Friday, November 07, 2008

Quantum of Solace-The Review

I just saw the new Bond flick Quantum of Solace a few hours ago. Yes I do like action movies at times despite my overwhelming bias for art house stuff. European surrealism, Latin American realism, Asian mysticism and Tarantinoesque paganism all have their own charm and so does mindless action flicks.

Coming back to the point, let me make it clear that this film might disappoint a lot of hardcore Bond fans. Not because it is bad but because it eliminates almost all the Bond stereotypes cultivated over five decades and adored by at least three generations of fans. Neither does he introduce himself like the way he used to nor does he ask for shaken (not stirred) vodka martini. In fact in the most ironic scene of the film he says that he doesn’t know what he is drinking (and the bartender explains)!

But having said all these I must say that I actually liked the film. I don’t want to discuss the plot here. It’s like any other Bond movie, some incorrigible bad guys trying to screw the world and Bond has to step in. I went to the theater basically looking for well executed action sequences and long car chases and I was not disappointed. It doesn’t keep you waiting for the adrenaline rush. It keeps coming in rapid intervals and keeps you hooked. And also like its predecessors it happens all over the world. They take you to Italy, Haiti, Austria, Bolivia & Russia in quick succession and indulge in some serious action as well as subsequent destruction of public property.

The performances are competent enough. Daniel Craig has now become accustomed to the role and I think the Brosnan hangover is gradually disappearing from the viewers’ minds. Olga Kurylenko oozes oomph as expected, more so because she is all tanned up for this role to show the Latino upbringing of the character. Dame Judi Dench is as usual graceful & dignified as M. Mathieu Amalric does a decent job as the chief villain and so do rest of the cast. Cinematography is excellent and I think it is better than previous bond flicks. Moving and shaking camera action lends more credibility to the scenes.

So that brings me to the director Marc Forster. As a matter of fact he is one of the guys I never expected to direct a Bond movie. I saw his Finding Neverland some years ago. It is still one of my personal favorites. I also liked Stranger than Fiction. I haven’t yet seen Monster’s Ball and I didn’t like The Kite Runner (Most probably because a friend of mine gave a very negative review of the novel itself). All of these movies are very personal movies with demure and subdued characters. Probably the producers wanted someone like him for this makeover of Bond. It is also noteworthy that Paul Haggis is one of the writers, a person who was involved with such films like Million Dollar Baby, Crash and Letters from Iwo Jima. Nevertheless they pulled it off well and did a good job in injecting some realism into the usually over the top franchise. But I think at certain points they went a bit too fast. While quick editing is the order of the day, at certain points I expected them to allow the viewers some time to actually grab and appreciate the well executed shots.

Finally, I prefer this more realistic and no nonsense portrayal of Bond as opposed to popular sentiments. I have seen all the previous ones, not because I wanted to but because they were aired by a TV channel at a stretch a couple of years ago. So I can tell you that Craig is the second best Bond of all time after Sean Connery. In fact Brosnan always looked like a metrosexual womanizer socialite rather than a spy. As far as the assassination of stereotypes is concerned, I think it had to move on with time. Imagine a secret spy introducing himself to his enemies with his real name every time he meets them!

So do I have any regrets in the end? Yes! I wish it had some sex scenes! This new Bond seems like a misogynist most of the time! Or are we moving towards a gay Bond with changing times? Poor Olga doesn’t really get to scorch the screen as one would expect. The other Bond girl (?) makes merely a guest appearance.

Anyway…watch it for the action…..7/10

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Waltzing with Tchaikovsky on a rainy afternoon

Well I don’t really have any theoretical knowledge about music. But I think I can feel and appreciate the right king of music. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of those maestros I admire. But even I don’t know why suddenly am I liking his music so much and why am I associating him with rain!

I started the morning with his Arabian Dance followed by Swan Lake. Both of them in my opinion have a plaintive quality that can be associated with solitary beings like me. The sudden burst of energy in Flight of the Bumble Bee and the heart warming romanticism in Waltz of Flowers also are suiting my mood at the moment. As the sky is overcast since the morning and the light drizzle have already started with gentle breeze, I am feeling that gay (not in “that” sense) abandon which I always feel before the first showers of the season. I am uploading this youtube video that plays Waltz of Flowers.

I also took a photograph from the balcony which captures the freshened up Neem tree with a backdrop of the cloudy sky. That is the one I have pasted above. This place is not known for a long rainy season. So let’s relish it till it lasts!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Spotting the aliens: some meandering thoughts

Many years back, I happened to read a book called Chariot of Gods by Erich Von Daniken. Controversies apart, it was enough to set the imaginations of a schoolboy ablaze. So much so that I even tried my hands on sci-fi loaded with aliens and spaceships for my poor school magazine. The very thought of aliens and their possible intervention with the human race has been seducing us for a long time. While it has probably been unable to break into the stronghold of mainstream esoteric arts and literature, it has occupied a very strong position in popular fiction, comics and films.

