Every once in a while ... the entire universe is out to con you :) !!

Seriously !! When IMDB tells you that a superhero movie made by Zack Snyder (the maker of the ubercool 300) is rated at 8.0 by the users and newspaper reviews give it a thumbs up, you just cant wait for the weekend to come - atleast I couldnt !

And after the long wait, when the movie begins with an awesome hand-to-hand combat in the graphic style of 300, you possibly couldnt have asked for anything more !! But that joy starts getting replaced with confusion and then boredom and finally irritation - at the ridiculousness of it all. Even 300 was ridiculous, agreed. But it had the coolness which made up for it - which Watchmen has precious little of.

Set in an imaginary 1985 when the Cold War is still on, a group of ex-superheroes who were disbanded/retired from public life get stirred when one of them, The Comedian, gets murdered in the opening scene of Watchmen. The masked Rorschach decides to try and uncover the secret of the Comedian's death - with the suspicion that maybe someone was trying to targeting 'the masks' ...
His investigation and the subsequent events reveal that there exists a plan allright, but the identity of the orchestrator and the final motive is much more than what he had imagined.

The story weaves back and forth between the past and present as each of the superheroes are introduced and we are told about them in detail. The most striking characters are the dead Comedian and the blue Dr. Manhattan - who has some amazing superpowers. However, even though the characters are more gray than, lets say, a Spiderman - but they are as exciting as a potato !! While the Hulk or even the Ironman werent great superhero movies, but atleast they got you rooting for them !! This has to the most boring bunch of superheroes ever !

I can go on and on, but I will try to summarize what is wrong with this movie. Watchmen is a movie for the REAL movie connoisseur - the ones who can give a 6 hour lecture on the significance of the .... green pants of the Joker in The Dark Knight. I am not even sure there was a green pant, but you get the drift. People who will go gaga over how dark the movie setting is, which is a reflection of how flawed each superhero character is - how Rorschach is a borderline psychopath and how The Comedian, even though a despicable human being, understood humanity more than anybody else etc. If you are the kind who raves about these things, then the movie is for you.If you are a regular bloke (like me), then you wont get jackshit out of the movie :)

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Movies to look out for this week


Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman

Direction: Zack Snyder (Director of 300)

The International

Cast: Clive Owen, Naomi Watts

Direction: Tom Tykwer

Aa Dekhen Zara

Cast: Neil Nitin Mukesh, Bipasha Basu, Rahul Dev

Direction: Sangeet Sivan

It is the first casualty of the Multiplex - Cine Producers dispute over revenue sharing and is being released only in single screen cinemas everywhere

Anywhere But Home
Original Name - Four Christmases

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon

Direction: Tom Tykwer

Original Name - Heaven On Earth

Cast: Preity Zinta, Vansh Bhardwaj

Direction: Deepa Mehta

Ek - The Power of One

Cast: Bobby Deol, Nana Patekar, Shriya Saran

Direction: Sangeet Sivan

Emotional Arithmetic
(Only released in PVR cinemas)

Cast: Susan Sarandon, Christopher Plummer, Gabriel Byrne

Direction: Paolo Barzman
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Barah Aana

This movie could easily call itself the Indian Slumdog Millionaire – not only does it have Indian artistes, the makers are also Indian :) !! Having certain similarities with both Arvind Adiga’s White Tiger and the runaway Danny Boyle success, Barah Aana is a story of three have-nots who are fed up of their wretched existence and decide to take matters into their own hands.

Shukla (Naseeruddin Shah), Yadav (Vijay Raaz) and Aman (Arjun Mathur) share a room in one of Mumbai slums. They are simple, honest people struggling to eke out an existence in the city – Shukla is a driver for a businessman but he has a painful past, Yadav is a watchman in a building and Aman is a waiter in a Barista. But life isn’t so forgiving - Shukla is constantly ridiculed and abused by his mistress, Yadav is being made to do double shifts and treated more like a peon, running errands all day and Aman harbours romantic dreams in his heart about the friendly Italian woman at his café.

