Thursday, 27 December 2012

Hansa (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - Life In The Hills!

3/5 Stars

At a mystical Himalayan village in Kumaon; Cheeku, a seventeen-year-old girl battles the ugly world of bureaucrats and landlords, while searching for her absconding father. Her brother, Hansa, meanwhile, along with his friend, is being chased by a local bully Bunty, for he has stolen his five-rupee-coin. A marvellous take on life in the hills told through these two charming stories.

‘Hansa’ is a fine film. The young boy, who plays Hansa’s best friend, gives the best performance of the film. Although the story does slack a bit in the middle, the fine performances and the brilliant cinematography pull the film through.

The film, on the outset, tackles various issues – bureaucracy, sexual abuse, corruption, and childhood troubles among several more. There's a scene in the film where Hansa (Suraj) has borrowed his best friend's prized possession, a ball, and has inadvertently gotten it stuck on a treetop. The ball keeps hanging there, quite predictably, till the end of the film. During the run-time of the film, we are shown that sight again and again till the end. Abandonment forms a major crux of the film as both Hansa and his elder sister Cheeku (Trimala Adhikari) have been abandoned, along with their pregnant mother, in the hills. Cheeku is looking for her father, who has disappeared since a year, and is trying her best to save their house from being taken away by their lecherous landlord, Bajju Da (Kumud Mishra of ‘Rockstar’ fame). Cheeku’s younger brother, Hansa, steals the local bully’s five rupee coin and ends up becoming a strong suspect. The intimidating bully Bunty tries to get the better of Hansa, but is fooled by the little kid every time. While, Hansa and his best friend are on about their little adventure, Cheeku is facing all kinds of trials and tribulations over their home, the landlord’s indecent propositions, taking care of her pregnant mother and the search for her lost father. The concept of the film isn’t really anything different. It deals with issues that the people living in the hills face. Be it abandonment or dealing with increasing urbanization, these people start to find themselves alien in their own land. This aspect was well attributed in films such as ‘Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan’ and ‘Bom’. However, what makes ‘Hansa’ different is that it focuses on the same issues through the eyes of children. Debutante director Manav Kaul extracts wonderful performances from the actors, especially the two actors playing Hansa and his best friend. Can’t seem to find the name anywhere on the web, but the boy who plays Hansa’s close friend delivers the finest performance in the film. The scenes, involving both the friends, are absolutely delightful. The cinematography, by Sachin Kabir, wonderfully captures the serenity of the Himalayan foothills. The pace is meditative at some junctures in the screenplay, but overall, the film does manage to charm the viewer.

Although it’s a film which features children, the story will definitely strike a chord with adults. There are some very important issues that have been portrayed in the film. What works for this film is that it embeds within itself all these issues and still manages to entertain. While ‘Hansa’ is not the best film to come out of PVR Director’s Rare this year, it does work its charm. If not a theatre viewing, the film should definitely be watched on DVD. Try catching it on the big screen anyway! 

Given below are the show timings - 

HANSA Theatre Listings and Show Timings - Dec 28 to Jan 3


Mumbai

PVR Juhu
3.30 PM
PVR Goregaon
8.30 PM
PVR Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel
5.30 PM
PVR  Mulund
2.45 PM
PVR ECX, Kurla
2.30 PM


Pune

PVR Phoenix Marketcity, Vimaan Nagar
3.00 PM


Delhi NCR

PVR Anupam Saket
10.15 AM
PVR Naraina
10.00 AM
PVR MGF Mall, Gurgaon
10.05 AM


Bangalore

PVR Forum Mall, Koramangala
7.30 PM
PVR Orion Mall, Malleshwaram
10.00 PM


Ahmedabad

PVR Acropolis Mall
2.00 PM


Surat

PVR Rahul Raj Mall
3.15 PM



Shivom Oza

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rise Of The Guardians (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Such A Delight!

3.5/5 Stars

The Guardians (of the World, presumably!), Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman and the newly-anointed one Jack Frost, get together to combat the evil Pitch, who wants to engulf the world into darkness. Based on William Joyce’s book, ‘The Guardians Of Childhood’, and short film, ‘The Man In The Moon’, ‘Rise Of The Guardians’ is an animated fantasy-adventure film, directed by Peter Ramsey.

All the better animation films of the year have come during the latter stages of 2012; ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, ‘Hotel Transylvania’, and now ‘Rise Of The Guardians’. The visuals are absolutely incredible, courtesy DreamWorks Animation. The story maybe a bit clichéd, but the film, in entirety, is a joyous experience.

The spirit of winter, Jack Frost (Chris Pine), at the beginning of the film, narrates how he came into being hundreds of years ago, when he was lifted from the depths of a frozen lake by the ‘Man in the Moon’, and has been invisible ever since because no one believes in him. Up at the North Pole, Nicholas St. North, popularly known as Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), is warned that Pitch the Bogeyman (Jude Law) has returned and threatened children all around the world with his fear.

His fellow Guardians, the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Sandman (sans voiceover), reunite to battle their nemesis. The team learns that a new Guardian, Jack Frost, is going to join them. Jack, who is already frustrated by centuries of abandonment owing to the children’s disbelief in him, is initially skeptical to join them.

However, as time passes, Jack and the Guardians start becoming more accepting of each other. Jack, too, finds out the real truth about his past. Together, all of them strive to rid the world of Pitch and make it a happier place. The lights on Santa Claus’ North Pole globe are soon running out, thanks to the despair that the Pitch is spreading among the kids! Can the Guardians rise to the challenge and make the children happy again? You bet, they will!

The eclectic line-up of voiceover artistes, the adorable characters and the stupendous visuals make ‘Rise Of The Guardians’ one of the better animated films of the year. Even though the storyline is quite clichéd, the dialogues and the extraordinary bonding among the ‘fairy-tale’ characters completely spellbinds you! Scenes involving Jack Frost and the kids, with the Tooth Fairy and the Pitch are wonderfully written and connect you to the proceedings. There are so many references made to festivals such as ‘Easter’, ‘Christmas’ etc., and the treatment is so wonderful that it will make you feel like you’re a kid once again!
 
