Month: October 2012

LFF 2012 The Summit Review

In August 2008, 22 climbers from various international expeditions reached the High Camp of K2, the final pit-stop before the peak of the mountain, on an expedition renowned among adventurers as extremely dangerous to attempt – far worse than Everest, with a 1 in 4 chance of dying. Only 11 would make it down from there. The Summit is an attempt to understand what happened on a day that became known as the most tragic in modern mountaineering history. Through recreations, archive and home movie footage, and interviews with survivors and families of the people who died on the outing, Nick Ryan’s documentary presents a thorough, investigative and vivid version of events, showing the heartbreaking moral choices the climbers faced in attempting to survive.

As someone who has an interest in outdoor sports and various silly pursuits (nothing anywhere near as extreme as this) The Summit was something I wanted to catch.  Those who’ve watched and “enjoyed” Touching the Void will no doubt be aware of the unwritten code of the mountain (if someone falls or wanders off, then leave them) and this is brutally revealed in a brilliant documentary.  At the heart of the documentary, but not dominating the story, is an Irish climber, Ger McDonnell.  He was seemingly faced with a horrible choice when he discovered 3 battered, bruised, bloodied and dying climbers: follow the code or help them.  As The Summit unfolded, it was obvious I was in for an emotional 90 or so minutes and the archive footage, interviews and recreations are exceptionally well wielded.  Having a cousin who has climbed the highest peaks in Europe and South America and who has rescued fellow climbers certainly gave an added edge to this.

The main body of the documentary doesn’t necessarily seek out the truth (not that it tries to).  It simply builds a picture of the tragic events before presenting as much as real information as is known.  That Ger’s parents even needed to travel to Pakistan to try and understand what had happened to their son, is telling.  As we do get closer to the truth (as much as is possible) however, the horrors of those expeditions are shown and as hard as it to swallow, the reality is that a combination of factors got the better of most of the climbers: there is no one single cause.

I’m not always one for using recreations in documentaries – it can lead to things being a bit twee and childlike – but in this instance, I was stunned by how vivid and realistic they were, lending a genuinely convincing air to the film.  It was as if they had scaled K2 again with a film crew; truly remarkable.  This is a truly engaging documentary, whether you know a lot or little to nothing about mountaineering and if I’m honest, I’d have been crying if hadn’t watched this on a midweek morning with a roomful of journos; I was that affected.

No-one will ever really know exactly what happened in those few long days and no-one will ever really know what makes mankind want to push itself to such limits, where every second you spend in the death zone (8000m & higher) your body is dying.   The Summit at least shines a small light on human nature and the fragile relationship man has with the planet.

@martincawley

Enhanced by Zemanta

LFF 2012: Midnight’s Children Review

 

The nose of destiny

Salman Rushdie‘s first film screenplay adapts his own Booker Prize-winning novel – an allegory that parallels the upheavals in one family’s history with the events that would shape a post-colonial India, from the British exit to the partitioning of Pakistan.

Born on the cusp of India’s independence from Britain and switched at birth by a maternity nurse in a secret act of protest, Saleem Sinai‘s fate is not only inextricably bound to the future of his country, but also to that of Shiva, the boy whose place of privilege he takes.

Following a traumatic incident, Saleem discovers he has special powers and is able to communicate with other children who share his special birthday. As the outside world become more chaotic, wielding his new-found magic becomes Saleem’s most powerful tactic for navigating the tumultuous course of history.

I’ll start by saying I haven’t read the book, so anything that follows is based solely on the film as I’ve seen it. I also cannot comment on how accurately the events are portrayed. Midnight’s Children was one the films at the London Film Festival that I really wanted to see and for a few reasons: it’s an Indian film that isn’t in a Bollywood style, based on a book by Salman Rushdie, whose other books I’ve enjoyed and that I was hoping it would serve as an elementary history lesson. And as someone who has benefited culturally, from Britain’s former empire in another part of Asia I did feel a personal draw to this movie.

