Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Killa


One Of The Finest Films On Childhood

4 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

I want to adopt Bandya, Egghead, Prince, Omkar and Chinu. I envy their friendship, I wished my mom were more like Chinu's, I want to now go visit all the places Chinu and his friends went, I am in love with cinema again!

Main Review:

You watch Bollywood potboilers where the hero kicks twenty chaps twice his size and romance heroines half their age. You are numbed by multi-million dollar Hollywood summer extravaganza where the special effects dazzle your eyes... 

But then once on a rare blue moon, comes a movie that puts everything that you loved about the flickering pictures in a darkened room, and you fall in love with the play of light once again. These are movies that make popcorn redundant, make you feel for every character, and before you know it, you begin to believe in the magic of the movies again.

Good boy Chinu moves to this picturesque seaside town and saves a puppy from the 'chandaal chowkdi' kids who will become his friends... Sitting in the darkened theater with a friend I realised that one has outgrown so many friends - some moved away, some you outgrew, some friendships did not last - but the ones you remember clearly, and with fondness that you think is an emotion long forgotten.

Your senses are so used to the crash, boom, bang of the movies you are used to seeing, the langorous pace of the story makes you wonder, 'Is this movie going anywhere? Is the misery of the mom going to slip out of the screen and permeate your being?' And that's when Bandya (Parth Bhalerao, the smart alecky lad from Bhootnath Returns) shows up on screen cursing merrily, and saves the movie.

And if you are a grown up and wonder how you got there, you will call your mom and dad and tell them to watch this movie, because it is a subtle pointing out how you felt when they were too busy to sit down and ask you what was wrong, and if they did, you were tongue tied to express yourself. This movie is that wonderful.

The locations are so delicious, you want to take that next vacation to that Killa (the fort), sit down and contemplate the meaning of life on the same beach that Chinu sits, you want to visit the same lighthouse, and fall in love again and hope it is as innocent and pure as Egghead's crush.

Why not give five stars then? The film leaves a couple of threads loose. It would mean offering spoilers, but I wondered why the dog just disappears from the scene. Boy and his dog are powerful images. Plus the subtitles are just a little lazy.

For rekindling your childhood memories, watch Killa. I emerged richer from simply watching the smile on Chinmay's face at the very end.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Inside Out


A Superb Animation Film For Grown-Ups

3 stars

Mini Review:

Pixar is amazing. And your kids can watch Toy Story, Monsters Inc and other films again and again. But this film is far too grown up for kids. Every value, every idea, every clever execution is beyond the comprehension of kids. It's fabulous animation, don't get me wrong. But it's a grown up movie.

Main Review:

This is a grown up movie trying to be cute because animation is meant primarily for kids. Let me explain. 

Let's look at the characters. 'Oh-so cute they are!' is what you will exclaim as you make a beeline to buy the plushies. The little ones are crying already because self-styled leader Joy is picking on Sadness and telling her to not touch things, 'Mommy, Joy is like you!' the kids are saying, 'Telling Sadness to not touch this, not touch that.' 

So now mommy feels more like Kill Joy rather than 'Joy', and kids have identified themselves with Sadness. And it's true, because mommies are forever dragging kids to where ever they want to go. Joy literally drags Sadness back to headquarters (home!), while Sadness just wants to touch everything and turn it blue.

That brings us to the story. How amazing the whole idea is! Emotions monitor everything the eleven year old Riley goes through and help her get through the day. But there's a second story that's going on inside the head, which is so grown up. Sadness is once again banished to the 'Stay in this circle' and read a book. Kids in the theater will now be cowering in their seats, nodding at each other as if to say, 'Mommy does that to me too!' 

And grown ups in the theater will be marveling at how cool is the idea of a train of thought, the maze inside the head, the Imagination zone, the cloud people, the subconscious... Why do you think any kid would be happy watching friendship island crashing, fun island turning gray and crumbling. And they don't tell you it can be rebuilt.

My heart was broken to bits when the Imaginary Friend Bing Bong is treated in the movie exactly how grown ups treat imaginary friends in real life. Not something kids need to see. No matter how many rainbows the wheelbarrow leaves...

If this were truly a movie for 11 year olds (the kid in the movie, Riley, is), then we would have seen more of Riley at adjusting in her new school, new crushes, her imaginary boyfriend, her struggle with lessons, her new found hockey team mates. Now that would have been really fun.

I can imagine mommies and daddies wagging their fingers at the kids telling them, 'See! If you behave badly, family island inside your head will crumble. If you fight with your best friend, friendship island will crumble!' I wanted Riley to stop walking to the bus stop (takes her all day!) and actually go do things truant kids do when they skip school: find other truant kids, pilfer things from store after trying out clothes, have a brush with the cops... The chances were plenty.

But no, this is the story of Joy. who needs to understand Sadness is important too. Blah. Like I said, the animation is superb, but it's a movie for grown ups. Get someone to watch over your kids while you ooh and aah over the Brazilian pilot...

P.S. Loved, loved, loved Sadness who lifts up her leg in submission and says, 'I'm too sad to walk.' (mommies will know, kids say, 'carry me' any time!)  



Review: Insidious Chapter 3


Standard issue horror, you could watch it with your whole family!

2 Shivering Stars

Mini Review:

There are moments of true fright, and others so contrived your grandma's snores are scarier. But you've loved the two other Insidious movies, so you sit through the tedious parts and allow yourself the luxury of a few jolts. Plus Dermot Mulroney is hawt, hawt, hawt.

Main Review:

Have you counted your family members before you enter the theater? Who knows, someone might get dragged into the shadows...

With great anticipation Bhaiyya, Bhabi, Grandma, Pops, Mom, the twins Bunty and Babli, Unc and Aunty are all seated, armed to the gills with popcorn and sodas and I turn the confusion during seating to my advantage to eye the lads who have shown up to watch the horror film of the year with their overworked upper bodies and skinny legs in even skinnier jeans. I know Dermot Mulroney is in the movie so there's plenty of hawtness expected.

