Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: TUBELIGHT


Hamara Dabanng Bhaijaan Waapas Do!
This Rancid Barfi Is NOT Salman Khan.

1 star

Mini Review:

A remake of the 2015 Hollywood 'Little Boy' that bombed, Tubelight attempts to capture the magic of Bajrangi Bhaijaan with a little boy this time. But this time Bhai acts like he's Bollywood's version of a mentally challenged person. Set during the 1961 Indo-China war, this film shows how bhai's only support, his brother, goes away to fight at the border and bhai is left with Gandhian principles that help him survive. He befriends a little Chinese-Indian boy Guao and his mother who has fled the oppression they faced in Calcutta. This friendship is tough because he's ethnically Chinese. Salman Khan magic fails in this flat, linear telling of the story.     

Main Review:

It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It.

Salman Khan's USP that sets single screen theatres alight with crazy fans singing and dancing in the aisles is his ability to beat baddies to a pulp, seduce heroines with a fun song and dance routine and most recently, as the truth loving, Hanuman worshipping do-gooder Bajrangi.
With such a big opening opportunity reserved at Eid for Salman, why make a film that has no humor, no fighting baddies, no love interest to seduce, and a story told with so many mistakes?

In the opening shot from the film, the kids in the classroom are waiting for the flickering Tubelight to finally light up. They are staring at it, urging it to ‘Jal Ja! Jal Ja! Jal Ja!’ (Light Up! Light Up!). As fans of Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Dabanng the audience too stares at Salman Khan’s unrestrained facial contortions on the screen and pray, ‘Stop overacting! Just take off that shirt! Beat up bullies! Stop crying! Why are you so bloated?’

You don’t want to wonder why the classroom needs a tubelight to burn in the morning during school hours, you settle down with popcorn for Salman Khan magic to appear and work its way with you.

Rancid Barfi. Overacting Ki Dukaan.

Salman Khan’s brother Sohail Khan appears, but the magic doesn’t. Salman Khan is supposed to be the village idiot, a Kumaoni version of Barfi (2012 film directed by Anurag Basu, starring Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra), but you are just taken aback at the unrestrained facial contortions and strange string puppet like body movements and you hope something will happen to turn this Barfi gone rancid into the awesome fighting machine or lovable Bajrangi once again.

You begin to chant in your head, ‘Take it off! Take it off!’ hoping Salman will take off his shirt and fight the village bullies and redeem himself from the awful depiction of a mentally challenged person.

He doesn’t take his shirt off. He can't. First, the film is set in the hills, and they show him wearing not just full sleeved shirts but also these ghastly sweaters that are three sizes too small. Or is it that his body is so buff that his muscles are straining to get out of confinement. And then the thought pops up: is that why his body twitches so much? Second, the bullies (led by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who hates the Chinese, but nobody knows why!) only slap Laxman, no tearing off his shirt when beating Salman. Third, the story is trying really hard to tug at your heartstrings so no muscle shots.

Sohail Khan plays his brother. Yashpal Sharma the army recruiting and temporary cantonment in charge, and Brijendra Kala as grocery shop owner. Not even Om Puri in the cast can save Laxman from overacting.

Little Boy Steals The Show.

Speaking of heartstrings, Matin Ray Tangu, the little boy who plays Salman Khan’s Chinese friend Guao is adorable. Not unlike the Pakistani girl Salman rescues in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, he wins every heart waiting for the real Salman Khan to stand up and show himself. But in Bajrangi, the little girl makes him do the right thing without lying. Here the boy is not given a chance to change the dumb Laxman into a man with a spine. But no such luck. Laxman remains the tubelight of the village, dumb and stupid.

Director Kidhar Hai? Kidhar Hai Director?

The director is conspicuous with his absence. Because the movie gets more and more tedious. Not one character grows in any sort of arc. Bhai remains dumb, the little boy adorable, Bhai’s brother who goes away on war remains brave soldier, the village bully remains that. You just wait for the movie to play out. Om Puri’s appearance as a mentor who gives Laxman a list of Gandhian Tweets/Quotes and goes off screen is the luckiest character. He facepalms so many times and is exasperated at Laxman and he shows it. The audience alas, cannot.

