Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: THE SENSE OF AN ENDING


The Fault In Our Nostalgias

3 stars

Mini Review:

Ritesh Batra makes a wonderful transition from Lunch Box set in the suburbs of Bombay to the burbs of London. This movie has a old world feeling in spite of being set in the now. A curmudgeon to his present and nostalgic to a fault, Tony Webster is forced to face his past when he receives a note about a will. Trouble with this film is that it is too beautiful for us to be irritated with the protagonist and the end is so downplayed you step out a tad dissatisfied.

Main Review:

Over the last couple of years, we have seen many good movies centered around crotchety old men, the best being Toni Erdmann (German) and A Man Called Ove (Swedish), and before that we have the homegrown Piku too. So watching Jim Broadbent in a role of a divorced old man who has a very grown up, very pregnant daughter, and a rather practical ex-wife who forces him (as much as her polite British upbringing will let her) to learn to live in the present was a great idea.

The book is impossible to film, they said. But Ritesh Batra brings a wonderful film on the big screen. And as you watch the story unfold, you realise why it seems so easy. We Indians too have a parent or a grandfather who chooses to reminisce and live in those good old days, frittering away the present…

Jim Broadbent plays Tony Webster, who runs a small camera repair shop (because his first girlfriend gifted him his very first camera) lives alone in a neat suburban house. He is rather rude to the mailman and you don’t like him very much. And you begin to see the humor in your instant dislike because you see how easily the chatty customer gets under his skin.

The film turns into all kinds of beautiful when the letter informing him that he has inherited something from someone from his past stuns him. He has to not only try and figure out why his past stubbornly wants to remain his past but also understand why he is being forced to learn to live in the present.

The interaction between his ex-wife (the amazing Harriet Walter) and Tony Webster are like pure gold. You know he’s itching for a fight, and that she has impeccable logic, which prevents her from getting into an argument. It is something you may have observed in your own home, when a mother simply raises her eyebrow at the irrational demands made by an irritated father, instead of getting into a fight.

The freckles of Freya Mavor need to be awarded a star on their own. She’s all that the writer made her to be. Teasing, mysterious, and unpredictable. Someone who will turn quiet college freshmen insane. And the same goes for Emily Mortimer and Charlotte Rampling! I can totally understand why Tony would look back at Emily Mortimer waving that my-hands-are-tied-but-i’m-attracted wave, and how he would stalk Charlotte Rampling to her Highgate home…

Guilt, nostalgia and a search for happiness drive us to chuckle at Tony Webster, slide down the theatre seats with a sense of knowing all these characters in our real lives, and coming away not as irritated at the old man as you did in the beginning.      




Review: HINDI MEDIUM


It's fun, but the joke doesn't have legs...

2 stars

Mini Review:

Getting a child admitted to the best school can be a circus at the best of times. At the worst, it requires all kinds of sacrifices from parents who aren’t ‘elite’. Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar learn a lot of hard lessons of life on the way, with the help of Deepak Dobriyal. The film starts out on a right note but the need to teach you a lesson is pushed and pushed in your face until you are weary.

Main Review:

Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar are childhood sweethearts from Chandni Chowk. He has a large clothing store and she takes care of their home and their child Pia who is now ready to be sent to school.

She’s fun to watch, with her character finicky about the child eating right, not watching too much tv, playing right (you laugh out loud when you see her sanitise the slide in the park!). But she has ambitions for her child. And the ambitions include getting the child admitted to the best school in Delhi.

Irrfan Khan plays the loving husband, drives the wife to the schools that look more like fancy hotels rather than schools. But at her insistence he moves bag and baggage to a fancy neighborhood so they fulfil the residential requirement that will enable the child admission to a fancy school.

Now Irrfan Khan is a good actor, but you see red flags go up when he begins to overdo the ‘acting’ as they leave Chandni Chowk and he laments over Kulche Chhole. The script takes us to the travails of this wealthy but very clearly ‘Hindi Medium’ family attempting to fit into ‘posh’ society. Your jaw drops as the madness to get the child into a good school is pushed further and further and you like when Deepak Dobriyal shows up on the screen as neighbor. The humanity and the way of life is fun up to a point, but you are exhausted by things like ‘kill the Dengue mosquito by humming like female mosquito’ which are meant to be funny.

