Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review: Happy Ending

RomCom That Starts Happy, Ends Blah

2 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

Everyone wants to be Hugh Grant. Saif Ali Khan comes close. This close but the filmmakers want it to be a satire too, and that's where it fails. But it's way better than some of the romantic comedies thrown our way.

Main Review:

So Saif wants is almost Hugh Grant. And this movie has its moments too. But in its desperate need to 'not be a rom-com' because 'guys' wrote it and it was meant to be 'satirical', it falls flat. 

As a Rom-Com, it works because there is cool role reversal. And Saif does a pretty good job as a Runaway Bride. The fact that we have seen many, many movies about the writer's block and how the crusty writer falls in love with someone who simply breezes into his life, clueless about love does not matter as long as it is put in a different, more relatable setting. 

Hugh Grant himself falls for his lyricist in Music And Lyrics. He also does the Casanova thing and falls for lemme-have-a-quick-romp-and-leave Andie Mac Dowell in Four Weddings And A Funeral. So this movie has a tried and tested Rom-Com thing. It's just that it is not romantic enough for us to suddenly believe Saif changing his ways. 

If it is a satire, the movie needed to be much smarter than it is. The inner 'Yogi' (what a terrific character created! Sometimes Slob, sometimes SriSri!) needed to play a bigger part. 

Govinda - so awesome - is on a roll! Had there been more to him we could have had an enjoyable trip (a sharper, smarter version of Main Khiladi Tu Anadi).

The supporting cast is immensely likeable. Ranvir Shorey as Saif's best friend has some of the funniest lines and his comic timing is good.

Preity Zinta's character has been carelessly created. A hot ex girlfriend who is teen bachhon ki maa could have been so much fun, but we see her drinking chai. Blah!

Kalki Koechlin gets the best role. But we've seen that before too (reminded me of Seinfeld's girl with that annoying laugh).

Also, I loved the way it does not try too hard to speak Hindi. The urban English and Hindi mix works just fine.

Just saying that 'it's a satire on the process of writing cinema' doesn't wash. Had there been no subtitles, the writers would have perhaps given us a better romance. This is so in-between two things, sometimes it's a yawn or a groan.

I like romances, I do. And everyone loves satire. But this one tries so hard it sort of falls flat. Neither is it an honest to god romance, nor is it a satire. And you do wonder how Saif and Ranvir disable the tracking software on the phone when they believe breaking the laptop is the only way to delete a video from the computer...

Having cringed at things like that, the movie was still an immensely enjoyable watch. 

(One star for SriSri Saif, One for Govinda and the half for the supporting cast) 

Review: Dumb And Dumber To

So clever this movie!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Farrelly Brothers are cleverer than you think. This time Harry and Lloyd are reunited for a road trip that subtly spoofs everything from TED talks to the army to beloved movie tropes without ever shouting 'spoof'! You might not laugh out loud, but you will chuckle and grin through the movie!

Main Review:

That Jim Carrey is a genius, everyone knows. That Jeff Daniels can stand his own when pitched with Jim Carrey is truly awesome. And the two together take us through everything we thought was dear to us at the movies. No! Let me correct that. They bulldoze through (unwittingly, or so you're made to feel) so many things we know and love: cinema tropes, family values, our ideas on love and tragedy and still manage to surprise us every time they 'push bush'. 

This time Harry and Lloyd take a road trip to seek out Harry's daughter... And we trip on fireworks, tattoos, trains...

The comic timing is impeccable, although you do want to turn away from the sight of Jim Carrey swallowing the sausage, or guffaw cautiously when Harry discovers that he's adopted, or what Harry's cat does to the birds...

The Farrelly brothers poke at every holy cow that bleeding heart Americans hold dear. They are equally mean to people with physical disabilities as well as...

I remember hating the original. Maybe I need to watch it again to appreciate the humor that has made this a top grosser in the US. You better watch the movie and let me know that I'm right in saying, 'After watching this movie, you will not be able to post a smiley without chuckling...'

Review: The Equalizer

Action Flicks Ki Bhelpuri

Not Jhakaas!
1/2 star

Mini Review: 

If you've watched Steven Segal, John Claude Van Damme movies, then you've seen this movie. The original TV series with Edward Woodward is still brilliant after all these years. 

Main Review:

Why Denzelbhaiyya, why? Kaikoo itta faltu 'dekho kitta noir hai' fillum mein role liya?

When a movie deliberately tries to look more mysterious than it is, when the Raashians are more Russian than the onion domed church is, when every scene is more predictable than 'Mere Karan Arjun Aayenge'... you wonder if there were any merit in taking a glue gun and pausing the film and leaving... 

But we grin and bear it because we realize that even Under Siege series was so much better than what's happening on the screen. You begin rolling your eyes and don't stop. They copy microwave bomb, they copy knife stabbing, heck they even kill the baddies with a nail gun...

Am yawning with every word. The movie is so bad.

It tries to ride on the success of the tv show with the same name, but as an ex FBI guy who solves cases for people who have all the odds stacked against them (hence 'equalizer'), Edward Woodward is so much better than Denzel (the action here is more vicious, and it suits Washington better). You can watch the tv show on You Tube, why waste your time on bad guys killed by Rambo in First Blood (yes yes, they even copied Rambo style killing with 'available stuff', only here he has hammers and barbed wires and nail guns...)

