Friday, October 31, 2014

review: Fireflies

Swat Them!

No star

Mini Review:

This movie teaches us that urban, English speaking India is happy to start affairs - with old friends as well as complete strangers. And that it's okay as long as there's some philosophical mumbo-jumbo slapped on every ten minutes. 

Main Review:

I was rather taken in by the promo which says something like 'when you are lost, keep walking, the world is round, so eventually you will be home...'

As Julia Roberts says to the sales ladies: Big Mistake. 

Every character is ridiculous, their situation stupid, the dialog trite, and you will wonder if the movie was written just so you could have a bit of a skin show.

Is that why we see more skin than talent on Monica Dogra? She is shown to be this girl who wears skimpy clothes and lives in Bangkok alone, jumping into bed with - what we assume - the first Indian she shares a bathroom with. There is nothing for us to believe that there was some fabulous chemistry between them. Ugh! 

That Indian is a sad Arjun Mathur. Poor chap! The lad is decent looking in real life, but on screen, he's shown to be constantly sweaty (dripping!) from all that and wears a stubble that makes him look more unwashed than 'biker'. His dialog is so trite, he chooses to deliver it as incoherently as possible.  

And I've saved the worst for the last. Why Rahul Khanna, why? 

Who eats cheesecake at the counter? Anywhere? How can two grown ups get sozzled drunk on two bottles of wine? Why would you mouth dialog like 'He says the lamp is antique...' Why would you choose to be boorish to your wife? Why would you be rude to parents (whose parents were they?) Why is that affair with the IIM classmate (so not believable!) look so shallow? 

Then there's that omnipresent voice of a girl. So confusing, most of us wondered if it belonged first to someone who was the wife. But wait, she says 'brother'... Then we thought it was the girl who has the affair with Rahul... Could it be... How is the voice in Bangkok as well?

But somewhere, you do not care. You want the drunk thugs in Bangkok to mug her, hurt her a bit. You want both the brothers falling off into the raging river and breaking their necks on the rocks. You want the rich wife (Rahul's) to get a better tailor (or at least stop making Indian women wear evening gowns - they look like satin maxis). You just want the movie to get over.

And you come away, asking, 'Why Rahul, why?'

Thursday, October 30, 2014

review: Fury

Guns 'N' Poses

1 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

If you've read Commando comics, then you've seen this movie. The movie follows a template so it is hopelessly predictable, but shot beautifully. 

Main Review:

You've seen enough war movies to be able to predict a template.

Story of band of brothers in arms. 

Rough sergeant who does not say much, but leads by example, has respect from his men.

Eccentric, crusty, battle-scarred soldiers: 

One religious man who will quote from the bible whilst doing horrific acts of killing (including marking bombs with crucifixes).

One minority soldier (read Hispanic for Hollywood, Muslim for Bollywood), who will say, 'Vamanos!' to prove he is Hispanic.

One rough ugly man who will have a soft heart beating inside layers of rudeness.

And of course there will be one who is fresh to the war, a young callow youth who is all cowardly and frightened by the horrors surrounding him. As the movie progresses, you will see him change. He is hated by all initially, but one of the team will support him and he will become a soldier's soldier by the end of the film.

Take this bunch and put them in a situation where they are pitched against a whole better armed, meaner enemy, and they save the day by going out in a blaze of glory.

If you are not puking yet, then you will every time you see Brad Pitt remove his helmet. His cool buzz cut is impeccable. Perfectly brylcreamed, not a hair will be out of place. He poses on the stupid tank as though someone was taking still photographs. I cheered the sniper who aims at Brad only because his first shot actually ruffles Bard's hair. The half star goes to the gel applied to Brad Pitt's hair.

The full star goes to the cinematography of this film. Beautifully shot, the film makes war so believable. So horrific. The rest? So blah, you could wait for the movie to show up on cable on some war memorial day.


review: The Best Of Me

Death By Schmaltz

one star

Mini Review:

Nicholas Sparks feeds you the idea of perfect love and then sticks his hand down your throat and makes you gag. That's when you want to jump off the nearest cliff, or chop yourself with a kitchen cleaver, or kill yourself by eating re-fried samosas at the multiplex.

