Saturday, June 20, 2015

MovieNotes: Jurassic World

Title: Jurassic World (IMDB)
*ing: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan & Dinosaurs
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Language: English
Genre: Science Fiction cum Action

Basic Premise
Jurassic World is a dinosaur theme park. But corporate diktats need a newer, bigger attraction to ensure a better looking balance sheet. This results in the unleashing of a monster which needs to be put in control.

Jurassic Park was probably the first contemporary English movie most Indians my age would have seen. It sparked a dinosaur craze, with dinosaurs starting to appear everywhere whether as merchandise, in fun fairs, almost every school science project or even appearing in puja pandals (news link). Even planetariums began having shows about dinosaurs in addition to their usual space related stuff.

Jurassic World is the 3rd sequel to Jurassic Park though it mostly ignores the actions from the 2nd and 3rd film of the franchise. The movie is set over two decades after the events of the first movie and it is full of tributes and references to the first one. The references sometimes act as a self-parody as well.

The key feature of the whole story is the subject of "control". Humans believe that they are in control and can play with the genetic make-up to create bigger, more menacing animals for their entertainment, while increasing their cash-flow. There is another group which believes that they can train and control the dinosaurs for use in military, as a kind of modern day cavalry unit. But as Irrfan Khan's character points out we feel that we are in control, though that's not always the case.

Acting wise, the humans do not really have much to do. Once the Indominus Rex is let loose, most of the human actors just keep running trying to escape the big dinosaur's jaws while the rest make a semblance of fight (mostly in vain). It needed the combined effort of multiple other dinosaurs to take out the new monster in their midst.

The dinosaurs maybe bigger, the visuals more spectacular but they are unable to generate that "wow" effect which made the original such a cult hit.

Mandatory India Connect - Irrfan Khan. He gets one of the lead human roles playing a character of a quirky billionaire who wants more "teeth" to boost up his park's revenues while at the same time making philosophical statements about humans never being in control although they might feel it to be the case.

Rating - 7/10. Not much story-wise, but a good one time watch. The makers may have succeeded in adding more teeth, but the story did not have the bite of the original.

Previously on MovieNotes - Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Thursday, June 11, 2015

BookMarks - The Call of the Wild

Along the lines of the MovieNotes Section, this is my first attempt to write a short note on the books I complete reading. Hopefully this becomes an incentive to read more and further on write more as well. 

Title – The Call of the Wild 
Author – Jack London 

The book is set in the late 19th century and the discovery of gold in Yukon region provides for the back-drop of the story. The book tells the story of Buck, a domesticated dog, who is happily living a sheltered life in a big ranch in California, described as sun-kissed.  Dogs are in high demand for use in the harsh Alaskan environs. Buck is kidnapped and sold off by his owner’s gardener to be used as a sled dog. 

Buck passes from owner to owner while constantly having to adapt to his ever-changing environment. He not only adapts but also becomes the top-dog. He learns not only from his fellow dogs but also from the humans around him.  He becomes wilder as the effects of the generations of having been domesticated begin to wear off and the harsh environs takes its toll.

All this while, Buck is increasingly aware off a primal instinct calling him towards itself. It is only the love for his last master, who had saved him from near-death at the hands of his previous owners, which makes him resist this calling. However, once he finds that his master has been killed by local Indian tribals, all binds to human civilization are broken. He kills his master’s killers and moves into the wild. Here he joins and leads a pack of wolves. As time progresses his deeds attain near-mythical status with the local populace. 

The book is narrated entirely from the perspective of Buck. He is a quick learner and adapts fast to his surroundings. He is an explorer and a dreamer. Also he wants to be the leader and is ready to take on any challenge to prove himself as the leader of the pack. By the end of the tale, he has transitioned completely from a domesticated house dog in “sun-kissed” California to the leader of a wolf pack in cold and harsh Yukon region. 

In summary, The Call of the Wild is tale of the survivor spirit where the underlying principle is the survival of the fittest. Also the harsher the environment, the more the increase in brutality both in man and beast. And there is a primal spirit guiding all of us, although generations of civilized living has dampened this call.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

MovieNotes: Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Title: Tanu Weds Manu Returns
*ing: Kangana Ranaut (2 Nos.), Madhavan, Deepak Dobriyal, Jimmy Shergill, et al
Director: Aanand Rai
Language: Hindi in multiple dialects
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Basic Premise
Events take place after the “happy ending” from the 2011 movie “Tanu Weds Manu”. The married couple has fallen out of love and is trying to pick up the pieces of their lives in an attempt to move on. But these attempts only keep entangling them further as the husband falls in love with his wife’s look-alike.

What Works
  • Kangana Ranaut’s twin performances as Tanu and Kusum. Played so perfectly that you tend to forget that both are played by the same actor. Also credit to the make-ups team for making them look similar yet distinctly different, unlike most movies with double roles.
  • The performances of the leading men fall into two broad categories – the understated ones, who are going with the flow (Madhavan & Jimmy Shergill) and the ones who keep the audience engaged with their over-the-top acts (Deepak Dobriyal & Mohhamed Zeeshan Ayyub). And both these types complement each other perfectly.
  • Its the characters in tiny one scene roles which are remembered e.g. the divorce lawyer, the uncles translating club as gymkhana etc. 
  • The One Liners - The one thing which keeps the movie going are the never ending one liners, from a "growing man" being compared to an adrak to the confused parents not sure whose side they were on by the time the story reaches its climax.
  • Special mention for Swara Bhaskar’s Bihari accent take. Other film-makers please note, you need not try to make everything sound Bhojpuri, and this is the real accent you hear in Bihar.
  • The prequel had better music but this one makes clever use of background songs to bring out the characters' inner angst perfectly. ("Old School Girl" for Kusum and "Ja, Ja bewafa" for Tanu)
  • The movie actually manages to weave in a couple of nice social messages to up the overall feel-good factor.
What Doesn't
  • As is wont with most stories these days, the ending seems a little contrived. However, I am not sure how they could have tied it up any better. Given that like some of the characters, even the audience wasn’t sure of which side they were on. 
  • There was the needless saga of the Punjabi-Bihari couple’s baby which served no real purpose in the plot. 
  • Sometimes logic takes a back seat and manages to slip through the plot-holes (e.g. Hindi speaking doctors counselling couples in a mental asylum in Britain, or the sudden disappearance of the kidnap victim). But the one-liners prevent you from thinking too badly for the lack of logic in certain acts.
Rating – 9/10. Overall a thoroughly entertaining laugh riot.

Previously on MovieNotes – Avengers: Age of Ultron