Friday, 29 June 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - The Web-Slinging Superhero Amazes, Yet Again!

3.5/5 Stars

‘Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man’ is back yet again, in a new avatar, featuring an all-new star-cast as ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. This film stays rooted to the Marvel comics and does not experiment much. So, you have Gwen Stacy and not Mary Jane Watson as Peter Parker’s girlfriend. Peter’s father Richard Parker plays a very important role in the franchise (Yes, the sequel is very much ON!), and the antagonist of the story is Dr. Curt Connors (Lizard) and not Norman Osborn (Green Goblin). Leaving aside all the aforementioned factors, the soul of ‘Spider-Man’ (2002) and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ (2012) remains the same.

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an outcast high school student, deserted by his parents as a boy and raised by his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is introspective; trying to figure out what made him the person that he is today. He is also smitten by his school mate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

Peter gets hold of an old briefcase that belonged to his father Richard Parker, hidden away in his Uncle’s basement. This leads him to Oscorp and his father’s former partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). The mystery deepens as Peter’s life changes along with Connors’ owing to cross-species genetics. What follows is a battle of might between ‘the masked vigilante’ Spider-Man and the horrifyingly gruesome ‘Lizard’.

Talking about the casting, comparisons with the original silver screen ‘Spider-Man’ Tobey Maguire are inevitable. No one can take away any credit from Maguire’s performances in the three ‘Spider-Man’ films. He has been the ultimate web-slinging superhero for an entire generation ever since the first film hit the screens in the year 2002. You wouldn’t imagine any actor taking his place in this franchise for a long time to come. However, Andrew Garfield (who has shone as an actor in films such as ‘Boy A’ and ‘The Social Network’) comes off as a pleasant surprise. He provides edginess to the character, yet manages to retain the inherent introvert in Peter Parker. While watching the film, you would wonder how Tobey would have pulled off a particular scene, but thankfully Garfield holds his own. It must have been a tough predicament for Garfield to step into Spider-Man’s shoes (and suit!), but he does well and how!

Emma Stone is brilliant as the gorgeous, spunky and extremely intelligent Gwen Stacy. It wasn’t a difficult role to pull off. However, it was lengthy and significant, and Stone does a marvellous job! If you thought Kirsten Dunst was the one blip on the radar in the previous franchise, Emma is spot on, and her chemistry with Garfield (also her alleged beau) is electrifying.

The antagonist Rhys Ifans, who plays Curt Connors, the scientist with the amputated right hand (he likes to call himself a southpaw!), impresses. The writers could have done so much with his character. For instance, make it more negative. However, they let CGI (Computer-generated Imagery) do that job with the ‘Lizard’.

Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben doesn’t make as much of an impact as Cliff Robertson did in Sam Raimi’s 2002 version. Sally Field as Aunt May also, is not given much prominence. Her scenes have been thrown in haphazardly. They could have certainly shown more of the Parker couple.

Finally, our very own Irrfan Khan also features in the film. Although the length and the significance of his character (Rajit Ratha) is little, the actor could have done much better. Yes, it is a proud moment to see an Indian actor play a prominent role in a big-ticket Hollywood blockbuster. However, it hurts to see such a brilliant talent speaking in a weird accent, trying to fit into a role that does not belong to him. Irrfan should have let this role go; rather the casting department should have been aware of his English speaking skills.

Talking about the writing and the direction, the first half does make you yearn for the old Spider-Man to comeback. You wonder why they had to tamper with a franchise that culminated as recently as in 2007 (‘Spider-Man 3’). Director Marc Webb of ‘(500) Days Of Summer’ fame manages to inculcate in this film, contemporariness, and succeeds. The team of writers have stayed as rooted to the works of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, as possible. Sam Raimi added his own touch to the hugely successful comic superhero and Webb provides it with his own edge. As already mentioned, the comparisons are inevitable.

The CGI is phenomenal in the film. Scenes featuring Spider-Man and Lizard look amazing on the big screen. 3D is average, watching the film on 2D wouldn’t make a difference. The film relies heavily on the visuals, and delivers. James Horner’s music is great, though not memorable!

Overall, the film is an enjoyable ride. It’s a delight that it releases in India before most other places in the world!

The ‘Spider-Man’ franchise of Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire is still watchable, even after a decade. Can’t say if one would watch ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ in 2022, but in 2012, you should definitely give it a shot!


Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Supermen Of Malegaon (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Brilliant, Not Recommended For Everyone!

4/5 Stars

First things first, this film is a documentary. So read on, if that kind of cinema interests you. Secondly, it embodies the making of a film titled ‘Yeh Hai Malegaon Ka Superman’, which was made in the year 2008. You do not need to watch ‘Yeh Hai Malegaon Ka Superman’ to understand ‘Supermen Of Malegaon’. The latter is an independent story in itself.

The film, one-hour-long, is about Malegaon, a small town tucked away in northwest Maharashtra. The town has been divided into two sides – one where the Hindus stay and the other where the Muslims reside. It has been troubled by continuous communal tension as well as a large part of the population is immersed in poverty.

