Friday, October 02, 2015


Singh Is Bleaaargh!

1 and 1/2 star

Mini Review: 

Akshay Kumar stars in a movie that has some pjs, mostly crass comedy and some terrible bad guys. Your tolerance for everything is tested severely.

Main Review:

Half a star for Akshay Kumar, who manages to look good no matter what he wears. Lungis, shalwaars, floral shorts, tees, suit, or kurtas, this man wears them all with an ease and seems to enjoy the stupid roles he plays. He even wears a turban with style. He plays the lovable buffoon without ever losing his masculinity. He's like a male Madhuri Dixit when it comes to his smile. 

But when he chooses to act in movies like this, you want to rush back and watch his hairy Mohra and Khiladi films or even the pink shirted punjab da puttar act in Namaste London.

The other half star goes to Lara Dutta who plays Emily the translator. She seems to have so much fun in the movie, you cannot help but respond to her antics

The last but not the least, the third 1/2 star goes to whoever thought of making Amy Jackson not speak a word of Hindi. She's not able, and hearing her would have been worse than watching Shruti Haasan dance in Puli.

The other things in the movie are so crass you cannot but hear Neil Young's refrain of 'Helpless, Helpless, Helpless' play inside your head.

The internet pj about a dog dressed up as a lion, the sleepwalking nympho joke, the girl sitting on hero's lap and slapping him when she realises he's aroused... everything in the script seems to be written by a Whatsapp group.

Then there's Kay Kay Menon who seems to bring his generic bad guy role to every screen. He doesn't even need rehearsals in doing silly things, wearing silly clothes and even doing the silly thing with his hat...

Please. Save yourself the trouble. Watch Akshay Kumar's awesome dance with generic Katrina role gal on tv or something. He looks great in a purple shalwaar, and even when he's being kissed by a camel.

If you have the stomach for generic sardar tropes or talking cows, watch the film. If you do, then I swear that you too will hope Raftaar Singh to suddenly spout an awesome speech in English about how amazing India is, or at least Amy Jackson to say the ' Ishq da Mitraan' speech just so you make some sense of the stupid movie...



Review: PULI

Is it a children's movie? Or a movie mashup quiz for grown- ups?

1/2 star

Mini Review:

This movie is slower than the roadworks undertaken by the Public Works Department of any city. You need to wear coolers over your eyes to deal with the garish colors and bring ear plugs.

Main Review:

Just because you can afford to VFX, does not mean you have to. Because the VFX are such an assault to your senses, you wonder if the filmmakers are competing for a Guinness record for most colors available in one frame.

Trees, flowers, leaves, grass, dirt, sky, stone, people, clothes is all fake. And you wonder how the actors must have felt acting with a green screen.

Shruti Haasan is a punishment to behold. Each time she opens her mouth, you want to stuff a banana sideways to shut her up. Every time she attempts to dance, you access her father's drunken dance on the edge of a well just to get the images of Shruti hips shake from damaging your brain cells. 'The second half gets better', a fellow critic said, ' Because she's tied to a sacrificial table, drugged and motionless.'

Puli looks like a children's fairy tale gone horribly wrong. It's a mish-mash of several stories, and not one gives any pleasure. And as a grown up watching the movie you idly wonder if kids today will enjoy anything from the movie.

There are blue-eyed vampires who look like Prakash Raj's goondas and all the romantic notions you had about being loved for ever and ever fly out of the window faster than they can bare their fangs. And you unkindly think, 'Do these vampires eat at Military canteens, or do their moms make them Taair Saadam?'

The people live in Hans Christian Anderson like villages and dress like they're in Vellore where leather goods are manufactured. If they wear shirts at all, it is evident that they do not know the art of hemming the edges of clothes.

There's Arwen's leaf pendant from Lord Of The Rings which becomes a mangalsutra here...

There's Gulliver's Travels for the kids in the theater. Except that the whole Lilliput thang makes the grown ups choke on the peanuts they are scarfing down when they see the peanut shell bras on the Lilliputian women.

There's the vampire castle and its furniture inspired by Game of Thrones.

