Sunday, May 27, 2007


RUNTIME: 92 min.

Viewer, after watching the third installment in the SHREK trilogy (tearing his hair apart):
Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the wickedest of them all?

Oh my dear, do you really want me to answer that question for you. You know, there aren’t really any choices to choose from.

Yeah, you’re right…these studio guys just know how to milk money…to the last drop and turn what was once wholly creative to something that is infinitely boring. But SHREK 2 was so good, it was laugh-out-loud funny.

Who’re you kidding dear? They had everything covered in the first movie itself and that was great. The second was just an excuse to milk money, only that it was a very good excuse.

But it was good and Antonio Banderas as Puss In Boots was fantastic. The moment that will always remain with me is when Puss realizes his “moment” of greatness and “confronts” the soldiers with big wide eyes. Arguably one of the funniest moments I have had the movies.

But look what they did to him here. They just give him one-liners here to keep the younger enthusiastic viewers interested. And the most horrible thing they did was spoil the good memory you had of the Puss sequence by overusing it not one but two times here; with zero humor.

Yeah, I almost slept and had it not been for the drop-a-hat- ready-to-laugh audience, I would have had a good sleep. And what was that stupid thing about Donkey and Puss exchanging their physical exteriors? I smiled a total of once during the entire movie. Gee, and that is when I was laughing out loud in the previous two movies.

Milking money darling, milking money. How in the wide world are the younger audiences going to have fun in the absence of zero creativity?

You said it magic mirror, you nailed it. Both the SHREK movies, much like both the TOY STORY movies and THE INCREDIBLES were films that you could enjoy without having to worry about how you’re going to defend yourself in front of your more macho friends. I mean, I had a real tough time with ANTZ. But this here, this doesn’t even stand in that range.

You bet, they should put an age bar on movies like this, say a C certificate. Anyone above the age of 12 will not be allowed inside.

You know, why I loved the first two movies? They were so different, so much more creative than the other generic animation stuff in the market. You had those ICE AGE movies that were again strictly for children. And between carnage like these, I got to watch SHREK and FINDING NEMO that reminded me so much of good old times, times that had THE LION KING and TOY STORY.

That is the tragedy; this third installment has become the exact product that its predecessors were infinitely better than. You know, all these average movies follow a pattern- five to six writers each come with a witty “their point-of-view” wisecrack and the studio bosses come with their “creative” inputs too. And then, what could be termed a poor excuse for a story is woven to string these jokes together.

Yeah, they just overdid the pop-culture reference part. I mean, the constant sleeping of the Sleeping Beauty and the constant nagging by Snow White was irritating than funny. Merlin was good and so was King Arthur. In fact the only character I really liked was that of King Arthur. Justin Timberlake was good. But that was all with Arthurian myth. Some references to Guinevere and Lancelot, but that was just another reason to generate some cheap laughs by using college talk.

You like it now? They’re already planning another three movies. See how they overdo him.

Heard that they’re going to go on the lines of a prequel.

Whatever. Prequel, sequel, they are one and the same. Repackaging the original with five new one-liners and over-using the best moments from the predecessors. They’ll make money, one way or the other. This is where movies stop becoming creative and start becoming arguments in favor of “EVILS OF CAPITALISM”. You know what they’re teaching at film schools these days-How to be a commercially viable director with zero talent? And it has to do a lot with silly sequels.

I still haven’t lost hope for this summer’s sequels. What if SPIDERMAN 3 and SHREK 3 weren’t up to the mark? Even if Jack Sparrow disappoints, I still am hoping a lot from Daniel Ocean’s brat pack and Jason Bourne.
The viewer turns away and walks, promising himself never to watch a SHREK movie again and secretly wishing for a magical charm to be woven around his most awaited movie of the summer – THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


RUNTIME: 108 min.

