Thursday, November 29, 2007

Coming Soon - Oram Po

Oram Po! is a phrase that asks others to move aside so that you can move forward. But ironically, the movie Oram Po ended up being pushed aside for a long time because of financial issues. But the problems have been resolved and Oram Po finally hits screens tomorrow. Aside from the biggies, this is one of the movies I've been looking forward to for a long time (so inspite of Jeeva's recent track record with respect to his films, I'm disappointed that they're screening Rameswaram rather than Oram Po, here in the Bay Area).

One thing about Oram Po is definitely unique - it is being directed by the husband-wife team of Pushkar and Gayatri. They seem to have worked hard on the film and must be relieved now that its release is imminent.

I think the day I started looking forward to Oram Po was the day I first saw its trailer. Oram Po is one of the few movies where the trailer actually does what it is supposed to do - raise interest in the movie and make us want to watch it. Very funny and nicely edited, it is one the best trailers in recent times. The characters introduced look interesting and capable of carrying a fun movie and the auto race sequence looks very stylish. Tamil cinema trailers are pretty ineptly put together. But I've noticed that films with trailers that stood out from the crowd - Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, Veyyil, Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi and Sivaji are some I remember - have turned out to be big hits. So the good trailer portends well for Oram Po.

While G.V.Prakash has had hits like Pollaadhavan since Veyyil, I think the Oram Po was actually his second album. And his sophomore outing kept up the promise he showed in his first film. T.Rajendar is an inspired choice for Gun Ganapathy... and his rough voice actually brings a lot of energy to the fun song (after Simbhu and films like Veerasamy, I didn't think I'd like anything associated with TR!). The lyrics are fun too. Kozhi Kaalu... is another fun song that benefits from Jassie Gift's unique voice and singing style. There are just a few lines that get repeated but it has good rhythm and beats. Idhu Enna Maayam... is one of those soft and melodious number that Prakash seems to do very well. I also love the theme song which includes some fast lines.

Oram Po a pretty important movie for both its leads Arya and Pooja. Arya started off strong and quickly attained pin-up status but hasn't had a release, let alone a hit, for almost a year. While Naan Kadavul might help him being taken seriously as an actor, Oram Po is his chance at box-office success (I'm sure he'll be a happy man if it becomes even half as successful as another movie where the hero played an auto-driver :-). Pooja's last hit(which was also Arya's last hit) was Pattiyal and since then she has been seen only in Thagappansamy, a no-show at the BO. I've had a soft corner for her ever since her debut in Jay Jay and am hoping that this movie becomes a hit and helps her get a foot in the big league door.

Hope Oram Po zooms to the top of the box-office...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Pollaadhavan seems like an unlikely combination of Thirudaa Thirudi and Pudhuppettai but manages to make it work. A familiar story of a youth unwittingly pulled into a life of violence, the film takes a serious approach to the theme and ends up as a fast-paced thriller with a surprisingly soft heart.

Prabhu(Dhanush) has still not found a job three years after finishing college. But going to work is pretty low on his list of priorities with the top one being getting a new motorcycle and the second one being catching the eye of Hema(Divya). Fed up with his insults and comments, Prabhu's father(Murali) gives him a lumpsum of money and washes his hands off him. Prabhu's first act is get the bike of his dreams but the bike does help him get a job and his girl. So when it is stolen, he is heartbroken and will stop at nothing to get it back. That makes him cross paths with the local rowdy Selvam(Kishore) and his brother Ravi(Daniel Balaji).

The family of a good-for-nothing son, the stern father, the sympathetic mother and the younger sister isn't really new in Tamil cinema. But the scenario has usually been used for humor(in movies like 7/G Rainbow Colony or Adhu Oru Kanaakkaalam) with the son, with his wisecracks and put-downs, being the one we were supposed to side with. But a touch more starkness and realism is brought in here and creates a very believable family with very believable problems. The dialogs, whether sharp as in the father's lament about his son's continuing irresponsibility or humorous as in the sister's offhand comment when asked to leave the room before a particularly big argument, are very natural. While Dhanush's acts and comments make us smile, we do see and appreciate his father's position too.