Things reach a critical point when Yadav’s son at his village falls ill and he desperately needs money for the treatment – but his pleas fall on deaf ears. Desperation leads to an accidental crime and with it comes a realization that now they have a way to fight back the system for the dignity that they have been denied so far …

The story has very interesting possibilities, and the acting is certainly top notch. Naseeruddin Shah has only 3 lines of dialogue in the entire movie, that too in the climax – he communicates only with his facial expressions and shrugs in the rest of the movie – and that itself is a study in acting !! Vijay Raaz is the most vocal among the three and he is good as usual. Amrit Mathur (the guy was Farhan’s friend in Luck By Chance) does the aspiring young man role very well too. But I thought Tannishtha Chatterjee made the major impact in the small role of the phone-booth owner in the slum.

However, the director fails in one very important aspect - to innovate in the movie. The script is completely linear and the pace doesn’t vary at all. Sometime in the second half, I even started looking at my watch – even though the movie is just 100 min long ! The first 30 min is spent establishing the difficult lives of the three lead actors and the story then moves steadily towards the ‘accident’ – the plot is very guessable and the director doesn’t do anything to dispel the disinterest once you realize you got the plot. The humour scenes are very few – and some more funny scenes might have improved the pacing of the story.

The director, however has one big last laugh in the end – but that is not enough to redeem the movie. The plot was interesting, the acting flawless but Barah Aana is let down by a slightly unimaginative screenplay. Its not a bad movie, but just nothing special ..

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I admit that I was quite interested about Firaaq, mainly because of the international felicitation that it has received. Yet I was a little hesitant in going for the movie – especially after a long week at work - I didn’t want to watch a heavy movie about the Gujarat riots! I instead chose what I thought would be a light movie – Straight (and regretted it). But I couldn’t be more wrong about Firaaq ….

Yes its set amidst the Gujarat riots – a month after it, to be precise. But it doesn’t have any of the violence or bloodshed of the riots. It instead follows a set of people who are struggling to come to terms with life in the aftermath of the riots. Nandita Das has taken some ordinary people and showed us how they react when faced with something extraordinary – it brings out the worst in some like Paresh Rawal while some like Sanjay Suri look to escape.

It is a rare movie that can stir up a whirlpool of emotions inside the viewer – feelings as diverse as loathing, despair, hope and happiness and everything that is in between – all in a runtime of just 100 minutes. Nandita Das exceeds expectations in her directorial debut in Firaaq, taking on the Gujarat riots issue with a wonderful sensitivity. Sure, she has the advantage of having a stalwarts like Naseeruddin Shah & Paresh Rawal in Firaaq - but the finesse with which the screenplay seamlessly weaves all the story together is completely to her credit.

From a slightly disturbing opening scene, we are introduced to the different characters and their dilemmas - the hindu-muslim urban couple who are leaving town, a muslim couple who come back to their home to find it burnt down, the gujarati housewife struggling to come to terms with her guilt, a orphaned child looking for his family and an ageing singer oblivious to reality ….

Each of the actors’ performance has been stellar – you cannot help but loath Paresh Rawal and equally you share Deepti Naval’s agony and her wish for atonement. Naseeruddin Shah is in a league of his own, playing a musician from a forgotten generation who is disconnected from today’s world.

As if the multitude of stories were not enough, each of the stories tug at your heart in different directions. From the despair at finding her entire household in ashes to the suspecting her best friend, from the fear of the police to the anger at the bride’s silly remarks about the riots, Muneera (Shahana Goswami) bares her thoughts to us. The sharing of the bindi between friends and the intermixing of the names Mohan and Mohsin – the movie is replete with such subtle subtexts.

With its limited runtime, Firaaq doesn’t conform to the traditional norms of giving a background to each story or taking each of them to a logical conclusion. So maybe it might feel a little abrupt at the start to some. But such trifling irritants are completely forgotten by the time you finish watching Firaaq as you would find yourself overwhelmed with conflicting emotions.

PS – the word firaaq means both separation and quest – couldn’t have been a better name for this movie
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Parvati Balgopal's Straight tries to break the romantic comedy mould by bringing in a gay angle - but it doesnt succeed in making much of an impact on the viewer - atleast it didnt work for me. Wifey thinks it wasnt a bad timepass but I think the flaws overpower the good parts.

The movie opens with a very innovative aeroplane graphic to show the generations of the Patel family who emigrated to all corners of the world. Pinu Patel's parents landed up in London and he becomes a restaurateur (I kind of got a Cheeni Kum deja vu sometimes - but ofcourse, no comparison between Mr Bachhan and Vinay Pathak). Sticking to his simplistic image, Vinay Pathak plays Pinu Patel, simple and honest, who still shies away from girls and doesnt have much social life.

