Review: Guzaarish

No one in Bollywood makes musicals anymore. I don’t mean films with songs added. I mean the big theatrical type, where the music and lyrics are so woven into the narrative that the film couldn’t work without it. The last I saw that in an Indian film was Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya, and now he does it again with Guzaarish.

I won’t go into Saawariya much, as this review isn’t about that, but it’s probably useful to know I’m one of the few people who really likes it. It’s quite a misunderstood gem of a film. Following Black, and opening against Om Shanti Om, people expected more of a Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam than a toned down, blue looking Devdas. People need to give it a chance.

Guzaarish is grand but SLB still isn’t back to his Indian epic scale of HDDCS and Devdas. He may never go back there. Instead he’s made a tragic story of a quadriplegic man who wants the right to die. It’s quite a heavy topic, euthanasia, but it’s not all about the case. It’s also not all about his illness. Neither is it all about Sofiya’s love for Ethan. It only touches on all these points, giving glimpses of the end of Ethan’s life. The lack of a solid storyline will probably be a massive negative in the eyes of most of the audience who go to see this, but it actually gives more time to character growth, and just to watch SLB do what he does.

Hrithik Roshan is exceptional as Ethan Mascarenhas. He’s a flawed character, but its taken fourteen years of suffering for him to get to that point, and you really feel for him, whether or not you agree with what he’s fighting for. Hrithik chemistry with Aishwarya is brilliant. What the two of them together do on screen would never have been as good with any other two actors. It was nice to see her looking simple and elegant, especially after the costume nightmare that was Action Replayy. The little bit of weight she put on takes nothing away from how good she looks.

No one’s hair has ever irritated me more than Aditya Roy Kapoor’s afro. He has potential as an actor, but I don’t know if we will see him as a lead, especially not with that hair. He did well given that the role had no real point to it. SLB added the little twist towards the end, but didn’t really take it anywhere, and so it just became a bit pointless. I was more than happy for him to just be the enthusiastic fanatic who had come to learn magic. Not giving the character more would have avoided the disappointment I felt when nothing came out of the revelation.

The music is good, and works well in the film, the two high points being Tere Zikr, and Udi. My biggest issue with Sanjay Leela Bhansali is putting songs in the album, making me love them and then leaving them out of the film, and he did this with Saawariya as well. One of my favourite songs from the Guzaarish album is Chand Ki Katori, but it was nowhere to be seen, or heard, in the film. There wasn’t really a point where it could have gone (where as in Saawariya I know exactly where and how I’d place the songs he’d missed), but nevertheless, I felt I had been cheated.

Being the massive fan of SLB that I am, my view of Guzaarish is probably a little biased, but I do think if people gave it a chance they’d see it really is a wonderfully sweet film. Its sad, but not depressing, and it leaves you with a warm feeling, which is unexpected from a Euthanasia film. I hope there are enough SLB fans out there like me, or lovers of the Hrithik-Ash jodi that will make this film work because I truly believe it deserves to. 

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part I

The books and movies are THE series of my childhood. I remember being read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Year 4 (3rd grade you Americans) at school, and now its all coming to an end.

Unless something was horribly wrong, there was no way I couldn’t love this. David Yates will probably become the director people associate with the movies, given he’s made four of the eight, and the last two. He’s done well with the less interesting and less exciting half (or two thirds) of the book; its stays pretty faithful to the book, so much so that the travelling bits go slowly like they do in the book. But I think the breaks in action are kind of necessary. A high paced film would have changed the mood of the film, which I thought worked very well.

There were some quite indulgent shots in the film – beautiful to watch, but often pointless. There was definitely one in the beginning where nothing happened at all! The idea of being able to go shoot on location probably went to everyone’s heads a little bit.

The trio (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) have all improved massively in terms of acting. The girl who plays Ginny, Bonnie Wright, though hardly in it, was kind of painful to watch. Not looking forward to her in Part 2. I also thought Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort wasn’t evil enough in the meeting scene. I got that everyone was intimidated by him, but if I didn’t know why I would’ve thought they were all overacting.

My two favourite moments of the film are two Harry and Hermione moments: the cemetery scene, before Bathilda shows up; and the dancing in the tent. I thought I’d find it horribly cringe worthy but it was sweet. Definitely a good addition to the story, and something that probably never would have worked in the book. But Daniel should probably take lessons before he dares to dance on screen again…

I have a couple of issues with the film. One: the casualness of Hedwig’s death. Dobby had a much more emotional death scene, and though I like him just as much as anyone, Hedwig was a much bigger loss. And two: the end. I liked where they ended it, but it was abrupt, and it didn’t have to be. It didn’t have the big epic cliffhanger feel, which it desperately needed. It felt more like closing the book halfway through. And talking of the end, was it just me or does Dumbledore’s tomb seem a little too futuristic for the wizarding world? Plain white is a little too minimalist and modern in my eyes for the great wizard that Dumbledore was.

Talking of Dumbledore, I would have changed the beginning of the film. I loved how it has the emotional thing going, with Hermione leaving her parents, and the Dursleys leaving, but it was too short. It almost felt like a different movie started when the ‘Harry Potter’ title came up. For most of the movie, at the back of my head this was bothering me, and then it came to me. They should have started with Dumbledore’s funeral, something that was so major in the sixth book, and yet left out of the adaptation. A big part of the story is Harry realizing that however close he felt to Dumbledore, he didn’t actually know him that well, and starting with Dumbledore’s funeral would give that strand something extra. I don’t remember too well how the Half Blood Prince film ended, but in the book it is after the funeral the three of them decide to go searching for Horcruxes, so following that with the scene with Hermione and her parents, Harry and the empty house, and pensive Ron, would have been perfect.

