Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Off They Go...

- Prabhu Deva chose to direct his first film in Telugu and is directing his second now.

- Masala king Dharani is wrapping up Bangaram with Pawan Kalyan.

- Ghajini director Murugadoss is off to Andhra to direct Chiranjeevi in Stalin.

- Manirathnam's next is a Hindi film Guru starring Abishek Bachan and Aishwarya Rai.

- Here we are stuck with the likes of P.Vasu and Perarasu...

Looks like Tamil cinema is facing its own kind of outsourcing problem!

No Paheli

Paheli didn't make it to the final five...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Rang De Basanti

Movies with a patriotic theme have to walk a tightrope. To really work, they must appeal to our heart and ignite, so to speak, a patriotic fervor in us. But they must do this without overdoing the jingoism factor. Rang De Basanti walks the tightrope perfectly in the first half. It loses its balance a little and stumbles a little in the second half but not enough to fall off the rope.

Sue(Alice Patten), a documentary filmmaker in London, is the granddaughter of one of the commanders in the British army during India’s freedom struggle. From one of his diaries, she learns of the bravery of freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad and wants to make a film about them. Travelling to India, she meets her friend Sonia(Soha Ali Khan), studying in Delhi University, and through her, gets introduced to some more of her friends(Aamir Khan, Sidharth, Kunal Kapoor, Sharman Joshi). Soon Sue realizes that finding actors to play the parts in her film is not an easy task.

The film is a patriotic film crossed with a coming-of-age film. So instead of love, friendship, romance and all those other emotions that the protagonists in any film from the coming-of-age genre usually discover, the youth here ‘grow up’ by discovering a love for their country. The film gets everything right when the group is growing up but once they have grown up, there is a tendency to oversimplify and dumb down things.

RDB has one of the freshest stories I have seen. The plot device it uses - the British filmmaker trying to film a documentary - to provide the connection between the past and the present is very innovative. The way the screenplay has been developed to draws parallels between the different time periods is brilliant and leads to some exhilarating moments as we see the present mirroring the past. It conveys, in a rather different way, the same message conveyed by Indian - though the enemy might have changed, the fight must go on…

Everything works in the first half. There are genuine laughs; there is sweet romance; and there are goose bumps as we realize where the story is going. With likeable characters, bright colors, trendy music and fast cuts, the film radiates a sense of fun even as the patriotism factor is slowly brought in. But there is subtlety in subtlety in the way it is presented and nothing is pushed down our throats. We believe in the gradual changes the group undergoes and we understand the factors causing the change.

It is almost as if the director realized during the intermission that the film might be too high-concept and appeal only to the urban, college-going crowd. So he ends up dumbing it down it so that it could have a wider reach. So we get a simplistic scandal that we can relate to, a straightforward way for the protagonists to get drawn into it, Hindu-Muslim bonding, a single bad guy representative of the ills of the country and unbelievable happenings. Even the past-present, parallels, which I loved initially, end up being overdone until I felt like screaming “Yes, I get it!” There are certainly some powerful moments and effective sequences but these don't have the same effect as before because of the over-emphasis.

Aamir has a remarkable ability to generate myriad expressions with just a small twitch of his face. I first noticed that in Dil Chahta Hai and he does the same here. He is delightful in the first half as he goofs around. His expressions when he realizes Alice speaks Hindi or in a hilarious one-sided wrestling match are superb. And when he breaks down in a key scene in the second half, it is completely natural. An underplayed, great performance. Sidharth has as much screen time as Aamir and makes a mark. The most cynical in the group, he is able to convey intensity and sadness remarkably well without a need for words. Alice Patten speaks in Hindi effortlessly and makes us believe in her passion. There is not a false step from any of the others in the cast either and they fit their roles perfectly.

Songs are woven into the screenplay wonderfully and a couple of them are placed perfectly to increase the effectiveness of the happenings on screen. Rahman’s background score is also soaring in many of the sequences. The cinematography is gorgeous and the scenes in Punjab give us the feeling of being right there.

Dumb and Dumber

I watched about 10 minutes of Sun TV's Thanga Vettai yesterday to see if there was any improvement in the quality of the program or the intelligence of its questions since my first glimpse of it. Sadly, there was no improvement. If possible, things actually seemed to have gotten worse.

The following is an actual exchange between host Ramya Krishnan and one of the participants, a college-going girl.

Ramya: What sport do you like?
Contestant: I like cricket.
Ramya: Do you like any other sports?
Contestant: Tennis.
Ramya: Oh. Then you should be able to answer this question...
Ramya: Which sport does Andre Agassi play?
Me: Huh?!

Embarassingly easy questions are OK isn't it really inept hosting to pretty much give the answer away with such leading questions?

PS: Yes the girl did answer correctly. Otherwise the post would've been titled 'Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest'!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Cartoon Rajni

Another first for thalaivar! A full-length animated movie is going to be made on Rajni. Adlab Films, promoted by the Ambani group, and Ocher Studios, a post-production studio owned by Latha Rajnikanth, are collaborating on the project. According to the Times Of India[thanks Kaps], it sounds like the lead is going to be a character modelled on Rajni. So it may well be a typical Rajni film with the larger-than-life hero romancing the heroine, spouting philosophies and indulging in superhero acts. If thats the case, it could be first Rajni film I can see along with Kavya!

So there's one other film, aside from Sivaji, to look forward to this year!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

My New Razr

I am not a cell phone aficionado. I'm happy with a phone that does the basic job of allowing me to carry on an uninterrupted conversation with someone. I never understood the need for all the bells and whistles like web access, camera, video recorder, etc. on cell phones. If I could clearly hear whoever was on the other end and they could hear me just as clearly, I was a happy man. So once the carrier was selected, one phone was as good as the next(they all provided the basic features anyway) and the least expensive one was what I went for.

But even for someone like me, the Motorola Razr V3 held a special appeal. Almost unbelievably thin and sleek, it was the only phone that made me go "Whoa! Now that looks cool" when I saw it in the stores. And its distinctive shape and construction made sure it was noticed when someone at work pulled it out of their pocket and flipped it open.

When we recently went in for new cell phones, the Razrs were out of stock since they were understandably hot items during Christmas. Both my wife and I eventually went in for Sony Ericsson phones(why? see the first paragraph!). But the phones were pieces of junk. They seemed to have minds of their own when it came to when they should ring and the camera button was so awkwardly placed that I ended up turning the camera on whenever I flipped the phone open. My wife, never the procrastinator, exchanged it within a week for a Nokia but I finally got around to it only today, just a few days before the deadline to exchange the phone. At the store though, the Razrs were back in stock and I took that as a sign. I finally gave in to the temptation and indulged myself by buying a Razr.

