Friday, 26 December 2008

Ghajini

A faltering tale of revenge...

Sanjay Singhania (Aamir Khan) is a wealthy business man who falls in love with Kalpana (Asin Thottumkal), an up-and-coming model who's popularity is due to her relationship with Sanjay. But during their courtship disaster strikes when Asin is killed and Sanjay is left with serious brain damage which results in him having short term memory loss, and this makes his revenge a difficult task.

Regardless of what Aamir Khan might profess there is no denying that Ghajini is a remake of Memento, though it is more accurately a remake of a Tamil film by the same name which itself is a remake of Christopher Nolan's masterpiece. The similarities are obvious, from the protagonist's condition of short term memory loss, him searching for his lover's killer, the use of photographs and tattoos to help him remember, amongst others. That said it does attempt to tell its story in a different, more logical, way and this works exceptionally well. The film is divided between the modern day and past, both representing the stories of revenge and romance respectively, and for the majority of the film both do work in unison.

The revenge story is presented well enough but is marred in a few ways. Firstly there are elements which are used to deepen the story but are actually unneeded in the greater scheme of things. Then there are the few questionable dialogue choices which come off as out of place. Lastly the film seems to lose track of its own internal logic. In the final arc of the story, Sanjay's short term memory loss, which occurs every fifteen minutes, is thrown out the window for a good period of time until it's needed for a very contrived introduction into the final duel. Sanjay also develops superhuman-like strength out of completely nowhere resulting in him mowing down man after man with no injury becoming him in any form. It's a strange arc indeed for the film, and for a short while catapults the film out of its reality to some fantasy. That said, the love story is truly excellent. It starts off childish and ruins the mature storytelling of the revenge storyline but once in full swing, the romance becomes more interesting and exciting to watch than any other aspect of the film. Thankfully it is the romance section which ends off the film and it is an amazing ending and truly cements the story's example of undying love, and allows the odd lapse of logic which occurs mere minutes before, to appear as a distant memory.

But as a remake it becomes disheartening to see Aamir Khan use his method acting skills because they ultimately develop into nothing out of the ordinary. This is mainly due to the fact that his skills of method acting are not being used to allow himself to become an original character to make the film more poignant, but because he is developing himself into a persona which has been used before. Nonetheless, Aamir is a wonder to watch and he becomes the perfect example as to why the romance story is superior to that of the revenge. When Aamir's character falls in love with Asin's, it is quite evident. The chemistry they share is a highpoint with both complimenting one another. Asin's Bollywood debut is helped by her work in the Tamil movie industry and she is delightful to watch. Her portrayal as the bubbly, happy-go-lucky Kaplana mimics Kajol's Angali in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Though when Khan portrays his present self, he tends to overact and makes his character far more untamed then he ought to be, even making animal growls at one point. Pradeep Rawat continues his experience at playing villains with a character who truly is without a heart. However he does not receive enough screen time and this is partly to do with the portrayal of Jiah Khan's character Sunita. Sunita is a medical student who is interested in Sanjya's condition. However she is completely irrelevant to the main storyline but her character is forced with integral scenes nonetheless, at some points mimicking Kalpana, not in character but in situational context. While this is a good way to create symbolism, Sunita is far too irritating, and distorts what should be a story about fated lovers and a villain. On top of this, Jiah is not a convincing actress and is out of league in a cast of who know what they have to do.

Other disappointing avenues of the film are the musical and action sequences. The music is not exactly the most memorable but does a decent enough job. However there is one too many sequences and they go to flaw the film. In many respects Ghajini should have most likely gone the route of Sarkar Raj and skipped adding music to the production. Yes this might lower the audience intake but would have helped make the film a cohesive package. Action sequences are sadly misfit at times. This is not because they are bad, but because the director, A.R Murugadoss, makes the scenes and the film as a whole, feel far too much like a Tamil film. Tamil films have their own unique feel to them but it is arguable whether this feel is worthwhile. The action sequences in Ghajini are actually very good if it were not for the constant need to slow the fights down by a few frames. This artistic design does not make the fights any better but in fact make them less dynamic, less aggressive, and ultimately less fun to watch.

There is no sex or nudity and language goes by virtually unheard. Violence is not particularly bloody but is quite intense at times.

Ghajini is a film of many things but it fails to reach its potential of being a truly excellent title. The story has some inconsistencies even though it tells an amazing tale of love and revenge. The acting is likewise very good, but some performances damper the whole affair. Sadly the music lets the film down and the questionable action sequences don't help either. Ghajini will not be the best Aamir Khan film you'll ever see and is definitely not the best Bollywood film for the year, but it is a treat to watch, even if only for the romance.

7/10

Screen date: 24 December 2008
Release date: 26 December 2008

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Twilight

Blood draining...

Moving to Forks, Washington to live with her father, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) becomes interested in the Cullen siblings. One sibling does catch her attention, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), but his quick and apparent mood swings begin to annoy her. After much pushing for information, Bella learns that Edward is a vampire.

