conversations. What elevates the movie further is the acting and the camera work. I am reminded of Side by Side,  and I have a feeling that this movie is shot on film, and not on digital. All the actors have pulled out their finest – Sally Field as the mother, David Straithorn as Seward, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in that tiny role as Bob, James Spader as Bilbo and Bruce Mcgill as Stanton.


As the preacher said, I could write shorter sermons but once I start, I get too lazy to stop. – Lincoln to his Cabinet

I can go on and on and on about why should watch this movie. But the short of it is that you MUST WATCH this movie. This is the kind of movie that gets my 5* rating.

Django Unchained… Great, but not quite Awesome

Dj2Why is Chritoph Waltz nominated for best supporting actor. Isn’t he the lead actor? Isn’t he the most noticeable presence in Django? Isn’t he the one that makes Django a finer film than it is?

Django Unchained starts with the freeing up of Django (Jamie Fox) by Schultz (Waltz), goes on to explain what Schultz is doing, and the eventual Django-Schultz relationship that leads them to the search of Broomhilda, Django’s wife sold as a slave to Calvin Candie (Leonardo Dicaprio). Stephens (Samuel Jackson), the slaver/butler of Candie spoils the party for Django, but Django does get unchained.

At its heart, Django Unchained is the story of a freed slave searching for his wife with the help of a bounty hunter, its a stark take on the slave-master relationship, a western style movie. Like most other Quentin Tarantino movies, the devil in the details is what you come to admire. Scenes full of great screen chemistry and extremely intelligent dialogues, a brilliant screenplay, and some over-the-top but exhilarating performances. DJ3
Does it work this time? The style, the blood and gore, the flourishes, the slow sunsets, and the larger than their surrounding pivotal characters of the movie are all there. Yet, the movie does not measure up to what fans like me have come to expect of QT. Or, rather, it measures up, but does not surpass the standards that have already been set. The movie keeps you glued, but not in the way Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds or Kill Bill does. For the QT haters, the movie might be an argument why he is over-hyped.

Waltz’s Schultz owns the movie, even though he is stylistically not very different from Col. Landa of Inglorious. But his charisma supercedes everything else in the movie. Jamie Foxx’s Django is good. Again. But not so good that you remember him long after it’s over. I personally did not like Dicaprio as much here. To the extent that I found his style and intonation inconsistent over the movie. In a rather short role, Samuel Jackson is stand out brilliant (what’s new about that one, you may ask). The slave who cDJ4annot imagine a slave being a free man and being accorded the respect of a free man, his sharp eye that catches the details (like the one of a good butler), and his unwavering loyalty to Candie. In fact, the two people/ characters you remember and think about long after the movie are Schultz and Stephen. Tarantino makes a guest appearance as well and blows himself up. I guess he was having a blast making this one!

Dj1There are three specific scenes that I loved – the first scene where Waltz comes in on a cart looking for Django, the scene where Django and Schultz are having a heart to heart conversation and the deal is struck, and the scene where Django and Schultz meet Candie the first time. Oh and you can add the scene of negotiation that happens later as well. Supremely well crafted scenes.

The most awesome thing about the movie, however, is the soundtrack. Sheer brilliance. It’s western. Its inspired. And its thematic. There are several points in the movie where the soundtrack takes the movie to a different level altogether. It starts in a very The Good, The Bad and The Ugly way, but has the texture of a war film, and the tempo of a period drama.

Tarantino fans – You are going to watch it anyway. Lets again have cerebral debates about every scene. But do tell me if you think its in the expected league or not, honestly and without fanboyism.

This is a clear 4 on 5. I am not yet at decimal points, but otherwise its not quite a 4.5, but higher than 4 movie 😉

And yeah, the D is silent.

Movie Review: Les Miserables

I watched Les Miserables yesterday. And I came out with mixed feelings, even though, the genres don’t affect me much when it comes to liking a movie or not (with the exception of horror movies, that I hate in general).

