Friday, May 27, 2016

review: VEERAPPAN


BORE-APPAN


1 and ½ stars

Mini Review:

The movie spans only the period of April 2004 until October 18, 2004, but it feels like you have lived the life of Veerappan, in the jungles, surrounded by mosquitoes (and bad dialog and silly characters)... Even though the man who plays Veerappan looks spot on like the dacoit, Ram Gopal Varma misses this one by a mile.

Main Review:

The story plods on in the jungles and you hear constant gunfire between the soldiers and the dacoits. After the first hour, you wish they’d all kill each and finish it all. The documentary style narration of the events unfolding on the screen will make you run out for coffee. Especially because the story is mostly this:

The cops plan an action and the dacoits are one step ahead. Veerappan always kills the cops by beheading them with an ax, always telling the cops why he wants to kill them mercilessly. You stifle a giggle because no one checked the dialog: I will kill you so mercilessly, you will remember me.

Erm… If you are going to kill me, how will I remember anything? Yes, sometimes he does add: Dunia yaad rakhegi,

You want to ask: You are killing someone deep in the jungles, how will the world get to know?

But we are not looking for logic. We are happy that the actors of the hit  TV Show Crime Patrol get screen time as cops in the movie as well. The hero of the movie is Sunil Joshi and he’s still trying to sound like a cross between Amrish Puri and Amitabh Bachchan and failing to deliver 70s style bombastic dialog. Alas, he’s too short to carry off any dialog or look like a mastermind police officer who finally gets the dreaded dacoit.

The man who plays Veerappan, though, looks like he was born to the part. Creepy and cruel, he manages to make you cringe initially with his violence. But the story is so tedious, you really don’t care if the cops win or the dacoits. A shining beacon of relief is Usha Jadhav who plays Muthulaxmi, Veerappan’s wife. But she cannot carry the flag alone, can she? A couple of aerial shots  in the ravines and by the waterfalls make you wonder if there was something there. But the movie is mostly stupid overacting by supposedly evil characters like Arun who make you wish he actually snaps his neck while giving in to his kink.


(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Review: ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS


Looked At Alice And Found Her Wanting


2 stars


Mini Review:


All the characters you love in Alice are still there for the headcount and it’s a brand new adventure. It’s fun and puns and lots of color, but then a tad let down when you realise the arch villain is actually a softy inside… The Magic seems to be gone...


Main Review:


When Johnny Depp is the mad Hatter, you know there will be the best kind of make-up and color and coolest hair and the wildest hats. When Alice is involved you will enjoy a wild ride through the most un-possible things. The characters you love are all there, but the zing is gone.


The wild thrill you felt when flamingoes were brought out for a game, when the card soldiers shuffled, when the wicked queen with the biggest head screamed, ‘Off with their heads!’ is sort of missing in this version of Alice.


Is it because Alice is now all grown up and it’s no longer the wonder you felt as a child that you feel when she does things? She’s grown up, and it seems a tad silly for her to jump into the mirror as a grown up. She suddenly seems… How do you put it… ‘Capable’. And that word takes away some of the fun from the adventure. It seems all so very ‘purposeful’ now. It’s like ‘I know I can save the Hatter, and this is how I’m going to do it.’


The CGI is all top notch, and the clothes are colorful (as they should be!) and the humor is gentle and built in to the plot, but the villains seem less villainous and you feel sorry for Time - the baddie because he’s really dying when the giant clocks begins to disintegrate. And if Alice is a grown up (a captain of a sea-faring ship, no less) how come she behaves like such an ingenue when she is in Wonderland? The story tries hard to keep your attention wandering to the phone clock, but it takes too long and the end is bit too tame…


Watch it because the kids are on their school breaks and you have a need for a nostalgia break.

(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)



Review: PHOBIA

Aankhon mein Darr Hai Sahab!


