The Great Gatsby – A Review

Baz Luhrmann returns to familiar territory of star-crossed lovers and this time the landscape shifts to 1920s New York. Reuniting with his Romeo Leonardo as The Great Gatsby Baz Luhrmann tries to breathe fresh life into this great american novel which I unfortunately have never read. The movie stars Carey Mulligan as Daisy, Tobey Maguire as Nick, Joel Edgerton as Tom, Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker and an almost unrecognizable Isla Fisher as Myrtle.
Not being familiar with F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel I went in knowing only that it was set in the 1920s era of debauchery, that it was about two star crossed lovers and that it was in the voice of Nick Caraway and in this case Tobey Maguire (and that thought made me squeamish because I am not the biggest Maguire fan). But I happen to love Leonardo DiCaprio’s choice in movies and Carey Mulligan in my opinion is one of the best underrated actresses working today.
There are a lot of era-specific references with the Wall Street boom, the end of the prohibition, loose morals, the plight of the working class and the excesses of the rich. Fitzgerald’s story seems to have influenced many writers and stories to have come afterwards and since this was the first time I was seeing Gatsby I immediately thought of Don Draper when Gatsby’s roots are revealed.
Luhrmann is known for his over-the-top style when it comes to set decorations, choice of music and even the camera angles he chooses, these choices render some of the story elements coming across as jerky and incoherent. The first party which Tom whisks Nick away to is a fine example of the Luhrmann excess. Garish red interiors to a saxophone player on the fire escape to signature zooming in of the camera. The point of the scene was lost on me until the point when Maguire starts’ mouthing what I assume is the prose from the novel verbatim. While I marveled at the beauty of the prose and am compelled to pick up the novel for a read I have to dock a point from Luhrmann as it is a clear sign of weakness that he has to rely on the exact prose to convey the story.
The movie takes off after the second party with the introduction to Gatsby, with the fireworks in the background and a grand symphony to herald the on-screen reveal of DiCaprio as Gatsby. DiCaprio is an actor who doesn’t cease to surprise, he could just as easily have caved into what is Luhrmann’s over the top style and played Gatsby as the self-assured suave nouveau riche gentleman but what DiCaprio does is infuse a sense of earnestness and honesty to the character that is absolutely endearing. You see the cracks beneath the veneer and you see Gatsby second guessing and enquiring in the most earnest way if the party is to everyone’s liking but then again you are left second guessing yourself if this is a man who is so sure in his ways that this candor and modesty is an act to make the guest feel welcome. DiCaprio’s performance is enough to convey the eternal hopefulness that he lives by dreaming that Daisy will be his , it is not required for Maguire to tell us that “he is the most hopeful man I’ve ever come across”. I could sit here and extoll what a wonderful job DiCaprio does here and how he is reason enough to see the movie but then that would take up a lot more words than I intend to write for the review. Just take my word for it- he is the warmth of Jack (titanic), the paranoia of Howard(aviator) and the slightly unhinged Teddy (Shutter Island) all rolled into one fine package and he looks better than ever in a finely cut suit. And that scene at Nick’s place where Gatsby comes over for tea with Daisy is so awkward and charismatic that you are instantly on team-gatsby and willing for him to win daisy over.

Of the other cast Carey Mulligan is sufficiently coquettish and breathes life into the character of daisy which could have just as easily become a despicable character given her ambiguous overtures towards Gatsby and the eventual fateful climax. Tobey Maguire is annoying but not for all the usualy reasons I find him annoying – he is annoying because of Luhmann’s incompetencies he makes Tobey the medium through which major passages from the novel are spoon fed to the audience. Outside of that he is alright. Joel Edgerton has a caricature of a character to portray and he does so well but isn’t given a lot of room to grow. Elizabeth Debicki surprised me the most in the short amount of time she is allowed on screen as Jordan baker. Not only is she a statuesque beauty who commands screen presence like the leading ladies of the yesteryears but her almost wry confidence is very intriguing and she was the one character I wanted to know more about . Amitabh Bachchan makes a Hollywood debut that should have happened sooner considering his talent, here as the oily creepy jewish mobster Meyer Wolfsheim is effective in the very brief screen time, but sufficient to prove that he has a better accent than his daughter in law. I wish he gets a meatier role courtesy of The Great Gatsby.

With Gatsby Lurhmann’s tried to recreate the 1920s via the production design and the costumes and most of it checks all the boxes. Catherine martin is sure to be one of the names at the top of the list come award season for her work on both the costumes and production design. With Shawn Carter a.k.a. Jay Z acting as producer and also musical contributor introduces one hell of an OST that will also feature a few contenders. In my opinion the top three songs are Lana Del Ray’s “Young and beautiful”, Jack White’s “Love is blindness” and Florence Welsh’s “Over the love” . I could and have listened to LDR’s young and beautiful on a loop.

