Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: LIFE


Life and Death On An International Space Station

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

As you heard when you watched Beauty And The Beast: Tale as old as time… This tale of an alien life in a spacecraft. You’ve seen it all before: the alien life form, the crew of the spacecraft, one crazy scientist, and last but not the least: how no one can hear you scream in space…

Main Review:

The wait for the sequel to the original series Alien has been long time coming to the big screen. The fans of space horror stories were getting restless. Life is an interesting scheduled stop, methinks. And quite satisfying too, even though wholly predictable.

As you know in any movie where men battle giant villains: whether it is Kong or Godzilla or Alien, the people in teams going into the dark jungle or space either are collateral damage: which means you don’t even know their backstories. The beast just smashes them and they just go: aaaaaaaaaaaghhhhh! Or the people have back stories (soldier returning home to a dream of his life - the farm in case of the gladiator, or a new born child whose picture he carries on his iPad and so on. Or a soldier who hates everything: the heat, the mosquitoes, other critters will surely die at the hand of a gigantic critter or thousands of the critters) and you know they will be the first to die. And die horrible deaths.

In Life too, the spacecraft is full of scientist types and flight type men and women, and even though we are given fleeting introductions, there is nothing that is beguiling enough to keep us glued to the fate of the characters.

Yes, there’s an alien life form that arrives with the soil samples, and it grows. But if I were lying quietly, let’s say in hibernation, and you decided to zap me with an electrical charge, I would get my fangs out and snap at you, no? Squeeze the life force out of your zappy fingers, break those fingers and go claw my way into you mouth and eat you from the inside, no? And I would look for your friends, find your friends and kill them too, one by one. I would be Liam Neeson of the alien life form world.

And if I, life form from the alien world turn out to be Liam Neeson, then I would use every trick in the science fiction films trope collection that would help me survive in the International Space Station…

You watch and you watch and you watch with your heart in your mouth and realise that you may be, just may be rooting for the life form.


P.S. Although you do see the end come at you as fast as a decaying orbit, you enjoy the film quite thoroughly.


Review: PHILLAURI


Phillauri Is Mostly Painful
Bright Flashes Of Brilliance Eclipsed By Long Tedious Events


2 stars


Mini Review:


A reluctant groom of a Punjabi wedding is married off to a tree citing a flaw in his horoscope. Now haunted by the ghost who lived on that tree, he has to rescue the ghost from her past and save his impending marriage to his childhood sweetheart. Vacillating between the ghost’s never-ending story of unrequited love and his own miserable tale, the film takes too long to come to a conclusion and even then it’s not enough.


Main Review:


Anushka Sharma as producer has chosen a different tale to tell. And the risk in such a tale is hoping to keep the attention of the audience. But who is the audience? The first half hour makes you think of Disney’s haunted tales made for 5 to 8 year olds. A lad discovers a ghost in the room, he crashes into furniture, faints (you expect birds in a circle chirping over his head!).


The servant cannot see the ghost, and mistakes the lad’s eyebrow wiggling towards the bed as a ‘Gay proposition’ thing and he runs helter skelter through the house. Wait a minute! It’s 2017, and the filmmakers choose to portray gay people as a joke? This is not Disney-like, and I begin to feel a slow outrage build up. But you will love the family of the bride and the groom: a lazy brother, cool dads, adoring mums and a granny who drinks at 9 am. What’s not to like?


The ghost cannot go back to the tree because it has been cut down after the ‘wedding’. So it watches the proceedings and asks questions of the groom. The ghost is Anushka Sharma and the groom is a mostly sad as he smokes up. Anushka Sharma remembers her life in the small town of Phillaur. A doctor’s sister, she leads a sober life but secretly writes poetry published in a local paper. Another poet in town is very popular for his seductive songs, with girls leaving their anklets on his door. He’s as cocky as they come, and the very first appearance and the subsequent song actually earns him a star on his own. He’s everything you’d imagine a local Don Juan to be. Diljit Dosanjh in his introduction wins your heart and gives the audience a wake-up call. The romance between Anushka Sharma and Diljit Dosanjh is shown wonderfully with a disapproving brother thrown in for good measure. Of course the pace of this romance and the never-ending song and dance sequences leave you wondering if the film were actually moving in real time.


Interspersed with interaction of the ghost with Suraj Sharma the reluctant groom, we begin to yearn for something more, something better. The bride, on the other hand seems so vacuous, she has nothing to do but cry at her groom’s reluctance. Meanwhile the ghostly tale of the past has become drab because she does to the gorgeous lad which most scary girlfriends do: change him, gets him to sing ‘serious, purposeful’ songs. You hear ‘Mirzya-Saahiba’ songs and you are reminded of how the film made on those legendary lovers bombed at the box office.


