Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: NOAH

3 stars

NO it’s not religious, and AAAAH for the spectacular effects

Mini Review:

The hero is so droolworthy, the movie needs a flood of biblical proportions to cleanse the planet! It’s a very long film, and violent, but so spectacular, you cannot miss it.

Main Review:

With half the audience drooling over the hero, you know you are going straight to hell, because the origin of the story is biblical. And that part is beautifully shot too. After all, who wouldn’t like a God that can make a flower grow on barren burnt out land? And yes, I know I am giving away a piece of sigh-inducing special effect, but it made me want to believe in a God that made such magic of nature happen.

That said, the movie is more about ethical questions than religion. And the questions are rather contemporary given how much we really need to care for the environment today.

Broody and graying piece of handsomeness, Russell Crowe has this screen presence which is larger than life. He dominates the awesome locations (Iceland, here I come!) and we forget that this is a story meant to instill fear and faith in religion. That story was made fodder for spoofs the moment Cosby questioned, ‘How do we know a male mosquito from a female one?’

Jennifer Connelly in cleverly camouflaged jeans and boots looks so fragile when compared to Crowe that we know God chose well, chromosomally, at least.

The story moves at a thoughtful pace, and that explains why it is two hours and eighteen minutes long, but personally I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, I wanted to know more about the snake skin than watch the violence of men shown on screen.

And it is violent. It’s not about man killing man, or the trading of women for food, the depravity of the humanity that shocked me, it was the tearing of food that made me drop my popcorn. It is a film not meant for the faint hearted.

Yes, the slow pace will make your head wander a bit. You will begin questioning God’s design skills when the ark turns out to look more like a container that has fallen out of a ship than a humongous boat sent by God himself to save all the creatures on Earth. But then, you think. this is a rescue mission. If Robert Redford in a movie can have his boat destroyed by a container, maybe a gigantic container is what can actually survive the biblical flood!

After Gladiator, Russell Crowe gives you, the women in the audience, one more chance to count the lines on his craggy face, empathise with his dilemma, share the magic, look into his eyes and even wipe the sweat off his brow when he jolted awake from nightmares… For the men in the audience, a word: your never ending cricket matches feel exactly like that to womenfolk. So when you see them drool in the movie, hand them a tissue to wipe the excess, or just step out quietly and bring back coffee and enjoy the spectacle on the big screen...


Review: SABOTAGE



half star


The Career Is Dead. Really.


Mini Review:


For an Arnie fan, this film is truly a sabotage of his filmography, proof that there is only muscle between his ears. Mindless bullet pumping and not a single memorable Arnie line. Ugh!


Main Review:


While movies like Expendables still manage to get a few chuckles (and groans), Escape Plan made you think that there was more than some life left in the old dawgs Arnie and Stallone, Sabotage proves that there is nothing intelligent about choosing a film which has so many large loopholes, circus seals could jump through them with ease.


And when it’s an Arnie movie, his fans don’t care about narrative structure or sound design or art direction as long as the bad guys are being killed spectacularly and Arnie spouts lines like, ‘I’ll be back’ or ‘Hasta la vista, baby!’


This movie offers nothing memorable. Nothing. Unless you count Arnie randomly chopping up celery as surprising and awesome.


Yes, there is plenty of blood and gore. And entrails of men nailed to the ceiling. But that’s excitement for a different kind of audience. Even Arnie is rendered speechless and just grimaces at the body parts and blood. And when the sabotage is revealed (like you really care whodunit), you cannot believe they would go through so much trouble to kill someone when just a bullet (okay, maybe a hundred) would have sufficed.


And Arnie himself lumbers through the role looking so unhappy and unfit, this movie becomes a pain to watch. I winced at the ‘romantic’ angle and mentally bowed to all Hindu gods and Muslim, Jewish and Christian ones that they did not show any lovemaking but hinted at it. When I had finished bowing to just about all of them, the movie still hadn’t moved forward, and then I realised I had to begin prostrating in front of all the gods again because thankfully there were only a handful team members who were getting bumped off.


What got me irritated were the supposed red-herrings that were thrown at us. The mean FBI/DEA teams questioning Arnie’s team, the drug cartel guys… None of them looked fit enough to harm Arnie’s little finger, let alone his cursing boozing weapons totting team.


Let’s say you like blood and gore. This movie doesn’t even offer you the satisfaction of seeing a train run over a man tied to the railroad, or a live person being nailed to the ceiling and then gored by a knife, it just shows bloody pulp, or entrails and that’s no fun. And why would anyone carrying a gun, stab someone messily, then tie them up and place them neatly in the fridge? It’s not like they cared…

I like Arnie killing really nasty bad guys (like in Commando) and then pausing to say, ‘Let off some steam, Bennett’... That’s why when he’s kicking his teammate awake saying, ‘Wake up you drunk fuck.’ there is no joy. I’d rather learn to spell ‘Schwarzenegger’ without auto correct.



Friday, March 14, 2014

Bewakoofiyaan

one star

Aptly Named!

Mini Review:

So cute this one line premise spinning through two hours of so cute candy floss problems! A-cutely stupifying!

