Friday, December 30, 2011

The 10 Best Bollywood Films of 2011

10 – Shor in the City

Directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, Shor in the City is a reasonably entertaining ensemble yarn. It is the cinematic equivalent of a decent train read - an easily digested page-turner that keeps you occupied but doesn't demand much. Those who don’t normally dig Tusshar Kapoor have the splendid Pitobash to look forward to.

9 - The Dirty Picture

Vidya Balan is saucy and sassy, and completely dedicated to her character in an otherwise unconvincing movie. Director Milan Luthria and writer Rajat Arora dole out a passably enjoyable piece of entertainment rife with double entendre dialogues. Naseeruddin Shah steals the show as the ageing South Indian megastar, with lines like ‘Girls are like a government, you have to support them - kabhi left, kabhi right, kabhi center’.

8 - Dhobi Ghat

 Dhobi Ghat is fodder for cineastes, romantics, and Mumbaiphiles. It is also a triumph for low budget filmmaking in India, the fact that such an arthouse movie was released in theaters is itself a big deal. Director Kiran Rao’s debut film contains beautiful imagery - most fine are those scenes that strive to capture the swooningly mysterious, grungy atmosphere that's endeared so many to Mumbai.

7 – Shaitan

Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan is not ambitious, but it is sleek and commercially legit, and is much more engaging than one expects it to be. If anything, it’s a worthwhile piece of eye candy and one of the most technically proficient Bollywood movies of the year. The soundtrack is excellent – the now famous remixed, souped-up version of ‘Khoya Khoya Chaand’ is set as the backdrop of a fun slow-mo shootout, and ‘Pintya’ is fabulously juxtaposed with a chase scene. Shaitan also marks the arrival of a major talent – Gulshan Deviah.

6 - 7 Khoon Maaf

With 7 Khoon Maaf, Vishal Bharadwaj proves yet again that he is the undisputed grandmaster of lighting a scene. The film, though loaded with uninspired characters is so gorgeous that you can’t stop looking at it. Priyanka Chopra does an adequate job in the first half but the makeup takes center stage in the second. Irrfan Khan, however, gives the performance of the year in his small role as one of her S&M loving husbands.

5 - Yeh Saali Zindagi

Yeh Saali Zindagi carries the distinction of being the most accomplished mediocre movie of the year. Writer-director Sudhir Mishra whips up an interesting central plot involving Irrfan Khan and Chitrangada Singh with some hysterically crass dialogues. And even though we are offered much more than we can chew, courtesy of the unnecessary subplots and the short-circuiting second half, YSZ makes for a fun watch and Mr. Mishra deserves credit for chutzpah.

4  - Stanely ka Dabba

Amole Gupte’s weekender project is one of the year's most delightful surprises. With perfectly cast actors, a poignant and often funny script and original music, Stanely ka Dabba is a study in how good indie filmmaking can be. The highlight here is most certainly the young lead Partho Gupte whose reactions are priceless.

3 - I am

 I am, a compassionate and touching film is in a class of its own as far as character-based flicks go. The film features some strong performances - Nandita Das creates dialogue without words, Rahul Bose emanates a sensitivity he has not shown in any other role to date, and Sanjay Suri is quite convincing as the sexually ambiguous manchild. I am is audacious cinema, director Onir doesn't shy away from the carnal side of the homosexual characters. He does not drag the camera away to shimmering lights and that deserves respect.

2 -  Pyaar ka Punchnama

During its first half, Pyaar ka Punchnama can make your face hurt with laughter with its quippy dialogue and superbly cast male leads. The brilliance of Divyendu Sharma as Liquid is overlapped only by Kartik Tiwari’s sidesplitting five minute long single take rant on troublesome girlfriends. Without a doubt, Pyaar ka Punchnama is the Office Space of Indian cinema, and it will be legend among a certain audience - namely guys in their mid-twenties with crappy jobs struggling to learn about love and life. 

