Friday, August 14, 2015


Oh Brudders, Why Art Thou?

2 stars

Mini Review:

If there's anything one comes back home with, after watching them Jejus beliuving Brudders, is that Akshay Kumar is Hawt. Doosra bhai sirf Hot Headed. Baki picture ... Predictable hai men, jaisa ki Colaba ka shopping.

Main Review:

Akshay Kumar is hawt. A family man, a school-teacher, but so hawt. He has tattooes as well. But his hawtness is hidden by his gareebi and tragedy.

Siddarth is all hot headed, and leg shaking and ear-ring but no tattooes. Shouldn't the badass lad sport tattooes? Never mind. He has drunken daddy.

Trouble is, the movie does not make us care about either the badass son or the drunk daddy, and you begin to notice how daddy's fingers shake like Elvis sometimes and they're sober other times. We start noticing ki Jejus! Kitna Crucifix hai is ghar ka andar? 

Every room, every wall has either a crucifix or a picture of Jejus and not ones that sort of bless people, but depressingly sad ones... Even the memories are candle-lighting at crucifixes with mom. There are crucifixes and altars in neighborhood corners. Everyone wears a rosary to prove they are Christian. Heck, if you look closely, there's a crucifix jammed into a pipe by a door. Isn't it enough their names are David and Monty? 

Everything talks about how they live hand-to-mouth because daddy is drunk, but they have Corelle dinner set in the cupboard that drunk daddy tries to move back to the original place...

This kind of stereotyping is as bad as having a green wall in a Muslim household or a tulsi plant in a Hindu one... But Akshay is hawt. Bas. 

I saw more emotion in ABCD! And better fights in Van Damme's Bloodsport (has a 'kumite' full contact martial art contest). Never miss it when it plays on TV. Here is contest is predictable.

BUT SO MUCH FUN! Raj Zutshi and his co-anchor called Sachin offer us the funniest accents in commentary ever! You start parroting them in less than 30 seconds!

And I want to feel hatred. Without that how can we watch people being beaten to pulp? I would've felt more hatred had drunk daddy come home to beat mommy every day. I would have taken sides. And it is important we take sides or understand what drives the heroes to beat other people to pulp. But forget that.

Because Akshay Kumar is so hawt. And when the two brothers fight, it gets so smarmy you close your eyes because they might begin kissing wearing mouth guards. 

Hmm... Now that would have been a gamechanger, bloodied and bruised lads in Venum brand chaddis kissing each other...

Meanwhile Kiran Kumar has been doing the Armaan Kohli with yellow eyes  and his Jaani Dushman act. You wish he'd show up to liven the proceedings.

But we come home wondering who was babysitting that annoying child recovering from dialysis when daddy was practically kissing bhai in the ring, when drunk daddy was wandering about in Twilight Zone and Mommy was being cross between Talia Shire in Rocky and Agatha from Grand Budapest Hotel... 

Between the Brudders, there's Nine Crores plus won so who cares about the story... You know the makers are praying for earning more...

P.S: Kareena Kapoor's name is Mary, and she does not wear a crucifix.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Review: Shaun The Sheep Movie

Shear Fun!

3 and 1/2 stars

Mini Reviewe:

The sheep are out of their fold and loose in the big city. Their adventures are so delightful you come away with a smile plastered on your face, humming, 'He's Shaun The Sheep, Shaun the Sheep, He's Not Afraid To Take The Intellectual Leap!' 

Main Reviewe:

Yes, you will be compelled to make sheepish puns in your head as you watch Shaun and his woolly headed pals wreak mayhem in the city.

They are so funny and they manage to bring you all kinds of references to all kinds of movies. From Baymax Big Hero, to movies where hero/heroine sneak into a clothing store and change clothes to avoid being detected...

You will laugh as I did, loudly, when the mean Trumper flirts with sheep dressed as girl and hands her the handbag, or how doctors discover Farmer's memory loss... Your brain will be saying, 'No, no, no no! Don't go there!' in anticipation of a disaster, but you'll giggle when the disaster has been averted.

It's a kiddie cartoon that has been entertaining kids for years. But if you are as movie crazy as most of us, and know your pop culture, then the movie is more fun for grown ups. It's not Disney cute for grownups. It's really clever.

Where else would you find a connect with Inception? How can you miss the time 11.55 on the alarm clock? Look out for it. I was happy with the Inception like repetition of the routine because it set me up to expect something to change...

Then there's the fleeting, very fleeting Banksy wall... It kept me going through the predictable comedy bits when the extra large sheep gets stuck in a pipe, or when the twin dance on the roof...

Do not, do not miss the yellow hazard suits... the hazmat suits they are called... made famous by the tv show Breaking Bad. That's clever. So is a spoof of jailbreak scenes we have seen over years in Hollywood, my favorite being this

Since they are British, the double decker bus and the Beatles spoof is expected... but what they do with the Farmer as new pop icon poster is mindblowing...

I've said too much already... go have fun discovering the gems hidden in the ha-ha-hay-hay haystack of laughs that is Shaun The Sheep. Meanwhile, i'm going to sing the clever ditty

Friday, August 07, 2015


Tom Cruise goes from 0 - 60 in 30 seconds! 
Unmissable experience!

3 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

There are action stars and there are action stars, but for some reason Tom Cruise seems to get things right most of the times. And in this movie the team from IMF does a super, super job. And there's a girl too who's not a damsel in distress. Unmissable!

Main Review:

Let me tell you right away, that I found the last Mission Impossible with Anil Kapoor and Tom Cruise hanging out of the 90th or some top floor from Burj Khaleefa (all hair in place!) was impossible to bear.

So I settled down with cheesiest corn to watch more of it on screen. But within 30 seconds, I was with Simon Pegg, watching Tom Cruise take the movie from 'is this another boring action movie to full-on crazy, riveting action.

And it doesn't stop!

It's always fun to watch Alec Baldwin go into speech mode without opening his mouth too much. This time he's attempting to break up the IMF because of their 'blatant wantonness', and he hates Ethan for what he says is mostly luck...