Few opening remarks
1. I had not read the epic book before watching the movie. I am aware of the theme, the critique and the story in general. But it’s not a literary piece that I have read in depth and have an opinion on.
2. The movie is largely true to the book. Few creative liberties had to be taken to contain the huge canvas
3. The movie is a musical. A lyrically musical movie. 100%. No general dialogues. Is the book like that?

With that out of the way, my real feelings. Oh, it’s a movie that has made with one and just one purpose. To try and win an Oscar. And everyone has given it their best to deserve a place at the podium. Almost the entire star cast is top of the class.

It’s so difficult to imagine Hugh Jackman, the man who played Wolverine, being Jean Valjean. The kind of transformation he goes through from one frame to another is a wonderful lesson in acting. His body and his personality changes with the evolution of Jean Valjean.

Russell Crowe as Javert has one of the more unidimensional characters in the movie, and yet he adds such strain to it that you can feel the depth of his conflict, most in his monologues atop the church and castles.

Anne Hathaway has a short role, and she shines as Fantine. From the mother to the bitter prostitute.

Eddie Raymond as Marius is another revelation. I am not sure about his body of work, but he delivers almost every moment. Except for one. The scene where Jean Valjean tells him his story, and asks him to keep it a secret from Cosette. In that one scene, he falters.

Amanda Seyfried has a pitiable role as Cosette, amongst these stellar characters. Not in the book, but in the cinematic adaptation, Cosette’s story has several flavors. Not here.

The surprise pack for me were the short but extremely beautifully played Eponine (played by Samantha Barks) and Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone). Eponine’s ten minute screen presence makes you root for her a lot more than you’d for Cosette. Huttlestone adds the right amount of innocence to Gavroche. At a certain point, you’re almost sure (if you have no idea where the movie is headed) that the revolution will happen not because of a cause, but because of Gavroche’s rallying voice. And it would be unfair to not mention the Thenardiers – played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (last remembered as Bellatrix Lestrange). While Sacha is top draw, Helena continues in her Bellatrix zone.

YET, and this is the point where I am no longer an intellectual – the movie wasn’t theatrical entertainment. I didn’t really enjoy watching it with nine other folks in the theater. The last similar movie that I saw was “Thoda Sa Roomani Ho Jaaye”. And I saw it on TV. The movie requires a heavy heavy level of concentration. In the lyrical moments, there are such tiny variations that reveal the change of momentum, that when it happened first, I missed the moment of guilt of Valjean.

It’s a movie not for faint hearted. It keeps you on your toes. It works you mind, your vocabulary, and your appreciation of subtlety. It wants you to focus really hard for the whole of 158 minutes of run time. And worse still, if you haven’t read the book, then it jumps. It doesn’t always logically explain, or wait for the explanation to sink in.

It’s a great work of art, but do you really appreciate the art? Or, are you looking for entertainment? If it’s the latter, save this one for a different day. Its a must watch. In peace.

The Hobbit: Soul-less Brilliance

What do I tell someone who’s see the LOTR trilogy about The Hobbit? And what do I tell someone who hasn’t seen the LOTR trilogy about The Hobbit?

The truth is – Hobbit is a “right” movie. The scale at which it is made, the digi-work, the camera angles, the sets, the colours and the … Brilliant. But, the movie has no soul. It’s a perfectly designed robot that resembles human body.

The movie starts a tad too slow while it labours through the initial sequence where thirteen dwarves are supposed to be introduced. Yet, the three dwarves that you really remember at the end are Dwalin, Kili and Thorin. Even Balin’s impression is a little weak. Balin finds his place once the party moves into the mountains as he tells Thorin’s story. But, Thorin, while being Aragorn-ish, is not exactly Aragorn. Viggo Mortenses drove Aragorn’s quest to your heart like a dagger. Maybe over the second and third movie a lot more. And I hope Thorin gets there as well. Unfortunately, Gloin (the one you’ve tracked from Gimli, Son of Gloin) does not get much face time. Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Fili etc are just mumbled jumbled names that you won’t even catch. And now I come to the problem no. 1. Gandalf. A glowing Gandalf of a story 60 years later (LOTR) is replaced by a faded Gandalf here. Ian Mckellan carries the movie on his shoulders, but he does not look like the same Gandalf. He is a fatigued version of himself. And I don’t blame him. Martin Freeman as Bilbo is delightful, though. His awkwardness is pitch perfect.