Hence, to escape this harsh reality, the people of Malegaon have a sole source of entertainment, cinema that they have cleverly coined the term ‘Mollywood’. The film focuses on the various video parlours that run around the town and provide the natives a chance to catch a glimpse of the glitz and glamour of Bollywood, inspiring them to go for 100-rupees-worth Shah Rukh Khan-like-haircuts and 151-rupees-worth Sanjay Dutt-like-hairstyles. Filmmakers in Malegaon do not aspire to be strugglers in the Hindi film industry. Instead, they want to make their own films and entertain their town folk. These people are not aware about the number of people it takes to make a film. For them, one man conceptualizes, writes, directs, edits, finances as well as does make-up for the film. They harbour their dreams of creating films by making spoofs of existing films. For example, ‘Sholay’ becomes ‘Malegaon Ke Sholay’, ‘Shaan’ becomes ‘Malegaon Ke Shaan’, etc.

However, one such filmmaker Nazir Shaikh collaborates with his team of writers (Akram Khan, Farogh Jafri and Shakeel Bharati) to make a superhero film. According to Nazir, Batman is no great shakes, and Superman is the real deal. They want to make their protagonist fly, with the use of ‘karoma’ (chroma) on a shoe-string budget of Rs.50,000, arranged from taking loans, product placement (Yes, and that too of a local dairy ‘Lalle Milk Centre’). Their Superman is a feeble man named Shafique (unfortunately, he passed away last year), who despite his limitations, aspired to become Amitabh Bachchan. The film is about how these people come together to make film, in which their leading hero can fly! Their dream is to make ‘Yeh Hai Malegaon Ka Superman’, a film that they can truly be proud of! 

This film is about how they struggle to put this thing together, and on their course, face permission problems, financial, logistical and casting issues galore! A story wonderfully put together by the director Faiza Ahmad Khan. Add to that, the music by Sneha Khanwalkar and the immaculate editing of Shweta Venkat (both of whom have recently worked in ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur’)! The film manages to capture special moments, which come together brilliantly in the narrative. Since the duration of the film barely runs to an hour, the turn of events engage you throughout. Technically, the film is flawless and does deserve all the accolades. Making-of films are not performance-based. However, a lot depends on the questions that are put forth to the interviewees in the documentary. Quite a few of them are dry-humoured and rhetoric, giving the entire documentary a fun element. Overall, the film is very well conceived, and Faiza has indeed been very fortunate having made a documentary on a film, that has received unprecedented popularity in recent times. 

Many aspiring as well as current filmmakers will relate to the situations that the people of Malegaon go through, to make their movie. Certain moments are dramatic, some are guffaw-worthy, and a handful number of them are absolutely rip-roaring. Kudos to PVR’s Director’s Rare for supporting this film, it deserves all this recognition and well, a lot more!

If you’re a film-buff, don’t mind documentaries and want to have a good time, watch ‘Supermen Of Malegaon’! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Friday, 22 June 2012

Teri Meri Kahaani (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Promising Film Meanders In The 2nd Half

2/5 Stars

The film has been divided into three love stories between Govind- Ruksar in Bombay circa 1960, Krish-Radha in London of 2012 and Javed-Aradhana in 1910 at Lahore. The basic plot for all the stories is the same. Boy-meets-girl, the initial hesitancy, sparks fly, love happens, reality takes over and hearts break. Obviously, the reasons for the heart break are quite different for all the 3 eras. Although, there is nothing new about the way the love stories go about, the concept of imbibing all the three together in the same film was quite interesting. However, the implementation of the concept is very ordinary.

Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra deliver fine performances in the film. Shahid is first-rate as the aspiring musician of the 60s and the hip collegian of today, though his shayar act of the 1910s was quite abysmal. Priyanka too, is convincing as the big superstar heroine of the 60s, another uber-cool youngster living in London as well as the reticent village girl at Lahore. There are a few chinks in their armour, but the dialogue writers should take the blame for this. Prachi Desai is wonderful in her special appearance. Vrajesh Hirjee, who plays a scribe in the film (although, he has no dialogues) is brilliant in in his minuscule role! The rest of the supporting cast is quite miserable. They don’t look the part, nor do they act it.

The first half holds a lot of promise. The 1960s era is written very well. There is a semblance of Chaplinesque comedy, which does manage to overshadow the awful sets (Bombay of 1960 was recreated poorly!) Even the performances put in by the protagonists along with Prachi Desai, were brilliant, which along with the foot-tapping ‘Uff’ gave the film a rollicking start! London 2012 was a minor blip on the radar, which turns into a blot by the interval! Some of the scenes are charming; a few are cringe-inducing and a couple of them, laughable. The writing (Kunal Kohli and Robin Bhatt) was good in the first half, but abysmal in the latter part. The chemistry between Shahid and Priyanka is sparkling. You do see glimpses of Kohli’s brilliance in ‘Hum Tum’ in some parts; however the steam runs out by the time the film reaches the half-way mark. The film keeps meandering between being too cheesy and too serious, and hence, loses the plot.

