Month: December 2011

Cinema 2011: The year in Cinema

Dutch Video Artist Kees van Dijkhuizen makes a wrap up video for the past few years ( check out his previous work by clicking here).  A lot of times us film fans become a bit cynical around this time of year. I know I do, so always good to have a look back at all the awesomeness that was the year 2011.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays to all our readers!

Check out Kees’ Tumblr for more of his work

Don 2 (3D) Review

Our favorite suave and chique crime lord Don is back after escaping from Interpol agents Roma (Priyanka Chopra) and Malik (Om Puri) in the first part of this franchise. We pick up the story after a 5-year gap (most of which Don has spent growing his hair and getting a butt ugly tattoo probably as the trend of wearing a tie under your shirt wasn’t taking off)

After becoming the ruler of Asia’s drug empire, he has now set his eyes on conquering Europe too. The top gaudy shirted crime bosses of Europe get together to get rid of Don but by doing so they set into motion the return of the king. This time his plan is to steal the currency plates for Euro Notes, I think he probably watched Lethal Weapon 4 a few times when he was kicking back and having his hair braided by Apache Indian’s stylist, but to do this he needs to get a key to a safe containing a video tape from Vardhan (Boman Irani), his nemesis from the earlier adventure who’s locked up in a Kuala Lumpur jail. Will Don be able to bust out Vardhan, steal the Euro plates, wipe out his enemies and finally become the king of crime in both Europe and Asia?

 

Where as the 2006 Don was a remake/re-imagining, the twist it added set the movie up as a slick action thriller franchise. The sequel takes us into the heist genre following the usual tropes i.e. setting up the heist with blue prints and lasers, getting a crew together each with a specialized skill set, things go wrong during the heist and then the big reveal. The movie is quite action heavy and the set pieces are very glossy and precision engineered. The team will be glad to hear that they are on par with stunt sequences reminiscent of the James Bond or Mission Impossible franchises, and that is clearly what the film makers were intending. I particularly enjoyed the initial Muay Thai double cross in Asia and the main car chase in the middle of the movie.

Unfortunately the action scenes are very heavily inspired by some of the above mentioned movies, also they are trying to match that level but never surpassing or adding anything original to the mix. Barring arguments about budgets, this is something that Korean, Thai or even French cinema is able to do much better and hence has a more unique voice in the global cinematic landscape, maybe this is one of the struggles Hindi Film cinema will continue to have until they develop a confident identity and vision.

 

This brings us to the fundamental flaws in the screenplay. As an audience we are trained to inherently root for the good guy. The hero dishooms his way through a pack of villains and vindicates the social injustices we identify with. The original Don’s main intrigue was about a simple guy, Vijay, infiltrating a crime organization for the future of his adopted street children and a sense of civic duty.

You want him to succeed in his mission whenever he is danger of his secret identity being disclosed by police or gangsters. You cared for Vijay’s well being.

When you take that away that suspense from the audience, as was the case in the 2006 version, understandably you feel cheated. You loose track of why you are rooting for the protagonist and only your affinity for the actors on screen makes ithe movie a satisfying experience. The cache of the actors involved for both Priyanka and ShahRukh was on a much higher level in 2006 then it is now.

Although Don is now the king of Asian drug trafficking, in the screenplay as a character his crimes are white washed.  We don’t see him doing any “evil deeds” or get any retribution for his actions whatsoever, Don is and remains a bad guy form start to finish without any character development.

Shahrukh has played anti heroes before in Baazigar and Darr that have been dubbed grey or negative characters but of each characters as an audience member you understood the motivation and story arc, be it obsession for revenge or love. I do think his role in Anjaam was overwhelmingly negative and to my recollection Anjaam flopped because of that. Don is a different beast.

He isn’t a “steal from the rich, give to the poor” kind of criminal. He is a vicious drug lord wanted in pretty much every country (which would make his mom proud as he proudly proclaims).

We are expected to root for this character and many times I was left wondering why we should do that? Just because Shahrukh looks cool? (again his coolness has lost a lot of its sheen since ’06) Or because he says please and thank you? Also where is his gang? Where are his minions? He seems to be very hands-on when it comes to pulling capers?

