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

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Chasing Mavericks (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – American Surfer Jay Moriarty’s Story

2.5/5 Stars

‘Chasing Mavericks’, directed by Curtis Hanson (‘L.A. Confidential’, ‘8 Mile’) and Michael Apted (‘The World Is Not Enough’), is based on the life of the American surfer Jay Moriarty.

The film is packed with some fantastic real-wave visuals. Towards the end, it strikes the emotional chord as well. Gerard Butler delivers a fine performance as Jay’s mentor Frosty Hesson. Newcomer Jonny Weston is first-rate as Jay Moriarty. There are a few unnecessary side-plots in the film which really slow down the tempo. The film is worth the DVD rental, not a theatre viewing.

Circa 1987, 15-year-old Jay Moriarty discovers that the mythic Mavericks, one of the biggest waves on Earth, are not only real, but exist just miles away from his home at Santa Cruz. So, he persuades the local surfing legend Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) to train him so that he can surf on the Mavericks.

The training period begins with Frosty speaking about the four pillars of survival – Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual. Jay gets asked to paddle across waters, write essays on various subjects, holding his breath underwater and much more. In the meantime, Jay’s coping up with his temperamental single mother Kristy Moriarty (Elisabeth Shue), trying to get close to his childhood crush, Kim (Leven Rambin) and an ego clash with his friend Blond (Devin Crittenden).

Frosty, too, has quite a few things on his plate. He cannot get himself to concentrate on his family. Surfing is his source of escapism and a way to forget his own personal trials and tribulations. His wife, Brenda Hesson (Abigail Spencer) keeps trying to get close to Frosty but to no avail.

The film has too many side-plots. The predominant premise is the relationship between Frosty and Jay, but there are just too many unwanted aberrations. Jay’s relationship with his mother has been dealt with in a fine manner. However, the romantic angle with Kim seemed quite long-drawn.

Frosty’s equation with wife too has been presented quite nicely. However, the problem with having too many side stories is that you need to logically conclude each of them by the end of the film. This led to the 2-hour-long duration and frankly, the film doesn’t engage you till that long. The visuals are absolutely breath-taking.

The surfing sequences are excellently performed and shot. Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston deliver fine performances. The final 15-20 minutes of the film, packed with stunning visuals and a gripping background score, keep you on the edge of your seat. The ending gets a bit emotional and more or less, covers up for the intermittent flaws.

‘Chasing Mavericks’ is not at all a bad film. It gets a bit slow in the middle but keep the patience, it ends on a high. It is definitely worth a DVD rental, if not a theatre viewing.

Shivom Oza

It’s Rocking – Dard-E-Disco (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – It’s Shocking – Dard-E-Eyes

0.5/5 Stars

With a title as unimaginative as ‘It’s Rocking – Dard-E-Disco’, the film never sets any expectations to begin with. Veteran music composer Bappi Lahiri decides it’s high time he gets his acting boots on.

Bollywood has-beens, Akshay Kapoor, Aryeman Ramsay, Sneha Ullal and Rituparna Sengupta, leave no stone unturned to exhibit their lack of talent. You have all the character artistes from the 90s films, including Razzak Khan, Shakti Kapoor, Sharat Saxena, Upasana Singh and Dinesh Hingoo, in this gem of a movie. They are, needless to say, deplorable. The story is inconspicuous by its absence.

Rocky and Rambo (one of them played by Akshay Kapoor and the other by Aryeman Ramsay) are two brothers, who have no real goal in life (much like the makers of ‘It’s Rocking – Dard-E-Disco’). Both are under this misconception that they are immensely attractive men. They dress us in retro attire and try to gate crash discotheques around the city. Their father, played by Sharat Saxena, is worried about his good-for-nothing sons while the mother, played by Upasana, pampers them limitlessly. Akshay and Aryeman were never great actors. The fact that they agreed to do this film doesn’t speak volumes about their ability to choose either. So, the two brothers try to enter Disco King’s (Bappi Lahiri) discotheque, but are turned down by the burly bodyguard who proclaims “Only Invitees Are Invited”. They finally get enter the disco when Bappi Da’s car smashes into their van. This gives them an opportunity to bond with Disco King.

There’s a villain Powder King, played by Shakti Kapoor. He wants to sell drugs inside Disco King’s discotheques. However, DK (as he is fondly called) is staunchly against drugs and will not allow them to be distributed in his premises. So, a plan is made to kidnap DK. There are two heroines in the film, RJ Mili, played by Sneha Ullal, and Ganga, played by Rituparna. Both of them have 5-10 dialogues each, one dance number and in the climax, a few fight sequences. Needless to say, they are terrible in all the above.

