Category: Movie Review

Children of Men

Rating: Awful

SPOILERS AHEAD
Argh. What could have been an interesting story turned out to be crud. Children of Men, based on the book (of the same name) by P.D. James.

It’s the future, and for some reason, everybody is infertile. Fair enough. Do we ever figure out why? Nope. Except of course for a young black woman who isn’t. Why? We don’t know. Enter Clive Owen as a disgruntled Theo Faron. Another take on Winston Smith of 1984. Working for the government, just another petty cog. He gets caught up with a bunch of rebels, (Julianne Moore leads them, but only temporarily – she gets shot). It’s his job to get the pregnant woman to meet with the “Human Project” people so that they can save humanity. So then begins a chase through the rotten English countryside of the future, with a few betrayals here and there, and then eventually, our hero prevails, and the lady makes it to the boat on time.

As usual, the future is a dystopia. Is it so hard to believe that the future will be very much like today? An average-topia? A mixture of good and bad. Advances in health science coupled with worse diseases? Social breakdowns coupled with social non-breakdowns.

Hmm, now comes the interesting part:

Ok so we’re living in an England where Immigrants, illegal or otherwise are considered subhuman.

You see TV ads which say show photographs of riots, and names of cities underneath (Jakarta, Melbourne, New York, Blah Blah – oddly, they didn’t mention a single Indian city, go India). Then finally the ad finishes by saying “The rest of the world has fallen. Only England soldiers on”.

All illegal immigrants are detained in concentration camps. Specifically, they are made to stand in cages…with the their arms & legs outstretched, in a star formation. And their faces are covered with KKK-type hoods.

In one of these concentration camps, there is a parade of Islamic people chanting Allah-hu-Akbar, just before the British army comes in to bust the place down…

Ah.

I see. So the filmmaker decided to make this into a different story. They made it into a political allegory….Could this be AMERICA we’re talking about, and not England?

Yechs. Yuck. Awful.

Not mention the whole baby-being-carried-around as though he was Jesus/Moses/Something from the Bible. Sheesh.

This movie is as bad as V for Vendetta. If not worse…

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Revenge of the Sith : A Review

The beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning or the beginning of the beginning?
Ummm, just so we can get the general tenor of this review out from the beginning:
I am a Star Wars Nut. As a 5 year old kid growing up in Hong Kong, I used to come home EVERY DAY after school, and put on the first Star Wars movie (which is now known as Episode 4 – A New Hope). So much so that I know every dialogue, complete with R2-D2’s beeps, every piece of music which plays in the background at each particular time, and also when the commercial breaks are about to appear (I had a tattered VHS cassette of it in Hong Kong – and now of course am the proud owner of the DVD).

Yes, we can discuss the possible repercussions this may have had on my future(lack of exercise, lack of women, hypertension, e.t.c), but let’s save that for some other time.

So Revenge of the Sith. Yes, it beats Episodes 1 & 2 hollow (i.e. The Phantom Menace, & Attack of the Clones). But it’s still a little bit below episodes 4,5,6.

Sure the effects are perfect and the dialogue is cheesy (this is a Star Wars tradition – it’s just that when Harrison Ford would say cheesy lines, he’d sound cool saying them).

The battle scenes kick ass. Enough light-sabre duels and general laser-gun stuff to keep you going through the first half.

Sometimes people wonder: Why couldn’t the Jedi Council detect the Dark Side – well they say as much in Epsiode 2- that their power to use the Force has diminished. Besides, if Sidious/Palpatine is as powerful as he says, he probably found a way to avoid being detected as ‘evil’ – sure the audience already knows he’s the emperor, but that’s besides the point.

Plus I think it’s very believable that the Jedis could have been duped – they just hung around like a bunch of pompous poopcakes, plotting and scheming as much as the Emperor. It showed why Anakin would be confused about where his loyalties should lie. Sure the Jedi are meant to be the goodies, but in this movie they did come across as just another bunch of politicians scheming for their own “noble” ends.

And then Anakin’s fall. Although you understand why he falls and switches over to “The Dark Side”, you still don’t see how he does this – more time should have been devoted to this. Sure you get an inkling of this in Episode 2 with the slaughter of the Sand People…but somehow it just seems missing here. Anakin seems to give up meekly after he kills Mace Windu (played really well by Samuel L. Jackson).

