Saturday, November 22, 2014

Equalizer - Happy Ending

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 21st November, 2014
Time : 132 minutes
Director : Antoine Fuqua; Writer: Richard Wenk, based on the TV series by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim; Music : Harry Gregson-Williams
Starring : Denzel Washington, Martin Czokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, David Meunier, Johnny Skourtis

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 21st November, 2014
Time : 137 minutes
Director, Writers : Raj and Krishna DK; Co-writer: Sita Menon; Music : Jigar Sachin
Starring : Saif Ali Khan, Ileana D'Cruz, Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey, Govinda, Rahul Nath, Preity Zinta

Equalizer and Happy Ending, as films & genres, couldn’t be more dissimilar. One is a action, one-man army, bloody, gory film, the other a soft focus, breezy romantic comedy. In one bad things happen to a lot of bad people while in the other, good people enjoy the good life. Yet my movie viewing experience was so alike that I felt compelled to write a kind of combined review. That, and a slight time constraint.

In Equalizer, Denzel Washington, a seemingly innocuous worker at a DIY store, perennial do-gooder, transforms into a plague of sorts against a well-heeled, well-connected Russian mob. Just because they beat a not-so-close friend of his, Chloe, up. And when they turn up the heat, sending Marton Csokas, their enforcer, he switches on some sunlight himself…

In Happy Ending, Saif is a commitment phobic, serial womanizer, rich, popular author. Who suddenly finds his book replaced on the shelves, his money finished, his popularity faded and the women drying up. Suffering from writers block, handed a life-saving script-writing opportunity by a single-screen star, Govinda, who wishes to now connect with the multiplex audiences, Saif (for reasons not entirely clear) decides to hook-up with the new author / flavor of the month, Ileana D'Cruz, who’s pulpy, romantic novel, has replaced his on the shelf and him at his literary agent. And she turns out to be the female version of him…

What struck me, with both movies, was the predictability of the storylines and also the inevitability of the endings, whether Happy or otherwise. And yet, they were both enjoyable, gripping in their own ways, proving once again that even if the destination is clear, the journey can still be fun.

What works for Equalizer are its action sequences, background music, superb visuals and earnest performances from Denzel and Marton. It helps that Antoine Fuqua, the director, is no stranger to the action genre, with films like Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen and Shooter under his belt, and keeps the film crisp, pacy and slick, yet manages to build a good emotional connect with simple, deft touches – chance meetings, stray conversations about books at a diner, a musical doll, a glistening tear rolling down the cheek. Chloe also comes through in her brief role…

And what works for Happy Ending is its irreverent take on life, relationships, writing and Saif. The good thing about him is that, especially when playing the lovable rascal, it really feels that the character is him in reality – he’s not playing a part, just being himself. Ilena does well (though not without flaw),Kalki's role, as Saif's slightly psychotic girlfriend, was a bit unidimensional, and Ranvir, as Saif’s bff and a much harried, married man, delivers the laughs fairly consistently. It was also a nice change to see a film about an author, and the dialogue, refreshingly, was consistently good and funny.

Equalizer’s end was worse than Happy Ending’s. Required a suspension of disbelief longer than the Golden Gate, the locale of part of the latter…though, arguably, HE’s was more contrived. But both still made for a good watch, stopping a few milestones shy of greatness but giving us some happy viewing…

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kill Dill

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 14th November, 2014
Time : 127 minutes
Director : Shaad Ali; Writers: Nitesh Tiwari, Shreyas Jain, Nikhil Mehrotra; Music : Shankar Ehsaan Loy
Starring : Ranveer Singh, Ali Zafar, Govinda, Parineeti Chopra

The first few minutes were excellent. In terms of setting things up. Showing the relationships between our lead duo Ali Zafar, Ranveer, their godfather, Govinda and the introduction of Parineeti. For a while, aided by good, witty dialogue, they kept things going, even though, apart from the courtship, there wasn’t much happening. And then, as usual, they ran out of ideas on what to make their interesting characters do. On how to progress the story forward. Leading to a second half that just floundered with all concerned doing unlikely, improbable things.

Govinda brings up the two kids from infancy, rescuing them from a trash can. He’s an enforcer for a neta, handing out killing contracts to our heroic, more brawn than brains duo, who of course worship him and are willing to do anything at his command. Until Ranveer falls for Parineeti after saving her from gun-toting goons at a crowded discotheque. Earning her gratitude. And then discovering, via her and her friends circle, that its possible to earn a very good living by being good, honest too. Which then interferes with his work – I mean, you cant be a very good contract killer if you begin thinking too much about what you do, who is the victim, etc. And this, naturally, impedes his partner, Ali Zafar, and more than just annoys super boss, Govinda.