Watch it when it appears on tv, and you cannot deal with a hysterical Sandhya bhabi in a police uniform in Diya Aur Bati Hum...

(the half star is for the screenwriter who references the books shown in the movie)

Friday, November 07, 2014

Review: Interstellar

Inter-Not-So Stellar!

2 and 1/2 stars

Mini Preview:

Bollywoodization of Hollywood is now complete! What could have been 2014: A Space Odyssey is Premwale Planet Le Jayenge. 

Main Review:

(If you love Nolan unconditionally, go watch the film in IMAX for the sheer size of the vision of the man. But if you are a fan of space adventure movies, someone who spots anomalies a mile away, read on!)

The movie begins with 'Nitrogen increased in the atmosphere and crops died of the blight...'
and the primary science student so long buried under movies like Batman Begins and Inception awakens and says, 'Hold on! Isn't there already more Nitrogen in the air than oxygen?' 

And then your mind races because you remember how peeing on grandpa's farm was okay because extra nitrogen in the soil from the uric acid in your pee was supposed to make beans grow like crazy, not kill crops...

But fangirl inside stomps on primary school science student saying, 'IT"S NOLAN! SHUT UP!' 

And you stop wondering how they have clean water coming out from dusty taps and wait to plunge into fabulous space-scapes you saw in the trailer.

'Oi! Yeh kya hua! Indian Drone kahan se aaya?' 

I don't realise that I've said it aloud because Nolan fan sitting to the left of me says, 'Just like Bane emerged from a hole in Rajasthan.' and another jaded fan to the right of me says, 'They just want to unnecessarily market the film to India. They forget we are all Nolan worshippers here!' 

But wait! Cooper and his daughter arrive at NORAD gates? (Just like one loves the appearance of Stan Lee in the comic movies, I love to spot details like that on the sign on the fence) Erm... But the story is set in the midwest, is it not? And Norad tracks Santa (besides other things) from El Paso (Texas) and from Alaska, no?

But that's NASA they say, and I wonder, why is it secret? Looks like hundreds work there! Where did all those people park? Where did those people live? How come the facility looks so derelict if so many people were working there? 


I do. But can't help wonder how the government had money to send so many manned crafts in search of life, when Wall-e the movie had advanced robot probes like EVA doing the same job years ago?

Why wasn't science growing food in covered domes and people living like The Simpsons movie dome to keep dust out?

And why hadn't people adapted to living in basements and windowless houses to keep the dust out instead of letting dust layer laptops and plates and... 


So Cooper is going to save the world by leaving it... 

But not without one token black guy, one white guy (who was it? everyone on screen was talking so much, explaining so much, I wanted to fast forward to some action!), a cool robot TARS, and yes, a saucer eyed female passenger (Ann Hathaway). And you know rightaway that the two men are going to die in this inter-galactic adventure and at least one because of the woman. And who was going to betray the cause? That's the basic Hollywood formula movie, no? How was Nolan is going to make this work?

And you want to know what Ann Hathaway is really doing on this mission because she's just doing pretend science work. She pulls out those cylinders filled with human dna from freezers to check them and puts them back. 

Who chose the DNA donors? Why is she checking them so often? Do their numbers increase and decrease? Is there fear that they might mutate in space as though Jurassic Park was meeting Alien meeting Predator? And why only people DNA? Why are they not carrying seeds and water and stuff people might need on the new planet?


Oh yes! There's the Zimmer organ score. There are the awesome frozen clouds... And a question. Do planets survive so near the black hole? Why aren't they being sucked in? How powerful is their gravity (or centrifuge?) that keeps them in orbit around the black hole when everything else is being sucked in? What does a hole in the sky look like from the surface of the planet? Does the black hole rise and set like out moon which makes the tides? And why are the tides not being sucked into the black hole?

How come the spacecraft that lands in water seem to land in just half a foot of water, but people seem to be waist deep in it? How come they walk/wade through the water so confidently, as though they know the ground beneath the water is even and not potholed or filled with space crocodiles or space piranhas?


And then comes the facepalm moment that turns Nolan the God into Nolan the wannabe Yash Chopra/Karan Johar. 

Teary eyed Ann Hathaway suggests,'Love transcends space and time.' 

(I missed the gobbledegook science because I started laughing and the movie flashbacked a la Karan Johar as Nolan fans killed me with popcorn bullets.)

The Flashback:

Cooper leaves home: Mere bacchon to tumhare hawale karta hoon and daughter says, 'Tussi na jaao!'

You can imagine John Lithgow wishing for Alzheimers like Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes instead of the task of bringing up brats. 

'I promise I will be back!' is not said like The Terminator, but watching Cooper wanting to go back and save his family was too Karan Johar. And Karan Johar does the 'It's all about the family' with so much ease.

Even the surprise cameo star spouts fake science about parental love and says something like 'Evolution has not transcended that one barrier...'

Parental Love was stopping humans from evolving into higher beings? What?

Here's where you wish all the corn in the movie, and not just what's in the field had been torched by Jessica Chastain, because clearly Nolan was too busy putting his larger than IMAX vision on to the screen to care how horribly melodramatic his story was turning out to be...

And yes, the Bollywoodization does not end. You can almost hear Cooper say, 'Sab kuch theek ho jaayega. Ab main aa gaya hoon.'

Then there's more love. More family. And the discovery that the black monolith in 2014: A Space Odyssey is actually made of cheesecake.

