Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: IRADA

Irada Nek Hai, Focus Nahi Hai! Result? Shambles!

1 star

Mini Review:  

It starts out as a corporation polluting the ground water and water in the canals and a father investigating his daughter’s wrongful death. The film rapidly deteriorates when the stars begin to showboat. The movie then goes on to fall down in a pile of shambles.

Main Review:

Curiously, a film about a big corporation bribing political leaders (the state chief minister nothing less) being released during the elections in the state should have raised eyebrows. Alas, the content is so shoddy that this film will be forgotten soon after release.

So Naseeruddin Shah is a dad whose daughter dies of cancer because she swims in the canal with polluted waters. When there is a series of blasts at the factory owned by the corporation owned by an obviously bad guy called Paddy (Sharad Kelkar) Arshad Warsi shows up as the cop who is investigating the blasts.

Good thing about the film is Divya Dutta. She plays the crooked, foul mouthed politician so well, you want to make a movie based on just her back story! She munches her food loudly, her mother accuses her of having murdered her father, and like a seasoned politician, even when she’s beat, she turns the situation to her own advantage.

There's the ridiculous character of a journalist girlfriend of an RTI activist (Sagarika Ghatge) who  who behaves in the most illogical manner: she doesn't know if Arshad Warsi is good cop or a crooked one, and she hands over all the evidence her boyfriend died collecting to the man after practising,’Hello, i have evidence to support your case…’ She also is under threat by Paddy’s goons, but she jogs at night! She’s a journalist under threat and a strange package arrives at her home, and instead of taking it to the police or the bomb squad, she opens the package and when seeing a half filled bottle labelled beauty product, she dumps the hissing liquid into the sink. Wow!

Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah trade poetry over single malt, and each poem is supposed to be a clue. Seriously though, you're past caring. And Bollywood should stop borrowing these situation softboards with threads linking people and places. The female journalist sees the board (presumably Arshad Warsi has been working on it), and happily solves the mystery of the factory blasts.

There's more confusion in the story when the cancer patient wife of a man who carried out the blasts tells Arshad Warsi about a ‘Cancer Train’. In reality if such a train exists, then it is a horrible thing, but the train does nothing to link Naseeruddin Shah with the factory blasts. The story is in shambles. The cancer train is meant to shock the audience but you shrug your shoulders and wonder why it is a part of ‘this’ film. The end is so tedious you have checked your phone messages and replied to email.

Perhaps had they stuck to telling about groundwater contamination story like Erin Brockovich this movie may have meant something. But with factory blasts being made on the home compute by someone who did not finish their photoshop class, this film ends up being a waste of time.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: JOHN WICK 2

He's Kickass! Super Fun!

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

This is a furious drive, stab, shoot, kill, get stabbed, get shot at, fight bare handed in cars, buses, trains, underground and in optical mazes, all because you are John Wick and are being forced to honor a blood oath and are betrayed. The film is a sequel to the successful movie John Wick starring Keanu Reeves as the man in the black suit. It’s relentless action and just when you begin to wonder where this is leading to, you are plunged into a promise of bigger and better film!

Main Review:

When you watched John Wick in 2014, you realised that you cannot take a man’s car, and worse, his puppy. John Wick is forced to come out of retirement and mourning when a brash Russian scion of a mafia family steals his car and kidnaps his puppy for fun.

‘You have my car.’

He’s come back for his Mustang as the last of the Russians are getting ready to pack up the drugs and the cash and leave. And he takes his car, and along with the mustang, the lives of several Russian thugs, their cars, their bikes, their property. He brings back his car.

A knock on the door brings the Italian Santino D’Antonio and his impossible demand. You know it’s going to be John Wick against the Italians and before you settle down with your popcorn you stop and worry about John Wick’s puppy when the house is blown up. That’s the price to be paid for saying no.

Now the legend of John Wick also tells us of sanctuary for assassins called The Continental Hotel where membership is required and the rules are sacrosanct. Winston, the manager of the Continental reminds John that he is honor bound (by a fingerprint made in blood) to fulfil the request made by Santino. John’s retirement is not easy. He has to go to Rome and finish that task and then take on betrayal by Santino (but you knew that, didn’t you?)

