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Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

It’s been an action packed few days. Unfortunately it’s all not all the kind of action one would like. I’m not talking about that, all you perverts out there. I’m talking about writing.

First there’s the endless round of parties. When it gets a bit much and you just want to spend one evening at home, just one quiet evening, your excuses are met with reproving silences. Even the static on the wire seems reproaching. You feel like everyone in the world is accusing you of becoming old. Of turning into one of those dull, stodgy people who must hit the sack by ten or they become crabby. In short, of becoming everything you vowed you’d never become (ah, the recklessness of youth). There’s too much pressure to be happening.

And then there are all the movies you have to see. I let myself be lax and missed out on Wall-e, Wanted and Rock On. Now I suppose Wall-e can be caught on DVD, but Wanted? It’s a sad, irreplaceable loss my friends. So, hung over, you drag yourself to the theatres in the morning. After all the partying you have to save money somewhere. And you craving high carb, exorbitantly priced food to get over your hangover doesn’t help.

While on the subject of movies, I must mention Drona here. I haven’t seen the movie but if all the bitching about it is justified, then I am mystified. Because, you see, Goldie Behl is a friend of mine. So is Joydeep Sarkar. I have worked with them extensively over three shows – Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (Zee), Remix (Star One) and India Calling – and have the highest regard for their storytelling abilities. So I am a little baffled by their failure. I am baffled by the nature of the failure. The only reason I can think of is that the interminable delays the film suffered drained the people of their creativity and enthusiasm.

While also on the subject of movies, I did see Hellboy-II. Of all the releases this week, this seems most worth it. CG, kickass; action, great; the narrative and pace okay, although a little slow in parts.  Not quite the Dark Knight, but entertaining nonetheless.

And now I’ve gotta go. Another party beckons. At this point I can only hope that it gets over at a reasonable time, like, say 1 a.m.?

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Okay, it’s official. This is the second X – Files movie that has bombed. Chris Carter has effectively killed the franchise.

I can’t believe how people who managed such a hugely successful TV series for so long have consistently come up with movie ideas that have laid such eggs at the box office. And to think I dragged my friends to this film. They wanted to watch that Jesse James film. I argued fiercely against the plethora of good reviews it garnered, saying it was in the running for Oscars last year and that it was dud. Thankfully the same disregard for reviews held me in good stead while convincing them to go for the X-phillum. ’Cos that certainly didn’t get good reviews.

To put it in perspective, Chris Carter has tried to draw in X philistines with this movie. As a result he’s toned down the spooky stuff and also given the Mulder-Scully relationship extra dimensions. Ironically that’s what put me off the most. Come on guys, the reason I went to watch an X Files movie is I want to see more of the inexplicable paranormal stuff, not some tame organ transplant plot. And the Scully-Mulder exchanges just get mind numbing after a while. And the climax was such a damp squib.

I was sorely disappointed (The scathing looks my friends keep shooting me throughout the film didn’t help). I am a huge fan of the TV series. For years, I set aside everything else on Sundays just so I could watch an episode of my favourite show. I even lit candles on the day they aired the last episode. For many Sundays after that, I faithfully switched on the telly at the appointed time in the hope that Ten Thirteen productions had changed their minds, and was left with a feeling of emptiness when they perversely didn’t.

Anyway, to address another issue, I know I haven’t been writing regularly. I expect that will continue for some more time. The reason is that Diwali is coming up and everyone (most of all my creative director) is keen to take off during the holidays. Now I don’t want to spoil her plans because I really like her (she makes sure I get paid on time). But mostly I want her to have this holiday because she is stressed out and is making my life hell. As a result we have to finish a month’s work in less than half the time.

On yet another separate note, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is # 2 on the bestseller list, trailing only Sea of Poppies. At least that is the case in Landmark stores (and elsewhere, I like to think). Life is good.

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The way to write good situational comedy it is to have quirky characters and then add as much conflict as you can from the beginning. Do not try to write funny. That’s the worst thing writers can do. They end spending too much time and energy trying to come with funny one-liners which only seem forced. Instead what they should do is set up the premise, i.e., what the protagonist wants, and then try to create as many obstacles in his/her way. This will create conflict and automatically give rise to situations that are funny.

The reason Indian comedies don’t work is because very often a) they don’t have solid well-rounded characters off whose personality traits you can play off b) they don’t have a premise which has potential for enough conflict. Or, even if they have a premise they don’t work hard enough on the story to sustain it for two hours. Then they end up writing in situations that seem forced and gags which are dependent on exaggerated physical quirks and stupid, scatological humour.