The music composed by Sajid-Wajid is at best, passable. None of the songs in the film are extraordinary. ‘Uff’ and ‘Mukhtasar’ were shot wonderfully (Cinematography by Sunil Patel), and that’s that!

Interesting premise/plot, fine performances by the protagonists (Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra), however lacklustre writing lets the film down!

Watchable for die-hard Shahid-Priyanka fans! Even love story aficionados won’t be too impressed with this film. Tried really hard to like the film in the 2nd half, but couldn’t! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Brave (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - Pixar's 'Heroine' Experiment Works And How!

3.5/5 Stars

The story revolves around the young Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) who wants to defy customs set by her polished mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). She is not your arch-typical princess at all. She prefers eating with the hand, practicing archery and horse-riding, and chooses to do away with attire associated with pristine princesses. Her rebellious attitude leads her to approach a witch to change her mother, Queen Elinor (she meant, change in attitude!) However, all hell breaks loose, when the Queen does change, albeit into a bear. The rest of the film is about how the ‘brave’ Merida rescues her mother from her father King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and his troupe, and goes on to discover hidden secrets about the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch.

The story and the screenplay are well and truly, one of the biggest USPs of this film. Writers Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman (the 3 have directed the film as well!) and Irene Mecchi have conceived marvellous characters. The film engages you throughout its length, sans a single lull throughout its 100-minute duration. Another positive is the score, composed by Patrick Doyle. Considering, that the premise of the film is based in Scotland, a lot of Scottish instruments such as bagpipes, harps, flutes have been used in addition to the electronic ones such as the dulcimer and cimbalom. Besides Patrick Doyle’s work, the soundtrack also features two original songs performed by Scottish Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis and written by Alex Mandel, and one original song performed by Birdy and the British band Mumford & Sons. Although the music cannot be termed as memorable, it did tailor into the film perfectly. As far as the voiceovers are concerned, the artistes donning the mic for the principal characters Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly do a tremendous job, enunciating with the required emotions. 

The animation was breath-taking, with the 3-D making the visuals even more spectacular. If you thought ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’ had amazing visual effects by the DreamWorks team, Pixar raises the bar by several notches in their latest offering. The film would be visually appealing in either formats – 2D or 3D. However, the best part about the film is that it does not bank primarily on the visual appeal, but has a well-etched plot to go with it as well.

There are laugh-worthy moments galore in this film with just a touch of drama, making it a highly entertaining affair!

The trailers of the film are indeed, misleading to a certain extent. The film is not the story about a princess as much as it is about courage! The kids in particular, will love this film. I am going with 3.5 Stars for ‘Brave’! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

StreetDance 2 (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Impressive Choreography Backed With A Jaded Plot

2.5/5 Stars

Firstly, ‘StreetDance 2’ has nothing to do with its predecessor ‘StreetDance’ (2010), so you need not watch the first film to figure out the story. The only common elements, besides dance, being the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ stars Flawless and George Sampson! This film is about your run-of-the-mill street dancer Ash (Falk Hentschel) who along with his newfound friend and manager Eddie(George Sampson) set out to gather the best street dancers from Europe to beat the world’s best dance crew ‘Invincibles’ at an event in Paris. They even rope in a salsa dancer Eva (Sofia Boutella) to conceive an alternate dance form, a fusion of street dance with the Latin variety.

The story is of course, peppered with innumerable dance sequences, some of them exquisitely shot by the brilliant Sam McCurdy, a clich├ęd romantic track and that customary twist at the end. The dance sequences, especially the ones featuring Sofia Boutella displaying her salsa moves are impeccably performed, and the credit for that should go to the directorial duo at the helm, Max Giwa and Diana Pasquini. Falk Hentschel does a decent job in the dancing department, however leaves a lot to be desired in his acting. George Sampson, who had also featured in the first film of the franchise, does an impressive job. You also have the veteran actor Tom Conti, who plays Eva’s uncle in the film. He charms the viewers with his witty one-liners, histrionics with a tinge of subtlety and yes, even shows-off dance moves of his own. Overall, the performances were decent. Sofia Boutella looks stunning, dances amazingly and does her acting bit fine too. You may hear a lot more of her in time to come.

As far as the plot goes, there is nothing that you haven’t seen before. Films about a bunch of underdogs taking on the much-touted dance-troupe, a David v/s Goliath, if you may, have been done to death.  However, the makers could have done so much more. The story is far too predictable, and even the minor twist at the end fails to make the film intriguing enough. The editing (Tim Murrell) saves the day, keeping the film short and concise. The music too, offered an eclectic mix, considering the film was not just about street dance but its fusion with the Latin form. Kudos to the choreographers Rich & Tone Talauega for Hip-hop sections and Maykel Fonts for Latin sections, for offering something different from the usual fare!  The 3-D is disappointing, so if you do watch this film, watch it in 2-D.