The action set pieces are amazing. How Keanu Reeves gets into the skin of his character, is a lesson in fitness and you see no wirework or body double. There’s no impossible parkour where people jump from rooftop to rooftop. There is a very true and believable loading and reloading of weapons. Amazing because action movies seem to have heroes with guns that have unlimited bullets…

So does John Wick have no worthy opponent? Sort of. Common, who plays the villain Cassian is a wonderful opponent and the witty exchange between John and Cassian when they stumble into the Continental in Rome after kicking and hitting and stabbing each other is a ‘cool’ departure from the frenetic paced killing. Also the encounter with the baddies in the museum when they enter the optical maze is simply brilliant, and a great homage to 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

The fun part is waiting for John Wick’s signature kill: he is so good at improvising, no matter how many guns you have aimed at him, he can kill a person with a pencil. And the movie does not disappoint. Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick show up in their old roles. And you feel the joy in the familiarity. The really cool clean up crew (that shows up when there are multiple dead bodies that need to be cleared out) is missing in the movie, but the really cool way of checking out if the gun has been cocked right makes up for it. All in all, the body count is high, but the joy of watching John Wick in action is better.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Eloquent, Evocative, Elegant Tale Of Relationships

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

In the marginalised projects in Florida, a very young black boy, neglected by his drug addled mother, finds care in unexpected quarters. The drug supplier and his girlfriend. Chiron is this fragile child who grows up to be a gentle teen. Alas life is never kind and when you are black and gay, it becomes that much more difficult to survive. But he does. This film is beautifully shot, gently shown story of friendship and love and gratitude.  

Main Review:

‘Black boys are blue in the moonlight’ says a gentle voice when the film begins. You are intrigued by the saucer-eyed child Chiron who looks at you with fear in his eyes. He’s running away from neighborhood bullies. He is rescued by a drug dealer called Juan (Mahershala Ali) who takes him home to his wonderful girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae in a remarkable role). Alex Hibbert, the 12 year old discovery is astoundingly good as Chiron, the neglected child of a mother who is a crackhead. He just has to look into the camera and you would be compelled to sneak a look at your telephone to check where your children are at that moment. Your heart has been stolen by this boy and Juan and Teresa become his surrogate caregivers so naturally you say a little prayer in your head to thank God for all the good people on this planet.

Their kindness is rewarded, and you are submerged in the ocean with Chiron and the Juan and learn to swim. In one of the finest scenes one has seen in cinema, you breathe easy and begin smiling at the screen when Chiron learns to swim.

Chiron’s crackhead mother is played by the terrifically talented Naomi Harris. She is so good, you are at once angered and at once repelled by her mothering of Chiron. You don’t want to empathise with her, her son has already stolen your heart.
The film is divided into three parts, as if they were three separate stories, and the abruptness does jolt you out of your seat because you the audience has a bit of growing up to o as well. And growing up black and gay is the toughest. Teenage Chiron played brilliantly by Jharrel Jerome is fragile and delicate and gentle. His one and only childhood friend Kevin learns to deal differently with high school bullies. Chiron goes through high school trying to blend into the walls, Kevin does not mind joining the bullies in their games of ‘Choose a victim, hit him and tell him to stay down or beat him up more’. Kevin has to survive too, and the film asks you to not judge. It is Kevin who helps Chiron understand that he’s gay. The late night encounter on the beach where Chiron has gone to clear his head, could have been titillating in any other film, but it is so understated that the ocean seems to be too loud.

Teenage Chiron is plagued by his sexuality, his shyness, his fear of the bullies and the despair at home. And fed up of being pushed to the wall, he turns into a man. He’s still plagued by nightmares, but now he’s wearing a gold grill on his teeth, his body is no longer delicate, and he drives a car that blasts ‘I’m a classic man/You can be mean when you look this clean/I’m a classic man’. That in some ways the song refrain describes Chiron when he drives down from Atlanta, GA on the basis of that one late night phone call from Kevin, confident, a man’s man. But when he actually meets Kevin, we see that Chiron’s gentleness and vulnerability is hidden behind the gold grills and the chain and a buff body. Kevin is still confident and still cocky and amused at how little Chiron still talks. Trevante Rhodes plays adult Chiron and he is magical. Kevin (Andre Holland), now a cook at a diner, makes a meal for Chiron that will make everyone sitting in audience jealous. This has to be love. The squeezing of the lemon on grilled chicken, the chopping and garnishing is so elegantly done, you forget that it’s just a diner.
The film is full of gentle moments that stay with you despite the undercurrents of violence in the story. You are stunned by Alex Hibbert making an appearance in the end but know that the film is now telling you what Juan told little Chiron: At some point you gotta decide what you gonna be.

