The Taking of Pelham 123

When you see a movie has Denzel Washington as its leading man, you know the movie usually be a notch above the others. Maybe because he is good at choosing scripts or just that he is good at his work – but I cant remember him in a really trite movie. The same holds true to some extent with John Travolta, though he seems to prefer stylish movies a bit more – which makes him the perfect villain.

The Taking of Pelham 123 benefits enormously from the performance of its two leading men as there isn’t anyone else in the movie to mention. Except ofcourse, the mayor of New York City (James Gandolfini) who is the butt of a lot of jokes. The script of the movie is tight and the pace relentless – keeping you gripped all through the movie.

Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) is a high official in the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) who is under investigation for kickbacks in the purchase of new subway trains. He has been demoted to the desk as a dispatcher at the subway command centre, pending the investigation. And his boss is pretty convinced of his guilt, although nothing has been proven. Ryder (John Travolta) is an ex-con who decides to hijack a subway train – Pelham 123 – and demands $10 million within an hour before he starts executing his hostages. And he makes these demands through the dispatchers desk – which happens to be Garber’s.

Ryder takes a liking to Garber and demands that he communicate only with him –putting Garber’s honesty further under question. From then on, it’s the radio conversations between Garber and Ryder which drive the movie further – as well as being the movie’s brightest spot. Tony Scott’s editing is slick and adds to the suspense as the hour creeps along. The mayor provides the comic relief and the scene with the media is quite funny.

The best point in the movie is the confrontation of Ryder and Garber over the subway radio, regarding Garber’s alleged bribes. And the worst point is also a confrontation of Ryder and Garber, but this time face-to-face on Brooklyn Bridge, in the climax of the movie. Wish they had thought of a better ending

Tony Scott has produced quite a gripping thriller, which involves you right through to the end. It only fails in being slightly predictable about its ending – it would have gotten an extra star if it had surprised at the end. But still a good watch

3 star
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Quick Gun Murugun

Quick Gun Murugun is a little more than what you expect – and yet falls short of your expectations. It is the wacky tale of a ‘vegetarian-cowboy’ who takes on Rice Plate Reddy and his gang of villains. It is also a spoof of too many things to count – South-Indian-movies, standard bollywood masala movies, cowboy movies and even McDonalds !! Filled with smart jokes – they will have you howling with laughter at the one liners. But believe it or not, the movie is somewhat of a drag ….

Telegu star Dr. Rajendra Prasad plays gunslinger Quick Gun Murugan with élan – bright orange pants and all. He is an avowed protector of cows and vegetarianism – and soon runs into Rice Plate Reddy, who is on a quest to convert every Udipi restaurant into non-veg. Reddy gets the better of him in the first encounter and our hero is thirsty for revenge.

This time, he gets a little help from Mango Dolly (Rambha) – Reddy’s blonde moll – who falls for our Murugun’s simple charms. On Rice Plate Reddy’s side there is Dr Django and Rowdy MBA – who are implementing his plan of taking over the world with his dosas. And ofcourse, there is our very own Lola Kutty with Murugun as well.

While hilarious, the story is actually very simple and sometimes it feels like the movie is too long for such a story. And the jokes are not spaced out enough to catch the slack in screenplay. But all the same, it is impossible to control the laughter that erupts when, for example, you hear -
"The universe is my native place"
But be ready to be surprised with the violence as well – the violence is NOT picturised like a Tom and Jerry cartoon …

All in all, a lot of very clever jokes interspersed with some not so interesting parts. Even though its overall rating is average, I would recommend a watch – because you are going to recall the jokes for days after the movie and chuckle thinking about it.

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Movies to look out for this week

Quick Gun Murugan [IMDB]

Cast: Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Rambha, Raju Sundaram

Direction: Shashanka Ghosh

The Taking of Pelham 123 [IMDB]

Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta

Direction: Tony Scott

Love Khichdi [IMDB]

Cast: Randeep Hooda, Sonali Kulkarni, Riya Sen, Rituparna Sengupta,

Direction: Srinivas Bhashyam

Race to Witch Mountain [IMDB]

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig

Direction: Andy Fickman

Yeh Mera India [IMDB]

Cast: Perizaad Zorabian, Anupam Kher, Atul Kulkarni, Vijay Raaz

Direction: N. Chandra (the guy who made Tezaab)

Kisaan [IMDB]

