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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Source Code : Keeps you thinking

    

        'Source Code' keeps you hooked on to it right from the beginning.  The movie opens with  lovely shots of Chicago, on a beautiful sunny day. The camera goes over the city’s skyscrapers,  highways, before getting to a speeding train.

Colter Stevens  (Jake Gyllenhaal)  is an  American Army helicopter pilot , whose last memory is fighting in Afghanistan, where he is flying a helicopter, suddenly wakes up on the train as though he has woken up from a nightmare.  A pretty girl - Christina (Michelle Monaghan) sitting opposite  to him, sees and knows him as Sean Fentress  who is a school teacher. Stevens insists that he is not the one who she believes him to be, even though Stevens looks like Sean in the mirror. Before Stevens could make sense of  what is going on,  a bomb on the train explodes killing almost everyone on the train. Stevens then finds himself in some kind of a pod, in uniform , strapped to a seat , as a woman’s voice murmuring something about “beleaguered castle” ( a card game). The voice is of officer Goodwin (Vera Farmiga),  she along with her boss Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright)  explain that Stevens has zapped in from another time and space through a software program called Source Code and will keep returning to the train to relive the last 8 minutes before the bomb goes off, to identify the bomber was , so that another major terrorist attack could be prevented the same day.

Even though plot seems a little unrealistic rather far-fetched, Duncan Jones , makes it very believable. The characters make an impression, even if they have very small roles and keep doing the same thing  (well almost ) over and over again. Stevens develops very soft corner for Christina, and also manages to get some compassion from Goodwin.

The movie over all is very engaging. It is centered around a very interesting concept. The performances are very good. The movie keeps you thinking all the time and its always ahead of your thoughts. It good fun watching it and will make you think even after you have left the hall after watching it. 


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fast and Furious 5: Rio Heist - Movie Review

 Image source: Wiki
 
I had seen the trailer of this movie once. I was excited at the prospect of Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson facing each other in the latest installment of the swashbuckling, high-speed "Fast and the Furious" series. In this edition, the action shifts to Rio where Dom (Diesel), O’Conner ( Walker)  and others plot the downfall of the most corrupt businessman in Rio. However, they must at the same time, take on the FBI team headed by Dwayne Johnson.
 
 
The opening scene sets the pace of the movie, where O’Conner and his girlfriend - Mia , free Dom from a jail sentence by ramming into a prison bus. What follows is a series of interesting action sequences, which keeps you glued to the screen. The  rooftop chase sequence, Dom and O’Conner robbing cars from a moving train, are all well shot and keep you interested. The introduction and a few scenes involving the associates, who help Dom in this mission are humorous, specially the way they get the fingerprints of the businessman is something new. The subsequent part of the movie features a typical Bollywood style planning and execution of the robbery, including how all The Rock’s men die and The Rock finally decides to join Dom and Co. The climax where Dom and O’Conner drive a huge safe tied to two cars through the streets of Rio adheres to the typical Hindi movie way of murdering all Newton’s Laws.
 
 
The Fast and the Furious series has always been known for its cars, high-speed races and escapades. I was very surprised and rather disappointed to see that the cars have not been given as much importance as the characters in the movie get. The shiny cars have made "The Fast and the Furious" series such a hit and the primary reason to watch the movies for many people.
 
 
To sum things up, its a movie with a lot adrenaline rush in it. Even though the movie has a lot of Bollywood flavour, its fun. As one of my friends rightly said, "Its done in such a way that it will make you want to believe in the stunts they do. That's the difference between a regular Hindi movie and this one.". 
 
In all, its good fun to watch the movie.

 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Stanley Ka Dabba - WOW!



There is a scene in the movie when the teacher gives Stanley a chocolate as a mark of her appreciation towards his beautifully written essay. With a sheepish smile, Stanley takes it amidst generous applause from his friends. He then tries to put that chocolate into his shirt pocket only to find to his dismay that the pocket is torn and is no good to hold his chocolate. This is one amongst the many bits in the movie that fall into place at the end.