You will be glad that the film refuses to fall into the trap of the usual ‘give it an ending’, ‘tie all loose ends’ and lets you go home with the ocean breezes making you feel that you too need to answer the questions the film asks…

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)



4 stars

Mini Review:

Based on a book by Sushaku Endo, Martin Scorsese takes the story of systematic religious persecution of Christians in ancient Japan (1630s) and manages to shake the faith of the audience not in religion but also in humanity itself. The story is told by two young priests who arrive in Japan in search of their teacher and discover life so wretched, their faith in God is tested. Martin Scorsese’s is at once cruel as it is beautiful. A tough watch.

Main Review:

You’d never expect Andrew Garfield (whom you saw in Spiderman!) to be able to give what could be the best performance of his career as a young Jesuit priest Father Rodriguez who comes to Japan in search of his teacher with another young priest Father Garupe (Adam Driver). They hear many rumors about the teacher: Liam Neeson, who has turned Japanese and denounced Jesus, but want to find out for themselves.

In the search for the teacher, the two priests discover that ever since Christianity was outlawed, the faithful are not just put to death in gory inhuman ways, but that there is a secret band of faithful Christians called Kakure Kirishtan living hidden, wretched lives. They live in hiding and in constant fear of the Inquisitor and his band of cruel enforcers. When caught they are not only asked to denounce Christ but are tortured in ways that are so cruel, you want to look away from the screen.

Those familiar with the life of Christ, and stories from the Bible, know how God tests the faith of the ones who are his nearest and dearest. Father Rodriguez dreams of a picture of Christ and begins to look at his own life as parallel to Christ’s life, his faith is tested at every step. Andrew Garfield cuts a sympathetic figure and scores with the audience in the scene where he gives away his possessions - all the religious symbols: crucifixes, rosary beads et al - to the villagers. The Inquisitor finds new ways of testing the padre’s faith. The faithful are beheaded, drowned and burned and there is not a single scene where you think it is inelegant.

That’s the beauty of Martin Scorsese’s masterful touch. The torture is done with as much dexterity and beauty as the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Sound impossible, but you will not be able to look away from the screen at all. You will watch as the sea fills in crevices and brings in the tide to overwhelm and take away the lives of three faithful who refuse to denounce their God.

‘It took four days for Mokichi to die, but the hymn that he sung before he died lingered on…’

You hear Mokichi sing unfamiliar words, but you watch in despair as the sea slowly consumes him. The movie consumes you just as slowly, but you don’t realise it because you are watching from behind bushes along with the Padres how the Inquisitor offers silver coins to the villagers who will inform on Christians hiding in the village. As the Bible story goes, there is a Judas, and there is betrayal. And the story plays out but not as how you would expect.

Liam Neeson shows up much later in the movie and you are tested even further: You believe that the Son rose three days after crucifixion, but how do you teach this to the Japanese who only know of the one Sun (the one in the sky) and see it and witness it rising every day. Liam Neeson is not in a role where he needs to fight, but you see resignation and you begin to look for that one sign of faith on his furrow forehead just like Padre Rodriguez…

Did thousands perish in reality, as written in the book, valiantly embracing death for promised ‘paraiso’ (paradise)? Could Buddhism - a religion based peace and love - really advocate violence to root out another religion? Can a country really be called a swamp where nothing can take root? Human suffering has been documented in movies like Good Earth, and in war and disaster movies. But here we see an inhuman side of people, systematically break down another’s belief system in order to impose their own and you won’t emerge untouched.

The beauty of any movie that moves you enough to make you think along with the characters, feel for and with the characters, and despair and mourn with the characters cannot simply be chalked off as a 161 minute experience. The despair remains with you much longer than the movie, and even though the director offers you a salve in the end, you begin to look at everything Japanese in a new cruel light. You will not want to eat sushi after the movie, that’s for sure. But you will go down on your knees thankful and grateful that you are living in less uncivilized times.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Hugely Inspiring!

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

During the space race in the late fifties and the early sixties when Russia had already put Yuri Gagarin in space, NASA was still struggling to get the math for it’s space program right. This is the story of three pathbreaking African American women who broke many a glass ceiling and convention contributed to the success of the American Space Program. Brilliant and inspiring.

Main Review:

This is the time when the state of Virginia still practised segregation and the Black protests for equal rights were seen everywhere. In such volatile times, three friends: Katharine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, with three of the sharpest mathematical minds, are working as calculators at the Langley headquarters of the American Space Program. Yes, they’re part of a West Computers Group that did all the hard work of crunching numbers, a thankless task since as Katharine Johnson notes, the ‘goalpost keeps shifting’.

