Category Archives: Movies

Netflix India: Review…

My introduction to Netflix was in early 2010 and I was very excited about its internet streaming service that I had my friend in US send me a few screenshots…how it worked etc. Here are a couple.

netflix old
Web interface- Feb 2010
Screen after stopping the movie, using stop option on the blu-ray remote
BluRay Player HDTV Interface – Feb 2010

 

After a few weeks of its launch in India, I signed up for the Rs.800 trial. Here are a few points

  • I opted for the auto-adjust resolution based on my internet connectivity. On a 40Mbps connection, the video quality was pretty decent when I played it off the netflix app on my PS3.
netlfix training day
Training Day on HDTV via PS3 and Netflix
  • The same cannot be said of chromecast from my laptop and android mobile. The video was interrupted several times and even got stuck with ‘Loading’ message.
  • Audio is just stereo at this point of time?
  • Direct Video Streaming on the mobile and iPad is pretty good.
  • The Movie and TV Shows collection is pretty basic, hope to see more in the coming months.
  • The recommendation system works just fine. Based on my list of Training Day and Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 it threw up two of my all time favorites–Breaking Bad and The Shawshank Redemption :)

 

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Androild Mobile Interface
IMG_0563 (2)
iPad Mobile Interface

Overall Netflix India is decent but will not replace your disc collection as of yet. So it’s ok to buy discounted Blu-Rays at Amazon for now :)

amazon

Schindler’s List

schindler crying

When I first watched the movie ‘Schindler’s List’ the scene that had a lot of impact on me was the scene where Oskar Schindler breaks down, lamenting how many more lives he could have saved in exchange for his material possessions and the money he had squandered away. I forgot the position of the scene though. Now I know in my revisit to this classic. This scene towards the end, is indeed the jewel in the crown. Just when you think curtains are down, this scene comes from nowhere and holds your attention like no other.

IMG_20160226_055842

Schindler’s List as a movie does this to you several times during the course of movie watching.  Every scene gives you that extra bit, either in terms of story telling or presentation. One cannot but wonder the amount of work that went into making of the movie, into each and every craft of film making.  Wonder how Oscar Committee decided to award only Seven!

Here are a few observations.

  • Tribute to Master Film maker Orson Welles: Steven Spielberg pays rich tribute to Orson Welles in the introduction scenes of Oskar Schindler and Itzhak Stern, reminiscent of similar scenes between Kane and Joseph Cotten.
  • Three Story arcs and how they take the movie forward: Schindler’s list has three story arcs–the ebbs and tides of war, plight of jews from bad to worse to glimmer of hope and character transformation of Oskar Schindler. It is terrific to see how the story of Schindler takes the movie forward across the other two story arcs.  His transformation becomes the glimmer of hope for the jews under persecution. Finally, his cathartic moment beocmes the start point of a new journey for his Jew workers.
  • Finest acting performances : All the lead cast put in their best for the movie. There are several scenes in which actors emote on their own, like Ralph Fiennes looking into the mirror before killing a young boy or Liam Neeson pondering on his inner tumult or Ben Kingsley’s minimalist expressions.  But the real gems are all the combination scenes where these great actors bring the best in others. Let it be the terrace scene where Liam Neeson guides Ralph to the real meaning of power or his irritation when Ben Kingsley doesn’t enjoy his admiration for his contribution or simply when Ben Kingsley presents the ring to Neeson in the end of the movie.
  • The man behind the scenes–Steven Spielberg:  Spielberg brings all the very best from himself and the rest of the team for this movie. Production Design, Sound Design, Editing, Music…you name it, has excellence written all over it. At the end of the movie you cannot wonder if anyone else would have brought so many shades to this movie and still be able capture all those in black and white. And he succeeds in portraying humanity during one of the darkest times of human history.

Tailpiece: Who could have imagined the little girl in red other than Mr.E.T.Spielberg?

redgirl schindlerslist

Related Links:

NYTimes on Spielberg’s Oscar win.

‘Baahubali': Attention to size n’ scale…

bahabuli statue previz

There’s a scenario in the movie ‘Bahubali’ where hundreds of slaves toil to hoist a ‘huge’ statute of Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati) reminiscent of slaves building the monuments in the movie ‘The Ten Commandments’.  While this is on, several things happen in parallel.

