Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Judge



Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 17th October, 2014
Time : 142 minutes
Director: David Dobkin; Writers: Bill Dubuque, Nick Schenk; Music : Thomas Newman
Starring : Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Leighton Meester, Emma Tremblay




This one is about father-son relationships and they make it about as complicated as it can get, throwing in lots of flashbacks, emotion, a dead mother, melodrama, two other sons and even a murder trial to keep us gripped as the narrative slowly unfolds.


Robert Duvall is the iron-handed, bull headed patriarch of the family, a respected, practicing judge at the court of the little town where they reside. Two of his sons live in the same town. Vincent D’Onofrio, the eldest, hasn’t really recovered emotionally from what could’ve been since an event from many years ago. Jeremy Strong, the youngest, isn’t really all there. Robert’s relied on his wife to be the emotional binding thread in the family. Now she’s gone. And he’s being charged for murder, a hit and run case that happened on the evening of his wife’s funeral.


Robert Downey Jr, the middle son, returns to town after twenty years, for his mother’s funeral. Doesn’t get along with his father at all, used to speak to his mom on the phone occasionally. Is probably about to get divorced, has a cute little daughter. Is one of the top lawyers in the country, with a fiercesome reputation for finding ways to get the guilty off. And his father wants nothing to do with him for his own defense.


There are bits that work and bits that don’t. Watching Robert as a normal screen person after a while, without either the iron exterior nor the garb of a famed fictional detective, he is very convincing as a man with lots of angst from his childhood, unresolved issues. Robert Duvall is good as the obstinate, opinionated man who is coming to terms with his own physical frailties and also the fact that the murder trial may destroy his forty-two year legacy as a judge in the town.



However, a lot of the things he does, do not make sense. There are decisions he makes regarding his trial which are whimsical, not in keeping with his logical demeanour as a judge. The film is also riddled with a lot of unnecessary sub plots. And, almost like a Hindi film, this one is injected with deliberate tear-jerker moments at almost every opportunity. Everyone has unresolved issues from the time Robert left, about twenty years ago, including his then girl-friend / childhood sweetheart, Vera Farmiga, who is now a successful local businesswoman and a single mother.


Robert’s interesting bumper sticker methodology of juror selection was the funniest part of the film, with ‘Lost Wife And Dog – Reward for Dog’ probably the piece de resistance. Billy Bob Thornton, as the opposing out of town attorney does make the trial interesting but this film isn’t a courtroom drama. It isn’t about the law. Its about relationships. Coming to terms with our actions and events from many years ago. And hopefully, finding some closure and peace while we’re at it.

Sex Tape



Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 17th October, 2014
Time : 91 minutes
Director: Jake Kasdan; Writers: Kate Angelo, Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller; Music : Michael Andrews
Starring : Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe, Harrison Holzer, Sebastian Hedges Thomas




Ten years into marriage, sapped by kids and the humdrum routine of life, a couple, Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, make a sex tape (film themselves having sex), in a desperate attempt to rekindle their sexual fire. However, now they’re faced with the prospect that a lot of their friends and associates, including the mailman, may have it on their iPads (thanks to an autosynch app). And it may even go viral.


The movie really works only till this point – and here are the top five reasons why

1. Ludicrous Situations : Most sane people wouldn’t go about salvaging the situation the way our lead pair does. Their clumsy attempts to retrieve the files, the behavior of the people involved, their dumb excuses, the cheap attempts to draw laughs via a canine displays a tendency to go for the easy route, a la Sajid Khan, rather than work on the script. The whole scene at Rob Lowe's, her future boss, probably the lowest point of the movie.


2. Indian Censors : The most you get to see are Cameron’s perky nipples poking through a white T-Shirt. Our beloved censors (and I include their political masters here), driven by a misplaced, hypocritical sense of morality, do not deem us capable of handling anything further, thus (probably) depriving us of the best parts of the film


3. Cameron Diaz : She has a great figure but doesn’t look hot anymore. Wrinkles, a certain haggardness and that famous smile that wears slightly thin implies that she is unable to carry the film on her once curvaceous frame, which would’ve been a no-brainer in her ‘The Mask’ or 'There's Something About Mary' days

4. Gyaan from Jack Black : Nothing can demonstrate that there is something fundamentally wrong with the thought process and script, as when they have Jack Black, in a brief over-the-top cameo, actually come and dispense life changing pearls of wisdom. Apart from the innate silliness of the specific situation, I just felt they chose the wrong casting option.