Instinctively, the title of the movie is wrong, as Midnight’s Child would be more apt given the amount of the film given to Saleem’s journey, but this is a facile thing to say really. Of the important things that I felt fell short, the most significant would be my confusion / convenience of Saleem’s appearance (his nose) and the notion of switching a poor child for a rich child at birth. As we see at the beginning, “Saleem’s” grandfather has a gigantic nose and so when his own resembles this, no suspicion is aroused that he isn’t their biological son. It transpires that he is in fact the illegitimate son of an eccentric Brit (Charles Dance) and the young wife of a poor musician who plays the accordion and sings at his villa each day. Overlooking this however, I still can’t quite reconcile the switching of babies at birth as a justifiable action of Marxist revolution (let the rich be poor and the poor be rich) when the reality is that there are still the same number of rich/poor babies, who have no concept of what their life would have been anyway and who have been unnecessarily taken away from their own true parents. The futility of this gesture is played out with the stories of both Saleem and Shiva and in material terms you have to say that the rich-made-poor kid achieves a far higher station in life, although it’s not explained fully as to how.

At times I felt that perhaps there should have been more attention given to the other characters in the story – not so much for their sake, but so that there would be a better context to Saleem’s own life. That said, at two and a half hours, this is a lengthy film, so where this would come from isn’t clear. Thankfully, given the scale of the story (it starts in the early 20th century, ends in the 1970s), we have Salman Rushdie himself narrating and keeping the viewer in touch, should he/she have become a bit disconnected. Make no mistake though; this is a great film to watch and you will be able to follow it all the way through.

Deepa Mehta has created a film that looks and feels beautiful; it sent me back in time and place, easily evoking the emotions and tensions of the era and the beauty of this part of the world. Towards the end of the film when the dark times come and all of Midnight’s Children are imprisoned for insurrection, the sun simply fails to shine and it is black. Even this is poetically and subtly filmed and I think other directors would have made too much of this in a harsher and more obvious way.

There are many memorable moments, but seeing a young Saleem helping the generals plot the coup in Pakistan by moving the knives and forks and salt and pepper pots around the dinner table as tanks, soldiers and buildings around the battlefield was brilliant. There’s a positively black piece of humour when Saleem is knocked out by a silver spittoon, harking back to earlier scenes with his mother. And dancing to a Hindi version of Chubby Checker’s The Twist I loved and is as close to a Bollywood musical interlude as you’ll get. Satya Bhabha, playing Saleem, really is excellent and I felt very attached to his character and his journey. He has everything an affluent family can provide, loses it all, is beaten, humiliated, tortured, falls in love, is betrayed and still ends up happy with his lot in life. The story ends with the “circle” being completed as it were. Having invested nearly all my energy into Saleem, when the credits rolled I just breathed a big sigh of relief and was thankful for a wonderful movie.

I’ll end by giving a special mention to the musical score. Rarely, if ever have I heard such gorgeous music in a film and as sure as I am that Midnight’s Children will be nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, plus some of the technical ones, if Nitin Sawhney doesn’t win Best Music (original score) then any hint of respect I may have for the Oscars will cease to exist.

With Satya Bhabha, Shahana Goswami, Seema Biswas
Canada-UK 2012
148 mins

@martincawley

Enhanced by Zemanta

Karan Johar and the cast of Student Of the Year Upodcast Interview

For the promotion of Student of the year, Karan Johar accompanied by Sid Malhotra,Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt flew over to London to talk to the UK press and Upodcast was invited.

If you have ever seen a full press conference it’s pretty hard to get a non rehearsed answer out of the celebrities especially so if they have the quick wit and verbal prowess of Karan Johar, nevertheless we had a 1 one 1 interview where we could ask a few more personal questions.

Student of the Year is in theaters from today and I hope you enjoy our interview with Karan and the rest of the cast.

 

Listen or download below or subscribe to Upodcast in iTunes and never miss a show!

 

@asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta

Karan Johar and the cast of Student of the Year Upodcast Interview

For the promotion of Student of the year, Karan Johar accompanied by Sid Malhotra,Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt flew over to London to talk to the UK press and Upodcast was invited.

If you have ever seen a full press conference it’s pretty hard to get a non rehearsed answer out of the celebrities especially so if they have the quick wit and verbal prowess of Karan Johar, nevertheless we had a 1 one 1 interview where we could ask a few more personal questions.

Student of the Year is in theaters from today and I hope you enjoy our interview with Karan and the rest of the cast.

 

Listen or download below or subscribe to Upodcast in iTunes and never miss a show!