Director Farhan Akhtar mentioned when we spoke to him on our podcast that he also struggles with why audiences’ root for Don as a character and I don’t think he ever really figures it out during the entire movie and the only thing we are left with is… “Isn’t’ Shahrukh awesome?”  (as a disclaimer, yes he is awesome)

 

The whole set up of Don 2 is that he wants to be a billionaire and wipe out all his enemies, of which all the information is contained on a again a mythical disk that acts as a mcguffin through the rest of the flick. You reach the intermission and ask yourself what are the stakes in this movie?

Are we just here to see a bad guy do more bad stuff (ie  kill hostages and security guards by his henchmen) and if he has planned everything in detail as we are intended to believe then the innocents killed are on his conscience making the character very hard to like.

 

As a side note, I was watching a very interesting Star Wars documentary called “The People vs. George Lucas”, it spoke partly about how George Lucas made the first Star Wars when he started wanted to have control of his own movies and image and wanted to rail against the established studios by being a rebel outside of the system.  But now after living years off of his franchise and desperately trying to protect his “vision” ended up becoming the system himself. Watching Don 2 made me draw a parallel between George Lucas and Shahrukh’s career.

Shahrukh in the same way started out breaking all the classical hero molds. He took on supporting roles, off beat characters and small scales movies when Hindi film leads were not willing to experiment. This became the reason we love our Shahrukh, the reason we want to see him on screen, the nostalgia we feel when we call him King Khan.

And now quite ironically, he has become the one hero who has become most rigidly stuck in the image he has created.

But it’s been a rough year for SRK and I don’t think the detractors will change their tune after seeing Don, which is unfortunate but also understandable after the oversaturation people fell after marketing mayhem of Ra.One and now Don 2.

 

Following the rules of sequelitis, this one is bigger, better, flashier but the ’78 Saleem Javed version delivered something that was still memorable after 20 years. So much so that it has been remade in different eras as well as languages and regions. No one will be remaking Don 2 in 20 years and people that aren’t on board of the SRK or Piggy Chops train, won’t come out of theatres won over by the movie.

 

Although the loopholes in the screenplay, the dialogues penned by Farhan Akhtar himself are fun zingy one liners that had me half smirking in the quintessential SRK way quite a few times. I did purposefully stay away from the “Don Says’ virals on the net as I didn’t want the impact of the dialogues spoilt outside of context and this was a major win for me. Also since I am not a fan of those desperate marketing experiments, which are the equivalent of entertainment fast food that neither the performers nor the audience truly enjoy, and if they do, shame on them!

 

The soundtrack has been a pretty big disappointment and lacks anything catchy or mythical for us to buy or even revisit the album. Unlike Don ’06 we missed Kareena’s sizzling item number and there isn’t a “Khaike paan banaras wala” to lift the spirits either. The background score is slightly better and makes the heist and the action scenes more impactful.

In a way this makes the movie less Bollywood and maybe missing what the French call ” I don’t know what?”

 

The stunts are shot exquisitely shot (actually most of the cinematography is great by Jason West. Who is also playing one of the baddies, if I haven’t misread the cast list) they are very much competing with the MI franchise but unfortunately never taking it ever further. The execution is top notch but it looses out in creativity.

 

I chose to see Don 2 in 3D even if I am not a big fan of post converted movies (I haven’t seen any that I have liked or felt that the 3D added anything more). The 3D adds a sense of depth to the action scenes and but also points out the low budget design of the movies CGI. What 3D can provide something more is to the dance sequences in Zara Dil Ko Thamlo, But again since there was only one song and not much choreography required, there wasn’t much left. (My hopes are still high for Shrish Kunder’s Joker, next year, which IS shot in 3d and not post converted)

I wouldn’t shell out for the premium ticket for 3D if you are on a budget or anything and don’t enjoy wearing the glasses.

Unless like me you are not biased against 3D or just want to see a hindi 3D movie.

 

The 2 other niggles I had with the movie were Priyanka Chopra as performer and the character of Roma and her team at Interpol.

