Sunday, August 31, 2008


Wanted is a loose adaptation of Mark Millar's comic-book mini series of the same name. It is directed by Timur Bekmambetov who is better known for directing the Russian blockbusters, Nochnoy Dozor (Night Watch), and Dnevnoi Dozor (Day Watch). It stars James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman.

The story revolves around a 1000 year old organization of assasins who are gifted with superhuman killing abilities, and young Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) in general. The first noticeable element of Wanted are its flashy visuals. The film itself is quite ragtag in nature. James McAvoy's narration, which is actually quite good, never gives you any time to think at first. Right from the start, one is thrown into a series of disjointed events. It actually takes a while to settle down and figure out what exactly is going on. The visuals are downright flashy and outrageous. Fun, awing, magnificent. The acting, with the exception of James McAvoy's lead, is passable.

Wanted is not a film for everyone. It is a film which certain audiences will love, and some others hate. It mostly supports itself on popular graphic novel to celluloid adaptation elements; such as the narration, which is often angry and often calming, it also has the ability to make you think a little. Then there are the obvious comic elements. A lot of comedy. One scene in particular got me into splits. 'Iii'm Sorrryyy', he says, in slow motion, while putting a bullet through a man's chest from his car's sunroof. Yes, in Wanted, expect the unexpected, and you might just enjoy it.

6.5/10. James McAvoy is good. Very-very good!

I Am Legend.

I Am Legend is a 2007 post-apocalyptic science fiction film based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name. It is the book's third celluloid adaptation. The film stars Will Smith and comes from director Francis Lawrence who earlier directed Constantine.

I Am Legend is a futuristic film which is dependent on basically two things : Will Smith, and stunning visuals. The later succeeds in grabbing one's attention to an extent. The visuals of a 2012 Manhattan; empty, deserted, abandoned completely after the spread of a deadly man-made virus, are truly something to marvel at. However, if one remembers, this is nothing new. We have already seen such images in Danny Boyle's earlier film which revolves around a similar story, 28 Days Later. The only difference is that the setting there was London. The let-down here is that the film is a little too dependent on the visual effects. Even the zombies here are CGI as opposed to what they were in 28 Days Later. After a point of time, it no longer seems interesting anymore. There are just two sequences that are actually scary throughout the 100minute film.

However, the marvelous thing about I Am Legend are not the visuals, it is Will Smith. The actor shoulders just about everything on his own. It is entirely upto him to keep us involved, to keep us interested. And therein lies the savior of I Am Legend. The film itself might not prove to be much of a legend, but the individual who shoulders just about every second of the film is. Will Smith is The Man. He, singlehandedly, makes I Am Legend what it is.
He makes you care. For him, for his pet dog, for his remaining cans of food, for his mental state, everything. The ending of the film was a bit of a let-down, as was the background score. Then again, maybe I was expecting a little too much. It loses out to 28 Days Later when it comes to being a solid post-apocalyptic film with zombies, but it still is quite a good watch.

6.5/10. All for Will Smith.

Rock On!!

Rock On!! is Abhishek Kapoor's second directorial venture. This one with Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar, the masterminds behind Dil Chahta, Lakshya and Don. It also marks the acting/singing debut of Farhan Akhtar. There are also a few not-so-familiar and ok-average actors in Rock On!!. With music from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, and lyrics from Javed Akhtar, Rock On!! reaches high, and clutches the stardom which it's characters dreamt of.

Rock On!!, with it's first promos seemed like it could be one more of those wannabe rock-star films. But the very thought of it being Farhan Akhtar's production and his launch as an actor/singer, and the introducion of the title track borrowing the main theme of Lakshya, pretty much took away the whole concept of a wannabe film. Right from the opening sequence which shows us a band performance in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, till the time when the closing credits start rolling, Rock On!! is a star in it's own right.

The whole feeling of the film just feels right. It's almost a kind of tribute to rock bands down the ages in it's own special way. It even puts in bits of the situation that is prevailing in India, where rock bands are mostly recognised by their lead singer (Read : Euphoria). The story is simple enough.. A couple of friends had a small rock band. They got separated from each other due to a nasty incident of clash of egos and personal desires at what could have been the launching of their career. Years later, they lead lives different from what they could have been like had the mishap not taken place. Then comes the re-introduction, the make-up, the flecks of vintage Bollywood, and voila.. Rock On!!