Main Review:

Awwww! This dad is so cute! His daughter? Ohhhhh! What awesome clothes she wears! She looks so cute! And she tells us from where she bought her birthday dress! 

Wouldn't it be cute if the censor board made it imperative for running a ticker to tell us where she buys her cute shoes and her dresses? And omg! Her pajamas are so cute!

So her dad is so cute naa? He says he cooks Chicken biryani (Eeeek! My boyfriend just fainted next to me because he said something like,'There is no such thing!' But I'm going to ignore it because I still have caramel popcorn which my boyfriend cutely pronounces it as 'carmel', so American naa?)... I forgot what I was going to say because she looks so cute in glasses.

And he's so cute naaa? Tries so hard, naa? I love him for saying, 'You're hot can I eat you?'. I think it's damn cute when boys make teddy bear faces (What? My boyfriend quotes some tweet fact, 'All teddy bears are manufactured to have the same expression') I hate my boyfriend, because he always buys me cheap Archies bears not the Hamley's ones. Sigh. 

So I was like telling you like about the cute boy in the movie. Yaa... He does have so cute hairy caterpillar like eyebrows and so much hair on his face (mom says it's probably like ScotchBrite), but thank JustinBieber he has no hair on his body. 

But he loses his job! Not nice naa? But in cinema there has to be conflict naa? So it's okkay! It will get sorted out because he's MBA and stood first in class. He looks so cute when he's supposed to act grumpy naa? But I like him better when he shows his cute dimples. Anyway, he gets to feed cute pigeons.

Daddy, of course has no facial hair except that strange shape shifting mooch. Haw! I said vernacular word! It's cute naa, sometimes we all do that!

Anyway, he gets a cute job in a cute coffee shop and that boy who works for him has cute hair... Wonder what gel he used...

Oh yes, there is a cute song which had rhyming words but they were so many rhyming words i'd rather sing the title song, 'Bewa...kooo...fee...yaaan!' because it is perfect when I bob my head to the cute tune...

Anyway, my boyfriend (who's majoring in cinema from Columbia... Yess! That USwala place where Aamir Khan studied) stayed awake during the second half because things happened quite quickly. And the cute dad pretended to be a horrible dad and made everything cute again!

I've decided one thing though. When I have a fight with my boyfriend, I'm also going to Dubai. There are some cute places there!

P.S. I love romances. Really, I do. But after seeing this movie I understand why people might think this is fun.  


  




  

Friday, March 07, 2014

Review: Gulab Gang

One star

Gulag For The Audience

Mini Review:

When Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla play roles usually written for Prakash Raj and Mukesh Tiwari, you know Bollywood is close to hitting rock bottom. It's Gulag for the audiences.


Main Review:

A courageous woman called Sampat Pal really runs a pink saree wearing brigade of women who carry sticks and are working at grassroots level to free the village women from domestic violence and death. The documentary Gulabi Gang (jaw-droppingly real) has released today and it tells the real story of Gulabi Gang.

Gulab Gang is a work of fiction, and it has been released today after being embroiled in a lawsuit from Sampat Pal Devi who claimed that no permission was taken from her even though this fictional work seems broadly based on the Gulabi Gang she heads.

It is important to note that this film technically escapes scrutiny from reality because it they said that it is a work of fiction.

Alas, no one in the audience suspected the fiction would be so tedious and teeth-grittingly bad.

The story is as fictional as the bad Bollywood remakes of violent Tollywood stories. Now we have seen bad remakes make 100 crores with the violence and the gore. We have happily watched every star (from Salman to Shahid) get into a police uniform and beat up baddies like Prakash Raj (and sometimes Sonu Sood, Ashish Vidyarthi, Sayaji Shinde or Mukesh Rishi). To lure two female stars to act in a comeback film no one would suspect was really Policegiri in sarees, is as fictional a tale as can get. After that everything is simply downhill.

The dialog belongs to a fictional India. Have never heard such a murder of language. TV serials like Gustakh Dil (Life OK channel) and Diya Aur Baati (Star TV) get it right, so do movies like Queen (local Delhi Hindi) and Gangs Of Wasseypur (Dhanbad/Bihar). Here the hotch-potch gets unbearable, and you begin to wish Madhuri Dixit would just speak her normal Americanised Hindi, and Juhi Chawla would do the same. Their fake 'I'm-a-Village Belle' so will speak pidgin English is ghastlier than hearing American accents on actors playing Greek Gods.

The village is fictional too. Perfect tree in the corner of a perfect compound (even Osama or Branch Dravidians or the Aryan Nation didn't plan it so well).

The events are so fictional you've seen them all a hundred times in movies. A politician's son and his entourage sitting idle? Then, pardon my crassness, you must have a young girl cross their path so she can be raped. A politician? Then he must betray the cause, and die violently. A bribe-taking government babu must be shown eating and talking with his mouth full. Women must be dragged by their hair and be tortured and they must be Tannishtha Chatterji. 

Yes, there was a chilling moment when the rapist is punished, but the delivery reminded me of Underwater Nazi Zombies emerging from water in an old cult favorite Shock Waves, and I missed some ghastly background score, so that was a blessing in disguise. 