Interpol never provides a foil for Don or any threat, weakening the dramatic tension. Roma was an innocent victim of Don and collaborated with Interpol as an undercover mole, now she seems to be a Special Agent and the bright shining future of the team and there isn’t a moment her ability to do anything except pout and point out whatever is obvious on screen. Here is an example of her investigative method: “We see 2 people in the car, BUT now there is only 1 person so someone must have stepped out of the car” – No shit, Sherlock!

Not even the local German police takes this version of Interpol seriously, neither do the banking officials (who seem to have the power to offer immunity to felons)

 

On top of that Roma struts around every time Don surrends as if she actually did anything to catch him, which she clearly didn’t. Her introduction to the movie is where she has forgotten her colleagues’ birthday… and this is the agency that is chasing Don, the most notorious criminal, no wonder they haven’t gotten anywhere.

Priyanka does look ravishing and is quite impressive in the final action scene where she kicks some ass with really skinny arms.

Too bad for her she again gets outshone by the supporting actress who is wearing a gold dress, last time Kareena, this time Lara Dutta.

 

Overall I would say, I had been really excited for Don 2 and I liked it but it’s not going be on anyone’s top 10 of the year list. It’s a very slick, enjoyable and above all well made movie reminding me of Excel’s Game, released earlier this year. The star power and the brand recognition of Don 2 will carry this movie further in terms of Box office then it did for Game.

And I do have to admit that I walked out of the theater humming the title track, popping my collar and sneer- smirking like only a wanted man does….

 

 

Spoiler Section:

  • Having been cheated once before in the earlier Don, you start to expect a twist at the end of this one. I wouldn’t want the Don franchise become a N Shymalan style movie where most of the impact is lost just because you as an audience member don’t want to me cheated and just sit there waiting for a twist.
  • Hritik Roshan’s cameo: Don goes undercover as Hritik followed by a Mission Impossible 2 style mask taking off, which was illustrated in one of the posters that came out earlier. Although a preposterous set up ( MI did put in the effort to explain how the managed to copy the voice and mannerisms, here it’s not the case) it was quite fun to see Hritik even if it was for a short while. It made me wonder when will we get to see Hritik play a bad ass? But then I thought of the Agneepath traier and it was like my wish will be granted very soon
  • More effort should have been put into establishing Interpol’s credibility, instead of introducing us to them by talking about missed birthdays, maybe talk about a case Roma just cracked? would have given her a bit more development as a character.
  • Some of the influencesI picked up watching the movie:
    • Die Hard and the Nakatomi heist, up to the final climax where Don arches his arms back when he is close to surrendering. I was hoping they would just go completely meta and make SRK say something like: “Yippikay kutte!”).
    • Mission Impossible 1: face masks, heist, poison pen, fire brigade escape, upside down safe crack
    • MI 2: Don’s get up in the finale
  • Shah Rukh’s hair foibles: Seriously what look were they trying to go for?

Let us know what you thought of Don 2? We have a podcast discussion with our good friend Danny Bowes about Don 2 going up in a couple of days so keep your iTunes feeds updated!

@asimburney

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Dark Knight Rises Trailer!

Ladies and Gentleman, book the rest of your week! The Final chapter of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy comes to an end summer next year. And it will remain the most anticipated movie of 2012 at least for most of Upodcast.

Having just seen Warrior where Dark Knight Rises main anti hero Bane, played by Tom Hardy has one of the two main leads, we have an inkling of the kind of powerhouse performance the actor can bring. For those who are aware of the comic book character, and not the Joel Schumacher version , Bane was the villain that broke Batman’s back.

Unlike the previously released teaser, the trailer mostly contains fresh images from the movie and as in the Dark Knight, Nolan has shot extensively with IMAX camera’s.

Are you looking forward to the Dark knight Rises?

Let us know in the comment section below!

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Dictator Trailer: ” America, the birthplace of Aids”

The trailer for comedic genius’ Sacha Baron Cohen follow up to the moderately succesfull Bruno has just been released and he seems to be back to his Borat roots playing a dictator of the fictionalized evil republic of Wadiya.

 

 

A bit of Ghadaffi, a bit of Uday Hussein sprinkled with some celebrity appearances and crude humour, just the kind of mix we love.