Main Review:

A man who brings you flowers.
An image of lovers on a chair for two in the middle of a poppy and wildflower garden dappled in sunlight.
Childhood lovers whose love is constant.
Images of lovers in a pool.
The love of your life, dancing with you by the fireplace in a lonesome cottage.
The awkwardness of first love, where the guy is too shy to flirt, and she teaches him everything about love.

These are carefully constructed pictures of love to pull all the women to the theater. The women in turn drag their reluctant men to watch this 'stuff', knowing they cannot compete with these impossibly good looking shirtless men. But the women want their men to learn this kind of wooing instead of watching Jurassic Park or Sachin Tendulkar's Best Of Innings on TV. 

So Hollywood is discovering this 'janam janamantar wala love' with these Nicholas Sparks books/movies. They WILL make anyone gag with broken hearts being healed by miraculous coincidences, hearts that live on to beat for love even after the bodies are dead...

I puked many times inside my throat during the movie at the manipulative scenes. Yes, James Marsden looks better and better now. Yes, it was lovely watching the two lovers sit on the branch of a tree (him reading, her playing with his hair and listening). But dialog like,'my shirt looks better on you' made you cringe. And the whole film is filled with such stab yourself with a butter knife moments.

If you are a woman whose day only includes battles with the bai and the ungrateful kids, almost deaf in laws  who watch TV news all day, then do yourself a favor. Watch this movie to add a bit of fantasy to your boring life.

If you are a man, stay away from this movie. Even if you have a gorgeous body. No one dies for love. And if you watch the movie, she's going to test you. And they will play Dravid's best innings on cricket tv soon...


This is a really scary game!

2 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

I love scary films. Most are predictable. So you laugh. This one though is really really scary. And you're not laughing. You're just hoping no one heard you gasp.

Main Review:

I don't know what Hasbro was thinking, sponsoring a really scary film about one of their toys. Did they think people would buy those Ouija boards after seeing what the boards were doing to anyone who played with them?

I know I wouldn't want to be anywhere near one. It scared me that much.

And I usually laugh at these scary movies, where creepy sounds or loud noises, demons and weird indestructible dolls are used to make you jump out of your skin. Not to forget crucifixes and priests, evil spirits who occupy bodies and make them vomit and speak in guttural voices...

The movie does nothing of the usual. Except that the houses are rather dimly lit, and you want to tell the young people, 'Switch on the lights before you go exploring creepy places!'

But I couldn't. My tongue was tied, and my heart was in my mouth, and my arms were holding on to the armrests real hard. The story had climbed into my head rather stealthily...

Watch this movie... It is one of the few creepy movies to come out of Hollywood recently...


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

review: Gone Girl


4 stars

Mini Review:

She's gone, and the cops and the husband only have clues to a treasure hunt to find her. But what we find is a commentary on the modern marriage that is at once guilt inducing and also scary... 

Main Reveiw:

Hannibal Lecter made that innocuous, 'Good enough to eat' so ominous. Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (she writes the screenplay for the film too) does the same to, 'What are you thinking?' 
David Fincher builds the mood by giving you a slow, watch the paint peel off vision of a small town and then makes your jaw drop just as slowly as the events unfold. There is so much assured calm in the demented logic of the actions of the characters, that the director keeps you, the audience, in the eye of the storm at all times. 
You see evening news and social opinion baying for blood, but every single time, the doors are shut to that noise and we get a casual 'I want to crack open your skull and find out...'
You get to know characters with, 'Who ever took her is bound to bring her back.' or 'I spent evening drinking beer and watching Adam Sandler movies for him' 
You love the characters and hate them with equal measure.
You've seen Scenes From A Marriage, Blue Valentine and Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, and maybe watched marriages of friends disintegrate in real life. This film offers you a very different claustrophobic picture of a marriage gone wrong. It pushes you into a corner and makes you squirm uncomfortably wondering 'what next' as you watch Rosamund Pike snuggle into her bed.
If people hate the film, it is only because they have felt at least one thought the characters act upon, and have been unable to do anything about it. If you believe that this film is a needless dramatisation of a broken marriage, then you haven't ever chopped vegetables in the kitchen viciously, pretending they were your relatives...
If kitty party ladies could plan as meticulously as Amy from the movie, I would join the group in a flash. Or move to their part of the suburban quicksand. 
Read the book. Watch the movie. You'll never treat relationships the same again.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: Happy New Year

Heart says, 'Double Dimple Dhamaka'
Head, 'I tuned out when they boarded Chennai Express. Wake me up when mami visits again.'