Whenever I think of The Fellowship Of The Ring, I remember that one shot sequence where Arwen is being chased by the Nazgul horse riders as she’s trying to save Bilbo and enter Rivendell. The entire sequence is phenomenalobalistic. I kept looking for something as new as that. The Orcs and Mordor – they all look like great paintings that you’ve seen before. The novelty is missing. Mr. Jackson – you’ve made a perfectly beautiful soul-less movie. And it makes me wonder if they were all right – that you sold your soul when you agreed to do these three Hobbit movies.

– Link to ‘that’ video

And that’s the last question on my mind – WHY THREE? If all three LOTR books deserved a movie a piece, why does Hobbit get three movies? Is there anything more here than encashing the success of LOTR? Or, despite what I felt was a reasonably sluggish first instalment, there will be enough to keep part two and three interesting and well paced?

Now then – I have been critical too long. The movie, as I mentioned, is reasonably perfect in its making. All the dwarves and Mr. Baggins are perfect. But the one who has really killed it is the digitalised Andy Serkis as Gollum/Smeagol. Gollum is my pick of the lot this time. What menacing details! And my bad for not mentioning that one stand-out scene. The riddle scene between Smeagol and Bilbo is brilliant. Only if there were more of such well crafted scenes.

End note – Watch it for you’ve loved the LOTR series. Or, watch it because you missed watching LOTR in the theatres. Its a well made movie. But, it’s not Jackson’s best. Jackson heights have not been surpassed.

Life of Pi… is a visual masterpiece

I enjoy everything and anything incremental that a movie can offer. Apart from the duration of the movie. So, watching a moving at IMAX usually means that I come out a touch more satisfied than usual. But IMAX or no-IMAX, Life of Pi is a visually breathtaking film. Its a giant canvas of a goddamn brilliant painter who’s used colours and patterns to near-perfection. Also, like most good paintings, its a poetry. Except that its a touch too long.

As I sat through the 2 hour 7 minutes of Life of Pi, there were several moments of drifting in your thoughts as you spend a minute too much thinking about what you’ve just seen. 127 minutes isn’t a lot, but is long enough. I can compare it to that stoic test match innings where the batting and the bowling are intense and awesome, but because neither there are wickets falling or runs being scored, I may have a tendency to switch channels, just to take a break.

I have already said it- the movie works like a spell. It keeps you mesmerised with some awesome imagination. The zoom outs and camera angles that accentuate Pi’s state of mind, his loneliness, the vastness of his world, and the insignificance of his ordeal, all at the same time. The surreal transformation between real and imaginary, the choice of colours, the scene of the ocean, and the empathy you feel all through Pi’s journey. It’s digital wizardry at its best. It makes you forget that you’ve seen much better performances from Irfan Khan and Tabu. Tabu has a small role, but she has traditionally proven her strengths in 30-seconds scenes. Somewhere, the need to have an “accent” (Indian, Indianized, Americanized, whatever) restraints dialogue delivery. Think for a moment – These are Patels in Pondicherry. So, Gujarati accent is good. Tamil accent is good. Even a bit of French accent is good. But the accent is a mishmash of several fake american indian accents. One of the big drawbacks of the movie for me was that I didn’t connect much with Suraj Sharma (Pi). I think his performance is just about average. It does not spoil the movie, but it doesn’t elevate the movie either.

Richard Parker is awesome. While there are several frames where you wonder whether Mr. Parker is real enough (which probably was the point), the close-in expressions of Parker are  a wonder to behold. They seem to be a right balance of a zoo-ed animal who’s wild enough.

