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...


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.


Saturday, October 25, 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.


Sunday, October 05, 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.