There’s that – and then there’s the fact that it seems Yoda gives up a little quickly too, when he almost kicks the Emperor’s ass. But in his defence, we could say lots of things. Maybe he wearied of the fight, maybe the grief of all those dead children, and what was to come distratced him, making him weaker, maybe maybe maybe. Who can say? Lucas left a bit too much to our imagination.

But the fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan was too good. It was brilliant. Obi-Wan was a really well fleshed-out character, and you can see him growing older and turning into Alec Guiness. As proof, I saw Episode 4 after watch Sith, and yes, Alec Guiness retains the spunk that was given to Obi-Wan by Ewan McGregor. Nice transitioning.

And the closing scenes – when the helmet slowly slips on for the first time, and you here the breathing begin… sent chills down my spine at least…

And the final scene back by the igloo on Tattoine makes you want to see episodes 4,5,6 again – which is what I’m now in the process of doing. And it’s fun to compare a young Anakin to a young Luke and Leia. And even more fun to see Darth Vader in full action, knowing that once upon a time he was a nice young WASPy boy.

Definitely worth a watch.

I think that Star Wars should actually be watched in the following way:

Watch episodes 3,4,5,6, in that order. And leave episodes 1 & 2 as appendices, for those who like a lot of (not-so-well-made) Back Story…

Oh and to those who don’t think much of Star Wars, I don’t have much to say to you except that you have a very limited imagination. Sometimes, the best way to tell a story, and to project a message, is to dress it up, and tell it in an indirect sort of way (in case you missed it, it’s all about Fall and Redemption, with some family values and politics thrown in to boot). The authors of the Mahabharat and Ramayan (be they Supernatural. or simply Natural) could see that. Lord of the Rings, and it’s derived works (Star Wars) are merely Anglo-Saxon attempts of doing the same….but they have a lot of Eastern philosophy embedded in them too…

Shabd: A Review

They keep trying…almost there….but not quite

1) Aishwarya is what God defined as beauty. In this movie, it really shows. I don’t give a shit what anybody says about her. There is nobody more beautiful (on the outside). On the inside, I know a few candidates…

2) Sanjay Dutt can act, we always knew that

3) Zayed Khan sucks

4) Written & Directed by Leena Yadav – debut. Wow.

Ok, this movie tends to ramble too much, the plot is a little difficult to believe, and the songs are awful. But I always try to give extra points for not going the usual Bollywood way, and abandoning all masala. And this movie is anything but typical Bollywood. The unconventional story is about an Author who pushes his wife into a relationship as inspiration for a book. It leaves the viewer confused – is Ash just a stupid puppet or a bold woman who doesn’t mind having a fling? You can never really decide, and I don’t think the director could either. Sanju is decent as the crazed author. Yes, he’s over-the-top somewhat, but since the entire story is a little over-the-top, you expect him to be too. Zayed Khan is not meant for this kind of stuff. You need somebody with more maturity and poise, yes even though Zayed’s character is meant to be younger than ash and stuff. The cinematography is of course, astounding. This is something I think Indian cinema has finally perfected. There are lots of them out there who know how to capture a setting, a mood, Ash’s looks. It’s a shame the writing is still behind. This could’ve been a great movie, but like many of the other could-have-beens it turns in to style, over substance. And of course, being a non-masala movie, I don’t think I’ll see any truck-drivers spouting this one to their friends. Finally, I’m confused. A big thing was made about whether Ash would do a kissing or sex scene in Hollywood. In this movie, it’s clear what she and Sanju are upto (LUCKY BASTARD), but very tastefully portrayed…so maybe she’s changed her mind…

2.75 stars out of 5

Swades – A Review

Lagaan for the 21st Century – nice try..but..no

Cinematography? Excellent. I love the shot of of the outside of the Air India plane, with Shahrukh inside it. The scenery, a very nice shot of Delhi, for once, e.t.c Good stuff.

Music? It’s Rahman. Duh.

Parth – this is my blog – so I can say that for once SRK has actually put in a reasonable amount into his acting. More so than anything else of his that I have seen recently – last seen in Main Hoon Na – EWWWWWWW.

