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Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood’

Iron man released this Friday and I had no idea it was releasing. For some strange reason that upset me. A closer inspection of my feelings revealed it had to do with being robbed of anticipation. You see I like the anticipation of watching a film almost as much as (and in some cases even more than) watching it. It’s a bit like the anticipation of a meal après a fast. Much more fun than the actual act of eating.

Anyway to get back to story, I figured out why they launched the film with such little publicity. That’s because they figured they’d spend the money in bribing the reviewer instead. Four stars the-fucker-who-shall-remain-unnamed gave it.

As soon as I read the review, I dropped everything I was doing (including an expensive china dish) hopped into an auto and sped to Cinemax to catch the cheap morning show (I’m only a poor writer and can’t afford regular shows) although at 140 a ticket the only thing cheap about it is the management’s disgraceful attempt to pass it off as a cut price ticket. AND IT WASN’T EVEN FOR THE RECLINING LOUNGE! AND I MISSED THE FIRST FEW MINUTES PRIOR TO THE OPENING CREDITS.

The plot, for the lack of a better word, is closer to home now that the evil Paki terrorist horse has been flogged to death. And the enemy this time around is the US Army that wants to obtain the Iron Man technology. Impervious to Tony Stark’s trademark braggadocio assertion, the suit is not Iron Man, I am, the Army appoints Stark’s friend ‘Rhodie’ Rhodes to acquire it. To add to Stark’s woes, the thingie he wears in the centre of his chest, the motor that keeps the shrapnel away from his heart is giving him Palladium poisoning.

Then there are Tony’s other nemeses, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). Justin Hammer’s got a real hard on for a lucrative Army contract. The only problem is whatever his company, Hammer Tech manufactures has as much sizzle as a damp Diwali cracker. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an evil Russian genius hates Tony Stark because Tony’s father, Howard Stark was responsible for getting his father deported to Russia. “Well that makes two of us,” Tony should’ve said to him, at least according to the back story they’ve given him about how (sob) his father never loved him.

That’s the plot. The rest of the film is a lot of mumbling on Robert Downey Jr.’s part, blowing up a lot of cars in Monte Carlo, him giving grief to Pepper Potts, him flirting with Agent Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), him bullying Jarvis.

A whole lot of talk and not much action. You know, I’m thinking the new trend they’ve started on TV, subtitling? Excellent idea. Especially when you got to watch someone like Robert Downey Jr. who has a tendency to mumble. Far funnier? Sam Rockwell. At least I could understand what he was saying. And what was that whole thign about Sam Rockwell oozing malevolence? Does malevolence means ineptidue in your lexicon, Mr Reviewer?

Mickey Rourke, neither good, nor bad. Indifferent is the word that comes to mind. Gwyneth Paltrow is efficient as the long suffering Pepper Potts. Scarlett Johansson is sexy as Agent Romanov. On an aside though, why did they make her a brunette when everyone knows blonde = sexy. And isn’t Romanov a male name? Shouldn’t it have been Romanova? What are they trying to do, rewrite sexy and gender equality?

My verdict, go watch the Hindi version. At least, it will be coherent and hilarious. Sample:

“Tony Stark, lauh purush ki tukneek amrikan thal sena ke havale kar do.”

“Kabhi nahin. Lauh purush purush se banta hai, tukneek se nahin.”

Doesn’t make sense? Neither does the movie.

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Disclaimer: Two back to back reviews of Jason Reitman’s films is a mere coincidence (facilitated by the purchase of a brand new DVD player) and not a premeditated act. The reviewer, any one in her immediate family or her pet cat, are not being paid, in cash or kind, by Reitman. The reviewer claims, in her defense, that she didn’t know Thank You for Smoking was Reitman film. It had been lying with her for the longest time and the only reason it didn’t get viewed (and reviewed) earlier was its advanced format, a format the reviewer’s former, antediluvian player pouted at.

Thank You for Smoking is a satirical look at the intrigues of the PR Machinery of Big Tobacco. The story is that of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), the spokesperson for Big Tobacco. Naylor is a glib spin doctor whose arsenal consists of four words  –  convince, confuse, deflect, bribe, and he uses them effectively.

Hell, he can make anti – tobacco lobbyists look bad while sitting next to a lung cancer patient with all the outward and pity inducing symptoms – bald pate, wheelchair bound, stick thin, sallow complexion – of the vitiating disease. The scene where he goes to his son’s school to give a talk on his job and almost gets booted out for telling seventh graders that smoking isn’t bad is too funny.

In his own words, Naylor’s job is ‘to talk’ and he does that tirelessly. He spins and spins and spins. All the time. He has few friends and none outside his line of work. The two friends that he has are all from his line of work, i.e., spin doctors for Big Gun and Big Alcohol, or, as they, self-deprecatingly call themselves, Merchants of Death. They meet regularly to vent and bitch about do-gooders.

The only genuine relationship he has is with his son which is one of mutual love and respect.

