Sorry Bhai

Rocket Singh : Salesman of the Year [IMDB]

Story of a fresh graduate trying to find a balance between the maddening demands of the 'professional' way, and the way of his heart

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Shazahn Padamsee, Gauhar Khan

Direction: Shimit Amin

The Twilight Saga : New Moon [IMDB]

Based on the Twilight book series. After Bella recovers from the vampire attack that almost claimed her life, she looks to celebrate her birthday with Edward and his family.

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson

Direction: Chris Weitz Read More!

Oye Lucky Lucky Oye

I confess that I am a huge Abhay Deol fan and I was really looking forward to this movie - you only have to look at his previous movies to see that he does very interesting - and intelligent movies. And guess what ? Oye Lucky didnt disappoint at all !!

The story - well there isnt much of a story - is about a thief called Lucky (Abhay Deol). To describe Lucky is a huge challenge - he is unapologetic, streetsmart, pulls off the most brazen heists in broad daylight, has a big ego and taste for good things in life - AND steals some really arbitrary things !! And ofcourse, has a boyish charm and earnestness - which make Lucky lovable. Believe me when I say - no other actor could have pulled this role off (except for maybe Akshay Kumar).

The story is set in Delhi, like the director's previous venture Khosla Ka Ghosla - and this movie seems to continue in tone and tenor from where it left off. There is something very enjoyable about the Delhi-Punjabi way of talking - their use of swear words in every other sentence, their ostentatiousness, emphasis on class/society, and general addressing of everyone with 'aap'. The director seems to have a very good understanding of the Delhi psyche and uses it to gently ridicule them from time to time.

The humour in the movie is understated like in Khosla Ka Ghosla - and maybe would not appeal to everyone as much. Its not slapstick - so dont expect a Singh is King. But all the same, watch out for the audacious stealing scenes - and the police station sequences. Even the now-common news channel-bashing turns out to be a hoot.
There are moments when the movie slows down and the director explores other themes like betrayal and family values etc. But then unerringly, the director focusses back on Lucky and he delivers.

Credit is to be given to the young sardar who played Lucky junior - he does it very well indeed. The director Dibakar Bannerjee is to be commended at recreating the Delhi feel - and for not deviating too much from his mold - while creating a completely new movie. But the main praise is for Abhay Deol. He is what makes the Lucky character believable - and lovable :)

Wont say anything more but hope I have interested you enough that you watch the movie :)

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Tourneuse de pages, La : The Page Turner

After happening to like the last two foreign movies we watched, I was all enthusiastic about catching this one this weekend itself, and dragged the less-than-enthusiastic wifey all the way to PVR. However I guess law of averages catches up pretty soon :)

(Lately PVR has been taking the distribution rights of a lot of international movies in India and releasing them first at PVR cinemas. While this has meant that people like me always keep a lookout at the PVR website on Fridays to see if they are screening a new international movie, it also means that most of the time, the movies go unnoticed by the majority of the viewing public.)

However nothing is lost with the ‘Tourneuse de pages, La’ or ‘The Page Turner’ this week. It’s a movie about a gifted young piano player Mélanie Prouvost, who stops playing after she fails an all-important exam – due to Ariane Fouchécourt (the head of the jury and a famous pianist). The 10-year-old Mélanie falters because Ariane was signing autographs for fans in the middle of her performance. 10 years after this incident, Mélanie happens to get a chance to become a governess in the Fouchécourt residence and a chance to extract her revenge.

The story is not very unique, sharing elements with ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ and its numerous remakes (including our Indian adaptation “Khal-naikaa” starring Anu Agarwal & Jayaprada).

However where The Page Turner fails is the thrill and suspense department. It shows us the reason for vengeance by young Mélanie at the beginning of the movie itself. But the revenge is never remotely exciting – you never get edgy about what is she going to do next. Probably because she never declares her true intentions. There ARE a few scenes here and there which do sit up and watch – like Mélanie pushing Tristan's head down into the pool when he is trying to surface, but these scenes are really rare. The blame for it goes to the screenplay. It chugs along at such a monotonous speed – neither accelerating nor braking – that it makes for extremely dull-viewing.

Revenge is a dish best served cold indeed.

But the revenge employed by Mélanie almost borders on the bizarre. She depends completely on luck to get her revenge – she couldnt have possibly predicted that Ariane would take her as her page turner when she was employed just as a governess. Or predicted any of the other thorns that she plants in Ariane’s life with any certainty. Basically Mélanie got ridiculously lucky in her revenge.

