Categories
cinema FRS

FRS: Dragon Blade

So everyone knows what an FRS is right? 

-40: To us, the pandemic has made us seek out the absolute bottom of what Amazon Prime Video barrel had to offer, not that we had really seen the other films, but nothing was as exciting as an epic Chinese film about how Jackie Chan defends the silk road from 100,000 Romans! Yes you read that right. 

+300: To the director who convinced Jackie Chan to invest in a film by telling the above one line, yes Jackie is also the producer, apart from being the action director and action here of the piece. 

-21: Movie does not begin with narration, but with our second favourite irritation, the phrase “based on real events”. We mean…nevermind. 

+67: Jackie Chan plays Captain Huo An of the Silk Route Protection Corps formed in 48BC to maintain peace along the trade route. 

This would mean that he will have film-worthy goals like word peace and mutual anbu. Since this an epic film he will have goals which are unrealistic by even film standards such as “I will unite all the 36 nations who use this silk road kind of thing’ 

+34: Subversion of audience expectation: which is critic-speak for “movie sucks, but cant tell it openly”. If anyone had bought a ticket to Dragon Blade thinking that they would at least get to see Jackie Chan do some fighting, he would be slightly disappointed, because he is part of the peace corps. Which means that he would be preventing other kingdoms from fighting, really. 

-27: Hero beats girl in an altercation, means that the girl will fall in love with him cliche, applicable even to ancient chinese dynasty heroes. 

-32: Hero is peace loving means surely some mentor in a flashback would have told him about the importance of peace, otherwise how da. 

-61.2: Hero, back home from peace corp, we get to know is married to sweet school teacher cliche, teacher says she will work towards race equality etc. This reminded us of the Kajal Agarwal paatu class in Vivegam. 

+78: Movie becomes slightly exciting when John Cusack appears as a Roman General invading a Chinese outpost fort city, but is he really attacking or is he out here for something else? Shhh

-11: If there is a plot involving a kid and Romans in the movie, it is rest assured that the kid is in line to the throne cliche. 

+100: Sandstorm Ex Machina, a sandstorm threatens the whole fight between Jackie Chan and John Cusack and we never get to know who the better fighter is. 

+54: Natpu da! Nanben da mode, these two go into. 

In one conversation involving the difference in Chinese army and Roman army, Jackie Chan says Chinese Army is present only to maintain peace in the world

<crickets> <crickets> 

+56: John Cusack character seems sensible and is motivated by revenge against those who have done bad things to him, Jackie Chan however being the hero is still preaching peace, in short anbu selling. 

-24: Sudden target of building humongous wall within 15 days extremely sudden. 

+101: It’s done, it’s a Sino-Roman joint venture, the scenes in which Jackie’s corps and Cusack’s centurions flex their muscles and engage in a bit of play fighting are the most enjoyable in the film. 

-77.2: But as this is the movies, mutual happiness does not last more than five minutes and there needs to be an even bigger villain who should spoil these guys’ friendship. 

+561: That person is Adrien Brody, whom I have never seen have so much fun in this film, it seems more fun because our hero is straight as an arrow peace loving average anbu seller 

-23: Watch your accents Romans! While John Cusack sticks to his American accent, Adriend Brody is acting as though this is a West End production. No he is really enjoyable. 

+56.4: What’s more enjoyable are the production values and the movie making magic which leads up to the final battle, great stuff guys!

-300: Something, something happens and the movie becomes 300 for a while and it ends quite predictably with all the tribes coming together and peace finally comes to the silk board…we mean silk road. 

Nooooooo!

All are happy. Except Adrien Brody. 

Also if you have seen the film, let us know why this movie was called Dragon Blade again? 

All numbers are incidental and arbitrary, except the facts provided by our data analytics team.

Team FRS

Subam

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil Parking Lot Notes

Parking Lot Notes: Vada Chennai

First Strike

Consider the carom board, a single strike shakes up an entire setup; displacing even disks that are not in the direct line of the striker.

Vetrimaaran,  believes that the impact of death has far reaching consequences even to those removed from the person. He supports these with the deaths of popular leaders; Rajiv Gandhi and MGR through the film.

<Eerily similar to how deaths of J and MK have in some way affected everyone in the state of Tamil Nadu>

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Vada Chennai begins with a gruesome murder; but we are constantly shown (and guided through Vetrimaaran’s narration) that this death would soon shake up things for all of the characters, and these characters come by the dozen.