1 - Delhi Belly

By far the most fun and funniest movie of the year, Delhi Belly is a rare comedy that doesn’t wear out its welcome, and succeeds not because of the expletives but despite them.  Writer Akshat Verma’s script is as inventive as it is enjoyable, and Abhinay Deo directs a wickedly smart and visually stylish movie without a trace of pretentiousness.  Imran Khan, Vir Das and Kunal Roy Kapur make a great ensemble, but Vijay Raaz tops them all as the hilariously profane villain. Hat tip to producer Aamir Khan, who managed to release such a bold film in an industry plagued by the Censor Board.

Honorable Mentions: Sahib Biwi aur Gangster, I am Kalam and Videokaaran - had it released in theaters, I'd have named it as the best Hindi film of the year.

(First published in DNA)

'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' Review

I sympathize with the appeal of sequels. Good sequels raise the bar, elevating the stakes to make it more fun than the first film. Unfortunately, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is not one of those sequels.  

Guy Ritchie’s bigger budgeted follow up to 2009’s Sherlock Holmes is a poorly done rehash that uses plot points as excuses to move from one piece of unoriginal slow motion fight choreography to the next. The ultra-slow-motion bullet shots are wow-inducing effects, but on the narrative level the film shoots blanks. To label Sherlock Holmes 2 as a bad movie would be harsh. It's not bad, just that it is an earth-shattering disappointment, a high gloss bore that gives you an ice cream headache.

The lack of novelty in this sequel is astounding. And the story is so convoluted I doubt that it’d make much sense even if you had the time or interest to concentrate.  It is 1899, Watson (Jude Law) prepares to get married to his fiancé, and Holmes (Downey Jr) is obsessed with a Maths professor named Moriarty (Jared Harris), whom he believes to be responsible for the murders of a string of business magnates. Holmes intercepts a letter meant for fortune teller Madame Sizma (Noomi Rapace) that sends him and Watson on a quest to stop the bombing at a Switzerland peace summit, and quash Moriarty’s plan of jeopardizing the entire Western civilization. The first film was fascinating because of the supernaturally-inclined villain, but Moriarty in the sequel is merely a standard-issue conspiring bad guy with delusions of grandeur. 

There is more CGI wizardry, more fights, more stunts, more back and forth between Holmes and Watson. But more, in this case, adds up to less, and Ritchie makes sure the audience is turned numb. The video game-like jump cutting punches and kicks get tedious, and it becomes hard to believe that they were choreographed by Guy Ritchie, even though he is to blame for the inception of this style. The 19th century London production design is amazing, but there is so much thrown at you with little plot payoff that it makes for an endless charade of pointless expensive buffoonery.  

Just like in the first film, Sherlock Holmes 2 contains the crackerjack comic touch of its diminutive star Downey Jr. You’d have to be made of stone to not to be entertained by him. Jude Law is a lot more jaded, quite like the bloated, repetitive film. Noomi Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is hilariously uncomfortable in her English speaking role. Eddie Marsan as Lestrade, Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler and Geraldine James as Holmes' landlady are wasted in thankless miniscule turns. Stephen Fry as Holmes' brother Mycroft in his extended cameo nudges in a few fun bits. Jared Harris is elegantly menacing as Dr. Moriarty. But that’s little consolation amidst the meandering plot and aimless set pieces.

If you love CGI razzle-dazzle and recurrent eye candy action, Sherlock Holmes 2 delivers. But ultimately you’ll have witnessed style over substance. Downey Jr is an exceptionally engaging actor, and he deserves much better than this elementary sequel.

(First published in Mid Day)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The 35 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012

This is how the world ends in 2012 - everyone rushes to the movie theaters all at once, and the shift in mass on the Earth's surface spirals it off its orbit, hurtling it towards the sun.

Listed below are my 35 most anticipated films of 2012.

35 - The Amazing Spider-Man

Hollywood is shameless enough to reboot the franchise just four years after Spider-Man 3 hit theaters. Shameless or not, everyone loves Spidey, and you and I will most certainly line up to buy tickets for The Amazing Spider-Man. The trailer has cheesy dialogues, a jarringly old Andrew Garfield and the movie looks exactly like Sam Raimi’s films. But there’s Rhys Ifans as The Lizard, Emma stone as Gwen Stacy, and it’s directed by Mark Webb who made the excellent (500) Days of Summer. And I sure as hell want to see Irrfan Khan as the Proto Goblin.

