22 July, 2014

A Hard Day’s Night

I often wonder if a Hard Day’s Night is simply a film for The Beatles fans. It’s a musical no doubt, but it also packs in enough comedy and attitude to hopefully attract the ardent music lover who may or may not be an outright Beatles follower.

A day in the life of The Beatles, as they travel to perform at a TV show, the film sees them running away from screaming girls, a lot, trying to get a little time to be who they are amidst all the chaos and craziness. While we have Paul, John, Ringo, and George trying to do what boys normally like to do, that is have some fun, the character of Paul’s grandfather played by Wilfred Bramble is the diamond in the so-called rough as he goes up creating one situation after another that leads to hilarity all in the name of some cheeky fun.

Obviously if you love Beatles’ songs, A Hard Day’s Night is bound to be hummable as the almost random musical interludes are ever-so-welcomed. Although, something that does stand out in the film, and also during the performances is that one needs to keep an eye on all the characters that are up to something or the another at all times, and the focus is not always on the person talking or singing. In a nutshell, it’s boys being boys, and the cheekiness that transforms into comedy is very British, partly slapstick, but equally heavy on the dialogue. A word of warning though, it would help you a lot in understanding the comedy if you brush up on your British slang before watching the film.

Another aspect about the story that stands out is that in-between all the running around, the light-heartedness, and an insight into the influence The Beatles had on the world, the film is also about the price one has to pay for fame as our beloved musicians try to find time for their own personal interests but are unable to because of the demands of the being wanted and at the top of their game, not to mention their popularity making it hard for them to even walk the streets.

The direction of Richard Lester is quite frantic with the Beatles always on the move, but thankfully even when the camera is shaky, it doesn’t seem to be out of place and viewing the film right from the beginning of the opening credits till the conclusion of the end credit roll is a pleasure. The film wears a number of hats with it being part documentary like, part music video like, and part comedy film; the influence it had on future films and filmmakers as a result of being almost iconic is quite evident.      

A Hard Day’s Night has to be one of the highest points in British Cinema. The fact that it still holds solid ground after 50 years and is equally admired by the newer generation is proof enough of its genius.    

The cherry on top of the cake is that A Hard Day’s Night gets a much needed digital restoration with its 50th Anniversary release including the benefit of three audio options and a barrage of exclusive bonus features, and that makes it all the more desirable for every cinephile to have in his/her collection.

Rating 5/5

DVD Information:

Title: A Hard Day’s Night
Release: 21st July 2014
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Audio: Mono, Dolby Digital 2.0/5.1

Special Features include:
In their Own voices – 1964 interviews with The Beatles
You Can Do That – A documentary on the making of A Hard day’s Night
Things They Said Today – A documentary about the film
Picturewise and Anatomy of a Style – Both features that focus on the director

19 July, 2014


As a child, I sometimes didn’t quite like what was served for dinner. I would stare at my plate not wanting to eat but I didn’t have a choice, of course. I would labour through each morsel and half way through the meal I realized that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Picnic was that plate of dinner for me.

Adapted from Rabindranath Tagore’s romantic novella ‘Shesher Kobita’, Picnic is a story of how two people find each other and discover romance. Amit Ray (Uditvanu Das), a barrister from Cambridge meets Lavanya (Shahana Chatterjee) on a holiday that Lavanya was on with her friend Shikha (Sohini Mukherjee Roy). Amit is shown as a mature, light hearted gentleman who is clear about what he wants from life and from a life partner. Lavanya is a strong opinionated woman who discovers what she wants from a man as she ‘dates’ Amit. Shikha is a ‘happy and sorted’ divorcee who facilitates the love story.

I watched the movie with several questions in my mind. Firstly, the setting - ‘Shesher Kobita’ was set in Shillong. This movie was set in Goa. No wait this was Shillong. Or was it Goa? Why were there coconut trees and sea in Shillong? Why were they wearing woolens in Goa?   

Also, what was Shikha doing in the movie, except that she facilitated the love story (read teenager-like nudging to encourage Lavanya to date Amit).

The film is interspersed with Rabindranath Tagore’s poems sung melodiously by Shomshukla herself but come as a knee jerk at many places. 

Picnic has strong messaging though – about youth today who ‘explore love’ rather than ‘love at first sight’, who are beyond conventional ways of looking at love, marriage or separation.  The film is shot in the magic hour (just after sunrise, just before sunset) which builds a backdrop of ‘Shesher Kobita’ to the modern day love story.  

