Categories
cinema TV

Extraction

As The Swivel Chair Spins #7

Minutes after the is-it-all-really one take action sequence; Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) and Ovi Mahajan (Rudraksh Jaiswal) decide to take shelter in an office room of a warehouse, the grey walls are lit in the sodium vapour shades emanating from the factory- this could be any office from the developing part of the world, yet to differentiate it and place it well within the sub continent was a pink water dispenser. Someone on set did a good job to keep it in, knowing our preference for color in these mundane objects. 

It was these things I was looking for, not really following the story, because from the get go this is a mission film. Hero gets into a mission, has a target and obstacles pile, have seen many of those before. The only differentiator was that the movie was shot in India. I have always held that India could be one of the best locations for action movies. I was also among those who were disappointed when there was news going about that Skyfall would start in Mumbai with Bond running in line with the local trains and that didn’t happen. 

For some reason or the others, previous depictions of India like in Octopussy were of an imagined nature and less involvement of Indian technicians or it would be to the other end of the realistic scale. Slumdog to an extent was a departure, it was showing the India I was familiar with but its intentions were different from those of action films. Slumdog Millionaire was trying too hard to smudge its Hollywood roots. 

What I wanted was an action thriller in the Hollywood mould set in Indian cities, like how Paris is used in Ronin or how London was used in MI:Fallout, a destination! Even the middle east. Yes, there have been attempts, including Ghost Protocol which were set in India and not shot here (so yeah).  Maybe I was asking for too much. 

But then Extraction changed all that. Maybe it’s the lockdown, but no really it is my love for live locations. Ok coming back to the Indo-Hollywood look, here cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (among his credits include the recent Bohemian Rhapsody and cult favourite Drive) kicks up a dust storm, the dust and smoke that rises from the ground merges with the yellow-orange of the sun and this is just the opening drone shot. It’s the cinematography and the production that would leave many a lesson for our future filming crews. 

Yet,I wish there was more chaos, there is a through the curving lanes car chase but it is brief. Our daily street congestion & chaos adds to the effect of the action film itself, for example there is a tight hand to hand combat fight in a street between Chris Hemsworth and Randeep Hooda, only to be momentarily separated by a two wheeler. 

The one shot action sequence that proceeds from one apartment floor to the other and ultimately to the ground, reminded me of an enjoyable sequence in Saaho and the rooftop chase brought back Kamal doing parkour in Mylapore in Vikram (1986). 

So yeah I hope, you would have got what I meant by now, but this Extraction is not as fun as either of them.

This Netflix product is otherwise pretty basic and the only thing that could come as a shock is how Hemsworth rash driving is shocking even to the Indian kid. 

Extraction is now streaming on Netflix.  India and Thailand were used as the filming locations to portray Bangladesh in the film.

Categories
FRS

FRS: Saaho

So you all know what an FRS is right? Right? 

[As all the FRS writers begin to arrive at the writer’s room atop the 55th floor of an undisclosed chennai high rise building…] 

Lool, what chennai high-rise building? You really thought we will give away our location? Nice try. 

-5: Narration, since this is a trilingual we will multiply points by 3 whenever wherever. ( you can do the mental math on this ) 

-10: Usual cinema overdose of gangsters, here of course they run an entire city called Waaji

Maybe their official city song is Waaji Waaji Waaji En Jeevan Sivaji, although no such thing is implied. 

Also also, this movie joins the list of movies which just say people are gangsters without explaining how or what made them turn into gangsters- no explanation of the process- these are important for FRS writers, we believe in detail. 

+15: The contribution of gangsters to Waaji’s economy seems immense, they have a modern city functioning with the best security systems, banks, expressways and what not; maybe someone can do a paper about the economic benefits of letting gangsters run Indian cities, we mean…legitimately. 

+21: The gangster congregation is more like those “Royal Stag- Have I Made It Large” type ad set up and of course we see that the Roy family is going back to India, to take over the country etc 

<Cut to Mumbai> 

+88.97: Hero is here to save another gangster (yes you cannot keep count) from a housing society, he has to reach the top floor within 5 cooker whistles, going from one floor to another but every floor has a different type of monstrous thugs + wild animals he has to overcome. 