The woman, dammit I’ve forgotten her name, appears in lots of ads and side roles in movies or TV I think. She looks really good in this movie, and she can definitely act too.

This movie will be a failure, however – well the NRIs may like it, even of that I’m not sure. The one thing the bollywood audience despises is an attempt to show reality, and then show that there may actually be some hope to improve that reality. Bollywood is all about escaping your daily grind. You can’t go and tell that audience – hey let’s try and improve your life! Where are the naked dancing girls? Where are the villains which exist in comic books? Where is the dancing round the trees? Hello? Where are the subliminal messages telling us that socialism is good, capitalism is evil, poor people have golden hearts, and rich people are all superficial twats with loose morals, and have earned their money illegally?

Sorry none of that here. Just the idealistic story of an NRI/ABCD coming back, and trying to help his country. I have no objections to that. But it’s cheesy. And it drags at points. Some of the statements made throughout the movie are sensible, and commonly held views by all and sundry. But there are lots of parts I disagree with.
This NRI says that India has been left behind because of internal squabbling. I disagree. He says that India and America are two countries that are poles apart and that the thing holding India back is its traditions and its ancient, conservative ways. Firstly, I see a LOT more similarities between India and America than differences. I believe it is the failure of Indians to see those similarities that holds us back. Second, yes, tradition and conservative ways can be a hindrance, but as Japan will testify, some of those traditions can produce a World Power too.

Anyway, it’s slow and draggy, and its heart is in the right place. But that’s about it. You have your usual slew of village characters, and they all do a good supporting job, but this movie lectures a bit more than it should, and entertains a little less, despite some decent humour here and there. Audiences in India are attuned to detecting preaching in their movies – and they sumarrily reject it. So there u have it. Nice try, Ashutosh and Shahrukh. But no. Of course, I could be wrong and this movie may be a blazing hit, but I seriously doubt it. After all, I’m just one more voice from a 2.5-world country.

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Lakshya: A Review and Ramblings

I liked it a lot, but it was still lacking something….
The cinematography was excellent. I don’t know where they shot the scenes for this movie, but it looks like the Kashmir we saw on the News, and it makes you understand how people can fall in love with the place and willingly give their life for it.

The other point in this movie which really held my interest is that it was based on real events, 90% of it, with of course, some name changes

So Lakshya, is the tale of a guy’s quest to “find himself”, which he does by giving up his nice and spoiled life, to join the army. Then he gets caught in the middle of the Kargil War – India’s first “TV” War.

The Kargil war was important for many reasons. Of course, this is going to sound outrageous to anybody other than myself, but Kargil is one of the roots of September 11th 2001. Pakistan invaded Indian Kashmir, and was repelled the first time. Then before the second round, the Pakistani Prime Minister was summoned to Washington (Nawaz Sharif) by Bill Clinton, and told to Cease and Decist, as India was threatening to take what was then a relatively minor conflict to a higher level. Nawaz Sharif goes back to Pak with his tail between his legs and calls off the whole stupidity. But the General in charge of this operation is pissed. Real Pissed. He knows he could have won this one. So he launches a plan to overthrow Sharif. And Succeeds. That General goes by the name of Musharraf. It is a fact that the Pakistan Army used recruits from neighbouring Afghanistan. It is a fact that these recruits were trained by Bin Laden. It is a Fact that Pakistan was a supporter of the Bin Laden and the Taliban until about afternoon US Eastern time September 11th.

So back to the movie, we’re into cliche here. But let’s get it straight – the director isn’t out to make hard-hitting docudramas. He’s making a Bollywood commercial film, and considering how his first movie (Dil Chahta Hai) was a light-hearted take on youth and friendship, we shouldn’t really expect this movie to be too different. Instead, it’s a light-hearted look at the Army, I guess. Very pro-establishment, but i still respect it for its positive messages. He seems to be saying despite all the negative news you hear – about coffin scams, and human rights abuses, at the heart of it all, your army consists of regular guys voluntarily sacrificing their lives for the protection of your country (Our army consists solely of volunteers. No draft, no conscription, ever. The advantage of 1 billion people).

