Friday, March 13, 2015

review: NH 10


Highway To Hell Has Potholes

2 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

Suspend all logic and say, 'Wow, what a role!', 'What revenge!', 'What acting!' but then you're probably paying homage to the production house. Rest of us scrambled hard to find empathy initially but enjoyed the revenge, nonetheless.

Main Review:

If you have grown up watching the angry young man beat up men three times his size and bundle them into an ambulance; if you have seen (and enjoyed) scrawny heroes batter big SUV sized henchmen and made those films 100 crore hits; if you don't mind the mindless blowing up of cars and storage units and buildings in the name of revenge in movies, then you'll love this movie. And you'll want to give it all the stars you've saved up.

So let's say I give this film five stars. But it wants desperately to stay away from the popular 100 crore club color and unbelievable action-song-romance drama. So you begin to look at the film closely. And you soon knock off a star.

Can't keep their hands off one another (in dialog at least, seduction wise) couple Arjun and Meera (Neel Bhoopalam and Anushka Sharma) reluctantly arrive at a party and instead of being glued to each other (puke inducing reality be damned!), party practically separately. The husband is so lame, he lets the wife drive off alone. I think, 'There go your chances of scoring any with the wife forever and ever!'

But this is an arty movie. Maybe she likes her men lame and socially inept.

She presents an understanding of the rural India mindset, and one is impressed. But the husband continues to annoy the audience with his, 'Main in sab ko dikhaata hoon.'

You don't delete one star for foolhardiness, you drop the star because that fancy SUV the two lovebirds drive has no phone charger, and their smartphones have no map assist. 'Oh come on!' you say, 'Eden Lake was made in 2008 and they have Google Maps and the woman advising the couple to 'turn around at the earliest'.

And the husband is shown to make it a habit of leaving without his phone. Erm... How many men today wander even two feet away from their phones? This is not a Rohit Shetty film where a cute, horizontally challenged child steals the hero's phone to type 'meet me' messages to the heroine... This is an art film.

The four star film without a phone map wanders into Haryana where everyone knows how to write 'randi', is a smartmouth, and lawless enough to beat a runaway couple in full public view with baseball bats. This four star movie tells us that people get shot in Gurgaon for asking baddies to pay toll, but the village baddies have no guns, not even desi kattas. And you believe the same production house made Gangs Of Wasseypur? This pothole in the highway to hell made me scratch out another half star.

This three and a half star film now limps around when the hero decides to play Singham without the muscles (and cojones) and go after the baddies. I missed Rohit Shetty here. The slow arty scene with the mentally challenged marigold chomping Chhote brought in sharp focus Adam from Eden Lake. Which was creepier? As proof, I take away yet another half of a star from the movie. How not original this is!

The baddies chasing, beating, injuring the hero and heroine is fun only because you realise you don't care whether the hero and the heroine live or die. Going by the characterization, one expected the fiesty Anushka Sharma to intervene in the fight rather than the lame husband. The 'bad guy slapped me so I'll chase them down and scare them with my gun' is such a daft idea...

But foolhardiness pushes the story forward. Not. We are still lost in the jungles, going round and round (you are so fed up you want the chasers and the chasee to find each other), finding brilliance occasionally (the quarry scene) but you grit your teeth again when the fauji (super acting by Ravi Jhankal) accepts drinking water from a Bihari. For a hugely casteist film, how did they overlook that? They tell you why a Bihari cannot stay within the village, but he can offer water to the upper cast baddies? Oddly convenient that...

That made me scratch out another star from the film.

The two and half star movie finally shows up for what it is: a facepalm worthy homage to Kill Bill. The yellow jacket and the dragging iron rod.

I sigh. But I enjoy watching Deepti Naval steal the whole movie from under the heroine's nose in that little cameo. That is the one point of time when the heroine sits on the bed, clutching a pillow, when I felt scared for the heroine. 

The end is predictable because Uma Thurman dragged the Hanzo and so should Anushka...

I wish this had been a regular chop-schloky fun masala movie like Dabanng, I would have happily forgiven its potholes and enjoyed the bumpy ride. It could have made other heroines want to jump on the action bandwagon. But when the director decides to keep it gritty and arty, then the judging is harsher. It's not original, it has too many obvious mistakes, and the empathy for the heroine seems forced.  

Eden Lake, the Micheal Fassbender and Kelly Reilly movie that inspired this movie is far creepier and superior in its story telling. Watch the trailer here and see for yourself. You will be afraid of 12 year olds forever. But NH10... Sigh... It only raises a feeble voice against the unfairness of patriarchy,  and after two hours, you are wondering how corpses with head wounds on tv shows bleed so much and why the husband in NH10 did not bleed at all...










the Kill Bill inspired scenes, story idea borrowed from creepy revenge cinema like Eden Lake and even Last House On The Left 



If you can watch scrawny heros beat up twenty guys in a regular chop-scholky film then this film is stupendous. Let's say you swallow a whole lot of disbelief and then watch the film

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: CHAPPiE

Bots Not To Love About Chappie?

3 stars

Mini Review:

From R2D2 to The Terminator and Wall-E and Eve, we love Robots. And this gangsta robot may come across as a spinoff of Robocop, but has so much heart, you too will fall in love with Chappie as I did.

Main Review:

The movie is set in Johannesburg, South Africa and those not used to the Afrikaan accent /Sowetospeak, will appreciate the subtitles. That said, the story of robot police saving the city from the looters seems like a repeat of Robocop.

