Posts Tagged ‘based on true story’

Khiladi misses his mark!

To all those who know me, would know the amount of effort it takes me to part with my money for a Bollywood movie. It is not snobby, it is just that there is a limited amount of song and dance I can take in a movie.

So in this case something went wrong!

We are all (at least by now) aware of the whole Nanavati shooting case and the resultant media hyperbole. So when Rajiv Bhatia aka Akshay Kumar decided to make a movie about something this fascinating, I admit I was caught in the wave. Throw in the fact that Akshay K. has been critically acclaimed for his recent string of movies like Baby, Airlift, Holiday, Special 26, Oh My God etc., curiosity got the better of me and unfortunately it is this curiosity which killed the cat/my brain.

Bollywood can’t do without extras. Be it in dance sequences, where random girls wear short clothes of the same color and dance behind a female lead wearing even shorter clothes (but always of a different color), or action sequences, where big guys try and fight the lead but their punches land a mile from his body or (alas) a “true” story, where despite the story already being written out, writers have to go and muck up the truth to make it more appealing for the masses. (Or this is the excuse I have read/heard each time)

Rustom had all the elements needed for a brilliant movie. A story of love, betrayal, murder, the armed forces, courtroom drama and no “mein tumahre bachche ke maa banne waali hu” crap. Then where did it all go wrong?

……

Rustom Pavri (the infallible Akshay Kumar) is a decorated naval officer who finds out his wife Cynthia Pavri (the glycerin addicted Ileana) is having an affair with his friend Vikram Makhija (the man with limited talent, Arjan Bajwa).  Upset, but still able to think rationally (Naval training you know!) Rustom, heads to Vikram’s house and shoots him with the revolver provided by the Indian Navy. Rustom turns himself in and the movie moves to a courtroom drama and media frenzy ensues mixed with a wee bit of regionalism. Now despite the disclaimer (which is what gave the director the reason to muck up the picture) the movie is still got the basics right and somehow this is what makes it worse.

The movie at the end of its two and a half hours, doesn’t leave you with a feeling of satisfaction but more with a “Why did I watch this? Reading the story on Wikipedia was more interesting”. And if we all believe that books can never be as good as the movie, then how bad a director are you when your movie is worse than a Wikipedia page?

Akshay Kumar is the only saving grace! He is the Will Smith of Bollywood. Movies starring him are made…FOR him. I would assume he takes about 80% of the screen time whilst the rest of the cast act as puny cogs working in the shadow of the behemoth. Ileana, I think has about 3 dialogues in the first 90 min and probably 20 more in the last 60 min. Her time is spent in trying to wear clothes that give her the look of a 1950’s stylish woman and based on her crying, is ready to OD on glycerin. Esha Gupta who acts as Preety Makhija (Vikram’s sister), on the other hand thinks she is dressed for a Tim Burton meets David Lynch movie, but her look is more 5th Element mixed with the Hitchhikers Guide. In her attempt to appear as a 1950’s flamboyant socialite she ends up forgetting to act. (No! Pouting all the time is not acting). I can only think that she wore those clothes as a favor to her friend who is a failing fashion designer because, real people don’t wear those clothes, not in 1950 and judging by what Priyanka Chopra wore, not in 2050 either. Also kudos to Arjan Bajwa, his acting skills are horrible and he was one of the very few people who did not disappoint. He was shot early saving him the frugality of being a part of this movie for longer.

The weakest link in the movie is the writing and it is so bad that I’d start a petition to have Vipul K Rawal’s desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile, pen, papers, and chalks all taken away from him just for OUR safety. I would go a level ahead by recommending highly pressurized acupuncture procedure to kill his nerve endings and hence his ability to hold a pen, but then I guess this review would be moving to a dark place. Thus for now I’d just recommend we break all his keyboards and pens!

