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The Movie Report
Archive
March 2012

#659 - 662
March 2, 2012 - March 30, 2012


all movies are graded out of four stars (****)

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#662 March 30, 2012 by Michael Dequina

M O V I E S

The Last Fall poster The Last Fall ***
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The main character of Matthew A. Cherry's debut feature The Last Fall, Kyle Bishop (Lance Gross), can indeed be counted as part of the curtain- and eyebrow-raising statistic about professional football players taken from the pages of Sports Illustrated: 78% are divorced, bankrupt, or unemployed within two years after leaving the game. The latter two apply to Kyle, who, as the film opens, is cut from his latest squad, and having already journeyed through various cities and across various teams in various inconsequential capacities, he gets a rude awakening that at only 25, his dream career has come to an end. With no money and nowhere to go, he retreats back to his mother's (Vanessa Bell Calloway) house as he struggles to figure out his next move--or, more importantly, figure out who exactly he truly is.

That last point underscores just how well that opening stat sets the stage for the film beyond a simple plot application. If there is one unifying thread for the entire film, it's neither football nor sports in general, but the shattering of illusions. In terms of the characters of that come into Kyle's orbit and the viewing audience itself, Cherry debunks the widely held notion that all pro athletes have wealthy livelihoods and lead glamorous lives; Kyle's situation reflects the workaday majority for whom playing sports for a paycheck is a dream but, at the end of a day, a job. That reality is the crux of Kyle's predicament: he had a dream, worked his entire life to achieve it, and accordingly was blessed to live it, albeit not in exactly the most idealized fashion. But generally no one ever comes to think about needing to do anything after the dream, and having been so identified by it for so long--by others and himself--Kyle falls into a state of limbo even more internal than external, confronted with the task of once and for all defining himself apart from what it is that he does.

Cherry doesn't follow the obvious nor easy directions that would follow that set-up. The return home would suggest a clichéd "rejuvenating rediscovery of roots" arc, but going back proves to be a necessary step not so much to regress back to basics than to witness how those close to him have been able to progress and evolve beyond what had been familiar to him. His mother is living the active dating life of a mature single woman; his kid sister (Yaani King) is in the growing pains of becoming a young adult; and, to his greatest surprise, Faith Davis (Nicole Beharie), the high school sweetheart he abandoned in favor of gridiron glory, is now a single mom. The reconnected relationship between Kyle and Faith best exemplifies Cherry's sensitive, complex, and realistic approach to the film as a whole. While there is that genuine warmth and affection that comes with longtime familiarity, there's also a certain tentativeness, particularly on her end. Not only is she in a different space in her life, she is secure in that--and with the recognition and understanding that he is not in his own similar place of security, she can enjoy these new moments with him for what they are, without any grand expectations. For Kyle, his desire to make amends and start anew with her is complicated, if not contradicted, by his continued expectation that the dream of the pro baller can and will still continue.

That sense of suspended animation appropriately informs Cherry's approach to the entire film. It's a very introspective story for all of the characters, and accordingly the pace is fairly slow and the tone is generally quite subdued. With histrionics kept to a minimum--even in the comparatively bigger dramatic moments--it is that much more up to the actors to engage the audience, and Cherry's trust in them proves to be well placed. Gross displays a heretofore unseen depth and piercing subtlety to match his natural charisma, Kyle's existential anguish vividly coming through in his expressive stillness. Every bit his match is the luminous Beharie, whose Faith is equal parts romantic vulnerability and intelligent, independent strength; their chemistry is all the more believable and affecting because it is so effortless and elegantly understated. That also applies to all those surrounding them, to whom Cherry is generous enough to give moments to shine, whether they be key supporting players such as Calloway and Keith David as Kyle's parents or a briefly seen football contemporary of Kyle's (Sinorice Moss), who has a disarming scene that poignantly reflects not only Kyle's situation but more or less that of anyone simply trying to do their best for themselves and their loved ones.