2 stars

Mini Review:


What do you do when you are suffering from Agoraphobia? You are too anxious to step out of your comfort zone and too panicky to remain inside the house. When the lead character is Radhika Apte, then the audience feels her fears (what large eyes she has!), her panic attacks, and begin to feel what everyone around her feels…


Main Review:


If you are a fan of horror films, you notice the signs and clues right away, but if you are a novice then you will be swallowing hard, gasping for air in this claustrophobic little film. The film comes out of nowhere and wipes out our bad memories of Indian horror thrillers which mostly consist of skimpily clad buxom women in white sarees wandering about forgotten castles carrying a candle that casts weird shadows of ghouls as the wind screams through the night…


Radhika Apte is an apt choice and she delivers a powerful performance as someone haunted by her anxieties. Her only family is a sister who is pissed off at her because she won’t open the door, and her child had to wait outside without food and water for four hours. Her not acknowledged boyfriend takes her away to an apartment for giving her sleeping pills and tells her to start living instead of giving in to her fears. Radhika seems normal enough mostly but something or the other triggers off a rough panic attack. And the house offers plenty of opportunities.


You begin to feel sorry for the boyfriend who really takes care of her and looks after her in her most awful moments. It is when the movie drags on and on about her panicky state that you wish it were shorter. You also begin to notice that the knife seems to be very handy. It is always within reach. Did no one think of removing sharp objects from near her, knowing she could harm herself or others?


Sigh. It’s practically a horror film, so you let logic stay out of the theater. The reveal is good fun and even though you figured it out ages ago, you nod your head in agreement when people around you say, ‘End was good, haan!’

Review: FREDERICK

HEROINE KICKS BUTT, HERO CRIES, 
VILLAIN RAPES HERO, EVERYONE DIES


zero stars


Mini Review:


A young gay teenager watches his love die, and grows up to be the boss of a monstrous girl smuggling gangster. The boss is attracted to a young man who reminds him of his teenage love. But the young man is searching for his sister and his girlfriend who are in the clutches of girl smugglers and their boss. The encounter is sleazy and the end awful. Thankfully everyone dies.


Main Review:


The movie begins with a long haired lad in a hospital in Mussourie narrating how he got there to two cops from Bombay. He tells us a tale of honeymooners/lovers being drugged and then separated, how the lads find themselves in pools of someone else’s blood and cops threaten them, how loss of memory (thanks to drugs!) makes them run home not worrying about their wives/girlfriends.


We are then shown how this lad wandered about crying on snow covered hillsides, posing on rocks looking at skies, crying, wandering some more in trucks (presumably looking for his lost sister and wife, crying, hallucinating about his wife (heroine in many, many evening gowns, inappropriate for the snowy climate) standing on the roadside (shouldn’t he stop the truck?), running from tree cover to tree cover (the truck with the lad driving away from her!) while KK and Shaan and Sunidhi Chauhan sing pointless lyrics like ‘tum mujhme ho, main tujhme hoon’ so loudly you think the song would cause an avalanche…


Then he spots a bad guy who was at the drug party. And we see a chase up and down the hilltown. The baddie is caught, but he hits the lad with a stone. He loses his memory again.


Before you can say ‘Whaaa!’, there is another flashback of the soft focus wife who has a plan because they need to look for the missing sister. Good thing she is capable, because the lad is crying. She turns out to be a regular Jane Bond, killing five baddies (she’s been kidnapped after the drug party, remember?) and helping other kidnapped and still drugged girls from the dreaded clutch of the girl smuggling gang.


If you are confused by this point, there is helpful loud music that will prevent you from falling asleep and will give you audio clues as to what to feel at that particular moment. You have been shocked by the cruelty of the big boss of the baddies already. Now the lad gets to meet him after he reaches the den of the baddies with the help of a fancy tracking device that looks like a watch. Never mind how he came by such tech, you are busy wondering how the lad manages to cry when he’s beating the baddies up. But it is of no use. The big bad boss says Frederick won’t let him kill the lad.