There sure is something in those film noirs of the 40s and 50s, movies like THE MALTESE FALCON, THE THIRD MAN and entertainers like CASABLANCA and REBECCA. And it sure isn’t limited to the lightings and intense close ups or the melodramatic blend of performances of the actresses. Some of these classics have fantastic characterization and in masterpieces like THE MALTESE FALCON and CASBLANCA there’s huge dramatic appeal in the clash of the cynical hero and the romantic heroine. I especially love CASABLANCA and much of it owes to Ingrid Bergman with whom I absolutely fell in love with after watching the movie. It has been not too often that an actress has looked so divine on celluloid and the only other instance that comes to my mind is Nicole Kidman in MOULIN ROUGE.
THE GOOD GERMAN is based on Joseph Kanon’s novel of the same name and although I haven’t read the book, it is pretty apparent that considerable liberties have been taken with the book. Jacob Geismer (Clooney) is a war correspondent who has returned to Berlin after a long time to cover the Potsdam negotiations. He’s assigned a driver Patrick Tully (Tobey Maguire), an immoral man only on the side of making money out of all the politics in Berlin. He’s making arrangements to get himself and his girlfriend Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett) out of Berlin, a lady who holds a deep secret and is central to the mystery behind a certain Nazi officer Emil Brandt who is being pursued by both the Soviet and Americans. Geismer gets involved in all of it when Tully’s dead body washes ashore one day on the Soviet side of Berlin.
So when Steven Soderbergh, a director who is one of the foremost blends of a mainstream director and a man who is constantly innovative decides to make the audiences of today experience what it is was like to watch a movie of the 40s on the big screen, it sure is something to look forward to. THE GOOD GERMAN in every visual way, a 40s black and white film noir. Soderbergh has used movie making techniques of those times to achieve the desired results. In fact, the makers sent copies of CASABLANCA and THE THIRD MAN to the critics to let them have an idea what the makers were striving for. The film poster too, is a straight nod to CASABLANCA. But to the utter disappointment that is where all the resemblance and good things end.
For one, none of the characters are appealing. George Clooney is just going through the motions and is woefully dull. If one is expecting something like Bogart’s Sam Spade, well you cannot be more disappointed. All Clooney does in the entire film does is walk from one place to another, pursuing something with a question mark for an expression on his face. There’s no style, no depth in his character nor in his performance and it as much his failure as is the script’s. There’s no conviction behind the character nor is there any inspiring effort on Soderbergh’s part. Ditto for Maguire who is given a couple of expletives to show his moral status. Well, neither he nor Clooney evoke any sort of interest and it is pretty much like watching them going through an exercise. Peter Lorre sure was melodramatic and a bit too hammy for my liking in THE MALTESE FALCON and CASABLANCA but he was at least a million times more effective then Maguire who was trying to emulate him. As for Cate Blanchett, she’s not as bad as the other two but isn’t good herself either. Doing a Marlene Dietrich than a Bergman, she’s hardly effective as the femme fatale, although it is the director’s fault rather than hers. But when she tries to look down like Ingrid Bergman, it seems more like a parody rather than an honest effort, only that the parody isn’t remotely funny. In fact, the same can be extended to the film as a whole where for most of the part, I wasn’t sure whether Soderbergh was making an honest tribute to those black and white films or was it a parody. The result is that everything feels forced, even the ending which is a tribute to the great sequence from CASABLANCA is a shame. Most of the sequences in fact feel oddly out of place.
This is a huge disappointment and I would rate it along with Michael Mann’s MIAMI VICE as one of the biggest disappointments of 2006. If not for anything, I honestly feel that Cate Blanchett is hugely miscast. She’s a great actress, one of my all-time favorites but she hardly is beautiful enough to light up a film as this, nor is she tempting enough to play a femme fatale. I would have gone for Naomi watts who could have at least given a good challenge to Ingrid Bergman for her radiance alone. I still cannot forget how beautiful she looks in MULLHOLAND DR. and she would have been the perfect choice here. On second thoughts, I believe the director would have been a lot more serious in studying the balk and white movies and understand why some of these classics have endured the test of time. Isn’t it the ultimate failure for Soderbergh who has paid a tribute to the movies that withstood 60 years with one that would be barely remembered a month from now.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


