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Aug 18, 2013

Quick Takes: Hyde Park on Hudson, Mirror Mirror and Student of the Year

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)


           Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, Olivia Colman, Elizabeth Marvel, Olivia Williams, Elizabeth Wilson, Martin McDougall and Andrew Havill


                   Roger Michell


                 Hyde Park on Hudson as of now is the worst movie i have seen from last year. Before it was released, i was like everyone else, looking forward to this "prestige" picture and a possible Oscar contender starring admirable actors and a story that looked quite interesting. You know what this movie really was? A big laughable joke. Never have i been this much surprised by the sheer stupidity and childish filmmaking on display. This British biographical drama is based on Margaret "Daisy" Suckley's private diaries that were found after her death about the affair she had with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other intimate details. So you know that the movie basically features point of view of the character Daisy. Also there is "The King's Speech" connection here, not the movie but the story that is. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939 made a visit to the States where they stayed in President Roosevelt's country estate in Hyde Park, New York. This is about the same time when he was growing closer to his sixth cousin, Daisy. She was suspected to be his mistress and there have been conflicted opinions regarding what their actual relationship was. Were they just emotionally close or that they actually had an affair. Regardless of what actually happened, the movie wastes all the time doing nothing and in the end, you don't care about anything as well so its not that important in the context of this movie. I don't know what went wrong with the writer or the director, what were they actually trying to make? Hyde Park on Hudson first of all lacks any particular focus as far as the plot or any outcome is concerned. President Roosevelt is shown in a very hazy light, his character is not fleshed out and neither is much insight given into him. The character of Daisy is unbearably uninteresting, considering that the movie is shown through her eyes, it becomes a dull watch just there and then. The visit of the King and the Queen is amusing at best, ridiculously shown for laugh purposes. When it comes to both Roosevelt and Daisy, they take up most of the time driving through the landscape without really showing much drama or development. Though it gives opportunity for Laura Linney to say the movie's title, over and over again.

                 There are instances in the movie where nothing happens. Those portions are just wasted like that. Forget the driving scenes but there is this particular part that happens during the night which is where i wanted to stop the movie and never resume it ever. Its such a wasted opportunity, to take such a big historical event and then assemble it in such an idiotic way as to lose the very thing that makes it a story. This movie seems like its trying to tell something important at first and then it forgets where its going a few minutes later. Then it seems like a ridiculous soap opera, then a comedy featuring British royals and then it just becomes a joke on itself. Cinematography is nice here, the setting and beauty that is one display is likable. As i mentioned, there are several drive-through-the-park sequences that looks good but turns boring. The movie aimlessly wanders into the abyss. The costumes and art direction is quite finely composed and brought together. Its a very intimate setting. But then that is the only good thing about it. The characters lacks any kind of development, humanity or coherence. There is all beauty and setting but no real drama. I kind of admire Bill Murray for pulling it off. You will have to get used to his awkward expressions and mannerism at first but then he strangely takes matter in his own hands once he himself starts feeling comfortable in that role. He definitely gives a better performance than anyone else. Laura Linney unfortunately is wasted here. She suffers the most, unlike Murray per say because he has a persona and his character is suppose to be charismatic and all. Linney plays her character the way its perceived on screen. As an outsider, lucky to get in, trying hard to be welcomed. The ridiculous narration is annoying. Samuel West and Olivia Colman are nice together specially the latter actress, i love watching her act. Olivia Williams once again is playing the jealous wife role, people love to see her burst into episodes of anger/jealousy/tears/laughs all at once it seems. Watch out for a hot dog bonding sequence, its as ridiculous as it sounds. Hyde Park on Hudson is a movie that you all should stay away from. Its a big mess!

Grade: D-

Mirror Mirror (2012)


           Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Sean Bean, Danny Woodburn, Martin Klebba, Sebastian Saraceno, Jordan Prentice, Mark Povinelli, Joe Gnoffo, Ronald Lee Clark, Lisa Roberts Gillan, Robert Emms, Alex Ivanovici and Frank Welker


                   Tarsem Singh


                 Tarsem Singh is known for using so much of visuals and costumes in his projects and as far as making a good movie goes, he stumbles pretty bad. In the slew of Snow White based movies, I prefer this movie over the other one quite a bit. It is not surprising that Singh's sensibilities plays a big part in making this movie bearable because of his approach and treatment. That however still doesn't make it into a good film per say but Singh does his job the way he always do. Mirror Mirror is based on the fairy tale "Snow White" by the Brothers Grimm as you all know. It however takes a very tongue-in-cheek approach to it, which makes it quite different. The story revolves around Snow White whose mother dies during child birth and then her father marries the most beautiful woman, Clementianna. She eventually plots against the King, takes the kingdom in her own hands for the worst and locks up Snow inside the castle for years. Snow who is eighteen now wants to see her kingdom and one day she does so against the rules. What Snow sees angers and disappoints her so much that she decides to take revenge from her evil stepmother. Snow also has an encounter with the Prince Andrew Alcott on her way and they starts liking each other but goes their separate ways. They bump into each other again during the ball which Clementianna threw mostly to get her hands on the prince and his money. Snow without knowing who that prince is, wants to ask him for his help. Clementianna angered at seeing Snow dance with the prince, orders her servant Brighton to leave her in the jungle for the beast to feed upon her. Brighton lets Snow run away, she eventually collapses in front of Seven Dwarfs' house.

