‘Sivaji’ and more….

I am a big fan of Rajinikanth and Kamalhassan and never miss(or have missed) any movie of theirs. A lot of people don’t get how I can say that, How I can love them both! It usually is one or the other for most of them but not for me.

I love Kamal’s progressionist thinking, novel ideas and simply, his passion for cinema, not just indian but world cinema. This passion clearly reflects in his work. His comic timing and unlimited multi faceted talent is simply mind boggling. Truly a genius considering how a despite being a 7th grade drop-out he has a natural flair for all languages all art and literature.

Rajini on the other hand is talent with atmost humility. His screen presence, style and charm is simply unmatchable by ANY actor yet. All he has to do is appear on screen and it creates a vibe and connection with the audience. That is no simple task. Not everyone has that kind of presence. Despite his so called ‘average’ looks, scrubby hair, dark skin and lanky body he has the ability to create a fan base in the millions and captive audience to see him in the billions all over the world. That is not any simple task either.

The movie Sivaji totally proves this. The movie has nothing else worthwhile noting but Rajini and Rajini all through. Thottatharani the Art director proves yet again he is the master in his class with his flawless work. Shankar brought a bit of stereotype in his story telling. But it can also be argued as ‘his style’.

Music was totally lackluster with the worst kind of movie background score I have ever heard. I was more disappointed because it was AR Rahman and he ususally gives much better stuff that this. This movie is far below his quality and genius. I wouldn’t even dare comapre this to his usually high class quality like Roja and even his recent Jilliunu Oru Kaadhal. Usually it takes around 15 to 20 listens to start getting/feeling ARR’s music but 50 listens did nothing for me but irritate me more. With the bad immitation of rap and hip hop in ‘Oru koodai sunlight’ and absolutely logicless choice of Udit Narayn for a melody ‘Sahana’ , added to the irritation. The first song of the any Rajini movie, his introduction song usually packs a powerful punch and gives you goose bumps with SPB’s voice and inspiring lyrics perfectly adding to the song. This is the first movie where this song did NOTHING for me. Totally non descript and uninspiring’Balleilakka’. Even SPB’s voice couldn’t come to the rescue. Usually even a bad song sung by SPB can sound better solely attributed by his absolute emotion and purity in his voice. But this one was too far beyond help. ‘Vaaji Vaaji’ is another circus on its own, with madhushree killing and butchering words as usual and a barely memorable interlude music.  The few other songs are not really worth reviewing.

The other actors worth noting are Vivek the comedian/Hero’s side at all times and Suman the Villain. Both are fantastic. Shreya the heroine simply serves as the token, ‘for the sake of balance’ female in the movie. She is totally dispensable from the whole movie. Ofcourse if that happened, there would be zero drooling and oggling, which totally doesn’t work with Indian cinema.

Overall rating for the movie:

Logic – 0
Story idea – 6
Shankar/direction – 6
Thottatharani/Art- 10
Sujatha/Dialog – 8
KV Anand /Cinematography – 9
AR Rahman/music – 2

Rajini – 10
Vivek -10
Suman -10
Shreya - 4 ( a token rating for the token woman who has danced her ass/hips/belly button off for the sake of drool factor)

If this movie has created such records and hit the roof in popularity despite the bad music (usually very essential for a successful movie) and stereotypical logicless story, yes, Shankar’s , AR Rahman’s , AVM’s brand name definitely  had something to do with it, But its mostly all because of and only because of the master of style and charm – Rajini. That’s how much power he has and thats the screen presence I was talking about.

Music and Lyrics

The king of romantic comedies strikes again!

Okay, by now you know that I love Hugh grant movies! So needless to say, I loved this movie too. The thing I love about him is that he doesn’t try too hard to fit in. He found his niche with romantic comedies and comedic light hearted movies in general and he’s sticking to it despite the criticism that he doesn’t do any serious “acting” roles. He says “I know this is what I’m good at, I found the one thing I fit in and its making me money and fame, why would I want to change it?”. How great is that philosophy? And its been working for him for over 15 years now !