His stupidity is based on what Gandhiji said to him in person: Conviction (‘Yakeen’) can move mountains, and it lives in your heart. And of course Laxman takes it literally, and the audience suffers this bizarre Superman on the ground waiting to take off posture in the name of ‘yakeen'. The background music is incessant and loud and the songs forgettable. So much for keeping everything under wraps We also suffer really bad jokes with the little boy’s name which mispronounced sounds like ‘shit’ literally. Bad childish jokes apart, it doesn’t help when the star that you love looks more bloated than buff, you wish someone would push him into a weight loss routine. Give me a good Dabanng over this pretence emotional film any day. The best moment of the film? When Laxman realises the soldiers giving Guao’s mum the evil eye and he holds her hand to protect her. That’s the Salman we love.




P.S. You step out wondering how Shah Rukh in a cameo manages to look more earnest and fresh than the bhai you've loved since Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Andaz Apna Apna. You love both the stars for different reasons and somewhere deep inside you wish both had aged equally well.

I said 'mistakes' in para 1 of the review. Apart from tubelight flickering in the morning classroom, noteworthy is Laxman's bicycle. It's chain comes off often. and then suddenly we see Bhai riding a bicycle with a chain guard (invented in 1964, by the way!)... And these are just two of the many...




Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: BANK CHOR


You Facepalm And You Facepalm then Credits Roll.
Directed By Bumpy, It Says. Facepalm Once More.

1 star

Mini Review:

Three silly lads attempt to rob a bank and end up in the middle of a real bank robbery. There are cops, and the media and a brash CBI team trying to stop the robbery outside, and hostages, the silly lads and the real bad guys inside. Then there are politicians plotting something else outside. If the one line premise had not been stretched so long and stayed focused on comedy, this film could have been a hoot. Isn’t.

Main Review:

Someone who’s not old enough to curse in Hindi but sees the phonetic similarity between the word and the title of the film is to blame for the stupidity that lasts for two hours.

Champak Chiplunkar, Genda and Gulaab are three silly lads, attempting to loot a bank. Ritesh Deshmukh as Champak Chiplunkar starts out to being funny. A robber dressed up as a babaji, but really someone who believes in numerology and Vaastu could be fun. Genda and Gulaab are Delhi lads who make the perfect for Delhi Lads jokes found aplenty on Whatsapp. Trouble with this film is that Whatsapp jokes are widely circulated and they are completely unfunny when acted out. The casting is good, but the direction is rough and bumpy. You can see the joke set up a mile away. Perhaps that’s why the director is listed as ‘Bumpy’ and that does not sound like a real name at all.

However, the bumbling thieves - looking for a WiFi button press the alarm at the bank - invite the attention of CBI special branch agent called Amjad Khan (Vivek Oberoi with a moustache). Apart from the very obvious, ‘Kitne Aadmi Thay?’ not a single joke is cracked, using the Sholay reference, is cracked.

The hostages, the media and the cops (one of them has a serious Atul Kulkarni hangover) have no jokes and are serious in their dealings. Would have been fun to hear a microphone thrust into a cop’s face and reporter ask: There is a bank robbery in progress, how do you feel?

Yes, the cops in the jeep are all eating vada paos, and that is clever. But the rest of the movie just is exhausting. There is attempt at comedy between Bombay and Delhi, but you’ve heard those before. Especially the ‘yo mama’ jokes about yo mama is so frugal she puts water in the shampoo bottles to get that last bit of soap out… are now stale even if they are applied to Delhi boys.

The reason why politicians are involved and why the real robbers are present in the bank is too convoluted. And after intermission, the movie turns so serious, you wish they had stuck to whatsapp jokes.

Why do the filmmakers have to borrow loan rescinded idea from Hell Or High water or throw money away as in Now You See Me? The one thing original about this film is the slogan offered: GBMLR - Ganpati Bappa Morya Let’s Rock.

 


Review: PHULLU


I'd rather suffer Endometriosis...

½ star

Mini Review:

Phullu is the village idiot, or is he? He helps his mother make quilts by bringing rags from the local tailors, buys things for village women, but does not want to leave the village and find a job. When he figures out that women have periods and that they cannot afford sanitary napkins, he attempts to make them himself, earning derision and hatred at the cost of everything…

Main Review:

When you’re living in a country where basic necessities for women - in this instance, sanitary pads - are highly taxed and cannot be afforded by more than 70% of the population, a film that creates awareness is a good thing. But when it comes to delivering the message in a film, it had better be hard-hitting and on point, instead of this rambling story of a ‘Phullu’ or the idiot.

Phullu lives with his mum and his sister and when he goes to the city to get leftover fabric from tailors for the quilts his mother makes, he also brings back packages for women of the village. Packages first wrapped in newspapers and then in black plastic bags. He does not know what they are and the women don’t explain anything either.