The performances are good and the opening songs add zing. There is a certain freshness to the film – Ranveer’s servility while dealing with Parineeti, Ali / Ranveer constantly pulling the leg of another of Govinda’s henchman, Parineeti’s cryptic sms’, which need a trip to the library to decipher, her dominating approach to Ranveeer, Ali and Ranveer’s cool pad, complete with a Marlboro poster, the open, haveli feel of Govinda’s hideout, the cool motorbike, fancy cars – there is enough to keep you going. I would give them some brownie points for at least not making it a boring, predictable love trianlge. But then you just wish it went somewhere, anywhere. You wish there was a better conflict resolution rather than the fortuitous, flimsy end. You wish the makers had spent more time fleshing out the idea, working on the script, than just relying on style, actors to keep us entertained. Fun, in parts, but could’ve been so much more…

John Wick

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 14th November, 2014
Time : 101 minutes
Director: Chad Tahelski; Writer : Derek Kolstad; Music : Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard
Starring : Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicko, Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan

Vengeance. Against the mob. Albanians / Russians. For stealing his car and killing his dog. Keanu Reaves is John Wick. He used to be their enforcer, laying a trail of bodies at their command. But then got out, amicably, with the boss, Michael Nyqvist’s permission. To be with his wife. Who died of a disease a few days back. And then, the mob boss’ son, Alfie Allen (of Game Of Throne’s fame) took a fancy to his car.

There was nothing new in terms of story or action to really keep you interested. The essential strategy was to walk in and shoot, knife, fight, kill. Got monotonous after a while, especially as we weren’t really emotionally invested in the characters. Keanu has essentially one expression through the film and the bearded look didn’t help enhance his boyish charm. The music was good, rock & trance accentuating the violent bits.

The one new idea was that of a Hotel C, a kind of mob / contract killers hangout. With strict rules about not doing business on the premises. Where everyone knows everyone. And no one has forgotten Keanu, even though he’s returning after five years.

Watch if you enjoy the sight of random blood being spilt. Avoid if you’re looking for something to accompany the red body fluid. Like a story. Or anything else.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 7th November, 2014
Time : 117 minutes
Director, Writer: Dan Gilroy; Music : James Newton Howard
Starring : Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmad, Bill Paxton

Jake is eerily creepy as the accidental Nightcrawler, a colloquial term used for those freelancers who stay up all night, film scenes of urban crime and then sell any such exclusives to networks. He is determined to climb up the ladder of success and, thanks to the internet, he is armed with all the knowledge he needs to be able to do so.

Rene Russo is one of the network executives who spots something in Jake and its fascinating to see how this symbiotic relationship progresses. Bill Paxton is Jake’s competitor, who unfortunately passes up an opportunity to hire him when he had the chance. And Riz Ahmed is Jake’s mostly terrified employee – who struggles to cope with his drive and also morality – as Jake isn’t about to flinch while cutting a few corners and expects the same from his employees.

Jake, with his slouch, his strange kind of bookish English, his gaunt frame and burning eyes, is most definitely not the kind of guy you would want to cross paths with. He owns the movie, is there in almost every frame and you are riveted as you watch him try to be one step ahead of everyone else. He celebrates the fact that he is single and so is able to do as he chooses. It is fascinating to watch how he negotiates, the insidious way he makes himself indispensable to the network, ingratiates himself with the people working there, realizing the perfect opportunity to pounce or to give up.

It’s a strange world we live in… This film is most of all about the thin line separating right from wrong and how many, in their headlong rush towards success, knowingly cross it many a time. Networks in their chase for ratings, freelancers in their quest to get an exclusive, a close-up of blood to go with your breakfast… There is a sense of foreboding, something sinister throughout this movie and I can assure you, its not entirely misplaced…


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 7th November, 2014
Time : 169 minutes
Director: Christopher Nolan; Writers: Christopher and Jonathan Nolan; Music : Hans Zimmer
Starring : Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathway, John Lithgow, Mackenzie Foy, Timothee Chalamet, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Jessica Chastain, Topher Grace, Matt Damon, Leah Cairns

Do not go gentle into that good night; Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light

What would we do if life on Earth was about to come to an end, with dust storms blight ensuring most crops couldn’t survive and the planet becoming increasingly hostile ? In Interstellar, the answer lies in discovering other worlds which could possibly support us and is packed with stunning visuals, of space and bleak landscapes, a touching father-daughter story and some memorable dialogues. Unfortunately, all of this also comes with a lot of scientific, quite implausible sounding mumbo-jumbo about dimensions, black holes, worm holes, quantum data, relativity of time, gravity and the like, and also a slightly Hindi filmy touch throughout, so while the film is enjoyable, its not quite the mind-bending masterpiece its being made out to be

Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here

At the family level, McConaughey, living with his dad and kids (son and daughter) and is trying his best to be a farmer, something he hates, but there is not much use for a NASA pilot anymore since food is a primary unfulfilled need. The school recognizes his daughter as a bright spark but classifies the son as a potential farmer. In the tenth grade itself.

