Popcorn, anyone?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

You Should Miss The Zohan.....

He's crass, he's crude, he's grossly perverted and he's horribly unabashed about the whole thing.....sounds familiar? Yep, Adam Sandler it is.

He returns to the silver screen with You Don't Mess With The Zohan in which he plays an Israeli Mossad agent. He's their ace guy/person/dude (his rank/position is never defined) and can break down walls, stop bullets with his fingers (and nostrils) and jump and run around like Spiderman trying out Parkour.

He's also tired of doing what he does.

In fact, much to the amusement of his parents and contemporaries, he wants to become a hairdresser!!! When he realizes he’ll never be taken seriously in Israel, Zohan fakes his death and escapes to the States.

Once there, he gets rejected by his idol, the great Paul Mitchell, but finds a job at Rafael's, a salon owned by Dalia, a Palestinian woman (Emmanuelle Chirqui—splendid in her beauty), where he services old hags in his own style--he well, er, "bangs" the ladies at the end of each cut.

Old enemies and new friends pepper this sorry excuse for a comedy, along with a tackily written love angle between Zohan and Dalia. Each joke, each situation is overdone, each dialogue repetitive, specially the ones involving Zohan’s genitals.

The climax is so drab to the point you don’t care what happens. It's also quite insensitive to the whole Israel-Palestine war, ridiculing the Palestinians openly.

Another thing: it's simply too long and everybody acknowledges the fact that you can't take Adam Sandler for over two hours (himself included). By the end of it, you're too dead to even get up and exit the hall. Clearly, it’s Sandler’s worst film to date.

I'll go with a 1/5 for Adam Sandler's You Don't Mess With The Zohan--a pretentious film that thinks bathroom jokes and sexual innuendos can still make the audience laugh.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monkey Business.....

The name "Nuri Bilge Ceylan" might not, of course, ring a bell. It's a name to contend with, however; the man it belongs to won the Best Director award at Cannes this year.

The film begins with a brilliantly shot footage of Servet, an aspiring politician, falling asleep at the wheel. As his car turns a corner, you hear, rather than see, its tires screeching to a halt, followed by a dull thud.

However, a politician to the core, Servet convinces his driver, Eyup, to take the blame for him and go to prison, with the promise of a "lump sum" of cash on his return. Eyup reluctantly agrees, being in dire need of money at the time, but when he returns after nine months, he finds his family torn apart by deception, failure and adultery (his wife, Hacer, begins an illicit affair with Servet and his son, Ismail, gets into the wrong company after failing his University exam).

The rest of the story revolves around how the family chooses to work around these issues rather than address them directly (hence the name "The Three Monkeys--See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil").

The film is a canvas for the DOP. Gokhan Tiryaki's jaw-droppingly astounding cinematography (yes, yes, more superlatives please!) deserves a standing ovation. He effortlessly captures Turkey's stunning locales, using dark green and jet black hues to his advantage. Crisp editing (which could, of course, be "crisper" in terms of frame length) and an apt background score round up the technical aspects.

It's Ceylan's direction, however that leaves you yawning and snoring throughout; each scene is so long, each emotion so tediously brought out that by the end of it, you just don't care about what happens to whom (indeed, if you remember their names to begin with). It's as if the director didn't know what do after capturing a shot and decided to stall for time till he thought of what to do next.

The film's length, mercifully, is a pithy one and a half hours, so you're not tortured for too long.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Thank God It's [A] Wednesday.....!

When you "voice the nation's fears" and you "tell it like it is", you inadvertently take a risk far unparalleled.

Records and experiences tell us that we, as a people, are far more volatile when the fingers are pointed at ourselves, at our faults and at our inner misgivings (which is a way of saying that we don't trust as easily as we should).

That's where A Wednesday scores a point(one of many). It isn't afraid of doing the one thing we Indians are so unsure about: taking the initiative.

Now here's an interesting concept (specially for all those terrorists out there); we, the people, the nation, are ONE. Whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh, this nation is secular to the core. Fine, we've got our communal riots, we've got our social disputes, we've got a pleasant bunch of irrevocably weird "bad" men. Cool, I acknowledge that (along with a billion or so others, of course).

But what we don't realize is that an INDIAN, above all, is responsible for the crimes. An INDIAN is the terrorist, whether he sets fire to a Hindu-loaded train or ruthlessly cuts unsuspecting Muslims in "retaliation". An INDIAN is at fault when he's caught plotting against the British/American government. Yes, we are O.N.E.