In this movie, he plays the character of Alex Fletcher, a washed-up 1980’s pop star who once belonged to a group called “PoP”. Their super hit song was ‘Pop Goes My Heart’. He is now reduced to playing state fairs and high school reunion dances with a standard list of 3 songs from their once hit album. What’s worse is, his fame is burning out. As a last opportunity, Fletcher is given the chance to write and record a duet with pop diva Cora Corman( a take on young stars these days like Shakira and Lindsay Lohan). He just needs to produce a hit song by the end of the week, and Cora needs to approve. Enter Drew Barrymore as Sophie Fisher, the quirky plant lady who has a flair for words. Fletcher convinces a reluctant Fisher to collaborate on the song together. And then you can guess what happens….

This movie is yet another romantic comedy under his belt, but his comedic timing is refreshing every time I see it. Its deft and witty. No matter how empty-headed or fluffy the script or the story is, Hugh Grant manages to charm his way through and uplift the movie from its mediocrity with his charming and charismatic persona. Oh and Who knew Hugh Grant could sing? He has sung all the songs in this “music” based story and he’s surprisingly good !

The video of his 80′s hit “Pop goes my heart” is a fantastic mock and perfectly captures the classic music videos of the 1980’s. It’s use of checkerboard backgrounds, cheesy transitions, split-screens and horrible musical scene reenactments is the highlight of the film!

Grant is well versed at charm, and Barrymore is comfortable as the quirky girl next door. However, the chemistry is severely lacking between the two making their romance a bit random and obligatory almost! This should normally be the death of a romantic comedy, but somehow it isn’t!! There are other things in the movie that make you overlook this flaw. Newcomer Haley Bennett as Cora Coleman has perfectly captured the current state of sex symbolism in pop music

Overall, the movie is a charmer and a delight despite its few flaws. Everyone wants to indulge in some unreal, sappy, ideal moment once in a while , at least I do, and this movie does exactly that.

I rate it 7 out of 10.

Napolean Dynamite

I am a big fan of dry, wry, obscure humor and this movie is the holy grail of all such comedies.

Jon Heder simply rocks as Napoleon, an awkward teenager with an insatiable love for martial arts (which he sucks at), drawing portraits and non-existent animals (which he sucks at) and dance(which he’s awkwardly but hilariously good at). But it’s ok that he sucks – that’s the point. Heder with his huge glasses and red hair, is so perfect for this role and totally justifies it. He’s my rock star ! Heder delivers his dialogue with such passion and timing that a word like “Gosh!” will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. He’s so desperate for attention and so full of crap that you actually find him endearing. He  captivates and captures the geek inside every one of us.

Adding to this insanity is Aaron Ruell as ‘Kip,’ Napoleon’s 31-year-old internet-chatting brother, the understated Efren Ramirez as ‘Pedro,’ Napoleon’s Mexican best friend, and the cute Tina Majorino as Deb, the love interest. Pedro and Napolean as BFF’s(best friends forever) have just made history with their absolutely hilarious chemistry and comedic timing.

Napoleon is a unique character in that he has almost no fear. Be it chucking oranges at his Uncle’s truck, standing up to the school bullies or dancing(awkwardly ofcourse!) his heart out for a friend in front of the entire school, he gives it all without any hesitation or embarrassment. That takes guts.

This movie is so relatable that we feel like we’ve been there ourselves. We’ve all felt like outcasts or geeks at one time or another, and now we have a hero. Under the guise of some of the dumbest and wackiest humor ever , this movie definitely has the potential for a classic in my opinion! This movie has now gone into my list of all time favorite classics.

It’s one of those movies that you watch over and over until you begin quoting the lines to your friends, downloading pictures off the internet, wathcing clips on youtube and reminiscing about your favorite memorable scenes.

I rate this movie a perfect 10 out of 10.

Charlotte’s Web

The current popular trend is to remake almost all mega popular books into movies, thanks to Harry Potter, Wizard of OZ, Dr.Seuss, Polar Express and the list goes on……

Charlotte’s Web is another such movie made from the children’s book authored by E.B White, first published in 1952. It tells the story of a barn spider named Charlotte and her friendship with a pig named Wilbur. It is wildly popular book and has been successful for almost 50 years now.

