Monday, December 16, 2013

Safe House

Movie Review : Safe House
Director : Daniel Espinosa
Genre : Action / Mystery
Starring : Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga
Released : February 2012
My Rating : 4 out of 10

I generally like action movies featuring secret agents, spies, special forces and what have you. I do not expect much realism. Let there be convenient coincidences and unbelievable twists. Let the protagonists have super human skills. Just don’t give me time to think and keep me glued. For example, that’s what movies like Taken and Bourne movies did. Alas, it’s much harder to use that formula and there are many more flops than successes.

Safe House has the right although generic idea consisting of three main elements. First, a rogue agent, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), once an elite, now a legend. He has resurfaced and is in possession of secrets that he plans to use for blackmail. Second, a young aspiring agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) who is trying to prove himself. He unexpectedly finds himself in a tricky situation of trying to outsmart Frost. Third and last, a mole high up in the command chain that knows every move these two are going to make.

It’s starts off well. Weston is stuck in a claustrophobic job of maintaining a safe house. He clearly is not prepared for these complications. Before he even gets a chance to comprehend the situation, he is a target of well trained mercenaries who are more well informed than he is. It builds up an interesting foundation.

That should lead to a movie that just breezes through 90-100 minutes of fast paced scenes, witty dialogues and some double crosses thrown in for good measure. It should, but it doesn’t. There is a lot of running around and lot of chasing that doesn’t really go anywhere. And there are a lot of gunshots and ambushes that fail to raise our heartbeat. Even at two hours, it feels way longer than needed. The suspense is beyond predictable. That’s not a the real shortcoming. The fact is. we just don’t care what it is when the movie ends.

The screenplay is repetitive and unimaginative. I have never been to Capetown, South Africa, but I am willing to bet there aren’t that many areas there, where you can have a shooting match without ever being noticed by anyone, let alone cops.

It seemed to me that most of the actors were aware of all the flaws. Hardly anyone tries to be believable, as if their heart is simply not in it. Except Ryan Reynolds, who tries too hard. But at least he tried. I cannot say that about Denzel Washington, who otherwise is a fine actor. The rest of the cast gets very little screen time anyways.

There are many better spy thrillers out there. My recommendation is to skip this one.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My first song :-)

More than a year ago, I noticed that one of my blog articles is getting lot of hits. I wrote that article, ”How To Write Lyrics For Hindi Movies”, as a sarcastic take on the quality (or lack of it) of lyrics found in Hindi movies. It was written almost 20 years ago on a Usenet group, and I just archived it on my blog. The search engines don’t have much sense of humor, so as you can see, this article appears at the top of search results! My apologies to those who were looking for real information.

That got me thinking. Why just lyrics? Why not compose a whole song? So here it is. A song written by me, tuned by me (!) and also sung by me :-) Don’t be afraid, read on.

First the lyrics.
agar maiN tum se yeh kahooN, mere dile mein hai too hi too
     mujhe hai bas teree hi aarazoo,
meree saaNso meiN hai too basee, aur manzil hai too meree
     ruh ko bhi hai teree justajoo

tere deedaar-e-ruKH-e-roshan binaa, zulmat-e-shab ho kaise fanaa
    gar haal-e-dil yeh kar duN main bayaaN
kya mere pyaar ko apnaaogi, ya rooth ke thukaraaogi
   kya hogaa tumhaaraa faisalaa

o meri jaan, o meri jaan
tere bin main kaise rahooN mujhe na KHabar hain na pataa
o meri jaan, o meri jaan
kuchh to kaho, yuN chup naa raho, ab aur naa lo imtihaaN
If you are feeling adventurous enough, you can listen to me singing it.

Now some clarifications. I have no illusion of being any artist. I am no singer, no lyricist and no composer. This is just a bit of fun. The lyrics are indeed written by me, and yes, I am the one singing it, if at all it can be called singing.

But the tune is not mine. It’s from one of my favorite Country songs, I told you so.

That’s the point of this exercise. If you are willing to plagiarize a tune, it’s extremely easy to come up with “your” song. The original lyrics give you an idea on where to start. The ready made tune provides a nice rhythm so that you can write fluid lyrics without having to worry about mundane stuff like meter ;-). In a couple of hours, you have a “new” song ready. No hard work required.

Maybe even more clarifications are needed. I am not advocating theft. Plagiarism is bad. It’s indefensible. Arguments such as “paying tribute”, “borrowing ideas”, or “making it more popular” are all flimsy, and wrong. I am just trying to illustrate how easy it is to plagiarize.

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