It is really sleek and feels pretty light in my pocket. And it seems to be loaded with features, if the bulky manual is anything to go by. Now I just gotta see if it works well too...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Date with ARR

[Thanks Sandya]

Looks like A.R.Rehman is going to be in the Bay Area next month! The Stanford Pan Asian Music Festival 2006, to be held at Stanford University, includes a program titled A Tribute to A.R.Rahman on February 14th at 7.30pm. The program includes a retrospective of his work, a Q&A session and a performance of his songs by Stanford students.

If you really love ARR, I guess there's no better way to spend Valentine's Day :-)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Phunny Phonics

I’ve always known that English is a rather funny, or more accurately, a rather inconsistent language. But I never realized just how frustrating that inconsistency can be until I started teaching my daughter phonics. With all the confusing spellings, digraphs, similar-sounding words that are spelt differently and words with multiple meanings, I am frequently at my wit’s end when facing doubts and questions from Kavya.

- How do I teach her to say ‘put’ the right way? As far as she is concerned, ‘u’ is pronounced the way it is in ‘umbrella’. So she reads ‘cut’, ‘but’ and ‘nut’ OK but when it comes to ‘put’, I’m stuck.

- How do I make her understand that 'cake' starts with a 'c' and not a 'k'?

- How do I explain to her that she reads ‘hug’ correctly but when a single letter ‘e’ is added to the end, she has to read it as though she were reading ‘hewj’?

- How do I teach her to read ‘door’? When I try to read it the way we pronounce it, she corrects me saying that since it has two o’s, it needs to be pronounced the way ‘good’ is pronounced.

- What do I say when she asks “Why is it called a kitchen counter Appa? Is it because you can count on it?”

Even worse is the fact that there’s no way of pointing out her mistakes either. Attempts to correct something she says are usually met with a question like “So is my teacher wrong Appa?” Not wanting to turn her into some kind of a rebel who doesn't respect her teachers and not inclined to incur the wrath of her teachers for that, I am forced to back down at that point and meekly accept her version of the word.

I know that more reading and listening to people talking as she grows up are going to help her understand the intricacies of the English language. But until then, I need to realize that when she says 'huggy', it may not be a request for a hug at all. She may just be trying to read the word 'huge'...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


I've always felt that Sify is more reliable, compared to other cinema websites, when it comes to cinema news. But this one seems to be totally out there.

Not surprisingly, the words 'Simran' and 'Comeback' were what drew me to this news item. Ever since she bid goodbye to Tamil films with Kicha Vayasu 16, I've been hoping that she would come back for atleast one film. I think an actress with her record deserves a better swan song. But her comeback turned out to be the least interesting news amongst what was written in the news item!

According to it, Simran will be making her comeback in a film directed by Gautham Menon, the hotshot director of Kaakka Kaakka and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. And thats not all. The article goes on to say that she will play Sarathkumar's wife(and mother of a 5-year-old) while Jyothika will play the other woman! Gautham is apparently planning to direct this as a quickie between VV and another film he is planning with Surya and Trisha.

So my 2 favorite heroines showing up in 1 movie? Don't you tease me Sify :)

If You Can't Beat 'Em...

Buy 'em?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I’ve heard K.S.Ravikumar mention in more than 1 interview that Saravanaa is a remake of a Telugu film. Turns out, the film is a remake of a Tamil film too! The director has simply taken Gilli, changed the chronology of events a bit and served it to us as Saravanaa. But a stronger emphasis on comedy and KSR's experience at handling a masala film make the end product entertaining even if not original.

Saravanaa(Simbhu) attends a college in Bangalore and on seeing a video of his roommate’s sister Sadhana(Jyothika), falls for her. A few days later, we see him take Sadhana to his house in Chennai and make her stay there with no explanation to his family. Sadhana slowly begins to grow closer to the family members, who understand Saravanaa’s feelings for her. But when things come to a head regarding her unknown past, Saravanaa is forced to reveal why he was forced to bring her home. That's when the family realizes that the pair's lives are still in danger.

It is really surprising how close Saravanaa is to Gilli. I don’t understand how KSR could not have realized, even as he was directing it, how much his film resembled the Vijay-starrer. Apart from the basic storyline (hero goes on the run with the heroine and puts her up in his house), the way the romance is developed and several plot points(like the heroine wanting to leave the country and asking the hero to help her) also remind us of the story arc in Gilli. Not to mention Simbhu imitating Vijay at several places. Aside from the Gilli similarities, there’s also a track of a maid misinterpreting the relationship between Saravanaa and Krishna a la Kal Ho Na Ho. So a sense of déjà vu is unavoidable when watching the film.

KSR has always shown a good knack for comedy in his movies and that’s what helps Saravanaa too. He populates Simbhu’s family with some colorful and interesting characters who make up a lively bunch, always laughing, teasing others and having fun. The jabs they make at the expense of one another are frequently funny and make the proceedings jolly and entertaining. And with Vivek along for the ride, there is no shortage of laughs though most of them lead to chuckles rather than big laughs.

The same sense of fun pervades the romance too, making it cute and enjoyable. Simbhu gets into a self-deprecating mode and that is a lot more fun than the usual heroine-falling-for-macho-hero routine. His attempts to impress Jyothika are cute and the fact that they are frequently unsuccessful makes them funny. The comedy makes sure that we are smiling through most of the film. The segment also includes a long diatribe by Simbhu, about the actions of people who go to foreign lands, that is hilarious(and mostly accurate).

The moment we see an aruvaal on the screen, we know that some bloody violence is coming up soon and we are not disappointed. The violence is visceral and its level and intensity don’t match the light tone of the movie so far. The body count and amount of blood spilled are again way too high for a masala movie. The only relief is that the really gruesome violence is restricted to the flashback and is over pretty quickly. And the situation (in particular, a conversation Prakashraj has with Simbhu) makes the violence in that segment too seem just a little bit less gratuitous.