They should’ve left this book alone.Totally doesn’t work as a movie. This part animation/part motion film has a problem of total miscast whether it comes to animation voices or the actors in the movie. The main character, Charlotte the Spider is more creepy and strange than wise and sweet(as intended originally in the book). Very overrated animation voices with big names like Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Bates, Robert Redford, Thomas Hayden church (total waste of his talent I think!). They really don’t add value or bring anything special to the movie. This movie completely depends on the celebrity value of the voices, but sadly, apart from popularity in Hollywood you also need good talent to make a hit.

I rate this movie 2 out of 10.

Freedom Writers

This is an amazing book and movie based on the true story of Erin Gruwell and the difference she made in this world being a normal person, no fame, no money and no support. Truly a must read book and a must watch movie.

Synopsis :

When Gruwell was a first-year high school teacher in an inner city school in Long Beach, CA, teaching the “unteachables” (kids that no other teacher wanted to deal with), she discovered that most of her students had not heard of the Holocaust. Shocked, she introduced them to books about tolerance. A first-person accounts by the likes of Anne Frank and Zlata Filopvic, who chronicled her life in war-torn Sarajevo. The students were inspired to start keeping diaries of their lives that showed the violence, homelessness, racism, illness, and abuse that surrounded them. These student diaries form the basis of this book. Most readers will be proud to see how these students have succeeded; at the end of their four-year experience, the Freedom Writers as they called themselves, in honor of the Freedom Riders of the 1960s had all graduated; Gruwell now works at the college level, instructing teachers on how to provide more interactive classes for their students.

It was made into a movie last year. I was very skeptical to watch this movie, because usually movies made from books lose its charm and its effect. It loses the impact it makes during the translation. I also kept away from watching this movie because I thought it was another of those movies where a white idealist liberates her non-white students. Thankfully,I was so wrong. This movie is so far beyond all the stereotypes. It beautifully tells the story of how a teacher must be and how big a difference a good one can make. It narrates and shows raw, impacting stories of racism, abuse, gangs and self worth. One of the few movies that was made well , without losing the essence of the book (another recent such project was Fast Food Nation).

The movie features the diary accounts of several teenagers following the L.A. riots, and their teacher’s attempts to make a difference in the lives of her at-risk students. Located in gang-ravaged Long Beach, California, Woodrow Wilson High is a hotbed of violence due to a voluntary integration program which brings Black, Latino, Asian, Cambodian and White students together. Rather than having the desired effect of creating healthy diversity, this program breeds constant war between all parties involved, the result being daily gun shots, constant racial slurs, and gang violence.

Hilary Swank plays the lead role of Erin Gruwell. She is just about alright, a bit flat and monotonous. The casting of the teenagers in her class was flawless. All the kids are phenomenal and perfectly portray the troubled kids with a very sad personal life.

The movie is a bit documentary-ish, extremely dialog oriented and mentally exhausting, but totally worth it. Just a disclaimer.

I rate this movie a 9 out of 10. The book gets a perfect 10 out of 10.

Here’s a link to Erin Gruwell’s foundation and this is her. This is the book.

Spiderman 3

A major thumbs down from me for this movie. I thought it was totally bollywood ( I mean the bad soap opera kind) with all the sentimental stuff, all the love fluff and the excruciating 2 1/2 hour length. Total let down especially if you liked part 1 and 2.

The movie was all over the place. Too many irrelevant, unnecessary villains, too many plot-lines, characters come and go out of the blue all through the movie with no relevance or reference.

I love Thomas Hayden-Church and Topher Grace, but just not in this movie especially as villains. Topher made a very non threatening villain with a name like venom and Thomas Hayden church had an unnecessary background story of why he became a villain, how he has a daughter and he needs to provide for her etc. Common, this a remake of the most action packed super hero comic book! You want a totally evil, mean and threatening villain to give the hero his run for the money. Not some sappy sweet dad who happened to go the wrong path into robbery ! Totally not what I paid for when I went to watch Spidey!

The action sequences probably 30 mins out of the 180 mins were okay, the graphics kinda made it bearable to sit through it in the theater. Still not anywhere close to the previous ones.

