Friday, January 29, 2016


Saala Predictable

2 stars

Mini Review:

An out of favor firebrand boxer turned coach is sent off by authorities to a bunch of losers to coach them. (No, no, this is not Chak De! new movie!) He spots a diamond in the rough, trains her to become world champion. (No, this is definitely not Mary Kom!) Bah! Humbug!

Main Review:

Why then the two stars? Madhavan's muscles, the young girl Ritika Singh's earnest efforts, and Nasser who actually is the most interesting character in the movie.

It's a sports underdog movie. You've seen Rocky slur thru seven movies with the same theme. I'm not even going to mention the baseball movies and the karate movies and cricket movies (remember Iqbal?). You've heard Shah Rukh give the 'I'm the only gunda here'speech. You've also watched the sleaze and the machinations of the Sports Authority Of India (SAI) officials in Mary Kom

So you think if Rajkumar Hirani is backing this movie, there must be some merit to the film. Alas, eating mixed popcorn in the darkness of the theater is more unpredictable and exciting. Because you never know what you're getting, caramel or cheese...

So Madhavan gets into an angry physical altercation with the sleazebags of SAI and is sent off from Hissar (spelt Hisar on screen for some reason) to Chennai. Chennai supposedly has never produced a boxer and their infrastructure is non-existant. 

Of course we see his biceps drive the motorbike down the countryside, we don't miss his biceps when he crosses his arms as he watches the girls fight. We are distracted by his biceps as he curses every fighter and says they're a bunch of losers 

Of course he spots a rough diamond. She is angry and supposedly smelly (a real Bombay fisherwoman would have chopped off Madhavan's fingers for giving her money to buy soap because she 'smells') and a good boxer (poor Mohammed Ali... gets quoted and quoted so much you start imagining him as the invisible Yoda).

And then you mark the mental checklist you've seen in all sports movies. The annoying training scenes. Of course the 'being jaded' is your state. Some of the audience is getting primed by the loud music and the earnest endeavor by the young newcomer Ritika Singh to clap. The Indian flags and the patriotism will come. Wait for it... Wait for it...

Bingo! Wild Card Entry to world championships. And yes, there is sleazeball head coach to settle his beef with Madhavan's biceps in his unique way... Leave the girl (who is almost in the finals) or else I will finish her career!

Madhavan's gorgeous eyes are filled with emotion as he resigns... and his student is allowed to fight, and win!

The trouble with the opponent, and I feel strongly about this. Why are we still making Russians the villains in boxing movies? 

And why do female students always end up having a crush on the teacher? It's bad enough coaches are found groping and molesting the students in real life. By writing a stupid romance/crush into the story they just ruined it for me. Yes, Madhavan needs to get pissed off at the crush but it could have been just as easily been another facet to the sisterly rivalry (student tells her sister i will throw the match then you will win and maddy overhears, does not see the sisters get into a fight where student injures herself, and Maddy gets mad when she loses the match.). There were so many options. This love aspect is just so annoying in a sports film. 

Nasser is the magic in this movie. He holds the khadoos coach and his even angrier student in both hands, keeping them from killing each other (and two angry people make for a very loud film) and bringing them together by telling each one goo things about the other.

The young girl is put through the paces as expected, but come across more real than Priyanka Chopra did in Mary Kom.

The movie ends on a Mera India Mahaan type note with a hysterical announcer dancing in the commentators box, Madhavan crying, winning student crying, sister crying, mother and father crying, Nasser crying, audience crying (inspired from many real stories it says on screen)...

p.s. Watch the movie when it appears on tv. Give me Chak De! any day!


Friday, January 22, 2016



1 star

Mini Review:

This film offers you a coloring by numbers of young adult science story telling. Predictable and laughable. 

Main Review:

One: A Blonde Heroine who writes journals. Isn't tough, but learns to kill zombies/aliens rather quickly. Must have motive to become 'heroine', something like: being separated from family/ little brother kidnapped and needs his teddy bear...