And that's exactly what A Wednesday embodies--it tackles the issue of terrorism head-on; it approaches the subject with a clear-cut view of things and a solid idea of right or wrong. But most importantly, it finds a solution.

And how.

The tricky part here would be to explain the plot to you--there's no possible way I can do it without revealing to you the "twist in the tale", which, of course, is the mainstay of the film. Here goes:

Naseeruddin Shah plays a nameless, faceless man who, seemingly, has an agenda of his own. He cunningly devises a plan to secure his identity and yet "harass" the already tired Mumbai police (headed ably by Anupam Kher) by sending them on a "treasure hunt"--the treasure, albeit, being six bombs that he's allegedly placed across the city.

While Mr.Kher and gang are initially inclined to believe the call to be a hoax, Naseer reveals that he has, in fact, planted a bomb at the police headquarters right across the street from Mr.Kher. A hunt and a few tense minutes later, the bomb is found.

And Naseer establishes that he, indeed, means business.

The film progresses quite like the way that most terrorism inspired flicks progress--with the age-old demand by the "kingpin" to have his comrades released and be gathered at a specific point. Anupam Kher (helped by Jimmy Sheirgill and Aamir Bashir), obviously, has no choice but to comply, the deal being that once the terrorists are handed over, the locations of the six bombs will be revealed.

However, nothing is quite like it seems; when the four terrorists are gathered at an abandoned Juhu airstrip, they are, literally, "blown away"--by a bomb.

Yes, Naseeruddin Shah portrays the common man, the "stupid common man", as he calls himself, the common man who's started living a life of fear.

I'm not gonna give anything else away, I've already revealed to you the twist, but suffice it to say, the end moments of the film and the "showdown" in the end are some of the most gripping scenes in cinema. Period. I mean ALL cinema, Hollywood included. It's not an exaggeration, mates, it's seriously the voice of a billion odd people. And BOY is it loud.

The acting? Here's the lo-down:

What can I say about Naseeruddin Shah? I mean, what can I say that's not already been said? What I admire most about the man is his uncanny body language. He fits any role he's given, like a hummingbird to air, like cactus to sand (cheesy, I know), whether it's the dull, lazy, alcoholic washed-up-has-been in Iqbal or the upright, scared, intelligent and ever-hurting common man in A Wednesday. He's just simply outstanding--what with the perfect modulation and dialogue delivery, Mr.Shah has truly outdone himself. And not for the first time ;-D

Anupam Kher, as the totally in-control police chief, is marvelously restrained. After watching him in the AWFUL C Kkompany (and other such recent disasters--Dhoom Dhadaka, too, comes to mind), I'd given up hope of seeing him actually "act" and not "ham". But he's the perfect foil to Naseer's character, something very, very few actors could match upto. I guess it helps having been Naseer's friend for years and years, getting to know the subtleties of his acting and, resourcefully, having developed his own personal nuances to complement those of his co-star.

Jimmy Sheirgill's role is the most perplexing of the lot and it's not because he acts well (which is also not because he doesn't act well--wait, lemme explain). Fine, the director wanted to establish that he's a no-nonsense, violently-inclined, no-holds-barred officer, but what, may I ask, does that have to do with the damned film??? Not ONCE is his character effectively used--for all it mattered, he could've been a whining wimp (or Bobby Darling, for that matter) of a cop! Weird.

Aamir Bashir is good as the pleasant, bhola-bhala officer. A nice change from the "Shinde"'s we've become accustomed to in recent years.

A note, however, to the director: why waste talented actors like Jimmy Sheirgill and Aamir Bashir in such roles? Seriously, they could've been done by just about anybody with half a brain and a scowl and smile, respectively.

A special mention to Gaurav Kapur, the man who plays the lead terrorist in the film--he's very, very effective as the scared terrorist trying to weasel his way out with words. A very gifted actor, I hope we see more of him.

Okay, on to the technical department:

I must say, it's consistent, alright: consistently bad. The DOP somehow decided that he'd love to chop the top half of just about everything in the film, including cell-phones, tables, roofs, the sky, and, in several cases, even normal humans! I mean, sure, you wanted to let the audience know what Jimmy Sheirgill doesn't have a brain (which is quite obvious, actually, from the fact that he chose the role in the first place), but that doesn't mean you'll chop his head off! Also, the over-usage of the fade-outs is very jarring. Cinematographer Fuwad Khan does NOT live up to the visual expectations from the theme itself.

