Aarakshan – Trailer – Slightly Reserved

Here’s the first look of Aarakshan from director Prakash Jha who gave us Raajneeti last year. Aaarakshan deals with controversial issue of ‘reservations’ in school and colleges and stars Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Prateik, Manoj Bajpai and Amitabh Bachchan.

The first trailer gives it a very pop-cornish, high budget look, similar to what it was for Raajneeti. Saif Ali Khan looks slightly awkward and heavy duty dialogues dont fit in with him, Amitabh Bachchan looks comfortable in a familiar kind of role for him and Manoj Bajpai looks good. Overall the trailer looks lukewarm but the subject it deals with is quite powerful and perhaps the film will do justice to it.

Have a look.. The film releases on 13th August 2011.

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Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap – First Look

The most famous angry men ever on Indian film screen Amitabh Bachchan is back in his favorite avatar in the film titled ‘Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap’ which releases on 1st July 2011.

Posters announcing the launch of the promo were to be seen everywhere, showing AB in the silhouetted image of his most iconic roles, mouthing his most famous dialogues, which are remembered even today.

Here is the first teaser trailer of the film and its a riot. AB’s act and the song reminds us of his heydays when he rules the film world and was called a one man industry. The film promises to be great fun going by the trailer. Have a look.

Easy A – Smart and Adorable

How does a typical American college/ high school movie work? ? There is this cool looking school/ college with lots of young people strutting around in minimal to decent clothings doing basically nothing. Listening to music, running around, playing ballgames, ogling at girls etc. They do everything but attempt to study. In comes a stranger, a loner to begin with who is ridiculed for being a geek or somewhat different in his/her fashion and style. He befriends some nice people and then tries to be more popular by finding supposedly even better people. Gets involved with hot partner of opposite sex, changes himself/ herself , almost overnight changes happen to his/her life. There are parties and lots of booze and sex and everything you associate with young crowd. Almost forgets his old pals and then by the end realization dawns, he/she re-aligns to his/ her old style, finds the forgotten path and goes back to older friends and also ends up with hot looking girl or guy respectively and thats how we end a college  movie. A typical date movie as they call it.

Easy A , starring Emma Stone follows more or less the same path except that its witty and Olive played superbly by Emma Stone isn’t half as dumb as most leads in college movies. She is a simple girl who in an attempt to grab attention lies about losing virginity and then the news spreads faster than a wildfire and everybody in high school assumes she is a slut and then she continues her act to remain popular and also to help others. She does wrong things, tells more lies, tarnishes her own reputation and fakes sexual encounters only for the greater good of other people in return for some lousy gift coupons.  She knows she is doing it all wrong and wants to correct it all but she has to carry her act of portraying herself as school slut without actually doing sex just as to protect his friends and teachers reputations and families.

Of course everything gets corrected by the end and it ends the same way as most college movies. The difference here being the script which keeps you hooked in telling the story in a novel way and the best part about the movie is its lead actress Emma Stone,  who gives a breakthrough performance in the movie and literally shoulders the entire movie. She looks good and acts even better. The supporting cast of Stanely Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Amanda Bynes,  Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow  is nice too but Emma Stone announces her arrival on big stage with this film. She is the star to watch out for.

This film directed by Will Gluck is worth a quick DVD watch and I would recommend it when you dont need anything heavy to watch and just some light hearted fun.

My Ratings: 7/10 –  Smart and Adorable movies with witty dialogues and fantastic acting by Emma Stone

Cashback – Time Freezing

Cashback is a little British film released few years ago. It was originally a short film nominate for the Oscars, which it didnt win. The film was expanded later to make a full fledged romantic comedy by the director Sean Ellis retaining the same caste and literally adding backstories, flashbacks, character stories to enhance the plot.

