Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Avengers Review

Audience, meet Tony Stark aka Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.), a super rich superhero–with a wittier than thou personality–who kicks some serious ass when in a golden-maroon of a metal clunking suit and fires some of the funniest one-liners to put you into splits for days to come. Even if you take away his suit, his unparalleled charm as a genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist prevails.

Tony, meet Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), a first-rate scientist with majors in gamma radiation and an ‘angrier than thou shirt tearing and pants ripping green alter ego’, that unleashes unholy wrath on those who anger him. The best of all Hulks that there have been! What’s his secret, you ask? He’s always angry!

Bruce, meet Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a hammer wielding Norse God of Thunder of the galactic kingdom of Asgard with a ‘mightier than thou force’ that strikes devastating lightning bolts at will. To go against it is to ask for a preposterous hammering of epic proportions. Everybody and everything in his presence is just so petty and tiny!

Thor, meet Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), a patriotic army man and the first of the superheroes–with a classier than thou aura–who wears a vintage white starred and red striped suit and holds an indestructible shield made of Vibranium. Eventually, it’s his plan of attack that brings order to the chaos in a good old fashioned way.

Ironman, Hulk, Thor and Captain America, meet each other. And also, meet members of SHIELD: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Together you make – The Avengers! Now, have ego problems (Make us laugh). Ridicule each other (Make us laugh). Take orders from none (Make us laugh). Be your own master (Make us laugh). Fight with each other as to who’s the best among you (Make us laugh). Wait wait wait… Put it on hold… You have a new visitor…

Avengers, meet Loki (Tom Hiddleston), a banished ‘demi Norse God turned super villain’ of Asgard and brother of Thor. He’s the one with minacious plans to take over the Earth (Read Manhattan) with a spoilt childlike smirk on his face. The humans, he believes, are made to be ruled! Lo, here comes his otherworldly orc-ish army and giant flying anthropods. But, didn’t he tell you in the beginning this was his plan? Well, better late than never! Unite and fight!

Cast, meet Joss Whedon, he’s the director of this delicious superhero extravaganza you all are starring in. Whatever doubts you have will be clarified and whatever fears we have will be taken care of, by him. Prolific writer that he is, he’ll give each of you shared moments of glory and to us, that blockbuster we've all been waiting for a long time. Alright, that’s your cue; you know what to do. Attack!

2 hours and 23 minutes later.

Joss Whedon, meet the audience, us. It’s our words and money that eventually decide the fate of movies and after seeing yours, we, delightfully content to the core of our hearts, give you a double thumbs up. It’s funnier than all the rubbish they call funny, way ahead of them (The (un)friendly banter between each is spectacularly hilarious). Its action set pieces of heroic magnitude sure are a sight for the sore eyes. Special mention to the way the camera pans from one shot to the other, effortlessly efficient and keeping each superhero in the frame while they together flaunt the best of their powers to bring down the evil. 3D takes the visual appeal of the kabooms to another level. For all this and the sheer entertaining spectacle that it is, we would like to say that you, sir, have pulled off a remarkable feat in balancing not only the atomic star power of the film with panache, but deftly orchestrating every facet of filmmaking to near perfection. For your skills, its scope, wit, action, and of course, the Avengers, it’s worth a hundred viewings! Hail Avengers!

4.5 stars out of 5

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kahaani Review

Seemingly seven months pregnant Vidya Bagchi, played by Vidya Balan (we’ll get to her performance in about a minute), arrives, from London, in Kolkata to find her missing husband Arnab Bagchi. On her way to the police station, the local cab plays the timeless tere bina jiya jaaye naa; it’s a helpless wife’s aching cry for her lost companion, and an inherent mother’s longing to locate the father of the unborn child. There’s urgency in the proceedings; you can’t help but feel it too: sympathy, as well as the mounting tension. Forbearing in her quest, she goes on, even though everyone’s constant affirmations – her husband doesn’t exist and never lived in the city – keep heartlessly kicking her in the guts. The city itself, overpowering but with a beating heart, is ready to absorb her and the audience, to the bottom. Kudos to the way it’s been shot, for an inseparable character, it feels. Claustrophobic and yet, in its every nook and corner, festivals and frenzies, people and the language, it’s a city oozing life. But “Everyone in Kolkata has dual identities”, says her confederate – an upright cop Rana. Nothing is as it seems here.