Ethan of course is missing from HQ and chasing this shadow organisation...

You should watch the movie instead of reading reviews which will wax eloquent about the action: 'fucking unbelievable, man!', 'fucking great', 'fuck! fuck! fuck! fucking awesome!'

What I would like to tell you why I fell in love with the movie:


Yes, Casablanca the movie which has Bogey and Ingrid Bergman.

'What?' You ask! You know I'm a bit nutty about movies, but Casablanca?

Yes. The heroine is called Ilsa Faust and she meets Ethan in Casablanca. Ilsa and Casablanca? Of course they know the connect. And her motives are just as suspect as Bogey suspected then. Ilsa looks like Ingrid Bergman in some frames and the similarity keeps you interested. 

Bogey remembers the color of his Ilsa's dress, and here Ethan is made to look ate her shoes. The women in the audience sigh collectively not just because of the shoes, but the also for the fact that she can use a knife, and she's not wearing an apron and cutting cabbage for coleslaw

And Faust? Where does that come from? 

Ilsa has made a Faustian deal with the devil called Lane. Oooh! The more I see the connections, the more I enjoy the movie, which has all the cool oxygen-less stunts, motorbike stunts and everything we have come to expect from the Mission Impossible movies. 

And Lane, as all baddies are is creep central. He speaks in this fuzzy, razor voice, and his character is made scary by how everyone reacts to him, talks about him.

And last but not the least, Tom Cruise might be getting on in age, but looks so good, dammit! You need to book your tickets, now!

p.s.: I thought i was rather clever to have noticed one big blooper in the movie, but IMDB has recorded it already. We shall tweet about it later!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Review: Drishyam

Drishyam Is Time Naashyam!
Drishyam Is Unintentional Haasyam!

2 stars

Mini Review:

Had they told the story simply without over-explaining everything, the movie would have been brilliant. At 166 minutes, Drishyam is mostly a waste of time. And a silly, simpering heroine doesn't help.

Main Review:

'Red Riding Hood is a girl who is wearing a red riding hood.'
'Is she a girl?'
'Yes, it's a girl, who is wearing a red colored hooded riding jacket'
'Is that so? Correct me if I'm wrong, Red Riding Hood is a girl who is wearing a red riding hood, right?'
'I'm going to tell everyone about Red Riding hood now.'

(cut to)

(dialog repeated as person tells everyone about red riding hood)

You throw popcorn at the screen because they forgot capital letters...

This is the kind of show and tell and tell again and again makes Drishyam 166 minutes long. You wish they'd fast forward those parts. Don't get me wrong, the story is good. It's just that they tell and they tell and they tell again and again, and you are so weary, you want to send in a request that since there isn't any suspense any more, so could you please kill or maim someone to break the monotony?

Now Ajay Devgn and his awesome choice of sandals (just perfect for the role) and he is rather sweet as a cablewallah who watches movies all night. But his muscles do not hide. He looks like he could take on the entire bunch at both police stations without breaking into a sweat. You can imagine a Rajkummar Rao or even Nawazuddin being beaten up by cops, but not Ajay Devgn. He's still Singham. Not paavam enough. But having watched Mohanlal in the same role, you wonder how Mohanlal manages to look less of a man mountain even though he's a big guy. But he's a big guy who rides a bicycle (Ajay has been given a motorbike) and his frame magically shrinks when confronted by cops.

That brings us to Gaitonde. Baddy supreme. He's so awful, you want to make sure you don't attract his attention if he's walking on the same street as you. He's so bad, he could be Pran. What a fabulous actor Kamlesh Sawant is. If there's one reason you need to see the movie, he would be the reason. He's superior to even Tabu. The job is to be single-mindedly nasty, and he earns the star for the movie.

Tabu simply holds he breath and pretends to be stern. She doesn't even weep at the camera. She hides her face in her husband's shoulder like some damsel in distress. How one missed Vijayshanti! Pardon me, but Tabu's uniform is too tight across her bosom. And her back to camera shot when she's torturing men is guffaw inducing.

Speaking of guffaws, Shriya Saran simpers and simpers and is so coy, you want to extricate yourself from the molasses dripping out of every frame she appears in. She's even coy when she's sitting on the floor, stricken, after the tragedy... How I wished for the simplicity of Meena - Mohanlal's wife in the other Drishyam. And their believable home.

You expect an old but modest home (Not Finding Fanny style dilapidated, but a home with a with a little bit of damp here, and plaster falling off there...) but you get a perfect picturebook house with crisp curtains. What the art director does not realise is that the audience is so bored of the slow moving story, we notice that a switch by the door switches on a table lamp! The house is as silly as Shriya's coyness.

Just compare the pictures of the two families and you know why Ajay Devgn and co look like they're tourists when Mohanlal and his family look like they could give you direction to your aunt's house

The young cable lad (seen previously in Balak Palak) is as perfect as casting could get. 

The story gathers momentum in the last 45 minutes. And you like the story. And you wish their editor had a trigger finger for the delete button. He would have put together a far better movie than what you watched for 166 minutes. 

I wish to apologise to my forehead for the number of times it met my palm through those 166 minutes. The how-they-dun-it reveal is stylishly done, and you'd have appreciated it more had they not shown it being done, and told us about it again and again and again.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


It's A Salman Film!
It's A Nawaazuddin Film!
It's A Harshaali Film!
Now Bring On The Violins!

3 Stars

Mini Review: 

A Salman Khan movie is usually a shirt tearing mara-mari fest. But Kabir Khan manipulates us all into sniffling into our handkerchiefs and gives Salman his Andaz Apna Apna vulnerability back. Plus Nawazuddin and the little kid are simply brilliant.

Main Review:

Bring on the violins? Did I not buy extra popcorn to throw at the screen when the shirt comes off? What is going on? This is a Salman Khan film, isn't it?

Oh yes, it is! But you'll find wads of tissue on the floors instead of popcorn. In fact there is no need to buy any corn (topped with cheese) because there's more corny, cheesy stuff on screen rather than ever before. You know you are being shepherded into a story that has more aman ki asha, peoples of two nations holding hands across barbed wires so don't you dare gag kind of stuff than anyone has dreamed of, but you don't mind it. Not one bit!

