May 27, 2006
AV – ***
EV – ***
When I finished reading The Da Vinci code sometime in December 2004, I was so fascinated and intrigued by the whole idea behind the novel that I believed it could make an engaging movie. Agreed that its a controversial subject and the facts are thoroughly questionable, but one has to commend the meticulous research done by the author to bring forth a story that has cooked up more controversy than any other movie in recent times. Now comes the $224 million question (yes, that was the opening weekend collection!) which everyone’s asking – is the movie worth all the fuss?
Well, yes and no.
Read the book review at:
The movie is a true adaptation of the book. It does not leave any detail unattended. The pace is racy, characteristic to the book. The screenplay does not wander away from the plot to showcase any unnecessary detailing and is gripping. The performances are good, not extraordinary for the simple reason that the focus was mainly on the plot and not the characters.
Tom hanks was my obvious choice to play Robert Langdon (second choice was Johny Depp, for some strange reason ). Langdon’s character, which is soft-spoken, observant, sharp and suffering from claustrophobia, is potrayed well by Hanks. Though this time the immensely gifted actor does not have to display any histronics, he does a commendable job by enacting Langdon’s personality with ease. Audrey Tautou (beautiful!!!) as Sophie Nouveau does fine. Ian “Gandalf” McKellen steals the thunder with his Teabing act. Surprisingly Jean Reno, who other wise is quite wooden, chips in a decent performance.
The movie is not as intriguing as the novel. The novel had already its share of controversies but it was not met with such a big hue and cry (atleast in India), but since a movie has a wider audience, a better reach and especially this one being of epic proportions, had attract a lot of unwanted attention. If there was no ban on the sale of books, then there was no need to ban this movie (in some pockets in India) because it does not show anything other than what is depicted in the book.
What about the plot?
There is no use discussing the plot here as I believe that those who have read the book need not be told anything and those who have not read it are not going to benefit anything from what I write here because one has to read it to make sense of the proceedings on the screen. This is not Harry Potter – read the book, then watch it, else struggle (worse – sit blank).
All said and done, the movie version of The Da Vinci Code is an entertaining and fast paced thriller. That does not qualify for a great cinema, nevertheless its surely worth the price of your ticket. It does not justify the air of controversy around it; the idea, the research and the book surely does.
A da Vinci Code sequel?
May 14, 2006
Just one month back, I had said that we need movies like Being Cyrus which are different in terms of characterization and treatment. Cinema for the multiplex audience. I figured this one would be something on the same lines. Moreover this was touted as Aishwarya’s foray into international cinema. The scathing reviews did seem ominous however being a loyal fan; I decided to check out Mistress of Spices.
The story follows the age old depiction of India as a land of forests and mystic spices. It talks about an ancient art of medication through herbs and spices. Tilo (Aishwarya) is one of the students of the same and learns the secret of the spices. There are however certain rules to being a mistress of spices: you must not use the spices for your own desires; you must not leave the spice store at any time and you must not touch another skin. With these preconditions, Tilo is sent to USA to set up shop. She has a loyal bunch of customers whose problems she can foresee. However temptation arrives in the form of Doug (Dylan McDermott), an architect. Tilo finds herself getting distracted and tempted to break the rules. By doing so she risks losing her powers of reading fortunes and ‘the spices not talking to her’. How does she deal with the dilemma?
Inspired by a book by the same name, it is ideal for foreign audiences who like to think of India as the land of magic and naked fakirs. But if you are someone living in Mumbai, you wonder which era this movie depicts. Surely it cannot be the present as the customers are still hung up on mystic charms of spices to carry on their lives. It cannot be the past as their appearance and problems are of today’s times. Therefore we can only assume this is a unique world existing in Tilo’s spice bazaar which is stuck in time zero. And while showing the Indian tradition of treating your guests like God is fine, is it necessary to tell us about each of their lives in full detail. The viewer is not interested in knowing about their problems in depth unlike Tilo. The climax is also quite bizarre.
Dylan McDermott looks and behaves more like a movie star than an architect. He has the same set of expressions for most of the movie. Anupam Kher plays a dinosaur who is unable to come to terms with the actions of his ‘modern’ granddaughter. His character seems more apt for some remote village in Haryana rather than USA. What was Padma Laksmi doing in this movie, beats me. If she was selected to add glamour and sex appeal to the cast that too fails. Aishwarya tries her best to make a performance out of her scratchy role. However by the end of the movie she looks as confused about her surroundings as the audience. Santosh Sivan’s cinematography is the only saving grace of the movie and adequately captures Aishwarya’s beauty.