The film loses out on all fronts – Acting, music, story, dialogues, costume design (watch the trailer, you’ll know), choreography, art direction, the works! Director Ashok Tyagi must have had something else in mind, hopefully. Wonder who can conceive such an inexplicable film. The saving grace was that Bappi Lahiri got to belt out few of his chartbusters from the 80s.

It’s Shocking – Dard-E-Eyes!

Shivom Oza

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1993) Review by Shivom Oza – One Of Shah Rukh Khan’s Best

3.5/5 Stars

The filmmaker, who gave us a cult classic in ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, also presented a young Shah Rukh Khan in a sweet little film ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’. Khan, who has time and again reiterated that this film is one of his favourites, delivers a first-rate performance in this charming ‘slice-of-life’ film.

The brilliance of Kundan Shah and the effervescence of Shah Rukh Khan, along with a stellar supporting cast and crew, make ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’ one of the most memorable films of the 90s decade. The music by Jatin-Lalit has stood the test of time for almost two decades.

Young Sunil (Shah Rukh Khan) harbours aspirations of becoming a fine musician, much against the wishes of his father, Vinayak (Anjan Srivastav). Struggling to complete his education (having failed thrice in a row already), Sunil finds it difficult to live up to his family’s expectations. His only confidante in the family is his younger sister Nikki (Sadiya Siddiqui).

Sunil, while concentrating mainly on his music band, also featuring Imran (Ashutosh Gowariker), Yezdi (Kurush Deboo), Tony (Aditya Lakhia), Chris (Deepak Tijori) and Anna (Suchitra Krishnamoorthi), also has to deal with the matters of the heart! He is in love with Anna. Anna and Chris are fond of each other. Sunil, in his attempt to keep Chris away from his ladylove, ends up hurting Anna.

The film revolves around Sunil. When he is happy, you have a smile on your face. When he is hurt, your heart goes out to him. When he redeems himself, you feel vindicated.

One wonders whether if it was Kundan Shah’s magical direction or Shah Rukh Khan’s magnetic personality that made this film so endearing.

The supporting cast, including stalwarts such as Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani, Satish Shah, Rita Bhaduri, Tiku Talsania, Goga Kapoor and Virendra Saxena, don’t let this film become a one-man show. Every character stays with you. Kundan Shah has this rare ability to make his characters so real, and yet give them a cinematic appeal. Ranjit Kapoor as dialogue writer and Kundan Shah-Pankaj Advani as the story-screenplay writers, produce brilliant moments on the screen. Essentially, the film, much like ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, finds humour in the most tragic situations. The film may not shape up as you would want it to, yet you will be smiling through most moments. Kundan’s films are like that. Optimism is omnipresent throughout ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’.

The editing by Renu Saluja deserves special mention. Music by Jatin Pandit and Lalit Pandit is absolutely brilliant. All the songs on this album strike an instant chord with listeners. Ae Kaash Ke Hum, Anna Mere Pyaar Ko Na Tum, Deewana Dil Deewana, Woh To Hai Albela and Sachchi Yeh Kahani Hai are timeless songs. They kind of take you back into the 90s era. The costume designer of this film is Shah Rukh Khan’s wife Gauri Khan. Enough said! The two powerhouses of this film are Shah Rukh Khan and Kundan Shah.  Shah Rukh Khan’s romantic side was discovered much later in films such as ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ and ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’, but the first film to really capture that emotion was ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’.

The film is about love, music, coming-of-age, values, money, simplicity and so much more. Must watch!

Shivom Oza

Monday, 5 November 2012

Dharmputra (1961) Review by Shivom Oza – Moving Tale About Hindu-Muslim Unity

3/5 Stars

Yash Chopra’s second directorial venture ‘Dharmputra’, made in the year 1961, was a poignant tale about Hindu-Muslim unity. Based on a novel of the same name by Acharya Chatursen, ‘Dharmputra’ was the first Hindi film to depict the partition of India, along with Hindu fundamentalism.

Although the screenplay is cramped with unnecessary songs, the film does make for a compelling watch. In spite of being shot in 1960s where technology was a bit of a handicap, the film does make for a fine viewing. Yash Chopra, who will be remembered as the ‘King of Romance’, shows his other side as a filmmaker with his second film. Shashi Kapoor announced his arrival with an impactful performance in this film.

The film opens in the year 1925, during the British rule in India, when the country was at the height of its independence movement. Two families, residing in Delhi, that of Nawab Badruddin (Ashok Kumar) and Gulshan Rai are so close to each other that they virtually share the same house.