Till two people walk into his life - stand-up-comedian-cum-cook Kamlesh (played by ) and cartoonist-cum-accountant Renu (Gul Panag). Pinu is happy to have two good friends - and his restaurant also starts booming - till an accidental kiss happens. And as trailers have already revealed, Pinu Patel is horrified to realize he just might be gay.

But he just doesnt want to even consider the fact that he might not be straight and so begins com the misadventures as he desperately tries to lose his virginity.
The movie does generate laughs at some points - mostly of the sexual kind - and seemed to really entertain a group of guys sitting in front of me. Maybe thats the way to see this movie to make the most of it ...

But for me, the laughs were few and far between - rest of the movie was a slow drag mainly because of the way Pinu Patel's character is written. I really hope Vinay Pathak stops accepting there loser kind of roles - because stretched beyond a point, they lose the audiences' sympathy/interest. I am not saying that all movies about gay issues should be a Dostana, but does the gay guy have to be really sad loser in life ? Why cant a dashing handsome dude also be gay - atleast a normal guy ??

The other thing that really irritates in the movie are the songs - I think there were 5 of them in the movie and not one of them hummable. Yet, the director insisted on picturizing all the songs in full ! It was probably more of a torture than the loser act of Pinu Patel.

The good parts of the movie are the laughs - mostly by Vinay Pathak himself. The man can definitely act - like Dasvidaniya showed. The other cool part was Pinu's cousin Rajat - who is a pub singer - and mostly, he had a ubercool way of saying 'Pinu Baiiyya'. Ketki Dave refrains from going Ara-ra-ra-ra and acts well, especially in the climax. Gul Panag doesnt make any impression.

I dont think its especially worth your money at the theatres. Watch it when it comes on TV a few months later.

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Movies to look out for this week


Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Raghubir Yadav, Paresh Rawal, Deepti Naval, Sanjay Suri, Tisca Chopra

Direction: Nandita Das

Barah Aana

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Vijay Raaz, Arjun Mathur, Violante Placido, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Benjamin Gilani

Direction: Raja Menon

Confessions of a Shopalcoholic

Cast: Isla Fisher, Vince Vaughn

Direction: P.J. Hogan


Cast: Vinay Pathak, Gul Panag, Anuj Choudhry

Direction: Parvati Balagopalan

Aloo Chat

Cast: Aftab Shivdasani, Aamna Sharif, Linda Arsenio, Kulbhushan Kharbanda

Direction: Robby Grewal


Cast: Abhijeet Sawant, Manisha Kelkar, Rucha Gujrati

Direction: Hemant Prabhu
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Intense and violent, Gulaal is a peek into the dusty Rajasthan heartland, where the bleakness of the surroundings complements its macho (and sometimes violent) men folk – the Rajputs. A dark and brooding tale about politics, lust and love - and how sometimes mixing these can go horribly wrong. The movie opens with a shot of the Thar Desert and the protagonist Raja Chaudhary walking towards a bar with neon signs in the middle of nowhere! He plays Dileep Singh, a law student new to the fictional town of Rajpur. (He is also the co-writer of the movie, not to confused with the loser from Big Boss 2)

When the mild natured Dileep comes into Rajpur, he couldn’t have in his dreams imagined what he would face – his unabashedly hedonist roommate Ransa or Rannvijay Singh, local autocratic Rajput leader Dukki Bana with grandiose dreams, scheming brother-sister duo of Karan & Kiran who are seething at their illegitimacy and Anuja, his unlikely confidante who he can never understand. In no time Dileep in caught up in events that are out of his comprehension and he just gets sucked into the whirlpool of politics, love and insanity.

The attraction of Gulaal is the way the director peels off the story layer by layer and things go progressively rotten. What starts off as a innocent student’s ragging becomes more and more putrid as you are surprised by how little value life sometimes has – and how ruthless people can become to reach their long cherished goals. Anurag Kashyap never lets down on the intensity as we follow Dileep and the others down to moral hell. The only relief from the narration comes from the madcap yet satirical poetry from Prithvi Bana, Dukki Bana’s delusional elder brother.