Alliances that were forged in time look weak moments later and so begins a classic case of one gang vs the other in a fight over the city’s dominance.

Moments later, these gangs have divided amongst themselves two prison blocks and in-effect the city and there is one guy in between. This did remind me of A Fistful of Dollars; but nope the director is not just interested in the surface; let’s go deeper and show how the gangs establish their dominance and an economy within the prison; the stated revenues of which are astounding (Vada Chennai is a period film and the movie doesn’t try to be in the face about it).

I also got used to how the director keeps drawing attention back to the first murder; even if it at times it feels that he has gone pretty far away. Drawing back/moving forward is also done differently, sometimes it is just the voice-over;a visual cue here, an on-screen narration there, another time it is just a fade to white. I would really like to go over these punctuation again.

But what is always there in the background: how will THAT murder be avenged?

Second Strike

The title “Vada Chennai” too is very emblematic; represents a whole section of the city, referred here as “janam” but for most part the film is really about a select few from this population and the power they fight for; so when towards the end of the film when it moves towards the ‘us vs them’ narrative, the movie has a slight jarring effect. Maybe this has been done to elevate the story of Anbu? Only the sequels will tell.

Or to put it differently, there are far more interesting stuff for me in the film than the politics of gentrification, a subject touched upon by Kaala too earlier this year. For example, the thread of how history keeps repeating itself and how the players find themselves in different positions every time that happens.

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The kick-in-the head happens when the characters themselves realize this moment.

Wow, that’s complex and damn good writing; to be able to feel what a secondary character is feeling (At one point it is Guna, at another point it is Chandra). Vetrimaran also throws in a clairvoyant who seems to be the only person who knows how this will all end.

Superlative stuff.

Red & Follow

Yes, it does take it own time; but then this movie should. Even reading this as a basic revenge film needs convincing characters for viewers to revel in the avenging, but this isn’t just a basic revenge film.

The board is now set, the players are ready; we have a good game at hand.

Categories
cinema cinema: hindi cinema:tamil Essay genres

THE AGE OF EMPIRES

baahubali-teaser-copy

There is an anecdote of how Queen Elizabeth went up a tree as a girl and came down a Queen, to put the story of Baahubali in a single line will be on similar lines, like say, the boy who went up the waterfalls and became a prince.

But stories are best told in their entirety with flourish and detail and the stories of kings and queen require something else, magnificence.

Magnificent as they may be in text, the trouble lies in the realisation of these visuals from the mind and this is where we come to the ‘is technology taking over our movies’ part of the discussion, in a film like Baahubali yes, a computer really does aid your/the director’s imagination.

From a country that routinely decries its films for not making movies with better graphics, we are very much left behind in the technology debate as well, especially in a time when StoryBrain came up with what he calls the Weta Effect last month; which is in other words that movies with better graphics do not really resonate well with the audiences.

Personally, the inability to make graphics seem seamless in only a temporary worry and can be overcome with training and investment and Baahubali is definitely a step in the right direction, the best graphics film is a film that you can sit and not worry about the graphics (remember Kochadaiiyan), also miraculous that we have moved so far away from Kochadaiiyan in a span of two years. And that is all I have to say about Baahubali’s graphics which went from non-troubling to quite spectacular, but let us first attack the mind/heart(don’t know which does which job, not a doc) of Raajamouli which I guess is filled with fascinations for the epics and long forgotten stories from Chandamama back issues.

Fifty and a half years back, we were making such movies, often large studio productions involving the matinee idols from the states below the Vindhyas, swashbuckling stories of slaves who become kings, banished princes, scheming uncles and whispering corridors, occult magicians, tender princesses and giggling harem girls and not to forget the scenes of war.

With the advent of the so-called realism and the Dravidian movement, these movies dwindled, but the spirit of the classic fantasy lived on but not quite so rightly on the shoulders of mega stars, the characterisations would only fit a mythical time: the masala film.

Somehow a hero jumping between cliffs sits well within a royal story rather than a modern entertainer. Rajamouli’s Baahubali is set in the mythical nation of Mahismathi covering diverse geographies (waterfalls, mountain avalanches, vast dry lands and imposing palaces) and populations ( tribes of different types, assassins, barbarians and royals of course) deserves mention because most of the time the mind limits, and these are how epic stories are built, it is never about one person, it is about all those who live and die in the space that you create and this is where the modern formulaic films go wrong.