But wait! There's Dev Patel... playing the nerd again (nervous, hesitant The Newsroom role flasback) and there's one robot who turns out to be like Johnny 5 (again an Indian nerd owner/maker) of Short Circuit. 

('Dammit!' you think, when you watch Dev Patel do the nerd thing and give his robot real artificial intelligence by programming, failing, re-programming and failing again. 'It just took a short circuit to make Johnny 5 alive, didn't you see that movie?')

In spite of those references of all the robot movies you have seen, Chappie gets under your skin...

I was touched not just by the innocence (Chappie and the stray dog... Chappie says, 'I've got blings?') but by his learning of 'people's ways'...

I was reminded of Pran when I watched how jaw-dropping awful the villain gets. He's vicious with that circular saw. He's vicious with a remote control. He's vicious in his office guy avatar. Yes, I'm talking about the sexy, awesome hero until now: Hugh Jackman.

But it is Chappie who has so much screen presence, you want to take him home...

Watch this film and discover a part of your heart that is still alive and drenched in the milk of human kindness...

p.s.: there is a superb list of robot films here: http://www.gamesradar.com/50-greatest-movie-robots/




   


Review: FOCUS


Focus Induces ADHD

1/2 star

Mini Review:

Will Smith does not look like the fresh prince any more. The coolness just looks forced and Margot Robbie tries too hard to sizzle. The result is, that the audience would rather focus on their phones...

Main Review:

I must apologise for using the disease 'attention deficit disorder' in a headline, but I couldn't resist it. I spent a whole lot of time wondering why Will Smith looks so battered by time, you wonder if he'll just turn into dust like an unwrapped Egyptian mummy exposed to a mere breeze. He's 46, wiki tells me, and then I'm distracted by lists of con films on the net.

Yes, everything from The Sting is listed. Why is this film attempting to be so cute? Will Smith teaches her all about stealing from people by stealing her ring, her purse, her ring, her shoes, her ring, her sunglasses, her ring. her scarf, her ring, her watch, her ring... I hope you get the picture... And they're doing this on a snow-covered street.

I lose focus because I realise if the hero of a Hindi film were teaching the heroine to steal, or if there was a crowded street where heroine was pickepocketing people's watches and wallets there would be 'jhumka gira re' for distraction, not cleavage.

Now I don't want to sound like our CBFC and object to cleavage, but you'll be so irritated with that constant erasing of sounds which CBFC thinks are harmful to their (and our) collective sensibilities that you begin to lose focus again and check facebook statuses of friends of friends...

meanwhile, here's ten con films you ought to have seen:
(in no order of preference)
The Sting
American Hustler
Ocean's 11
Matchstick Men
The Grifters
The Flim Flam Man
A Fish Called Wanda
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Color Of Money

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: BADLAPUR


Badla Did Not Pour, It Sort Of Drizzled. 
And Slowly.

2.5 stars


Mini Review: 

That a Hindi movie is based on a proper story is like a movie critic's wet dream. Also true to form, the story stretched to kingdom come... But Varun Dhawan is HAWT!


Main Review:

'Rejoice!' The critics are saying, 'Rejoice! There is a STORY in a Hindi film!'

'Chaa gaya yeh Nawauddin!' say people in the audience. 'How funny and wicked he is!' (You will hear people laugh and guffaw at Nawazuddin's antics in the theatre)

And I'm thinking, in Ugly, you felt the immediacy of the incidents, the sense of danger, you hated the characters, you wanted the missing kid to be found, you were aghast at the crassness and ugliness everywhere. Then why didn't I feel that the hawt lad Varun Dhawan could carry the flame of revenge, of hatred inside him for 15 years?

Why did I fail to laugh at the antics of Nawazuddin? Why did I imagine this was Shamitabh each time he ate up that footage preening in the mirror with shirts that tried just as hard as him? He stands in front of the mirror and shakes his head to fix his hair. Snip! Snip! Cut it out, man! Seriously, I used to be a fan of Amitabh Bachchan until he started selling the Rann Of Kutch and then I wanted to sell the damned Rann to anyone who'd save us from that voice. Nawazuddin and his preening was so often you hoped Bipasha Basu would come out of the mirror and bite his head off...

This movie had covered 15 years plus. I wanted to see the Badla.

Yet you heard people in the audience say, 'So twisted! So dark!'

You want to show them a picture of Steve Buscemi smiling and show them what twisted and dark could be. 

Yes, Varun Dhawan proves that he broods beautifully. And sizzles while doing so. But why did his hawtness (love the way he looks when he crosses the street) make me reach for the Fast Forward button on the invisible remote control?

It seems like a spoiler to say this, but if one is going to stalk someone, shouldn't the victim be terrorized slowly and then the fear reach a crescendo? Gawd knows Radhika Apte has the saucer eyes made for fear. And Varun Dhawan's body language is so bang on, you don't want him to smile that knowing smile (the trailer shows how wonderfully scary/creepy he can be). But when Nawazuddin spouts his hundredth wisecrack, or shows how he was best student at acting school, you want the usher in the theater to throw his torch at the screen. Because you have seen plastic sheets in Dexter on TV, and barrels of money in Breaking Bad. 

And you want to tell someone, 'Boss, this idea of about-to-retire cop taking bribes to fix his nest egg is older than Danny Glover and Mel Gibson's Lethal Weapon...

But Varun Dhawan is hawt! So it's okay to ogle at him in a hard hat staring at steel drums in the warehouse, play fooseball in that warehouse while drinking cutting chai with the cop (Ooh! How arty is that?!). He's so hawt, you don't wonder what his job really is, or what happened to his parents and hers, you don't wonder why the floor tiles of his Badlapur house are so new but the walls are distressed...