This is the film to watch, for the kids, and the adults! Lots of goodness filled in this hour-and-half-long film!

Shivom Oza

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Collection (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – All Blood And Gore, No Real Substance

2.5/5 Stars

The horror film, ‘The Collection’, revolves around a serial killer, The Collector (the film is a sequel to the 2009 film, ‘The Collector’), who kills all victims but one, whom he kidnaps. This time, it’s a young girl called Elena.

The film is interspersed with instances of blood, violence and gore. There is no real motive shown for the actions of the Collector in this film. So, you have plenty of mindless slayings on show here! Watch, if you prefer this genre.

Elena Peters (Emma Fitzpatrick) is taken by her friends to a secret party at a dingy-looking discotheque. Here, she sees her boyfriend making out with another woman. Distraught, she punches the guy and storms off and locks herself in a room.

Here, she discovers a red trunk and opens it to find an injured man. This man, Arkin (Josh Stewart), severely injured, has been locked away in the trunk by the faceless Collector (Randall Archer). Elena, who panics on seeing Arkin spring out of the box, steps on a trip wire. This initiates a series of traps. Suddenly, you have a huge rotating mechanism with knives run through the dance floor, shearing hundreds of young men and women. Next up, hundreds of small swords are flung at the others, who get stabbed and die instantly. Finally, the rest of the survivors are trapped inside a small room and are smashed by the lowering ceiling. On top of the ceiling, you spot the Collector for the first time. While Arkin jumps out of a window and escapes, Elena gets abducted by the serial killer.

Arkin, who injures himself by valiantly jumping out of the window and is admitted to a hospital, is threatened by mercenaries, hired by Elena’s father, to help them search for the girl. So, all of them set off for this deserted location where the Collector keeps his collections. You get to see arms, limbs among other body parts stacked at one place. Trunks, similar to the one Arkin was trapped in, are seen all around this place. There are living humans at this place too. However, they have been tortured and drugged heavily, leading them to becoming violent themselves.

The film doesn’t have any plot or purpose. All it encompasses is blood, violence and gore. While the action has been very well conceived, shot, edited and consequently, pulled off, the film relies a lot on its 82-minute length to keep the engagement factor alive. While you don’t need acting geniuses to pull off such a film, the actors playing Elena and Arkin, have been performed quite nicely. The film is close-in line with the ‘SAW’ films. So if you enjoyed those, you will enjoy this one too.  The censored version has a couple of gut-wrenching sequences, which will definitely shake you up a bit.

Not quite a must-watch. Yet, you will like it if you prefer this particular genre.

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Best Second-Half Of The Year!

3.5/5 Stars

Set sixty years before ‘The Lord Of The Rings’, ‘The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey’, based on the 1937 novel ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien, is about Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who is hired by the wizard Gandalf to accompany thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin, on a journey across Middle-earth to reclaim the lost kingdom of Erebor from Smaug, the dragon.

The film is the first of a three-part adaptation of the novel. Peter Jackson wonderfully encapsulates a relatively short section of the book into an elaborate 2-and-half-hour film. Visually, as seen in the standard 24 fps format, the film offers nothing spectacular/never-seen-before. It would be advisable to catch the film in 2D for a better experience. The 1 hour-20-odd-minute long build-up is bound to tire even the most ardent fans of the book/LOTR films. However, post-interval, it transforms into a completely different film and takes off magnificently. The film is a must-watch, particularly for the jaw-dropping second-half. The latter half of the film has been shot/edited/written/scored excellently and successfully manages to keep the viewer engaged till the very end.

The film begins with the ‘eleventy-one’ year-old Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) starting to chronicle his life on paper by writing about his coming-of-age as the hobbit. We catch a glimpse of Frodo (Elijah Wood) exchanging greetings with Bilbo following which he leaves to meet up with an expected visitor, wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen). This scene is straight out of the story in the first film in the ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ trilogy, ‘The Lord Of The Rings – Fellowship Of The Ring’. Besides the obvious seamless connection that the writers have made between the two films, it is also surprising to see the older Bilbo (Ian Holm) and Elijah looking exactly like they did in the 2001 film. Time changes everything but have to admit that technology is a great leveller!

The older Bilbo reminisces about his younger days. We go back sixty years into the past, when Bilbo was just another unassuming hobbit. He happens to encounter Gandalf at the Shire. Bilbo, albeit reluctantly, joins Gandalf and thirteen dwarves, led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), on a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the horrendous dragon Smaug. Their journey leads them into the Wild, through lands filled with Goblins and Orcs among other monstrous creatures. Their goal lies at the Lonely Mountain. However, to reach there, they must escape the goblin tunnels where Bilbo encounters Gollum (Andy Serkis). For those who have watched the first ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ film will remember that it is never really shown how Baggins gets hold of the Ring. Well, this encounter, last for over 10 minutes, is one of the best scenes of the film. The peculiar-looking Gollum tries to get the better of Bilbo, but the latter, with his dry humour intact, gives as good as he gets!

The first-half of the film fails to engage the viewer. There is too much attention paid to the minor intricacies in the story. It is understandable in such a situation when such a compact book is being made into a three-film series. However, the build-up to the mid-way mark does falter, and it won’t be a surprise if several viewers are plain bored by that point. The establishing of Bilbo’s, Gandalf’s and Thorin’s characters, is excellent.

However, the journey itself is marred by numerous mundane incidents. The face-offs with various adversaries during the initial stages of the journey are just not thrilling enough and could have been cut short/done away with.

The second-half, however, brushes aside all the apprehensions of the viewers. Be it any filmmaking aspect, the writing, characterization, dialogues, action, cinematography, art direction, dialogues, direction, make-up, editing, the works, and ‘The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey’ upstages all expectations. Peter Jackson, with his team of writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro, deliver a magnificent, albeit a wee-bit long, screenplay! The pre-climactic moments of the film are sparkling, to put it mildly. Howard Shore’s spellbinding music acts as a major factor in the ‘second-half resurrection’. Many of the tracks will remind you of those in the ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ trilogy. However, the music goes well with the film and manages to stay with you long after the final credits roll.