Both the lead actresses do their parts well. Mélanie as the wronged woman who is seething inside, but forced to act normal. Her intense facial expressions however, give some hint that things are not what they seem. Similarly, Ariane as a famous piano player who doesnt really care about anything else – her friends, house, her own son – or her loving husband. She’s does the egocentric part very well, looking haughty and imperious throughout the movie - except where she is taken over by stage fear (caused by a road accident 2 years ago)

However what was really the breaking point for us in the movie was the ploy Mélanie uses to destroy Ariane’s marriage. I mean how could Mélanie have possibly been sure that it would turn out the way it did ? I cant say more without giving away the main revenge, but trust me – its absurd to even consider Mélanie planned it out.
(I have noticed an attribute in other French movies and which was reinforced here - was that the French, as a people, are decidedly colder - less jovial and happy – slightly wooden.)

One of the small positives in the movie was that Ariane doesn’t know what hit her or why, at the end – Mélanie quietly walks off into the morning, just before the final chapter of her revenge. The soundtrack, classical western, was pretty good too.
To sum it up, the director fails completely to keep the audience involved in the proceedings with the flat screenplay and the story itself cannot be called a planned-revenge by any stretch of imagination. This movie is therefore probably better ignored.

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Usually all of us make movie-watching decisions based on the reviews we read – IMDB, Rajeev Masand on CNN-IBN, Khalid Mohammed in Hindustan Times or Raja Sen on rediff. (Ofcourse I like to think atleast one or two people take this blog into account too :D). If you read atleast a couple of these reviews, you usually get a very good idea of what a particular movie is like. I have another personal test – admittedly a sort of rough indicator. In case of mainstream hindi movies, just look at the schedule of a multiplex when the movie is released. So if a movie has 4-5 shows a day, it’s a decent movie – while movies with just 1-2 shows in the first week are just bad. Incase of a ‘multiplex movie’ like Johhny Gaddaar, it’s the second week schedule to watch out for.

However, sometimes these calculations go quite wrong. Dasvidaniya is one such movie. (In its second week, its running just 2 shows a day in all multiplexes – and all major reviews have given it two stars, blaming the slow narration and/or ridiculing the contents of the final list). And I thought it was one of the best movies of this year.

Just for those few of you who don’t know what the movie is about, it’s about a common man – Amar Kaul – who leads a very dull and inconsequential middle class life, with nothing to look forward to except for his obsession with ‘to-do’ lists. He makes them everyday, ticking off things that he accomplishes – till he gets to know that he is terminally ill and has just three months to live.

As he did during his lifetime, he decides to make a final list – ‘Things to do (before I die)’ and sets out to fulfill them.

But this movie is too much to be summarized by just this one line! Sure that’s the essence, but the movie has to be watched to appreciate the wonderfully tender moments captured by the director. Vinay Pathak plays the man with just three months to live, who suddenly has to fulfill a lifetime of ambitions – wishes which had been buried under the daily grind of existence. And the beauty of the script is in the things he chooses to put on the list. Nothing exotic or deliberated. Just simple heartfelt desires that probably most of us have – buying his first car or going on his first 'foreign trip'. Seeing his first and only crush Neha one final time - or meeting his childhood best-friend Rajiv before he dies.

Some experiences are heartwarming, like his mom’s reaction on seeing the new car - and some bittersweet, like finding out Neha is now married and a mother. There are many more touching moments - the final parting between Rajiv and Amar and making peace with Vivek – which linger on after the movie. Vinay Pathak gives a wonderful performance, first reflecting desperation, then a breakdown and finally a wistful acceptance of fate.

Kailash Kher has given his unique touch to the music – and while Alvida is the number which everyone is humming, the Maa song is very nicely picturized (without too much overt sentimentality) – and is catchy too.

Not all is perfect with the movie though – Amar’s alter ego’s appearance is a little jarring and he should have had less screentime. The russian’s popping-up act is also a little weird – but it also gives the movie its unique flavor. And if you think about it, how much money would an account manager’s provident fund be left with, after a Rs. 9 lakh car and a round trip to the US ?? And wouldn’t you want to leave it all to your mother instead?

