Saturday, June 28, 2008


21 is a film by Robert Luketic starring Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, and Lawrence Fishburne. It is inspired by the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team, and is based on Ben Mezrich's bestselling book, Bringing Down the House. The film revolves around Ben Campbell, a Harvard Medical School hopeful studying at MIT. His dreams of going to HMS are put on hold because he does not have the necessary amount of money required to enroll. He is pulled into a group of 'geniuses' who, under the supervision of Mickey Rosa, their mathematics professor, learn the art of counting cards in order to outplay the casinos in Vegas.

All of the above added with some flashy Las Vegas images, heartfelt (not really!) best friends, a cheesy sequence near the end, and a non-existent romantic chemistry between Sturgess and Bosworth, makes 21. It's not as bad as I make it sound. The introduction is nice, so is the technique in which they show how one learns card counting. I had no difficulty in understading it at all. The film is fairly gripping with some nice background music, and the Vegas shots are kind of okay. I've seen much better though. Jim Sturgess and Kevin Spacey are the only ones who actually act. Kate Bosworth is flat. I loved her in Superman Returns. Here, she hardly makes an effort to act. Plus, she looks highly weird (with her whole doll-hair). And lets not even talk about Lawrence Fishburne. The film is verging on two hours. It might have been a better movie if they did away with about 15 minutes (read: the whole best friend thing!). It got a little boring near the middle.

I liked Jim Sturgess in Across the Universe. He was quite good here too. He's building a nice career for himself. Getting to the main point.. If you've got nothing better to do, you can watch 21. You surely wont be missing anything if you don't.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Longest Yard.

The Longest Yard is a 2005 remake of a 1974 film of the same name. However, unlike the original which was more of a dark comedy, this new version is a slapstick comedy film. It is one of Adam Sandler's biggest hits, MTV Films most successful production, and the highest grossing comedy remake of the modern box office era. Burt Reynolds, who starred in the lead role in the original plays the coach.

Starring Chris Rock, Nelly, and numerous World Wrestling superstars, The Longest Yard is a hilarious popcorn flick! Paul Crewe, an ex pro-football quarterback is sent to prison for grand theft auto. He is asked by the prison warden to form a team from among his inmates and put them up with the guards of the prison in order to boost their confidence before the start of the season. The prisoners however, have better plans. They build up a team in order to beat the c**p out of their oppressive guards, and disgrace them by winning the football game. Right from the word go, the film is rib-tickling fun. Whether it is the rap and rock music that ensues with a showdown or an introduction to the characters; or the priceless dialogue; or, what one calls, the bling-bling of American football; The Longest Yard is high octane entertainment! Rob Schneider, in his cameo as an enthusiastic supporter; Kevin Nash's girly-ness after being estrogen induced; and the 'Ready 58. Ready 58 hutt!' and smack in the referees area - I think I started crying with laughter!

Sit down one afternoon with popcorn, chips, pepsi, and a bunch of buddies; turn up the volume; and enjoy The Longest Yard. It's going to make you laugh your head off!!

7/10!! (I still can't stop laughing about the 'Ready 58. Ready 58 hutt - Smack!')

Requiem for a Dream.

Requiem for a Dream is a an Academy Award nominated film directed by Darren Aronofsky and based on Hubert Selby Jr's 1978 novel of the same name. The film revolves around four characters - Sara Goldfarb, her son Harry, and his best friend and girlfriend, Tyron and Marion.
It's primary theme revolves around their individual dreams, and how their addiction to drugs imprison them in a dream world of illusion which, later on, mixes with reality, leading to their ruin.

Point one to be noted is that Requiem for a Dream is not a film for the faint hearted. It got a NC-17 rating on its initial limited release in the US. Everything in the movie is made in such a way that it leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. Whether it is the opera-style background score which is more effective than any I've heard in recent times; the camera-work, often hooked up to the characters neck in order to give the viewers a dizzy feeling which is exactly what the leads are feeling in the particular sequence; or the absolutely heart-stopping performance from Ellen Burstyn; Requiem for a Dream is one of the most well made movies of all time. I still find it hard to believe that Ellen Burstyn did not win an Oscar for her role as Sara Goldfarb. You'll have to see it to believe how amazing her portrayal of a woman gone deranged is! Everyone else in this movie give the performance of their lifetime.

You will squirm in your seat when you see what could happen to a human being's arm because of taking drug shots. It will scare you more than you've ever been scared. For any of you who are curious about the effects of drug use, this film is a must see. Like Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, it gives you harsh reality. Be afraid, be very afraid..