Shahana did a great job as a young-and-opinionated, loving-but-not-vulnerable woman. Uditvanu’s delivery of the role made the character look like an undergraduate, infatuated lover than a Cambridge educated, mature barrister. He (and even Sohini) deliver witty dialogues with poor timing.

This is director Shomshukla’s second film (after ‘Sandcastle’). While in a completely different setting as Sandcastle, this film also portrays strong women protagonists.

If you must watch the movie, watch it for the messaging & dialogues, for Shanana and to enjoy the Rabindra-Sangeet.

Rating: 2 on 5

Based in Mumbai, Deepti is a travel writer and a content builder for various projects. As an avid movie-watcher, she believes film makers should respect the audiences’ intelligence and need for ‘real entertainment’. She also writes about her travels with her toddler on her blog - neverjetlagged.blogspot.com.  

11 July, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

I don’t understand the rants, I don’t understand the ratings, and I especially don’t understand the hatred people seem to have towards Michael Bay and the Transformers movies. Yes, I enjoyed the latest Transformers and I have no problem admitting to that even though I am bound to be in the minority when it comes to critics and bloggers, but considering the box-office reports I probably am in the majority because this movie is making some serious money.

Transformers: Age of Extinction takes off five years after the “Battle of Chicago”. All the characters from the trilogy are gone, and this time we have Mark Wahlberg playing a homegrown inventor at a farm-barn in Texas raising his daughter and just trying to pay his bills. The story kicks off when he suddenly ends up buying an old truck that just happens to be Optimus Prime in the hiding from the government, and especially Kelsey Grammer’s Harold Attinger, who is hell-bent on destroying all the Transformers to get the metal they are made up of so they can manufacture their own “robots” with the help of a billion dollar businessman inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who might remind you of a very famous real life icon. Add to all this a number of other factors and what you have is a story that tries to be complex and intelligent, but in the end is just one huge battle sequence after another.          
So what really is the problem with the movie? In all honesty I didn’t find anything that would irritate me to the level of ranting about it. I’m not one who is going to say that action films should be without a strong story; the story of a film is all important, but having said that I do expect that a film like Transformers will have a story that can easily be classified as juvenile, and I am totally at peace with that especially since we have seen the previous three installations and they all seem to fall in a similar category. So, that brings us to the action, which once again was perfectly fun for me. I wanted to see as many different Transformers as possible and surprisingly enough the fights were less “shaky” making them easily watchable and exciting. Furthermore, the sound was good and the CGI seemed a lot more polished. Point to be noted is that I did watch the film in 2D, so that made things a lot better as well.

There are some small issues that do annoy, like the new manufactured Transformers and the way they transform, or what happens with Megatron, or even the speech we hear from/to Optimus Prime about humans and Transformers working together (you know the one we got to hear in almost all the previous three films), and even the childish direct to the punch-line humor that is a Michael Bay trademark, but again these didn’t hassle me to the level that I would hate the entire film for them.

A major factor that many seem to have a problem with is that Transformers: Age of Extinction is just too long. I agree that it is a tad long, for a Hollywood movie, but then having grown up watching Indian cinema, 165 minutes feel like nothing. The length of the movie aside, I was quite pleased with the content so I never had that inkling thought of wanting it to finally finish even when the location of the film moved from US to Hong Kong and it was quite clear that a good amount of fighting still remained.

As a side note, I usually am quite surprised when films like Raid 2, which did feel longer (even though it ends 15 minutes before Transformers) is not criticized for their length, where as a Michael Bay film is. Moreover, similarly Raid 2 lacked a strong story, but everyone was happy focusing on the fight sequences, but when the same example is given for a Bay film, all hell breaks out. Granted there is a huge difference in the style and technique of the fight sequences, and I personally enjoy both equally.

Is Trans4mers the film that takes the series forward in the right direction? I would say so, and it ends in such a fashion that we can expect an inter-galactic, non-human, film next time, which in turn would be something completely different altogether, and I look forward to it.

Rating 4/5

30 June, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon is a plot 5 years after the prequel where the Dragons and the Vikings are now friends and exist in an amicable ecosystem in a rocky little Viking village. It begins with an exciting dragon race chaired by the village chieftain - Stoick (Gerard Butler) – as young ‘dragon riders’ compete to the loud cheering of the village crowd.

The protagonist Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), a young adventurous lad, whose father – Stoick – wants him to succeed the throne & take on duties as the village chieftain, is more interested in exploring newer places along with his trusted dragon ‘Toothless’. 

