50/50 – Movie Review

It’s not often that you rent a DVD of a movie whose protagonist is fighting cancer and half the time you are laughing. By laughing, I mean, in a positive way, with the seriousness of the issue untouched. Adam, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is the quintessential “nice guy” who is diagnosed with cancer at 27. Armed with a friend who tries to take advantage of this situation to improve his own personal life, this movie deals with the whole process of day to day life of dealing with cancer, the operations and hospital visits, the side effects of the therapy etc.

50/50 Movie Poster

50/50

What sets 50/50 apart from most movies of its genre is the honesty and simplicity in the script. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance is the other driving force behind the movie; he makes it so believable that a 27 year old cancer patient does not have to do anything dramatic with his life that we forget that we are watching a movie about a possible terminally ill person. Most movies which deal with illnesses have been too melodramatic, making the movies more sad than hopeful. The illness there plays a more pivotal role than the character playing it and for a change, watching the illness be just a minor facet of the whole story in this case makes 50/50 a very likable movie. Also, by not over focusing on the personal relationships of the protagonist, the director Jonathan Levine keeps it as natural as possible. Supported by a good cast and some light music, this is one DVD I would not mind renting and watching again. Good job, Jonathan Levine & Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Image Source: http://www.50-50themovie.com/

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Dhobi Ghat

Ala Modalaindi, Dhobi Ghat and my thoughts on Modern Indian Cinema

So we have seen a lot of new age Indian romantic movies or, as the west calls them, rom-coms. Consider a movie made in the 90’s. The story of any these movies starts off with an arrogant girl and an equally arrogant boy hating each other, who end up falling head over heals about each other. Essentially, the story writer then could not take any liberties in modifying this plot and all he/she could do was to modify how/why/where/under what circumstances these two, in some cases three or more also, met, fought and ended up liking each other. The reason I mention the brief history of rom-coms is that the next day after watching Ala Modalaindi, the movie was still making me think of how we have evolved. It made me think of how movies today, the good ones, do not have silly songs where couples keep running around the bushes anymore. It made me think of how the nakhre-waali ladki is no longer the heroine and instead we have a self-confident girl who is clear about her career and decisions. Look how far we have come in terms of character development!

Ala Modalaindi

We rarely see a college student based love-story, like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, thanks to Dil Chahta Hai which started the trend that a story involving folks who work makes more sense. Cinema is truly an reflection of our times. I am not talking about the outrageous southie movies, and Salman Khan movies too, which involve one guy bashing up a hundred goons but the ones like Wake Up Sid and Bommarillu. These did not really have a lot of content and story, like Pyaasa or Don, but the way they presented the protagonists, their confusions and habits, are something at least people from my generation can relate to.

We see more movies these days with the absence of typical love triangles, factionism, fights and stupid dances. Movies today have real-life scenarios like mis-understandings, failures with absence of out-of-the-world coincidences. It is refreshing because any movie which surprises it’s audience, in a pleasant way of course, is what we all want. Don’t we like it when we subconsciously guess the story and it turns out to be something else? Usual Suspects?

Another important improvement has been in screenplay development. We see voice-overs being used in a good way and one of the best examples is Being Cyrus. If you haven’t seen it, give it watch and also listen to it carefully. Even Last Lear had very good voice over effects. We also have non-linear screenplays, the ones flipping back and forth, the ones in which the audience is assumed to understand how the story is going without being told too much, like Johnny Gaddar.

Dhobi Ghat

Last and probably most important is the increase in the number of women behind the camera and this brings me to Ala Modaliandi. At the intermission of the film, my friend casually mentioned, don’t movies with women directors have more mature stories? This movie had many ups and a few downs but on the whole was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The humor was witty and the characters had more off-beat jobs, like reality TV directors, veterinarians, social activists amongst others.

Another movie in the same style is Dhobi Ghat, which was relaxedly paced as if the director was in no hurry to tell the story, sub plots into which she did not dwell too much and the best of all, usage of songs only as a background music.  A trend which Rang De Basanti had set, where the song is either a part of the story or is just something in the background. I would love to see more of that, where I cannot fast forward the songs and not miss anything, irrespective of the nature of the songs. Telugu films of the 60s used songs as the only mode of expressing romance. There rarely were any dialogs/proposals etc as  a part of the dialogs and this made the songs more meaningful and also more enjoyable.

So, I believe that the day is not far when we can stop bothering about the star cast and look at the makers of the film to decide whether to watch it or skip it. And one of these days, we might also not have any hype around a movie and have to see its cast on every reality show a week before its release. Hopefully.

P.S. By no means am I criticizing the movies of the old, but am appreciating the improvement in the quality of Indian cinema. Also, technical details like cinematography and art direction are not relevant in this discussion since they would not make a difference in the quality of cinema.

