15 September, 2014

Chef


At a time when MasterChef and its numerous avatars are ruling over our TV screen, there comes a big screen version of Eat Street, another foodie TV program, which celebrates food and relationships in a charming way.

Intagram and Twitter might make it easy for the common man or woman to announce to the world what they had for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in-between on any given day, but Jon Favreau takes everything a step further by combining this love and craze for food and mixing it up with a heartwarming tale of a personal relationship between a father and son.

Gorgeous to look at and hunger inducing, Chef is seasoned rather well with a supporting cast that features big names like Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, and Oliver Platt, but it is Jon Favreau’s Carl Caper as the celebrity chef who loses it after getting a bad review and must find his roots that steals the show along with Emjay Anthony who plays Casper’s son Percy and John Leguizamo’s Martin as Casper’s Sous Chef who leaves everything behind to join Casper in his journey of self-discovery.

Chef, besides presenting a gastronomically excellent fare, also is musically brilliant. After Guardians of the Galaxy, this is the second film I have seen recently that utilizes music perfectly so that it seeps into the story and forms a part of it. Furthermore, there is a general feel good factor that runs throughout the film which excels by adding the right amount of essential ingredients, such as music, emotion, passion, philosophy, and food more so visually.

Unfortunately, while on the one hand Chef capitalizes on its positives, it also lacks a certain depth and drama that would have taken the film a notch higher. The hurdles that Casper faces seem a tad superficial and thus his path to rediscovering his passion for food suffers due to a lack of complexity.

What is even more troublesome is that the film acts like an advert for social media, especially Twitter, highlighting the pros and cons of being on the internet as Casper discovers that tweeting isn’t private and ends up in a war of words with the food critic that gave him a bad review, but the very same social medial is later used by his son to his benefit as they travel around the country in a food truck. While this might have worked a few years back when all this was new, now it just seems like a forced lecture in Social Media 101.

Problems aside, Chef is a well made and likeable film that can be enjoyed with the family and one that tries its best to be part of the “cool” crowd with all its social media integration and jargon. Part romantic comedy, part coming of age film, and part family drama, it combines all these aspect in a subtly comic way and presents a dish that is sure to please everyone who pays for it.


Rating 3.5/5     

30 August, 2014

Veronica Mars


Watching Veronica Mars without having seen the series it is based on is like going to a party with a friend where no one else knows you. You might have fun, but nevertheless you will remain an outsider with most conversations and inside jokes going over your head.

A quick montage at the beginning of the film informs that Veronica is an ex-teen detective with a knack for solving cases and getting into trouble, both personal and professional, who over the past decade has matured into a young lady living in New York with her boyfriend and getting ready to start a career in law. A call from her “famous” ex-boyfriend, accused for murdering his on and off girlfriend, a famous singer also from the same school, takes Veronica back to Neptune, California, her hometown.

The entire film lies heavily on the shoulders of Kristen Bell playing Veronica Mars, and she doesn’t disappoint. She comes across as very likeable and overshadows everyone else so much so much so that I am now contemplating watching the TV series. Veronica Mars’ character is charming and her quick wittedness, even though it is very subtle, stands apart in a league of its own. Unfortunately, everything else is pretty mediocre, be it the support cast or the murder mystery that she is trying to solve. Once again having background knowledge about the TV series does go a long way because watching the film without prior knowledge of Veronica’s romantic past and her strong character traits, her decisions in these areas seem a bit shallow and confusing.

The other disappointment in the film is that even though it is packed with some great supporting cast member like Krysten Ritter, Jerry O’Connell, Ryan Hansen, Enrico Colantoni, and Jamie Lee Custis, they all play second fiddle to Veronica’s character and aren’t given roles that are meaty enough to draw the best out of them.  

Veronica Mars, the movie, gets a pretty solid rating from my side because as mentioned above the title character has a certain panache that is extremely attractive and the film on the whole works perfectly as a light hearted whodunit. But, I fear that for most who are watching the film without having seen the TV series and especially those that are not fans of the TV series, the film will hold very little interest.


Rating 4/5 (but if I were to exclude my liking for the title character it would be 2.5/5)  

24 August, 2014

Rich and Strange


When you watch an Alfred Hitchcock movie, you cannot but watch it with preconceived notions and base expectations. So I watched Rich and Strange with a barrage of expectations.