One more thing, even if you have not read the book, you will like the film. Even if you have no idea about the ‘LOTR’ trilogy, you should like the film. In all likelihood, you will love this film!

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Hotel Transylvania (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – A Pleasant Monster Film!

3/5 Stars

A humorous take on the ‘Monsters v/s Humans’ saga, the film, ‘Hotel Transylvania’, is about a whimsical, harmless Dracula, who wants to protect his daughter from the ‘dangerous’ human world.

With spectacular animation, some great dialogues and several hilarious sequences, ‘Hotel Transylvania’ will turn out to be a riot with the kids. The screenplay is found wanting, in the sense that the main conflict isn’t convincing enough. However, it is a nice watch and will definitely keep you entertained.

Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler), who is weary of anything and everything to do with humans, builds this hotel, which houses monsters and protects them from the dangerous human civilization. His hatred for that kind goes back to the time when his wife was forced to kill herself owing to the protests by the humans.

He has a daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez), whom he has kept confined in the Hotel for 118 years. Mavis is an inquisitive person and is keen to venture into the outside world, but her father always prevents her from doing so.

On the occasion of her 118th birthday party, which is attended by the who’s who of the monster world including Frankenstein, Murray the Mummy, Wayne and Wanda Werewolf, Griffin the Invisible Man among others, a human, 21 year old Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg) is the gate crasher at this exclusive monster hotel.

The problem arises when the Dracula realizes that Jonathan is getting closer to Mavis (who doesn’t realize that the boy is a human). He tries to keep Jonathan away from the monsters at the party and this comedy-of-errors leads to a lot of untoward, yet rib-tickling, incidents.

The film has plenty of delightful moments, thanks to the humorous dialogues and some rip-roaring sequences in the screenplay. Even the voiceovers, especially those of Adam Sandler, Gomez and Samberg, are wonderfully done. The lovely visuals, with a fairly decent augmentation thanks to 3D, are one of the better ones, among the animated films of 2012. One of the better moments of the film features the self-deprecating jokes by the monsters. Frankenstein, Dracula and Invisible Man end up being the butt of most jokes, and such lovely moments will definitely be relished by the younger audiences. Even the scenes in which Jonathan belts out contemporary music pieces and the old-fashioned monsters have a scandalous look on their faces are quite amusing.

The only problem with the film is that its conflict isn’t convincing enough. There is no real antagonist in the film. This aspect does diminish the engagement-level to some extent. Director Genndy Tartakovsky pulls off a fine animated film. The concept is quite unique and even the execution is very impressive.

The fun film will definitely work with the kids. The human-monster camaraderie and the monster-monster interactions are bound to keep the adults entertained as well.

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Playing For Keeps (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Great Father-Son Bonding On Show!

3.5/5 Stars

‘Playing For Keeps’ is a slice-of-life film about a former soccer star’s troubles with marriage, son, finances and his own individuality.

The film stays true to its promise of being a great ‘romantic comedy’. Strikes an emotional chord with the viewers and keeps it light at the same time!

Former soccer star, George Dryer (Gerard Butler), finds it extremely difficult to come to terms with his life, post-retirement. Having been separated from his wife, Stacie (Jessica Biel), and son, Lewis (Noah Lomax), George finds himself stranded at a guest-house adjacent to an Asian landlord, Param’s (Iqbal Theba) mansion. Unable to pay the rent, George, having already experimented with a bar, tries his hand at sports casting.

He gives a self-shot tape to an already-established sport caster, his friend and former teammate, Chip Johnston (Jason George), so that he can make some leeway in his financial pursuits.

He also gets to spend the weekends with his son Lewis. He gets to drive him to football practice and both of them have dinner afterwards. Having been left by George when he was just a toddler, the kid has no memories of good times spent with his father. Stacie, living with her current partner Matt (James Tupper), too, looks back at her marriage with resentment as George was never there for them.

Once, during football practice, George fills in for the burly, good-for-nothing, perpetually-stuck-on-the-phone soccer coach, and has a great time with the kids. His football antics impress the parents, who insist that George take up full-time coaching of the school kids.

Now, while coaching, George ends up attracting the attention of several mothers. These gorgeous ladies, all of them either single or unhappy with their current partner, shamelessly hit on George, trying to get into bed with him. The ladies in question, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Judy Greer, would charm the hell out of any man and George, eventually, does relent to two of them!

The rest of the film harps upon George’s bonding with his son Lewis, his coming-to-terms with the broken marriage and his relentless pursuit of the sports casting job.

The film packs in some wonderful moments, especially those involving Gerard and Noah. The two share brilliant camaraderie on-screen. Noah pulls off a difficult role. He is not just supposed to play a happy-go-lucky child, but also one who gets insecure when he sees his father with other women. There is a scene in which George is talking to the gorgeous Denise (Zeta-Jones) outside his house. Lewis, who is sleeping in his own room inside the house, swiftly moves to his father’s room so that he can prevent his father from calling Denise inside. In the next sequence, you have Lewis telling his father that he loves him and they hug tightly.

Director Gabrielle Muccino (‘The Pursuit Of Happyness’, ‘Seven Pounds’) is terrific at capturing father-son bonding, and he doesn’t disappoint this time around as well. Catherine Zeta-Jones is adorable as the cougar and so is Judy as the weeping woman on the prowl! Uma hardly gets any screen time, but boy, she does looks like a million bucks!

Gerard and Jessica share amazing chemistry on screen. They quarrel and argue through most of the film, but they very much looked like an estranged couple.

Dennis Quaid, who plays the multi-billionaire businessman Carl, was also wasted in an inconsequential role. His character was supposed to cause the main conflict towards the end of the film. However, as earnestly as Quaid tries to pull off this character, the weak writing lets him down.

Andrea Guerra lends pleasant music to the film, and the lovely visuals are courtesy Peter Menzies Jr.’s cinematography. Robbie Fox has written a very feel-good, slice-of-life screenplay. Although soccer is an integral part of the film, jargon has been kept away it, thankfully. Gerard Butler is definitely the scene stealer here. The actor, revered for his great looks, packs in more than a punch.