Naylor is Now conflict enters his life from various sources. A senator from Vermont, Finnistre (William Macy) is threatening to go more graphic about the warning labels on cigarette packets and the Marlboro Man is threatening to lash out at Big Tobacco for giving him cancer and teen smoking (Big Tobacco’s bread and butter) is at an all time low.

No problem. Naylor has the fix for all. However, all the good work Naylor’s done threatens to come to nought when a sexy reporter (Katie Holmes) seduces him into spilling all and a bunch of anti-tobacco lunatics kidnap and poison him with nicotine patches. Things come to when he has to make a choice about his son’s future.

The story is as much about how Naylor goes about solving these problems as about his relationship with his precocious son whom he takes along with him everywhere.

The film is hysterical. The characters are all stereotypes. All the characters are caricatures. Special mention to Rob Lowe’s Hollywood Superagent and Robert Duvall’s’ smoke-till-I-die Big Tobacco chief. There are no ‘deep’ moments, and yet it is extremely effective anti smoking film. Yes, don’t let the title fool ya. The film works because there is no preaching of any kind – subtle or overt. Everyone gets their ass taken and nobody on either side of tobacco fence gets spared.

It is not Reitman’s best film – amongst the three films I’ve seen, I would rate it after Up in the Air and Juno. But even Reitman’s worst (and debut) effort is right up there with the best of the industry.

Statutory warning: This film kills with laughter.

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What makes a Dark Knight or a Transformers or a Star Trek work? Think about it. There are so many action flicks out there. What then makes a handful of them stand out? It is the underlying character story and the structure of the film.

Here, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, two of Hollywood’s hottest writers share their screenwriting secrets.

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Of late, newspapers have devoted an inordinate amount of space to the Fox Studios suing the producers of Banda yeh Bindas Hai story, which they claim is a copy of My Cousin Vinnie. And while they were at it, they dredged up other such instances. Zeher, Ek Ajnabee, even Rang de Basanti joined the infamous list.

Really, I don’t what the whole fuss is about. I concede that some plots are ‘inspired’ from Hollywood projects, but those are minor transgressions. If you really think about it, isn’t it the other way around? Look at the latest Hollywood offerings. Almost all of them are superhero offerings.

Here are a few points to illustrate my claim:

  1. The hero single-handedly takes on the baddie kingpin and his evil henchmen;
  2. The hero, while not the richest or the best looking, gets the girl;
  3. The girl always gets kidnapped by the baddie towards the end, leading to the climax;
  4. The setting for the climax scene is a veritable death trap with movable floors with jaw-snapping and snarling crocs underneath, flip-over chairs, retractable walls, gas chambers, acid-filled cauldrons and what have you.
  5. Okay, no hero wears his chaddies over his pants in Hindi movies but have you seen Amitabh Bachchan in Desh Premi? And Mithun da in Agneepath? And while we’re on the subject of ridiculous styling, how can we forget Raj Kumar and Jeetendra with their white shoes? And Vinod Mehra with his shirts unbuttoned to the navel displaying an even inch thick layer of lush black carpeting?

And we’ve been doing since, like, forever. And then they say, Bollywood plagiarises from Hollywood. Really?

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Continuing from yesterday, there was this script I came across some time ago. It was a fantasy story involving punarjanam (how novel!). The story opened with a fight between a husband and wife. Midway through the scene, the screenwriter wrote: In spite of being repeatedly goaded by Rahul, Shivani remained silent. It wasn’t as though she was being stubborn. How could she explain to Rahul that there were just so many things she wanted to say that she didn’t know where to begin.

Exactly. If she can’t explain this to her on screen husband, how on earth is she going to explain this to the audience? All this is fine in a novel but in a screenplay? Is the screenwriter planning to add cue cards at the bottom of the screen?

One must remember to only write what can be conveyed. And the instance given above is NOT one of them.  How on earth is the actor going to convey all this with facial expressions?

There is a famous anecdote about F. Scott Fitzgerald working as a screenwriter at a major studio. The problem was that he wrote screenplays like a novel, i.e., he said wryly or she said wryly, which of course meant that a lot of it was unfilmable.

But who was going to tell him that? A celebrated novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald enjoyed a formidable reputation and no one was willing to bell the cat. In the end the studio head was elected for the task. He poked his head into the room where Fitzgerald was working and told the latter that his screenplay would need a rewrite.

“What’s the problem?” Fitzgerald asked.

“I can’t film wrylies,” said the studio head and hastily shut the door.

I don’t remember the exact episode but the gist is the same.

Instead of impressing the director and the rest of the unit with your awesome command over the English language, you could write: Shivani opens her mouth as though to speak, then closes it as though changing her mind. She does this a couple of times.

Now technically, as though changing her mind cannot be filmed. But it can be conveyed. The director can visualize it and so can the actors.

By all means use rich imagery in a screenplay but restrict it to what can be conveyed. And don’t overdo it. Don’t go into raptures about a feeling that can be summed up as she smiled brightly. Remember you only have 110-120 pages to tell your story. Use them wisely.

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