P.S. What is in the steel flask Cooper carries every time he leaves home? 

Review: The Shaukeens

Three Creep Alert! 

4 Thappad!
1 Big Hug!

Mini Review:

Seeing Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor and Piyush Mishra ogle and vie to cop a feel of young girls is worse than finding yourself face down in someone else's puke. Thank god Akshay Kumar was added to save the film.

Main Review:

One tight slap each to the three older actors who ride this one snigger story about three older men who haven't had any for years and to TIGMANSHU DHULIA who wrote this crap. (Feminists would want to slap the writer harder for making their inability to have had sex sound like it was the women's fault!)

When Hollywood tried to laugh at randy old men in movie like Last Vegas, it was bad enough. Even having Morgan Freeman did not help their case. Why does Bollywood think Piyush Mishra's mouth thing, Anupam Kher's 'i'm in a zone' thing or Annu Kapoor's sing a song thing will work?

I had gone prepared with puke bags, but the sleazefest did not happen. The bile sort of stops short of rising up and making you hurl, the story is that pathetic. You cringe when each of the men ogles at Lisa Hayden, trying to cop a feel every time, but you'll find yourself numbed at the sheer stupidity of this endeavor.

Thankfully, there's Akshay Kumar. He appears as a jaded action star and offers us some respite from the lasciviousness of the three idiots. That Akshay Kumar can laugh at a caricature of himself is an act worthy of a true star. The funniest shot of the film though is when Dimple appears briefly (as herself) and after denying Akshay Kumar's admission of 'alcoholism' is seen drinking from a hip flask herself!

In a country where 2 year olds are raped, this movie about randy men just doesn't sit lightly. But the stupidity is so vast, everything else just fades...

Don't waste your time. Better yet, just slap the next old man in Ray Bans who is ogling at women in the park.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Review: BIG Hero 6

Big laughs! Big Fun! And Big Learning!

3 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

A kid with a robot? What's not to like?! Disney has created a superb new animation technique that makes Big Hero 6 look jaw-droppingly like a live action, real movie. It's a fabulous world of robots, superheros, kids, super villains and action! Lots of action! Plus, it makes being brainy so coooool!

Main Review:

Why should we be happy with Chhota Bheem? And Doraemon? Give your kids a taste of this superbly animated Big Hero 6 that has everything your kids will love about animation and more.

You will love how it turns up the cool quotient of brainy kids. Imagine kids wanting to go to a school that teaches robotics! And the movie does this very cleverly. So cleverly, even I wished it.

Set in a cool city called San Fransokyo which brings us the best of the two cities (imagine cherry blossoms and trams in the same frame!) and yes, our little hero is Asian! Actually, I loved the seamless colorlessness of the group. Hiro Hamada, his older brother Tadashi are living with an aunt who sounds appropriately white. And there's a token black guy Wasabi too. But the others... All nerds! They make studying look like fun! Who'd have thunk chemistry would be so colorful? Or physics?

At almost two hours the movie feels a little long for the little kids, but the older ones will have non-stop fun. There is no time to settle down and eat popcorn. Your eyes will be riveted to the screen.

Disney developed this really cool technology in order to keep your attention and boy, it works! As all superhero movies go, you can tell that a franchise is on its way, but this time I did not feel terribly manipulated. I am happy to watch the next couple of movies with these six!

Don't settle for the same ole drivel on kids tv that keeps your kids occupied while you check your mail. Watch Big Hero 6 and become the hero in your kid's life.

Reveiw: Nightcrawler

He infests the night. He is the night!

4 stars!

Mini Review:

It's a sharp commentary on the state of our media today. You'll never be able to watch TV news without thinking of the Nightcrawler ever again! Superbly written and fabulously performed!

Main Review:

From Donnie Darko to Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal's journey has been spectacular, to say the least. And in this film, he's so, so good that each time he speaks, you feel an ice cube dipped in arsenic traveling down your spine.

Nightcrawler takes us to the footage eat footage world of the freelance video news gatherer and drags us through the muddy moral line.

But wait, saying any more would be offering you spoilers.

What you need to do is brace yourself for some of the most venomous writing which is delivered impeccably by Jake Gyllenhaal who literally carries the film on his shoulder. He is what opportunity makes him. He's a media star that shines in misfortune. 

Never has a screenplay been so riveting in showing the downward spiral of a man who thrives on misfortune...

Never have you wanted the protagonist to fail so bad...

It's a guarantee, though. You will never again watch TV news without wondering if the tv camera was being held by the Nightcrawler...


Watch it. It's brilliant. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

review: Fireflies

Swat Them!

No star

Mini Review:

This movie teaches us that urban, English speaking India is happy to start affairs - with old friends as well as complete strangers. And that it's okay as long as there's some philosophical mumbo-jumbo slapped on every ten minutes. 

Main Review:

I was rather taken in by the promo which says something like 'when you are lost, keep walking, the world is round, so eventually you will be home...'

As Julia Roberts says to the sales ladies: Big Mistake. 

Every character is ridiculous, their situation stupid, the dialog trite, and you will wonder if the movie was written just so you could have a bit of a skin show.

Is that why we see more skin than talent on Monica Dogra? She is shown to be this girl who wears skimpy clothes and lives in Bangkok alone, jumping into bed with - what we assume - the first Indian she shares a bathroom with. There is nothing for us to believe that there was some fabulous chemistry between them. Ugh! 