Katharine Johnson is catapulted into the main office of the space program where she is merely a person who is to ‘double check’ calculations made by the men in charge. In fact, she has been told to not say a word, and try to work from redacted material because other things are ‘above her clearance’. But fiery Katharine cannot be put down, because numbers don’t lie. She is the only colored person in the entire building and soon, the boss Al Harrison (Kevin Costner, who looks as young as he did in The Bodyguard) recognises the value of her work. Taraji P. Henson is so good, you become indignant for her when she is denied simple rights like having coffee from a machine, and people like Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons, who needs to find himself a different kind of role other than his Big Bang Theory TV show persona) who are racist and competitive and treat her badly.

Dorothy Vaughn is played brilliantly by Octavia Spencer, and her character too deals quite pluckily with racism thrown in her path. When she steals a book from the library, you will want to tear into the screen and hug her. She is well aware of her rights and the rights of her fellow ‘human calculators’ and she makes sure nobody is left out. You heart swells with pride when she stands squarely in front of a racist official Mrs. Mitchell played understatedly by Kirsten Dunst and says she is not going to leave her group jobless.

Janelle Monae plays Mary Jackson who works in the engineering department and the people who work with her recognise her talent, and encourage her to get that engineering degree. It is an uphill task but she is tenacious. In a world where Black people were still sitting at the back of the bus, she manages to convince a White judge to get her permission to study.

These amazing stories have been made into such a beautiful period film (yes, a movie set in the 60s is now considered a ‘period’ film) with wonderful details given to costume and colors and furniture and design. You are transported into the world held together by these plucky women who will not give in. In fact, this film should inspire more girls to take up math and computing and generally be proud of being intelligent. As Katharine says, ‘Because I wear glasses.’

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Ghazi Is Ghastly

½ star

Main Review:

It’s a fictionalized account of a brave unsung Indian submarine that downs the Pakistani super submarine that has better capabilities and a supposed most decorated Captain. Shoddily made, with terrible special effects and worse physics, you will be bombarded with melodrama and patriotism that will make you upchuck. Completely avoidable.

Main Review:

Woah! Sailors sing the National Anthem loudly inside an Indian submarine at 250 feet below the sea because the sound will reverberate and penetrate through the steel, travel through the ocean, penetrate the steel of the Pakistani submarine and reach the ears of the Pakistani Commander and his sailors as clear as a bell, and make the Pakistanis hopping mad (they apparently lose it when they hear patriotic songs), mad enough to make tactical mistakes.

Woah! Indian Lieutenant Commander goes into a torpedo bay filled to the gills with water without any scuba gear (it’s a submarine, they don’t have such things on board!), lasts for minutes under water and then when rescued spurts out only a mouthful of water he has swallowed. Why he was not selected for the Olympics is a mystery!

Double woah to the engineering of the submarine that seems to break apart and leak when the Captain takes it down to 350 feet, but when it sinks, only the power seems to be affected. The sea water pressure then seems to have no effect at all!

Faceplam to see the rescued woman (Really? What?) take over as the ship’s doctor an bandage the XO (Atul Kulkarni, a good actor caught between the growls of the war-mongering Kay Kay Menon and the Peacenik, Politically correct Rana Dagubatti). Of course this is an Indian submarine so there are no medical facilities. It’s good thing there was no time for her to wander from bunk to bunk holding a candle (or worse, singing a song) like Florence Nightingale looking after more injured patients.

Facepalm to the bunch of sailors in the Indian submarine who are a motley crew who are so shabby, you wouldn’t hire them as extras of a movie set in a local car garage. Their job is only to hold on to their bunk beds (they are never in uniform), and either look terrified or look happy and sing Saare Jahaan Se Accha.

Facepalm to the Sonar guy (Satyadev Kancharana) who has atrocious hair and takes a break in the middle of a crisis to wash his face. Who recruited these slovenly men into the Navy? It may be fiction, but it is still about the armed forces. To see a sloppy bunch might give 'them' ideas to attack us now.

Facepalm to the saddest bunch of villains a.k.a. the Pakistani submariners led by Rahul Singh. Thankfully there were only five people in the audience to hear me laugh when Rahul Singh exclaims in frustration: Up, then down, then up and then down, is this Indian guy a Commander (of a submarine) or an elevator operator?