When you hear Elsie say, 'When you call out to one of the dead, they can all hear you.' You give your full attention to the screen and forget to count how many times the silly teenager on screen disobeys that good advice. Dad doesn't, because he mutters,'You never listened too!'

The scares are too slow in coming and the almost spooky encounters are such a sham you want to slap someone. Creaking doors, things moved around, characters stepping on dangerous looking things and nothing happens... all tricks you have seen in scary movies. The only people who look like they're enjoying this are Bhaiyya and Bhabi (they don't get out much, so bhabi is making the most of 'let's clutch the guy to show how ladylike we are' trope). It's ruined by grandma though. Because grandma - who fancies herself in Elsie's role - is snoring. Her snores are so scary, the annoying ushers who have started this 'at your seat' service of food spills an entire tray.

I'm happy to be jolted in fright in a couple of scenes. Truly scary scenes these by the elevator and one of the victims of the Darth Vader spook. Darth Vader? When the movie does not root you to the seat with sheer horror, then your brain starts offering silly allusions. The scary guy breathes like Vader and I realised mom was breathing like him every time they showed his footprints all over the house. Imagine cleaning that mess!

Thankfully, I could ignore them all and stare at Dermot Mulroney. What a hawt dad he makes. A couple of times you just wish he had taken his shirt off just so the movie would earn an extra star. But no. So you make little notes about which character is going to be bumped off next. The fun is in seeing how. When that doesn't happen, you begin to groan because now a character who seems to be taken straight from Harry Potter comes to rescue the stupid teen.

It's a decent scare fest. The trouble is that Elsie is too chirpy after meeting her mentor. She becomes haha-funny with her new found bravado and I wished the scary guy put those footprints on her face. This is as standard issue scare-fest as can get. But it's raining outside, so might as well see the film and come out happy.


P.S. The buffed up lads watching the film predictably were ribbing each other loudly after the movie: 'You peed in your pants, bro!' 'No, you did! I dropped coffee!' 'You were scared!' 'Not me! I'm cool!'



    





Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: ABCD2


Varun Dhawan Can Dance Saala!

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

This movie throws up all the cliches possible, and in 3D it's a very tough watch for two and a half hours. But watching Varun Dhawan dance is like having pakodas with chai or pepperoni pizza in the rains. Perfect.

Main Review:

Before dance fans jump on me beat me up and do victory pirouette on my lifeless body, let me say we should award this movie with five stars. 

But it's 154 minutes long. And 3D is fine for a little bit (best during the opening credit sequence). But what 3D does is reduce the size of people into looking smaller than they are and you look at Varun Dhawan as though he's some action figure rather than a full-bodied, red-blooded male. 

That for me is enough to take away half a star.

I loved the first part. I still watch it when it shows up on TV. It's the story of underdogs who do good in a world of made for cut-throat competitors. So I was looking forward to a similar story. Just as in all Step Up movies. The formula is perfect. Underdogs lose, they practice hard, and then they win (sometimes the trophy, sometimes hearts, and always, always the girl.). When you have a formula that works, why would you try and re-invent the wheel?

In ABCD2 there's a very weak romance thread. Shraddha and Varun look more like buddies than romantic dance partners. And there is no problem with that. It's 2015, for godssakes! But there's romance, and it's so tepid, you know you have better romance going on with pizza in your real life. Bringing in Lauren to offer moments of jealousy does not work too, because they want to show everyone is good and as long as they dance, they are a part of the team.

So the romance part of the story doesn't work. But all the women in the theaters, regardless of age, are now in love with Varun Dhawan. They are imagining themselves in the bower just like in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,  dancing to music that's playing in the heads with Varun Dhawan instead of Shah Rukh Khan. And that's all that matters.

But it's annoying to see the deaf mute dancer make the same gesture that he can hear music in his heart just as Shah Rukh does in that bower scene... And it forces me to mentally put check marks on the cliches in the story.  

Dancer/Friends who leave when they're caught cheating on the dance performance (they never tell you why they cheated, who taught them the moves that the Philippines dancers did, whose idea was it)

Why do they need a guru for the Bangalore championships? How convenient is it that Prabhudeva just pops up on the scene! Those drunk scenes are so-oh cute but so badly done... Well, yes, they're dancers and not actors, but in part 1, the story of insulted guru who makes the ragtag dancers into a great team worked so beautifully...

Of course I wanted to wash Varun Dhawan's shirt when Prabhudeva wipes his yuckkky mouth on it. He's so-oh cute!

Back to the cliches in the story. How conveniently they win the Bangalore contest, how easily the 22lakhs are got, how conveniently they squander the cash and how the seemingly good guy turns out to be a baddie.

Prabhudeva's back story just does not add up for me, and I kept saying in my head, 'Why are they wasting time trying to show a story? Show them dancing!'

And if by magic Varun Dhawan dances with his team. And I am happy again, and so are the hundred women whooping loudly in the theater

By now I have cut one and a half star already from the five stars I initially awarded the movie.

But the worst, the very worst thing they could do to the movie is the fake patriotism and the desh is meri-maa thing they saved for the end. It is as annoying as the national anthem right before every movie that folks in Maharashtra suffer. It's a law, and even though one is patriotic, it is hard to feel that way when one has a tray of popcorn, coffee and hot samosas to balance along with the raincoat (or an unbrella) and a handbag (or a backpack). So when you see this jabardasti ka patriotism rear up its head you are reminded of another lame final scene where they recite the national anthem to win a singing contest (Lions Of Punjab, I think) or Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham where Kajol's annoying kid recites the anthem and everyone wonders whether to stand up in their seats or slap the little kid.

That means, we have 2 and a 1/2 stars left. That goes for all the dances, the choreography and the dancers, and the hard work they have put in and the young gorgeous Varun Dhawan who manages a pull off a super role quite effortlessly. (Yes, yes, Shraddha Kapoor dances too. But she's overshadowed, and the trick of getting her to not dance is a cliche you can see from a mile away.)

