Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah



Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 28th March, 2014
Time : 138 minutes
Director & Writer : Darren Aronofsky; Co-Writer : Ari Handel; Music : Clint Mansell
Starring : Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth



This is a very grim telling of the biblical epic, more preoccupied with the question of whether the human race should’ve been saved / propagated further in the post ark era, than with other aspects I would’ve found more interesting like the building of the ark, the selection of the species, the logistical challenges, the beauty of the animals of that era etc



There are two kinds of people on Earth, the descendants of Cain, who are greedy, hungry, don’t believe in worshipping their Creator and willing to lay waste to the planet…and the descendants of Seth…who are completely the opposite. Noah (Russell Crowe) is born to the latter, watches his father die at a young age at the hands of the opposing camp (led by Ray Winstone)…grows up foraging, providing for his wife, Jennifer, and three kids, leading a very ordinary life…until he begins to have visions…which lead him to his task…



I found the special effects quite ordinary, the story slightly complicated (especially the concept of the Watchers), the two opposing camps too black and white and overall the film was, well, just grim…full of darkness, dim light with no one epitomizing this more than the scowling Russell Crowe who barely smiles in the film



It’s a valid, fascinating question to ask, of course, about whether the human race deserved to survive the deluge, especially at this juncture, when we’re pretty close to destroying the planet but just that it doesn’t make for a very entertaining film as the lead actors grimace and scowl through the movie...

Dishkiyaaoon



Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 28th March, 2014
Time : 119 minutes
Director & Writer : Sanamjit Singh Talwar; Music : Palak Muchhal
Starring : Harman Baweja, Prashant Narayanan, Anand Tiwari, Ayesha Khanna, Sumeet Nijhawan, Hasan Zaidi, Aditya Pancholi, Rajesh Vivek, Sunny Deol




There is a germ of a fascinating story here, obviously inspired by Usual Suspects to a degree…but its so badly told that the narrative drags, it stretches on interminably, includes unnecessary sub plots and lacks clarity or single-mindedness, so much so that even its ‘twist’ ending fails to salvage it…my rating, I guess, is as much for Harman Baweja (does a good job) and for the idea, than for the actual film




Harman, thanks to a school bully and the influence of Prashant Narayanan (a mafia strongman), always wanted to be a gangster and eventually does become a peculiar kind of one. He does accounting for Prashant and also the strategic / vision kind of thinking. Stands by him as a war erupts between two overlords and Prashant switches sides, joining Sumeet’s gang vs his previous one, an unseen don named Gujjar, fronted by Rajesh Vivek. Sumeet also comes with a psychopathic hitman, Anand Tiwari, who can’t stand Harman (and vice versa). Other subplots include Aditya Pancholi as a corrupt cop, Hasan Zaidi as Harman’s childhood friend and Sunny Deol, who becomes Harman’s friend and advisor in rather unique circumstances.



You struggle to understand some of the choices made by the characters. You struggle to follow the story. You struggle to feel anything for most of the characters. And you really struggle to understand where this is all going, especially when some very ordinary songs break the narrative, with Ayesha Khanna as a good looking but superfluous love interest.



The script isn’t strong enough to hold so many characters – the dialogue is crisp (slightly filmy) but when completely silly things like a trip to Iran / Afghanistan happen or even the whole toxic waste angle, it doesn’t help keep you hooked. This is one bullet that sadly, despite a promising storyline, fails to find its mark.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Queen



Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 7th March, 2014
Time : 146 minutes
Director & Writer : Vikas Bahl; Music : Amit Trivedi
Starring : Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao, Yogendra Tiku, Chinmaya Agarawal, Tripta Lakhanpal, Lisa Haydon, Mish Boyko, Jeffrey Ho, Joesph Guitobh, Canade Lopez, Nayani Dixit, Sabeeka Imam




A very famous director once told me that one of the best ways to evaluate films is to look for moments in the movie…moments which touch you, you can relate to, which you remember long after the last reel has come to a halt. By that logic, I’m happy to announce that Queen is replete with such endearing moments and if you haven’t seen it in the cinema hall, would recommend you do so immediately.



Kangana, a denizen of Rajouri Garden, Delhi, is relentlessly wooed before being unceremoniously dumped by her fiancée, Rajkumar Rao, just a day before their wedding. Being brought up as typically daughters are in that locality, over-protected, always chaperoned, not really worldy-wise, always letting the men decide for them, she decides she wants to travel on her honeymoon, by herself. And so we get a very innocent, sweet, naïve, not very fluent in English, girl from Rajouri travel to Paris and Amsterdam and discover her true self in the process.