34 - John Carter

With its ballooning budget ($220+ million), Star Wars-esque imagery, and lack of buzz, John Carter may well become the Tron Legacy of 2012. But it is directed by Pixar legend Andrew Stanton, who wrote Toy Story and directed Finding Nemo and Wall.E. That makes me excited enough for this title. 

33 - Men In Black 3

J and K are back, and so are the hilariously plasticky aliens from director Barry Sonnenfeld. The first MIB was a landmark movie with its sophisticated visuals, suave comedy and leads Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. The second one was as bad as the first was great. The third looks a lot like the original, at least in the trailer. MIB3 deals with time travel, Josh Brolin stars as a young TL Jones. There were rumours of a hellish production, with frequent on-set script changes and star squabbles. But that’s the case with many big budget movies.  There’s just one hitch – it’s in 3D.

32 - World War Z

Director Mark Forster hasn’t had much luck since The Kite Runner – his Bond movie Quantum of Solace was derided for imitating the Bourne films and Machine Gun Preacher bombed critically and commercially. But World War Z, a post-apocalyptic zombie horror film based on a famous book of the same name could change his luck. The film stars Brad Pitt, and the script has already been hailed as ‘a genre-defining piece of work that could see us all arguing about whether or not a zombie movie qualifies as Best Picture material’.

31 – Hotel Transylvania

Why is an animated movie starring Adam Sandler and Miley Cyrus in a list of the most anticipated movies? Because the legendary TV animator Genndy Tartakovsky makes his feature directorial debut with this film. Tartakovsky was the man responsible for some of the cartoons you compulsorily watched everyday - including Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, The Powerpuff Girls and 2 Stupid Dogs. Hotel Transylvania revolves around Count Dracula (Sandler), the owner of the titular 5 star hotel frequented by the world’s monsters – Frankenstein (Kevin James), the Mummy (Cee Lo Green), Werewolf (Steve Buschemi) and The Invisible Man (David Spade).

30 - Amour

After the Palm d’Or winning The White Ribbon, legendary director Michael Haneke brings us Amour (Love). The film is about an elderly couple, retired music teachers whose neglectful daughter (Isabelle Huppert) returns home when the mother suffers from a paralytic stroke.

29 Ted

Another film where a genius TV animator makes his feature debut, Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane directs Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and Laura Vandervoot in a story of a guy whose childhood teddy bear suddenly comes to life. Don’t let that fool you – this is not a sweet kids’ film. This is Seth McFarlane’s movie, the teddy (voiced my McFarlane himself) is an obnoxious miscreant who indulges in the most unimaginably vulgar lifestyle, scoring chicks, getting drunk, tossing nasty irreverent jokes the kind you find in Family Guy. Bring it on.

28 - The Dictator

Sasha Baron Cohen reunites with his Borat and Bruno director Larry Charles for another mockumentary – this time involving a ‘dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed’. Obviously the dictator General Admiral Alladeen of the Republic Of Wadiya is a parody of Muammar Gaddafi, and the film looks as side-splitting low brow as Borat. The trailer features Alladeen parading around in camels mouthing ‘America, the birthplace of AIDS’, running track races and shooting the competitors, paying Megan Fox for sex and claiming she is much less hairy than Kim Kardashian. The works.

27 - The End

 After the excellent Certified Copy, director Abbas Kiarostami returns behind the camera with a Japanese language drama The End. The film stars Aoi Miyazaki and is sort of a continuation of Certified Copy, about an unusual relationship between a student who works as prostitute to pay for her tuition, and a brilliant elderly mathematician who is one of her clients.
26 – The Cabin in the Woods

A bunch of young friends led by Chris Hemsworth (Thor) head over to a cabin in the woods to have a good time, and all hell breaks loose. Sounds familiar, but the tagline of this movie is “You think you know the story….”, and it is written by Joss Wheedon, the grandmaster of geekdom along with Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard. And the trailer makes it out to be much more different than it sounds – a sci fi horror action pizzazz mashup with a genre bending twist in the third act.