And that's where Cherry excels with The Last Fall: placing the viewer intimately into the mind and heart of its protagonist and painting an equally detailed and absorbing portrait of his life and those who inhabit it. If there is some awkwardness in the more plot-driven mechanics, such as some contrivances involving Faith's son's father (Darrin Dewitt Henson, doing good work in the story's weakest element) and some exposition that is not always the most gracefully integrated into the fabric of the dialogue, the film more than compensates with the richness of its characterization and Cherry's distinct, assured voice--one that will surely be heard even more loudly in the years to come.


In Brief

Agent Vinod poster Agent Vinod ***
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With all of its promotional art featuring star/producer Saif Ali Khan stylishly clad in a tuxedo, gun in hand, it's hard not to think of James Bond going into Sriram Raghavan's spy thriller. With a big action scene set in an exotic locale (here, Afghanistan) kicking off the proceedings before an animated main title theme sequence, Raghavan appears to openly invite the comparison--all the better to then subvert audience expectations. Once Khan's title character officially embarks on a globetrotting search for a doomsday device before it falls into the wrong hands, he almost immediately engages in most un-007 behavior: flagrantly flirting with a man as part of a mission plan--and not in a cartoony, comical way, either. So goes the overall rather unexpectedly sober tone for this adventure, which is more in line with the grit of the Bourne series than the bounce of Bond, from the largely grounded action set pieces to normally affable Khan's generally stern demeanor. The Hindi popular cinema tropes with more down and dirty style doesn't always mesh: Raghavan's pacing is a bit too slack in order to meet the Bollywood-bloated run time of 152 minutes, especially for this genre; and ever-lightweight leading lady Kareena Kapoor not shockingly proves every bit as ill suited for the part of a mystery woman of shifting, possibly shifty, motives as she is for any dance number (once again, the choreography for a potentially terrific musical number was obviously dumbed down to meet her meager skill set). But the mix of flavors works more often than not, and when it does, sometimes spectacularly, as in a climactic, extended single-take gunfight that's a bravura showcase for fluidly symbiotic camera movement and action choreography. (Special thanks to Eros Entertainment and Naz8 Cinemas)


The Hunger Games poster The Hunger Games (PG-13) ***
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Gary Ross's much-hyped and equally anticipated film adaptation of Suzanne Collins's young adult literature sensation is a reasonably entertaining science fiction action drama--yet one cannot help but feel a bit (bad pun intended) hungry for something beyond merely good, for the elements are certainly in place for a harder hitting film that could have approached genre greatness. The central conceit about a government-sanctioned annual tournament where two dozen randomly selected youths must hunt and kill each other until only one survives isn't exactly an original one, but it is dressed up in an intriguing and relevantly allegorical way: the games are transmitted to the masses in the mythical nation of Panem as a most grotesque three-way mating between straightforward sport, sensationalistic reality television competitions, and creepy kid beauty pageants. Ross takes his time to get down to the actual competition, savoring the shallow circus of the build-up as heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteers as competitor for her impoverished coal mining home of District 12 in place of her beloved younger sister Primrose (Willow Shields) , learns from various handlers (including Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, and an especially terrific Woody Harrelson) the ins and outs and importance of crafting an image that will appeal to the privileged people of the Capitol, where Lady Gaga-esque glam-rock-riffing flamboyance isn't an eccentricity but the mainstream norm. As the film is in progress, it's easy to get impatient and clamor for Ross to cut to the proverbial and literal chase already.

But once the titular games do begin, it becomes clear why he drags his feet: he simply and quite obviously isn't nearly as interested nor invested in the gritty action hook as he is in that larger, colorful, cartoonish, satirically media-saturated and image-obsessed universe in which it takes place. As such, even being targeted for a young adult audience, for such a dark premise and its potential to drive home even more powerful and provocative points on not only senseless brutality but the voracious consumption of it as schadenfraude-fueled entertainment for detached, bystanding masses, what should be the meat of the film feels strangely pulled-punches safe. Little weight is given to the slaughter of the largely anonymous group of competitors and no overwhelming sense of palpable danger for Katniss, fellow District 12 competitor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), nor anyone given more than a line or a second of screen time, mirroring in a way how she spends most of the game merely turning the other way and evading her opponents to buy time and get the thing over with. That the big climax leans heavily on some poorly rendered CGI creature creations points up how Ross simply goes through the perfunctory notions with that side of the material.