By the time the lessons are learnt and the hearts transformed, you as audience is exhausted. The last lesson of how poor kids deserve a good school too is tiresome. Sabah Qamar is beautiful and unlike TV actors who have not really made a mark on the big screen, she actually shines. Irrfan Khan starts out as a fun guy but tends to ham, ham and ham some more. Deepak Dobriyal is as good as ever. Tillotama Shome hammers home the role of a supercilious prep school head and you shudder because such people exist and terrify new parents as they get desperate to get their kids admitted to good schools.

This movie could have been great had it not tried to teach the lesson so hard. But Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar in ‘branded’ clothes and blingy accessories will make you smile.



  
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: HALF GIRLFRIEND


Fully Pakaoo

½ star

Mini Review:

The ridiculousness starts when she says she wants to be his half girlfriend. And through this half baked attempt at romance, social service, drunkenness you realise that in this asinine attempt at movie making, the heroine would rather have cancer than be his girlfriend!

Main Review:

Clarification-wa:
Bihaar ke naam pe ye saale Bollywoodwale itna bakwaas karte hain ki khoon khaul jaata hai. Saala har film mein Bihari character 'Burbak' zaroor kehta hai. Is film mein yeh shabd gaayab hai. Isiliye is film ko 1/2 star. Baaki sab angrezi mein.

I'd Rather Have Cancer Than Be Your Girlfriend!

Imagine a movie where heroine fakes cancer in order to run far, far away from the hero! How pathetic must he be! And he is! Arjun Kapoor tries, and tries real hard to be that hero. But with a body built in the gym, he just does not manage to look like a 17 year old taking admission in college. The rest is even more ridiculous.

So he does not speak English. Why does he have to be from Bihar? Could be from bleddy anywhere in the country, no? Let's say his English is poor, why then does he speak Hindi the way he does? Jaw-droppingly good Hindi is spoken by people all down the cow belt! If only the filmmakers had bothered to do a little bit of research, they would have found out that Bihar churns out the maximum number of IAS officers in the country and they do not speak the way Arjun Kapoor does, if indeed he has scored marks enough to seek admission in St. Stephens College in New Delhi. Let’s say you forgive them for poor research, at least have a story to tell!

Story Bhi Half-baked Hee Hai!

What we get in the name of a story are cliches. A sackful of outdated ideas that nobody cares for.

  1. A poor boy (impoverished prince, even!) meets rich girl in college. Strike up a friendship.
  2. He has Hindi speaking friends which could not be more teeth-grindingly regional.
  3. She goes out with him. She shops, he carries bags.
  4. There is party at her home where the disparity of their economic status is made clear.
  5. Her parents do not have a happy marriage.
  6. He has a single mom who teaches him things like, ‘Don’t ever give up!’
  7. Mother runs a school in the village.
  8. She is married off to the rich boy her parents approve.
  9. He thinks because she kissed him, she’s his.
  10. Of course he has no idea of consent, he yells at her, ‘When you want you will kiss, but what when I want?’
  11. He’s back home but is pining away for her.
  12. She bumps into him, and he insists she teach him English.
  13. She teaches him English, but he thinks she loves him.
  14. Of course his mum says, ‘You’re divorced, you left husband, now please leave my son alone.’
  15. She leaves, he runs after her train, ‘I’m afraid I’m no good without you…’
  16. He gives a horrendous speech in real bad Hindi (Seriously people! Bihar is a Hindi speaking state! They couldn’t even get this part right!) mixed with English.
  17. He gets funding from a morphed Bill Gates and is asked to intern at United Nations (nothing less!).
  18. The girl has cancer, only three months to live, and she vanishes.
  19. He goes to New York and begins to behave badly because he cannot get her out of his mind.
  20. Like all Hindi film ‘Majnus’ (romeos), he searches for her in all the bars because she wanted to sing in bars in New York (no one asks why she was playing basketball in St.Stephens, though!).
  21. His friends try to dissuade him, but he wanders about drunk.
  22. He locates her, and she looks defeated rather than ecstatic. But because it’s a Hindi film, they make love with sheets chastely wrapped around them.