She encounters an eclectic mix of characters on this journey…Lisa Haydon, a half-Indian, gorgeous creature who lives, loves and laughs. Mish Boyko, an artist who paints to get rid of his frustration, Jeffrey Ho, a fun loving Japanese, away from home to escape from sad memories, Joseph Guitobh, who makes beautiful music and of course, Canadea Lopez, who insists Italian food must be eaten as it is, without being Indian-ized.



Memorable moments include Kangana going through a mental check list while getting her mehndi done, Rajkumar’s classic MCP behavior when it comes to her dress, desire to work, drink alcohol etc including his special brahmastara “Mummyji ko pata chal gaya to ?”, the father and son fascination with Lisa and her voluptuous twin assets, the grandmother’s sage advice regarding heartbreak, Kangana’s call to a fictitious boyfriend to try and ‘protect’ herself, her non-stop chatter (in Hindi) regardless of who is around her and overall, watching her gain confidence, without losing her own identity in the process.



After a long while, saw a Hindi film which got the nuances right. It is a over-simplified fable kind of story, but with its heart firmly in the right place. Accompanied by great music, excellent and (for a change) pithy dialogue and superb performances (new found respect for Kangana, who infuses life into this simple girl from Rajouri), this film really made you smile, several times, as the queen waltzes in our hearts

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Need For Speed



Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 21st March, 2014
Time : 132 minutes
Director : Scott Waugh; Writer : George and John Gatins; Music : Nathan Furst
Starring : Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rogriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, Dakota Johnson, Michael Keaton




You can write the entire story after watching about 10 minutes of the film. There are no surprises. There are, though, lots of fancy cars, lots of racing, fast, slick action that keeps you occupied in a cheerful ‘we are what we are’ kind of movie that stays true to its essence through its entire length



It has a good guy, Aaron, classic, strong silent type, who leads a great mechanic crew (Scott, Rami, Ramon and Harrison) and is a super racer himself but is down on his luck and looking for a break. It has the sinister villain, Dominic, who looks right from frame one, as if he’s searching for the right spot and moment to stab you in the back. And it has Imogen Poots, complete with an English accent, to provide the feminine side of things and a European flavor. Dakota provides the love triangle, the flashpoint causing the good guy and the bad guy to start competing with each other, with the finale being a ‘by invitation only’ race organized by an eccentric millionaire, Michael Keaton.



My son kept me regaled through the film on the finer aspects of the magnificent wheels on display…all fancy names, Lamborghini, McLaren, Maserati, Koenigseggs, modified Mustangs etc with most cars having a price tag upwards of seven digits. It has all the ingredients of a slick racing film and keeps the action going at a frenetic pace through the film.




Its apparently based on a very successful video game of the same name and reminded me why I don’t play video games. Don’t think I could take much more of this kind of stuff beyond the two hours or so of the film, enjoyable though it was...

Gang of Ghosts



Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 21st March, 2014
Time : 129 minutes
Director : Satish Kaushik; Writer : Anik Dutta; Music : Dharam Sandeep
Starring : Sharman Joshi, Parambrata Chatterjee, Anupam Kher, Mahi Gill, Brandon Hill, Saurabh Shukla, Yashpal Sharma, Rajpal Yadav, Chunky Pandey, Jackie Shroff, Meera Chopra, Vijay Verma, Rajesh Khattar




Once you’ve got past the novelty of the film’s premise, that of a motley gathering of ghosts living together in an old mansion in Mumbai, there is precious little the film has to offer. Based on the recent hit Bengali film, Bhooter Bhabishyat (which I haven’t seen), there is clearly something lost in translation.


It has some fun moments, all in the first half, as the ghosts get together but stretches interminably in the second as the makers run out of ideas on what to do with the characters, throwing in builders, politicians, dons, hitmen, some awful songs and a very predictable end in a desperate bid to keep the film going.


Sharman, a struggling film writer, narrates the story to Parambrata, who is about to shoot his first film, about a gang of ghosts inhabiting the derelict, disputed mansion, which is one of the locations for the film. How the gang came together, are (like the rest of the inhabitants of the city), in need of suitable quarters. And how, thanks to a builder, Rajesh Khattar, the mansion is now going to be torn down and rebuilt as a multiplex, rendering the ghosts homeless.


The ghosts are led by Anupam Kher, ther erstwhile owner of the mansion and include Brandon Hill (token Englishman), Saurabh Shukla (caricature Bengali), Yashpal Sharma (typical Punjabi fauji), Mahi Gill (an actress who loved to be the center of attention), Meera Chopra (the obligatory PYT), Rajpal Yadav (the khansama, to round off the main religions of India), among others. Chunky Pandey, Jackie Shroff and Vijay Verma have brief, forgettable roles too


Its not clear what the ghosts do all day, in the large mansion they inhabit. Its not clear why some people turn to ghosts and others don’t. Its not clear whether they are all always visible to living mortals or can choose whether to be in stealth mode. Also, they seem to be able to eat, drink and be merry when they so choose, change clothes, wear jewelry, make-up etc.



