Thursday, December 17, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 7 Roundup

16th December 2009 (Day #7)

Many movies screened at the Dubai International Film Festival have a Q&A session after the movie. Of the three movies I managed to watch on the final day of the festival, the last two had colourful Q&A session that added to the wonderful experiences these movies presented. This is possibly the best facet of the festival, apart from featuring movies that we would not otherwise have the opportunity to watch or discover.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 6 Roundup

15th December 2009 (Day #6)

What a day of extremes! I watched four movies, none of which were on the moderate middle-ground. They were alternatively quite bad and quite good. Keep reading for the low-down.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 5 Roundup

14th December 2009 (Day #5)

This day of DIFF was quite tiring. Each movie was emotionally draining, watching them back-to-back multiplying the effects. Fortunately, the festival atmosphere does the work of an energy drink; this makes the going easy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 4 Roundup

13th December 2009 (Day #4)

So was it a close competition? Not in the least. Read on to know which one triumphed and also about one particular movie that made me fall asleep!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 3 Roundup

12th December 2009 (Day #3)

I did not end up watching four movies on the third day of DIFF ‘09. But the quality of the three that I did watch more than made up for it. This year is indeed turning out to be a welcome surprise. Seems like where Hollywood lacked in 2009, the Independent film circuit has made up for.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 2 Roundup

11th December 2009

Three movies, three genres, three qualities. From Korea to Japan to Sweden. From a personal story to a mythical epic to a post-apocalyptic animated. As my oft repeated troika goes, the day included the good, the bad and the weird (not in that order though!).

Friday, December 11, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 1 Roundup

10th December 2009
As the sixth edition of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) starts, the buzzing noise of gossip and conundrum surrounding it settles for a more meaningful reverberation – the active and vivacious discussion of movies. But, this is just the beginning. DIFF is about seven unremitting days of back-to-back movies. With it, here starts my annual day-by-day account of movies that are good, bad and the ones that are simple weird.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Third Man (1949)

*** SPOILER ALERT: This review discusses spoilers ***

The Third Man begins with a voice-over telling us about the city that the movie is set in: a Vienna that's been devastated by a world war and sliced up by the victors. Joseph Cotten's Holly Martins, a penny-starved author of pulp westerns, arrives in this Vienna at the behest of his friend, Harry Lime who has offered him to work together. Within minutes of his arrival, Martins is redirected to Harry Lime's funeral. He discovers that Lime has just died, run over by his own driver in front of his own apartment. While trying to uncover details of the accidental death, Martins at first learns that two men carried him from the road to the pavement, but digging further, he learns about a third man who helped carry the dead Harry Lime! And so begins the suspense behind one of the most celebrated film-noirs ever: Accident or Murder? Who is the murderer? How is the beautiful Anna, Lime's bereaved actress-girlfriend, involved? And who, in all of Vienna, is The Third Man?!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Zombieland (2009)

Much can be said about what makes Zombieland such a good movie. To put it quite simply, it's an ingenious and whimsical revival of a dying genre, made for our post modern generation. It also features the best cameo this side of Tropic Thunder. Most importantly however, it stars a maverick, trigger-happy Woody Harrelson who, if there ever was one, is a natural born zombie-killer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009)

There is a distinct difference in how Romantic-Comedies are interpreted by filmmakers and audiences in Hollywood and Bollywood. While American movies tend to be Romantic movies with a measure of comedy thrown in, contemporary Bollywood makes them primarily as musical comedies with a love-story theme. While Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani is firmly set in present-day Bollywood mannerism, Rajkumar Santoshi's inspiration is classical Bollywood. This lends the film a distinct adorable flavor that many modern comedies lack.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dream Vision

Dream Vision
Shariq A Madani

"What a baybee, man. She's gorgeous!"

The object of his desires was not a woman, but the all-new F-type Jaguar convertible sports car. The mist of his hot breath blurred his view of the car from outside the showroom glass walls.

"Okay, Benz boy, lets do it." he said to himself, smiling and not taking his eyes off the machine. He loved his nickname.

Benedict Hammett was a car enthusiast. Heck, he was a walking, talking car encyclopedia. Its not that he was crazy about cars. He was just obsessed with them. Give him an opening and he would go on blabbering about them with the speed of a Diablo.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wake Up Sid (2009)

Wake Up Sid, the latest movie from Karan Johar‘s camp by yet another debutant director, has been strongly marketed as a movie for the present day youth, the slacker generation that refuses to grow up. Unfortunately, the director comes from the same culture as his target audience, and lacks the maturity and wisdom that this movie requires in its telling. This failure turns a fantastic opportunity into a dismal melodrama heavily layered in saccharine, making it a movie that is more a generation's dream than a wakeup call.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wanted (2009)

Well before the release of Wanted, the movie’s strong and evenly loud promotions made it abundantly clear what to expect from it - action bent towards exaggeration and characters that are wild caricatures. In this, the movie does not disappoint. For those averse to its lead star, Salman Khan, or "Bollywood Masala" movies, Wanted can be punishing. Fans can rejoice though, as Salman Khan possibly delivers the most heroic performance of his career yet, molded firmly within escapist cinema.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Kaminey (2009)