Stanley ka dabba is a story of a kid who is special in his own ways. On the exterior he comes across like any other kid who narrates stories to his friends, sings songs during class breaks, and doesn’t miss a chance to have fun. But, the only shortcoming here is that Stanley doesn’t get a lunch box to school. It’s a problem only according to his hindi teacher Khadoos Verma but Stanley’s friends like all kids have no qualms about sharing their dabbas with him. But, Verma who himself doesn’t get a dabba is always preying on others’ dabbas gives Stanley a piece of his mind and asks him to get lost till he doesn’t get a dabba of his own to school everyday. This point in story leads to the big climax of the movie which I must confess is one of the most overwhelming and extremely touching ending to have seen in recent past.

This movie is all about the magical moments held together by threads of simplicity and honesty. Amole doesn’t employ any overtly comical, emotional scene to score brownie points. The movie just floats in a good pace giving enough depth for the characters to evolve and get identified by the audience. He sets up the proceedings so brilliantly that the viewer can’t really help but feel like he is in the same class as Stanley’s and is actually looking at everything happening right there. And of course, all this culminates into one fantastic climax that’ll remain etched in the viewers’ memories for long time.

Amole Gupte was last seen in ‘Phas Gaya Re Obama’ and ‘Kaminey’ donning the actor’s hat. Before that, he was credited as writer and creative director for the beautiful ‘Taare Zameen Par’. He comes back with this movie, now managing all the major departments and delivering a movie that’s just sheer genius of art.

Amol Gole, the cinematographer of this movie shot it in a handheld Canon 7D camera because they didn’t want to scare the kids away or make them nervous as the kids didn’t know at that point in time that they were shooting for a movie !! Yes, the kids were told that these were regular acting workshops and only in the end were they informed about it. These are the things that make this movie look life like and come across as a simple story with an honest intention.

Hitesh Sonik’s music and Amole Gupte’s lyrics gel so well with the scenes that they seem like dialogues between characters but with a difference.

The kids Abhishek Reddy, Saisharan Shetty, Aman Mehra, Walter D’souza and others have all done a brilliant job considering that they are the real supporting cast of the movie. Divya Dutta as the charming English teacher who Stanley admires a lot is brilliantly casted. Divya Jagdale and Raj Zutshi are good as well. Amole Gupte as the khadoos teacher just carries on the great work he has been doing lately. But, if this movie has to be remembered for one person then it has to be Partho Gupte(Amole gupte’s son) who plays the central character of Stanley and seems so natural in every dialogue and action of his as the lovable kid.

What stands out in the movie is the amazing control that Amole Gupte has on the narration of the story. Never does he let the rhythm drop and displays great control on his direction. For me, the dabba was a metaphor for what Amole wanted to convey through this story. It was a medium for him to give out the message in the end.

Its not everyday that I quote Karan Johar but here I go. On the day of the music release, he said, ‘There is no mainstream or alternative cinema. There is good cinema and bad cinema, Stanley Ka Dabba is very good cinema’.

Yeah, Stanley Ka Dabba is one of those movies that’ll try to give out a message without trying to be preachy or dumping that thought heavily on the viewers’ minds.

As an avid movie-watcher , I get disappointed when I watch tons of mindless and stupid movies churned out by the movie industry but still hope that every now and then on a friday there is a movie like Stanley releasing!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Stanley Ka Dabba - Not a review!


