Friday, September 25, 2015

Review: The Intern

The Sweetest,  Most Sigh-Inducing Movie This Year

3 stars

Mini Review:

What movie audiences needed was a movie that made them feel good about the world, and about people. And personally, when a movie makes you smile long after it is over, you make space for it not just in your heart but on your dvd shelf and watch it when you're snuggled up in your blanket on a cold, rainy day...

Main Review:

Ann Hathaway and Robert De Niro have brought us a very special movie. The premise, as the trailer promises, seems fun: a young woman entrepreneur employs a retired gent as an intern.

What the movie does is explore all the things that could and happen to an intern and then some. And there's not a moment where you are not smiling. And it's a rare thing because the cynic inside you hopes that the movie falls flat. But it doesn't. There's no offensive 'older actors forced to behave as though they were desperate for sex' as in Last Vegas. 

There is, on the other hand so much hope and charm that this film offers. And it's not just for the characters -- an older man who is not just the annoying grandpa at a dinner table, or some impossible Expendables type ageing hero. Robert De Niro plays a good guy. A man who has a handkerchief to offer as well as sound advice to the young people with whom he works. And no it's not as boring as I make it sound.

It is fun to watch Robert De Niro in such a self deprecating mode - a far cry from Travis Bickle. I had not liked Meet The Fockers kind of roles he was doing simply because those movies just used the movie characters he played to fit into their story. In this movie the role seemed to be written before they fit him into it. And he fits into the role of a 'I'm more comfortable in a suit' character beautifully.

There is no 'pity-me-because-i'm-alone' thing at all. Neither is his character the 'old and therefore shrewish' person. And that's why we enjoy the twinkle in his eye when he's with Rene Russo. And the kind concern when he's driving Ann Hathaway...

But I'm giving away too much.

A few months ago, Danny Collins gave back a role that helped Al Pacino show us why he is set up on a pedestal at acting school. This movie does not do as much, but gives us a glimpse of the powerhouse of acting De Niro is. 

Watch the movie. It made me smile, it made me laugh, it made me wish that there were more happy movies... Come back and tell me if despite all that is good about the movie, all that it makes you feel, you would have dumped the husband if you were Ann Hathaway or no. 

I know I would.  

Review: The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials

Great Special Effects, Not So Great Story

2 stars

Mini Review:

If you haven't seen The Maze Runner, you'll find yourself going, 'Whaaa?' at different points of the movie, and rolling your eyes when you realise what they're talking about. The story lets down the super special effects. 

Main Review:

For some strange reason, I don't remember having seen The Maze Runner on the big screen, so I watched it before I went in for the screening of The Scorch Trials. In short, The Maze Runner is about a strange place called the Glade, where young boys are held virtual prisoners (they grow their own food, they live in a self-made shelter and self-created rules) between four walls. There are Runners among them who manage to run out when the walls open in the morning in order to find a way out, but have to return at sundown because there are these scary Grievers who roam the maze. An impatient boy Thomas refuses to live by rules and breaches the maze with the help of a band of boys (and a girl). 

Now Like The Hunger Games, the enemy is scary. The Grievers are giant cyborg spiders that take your breath away and not in a nice way. But the big difference between the two series is that the kids in The Hunger Games know exactly why they are in that situation. Here, the kids have no memory of why they are here and barely even manage to remember their names. But you are drawn to the similarities in the stories.

The Scorch Trials has the same problem as the second part of The Hunger Games. The story makes you say, 'just get on with it!'

And although the special effects are superb, the camaraderie between the 'good' characters is shown growing in an nice organic way, the bad characters are conflicted, the whole thing is so predictable, you start mentally ticking off 'who dies next'.

With the Scorch Trials, when you realise what it is that the kids are immune against, you just groan. This is what the whole fight is for? You've seen too many movies about starring what this movie calls 'the Flare' and even when the sequence of fighting the victims of the flare in what seems like an abandoned mall, is very well made, the novelty wears off soon.

The story seems to go nowhere after that, until there is betrayal. And even though the people who made the film think they're doing something dramatic, the audience has guessed it already. Sigh. 

And even though there's no Jennifer Lawrence to add a 'star' quality to the Maze Runner series, it stands on its own. 

You know there is part three to the tale because the story does not end and you throw up your hands saying, 'Why make this stop-gap movie?' But The Hunger Games does the same damned thing, and the kids loved those movies...

The Maze Runner has a creepy advantage (in my head) over The Hunger Games, because the kids don't know what they're doing in the maze, who is playing them or why. And that is a bigger challenge over The Hunger Games where you know who the bad guys are, and why the kids are in that 'game'. 

The two stars are earned by the special effects and the camaraderie between the characters.

See it for the big scenes and special effects if you wish, but you could just as happily watch it on dvd...

P.S. Every time I see air vents, I am reminded of this brilliant list:



Friday, September 18, 2015


Gareebon Ka 500 Days Of Summer + Kal Ho Na Ho, with shades of every pukeworthy romantic notion thrown in. 