After a quiet, subdued turn in Thotti Jaya, Simbhu goes back into full chatterbox mode here. He is overly expressive in many scenes but does bring a lot of energy into the role. Jyothika looks old in some scenes though that might be due to bad (or no) make up. A single pottu reduces her age by atleast 10 years and she looks very cute in the right dresses. The villains are as usual an overacting, loud bunch but the actor playing Prakashraj’s right-hand man makes an impression. Prakashraj and Vivek are 2 actors who appear in all 3 Pongal releases. Prakashraj is effective as usual while Vivek has some funny lines in almost all his segments. Meghna Naidu seems to be aiming for Namitha’s slot with her choice of dresses. There are no melodies in Srikanth Deva's soundtrack and a couple of the songs seemed to have no tune at all.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


On paper, Aadhi seems like Vijay's attempt to expand his fan base. He has tried to reach out to his non-fans (like he did with Sachein) while giving his fans what they want too (which he didn't with Sachein). The result is an action film with no introduction song for Vijay, fewer punchlines and fewer mass songs. Unlike Sivakasi and Madurey, it even has a meaty role for the heroine and is rarely crude and vulgar. But all those things seem to have been replaced by a single thing - violence. And that will likely still keep away his non-fans. And turn away some of his own fans too.

Anjali(Trisha) is a simple college girl on the outside. But her heart carries a lot of pain and hatred and she, along with her uncle(Nasser), is after the men who caused that pain. Aadhi(Vijay), who is living in Delhi with his parents(Manivannan, Seetha) and his sister, moves to Chennai and enrolls in the same college as Anjali. Aadhi and Anjali become friends but unknown to them, there is another tie binding them together.

For a masala film, Aadhi packs a lot of suspense and surprise into the first half. The film starts off on a high note with Trisha's introduction but then settles down as it sows the seeds of the romance and introduces us to Vijay's family. The proceedings seem a little disjoint at places here and its never really clear what kind of feelings Vijay has for Trisha. But the sense of fun in Vijay's family and suspense about Trisha's mission move the film along.

But a surprising, well-picturized twist helps pick up the pace again, while adding some suspense to the mix. It is completely unexpected until it happens, is picturized slickly and makes us sit up and take notice. Another noteworthy point is the intermission break. It is a stunning shot that, though incredibly gory, is a great rush of adrenaline. But eventually, these two turn out to be the only high points in the entire movie.

But the suspense turns out to be far more interesting than the happenings behind it. The unravelling of the suspense eventually makes the story seem like a relic of the 70s or 80s. The only thing missing is a family song to bring together separated members! It also leads to some very silly sentiments being inserted into the romance between Vijay and Trisha.

The second half is an orgy of violence. The body count is high(with some of the people meeting incredibly violent deaths) and blood flows freely. That by itself is not a completely bad thing but the bigger problem is that the pace is still lethargic. A long flashback where we know exactly what is going to happen and interruptions in the form of romance(and the accompanying song sequences) prevent the movie from maintaining a good pace. A couple of sequences, like Vijay's face-to-face meeting with Saikumar, do the job but for the most part, the movie seems to drag. So the violence feels gratuitous and even sickening.

Vijay looks like he actually made an effort to look as unkempt as possible. With a bird's nest of hair on his head that looks dangerously close to being an Afro, a half-grown beard and moustache and a shirt with top buttons unbuttoned, he is rarely presentable. Without a intro song and having only two lacklustre duets, his dancing skills aren't utilized much either. Trisha looks pretty but seems almost inhibited in her performance. Kannada actor Saikumar overacts in every scene and seems to have mistaken loudness for scariness. Same goes for the other sidekicks too. Vivek has a good introduction but fails to impress after that. Vidyasagar is apparently still basking in Chandramukhi's success and fails to come up with a single memorable tune.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Salaam Namaste

Salaam Namaste is a fun film. It takes some old sentiments but presents them in a new scenario and through a fun, loveable couple, making the film seem hip and fresh.

The film is completely set in Melbourne. Saif, a head chef at a restaurant, and Preity, the RJ for the popular Salaam Namaste show, start off on the wrong foot. But there are sparks when they meet (first without realizing each other’s identity) and this leads them to move in together as sort of a test drive before the real thing – marriage. But Preity gets pregnant, leading to a rift between them.

Salaam Namaste feels like a 2 ½ hour-long American sitcom. In fact, there are quite a few scenes (like Saif and Arshad leaning back contentedly in their big leather chairs with a big “Aaaaah”, a la Chandler and Joey in Friends), that seem like knowing nods to the American TV staple. But I say that in a good way though. The sentiments and the crudeness and the physical comedy do get in the way at times but the film never abandons its sense of fun.

The movie’s setting, the lifestyles of the lead pair, the wacky supporting characters – all these point to an attempt to make the film seem like a fantasy. But ironically, the film’s appeal lies in the fact that it seems surprisingly real. The relationship between Saif and Preity is developed naturally and their conversations, like the one they have before they move in together, are practical and sane. They never get overly sentimental or melodramatic except in situations where it seems completely natural. We enjoy the film primarily because they are a fun couple, whether they are in each other’s hearts or at each other’s throats.

Saif (to a coworker at his restaurant): So how is life with children?
Co-worker: Its hell! They are always crying and I get no sleep.
Saif: So marrying and having children is a bad idea right?
Co-worker: But there are times when they grab your finger or smile at you, when it all seems worth it.

I know I am biased but a film that features a conversation like the one above cannot be bad! That conversation pretty much captures the essence of life with children beautifully and that kind of sentiment makes Saif’s conversion from baby-hater to expectant-dad very sweet and believable. Sure there are a whole bunch of corny moments but they are done nicely.

What is it with Saif and over-the-top climaxes?! After being sweet and funny for the most part, the movie goes into slapstick mode for the climax that includes a cameo by Abishek Bachan as a clueless doctor. The slickness of the proceedings so far goes out the window as the characters shout and fall and bump into each other and do everything that would be right at home in a David Dhawan comedy. In other words, the movie goes through the exact transformation that Michael Madana Kamarajan did in the climax. I didn’t like it then and I didn’t like it now.

Saif, who's had a strong year, creates a likeable character. He's got good comic timing and puts it to good use. He gets it just right in the scene where he feigns surprise over an ice-cream store being closed and its hilarious. Preity looks a bit old but matches Saif step for step otherwise. She crackles when fighting with him and gets the misty-eyed look just right too. Javed Jaffrey is an absolute riot. As an Indian-hating, outback dude, he brings down the house in each scene he is in. His broken English absolutely hilarious and its solely due to his performance that the whole "Sorry? Egjactly" routine doesn't get tiring even the 10th time it is repeated.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Kamal, Kamal, Kamal

The first Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyadu trailer is available here [thanks Sandya]. Pretty slick but no song clips yet. Can't wait...


