Black Mass – an awesome watch!!!

johnny-depp-black-mass-unrecognizable-as-gangster-ftr     whitey-big

So saying that Johnny Depp is genius is understating things. From all his Tim Burton dark movies to playing Jack Sparrow & Willie Wonka to being the voice of ‘Rango’, there’s almost nothing he’s not excelled at. Him playing Jimmy ‘Whitey’ Bulger sits right at the top of that list. How an actor can go from Jack Sparrow to THIS is beyond me. There are some fabulous actors out there, but (apart from Daniel Day Lewis), i do not know an actor better than Johnny Depp who can play / has played so much variety with so much ease. Pure genius.

The stories of Irish-Catholic-South-Boston are a plenty. We saw one kind as a Good Will Hunting and another kind as ‘The Departed’ and a third kind as ‘Gone Baby Gone’ or ‘The Town’. Black Mass is yet another kind of story.

The story is real and a testament to the adage ‘truth is stranger than fiction’. The screenplay is fantastic. To take 10 years of a town and portray them through the life of one of the area’s most ruthless crime-lords is absolutely fantastic. The dialogues are really really good too.

The film looks stunning visually. it has the right amount of dirt, grime and dark to bring out the character of the lead character. Production Design is fabulous. I really don’t know if South Boston has still not changed so they are able to shoot there even today like its 1975, or it has changed and they just do an outstanding job of recreating it on screen. Whatever it may be, the film just looks so realistically made.

Background score is, as exected, mininal, and effective.

Director Scott Cooper delivers fabulously well. He was decent in ‘A Crazy Heart’. Was pretty good in ‘Out of the Furnace’ and has now taken himself to a whole new level with Black Mass.

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Performances are out-bloody-standing. Johnny Depp is perfect. Joel Edgerton is almost as good. So are all the other stellar supporting cast. Benedict Cumberbatch is really good too but that wasn’t the best casting call. In an otherwise perfectly cast film, this kinda stuck out.

All-in-all, Black Mass is great dark crime-drama. Probably one of Depp’s all-time-great performances!!!

The Intern – an excellent latently non-superficial film!

So, about 30 mins into the movie, you wonder why this film needed two powerhouse actors like Anne Hathaway & Robert DeNiro, coz there’s been nothing so far in the film that suggests anything radical or deep that the filmmaker is trying to say through the actors or that the movie itself has any major gravitas. It comes across like a middle of the road workplace comedy. Exactly 30 mins later, you realise why these two were needed and you end up applauding the talent of Nancy Myers. You remember Father of the Bride I & II, What Women Want, Its complicated and realise that those films were massive hits for good reason. Coz that’s what The Intern is. It talks about a whole range of modern day issues of feminism, sexism, age-ism, professionalism, ambition & love and does it all through pretty great humour in a modern-day startup workplace environment. And the best part is – nothing is cliche. Leaves you with a fabulous experience overall.

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Coming to the film per-se. The writing is pretty good. A little too much time in setup I guess, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. Screenplay is tight. Dialogues are fantastic.

Visually, the film looks great. Cinematography, Editing, VFX, finishing – all very slick.

Sound Design is fabulously minimal. Lots of silences!

Production design is extra special. The workplace, the residences, everything is really well done – neither OTT, nor too dark.

Overall kudos to Nancy Myers for directing all of this just right.

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Coming to the performances – they are OUTSTANDING. DeNiro & Hathaway are in 99% of the film and carry it off perfectly. The others support well, especially Anders Holm & Rene Russo.

Watching movies like this, one can only hope that eventually the age-ing stars of Indian cinema will too start to do such roles along-side / opposite the young rising stars of the day. That way we’ll have a even greater spectrum of movies than the ones we do already!!!

Gujjubhai the Great – Awesome entertainment!

Gujjubhai the Great – Awesome Entertainment!!!

So there’s good Indian films and then there’s bad Indian films. Then there’s that part of the industry that makes films that are so bad & so low that their aim is to rise up to the level of the bad films. Till about about 5-6 years ago, that’s where the Gujarati film industry was. Films were being made on HDV cameras, with religion, sex and action as pretty much the only themes. There were like 20-25 films being made and most of them were so just so that the state-cash-subsidy could be availed. I have actually heard stories of people putting cameras in theatres showing Hollywood action / car chase films to shoot the content and insert that exact footage in their own films with no concept of continuity or no sense of guilt, just so that they could have a completed 120 min film and claim subsidy from the state.
Cut from all that to 2014-15. The longest running film in theatres in Mumbai in 2015 was a Gujarati film called ‘Bey Yaar’ which ran for a record 45 weeks (WOW!). The industry is looking up and perky. There’s hope. Gujjus (who will finance almost anything that is a business) are looking at this as the next strong business opportunity, going beyond the ‘subsidy’ revenue model.

‘Gujjubhai the Great’ is the next step in the evolution of the Gujju film industry. A mainstream sitcom-themed laugh riot of a film!

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The essence of the film is the writing. It clearly comes from people who have a good understanding of storytelling. There are multiple storylines, multiple characters, multiple plots and yet, they all come together fabulously. The story is a little like how the writing for stage-plays is, which is natural since the film is based on a highly successful Gujarati stage-play series around the ‘Gujjubhai’ brand / concept. The screenplay makes full use of the cinematic medium and delivers a good film. The father-son writing combination of Siddharth Randeria (story) & Ishaan Randeria​ (screenplay) is fantastic. The senior Randeria is a Gujarati stage doyen doing an average of 600 stage performances a year. The junior Randeria is an Direction alumni of Whistling Woods and has been one of our brighter students. It clearly shows that between them there’s loads of talent.

Visually the film is awesome. DoP Himanshu Dubey does a fabulous job to make the film look slick. The secret weapon of the film are the VFX, which were supervised by another Whistling Woods alumni – Zenish Mehta. The best VFX are the ones which are not visible. This film is a clear example of that concept. Editing is very crisp, keeping the pace tight.

The music is actually really good, and doesn’t look forced into the film. Background score is a little OTT, but that’s how sit-coms are supposed to be.

The sound design is really good and adds value to the film. I was pleasantly surprised to see a film that is so well dubbed. Its so good that its impossible to tell that it was not shot in sync-sound. Well done to the sound boys – Suraj Bardia, Yatrik Dave & Vaibhav Ambole – this is their first feature film and they’ve rocked it!

Production values of the film are fantastic. And to have achieved all this in the budget that they did is testament to the jugaadu-ness of Indians…

Kudos to Director Ishaan Randeria to take all this – his dad’s legacy & talent as a writer, his own talent & training as a writer-director and all the other talents of the actors & technicians and make this film. A job seriously well done!

Coming to the performances. They are top-notch. Siddharth Randeria is almost in each & every frame of the film and does a fantastic job. Jimit Tridevi does really well too as the good-hearted simpleton hero. Nearly everyone else supports well, including the female lead actor – Dipna Patel (glamorous enough). Special mention of Sunil Vishrani as the cop.

All-in-all, Gujjubhai the Great is a must-see. No matter whether you understand Gujarati or not – you will be thoroughly entertained!!!

P.S. Am super thrilled that there are so many Whistling Woods alumni who’re responsible for this film being what it is – writer-director Ishaan Randeria, VFX Supervisor – Zenish.A. Mehta​, Audiographers – Suraj Bardia​, Yatrik Dave​ & Vaibhav Ambole​. All of you make us so proud!

P.P.S – Am super thrilled also as almost all the highly successful Gujarati films in the past 3-4 years have emerged from the Whistling Woods​ alumni stables – Kevi Rite Jaish & Bey yaar the film​ by Abhishek Jain​ & Amit Desai​, Happy Family Pvt Ltd by Raghuvir Joshi​ & Anand Doshi​ and now this!