By giving us the stories of Dhanush and Daniel in parallel, the movie manages to bring some difference to a cliched story. So though the film has a familiar story of Dhanush being gradually drawn into a world of violence, the techniques(like the dual narration and the couple of instances where they morph into one another) make it seem like it is the story of two angry, young men destined to collide. The two aren't really similar and the movie doesn't try overreach itself by suggesting they are two sides of the same coin or something like that. So the techniques are just gimmicks. But they work and the movie seems more fast-paced and fresh as a result of them.

In movies like this, villains are usually little more than pawns waiting to be decimated by the hero. But the bad guys too have personalities here and that makes the encounters more interesting. Selvam is a particularly interesting character. He is cruel and brutal but has a family and looks out for his brother. More importantly, he displays a level-headedness that is usually absent in our villains. Daniel plays a more regular villain - hot-headed and egoistic - but things would have been a lot more interesting if Dhanush had to go up against only Selvam.

The movie presents a rather harrowing side of Chennai in a no-frills manner. It uses Dhanush's attempts to recover his bike as a way of showing us some activities and places that are rarely seen. The guided tour that takes Dhanush - and us - through the steps a stolen bike goes through is particularly compelling. It is probably more effective than the scenes of violence(there are quite a few of those) simply because it seems more real and down-to-earth.

After this, it is almost disappointing when the movie descends to a one-on-one between Dhanush and Daniel. From the situation that makes Dhanush take on Daniel to the latter's single-minded pursuit of Dhanush to take revenge, the situations and sequences are very familiar to other movies where the hero goes up against an all -powerful rowdy. Things are also wrapped up a little too cleanly towards the end though the ice factory makes a great setting for the climactic fight.

Dhanush has had good practice playing the bad son and is very natural in the initial portions. He delivers his lines in a very matter-of-fact manner and that makes many of them(like his comment about a dress that Divya has her eyes on) funnier than they seem on paper. Divya, the actress formerly known as Kuthu Ramya, looks simple and pretty. She shows some spunk in the romance but has to take second place to a bike and so is around mainly for the duets. Daniel Balaji channels some of the rage from his Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu character but it seems rather one-dimensional. Selvam though is impressive in his debut as the saner older brother. The Engeyum Eppodhum... remix is fast and energetic while Minnalgal Koothaadum... is very melodious.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

Thanksgiving usually means four things here in the US – travel, family, food and shopping (not necessarily in that order!). I have most of my family back in India, most places are too cold to travel to by November, I am a vegetarian and I prefer sleeping in to shopping. So Thanksgiving has always been little more than a 4-day weekend for me. But this one was different and we managed to get into the spirit of this holiday by having a vacation that included all those four things.

Having decided to drive to Phoenix for a family reunion, we decided that 11 hours in the car would be too tough on the kids (and not to mention, our marriage!). So we thought of taking a break in LA, which was conveniently about the midpoint of our trip. But when you have 2 kids, staying in LA without visiting Disneyland is akin to murder. So we eventually left Tuesday, a day earlier than planned and visited Disneyland on Wednesday.

'The Happiest Place on Earth' has never let us down. Kavya was ofcourse the most enthusiastic in the group this time and enjoyed every single ride she went on. Since this was a trip targeted towards the kids, we focused on rides that the kids could go on. So we spent most of the time in Fantasyland before heading over to Tomorrowland for the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, the only new attraction that none of us in the group had seen. The Jungle Cruise and The Haunted Mansion rounded off the day and for the first time, we headed back to the hotel without waiting for Phantasmic or the fireworks.

We continued on to Phoenix Thursday morning for the get-together with my brother and three other cousins. Pretty close back when we were growing up and rarely having a chance to meet after coming to the US, it was a fun reunion for all of us. As in most reunions, a lot of time was spent just chatting and reminiscing about the good ol' days. Kavya and Karthik had fun too since they had their own cousins in the same age-group.

