Anupama Chopra's review: Agent Vinod

There is enough to admire in Agent Vinod. Writer-director Sriram Raghavan’s globe-trotting tale of a RAW agent ticks off all the boxes for a thriller franchise: There are at least half a dozen exotic locations (we start in a place aptly named the Desert of Death in Afghanistan and touch down in various locales including Morocco, Moscow, Riga and Somalia), several femme fatales, elaborate action, an assortment of villains and a suitcase bomb that sets the events in motion.
At the centre of this whirlwind is the agent himself — stylish, sardonic and smart — a man without the baggage of Jason Bourne or the swagger of the pre-Daniel Craig James Bond. Agent Vinod, played nicely by Saif Ali Khan, is a home-grown hero.  Cool and efficient, he maintains his dry wit even in difficult times — so when his partner the Pakistani operative Iram Parveen Bilal, played by Kareena Kapoor, is weeping as they drive through Karachi because she’s returned home after 15 years, he curtly says: Yaadon ki Baraat ko disturb karne ke liye sorry. 
Raghavan is a masala movie buff, and one of the hidden pleasures of watching his films is playing Spot the Reference. Here, he doffs his hat to several Bollywood hits, including the original Agent Vinod (incredibly, gang members here also maintain scorpion tattoos, like in the Mahendra Sandhu film), the original Don, Baazigar, Amar Akbar Anthony and, for good measure, Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.  He also has a sly sense of humour and a robust talent that comes through in some sequences like the treatment of the song Raabta, which is absolute genius.
But when I walk into a film called Agent Vinod, what I want, more than anything else, is an adrenalin rush. The breathlessness that kicks in when you’re watching Ethan Hunt hang off the Burj Khalifa building in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol or the staggering hyper-realistic chase sequences in any of the Bourne movies or gritty action of the new Bond films. Agent Vinod doesn’t deliver on that. This is a frantically busy movie. There are so many locations, characters and twists that you are guaranteed to get confused and yet, you also get restless because the movement doesn’t build a sense of urgency. The plot plods along, especially in the first half.
Agent Vinod is also attempting to be too many things — a slick thriller to match Hollywood but also a cheeky homage to cheesy Bollywood movies.  So the film has gloss and fast-paced action but the villains are a throwback to the 1980s — after all, how seriously can you take Gulshan Grover in a white suit or Prem Chopra with a ponytail or Shahbaz Khan with one glass eye?
The result is that Agent Vinod never becomes more than the sum of its parts and even though it picks up speed in the second half, it leaves you both exhausted and unsatisfied. But I enjoyed the character of Agent Vinod. If he does get a sequel, I hope he has a better narrative to romp in.
Source - hindustan times

China's rise driving Hollywood interest in Asia

China's economic rise and growing international profile are spurring Hollywood's interest in movies using Asian themes and production money, U.S. movie industry veterans said Tuesday.
Big studios are trying to push further into China, where box office receipts rose more than a third last year to $2 billion. China represents one of the most attractive growth opportunities for the U.S. movie industry, which is facing declining North American theater revenue and slumping DVD sales.
For the last decade, China has allowed only 20 foreign films a year -- mostly big-budget Hollywood fare -- to get national distribution. But it opened the door a little more last month when it changed the rules to allow in up to 14 more films a year as long as they are made in 3-D or for the big-screen Imax format. The foreign share of ticket sales will rise to 25 percent, up from 13.5 percent to 17.5 percent under the old system.
"I know studio executives and even chairmen of studios who've never been to China, who are now saying: I need to go, I need to meet people," said Hollywood producer Tracey Trench.
At its current growth rate, China is expected to become the world's 2nd largest movie market in a few years, with box office takings projected to top $5 billion by 2015. In North America, revenue has fallen for two years straight, and ended 2011 with $10.2 billion in ticket sales.
Glenn Berger, the screenwriter of the "Kung Fu Panda" movies, said that China is a trendy theme now.
"Hollywood needs to tell the same story in new and unusual ways and right now China is hot, it's interesting and most people in the West don't know very much about it," Berger said.
"Kung Fu Panda 2," about a cartoon panda named Po who battles a peacock villain, raked in $665 million at the box office last year, although only $165 million of that was from U.S. moviegoers.
Trench and Berger spoke at a panel at the Hong Kong International Film and Television Market, or Filmart. The entertainment industry trade show is one Asia's biggest, with 640 exhibitors -- 10 percent more than last year -- hoping to sell their films to 5,200 buyers expected from around the world.
Asia's growing wealth is one big draw for Hollywood studios who are looking for ways to keep costs down, especially on big-budget blockbusters, said Trench, who was executive producer of "The Pink Panther," "Just Married," and "Ever After."
"You already know it's costing you a ton of money, so you try to figure out every way possible to hedge that financial risk," including getting co-production money and rebates and shooting in cheaper locations, said Trench. "This region now plays into a lot of those factors."
Hollywood studios have been busy teaming up with Chinese production companies.
DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., which produced "Kung Fu Panda," said in February it's tying up with three Chinese companies on a joint venture entertainment company that will make Chinese animated and live action content. Dreamworks will have a 45 percent stake in the venture, which is expected to begin operations in Shanghai later this year.
Legendary Entertainment, producer of hits including "The Dark Knight," "Inception" and the two "Hangover" installments, partnered with leading Chinese studio Huayi Brothers Media Corp. in June to form Legendary East. The venture plans one or two big budget movies a year starting in 2013 for global audiences that are also commercially viable in China. The films will be mainly in English and feature themes based on Chinese history, mythology or culture.
Another Hollywood studio, Relativity Media, said last year it's partnering with two companies to make Chinese films for global audiences and distribute movies in China.
While English is usually the preferred language for Asian-themed movies aimed at international audiences, that could change in the next decade as America's grip on the title of world's biggest movie market weakens, Trench predicted.
"There's a time right now that all of the studios, if they're going to do movies with Asian elements, they're going to be in English," she said. "But that's not going to be forever."
Source - Business Week.