You wake up to some noise.Popping of sesame seeds.U avoid and go back to sleep.Daily routine they are.
 Lethargically you start preparing by stuffing the books, separating them as either 100/200 pages or text books and placing them in different compartments, only to retrieve it easily. Packing Done .
Its late.You start rushing with your heavy bagpack.Empty handed.R u missing something?
A loud scream from  back..
DABBA … Food for lunch it is ..
After some mundane morning  sessions  and some short naps, you desperately wait for lunch break. With less time on hand, you along with the your Gang start finding a place to have packed food peacefully(Hang out is what we call now..).
Open the Dabba.There is something.Yeah something.U dont give a damn whats packed inside.Seated in a circle you start passing it in round robin fashion to make sure each and everyone has tasted it. A curious friend X asks Y if he has brought chutney along with curd rice that so much suits the taste.X enjoys a spoon of that and passes on a smile. All they want is to just to hang out. They hardly keep track of the individual’s contribution/share. It’s a crime.
You go back to attend more classes,some mundane ,some interesting and some deserving a nap. End of the Day. You go back to home and start the next day afresh.
Memories . Million Memories those school moments were . They were brought to life again and refreshed after watching the most endearing and heartwarming children movie that lights up those childhood days when we were at our purest state.
Stanley Ka Dabba
Stanley is 4th Grade(‘F’ section to be precise) student who keeps his class entertained by his impromptu parallel world stories. The stories he narrates to teachers to bail himself and his gang members out of a situation. In free time(or recesses) he makes the whole class *head bang* to his tune of Dan Tan Tan.  
Lunch Period is the time that he hates the most. That’s because he doesn’t get the Dabba like others. Unlike others he kills his hunger by having copious amount of water  to sustain the afternoon sessions. Often shares it with his generous friends, but hesitantly though.
Mr. Verma(Amole Gupte) , a Hindi teacher  faces a similar sort of a problem.In this case he gets his colleagues share their food by pestering them. Shamelessly though.  He is better known as Khadus among kids for hijacking  sharing their food, albeit alone.
Thinking that Stanley is robbing his share of food from gang members, Verma vents out his anger and passes disparaging comments on Stanley by asking him not to come to school until he gets his own Dabba.
At the end , Stanley gets out of this awkward predicament by getting a Dabba of his own. How? Anything beyond this would be a spoiler J
Though Stanley and Verma are facing the same problem,empathy for Stanley grows. In actual they both are representation of same character. But still we end up empathizing with Stanley and not Verma.Why? If observed carefully it would reveal that Verma was once Stanley, hence his behavior (opinions may differ).Verma just didn’t wanted to see that side of life. May be.
Lets discuss the Gang. Yes the Friends, that we cherish the most. Reminds us of those bench fights that we picked up for crossing an undrawn borderline, the extra classes that we bunked to watch the fag end of a Test match, times when we deliberately punctured girl’s bicycle for fun, moments when we  were either caught playing radio in the extra classes or passing our answer sheets to our friends.
It was all unadulterated.
If God tells me that I have only 3 hrs to go, I would request for couple more so that I could watch Satya , Lagaan and maybe end with full stomach  after watching Stanley Ka Dabba.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ragini MMS - Movie Review


Image Source: Wiki


It was only a matter of time before someone in Bollywood pulled off a "Paranormal Activity". While Paranormal Activity shattered box-office collection records all over, Paranormal Activity-2 did a decent enough job to live up to the expectations that viewers had, especially after watching the first edition. And so, we have Ragini MMS, our own desi version of a film that encompasses the strange sequence of events around a couple, triggered by a supernatural force.

If you have watched Paranormal Activity, you will immediately notice the similarities between it and Ragini MMS. Both claim to be based on true events. Most parts in both the movies are shown and shot through a handheld video camera and cameras setup throughout the house for one purpose or the other. Then comes the limited number of people in the cast. And then there is the couple who are tormented by the demon. Both movies are relatively low budget movies and shot in a very short duration. Fortunately or unfortunately, that's where the similarities end. While Paranormal Activity was the work of a relatively unknown Oren Peli, Ragini MMS comes from the production house of Balaji Telefilms headed by Ekta Kapoor, who is riding on tons of success attributing to her SOAPs that have driven Indian TV channels into submission and have garnered massive viewership. Further, while the motive remains relatively unknown to the viewer (atleast in PA-1), Ragini MMS somewhat puts a few pieces together by the end of the movie just to put the average movie-goer at ease. And then, the release date Friday the 13th was something that made quite a bit of news for Ragini MMS, while Paranormal Activity was one of those movies that gained popularity just by word of mouth. So, its not actually fair to do a head-to-head comparison of the two.Instead, let's give credit to either of them where its due, be it the acting, the screenplay or the storyline.


