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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian review

Posted : 5 years, 5 months ago on 6 January 2013 06:41 (A review of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian)

“The Chronicles of Narnia” series by C.S. Lewis are some of the most beloved youth novels in the world today. When Disney’s spin on The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was released in 2005, it was one of the biggest films of the year. Yet other than box office receipts, the reception seemed to be somewhat lukewarm. So when it came time for the follow-up, Prince Caspian, things didn’t go so well monetarily. Ironically, although not spectacular, Prince Caspian is the better film of the two. Returning in the director’s chair, Andrew Adamson shows a more confident and defined vision that works on several levels, however it’s unable to overcome a nagging feel of disconnect that prevented me from fully investing in the film’s characters and their plight.

Siblings Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) are called back to Narnia, the land in which they were once regarded as kings and queens. With Narnia being the magical place that it is, time has past much faster than in our world. Therefore their reign of peace is but a very distant memory. Now Narnia is breaking down and its inhabitants have been driven underground for so long that they’re seen as myths rather than real beings.

The Pevensie clan arrives to find Narnia divided and on the verge of war. Following a power play that mirrors the take down of Snow White, Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) has been left on the run in his own kingdom. Banding with the Narnians, Caspian fights to restore peace in the utopian world.

Much time in Prince Caspian is spent preparing for the film’s various showdowns. While they are epic in scope once they happen, they take a long time in getting there. Rather than using the time to build an emotional connection to the characters, it feels more like dead space. It’s largely a matter of the vision coming to life but the core – the feelings and development of the characters – is lost. As a result I never felt much of an attachment to any of the characters or Narnia itself. So when the epic scenes happen I was merely watching in awe at what was on the screen rather than rooting for one side and jeering another. I was left indifference as to whether the plot went one way or another. So on that important level, Prince Caspian fails, yet at the same time there’s a definite sense that director Adamson achieved his vision as far as the design of the film.

The moment the action switches to Narnia you get the sense that Narnia is a real place. The sweeping beaches and treed hillsides make for a lush backdrop to the castles, villages and magical dwellings. It also creates a gorgeous distraction for the lack of character depth, as well as some excellent battle scenes.

Although there are the occasional light-hearted diversions, Prince Caspian is a much darker, violent and serious installment in the series. If the action isn’t centered around a battle, chances are it’s setting one up. As a result, the film might not be considered as family friendly as some might expect. There’s not a lot of blood or gory violence, but there certainly is the insinuation of such.

With Prince Caspian there were times when I was completely enthralled. The epic scope alone is a pleasant marvel. However there’s also a cold hollowness to the movie’s lack of development. Gaps are seemingly everywhere. The story makes sense but just barely. Like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Prince Caspian is working, it’s memorable. It’s in the downtime that the film suffers and suffers badly.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe review

Posted : 5 years, 5 months ago on 6 January 2013 06:32 (A review of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

New Line has "Lord of the Rings", Warner Bros. has "Harry Potter", and now Disney makes its valiant attempt to kickstart a major fantasy franchise all its own with the first and best known of C.S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia" books. The good news is Director Andrew Adamson and gang have done an impressive job of adapting Lewis' admittedly simple and somewhat thin tale into a big scale motion picture, delivering impressive production values and few solid action sequences along with the book's key emotional moments of tragedy and elation.

Unfortunately the film doesn't quite reach the success level of those other two aforementioned cornerstones of fantasy literature cum movie franchises. Outside of Rings & Potter, the Narnia series is probably the most well known series of fantasy fiction in history, but unlike those two which were long, richly detailed novels aimed at young adults or older, Narnia were very much children's books. Lewis' tales were simple fables done in a ruthlessly efficient writing style that never had the depth or level of detail of its magical world setting that Rowling or Tolkien's series ever did.

Consequently the film, which is slavishly loyal to the material, doesn't have to edit or cut scenes from the original story but rather extends them out to provide more detail (Edmond's subplot in particular seems to have been effectively expanded). Sadly even with the addendums, the film cannot overcome some of the problems inherit to the original story - difficulties the pre-teen crowd are unlikely to notice but adults will find issue with, even more so now after the high standards set by richer and more polished efforts in the genre of late. Like it or not the plot and characters are pretty thin and flat, and despite a commendable job to give them extra depth there's little to work with.