Dharmendra Desai who also worked with Akshay Kumar in Special 26 is somehow unable to recreate the magic here and he has no one else to blame but Vipul. When there is an existing story, why would you write something equivalent to Great Grand Masti? When you have a courtroom drama and you could have made something of the quality of ‘A Few Good Men’, why would you write something that is worse than Jazbaa! (Sorry Ash fans, but you know that movie sucked too!). The courtroom scenes were horribly sketched, making Tareek Metha’s pitiful show seem like Seinfeld.

For those calling this a courtroom drama…shame. For those calling this a murder mystery ….shame and for those rating this movie more than 4/10…..shame …shame (rings the bell).

 

The Eagle has Landed

​There are movies that make you laugh, some that make you cry and then there are some you just watch with a dumb smile on your face throughout. A smile that stays with you long after the credits have rolled, the lights have been switched on and the ushers have started asking you to leave because they need to get the auditorium ready for the next show. (Disclaimer: I didn’t see this in the theatre, but you get the drift, don’t you?( )

Eddie the Eagle is a true heart-warming story about Michael “Eddie” Edwards (played by the super talented Taron Egerton of Kingsman fame), who has but one dream, and that is to become an Olympian. Never mind the fact that he literally has the athletic ability of a new born giraffe jumping on a trampoline, since facts can’t hold back dreams. 

After being removed from the British Skiing team, he eventually finds his calling as a ski-jumper, and seeing/realizing that the British haven’t had an Olympic ski-jump team for quite some time, he finds himself in the unlikely spot of representing his country in the Winter Olympics. Again, the fact that the sport is one which real athletes start preparing from age 7 (and he is roughly 3 times that) is a small detail that doesn’t hold him back. (

Eddie teams up with Bronson (Wolverine aka Hugh Jackman, who really does a wonderful job in this movie), a gifted but arrogant ex-ski jumper, as his new coach. Bronson promises to help Eddie at the bare minimum, which is to ensure Eddie doesn’t die while jumping of the ramp. Eventually, Bronson finds himself somehow drawn towards Eddie’s never say die attitude and the true meaning of being a part of the Olympics. (Wipes a tear)

Barring all my sarcasm aside, the movie is a real gem. 

For starters, one of the best things about the movie (apart from its story) is Taron Egerton. Taron E. is mind numbingly good and dons the role of Eddie like a glove. Egerton switches effortlessly between clueless goofball and steely determined sportsman and it is nearly impossible to realize that this is the same kid who was the street hood turned secret-service agent in Kingsman. Secondly, when I saw the trailer, I didn’t know what to think about Hugh Jackman, since he really doesn’t seem like a “ski jump coach”. But 10 minutes of seeing him as Bronson Peary and my doubts were cleansed away. Hugh Jackman seems to do this role without even trying too hard. Taron really delves deep into the skin of Eddie, and Hugh on the other side does Bronson as an overcoat and this is one of the reasons the movie works so well. The two characters play off each other perfectly. 

A lot of the supporting cast are ….. best described as caricatures. A special mention though goes for Eddie’s mom (played by the less known Jo Hartley) who really does a wonderful job as part of the bit part role team. 

Gun to my head, I guess the one thing not up to par in this movie is the special effects. Now I know it is just a ski jump and an underdog story, but somehow (and this is a purely personal opinion), the effects of a sports film are core to its story (Friday Night Lights, Miracle, heck even Rudy) and despite having the sport as one with a brilliance and elegance of ski-jump, the thrill and jumps are pretty badly shot. 

Do keep in mind that although the movie is based on a true story, it does take some ‘creative liberty’ (well ok, not ‘some’….’somewhat’…..ok maybe more than ‘somewhat’…..well ok it’s a pretty fictionalized account of what actually happened), but it honestly just adds to the movie and adds it well. 

In the end, the movie is a good mix of heart and humor and somehow the director has managed to time both perfectly. It’s not likely to win any Oscars, but this is the Rudy of our generation and that is saying something. 

Thoughts: Concussed, Confused

And I am back!!

I promised myself to write two posts per month (low aim I agree, but as I learnt from Vince Vaughn, if you don’t aim low, you might have to work hard) and thus here I am, watching more movies and writing about them knowing very well that no one is  going to read this anyway!