I did not take my usual pack of tissues because it's a Salman film. That means it has thodee story, thode laughs, and lots and lots of mara mari. And yes, room for whistles and claps the moment he makes an entry and when his shirt comes off.

But I found myself frantically and judiciously using the lone tissue that came with the multiplex coffee. The air-conditioning helped dry the tissue so it could be used again... And again.

Am I being sarcastic? Not at all. Logic knows you are being manipulated. Awww! Wake up mommy! We worry! The child is lost! Awwww! The child watches Bajrangi dance, there's hope! (By the way, everybody watches Bajrangi dance. You don't think that his gulaal stained shirt is so-oh staged to make him look hawt... You're just going, 'Awwww! Look at man-mountain with that little kid! I would also hold his hand in a mela like that one and pretend I'm lost!'

Your logic is stabbed to death by the cuteness of both these characters. 

So cute Salman is! He's wearing kurtas! His muscles look so awesome! He looks like a wide bodied Airbus. But he's so cute because he's somehow got that Andaz Apna Apna vulnerability back. No Dabanng wala arrogance. No added style. He's just a humble, so humble Logic resurrected and got stabbed in the eye again! And, he's so cute, you think even the mosquito coil in his hands becomes cute.

Speaking of cuteness, there's an overload of it because of the little girl who is lost. Now movie kids are obnoxious. Usually. But in this movie, this kid is really, really cute. Especially cute, because, as a fellow critic rightly said, 'She's cute because she does not speak.'

Nawazuddin shines on screen because he does a YouTube viral video imitation better than the original and then carries that same dementedness, the same dogged need to get a saleable story on air (Aaah! They understood the 'vyatha', the pain of a freelance journalist! That's a huge chunk of population there... the small unrecognised people... brilliantly manipulated again!)  

If you saw the video, you'll realise Nawazuddin's character is called Chand Nawab even in the movie...

No more of the story. You just go see it. As someone unkindly said, you are being generous because it's the last Salman movie you will see should be be sent to jail. I'm just glad it is not the awful spread the joy, give back to the community kind of puke-inducing rubbish he made and called it Jai Ho.

The movie is beautifully shot, and you wish it were as easy to travel to those pristine parts of Kashmir today without the threat of guns...

Also it was a pleasure to see Kashmiri theater actor Bhawani Bashir Yasir play the part of a village elder. Kareena Kapoor cries and cries in the movie and is quite forgettable even though she acts as Bajrangi's conscience, shows him right from wrong...

Yes, the script is manipulative, but you don't mind listening to 'love is bigger than doctrine', 'all religions are good', 'people are misunderstood', politicians are bad' kind of aman ki asha stuff. It is a natural part of the script. And the little kid is so cute, and Salman Khan is so cute and Nawaazuddin is so nice (no over the top hamming like he did in Badlapur), you are happy to be a part of their journey.

You don't mind the no mara mari bit at all. In fact, the shirt off, beating up scenes look too melodramatic in the movie. And it won't matter that you know and I know that You Tube is banned in Pakistan. 

But what a Salman Khan film this is. Quite hat-ke. Worth a watch in the theaters, and when it comes to the telly. Because the kid is so cute and Nawaaz is so awesome and you love Salman Khan's muscles and his cuteness and also how he looks hawt in Kurtas...

Okay, Manisha. Breathe. Let the violins of manipulation playing in your head stop. And step carefully over tissues littering the floor of the theater. Thank God it's not some sticky popcorn this time... Also look away from logical people who shake their heads in disbelief when they see your teary eyes. Sniff!

When the cash registers ring and ring and ring, I do hope the filmwallahs will learn that a soppy story is wayyyy better than the beat 'em, punch 'em loud sounds cops and really horrid raping pillaging villains stories remade from the South... 

P.S. People from both sides of the border will watch this movie and sniffle. So there!

P.S. The chicken dance is crap.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Review: Pitch Perfect 2

Sexy Naughty Bitchy Gals 

2 and 1/2 Stars

Mini Review:

The songs are fun, the situations funnier. The girls are naughty, the situations are naughtier, the competition is bitchy, the podcasters, bitchier. Overall a fun watch with your gal pals!

Main Review:

It's a date movie with your gal pals, and although the situations are 'stock' and the answers to problems are perky and pat but you start singing along, 'Apple bottom with the fur...something something something... and shawty got low, low, low, low, low...'

Speaking of low, the funnest part of the film are the two podcasters. They're bitchier than anything I've seen in a long time. Am surprised some of the comments went past the idiotic censor board that believes in muting curse words even though the certification is 'Adult'. But so glad that they missed on the word play. Otherwise the movie would have lost its bootyliciousness...

And when you think about the censor board you are singing with the bellas, 'I don't think you're ready for this jelly...Baby can you handle this...'

See, you're singing too, no? I was happily humming Hanson lyrics and it's a good thing the movies are seen in the relative darkness of the theater or my friends would be laughing me out of me skin...

It always bothers me when large people are made the butt of jokes and tights ripping in public is not funny at all. And it is a tad off putting but you must admire Fat Amy's limber skills. Physical comedy is not easy, so credit does go to her...

'Many times I've tried to tell you...Many times I've cried alone...Maybe I wouldn't know what to do with my strength any way...'

Let me stop singing for a minute and tell you that there are many girly things you want to barf at - pillow fights and campfire singing (with marshmallows none of the girls eat) - but you don't because it's all very earnest. They're trying so hard to be normal...

But it's Friday night and you don't care, and you sing along with Montell Jordan, 'This is how we do it!'

This is a happy, feel-good, gal pal, singalong movie... As they say in the 'hood: Paisa Vasool!

Review: Max

Max 'Awws', Max 'Ooohs', Max ‘Get ‘em, Max!’

3 happy pawprints 

Mini Review:

The cleverest manipulation ever! A not-so-cute dog and a not-so-nice teenager makes you go, ‘Awww!’ so many times that you start liking them and by the end of the movie are so involved with their story that you find yourself crying quietly as the credits roll.