And what’s with this new hipster side of Tobey Maguire’s character “Peter Parker” ? That was totally a riot and just laugh out loud funny ! He was supposed to go to the “dark” side with this black spidey suit and turn all menacing and sexually charged , but turned out more like a character out of “The mask” !!

A few years ago when I found out Tobey Maguire was Spiderman, that was hard enough to accept. He makes a great before ( Peter parker) but a bad after (Spidey) In this movie he especially makes a very bad spidey “on the dark side”. Every time he tried to be a hipster, he just turned out to be more dorky(if that’s possible!) but in a better suit !

This lackluster movie gets a 3 out of 10.

Dreamgirls

I just got done watching this movie and all I can say is WOW! This movie is just absolutely exhausting…….in a great way. Exhilarating I should say. I would watch this movie all over again just to feel this physical, emotional exhaustion all over again ! Just pure musical ecstasy.

Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy hands down sweep the whole movie away. I wonder why they were called “supporting” actors when they pretty much carry the movie all around.  With mega stars like Beyonce and Jamie Foxx, they are both easily out shined by J.Hud and Eddie. Of course, every single person in it has done a great job as well.

When I first heard about this movie, I wondered what all the buzz was about. I thought its just another musical adaptation from the original Broadway show “Dreamgirls” which is based on “the Supremes” career rise in the 60′s and 70′s. I also wondered why Jennifer Hudson was getting so much attention with the American idol 7th place and all. But now I know and understand what all the buzz is about. She totally deserves every bit of attention and praise she’s been getting! And she also deserves her sweep of winning every major(or other) award this year.

The Eddie Murphy we all know is a comic genuis, but who knew he is so talented in drama and musicals ! He sings and acts like you’ve never seen him before. I was floored! Now I understand and agree with everyone who was furious and quite shocked about his Academy award miss.

At the end of the day, it is another movie musical, a version of the already blockbuster hit Broadway hit “Dreamgirls” but what makes this movie special is the life, soul and total star quality Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson bring to the movie. It also portrays very aptly the rude, betraying, cutthroat, conniving side of music business.

I rate this movie 9 out of 10.

Notes on a Scandal

Based on the novel by Zoe Heller(short listed for a Booker prize), Notes on a Scandal is a case study in obsessive relationships. A brilliant, salacious and psychologically riveting movie. It is’nt very deep or complex , but it is chilly, mean and gives a very dim view of humanity. Judi Dench the genius that she is , totally justifies her academy award nomination for best actress. She very aptly portrays the character of a cynical, lonely, confused old teacher who often throws herself into a web of obsession trying to finding a “companion”. She is so good that it actually is creepy ! When she comes across the new art teacher in her school(Cate Blanchett) , there starts a misanthropic game of cat and mouse. Cate has done a very promising portrayal of an extremely lonely soul with problematic children and a bland but nice husband.

I rate this movie a 8.5 out of 10.

Fast Food Nation

I loved this book and the movie. The movie especially is interesting because of its fiction type movie making rather than being yet another documentary on fast food.  “Super size me” also a fast food awareness movie,  a documentary,  did not do much for me , because of its one sided, biased mantra – Fast food will kill you. I think we all know its unhealthy, so the whole movie seemed repetitive and irrelevant . It was a noble cause for sure. Kudos to Morgan Spurlock for that but two hours of it got to me.

This movie on the other hand talks about our various fast food chains, their extremely ineffective, inhumane and unhealthy meat handling practices to their ‘temporary workforce’ (aka Illegal immigrants) and its implications on our culture today. It has a cartload of talented actors all playing one-two line parts almost as if they just wanted to be part of this movie no matter what. An absolutely eye opening, life changing, well crafted and executed, sad truth every human being must know. Go Watch it or Read it. Watch it…..preferably.

I rate this movie 9 out of 10.

Crank

This movie was an absolute riot ! Moronic at times, entertaining all through. Oh and not to forget, absolutely riveting and action packed. Jason Statham(of Snatch, The Italian job and The transporter fame) does a fantastic portayal of this sinfully stupid guy who is all heroistic.  A fantastic attempt to break the hollywood action movie rules, totally edgy and outrageous.  If you are a sucker for spoofs, comedy, action or just plain ‘coolity’ , this is movie is your dream come true !

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.