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Favourite TV series:
Easy To Assemble
How to Make it in America
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Six Feet Under
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
West Wing, The
Grand Piano (2013)
Eugenio Mira's 'Grand Piano' attempts to be 'experimental' and somewhat 'different' but that alone does not guarantee a good film. Besides, it really isn't that different from your typical thriller except that here the lead, an accomplished pianist, is being threatened through a mobile phone while he's playing the piano. It does remind one of films like 'Phone Booth' and such. The air of tension is maintained in the first quarter of an hour after Tom starts playing the piano before turning into one ridiculous Hollywood cliché after another. The only appealing thing about 'Grand Piano' is the score. Elijah Wood delivers a poor performance while Kerry Bishé is quite adequate. John Cusack is quite awful. Just when I thought he was back on track with 'The Paperboy' after a string of abysmal movies, he slips with this. One would be better off listening to the soundtrack than wasting time on this.
The Big Wedding (2013)
The Big Trash
Given the premise (deduced from the trailer) and the title I was thinking of skipping 'The Big Wedding' but it's got Hollywood's finest actors like Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton and Robert de Niro. Surely, the film is at least worth a watch for their performance, right? Well, a more appropriate title for the movie would have been 'The Big Disaster In the Name of a Movie'. Yes, it's messy, silly and...not funny. 'the Big Wedding' was sold as a romantic comedy wedding flick but the 'jokes' appear forced, desperate and lack originality. Moreover it pokes fun at Catholics, free spirited people and divorced couples. The aforementioned talented actors are wasted which is a real shame. The younger cast's performance ranges from average to poor. The set and outdoor sceneries provide some nice eye-candy. Loaded with clichés, pretending to be funny and wasting talents, this expensive film is kind of...well, trash.
Neuilly sa mère! (2009)
Samy Seghir steals the show
Djamel Bensalah's story isn't anything original but the film is easy to relate to despite all the clichés and stereotypes. Perhaps the key reason is the characterization of the lead character Sami who is superbly played by Samy Seghir. Samy's sudden 'culture' shock from the underdeveloped crime-ridden French suburb to the riches of Neuilly and his struggles to keep up are portrayed effectively. Moreover, Seghir's performance is natural unlike a majority of the child actors seen on screen.
Certain subplots remain underdeveloped even though the director and writer do try to tie it all up in the end. The comedy does feel forced at times, even feeling completely out of place but there is enough here to keep one entertained. The supporting cast performs adequately.
'Neuilly sa mère!' isn't among the finest of its kind but it has enough bright moments to be watchable with the family.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Emma Thompson Delightfully Leads Mr. Banks
John Lee Hancock's 'Saving Mr. Banks' tells the story of P.L. Travers, creator of the classic Mary Poppins. Writers Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith and director Hancock depict how her loving father who struggled with alcoholism influenced her and her refusal to permit Disney to turn Mary Poppins into a movie. However, what I found to be lacking was Aunt Ellie's impact. Clearly she's the inspiration behind the character Mary Poppins and yet there is so little of her shown in the film and what her influence was is left for the viewer to assume. 'Saving Mr. Banks' is quite well shot. However, the special effects are poor. The editing and lighting are smooth and the score is very pleasing. The writing is brilliant, especially the sharp dialogues and the score is wonderful, particularly the renditions of the 'Mary Poppins' soundtrack.
The film boasts of several superb performances. Tom Hanks does a decent job. He exudes enough charm to carry off the part. Colin Farrell, even though not a convincing Australian, does a remarkable job otherwise. Same goes for Annie Rose Buckley. Paul Giamatti is excellent. Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzmann and Kathy Baker provide fine support. Rachel Griffiths is wonderful but she deserved more screen time. But, 'Saving Mr. Banks' belongs to Emma Thompson who delivers yet another transcendent performance marking one of her best works.