Rich and Strange is a 1932 Alfred Hitchcock film adapted from a novel by Dale Collins. It’s a story of a couple from suburban London – Fred (Henry Kendall) and Emily (Joan Barry) stuck in the rut of middle class existence – an ill paying unhappy to do job, the taxing daily commute, lack of enjoyable entertainment.An out-of-the-blue letter from Fred’s uncle suddenly leaves them with enough money to finally ‘live their life’ and travel the world.

The story holds relevance even today – a couple leading a mundane life, drifting apart, finding alternate partners and ultimately realizing where their true love lies. Alas, the film has no element of the suspense and thrill that you would expect from an Alfred Hitchcock film and that is the biggest dampener!
The characters are very well etched out – Fred - the frustrated, chauvinist, materialistic husband and Emily – the kind, nurturing, simplistic yet strong wife.  The treatment of the film is like a silent film – no background score, minimalistic dialogues, and captions before major scene segments – which is not too bad to watch really.

The film has some funny moments – like when the couple goes to watch the Folies Bergere cabaret in Paris or when Fred almost Chaplin-ishly wrecks a woman’s hat on the London underground or adjusts his watch according to an elevator indicator in a hotel mistaking it for a clock.

Overall, Rich and Strange is an average watch considering it is a movie made by Alfred Hitchcock. It demands one worthy watch for the story bearing resemblance to present day society, for the lovely locales of the 1930s – Paris, Singapore, Colombo, for the sets used in the movie (like creating a whole Titanic-ish ship), and above all for Joan Barry’s rendition of a gentle, gracious yet strong woman who doesn’t give up on love, on her relationship and even on life when they’re almost dying on a sunken ship.


 Rating: 2/5 – for the story, sets & locales and Joan Barry

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.  

08 August, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (3D)


Marvel has done it again. If the Avengers weren’t enough, we now have another band of lovable anti-heroes/heroine to look forward to, but this time they don’t come with superpowers, unless you consider sarcasm to be one.

When a powerful orb, stolen by Peter Quill aka Star-Lord played brilliantly by Chris Pratt, becomes the center of a galactic search and destroy mission, our band of misfits comes together through various events culminating in a planet saving scenario. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Racoon along with Vin Diesel’s Groot are bounty hunters that initially want to capture Peter Quill but then join him along with Gamora played by Zoe Saldana who is on a mission of her own and Dave Bautista’s Drax out there to avenge his family’s murder. As they travel across the galaxy initially trying to sell the orb and later protecting it from the planet destroying Ronan (Lee Pace), the entire team merges, finally, ending on a note of high hope and a sequel.

James Gunn presents us with a film that incorporates the right amount of basically everything. There is drama and mystery right from the start as we are given hints about Peter Quill being half alien (not a spoiler), the action is literally out of this world and doesn’t look all that bad in 3D, but the two aspects that really stand out in the film are the music and the comic moments that lighten up the scenes every now and then adding to the personas of the characters as we get familiarized with them.     

If you don’t know by now, Guardians of the Galaxy comes with one of the best soundtracks ever and the fact that Gunn makes the music such an integral part of the film is what makes everything tick in the end. The soundtrack is not just to add background support, but it takes on a character of its own, so much so that we are given a clear signal that there is going to be a sequel through music. There have been many films where music plays an important aspect of the story, but I was amazed at the brilliance of how an action, science-fiction film was able to use the music to its benefit. On top of that, the film also succeeds because of the comic moments that are spread along throughout just at the right moments, till the very end, quite similar to the Avengers that too used the wit to its advantage.   

However, the film isn’t without faults. Some of the action sequences are a bit dark, but that can always be due to the print in the cinema and I shall have a better idea when the DVD comes out. Furthermore, even though with a running time of two hours, the movie does drag a little in between, making up for it towards the end with its climatic, but somewhat overly-cinematic fight sequence. There are however a number of similarities between Guardians of the Galaxy and a couple of blockbusters from the past that have defined many a generations, but that didn’t bother me one bit and even though it seemed familiar, the film had its own uniqueness and special features that keeps it apart from the mentioned predecessors.     

Guardians of the Galaxy packs itself with so many wonderful characters, both main and supporting, that one can’t wait to enter their world again, but what I really want is to have a listen to is the complete Awesome Mix Vol. 2, at the earliest.   


Rating 4/5

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