Cast: Sohail Khan, Arbaaz Khan, Jackie Shroff, Nauheed Cyrusi, Diya Mirza

Direction: Puneet Sira


Cast: Rannvijay Singh, Aarti Chhabria, Mahesh Manjrekar, Sushant Singh, Rajpal Yadav

Direction: Ramesh Khatkar

Mou gaan dou : Infernal Affairs [IMDB]

Cast: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Andy Lau

Direction: Wai-keung Lau, Alan Mak
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Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Usually guys are not the first ones to like any romantic comedy – definitely not more than girls atleast. Yet after watching Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, we two guys thought the movie was quite decent entertainment while the missus blew off the movie completely !! Turns out that the disappointment was mainly because of how jaded Matthew McConaughey looks :)

Which is true ofcourse – Matthew McConaughey hardly looks anything like the most sexiest man of 2005. Maybe because he never gets an opportunity to take his shirt off ! Nevertheless, the tongue-twistingly-titled movie turns to be a good timepass even with an less-than-original idea. It manages to combine the good old playboy-having-a-change-of-heart with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Those who don’t remember it, it’s a famous Christmas story when a miser is visited by three ghosts on Christmas to show him the mistakes that he has made in his life.

Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is a brash fashion photographer and womanizer par excellence – with no qualms about dumping girls the minute they want a little cuddling/commitment. He arrives at his kid brother’s wedding and runs into the bridesmaid Jenny (Jennifer Garner) - his high school sweetheart. However old habits die hard and soon Connor is the wrecker-in-chief of the wedding. Till he gets a visit from his deceased uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) – his idol and master womanizer himself.

And then the ghosts take him on a journey to his past – to see how he became what he became. Interwoven with these flashbacks are hilarious incidents of the wedding itself – and on the whole the script has enough intelligent bits to keep you engaged. The movie makes for some decent watching till the sentimental stuff starts - after which its not horrible bad, but it moves on predictable lines and doesn’t surprise you anymore.

Matthew McConaughey is on easy territory here – a supercool dude who has girls hanging from his coat tails. But there doesn’t appear to be any effort from his side to do something a little differently – except looking quite old I suppose. And joining him is Jennifer Garner, who also looks kinda aged. Michael Douglas however looks as cool as usual. The girl who plays Sandra does the hassled bride rather well too.

All in all, another decent romantic comedy to put you in a cheery mood if the likes of Sikandar or Kaminey are too dark for you.

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Movies to look out for this week

Sikandar [IMDB]

Cast: Parzan Dastur, Ayesha Kapoor, Sanjay Suri, Madhavan

Direction: Piyush Jha

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra [IMDB]

Cast: Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sienna Miller

Direction: Stephen Sommers


Cast: Nasser Khan, Hrishita Bhatt, Milind Soman

Direction: Rohit Nayyar

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past [IMDB]

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner

Direction: Mark Waters
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Life Partner

It felt like it had been a really long time since I had watched a movie – and the missus also felt the same. Yeah we had watched Kaminey, but I guess after a full day of boozing on the beach, it isn’t the same thing :) ! And the promos of Life Partner showed some promise, so off we went last night.

And surprisingly, Life Partner is actually quite a fun movie, especially in the first half ! The dialogues of the movie were pleasantly witty and with absolutely no slapstick !! Govinda is back in his old touch and one thoroughly enjoys the first half. However Life Partner is not without its flaws as the second half gets a little more sentimental and comedy takes a backseat.

The movie is about two NRI couples in Cape Town - Karan-Sanjana (Fardeen-Genelia) and Bhavesh-Prachi (Tusshar-Prachi) and their lawyer friend Jeet (Govinda). Karan is the suave metrosexual and his girlfriend is Sanjana, the spoilt-brat daughter of Anupam Kher. Bhavesh is the gawky Gujrati bought up with ‘strict Indian values’ – who is waiting to gift his virginity to his wife. Prachi is well ... just Prachi Desai – saccharine sweet smile and not much else.