Of course he’s bringing back sanitary pads for the women, and only few women seem to afford it. And there is a lot of taboo involved with periods. Men are told it’s a woman’s disease, women are asked to stay in a corner in their homes, women aren’t allowed to enter holy shrines and much more. When he starts asking questions, he’s laughed at and even beaten up for being nosy about ‘women’s business’.

He is married off by his mum (what ghastly, loud, overacting!) in the hope that the wife will make Phullu go away to the city to find a job. He just ends up staying in, making love to his wife. When his wife seems to get a vaginal infection, he begins his obsessive quest to make affordable sanitary napkins. He gets beaten up, has to sell his cell phone, live on biscuits and tea, gets beaten up again until he finds a job at the factory that makes sanitary napkins. He works there, trying to understand the process. He even brings back material he could make those at home, but who will try them? The women of the village beat him up…

The narrative is rambling and tedious, so the already tough social service message becomes tedious and boring even. Plus when the protagonist is the ‘fool’ then the film actually undermines the work being done by so many people in making sanitary napkins and teaching rural women to use them instead of the unhygienic rags.



(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

 


Review: CARS 3


On Top Of The Track!

2.5 Happy stars!
(and 4 stars to the short film LOU attached to the beginning!)

Mini Review:

The racing cars are back, ready to make you eat dirt, whether they are on the Piston 51 lap race or smart talking each other. The jokes could be funnier, but you cannot but smile at ‘Your blinker is on’ as you see Lightning McQueen, Mater and the other cars you have seen before see yet another road bump… Will number 95 get his mojo back?

Main Review:

Is this the end to Lightning McQueen’s career as a racing ace? There are nasty looking next gen cars like Jackson Storm on the track slowly pushing out the racers you have seen in this really sweet Disney franchise. Jackson Storm has been racing on the simulator and the racing reporter Natalie Certain who says, ‘Numbers are everything’ and predict to the nearest per cent who will win the race, predicts that the way Jackson Storm’s numbers are, there is a 96 per cent chance that he will win, compared to the one percent chance of Lightning McQueen making it at the race if at all.

With Ace losing his confidence at losing not just to Jackson Storm but losing hope as he sees all his friends retire, what is to become of the franchise? As audience you begin to pray that he really pushes himself and learns to win again. His newly appointed trainer Cruz tries her best. But Lightning McQueen listen to anyone else but his own voice? Will he change his ways or is he too set in his thinking…

This movie seemed to have sort of petered off the track in the sequel and then most of us wrote it off as meant for little kids. With Cars 3, Disney is back, and how! Personally speaking the movie is simply heartwarming. Maybe because most adults can identify with the theme of exhaustion at work, losing inspiration, this movie comes very close to whatever it is that grown ups are battling. And the kids will continue to find humor in the cuteness of the cars. Even the demolition derby is fun watch, and so is the training on the beach.

I actually stood up to clap to the clever use of Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days and the slide guitar at the pub. That quietly slipped in the the cleverest thing one has seen in the ‘Cars’ movies.

Go watch it. This one film is meant for kids, but who knows, the grown ups might find lots and lots of inspiration here as well. And one more thing. This film opens during Father’s Day weekend, and has a lovely little short attached to the beginning of the film. It is everything you would expect from a Pixar short. The tears in my eyes are preventing me from saying more, but watch LOU, the short. You’ll find heaps to love in the Lost And Found box too…


Friday, June 09, 2017

Review: THE MUMMY


Tom Cruise is Still Yummy.

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

This time the Mummy is scarier and more determined to make Tom Cruise hers. The idea is ancient. It was planted in practically every female brain when we saw him as Top Gun, so this movie becomes rather fun to watch. It is darker and scarier than the other films in the franchise. Russell Crowe makes an interesting addition offering the possibility of another sequel…

Main Review:    

Franchise films are boring because their universe does not change very much. The destruction in Transformers is similar as is the sandstorm, the scarab beetles, the Mummy movies have. Even horror films have their standard projectile vomiting, the upturned crucifixes, hands that emerge from bedding to pull victims inside and so on. That’s why it was interesting to see what Tom Cruise could bring to the new Mummy film.

He still has the body we saw in Jack Reacher, bulked up and ready to bare. His sidekick Sgt. Vail is played by Jake Johnson and he has the most fun, first as someone who is reluctant to join the mad search for a Egyptian tomb by Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), then as the undead when he helps Nick through the Mummy troubles.