‘Playing For Keeps’ is a great ‘slice-of-life’ film. It’s packed with some great dialogues, wonderful moments and fine acting. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Shivom Oza

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Maqbool (2003) Review by Shivom Oza – Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare Fixation Begins

3.5/5 Stars


‘Maqbool’ is Vishal Bhardwaj’s Mumbai-based adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. Set in the Mumbai underworld, the film revolves around Maqbool (Macbeth), the right-hand man of Jahangir Khan aka Abba Ji (King Duncan), a powerful underworld don. The story is about his loyalty, deceit and the eventual betrayal towards his master.

As an adaptation, the film cuts out as a terrific interpretation of Shakespeare’s works. Terrific acting, spellbinding background music and fine dialogue writing, make ‘Maqbool’ a must-watch. This film announces Vishal Bhardwaj’s arrival. The director followed this attempt with path-breaking films such as ‘Omkara’, ‘The Blue Umbrella’ and ‘Kaminey’.

Jahangir Khan/Abba Ji (Pankaj Kapoor) is an aging gang lord, living with his mistress Nimmi (Tabu). Jahangir’s trusted accomplices are Kaka (Piyush Mishra) and Maqbool (Irrfan Khan). Both of them are extremely loyal to their master. Kaka’s son Guddu (Ajay Gehi), also a member of the gang, is in love with Abba Ji’s daughter, Sameera (Masumeh Makhija). Their marriage will make Guddu the next-in-line to become the leader of the gang. While Maqbool never pays any attention to this eventuality, Nimmi, who secretly loves him, incites him to wage war against Abba Ji and usurp his position.

2 police-offers, Pandit and Purohit (Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah), keep appearing in between to maintain the ‘shakti ka santulan’. The two conniving cops keep swinging sides so as to witness a fascinating tale unfolding.

The film comprises acting powerhouses, each one of them outshining the other. Pankaj Kapoor delivers an almost Don Vito Corleone-type performance with his ‘Abba Ji’ act. The immense control in his voice, the menacing look on his face and the haunting background music, adds to the dramatic element in his character. Tabu spellbinds with her effervescent act in the first half and that of the victimized in the second half. Irrfan Khan delivers an astounding performance as ‘Maqbool’ and pulls off such a layered character with ease and élan.

The supporting actors, Piyush Mishra, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Ajay Gehi and Masumeh Makhija, are stellar in their respective roles.

The film, despite being made on a relatively low budget in comparison to Bhardwaj’s recent films, manages to lap up the best of everything. Apart from the terrific line-up of actors, the film also excels in the cinematography (Hemant Chaturvedi) and Art Direction (Jayant Deshmukh). The sequences and the locations wonderfully capture the sombre mood, inherent within the film. The costume designing (Payal Saluja) deserves special mention. Immaculate attention is paid to the look of the characters. Irrfan’s character undergoes a drastic change in the film, which is well showcased by his look and costumes. The music also plays a wonderful role in establishing and augmenting the impact of plot points, character transformations, and critical moments in the film. The sequence wherein Nimmi and Maqbool finally succumb to their passions is excellently shown through shadowy visuals. The film has taken a fair bit of inspiration from Shakespeare and Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’ in equal measure. Silence has been used wonderfully in the screenplay. The editing too, works wonders for the film. The length, at just over 2 hours, gives us an immensely engaging film.

The real ‘hero’ of the film is the writing. In the music department, Gulzar gives beautiful words to Bhardwaj’s creations. For the dialogues (don’t miss Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri’s wonderful camaraderie), Bhardwaj alone deserves all the accolades. Finally, the taut screenplay, which is the combined effort of Bhardwaj and Abbas Tyrewala, which must surely be one of the best interpretations of ‘Macbeth’ of all-time.

‘Maqbool’ heralds the beginning of so many promising careers. We get to witness the powerhouse performers of the Hindi film industry at their very best. The film, also responsible for giving Vishal Bhardwaj’s his deserved prominence, could not justify its brilliance with its box-office results. However, over the years, it has achieved the much-coveted ‘cult’ status. ‘Maqbool’ is a must-watch for many reasons. You’ll know them when you watch it.

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Red Dawn (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Low-On-Intellect, Bereft Of Action

2/5 Stars

Spokane, Washington, wakes up to the horrific sight of North Korean paratroopers dropping from the sky, with the citizens finding themselves prisoners and their town under enemy occupation. The Eckhert family finds themselves in the middle of this chaos. The story is about how the two brothers, Jed and Matt, along with their team, fight for what belongs to them.

The film neither caters to the politics aficionados nor does it have enough ammunition to impress the action-film fans. It fails to throw light upon any major political issue that might have led to this sudden invasion. The out-of-place comic reliefs and the poor acting don’t serve the cause either. ‘Red Dawn’ just doesn’t make the cut.

U.S. Marine Jed Eckhert (Chris Hemsworth) returns on leave to his hometown where he reunites with his father, Sergeant Tom Eckhert (Brett Cullen), and his brother, football player Matt Eckhert (Josh Peck). Matt resents Jed for having left on duty after their mother died and staying abroad for six years. So the two brothers don’t really get along!

The morning after their reunion witnesses the surreal sight of their town being invaded by North Korean paratroopers. Soon, the armed troopers take charge of the entire city. Determined to fight back, Jed trains a group of young patriots, who have taken refuge in the surrounding woods, to make them guerrilla fighters. They call themselves the ‘Wolverines’, and while protecting each other, fight against the invaders to liberate their town.

In the middle of it, you have an on-going love story between Matt and Erica (Isabel Lucas), an almost-blossoming-love-story between Jed and Adrianne (Toni Walsh), and recurrent ego-clashes between Jed and Matt. There are a few comical scenes thrown in as well but they’re marred by the terrible acting (courtesy Hemsworth and Peck).