Having been raised on a Hollywood diet of war movies, most Indian war movies come across as just plain bull, and your first reaction to this one is that there seems to be some naivete about it all. It seems over-romanticised, a bit warm-and-fuzzy. But I feel that is just our jaded, cyncial over-exposed-due-to-negative-media side talking. Maybe the Indian army really is like this. Who’s to say? I’ve never served on a base overlooking the “The Highest Battlefield In The World”, and the fact is that a lot of us haven’t. All we have are anecdotes, and some negative mdeia reports. Let’s cut them some slack.

(WARNING: Inevitable America:India comparison ahead. Read at your own risk)

You can’t really compare this to the Saving Private Ryan’s and Black Hawk Downs simply because those were cases of American soldiers fighting for the woolly notion of Freedom For Mankind (and their own country as a secondary result. If we get rid of Dictator A, then maybe in the future, Dictator A’s country won’t bite us in the ass). It is a rare day that America has been attacked by another country on its own shores on a daily basis. Naturally, the attitudes and behaviour of the military men is going to be different. The Indian soliders are fighting for India’s territorial integrity. It’s their home they’re defending, not a bunch of foreigners from the clutches of some vile dictator. Of course, some people dare to suggest that it is not their home that they’re defending, just a disputed territory. But this Voice would like to dismiss that argument, because as far as this Voice is concerned, Pakistan should rightfully be a part of India too. Anyway, I think it’s highly likely that you won’t come across the jaded, cynical soldier, critical of the authorities, and just doing his job for “the other guys” like the Hollywood fare.

Preity Zinta tries to hold up her end, by being the ‘modern’ woman journalist, apparently modelled on award-winning NDTV journalist Barkha Dutt. But it does seem as though she is just a supporting role, not the lead. This movie seems to be about Man and Mountain mostly(Hrithik Roshan’s Lakshya is to Conquer a Hill).

Phew! There’s a lot more I could say about this movie, but I think this post has become too long! To conclude really quickly and anti-climactically, the Music is good (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy production), the production quality is KICKASS. I mean I could tell that the IAF helicopters flying over Kashmiri mountains were faked, but they were still well done. There are a lot scenes which stayed with me from this movie…
you know I think I’ll go see it again!
Lots of Big actors give cameos. Amitabh Bachchan (a Colonel), Boman Irani (Hrithik’s Dad), Amrish Puri (a General), Om Puri (a “subedar” – I dunno what the English rank is), VJ Yudi (fighting alongside Hrithik) and a whole bunch of others.
A one-time watch for sure…maybe even a classic…

Hum-Tum: A Review (and other musings)

This Voice is now 25 years and 2 days old….
I feel old. Very OLD. A quarter century has passed me by, and I still:
1)Don’t own an island in the South Pacific
2)Don’t own a villa on the Med
3)Don’t run a multi-billion-dollar company which threatens to own the World
4)Don’t run that Indo-American Film & Theatre Production House with my aspiring director friend (Anita), and closest non-relation (VeriKa)…
5)Haven’t got my MBA
😦
And so I blog instead…..

So Hum-Tum…. hmmm..
Well it belongs to that new genre of Bollywood movie, which I like to call Zero-Bakwaas.
There aren’t any melodramatic fathers, or creepy arranged-marriaged suitors. Just a relationship between two people, very loosely inspired by Harry Met Sally.
It gets pretty cheesy at times but manages to keep you watching. But u leave the theatre thinking that it was just kind of blah. But at least things are refreshing, in terms of dialogue, and presentation.
I’m still sitting on the fence about the animated clips that were added into the movie (to try and get across that deep down, we’re all just little boys and girls). It was nice to see a different approach being used, but I’m not sure it added much to the movie.

Another refreshing change (WARNING – this is a minor Spoiler). Instead of having Abhishek Bachchan as a creep, they made him out be a good character, and decided to kill off the poor guy instead of making it a divorce or some such thing. I think that was a good move.