The first half of the movie introduces us to Karan-Sanjana and Bhavesh and their families etc and ofcourse, Jeet ! He is a divorce lawyer who is perennially looking for opportunities to break up marriages. And he himself has just once policy - No marriage !! Govinda is definitely the strongest point of the movie and his tete-a-tetes with Genelia are fun to watch. Though at his age, Govinda just cant carry off two firang babes on his arms (and though he looks really thin on the posters, those are just photoshop effects – he looks just as fat in the movie)

Sample Govinda's dialogue from the movie
Love marriage mein aadmi apni marzi mein kuen mein koodta hai
Arranged marriage mein aadmi ki poori family usse kuen mein dhakka deti hai
Lekin dono case mein, aadmi jaata kuen mein hi hai …

Trouble arrives in the form of marriage – Bhavesh goes all the way to Gujarat to find himself a wife and gets hitched to Prachi, a rich heiress. In a moment of marriage madness, Sanjana and Karan also tie the knot there. And when they come back, the decibels start increasing. Sanjana doesn’t like the Karan who has become a little responsible and Prachi is at loggerheads with her ultra conservative Bapuji (father-in-law Darshan Jariwala). Genelia is especially screechy, though overall she plays the wife-from-hell part pretty well. And the song Koke Koke is so atrocious its not even funny !!

In the second half, we see very little of Govinda and probably a few more scenes with him could have made this movie a complete blast – like the “tum chup raho” scene. However director Rumi Jaffrey decides to give a gentle preaching on marriage. Consequently, things slow down and the Prachi Desai scenes sometimes resemble an Ekta Kapoor show. But there is one more gem in the movie – veteran comedian Jagdeep. His scene with Fardeen & Genelia will have you falling out of your seat laughing !!

The climax where all the issues are sorted out was a letdown and so was Amrita Rao in the movie. Songs are also a completely waste - though only Koke Koke is abominable, the rest are just boring. The visuals are pretty slick though – and that honeymoon suite balcony view is really fantabulous. Definitely wish to visit it someday. Overall, the movie is an entertaining watch, and an extra 0.5 for Jagdeep.

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Vishal Bhardwaj’s evocatively titled Kaminey is a gangster flick on the lines of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Translation – it’s a really good movie about a bunch of thugs and bandits all running after the same big prize – and each of them are nuttier than the other !! Unfortunately, revealing any more about the prize is or the characters would take away the fun of watching the movie itself. I will attempt to tell you about the movie without giving away much …

Central to the plot are two identical twins – Guddu and Charlie, both played by Shahid Kapoor in a career-defining performance. Now as hindi movies teach us, the twins are as different as chalk and cheese – one is a small-time gangster with bookie dreams and the other does social work with an NGO. And ofcourse, as we all know by now, one lisps and the other one stammers. They hate each other and haven’t seen each other for 3 years. Yet in the course of the movie, both of them land up in trouble – and the wrong twin gets caught by the wrong people.

The ‘wrong people’ above are actually the lifeline of the movie – the three Bengali brothers, Bhope Bhau, Inspector Lobo (and his brother) and Tashi the Great. They make the movie quirky, fun and unpredictable – which gives this movie its flavour. Amol Gupte as Bhope Bhau is especially a revelation, given than he is the writer and co-director of Taare Zameen Par. The other revelation is Priyanka Chopra as Sweety – the Home Science topper. She plays a spunky Maharashtrian girl in love with Guddu and their scenes are rather refreshing

I don’t think I need to highlight the soundtrack of this movie – Dhan Te Nan plays throughout the movie and sounds just fabulous. The other songs of the movie are pretty good as well

So a superb followup to the brilliant Omkara by Vishal Bhardwaj ? Well almost !

Whats missing in the movie is a “WOW” moment – a memorable sequence which either blows your mind or which you remember for a long time. Because such gangster capers have become common in the recent past – Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, 99 and Sankat City - and Kaminey will give you a déjà vu from some of these movies. Basically, I kept waiting to be surprised, and it never happened.

So if you haven’t watched any of the above listed movies, then go right ahead and watch Kaminey – you will find it awesome. The others – go watch it anyway because its a movie worth watching and see if you agree with my rating ..

PS – Are you curious where I managed to watch Kaminey yesterday ??

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Movies to look out for this week

Kaminey [IMDB]

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Amol Gupte

Direction: Vishal Bhardwaj

Life Partner [IMDB]

Cast: Govinda, Fardeen Khan, Genelia DeSouza, Tushar Kapoor, Prachi Desai

Direction: Rumi Jaffrey

Before The Rains [IMDB]

Cast: Rahul Bose, Nandita Das,

Direction: Santosh Sivan

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Public Enemies

Sorry for the delay in the review
The weekend was spent in some outdoorsy activity and with such an insipid movie, sometimes writing about it becomes a chore.

Yes, Public Enemies – with its much vaunted cast of Johnny Depp and Christian Bale and fairly illustrious director Michael Mann - fails miserably as a movie. As a documentary covering the career of John Dillinger, maybe it works, but as a movie it doesn’t. By the way, John Dillinger was a famous bank robber during the Great Depression and was America’s first public enemy number one.