Varun Dhawan simply shines. Even when the CGI of the grand canyon is laughable and you come out trying to erase that song from your mind...


p.s. I hope they didn't get paid to write the lyrics of that romantic song. If the young generation is romancing to such lyrics, am glad I am ancient.  





Review: SPY


WARNING: SO FUNNY, YOU MIGHT CHOKE ON THE CORN!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Everything you love about spy movies is there, but it's been turned upside down and totally batty and wicked and self deprecating. The funny moments come at you from all sides and you laugh simply because it is so outrageous.

Main Review: 

It's a Melissa McCarthy movie, so you might be right in thinking there will be fat lady jokes. There are, but they're so self-deprecating that you cannot help but laugh. Plus everything else is so startlingly funny, you find yourself choking on the popcorn!

'I'm glad your hair broke your fall!' she says sweetly to someone who just gets up winded from a fall (Melissa's character has tripped her and caused that fall and you're laughing at how it happened!)

She's a CIA agent who has never been on the field. Erm... That's obvious, you say, look at her and look at James Bond! Bond has the perfect body, the perfect gadgets, the perfect love life, the best of food and wine, and Melissa McCarthy is... Well... She is just the perfect opposite.

And it is in being different that the comedy begins. And how!

You will laugh at the food and the wine moments.

You will laugh at the outrageous love life moments.

You will laugh at the gadgets.

You will laugh at the comic moments that happen because her body is far from perfect.

You will laugh during the car chases and the action scenes.

You will laugh when you realise how stereotypical we think spies are and you will fall in love with Jason Statham. He is so funny you forget he's an action star.

Most of all, you will laugh at the outrageous insults the characters trade, the outrageous things characters say to each other, and the outrageous things they do in order to get out of situations... 

(Basically, you will laugh at everything that happens on screen!)

Worth mentioning is the appearance of Bollywood's pretty, famous, duck faced Nargis Fakhri. She's simply amazing! And she's not the duck faced simpering creature we saw in Rockstar. She's great fun. She is a deadly assassin and she does a great job in the action scenes she has been given. She looks great, and what's really, really good, is that she is NOT the duck-faced creature everyone made her out to be. The makers of Rockstar did her great disservice by making her pout in every scene. I hope that she is offered better roles from here on!

Did I say that the movie is funny? It is. Watch it. But It's half an hour too long. So buy some extra coffee when you think you cannot laugh any more. And I am sure when Jason Statham goes off in that boat, you'll spill that coffee all over you.


p.s. not too many people notice this in a 'comedy' movie, but there are a couple of moments that will make you glad you have girl-friends, and that you will never let your best friends down...

  




Friday, June 12, 2015

Review: The DUFF


Sweet High School Romance


2 stars

Mini Review:

Every now and then a book written for young adults turns out to be a sweet high school movie. It's got guitar playing boys with long hair, bitchy girls, best friends, high school jock, funny, weird parents and teachers, and yes a high school dance.

Main Review:

High school can be a nightmare if you are not one of the most 'popular' kids. You must be pretty and intelligent and good at sports and awesome at studies, and you are also expected to be phenomenally talented. If you cannot be that, you should be some super nerd who saves the world. 

What you can never, ever be, is ugly and fat. 

In fact these two words are such a 'no-no' that if you were making a scary movie for young adults, the fat, ugly kid is usually the first one to be killed by flying sharks or zombies or slashers.

This movie tells you that it is worse being the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. The ugliest person in a group of hot friends.

The movie will remind you of your own struggles in high school. The movie will make you want to send a group hug to everyone on your Facebook High School page. The movie will make you cry because things have not changed since the whole class laughed at you when the frog jumped off the dissection tray and into your school shirt and you screamed as you took off the shirt in front of the biology class. The movie will remind you of bitchy classmates who got off fancy cars and made fun of the length of your skirt (your mother had just let down the hem and there was a tell-tale line that announced your growth spurt). This movie will remind you of your former crushes and you'll go to their facebook pages and check them out again...

What this movie will also show you that the world is now unkinder and tougher to the teenagers today. They have coined horrendous words like DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) and they are far more insidious when they make fun of anyone. Had the kids posted a video of my encounter at the bio lab with the frog, it would be terrible to live it down. 

In this world, one fat teenager decides that she will not be the DUFF and gets help. 

Sigh. It's all very funny, and cute and sweet and romantic...

Read the book by the same name written by Kody Keplinger. Watch the movie to re-live high school memories. Or if you have a teenage daughter...

     

  

Review: NAGRIK


A Newspaperman Swallows Truth's Bitter Pill

3 stars


Mini Review:

Sharply written, this newspaperman's dogged search for the truth makes for a good viewing. Especially if you wish there was something one could do to change the world. You hope the protagonist wins.

Main Review:

You do still get the stuck-in-the-70s cinema where 40 year olds are playing co-eds in the weirdest clothes, pretending to be 'with it'. But those movies are forgiven because there are movies like Nagrik, who tell us their stories that are very different from the run of the mill romances. Marathi cinema is bringing us gems like Nagrik, and I for one, am happy to see stories that are different.

Nagrik is the story of a frustrated newspaperman Shyam Jagdale, who has seen the worst and battles his demons to find a resolution.

Sachin Khedekar is the protagonist in the story, whose pen is fiery and his beliefs strong. He is a journalist who knows that truth cannot be 'convenient'. Shyam uncovers many an uncomfortable truth. Predictably he is asked to 'tone down' his reports because the truth hurts powerful men.

When you think about it, this is not a new plotline for a movie. In Ardh Satya an idealistic cop battles the corrupt system, In a movie Ace In The Hole (as old as 1951), Kirk Douglas plays a reporter who gets a chance at a big story is he tosses his ethics aside. There are many many examples where newspapermen die for their beliefs.