Another actor finally dares to tread where so far, only Kamal has. Anupam Kher is apparently playing a dwarf in a Hindi film Jaan-e-Man, starring Salman, Preity and Akshay. Pretty amazing to think that Kamal did the feat more than 15 years ago in Aboorva Sagodharargal.

How Kamal managed to go down to half his size was one of the most sought-after secrets when the movie was released. He did say he would reveal it soon after but never got around to it. I personally think it was a combination of several different techniques. In scenes where he was walking, there was something to hide his legs below his knees like a knee-deep trench, a knee-high-bench, etc. This caused him to kinda glide along rather than walk since he pretty much didn't have knees! In other scenes where he was sitting, being lifted by an elephant, etc., he had an attachment to his knees. So he had to manually lift the artificial leg when he had to cross his legs. Oh well... whatever the technique(s) used, it was a phenomenal achievement.

Aboorva Sagodharargal has long been one of my favorite films. It had a story packed with cliches like separated brothers, a rich girl-poor boy romance, 3 villains, brothers uniting to take revenge, etc. But the story was turned into a fabulous entertainer by a very clever screenplay(my favorite part - Appu killing Nasser with the help of a tiger and Raja doing a puliyaattam) and a hilarious script. The latter made the film really unique in that it is the only film I know that tackles a serious revenge tale in such a comic fashion. If they released a 2-disc dvd set including a digital transfer of the film, interviews and the making-of feature(that includes how Kamal did the dwarf's role), I would be among the first in line to buy it.


Sun TV screened an old Kamal-starrer Ram Lakshman today afternoon. Pretty cheesy flick about Kamal and his trusted elephant going after the bad guys who implicate them in a murder. Took me back to my younger days since I remember seeing it on the big screen when it was released then. Remember thinking it was a great film too.

Got me thinking about other old Kamal flicks I would like to watch again. One that immediately came to mind was Ellaam Inba Mayam. Anybody else remember that one? It had him wear a bunch of disguises. One of them was that of a clumsy, bespectacled guy who had this really big sneeze. His duet with Madhavi went Aasakkiliye Barla Barla... and used to be one of my favorite songs at that time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Zen and the Fear of Cooking

I’ve been mortally afraid of cooking for most of my life. As long as I was living with my parents, I never as much as held a ladle in my hand and boiling water was the closest I came to cooking. The kitchen was simply “the room in the back that tasty food came out of”. As far as I was concerned, it was a black hole into which my mom disappeared periodically, only to reappear with breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The first time I was forced to venture into cooking was when I came to the US. My first cooking experience was a seminal event in my life and I still have a photograph capturing the moment for posterity. But inspite of faithfully following the vastly simplified recipes prepared by my mom, my attempts were unmitigated disasters (and so was the kitchen, which looked like it had been hit by a hurricane). The rasam was simply glorified tamarind water and the less said about the sambhar the better. I gamely kept going but got the hint when my otherwise thrifty roommates opted to eat out whenever I cooked. So I did the right thing. I moved out.

It still amazes people when I tell them that I lived for a year and a half in a house that had no kitchen. But that’s exactly what I did. Armed with an electric rice cooker and podis in every imaginable color, I lived - or should I say, survived - in a kitchen-less house until I graduated.

By the time I came to California, the Indian ready-made market had advanced quite well to serve the needs of bachelors like me. So the stores stocked ready-made rasam and sambhar, pastes to which you just had to add to water and boil. Even I couldn’t screw that up! With help like that and frozen, pre-cut vegetables from the local Safeway, my cooking repertoire was considerably expanded.

With my wife taking care of the cooking, my cooking-free days continued after marriage. But the fact that she did all the cooking and I was clueless about the efforts that went into it led my wife to have a really strong, psychological hold on poor, clueless me. This is how an evening conversation between us usually went:

Me: Hey, I picked up the kids from school and bathed them and fed them and put them to bed and finished the laundry and chopped the vegetables and washed the dishes and cleaned the house.
She: I cooked. So we’re even.

Driven to desperation by the one-sidedness of these conversations, I finally worked up the courage to plunge into cooking again. And you know what? It’s not that tough after all! I have since made rasam and sambhar the old-fashioned way and a whole bunch of vegetable curries. And my wife knew I’d broken off my mental shackles completely when I recently made bhindi masala, an item which even she hasn’t attempted to make so far!

I know I’m not gonna give up my day job any time soon. But my recent cooking, though a small step for mankind, is a giant leap for me! It has helped me break through a psychological barrier and given me a huge bargaining chip in future arguments with my wife. So this is how I imagine a future conversation between us will proceed:

Me: Hey, I picked up the kids from school and bathed them and fed them and put them to bed and finished the laundry and chopped the vegetables and washed the dishes and cleaned the house.
She: I cooked. So we’re even.
Me: No we’re not!
She (sheepishly): Yeah you’re right. Lets go get that big screen TV you’ve always wanted.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Paramasivan is touted as Ajith's comeback film - the film that proves that he has reinvented himself as an actor all set to reclaim his spot among the top actors in Kodambakkam. His choice of the film clearly shows that he is aiming to reach that objective by taking the masala route. Paramasivan is a completely commercial, risk-free project that contains a little bit of everything - action, romance, comedy and sentiments. One just wishes they had been packaged with more finesse.

When SP Nandakumar(Prakashraj) wishes to eliminate the people behind a horrific bomb blast in Coimbatore, he chooses deathrow inmate Subramanya Siva(Ajith) for the job. A man with no identity is the best bet to get these terrorists, is Nandakumar's theory. So he brings Siva out of prison, erases his past, gives him a brand new identity as Paramasivan and puts him up in his own house in Ooty. Once Siva completes his mission, Nandakumar plans to complete the government's job and kill him. But Siva falling in love with Malar(Laila), who lives in Nandakumar's house, complicates matters. And then there's CBI Officer Nair(Jayaram), who is slowly closing in on Paramasivan.

Paramasivan boasts of an outrageous story, is filled with gaping plot holes and and has serious continuity and logic issues. But it also has the one factor that keeps us from thinking too much about all those things - a good pace. With Ajith's mission, his flashback, the romance, Laila's problems at home, Prakashraj's plans, Jayaram's chase and Vivek's comedy, the film throws so many things at us that we rarely have the time to think too much about the aforementioned things. So when sentiments get in the way, there's an action scene just around the corner to shake things up. And when the action gets a little tiring, Vivek does his thing to make us laugh.