There is a giant Cyclops from Atlantis, The Wise Turtle character borrowed from OVA (the anime game) or Kung Fu Panda, 

There's the Indiana Jones leap of faith bridge across the void.

There are talking birds from awful movies too ghastly to name. There are magical frogs too ('Pudine ki chutney samajh kar chaat jao' one guy tells another and only then will the frog show them the way! And I thought frog-licking was a hallucingenic). There is a VFX panther. The less said about that creature, the better! 

There is an evil queen who is all super arched eyebrows and glitter eyesh adow and strange gowns who is in reality plain ole Mrs Bennett from Pride & Prejudice wanting to get her daughter married off to the best suitor. And the daughter dances with the hero singing, 'Main teri Mandakini!'

There is dialog given to baddies which is so bad you cannot help but laugh: Main Bhayanak Darinda hoon!

There are fights that remind you of Shaolin movies made by Golden Harvest in the seventies...

And no matter how hard Vijay tries to dance or fight to impress, he doesn't. No matter how broody Sudeep likes to think he is, he makes me want to get up and buy him a bunch of butterfly clips to tie up his silly hair. And Sridevi? You wonder if it is the same woman who was in English Vinglish.

The half star is for having the cojones to say that this is an original story. 

Review: TALVAR

Justice Denied. To The Audience.

2 stars

Mini Review:

So the filmmakers want to show that the Arushi Murder Case was bungled by cops and the parents have been denied justice. But the caricaturish treatment of the cops and some obvious plotholes are so off putting, you want to punish the filmmaker to some developmental hell.

Main Review:

Pan chewing cops, corruptible cops, easily distracted by cell-phone cops, selfie-taking cops, posing for camera cops, cops who don't know simple procedure cops, inefficient cops, out of shape cops, cops who sleep on the job, agencies helping cops making typos, upright cop who gets shunted, and all other tropes of cops is what you will see in this murder investigation.

We've seen this in the movies, right? But this movie puts them all in one case, in one place and that makes you want to say, 'Come on!'

Pan chewing cop who looks like he'd rather be elsewhere is first on the scene and his team says crass things like, 'Your mattress, your house, do whatever you want!' 

Maybe that happened, but knowing how power-hungry the small 'thullas' are, they probably would say, 'Sahab aa rahe hain, wait karo. Aur tab tak mere liye chai laao.'

But no. They just do really stupid things like let the neighbors take the blood-stained mattress up on the terrace to dry. Erm... Who does that? Were the Tandons going to reuse the mattress on which their child was killed? What were they thinking?

The cops take away the body in a jeep. Not even in the most lawless Delhi do they do that. There are designated 'shav vahinis'. No cop would want to do someone else's work. If they are shown to be so damned lazy, why would they take the body away in a jeep? And if they did, then how come they handed the body back so easily to the Tandons to cremate? The director missed a huge Saransh moment here where cop harassment and cop callousness could be shown...

Photo Op cops are so stupid they forget they took pictures of the the bloody pawprint on the terrace. 

Now cops are stupid, but they know how to make an extra buck or be recognised for work done because they're hoping for a promotion. How come the police photographer does not remember or expect a pay hike for having found the bloody pawprint? The director forgot that completely! The pan-chewing careless cop takes pictures of the pawprint with his cellphone but forgets about those pictures even when his arse is being whipped by CDI officer Irrfan Khan?

The movie takes sides. And I don't mind that. In fact, you begin to wonder about the incompetence of the cops because the good cop unearths the real culprits. 

What brings the movie down is the really tenuous reason for the cops to pursue the 'honor killing' theme doggedly. Even B-grade movies give bad cops some motive to 'phansaao' the good guys. There is no politician who gains from the Tandons going to jail, there is no bribe being paid by some super-rich Nepali don who is protecting the servants who are the real culprits. There is nothing. No reason why the new head of CDI wants to put the parents of the murdered kid behind bars.

Oh yes, there is, you will say. Remember the sardar who is a batchmate? Who asked the new head of CDI over for a drink of foreign daaru? Maybe he asked the shady CDI guy to cover for the mistakes he made...

