Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Bollywood lovers will get this: Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom is like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak but with 12 year old kids for protagonists.It is the final forty five minutes of that film converted into a offbeat feature, Wes Anderson style. In 1965, two kids run away from their homes on a tranquil island and decide to start a life on their own on a secluded beach. Sam (Jared Gilman) is an orphan attending a scout camp on the island where he is a misfit and a constant source of anxiety for the camp counselor (Edward Norton). Suzy (Kara Hayward) is a reader, a dreamer; someone who believes that she is wiser well beyond her years; with a slob (Bill Murray) and an adulterer (Frances McDormand) for parents. Mayhem ensues when they run away as the counselor, the parents and a cop (Bruce Willis) embark on a search for them. The remaining scouts (also pre-teens) join the search party, like a tamer version of their teenage counterparts from Battle Royale, to settle scores with Sam. Add to this an oncoming freak storm and you have the perfect setting for a odd, adventurous love story.

The first thing you notice about the film is the striking photography. Suffused with a warm colour palette, the images of the island carry a very distinct look and set the dreamy, fairy-tale like atmosphere perfectly for the quirky fantasy to play itself out. Anderson also manages to assemble a truly superb cast together. While all the stalwarts deliver competent performances, it is the kids, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward that really blow your mind and capture your heart. Gilman plays Sam as the perfect underdog; nerdy, awkward and yet, brave hearted. Hayward looks like Emma Roberts but with considerably better acting skills. She plays Suzy wonderfully; and channels the rebellious, curious spirit quite effectively. From the moment when they first meet in a church, he in his scouts uniform and she dressed as a raven for a play, you are immediately sucked into their little world, rooting for them against all odds and oddities to succeed. 

Wes Anderson serves up his personal best in the form of Moonrise Kingdom. He directs the film with a deft hand and uses his signature whimsical style to make even the most preposterous and the most perplexing bits go down smoothly. In the process, he provides us with arguably the most emotionally rewarding and heartwarming love story in recent memory. There is a purity and innocence to the love of Sam and Suzy that is a rarity in these times. Sure, as they grow, that innocence is likely to be lost and the film hints at the haunting spectre of adulthood at several points. However, Anderson here is wise for seeing Sam and Suzy not as they are (naive pre-teens) but as they see themselves (rebellious, kindred spirits). This lends to their tale of love a sincerity and poignancy that will find resonance with a wider audience. 

Overall, Moonrise Kingdom is one of the finest films I am likely to see this year. It is Anderson's most accessible work without compromising on his distinctive style. Beneath its veneer of idiosyncrasies, this is an emotionally rich and complex tale of rebellious, young love with memorable, well drawn out characters that will leave you with a big smile on your face as you exit the theatre.

Rating: 4.5/5

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman is a mess. That is not to say it is a bad film; just to say that it is a mess. There is a lot to like here. But there is a fair bit to dislike as well. The plot is fairly straightforward: a witch (Charlize Theron) takes over a kingdom by seducing and killing the widowed king and imprisoning his daughter Snow White. Many years later as her beauty and power begin to fade, the magic mirror tells her that Snow White (Kristen Stewart) was destined to stop her and if she were to consume the heart of Snow White, she would be immortal. At the same time, Snow White escapes from her prison into the dark forest and a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is asked to hunt her down. Instead, the Huntsman joins forces with her and along with the seven dwarves, Duke Hammond, his son William (Sam Claflin) and their army, lay siege on the witch's fortress.

There are two reasons to recommend the film: Charlize Theron and the production work. Charlize Theron looks sensuously bewitching and walks a fine line between menace and madness. She delivers a stellar performance, exercising the perfect amount of restraint over her exuberant, malevolent character. Among the actors, the film belongs to her, and her alone. It is a joy to watch her on the screen.

The second thing that works in favour of the film is the production work. The film is a feast for the eyes. The special effects, the art work, the camerawork and the action converge with each other to provide an absolutely riveting experience. Tremendous amounts of imagination as gone into conceiving these visuals, and it shows. The film is not just grand, but also beautiful to behold. They set the dark, melancholic atmosphere of the film quite well. There is a scene when injured ravens come together to form the injured queen. They converge into thick, black ooze and from there, the queen emerges in a gown of black feathers. The sheer detail with which this scene is constructed is breathtaking and the film offers plenty of such moments.

However, the film is almost undone by the rest of it. Kristen Stewart looks beautiful but is a poor choice to play a warrior princess. She looks ill at ease throughout as if still channeling the angst ridden, idiotic spirit of Bella from the Twilight series. Moreover, there is no chemistry between her and Hemsworth or her and Claflin. The love triangle is stale, soulless and without any passion. They are also done a great disservice by a script that provides very poor dialogues. At pivotal moments, when the words are meant to inspire, arouse or endear, the end result is either devoid of emotion, cringe inducing or unintentionally funny. Also, the film is overlong by a good twenty minutes. It meanders aimlessly at times, adding pointless subplots. The dwarves look and talk as if they've just walked off the sets of The Hobbit.

Ultimately, Snow White and the Huntsman has a lot to offer by way of visuals. It also has an enchanting villainess. However, there is a whole lot of mediocrity pervading the rest of the film that mars the overall impact considerably. If you love Charlize Theron or great visuals (or both), then this one is recommended viewing. For the rest, it's just another one of those summer blockbusters you will forget about soon after exiting the theatre.

Rating: 3/5

(P.S.: Notice how Hemsworth and Theron get more prominent footage in the poster? I wish that were the case with the film as well.)

Rowdy Rathore (2012)

Let me say this out upfront: Rowdy Rathore does not make a lick of sense. Seriously, looking for logic in the film is like looking for a strand of hay in a stack of needles. It is a needlessly excruciating exercise. Instead, if you choose to look beyond its nonsensical plot and simply lay back and enjoy the silliness of it all, you will have a jolly good time. 

Watching the film is like going through a time machine and landing up in the 1980s. This is the kind of cinema that made the careers of people like Jeetendra, Mithun and the like. Prabhudeva sticks steadfastly to the formula, with minimal reinvention for a modern audience. The audacity and confidence with which he does this is the prime reason why the film works. The dhinchak naach gaana, the dhamaakedaar lines, the copious jokes and the insane, over the top action is enough to keep you entertained for the most part. The villains are appropriately disgusting and ferocious and it is a delight to watch them meet their end at the hands of the hero(es). The production values are high, particularly the camerawork and production design.

The true hero of this film are the dialogues. They are full on taali maaro, seeti bajao type dialogues. Sonakshi Sinha is just eye candy. Her face is more expressive when she is dancing than when she is acting. Akshay Kumar is back in action, and he fits the part well. That isn't to say that he deserves any award for this, but he does deserve credit for not imitating Salman and playing to his own strengths. After all, only Salman has managed to pull off films like this in recent memory. This is hands down the most entertaining film Akshay has done in several years. Paresh Ganatra is hilarious as the sidekick. Nasser makes for a truly sick villain.

You will notice that I haven't explained the plot. Why bother I say? It's not like it is going to change anybody's minds. Those who are going for this film are well aware of what they are going for. Those not going, unless they are forced, will stay clear either way. I knew what I was going for. And with those expectations, I had a pretty good time.To use my favourite alliteration, this is pure, pulpy, popcorn entertainment.

Rating: 3/5