My following confession borders on the fictional too. So hear me out. The constant song and dance was so annoying this movie felt like a musical. And I missed item numbers in the Bollywood remakes that keep the action separate from the nonsense...

Speaking of action, even the lousiest of Bollywood movies do blood and gore beautifully. Here the accent was on making Madhuri Dixit look like the perfect Durga and Kali that they forgot a simple thing: when you slash someone with a sickle or a knife or a made-up weapon, and they are lying on the ground, your weapon must have at least some blood on it. Aah, but why should it? This is fiction, they claim, and fictional deaths or slashes, may produce fictional wounds and fictional blood...

And the tale ends with a fictional sympathy-garnering by listing names and tales of real victims of violence. But most of us had had enough. I saw Laxmi's name being used, and walked out. My term in this Gulag lasted 139 minutes.


P.S. The one star we offer here, is shared by the two brilliant support actors: Priyanka Bose and Divya Jagdale. And that is no fiction.   

        

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Review: Queen

4 stars

Queen Will Queen Will Rock You!


Mini Review:

The wild child of Hindi cinema comes into her own. This is by far the most well written and superbly acted role in the last decade. Unmissable!

Main Review:

I cried because I've always wanted a large, insane, yet supportive family just like Rani.

I laughed with her roommates when she shops at the sex shop in Amsterdam

I understood why she would need to keep the curtains drawn and wallow in her loneliness in a city that is made for love.

I hurt when she was hurting.

I hated the man who left her standing alone after promises of forever and after. 

I knew that it was just perfect for her to find real friends in strangers.

I smiled when she was.

I knew why she could dance the way she did.

I even reminisced about my first kiss with my crush.

Yes, I know. That's too much information for you readers, but I have not identified with so many characters from the movie for so long, I knew I would want to see this movie again (or buy the dvd!).

Please don't waste time on reviewers going ga-ga over the amazing use of music, or how brilliant the colloquial dialog and the use of Hindi and English is. How seamless and effortless her character transition is. How she still retains her innocence...

Just book the tickets and watch the movie.

And yes, stay for the credits. You will love the Facebook updates and probably change your own status message to 'Aaj Church Dekhne Jaayenge.'


P.S. 'Vijay' may no longer be Amitabh Bachchan's property. Kangna Ranaut has managed to make a villain out of that name. And then Lisa Hayden makes it sexy. You choose.
   





Review. 300: Rise Of An Empire

half star

Men In Black... Leather Undies


Mini Review:

Warrior's Code, Love For Freedom, Dying For Mother Greece, Sea Of Blood... Everything sounds so awesome until you see these men dressed in black leather undies. It's just downhill from there...

Main Review:

'This is Spaaaartaaaa!' was a meme magnet, and you enjoyed the fighting againts all odds, mask wearing Persians giants, the gold-skinned bondage jewellery wearing Xerses, the creepy hunchback in the original 300.

This movie has all of Greece uniting to fight a common enemy. There's all kinds of noble reasoning: freedom, patriotism, love, revenge, brotherhood, honor, valor... But it is rendered hilarious because all Greek men seem to be wearing black leather undies.

It's like watching a sea of undies on boats. No wonder the Persian soldiers wore masks to fight. I would be laughing my head off too if I had to raise my sword in battle against men in black leather undies and capes.

But I am being unkind. Men In Black Leather Undies were also given helmets which hid their faces. 

There is blood and hacked limbs from start to finish (and because it is 3D, every hacked limb and blood drops come at you in the name of special effects). In fact, it gets so dull, you don't even question how the general of one army travels from the thick of the battle to ask for help all the way to Sparta only to discover that Spartan men have all been killed. Spare us, you want to say, but we are offered a super flashback.

Xerses with intense eyes and a beard roams the desert in Persia and goes wandering into a hermit's cave. There he dives into a pool and the voiceover tells us that he made a pact with the darkest of evil forces. Now you're talking, I say to myself, 'Now we will see Greek mythology style plagues and banshees and special effects!' But no!

Xerses emerges from the pool his awesome beard and head of hair gone, and his skin covered in gold paint. Damn! This was a depilatory pool! Women would all over the world would want to know the secret!

Alas the awesome visual of Xerses' new found physical shape (the prettiest gold covered tush this side of mythology) is made to look silly because he's given silly capes to wear. Not to mention the fetish style jewelry he's made to wear.

The only saving grace is the discovery that the rather vengeful Eva Green gets to wear long dresses while the men wear skirts... I mean undies....

And no one here did research too. Her eye make up is more Egyptian than Persian, but who cares, right? It's covered with yells and hacking and jumping off great heights swords raised and bringing the sword down on some extra in leather undies...

Fans of 300 will find awesomeness in the blood and gore. But there will be people who might push Greece lower down on their list of countries to visit before you die... I just wondered: With so much dampness from the sea and the salty air, how did they survive wearing leather...



P.S. The half star goes to two battle days where strategy is actually utilized and shown.





Review: Total Siyapa

no star

Totally Annoying 


Mini Review: 

The best acting came from a tall container of frozen soup. Enough said!


