Category Archives: india

RA-One

RA-One ~ This film has a lot in common with the recently reviewed Enthiran – The Robot. And while it follows Enthiran, and exists within the same continuity, it is not a sequel. Much the way the solo Avengers films led into the main Avengers movie, Chitti the Robot makes a cameo here. Being a comic book fan, I’m a sucker for universe building, and that’s exactly what Tamil science fiction is doing – creating a cinematic superhero universe.

The story here is nothing new really, derivative, but still original enough, and made magical by CGI and various other animation techniques. A videogame designer creates the ultimate super-villain, RA-One, for a virtual reality videogame where the player becomes the hero G-One to fight him. Like Enthiran, there are dazzling and mindboggling special effects, but at its core is a touching father and son story, that of the designer and his son.

Things go awry when RA-One gains sentience, and the designer must become G-One to stop him from destroying the real world. The battle sequences between G-One and RA-One are phenomenal. It is just amazing to me how other cultures seem to know better how to use American superhero concepts cinematically than most American filmmakers.

Like most Bollywood films, this has everything – action, comedy, romance, a couple if very scary moments, and of course terrific musical sequences. I really liked this film a lot, great videogame and comic book sensibilities, and like Enthiran, I bought the soundtrack as soon as I was done watching it the first time. Great fun.

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Enthiran – The Robot

Enthiran – The Robot ~ This is a film whose reputation precedes it. Called the Avatar of its country, reputedly this is the most expensive film made to date in India, and also its highest grossing film. Not strictly a Bollywood film, but more accurately a ‘Kollywood’ film as it was made in Tamil Nadu, it is s work of science fiction, but as with all Indian films, it is truly a creature of mixed genre.

Also known as Robot, and Robo, and Enthiran, and a dozen other titles and spelling variations worldwide, this is roughly a Frankenstein story – a scientist makes a man in his own image, scarily Elvis-like, which tries to be human but eventually is looked upon as monster. The Robot, Chitti, is played by award winning veteran Indian actor Rajinikanth, who also plays his creator. His deadpan performance as the Robot is both fearsome and hilarious.

Written and directed by Shankar Shanmugam, or simply Shankar, the film has changed the way the world views Indian science fiction. And as the film is called the Avatar of India, similarly Shankar is called its James Cameron. No doubt he is one of their greatest visionaries.

The music is by A.R. Rahman, who also did the music for Slumdog Millionaire, Couples Retreat, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and dozens of Indian movies, among others – but this soundtrack was a worldwide instant blockbuster. That’s the popularity power of this flick.

The real star here is the special effects. CGI and animatronics from a company called Legacy Effects, the brain child of special effects wizard Stan Winston. From the robotics that make up our hero to the evil robot rampage to the outrageous cartoonish but reality based feats later in the film, as the evil robot fights everyone, and of course, the climax, the effects are king. More cars and guns than you have perhaps ever seen on the screen. Mind boggling. Matrix and Terminator, step aside.

This movie has everything. Adventure, romance, comedy, musical sequences, violence – both cartoonish and realistic (lots of gunplay and a very scary and racially offensive attempted rape scene, so it’s not for the kids), it’s all here. In many ways it’s a superhero movie sans costumes. This three hour long Tamil science fiction masterpiece, like Avatar, must be experienced at least once. Recommended.

RIP Ravi Shankar

Life of Pi

Life of Pi ~ Well, it may not be the live action version of Calvin and Hobbes, but the moral of the story is Don’t move to Canada.

I saw Life of Pi the day after I saw Skyfall, marking not only a return for me to seeing movies in theaters after a while, but also seeing two visually stunning films back to back. The visuals are amazing. This is notably the first film I have seen in 2D, that was available in 3D, that I have regretted not seeing in 3D. I spent a good amount of time saying, “Wow, that would have been incredible in 3D.”

Told in flashback, in the framing sequence of a man telling a writer of a life-changing event he experienced as a younger man, Life of Pi is about perception. Pi’s family, who owns a zoo in India, decides to move to Canada, with the animals, via a shady Japanese freighter. Shipwrecked, Pi finds himself alone with a tiger on a lifeboat at sea for months. His survival is at the core of the tale, and director Ang Lee makes it all worthwhile with this incredible piece of eye candy.

There’s a kicker at the end, that in the film disappointed me, but had I read the book the movie is based on, I might have hurled it across the room. Yeah, it’s like that. Good thing I didn’t read the book, I’m sure it would have infuriated me. It is the stunning visuals in the film that talk my anger in off the ledge.

Young Pi, played by Suraj Sharma, is fantastic in a role using primarily gestures and facial expressions – and acting for the most part alone, with and against a completely CGI tiger. Yeah, that blew me away. There’s no tiger, it’s all CGI. But that tiger is a hell of an actor too. The adult Pi is played by one of my favorite Indian actors, Irrfan Khan, who folks might know from The Amazing Spider-Man or Slumdog Millionaire, but who I loved in HBO’s “In Treatment.” His performance is both solid and subtlety brilliant.

Life of Pi must be seen, preferably on the big screen, and preferably in 3D. This film will be in contention for several Oscars this year. See it.

And oh yeah, don’t move to Canada, or at least not the way Pi did.