Facepalm to the funeral scene. You have limited battery power in the submarine, you cannot afford to waste time because the enemy sub is planning to torpedo you, you have to save your life by getting the bad guys. And suddenly, everyone leaves their workstations and carries the body of the captain while singing a Sikh hymn, and giving him a funeral at sea. Everyone is crying and everyone needs to be inspired, so suddenly the peacenik Lt. Commander speaks on the comms to everyone about how Indian farmers are working hard and how every Indian needs to salute those standing at the borders and guarding our country with their lives!

What?! This never ending saga of jingoism mixed with  scenes of churning, foamy waters will make you incontinent, not patriotic. The half star it earns is for the art director who thought that hanging a bunch of pineapples on one bunk would be such a cool thing to do!

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Good Fun, Except  For The Lead Pair!

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

Ram Bharose from Patna works for a clothing store in Amritsar and is in love with the boss’ daughter Nimmi. Insulted at her birthday party, he quits and begins a startup with his geeky Sardar friend ‘Running Shaadi’ for runaway couples. Everything works fine until Nimmi decides she want to run away. With Ram Bharose. The supporting cast is stellar, the situations and dialogue are funny, but the lead cast is pathetic. And that makes you wish the film weren’t that long.

Main Review:

It’s a great elevator pitch: We will make a movie about a startup that helps couples elope.

But after that, what? You need to create characters around the story that the audience has met and endured, dialogue that lasts longer than a guffaw, and make the movie-going experience memorable.

On the first count, the writers Navjot Gulati and Amit Roy (who is also the director) succeed. So much so, that you could award the film four stars. The supporting cast is superb: Brijendra Kala as Ram Bharose’s videomaker uncle sets a standard, followed closely by another Patna local: the bride’s (Neha’s) older brother. Ram Bharose’s aunt and the bride are perfect in their roles, so is the make-up lady at the wedding. The retainer lawyers who help runaway couples are good too, and so are Nimmi’s aunt, the older people in the park who talk against runaway couples, Nimmi’s dad make the perfect supporting cast. Last but not the least, is Bharose’s geek partner: Cyberjeet, the young Sardar boy who wears a patka with a ‘Like’ icon, and wears geek tees and helps create the Running Shaadi website.         

Loved Pankaj Jha (the brother to Bharose’s bride-to-be Neha) showing up at Mamaji’s home and having a conversation with Ram Bharose. A little boastful, a little servile (as the bride’s brother should be!), a little curious (“Who is this ‘Ladies’ with you?” when Nimmi appears from inside) and really funny, and the best part, delivers with a straight face. And then in one of the funniest scenes, he appeases the upset make-up lady with gulab jamun an ice cream and words: ‘Who else but I could understand that your artistic soul is hurt…’ just when the miffed make-up lady claims, ‘Let me see if she can turn the bride into Katrina Kaif!’

Brijendra Kala cuts an emphathetic figure, driving an ancient scooter that needs a push start, making ad films that he never seems to get paid for, bursting into English with the client and muttering curses under his breath in Hindi. Your heart goes out to him because he’s stuck because he knows his nephew seems to be with Nimmi and yet needs the marriage to go as planned because the bride’s dad might approve the tv show idea he has submitted…

Geeky friend Cyberjeet comes as googly in this game! He makes everything happen: the website, acts as Ram Bharose’s conscience and is the best friend anyone could want. Cyberjeet’s expressions despite the beard are the best ever. He prays to the divine trinity: Zuckerberg, Jobs and Bill Gates and wears the coolest gee tees. His suggestions and ideas are better than what the hero or his girl can come up with.

Speaking of Ram Bharose and his girl, the less said the better. Ram Bharose (Amit Sadh) looks like sad sack and sports just that one miserable expression and you wish those chasing him with sticks land at least a couple of whacks and it hurts him. His girl Nimmi (Tapsee Pannu) is this spoilt little girl who calls him names like ‘Villager’, ignores him when ‘better’, college friends are present, uses Ram Bharose, and then insists she wants to marry him after tricking him. She’s studying ‘English Honors’ because ‘cool’ people join that course. But not once do you really care whether Ram Bharose and his girl manage to get married to each other.

The romantic tracks are ghastly and are standard guitar/Amit Trivedi type inanities.

Thankfully the very obvious ploy of having people with weird names marry each other keeps you smiling because the hero and the heroine are so boring. When a runaway bride is called ‘Milky’, the ‘Bhaag Milky’ track is a great funny thing to hear! So is the wedding song in Patna: You are my East/ You are my West/ Then why are you taking my test!