The film is strictly a one-time watch. I’d give it 2.5 stars! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) Review by Shivom Oza – Truth Has Never Been Told So Light-Heartedly

4/5 Stars

‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ is a cult film about two photographers who get caught in a murder mystery, thanks to a conniving newspaper editor. A tale of lies, corruption, deceit and hope, told in a most-entertaining manner.

Two photographers Vinod Chopra (Naseeeruddin Shah) and Sudhir Mishra (Ravi Baswani) try everything possible to get that one elusive customer at their newly-opened photo studio at Haji Ali. However, fate has other plans for them as they are hired by a shrewd newspaper editor Shobha Sen (Bhakti Barve) of the ‘Khabardar’ newspaper to spy on a corrupt builder Tarneja (Pankaj Kapur) and his dealings with another crooked man, Municipal Commissioner D’Mello (Satish Shah). There is another builder Ahuja (Om Puri) who also approaches D’Mello with bribe to sanction his project. What follows is a series of bribes, threats and a cold-blooded murder! The struggles that Vinod and Sudhir go through to dodge attempted attacks, bribe offers, handling a corpse and much more is what forms the crux of this cult classic.

Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani are exemplary as the troubled commoners, who get trampled on their way towards a decent livelihood, by ‘elites’ such as editors, builders, policemen etc. There are so many shades to their characters – be it playing the gullible businessmen, sleazy photographers, emotional fools, tragedy-struck commoners or just hopeful citizens of this country, the actors deliver top notch performances. The supporting cast, comprising stellar actors (many of whom were unknown commodities way back in 1983) such as Pankaj Kapur, Satish Shah, Om Puri, Satish Kaushik, Neena Gupta and Deepak Qazir excel in their roles, making audiences laugh as well as scorn at their roles! Pankaj Kapur and Om Puri play roles that are contrasting in nature yet similar in traits. Satish Shah plays the Catholic Municipal Commissioner getting everything right, from the costume to the dialogues. Satish Kaushik and Neena Gupta immaculately play the builder’s sidekicks, plotting some incongruous act or the other. However, the scene stealer is the inimitable Bhakti Barve, who plays the astute, cigar-smoking, modern, cunning, dominating and the irrepressible newspaper editor Shobha Sen. She does many things in the film – fixes printing machines, smokes cigars, kicks men, reprimands builders, threatens bigwigs and seduces men into doing favors for her. The cast shines in all the scenes of the film, and the best part is that here; the cast has not let their characters overshadow the story of the entire film. There are plenty of iconic scenes in the film that have stood the test of time and are still so funny and relevant even after almost 3 decades since its release.

When masters are at work, the audiences merely applaud. Directed by Kundan Shah, edited Renu Seluja, dialogues penned by Ranjit Barot and Satish Kaushik and the story by Shah along with Sudhir Mishra and production controller being the future bigwig Vidhu Vinod Chopra, this film comprised legends in the making. Made on a shoestring budget (7 lakhs rupees), the making must not have been as light-hearted as the film turned out to be, but a cult it did turn out to be. Kundan must have had a tough time extracting such performances out of his cast despite the unflattering financial conditions. The scenes have been precisely compiled, with not a single low point in this concisely trimmed 2 hour 10 minute film. The dialogues are excellently written, capturing the pathos and the irony of the issue at hand and providing much-needed comic relief at the same time. There are memorable scenes galore in this film, the sulking of the protagonists tired by the corruption-riddled-bureaucracy below the poorly-built flyover, bribes being given through the perspective of shadows, the murder discovery scene at the cleverly titled ‘Antonioni Park’ (inspired by the 1966 film ‘Blow-up’, hence a tribute to the director Michelangelo Antonioni) and the unforgettable scene lifted from the Mahabharata, which lifts this film to another level altogether.  There are instances of profound irony in the film, which would put the most intellectual works of contemporary times in their place. The subtle comparisons between the builders and the slums, the finer differences between right and wrong have been artistically shot by the first-rate cinematographer Binod Pradhan. There is no moment in the film that will put you off. The most startling fact about the film is that all the issues discussed are so relevant even in today’s times. The agony of the Indian common man is often represented through the song ‘Hum Honge Kamyaab’. You watch a dramatic scene play out and wonder if 'anything has changed’.

Kundan Shah has done Indian cinema a huge favour by making this film. We can return the favour by watching it! 

Entertaining, profound, striking, hilarious, thoughtful, chaotic, somber, mundane, eccentric, this film is all of this and more! A MUST WATCH! 4 Stars! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Piranha 3DD (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – The DDs Stand For Dumb and Depressing

1/5 Stars

After unleashing terror at Lake Victoria in ‘Pirhana 3D’, the pre-historic shoal of blood-thirsty piranhas infest into a newly-built waterpark, suggestively titled ‘The Big Wet’. Brace yourself for lots of nudity, blood and gore!