We pray he falls asleep after lovemaking so she can run away again. But thankfully the credits roll. This film leaves you puking a little inside as you watch it because there’s zero chemistry between the lead actors Shraddha Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor and even less acting skills, no earthly reason why it rains in Delhi at college admission time (peak summer!), no reason why he believes she is still alive... There’s no reason at all why you should go see this film.    



Friday, May 12, 2017

Review: MERI PYARI BINDU


An Exasperatingly Boring Love Story

2 stars


Mini Review:


Have you ever been tied to a chair, and subjected to listening to someone else reading from their ‘dear diary’ entries for 30 years? That’s exactly how you feel when watching Ayushman Khurana and his beard drone on and on and on about this one crush he’s had on Bindu who friendzoned him like, forever. You come away loving Parineeti Chopra’s performance and wonder if Chetan Bhagat wrote this asinine story.


Main Review:

Frank Capra said: There are no rules in filmmaking, only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.

Ugly bearded boy has had a crush on his childhood friend who is this beyond-his-reach-girl, the gorgeous Parineeti Chopra. The story starts with how the lad has always had a crush on the girl who has friendzoned him for ever and ever. Now either he’s too dumb to take the hint or he just won’t get over her. He is Bengali (more Karolbagh than Kolkata) and she’s Tamilian (and I’m Merlin The Magician!) and as their story unfolds, it sounds more and more like Chetan Bhagat’s biographical stories...And it slowly kills all your brain cells one by one by one.


Ranbir Kapoor he’s not. Ranbir has this ‘Just woken up Sid’ type innocence that you don’t begrudge him a little rudeness. But when Ayushman Khurana pretends to be rude, he just sounds horrible. You are surprised and happily so at the sight of Khopdi (from the cult TV show Nukkad) and are exclaiming to yourself and to people around you, ‘He’s alive! He’s alive!’ when Ayushman Khurana (who’s sitting on Khopdi’s scooter) snipes at him, ‘Tum bag ko sambhalo na! (Don’t listen to us!)’. Seriously?! A man who claims to be in love and talks to people in that rude manner should be dropped off from the nearest cliff!  


Parineeti Chopra’s character is strangely drawn too. We don’t know what she’s studying (she’s shown taking exams with Ayushman), or what she’s qualified for. We only know she dropped out of college when her mother dies in the year 2000.


Oh yes, the calendar. The movie starts reminiscing about them growing up. If we assume he’s almost thirty, then the movie has a monotonous monologue explaining how he has loved her for 30 years. Some parts of the dialog are clever, the ones that incorporate the Kishor Kumar songs and offer cinematic references, but that’s all they are. And better read than be told during the movie. The monologue is interrupted by two really wonderful, real, honest characters: Ayushman’s mum and dad played naturally by Aparajita Adhya and Rajatava Datta. Not only are they the best thing about this movie (half a star each!), and one half star goes to the art director who thought of putting his mum and dad’s photographs on the table. Wonderful touch that. So we suffer his memory diarrhea for almost thirty years, and even though the film is 119 minutes long, you think you’re Rip Van Winkle when you come out of the theatre.

No amount of 'kewl' names for pulp fiction - Guitar Phobia, Dracula Lover Chudial Ki Choli or references to the joy of old Hindi film music can take the boredom of the narrative away.

One request to Yash Raj. Please step out of the studios and see how young people dance or behave when happy. They certainly don’t go to gigantic studio spaces fitted with empty tram cars and jump simultaneously in the air. The song is so pointless and out of touch with reality… But yes, Parineeti Chopra has a wonderful singing voice, and even though her songs are lost in the inanity of Ayushman’s droning of his story, she deserves half a star for her talent. I wish she has better luck with the script next time! This one was mostly ‘acting’ bindaas or dumb but pretty girl.

If you wish to escape the summer heat outside or seek help in falling asleep, this film is a great option.


P.S. Do Bengalis dance in the rain? or is it 'Bhetore esho! Oshuk hoye jaabe!' and 'Come shona! Wear your monkey cap!'?



(this review sans Frank Capra quote and the post script appear on nowrunning dot com)



Review: SARKAR 3


Bhahut Bekaar Cheez Hai Yeh Sarkaar

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

Amitabh Bachchan is earnest, great even, but even he cannot prevent the poorly scripted and horribly hammed work from turning into a train wreck. Of course when you begin to laugh at threats like ‘I’m going to kill Sarkar’ you know the film has failed on many levels. This film is crammed to the gills with characters and motives that go nowhere.