Main Review:

The audience would have clapped really hard had the tall container of frozen soup that went flying out of the window not just beaned but actually killed Anupam Kher who plays Daddyji. And I would have personally flung that frozen container on Mummyji, Brotherji, Sisterji, Jijaji, Grandfatherji, Bachhiji, Heroineji, Policeji, Sardarji and even the Heroji.

Looks like this otherwise affable Heroji has discovered Madhuri Dixit. Why else would he heave his chest a la Dhak Dhak song in EVERY scene? And he rolled his eyes at everything.

So did the audience.

Because nothing that was happening on screen was even remotely funny. Wait, not true. The Shahid Afridi line (which you saw in the promos) was true and funny. Especially after he hit those two sixes a la my once heartthrob Miandad in the recent Asia Cup.

And the falling container of frozen soup. I truly wish that it had rendered real harm on the writer who cooked up the intensely annoying pregnant child, the senile grandfather who touches the hero rather inappropriately, the caricaturish, stupid brother and also the 'I'm Mister Bean' cop.

Someone should have also thrown the director out of the window. The film is so slow, the slowest and the sleepiest people sitting in the theater would have guessed every joke a mile before the punchline. And to watch grandpa pee with heroji sitting on top of the cistern of the commode is a scene out there competing with scenes we have collectively puked on: Sanjay Dutt smashing idlis with his hands in a plateful of beer in Policegiri, the large breasted Kainaat Arora in Grand Masti saying,'Mere do doodh ki factories hain...

Who thinks up of such ridiculousness? The audience does not think watching anyone pee is funny, even if it is a mentally challenged Barfi (if he truly is challenged, then how would he know it is 'inappropriate to pee in the fields' and then shy away when discovered peeing by people working in the fields?)

Poor Mummyji. Kirron Kher tried so hard but even her act got stale and annoying. I'd rather watch her histrionics as a judge on a TV talent show. But she made that soup, so she's forgiven the loud crass role she had to play.

The xenophobic brother, the stupid sister (she maxed out her husband's cards on clothes, it is said. But she's shown to wear some that are so ill fitting, I did not blame the supposedly kanjoos husband for kicking her out of the house). And the research done (oh Lord! What did I expect from this film) is so flimsy you want to pound their heads with that tall container of frozen soup. A dozen roses in London today start at three pounds at Lidl's Supermarket. 

But they just wanted to remake a foreign film without using their brains! And to borrow from Dave Barry, so much of their brain space was used up by the idea of 'Let's make a Hindustan-Pakistan joke' that there was room only for ring-the-doorbell-and-run prank which even five year olds today (from either country) will label as lame. 

We saw 108 minutes of this tripe. So you won't have to suffer it. Better watch Yami in fairness cream ads. And Ali Zafar? I am sure after seeing this crappy movie, he ought to be denied entry home. 



    

Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: Non-Stop.

One star

How Could A Liam Neeson Movie Be Boring?


Mini Review: 

Non Stop boredom inducing predictable action movie that should be relegated to a midweek afternoon watch. And only when no other Liam Neeson movie is available.

Main Review:

The script bleeds to death non-stop. And there's no one to tie a tourniquet of logic to tell them 'I will kill one person every twenty minutes' is a threat bank hijacker TV dramas have used successfully. Here, you just want everyone to die. And this is a Liam Neeson movie. 

The setting is ridiculous. Liam Neeson has released the Kracken, chased his daughter's kidnappers across the globe, and saved planets by training Jedis. You stuff him inside an airplane full of passengers? It's like putting Dr. Bruce Banner in a bottle and then saying things to annoy him, hoping the bottle won't break. Who thought that it would 'okay' to put a large man in an action movie where the only thing he can do is drag someone across the aisle in the economy section?

The co-stars are downright moronic. The gorgeous Julianne Moore is so nosey, I wouldn't want her to stay in my neighborhood. Her story is waffle and her behavior is exactly like a gnat on a bunch of bananas. Speaking of those, the passengers on the flight are exactly like that. Only monkeys would find them interesting. A Muslim (prayercap, beard and shifty behavior) person who turns out to be a doctor who will save lives. A bald, suspicious looking militia-looking man turns out to be a cop. A mild mannered school teacher who is the bad guy. A decent, well-dressed African American man turns out to be a bad guy whereas a mean dark-glasses wearing, African American young man in camouflage turns out to be a wimp. How they missed the Asian American stereotype is a mystery... And they put Liam Neeson with this bunch? He who saved the planets across the Universe!

This movie does one good deed though. People who are actually plotting to bomb planes and hijack them and demand ransom money would be so bored if they were looking for inspiration from this movie, that they would change their plans and choose to study.

John Travolta acted in Broken Arrow for the cash, so he could showcase his talent in movies like Pulp Fiction. Maybe Non Stopn is Liam Neeson's Broken Arrow. 








Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: Shaadi Ke Side Effects

Three Stars

Married People's Wrongs Are A Riot!

Mini Review:

Other people's marriages are funny to watch. But tempus is meant to fugit, and this movie needs a push off a cliff...

Main Review:

'Time Flies,' they say, 'When you're having fun...' But this movie is like a fly caught in an open jar of jam. You want to swat it and end the misery, but you don't want to throw away the jam.