Image Courtesy: Random “Watch Movies Online” sites, found via google, which promote piracy and do not deserve to be linked.

Movie Marathon Weekend!

Qureshi said “When we are young, the opportunities seem endless”. And trust me, that was very the belief even I had when I was 18 years old and was watching three movies back to back on every lazy weekday afternoon during summer vacation. I believed, with unparalleled naivety, that I could go on doing that till I kick the bucket. For this very reason, I wanted to name this post as “The Arrogance of the Youth” but since Billy boy has copyrighted it, I did not want to fight with him in court.

It has been a while since I have done a college-like-marathon and I recently decided to do it again. It would be fatal to spend 8 to 9 hrs of a weekday, watching movies while you work and more so when you are working for yourself. This last weekend, the one that breezed by without anyone of us knowing it’s presence, I decided to give myself a shot. Picked a theme as “Movies with Unique Premises” and saw eight movies in 2 days. Yes 8. I bettered my 18yr old self. Ha! For the benefit of my dear readers, who WordPress says are over 70,000, I present my list. (Premises & One Phrase Reviews only).

1. All the Real Girls – The biggest womanizer in town falls in love with his wing man & best friend’s younger sister who’s just back from a boarding school after 10 years.  Review: Interesting but damn slow. Watchable.

2. Brothers – A young man, who has served time in a prison for a rape, comforts his older brother’s wife and children after the older brother,  a US Army Captain, is thought to have been dead in Afghanistan. As time passes, the older brother returns back. Review: Watchable but slow.

3. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People –  A British journalist feels like fish out of water while working for a high profile corporate magazine in New York. Review: BAD. Unwatchable.

4. The Bucket List – Two old men who are informed that they will die in an year, prepare an amazing to-do list and and set out to accomplish everything in that list before they die. Review: Lovely story. Fantastic performance by Jack Nicholson.

5. Lucia Y El Sexo – Lucía, a young waitress in Madrid, seeks refuge at the favourite island of her long-time boyfriend, a writer, after he goes missing. In the midst of fresh air and clear waters, she begins to discover more about her boyfriend and get to know that he used his tragic reality to write his stories. Review: A wonderful plot but with excessive obscenity. Ah Vega! (Saw this Spanish movie without subtitles \m/)

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Eternal Favorite.

7. Chasing Amy – A straight comic book writer falls in love with a lesbian much to the displeasure of his co-author best friend. Review: Very Interesting Story. Definitely Watchable.

8. V for Vendetta –  Set in a near future Britain, which is filled with torture cells and unfair punishments, ruled by an anarchist Chancellor, where one man V, stands up against this government to take revenge for what they have done to him by declaring that he will blow up the Parliament on the 5th of November. The 120 minutes of this movie shows us why V wants to take such a prolonged revenge and whether he will be able to. Review: Gripping Story. Amazing Screenplay and dialogs. A totally #Cult movie. And I believe it a fitting tribute to end this post with a quote from this amazing movie.

Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.

P.S. There is no actual link between the Calvin strip and the post.

Agora – Movie Review

Atheists of the world, Unite!

Agora

Set in the backdrop of the glorious city of Alexandria of 491 A.D., Agora, the forgotten story of the first communal war in the history of mankind, is brought to life by a very famous Spanish director. Taking a bird’s eye view of the world at that time, the movie focuses impartially on its three warring parties, the Pagans, the Christians and one single Atheist. It traces the lives of that atheist, her slave and the General of that city who was once her student.

Though much of the screen time is covered by its big star Rachel Weisz playing Hypatia, Davus, her slave who is confused between supporting his people and his master, was my protagonist. He shows that however far we are today in 2010 from 491 AD, we still fight in the name of God and destroy everything in our way. When I say we, I mean “Humans”. There are in that mob, many people who did not want to fight, did not want to hurt others but were dragged into it by their indecisiveness and peer pressure, and then too had some soft corner for some people. He was an Atheist, a Christian and a Pagan all at once, which is the state of most of the world population today.

With marvelous sets and special effects, the movie also brings to light that amidst this war, we had lost lives, money and more importantly, the great library of Alexandria, which if was untouched that day, would have helped us reach the moon some 300 years back itself! Coupled with some minor flaws, this movie is a good watch for a blank mind on a serious day.

Leader – Short Movie Review

మా తెలుగు తల్లికి మల్లెపూదండ,
మా కన్నతల్లికి మంగళారతులు,
కడుపులో బంగారు కనుచూపులో కరుణ,
చిరునవ్వులో సిరులు దొరలించు మాతల్లి.