Cheap jokes like the ghosts drinking ‘Ghosters’ beer (in the logo of Fosters) or being in touch on Spookbook (Facebook) wear very thin after a while. There are interesting characters but the film-makers aren’t able to resist the temptation to turn them into irritating caricatures. This is one of the films where you wish large parts would simply disappear

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bewakoofiyaan



Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 14th March, 2014
Time : 119 minutes
Director : Nupur Asthana; Writer : Habib Faisal; Music : Raghu Dixit
Starring : Ayushman Khurrana, Sonam Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor




A quite harmless film with no layers, depth or subtler shades to the characters, its predictable, and apart from Sonam’s horror show (she gets her expressions wrong half the time) is a decent film, good, clean, has some fun moments but is just too stretched time wise.



Ayushman loves Sonam, who has a terror, Rishi Kapoor, for a father. Retired from govt service, connected to the Home Secretary, an old-school bureaucrat, wears safari suits on formal occasions etc. And he is determined to thoroughly vet Ayushman before giving him permission to marry his precious daughter, who is doing well career wise (earning more than her boyfriend). When, a little later, Ayushman loses his job, things begin to get a little awkward.



The best moments of the film are those not involving Sonam ie between Ayushman and Rishi – especially in the second half as the relationship between them reaches a different footing. Both do justice to their roles. Sonam tries to garner attention by wearing a bikini but even that doesn’t work. The songs aren’t bad. Also, there is no vulgarity, crassness - its all innocuous, inoffensive, nothing to stay with you later, a few smiles here and there...nothing more, nothing less



There are often films which have nothing new to offer in their entire length versus what is shown in the trailer…this almost falls in that category.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Definitely, Maybe



Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 14th February, 2008
Time : 112 minutes
Director, Writer : Adam Brooks; Music : Clint Mansell
Starring : Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Rachel Weisz, Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Adam Ferrara, Derek Luke, Liane Balaban, Annie Parisse, Nestor Serrano, Kevin Kline




An intelligent romantic comedy which explores three relationships and also three different streams, parenting, politics and, of course, love…with a pronounced, wry, self-deprecating sense of humour, as we chart the path of Ryan Reynolds to where he is today…about to get divorced and having a chat with his daughter, Abigail, about his love life.


Abigail, all of ten, has just had her first sex education class, leaving her with lots of unanswered questions…like why one of her classmate’s parents say he was an accident (how can someone have sex by accident), why do people have sex if they don’t want kids and also, what is the man-word for slut ? One thing leads to another and Ryan is forced to tell the entire story of his adult love life, his relationships…he sneakily, though, agrees that while talking about his past, he wont tell her which one is his current wife (Abigail’s mom)…she has to guess…




What the film does so beautifully is intersperse the love story (with a touch of mystery) with Ryan’s emotions and trials as a parent…the cute way the daughter nestles amongst her various pillows, the realistic, very adult-ish conversation between them, how he handles her various anxieties, particularly about the happy ending and also her astute observations.


Amongst all the positives, it also showcases the reality of American politics. It shows the disappointment of Ryan, a campaign worker for Clinton’s ‘92 election blitz and also a political analyst in the early part of his years (and an aspiring politician himself), with all that’s going on around him. How we support, almost with a blind eye, all the obvious shortcomings in our chosen candidate, the disillusionment as we realize that its all about power and money, with truth and integrity the first sacrificial offerings at the political altar. Had experienced the same first hand with Rajiv Gandhi and later VP Singh, and recently saw others experience it with AAP.



The music is simply excellent, the acting / performances spot on – no praise high enough for Ryan and Abigail, the real lead pair of this film. Both get their emotions, expressions exactly right, make you root for them, cheer for them and their discoveries. We also have an energetic, bouncy turn by Isla Fisher, a seductive one by Rachel Weisz, a confused, coming of age one by Elizabeth. Forget Ryan, you also find yourself falling in love with all three. And, finally, we have a scathing, going down in flames cameo by Kevin Kline.



After a long time, saw a film which made you go through a roller-coaster of such emotions and laugh at the same time. The bet over the cigarettes, the nicknames (copy girl, toilet paper guy, ‘Yes, I’m her Daddy’), the one-liners (I’m with two Freshmen, who on a good day, equal a sophomore), there is enough to keep you going and for the movie to keep on playing in your mind for a long time. Definitely one for the DVD collection !