  • Sivudu (Prabhas) surreptitiously moves ahead to achieve his goal, unaware of the surprise ahead of him.
  • Devasana (Anushka) in chains waits in anticipation for her savior, with a stoicity forged under seething revenge.
  • Bhallaladeva towers over the proceedings as he wants the world to acknowledge it as symbol of his power and supremacy.
  • Bijjaladeva (Nassar) goads his son Bhallaleladeva blindly as he always does.
  • Kattappa (Satyaraj) in tears at the plight of Devasena but ready to pounce on anything that might harm the throne, as he is supposed to.

Understandably the above is very difficult to conceive and execute. Come to think of it, the movie ‘Baahubali’ as a whole is one such challenging exercise of creation, from thought to screen. The makers pull it off successfully when it comes to size and scale. Production design, cinematography, VFX, sound…all are top notch.

But when it comes to providing a wholesome experience, the film falls short. What is this wholesome experience anyway? It is a tasteful blend of story with other crafts of movie making. If it were were just VFX or graphics or whichever term we use, that satisfy us, we would just be devouring show-reels of VFX companies, right? Guess, we also need the underlying drama, terrific performances, in-your-face-action, edge-of-seat thrills, the leads to such expansive scenes and above all a powerful motive behind every head that rolls under the blood tainted blade.

Baahubali, for me, was a tad off when it came to this mix. There are quite a few scenes though that gives you a whiff, but in the end, leaves you with feeling of stepped away from a unfinished meal with left over items, having paid for the full meal.

Here’s elaborating further.

  • Story spread: If I have to point out one aspect that contributed big time to a feeling of incompleteness, it would be the spread of story across first and second half. The character ride/span becomes tipsy turvy as the guy who spends first half romancing the heroine is not the same in the second half. In addition to this the romantic track doesn’t really contribute to the pace or story of the film, making it appear like a last minute patch, after a decision was made to release the film in two parts.
  • Obsession about size: Let it be the ‘Siva linga’ that Sivudu plucks from the ground and carries it on his shoulders, or the huge waterfalls or the bulked up protagonists, there’s an unprecedented emphasis on size. And, it appears as if Rajamouli tries to roll the five pandavas into one–Baahubali/Sivudu. People who are individual experts in fields like archery, wrestling, horse-riding etc work on their bodies differently. Hence we have Arjuna, Bheema, Nakula etc described in a certain way. To make a single person believable as the master of all these skills not only interferes in characterization/storytelling but also brings some obvious physical discomforts. Prabhas appears a bit sluggish in his movements (Ex.when he tries to evade soldiers during his rescue attempt of Devasena). I felt his body build in ‘Chatrapathi’ was ideal for his looks and his agility.
  • The two parts conundrum: Guess the makers were a bit on the defensive when planning the film in two parts and inserting a forced hook in the end of Part 1 and opting for non-linear narration. So, first half feels like a wait till the real hero enters in the second half.  But a Rajamouli film that is marketed so well, could have created the same box office success, even if the story were told in a simple fashion.
  • Bahubali-The man who would be king (Part 1), Sivudu-Born to rule (Part 2), would have been an ideal approach to spread the story?

  • Phenomenal marketing :Producers have to be complemented for the huge marketing exercise. There’s not a single move that seemed out of march, and the juggernaut just rolled on. For the first time, one could also see the impact of social media with influencers/advocates picking up every little detail about the film, including the serpentine queues. It aroused such a jingoistic feeling that any kind of naysaying was considered a blasphemy that deserved nothing less than a capital punishment:) The movie marketing became a clothed version of the emperor’s new clothes story :)
  • Never before seen Production Design: The conception and attention to details in sets, vehicles and armory is out of the world. The chariot and weapon of Bhallaladeva needs a special mention. One has to believe every word of Mr.Cyril when he said in an interview that the final product is just a fraction of what was churned out during the various stages of creative process.
  • SS Rajamouli- the superhero: Even though I lamented above that super pandava (that is all pandavas rolled into one) kind of approach proved to be a bit of a burden on storytelling/actors/performances, no such accusation can be made against SS Rajamouli. He is the backstage superhero who marshaled all the resources at his helm and created a spectacle that made the entire world to look up and take notice. (The entire audience in my theatre broke into whistles and applause when he appeared on the screen in a small cameo.)

Tail piece: As in the first part of Baahubali, where I had to wait till the second half for real Bahubali to make an entry, I will have to wait till the second part to find out how well Rajamouli thought this whole thing through. Something tells me that the director’s cut combining Part 1 and Part 2 (if released) would be truly outstanding. I will have to wait an year and half to find out.

Related Links:

Gangaraju Gunnam on Baahubali
Hemanth on Baahubali
Fobes on Baahubali