Main Review:

A picture of Abhishek Bachchan grinning is set on the wall of Sarkar’s living room is the only lucky thing in the entire film. He is Shankar Nagre, who died in Sarkar 2.

(VOICE inside my head: Bach gaya! Warna he would have had to watch Amit Sadh act!)

Because Shankar died, we have to put up with the insufferable Amit Sadh who overdoes everything. He hams so much, even his silhouette - when Sarkar kicks him out of the house - overacts.

The movie begins with Sarkar, played with great earnestness, by Amitabh Bachchan, giving a speech. That voice is so mesmerizing, it doesn’t matter what he’s saying, because it really is gobbledegook about how ‘Sarkar is a thought, not a man’ and you like it because Amitabh Bachchan is saying it. Get on with the story! We’ve heard it all before, when a sleazy man in a maroon velvet suit, strangely showy sunglasses and shiny shoes shows up and makes Sarkar an insulting offer: help us throw out the poor people from their hutments and we will share our profits with you. Sarkar, as laconic as ever, declines. The man leaves after saying, ‘I love you!’

That’s interesting, you think, and settle down for more weirdness. And then you begin to laugh. The sleazy guy is called ‘Gandhi’ and his weirder boss is ‘Sir’. Sir turns around. Whoa! It’s Jackie Shroff the Dubai Don perpetually located by the pool, next to a bimbette who wears the most inappropriate clothes. After you’ve stopped grinning at discovering the eternal Jaggu Dada call her ‘Darling’ and spout dialog like, ‘Darling, don’t speak, only think!’ or ‘Select whatever ring you wish (at the jewelry store), but remember women who wear my ring die.’

(VOICE inside my head: Jackie Shroff is a blessing! Warna we would be watching Amit Sadh act some more!)

If you don’t manage to jot down any other ‘darling’ dialog, it’s because you’re trying to do two things at the same time: laugh at ‘darling’s’ attempt at speaking coherently, and keep your jaw from dislocating with surprise at the clothes (and the things she’s doing) by the pool, and in the pool. She feed dolphins that are swimming in the pool, she even walks a reluctant lap dog by the pool, she jumps into a pool that turns out to be a wading pool and pretends to swim (when she’s really sitting in water not deeper than a foot and a half. And erm, she’s not wearing a swimsuit but lacy lingerie. She’s water moll to Dubai Don who looks like he’s stoned, mostly, or stony faced because of Botox…

Then there’s strange threads introduced in the story: Union leader Gorakh who takes a bribe and vanishes, Manoj Bajpayee who plays politician named Gokul Deshpande, who hates Sarkar and his ways. His mom also hates Sarkar, but we don’t know why, and it’s weird to see Rohini Hattangadi play it drunk. Then there’s Yami Gautam whose role is all widening and narrowing of eyes as if she is plotting something, and then doing nothing. Yes, she has a couple of weird ticks (she shakes her foot impatiently in one scene and then rubs her forefinger to thumb as though testing the texture of air). Why she does that, no one cares because you’re grinning over her wanting to be ‘Sarkarni’. Female Sarkar? Yes.

Ronit Roy gets to play right hand man of Sarkar, and thankfully he gets to die in the crossfire when characters are double and triple crossing each other at the beat of the infernal ‘Govinda Govinda’ chant and beat that dominates the film score. When that chant showed up in Sarkar the original film, the audience loved it, because it turned the college graduate Shankar into Sarkar, In this film of all the double crosses crammed into the second half, the film collapses into one gigantic nought.

(VOICE inside my head: Good thing there are so many characters, warna we would have had to watch more of Amit Sadh's act!)

Yes, Amitabh Bachchan certainly earns a star for his performance, but the half goes to whoever figures out why ‘Darling’ needed to be in the film...     


(this review sans the voice inside my head, appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD


Bahubali Ya Batman?