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: JOLLY LLB 2


3 stars

Mini Review:

Jagdishwar Mishra or Jolly, is a lawyer who lives by the code: no lawyer worth his salt will ever return money taken from a client. But when a pregnant widow commits suicide after shaming him, his life takes a turn on the right path. He then encounters crooked lawyers, cops and an unpredictable judge in a Lucknow lower court. Akshay Kumar subdues his muscle power and makes for a good dramatic turn as the bad lawyer turned good. The comedy lies in the local language and the conversation between Annu Kapoor (the crooked prosecutor) and Saurabh Shukla (the judge). Worth a watch!  

Main Review:

The only problem with this film is that every scene seems to be twenty seconds too slow. You begin to anticipate the replies, and think ahead for the case. That said, the movie has been written with love: for the language and for the material of the ‘case’ at hand. That’s why everyone titters at when Akshay Kumar loops the sacred thread over his ear and sprinkles whiskey for the Gods before pouring a glass for his wife (played well by Huma Qureshi). Everyone laughs each time the eccentric judge waters a plant on his court table, or makes a cinematic reference. Akshay Kumar speaks Hindi with a convincing local accent and that’s a great thing. In fact, you enjoy the dialog so much you wish you had recorded it. But his rival Annu Kapoor is better prepared. He asks his tall assistant: Isko Likh Lena, Accha (Dialog) Hai (write this down, it’s good!).

The courtroom exchanges are cleverly written. The insults the lawyers trade, the traditional rivalry between Kanpur and Lucknow comes through rather well.

The story begins when Jolly (Akshay Kumar) and his partner in petty crimes Birbal (Rajiv Gupta) swindle a young pregnant widow, Hina Siddiqui (Sayani Gupta who plays the role rather well) of two lakh rupees, promising her that Rizvi saheb (the senior lawyer) will take her case. Akshay Kumar’s Jolly is caught out and when Hina finds out and in her misery kills herself. A shamed Akshay goes through the case to realise Hina’s husband was killed in a fake encounter. He files a PIL to reopen the case. The wonderfully talented Kumud Mishra is Suryaveer Singh, the cop in charge of the encounter, alas has not much to do but glower. Annu Kapoor plays Pramod Mathur, the lawyer defending the cops and their action. He’s rich and his razor sharp moustache has many machiavellian lawyering loopholes ready and prepared. He puts the villain back in the black coat.

Saurabh Shukla as an eccentric judge does rather well, playing the fool in the beginning but turning out to be sharper than he looks. The little eccentricities are okay, but the song and dance is not. There was no need for any song except the song during the Holi festival. They just add needless breaks. Huma Qureshi fits her role but the movie belongs to the two lawyers and the judge.

There are twists and turns in the plot, but thankfully nothing unbelievable. In fact, you sit back and enjoy the popcorn courtroom (after ‘Court’ the movie, you want less melodrama than ‘Damini’, but it’s okay!). This date in court is very watchable!

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)



1/2 star

Mini Review:

Dr. Sant Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh ji Insaan has 43 credits in this sequel to the Lionheart movie which showed up on screens not too long ago. This time superhero Lionheart crosses the border into Pakistan with his assistant Josh and annihilates multiple terrorist training camps and sows the seeds of independence in Balochistan too! Plus the aliens from Lionheart part one are back, and… The movie does not end, promises yet another sequel. As they say, ‘Everybody, facepalm!’

Main Review:

When Dr. Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh ji Insaan decided to make movies (he was a rock star guru, filling stadiums with over a hundred thousand enthusiastic believers who think of his as God. The second movie followed fast and the critics were barred from taking notes during the screening. However, babaji decided that he is going to be superman. And Lionheart was born. He was the saviour of the planet, a true heir to Pandavas from Mahabharata, and a friend of the police too. He figured out aliens want to take over our planet and he beat them back into their flying saucers.

It’s good to know a little bit of the the back story, because when we see him in this movie, his concern seems to be topical. He assists the Indian government with making surgical strikes into Pakistan and bringing the terrorist training camps down. But the Indian army is fed up of the constant attacks, and voila! Lionheart and his neverending supply of gadgets infiltrates Pakistan (there is a proper gate in the barbed wire fence between the two countries, and he steps into Pakistan with his assistance Josh. There is also a Pakistani girl Sargam who falls in love with Lionheart’s disguised avatar as Hasan and marries him. The Nikaah, the romance in a gondola and drinking tea together is stuff even James Bond will hanker for. James Bond? Yes, because Lionheart has the most amazing array that Q’s lab will be envious of.