Testimony to this is one scene which can also be called “the moment of realisation” , the ground is covered by all those who have shaped the hero’s life, direct and indirect, friend and foe.

While the effect of visuals has considerably increased since the times of Paathala Bhairavi, Mandirikumari and Uttama Puthiran, the excitement in telling these stories has been thankfully retained, which I think is the next greatest triumph of Baahubali (the first being the director’s bold imagination).

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Palaces made of sandstone or software are nothing without the people, here Mahismathi which resembles Minas Tirith from The Lord of the Rings is populated by a league of able actors  who mouth refreshingly well written lines.

The empty throne of Mahismati resembles a widow’s forehead” a minor character says, enough to make me sit up, the fact really was that I was wide eyed straight from the beginning, even the initial dragging set up seems justified for what is to follow.

Patience in actors like Satyaraj is truly rewarding, one of the finest Indian actors alive, catching your eye even when bowing down to someone in deference; but the film truly belongs to Ramyakrishnan, the God Mother who breast feeds both the scions of her clan, it is said that Romulus and Remus; the founders of the Roman empire were nourished by the same wild wolf and that comparison here only seems right. A performance to savour.

Ramya-krishna-in-Baahubali

Baahubali is in no means a perfect film, making a film this scale is in a sense like building an empire, but is a start, a beginning as the title loudly says. Post Gladiator, there was an active public interest in the Roman classics and the sword and sandal genre itself, if only Baahubali could do the same; then we could have a cinematic age of empires ahead of us.

bahu

Jai Mahismati!!

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil

KOCHADAIIYAN: A DOLL’S GROUSE

<The world’s first photorealistic review>

 

Amitabh Bachchan: When the history of Indian Cinema is written, it will be before Kochadaiiyan and after Kochadaiiyan.

Us: hehe.

This review is not to hurt the sentiments of countless movie goers, this review is written by countable movie goers with hurt sentiments.

Dedicated to the living memory of Nagesh who was not offered any role for his immeasurable talents went to waste when he was alive, the decision to animate him has further pained those who still look upon him fondly. Also it was not funny.

We are also dedicating this review to technology. We liked to dedicate this review to animation, photo realism etc, since the makers have stated that the audience have no knowledge of such, we will stick to dedicating this review to technology, which doesn’t make sense.

To the future type dedication.

We would also like to dedicate this review to… oh never mind.

Where do we begin? Should we being at the beginning of it all? The purpose of such a film?

We only offer you one directive, people who have seen the film/ going to see the film and are hoping to like it and are getting the feeling that they are encouraging something new, please do read the words which are in the slightly bigger font-italics (as this paragraph).

So that’s all we are asking.

Should animation standards be the only object of discussion?

No

Definitely no, but if it is not good then we must be bold enough to say that is not enough, although we have faced with opinions that with the available budget only so much is possible. Hmm but then by giving they themselves are making it easy for us fault finders.

If you are so keen, then you should watch only Hollywood films!

That works for us, with our limited knowledge of animated films and such, we have liked what we have seen on screen, we did not require extensive “how we shot the shizz reels” to relate to the characters and involve ourselves in the story.

We had problems with the animation because it was more of a disabler, the thought that these are not the things we should be watching kept our minds blocked the whole time and we couldn’t really care for the film or its story (if any, as applicable)

On the contrary, we have seen a lot of movies, look we love to watch movies, we would like to see what goes on screen than on what goes behind it, so technically if u ignore what we said above and we go with an “OPEN MIND” (which again is quite impossible, because we are humans, we have feelings, expectations etc, not cardboard based…never mind)

Where were we?

Ah yes open mind, even with an open mind there must be something in the story that should make us happy, no fireworks in that department too, usual stuff.

Good man has great dad (both warriors), good man and great dad makes the king jealous. Then what follows etc.

Now wait, this makes the king the villain. Yes but never really does anything bad for his country, just wants to expand his boundaries, just like..hmm..any other king. All kings want to expand territories except of course ASOKA, oh wait he fought wars too—- yes, to expand his territories.

Ok we forgive all this and accept the kings as villains, because they are rich, ambitious and jealous of their generals, because somebody has to be a villain so that the hero can say something nice right, some good sayings, some everyday couplets etc etc.