25 – 47 Ronin

Starring Keanu Reeves and a band of Japanese actors, 47 Ronin is an epic film about a gang of Samurai who avenge the murder of their master. The film is an LOTR-esque fantasy action adventure, complete with witches and giants, and at $170 million it is one of the biggest budget movies helmed by a first time director (Carl Erik Rinsch). For those unfamiliar with Rinsch, he is a renowned ad filmmaker and is the man behind the critically acclaimed short film The Gift. If the visuals in The Gift are anything to go by, we’re in for a treat with 47 Ronin.
24 - Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

A genre-slicing action thriller set in an alternate reality where the former president of the US is a vampire killer. If that weren’t saucy enough already, the film is produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmambetov – they previously collaborated for the awesome bullet bending Wanted.

23 - Lincoln

The other Lincoln movie of the year is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role (and the resemblance is uncanny). Spielberg recently got his groove back with the incredibly fun Tintin, and it really is hard to not be excited about any film he makes. It helps that his team of cinematographer Janusz Kaminsi, composer John Williams, editor Michael Kahn is back as well. Lincoln is co-written by Tony Kushner, who previously wrote Spielberg’s Munich.
22 – Shanghai

Dibakar Banerjee, fresh from the brilliance of Love Sex aur Dhoka directs Abhay Deol in a political thriller inspired by Vassilis Vassilikos’s book Z. The film deals with the real-life assassination of a dynamic politician and the common man's revenge from the rich and powerful. Those who’ve seen DB’s Khosla ka Ghosla and LSD will be frothing with impatience a day before its release.

21 – The Life of Pi

Ang Lee directs the adaptation of the famous Yann Martel novel about a boy who gets marooned at sea on a small boat with a tiger, a hyena, an orangutan and a zebra. The 3D film stars Tobey Maguire, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Gerard Depardieu and newcomer Suraj Sharma who plays the lead. Night Shyamalan had declined the offer to direct this movie in favor of the critically ravaged Lady in the Water.

20 – Haywire and Magic Mike

Steven Soderbergh has not one but two films lined up for the year. Haywire is a flat out action thriller starring mixed martial arts star Gina Carano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas and Channing Tatum. The film is a betrayed-spy-gone-rouge-wants-revenge thriller, and seems a lot like Salt done right. Magic Mike is a comedy about male strippers starring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey, and is partly based on Tatum’s own life. Soderberg has claimed to retire soon, and these are two of his supposedly final films.

19 – Frankenweenie

Tim Burton returns to his stop motion animation roots with Frankenweenie, a remake of his own brilliant 1984 short film. Shot in high contrast black in white, Frankenweenie is a parody of the Frankenstein story, fleshed out with Burton’s trademark macabre humour. A boy uses science to bring his dead dog back to life, and everyone in his village, upon seeing the miracle, bring their pets back from the dead. Frankenweenie is written by John August, who also wrote Burton’s Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Big Fish.

18 – The Great Gatsby

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan star in Baz Luhrmann’s big budget adaptation of the famous Scott Fitzgerald book. There have already been three other films based on the book, but none of them were in 3D. On a side note, Amitabh Bachchan makes his Hollywood debut in this film.

17 – The Bourne Legacy

Jason Bourne’s story came to a spectacular climax in the final ten minutes of The Bourne Ultimatum, but writer Tony Gilroy has taken over the directorial duties for a fourth film. This time, our hero is a new CIA operative in the form of Jeremy Renner. Plot details, though, are under lock and key. While Renner’s casting was an inspired choice, the real draw is Edward Norton who plays the chief villain. Tony Gilroy made a stunning debut with Michael Clayton, perhaps he is the perfect choice to helm the Bourne franchise post the departure of Paul Greengrass’ shaky camera.