The story, in itself, fails to impress. Even for an action film, ‘Red Dawn’ is quite a nonsensical affair. With no back story or information whatsoever about the North Korean invasion, it is quite bizarre to buy into the basic premise of the film. The only ‘political’ angle in the film is shown through poorly cut news bulletins and speeches by politicians during the opening credits, which fails to give any idea about the situation. The film is a re-boot of the 1984 hit, starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. This concept doesn’t work anymore especially with such badly shot action scenes and such weak dialogues and characters! The direction (Dan Bradley) leaves a lot to be desired. The only positive aspect about the film would have to be its length (little over 90 minutes). Otherwise, even the supposedly BIG twist in the end will fail to engage the viewer.

The film just doesn’t make the cut. If at all, wait for the television premiere. Not worth the ticket price, surely!

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 22 November 2012

BOM (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – A Film That Questions The Establishment!

4/5 Stars

‘BOM’ (with taglines as interesting as ‘One Day Ahead of Democracy’ and ‘Why Ban the Holy Weed?’),  is a documentary, shot, directed and edited by Amlan Datta, which focuses on the remote village of Malana located in the Himalayas. The village “isolated from outside civilization for thousands of years has been fostering a primitive existence in harmony with nature and a unique model of democracy of consensus.” Also, it produces the best quality hashish in the world. The film tackles various issues ranging from mythology, superstitions, elections, village customs and traditions, cannabis, corruption, dichotomy of Indian polity among others. The most interesting aspect about ‘BOM’ is that it is absolutely non-propagandistic. The film does not offer any solution; instead it divulges all sides of the story and leaves it to the viewer to make his/her judgement. The film doles out more than a few uncomfortable truths. As a viewer, one gets acquainted with these harsh realities that the supposedly ‘backward’ parts of the country have been faced with. It is not an unknown fact that a country like India is filled with paradoxes. Our country inhabits the richest and the poorest, the modern and the backward, the saints and the sinners and more importantly, those possessing virtues and those possessing vices. At the beginning of the film, a character talks about there being two mountains, Mt. Virtue and Mt. Vice. In the beginning Mt. Virtue towered about Mt. Vice by quite a humungous margin. However, over the years, as the world has grown to become more negative, Mt. Vice has overtaken by a comfortable margin. It is said that the day Mt. Virtue disappears; the world will come to an end. This sequence appears right at the beginning of the film and gets the viewer into ‘introspective’ mode from the word go!

The documentary is among the best Indian documentaries made in this year (releasing in India in 2012). While it makes no judgement at the end, the vast amount of exposure it gives to this unheard village of Malana, is in itself evidence enough that something is not going right in this country. The tagline ‘One Day Ahead of Democracy’ is a poignant message in itself. Malana may seem ‘backward’, ‘uncivilized’, and ‘rural’ to us urbanites. However, what needs to be taken into consideration is whether the people of Malana have been given enough opportunities. The film makes you reflect and how! It is definitely a must-watch. By the trailers or the promotions, the film may sound as one that’s about legalization of cannabis. However, it goes on to talk about much more. Director Amlan Datta’s exceptional research, keen eye for detail and his brilliant comfort level with the villagers of Malana works wonders for this lovely documentary. The length of the film is just about fine. Long enough to encapsulate all the aspects of Malana along with the Indian democracy itself, and just about short enough to keep you thoroughly engaged.

The ‘protagonist’ of the film is Hemraj. The young man, like most other inhabitants, has spent his entire life in Malana, cut off from the other parts of the country. The people of Malana have their own culture, traditions, and ways of electing chieftains, lifestyle and sadly, their own limited means of livelihood. Most transactions in the village occur through the centuries-old barter system. They have their own system of giving out judgements and their democracy allows every individual’s opinion to be taken into consideration (quite contrary to the present state of affairs in our country touted to be the ‘world’s largest democracy’). The foundation of their civilization, popularly believed to be descendants of the Greek soldiers in Alexander’s army, is based on trust. And since, a given word is considered as gospel, the villagers have brushed aside formal education as well. The villagers have been producing the best quality hashish since several decades. Cannabis has been growing in this region since time immemorial, owing to the grace of Lord Shiva. They’ve used it for medicine, footwear, smoking, consumption etc. However, owing to disconnect with the outside world, the Malana inhabitants have never really known the true value of hashish. They have only traded with sheep wool and it is not enough for them to make ends meet. Apparently, some foreign tourists, back in the 70s, taught the villagers how to rub the cream and hence, prepare the more potent hashish suitable for the international market. This led to the recognition of the Malana cream around the world making it more like a home industry. However, the government used its muscle to bring those, who were breaking the law, under the judicial process. This leads to the government taking an active interest in the apparent ‘uplifting’ of the village. Dams are built, elections are held, bridges are constructed, and electricity, automobiles, cellular phones, educational devices are brought in, while laws relating to cannabis are still kept intact. So while Malana is opening up to the outside world, there is no real source of employment for its people besides cultivation of cannabis. Owing to their financial constraints, people such as Hemraj are forced to get involved in the illegal trade, unaware of the fact that if bought to book, they will be faced with the stringiest punishment possible. The film is about this state of doldrums that Malana finds itself in. To choose between the life inflicted upon them by the government (which, added by the corruption and the opacity in the bureaucracy, is only making it difficult for them) and their own age-old lifestyle which they have grown to become so comfortable with. Director Amlan Datta gets varied opinions from across the board. From the villagers in Malana, you get opinions from people as diverse as the 103-year-old head priest Vudeiram, erstwhile Chief Ministers of State, local politicians from the Congress and the BJP, his own brother-in-law Shanta who gives away profound thoughts about the state of affairs (albeit in a high state).