He has a lion ring on his finger that can multi task: shoots laser beams, poison spray, lip-sealing thang, calls and releases drones. And that’s not all. Lionheart owns a helicopter that runs on Playstation controls. The helicopter is bright red and yellow, but the terrorists cannot see it, so maybe it’s invisible. But the battery from the playstation controls can be removed (the helicopter does not crash!) and flung out of the helicopter and it turns into a drone which bursts bombs over the camp, killing everyone. The battery then returns to Lionheart and he puts it back into the controls! Also Lionheart possesses a pen which when flung turns into a pink motorbike which has missiles and grenade launchers in the twin exhaust pipes. Oh the motorbike also turns into a bicycle. Take that James Bond!

Lionheart is good at disguises and he becomes a maulavi and kills the Pakistani Prime Minister (Yes! Don’t ask!). He turns into Hasan and rescues a girl (Sargam ) who marries him. He sings songs like,‘Tumhe dekh ke mera system hil gaya’ and ‘E Jaana, tujhe paake, rab mila tuje paake!’ but will not sleep with the girl!

Anyway with horrendous dialog and and cringeworthy performances from actors playing Pakistani terrorists and army generals and other supposed jihaadi maulavis as if it were an annual production of school of overacting and the Lionheart himself (he bobs his head to the refrain: Aag ka Dariya Sher-e-Hind, Sher-e-Hind) through the movie, and does not forget to smile! Even when he’s saying things like: Paratha toh accha tha, ab main Pakistan jaa ke bharta banaaoonga! (The paratha was good, but now I go to Pakistan and make some mash!) Of course he blows up more people in this movie than any war movie we have seen.

The film makes the terrorists out to be comical and lustful and plain stupid. With a name like Kharaabuddin, what would you expect? (‘Kharaab’ means ‘spoilt’ in Hindi). Just when you are tired of laughing, Lionheart saves all the freshly minted terrorists ready to go on their mission by zapping them! They are really Aliens from Lionheart part 1. No! No! No! The chief of the aliens is called 'RAUNCHY!' The movie goes off on a silver facepaint, silver costumed alien tangent and thankfully they capture Lionheart and take him away in a flying saucer (has nice circular windows too!).

We know this is an exercise in futility, but at least the man has stopped calling himself ‘God’. His costumes and shoes are so bling, you want to wear sunglasses inside the theater. And when you emerge you realise the popcorn someone handed to you (and to everyone else in the audience), was sponsored by Dr. Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh ji Insaan. You look at the rest of the audience who have been given free tickets to the film and shake your head a little. As a fellow critic said: Insane. That’s what it is. Not Insaan.

P.S: I don't mean to insult anyone, but the Punjabi enunciation of 'Balochistan' as 'Blowchistan' was very funny.

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

Review: RINGS

Bo- Ring!

1 star

Mini Review:

Not even your gagging reflex at watching the heroine pull out hair from her mouth turns into horror in this most banal horror film sequel of the superb original Japanese film called Ringu (and the awesome remake called ‘Ring’ in 2002). The video-tape of the original film is now shared file, and the premise is the same: watch it and die within a week. And the week is so long, audiences will die of boredom first.

Main Review:

Yes, the film has all the makings of a scary film: jump scare shots, ugly entity (you die when you see her), the entity creeping out of the TV, the need to share the video to save yourself and put people in danger, the reminder that mommy dumped her own child into a well, the growing powers of the entity… But despite some ‘horror movie ambience’ and screams and saucer eyes the movie is tiresome.

The college kids look too grown up to be freshmen college kids. Now Bollywood viewers may be used to watching 45 year olds play college kids in the 70s and 80s cinema, but today, it’s a laughable thing. So Holt and Julia, the grown up Freshmen (Alex Roe and Matilda Rutz) reach out to their professor for help. John Galecki of The Big Bang Theory plays the role of the professor who is conducting all sorts of experiments to figure out the presence of a soul… You are so bored of the ‘experiment’ routine that you begin to count days. Aren’t you supposed to die within seven days of watching the video? How come the unkempt professor is still alive?

When you begin to root for the death of the hero and the heroine and their mentor, you know something is wrong. And no matter how creepy the evil entity Samara is, you get bored of the hair on her face routine and wish there was a spare hairclip which you could throw at the screen. There are a couple of interesting ideas in the movie which are never touched upon even though everyone is running around like headless chickens looking for clues to solve the mystery of the evil. The idea of braille imprinted on the heroine’s hand is cool, but why braille? Why not simply carve out like the Dolores Umbridge magic quill in Harry Potter? Vincent D’Onofrio has a cool role, but he comes in too late for the audience to care. Why the bones are buried and how evil can be contained are reasons that are too convoluted for anyone, and laughable, almost.

