Thursday, 27 December 2012

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

3/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

Given below are the show timings - 

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


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


PVR Phoenix Marketcity, Vimaan Nagar
3.00 PM

Delhi NCR

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


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


PVR Acropolis Mall
2.00 PM


PVR Rahul Raj Mall
3.15 PM

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 20 December 2012

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

3.5/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shivom Oza

Friday, 14 December 2012

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

2.5/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

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

3.5/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 6 December 2012

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

3/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

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

3.5/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shivom Oza

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

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

3.5/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shivom Oza