Two: Blonde Heroine's 'Unattainable' crush. Brunette. Football captain. Starts out as someone who hasn't ever noticed heroine or hates her in school but ends up rescuing heroine/ becoming friends to say lame, supposed romantic lines like, 'You're named after a star, Cassiopeia?' (Of course the heroine corrects him and says 'cluster of stars')

Three: Supposed Villainous Lad with Great Bod to whom Blonde Heroine is attracted. Since this is a sci fi, everyone would be in army fatigues or raggedy clothes, we must have (naturally!) the predictable shirtless/naked scene where he's bathing in a babbling brook.

Four: The Blonde Heroine and Villainous lad must have a do something clever with a GUN scene. He's either teaching her how to shoot (so naturally they come closer), or do tricks with a gun, or snatch gun from hand... Naturally there will be moment where his breath blows gently on her hair and she closes her eyes in some bizarre erotic episode.

Five: Villagers will be killed randomly by acts of alien creatures, but Blonde Heroine would be immune. She will escape earthquakes, floods, avian flu...

Six: Villainous Lad will fight the beast within when in love with Blonde Heroine. He will pay for love with his life. Blonde Heroine won't feel a smidgen of emotion because unattainable crush would be looking at her with sheep's eyes.

Seven: Blonde Heroine would kill/maim Main Villains/Vamps without too much practice. Thereby proving again that aliens/zombies are really stupid, despite their sci-fi looking paraphernalia.

Eight: There will be a punk/ street smart sidekick who you'd want to slap. They exist to annoy the audience or wake them up since the screenplay is so predictable!

Nine: Everyone but the principal characters would have noticed that the aliens have electricity and power. But the Blonde Heroine and everyone else suspect nothing because they are the US Army.

Ten: Camping equipment for cooking is always available for the Blonde Heroine and her band of rescued good guys. The namesake colored person would be the cook, cooking up some weird broth and eggs. (I always wonder how they kept the eggs from breaking in all that action?)

Such a waste of time and money to make a wannabe Hunger Games/Maze Runner/Scorch Trials...



The Takeoff Is Slow, But Altogether A Satisfying Hero Movie

2.5 Stars

Mini Review:

Let's do Hairy Chest Thumping. And turn an opportunistic Indian 'Biznessman' into a Hero. Oi! Nothing wrong with that. But this 'turning' is so slow to take off you have enough time to google how the war on Iraq started and guess what brand shirts Akshay Kumar is wearing... But when the film takes off, it is a good watch. 

Main Review:

Let's get the fan girl crush thing over with. Akshay dancing in a cream suit is a sight for sore eyes. He's so manly even though you wish he wasn't snatching instruments off the band members and playing them...

I love the fact that Akshay Kumar is one of the few big stars who isn't afraid to play his age. That said, the story is still in that zone where the filmmakers think 16 year boys playing with guns, killing people is 'ek do din ki baat'. You're sitting in the seat going, 'Seriously? Do something, dude?'

But when Akshay relalises that he has to do more than just save his family, you begin to crush on him again. He's so calm and confident you like that despite that niggling need to fast forward the movie a little. 

I like 'unlikely hero' movies. They follow a pattern and this one does too. Follows the trope faithfully in fact. Maybe that's why the story literally takes off in the second half. Things begin to happen. Some positive, some negative. But Akshay Kumar remains earnest and good. The supporting characters - from Purab Kohli to complaining George, from Miserable Saudi mom to Akshay's drinking buddies and even the creepy Hindi Film dialog quoting Iraqi Major - are all well cast. 

You as audience, mostly feel like the external affairs 'babu' Sanjeev Kohli - frustrated because you cannot do much, but wanting to help. The movie frustrates you with its textbook patriotism, but its heart is in its right place. You forgive the couple of mistakes you spot along the way simply because there's history backing the whole 'let's save ourselves' deal.

Go watch the film so you can believe in this thing called everyday heroes. Go watch the film because only Indians will make a war/action/rescue drama with songs.

p.s. I wonder what happened to the 500 people sent off on the garbage ship?
p.s. Are hairy chests back in style? I missed the memo...