Take Singh is Kinng. The premise was good enough. A good-natured, well-meaning country bumpkin becomes a big don. That’s it. And then what do they do? They mess it up by bringing in a stupid love angle which is not strong enough to hold the movie together for two hours.

Instead what would have worked better as a main plot would have been Happy Singh trying to fit into Lucky Singh’s shoes and trying to be the menacing don who strikes fear in everyone’s heart. The love angle would’ve worked better as a side plot. You know, something to add to the already chaotic situation.

But we all know, that it ain’t gonna happen. Just today I read in the papers that the producers are looking for a story for a sequel. Brace yourselves, you’re in for another attack of Sing is Kinng.

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Oh dear God! What a monstrosity! The less said about it the better. I will say this though. All my friends who recommended this film to me, kitne janamon ka badla nikal rahe thay? I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND KICK YOUR ASS! If I’m feeling charitable. Else I’ll just kill you.

What a waste of Akshay Kumar’s dates. I can’t help thinking (mostly ruing) what I could’ve done if had those dates. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a case of sour grapes, ‘cos it kinda is).

Although, I don’t think Akshay Kumar is really complaining. Thanks to all the publicity and the controversy, the film has already made its money in the opening weekend, taking Akshay Kumar’s hit score to 5 is it, 6, in a row? (Now that’s one dude who’s really emerged. Just watch Mr. Bond for reaffirmation).

I’m worried about is what the success of such films will do to directors like Anees Bazmee, David Dhawan, Sajid Khan and Priyan.

Why is it that we can’t make decent mass comedies in India? Examples of niche comedy being Dil Chahta Hai, Khosla ka Ghosla, Loins of Punjab and Jaane tu…which are all nice.

Now, I don’t hold anything against bawdy humour (I have been known to laugh at sandaas jokes on occasion) as long as it is there.

But No Entry, Sandwich, Welcome, Partner, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Bhaagam Bhaag, Bhoolbhulaiya, and Hey Baby (however, he spells it) are seriously illogical, unfunny films! I can’t understand how they gross so much. In fact, come to think of it, the last seriously funny mass comedy film I watched was Hera Pheri. And okay, even No Entry was passable. But the rest, pure, unhilarious drivel.

Which brings to me to the question – what does India want? To all wannabe writers, directors, don’t try hard to work on a kickass script. Just concentrate on three-four things:

  • 1. Big stars: Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan…you get the picture.
  • 2. Random slapstick events: And don’t worry about logic. Hey, if you gotta get Akhay Kumar to Egypt, you gotta!
  • 3. Have the likes of Govinda mouth lines like Tu meri hi girlfriend ke saath saiyan banke naiya pe chaiya chaiya kar raha hai! in a particularly shrill tenor.
  • 4. Have a chase sequence in the end with all the characters involved. It doesn’t matter who’s chasing who or why. As long as it is chaotic.

Oh, and don’t forget to attire heroines in skimpy clothes and make them sing songs. If you really must give them an ‘author-backed’ role, make them nagging (shrill) wives. Notice how ‘shrill’ keeps cropping up?

Congratulations, you’ve got a hit film!

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Omigod! I might have been changed. Forever. By the Dark Knight.

I caught the flick last night, having been denied tickets earlier on during the weekend. I could hardly wait for the film to begin, for the images and sounds to assault my senses. And Omigod!

Okay, even if I hadn’t heard about it I would have gone, being a huge fan of Christian bale and Christopher Nolan both. Are you kidding? Would the guy who gave us the Memento and The Prestige, give us anything less? Of course not! And he doesn’t.

Instead what he gives us is a deep, thought-provoking film masquerading as a superhero film. Usually in a superhero film the plot is secondary to the FX. This is not the case here. The plot is as central to the movie as the high octane action.

Bu now most of you know what the story is. But just in case, here it is again: Batman’s beloved Gotham city has gone to seed. Mafia bosses rule and though Gotham has two champions fighting for it – Police Commissioner Gordon, and the new DA, Harvey Dent, they can only do some much since most of their people have sold out to the Mafia. Into this cesspool, a weary Batman brings his vigilante style of justice, hitting the Mafia where it hurts them most – their wallets.

To tackle the menace of Batman, the Mafia bosses unleash upon Gotham, upon Batman and indeed upon themselves an enigmatic, anarchic figure – the Joker.