Hiccup and Toothless venture from peak to peak sometimes accompanied by his girlfriend, dragon rider Astrid (America Ferrera), their milestones evident from the super-folding travel map. One such adventure unravels the ferocious Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), a dragon hunter whose mission to bring all dragons of the world under his control possesses a huge danger to Stoick’s land.

Hiccup takes on the challenge to change Drago Bludvist’s mind and embarks on a journey to bring peace to the land. It is on this journey that he meets another dragon rider, an older lady, Valka (Cate Blanchett) and also discovers what he really wants in life.

Overall, don’t expect a nail biting thriller, this is an almost predictable ‘good-defeats-evil story’ with an ‘underdog becomes the alpha’ end. This is a sequel that you’d enjoy even (or more so) if you haven’t seen the prequel.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 does have many interesting moments like the camaraderie & bonding between Hiccup and Toothless, the ecosystem that Stoick the chief have created for the dragons and lighter moments like Valka doing a gracious, almost ballet-like trapeze act on the dragons.

The protagonist Hiccup is well portrayed as the ‘passionate-yet-confused’ young lad. His passion for adventure, respect for his father along with the fear of disappointing him, is well woven amidst all the flying dragon action. This also forms the basis of a coming-of-age story for Hiccup.
The 3D animation is exciting – and makes the movie worth a watch - especially these days when you wonder why did you put on those 3D glasses anyway! The colorful flying dragons and the splashing sea as Hiccup & Toothless venture on their many adventure sprees are particularly interesting in 3D.

This is an animated movie that children & grown-ups will enjoy alike –especially older children who like a bit of action and thrill.  The film has great capsules of humour beautifully interspersed in-between action and emotional scenes, something that grown-ups will particularly enjoy.

Rating - 3 on 5.

Deepti,, our newest team member, is a Mumbai based travel writer and a content builder for various projects. As an avid movie-watcher, she believes film makers should respect the audiences’ intelligence and need for ‘real entertainment’. She also writes about travels with her toddler on - neverjetlagged.blogspot.com.

29 June, 2014

Blackfish (Documentary)

Any film or documentary that deals with injustice and torture against humans and/or animals is bound to get noticed. It will automatically appeal to the hearts of the audience and serve its purpose in making them think, if not decide, on the content that it presents.

Blackfish is a brilliantly made documentary that looks at the lives of killer whales that are captured to be “used” at various water theme parks across the world. The film primarily follows one of these whales, Tilikum, who has been held responsible for the killing of three trainers leading to controversy on a number of issues; from safety of the trainers to the conditions in which the whales are kept to the basic question of if it is even right to capture these wild beings.

The documentary works on two completely different levels. As purely a film, it is well researched and educates the audience about the origins of the entire activity of capturing the whales to bringing them into the water parks and follows it with a timeline of how things have progressed in this department over the years. It categorically presents all the important events that have happened in the last few decades with regards to the whales be it the “killings” or the various court cases, all from the point of view of the ex-trainers who have at one time or another worked with these whales. As a result the audience gets a somewhat well-rounded in-depth approach on the entire episode right up to the present day changes in laws that have been a direct result of all the bad happenings over the years.

On a completely different, more humanistic level, the documentary is a debate between what is right or wrong. I personally felt conflicted about the entire film when it came to analyzing the content. Undoubtedly hard to watch because of the torture on the whales (their living conditions, the miscellaneous bleeding cuts they sustain from each other etc.), the documentary presents itself with a one-sided viewpoint. While the management at the parks mentioned in the film denied to put forth their case, still we only mostly hear from people who at one time worked in these very parks and their whole theory about being clueless of the said conditions of the whales at the time they worked at these theme parks seems a bit far-fetched. Another aspect that bothered me a little was that the entire uproar about the condition of the whales came to limelight only when humans were injured, and thus in the background there is always more of a focus on the human danger than on the basic debate of whether the whales should be used in these water parks or not. This further raises the question of all animals being held captive in any form, especially in the numerous zoos across the world and if that too should be allowed or not?

This is where I still stand when it comes to Blackfish. On the one hand there is no denying that it is an important film because it shines an important light on what is happening behind the “entertainment industry” of water parks, but simultaneously it should have presented both sides of the debate equally with equal gusto. Lastly, what the film should truly make the audience realize is that we all need to look at the very basic idea of whether keeping animals in cages for whatever be the reasons, entertaining or education, is acceptable or not, and that for me is what should have been the main message of the film.

Rating - 4.5/5