All perspectives towards the sole topic of inconvenient modernity v/s convenient age-old tradition have been brought out well. The political fervour given to the film towards the end, wherein you have excerpts from the speeches given during election rallies, do rev up the documentary a bit. The contradictions in the speeches of politicians such as Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi will definitely lighten you up. However, the sheer double standards of our politicians will give an immense amount of pain as well. India is a vast country. Cultures, geography, history, languages, traditions, lifestyles across the country are immensely different from one another. Having read up in detail about the making of the world’s largest democracy, there is tremendous amount of respect for the makers of our glorious country. At the same time, the state in which we find ourselves now is quite appalling. Most of our countrymen talk about ‘change’. People in Malana are talking about being ‘resistant to change’. Now, whether to leave people as they are, or to use force to get them attuned to the ways of the rest of the country, is a highly debatable topic. While one may think that the people of Malana should be left alone, the others may get up and say that some of their methods are actually old-world and unacceptable in today’s day and age. Now as tempted as the protesters may be to say that ‘who is to decide what should/should not change?’, it must be remembered that we are a functioning democracy. ‘Change’ can take days, months, years, decades, centuries, millenniums, or sometimes even minutes. Talking about it doesn’t really yield any results. All one gets is fake reassurances. The people of Malana are left in such difficult circumstances that the current situation can either make them or break them. Thoughts go out to this little village, lost somewhere on the enormous map of our country! Malana is the one of thousands of other such villages that has remained disconnected with the outside world all these years, and suddenly find themselves in the middle of our deteriorating democracy. The discussion is left wide open.

Hemraj’s wife Kekti has been sentenced to ten years imprisonment for trafficking hashish. She was never aware about the laws and now, suddenly she has been exposed to this strange world of ours, which truly is becoming a difficult place to survive in. ‘BOM’ is a poignant, thought-provoking film. Watch it and get enlightened.

Shivom Oza

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Curtain Call For The ‘Twilight’ Series!

3/5 Stars

The film is the final instalment of the big-screen adaptations of Stephanie Meyer’s much-talked about Twilight series. This film is based on the novel Breaking Dawn. The second part of a two-part film forms the fifth film in the series The Twilight Saga, and is the conclusion of the 2011 film ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1’. Following the birth of Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), the Cullens bring together other vampire clans to protect their child from a false allegation that pits the family against the mighty Volturi.

Having no iota of an idea about what really happens in the popular Twilight series or the preceding films in the franchise, this film will be looked upon in isolation. So, the film does manage to get a first-time viewer on the edge of his/her seat on more than a few occasions. There are, without doubt, quite a few moments of unintentional hilarity in the first-half. Sometimes it’s the inane dialogue, quite often the sheer lack of acting talent found in the lead pair, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. The duo shares a good chemistry (on screen!) with each other but when it comes to the other sequences in the film, Hamming is the apt word. Taylor Lautner, who plays Jacob, cuts across as quite a charmer on screen, and his self-deprecating humour, does manage to bring out the guffaws. Michael Sheen (what on Earth is he doing acting in such films?) is of course, brilliant as Aro (one of the Volturi leaders). The film has deviated from the book in the second half (where they pretty much change the entire sequence of events).

While it is being assumed that most readers are well aware of the story, to put it in a nutshell, Bella (Kristen Stewart) has been brought back from near-death by Edward (Robert Pattinson) and the couple intend to start afresh following the birth of their daughter, Renesmee.

Now, Irina, a member of the Denali coven, informs the Volturi that Renesmee was a human before she was bitten and transformed into a vampire. Irina does this after witnessing just one incident, and makes a false assumption. The Volturi clan is enraged at the Cullens for breaking the vampire law.

To prove Renesmee is not an immortal child, the Cullens gather foreign vampire clans, including the Denali, the Amazonian, the Egyptian, the Irish, and Romanian covens, and also European and American nomads, to stand as their witnesses to the Volturi. The film takes quite a big deviation during the second half during the confrontational scene between the Volturi and those protecting Renesmee. Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) plays a crucial part towards the climactic portions of the film. The end, as we know it, brings peace to the vampire world as well as us, mere mortals. The fans may find this film a bit underwhelming. However, as a first-time viewer, one does not find the film bad at all. Yes, the special effects are horrendous, the comic sequences are sleep-inducting (the rest of the film covers up by bringing up several moments of unintentional laughter). The opening and the closing credits, in particular, are very impressive. The closing credits pack in all the characters from the previous ‘Twilight’ films, backed up with fine music by Carter Burwell.

The werewolves are confined to histrionics and luckily, no lines are given to them in this film. The special effects, in totality don’t quite make the cut. Considering, the films have grossed millions of dollars over the last few years, a little more generosity towards visual effects could have done the trick. Director Bill Condon manages to bring in some subtlety in the film, yet the entire saga itself is so marred by eccentricities that it is difficult to make any scene looks ‘serious’. The film is worth a watch, if you’re a fan and have been following the novels/movies or both until now. Even if you haven’t been mildly acquainted with the ‘Twilight’ series, don’t think it may seem a waste of time or money. The second-half more than makes up for the inconsistencies in the first half. While the film franchise was never considered a masterpiece, it has managed to create quite a humungous fan base for itself. Works for most, so there ought to be something ‘acceptable’ about it.

The film is not deplorable by any stretch of imagination. Fans may find it a bit underwhelming (as deduced by hearsay). To sum it up, the film is worth a single viewing.

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Life Of Pi (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Gorgeous But Less-Than-Gratifying

3.5/5 Stars

‘Life Of Pi’ is based on the novel written by Yann Martel. The film revolves around a young Indian boy Pi’s experience of being stranded on a lifeboat with a ferocious Bengal tiger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, for months.

The film is an absolute must-watch, just for the visuals. The film is studded with gorgeous visuals, from the opening credits right up till the climactic sequence. Director Ang Lee, along with his team, should be lauded for having the vision to conceive, and execute, such mind-blowing sequences. Performances, most notably Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain, Ayush Tandon and Tabu, are stupendous. The climax is a let-down. The film should have gotten over 20 minutes before it eventually did. The director chooses to stick to the author’s version of the ending, which was the weakest point in the book. As an adaptation, the film is very good. In isolation, it’s a good film. The ‘by-the-end-of-the-story-you-will-believe-in-God’ peg doesn’t make the cut. Anyhow, the film is definitely worth a watch for the actors, Ang Lee, the visuals and the Royal Bengal tiger!