The film is about a budding artist Ben Willis who undergoes a painful breakup with his girlfriend and just cannot stop thinking about her. He keeps thinking about it and just loses sleep at night. He simply cannot sleep and then decided to use the extra night hours by working at a supermarket. There he encounters various characters and meets Sharon. He realizes how time means different things to different people.  How everybody just plays the time and does their own thing to pass time. How his colleagues fool around the supermarket and boss does inane things and Sharon doesn’t look at the time so that it passes faster. He begins to admire Sharon but his mind still cannot concentrate on his work and just meanders along. In this he develops the ability to freeze time or he imagines to freeze time where he can then just walk around people who have paused, especially beautiful women, admire them, strip them and paint them.  He begins to start enjoying his time-freezing act and then he begins to like Sharon more and more and begins to ‘not remember’ his ex and then finally when they kiss, a bit awkwardly, he finally connects more with her and then  he sleeps for the first time in weeks. There is of course that misunderstanding and getting back the lost love, like a standard rom-com. By the end the two leads are shown to be together having frozen time and enjoying the romance.

In between the film has lot of side-stories about various colleagues of Ben and his past and his earlier crushes and his slightly mental boss and his casanova friend. But mostly its about Ben. His voice over throughout the film makes it special and interesting. His ability to freeze time is a dream of every person I guess. As we say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and the director shows this superbly when he introduces Sharon as just an ordinary girl whom you wouldnt give a second look and then slowly she beings to appear more and more beautiful and glamorous in the film as Ben falls for her and begins to like her. The movie is entirely from Ben’s eyes and what he sees and feels. Its about how he deals with lost love and finding love.

The film is a light romantic comedy and although it involves time freezing, it isn’t a science fiction. But the film is a different kind of romantic comedy then what we see dished out regularly from the Hollywood. The film has lots of nudity and foul language but it is advised to watch the unrated film to truly understand that the nudity shown in the movie is not for the sake of erotica but is shown as an artist’s viewpoint on his subjects. Only an artist can admire true beauty of a woman. The film is technically brilliant too and is beautifully shot, especially the scenes in which time and characters freeze and Ben moves around. The movie is a visual delight and also the soothing voice over gives it a warm feeling.

The actors are not well known but Sean Biggerstaff does a wonderful job as Ben Willis and Emilia Fox as Sharon is quite adapt too. Michelle Ryan as Suzie is shrill and doesn’t have much role but to shout and create confusion. Other supporting actors are nice and believable too.

My Ratings – 8/10 –  Watch it for the beautiful and different take on romantic comedy genre. The director is one to watch out for.

Love and Other Drugs – Hard Sell

Love and Other Drugs is a recent movie starring Jake Gyllenhall and Anne Hathway directed by Edward Zwick. It is a movie which starts of a romantic comedy and becomes a serious romantic drama by the end with themes as varied as Phamaceutical Marketing, Parkinson’s disease and the mismatched but free-spirited couple who cant help falling in love.

Jake Gyllenhall plays a marketing guy who can sell anything to anyone, especially if that anyone is a woman. He is a natural charmer, smooth talking casanaova who doesn’t hesitate to bed his customer and undercut his opponent to sell. He is a Medical Representative for Pfizer trying to sell anti-depressant drugs to the Doctors and trying them to prescribe his drug over the rival’s more successful one. He meets Anne Hathway suffering from early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,  a free spirited woman who is perhaps the first one not to fall for him. As it happens the two gets attracted towards each other and have endless rounds of sex and fun but are wary of commitment or their own reasons.

The film starts of with a fast pace and shows the cut-throat pharmaceutical market of prescription drugs in America and how doctors and medical representative gang up for their mutual benefits. The film changes tracks into a romantic drama and concentrates on the sex-affair between the leads and onset of Parkinson’s disease in Anne Hathaway’s character Maggie Murdoch.  Jake Gyllenhall’s Jamie Randall tries his best to get a cure for the incurable disease and helplessly falls in love with her but Maggie does not want anyone’s support in her life. The launch of sex-drug Viagra propels Jamie as one of the leading and most popular medical rep translating into a promotion to Chicago. But he realizes how much he desires Maggie, Jamie lets go that and in the end the couple is seen to be living together.

The film is strictly okay for a one time watch and promised lot more in the first half but settles into an ordinary romantic drama by the end. Anne Hathaway acts powerfully and is completely uninhibited. Jake Gyllenhaal perfectly suits as the charming, smooth talking casanova sales representative. The movie is quite well shot but feels slightly longer and dragging by the end. The movie has some real strong and bold sex scenes and situations and its safe to assume that this movie would never release formally in Indian theaters.