I had by now begun to wish so many cool names weren't involved in making of this film. Vishal Bhardwaj wrote and produced it, Gulzar produced the director, Irrfan Khan acts in the movie. So does Konkona and the Ship Of Theseus monk...

So many people will call it 'taut' and 'shocking in its revelations', 'best drama' and so on. But if you've watched enough Savdhaan India or Crime Patrol or any of the cop shows on TV, you will find better tales told more realistically that this caricature cops bungling justice story.

I killed myself on this Talvar. Maybe you'll feel kinder.


Review: The Martian

Home Alone On Mars
Predictable as heck, but Ridley Scott!

3 stars

Mini Review:

This Martian is Home Alone and does not once scream like Macauley Culkin. He's chirpy and sweet and amazing. But so are the people who left him alone, and the people who put them all there are amazing and the audience is amazing because Ridley Scott is amazing...

Main Review:

They say Home Alone is the highest grossing comedy. And because it is Ridley Scott making the movie, it's gotta have a larger canvas and not some small white-picket fenced suburb. And it will be drama, not some cheap comedy where baddies slip on ice. Therefore, Man Alone On Mars.

The director gets down to business right away and the 3D storm wows us. Mars is baaaad news. Hero is dead. What? Mebbe the whole movie is a flashback. But that's how Home Alone begins a well, no?

They say, 'In space, no one can hear you scream.' Mebbe that's why he doesn't. And then there is that darned helmet which comes in the way of the scream and the audience...

As in all generic space movies, there will be one guy on the top who will say no, which gives the amazing team that rebels behind the scenes to find a solution because they have all read the commando/war comics you and I read while growing up where the gruff sergeant is the one who risks everything to 'get the last man out'. In this case it is the token African American/Indian guy (in this case, it is one person, not two). 

Like Aliens/Predator movies, there's no Charles Bishop Wayland but NASA who is happy to announce a death and a funeral. They have to eat crow in front of a noisy bunch of generic TV camera crews. Which means three generic cities: London, Beijing and America has people parking themselves in front of giant screens anxious for news of man home alone in Mars. Hush! It will take months to put together some sort of mission to rescue him, send him food, but people are waiting in front of gigantic TVs around the world.

Meanwhile like Wall-E our marooned Martian learns to nurture a plant... He needs to grow food. As his potatoes grow, I begin to wonder why a botanist has been sent with the mission in the first place. Shouldn't NASA know that there is no plant life on Mars? Was the marooned Martian's mission to try and grow stuff there? If it was, then should he have not had equipment to help farm? You know, earthworms and fertilizers and seeds... Mebbe the earthworms could have taken to the red soil and grown into giant beings and turned the planet into a Planet Of The Giant Earthworms...

Obviously, he is successful in growing food, because he's an amazing American, right? Then more amazing things happen. The Chinese want in on this adjective, so they decide to help. The boomerang theory that reminds you of Star Trek is used. And the amazing scientists at the jet propulsion lab and at NASA are happy to make cute yet amazing references to Lord Of The Rings...

And I'm wondering why our marooned Martian hasn't fallen in love with the Operating System and named it Samantha yet. Joaquim Phoenix did in Her, remember? That's the least he could do. But no! This guy is so amazing, he doesn't even go through the madness that Tom Hanks goes through because he's fed up of speaking with a Volleyball. Yes, he does talk about dying alone and please tell my mom and dad, but there's no craziness like The Shining. And dammit, Castaway and The Shining are set on a planet which is inhabited. This man on Mars is so amazing he carries out a mission using so much amazing science that women all over the world vow to have babies who become scientists.

The rescue team is amazing too and the screenwriters make them so by infusing so much humor that we forget and forgive everything and begin to hope that they will 'get their boy'. But there's some dodgy math involved which turns into some fine Yash Raj moments in space (hint: DDLJ train scene)

Did I like the movie? I guess no one can dislike a rescue film which has a canvas that is so stupendous and the humor in loneliness brilliantly done. My attention wandered in many places because of the predictability.

It would been superlative had George Clooney showed up in space sitting in a chair towards the end, having survived by boomeranging in and out of wormholes (and that would have somehow kept him single and still gorgeous IRL), eating stardust! 