A lot of the problems have to do with the story's tone which shifts wildly - something not particularly noticable in print but blatantly obvious onscreen. One minute its almost stupidly childish with cheesy dialogue, silly character behaviours and jokes that would find laughs only with the toddlers crowd. From the polite talk of tea and turkish delight, to the sudden appearance of Santa Claus who seems to act as this franchise's equivalent of Q from the Bond movies, some scenes whilst not cringe-worthy are simply extraneous filler which could've well used the chop.

Quite often though it'll suddenly veer into dark territory involving death, sacrifice, animal slaughter and abuse to a level I would be hesistant about letting anyone who counts their age in a single figure see. As its a Disney film and rated PG, there's an overall sanitised look to proceedings with little to no blood seen despite some quite intense fighting, killing, and the gruesome night time 'table' scene left intact and played out to full extent. Other bits such as Lewis ending which is preserved, is prone to generate dissatisfaction or even laughs more than the story originally intended.

Subtext is another issue. Much has always been publicised about the Christianity element of the story, something which can definitely be seen in one small subplot towards the film's end, but its certainly not as overt as has been publicised. Other moments however generate subtext all their own, most notably the early scenes with Lucy and Tumnus which may have played out perfectly innocently on paper in 1950 but on screen in 2005 there's an almost darkly humoured paedophilia undercurrent - after all a half-naked hirstute man takes a young girl back to his house, locks her in, drugs her, and upon waking tells her "I've done a very naughty thing". If it wasn't for the two people in the scene being so genuinely sweet, it might have been a disaster.

Effects work veers wildly. Many of the creatures do look computer animated, and yet are still quite convincing - the beavers, fictional creatures like the Griffins, and Tumnus' fawn legs are excellent. Yet others don't work so well ranging from Aslan himself who never comes off as truly there, to talking animals like wolves and foxes which are stand out rather plainly. Once again New Zealand lends itself to an epic backdrop but little use is made of locations short of the final battle on a plain in the midst of a spectacular mountain valley.

More elements work than don't in the film's 140 minute runtime. The kids for example, whilst none of them display exemplary work, all do a more convincing job than the likes of Daniel Radcliffe did in his first go at Harry Potter. Swinton makes for a solid white witch - playing her faux sweetness and ruthless evil with a cold efficiency (not to mention proving surprisingly adept with a sword), Broadbent does a fun job in his brief cameo, and McAvoy brings warmth and charm as Tumnus. Kudos also to Ray Winstone and Dawn French for providing laughs as CG beavers with very English husband and wife personalities. On the flipside a lot of the smaller ancillary roles are of little use such as Rupert Everett's Fox, whilst Liam Neeson seems bored doing his Aslan voiceover and consequently the Lion lacks the booming power and grandeur he should've had.

Action is strong with some impressive sequences such as the final battle which is striking even in this post-Rings environment, a chase across a forzen waterfall that's thawing out, and the opening air raid on London scene. Yet others seem drawn out (the wolves chase) and more often than not a lot of these scenes are filled with some useless preamble to fill in time. At other points there's a little too much "I dub you the knight of..." style scenes which become repetitive. Score is fine for the most part, though there's two uses of strange Bjork-like music early on which doesn't really fit into the story.

The result overall isn't a triumph to be sure, but for the most part succeeds at what it wants to be - a family friendly fantasy movie. Kids (and adults) unfamiliar with the original story will probably not warm to its somewhat ham-fisted approach which can be frustratingly one-dimensional at times. Others grown on the richer textured and more contemporary fantasy epics of late will probably dismiss this as nothing but a pale imitation. Fans of the original though will probably be happy with this effective adaptation of one of the better books in the series (always had a bigger soft spot for Dawn Treader and Silver Chair myself), but its a shame this isn't as magical a journey as it could have been.