Here Sachin Khedekar does not get into anything physically dramatic at all. There is no scuffle with the goons sent by politicians to rough him up. No stones are thrown at his house. No baddies kidnap his daughter to prevent him from writing. There are no dramatic throwing papers at a reluctant editor. The drama is in the dialog.

Which makes for a tad cumbersome viewing. You need to step out and have a cup of chai when you're watching. And not because it is tedious. It's because you want to savor good lines written even for someone who does not speak Marathi in a Marathi film. 

The ever reliable Rajesh Sharma plays Bhaiyyaji, who says, and I'm paraphrasing here, 'Marathi bolna zaroori nahi hai, samajh mein aani chaahiye' when Sachin Khedekar asks him why he does not speak the language in spite of living and working in Bombay for so long.

You suddenly realise how well developed the characters are when such dialog come at you. Milind Soman plays a politician who does not hesitate to use his voters to get his own way, 'All you need to do is promise the gullible middle class that you will scrap the toll collected on roads when elected'. He knows he can incite a riot and people will die in the riots happily. To watch Sriram Lagu play an old man wracked by guilt for having helped political upheavals with his machinations was such a pleasure to watch. 

Also amazing is the directorial trick of using a shaheer (street singer/folk singer) who appears like the Greek Chorus and tells us of the situation and its many moral, political, social nuances. The actor Sambhaji Bhagat is a 'shaheer' in real life as well. Sambhaji Bhagat has written and performed the street theater/shaheer songs you heard in the recent award winning Court as well.

The truths that Sachin Khedekar uncovers are grisly and moved even my cynical heart. And I would like you to watch the movie so you can be shocked and amazed as well.

What i enjoyed most is how he stumbles upon the truths. Sometimes it is as simple as stepping out of a boring not-really-news conference to take a breather and discovering the connect between bad guys. And sometimes, it is as tough to swallow as uncovering the lives of migrant workers.

I wish though that the role of the newspaperman who carries the burden of truths had not been borne by the actor so heavily. Sachin Khedekar's reporter is rather unhappy. He drowns himself in alcohol (in vino veritas makes for his character), and he seems to be really miserable in his frustrations and his inability to change the scheme of things. I wish he were as fiery as his words. It would be less heavy cinema.

Blogging and speaking your mind via the internet seems like a great tool that makes its appearance in the movie and I was really happy to see it as a part of life in a middle class setting. Bollywood yet has to learn how to do it right. 

The montage during the Vitthal song will shake you up and surprise you and shock you and move you. Makes the movie unmissable. The movie ends on a positive note, though, and you come away with a feeling of hope as the shaheer sings of a new morning. 

Watch this movie and be inspired by it. You may not be able to change the way current politics work, but you might just wake up as a citizen.

  


     



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review: Jurassic World


Dino Slasher Mayhem! Where's The Wonder Gone?


Two and Half Stars


Mini Review:

It is big, bad and bloody minded. It kills everything because it can. It's terrifying rather than awe-inspiring. And if you don't like mindless killing, there's only one thing left to do: run. As far away from the theater as you can, to the wonder inducing original.


Main Review:

I was terrified. I admit. I have clutched my handbag so tight it has a permanent imprint. I have clutched at the shirt-sleeve of the friend sitting next to me so hard, that only when the credits rolled did I realise that his shirt was wrapped around my face like some burqua and he was shirtless and frozen stiff thanks to the relentless air-conditioning in the theater.

This is perhaps the one time I have ignored the trite lines being spouted by the principal characters and actively looked at the background to check if the horrendous monster dinosaur was lurking in the trees. 

'Everything is going to be okay!'
'I want to see everything!'
'Have a wonderful weekend!'
'We have created attractions'
'They're not attractions, they are real, live creatures.'
'We set out to make Indominus the most fearsome dinosaur ever to be displayed at Jurassic World. The genetic engineers at our Hammond Creation Lan have more than delivered. At first glance, Indominus most closely resembles a T-Rex...'

So the predictability of the Indominus with the bhelpuri DNA from ordinary creatures like cuttlefish and tree frogs and other creepy dinosaurs going rogue makes for the story of this movie. It's not like they're trying hard to tell us something new. And it's done with really scary effects. It's scarier than The Conjuring and The Babadook and slasher movies. It's horrible to see the carnage caused by the rogue dino. I loved watching the Brachiosaurus in Jurassic Park, I remember how it reaches out to Alan and the kids resting on the trees... 

Well, I hated the Indominus so much, here is how you could make sure no cuttlefish DNA is left for splicing when they really start creating dinos in real life: 

http://fishcooking.about.com/od/meetyourfish/p/cuttlefish_prfl.htm


That taken care of, let's look at the cardboard cutouts called people in the movie: 

1. There's a career woman who talks numbers. 
2. The brawny lad who has a soft spot for the dinosaurs. 
3. Two kids who break rules and need to be rescued. 
4. One bad guy with an agenda. 
5. One heartless scientist in a lab. 
6. Tourists who are just dino bait.
7. Assistants who are expendable.

Remember other heroines in other dino movies? Laura Dern who is a dino doc, Tea Leoni as the distraught mother, Julianne Moore is a Paleontologist too. They made you feel good. You wanted to rescue them from the bad dinos, you wanted to protect them. In Jurassic World, the heroine is a number crunching, marketing person, a little like the lawyer in the original Jurassic Park. Hardly endearing. In fact, I was hoping that the Indominus would eat her up just as the T-Rex gobbled up the lawyer cowering in the loo. 

The hero is cute enough, placed there to get the young women going, 'Aawwww! He cares for dinosaurs!' but he doesn't inspire the same confidence as Sam Neill or Jeff Goldblum who are intelligent and look like they know what they're talking about. This one is just muscle. Let's say even if you think baby Indiana Jones is going to save the day, you are not confident as to how he would beat the big, ugly Indominus.