Young Maddy (Danielle Panabaker) returns home for the summer to find her sleazy stepfather Chet (David Koechner) give her mother’s water park a debauched make-over, replacing the lifeguards with strippers and building a separate adult pool where all the nude action is getting shot secretly. He’s even been illegally pumping water from an unused well that is also connected to the tragedy-struck and piranha-infested Lake Victoria. The piranhas obviously find their way into the vicinity and hence, begin the saga of relentless attacks resulting in blood and gore.

The performances of the principal star-cast are poor. The dialogues are bland and unfunny, and are made to sound all the more abominable by the spiritless cast. There is a lot of sleaze in the film. Every ten minutes, you see close-ups of heaving breasts of scantily-clad women at the water park. Even after one of the characters gets beheaded owing to a sharp metal wire, the camera refuses to move away from the jumping assets and plunging cleavages. You have a scene in which one of the girls Ashley (Meagan Tandy) handcuffs her boyfriend to the seat of a van, which then plunges headlong into a nearby lake, and you see the wretched piranhas getting in the middle of their sexual act, with the boy unable to escape because he’s tied up. In multiple sequences, you have a piranha gnashing into the private parts of several female tourists, with one such incident even causing a boy to chop off his penis because he engaged in sexual activity with one such victimized girl. Such senseless stuff is on offer folks, relish it if you can! There’s even a cameo by David Hasselhoff spoofing his ‘Baywatch’ act, caricaturizing his character from the popular TV show. He looks out of sorts. Don’t blame him, coz the film itself is a bit out of sorts! Danielle Panabaker and Matt Bush (who plays Barry) are disappointing. Considering, there was not much for either of the youngsters to do in this film, they were miserable in whatever they did. David Koechner is an eye-sore. So, you get the gist, the only animated elements in this film are the piranhas and the assets!

The 3D, backed up with dramatic background music (Elia Cmiral) did bring up a bit of hysteria in a handful number of scenes, involving the piranhas. The CGI is good, not great, and at no point does it look undercooked. The cinematography (Alexandre Lehmann) along with the editing (Martin Bernfeld and Devin C. Lussier) is a big let-down though. No qualms with nudity being shown on screen, but it should be tailored into the sequence and not thrown in for unanticipated titillation. And mind you, the scenes are not titillating, at all. The background music is good in parts, albeit for the violent sequences. The dialogues are senseless, some of the scenes defy logic and human sanity and the screenplay is bizarre!

For a directionless film such as this one, hard to say anything about the man at the helm of it all, John Gulager. He has broken new ground in mediocrity with this film. The first film ‘Piranha’, directed by Alexandre Aja yet was funny in parts, and did manage to give the audiences decent fare. However, this one the 3D version, with the added D, manages to Dumbify the franchise altogether.

The tagline of the film is ‘No BODY is Safe’. It’s short for ‘Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You’!
Cashing in on two aspects – Sex and Violence, but manages to deliver in none! This one is not worth your time, money and energy. Even with the double Ds! (1 Star) (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Friday, 15 June 2012

Rock Of Ages (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Nothin’ But A Good Time

3.5/5 Stars

‘Rock of Ages’ is a story of two aspiring singers and two club owners chasing their dreams in the glitzy city of Los Angeles circa 1987.  How their lives adulterated by the ‘rock n roll’ lifestyle at Hollywood, reach their nadir and faces an upsurge owing to the presence of an eccentric rocker, forms the crux of the film.

An adaptation of the successful Broadway musical, the film revolves around the lives of two aspiring singers Drew (Diego Boneta) and Sherrie (Julianne Hough) dreaming of becoming famous rock stars and slug it out as helps in one of the most popular clubs of Los Angeles, The Bourbon on the Sunset Strip. The owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his partner Lonny (Russell Brand) slug it out to save the club from being destroyed by the mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston) and his trophy wife doubling up as a social activist, Patricia (Catherine Zeta Jones). The duo at the club scores a gig with the legendary Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). How all of their lives entwine and as a result undergo unprecedented changes, forms the crux of this 2 hour 20 minute musical extravaganza.

The film boasts of an impressive line-up. Diego Boneta charms in his role of a bartender growing up the ranks to be a rock star. Opposite him is the 20-something girl from Oklahoma, played by Julianne Hough, who ends up at a stripper club instead of being an aspiring singer. The actress shows flashes of brilliance in this challenging role, lip-syncing, romancing and emoting impeccably. Russell Brand is at his comical best and his chemistry with the old-timer Alec Baldwin is a treat for movie-goers. However, the best performance in this film belongs to Tom Cruise. His decadent rock god act deserves praise, not just for its brilliance, but the audaciousness as well. Clearly, this role was an unknown territory for the actor (incidentally, he was already a big movie star in the 1980s with films like ‘Risky Business’, ‘Top Gun’, ‘Rain Man’ and ‘Born On The Fourth Of July’ in his repertoire). He shines as the eccentric, over-the-top and at times impulsive rock singer whose life is embellished by sex and rock n roll (surprisingly, there is no mention or presence of drugs in the film). His look (heavily inspired by Axl Rose) was meant to be theatrical and Cruise looks the part in the film.