All of us also had a small outing to Lake Saguaro, about an hour away. It was a pretty large lake and we rented motor boats (called pontoons) which we had to drive ourselves. We all (including Kavya) took turns sailing the boat and it was real fun.

When a group of us Tamils get together, food is never really a problem, is it?! There was no turkey on the menu ofcourse but food was never in short supply (and food tastes so much better when you realize you don't have to load the dishwasher afterwards!). Home-made snacks like pakodas and doodh bedas made me give a lot of thanks to the hosts!

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the busiest shopping day of the year and the start of shopping for the holiday season. My shopping during previous Black Fridays has been restricted to sauntering into stores quite late in the day to pick up some trifles. With some enthusiastic shoppers to give me company, I got into the mood for some real shopping this time and was at Target at about 5am. There were 50 people in line before me and by 6am, when it opened, the line had grown to probably 300. The area resembled a crime scene with the line cordoned off with yellow tape and policemen patrolling the area! But I managed to pick up all the items I was looking for – a 10” portable DVD player (for $84), a 500G USB external hard drive (for $87) and seasons 7 and 8 of Seinfeld (for $15 each). It was a fun experience with both the shoppers and the store employees being surprisingly polite and helpful.

Overall, it was another memorable vacation...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nature's Smile

Got this photo as an email forward. Made me smile too...

Will be back after the Thanksgiving weekend with the rest of the Diwali movie reviews. Have a nice long weekend :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Azhagiya Thamizh Magan and Thavam are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Few English Flicks...

Planet Terror

Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror - the second of the 2 films that make up GrindHouse - takes its intentions of paying homage to the GrindHouse films a lot more seriously than Death Proof. Tarantino's Death Proof, apart from the 60's/70's look and feel, could be seen as a straight thriller with its scary villain and some nice stunts. But Planet Terror cannot be seen as anything other than an attempt to recreate a B-grade, 70s flick. Its packed with an outrageous story(which essentially boils down to people fighting against an army of zombies created from a chemical leak), over-the-top action(like McGowan shooting down zombies with a machine gun that also acts as a replacement leg!), pitch black humor(the film's biggest laugh comes when a legless McGowan tries to get into a running truck!) and gross-out gore(with everything from chopped-off heads to squashed... you gotta see this one for yourself!). The DVD includes the fake trailer for Machete, that was included with the original double feature. But since the Death Proof DVD has none of the other trailers, I'm not sure where to find them (the trailer for Thanksgiving - a take-off on Halloween - is supposed to be hilarious).


The Lives of Others

A slow but fascinating film set in East Germany in the 1980s. It revolves around a playwright and his girlfriend, who are spied on by the Government under suspicion that the playwright is working against them. From a drama with political undertones about the role of the Government and the violation of its citizens' privacy, it surprisingly develops into a slow-burn thriller as the Government closes in on the playwright. The screenplay is full of twists and completely unpredictable until the end. The tension in a couple of sequences towards the end is is wonderfully built up. The climax is fantastic and the last line is unforgettable.


Sky High

This is an older movie that I just caught up with last week. While recent movies about comic-book superheroes have been disappointing, this film about some fake - as in, not from comic-books - superheroes managed deliver a perfect package of action, drama and humor. It is mostly set in a school for kids with superpowers and so there are some very funny parallels with the goings-on in regular high schools. The romance is sweet and there is a moral(even if a bit cliched) in there. And this one has a fantastic last line too.