When the end finally comes upon the audience, the feeling of being arm-twisted into tearing up for a historic tragedy makes you feel disconnected. You just want the whole thing to be over with. Even this takes more than 20 minutes. You wish the editing had been so much tighter, and the filmmaker had given us more of the romance than painful village wedding rituals that seem to go on and on…


The film has flashes of brilliance, but the tedious sequences go on for so long you think you have aged when you emerge out into the sunshine.




(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: ANARKALI OF AARAH


Mogambo Khush Hua! What Awesomeness Is Swara Bhaskar!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Swara Bhaskar plays Anarkali, the erotic folk singer from Aarah, who has to fight the unwarranted attention of the local goon, a Vice Chancellor of the local Kuber Singh Varsity. She escapes to Delhi to get away from the insult, to start afresh, but her past catches up. That’s when she realises that running away won’t solve anything. That she has to turn the tables on the goons and police nexus. A brilliant little film that Swara Bhaskar handles magnificently, supported by a superb cast.

Main Review:

The film treads a fine line between the sleazy and artistic rather well. The songs released on YouTube offer us just show us the almost-sleaze song and dance routine of the film. Yes, the songs are full of innuendo but sung really well, and Swara Bhaskar, who plays Anarkali infuses so much oomph to the role you are drawn into her life with the musicians, her easy relationship with her troupe leader Rangeela (played by Pankaj Tripathi), and even the ordinariness of her everyday life.

The writer-director Avinash Das opens with a concert in the town, and makes every jaw in the audience reach the floor within minutes. Little Anarkali grows up with a voice that hits your guts and uses what Rangeela labels, ‘Shringar’ (seduction) in her songs when faced with the moral brigade who want to shut down her ‘supposedly lewd songs’.

The use of local dialect of Hindi in the film is unabashed and celebratory almost. You are secretly relieved that ‘Bihari Hindi’ is richer than ‘Burbuck’ (Daft) or ‘Bauraa gaye ho ka’ (have you gone nuts) phases and words commonly heard in Hindi cinema. And it is evident in Anarkali’s interaction with the beauty product salesman. You watch her in action as she sashays through town, unafraid of being the ‘it’ girl of this provincial town.

It’s the arrival of the Vice Chancellor of the local Veer Kuber University, Dharmendra Chauhan who seems to be a political appointee and a local goon in Anarkali’s life that the movie suddenly is more than pink lipstick and hip thrusts. Sanjay Mishra who won critical praise for his role in Aankhon Dekhi, is so good as a crooked guy you admire his acting skills (you have an amused grin pasted on your face when he encounters the Sanskrit spouting young woman, or when he drinks alcohol from a disguised water bottle, and are horrified at the undisguised menace he represents when he makes a play for Anarkali).

His encounter with Anarkali and the aftermath when the police chief Bulbul Pandey (I mean really, did they not find any other name but had to borrow from a Salman Khan movie?) has to beat up the audience comes to you as a horrific reminder what a fragile life she leads.

That she has to run for her life because she will not cow down to an indecent proposal is shown beautifully. The fans watch without helping. The only grace is the besotted young Anwar (he reminds you of Sushil from Smita Patil’s movie Mandi). In Delhi, she is recognised by the rabble as she attempts to have a meal, but encounters sweet Heeraman (again! The name and character borrowed from Teesri Kasam) who offers her his card and a deal: record your songs. Now you have seen Ishteyak Khan in many films, but in this film he is just marvelous. The body language, the dialog, his clothes, his comic timing is impeccable.

Credit goes to the writer-director for creating such amazing ensemble. You even notice the grumpy goon (called Muffler) who does not like what the VC is doing. Yes, the recording studio owner does overdo it a bit, but on the whole you are happy you watched the film without feeling like you need to be a part of the anti-lewd song brigade. It could have been sleazy so easily. You know and anticipate the end from a mile away, but when it comes, somewhere inside you like the comeuppance.

Swara Bhaskar holds the movie in her manicured hands. She is magnificent. You can’t help but stare at her, unabashedly. Watch!

        


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: MACHINE


Machine Mein Jo Feed Karo Wahi Milega!

1 star

Mini Review:

‘The Director Duo’ as Abbas Mastan are known for their thrillers with twists and turns that would make anyone dizzy. They launch Mustafa (son of Abbas) with this romance cum murder thriller cum demented psychological drama. They try so hard to offer as many hairpin bends as they possibly can add, but the young actors in this race are so callow, their romance is unintentionally hilarious.