That Indian is a sad Arjun Mathur. Poor chap! The lad is decent looking in real life, but on screen, he's shown to be constantly sweaty (dripping!) from all that and wears a stubble that makes him look more unwashed than 'biker'. His dialog is so trite, he chooses to deliver it as incoherently as possible.  

And I've saved the worst for the last. Why Rahul Khanna, why? 

Who eats cheesecake at the counter? Anywhere? How can two grown ups get sozzled drunk on two bottles of wine? Why would you mouth dialog like 'He says the lamp is antique...' Why would you choose to be boorish to your wife? Why would you be rude to parents (whose parents were they?) Why is that affair with the IIM classmate (so not believable!) look so shallow? 

Then there's that omnipresent voice of a girl. So confusing, most of us wondered if it belonged first to someone who was the wife. But wait, she says 'brother'... Then we thought it was the girl who has the affair with Rahul... Could it be... How is the voice in Bangkok as well?

But somewhere, you do not care. You want the drunk thugs in Bangkok to mug her, hurt her a bit. You want both the brothers falling off into the raging river and breaking their necks on the rocks. You want the rich wife (Rahul's) to get a better tailor (or at least stop making Indian women wear evening gowns - they look like satin maxis). You just want the movie to get over.

And you come away, asking, 'Why Rahul, why?'

Thursday, October 30, 2014

review: Fury

Guns 'N' Poses

1 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

If you've read Commando comics, then you've seen this movie. The movie follows a template so it is hopelessly predictable, but shot beautifully. 

Main Review:

You've seen enough war movies to be able to predict a template.

Story of band of brothers in arms. 

Rough sergeant who does not say much, but leads by example, has respect from his men.

Eccentric, crusty, battle-scarred soldiers: 

One religious man who will quote from the bible whilst doing horrific acts of killing (including marking bombs with crucifixes).

One minority soldier (read Hispanic for Hollywood, Muslim for Bollywood), who will say, 'Vamanos!' to prove he is Hispanic.

One rough ugly man who will have a soft heart beating inside layers of rudeness.

And of course there will be one who is fresh to the war, a young callow youth who is all cowardly and frightened by the horrors surrounding him. As the movie progresses, you will see him change. He is hated by all initially, but one of the team will support him and he will become a soldier's soldier by the end of the film.

Take this bunch and put them in a situation where they are pitched against a whole better armed, meaner enemy, and they save the day by going out in a blaze of glory.

If you are not puking yet, then you will every time you see Brad Pitt remove his helmet. His cool buzz cut is impeccable. Perfectly brylcreamed, not a hair will be out of place. He poses on the stupid tank as though someone was taking still photographs. I cheered the sniper who aims at Brad only because his first shot actually ruffles Bard's hair. The half star goes to the gel applied to Brad Pitt's hair.

The full star goes to the cinematography of this film. Beautifully shot, the film makes war so believable. So horrific. The rest? So blah, you could wait for the movie to show up on cable on some war memorial day.


review: The Best Of Me

Death By Schmaltz

one star

Mini Review:

Nicholas Sparks feeds you the idea of perfect love and then sticks his hand down your throat and makes you gag. That's when you want to jump off the nearest cliff, or chop yourself with a kitchen cleaver, or kill yourself by eating re-fried samosas at the multiplex.

Main Review:

A man who brings you flowers.
An image of lovers on a chair for two in the middle of a poppy and wildflower garden dappled in sunlight.
Childhood lovers whose love is constant.
Images of lovers in a pool.
The love of your life, dancing with you by the fireplace in a lonesome cottage.
The awkwardness of first love, where the guy is too shy to flirt, and she teaches him everything about love.

These are carefully constructed pictures of love to pull all the women to the theater. The women in turn drag their reluctant men to watch this 'stuff', knowing they cannot compete with these impossibly good looking shirtless men. But the women want their men to learn this kind of wooing instead of watching Jurassic Park or Sachin Tendulkar's Best Of Innings on TV. 

So Hollywood is discovering this 'janam janamantar wala love' with these Nicholas Sparks books/movies. They WILL make anyone gag with broken hearts being healed by miraculous coincidences, hearts that live on to beat for love even after the bodies are dead...

I puked many times inside my throat during the movie at the manipulative scenes. Yes, James Marsden looks better and better now. Yes, it was lovely watching the two lovers sit on the branch of a tree (him reading, her playing with his hair and listening). But dialog like,'my shirt looks better on you' made you cringe. And the whole film is filled with such stab yourself with a butter knife moments.

If you are a woman whose day only includes battles with the bai and the ungrateful kids, almost deaf in laws  who watch TV news all day, then do yourself a favor. Watch this movie to add a bit of fantasy to your boring life.

If you are a man, stay away from this movie. Even if you have a gorgeous body. No one dies for love. And if you watch the movie, she's going to test you. And they will play Dravid's best innings on cricket tv soon...


This is a really scary game!

2 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

I love scary films. Most are predictable. So you laugh. This one though is really really scary. And you're not laughing. You're just hoping no one heard you gasp.

Main Review:

I don't know what Hasbro was thinking, sponsoring a really scary film about one of their toys. Did they think people would buy those Ouija boards after seeing what the boards were doing to anyone who played with them?

I know I wouldn't want to be anywhere near one. It scared me that much.