And any trailer that has “Beware of the Boys” from Jay-Z (the remix of Mundian to Bach Ke form Punjabi MC) as a background score can only be amazing!

Via MovieFone

The Dictator releases May 2012.

@asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta

Review Ladies vs Ricky Bahl

Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma and director Maneesh Sharma come together once again under the YRF banner after their sleeper hit of last year Band Baaja Baarat, Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl is called a Rom-Con puntastically and banks heavily and is pretty much built around the popularity of the leading man, after Ranveer’s debut which almost ecplipsed his co-star unfairly.

 

Here we follow grifter Ricky Bahl (Ranveer Singh) under his different guises as he cons Daddy’s Girl Dimple in Delhi (Parineeti Chopra) as a gym trainer, no non-sense business lady Raina in Mumbai as an art critic (played by former model Dippanita Sharma) and before that as shy garment manufacturer from a small village so where he duped the innocent Saira played by Aditi Sharma in Lucknow (Probably the most “evil” of cons).

The swindled ladies want to get back their money, respect or “boyfriend” back and hire salesgirl Ishika (Anushka Sharma) to con the “conner”.

 

Up to this point in the story (which is pretty much the interval) the movie is a joyous ride of the different cities, accents, get-ups, cultures and each of the different scams of which especially the one in Delhi is fun to watch.  We see firecracker Ranveer proving his debut was not a fluke and he truly is a guy to watch out.  Anushka makes an energetic introduction in Jazba, shaking her behind in front of dubbawhala’s in a station and Parineeti has us pretty much cracking up in every scene she is in almost playing a spoilt version of Shruti Kakkar, or is just that no nonsense Delhi accent she puts on? It makes certainly makes us look forward to her forthcoming movie Ishqzaade with Arjun Kapoor.

But then things start to go downhill as soon as the focus shifts to the duped trying to get back at Ricky.

 

As we discussed during our Matchstick Men Upodcast about con movies, a con movie is only as good as the con, and here there is not a moment that you truly believe that these girls will be able to have the upper hand on Ricky. What remains is the love story, which is underdeveloped, and when it does pop up, it comes out of nowhere.

If the pacing of a movie engrossing you don’t realize some loopholes but this is not the case in Ladies vs Ricky Bahl and the pace actually drops in the scenes were Ranveer isn’t present.

 

Although the supporting actresses are talented, and Saira was channeling a bit of Yasmeen from Dhobi Ghaat)

Both Anushka and Ranveer look great but as an audience member you almost feel cheated as I didn’t feel there was enough of them in the 2nd half of the movie. We never really get to understand Ricky and in a very “500 Days of Summer”- way we only see the version of Bloody Kamina that the victims of his cons show us. Making it that even the climactic scenes of character growth feel like they materialized out of thin air. I do think Ranveer was trying to channel a bit of Tanni from Rab Ne Banadi Jodi (before the reveal) looking at everything with mysterious glances, is he aware that he is being conned? Or is he just playing along? But this is probably just the performance trying to add more to an underdeveloped script.

Anushka is radiant, and there was lots of talk of her weight loss, some going as far as to shout anorexia but she manages to fill the screen with a positive energy that no other contemporary actress has.  Some actresses ooze class, some sensuality, Anushka manages to do both and adds a girl next-door charm.

And god that smile… too bad Ishika, the character, doesn’t live up to the talent of this amazing performer.

 

The visuals are glossy as Christmas ornaments; every scene has the popping energy that we are used to YRF studios (I do wonder if this is a look that will translate to the US movies they are now producing)

 

The songs are mediocre although choreographed marvelously. I did feel that the undershirt dance in title track was reminiscent of the studios massive hit Dhoom 2′ s “Dhoom Machale”. The song placement is balanced and the performances by the leads against are so energetic they are enjoyable even though you wont be buying the soundtrack anytime soon (something I haven’t done either, although that jazz sample in the title track is pretty awesome)

Every close up is shot with lots of fans so hair is always flopping around, something I might have found more annoying as I was sitting super close to the screen.  (I could actually see a couple of nose hairs poking out of Ricky’s pulling me totally out of the moment, I hope I didn’t spoil any moments)

 

All in all Ladies vs Ricky Bahl is quite fun and enjoyable even though I don’t imagine it ending up on any best of 2011 lists. Something I am preparing for a future Bollywood Upodcast so keep checking us out. Maneesh Sharma needs a better screenplay next time but it’s quite tough to capture lightning in a bottle. If you don’t go with the expectations of another Band Baaja Baraat, you will have a great time.

