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The Great Indian Blockbuster

As a student of film studies and a self- confessed movie buff, I’m positive that I couldn’t have been the only person who was reduced to tears after witnessing the line-up of Bollywood movies dubbed “blockbuster” over the past few years. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry. Quite justifiably, these movies took a lot of bashing from all around the world. Chennai Express, Krissh 3, Student of the Year, Zindagi Na MilegiDobara to name a few. Not that I’m singling out these movies, I’m sure a lot of other movies could’ve been shittier. Still these were just a few names that popped into my head when I thought “bad movie”

A lot of people loved Zindagi Na MilegiDobara. I do love the film’s soundtrack. But the film itself fell flat with its uninspiring story and left me with absolutely no urge to “seize the day”. Try as hard as I did, I just couldn’t bring myself to relate to these effluent, entitled characterswho could just afford to pack up and go scuba diving in Spain to deal with their text book “white person” problems.  Abandonment and daddy issues? Run with the bulls.  Girlfriend problems and fear of confrontation?  Jump from an airplane. Stick-up-the-ass, career centric, Wall Street guy stereotype? Insert token “exotic” female lead, then scuba dive and discover the exuberance of life amidst tomato pulp. All this BS in a movie which was little else than an unabashed 3 hour long tourism promo for Spain. And do I even need to point out that ZNMD is as close as Bollywood has come so far, to YOLO? If that isn’t enough to make you understand just how annoying this movie is, you’re pretty much a lost cause.. Picture1“The tomatoes have taught us the meaning of life!”

Student of the Year was another vacuous, shiny, sparkly movie filled with beautiful people and was morbidly story-deficient. It played out more like a Disney Channel Movie, something along the lines of High School Musical, but with more skimpy pink speedos than PG 13 romances. Recently in an interview, the stars of the movie remarked that they were surprised most of their fan base comprised children rather than young men and women as expected. *faith restored in my generation*

Chennai Express however was a different story. I’m all for the huge melting pot of cultures, South meets North yadayada. But Rohit Shetty’s “meeting” felt as violating as Columbus “meeting” the Native Americans for the first time. The shameless caricaturis-ation of South Indians could have been forgiven in the presence of a semi-admissible story. However, that did not happen. And the minute I heard Shah Rukh Khan speak Tamil, I felt a little part of me die. It was a revelation to understand that South Indians sound like one of Russell Peters’ racial caricatures to Bollywood executives.  

Picture2” I love the way you say bokwas.” “Silly! That’s how ALL South Indians speak Hindi.”

Lastly and more recently, cameKrissh 3. My problems with this film are threefold. Firstly, just the title bugs the crap out of me. How sloppy do multi-million dollar producers have to be to absurdly name the movie Krissh 3 instead of Koi Mil Gaya 3 or even Krissh 2? With this sort of titling, I feel like those producers are almost giving normal audiences the middle finger and saying “Yeah. We make so much money we don’t even have to name the movies in our franchises chronologicallyGo ahead. Tell your ten year old child how outraged you are. You’re still gonna have to take him to watch the movie. AND buy him overpriced popcorn and watch him spill soda all over the food court.”

Secondly, anyone who has read my blog or knows me understands how superhero-centric my life is. And after decades of bad Superman and Batman movies (and god forbid Elektra , Green Lantern and Catwoman movies! Shudder!) I’m infinitely grateful to be living in an age where Superhero movies sweep the box offices and are nominated for Oscars. People are finally associating superheroes with real cinema and deep storylines, and not just “kid’s stuff”. Then along comes Krissh, successfully infantilizing and trivializing the entire genre. “Dude! It’s just a superhero movie. Of course it’s gonna be aimed only at kids!” say some people I know.  To that I say Krissh has done for Superhero movies, what Twilight has done for Feminism. Not only has it destroyed all the progress made over the past few years, it’s also made people think that’s okay. And abusive paedophilic boyfriends and weak plotlines have become the norm for fantasy films.

Finally, the fact that this movie ran so long, it made me wait outside the theatres for 25 minutes, while I was itching to watch Thor, makes me nurse an even more personal vendetta against Krissh 3.

2013 draws to a close with the release of Dhoom 3. I’m not a big fan of the Dhoom franchise; or as my friend calls it: the oxygen mask that keeps Uday Chopra’s career alive. And predictably, I heard from quite a few sources how bad the film was. Sure Uday Chopra and AbishekBachhan were just returning to the franchise. But this time they’d taken along Aamir Khan on their crazy spiral down the rabbit hole.  The same Aamir Khan who gave us Rang De Basanti, Lagan and 3 Idiots, reduced to outrunning cops (if you can even call them that) on a bike/boat/submarine. I was pretty upset. Even though there are some remarkable movies coming out, it’s mostly these nonsensical, vacuous, over the top and sometimes pseudo-intellectual movies that rake in the big dough. More importantly, these are the movies that represent Bollywood to the rest of the world.

