Saturday, 22 November 2008

Yuvvraaj

An awful tale not saved by a great climax...

As an unsuccessful singer, Deven Yuvvraaj (Salman Khan), has only one desire: to marry his girlfriend Anushka (Katrina Kaif). However Anushka will not be married unless her father, Dr. Banton (Boman Irani) gives his blessing for the union, something he is not willing to do. When Deven's wealthy father dies, he decides to make a contract whereby if he is not a billionaire within 40 days, then he will not marry Anushka. However this proves difficult for Deven when he discovers that all his father's wealth has be given to Deven's brother: Gyanesh (Anil Kapoor), a man with the mental capacity of a child.

There is an interesting story brewing in Yuvvraaj touching upon ides of wealth and family, and individual gain versus the collective. However while the story seems intriguing, especially with its orchestral music backbone, it is simply terribly executed. The script is a shocker and is infested with poor dialogue, poor story advancement, poor characterisations and this results in a mature theme being displayed in the most childish manner. As shown from the start of the film, the overall atmosphere one of immaturity, not because it is important to the context of the story, but because that is how it is being displayed. Even the direction is not great, resulting in some amateur cinematography. One such example is the first musical segment in which Deven is fantasizing about how he will catch the attention of his girlfriend and marry her. In this segment the audience is exposed to Salman Khan flying and Katrina's face being exposed over the sun and sky. It is all rather horribly conceived and does nothing except make a mockery of itself. Did countless love songs in Bollywood films not allow the protagonists to wish themselves off to extravagant locales such as Egypt and Switzerland while making their imagination seem real? These are what is expected of love songs, not some poorly edited scenes you'd expect in a child's programme. And so it becomes difficult to relate to any character because nothing is well executed. However this is not to say that the film's story is entirely bad. There are brief moments throughout that base themselves in the maturity if the film's themes, and the second half picks up on this. Yet it is the final 20 or so minutes that are a wonder to watch, and also shows how pitiful everything before it really is.

Acting is pretty substandard, mainly because of how childish everything everything is and because of how often it is difficult to truly understand a character feelings and actions because their depth is vastly limited. Salman Khan is convincing when he is is in a position to be conniving but his attempts at love are not. Zayed Khan spends most of his time overacting, but when he does get the right balance of emotion he pulls it off well enough. Katrina Kaif has a delightful role and is adequate to her task though it is a pity that she has still received a rather limited role. It'll be interesting when she land a more prominent role in future films. Kaif, like the other actors, are nonetheless eclipsed by the ardent experience of Anil Kapoor with the portrayal of a grown man whose mental growth remains that of a child is really good. The realism he brings to role is a complete contrast to the rest of the cast, albeit Ms. Kaif, and this is perhaps why the others appear so incapable that that are ultimately caricatures. While Kapoor's performance doesn't lift the film from mediocrity it is definitely worth a watch.

The musical score is pretty impressive at times. There are songs which really hit all the right notes and then there are a few others which don't. Regardless the score is not the most accessible which doesn't help the film at all and makes it less inviting. Yet if there is a positive to come out of Yuvvraaj besides Anil Kapoor, it is definitely the music, and thankfully so, or the film would have been one incredible excruciating experience.

Yuvvraaj is a pretty clean film besides some slight language and violent tendencies from various characters.

Yuvvraaj is an important film coming in the final months of the year and it has some big stars to back up the film's much anticipated release. Coming close after the release of Fashion and Dostana, Yuvvraaj had a lot to stand up against, sadly nothing comes together to create a cohesive product. There are major flaws in every aspect of the film, be it the story, the characters, the acting, the general direction: every important component is compromised in some way. Though it has good moments: there are some nice set pieces, Anil Kapoor is stunning to watch and the finale, coupled with a generally good musical score, is excellent. Sadly none of these save the film from being a complete disappointment.

4/10

Screen date: 21 November 2008
Release date: 21 November 2008

Available on Channel24

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

A subtle performance with a landmark crescendo...