3 stars

Mini Review:

Was it a mistake letting Guy Ritchie take a quintessential English tale and turn it into a battle of good vs. really good evil? The explosive action and the grey, ‘doomed forever’ setting is perfect. But it’s disconcerting to see bits of Batman in the story, hear a regular Hollywood American English being spoken by King Arthur (and everyone else), and the awful omnipresent undeniable parallel storyline with Bahubali. If you can get over all that, then the legend of the sword keeps you hooked.

Main Review:

England Ka Bahubali

The only difference between Arthur and Bahubali is the color palette. The rest is the same. In England, an evil, conniving Uncle makes a deal with the devil to become King. In Mahishmati, an evil undeserving cousin plots to become King. In England, the real heir to the throne, floats away in a little boat and is saved and brought up by prostitutes, In Mahishmati too the real heir floats to safety in a boat… The similarities are endless, but it ends with the color palette. While England has only greys and blues and blacks, Mahishmati suffers from a color diarrhoea.

Guy Ritchie Had Batman On His Mind

England is cold and grey and mostly gloomy, but they do have a fabulous legend of the sword in the stone happily exploited by the Minions and other animation films as well as sexily by the Richard Gere/Sean Connery film First Knight. Guy Ritchie offers us a dark action film that is more Batman than Arthur. Especially with the losing of parents, the nightmares, and of course bats in the cave!

But what explosive action! The legend of the sword holds its own and does not allow Guy Ritchie to fool around with it. The creepy Syrens too have an old world feeling about it. ‘You know the price you have to pay’ is so fairy tale-ish… The Lady Of The Lake pulling Arthur in and showing him a glimpse of the future is brilliant too.

What Guy Ritchie cannot be faulted for are the fight sequences. The assassination attempt, the fight following the attempt, the clever how to get money from the Vikings, the final confrontation between the evil King and the born King, the montage of Arthur growing up in London’s unfriendly alleys are all brilliantly done.

Though the director gets the grime and the grit of action scenes and the life in Londinium feel right, the ‘Kung Fu George’, the Americanisms in the dialog - King Arthur mouthing, ‘What the fuck’ - makes the audience cringe. When the real heir to the British throne, asks, ‘What are we gonna do now?’, you think you’re hearing things, but when the subtitle says it too, you want to take that sword and unleash it upon the dialog writers and the king himself. The joke format for the round table is so lame, not even a ten year old will laugh at the result… And I cringed and laughed to see elephants as fantastical beast used by Mordred (yes, like Mordor but dreadful!). What Guy Ritchie, you never heard of dragons as mythical beasts of England? Du-uh!

The cinematography is spectacular. The aerial shots of Scottish lands is stunning. As are the city scenes. You are awed by the medieval world the director manages to create. What earns the movie its stars is one dude alone. And that is Jude Law. He makes for the near perfect villain. He broods brilliantly, and he screams with a heartfelt evil drive. He sneers to put habitual sneerers to shame and his eyes drip with ambition. You feel his simmering rage at being second best to the good king. You understand why he can make the sacrifice the Syrens ask of him and yet forgive him because he feels the pain too. All this and more in one role? And he’s the bad guy? Wow! Guy Ritchie excels in creating grey characters, and he makes the perfect King Vortigern. Superbly cast.

Watch this film because of the Sword, and its magic and for Jude Law. All else is unoriginal.




Review: ALIEN COVENANT


All Is Well In Alien World. But You’ve Seen It All Before

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

Ridley Scott makes a paint by numbers Alien movie. What could have been great, just turns into let’s predict who gets killed next game. Yes Fassbender is there, Prometheus is there, the Aliens tearing apart human bodies from the inside is there, there is lots of blood too. But after having watched so many sequels, you find yourself hankering for something a little different.

Main Review:

As the Eagles sang: Same dances in same old shoes/Some habits that you just can’t lose/There’s no telling what a man might use/After the thrill is gone…

There is Covenant the transporter ship that’s taking people in deep sleep across space to a planet they can colonise. There is Walter the Synth who takes care of all the people and embryos until a Passengers (Jennifer Lawrence/Chris Pratt) style space accident wakes up the crew…

As the song says, ‘Same ole dancing in same old shoes’ we watch as the crew take stupider and stupider emotional decisions.

Look at the lyrics of the song again: ‘What can you do when your dream comes true/And it’s not quite like you planned?’

Of course the travelers choose to land on a totally unchecked, unknown planet and they are so sloppy, even I wouldn’t allow such jokers to take care of my body in stasis during interplanetary travel.