The two kids who need to be rescued are so boringly predictable, you want to ground them for life if the dinosaurs let them live.

The bad guy with the agenda is Vincent D'Onofrio and he makes his 'I'm a bad guy with agenda' thing so obvious, you are glad you marked him down for dino dinner. You stopped caring for him from Broken Horses, and his end there wasn't grisly enough for the stupidity of the role, so you whoop loudly with delight when he gets eaten up. 

Irrfan Khan plays the role of John Hammond, and his helicopter scenes are so bad, you know the good CGI guy was on holiday for those scenes. Speaking of bad CGI, you'll grin when the dinos are feasting on people, because some people in the crowd are looking elsewhere while ducking, others don't even react when the person next to them is eaten up. That brings me to the grisliest dino feast part.

The dinos in the crowd as dinner scene don't just pick up this dino bait assistant and eat her up. They pick, they fling, they drop, they pick, they fling, they lose her, another dino picks up flung woman, then drops her into the water, she struggles, is picked up and dropped a couple more times and then a grislier end for both assistant and dino.

I have never seen such viciousness in killing. Not even in the b-grade slasher movies. Those movies make you want to eat cheese with popcorn. This one just shook me up.

I missed Jeff Goldblum's witty asides and the British Hunter who says, 'Clever Girl!' The only dialog that elicited any reaction from the audience was when the heroine rolls up her shirtsleeves and the hero says...

Wait a minute. You are going to see this mayhem packed franchise, aren't you? Now matter how dull the story is? Then I don't want to spoil that one good dialog for you. 

The creepy eye of the dino doesn't scare you any more. There is no music to make you wonder at the science and the amazing scenes of grazing dinos in front of you. You nod your head at the clever use of props from the earlier stories (worth one star the movie earns!) And you miss the familiar John Williams score

The surprise in the end is worth all the shock and hatred I felt through the movie. That itself earns a star on its own. The CGI is sophisticated, and that earns the half star. But the last fight is horrid and goes on and on. And you do wish one of the dinos flicked its tail in the direction of the heroine who seems to be posing there and hurt her, just a little bit, so you would go home happier and not scared.

But I was not alone in my fear. There were parents walking slowly towards the exit doors with children permanently fused to their bodies, their nails embedded on faces and backs and whatever surface of the parental units they could find. 

Of course, the franchise will make millions. But my heart will still lurch for the little girl who feeds the little Compsognathus in the not-so-great version of the movie and gets eaten up...


P.S. When Jurassic Park plays on TV, I watch it. When this one shows up, I'll be surely tuning in to one of the saas bahu sagas. Less scary. 




Thursday, June 04, 2015

Review: Dil Dhadakne Do


No Affair To Remember This Honeymoon Travels Milega Dobara


2 stars

Mini Review:

Ranveer Singh brings alive this predictable tale of a formulaic dysfunctional family. The story is boring and the pace is so slow it gives you all the time in the world to add characters from other movies just to stay awake. Then they add a talking dog to tell you how to feel. That's not cute. It's plain insulting.

Main Review:

Indian audiences are watching Queen, and Highway, and Piku, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Tanu Weds Manu Returns and even the formulaic but awesome fun movie called Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya. Why should we be subjected to a terrible stereotypical dysfunctional family tale?

Daddy-o is rich, plays golf with fawning friends, makes frequent business trips because he cannot keep his pants on.

(So boring yaar, bet a hundred that by the end of the movie, he will say, 'Mujhe maaf kar do!' to his pativrata, long suffering wife!)

Mommy san puts up with the affairs because she spends time lunching with the ladies. When insulted by her husband, she even eats chocolate as if she were in a Cadbury's Silk ad.

(That's so boringly old, darling! These days rich married women in her situation do yoga, and do yoga instructors, fly off to fat farms even... This was so Saheb Biwi Ghulaam 'gehne banwaao, gehne tudwaao!') 

Lunching ladies make snide remarks about Daddy-o and mommy san. Their expressions are straight out of TV saas bahu dramas.

(Don't even try to make excuses for their obvious nudge-nudge, wink-wink expressions!)

The husbands of lunching ladies are rich businessmen, but predictable too: large jolly ones who speak 'desi' English, dour rich ones who scowl at everything...

Daddy-o treats his brother (who works for him) very badly, is publicly rude to his wife, is rude to his daughter, his son... Everybody puts up with this boorishness because he has a factory that makes tiffin boxes!

I stopped caring here. Pink tiffin boxes did not have the right 'finish' unless daddy-o inspected them? And they were making deals with a row of Sri Lankans and arguing about the falling rupee? How many tiffin boxes were they making? No wonder son did not want his daddy's business. 

(There's nothing path-breaking there either!)

Ranveer Singh, plays the son whose problem is, 'Daddy is selling our airplane!'

But he deals with these rich dude problems with so much fun, you want to hug him even though he defaced that plane by scratching his name on the fuselage. No Delhi lad would deface his Ferrari, then why would daddy-o's darling son?

Daughter is married off to a rich expressionless dude who probably became that way because his mommy is a hypochondriac. Melman from Madagascar movies does a better job than she does.   

She is hurt and angry because daddy-o and mommy san did not put her name on the invite to the anniversary cruise the whole lot is about to embark upon.

The audience is also hurt and angry because a talking dog has been telling you this story because you are incapable of understanding these apparently never been seen before dysfunctional family problems! 

(Where is Crocodile Dundee when you need him? He would have silenced the dog that makes you think you are in a never-ending Satyamev Jayate episode about how to be good humans!)  

And why did they think the audience will accept a lecture from something that does not even know how to wipe that drool off their own face? Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon had the ghastly talking parakeet and assorted animals, and everyone hated it. Why do they think this will be less awful?

But I loved Ranveer Singh who makes a Superhuman effort to keep this boatload of predictable stuff afloat. Every time he appears on the screen you are swept away by his infectious energy. That's why this movie receives it's one star.