The entire film has a very 70s feel. The revelation of an entire 'control center' inside a room in an ashram, the computer files that reveal everything about the bad guys and the outlandish plans of the bad guys would fit right in in an old MGR or Jaishankar flick. The goings-on are frequently so preposterous and dumbed-down that they give the film a campy feel. But there are times, like when you realize that the role of a CBI officer is primarily being used for comedy, where we wonder if Vasu did it all with his tongue firmly in his cheek. In that respect, Paramasivan is like Attagaasam - a film that is throwback to the goofiness of the old days but knows that it is and is almost proud of it. But I do know one thing. I certainly preferred this 'campiness' to the violence of Aaru or the crudeness of Sivakasi.

But the action sequences definitely don't feel like they belong in a 70s film and are mounted quite impressively. Ajith's chase of a police officer on the busy streets is a real stand-out but all the fights are picturized energetically. But these nice stunts make us look forward to a climax that will top them all but that is not the case. The motorcycle chase is a huge disappointment and is spoiled by some ridiculous graphics.

The film starts with an obvious Anniyan hangover, evident both in Ajith's hairstyle and the location of the first fight. It continues to remind us of Anniyan in many places (like Jayaram's track, with Vivek in tow) but Vasu includes a lot of references to other films, his own Chandramukhi being the most frequent. Among the more notables ones, there is a spoof of Ghajini which isn't as funny as it initially promises but the sequence that includes a scene from Uzhaippaali is quite clever.

I almost don't believe I am saying this but Ajith has lost too much weight. He looks haggard in a few places, especially since he obviously likes to flaunt his new thinned-down body in all those cut-off vests. Laila overdoes the Oh-I-am-so-cute routine with her broken English and famous dimpled smile. The dresses and fast dance steps in Undivil Un... definitely don't suit her petite frame. Prakashraj does his role with a lot of conviction and is one of the reasons the movie doesn't descend into total camp. Jayaram never seems sure if he is supposed to be serious or comical and ends up doing both. Vivek's track has a few weak spots but he can consider it one of his funnier ones among his recent films. Nasser and Seetha have cameos.

Oru Kili... is a nice melodious number, especially because you don't expect it in such a commercial entertainer. Kannan..., which introduces the family Ajith is going to live with, is a number along the lines of Oru Naal Oru Kanavu's Kaatril Varum Geethame..., in both concept and execution. Aasa Dosa..., an item number by Rahasya, is an unnecessary song in an otherwise clean film. The Hara Hara Siva Siva... bit serves as a high-energy background score in some action scenes.

Paramasivan - Pazhaiya Sivan!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

iPod's Halo Effect

The iPod's success is helping not just Apple but a whole lot of other companies that make accessories for the world's most popular MP3 player. The accessories include FM transmitters, speakers and now even clothing specially designed to accomodate the iPod. I read a little while back on BusinessWeek that some innovative entrepreneurs were even making an iPod-holder designed like a cross to attract the gospel-loving, staunch Christians! According to this article, the portable digital player accessory revenue was $412 million in the US in the first 9 months of 2005. And most of it is probably due to the iPod, which is credited with creating an entire ecosphere around it.

Since I used to listen to songs mostly when driving, I was initially looking at buying an FM transmitter for my iPod. But I recently bought iHome's IH5, a clock radio for the iPod. The iPod docks onto it so that you can then play songs from the iPod through its speakers. The sound quality is good(nobody is gonna mistake it for a Bose though!) and it more than replaces my old Boombox since I don't have to keep changing CDs now.

Its pretty amazing how the iPod a lowly MP3 player, is slowly making other everyday items obsolete with the help of such accessories. With its different avatars like the iPod Photo, iPod Video, etc. and the multitude of accessories, the iPod can now replace the walkman/discman, the car stereo, the boombox, the photo album and theoretically, even the TV. The day may not be far when a person can exist completely in the iPod ecosphere!

Friday, January 13, 2006

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Mandhiran and Vanakkam Thalaivaa are online at bbreviews.

PS: I know that both these movies were technically released in 2005. But still, not a good start for bbreviews in 2006!

Siva Siva

It looks like Ajith's Paramasivan will be the Pongal release that I see first. The film is (hopefully) releasing today at Naz 8.

Vijay's Aadhi was initially scheduled to be released today too at IMC 6 but the first hint of a problem came yesterday when today's shows were cancelled. Now it looks like all shows this weekend have been cancelled due to a 'print delay'. So I'll probably not see Aadhi until next weekend.

And Simbhu's Saravanaa is supposed to be coming soon to IMC 6 too. So I may see all 3 biggies on the big screen. Its good to be in the Bay Area :-)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Top 10 Disappointments - 2005

Both Raju and another commenter felt that the movies on my Worst-10 list of 2005 wouldn’t mean much to regular viewers since they were too bad to have been seen by them. You guys should consider yourself lucky! But I understand that it’s not much fun going through a list of movies you have not even heard of, let alone seen. So I thought I’d compile a list of what I like to call “The Most Disappointing Movies of 2005”.

Higher expectations lead to more disappointment. That’s pretty much the rationale behind this list. A movie that only partially met its sky-high expectations was therefore more disappointing than a bad movie that arrived with low or no expectations. For the mathematically-inclined, the “Disappointment Quotient” for a movie would be the difference between the “Expectations” and the “Result” indicated in the parentheses. And expectations here refer to my expectations about the movie and not the accompanying hype (or lack of it).

So here, in reverse order (least disappointing to the most disappointing), are the 10 most disappointing movies of 2005.

10. Kicha Vayasu 16 (Expectations: Average; Result: Disastrous)
Though the presence of Jai Akash and Manikandan were dual warning signs, I still looked forward to this film since it was Simran’s swan song. But the producer either got her evil, desperate twin to act or had something incredibly incriminating on the real Simran. Barring those two scenarios, I can’t imagine why Tamil cinema’s top heroine, whose previous film New was a superhit, would have agreed to appear in this film. Terribly cheap and vulgar, it was a sad goodbye for my favorite heroine.

9. Kundakka Mandakka (Expectations: Average; Result: Disastrous)
Like a prostitute selling her body to earn money for a good cause, Parthiban is nowadays selling his name and talent by appearing in movies like this, to earn money for movies like Kudaikkul Mazhai. Sure we don't expect a KM every time but still, sinking this low was unpardonable. The film, with no story, banked solely on his comic chemistry with Vadivelu, something that had gotten tiring a long time ago. So it was painful.