Holy mackerel! That’s a full movie right there, like Raid: Redemption meets the Cabin in the Woods. 

Actually this can be a full movie. Should we cut points for director not going further with this idea?

+30: Hero is neither clean shaven or bearded, this intermediate state of facial hair is possibly to satisfy the expectations of both kinds of die hard fans of our hero. 

-23: Clueless Mumbai Police is clueless or like we say in the office “Mumbai Police is not going to like this film” 

+65.21: Although they will be very happy to have Shraddha Kapoor as a special agent <insert appropropriate yet respectable smileys here> 

+5.52: Shraddha here is a special agent because she is special to our hero <wink wink> 

+17: Whenever Bombay police is going to take up a special investigation, they will first set up secret headquarters which has fun start-up office feel, it has foosball, basketball ring, beer cafe, video game parlour and of course graffiti splashed walls (obvious) and before I forget, a shooting range. 

I guess this is done so that the special agents really feel special <wink wink > 

Good initiative by Mumbai Police

-7.3: One person in the special unit’s only job is to pan and scan CCTV footage, we believe that such a limited role will not help in future career paths #wecare

-45: Whenever Shraddha Kapoor meets hero, there will melodious music and slow breeze that will gently animate her hair cliche. 

-20: Mumbai Police still use a random method to allot cases to their policemen. 

<Cuts back to Waaji City> 

-51.8: Everytime we cut back to Waaji City, there is a new set of gangster families and their heads that we need to place within the context of the story, since all of them wear suits and have cheroots in their mouth this memory game became a little difficult. 

The FRS team as usual were innovative to brand everyone with above characteristics as villain and we went ahead with the viewing. 

-8.10: Mega Mafioso death will trigger a succession war and no one in Waaji City knows how to get hold of the wealth cliche

-18.3: Mafioso uncles will have chief economic advisor (their words not mine) but will not have proper succession plan. It’s like one legal document would have prevented this whole film

+41: Mandira Bedi is styled to look like someone from a Gautham Menon film, this we believe is a teaser for next week’s hopeful release. 

-23: Indian Music director still using BWAAANG music for any major moment in the movie without realizing that even Hollywood has moved past BWAANG! 

-95: Waaji, a city infested with gangsters will also have the best in class police tech in the world including jet based police vehicles. 

+23: Imaginative world building: director never gives the audience the time to guess the geographical locations in the movie- one second we are in a Dubai type desert city, next second rainforest, then snowy mountains. 

Buy the ticket. See the world. 

+4: Hero steals time bound tech device which everyone is after and then takes vacation with heroine all over the world. 

Because of course why not. 

+11: Vacation is photographed in great detail for future romance things, this we believe will give a boost to a sub segment in the photography economy called “couple vacation photography” 

Become a vacation photographer. See the world (with a couple). Wink Wink!

-85: That reminds us, where did the comedian Kodandam go? Missing Mumbai police is missing. #MissingInAction

+21: Hero makes punchline based on cricket so that whole of India can react to it. Masterclass. 

-50: Just when you thought you didn’t understand the complexity of the storylines, character will start to recite shloka in sanskrit. #truestory

+200: Director’s noble intention to show many movies in one single movie, I think this is a uniquely telugu director school of thought. 

Multiple storylines. Multiple characters. Multiple twists and turns. But singular focus on hero. 

Made us question if this movie is for real or like made up? 

There too director stumped us by keeping a great song in the proceedings called “unmai ethu? Poi ethu? Sollidu Anbe 

( you see we didn’t do the usual “all songs whenever wherever”, wink wink )

These directors are anticipatory genius. 

A simple feeling of watching at least 23 movies and TV shows for the price of a single ticket. 

A humbling yet exhilarating and uniquely tiring experience.

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

Subam

Team FRS

Categories
cinema

Viswasam: Run Swetha Run!

As the swivel chair spins # 2

All things logical, it shouldn’t work; but it does, big time.

A masala film is often misconstrued as a product that has something for everyone. Which is to put in a bit of action, comedy,romance and sentiment into the mix and hope for fans of these separate ingredients to savour their allotted time.

The mass masala film is the one that has the mass hero as the main ingredient and aforementioned masala components in varying quantities based on what the fans of the mass hero want and what the mass hero can actually do.