 

Something more:

 

  • I would love to see what Ranveer can do coming out of the YRF banner. The guy has such a screen presence and could totally take on more challenging and edgier roles if given the chance.

 

  • I would like to see Anushka Sharma in pretty much everything, she s such a delight to watch.

 

  • Ladies vs Ricky Bahl is another in a long line of Yash Raj con after Bunty Aur Babli, Badmaash Company, the Dhoom series and in some ways even Rab Ne Banadi Jodi. Maybe Band Baaja Baraat connected more with audiences, as it was a movie about hard work and graft? Something we don’t seem to get as much in contemporary Hindi cinema.
  • It seems that Yash Raj studios have no idea how to portray the business world actually works.  Salesmen are equated with con men (something that was also raised in last years Rocket Singh-Salesmen of the Year) and seem to be proud of duping their customers, something I inherently disagree with. Even Raina’s who’s supposed to be a hardnosed corporate manager also has to deal with interior decoration and also being a part time art critic

 

 @asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta

Upodcast Interviews Farhan Akhtar for Don 2

When we posted the generic media interview a couple of days ago we put ourselves the challenge that if we get to interview Farhan Akhtar for his forthcoming movie Don 2, we would as much better questions. Lo and behold Asim got a chance to squeeze in an exclusive chat with Farhan whilst he was visiting Dubai for the international Premiere.

Although allegedly Shahruh was in the same room as this interview happened, we had to wrestle down our nerves to ask one of our favorite filmmakers some questions about revisiting a character much loved and how things have changed for Don, we ask about the post conversion to 3D and why certain action scenes remind us of other movies.

Have a listen to our podcast below and let us know what you thought of our chat in the comment section below.

@asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta

Ep 43 Save Community, Tin Tin and the Secret of the Unicorn and The Devil’s Double

Quick, quick, Upod needs your help trying to save one of the best Comedy shows currently on TV!  Dan Harmon’s brainchild starring a bunch of awesome people is a local Community college in danger of being shut down, way ahead of its time and to the detriment of all who believe in intelligent creative writing.  We pick up the campaign inspired by this piece in the Atlantic Wire.

And as part of the Community program, there are wider issues to discuss such as the perceived rise in popularity of “slow TV” from an article on the BBC website about The Killing and the Wire (click here).  We sort through Sarah Lund’s woolly jumpers, Stringer Bell’s extra large clothes and much more, in the jumble sale* of quality TV drama and comedy.

Pretty much on TiVo fast forward, Ahmed tells us what TV we should have been watching recently (and what we shouldn’t have), Martin waxes lyrical about Tin Tin and Asim can’t quite admit that Immortals isn’t as good as it shoulda woulda coulda  been and reviews the new Andrew Niccols Sci Fi starrring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, In Time.

All of this before the grand finale: Lee Tamahori’s shot at cinematic redemption, The Devil’s Double.  Dominic Cooper stars in the movie about the ill-fated plan to play Uday Hussein’s body double.  Fast cars, loose women, designer clothes…

Here’s the trailer:

 

We’ll leave the rest for you to discover in the podcast!

* A Jumble sale is where you bring all your old stuff to say a church hall and then sell it.  Very popular with schools and Scouts etc when I was growing up.

@martincawley

 

Imagesource: BadHaven

Enhanced by Zemanta

Don 2 Interview with Director Farhan Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar one of my favorite directors/producers has been doing some interviews during some media round table. Upodcast were unfortunately not invited, if we were the questions would have been a hell of a lot geekier 😉 but we are lucky enough to post some of his thoughts about his forthcoming sequel Don 2 starring Shahrukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra amongst many others.

We posted some exclusive pictures earlier but now let’s hear from the filmaker himself.

Enjoy!

