Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: NINE LIVES


A waste of every life.

1 star

Mini Review:

Kevin Spacey plays Frank Underwood from House of Cards suffering from some sort of poison ivy because he’s irascible, rude and annoying and you want to kick him real hard, when he turns into Mr. Fuzzypants, the cat. Don’t ask. He’s then a meowing Underwood suffering from poison ivy. If it is supposed to be humorous, but there’s not even a chuckle you can muster.

Main Review:

Remember the movies like Freaky Friday or even 13 going on 30, All Of Me, All Screwed Up!, 18 Again where bodies are swapped and protagonists discover that is not easy being the other person. They have to learn to walk in the other person’s shoes in order to really understand themselves.

There were endearing moments in each of the movies, even funny moments. Even a rather shabby ‘switch bodies’ movie like The Hot Chick has a funny line (‘Oh yes! That’s a virgin Scotch on the rocks!’) that can be used even today!

This one concentrates on Kevin Spacey’s dour, manipulative character from House Of Cards so much that they forgot to add humor to it. House Of Cards is not funny. Not even when you put it upside down and spray laughing gas on it. So dragging the principal character out of the TV show and putting him thoughtlessly in the movie which could have been a lovely movie with a Dad-Daughter connect, or even about a man unable to show his love to his wife and grown up son… But it’s just a story of an irascible man who turns into an irascible cat and does idiotic things like drink whiskey from an ash tray. You want your kids to see that? Hmm… I did not think so. Maybe you could give it a miss.


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Review: MECHANIC: THE RESURRECTION


The Action is Mechanical But...

2 stars

Mini Review:

Jason Statham can fix anything and make it look like an accident. Now he has to take on a job to create three accidents to save his girl. That’s why the mafia calls him the ‘mechanic’. The locales are wonderful, the panoramic shots beautiful but the romance is unbelievable and the action, predictable.

Main Review:

The eponymous action hero never misses. And so it is in this movie. Whether it’s hand to hand or legs to heads or guns and grenades to guns and bodies…Jason Statham plays the role of the man hounded for his skills. Remember the 2011 remake of the original 1972 movie? You watched Jason Statham strangle, shoot, drug baddies on contract with a chap who betrays him (of course!) and ignores even the simplest request: Do not touch the turntable.

In this film too the turntable makes an appearance (and an enviable collection of records!) and a boat parked in Rio. That city makes for beautiful cinematography, even though the shots in the boat seem to be constricted and awkward.

Those who have not seen the previous film will gasp at the cash and guns and computers and passports stashed away, but it simply adds to the cool quotient of the mechanic. The fight at the restaurant seems contrived and they make it up by a brilliant escape.

An old foe is trying to bully the mechanic into taking that one last job. When the mechanic lands up in an impossibly beautiful island. If the beauty does not stun you into googling the location, then you probably liked the charred, barbecued face of the baddie, grill marks and all…

You don’t ask questions like ‘How on Earth does an African baddie end up in Malaysia?’ or ‘Where is the law when a big Aussie baddie lives so openly?’ or even, ‘If he’s so rich, how come he doesn’t own the building?’

You just enjoy the action and the cool confidence that Jason Statham exudes as he steps out on the skyscraper without feeling dizzy. Then we meet Tommy Lee Jones who…Oh yes, the romantic track between Statham and Jessica Alba is so weird, you wonder if a chap who has seen it all and done it all will fall in love with someone after watching one video conveniently available.  

The action flick is no more than 99 minutes long. It’s not great, but keeps you engaged, even though you’d prefer it if action heroes rode away into the sunset alone, like cowboys in stories you read growing up…


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: A FLYING JATT

UDTA TIGER, BECHARA TIGER

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

A young lad becomes a superhero and defeats a big baddie and not only wins hearts but also the girl. Good plot, right? But it has been so needlessly Bollywoodised with a song and dance and everything seems to be happening so slowly you lose patience with it, despite some genuinely funny moments.

Main Review:

Almost fell off the theatre seat when you hear Amrita Singh (who plays the superhero’s mom) say, ‘Now that you are flying out, bring back veggies on your way back!’

Now that’s a quintessential Indian mom for you! And this film could have been full of such moments had they not constantly got lost in their attempt to be everything for everyone. The movie begins as though it were going to be Kung Fu Hustle, then it wants its hero to be Jackie Chan who plays the bumbling guy effortlessly. Then the film wants to get into the realm of being environmentally aware, so they introduce a bad guy who is polluting the city. Woah! A baddie who pollutes? That’s a great idea there!

But they cannot afford to have a baddie who only snarls, right? So they give him terrible, terrible dialog like, ‘I want a better costume than that guy!’

