Monday, May 02, 2016

Captain America : Civil War

Rating : 5 /10
Release Date : 30th April, 2016
Time : 147 minutes
Directors : Anthony Russo, Joe Russo; Writers : Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely based on the comic book by Mark Millar and characters by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; Music : Henry Jackman
Starring : Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, William Hurt, Martin Freeman

What happens when you hit a dead end as a script-writer ?

Super-hero angst, existential crisis, back stories have already been done to death.

There are no super-cool, megalomaniacal villains left – no new worlds left to conquer, and threatening aliens are so passe.

What then do you do ?

Turn your super-heroes one against the other ? Make them battle against each other on the flimsiest of pretexts ? And why stop at one, lets make them fight in groups ? Iron Man vs Captain America, Black Panther vs The Winter Soldier, Hawkeye vs Black Widow, Ant Man vs Spider Man – all together !

But it just doesn’t make any sense. Logical flaws abound. Soundbytes and classic filmy poses take the place of a sensible story. And it all gets too grim, the fabulous repartee, humour (of say, Avengers, Guardians of The Galaxy and Deadpool) taking an undeserved back seat.

The world has decided they only want to let the Avengers function under a UN supervised panel – who would call upon them, only if it deems fit. The collateral damage caused by the superheroes running amok, across territorial borders, has got to a point where it can’t be tolerated anymore. Some of the superheroes are for such a move – while an equal number are against it. A couple of more incidents – orchestrated by Sebastian Stan and Daniel Bruhl – and the For and Against sides begin an ‘epic’ battle against each other. Sparks, suits and blows fly – but it’s essentially dueling with handbags.

Shouldn’t the side with the most powerful superhero, logically, have triumphed ? Shouldn’t the battle have been really short and sweet ? Perhaps there shouldn’t even have been a battle in the first place ? Chris Evans inspires trust but is just too uni-dimensional. Robert Downey Jr is uncharacteristically confused in thought. Daniel Bruhl is intense but nothing he does is possible / logical.

Wish they had chosen a different method to settle their differences – maybe a toss of coin or a drinking competition ? Or even Russian Roulette or a round of blackjack ?

Friday, April 15, 2016


Rating : 6 /10
Release Date : 15th April, 2016
Time : 143 minutes
Director, Writer : Maneesh Sharma; Music : Vishal-Shekhar (songs), Andrea Guerra (background score)
Starring : Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Amin, Yogendra Tiku, Sayani Gupta

A young boy (Gaurav) is obsessed with Shahrukh Khan, the star (named Aryan in the movie), and coincidentally looks like him too. In fact the high point of his life is winning the local star look-alike show. And then, on SRK’s birthday, he decides to make the trip to Mumbai and meet his idol – with dreams of handing him the trophy he won, hugging him etc. Things don’t go to plan (understatement of the century) and when he returns from Mumbai, he decides to make the star pay – especially as he was found wanting on one of his favourite sign off lines – ‘I am what I am because of my fans, if the fans aren’t there, I am nobody’.

It’s a fascinating premise – who in India doesn’t recognize obsession after all, and what if that infatuation turns sour - and it’s fabulously enacted by Shahrukh, but thanks to two bloated chase sequences and an end that goes nowhere, it pulls you down. There is a strong message somewhere – but it’s lost in all the filmy touches and several implausible moments.

Our boy has the cutest, most supportive parents imaginable – and his normal life pretty much revolves around his idol. Several touching scenes – the imaginary conversations in our head, the wall to ceiling posters, the fighting with others for our star – we would recognize these traits, after all, we all have idolized someone at some point. And, we’ve all felt at some time or the other, that our stars have let us down, they sometimes let success and adulation get to their head, become arrogant, forget why, who made them big in the first place. And in this film, the star’s biggest fan, decides to teach him a lesson.

SRK is very good, after a long while. It’s been ages since he did a film with some meat, substance and this couldn’t have been an easy project to say ‘Yes’ to – so kudos to him for agreeing to it, making it come alive with a great performance. Unfortunately, at script level, there were too many inconsistencies – events happen that have a close to zero chance happening in real life – and the end just didn’t connect. Wasn’t something else possible here ?

As a total aside - it was nice to see Dubrovnik, a lovely, quiet Croatian coastal town feature in a Hindi film – Star Wars VIII, Game of Thrones have also been shot here, quite extensively too.