5. Indian crowd : Especially in the late night shows, this film is likely to attract the worst kind of crowd, including groups of men, attracted like moths by the title, determined to have fun via cheap remarks, loud laughter and silly behavior. Probably better to wait for it to come on the tv

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ekkees Toppon Ki Salaami



Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 10th October, 2014
Time : 140 minutes
Director: Ravindra Gautam; Writer: Rahil Qaazi; Music : Ram Sampath
Starring : Anupam Kher, Divyendu Sharma, Manu Rishi, Aditi Sharma, Rajesh Sharma, Neha Dhupia, Supriya Kumari, Uttara Baokar, Bhagwan Tiwari, Sudhir Pande




A decent idea, good performances, especially by the lead pair and the ever reliable Rajesh Sharma, and a couple of (intentional) hilarious moments cannot protect the film from the curse of the second half, where it descends to near farcical levels and the yawning chasm of predictability


Common man, honest crusader, the scourge of mosquitoes, Mumbai Municipality employee, Anupam Kher, alas, has two kids who are extremely unlike him. His elder, Manu Rishi, a bit dheela, also in the BMC but corrupt and the younger, Divyendu, a bit of a firecracker, working for the corrupt CM of the state, Rajesh Sharma, as a party employee. The CM’s speechwriter, the cute Aditi, is his girlfriend while the vacuous Neha Dhupia, is the CM’s ‘keep’. The clash of ideals, doesn’t last too long, with Anupam Kher popping it after being wrongly insulted in office and then later by his kids. But not before we discover that he wants to be honoured, at least once, for his honesty and hard work. By a 21 gun salute at his funeral.



You can see most twists coming a mile away and those you can’t, are silly beyond belief (the Swiss bankers bit, for example). The sentimental bits were particularly tedious, especially the flashbacks (via Anupam Kher’s diary), the crowd getting together at his funeral and the ideological clashes between the various members of the family after their patriarch’s passing away. The climax is very painful and very long drawn out

The truly paisa vasool moments are when Aditi actually writes a speech for the CM, translating his expletive filled tirade into a palatable press release, when the CM bemoans the fact that he will go to jail for a mere Rs 12 crore scam when he has cheated so much more and when Neha Dhupia and Rajesh Sharma do a sort of Hindi film item girl retrospective…



This is one of those which would’ve sounded funnier on paper than it does in reel life. A comedy which tries to tread the ground of classics like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron but without being able to incorporate the zany humour of the same and also giving in to maudlin tear-jerking moments at every opportunity. There is also something paradoxical about a common man craving for recognition. Wouldn’t that, then make him, an UnCommon Man ?

Annabelle



Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 10th October, 2014
Time : 98 minutes
Director: John R Leonetti; Writer: Gary Dauberman; Music : Joseph Bishara
Starring : Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard




Uses all the traditional ways to try and scare you. And a couple of new ones. Succeeds sometimes but fails overall as a film because it never manages to make us feel anything for any of the characters it depicts nor provide a really convincing explanation for what we witness.



The doll brings evil things. Why ? Just. The demons search for a soul. Why ? Because. Annabelle, the doll, is bought by Ward Horton for his very pregnant wife, Annabelle Wallis (how ironic that the heroine’s real name is also Annabelle?), as a gift, to complete her doll set. Bad stuff begins to happen that very night and continues for several months, despite their moving house and attempting to get rid of the doll. The family priest, Tony, and a mysterious bookstore owner, Alfre do their bit to help…but…



Billed as a prequel to the enjoyable (if such an adjective can be used for a horror film?), The Conjuring (the director here was the DOP on the earlier film), it lacks the human connect and also the more appealing finale of the previous venture. Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton deliver competent performances but we don’t really find out too much about them, their tastes, their personality to really care about what they go through.


For those seeking cheap thrills, there are quite a few scenes – one with a pram, some writing on the roof and another where a child becomes a woman behind a closed door come to mind. There is a grim sense of foreboding throughout the film. But precious little else…


PS : The audience comprised mainly large groups of college going kids, with most of the girls and some of the guys professing they were scared before the film began and displaying their fears with exclamations during the movie. Imagine if they got a really good Hindi horror film to chew on ?