Main Review:

This pretty young thing, Sarah (Kiara Advani, who looks more and more like Esha Deol/Hema Malini through the movie) is donating money to a school run by nuns somewhere in ‘North India’ which suspiciously looks like foreign locale. She zooms off on to the mountainous road in a fancy car, until her car skids on a patch of oil on the road. Maybe this is India, you think. But the hero Ransh (Mustafa) could be the next skid victim and she stops him from skidding. Then boldly says,’I need a ride back to town, but only if I drive your car’.

You are as surprised as the hero, but go along because there are songs after songs to establish they study in an art college, and both race cars. In North India? Hmm… You begin to laugh when their music teacher wants to produce Romeo and Juliet for the annual program and add another chapter called: Heaven because she believes Romeo meets with Juliet in heaven and are united forever. Before you fall off the chair, two classmates of Sarah (Aditya, her best friend and the forgettable but aggressive Vicky) are dead trying to romance her at the Love-Lock bridge (just like the one in Paris, but everyone on this bridge is a couple, and our heroine waiting for her secret admirer are dressed in evening clothes. You’re horrified at the turn of events but what?

Sarah and Ransh have romanced and married! Doesn’t that happen at the end of the movie? You are relieved to see Ronit Roy as the father of the bride. All is good and Ransh and Sarah are singing more songs on their honeymoon. And while saying, ‘I love you’ multiple times and spinning her around, Ransh throws Sarah off a cliff. Yes. You choke over your coffee as you watch her fall in slow motion.

It’s still not intermission and while you are scratching your head wondering why the hero threw the heroine as if he were at a hammer throw Olympic event, you see another PYT tattooing Ransh’s name on her back. Ransh is now chasing after the rich daughter of a super rich dad who sponsors car races.

Poor debut by Mustafa who is so callow a performer you laugh each time he has a dialog to deliver. He’s been groomed to be star: knows how to dance, know how to pose, has abs, funky hair, strange designer shirts...But no acting chops and a weird voice that is pre puberty. Is it his fault? Maybe. Maybe not.

But the twists in the plot are just beginning. Of course the heroine isn’t dead, but more people die (Dalip Tahil for one), we are introduced to the concept of movie: where a child is treated sternly and so strictly, that he turns into a ‘machine’ without feelings. Woah! Creepy psycho dad is… But no, that’s a twist in the tale so hilarious you stop eating popcorn for fear of choking. You see a mansion with secret safe filled with dollar bills. Money that belongs to the heroine. She calmly sets the money on fire before you can say Pablo Escobar.

Oh there are a couple more songs, one of them is a recreated hit ‘Tu cheez badi hai mast’. But the end is excruciating. If you thought Amitabh Bachchan had mastered the art of dying slowly on screen, you are in for a surprise. The hero, stabbed by Commando (don’t ask!) is so muscled in the pectoral region, he is barely bleeding, So he confesses to the heroine that he realised he has a heart (he can hear his heart beating ever since he has been stabbed,he says!) and then jumps off the cliff in a slowest of slo-mos you have seen in cinema. And as his life flashes before his eyes, you hear the cheesiest of lines he has said to the now bawling heroine: I will smudge the lipstick, but not let the kohl in your eyes smudge, ever. Some wisecrack heckles: waterproof mascara!

You wonder why so much money and effort was wasted in making a weird film in the name of romance where the ultimate love nest is ‘a house with no doors and windows and we two are locked in it for ever!’


  
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: MANTRA


Could Have Been Great...

2 stars

Mini Review:

A dysfunctional family in the posh Pansheel area of New Delhi face their demons in their own ways. Their individual stories are interesting: a dad who is on the verge of bankruptcy but will not ask for help, a mother who is distraught about her marital life, the older son who is constantly berated by his father for being too involved with his own business, the daughter who feels like a prisoner, and the youngest son who struggles to find himself… Wish the stories had been better woven to create a mantra for success.

Main Review:

The best scene in the film belongs to Pia Kapoor (Kalki Koechlin) who goes to the stranger’s home to return his jacket and to say thank you for rescuing her from attackers, and breaks down in confession. So far into the film, you, the audience has just been watching with disinterest because there’s nothing new about dysfunctional families that the film has so far shown.