The second star is because I discovered religion in this movie. I have never prayed so hard for Steven Segal to appear from the kitchens of this cruise ship and rescue me from this boat Under Seige of the predictable stuff about uncles and aunties using their kids as marriage bait and business deals... I also prayed for Ranbir Kapoor from Bombay Velvet to appear and use the rest of the bullets in his Tommy guns on the characters here.

When you see a great cast like Anil Kapoor who plays daddy-o, wasted, made to mouth trite dialog about 'beti ki jagah uske husband ke saath hai' you hope that there will be at least one moment where he might say, 'Jhakaas!' or just dance the Ram Lakhan dance when they do the choreographed number...

Shefali Shah is a wonderful actor and her saucer eyes can emote all the hurt in the world. Why on Earth is she made to be such a doormat? My heart went out to her when she was eating Chocolate the way stereotypical hurt women are meant to... Didn't the chocolate get into her long manicured nails? Whatever happened to eating ice cream from the tub while watching Colin Firth? Or Daniel Craig emerge practically nude from the sea? The lack of imagination in creating these characters is astounding!

Priyanka Chopra with Ranveer Singh is brilliant, but otherwise she's just a pancake makeup laden doll. In fact everyone glistens with the tonnes of make up on them. Except Ranveer Singh. He is just amazing. With clothes and without. 

An analytical friend has a theory about film directors: They will make the same movie again and again if the first one clicks. Here too, alas, we are offered a hotch potch of Honeymoon Travels and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. We are taken with typical characters (they think quirky) to Turkey and Greece (mostly Turkey, because there are no stock shots of actors at the Parthenon here)... The whole exercise of taking them to these exotic locations is pointless when they could have had the the trite dialog they speak at the Blue Mosque very easily in the wedding setting of Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani. 

(How I yearned for Liam Neeson to show up and say, 'Can you see the white smoke from a chimney? I'm down there!' when the mandatory rooftop in Morocco scene appears in the film! How I wanted him to show up with a bloodied and bruised villain from Taken 2 at the Hammam where the women get to say even more trite things about how having babies will make everything okay...) 

The medical room in the cruise ship is a scene that shows us what the film could have been. But the talking dog appears again, and you begin to feel murderous.

The film descends into an Odessa Steps carnage from Battleship Potemkin shot by Priyadarshan and you look like this: 



There is no Richard Parker who will appear from underneath the tarp and eat up the Mehras from a very very trite, 'Hum Saath Saath Hain' ending.

The multiplexes should offer puke bags for the audiences who get seasick by all that predictability and waste of a 170 minutes of their lives. Go watch Mad Max or Piku once again. This shipboard affair is best forgotten. 




P.S. Ranveer, it was awesome heroic of you to jump off the cruise ship to chase after lady love. Next time, call her on her cell phone. Or stalk her on her FB page like normal people. Better yet, fly your daddy's plane into London... Until then I am going to put some salve on my forehead from the stings after all that facepalming...




Review: What We Did On Our Holiday


You want to have kids? Think again!
You don't ever want kids? Think again!

3 stars


Mini Review: 

You'll empathise with the frazzled and exhausted parents as you watch not one, not two, but three kids drive them crazy. You'll be aghast at the brats, you'll facepalm and you'll fall in love with them and you'll chuckle through this 93 minute tale of what this family did on their holiday!

Main Review:

Even before the kids predictably say, 'Are we there yet?' you have wanted to hug the mom who has tripped on toys and suitcases and things. You would want to hug the dad who is trying to get the kids into the car with assorted things: toys and books and bricks called Norman and locate the house keys and you suddenly realise that you would not want to be in the same car as these kids when trying to get out of Marol Naka on a weekday evening...

Your pity the parents - who are going through a rough patch in their marriage, and are dealing with 'a poxy effing c-word effing solicitor b-word' -  and you squash the urge to have kids. Then the kids do what kids do: speak the truth. Truths that make the grown-ups squirm and you want to laugh out loud in the theater because you were that kid once...

And you want to have as many kids as you possibly can and really quickly - like sea monkeys - so you can have a real laugh in your life.  

The kids must have been a handful during the making of the film because the writer director allows a very American 'granddad' said ever so often, when the grownups keep mentioning 'grandpa'. The kids and the grandpa have such a wonderful connect that you fight tears brimming in your eyes because it's so perfect.

And of course, such amazing views of Scotland, it will make you want to travel there and have kids. The highlands, the beaches, the sunsets, the skies... you almost understand why whiskey is made there...

This movie is so much fun, you will forgive the predictable end. I know I will watch it again when it appears on TV. But you should watch the movie. Especially if your marriage is anything like Abi and Doug's. And you wish you had or have kids like them...


P.S.: The most annoying thing about the movie was that the curse words were bleeped out by our brainless censors, and it is done so ham handedly, it feels like the characters blank out ever so often. It's like saying 'sala' is a gaali in Hindi, so you cannot even use it to refer to your wife's brother!


Review: The Age Of Adaline


Diabetes Alert! Much Mush Ahead! Gag-Inducing Romance!


2 stars


Mini Review:

If you're dating, then this is the movie you book tickets to. If you're part of a gaggle of girlfriends who want to gush over something, this would be it. If your heart is broken and need to believe in love again, this movie is what will have you sighing again. Yes, this is a diabetes inducing saccharine cinema. Cloyingly mushy. Be warned.


Main Review:

If it's so amazing why only 2 stars? That's because we knocked off a whole star because no one, and no one will really believe that someone is traumatised because they look young. The cosmetic surgery industry worldwide would want to know. Cosmetic companies touting skin creams would want to know. And the filmmakers want us to watch with a straight face, the story of Adaline who is unhappy because she cannot age?

She's beautiful, and though she's 108, she looks only 26. Should have been a horror movie where she kills her lovers when they discover she does not age. Now that would have been a fun watch. In this movie, she's kind and nice and intelligent. Makes us knock one more star off... The believability is zero.