So keeping that in mind, I picked Will Smith’s Concussion. (Yea! I know he didn’t get a nomination, they kinda stole that moment from me before I could get to it). Anyway, barring the obvious, here’s my view on Will Smith, uuhh I mean Concussion.

Has anyone ever realized that starting from I, Robot (where he was willing to share screen time with a green screen), to I am Legend (where he ensured the entire city was cleaned of people), to Hancock (well, not exactly my point but I guess we could overlook that) to 7 Pounds and now Concussion, Will Smith makes movies where he gobbles up about 85% of the screen time? It’s not a bad thing, though it’s a thing!

But I digress, the post is not about Will Smith and his eternal hope for an Oscar. However in keeping that dream alive, he has worked (marvelously I might add) in Concussion, which is based on the real life of pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu who had uncovered the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play. Apparently, repeatedly banging your head against other people for 10+ odd years might cause brain damage. Sounds about right, don’t it?

The movie shows Dr. Omalu’s struggles in trying to get his story published, the pressure tactics of the NFL to deny his findings and the backlash from the die-hard supporters who think it is their birth right to see men break each other while they chug their beers and scratch their paunches.

The movie scores on its theme of David vs Goliath. Dr. Omalu, the hard-working immigrant, a devout church goer, an honest, open-heartened, generous, courageous and not to forget academically brilliant human being … as David, and the big-billionaire-money-fueled NFL, acting flawlessly as the behemoth…our Goliath . The movie is held together by (two-time Academy Award nominee) Will Smith, who delivers one of his strongest performances ever. An impeccable capture of a man from Africa, soulfully searching for acceptance in America, Will Smith, does a wonderful job as the man trying to fight the good fight and I feel it is his best performance since “The Pursuit Of Happiness” (credit also due in that movie to the adorable and currently insane Jaden Smith)

However that’s all the movie offers. The clichéd script spoils everything the movie has to show and you can’t help but wish that the material was more extracted and secure in its delivery. You know there is a great story in there, but somehow it seems lost and falls flat on its face halfway through.

The movie tries to keep itself together by introducing characters who you think might be key to the story, though in the end if I was being honest, we could have had Will Smith wear wigs and do those roles himself. The cast might as well be a giant green screen. Alec Baldwin as Dr. Julian Bailes who acts as an existing NFL team’s team doctor and ends up as Omalus’ friend, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Prema Muitso who acts as Omalu’s love interest also seems utterly wasted in under developed scenes. And the host of others who probably had spent more time in their commute to and fro from the sets to actual screen time, do their bit parts decently well. Please note that this is in no way a taint on the ability of the actors themselves, it’s just that they had so little to do, it seemed like a waste of their time.

Peter Parkland (Director) has done a decent job in his second attempt as a director and, given his limited experience in the system, has pulled off something watchable, but only barely. What it really lacks is depth. It’s a basic story, told in a simple manner, but what it forgets to have is something engrossing enough that really pulls you into it. Granted, those who play American football would connect with this, though for a larger audience this movie might as well have been shot in space.

For those who have played this game (or even seen it on television) know the ‘Superman’ like culture that comes with it. How it is a sin to get hurt or how ridiculous a 6 foot 5 inch, 220 lbs linebacker saying, “I have a headache” will sound to everyone else.  However, what a normal fan or anyone who hasn’t played the game wouldn’t know, is the stress and depression that comes with the game and thus, with regards to a movie, I’m not sure it’s an appealing proposition. This movie seems like a watered-down version of what the script really wanted to say. It dramatically displays how players who are mountains among men end up broken and damaged beyond repair and it is gut wrenching, however at times the movie just seems to be a biopic and somewhere the mixing between the two stories just doesn’t seem well weaved.

Concussion, however, isn’t a complete failure, delivering at times with a grandiose turn from Will Smith. I don’t believe he would have won an Oscar for this, though I am very surprised he didn’t even get nominated.  If anything, he’s more than worth the admission ticket but I believe most of all, the film does manage to put a floodlight on a lesser known issue (for most), an issue that is in desperate need of change and thus makes it worth a watch for that alone.