8. Ghajini (Expectations: Very High; Result: Good)
I liked Ghajini. A lot. But I was still disappointed that it did so little with its primary plot point – Surya’s short-term memory. After an intriguing start, the movie abandoned the plot point to move on to a romance which, though an absolute delight, felt like it was taking time away from the main track. It didn’t exploit the delicious possibilities afforded by STM when it came back either and descended into a regular masala film.

7. Oru Kallooriyin Kadhai (Expectations: Average; Result: Very Bad)
A movie that gained some publicity because of the presence of Arya, it was easily the most illogical film of 2005. And it defied logic not in special-effects-filled stunts or unbelievable romance but in its ridiculous concept. We were expected to believe that a few friends could get together, in the space of a few days, everyone who was needed to re-create college life as it was five years ago. This from friends who for five years didn’t know that their best friend was in a coma!

6. Ji (Expectations: High; Result: Average)
By the law of averages, Ajith was due for a hit and behind the camera was Lingusamy, all set for a hatrick after Anandam and the delightful Run. But the film, though well-intentioned with its take on student politics, turned out to be long and boring. A big reason was that it seemed like a rerun of Surya’s segment in Aaydha Ezhuthu.

5. Adhu Oru Kanaakkaalam (Expectations: High; Result: Average)
Another film that I looked forward to primarily because of the director Balu Mahendra’s past films, it turned out to be a poor combination of some of the director’s own earlier movies. An unconvincing romance started it off while the jail setting offered nothing new in the second half. And then there was the crudeness and unnecessary item number.

4. Aaru (Expectations: Very High; Result: Bad)
Hari, the director who gave us a rowdy’s equivalent of a coming-of-age story in Thamizh, and Surya, who seemed to be incapable to taking a bad step careerwise, came together for this tale of a Chennai rowdy. Soaked in violence, quite vulgar and stuffed with the usual commercial ingredients, the film was an odd hybrid that didn't know which genre it belonged to.

3. A Aa (Expectations: High; Result: Very Bad)
S.J.Suryah effortlessly claimed the prize for the most irritating hero of 2005 with this film. He maintained his reputation for innovative ideas by using a new technique of giving form to a person’s memories. But silly and amateurish implementation of the idea coupled with unnecessary vulgarity and his crazy, over-the-top, hyped-up performance were unfortunately what remained in our memory.

2. Chidambarathil Oru Appasamy (Expectations: High; Result: Very Bad)
From the maker of the sensitive and mature Azhagi came this loud film that had all the subtlety of a jackhammer. The film had three acts and the first act was absolutely intolerable. Things got a little better after that but that’s not saying much. Poor Navya Nair gave a great performance in a bad film.

1. Oru Naal Oru Kanavu (Expectations: High; Result: Very Bad)
I expected a gentle, tender love story from Fazil, the director of classics like Poovizhi Vaasalile and Varusham 16. Instead we got a film where no one, including the hero, the heroine and the director, seemed to know if the lead pair was in love with each other or not. Needless to say, the audience didn’t know either. And eventually, didn't care... Ilaiyaraja was didn’t disappoint but every other aspect of the film did.

VV's 2nd Heroine

That's Kamalinee Mukherjee, who has apparently been selected as the 2nd heroine in Kamal's Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. She's a Bengali babe who has appeared in Revathi's Phir Milenge and the Telugu hit Anand. Calm, homely look to play off against Jo's cute, chirpy look. Nice...

Here's an old interview with her, published before Anand was released.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Garam Masala

Garam Masala is a one-trick pony. The film has a single plot point and it gets tiring pretty soon. The energy of two of its main cast members eventually sees it through. But it’s still tough to believe that the man behind it, Priyadarshan, is the same director who made the complexly funny Hera Pheri and Hulchul, let alone classics like Chitram and Kilukkam.

Akshay Kumar plays a Casanova who, with a fiancé at home, hooks up with three other air hostesses. Their busy flight schedules allow him to juggle his time with them. His friend/colleague John Abraham helps him keep up his playboy ways but he wants a piece of the action too and never stops trying.

Stretch the first 15 minutes of Kamal’s Panchathanthiram to an entire movie and you get Garam Masala. The ladies even have the same profession in both movies! Akshay evading four women is all the entire film is about. It’s only the locations that change. So the film is simply a series of sequences where Akshay manages to handle the women at the airport, at home, at a cafeteria and so on. I sat through the entire first half waiting for the story to take come kind of a turn before resigning myself to the fact that that was it.

Once that kind of resignation sets in, the movie has a chance to seem funnier. Understandably, the two elements that make up all the comedy in the film are a woman showing up unexpectedly and Akshay trying to handle it. Some of them no doubt involve some nice choreography and timing and tickle our funny bones. The little things that are done in the house to keep up the charade are funny and Paresh Rawal's exasperation at the completely different tastes of the women leads to some good laughs.

But many sequences, especially any that take place in Akshay's multi-room house, are staged in a completely ridiculous way. We are frequently expected to believe that Akshay and one of the women can carry on a loud conversation in the living room with the woman inside an adjoining room completely oblivious of this until the moment she walks out of the room – which ofcourse is the exact same moment the other woman decides to return to her room. The women would have to be both stupid and stone deaf for these to work.

Akshay’s developed into an actor with a good knack of comedy. He has an expressive face, wacky body language and good comic timing and puts them to good use as he keeps up his game. Paresh Rawal goes the deadpan route, eliciting laughs with his growling face and serious intonation. John Abraham still has a little way to go before can do comedy with the kind of abandon Akshay has developed. The women are little more than props for the actors to play off of and it shows in the selection of actresses. The song sequences seem more like excuses for showing women parading around in bikinis. Et tu Priyadarshan?!

Not much spice in this masala.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Coming Soon - Paramasivan

Paramasivan is one of the two biggies hitting the screens on Pongal. With the launch being attended by Rajnikanth, the movie had a well-publicized start and for a change, considering the state of other Ajith-starrers, it has been smooth sailing so far.

It’s pretty amazing that an Ajith starrer can still create this much hype. The actor’s career, which I described as resembling a sine wave, is at another low right now. His lone 2005 release Ji bombed badly, Attagaasam and Villan have been his only two average grossers recently and I can’t even remember the last time he delivered a bonafide superhit (Vaali?). But he continues to be spoken about in the same breath as Vijay, who is probably at the zenith of his career, with a string of superhits. That tells us a lot about the size and loyalty of Ajith's fan base.