I loved Varun Dhawan's creepy bedroom scene with Radhika Apte (I cringed at his hand slamming the cupboard)

But then there was so little of this Badla. All we saw was Nawaazuddin watching TV, Nawazuddin washing clothes, bathing, sleeping, being vicious, preening, mocking, jeering, spouting lines here, being nasty there... And then, oh gawd, they make him saintly too. 

Yes, my apologies to the lady sitting next to me, because I puked a little in her open bag after I saw that... 

And yes, I would have happily clapped had Varun killed Nawazuddin's girl, his mom, his pet goat... But I am glad that he didn't because the director would have given us more of Nawazuddin: His grief, his tears, his funeral face, his mad laughter upon discovering the grisly revenge murder of his girl, his mum, his goat...

I know that Nawazuddin is a good actor, one of our best, but without restraint, the character just ended up being a caricature. I wanted to sandpaper the smirk off his face as he sandpapered the chair in the end...

And when you see the timeline of the movie, you just sprout grey hair, unlike Nawazuddin's mum (who doesn't age at all), or his girl (someone actually thought that when a girl cooks bhindi, she's older)... Oh! Sorry! The goat dies (sorry about the spoiler, but even I couldn't keep the animal alive for thaaaat long!).

The pace of the story is so inconsistent, I think I saw Varun Dhawan's beard grow.

You do want to see 'Jee Karda' on screen when the credits roll, but you can get that on the net these days or on cable. Might as well go home or Nawazuddin might come back on screen saying, 'Maine khoon nahi kiya!' and you'd be stuck for the next 15 years. Again...

I tried to like Badlapur. I really did. The whole movie was trying so hard to build an atmosphere, and every time I thought it was good, Ugly reared its head and said, 'I did it so much better. Naturally and easily!'

As junta is wont to say, 'Varun ka 'Badla' was great when it was creepy. Lekin Pur(a) fillum mein Nawazuddinich tha.' 

Or 'Badla accha tha, lekin Pooooraa sade do ghante pakaya!'



P.S. I am not being mean to this movie. I'd rather you wait for the movie to show up on your TV, so you can do other things when Varun stirs his coffee slowly... But if you do see the movie in the theater, tell me if you found the shot of Varun walking with the hammer stuck in his jeans (on the butt) like a gun, totally funny...


     








Review: WHIPLASH


DRUM ROLL!

4 and 1/2 stars


Mini Review:

A story about a crazy teacher and a talented student and Jazz drums? What's not to like? Music that will reverberate through your senses and performances that will blow your mind. This is a must watch.

Main Review:

JK Simmons certainly deserves the awards he has been nominated for, and more! As a teacher at a music school who pushes the students to excellence, JK Simmons and his fabulous hands (the director pays homage to them by shining a light directly only on the hands) and bald head (although Patrick Stewart makes a wonderful case, the last time a bald headed man made an impression on the audience was Yul Brynner in The King And I) make a lasting impression.

And his student, the young Miles Teller plays the bright, eager student beautifully. 

The music the teacher and student create together is incredible. 

Here is a sample!

I hope you are listening to it as you book your tickets.

I staggered out my head and heart caught swinging to the extraordinary paradiddles and flams and pataflaflas and expert flam drags...



p.s. The movie isn't rated five stars because the story is predictable until the last twenty minutes and then you have plunged into incredible music and you don't care...  


Review: WILD


Walk Therapy 

4 stars


Mini Review:

It's the most beautiful countryside where there are more trees than the Sun, and more stars than sky at night, and they help you battle demons inside you... This journey is so brilliantly recreated for film, that you need to watch it all alone, and soak it all in.

Main Review:

The Aborigines have a word for it: Walkabout. You step out of your comfort zone and walk into the wilderness and learn to live with the elements, tracing songlines of your ancestors, growing up... You cover miles and the physical effort is jaw-droppingly huge, but the real journey is the one that's happening inside your head...

Reese Witherspoon walks 1,100 miles through the Mojave desert in California on the Pacific Crest Trail all the way to Ashland and Crater Lake and Mount Hood in Oregon to come to terms with her life.

She's not some superwoman or a health freak or a record hungry nut marking a checklist of trails covered, she is just a woman who discovers the life between a sunrise and a sunset. 

What struck a chord with me was how she learns to come to terms with grief and everything related with it. 'I'm more alone in my real life than out here,' Cheryl says to a fellow traveler. And you sit in the dark theater alone, awash with tears when you hear the still gorgeous Laura Dern admit that she's been a mother, a daughter, a wife but has never ever been in the driver's seat of her own life.

This movie is not meant for the average 'Here we are now, entertain us!' type of audience. There's Leonard Cohen and Simon & Garfunkel and the loneliness inside. 

The trail resonated with me personally because I have taken shorter treks on the same trail like all tourists to after the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. It suddenly showed me the difference between car-campers sitting around the campfire with 'smores and the quiet single tent occupants who seemed to be lost. The movie simply makes you realise how little we know about ourselves and how important it is to learn to live with ourselves.

Yes, 'Alone' is a place that exists and it's a place you can be yourself - battlescarred, sad, mean, amazing, loving, lonely, happy, unhappy - but be yourself.

This movie is an adaptation of the book on the journey of Cheryl Strayed, and it will move you more than you will ever realise. It shook me and made me cry, and not that single tear cry, but a break down in the theater bathroom and blubber all over your tea cry.

Go see for yourself and when you hear Cheryl Strayed say, 'The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.' you will emerge from the movie smiling.



Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: ROY


Roy is a slow, pseud dude!


1/2 star

Mini Review:

This is a pretentious movie that drags its feet from location to exotic location to spout immeasurably trite dialog feigning philosophy. Basically, a yawn with an accent.

Main Review:

Girl with impeccable red lipstick accent does yoga on the beach. Man with fedora follows her. Sits down next to her.

'Yogaa, haan?'

He looks at the sea for two minutes. 

Then looks at her. She's still doing yoga.

She says, 'I'm going in three days.'

He stares at her for two minutes. Then stares at the sea for two minutes.

'Three days, haan?'

She stares at the sea for two minutes.

'Yes,' She says.

He stares at the sea again. 

Then he looks at her, 'Can you make that four days?'

She looks at the sea, and imagines herself with Roy. He's telling her about khaamoshiyaan between the two of them.

He's staring at the sea too. And imagining himself with Roy as well...

Alas, the last sentence is what the audience is hoping would be true. It would have made the movie so much more interesting.

And the incessant soundtrack which sings, 'Tu Hai Ke Nahi!' reminds us again and again that Ranbir Kapoor is just Arjun Rampal's alter ego, a figment of his imagination, whatever. 

You have stopped caring and are counting snores and heckling in the crowd.

And yes. It's not just pretentious philosophywise. They even have Arjun Rampal a film director who churns out blockbusters about bank robbers sitting down on a typewriter a la Kerouac, cigarette dangling from his mouth. Do not miss the bathrobe and he's still wearing the hat, and he's poured himself some single malt. But this happens right in the beginning of the movie, and that's why I was awake enough to read what desi Kerouac was typing 'cigarette dangling ON his mouth' as he types out his screenplay.

Of course there's a thought provoking dialog where Arjun Rampal says, 'Yeh film kaise ban gayi?'

It's been over 2 hours. The audience is wondering too.


P.S: The 1/2 star awarded to this movie is for Jacqueline Fernandez who pronounces 'Kabir' (Arjun Rampal's name in the movie), 'Kuh-beeh!' without smudging her lipstick.






Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: MESSENGER OF GOD


This Love Charger Will 
Drain Your Batteries!


Rating: (Really, now!)

Mini Review:

For 197 minutes, you'll gawp at his clothes and his shoes, and groan at his 'miracles' and songs, then emerge from theater with all your batteries drained. 

Main Review:

Buxom lass rips vest open and says, 'See!'

Oh Yes! We see! You want too laugh, but your laughter is strangled by the next dialog: 'Main Tayrrorist Hoon, Pitaji!'

That's when you notice the green and red plastic thingys connected to wires on the vest. Pitaji is a sant. So he hasn't noticed anything else except the vest.

You imagine Shah Rukh and Karan Johar in the audience saying, 'Dekha! Khan is not the terrorist, Muskaan is!'

All kinds of terror is wreaked upon the audience in the film. Unless you are drunk or tripping on what MSG would call, 'Galt' substances.

Pitaji as the Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan is called in the movie, converts alcoholics and drug addicts to respectable citizens with a rap song. 

They then agree to marry ex-prostitutes now called Shubh Devis (whom Pitaji has saved from goons and brothel owner). 

There are people donating blood, donating food, donating their time planting trees for him. 

Pitaji is so good, he saves eunuchs and gives them the 'Third Gender' status just by writing to the government. 

Pitaji saves visitor Alice (pronounced 'A-liss') from a hissing cobra who gushes around Pitaji, 'Aapko jab bhi dekhti hoon main pyaar karti hoon'. But she's not the only one. Pitaji has two betis who say they always 'masti karte hain' with Pitaji. Before you facepalm, they are distracted by A-liss who now begins shooting a documentary (sometimes with a still camera, sometimes on video) of Pitaji.
  
Seeing this, people dance and Pitaji sings a song.

Pitaji even cleans up Delhi and wants to clean the Yamuna. Pitaji even puts his finger down a farmer's throat so he can spew out the 'spray' he drank to kill himself. Pitaji makes water appear in dry wells (Ajit Pawar cannot repeat his famous comment in Sirsa). 

Pitaji spots gunman in a blind man's dark glasses, and shoots his hand without turning around. People dance and Pitaji sings a song.

Pitaji reluctantly agrees for a security cover because the politician politely requests him to. Pitaji makes tea for the neta and takes award winning pictures of eagles in flight and paints fabulous canvases while wearing poster red three fourth tights. Die JMW Turner, die! 

Pitaji invents a new Game called Gul-stick, which looks and acts like Gulli-danda but borrows from Baseball and Cricket. (We want to know more, but Pitaji hits the heck out of the same baddie who tried to shoot him). This poor man's Vin Diesel - as a fellow critic christened him - gets shot, beaten, his limbs, spine fractured, but is never out. He survives on parathas at the villain's house. The villain is a local politician called Chillum something who hates the fact that people are clapping their hands and Pitaji is singing a song.

But Pitaji is more interesting. He drives the coolest cars, and his harmonica is so lethal, bad guys are decimated by the sound.

Pitaji encourages girls to take self defence lessons. Pitaji knows the world is a bad place despite his five crore followers. 

Pitaji encourages people to chant a mantra that defeats a baddie who has a gas spewing snitch from Harry Potter movies. This is after he has sung a song.

Pitaji has the funnest blue gleam that makes bikes fall into holes. Pitaji waves his hands and electrifies the gates of his ashram to prevent baddies from entering the premises. Of course Pitaji beats up all the baddies by freezing them and thawing them one by one. 