My Ratings – 6.5/ 10 –  Watch it for sizzling chemistry between the leads and a nice inside view of the murky pharmaceutical market of America

Atlas Shrugged – Trailer

Here’s a Movie I never knew was being made and its about to be released on 15th April 2011. The movie is based on Ayn Rand bestseller ‘Atlas Shrugged’. This movie is the first part of the 2 part series.

Based on Ayn Rand’s epic 1957 novel, ATLAS SHRUGGED PART ONE plots the collapse of American society after “men of the mind” (thinkers, industrialists, scientists, artists and other innovators) go “on strike” and vanish. Taylor Schilling plays the powerful character of Dagny Taggart, a railroad heiress. The first part is about discovering ‘Who is John Galt?’

Here is the trailer.

Black Swan – Intense Viewing !!

I had heard a lot about ‘Black Swan’ the film by Darren Arfonsky starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. I had heard that it was about ballet dancing and had brilliant acting mostly on part of Portman. I managed to procure the movie.

The movie is an ode to the world of Ballet dancing and ballet dancers. It shows the intense struggle and hard work the ballet dancers go through to achieve the perfect swirl ,the perfect step all in quest of getting the perfect ovation from the crowd.

The story is about a fictional New York Ballet Troupe and its leading stars. Natalie Portman plays Nina the perfect dancer. Butthe Ballet Director played by Vincent Cassel thinks that although she has mastered the steps of ballet she doesnt feel them, she had to learn to let it go and enjoy the feeling from within. The ballet is about the White Swan/ Black Swan where Nina is perfect as the virginal pure and dedicated White Swan but she has yet to master the flirtatious, seductive dance of the Black Swan. Mila Kunis plays Lily who is at ease with her dance and her life and her sexuality and is perfectly suitable for the Black Swan’s character.  Natalie Portman’s Nina is like that because of her own psychological trappings and a dominating mother and her single point obsession of becoming the swan queen. She hallucinates at times and the black swan within her is struggling to come out of her. The movie is about how Natalie Portman struggles with her own self and her fears and barriers created by her own mind to achieve the perfect dance, the dance of a black swan. She sacrifices her own self, her own white swan body in doing so.

The movie can be described as a psychological horror as well apart from a perfect story of discovering the inner self set in an intense world of Ballet Dancing. The dancing, the music and choreography is perfect and you actually enjoy the swirls and furls of ballet dancing while watching it, this coming from a non-dancer is a big statement. Natalie Portman is not only just beautiful but also brilliant in her intense portrayl of the role and is a sure shot for the Oscar Award for the Best Actress. Mila Kunis is her opposite is also wonderful so is Vincent Cassel as the ballet director. Winona Ryder as the ageing Beth is almost not noticed. The film is all about intense acting from Natalie and her ballet skills.

My knowledge of films and its deep metaphors is restricted and I would not be able to comment any further on this film however I would surely recommend this film to lovers of serious cinema, serious acting and especially for people interested in the world of ballet dancing.

My Ratings : 8/10 – For serious cinema lovers and fans of Ballet and Natalie Portman only

Band Baaja Baraat – Refreshingly Good

Yash Raj films have been known to produce romantic movies and musicals and NRI romances and wedding videos in the name of films since last few years. Since the advent of DDLJ some 15 years ago it has been doing so and it has been searching for its next DDLJ ever since. Exceptions to this theme have been far and few. Somehow in these last 15 years they have been making the same film over and over with different variations, stars and music. It was relying too much on big shot stars, big directors, big music to make their movies sail through which did work few times but bombed most times. The unreal world of YRF films was crashing and they were not realizing that. The premier bollywood studio, which once never failed at box office, was giving duds after duds and was considered no longer the same powerful studio it once was.

With Band Baaja Baraat, they have managed to break few shackles. The film is a surprise for everybody including I think the bosses of YRF. To begin with the film is set in middle class Delhi and not London or New York. The characters and settings of the film are real, believable and that is a welcome change from Raj and Rahuls we are used to see. The film has a definite story and a decent plot line moving the story. Above all the film has two really good actors who fit the roles perfectly. The movie is a model on a how a romantic comedy needs to be made.