Thankfully, there's no music and really no need for a background score, either. The sheer "blandness" of the film, music-wise, that is, is a point in its favour since it doesn't distract you from everything important.

Minimalistic make-up and really no need for costumes round up the technical aspects.

Now here's what I REALLY wanted to tell you. The dialogues, the dialogues, the dialogues. I won't go further, I wouldn't want you to develop a bias coz of me, but the DIALOGUES!

The two lines that summarize it all and, at the same time, manages to shake you up and introspect is this:

1.) "They attacked us on a Friday and on a Tuesday. I am responding on a Wednesday".

2.) "Usnein mujhe apna naam toh zaroor bataya, par woh main kissi ko bata nahin sakta--aadmi naam mein mazhab dhoondleta hai". (He told me his name yes, but I can't tell anybody--man tends to find religion in a name).

Despite the visual shenanigans the camera plays with the audience, I'll go with a full 5/5 for A Wednesday, director Neeraj Pandey's debut film. It's an amazingly crafted treat to watch and one with the most socially relevant message in years.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Why Rock On Is Spot On.....

Disclaimer: No, I have NOT been paid by Farhan Akhtar and co to write this review.

Short of panting, dropping to the floor and writhing about in an physical fit of sorts, I'd done absolutely everything I could in anticipation of Rock On!!

I'd gone around diagnosing the film's expected fare at the big B-O; a premortem, if you will. I'd irritated my friends to the extent that the ones who'd been looking forward to the film developed a rather extreme hatred towards it. I'd taken it upon myself to advertise the film wherever I went, hosting protracted discussions on the film and why it'll be the biggest hit in years.

So you can imagine when I finally went to watch the film this Saturday, I was nearly frothing at the mouth. Clutching my popcorn and Pepsi in a death-grip, I entered the hall.....though not my Chakravyuh, I felt my ultimate test had begun.

Rock On's!! about "Magik" (very apt), a successful Indian rock group that, at the height of its popularity, is forced to disband. Years later, Fate deals them another hand and this time they know exactly how to play their cards right. It's a simple, non-convoluted story and you totally know how it's gonna end. But it's in the treatment that Rock On!! scores its biggest victory.

The opening scene of Rock On!! will just leave you begging for more.....that is, if you're a TOTAL music addict (as the Joker would say: "Like me!"). If Rock rocks your world and you count your breaths to the beat of Gods like Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses, The Who and (the Lords of 'em all) Pink Floyd, then Rock On!!'ll be the ultimate high; a "trip" that'll last you for a long, long time after the movie.

Back to Rock On!! now.

Socha Hai, that clever, introspective and insanely wittily written piece, kickstarts the movie. To see "Magik" on stage, creating stupendous magic, is one of many, many highlights of the film. What's so endearing and so likeable are the genuine smiles on the four band members: Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli and Luke Kenny. You can tell that they're having the time of their lives jamming on stage, pleasing that crowd, getting them to sway to their tunes. Yes, that's a LIVE performance you see in front of you! (Prior to the film's release, Magik went on an all-India tour, performing in Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata and a few other cities....all the songs you see Magik perform on stage are actual versions.....)

The first half of the film, admittedly, is a lil' drab. It's not in keeping with the general pace and mood of the film and will most definitely make you wonder whether Abhishek Kapoor (the director, of "Aryan" in-fame) didn't really know how to begin the film. Even then, however, you get a decent glimpse at how the lives of Aditya (Farhan), Jo (Arjun), Killer Drummer/KD (Purab) and Rob (Luke) have changed, post-Magik. And you relate.

Aditya's become an extremely successful investment banker. He's lost his passion for life and he's forgotten how to smile and he's the most disillusioned and crabby one of 'em all. He's got an immensely loving wife, Saakshi (Prachi Desai--more about her later), who's desperate to make him smile, desperate to become a part of his life.

Jo's started teaching lil' children how to strum the guitar, including his own son, Andrew/Andy. He's constantly being nagged by his wife, Debbie (Shahana Goswami--I'll reserve my comments for now), to get a job.

KD (reluctantly) assists his father who has absolutely no appreciation for his kid.

And Rob? Haha, well Rob's tuning it up for none other than Anu Malik :-D That part's too good.

Miscellaneous flashbacks, a birthday, confrontations, a few cuppas of tea and an interval later, you see Magik reunite, albeit with a twist. And what a wild ride it is, thereon.