Michael Mann tries to capture the life in Chicago in the 1930’s and in this endeavour, he succeeds wildly ! Visually, its immaculate in its depiction of that era – the huge vaulted banks, the automobiles, the clothes – everything is superb. Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger – a flamboyant bank robber who bragged he took just one minute forty seconds to rob a bank – but always made sure the consumer at the bank counter got his money back. Cocky, brash and with a taste of the high life - Johnny Depp is on familiar ground here – with shades of Jack Sparrow visible at times.

Christian Bale plays FBI agent Melvin Purvis – a sort of encounter specialist who in entrusted the task to bring Dillinger to the books. This has a historical significance – FBI at that time was a fledgling institution and Director J. Edgar Hoover was trying to establish his force by capturing some notorious criminals – and Dillinger was the first one. Bale plays Purvis reasonably well – but almost all of Purvis is a complete mystery. We are never able to see if apart from dedication to FBI’s scientific methods, he has any other aspects to his character. Was he smart or just lucky ? Did he have any specific ‘encounter philosophy’ or if he was just doing his job ?

In a way, even Dillinger’s character is a bit of a mystery. He is shown doing things – robbing banks, going out with the cute hat-check girl and planning bigger train robberies – but there is precious little to be known about the man himself. Like whats his motivation ? For a person who doesn’t seem to care anything for the law, life or society in general, how is he such a romantic ?

As I have mentioned before, the treatment of the story is very documentary-like – where the happening’s are catalogued without much of a backstory or anything about the central characters – why they are the way they are. The action sequences are mainly gunfights using tommy guns – the favourite gangster weapon – and were nicely done.

By the time I was finished with the movie – I instantly remembered two movies of not-too-recent-past. The first one is 3:10 to Yuma – Dillinger has a remarkable similarity to Russel Crowe’s character in the movie. The other and more logical comparison is Ridley Scott’s American Gangster. A very similar story line about one cop versus one gangster – but American Gangster is simply a much better movie. Both the protagonists have strong a belief in what they do and the showdown was a compelling watch. Here it just feels empty, you keep on waiting for something to happen but nothing does ..

The only thing I have to say about the movie at the end – what the hell was it all about ??

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Movies to look out for this week

Agyaat [IMDB]

Cast: Nitin Kumar Reddy, Gautam Rode, Nisha/Priyanka Kothari

Direction: Ram Gopal Verma

Public Enemies [IMDB]

Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale

Direction: Michael Mann

Teree Sang

Cast: Ruslaan Mumtaz, Sheena Shahabadi

Direction: Satish Kaushik

Dragonball Evolution [IMDB]

Cast: Justin Chatwin, Yun-Fat Chow, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung

Direction: James Wong

Fly Me To The Moon (3D) [IMDB]

Cast: Tim Curry, Robert Patrick, Trevor Gagnon

Direction: Ben Stassen

Chal Chalein

Cast: Mithun Chakraborty, Mukhesh Khanna, Anup Soni, Shilpa Shukla

Direction: Ujjwal Singh
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Chi Bi : Red Cliff

Imagine the battle scenes of 300 set in the beautiful landscapes of Lord of the Rings – that’s the simplest description I can give about this epic Chinese movie. Loosely based on the actual historical battle at Red Cliff, it depicts the fight between a tyrannical Prime Minister Cao Cao and his million strong army against the 50,000 soldiers of Zhou Yu and Liu Bei. Staying true to Sun Tzu’s Art of War philosophy, the battle is as much about strategy as its about actual fighting – and it’s the battle of the master strategists on both sides that makes this movie special

After a period of civil war, Cao Cao has grown to be the Prime Minister by defeating all the warlords and the weak Han emperor is just a puppet in his hands. The only two challenges to his authority are Liu Bei and Sun Quan in Southern Territories. After a short battle, Liu Bei’s forces are routed and he is forced to retreat further south to Sun Quan’s territories where they team up to fight Cao Cao together. Red Cliff is the camp on the river Yangtze where Sun Quan’s armies are stationed under the Viceroy Zhou Yu and this becomes the scene of one of the biggest battles of the Three Kingdoms as Cao Cao lays siege on Red Cliff.

This movie was actually released in two parts in 2008 and 2009 in East Asia (something like Kill Bill), yet for the rest of the world, the five hour extravaganza was shortened to a two and a half hour movie. So bear with it if some scenes appear a bit disconnected from the previous ones.