People chant his name and Pitaji bursts into another song. Pitaji makes a magic potion that de-addicts people. That's why Pitaji has Five Crore followers. (They say the number so many times, I thought you should hear it from me as well, so you would empathise with me).

Oh yes, his followers chant his mantra and Pitaji, overwhelmed with emotion, sings a song.

Then we come back to the buxom lass who has just confessed to Pitaji that she's wearing a bomb, and Pitaji spends the next half hour asking his five crore followers if he has done anything galt by stopping alochol and drugs and dolphins and prostitutes and bad guys and made people donate blood and food and plant trees and invent gul stick, and ride cool vehicles and wear bling clothes, and make magic potion and the five crore people (and us in the audience) chant his name. But this time he doesn't sing. He flies with the unstoppable bomb vest and his five crore followers are relieved that unlike Batman, he lands safely on his two bling feet.

This melts the hearts of all the baddies and they chant his name. But Pitaji just raises his palm like a hairy laxmi and rays of blessings shower down on everyone.

We are too dazed to ask if the Don of all Sydney baddies was converted too, but maybe that's in the next movie.

So is this really a movie? I don't know. All I know that the vest scene will stop Ridley Scott, Kathryn Bigelow, Clint Eastwood from making movies with bombs in 'em.

Harley Davidson might have to manufacture motorbikes that self immolate especially for Pitaji's rich followers.

We will see Salman bracelets and MSG bracelets compete for sales in Sirsa.

Rohit Shetty will refrain from making cars explode and fly.

Sonam Kapoor will be replaced as fashion icon by Pitaji and will be endorsed by 5 crore followers.

Drag queens all over the world will lay low on the bling should they see this movie.

Imelda Marcos will never appear in public again because Pitaji beats her hollow in his choice and number of shoes.

And you will all want to hug Leela Samson and company when you hear Pitaji raise his hairy arms and ask you to join Dera Saccha Sauda because he will never ever leave you. You too will think that this is a conversion video. 

A Rockstar is born with this . You might want to hit yourself with a rock for choosing to see this movie until you see stars.    






Friday, February 06, 2015

Review: SHAMITABH


SHEE Amitabh! 

1 star


Mini Review:

It's a two hour thirty four minute footage chomping Amitabh Bachchan who overdoes everything. And if you are given a breather from the hamming, you are slapped on the face with products placements as subtle as a sledgehammer. The director has no control over anything. Shame-itabh this is!

Main Review: 

Make no mistake, this one star goes to Dhanush, who manages to steal your heart with his first scene at the hospital in Finland. You actually feel his wonder, his joy, his delight, his surprise. He is effortless in the movie as a mute person. Yes, there is that bit of exaggeration later, but something has to balance the out-of-control Mister Bachchan.

Dhanush in the village is simply amazing. Ariel -Washes Whitest. His charm reaches out to you in the theater and you automatically extend your arms to the bahjiyaas he brings to the video parlour owner. You know that madness because you have sat up and watched movies exactly like that. Amazon App for your phone. You think the whole movie is going to be just as good. 

Then you meet the nemesis of this movie. Aashirwaad Atta. The man whose death in Sholay made you mourn, the man who wrote a motorbike and claimed 'Maut' was his 'mehbooba' and would 'saath le kar jaayegi', the man whose dialog from Trishul were part of your own risk taking youth, the man who spawned an era of cool that began with, 'Tera naam kya hai Basanti?' Whisper Choice Ultra.

You don't see him like that at all. He's everything you disliked about him. Close Up is for close-ups! The fakeness of Sharabi, the exaggerations in his latter movies, the drunken scenes that were fun (remember Patto the cockroach?) HIT. Maccharon Ka Ant Turnant! are now just over extended. Remember how you hated him pulling faces as in 'Khatoon ki khidmat mein salaam apunkaa' and laughed happily at the fun Ja Jaldi Bhag Ja  ? He just pretends that this whole film is an extended drunk scene, so no matter what he does would be considered 'great drunk scene'. And the hair, the hair! Keo Karpin Hair Oil. The wigs are spectacularly bad and you wonder if all that hair on his face (the better to hide his poor acting) will make him cross eyed.

And the stab yourself with a butter knife dialog goes on and on. Amul Butter. You chuckle into your popcorn when you see LifeBuoy as desh ki Tandurusti Ka Rakshak. But a perpetually drunk person suddenly reading books on Kindle is not easy to digest. If they think they've stumbled upon a good metaphor, they begin to explain everything. 'I am whiskey, he is water' monologue is repeated at least three times. In varying degrees of intent to explain. I gritted my teeth so much, I actually checked in the mirror to check if I had my teeth intact. You want to say, 'We get that! Now get on with the story!' 

But the story is as piddly as the silly song repeated until you call the driver and make sure there is Saridon and Himalaya water in your Nissan Micra after the movie.

Poor Akshara Haasan is used as a sounding board and is sadly underutilised. 

Even in the last supposedly poignant scene, Amitabh Bachchan does the lower lip wobble and blubbering for too long, and you begin to hope that he too does the Belmondo 'shot in the back' staggering walk and falls down dead like in Goddard's Breathless. But no such luck... It's the audience that walks out in shock of seeing their favorite fall for the unbridled hero-worship of the star by the film director.

I was hoping Trishul's ambulance was waiting for the audience outside the theatre...  

P.S. Did you spot products inserted aimlessly in the review? Stupid, right? That's what happened in the movie too. 