Even Star Trek chaps knew when you landed on alien planets, you wore protective gear, and you always set your phasers on ‘Stun’. These guys just walk out of the lander craft as though they were going to take a walk in a park in New Zealand. They smoke, they take pee breaks, and they stomp through the flora as if they ruled alien territory. And the audience just groans when one from the landing party simply breaks off a fat wheat pod and eats it. Why would you eat untested stuff on an alien planet? The girl who breaks off from the party to ‘Test the water and the soil’ should have said a ‘No! Don’t eat that!’

When you see such rampant stupidity, you begin to support the aliens that just want them as meat. They are so stupid, they deserve to die.

How they die becomes apparent soon enough, but not before you have praised Ridley Scott’s vision of the doomed world. You meet…

The dialog is interesting enough and you nod your head in approval and you smile. You are also stumped at the setting but then you see the predictability of it all.

The visitors die one by one and you almost yell out in happiness when you meet your old friend the facehugger.

The movie grows on you because Fassbender and Fassbender are cooler characters than anyone in the landing party (you know they are fodder for the Alien. What I enjoyed was the connect to Prometheus.

You watch the final act play out knowing the twist in the tale before the characters in the film do. It’s exhausting to watch the finale, because you know they have to keep the tale going a mile before the Captain’s log is recorded again. You wonder what they’re planning with Spock and Kirk and Dr. McCoy and Uhura are up to… Or where Luke and Leia and Darth Vader are…

The thrill is gone.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Review: MANTOSTAAN


He's Rolling In His Grave For Sure!

½ star

Mini Review:

Poor Manto! The filmmakers aspire real high when they take not one but four of his stories, loosely set during the time of the Partition of India and mutilate every single one of them. The execution of each story is sensationalized and turned sleazy. You come away disgusted.

Main Review:

Thanda Gosht, Khol Do, Assignment and Akhri Salute are the four stories of the celebrated writer Sadaat Hasan Manto that have been turned into one gigantic mess. The four stories run parallel as they are told, but we won’t make the same unpalatable mistake.

Thanda Gosht casts the Sikhs in very poor light (which is not how we perceive them). It stars Ishar Singh who kills people running for their lives during the Partition, to steal jewelry for his girl Kulwant. At best, Sonal Sehgal who plays Kulvant, is awkward mouthing her dialog to show that she’s sexy and all about the body. At worst the poor lovemaking scenes, and there are plenty, make Ishar and Kulvant look extremely ridiculous. The story is dark and explores the inhumanity that the war-like situation brings out in people. Imagine a young lad who has lost all his finer feelings when killing people, makes love to a girl and he does not even realise she’s dead. Manto told us war was making us less than human, but the way it is told in the film, dumb.

Khol Do is the story of a girl so traumatised by the many times she has been raped, she just removes her shalwaar when she hears the words ‘khol do’ (literally, undo or open), even when it is being said by a doctor who is asking for the curtain to the tent to be drawn open. Had they not had Raghubir Yadav overdo the ‘Where’s my daughter?’ act with his eyes half closed is more laughable than empathy-inducing. Of course the girl has been raped by the lads who volunteer to go look for her… They needed to attend acting classes, like, yesterday.

Assignment again, curiously is a story of a Muslim man refusing to escape to safety because ‘he’s lived among ‘them’ for years, and his belief in his Sikh neighbors is kept and yet they betray him. The story is beautiful, but Veerendra Saxena (who is usually very good) hams it like nobody would watch his abysmal portrayal. His daughter, son and servant don’t help at all. Of course, a Sardar knocks on their door, and gives mithai (as his dad had promised before dying) then betrays them to looters. Short story, dragged until you’d want to set their home on fire yourself.

Akhri Salaam is about soldiers who served in the same regiment once now divided by the partition into fighting against each other. Of course the story was relevant once and there is dignity shown by both Pakistani and Indian soldiers, but it gets dragged so much (stilted dialog, odd camera angles) you want to fall on the bayonet yourself.

The bizarre splicing together of four stories makes no sense whatsoever. Just because the filmmakers chose to ride on the shoulder of a literary giant does not make the film worthy. Such a pitiful waste of a good idea.