Obsessions, especially those not our own, don’t make for easy viewing, especially on the big screen. Several moments when you wish the character didn’t do what they did, you cringe, face-palm, which ensures that the repeat viewing potential of this movie is nil. But then, as our star obsessed fan points out several times – what they do isn't done or possible for others to understand. And at the end, who are we to judge ?

Friday, April 08, 2016

Jungle Book

Rating : 9 /10
Release Date : 8th April, 2016
Time : 105 minutes
Director : Jon Favreau; Writer : Justin Marks based on the book by Rudyard Kipling; Music : John Debney
Starring : Neel Sethi and (Voices of) Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito; And a few sentences from Jon Favreau, Sam Raimi, Russell Peters, Sara Arrington

This is one of the best remakes I’ve seen of a classic, works for kids and adults alike !

The visuals are amazing, the twists in the story (takes quite a different path to the original film) make sense, are well thought through and add intrigue, keep you gripped. Neel Sethi is a revelation, ideal for the role (sweet face, until he shows the steel he’s made of) as are the myriad superstar voices (Scarlett’s Kaa is sweet death personified, oh so deliciously tingly and Walken dry staccato tone so perfectly suits King Louie). And the songs – aaaahhhhhhh….they’ve kept elements of the familiar tunes and added some edgy magic to it (especially loved the Indian touch in the soundtrack)! Don’t leave when the end-credits are on – that’s when you get to hear them properly – the video of Kaa’s ‘Trust In Me’ is so totally worth it…

I’m not going to go into the story as I don’t want to give anything away – most of you would be familiar with the broad outline anyways and those who aren’t probably don’t deserve to be forewarned

BTW – for once our censor board seems to have got it right, with a deserved U/A guidance – if you have a young child (under 8?), it can be a little scary, so be careful

You can put the 1967 Disney Classic feature film on mute and I’ll be effortlessly and gladly able to supply the soundtrack – it’s that big a personal favourite ! I had cringed when a remake was announced but every trailer released had helped whet my appetite. And finally, this refreshing retelling of the tale has simply bowled me over. Will be going again tomorrow, despite an extremely packed schedule, to watch it again

Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman V Superman : Dawn of Justice

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 25th March, 2016
Time : 151 minutes
Director : Zack Snyder; Writers : Chris Terrio, David S Goyer based on characters created by Bob Kane / Bill Finger (Batman) and Jerry Siegel / Joey Shuster (Superman); Music : Hans Zimmer, Junkie XL
Starring : Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane. Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey

Everyone is very angry in this film – for reasons known or unknown

The people of Gotham are not sure they want the Batman (Ben Affleck) patrolling the streets anymore.
The people of Metropolis are very sure they don’t want Superman (Henry Cavill) to be running amok – especially after an incident in Africa, which results in a lot of collateral damage and inspires a Senate hearing, led by Holly Hunter.

For some reason, Batman is furious at Superman – ostensibly for having led the aliens to Earth. For reasons even harder to decipher, Superman / Clark Kent is angry at Batman and warns him to stop answering calls from citizens for help. And finally, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is angry at everyone and on his own trip – here, we aren’t even given any reasons as to why a billionaire, owner of a vast business empire – is so obsessed with Superman and Batman.

The only one who wears a smile for most of the film, is the mysterious Gal Gadot – who has a knack for turning up at the right place at the right time – and is as keen on examining Lex Luthor as Ben Affleck is…but what’s her secret ?

It’s all very dark, very grim and very angry. The action is good, the film moves along at a good pace, Batman in particular, has a few new tricks up his sleeve, but nothing awe-inspiring overall, nothing which really stays with you. I found Henry Cavill to be very serious, too somber in his portrayal of the Man of Steel - had the same issue in his earlier film too. And the same applied to Affleck’s Batman – was just simmering with too much rage to be caring enough about his city’s citizens.

This film smacked of DC Comics making a full-on attempt to catch up with the success of Marvel Comics. Even copying part of their formulae, trying to bring their marquee characters together. As kids, one of the aspects that intrigued us about these super-heroes was how they would square off against each other. Batman Vs Superman takes that thought quite literally, and if you take aside the heavy-duty special effects, comes across as quite kiddish on the whole.