16 - Rhinos Season

Iranian filmmaker Bahman Gobadi follows up his outstanding No One Knows About Persian Cats with Rhinos Season, a ‘love story in context of the political changes from before the Iranian revolution to the present’. The film stars Monica Bellucci and former Iranian superstar Behrouz Vossoughi who was deposed from the country thirty years ago.

15 – Red Lights

Director Rodrigo Cortes made a crackerjack innovative movie called Buried back in 2010 that spawned a whole legion of single-location thrillers. Cortes’ latest stars Robert DeNiro, Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver and the talented newbie Elizabeth Olsen – the film revolves around a psychologist and her assistant who study paranormal activity and stumble upon a murder, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic.

14 – Looper

Rian Johnson stormed into the scene with the splendid thriller Brick in 2005, and cemented his place with the exquisite The Brothers Bloom in 2009. The young auteur is back with his Brick star Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a science fiction picture titled Looper. JGL stars as a contract killer who works for a mob and assassinates people who are sent from the future. Things get nasty when he identifies one of his targets as his own older self and lets him escape. Bruce Willis stars as the older JGL; Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels round up the super cast.

13 – Skyfall

After the disappointing Quantum of Solace, the James Bond franchise almost caved in as MGM flirted with bankruptcy a little more than a year ago. But the fear has been dispelled because Bond is back, with perhaps the strongest ever team, including director Sam Mendies, writer John Logan, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and a marvelous choice of villains – Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes. Daniel Craig admitted to Quantum being subpar because of the writers’ strike, and disclosed that he had re-written some of the script himself along with director Marc Forster. And the script of Skyfall is supposedly incredible.

12 – Cloud Atlas

Produced by the Wachowskis and directed by Tom Tykwer, Cloud Atlas is the adaptation of the acclaimed novel of the same name. The book has six entwining stories, and every story is narrated by the protagonist in the next. The structure is extremely ambitious, as the stories range from being set in nineteenth century remote South Pacific to a post-apocalyptic future. The movie stars Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Ben Whishaw, Halle Berry and others, all in six different roles each. This $100 million movie is going to be undeniably epic.

11 – The Master

Having made masterpiece after masterpiece, leaving our jaws on the floor with such films as Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There will be blood, Paul Thomas Anderson now offers us yet another interesting movie. The Master stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a man who after WW2 begins his own faith-based cult that catches on and becomes a vast religion. Joaquin Phoenix stars as his devotee who slowly begins to question the principles of his mentor and the cult. The movie is clearly about Scientology, and the PSH character is based on Scientology founder Ron L Hubbard. Incidentally Tom Cruise, a scientologist in real life, played a similar character in Magnolia.

10 – Argo

Over the past five years, Ben Affleck has metamorphosed from an ‘untalented actor friend of Matt Damon’ to an exceedingly talented filmmaker and a great leading man. Affleck surprised everyone with his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone and took it to a whole new level with the terrific heist drama The Town. His latest Argo ‘chronicles the real life covert operation to rescue Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis—the truth of which was unknown by the public for decades’. Simply put, Affleck plays a CIA agent who leads a team that poses as a filmmaking crew to rescue American hostages from Tehran. Affleck co-wrote the script with Good Night and Good Luck writer Grant Heslov.

9 – Dark Shadows

A film based on a weird gothic TV series about a twisted gang comprising of a playboy vampire, a witch, an alcoholic psychiatrist, a creepy caretaker and barely-human kids. Sounds like something Tim Burton would do. And he is. The movie stars Johnny Depp (of course) as the vampire, Helena Bonham Carter (of course) as a crazy bitch, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, Eva Green, Jack Earle Healey and others. Dark Shadows is written by Burton regular John August (of course) and is scored by Danny Elfman (naturally). Dark Shadows releases a few months after Burton’s other film Frankenweenie, and if it’s even half as good as Sweeney Todd, we’re in for some seriously good cinema.

8 – Brave

Pixar films are yearly rituals to head over to movie halls and come out completely overwhelmed with delight. Although their recent movie Cars 2 wasn’t very original, Brave is something they have never done before – it’s a fairy tale with a female as the protagonist. But unlike in Disney movies, the heroine of Brave is a Scottish adventuress who fights battles. And just look at that hair!