The film is an adaptation of the 2006 Chris D’Arienzo Broadway musical of the same name. The screenplay is penned by Justin Theroux, Chris D'Arienzo and Allan Loeb and the story does move along nicely. There are hardly any lull points in the relatively long film (2 hours 20 minutes). Although it is majorly a musical, there are several conversational scenes tailored within the script, hence lending the film a dramatized feel.  The cinematography (Bojan Bazelli) is unique in the sense that the concert scenes are not in-your-face. They have been shot with subtlety, hence making them different from the run-of-the-mill music-based films. Editing (Emma E. Hickox) too, is crisp bringing a lot of fervour to the celebratory film. 
With such a stellar cast at his disposal, director Adam Shankman of ‘Hairspray’ fame did have it a bit easy. Having already dabbled in a few musicals, helming this film must’ve been quite easy for Shankman.

Obviously, being a former dancer and choreographer helps too. The director has paid equal attention to all the principal characters in the film and no ‘extra’ mileage is given to the ‘bigger’ stars such as Cruise, Baldwin and Catherine Zeta Jones. The film, in a sense, celebrates the rebellious culture grown on ‘rock n roll’ in the 1980s and Adam executes that to perfection.

The line-up of artistes whose work was incorporated in the film comprised Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, Europe, Night Ranger, Twisted Sister, and REO Speedwagon. Although, the selection of a few tracks could be deliberated upon, the overall soundtrack is impressive.

You have Tom Cruise crooning a ‘Paradise City’, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ while Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin sing ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’. Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough too, shine in their part pop-part rock numbers. As far as the novelty factor goes, the film does manage to score brownie points in the music department. Overall, it must be said the music did live up to the billing.

The film may not work for the archetypical rock-music aficionados. This is not a ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ nor is it a ‘My Fair Lady’ or ‘The Sound Of Music’. It is purely meant to entertain the moviegoers. This film does enliven the era of the 80s, in a new package, featuring the stars of today. The nostalgia of the 1980s reigns supreme, as the cast delivers emphatic performances to the tunes of  Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, Europe, Night Ranger, Twisted Sister, and REO Speedwagon, top lining the inimitable Tom Cruise in a never-seen-before role.

It’s a fun watch, or to quote on of Poison’s songs ‘Nothin’ but a Good Time’(3.5 Stars)! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Chakradhaar (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - Chakradhaar Stuns, Shocks And Disappoints

1.5/5 Stars

The movie is about the politics and corruption creating havoc in the holy city of Banaras in Uttar Pradesh. Shravan (Abhishek Anand) is a simple and righteous man who revolts against all the corrupt practices going on in Banaras University, where he is pursuing post-graduation. He is also head over heels in love with Principal Shrivastav’s (Darshan Jariwala) daughter Mandira (Urvashi Sharma). His agitation against the miscreants in the college leads to an altercation with the local MLA Dharmraj Chaudhary’s (Akhilendra Mishra) son Devraj Chaudhary (Rajesh Shringarpure) and hence, Shravan gets embroiled into the murky world of hate and violence. The Chaudhary brothers destroy Shravan’s life which transforms him into Pandit, a goon who wages a war against Chaudhary and his brothers Yograj (Yashpal Sharma) and Balraj (Ganesh Yadav) to take revenge. The crux of the film is about how Pandit takes to guns and knives to beat the villains to pulp.

Abhishek Anand, who makes his debut in this film does well in the action scenes, although falters in the romantic sequences. He has got some really good dialogues in the film, which he delivers well. However, his overall performance was far from convincing. The leading lady Urvashi Sharma doesn’t have much to do in this film. She features only in a handful number of scenes, some dramatic, a few emotional and a couple of romantic ones. Although, she was below-par, wouldn’t call her performance awful as such.

The supporting cast comprises a stellar group of actors such as Darshan Jariwala, Govind Namdev (as the righteous Professor Ahuja), Akhilendra Mishra, Yashpal Sharma, Ganesh Yadav, Zakir Hussain (as Sikandar Hyatt) and Vidya Malvade playing the role of a journalist. Although the script falters, these actors shine in their performances lifting the overall film a trifle. Overall, although the plot was overtly predictable, the actors did put up a decent show.

As far as the cinematography is concerned, some of the stunts look brilliant on the big screen, almost comparable to big-ticket films like ‘Dabangg’ and ‘Wanted’. The veteran action director Abbas Ali Moghul has given the lead actor the best of sequences, shot brilliantly by Shakeel A Khan.  However, the weak point of the film lies with the script (written by Arsh), which is very predictable and bland. The editing is crisp, and holds the film well in the first half. However, towards the end, the film does drag a bit.