Enough of recipe type definition, boys! For the masala to work it must be cooked well and harmonize (oh how I’ve been wanting to use this word) so as to not to seem as separate elements. Yes, including our hero too.

I turned on my telly to watch Siva’s Viswasam; knowing fully what history I had with Vivegam, I did not harbour a lot of expectations but what I did have, was some Veeram to sit tight for the next adventure that Siva will take Ajith (and me) along.

This is the their best adventure yet!

Siva does very little to raise my hopes immediately, a series of drone shots establish the village setting; the hero opening or the “change-scattering” shot as it is known did not create any impact.

Yes yes, we know hero is the biggest mass in his village and everyone fears him etc. Maybe this was a job for our FRS writers after all, but wait.

Behind the thick white beard is Thooku Durai’s(Ajith Kumar) majestic smile, but even further behind the smile is a sad secret. While he goes about in slow motion solving the day to day of his near and dear, only a few know of his colourful (literal) past.

Good all this fine, get on with it! Yes yes if hero is serious in present he must have been a playful fellow in his past; this is unwritten rule.

Thankfully this flashback and bits of hero pandering that comes with it is over quicker than expected and now all we have with us is dour Thooku Durai.

We join him on a trip to Mumbai and how the movie changes gears!

<We would like to add that this is one of the  very few Tamil films featuring Mumbai that does not have any underworld don connection to it. Kudos.>

Vivegam ended up with a lot of unintended humor because of spinning a story for a mass hero outside of his milieu (yes! I used milieu!) but then how else to make an international spy thriller?

This is an eternal question, how to integrate the best of the formulas of the west and the east? It’s a question that Kamal would have asked during the making of Vikram (1986).

In Viswasam, Siva seems to have understood Vivegam’s problems and tried to keep the best of both. A sequence driven action extravaganza spearheaded by a veshti wearing valorous man.

An action set-piece around a merry go round-a horror movie invocation in the form of a bathroom fight-a cage fight-multiple chases and what not; Thooku Durai tackles them all.

Tackles them all, but not in an overpowering mass hero way. In fact the stakes keep rising with every scene for Thooku Durai, making it difficult for him to succeed.

His wife hates him. His child, Swetha doesn’t know who he is. He promises not to reveal his identity because of honour. Gets run down by a car and almost faces death and also has to keep a promise. Phew! All these have consequences in the movie.

Totally impressed as to how challenging the writing makes the movie actually worthy of a mass hero.

Not to forget, other characters are treated with respect and given something to work with and not just sing the praises of lord mass hero, the ‘villain’ and his motivations too are not paper thin.

The writing does not belittle anyone to make the hero look taller or smarter than the rest.

I’m not saying that the songs are not a problem. I’m not saying that all the comedy really works; no I won’t tell such things because I’m pretty surprised by the rest of the movie to look and comment at all of this.

I’m just saying that most of the masala mixed well!

Viswasam is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video and running in select theatres.

As the Swivel Chair Spins is a column about watching movies from home, yes that simple.

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Saamy 2 aka Saamy Square

saamy-2-46So you all know what an FRS is right? right?

+120: To director Hari.

critics have often told that he tends take things a few notches higher; Hari seems to have taken this criticism to heart and named the film as Saamy square which means that the current film is a result of multiplying the first movie by itself.

+6: Aarusaamy is back

Vikram so much looks the character that he makes it look like they are using extended footage from the first film shot 27 years ago.

(no this is not a side-reference to Vishwaroopam/Vishwaroop 2)

-10: Weather and mother nature start behaving badly when Aarusaamy gets angry 

(no this is not a side-reference to Sabu from Chacha Chaudhary comix)

-12: Just when you thought that there was not going to be any narration, there is. 

+18: Aishwarya Rajesh plays Bhuvana

the character essayed by Trisha in the original; but we did not see any “ivarukku badhil ivar types” serial credits at the start thus making it momentarily difficult.