Rajat Kapoor is Kapil Kapoor, a potato chip magnate who is facing huge competition from a multinational food company, and has lost sleep as well as his sense of humor. He lives to worry and his whole demeanour is angry and on the brink of exploding. His utter discomfort in any social situation shows how good an actor he can be. But apart from showing us a glimpse of his humanity when he interacts with his dog, his role leaves us wanting to see more.

The wife’s character (Lushin Dubey) is limited and you wish there was some spark in her instead of just weeping. Also the youngest son gets to explore his sexuality via chatting on the net. That’s terribly predictable. But the older son Viraj (Shiv Pandit), who chooses to run his own restaurant seems to conduct his business on the phone. As audience, you wish he was doing more than be angry with his father, or drink at his restaurant.

Their stories seem to run parallel to each other and you wish they intersected. You can see a mile away how things are going to end, and even though you wish the story had given you more, you are forced to shrug and accept the story as is. It has humane moments, but none match the Kalki’s scene with her rescuer.



(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: TRAPPED


Title Describes The Audience' State Of Mind As Much As The Story

2 stars

Mini Review:

A young man rents an apartment in a newly constructed high rise and with the key on the outside of the main door, gets locked inside. With no electricity, no phone, no food or water, he’s trapped inside. He has to improvise his escape. Alas this Robinson Crusoe is so tiresome, you wonder if this would have been better as a short film.

Main Review:

This is a festival film, for audiences that are willing to watch the odd and the weird, films that have niche appeal. Trapped is a festival film that wants public adulation. In fact, it was recommended by anyone who watched it at the Mumbai International Film Festival. But festival audiences are forgiving, they will understand creative liberties and the need to shock and awe. General public looks at logic, and this film lacks so much in that department, it is a difficult tale to swallow.

First, the good parts. The director begins the story of a shy young man, Shaurya, falling in love with a colleague from his non-descript office. It’s so good, it raises expectations.

You like his shyness, so you ignore his ‘watching’ (stalking, really) the girl from behind a door. But it begins to annoy you that he does not even tell her he found a house on rent! Does not even bring her over at night! What could be more romantic than sharing a plate of takeaway food in an empty apartment. But the director makes sure the shy guy remembers to carry the photo of the gods (does the picture of the Devi change to Hanuman?) from his shared apartment. That’s ‘look-at-my-middle-class-cool’ part of the film (also goes with using elastic from his ‘actively’ middle class underwear. ‘Actively’ because the art director must have gone in search of underwear sold on the street.).

He lives in Bombay! And no one who has struggled with money in this big city will ever hand over hand over hard-earned cash (15k) to a stranger, without any paperwork! Plus, if you wanted the apartment for the girl, you would at least call her to tell her you found a home! And they show him eager to jump her bones, then why does he sleep alone?

I’m not saying Rajkummar Rao does not put his heart and soul into acting first as the angry, demented man, brought down to his knees by his situation (he is trapped inside the house with the key on the outside of the door) and then as someone who learns to improvise to survive and then plan his escape. But we’ve seen this before from Castaway to Robinson Crusoe remakes…

What is annoying to watch is that everything seems to be so conveniently placed. He shudders in disgust after whacking the rat in the apartment. Then suddenly he’s trapped it in a makeshift cage. Really? Wouldn’t you just stick a cardboard under the inert rat and throw it out of the window, not chat with it! And Amitabh Bachchan has already had a conversation with a cockroach in Amar Akbar Anthony already… So there’s nothing new about ‘Chat With Rat’, it’s just a ‘I’m-so-clever’ device. And how he contrives to fashion a rotisserie to cook the pigeon when he's a vegetarian is just so illogical, you want to escape being trapped with him.

You do suspend disbelief and smile with his little successes. For example, when he collects rainwater. But a nagging voice inside you says, ‘This is Bombay! It doesn’t rain like that unless it is the Monsoons, and then it isn’t sunny like that…’

It is a relief to finally see him escape. But then unkind ideas for alternate endings where the rat brings his entire family to eat him up, pop in your head. Art house films...


P.S. I tried hard to like the film, I really did. I wanted to feel that claustrophobia, that helplessness of a common man and then someone made a spoof, an alt-trailer of the film and uploaded it on twitter. I had to laugh. Hysterically. Claustrophobia be damned …


(this review sans the post script on nowrunning dot com)



Review: AA GAYA HERO


The brighter the star the harder the fall...

0.5 stars

Mini Review:

Govinda returns to the big screen as a hero after years. This is home production and was previously called ‘Abhinay Chakra’. It is a story of a policeman who makes an elaborate plan to trap the assorted bad guys by closing all loopholes they usually employ to escape justice. The whole thing is handled so badly, the songs and dances are a relief from the strangest goings on.