While you facepalm, you are grateful for the coffee cup in your hand.

The movie forgets that it has children to entertain and gets into Bollywood Booty dance numbers which are just plain ridiculous. Neither are the dances catchy nor the tunes memorable. What you want to see is the superhero face baddies in more innovative ways like Sunny Leone…

You start to lose interest when they introduce stupid things like Valentine’s Day events and forget to use what the film fraternity calls: a smoking gun. In fact, they forget about his weakness, that he has a fear of heights and then take the climax into space.

By the time the last big fight shows up, you don’t care whether Amrita Singh and Gaurav Pandey (last seen in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, he plays the superhero’s brother Rohit) are decent actors, you don’t care if Jacqueline Fernandez is as batty as a doorknob but has gorgeous legs, and you don’t want to smile at Kay Kay Menon’s I-just-put-my-finger-in-an-electrical-socket hair. You just want to get the whole superman turned preachy thing over and done with.

You do like the idea of the villain feeding off the pollution, and wish to put the odd grammar of the title ‘A Flying Jatt’ into the incinerator. You come away, wonder if there was going to be ‘A Swimming Jatt’, ‘A Diving Jatt’ in the future and are grateful that Jerry Siegel and Jerry Shuster did not call their character ‘A Superman’.

P.S. No mention of Tiger Shroff who plays the lead role? You feel sorry for the lad, that's why. He has these acrobatic and fighting skills, but he turns every movie into a cirque du solo... Bechara!


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: HAPPY BHAG JAYEGI

Mogambo Khush Hua!

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

An India-Pakistan encounter that does not involve terrorists or silly politicians or bad-mouthing ‘them’? Never thought it was possible. But writer-director Mudassar Aziz manages that and offers us a funny story on a runaway bride, harried cops, silly cops, ambitious fathers, arranged marriages, and so much more… Mostly predictable, but delightful nonetheless.

Main Review:

A bride to be, jumps out of the bathroom window into a truck. And instead of reaching the boyfriend, the truck takes her to Pakistan and into the house of a young politician who’d rather be a cricketer. She’s feisty, he’s fed up of the fact that she could cause an international incident that could cause embarrassment for his dad, a seasoned politician.

There is a jilted bridegroom, an angry father, a silly lover, even sillier goons, a mamu who tries to help, a pretty girl who loves the young politician, a comedic sidekick cop, and a band of silly bad guys too.

Confused? Don’t be. This is a truly funny India-Pakistan comedy without calling ‘them’ bad and proving that ‘we’ are good and upright. In fact, this movie is has been written so well, a telephone exchange between the sidekick cop (Piyush Mishra) and the young politician (played wonderfully by Abhay Deol) earns two stars on it own. Plus half a star for taking the most obvious references and happily using them to name the cast. For example, ‘Rifat Bee’ from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is the housekeeper in this film, Piyush Mishra plays Usman Afridi (there will be a joke about being related to the cricketer, of course!), Pakistani actor Momal Sheikh plays Zoya, a name you will remember from the Pakistani serial Dhoop Kinare…

Abhay Deol sparkles in the role of a young politician who is attracted to the runaway bride. He wears his clothes really well and he looks the part of dignity in the middle of all the mayhem. Diana Penty is not exactly known for her histrionics but she manages to hold her own. Every character, from Abhay Deol’s mamu (actor Jagat Rawat who appears as the heroine’s dad in a TV show called Kuch Rang Pyar Ke Aise Bhi), to Rifat Bee to the silly gangsters who kidnap the bride are well cast and play their parts very well. Yes, the comedy does veer to the slapstick, but you don’t hate it at all.

That brings us to Jimmy Sheirgill. He’s perfected the role of a jilted bridegroom so many times, he could have sleepwalked through this role. But he doesn’t. He’s a delight to watch, even when you know he’s going to lose the girl.

Again, you come away wishing that there was a fully filmi Bollywood ending, but the happily ever after does make you feel good.


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: BEN HUR

Bah, Ben Hur!

1 ½ stars

Mini Review:

This movie tears apart aesthetics and bludgeons on a beloved classic as if nothing matters. The screen is filled with so much violence that you are reduced to grimacing all through its 2 hours and 4 minutes running time. If you are really interested in a medieval epic, watch the original.

Main Review:

Remakes are tough to watch. Especially if the original is so fabulous. And the legends around the original are still spoken about in movie quizzes and movie clubs and college courses in film appreciation. After watching the new ‘American’ version of Ben Hur, one realises that Hollywood is suffering from an acute lack of ideas and that it continues in making epic mistakes by remaking classics.