The film starts with the older Pi (Irrfan Khan) narrating instances from his childhood to a writer (Rafe Spall). The writer is looking for a story for his new novel. The writer is told by Pi’s French uncle (Gérard Depardieu) that Pi’s story will make him believe in God. So, here they are. The two discuss Pi’s childhood at length. Revelations about the secret behind Pi’s name (which is a shortened version of the French name Piscine Molitor Patel‎), his discovery of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, his first encounter with the 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger, unusually named Richard Parker, his first brush with love and much more. Pi then moves on to narrate the actual life-changing story to the writer. Pi’s family, comprising his father (Adil Hussain), mother (Tabu), brother (Vibish Sivakumar) and him, run a zoo at Pondicherry. Post the emergency during the 1970s, Pi’s father decides to move with the family to Canada, where he can hope for a better future. While the land at the zoo never belonged to the Patel family, the animals did. So, the family set aboard on a ship to Canada, and accompanying them are zebras, orang-utans, hyenas, the horrific Richard Parker among others. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the ship sinks owing to a storm taking down with it Pi’s family and most of the animals. Pi survives by the scruff of his neck. He hangs on to a lifeboat in the middle of this turbulent weather. His expert swimming skills, which were taught to him by his French uncle, do come in handy over here!

By the next morning, Pi wakes up to find a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena and with them Richard Parker on the boat. The tiger ends up killing all the three animals, leaving Pi stranded all alone to fend for himself. The rest of the film is about how Pi fights all odds to survive in the middle of the enormous ocean with a lone raft and a lifeboat with a tiger. The film is as much about Pi’s self-discovery and his bonding with the tiger as it is about the triumph of human spirit! While the story, in itself, doesn’t take your breath away, the stunning visuals most definitely do. All the discrepancies in the plot are subsided by the sheer gorgeousness of the film. 

Yes, the film doesn’t overwhelm you as much as you’d have liked. In the sense that you don’t really get that uplifting feeling in the end as you would while watching any other ‘triumph-of-human-spirit’ film. The climactic scenes just don’t gel with the rest of the film which is a pity, considering the first hour-and-a-half of the film is so superb!

Performances are pretty much the life of the film. The cast, filled with Indian actors, delivers astoundingly well. Irrfan Khan, although a bit wayward with the accent, just blows your mind with his godly acting skills. Tabu’s short but significant role makes you feel that the Hindi film industry just doesn’t deserve this gem of a performer. Ayush Tandon, who plays Pi’s younger version, too is an absolute delight to watch on screen. Adil Hussain is bang-on, yet again. He gets just about everything right, be it the limp, the Gujarati accent, the Tamil diction, the angst-ridden family man portrayal. Even though his role is quite short, in terms of length, the character stays with you long after you’ve watched the film. Suraj Sharma is a genius. He manages to get everything right, be it the dialogue, expressions, body language, mannerisms! It’s his debut on-screen appearance but it just doesn’t show. Suraj’s performance is truly applause-worthy (and hopefully awards-worthy as well!).

Ang Lee’s vision is beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination. Some of the scenes in the film, for instance, the opening credits, the Krishna-Yashoda solar system sequence, the island sequence towards the end and all the ocean sequences, are simply mind-blowing. David Magee does a decent job of the screenplay.

Mychael Danna’s score is one of the best among Hollywood films that have released this year. The composer has also worked on ‘Monsoon Wedding’, ‘Water’ among other India-based films, so the connection with our music worked very well. The score can be listened to on loop, for hours at end. In the film, it tailors in seamlessly. One major problem with this film is that the director hasn’t rectified what went wrong in the novel. The scenes involving Pi and the tiger are magnificent looking and equally gripping.

However, they do overstay their welcome. The length of the film, in addition to the less-than-gratifying climax, does let this film down a bit.

‘Life Of Pi’ is a wonderful story about the triumph of human spirit. The ending was quite ordinary. Go for the film anyway. It's not a masterpiece, but it is pretty close.

Shivom Oza

Friday, 9 November 2012

Wreck-It Ralph (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Made-It Ralph!

3.5/5 Stars

The film is about villain of the popular arcade game ‘Fix-It Felix, Jr.’, Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph is tired of being the bad guy and wants to become the hero, consequently more popular, instead. This leads to a whole lot of chaos in the gaming world.

The film features delightful characters, most of them being iconic heroes/villains of the vintage video games. Stupendous animation courtesy Walt Disney Animation Studios, makes ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ one of the better visual films in recent times. The witty dialogues, with great voiceovers, will induce much more than just a few guffaws.
      
Ralph, the villain of the popular ‘Fix-It Felix, Jr.’ starts despising the game that he is such an integral part of. He is envious of the Good Guy, ‘Fix-It Felix’, for getting all the accolades and the all-important winner’s medal. Moreover, Ralph has to live in a dumpster while Fix-It Felix leads a luxurious life in a penthouse. The burly Ralph doesn’t want to destroy stuff anymore, and wants to become the Good Guy, instead of being the villain. So, he sneaks into another game called ‘Hero’s Duty’. Over there, he climbs the game’s central beacon and collects the elusive medal. In the meantime, he accidentally hatches a Cy-Bug, one of the game’s enemies. The Cy-Bug clings on to Ralph and both of them land up in a shuttle that flies them to another game called ‘Sugar Rush’. So we have plenty of problems here; the custodian of ‘Hero’s Duty’, Sergeant Calhoun, needs to destroy Cy-Bug, Fix-It Felix needs to get Ralph back in their game, a lovely girl from ‘Sugar Rush’, Vanellope, needs to win a race!

How Ralph, Felix, Calhoun and Vanellope work together to put everything back in order forms the crux of this gorgeous film.

Gorgeous, as the animation in the film is absolutely stunning and is sure to have the kids, even some adults, gazing at the screen with awe!

The witty dialogues, in addition, are sure to be a hit with the kids. The premise of the film, which incorporates vintage video game characters, is very likeable. The voiceovers, featuring John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch among others, are nicely done. The 3D is not really up to the mark. The visuals of the film are so stunning that you wouldn’t need 3D to escalate them.