Tell us something about Don 2.
I really don’t know what to say about the film as that way I will be giving out the whole story. It has been fun, challenging yet a satisfying journey so far to make this movie. I was guilty of saying that I won’t probably make a sequel of Don, but my obsession with the character got the better of me. With amazing help and support and almost a sharing of vision with Ritesh (Sidhwani, producer) and Shah Rukh and rest of the team, I could not help but make Don 2.

Who is the ‘King’ of Don 2: The King is Back?
The King of Don 2 is undoubtedly Shah Rukh Khan.

Did you consult your father and writer Javed Akhtar on the script of Don 2?
Whatever film I write, I give it to him (Javed Akhtar) to read. I want him to give his feedback on screenplay, dialogues. He is somebody who is extremely experienced, somebody who is very good with the art and craft of writing; and fortunately I have this kind of access to him. It makes sense for me to use him and I use him to get feedback on not only this, but every script.

When you were making Don: The Chase Begins Again, you consulted Salim Khan (Salim-Javed being the screenplay writer of Amitabh Bachchan‘s Don in 1978). Did you do the same this time too?
I had gone to him to request him to give permission to make the film. I thought it was important that people who worked on the earlier film be happy with the remake we had made. So I met him regarding that, not the screenplay or such things. He was very, very kind and completely wished us all the best for the remake. Hopefully that applies to the sequel as well.

In the 2006 film, you retained some of the dialogues from the 1978 film like Don Ko Pakadna Mushkil Hi Nahi Namumkin Hai. Are you trying some new lines in the sequel or want to carry forward the legacy?
There are other dialogues in the film of course. For us, the line you just spoke about, strike a chord. But who knows, may be some other dialogue Don says in Don 2, might match out to the audience. While writing dialogues and thinking about the style of the dialogues, I knew that the approach has to be to write it in a way that films of that time (1970s) were written, where people spoke with a bit of theatrical sense. There was a lot more drama in the lines. So I maintained the approach as it gives you good feeling and also makes the film sound different. It takes you back to the times when you got to see films like this where you know every dialogue was a DIALOGUE.  So it is written with that in mind. But again, whatever people take from that, is upto them. There are fun lines in the film, hopefully they will enjoy.

Did you ever think of another actor for Don, had Shah Rukh said ‘no’ to you?
I don’t even want to think about that. When I started out to make the film, I wanted Shah Rukh to play the character and he loved the part. Beyond that, I stopped thinking about any other actor as I got the person I wanted for my film.

Social networking sites are flooding comments since Don 2 trailer was put on Youtube.  What is the best compliment you have got so far?
The best compliment I have got about the film so far is ‘Thank You for making Don 2’…that’s the sweetest thing one can say with minimum words.

Why did Don 2 take so long in the making (five years)?
Well, it was a challenging but extremely satisfying journey. I was guilty of declaring that I won’t make a sequel for Don 2, but once I spoke to Ritesh Sidhwani and Shah Rukh Khan, I could conceive it.

Why have you decided to make the film in 3D?
The film is not shot with the 3D camera. But when we saw that there is a possibility to make it in 3D, we gave it a shot. The people at Reliance made a demo and it looked very good. Technology has advanced a great deal; it is great to watch the film in 3D as well.

So who is Farhan the actor’s favourite actor?
I like many actors. All actors have their own strengths. But I do enjoy watching Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan and Ajay Devgn purely for the fact that when you see their body of work and the body of work of most other actors, you notice that these guys bring something new to the table by way of a story or character. I love the way Ajay keeps reinventing himself as an actor. I would hate to watch the same kind of performance over and over again. An actor must keep challenging himself if he wishes to have a really long innings. Even as a filmmaker, I believe in mixing genres. A film must be entertaining. When I say entertaining, I don’t mean that you should only make people laugh. You can enthrall them with drama or comedy. There should be a sense of variety in storytelling and performance.

I have to say that the approach to 3D is worrisome, post converted 3D usually sucks and some of the questions are really derivative but I am sure a lot of people out there will love reading up on this.

We’re still super Psyched for the movie which will be out Wednesday 21st December 2011 in theaters worldwide

@AsimBurney

Enhanced by Zemanta