Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: Left Behind

Makes Bad Bollywood Look Fabulous

no star

Mini Review:

Just when thought Humshakals was the worst movie ever, that Joker a terrible film and the new Himmatwala was enough to put you off cinema for ever, comes a movie that beats them hollow. This movie is that bad.

Main Review:

How many chances do we give Nicholas Cage to redeem himself as an actor? And he chooses this movie?

A movie where people who 'believe' in God (obviously Christian, because of all the references to the Bible) 'go to heaven' sans clothes? I mean is that why the movie is called 'Left Behind'? Because we seen non-believers holding on to clothes neatly 'left behind' hugging clothes they neatly vanished out of?

If they weren't so serious, we'd be laughing in the aisles. But they actually believe that audience will swallow this: pilots with pious wives have affairs with blonde flight attendants, young women have differences with their mothers, geeky little brothers who wear glasses afraid of parents splitting up, famous writers who casually autograph books, passengers with a religious bias, Muslim passenger who wears the prayer cap on the flight, African American woman with a moppet like child, geeky Chinese American, one scared passenger, one rude, one extra large passenger who stuffs his face... The list is endless.

And if you believe, really, really believe in God, then a large aircraft can land on a road under construction. 

The movie is so terrible, I joined a whatsapp group where people send smarmy inspirational quotes to each other just to be entertained. I also wondered why Nicholas Cage was dying his hair at home?

The movie is so terrible, you realise Joker had a better story. And that the computer generated tiger was wayyyyyyy better than the aircraft crashing into car (and go up in fake computer generated flames) you see in this film. And that Saif Ali Khan's effiminate act in Humshakals is more convincing than the mother-daughter dialog in Left Behind.

Don't waste your time watching this film. They should have spent more time on the concept first.


A review: Annabelle


Half star

Mini Review:

The Conjuring was a great scarefest. And if this is the prequel, then it's a good thing we did not see it first. 

Main Review:

Scary films are meant to do one thing. Scare us. 

And if you attempt to deafen us by loud creaky apartment doors that sound more like giant castle doors, or sudden loud sounds to jolt us from our seats, you are not achieving your objective. It is, as they say, on social media '#FAIL' 

The story is pathetically unoriginal: Bad people trying to summon demons. Why are the bad people wanting to do this? The policeman in the move gives us an answer: because bad people do bad things.

Don't even ask why they choose this family to 'haunt'. 'I like your doll' is not adequate explanation.

Everything that happens in the movie, who dies, is so predictable you don't even yawn at it in boredom. 

But there is one scene that jolted me out of my skin. And the half star is for that basement appearance of the demon. Now that was as scary as the clapping scene in The Conjuring. It stays with you. 

The rest of it... One has seen better.

(the headline is in all caps to remind you how the whole movie was: LOUD) 

21 Topon Ki Salami

Good Idea, Great Moments Murdered By Music

one and a half star

Mini Review:

It's like riding a one trick pony that has been nailed to a carousel that plays the most annoying music from the beginning of the movie until the end credits. It's a great idea, hilarious in parts, but the idea gets dragged on and on and on and on and you wish there was a fast forward button on the film.

Main Review:

Before anything else, let is salute the fun talent that is Neha Dhupia. She plays the seductive siren, the politician's 'rakhail' with so much gusto that you cannot help but smile each time she appears on screen. The item number she performs - a spoof of Bollywood hits - is so good, it doesn't matter what the song is, what the tune is, she owns the screen. She alone takes the one star that has been awarded to the film.

The half star is earned by the rest of the film. It's a great idea, a great cast, and some really great laughs, but they get so involved with the joke, they don't know when to stop and go forward. 

Sometimes you feel like it's a saas bahu serial, with everyone in the room getting a reaction shot (when they decide to substitute a corpse with a live person, there are five people in the scene, everyone gets a reaction shot and you in the audience want to say, 'Understood. Now get on with it!'). Sometimes, it's like a comedy sketch that gives the punch line away in the beginning and continues to say the same thing (as when Anupam Kher wants to sign out his machine and the officer is watching porn. We see the girl strip on the screen rightaway, and know why there is a delay in the sign-out, but the scene goes on and on and on). And at other times, you don't know why they want to sing songs that are unbelievably forgettable, and are an obvious intrusion in the narrative.

I am assured that no movie works without songs, and I have admitted that the item number performed by Neha Dhupia was shot brilliantly but don't remember the words or the tune. But the romantic track when the hero and the heroine sing was absolutely needless and forgettable. And the English rap-like pointless refrain which popped up every time the characters decided to break the rules, was like slapping the audience to say, 'Since you are too dumb to see that the characters are about to do something satirical, here is music!' The absolutely daft and unclear rap ditty (all the characters were suddenly shown wearing 'hip' clothes and dancing 'pop' style during the end credits made no sense whatsoever. It was just some guy at a mic shouting out words (accompanied with those hand gestures) that made little sense when the audience is trying to get out of the noise without tripping on the popcorn on the floor.

Yes, there are funny moments (most belong to the brilliantly spoofy Neha Dhupia), but then they could have been funnier had they not been so long winded. Take the hilarious event I have mentioned before where someone pretends to be a corpse. It gets funny when he falls asleep and begins to snore under the white sheet. Instead of only showing it and allowing the audience to laugh as the scene unfolds, the director has a character make a telephone call to another character asking, 'What do I do now that babuji is snoring under the sheet?'. The movie is full of such explained gags. It just goes to make the film unbearably long. Had they not felt the need to tell the audience, the film would have been at least 45 minutes shorter and far crisper and funnier. 

Also I would have paid attention to little details and made the characters remove their shoes before they lit the pyre...

Watch the movie when they release it on TV. Otherwise you'll just suffer its length and the incessant background score.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Review: HAIDER

Haider And His Problems

Three and half stars

Mini Review:

Vishal Bhardwaj takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride. Slow with anticipation in parts and dizzyingly wild in others, but never, never disappointing.

Main Review:

Of course you have read TSE on Hamlet, that is why you smiled when you read the title of this review.

Of course you are familiar with the play because you participated in the elocution contest in school and recited, ‘To be or not to be...’ without faltering…

I am sure Vishal Bhardwaj knew that Hamlet was not going to be easy. It Happened One Night is easy. Pride & Prejudice is easy. Hamlet and his walk in the graveyard howling into the evil despairing night is more Wuthering Heights, a lot more passion and besharmi in relationships, a lot more hunger and junoon in the loving.

The trouble with Haider, is that we begin to identify with his ‘hum hain ki nahi hain’ instead of seeing why the setting of madness is flawed. We begin to justify his revenge, but don’t realise that the motive is more from what he feels about his mother than revenge for his father. Yes, VB tells us from the rooftops, ‘Intequaam!’ and many times.

But if you quell your instincts to do a jig because Shahid Kapur is actually amazing, then you begin to see everything that is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Everyone from the men in the army to the gentle old kahva quaffing gravediggers is wrong. As the bard says, everything is. ‘The calamity of so long life;/ For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,/ The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,/ The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,/ The insolence of office and the spurns / That patient merit of the unworthy takes,’...

Some of you will also be mislead by the ghost - Roohdaar swathed in rich creamy wool walking around with illogically James Bondish background music - goading Haider into madness. Some of you will find yet another reason to hate Irrfan Khan’s ‘look-at-me-I’m-acting-here’ theatrical gestures, and miss the soot covered snow and torture centers with innocuous names, the significance and historical echoes in the singling out of men and boys in crackdowns that can make your heart jump out into your hand by a single surprising honk of the jeep horn.

Yes, as TSE observed, there are many flaws in the setting up of the revenge story in the original play which makes the movie very challenging to watch. The devotion that Haider feels for his father is not justified. There seems to be no magic there, but the little Haider kissing his mother’s neck… Now there’s an image that could give ‘devotion’ a new meaning. That’s why the image of a grown up Haider walking under the Chinaars with his mother does not seem wrong at all. (Die you Joy Mukerjee love songs shot in Kashmir, die!) Such a rollercoaster ride this is. Tiring but full-of-anticipation these flat patches of elaborate set-ups in the movie (full marks for attention to details) are. But when the set up comes together, what glorious jump off a cliff. You will notice how the movie quietly belongs to Gazala, who can pull a gun out of her firan and compel her son to go to Aligarh, make her father in law uncomfortable after getting her brother-in-law to admit that there are no women worth marriage because she, Gazala is married to his brother. It is Gazala, of whom the Bard himself said, ‘God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another.’ It is Gazala who looks up at the heavens in a final bid to play god with the lives of the two men in her life who run towards her as everyone else flees from her. Gazala is the pivot and Tabu is magnificent here.

Shahid degenerating rapidly into madness is how the bard planned it, but it seems very melodramatic here. But then Vishal Bhardwaj redeems himself with scenes between mother and son. As audience who knows that ‘This is the very ecstasy of love, whose violent property ordoes itself and leads the will to desperate undertakings.’

If I have been obtuse in praise of Haider, it is because I am happily torn by images of death and snow shovels and the haunting tune of ‘bevajah gulmohur jhoom raha tha’...

P.S. And for those who wish to acquaint themselves to Hamlet, here is the original sequence of events in 20 lines (inspired by student guidebooks):  
1. Hamlet shows up during an official ceremony where Claudius, the new King, is dealing with court business. Claudius and Gertrude try to convince Hamlet not to be so gloomy. Fathers die all the time. 2. Hamlet wishes he could commit suicide because his mother's remarriage has made the whole world seem corrupted. 3. Horatio tells Hamlet his father's ghost has been spotted walking on the castle battlements. 4. Hamlet’s father's ghost tells him that his brother murdered him in order to steal his wife and his crown. Hamlet vows revenge, and swears the men to secrecy about seeing the ghost. 5. Hamlet mocks Polonius at every opportunity. He perks up when his friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show up, but soon realizes they are corrupt too. 6. Actors show up! Hamlet in a soliloquy reminds himself that he hasn't done anything about his father's murder. He decides to use the actors to stage a play of his father's murder so he can see Claudius's reaction. 7. Hamlet returns to the theme of suicide: "To be or not to be, that is the question." 8. Hamlet runs into Ophelia, whom he hasn't seen for a long time. He tells her he once loved her, then tells her he never loved her. 9. When the court comes in to see the play, Hamlet sits by Ophelia, talks about the faithlessness of women. 10. Claudius is upset with the play, Hamlet defiant. 11. Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that they are in the wrong. 12. Hamlet stumbles across Claudius praying and repenting. He almost kills him right there, but then decides that Claudius needs to go to Hell when he dies, so he'd better wait for a moment for him to commit sin, rather than murdering him while he's praying. 13. Hamlet confronts Gertrude about her sinful marriage to Claudius and accidentally stabs and kills Polonius. 14. Claudius forces Hamlet to tell him where Polonius's body is, then sends Hamlet away to England. 15. Hamlet sees Fortinbras's army marching off to war and is inspired to stop delaying and to carry out his revenge. 16. Hamlet walks through the palace graveyard and gets all depressed again about how people die —like Yorick, a court jester he loved, but who died when he was a child. 17. When the court comes to the graveyard to bury Ophelia, Hamlet and Laertes fight over who loved her more. 18. Hamlet tells Horatio everything: Claudius had tried to have him killed, he replaced his own name with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's names on the death warrant, and then escaped. 19. Laertes challenges Hamlet to swordfight. Hamlet has a bad feeling about it, but accepts. 20. Hamlet kills Laertes and finally stabs and poisons Claudius, then dies himself of the poisoned wound Laertes gave him. Hamlet asks Horatio to tell his story and suggests that Fortinbras become the next King of Denmark, a job, at this point, that no sane person would want.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: Mardaani

Rani Can Talk Mardaani, Rani Can Walk Mardaani, Rani Can...

2 stars

Mini Review:

This movie is a showcase for Rani Mukherji. Part 'Taken' part 'Savdhan India: India Fights Back', Mardaani starts out as interesting and then gets so gimmicky you think Sushant Singh is going to pop up on the screen and give gyan before a commercial break.

Main Review:

This is not a cop movie like Dabanng, Singham, Boss or even the ghastly Romeo Rajkumar. Mardaani is a showcase for Rani Mukherji. She's like Arjun Singh vald Bheem Singh vald Dashrath Singh. She can talk English, she can walk English, she can laugh English...

I mean she's so Mardaani she can do everything in the movie. She doesn't need a 'hero', she is the tough talking, tough walking, tough job holding hero. 

But that's where the similarity ends. Her team members always ask her to 'go home'. Would Bollywood dare tell Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn or Akshay Kumar that?

And what does she go home to? A namby pamby husband and an annoying niece who vanishes from the movie without any explanation. But the niggling doubt remained: Why would such a strong woman marry such a wishy washy husband? Would have been fun to see a doctor husband who stitches her up after she gets home from a fight or a doctor husband who teaches her skills with a scalpel, a skill she can later use to cut up baddies...

When they announced the movie, I was glad Rani Mukherji would be back on the big screen. She has more acting chops than most other heroines. But in this movie, she acts and she acts and she acts. Even as a girl dressed up as a boy in that forgettable movie she was better than this fake trash talking cop she plays here. For a chai guzzler like me, it was horrible to see her 'act' as though she was drinking chai. It doesn't happen once. It happens many times. And as a wise old soul sitting next to me commented, 'This full glass is not cutting chai'

Sigh. The same guy said, 'You critics would have slapped the movie hard had it copied Liam Neeson's Taken...' But it's worse realise that the 'auction of the girls' scene from Taken2 is shot way better (where martial art fighters are bid upon) in Man Of Tai Chi directed by Keanu Reeves.

I loved the gritty location of Modern Tailors, and the orphanage. but totally fed up of seeing the gigantic Hanuman as a representative of Delhi in Hindi movies. 

The young villain was interesting for ten minutes, then he got so annoying with his hoodie and the posturing that I almost missed the best line of the movie. Best in terms of the timing and characterization. And it belongs to the young villain. After being his villainous self he casually asks what's for lunch. That is superb timing. Far better than all the clever writing made for sound bytes.

Rani is a natural. That no one can deny. She's awesome when she slaps the baddie as she counts his misdemeanors. But it's a little disappointing when she misses the bright yellow sign of Modern Tailors and asks for directions...

Worst part of the movie? It turns into an annoyingly extended Savdhan India: India Fights Back. This is a very popular TV show (loved by alarmists in all families) hosted by Sushant Singh (and others) where real life crimes are enacted to show how you should be alert to crime in your neighborhood. 

The token Muslim khabri, the handsome Sardar, the creepy politician, the loyal police team, the callous adults at the orphanage all offer a brilliant canvas to Rani Mukherji's talent. Everything is focused on her. Alas, the lofty goal of child trafficking and the grisly ending become too self serving and pompous with the Durga mantras playing in the background. I wish Rani had Dabannged her way into our hearts instead of this trying-so-hard to 'acting' the walk mardaani, talk mardaani, laugh mardaani... 

I'm going to get over her 'acting' here by watching Yuva, Bunty Aur Babli and even her super mini dress avatar in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai again.

P.S. This review was tough to write because the production design was done by a very dear, very talented Madhu Sarkar Kuriakose, whose eye for detail is legendary.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review: KICK

There is only one star: Bhai.
And he's fading. Alas.

Mini Review: 

Whyyyyyyy are we watching this?
Whyyyyyyy did they make this?

Main Review:

Bhai can ride bicycles, buses, crash through glass, beats up bad guys, dodges bullets, cries at the drop of a hat, jumps across galaxies...

Sigh. I used to like Salman Khan movies. His sense of style, the shirt-tearing. These days, he's sounding more and more like: 

(thank you @savagechickens for the inspiration)

Yes, Bhai sounds like Chewbacca.

And then his team of writers make the rest, unjheleble.

(Their word, not mine.)

p.s. watch the inventive, delightful Grand Budapest Hotel or surprisingly good Lai Bhari.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

3 1/2 stars

Caesar Ki Sarkar!

Mini Review:

Man or ape, everyone loves Mario Puzo's Godfather. And that's why the story keeps you hooked and you end up standing in front of the mirror and raising your palm and saying, 'Fa-mi-ly!'

Main Review:

Let's get the confession out of the way: I'm terrified of monkeys. 

I've been to Congo and have seen mountain Gorillas. Their babies are the size of a Maruti 800. They are not cute furry cuddly creatures no matter Jane Goodall says.

That brings us to Caesar, He wears the red tilak that Amitabh Bachchan wears in Sarkar, and broods exactly like Sarkar does. Except his stare gives you the shivers (and that happens so many times, I could get an acting part in any movie about hypothermia). And if one speaking ape is not scary enough, there's an army of them. And the stampede scene with the grizzly will be imprinted upon every nightmare you will ever experience. 

Fear apart, it is the story that will keep you glued to the screen. The ideas of generation conflict, of betrayal and power equations are added so easily into the story that at one point you forget that the bigger war is between man and ape. If you thought hairy faces and bodies cannot emote, just look into the brilliantly liquid eyes and awesome body language. You'd be amazed at how easily a cheery high-five turns into a reluctant gesture of submission...

There are times, though when I would have preferred the 'Govindagovindagovindagovinda' chant from Sarkar to the Chimp grunts (sound like several hundred Amrish Puris, James Earl Jones and Samuel L Jacksons saying 'yes' in marathi together). But that's me. Eternally afraid of these creatures. I would be the first person to die of Simian Flu in the movie, or the guy who is so terrified of the creatures, he shoots...

But when you allow the backrest of the theater seat to actually support you, you will realise that your inner Salim-Javed is nodding approvingly. In fact, you hear the dialog in Hindi in your head. You don't mind the predictability of the story, you don't mind the gender inequality (women are reduced to being 'let me bandage that' healers and baby producing nurturers with headbands). In fact, the predictability of the events makes you wait for how they tackle the outcome. And every single time, I was glad that they rose above that predictabilty. And mostly with a rad dialog. That is pure paisa vasool.

For Godfather fans, there is Michael (I wish they'd called him that instead of Malcolm), there's Fredo and there's the awesome, 'For family' dialog. For Sarkar fans, there's brooding, there's the tilak, the raised hand, there's...

Go experience it for yourself. Yes the 3D is annoying, but the movie is so good, you'll forget the weight of the glasses on your nose and enjoy the detailing on the fur and the skin around the eyes and the very up close and personal look at Caesar's flaring nostrils...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Heropanti nahi Hampanti

One Hysterical Star!

Mini Review:

MuscleBoy And HammyDad In An Unwanted But Hysterical Tribute To Bollywood.

Main Review:

The MuscleBoy has one of the finest roundhouse kicks and must have aced his gym class. But they make him do that while lip syncing to pointless, completely forgettable lyrics in a disco. If that is not enough, they give him a wannabe Bachchan line to repeat until you want to go down on your knees and self-flaggellate without waiting for Dies Sanguinis. 

The poor lad is so embarrassed and self-conscious, he must have been glad to have the camera shift to HammyDad (played by Prakash Raj who is not just a super-sized Ham sandwich with rancid cheesy lines, he owns the pig farm!)

The heroine alas has been picked off the Lokhandwala Heroine Factory that produces assembly line gals: big hair, big eyes, narrow waist, long legs, glossy lips, able to eat paani puri, wears ethnic jewelry, prays prettily to the Gods... 

So why should you see this movie? Let me count the ways...

For the scenes where Prakash Raj  and his glycerine-laced tennis-ball sized eyes in ping-pong ball sized sockets channelises his inner Lalita Pawar to show disapproval.

Because the word 'Heropanti' is used as many times in the movie as Helen does the hip shake in Mehbooba-mehbooba.

Because this movie tests your Bollywood knowledge by stealing the scenes, costumes and even lines... And the scapegoat of these hysterical tributes happens to be MuscleBoy. 

Remember Anil Kapoor in 1942 A Love Story? The poor lad is suddenly made to appear like him white shirt, suspenders, beret et al! Remember 'Main Yahan Hoon, Yahaan hoon' song from Veer Zara? The poor lad is made to romance the bride exactly like that. That's not all, the Shah Rukh hangover is evident even in the extended run-into-my-arms thing the poor lad performs awkwardly (his triceps are so enormous, gravity is unkind to such poses). There is a painful to observe shower scene where you wish there was someone to stab him a la Psycho. Of course, with muscles like his, there is a Salman Khan tearing of the shirt thang as well. And while shirts and jackets are coming off at regular intervals, they are used Jason Statham style (Transporter movies) during the fights. You don't mind the copy-paste fight much, but you will begin to despair when they make the young lad copy Rowdy Romeo. Puhleeeees! It was bad enough to see Shahid Kapoor grinning moronically when he sees Sonakshi Sinha and feel nothing when get beaten up, now we suffer MuscleBoy do the same in this movie. Come on! Think of copying something else from another Telugu film... 

But Prakash Raj gets the funniest lines (the 'I am dad' scene is the funniest most OTT scene ever!) and movie tribute scenes. The Heroine loves MuscleBoy whose name is Babloo (whatever happened to Rahul or Prem or Raj or Vijay. I wonder!) but her dad wants her to marry Rajjo (I had slapped my forhead so much by then, I suspect my forehead is permanently concave). I wonder if Shakespeare would amend his opinion about names (a rose does not smell as sweet if it were called Babloo). Of course there is a Babloo vs Rajjo fight before the wedding and you don't shout 'DDLJ Zindabad!' because you are still trying to coax the popcorn stuck in your throat after you see Hammydad take MuscleBoy's hand and place it on his own thigh and say, 'What does my daughter see in you that I don't'...

Recovered? Now remember the train scene in DDLJ. And then imagine the director getting clever with it. Correction. Getting 'oversmart' with it. They set the scene at New Delhi Railway Station. So you think there will be a heroine in wedding finery running to catch an extended arm while daddy dearest says, 'Ja beti jaa! Jee le apni zindagi!'... Wrong! They make Amrish Puri chase a bus with Kajol aboard. Yes! Scene stealing HammyDad runs after a bus saying, 'Beti! Beti!'
And if you are still hoping brain cells are alive after this mutilation of your favorite movies, they have this flute music from daddy's movie playing every five minutes (this movie is almost three hours long)

Poor MuscleBoy. This movie will not receive favorable reviews. Maybe he can roundhouse kick his advisors (daddy's chamchas?) and make better choices next time...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: NOAH

3 stars

NO it’s not religious, and AAAAH for the spectacular effects

Mini Review:

The hero is so droolworthy, the movie needs a flood of biblical proportions to cleanse the planet! It’s a very long film, and violent, but so spectacular, you cannot miss it.

Main Review:

With half the audience drooling over the hero, you know you are going straight to hell, because the origin of the story is biblical. And that part is beautifully shot too. After all, who wouldn’t like a God that can make a flower grow on barren burnt out land? And yes, I know I am giving away a piece of sigh-inducing special effect, but it made me want to believe in a God that made such magic of nature happen.

That said, the movie is more about ethical questions than religion. And the questions are rather contemporary given how much we really need to care for the environment today.

Broody and graying piece of handsomeness, Russell Crowe has this screen presence which is larger than life. He dominates the awesome locations (Iceland, here I come!) and we forget that this is a story meant to instill fear and faith in religion. That story was made fodder for spoofs the moment Cosby questioned, ‘How do we know a male mosquito from a female one?’

Jennifer Connelly in cleverly camouflaged jeans and boots looks so fragile when compared to Crowe that we know God chose well, chromosomally, at least.

The story moves at a thoughtful pace, and that explains why it is two hours and eighteen minutes long, but personally I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, I wanted to know more about the snake skin than watch the violence of men shown on screen.

And it is violent. It’s not about man killing man, or the trading of women for food, the depravity of the humanity that shocked me, it was the tearing of food that made me drop my popcorn. It is a film not meant for the faint hearted.

Yes, the slow pace will make your head wander a bit. You will begin questioning God’s design skills when the ark turns out to look more like a container that has fallen out of a ship than a humongous boat sent by God himself to save all the creatures on Earth. But then, you think. this is a rescue mission. If Robert Redford in a movie can have his boat destroyed by a container, maybe a gigantic container is what can actually survive the biblical flood!

After Gladiator, Russell Crowe gives you, the women in the audience, one more chance to count the lines on his craggy face, empathise with his dilemma, share the magic, look into his eyes and even wipe the sweat off his brow when he jolted awake from nightmares… For the men in the audience, a word: your never ending cricket matches feel exactly like that to womenfolk. So when you see them drool in the movie, hand them a tissue to wipe the excess, or just step out quietly and bring back coffee and enjoy the spectacle on the big screen...


half star

The Career Is Dead. Really.

Mini Review:

For an Arnie fan, this film is truly a sabotage of his filmography, proof that there is only muscle between his ears. Mindless bullet pumping and not a single memorable Arnie line. Ugh!

Main Review:

While movies like Expendables still manage to get a few chuckles (and groans), Escape Plan made you think that there was more than some life left in the old dawgs Arnie and Stallone, Sabotage proves that there is nothing intelligent about choosing a film which has so many large loopholes, circus seals could jump through them with ease.

And when it’s an Arnie movie, his fans don’t care about narrative structure or sound design or art direction as long as the bad guys are being killed spectacularly and Arnie spouts lines like, ‘I’ll be back’ or ‘Hasta la vista, baby!’

This movie offers nothing memorable. Nothing. Unless you count Arnie randomly chopping up celery as surprising and awesome.

Yes, there is plenty of blood and gore. And entrails of men nailed to the ceiling. But that’s excitement for a different kind of audience. Even Arnie is rendered speechless and just grimaces at the body parts and blood. And when the sabotage is revealed (like you really care whodunit), you cannot believe they would go through so much trouble to kill someone when just a bullet (okay, maybe a hundred) would have sufficed.

And Arnie himself lumbers through the role looking so unhappy and unfit, this movie becomes a pain to watch. I winced at the ‘romantic’ angle and mentally bowed to all Hindu gods and Muslim, Jewish and Christian ones that they did not show any lovemaking but hinted at it. When I had finished bowing to just about all of them, the movie still hadn’t moved forward, and then I realised I had to begin prostrating in front of all the gods again because thankfully there were only a handful team members who were getting bumped off.

What got me irritated were the supposed red-herrings that were thrown at us. The mean FBI/DEA teams questioning Arnie’s team, the drug cartel guys… None of them looked fit enough to harm Arnie’s little finger, let alone his cursing boozing weapons totting team.

Let’s say you like blood and gore. This movie doesn’t even offer you the satisfaction of seeing a train run over a man tied to the railroad, or a live person being nailed to the ceiling and then gored by a knife, it just shows bloody pulp, or entrails and that’s no fun. And why would anyone carrying a gun, stab someone messily, then tie them up and place them neatly in the fridge? It’s not like they cared…

I like Arnie killing really nasty bad guys (like in Commando) and then pausing to say, ‘Let off some steam, Bennett’... That’s why when he’s kicking his teammate awake saying, ‘Wake up you drunk fuck.’ there is no joy. I’d rather learn to spell ‘Schwarzenegger’ without auto correct.

Friday, March 14, 2014


one star

Aptly Named!

Mini Review:

So cute this one line premise spinning through two hours of so cute candy floss problems! A-cutely stupifying!

Main Review:

Awwww! This dad is so cute! His daughter? Ohhhhh! What awesome clothes she wears! She looks so cute! And she tells us from where she bought her birthday dress! 

Wouldn't it be cute if the censor board made it imperative for running a ticker to tell us where she buys her cute shoes and her dresses? And omg! Her pajamas are so cute!

So her dad is so cute naa? He says he cooks Chicken biryani (Eeeek! My boyfriend just fainted next to me because he said something like,'There is no such thing!' But I'm going to ignore it because I still have caramel popcorn which my boyfriend cutely pronounces it as 'carmel', so American naa?)... I forgot what I was going to say because she looks so cute in glasses.

And he's so cute naaa? Tries so hard, naa? I love him for saying, 'You're hot can I eat you?'. I think it's damn cute when boys make teddy bear faces (What? My boyfriend quotes some tweet fact, 'All teddy bears are manufactured to have the same expression') I hate my boyfriend, because he always buys me cheap Archies bears not the Hamley's ones. Sigh. 

So I was like telling you like about the cute boy in the movie. Yaa... He does have so cute hairy caterpillar like eyebrows and so much hair on his face (mom says it's probably like ScotchBrite), but thank JustinBieber he has no hair on his body. 

But he loses his job! Not nice naa? But in cinema there has to be conflict naa? So it's okkay! It will get sorted out because he's MBA and stood first in class. He looks so cute when he's supposed to act grumpy naa? But I like him better when he shows his cute dimples. Anyway, he gets to feed cute pigeons.

Daddy, of course has no facial hair except that strange shape shifting mooch. Haw! I said vernacular word! It's cute naa, sometimes we all do that!

Anyway, he gets a cute job in a cute coffee shop and that boy who works for him has cute hair... Wonder what gel he used...

Oh yes, there is a cute song which had rhyming words but they were so many rhyming words i'd rather sing the title song, 'Bewa...kooo...fee...yaaan!' because it is perfect when I bob my head to the cute tune...

Anyway, my boyfriend (who's majoring in cinema from Columbia... Yess! That USwala place where Aamir Khan studied) stayed awake during the second half because things happened quite quickly. And the cute dad pretended to be a horrible dad and made everything cute again!

I've decided one thing though. When I have a fight with my boyfriend, I'm also going to Dubai. There are some cute places there!

P.S. I love romances. Really, I do. But after seeing this movie I understand why people might think this is fun.  



Friday, March 07, 2014

Review: Gulab Gang

One star

Gulag For The Audience

Mini Review:

When Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla play roles usually written for Prakash Raj and Mukesh Tiwari, you know Bollywood is close to hitting rock bottom. It's Gulag for the audiences.

Main Review:

A courageous woman called Sampat Pal really runs a pink saree wearing brigade of women who carry sticks and are working at grassroots level to free the village women from domestic violence and death. The documentary Gulabi Gang (jaw-droppingly real) has released today and it tells the real story of Gulabi Gang.

Gulab Gang is a work of fiction, and it has been released today after being embroiled in a lawsuit from Sampat Pal Devi who claimed that no permission was taken from her even though this fictional work seems broadly based on the Gulabi Gang she heads.

It is important to note that this film technically escapes scrutiny from reality because it they said that it is a work of fiction.

Alas, no one in the audience suspected the fiction would be so tedious and teeth-grittingly bad.

The story is as fictional as the bad Bollywood remakes of violent Tollywood stories. Now we have seen bad remakes make 100 crores with the violence and the gore. We have happily watched every star (from Salman to Shahid) get into a police uniform and beat up baddies like Prakash Raj (and sometimes Sonu Sood, Ashish Vidyarthi, Sayaji Shinde or Mukesh Rishi). To lure two female stars to act in a comeback film no one would suspect was really Policegiri in sarees, is as fictional a tale as can get. After that everything is simply downhill.

The dialog belongs to a fictional India. Have never heard such a murder of language. TV serials like Gustakh Dil (Life OK channel) and Diya Aur Baati (Star TV) get it right, so do movies like Queen (local Delhi Hindi) and Gangs Of Wasseypur (Dhanbad/Bihar). Here the hotch-potch gets unbearable, and you begin to wish Madhuri Dixit would just speak her normal Americanised Hindi, and Juhi Chawla would do the same. Their fake 'I'm-a-Village Belle' so will speak pidgin English is ghastlier than hearing American accents on actors playing Greek Gods.

The village is fictional too. Perfect tree in the corner of a perfect compound (even Osama or Branch Dravidians or the Aryan Nation didn't plan it so well).

The events are so fictional you've seen them all a hundred times in movies. A politician's son and his entourage sitting idle? Then, pardon my crassness, you must have a young girl cross their path so she can be raped. A politician? Then he must betray the cause, and die violently. A bribe-taking government babu must be shown eating and talking with his mouth full. Women must be dragged by their hair and be tortured and they must be Tannishtha Chatterji. 

Yes, there was a chilling moment when the rapist is punished, but the delivery reminded me of Underwater Nazi Zombies emerging from water in an old cult favorite Shock Waves, and I missed some ghastly background score, so that was a blessing in disguise. 

My following confession borders on the fictional too. So hear me out. The constant song and dance was so annoying this movie felt like a musical. And I missed item numbers in the Bollywood remakes that keep the action separate from the nonsense...

Speaking of action, even the lousiest of Bollywood movies do blood and gore beautifully. Here the accent was on making Madhuri Dixit look like the perfect Durga and Kali that they forgot a simple thing: when you slash someone with a sickle or a knife or a made-up weapon, and they are lying on the ground, your weapon must have at least some blood on it. Aah, but why should it? This is fiction, they claim, and fictional deaths or slashes, may produce fictional wounds and fictional blood...

And the tale ends with a fictional sympathy-garnering by listing names and tales of real victims of violence. But most of us had had enough. I saw Laxmi's name being used, and walked out. My term in this Gulag lasted 139 minutes.

P.S. The one star we offer here, is shared by the two brilliant support actors: Priyanka Bose and Divya Jagdale. And that is no fiction.   


Thursday, March 06, 2014

Review: Queen

4 stars

Queen Will Queen Will Rock You!

Mini Review:

The wild child of Hindi cinema comes into her own. This is by far the most well written and superbly acted role in the last decade. Unmissable!

Main Review:

I cried because I've always wanted a large, insane, yet supportive family just like Rani.

I laughed with her roommates when she shops at the sex shop in Amsterdam

I understood why she would need to keep the curtains drawn and wallow in her loneliness in a city that is made for love.

I hurt when she was hurting.

I hated the man who left her standing alone after promises of forever and after. 

I knew that it was just perfect for her to find real friends in strangers.

I smiled when she was.

I knew why she could dance the way she did.

I even reminisced about my first kiss with my crush.

Yes, I know. That's too much information for you readers, but I have not identified with so many characters from the movie for so long, I knew I would want to see this movie again (or buy the dvd!).

Please don't waste time on reviewers going ga-ga over the amazing use of music, or how brilliant the colloquial dialog and the use of Hindi and English is. How seamless and effortless her character transition is. How she still retains her innocence...

Just book the tickets and watch the movie.

And yes, stay for the credits. You will love the Facebook updates and probably change your own status message to 'Aaj Church Dekhne Jaayenge.'

P.S. 'Vijay' may no longer be Amitabh Bachchan's property. Kangna Ranaut has managed to make a villain out of that name. And then Lisa Hayden makes it sexy. You choose.

Review. 300: Rise Of An Empire

half star

Men In Black... Leather Undies

Mini Review:

Warrior's Code, Love For Freedom, Dying For Mother Greece, Sea Of Blood... Everything sounds so awesome until you see these men dressed in black leather undies. It's just downhill from there...

Main Review:

'This is Spaaaartaaaa!' was a meme magnet, and you enjoyed the fighting againts all odds, mask wearing Persians giants, the gold-skinned bondage jewellery wearing Xerses, the creepy hunchback in the original 300.

This movie has all of Greece uniting to fight a common enemy. There's all kinds of noble reasoning: freedom, patriotism, love, revenge, brotherhood, honor, valor... But it is rendered hilarious because all Greek men seem to be wearing black leather undies.

It's like watching a sea of undies on boats. No wonder the Persian soldiers wore masks to fight. I would be laughing my head off too if I had to raise my sword in battle against men in black leather undies and capes.

But I am being unkind. Men In Black Leather Undies were also given helmets which hid their faces. 

There is blood and hacked limbs from start to finish (and because it is 3D, every hacked limb and blood drops come at you in the name of special effects). In fact, it gets so dull, you don't even question how the general of one army travels from the thick of the battle to ask for help all the way to Sparta only to discover that Spartan men have all been killed. Spare us, you want to say, but we are offered a super flashback.

Xerses with intense eyes and a beard roams the desert in Persia and goes wandering into a hermit's cave. There he dives into a pool and the voiceover tells us that he made a pact with the darkest of evil forces. Now you're talking, I say to myself, 'Now we will see Greek mythology style plagues and banshees and special effects!' But no!

Xerses emerges from the pool his awesome beard and head of hair gone, and his skin covered in gold paint. Damn! This was a depilatory pool! Women would all over the world would want to know the secret!

Alas the awesome visual of Xerses' new found physical shape (the prettiest gold covered tush this side of mythology) is made to look silly because he's given silly capes to wear. Not to mention the fetish style jewelry he's made to wear.

The only saving grace is the discovery that the rather vengeful Eva Green gets to wear long dresses while the men wear skirts... I mean undies....

And no one here did research too. Her eye make up is more Egyptian than Persian, but who cares, right? It's covered with yells and hacking and jumping off great heights swords raised and bringing the sword down on some extra in leather undies...

Fans of 300 will find awesomeness in the blood and gore. But there will be people who might push Greece lower down on their list of countries to visit before you die... I just wondered: With so much dampness from the sea and the salty air, how did they survive wearing leather...

P.S. The half star goes to two battle days where strategy is actually utilized and shown.

Review: Total Siyapa

no star

Totally Annoying 

Mini Review: 

The best acting came from a tall container of frozen soup. Enough said!

Main Review:

The audience would have clapped really hard had the tall container of frozen soup that went flying out of the window not just beaned but actually killed Anupam Kher who plays Daddyji. And I would have personally flung that frozen container on Mummyji, Brotherji, Sisterji, Jijaji, Grandfatherji, Bachhiji, Heroineji, Policeji, Sardarji and even the Heroji.

Looks like this otherwise affable Heroji has discovered Madhuri Dixit. Why else would he heave his chest a la Dhak Dhak song in EVERY scene? And he rolled his eyes at everything.

So did the audience.

Because nothing that was happening on screen was even remotely funny. Wait, not true. The Shahid Afridi line (which you saw in the promos) was true and funny. Especially after he hit those two sixes a la my once heartthrob Miandad in the recent Asia Cup.

And the falling container of frozen soup. I truly wish that it had rendered real harm on the writer who cooked up the intensely annoying pregnant child, the senile grandfather who touches the hero rather inappropriately, the caricaturish, stupid brother and also the 'I'm Mister Bean' cop.

Someone should have also thrown the director out of the window. The film is so slow, the slowest and the sleepiest people sitting in the theater would have guessed every joke a mile before the punchline. And to watch grandpa pee with heroji sitting on top of the cistern of the commode is a scene out there competing with scenes we have collectively puked on: Sanjay Dutt smashing idlis with his hands in a plateful of beer in Policegiri, the large breasted Kainaat Arora in Grand Masti saying,'Mere do doodh ki factories hain...

Who thinks up of such ridiculousness? The audience does not think watching anyone pee is funny, even if it is a mentally challenged Barfi (if he truly is challenged, then how would he know it is 'inappropriate to pee in the fields' and then shy away when discovered peeing by people working in the fields?)

Poor Mummyji. Kirron Kher tried so hard but even her act got stale and annoying. I'd rather watch her histrionics as a judge on a TV talent show. But she made that soup, so she's forgiven the loud crass role she had to play.

The xenophobic brother, the stupid sister (she maxed out her husband's cards on clothes, it is said. But she's shown to wear some that are so ill fitting, I did not blame the supposedly kanjoos husband for kicking her out of the house). And the research done (oh Lord! What did I expect from this film) is so flimsy you want to pound their heads with that tall container of frozen soup. A dozen roses in London today start at three pounds at Lidl's Supermarket. 

But they just wanted to remake a foreign film without using their brains! And to borrow from Dave Barry, so much of their brain space was used up by the idea of 'Let's make a Hindustan-Pakistan joke' that there was room only for ring-the-doorbell-and-run prank which even five year olds today (from either country) will label as lame. 

We saw 108 minutes of this tripe. So you won't have to suffer it. Better watch Yami in fairness cream ads. And Ali Zafar? I am sure after seeing this crappy movie, he ought to be denied entry home.