This drop dead gorgeous man falls in love with her and while some of us are still getting over her aunty-type clothes, she runs away from him. Why would a 26 year old wear pencil skirts and blouses and carry a handbag? Whatever happened to jeans and backpacks most 26 year olds are wearing these days? Let's say she is an expert in running away when her secret is going to be exposed. Why would she weigh herself down by old-fashioned Gatsbyesque suitcases? Why would you carry piles and piles of photographs in albums which could make people wonder why a 26 year old was hoarding them... 

But the oxygen supply to your brain has been cut off by the love story unfolding in front of you. The old-fashioned-ness of the movie is so artistically shown, you want to reach out and touch the texture of the men's suits and pick a pastry off a tray. The hero has the most soulful eyes you have seen, and you know he's sunk the moment he gets into the elevator with her.

You are now sinking fast into the molasses of her past loves each time something reminds her... The gaggle of girlfriends is going, 'awwww!', and you're hearing kissing sounds from the dating couples, and sniffles from the heartbreak row... You are glad you have not asked the boyfriend to tag along (and if he has come with you, he would be fast asleep) because the hero has the most amazing latissimus dorsi and oblique external muscles you have seen on any man...

But it gets mushier and when Harrison Ford appears in the most awful glasses seen on any man, you want to beat someone up. But you are truly sunk because Indy is running towards her. You don't care. You are imagining him running towards you.

Who cares about the hokey science at this point?   





Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review: Tanu Weds Manu Returns


A Joyful Return Of The Crazy Newlyweds


4 happy stars!


Mini Review:

It's a mad return of wilful Tanu and stoic Manu and a mindblowingly brilliant cast of lovable characters led by the amazingly talented Deepak Dobriyal. It is a wild, colorful, people filled ride which makes for a fun watch. The dialog sparkles with wit and you'll want to watch it again to write down words and use them for your own marriage!

Main Review:

Do not miss the beginning of this movie. Do not start eating pop corn before you the opening credits, or you will be spilling the corn on the floor after hearing the corniest, the maddest argument in the war of the sexes after Pyar Ka Punchnama.

Do not take people who are often heard saying, 'I don't understand Hindi' to watch the movie with you. You might clobber them with something heavy because they won't understand the movie. It's not that the movie uses complicated Hindi. This movie joyfully celebrates the languages and the screenwriter Himanshu Sharma plays with the language like you have never heard before. 'Arhar ki daal mein koi ajino moto daalta hai?' is funny only when you understand the language. I'm dying to tell you the brilliant conversation between Jimmy Shergill and Mohommed Zeeshan Ayyub but I will let you discover it yourself!

Do not worry if your attention span is low and you miss the funny lines that come at you in rapid succession. You should just watch the movie again. I will too. And watch it whenever it shows up on TV. This movie is that engaging.

Besides the star script, the casting is absolutely top notch. Deepak Dobriyal is perfect as the hero's side-kick, the voice of reason, the starter of mad schemes, the friend everyone needs to have. You laugh with him even when he's joyfully claiming, 'Saath hazaar ka ticket thaa naa' that's why he's taking in the sights instead of doing the job he was sent to do! And you love him when he's happily reacting to KK Raina's logic of drinking alcohol. 

Then there's the ever amazing Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub who  has the best lines as a lad friendzoned. His, 'Paan laga!' is the most heartfelt frustrated request in the movies! That brings us to the jilted at altar Jimmy Shergill. He's too good looking to be claiming that he's not had a chance of riding the ghodi! And you like him simply because he can be the Avasthi-ji who is old fashioned enough to not drink in the morning, and also be the Avasthi-ji who carries the gas cylinder simply because Tanu is doing what she's doing. 

Swara Bhaskar and Eijaaz Khan as Payal and Jassi are as adorable as ever. Datto's brother played by Rajesh Sharma is as good as all his other roles. His reaction after giving away his box of matches is matchless! Even the lawyer who explains the difference between a different types of legal notices is well cast! Manu's mom does not have much screen time, but her nagging which is triggered off by her husband's pony tail is the funniest you have ever heard. Tanu's parents are just as scandalised by her in this movie as they were in the first one. That brings us to the brilliant Tanu Trivedi - Kangna Ranaut. She excels in a double role and the hard work she has put in (along with the director, of course) to change her body language as well as diction shows. You would be scratching your head and wondering why she did the roles she did in the movies before Queen. Madhavan is as stoic as ever, but his Manu is meant to be a foil to the wild Tanu and he does all this and more rather well. Kangna as Datto is even better and you love her for her 'sports quota' talk as well as her feminine pride when wearing earrings and sharing home made food with Manu...

Even though there are many moments in the movie that touch your heart, nothing prepares you for the final confrontation between Tanu and Datto.  

I have given away too much, isn't it? Most reviews will. Do yourself a favor. Just watch the movie. You still want to know why it does not get five stars? Well, the second half sort of becomes too much of a Khichdi because there are too many stories ends that need to be tied up. But what a tasty khichdi it is, so it does not matter. You should be like the irrepressible Pappi (Deepak Dobriyal), shrug your shoulders and say, 'Dhat!' 

Go on, book those tickets now. Not just for yourself, but also for those unhappily married couples who probably have sex once a bhai dooj! Who knows, you might bump into all the movie critics who would have enjoyed the movie and want to 'Lol' again! 









Review: Tomorrowland


How do I sell to thee... Let me count the ways!

2 stars

Mini Review:

This movie has great ideas, and the vision is spectacular, but you are never really away from the marketing guys. Disney sells, sells and sells everything here. 

Main Review:

Is Tomorrowland a new theme park Disney is building in the corn belt? This movie surely felt like that! It could have been full of fun had the marketing guys not made the selling so obvious!

How do I sell to thee... Let me count the ways...