Review: JUGNI

A Brilliant Start. A Spectacular Fall.

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

To watch the beginning of the film was a joy one has seldom experienced. The music is superlative and it has to be, because the film is about a music producer in search of that elusive melody that will make her famous. But the story soon loses its edge and become so bad bollywood, you begin to squirm in the seat and watch the disaster slowly unfold in front of you.

Main Review:

What amazing music this film offers you. What an amazing premise: A dream to bring music from the unknown villages and mix it and fix it to modern instrumentation and bring it to modern audiences! To watch it unfold on the big screen was a pleasure. 

A girl and her backpack leave the comfort of home and relationships going nowhere to the land of sarson ka saag and makke di roti in search of that elusive sound which makes a difference to her belief in music. She meets so many characters who are as colorful as the music they make. She is adamant. She is looking for Bibi Swaroop who sings sufi music. This is where Bibi Swaroop's son ensnares her with his voice. He's Master Mastana who sings lewd shaadi songs, songs for heartbreak, songs to insult too. His main man is Jeeta Jazbati who can play just about every instrument there is.

Now the girl from Mumbai produces a laptop and recording paraphernalia which sort of freezes Bibi who has a voice of the angels. Mastana has a plan. They ask for blessings from a baba whose mazaar is a journey away. Now this journey is momentous for the two of them. Although the music is phenomenal, this is where the downfall begins.

The story has a huge potential. The mother sings beautiful traditional songs, and the son accompanies her but reluctantly. The mother teases him about selling his talent to shaadi songs, but knows that the money to run the household comes from the 'modern' songs. By introducing a 'Let's have the hero and heroine get into a passionate one night stand and let's twist the way the two feel'

Aah, the Twist. The ordinary Bollywood movie of the 70s would have the 'pardesi' leave the village girl pining after him, with the subsequent insult to the girl and her family, then the girl comes to the city in search of the pardesi... The stories were so boring and predictable you were glad the seventies and eighties were over.

Unfortunately, this film becomes just one of those stories, and you walk out wondering why they could not stay edgy...

Friday, January 15, 2016


How Slow Hateful Racists Bastards Bleed

A Yawning 3 stars

Mini Review:

Tarantino makes a Roach Motel for his audience. You are glued to the seat as you watch blood and vomit and racist insults volley back and forth from bloodied mouths of people you don't care about.

Main Review:

You are not supposed to like this movie. You are not supposed to like the characters. They have been designed to make you puke into your popcorn. They are so awful you find yourself waiting for the grisly end you know Tarantino has planned for everyone.

Imagine a house in the middle of nowhere as a refuge to the worst characters you could think up, during a blizzard.

Now each character is carefully crafted to revolt. The heroine has an unpronounceable name. She is uncouth and her teeth are awful and she spits ever so often and is handcuffed to a magnificent moochdhari Kurt Russell who is a bounty hunter bringing her in as a murderer of many. 

Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Micheal Madsen, Demain Bichir, James Parks are all marooned in the house... Each rougher and more racist than the other. Everything that Americans want to sweep under the carpet comes crawling out: the confederates, the yankee hatred, the racism against black soldiers, the crude treatment of women... just about everything unpalatable is thrown at you blithely.

Now imagine Tarantino making this movie in India. Toofan! All the RSS Hindu and Staunch Muslim guys stuck in one roof with moderates who have guns... Kangna Ranaut, Sanjay Dutt, Mukesh Rishi, Irrfan Khan, Ajay Devgn, Deepak Dobriyal, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Manoj Bajpai, and Amitabh Bachchan as the old racist General...

I have always loved the massacre of the Fighting 88 in Kill Bill, so the violent vomiting was fun to watch, and the bad guys killing each other was too predictable. My only grouse, is that the film is such a slow painful watch, as though someone is slowly turning the screws into you and you are in agony.

The film is set in a closed setting of a house, but the snow covered outside also offers an awesome spectacle (comparable to the scenes in The Revenant). I spent the slow parts imagining the Indian version of the movie...