Shrek The Third

This one follows the tradition of most third parts(threequels?!) of a series - the freshness is no longer there, the jokes have grown old and the story is stretched real thin. This time Shrek goes on a voyage to find Arthur, the other heir to the throne of Far Far Away while back home, a pregnant Fiona has to protect the kingdom from Prince Charming and his cohorts. Things that were funny the first and second times - the digs at popular Disney characters, the clever parallels to real life - no longer make us laugh as hard. Even Eddie Murphy seems to have lost his charm though Antonio Banderas makes up for that somewhat with an enthusiastic turn as Puss-in-Boots.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Azhagiya Thamizh Magan

Vijay has been frequently criticized for sticking to formulaic, masala films that are barely different from one another. Azhagiya Thamizh Magan is by no means an answer to these critics but it does seem to be an attempt on Vijay's part to deviate from the kind of films(like Pokkiri, Aadhi or Sivakasi, which were dominated by violence and/or vulgarity) he has been doing lately. But an unnecessary need to stick to his image and deliver his brand of acting when uncalled for, erases the opportunities provided to him by the story, to do something different.

Guru(Vijay) is an MBA student and an ace sprinter. He also has a good heart and that's what earns him the love of Abhi(Shreya), the daughter of a rich businessman(Ashish Vidyarthi). One fine day, Guru begins getting visions of the future and when a couple of incidents happen exactly as he had seen foreseen them, he talks to the psychiatrist, who informs him that he has ESP. The next vision he has startles Guru and he moves to Mumbai to stop it from happening.

ATM seems like Vijay's attempt to do something different. Ironically, the movie works best when it resembles a typical Vijay film i.e. before he goes to Mumbai. The usual dances, stunts, romance and comedy all work reasonably well on the whole though they all have their individual highs and lows. The high among the songs is definitely Ellaa Pugazhum..., where Vijay shows off some very impressive dance moves. As for the comedy, though Santhanam and a few others are on hand to provide the comedy, its Geetha, as Vijay's mom, who surprisingly gets the most laughs with some choice, well-delivered lines.

The movie shows signs of being different from the typical Vijay film when he gets his first vision. This being a Vijay movie, we don't expect a serious, scientific look at the phenomenon of ESP or its effect on someone who has the ability and we are not disappointed. Inspite of his valid, lucidly-put concerns about his visions, his ESP is little more than a gimmick to move the story forward. That said, his last vision does come as a surprise and the suspense at how it will be brought about helps move the story along.

The film gives Vijay a character different from his usual goody-goody types. But the implementation of the character is what kills the movie. Vijay's familiar brand of acting - the wide-eyed expressions, the humor-added dialog delivery, the slightly slapstick body language - is employed for this character also and that doesn't work. The director is confused about whether the audience should like or dislike the character and so he makes it a villainous character that talks and acts like the Vijay we are used to. So what could have been a good thriller turns into this odd combination of a comedy and a half-hearted thriller, with Vijay making jokes and mugging to the camera. There are a couple of scenes where he plays it straight and they just serve to show that the movie could've worked much better if he had played the entire character in the same vein.

The movie eventually develops a mistaken identity scenario. The director can be credited for not stretching things too much leading upto the scenario but he lets things slip once the movie gets there. The ruses employed by others to resolve the issue are completely childish and silly. In this modern age of forensics and DNA, the best idea they can come up with to clear their doubts is a running race!

The film has a nice surprise in the turn of events that lead to Vijay's last vision coming true. It sets up our expectations(the sepia-toned images help keep a key component of the vision hidden) and then breaks them in a good way. But this unfortunately leads to a laughably bad sequence. A ridiculous lecture about karpu, illogical character transformations and a particularly silly reappearance of a character close out the movie in a very shoddy manner.

Vijay looks good and goes through his usual routines. Shriya looks gorgeous in most places though there are a couple of hairstyles and dresses that don't sit too well on her. The song sequences are the only opportunities she has to show off her figure and she uses them to the full extent. Namitha does an item number for the Nee Marilyn Monroe... song. Looking fat and fleshy in dresses that are a small step up from a bikini and executing dance moves that look like a boxer's warm-up routines, she single-handedly pulls the quality of the movie down a few notches. Marilyn Monroe must be turning in her grave! Among the other song sequences, the Ponmagal Vandhaal... remix is picturized nicely and the lyrics also make it rather apt for where it occurs. Maduraikku Pogaadhadi... and Valayaapatti... are generic, folk numbers with nothing much to distinguish them from one other. The latter scores when comes to Vijay's dancing though.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Sixth Sense Question

Warning: If you are one of the very few who haven't seen The Sixth Sense and/or don't know about its ending, please don't read further.