When you opened the news paper today morning or switched on any news channel, what was the first thing that you saw? A hyped up tennis star’s wedding to a Pakistani cricketer who has several cases on his head? Match results of how one Bollywood star’s commercialized cricket team defeated another in a league game? Political activists protesting against cheerleaders in those games? In the worst case, Women’s Bill, which is of no use to the 500 million Indian women.

India is a nation torn between terrorism, naxalism, an incompetent government, bollywood, racism, cricket and utterly negligent public. Rubbishing the Mahatma has become an unofficial national pastime, says this good man. But yet, once in a while, miracles do happen. Ladies and gentlemen, one supremely lazy bugger had warned me strongly that against watching this movie Leader and assured me that it will put me to sleep. I took the risk.

Set in the midst of a political crisis where the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh has been assassinated and his rivals try to gain control, the young son of the deceased  CM is determined to be the next CM. The first half deals with the trauma of his father passing away and how with the help of a few friends, he manages to win the majority and becomes the CM. The genuine political craftsmanship with which the protagonist outwits his rivals is a treat to watch.  The rest half of the movie is how he fights all odds to retain the seat.

We all rubbish our state so much but how many here can actually write fluently in a language we have been speaking and reading since we were born?

Blended with some nice  numbers and one song in particular”Maa Telugu Thalli Ki“, this pseudo-offbeat movie is a good entertainer with a social message, something which one wouldn’t mind. From a Telugu Film Industry perspective, this is a welcome change.

Give it a watch!

Best,

SuperTramp

P.S. I loved the way the Mahatma’s statue was pictured in this film.

P.P.S. My shortest movie review ever, also the first Gult Review 😀

The Namesake vs The Namesake

For an event sometime back, I had to write an essay where I had to compare a movie and a book. I chose ‘The Namesake’. Following is my essay.


“Remember that you and I made this journey and went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go”

The journey that the gentleman has mentioned above, to his son was put into words by Jhumpa Lahiri and was given life by Mira Nair. While critics, viewers and readers may eternally argue as to which adaptation was better of the two, one thing everyone has agreed upon is the fact that “The Namesake”, simple, elegant and slow, is a classic, a masterpiece.

We will get into the book and movie debate a little later into the essay since for that we must first know the plot & the essence of “The Namesake”.  When we migrate away to a land of opportunity, we take along with us our culture into this new land of a diametrically opposite culture. The result is a pseudo-equilibrium where, in spite of a peaceful adaption, we want to cling on to our old self & culture. In this process, what we tend to overlook is that our future generations who will be  born in this new land will be at peace with the new culture and ours will be the alien one. This confusion of identities and the feeling of belonging to both the East & the West is the essence of the story. This is the story of Ashima & Ashoke Ganguli, one such immigrant Bengali couple, and their migration to Massachusetts, United States. Its focus is on their son Gogol, the protagonist, who considers himself American and hence does not identify with his parents. The book traces his journey from being Gogol to Nikhil, and being Gogol again or in other words, to reconnect with his family.

To compare a book & its movie adaptation is not an altogether a right thing to do, in spite of that being the objective of this essay. These are two aspects, since the book is for a softer audience who have the patience to go through each and every page and want detail and the viewer of the movie wants the complete story in under 100mins along with the dialogues, music, screenplay etc coupled with a little silence. To do justice to these two forms of art, we will treat each of them independently and come to a conclusion.

The book is the father of the movie & we will take it first. A few adjectives for the book are: eloquent, subtle, slow, extensively detailed, slight humorous and emotions varying from moderate happiness to extreme grief but never more than happy. It is not one of those books of ‘Feel Good’ or of hope. It’s the story of one man’s decision to traverse to a new land and the difficulties faced by him & his family there. It is hence, in my humble opinion, a story of emotions. The past and the present have been handled with great imagination just as it would have been done as if it were a movie. The stress on the Bengali culture and the reactions of Gogol throughout the book makes one visualize them with absolute ease. Since to reveal the complete story would be unfair on the part of the reader of this essay, we will leave the book here.

The movie begins with how Ashoke & his wife Ashima met, moved to the US, and then started a family. It tries to relate the viewers to the parents, thereby allowing us to see them in a way their son Gogol could not. The movie links Gogol’s childish immaturity and generation gap and his self searching effort with great care for human emotion, keeping intact the essence of the book. His discovery of the true relevance of his name finally also means for him to understand his parents and their struggles. At the end of the movie, one could relate to the characters as this is the story of a regular Joe. It is an experience of watching the life of a family rather than merely character.

The artistic craft & detail with which each scene is made resonates the essential spirit of the movie. There are so many occasions where the movie has added a little more than the book, like the garlands in the airport back in Calcutta, the shabbiness at the wedding, Ashoke’s hairstyle, the language, the accent of Ashima, the silent & sometimes silly romance between Ashoke & Ashima, the way Gogol plays with his mother’s sari when he’s young, Meera Maashi, and so on…… they add life to make the viewer stand up and feel the reality. That said, it’s not without flaws which I do not wish to discuss.