Heart says,'two and half stars!'

Mini Review: 

This film releases at the heels of the Mumbai International Film Festival, and hence a tad tougher to forgive. But given the madness and the joy with which the film plunges into it, you know you are making allowances for its unoriginality and pointlessness. 

Main Review:

They call themselves Charlie's Angels in this remake of Ocean's 11. And if you thought that was enough of the unoriginal, all the best Shah Rukh Khan movie lines are inserted in the story. Well, not all. They spare us the word 'senorita'. Also present are transparent shirts, tweaked nipples, extended arms, patriotic fervour, wigs, sequinned clothes, Ra-1 props, and confetti. Lots and lots of confetti.

The movie is three hours long and has been made for seven year olds (who were present sans parents in bunches). That's why they explain and explain and explain everything. Losers need to win. Team India will win hearts. They need to hack into the computer system. The AC ducts are in room 9C. Deepika cannot Englis... Not to forget, 'Kismet is a Kutti cheez!' An evil laugh track played in my head imagining those kids sans parents repeating that dialog at home. But then I realised those parents probably send the kids to Bollywood dance classes and don't mind daughters dancing to 'Dil Mera Muft Ka'. But I've been told my views on parenting are rather severe...

But 40 lashes to editor and continuity person. The story loops so much that a character actually says, 'Deja Vu ho gaya!'

That character is Abhishek Bachchan. He not only pulls off a double dose of daftness with so much ease and such good timing, that I, a confirmed fan of DDLJ and KKHH, was looking forward to silly scenes involving Abhishek Bachchan more than Shah Rukh scenes. And they are funny only because the lad has timing. Unfortunately, they kill the gags by explanation (instead of letting the audience react to how he's going to evict the American team from 9C, they explain!) 

(I laughed out loud at all the snake dance moves even when my brain was complaining of the horrid 'babaji ka thullu' borrowed from Comedy Nights with Kapil)

I loved the surprise of sculpted abs in Dard-e-Disco, but in this movie found it rather tiring. Shah Rukh's dimples can cover all his flaws is what women feel but will not say. But I found myself waiting for that one romantic moment where the world sort of stops for women - moments that made Shah Rukh the king of romance. Moments where he stretches his arms and all the women in the audience wish to run into them. Remember the KKHH dance in the gazebo scene? The touching of her waist at the basketball game? The Swades tie dhoti moment? Even Chennai Express had one: where he lifts Deepika to carry her up the temple steps. Here? Nothing. 

Boman Irani, Sonu Sood and the pasty faced boy Vivaan Shah are so awful, even atheists will go down on their knees to thank higher powers that they don't have 11 actors in the group as in Ocean's eleven...

(Loved Boman Irani's silly man bag gag and laughed hysterically at Abhishek trying to reach the top screw with his Allen key...)

Deepika is luminous and her body and her dance are something else. But he role is as predictable as her name... You are not surprised at the 'Mohini! Mohini!' chants at all.
You will be surprised at the awful, truly awful appearance of Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Dadlani in a Bollywood gay joke though. No Anurag Kashyap rabid fan, no indie film buff will ever be able to speak of 'good cinema' to a BangBangKickJaiHo fan ever because there is sex tape evidence now. What a shame!

(Enough! My heart says, to my brains. Let me speak!)

When you think of your crush, don't you think it sets your whole world on fire? Also that glazed look Deepika gets when she hears her crush speak is probably something every woman can identify with rather easily. 

It turns me into a statistic right then and I come out of the movie grinning.


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.