Meanwhile the wife is caught, and killed, the lad has been caught because he wants to find Frederick. Frederick is the boy who died in the prologue of the movie 19 years ago. By the time you wonder why the lad is still crying, the boss has drugged the lad and has raped him. Now he has a reason to cry, you think. But you wonder who Frederick is… The drugged lad discovers that his wife is dead and cries some more and urges the boss who’s now wearing bangles to fight. Bangled boss is Frederick! So he won’t fight. Lad is still in tears, but takes off the bangles, beats up the now pissed off boss and kills him. Then dies in the hospital while narrating the story.


He’s still crying when the cop from Bombay goes up to him - we assume that he will do the classic ‘closing of eyes’ when a person dies - but no! The Bombay cop pats the dead lad’s head and leaves…

The audience comes out of the theater, deafened by the background score, full of tears after having wasted two hours of their lives.

P.S. There's a KHACHHHACCKK sound every sixty seconds (in the two hour film) as though someone is taking pictures with a gigantic DSLR camera. There is no explanation why the sound should be there, because there are no cameras to be seen anywhere. Unless it is a device to distract us from the fact that Prashant Narayanan likes to wear lipstick and plays wannabe Sadashiv Amrapurkar from Sadak in his every movie. Thankfully he's not cross-dressing in this one.



(this review except the post script appears in www.nowrunning.com)

Review: WAITING

You've Heard Songs About Waiting For The Beloved,
Now Watch It On Film...


2 and ½ stars


Mini Review:


What happens when two strangers who meet because their loved ones are in the hospital and they’re waiting for news of their health? The need for human understanding, how you connect with the hospital staff, the madness of reading up on the disease… It’s all there. Human and real and funny and serious.


Main Review:


Yes, it’s a film made for the festival circuit. So it does have a certain sense of tragedy about it, but yet it affirms humanity in the midst of the clinical ‘You have raise your eyebrow in concern, but lie, say we are waiting for lab reports, or that the next 48 hours are crucial’...


Naseeruddin Shah makes up for all his awful roles in movies like Sona Spa by essaying the role of Professor Shiv Natraj whose wife (Suhasini Maniratnam) is in the hospital and he is waiting for the doctors to tell him that she will be okay. You see his familiarity with hospital routine, the staff knows him as well, and you like his optimism.


Kalki Koechlin on the other hand flies in Bombay, is young and brash and annoyed because she is not getting any answers. The two strangers meet and while they learn from each other, the audience also learns how to learn with a gamut of emotions that come to a caregiver at the hospital. As Naseeruddin Shah puts it in the movie, ‘Then you become zen like me’


The ethical questions that are raised are very very universal. Who decides what is quality of life? Do caregivers have the capability of making the choice for the patients? When do you turn off a ventilator - when the money runs out, or when hope does?


The second half seems to stagnate a bit, with never-ending and repeated flashbacks. I hated Naseer confessing to being guilty of cheating on wife part simply because it brought back needless reference to Masoom. Also, the lad who plays the part of Kalki's husband simply annoys me by his screen presence and that's a wholly personal thing, but the story stays true to the premise. And it’s a good thing.


The two characters are so different to each other, their interaction teaches us so much about ourselves. The supporting cast - the irritatingly ‘stay positive’ girlfriend, the concerned office colleague who cares but is socially awkward, the doctor who seems very detached from his patients, the neighbor who sends food, family members who don’t understand - are all so wonderful you nod your head in the darkness of the theater when you watch them on screen. You know people who are exactly that. You understand the frustration of the lead character Kalki who says, ‘I have thousands of followers on Twitter and hundreds of friends on Facebook, but I am here alone.’

This may not earn hundreds of crores on the box office. But it charms you with its quiet elegance.


(This review sans the personal comments in para 5, appears on www.nowrunning.com )

Review: ANGRY BIRDS

WHY SO ANGRY?

3 stars (but obviously, gamers!)

Mini Review:

You’ve played the game, and now it’s time to sit back and laugh at the antics of the pigs and the birds. Correction. You will laugh and guffaw and hi-five people sitting next to you and choke on the coffee because the film is very cleverly written for grown ups. The kiddies will love the birds and the pigs…


Main Review:


The quality of animation films that we are seeing on the screens today is superlative and when you see how much work has gone into the details, how every bird feather and every piggy tail have been carefully created, you automatically wait for the credits to roll, out of respect.