 

@asimburney

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate Review

After the massive success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon back in 2000 and it’s subsequent Oscar win for best Foreign movie, there has been a steady flow of what I like to call poetic/esoteric martial arts movies, none have them have been as successful as Crouching Tiger or resonated with audiences.

 

Although a huge martial arts fan (Check out the podcast we did about nouveau Martial Arts by clicking here) I prefer contemporary settings combined with less wirework heavy action. While I still like Jet Li, his name doesn’t make me run out to ticket counter anymore especially his best work is behind him, on top of that the name “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate” was just not sitting well with me as every time there is a mention of flying cutlery in Asian movies, I instantly switch off as I have a feeling the story will be too esoteric or set into cultural allegories too hard for non-Chinese audiences to grasps. And I’m not sure Flying Swords of Dragon’s Gate tackle either of those problems well enough.

 

So it was with slight trepidation that I entered the screening of the Flying Swords of Dragon’s Gate even though I still enjoy when a movie is well shot in 3D. Director Hark Tsui is working with a visual team that has some great credentials in terms of 3D work. And even though I’m not as well versed in Hark Tsui’s work, I have enjoyed Time and Tide (which I saw a life time ago) and some of his work with Jean Claude Van Damme, which wasn’t the worst from JCVD (which isn’t saying a lot, especially during that era)

 

Flying House of Dragon Gate (a reimagined sequel of 1992’s Dragon Inn) is the story of how China during the Ming Dynasty was under complete control of two factions of Eunuch bureaucrats; Eastern and Western bureau both seemingly corrupt. Jet Li plays a folk hero, Xhao Gwai On, who has vowed to take end both bureau’s, the movie starts as he just manages to eliminate the head of the Eastern Bureau (special appearance by Gordon Liu) in a sequence that really shows off the best of the 3D work as we see the camera fly through the shipyard and every possible tool found at a harbor flies at the audience, in some might say the most cheesy use of 3D. (Which in my mind is the fun way to do things in 3D)

So up next on his hit list is Yu Hua Tian (played by Kun Chen) head of the Western bureau who is desperately chasing a hand maiden who has been impregnated by the emperor, just as his men are about to kill her, Ling Lanqiu (Zhou Xun) steps in and escorts the hand maiden to the Dragon Gate inn, a sort of Shangri La den where a whole host of gangs end up finding shelter from a storm that comes every 60 years.

 

Since I hadn’t seen the first movie I was lost quite a few times at why this Inn was so important and who some of the key characters relationships where. Since there are plot itself is pretty much impossible to untangle, you end up just focusing on the action and the visuals.

The 3D is quite good especially in the landscape and aerial shots, it really made me want to visit these places if they do exist and aren’t CGI enhanced. The Action isn’t that great, but then again I loose interest when the martial arts is wire based and the characters are just flying everywhere on screen like Peter Pan.

The finale does have a fight in the eye of a Hurricane which has some great moments but that too fizzles out.

Performance wise, Jet Li appears and disappears randomly throughout the movie and usually looks like he has done this movie many many times already and has lost all vigor and passion for them. The standouts were Kun Chen and Zhou Xun, both actors I was seeing for the firs time but will definitely keep an eye out as they had great screen presence and delivered in the action sequences.

Unfortunately the meager positives aren’t enough to hold this movie together as it’s frankly too long. There is an entire plot of double crossing and treasure hunting that might have had more impact if I had seen the previous movie but as a stand alone Flying House of Dragon Gate doesn’t deliver.

 

Recommended only if you absolutely love Wuxia movies or are a massive Jet Li fan.

 

Some More thoughts:

 

  • Gordon Liu Eunuch character talks a lot about pickles.
  • Kun Chun makes a teacup explode by staring at it.
  • They really didn’t put in much effort into getting a Tartar translator
  • The hidden City of Gold has a real From Dusk Till Dawn shot, I was hoping for Vampires

Here is the trailer (which really does showcase  some of the best parts of the movie)

 

Flying House Of Dragon Gate is now available on DVD and Blu Ray.

 

@asimburney

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Muskaanein Jhooti Hai Song Promo from Talaash

Although Jab Tak Hai Jaan has been creating the most waves in terms of promotions, the movie we are most looking forward to this year is Amir Khan’s Reema Kagti directed suspense drama Talaash. The buzz has been building up and it seems only now that we are getting to see a bit of the movie. Here is the jazzy first track from the soundtrack and some very interesting tid bits about the movie, Spoiler Free (I checked before posting as I didn’t want to mess up anyone’s experience, being an awesome film blog and all).