What then, will become of her husband? Is he alive, or maybe dead? Does he exist only in her mind? To reveal anything more than this will be a sin, a violation against the very pleasure of experiencing it firsthand at a theatre near you. But what will be manifested (not for the first time though) is this – Vidya Balan, as a solo lead, has more balls than any male lead would ever have. Her performances in Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture were mere shadows of the actual screen persona that is put on display in Kahaani. It’s a performance of a different league! Whether it’s her heartbreaking flashes into the past or her heartwarming relationship with the little boy Bishnu that serves running hot water in the guest house she stays; whether it’s the nerve she displays while tackling the harshest of situations or her silently agonistic breakdowns in the middle; Vidya Balan is in sublime form and will literally blow your mind off. As is the case most of the times, with a show stealer of performance like this, supporting characters are often left behind. No, not in here though; for all their skills (wonderfully acted), they stand out, rather effortlessly. Special mention to – the sympathetic and helpful cop Rana (Parambrata Chatterjee), the unapologetically hyperactive Intelligence Bureau Officer Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), and the always smiling contract killer Bob Biswas (Saswata Chatterjee). Rest of the supporting cast, in their little roles, fits in well too.

But masterfully constructed stories like this and the dedicated performances don’t pan themselves out; there’s a captain behind the wheel that steers clear of the ruckus and high tides and sails to the safety. This voyage that Sujoy Ghosh (director) took is commendable in all its worth. With ample twists, minus the clichés, to knock you out, he delivers big time and proves that his maiden venture Jhankar Beats – musically brilliant and comically fun – was not a fluke. His forgettable mistakes, Home Delivery and Aladdin, are forgiven. He’s a phoenix who’s risen from the ashes and has a new Kahaani to tell. Several, in India, have treaded this path before; even lesser have succeeded. Keeping it short, fast, sleek and taut, he does well not to overindulge for his own good (a common mistake that filmmakers commit). Music is not a hindrance here; it doesn’t jar and mar the intrigue that was built in the very first scene, and goes on to grip you even tighter, letting you go only when it’s over. The lingering effect persists. It’s so rare that it’s difficult to recall an Indian suspense thriller that was this captivating and emotionally charged. There’s none; Kahaani is the first. Truly a scintillating experience for the senses, including the brain!

4 out of 5 Stars

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Agneepath Review

‘Vriksha ho bhale khade, ho ghane ho bade, ek patr chaaon bhi, maang mat maang mat maang mat… agneepath agneepath agneepath…

Tu na thakega kabhi, tu na thamega kabhi, tu na mudega kabhi, kar shapath kar shapath kar shapath… agneepath agneepath agneepath…

Yeh mahaan drishya hai, chal raha manushya hai, ashru swed rakht se, latpath latpath latpath… agneepath agneepath agneepath…’ Shri Harivansh Rai Bachchan

There are no we-want-to-match-up-to-Hollywood kind wannabe-isms here. Thank God for that! We, the audience, have enough guilt on our stained consciences for indulging in one too many of that kind, each falling well short of our towering expectations. The change, in the form of Agneepath, is most welcome. It’s raw, earthy, and Indian to the core. The director, Karan Malhotra (first timer), knows exactly what he wants and lauds should deservingly be given to him, and the other Karan, the Johar, for allowing the former to make his own path filled with agnee. And fiery the way would have been for sure, for trying to pick up a cult (Agneepath of 1990) and making a remake out of it. It’s always been a dirty and dangerous business; none of the previous ones has ever worked. Fizzled out, all of them! This one explodes, with more than enough fire to keep your filmy-fanaticism warm and cozy for three straight hours.

