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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Briefly... on the Don 2 soundtrack

Film Flam Flummox

While making sequels to blockbuster films is a long-standing Hollywood tradition, the practice has only become more common fairly recently in Bollywood--and that's the only reason I can come up with for the mixed initial reactions to Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's Don 2 soundtrack. One common complaint is the recurring use of the recognizable theme melody of Farhan Akhtar's 2006 Don, which some have taken to be laziness on the part of the celebrated composing trio. I say it's anything but lazy and downright difficult to incorporate that melody line into different tunes in seamless, organic manner, making for an uncommon musical unity across an Indian film's entire song score, which more often than not runs the gamut from club-ready bangers to traditional dress dance numbers to romantic ballads. But there's another, more inspired unifying element to the songs here; early footage from the film suggests that Shahrukh Khan's title character has abandoned the cheeky-cool pimpdaddy costuming this time out, but Akhtar and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy keep the retro spirit alive in the music, for every non-remix track here bears strong elements of 1970s funk and R&B--a sound that perhaps comes off a bit (for lack of a better term) alien to longtime Hindi film soundtrack listeners and reviewers. But this is no mere throwback pastiche; Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy marry the rich, soulful instrumentation with the modern electro elements they brought to the first film, making for a music masala as unique as it is utterly irresistible. Here's hoping the film proper can accordingly fall in line come December 23.

Order the Don 2 soundtrack here.
Read my review of 2006's Don here.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

AFI Fest presented by Audi 2011 Reviews

The Movie Report

  • The Artist ****
  • Beyond the Black Rainbow **
  • Butter ***
  • Carnage **
  • Carré Blanc ** 1/2
  • Coriolanus ***
  • The Color Wheel ** 1/2
  • Footnote *** 1/2
  • Haywire ****
  • The Invader *** 1/2
  • Jeff, Who Lives at Home ***
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi ***
  • Kinyarwanda ****
  • The Lady ** 1/2
  • Mama Africa ***
  • Melancholia ** 1/2
  • Miss Bala *** 1/2
  • My Week with Marilyn ***
  • Restless City ***
  • Pina ***
  • Rampart ***
  • A Separation *** 1/2
  • Shame *** 1/2
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin ** 1/2

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Press Junket Potluck: Henry Cavill & Freida Pinto are Immortals

Film Flam Flummox

Henry Cavill's casting as Superman in Zack Snyder's upcoming DC Comics movie reboot Man of Steel generated many headlines when it was announced earlier this year, but before that movie hits theatres in 2013, he will be seen as another iconic hero, Theseus, in Immortals, Tarsem Singh's visually spectacular take on Greek mythology. Cavill shared his thoughts on the contrasts and similarities of playing two enduring paragons of heroism on screen.

What things in you make you portray a hero?

I think the same thing that's in any man or woman. It's a kind of opportunity to be the hero that you were when you were a kid and swinging a stick around and playing knights or soldiers or cowboys or whatever it is. It's the want to do right, the want to save the world, the want to be important, the want to be great at what you're doing, the want to be relied upon, turned to--all of those things.

What's your mindset going into playing the role of Theseus?

How to prepare for that? The same way I prepare for any job or anything I do in any walk of life: if you're going to do it, do it properly and do it with everything you've got. Otherwise, go home. It's commit and enjoy. No matter how difficult it is, you can always find something in it which is enjoyable. I knew it was going to be physically taxing going in, and I took that as an opportunity to enjoy getting in great shape and to take that into my life after the fact. The pain only lasts for a short while, but the benefits you gain during pain will last you forever.

What was your training regimen like for this film?

It's a martial arts-based training. The way we did it is a hundred repetitions of body weight exercises with 25 repetitions of one, say, press-ups followed by eight deep breaths, followed by 25 squats, followed by eight deep breaths, followed by 25 of an ab exercise, followed by eight deep breaths, followed by 25 reps of something else. And that was one round; you can only do four rounds of that. It's a very lean, as opposed to a bulky physique. It was a lean, ripped physique for lack of a better word.

Moving from Immortals to Man of Steel, how hard was it to change change yourself to a completely different physical shape?

Let me start from the beginning, which was the finish of Immortals. I got a job, The Cold Light of Day, where the director said, "I don't want you looking like you're looking. You need to look like a normal person." And so no more press-ups, no more sit-ups; eat, drink, and be merry. And I did. And I was. Right up until I looked in the mirror again, and I was like, "Oh, dear, I'm eating and drinking, but I'm certainly not merry." [laughs] And I then went on to [Man of Steel], and they didn't even need to give me a brief. It wasn't like, "We want you to look this way." It was obvious how they wanted me to look; it's in comic books around the world in various styles and shapes and sizes that various artists have drawn him. But Mark Twight, the founder of Gym Jones, gave me a foundation workout to do by myself for a month before I joined him in L.A. And from that, it became very clear it was going to be a weight-based training regime, and it was obvious from the comics and from what I saw in the mirror that I needed to put on a good bit of size. And I did.

How much weight did you gain?

I don't know how much in the way of weight I gained. It was considerable though, and I haven't stopped training since March.

Did the experience working on Immortals help you on Man of Steel?

A couple of ways it helped. Acting experience--any kind of acting experience under your belt is great for the next job. And secondly the physical experience because Superman is physically, extraordinarily taxing, and I've completely changed by body shape for it. And so having worked so hard on Immortals, it mentally prepared me for the work on [Man of Steel].

Did you read mythology when you were younger or Superman comics?

They're both the same, aren't they?

In the mere three years since her breakthrough in the multiple Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, Freida Pinto's career has been on a tear, and she has her most high profile showcase to date as Immortals' lead heroine, the oracle Phaedra.

What research into the mythology did you do in preparation for playing the character?

Honestly, when I researched the character, even though there was a lot of material that I read, it was Tarsem's vision, so it was literally how he envisioned Phaedra to be in this film. So we are kind of keeping true to certain aspects of what the Greek mythology is, but ultimately what makes me feel very comfortable doing the film is that it is the director's vision.

How was your experience working with Henry Cavill?

I had a lot of my scenes with him, and I have to say he's incredibly dedicated and committed to what he's doing. I don't think I've gone up to him and said, "You've been an inspiration," but now that I've seen the film and see how much hard work he's put into it, he's absolutely an inspiration for actors who are working with him on set. The hours that he put into his physical fitness training as well--I think he started before any of the other actors had started, way before we even had a proper fitness team on set. He started off of his own accord; he really wanted to do it. And I think just to see someone come in at 5AM on the dot, be the last person to leave, and then come back the next morning at 5AM, it shows immense amount of dedication to what you do, and I guess that's what actors strive to do.

What was it like working with Tarsem on set?

I think it's very important for a director, who's the captain of the ship, to have infectious energy on set. So when he walks onto the set, however tired you are, just by seeing what he's [doing]--he just keeps pacing up and down because he's constantly thinking, and by doing that the actors, at least I, find myself emulating his energy if nothing else. So it's nice to have someone like that, and what's also great about him is a lot of times I think with big budget films actors miss out on technically what's happening on set. Tarsem has a habit, which I think is very good for actors, to say aloud what he's doing with the camera or where he's placing it. It automatically makes you understand what is expected out of you here. It's great to have someone like that who can guide you through not just the acting but the technical bits as well.

How do you think it would be like to have Phaedra's power to see the future?

Now that I've played Phaedra, I think it wouldn't be the best thing to have because she knows what the future's going to hold. She sees how bad it's going to be--and she can do nothing about it but just continue having visions. I'm not very sure if I want that in my life.

Buy the Immortals poster here.
Buy the Immortals soundtrack here.

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