The direction by Shakur Sir (Yes, 'Sir' is his last name!) and Dharamprakash (D.P.) goes on to show why the film wavers in two different directions. The first half of the film is gripping and manages to hold your attention, but after the interval, the story falters and how. The makers have managed to eke out decent performances from the cast but the overall package is not enticing enough.

The music of the film is average. Although, it has been composed by stalwarts such as Anand Raj Anand and Jatin Pandit, it fails to strike the right chord. All the songs are just about passable with ordinary lyrics (Sameer) and half-decent choreography (Saroj Khan, Jeet Singh). There is the customary item song (a routine in most films these days) by Mariam Zakaria. However, nothing is impressive enough to be etched in the viewers’ memory.

Although the film is tolerable, don’t think it merits the price of a movie ticket. You may give this one a miss.

Despite Decent Performances and Excellent Action sequences, this film is not worth your time and money. 1.5 Stars! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Qasam Se Qasam Se (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - This film disappoints, ‘Qasam Se’!

0.5/5 Stars

‘Qasam Se Qasam Se’ is a film that must be watched by most aspiring filmmakers around the country. The reason is that it offers a 2 and a half hour lesson on ‘How NOT to make a movie’? To amalgamate mediocre acting, lifeless music, meandering story line, inexplicable twists and turns, appalling dialogues and incessant hamming in the same film requires some effort.

Actors of calibre such as Satish Kaushik (who plays Mamu) and Omkar Das Manikpuri (who looks ‘dapper’ in sloganeering T-shirts, Hip Hop caps and baggy trousers throughout the film) are wasted in this apology of a film. Kaushik who has a longish role in the film reprises his hilarious ‘Pappu Pager’ act from ‘Deewana Mastana’, once again but fails to impress.

The leading pair Rohan (played by newcomer Azim) and Faith (played by Faith Mehra) break into a song at some or the other picturesque location after every ‘hard-hitting’ (Yes, it hits you hard!) scene. Such inept acting has seldom been seen on the big screen and the stars of the film scale newer depths. The film is about their love story set in a college. Rohan fights all odds possible to win his ladylove. He gets jailed, beaten up, humiliated, even labelled a terrorist but nothing comes in between the hero and the heroine.

There is Rohan’s friend Vijay (played by Faraaz) who ends up falling in love with the same girl and hell breaks loose. His father DCP Mahadik (Ashwini Kaushal) pulls all strings to nab Rohan. The crux of the film is about how the lovers will come together despite all odds.

The climax is noteworthy, for setting newer standards in storytelling. An interesting revelation towards the end turns the entire film on its head. The problem with the film is that it muddles up too many issues – college rivalry, romance, action, comedy, terrorism, law and order and lastly AIDS awareness. Even the best filmmaker in the country Rajkumar Hirani wouldn’t dare to pull that off!

The music of the film is disappointing. Considering that stalwarts like Neha Bhasin, Kunal Ganjawala, Farhan (from the Pakistani band Jal), Mika, Shaan, Neeraj Shridhar, Mohit Chauhan, KK and Monali Thakur sung for this film, the composer (Shailendra-Sayanti) too, needed to get his act together. The cinematography (Johhny Lal) for the songs was good; the locations played a big part.

The supporting cast too boasted of Mukesh Tiwari, Rakhi Sawant, Satish Kaushik, Omkar Das Manikpuri and a few faces from television, but none of them lived up to their billing.

The director (Ashfaque Makrani) and the writers (Nazim, Moazzam Azm & Ravi Rawat) would have been better off sticking to a conventional storyline rather than convoluting it with nonsensical twists. This film disappoints, ‘Qasam Se’! 0.5 Star! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Monday, 11 June 2012

Customer Service on Social Media: Happy To Help, Really?