And I usually laugh at these scary movies, where creepy sounds or loud noises, demons and weird indestructible dolls are used to make you jump out of your skin. Not to forget crucifixes and priests, evil spirits who occupy bodies and make them vomit and speak in guttural voices...

The movie does nothing of the usual. Except that the houses are rather dimly lit, and you want to tell the young people, 'Switch on the lights before you go exploring creepy places!'

But I couldn't. My tongue was tied, and my heart was in my mouth, and my arms were holding on to the armrests real hard. The story had climbed into my head rather stealthily...

Watch this movie... It is one of the few creepy movies to come out of Hollywood recently...


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

review: Gone Girl


4 stars

Mini Review:

She's gone, and the cops and the husband only have clues to a treasure hunt to find her. But what we find is a commentary on the modern marriage that is at once guilt inducing and also scary... 

Main Reveiw:

Hannibal Lecter made that innocuous, 'Good enough to eat' so ominous. Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (she writes the screenplay for the film too) does the same to, 'What are you thinking?' 
David Fincher builds the mood by giving you a slow, watch the paint peel off vision of a small town and then makes your jaw drop just as slowly as the events unfold. There is so much assured calm in the demented logic of the actions of the characters, that the director keeps you, the audience, in the eye of the storm at all times. 
You see evening news and social opinion baying for blood, but every single time, the doors are shut to that noise and we get a casual 'I want to crack open your skull and find out...'
You get to know characters with, 'Who ever took her is bound to bring her back.' or 'I spent evening drinking beer and watching Adam Sandler movies for him' 
You love the characters and hate them with equal measure.
You've seen Scenes From A Marriage, Blue Valentine and Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, and maybe watched marriages of friends disintegrate in real life. This film offers you a very different claustrophobic picture of a marriage gone wrong. It pushes you into a corner and makes you squirm uncomfortably wondering 'what next' as you watch Rosamund Pike snuggle into her bed.
If people hate the film, it is only because they have felt at least one thought the characters act upon, and have been unable to do anything about it. If you believe that this film is a needless dramatisation of a broken marriage, then you haven't ever chopped vegetables in the kitchen viciously, pretending they were your relatives...
If kitty party ladies could plan as meticulously as Amy from the movie, I would join the group in a flash. Or move to their part of the suburban quicksand. 
Read the book. Watch the movie. You'll never treat relationships the same again.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: Happy New Year

Heart says, 'Double Dimple Dhamaka'
Head, 'I tuned out when they boarded Chennai Express. Wake me up when mami visits again.'

Heart says,'two and half stars!'

Mini Review: 

This film releases at the heels of the Mumbai International Film Festival, and hence a tad tougher to forgive. But given the madness and the joy with which the film plunges into it, you know you are making allowances for its unoriginality and pointlessness. 

Main Review:

They call themselves Charlie's Angels in this remake of Ocean's 11. And if you thought that was enough of the unoriginal, all the best Shah Rukh Khan movie lines are inserted in the story. Well, not all. They spare us the word 'senorita'. Also present are transparent shirts, tweaked nipples, extended arms, patriotic fervour, wigs, sequinned clothes, Ra-1 props, and confetti. Lots and lots of confetti.

The movie is three hours long and has been made for seven year olds (who were present sans parents in bunches). That's why they explain and explain and explain everything. Losers need to win. Team India will win hearts. They need to hack into the computer system. The AC ducts are in room 9C. Deepika cannot Englis... Not to forget, 'Kismet is a Kutti cheez!' An evil laugh track played in my head imagining those kids sans parents repeating that dialog at home. But then I realised those parents probably send the kids to Bollywood dance classes and don't mind daughters dancing to 'Dil Mera Muft Ka'. But I've been told my views on parenting are rather severe...

But 40 lashes to editor and continuity person. The story loops so much that a character actually says, 'Deja Vu ho gaya!'

That character is Abhishek Bachchan. He not only pulls off a double dose of daftness with so much ease and such good timing, that I, a confirmed fan of DDLJ and KKHH, was looking forward to silly scenes involving Abhishek Bachchan more than Shah Rukh scenes. And they are funny only because the lad has timing. Unfortunately, they kill the gags by explanation (instead of letting the audience react to how he's going to evict the American team from 9C, they explain!) 

(I laughed out loud at all the snake dance moves even when my brain was complaining of the horrid 'babaji ka thullu' borrowed from Comedy Nights with Kapil)

I loved the surprise of sculpted abs in Dard-e-Disco, but in this movie found it rather tiring. Shah Rukh's dimples can cover all his flaws is what women feel but will not say. But I found myself waiting for that one romantic moment where the world sort of stops for women - moments that made Shah Rukh the king of romance. Moments where he stretches his arms and all the women in the audience wish to run into them. Remember the KKHH dance in the gazebo scene? The touching of her waist at the basketball game? The Swades tie dhoti moment? Even Chennai Express had one: where he lifts Deepika to carry her up the temple steps. Here? Nothing. 

Boman Irani, Sonu Sood and the pasty faced boy Vivaan Shah are so awful, even atheists will go down on their knees to thank higher powers that they don't have 11 actors in the group as in Ocean's eleven...

(Loved Boman Irani's silly man bag gag and laughed hysterically at Abhishek trying to reach the top screw with his Allen key...)

