Thursday, 27 January 2011

Lud See Lud 2011

In 2003, when Ram Gopal Varma (RGV) presented an anthology of horror stories with Darna Mana Hai and followed that with another one in 2006, titled Darna Zaroori Hai, it was a major step in Hindi cinema. Anthologies in any genre, especially in horror, are not very common in India and this was a brave move on RGV's part. So, despite the films' lukewarm reception at the box office, they stand apart as innovative efforts made by one of the best horror film-makers in the country.

While in Bangkok, I am on a quest to watch a number of Thai films, as my experience so far is limited to Ong Bak (2003). So, it was this that led me to Lud See Lud (2011), which is an anthology of four unconnected horror stories, each made by a different director, but somehow carrying a bit of the afore-mentioned RGV style.

The first story, about a bunch of college students and their aspirations of global annihilation, is the shortest and the weakest production out of all four. The next story, which revolves around an office environment with pride and sabotage taking centrestage, has a strong Stephen King feel to it. The third story, starring heartthrob Ananda Everingham, is a mix of a heist, ghost and slasher film and satisfies the key elements of all these sub-genres. The acting, filming and editing of this part are comparable to the big-budget presentations from other countries and this has some truly horrific scenes. Finally, the comedic ghost story at the end provides the audience with enough laughs and enough screams to be the hands-down winner of the lot. It is the sweet story of a dead patriarch, whose embalmed body is the source of much fear for the characters, which in turn is the source of much merriment for the audience. This was the section that seemed most like an Indian film to me, with its exaggerated humour.

Although, I don't think Lud See Lud is a masterpiece by any standards, it is thoroughly entertaining - it is scary in some parts, funny in others and engrossing most of the way. I know it may not be the best example of a typical Thai film, as it is essentially a 'masala' film, packing in various flavours and stories into one, but at least it has given me the impetus to come back for more Thai...which I plan to do very soon.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Welcome to Burlesque

Christina Aguilera's existence and career have passed me by and I have not really paid much attention to her. For one thing, she looks completely different in every photograph I see of hers and therefore it's difficult for me to keep track and secondly her brand of singing tires me out. So, it was definitely not for her that I went to see Burlesque (2010). Instead I was sucked in by the colourful costumes, loud make-up, jazzy dance numbers and the bright lights - in short it was the burlesque I was most interested in.

The film unfolds pretty much like all other 'dream big' stories - cross Honey (2003) with Devil Wears Prada (2006) and you will know what I mean. Aguilera is part-Alba and part-Hathaway - a mixture of talent, grit and naivete. Cher is the impossibly-difficult-to-please iconic older woman (Meryl Streep in DWP) and we have all the other requisite characters including the understanding right-hand man, who knows the diva best; the bitchy soon-to-lose-favours starlet; the sensitive, sweet but struggling Mr Right; the suave, rich and famous Mr Wrong; and the final character: our heroine's immense talent that will save the day.

The script obviously presents no surprises and the dialogue is sometimes so trite that I found myself mentally re-wording it and thinking of how to better the delivery! The actors are satisfactory at best and amateurish at worst. Christina Aguilera is not good, but she is new and obviously her unbelievable lungs are the main reason she fits the role, but I expected better from Cher. Unfortunately, not only does her face look plastic, even her acting is completely synthetic. Eric Dane is happily playing Mark Sloane again (Grey's Anatomy); Alan Cumming is doing his usual routine; and most of the other cast members are throwing in just the right amount of enthusiasm into their lines that a few months at drama school will teach you. The surprise ingredient for me was Cam Gigandet, who despite not being any great shakes, at least puts in a compelling performance. And last, but definitely the best, is Stanley Tucci. Although he is simply reprising his DWP role, with very little variation, every single lame bit of dialogue he delivers, sounds like a gem. He has the uncanny ability to infuse life and likeability into a character as well or as badly written as everyone else's - and he's simply the saving grace here.

The songs are decent, with 'Bound to You' becoming my top favourite. The dancing is average and the costumes are good, but not great. To be completely honest, this film could have taken some tips from Nine (2009), which made singers and dancers out of non-singers and non-dancers - and did a far better job.

Having said all this, I will maintain that I did not feel like I wasted my time watching Burlesque. Besides various cringe-worthy moments, where I was back-seat writing and directing it, the film was fairly entertaining. It's just a pity that it was so mediocre, when it had so much potential of being far better than it was.