Main Review:

When a dog cocks its head sideways and looks at you with hope in his eyes, even the hardest of hearts will melt a bit. Thanks to the internet, we are also used to sharp looking dogs that stand guard and protect, or really cute cuddly pooches. Here, Max the dog is not cute  at all. Neither does he look smart. In fact, he is quite lean to the point of looking hungry and his coloring does not want to make you instantly want to pat him. And he has an attitude. He bites, he bares his fangs and is generally disgruntled.

The teenager who is given the responsibility of the dog is sullen and selfish and not likeable at all. The dog and the boy make a fitting pair.

But you've seen many films to know that is just the perfect set up so that you will be witness to the change and root for the duo when the change happens. You know the kids are going to love the practically mangy, unloved dog and his boy. No matter how many movies you have seen, you are soon swept along the change and begin to say, 'Awww!'  

Not only do you say, 'Awww!', you even watch with bated breath when the two are in imminent danger, or you cover your eyes when you think bad things are going to happen. You don't care that you are being played. You love every minute of the movie. You want Max to bite the bad guys and you hope they never recover... 

And then the credits roll. It's like catharsis. You let all those emotions run out of your eyes, and hope that the lights don't come on soon. You're a grown up. You are not expected to have a never ending lump in your throat...

Sniff! Sniff! Where are the tissues when you need them...  

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Review: Terminator Genisys

This Time Travel Tale Trips Over It's Own Feet!

1 star

Mini Review:

Take earplugs along. This Terminator is noisy, in the horrid 3D, has a story that trips over itself and poor Arnie is left to save the day with his lines which are flogged to death.

Main Review:

Imagine watching a Terminator movie and not wanting to hear 'I'll be back!'

Imagine getting so irritated with the heroine that you come back home and write a letter to George R R Martin telling him to kill her character in the Game Of Thrones TV show.

Imagine watching a Time Travel story that is so confused, even the characters ask, 'Is he the good Terminator or the bad one?'

Terminator Genisys does everything to destroy any nostalgia you feel when you excitedly enter the theater. You want to be terrified of the Terminators sent by Cyberdyne to destroy Sarah Connor, John Connor, Reese, or any of the 'good' guys. Here, the reveal is so daft, there is no fear, you hear many palms being slapped against foreheads and groans in the theater. You pick up your phone and announce on social media: Seriously? They didn't find anything else?

So the good guys and bad guys travel through time to fight Cyberdyne and each other and while you are pining away for the awesomeness of the Terminator walking nonchalantly with a box of long stemmed roses, you groan at the sight of the Terminator walking in with a giant teddy bear as if it were being held hostage. Who is going to miss the gun you ask, but there are so many groan-worthy scenes in the movie, you just want it to be over now.

The special effects are nothing to rave about. Harry  Potter Prisoner Of Azkaban had more believable past and future characters existing simultaneously. Jurassic Park had a similar scene where the characters hang by a rope and the bus falls into the abyss... And the 3D has just been put in for you to pay extra at the multiplex. 

My sympathies go out to Arnie. He has put in maximum effort in trying to instill the pathetic story with humor. If people in audience felt bad for him being branded as the oldest Terminator again and again ('He's only T1') imagine how much it cost him to say the line he's made to repeat again and again that he's still in working order. The only reason why you should watch this daft movie is for him.

And the story? Here's a priceless piece of stupidity: Like in other Terminator movies, someone has to travel in time to save something. This time, Sarah and Reese get into the time machine and go back to save the world by destroying Cyberdyne. But friendly Arnie cannot step into the time travel thing because everything buy skin and bones gets destroyed. Arnie says, 'I'll be there in the past, don't worry.' Erm... Then why couldn't they all travel the Arnie way? Was that just an excuse to get the hero and the heroine naked? And didn't Arnie of the original Terminator travel in time (presumably in the same time machine)? He is naked too, remember? And how come he is older when he travels back in time while the hero and the heroines don't age?

And if Cyberdyne is destroyed by these heroes, and now Sarah and Reese can be happy for ever after, what is the need of the stupid senti scene planting a memory in the head of the little boy? If this is done to safeguard the future, then shouldn't Reese and Sarah never produce John Connor either?  

The story seems to be so devoid of logic when you ask questions like these. But you enjoy the Arnie moments, so you book the tickets and watch nostalgia being systematically destroyed. I wished they had really traveled in time and destroyed the idea for this movie.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Killa

One Of The Finest Films On Childhood

4 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

I want to adopt Bandya, Egghead, Prince, Omkar and Chinu. I envy their friendship, I wished my mom were more like Chinu's, I want to now go visit all the places Chinu and his friends went, I am in love with cinema again!

Main Review:

You watch Bollywood potboilers where the hero kicks twenty chaps twice his size and romance heroines half their age. You are numbed by multi-million dollar Hollywood summer extravaganza where the special effects dazzle your eyes... 

But then once on a rare blue moon, comes a movie that puts everything that you loved about the flickering pictures in a darkened room, and you fall in love with the play of light once again. These are movies that make popcorn redundant, make you feel for every character, and before you know it, you begin to believe in the magic of the movies again.

Good boy Chinu moves to this picturesque seaside town and saves a puppy from the 'chandaal chowkdi' kids who will become his friends... Sitting in the darkened theater with a friend I realised that one has outgrown so many friends - some moved away, some you outgrew, some friendships did not last - but the ones you remember clearly, and with fondness that you think is an emotion long forgotten.

Your senses are so used to the crash, boom, bang of the movies you are used to seeing, the langorous pace of the story makes you wonder, 'Is this movie going anywhere? Is the misery of the mom going to slip out of the screen and permeate your being?' And that's when Bandya (Parth Bhalerao, the smart alecky lad from Bhootnath Returns) shows up on screen cursing merrily, and saves the movie.

And if you are a grown up and wonder how you got there, you will call your mom and dad and tell them to watch this movie, because it is a subtle pointing out how you felt when they were too busy to sit down and ask you what was wrong, and if they did, you were tongue tied to express yourself. This movie is that wonderful.