What its all about:
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Uday Jhala (played by Raj Kumar Yadav) and his girlfriend Ragini (played by Kainaz Motivala) head to a bungalow located in the middle of the woods outside the city to have some "private fun-time" over the weekend. On reaching the bungalow, it however becomes evident that Uday has his own hidden agenda of making an MMS sex video of Ragini and has all the arrangements already in place, with cameras setup all around the house. Strange things start to happen as the couple try to get intimate, with a few sightings of the ghostly figure before the movie is half-way through. The spooky mood established in the initial part of the movie is thrown away to a little extent with the intervention of Ragini's friend Piya and her boyfriend who add nothing but a few more minutes to the movie. Other than rile the ghost with their unnecessary presence, the only value that they add to the movie is drop a hint that confirms the haunted nature of the house. Its however after their exit that the movie gets interesting. Starting from a possessed Uday hissing "Main chudail nahi hoon" (in marathi) while getting naughty with Ragini (who was intentionally handcuffed to the cot by Uday to shoot the sex video), to Uday being pulled out of the bed by his hair to an extent that it rips his scalp to bleed, the ghost makes its presence felt within the house every second. Having become fully aware of a supernatural presence within the house, the rest of the movie revolves around the attempts of a helpless Uday and a handcuffed Ragini to get out of the forsaken place and how the ghost seeks them out.


Hits and Misses:
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The standout performance in the movie comes from Uday, who is brilliant with his abuses as he is with his acting. Be it the sex-hungry boyfriend or the petrified human being, Uday does great justice to both the roles. He is shameless when it comes to getting things done his way, and gives the exact cheap image of a man ready to go to any extent for it. Ragini on the other hand, is good enough to complement Uday with her acting, both in fright and in frustration. The one thing of Ragini follows you out of the theatre is her scream for help, hollowed by frustation and helplessness.

Ragini MMS has its moments, with a few instances that will make you jump in your seat (not necessarily the sighting of the ghost). But what it lacks is the finesse with which a horror story needs to be told. The background score is unnecessarily used, consistently throughout the movie, trying to spook the viewer. But most of the time, all it did was alert the viewer that something is about to happen, thus stealing the surprise factor out of the scene. Next come the ghost sightings. The movie was not even half way through and the viewer had already seen the ghost half a dozen times. To quote a line from "The Usual Suspects",

-- The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

The essence of a horror movie is to keep the surprise factor intact throughout, and that includes the appearances of the ghost to a good extent. As someone rightly said, if a viewer sees the ghost enough number of times in the movie, he/she is not far from assuming that the ghost is just another role in the movie and not THE key role. Ragini MMS falters on this front as well. Frequent portrayal of a creaking staircase, doors opening and closing by themselves was yet another thing that could've been avoided. The last 20-25 minutes of the movie was a wee bit boring, as the end was pretty much what one can guess and does not add any value as far as the story of the movie is concerned. And yet another but not so significant shortcoming in the end, its the ghost itself. A white saree clad, flowing haired Noori styled ghost is a world renowned stereotype. But then, a ghostly figure of a woman dressed in traditional marathi "kachchi" saree attire was a little too much to handle in a horror movie, atleast for the rational viewer in me. Pawan Kripalani has put together a decent piece of story, but there is something about it that is missing, something that I cant put a finger on  for certain and if you were me, you would feel the same 9 out of 10 times.



All in all, Ragini MMS is a great watch if you haven't watched Paranormal Activity solely for the fact that you then don't have a scale for comparison. But if you have already seen Paranormal Activity, Ragini MMS is a good one time watch, more so for the brilliance pulled off by Raj Kumar Yadav, well supported by Kainaz Motivala and not to forget, a decent enough storyline moderately influenced by the Hollywood flick.




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