The story is familiar to those who have played the game: pigs steal the bird eggs, and the birds blow down the pigs’ houses.


But it’s so much fun! The birds are simply amazing! Their babies and all the birds are so cute you want to go out and buy plushie toys of them all! Red, Bomb and Chuck are your old friends, but now you’d want Matilda and Terence and Judge Peckinpah and all the piggies too! How can I forget the Hug Trader and The Mighty Eagle and The Crossing Guard.


The love apart, the story has such awesome references for grown ups, you would want to see the movie again to enjoy the ‘what did I just see?!’ moments. It’s clever, writing that makes guffaw. When the Bird Salesman greets Red with, ‘How are you?’ casually, Red replies, ‘I’m horrible!’ It’s this kind of unexpected stuff that makes you smile. There’s more fun with words and the clever lines come at you from all angles. You cannot but be amazed at the controlled mayhem when the final battle takes place and you see Piggy homes come toppling down. Even in Piggy Land, Chuck’s landing is one fast, funny sequence.


Watch this film not because you know the birds rescue the eggs, watch it because how much fun they have when they’re rescuing the eggs. Watch this film not because you played the video game, watch it because you loved playing the game. Watch it also because you don’t want to be a grown up who does not understand the fun behind Red saying, ‘How many stars on a scale of one to three do you give me?' 



(This review appears in www.nowrunning.com)

 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review: SARBJIT


SARBJIT Is SARDARD Despite Some Shining Moments

1 and 1/2 star


Mini Review:


How do you tell someone who has suffered for over 20 years that their suffering looks fake and melodramatic on screen? How do you tell someone that the YouTube videos of the real person are so much more powerful than anything that is in the movie? But Richa Chaddha and Randeep Hooda make up by their silences in this otherwise noisy and shrill film.


Main Review:


Sarbjit was a poor farmer who lived in one of the border villages in Punjab. He drifted into Pakistan and was arrested and mistakenly identified as a terrorist. His sister tried for 20 long years for his release. This bio-pic attempts to bring that story to life because even today there are prisoners on both sides of the border incarcerated because they drifted across the porous borders. It’s a brave attempt, but the treatment is so melodramatic and so shrill, you come away with a heavy aching head, instead of a heavy heart at the tragedy of the peoples from both sides of the border.


Aishwarya Rai plays Sarbjit’s sister in this second attempt at a comeback. The criticism of her shrill act in Jazba, alas, has not reached either the filmmaker or the actor. Her attempts at sounding passionate about getting her brother released either sound shrill or hilarious, depending on whether or not you can speak Punjabi. The trouble with filmmakers is that they want the actors to sound authentic and then there are no checks on the ever changing accent. The audience would have been just as happy to have heard her speak Hindi. In fact, it would have been easier on the ears. And actors too are so blinded by the ‘need to be authentic, a role that has no room for make-up, a de-glam avatar’ that they just get carried away. It's the audience that ends up losing more than patience.


But not everything is lost. Just like the family of the man in prison, the movie also has a ray of hope. Richa Chadda does a stupendous job by not saying much by way of dialog, but speaking volumes with her eyes. She saves the film and how! As Sarbjit’s wife, she deals with everything that life dishes out to her with a calm acceptance that is majestic. Her eyes are so stormy and troubled, your heart automatically goes out to her. Sarbjit, the husband, played by Randeep Hooda is a brilliant foil to Richa Chaddha’s wife. He’s managed to transform himself physically as Matthew Mcconaughey did in Dallas Buyer’s Club. He looks tortured and hurt and broken by a prison system that is cruel.


One has seen torture in action movies and it doesn’t matter so much because you know that it is a chance for the hero to show off his muscles, and that he will escape and beat up the baddies. But the torture here is needlessly graphic and it adds to the melodrama of the film. And seriously, the concrete box scenes are just unbelievable. And the politics of this film is ghastly. One doesn’t want to use 'melodramatic', 'unbelievable' again and again for the film, but that’s the effect the narrative has on the audience. If you watch the real life sister speak after the death of her brother (it is available on YouTube), you will find two and a half hours of the movie is just needless drama. The photographs during the end credits manage to bring an almost lump at the tragedy but it is too little too late.