Finally, (WARNING – Another spoiler) the one thing that stood out the most in this movie to me was how they handled the sex – i.e. the fact that Rani Mukherjee and Saif slept together. But instead of getting all hoo-ha and melodramatic about it, I think it was handled with the kind of respect and maturity you usually find lacking in Hindi movies…good for them.
So end result – ok movie, crappy songs with no purpose or melody either. (3/5 stars -) )

There’s been a steady but small improvement in bollywood movies (which I think dates back to Lagaan, but I could be wrong), where the movies were still definitely classified as “Bollywood” but were getting a slicker in all sorts of ways (Note-to-self: Possible future blog entry on the changes in Bollywood).

Anyway, the conclusion of today’s blog is basically that there’s not much happening in the Political Sphere of things (national and international) – the government is too busy battling it out with the opposition for there to be much progress on raising 2.5-World to higher, and Iraq is about to gain partial independence… so this voice has been silent for awhile.
Well at least, as this voice predicted, the flyovers and National Highways will be completed. Ever since we have Congress in Centre & State, we started observing the resumption of construction activity on Delhi’s roads (and elsewhere too, but that’s not so visible right now)….

That ends it for today
Small note about all comments received on this site. I’m intentionally not replying to them because I don’t want this to become a discussion board, as much as I’m all for intelligent debate…because well.. It’s Voice From A 2.5-World Country not Voices of the Internet. I suppose I’ll write out replies to some comments as blog entries though…
Till next time.

Yuva: A Review

It Might Have Been…
A really good movie…but it unfortunately wasn’t. Yuva – basically Hindi for Youth. Directed (and poorly written by) Mani Ratnam, it tries to be relevant to present day India, to give people an insight into New Indian Youth. It tries, and does well in the beginning, but inevitably fails. It’s meant to be the story of 3 guys coming from totally different lives and backgrounds, and about the collision that brings them together (literally, and figuratively speaking..).

The first problem that strikes you at the end of this movie is: What was this movie about? And that’s when you realize that the director himself wasn’t so sure either….
Was it about Today’s Youth? Calcutta politics? Just the story of 3 guys? I guess a jumble of all three.

It starts with an in-your-face accident, and continues to be in-your-face for the first half of the movie. Each character’s story is laid out, and supporting cast established.

Abhishek Bachchan is the equivalent of Shiva (of the big Knees) in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. He’s there to represent the Dog-Eat-Dog India, the mean gritty street life, e.t.c. He’s got a wife in the really attractive Rani Mukherjee, and he abuses her occasionally, to complete our stereotype. He’s basically the storm trooper of the local reigning politician, portrayed too cartoonishly by Om Puri.

Ajay Devgan is Mr. Idealist. Coming from a middle to upper-middle class background, he believes that change is possible, and worth the fight. His fight-for-right is displayed with a little naivete, but then it makes one think that maybe it is as easy as he seems to make it, in the first half anyway…

Finally, we have Vivek Oberoi belonging to the top of the food chain, and behaving like most rich Delhi-ites (but this movie is set in Calcutta). He’s there to party, screw around, and race off to America when the going gets tough.

So we have our three leads. They each have a woman in their life, and instead of these women adding something to the movie, they end up being little footnotes….so I won’t mention them either..the worst has got be Rani Mukherjee, poor woman. At the end of this movie, she’s packed off to a village, and we have no idea what happens to her.

The movie starts off brilliantly, you’re let thinking – “Yes, these are people I can relate to, this is what Calcutta must be like, and I like the messages emanating from this movie”….but then things just go all wrong towards the end. I think Mani Ratnam couldn’t decide what to do..so the end is one loooooonnnng dragged fight on the Bridge…is it the Howrah Bridge? Dunno never been to Cal. Then it’s followed by an even more ‘filmi’ Vivek Oberoi changing his mind overnight to join Ajay Devgun for the elections…or maybe the other way round, either way, you leave the movie feeling cheated – The director sets up an interesting contemporary story, decides he doesn’t know what to do with it, so just kind of trashes it.

It could have been a statement on today’s youth, on Indian democracy, but instead it was just all confusion, followed by a happy ending (which although had a good message, was wasted because of the nonsense that followed before…).

The music, is of course brilliant. A.R. Rahman composing to Mani Ratnam’s filming was always a deadly combination, and as usual the songs aren’t out of context either (or set in Switzerland..)
All that stays with you in the end however, are some well shot scenes, the music, and bad taste in your mouth.

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