The background score is superb. I loved it.

Somewhere, I felt, that the last 15 minutes of the movie damage it a lot. There is a “believe in God” angle that’s overplayed, and a drone of a closure as the Japanese officials interview Pi. You are better off re-reading the book sections after the meerkats incident. That section of the book is of profound importance but does not come out as strongly in the movie.

In short, Ang Lee stays true to most of the book, and has delivered a spectacular movie. Its near-Avatar, visually/digitally speaking, and several luminescent-blue frames will keep reminding you of Avatar. It’s worth a watch. In a theatre.

“The Dark Knight Rises” Falls

First up, before you all go up in arms against me, remember that you’re talking to a die hard fan who has just come out after watching two back to back shows of the movie (one at a regular PVR and the other at IMAX), who’s debated the ins and outs of all three movies with friends over the years (and hours). That aside, I think the facebook based endearment of TDKR has failed to resonate with me. It’s almost a series of fanboys (like me) who are afraid of saying that the movie is not even in the same zipcode as what Nolan delivers so consistently. The movie is strictly OK. Not an epic finale to an epic trilogy. Nolan has given us the Joker. And Inception. And Nolan has given us a lot more. And with that barometer, normalized for time and scale, this might be his worst outing ever. And Nolan’s worst outing being an epic finale, seems like a mindless conclusion to me. We know he is capable of better.

YES. I could not help but compare it with the epic greatness that Nolan and Ledger delivered the last time. The scale of story-telling, the characters, and the field of vision of TDK were at a different scale. And so were the action sequences. The first movie had Ra’s-Al-Ghul played by Liam Neeson, who torments Bruce Wayne/ Batman. You cherish his doubt. You loath his moral high ground. Second movie had Joker. ‘Nuff said. This movie has Bane. And Talia. And the biggest bane of Bane is that one moment where he is reduced to being a monster in love, and Talia is reduced to being a carrier of her father’s will. The motives, though aligned with the league of shadows, are petty. For you know clearly that the motive is not the league. It is revenge.

No. I did not find the action to be jaw-dropping. The first sequence with the airplane is OK. The stadium sequence is wonderful. The end action sequence with the scale of manhattan, is OK OK. Haven’t we seen destruction at a bigger scale in Avengers, or Transformers already? So, what’s the jaw dropping part? Huh? Come again? Huh? No, I don’t agree…

TDKR has too many long and indulgent dialogues. It seems like people are talking and talking and talking. Quite frequently, the conversation tries to be profound. Like we are used to them being profound when Nolan’s writing. But its only every now and then that it actually is. Beyond a point, it plays with your patience.

And beyond a point, the story started resembling Jigar. Remember that Ajay Devgan movie. Back broken, dude fights back. All for revenge. Or, the Ganga Jamuna Saraswati style Amitabh. Can overcome all physical odds and a broken vertebrae fixed through with a punch, like only pahalwans on Najafgarh Road can do. The fact that Ra’s Al Ghul was mentioned and not Superman’s dad as the reason why Bane/ Talia decided to go rogue does not make it a tight plot. People need their reasons, as Joker would remind them.

The high point is the absolutely crackling Selina Kyle. She delivers. As a vixen thief with a heart. And looks perfectly natural in the action sequences. Marilon Coutillard’s La Vie En Rose is a piece to remember her for. Not TDKR. The usual suspects are the usual suspects. Though I must say that I like Levitt’s balance in acting.

And yeah, Hans Zimmer’s background score is phenomenal. Again.

You know a problem with a performance appraisal system? When you ace it in an year, you also build an expectation. SO, when you fail it next year, your fall from grace is harder. I won’t say that you should not watch the movie. Even if you sleep through it or read only the subtitles that Mumbai movie theaters have graciously started showing for language noobs like me, TDKR is a lot better than subjecting yourself to a Cocktail or Rowdy Rathore. Or, Kya Super Kool Hain Hum.