-10: Aarusaamy has been married happily for over a year, but never has he once realized that the ultimate goal of his wife was to become an IAS officer #notcouplegoals

-70: Suddenly there are three sons of the original villain and all of them come from Srilanka,

the chief of them is even named Ravana; obviously hero name is Ramasaamy

+45.9: Bobby Simha as Ravana Pitchai is one of the best antagonist portrayals this year, he gets an accent, a signature killing move, a creepy BGM and performs even, just forget about the beard though.

-32: Cronies of Perumal Pitchai do not question the authority of the ‘newly-sprouted’ sons and not even one of them come to stake claim.

We hope that, this portion will be covered in the Netflix series called Saamy 1.5 or square root of Saamy 

-714: Movie suddenly says “28 years later”, which means movie should take place in 2032 but actually takes place in our time only. 

Alternate movie suggest: Saamy 2032 aka Saamy From the Future

{Aarusaamy Jr aka “6” is a humanoid robot in the service of Tirunelveli Police, which is now being run entirely by robots to fight crime against the ARUVA 2.0 gang (Artificial Robots Used For Violence and Arson) 

Accidentally ‘halwa’  falls in his mouth during a drug bust and 6 starts to believe that he is a human police and goes in search of true meaning; we can get Denis Villeneuve interested no?} 

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<GET ON WITH IT>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

+561: Movie suddenly becomes a supernatural police action film, even though this was totally unexpected, it blew our minds.

+327: Obsessive Hari heroes are obsessive about  transport

Ramasaamy (Vikram again after trim shaving Aarusaamy get-up) actually mugs entire flight time tables (both public and private air carriers), he is also very specific about kilometers etc; so good.

We believe the biggest beneficiaries of the Udaan scheme of the government are Hari movie heroes namely Singham and Saamy. Doing their bit to encourage aviation in tier 2 cities.

But Saamy is one step lower than Singham, who is known to recite  latitudes and longitudes of places by heart, thus making Google maps skip an update.

<Let’s cross our fingers for a Duraisingham and Ramasaamy crossover, should be in the lines of Ramasaamy becomes a rogue police official and Duraisingam is tasked to bring him in. Let’s call it Toothukudi: Civil War>

-201: Heroine is “foreign return”

Keerthy Suresh studies a one year course in human psychology from University of Liverpool, but does not realize that incessantly calling IPS officers during work times could irritate them.

-107: Heroine’s father is a politician in Delhi; but did not send her daughter to JNU for the psychology course.

Was he afraid she would become urban naxal or was cut-off too high? Many such open questions.

-21: Name of coffee shop where hero and heroine meet in Delhi is : Delhi Coffee Shop

(I mean come on guys!)

+17: Second time in the history of Tamil film where heroine comes and disturbs a training session at some military academy in the hills. Hi to GVM.

-305.2: It is 2018 and Soori still thinks getting himself hit by others is funny, but the joke is on us because he is there in every other film.

+7: Mildly funny Keerthy Suresh is mildly funny, she should be paid for comedic quotient.

<Business Model Moment>

Can we evolve a model where we can track the amount of laughter generated in comedy scenes in theatres, parameters could be wild-to-mild laughter and claps and then pay the comedians as a proportion to their success? This could be a merit based model which could motivate comedians to come up with actually funny stuff.

</Business Model Moment>

-34: All songs whenever, wherever 

+101: One killing set-piece

+50: Movie suddenly becomes Mad Max Fury Road in the Thar desert before the climax (one more surprise), but some sections of the audience were furious (FURIOSA!)  because run-time just crossed 7 hours.

+23: Hero establishes greatness of the police police force by choosing IPS over IAS; wait we have seen that…um…never mind

-5: Convenient transfer to Thirunelveli is highly convenient

+71: Ramasaamy has the President of India on his email contacts, and they CONVERSE IN CAPS!

Oh wait, there are plans to make it a sequel too. Saamy Cubism?

<All numbers are incidental and irrelevant, except the data provided by our data analytics team based out of PUNE>

Yours sincerely

Team FRS

Subam

Vanakkam

 

 

 

 

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil Movie Notes

Vishwaroopam II: Tinkered Tailored Older Spy

7

Let’s start with the ending
The thing that struck me about the first Vishwaroopam, a film for which I crossed state borders covertly to watch(much like an espionage operation) was the abruptness in the ending.


It ends with Wisam telling that there is more to the story and what we witnessed is not really ‘the end’, but it did not have the niggling hook that would keep me guessing on what the next part would explore and moreover it did not really help that Kamal himself is delivering this as exposition and not a visually striking image of say a (too use the often used) Kattappa killing Baahubali.


Even looking at the first part in a facile manner which is a spy navigating between complexities and saving the world; the film did provide enough closure.
{Bad guys plans a series of attacks on a city and a team of spies unearth and thwart the operation.}
But Vishwaroopam is not a superficial spy thriller, at least it aims to do more.

2

At the core of it all is Wisam Ahmed Kashmiri, a spy who believes in his cause someone who does not treat his license to kill as target practice and is empathetic to those he might have to kill.


Case in point is the friendship between Omar Khureshi, Salim and Wisam which takes up much of the middle of the first movie and these threads need to be addressed.
(not necessary a universal requirement, but more like universal hero’s requirement)


That brings us to Vishwaroopam II, which works more as a companion piece to the first film and not as a sequel; filling in for things that better explain the Indian spy’s motivations.


While the movie does go deeper into things that were throwaways in the first film, especially effective is Wisam’s relationship with his mother.(Waheeda Rehman in a brief role, last seen in Tamil cinema in the 1956 film Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum). Wiz temporarily returns to being Vishwanath in a teary moment dominated by Alzheimer’s (second medical ailment in the franchise after killer cancer in the Roopam I), when the movie is just about casting away the role of the dancer.


Needless to say, Kamal is on top form or is it like displaying all these nuances in half-awake mode now? The other story machinations like how Wisam became Viz are less successful, a London mission before the intermission seems like a very long stop-over before Wisam and team reach the national capital.


I love the spy films in all forms, they lend themselves to the multi dimensional entertainment, the genre comfortably accommodates modern action films like the Bourne movies, cinephile-treasures like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the wink-winks like The Kingsman, send-ups like Paul Feig’s Spy and Oscar favourites like Argo and these are only from recent memory. All of them add to and derive from the construct of the spy thriller.


Vishwaroopam II draws from all the aforementioned sub-genres and naturally the result is not a satisfying mix; for a moment it a mission-driven-race-against-the-ticking -bomb-action-film, a few scenes later it is a musing on the futility of war and even further down the run-time it is an examination of loyalty and nationalism.


There’s isn’t time for all this, boss. Omar waits with one more bomb around the corner. (A bomb around the corner would have a been a better title to this piece, #justsaying)


There simply isn’t time and it shows, the action seems too rushed and the globe-hopping locations which usually adds to the excitement and romance to these spy films here are just tailored to suit exposition dumps.


The lack of resources too very evident, with the actors limited to performing in moving cars or in an uncharacteristic hotel suite and the number of times toilets conveniently appear in this film only made me think about how constrained the production would have been ; a stark opposite to the expanse of Afghanistan which was reiterated multiple times in the first film.


As though to make up for all the above, there are genuine fun sequences in the film and director Kamal draws me in with a cracker of a title sequence which is a crash course of things past in freeze time played to new version of Nyagabagam Varugiradha.

The story is also in the telling, the nonlinearity is intact and Wisam still gets to sweat about his past. Packed with multiple “woohoo!” moments and timely call-backs to the first film (Namaz panna poriya!). In Kamal’s world even a blood splatter can dissolve into a map.

5

But Omar bhai takes precedence over everything and Rahul Bose is absolutely fantastic as the villain who thinks he is the hero and wait a minute, he isn’t even in the movie till the third act.


I loved how the movie returned to the outrageous-ness of Roopam I, when he came back on screen giving Wisam something really challenging to work with, because until then Wisam was just putting bureaucrats in place with his wit.


Yes yes, I also know that the movie tries to deal with larger issues like how education is important, how war creates more problems than it can solve etc, how nationalism cannot be ‘instilled’ etc but OK this is not the blog site for all that boring stuff.

But this is the kind-off blog which will stand-up and applaud at the inane moment of the villain’s glass eye popping out and rolling on the streets of Delhi. Movies like these are hard to come by and need to be savoured probably with steaming jilebis.

Good luck Wisam! Hat-tip to Munnavar!

3