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Bunty Aur Babli (2005) review

Posted : 5 years, 5 months ago on 6 January 2013 02:10 (A review of Bunty Aur Babli (2005))

Bollywood has a reputation for churning out fairly inconsequential, candyfloss films, and while this rollicking romantic caper indeed proves to be one of those so-labeled "timepass entertainers," it also proves that that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. The "Bunty" and "Babli" of the title are actually small-town dreamers Rakesh (Abhishek Bachchan) and Vimmi (Rani Mukerji), a would-be entrepreneur and Miss India wannabe, respectively. When they meet up by chance after both of their big city ambitions quickly come crashing down, they decide to stick it to the powers that be by becoming ace con artists--not so much for the money than the sheer thrill of it. Determined to end their reign of fun is a cop (Amitabh Bachchan, marking the first time he and his son have appeared together onscreen) hot on their trail.
Per the Bollywood norm, it is a fairly thin plot to fill three hours of running time, but also as usual, it's up to style to carry the day, and the sweet allure of this fast-paced confection cooked up by director Shaad Ali (in a far cry from his hit 2002 domestic drama Saathiya) is no con. Ali keeps the pace light on its feet, and he deftly keeps the proceedings from becoming overly episodic or redundant as the pair move from swindle to swindle. Contributing in no small part to the film's forward drive is the reliably catchy song score by the composing triumvirate of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. The film hits the ground running with a rousing opening number that plays like a cross between the classic "Chaiyya Chaiyya" sequence in 1998's Dil Se... (From the Heart...) and a vintage Disney "I Want" song, in which Rakesh and Vimmi relate their dreams beyond and frustration with life in their little towns full of little people. Ali gives each song thereafter equally lively picturizations, including a sultry item featuring a special appearance by a certain Bolly-Holly crossover queen. If some of the numbers seem a bit jarringly extreme--such as a high-energy dance number featuring the normally rather demure Mukerji shaking her groove thang in skimpy black vinyl, fishnets, and fuck-me boots--one must credit the go-for-broke exuberance.

And most exuberant and appealing of all is the toplining pair of Bachchan (the younger) and Mukerji. Last seen together as a most dysfunctional and destructive couple in last summer's gritty Yuva (Youth), the genuine romantic chemistry that made them so heartbreaking in that film easily translates to a far sunnier setting. Playful, sweet, and sexy, Bachchan and Mukerji make this rogue pair an easily loveable one, and individually both obviously have a blast; Bachchan's dancing is far less gangly than usual, and Mukerji's priceless delivery of the line "You BI-ITCH!" is alone worth the price of admission. No, this is not world-changing cinema we're talking about here, but for the shallow summer popcorn season, it hits the spot.

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Saawariya (2007) review

Posted : 5 years, 5 months ago on 6 January 2013 02:03 (A review of Saawariya (2007))

With its lavish production design, extravagant sets, poetic musical numbers and photogenic stars, Saawariya is ravishing to look at, but disappointing overall. It is short by Bollywood standards, but overlong by Hollywood's, where it was produced and despite its cinematic glory by acclaimed filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, it feels as though it goes on forever. The influences are curious. The look is reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge with Indian influences but as if straight from Venice with canals, bridges and gondolas strewn with garlands of flowers. The colours are soft and the lighting exquisite, allowing backdrops to dissolve into a haze of cinematic blurs.

The story, based on Dostoyevsky's short story White Nights, is relatively simple. Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy, but he is infatuated by another girl, who in turn is waiting for the return of another. The narrative comprises wall to wall musical numbers that all sound much the same, although visually pleasing with traces of sensuality and eroticism. The story begins in a bar in the red light district, where Rani Mukherjee's Gulabji recalls her first meeting with her 'rockstar angel' Raj (Ranbir Kapoor). She orders a whisky; he asks for a glass of milk. The accent then shifts to the relationship between Raj and Sakina (Sonam Kapoor), the beautiful girl crying under a lace-trimmed umbrella on the bridge. He is smitten but her heart belongs to someone else. The someone else is the handsome and charismatic Salman Khan, who plays Imaan.

Visually there is much to absorb with the dreamy atmosphere, lush backdrops and beautiful costumes. There's a memorable scene in which water lilies, arches and a huge gothic clock play a part. I like the scene when Sakina elicits gold dust as she beats the carpets that are hung in rows. There's an unexpectedly sweet relationship that develops between Raj and his lonely elderly landlady who he calls Lilipop. 'Sakina is like a grand piano, violin, trumpet, saxophone guitar,' he confides to her when asked what she is like, to which she asks 'Is this a girl or an orchestra?' It is a case of self indulgence on the part of Bhansali, who has abandoned story and characters for the sake of stylistic endeavours.