Supermen, Untouchables, and Cocktails

I had a mixed bag weekend. Of the three movies that I watched, two left me speechless, and the third left me speechless too.

Let’s start the evening with Cocktails

I will start with the worst one. It is called Cocktail. It starred a star who’s started looking like a teen din purana naan (3-day old stale naan) – layers of rubber that stretch all you want without breaking, and is a bad idea for a good meal – Saif Ali. You can keep chewing on it, but it won’t get over. No, it won’t. Like this movie. Naan-sense movies should not be given ratins, but Naan-rating. It also stars Ms. Deepika Padukone, who I believe is going to be the biggest whistleblower for the industry someday (given the number of guys she has been associated with and actually knows a good deal about the performance(s) of). And then there is the new girl – Diana Penty. Enough has been said about her surname already, so I will spare her on that one. One of the things I have inferred about casting in bollywood is this – when they audition someone for a lead actress role, they surely would be asking a lot of questions – including surname, most likely. They definitely check your looks, the length of your legs, and the length of the shortest thing you’d wear to cover those legs. But somewhere they forget to ask a question, which should be the question – Can you act? That’s the only justification for Aishwarya, Deepika, Katrina, and the likes. Diana seems to be a protege of the Katrina school, and Deepika is already on her way to be the next Katrina. Deepika is in a hurry though, and started trying out acting too soon, I think. Why don’t you just come, do some jiggy wiggy chiggy wiggy, and get to take the hero home in the end? Agar yehi safedi, yahi jhaag, kam daamo mein mile to koi wo kyon le, ye na le? Btw, that slice advertisement that runs during every big cinema movie interval (yeah, the one with Katrina Kaif), could well be a saree, a condom, a vacation, or well, as an afterthought, a mango drink ad. It’s funny how the creative directors thought of the last option as the first.

The movie is so bad that there is only one thing that saved it from my wrath. The audience. Right behind me, we had a rather “vocal journalist” from burrp. He ensured that his reaction to every scene of the movie could be measured by the quality of his burrps. For a bad scene, two resounding burrps, and a small tiny one for the less harming scenes. Also, there were enough people in the theater who found something funny in every other scene. I envy them. They can find joy where none exists. They all are the true hermits. Siddhartha! Nevertheless, I shall move on to the joy that I could discover. On a somewhat positive note, the song Jugni was quite good. And finally, I conclude, it’s band jawani (of band baaja kinds). Not banned jawani, or behan jawani, or pained jawani, or something else.

From Naan to Supermen

What a movie!!! Really… Malegaon ka Superman runs close to 70 minutes or so. Getting up early and driving to Juhu was all worth the effort (and without breakfast too). Even PVR’s extremely messed up service level that early in the morning (9AM) could not take the taste away. The movie is almost a docu-movie. Handheld cameras, shaky angles, unplanned shots, candid camera moments, and the works. Loaded with innocence, the irony of movie making, an entire expose on 50K-100K movies, rural aspirations, society and life, the contradictions that people live every day, the small joys that keep them going. It never seems like the cast is acting, because most likely, they are not. Or maybe they are, and they are just too good. There is a point in the movie where the camera falls in water and the shoot is cancelled. Naseer, the director, is absolutely devastated who keeps convincing himself that it will be fine. And while keeping at it positively, he also keeps talking about the shooting delays of 2 days it might cause. All this while, the poor superman, shivering with cold, is floating on water on a tyre tube, trying to wade himself to the shore. That sequence tugs so hard at you with its poignant and ironical sense of humor that’s difficult to explain. The scene where the cinema (or video parlour) owners/ attendants run for their life just after they open the shutters, as throngs of people run each other over to get to the best seat in the parlour, and the expressions shown on their face (later in the movie) as they are watching a dubbed english movie, the shadow of the cigarette smoke, are priceless. Or, the four day delay caused because superman is getting married. I can keep going on forever about how a tightly edited, honestly crafted 70 minute movie(?) cobbled together with no stars whatsoever is worth more than hundreds of skin-shows like Cocktails that bollywood graces us with. The movie was screened under PVR’s Director’s Rare initiative (and the ticket was all of 70 bucks for the 9AM show). Yes, such movies are a rarity in our country. Rarely do people pack their bags and say thank you when they are done saying what they had to say. So, thank you Nasir Shaikh. For introducing us to the supermen of malegaon.