Rich Moore has made a wonderful film for kids. Adults would enjoy this too as a one-off fare. The story is not out-of-this-world. It’s quite simplistic. However, you’ll surely leave the cinema hall with a wide smile on your face. 
               
‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is a fun film! The ‘best’ film to come out this week. Watch it.

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Top Cat: The Movie (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – No Top-Animation, But Fairly Enjoyable

3/5 Stars

Hanna-Barbera’s cartoon series Top Cat has been adapted into the 3D Mexican film known as ‘Top Cat: The Movie’, also known in Spanish as ‘Don Gato y su Pandilla’.

In the film, iconic character Top Cat and his gang are challenged by a new police chief, Strickland, who uses technology to single-handedly control New York City.

The film is a fine attempt in terms of the writing. However, the animation is not up to the mark. One would rather visit the cartoon series on his/her television, rather than pay for a movie. Kids, who are used to the DreamWorks and Pixar-like animation, may find it difficult taking to this film. Still, the English dialogues and voiceovers are quite good. Those wanting a piece of nostalgia could catch up with this film and get entertained.

Top Cat and his gang go on about their usual antics at New York City. Their latest target is the Maharaja of Pookajee, who is known for his generous nature and his habit of giving away rubies to loved ones. Top Cat wants to get hold of one of those dazzling rubies to impress the female cat, Trixie.

Meanwhile, Officer Dibble, who has been expecting a promotion all this while, gets news that the retiring Chief has given away his position to his despicable son-in-law Strickland.

Strickland starts out his term as the Police Chief in the most dictatorial manner. He replaces the current staff of police officers with robots and also gets secret cameras installed all over the city. He demotes Officer Dibble and gets the female cat Trixie onto his side. Strickland wants to get funding from the Mayor to get more robots built but is prevented by Top Cat from doing so.

To avenge this, he frames Top Cat in an orphanage burglary and gets his arrested. He also turns Top Cat’s gang against him. So, Top Cat, betrayed and all-alone, gets sentenced to ‘DOG’ jail, wherein further trials and tribulations await him. The film is about how Strickland is brought to the cleaners!

The story of the film is well written and makes for an entertaining one-and-half hours. The voiceovers too are brilliantly done, featuring stalwarts such as Jason Harris, Chris Edgerly and Bill Lobley. The animation left a lot to be desired, but one should understand that it’s a Mexican film made on a measly budget. If we expect the world to support Indian animation, however good/bad it may be, it is only fair that we assess a foreign film across all quarters.

The film is not particularly appealing, visually, but it’s just the same as how the original cartoon series looked on television decades ago. So, the only respite for the ‘animation’ buffs is that you get to watch the vintage cartoon on the big screen. That’s that!

The 3D version, however, should be avoided.

It’s a decent film. Those who were ardent fans of the ‘Top Cat’ cartoon will find the film highly enjoyable as well. Best option would be a DVD rental. Those wanting the ‘big screen’ effect may watch it at the hall.

Shivom Oza

Stolen (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Lost Cause

1.5/5 Stars

America’s greatest bank robber Will Montgomery returns from prison after serving an 8-year-sentence, only to learn that his daughter has been kidnapped by a former accomplice.

The premise has been borrowed from multiple films. The action sequences have been poorly executed and the acting isn’t noteworthy either. The film is bereft of logic. Most such films are, but then ‘Stolen’ really excels in the ‘monotonous’ department. Nicolas Cage just doesn’t cut it as an action hero.

Will Montgomery (Nicolas Cage), along with his team, carries out a bank robbery of $10 million. It goes kaput as a heated moment between Will and partner Vincent (Josh Lucas) leads to the former getting caught by the FBI. Although Will had the money while he was being chased by the police, it isn’t found on him when he gets caught. Much later, we learn that Will, in a sudden change of consciousness, burns all the money and surrenders!

However, he doesn’t reveal anything to the law enforcement. After serving 8 years in prison, Will returns a much reformed man, holding no bitterness at all towards his accomplices, who bailed on him during the robbery. Yet, the feeling isn’t quite mutual. Over the years, Vincent lost a leg (having been accidently shot by Will during the chaos of the bank robbery), changed his identity and the grudge towards Will turned into hatred. Vincent believed that Will had hidden the $10 million dollars somewhere before he surrendered. Thus, he was eager to get his share of the bounty. Even the FBI suspects Will of having hidden the money somewhere and surrendered himself, so as to escape a long sentence.

So, Vincent kidnaps Will’s daughter, Alison (Sami Gayle), and asks for a $10 million ransom. The film revolves around Will and his struggle to stay off the clutches of the FBI, get his daughter back and notch up the ransom money.

At the conceptual level, the film is like any other action film that you may have seen before. The ‘daughter-getting-kidnapped’ has been attempted so many times before and with better results. Besides, Cage is no Liam Neeson!

Some sequences in the film reek of false bravado. There’s a scene in which Will’s daughter is in the trunk of a car. Vincent pours fuel around the car and sets it on fire. So, you have virtually the entire car on fire with the daughter in the trunk. Will not only manages to finish a fistfight with Vincent but also gets into the car, and drives into the nearby river. The trunk gets opened another 10 minutes later. The daughter doesn’t get a scratch.

Many more instances, one in which Will melts gold from a level below the bank locker to get the required ransom. Award-winning-stuff!

There isn’t a problem with illogical scenes or even plot holes but the major drawback with the film was that the dialogues and characters haven’t been well written. And to top it all, even the performances are quite lacklustre.

Nothing really works for ‘Stolen’; the dialogues sans the wit, the robbery scenes sans the thrill and the performances sans the edge. Director Simon West (‘Expendables 2’) doesn’t make the cut with this film.

Even though the film is barely 100-minutes-long, the story gets way too monotonous. They try to rev up the climax a bit by adding a funny sequence, but you’ve already lost all interest by then.

‘Stolen’ doesn’t work for film-buffs, or for Nicolas Cage or action film fans. Avoid.

Shivom Oza