After watching the film, one almost feels a bit dazed. Sometimes, it almost seems like it tries to achieve what Dil Chahta Hai succeeded in grasping almost 7years ago. Given the fact that it is quite shorter than Dil Chahta Hai, and it goes a little less brutally on its characters, Rock On!! too succeeds, in a way; for it never really tries to hit at deep friendship and it's separation and re-uniting. It, more importantly, stresses on togetherness, personal aspirations, and moving on. This is something that is clearly clarrified by the inter-titles before the closing credits. Rock On!! never tries to be something it cannot be, or take us somewhere it cannot go. It remains on the ground throughout. There are no big arguments here, there are no cheesy break-ups or make-ups. It is all very-very personal. It beats, tortures, but eventually sets free it's characters.

Supporting all that is a brilliant set of actors, some wonderful music, and off-the-chart stunning cinematography. Most of the character shots which create tension between characters are never concentrated on the characters directly. A very efficient replacement is used in it's stead. Reflections. There are instances of magic in between (The photo-shoot session in the empty pool, the Goa trip, the jeep rides and and most noticeable - the basement jam sessions, and the concerts). The background score always goes back to a theme which started the film, and it keeps coming back. As far as the songs are concerned, asking for better is madness. The title track is not a strong rock song simply because it comes about in the film in not so raw a moment. It does not show the band performing the title track at any concert. It's a collection of flashback images that go on with Rock On. What it does not do, another song conquers.. Pichhle saath dino mein. It's a great track. The pick of the lot with ease. Then there are modern-day partial-rock versions of old hindi songs which are absolutely hilarious. Adding a considerable amount of heart are Tum ho toh, and Phir dekhiye.

The casting is perfect. At first Arjun Rampal seems to be in the wrong place, but by the time he lets loose his emotions (and also his hair), you know why he is so perfect for the role. Purab Kohli makes a great transformation, as does everyone else actually. But his is the most noticeable. From absolutely raw to simple. Kohli has a lot of jokes (some good, some really-really bad, but kind of funny), which establish him as the goof-ball of the lot. Luke Kenny efficiently plays who turns out to be the central character of the story. Prachi Desai is a revelation, as is Shahana Goswami as the insecure and all family-caring wife. Then comes Farhan Akhtar. You never get the feeling that it's his debut. He seems to have been doing this for years. His acting/singing seems to be something that he had wrapped up in a cloth and stored safely away in a box for all these years - For this. For exactly this film. I do not know when the concept/script for this film came along, but it totally changes Farhan Akhtar's career. The man can sing rock tracks very very well.

Rock On!! never feels like a 150minute film. It is extremely fast paced owing to it's refreshing technique and take. The whole rock music concept acts as a mere connection between the characters, yet it is crucial. It adds the flavour. It could as well have been four friends working as partners in a business, just the flavour would have been different. The essential rock music aspect, missing. Therein lies the secret to the success of this film. Therein lies the reason why it gets you. Watch this. It is very very interesting.

9/10. Rock On, gentlemen. Rock On!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Ruins.

The Ruins is a psychological horror/thriller film based on Scott Smith's bestselling novel, and directed by Carter Smith. Scott Smith is best known for his novel A Simple Plan, his screen adaptation of which earned him an Oscar nomination in 1998. He has also written the screenplay for this film. The film stars Jonathan Tucker, Shawn Ashmore, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey and Joe Anderson.

Unlike the new age slasher films that come out of Hollywood in the name of horror/thriller these days, The Ruins differs. It will not disappoint fans and critics of the psychological thriller genre. It does not switch gears to become a slasher film. Like what D.J.Caruso did with Disturbia last year, Carter Smith does even better with The Ruins. Disturbia's shift to a slasher film was a huge let-down by the time the closing credits rolled. The Ruins stands out because of its independent nature. It does not depend on blood and gore to make you feel queasy. It plays with your head, your views. It churns your insides by showing you fear and pain instead of spilled guts and decapitated heads. The sounds, the silent breathtaking visuals, the close-ups; are the elements that make the Ruins work. The tension that it succeeds in creating halfway through the film never backs out. It remains throughout.

The Ruins is a simple film, with a simple story. There aren't any digressions in it. It's all given to you straight. Take it, or leave it. The viewers are thrown smack in the middle of the situation. The popular nature of the film becomes evident after the introduction of the main characters themselves. A few 20 something's on vacation. There is nothing new in The Ruins when it comes to setting or characters, it's the technique that makes it stand out. It delves as deep as possible into the human mind as it can within its 93minute running time.