P.S. The math about food supply and days the man spends on the planet were just wrong for me. Someone please share gyan after you see the movie!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Review: The Intern

The Sweetest,  Most Sigh-Inducing Movie This Year

3 stars

Mini Review:

What movie audiences needed was a movie that made them feel good about the world, and about people. And personally, when a movie makes you smile long after it is over, you make space for it not just in your heart but on your dvd shelf and watch it when you're snuggled up in your blanket on a cold, rainy day...

Main Review:

Ann Hathaway and Robert De Niro have brought us a very special movie. The premise, as the trailer promises, seems fun: a young woman entrepreneur employs a retired gent as an intern.

What the movie does is explore all the things that could and happen to an intern and then some. And there's not a moment where you are not smiling. And it's a rare thing because the cynic inside you hopes that the movie falls flat. But it doesn't. There's no offensive 'older actors forced to behave as though they were desperate for sex' as in Last Vegas. 

There is, on the other hand so much hope and charm that this film offers. And it's not just for the characters -- an older man who is not just the annoying grandpa at a dinner table, or some impossible Expendables type ageing hero. Robert De Niro plays a good guy. A man who has a handkerchief to offer as well as sound advice to the young people with whom he works. And no it's not as boring as I make it sound.

It is fun to watch Robert De Niro in such a self deprecating mode - a far cry from Travis Bickle. I had not liked Meet The Fockers kind of roles he was doing simply because those movies just used the movie characters he played to fit into their story. In this movie the role seemed to be written before they fit him into it. And he fits into the role of a 'I'm more comfortable in a suit' character beautifully.

There is no 'pity-me-because-i'm-alone' thing at all. Neither is his character the 'old and therefore shrewish' person. And that's why we enjoy the twinkle in his eye when he's with Rene Russo. And the kind concern when he's driving Ann Hathaway...

But I'm giving away too much.

A few months ago, Danny Collins gave back a role that helped Al Pacino show us why he is set up on a pedestal at acting school. This movie does not do as much, but gives us a glimpse of the powerhouse of acting De Niro is. 

Watch the movie. It made me smile, it made me laugh, it made me wish that there were more happy movies... Come back and tell me if despite all that is good about the movie, all that it makes you feel, you would have dumped the husband if you were Ann Hathaway or no. 

I know I would.  

Review: The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials

Great Special Effects, Not So Great Story

2 stars

Mini Review:

If you haven't seen The Maze Runner, you'll find yourself going, 'Whaaa?' at different points of the movie, and rolling your eyes when you realise what they're talking about. The story lets down the super special effects. 

Main Review:

For some strange reason, I don't remember having seen The Maze Runner on the big screen, so I watched it before I went in for the screening of The Scorch Trials. In short, The Maze Runner is about a strange place called the Glade, where young boys are held virtual prisoners (they grow their own food, they live in a self-made shelter and self-created rules) between four walls. There are Runners among them who manage to run out when the walls open in the morning in order to find a way out, but have to return at sundown because there are these scary Grievers who roam the maze. An impatient boy Thomas refuses to live by rules and breaches the maze with the help of a band of boys (and a girl). 

Now Like The Hunger Games, the enemy is scary. The Grievers are giant cyborg spiders that take your breath away and not in a nice way. But the big difference between the two series is that the kids in The Hunger Games know exactly why they are in that situation. Here, the kids have no memory of why they are here and barely even manage to remember their names. But you are drawn to the similarities in the stories.

The Scorch Trials has the same problem as the second part of The Hunger Games. The story makes you say, 'just get on with it!'

And although the special effects are superb, the camaraderie between the 'good' characters is shown growing in an nice organic way, the bad characters are conflicted, the whole thing is so predictable, you start mentally ticking off 'who dies next'.

With the Scorch Trials, when you realise what it is that the kids are immune against, you just groan. This is what the whole fight is for? You've seen too many movies about starring what this movie calls 'the Flare' and even when the sequence of fighting the victims of the flare in what seems like an abandoned mall, is very well made, the novelty wears off soon.