Flawed it may be but John Lee Hancock's movie is well worth watching. It's charming, colourful, delightful and very well acted.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
A Superb Sally and A Magnificent Cate In A Tedious Movie
Based on 'A Streetcar Named Desire', 'Blue Jasmine' tells the story of a snobbish posh woman who once had everything and recently lost it all because of her criminal and unfaithful husband. She is forced to move in with her (much poorer) younger sister. Told in typical Woody Allen fashion, we follow both Jasmine and her sister Ginger as they struggle to make ends meet. J is desperate to find a short cut in order to reenter the world of the rich and Ginger too finds a second opportunity for something bigger...but looks usually are deceiving. 'Blue Jasmine' is well shot. Javier Aguirresarobe's cinematography is first rate. The film itself feels somewhat hollow, especially in the writing department. The pacing too is on the slower side. The best thing about the movie are its performances by the two leading ladies. Both Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins do a marvelous job. They are both very convincing as contrasting half sisters and, in the end, that's what you take away from 'Blue Jasmine', two terrific performances in an otherwise dull film that had potential, if only had the concept had been treated well.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The Ballad of Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers' 'Inside Llewyn Davis' follows struggling musician Llewyn Davis, a one-hit wonder that 'faded into oblivion' after the suicide of his singing partner. He's been performing at gigs, as second fiddle , if he's lucky enough but Davis is about to reach that point of realization that his dreams will only be a dream and the lack of stability in his life (no home, no job, no real friends and not even a proper family) will only push him further into darkness.
The film falls on the lines of 'A Single Man'. Here the viewer is accompanied by some fine music and some suitably awful songs. Moreover, the director duo also create a gloomy but equally intriguing atmosphere set in 1961. It's also darkly comic. All the other people Llewyn meets throughout the film are losers too. The only difference is that Llewyn has pretty much lost everything except his love for music while the others lead a relatively more secure life that is equally, if not more, empty.
Oscar Isaac finally gets a role that allows him to showcase his abilities as an actor. He is well supported by John Goodman and Cary Mulligan. The only bad performance comes from Justin Timberlake. He is awful but thankfully he's only there for a limited time.
Whimsical and atmospheric, 'Inside Llewyn Davis' works as both a character study and mood piece. It's lyrical in style and dark in tone but subtle in humour.
Gulaab Gang (2014)
Juhi Chawla is wicked in an otherwise weak film
Soumik Sen's 'Gulaab Gang' released amidst some controversy especially the lawsuit it faced from real Gulabi Gang leader Sampat Pal. After seeing this mess of a film I completely understand why. Of course, when the lead actress Madhuri Dixit describes it as her 'Dabangg' (another overrated awful movie) one pretty much knows what to expect: that this wouldn't be a film that intends to depict the Gulabi Gang and tell their story but just another meaningless good versus evil 'masala' flick masquerading as something that depicts and supports women's rights. Even the producers shamelessly throw in the disclaimer that the movie is entirely fiction. Okay.
There are several songs (ranging from mediocre to awful) and dances. Yes, Madhuri does dance and I doubt she'd ever do a film where she isn't required to dance. After all, she's a much better dancer than actress and here she fails to have an effect. Sen's 'Gulaab Gang' (should have been titled Madhuri's Gang) are all good looking thin women with nice makeup. Occasionally, they swing their hips to music, stand erect looking indifferent or jump around with domestic weapons. Madhuri also gets to do some Kill Bill-Matrix style action sequences (which are mostly shot in slow motion because Bollywood thinks that's cool).
Moreover, the references to Madhuri Dixit the star (and her steamy numbers from 80s movies) are painfully evident. This film was supposed to be about the real Gulabi Gang and not Madhuri the hero. But enough on that. Even otherwise, it's all done so over-the-top. A shootout final? Really? Is this 'Sholay'? The sequences of Rajjo's childhood are laughably bad. Alphonse Roy's cinematography is decent but Sen's script and direction are messy. The film lacks a consistent narrative. The tongue in cheek dialogue appears forced at times.
The only interesting thing about the movie are the Sumitra's sequences especially those with Rajjo. In fact, the Sumitra character is way more interesting than the formulaic (super?)hero. It makes the viewer wonder about her background, what made her into this ruthless power-craving monster. She's clearly a sociopath who's managed to get away with so much all those years.