Tamanchey



Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 10th October, 2014
Time : 113 minutes
Director: Navneet Behl; Writer: Shailesh Pratap Singh, Bharat Ratan; Music : Various
Starring : Richa Chadha, Nikhil Dwivedi, Damandeep Sidhu




Someone got so excited with the idea of having two gun-toting lovers, the man a mild sort of UP-ite and the woman a foul mouthed firecracker, going around shooting stuff, robbing banks, and having sex at every opportunity…they forgot about the rest of the story…



There is a villain, Damandeep, huge, hulking, wooden, Richa’s possessive lover and kingpin of the drugs gang in Delhi but not much more. The entire film is just about Richa and Nikhil blowing stuff up – with guns or without. The dialogue is interesting, funny in parts but that’s about as good as it gets, with the highly predictable, stretched end just not working.


The best part of the movie are the sequences set to RD Burman’s classy music and Kishore’s voice from the song “Pyaar Mein Dil Pe Maar De Goli”. Nikhil delivers a competent performance, Richa looks every inch the patakha, in bed and off it, with many Indian style (censored) sex scenes (in a train, on tomatoes, in a car, in a bank locker room) thrown in to garner an audience but unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t really rise up to the challenge.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Haider



Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 2nd October, 2014
Time : 161 minutes
Director, Writer, Music: Vishal Bhardwaj (based on William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet); Co-writer : Basharat Peer;
Starring : Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Shraddha Kapoor, Narendra Jha, Irrfan Khan, Lalit Parimoo, Aamir Bashir, Sumit Kaul, Rajat Bhagat, Kulbhushan Kharbanda




The most beautiful places can be the settings for the darkest of deeds. The vivid red splashes of human blood on an otherwise pristine, white blanket of powdery snow. The desolate magnificence of winter. The gushing, glorious river being used to cleanse all manner of sins. The bare, stark limbs of a tall trees providing cover for the rich, human drama that unfolds in what was once Paradise.



Hamlet acquires a Kashmiri makeover in Vishal Bhardwaj’s latest masterpiece. Shakespeare’s story of a young prince returning home to find his father gone, his uncle king and his beloved mother the new king’s consort, finds new meaning in the very special Indian state. Where broken promises, the ugly beast of religious fundamentalism, the brute strength of the military boot and most of all, the meddlesome politics for petty gains have ensured a state which remains Paradise only in name.



Shahid is superb as the innocent boy-man who returns to find his manipulative mother, Tabu, smiling, singing as she is being wooed by his hungry-for-power uncle, Kay Kay, just a few days after his soft-spoken father, the good doctor, Narendra Jha’s, disappearance. His subsequent journey, loss of innocence, the blossoming of his love with childhood sweetheart, Shraddha Kapoor, his brush with militancy via Irrfan Khan’s brief appearance and his run-ins with the law represented by the head of the local police, Lalit Parimoo, also Shraddha’s father make for a delicious study of human motives and dilemmas.



Betrayal, greed, filial love, lust – for power and for the female form, the desire to do good irrespective of the cause, the purity of a sweetheart’s love and the burning fire of revenge form a potent mix and compete against one another in most of the key characters at some point or another. Each one, at the end, betrays and is betrayed, as they seek to resolve the maelstrom that envelops their lives.


Shahid and Tabu are superlative amongst a luminous star cast. For Shahid, this film is not about his chocolate candy looks but more about acting prowess as he struggles to find his way amongst conflicting information and emotions. Whether as the son desperate for his mother’s affection, the lost man in need of his beloved’s unflinching love, or the vengeance seeking mad man – he holds our attention and keeps us spellbound. Tabu is mesmeric, magnificent as the woman torn between various desires. A caring mother, the capricious consort, the wronged and the manipulative, its hard to keep your eyes off her riveting performance. There is also a hint, probably more than just a hint, that there is something deeper than filial love that binds these two star performers !



This film unfolds slowly, weaves a rich tapestry and is filled with melodious music and visual delight. It isn’t for those who only want instant gratification, a thrill or a spill per minute but for those who’re willing to be rewarded for their patience. The best movies play with your mind. Lay out choices, force you to take sides, showcase the consequences and outline simple characters who aren’t black or white but imbued with the many shades of grey. With Haider, even the next day, you’re still looking for answers…

Bang Bang



Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 2nd October, 2014
Time : 156 minutes
Director : Siddharth Anand; Writers : Sujoy Ghosh, Suresh Nair (remake of Knight And Day); Music : Vishal – Shekhar (songs), Salim – Sulaiman (background score)
Starring : Hrithik Roshan, Katrina Kaif, Danny Denzongpa, Javed Jaffrey, Pawan Malhotra, Parth Akerkar