 


(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com )

      

Review: X MEN: APOCALYPSE


Fassbender or Mcavoy? The heart's Doing A Calypso

3 and a 1/2 stars


Mini Review:

Just when you thought superhero movies were overdone with CGI and Hans Zimmer music, comes a brand new story of X men when they collide and collude with the first mutant ever. Unlike Captain America where you also took sides with warring superheroes, here you step ahead and invest emotionally with the good and the bad.

Main Review:

Your favorite superhero mutants are back! Still embarrassed to turn blue, unable to harness their powers, mad as hell and still trying to blend in with humans. And you love them because you discover new things about them. What made them angry, or loving, or cynical, or evil. It’s this kind of back stories told well that brings the fans - young and old alike - to the movies. If you are one, you will smile and say, ‘Aaah!’ with pleasure, ‘So that’s why it is That!’

Even if you are not a fan or have missed the first five films of the superheroes, you can simply enjoy the events unfolding on the screen. And by jove they are larger than life! Yes, it is loud and full of action, but there’s cheese too! Fun dialog that match the impossible antics of the superheroes. Sounds like a spoiler, but when you’re having fun, you don’t ask why someone has to hover in the air in order to rebuild something broken when others are standing on the ground to help do the same…

The story here takes us back to the first mutant whose powers increase with time… And the heroes we know and love are scattered, and in hiding. How everyone (or some!) joins their powers and defeats the bad guy is what you see on screen. If you know the story, why watch? Hmm… Herein lies the fun. Every single time this comic book franchise manages to keep you glued and tuned in. It has spectacular special effects (and you can see that Hollywood excels at it) and music that keeps you engrossed in the action.

Such a pleasure to watch a movie that all kinds of little reminders of earlier stories meshed beautifully in a brand new way. And a creepy, larger than life villain who does all kinds of things with…





(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)



Friday, May 13, 2016

Review: BUDDHA IN A TRAFFIC JAM



Buddha Fails Drive Test, Creates Traffic Jam


zero stars 


Mini Review:

An arse is just an arse even though you call it a derriere. This film pretends to understand all kinds of problems and then offers solutions that are so laughable you don't even feel road rage that could smash Buddha's windscreen.

Main Review:

The movie starts with a title slide for the video: Bastar 2000 BC and there is a black and white video of a tall, rake-thin man chopping wood with an iron ax. The film then morphs into Bastar 2014 and there's still a tall, rake-thin man chopping wood with a wooden ax. So things haven't changed for the Bastar tribals. Before the thought 'maybe they like it that way' pops in your head you are taken to a title slide called, 'Chapter One: I am a Bitch'

You choke over the coffee and watch drunk MBAs from Indian Institute Of Business (they claim to be the best business institutes of the country) smoking ciggies and other things while share banal ideas and then their friend suddenly begins to sing: I'm a bitch, my dad is rich... Instead of guffawing at such needy attention grabbing drunkenness, the MBAs seem to like it as if it were concert of the year. 

There's not a shred of anything original after that: politician leering at tribal wife, torturing husband, pink bra campaign (they collected bras, but did they send the delicate bits to the goons who blacken the faces of the singing drunk babe, the film does not say.) and wait things happen in chapters not original either: Freakanomics! Blink! Red Salute!

The pink bra social media campaign brings the focus on to young lad with accent earned via IIT and New York and now at MBA. He's Arunoday Singh. There's just one professor in a largely empty college (Anupam Kher at his unintentionally funniest best) pretending to teach how everyone needs to be corrupt for progress, the government, the naxals fighting the government and even the Bastar tribals. 