Deepika is luminous and her body and her dance are something else. But he role is as predictable as her name... You are not surprised at the 'Mohini! Mohini!' chants at all.
You will be surprised at the awful, truly awful appearance of Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Dadlani in a Bollywood gay joke though. No Anurag Kashyap rabid fan, no indie film buff will ever be able to speak of 'good cinema' to a BangBangKickJaiHo fan ever because there is sex tape evidence now. What a shame!

(Enough! My heart says, to my brains. Let me speak!)

When you think of your crush, don't you think it sets your whole world on fire? Also that glazed look Deepika gets when she hears her crush speak is probably something every woman can identify with rather easily. 

It turns me into a statistic right then and I come out of the movie grinning.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: Left Behind

Makes Bad Bollywood Look Fabulous

no star

Mini Review:

Just when thought Humshakals was the worst movie ever, that Joker a terrible film and the new Himmatwala was enough to put you off cinema for ever, comes a movie that beats them hollow. This movie is that bad.

Main Review:

How many chances do we give Nicholas Cage to redeem himself as an actor? And he chooses this movie?

A movie where people who 'believe' in God (obviously Christian, because of all the references to the Bible) 'go to heaven' sans clothes? I mean is that why the movie is called 'Left Behind'? Because we seen non-believers holding on to clothes neatly 'left behind' hugging clothes they neatly vanished out of?

If they weren't so serious, we'd be laughing in the aisles. But they actually believe that audience will swallow this: pilots with pious wives have affairs with blonde flight attendants, young women have differences with their mothers, geeky little brothers who wear glasses afraid of parents splitting up, famous writers who casually autograph books, passengers with a religious bias, Muslim passenger who wears the prayer cap on the flight, African American woman with a moppet like child, geeky Chinese American, one scared passenger, one rude, one extra large passenger who stuffs his face... The list is endless.

And if you believe, really, really believe in God, then a large aircraft can land on a road under construction. 

The movie is so terrible, I joined a whatsapp group where people send smarmy inspirational quotes to each other just to be entertained. I also wondered why Nicholas Cage was dying his hair at home?

The movie is so terrible, you realise Joker had a better story. And that the computer generated tiger was wayyyyyyy better than the aircraft crashing into car (and go up in fake computer generated flames) you see in this film. And that Saif Ali Khan's effiminate act in Humshakals is more convincing than the mother-daughter dialog in Left Behind.

Don't waste your time watching this film. They should have spent more time on the concept first.


A review: Annabelle


Half star

Mini Review:

The Conjuring was a great scarefest. And if this is the prequel, then it's a good thing we did not see it first. 

Main Review:

Scary films are meant to do one thing. Scare us. 

And if you attempt to deafen us by loud creaky apartment doors that sound more like giant castle doors, or sudden loud sounds to jolt us from our seats, you are not achieving your objective. It is, as they say, on social media '#FAIL' 

The story is pathetically unoriginal: Bad people trying to summon demons. Why are the bad people wanting to do this? The policeman in the move gives us an answer: because bad people do bad things.

Don't even ask why they choose this family to 'haunt'. 'I like your doll' is not adequate explanation.

Everything that happens in the movie, who dies, is so predictable you don't even yawn at it in boredom. 

But there is one scene that jolted me out of my skin. And the half star is for that basement appearance of the demon. Now that was as scary as the clapping scene in The Conjuring. It stays with you. 

The rest of it... One has seen better.

(the headline is in all caps to remind you how the whole movie was: LOUD) 

21 Topon Ki Salami

Good Idea, Great Moments Murdered By Music

one and a half star

Mini Review:

It's like riding a one trick pony that has been nailed to a carousel that plays the most annoying music from the beginning of the movie until the end credits. It's a great idea, hilarious in parts, but the idea gets dragged on and on and on and on and you wish there was a fast forward button on the film.

Main Review:

Before anything else, let is salute the fun talent that is Neha Dhupia. She plays the seductive siren, the politician's 'rakhail' with so much gusto that you cannot help but smile each time she appears on screen. The item number she performs - a spoof of Bollywood hits - is so good, it doesn't matter what the song is, what the tune is, she owns the screen. She alone takes the one star that has been awarded to the film.

The half star is earned by the rest of the film. It's a great idea, a great cast, and some really great laughs, but they get so involved with the joke, they don't know when to stop and go forward. 

Sometimes you feel like it's a saas bahu serial, with everyone in the room getting a reaction shot (when they decide to substitute a corpse with a live person, there are five people in the scene, everyone gets a reaction shot and you in the audience want to say, 'Understood. Now get on with it!'). Sometimes, it's like a comedy sketch that gives the punch line away in the beginning and continues to say the same thing (as when Anupam Kher wants to sign out his machine and the officer is watching porn. We see the girl strip on the screen rightaway, and know why there is a delay in the sign-out, but the scene goes on and on and on). And at other times, you don't know why they want to sing songs that are unbelievably forgettable, and are an obvious intrusion in the narrative.

I am assured that no movie works without songs, and I have admitted that the item number performed by Neha Dhupia was shot brilliantly but don't remember the words or the tune. But the romantic track when the hero and the heroine sing was absolutely needless and forgettable. And the English rap-like pointless refrain which popped up every time the characters decided to break the rules, was like slapping the audience to say, 'Since you are too dumb to see that the characters are about to do something satirical, here is music!' The absolutely daft and unclear rap ditty (all the characters were suddenly shown wearing 'hip' clothes and dancing 'pop' style during the end credits made no sense whatsoever. It was just some guy at a mic shouting out words (accompanied with those hand gestures) that made little sense when the audience is trying to get out of the noise without tripping on the popcorn on the floor.