Kareena looks ravishing, Rani looks ticked off that she doesn’t get to dance and be all smooth and Amir’s moustache fills up the rest of the screen while he drives through the seedy areas of the city. Ram Sampath delivered a cracking soundtrack last time for Delhi Belly and if this is the sound he’s going for then we can add that to the list of exciting things about this movie!

Here is the press release and some news:

TALAASH – The search is on… in one single room now!

We have heard of suspense drama films revolving their entire story around bringing together all suspects in one script and confusing the audiences. But Talaash, which features the acclaimed actor Aamir Khan (who has been India’s Oscar choice frequently and whose production house, Aamir Khan productions has co produced this film, was nominated in the foreign language category at the Oscars, for Lagaan), newly married Kareena Kapoor, and Rani Mukerji, has juiced up this suspense formula a little more.

In the first song video from the film, Muskaane Jhoothi Hain, all suspects of the crime are going to be seen in the same room, under one roof. Talaash being a film of suspense drama genre, this music video is set to build up the anticipation of the audiences even more.

The movie is about a police officer played by Aamir Khan, who is trying to investigate and solve what seems like a perfect crime, and all suspects in the film are going to be seen together in that one single music video.

The video will thus have Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherji, Nawazzudin (from Gangs of Wasseypur) and all principal cast of the film  in one single frame making it a never seen before visual.

In such an interesting and nail biting way, Talaash is thus reviving a popular long forgotten genre of Bollywood film-making i.e. suspense drama.
The film also marks the amalgamated re-union of Aamir Khan, Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani who last came together in the cult classic film, Dil Chahta Hai.

One more reason for having a special promotional video was to bring Aamir, Rani and Kareena together in one frame and give that sensational visual to the audiences, as in the entire film, all three are never seen together. The film has been scripted in such a way that three lead characters of the film don’t come face to face..

Reema Kagti has directed a music video for the first time, and as the director of the film. She says: “Muskanein jhoothi hain is the title song of the film. The idea was thrown by the producers that perhaps we should also shoot a promotional video with it. Farhan, Zoya and I sat and brainstormed, and we came up with this idea, to introduce all the players in the suspense plot that will unfold in the film”.

 

Talaash Releases 30th of November

 @asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta

007 James Bond Retrospective Part 2- The Roger Moore’s Upodcast

Part two of Upodcast’s Bond retrospective sees us tackle the inimitable incarnation of Roger Moore’s James Bond.  Very much the “difficult second album” syndrome at play here and that’s not to forget the unfortunate stab at Bond by George Lazenby.

But before that we start of with a little catch up what we’ve been watching. We talk about Go On the new Matthew Perry show, The Mindy Project, LillyHammer and Rian Johnson’s Sci Fi Time travel movie Looper.
Then we finally  don our safari suits and flared trousers before taking a look at the highs and lows of the most Bonded actor; kicking off with Live and let Die and completing the series with A View to a Kill.  One of the many joys of re-watching so many James Bonds is that we get a good sense of the overall direction these movies took.  And with Roger in command (he also designed a lot of his wardrobe) it was surely a safe bet by the studio.  So why the fat frown when it comes to Moore?  We talk about the movies that influenced James Bond in this era and also consider that aesthetically, the 70s and 80s weren’t the best place to be – either in fashion or in movies (certainly the 80s).

So is it really Moore’s fault?  Not really no, but it is human nature to compare present with past and throughout the 90s, to compare the past to the past (Moore to Connery).  The jokes are more cheesy and the one-liners come at us faster than our girlfriends can groan “ooohh James”, BUT the stunts are bigger and better and the Brocollis certainly raked in a lot more cash. Should we really blame Roger for having an uncanny ability to raise an eyebrow or deliver the comedy with more elan than Sean Connery?

Well, you can probably get the direction Upod heads on this one, but listen for more insight and controversy: we’re off to drive our Lotus into the river Thames.

You can listen/download to the episode below or subscribe in iTunes and never miss an Upodcast ever again!