While not perfect The Great Gatsby is perfectly satisfying because of the hopeful earnestness of Leonardo DiCaprio. He is the hero you cheer for till the very end , when he looks up from the swimming pool as the phone rings hoping that it is daisy calling. Watch this great american novel come to life courtsey one of the greatest working actor today watch The Great Gatsby for Leonardo DiCaprio.


Cirque Du Soleil : Worlds Away -A Review

Cirque Du Soleil is a high voltage circus act featuring world class gymnasts from all around the world. Cirque has many shows running the length and breadth of the Las Vegas strip and is featured on many a bucket lists. James Cameron Produced Cirque Du Soleil Worlds Away is a feature presentation which aims to bring together all the different Cirque productions by tying them together in a story of love and longing and adventure to find that one true love.

The story kicks off with an Alice-in-wonderland looking Mia who walks into the travelling Circus Marvelous and chances upon the Aerialist and it is love at first sight. Then through curious circumstances The Aerialist falls off while performing and when Mia goes to help him up the ground slips from under them and they are thrust into a dreamlike world featuring many different worlds that both must traverse through to find each other.


In the style of Jules Verne’s Around the world in 80 days and 20000 leagues under the sea Mia and the Aerialist must go on one adventure after another to finally be together.


 I’ve seen other Cirque movies, the ones with the audience reactions and while they were the second best thing to seeing Cirque live I was dismayed when the scenes would cut to audience gasping or clapping. Not with this movie – this is filmed like an adventure story with no allusions to it being performed for a live audience. The different worlds of Cirque merge together seamlessly. There is very little special effect but it might feel like the entire movie is one giant CGI. That is the beauty of Cirque. These men and women who represent the epitome of human physical perfection perform such breathtaking feats that it is astonishing to believe that there are no second takes or green screens involved, just gymnasts pushing the limits of what is believable.


 Cirque features not only top notch gymnasts and acrobats but also world-class costumes, costumes which bring alive creatures that are only limited by your imagination. It features stunning music which elevates the aerial choreography to a whole new level.


 Some of the different Cirque shows featured in this movie are O, Mystère, Kà, Beatles Love, Zumanity, Viva Elvis and Criss Angel Believe. There are many moments that I loved but a couple of my absolute favorites were the jumping Superheros from Viva Elvis and the underwater world from O. Andrew Adamson who directed Shrek and The Chronicles ofNarnia does well to bring together the different worlds of Cirque together.


 Cirque Du Soleil is available on DVD/Blue Ray but I wonder how amazing it would have been to see this on the biggest screen possible. Pop this in over mindless CGI nonsense that passes for summer blockbusters and be taken away on a ride to some of the most beautiful visuals that are not computer generated and marvel at what the human body is capable of achieving.

Go Goa Gone – A Review

Saif Ali Khan produces and stars in what is perhaps India’s first ever mainstream Zombie Movie Go Goa Gone  directed by duo Krishna D K & Raj Nidimoru. The film stars Saif Ali Khan in a special but pivotal role that of Boris ( pronounced Baris) the Russian Mafia who organizes a rave party in Goa. It also stars Kunal Khemu as Hardik, Vir Das as Luv and Anand Tiwari as Bunny a Trio of friends who end up in the middle of the undead Goa. Puja Gupta makes an impressive debut as Luna the love interest.

The movie starts off with cringe inducing stoner behavior that was clearly inspired by Pineapple Express. Through uninspiring circumstances the three friends end up in Goa to make a presentation, mend a broken heart, and continue to be super sleazy. The dialogue witty and realistic in terms of how friends would speak to each other begs the question as to how it passed the notorious censor board of India.

The movie really comes alive when the undead arrive. The dialogue which seemed like a crutch becomes unnecessary as all that is required is screams and pantings. The one on one facetime with supposedly clever one liners is replaced with chaotic and manic running away from foreign bhoot. The action is relentless and high adrenaline with many moments that will make you jump out of your skin.

Off the three actors Kunal Khemu is clearly in top form with spot on comedic timing and an impish approach to playing the Casanova.  Vir Das and Anand Tiwari are competent and have their moments as well. Puja Gupta is a sight for the sore eyes as she provides the eye candy without any real missteps.  Saif Ali Khan is a delight for the most parts and his put-on –russian accent is a genius touch.  A special mention to jigar and sachin for delivering a fresh soundtrack which kicks Monday-blues’ Ass!