During World War 2 Bruno (Asa Butterfield), a German of eight years, leads a somewhat sheltered life in the comforts of wealth in Berlin. When Bruno's father (David Thewlis) is promoted to a high ranking officer of the Nazi regime, Bruno and his family have to relocate to his father's new post, which happens to be nearby to a concentration camp. After many frustrating days of boredom Bruno journeys to the concentration camp, thinking it is a farm, and starts up a friendship with Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jewish boy.

From the very start the story is displayed in a very linear and uncomplicated fashion. There is no extravagant storytelling, no attempts to make the story more than it is. However this is not to say that the film is devoid of depth, because it has plenty and can stir up many symbolic and thematic explanations which help enrich the viewing. But the simple process of the story is more the director's attempt in keeping with the innocence of Bruno to help relate the viewer to him. The reason this is perhaps done is because while the film is relatively faithful to the original novel, many details have been altered. One such is the literary device of a process of discovery from the reader into the true context of the story just as Bruno begins to learn more of the real world. As such the film adaptation will inevitably make it more difficult for the viewer to relate to Bruno because we become the out-group to his innocence. The simple storytelling works though it could have been more complex, including many details that were omitted. But the film's crowning moment comes in its final 15 or so minutes in what is a harrowing, emotionally poignant affair, and perhaps one the most draining, yet overwhelmingly crafted endings ever to grace cinema. It alone is worth the admission of seeing this film. Authenticity also becomes a slight problem once again in regards to how the concentration camps would have actually worked, but this is never the point as the film bases itself merely on thematic elements.

The level of acting is not astounding by any means. But it is generally favourable. Each actor and actress seems to aptly suit their respective character, but Butterfield must be commended for doing a great job of making the innocence of his character appear so real. It must be said that none of the characters speak in a German accent though they are portraying Germans. While this seems like a setback, it really is not much of an issue as it does not make the experience any less riveting as it already is, but for those truly adamant on authenticity they might be a little disappointed.

There is no sex, nudity or language. Violence is more figurative then literal as the film's subject matter pertains around a concentration camp. The final scene is haunting though not visually shown. While the PG-13 rating is apt, it is difficult to think that any child at that age could truly comprehend the film's content.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a cinematic wonder which easily deserves a watch from any avid moviegoer. While there are a few niggles, none of which truly affects the overall quality unless you allow it to do so, the film is laden with reasonable acting and story-telling at it's very best with director Mark Herman cementing this with a conclusion so filled with brilliance that it is difficult to think of anything of late that quite matches it. In fact there are few films of late which can even match the cinematic wonder that is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

9/10

Screen date: 20 November 2008
Release date: 05 December 2008


Available on Channel24

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Quantum of Solace

A disappointing second leg after an amazing start...

Beginning very soon after the events of Casino Royale, James Bond (Daniel Craig) has kidnapped the notorious Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), only to learn that there is a secret organization which has infiltrated various levels of social order around the world. Seeking revenge for the death of Vesper and more information on this organization, Bond goes on a rampage and discovers an interesting connection to philanthropist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric).

Continuing off the intriguing storyline left from Casino Royale, it was expected that Quantum of Solace would continue to showcase quality story telling. With a run time that is 40 minutes less and with more action sequences, it becomes painfully obvious three quarters through the film, that the scriptwriters had no real intention of telling a cohesive story, and even less desire to create any characterization, the most prominent perhaps coming from Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) but even then its only because we knew so little of him from the previous film. All Quantum of Solace ends up showing is that there is indeed a bigger organization of villains. The events which are undertaken in the story are interesting to a point yet instead serves more as a backstage for the side story of Camille (Olga Kurylenko), which itself is very unimportant to the greater scheme of things, though it's nice to see a Bond woman get a more fleshed out story then in previous incarnations. Even the story arc that relates back to Vesper seems unimportant until the films end: it was a major arc going into the film but is somewhat underplayed. Another slight problem comes from scene advancement being inadequate a times. In one scene Bond will have no access to any money, and in the next he'll be driving a new vehicle with a new suit. While this is not exactly what happens, the description is not far off: there are just too many scenes which don't gel logically. But there are a few noteworthy additions to the story. M and Leiter seem more important to the story this time around, M a little too much perhaps. Leiter's character is more ambiguous this time and has a story arc of his own; in fact it should be said that lesser characters are given some story time but neither of them truly affect the plot much. On another positive note there is more humour in the story this time around, especially involving the expected Bond quip after a dispatch. It is just a pity that the film doesn't use up more time to flesh out the story more. However it is very possible that the film is merely a bridge to the third entry. If this is the case, then Quantum of Solace serves it's purpose as the action story that connects the two more story focused entries. However this will only work if the next film brings back the intrigue of Casino Royale and allows for some character development. 