Loved it. Love the song in the closing credits (Phenomena by Yeah Yeah Yeahs).

Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy Hollow is a period horror film released in 1999 and marks the third collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. After making Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, the teaming of Burton and Depp has become one that works wonders. Loosely based on Washington Irwing's story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the film takes the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman one step further.

The first thing about Sleepy Hollow is it's elaborate, haunting and eerie set design. Tim Burton is best known for giving an eerie turn on everything he makes (Recall : Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yet another Depp/Burton film). Sleepy Hollow already had elements of horror in it, Burton's task was to make it worth remembering. The use of fairytale music is prevalent in this film. Indeed a lot of its background score comprises the music from a music box or a doll house. The setting is silent, yet it screams. The town of Sleepy Hollow is always covered in fog. The woods are silent apart from the occasional brush of leaves underfoot. However, the excessive use of blood, like in his later Sweeney Todd is required to make the film what it is for the crisis comes from someone who does not have a head and who excels in chopping off others'. The horrific image of the witch, the sight of dead eyes through the floorboard, a sarcophagus spilling out its contents; these are what make Sleepy Hollow a work of art. The tree of the dead, with blood dripping from its roots uncovering what is hidden within its trunk will make one squirm in the seat. The cinematography is worthy of praise.

Acting in the film is top notch. Everyone convincingly plays scared, and even tries to be a hero. None more so than Johnny Depp. One can understand his situation when he hides behind his blanket in bed and says,'It was a horseman, a dead one. Headless!' The flashbacks of Ichabod Crane are done marvelously. The echoes and imagery in those particular sequences are outstanding. Sleepy Hollow is probably the finest piece of cinema Tim Burton has made to date.

9/10. Watch it alone, at night. The Horseman cometh.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall comes from breakthrough producer Judd Apatow. Directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by and starring Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the latest offering from Team Apatow after the success of 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad.

The film, very delicately and realistically deals with the period of post break-up. It also sheds light on celebrity/part-celebrity relationships. Containing a huge amount of situational as well as slapstick humor added with a hilarious performance from Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is another success story in the book of Apatow. The fact that men are as emotionally involved in a relationship as women are is clearly shown in this film. It is more reality than fiction. The fame aspect added in by the character of Kristen Bell brings in the slapstick humor. The characters are all perfect in their roles. Russel Brand and Jonah Hill are two very important pieces of this jigsaw puzzle. Mila Kunis is plain cute.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is just a good time at the movies. No real complications here, just a simple story of a highly complex situation, well told. It's wonderful how Team Apatow just come up with these films. It's getting impossible to think of comedy without them now..

8/10! Love the Rock Opera on Dracula..

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

The Mummy : Tomb of the Dragon Emperor arrives in theatres right at the end of Hollywood's 2008 Summer Blockbuster Season. The film is directed by Rob Cohen better known for making XXX, Dragonheart and The Fast and the Furious. Stephen Sommers who directed the previous two Mummy films, produces this one.

The good thing about the film is that it brings back Brendan Frasier in the lead, as Rick O'Connell. If you have seen the first two films, you will know why it is so crucial that he plays the lead role. He is the landmark in a Mummy film when it comes to comedy, timing, expressions, everything. Rachel Weisz makes way for the flat, but funny and expressive Maria Bello. John Hannah as Jonathan is once again a treat to watch. We have a new mummy. An Asian mummy - Jet Li plays Emperor Han, with style! He singlehandedly leads through the film. There's just something about Jet Li that makes me pay attention to his every move. Whether it was The One or Cradle to the Grave or Fearless, Jet Li is amazing. That being said, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor lacks the urgency that the first two Mummy films had. The special effects are not as good as the previous ones. The cast additions, namely Michelle Yeoh, never really impress. The one hour and 45 minute film doesn't seem that long, solely because it fails to get you involved. The narrative is a huge let-down.

However, given the fact that it is a Mummy film, it is fairly enjoyable, although the first one is the best of the series, then the second and now this. They leave us with the promise of a fourth installment, which I will most definitely watch because anything to do with mummies is fun! Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is B-grade stuff, and the makers probably knew that when they made it. It is harmless fun, with a lot of bad jokes at the wrong time. Then again, that is what makes a Mummy film so special. Definitely worth a watch, especially if you liked the previous two.

6/10. Next up - Peruvian mummies. Hoorah!