The Sixth Sense had a whopper of a twist at the end. I think the film's screenplay was almost a lesson on how a big twist should be incorporated into a film. The open-endedness of the opening scene where Bruce Willis was shot and the core theme of the film("I see dead people!") should have made the final twist predictable. But the screenplay was gripping enough that one forgot the suspense regarding Willis' death. So the big revelation truly caught us unawares. While a surprise twist usually decreases the interest in repeat viewings of the film, the twist here dragged me to the film again to see how we were duped until the twist(I realized only on the second viewing that Willis never interacted with anyone other than Haley Joel Osment) and how the rest of the movie held up now that we were aware of the twist.

Now to the actual point of this post... Its pretty clear that Willis didn't know until the end of the film that he was actually dead. An interesting question was raised in Roger Ebert's Answer Man column this week about whether Haley knew Willis was dead or not. My immediate answer was that he did not, since if he did, he would've been scared of him. But according to Ebert, Haley knew that Willis was dead and the reason he offers is that Haley says "I see dead people". He may or may not be right about Haley's knowledge about Willis but I think the reasoning is wrong since Haley doesn't say "I see only dead people"! Since he sees his mother and other people who are alive, couldn't he have assumed Willis was alive too?

But now that I've seen the question, I'm real curious about whether Haley knew Willis was dead? Was there anything in the movie that indicated this one way or the other?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Billa 2007 - Teaser Trailer

Teaser trailer for the new Billa from the Ajith Fanclub website. Works well as a teaser. A memorable, catchy line and a nice, energetic background score.

Happy Diwali!

In those school and college years, a festival falling on a weekend was cause for sadness since it deprived us of a cherished holiday. But sitting here in the US, I wish today was a Saturday or a Sunday. Fireworks, oil bath and new clothes are out anyway. But the weekend would atleast let us meet friends and family, and watch the special programs on Sun TV - two of the other staples of the wonderful festival of lights.

Happy Diwali!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Happy Birthday Kamal!

I've always considered myself a Rajni fan and a Kamal admirer. While the side I'm on in any Rajni vs Kamal debate must be quite obvious, there have been many times when I've fervently supported Kamal in arguments where Rajni wasn't in the picture. Kamal films occupy many slots(including the first) on my list of favorite Tamil films. And as a few commenters have pointed out, on an average, Kamal films have earned more stars than Rajni films on bbreviews.

That being said, there's has never been a list featuring Kamal on this blog. It is packed with lists of all kinds but one list that is conspicuously absent is one featuring Kamal. The reason for that is simply the overwhelming number of choices and the difficulty in comparing one vs the other. How can one compare the raw, uninhibited Chappani falling in love with Mayilu and the mature, serious Cheenu falling in love with Lakshmi?How can one choose between the heart-rending, anguished cry of Velu Naicker on seeing his son's dead body and the silent, helpless cries of Krishnaswamy when he tries to get his daughter back from the whorehouse? How can one pick between the finely-nuanced performances differentiating Michael, Madan, Raja and Kameswaran and the physically demanding performance that brought us Appu? How can one compare the transformation to a madisar-clad Avvai Shanmugi and the transformation to a withered, old freedom fighter Senapathy?

Probably the only way to make these lists is to come up with sets of criteria (best performances in the 80s, best performances with make-up, best performances in masala films, etc.) that limit the choices in each category. I'm sure I'll come up with such criteria and create some lists for Kamal. But for now, let me just wish India's best actor a very happy birthday. And thank him for his dedication to his craft and his incessant efforts to raise Tamil cinema to the next level.