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Wanted review

Posted : 5 years, 5 months ago on 6 January 2013 01:53 (A review of Wanted)

If you can think of a new and exciting way to have one man shoot another, you score a point. If you can think of several, you deserve a round of applause. If you can find a way to include them in a movie that doesn't result in embarrassed laughter but rather sustained awe, then congratulations - you've officially made the pages of my cool book. Timur Bekmambetov would be somewhere near the front, because Wanted represents his most imaginative and inventive movie to date.

Put simply, the visionary (read: bonkers) Russian director behind Night Watch and Day Watch is a man who knows how to direct action. The best way to describe his visual style is to let his characters do the talking: "This is your father's gun," says Morgan Freeman's assassin mentor to James McAvoy's young prot�g�. "He could conduct a symphony orchestra with it." Here, Bekmambetov orchestrates a cacophony of chaos with pin-point precision like some mad, laughing tyrant; the sounds of twisted metal and gunfire his music. The result is a bloody exhausting, incredibly satisfying action ejaculation: Wanted is pure cinematic spunk.

The set-up is pure comic-book fare, coming from the pages of Mark Millar's own cool book - the critically acclaimed guns 'n' gore graphic novel of the same name. McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a feckless office drone who's clued into his deadly lineage by Angelina Jolie's smouldering sexpot Fox. After a supermarket showdown - complete with a gun that fires round corners (one point) - Fox whisks Wesley away to a secret organisation known as the Fraternity: an ancient clan who have been carrying out assassinations for a thousand years. Here, he learns his father was quite the hitman, and that killing is in his blood. One frenzied training montage later - including lessons on how to slow time and curve bullets (that's two) - and McAvoy's transformation from office spod to ice-cold killer is complete, leaving him to hunt down his father's murderer and exact revenge.

Wanted's world is one where physics do not apply, where logic is merely an occasional visitor and where suspension of disbelief is enforced on punishment of death. You want action? You've come to the right movie, my friend. Bekmambetov serves up some of the most kickass action scenes seen so far this millennium - you'd honestly have to go back to The Matrix until you found something this fresh. Cars flip, twist and tumble like they're powered by rocket fuel. Mountains of bloody bodies hit the ground in balletic gun battles. This is obscene poetry in motion. Jolie and McAvoy take to the carnage like ducks to water (in slo-mo ultra-zoom bullet-time. And the ducks have guns. And the water is on fire). One final scene sees McAvoy take down around a hundred men with his gun barrel still stuck in the head of his last victim. (That's three and counting.) Wanted's ingenuity makes Shoot 'Em Up look drab in comparison.

But it's not the size of the budget or the body count that makes Wanted exceptional; it's the brains behind the brawn that makes it so special. Bekmambetov displays a gift for painting a demented picture - think Michel Gondry with a gun fetish. Even in the movie's quieter moments, the director's artistry is front and centre, yet never in a distracting or disruptive way - Bekmambetov's camera is always roaming for the best angle, always framing the action in comic-book panels. Millar's graphic novel might supply the images, but it's the director who brings them to life so thrillingly and imbues them with wit and tongue-in-cheek humour (see Wesley's "fuck yeah!" resignation for the perfect example). Where The Matrix sequels were undone by their staid, po-faced cod-philosophies, Wanted offers a nod and a wink, and steals a win by daring to have some goddamn fun.

How do I love Wanted? Let me count the ways. McAvoy is bruising, brilliant, a powderkeg of rage. Jolie has never been sexier (and she gets her bum out - it's lovely). It has exploding rats. And a magic sewing machine. And a man jumping out a window of one skyscraper and landing on another. Morgan Freeman says the word "motherfucker". Oh, and it has a gunshot fired through several car windows, some cans of drink, the ring of a donut and into a man's forehead from over a mile away (that's four). It boasts more ideas in any five minutes of its run-time than most movies manage throughout their entirety. In normal cinematic terms, it could easily be dismissed as gun porn, boyish nonsense or action overkill. Fact is, in the realms of badass cinema, Wanted is damn near untouchable.

