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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Review: The Hills Have Eyes

The Hills Have Eyes (horror)
Cast: Kathleen Quinlan, Aaron Stanford
Direction: Alexandra Aja
Hollywood's currently on this great re-make trip, picking up trendsetters from the 60s-70s and remixing them with 21st-century tricks. This one's a re-creation of Wes Craven's 1977 horror flick which became some kind of a cult film for gore guzzlers.
A good old American family takes a trailer-trip through the expansive western desert and soon sees it's holiday turning into a nightmare. Hungry, blood thirsty mutants creep into their van and begin to feast upon the young and beautiful ones.
Terror reaches a crescendo when one of the mutants runs away with the family bachcha and it's left to the battered dad to rescue his infant from the soulless creatures. Soulless, did we say? Nah! These are a product of state-sponsored terror: miners who were genetically altered when the government surreptitiously conducted nuclear experiments on them.
Another allusion to the out-of-control Bushfires? Could be, but The Hills Have Eyes is the third consecutive — after Apocalypto and 300 — gore fest from the West. Good feast.


Review: Cheeni Kum

Cheeni Kum (romance)
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Tabu, Paresh Rawal
Direction: R Balki
Truly, it's age no bar for Amitabh Bachchan. The actor lends a whole new meaning to vintage romance as he tries to serenade a woman (Tabu) who is half his age and convince her father (Paresh Rawal) who is younger than him about his suitable boy status.
He's angry, bitter, cynical, awkward, arrogant, egotistical and irresistible all at the same time. And yes, he wears a pony tail with pizzazz too! The high-point of the film is its screenplay, laced with witticism, and the warm and winsome relationships that the director succeeds in sculpting. Nothing's stereotypical and no one's a stock character.
If Amitabh shares a buddy bond with his impish mother (Zohra Sehgal in impeccable form), then his bonding with the neighbour's dying daughter is no less spicy. The kid seems to be his soulmate and offers him the sanest advice when things seem to get unstuck. Of course, she wants her pound of flesh too which essentially means some adult DVDS! Then again, the chef has struck a fine balance with his staff as he tries to serve the most authentic Hyderabadi zafrani biryani in Old Blighty.
He berates them, bellows on them, bugs them but more than all this, he towers over them like a benevolent big daddy. And finally, his affair with London tourist Tabu is tantalising and tadka maar ke. The two actors complement each other beautifully as they build up the unconventional attachment. The only weak link in this drama seems to be Paresh Rawal, Tabu's Gandhian father who refuses to accept the romance.
But that's more because the director fails to conceptualise his character in a better light. The film suddenly loses its drive when the dad goes on a silly satyagraha to drive home his protest. Poor Paresh Rawal; the king of comedy has no comic lines to regale the audience. But remember, there's Mr Bachchan, boldly romantic like never before. Not since he crossed fifty.


Review: Shootout at Lokhandwala

Shootout at Lokhandwala (thriller)
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Viveik Oberoi, Suniel Shetty, Tusshar Kapoor
Direction: Apoorva Lakhia

One thing's for sure: Viveik is best when he is wicked. Give him the chocolate-hero roles and he flounders and fumbles. He just can't seem to get the popcorn romance crispy and crunchy. But give him Company, Omkara and now Lokhandwala and his eyes begin to flash with meanness, his body language becomes brattish, his lips twist into a natural snarl and the screen lights up with the antics of an anti-hero who makes bad good.
With his enunciation of the role of Maya Dolas, the real-life gangster who dared to raise his head against the D-Company, he effortlessly buries the baggage of a dead past: all the forgettable flops that seemed to be to taking his career nowhere.
Yes, Shootout at Lokhandwala is primarily Viveik Oberoi's coming-of-age film. And the fact that all the other actors create unforgettable characters only makes his job simpler. The wild and wicked nuances of Viveik's character are highlighted only because they are juxtaposed against the more restrained and sleek meanness of Sanjay Dutt, the encounter-friendly cop who believes the only way to clean up his office clutter is to kill the criminal and close the file.
It is the fragile balance between the cops and robbers' gangs that lends this film its chutzpah. So that, eventually, you really do not know where your sympathies truly lie. Sometimes, you want the vardiwallahs to score in the incessant shootouts and sometimes you wish the dashing devils get their due and walk away with the taalis and seetis .
Mostly, it is evil which has an upper hand and the allure of the Gang of Five, headed by Viveik, seems to overpower the muscle of the law, represented by Sanjay Dutt's three-man army. It is here the moral ambiguity — that director Apoorva Lakhia succeeds in giving Bollywood its first real desi Tarantino where the reservoir dogs truly have their day.
The city of Mumbai, once again, plays a pulsating, live entity in the film as the gangsters and the cops wage their relentless war for supremacy. The film is a potboiler, with the director never really letting go his grip on the medium; except in the song-dance sequences where the wild bunch live out their fantasies with the bar girl (Aarti Chabria).
Only one song actually adds to the flavour of the film: the Ganpat rap number, exquisitely sung (Mika) and choreographed, reminiscent of Satya's Goli maaro bheje mein . The pace is relentless, the performances are memorable (Tusshar too finds his groove), the tenor is dramatic, yet realistic and the violence hits hard and proper. Go, get your thrills.