Review: MR. TURNER


SUPERB BIOPIC, VISUAL FEAST 

4 AND 1/2 STARS


Mini Review:

William Turner painted the most stunning landscape and seascapes, and Mike Leigh makes you experience that visual feast on the screen. But his portrait of the gruff, grunting, grouchy man adds the perfect spice to this feast. 

Main Review: 

Even if you have never heard of William Turner, Mike Leigh's stupendous biopic will make you want to add Margate to your bucket list. You would want to seek out more such places so you can Instagram the fabulous sunsets and sunrises and sit by the sea and wonder why your DSLR cameras and your Smartphone cameras are simply unable to capture the colors that a painter managed to capture first in his sketchbooks, and then on the canvas.

The director Mike Leigh creates that visual feast and every frame seems to be shot in water color or oil paint rather than film. Every character, from the painter's dad, the housekeeper, the people on the ferry, the artists in the Academy, the failed artist, the art critics and art patrons are all created with love. You feel sorry for the artist when his shrewish wife and almost imbecilic daughters show up ever so often at his home, hoping for a handout. We know that the artist is not doing right by them, but the director makes us sympathetic to the artist, and not his abandoned wife.

That is the kind of magic you will see when it comes to characters in Turner's life. Mike Leigh does not need to show you the great rivalry between Turner and his contemporary Constable. Just a grunt and a growl and you want more. You are given more of Ruskin, who is exquisitely foppish and a delightful popinjay, and you almost expect to mince his steps in high heels and partake of snuff. The movie makes all the art history lessons you took at college real.

The brilliant Timothy Spall is not tall and dashing, but his gruff, florid gent who speaks few words (and still manages to convey a whole lot) works its charm. His speech is slurred and you begin to slowly understand why he chooses to grunt. He's no gentleman. He grabs the scabby Hannah lustfully and without any finer feeling. You begin to wonder how a base man paints such glorious pictures, when you are shown his sensitive side when Mrs Booth shows us how amazing his inner world is. 

I was not only fascinated by the Turner's inner world, but also stunned into seeing how brilliantly Mike Leigh brings the gorgeous places Turner painted on to the big screen. I emerged from the theater wondering if one could take a trip in real life to Margate and rural Dutch countryside, and my watch told me it was almost three hours long. 

What awesome three hours, I think, and I wonder what Turner would have made of our Bombay skies criss-crossed by cable wires...




Thursday, February 05, 2015

Review: WILD CARD


SCREENWRITING 101 GONE WRONG

1 star

Mini Review:

When the man who wrote the book on screenwriting writes such a trite, predictable story, you want to smash up everything like Jason Statham does. And even that, alas, is something you have seen before.

Main Review:

'How was the movie?'
'It's a Jason Statham movie.'
'Aah, so he's responsible for something fragile, fights bad guys, and drives a fast car.'
'Yep.'
'That's like all his movies.'
'Yep.'
'But you enjoyed Transporter.'
'I did.'
'But not this one?'
'No.' (sniff!)
'Why? You see all kinds of bad Hindi movies. Why is this one getting you so miserable?'
'William Goldman wrote the screenplay.'
'So? Does the junta really care?'
'I do! Adventures in the Screen Trade was my screenwriting textbook.'
'Ohhh! Like thaaat.'
'He wrote Butch Cassidy And the Sundance Kid. He wrote All The Presidents Men. Marathon Man, A Bridge Too Far, even funny movies like Twins and scary ones like Misery.'
'Maybe he was having a bad day.'
'Maybe.'

If only the silence in the car could quell the sense of deep betrayal that one felt...

'So what happens in the movie?'
'It's set in Las Vegas, so there's blackjack. Of course the hero wants to get away from the sin city, so he runs a security business (and keeps saying no to moneyed baddies... yes, he has a conscience!) and two people: one young lad (of course he's a millionaire) and one lady of the night. The lad is afraid of getting physically assaulted, and the woman has been assaulted.'
'So he beats up baddies who are after these two?'
'With a knife and a spoon.'
'Wow.'
'Yes. The action is good.Three super fights.'
'What else?'
'All characters in the movie are so, so-oh predictable, you just wish there was some direct to video system which would swallow this movie whole.'
'It's releasing today, though?'
'Yes. Alas.'
'Okay, let's get you some Tiramisu.'
'You're the bestest.'





Review: JUPITER ASCENDING


What on Earth?!

1 star

Mini Review:

The biggest crime in a Sci-fi movie is to have not enough fiction. And when too many characters vie for your attention, you just shrug your shoulders and enjoy its compounding stupidities...

Main Review:

There are three siblings of an alien humanoid race who are fighting to inherit Earth. They want to harvest people and convert the DNA into some eternal youth potion.

It's a good enough story. You imagine sentinels like in The Matrix, searching out humans for harvesting, you imagine some inter-galactic peace keeping force keeping an eye on the immortal family, you imagine more magic from someone who is queen of the planet...

But there are no dna-sucking devices, just a hugely annoying pointy-eared Channing Tatum whose speech seems to be impaired by the vampire teeth he has been given. Or is it Lycan? Don't care. The pointy ears, were so annoying, I spent the time wishing for Raju Hirani's PK to show up and claim kinship with Mr Tatum.

Now the three humanoid siblings are odd in their own way too. The female with wrinkles bathes in human dna (looks sadly like water) and emerges younger. One brother seems ageless and has paid mercenaries to bring the 'queen of Earth' so he can marry her to steal her planet. This sounds so Bollywood villain like, you wonder if Hollywood directors are ducking into Indian grocery stores and renting VHS tapes of old movies. The third brother (Eddie Redmayne) has many scary minions that are reptilian monsters with wings. He speaks as though his mouth is full, but can be forgiven because he sits so stylishly on a floating sofa...