10/10. Freaked me out like anything!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Signs is a 2002 science fiction thriller film written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It was one of the highest grossing films of that particular year, and garnered critical acclaim worldwide. The film stars Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin. Shayamalan himself also has a small, yet crucial, role in the film.

Signs is a more personal take on a worldwide event. The film delves into certain events that really occurred, giving them a science fiction turn (Read: The crop circles which caused a worldwide uproar in the 1970's). Once again, like most Shayamalan films, Signs is visually terrific! It's edge of the seat value is off the chart. The film has as little plot as possible, and all of its time is concentrated on building up the characters. The fear and the tension it creates is the work of a master film-maker. There are no flashy special effects. It is all Tak Fujimoto's moving photography; and an outstanding background score from James Newton Howard, which, without changing its main tune, is both scary and comforting. Straight from the opening credits, Signs is, simply put, a work of art.

Whether it is the sudden shot of a figure standing on the rooftop in the darkness, the sound of a dog barking, the sound of the wind, a thump, a reflection - everything is done perfectly in order to create something scarier than any blood-and-guts gore film you've ever seen. The sequence at the Brazilian kid's Birthday party - I almost ran out of the theatre after seeing it. Like the newscaster puts it, "What you are about to see may disturb you." I cannot put into words how brilliant a film Signs is.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Friday Night Lights.

Friday Night Lights is a 2004 film based on H.G.Bissinger's award winning book of the same name. The true story revolves around the 1988 high school football team Permian Panthers of the small football-crazy town of Odessa, Texas. After losing their star player, Boobie Miles, to a career-ending injury in the very first game of the season, all hope seems to be lost. The coach, Gary Gaines, together with a team full of 17 year olds, now have the responsibility to satisfy the hunger of the town by winning the State Championships.

Peter Berg's Friday Night Lights is not a film on American soccer. It is a film about the players, the coaches, and most importantlly in this case, the obsession of the fans of a soccer team. When a 'loyal' fan talks to the coach about winning the State Championships, you can feel that the manner in which he almost demands results is life threatening. So much so, that even if light-heartedly, there are considerations of shifting houses in case of failure. This is a movie about a team which is overburdened by fan pressure, pressure from the press, and in some cases even from their families. When you see a father beat up his son because he has missed a pass, you know they mean business. Football is all that they've got. And the very manner in which the film is made, concentrating on the personal struggles of the entire team together, as well as on the players individually, and their very very influential coach, is worthy of praise.

With worthy performances from Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Garrett Hedlund, and Tim McGraw; a knockout background score which comfortably shifts from prayers to rock music; and, some magical camera work (Read: The State Finals at the Astrodome!), Friday Night Lights is a film worth watching. I'm a big fan of American Football movies, whether it is Denzel Washington's Remember The Titans or Adam Sandler's very funny The Longest Yard. None more than Friday Night Lights..


Be Kind Rewind

Be Kind Rewind is a one of a kind heartfelt comedy movie coming from the mind of the visionary Michael Gondry. Gondry who has made quite a name for himself after making the Oscar nominated Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He not only directed that film but also co-wrote it with Charlie Kauffman. Like La Science des rêves (The Science of Sleep), Be Kind Rewind is his independent project. He writes as well as directs it.

Starring Jack Black, Mos Def and Danny Glover, Be Kind Rewind is a film that is unbelievable at times, yet too cute to be given amiss. Not only is it well made, but you can feel the message that the movie tries to put forward. At heart, it is quite a serious film, yet, circumstances and the manner in which they are tackled, are comedic to an unimaginable degree. The shenanigans of the two lead characters are hilarious. As they head out to make their own versions of hit Hollywood films, you wont be able to help it but laugh till your tummy aches. Trust me, whether it is their version of Ghostbusters, or Rush Hour 2, or even King Kong, they rule the screen, and everyone else for that matter! It is, simply put, a laugh riot, when they get down to business. Danny Glover, who has proven his worth at numerous versatile roles, though not getting any younger, is probably getting better at what he does.

By the end of the hour and forty minutes, the film leaves you wanting a little more. If not more of the slapstick comedy it created midway through the film, you'll be wanting some of the laughter and that warm feeling one sometimes gets after having watched a movie with a big heart..


Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Incredible Hulk.

The Incredible Hulk continues Hollywood's list of 2008 Summer Blockbusters, as it does the number of comic book to celluloid adaptations for the year. With Iron Man already smashing the box office to become the first film this year to get over the 200 million dollar revenue mark, and with Berg's Hancock, Del Toro's Hellboy 2 and Nolan's The Dark Knight to come out next month, The Incredible Hulk has a lot of expectations on its head, especially after the failure of Ang Lee's The Hulk, five years ago.