With John Woo at the helm of things, visuals and special effects are spectacular. The beauty of the Yangtze valley is especially breathtaking. And you are going to get 300 deja vu in the combat scenes. But what you remember most about the movie is the white robed Zhuge Liang and his stratagems. Master strategist to Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang has the ability to read weather patterns and he uses it to maximum effect in the game of wits with Cao Cao. He works closely with Zhou Yu, a capable strategist himself. However, the fact that Zhuge Liang never actually fights makes his character all the more memorable.

However, the movie is not without its demerits. In halving the movie, effort has been made to minimize the effect on the continuity in the movie, but it has resulted in some characters completely losing their backgrounds etc – so most of the important general’s just don’t do anything apart from fighting spectacularly. The other unpalatable bit were the women in the movie – princess Sun and Zhou Yu’s wife Xiao Qiao. Both their parts are a bit far fetched and the movie probably would have done better without the man-wife scenes between Zhou Yu and Xiao Qiao. However, maybe it’s a cultural thing that we don’t get … like the tea drinking !! I really don’t know if drinking tea was a metaphor for sex or something !

John Woo attempts a epic cinematic version of the historical battle and for the most part succeeds in keeping a audience involved. However, the build up to the final battle royale, in typical of Chinese movies, is a bit slow and the ones with short attention span should probably give this movie a miss. The ones that do watch it are rewarded with some spectacular battle scenes on the river and a slightly disappointing climax. If you do watch the movie, you will probably agree that women were just not needed in the movie …. especially in the climax. But even with the failings, a recommended watch on the big screen

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Love Aaj Kal

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl go out for sometime - before they separate (could be for any reason). Then love guru comes in and encourages boy to realise his love. Sometime later, boy suddenly realises he loves girl and rushes back to girl who has been pining away for him all this while. Happy ending !!

If you deconstruct any love story, it looks as daft as this. But most of the memorable romantic movies work because of their fresh approach to the same old story or some really good performances from the leads – you just have to look at director Imtiaz Ali’s first work Socha Na Tha to see how it works so wonderfully well. In Love Aaj Kal, there is a yet new approach – of two parallel love stories 40 years apart – where Saif Ali Khan plays both the male leads (after all, its his own movie – he can act in triplicate if he so pleases !!). However all the good of the script is lost because of some poor casting and trying-too-hard-to-be-cool dialogues !!

Both Saif and Deepika especially, are misfits for the roles they have been cast in. Saif looks too old in most of the scenes of modern-day Jai and Deepika just cant act much. In most of the crucial scenes in the movie – the first breakup, the second breakup and then the scene after the wedding, Deepika hardly says anything !! All that her face conveys is a bemused expression !! While Saif atleast does the Veer Singh role admirably, Deepika has hardly anything going for her except her dazzling smile and extremely long legs !

However there is some fine acting on display too - from Rishi Kapoor, Veer Singh senior and aforementioned love guru as well as Giselle Monteiro, the very pretty Harleen Kaur (you have to admire the twists of fate – a Brazilian model playing the demure Punjabi kudi from Old Delhi !!). Infact, it’s the 40 year old love story of Veer Singh and Harleen which actually rescues the movie. A delightfully old fashioned and cute love story, conducted entirely in glances and silence – wins everybody’s hearts.

Apart from the bad casting, the modern track between Jai and Meera just doesn’t have any chemistry between them. They meet, become friends, then start going out – but never appear convincing as a couple. I mean commitment phobia doesn’t need to be passionless ! Add to it the ‘cool’ dialogues – Saif tries off the Hum Tum-esque cool casual approach but his dialogues felt like he was trying too hard - he doesn’t deliver one single dialogue linearly !! And both Jai and especially Meera do not succeed in making us understand what they are truly feeling – so a lot of scenes in the second half of the movie sort of feel like a bolt from the blue.

However, even with the imperfect casting, its not as if the lead actors are without any virtues. Even if they do not come across as the perfect couple, Jai and Meera’s initial scenes have a nice joie de vivre. There is one particularly engaging scene immediately after the breakup where they tell each other what they didn’t particularly like in each other. And the interactions between Saif and Rishi Kapoor are also very likeable.

The songs, while likeable, are not placed perfectly and the Twist song particularly feels out of place.

So even with a perfect team (directors/actors), Love Aaj Kal falls well short but not disastrously so. And the older love story will surely have you smiling, especially at their last scene together (where we see the older Harleen). Watch it only if you have to claim I-watched-it-too

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