Yes, there are funny moments (most belong to the brilliantly spoofy Neha Dhupia), but then they could have been funnier had they not been so long winded. Take the hilarious event I have mentioned before where someone pretends to be a corpse. It gets funny when he falls asleep and begins to snore under the white sheet. Instead of only showing it and allowing the audience to laugh as the scene unfolds, the director has a character make a telephone call to another character asking, 'What do I do now that babuji is snoring under the sheet?'. The movie is full of such explained gags. It just goes to make the film unbearably long. Had they not felt the need to tell the audience, the film would have been at least 45 minutes shorter and far crisper and funnier. 

Also I would have paid attention to little details and made the characters remove their shoes before they lit the pyre...

Watch the movie when they release it on TV. Otherwise you'll just suffer its length and the incessant background score.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Review: HAIDER

Haider And His Problems

Three and half stars

Mini Review:

Vishal Bhardwaj takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride. Slow with anticipation in parts and dizzyingly wild in others, but never, never disappointing.

Main Review:

Of course you have read TSE on Hamlet, that is why you smiled when you read the title of this review.

Of course you are familiar with the play because you participated in the elocution contest in school and recited, ‘To be or not to be...’ without faltering…

I am sure Vishal Bhardwaj knew that Hamlet was not going to be easy. It Happened One Night is easy. Pride & Prejudice is easy. Hamlet and his walk in the graveyard howling into the evil despairing night is more Wuthering Heights, a lot more passion and besharmi in relationships, a lot more hunger and junoon in the loving.

The trouble with Haider, is that we begin to identify with his ‘hum hain ki nahi hain’ instead of seeing why the setting of madness is flawed. We begin to justify his revenge, but don’t realise that the motive is more from what he feels about his mother than revenge for his father. Yes, VB tells us from the rooftops, ‘Intequaam!’ and many times.

But if you quell your instincts to do a jig because Shahid Kapur is actually amazing, then you begin to see everything that is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Everyone from the men in the army to the gentle old kahva quaffing gravediggers is wrong. As the bard says, everything is. ‘The calamity of so long life;/ For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,/ The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,/ The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,/ The insolence of office and the spurns / That patient merit of the unworthy takes,’...

Some of you will also be mislead by the ghost - Roohdaar swathed in rich creamy wool walking around with illogically James Bondish background music - goading Haider into madness. Some of you will find yet another reason to hate Irrfan Khan’s ‘look-at-me-I’m-acting-here’ theatrical gestures, and miss the soot covered snow and torture centers with innocuous names, the significance and historical echoes in the singling out of men and boys in crackdowns that can make your heart jump out into your hand by a single surprising honk of the jeep horn.

Yes, as TSE observed, there are many flaws in the setting up of the revenge story in the original play which makes the movie very challenging to watch. The devotion that Haider feels for his father is not justified. There seems to be no magic there, but the little Haider kissing his mother’s neck… Now there’s an image that could give ‘devotion’ a new meaning. That’s why the image of a grown up Haider walking under the Chinaars with his mother does not seem wrong at all. (Die you Joy Mukerjee love songs shot in Kashmir, die!) Such a rollercoaster ride this is. Tiring but full-of-anticipation these flat patches of elaborate set-ups in the movie (full marks for attention to details) are. But when the set up comes together, what glorious jump off a cliff. You will notice how the movie quietly belongs to Gazala, who can pull a gun out of her firan and compel her son to go to Aligarh, make her father in law uncomfortable after getting her brother-in-law to admit that there are no women worth marriage because she, Gazala is married to his brother. It is Gazala, of whom the Bard himself said, ‘God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another.’ It is Gazala who looks up at the heavens in a final bid to play god with the lives of the two men in her life who run towards her as everyone else flees from her. Gazala is the pivot and Tabu is magnificent here.

Shahid degenerating rapidly into madness is how the bard planned it, but it seems very melodramatic here. But then Vishal Bhardwaj redeems himself with scenes between mother and son. As audience who knows that ‘This is the very ecstasy of love, whose violent property ordoes itself and leads the will to desperate undertakings.’

If I have been obtuse in praise of Haider, it is because I am happily torn by images of death and snow shovels and the haunting tune of ‘bevajah gulmohur jhoom raha tha’...