Farhan Milkha Singh does a great job of running away from the word responsibility that accompanies the word 'marriage', and you empathise with him too. And you watch Vidya Momzilla Balan's every move with 'oh mah gawd' and 'so true' and 'i know someone exactly like her' at the back of your head.

You are drawn irresistibly in this vortex of marriage and other mistakes and you will hear uncomfortable laughs from many parts of the theater from people who wish they had the courage to escape from their Godzilla wives. But as the wise man says, 'No one can control Go-jiro. He go as he pleases. He come as he pleases.' This movie too is like Godzilla. You are awed by the destruction of everything rosy about marriages but it doesn't go away. The movie goes on and on and on until you wish you were like Farhan's football friends. Gone after ninety minutes.

Why is Bollywood stuck on the two hour plus format for movies? It is in this dragging that they start making mistakes. Characters come into this marriage and vanish - families, neighbors, even friends - all smoking guns that don't really fire. You wonder what happened to all these people. But the film is so busy moving from one joke scene into another that the laughs are all it seems to be aiming at. The last forty five minutes are a hastily written pukeworthy lesson on how you'd better like being responsible and practical. It's just gyaan given by a hero who smells of baby powder and diaper rash cream. You come away vowing to watch Farhaan in the shower scene from Rock On!  

Vidya Balan is at so much ease in her role, you ignore her omnipresent weight and watch her perform. Her look has been designed brilliantly by Jayati Bose and you wish someone like her would find clothes for all the extra large aunties who wander about malls wearing the most inappropriate chiffon kurtis a la once size zero Kareena Kapoor.

Of course you should watch the movie, married or no. Whether you are thinking of procreating or no. Especially if you have friends who have just been hitched and are waxing lyrical about their new life. It's like seeing a lemming for the first time. It must be a cute animal, no? It has friends, it probably parades in front of you, doing many cute tricks. But soon you want to play Warcraft or Assassin's Creed on your gadget and push the darned lemming off the cliff...

As someone gorgeous and still single said: This movie is like a Hindu wedding. So long, it is like living all seven lifetimes at one go.


  



   





Friday, February 21, 2014

Darr @ TheMall

half star

Bored At The Mall

Mini Review:

Not horror, but it's a crime to make such a boringly predictable movie. Re-runs of saas bahu serials are more interesting.

Main Review:

So ghosts have killed nine random people at a mall. It is shut for a few months and the owners will reopen again without investigating why or how... So they have a party (yes, at the mall) with phoren girls (one of the characters actually says, 'Sir, ek bees minute ka item number bhi hai) 
dressed in skimpy costumes gyrating suggestively and singing, 'Pina Colaaaaadaaaa!' (really? that's what people are drinking these days?)

a standard ugly attempt at sex (a young man frantically groping phoren female as though she might vanish any minute with orgasmic sounds that look silly when you realise all their clothes are on and they were just... ugh!) happens and that man dies horribly by ghosts who seem to like to not make a clean kill but like gruesome.

Now gruesome is fine because they made an effort to pay some prostheics guy to create melting due to burning make up effects. So far so good. But why were the mannequins partially burned? If the ghosts died in a fire, wouldn't they want to stay away from it? why would they burn mannequins partially?

You ask such questions because people just don't die quickly enough. 

And if it is a horror film, then people need to die horribly and one after the other. It's tedious to see doors opening on their own, ghosts laugh ad giggle, ghoulish faces going splat on glass (Aren't ghosts formless? They run through people, but not glass doors? Where's the logic in that?)

You want to catch a nap, but a comment on the special sound effects of the main ghost (the crackling, sizzling and burning) makes you snort your carbonated drink: Is the ghost getting a tadka? 

While you are coughing and laughing, they characters in the movie still haven't figured out why so many burnt ghosts are chasing them. 

You sing, 'burning down the house!' quite inappropriately under your breath and begin to text your friends about dinner plans. Characters in the movie are now dying in tandoors and crawling about in extra large ventilation ducts. The movie is still uninteresting. You begin to admire the earnestness with which Jimmy Sheirgill plays out his part. You laugh for the last time at the overacting by the nun (i did prefer her partially burned avatar) and you nod at your neighbor assuring each other that we are still breathing.

Then someone mentions that another 'horror' flick is to release this week. You go home and watch Purana Mandir or even Zibahkhana again. And curse yourself for having laughed at these movies when you were kids.

p.s. The movie is so boring, I fell asleep three times trying to write this review





Thursday, February 20, 2014

Highway

4 stars!

Captivated By This Road Trip

Mini Review:

This beauty and the beast on a road trip is a captivating tale well told. Imtiaz Ali takes his time to share all the secrets. The best film so far of 2014!  

Main Review:

Have you ever felt like escaping your own life? Finding freedom? Fleeing to a place in the mountains where you could stand on your tiptoes, reach out and touch the skies? Then this movie will find a place in your heart. 