The gorgeous Sophia Boutella plays the Mummy, ready to stab Nick and turn him into Satan himself. You have never seen anything in bandages look so good. Annabelle Wallis plays the good girl and she needs to either scream in terror or look terribly concerned. It’s Russell Crowe who has a terribly interesting role as Dr. Henry Jekyll. You know he’s got the lab and the money and the power, but you want to know more about him. Perhaps in the next movie.

The Mummy comes alive in every movie, but in this one, the scenes are genuinely scary. Even someone as shockproof as I am, wasn’t expecting the mind games the mummy plays, the crows and the rats…


The relentless ‘I want you’ message from the Mummy does not get stale at all. This movie turns out to be a better watch than one thought. And yes, you get a peek into the bare nekked body of Tom Cruise. Paisa Vasool that!  




Review: RAABTA


Raabta means Connection. It's like using Dial Up Modem Connection today. Incoherent and Terrible.

1 star

Mini Review:

If you want to see a brainless, pointless romance with pretenses of rebirth, set in a foreign country then this film would be it. Utterly devoid of chemistry, the lead pair talks inanities until you fall asleep, and when woken by the tale of their past life, you end up laughing at the fakeness of warriors and princess story that is dumber than Hrithik Roshan’s Mohenjodaro.

Main Review:

This Raabta is Bad Connection. The Lead Pair Flirts as if they were hormonal 13 year olds.

(The kids in ads for Byjus study phone app are smarter than than the two lovers of this film.)

Fairy Tales for grown ups should have at least a modicum of sense. But Raabta has been written by cretins who wrote dialog like ‘I understand Economics is important, but there is such a thing called Chemistry’ because the heroine looks like she’s getting married to a rich guy leaving the boyfriend.

A big hoo-ha was made about the film being shot in Budapest, but the story could have been set in Jhumritalaiyya and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The film is terrible. Shiv is a banker (Sushant Singh Rajput, annoying in his Shah Rukh hangover) who flirts with every other ‘gori’ girl, sees an Indian chocolatier Saira/Saiba (Kriti Sanon, pretty, but exhausting in her naivete) and dumps the girl and begins to flirt with her, following her home. He insists there is a connect. She feels it too. They sleep with each other. But there is a boyfriend who shows up, and the banker now behaves so badly at a restaurant to break the girl and her boyfriend, you want to throw things at all of them.

Can The Neerja Hijacker please Save us from Dying of Boredom?

Fortunately the villain (Jim Sarbh from Neerja) shows up who and you hope something is going to happen. But he too has been given priceless dialog like: Is gaadi mein tumhari duvidha ke liye bhi jagah hai (there’s room in this car for your confusion also). Of course the girl is so stupid, she gets drunk with the chap she has just met - the villain - and says drop me home. He gets her drunk and takes her home, his home. But not before saying, ‘Kill him.’

She falls into water (don’t ask how) and instead of drowning (which would have saved the film) she dreams of her past life. Of course everyone wears jhingalala hurr (Hindi film aboriginal)  costumes and tattoos, men look like they’ve never had baths and they have long hair. Of course she is a warrior princess and is hunting fish (the sequence would have been a great fantasy thing had they not put a disclaimer: CG Fish at the bottom of the screen). Their forest kingdom some rubbishy name like Pathar (stone!) is attacked by some new tribe. And to cue, female warrior offers to fight the enemy. Hero in this life is a snarly, tough tattooed chap, who takes up the challenge and what follows is like a third world copy of Mowgli running from Bagheera sequence.

With Every Faaltu Dialog You Hope Mohenjodaro's Crocodile Would Emerge And Eat Them Up

Since a lot of the movie is under water, near water, you find yourself sending the croc in Mohenjodaro messages that it appear and gobble the three characters. Never mind what happens in the film, there are some really horrendous dialog that will have you facepalm: Ladkiyaan hero se nahi, heeron se pyaar karti hain (Girls don’t like dudes but diamonds), Ladkiyon ko Bangla achha lagta hai, Kangla nahi (Girls like Bungalows not lads with low income). The movie borrows its name from a very popular song from Agent Vinod and the song itself is used. A very drunk looking Deepika Padukone shakes bored legs in a surprise item number. But even that cannot save the film.

‘Raabta’ means ‘connection’. Alas, there is no connect whatsoever between the three protagonists, in this life or previous and the audience. Let movies like Bahubali and Magadheera deal with reincarnation, Bollywood should know that they are terrible at fantasy. Mohenjodaro and Mirzya should have been hard lessons...