Sunday, November 13, 2016

Movie Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Private Billy Lynn is a 19 year old American hero, back home from a deadly stint in Afghanistan, for a short victory tour along with fellow soldiers from the Bravo company. Drafted in to participate in the halftime show at a Thanksgiving Day football game for some PR, Billy's thoughts become our gateway to discover what it really is like to be fighting a war, contrasting the realities with public perception, giving a fascinating peek into what lies beneath. 

Moving back and forth between the traumatic experiences on the frontlines and back alleys of Afghanistan to the razzle dazzle of the halftime show, from the cowering residents during raids in Afghan homes to the families back in America, the film takes you back and forth, blurring the lines between reality and perception, until you start asking, what's more terrifying?

Joe Alwyn as Billy does a good job, sharing great chemistry with his mentor (Vin Diesel, who initiates him into Karma and Krishna!) and his commander (Garett Hedlund). Kristen Stewart excels at playing the very sick (recovering from a very bad accident and break up) Kathryn, his sister, who pleads with him not to return to duty. Steve Martin and Chris Tucker are also memorable in short but well essayed roles as media men seeking to do a movie on the Bravo company. Makenzie Leigh, as Billy's one-hour-long cheerleader-lover, sizzles the screen and more than makes up for Kristen.
The film is a technical marvel, directed by Ang Lee, who lists Life of Pi and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon among his other brilliant works. Shot in 3D with a 4K resolution, at a speed of 120 frames per second, 5x the normal, the movie should be a visual treat. Sadly, very few theatres in the world, leave alone in India, will be able to make the most of this format in the near future. That said, the immersive presentation coupled with Destiny's Child's "Soldier" at the halftime show, is enough to give you goosebumps and a racing pulse, and make you want more, even when the credits roll 2 hours later...

Definitely worth a trip to the multiplex, but watch it in the best one you can get into!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Black and Whites - Old Goan Houses!


Our grand old Caesar, all of 95 years old!

Old Goan Homes

Brought up in this amazing old Goan home, you can imagine how tough it was for me to shift to a hotel room that measured barely 8 ft x 5 ft during my IIT Bombay days! :)

The Old Charms of Panaji, Goa

Spent an evening walking through the beautiful heritage burrough of Mala Fontainhas in Panaji last week, looking through my 10-18 lens, as a tourist might do - taking time to stand and stare. Old Portuguese architecture, some well maintained, other recently renovated buildings adorn both sides of tiny but uncongested lanes. Here are some pics, including those taken in other parts of the city as well.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

I am not an Avengers fan, I don't partake (at least in an intelligent fashion) in the Marvel vs Disney arguments, I didn't even know until recently that you gotta sit through the entire end credits roll to get a peek into the next big Marvel. And Doctor Strange isn't even a real superhero (all he does is dash in and out of time and space warps, and outta his physical body). But I loved the movie!

When an extremely talented neurosurgeon crashes his car, smashing the nerves on his delicate fingers and with that, his blossoming career, he turns to the psychic world to master his body, mind and spirit. And ends up getting sucked into a fight for Mother Earth against the dark forces in the Universe, bent on sucking life out of the world as we know it into a timeless, endless vortex. Etc etc. Yes, we have heard that before.

What's stunning though, is the SFX, especially if you can catch it in IMAX 3D. When you think you have seen it all before, Marvel comes up with a fascinating rendition of warped time and spaces, and such high fidelity psychedelic graphics, that nothing else really matters - just sink back into your comfortable lounge seats and let your eyes go wide with wonder. The accident is also extremely well shot, as are a couple of panoramic shots of Kathmandu and the surrounding mountains.

An excellent performance by Doctor "Sherlock" Strange, and the extremely cute Rachel McAdams, keeps you engrossed throughout the running time, with more than a couple of good laughs. The best part is that the end game comes quick and fast, unlike many similar super hero/sci fi movies that seem to drag on and on in a blur of SFX overdose!

Do check out this Strange movie, and in IMAX 3D if you can find one in your city!

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Movie Review: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

I didn't want to watch this movie. Nothing to do with Fawad (I actually loved him in Kapoor and Sons!), but really because I got turned off by the entire controversy, dragging the army into it, and the eventual capitulation by the producers, which was such a shame. Then I thought, heck, what and who am I taking a stand against anyway? It's just a movie. The politicians will play their part, especially with elections around the corner.

Or maybe because I've never been a great fan of Ranbir, or of Aishwarya. But then Anushka Sharma (never been my favorite, but I have to admit, she's done some fantastic roles lately in NH10, DDD) was a plus, and when SRK has a cameo, how could I say no, really?

Sometimes in life, you do make mistakes. Maybe, this was one of them.

To be honest, the first half was actually OK. Quite pacy, and enjoyable, if you keep low expectations from everyone. The second half is all downhill into a deep crevice from where there is no coming back. A muddled storyline, insipid dialogues, and a very predictable and stretched ending makes this a very mushkil watch as the minutes drag on.

On the plus side, some of the numbers are beautiful and will stay on my play list for a very long time. SRK mouths some memorable dialogues in the 3 min he is on screen, Lisa Haydon is sexy and funny, and Fawad simply takes your breath away. Anushka is dependable, for most part. Ranbir is also tolerable, for most part. Aishwarya looks good, sometimes (especially when she is the model instead of the actress).

Oh, and there are a bunch of other cameos too. I think I saw Alia in one shot!

Now that Diwali is over, maybe ADHM isn't such a bad idea.

Movie Review: Shivaay

This is one movie I had really high hopes about - maybe because at some subconscious level, I thought it might be an adaptation of one of Amish Tripathi's novels, or at least borrow some ideas from! The awesome action seen in the trailer only served to heighten those expectations.

The movie opens to a great sequence, the cinematography, the locale and the background score creating a sense of purpose and direction that's hard to buy into. Sadly, just like the protagonist (Ajay Devgan) nosediving down the steep cliffs, the movie goes just one way - downhill - from there on.

In spite of some great action shots and wonderful locales and the breathtaking cinematography, the movie is done in by stretched sequences of uncalled for emotional drama that completely upsets the pace and the narrative, dialogues that are unintentionally funny where they should be taut, and insipid direction and editing, where a good cut of the scissor could have made this a movie Jason Bourne could have been proud of. Entire scenes could have been snipped out and no one would have missed a thing!

Ajay Devgan the actor is let down by Ajay Devgan the director. The two imports, Erika Kaar (Ajay's love interest) and Abigail Eames (his daughter) are decent, except when Erika mouths the overly accented Hindi dialogues. Thankfully, Abigail is verbally challenged and doesn't have to go through the torture. Vir Das, Girish Karnad and Saurabh Shukla are completely wasted, which is such a shame. And the tub scene being the highlight of Sayesha Saigal's debut, it does her no favors.

News is that the directors have obliged distributors and cut off a good 10-15 mins - and that might just make Shivaay a lot more tolerable. From me, 2.5 stars out of 5, the negative marking not so much for what's missing, but what should have never been there in the first place!