But inspite of these loopholes, this movie is one of the most warm and thoughtful movies to come out of Bollywood in sometime. The director cheekily doffs his hat to mainstream movies Kal Ho Naa Ho and Munnabhai – and indulges in a bit of genuinely funny situational comedy, but you would remember the movie for touching your heart in its earnestness and simplicity.

PS - Dasvidaniya has a 8.8 rating on IMDB Read More!

The Hunting Party

I guess most of us do not know much about Bosnia/Serbia except that its a small country somewhere in Europe where there was some trouble in the 1990s and there was US/NATO military intervention. (For those unfamiliar with the Bosnian war, there is a small paragraph at the end of this review). This movie is set in Bosnia in the year 2000, 5 years after the war ended.

Richard Gere plays Simon Hunt, a washed out reporter, out to bag an interview of a lifetime - with one of the most notorious Bosnian war criminals, The Fox - who also happens to have a $5 million bounty on his head. Along with him is his erstwhile partner and cameraman Duck (Terrence Howard), and a greenhorn reporter Benjamin Strauss, son of a network VP, who wants to prove to his dad that he has what it takes. Apparently inspired by a true story about five journalists who set out to find out war criminals for themselves, this movie is a fascinating yet witty account of their endeavour.

The movie is narrated by Duck, who formed an award-winning team with Simon - covering wars across the planet. However, after a massacre in a Bosnian muslim village in 1995, Simon has a meltdown on national tv - and loses his job and credibility. Now he is struggling to make ends meet, indebted to various loan sharks, while Duck does well in life and now has a cushy job in the network headquarters as well as a sexy girlfriend.

Travelling in a noisy old Mercedes, the odd trio try to track down The Fox - but get mistaken for a CIA hit squad instead. Mention must be made of the Indian UN official, who is training the Serbian police (the same guy who played NRI Mr. Kohli in Bride & Prejudice). The story is a little slow to start with, but soon becomes quite gripping, with some fast paced action, interspersed with some very witty dialogues. Both Richard Gere and Terrence Howard play their roles perfectly - showing an easy camaderie which makes it look like they REALLY are part of an old team. The junior guy Benjamin fits in with the older guys well too.

It is not all funny lines though - a flashback shows what caused Simon's breakdown on that fateful day - just one example, but enough to tell you about the brutalities perpetrated on the Bosnian muslims during the war. A very intelligently done movie on a serious premise - it could have been a classic if only the ending was a little more rational. When it was establised that The Fox is VERY well guarded, I couldnt understand how our trio could pull off their trick at the end.

But a very good movie nevertheless - with a short run time of 100 minutes. And do not miss the picture comments at the end of the movie :)

Background : Bosnia and Serbia (along with Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro & Slovenia) are small countries that were part of erstwhile Yugoslavia. After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992, Bosnia found itself with three ethnic groups - Bosniaks (or Bosnian muslims), Serbs and Croats. Bosnian Croats and Serbs declared independent republics in Croat and Serb dominated areas of Bosnia - with the support of their respective countries. And so started the Bosnian War. In an attempt to strengthen their claim over those regions, Bosnian Croats and Serbs started ethinic cleansing of the Bosnian muslims from those areas, killing and raping at will. The war lasted till 1995, when finally NATO intervention stopped it.
About 100,000 people were killed in the war and about 1.8 million displaced. However the telling figure are the civilian casualties - about 39,000, out of which 85% were Bosnian muslims. According to a well-known CIA report, 90% of the Bosnian War crimes were committed by the Serbs - and Ratko Mladić, the commander of Republic Srpska army is still missing ....

More information - Wikipedia
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Imagine a scene where a muscular John Abraham takes his first step into the house by tipping over the kalash full of rice (in slow motion) and Kiron Kher gives him her gold bangles saying "Mujhe pata nahin tu meri bahu hai ya damaad .... aur Karvachauth ka vrat zaroor rakhna" - while Abhishek Bachhan watches helplessly.
If you think that is funny, then Dostana is for you. Even if you have difficulty imagining something like that, goto your favorite theater and watch Dostana - you are sure to have a blast.

As the makers have been shouting from the rooftops, this movie is about two straight guys - Abhishek Bachhan and John Abraham - who pretend to be gay in order to get a super flat on rent. Only, the third occupant/owner of the house is super-hot Priyanka Chopra. Needless to say, first friendship and then love follows - as both the guys fall in love with her - while she thinks they are gay. (I wonder why someone as gorgeous as Priyanka would still be single at 27, but then lets not start about plot loopholes). Then it becomes a 'Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai' as both the guys try upstaging the other - with somewhat funny results - all the while struggling to let her know that they arent gay.

