16 Dec 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey (3D): Technology mars storytelling

Let us regretfully declare precioussss that we returned to the cinema hall yet again for a second viewing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part of the movie trilogy. We find now that the use of 3D does add punch to the action sequences, but the storytelling suffers in the process. Too much is made the 48 frames per second technology. The visual impact of  48 fps is in giving a High Definition (HD) experience, the effect is cosmetic at most.

Yes, Peter Jackson impresses again with his lively imagination, enthusiasm and his cinematic hold over middle-earth tales. The film is entertaining, but not deep, which is a pity, for the JRR Tolkien book reeks of danger, and is certainly not as full of comic ambiance as the film.The director does packs conviction, alarm and urgency in to characters, special effects and action scenes. No other director has blended CGI with such seamless conviction and imagination as Jackson and this film serves as additional evidence.

Additions obstruct flow
Now, I have immensely enjoyed reading the book and certain liberties taken to conjoin the story line to the LOTR movies, like the Rivendell council scenes and the Necromancer scenes stretch like elastic. These visual spectacle excuses are but light of purpose. They take much sheen off proceedings. 

Despite its mitigated charm, An Unexpected Journey is certainly worth watching on the cinema screen. The 3D version comes highly recommended. It's a good one, there is only some bad Jackson can do. I just expect better things in the next two parts. Without 3D would do too, please. Technology that mars cinema is of no use.

Stand out 
Watch out for the Gollum-Bilbo scene in particular. The literature comes oozing out in those pieces as Andy Serkis impressively reprises his motion-capture role.

12 Dec 2012

Music Specials: Ravi Shankar & The Quiet Beatle

Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar passed away yesterday evening (Dec 11,2012) in California as the press have reported. He was 92.

Let us bask then in the sun of a musical legacy, let me start with a blog link posted again in the light of Shankar's untimely demise (Frankly, considering the incredible energy, expected Shankar to live beyond 100, still playing the Sitar). Here is the link: Ravi Shankar & Allah Rakha make magic at Monterey, 1967.

Now on to the story of the quiet Beatle, George Harrison and his relationship with Ravi Shankar. Harrison is said to have met Shankar in 1966 and then go on to learn playing the Sitar from the latter during an Indian visit. Listen to Shankar talking about his initial view of Harrison learning the instrument below:

Harrison went on to use the Sitar and Tabla in certain Beatles songs. Here is a YouTube selection for your listening pleasure. Also check Love You To out, the most scintillating example of Sitar in a Beatles song.

6 Dec 2012

Movie Talk: Talaash: How about an alternate ending?

Whether you have watched Talaash or are going to do so, consider this:

  • That if the story were to be told from the point of view of Rosy (Kareena Kapoor), the impact would be far more devastating. 
  • That the additional underwater rescue scene almost kills it. The scene demonstrates how much things left unsaid in comparison to a scene stretched beyond measure can make a film of the suspense genre either great or good. 
  • The additional mitigating factor is the final recapping of various scenes we have already seen. This school textbook revision for a forgetful target audience reduces the film's wallop and chances of repeat viewing.  
  • An alternate ending: The police vehicle taillights disappear into the water. THE END.

Movie Review: Talaash: Bumpy road to 'twist in the tale'

In the dead of a Mumbai night, a famous film actor inexplicably swerves his car off the road into the sea. Inspector Shekawat (Aamir Khan) is put in charge of the case, and he soon realizes that things are very complex. Shekawat has his own demons to subdue, he is guilt-ridden of his irresponsibility in the drowning of his eight year-old son. His strained relations with his wife (Rani Mukherjee) lead to sleepless, wandering nights, and he dips himself in the case. Into his life then, first as an informer and then as a confidant comes the prostitute Rosy (Kareena Kapoor). How Shekawat's relation with Rosy leads to the shocking revelation is the film's make or break point.

Talaash takes the safe, meandering and awkward road to the fifteen seconds of heaving us from our seats. The script and its treatment is not as confident, crafty and risky as a particular Hollywood film that executed a similar premise with unforgettable finesse. The additional overplayed scene in the revelation part and the crowd-comforting happy ending mitigates the effect to a large extent.

The cast is excellent. Aamir, Kareena and Rani all play their parts with craft. Raj Kumar Yadav, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Shernaz Patel add luster to their parts, Siddiqui is particularly mercurial. The Ram Sampath soundtrack is good audio, though except for the opening credits Muskaanein Jhooti Hai, the other songs steal intensity from tense proceedings.

Finally Talaash is a good attempt in a genre where a tighter, defter and daring treatment would have given us a classic. No kidding. A definite one-time watch.

5 Dec 2012

Movie News: Coming Soon: The Hobbit Trilogy

The news has been floating for a long time now, and it is now pretty much confirmed (precioussss) that Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit is to be released in three parts, yes, as a trilogy. The first film is called The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The second and third films, set to be released in 2013 and 2014 respectively are reported to be titled - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

Having read the book twice now, the second time quite recently, this news brings great joy. For The Hobbit may seem to be a deceptively short tale, considering the lesser number of pages in comparison to Lord of the Rings, but this is happily not true. There is so much happening in the book (and the Gollum episode is just one of the several), that a single movie will not able to provide ample time for the establishment of umpteen characters, excluding the treasure-hunting party.

Now, the three-part movie adaptation of Lord of the Rings too left many parts of the book out and tweaked certain plot elements by characters rather than actions, thus still retaining the epic fantasy's aura. It still resounds on screen as a singular tale, for the main crux of the story is forever moving towards one certain question - Whether the one ring of power will be destroyed or not?

In comparison, The Hobbit tells of a single group of characters, there is no Gondor, Mordor or Minas Tirth in it as diversions. The tale revolves around the adventures of 13 dwarves, a hobbit and a wizard. Therefore, anything missing from the movie is bound to be noticed.

Considering the length, The Hobbit is an easier story to fit into three films than the mammoth Lord of the Rings. Hence, the trilogy makes sense, apart from the commerce angle. Now to see if Peter Jackson can pull it off again. With no more plot spoilers, we await the release of the first part in India on December 14, 2012.