Touch the Intouchables

Intouchables touches you. And how beautifully. The movie doesn’t try to do too many things. It explores the relationship between an unlikey duo – a low society-from the projects-criminal background man taking care of and becoming a great friend to a filthy rich paraplegic. The story is full of pain and pity, and yet there is none. The movie overflows with genuine moments of connect between two people – not forced sentimental long dialogues, but two people who connect because they connect. Because there’s a spark to their conversations. Because they are naturally different. The lead actors are absolutely brilliant. Even the dubbing was quite fine, but I wouldn’t mind just the subtitles as well. One thing that needs a mention – background score. It was pitch perfect. And the strip down of most melodramatic moments is brilliant. There are some butchered sacred cows as well – the way Driss replaces Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart with the music from Kool and the gand and the likes, and gets the drab party on its feet, or Phillip’s hitler moustache moment, or the furious laughter during an opera. The movie has such comic moments that you forget the tragedy that underlies them. Right from the way Driss lifts Phillippe like a puppet and his body hangs about limply, to the life in the projects, and the coversations between Driss and Lyovanne. Here’s one from Driss – “There’s no way I am emptying another man’s ass. It’s a matter of Principle. Stockings were bad, but I did it. But there’s no way I am emptying another man’s ass.”

It’s a beautifully told true story. So, if you think you just wasted 300 bucks on Cocktail, please go and watch Intouchables. There aren’t too many shows of that movie, and most likely it will be off the screens this Friday, once the Dark Knight returns.


Of Prince of Persia and a few others

I watched Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time on last Friday itself, and loved it immensely. But am getting down to express my opinion only now (no, I did not update my status on FB, post something on twitter or write a blog or call someone to tell them). For a change, I haven’t read any of the critics’ opinion on the movie yet as well. It’s hard for me to reflect back on the movie and identify that one thing that worked for me. The movie was as movies should be. An idea well executed. Fast paced, full of excitement, on many occasions larger than life, and on a few, just as narrow as living itself. The stars of the movie did not do anything great (Ben Kingsley included). But they did not do something wrong either. And that’s why I liked the movie I think. For the ~2hours, I did not think about anything else. Not even the movie. It was, for some reason, about being in the moment on the screen. So, in short, the movie worked for me. It’s the kind of movie that I would easily give a 9 on 10 to. Maybe a 10. Except that the purists would find too many flaws with the dialogues and cheesiness of a lot of scenes 😉

On an alternative note, I watched 12 movies on a recent US trip (inflight entertainment stuff). The movies I watched were – Invictus, Leap Year, Valentine’s Day, What Happened In Rome, Did You Hear About The Morgans, The Hurt Locker, Shutter Island, Dr. No, Golden Eye, Deewana Mastana, Fung Wan II, and The Blind Side. They ranged from “Yea Right” to “Oh Yeah” to “Hell Yeah!”.

Yea Right

Leap Year – lame chick flick about a dame who wants to follow the hypothetical Irish tradition of proposing on 29th Feb to his boyfriend, and falls in love with another dude in the Irish countryside while everything else around her is going wrong. Amy Adams and Matthew Goode are fine in a movie which has nothing to offer really.

Did You Hear About the Morgans – another lame movie, generally speaking. Especially if you are tired of the Hugh Grant movies where he just keeps mumbling. By the end of the movie, I was so strongly reminded of that separated at birth picture of Sarah Jessica Parker and a horse. The cowboy dude living in Ray, Wyoming was a pretty cool dude though.