Kaminey (Rascals/Scoundrels) is Vishal Bhardwaj's first movie after achieving commercial success. Most directors usually tend to lose their footing amidst big budgets, bigger stars and a bloating stardom. The good ones learn to adjust, and continue making movies their way, taking advantage of the extra resources at their disposal. Bhardwaj does just that. With all the anticipation, popularity and pre-release success already associated with Kaminey, he nonetheless delivers an astounding movie that stays with its eccentric characters and the situations they find themselves in.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Love Aaj Kal (2009)

Love Aaj Kal is an irritating movie. The first half (of the two-act format of most Bollywood movies) of the movie is intended as a mish-mash of events to confuse the audience to get them thinking. The second half was possibly intended to disentangle the scenes, peel them off layer by layer and decipher the movie into a lovely love story that makes you follow your heart to the person you've always meant to be with.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Luck (2009)

Luck, the second film by Soham Shah, is not the debacle that Kaal was. In fact the movie, although it is not, feels like a "White Feather Films" production, having been cut from the same fabric as Plan and Musafir. The one factor that links them all is obvious - Sanjay Dutt, typecast in his usual role, though this makes the movie more entertaining as a result. That is all this movie aims to be anyway -- entertaining.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

For avid fans of the Harry Potter books, this movie may be yet another disappointment. It leaves out too many details and gets much of the mythology wrong; but when viewed as a movie series, the latest installment of this now mighty movie franchise is a marked improvement over many of its predecessors. In fact, it is the second best movie of the franchise, bettered only by Alfonso Cuarón's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but not without being made to wait for such a long time since the series began its cinematic life 8 years ago.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)

Rating it by non-Pixar standards, the third outing of the prehistoric beasts is an above average fare. Rating by its own standards, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a major improvement on its predecessor Ice Age: The Meltdown, the placid sequel to the wonderful Ice Age. This improvement though does not come in the storytelling or character-development, but mostly by simply introducing a wonderful eccentric new character that carries the movie through and through.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Crank 2: High Voltage

Somewhere along the movie, Jason Statham's Chev Chelios attaches one claw of a jumper cable to his right nipple, and another to his tongue. With the other end of the cables juiced by a car's running engine, Chelios jump-starts his supplementary heart so he may continue his manic run of mayhem across the city. As with most genre films, you need to have an appetite for this kind of over-the-top action and politically-incorrect chauvinism that the Crank movies are all about. Either this movie is for you, or it isn't. There is no middle-ground.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Gulaal (2009)

Five years ago, director Anurag Kashyap tore through the press, public and Bollywood with his mighty sophomore feature, Black Friday, a riveting drama chronicling the Mumbai Bomb Blasts of '93. On the one hand, its release was blocked by Indian courts due to the sensitivity of its themes, but on the other, it generated a lot of international acclaim for the quality of its film-making. Kashyap now gives us Gulaal, a movie about the Rajputs and their desire for an independent state. Equally controversial (for Indian courts) and equaling Black Friday's greatness, Gulaal is another achievement for India's Independent cinema, one that threatens to be lost in the melee of everyday Bollywood.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gran Torino (2008)

There's something about an old, semi-senile man defending his property against 'outsiders' that instantly appeals to us. Clint Eastwood, fully aware of this, directs himself as that old man in Gran Torino -- and as cliched as the movie's storyline and character development are, he makes a gripping personal drama, in what is now this wonderful director's forte.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Killshot (2008)

Director John Madden misdirects Killshot into a mess of tangled clichés that denies him any success. Given the cast he has at his disposal, there is little that he could have done to make it go this wrong, but he does that little quite spectacularly. He starts by establishing the writ-in-stone Hollywood formula of two hitmen: Mickey Rourke’s contract killer Armand is the cool cucumber to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s psychopathic Richie Nix. What (or more precisely who) they pursue are yet another familiar screen setup, the childless-couple going through divorce. Madden’s movie eventually spirals from this setup into B-movie territory with characters we don’t care about and outcomes we expect.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chop Shop (2008)

Chop Shop is 84 minutes of pure film-watching bliss. Here is a movie that uses a small budget, non-actors as the two main leads, and hardly any formulaic telling. Yet it works in every way that makes the indie circuit such a gold-mine for movie-connoisseurs. Movies like Chop Shop come along and you get sucked into them, live with the characters and by it's end you become glad you watch movies.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mutant Chronicles (2008)

War and Sci-fi movies are generally studio products while Independent movies tend to be smaller personal dramas. So when you do have an independent movie that deals with a global war, alien invasion and retro science-fiction, it's an oddity - one that stands to be examined. Mutant Chronicles is such an oddity that takes a bleak past and throws it into a grim dystopian future. It's part orthodox, part crazy and part artsy. But most importantly, very independent.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The White Tiger (2008)

India, as depicted in fiction, is either the mystical land of snake charmers & magic or a poverty-ridden place with no hope for the downtrodden. The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga takes a different route - a man from the "darkness" (the rural inlands) rises to become an Entrepreneur in a major metropolitan. But don't let that premise lead you to think of this as a Rags-to-Riches story - The White Tiger is more about two Indias that co-exist in the same place. The poor India & the rich India.