This film starts out looking good. Seriously. Ben (Jack Huston) and Messala (Toby Kebbell) racing on horses and when Ben is injured, Messala carries him back home. Then Messala asks his adopted mother, ‘Mum, what do I do now?’

‘Mum?’ Did he just say, ‘Mum?’

That’s within fifteen minutes of the movie. And in your head you are already thinking of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Ben Affleck as Batman, James Bond or Jason Bourne near the Big Ben…

Once you get used to Jews and Romans speaking ‘American’ you are not surprised when Jesus speaks in an American accent as well.

The story follows the original, and yet it’s just so much more violent than required. The original story has loose tiles falling in front of the visiting Roman Consul and spooking his horse. Perfectly adequate reason for Messala to believe that he needs to arrest Ben and make an example of him. In this film, there is a young rebel (the gruesome ‘operation’ Ben conducts in the stable is so unnecessary) who shoots an arrow at the consul and kills one Roman soldier and injures several others when the consul ducks. All that dragging of the women is so reminiscent of the 70’s and 80s Bollywood where dacoits carried away women or movies where the zamindaar and his men raped and pillaged women at will.

The Roman galleys are filled with scenes of whipping and dragging dead men from the galley to the surface. At one point when you want to say you’ve had enough, the ship is struck and people die. Horribly.

Ben Hur survives and now chained by Morgan Freeman in dreadlocks. You want to go back in time to plead with Bob Marley and tell him to cut his hair so he would not popularize this hairstyle…

It’s 45 minutes to go and we still have a race to watch. Remember the scary wheel spokes in the original film? You are only human if you are expecting the same in the gory, violent film. Alas, we are treated to wheel shots, but no spokes! You feel cheated. When you need violence and make a case for Messala cheating, there are no spoke adorned wheels!

But the violence reaches a peak with dismembered and trampled-by-horses bodies, dust, almost trampled by horses Ben, the snarls and the fear on charioteers, the flying-in-air-and-killing- bystanders-and-anything-that-is-in-the-way broken chariots… The sound effects of the wheels and the race are deafening. The only saving grace is the yelling from rival charioteers, ‘I’m gonna kill you/crush you!’

The quiet portion of the film, where Ben finds love in his heart (thanks to Jesus), just doesn’t seem to belong in the film, although it is a large part of the original story. You emerge from the movie shell-shocked from the noise and the violence.

As far as acting goes, it is superficial and the chemistry between Ben and Messala is no better than two naughty children forced to shake hands because their mums forced them to. You know that Huston is no competition to Heston. And this remake is a waste of time.   


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: PETE’S DRAGON

The Magic Is Back!

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

This is one remake that is so cute when it’s cute that your heart melts. And even though it takes time to take off, the story remains as endearing as ever. You fall in love with the idea of magical creatures and come away knowing that this movie, though made with stock characters who do predictable things, is really a wonderful remake.

Main Review:

It’s now become a Disney property, watching parents die. Wonder what effect it has on kids to see movie after movie (right from Bambi onwards) where parents die and the child has to overcome many a difficulty in order to become heroes of their own lives.

So we have this adorable saucer-eyed toddler place his trust on to a magical creature when he realises that his parents are no more. Your heart goes out from the seat in the theatre into the screen and to the forest where he’s lost.

But as Disney movies have taught you, the dragon will be friendly. So friendly it glows green when touched. The child calls him Elliot, after the book he was reading right before the accident.

Did you say Elliot? The 2-D animation film Pete’s Dragon goes out of your consciousness and it is replaced with Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra Terrestrial  This film turns out to be a massive homage to E.T.

Right from how the dragon turns green on touch, and E.T’s finger glows when he touches to heal, to kids on bicycles at the end of the movie.

There are bad guys too, who want to capture E.T… I mean… The Dragon, and the kids (here with a help of an adult who believes in magic - Robert Redford!) rescue the dragon and save him from possible experiments…

You love the little boy - who is at once fierce and at once cute - who keeps you glued through the sometimes good, sometimes a drag film. You wish there was a little more to the story than ‘Never thought there were dragons in a forest I know like the back of my hand’. But you come away happy because you realise no matter how grown up you are, you believe in magic.


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

review: UNINDIAN

Cliche After Cliche But Not Bad

2 reluctant stars

Mini Review:

You’ll love this film if you have never heard NRI tales, never had relatives who live abroad complain about ‘Indians’, never visited a foreign country, stayed with relatives who behave at once Indian and at once ‘foreign’. The story is as old as the hills, but Brett Lee (the cricketer!) really gives his all to the role and we believe him. More than all the established actors in the film.