It's a road trip movie, so unlike Imtiaz Ali's previous rom-com Jab We Met, that there seems to be an almost a DrJeykll/Mr Hyde thing happening here. Everything a shrink could take delight in is in this movie. And making you sit up straight (when you are not swallowing an emotional lump in your throat and secretly wiping tears) is this surprise package called Alia Bhatt. Stripped of make up, stripped of her 'Radha wants to paartyyyy' image, stripped of all fripperies that accompany a name on the marquee, Alia Bhatt makes you watch the screen as she holds your attention, scene after scene.

But what good is beauty without the beast? Randeep Hooda is perfectly cast as the rough, uncouth, and delightfully disheveled beast who takes beauty on a road trip and finds gentleness himself.   

Be careful what you wish for is what they say. And a young girl gets her wish and more when she makes a wish just to get away from the rituals and customs of her family.

But is it just wish fulfillment? A taste of freedom? Or a case for shrinks? Imtiaz Ali touches all parts forbidden and breaks off from his mainstream mode and takes the road less traveled. Literally and figuratively. We get to see stunning snow-clad mountains in Himachal and we visit cold, lonely places inside the hearts and heads of the two protagonists. You weep for the loss of childhood, the implied and exploited violence, the Stockholm syndrome (Is it? Or is it gratitude?). You smile because secretly you have wished for the same freedom, unbridled by time or money...

Yes, there are a couple of speedbumps on this road trip where you shake your head and hear Amitabh Bachchan say, 'Hain?' in his most melodramatic voice. But the rest of movie is a revelation: you don't feel the need to eat pop corn or drink coffee to stay alert. Even the minor characters are well cast. 

The background music, which is so annoying and intrusive in most Hindi films, is practically absent. There is A R Rahman and his all too familiar addition of 'dargah' music, but you love the folk singers at the travelers tapri chai stop, and the lullaby (sung hauntingly by Alia Bhatt and Zeb of Zeb And Hania fame)...

Initially, the road shots from the passenger seat made me a tad roadsick. And I wondered if we would have to suffer the long and winding road shots all through the movie. Thankfully the story kicked that thought right out of my head and slapped the hand reaching out for Avomine.

It's one of the best road trip movies that I have seen, and it certainly the best of the year, so far. And it's a movie that made me sing: http://bit.ly/1ffTTkR all the way back home...

Do yourself a favor. Take that wilderness holiday you have been dreaming of for a while. But see this movie first. 


Monuments Men

2 stars

Monumental Cast, Not So Impressive Film

Mini Review:

It's an inspiring story in a commando comic way, a phenomenal cast, but as a film it's boringly predictable.

Main Review:

The idea of saving art from bombs and war is phenomenal, and the story of the non soldiers recruited to go into the thick of war to preserve and find stolen works of art is nothing short of monumental. 

With George Clooney directing the story and a stellar cast you'd want nothing less than The Ides Of March. Monuments Men is so straightforward, you could be reading a commando comic book. 

Geroge Clooney acts as well as directs this fabulous cast: Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, and the legend himself: Bill Murray! And yet the inspiring story is told as if it were an everyday chore.

Each actor gets a 'wow' moment, each actor has a high 'kewl' quotient, each actor is given a quirk. Each actor gets a set piece to perform, and they are all adequate. They are so accomplished, these roles don't challenge them at all. There's no great mystery, no stumbling upon a secret which will help them save the world... 

You can almost predict who's going to die because the story stays true to war trope. For example: the soldier who shows pictures of his girlfriend/child/family or keeps talking about a quiet life on a farm or some day going up in his father's esteem will inevitably die. In this movie too, this happens, and you groan into your popcorn.

The Christmas song broadcast over camp was so cheesy, it took away the Bill Murray moment for me. But having seen the sculpture of Madonna at The Church Of Our Lady in Bruges, and having read the history of the statue, the movie suddenly became very interesting to me personally.

Even so, the movie is so straightforward, there are no surprises. It's like hating having to study Dickens, and then melting at the sight of pictures in the media of his great-grandkids posing for pictures with his statue.

See it for the great cast. If you have patience, then wait for it to appear on TV. 


P.S: hated Clooney's hair, loved Matt Damon's white shirt. 


Friday, February 14, 2014

GUNDAY

One and Half Stars

SHUDDH BLAH-SA BROMANCE

Mini Review:

You can the story from a mile away. But the two male leads bring bromance to bloom on the big screen rippling muscles, grunts and all. Watch the skin show but there's little else.

Main Review:

Had there been no Master Mayur who played young Amitabh Bachchan, no Amitabh Bachchan's angry young man flicks, no double crossing femme fatales in movies, never seen Amitabh Bachchan-Shatrughan Sinha's Dostana, no avenging brother infiltrating the gang, no coal stealing scenes in movies ever, or that maybe you have lived under a rock for the last sixty years, then and only then would you think that Gunday is a fabulous movie.

The story is so unabashedly unoriginal that you can see the twists in the plot a mile away. Also because everything in the movie happens in slow motion...

But the two boys, Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor are so hawt, it's visual porn seeing the two partially undressed through the movie. Undressed is good, because there's coal mines and smoke spewing trains, thugs and fish markets that are not exactly romance inducing visuals to be distracted with.