Main Review:

ACP Ravindra Verma (Govinda, rather fit for his age) presents a secret file marked prominently” Abhinay Chakra, to the President. He gets permission to tackle the corrupt politicians and their assorted goons, rapists who own educational institutions, even a woman thug.

This film is supposed to be debut to two female leads, one of them is Richa Sharma. But she has only one line of dialog: I’m Juhi. After one dance with Govinda where she makes her presence felt in a Gold bikini top is all we see of her. She just disappears.

The film starts with an assumption that the bad guys get away with anything because the ‘system’ protects them. Murderers brazenly kill people in broad daylight because they have politicians play Godfather and so on. Helpless cops tied by orders to not shoot, seem to be losing every battle.

So Govinda hatches a plan and turns into Don (whatever that means!) and tricks the bad guys into surrender. All this happens because Murali Sharma decides to intimidate and chase a girl in broad daylight in a college and she jumps off the top floor and kills herself. Murali Sharma is younger brother to Ashutosh Rana who says, ‘Murder aur rape karna hamara haq banta hai’

The cliches are horrendous and unending. The film too is shot as if the story was something to add between songs. There must be at least ten songs (I lost count after seven) that make no sense or connect with the cop story. It was as if the cop story was shot separately. They do however add one or two lines of dialog to introduce the song. For example: Suddenly Govinda speaks some nonsense to the cops at his police station, and leaves. The cops then say, ‘The boss is drunk’. The audience wonders what had just happened. Boom! The film cuts to a drunken song and dance about ‘A chhora Ganga kinare wala’. But the more cops and corrupt politician nonsense we see on screen, the more welcome the songs become. After all, it is Govinda. And despite his jiggly moobs, he still can shake a leg and say something as outrageous as, ‘Patati hai toh patt, nai toh side mein hutt!’ (Wanna be seduced then be seduced or step aside)




p.s. i felt the same sense of acrid sadness rise up from deep within my gut as i watched this film as i did when i watched Nana Patekar acted in the trashy Wedding Anniversary. Yes, i laughed at the inanities of dialog and the awfulness of the chroma (one was so bad it was the screensaver with birds flying)... But made me wonder why Govinda made this movie. 




(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)
  

Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST


Fall In Love With This Musical, Visual Feast

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

‘Tale as old as time!’ Sings Mrs Potts. ‘, ‘No one’s slick as Gaston, as quick as Gaston’, ‘There must be more than this provincial life’... Songs you have loved when you watched the animated version of the film in 2010 come alive in this film, making you fall in love with the fairy tale once again in a visual spectacle that will make you swoon…

Main Review:

‘If he could learn to love another and earn her love in return, by the time the last petal fell...The prince was doomed to remain a beast for all time’

You know the words by heart when you begin to see the spectacle unveil on the big IMAX screen (don’t make the mistake of watching it on a small screen!).

A sleepy town wakes up to ‘Bonjour! Bonjour!’

You can smell the freshly baked bread in this colorful town as you settle down with your coffee and pizza...You fall in love with a man who is in love with himself. You giggle like the bimbettes when Le Fou and Gaston appear, you know the words as clearly as yesterday!

‘No one’s as slick as Gaston/ No one’s quick as Gaston/No one's neck's as incredibly thick as Gaston'sWhen I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs/ Ev'ry morning to help me get large/And now that I'm grown I eat five dozen eggs/So I'm roughly the size of a barge!’

You smile and smile until he says how manly he is because ‘Every last inch of me is covered with hair!’

You don’t stop smiling until the wolves push Belle’s dad into the Beast’s castle, and after that you just gape and gawp at the stunning visuals and the beast and Mrs Potts and Chip and Cogsworth and Lumiere The Candelabra and…

Book your tickets now. Buy the yellow dress for yourself, for your daughter. Buy a candelabra for your home. Buy a rose. Forget reviews, they are all gushing out there. I am too, but you might wonder why I’m stingy with the ‘stars’. Well, I always pictured Belle to be gentler and Hermione as Belle… Ignore that. Go watch this beautiful, beautiful film. And sigh with happiness in your theatre seats.


Review: BEFORE I FALL


Beautiful, Meaningful, Soulful

3 stars

Mini Review:

This movie adaptation of a book for young adults (with the same name) by Lauren Oliver. It tackles beautifully the answers a very popular teenager must seek to question as to why is she being forced to live like Groundhog day the last day of her life. What is wrong with her seemingly perfect life? The music is great and the film set in the Pacific Northwest has a very haunting quality.