The locations are so delicious, you want to take that next vacation to that Killa (the fort), sit down and contemplate the meaning of life on the same beach that Chinu sits, you want to visit the same lighthouse, and fall in love again and hope it is as innocent and pure as Egghead's crush.

Why not give five stars then? The film leaves a couple of threads loose. It would mean offering spoilers, but I wondered why the dog just disappears from the scene. Boy and his dog are powerful images. Plus the subtitles are just a little lazy.

For rekindling your childhood memories, watch Killa. I emerged richer from simply watching the smile on Chinmay's face at the very end.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Inside Out

A Superb Animation Film For Grown-Ups

3 stars

Mini Review:

Pixar is amazing. And your kids can watch Toy Story, Monsters Inc and other films again and again. But this film is far too grown up for kids. Every value, every idea, every clever execution is beyond the comprehension of kids. It's fabulous animation, don't get me wrong. But it's a grown up movie.

Main Review:

This is a grown up movie trying to be cute because animation is meant primarily for kids. Let me explain. 

Let's look at the characters. 'Oh-so cute they are!' is what you will exclaim as you make a beeline to buy the plushies. The little ones are crying already because self-styled leader Joy is picking on Sadness and telling her to not touch things, 'Mommy, Joy is like you!' the kids are saying, 'Telling Sadness to not touch this, not touch that.' 

So now mommy feels more like Kill Joy rather than 'Joy', and kids have identified themselves with Sadness. And it's true, because mommies are forever dragging kids to where ever they want to go. Joy literally drags Sadness back to headquarters (home!), while Sadness just wants to touch everything and turn it blue.

That brings us to the story. How amazing the whole idea is! Emotions monitor everything the eleven year old Riley goes through and help her get through the day. But there's a second story that's going on inside the head, which is so grown up. Sadness is once again banished to the 'Stay in this circle' and read a book. Kids in the theater will now be cowering in their seats, nodding at each other as if to say, 'Mommy does that to me too!' 

And grown ups in the theater will be marveling at how cool is the idea of a train of thought, the maze inside the head, the Imagination zone, the cloud people, the subconscious... Why do you think any kid would be happy watching friendship island crashing, fun island turning gray and crumbling. And they don't tell you it can be rebuilt.

My heart was broken to bits when the Imaginary Friend Bing Bong is treated in the movie exactly how grown ups treat imaginary friends in real life. Not something kids need to see. No matter how many rainbows the wheelbarrow leaves...

If this were truly a movie for 11 year olds (the kid in the movie, Riley, is), then we would have seen more of Riley at adjusting in her new school, new crushes, her imaginary boyfriend, her struggle with lessons, her new found hockey team mates. Now that would have been really fun.

I can imagine mommies and daddies wagging their fingers at the kids telling them, 'See! If you behave badly, family island inside your head will crumble. If you fight with your best friend, friendship island will crumble!' I wanted Riley to stop walking to the bus stop (takes her all day!) and actually go do things truant kids do when they skip school: find other truant kids, pilfer things from store after trying out clothes, have a brush with the cops... The chances were plenty.

But no, this is the story of Joy. who needs to understand Sadness is important too. Blah. Like I said, the animation is superb, but it's a movie for grown ups. Get someone to watch over your kids while you ooh and aah over the Brazilian pilot...

P.S. Loved, loved, loved Sadness who lifts up her leg in submission and says, 'I'm too sad to walk.' (mommies will know, kids say, 'carry me' any time!)  

Review: Insidious Chapter 3

Standard issue horror, you could watch it with your whole family!

2 Shivering Stars

Mini Review:

There are moments of true fright, and others so contrived your grandma's snores are scarier. But you've loved the two other Insidious movies, so you sit through the tedious parts and allow yourself the luxury of a few jolts. Plus Dermot Mulroney is hawt, hawt, hawt.

Main Review:

Have you counted your family members before you enter the theater? Who knows, someone might get dragged into the shadows...

With great anticipation Bhaiyya, Bhabi, Grandma, Pops, Mom, the twins Bunty and Babli, Unc and Aunty are all seated, armed to the gills with popcorn and sodas and I turn the confusion during seating to my advantage to eye the lads who have shown up to watch the horror film of the year with their overworked upper bodies and skinny legs in even skinnier jeans. I know Dermot Mulroney is in the movie so there's plenty of hawtness expected.

When you hear Elsie say, 'When you call out to one of the dead, they can all hear you.' You give your full attention to the screen and forget to count how many times the silly teenager on screen disobeys that good advice. Dad doesn't, because he mutters,'You never listened too!'

The scares are too slow in coming and the almost spooky encounters are such a sham you want to slap someone. Creaking doors, things moved around, characters stepping on dangerous looking things and nothing happens... all tricks you have seen in scary movies. The only people who look like they're enjoying this are Bhaiyya and Bhabi (they don't get out much, so bhabi is making the most of 'let's clutch the guy to show how ladylike we are' trope). It's ruined by grandma though. Because grandma - who fancies herself in Elsie's role - is snoring. Her snores are so scary, the annoying ushers who have started this 'at your seat' service of food spills an entire tray.

I'm happy to be jolted in fright in a couple of scenes. Truly scary scenes these by the elevator and one of the victims of the Darth Vader spook. Darth Vader? When the movie does not root you to the seat with sheer horror, then your brain starts offering silly allusions. The scary guy breathes like Vader and I realised mom was breathing like him every time they showed his footprints all over the house. Imagine cleaning that mess!

Thankfully, I could ignore them all and stare at Dermot Mulroney. What a hawt dad he makes. A couple of times you just wish he had taken his shirt off just so the movie would earn an extra star. But no. So you make little notes about which character is going to be bumped off next. The fun is in seeing how. When that doesn't happen, you begin to groan because now a character who seems to be taken straight from Harry Potter comes to rescue the stupid teen.

It's a decent scare fest. The trouble is that Elsie is too chirpy after meeting her mentor. She becomes haha-funny with her new found bravado and I wished the scary guy put those footprints on her face. This is as standard issue scare-fest as can get. But it's raining outside, so might as well see the film and come out happy.

