Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Dark Knight.

After months of waiting, and one of the most aggressive viral marketing campaigns ever seen, The Dark Knight is finally here. With the tag of 'most awaited film of the year', The Dark Knight has so much expectation on its shoulders that one wonders whether it indeed will suffice, or disappoint. The Dark Knight is not merely a comic book to celluloid adaptation. It is not merely a superhero movie. It is not merely about a masked crusader killing the bad guys. It delves deeply into human nature. It shows us the tolerance of the soul to the limit of choking.

Gotham's need for a hero is glorified in this film. And so is it's hate for that same hero. A masked hero is not a hero at all. He is more like a vigilante who is to be arrested on sight. For it is he who has brought darkness upon them. Hence, they await a 'White Knight'. One who does not need to hide his face from the people. One whose identity is known by all and sundry. One who fears nothing. We find ourselves witnessing sacrifice. Then again, it isn't merely the sacrifice of a person, or even many, for the sake of something good in the end. It is the sacrifice of oneself.

The genius of Christopher Nolan brings to us the sequel of Batman Begins, a revamp to the entire saga of Batman on screen. A film that changed the way the entire world looked at comic book superheroes. The Dark Knight succeeds in taking it not just one, but a couple of steps further. Christian Bale's hoarse voice is still the same under that black mask. He still fights all his battles with his hands. Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker is not just terrifying or shocking, it is beyond belief. That voice, that walk, that laugh! It is nothing short of haunting. Then there is Aaron Eckart, playing Harvey 'Two-Face' Dent, who is just as good. Everyone in this film is spot on. Everything about it is a revelation.

It's two and a half hours long. The dialogue is gripping. It is absolutely magnificent seeing something like this on the big screen. The entire concept of Batman wanting to go back to becoming Bruce Wayne and be done with his superhero days, and how he tries to achieve that by glorifying Harvey Dent, the DA of Gotham City, goes deep into the character of Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne is, after all, only human. The character of The Joker, his want to give Gotham a 'better class of criminal', to prove that 'when the chips are down, civilized people will eat each other' shows us an entire different side of the common people. It is one that contrasts the entire 'we will throw garbage at the bad guy for hitting Spiderman theory.

Indeed, The Joker is perhaps the most complex villain created in comic book history and giving him a simple 'bad guy' tag would not be doing justice to him (Read: Venom from Spiderman 3. Horrible. Absolutely excrutiating!). The wonders they have done with him is unbelievable. He robs millions of dollars only to burn it. He is indeed a man one 'does not understand'. He is one who 'just want to watch the world burn'. The film is a work of art, often obscure. The sequences have been made with the utmost attention to detail, the last 45minutes being absolutely outstanding.

There are probably a million other things I could write about, but I would probably be giving away the story, so I shall refrain. The Dark Knight is one HUGE film. It perhaps might even be one of those few summer films that make it till the Oscars. It should. It will break box office records, and it will create new ones. The Dark Knight is destined for superstardom, and that is indeed what it shall get.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kung Fu Panda.

Kung Fu Panda is Dreamworks' latest animation flick. It features the voice talents of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan. The film has an absolutely amazing opening dream sequence with some off-the-chart hand-drawn animation. It reminded me of Samurai Jack, a cartoon series. The sequence, made to resemble shadow puppetry could as well be published as a comic book.

Simply put, Kung Fu Panda is a brilliant animation film. Using China and the art of Kung Fu as its backdrop, it resembles stories that one would expect to hear in Chinese Mythology. The storyline is serious in nature, yet it is never stupid. The entire Panda thing is what makes it an animation-comedy. I loved the character of Tai Lung, the would-be Dragon Warrior gone wrong. Same with all the others. The emotions portrayed by the characters are very human. Those of rage, the search for limitless power, glory; they seem almost too well done.

The Kung Fu fight sequences, Tai Lung's prison escape, the entire Chinese look and feel of the film, everything seems to have been made with immense attention to detail. The slow-motion scenes are hilarious, and also scary when they need to be. The dialogue is terrific, so is the background score. I'm finding it very difficult to find anything wrong with this film. Kung Fu Panda is a film that strikes a chord for it's message. Recalling Tennyson's Ulysses ~ To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. Watch this with the entire family. LET THE PANDA-MONIUM BEGIN!



Continuing Hollywood's run of Summer Blockbusters for this year, Hancock is a brand new superhero film. It is not adapted from a comic book, but an original story written by Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan. Directed by Peter Berg; the director of Friday Night Lights and The Kingdom, both of which are outstanding movies; and starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman, Hancock delves deep into a superhero who simply 'doesn't give a shit'.

Hancock wears a ski-cap with an eagle knitted on it, humongous shades; he hardly shaves, he drinks throughout the day, and his abusive skills are good enough to win a competition. And like I quoted ~ He simply does not give a shit. Kids abuse him, the city hates him for all the damage he causes (Read: hang a SUV from the top of the tower of a multi-storied building, derail a whole train to save one individual, etc etc), yet he is the only one of his kind. He 'gets the job done', although clumsily. He is, what one would call, a superhero needing a serious makeover (In every aspect!).
In comes Jason Bateman, a public resources spokesperson, rescued by Hancock, who decides to help him successfully change his public image.