Main Review:

Watch out world, this young actor Zoey Deutch is going to be a star.

16 year old popular high schooler, Samantha Kingston and her three best friends go to school on Cupid Day. The girls are invited to a party thrown by a classmate. The girls gang up and bully another classmate who is considered to be weird.

Samantha realises that after the bullying when the girls are returning home, she dies in an accident. But she wakes up again and again until she sets things right and discovers who she really is. It’s a sort of Groundhog Day mixed with mean girls.

At first Samantha cannot believe that ‘this is happening to me’! She goes to school and is unable to stop the bullying of the strange classmate. Lindsey, the ringleader of Sam’s group thinks she’s gone weird. But Sam is unable to explain to the others what is really happening. The third and fourth and fifth time she wakes up again to cupid day, she realises that she needs to change something in order to save herself.

She realises that her perfect life with her perfect friends and her perfect boyfriend is really perfect at all. She sees the meanness in her friends and she wonders why she is a part of it all. She regrets having been mean to her mother by drawing a line at her room door with lipstick and tell her to stay on the other side…Samantha even realises that her perfect boyfriend Rob isn’t really perfect at all. He only says ‘I love you’ only because he knows she wants him to say it when she ‘puts out’ and not because he feels anything.

Samantha realises that she has forgotten how to be nice after she has become popular. She changes, but the dream she wakes from hasn’t. She’s back to square one on Cupid Day. In her confused and angry state she decides that she’s going over the top and behave unlike herself and maybe fate will change.

The narration is in first person and hence rather intimate. At some points you actually begin to wonder if it is your thoughts about life that Sam is talking about. From caring unconditionally, to kindness and so much more…

The music is simply brilliant. It is young and peppy and yet appropriate. From ‘Not yours’ to ‘Dark Liquor’ all the songs are perfect.

The film is shot beautifully, and the setting is hauntingly beautiful. What will surprise you is the strange shudder that will go through you when you realise that the director showed you what was going to happen right at the beginning. Brilliant little touch.   




Friday, March 03, 2017

Review: COMMANDO 2: THE BLACK MONEY TRAIL


A Tedious Watch: Utterly Unoriginal Action, Pukeworthy Humor 

1 star

Mini Review:

Vicky Chadda the villain has siphoned off all the money from offshore accounts of big business baddies and the ministry needs a special ‘team’ to catch him and bring him back to India, alive because he’s got all the passwords in his head. Commando, two cops and a cyber cell dude traipse all over Thailand and Malaysia chasing Vicky Chadda. This slow moving movie has absolutely nothing original. The fight sequences are borrowed, the dialog is sloppy and the end is as good as propaganda.

Main Review:

It’s a big mistake releasing this action film with Logan where the kid can beat up baddies more effectively than the Big Beefy Commando (Vidyut Jamwal).

That said, this film is so terrible, you wonder what prompted them to make it. The film opens to a pathetic copy of the Thai film directed by Gareth Evans: The Raid: Redemption, where the hero goes into a building full of criminals. Alas Commando 2 budgets restrain them from a full house, so the Big Beefy enters an empty building filled with trash guarded by two penny fighters who die easily. Just as in The Raid, the bad guy is on the top floor, but in this case the floor is empty except for some computers which show cctv footage. And that jumping through a window? Sorry, but Jackie Chan did it first, and with so much awesomeness. His frame is small, and going through the chute is simply brilliant. In this movie when Big Beefy imitates it, they make the window bigger. It's as daft as you or I saying we can walk through windows, French windows.

The only reason why Big Beefy is shot by his own pal, is to show government back home that he shot the top floor guy in an encounter. Actually how else would your show Big Beefy topless? Anyway Big Beefy infiltrates a top secret team in a mission by corrupt politicians and big bad businessmen to get distributor of Black Money abroad, a one Vicky Chaddha repatriated from Malaysia.

Should be simple but the Malaysian safehouse is more like a hotel where servers are traipsing around with trays of food, the ‘team’ chatting away… The 4 person team is made up of a Police Officer Baktawar (Freddy Daruwala), encounter specialist Police Inspector Bhavna Reddy (Adah Sharma who speaks such terrible Hyderabadi Hindi that state would want to secede from the country, Sumit Gulati as the token Muslim person who is a cyber geek (thankfully gets killed and does not have to wait until the end of the film!) and Vidyut Jamwal who plays Karan.

Poor Shefali Shah! Such a good actor, and all she is made to do is flounce about, getting upset at her overgrown son, the state of the nation, the black money, the politicians. Even Adil Hussain has a pathetic role as the head of the secret service. Such a terrible waste.