(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)     

Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: VOL 2


It’s here when your heart really goes, ‘Ooga Chaka, Ooga Ooga!’

3 starry stars!

Mini Review:

Marvel did great when they put a band of misfits together kicking and screaming, bound together with great wisecracks set in a universe that has space pirates and intergalactic villains like Ronan. The second film is even crazier, offering tributes to Star Wars and heroes. At three hours, it’s a long watch, but patience pays!

Main Review:

The second edition of Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy does not let you rest for a minute! It assaults you with spectacular colors and action that is so non stop, you need to take off your 3D glasses and rest for a moment. But that would mean missing out exactly what Rocket the Raccoon is saying, or singing, or what baby Groot is up to or stupendous dialog delivery by Drax:

‘Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are so fast I would catch it…’

And it’s fun because Raccoon is talking about the futility of speaking in metaphors…

Okay, that’s enough giving away fun parts from the film. BOOK YOUR TICKET.

Oh yes, the Star Wars tribute… If you missed it on the posters, then you’ll find it in everything Kurt Russell says to Peter Quill.

I loved Mantis, the new character introduced in this sequel. Drax and Mantis are so much fun together, as are interactions between baby Groot and Rocket the Raccoon.

The fantasy world that the Guardians get lured into and the final fight/destruction take too long, but are visual spectacles, so I cannot really complain there. There are moments when you think that part one was more fun, but there is so much awesome action in this part that you miss the repartee only for a whisker. You will appreciate the encounter between the ravagers and Rocket as much as I did. But most of all, you like the Blue pirate, Yondu. Despite his ugly teeth, he earns your loyalty because he whistles to his arrow. What a kewl character!

Funnily, I have enjoyed the alien characters more than the hero, Peter Quill. He’s too milky white. No greys there. And then it strikes me, in Star Wars, we discuss Vader and Chewbacca and Han Solo more than we do Luke!

Watch the film! It expands the Marvel Universe brilliantly. The ‘Band of Idiots’ as Gamora calls them in the first part become a part of your superhero lexicon. And yes, he’s dead, but I still want Ronan action figure!


P.S. We are Groot!




Friday, April 28, 2017

review: BAHUBALI 2


EPIC FANTASY FUN!

(NEEDS TWO INTERVALS!)

3 gigantic stars

Mini Review:

As in all fairy tales, the prince goes out traveling with trusted bodyguard, and falls in love with princess. Prabhas, young Bahubali is to be crowned king, is traveling with Katappa, falling in love with Devsena. Meanwhile the conniving cousin Bhallaladeva gets his own way and becomes king. The all powerful Sivagami devi is an easy prey to the her son’s machinations. How Bahubali wins it all back is this epic tale of gigantic muscles, gigantic palaces, super action, and never-ending romance. And yes, why Katappa kills Bahubali, the secret is revealed.

Main Review:

Our Mahabharata, Their LOTR

Indian cinema often falls for the lure of the epic Mahabharata to tell stories, and although it has twists and turns that are better than Lord Of The Rings, its religious connotation gets in the way of story-telling and it remains confined to television. The garish sets, the tin swords and the cardboard crowns (gold paper covered) have given way to better costumes over the years, but the bad guys (from Duryodhana to Dusshasana to Asuras of various names) still laugh loudly with their arms akimbo and twirl their moustaches and then shout their dialog. If you watched TV and saw Raavan laugh in the several versions of the Ramayana, you'd wonder why his endorphins haven't kicked in with so much laughing...

Bahubali challenged that notion and stepped happily into Fantasy territory and surpassed every expectation. Bahubali 2 does one better. Not only does it keep the story alive, but does it brilliantly.

It has the crown and the jewels and the Amar Chitra Katha style palaces, but thankfully no expense seemed to have been spared in creating those palaces. No longer do the palaces feel like a high school play set, nor do the soldiers seem to carry cardboard swords. The armies look substantial and their armour too. When boulders fall, they don’t look like painted over papier mache. The fabulous special effects make it look real.

Why Do Our Superheroes Need Romance?

That said, let us look at the story. You last watched Bahubali (Prabhas) who grew up among the tribal people, carry the gigantic Shivlinga over his shoulders, rescue his people and his mum from Bhallaladeva and win all hearts. He romances and romances and romances the warrior princess until you want to remind him that he needs to avenge his father the legendary Bahubali who was betrayed by Bhallaladeva.