                 Mirror Mirror is a very likable re-imagining of the beloved tale, its been done countless times before but never like this. I liked its rapid fire sense of humor, in parts it sounds childish then a bit more seasoned and then it seems to be poking fun at its own gleeful silliness. Performances in the movie aren't great though. Julia Roberts is the only one who seems to be having fun because it is fun while the rest needed a bit more time to get used to whatever they were doing in the movie. Roberts' evil queen is first insecure and then evil. I love how silly they made her character quoting words like "financial problems" and messing up the love potion for "puppy love". There is also an interesting thing about her beloved mirror as well. Its not really on the wall per say. Lily Collins looks radiant and innocent but again, nothing good. The same goes for other actors who are either too distraught by Singh's style or really seems to have no idea what they are here to do. The visuals as always takes the front row as in with other Singh movies as well. The effects and sets looks quite stage-like and has the feeling of an actual tale being told to children rather than expensive grand sets that takes away from the feeling of being a fairytale at first. The art direction is splendid. But the best thing about Mirror Mirror above all is its magnificent costume design. The late Eiko Ishioka's work is masterful and spectacular providing a sense of larger than life extravagance. And with every Singh movie, the plot or narration doesn't really seems to be going anywhere except for the big moments. Its again dramatically flawed and a bit inconsistent but its rapturous style of humor and visuals makes it a very pleasurable experience. Mirror Mirror will delight younger audience for its childish playfulness and might distraught others. Its cheeky humor, sparkling and beautifully wild visuals and a certain Bollywood themed dance sequence in the ending will find a few admirers as well. Not to forget, the astounding costume work.

Grade: C+

Student of the Year (2012)


           Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Rishi Kapoor, Sana Saeed, Sahil Anand, Mansi Rachh, Kayoze Irani, Manjot Singh, Ronit Roy, Ram Kapoor, Gautami Kapoor, Farida Jalal, Akshay Anand, Manini Mishra, Prachi Shah, Sushma Seth, Boman Irani, Kajol, Farah Khan and Vaibhavi Merchant


                   Karan Johar


                 Now here we have a Bollywood soap opera film for teens with adults playing teenagers and lavish productions making us insecure about the average school life that we had. Karan Johar/Dharma Productions/Red Chillies Entertainment, which is like half of Bollywood, have always produced some of the most big, stunning and entertaining films in the past. Their attempt this time was however pretty bad. I don't know why I even bothered to watch the movie, it was partly for Karan Johar and mostly for the three newcomers in the lead roles. So, Student of the Year revolves around students of St. Teresa School. The movie begins with dean Yogindra Vashisht being hospitalized and students from his beloved batch reuniting to meet him and each other. They have come quite far now in their lives but they have had a blast in their school life which they recall and thus begins the movie. SOTY features clash of two steadfast students with different background and conditions but shares one goal only, to get the trophy of 'Student of the Year' that is going to change their lives in different ways. Rohan Nanda comes from a very wealthy family, his father is a business tycoon and he shares a very complex relation with him. You know, typical disappointing child. Rohan wants to prove it to his dad that he is much more than that. On the other hand, we have Abhimanyu Singh who comes from a middle class family with financial problems. He is there on scholarship, great in studies and wants to be a successful person one day. They both collide in various ways in different parts of the school, their energy is what is at the center of the movie. Oh and two hot looking guys, one spoilt and other sensible and good in studies, there has to be an equally hot and fashion obsessed girl who in the end isn't very secure at all right? Enters Shanaya Singhania, she likes Rohan but he loves every girl on campus. Abhi starts liking her after he becomes close with his rival Rohan. Things get more complicated when their 'other' friends stars mingling in, studies, competition, back and forth priorities and you have a typical teenage soap opera in front of you.

                 Its refreshing to see the three newcomers in the lead roles and being the part of the thing that is Bollywood-Masala-Filmmaking. Sons and daughters of people who are either filmmakers or actors, Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt were lucky to have been launched in such a big fashion. I despised the horrible acting on display by Bhatt though, looks aren't everything. Malhotra is pretty nice looking guy and could do some good work if given a chance. Dhawan too suffers from Alia Bhatt-Complex as well. There are many and i mean many other supporting actors and guest performers in the movie who are either funny or good enough. Talking about the songs which are necessary in every Bollywood flick, i wasn't impressed. I have enjoyed the work of both Vishal-Shekhar even in these typical rom-com movies because there work is often fresh and upbeat. They re-did the popular Nazia Hassan song, here titled "The Disco Song" which is the only good and enjoyable thing about the music, the rest is quite meh. Features nice choreography and cinematography. Shot on beautiful looking locations with big production and little sense of the main thing which is 'heart'. Making every single situation either too dramatic, too funny or too beautiful isn't really what makes good storytelling or filmmaking. Johar's movies in the past with as much larger than life portrayals of families or love triangles etc have had that element in abundance. Even if they were too grand for their own good, flaws aside, they still would provide ample amount of escapist entertainment and equally moving and engaging drama. His kind of typical Bollywood movies were the ones i would enjoy. SOTY lacks any story or plot, it just wastes its time for showing meaningless distraction trying hard to pull off a sensible teenage drama. I don't think fun always transfers into a good film. Disappointing and often laughable portrayal of stupidity, lazy tactics, been there done that stuff. Its breezy and colored entertainment featuring expensive things and gorgeous people, thats all it is.

Grade: D+