But why such abrupt infatuation has erupted for the aliens? Well, I happened to watch the fourth Indiana Jones movie yesterday. No I am not writing a review of it as usual. The thing is, it also has something to do with those “outsiders” and hence it came as some kind of a reminiscence of my childhood fantasies. The basic idea driving all such films and literature is that the aliens, who are light years ahead of us in technology, might be watching us and they might have helped our venerable ancestors to build seemingly impossible structures like the pyramids! That is why they were probably worshipped as gods. The ancient Egyptians and Mesoamericans are the usual suspects for this school of thought.

The best example that comes to my mind is Tintin’s “Flight 716”. All the Tintin fans would know how Herge so skillfully plotted the aliens amidst Indonesian rainforests. With a brilliant storyline, immaculate attention to details and impeccable humor, it was probably one of the most accomplished works by the Belgian maestro. I think no one needs to be reminded of Spielberg’s exploits with the third kind. But if you want a different kind of treatment you can go for John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. It was a really creepy drama set in the eerie atmosphere of Antarctica.

But the point is how to do we actually know what happened and how to know if there is some extra terrestrial amongst us? In short how to spot them? A few questions that arose in my mind are,

  • If they came to the world where was the landing site? Some craters or geographical formations have been suspected but we don’t really see any evidences or remains of any highly sophisticated spacecraft and machinery.
  • They were worshipped as gods? But I don’t think any strange or otherworldly shapes have been noticed in the ancient artifacts. The “gods” are normally portmanteaus of humans and animals.
  • Is it really possible for any living entity to travel such astronomic distances?
  • If they were so kind to teach architecture to the primitive people why don’t they contact modern people who can at least understand who they are and where they come from?

Whatever it is, in fact I sincerely hope to meet some alien some day and have some intergalactic orgy. It is really difficult to believe that we are alone in this universe!How would it be to have an extra terrestrial girlfriend (well if they have different sexes!)? No luck with the planet mates so far!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Iron Man: Finally a completely human superhero!

How many times have we seen the American John Does turning into superheroes to save the mankind? I am sure everyone has grown up on a staple diet of Superman, Batman, Spiderman or some other genetically modified superhero often having characteristics of some other species. In that sense the name “Iron Man” seemed hardly attractive.
But then, what is in a name! The Iron man does whatever a superhero is supposed to do, but with a tinge of humor that ridicules the very basis of superheroism. He is purely coincidental, accident prone and is not a social recluse! Yes, unlike other heroes and like most other human beings, he likes to demonstrate his prowess without hiding his identity. But above all, the most heartening thing is, he is 100% homo sapience without any avian, spidery or alien component in his genome!

Want to know the story? Well, Tony Stark is a mechanical and scientific genius who also owns a huge corporation manufacturing various weapons of mass destruction. But he is kidnapped by the terrorists while on a trip to Afghanistan (BTW, the terrorists sometimes talk in Hindi, all the Asians are same isn’t it??!!!). He is asked to make missiles for the terrorists inside a hideous, desolated cave. But he ends up creating a humanoid machine that is all powerful and indomitable. He comes out of the captivity riding that machine. But realizing the destruction his weapons are causing he decides to stop manufacturing weapons. He also takes up the job of saving the poor and tormented ones and destroying weapons created by him that has fallen into wrong hands. What happens after that? I can’t spill all the beans, but surely you have guessed that new enemies appear very soon and the eternal struggle of good versus evil ensues as usual.
Coming to cast and credits, this entire film belongs to Robert Downey Jr. He may not be your usual superstar with chiseled looks, but he sure is a real actor with immaculate comic timing. He plays his part with characteristic ease and never lets our attention divert. I also have to mention Gwyneth Paltrow as his secretary cum love interest. I have always loved this lady, ever since I saw Shakespeare in Love! The script is tight and is ably directed by John Favreau. I haven’t read the original Marvel Comics so I can’t tell you how much it adheres to the original story. The action and visual effects are up to the mark but can be taken for granted as every Hollywood movie has it nowadays.

So, I think it is a film for all kinds of people. If you don’t like hardcore action movies, it has enough witty sequences and dialogues to keep you hooked. Give it a try any given Sunday. You won’t be disappointed.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Das Boot: The U Boat, The movie, The masterpiece

I was just surfing the, a consumer review website where I normally repost the movie reviews I write to keep my sleepy blog alive. I just noticed the title in their list and found out that no one has so far written a review for such a timeless classic. So I posted a short review there and reposting it here for a change, of course with slight modifications keeping the context and target in mind.