WOW! Here's the connect we were waiting for. And you don't have to have a degree to guess right here that there's a link between the naxals and the prof. We hurtle through predictability and bump into Mahie Gill. She used to be gorgeous, and possessed acting chops. Now she is simply meat, exposing her breast and faking orgasms in movies. It doesn't matter if the naxals call her the politburo puppet.

Meanwhile they remember it's an MBA college, so we get to see presentations and pitching of marketing ideas, and slides... How to save the tribals by finding funding for their pots. Wait! Painted pots? Don't the bastar tribals already sell Terracota pots and statuettes all over the world? And Dhokra art? 

The naxal philosophy is so flimsy, it was probably found on cereal boxes. 'We need a revolution.', 'Guns are our minds and thoughts are our ammunition', 'we need an army of incorruptible youth to fight the system'... and the audience is like, 'whaaaat?'

Yes, yes. Anupam Kher's nasty naxal friends want the young student leader (how did he become a student leader?) Arunoday Singh dead. And Mahie Gill finds her faked orgasm moment before she blows herself up. Literally. But that's not all. Prof says, 'We're everywhere. (We have infiltrated) The government, lawyers, doctors, your best friend, your bus driver... And we are waiting for a bloodbath on the streets...

When you stop laughing at all this nonsense you are glad the naxals operate deep in the forests and will not watch this crap or they would become turn into Sanghis. Also happy for the tribals who shun this sort of civilization and hide in the forests. 

Just because you know pet phrases like Salva Judum and Bastar and Laal Salam it doesn't mean you have a higher purpose, that you are catering to anything more than young people who can afford to buy 250 rupee popcorn. 

p.s. Maoists/Naxals are atheists, poor Buddha got embroiled in this movie to give it some sanity! Methinks a New York Bar named after him is a better bet... 





    

Review: AZHAR


Nakko Banao Yaaron Aisi Picturaan! 

Ek star 


Mini Review:

Kaikoo Banate aisi picturaan? Na dil ko touch karta na kidney par leke piss marne ka man karta. Aur Azza Bhai sincerely try maarta, lekin kaun logaa maan lete ki woh makkhan se masoom hote? Aur sab effects ghar ke computer pe banaye lagte. Aise me Jungle Book dekh lete kya? Faltu mein ma ki kirkiri...


Main Review:

Audienece Ko Haula Samjha Kya?

Dekho, apun parsu paida nahi huye! Everyone knows that the team took bribes, they were all involved. And it was not just Indians but bribes were taken across all teams. This righteous anger for Azza does not touch anyone emotionally. Logaan Cricket ku bhagwan maante, aise mein dil ko chhoo lene wali koi baat kehte toh hamare baingan mein bhi bharta banta.

Special Effects Ka Achaar Mausi Ne Daala Kya?

Roz cricket dekhte hum logaan. Musi ke pani ko ganga maan sakte, lekin fillum ka cricket fake-ich lagta. It's just tacky.

Jaise Film Brands Ko Bechi Waise-ich Azza bhai Desh Ko...

Gitanjali jewels lovingly bought for wife. Macho underwear and undershirts prominently displayed... And even brought into dialog. If that is not laughable, what is?

Acting Aur Make Up Kya Thop Diye Miyaan, Aankhon Ko Bukhaar Hota

Lara Dutta should not shoot on days when recovering from cosmetic procedures. If she claims she's naturally beautiful then the director should make sure her cheeks are not unusually puffed up. The same goes for Prachi Desai. If she's going to cry so much, the touch up should not look like a fresh coat of war-paint. Nargis Fakhri too looks florid sometimes and pale in other scenes. 

And it's not only the women, but actors playing Azhar's teammates look off as well. The prosthetics/hair piece on Azza's lawyer's head looks as authentic as Donald Trump's hair.

Azza Court Mein Dus Saal Gaya. Film Bhi Utnich Lambi Lagti.

The trial drags on and on and on and no one believes anything that's happening. The film becomes tedious and you don't care whether Azhar was innocent or no. Azza may have played 99 tests, but the trial earns the film a duck.

Lite Lene Ki Koshish Kee. Lekin Mamu, Hard Luck...