The highlight of the movie is the gay fun in the first half. Getting two macho guys like John Abraham and Abhishek Bachhan to play a gay couple was a casting coup! No doubt the depiction is caricatured - but seeing them act like pansies is just too funny. Ofcourse there are some contrived situations but even those are made immensely enjoyable by the lead pair.

Abhishek Bachhan puts up a great performance - which is by far the best in the movie. He seems to have really delved into the character, and shows a fabulous comic timing. John Abraham doesnt have that much dialogue but he is the eye candy in the movie. I mean Priyanka looks really hot in the movie in a lot of bikinis - and Kidnapesque clothes :D - but John Abraham is fabulous too. Just look at his body - I'm a guy but even I am impressed - he'd make any clothes look good !! Ofcourse for females its a must-watch - he is on display wearing just a boxer (really short ones too) !

Vishal Shekhar have given some really good music and all the numbers are foot-tapping.

The only weak part is Bobby Deol - yeah he is there in the movie too. Compared to the other three, he just looks ugly and acts with a plastic expression on his face!! He seems so out of place in this young movie - someone else ..... maybe Kunal Kapoor should have done his role !! (he seems to be doing cameo roles pretty well these days :D)

The first half of the movie is a gag show where the jokes - some situational and some forced - just keep on coming. The second half becomes a bit more serious as we move into 'Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai' territory. The climax - well there is definitely a surprise there - thats all I can say.

Goto to this movie for a fun time - and you wont be disappointed.

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2 Days in Paris

You remember ‘Before Sunrise’ – and its sequel ‘Before Sunset’ ?

‘Before Sunrise’ was definitely one of the most refreshing – and honest – boy-meets-girl stories I have seen (if you haven’t watched it yet, do try to grab it somewhere). And the reason to bring it up here is that the lead actress, Julie Delphy is back with another romantic comedy, set again – in Paris. This time over two days - hence the name. And whats more, she writes and directs it too.
(Don’t you think Julie Delphy looks a lot like Phoebe Buffay of FRIENDS in this photo ? )

But while the ‘Before’ movies are composed solely of interactions between the guy and girl and nothing else – this movie is a story of cross-cultural connections and misunderstandings. And it’s a satirical look at the growing intolerance around us – French who don’t like Americans (or Arabs or Germans for that matter) or the hero Jack who doesn’t like Republicans (and Bush). It takes a lot of potshots at the French culture as well – lampooning their openness to sexuality which sometimes borders on the bizarre !!

The story is about a Anglo-French couple who decide to take a vacation in Europe – and do a 2 day stopover in Paris to meet Marion’s parents before flying back to US. Jack (Adam Goldberg) is a sarcastic Yankee, who doesn’t know much French apart from Bon jour and Merci – and is on his first trip to Paris. Marion is a photographer, who is born and brought up in Paris before shifting to NY – who has been seeing Jack for 2 years now – and who has somewhat of an anger-management problem. Both of them are slightly over-the-top characters, but 10 minutes into the movie, you are least bothered about that as you hold on to your sides, doubling in laughter.

Over the two days, Jack gets increasingly agitated as he negotiates a variety of people who do not talk in anything but French – Marion’s America-hating parents, her numerous ex-boyfriends, racist/flirtatious taxi drivers and even the local burger joint personnel. He doesn’t have a clue what is being spoken and feels left out as well as ridiculed. Marion’s dad makes special effort to deride Jack and his American tastes – which doesn’t help matters between him and Marion. And then there are the ex-boyfriends … who seem to be more than happy to see her (Jack describes one of them as looking at Marion as if she was a piece of lamb and he had a knife and fork in hand !!)

(Tagline of the movie - He knew Paris was for lovers. He just didn't think they were all hers)

Marion’s non-english speaking parents are characters themselves – Marion’s dad’s art gallery is to be seen to be believed while Marion’s mom’s Jim Morrison story is well … interesting !

Both Adam Goldberg and Julie Delphi put in admirable performances – especially Adam. The look of disbelief and incredulity on his face is hilarious, while his sarcasm is to die for. In a scene where Marion’s dad deliberately serves him rabbit curry – and then offers him some carrots from the gravy, he asks “Oh so now we are going to eat the bunny’s food too ?”