The biggest reason for the expectations surrounding Paramasivan is ofcourse Ajith, who almost seems to have reinvented himself. The actor, who looked quite flabby in his last few films, has shed a lot of weight and looks thin(though I thought he looked unnaturally thin in some of the pictures) and trim. News reports also said that he was putting aside his interest in racing and concentrating solely on his acting. Both of these suggest that he is serious about steadying his career and Paramasivan is going to serve as first proof of that.

Joining Ajith is Laila, his heroine in Dheena, one of his few hits in the last few years. The actress had a good 2005 with both her films, Ullam Ketkume and Kanda Naal Mudhal, turning out to be big hits (2006 too has started well on a personal level since she is getting married soon). Ajith and Laila showed good chemistry in the very cute romance in Dheena and if they manage to recreate even half that chemistry, it bodes well for Paramasivan’s success. Jayaram and Prakashraj are also part of the cast.

Behind the camera for Paramasivan is P.Vasu, whose floundering career seems to have been brought back to life with the success of Chandramukhi. I’ve never had much admiration for him even at the time he was delivering one superhit after another and I've felt his films have always been overly sentimental and melodramatic. But that side of him seemed to have been reined in for Chandramukhi and I’m hoping he continues the same in Paramasivan, which is supposed to be an action flick. Vidyasagar has scored the music. It seems to be an average soundtrack though the fast Undivil Kannil... has the chance to become popular.

Paramasivan is definitely an important film for all concerned and its box-office fate will be followed keenly.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Top 10 and Bottom 10 - 2005

The Top-10 and Bottom-1o lists - my picks for the 10 best and worst films of the year - for 2005 are online in the Views section of bbreviews. It was always pretty clear that 2005 was a pretty bad year for Tamil cinema. But it wasn't clear just how bad until I tried to come up with these lists. It was pretty tough coming up with both the lists but for completely different reasons.

The choices were just too many for the 'Worst Films of the Year' list and even 10 seemed to be too restrictive. This was a year where films like the irritating A Aa, the confused Oru Naal Oru Kanavu and the illogical Oru Kallooriyin Kadhai were not even in the running for the worst 10 films of the year!

On the other hand, I had to struggle to come up with 10 films that could be called the best of the year. While I liked Kanaa Kanden when I saw it in May, I didn't for a moment think that it would wind up as one of the 10 best films I would see last year. But it eventually did. Thats how slim the pickings were for the Top-10 list.

Here's to a better 2006...

The Mailman Did It!

I've always been amazed by the reliability of the US Postal Service with regard to Netflix. No movies mailed to me have gone missing and they've always received every movie I've mailed back. And the turnover has always been just one day. For me, that was a pretty huge example of the USPS' trustworthiness and reliability. But after seeing this, I guess I should be glad that the Bay Area postal workers are more trustworthy :-)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday Jumble - 12

Unscramble the four words to fill in the boxes. Then unscramble only the circled letters to answer the riddle at the bottom:

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Different Strokes

I’m not sure if this is the case for all siblings when they are babies, but I’m amazed by how different Kavya and Karthik are from each other. Infact, I think its safe to say that we are yet to stumble upon a single aspect in which they share the same traits(except for the fact that they're both incredibly cute:-). From who they resemble to their physical attributes like weight to their feeding habits to their disposition, the two are as different as chalk and cheese. People who just see them would be hardpressed to believe that the two have the same set of parents!

Ofcourse the most obvious difference is in their disposition. Karthik is just a very happy baby. One look at me, his mom or his big sister and he instantly breaks into this wide, toothless smile that lights up his whole face. Even if he is in a serious mood, a simple smile or a “cluck” is all that is needed to bring forth that smile. And its not just us. “Smiley Baby” is his recent nickname among our friends since he gives a smile the moment someone as much as looks at him. And "Giggly Baby" is how the other parents at daycare describe him. So taking pictures of him smiling, like the 2nd one above, is a breeze.

It wasn’t the same with Kavya though. She was one unfriendly baby! Her parents and grandparents were pretty much the only people she smiled at until she was about a year and a half. None of our friends have carried her until her 2nd birthday and she has literally driven our friend TVS and his wife (who also had a baby and who we used to meet almost every week) out of the house with her unabated crying. Naturally, taking photos wasn’t an easy thing. Remember the monkey routine Kamal did for Sridevi in Moondraam Pirai? That was pretty much my state whenever I had to get her to smile for some pictures! So most pictures I have of her as a baby have her staring like in that first picture above.

I’ve heard people say that raising the second baby is easier since you’ve already been through it all before. Not for us though! Bringing up Karthik is turning out to be a completely new experience…

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Director No. 1?

According to Tamilnadu’s college students, Selvaraghavan is the most talented Tamil director today. That’s apparently the result of a poll conducted by a Tamil magazine across college campuses and is mentioned by Rediff in their ‘First Look’ at Pudhuppettai, Selvaraghavan’s eagerly-anticipated next venture(anybody know the complete results of the poll? I'm curious about the status of the other directors). So he ranks higher than Manirathnam, Cheran and Shankar! Quite an achievement for someone only 2 films old.

Selvaraghavan’s film-making style is raw, sometimes uncomfortably so. He pulls no punches in depicting life(mostly its shadier side though) and his in-your-face style is not for those who prefer soft, feel-good cinema. His 2 movies so far have had a gritty look and feel that made them seem realistic but within the confines of a fast-paced screenplay. Personally, he would probably figure in my top 5 favorite directors but would rank below Mani and Cheran for sure.

Kaadhal Konden was a good film. The story, with shades of Guna (and King Kong, as some readers pointed out!), was packaged in a screenplay that kept surprising us. I can’t think of any other film that started out with a regular hero and a clichéd villain and then completely turned the tables on us so effectively. But I’m one of the few who thought 7/G Rainbow Colony was a step back for the director. I found the story and many situations to be clichéd and predictable and several scenes were downright silly. The characterization of the lead pair and the surprising and touching climax pretty much rescued the film.