And the fuel to keep it going till the end is all in it. Hrithik Roshan, as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, propelled by a sole desire to avenge his father’s death, is a human dynamo. There’s nothing Amitabh Bachchan-ish about him. Again, thank God! Utilizing, rather than mocking the cult, his own skills as an actor (a great one at that), Hrithik makes this Vijay his own. Watch his eyes set fire to the screen every time a surge of underlying angst and the urge to lay revenge on his enemy flows within his veins. And the enemy, Kancha Cheena - the bald headed and tattooed beast of a lord of Mandwa (a mythical island off the coast of Mumbai), is played astonishingly to pitch perfect menace by Sanjay Dutt. A Ravan to Lanka; Hitler to a Nazi Concentration Camp! As Kancha, he’s a perfect Yang to Hrithik’s Ying. If his introduction (met by loud cheers and whistles even at an urban multiplex) and a scene where he devilishly rings a school bell close to his face don’t make your skin crawl then you sir, need to see a good dermatologist.

Equally convincing baddie, if not better, is played by Rishi Kapoor. Shunning away his chocolate boy image, kept intact for four decades, he transforms effortlessly into Rauf Lala: the human and drug trafficking lord of Mumbai. Missing from the original, the character of Rauf Lala makes the proceedings even more interesting with his raw negative energy and perfect dialogue delivery. If ever there were an award for the Best Supporting Villain, it would have, hands down, belonged to Rishi Kapoor. Priyanka Chopra as Kaali, Vijay’s childhood friend, is a treat. Although she does slow down the proceedings and delays the inevitable. One would even question she is only there to realize Johar’s mushy mushy wishes of forcing the womankind among the audience to shed a tear or two. À la all of his directorial ventures! Still, forgivable! Wrapping up, Om Puri, in his little role as the upright police officer Gaitonde, is convincing, and so is everybody else.

The basic premise, borrowed from the original, remains the same though the story, with subtle changes and few characters removed (Mithun’s award winning Krishnan Iyer for one) and new introduced, adopts a different course before reaching the finale. It’s the kind of entertainment that the previous and the twilight generation have grown up watching: high on drama and action and driven by sheer star power. Those, 25 and above will agree to it. It’s the blockbuster Indian cinema as we know it!

4 out of 5 Stars.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Don 2 Review

Don ko pakadna mushkil he nahi, namumkin hai…” It’s a proverb; catch him if you can. We know eventually he’s going to get away, taking the cake with him. After all, what good is a Don if he’s caught, right? Still, we sit by, watching him toying with his “dushmans” while mouthing off sly but memorable one-liners. Whistles start to go off at each, several applaud. His charm is unparalleled. Haters can go kiss their bodyguard. The King is back, and is at his menacing best! “Ab mujhe koi nahi rok sakta…” There’s no stopping him now. It’s his game; others are just pawns in hands of this masterful player.

And at the heart of the game is a loyal fan of the cult classic (1978) - the multi-faceted Farhan Akhtar, this time as the writer and director. Result is evident. Taking it a few notches above the remake (2006), which was a little slow but with a pleasant unforeseen last minute twist, he delivers an end product that, mind you, though not path-breaking, will keep most to their edges. In terms of suave and slick storytelling, it’s the closest any Indian film has come to Hollywood. The action is at par with Hollywood, yes, but at par with what Hollywood used to do a decade ago. If we’re making progress then it doesn’t mean that guys in the west are just sitting on their bums. There still remains a wide gap; tackiness shows at some places, specially the car chase sequence in Berlin. And sure, there are flashes of ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘Ocean’s 11’, and ‘Die Hard’ to be seen; but they remain mere inspirations and the film continues to evolve as a standalone. Thanks to Farhan’s directorial stamp (a complex plot handled with an eye for technical and visual finesse) and Khan’s sublime performance (witty and old-school Don-isms that always hit the mark), that make it work!

3.5 out of 5

Friday, November 25, 2011

Disney's A Christmas Carol Review

Ghost of the Weird-Movies Past - "You wasted your time watching weird movies because you had nothing better to do."

Ghost of the Weird-Movies Present - "You are wasting your time watching a weird movie while thinking how you could insult it in your review because you have nothing better to do."

Ghost of the Weird-Movies Future - "You will continue to waste your time watching weird movies that are neither here nor there because you'll have nothing better to do."

Dear Spirits of the Past, Present, and Future, what must I do to change this inevitability?

All three Ghosts together - "Nothing! You are destined to do this forever because you never had, have, and will have anything better to do."

Rating: 2.5 Out of 5