The story is simple and is about a middle class Delhi girl and a roadside Delhi romeo coming togather as business partners as wedding planners. Their meeting is accidental however they join forces together to launch ‘Shaadi Mubarak’ a wedding planning agency set in middle class Janakpuri of Delhi. The initial part of film is breezy and takes you from one wedding to another and slow and steady rise of the duo’s company and making even the simplest of wedding as grand and memorable. The company grows and so does the dreams and the leads graduate from middle class low budget weddings to high society ‘farmhouse’ weddings as they call it in Delhi where budgets run in crores. They succeed with their zeal for hard work, honesty and dedication. Till about the midpoint of the film when the conflict arises the film is real fast moving. The conflict point is not a villain or money or fights but strangely it is love.  The romantic scenes and the love scenes are done in a very non-conventional way, which makes it look and feel real.When the leads fall in love they break the first rule of their ‘binness’ that to ‘never fall in love with your business partner’.  The 2nd half is bit slow as compared to the first and some of the things are quire predictable but still fun to watch. The fights, tantrums and problems which arises from the conflict continue right till the end where of course like true YRF style the leads make up and everything is hunky dory. The finale seems bit stretched but you never feel bored. Do not miss the end credits.

In spite of certain predictive nature of the story it makes you watch it and enjoy mainly because of real life situations, some original hilarious scenes, smartest dialogues you’ll see, wonderful and breezy direction, superb production values with an eye to detailing you are not used to see in mainstream Hindi movies and on top of all the 2 leading actors.  Anushka Sharma as ‘Shrutti Kakkad’ lives the character like she was born to do this. Its her third film, incidentally all 3 with YRF, and she is a revelation as an actress. She is uninhibited, can act well, dance like a breeze in most natural way and makes you feel for her in emotional scenes. Of  course the real surprise packet is new boy Ranveer Singh as ‘Bittoo Sharma’. The guy is unconventional in looks but is a sheer delight to watch on screen. His dialogue delivery, sense of comic timing, dancing and acting skills make you root for his slightly roguish but innocent character. He is the true blue Delhi boy we have been looking for. This certainly is a dream debut for him in a role tailor made for him and I wont be surprised if he wins the best debut actor prizes in most award ceremonies next year.

Before the film released when I saw the promos I didn’t think much of the new actor with his unconventional look but I have to say that I was wrong and I shouldn’t have been prejudiced. Incidentally last time I was prejudiced and then later changed my mind after a film released was during ‘Kaho na Pyaar Hai’ almost a decade ago !!

The film is a true representation of what North Indian weddings and the debut-ant director Maneesh Sharma has captured the true essence of both middle class and high society Delhi. Special mention to dialogues by Habib Faisal for capturing the Hindi tone and words that only Delhites would use. This is the kind of original earthy writing and detailing which has been missing from many of our recent films. The supporting actors are cast so well that they do not look like actors but straight out of a Delhi colony. The music by Salim-Suleimaan is apt and the numbers are foot tapping and makes you want to dance in the aisle. ”Ainvayi Ainvayi’ is for the song of the year and will be a surefire hit in every wedding from now on.

The film is made in very moderate budget and most of the money has already been recovered from Satellite an Music rights so whatever the film earns from box office is a bonus for the producers. The movie surely worked for me and we enjoyed the late night show in middle of a working week and were surprised to find the hall almost full. Nothing works like word of mouth publicity and positive critic reviews.

My Ratings – 9/10 for the sheer North Indian energy and the lead actors. Best rom-com of the year.

P.S. My only worry is that after the success of this film YRF has got enough money now to make few more Uday Chopra films !!!

Guzaarish – Beauty sans Soul

Guzaarish is the new ‘art painting’ created by Sanjay Leela Bhansali starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. In making this film, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is inspired from opulent drama sets and Broadway musicals and is also clearly inspired from various international films like ‘The Prestige’ and the ‘Sea Inside’. The films storyline  and plot is taken mainly from the above 2 films.