One of the golden rules of film production is the marketing aspect. While much has been argued about commerce overtaking art in this respect, there is some merit in promotion. Sometimes it is the last resort of a mediocre film. Unfortunately ‘Mistress of Spices’ performs poorly here, at least in India. The post production was non existent, the promos began to be aired 10 days before the release, there was no publicity from its actors…. the list goes on. So much so, very few people were aware of the movie releasing alongside biggies like Ice Age-2 and Pink Panther. Perhaps the producers were relying heavily on word of mouth publicity. Is it a surprise that the movie found no takers?
Mr Berges, next time you make a movie, please see ‘Bend it like Beckham’. Sometimes simple stories with small actors also work wonders.
- Suprateek Sinha
May 1, 2006
AV – **
EV – **
(An ageing Sharon Stone) + (a predictable plot) – (Michael Douglas and the raunchy scenes) = BI-2.
Well there goes our sensor board – chop, chop, chop again. All these and more makes this highly anticipated sequel to the cult hit Basic Instinct, a disappointment.
Catherine Trumell, is older, meaner and goes on humping and bumping off people at an alarming rate. She is ordered by the court to undergo an evaluation by a renowned shrink, Dr. Michael Glass. She slowly casts her spell on him and Glass finally breaks!
Then what you get to see is pretty much what you had seen in the first installment – highly graphic scenes (not in India, atleast), gruesome murders and all. The saving grace is the climax (of the movie ofcourse ), which gives Catherine an opportunity to reveal (ahem!) her literary genius.
Sharon Stone tries hard to get into the skin of the seductress, but finally does it with a lot less conviction this time around. BI-2 is a damp affair and makes its predecessor seem like a masterpiece. One sorely misses the suave Douglas, as David Morrissey's Doctor act is nowhere near the self destructive cop act by Douglas.
And yes, Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs, but this time the damn chair was in front of her!
May 1, 2006
My first memories of the Pink Panther were based on the memorable cartoon character which represented the brand as it were to say. I was disappointed to notice that while this panther would appear in the credits, it did not feature anywhere during the movie itself. Of course there was an animated feature of the same. As I grew up I learnt that the ‘Pink Panther’ was actually a diamond! Since then I have enjoyed the entire series and the antics of the bumbling officer Clouseau which gave a twist to ‘intelligence’ services.
The latest edition has Steve Martin stepping into the role of Inspector Jacques Clouseau made famous by Peter Sellers. The coach of the French football team has been murdered in front of a jam packed stadium and the pink panther diamond has also been stolen from him. The head of the French intelligence services Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) deputes Clouseau on this inexplicable case in order to upstage the latter and get the publicity for himself. Inspector Clouseau makes a vow to capture the killer with “clevyer deducshions and scienteefic technolegy like email”. Along with his assistant, Ponton (Jean Reno) he cross examines and confounds every possible person under the sun causing mayhem and chaos in the wake. He also has to contend with the dead coach’s fiancée’ Xania (Beyonce Knowles), a pop singer. His investigation leads him to USA where he is framed with false charges and disgraced. Does he manage to win back his pride and avenge his plight against Dreyfus? Who is the killer and the thief?
The plot is fairly simple and is full of gags written by the director and Steve Martin himself. There are several scenes which evoke humour throughout the movie but the most memorable ones are:
Clouseau’s good cop-bad cop act
The English language training scene
The camouflage sequence
In many cases the comedy is slapstick yet it is a welcome relief from the ‘scary movie- date movie’ offerings. Clouseau is the typical fall guy who never learns from his mistakes. It is the timing which is most important in such a comedy and it is provided in ample quantity by Steve Martin. Right from the queer accent to the stiff upper lip, he remains true to the character and yet lends individuality to his performance. One would not dare to think of anyone other than Peter Sellers for this role had it not been for Steve Martin’s tongue in cheek humour. The veteran Kevin Kline reviles as the shrewd and calculating detective. Jean Reno, the sidekick who observes for most of the movie does well. Beyonce is her usual ‘bootylicious’ self.
This is an attempt to relive the legendary Pink Panther for the new generation. It cannot be compared to the original series as the brand of humour is more relevant to today’s audiences. Even then this is a straight faced comedy which does not require you to completely leave your brains at home. If you are looking for a fun evening, try this and find yourself going pink with laughter.
- Suprateek Sinha