However, what Ross clearly cares about are the most important elements when thinking of a larger film franchise, which makes the film hold interest even when his too obviously flags: the characters and the universe as a whole, which he paints with the care and conviction not as present in the competition arena. Key to this is the spot-on casting, from the ever-impressive Lawrence, always so vividly, eloquently expressive with a minimum dialogue; to the more veteran cast members (in addition to Banks and Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and a high-camp, high-entertainment Stanley Tucci), who clearly relish the chance to cut loose in such quirky to straight-up weird secondary characters. Ross and the design team extend the actors' personality into the visual realm, from the insane costumes and makeup to the sleekly overwrought design of the Capitol as a whole. The conclusion of the film points to the next installment refocusing its action from the literal combat arena to the larger one of Panem as a whole, and whatever rough patches and shortcomings this first film has, that by the end I was indeed interested in seeing what happens next speaks to how Ross got it mostly right.


Mirror Mirror poster Mirror Mirror (PG) ***
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While not as radical in concept as the upcoming Charlize Theron/Kristen Stewart kick-ass action-adventure version of the classic Snow White tale (or, for that matter, the dark, violent, underseen 1997 gem Snow White: A Tale of Terror), this more family-friendly film is not exactly a straight-laced retelling either, but a more quirkily comedic take--though, admittedly, not quite as outrageous as the presence of director Tarsem Singh would suggest. Granted, the costume designs (by Tarsem's late, great regular collaborator Eiko Ishioka), most especially during one costume ball sequence, are as deliriously over-the-top and off-the-wall as one would expect and hope; and there is some inventive swordfight action choreography involving the seven dwarves on stilts. But the film overall falls into a gently, safely satiric "Shrek Lite" vibe as the wicked queen (Julia Roberts) schemes to rid herself of her ever so fair, ever so unwanted stepdaughter Snow White (Lily Collins). Such light comedy is right in the Roberts wheelhouse, and she clearly relishes the chance to flex her proven timing while inhabiting a villainous character, not having been this much fun to watch in years; surprisingly matching her beat for comedic beat is a very game Armie Hammer as the charming prince; and while she's saddled with the thankless straight-person part, Collins is spunky and appropriately luminous and has appealing chemistry with Hammer. This cheery confection is best summed up by the Bollywood style closing credits musical number, which is high-spirited but just a hair or two shy of completely cutting loose.


The Raid poster The Raid (Redemption) (R) **** blog article
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There isn't a whole lot more than only action beats in the Indonesian import The Raid (ridiculously saddled with the completely irrelevant and illogical subtitle Redemption for the U.S. release)--which is precisely one of the reasons why it's highly doubtful, if downright unthinkable, anyone will see a better cinematic adrenaline rush this entire year. It's easy to dismiss writer/director Gareth Huw Evans's story as being threadbare, which it is--police raid a run-down apartment building serving as a safe haven for all sorts of unsavory types, aiming take it floor by floor, almost video game style, before finally confronting the big boss at the top. But it proves to be a more than sturdy enough line to hang an ever-intensifying crescendo of mayhem that, to Evans's sure to be overlooked credit, there is major method to his madness in how the type of action organically progresses from bullet barrage gunfight battles to--once all the ammo has been used up and then some--bloody blade butchery to, finally, down and dirty hand-to-hand martial arts, and the choreography by Evans and star (and global superstar in waiting) Iko Uwais is brutal and breathtaking, as are the shootouts--so rare is it to see both those worlds of action handled so well in the same film. The emotional angle, with cop Uwais on a personal mission to get his estranged brother out of the building and the criminal life, is a bit perfunctory but is handled well enough and crucially never pushed/forced to the point of annoyance or distraction from what's most important, which is the relentless rush of action, which for all its appropriately chaotic energy is always coherently shot and edited. That even after no less than three viewings the energy jolt and excitement doesn't lose any of its visceral charge--and, actually, it only increases admiration for just how well Evans put it all together--is a sure sign that not only is this one emma effing hell of a thrill ride, but one emma effing hell of a great achievement in filmmaking.