About the plot, it is about the sailor on board of a German U Boat at the time of WWII. They try too hard to carry on difficult missions and also keep encountering near death situations at times. All the while there is an undercurrent of confusion over the ideology of their leaders who have sent them to those treacherous waters. Let me not disclose too much of it for the sake of the future viewers.

The film works in all aspects due to meticulous attention to details and carefully crafted claustrophobic ambiance that might suffocate the faint hearted. The coexistence of high sense of duty along with the fear of death under the sea in the minds of those brave soldiers is so realistically portrayed that you are almost able feel the suffocation, terror and dedication of them and it keeps haunting you for a long time even after the movie is over.

Coming to the credits, J├╝rgen Prochnow has done an excellent job as the Captain as well as the rest of the cast whose name I don't really know! And if you thought Wolfgang Petersen was all about the tepid Troy, you should watch this one. He was far more accomplished a filmmaker than his time. He made this film way back in 1981 when Spielberg was still busy with the extra terrestrial third kinds, humorous time travelers and that action buff archaeologist. Schindler's list was still more than a decade away and we mostly had "war" movies rather than "anti-war" movies. In that sense Das Boot is and will remain one of the greatest anti-war movies ever made.

Lastly I don't need to remind my regular readers of my love for German movies. So let me sign off with another round of applause for them.
Good Night & Good Luck(plagiarism regretted! Edward R. Murrow must be turning in his graves at my audacity! But is suited the mood and time (1 am)) !!!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Emptiness revisited: an unusual rumination of the tainted past

Again I have arrived at that recurring juncture where I feel tired but don’t feel like sleeping, feel bored but don’t feel like going out, feel relieved but don’t feel like enjoying. These are the times when I resurrect the blog, purely because I have nothing better to do.

This reminds me of my first big break after the first big exam. That was after the 10th. I went to watch ‘Titanic’ with some equally "starved" friends. I hadn’t been to a theater for more than three years at that time. Mostly because I was too “decent” to bunk school and I also did not like to join the family outings for the flicks that were enjoyable only to the families as a whole! But as always, I was disappointed again as the movie was heavily censored (The readers might have guessed by now that I did not go there to watch the ship sinking and the sentimental couples holding hands and shedding tears at the corners) beyond our tolerance and we came out feeling betrayed and backstabbed!

This trend continued over the years and all my breaks ended up with pondering over my screwed up exams, sluggish and directionless strolls, unwanted encounters with the kind of people I don’t like and plans to do better next time! Anyway I have had comparatively better time over the last year as I finally got my own laptop and a hard disk full of movies to fulfill my eccentric tastes. I have finished off the bulk of Kurosawa, Kubrick and Hitchcock along with others during the last year. So I have lined up Bunuel, Godard and many more for the next couple of months. I also have to finish Eco’s The Name of Rose which I bought almost a year ago and never found time to read. Today I also bought Orhan Pamuk's The New Life which should be a good companion for tomorrows train ride to Delhi.

Anyway, breaks are always welcome and for that matter even a certain amount of work is required to realize the value of a leisure. Just like that immortal Satan of Gibran who reminded the priest of his worthlessness in absence of the Satan. Let me paste those immortal lines here again, I simply love to quote them whenever I get a chance!

"I am the builder of convents and monasteries upon the foundation of fear. I build wine shops and wicked houses upon the foundation of lust and self-gratification. If I cease to exist, fear and enjoyment will be abolished from the world, and through their disappearance, desires and hopes will cease to exist in the human heart. Life will become empty and cold, like a harp with broken strings. I am Satan everlasting.”

So, whatever it is, let me sign off for today and let me venture into my daydreams as I am beginning to feel too tired now! So long…..

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Nothing as such.....

Well, this one is again one of those purposeless pieces resulting out of my loneliness, boredom and overall hopelessness. As my brief sojourn at home is nearly coming to an end, I again find myself in that vicious trough which recurs more often than the crest!

So what did I do during the holidays? As always, it got over before I figured out how to make the most of it. A few movies (duck soup, to catch a thief, modern times, Dr Strangelove, the kingdom, once, singing in the rain), some directionless wandering through the congested footpaths, a meeting with the b’day pal, some cricket watching….& it was all over!

Anyway, looking back to it, I had some leisurely and un-MBA like time after a long gap. It did not happen during the last holidays. As I stayed back in the campus after the exam due to the shortness of the long awaited break, the spectres of capitalism kept haunting me (hopefully spectre of Marx won’t haunt me down because of this tasteless plagiarism and lampooning!).

Having spent most of my life cutting corners, last few months have been gruelling. But of course it has made me tougher (and heavier for some strange reasons!). So re-entering the brick labyrinth is raising mixed feelings in me. Anyway let’s hope that this new round of slogging will be easier considering the past experiences, and also let’s hope that I will be able the post the next one very soon unlike the previous ones.