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The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) review

Posted : 5 years, 5 months ago on 30 December 2012 09:06 (A review of The Other Boleyn Girl (2008))

A kind of all in the dysfunctional family royal romp with incestuous tendencies, The Other Boleyn Girl revisits if not reinvents old English history as essentially crafted in the bedroom as opposed to the Tudor period boardroom. That`s more than a little like weirdly theorizing that Bill Clinton`s or John McCain`s alleged extra-marital indiscretions have more to do with the sway of current events than anything else. Which makes for weirdly kinky historical analysis, but pretty steamy pre-tabloid melodrama.

British director Justin Chadwick, who likely cut his carnal teeth on the small screen with Bleak House, assembles a richly textured, dramatically disciplined erotically laced and emotionally taut creation with The Other Boleyn Girl. Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman are the Boyeln sisters, Mary and Anne respectively. Following an idyllic provincial childhood at the estate of their parents, aristocrat Sir Thomas Boleyn (Mark Rylance) and his wife, Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas), the sisters find themselves being groomed for fame and fortune to benefit the standing of their parents at the royal court of Henry VIII (Eric Bana).

At a time when women, whatever their social position, were perceived primarily as cattle to be traded for the political plots and personal pleasures of men, the sisters receive a rude awakening as their father with apparent early stage-parent proclivities, bids to negotiate their young flesh in a kind of sex slave trafficking, as female bewitching bait, with the very married king in frantic need of a male heir. Thoughtlessly casting his currently barren, older wife Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent) aside for these two hotties-in-waiting as if selecting from a menu`s column A or B, the indecisive and rather horny Henry first settles on Mary and then Anne - after Mary becomes a mom and therefore no longer sexually craved as an object of desire by the lusty ruler. In other words, just that other Boleyn girl in this tragic menage a trois royale.

Meanwhile, a quite conniving and already secretly married Anne, plays seductive hard-to-get in the extreme with the playboy monarch, until he will agree to violate Catholic Church doctrine by divorcing his wife, and then marrying her. Seemingly objecting to his perceived wimp status in the arenas of both sex and politics, Henry does a premarital date rape on Anne - possible prophetic domestic violence precursor to her later beheading - in addition to breaking with the Church to enable his divorce and new marriage, all to, well, show who`s boss.

All the sordid court intrigue, nasty sexual skirmishes, repressed passions and imploding desires make The Other Boleyn Girl an absorbing and dazzling surface spectacle. And with a deliciously devious undercurrent of less admirable human instincts dressed up in a thin veneer of pomp and finery, concealing extremely bad behavior.

What the film omits entirely, in its obsessive focus on sex as a driving force in history, is Henry`s break with the stranglehold of the Catholic Church and declaration of the independent Church of England, as a necessary component to all the unimpeded nation building and pursuit of England`s colonial empire globally, with the divorce issue as pretext. But such technical historical details don`t quite make for this sort of elegant and treacherous bodice-ripper cinema. All of which leads up to that accidental prequel, namely Henry`s and the executed Anne`s offspring Elizabeth, who grows up to be by chance the future Cate Blanchett, in that queen`s own costume drama sequel bearing her name.

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Love & Other Drugs review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 23 December 2012 12:09 (A review of Love & Other Drugs)

Love And Other Drugs is an odd cocktail of a film, combining the upper of a surprisingly sexy romance with the impressively handled downer of Parkinson's disease, yet adding an annoying amount of cliche to the mix. That Edward Zwick's film mostly gets away with this heady combination is largely due to the performances of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, who bring significant amounts of chemistry and energy to their central roles.

Gyllenhaal is Jamie Randall - a drugs salesman who talks a mile a minute and knows how to turn on the charm with medical secretaries in order to get what he wants. He's all about the transaction, though, breezing his way to bed with little thought of real romance. Sadly, the word breezy is not one that could be applied to the opening 30 minutes of the film, with Zwick needlessly over-emphasising Jamie's set-up. The guy's an archetypal love 'em and leave 'em so long as he gets the cash sort, so why labour the point? Of course, this being, at least in part, a romcom journey, all that is about to change and after he meets Parkinson's sufferer Maggie Murdock (Hathaway). She matches him all the way in terms of non-commitment, being interested in sex without strings until, inevitably, their heads begin to tip over their heels.