The only thing admirable is that the franchise gets away from old technology (of recording and sharing a video-tape) to modern (spreading evil through file sharing) and also manages to add on a bit of mystery-solving to plain horror. But it wants to hang on to the established mythology, and this is where it fails: the audience is expecting the characters who have watched the film to die after seven days, and here they seem to go on and on, living. It’s a vanilla horror movie. Best left at the back of the freezer for when there’s nothing left to eat…

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)



Empty Space Between Their Ears!

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

Mars is back on the big screen, this time with romance as its theme. A bright boy born on Mars to one of the first colonists grows up wanting to find out who his dad is. When he comes to Earth he discovers romance. The boy from Hugo looks wide-eyed enough in love but the dodgy science and sick teenagers romancing make for a colossal bore.

Main Review:

Odd that space agencies forgot to figure out that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Odder that they let the teenager fly back to Earth after sixteen years. And bizarre that despite the dome covering up the Martian dwellings, the boy Gardner Elliot (played by Asa Butterfield you saw in the Oscar winning Hugo), manages to Skyping in real time with a nerd rebel girl on Earth. Seriously? The wifi on Mars is that good? At least Matt Damon in The Martian made communication with Earth believable. And then the lad travels to Earth in search of his dad. By the time he reaches Earth, shouldn’t the girl have aged? Or are we supposed to believe that the technology is magic? Like Harry Potter’s Floo Powder?

Swallow those questions and we see the lad on Earth, getting lots of attention from scientists who discover that his Martian bones (Earthly DNA should have remained intact within the dome, no?) are delicate and fragile and his heart has enlarged. A boy with a big heart should be a hit during the Valentine’s day release the film has found, but young adult romances were done and dusted with Fault In Our Stars after the teenagers dying for society type romances of Hunger Games style films. The romance here may be sweet to people who have missed all the young adult movies, but it’s awful to watch the zero gravity kiss. Panda videos on social network site get more gushing reactions than this kiss. The grown-ups in the film starting with Gary Oldman are loud and busy doing ‘science things’ or their mothering (Carla Gugino who plays Kendra) seem very fake.

The boy and girl running away on the motorbike, the confetti falling on their ‘love’ is cute but not memorable enough. You don’t care for the end because it looks like the whole film was thought up in a brain vacuum. It’s a desperate attempt to get teenagers to the theatres. But the dodgy science will keep them facepalming instead of cooing like Valentine lovebirds.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Friday, February 03, 2017


Action! Action! And More Action!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Even if you have not seen a single Resident Evil movie (yes, this is the sixth film in the series) you will be drawn into the story immediately and you will love the crazy body count and the action set pieces. Milla Jovovich just seems to get better and better at action with every film. And this film has action from scene one. There are zombies and monstrous creatures galore to keep your eyes glued to the screen. As they say, ‘Paisa Vasool!’ (Value for money!)

Main Review:

Milla Jovovich has perfected that stare which you can see on the posters everywhere. She’s reprising her role as Alice, the enemy number one of Umbrella Corporation. Umbrella Corporation is responsible for the release of the T-Virus that has wiped out most of the Earth’s population.

This movie tells us why the zombies have been unleashed upon the world. The zombies are as creepy as ever, running in hoards after live people, which are dwindling fast. Alice of course fights and fights every hoard with newer tricks up her sleeve. Milla Jovovich is in superb physical condition and nothing she does seems to be out of whack or impossible. Considering that the film is the result of a video game, the action in the film is just as satisfying.

The creatures that have evolved from the deadly T-Virus are scary. The first encounter with the creature keeps your heart in your mouth and the popcorn in your hands. The tank with the zombies running after the hapless victim tied to the tank is just as heart-stopping an event as the zombies trying to get to the resistance.

The resistance is made up of people who trust Milla as much as it is made up of those who don’t. But they have one common enemy and their numbers are growing. But time is running out on the one hope Alice has: To reach the headquarters of the Umbrella Corporation and find the antidote…

The one hour forty seven minute ride outrunning zombies, fighting baddies, falling down, getting beaten up and dealing with the Tyrant - Dr. Issacs who just won’t die. You will find yourself whooping and cheering the violence instead of being horrified by it, but then that’s the nature of this film series. The film gets an ‘A+’ for action. What else is there?

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)