Being an adaptation from a novel which has become quite popular among teenagers, mostly female, one would expect the story's translation to hold true to its source material as best as possible. It's hard to believe that it does at all because the story contained in the film is ultimately bland. There is no depth, no complexity to the plot, no intriguing characterizations: just a simple love story which doesn't hold much in terms of credibility. And this is because character motivations are never fully established. While the love Edward and Bella have for one another is easily based on outwards attraction and grows into something meaningful, the haste at which both characters are able to confide in and accept one another is unreasonable. At one point Bella is attracted to Edward, just to have him act cruel to her, then to find out he's a vampire and still place her complete trust in him that he won't harm her. While their love is touching in a Romeo and Juliet sort of way, that does not stop it passing off as completely illogical and idiotic. Still there is a certain quickness to it all that does make for an interesting watch at times for the concept itself is a fascinating one.

The acting doesn't fare any better. Side characters are merely caricatures and the main characters are underdeveloped so it is no wonder that the level of acting is average. Kristen Stewart comes off as far too disinterested in absolutely everything. At first it seems acceptable when she doesn't which to be bothered much by people at school or her father, but when she is somehow madly in love with Edward her monotonic representation remains static. There are times where she attempts to put some life into her character but this is rare. Pattison fares better and seems to get the nervousness of Edward fairly well, and the same applies to when he is intent on saving Bella. But his constant exchanges at love for Bella are not entirely convincing. That is not to say that there is no chemistry between both Stewart and Pattison for there is. It is just not in the form you would expect but more like both are forced to be in love.

From a technical standpoint the direction of the film works at times but the music and special effects do not. Director Catherine Hardwicke has a very unique way in her vision of the novel. Her direction yields a simple naturalness to it, losing the classic constructed feel of most films. It does come across as appealing to watch at times but it does become a bit much by the films end. You'll either enjoy the direction to wish for a more natural feel. Regardless of preference neither would have made the film any better. The music is also another love-hate item. The music selection sounds far too forced, as if trying to capture a certain mood for the film's atmosphere which doesn't work. There's a classical element to it, as if yearning to have a connection to Bram Stoker's Dracula and is nice distraction from the angst feel of the film. Lastly there are the special effects which are noticeably unrealistic. There is a blur given to any vampire character that moves fast, but it looks more like blurred fast forwarding and thus rather unnatural looking.

No vampire film is really all complete without some sexual connotations and violence: both are included in low form. Language is also kept low and nudity is a no-go area considering the target audience.

Twilight is a vampire story which is caught in a midst of smoke. With its average story, average acting, average music but interesting direction, it has neither the cruel seductiveness of Dracula nor the morbid fascination of Interview with the Vampire. With its superficial layering Twilight presumes to be more valuable to modern day teen life then both but, simply put, is not.

5/10

Screen date: 19 December 2008
Release date: 19 December 2008

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Delightful tale on love...

When Surinder's (Shakrukh Khan) mentor dies of a heart attack, Surinder is forced to fulfill his mentor's dying wish: to marry his daughter. Surinder complies with his mentor's wishes however the marital bond between himself and Taani (Anushka Sharma) is merely for the sole purpose of allowing Taani a place to live and not one of love. As an introvert, Surinder finds it difficult to express his deep love but finds a solution when Taani joins a dancing competition: transforming himself into Raj, an extrovert and flamboyant man who catches the attention of Taani.

The story gets off to a slow start and steadily gains pace as the film progresses and this greatly mimics how Surinder's life changes from routine to excitement. At heart the film is a simple love story, echoing how Surinder fails to attract the attention of someone he loves and having to become someone he is not in order to do so. There is a nice, simple message to be learnt here and the love story is not entirely clich├ęd so the film does have a somewhat refreshing take on the ingrained romance tales of Bollywood. This does not however stop the many scenes where Surinder is battling with his love for Taani becoming a little repetitive by the film's end. With a little tighter editing on these parts the film would have also cut a little off its long run time but the film's length is a minor disturbance at best. The film is also fairly humourous, but not quite like Dostana's minute-by-minute comedy. As well the humour does not feel constructed but instead natural giving the context of some scenes a fairly real undertone.


There is a slight mishap on the subtitling for English viewers. There is the odd spelling mistake and there are a few moments where the subtitling makes some comments from a single character appear as if one character begins and another ends of the sentence, when it is evident that is not the case. Sadly the credit sequence lacks subtitles altogether and the credits are important in gaining an understanding into the aftermath of the ending with a monologue. While it can be accumulated as to what is being talked about, the monologue itself is fairly humourous and English viewers will e missing out.