Enhanced by Zemanta

LFF 2012: Dreams for sale / Yume Uru Futari

Their dreams are for sale

A young and in-love couple Kanya (Sadawo Abe) and Satoko (Takako Matsu) see their restaurant burn down in an accident and their savings are wiped out by a compensation claim. Not knowing where to turn or what to do. Kanya has a drunken one-night stand with a woman he meets on the subway, and emerges from it with a cash windfall. Once she’s able to forgive her husband, Satoko sees a solution: she pushes Kanya into feigning marriage proposals to a series of vulnerable women, fuelling them with hard-luck stories which persuade them to part with their savings…

First off, I really liked this film. Not having seen any of Miwa Nishikawa’s other 3 movies I can’t say where this one ranks, but it makes me want to watch them. Gentle accoustic guitar accompanies the opening shots, showing domestic bliss, boredom and banalities. This shot is echoed much later in the film once the whole episode has unfolded and played out. If like me you look at the scenario above and think “bloody hell, this cannot possibly work out well” then you’d be right. And you’d also be wrong.

Dreams for sale addresses themes of love, marriage, revenge, growing up, what it means to be in a relationship and how easy it is to be hurt by someone, especially when you love them – and with much skill. I will put this down to great performances from Sadawo Abe and Takaku Matsu, in conjunction with a great script. There are some seriously telling lines and scenes. Sadawo brings so much to Kanya’s character; moments of joy, comedy, terror, helplessness and slapstick (literally). And with Satako, Matsu shows us cunning, loyalty, despair, leadership and forgiveness. At the heart of the movie however is love between the couple and no matter what the hair-brained, ill-thought schemes, both Sato and Kanya are clearly in love with one another, despite a couple of wobbles along the way.

As the film draws to a close and the inevitable conclusion of their fraud is revealed, yet more sacrifice is required to save their relationship. I can’t really say much more than that without spoiling the thing – just trust me. With a running time of 137 minutes, this doesn’t technically qualify as a gem of a film and if I was being harsh I’d say a few minutes less would serve it well…but that is being picky. It’s set at pretty much a perfect pace and it suits the character of the film. Not one for switching-off to, but wonderful in any case, it left me feeling just a little bit heart broken.

Director-Screenwriter Miwa Nishikawa
Producer Kayo Yoshida, Matsuda Hiroko, Nishikawa Asako
With Sadawo Abe, Takako Matsu, Lena Tanaka
Japan 2012
137 mins

video platform

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Khiladi 786 Teaser Trailer

Akshay Kumar has officially jumped ships from Slap Stick Akshay to Action Akshay and donned his Khiladi tag again after 12 years (the horrible Khiladi 420).

Partnering up with Himesh Reshammiya we get the first teaser trailer for Khiladi 786 and it proves that Rohit Shetty must be an auteur as director Ashish R. Mohan (who was 2nd unit director for Rohit on many of his big hits) seems to have straight up lifted his visual esthetic of bright colors and wire fu.

Some thoughts:

 

  • This trailer does nothing for me and leaves me completely cold as the Son of Sardar trailer did previously even though it hits all the neo masala sweet spots of thundering hero entry, non-sensical one liners, punchy dialogues followed by a pause so the junta wolf whistles and packs tons of inconsequential action.

 

  • Quite a few people feel that the danger to currently reigning box office king Salman Khan is that he starts repeating himself, I feel this much more true for Akshay who even in this trailer seems like he’s having no fun at all and is just going through the motions. He just doesn’t look as fresh and good anymore even if we do see his trademark grin. Akshay has always been a tool more than a driver of his movies and he seems to just do what’s necessary but the passion seems gone.

 

  • The trailer is solely built on revisiting Rowdy Rathode’s success and doesn’t add much more (With RR which wasn’t that great of a movie in the first place). We don’t get to see Himesh Reshammiya or Asin yet, but obviously with this being just a teaser we will at certain point as well as the soundtrack which I am not really looking forward to, even if Himesh has done some good work in the past, it’s never been great has it?

 

  • The biggest problem with wire based action is if not used sparingly, is it looses all impact in a fight sequence, this was one of my major issues with Singham and I feel it’s an art that Bollywood hasn’t mastered as well as their Southern Indian brethren.The only segment of the action that does truly work is the spinning punch Akshay delivers that finishes in a martial arts stance. (As any kid coming back from Friday prayers know, a Shalwar Kameez is totally bad ass to train kung fu in)

 

  • Is Khiladi really a franchise???

@asimburney

Enhanced by Zemanta