Thoughts: Million Dollar Mush

Disney has a record of making the mushiest and sappy movies there exist. I believe they could even make Freddy Kruger look like a ‘misunderstood little boy” and Agent Smith as a lonely little orphaned virus. With movies like Glory Road, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Miracle, Remember the Titans, Angels in the Outfield, Mighty Ducks trilogy and a horde of others, Disney has a monopoly on family sports movies. Million Dollar Arm is right of this same production line.

The movie (a true story) centers around Sports Agent J.B. Bernstein (played by the very talented Jon Hamm), who is on the edge of losing big time on his career! As a last ditch effort to save his business, JB while watching television late one night gets inspired by seeing Susan Boyle (an underdog coming out of nowhere) to find “The Million Dollar Arm”- an idea to find pitchers of Baseball from our Cricket loving country, based on the fact that bowling and pitching require more or less the same muscles. After a torturous and evidently tiresome ordeal, he eventually finds his diamonds in the rough; Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma, of the Life of Pi fame) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal of the Slumdog Millionaire fame). He asks them to pack up their belongings, leave everything behind and come with him to the US of A so that they can be molded into the perfect pitching machines under the guidance of Tom House (Bill Paxton) with his unorthodox coaching techniques.

Now JB is all “show me the money!” and the kids are lost in space/translation/technology and pizza. Enter Brenda (the beautiful Lake Bell) who is a doctor and stays as a tenant in JB’s smaller bungalow. She acts as the mediator between the two and makes the boys feel at home and tries to show JB the error of his ways in not taking proper care of the boys who have given up so much to be with JB for nothing more than a ‘dream’.

Will J.B. discover his paternal instinct and give his players the attention and nurturing they need to succeed? Will the scruffy rookies blow it on their first public tryout only to get a second chance to shine? Will skirt-chasing J.B. discover that Brenda has been his soul-mate all along? Gosh, what do you think? *starts biting nails*

Craig Gillespie who started off well with Lars and the Real Girl (personally I believe that was more Ryan Gosling than anything else) has done a decent job here as well. What he gets right is his complete focus on the all-encompassing theme, and the fish-out-of-water aspect to the entire story. Mick Ciardi and Gordon Grey (the team that put together Invincibles and Miracle) are back to make another sports-family-underdogs-true story-mush movie together. And as expected this one is as good as those.

Jon Hamm plays a role worthy enough for an Oscar nod, but I guess if this movie came a little later in the year his chances might have been a tad better. Our two Indian players, Rinku and Dinesh are probably the stars of the show. Lake Bell plays the neighbor/love interest for JB and does a fantastic job as the mediator between JB and the boys. But a special noteworthy performance is for the scene-stealer is Pitobash, who’s supremely effective in each one of his scenes. Pitobash plays Amit, a translator for the boys, JB’s man Friday and wannabe coach of baseball who has an undying love for the game. His character is written broadly, but through sheer charisma Pitobash muscles his way from punchline to fully realized character. He draws the majority of the pic’s laughs and in the end delivers the ‘motivational speech’ that makes or breaks most sports movies.

I love movies like Rudy, We Are the Titans, and Miracle, though my personal all-time favorite is Friday Night Lights. And yes, they are all predictable.

So the next question is, ‘Is this a predictable sports movie?’ Of course it is! The events of this movie took place just a few years though I am pretty sure most of us wouldn’t have known about this at all. But the movie is less about the sport and focuses (as all Disney movies do) more on relationships and that comes out pretty well.

As a whole, Million Dollar Arm was a good movie, but not nearly as spectacular as other movies of the genre. There is also a remote feeling that the only reason this movie was made was so Disney could sell a movie to India.

Still, this “based on a true story” underdog tale is infectiously determined to make you fall in love with it, like a dog that plops its head in your lap and gazes at you until you scratch it behind the ears. You cease to cave in, but try as you might you will eventually give in and scratch the poor fellow. I’d recommend you give this a watch though it’s preferred you watch this at home as a theatre doesn’t really justify the expenditure.