P.S. The buffed up lads watching the film predictably were ribbing each other loudly after the movie: 'You peed in your pants, bro!' 'No, you did! I dropped coffee!' 'You were scared!' 'Not me! I'm cool!'


Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: ABCD2

Varun Dhawan Can Dance Saala!

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

This movie throws up all the cliches possible, and in 3D it's a very tough watch for two and a half hours. But watching Varun Dhawan dance is like having pakodas with chai or pepperoni pizza in the rains. Perfect.

Main Review:

Before dance fans jump on me beat me up and do victory pirouette on my lifeless body, let me say we should award this movie with five stars. 

But it's 154 minutes long. And 3D is fine for a little bit (best during the opening credit sequence). But what 3D does is reduce the size of people into looking smaller than they are and you look at Varun Dhawan as though he's some action figure rather than a full-bodied, red-blooded male. 

That for me is enough to take away half a star.

I loved the first part. I still watch it when it shows up on TV. It's the story of underdogs who do good in a world of made for cut-throat competitors. So I was looking forward to a similar story. Just as in all Step Up movies. The formula is perfect. Underdogs lose, they practice hard, and then they win (sometimes the trophy, sometimes hearts, and always, always the girl.). When you have a formula that works, why would you try and re-invent the wheel?

In ABCD2 there's a very weak romance thread. Shraddha and Varun look more like buddies than romantic dance partners. And there is no problem with that. It's 2015, for godssakes! But there's romance, and it's so tepid, you know you have better romance going on with pizza in your real life. Bringing in Lauren to offer moments of jealousy does not work too, because they want to show everyone is good and as long as they dance, they are a part of the team.

So the romance part of the story doesn't work. But all the women in the theaters, regardless of age, are now in love with Varun Dhawan. They are imagining themselves in the bower just like in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,  dancing to music that's playing in the heads with Varun Dhawan instead of Shah Rukh Khan. And that's all that matters.

But it's annoying to see the deaf mute dancer make the same gesture that he can hear music in his heart just as Shah Rukh does in that bower scene... And it forces me to mentally put check marks on the cliches in the story.  

Dancer/Friends who leave when they're caught cheating on the dance performance (they never tell you why they cheated, who taught them the moves that the Philippines dancers did, whose idea was it)

Why do they need a guru for the Bangalore championships? How convenient is it that Prabhudeva just pops up on the scene! Those drunk scenes are so-oh cute but so badly done... Well, yes, they're dancers and not actors, but in part 1, the story of insulted guru who makes the ragtag dancers into a great team worked so beautifully...

Of course I wanted to wash Varun Dhawan's shirt when Prabhudeva wipes his yuckkky mouth on it. He's so-oh cute!

Back to the cliches in the story. How conveniently they win the Bangalore contest, how easily the 22lakhs are got, how conveniently they squander the cash and how the seemingly good guy turns out to be a baddie.

Prabhudeva's back story just does not add up for me, and I kept saying in my head, 'Why are they wasting time trying to show a story? Show them dancing!'

And if by magic Varun Dhawan dances with his team. And I am happy again, and so are the hundred women whooping loudly in the theater

By now I have cut one and a half star already from the five stars I initially awarded the movie.

But the worst, the very worst thing they could do to the movie is the fake patriotism and the desh is meri-maa thing they saved for the end. It is as annoying as the national anthem right before every movie that folks in Maharashtra suffer. It's a law, and even though one is patriotic, it is hard to feel that way when one has a tray of popcorn, coffee and hot samosas to balance along with the raincoat (or an unbrella) and a handbag (or a backpack). So when you see this jabardasti ka patriotism rear up its head you are reminded of another lame final scene where they recite the national anthem to win a singing contest (Lions Of Punjab, I think) or Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham where Kajol's annoying kid recites the anthem and everyone wonders whether to stand up in their seats or slap the little kid.

That means, we have 2 and a 1/2 stars left. That goes for all the dances, the choreography and the dancers, and the hard work they have put in and the young gorgeous Varun Dhawan who manages a pull off a super role quite effortlessly. (Yes, yes, Shraddha Kapoor dances too. But she's overshadowed, and the trick of getting her to not dance is a cliche you can see from a mile away.)

Varun Dhawan simply shines. Even when the CGI of the grand canyon is laughable and you come out trying to erase that song from your mind...

p.s. I hope they didn't get paid to write the lyrics of that romantic song. If the young generation is romancing to such lyrics, am glad I am ancient.  

Review: SPY


3 stars

Mini Review:

Everything you love about spy movies is there, but it's been turned upside down and totally batty and wicked and self deprecating. The funny moments come at you from all sides and you laugh simply because it is so outrageous.

Main Review: 

It's a Melissa McCarthy movie, so you might be right in thinking there will be fat lady jokes. There are, but they're so self-deprecating that you cannot help but laugh. Plus everything else is so startlingly funny, you find yourself choking on the popcorn!

'I'm glad your hair broke your fall!' she says sweetly to someone who just gets up winded from a fall (Melissa's character has tripped her and caused that fall and you're laughing at how it happened!)

She's a CIA agent who has never been on the field. Erm... That's obvious, you say, look at her and look at James Bond! Bond has the perfect body, the perfect gadgets, the perfect love life, the best of food and wine, and Melissa McCarthy is... Well... She is just the perfect opposite.

And it is in being different that the comedy begins. And how!

You will laugh at the food and the wine moments.

You will laugh at the outrageous love life moments.

You will laugh at the gadgets.

You will laugh at the comic moments that happen because her body is far from perfect.

You will laugh during the car chases and the action scenes.

You will laugh when you realise how stereotypical we think spies are and you will fall in love with Jason Statham. He is so funny you forget he's an action star.

Most of all, you will laugh at the outrageous insults the characters trade, the outrageous things characters say to each other, and the outrageous things they do in order to get out of situations... 

(Basically, you will laugh at everything that happens on screen!)