Unlike in The Hulk, where Ang Lee put in a lot of effort to bring forward the origin of the Hulk, Louis Leterrier's new adaptation does that in less than 3 minutes via the opening credits. They probably did not want to show us what we had already seen and not appreciated in Ang Lee's version. There is no Nick Nolte here freaking us out with his creepy (not great!) performance as Bruce Banner's father. There are no gigantic poodles and bull dogs here. There film is not two hours and fifteen minutes long. It's doesn't even get to two. All that, added with a couple of good performances, great visuals, a gripping plot, and one helluva final showdown make The Incredible Hulk a brilliant movie!

Louis Leterrier isn't a very well-known director. He directed The Transporter 2, and thats about all his resume says. The casting here is good. With Edward Norton capturing the essence of Bruce Banner very well. William Hurt gives us a the rather obsessive General Thadius Ross, where he acts like he owes no one nothing as long as he able to capture the green beast. Liv Tyler, however, is quite flat. Her dialogues dont really have any feeling in them. Now, I haven't seen Tim Roth in a long time. His portrayal of Emile Blonsky is the pick of the lot in this movie. Not only does he effectively act insane, but that part-Russian accent does wonders for him.

What they did, and did correctly in this film was the fact that they gave us a very raw and very real Hulk. (Read: No clinging on to a fighter jet till he reaches space!). Although all of it is CGI, it is very well done. The effects are mindblowing. The expected showdown between Iron Man and Iron Monger which was given amiss by Jon Favreau in Iron Man, Marvel makes up for in The Incredible Hulk. The final fight between the Hulk and the Abomination is really something!

Control - that is what the objective of this film is. How Bruce Banner takes control of the beast inside of him. He is desperately seeking an antidote, hiding from the Army, who have labeled him 'A fugitive who stole military secrets'. His living in tranquility for months and months so that he can grasp his anger instead of letting it lose. He even wears a heart-rate calculator. 'Can't get too excited', he says while on a kissing spree. Yes, it does have its fair share of comedy; and also eye-candy. Read: Débora Nascimento who plays Martina. She's there only in a few scenes.

Incident - is what they call the transformation in this one. They even show you a timeline that says - Days since Incident. The shots of rural Brazil in the introduction of the film are very nice. The Hulk too seems more lifelike. Not as rubbery as he did in the previous adaptation. Also, The Incredible Hulk hints at a good many other films that could be in store for us. Tim Blake Nelson plays Samuel Sterns - The Leader, a character from Marvel. There is also a small cameo by Robert Downey Jr. And yes, he is Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man. The weapons too, if one notices, are all Stark Industry products. Who knows.. this film might be an excuse of a movie just to introduce numerous other adaptations. Think - The Avengers!

The Incredible Hulk does justice to one of Marvel's most famous characters. Although unexpected since most associate it with a rather comedic version of the Hulk, we finally hear the green beast say 'Hulk Smash'. And he really does..

8/10. Good. Very very good!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Get Smart.

Get Smart is among the surprise releases on Hollywood's list of 2008 Summer Blockbusters. With more hyped projects such as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Indiana Jones doing the rounds at the theaters; and with Hancock, Hellboy 2 and The Dark Knight still to come; for some other movie to grab the attention of audiences would be quite bizarre. Speed Racer, Prince Caspian, The Happening, tried - and didn't grab as much of their anticipated share. Get Smart, although not as big a project, might just go in the league of Prince Caspian when it comes to being a Summer Blockbuster.

Fisrt things first.. Get Smart is an adaptation of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry's television series. The series garnered critical acclaim in the mid 60's. They starred Don Adams in the lead role as Maxwell Smart, an undercover agent for a secret U.S. Government Spy Agency called CONTROL. Their nemesis was a terrorist organization called KAOS. I have never seen the television series, so I will not be able to throw in any sort of comparison between that and the film. Dont judge anything by that.

Steve Carell is someone I have a huge amount of respect for after being practically awed by his hilarious Prime Time show The Office, his portrayal of The 40 Year Old Virgin, and also his small cameo in Bruce Almighty. In this 2008 revamp of the hit series, he stars as Maxwell Smart a.k.a. Agent 86 (A weird number for a top-class secret agent. It has no significance whatsoever!). With a team of CONTROL agents, they must take down KAOS.