Directing duo Krishna D. K. and Raj Nidimoru do a wonderful job following up their successful Shor in the City last year with interesting characters, beautifully shot visuals and a simple story executed well. They would do well to pay attention to the non-zombie bits of the movie because they were seriously lacking there. Also the whole bit about “drugs are bad for you” while I appreciate the sentiment , the directors conveniently side stepped that “drugs can save you” (I do not endorse drug use in the slightest)

Walking into the movie I was all bravado and bluster as the one who can sit through a “horror” movie even dissuading friends as it might be too much for them – turns out I am a chicken! But a I still enjoyed myself getting grossed out with every passing scene and would recommend that you watch this movie on an empty stomach and take a long hot shower afterwards because you’ll need it.

Star Trek : Into The Darkness – A Review

J J Abrams delivers the second in his reboot of the iconic Star Trek series after the surprisingly well received 2009 entry. With Star Trek – into the Darkness Abrams enters LOST like territories where bonds are formed, friendships strengthened and not everything is what it seems.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Alton Yelchin, Simon Pegg all return onboard the USS Enterprise to boldly go where no man has gone before. Chris Pine as Captain James Kirk is in top form as he mans a mission to go searching for the rogue terrorist John  Harrison played by the amazing Benedict Cumberbatch . Zachary Quinto as the half-Vulcan half-Human Spock is dead on with his pan faced humorless objective first officer of the USS Enterprise. While his delivery is straight faced he elicits the most laughs. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers each syllable in such devilishly delicious measured baritone that you want to do nothing more than just hear him speak at length. Simon Pegg continues the magic he created in the first movie with his hilarious portrayal as Scotty the first engineer of the Enterprise.

There is a lot of action and for once I cannot find anything to complain about the use of 3D. The Visual effects are top notch and the different sceneries created are believable. The music by Abram’s long-time collaborator Michael Giacchino helps add tension and excitement to the first half and elevates it several notches above average sci-fi adventure fare.

I am not a trekkie so the world created by Abrams is my only reference outside of big bang theory references and few casual articles. As with every Iconic series reboot there are those who will find offense with this movie as well and I read several reviews which had prepared me to believe I was going to be very disappointed. I read one review which crucified Abrams for trying to Nolanify the world of star trek by trying to go dark. I summarily debunk both those reviews as I felt there to be no references to Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy except that this featured a dreaded villain whose only motive was destruction.

Abrams may never pass the acid test that the hard-core trekkies expect to put him through but what he has done is bring a ground breaking series to the future and introduce a new audience to the wonders that the sci-fi genre holds.

 The movie isn’t without problems, the first half while fast paced and exciting loses the steam in the second half. The second half of the second half felt like a different “Episode” but in the context of a feature film just feel a little jarring and over long. The actors are perfectly cast and breathe a new life into roles that birthed legends who still continue to enjoy fanatical followings. I personally enjoyed it more than Iron Man 3 so I’d recommend you don’t miss this movie.

Bombay Talkies – A Review

Bombay Talkies is a compilation of 4 diverse short stories directed by 4 of the most diverse filmmakers in terms of the kind of movies they’ve made in the past. Karan Johar  the king of over the top melodramatic high-gloss NRI-story telling, Zoya Akhtar the prodigal daughter telling coming of age stories grounded in Novae  Urbanist India, Dibaker Banerjee the gritty realistic maverick film maker and Anurag Kashyap the ever controversial irreverent auteur.

Karan Johar’s: my least favorite of the four but still one of the best Karan Johar has done in terms of portraying realistic relationship dynamics. The story starts of jarringly with the lead protagonist walking out of his house for his father’s disapproval of who he is. The story also features an upwardly mobile DINK couple of the newspaper columnist Rani Mukherjee and Political Analyst Randeep Hooda. Without going into too many details it suffices to say that Karan Johar pushes the envelope with pun intended double entendres which has most of the audience squirming and giggling uncomfortably. Some call it autobiographical but I couldn’t care less. Had it been a little less on the nose and little more subtle with the characters it would have easily been the best story of the four. I only wish that Karan Johar continues to challenge himself and his audience with more diverse story telling than just over-grown college kids.

Dibaker Banerjee’s: this features my favorite performance of the entire movie in the form of Nawazzudin Siddiqui. This guy is just phenomenal how he transforms from one role to another is a thing of marvel. Here he plays Purandare a loving father of a very sick girl who just wants a new story from her dad every night, a lovable husband to a wife who brings home the bacon, a budding business man with one last surviving emu which eats the neighbor’s besan. In a chance encounter he is offered a role opposite Ranbir which brings the inner demons he is battling to the fore and what ensues is brilliant acting, storytelling and directing that has wiped Banerjee’s slate clean after the disaster that was Love Sex and Dhoka. This movie brought me so much joy that I wish it was fleshed out into a fuller story. Mission accomplished!