This review won't be complete without a quick music review, as well. Bear with me!

I won't give any more than this away: the music simply ROCKS!!! It's some of the best compositions you've heard in a long time. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy tweak it up with some superbly crafted tunes; watch for the killer guitar solos in most of the songs, they'll make your eyes roll inwards and dance. Same goes for the insane, maddening, kickass drumming.

The best tracks? All of 'em! Seriously, the way the music's been used in the film should be a lesson to all of those dance-around-trees maestros we've applauded for so long.

Sinbad the Sailor is possibly the most effective piece of music in years. If you don't know what that means, you will when you watch the movie. It's "effective". Period.

Pichle Saat Dinon Mein's got wonderful, wonderful lyrics. The music's awesome and the words're superb. It's one of the most enjoyable tracks in the film.

I loved the three slow-ish numbers: Tum Toh Ho, Tumhari Meri Baatein and Phir Dekhiye. They're pictured beautifully, specially the latter two and it doesn't hurt that they're very melodious, as well.

Perhaps the BEST Hindi song I've heard has GOT to be the title track: Rock On. I won't go further. Just hear it and live your life in those three and a half minutes. It's perfect.

The acting. My second favourite part.

I'm one of the few who genuinely does not like Arjun Rampal (in other words, I'm a guy and not a swooning girl). However, Rampal, as Joe Mascarenhas, the lead guitarist of Magik, delivers a truly inspired performance. It's without a doubt his BEST role till date and he's gone the whole hog--starting with his rock star look (man, that hair...yep, now I've got no qualms sounding like a swooning chick) and ending with the restrained dialogue delivery, peppered with just the right amount of pain. The only thing I didn't really like, despite the fact that it goes in keeping with the feel of the film, was his Texas Oil-magnate type moustache. It takes away from his character. Still, it was an experiment and I guess it shows that the makers've got some killer guts.

Luke Kenny as Rob, the electro-percussionist/light technician of the band, fits his role to the T. He might not be the perfect actor, but coupled with his fair, sophisticated, good-boy looks, he, too, manages to impress you very, very much. I loved the way he carried off his nearly-bald look.

Oh man, Purab Kohli, Sir, you are outstanding. Please stand up, take a bow and revel in the adulation you're gonna receive. You convince par-excellence of your drumming capabilities, your comic timing is marvellous, your dialogue delivery is nigh-perfect and both your looks in the film suit you so damned well; it's obvious that your look's been worked upon the most. Simply too good.

Farhan Akhtar. I reserved him for the end coz I've got special words for the man. Being an unabashed FA fan (ever since Dil Chahata Hai--it didn't even diminish after how he painfully murdered Don), I naturally will sound as if I'm biased but I couldn't care less--I know for a fact that what I'm gonna say now will be seconded by everybody who watches the film, regardless of the fact that they like the film or not.

His is the most important role and he shoulders the responsibility with such elan that you get a nagging suspicion that he's "been there, done that" many times over. How his character, the perfect personification of a pendulum, swings back and forth and how he realizes his ultimate dream is a treat to watch. This man is to watch out for coz he can give any of the lead actors a very tough run for their money: he's got a lean, mean physique, he's got the looks and he's got a very different voice which really suits him (a "rasp"-berry, if ever there was one :-D).

I'm now going to praise Prachi Desai and Shahana Goswami to the skies. Again, bear with me!

Prachi Desai, as Saaskshi, Aditya's loving wife is really, really amazing. She delivers a raw performance which only helps accentuate the porous edges that she lends to her character. She's fragile, wants to be accepted and how she does it is something to see. To begin with, you can see her nervousness displayed on screen, Rock On!! being her first movie, but as the film progresses, she settles into her role. It's nice to see that the eye-candy's finally being used as a major character, not as a showpiece. Hopefully, this film'll set a few trends.

Shahana Goswami is OUTSTANDING, AWESOME, ELECTRIFYING. She's the most underrated actress I've seen. Back off, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor and the likes--you don't stand a chance against Shahana. She's arrived and with a MAJOR bang. Watch out for her, she's gonna rule this industry soon.

This might come as a shock, but I'm gonna go with 4/5 for Rock On!! I didn't have that much time (or space) to mention this before, but there're a few cliches in the film that take away from its overall refreshing experience. And there's the issue of the length, as well. Well over two hours long, some crisp editing was required. Still, 4 isn't all that bad, eh?

Rock On!! guys, you deserve it like crazy :-D