Hrithik Roshan plays a magician who meets an accident and becomes quadriplegic from waist down. Aishwarya Rai is the nurse who takes care of him for 12 long years. Hrithik’s Ethan Mascarenhas is a survivor, fighter and doesn’t give up on life and becomes a Radio Jockey inspiring people, advising them about life and freedom and fun all the while being on a wheelchair. But then one fine day he decides to appeal to the court to allow him to die, justifying mercy-killing for someone like him who has suffered enough. The basic plot is alright but is clearly inspired from various sources and this plot is stretched right from the beginning to the end. There are other unwanted sub-plots such as a rival magician, Aishwarya Rai’s bully husband, Hrithik’s assistant and so on. They have nothing much to contribute to the main plot.

Nothing is original here, not the story, not the situations. The setting is a remote palatial home somewhere in Goa, straight out of a drama or perhaps remainder of the director’s past venture ‘Black’. The sets and the clothes and the acting everything looks artificial. The setting is Anglo-Indian and characters are undefined including ridiculous Nafisa Ali as mother, who stays away from Hrithik for the reasons nobody knows. Then there is hyper Jennifer Patel as the lawyer who behaves more like a school principal. She is certainly a stupid lawyer. Aditya Roy Kapoor is simply there because he is the producer’s brother and his afro hair cut and speech makes him look like a ‘south bombay yuppie’ more than a Goan magician. Suhel Seth as doctor takes the cake though. He is completely lost and a crying Suhel Seth evokes laughter in the audience. He was perhaps missing Arnab Goswami to argue with. The entire film, its sets and characters and ridiculous trial in court looks fake. The quadriplegic issue is almost ridiculed here. The film is like a body without a soul.

The only thing that  lifts the movie a bit are some scenes and the lead actor. What can one say about Hrithik Roshan who puts his heart and soul and whole body behind the role of a person destined to be in the wheelchair for life. He is intense and at times over-intense but he is the saving grace of the film. Aishwarya Rai is actually ‘good’ as compared to her other roles and is infact quite well cast in the nurse’s role. Other actors like Nafisa Ali, Makrand Deshpande, Jennifet Patel have little to do. Aditya Roy Kapoor as the young magician is okay in a limited role and looks quite amateurish, perhaps a better actor would have done the role in a mature way and Victoria’s Secret girl Monikangna Dutta is hardly noticeable. Chemistry between the lead pair is quite nice though like most of their past films done together.

Coming to the director, why oh why does someone as talented as Sanjay Leela Bhansali does this over and over? He creates a beautiful art form but then it doesn’t have life in it. He creates artificial world of his own and there  is absolutely no connect with today’s audience.  You feel bad for Hrithik’s character at the start but by the end of the film there is hardly any sympathy for him, one doesn’t feel like crying even when he is about to die. The feelings are all artificial here and the director is trying too much to evoke sympathy. The director is trying to create one masterpiece after other  without realizing that audiences are seeing through his work. He is trying to show-off his technical skills, which must agree are great to look at, but he has forgotten one basic ingredient in his past few films and that is entertainment. There is seriously no entertainment in his past few films including this one. You do not have to make a dull,boring movie if you are tackling a serious disease, you can make it heartwarming and interesting, prime example being ‘Taare Zameen Par’ which dealt with Dyslexia in a positive way.

He is also the music director, screenplay writer, story writer and whatever else that comes to your mind about film making. The music is average and you hardly remember a tune once the movie is over. In fact some of the songs are actually harsh and hurting to the ears. He goes into unwanted detailing at times which are clearly not needed. What we needed was a simple story, more realistic, more touching our heart. Clearly the filmmaker is in his own little narcissist world.

My Ratings : 5.675/10 –  Beautiful but slow and a blatant copy. Body minus the soul.

P.S. Watch ‘ The Prestige’ to understand the world of magicians, its a masterpiece.

Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows -Part 1- Sets up nicely for the Big Finale

This weekend, Teen Wizard will conquer the global box office with latest film the series Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, the first half of the big finale of this mega-blockbuster series.