There is the 'It's a small world after all' ride... There are pins Disney is hoping kids are going to fight over, hoping parents will buy the pin cases as well, marketed as pencil boxes and NASA and Tomorrowland hats kids are going to scream for. Clothes that the young girl wears will be available at the Disney store, and her bicycle and her remote controlled toy helicopter too... For parents with deep pockets, the Athena robot will be available and kids will want it only if it is in its final shutdown moments (the Disney technicians will charge it extra to make it flit from one language to another randomly). There will be neon lit laser guns - toys of course - for kids of ages 4 and up, neon rings extra, batteries not included. Of course mothers could order wigs for their kids so they look like young George Clooney

Of course the new theme park will employ guides who look like George Clooney, who will demonstrate all kinds of gadgets in different rides for which you will have to wait in an endless queue. But you've been to every Disney park with your brats, so you will be used to waiting.

In the movie you too will learn to wait for the fun parts. Yes, there are some really cool fun parts. But the marketing guys are busy figuring out whether people do want to sit in a bathtub and...

There is so much preaching between the fun parts that you will be forced to pay for someone to sit next to you to wake you up after the preaching about environment, about optimism, about the power of dreams, about not lying to parents, about feeding wolves etc., is over. Some of you would have smashed your expensive smartphones on your foreheads after all that preaching and will regret not paying someone to wake you up for the fun parts...

There is a fun movie hidden between all the obvious marketing gimmicks and the preaching. But at 130 minutes, it is too much of a treasure hunt. With George Clooney looking like he might sport a dad bod and that he showed up at the shoot simply because someone had a gun to his head, this becomes even more annoying. But the young kids are great watch and it is unfair to them that the grown ups are either look bored or are terrible baddies dressed in really shoddy clothes. 

Those who have kids, and must take them to watch Tomorrowland, make sure you take lots of moolah to the movies. Disney will probably set up a store to sell all those goodies right inside the multiplex!

Review: Surkhaab


Cool Kabootar Story!

2 stars

Mini Review:

Not very often do you come across a bi-lingual movie that seamlessly moves from Canada to Punjab and back again, telling the story of human trafficking without making misery the hero or making violence the teller of the tale.

Main Review:

If a person sports 'Surkhaab ke par', it describes their aspirations to 'fly too high', 'dream too big'. This movie tells us a story of a girl who dreams a dream and beyond all hope makes it work. 

A 'kabootar' is a person who enters a country on a tourist visa and then chooses to live illegally long after the visa expires. 

This movie is about a young woman from Punjab who sneaks into Kaneda with an illegally obtained passport, escapes from traffickers, deals with smugglers, rescues her brother and makes us the audience a part of her story. She's not your traditional heroine, but you take an instant liking to her. We understand her story, we understand her motives and although we might be horrified at the exploitation of emigrants at the hands of agents, you are never forced to avert your eyes by scenes of torture or misery.

We have seen many tales of migration in the news that are epic tragedies, many movies that make tales of human misery their central theme.

The heroine is not your usual Bollywood heroine. She's a spunky Punjabi kudi who quietly makes her point and we like her from the moment she takes the baddie in front of his dad. 

We sort of guess the story it unfolds, and sometimes the pace slows down so much we want to shake her and say things like, 'Stop talking so much, just open the stupid bag!' But at no point do we lose empathy for the girl. We might facepalm when we hear, 'I always come here when I need calm,' because they need to use the adrenaline generated by the event instead of calm. 

The baddies are believable, and so are the good guys. You sort of wonder why they are smuggling from India to Canada, but then that thought just vanishes because we want the heroine to get the better of the bad guys.

The heroine surprises you at every turn by her presence of mind and you begin to enjoy her smarts. And you just like her more for her resourcefulness.

What is really interesting about this movie is the seamless back and forth movement from Punjab to Canada, the past and the present, and how well it tells us her story, explains her need to get away from home, her dreams and aspirations. It's a cinematic task not so easy. And here, it is a very neat story-telling device.

Yes, the story drags a bit and the end is too 'nice', but you don't hate the movie at any point.

I am giving it two stars, one for the casting of the heroine Barkha Madan, and the second to the style of telling of the tale. 

  





Review: BIG GAME

Indian Censors, kusipää!
should have been 2 stars...

Mini review:

Had the Indian Censors understood how the Finnish director had used the curse: 'Motherfucker!' made iconic by Samuel L Jackson and treated everything else in the movie with a great sense of humor, they would not have bleeped it out, and let the movie be the fun movie it could have been...

Main Review:

In every movie since Pulp Fiction, audiences have clapped to Samuel L Jackson's use of the word, 'Motherfucker!' until the moronic Indian Censors chose to bleep it out because of some moral code. Not that we did not watch him mouth the word when it was silenced, but it's as if you went to the Africa to watch the Big Five in the flesh, and then someone put headphones over your head and made you hear nursery rhymes! I am sure the Finnish director does not know how asinine the Indian Censors are.

So it's a coming of age movie for a 13 year old boy, and I'm sure it was meant to be inspiring and fun and adventurous. I laughed at the idea of Indian mothers taking their kids to the movie and running out with their obese kids and their smartphones fifteen minutes into the movie, worried that the movie where a kid is left alone in the woods all night might affect their kids. One the way back home, they would stuff their kids with cheese parathas and assure them that their mommies would never leave them alone, ever.

Other Indian moms would use this film as a warning to their naughty kids: See what happens when you leave mommy's hand and go wandering about alone in a mall? See what happens when you go to play without mommy or the maid? See those scratches on the young boy's face? He will be scarred for life! No pretty girl will marry you...

It is an amusing film which breaks stereotypes of all American President movies you have seen, but it is a bit of a stretch. The action is fun enough, but you wish they'd hurry up and finish the damned story...

If you catch the movie with general panic caused by the premise of letting a lad stay overnight in a jungle alone among moms, then you might enjoy it. It was a tedious watch for me.