Worth mentioning is the appearance of Bollywood's pretty, famous, duck faced Nargis Fakhri. She's simply amazing! And she's not the duck faced simpering creature we saw in Rockstar. She's great fun. She is a deadly assassin and she does a great job in the action scenes she has been given. She looks great, and what's really, really good, is that she is NOT the duck-faced creature everyone made her out to be. The makers of Rockstar did her great disservice by making her pout in every scene. I hope that she is offered better roles from here on!

Did I say that the movie is funny? It is. Watch it. But It's half an hour too long. So buy some extra coffee when you think you cannot laugh any more. And I am sure when Jason Statham goes off in that boat, you'll spill that coffee all over you.

p.s. not too many people notice this in a 'comedy' movie, but there are a couple of moments that will make you glad you have girl-friends, and that you will never let your best friends down...


Friday, June 12, 2015

Review: The DUFF

Sweet High School Romance

2 stars

Mini Review:

Every now and then a book written for young adults turns out to be a sweet high school movie. It's got guitar playing boys with long hair, bitchy girls, best friends, high school jock, funny, weird parents and teachers, and yes a high school dance.

Main Review:

High school can be a nightmare if you are not one of the most 'popular' kids. You must be pretty and intelligent and good at sports and awesome at studies, and you are also expected to be phenomenally talented. If you cannot be that, you should be some super nerd who saves the world. 

What you can never, ever be, is ugly and fat. 

In fact these two words are such a 'no-no' that if you were making a scary movie for young adults, the fat, ugly kid is usually the first one to be killed by flying sharks or zombies or slashers.

This movie tells you that it is worse being the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. The ugliest person in a group of hot friends.

The movie will remind you of your own struggles in high school. The movie will make you want to send a group hug to everyone on your Facebook High School page. The movie will make you cry because things have not changed since the whole class laughed at you when the frog jumped off the dissection tray and into your school shirt and you screamed as you took off the shirt in front of the biology class. The movie will remind you of bitchy classmates who got off fancy cars and made fun of the length of your skirt (your mother had just let down the hem and there was a tell-tale line that announced your growth spurt). This movie will remind you of your former crushes and you'll go to their facebook pages and check them out again...

What this movie will also show you that the world is now unkinder and tougher to the teenagers today. They have coined horrendous words like DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) and they are far more insidious when they make fun of anyone. Had the kids posted a video of my encounter at the bio lab with the frog, it would be terrible to live it down. 

In this world, one fat teenager decides that she will not be the DUFF and gets help. 

Sigh. It's all very funny, and cute and sweet and romantic...

Read the book by the same name written by Kody Keplinger. Watch the movie to re-live high school memories. Or if you have a teenage daughter...



Review: NAGRIK

A Newspaperman Swallows Truth's Bitter Pill

3 stars

Mini Review:

Sharply written, this newspaperman's dogged search for the truth makes for a good viewing. Especially if you wish there was something one could do to change the world. You hope the protagonist wins.

Main Review:

You do still get the stuck-in-the-70s cinema where 40 year olds are playing co-eds in the weirdest clothes, pretending to be 'with it'. But those movies are forgiven because there are movies like Nagrik, who tell us their stories that are very different from the run of the mill romances. Marathi cinema is bringing us gems like Nagrik, and I for one, am happy to see stories that are different.

Nagrik is the story of a frustrated newspaperman Shyam Jagdale, who has seen the worst and battles his demons to find a resolution.

Sachin Khedekar is the protagonist in the story, whose pen is fiery and his beliefs strong. He is a journalist who knows that truth cannot be 'convenient'. Shyam uncovers many an uncomfortable truth. Predictably he is asked to 'tone down' his reports because the truth hurts powerful men.

When you think about it, this is not a new plotline for a movie. In Ardh Satya an idealistic cop battles the corrupt system, In a movie Ace In The Hole (as old as 1951), Kirk Douglas plays a reporter who gets a chance at a big story is he tosses his ethics aside. There are many many examples where newspapermen die for their beliefs.

Here Sachin Khedekar does not get into anything physically dramatic at all. There is no scuffle with the goons sent by politicians to rough him up. No stones are thrown at his house. No baddies kidnap his daughter to prevent him from writing. There are no dramatic throwing papers at a reluctant editor. The drama is in the dialog.

Which makes for a tad cumbersome viewing. You need to step out and have a cup of chai when you're watching. And not because it is tedious. It's because you want to savor good lines written even for someone who does not speak Marathi in a Marathi film. 

The ever reliable Rajesh Sharma plays Bhaiyyaji, who says, and I'm paraphrasing here, 'Marathi bolna zaroori nahi hai, samajh mein aani chaahiye' when Sachin Khedekar asks him why he does not speak the language in spite of living and working in Bombay for so long.

You suddenly realise how well developed the characters are when such dialog come at you. Milind Soman plays a politician who does not hesitate to use his voters to get his own way, 'All you need to do is promise the gullible middle class that you will scrap the toll collected on roads when elected'. He knows he can incite a riot and people will die in the riots happily. To watch Sriram Lagu play an old man wracked by guilt for having helped political upheavals with his machinations was such a pleasure to watch. 

Also amazing is the directorial trick of using a shaheer (street singer/folk singer) who appears like the Greek Chorus and tells us of the situation and its many moral, political, social nuances. The actor Sambhaji Bhagat is a 'shaheer' in real life as well. Sambhaji Bhagat has written and performed the street theater/shaheer songs you heard in the recent award winning Court as well.

The truths that Sachin Khedekar uncovers are grisly and moved even my cynical heart. And I would like you to watch the movie so you can be shocked and amazed as well.

What i enjoyed most is how he stumbles upon the truths. Sometimes it is as simple as stepping out of a boring not-really-news conference to take a breather and discovering the connect between bad guys. And sometimes, it is as tough to swallow as uncovering the lives of migrant workers.

I wish though that the role of the newspaperman who carries the burden of truths had not been borne by the actor so heavily. Sachin Khedekar's reporter is rather unhappy. He drowns himself in alcohol (in vino veritas makes for his character), and he seems to be really miserable in his frustrations and his inability to change the scheme of things. I wish he were as fiery as his words. It would be less heavy cinema.

