Movies

Hugh Jackman gets into Bollywood’s turf in ‘The Greatest Showman’

Before I book a movie ticket, I usually check the rating on both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. If the IMDB score is high, I factor in how big the film franchise is to give a lower weightage in my head to the IMDB score in the initial days as I assume most votes are from die hard fans who would vote only one way. I believe I’ve got it down to a science. Of course you might disagree with my choices but judging solely by how happy I am coming out of a movie theater after paying for that overpriced ticket, my system is pretty sound.

Usually, my system keeps me far away from any movie that says ‘musical’ in the description. The aversion started with the 2011 Ralph Fiennes & Gerard Butler movie ‘Coriolanus’, which my roommate and I went to with great expectations. We had seen just a trailer and it looked bad-ass. My roomie got an extra large tub of popcorn and we settled in for what looked like a good movie which started with Gerard Butler sharpening a knife while watching the news on TV. A little later, Ralph Fiennes started giving a speech to his army and started off with what sounded like a Shakespearean quote. Slightly weird but we rolled with it, only the Shakespeare quotes never stopped. For the rest of the movie, both the lead actors kept talking in Shakespearean prose to each other and everyone around them, talking about how they will ‘smite thee down with my sword’ or about the sound of war-drums while wearing Kevlar and shooting machine guns. My roomie forgot all about the popcorn and we just kept asking ‘what the fuck is this’ to each other for 2 hours. We were so mystified we thought of asking the theatre folks if they put the wrong audio track on. Even after the movie we had to Google it to finally believe this was actually what was intended. And the worst thing was all the critic reviews praising the movie. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus says: “Visceral and visually striking, Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus proves Shakespeare can still be both electrifying and relevant in a modern context“. It was about as fitting and relevant as the middle aged uncle next door suddenly speaking only in hip-hop rap would be. Technically I guess Coriolanus wasn’t a musical, but I don’t know what the fuck else to call it. After watching it I decided I’m never watching a Hollywood movie in which people don’t speak in normal English. My resolve was further strengthened when I asked my roomie how another musical he watched with his girlfriend was and he just said ‘Man. Hugh Jackman….Wolverine singing and dancing… WTF”

Continue reading “Hugh Jackman gets into Bollywood’s turf in ‘The Greatest Showman’”

Movies

Viggo Mortensen’s ‘The Road’ ruined the apocalypse for me

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘apocalypse’? Zombies I bet. What about the people left alive fighting those zombies? Or people left alive in another kind of post apocalyptic setting? I bet the picture in your head is something like this:

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and you hang out with people who look like this:

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An array of movies and TV shows have assured us the apocalypse is pretty cool. The life of survivors is hard, but in an uber cool and sexy way. Men become men and women become bad-ass warrior queens, everyone wears leather and gets a Clint Eastwood glint in their eyes and there’s no shortage of quality hair dressers and fashionable clothes. I mean the way they sell it, you would fantasize about living in such a world. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world where accountants and business analysts can become warlords and call the shots with sawed off shotguns and unlimited ammo?

And then, I saw a Netflix suggestion for the 2009 movie ‘The Road’, starring Viggo Mortensen, who you might remember better as Aragon from Lord of the Rings, the man who put the ‘King’ in The Return of the King. Who wouldn’t want to see Aragorn and his son taking on what’s left of the world? The last time he was on the road, he took on 5 (or 6?) of the Nazgul by himself and came on top like a champ.

Continue reading “Viggo Mortensen’s ‘The Road’ ruined the apocalypse for me”

Movies

‘Kali’ movie review- A movie with an important message about the consequences of unbridled anger

'Kali'- a movie with a message about unbridled anger
Dulquer Salmaan in ‘Kali’. Credit: Hotstar