1 star

Mini Review:

They took 500 Days Of Summer and mixed it up with Kal Ho Na Ho because they didn't know how to end it. Added all possible cliches of romantic love portrayed in films and shoved them into one bowl in the hope that you will swallow this 'marte dum tak tumhare saath rahoonga' tediousness like some teenager who is in love with the idea of love. 

Main Review:

Lovesick-at-first-sight Maddy falls for tattooed, carefree (read 'weird clothes'), wild child Tanu Extended and gets dumped. The rest of the movie is about how he tries to figure out why... Thankfully this movie is not 500 days long even though in its awfulness it feels like 500 Days Of Tannu.

Then you realise that everybody, yes, everybody including the busty bimbo and the brainless boss knows why Tannu dumped Maddy except him. Wow! Poor sod! Everybody in his life conspires to NOT tell him that the girl is dying of lymphosarcoma of the brain, because they think he's nuts? 

But when his 500 Days wali sister tells him, the movie freefalls into the most annoying 'I'ma gonna pee in the expensive potty unless you tell me where she is' (inspired by scene from Couples Retreat where Vince Vaughn's kid poops in the potty in a store) to 'How not to die' scenes. One of them borrowed straight out of Seinfeld when Kramer lives right across from the red neon of a chicken house. The hospital room is bathed in red...

I've never wished death upon any character as much as I did in this film. But all is not lost. I learnt many useful things.

1. Live-in 'kuppals' (rhymes with chappal, but is meant to be spelt as couple) only cuddle.
2. If you know how to make paper cranes, you can be in art class in an architecture college
3. If you have a cool girlfriend, she will paint your toenails red. 
4. No matter what year it is in the movie, there is always a Sachin match on TV
5. If your girlfriend dumps you, she's really into you, so go stalk her, chase her.
6. Your girlfriend has to die in order to get rid of your smarmy love for her.
7. Your friends will put up a Devdas and Paro show when your parents come to visit.
8. If your fiesty, wild child girlfriend is dying of cancer, and in the hospital, then you are allowed to bring her Smirnoff.
9. There's the handy Oxygen tent in backpack thang you can borrow from The Fault In The Stars to make Cancer look real.
10. You can make the girlfriend who only wanted to live-in with you marry you when she's weak and in a wheelchair and pumped full of meds.

The Devdas parody, that is perhaps the funniest thing in this movie. That earns half of the one star this movie deserves.

The other half is for the resounding slap Payal gives Maddy in the movie. 

It was long required. There is absolutely no chemistry between Maddy and Payal and the audience was more than fed up of the 'I love you forever', and 'I love you so don't ever leave me' and 'My love is true love', 'I love you so much', and 'I love you, my love' and 'I love you truly', and 'I love you madly', and 'I love you and if you leave me I will die', and 'I love you so, so much', and 'I love you' and 'I love you forever', and 'I love you so don't ever leave me' and 'My love is true love', 'I love you so much', and 'I love you, my love' and 'I love you truly', and 'I love you madly', and 'I love you and if you leave me I will die', and 'I love you so, so much', and 'I love you' ...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review: Black Mass

Johnny Depp Shows Us Why He's Johnny Depp. 

3 stars

Mini Review:

A Biopic that is held together with a fabulous cast and the amazing talent that is Johnny Depp. The Censors make a hash of the dialog, but they have not been able to mutilate the awesomeness that is Black Mass.

Main Review:

John 'Whitey' Bulger is a small-time Irish neighborhood crook when his pal in the FBI makes him a deal which makes him into a monster. And you will watch this bio-pic mesmerised. You don't see an OTT Jack Sparrow. You see a fine actor, controlled in his performance, at once menacing, at once gentle. And even though there is a fine cast assembled to share screenspace with him - Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Peter Saarsgard, Jesse Plemons, Corey Stoll, Rory Cochrane to name a few - Johnny Depp puts them all in the shade.

It is a bio-pic and so predictable, it begins to feel lumbering and heavy in the middle, but the story keeps you glued. And so does the hero.

These are just three moods of Whitey Bulger... And when you see the scene where he threatens the wife of the FBI agent, if you are as shook as when you first saw the horse's head on the bed in The Godfather.

The resemblance to the original crook and Johnny Depp is so amazing, you will be further amazed. 

Yes, the movie is liberally peppered with 'fuck you' and 'fuck this' and 'fuck that' and the asinine censors do the same with the movie. But then what can be expected of a bunch of political appointees...


Review: Meeruthiya Gangsters

The North Indian Gangster Genre Dies Here

1 star

Mini Review:

This movie tries so hard to be funny, it shoots itself in the foot. Nothing makes us care about the fate of any of the gangsters and you're weary at the end of this Wasseypur leftovers.

Main Review:

They're so cool, they drive around helmet-less... is their song.  They mouth cliches like 'setting' (for women) and they shown drinking all the time... The collective IQ of this song singing bunch of 'college' gangsters seems so low, nothing they do earns our empathy. In fact, in the first five minutes I wanted to throw hot coffee on their faces. 

Even their names are sort of leftover from Wasseypur: Sanjay Foreigner. He has a girlfriend who slaps him around, pushes him and pushes him to elope with her to his mamaji's place. Funny? I don't know. As bad as a monkey slapping Akshay Kumar? Yes.