Main Review:

‘What are doing with a white guy?’ The whole movie is based on this statement and even though it seems like a very archaic statement for NRIs to make in 2016, you realise that the idea for the script probably germinated when the filmmakers moved to Australia.

Indian girls don’t date ‘white’ boys, Indian mothers are obsessed with MBA or doctor son-in-laws, Indian food is too hot for ‘white’ people, foreigners who emigrate to Australia speak English like that TV show ‘Mind Your Language’, ‘white’ boy truly loves ‘brown’ girl… The tropes are so hackneyed, you have seen them in several films - not all of them together, though.

If the tropes is the way the movie is going, then the basic premise of the movie seems difficult to believe. The heroine is so beautiful, the hero falls in love with the heroine at first sight. Now tradition dictates that you’re expecting someone stunningly beautiful (and she doesn’t know it) type traditional heroine. Someone who looks more like Aishwarya Rai than Shabana Azmi. So casting Tannishtha Chatterjee in a role made for Aishwarya Rai seems to be wrong. She is more the arthouse type heroine, and you expect her in sarees instead of Western clothes. If the film is releasing in India, and the Aussie hero (Brett Lee) falls for her exotic Indian charms, then her clothes, her looks, her character just does not fit well with ‘love at first sight’ trope. Tannishtha comes across as a thinking man’s girl. Someone good at her job and yet attractive because she is also woman enough to be independent single mother.

She is also shown to be not exactly fond of traditions Indians follow (and says so to her parents at home), and yet she dances at a public Holi celebration, and even walks up to a stranger who is not exactly participating in the revelry and smears color on his face and jacket. This is the kind of thing a very young Padmini Kolhapure does in Prem Rog, or a very young Jaya Bhaduri in Sholay. Somehow seeing Tannishtha Chatterjee (face full of color) playfully color a stranger is just out of place. And then she’s not even drunk.

The movie chugs on from cliche to cliche about Indians abroad and though you do smile at the very sweet connect between Tannishtha’s daughter and Brett Lee and the antics of the motormouth mother (played by Supriya Pathak)... But the story does not hold your attention for too long. And groanworthy and facepalmworthy scenes like the Indian babaji speaking about chakras makes you want to head out to the local bar and get loaded on a few Darwin stubbies…



(this review appears in nowrunning dot com)  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: MOHENJO DARO


Kitne DVDs Dekhe?

2 stars

Mini Review:

Ashutosh Gowarikar has a penchant for long drawn out epic tales. This time he goes to 2016 BC in order to tell a tale that is a bhelpuri or avial or stew or all of the above of everything from Star Wars to Gladiator to Moses to Noah to Hercules and everything in between. It starts out to be an interesting journey, but rapidly rolls towards a disaster (literally and figuratively) to a bedraggled end.

Main Review:

How many DVDs were watched before Mohenjo daro was made? No one knows, but the movie starts out with Hrithik (Sarman? Shravan?) yearning to step out of Aamri (Amari?) to experience the world and his uncle and aunt discussing: how long can you keep him here?

This is so much like Luke Skywalker’s original need to go to Starfleet Academy that my attention was hooked!

Ooh! You don't hear Hrithik say, 'Expecto Patronus!' but there's a Unicorn! And when you see unicorn, good things, happen, right?

So his uncle gives in and lets Sarman go to MohenjoDaro for ‘vapar’ (vaporetto? Are we going to Venice?) with indigo and a potli to be opened only in case of ‘jaan-jokhim’ (say whaa?)

The first half is fantastic because you don’t understand a single dialog that they’re speaking. It’s gibberish with Hindi sounding words thrown in. You keep hoping subtitles will appear, but they don’t.

The gibberish also stops you from wondering why such a strapping young man who can wrestle crocodiles (yes, yes, the made famous by trailer croc who jumped over Hrithik scene has happened) is still staying at home. Audience seems more worried if they had come to a wrong language screening instead of a Hindi film instead of enjoying the action.

The kafila of bail gadis reaches Mohenjo Daro. Walled city built like any Hollywood’s idea of Roman/Greek fortress (you expect Zeus to show up from the skies and seduce women or soldiers in skirts march in formation)

But you get the wide-bodied Airbus… I mean… Arunoday Singh riding a bullock cart wearing a turban that is reminiscent of beehive hairdos of the sixties. His snort is villainous enough to earn himself a star on its own.

The other star goes to Kabir Bedi who plays the villain Maham who has enormous screen presence. He is the baddest of the baddies, stabbing and killing at will, wears a Bison horn hat menacingly and has a voice to match Amitabh Bachchan himself. Wonderful to watch real evil on screen once again.