Yes, you do feel terrible after having watched this film. It's like having secretly supported Donald Trump. Perhaps we are too used to being politically correct. And we need to see what supporting such people, such ideas might do to us.


So much beauty, it cannot but be tragic!

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

If you could be made to feel a 'frisson', it would be here. If you could be made to marvel at a man's beautiful hands and the transfer that feeling of wonderment to the unconditional love given generously by his wife, then it would be here. This is a movie so beautiful, so tragic, it will stay with you long after you have left the theater.

Main Review:

Do not make plans for dinner after watching the movie. Go to a wood paneled smoking room and drown in the finest whiskeys or run away to a garden and be ensnared by heavy scent of old roses and lillies and more roses. 

This movie is like having impossibly beautiful girls from an Art Nouveau  painting come alive, except that you know it is Eddie Redmayne transforming himself into this coy, shy woman with beautiful hands and a neck you want to wring several times through the movie.

At first you watch him fascinated at how he transforms into a girl, posing for his painter wife because the model is late. Then you begin to feel like he does - the touch of the silk stockings is just as smooth and cool to your hands as it is to him. I could not breathe because I knew what he was thinking. And the power of this movie lies exactly here. You begin to understand his fascination. And you know the dialog is not trite when she suggests he might like to wear her night dress and he says, 'I might.'

That Lili has been struggling to make her presence real and Einar's initial confusion with his identity is very very endearing. Whilst Hollywood audiences love the way Einar observes women in the market and at social gatherings, Indian audiences, especially Marathi audience will remember the same transformation in Atul Kulkarni in the movie Natrang. Natrang was far more tragic to watch because he is a macho farming man who transforms himself physically to play the roles of an effiminate comic characters because he loves tamasha (theatre) so much. 

What starts out as a lark - a prank almost - that the only 'married' arty couple play on the soiree crowd full of single, outrageous arty types, becomes a reality. Gerda and Einar are happily married and then Einar transforms into a gender bending Lili. Only Gerda understands why Lili needs to live.

Gerda begins to paint Lili and her paintings make Gerda famous. But the more Lili lives, the more Gerda has to sacrifice...

The movie is an dramatisation of the real Lili Elbe's life. And Eddie Redmayne transforms into Lili so effortlessly, you cannot take your eyes away from him for the fear that you might miss a gesture or posture and absorb less of the beauty on the screen.

And you are so drunk on the beauty, that the director takes you with the flow and you suddenly begin to hate Lili's coy, smiles and begin to see all that selfishness...

One part of your heart still is reeking with empathy when Lili asks Gerda to hold his hand through the surgeries knowing Gerda is hankering after her Einar. Do you forgive Lili for putting her needs and desires ahead of Gerda's? Do you admire Lili's bravery? For being so different when the whole world wanted her to conform?

Alicia Vikander was the hero of the story as I saw it.

But Eddy Redmayne's delish neck and his beautiful hands do make a strong case for Lili.

p.s. just google pictures of the real Lili Elbe. tell me Eddie Redmayne is better looking...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Chalk N Duster

Smother Sir With Love

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

This is a movie whose heart is in the right place. But everything else is so unsubtle, so in your face, after a while, you're watching it like you would a gory, ghastly multi-car accident - you're watching but you shouldn't.

Main Review:

The premise is lovely. Education has become a business and we don't value our teachers enough. 

The stars are lovely too. Shabana Azmi, Juhi Chawla are really really sweet as teachers. And it is a pleasure to see Zarina Wahab on screen again. Divya Dutta who is genuinely sweet and sugar is amazing as the wicked witch of the west. Conniving and mean spirited, she does make you want to scratch her eyes out. 

But it's not enough to have stars sign up to play the roles they do. There needs to be craft, and sensitivity. Which is lacking completely. The issues that the movie tries to tackle are real issues, that is obvious. But the issues are handled like a clown chucking pies at the audience relentlessly. It's tragic, really. 