Mamaji (Sanjay Mishra) is a real estate guy but runs away from cops. Why? No one knows, but Sanjay Mishra is a god actor and it's supposed to be funny. Ha, Ha.

The gang is looking for a job. Why, we don't know. But it's supposed to be funny when gangsters make presentations. Why do they think jobs will be given to them as a group, no one knows. But it's supposed to be funny when gangsters go for an interview, and attempt to wear ties. Considering they are so daft, one thought they'd show up for the job interview in clothes from a laundry after slapping the dhobi (maybe even in wedding ki sherwani)...

We are supposed to laugh because they rob the daru ka adda where they've been drinking (that dilapidated place has collections of 3/4 lakhs? It doesn't strike them that if they can just rob and run, they don't really need jobs?) But it's supposed to be funny when their motorbike does not start after the robbery... We laughed. Not.

There are funny lines, like when they wear stockings over their face, or when they argue with the kidnappee instead of getting on with the job... but when you look at the movie as a whole, it starts looking like a bunch of skits put together haphazardly without caring for details.

Why else would there be glaring mistakes? Sanjay Mishra, whose character forever talks about money, leaves his wallet on the desk at the police station (a little packet of marijuana has been found in the wallet)... And you notice such things because everyone is trying so hard to 'be' smalltown crooks or whatever.

The stylised gunbattle goes on for so long, you are too weary to laugh when they wave a chaddi for a white flag. Ten year olds won't find that funny, let alone gangster weary audience.

The audience loved Wasseypur because it was different. Then came poseurs like Bullet Raja, Tamanchey et all, and bombed. This movie should be a final nail in the coffin for gangster flicks. The director should wipe his slate clean with that perennially present white gamchha that's used by everyone in the film and think afresh.

P.S. The smartest thing in the movie is the girl (Nushrat Bharucha)...


Friday, September 11, 2015

Review: HERO

To Know Despair, Watch This Movie

1/2 star

Mini Review:

When you watch this movie, you will slowly feel despair rise up from your gut as you feel terrible for an old favorite mutilated, for talentless star kids going through the motions of 'acting', for ageing stars who think their kids will bring back their lost fame, for an incestuous system of let's pat each other's derrieres which will produce duds like these. I despair for everyone! You will too.

Main Review:

Figure 1: The original Hero by Subhash Ghai
Figure 2: What time did to the VHS we carefully stored
Figure 3: What Nikhil Advani did to the old favorite...

You may not know Cecilia Gimenez. She meant well when she attempted to 'restore' the fresco. And the results are there for everyone to see. When you see Hero, you know Figure 3 is what the team behind the new Hero has done to original movie. And there was no one to stop them. In fact, Subhash Ghai is a part of this travesty. Somewhere, he too seems to be looking for that lost glory...

An old fresco means nothing to you? Then let me remind you of Sid, from Toy Story. Remember him? The kid who took perfectly innocent toys and turned them into mutants

Hero is a bit like that. The director added lots of tattoos, lots of flash, lots of noise, lots of leap in the air and come down like a ton of bricks fights. None of it believable. In fact, the tattoos make you laugh.

Imagine Kajol running away from Shah Rukh's embrace in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai when her ring blinks at her, reminding her she's engaged?

In Hero, every time the poor lad almost kisses Sunil Shetty... I mean... the heroine... you see 'Maa' tattooed right between his thumb and pointing finger... Quite the mood breaker that devotion to his mom...

But if they were paying attention to the story, the tattoo should have said 'baba', no? To prove his devotion to fair and lovely Amrish Puri wannabe? But who cares about the story! Pasha here should have been a fugitive from the law, but looks like a politician cum moneylender, and his attached-at-the-hip lawyer simply vanishes from the picture when the van blows up...

When does the van blow up, why is Pasha allowed to roam free are immaterial when you are rendered numb by the talentless lead pair pushing the story. Maybe that's harsh. How does a boy act when there's a fan in front of his face at every close up? (And there are a lot of them!) And what's a girl got to do when half the audience can see no more than her ginormous sulky lower lip, and the other half sees her as her dad with tresses? Not their fault at all. Their only fault is the horrendous dancing. Can imagine Matt Preston and co commenting on Masterchef Australia, 'I would have allowed it to remain two minutes less in the pan...' There is choreography, yes, but no elegance, no finesse.

That's it. There is no elegance, no finesse in the movie. Meenakshi Sheshadri may not have jazz danced in Paris but she made a better hostage. Jackie Shroff did not have to make that 'Hero wali entry' to make us believe that he was Dada... Dammit! Even the letter Amrish Puri receives from the chai and bread boy in jail in the original movie seems more authentic.

This movie is simply a despair inducing fake. 

I hope some day, Bollywood will stop patting each other on social media and IRL, stop grasping at straws in the hope that their kids will bring back the fame they once had, send their kids to school and give them an education instead of accents.

Salman Khan is trying real hard to be mister nice guy encouraging the next generation, but even he cannot succeed when the whole cocktail tastes like desperation.