Blogging and speaking your mind via the internet seems like a great tool that makes its appearance in the movie and I was really happy to see it as a part of life in a middle class setting. Bollywood yet has to learn how to do it right. 

The montage during the Vitthal song will shake you up and surprise you and shock you and move you. Makes the movie unmissable. The movie ends on a positive note, though, and you come away with a feeling of hope as the shaheer sings of a new morning. 

Watch this movie and be inspired by it. You may not be able to change the way current politics work, but you might just wake up as a citizen.



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review: Jurassic World

Dino Slasher Mayhem! Where's The Wonder Gone?

Two and Half Stars

Mini Review:

It is big, bad and bloody minded. It kills everything because it can. It's terrifying rather than awe-inspiring. And if you don't like mindless killing, there's only one thing left to do: run. As far away from the theater as you can, to the wonder inducing original.

Main Review:

I was terrified. I admit. I have clutched my handbag so tight it has a permanent imprint. I have clutched at the shirt-sleeve of the friend sitting next to me so hard, that only when the credits rolled did I realise that his shirt was wrapped around my face like some burqua and he was shirtless and frozen stiff thanks to the relentless air-conditioning in the theater.

This is perhaps the one time I have ignored the trite lines being spouted by the principal characters and actively looked at the background to check if the horrendous monster dinosaur was lurking in the trees. 

'Everything is going to be okay!'
'I want to see everything!'
'Have a wonderful weekend!'
'We have created attractions'
'They're not attractions, they are real, live creatures.'
'We set out to make Indominus the most fearsome dinosaur ever to be displayed at Jurassic World. The genetic engineers at our Hammond Creation Lan have more than delivered. At first glance, Indominus most closely resembles a T-Rex...'

So the predictability of the Indominus with the bhelpuri DNA from ordinary creatures like cuttlefish and tree frogs and other creepy dinosaurs going rogue makes for the story of this movie. It's not like they're trying hard to tell us something new. And it's done with really scary effects. It's scarier than The Conjuring and The Babadook and slasher movies. It's horrible to see the carnage caused by the rogue dino. I loved watching the Brachiosaurus in Jurassic Park, I remember how it reaches out to Alan and the kids resting on the trees... 

Well, I hated the Indominus so much, here is how you could make sure no cuttlefish DNA is left for splicing when they really start creating dinos in real life:

That taken care of, let's look at the cardboard cutouts called people in the movie: 

1. There's a career woman who talks numbers. 
2. The brawny lad who has a soft spot for the dinosaurs. 
3. Two kids who break rules and need to be rescued. 
4. One bad guy with an agenda. 
5. One heartless scientist in a lab. 
6. Tourists who are just dino bait.
7. Assistants who are expendable.

Remember other heroines in other dino movies? Laura Dern who is a dino doc, Tea Leoni as the distraught mother, Julianne Moore is a Paleontologist too. They made you feel good. You wanted to rescue them from the bad dinos, you wanted to protect them. In Jurassic World, the heroine is a number crunching, marketing person, a little like the lawyer in the original Jurassic Park. Hardly endearing. In fact, I was hoping that the Indominus would eat her up just as the T-Rex gobbled up the lawyer cowering in the loo. 

The hero is cute enough, placed there to get the young women going, 'Aawwww! He cares for dinosaurs!' but he doesn't inspire the same confidence as Sam Neill or Jeff Goldblum who are intelligent and look like they know what they're talking about. This one is just muscle. Let's say even if you think baby Indiana Jones is going to save the day, you are not confident as to how he would beat the big, ugly Indominus.

The two kids who need to be rescued are so boringly predictable, you want to ground them for life if the dinosaurs let them live.

The bad guy with the agenda is Vincent D'Onofrio and he makes his 'I'm a bad guy with agenda' thing so obvious, you are glad you marked him down for dino dinner. You stopped caring for him from Broken Horses, and his end there wasn't grisly enough for the stupidity of the role, so you whoop loudly with delight when he gets eaten up. 

Irrfan Khan plays the role of John Hammond, and his helicopter scenes are so bad, you know the good CGI guy was on holiday for those scenes. Speaking of bad CGI, you'll grin when the dinos are feasting on people, because some people in the crowd are looking elsewhere while ducking, others don't even react when the person next to them is eaten up. That brings me to the grisliest dino feast part.

The dinos in the crowd as dinner scene don't just pick up this dino bait assistant and eat her up. They pick, they fling, they drop, they pick, they fling, they lose her, another dino picks up flung woman, then drops her into the water, she struggles, is picked up and dropped a couple more times and then a grislier end for both assistant and dino.

I have never seen such viciousness in killing. Not even in the b-grade slasher movies. Those movies make you want to eat cheese with popcorn. This one just shook me up.

I missed Jeff Goldblum's witty asides and the British Hunter who says, 'Clever Girl!' The only dialog that elicited any reaction from the audience was when the heroine rolls up her shirtsleeves and the hero says...

Wait a minute. You are going to see this mayhem packed franchise, aren't you? Now matter how dull the story is? Then I don't want to spoil that one good dialog for you. 

The creepy eye of the dino doesn't scare you any more. There is no music to make you wonder at the science and the amazing scenes of grazing dinos in front of you. You nod your head at the clever use of props from the earlier stories (worth one star the movie earns!) And you miss the familiar John Williams score

The surprise in the end is worth all the shock and hatred I felt through the movie. That itself earns a star on its own. The CGI is sophisticated, and that earns the half star. But the last fight is horrid and goes on and on. And you do wish one of the dinos flicked its tail in the direction of the heroine who seems to be posing there and hurt her, just a little bit, so you would go home happier and not scared.

But I was not alone in my fear. There were parents walking slowly towards the exit doors with children permanently fused to their bodies, their nails embedded on faces and backs and whatever surface of the parental units they could find. 

Of course, the franchise will make millions. But my heart will still lurch for the little girl who feeds the little Compsognathus in the not-so-great version of the movie and gets eaten up...

P.S. When Jurassic Park plays on TV, I watch it. When this one shows up, I'll be surely tuning in to one of the saas bahu sagas. Less scary.