Yes, there's Priyanka Chopra, who mostly walks into every scene like a crane ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kxd-USeLSw4 ). And every time she opens her mouth to say anything, you think she's going into, 'I'm so exotic' and start bobbing her head to that tune. You want to ask her what she's doing in a fish market, in the flower market and indeed in the movie, but the two lads have lost their heart to her and yes you feel vindicated when a bullet hits her and it is interval.

Only the interval? You groan. And you realise you are not the only one. The hoards of boys that should have been cheering and hooting at Priyanka's cabaret act are actually glad she's dead. Is she? Or is she alive just to kill us with her enunciation, 'Nandita Sayngupta naam hai mera'...

But Ranveer's hair is so awesome, you borrow a scrunchie and tie up your own straggly strands. Then Irrfan shows up chewing dialog upon dialog without losing his shirt (literally, that is) and you wonder when your checklist will end. Hero walking away from explosions, check. Heroine asking hero to mend his ways, check. Hero telling heroine she is the most fragile thing ever, check. Policemen who can never shoot straight, check.

Your neighbor sticks her elbow in your side. Pssst, the boys are topless again... Wow! Let's forgive them everything. 'I'm so exotic!' Priyanka Chopra is still singing while pulling out a gun...

You wonder if you have missed friendly appearances by other shirtless men like Upen Patel, Uday Chopra, Randeep Hooda, John Abraham, Salman Khan... But you like Ranveer's moustache and Arjun's biceps... Is that enough to pull crowds into the theater? Don't know. Logic says it's trying too hard to be a macho movie. But who can deny the cuteness of two brawny topless men wearing pants that have hearts emblazoned on their butts?

  

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Lego Movie

4 and half stars!

You can't Leggo of its Awesomeness!

Mini Review:

This movie is so much fun, you'll see it again! And after you have seen it, you will go buy a Lego set and create many Lego worlds...

Main Review:

I admit it. I was snobbish and did not visit the Altenberg or Windsor or even the Legolands in Malaysia and Singapore. I thought it was childish and a waste of time when one could catch a more grown up Broadway musical or eat exotic foods at fancy restaurants instead.

Then I saw The Lego Movie.

I wept on the way back home for all the fantastic adventures I could have had just walking through miniature cities built from little Lego bricks. What the filmmakers have done with their imagination is build not just fantastic cinema, but their filmmaking has pushed the boundaries of animation and computer graphics. My mind is completely blown.

And just as relentless as the action is, there is humor. Tons of it. When you think you are recovering from one funny line, they deluge you with more. And it's not limited to the little guy saying, 'I'm Batman!'

I am amazed at their vision. Each sequence is impeccable. You cannot find fault with any scene. Actionwise, this is a roller coaster ride (made with Lego, of course!). And humorwise, this movie is better than what Hollywood funnies churn out in summer (like the Hangover sequels).

You should simply book yourself twice to see the movie. Once for the humor, and the second time to marvel at the fabulously shot movie.

I will never again curse if I step accidentally, painfully on a Lego piece ever again. 







  

HASEE TOH PHASEE

two and half stars


Like Finding Macarons in Soggy Bhelpuri!


Mini Review:


A soggy bhelpuri of shaadi stuff is the framework for this movie. Thankfully redeemed by the delightful lead pair, who are effortlessly engaging.


Main Review:  


Take every hateful cliche you can find in a shaadi: weird relatives, shaadi songs, clothes with zari and jewelery, chhed-chhaad and food. Then add to this mostly blah setting, the most amazing lead pair with behavioral problems. It’s like finding Macarons in your bhelpuri. You don’t know if you want to hate it or love it.


Parineeti Chopra is so effortless you love the ease with which she fits into any role. She is brilliant in fact with the material she is presented and performs like a dream.


Trouble is, Valley Of The Dolls got it right many, many years before this film does. The Uppers and the Downers are so easy to understand. Here, every time the heroine mentions ‘Serotonin’ as her choice of antidepressants, and is made to behave badly as a result of popping those pills, I remembered my doctor saying, ‘Eat a banana when you are feeling depressed, because bananas have Tryptophan that releases Serotonin which is a feel happy chemical in the brain.’ If she’s as good with Chemistry as she’s supposed to be, then the filmmakers should have recognised that the side effects are more Ritalin (the nervous tap-tapping, the widening of the eyes to see better because vision is blurred) and Norepinephrine (needing to eat sugar, the fight or flight response, the not-caring about consequences) and Serotonin makes you happy, not turn you instantly into a Priyanka Chopra in Barfi person.


Chemistry arguments aside, the track of the two lovers is simply awesome. Siddarth Malhotra is so good, I’d advice young women to watch out for anyone who looks at them the way Siddarth Malhotra looks at Parineeti in the movie, kidnap them and keep them in the basement until they agree to be theirs for ever and ever. He wears his clothes well and makes the rest of the cliched family look good.


Mohan Joshi, the brilliant actor, mostly seen in forgettable movies, makes us believe in the love between fathers and daughters and his logical, ‘Why can’t she have the money?’ made me reach out for the box of tissues.