The rest of the movie is all about – you got it, Batman versus the Joker.

But what is different about this movie is that it is not all about the good guy saving the day and winning in the end. When the Joker says he will kill Rachel (Batman’s long time love and Dent’s current squeeze) he does so. When he says he will blow up a hospital he does so. There’s no Batman arriving, cape flying and all, to save the day. All he can do is watch helplessly.

Indeed what can you do against a man who has no love for life (including his own) or money? Whom no amount of money can seduce? Whose only objective is chaos, done, preferably, in a spectacular fashion? (A thinly veiled allusion to terrorists perhaps?)

In that sense, Nolan takes a comic book story and turns it into a movie of our times. Gone are the days of squeaky clean superheros (Hancock and now Dark Knight). In these stories the superheroes have their own demons and failings, it is no longer possible to tell right from wrong. All they can do is follow their heart and hope it leads them in the right direction. The only thing they do know is that giving up is not an option. Even if it earns them the condemnation of the very people they are fighting to protect. I’m told it’s more like Bob Kane’s original visualisation of Batman and Frank miller’s take on it.

Nolan imbues a dark, haunting, brooding quality into the film. The film is thick with atmosphere. The performances are first rate. The FX spectacular. If there’s a problem it is that there are too many characters and too many things going on. Repeat viewing, more than an indulgence, might be a necessity to get a handle on all the characters and goings-on. And I can’t think of a more enjoyable chore. A must repeat watch.

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My sister and I do a lot of things together. We go shopping, we fight, we bicker over clothes (yes, still!). And yes, we end up watching the worst, most inane movies together.

It began with Bunty aur Bably which was followed by Jhoom Barabar Jhoom which was followed by Tashan (you think there’s a pattern in there somewhere?). Then yesterday we saw Hancock.

The choice was between Thodi Masti Thoda Magic and Hancock. It never occurred to us (rather me) to not go at all. One week out of Bombay without movies and TV? It felt like rehab and I was desperate for my moving image fix.

Had we decided on TMTM, we would have perpetuated the pattern and I have a healthy respect for patterns, believing them to be cosmic signs. Instead, in an act of diffident defiance, I decided upon Hancock. What could possibly happen, I figured, if we watched Hancock instead?

A lot, it turns out. Hancock is the worst superhero film I’ve ever seen. No credible back story, no credible baddies, not much humour. I just can’t understand the hype around the film. As Obelix would say, “These Americans are crazy.”

I couldn’t help ruing the fact that with the money I had spent on the movie (and popcorn) I could have bought four copies of Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions at full price (as the author I am entitled to a discount :-)) and distributed them among all those friends and relatives. I could have pleased all those clamouring for a free copy, plus a part of that money would have come back to me in the form of royalties.

Or I could have bought ten movies from my DVD bootlegger.

As it turned out it was money down the drain.

I’ll call myself an ass**** one more time.

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I managed a decent output of a 1000 good words on my second novel yesterday. I was a little apprehensive about writing anything worthwhile since I haven’t been in touch with it over the past few weeks, other commitments (TV, promotion for Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions) having taken priority. And it is always harder when you go back to a novel after a hiatus because you have to reacquaint yourself with the story and the characters. And then I had a very good run clocking a 5 second improvement. All in all a very satisfying day.

I also caught Get Smart yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. But I must add a disclosure lest anyone take my recommendation seriously and curse me later. And the disclosure is, I love Steve Carell. So I’m bound to be a little lenient. Still, I wished I hadn’t spent 200 bucks on the ticket and waited to watch it on DVD.

By now I guess most people have either seen the movie or at least read the reviews. So I’m not going to dwell on the story. In a nutshell, Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is an analyst (read: boring desk job) at a secret agency whose field agents’ covers are blown. Ergo, Maxwell Smart gets a chance to live his dream and becomes a field agent. An infinitely more experienced and disparaging of Smart Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) is assigned as his partner.

The main criticism is that I couldn’t figure out what Maxwell Smart was? Was he a stupid and bumbling idiot like Johnny English or Jacques Clouseau? If he was, then why the moments of rare acuity and stunning acrobatics? Was he a prissy paper pusher with a penchant for rules, i.e., ideal bureaucrat material? Then why show him as an idiot at times? I couldn’t get Smart’s character down so I couldn’t anticipate what he would do in a situation – mess up the situation further with his stupidity or resolve the situation with an astonishing display of physical and mental prowess.

If anyone has figured it out, please enlighten me.

 

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