The future seemed pretty bleak too as I looked up the releases scheduled for 2014. Though there were quite a few movies I’m pretty excited to watch, I saw an equal and even higher percentage of movies that I wasn’t exactly looking forward to.

That’s when I had an epiphany. I’ve always gotten so worked up about these types of shoddily made movies.  I used to blame the general public/ audience for enabling more movies like these to be produced, by setting their standards so low and expecting so little out of a film. It pained me that a deluge of such movies being released and also exploding in the box offices to become blockbusters lowered the standing of Indian cinema among the world’s audience.

But here’s the deal: These are not pieces of cinema that would stand the test of time. They are not pieces that would find themselves in Roger Ebert’s must watch lists. They wouldn’t observe and explore the inner workings of the human psyche. More than a dozen of these would involve laughably impractical plots and badly written characters.

But they are inarguably, plain and simple entertainment. They let the audience power down and lose themselves in filmy, dramatic and admittedly nonsensical worlds. These films take Coleridge’s Suspension of Disbelief to whole new levels. They defy the laws of physics and created superstars worthy of literal worship from their fans. Though I still do consider these movies pretty lazy film making, I also see the point in making them.

After this insight of the year, I’ve started to look at these crazy masala movies with an almost affectionate detachment. Sort of the same way you’d look at that blubbering drunk friend dancing on the table at a party. All hail The Great Indian Blockbuster and a Happy New Year to us all!

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©Jyotsna H. for PosterGully.com

jyotsna.h.29@gmail.com

Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Before I begin to talk about “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug“, I’d like to clarify 1 thing. While I simply adore  “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, undoubtedly the most critically and commercially successful trilogy in the history of cinema, I am by no means a fan. Though I liked all 3 films quite equally, as I did “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, none of the films are as close to my heart as they are to the legions of fans across the globe. So, the following views do not belong to a biased nerd, but are quite neutral. And now that I have made myself clear, and in the process discredited my opinions in the eyes of millions (or more realistically, the few who are reading this), let’s get down to business.

The storyline continues the events of the first installment, in which the hobbit Bilbo Baggins travels with the wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield into the Kingdom of Erebor, taking them through Mirkwood, Esgaroth, and Dale to combat with the dragon Smaug.

When you follow-up such a prestigious set of films, (harsh) comparisons are going to be inevitable. But this film is a perfect representative of all 4 films that it follows. Like each of them, there is not a single dull moment throughout its (substantial) running time, with sub-plot after sub-plot and successive action set pieces. There is a lot of mythology, various creatures, more back stories than your history syllabus, which is all good. But also, like them, not all the sub-plots work. While some make you jump up and down with excitement like a little child, others just act as fillers, probably to uphold it’s reputation of running lengths that push the 3-hours mark. Also, the reluctance/refusal to kill off any characters in all the films is astounding.

While this film is the first not to feature Gollum/Smeagle, my favourite character throughout the series, it does mark the return of Legolas, a favourite amongst the girls. It also wonderfully touches upon things that we had come across in the previous trilogy, including Bilbo’s growing obsession and attachment to the ring. One thing to be noted is that this film and the previous one contain a lot more humour, which was one complaint I had against the LOTR trilogy. But in the process, it has lost some of the grimmer tones of the previous films, something that I had loved about them. As a result, the stakes just don’t appear to be as high as they were previously. So, none of the films have quite managed to strike the right balance when it comes to tone.

But despite tonal problems, you have to give it to Peter Jackson. The guy’s commitment to the film is unrivalled. Admittedly, his decision to make 3 films out of a single J.R.R Tolkien novel, as opposed to the 3 novels that the previous trilogy was adapted from, seemed dodgy at first and maybe even money-oriented, but the guy has managed to create 2 extremely exciting films so far that never seem short of adventure. Having spent almost half his career making the two trilogies, he seems so well-versed with Middle Earth that I suspect he cuts vegetables at his home with a sword. At no point does his direction crumble under the weight of expectations and never does he try to outdo the LOTR trilogy, all the while just trying to tell a story of a common hobbit (common in Middle Earth, that is). He, along with his team of screenwriters (that most notably contains director Guillermo Del Toro) crams the film with exciting episodes and characters that look and act crazy.  Also, his ability to create exciting action set pieces is probably one of the highest order across the globe, and his command over the technical aspects of the film and the special effects is remarkable to say the least.