The story seems to go nowhere after that, until there is betrayal. And even though the people who made the film think they're doing something dramatic, the audience has guessed it already. Sigh. 

And even though there's no Jennifer Lawrence to add a 'star' quality to the Maze Runner series, it stands on its own. 

You know there is part three to the tale because the story does not end and you throw up your hands saying, 'Why make this stop-gap movie?' But The Hunger Games does the same damned thing, and the kids loved those movies...

The Maze Runner has a creepy advantage (in my head) over The Hunger Games, because the kids don't know what they're doing in the maze, who is playing them or why. And that is a bigger challenge over The Hunger Games where you know who the bad guys are, and why the kids are in that 'game'. 

The two stars are earned by the special effects and the camaraderie between the characters.

See it for the big scenes and special effects if you wish, but you could just as happily watch it on dvd...

P.S. Every time I see air vents, I am reminded of this brilliant list:



Friday, September 18, 2015


Gareebon Ka 500 Days Of Summer + Kal Ho Na Ho, with shades of every pukeworthy romantic notion thrown in. 

1 star

Mini Review:

They took 500 Days Of Summer and mixed it up with Kal Ho Na Ho because they didn't know how to end it. Added all possible cliches of romantic love portrayed in films and shoved them into one bowl in the hope that you will swallow this 'marte dum tak tumhare saath rahoonga' tediousness like some teenager who is in love with the idea of love. 

Main Review:

Lovesick-at-first-sight Maddy falls for tattooed, carefree (read 'weird clothes'), wild child Tanu Extended and gets dumped. The rest of the movie is about how he tries to figure out why... Thankfully this movie is not 500 days long even though in its awfulness it feels like 500 Days Of Tannu.

Then you realise that everybody, yes, everybody including the busty bimbo and the brainless boss knows why Tannu dumped Maddy except him. Wow! Poor sod! Everybody in his life conspires to NOT tell him that the girl is dying of lymphosarcoma of the brain, because they think he's nuts? 

But when his 500 Days wali sister tells him, the movie freefalls into the most annoying 'I'ma gonna pee in the expensive potty unless you tell me where she is' (inspired by scene from Couples Retreat where Vince Vaughn's kid poops in the potty in a store) to 'How not to die' scenes. One of them borrowed straight out of Seinfeld when Kramer lives right across from the red neon of a chicken house. The hospital room is bathed in red...

I've never wished death upon any character as much as I did in this film. But all is not lost. I learnt many useful things.

1. Live-in 'kuppals' (rhymes with chappal, but is meant to be spelt as couple) only cuddle.
2. If you know how to make paper cranes, you can be in art class in an architecture college
3. If you have a cool girlfriend, she will paint your toenails red. 
4. No matter what year it is in the movie, there is always a Sachin match on TV
5. If your girlfriend dumps you, she's really into you, so go stalk her, chase her.
6. Your girlfriend has to die in order to get rid of your smarmy love for her.
7. Your friends will put up a Devdas and Paro show when your parents come to visit.
8. If your fiesty, wild child girlfriend is dying of cancer, and in the hospital, then you are allowed to bring her Smirnoff.
9. There's the handy Oxygen tent in backpack thang you can borrow from The Fault In The Stars to make Cancer look real.
10. You can make the girlfriend who only wanted to live-in with you marry you when she's weak and in a wheelchair and pumped full of meds.

The Devdas parody, that is perhaps the funniest thing in this movie. That earns half of the one star this movie deserves.

The other half is for the resounding slap Payal gives Maddy in the movie. 

It was long required. There is absolutely no chemistry between Maddy and Payal and the audience was more than fed up of the 'I love you forever', and 'I love you so don't ever leave me' and 'My love is true love', 'I love you so much', and 'I love you, my love' and 'I love you truly', and 'I love you madly', and 'I love you and if you leave me I will die', and 'I love you so, so much', and 'I love you' and 'I love you forever', and 'I love you so don't ever leave me' and 'My love is true love', 'I love you so much', and 'I love you, my love' and 'I love you truly', and 'I love you madly', and 'I love you and if you leave me I will die', and 'I love you so, so much', and 'I love you' ...