Nawab’s daughter, Husn Bano (Mala Sinha), has an affair with a young man named Javed and gets pregnant. When the Nawab attempts to arrange her marriage with Javed, the man disappears.

Gulshan Rai’s son, Dr. Amrit Rai (Manmohan Krishna), and Amrit’s wife Savitri (Nirupa Roy) assist Husn with the birth of a baby boy, Dilip, and even adopt him to give him their family name. During childhood, he is the cynosure of all eyes at both the households. Husn finally gets married to another man and moves out of the joint household. While she gets pregnant again, the baby gets killed in the womb owing to an accident. Nawab, meanwhile, loses his life while holding a protest against the British.

Years later, Husn Bano and her husband return to the Rai household only to find that Dilip has become a Hindu fascist and a Muslim-hater. Not knowing his own roots, will Dilip ever get to know that he was born to a Muslim mother? Will Dilip and his mother Husn Bano ever reunite? How will Dilip react to the news considering that he has grown to hate Muslims so much over the years? The film ‘Dharmputra’ tackles a sensitive issue very well.

The story, albeit about Hindu-Muslim relations, is also about the coming-of-age of Dilip. The film also revolves around Husn Bano, the biological mother of Dilip, who loves him so much that she does not have a problem with his extreme ideology. All in all, it’s a very well made film which conveys the right message about secularism.

The performances from the cast are excellent. Shashi Kapoor, Mala Sinha, Ashok Kumar, Manmohan Krishna and Nirupa Roy are absolutely brilliant playing their respective characters.

 Shashi Kapoor announces his grand arrival. This film brought out the revolutionary within the actor. He is terrific in the role and one wishes that he had done more hard-hitting roles during his time apart from doing the romantic films, which came to be known as his forte.

The music of the film is hummable, not extraordinary. One reason could be that there are too many songs filled in the screenplay. One problem with the story was that, owing to the unnecessary songs, the basic premise takes too long to get settled. Shashi Kapoor arrives too late in the film. 

Even the cameo by Rajendra Kumar, albeit wonderful, seems unwanted if you put the entire film in context. The dialogues by Akhtar-Ul-Iman are, needless to say, fantastic. The film puts forward a great message. At the time of its release, it must have had a very strong emotional connect with the audience. In any case, it still does.

Yash Chopra wasn’t just the King of Romance. He was simply THE KING! Good at directing any genre.

Shivom Oza

Friday, 2 November 2012

1920 – Evil Returns (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – This Evil Never Returns

1.5/5 Stars

A sequel to the 2008 horror film ‘1920’, ‘1920 - Evil Returns’ revolves around the love story between a poet Jaidev Verma and a young violin teacher Smruti. Although the two have never seen each other, their love story blossoms through the letters, filled with romantic poetry, which they send each other. However, Smruti gets possessed by an evil spirit!

This film gets just about everything wrong. The dialogues, in particular, are laughably bad. The acting doesn’t salvage anything either. Tia Bajpai tries hard to look convincing as the possessed girl but her performance gets overshadowed by the bizarre screenplay. 

Renowned poet Jaidev Verma (Aftab Shivdasani) is deeply in love with a young violin teacher Smruti (Tia Bajpai). The problem is that he has never seen her before. So, the two lovers keep in touch through letters. An unexpected situation leads to Smruti getting possessed by an evil spirit. Somehow, she lands up at Jaidev’s house. However, since she has lost her memory there’s no way either Jaidev or she will know who the other person is. The evil spirit, who eventually turns out to be Jaidev’s old friend Amar, wreaks havoc all over. She spits nails, levitates in the air, and gets fits and the usual razzmatazz.

So you have the tantrik, doctor, concerned family members, suspecting maidservants lined up. All of them have their own take on how to get rid of the ‘evil spirit’. The inane plot is filled with silly dialogues. Some will make you guffaw, but after a while, it gets to your nerves. The first-half is still bearable, notwithstanding the stupefying lines and the unwanted Sufiyana ballads.  However, the second half tests your patience to the core and completely annihilates all your hopes to the ‘point of no return’. The premise is like any other Bollywood horror film. Over the last few years, a new genre has come up. It is called the 'Unintentionally funny horror film with sexual undertones'. Vidya Malvade, who plays Jaidev Verma’s sister Karuna, delivers an appalling performance. For a moment, you would still blame the writers. But then, going by record in Hindi films post the brilliant ‘Chak De India’, she is just not up to it. Aftab Shivdasani tries hard to look serious while doing inexplicable things on screen, but fails miserably. Tia Bajpai delivers a fine performance as the possessed girl, but the story and the screenplay is way too absurd to accommodate her efforts.