Rocky Handsome

Rating : 5 /10
Release Date : 25th March, 2016
Time : 126 minutes
Director : Nishikant Kamat; Co-Writer : Ritesh Shah, based on the Korean film ‘The Man From Nowhere’; Music : Various
Starring : John Abraham, Nishikant Kamat, Diya Chalwad, Kazu Patrick Tang, Sharad Kelkar, Nathalia Kaur, Shruti Haasan

Some great action – mostly fist and knife fights – and an unflinching performance by John Abraham in the title role, cannot paper over the cracks in the storyline / the predictability of it all. There is nothing you haven’t already seen – drugs, women, child kidnapping and organ trafficking – it’s only just gorier…

John runs a pawn shop in Goa. He’s seen better days, as seen by images of him cavorting around with Shruti Haasan in Seychelles. Now, as a neighbor, he has a druggie nightclub dancer, Anna, who doesn’t like the fact that her seven year old daughter, Diya, is getting friendly with him. Anna, though does something stupid – tries to steal drugs from the mafia. That too at a time when the cops, led by Sharad Kelkar, are putting the squeeze on all the rackets in Goa. This places her life and that of her daughter at risk, especially from the owner of the drugs, Nishikant Kamat and his henchmen, including Patrick Tang – with only Rocky to try and save them.

Most of the gangsters in the film prefer not to carry guns – going for a knife, an axe or even just heavy rods instead – which makes it easy for Rocky, who walloped a room full of cops in 3 minutes, to pick them off one by one. The best sequences involve Tang (who’s worked in films like District B13 and Ong-bak) squaring off one on one with John – those are a visual treat, very slickly done and a great watch.

There is too little of any emotion, though, to make the film rise above mediocrity. Something about the editing (quite disjointed), the way the characters are shown (very uni-dimensional), the way they interact (in terse monosyllabic sentences) that makes for very detached viewing. John is very good – expressions, physique, fluidity of movement – but the others don’t match up. The villains, in particular, come across as caricatures – including, to an extent, Nishikant, who happens to be the sanest of the lot.

It’s an ‘A’ film thanks to the extreme violence, gore shown – and most of it occurs in the dark, in the shadows. You care about the child and her safety, quite naturally – but no character really connects or touches you. Would recommend only for fans of John or the action genre.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921)

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 18th March, 2016
Time : 140 minutes
Director, Writer : Shakun Batra; Co-Writer : Ayesha Devitre Dhillon; Music : Various
Starring : Rishi Kapoor, Rajat Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah, Fawad Khan, Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Sukant Goel, Fahim Shaikh

A sensational first half – witty, crazy, natural, superb dialogues, a fast-moving script, great characters, fabulous acting – followed by a second half, which goes in a different direction to what I would’ve preferred. Am not a fan of solving things via tears, melodrama, sorrow – perhaps there is another way, but our directors / writers have yet to get there. Anyways, should be grateful it doesn’t go awry – just in a different direction…

Rajat Kapoor and Ratna Pathak Shah live in idyllic Coonoor but argue like all married couples do, over things that most married couples do. Their sons, Fawad and Sidharth, live in UK and US respectively, are used to seeing their parents argue and also have their own unsettled issues. Fawad’s a successful author, his parent’s pet while Sid is still looking to find his vocation and has a huge chip on his shoulder about not being loved as much as his elder brother. However, what is fascinating is that, while all this may sound sad, morbid, the first half is anything but. Thanks to their grandfather, Rishi Kapoor (I want to grow old like him !) and Alia, who is the wild, zany one in a nearby tea estate.

Rishi Kapoor is endearing and full of life – so much so that he practices falling dead, just for kicks. Other pastimes include watching porn, smoking, weed, shooting his grandkids dead and making sure the hospital staff don’t forget him (the scenes with the nurse were excellent). Alia is always pulling someone’s leg – first Sid, then Fawad fall for her pranks and she ensures she always remains happy, sunny despite all around her

The stage is then set for the family drama to heat up in the second half, as secrets tumble out, things come to a head…

It’s been a long time since I saw such beautifully etched characters and crisp, natural dialogues in a Hindi film. The performances were fabulous – Rajat, Rishi were brilliant and Fawad, Alia, Sidharth also display their acting chops – both the men, especially, successfully put to bed all the unfair, unwarranted criticism that they’re just good looking boys who can’t act. Ratna is very good too, doing justice to the role given – her character is not someone who I would be fond of but can understand. Special mention of Sukant Goel who also shines through in a small role, as Sid’s best friend.

The film does hold a mirror up to how most of us live our lives, mired in our first world problems. Unhappiness, we discover, can be caused by so many factors – parental expectations, striving for approval, success, distrust, money issues, the search for love – all can prove to be so corrosive. But equally, isn’t it upto us to simplify things, to chart out our own course – to stop blaming others for our problems. Because, in the end, don’t we all just want to be happy ?