Happy Birthday Kamal!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Coming Soon - Diwali Releases

When 2007 started, the year appeared to be a Tamil movie buff’s dream with movies by all the big stars and many other high-profile movies slated for release. But as the year winds down, many of those biggies have been moved to 2008. This Diwali’s fare seems like a mini-version of the same story. Initially packed with many high-profile releases (Dasaavadhaaram, Bheema, Billa were all, at some point, mentioned as Diwali releases), the final line-up has just 5 movies, only 2 of which can be termed high-profile.

Leading the pack is Vijay’s Azhagiya Thamizh Magan. Vijay, coming off a hit, Shriya, fresh off Sivaji’s mega-success and A.R.Rehman, scoring the music for only his 2nd Tamil film this year, are understandably the main reasons for its high profile. But beyond this exciting combination, not much is known about the film. This is probably the Vijay film with the least information known about it in recent times. With his last 2 movies Pokkiri and Aadhi being remakes, we knew exactly what the movies offered. But very little is known about ATM and even the rumors about Vijay playing a dual role for the first time in his career, are not confirmed. With Vijay in the lead, we can be pretty sure it is going to be formulaic, hero-driven, mass masala entertainer but as his last few films have shown, even that kind of a film can be handled in different ways with varying degrees of success. So its upto debutant director Bharathan, who has previously worked as an assistant to Dharani, to make this ATM churn out cash.

To no one’s surprise, Rahman has delivered a soundtrack that is topping the charts. Like Sivaji’s album, this one too is quite eclectic and has the potential to satisfy both Vijay fans and Rahman fans. Ellaa Pugazhum… caught my fancy right away with its rhythmic beats(sounding a bit like the beats of Raakku Muthu Raakku…). Rahman’s unique voice has this ability to suit any song and then grow on us and that’s the case here too. The Pon Magal Vandhaal… remix is the best of recent remixes. Valaiyaapatti… is a fast, fun folk song while Nee Marilyn Monroe… is a peppy, Rahman-ish number benefiting from Benny’s accented singing.

Second on the list is Surya’s Vel but it is definitely the Surya film I’ve been least excited about in a while. Not that the movie doesn’t offer any reasons to be excited about it on paper. It is Surya’s first film since last year’s flop, Sillunu Oru Kaadhal. It is being directed by Hari who has films like Thamizh and Saamy on his resume. It reunites Surya with Asin for the first time since their perfect pairing in Ghajini. And its music is scored by Yuvan Shankar Raja. But my main reason for the lack of excitement is Hari. Though he started strong with the 2 aforementioned films, his films since then have had familiar stories and an overdose of violence. More importantly for this post, his previous work with Surya gave us the vulgar, violent Aaru, his worst film. Vel’s trailer looks depressingly familiar with Surya going around with an aruvaal and there’s barely any noise about the soundtrack either.

3 other films round out the fare for this Diwali.
- Pollaadhavan stars Dhanush and Ramya. The film’s name, the same as one of Rajnikanth’s old hits, has given it good recognizability but the trailer points to it being raw and gritty. Music by G.V.Prakash has become quite popular too with the Engeyum Eppodhum... remix taking the top spot. The slow and melodious Minnalgal Koothaadum... is my personal favorite though.

- Machakkaaran, with Jeevan in the lead, is supposed to be a masala entertainer. Jeevan has been pretty lucky so far with his films like Thiruttu Payale and Naan Avanillai becoming BO hits. Music is by Yuvan but I haven’t heard many good things about this soundtrack either.

- Kannaamoochi Yenadaa is the only film targeting multiplex audiences. Directed by Priya, who was behind the cute Kanda Naal Mudhal, it has the rather curious teaming of Satyaraj and Prithviraj, along with Sandhya and Radhika. Music for this one is also by Yuvan but surprisingly, considering his fantastic soundtrack for Kanda Naal Mudhal, the soundtrack hasn’t made much news.