But even if you missed the original film, this film, Bahubali 2, satisfies your thirst for fantasy, blood and gore and romance. The audience is in for a longish (167 minutes) epic story that spans more than twenty five years.

Prabhas is magnificent as Bahubali, and the director knows how to earn whistles from the audience. Right from the ‘Hero’s Entry’ to earning ‘Glory as Hero’ to using his power wisely as heroes must, the director manages to check each box. Prabhas climbing on the elephant’s back (and you have seen mahouts and his young kids do the same if you have visited Thailand, Sri Lanka or even Kerala) is a sight worthy of claps and whistles of approval. Right then you know that this film is going to be awesome. The camera angles get his stature right as well!

The romance between Devsena and Bahubali does go on for long and you wish they’d get on with it, because you want to see bloody confrontation between cousins. The song on the swan boat is more like 'praise to the mighty, powerful, well muscled, bright and sharp Bahubali for finding the prettiest woman ever, who has eyes like this and body parts like that and who is more beautiful that the planets'... Suddenly 'Ishq Wala Love' sounds easier on the ears. You have already watched helplessly at least 12 wild pigs being brought down during a hunt (we would have been happy with one, trust me!)

Thankfully she gets pregnant rather quickly and hugely pregnant too. We are spared of more soppy 'How gloriously she walks with Mahishmati's brilliant future in her uterus...' type songs...

Why can we not write short bits of romance like Iron Man/Miss Potts, Arwen/Aragorn in LOTR? We overdo everything. So when Bahubli and Devsena kiss, you just hope they run into a storm in the sky...

Thankfully We Have Villains With Big Muscles, Scary War Machines, and Big Muscles...

The gorgeous Rana Daggubati plays the villain so beautifully, you forget his ‘good cop’, ‘hero’ roles. It is because Bhallaladeva is so wicked and powerful, that when Bahubali wages an epic battle do we begin cheering for Bahubali.

Bahubali and Katappa are shown traveling the countryside before Bahubali is crowned, and the funny sequence remains funny. Thankfully it is not Brahmanandan style comedy, and it stays true to the story. Very well done, indeed.

Already said Bahubali earns Devasena’s love and you begin to wish there were a break, preferably Game Of Throne style. The break does come and we are glad to see the epic battle between the Pindari bandits and the locals of Kuntal, of course Bahubali comes to the rescue and how! The choreography of the battle makes you want to go, ‘Hmmm!’

Thankfully the romance ends and the machinations for the throne begin. You want to set Nasty Nasser’s moustache on fire. He performs so well. The conniving father and son duo manage to get Bahubali out of the palace and favor from the mighty Sivagami.

You do gag at how much of a goody two shoes this Bahubali is, and long for something awful to happen that would trigger a revenge. Then baby Orcs show up as if they had lost their way from Lord Of The Rings! (The same ugly dudes were in the first film, I believe). When Bahubali is fighting them in his own inimitable ways, more bad things happen and even worse things happen and then Bahubali shows up to fight the final epic battle which the good must win, of course.

I shan’t tell you any more, but suffice it to say that there are helpful coconut trees, slow motion hits on Bahubali’s biceps that will make you wince in pain, there is a sexy whiteness to Bhallaladeva’s beard. Katappa’s beard also turns from black to white, details are taken care of -  like the number of earrings in Katappa’s ears, although there is one female extra (a villager) who does not age at all with the story.

The slow motion capture of scenes is exactly what you will see in great graphic novels. You will gasp and sigh and clap (even when you are watching the movie in an uptown multiplex). Watch it on the biggest screen near you. The joy of watching an epic fantasy film will be complete.

Maibaap! GAANA BAND KARO!

This film like all films that tell of a 'hero' has Kailash Kher or Daler Mehendi or their clone caterwauling away about the feats of Bahubali. I did like the refrain, 'Kaisa? Rudra sa!' but all other bits were as generic as Arijit Singh's love songs. The promise of more action from AA Rajamouli is great, but one wishes the next fantasy fiction will not have the 'inspiring' songs. I'll take cracking bones and the sound of clanging swords any day!