Are these things anything new? Well that is subjective and we are not going into that, just that we will imply that they were quite dull is what we felt.

Oops, you don’t imply like that! Be more subtle.

Subtle like Rana? Who clearly says to us the whole plot in a line and expect us to watch a film in which we know what is going to happen so well that even the twists don’t matter? Never mind.

Arrogant fools! If you keep comparing films like this then no one will have the guts to make anything different, no new technology will come into Tamil.

In the first year of movie review school (yes there is one) we were thought of only one thing, that only the movie matters, only! This is what they teach in review school.

So you can even add on and say that most of the people here might not be exposed to the levels of animation from outside and they might really find the move enthralling.

That maybe true, but then again you are underestimating your audience and feeding them stuff thinking they will not know of any higher thing and also asking them morally to support something just for the effort.

But! That’s a bloody lot of effort!! Do you guys have any idea how much time and money have been spent on this film!!

Of course we applaud the effort and all that, no we don’t exactly know how many hours and how much was spent on this film and we don’t think that should be a big factor in liking or not liking a movie.

You have no idea what type of films are made here, just watching some Hollywood films without understanding and saying something in dassu-bussu English, you don’t even need to see our films again, we are quite happy of this film and we will make this a very big hit and from next year on every third movie will be an animation movie.

Cool, we are happy to be wrong, we know we are wrong most of the time.

We also agree on the fact that we don’t understand the Hollywood films we see entirely, but we like them.

We like Tamil films too, we watch them a lot, more than the dassu bussu films, we like to watch Tamil films more than most, we only wish there better movies made and only wish the right films get the attention of the audience.

If they don’t, it is not our failure, because…well never mind.

We have also seen quite a few Tamil movies with the same theme, MGR’s Aayirathil Oruvan which was recently released and thanks to some forces is still running in theatres had a similar plot of a hero put in a rough situation because he has to defend his men for whom he is responsible, the recent Tenali Raman too had a similar revenge theme.

As it is quite common knowledge that the avenging theme is nothing new…the beauty lies in the execution.

For example in Aboorva Sagodarargal (1989), the motive for the protagonist is very early established (revenge again), but still it keeps us hooked as to how things proceed.

Never mind.

You are only nit-picking, the film is total entertainment for full families, all shows housefull, sure hundred days, full mass dialogues, amazing songs and pictures! You have no right to even review films, let alone talk about them, you are undermining the choice of crores of people with your bird brain perspectives.

Nit-picking is often under-rated, it shows that how keenly we have seen the film, how involved we were in the film.

As we have said, in not so many words, we found the film dull and hence we were not really looking hard to find fault barring few glaring points.

So in this case we weren’t nit-picking but just stating the overall disconnect that we felt, some of you might have felt otherwise, which is understandable, considering this is a Rajini film after all.

Nit-picking would mean to state things like why were the cave dwellers in the opening song were predominantly dark skinned? Is the director implying that cave dwellers are dark skinned? Hmm

Or how did Deepika Padukone know the exact steps as the white peacock? Did they go to the same dance class?

This only nit-picking.

Shut up, out thalaivar is mass and we dont need your opinions, you are like sand which he steps on.

Oh yes finally to the performances. Rajini is everything, as if you didn’t know that.

All characters are replaceable, mostly inconsequential, actors like Shobana are hardly given lines to speak. So pretty much this film should work for people who were expecting the such.

Also we think in some film you keep the sand thalaivar steps, on your forehead.

We pretty much know that our opinions don’t matter and it is quite known that nobody really reads our blog, our meetings by self, have existential crisis.

That is only answered by our love for movies which trumps all agendas, we don’t take claim of high ground and state that we will tell you what a good movie is, we are just telling you how we could not really feel or connect with this film.

Amidst all the noise, I don’t think our feeble whisper will make a difference, but then again we write so as to make a whisper.

We really wish this film would a window to better things, if the claimed things do happen then the names you are calling us right now will turn out to be true then.

We also realise that movies are purely subjective and their criticism have no meaning beyond a point when the audience is able to make a personal connect to the film.

Just that this film did not have it.

All the best, and to the future.

<Tell us what you thought about this film and our review, you can also tell us how many packets of milk did you all buy for the celebrations right below in the comments.>