Casting has been perfect and its difficult to think of a better person to play Dukki Bana than Kay Kay Menon. The slightly tinted lenses add a touch of menace to the sharp face – and when he exhorts to rise and fight, you cant help but admire the powerful oratory. An equally admirable performace is from Aditya Srivastava as Karan. He seems to gel really well with Anurag Kashyap – his performace as Badshah Khan in Black Friday also attracted rave reviews. His character is understated, not given to histrionics – but immensely complex. Piyush Mishra does a great job as Prithvi Bana, but even better as the music director – do listen to Yaara Maula separately and you will be blown away !

Deepak Dobriyal does good as usual, and newcomer Ayesha Mohan is even more impressive. But the standout character by far is Abhimanyu Singh as Ransa – he has a powerful screen presence – arrogant and in-your-face. The lasting image of him is wearing a soldiers helmet and riding a Bullet around town.

After Black Friday (and Return of Hanuman), this is the first movie where Anurag Kashyap has somewhat controlled his weird trippy ideas that alienate most of the audiences (No Smoking, Dev.D). I say somewhat – because you can still see some of the weird ideas running around in the form of the Ardha-Nareeshwar. I still cant, for the life of me, comprehend what he/she is supposed to signify. But these aberrations thankfully do not distract from the main drama.

Gulaal is a hard hitting story about human frailties & greed, set in politics of Rajasthan. It is not a movie to make you feel good – but something on the lines of Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Shool, Omkara etc. If you appreciate good cinema, definitely do not miss it.

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Little Zizou

This weekend is turning out to be an embarrassment of riches ! First there was Gran Torino to recommend. Now there is Little Zizou - and Gulaal promises to be worth a watch as well.

Though I have a peeve with the makers of Little Zizou - why are the trailers so bad ?? For such a wonderful movie couldn't they made the trailers a little more interesting? Even I could have made them better trailers than the ones airing now ...
As the trailers tell you - Little Zizou is a movie about the parsis, made by the parsis. Most of the cast - with the exception of Imaad Shah - are parsis. So is the director Sooni Taraporewala. But the appeal of the movie is universal - mainly because it says what it has to say so humorously.

The movie is about Cyrus II Khodaiji - a self proclaimed religious scholar and healer who fancies himself as the next messiah. As is the rule of the world, crazies like him attract more media attention and soon his 'Back to purity' BTP campaign has a large fan following. It is also about Boman Presswala (played by Boman Irani), editor of the Parsi newspaper Rustam-e-Sohrab. He is the sane voice of the community and just doesn't miss an opporunity to ridicule Khodaiji in his paper.

Caught in between this are Khodaiji's two sons - Xerxes and Artaxerxes (Imaad Shah - Naseeruddin Shah's son). Having lost his mother at childbirth, 11 year old Xerxes is an unloved kid as his father is busy playing messiah. The only thing that he really loves is football - more specifically Zinedane Zidane (or Zizou). And more than home he prefers spending time at Boman Presswala's home - where Roxy aunty (Boman's wife) mothers the poor motherless boy. And this irritates Boman's younger daughter Liana no end - she thinks her mother likes little Zizou more.

His elder brother Artxerxes - or Art - is a soft-spoken young man with a very artistic hand - and no love lost for his father. He is a graphic artist who keeps sketching scenes he encounters everyday in his artbook. And these drawings are interspersed liberally in the movie. He also prefers Boman's home more - because of Boman's other daughter Xenobia.

But this equilibrium is shattered when Khodaiji becomes obsessed with preventing foreigners - Russians, Brazilians etc - from adopting the Zoraster faith. He even forms an army called Parsi Liberation Organization to defend the Parsi faith and from here things go downhill in the lives of everyone around him.

Sooni Taraporevala has crafted a simple yet entertaining world - all from the eyes of Little Zizou. Both the kids - Zizou and Liana - perform superbly, especially Zizou. He is endearing and evokes sympathy, without seemingly maikng an effort. And Liana is your irritating younger sister, who will spill all your secrets. But the star of the show is undoubtedly Boman Irani. He is so full of life its a joy watching him - especially during the 'Italiano Mamu' song !

There are a lot of other characters in bit roles throughout the movie - including Cyrus Broacha, John Abraham and Shiamak Davar - its more like all the parsis you ever saw in any form of media. But they all gel together amazingly well - mainly because somehow, the director seems to have convinced these people that there isn't a camera on them. All the lead actors perform so naturally as if they were actually leading their normal lives in some Parsi colony !

Little Zizou is a must watch because of the wonderful humour and the subtle message cloaked effectively in all that fun - about the conflict between the liberals and the religious zealots. Watch it to remind yourself just why Boman Irani is so fabulous - and for a little more insight into the world of parsis

PS - Both Xerxes and Liana are Sooni Taraporewala's own kids
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Gran Torino

If you ask me, this movie is worth watching just to see Clint Eastwood growl - at everything !!

No seriously, he actually growls whenever he is angry ! And he is always angry in Gran Torino ....

Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a tough-as-nails Korean War veteran and a retired Ford worker. Living somewhere in a Midwestern suburb, Kowalski is the last remaining white man on his road. The rest of the neighbourhood is populated with the Hmong people - South Vietnamese who fought for the US in the Vietnam War and moved to the US after the war - Kowalski calls them 'gooks'. And being forced to live with gooks makes Kowalski mad.

There is something very enjoyable watching the cranky, hard-talking, racial old man cock a snook at the entire world. Especially if he is Clint Eastwood. He is the quintessential American - who swears by American products - and has lovingly maintained a 1972 Ford Gran Torino. Its a beautiful classic sportscar that everyone has his/her eye on - from his own family to the neighbourhood hoodlums.

Kowalski's relationship with his family is non-existent at best - his children and grandchildren are only interested in what stuff they will get when he dies. The only living thing he probably cares about, is his dog Daisy. And his ideal day is to sit on his porch and swig beer from his ice chest. However all this changes when he intervenes in a fight involving a neighbourhood gang and his neighbour Thao. Suddenly he is a hero to all the 'gooks' in his neighbourhood - and inspite of all his initial misgivings, he finds himself spending more time with them.

Clint Eastwood delivers a superb performance as Walt Kowalski - something that should have won him a few awards. Initially, a grumpy curmudgeon, as he interacts more with his neighbours, he shows that there is more to Kowalski than just the growling act. His interludes with Father Janovich, who is bent on getting him to confess, and his banter with his Italian-American barber are a treat to watch.

The only complaint - very small one - that I have with this movie is that while the ending was a very wise one, it somehow didnt live up to my expectations. Kowalski in may ways, it something like an older version of Die Hard's John McClane - and I expected him to go Yippie Kaye at the end with all guns blazing. But that isnt what happens ...

The unexpected ending does very little to distract from what is undoubtedly a very good movie. Clint Eastwood lives up to his great legacy in both acting and direction - by making a fantastic movie out of a simple story. I doubt if he is going to do many more movies since he is already 79 - but this should be one of the best he has done.

P.S. Gran Torino stands 81 on the IMDB list of all time great movies.
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Movies to look out for this week

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The Reader

Even though it won the Oscar for the best actress and was nominated for best motion picture, I'd recommend you do not watch The Reader in a theater. Not that its particularly bad, no. Just that the censors have cut out scenes so horribly in the first 45 min that its a maddening exercise watching that part. There arent any more cuts thereafter, but the overall experience still has a bitter aftertaste.

And on the question of censorship, why is showing a naked butt ok but not the bosom ??

Coming back to the movie, it begins in the summer of 1956, when Hannah (Kate Winslet), a tram conductor, randomly helps a 15-year-old Michael Berg who isnt feeling too well. Soon that meeting blossoms into a full blown affair between Michael and a much older Hannah. The uniqueness being that Hannah demands to be read to before sex - everyday ! And she isnt particular about her literature - anything that Michael can lay his hands on - from Homer's Odyssey to Chekov to Tintin even. Most of the reading happens in various states of undress and needless to say, all the censorship happens in this part.

As can be expected in such a relationship, the older woman calls the shots - and the young Michael is eager to please her. But he cant quite understand her completely. Till one day, Hannah just walks out of the apartment and out of Michael's life - without so much as a goodbye or a note.

Years later, as a law student while covering a trial, Michael comes across Hannah again, who is the accused in the trial. And his feelings of tenderness for her conflicts with his revulsion at the crime she is accused of. And for years to come, he tries hard but cannot bridge that divide.

The premise of the movie could have made a very good emotional drama - but it loses out on one aspect. While going for the classy effect of subtle show of emotions, the director probably expects a bit too much from his audience. There are subtle cues alright, but some of them are just impossible to decipher. Atleast it was for me - at many points in the movie, the faces of Hannah and Michael were inscrutable. I just couldnt be sure of what they were thinking/feeling. The contrast with Revolutionary Road is too stark - where every emotion of almost every character was transmitted powerfully onto the screen - leaving the audience in no doubt.

And this is a major downer for a movie which aims to draw out emotions from the audience for Hannah and Michael.

Which is a pity because the movie has some very powerful scenes - like the meeting between Michael and the American at the end of the movie. But even there, I am not sure exactly what Michael indicates was the nature of his relationship with Hannah.
So sloppy editing/censoring and hard to decipher emotions make me give this Oscar winning movie very middling grades. If it were me, I would have given the best actress award for Revolutionary Road instead - but then I guess this isnt the first time that the best performance didnt win.

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I have to clear one misconception first – though this movie is marketed as a horror movie, it is not. It’s a good suspense thriller with supernatural overtones. The good kind which makes you feel satisfied after coming out of the theatre – instead of the usual ‘plot hole’ discussions that follow every hindi thriller movie.

The movie has Madhavan playing Manohar, a civil engineer who along with his extended family, have just shifted into a apartment 13B of a new building. Things seem very saas-bahuish with Poonam Dhillon playing Manohar’s mother, Neetu Chandra playing his wife and a Vidya-Balan-lookalike playing his bhabhi. The K-serial theme follows as we are treated to their daily chores of getting ready for work and school/college in the morning before the saas and the bahus settle down to watch their daily serials.

However, there are small incidents that tell you that things are not quite right. Camera photos come out weird and the lift just refuses to work when Madhavan is in the lift alone. There is also a creepy looking blind man with a guard dog, who is their next-door neighbour and for some reason reminds me of Sudhir Mishra, the director.

However, these intriguing happenings are interspersed with family events, and some lame-assed romance between Madhavan and Neetu Chandra – including two ill conceived songs which should never have been there. The pace tends to flag a little when these things come, but the director is quick to yank our attention back to the sinister happenings – like the blind-guard-dog refusing to enter the house and the milk getting spoilt each and every day.

Meanwhile, all these events are noticed only by Madhavan – for reasons not explained – the others do not seem to notice anything funny. Especially when the women of the house are captivated by a new serial called Sab Khairiyat which features a joint family moving to a new house – and which appropriately comes at 1:00 pm (13:00 hrs) on channel number 13 !! Only Madhavan picks up the similarities between their life and the show – and realizes that the show foretells what will happen to his family (which makes us question the collective intelligence of the women of the house [snigger] )

The premise is intriguing and the director exploits this idea intelligently. There is no ‘ghost entering someone’s body’ crap and the story is peeled back layer by layer, leaving us curious to know more. The second half of the movie is paced much better as there is no time spent on joint family theatrics. Things have a sense of urgency as Madhavan races against time to uncover the mystery.

So far so good. Now time to point out things that are not so kosher.

One – the director has taken pains to highlight each weird happening or incident, by playing a music crescendo and lingering the camera on the object. While this is ok a few times, the audience is not so dimwitted that they have to be guided to the mystery EVERY time with helpful music and camera !! Credit the audience with some intelligence !!

Second – I went to the movie expecting to be scared. However there was nothing which was scary – spooky, maybe yes. But not scary. Which was kind of disappointing. When can we hope to get a real scare-the-shit-out-of-people hindi movie ???
Debutante director Vikram Kumar makes an intelligent beginning by putting the idea of the supernatural into something daily-life like a tv. For a film industry that is stuck on to the idea of bhoot banglas, it is a good step. The script shows intelligence and doesn’t have any significant plot holes. Acting by Madhavan is pretty good and the suspense doesn’t let up till the end.

The climax though, is a bit underwhelming. Because the movie adheres to the unwritten rule that the killer has to be one of the characters that has already been introduced, it fails to capitalize on the originality of the film’s premise. And the last scene with the phone was just very lame. So a middle rating for 13B

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Revolutionary Road

Almost every couple likes to think they are special - their love is unique, their chemistry is out of this world or maybe even that they have the best sex ever!! That somehow, they are better than the others. And they try to back this up by hyping up every small celebration - an office promotion, a vacation abroad or a new car. But somewhere down the road of life, everyone comes around to the fact that they are meant to be just ordinary people - and their lives are going to be ordinary.

But what if you REALLY believe that you are the special ones - and you refuse to admit that you are just the same as your next-door neighbours ?

This very dilemma forms the crux of the story Revolutionary Road. Based on a novel by Richard Yates, Sam Mendes directs this wonderful period drama about the Wheelers - Frank and April Wheeler - living on Revolutionary Road in a Connecticut suburb in the 1950's. Having moved into the suburbs because of the children, Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) commutes everyday to the city - he works in Knox Business Machines, the same organization that his father used to work in. The work doesnt interest him at all. But he is doing it to provide for family. He thinks he is destined for greater things - but isnt quite so sure about it anymore.

April (Kate Winslet) isnt too happy with her life as a housewife either. She has aspirations of acting, but all she manages are two bit roles in small productions which end in disaster. Their life has become mundane and they fight frequently. Infact, her arguments with Frank are one of the best parts of the movie. The emotions are raw and every feeling they go through is transmitted to the screen in a powerful way - as if you, the viewer, can see into both their psyches ....

Both characters are painfully human, Frank more than April. He is arrogant, liar and in many ways, immature. Yet you can see that more than others, he is lying to himself. April is the more free-spirited of the two - yet tragically for her, she was a little ahead of her times. This was the 1950's where people wore hats and ties to work - and women stayed at home and brought up the kids. Her inability to accept this 'ordinariness' as her destiny makes the story so powerful. (The art director and the costume designer won oscar nominations for the period look)

The movie is littered with memorable sequences - and some of them really touch your heart. It wont be right to discuss all of them now, but I cant help mention the scene where Shep sheds tears by the coffee machine in the hospital and then walks out with two cups of coffee.

Apart from the lead duo, Michael Shannon gives a brilliant performance as the manic maths genius. He completely steals the show in all the scenes he is in - and in a way, he is the most sane man there. The other cast in the movie do pretty well too. And with Kathy Bates teaming up with Kate & Leonardo, it was very reminiscent of the Titanic (Molly Brown - the fat female who lends Leonardo a suit). But the lead duo - Leonardo and Kate are exemplary - and both of them should have been nominated for the Oscars instead of just Kate.

With an ending that raises as many questions as it produces laughs, Revolutionary Road is a definite watch for everyone. Not the most entertaining of movies, but its a movie that showcases how powerful cinema can be - and is something that will stay in your mind for a long long time.

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

If you are the type who gets put off by the hype around a movie - in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I'd recommend that you make an exception and go watch it - its really worth your time! Based on the intriguing premise of a person aging backwards - and based on a Scott F. Fitzgerald short story of the same name - Benjamin Button is an involving watch even though you already know the basic premise of the story. Born as an old wrinkly child with arthritis and rheumatism, who grows younger as he grows up, Brad Pitt plays the lead character Benjamin Button. And he does a wonderful job of it, notwithstanding the CGI help.

The movie starts with an old woman on her deathbed, insisting that her daughter read aloud a diary - that of Benjamin Button. And we move back into a flashback - 1918, the day World War I ended and Benjamin was born, losing his mother at childbirth. His father cant bear to look at him and abandons him the very same day. Thankfully he is adopted by a large-hearted old-age-home-caretaker, who loves him unconditionally and helps him face the hostile world.

The movie goes on to highlight events - events that Benjamin thinks are significant in his life - his first crush, his first drink, his first affair etc. The people he came across - some like Daisy (Cate Blanchett) whom he claims he can never forget, and others who had a smaller impact on his life, some of whom he cant even remember the names. And interwoven with his life are historical events - second World War, the baby boomer generation and there is even a rocket launch from Florida. Even though the story slows down a little towards the end, it still carries with itself enough interest in the life of Benjamin Button - or rather, his eventual end. The director finely balances the need to highlight different 'life incidents' in Benjamin's life with the depth and believability of these experiences. Interestingly, his love story with Daisy has lot of parallels with that of Forest Gump. But it isnt very obvious because Forest's achievements are extraordinary while Benjamin doesnt do anything on the same scale.

And that brings me to my main criticism of this movie. Throughout the narration, Benjamin keeps focussing on things that you do in life. But disappointingly, Benjamin himself doesnt do anything significant in his life - absolutely nothing !! With such an extraordinary quality in his life, he lives his life REALLY ordinarily - unless you call aimless wandering around the world significant. But this is not something that bothers you when you are watching the movie - its only when you come out of the theater that you wonder what Benjamin Button's life was really about.
'Ordinary life' notwithstanding, Benjamin Button is a definite watch - for its unique concept and a warm look at relationships and life.

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