Friday, June 26, 2015

Jurassic World

Movie Review : Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow 
Genre: Science Fiction/Adventure 
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan
Released: June 2015
My rating: 7 out of 10

As I write this review, two weeks after the release of “Jurassic World”, it is already a very successful summer movie. It certainly seems like the newbie director Colin Trevorrow found a way to breathe life back into a franchise that twenty years ago suffered the same fate as most franchises with incompetent sequels do. Especially for movies that rely on a single main big idea, like the first Jurassic Park. With every sequel the novelty wears off and with it dies the repeat business.

The 2nd and 3rd installment of Jurassic Park tried bigger and badder dinosaurs, brought them to mainland, showed them as intelligent creatures in order to remain cool. They failed miserably. Now, Jurassic World takes an opposite and much smarter approach by presenting us a world, where there is already a fatigue about dinosaurs, just like for real world viewers. In this world, the owners of the Jurassic World have lost the advantage of surprise and awe. They have to make the dinosaurs do tricks, offer a petting zoo and innovate with genetically engineered hybrid dinosaurs. Even that does not seem to be enough, as the park is losing money. This attitude succeeds, as it helps the movie never take itself too seriously while keep poking fun at the lost appeal of an old idea.

I am not going to bother giving any synopsis. Rest assured that the movie has all the elements Hollywood deems necessary. Is the hero a handsome cool dude whose heart is filled with empathy for these creatures? Yes, check that. Is the lead female character trying to be a stiff businesswoman who has a hidden attraction to this cool dude? Yes, check that. Will he help her discover that these are animals and not business assets? Oh, yes, check that. Will the kids in the movie put their lives in danger? Absolutely. Is there a rich eccentric businessma? Yes, there is. Is there an obnoxious person who at the end will get eaten by the dinosaurs? Check that as well. Is there a “villain” dinosaur and a surprise hero? Of course. The movie is shameless in following the formula. Even the casting is formulaic. Don't expect any chemistry between the characters. Teenage girls will love their Chris Pratt, but the rest of the cast is forgettable enough for such forgettable characters.

All sequels invite comparison with the original. Jurassic World goes a step further, and insists that we must do it, by providing numerous references to the original. Most of the time these are witty, but not always. The kids very quickly manage to restart a car from the original movie which was supposedly not operational for twenty years. There are many such big obvious bloopers in this movie, while in the original they were nearly absent. No, I have not and will not forget the unforgivable - “It’s unix system. I know this”. As I said, nearly absent. No one would have argued that the original Jurassic Park was strong on character development. But after seeing Jurassic World, some (like me) would argue that it was as much a successful drama as it was an action flick. Even the cheesy scene at the end of the original movie with kids falling asleep in Dr. Grant’s lap seems like a classic now. As a lifelong fan of the incomparable John Williams, the music of of the first movie is etched in my memory.  Here, yes there is homage to it, but the magic is missing.

But twenty two years (fourteen since the forgotten 3rd installment) is a lot of time. There is a generation that hasn’t watched any of the three movies, and it’s a big enough market segment for Hollywood to try their luck again.

I loved the original movie. Watched it numerous times. Watched it in Hindi as well. When it the studio re-released it in 3D, I did my duty to watch it and give Steven Spielberg even more of my money. I watched the sequels when they came out, even though I had a feeling that I am not going to like them. I hated them. I have read the book, and liked it. With those disclaimers out of the way, I can say this now. Jurassic World is quite good. It’s nowhere near the phenomena of the first movie. But it’s way way better than the sequels, and on its own, it’s a perfectly enjoyable big budget monster movie. The special effects don’t even feel like special effects. It moves fast. Never threatens to be intellectual. Shows a lot of respect to the original movie. And finishes in time.

I have no idea why the Jurassic Park movies are thought of as made for kids. A lot of people die in a horrific way. No dinosaur is cute. But people still take their kids to watch this movie. I was one of these people, and my kids loved this movie, and I am sure most kids would love it too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Elizabeth Ekadashi

Movie Review : Elizabeth Ekadashi
Language : Marathi
Director : Paresh Mokashi
Genre : Drama, Family
Starring : Shrirang Mahajan, Sayali Bandakavathekar, Nandita Dhuri
Released : November 2014
My Rating : 7 out of 10

Just a few days ago when I wrote the review of “Coffee ani barach kahi”, I mentioned that I started watching Marathi movies again only recently. One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, was Paresh Mokashi’s first movie “Harishchandrachi Factory”. I had heard a lot about it, and it was every bit worth the hype. I absolutely loved that movie. So my expectations were quite high for this movie. They were almost met.

In the holy town of Pandharpur, two young siblings, Dnyanesh (Shrirang Mahajan) and Mukta (Sayali Bandakavathekar) live with their widowed mother (Nadita Dhuri). Their family is going through severe financial troubles. Their only remaining worthwhile possession is a cycle made by their late father. This cycle is lovingly named “Elizabeth”. When the situation becomes dire enough, where even the cycle might get sold, the kids decide to help out on their own. As per a suggestion by their friend, they start a small shop to sell bangles to the pilgrims who visit Pandharpur on the auspicious day of “Ekadashi”. (Hence the name of the movie.) The whole operation is kept secret from the mother, who wants them to focus on studies. Of course, things don’t go as smoothly as the kids had planned. Situation gets worse, before everything gets resolved for better in the end.

That last sentence wasn’t a spoiler. This is not a tear jerker tragedy. It’s a heartwarming, feel good movie. In such movies, predictability is an asset, when managed well.

The story is loosely based on childhood experiences of the script writer Madhugandha Kulkarni, who is the wife of the director Paresh Mokashi. It’s a short story, and doesn’t provide a lot of material for the director to work with. So he has to rely on other technical aspects to make it a meaningful movie. One aspect is authenticity. People behave in the movie as people behave in real life. It feels like you are watching real life events. The movie is shot on actual locations in Pandharpur. I was impressed by the functional and efficient camera work.

Mokashi has managed to extract exemplary support from the child actors. They impart more authenticity than any other aspect of the movie. Unlike the often seen irritating kids of movies/serials, the kids here are adorable and most importantly absolutely believable. They may not have been given the most challenging scenes to act in, but I could relate to them. I loved the character of Dnyanesh,  a respectful, well-intentioned kid and how Srirang Mahajan has acted. Other actors have done superb job as well. Nadita Dhuri as the mother was as natural as the kids.

In spite of this praise that I am offering, I cannot give the movie a higher rating. It’s a very small, simple story. It will touch your heart, but won’t awe you. My recommendation is mainly based on it being a very enjoyable movie that’s great for the whole family. My kids liked it, and I think so will most kids.

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