Understandably, the film seems a little incomplete, but it only makes me more impatient for Part 2, which comes out in July. Part of this part being so good is in knowing what is to come can only be more awesome. Unless they completely screw it up.  

Quick Review: Let Me In

I have seen the Swedish movie Matt Reeve’s Let Me In was based on (Låt den rätte komma in) however I don’t really think I remember it that well. Certain scenes definitely had a weird sense of deja vu. Some were basically shot on the same set. For a remake they did pretty well, the film carries the same mood, and its still oddly beautiful. Again, I have to say I don’t remember the Swedish one that well, but what from I do remember, wouldn’t have dubbing it just have been easier and cheaper, if people didn’t want to read subtitles? 

Chloë Moretz was creepy, as she should have been, although an American 12 year old girl vampire is a little less believable and less interesting. Kodi Smit-McPhee was exactly as I remember Oskar to be. I actually felt so bad for him in the bullying scenes. 

I didn’t quite see the point of the Romeo + Juliet symbolism. Using the line “I must be gone and live, or stay and die” was sweet, but just unnecessary. Or seriously underdeveloped. Even Twilight tries to compare the vampire/human love story to that of Romeo + Juliet, but I really don’t think it works in the same way. 

I’m not so keen on the way Matt Reeves chose to start the film either, with the flashback and then getting to the present half way through. Maybe if I hadn’t seen the original it may have held greater suspense for me, but it didn’t quite do it for me. 

Quick Review: Due Date

Quick review of Due Date, mainly because I don’t have too much to say… 

Quite simply, I really liked this, found it hilarious, but I didn’t love it like I loved The Hangover. Zach Galifianakis is great at what he does here, and its pretty much the same character as he played in The Hangover (also a Todd Phillips movie), and I would hate to see him even attempt anything else. Though it may get repetitive after a few more movies, and it might lose its charm, he should really wait for that to happen before moving on. 

Robert Downey Jr. is great as well. Never really thought of him as that funny, and even in this, he’s not really the one providing the humor. But I love the dynamic between him and Zach. If it was played by anyone else, the character would have come across as quite a jerk, but somehow RDJ makes it work. 

I love how the jokes kept going. With a lot of comedies I feel that when the plot starts to wrap up, so do the jokes, but they just kept coming. I have to say though, some things weren’t that funny. They done some pretty bad stuff, like crashing into a police car intentionally, and stealing a car from an immigration dude, and they get away with it. I’m not saying it should have turned into a prison drama at that point, but I think its all taking a little too lightly. Or maybe I need to lighten up a bit. Who knows. 

Bollywood Review: Action Replayy

I suppose it was just a matter of time before Bollywood would remake Back To The Future. Action Replayy isn’t a complete rip off, but the main idea is the same, it’s just been desi-fied, which a lot more focus put on the love story of Kishen (Akshay Kumar) and Mala (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), Bunty’s (Aditya Roy Kapoor) parents.

The film overall is quite sweet, but a little too dumb. Its not all out slapstick comedy, but its not clever humour either, its just in the middle somewhere, like it didn’t know which way to go, and that can work sometimes, but really not here. They’re portraying it as a comedy, but it’s just not funny enough. Or maybe they were going for 70s humour, which I just didn’t get. Also plot-wise, everything seemed too convenient. One big thing left unexplained was how Bunty and Mala became friends. They didn’t that to happen for the rest of the movie to play out, so they just made it happen, but didn’t explain how that was possible.

For a new guy, Aditya Roy Kapoor seems promising, and am looking forward to seeing how he does in SLB’s Guzaarish in a couple of weeks. He was a little too enthusiastic at times I felt, like I get they were his parents, and it was the 70s, but still – a lot of shouting and cheering. But that’s possibly more a fault of the director, Vipul Shah, giving a lot more attention to his big stars, rather than the new kid.

Lets talk about the stars then. About 100 films ago, Akshay Kumar playing the innocent geeky simpleton was funny and good. Now, it’s incredibly irritating and dull. I’m not really a fan anyway, but doing the same role over and over isn’t helping his case. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on the other hand was pretty good, and looked amazing, despite some weird costume choices. Her clothes in the 70s didn’t always seem right for the decade, especially some short dresses, like the one she wore in the song ‘Nakhre’. Manish Malhotra should know better than that by now. She was always so dressed up, that it just got a bit weird after a while.

There were some major technical issues in this film. There’s a whole list, but one major issue was bad cinematography and camera work, most notably in the song ‘O Bekhabar’. I don’t know who this Sejal Shah is, but she needs to go back to cinematography school or something. In this day and age, things should not look that bad. The camera was so zoomed in on some shots it was actually painful to look at. How could anyone let them put the film out like that? Did they not check what it would look like on a big screen?

Even though it sounds like I have major issues with this film, it wasn’t all that bad. The sweet bits were sweet enough, and there were some good jokes, and a couple of the songs were enjoyable. I think they could have had a simpler plot, there’s a fair bit pointless bits happening on the side. It’s worth watching once, but I wouldn’t see it again unless forced or paid to. And it’s definitely not for anyone who isn’t used to level of stupidity some Bollywood movies have. Not that it’s even trying to, but this is not the kind of movies to make us proud on an international level. 

Moulin Rouge! Blu-ray

Just rewatched Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! after years, and still love it. I don’t want to review it properly, so just a couple of short thoughts after seeing it.

It looks absolutely stunning on blu-ray, as you would expected, given all the glitz and the glamour and all that red in the film. The blu-ray has quite a lot of extras on it, which I will get round to watching at some point… 

It always gets compared to Chicago, since they’re both musicals, and that came out a year after this, but I think Moulin Rouge is definitely better. I also think if the Academy were going to give the Best Picture Oscar to a musical, Moulin Rouge deserved it more. (I know they were different years, so technically not up against each other)