Like all Keralites, I grew up on a staple of great Malayalam movies with intelligent, realistic and often funny storylines without much of masala. Around the time I was in college, the good movies dried up. Over time as distance from the homeland (‘naadu’) grew, I gave up watching Malayalam movies altogether after I saw the Dileep starrer ‘Spanish Masala’ on a bus to Kerala. Dileep is the actor who was recently arrested for the alleged kidnap and assault of a popular actress but honestly he should have been jailed years ago for that movie. I could not connect to any of the stories being shown on screen anymore. The storylines sucked, the actors were old and desperate to seem young and there were too many slow motion shots. As time went by I started hearing about good Malayalam movies with new actors, writers and directors but I didn’t really believe it till I saw Dulqar’s ‘Ustad Hotel’ on DVD. Finally there was a movie that spoke to me. It had a young actor who carried off the role effortlessly without overacting, fantastic visuals and music and a story about a departed son of the soil finding home again that spoke to most of us who had left Kerala in search of education or jobs. After that I found that the Malayalam film industry was back to making topical movies again. I’m still somewhat behind and have a lot of good movies on my watch-list that I haven’t got to yet. Kali was somewhere way down that list but when a Maharashtrian in office started telling me, a mallu to watch this nice Malayalam thriller, I decided it is shameful not to. It turned out to be one of the better movies I have seen recently across languages.

Kali is not one of those movies that will make a lot of money or get talked about a lot like ‘Premam’. It has no songs and isn’t that glamorous or much of a rabble rouser, in spite of the name. It is however a fantastic thriller which really makes you totter on the edge of your seat at times. But first and foremost, this movie has a very important message for an audience that is used to movies glorifying anger and reckless ‘heroism’. Most of our movies, no matter which language shows the usual trope of a righteously angry hero losing his temper and rushing to face the villains without giving a damn about being outgunned or outnumbered. The heroine will gasp and look all worried at first but then the expression on her face along with that of all spectators on both sides of the screen will change to awe. This ideal of masculinity is what we have been sold for years and years and a surprising number of people believe it. If someone wrongs you or your girl when you’re out, what’s the first thing you’re supposed to do? Guage the situation and surroundings? Or lose your head and get ready for a fight? How many of us will admit that it might be better to guage the situation first? Are we men if we do not react? Hell, even while writing this I’m wondering if someone will misunderstand and think that I am a coward or that I’m advocating cowardice. Advocating caution and prudence just does not work as this is the first thing in everybody’s head (including yours) when you do, which is exactly why you need more stories like the one in ‘Kali’.

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Movies

War For The Planet Of The Apes was mis-sold as a war movie instead of the excellent character drama it is

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Foxmovies


Spoilers ahead:
The art of making trailers has progressed quite a lot but sometimes I wonder if the director and writer of the movie ever bother talking to whoever is making the trailer to make sure they capture the essence of the movie right. I’m not very familiar with the industry but I think whoever made the trailer for this movie wanted to create a really short film based on their own ideas about what the story should be rather than give a teaser for the real one. Every trailer for War For The Planet Of The Apes hyped up a war that Caesar didn’t start but means to finish. In fact that exact line is repeated in every single trailer. In the actual movie however, he only says “I didn’t start this war”. He never says “but I will finish it” unless it was part of a deleted scene which we haven’t seen yet. The posters were equally misleading, such as the one at the beginning of this post.

How can anyone look at that poster and not expect an epic battle between humans and apes? But this scene never happens. There is never a single sequence in the whole movie that has two armies facing off in this way. There is a skirmish in the jungle in the beginning but nothing like this.

Continue reading “War For The Planet Of The Apes was mis-sold as a war movie instead of the excellent character drama it is”

Movies

A Death In The Gunj: A Fine Attempt To ‘Whitewash’ Our History

I can rarely stand Masala in anything other than food. I even  hate Masala tea. Naturally, this means I don’t watch many Bollywood movies. However, many of my friends argue that there are many non-Masala Hindi movies which I am not aware of because I’m an ignorant Madrasi. So when I found a movie called ‘A Death In The Gunj’ on Book My Show which I hadn’t heard about in an advertising blitz, I thought I’ll try it out, especially since the critics had written that Konkana Sen Sharma had made a marvellous debut as a powerful story teller with this film.

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1979 Bihar

What I saw however was a pretentious attempt to make the audience believe that India/Bihar in the 1970’s had a culture that very closely resembled the one shown in American sitcoms like Friends. They just looked a little different and drove ambassador cars apparently. The acting was pretty good, especially Vikrant Massey’s performance as Shutu. The cinematography, camera work, etc. were all good but none of that could make me get over how the characters used the F word and talked exactly as how people would in a pub in Bangalore or Delhi in 2017. Apparently in 1979 Bihar, elderly parents were completely cool with guys and girls drinking, smoking and joking about the promiscuity of one of the characters. They would just sit, smile and pour a drink for you. Shutu talks about getting back to college in ‘Cal’ (Calcutta) and Mimi blows cigarette smoke in his face and asks if he has any time for girlfriends in between all that studying.