The rest of the movie has been reviewed several times before. As 300, Spartacus, Moses, Hercules, Noah, Gladiator and every movie (and TV shows like Olympus) you can think up where the hero of fabulous parentage battles evil and saves poor suffering villagers… To watch Hrithik Roshan waste three hours trying to be so many heroes at once is heartbreaking. You wonder what colossal egos and madness must be at work behind this pointless ambitious nonsense! The movie movies from little to zero to negative plausibility within minutes and continues to plummet to stupidity. Not even the Indus river flooding the city of Mohenjo Daro can save this film. The only saving grace is that Hrithik is not made to wear a skirt a la Dharmendra in Dharam Veer.


P.S: Wonder if Ashutosh Gowarikar productions is selling second hand dvds?

review: RUSTOM

Laughter In The Courtroom.
Bahut Naainsafi Hai!


2.5 reluctant stars

Mini Review:


A fictionalised version of the famous (or the infamous?) Nanavati case where a Naval officer shot his wife’s lover should have been a brilliant courtroom drama, but ends up being ridiculous, with the director opting for cheap laughs. As Gabbar would say, 'Bahut naainsafi hai!' Akshay Kumar looks handsome in the uniform, but the mooch… the mooch…


Main Review:


Yes, the winged pencil moustache is hugely distracting. And it makes Akshay Kumar look even more morose than he is supposed to be in the movie.


That said, it should not take away anything from the original story. It is rather fascinating. A decorated Naval officer walks into the police station and confesses to shooting his wife’s lover. The case attracted huge crowds and media attention. And was landmark case because after the conclusion, the jury system in India was abolished because they saw how easily the media and emotions could affect the outcome.

What is amazing about the murder is that the story was written even before the events occurred in real life. The coincidences are distinctly odd and provident.


The story has all the elements of an exciting courtroom drama where the prosecution would need to prove - with all the evidence at hand - that the murder was planned and executed after a lot of thought, that it was ‘premeditated’. And the defense insisted that the accused was an honorable man, and the murder was a reaction and a step taken in the heat of the moment upon learning that his best friend was cuckolding him.


The information you will read on the net is so interesting that you will be forced to watch Achanak (1973 award winning film directed by Gulzar) and even Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke (1963 film starring Ashok Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Leela Naidu and directed by R. K. Nayyar).


The film claims that it is based on the Nanavati case. If only! Rustom gets all the cosmetic things right, but it lacks substance.


The costumes, the candy colors are all very reminiscent of the years just after independence. It is rather charming to see the lifestyles of the rich and famous replicated well. Arjan Bajwa, who plays the villain is made to wear the funnest of costumes: a yellow sports jacket at a club in the evening, a lurid villainous satin dressing gown when seducing the heroine. The vampish Esha Gupta gets a cigarette holder to hang on to each time she’s in the frame. She gets great looking evening gowns and skirt suits to wear. Ileana (as credited on screen) gets to wear sarees that are pretty and sheds tears all through the movie. She even gets an orange silk saree that magically dries (it’s raining!) as soon as the villainous seducer picks her up in his arms. But wait! What is an old as the hills story about clever cop asking four errant hawaldars to write down ‘which tyre of the car was punctured’ doing in the film? What’s Mumbai’s caricature ‘kaamwali bai’ doing in the movie? The stereotypical housemaid does not belong to that age! It’s like finding Thai bird chilly in you rasam, like finding curry leaves in your steak, like finding apricot in your kheer…


Then suddenly loud background music begins to grate on your nerves and stops completely when there is a ‘dialog’ to be spoken. The background music is so harsh, everyone in the audience would get down on their knees and confess to the murder. Or two. Or more…

The courtroom drama, upon which the story hinges, has a twist you can see a mile away. But you keep hoping Akshay Kumar will save the day, somehow. That is not so. Even his perfect posture, his awesome abs (even though he is wearing the uniform all through the movie) do not save the courtroom proceedings from being daft.

The lawyer prosecuting the case (Sachin Khedekar) just makes a mockery of his role, so does the editor of the tabloid (Blitz in real life, and the tabloid played a huge part in swaying people’s emotions).

And even though Pavan Verma tries his best to be the upright cop investigating the case, and Brijendra Kala his sidekick, there is no tension, no drama in the courtroom. There could have been added drama had they explained why a wife who cheated on her husband stayed by his side during the trial. But no. The silly comical treatment of what could have been stunning, tension-filled narrative fails to deliver anything but a ‘Akshay makes different films’ excuse. Law & Order on TV has better drama in one hour than this two and a half an hour long film. And the Pradeep Kumar moustache on Akshay Kumar doesn’t help.






(This post appears on nowrunning dot com)