Thankfully the action sequences are bigger and better then those in Casino Royale. While the chase scene feels awfully ripped from the previous film, there is more variety in what is shown, such as the various vehicle scenes. Though at times the action does seem somewhat muted. It looks good most of the time, but it feels like the director is trying to much to make Bond feel like other modern spy flicks, such as the Bourne trilogy, instead of trying to make Bond feel like Bond. So while the many action sequences are fun to watch, they do not help give the film a distinct feel. There is no major problem to the Bourne-like makeover Bond has gotten, especially for the character at this time in his career, as it allows him to come across as more brutal, but this nonetheless takes away from his charm. Even the recently released Taken with Liam Neeson proves more viable at this type of action then James Bond.

Sadly the staple intro sequence of the film is underwhelming, both with its music and animation, which had far too much of Craig holding a gun, but thankfully had the female silhouettes missing from Casino Royale's intro.

On the acting front, Quantum of Solace is adequate. Dench is once again amazing as M, and Craig portrays his Bond well. But aside from the minimal character development his character has towards the end of the film, it is still debatable whether he could pull off a traditional Bond instead of a normal action hero as he is currently doing: problematic since the currently written Bond feels nothing like James Bond, and hasn't developed from his prior outing. Giannini and Wright are as good as they were before. Kurylenko is an interesting addition and her character, Camille, gets a lot of time to be developed as a feasible character in the Bond universe. Her motivations in the story are somewhat clich├ęd and forced, and Kurylenko is not the best actress for the role, but she does a decent enough effort to make the character passable. Her most intriguing aspect is her somewhat similar situation to Bond. There is a nice scene shared by the two, mimicking a scene between Bond and Vesper a little too much, but it helps develop Bond as still having some form of humanity. Mathieu Amalric as the villain Dominic Greene, is also another decent affair. He is no where near as villainous as Le Chiffre and as such there's little for Amalric to do with the character except play him out as more of a caricature, and in this sense, he succeeds.

There is some sexual content, along with some language and violence. The latter involving vehicle crashes, gun fire and melee combat, but none of which is overly violent.

Quantum of Solace is a fun film to watch but don't expect to hold the same level for depth as Casino Royale. The film is a disappointment since it had so much to expand upon but ultimately doesn't. The action is great, if unoriginal at times, and the acting is solid. But the film fails in the story and character departments, two elements which made Casino Royale so refreshing, though there are a few facets which make Quantum of Solace a better title such as the added humour and extra action sequences. As a standalone, the film does not quite not work, feeling seemingly out of place, but as a bridging film it does, and hopefully it is. But this will only work if the third film can correct the mistakes in this title, either via technique or narrative, and thus allow a potential trilogy to be solidly sound.

7/10

Screen date: 19 November 2008
Release date: 21 November 2008

Friday, 14 November 2008

Dostana

Sexy though not without some smears...

After bumping into each other by accident Kunal (John Abraham), a photographer, and Sameer (Abhishek Bachchan), a nurse, end up wanting to rent the exact same apartment. Due to the limitations that no men are allowed to rent out the apartment, Sameer comes up with an idea that both Kunal and himself pretend to be a gay couple. However while this plan allows them to get the apartment, it proves to be a problem as they both men become interested in their other roommate, Neha (Priyanka Chopra), a gorgeous and intelligent woman who works for a fashion magazine.