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Also 1979 Bihar

If anybody who loved the movie like the critics did reads this, I’m sure that they would protest and say that I do not know what the lifestyle was like in McCluskieganj, a small hilly town in Bihar, present day Jharkhand that was founded specifically to serve as a homeland for the Anglo -Indian community. But guess what, neither did my friend who is from Jharkhand. He had to look that up in Wikipedia and tell me. I’m sure there might have been small places or groups in India where this culture existed, and I really don’t mean to be morally preachy or something. My problem is, why are we so desperate to find niche communities whose culture and lifestyle is very far from most of our country to showcase in our stories? Of course movies can choose any setting that the writer or director sees to be fit for storytelling purposes, but there was nothing in the plot of this movie that required such a setting. It could easily have been set in modern day India, or it could have been set in normal, non progressive 1979 India and the story would not have been affected. 

Being a blog, this is purely my personal opinion about the film and I’m aware that I might not speak for everyone. But I’m sure that at least a few other people want to see movies and stories that are more representative of what our society is like and used to be like. As far as I know, in most of India, especially in the 70’s, parents were more likely to disown you rather than pour you a drink as you talk about your friend Vikram’s family jewels in front of his wife. I’m not one of those people who are worried about western culture spoiling our new generation or anything of the sort. I just think we should be more honest about what our society is like and was, instead of imagining 1979 as we would have liked it to be and pretending like it was real. Let’s not reboot Indian history please. Its not a Spiderman movie.

Of course, the movie makers might not have intended to do any of this and might have genuinely just picked a story about some obscure town with very different traditions. Filmmakers are not obligated to tell stories about population samples which are statistically representative of India as a whole, but when Karan Johar movies pretend like every high school in India has prom night and the supposedly different and realistic Indie movies have Om Puri pouring a drink for the kids when they talk about Vikram’s nuts, some people in the audience will think that all our movies are escapist and far from reality.

Show me a movie with a more accurate portrayal of 1979 Bihar that my friend from Jharkhand would be able to identify as Bihar without opening Wikipedia and I will consider it worth my time and money. If reality absolutely doesn’t matter in any genre of movies, we should all just watch porn then.

Movies

The New ‘Nova’ poster for ‘War For The Planet Of the Apes’ promises great things to come

I never expected to become the fan of a series of movies which had titles like ‘rise of the planet of the apes’. Try telling someone to watch the movie. It sounds like you are telling them to watch some B-grade monster movie at worst and at best, a pop corn summer flick. But this series has proved to be so much more, and it looks the last installment is going to continue on the impressive trajectory set by the previous two. If you have any doubts, look at the latest poster.

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Think about that for a second. A movie titled ‘war for the planet of the apes’, the last entry in a blockbuster trilogy and instead of apes jumping over fire, they chose to show what looks like a gorilla gently putting a flower behind a little girl’s ear.

Movie sequels have the irritating habit of taking the loudest parts of the previous movie, blowing that up 10 X and leaving out everything else. For example Bahubali 1, ridiculous as it is, still had a Trishoola Vyuha (Trident) battle strategy in the climatic fight. Bahubali 2  chose to have soldiers catapulted across castle walls using surprisingly pliant palm trees. This isn’t a problem in just Indian cinema either. I think the next fast and the furious movie will probably have Dom, the thief who just wants to spend quality time with family deciding to steal a nuke from N. Korea because it is the right thing to do- if they haven’t already done that in the last 6 movies I didn’t see. But anyway, point is, movie studios don’t usually go with subtlety in sequels, so its very refreshing to see this poster focus on the humanity (and apanity?) of the characters. A few fans pointed out that it might be a reference to Frankenstein’s monster playing with a little girl in a garden before killing her. I think thats unlikely because the gorilla in this series is usually like Hagrid in Harry Potter- big but huggable. However, it might still be alluding to evolved apes, mans creation dealing with mankind tenderly before destroying them completely.

I often wonder if movie makers really think so much about such subliminal references or if we just make it up coz we are jobless and they choose to roll with it. But anyway, I like how that sounds so I choose to believe it, just as a certain country’s president chooses to believe global warming is made in China.