 

 

 

Thoughts: Greed is Dead, Long Live Greed.

There isn’t much that can be said about Martin Scorsese that hasn’t already been said and when the team that gave Gangs of New York, Aviator and The Departed team up again, you know you are in for a ride.

The movie is brilliantly acted, superbly written and as one would expect from a picture by Martin Scorsese, it is a master class of the directorial craft. The Wolf of Wall Street (TWOWS) is a roaring thrill ride that is both hilarious and meticulously constructed.

The movie (a true story) is based on the fiercely ambitious Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) who wants nothing more in life than to become the next Gordan Gecko. He begins his stock broking career under the guidance of the ardent salesman Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) who teaches him all he would ever need to learn about the art of selling, the good, the bad and the ugly about peddling ‘dreams’. But soon “Black Monday” hits and Belfort is out on the street. With no mood to give in, Belfort comes across the (highly lucrative and profitable) world of “penny stocks”. The world of penny stocks is unregulated (more or less) and Belfort begins to accrue his army of like-minded individuals which begins the birth of his own empire. People from his neighbor Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) to his local drug dealer, Brad (John Bernthal) join his company “Stratton Oakmont” to make hay while the sun shines.

Money rolls in and Belfort and his cronies begin reveling in the depravity only the filthy rich know how. It’s a boy’s company and they act worse than kids in a free candy store all the way making terrible life choices that they still aren’t aware of until this day. Drugs, sex and obnoxious toys are the order of the day and Belfort begins to lose is grip over reality soon enough. But of course, the chickens do eventually come home to roost and FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) begins to launch an investigation into the shady practices of the fiscal giant. The rest is history.

TWOWS is a masterful dark comedy sprinkled with little bits of drama. Natural comparisons to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street are to be made and this should be considered a compliment. Though I would go one step ahead and say TWOWS is more of Wall Street meets Goodfellas. The greed, the power, the rampant drug abuse and the “family” in Stratton Oakmont makes it much similar to the mafia, just that these guys commit a different kind of crime.

Scorsese keeps the story a tad larger than life and the character interpretation is amusing to say the least. He puts together a star cast that includes DiCaprio (no surprise there), Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernathal, and Kyle Chandler, all of which seem to be literally having too much fun while having “too much fun.” Terence Winter’s brings his Sopranos skills to the game and how! His script is on its A-Game and it is a work of a demigod.

The acting is par excellence to say the least. The entire movie is led brilliantly from start to finish by the one man. From a “Get Rich or die trying” attitude to his monologues about life, money, and greed, Leonardo (LDC) has now broken into a new level of acting. From the kid who broke on the scene in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and later became a heart throb (literally overnight) in Titanic, from a hooligan and a roughneck in Gangs of New York to a smooth criminal in Catch Me If You Can, from Howard Hughes to Monsieur Candie, LDC has grown as an actor with each movie and this role is probably one of his best till date, which judging by his illustrious past is no mean feat. This is something that might help him get his long overdue Academy Award. The sequence of DiCaprio crawling on the floor will probably be the scene of the year.

Jonah Hill has shown great depth in his acting repertoire and I or one was frankly impressed by his screen presence in the movie. Margot Robbie (double drool) does a wonderful job of being the sexy trophy wife who usually audiences hate to the wife who is just frustrated by it all. A special mention must go to Matthew McConaughey as well for his brief but marvelous role.

A good book, a great screenplay and a delightful cast were formed and molded into what could help get Scorsese a best director Oscar and a Best Picture Nomination.

The only drawback (if any) would be that we get no clue as to how closely this film adapts the real-life events and at times its almost impossible to believe that things could have gone this far. The overall theme though does seem to be about “greed” in general and I guess that is what Scorsese was targeting. It is that very excess that underscores the key theme and disparagements on the American dream.

Similar to the way Goodfellas glorified the lifestyle of mafia, TWOWS has  attempted to create an enticement to the immoral habits of stockbrokers wallowing in hedonism, that being said, the movie is worth every minute of its 180 and is a must watch for anyone interested in movies with a feel.