It’s a light, air-headed, feel-good watch, works to the extent it does because of Hrithik, the chemistry between him and Katrina, a few dabs of humour, the locales, the few sequences lifted directly from Knight and Day and its overall pace. It is let down, quite badly, by the amateurish attempt to Indianize the film by injecting emotion, melodrama and back stories (the whole subplot involving Jimmy Shergill, Kanwaljeet and Deepti Naval), the Indo-British angle / Kohinoor bit and to an extent, Katrina, who apart from looking smoking hot, doesn’t really succeed in making us believe in her character, a bubbly, normal woman involved in an international intrigue which takes her way out of her comfort zone.



Katrina, a bank receptionist in Simla, leading a humdrum, routine life, somehow catches the eye of the mysterious Hrithik, who has just stolen the Kohinoor diamond from the Tower of London and is trying to complete its sale to an over the top, caricaturish villain, Danny Denzongpa and his brother, Javed Jaffrey. Chased by cops, secret service (Pawan Malhotra) and the villains henchmen, including a bumbling Parth Akerkar, the movie involves lots of chase sequences over air, water and land while the lead pair sort out their feelings for each other.



Hrithik is a delight, doing what he does best, in familiar territory (similar terrain as his Dhoom 2 avatar). There is something about him that makes you believe in him, trust him, managing to make even his outrageous character seem credible in parts. Katrina looks very nice, as always, shares an easy rapport with Hrithik, fresh off their Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara pairing but finds it hard to look sexy, with her million buck pout and still portray a normal, next door woman, in a situation way over her head. The plot is ludicrous, especially the new bits, but redeemed by its touches of humour including Hrithik teasing Katrina about her online dating foray or Parth’s bumbling buffoonery.


The action sequences are good, slick, though apart from the water flyboarding sequence smack of same old, same old and in some cases, especially the desert finale, the special effects, computer graphics seem obvious. Couple of songs get your feet tapping and the gorgeous locations definitely uplift the mood and provide the right environment for the great looking lead pair.



This film is more about looks than any substance. About trying to provide an entertaining couple of hours rather than any thoughts or images to stay with you after you leave the hall. It’s the equivalent of a great looking date, who’s good for that one night out, but with whom its hard to develop any sort of meaningful relationship

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Walk Among The Tombstones



Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 19th September, 2014
Time : 113 minutes
Director & Writer: Scott Frank (based on the novel by Lawrence Block); Music : Carlos Rafael Rivera
Starring : Liam Neeson, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson, Dan Stevens, Astro, Eric Nelsen, Razane Jammal, Laura Birn, Marielle Heller, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Natia Dune, Mark Consuelos, Sebastian Roche, Danielle Rose Russell




The film opens with a montage of a man touching a woman, brushing his hands through her blond hair, caressing her body. She’s moving about too, against a pristine white background. Its only at the end you realize she is gagged and bound. And everything isn’t what it seems. Gripping. Gritty. Needed a twist to be great but passes muster thanks to Liam Neeson doing what he does best.


Women are being kidnapped. Huge ransoms being asked and paid. However, the women are being returned dead. Cut up, in pieces. And since they’re related to drug dealers / traffickers, there are no cops involved. Which is why, Liam Neeson, a private investigator, ex-cop, gets involved…



Its slow, with a constant sense of menace through the film – not one of tragedy or depressive but more of nastiness, dread. Dan Stevens, who is the person who actually hires Liam, also has the same sense of being wound up too tight about him, a quiet, seething anger, a coiled cobra, just waiting to strike . He wants Liam to find the men who did it. And then walk away so he can dispense his own brand of justice.


There is a fascinating sub plot, involving Astro, a young black kid Liam befriends, who wants to be a detective. Both have their own tragic stories, both getting on with life, neither wanting the other to feel sorry for him…


You really have to compliment the supporting cast here – everyone fits perfectly including David Harbour, Adam Thompson, Sebastian Roche and Olafur Olafsson – who has a memorable end to his cameo. I also wish Hindi films learn from how the soundtrack works in movies like this – it stays in the background, just enhances the mood but doesn’t intrude or overpower.



I enjoy watching such films, slow, full of foreboding, as if carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a major twist in the end – felt the film was perfectly placed for one – but still works thanks to a tight script and a riveting lead performance.