There are some beautiful moments in the movie which come at you unexpectedly: Adah Sharma’s moment of realisation when she sees the fifty phone messages, the hug Siddarth and Parineeti share in the locked room, the late night daru and snack place scene where Siddarth goes alone, the mosquito infested guest house scene... And that’s when you realise the director is a veteran of ad films, and these moments are well made.


What one loved the most was the humor. And I am not talking about the weird uncle who keeps asking everyone, ’And then?’ or the weird small town cousin with big dreams (he’s a good actor that guy, but why are all small town cousins in Hindi cinema so weird?)... Watch out for the balcony and terrace scene, the spoof of a TV show, the shopping expedition, the tea tray scene, the general repartee between friends - all written in delicious good humor.

I hated the Shaadi scenes. Overdressed people and overdressed sets, the overdone ‘Gujjuness’ and ‘NorthIndian-ness’, things going wrong at weddings, last minute panic, people sleeping on the floor and crammed in an apartment... This goes on and on and on (at one point I thanked the Lord that there was no Haldi ceremony or the ghastly stealing of footwear) ... 

Thankfully, the two lead characters and their escapades made the movie delightful. I should have dug deeper for a Chemistry or drug related headline and punchline. But like Parineeti who does not find the wet towel, I too can think only of food metaphors. This movie is a hotch-potch soggy shaadi bhelpuri and you find delicious macarons in the mess.



Thursday, January 30, 2014

One By Two

half star

'I'm Pakaoed, I'm Pakaoed!'

Mini Review:

One Hundred and Thirty Nine minutes of contrived situations and cringe-inducing dialog later, the cinematic meet-cute happens. Except that you have been ready to go home an hour earlier.

Main Review:

It's a Bollywood tradition, we ignore all logic, ignore all young newcomers (from Pyar Ka Punchnama, Love Sex Dhoka to Student Of The Year) and will continue to cast heroes like Rajendra Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Jeetendra, even Sanjeev Kumar as college dudes. Here, thankfully, Abhay Deol is not a college dude, but close. He's a sort of copywriter/creative person who works in a cubicle, and clearly years older than his two young colleagues. I don't mind if he lives with his mum and dad and watches TV with them, but he's clearly too old to be the lad whose mum buys underwear for him. It's not cute to see a grown up man waking up with an undie over his face.

Also not cute is the constant reference to bodily functions and scenes set in toilets. Salman Khan letting go of one on the terrace when he thinks he is alone in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was actually funny. You remember the dialog, 'Sameer! Hawa ka jhonka!' and giggle when Aishwarya Rai catches him in the act. Here, it's not once, not twice, but four or five times that Abhay Deol farts. And they do not sound funny. The people sitting next to him in the scene vanish saying that the farts stink. You wish you could do the same from the theater, and exit before you see both the hero and heroine exchange metaphors related to the Coeliac Flux, the Bondi Cigars, the Chocolate Bananas, the Fart Surprises, the Grunties, or Tatti, if you are feeling particularly desi.

The movie did start rather stylishly with a song and one settled down in the seat hoping for a another crackling Abhay Deol movie like Dev D. And when you get over silly toys and well appointed rooms (take half a star, production design team), you find yourself wishing this were Aisha (the desi Jane Austen wallah Emma).

The meet-cute is so contrived, you want to hit someone over the head. Yes, we got the idea of two parallel lives and 'almost-met' moments. But all that cleverness gets drowned by the horrendous reality show plot. You can see from a mile away that the heroine can't dance sala. And you've seen Lafangey Parinde years ago to know the reality show thing doesn't work. It works only if you have Prabhu Dheva and a bunch of real dancers being directed by choreographer Remo D'Souza in Any Body Can Dance. The heroine's dance is just outtakes from a shampoo commercial. Shaking your curls from side to side in slow motion or wearing leg warmers is not dance. And screaming inside the waters of the swimming pool distracted more than this reviewer into wondering, 'where did I see this before?' (thanks to Google, we have the answer: The Descendants: http://bit.ly/1ig0daG , and also in Dario Argento's Inferno: http://bit.ly/MD7W8g )

Agreed that this movie stays true to the Bollywood tradition of launching girlfriends and wives on the big screen. You saw the recent disaster called Jai Ho, where the heroine (allegedly Salman Khan's latest arm candy) is a trained dancer in real life, and on screen begins to dance in every possible frame whether required or no! Remember the John Abraham starrer Jhootha Hi Sahi? That was the launchpad of the heroine who is the wife of the director... Here Preeti Desai and her ghastly 'London-born-and-brought-up' accent ('brought up by who?' is a question you are not allowed to ask in a Hindi film) makes you yearn to hear London returned Rani Mukherjee sing Om Jai Jagdish Hare...

The movie is so tedious, you don't care about any character or their forced quirkiness. Not the table tennis playing parents, not the poetry reciting parents, not even the idiotic colleague Debu. Forget about the tapori dance boy or the we-fight-because-we're-attracted-to-each-other friends... You just want to kneel in front of the Reality Show Gods and ask for forgiveness, promising them that you will watch Rakhi Sawant's wedding show again and again but no more movies with reality shows as a plot device. Because everything in the movie is summed by Abhay Deol himself when he sings (in his undies): 'I'm Pakaoed! I'm Pakaoed!'