Sunday, May 20, 2007

Review: Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man 3 (action)
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco
Direction: Sam Raimi
Three villains, a doubting girlfriend, a hard-to-resist seductress and some evil alien goop: Spider-Man has too many troubles to let him free fly and free fall in this prolonged (139 minutes), pricey third instalment. Spidey 3 , they say is the most expensive film of the trilogy, but does it give you more bang for the bigger buck? Poor guy, he's hardly the Superhero he used to be.
And he's even made to confess that he can't battle all the bad guys alone. Will one of the bad guys (old friend Harry, now the Green Goblin) turn good and help Spidey save the world from this multi-pronged evil? And believe it or not, the Green Goblin ends up even more endearing than our webbed wonder, with more people — including Spidey and Mary Jane — shedding tears on his save-Spidey mission.
That's only the first misconstrued bit of the plot. And there are many more where Spidey ends up a lesser hero than what we've loved him for. Again, while his tryst with his evil side does give him a swagger and a sheen as he jives down the mean NY streets, it robs him of all the goodness that is a quintessential part of all Superheroes.
Nah! We know the world is getting a bleaker place, but let's not compromise on the quality of our Marvelous men. Gotta believe in some goodness at least! Naturally, we feel better when Spidey tears off the black latex costume, made of a mysterious extra-terrestrial chemical, and dons his red rubber again, righteously ready to save the world once more.
Then, all that much-ado business by Mary Jane is quite vexing. The girl's not only a bit jealous of her boyfriend's success, specially since her singing career ain't going anywhere, she even ends up doubting our hero's devotion to her. And eventually, she becomes the most distressed damsel of them all, hanging on for dear life in the New York skyline, while the good and bad guys battle it out for her.
Did this wailing, whining waitress actually deserve all the attention? Debatable. So what's right with Spider-Man 3 . Simple. It's still larger-than-life when the action cuts begin. The CGI stuff is nail-biting even now.
The Sandman, Spidey's new enemy, is awesome with his post-particle physics body that alternates between a sandstorm and a human form with perfect ease. The King Kong kinda climax is blockbuster stuff. And Spidey still sends a thrill down your spine as he dizzily bungee jumps across the Manhattan skyline.
But when he cries, and when he bleeds, and when he lets down friends and lovers, he makes your popcorn soggy and your fantasy quotient weak. Where's all the fun gone from Superman, Batman and Spiderman? Why have their stories turned into heavy morality plays about right and wrong, revenge and forgiveness? Can't we have them back as plain and simple comic book heroes, please!


Thursday, May 10, 2007

The pivotal role of Aishwarya Rai in 'Sarkar 2'

The pivotal role of Aishwarya Rai in 'Sarkar 2'
10th May 2007 14.00 IST
By Agencies

The gorgeous Aishwarya Rai reportedly has a pivotal role in Sarkar 2 .

After marriage, Ash will face the camera for Ram Gopal Varma 's ambitious sequel of Sarkar . Reports are that Ash will be playing the pivotal role of a manipulative daughter-in- law of the Nagre family.

The plot of 'Sarkar 2' will have Abhishek Bachchan assuming the position of the patriarch, while an aged and feeble Amitabh Bachchan keeps himself to the house.

Varma shifts the focus to the daughter-in- law – played by Ash – who eventually, evolves as the matriarch in the family.

The film will have Ash masterminding strategies to retain the family's monopoly in different underworld businesses. Abhishek will be shown falling back on his wife in times of crises.

The reports quote a source from the production house as saying, "Aishwarya's character holds a lot of importance in the sequel. Amitabh Bachchan will be reduced to being a helpless old man who has only his experiences to share with his son, the new godfather. Abhishek, along with his wife, will run the business and sort out problems of the people. Aishwarya will be seen as a shrewd woman."

Another source added, "She is not an out-and-out negative character. She strikes a balance between her household work and the family business. She loves her family, at the same time she can be ruthless when it comes to dealing with wayward characters."

Reportedly, Ash will sport minimal make-up in the film.

Another source said, "She is quite excited about the film. The plot is quite close to real life. She will play bahu to the family."

The film is scheduled to go on floors in June.



Sunday, May 6, 2007

Review: Yatra

Yatra (drama)
Cast: Nana Patekar, Rekha, Deepti Naval
Direction: Gautam Ghosh
This one's not quite the comeback film for Rekha, our perennial diva. Of course, she gets to reprise her Umrao Jaan adas and nakhras all over again. But alas! The courtesan days are long over and the 21st century has no time for what transpires in the dim-lit kothas of Mehndi Gali that celebrates an old-fashioned romance in the shadow of the Charminar.
Nor does it have patience for postscripts on Pyaasa, where Nana Patekar chooses to transform Guru Dutt's lament (and Sahir's poetry) into prosaic prose.
The problem with Yatra lies more in its post-dated script than in its performances. Both Rekha and Nana Patekar lend an integrity to their roles as the courtesan and the teacher-writer who nurture a lifelong relationship, despite social and familial constraints.
Structurally too, the film moves at multiple levels and re-tells a fact & fiction story with finesse. Patekar, on his way to receive a literary award, re-visits his fictional heroine, Lajwanti (Rekha) as he shares his reminiscences with a co-passenger who happens to be a young filmmaker too. But Lajwanti isn't merely a figment of the writer's imagination...or so it turns out as Patekar retraces his steps to his muse after the felicitation ceremony.
It's a slow, elegiac film, where the director chooses to make too many comments on too many things. So much so, they mostly end up as cursory criticism of a society that's supposedly hurtling towards doom. We'll all be monkeys again in the next century, forewarns a bitter Patekar and makes you wonder why!


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