Brands have taken to social media channels in a big way, since the last couple of years. Be it Foods, Beverages, Mobile Phone Companies, Service Providers or Restaurants, there is considerable presence on various social networking websites, not only for branding purposes, but for customer service as well.
Times are changing and so are the companies. With the growing popularity of social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., there is the need to be in constant touch with current customers as well as potential customers. In today’s day and age, we know how hassling it can be to encounter a problem with any product. Calling on the customer care, being held on the line for long periods of time, having to explain the same problem to different people from scratch during the same telephonic conversation or in some cases, having to go to their branches and wait for long hours only to inquire/complain about is something is a tedious and a bothersome affair.
Hence, it was imperative for these brands to come on the social-media bandwagon, not just to be in sync with the moving times but to make customer service an easier task for themselves as well as the customer. Some of the leading brands that have prominent presence on social media are Tata Docomo (46,800 followers on Twitter, 7,573,381 likes on Facebook). On the micro-blogging website, they are as active as quicksilver, responding to every 'relevant' query, providing their respondents with contact details as well as conducting follow-ups. The same implies to other service providers such as Vodafone India, Bharti Airtel (19,560 followers on Twitter). Although users do have a problem with the lack of courtesy shown by the account handlers, it is usually a one-off incident. Conclusively, the brands have utilized this particular platform well, providing the users with an easier, quicker way to rectifying their problems. As far as food outlets are concerned, popular ones such as Dominos Pizza India (9,786 followers on Twitter), Cafe Coffee Day (6,540 followers on Twitter), which provide information on new additions to the menu, new offers, contest details, as well as entertain customer queries. Customer service on social media has extended to Digital satellite service providers, electronic appliances, cell phones, hotels and food products as well.
It bodes well, both for the users as well as the companies to maintain a relationship on the virtual world. From the companies' point of view, they get to know, how their customers perceive the brand, and look for areas in improvement. It can also be a staggering tool to improve relations and build brand loyalty as well. From the user's point of view, it can act as a relief that one can approach the companies on the move and expect a swift reply, instead of having to go deal with discourteous executives on the phone.
In the past, when a brand or a company rectified any problem through phone or mail, only the concerned customer knew about it. However, now customers lavish praise on brands for the assistance through social media. Here, the brand stands to gain an added benefit of garnering positive publicity.
Many brands run Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts just to embellish their other marketing activities. There is no pre-emptive desire to protect the brand’s interests on social media channels as well. They need to realize that social media is quickly becoming a powerful customer service channel and it should be tapped soon and well.
Social Media is becoming all the more significant, looking at the influx of new technology in the form of smart phones, tablet computers and portable internet.
The old model does not work anymore. Automated replies do not serve the brand of the customer any good. It is imperative for the brands to engage with their customers in a friendly manner in order to expect any goodness in return.
The customer expects quickness in the responses as well as the implementation of results. Also, the last thing the brands want is to be impolite to the customer on a public platform and invite brickbats in return.
Today, social media becomes the last possible alternative for customers who have been troubled with a product/service. So, the brands need not wait for the customer to inquire or complain. They need to keep a track about what it being written or said about their product/service on the social media and accordingly get in touch with the concerned individual.
Customer service is quite an ordeal, even more so owing to the presence of social media. Hence, there needs to be thorough planning and preparation from the company’s side, before they step into this avenue.
To conclude, I would agree that the Indian brands, thus far, have managed to carry out customer service activities through social media very diligently. There have been aberrations, but then, the social media handlers have been helpful, more often than not. However, more attention needs to be meted out to his platform. It is not just about entertaining queries or complaints, but acting upon them as well. Only then, can we say that social media is an effective tool for customer service. 
Shivom Oza

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – ‘Circus Americano’ At Its Best

3.5/5 Stars

Alex (the Lion), Marty (the Zebra), Melman (the Giraffe) and Gloria (the Hippo) are back once again to enthral you in the third instalment of the ‘Madagascar’ franchise, ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’. This time, they travel across continents from Monte Carlo, Rome to London and finally to their beloved abode New York City. And following them on their trail is the hot-headed, super heroic and the conniving French policewoman (Frances McDorman) who fights tooth and nail to capture Alex.

Now, the crux of the story forms when the group of four meet up with the penguins at Rome and en route to the Central Park Zoo at New York City, they meet up with a circus troupe and deliberate their next plan of action.

The artistes giving their voice overs for the principal characters Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Shwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith are first-rate, escalating upon their acts in the previous two versions.

There are certain sequences in the film that take your breath away, such as the one in which Alex tries to teach the female jaguar Gia a fabricated act christened ‘Circus Americano’. The chemistry that the two beasts exuberate, the background music (the maestro Hans Zimmer at his very best) and the stupendous animation on display make this scene one of the highlights of this crisp yet entertaining 93-minute joyride.

The circus show put on by the animals, the adrenaline-pumping speech delivered by Alex, the camaraderie amongst all of them, the adorable moments shared between Alex and Gia, as well as Sonya the Bear (Frank Welker) and King Julien (by the inimitably hilarious Sacha Baron Cohen) and the colourful circus acts performed to the music of Katy Perry’s hit ‘Firework’ is what make the film all the more inviting.

There are no lull moments in the film. The shortness of its length helps the story move at a breakneck pace, leaving audiences at the edge of their seat throughout. There’s always something or the other relevant happening. Thankfully, no fillers have been incorporated, as is the norm with animated movies. The song selection is stellar from Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ to Yolanda Be Cool’s ‘We Speak No Americano’ to Danny Jacobs’ works topped by a brilliant sound given by the Oscar winning musician Hans Zimmer.

The animation is pristine abled by spectacular 3-D effects. The 3-D does accentuate the overall look of the film, unlike recent fare which doles out its apparent visual effects only to bring in the numbers. DreamWorks Animation has a winner at hand with this one, exhibiting picturesque locations such as Rome, Vatican City, New York and London.

To sum it up, this film is a complete jamboree and brings back delightful memories of the first and the second film. Wait till the end credits, because you cannot take ‘I Like To Move It’ out of a ‘Madagascar’ film.

Want to go on a vacation, folks? This film is your perfect weekend getaway!
The reviewer gives the film 3.5 stars. (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza