The Hangover

I have been trying to analyze why The Hangover is such a uproariously funny movie – and I cant seem to be able to pinpoint any one single reason (or two or three or four for that matter). I mean the plot is not at all new - 4 guys have a wild bachelor party in Las Vegas two days before the marriage. The group itself is predictable – one hen pecked guy, one dashing ladies guy, one fat moron and one normal chap. Not a single big name star either – comic or otherwise.

Yet it is definitely the funniest movie of the year. Instead of any one reason or sequence, the entire movie just works !! From start to finish ! And the movie succeeds in being a laugh riot without the vulgarity that inevitably accompanies every guys-only movie. The humour comes in form of smart one-liners, bizarre incidents and some really random images with the end credits !!

The movie is basically about the groom’s three best friends Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) who wake up after a wild bachelor party in Vegas to face some really unexplainable things – and a missing groom ! And worst of all, they don’t remember a thing about the night !! As the poor guys struggle to reconstruct the previous night, the night starts to become more and more bizarre …

Interestingly, the movie hardly ever goes into a flashback mode, so we dont actually see what happens – its left for us to imagine & recreate from the conversations of the movie. Which probably adds to the enjoyment of the movie. The three guys themselves share a great chemistry – which makes you, the viewer, get interested in what actually happens to them. Or rather what happened to them the night before. Mike Tyson also makes a guest appearance in the movie … though that’s all I would say.

Alan is the most lovable of the guys – he carries off the weird-guy-act with such conviction that you would think he is like that in real life !! The others are equally good in their roles - Phil as the dashing alpha male who is always looking to take the lead, but turns out to be as clueless as everyone else and Stu as the hen-pecked and bullied boyfriend.

The ending of the movie is slightly sweet – it does seem a bit out of place, but then we are soon presented with the end credits and there are some real howlers there !!

But one thing the makers forgot to explain – what was the chicken doing there ???

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Movies to look out for this week

New York [IMDB]

Cast: John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Katrina Kaif

Direction: Kabir Khan

Terminator Salvation [IMDB]

Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Helena Bonham Carter

Direction: McG

Bolt [IMDB]

Cast: John Travolta (voice), Miley Cyrus (voice)

Direction: Byron Howard, Chris Williams

The Hangover [IMDB]

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms

Direction: Todd Phillips

Runway [IMDB]

Cast: Amarjeet Shukla, Tulip Joshi, Lucky Ali, Deepal Shaw

Direction: Sunil Tiwari
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X-Men Origins : Wolverine

Wolverine is Kick-ASS !!! That’s it – the movie summed up !!

Actually a lot of people’s get their asses kicked and not necessarily by Wolverine – that just adds more to the fun :) !! Wolverine : Origins traces the origin of Logan and his brother Victor (Sabertooth of X Men 1) – over more than a century as they take part in all the major wars of their times. And all throughout the movie, Logan and Victor have this love-hate relationship which is the backbone of the movie.

Soon, enter Colonel Stryker – who assembles a crack team of mutants for undercover work - and the fun really begins ! We see new characters like Deadpool, Bolt, Wraith & Blob who have cool powers and they unleash some superb action onscreen. However, Logan soon gets disillusioned with the work and leaves the group – to lead a normal life with Kayla somewhere in the picturesque Rocky Mountains in Canada. But soon his past catches up with him and then all hell breaks loose …

The movie is a visual delight and its almost criminal to watch it on anything but a big screen ! The superb action sequences and awesome explosions deserve a proper theatre. And the star of the movie without doubt is Hugh Jackman. He gives Logan that feral snarl and the don’t-mess-with-me eyebrows – it’s a treat to watch. Logan was always the most interesting character in the X-Men franchise because there was always that violent streak in him …. waiting to explode. Surprisingly, Victor also gives a very good performance, acting the bullying elder brother.

However while visually it’s a 10/10, the script of Wolverine does come across a little wanting. The impression throughout the X-Mean franchise was that Logan had a really dark history. But actually we do not see any of Logan’s dark side ! He doesn’t hurt innocents and uses his powers only to avenge himself – hardly a dark side !! The romantic plot with Kayla is a little abrupt – and finding a cool motorcycle in a barn a little too convenient.

And if you are irritated with the repeated mentions of the previous X-Men movies, then I apologize. Wolverine is supposed to be a pre-story to the franchise just like the Star Trek movie two weeks back. So even if you haven’t seen any of the X-Men movies, you will still enjoy all the action. And if you have seen the X-Men movies, then you will enjoy how the director neatly ties up everything into the franchise at the end of the movie.

Director Gavin Wood very nicely helms Wolverine : Origins – the slight lack of depth in the characters is made up by the stylish flair of action sequences. The pace of the movie is frenetic and after some of the sequences, you just cant help but hoot and clap out loud. Now I am waiting for the next movie which shows the origins of Magneto ...

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Random Premiere

It was one of those regular Thursday night preview shows – 10.30pm show at Cinemax, Infiniti Mall and I sauntered in after booking tickets for X-Men Origins : Wolverine at Rs.160 to find this

(Apologies for blurry-cam - poor 2MP camera cant do any better)

It took me a couple of seconds to register that we had walked into some sort of premiere – because of waiters going around with appetizer trays and people walking around with what looked like cocktails in their hands. Initially I was more than a little interested – maybe there would be some A-list stars. And come on, who wouldn’t mind coming face to face with a John-Bipasha combo – I’d happily take a Minisha Lamba too ;) !!
However a quick scan suggested that cameramen and reporters outnumbered glam people 4:1. And I didn’t recognize a single face there – even though there were quite a few pretty faces in very nice black dresses just ‘casually’ socializing. Read More!

Movies to look out for this week

X Men Origins : Wolverine [IMDB]

Cast: Hugh Jackson, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston

Direction: Gavin Hood

Paying Guests [IMDB]

Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Celina Jaitley, Javed Jaffrey, Ashish Chaudhary, Neha Dhupia, Riya Sen, Vatsal Seth, Sayali Bhagat

Direction: Paritosh Painter

Hum Phirr Milenge - Even IMDB has nothing on this movie ..
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The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I have been wanting to write a book review for sometime now, since I started reading again after almost an year’s hiatus. No particular reason why I stopped, but I know why I restarted – because my stupid laptop keeps breaking down !! I happened to read 3-4 books in the last month – mostly trashy, but this one was impactful. Don’t know if I will be able to write about all of them ...

The Reluctant Fundamentalist was published in 2007 – so its not a new book. Having read A Case of Exploding Mangoes and finding it not too bad, I wasn’t averse to sampling some more Pakistani authors. And wifey happened to bring it home one day, so I picked it up after she was done with it. It’s a rather slim book – you can easily finish it in a day if you have some free time – I needed just 2.5 hours.

But even in its 134 odd pages, Mohsin Hamid has woven a very engrossing story. It is not pulp fiction, but the story is as captivating and you wouldn’t want to put it down easily. The book is a first-person-narrative by Changez, a bearded Pakistani who randomly approaches a westerner sitting in a café and strikes up a conversation with him. Actually a monologue is the correct term because we can hear only Changez talking – he repeats the westerner’s questions for our benefit – before answering the question and carrying on. The setting is an open air cafe in Old Anarkali in Lahore.

Changez starts reminiscing about his education in American and we come to know that he is actually from a higher middle class family in Lahore, and won a full scholarship to Princeton. After graduation, he gets hired in one of the boutique consulting/investment banking firms Underwood Samson at a $80,000 per annum salary. Landing plum international assignments and finding love in Erica, he is well on his way to become one of America’s elites … till 9/11 happens.

However if you have images from Khuda Kay Liye in your head, banish those thoughts. Nothing dramatic happens. Mohsin Hamid seems to be a master of subtlety and the effect of the WTC events are very grey rather than black and white. The changes Changez undergoes and how do those events of 2001 connect to the conversation today is what the book is really about.

After finishing the book, I got the feeling that the book was intended for the westerners - to show them the point of view of the muslim (or atleast the Pakistani) world. And I think here the author falters a little. The reason provided by the author just didn’t cut it I thought … I would be interested to know if you feel the same way. I didn’t agree with the title of the book too – if anything, confused would be have been a more appropriate adjective than reluctant.

The ending of the book was a little abrupt and though you can conjecture what the most probable ending would be, there are quite a few other possibilities. For instance, if you change the name of the book to The Conversation or something, the ending of the story suddenly becomes very vague. However, that nitpick aside, it’s a wonderful short novel to immerse yourself in on an afternoon or in a flight …
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17 Again

We had planned on going to Bride Wars this weekend, but changed plans last minute to 17 Again – after reading some less-than-stellar reviews on IMDB. I figured a high school movie would be a better chance at having some fun. And thank god we did, because Bride Wars got some really horrible reviews everywhere - almost the same level as Kal Kissne Dekha :) and that’s saying something …

17 Again turned out to be a good choice – although it panders to all the high school cliché’s, it still has enough originality too keep you interested. I had chosen the movie primarily because it had Matthew Perry in it (Chandler Bing if you don’t recognize the name) and I always thought he was genuinely funny. I had no clue the lead was actually Zac Effron – the High School Musical star. But as it turns out, Matthew Perry has almost next-to-no role, while Zac really shines as the younger Mike O’Donnell. The movie is about the high school basketball star Mike O’Donnell who is dating the prettiest girl in his school and is about to get a college sports-scholarship as well. Until, his girlfriend informs him, right before the championship game, that she is pregnant – and he throws it all away and marries her instead.

However things don’t quite go as planned – 20 years later, his job is going nowhere, Scarlett wants a divorce and his kids think he is a loser. The only good thing in his life is his geek friend Ned, who is a millionaire. Mainly, Mike always yearns for that life that he threw away … what all he could achieve if he hadn’t done what he did. And somehow, he gets a chance – he becomes 17 again !! Not back into the past – but becomes a 17 year-old in 2009 !!

So he joins up in the same high-school, acting as Ned’s son – thinking he got a second chance at life. But soon, he realizes that he is getting a second chance all right, but not in the way that he thought it would be.

Ofcourse there are plotholes - like nobody apart from his wife Scarlett recognizing Mike – but then don’t let that bother you too much. And thankfully, the makers of the movie have refrained to putting in that ultimate American high school ritual - prom night – in the movie. I am very thankful to them for that !! Apart from that, 17 Again is very much a highschool movie. The geeky Ned provides a lot of laughs – and Mike and Ned have a great goofy chemistry together. There are some senti moments as well but overall the movie is quite light-hearted and warm – a pretty decent watch.

Acting-wise, Zac Efron was a revelation !! He is not just a cute face – he can do serious scenes just as well. Its safe to label him an upcoming superstar ! All the others do a great job as well – though it would have been nice to see some more of Matthew Perry !!

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Shinjuku Incident

After countless action-comedy roles, Jackie Chan is finally giving serious acting a try in Shinjuku Incident. Yes you heard that right – there is no ‘slam-bam-haha’ action in the movie, where Jackie Chan single handedly fights off scores of baddies. Instead, it’s a story of Chinese immigrants who enter Japan illegally in search of that elusive prosperity – but are condemned to live in ghettoes and do menial labour. For some, the only way out of the wretched conditions seems to be life of crime …

The movie is a Hong Kong production and apparently took some 9 years to wrap up. Thankfully we get the English dubbed version, so we don’t have to squint at the subtitles continuously. And the dubbing is fairly decent, but some flavour invariably gets lost in dubbings …

Jackie Chan tries his best to appear serious throughout the movie and he succeeds mostly – even his smile appears subdued. The action sequences are subdued as well – with no fancy kung-fu stuff. However his age shows through and his opening scenes with Xiu are not at all convincing – they look more father and daughter than childhood sweethearts. The other woman in the movie – Lily – seems better paired with him, though both the women do not have much to do on screen.

Jackie Chan plays Nick, a simple farmer in some unnamed province in China, who’s childhood sweetheart Xiu goes to Japan to ‘earn money’ but then never comes back. Unable to reach her, Nick follows her to Tokyo and settles down with a group of other illegal Chinese, doing low level manual labour – like cleaning garbage grounds and underground sewers.

However, a chance encounter with Xiu - now a wife of a powerful Yakuza boss – while working in a restaurant makes Nick rethink his life. He decides to begin his life in crime – starting with simple fake phone cards, graduating to stealing from supermarkets with credit card fraud and cheating at casino slot machines. And he helps along his friends with him as well, slowly turning to organized crime.

From then on, the movie is very reminiscent of Goodfellas (and various other similar mafia movies). There are quite a few subplots like the relationship between Nick and his best friend, between Xiu and her Yakuza husband and the Japanese inspector – but they are satisfactorily closed out with the climax. The setting of the movie is quite dark and gritty, and the violence quite sudden and unexpected – but gory. The pace of the movie is a little slow at times and you can make out that some scenes have been cut away for the Indian release (but nothing major lost like The Reader).

Shinjuku Incident is a decent film, but nothing outstanding. Jackie Chan does a serious role but doesn’t quite blow the screen away. Catch it if you feel like watching a good gangster movie or haven’t watched an Asian movie in sometime …

3 star
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Star Trek

I cant recollect how many times I have heard/read the phrase “Beam Me Up Scotty”. And it ALWAYS irritated me that I didn’t know about it – though I definitely had a vague idea what it meant. Yes, I confess I have never watched any Star Trek – neither the movies nor the TV series. So you can understand my hesitation to watch, what is the ninth film of the series …

But wifey would have none of it, and so off we went to catch the customary Friday night movie.

Turns out, I needn’t have feared anything – because Star Trek is actually the first in the series chronologically – which shows how all the original crew of the USS Enterprise comes together for the first time ... Somewhat like Star Wars Episode 1 : The Phantom Menace. So if you are a Star-Trek-ignorant like me, do not worry – just enjoy the movie :)

Because barring a very bollywood-esque opening scene, it is a very enjoyable movie with some great visuals and racy storyline. The opening scene, however, might cause a lot of dismay – it did to me, so you have been warned now ! But nothing that lasts beyond 10 min, and the taut script soon pulls you along to more exciting things.

The movie, right from the beginning, seems to promise great things as it goes along, with James T. Kirk childhood day’s, his cadet days … it builds an expectation that something big is to come. And when it does come, it doesn’t disappoint. We are introduced to the various central Star Trek characters in the beginning, and we watch how they coalesce into a team. The dialogue, though a bit heavy on science from time to time – black holes, space-time continuum etc – its easy to filter out the jargon and understand what is going on. Visually it’s a delight to see stars exploding, black holes swallowing planets and all other cool stuff.

Acting-wise I didn’t recognize anyone in the movie – but everyone does their job very well. The only name I recognize from the end credits is Eric Bana (Incredible Hulk) but he is totally unrecognizable in the movie !! See if you can spot him.

So should you watch it ?
I say YES, definitely do catch it !!

Its the coolest sci-fi movie I have watched since The Transformers – and it is very enjoyable as a stand-alone movie, without any of the four-decade-history of Star Trek. Its got lots of action, drama and some cool big-bang visual effects. So go for it ..

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