Interesting ideas lurk, tantalisingly, underneath the romcom formula and yet every brave move Zwick and his co-writers make is countered by something weak and formulaic, as if in apology. Parkinson's disease, for example, is treated with reality and respect. Real Parkinson's sufferers feature front and centre and there is a geniune sense of the debilitation of the disease, which ultimately robs people of all their physical and mental faculties. Yet, like so many Hollywood films of late, Love And Other Drugs suffers from a Hangover hangover, evidenced by the decision to include the broad and deeply unfunny Josh (Josh Gad) - Jamie's brother, who we are supposed to believe would feel quite at home masturbating to a video one of his brother's sex sessions. Equally, there are hints of ridicule regarding the pharmaceutical industry, but given that Pfizer have allowed their brand name and that of Viagra to be used, it's clear from the outset that any satire is likely to be of the vicious suck rather than biting variety.

It's a shame that the filmmakers and Fox didn't have a little more faith. Faith that we would understand and respond to the emotional undercurrents without being beaten over the head with unecessarily manipulative music cues, confidence that we could enjoy the rat-a-tat humour of the central couple's sparring without needing a 'chorus' of gross-out gags from Josh and enough trust in their central premise not to need to over-burden it with distracting subsidiary characters that unecessarily prolong the runtime. For all its failings, Love And Other Drugs still has raunch and charm enough to boost it above other romcoms, but its formula just isn't quite right.

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Devon Ke Dev... Mahadev (2011-2014) review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 9 December 2012 10:16 (A review of Devon Ke Dev... Mahadev (2011-2014))

The show is awe-inspiring with respect to its production values.The locales, the settings, the costumes (especially the ones worn by Sati and her jewellery) are stunning but the performances are average

With the exception of Om Namah Shivay, which aired many years ago, Lord Shiva has largely been overlooked by Hindi serial makers. Life OK's new offering Devon Ka Dev Mahadev is like a breath of fresh air and a terrific lesson in the life of the bairagi destroyer, Shiva. It wouldn't be wrong if you can call it a divine love story between Shiva and Sati, the youngest daughter of Prajapati Daksh, the arrogant son of Lord Brahma.

Inspired by the writings of Devdutt Patnaik (who has produced some seminal work on Shiva, retold Mahabharata and dealt with mythology in the last couple of years to bring it within the realm of the common man's understanding) and Bodhisatva, Mahadev is about Daksh's denial about the significance of Shiva and his daughter's love for the Lord. The show begins with Daksh's sthapana of the statue of Lord Vishnu. Everything seems to be in good order till the sages point out a glaring aspect that is lacking. There is no Shivalinga and hence the statue won't budge inside the temple. Not one to accept defeat, the arrogant King asks for parijaat flowers for the Narayani yagya he wants to perform for the installation of the statue. Sati volunteers to go to the forests to collect the flowers and that's when she stumbles upon Shiva's existence. Much as Sati tries to pull herself away from the vagabond God, she finds herself increasingly drawn towards him.

The show is awe-inspiring with respect to its production values. The locales, the settings, the costumes (especially the ones worn by Sati and her jewellery) are stunning. However, the performances are average and the dialogues are cliched like 'Main chupchaap saare dukh sehti rahi' to the 'Main pratiksha karoongi, sheeghra hi apeksha' stuff.

Mohit Raina as the mighty Mahadev is quite striking as far as the physical aspect is concerned. However, we would want him to be a little more expressive. Mouni Roy as the petite, fragile Sati is also stiff. She leaves a lot to be desired in the emotional scenes. She tries hard to convey the pathos and the pain but in vain.

We wish someone better with more depth was cast in her place. It's a pleasure to see Surendra Pal as the arrogant Daksh, despite him scowling most of the time. The rest of the cast pitch in good performances.

Notwithstanding the minor flaws, Mahadev is an engaging watch.

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The Darkest Hour review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 4 December 2012 01:03 (A review of The Darkest Hour)

Based on the admittedly flimsy evidence of films like “The Darkest Hour,” the best defense against invading aliens is to be as attractive as possible. Being one-dimensional doesn’t hurt, either, even if that particular character flaw can be safely blamed on whoever is responsible for the screenplay — in this case, Jon Spaihts. Given that he is also one of two writers credited on Ridley Scott’s much anticipated 2012 film (and possible “Alien” prequel) “Prometheus,” it is to be hoped that his lazy ideas were not equally apportioned between the two projects.