But how have these two movies made him the director of choice for the youth of today? Was it his sympathetic portrayal of a rowdy college student? Was it his realistic depiction of a young man’s feelings towards a girl? Or was it just his ability to tell a good tale? Anyway, considering his film-making style, the Chennai underworld, where Pudhuppettai is supposedly set, seems to be a setting tailor-made for him. So I am definitely looking forward to the film. Just not as much as I am looking forward to Mani's next. Or Cheran's next. Or Sivaji.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Tamil Cinema Music in 2005: A 2-CD Compilation

I know 10 is number of choice for year-end lists. While it works fine for films, it seems a bit too restrictive when it comes to picking songs, considering the large selection to choose from. So I expanded the list just a little bit. Here are 32 songs for a 2-CD collection of the best of Tamil cinema music in 2005.

CD 1:
Aararai Kodi... - A Aa
Mayilirage... - A Aa
Varukiraai... - A Aa
Kumaari... - Anniyan
Iyengaaru Veettu Azhage... - Anniyan
Andankaakka... - Anniyan
Sil Sil Sil... - Arindhum Ariyaamalum
Theeppidakka Theeppidakka... - Arindhum Ariyaamalum
Andha Naal Nyaabagam... - Adhu Oru Kanaakkaalam
Kaattu Vazhi... - Adhu Oru Kanaakkaalam
Oru Maalai... - Ghajini
Suttum Vizhi Chudare... - Ghajini
Ding Dong Koyil Mani... - Ji
Poo Poothadhu... - Mumbai Express
Khajuraho... - Oru Naal Oru Kanavu
Kaatril Varum Geethame... - Oru Naal Oru Kanavu

CD 2:
Athinthom... - Chandramukhi
Annanoda Paattu... - Chandramukhi
Kanda Naal Mudhal... - Kanda Naal Mudhal
Pani Thuli... - Kanda Naal Mudhal
Merke Merke... - Kanda Naal Mudhal
Erimalai Naane... - Kanda Naal Mudhal
Kangal Kalangida... - Oru Kallooriyin Kadhai
Thaachukko... - Ponniyin Selvan
Aaraariraaro... - Raam
Boom Boom... - Raam
Manidhan Undakkum... - Raam
Nizhalinai Nijamum... - Raam
Yaaro Arivaal... - Raam
Enna Paarkkiraai... - Thavamaai Thavamirundhu
Uyire En Uyire... - Thotti Jaya
Yaaridamum... - Thotti Jaya

There are still a few more songs in my "Best of 2005" playlist on my iPod that I didn't feel like leaving out completely. So...

Runner-up CD:
Konjam Konjam... - Arindhum Ariyaamalum
Raa Raa... - Chandramukhi
Konja Neram... - Chandramukhi
Nee En Vizhiyil... - Dhaas
Laila Majnu... - February 14
Chinna Chinna... - Kanaa Kanden
Kaalai Arumbi... - Kanaa Kanden
Chee Chee... - Majaa
Hey Pangaali... - Majaa
Vennilaa Siragadikka... - Ponniyin Selvan
Siru Thooral... - Ponniyin Selvan
Anbu Alaipayuthey... - Priyasakhi
Ninaithu Ninaithu... - Sukhran
Suppose Unnai... - Sukhran
Ennai Pandhaada... - Ullam Ketkume
Kanavugal Periya... - Ullam Ketkume

Now I'm all set for my next long drive :-)

Monday, January 02, 2006

King Kong

King Kong is a glorious spectacle that offers something for everybody and even more amazingly, does all of it right. There are edge-of-your seat action sequences that are pure rushes of adrenaline; there are emotion-filled quiet moments that make you smile; there are clever lines that deliver hearty chuckles; there are shots that make you form a lump in your throat; and there are creepy scenes that gross you out very effectively. All of these come together in a film that turns a monster movie into a near-epic. Forget the lapses in logic and just sit back, relax and be amazed!

Though I haven't seen either of the two previous versions, the outline of the story was pretty familiar to me. Anne(Naomi Watts) is part of a film crew that sails to a hitherto undiscovered island to get some new locations for their film. Anne is captured by the tribals living there and offered as a sacrifice to a giant gorilla that lives there. The ape takes her but eventually turns protector, saving her from other dangers in the forest. The film crew, now without a movie to return with, see a bigger prize in the giant ape. So they capture it and take it back to New York, where it becomes a spectacle on Broadway.

Its actually quite a while(more than an hour) before we get our first glimpse of what we've come to see. It takes that long for the cast to get together and sail to Skull Island. But this allows us to get to know the characters so that there is a twinge of sadness when even a minor character dies. And even this prologue is not all character development. It features a terrific shipwreck and a genuinely scary encounter with the locals.

King Kong takes special effects to a whole new level. I've read in several places that the big ape was created solely using CGI but I still don't believe it! Every wrinkle on his face is detailed with incredible clarity and his eyes mirror so many emotions. And smaller movements like the casual way he flips Anne onto his shoulder or his languid grace as he leaps from ledge to ledge almost make us believe he is real.Truly an incredible creation that makes other recent CGI-only creatures like Gollum, Doby and Jar-Jar Binks pale in comparison.

Ofcourse the special effects are used in the aid of the spectacular visuals in many other sequences. Sequences like the fight with the T-Rexs, the retreat of the hunters as they are beaten back by Kong and the subsequent fight with the bugs, and the ape's angry rampage down a New York street are breathtaking. If I were to point out a couple of places where Peter Jackson went over-the-top, they would be the dinosaurs chasing the film crew and falling over each other(a little too ambitious) and the climax(a little too long).

But the movie also has heart and that makes it more than just a special effects extravaganza. The near-humanness of Kong makes us feel for him. We laugh when he treats Anne like a toy and we feel real sympathy when we see him helpless in shackles. The relationship between Kong and Anne is developed very naturally and is marked by some real sweet scenes. Even the mentor-student relationship between a couple of the supporting characters touches a chord.

The human actors are dwarfed, both literally and figuratively, by the gorilla but it is to their credit that some still manage to make a mark. Naomi Watts looks very beautiful and credit goes to her, the cinematographer and the casting director for making her look every inch the movie star of a previous era. She has to use just her eyes to reflect all her changing attitudes towards King Kong and she does so superbly. Jack Black is way less wacky than he usually is but it is an inspired casting decision. The little zaniness that peeks out at times makes his almost-suicidal devotion to his craft very believable. In retrospect, he is the real villain of the piece but there are times when we admire rather than loathe him. Adrian Brody is genuine but pretty flat. His chemistry with Naomi seems rather weak, especially when compared to the chemistry between Naomi and a special effects creation who she never saw during the shooting!

Long Live The King Kong!