So everyone betrays everyone and you discover Vicky Chaddha is one step ahead. Esha Gupta is Vicky Chaddha’s wife and gets to walk about in impossibly high heels, and offer really bad dialog. With so much betrayal going around, you forget to laugh at the name Jimmy Kher given to another cyber dude who is ‘such a clever hacker, he uses wi-fi at cafes to mask his identity’ (at this point you wake up to speak in smses in your head: wtf, wtf, wtf!)

The last fight sequence is in the same heli-pad terrace you saw in Kabali and many, many other bad action flicks. But the last fight here is well-shot and well choreographed and Big Beefy finally meets Popping Veins (the lad looks like a testosterone version of Ranjeet the villain of yore). The single star the film earns is with this fight. But then the already terribly directed film becomes pure propaganda when black money reaches poor farmers.

As they’re backslapping each other over patriotism, you wonder how and why does the government have the account numbers and passwords of bank accounts belonging to poor farmers?

Commando the original movie was a decent action flick. But Commando 2 is proof that Big Beefy without brains is best placed on a barbeque.




(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: LOGAN


It’s a brand. It sticks.

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

They gave you gigantic hint in the trailer. Johnny Cash singing what is perhaps the best ever cover version of the hit song ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails: I hurt myself today/To see if I still feel/I focus on the pain/The only thing that’s real… The lyrics sum up the movie. Unmissable.

Main Review:

In a world where the X-men are gone, Logan is now old. And he drives giggly bachelorettes in a limo. Charles Xavier is no longer the mind reading elder, and is suffering from Alzheimer's. Suddenly a baddie with a gold tooth shows up demanding the whereabouts of the girl… This movie is so extraordinary, you are at once mesmerised and at once repelled by the violence on the screen, you gawp at the immense talent that is present in the girl…

Book Your Tickets Now!

Seriously. The action, the story, the action, the characters, the locations, the action, the science, the baddies, the action is so jaw-droppingly good, you cannot stay away.

For those who have grown up watching cowboy movies, watching Shane and Jack Palance (of the single arm push ups fame) calling out,’And where do you think you’re doing?’ is an awesome, awesome experience because Charles Xavier is watching the movie with the girl. The movie is so layered, you sense where it is going because everything is hinting at events snowballing on the screen in front of you.

The film opens to aches and pains and Adamantium that isn’t working right, and wounds that leaving marks on the grizzled body of Wolverine. As the song says, ‘You focus on the pain/The only thing that’s real.

Logan is also older and very, crotchety. And you feel the pain as he wears his shirt. You want to know he chooses to suffer in this way. You want to know why Charles is hiding in the awesome upended water tank (Cerebro, anyone?) and why is he nurturing plants. You also cross your fingers that you go home and read the old man Logan comic books where Logan mostly deals with this torture inside his head. You want to know why he is hurting so much.

James Mangold gives us a spectacular canvas from the dusty El Paso, the blue skies across the Mexican border, the road trip the brings them all to Las Vegas and up to Washington to North Dakota. And there is non-stop action and relentless violence. Whether it is violence brought upon them by the Reavers under Stryker’s son Dr. Rice (Richard E Grant in a creepy, very creepy role).

DO YOU STILL NEED TO BE TOLD TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS?

And then there’s the girl. You know you are a geek when you realise she’s X-23, and you know her powers are…

BOOK THOSE TICKETS, DON’T MAKE ME GIVE AWAY THE PLOT!

Still here? Then let me say this. There is slashing, and decapitating, and there’s stabbing and stabbing and stabbing and then some more stabbiing. Because there’s not one but two. Or should I say three of them?

The body count gets doubled (or tripled?) and you are taken from the pain to the hurt and then to hope and then to an abyss where you can hear Shane tell Joey the snotty kid to go to his mum, because: There’s no living with… a killing. There’s no going back from one…

Alan Ladd was not kidding. ‘Right or wrong, the brand sticks.’ he says. And these cowboy films were about extraordinary adventures, to more than a couple of generations of kids, just as the X-Men movies are to us...  





Review: JEENA ISI KA NAAM HAI


TAB TOH MAR JAANA HEE ACHHA!

1 star

Mini Review:

A successful author, Aalia is about to be felicitated at the White House when she hears sad news and rushed back to India. The story of her life is told in flashback and shows everything: Aalia as a young girl who dreams in poetry and is in love with a young man to Aaalia the woman married forcibly into a royal family to a runaway pregnant woman who finds her feet in Bombay, becomes a mother and then lands a job in New York. After 170 minutes, when you wonder about the point of it all, there is a funeral and the movie ends.