P.S. And for those who wish to acquaint themselves to Hamlet, here is the original sequence of events in 20 lines (inspired by student guidebooks):  
1. Hamlet shows up during an official ceremony where Claudius, the new King, is dealing with court business. Claudius and Gertrude try to convince Hamlet not to be so gloomy. Fathers die all the time. 2. Hamlet wishes he could commit suicide because his mother's remarriage has made the whole world seem corrupted. 3. Horatio tells Hamlet his father's ghost has been spotted walking on the castle battlements. 4. Hamlet’s father's ghost tells him that his brother murdered him in order to steal his wife and his crown. Hamlet vows revenge, and swears the men to secrecy about seeing the ghost. 5. Hamlet mocks Polonius at every opportunity. He perks up when his friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show up, but soon realizes they are corrupt too. 6. Actors show up! Hamlet in a soliloquy reminds himself that he hasn't done anything about his father's murder. He decides to use the actors to stage a play of his father's murder so he can see Claudius's reaction. 7. Hamlet returns to the theme of suicide: "To be or not to be, that is the question." 8. Hamlet runs into Ophelia, whom he hasn't seen for a long time. He tells her he once loved her, then tells her he never loved her. 9. When the court comes in to see the play, Hamlet sits by Ophelia, talks about the faithlessness of women. 10. Claudius is upset with the play, Hamlet defiant. 11. Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that they are in the wrong. 12. Hamlet stumbles across Claudius praying and repenting. He almost kills him right there, but then decides that Claudius needs to go to Hell when he dies, so he'd better wait for a moment for him to commit sin, rather than murdering him while he's praying. 13. Hamlet confronts Gertrude about her sinful marriage to Claudius and accidentally stabs and kills Polonius. 14. Claudius forces Hamlet to tell him where Polonius's body is, then sends Hamlet away to England. 15. Hamlet sees Fortinbras's army marching off to war and is inspired to stop delaying and to carry out his revenge. 16. Hamlet walks through the palace graveyard and gets all depressed again about how people die —like Yorick, a court jester he loved, but who died when he was a child. 17. When the court comes to the graveyard to bury Ophelia, Hamlet and Laertes fight over who loved her more. 18. Hamlet tells Horatio everything: Claudius had tried to have him killed, he replaced his own name with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's names on the death warrant, and then escaped. 19. Laertes challenges Hamlet to swordfight. Hamlet has a bad feeling about it, but accepts. 20. Hamlet kills Laertes and finally stabs and poisons Claudius, then dies himself of the poisoned wound Laertes gave him. Hamlet asks Horatio to tell his story and suggests that Fortinbras become the next King of Denmark, a job, at this point, that no sane person would want.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: Mardaani

Rani Can Talk Mardaani, Rani Can Walk Mardaani, Rani Can...

2 stars

Mini Review:

This movie is a showcase for Rani Mukherji. Part 'Taken' part 'Savdhan India: India Fights Back', Mardaani starts out as interesting and then gets so gimmicky you think Sushant Singh is going to pop up on the screen and give gyan before a commercial break.

Main Review:

This is not a cop movie like Dabanng, Singham, Boss or even the ghastly Romeo Rajkumar. Mardaani is a showcase for Rani Mukherji. She's like Arjun Singh vald Bheem Singh vald Dashrath Singh. She can talk English, she can walk English, she can laugh English...

I mean she's so Mardaani she can do everything in the movie. She doesn't need a 'hero', she is the tough talking, tough walking, tough job holding hero. 

But that's where the similarity ends. Her team members always ask her to 'go home'. Would Bollywood dare tell Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn or Akshay Kumar that?

And what does she go home to? A namby pamby husband and an annoying niece who vanishes from the movie without any explanation. But the niggling doubt remained: Why would such a strong woman marry such a wishy washy husband? Would have been fun to see a doctor husband who stitches her up after she gets home from a fight or a doctor husband who teaches her skills with a scalpel, a skill she can later use to cut up baddies...

When they announced the movie, I was glad Rani Mukherji would be back on the big screen. She has more acting chops than most other heroines. But in this movie, she acts and she acts and she acts. Even as a girl dressed up as a boy in that forgettable movie she was better than this fake trash talking cop she plays here. For a chai guzzler like me, it was horrible to see her 'act' as though she was drinking chai. It doesn't happen once. It happens many times. And as a wise old soul sitting next to me commented, 'This full glass is not cutting chai'

Sigh. The same guy said, 'You critics would have slapped the movie hard had it copied Liam Neeson's Taken...' But it's worse realise that the 'auction of the girls' scene from Taken2 is shot way better (where martial art fighters are bid upon) in Man Of Tai Chi directed by Keanu Reeves.

I loved the gritty location of Modern Tailors, and the orphanage. but totally fed up of seeing the gigantic Hanuman as a representative of Delhi in Hindi movies. 

The young villain was interesting for ten minutes, then he got so annoying with his hoodie and the posturing that I almost missed the best line of the movie. Best in terms of the timing and characterization. And it belongs to the young villain. After being his villainous self he casually asks what's for lunch. That is superb timing. Far better than all the clever writing made for sound bytes.

Rani is a natural. That no one can deny. She's awesome when she slaps the baddie as she counts his misdemeanors. But it's a little disappointing when she misses the bright yellow sign of Modern Tailors and asks for directions...

Worst part of the movie? It turns into an annoyingly extended Savdhan India: India Fights Back. This is a very popular TV show (loved by alarmists in all families) hosted by Sushant Singh (and others) where real life crimes are enacted to show how you should be alert to crime in your neighborhood. 

The token Muslim khabri, the handsome Sardar, the creepy politician, the loyal police team, the callous adults at the orphanage all offer a brilliant canvas to Rani Mukherji's talent. Everything is focused on her. Alas, the lofty goal of child trafficking and the grisly ending become too self serving and pompous with the Durga mantras playing in the background. I wish Rani had Dabannged her way into our hearts instead of this trying-so-hard to 'acting' the walk mardaani, talk mardaani, laugh mardaani... 

I'm going to get over her 'acting' here by watching Yuva, Bunty Aur Babli and even her super mini dress avatar in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai again.

P.S. This review was tough to write because the production design was done by a very dear, very talented Madhu Sarkar Kuriakose, whose eye for detail is legendary.