7 – Avengers

The ultimate gift for comic nuts, directed by geek God Joss Whedon, The Avengers features Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson)who battle against Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his plans to destroy the earth. Safe to say, one can expect some pretty bombastic CGI blowout stuff from Industrial Light & Magic.

6 - Gangs of Wasseypur

It’s an Anurag Kashyap film, and it’s an epic packaged in two parts. Need I say more?

5 - Django Unchained

After bringing us the B-movie-esque irreverence of WW2 in Inglorious Basterds, maestro Quentin Tarantino heads even further back in time – Django Unchained is about a slave who joins forces with a bounty hunter to take revenge against an unscrupulous plantation owner and rescue his imprisoned wife. Tarantino has amassed an absurdly strong cast of actors – with Leonadro DiCaprio playing the villain, Jamie Foxx as the slave, Christoph Waltz as the bounty hunter, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Samuel L Jackson, Anthony LaPaglia, Kurt Russel, Kerry Washington and Don Johnson. The script is available online, and those who’ve read it will confirm that Django Unchained makes Inglorious Basterds look like a Disney movie. It’s going to be extremely offensive, insanely violent, brutally misogynist and outrageously brash. Just the way Tarantino fans like it.

4 – Gravity

Director Alfonso Cuarón’s long gestating science fiction movie stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts stranded in space. Gravity is supposedly an ultra-ambitious mostly-silent film and is being made with some allegedly revolutionary technology that is more immersive than anything we’ve seen before. As per Guillermo del Toro, “they are absolutely pushing a new boundary in filmmaking, completely mind-blowing”. Perhaps like in Cuarón’s Children of Men this film will be a bunch of shots digitally stitched together to look like one continuous take. The plot itself is very intriguing – two people floating in space after their shuttle is destroyed, leaving them tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness with a slackening supply of oxygen.

3 – Prometheus

It gives me goosebumps to know that the man who single handedly changed the face of science fiction TWICE is offering us a new big budget sci fi movie. Prometheus began as a prequel to Alien but director Ridley Scott and writer Damon Lindelof decided to make an altogether new story. Starring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba and Michael Fassbender as an Android, Prometheus deals with a bunch of scientists who set sail to discover the origins of the universe. Scott did later claim that the movie will feature ‘the DNA of Alien, especially in the third act’. Prometheus is set before the events of the seminal 1979 film, and I have a feeling the film will throw a light on how the Xenomorphs were created. The poster of Prometheus is basically the poster of Alien with a giant face floating in it. And the trailer is pretty exciting shite.

2 – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It’s been exactly ten years since Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring brought hordes of folks to the theaters and left them slobbering for more. After The Return of the King, Guillermo del Toro was chosen to direct the prequel and he worked on it for more than a year. Unfortunately he left the project, and is now doing a movie about giant robots battling giant monsters. Peter Jackson returned to the director’s chair for the Hobbit films, and we’ll once again be thrust in treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Much of the original cast including Gollum returns, but the more interesting news is that Jackson is shooting The Hobbit at 48FPS with the Red EPIC 3D camera.

1 - The Dark Knight Rises

Without a doubt, THE most anticipated movie of 2012. Every punk and his dog want to see the Dark Knight rise, the geeks want to see Bane break Batman’s back, the horny ones want to see Anne Hathaway stretch in leather, studio execs want Bane to speak a bit more clearly. But what I really want is to watch this movie before anyone else, on the biggest screen possible.

Honorable Mentions: Michael, Talaash, Seven Psychopaths, Total Recall, Gangster squad, Rise of the Guardians

Dishonorable Mentions: Madagascar 3, Ice Age 4.

Guilty Pleasures: Expendables 2, GI Joe2, Wrath of the Titans, American Reunion

Which are YOUR most anticipated films of 2012? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kill List - Not A Review

I’m not easily impressed.