RUNTIME: 139 min.
RATING: ***1/2

With great money and publicity comes great responsibility, responsibility to entertain and not to take the audiences for granted. To say that I was overexcited, to say that the only thing on my mind for the past two days was Spider Man would be an understatement. I am a huge fan of the earlier two movies; I saw the first one four times when it was released in the theatres and have lost count on how many times on DVD. Ditto for the second. The third installment is ten times the spectacle of its two predecessors; in fact it dwarfs the first installment. The romantic angle is much deeper than the second one; I guess these are the main reasons why most of us loved the first two movies. Well, I had a third, I loved the mythology. The two movies were an intelligent mixture of being funny and serious, but the superhero status of the character was always maintained, a superhero who would go to any lengths for the benefit of others, and of course for no selfish reasons. SPIDERMAN 2 got that spectacularly well and my personal favorite among all the superhero movies ever made, BATMAN BEGINS got that the best. But here, to my utter disappointment, every damn thing is personal. Spiderman here is not the superhero we know of, he is just a guy doing everything for his own self. I hate to admit that I hated it, absolutely hated it and that was the last thing I expected the movie to falter on. Watching the movie, I was reminded of two other movies, STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI and THE GODFATHER III. When compared to other superhero franchisees excluding of course BATMAN BEGINS (one of the greatest movies ever seen by your’s truly, at least a 100 times), SPIDERMAN 3 stands head and shoulders above. But we never were comparing it to other movies, were we? THE GODFATHER III ought to be compared to its two illustrious predecessors and although it is a solid motion picture, it comes across as considerably weak against them. I guess the same would stand for SPIDERMAN 3. And as for watching it again, I am not exactly over the moon right now.
SPIDERMAN 3 finds Spiderman still living in the ragged apartment, still trying to find a way to propose MJ. But he has to contend with Harry Osborne (James Franco), who is now as Spidey puts it Green Goblin Jr. They fight each other wildly, during which Harry suffers an accident, temporarily affecting his memory. He loses the entire grudge he had against Peter and Spiderman and remembers only the good times. Meanwhile, MJ’s acting career isn’t exactly setting the world on fire and she’s fired out of her job. She gets a tad envious of Spiderman who is loved by the entire length and breadth of NYC, their love life going for a toss all the time. Meanwhile Peter and Aunt May Parker come to know from the cops that Uncle Ben Parker was actually killed by an escaped convict Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church, SIDEWAYS). While running from the cops, Marko gets into a physical test laboratory and accidentally turns into Sandman. Then there is Peter’s rival at his job, no not crime fighting but taking Spidey’s snaps, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace, IN THE COMPANY, THE 70s SHOW). Amongst all this, a strange organism from outer planet comes to earth and grabs hold of Spiderman, an organism that is symbiotic in nature and that intensifies the inner strengths of the person hosting it (well for all those who haven’t read the comic books and who don’t know what the black suit is all about, this is the explanation). Your good friend from the neighborhood Spiderman becomes a bit dark, a tad evil (Imagine Peter Parker becoming BATMAN. Well that would be bad, because Bruce Wayne is the only one who can handle Batman.) Spiderman has to battle all of it and win Mary Jane all over again.
Well, my first grudge is the romantic angle. It needlessly drags the movie; the love story actually seems forced. I for one thought that the romantic angle has been done away with and it is now for bigger things, one less thing for Spiderman to worry about. But SPIDERMAN 3 is all about the romantic angle between MJ and Peter and believe it or not, it is a love quadrangle. There’s Harry Osborne and the most trivial entry, the biggest blunder of SPIDERMAN 3, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard). I know of no reason why the character was even needed when there was enough on the plate already (If you get one, please feel free to put down a comment). The love is tiring, it isn’t remotely as romantic as either of the earlier movies; the earlier movies were just incredible in that department. But here it is dull, it is uninspiring, it is bloated and frankly it bored me to death. The only thing going for it are the performances, which manage to keep it afloat. Any lesser actors and the whole thing would have tumbled down.