'Snow White & the Huntsman' Trailer: 'Lord of the Rings' Meets...'Avatar'?

This generation has done unprecedented things with the idea of the "epic movie." Technological advancements in the realm of aesthetics have made films like Lord of the Rings and Avatar possible. But the existence of these cinematic monopolies make it difficult for other would-be epics to reach that level of fandom.

Maybe it's because Snow White is a beloved enough story that audiences would be willing to give it more leeway than some other new movies, but Snow White and the Huntsman doesn't look like it is plagued with the described curse of theLOTR/Avatar shadow. Instead, similarities to both of these franchises are what make the trailer so exciting.

It's a strange phenomenon. If your typical new film vying for an iconic place in the scope of the genre embraced elements like these, it might be deemed a rip-off, and would be scorned as a result. But because we're dealing with Snow White and the Huntsman—a cherished Disney princess story with roots that couldn't be further from the nature of "epic"—it really works. Take everything we love about the classic story: the characters and the mythology. Combine them with darker, more severe themes, fascinating new magic and captivating new worlds. It's curious how, but it looks like it works.
Source - Hollywood News

The Hunger Games: Everything you wanted to know

New Delhi: Directed by Gary Ross, ‘The Hunger Games’ will hit Indian screens on March 23. The movie has gotten rave reviews overseas and a handful of the Indian audience who are aware of the trilogy and the upcoming film – cannot wait it to hit screens.
Don’t know about the movie or the trilogy? Here’s a crash course before the Friday that will see the release of the much awaited film hits the screens.
- ‘The Hunger Games’ is based on the novel by Suzanne Collins – the first of the trilogy which has the same name – has been made in to the movie. The other two parts of the trilogy are – ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘Mockingjay’.
The Hunger Games: Everything you wanted to know
- The novel is written in first person narrative by the protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) who lives in a post-apocalyptic world called Panem. The movie revolves around Katniss and her fight for survival in the hunger games.
- Panem stands where North America used to be according to the novel and movie. The new nation is spread around a rich ‘Capitol’ and 12 surrounding districts each names numerically as District 11, District 12 etc. The story begins in District 12 where Katniss lives and that district is supposed to be located in the coal-rich regions of former Appalachia (according to the novel).
- Katniss takes care of her mother and sister from the time her dad is killed in a mining accident. Besides the food and oil she gets out of putting her name in the reaping she also hunts illegally in the out skirts of their district with her friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), whose father died in the same mining accident.
- Because of a failed rebellion by District 13, every year a ‘reaping’ chooses one boy and one girl from every district to participate in the ‘Hunger Games’.
- The Hunger Games are an annual competition where the chosen participants must battle against each other till only one is left standing. The winner receives honour, gifts, food and supplies from the sponsors. The chosen participants are called 'tributes'.
- All the children putting in their name for the ‘reaping’ get extra food and oil in return of the annual risk they take. And the names can be put in only after a child turns 12. Katniss’s name is put in the reaping from the time she turns 12 but she has not been picked for 4 years now.
- Katniss’s sister Primrose’s (Willow Shields) name gets put in when she turns 12 and her name is unexpectedly picked in the reaping. Refusing to let her sister participate – Katniss replaces her in the battle for survival.
- Besides having to fight other ‘Career Tributes’ – kids who have been training illegally for the games their entire lives – Katniss must fight the other kids chosen from all the other districts. Her male counterpart from District 12 is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who she must also defeat.
- Before the Hunger Games begin, a stylist, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), and a preparation team help Katniss train to make a good impression. The only other person whose help counts is Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) the only living victor from District 12 and mentor to both Katniss and Peeta.
- Katniss now must use her skills and wit to survive in the games. The movie is about the friends and enemies Katniss makes during her time in the Capitol as she struggles to survive.
- ‘Catching Fire’ the second part of the trilogy is expected to hit screens in November 2013.
Source - IBN Live

Deepika Padukone times her moves

The actress manages to reach a party right when her ex-boyfriend Ranbir arrived 

Practice what you preach. If anyone believes in this old adage it is Deepika Padukone. The actress, who is the ambassador for a luxury watch brand, is taking her sense of timing quite seriously. At a recent party hosted by choreographers Bosco Ceasar, Dippy's arrival coincided with her ex-boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor, who she had been avoiding over the past couple of years, until recently. 

What is surprising is that in a city where nobody seems to reach any place on time, here are two stars who managed to keep pace with each other, even though they were in two different parts of the city- Dippy in Prabhadevi, Ranbir in Powai where he was attending an event with Imtiaz Ali and Karan Johar. The former lovers and now co-stars reached Andheri at 11.30 pm. In fact, Mirror spotted Imtiaz escorting Deepika in. 

It did not end there. Both Ranbir and Deepika left the party within 20 minutes. While at 11.50 pm, Ranbir walked to his car, KJo was spotted escorting Dippy to hers. 

Considering Ranbir and Dippy are now busy reading the scripts in the vales of Manali with each other for Ayaan Mukerji's Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, perhaps it is time to let bygones be...
Source - Times of India

Mumbai film industry most hardworking: Sharat Saxena

Well-known character actor Sharat Saxena, last seen in " Bodyguard" as Salman Khan's boss, says the Hindi film industry is the most hardwroking in a risky business.
"Mumbai film industry is the most hardworking industry. We have good movies churned out every year. Making a film for the entire country is a risky business," Sharat told IANS.
Highlighting the differences between Hindi and regional movies, he said: "With regional films, there is a less amount of risk involved because people watching those films have similar interests, similar likes and dislikes. Regional films are made for a particular region where heroes are worshiped and have their temples."
"But with a Hindi film it is a different story. It is released across India and when it is appreciated all over, then only it is termed as a hit. A Hindi film has to cater to the tastes of people all over."
Sharat started his career in the early 1970s and mainly played supporting roles of a father, uncle or a villain. He starred in some of the most successful films of Bollywood like "Mr India", "Tridev", "Ghayal", "Khiladi", "Gupt: The Hidden Truth", "Soldier", "Baghban", "Fanaa" and "Krrish".
Now, Sharat is geared up for director Jagdish Rajpurohit's directorial debut " Bumboo", a remake of French hit "L'Emmerduer".
The story revolves around a bumbling professional hit man, a stock market scamster, a press photographer, a policeman, a psychiatrist, a bell boy, a failed suicide attempt and a chain of hilarious events that go out-of-control when one mistake leads to another and best laid plans go awry.
Sharat will be seen as a hitman who is unbeatable.
"It is the best role in my 40-year long career. I play a hit man who is the best and no one is compared to him. The film is not a comedy. It is about four characters who have their own tragedies that will seem funny and comic to the audience," he said
Source - Times of India

Exclusive: Bollywood has pumped R 5-7 crore in Indo-Pak match, says bookie

Mumbai: Bollywood and betting have always made strange bedfellows. That the film industry’s bold and beautiful enjoy a little uninhibited flutter at the racecourse (particularly on Derby outings) is known. Now comes the revelation that much of the big money pumped into betting on cricket matches, comes from Bollywood’s deep pockets. And of particular interest to the film industry, given the standoff between the two nations, is a fixture played anywhere by those great rivals – India and Pakistan.

If a UAE-based bookie is to be believed (and in these days, they are), then crores of rupees are riding on the outcome of the crucial Indo-Pak cricket ODI that will be played in Mirpur, Bangladesh, for the Asia Cup this afternoon. The last time these two teams played each other was exactly a year ago for the World Cup semifinal in Mohali; and the loser, Pakistan, had to exit the tournament.
Today, it is a do-or-die situation only for India in the Asia Cup, because Pakistan with two wins and a bonus point has already made the final. So, naturally, the stakes and passions are pretty high.
According to the UAE bookie, between Rs 5 crore to Rs 7 crores has been placed in today’s match by Bollywood.
"Bollywood ke bhaut saare log humare sub bookies ke paas maal lagate hani (many people from Bollywood place their money),” he told this correspondent in confidence. His sub bookies and punters allegedly accept bets from our film personalities.
“Har ek badi series mein zyada maal Bollywood se lagta hain (during big series most of the money is pumped in by Bollywood). Aur aaj ke game mein paanch se saath khokha (crore) ab tak lag chuka hain (for today's match Rs 5cr to Rs 7cr have already been placed),” he added. "Saare film financer aur producer saath mein kuch top ke hero unke nazdeeki logon ke hawale book apne yeha khulvate (open) hain.”
As to what happens to the huge amounts of black money accepted by the actors, it is reportedly pumped into developers in India or UAE while the rest in punting with the bookies, the UAE bookie revealed. “Saara paisa hawale se aata hain aur agar woh filmi hasti jeet jaye toh return mein bhari (expensive) gifts aur imported cars se settlement hota hain. (all the money is transfered through hawala and if an actor wins then he gets the amount in the form of expensive gifts or imported cars). Kahi baar payments US dollar ke zariye bhi hotien hain (many times the payment is done against US dollars),” added the bookie.   
A Bollywood producer, notorious for backing the wrong movies and coming a cropper at the box office, admitted, "We put some money on betting but don't take huge risks. However, the industry is not involved in malicious match fixing activities. It is not our cup of tea."
Source - Daily Bhasker
Wonder what role the Bollywood beauties, whom the UK press is convinced have the power, connections and sex appeal to fix matches, play in today’s Indo-Pak tie at Mirpur. Perhaps, the outcome will tell on which team their money and prayers were today.

Is Aaradhya a lucky name?

Amitabh Bachchan holds his granddaughter while walking out of the hospital with daughter-in-law Aishwarya. Big B tweeted: "THE 'lady' is home ! carried her from the hospital as per tradition. My Father carried her father home. Blessings and wishes from all."
 Four months after birth, Beti B finally has a name. And, actor-couple Abhishek and Aishwarya Bachchan’s daughter’s name Aaradhya has become a hot topic of discussion. The name that means ‘to be worshipped’ in Sanskrit, was the trending topic on microblogging site Twitteras soon as it was announced on Wednesday.
Source - hindustan times

While the family has not given an official statement as yet, reports suggest the family registered the name at BMC (Bombay Municipal Corporation). Astrologers predict that the name would prove lucky for the baby girl.

“The baby’s name sums up to seven, depicting planet Neptune. Her destiny number sums up to two, depicting moon. She will be lucky and will be a celebrity like her family members,” says astrologer Vikram Mehta. 

Tarot card reader Seema Midha agrees: “Many celebrities have names that start with A. That is a plus for her. Her name sums up to number five which will be very lucky for her as well as her dad because his number is also five. I think she will make a name in Hollywood.”

Numerologist Niraj Mancchanda says, “On her birth, Amitabh Bachchan banned the media. That was indicative of her power that she managed to keep the entire media away.” 

Twitter, too, was abuzz with comments. “Will Aaradhya Bachchan learn KBC before ABC?” tweeted MTV India. Mohit_ak wrote, “Ab toh bache bache ko pata hai is bachchan ka naam.’

Rockstar' wins top honours at FICCI Frames

Ranbir Kapoor-starrer 'Rockstar' swept the top honours including the Best Actor and Best Director titles at the FICCI Frames Excellence Awards here.
'Rockstar' won a total of four awards making it the most prolific winner, last evening. Imtiaz Ali won the Best Director while Ranbir bagged the Best Actor award. Music maestro A R Rahman was given away the Best Music director award and Mohit Chauhan bagged the honour for Best Singer (Male).
Producers Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani walked away with the Best Film award for their path-breaking movie 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara'.
Actress Vidya Balan continued with her winning spree in the best actress category for 'The Dirty Picture'.
Hosted by Mandira Bedi, the awards featured stunning performances by the very talented and veteran singer Usha Uthup and rock sensation Papon.
In the debut category of awards, newbie Parineeti Chopra won the best debut (Female) for 'Ladies VS Ricky Bahl' while Vidyut Jamwal won best debut award (Male) for 'Force'. Abhinay Deo was given best debut director for Imran Khan-starrer 'Delhi Belly'.
Playback singers Usha Uthup and Rekha Bhardwaj received the award for best singer (Female) for '7 Khoon Maaf'.
Megastar Amitabh Bachchan was honoured with the award for maximum impact made by a personality.
In the television category, 'Bade Achhe Lagte Hai', a popular show on Sony, fetched producer Ekta Kapoor the 'Best Fiction Programme' award while both the protagonists -- Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar--were adjudged as Best Actors in the Male and Female category respectively.
Game show 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' won the best non-fiction programme.
The FICCI Frames event, which unfolded here over three days, from the March 14-16, concluded with the award function yesterday.
Source - Indian Express.


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