Mila Kunis is Jupiter Jones (sounds more like an Avenger than anything else) and wanders about in strange clothes and an expression that is can only be described as if she had feasted on magic mushrooms and was unable to figure out if she were really sitting on a live wire that was giving her a 12 volt shock or not.

She's made to do physical stunts without losing that slightly electrocuted expression, and that itself must count as some sort of achievement.

This special effects are good but the sad lack of a story does not help this movie. And yes, a sad, sad waste of Sean Bean...



Review: BOY NEXT DOOR


Not even worth a peek!


No Star


Mini Review:

Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman try really hard to sex up this movie about a hot teacher and a sexy student, but end up looking funny. It's a relief when the syringe in the eye horror is over.  


Main Review:

'I teach the classics!' Jennifer Lopez insists. The student is stuck on her Homeric boobs. She tries hard to look serious (you guessed right, she wears glasses!) and is shown battling many problems: cheating husband, socially dysfunctional child... 

Get on with it! You say. You've seen Sonakshi Sinha fall in love with Arjun Kapoor in an instant in Tevar because he's determined to send her to the US, so you don't blame the boy here for believing he has fallen in love with the teacher after one drunken night of lovemaking. 

When and how and why he videotapes the whole thing no one knows and no one cares. Alas, what is 'artistically' done when the neighbors get on with it, suddenly becomes reality as he imagines it all again. And I almost died stuffing my handkerchief into my mouth when they show his two hands squeeze her breasts (artistically still within the lacy brassiere) and cut the shot with him shutting an open book. 

So when the lad becomes demanding and the teacher is not drunk it becomes a stalker story. He beats up the husband and ties up the kid in a barn (after having failed to kill them both by tampering with the brakes of the husband's car), and threatens the teacher that he'll kill them if she does not agree to run away with her.

Seriously? You have a gun, you have the husband and the kid tortured and tied up in a barn, why won't you just use it? By this time the audience wants to use the gun on all of them to end the nonsense. But there's more. Jennifer Lopez sticks a syringe into the bad guy's eye so you are stunned into not leaving the theater. 

The gun is still there. There's more, 'Why are you doing this to my family?', and more screaming and blood and fire too. Finally as in a cartoon, the anvil comes down on the bad guy, killing him. No of course not. The owner of the barn has some big box instead of the anvil...

In the end the cops show up and in the ambulance, Jennifer Lopez assures us, 'It's over. We're going to be okay. We'll go home soon.'

I thank the gods and come back home and watch Sushmita Sen play chemistry teacher to Shah Rukh Khan here again.  

And why did I tell you the story? Do you need ask? You will find better porn on the net. This movie fails on so many levels, I wouldn't grade it at all...





Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: HAWAIZAADA


Story Kam, Baki Sab Jyadaa

1 star


Mini Review:

Shorts were jyada short, love was jyada fake, sets had jyada things, walls had jyada posters, costumes were more than jyada,  Mithunda had jyada wigs, poor Ayushman had jyada curls, film had bahut jyada songs, all actors were jyada melodramatic... Audience was laughing (with helplessness) bahut jyada too...

Main Review:

When your audience wants your hero to die, it is hardly a good sign. Especially because you are banking on his dimples to help you carry a five minute story better told here for 157 minutes through a maze of bottles and bonsai plants, wigs and plates and posters and birds and cages and candlesticks and Goldberg machines and books and over-upholstered chairs, and things...

You begin laughing when a young lady sitting next to you chokes over her popcorn upon sighting Ayushman Khurana in shorts shorter than politeness dictates. Poor girl, you think, she is scarred for life. For her sake, I will share this, so she does not ever think men should not wear short shorts. 

And you wish the coffee in your hands contained something stronger than caffeine when you see Ayushman being made to pull faces, imitating Ranbir Kapoor's Barfi act. Not even his dimples can save him. And that hat! That hat! You begin to hate that thing. But more than that you wonder why he's carrying that trumpet around... What a useless thing.

It's not just things, the whole movie is cluttered. The actors are overdressed. They overact. Each time someone speaks, they are trying so hard to prove that they are Marathi, they spout awful mixed up dialog that is fake. Now Mithun Chakraborty is brilliant as a crotchety old man in Guru, and he is totally over the top funny in Oh My God but here, in the wig that changes color and a moustache that competes with a walrus, you want to say, 'Bahut jyada ho gaya, dada!'

And the unintentional laughter continues when the old man tells his apprentice, 'There are many ways in which I need you...'

The hero, Ayushman Khurana, usually cute is so annoying, each time someone tells him 'Ja, ud ja!' you begin to laugh because you are so fed up, you also want him to fly away and never come back too. Plus, his every time his unfortunate name is mentioned (the Marathi hero's name is 'shivi' which means 'curse') you want to. Really. 

'Tu Mera Shivi Hai!' takes on funnier and funnier connotations.

In the meanwhile, it is just Intermission and you are completely lost in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's warehouse. And Ayushman Khurana begins to look like Weird Al 

And the heroine, poor girl! Not only is she made to gyrate to pointless songs, she is kuch jyada hee fake as a nautch girl. Imagine the scene:

Romantic cotton fibre flowating around in the air, and him proposing in third person, 'Marry him.', 'Marry him!', 'Marry him!' 

You try not to imagine Bollywood diva Rekha writing this dialog, but then you begin to laugh jyada loudly when the heroine says, 'But I have lost all my adaayein, my nakhres...'