Valentine’s Day – Lots of chick flick studs in this movie, like Ashton Kutcher, Anne Hathaway et al. And a lot of other big names too – Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, etc. But the movie, an extreme Hollywood stereotype. Multiple threads running in parallel, and converging in the end in that final mushy mushy scene. There isn’t much to write about, except that it explores hundreds of different relationships in the valentine context.

When  in Rome – OK OK! I don’t quite enjoy most of the chick flicks, but I watch them nevertheless. Its an addiction since Notting Hill. WHIR is another lame one about a girl picking coins from a fountain, and the guys who had earlier made a wish on those coins falling for her, etc etc. You get the drift, right? No? Then you’re on the wrong blog. You should be downloading the movie right now.

Oh Yeah

Dr. No – Have seen it many times. Saw it again. There is something about the “Bond” style, and then there is the famed Ursula Andress scene. Overall, the movie is the kind of 60-70s flick that I absolutely louuve watching. Random gadgets, wicked villains who would not kill the hero when they get the chance, but would rather explain their entire world domination plan to him, a sexy heroine who doesn’t mind kicking a few butts in the climax scene, a friend, water, boats, cars, etc. Good fun.

Golden Eye – Need I say more?

The Hurt Locker – I know the movie won an Oscar, and a lot of people would put it in the Hell Yeah category. Maybe I was sleepy, maybe I am not that enlightened, or maybe I don’t care about Iraq war anyway. But net result, I liked the movie, but I did not louuuve the movie. Honestly, I think I was sleepy. I still don’t know what is the meaning of Hurt Locker. But the actors were all good, and the editing, screenplay and direction – pretty damn good.

Deewana Mastana – baby steps, baby steps. Loved the movie several years back. Love it still. Absurd, ridiculous, but great paisa vasool. And imagine, I was watching it for free, free, free. Govinda does what only he can do, that is, be ridiculously funny. And Juhi is so pretty, and so funny. Isn’t she?

Shutter Island – did not work, did not work, did not work for me. Its not a badly made movie. But its not a movie that left me with a nice feeling. Way too much. Of what? I don’t know. I guess everything. I am ok with putting it here, simply because its pretty well made.

Hell Yeah

Fung Wan II (The Storm Warriors) – Man, we need more martial arts movies. What a ridiculous movie!! What a lovely movie to watch!!! Style, action, and martial arts. From the word go. And a sad ending to top it up. What more do I need in life?

The Blind Side – Agree. It’s a movie that was made to get Sandra Bullock on the Oscar’s list. But I loved the movie. I generally have a soft corner for sports movies. But this one was a rocking one. The dude who played Big Mike was awesomer than Sandra Bullock. And the little brother was phenomenal. Everyone else did quite well. But the manipulative story that it is, it was just newyork cheesecake kinda smooth and gooey and sweet and feel good.

Invictus- Something about Morgan Freeman, isn’t it? Again, a movie made for the Oscars or so. But I liked Matt Damon’s restrained performance, as well as the overall narrative style. Not the usual movie where the president might have had resorted to some crazy things (like picking the ball and giving a long speech). Overall, very composed and very interesting movie to watch. And it touches on some of the apartheid issues, without blowing them out of proportion.

So, what have you been watching? How do you spend your flight time? Sleeping?

Movie Roundup

Haven’t been writing a lot lately, so thought I would summarize my views of some of the movies I have watched in the last 3-4 months. How’ve y’all been?

How To Train Your Dragon

Excellent movie! Extremely adorably, excellent screenplay, great characters and some wonderful animation. Not the usual kids acting beyond their shoes lamentation in any part, no pity when something sad happens, and no masochism when something big is done. Everything that happens, happens smoothly. And that’s the beauty of the movie. The Night Fury dragon’s character, just as much as Hiccups, the kids and the Vikings in general, was a delight. I can keep gushing about how much fun it was to watch the movie, but I would let you go and enjoy the movie yourself. And by the way, watch it in good quality 3D if you have an option.