Because, really, how slovenly is it to use invisible aliens? If you’re going to tease us with nothing but pinwheels of light for three-quarters of the film, you’d better have one heck of a reveal up your sleeve. But if all you have is the equivalent of exploding garden gnomes, then your problems are greater than a disposable cast and a filming style as flat as the color palette. As one cement-gray scene follows another, audiences may find themselves rooting for the aliens, if only because their sparkly cloaking devices at least offer visual stimulation.

Working from a story that has been knocking around for years, Mr. Spaihts and his director, Chris Gorak, send two Internet entrepreneurs (Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella) to Moscow to finish a business deal. When they learn that a Swedish opportunist (Joel Kinnaman) has stolen their idea, our lads head to a nightclub to lick their wounds and distract themselves with perky female tourists (namely Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor). There the four — and the scheming Swede — will remain for the next few days as fireballs from outer space transform most of humanity into untidy piles of cremains.

While we wait for the core cast to be reduced to the requisite breeding pair, we have time to ponder the pointlessness of the Moscow setting, chosen primarily to allow the filmmakers access to stock Russian characters — like the crazy inventor and the band of armed-to-the-teeth partisans — and exotic architecture.

“The audience will enjoy it and will feel it’s something new,” Timur Bekmambetov, one of the film’s producers, assures us in the publicity notes, but I wouldn’t be so confident. The audience is more likely to be wondering why Mr. Bekmambetov, the sometimes inspired mind behind the supernatural pictures “Night Watch” and its sequel, “Day Watch,” proved unable to inject life into this one.

Also a mystery is the apparent evaporation of Mr. Gorak’s freshman promise. When, in 2006, he wrote and directed the electrifying no-budget thriller “Right at Your Door,” you wondered what he might accomplish with more cash and greater resources. Now we know: despite a title grandiosely borrowed from Winston Churchill, “The Darkest Hour” is yet another depressing failure of imagination. Even with a technological gold mine at his disposal, all Mr. Gorak can conceive of is destruction.

“The Darkest Hour” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Humans are atomized, and panties are flashed.

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Bad Teacher review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 2 December 2012 04:40 (A review of Bad Teacher)

Public schoolteachers have been getting a pretty bad rap recently, between taking the brunt of the blame for both the declining graduation rates and the escalating deficit of many a state's economy. Promising to tarnish the noble profession's reputation even further is this lowbrow comedy revolving around a shameless gold digger too obsessed with landing a sugar daddy to worry about the welfare of her 7th grade students.

Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking alcoholic who lets her class at John Adams Middle School (JAMS) watch movies every morning so she can close her eyes while her hangover wears off. At the point of departure, we find the self-abusing schoolmarm singularly focused on her impending wedding to a filthy-rich heir (Nat Faxon) she sees only as her meal ticket to a pampered life in the lap of luxury.

After all, she's already gotten the gullible guy to give her a Mercedes convertible as well as access to his credit card. However, he wises up and calls off the wedding when informed by his mom (Stephanie Faracy) that his conniving fiancée has maxed out his account.

Consequently, Elizabeth rather reluctantly returns to JAMS in the fall, with finding another well-heeled, prospective hubby at the top of her agenda. Sure, the affable gym teacher, Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), starts flirting with her again, but he doesn't have nearly enough money to hold her interest.

As it turns out, there is a new substitute teacher, Scott Delacorte (Jason Timberlake), who fits the bill quite nicely. However, Elizabeth immediately encounters some stiff competition for his affection from Amy Squirrell (Lucy Punch), and soon decides that breast implants might turn the tide in her favor. And with a $5,000 bonus in store for the teacher whose class performs the best on the big standardized test at the end of the semester, Elizabeth finds herself highly motivated for the first time to help her students maximize their test scores.

So unfolds Bad Teacher, a decidedly-adult romp directed by Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard). Don't be deceived by the movie's premise which probably sounds a lot more like a set-up for a classic love triangle than a titillating teensploit. But be forewarned, this Cameron Diaz vehicle seizes on any excuse to serve up crude fare whether by having the heroine engage in relentlessly-vulgar repartee or merely prance around suggestively scantily clad.

Provided you're in the mood for such salacious fare, Bad Teacher does deliver the requisite number of raunchy rib ticklers to be worth the investment for those in the testosterone-driven demographic.

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