We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt

The world is still coming to terms with food shortages, coping with increasing dust storms, blight and a diminished population and a changing world order. One of the drones flying over Matthew’s farm in mid-west American is made in New Delhi, for example.

We must reach far beyond our own lifespans. We must think not as individuals but as a species. We must confront the reality of interstellar travel.

And, in secret, Michael Caine, a renowned scientist with NASA, is exploring for habitable worlds, helped by his daughter, Anne. And fate / a gravitational anomaly leads McConaughey there too.

You don't believe we went to the Moon?
I believe it was a brilliant piece of propaganda, that the Soviets bankrupted themselves pouring resources into rockets and other useless machines.

This is where the film starts to get spectacular visually, weighty dialogue-wise but also, very complicated and in a lot of ways, defies credibility. The end message is probably ‘Believe’ and the finale similar to how a lot of our ethnic films end, requiring lots of faith and a suspension of disbelief. The film is fun as well, in a ponderous kind of way, thought-provoking in large parts (what does lie above us, what if all we learnt about dimensions wasn’t true etc) and helped along by a very earnest performance from its main lead, who’s enjoying a spectacular renaissance of sorts in his career.

You might have to decide between seeing your children again and the future of the human race.

Like it or love it – this one will tickle your imagination. And just for some time, will make you look above with a renewed sense of wonder…

We've always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible

Big Hero 6

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 7th November, 2014
Time : 108 minutes
Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams; Writer: Don Hall, Jordan Roberts based on the comic by Duncan Rouleau and Steven T Seagle; Music : Henry Jackman
Starring : (voices of) Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, TJ Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr, Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph

The first fifteen minutes here are really great – expand how we think, what is possible in the world of science, robotics. The first half is pretty good – slightly predictable but we are quite invested in our boy hero, his angst and his inventions – and await more stuff like we saw in the beginning. The second half really unravels though, logically inconsistent, moving from a good, personal, albeit tech based story into superhero territory. However, the huge, ungainly but extremely lovable BayMax, our friendly health companion probably does enough to salvage the film.

Hiro, our hero, is a young child prodigy who’s finished high school by 13 and is currently using his brains to win at Bot-Fighting. His elder brother, also a science genius, luckily is around to help when needed and show him the way. When an accident causes his untimely death, his invention, BayMax and some friends from the science lab have to step in to help Hiro rediscover his path and his true self. Set in the city of San Fransokyo – a kind of Japanese version of San Fransisco – the film has its share of funny moments, endearing characters. But where it really scores is with its techie, nerdy stuff – its inventiveness, its zaniness, its combination of flair and science – helping us think beyond what is available today. Just for that alone, this one is worth taking the kids to !

Rang Rasiya

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 7th November, 2014
Time : 132 minutes
Director: Ketan Mehta; Writers: Ketan Mehta, Sanjeev Dutta; Music : Sandesh Shandilya
Starring : Randeep Hooda, Nandana Sen, Gaurav Dwivedi, Vipin Sharma, Paresh Rawal, Jim Boeven, Feryna Wazheir, Darshan Jariwala, Suhasini Mulay, Tom Altar, Triptha Parashar, Rashaana Shah

One day, we, in India, will learn to make biopics. Where we will be happy to take one or two defining moments in a person’s life and focus an entire film around it, rather than attempting to show someone’s entire sixty-seventy year old lifespan in a couple of hours

This one takes Raja Ravi Varma’s life, played by Randeep Hooda, and attempts to show us, in a quite episodic manner, his love for painting, his love for staying at the forefront of art, his desire to allow art, especially with the aid of technology, to transcend the otherwise physical and moral constraints faced by artists of that era. It also spends a large part of the film showing us his extremely colorful life, especially with various women – Nandana Sen getting the most attention and notoriety.

There is a lot shown in the film, historical fact, that most of us are probably not aware of. But it is a very jerky style of story-telling, where we skip from one episode to another, without really, consistently understanding the man, his thought process. The scenes involving nudity are quite aesthetically done – don’t seem gratuitous or vulgar.

If a society were to be judged for how liberal it was in its arts, there was a time when we would probably rank right up there but the sad part is, today, we would probably be scraping the bottom of the barrel. We seem to have been this way for the better part of the last couple of hundred years at least, and in some ways, maybe even regressed. Just for a great speech towards the end, delivered calmly, without histrionics, and the core idea – of letting art soar free from a judgmental society – am going to be slightly generous with my rating.