Badmaash Company

Decent, but suffers from the usual Indian problem. No closure. We drag everything to infinity and beyond, but not the way Buzz Lightyear does. Many of our movies are known to have a great start (like Sehwag) but seem to falter somewhere in the middle (like Ravindra Jadeja). I liked the first 40-odd minutes of the movie reasonably fine, which was just about the time the director decided to put the same print in spools. The pace of getting through the cons was a drag, and so was the high pitched melodrama. Surprisingly, Chang  (of Indian Idol fame) was not too bad, though most of the jokes on him were about his chinese face/origins. Anushka seemed to be in a hurry to change her image. Her entire first half presence is dedicated to wearing dresses that break the Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi mould, and the smooch sequence is the final frontier in Bollywood these days. Vir Das is ok. Anupam Kher and Pawan Malhotra are wasted largely. So is Kiran Juneja (the Ganga of B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharat). Worst though is Shahid Kapoor. He needs to have a middle name starting with R, so that he can also start calling himself SRK. Hamming like a rooster, his acting skills seem smaller than the size of a pimple on the butt of a mosquito (that’s a phrase borrowed from one of my bosses). Anyways, its not so bad that its not watchable on DVD/ cable TV, but should be avoided in theatres, unless you are watching it with the comfort of a large recliner sofa.


Not sure why some of the fanboys seemed to have loved the movie. The movie is far too patchy for my taste. And as Anand said after we walked outta the theater, there is no epic crisis in the movie, which is essential for a superhero movie. You don’t want to watch a total of 3 minute conflict/exchange between the superhero and the epic villain who is almost about threatening to unleash 50 Ironmen on the mumbling (Robert Downey) Jr. Ironman. More so, when it ends with a lame dialogue like – “you lose”. Someone like me can still manage to enjoy bits of the movie, and not feel completely cheated, but I do not see how most people would like it. It has a bad screenplay, some fairly average editing, some great action sequences, and a lot of patchy technological brilliance thrown in here and there. Watch it if you are a comics lover.


Arrgh! Why do I agree to watch such movies? Why didn’t I learn from Hey Babyyyy (did I get the number of ‘y’s correct)? Anyways, the long story short is that I took the plunge because 7-8 of us from the office were going together, and the idea seemed fine. For such mindlessness, you need the comfort of numbers. However, not good enough. Housefull is full of such inanities and ridiculous sequences that even mayhem would feel threatened sitting in the theater. The jokes are not funny, and actors far too many and wasted, the usual gags of gay-ism and mistaken identities, make your life miserable. But what Sajid does in the last 15 minutes of the movie is a housefull of idiocy. Why would you make a stump-faced Arjun Rampal try and act under the influence of laughing gas. That good looking goofball cannot act normal scenes. Knowing the limitation of your team doesn’t seem like a skill that directors have these days. Anyways, Sajid Khan has an extremely long and idiotic 15 minute sequence which is an attack on the not-so-discerning senses of people like me. Yet, I know, and know it really well, that the movie would do great business. As Dodi and I were discussing yesterday, we no longer represent the average audience in our tastes, especially when it comes to identifying hits and misses. Though, to my credit, I knew “Wanted” was going to be a rage the moment I saw its first trailer.

A couple of other movies of note –

Wanted! Please watch it if you haven’t. But watch it with a sense of detachment that you can’t have when you are watching a Karan Johar movie. And you’ll love it. I would have loved to see it in theater, but I missed it. Loved it on TV as well. I wonder why Ayesha Takia did not become more successful. She seems quite decent, especially when I look at the competition we have to suffer.

Karthick Calling Karthick – quite a decent one time watch, though the pace of the way is way too erratic. And again, this is a movie which could have been 20 minute shorter with good editing.

Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge – I liked it. Light, Hrishikesh Mukherjee kinds. Some of the gags are old, but some of them are quite refreshing. Paresh Rawal is brilliant, and Ajay Devgn and Konkona Sen Sharma don’t disappoint either. Definitely, a decent DVD/TV watch.

%d bloggers like this: