Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: RAID

Look Ma! Singham With No Fistcuffs

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

An honest Income Tax officer leads a team in a raid to find
hidden assets of a local heavy, a political leader, at his
bungalow called ‘White House’. The dialog is tight, the good
guys are as smart as the bad guys are clever, the danger
seems real and it’s money well spent when you watch this
film. If only the thrill of watching money tumbling out of
walls was not marred by silly songs and a whiny wife.

Main Review:

An honest Income Tax officer is recognised by one thing: he gets
transferred ever so often. Ajay Devgn brings his Singham style
dialog delivery (but none of the action, because government
officer) to his role as Amay Patnaik, who has just been posted
in Lucknow.

When his fellow officer says, ‘He’s just been posted, so he’s like
a bottle of soda that’s just been opened. Will make a bit of noise…’
you know you’re in for a decent viewing because a non-descript
chap has been given a nice line. The film does not disappoint.

Saurabh Shukla plays Tauji, the big, bad bully in UP (a state not
exactly known for its lawfulness) who lives in a sprawling
bungalow called ‘White House’ and his fiefdom extends all over
the state and he knows he’s the man political parties come to for
money before the elections. He fancies himself as a political
kingmaker as well. So when Amay Patnaik shows up early in the
morning, Tauji chews up the scene when he says, let me drink my
tea first and then disturb me. Saurabh Shukla has done this role
so many times, he makes a really good bad guy.

The income tax officers search the premises, the family of Tauji
make great adversaries (the men and women alike, and you will
fall in love with the old granny) and we watch the drama unfold.
Ajay Devgn is good as a stern officer, but you wish he too would
get his hands a tad dirty instead of strategising. The strategies
are good fun too. And the audience as well as the officers
are surprised.

But, there’s a ‘but’ in the story that prevents this film in becoming
a super watch. This involves a really stupid whiny wife played by
Ileana D’Cruz. ‘Don’t go!’, ‘Be safe!’, ‘I worry when you’re gone’,
‘I didn’t know marrying you would mean getting transferred so
often!’... She is so redundant to the story, they could have simply
made the narrative tighter by removing her (and the two ridiculous,
unnecessary songs filmed on her), giving Ajay Devgn a free hand
to be the strong honest tax guy.

The background music is jarring and at one point you wonder
how much of Dunkirk’s music they’re imitating. And badly.
Also there’s one character who is shown to be dishonest who
suddenly turns out to be a good guy. But there are so many
good things about the film you can forgive these illogical things.
All because the granny is supremely fun to have around.

The script has been written with lots of restrained humor and no
one ruins the lines. The politics of wait and frustration is very
well shown. Not just Tauji’s family, the politicians are cast well.
The reveal in the end is good. This movie could have been
brilliant but for the wife.       

(this review appears on )


A Brave Try, But It Tries To Be Too Much. 

1.5 stars

Mini Review: 

You've watched at least two films on the Air France airplane being hijacked by PLO and German Freedom fighters from Athens and taken to Entebbe where the Israelis staged a dramatic rescue of their natives. This film tries to balance out the hijacker's point of view to the Israeli point of view and attempts to look kindly at hostages as well as... You get the picture? The film attempts to sit on too many stools and falls down.

Main Review:

Cinema needs to have a point of view. Right or wrong does matter, a story needs to take a stand. You won't have heroes and villains if the narrative humanises Darth Vader, say or even Gabbar Singh. They need to be bad, so we can cheer Luke Skywalker and Jai and Veeru. 

We understand that hijackers were not merely doing 'timepass' as Indians say - when they're idly watching the highlights of the 1984 cricket world cup semi finals - when hijacking the flight. They were not practising for something bigger. They had to have reason. And it seems pretty lame reason for a publisher to get into the revolution business. or for that matter for others ('one revolutionary was killed so we want to hijack a plane' seems illogical). But Daniel Bruhl makes a difference to the narrative. He shows us how a good guy doing a bad thing has a conscience that will not let him shoot innocent people. His, 'We did not sign up for this' is a cry everyone should heed. People are still being pushed into extremism when they just wanted justice in the world today.

Eddie Marsan plays Shimon Peres is so uncannily like the original, it is weird to see him on screen. The Israeli politics is really well documented, and you wish they had spent more time on this rather than the hijackers. The conversation between Rabin and Peres is legendary and documented. It is a pity, there's not enough in the film.

Idi Amin, the man who kept human head in freezers for consumption is shown to be so genial here, you barely imagine him as the cruel dictator, cannibal, madman who ruled Uganda with machine guns and black magic. His regime was so brutal and violent, you cannot imagine him saying, 'I'm sorry, your governments are trying to do their best...' to the hostages at Entebbe.

By the time the rescue happens, you are wondering where the point of view of the story is going. By the time Rosamund Pike who plays the German hijacker Bridgette Kuhlmann feels awful and can feel the certainty of death, you just wish a bullet that Gabbar and his dacoits spray in the air in the past (1975) would travel through time and kill her and end our misery.


Review: GRINGO

Poor Cousin Of Blazing Saddles.

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

Remember when a new Black sheriff rides into an all White town in Blazing Saddles? You can imagine all kinds of fun even when you haven't seen the film. Alas, Gringo had the potential. It does make you smile but doesn't make you fall off your chair. The humor is not dark enough, the story goes round in circles and even though the cast is enviable, the final product isn't.

Main Review: 

Here's the clip from Blazing Saddles: 

So when the Mexican druglord says, 'How difficult can it be to spot a gringo negra in Mexico' you know this could get really funny. It brings a smile to your face, but it does not push the envelope towards dark comedy not does it do slapstick right. It just remains somewhere in the middle, waffling.

The cast is enviable: Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton and David Oyelowo in the title role, you'd think something good will come out of it. 

All you see Joel Edgerton do is fuck Charlize Theron in the office (it's done so badly there's no other word to describe the act as just that. Plus, you know if Hollywood cannot get even this right, there is something wrong with the movie.). They are so obviously in the wrong, you pity them. The Druglord's men are so bumbling, you feel bad for them. And then you don't know why Amanda Seyfried's boyfriend is so ready to become a mule for the drug dealers without having any motive but money. It's 2018 for godssakes! Is he the only man to have not watched Narcos on Netflix? If they can get the big guys, you think they wouldn't get a guitar shop chap?

When it comes to David Oyelowo's character, there is nothing to suggest that he might be capable of dreaming up schemes, let alone stage the kidnapping. In fact, it is as the character Mitch who is supposed to be an expert extractor says, 'It's so stupid it could almost work.' 

That sort of summed up the movie for me. Could have been great fun. Just isn't.

watch: to see why Blazing Saddles was so much better...

Friday, March 09, 2018

Review: HATE STORY 4

Funny Dialog Breaks Sleaze

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

The fourth in the ‘Hate’ franchise, this film like its other tales
has lingerie, shaved manly chests, moans and suggestive
hip thrusts, whiny song or two, high heels, pancake
makeup, bearded men who snarl at each other, murders too
and foreign locations… The acting is so poor your nerves
will be jangled. Supposedly erotic, the on screen kisses
will put you off kissing for ever.

Main Review:

Even though it is the fourth in the series, there is practically
nothing erotic about the film except Urvashi Rautela’s dance at
the club to a Himesh Reshammiya’s ‘Aashiq Banaya’ remix. You
suddenly notice her ample samples and thighs clad in leather are
a throwback to old style Bollywood where heroines were well-fed
and had child-bearing hips.

Alas, there’s nothing motherly about this Taasha, who wants to
dream of becoming a ‘sitara’ and I hope she got paid lots of
money for mouthing dialog like, ‘Mahabharata was fought
between brothers because of one woman, I am that Draupadi
between you two brothers!’ and even before you gasp for air
at her poor grasp of mythology, she says, ‘Who did you think
I was, Draupadi? There were five who shared her ‘jism’, you
are two.’

But the stuff for legends is not this. The angry wife who catches
the bearded, shaven chested man one - the husband Aryan
(played by an eternally red-eyed Vivan Bathena who has to do
little but snarl) en flagrante delicto, with has pricelessly funny
dialog: Sheets can be changed, but not the ‘mashooka’ wrapped
in the sheet.

Wait, what?

You mop the spilled coffee off your shirt, and then she adds,
‘I’m the twist in the plot!.’ And then she gets shot.

The second bearded brother Rajveer is a photographer and of
course he cannot contain his manhood in his skinny pants. He
falls smack in love with the statuesque Taasha and imagines the
moans and lingerie and the kisses. You also have to suffer
similar manly bare body and lingerie clad body of wife in a
song sequence doing things that make Homer Simpson chug
down beer look sexier in comparison.

There’s a revenge story embedded in there somewhere, but it
is covered in really bad dialog that defies translation: ‘Tere
warna se darna hota toh main beech mein nahi aata’

Then there’s, ‘I’m somebody that was nobody and know every
thing about my body…’ or something just as intelligent. But who
notices words when there’s women’s bodies to be shown in
various states of undress (I lost count after he pushed the bra
strap off her shoulder for the fifth time). And you fall off the seat
when the end shows the women in pastel chickenkari
embroidered salwaar kameez praying to a dead lad’s picture
when the revenge is complete. The movie is audacious in first
objectifying the women, and ending the film by quoting statistics
about violence against women.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: 3 STOREYS

Jaani Pehchani Kahaaniyaan Hain...

2 stars

Mini Review:

3 Storeys are three stories about people who live in a Mumbai
Chawl (old fashioned project housing). It’s almost refreshing
and yet not really. Someone from the ensemble cast overdoes
it. It’s almost good, and then it isn’t because you’ve read the
story somewhere. It’s an idea that’s not new and yet, a decent
effort. Would have been smarter move to put it straight to
Netflix or Amazon.

Main Review:

The female narrator says that she finds stories in the eyes of the
people who live around her and proceeds to tell three of them.

The characters all live in a chawl in Bombay. The first story
revolves around a Flory Mendonca and her blind love for her
son Anton. Had the story been set on the ground floor, the end
would have been more powerful and believable. But the story
is just made ridiculous because Renuka Shahane, who is fine
actor, overacts. Her ‘Catholic Aunty’ trope stops working when
she keeps saying ‘Jesus’ all the time, her walk is obviously
‘acting’, and her cheeks stuffed with cotton look obviously
fake, as does her ghastly wig. To top it, her co-star is Pulkit
Samrat who just cannot stop channeling his inner Salman
Khan, which is ridiculous.

The second story is a desperate adaptation of An Affair To
Remember (1957, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr) played
out by Sharman Joshi who plays Shanker Verma and Masumeh
Makhija (she is surprisingly very very good) who plays Varsha
Joshi. Since the story is set in Bombay, the two lovers decide to
meet after a year after lad has made something of himself.
Their paths intersect years later... This story is painful to watch
because a song is added, Varsha It’s all very trite.

The third story is that of young love which the mother of the girl
and the father of the boy vehemently oppose, making you wonder
why they get so violent even though the very stereotypical ‘mini
India’ that the chawl is, accepts the young love. It’s all very
excruciating, but the worst part is to watch chawl members
behave like the nosy neighbors they must be, because, Ghetto.

The star of the show is Richa Chadha, who plays the story-teller.
The end is practically brilliant. It suddenly turns the painfully
predictable stories worth the two coffees you drank to stay awake
during the film. It is an experiment, which would work better
when watched on Netflix in the relative comfort of one’s bed,
where snoring would not be considered bad manners...

(edited on saturday march 10, deleted story details)
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Should Have Stayed Lost In The Jungle

0.5 stars

Mini Review:

If you manage to stay awake during the first half, which is
wasted entirely in establishing the ‘quirky-ness’ of the
characters, then you’ll wonder if the second half is from
another script altogether. But not even Taapsee Pannu’s
little chirpy gal turned corporate act nor Saqib Saleem’s
daft selfish lad in love act can save this film. When the two
fall into the Thames (or is it the sea?), you wish they will
never be rescued…  

Main Review:

A Delhi chap Sumit Uppal (Saqib Saleem, decent, but needed
a firm director) falls for his English teacher Koroli Nair (Taapsee
Pannu, who hams into her Gandhiji glasses and keeps a
scrapbook of her love). Their friends are so ghastly, you want to
put a paper-bag over their faces and duct-tape their mouths so
you don’t have to suffer them on screen. I mean we have seen
‘quirky’ friends of heroes and heroines in Bollywood, but no one
can justify these friends.

So the hero and the heroine decide to elope with their friends.
Yes, they elope along with their friends. Their car crashes into a
lake, and they have to trek through a forest infested with leeches.
Is this in India? Where? This ‘disaster’ is supposed to show us
that the hero and the heroine are not really made for each other.
The lad is selfish, and the girl has ditzy ideas about love. Before
you wonder who is forcing them to get married, it’s intermission
and the girl thankfully breaks off the marriage and walks away.

Suddenly we see a silly romance infested in her brains Koro
(or Karo) in a stupid wig turned into a corporate lady, in London,
managing her father’s business empire. The lad has turned into
a Bollywood actor and is playing Hanuman. The two are now
almost hitched to two other people. Of course they meet and
realise they are in love. But the audience wonders why she loves
someone who is still selfish and thinks money is more important
than love?

But one part of your brain is already dead. And no amount of
cute posing for selfies by the lead pair is going to convince you
that you made a good decision in buying a ticket to this ridiculous
film. If you are not asleep in the theatre, you are facepalming.

(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Saturday, March 03, 2018


A Wedding Made In Hell

0.5 stars

Mini Review:

That there is a wedding, is given. And having Jimmy
Shergill in the film gives it the half star it has earned.
Jimmy bhai is earnest, but he has done this role so often,
this film offers nothing new. The music is decent, but
you’ve heard it all before. The characters of the shaadi are
so many, and so predictable, it would be better to stay in
and sleep.

Main Review:


So there are two brothers Veer (Pulkit Samrat) and Veer Ka bhai
Balli (Jimmy Shergill). Both all brawn and all heart. Veer’s way of
‘Helping’ people is to punch and kick. And bhai wants to help him
become dulha. So you begin counting shaadi scenes. But first,
meet, Geet, no, not the Geet from Bhatinda and Jab We Met,
but Geet - pretty Kriti Kharbanda, who has all the personality of a
gota covered dish rag. Then there’s her dad and his dad and their
quirks and allergies, there’s are mummy-jis and mami-jis, and
firangi mama and his sidekick and assorted other relatives so
that it can look like a wedding party. Everyone is decked up and
is loud. Did you expect anything less?

Pulkit Samrat hits the lowest point of his career in this awful
aping of Salman Khan. Every time he shows up on screen, it
looks like he’s desperate. Desperate to prove he’s an action star.
Desperate to prove he can romance a girl. Desperate to prove he
can make you laugh. You just find yourself shaking your head in
sadness. You don’t want to wonder how Veer figures out which
ATM is being burgled and shows up at the nick of time to save the
world… And that was supposed to be his ‘intro’...


My heart goes out to Mr. Super Earnest: Jimmy Shergill. He has
reprised this ‘bhai who never gets the girl’ role in so many Hindi
films: Tanu Weds Manu, Happy Bhag Jaayegi and even Saheb
Biwi aur Gangster, he must’ve simply walked into this set and
delivered any dialogue and would do it well. But hats off to the lad.
He’s believable, even though it feels like he’s played this role
several times. His Punjabi films have better plots: Hero Naam
Yaad Rakhi, Shareek and even the silly, funny Vaisakhi List
(where he breaks jail and runs only to discover he has been
pardoned). I guess Mr. Nice Guy needs to be offered better
roles than just the jilted lover.

The music of this film is generic Punjabi wedding playlist. Loud
enough to keep you awake, but not good enough to get you to
dance in the aisles. The straw that breaks this limping shaadi ki
ghodi are the terrible comic sounds that accompany everything
‘humorous’. No. Satish Kaushik is not funny at all. His lactose
intolerance will make you puke.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)