Main Review:

When you see the twin towers intact in New York, you realise that not only is the heroine Aalia’s story (played literally wide-eyed by Manjari Fadnis) is in flashback, but the city has literally traveled in time. But you know they must have had to keep the film under the lid… And they forgot that the universe was sending them signals, to keep a film (that is 170 minutes long) there.

But if you can believe the story, then you will believe that the moon is made of cheese.

She’s an author of bestselling books and ‘many Pulitzer prizes’. She is to be felicitated by the American president when she runs out of the White House without accepting her award and the secret service finds her a cab. She has come to the White House with her husband (Arbaaz Khan) and a White Male (not a speaking role, hence). She runs out alone, but at the airport the same White Male hands her tickets, passport and luggage.

We realise she has landed in Rajasthan because the large mustachioed man bows to her with a traditional Rajasthani greeting. She travels straight to the place where the body is being mourned. It is Laxmi (Supriya Pathak), the palace housekeeper/maid who has taken care of her.

In the flashback, a painfully slow flashback, we see how young Aalia is ignored and mistreated by her own parents for being a girl. You wonder why and suddenly see her in college, romancing (yes, reluctantly at first, like all good Bollywood girls do) a young lad (Himansh Kohli), and also being favorite of the Principal (who hams it like he were a country cousin to Anupam Kher’s Principal from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) who sends her to meet the ‘world famous’ maharaja Kunwar Vikram Pratap Singh (Ashutosh Rana) who is given to bouts of weird villainous laughter every three or four minutes. He plays pool in a car garage and entertains ‘guests’ in a room that has model cars hanging from the ceiling in transparent globes. But the antiques in his palace is nothing, nothing compared to the antiques surrounding the editor of the newspaper/magazine in Bombay…  

But first, our heroine goes to interview the maharaja for her college magazine at the directions of her principal. The maharaja is rude to her ‘beautiful girls should not be interviewing’ and refuses to talk to her. She comes away in a huff, but the maharaja apparently liked her huffing and sends in a typed interview to the principal and also buys her off from her parents who remind us that being bought off by the maharaja is the only thing ‘good’ she has ever done.

Thankfully we are spared of a wedding scene because we see the heroine arrive at the palace on an elephant with the maharaja. Here we meet Laxmi, who says she is ‘all knowing’ and that woman-kind should accept fate even if it is in the shape of the lustful (for other women), cruel (he kicks servants) maharaja. Poor Supriya Pathak! Reduced to such a terrible role! Laxmi then suddenly becomes champion of women’s rights, teaching women to beat up husbands who beat them, telling other women to stand on their own feet, and finally helping Aalia escape the maharaja who wants the female child (yes the heroine is pregnant) aborted.

If you are still awake, you watch Aalia wander the streets of Mumbai, manage to reach a home for the homeless, begin working there, living there, look for a job, find a job at the Urdu newspaper by pronouncing the word ‘life’ (‘Zindagi’ in Urdu) correctly. The newspaper is run by an antique collecting Prem Chopra who has a supposed to be comic relief secretary and journalist (who takes dictation of poetry (don’t ask!). This newspaper/magazine has an office filled to the gills with dusty bundles of old newspaper. Of course our heroine turns into a ‘feminist champion of poor people’s rights)’ because she yells at the organisers of a blanket and food drive for making poor women wait in the Sun while they give speeches. The man she yells at is Aditya Kapoor (Arbaaz Khan), the multi millionaire NRI, who is so impressed by her, he follows her to the shelter and takes her to the old folks home (where between reviving a heart patient and donating money he asks her out on a date!). Of course she says no, because at last she has had a baby (she has been pregnant so far) and she needs to be strict mother. We never see the mother when she gets a job offer from Manhattan Times.

Manhattan Times? Why not? From dusty unknown gossip rag to New York, New York. The child appears magically and disappears conveniently when Aalia is sent off to interview people caught in the war in the Middle East (the ‘Pulitzers’, remember?). But the bitchy office colleagues say she has been promoted because she sleeps with the board member, who happens to be - you guessed right - Aditya Kapoor. You are still recovering from the visual of Aalia taking notes in a notebook in the Middle East flanked by two camels to care now…

She prances in a dream sequence song in a dress and you feel your pulse slowly die. You wonder if young women are really dreaming about dancing on the clouds and sinking in rose petals today, simple because the really, really rich NRI has confessed his love for her. No wonder Laxmi is dead.


(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)