Kicking out older, experienced teachers to bring in younger teachers at less salaries is a truth faced by many industries, and it could have been shown in ways better than 'take away their chairs so they have to stand in classrooms and will get tired'. We then see teachers walking slowly, exhausted, their feet swelling up...

Principal talking rudely to teachers, teachers cowering helplessly because they need the salary, principal conniving with management, principal's 'chamchi' speaking rudely to teachers, 'Call me madam!', teacher fantasizing about beating up the aforementioned 'chamchi', the television journalist speaking rudely to the 'management' of the school, media chief taking bribes from the 'management'... It's all obvious and shown with no finesse at all. The treatment of the subject is loud and so crass you shake your head at the speechifying, 'Dronacharya is unwell and needs your help. Kahan gaye sab Arjun?'

The students rallying (they taught so many famous people, I wondered if real celebs were going to show up as past students), the finale (excruciatingly long quiz contest run like KBC by none other than Rishi Kapoor) is just tiresome ( a couple of questions were interesting, though). 

If the movie shows up on the telly, watch it because you're of the generation that found old school teachers on Facebook. If you're still in college or school, you'll switch channels faster than anyone can sing song that, 'Good morning miss!'


Saturday, January 09, 2016

Review: Our Brand Is Crisis

The Audience Is Bored

1/2 star

Mini Review:

That Americans have a vested interest in keeping Latin America poor is known. This is yet another movie where elections are 'guided' by American Specialists. But you've seen it all before, and brilliantly too, in Wag The Dog. Was this film really necessary?

Main Review:

I like Sandra Bullock. Really do. So the announcement of this movie seemed very welcome. And then I saw her showing up in Bolivia to run an election for someone who is not very likeable.

What was not likeable, however, was the predictable that happens to her: She is unable to handle the altitude and suffers - throws up, her hair and clothes are in a mess, and to top all that, she eats bags and bags of potato crisps...

And yes, there's Billy Bob Thornton who heads her her rival team in Bolivia...

Makes the locals look stupid and incapable of handle an election/strategy on their own.

There are a couple of scenes with the local Bolivian people and Sandra Bullock's team that seem more real than anything else, but the rest of the movie is as daft as Sandra Bullock mooning her rivals from a bus...

The made Wag The Dog years ago. And at that time I thought it was too nasty. It was meant to be. This one is merely ineffectual.

And Anthony Mackie doesn't have enough smiles to make it work. No matter how good they are.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Review: Daddy's Home

Disown These Daddies

1/2 star

Mini Review:

Two line story that takes forever to tell. Everything is obvious and crass and as low-brow as Mark Wahlberg kicking Will Ferrell in the nuts. You won't even want to watch it on TV. It's that awful. 

Main Review:

So Will Ferrell plays the gentle giant of a step-dad to two brats who call him by his name and not dad. Theirs is a sugar-sugar kiss-kiss care-care world until biological dad who ran away from responsibilities shows up and moves in.

This biological dad is motorbike riding, bicep displaying Mark Wahlberg. 

The tactics to earn affection of the kids are so awful you want to rip up the chair next to yours and fling it at the screen.

The worst part, the kids and the mom watch the two men behave badly without saying a thing.

Only in b-grade Hollywood. 

p.s. Half the star is for the drawings the child makes which shows Will Ferrell dying in many different ways.


Made For Festival Ovations

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

This film has many 'puke into popcorn' moments that disturb you. But when you step back, you realise it's laying it on too thick. And the pace of the film is so slow you can see 'atyachaar' come from a mile away. 

Main Review:

So Chauranga arrives on the screen with many 'festival' awards. And you know why. The story of a Dalit woman and her two kids in a village is practically tailor made for the festival circuit. Festivals love films that are 'Bold, stark, accurate portrayal of the poverty and atrocities experienced by the Dalits'. Chauranga fits the bill.

A Dalit and her two kids live at the mercy of the village Zamindar. The Zamindar seems to be kind to the untouchables of the village but you soon know why. The dalit woman's children are really his. 