As a result of that, the pacing and the psychology of the movie is as inconsistent as they get. At times, SPIDERMAN 3 is pure magic, especially the sequences involving Spiderman/Peter Parker and Eddie Brock. Topher Grace is just fantastically wonderful and his is the best performance of the movie. The actions sequences, the ingredients that have the responsibility to give Sony its huge sum back are wonderful, to say the least. I wouldn’t divulge anything about it but the last fight, Spiderman and three villains- Goblin, Sandman and Venom is one of the finest moments in superhero movie history and that includes the climax of BATMAN BEGINS. It is arguably the closest thing to comic books fun ever put on celluloid. The three-villain strategy could so easily have gone into BATMAN AND ROBIN territory (arguably the worst movie of all time), but Sam Raimi does a fantastic job to make it the movie’s strongest moment.
But between all these highs the lows stick out and stick out very sorely. The film had great potential to develop Sandman and Venom but it seems all that was sacrificed for a pitiful love story; it honestly is a shame. The motivations that drive Sandman and Venom are downright silly and that is one another thing I never expected the movie to falter on. I seriously was hoping to find venom in the thick of things before the improvised intermission, well he enters late and a gross injustice has been meted out to that character. And about Sandman, all I can wonder is what would have James Cameron, who created one of cinema’s most iconic character in T-1000, done with him.
The biggest problem is the script. Everything seemed so real in SPIDERMAN and SPIDERMAN 2. Here it is all silly and the characters are thinner than paper; Venom and Sandman are instruments to bring effects into the movie and have no business in the movie other than that. That is a shame from a franchisee where Green Goblin was so strongly characterized and Doc Ock was simply out of the park. All this when Venom is such a strong character. SPDIERMAN 3 feels more like your usual summer action blockbuster, watch it for action and get the hell out of there, it isn’t worth your attention. One thing that SPIDERMAN 2 and BATMAN BEGINS taught the superhero franchisee is that there’s no compromise on weak characters. SUPERMAN RETURNS failed because everything was so black and white. SPDIERMAN 3 is exactly like SUPERMAN RETURNS, dull, bloated but interspersed with absolute moments of magic.
What were Bryce Dallas Howard and James Cromwell doing there by the way? Absolutely wasted, both of them.
The ending is a pathetic, to put it best. I just don’t get it as to why everybody concerned is considering this as a trilogy when it is supposed to be a franchisee. I mean, there is deliberate winding up done at the end, a la LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING. It absolutely bets the hell out of any hope that the movie would end on a high note. A point to be noted for all people out there making a series; end it on a high note. When MJ says, “Go get’em Tiger in SPIDERMAN 2, it brought a million goose bumps on me. When Gordon shows the deck of cards to Batman in BATMAN BEGINS there were whistles all round the theater. And when Gordon says,” I never said…Thank you” and Batman turns and replies,” And you never will have to” and Hans Zimmer’s score goes into a crescendo, everyone got up and clapped. That is what is going to put bums on the seat the next time around. But Sam Raimi doesn’t seem to be too keen on extending the franchisee, well to hell with that. Sony would find a new director, who could do a better job. I just hated the way they ended it. SPIDERMAN 3 isn’t bad and neither is it great. It is just in between, much like SUPERMAN RETURNS. It surely will earn a record breaking initial and will make in excess of $250 million. But I seriously doubt whether Spiderman fans will fondly remember it. I’m writing my review at this time of the night and I have already received questions about how the movie is, from excited friends who’re as big Spiderman fans as me. When I told them my reaction, they were supremely disappointed, but still going to watch it. good reviews or bad reviews, everyone is going to watch SPIDERMAN 3, but let this review of mine lower your expectations so that you like it a wee bit more.