4 Oct 2015

Movie Review:The Martian (3D): High on engagement, light in tone

Sometime in the near future, a manned NASA mission on Mars is hit by a storm. One of the astronauts, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by flying debris, separated from his team and assumed dead. The storm escalates, forcing the crew to commence in haste on the 4-year trip home.
Alone on the planet, after agonizingly treating his injury, Watney finds the communications equipment destroyed. Using his skills as a botanist and his excreta, Watney grows potatoes in the artificial habitat, while calculating how long the food supplies will last, chances of making it and reaching out to NASA. Meanwhile, back on Earth, his employers waver at the unlikely prospect of rescue, while his home-bound crew is kept in the dark.         

Ridley Scott's best movies have meshed art and entertainment into one riveting force (Notably, in a decade and half - Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001)). For a director with a pendant for gray shades, The Martian is Scott's brightest film yet, glowing with high optimism, wisecracking, witticisms and an overall humourous tone. You sense that all will end well. Spoiler alert...nobody dies.Going back to the story tradition of one-man-against-the-elements that began with that 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe, the director does enough, keeping us engrossed for over two hours. 

NASA Luxuries
The film reeks of USA's boastful dominance in space travel and rescue, Watney himself doesn't face many dangers, except for one major setback. That the films cuts between Mars, NASA and the Hermes space station gives it texture. As in a sole survivor movie, the lead actor has to click and Matt Damon does his thing almost effortlessly, post his Interstellar (2014) cameo, yet making us root for him. Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara and Michael Peña (another impressive cameo post Ant-Man) stand good as resourceful astronauts. Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Vincent Kapoor?!, nothing remotely Indian here!) fill in well as the NASA director and engineer, respectively.

What works
This is still a believable film, far from Interstellar's mind-boggling premise.There are some insights, but just in passing - the point of existence, human need to survive, celebrating life and indomitable will. A compromised lightness surrounds, although fun is where the film surprises us, through Watney's cheery tone, disco music talk/soundtrack, genius stereotypes, rescue plan chatter and F*** word text outbursts.
Nothing is shown of Watney's relatives, his parents barely mentioned, which goes with the film's flow. A couple of heart-rending moments, the understated overwhelming scale of it all, get to us through Damon. There is no encore, not one masterpiece scene or near-death agony, although the climatic sequence is quite a turn. Despite the lack of suspense, it all holds together. Floating between pure storytelling, semi-classic and audience-pleasing, The Martian is worth a cinema visit.   

Not one joyous 3D moment, 2D would have been fine 
Yet another rescue mission for Chiwetel Ejiofor 

11 Jul 2015

Bahubali Movie Posters

Movie Review: Bahubali - The Beginning: Big Budget Gleam, High on Entertainment

The dubbed Hindi version of Bahubali - The Beginning, originally shot in Telugu, is nothing short of impressive in scale, inventiveness, CGI (one of the main stars) and impressive war scenes (where most of the budget went, we presume).

Familiar Story, Grand Treatment 
Shiva (Prabhas, aptly cast) heir to the kingdom of Mahismati, yet unaware of his royalty is raised by forest dwellers, amidst a gigantic waterfall. Through a course of events, inclusive of underwater tattoo-making, layered undressing and suggested deflowering of his lady love, assassin by profession, Avantika (Tamannaah, good act ), Shiva learns about his blue-blood status. This leads us to director S.S. Rajmouli's favourite part, a flashback studded with mega battle possibilities. It tells of two brothers, the wicked Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati, good foil) and Bahubali (Prabhas again), a looming enemy, the throne at stake and two powerful women (Ramya Krishnan, Anushka Shetty, both intense, in command) at the center of it.

Riveting Parts 
The numerous inspirations (not plagiarism) will take another article. Bahubali - The Beginning is not just about big budget luxuries. The supporting characters are as prominent, especially parts played by Nassar (Great acting, in a short, clipped role) and Satyaraj (Quite a steal as a loyal soldier). But it is the battle sequences that the film carries like a medal at its heart. It is the director and the cast's redeeming point, the audience lure to the 70mm screen. Even the cynics at the audience, looking to guffaw at every chink, cannot take away the effort and execution here.

Bahubali - The Beginning is also an all-out commercial film with two diluting song situations, some risque navel-gazing love theme and heavy on thunderous melodramatic dialogue.But most of it is convincing and high quality entertainment. The 160-minute running time breezes away, seldom a dull moment here.You have heard the story before, but not seen it magnified to this level. For sheer entertainment, Bahubali is your ticket to the cinema this week.

Music, Sequel   
MM Keeravani (Known to the Hindi audience as MM Kreem) deserves special mention for his aptly epic background score and at least a couple of songs. The setup to the sequel is tantalizing enough in its premise, apart from a hundred other reasons to expect the 2017 release of Bahubali 2- The Conclusion

20 Feb 2015

Movie Review: Badlapur: Stellar, Riveting Thriller

Badlapur grabs you by the neck in its opening scenes and barely lets go thereafter. It's an astonishing film in the thriller genre, I am still replaying it in my mind, 12 hours post the matinee show.  

There is brutality, slyness, love, humour and a surprising vindication in the mix. Finally, this is cinema, a palette on human nature and circumstance. A universal underlining strain - how much as a species we alarmingly sway towards the primeval, animal side. 

Storytelling & performances 
Applause for steady pace, intense performances, cut-sharp editing and unexpected yet logical scene-flow. But the story and its atmospheric, mirroring real life treatment outdoes all other departments. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is excellent, but you can't undermine Varun Dhawan. It is a valiant, tight act, the actor's tightrope walk. Dhawan has made his mark. Kumud Mishra, Huma Qureshi, Vinay Pathak, Radhika Apte, Divya Dutta and Yami Gautam make a great ensemble cast.  

Wrap up
This is an A rated film, so expect to be engulfed by some stark, sexual elements and disturbing violent scenes. For those who have been to Pune or are a denizen, they will get a local, intimate feel of recognition in the proceedings. But Badlapur could have been set in any other city and still hit you hard.  

It's best not to be know the plot before you watch this one. Let it unfold before you so. When the film's tagline says 'Don't miss the beginning', they damn well mean it.   

Take a bow, Sriram Raghavan.