But when you watch the climax of Kill List, with your mouth wide open, these three things will assuredly happen:

a) You’ll scream ‘that didn’t make any sense!’ and light a cigarette to wipe the bewildered expression off your face. “What an illogical end to a brilliant film” you’ll mumble, as you scratch your beard in frustration.


b) You’ll spend the next ten minutes hitting rewind, piecing the film, its characters, their reactions and their motivations together, and then feel the light dawning inside your skull. You will find yourself short of breath, in complete awe of the sheer genius.

And finally,

c) You’ll then spend the next fifteen minutes desperately calling all your friends, frothing your mouth with excitement asking them to watch this movie.

With Kill List, director Ben Wheatley has sculpted an absolutely mesmerizing and creepy crime thriller. The film follows a contract killer named Jay (Neil Maskell) who is talked into a new job by his friend eight months after botching up a murder in Kiev. The two meet their shady, wealthy client and are handed a ‘kill list’ of their targets. But something isn’t quite right. As they begin disposing their victims Jay finds himself slipping into violent mood swings, indulging in brutally executing people outside the list. A David Lynchian turn arrives as our hero slips into terrifying unpredictable circumstances, leading to an alarming climax.

Interestingly, Kill List is peppered with black comedy, and its meld with gangster-drama, socio-realist banter, Lynchian hallucinogenic plotting and body horror renders mixed signals to the audience - the effect is delectably unnerving. The dark humour only adds to the disconcerting atmosphere in the film. And what an atmosphere it is. A sinister plain vanilla palette, stripped off soul, blended with electronic sounds and unreliable characters. The performances are as terrific as the editing. Best of all, Wheatley challenges your intellect and devilishly avoids spoonfed exposition, and invites you to watch it again.

If you’re still unconvinced, just watch the trailer below.

And if the trailer doesn't do it for you, here's Peter Bradshaw's review.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The 'One Day' Review

Formula is not necessarily a bad device in a romantic dramedy, but it is still essential to develop lead characters that anyone actually cares about. The audience has to desperately want the lovers to get together, despite the obstacles. Unfortunately that isn’t the case with One Day, a film that has the musty flavor of a made-for-TV feature that ended up in multiplexes serving popcorn with fake butter. 

Director Lone Scherfig, who made the excellent An Education regrettably believes that One Day is great offbeat romance, but bringing a guy and a girl together and having them cuddle and make goo-goo eyes at each other is hardly the basis of an interesting love story. One Day is based on David Nicholls’ novel of the same name, and stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as Emma and Dexter who meet each other for just one day each year on July 15 from 1988 through 2011. Gimmicky as the plot device is, Emma and Dexter’s lives entwine at college, then during their professional careers, and even during their various flings. Emma works in a Mexican restaurant and marries a comedian (Rafe Spall) whom she does not love, while Dexter becomes a TV host and settles for a wealthy woman (Romola Garai). Their complicated, simultaneously friendly, flirtatious and hostile relationship endures as they keep bumping into each other once every year. Unless you have never seen a romantic drama, you know how the story ends.

Hathaway and Sturgess are pleasing enough to look at, and they have some low-key appeal, but there's absolutely no evidence of anything reminiscent of a romantic spark between the two. If Emma and Dexter love each other, they do a fabulous job of hiding it. Hathaway struggles to shake off her American persona and speaks with a curiously, at times laughably fake British accent. In any case both Sturgess and Hathaway are let down by the unfocussed script, so it's hard to blame either of them for One Day’s failures. They do their best to remain interesting despite the shoddy material, and it never quite works. 

Director Scherfig and writer Nicholls assume we are so familiar with the formula that they don't bother to develop the relationship between the leads. We're never once invested in Emma and Dexter’s interaction. One moment, they couldn’t care less for each other, and the next, they're in love despite being married to other people. It's something of a mystery how this transition occurs, since One Day never bothers to tell that part of the story. Instead, the film is too busy annoying us with irritating subplots featuring secondary characters like Dexter’s parents (Patricia Clarkson, Ken Scott). Even the big emotional payoff at the end is extremely predictable and ho-hum – it’s what makes this film a dull, flat and artificial love story. 

First published in Mid Day