The first thing about a Peter Berg movie is style ~ The way the film is hot. Second is the background score ~ with very engaging music. Hancock falls short in both spheres. However, what it misses there, it makes up for with it's witty dialogue and great comedy. Hancock, if truth be told is a comedy film, tackled with the utmost care. Timing is almost perfect. Will Smith, once again, like he did in I Am Legend, singlehandedly shoulders most of the screen time flawlessly (Amazingly close close-ups, done brilliantly!). He smiles once throughout the entire duration of the film. Some painful, yet funny sequences (A man's head up another man's, erm, behind. The girl sitting next to me went 'Oh shit' and covered her eyes), and good special effects make the film visually quite good, though below par. The film suffers from the absence of a central villain, but succeeds in creating a new superhero with a very solid background storyline. He has strengths, and he also has weaknesses. It's short - barely 90minutes, and it makes for a great launching of a new superhero franchise..

6.5/10. I want a sequel!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

King Kong.

King Kong is a 2005 Academy Award winning film directed by the visionary Peter Jackson and starring Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody and Jack Black. Andy Serkis, who played the role of Gollum in the Lord of The Rings, through motion capture, plays Kong. King Kong won Oscars for visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing. The film is a remake of the 1933 classic.

Peter Jackson's King Kong is one of my all-time favorite movies. Fresh from the success of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson picked up this project.. and he did wonders with it. At a screaming three hours and twenty minutes, the Director's Cut edition is a treat to watch. You don't get a seconds rest throughout the length of the film. Jack Black gives the performance of a lifetime. His portrayal of an obsessive film-maker, Carl Denham, is Oscar worthy! It's a shame he didn't get one for it. It truly is a gem of a performance. The film itself is a marvel. With visual effects that make ones mouth hang open and with sound that makes one jump up in their seat, King Kong is, technically, mind-blowing! The sequences of the SS Venture moving into the fog, the first coming of Kong, his showdown with three Tyrannosaurs, his rampage through New York City, and numerous other sequences are simply unbelievable to witness. King Kong requires a giant screen and surround sound for one to get absolutely involved in the film. After that.. Prepare yourself for 220minutes of outstanding film-making.

King Kong too is one of those grossly under-rated movies. It is one of those films that you have to see to believe, and see you must! The tribute it pays to its previous versions, or the new age of visual amazement that it brings, Peter Jackson's King Kong gave me a feeling of intense satisfaction after I saw it. It was much much more than I had ever expected it to be. Just an amazing piece of cinema!

10/10! One day, it will become a classic.

Superman Returns.

Superman Returns is a 2006 film directed by the critically acclaimed Bryan Singer. Singer, best known for his work on The Usual Suspects and The first two X-Men movies, co-wrote the screenplay for the relaunch of the Superman franchise. He turned down the offer to direct X-Men 3 to make Superman Returns.

The Superman franchise is more popular for the performances of the legendary Christopher Reeve than the films themselves. Superman Returns is a continuity 'branching off' from elements of 'the first two films'. Personally, I have never been a big fan of the franchise. However, Superman Returns deserves praise! It is probably, together with Steven Spielberg's War of The Worlds, one of the most under-rated films of recent times. It is ground-breaking cinema. You do not expect Bryan Singer, who Peter Jackson called up to direct scenes of his phenomenal King Kong, to pull off some cock and bull movie. I seriously do not understand why this movie doesn't have a rating up their in the 8's. It is, together with Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, one of the best comic book to celluloid adaptations ever made. Right from newcomer Brandon Routh's portrayal of a very vulnerable Superman (With all due respect to Christopher Reeve!), to Kevin Spacey putting the icing on the cake with his chilly take on Lex Luthor, Superman Returns is a treat!

Be it the straightforward storyline or the realistic performances (Loved Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane!), be it the minimal dependency on visual effects (Superman actually gets beaten up with a person's bare hands!) or the smash-bang edge-of-the-seat action sequences; Superman Returns is a film worth watching.. Over and over again.

8/10. The sequel, Man of Steel, is in the making already.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na.

Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na is a film that I have been wanting to watch ever since I saw the first promo with Imran Khan posing behind a cardboard cutout to make us believe that he is the next big hunk of Bollywood. That, until the lovely Genelia D Souza comes prancing in only to reveal that Imran is not much of a hunk, but rather cute. Seeing the Pappu can't dance promo was rather weird (did NOT believe that it was an A.R.Rahman composition), till I listened to it a thousand times in a row and absolutely fell in love with it! That said, I shall get to the point..

We've seen the rather unsuccessful launch of Ranbir Kapoor (No game, just fame! - so far). There's one more out this week itself - Read: Harman Baweja in Love Story 2050. Plain creepy if you ask me! (Well, so far - again). In comes Imran Khan who no one had ever heard of (Aamir's cousin who??) till we saw his chiseled face in the promos. And, to put it straight - He is indeed the pick of the lot (I don't even want to watch 2050! - Don't judge me by that).

Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na is another one of those mushy romantic films - yes. It's predictable - absolutely! It's boring - Not even close. Is it worth it? - Drop your books, dishes, whatever and run for the theatre! After Jab We Met, this is probably the movie that EVERYONE in India is going to watch. It's not only because of the launching of another 'Could-be' star, but also because it brings a whole package. Awesome music! Great looking people. All the sweetness that not even a chocolate cookie can give you..

Here is a movie that deals with stereotyping in its own way. You have the old 'boy and girl can never be best friends without eventually falling in love' bit. You have the 'boy will find girl boyfriend and girl will find boy a girlfriend' bit. You have the father (played brilliantly in four short cameos by Naseeruddin Shah!) who is wise, preachy, fun, and also dead (sorry about that). You have the mother who is simply trying to protect her son and ensure that he does not become the rebel that her husband was (Read: I quote - 'That was my husband's son!' - you will know exactly what she means, and how effective a line that is when you hear it for yourself). You have the brother who is a git outside, but very very caring on the inside (Great performance from the guy who played that part!). Then there are the villains who are made to be hated by everyone (Recall Ishaan's father from Taare Zameen Par - same technique used. I hated that man enough to start abusing in the theatre!). The fiance (a lesson in how to be a creep!), and the police inspector (Paresh Rawal is still the most hilarious man in Bollywood!). It's saluting stereotypes when it comes to predictable Bollywood movies. However, it's the way it is done that deserves all the credit..

The slow, yet never boring pace of the film; the songs, added in at the right moment; the background music, absolutely engrossing; all add up to two and a half hours of great fun! Don't go for this one alone. Take someone you truly love with you to watch this. Preferably your best friend or your partner! You'll find yourself wanting to comment about a lot of things in it. The film shows events which you can criticize and relate to very straightforwardly. That is single-handedly the best thing about the movie (Don't get me started about the music. I could literally write a full scale review like this one on the music itself. It's only THAT good!). However, the film, like Aditi herself, suffers from extremities. It does not take much to make you feel the good part. The comedy and love is done wonderfully. The sadness and pain needs extremes to get you believing. A slap or a punch!

The performances from the youngsters is, however, not a strong point in the film. Imran is good. Genelia overacts in parts. The girl who is listening to the story is just not believable. They could have picked a rather BIG actress to fill those shoes. The group of friends are just too cute to criticize. Be it Jignesh (Heaven knows how he transformed from spiky hair dude to moustache village-lookalike! Yes I'm stereotyping, I know), or Rotlu and Bombs who fall in love under the most relatable circumstances. Naseeruddin Shah is the pick of the lot. From the moment he turns real from his painting, he makes you pay attention to him.

Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na is probably going to be the biggest hit of the year so far. Both commercially, and critically; Jodhaa Akbar being the runner up. Whether it is the witty dialogue (Bond, James Bond), the friends (Rotlu, Jiggy, Bombs, Shaleen - you'll love everyone!), Pappu - who really cannot dance, or even the horse riding eve teasers - Sohail and Arbaaz Khan(with a whole 'other' story!); the predictability factor simply disappears from your mind once you listen to the first song. You'll be enjoying it thoroughly. That is a guarantee!

Here is a movie made with a lot of care by Abbas Tyrewala. A great directorial debut written with the utmost attention to detail. The camerawork, the settings of the songs, the comedy.. It's a well spent 150minutes that redefines what Bollywood is all about!

8/10 for technique. 7/10 overall! - They should have given 'Tu bole, main bolu' a slot. That song is a gem!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dead Poets Society.

Dead Poets Society is a 1989 film directed by Peter Weir. The film tells the story of a group of boys from Welton Academy who are inspired through the teaching of poetry and literature, by their English teacher, to change their lives of hardened conventionality . The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won for Best Original Screenplay.

Dead Poets Society is not a film for everyone. For people who delve too deep into the meaning of the film, you might find yourself rather cheated or disappointed because of its radical nature. However, if you take it for what it is.. A film that wants to incite the senses to accept change; you will end up getting that warm feeling one gets when having a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly December morning. It works itself up from a simple saying ~ Carpe diem, which is Latin for 'Seize the day'. It is what the new English teacher asks his new 17 year old batch of students to do (in quite a bizarre manner). Together with The Truman Show and Master and Commander, it is one of Peter Weir's best films. The football match with Beethoven in the background, and the climax with bagpipes are the two best sequences in the film. I found Robin Williams' impersonation of Marlon Brando and John Wayne hilarious!

Dead Poets Society is a film that has been widely criticized for its ending. You will know why once you've see it. As far as film-making goes, the ending is done perfectly. However, it could mean different things to different people. To challenge your views, to look at things differently, give Dead Poets Society a go. It is based in 1959, so don't give it as hard a time as some critics have given it.

O Captain! My Captain!
10/10. I love the ending.