I am very tempted to give away the hilarious incidents of the movie – but I’d doing the movie a disservice. This movie doesn’t take itself seriously at all till the last 10 minutes – the characters are wacky and the French ones even more so. You would be laughing your guts out at the situations and at the snide comments that Jack makes for most of the movie. At the end, it tries to justify the romantic part of the tag – and the movie slows down – but its easy to overlook the last 10 min.
Very enjoyable movie – do try to watch it.

(Its been released in India by PVR only - so you cant catch it anywhere else. Worldwide it was released last year. The movie is anglo-french, so some subtitles are there.)

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Quantum of Solace

I have not seen enough James Bond movies to make sweeping generalizations about the secret agent - or the standing of this latest movie in the line up of 22 Bond movies. But I know a rotten tomato when I see one - and this Albert R. Broccoli production is one. (As an aside, why on earth would someone have a family name as Broccoli ?)

Quantum of Solace opens with a car chase sequence - with bad guys trying to gun down 007 in his Aston Martin on Italian alpine roads. In doing so, it fulfills the norm of all Bond movies opening with a action sequence. But while the Casino Royale chase across a construction site was memorable, the car chase sequence, while good, is quite similar to a lot of other such sequences - and doesnt have the same impact.

The story begins by establishing that a there is a new group called Quantum, about which the MI6 has very little information, but who has people in all places - ALL places. This is the same organization that was responsible for killing Vesper, Bond's love interest in Casino Royale. Bond is hankering for revenge and once he finds a trail in Dominic Greene, he doesnt stop in his quest for this shadowy group - even when it brings him in conflict with his own MI6 or the CIA.

The action moves around the world - from Haiti to Bulgaria to Bolivia. The Bulgaria opera sequence is performed very slickly - and so is the aerial dogfight. There are lots of others - infact the movie begins to feels like its one long action sequence - but the others are not that remarkable.

Now onto things which are not so cool - when was the last time you saw 007 without using a SINGLE gadget ?? I mean his gadgets are part of the Bond identity ! Yet Quantum of Solace has absolutely zilch - nada - zero gadgets. No rocket launchers in his car, no laser watch or grenade pen - nothing. The only time he user something remotely resembling technology is when he takes photos of villains and sends them to headquarters - any phone with GPRS can do that !!

Onto Bond himself. Daniel Craig brought some rawness to the usually dapper, suave Bond character - and was appreciated for it in Casino Royale. But in this movie, the creators have unfortunately gone overboard with the rough-and-tough appeal - and Bond has lost all his suaveness and his unflappable looks. For me, Bond was defined by Pierce Brosnan in Golden Eye - driving the tank through the streets of Moscow - suit and tie perfectly in place. Daniel Craig is just a little too brutish - his penchant at plunging into fistfights headlong without a thought - make you fatigued after a little while. All he does is get chased by bad guys, get into fights with them, and beat them comfortably - without getting anything more than a scratch. Or get into gunfights and easily pick off all the opposition one by one.There is no variation - only the settings and countries change.

The new Bond girl is probably the only one who doesnt sleep with Bond. She has her own agenda of vengeance for her family's death - a general plotting a coup in Bolivia. And frankly, I didnt think much of her looks. But then lot of people liked her - so its an individual choice.

And the final failing - the story/screenplay. The only answer I got from my friends when asked about the story - "What story ?" The movie has almost a non-existent storyline - there are only shadowy details on the Quantum group - no explanation on how they control so much money - and neither are we any wiser at the end of the movie. Its as if the writers started out with the Quantum group as a octopus-like organization with tentacles everywhere, then midway realized that they needed a solo villain for Bond to fight with - and so focussed everything on Dominic Greene. The villain's scheme in Bolivia - unfortunately I cant elaborate on how stupid it was because it would give away the storyline. But if you do watch the movie, when the plot is revealed - just remember that he spends millions of Euros, plots a coup, just to do THAT !! And the grand scheme that is revealed at the end of the movie - seems very trivial compared to what is implied about the reach and power of the Quantum group. Makes you wonder what was happening in the rest of the movie. I mean c'mon!

The repetitive action sequences and the lack of any intelligible storyline meant there was nothing to look forward to in the movie after sometime. Soon we were looking at our watches and frequently wondering when the movie would end. Not a good omen for any movie - and especially for a Bond one. After Casino Royale, I had pretty high expectations from the next Bond movie and maybe thats why I am being a little more critical, but if asked to sum up the movie - I'd say boring.

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