The children don't know who the father is, but seem to be content being with their mother and are constantly bullied and beaten by the lanky but upper caste goons of the Zamindaars. The older kid takes a beating quietly, but the younger one has fire in his eyes. 

The village goons attempt to molest the dalit woman. The creepy blind priest molests his goat, beats up the dalit woman's pig, feels up the zamindar's daughter and then rapes the zamindar's wife in the name of religion.

There! All boxes checked for horrors in the village for the festival circuit audience to gasp in shock. 

Oh yes, there's the incident of another dalit boy being pushed into the well by the goons. Also no explanation why blood comes out of the newly installed hand pump...

(My bad! I was told that it wasn't blood, but that the color of the earth in those parts is red! adding this correction on the 5th of February, 2016)

There is a snake lurking in the grass and you'd think random shots of the snake would be considered artistic but no, the snake has a role to play too. 

Almost forgot, there is a Star Wars like incest theme there because the younger of the dalit woman's son is slowly falling in love with the zamindar's daughter...

The caffeine in your coffee cup is working no more and you see the older boy get crushed by a stone to his head and you hope there is no sequel to such movies where there is no room for hope at all...

The little boy manages to escape the village of horrors and soon we escape the theater too...

p.s. 'Chauranga' comes from the four colored pen the older dalit boy owns...

Review: WAZIR


1.5 stars

Mini Review:

What starts out as a taut, beautifully shot thriller nosedives in the second half with explanation after terrible explanation about what a 'pyada' does and an 'oont' and the 'haathi', 'raja' and 'wazir' do. But the relentless chess cliches won't let you catch a nap because you are also being mauled by an annoying 'maula, maula, rab, ishq, maula, maula' song that intrudes again and again and again...

Main Review:

It's annoying when the filmmakers treat their audience as if they were morons.

Dialog: 'Pyada kamzor hota hai'
Show Amitabh Bachchan's legs cut off at knees.

Dialog: 'Haathi waise toh Seedha chalta hai, lekin chhedo toh mast ho jaata hai, paagal ho jaata hai'
Show: Farhan Akhtar losing it.

Dialog: 'Dheere dheere chal kar pyada Wazir bhi ban jaata hai'
Show Amitabh Bachchan laughing in glee

Such horrific cliches give away the plot. But if you do not get it, it is not your fault. There is that annoying caterwauling called 'sufi' song that threatens to deafen you by appearing in every scene, no matter what the content of the scene is. 

Hero killing someone? Let the generic Arijit Singh voice wail, 'Maula, maula!'
Heroine crying? Same irritating lyrics of 'Maula', 'Rab'. 'Ishq', 'Junoon'...
Amitabh Bachchan emoting? That's where you insert even louder wails of inane Urdu lyrics that might as well be local train announcements. 

The relentlessness of the background score makes you want to turn to violence. Maybe that is why Farhan Akhtar is shown to be so trigger happy in the film. If that music was being played during the shoot, it is a miracle the actors did not use real bullets.

The action does get hilarious when Neil Nitin Mukesh shows up in leather and surgical gloves to push legless Amitabh Bachchan off his wheelchair (gasp!), when Superintendent of Police John Abraham (bless his biceps!) shows up to shoot policemen in the pretext of 'holding off the action'...

But everything is forgiven because Amitabh Bachchan in his Lear like avatar as Pandit Omkarnath Dhar can make you laugh and can make you cry. His voice may have no equal today, but boy, can he act!

ATS officer Danish Ali (Farhan Akhtar) is a good foil for this master and his 'I'm holding my breath to emote seething anger' is all right I suppose. His story is beautifully shown: love and marriage and baby and violence that leads to estrangement. His growing friendship with Panditji over chess (yes, yes, the dreaded cliche board!) is shown very, very well.

This is the first half. So good you think the movie is going to be amazing. Alas, Not even Aditi Roy Hydari's saucer eyes brimming with reproach and tears, Manav Kaul's viciousness, or a brief appearance by John Abraham's biceps can save the movie. WaZZZZZZir tries hard. Stays average. Tiresome even.