All in all the movie is enthralling because of powerful performances from the lead cast and being brilliantly shot by Mira Nair. It’s fast and never tends to stop at any place for too long thereby taking care of the audience’s interest levels too. That said the book is a classic with its slow, narration and detail and since that essentially is the reason for the movie coming into the world, deserves a great applause.

So I guess this is where I tell you what I thought, my conclusion, right? Well, my conclusion is that they will appeal to different audiences but the movie, I hate to say, is for once, more enjoyable than the book. I read somewhere that it’s always good to end an essay with a quote.

Go see the world, you will never regret it.

Watch Namesake. If possible, with your loved ones. Its one experience you won’t regret!

 

Best,
Supertramp

Movie – On IMDB    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433416/
Book –  At Flipkart  http://www.flipkart.com/book/namesake-jhumpa-lahiri/0007258917

(500) Days of Summer – Movie Review

This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen, grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met the one. The girl, Summer Finn, did not share this belief. You should know up front this is not a love story.

Decades of romantic movies have successfully convinced generation after generation that everyone on this planet has one and only one soul-mate and irrespective of looks, wealth, intelligence and character, he or she WILL get that one. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the premise of 500 Days of Summer!

Lets take one guy, any guy. He might have been single at sometime or still is and hopes that somewhere out of the blue gets to be with that over-rated “soul mate” of his and if he’s too much of a dreamer, probably hopes to live happily ever after too with that person. He has seen so many romantic movies like the ones doled out every day, the one’s with happy endings where the guy and the girl are opposites and fight and finally get back together in the last scene, and has convinced himself that such love exists.

Now lets take a girl, not any girl. An arrogant and pretty girl who thinks this soul mate idea is silly and believes that she is clear about what she wants and very clear that she doesn’t want a boyfriend.

If you agree with either of these two people, let me tell you, this movie goes out and out to prove you totally wrong and also make you feel  good about being wrong. It’s a brutally honest story of one guy who falls in and out of love, told in a comic book style with non-linear screenplay and sticks to it, throughout the 95 minutes, with a narrative script which gives an impression that this has been written with a clear intention of being made into a movie.  And boy am I glad it was written. Yes, now is when the reader should know that this IS a wonderful movie.

Tom: Ok but wait–wait. What happens, if you fall in love?

Summer: You don’t believe that, do you?

Tom: It’s love, it’s not Santa Claus.

Plot:

Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as told above, believes in fate and has waited all his life for that one girl who will sweep him off his feet. One day, Tom sees Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) and feels she’s the ONE. Like any other romantic movie, they are totally different and yet they get along perfectly. Summer eventually proposes that they stop seeing each other. Can Tom move on from this “break-up” or will he eventually do all he can to win Summer back?

“To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die”

Screenplay:

Crazily Awesome. An omniscient narrator sets the tone by telling you what’s happening and what is not, taking you through the various scenes in an absolute haphazard manner such that you will never feel bored or even overwhelmed with all the complex scenes and numbers that keep popping up on screen. It jumps to and fro from the days when Tom and Summer are together to when they are apart. Then there are scenes where some non-conventional film styles are used, changes in film color, screen splits. There is a high chance that you might not agree that this is not a love story in nature but who cares?

There’s a killer scene on Reality vs Expectations which is a wonderful idea. (Will use it when I make a movie :D)

Soundtrack:

This movie is the directional debut of a guy who makes music videos. Felt there were some good songs while watching the movie but don’t remember any now to put it up here. Might add later if I like any of those, when I watch again and again :D.

Acting:

In a very crisp movie, the protagonists do a wonderful job. Joseph Gordon Levitt got a Golden Globe nomination for this. There is no phenomenal performance from any one specifically but sincerely done by all who stick their roles. Zooey Deschanel has done all crazy roles so far and expecting more and more. It’s pretty similar to her role in Yes Man.

Final Verdict:

Romantic films today, concern themselves with cute ideas, take ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ or ‘Serendipity’ for example. They are good, funny etc but not they forget about real people. The couple in (500) Days of Summer have true chemistry. Some of the moments are captured with simplicity that we feel like smiling even if there is a break up on the scene.

In my humble opinion, this movie was probably made with while the director was watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Great effort, almost felt like it’s younger sibling. 100% Recommendation. Watch it NOW!

P.S. Official Promo:

P.P.S. – It’s presently ranked at 233 on IMDB 250.

P.P.P.S. Best quote:

Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin and they end with no lasting memory made in between. Most days have no impact on the course of a life. May 23rd was a Wednesday.