The leaders of the respective organizations are portrayed by rather elderly men. Alan Arkin plays The Chief, head of CONTROL. And Terence Stamp plays Siegfried, the leader of KAOS. Both, fit right in to their roles in the presence of a cast who are half their age! Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson turns up another fun performance as Agent 23. Dalip 'The Great Khali' Singh also has a role in this film as Siegfried's handyman. Watch out for him. He is the cause of many 'aww's' and 'ooh's' among the female-going audience. Although I still fail to believe that the pig he fell on, nor him, died after that God-knows-how-many thousand feet drop!

I'm seeing Anne Hathaway for the first time since The Devil Wears Prada. She plays Agent 99 (Now that's a cool number for a secret agent!). The chemistry between her and Carell is all over the place. It's great fun to watch them working together. The expressions Steve Carell makes in certain scenes is just unforgettable. Sequences like the one with Bill Murray, an agent posted inside a tree; the dance with an enormous woman; the one in the lavatory of the airplane, and loads of others, make this film worth a watch.

However, my pick of the lot remains the pairing of Masi Oka (Hiro Nakamura from Heroes) and Nate Torrence as Bruce and Lloyd, two wannabe secret agents who develop various gadgets and devices for CONTROL. Their undying love for Maxwell Smart gives us a rib-tickling sequence (refer to the facial expressions in the above still).

Get Smart is one of the better spoof movies. I enjoyed Rowan Atkinson's Johhny English immensely. This too, ranks in the same league. The climax, with Ode to Joy from Beethoven's 9th Symphony, is surprisingly funny given the parodied Bush'ism from the U.S. President.

After the no-show that was The Happening, watch this one for a break from the big blockbuster films that are coming out all through the summer. Get Smart. You won't be disappointed.

7/10 overall. Full score for Ode to Joy in the climax, and what followed for Siegfried!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Happening.

It is a well known fact that Manoj Night Shyamalan is a prodigy when it comes to making our hair stand on ends, and make you cringe in your seat with fear. It is also a well known fact that he might be losing his touch a little bit. Although his scripts are among the most original to come out of Hollywood, since Signs, his films have failed to capture the attention of audiences. With all due respect to Shyamalan, I have loved all his movies immensely except Lady in The Water, The Happening shows signs of lack of care in making the movie. Something that one would never associate with him.

Shyamalan is famous for the tension he creates on the screen. The scary and awe-inspiring moments which he is able to create on celluloid is nothing short of pure genius. Read : The scene with the boy with half a head from The Sixth Sense, the green man running across the screen in a flash from Signs, and the sight of a police jeep driving up in the middle of what seemingly is nowhere from The Village. M. Night Shyamalan is truly brilliant when it comes to things like that.

Like all the above mentioned, The Happening too has a fair share of such sequences. Namely, people falling off a rooftop (the poster above), a man walking straight into a lion pen - swarming with lions, and another man laying himself down in front of a giant grass-cutter. The loudness of the sounds which accompany these are shocking, not to mention spot-on! From shots of the wind ruffling through giant oaks and tall grasses, to shots of utter silence, visually The Happening is stunning. But that is about it.

The storyline is merely a different take on what one calls, in layman's terms, global warming. The biological accuracy of the plot is unknown to me. The consequences however, are, simply put, freaky! It is some sort of toxin or whatever you would like to call it, that makes human being suicidal. It looks mostly like a zombie movie. Though, films like 28 Days Later and I am Legend tackled the situation differently. The acting is way below par. Mark Wahlberg is not suited to play a science teacher. Zooey Deschanel, blue-eyed wonder, (Shayamalan has one of these individual's in most of his films) is flat. No expression, no nothing. The little girl, Ashlyn Sanchez is also flat (Why not Dakota Fanning? - though she wouldn't have much to do). There is no character development at all. The timing for most things is wrong. You never really feel for the characters. Just the sheer apocalyptic nature of the plot is enough to dismiss everything else about the film. It just seems a bit too over the top.

There are also too many misleading plot twists. The hippy family, and old Mrs. Jones (plain insane I tell you. I felt like smashing her head with a shovel). The two kids which accompany the main cast midway trhough the film - What were they even there for? All over, just the background score and the visual look and feel of the movie are commendable. Shayamalan still stands out in that field. But, be serious. The Happening is nowhere close to a good movie. It's just all wrong. Why would anyone crack a romantic joke when they have better things to worry about? Concentrate on staying alive - that helps!

Dont waste your time on this. Catch a few of the scenes I mentioned above, on YouTube, stay home and watch a rerun of The Sixth Sense, Signs, or whatever.

3/10 overall. Give us something better, M. Night. We know you can!

Next up - Get Smart and The Incredible Hulk.