At the cost of further aggravating the LOTR fans out there, I feel Bilbo is a much better central protagonist to build around than Frodo was. While Frodo’s bravery was unquestionable, Bilbo is every bit as brave, but much more captivating, useful, capable and much less prone to making mistakes and causing accidental harm to people around him. I believe if Sam had been the ring bearer in the first trilogy rather than Frodo, he probably would’ve made it to Mordor and back before supper was ready. On the other hand, Bilbo has saved the people around him and proven himself worthy of responsibility on countless occasions. Martin Freeman has done a swell job of playing Bilbo and exhibiting all the character’s shades. From initial confusion and refusal to growing confidence to the dark shades (courtesy of the ring) to heroism, he does everything with considerable charm and makes the character so likeable.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes to Martin Freeman’s Watson in the BBC series “Sherlock”, does the voice work for both the Necromancer and that gorgeous, gorgeous, simply gorgeous dragon Smaug. He doesn’t get to do much as the former, but excels in the latter role, spewing venom with every word that he utters. But considering the vast talent of the guy, he probably could’ve pulled this off in his sleep. Ian McKellen returns in his role as Gandalf The Grey, and once again manages to bring considerable intensity and humour to his character at the same time. Orlando Bloom, as Legolas, must probably be a treat to women’s eyes while he manages to kill dozens of Orcs, but doesn’t get to speak much. All the actors play the dwarves act admirably, but just can’t make us care for them as the supporting characters did in the LOTR films. The acting, though, remains great across the board, with nobody being an eyesore.

I’d like to end this review with a rant and cautionary advice. The quality of 3D has deteriorated so much across the country, it is hard to believe. 3D is by far the the biggest turn-off about watching a film theatrically, even more so than the anti-tobacco advertisement preceding the films. This is literally the worse experience that I’ve had in a cinema hall, and I saw “Joker” and “Himmatwala” in the theatre. I would seriously recommend you to watch this film in a cinema hall to fully appreciate its grand scale, and I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed, never mind if you’re a fan or not. But I plead to you to watch it in 2D, even if you have to watch it in a theatre in a slum. Just go for it.

Rating: 7.5/10

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©Piyush Chopra for PosterGully.com

pchopra1693@gmail.com

The 5 Best Unscripted Scenes Ever

So much work and planning goes into every part of producing a movie. Utmost care is taken to ensure that everything goes by the plan and each line of dialogue is carefully scripted to perfection.  But most of the iconic film scenes prove that true genius is best left to spontaneity. Here are five amazing scenes in history that were completely improvised and unscripted.

5)      Jaws- “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” images (1)

Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster hit raked in the big money and also made an entire generation scared of stepping into the ocean for years.  When Chief Brody finally realizes just how big the shark they are hunting is, he turns around and says “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”.  This iconic line that completely sums up the horror and disbelief felt by both Brody and the audience, was completely unscripted.

4)      The Shining- “Here’s Johnny!” image 2

Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece set the golden standard for movies that make you want to crap your pants. Apart from Shelly Duval’s petrifying screams, Jack Nicholson’s completely unhinged acting is one of the reasons why watching The Shining even today will make you involuntarily leap from the couch. Especially  towards the end during that really creepy scene when Nicholson’s character Jack Torrance is hacking through a door with an axe and yells “Here’s Johnny!” as he shoves his face through the splintered door. That line? Completely improvised on the fly, by Nicholson.

3)  Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark-The Sword vs Gun scene image5

Yet another golden Spielberg unscripted moment, The Raiders of Lost Ark is one of the most entertaining and engaging movies of all time, with a stellar protagonist. Indiana Jones, like the other character played by Harrison Ford in this list, made his reputation by being a cocksure, no nonsense hero. Which is why when an elaborate sword fight was choreographed for a scene between Indie and another man, Harrison Ford suggested just shooting the man and getting it over with. Which came out as one of the most satisfying scenes that just make you want to cheer. Also, while shooting the scene, Harrison Ford had a bad case of food poisoning and really didn’t want to sword fight for hours!

2) Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – “I know” image4

The character that Harrison Ford popularly played: Han Solo, had also had the image of a gruff, swashbuckling, cocky hero. So when the time finally came when Han had to respond to Princess Leia’s “I love you”, Harrison Ford felt the usual “I love you too” just didn’t seem to cut it, and simply changed it to an “I know”. Thus born was every nerd girl’s fantasy.

1)      The Dark Knight – Multiple scenes image7image8

I honestly think Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker was one of THE best performances of the century, and is also one of the main reasons I worship this movie on a daily basis. When Christopher Nolan realised that Ledger probably understood the Joker the best he gave him free rein. All those threatening videos The Joker makes were all completely unscripted and ad-libbed by Heath Ledger. Several other scenes during the Joker’s time in prison were also improvised.

Also  when the Joker starts fidgeting with the detonator outside the hospital, the hospital was supposed to explode in one go, and Ledger was supposed to walk on without turning back as the building exploded behind his back. But the detonation device malfunctioned and he improvised. And how amazing was that scene?!

Comment below if you know any more iconic scenes that we’ve come to love that were actually improvised!

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©Jyotsna H. for PosterGully.com

jyotsna.h.29@gmail.com

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