It has been almost a decade since the first Harry Potter movie  aired. The first two Harry Potter movies released in India 5 months after its global release. It was April 2002 when we left our few months old son at home and saw the first Harry Potter film in the theaters. Today, our elder son (almost 9) accompanies us to the Harry Potter franchise’s latest edition, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.  In between we have had 7 mega succesful books read multiple times and 6 movies. We still cannot get enough of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter series of films, at least the last few parts, have becomes darker, grittier and more serious than say the first couple of films. As the kids in movies have grown and the story has taken serious turn, the films have become darker too. The Harry Potter books are full of such amazing details and plots and characters that it is impossible to showcase everything in 3 hour film medium. The directors have made great effort to put in as much as they could in those 3 hours but not everyone has succeeded.

I for one didn’t much like the idea of makers splitting up the 7th book into 2 different movies to be released 8 months apart. But I guess they had their own reasons to split up the book and money being one of the crucial factor amongst that. It is like reading a book half way and then waiting for 8 months to read the later half of the book and even pay extra for that !! I feel, they could have made a 4 hour epic and round it off all together.

Coming to the current film, the director David Yates who also directed the 5th and 6th part previously, continues with same tone. This part is the continuation of the story from the 6th installation when Harry’s guiding force Dumbledore dies and Harry is left with a task of finding out the remaining Horcruxes and capture the deathly hallows to defeat and destroy the evil lord once and for all. This film is different from others in a way that the familiar setting of Hogwarts are missing and 3 leads Harry, Hermione and Ron travel to all sorts of places in the quest for the horcruxes and the deathly hallows. The film is full of chases and comprises of long actions scenes and different settings. The film of course has amazing special effects, some real awe-inspiring scenes and is exciting to say the least. The snake sequences are quite scary and so are the chases thrilling. It has its emotional moments too with the dance between Harry and Hermione and Ron’s jealous dreams and wild imaginations. The animation to explain back story of the 3 brothers is beautiful. But attention to detailing is somewhat missing in this part. The film slows down a bit in some parts but that was expected as the book itself slows down in certain chapters. The film ends bit abruptly but of course it has set it up very nicely for the last part to deliver.

Apart from the 3 leads most other characters and minor plots get side-tracked including Dumbledore’s back story, Grindelwald’s back story and many other small incidents.Most characters make appearances in few scenes. It is mainly Harry, Hermione and Ron who shoulder the burden of this part. This film covers almost 2/3rd of the seventh book and thus leaving just 1/3rd and possibly some new things for the last movie.

The very minor problem I see with the film is that unless you have read the book it would be almost impossible to follow whats happening in the larger sense of the story and plot. It is indeed confusing for those who are not familiar with the plot. Plus the darker tone, the dialogue heavy scenes and slow pace later and unexplained ending would be slight deterrent for people who intend to watch this as just another Harry Potter film. We had to explain a few things to our son though, he hasn’t yet read the books but is familiar with the plot lines thanks to video games.  The movie is clearly not for Non-Potter fans and non-readers of the books are advised to stay away. But of course for those who have read the books it is a joyous ride only with a slight disappointment of waiting for the grand finale in next July. I personally enjoyed the whole movie and didn’t even feel bored in the not so exciting parts in the middle.

As characters Harry, Ron and Hermione played by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson respectively have grown from tiny kids in the first movie to full fledged teenagers now. As actors the 3 have grown to become big stars in their own right. Danielle was born to be Harry Potter and Rupert Grint finally gets to do some serious acting apart from being funny all the time and Emma Watson is a superstar in the making, if only she continues to act in films. The interaction and understanding between the 3 leads is superbly captured. In other characters Helena Bonham Carter as evil Bellatrix Lestrange is haunting and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort is evil enough but doesn’t have much to do in this part. Several other characters make small appearances in the film.

In conclusion, this film was a great ride for me and I intend to watch it once again to enjoy it more. and as I said before unless you have read the books and familiar with the plot, you might not appreciate the film fully. However I am highly biased when it comes to Harry Potter films.

My Ratings :  9/10 –  Must watch to watch the setup for the grand finale to follow. Unmissable for Potter fans, be prepared for the big one next July. Non-Potter fans might be disappointed.

P.S. Did anyone else noticed the sub-titles ?