It’s a badly written ‘horror film’. Filled with unintentional laughs, the ‘scary’ scenes lack the thrill.

Writing, as already mentioned, is quite bizarre. The bad acting doesn’t leave any stone unturned either. Bhushan Patel repeats the same formula that Vikram Bhatt films are known for. Although such films work with the masses, ideally, there should be something ‘horrific’ about a horror film.

The horror, over here, lies in the script. Music by Chirantan Bhatt is average with no memorable track in the entire film. The film has been shot well by Naren Gedia. The gorgeous locales at Sweden up the visual quotient of the film considerably.

The film is nothing like ‘1920’. In all probability, the evil shall not return again.

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Skyfall (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Mendes Puts Substance Into The Everlastingly Stylish ‘BOND’

3.5/5 Stars

James Bond films, in their 50th year and with ‘Skyfall’ being their 23rd film, are currently the longest running franchise in the history of cinema. With Academy-award winning director Sam Mendes helming the project, ‘Skyfall’ has been touted to be the game changer as far as espionage thrillers are concerned. In the film, Agent 007 returns to protect the MI6 head, M, from one of her adversaries.

The screenplay of the film is immensely engaging. There’s not much beating around the bush and the plot stays to the point till the end. Daniel Craig has delivered his best performance as James Bond, while Judi Dench, whose character M is way more significant than it has been in the other films of recent times, does a brilliant job. Javier Bardem cuts across as one of the most menacing Bond villains. The opening chase sequence, shot in Turkey, pulls up the curtains for an entertaining two hours ahead. The opening credits, voiced by Adele and comprising ethereal signature ‘Bond’ visuals, also wonderfully shape the start of the film. The film, albeit more of an action-thriller rather than a typical Bond affair, is a refreshing take on James Bond films and will certainly be liked by audiences all over.

MI6 agents, James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Eve (Naomie Harris), who are on a mission in Turkey to recover a stolen computer hard drive comprising details of all undercover NATO agents in terrorist organizations, fail to nab the criminal Patrice (Ola Rapace), a French mercenary. On the chase, Bond is shot in the shoulder and during his altercation with Patrice, is accidentally hit by Eve and is considered “missing, presumed killed”.

MI6, meanwhile, gets attacked by a terrorist organization. The security systems of the organization get hacked and an explosion at the offices kills a number of employees. Bond, who has been using death to take a break from his usual services, returns to London to get back on duty.

Upon learning about Patrice’s location, he flies to Shanghai where he kills him, and another clue takes him to Macau. Here Bond meets Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe).

What Bond thought would end up as a short-lived romantic liaison, turns out to be his own abduction. The gorgeous Sévérine is an employee of Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent, now M’s principal nemesis. The war is pretty much declared as Silva, playing the eccentric villain, can go to any extent to get M, and now his newfound foe, Bond.

The screenplay of the film deserves a lot of accolades. The film revolves around M, Bond and Silva, and it stays that way. Although there are important characters on the side lines, such as Ralph Fiennes’ Gareth Mallory, Naomie’s Eve and Ben Whishaw’s Q, the story belongs to the three principal characters.

Bardem is a maverick, who hides the horrors of his past behind his fake smile. He cuts across as an excellent villain in the film. Although, you look at him as the antagonist, your heart does go out to him when you learn about his painful past. The character of Raoul Silva stays with you long after the film gets over.

Daniel Craig gives, by far, his best performance as Agent 007. Although he opts to stay as understated as he was in the previous two films, the character has notched up some wit and upped the action quotient as well.  Judi Dench, with a remarkably long role in the film, does a fine job.

‘Skyfall’ does not follow the typical Bond films’ route. Although it’s as action-packed as its predecessors, the story assumes equal importance. Logical conclusions be damned, this film keeps you gripped not just for its ‘action’, ‘gadgets’, ‘bond girls’ etc., but the ‘plot’ and ‘performances’ as well. Sam Mendes has made a fine Bond film and this will, hopefully, set the precedent for all future ‘action-thrillers’. Writers, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, deliver a fairly taut story. The visuals are augmented, thanks to brilliant cinematography (Roger Deakins) and production designs (Dennis Gassner).

The film has its thrills, here and there. The finale, although not as spectacular as the beginning, has a big, big twist. Watch the film to find out.

Sam Mendes’ stupendous direction puts substance into what was everlastingly stylish, ‘BOND’!

Shivom Oza