And of course, Juhi Chawla is transcendent as she steals every scene and is the only reason why the film is even watchable (despite limited screen time). Of the supporting cast Tannishtha Chatterjee and Priyanka Bose stand out. Divya Jagdale is quite loud. Overall, 'Gulaab Gang' is silly. It, very noticeably, tries to milk on Madhuri's former stardom and the growing recognition of the real Gulabi Gang, with it's supposed 'feminist message'. No.
The Western Chameleon
Gore Verbinski's 'Rango' tells the story of a pet Chameleon who suddenly finds himself stranded in a desert where he meets a number of colourful unpleasant characters. With vivid animation, vivacious characters and plenty of energy, this little film highly entertains. It's not the best of its genre as there are problems with pacing and it does occasionally tend to derail from the main story. Needless to say it requires the 'Madagascar' level of suspension of disbelief. The humour works in most parts even if at times it tends to be a little too all over the place, leaving no time to resonate. The voice acting is superb, especially by leads Johnny Depp, Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty and Isla Fisher. Verbinski also pays several references to Western classics. This is a cute and funny tribute to that once-popular genre that dominated the screen in the 60s.
The Ghost Truck
Spielberg's 'Duel' was originally made for television. Throughout the years it has gained a cult following. The film is minimalistic in style and effectively executed. Spielberg once mentioned in an interview that he was initially thinking of whether to show any of the trucker at all. In my opinion, this would have been a more clever decision as it would have left things more open to interpretation as fear of the unknown is usually stronger. Despite this, the director successfully manages to create and maintain tension throughout. The isolated desert landscape further adds to the atmosphere. The car chase sequences were brilliantly shot. Actor Dennis Weaver does a fine job too. 'Duel', in the end, is a suspense thriller that manages to engage and entertain the viewer.
An artist, his lover and her husband
B.R. Chopra's 'Gumrah' has been remade umpteen times in Bollywood, each remake being more (melo)dramatic than its predecessor. The latest one is perhaps Dharmesh Darshan's 'Bewafaaa' (I forgot how many A's the title has) which was a disaster to say the least. The story of 'Gumrah' feels like a typical Bollywood family drama from the 60s.
That isn't necessarily a bad thing but the film gets much more interesting when Meena meets Rajendra after marriage and embarks on an affair with her ex-flame. This was quite a surprise for a film of its time when women were portrayed in stereotypical roles as the loyal and devoted wife, mother or sister who would never cross social boundaries.
Moreover Chopra depicts it quite well without resorting to clichés and he presents some interesting arguments, especially where Rajendra raises the question about whether Meena is only meant to be a caretaker of Ashok's children. However, Chopra's concluding argument is faulty. Is a woman's role only confined to being a homemaker and limited within her home? Granted that it was wrong of her to cheat on her husband but doesn't the husband have any responsibility and granting her the happiness she deserves, a happiness that was forced away when he tied the knot? In addition, the whole Shashikala track felt forced and awkward, changing the entire rhythm of the film.
'Gumrah' is technically well made. The cinematography captures the sense of space and gives us many eye-candy shots. The lighting is impressive. The songs are nice but repetitive.
All three actors deliver some stellar performances. Ashok Kumar is quite charming. However, his French is hilarious (was that intentional?). Sunil Dutt is brilliant as the boyfriend/other man. But 'Gumrah' belongs to Mala Sinha who not only superbly delivers a nuanced performance but very few of her contemporaries could have depicted the internal conflict and vulnerability as effectively as she has. Sinha remains underrated as the actress is hardly mentioned these days when one talks of classics.
Adventures of a cyborg in a mental asylum
Chan-wook Park's 'Ssa-i-bo-geu-ji-man-gwen-chan-a' (aka 'I'm a Cyborg but That's Okay') tells a funny and surreal tale of a young lady who believes she's a cyborg. The film takes place in a mental asylum where a patient falls in love with the 'cyborg'. From the very beginning, Park and his actors engage the viewer and involve you into their imaginary, eccentric and amusingly comical world. With some impressive visuals, a stupendous score and wonderful performances by Su-jeong Lim who is supported well by Rain, there's something magical about 'Ssa-i-bo-geu-ji-man-gwen-chan-a'. The camera-work is amazing and the visuals are stunning. Who would have thought that a mental hospital could feel so enchanting?
'Ssa-i-bo-geu-ji-man-gwen-chan-a' is completely different from Park's more popular films. He took an original concept and has made a poetic film that has heart and magic.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
12 Years In Hell
Steve McQueen's '12 Years A Slave' tells the story of accomplished cellist Solomon Northopp who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. The film grabs your attention from the very start, involving you into the nightmare that Ejiofor's Solomon goes through. The viewer feels for Solomon right away but when his fellow victims are introduced, he/she is further horrified seeing how much worse off these people, including a mother and her two children sold off separately and a young woman forced to becoming a sex slave and forced laborer, are than Northopp and that there's no hope for them.
'12 Years a Slave' is craftfully made. There's some fine cinematography and lighting. Music is used efficiently. In my opinion the best scenes are the ones that had no music or dialogue. For example, the scene where poor Solomon is hang to a tree and left there with his toes barely touching the earth. No dialogue, no music but the rawness of that scene and the 'bystanders' getting along with their day-to-day life in the background is brutally effective.
Chiwetel Ejiorfor is sensational and hopefully this film gives him the recognition he deserves. Lupita Ngong'o is equally stunning and raw. Michael Fassbender and Sarah Paulsen are wonderful. Brad Pitt is the weakest link. The actor doesn't impress and his role should have been cut down. Moreover, it doesn't help that hes given preachy dialogue.
The pacing is a little uneven. Some shots just focus too much on faces, for no apparent reasons (nor does this add anything except more running time) and it's rather distracting. Some of the characters come off as one-dimensional.
'12 Years A Slave' is not one of the finest films but it is well shot, scored and wonderfully acted.
Can There Be Intimacy With No Physical Contact?
Spike Jonze comes up with an original love story between a man and an OS aka operating system aka computer. Lonely and depressed Theodore who was struggling with his loneliness and coming to terms with his estranged wife wanting a divorce in addition to living a monotonous life falls for Samantha. There's no physical contact between the man and the computer and there never will be...but can there be intimacy, the kind many crave for all their lives? The story is told through Theodore's point of view and is accompanied by a mesmerizing soundtrack. The stupendous cinematography brings out the dazzling visuals (even though at times the green screen filtering is obvious). The director also makes some fine use of colour.
Joaquin Phoenix delivers a marvelous performance. He is wonderfully supported by radiant Amy Adams. Their scenes together Scarlett Johanssen does a good job. However, I do wonder why Jonze had Samantha Morton (who'd already done the dubbing)? Olivia Wilde does a very effective job too. Chris Pratt is quite adequate. Jonze himself does a funny job as Alien Child.
'Her' is perhaps one of the most refreshing on-screen love stories of 2013. In its own subtle way, it addresses the relationship between man and technology and how people are becoming more and more dependent on technology everyday.
Dirty Deeds (2002)
Dirty Deeds Down Under
David Caesar's 'Dirty Deeds' is a black comedy about gangsters set in 1960's Australia. The film doesn't completely capture the vibe of the 60s but still looks appealing mainly due to the colourful production design and costumes.
Where writing it concerned, most of the jokes work effectively but there are a few that fall flat. Moreover some of the main characters should have been more properly defined.
The performances, mainly by Bryan Brown, Toni Collette, John Goodman and Sam Neill are brilliant. However, Sam Worthington lacks screen presence.
The pacing is quite uneven and the story does tend to get a little messy in places. The cinematography is good and the score is brilliant.
'Dirty Deeds' thinks it's a smart black comedy and that may be so to an extent but it does have its share of flaws, a few big ones. Tighter editing and more character development may have done the trick. Yet, it's still watchable. After all something that's visually amusing and draws a few laughs may deserve at least a one-time watch.
August: Osage County (2013)
A Loud August
John Wells's projection of Tracy Lett's 'August: Osage County' is a clichéd portrait of a dysfunctional family set during the death of the patriarch. Each one of the characters are damaged and destructive and they're even resentful towards one another. Dark family secrets are revealed and the characters responses to them are unsettling.
'August: Osage County' touches on some bitter truths that many will be able to relate to. However, that's about all it does. Granted that the film is more of a portrait than a narrative story and a movie isn't necessarily required to answer questions. Yet, I cannot help but feel that something's missing.
It's got quite an interesting ensemble that boasts of well-known names. Meryl Streep hams her way through as the mentally ill, drug addicted, foul-mouthed, cruel mother. It's perhaps one of her worst performances. Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper do a decent job. Julianne Nicholson is brilliant and is the only one who shines. Juliette Lewis is no stranger to such role. Misty Upham leaves a mark with a tiny role as witness to the ticking timebomb that is this family. Dermot Mulroney does a fine job as the sleazy fiancé. Julia Roberts is quite good but her presence isn't as strong as that of the aforementioned. But, Ewan McGregor lacks screen presence here at all and his dialogue delivery sounds forced.
On the technical side, the cinematography is excellent and its got some nice music. Lighting needed some work and I the slightly washed out colour didn't do much for me. It's given that the atmosphere in the film is meant to be gloomy and tense but this is a tool that has been used, perhaps overused, in many films.
As for writing, some of the dialogue, especially the humour misses the mark and they tend to be overlong in a few sequences but otherwise, it's quite decent.
In the end, 'August: Osage County' is a bitter family portrait that showcases some fine performances especially those of Streep, Nicholson and Martindale.
The Heat (2013)
Bullock and McCarthy form one of the funniest on-screen buddies
What happens when you cast Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in the same film? One thing is assured and that's loads of non-stop laughter. One plays the clean, uptight and by the-book-copper and the other is a wacky crazy copper. Female Cop-buddy movies are very few. The last one I've seen was perhaps the second 'Miss Congeniality' movie and that wasn't particularly great. However, Paul Feig's 'The Heat' is superb entertainment. The two women pretty much carry the entire film. However, they're also supported well by actors like Michael MacDonald, Demian Bichir and Marlon Wayans (yes, he's actually not that annoying).
The story too doesn't dilly-dally too much on irrelevant subplots. Usually, in such films the more intense scenes tend to be melodramatic but here it doesn't feel that way. The bond between Ashburn and Mullins is believable and even though their characters are polar opposites, it's easy to see why they would be drawn towards one another. Ashburn's loneliness and Mullins's disappointment at her family rejecting her are very well portrayed.
I hope the second movie lives up to the first one. For me, Bullock and McCarthy form one of the funniest on-screen buddies. Like most movie buddies, what makes them so great is that, even though they're hilarious together, their bond is real.
A Stranger In Your Own Home
Maria Blom's 'Masjävlar' shows a slice of life at a small Swedish town. The dysfunctional family theme as presented here isn't anything new and the film does tend to border on clichés at times but there's a sincerity with which Blom tells her story. For example, all the scenes of Mia finding herself a stranger in her own home town while at the same time making judgements about others and as it would turn out, no one is who she thought them to be, are narrated very well. Anyone who has returned to their hometown after a very long time will be able to relate to those scenes.
The subtle performance by lead actress Sofia Helin is also very effective and brings out the depth of Mia making her struggle more convincing. Kajsa Ernst and Ann Petren are equally wonderful as the two older sisters who couldn't be any more different. The rest of the cast do a fine job bringing in some humour.
The execution is quite ordinary but the pleasant snowy Swedish landscape is refreshing to look at. The soundtrack is used smoothely. The birthday party track especially stands out as it's filmed beautifully and so many things happen in that scene, both on the surface and within the characters (portrayed very well by the actors).
'Masjävlar' may not be one of its kind and even though it tells a familiar story that has been witnessed various times on screen, there is a freshness about the way its treated and told.
Main Krishna Hoon (2013)
Say No To Krishna
Rajiv S. Ruia's semi animated semi live action flick 'Main Krishna Hoon' tells the story of an orphanage run by a kind hearted nurturing and loving headmistress Kantaben. In particular, it centers around an orphan called Krishna, who wants to be adopted and have a 'real mom and dad'.
The premise may be promising for a children's film. However, what Ruia makes is completely juvenile. It's very poorly written and executed (almost as bad as those 80's 'so called Bollywood moneyspinners). The editing is dreadful and the songs, with the exception of the one that plays during the opening credit, are horrendous. The animation is abysmal. The less said about it the better. Come on, if you're going to make a children's film, surely one can come up with something better.
The acting by the children is quite bad but the director is to be blamed for this. Cameos by Hritik Roshan and Latrina Kaif are laughably bad. Paresh Ganatra is adequate as Kantaben's assistant (even though he does tend to go overboard at times).
Juhi Chawla is terrific as Kantaben and I couldn't think of a better actor for the role. However, someone of her talent really deserves a much much better film. If there is any reason at all to watch 'Main Krishna Hoon' then it's her.
The Luzhin Defence (2000)
Defiling of Nabokov's Book but Great Performances By The Leads
Based on Vladimir Nabokov's novel (loosely) tells the story of a master chess player Luzhin. The film is shot in an old fashioned but visually appealing way. Thus, it looks polished. However, it lacks the rawness of the book. There have been a couple of significant changes when compared to the book such as the element of ambiguity and mystery which is mostly absent in the film.
'The Luzhin Defence' is also quite simplistic (and a tad melodramatic) as it attempts to provide a solution for everything. Perhaps the intention was to make it lighter in order for it to appeal to a wider audience who like happy endings. But if that's the case, why not change it completely, at least give the main characters different names in order to not mislead the viewers into thinking they're watching something similar to the book it's supposedly based on?
The highlight of 'The Luzhin Defence' are the lead pair's performances. John Torturro and Emily Watson are spellbinding in their roles. Watson, in a wonderfully reserved performance completely convinces the viewer why she would fall for Luzhin. Torturro delivers yet another nuanced performance of a complex man. Geraldine James also does a good job. Stuart Wilson's Valentinov is one dimensional (pretty much your usual antagonist). Alexander Hunting does a fine job as the young Luzhin but he bears no resemblance to Torturro.
Adapting a book into a film isn't an easy task and there is bound to be some criticism if a big book is to be fitted into a 90 minute film. However, perhaps the most important thing is to capture the same essence and that's where Marleen Gorris and Peter Berry fail. Nabokov certainly wouldn't have been pleased with this adaptation.
Searching for Sense
Reema Kagti's previous film 'Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd' was a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience. However, the same cannot be said about 'Talaash'. To start with the flaws, it gives the impression of being a thriller until the very end when it turns out to be something else. Even though the Shernaz Patel track is thrown in every now and then to hint towards the end, it feels somewhat forced. 'Talaash' also tends to spoonfeed the viewer. Considering the tone, some mystery would have worked in its favour but instead it attempts to answer all questions. The pace is also slow at times.
As for the plusses, it's a well crafted film. Cinematography, lighting and art direction are first rate. The characters are well written (except for the Frenny character). The performances are splendid especially that of Rani Mukherjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui who are superb. Aamir Khan does a decent job. Kareena Kapoor is average at best.
Despite its many flaws, 'Talaash' is still a watchable film. I didn't find it boring at any point. There's something intriguing about the characters, including the minor ones that draws your attention.
Weird Science (1985)
Amusing Science in the 80s
'Weird Science' is a funny, quirky and silly teenflick directed by the one and only John Hughes. Yes, it's cheesy and the story is ridiculous but it's 80's fun, hilarious and has heart. Of course it looks dated but at the same time, it's the kind of film one will be revisiting. The special effects are quite laughably awful and who could forget the 80s costumes and hairstyles but that's what makes it so enjoyable. 'Weird Science' has all the ingredients of a successful 80's teen comedy. Then there's the ultrahot Kelly LeBrock and Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Anthony Michael Hall playing the dimwitted teens desperate for a girl. You'll also see a young Robert Downey Jr. (in 80s getup) playing the popular bully kid and of course Bill Paxton as one of the worst brothers on film.
'Weird Science' is certainly something for an 80s classic fan. In addition to humour, it's got an amusing dose of science fiction and action.