Surprisingly the acting ensemble is stronger than expected with even the minor characters being more than adequate to the job. Of course Shahrukh Khan is as amazing as ever and anyone who thought he might be losing his shine will discover he is not. In the film Khan has to portray two different personalities for the same character as he attempts to live a double-life. His nuances in the shy and uncertain Surinder are heavily contrasted by his performance as the outgoing and hip Raj, and Khan does so with consistency. The biggest surprise is Anushka Sharma. Her debut performance is delightful, full of vigor and, most importantly, believable whether her character is full of joy or sadness. You would be hard pressed to say she was an amateur. In fact she embodies a top notch Bollywood actress with good acting coupled with a natural prowess for dancing. Sharma makes the music sequences she is in far more enjoyable to watch then they ought to be.


That said the music, and accompanying dances, is a slight disappointment. Neither category is bad by any means but they don't reach the optimal level of excitement to truly heighten the love story. But as said Sharma does appear in her element in these sequences and Khan's experience shows through so any sequence with these two dancing together is a worthwhile watch.


There are no sexual connotations, violence and very little use of language, making the film a true family treat.


Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is an amazing film which tells an equally amazing, albeit simple, story. With stellar acting, especially from newcomer Anushka Sharma who compliments Shahruhk Khan well, and good detail to creating a natural context, it becomes a pity that the film is let down by its musical sequences. They are not bad but not up to par with the rest of the film, and when coupled with other niggles the film is unable to be as moving as it potentially could. Still it's a worthwhile film and not one to be missed.

8/10


Screen date: 16 December 2008
Release date: 12 December 2008

Available on Channel24

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still

More an ad than movie...

As an unknown force begins to rapidly make it's way to Earth, the United States government attempts to thwart the object with the help of various well established scientists, one such being Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly). With just over an hour to devise a plan the scientists come up empty handed and are forced to witness the destruction of Washington. Must to their surprise the unknown force slows down and settles on earth with little destruction and is seen in the form of a gigantic sphere. A humanoid figure going by the name Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) leaves the sphere and impresses upon Benson the imminent eradication of humankind.

The opening of the film, set may years before the events which occur in the present time line, is meant to serve as a sort of teaser to the main story. However the opening is not engaging and lacks any form of mystery. The scene itself could have been shorter and better used in the middle arc of the film in the form of a flashback or explanation. This would have cut a few minutes off the run time as the film feels a little too long for almost no reason. As for the story itself, it is quite simplistic. Even with the global warming undertones the film presents there is little to engage audiences on an intellectual level. The story does have some noteworthy moments, such as when it is discovered as to the real reason for Klaatu visit Earth and his role in this plan. But far too little is developed and the film suffers for it. The ending is as well quite contrived and doesn't give the full impact of the environmentalist messages. As such the story feels washed out and more like an an attempt at holding a protest sign then actually going out and physically doing something about the problem at hand.

On the acting front the film delivers a fairly decent effort. Reeve's character is essentially emotionless, and while Reeves himself is not the most talented actor it does feel harsh to say that he was aptly suited for the role when he has shown at times in his career his ability to act. That said, he was aptly suited for a being who could not feel, but merely decipher the world through sheer logic. This is a contrast Connelly's character who is dealing with some emotional situations, especially with the death of her husband. Connelly performs well enough but due to script problems it becomes difficult for her to make the character more believable. The last of the in actors is Jaden Smith. Jaden's character is in a nutshell, a brat. But a brat who does undergo development. Jaden does a pretty decent job with the role but like the previous two actors, the script really falters in allowing the audience to have a connection with the character. Ultimately the characters feel more like tools just to get some theme across. That theme is pretty blatant and materialises into nothing audiences haven't been exposed to before. As such, the plan to replace character involvement for another aspect of the film does falls flat.


From a technical aspect the music does work though it is nothing special. It is perhaps not eerie enough when it should be eerie, or jolted enough in scenes of panic and action. However the CG elements range from good to mediocre. When special effects are added the CG can be quite appealing to the eye, such as the sphere which is used for transportation by the aliens. But the countless CG models used on military helicopters, mainly, is quite bland. While it is not evidently noticeable, praise must be given to the 3D modelers for hiding the bad CG behind an array of smoke and/ or darkness so that the models look more adequate then they ought to. at said, the CG used towards the end of the film is consistently good.

There is no sex, minimal side nudity with is not at the least graphic, minimal language and minimal violence, which involves mainly military procedures.


The Day the Earth Stood Still is a film which falters because of its direction. Yes there are factors in the film which don't work but these mainly occur because of the director's approach to the subject matter. The script is not fueled enough to give life to the characters and this becomes an evident difficulty for the actors. The story is far too linear focusing more on tying to masquerade environmentalist messages, instead of trying to intertwine these messages into a story with some substance. Even the CG is a touch-and-go sort of situation. That said the film is not a total failure: it has it's moments. The special effects do look nice at times, and the script does up itself at the rare moment, but it all could have been so much more.


6/10

Screen date: 12 December 2008
Release date: 12 December 2008