Wrath of the Titans poster Wrath of the Titans (PG-13) **
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With every frame filled with billowing smoke, fog, or mist and/or windswept ash, sand, dust, and other debris, and never neglecting any opportunity for the camera to swoop through labyrinths both figurative and literal, Wrath of the Titans makes damn sure that you notice that unlike its predecessor, the 2010 reworking of Clash of the Titans, the utmost care went into this film's post-production conversion into 3D. If only director Jonathan Liebesman and writers Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson paid at least a modicum of that attention to the story than they did on showy spectacle. Granted, this is an action fantasy sequel, and so effects-heavy mayhem goes with the territory in following our stalwart hero Perseus (Sam Worthington, sporting a full head of demigod-worthy locks this time) as he attempts to rescue divine daddy Zeus (Liam Neeson) from the underworld prison of Tartarus before titan Kronos escapes and destroys the world as they know it. For all the talk of the end of existence, the film feels devoid of any urgency or tension, much less soul; while there are certainly some diverting action sequences and all of the CGI work is impressive--as is the 3D conversion this time--the interest solely lies from that technical angle, not from a story or character standpoint, which is no small problem when dealing with Iconic Mythical Characters in an Epic Adventure. Similarly, the actors appear only engaged enough to simply get the job done: returning stars Worthington, Neeson, and Ralph Fiennes (as Hades) go through the green screen motions, and the newly installed actors playing Ares (Edgar Ramirez) and Andromeda (Rosamund Pike, looking way too clean and fashion shoot-ready throughout) don't add much, making one wonder why they bothered recasting in the first place.


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#661 March 16, 2012 by Michael Dequina

M O V I E S
In Brief

Kahaani poster Kahaani (Story) ***
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Vidya Balan follows up her justly celebrated turn in last year's The Dirty Picture with another memorable performance, this time as a very pregnant woman from London wandering the streets of Kolkata in a desperate search to find her husband, who has seemingly disappeared without a trace. While various figures, most prominently a helpful junior police officer (Parambrata Chatterjee, holding his own against Balan--no small feat), fall into Balan's path in her seemingly futile quest, this is essentially a one-woman show for the above-the-title-billed star, and what a show it is. At once a paragon of steely determination, heartbreaking vulnerability, and even sometimes questionable sanity, Balan is never less than captivating and convincing, lending instant, unquestioned credulity to some of director Sujoy Ghosh's (who co-wrote with Suresh Nair, Nikhil Vyas, and Ritesh Shah) more formulaic thriller twists. For the most part, though, Ghosh wisely stays out of his lead's way, ably supporting her terrific turn by building an appropriately bustling, dangerous, and rather exciting Kolkata cityscape in which for her to explore and investigate. (special thanks to Viacom 18 and Naz8 Cinemas)


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#660 March 9, 2012 by Michael Dequina

M O V I E S
In Brief

Ekk Deewana Tha poster London Paris New York poster Ekk Deewana Tha (There Was a Crazy Guy) (PG) **
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London Paris New York (PG-13) ** 1/2
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For its first three entries into the Hindi/Indian film marketplace, Fox has built a bit of a reputation of producing darker, grittier fare, such as last year's pair of edgy crime thrillers Dum Maaro Dum and Force; even their first effort, 2010's My Name Is Khan, was far more gravely serious than writer/director/producer Karan Johar's previous films. The year 2012 finds the studio going aggressively in the opposite with not one, but two more conventional romantic films.

Indian film romances don't come more traditional on paper than Ekk Deewana Tha, which not only has our hero, aspiring filmmaker Sachin (Prateik), fall in love with upstairs neighbor Jessie (Amy Jackson) at first sight, but also indulge in the distinctly Indian film hero trope of stalking his object of affection/desire into submission, as it were. There are, of course, complications: the primary one appears to be the fact that she's a Malayalee Christian and he a Hindu, but the greatest turn out to be their youthful quirks and insecurities. This is actually writer-director Gauthav Vasudev Menon's third go-round with this story--he originally made both the Tamil language Vennaithaadi Varuvaayaa (Will You Cross the Skies for Me?) and an alternate Telugu language version with a different cast and ending, Ye Maaya Chesave (What Magic Have You Done to Me?), in 2010--and in apparently trying to keep this material fresh for himself he didn't bother to make it appealing for those experiencing it the first time. It takes very careful casting to make this story work and, more importantly, to make these characters relatable and sympathetic, what with her flighty, frustrating fickleness and his naive, stubborn sense of entitlement, and Menon's choice of fairly new faces for this version of the film not only backfires but proves to be a ruinous obstacle. After thus far tackling fairly unconventional roles in often even more unconventional films in his relatively short career, this marks Prateik's first stab at an earnest, singing and dancing Bollywood romantic lead. While he remains likable here, he never looks completely comfortable, looking especially clenched in his dance numbers. Jackson has even greater challenge, she being a British Caucasian model/actress, and though she has a certain dark, exotic beauty for an Anglo à la Catherine Zeta-Jones, between the layers of bronzer applied to her person and the awkward Hindi voice dubbing, she never once convinces as a simple Indian girl, nor does she ever come off as older than Sachin, as it is scripted (Jackson was barely 20 during filming--and it shows). The chemistry that could compensate for any individual awkwardness never materializes, and thus a swooningly gorgeous A.R. Rahman score (which, except for one song, is adapted from the two previous incarnations of the film) is put to shameful waste.

More successful--and perhaps, not coincidentally, slightly more unusual--is London Paris New York. While debutante writer-director Anu Menon covers typical beats in the love story of Nikhil (Ali Zafar) and Lalitha (Aditi Rao Hydari): the initial meet cute; the push-pull between the roguish guy and the less receptive girl; the gradual, eventual thaw. But that actually only covers the first act in London, as Menon ultimately covers a total of seven years during which the pair also catches up in the latter two cities. Despite the epic time and geographic scope and an expectedly generous helping of song and dance (Zafar also wrote the music and lyrics, in addition to performing, the songs), this is remarkably streamlined for a Bollywood film: it clocks in at an astonishingly lean 100 minutes, with the central couple being basically the only characters of the entire piece, and their conversations largely making up the entire plot. (That, plus the postcard-ready backdrops, makes the film at times more than slightly recall Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.) Unfortunately, though, the key phrase is "largely making up the entire plot," for Menon's more contrived plotting elements, particularly in the film's later stages, break any magic woven by her and Ritu Bhatia's engaging dialogue or the sweet rapport between her likable leads, in whom she should have had more trust to carry the day. (Special thanks to Naz8 Cinemas)


Good for Nothing poster Good for Nothing (R) ***
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Initially, this New Zealand-produced western looks and feels no different from standard homegrown oaters, what with a standard, simple premise of a British damsel (Inge Rademeyer, who also produced) being kidnapped by an outlaw with no name (Cohen Holloway) not long after she arrives in the wild west. But once the cowboy attempts to seal the deal with his conquest and fails to--yes--rise to the occasion, the more dryly eccentric personality of director Mike Wallis's film becomes more apparent, with the cowboy's pursuit of a cure for his dysfunction bearing just as much weight as the woman's struggle to escape his clutches. Such a conceit is naturally in constant danger of becoming overly silly and one-note, but Wallis and his lead pair play the proceedings with such deadpan earnestness that makes for an off-kilter energy that is often quite funny and, more importantly, consistently engaging. Wallis doesn't exactly reinvent the genre here--there are the expected gunfights and horse chases to go with its more unusual horseplay--but such an overall appealing amusement is most certainly not good for nothing.


Silent House poster Silent House (R) **
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The main selling point for directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau's horror film is its gimmicky stylistic approach: its entire 85-minute run time is not only told in real time, it is made to look one single, uninterrupted shot--and there really is no discernible story nor character reason for it in this tale of a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) who gets haunted by things that go bump in her run-down old family summer home. Taken directly from the 2010 Uruguayan horror film of the same name, the style seems less of an "artistic" decision and more of a self-imposed, show-offy challenge for the filmmakers as the camera encounters, dodges, and hides from shady shapes and figures up and down the three floors of the house and around its surrounding lakeside premises. Kentis and Lau indeed pull off the impressive technical feat, which is what the film as a whole comes off as, nothing more, despite the even more impressive work of Olsen, who works overtime--and largely succeeds--in getting the audience to at least share in her constant state of paranoia and fear if not exactly sympathize with a character that is wholly defined for much of the film by said frightened state. Such is the threadbare script by Lau, who apparently was too concerned with pulling off the seemingly seamless feature-length shot to realize how clumsily and obviously she telegraphs certain key plot reveals. That said, as a study in the mechanics of both cleverly fluid camera work and how an actor can singlehandedly make something out of virtually nothing to work with, it's worth a look, but only that.


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#659 March 2, 2012 by Michael Dequina

M O V I E S
In Brief

Good Deeds poster Ek Main aur Ekk Tu poster Tyler Perry's Good Deeds (PG-13) ***
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Ek Main aur Ekk Tu (One Me and One You) ***
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D V D / B L U - R A Y

All Things Fall Apart poster All Things Fall Apart (R)
Movie: ***
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One thing Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson can never be accused of is not being seriously dedicated to whatever he decides to tackle--in music, general business, and, yes, movies. This Mario Van Peebles-directed drama is the best evidence yet of that fact, and not simply due to its most talked-about aspect: to play a top college football player whose dreams of NFL glory are dashed by the sudden onset of cancer, Jackson sacrificed his famously pumped-up physique and underwent a staggering weight loss of 50-plus pounds. While he indeed fully immerses himself into the lead part, acquitting himself well both as the charismatic, self-absorbed sports star and the vulnerable, broken-in-every-way shell of a man he becomes, his most impressive achievement comes as producer and co-writer (with Brian Miller). A legal issue led to the word "all" being appended to the film's original title, and the modified moniker better reflects the film and the primary reason why it works as unexpectedly well as it does. The ordeal suffered by Jackson's Deon Barnes is certainly the central concern, but the film is also very much about the impact his illness has on those in orbit. "All things fall apart" indeed as the family's one-time sure thing meal ticket becomes the source of financial strain, fraying the relationship between Deon's mother (Lynn Whitfield) and stepfather (Van Peebles himself); and further tension develops between Deon and his younger, more reserved brother Sean (Cedric Sanders), who long lived in Deon's flashier, more charismatic shadow. Jackson and Miller are remarkably generous in writing fully realized supporting parts, and Whitfield, Van Peebles, and Sanders rise to the occasion, delivering poignant work; even the designated comic relief provided by Mike P.'s wisecracking turn as Deon's best friend June emerges in an unforced fashion and never outstays its welcome. Formulaic disease-of-the-week movie notes are not entirely avoided, and Ray Liotta is the one formidable acting resource wasted in the thankless role of Deon's doctor, but the sincerity of Jackson and Van Peebles's execution convinces, and this quietly affecting work bodes well for the musician-turned-mogul's future creative endeavors for his Cheetah Vision Films banner.

Given the hubbub surrounding Jackson's physical transformation for the film, a commentary by him and/or Van Peebles or even some sort of behind the scenes featurette would have been welcome, but the DVD's sole extra is the film's trailer, which is heavy on football and sells the surprisingly solid dramatic material short.

DVD specifications: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; English 5.1 Surround; English and Spanish subtitles. (One Village Entertainment/Image Entertainment)


Players DVD Players full movie review
Movie: ** 1/2
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F. Gary Gray's hit 2003 take on The Italian Job, gets a Bollywood makeover (completely authorized and official at that; the earlier film and its screenplay gets its due screen credit here) with Players, and famed "director duo" Abbas-Mustan do deserve some due for attempting a balance between faithfulness to the source film (hello, Mini Coopers!) and their own distinctive stamp on the material--not only in terms of grafting on Indian film conventions but also in infusing their trademark (as the trailers put it) "thriller style." Unfortunately, the results are far more interesting in theory than in practice. The ingredients are there for this to work: the plot-driving heist has been rather cleverly transplanted from Italy to Russia; Abbas-Mustan has assembled a capable cast including the likes of Abhishek Bachchan (in the Mark Wahlberg role), Sonam Kapoor (in Charlize Theron's), Neil Nitin Mukesh (in Edward Norton's), Bipasha Basu, and Bobby Deol (the latter two in original roles); and Pritam has reliably composed some catchy dance tunes. But post-intermission, when even the production design starts to get as obnoxiously overblown as some of the performances (Mukesh's in particular) and forced comic and would-be emotional beats, the film flies way over the top in a manner far less fun than it is simply distracting. Clearly Abbas-Mustan, with the additional turns they pack on top of the original film's existing ones, were trying to recreate the deliciously trashy magic of their last film, 2008's tawdry, twisty, compulsively watchable global box office smash Race, but some moderation in all respects would have been more thrilling.

Despite the abundance of talent in front of and behind the camera, Players was not able to break the "curse" of Bollywood's first release of the year, and the film was a surprising box office failure during its theatrical release in January. As such, the DVD is quite slim in terms of extras, its sole special feature being the brief(only slightly over three minutes) "Song Making: Desi Beat," which covers the shooting of Basu's sexy "Ho Gayi Tun" number. Curiously missing, though, are the music videos for the songs "Jis Jagah Pe Khatam (Players Theme)" and "Dil Ye Bekarar Kyun Hai," neither of which officially feature in the final film but appear on the soundtrack album and were heavily used on television and on the Internet to promote the film in the run up to the theatrical release.

Specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; Hindi 5.1 Surround; Hindi Dolby Surround; English, Arabic, and Dutch subtitles. (Viacom 18 Motion Pictures/Viva Entertainment)


Ra.One Blu-ray Ra.One DVD Ra.One full movie review
Movie: ***
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Like any FX-laden Hollywood action extravaganza, director Anubhav Sinha's Bollywood science fiction spectacular Ra.One's best home entertainment showcase is on Blu-ray, and high definition reinforces just how well this film holds up technically against the Hollywood blockbuster ilk, not only in terms of the impressive visual effects but the rich sound design by Slumdog Millionaire Oscar winner Resul Pookutty, not to mention the memorable tunes by Vishal and Shekhar. (Again, it's downright shameful that they weren't submitted for Oscar consideration.) An unexpected bonus comes in the audio options; unlike most Indian films that are dubbed into different regional dialects, the alternate Tamil and Telugu audio tracks are included here and not released on their own separate editions. While it is of course optimal to view the film in its original spoken language (in this case, Hindi), it's an atypical and most welcome convenience, not to mention it also gives viewers the chance to view the song numbers in their alternate language versions.

As is the established Eros Entertainment norm, one must turn to the standard DVD edition for the bulk of the extras, which are included on a second bonus disc exclusive to that release. While most of the included documentary featurettes, listed under the prosaic umbrella headings "Film Making" and "Song Making," are EPK-style segments that were released for the film's theatrical release last fall, they are informative (the main making-of feature clocks in at a packed 32 minutes), well assembled, and entertaining--most especially the segment on the recording of Akon's soundtrack contributions, in which the Grammy nominee's stalwart dedication to immersing himself completely into the Hindi film music world and aesthetic becomes all the more admirable and impressive. Two additional featurettes are included outside of those general categories: one, a four-minute segment on star/producer Shahrukh Khan's tour across India to launch the trailer; the other, eight minutes of roughly assembled B-roll from the film's premiere in London. Five unsubtitled minutes of inessential deleted scenes round out the supplement disc.

Blu-ray specifications: H.264 AVC, 1920x1080 24psf, 16:9 widescreen; Hindi 5.1 DTS; Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu 5.1 Surround; English and Arabic subtitles. DVD specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu 5.1 Surround; Hindi Dolby Surround; English and Arabic subtitles. (Eros Entertainment)


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