Now its time wait and watch. In less than a week, we’ll know which of these films create fireworks and which of them fizzle out.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bee Movie

This is probably the first time I've watched an animated film for its voice cast. Headlined by Jerry Seinfeld, who also wrote the screenplay and produced the film, Bee Movie is the comedian's first work since he left television after his hugely successful sitcom Seinfeld. The family-friendly, animated flick provides little opportunity for his brand of humor though. As just another animated film, it is visually attractive and has a few laughs but doesn't rise to the level of recent animated films by Pixar.

Animated movies are primarily aimed at kids with a few jokes thrown in to make sure the adults aren't bored. But Bee Movie seems at primarily at adults! Its storyline, jokes, moral all seem targeted more at adults. The central concept of a bee suing the human race for the sake of honey seems a little too high-concept for an animated film and I had a tough time explaining the concept of suing to Kavya! And though I wasn't rolling on the floor with laughter, I definitely laughed more than her!

The yellow and black of the bees lends itself to some bright and colorful animation. And when even ogres and rats can be made to look cute, its no problem making bees look cute. So the movie has enough to keep us engaged visually. But it is too talky. A couple of sequences like the bees' pollination trip and a human's attempt to whack a bee are the only 'action' sequences and the film could have used a few more. There are some visual gags(mostly from the usual technique of mapping the bees' lives to ours) and funny one-liners(Chris Rock's mosquite has the best one near the end of the film) scattered throughout the film but not enough to feel as if the film is consistently clever or funny.

Seinfeld definitely isn't the master of the animated domain...

Friday, November 02, 2007

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Vegam and Sivi are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Death Proof

While its better to approach most movies without much knowledge about them, some background information is helpful - maybe even necessary - to enjoy Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. This is one of the 2 movies (the other one is Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror) that make up Grindhouse, a re-creation of the 'Grindhouse experience' – 60s and 70s low-budget movies high on sex, violence and gore, shown as double-features. Not having been part of the Grindhouse era, the nostalgia factor is no there for me in Death Proof. There is the novelty factor but once that wears off, the movie feels rather inconsistent with some great action and uninteresting talk.

Tarantino here is presenting an experience rather than a movie. So the movie comes with the elements of the movies of that era like scratched film, abrupt jumps, apparently some missing reels and stretches with loss of color. Right from the opening credits(including the studio logos and the rating announcement), the movie takes us back to the 60s and 70s and the soundtrack is filled with songs from those times.

The movie is essentially two long conversation pieces, each of which is followed by some hi-voltage action. So we get 4 women talking about whatever’s on their mind (mostly sex and guys) followed by Kurt Russell, a stuntman, harassing them. Then we get 4 new women talking about whatever’s on their mind (mostly sex and guys) followed by Kurt Russell, a stuntman, harassing them. But the second quartet of women is not ready to take things lying down and decide to pay him back.

I could watch Pulp Fiction several times just for its scripts. The conversations between Travolta and Jackson, Travolta and Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel and Travolta and Jackson are all legendary and consisted of one delicious line after another. The conversations between the women here don’t come close to the same level. There’s a lot of profanity but just using four-letter words and talking openly doesn’t make a conversation interesting. The talk among the second set of women has a few nice chunks(like what follows after one of them reveals she carries a gun) but not enough to make their entire conversation engaging or memorable.

The action sequences almost act like payoffs for these long, slow talks. The first one is violent and visceral and shakes us up. It is short but shocking, especially since we have no idea what's coming at that point. The second one has less violence but is superbly choreographed with Zoe, a real-life stuntwoman(she is one in the film too), showing a lot of spunk. The lack of CGI shows and makes the proceedings quite suspenseful but the more crowd-pleasing aspect of the climax feels a bit short.

A question for anybody who has seen the film: The movie appears to be set in the 70s, which matches the time period of the Grindhouse movies. But there are some anachronistic elements like a modern cell phone, text messaging, a reference to Angelina Jolie and Gone in 60 Seconds, etc. Are these bloopers specifically inserted to point out that the movies of this genre didn’t care about things like that? Or am I wrong about the movie being set in the 70s?