Heartbreak Ridge (1986)
Eastwood's Dirty Highway
So it may not be the most original of its kind and as predictable as it is, Eastwood's 'Heartbreak Ridge' scores high on sharp humour with some hilarious lines and the comic flair of the actors. Eastwood plays the blunt, tough and sometimes ruthless Sargeant but he does it with a touch of humour that is very subtle and he is finely supported by his castmates. James Carabatso deserves credit for those laugh-out-loud one-liners. The story 'Heartbreak Ridge' is imbalanced but it does move at a zippy pace. Despite limited screen time, Marsha Mason shines as the former/not-so-former love interest. Mario van Peebles does an adequate job. To sum it up, this isn't a film that demands to be taken too seriously but to entertain and that's where lies its strength.
Mississippi Burning (1988)
Living Among Hatred
Alan Parker's 'Mississippi Burning' is a hard-hitting 'how to prove they did it' (rather than a whodunnit) thriller. watching this isn't easy and at times it instigates a chill because this is still happening. People like that, communities like that still exist. 'Mississippi Burning' raises the question of where it started and how it happens. Is racism taught/learned? In a dialogue between McDormand's Mrs. Pell and Hackman's Anderson, she pretty much sums up what living among hatred can do. Even though she's good-hearted and not a racist, she married one. Furthermore, even the law, takes the side of such people and how many years did it take for it to support and protect equal rights? Meanwhile those who fight, continue to be victims of hate.
Parker's direction and Gerolmo's writing are first rate. 'Mississippi Burning' has a very earthy look. The sets, props and costumes look authentic. Gene Hackman is superb as the man who's seen a lot and is yet determined to get to the end. Willem Defoe is great as the idealist copper. Frances McDormand is excellently restrained. The rest of the cast does well too.
There have been numerous films made on similar themes but there's something about 'Mississippi Burning's rawness that draws you in.
Special Chabbis (2013)
The only other Neeraj Pandey film that I'd seen was 'A Wednesday' which I thought to be seriously overrated as I found it preachy and pretentious. Moreover, I had given up on Akshay Kumar thinking that he wasn't capable of doing good films anymore. But then again, it's got actors like Manoj Bajpai, Jimmy Shergill and Divya Dutta so perhaps it's worth a shot. 'Special Chabbis' came as quite a pleasant surprise. It's well written, edited, directed and acted in by the principle cast. With this film, Pandey shows tremendous improvement. He sticks to the main theme and has written a tighter script.
The main flaw is the Kajal Agarwal track and the songs (especially that first wedding song). In my opinion, 'Special 26' should have been a songless film and either the romance angle should have been better developed and linked to the main story or removed completely. But there's much more good in the overall film that compensates for the flaws.
Performances by the main cast are brilliant. Akshay Kumar and Manoj Bajpai do a superb job in leading 'Special 26'. I hope Kumar doesn't fall back into the rubbish he's been doing all these years as he's taken a leap towards the positive here. Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill and Divya Dutta (offers good comic relief in a brief role) provide fine support.
The art direction, costume, hair and makeup department deserve mention for creating the 80s look (the film takes place in the mid-late 80s) and giving it an earthy look.
Whether one likes 'A Wednesday' or Akshay Kumar or not, shouldn't be the basis of the decision to watch 'Special Chabbis'. It's an overall solid film with a few flaws.
The rise and fall and rise of Burt Wonderstone
After years of trashing their movies with toilet humour, it's refreshing to see a Hollywood comedy that doesn't stoop to that level and one that has heart. The main problem with 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' is the lack of story development and given the theme, there was so much that could have been done here but the director (to an extent) fails to meet up all standards. The magic theme itself provides so much doors to ideas but here they're merely used as gags. The final 'magic' act looks forced and lacks conviction.
There are several plotpoints here but they all feel very rushed or ignored after a certain point (such as the Steve Buscemi track). Even the sudden romance between Wilde's Jane and Carell's Burt is a little too fast.
Carell is terrific in the title role as the arrogant magician. The transformation of his character happens a little too soon, but that's hardly the actor's fault. Buscemi is sidelined but he does good with what he's given. Gandolfini's Manny is a cliché. Carrey is superb (only an actor of his calibre could pull this off). Arkin too is wonderful. Wilde holds her own despite being given lesser importance than her male colleagues.
Despite the flaws, it's still a fun movie. Thanks mainly to Carell and Carrey that there's a lot to laugh about.