The audience joins you when you chuck the popcorn at the screen. Another song! Are there more songs in this movie than Inder Sabha? That had 71 songs. I looked around for Kumar Gandharv's ghost in the dark when they ruin a deeply spiritual 'Ud Jaayega Hans Akela' by converting it to Pantomime or something out of dance dramas you were made to perform in school.

I have never laughed (and groaned) so much at a screening. You know the film was made with good intentions, but those curls, those clothes, those shorts? Jyada ho gaya...

Come to think of it, the name of the movie is rather apt in a Shakespearean way, 'Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing'. Or as they say in Bambai, 'Isme hawa bahut jyada hai, boss!'








Review: BIRDMAN


This Birdman Flies!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Sparkling dialog, relentless dizzying camerawork, and story that defies time! As a Carver fan, I hated what Innaritu did to the author. But I loved it for the madness, for the defiance, for the drums, and for the superb ensemble cast.

Main Review:

There will be voices in the theater grumbling about the insanity of the screenplay, the wild structure and the topsy-turvy timeline, but if you allow the drums to guide you, you will enjoy this trip to the movies. 

In the movie, Micheal Keaton plays an ex-movie star who has put his everything on the line to make it as a Broadway star. And nothing, nothing seems to be going right. You can taste his failure, his fear, his loneliness...

So it's not by chance that Innaritu chooses Raymond Carver. The man who changed our view of loneliness and depression and all things commonplace in all ordinary people. He gave new meaning to empathy. But the nagging voice in my head says, 'But that is done so badly in the movie, the writers needed to have really read Carver to understand him.' Carver is not fireworks and curse words and melodrama. He is as genuine as his characters - people who know what it is to work in 'non-descript' jobs, living in cheap motels - not at all like Riggin Thompson played by an angry, frustrated Micheal Keaton...

In the original story, The doctor played by Micheal Keaton has spent five years in a seminary before medical school. It alarmed me to hear so many curse words... Hardly something Carver would approve. In fact, here is how Carver himself tells us how to hear the story 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love' Innaritu uses in the movie. And I'm sorry to say, they fail.

But if you are unaware of Carver's stories, then how Innaritu ruins the essence of the original will not matter to you. It will be just a small element of madness in a larger scheme of things. 

And what amazing madness! He experiments with a crazy camera that follows the characters relentlessly, never blinking, never stopping, always following the dialog without a pause, and you think that the movie has been shot in a single take. Delightful mostly, but as claustrophobic as the warren of corridors inside the theatre where the whole drama takes place. What glorious drama too! Everyone is a diva and everyone is depressed. Everyone has a secret and everyone is a star. It's like being a pushed into being in the middle of a crisis in an Indian dysfunctional joint family. 

The crazy camera will stun you, no doubt. But not at the expense of the characters. Each has been created with so much madness in mind, you want to be able to copy those smart comebacks and use it in your life some time. A casual flirtation between Emma Stone and Edward Norton (how awesome is that!) turns stupendous, and I will try to quote:

'What would you dare to do with me, then?'
'I would gouge your eyes out and put them in my head and then see the world the way you do...'

I was too busy clutching my heart (which was beating so loudly I am sure everyone heard) to notice if the women in the audience had all swooned after hearing something like that, or watch the men in the audience exclaiming about thinking of other things to do with her...

The theater critic who writes reviews from a pub without even watching the play and the frustration of the director of the play, the father-daughter relationship, the love hate relationship between theater and film and more, is brilliantly shown. What touched me is the agony of the man who is still looking for relevance in his own life. And that is why I suppose the movie has been nominated at the Oscars. 

If you don't remember the Carver quote at the beginning of the movie ('Did you get what you wanted from this life...'), it's okay. Do notice the little note stuck to the mirror in Riggan's room: A Thing Is A Thing, Not What Is Said About The Thing'

Get off your high horse about Carver and have fun watching this movie and being a little scandalised at the sharp dialog. Devilishly good. 

Review: FOXCATCHER


Caught Me By The Jugular

4 stars

Mini Review:

This is a mad, mad movie about a wrestler and his mentor. About a wrestler and his brother. About money and power and the desperate need to own and breed champions! About Oscar worthy performances from Steve Carell and Channing Tatum. Yes, you read the last line right.

Main Review:

Who would've thunk that the twinkle-toes star of Step Up (yes, the dance movie) who bulked up to save presidents and the western world from terrorists, would give up so much of himself and actually play a part that would mean re-shaping his body, his walk, his demeanor to something - I frankly thought - wasn't in him. Channing Tatum is a surprise as Mark Schulz the wrestling champion. 

And although the movie is about the sport of wrestling and about the struggles of an Olympics champion to remain one, if you go back to the title of the movie, you know Channing Tatum is not really the hero of the movie. It is about the man who hunts down the Fox. The man who stands tall behind the champion. Or in this case in front of the champion. 

This man is the eccentric billionaire John Du Pont, played by Steve Carell. Now I would have scoffed at the very idea, because one has seen Steve Carell play Evan Almighty, Sherman, Walt, even Gru... Roles that mean not much, or ask much from the actor. But here. Oh Mah Gawd! He is stupendous. He is so good at being bad, you want to throw things at him. He is so good at being John Du Pont, the megalomaniac, you forget that he was ever Evan Almighty. You feel sorry for him and then you want to bury him alive. You forget that this is a movie about wrestling and you wait for John to enter into the frame, any frame, and own it. 

And if you think you can 'see it coming', you would be wrong. This movie is so fabulous, you watch slack-jawed at the relationship between the wrestler and his sponsor and come out wondering if the relationships in your life are somewhat similar...