Zoya Akhtar’s: This one’s about following your dreams no matter what the obstacles and also about the bond the siblings share as each one looks out for the other whether it is the Katrina Kaif poster or putting ones resources to the best use to make sure the other’s dreams come true. The child artist who plays the brother is amazing. The easy charm that one must expect from children but the one thing that Indian Cinema has failed more often than not in delivering from a child artist is on display by the truck loads! This is what kids are supposed to be like not precocious little know-it-alls with annoying voices! This was a joint second for me along with Kashyap’s

Anurag Kashyap’s: how do you do an ode to Indian Cinema without a reference to Amitabh Bachchan? You cannot. Even today driving past juhu you will see hordes of crowd patiently waiting for that one glimpse of the greatest superstar of Indian Cinema, Thousands come to the maximum city with the hopes of making it as big as the angry young man himself. The story is that of one man’s journey to meet Amitabh Bachchan to ensure that he eats his mother’s murabba as it is his dying father’s last wish. Like a dutiful son Vijay goes through what countless cinema-hopefuls go through every day.

This movie is touted as the ode to 100 years of Indian Cinema, it does that through the stories it weaves, and Johar’s uses the music of Indian Cinema as a central element, narrating the story that the dialogues don’t. Banerjee’s does by using the stories of the movies being the ones that are as popular as the great epics for the kids’ bedtime stories. These are worlds of fantasy come alive which always seem within touching distance. Akhtar’s uses the power of dreams that many dream seeing their idol’s dreams being realized on a scale unimagined. Kashyap’s story uses the power of celebrity, the crazy fan following that Indian cinema’s icons enjoy with there being temple’s being erected in their honor to their stories-tall posters being worshiped with milk and garlands.

For me there was one more common thread, that of lies. Some lies are told to protect self, some lies are told to make our loved ones happy, and some lies are told because those around us do not understand our truth and some lies are told to protect the feelings of those we love.  Because what is cinema if not the lies we tell to make up for the truth we imagined.

Do not miss out on the new wave of movie making in Indian Cinema , do not miss this movie.


Iron Man 3 – A Review

Iron Man3 directed by Shane Black is supposed to setup the second phase of the avengers universe with Robert Downey Jr. donning the red and gold suit as the titular superhero and the PTSDed suffering Tony Stark.  The movie is set in the immediate future after the happening of Avengers where the entire city was New York was laid waste after the aliens and other-world gods descended and the Avengers united.

The movie sees Robert Downey Jr. spending an unhealthy amount of time staying awake as when he tries to sleep he fear the loss of “the one thing that he loves” Ms. Pepper Potts played by America’s most hated Ms. Gwyneth Paltrow .

The main villain is played by Ben Kingsley who fashions himself after Osama bin Laden with video hijacks posting threatening messages to the president of USA and multiple bomb explosions around the world with no apparent traces for the explosives at use. The opening scene with the botanist Rebecca Hall might lend some clues as to what is at play but that is left for later to be unraveled.  Ben Kingsley is wonderful in the most unexpected of ways.

We are introduced to Guy Pearce as the scientist Adrian Killian who apparently had a history with Potts and has come seeking funding for his ground breaking scientific mumbo-jumbo about upgrading the human genetic makeup which Potts turns down because of the ethical ramification (while building super-powered armory suits and teaming up with other worldly gods and a genetically mutated angry green giant does not?)

There are definitely some genuine moments of comedy which unfortunately were mostly lost on the audience I was with – I laughed out loud at the whole “ Hispanic Scott Baio” bit but other than that it is just mostly the dry witty charm of Robert Downy Jr. which carries this through . another funny moment was when Mandarin speaks of doing psychotropic drugs and ending up on streets doing unmentionable things it must’ve rung true for RDJ considering his past dealings. But again it was mostly lost on the audience I was in.

There are some genuine high points in the movie especially involving Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin in the second half of the movie and Robert Downey Jr. is again in top comic form with an unparalleled comic timing.  Guy Pearce brings a genuine menace to Adrian Killian and Rebecca Hall is beautiful and effective in the small but vital role that she plays. Guy Pearce as Adrian Killian is justifiably menacing but the motivations for his megalomaniac behavior are not as resolved.  Don Cheadle is forever a character from Rwanda and I cannot take him seriously as the Iron Patriot or even consider the notion that from Iron Man 4 or onwards he would be donning the red and gold suit.

I’ve enjoyed the individual Avengers movies more than the collective mess that Joss Whedon directed. And with this I enjoyed it as an inoffensive popcorn entertainment with a few genuine laughs. But overall the marvel universe lacks the gravitas that a DC-verse does and the Disney-marvel studio seems keener on getting more movies out there so that they can make a quick buck rather than alter the landscape of cinema in any real sense.  A case in point would be the much touted last snippet which you have to sit through 4 minutes of credit roll to get to and at the end it is nothing but a rambling incoherent insignificant fluff piece whose only value is to show the Iron Man and Bruce Banner in the same scene  with one joke about the Dr.Banner’s Temperament.