The story for Dostana is a combination of unique and unoriginal. While the gay couple idea is not commonplace for Bollywood films, it does share some similarities with a recent Hollywood film. But beyond two guys pretending to be gay, Dostana does very little to differentiate itself from the flock of romance films, and this has to be attributed to post-Interval which is slightly disappointing. The second half of the film is not bad by any means, but the humour, vigour and originality which makes the first half of the film an absolutely wonder to watch becomes dampened somewhat due to the strange change of the leads becoming somewhat childish. Thankfully the musical score, acting and choreography never falter, so the film does have a strong structure throughout.

The characters themselves are very well detailed and the writers have done a good job to distance the characters of Kunal and Sameer while giving them common ground. Where Kunal is immensely handsome with a built body, Sameer's charisma helps him attract the women. This is deepened as the film progresses with both have separate forms of interaction which are easily acknowledged from their specific personalities. Neha is a bit more stereotypical and not quite as complex as would have been hoped. In fact, this could be the films one flaw: a lot of the depth is merely skin deep.

The film begins with a musical segment and a very upbeat one at that. As mentioned, the level of music and choreography never wanes and remains a welcome addition whenever a segment does appear. Dostana also bases itself in humour and a lot of it to boot. While the level of humour dies out in the second half, the quality does not. The majority of the humour is based around the gay relationship and what makes it work so well is the acting. In one scene where both Sameer and Kunal devise a story on how they met, their attempts at acting gay are not exaggerated so as to mock, but done so because of how both Sameer and Kunal think gay people act. Another aspect which makes the humour so much fun is the constancy at which is portrayed.

The acting quality is high as well with excellent performance from the entire cast. Abraham showcases why he is a highly capable actor though there is the rare occasion where he does not feel quite up to par with either Abhishek or Chopra, who are more easily able to gel given their recent pairing in Drona. Abhishek continues to find his peak acting ability when he needs its most and Chopra's continues her wonderful form from Fashion and nears the end of the year on a high note after a few mediocre efforts in Love Story 2050 and God Tussi Great Ho. The supporting cast of Boman Irani, Kiron Kher and Booby Deol compliment the leads with some genuinely good acting, with Irani and Kher adding to the intense humour of the film.

No violence or nudity though sex is a thematic element to the film. Language is minimal in scatological form.

Dostana is a film which wants to break away from the norm but ultimately cannot, and as such the latter arc of the story is a slight disappointment. The story turns into a typical romance after it promised such a unique premise, and the second half lacks the overall strength of the first. Nonetheless, Dostana is a brilliant film which infectious humour and sex appeal, though lacks the ability to truly target its core message.

8/10

Screen date: 14 November 2008
Release date: 14 November 2008

Available on Channel24

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Beware Bale, a new Batman Beckons!

A tip from my sister has sparked some new outrageous information regarding the third of Nolan's reinvented Batman trilogy. According to my sister, DC Comics came to the decision with Warner Bros. to have Christian Bale dropped. Who is taking up the cape after Bale? My sister's son. And from what she gathered, the sudden dismissal of Bale was not about the money! Sadly, Bale is going to be missing out on the arrival of the Riddler, who currently has no attached actor, or actress. Yes that's right, alternate early drafts of the script are being written to have the Riddler as a female in case an 'Edwin A. Salt' problem occurs. Here are some pictures she took of the casting event on October 31st:




The exhilaration of getting the role sure shows!



The light is blinding him... he is perfect for the role of the dark knight!



*script spoilers*
"Rachael... you're alive?"




Is... is that a gun?!?!?!?



Apparently Nolan wants a fight sequence where Batman has to adjust his mask during combat... it will add to the "cool factor" so he claims.



Hope you all enjoyed Halloween :)