Friday, September 30, 2011


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 30th September, 2011
Time : 137 minutes
Director : Nishikant Kamat; Writer : Ritesh Shah (inspired by the Tamil film ‘Kaakha Kaakha’); Music : Harris Jayaraj
Starring : John Abraham, Genelia D’Souza, Vidyut Jamwal, Mohnish Bahl, Sandhya Mridul

I cant remember the last lead pair where both had dimples. It added a touch of cuteness and this along with some light hearted moments distract us from the fact that the story has large gaping holes, some flaws that only movies can permit. Yet, there is enough going on in terms of the action, romance and sheer hunkiness to keep you engrossed and ignore some of the silliness

Beefy, action oriented Narcotics officer, John Abraham & his special squad bust four drug gangs across India. However, a new player, led by the ruthless Vidyut is happy then to takeover and rake in the moolah. Things get personal when his brother is killed by John’s team, Vidyut being of the ‘eent ka jawab pathar’ ilk. In the midst of all this, the shy, quiet, soft to hardly spoken loner, John, meets Genelia. Effervescent, sweet, a member of the ‘have mouth, will talk’ club, she is making rapid inroads in John’s life. At a time when he would rather have no one to care for, no attachment or relationship that can be exploited by the people he chases.

The tiny package, Genelia steals almost steals the show here, amidst the biceps and finely ribbed abs around her. Comparisons between John’s biceps and her waist size would not entirely be out of order. Yet the couple comes across well, John’s reticence and her natural bubbliness looking natural and unrehearsed. John is good as the man on a mission, balancing raw action with anger and calm on different occasions. Vidyut is a find. And the directors made him fight, move in a certain elastic way, which makes you go ‘wow’ when you first see it. It’s the kind of thought that was put in to make Tarzan ‘skateboard’ on trees in the Disney feature and definitely adds an extra dimension.

In a film about muscles, guns and a touch of romance, should we be looking for logic ? It’s a formula that’s worked in India and Hollywood for many years without it. Its normal possibly, therefore, for cops to have a clear shot but take out the henchman instead of the gangleader. Normal for cops, even though there are four of them, not to chase a guy who fired shots in a mall but only the two people who they were tailing. For a cop to land up for a key confrontation with just one gun and one magazine round. And in the face of a real, tangible threat, when denied any protection by the police, not to agree to cover each others back, finding a safe house for their family. However, while they have happened many times before in reel life, I doubt they would in real life.

I loved Kaakha Kaakha. And I enjoyed this film. Raw power and a subtle romance. Its one of those that has certain moments and certain dialogue which stays with you.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Johnny English Reborn

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 23rd September, 2011 (India)
Time : 118 minutes
Director : Oliver Parker; Writer : Hamish McColl, William Davies; Music : Ilan Eshkeri
Starring : Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West, Gillian Anderson, Daniel Kaluuya, Richard Schiff, Tim McInnerny

It uses every cliché in the world, lots of slapstick, mixed with some interesting situations, begs us to suspend our thinking cap completely with a plot that is rudimentary and has more holes than my favourite twelve year old vest. And yet, it connects, makes us care for the hero and most importantly, makes us laugh several times.

Its all about Rowan Atkinson and his marvellous acting skills. After a fiasco a few years ago, Johnny is coming to grips with it in the only place secret agents and superheroes seem to find appealing, Tibet, amongst the monks. When he returns at MI7’s behest, our hero with balls of steel (you’ll realize how true this phrase is after watching the film), finds an agency that has changed, has a sponsor and is definitely not so secretive anymore (they actually have check in procedures). There is a plot to assassinate the Chinese premier when he is due to meet the English PM. And Johnny English is the only person who the informant will speak to.

After many accidents (the gardening done with the helicopter), fiasco’s (the revolving chair sticks to the mind as does his beating the mom), chases (especially the Chinese man in Hongkong) and moments of buffoonery (the dance towards the end & the lipstick were both memorable), it finally draws to a rousing close

There is something about Rowan that enables him to pull something like this off. Genial, amiable, with a childlike curiosity, you like him. You therefore cringe when he goofs up and cheer when he, almost despite himself, manages to pull something off. No one amongst the supporting cast really sticks out here and given its weak plot and being almost a one man show ensures this isn’t a classic

Its an expensive film though, no expense spared in terms of sets or locales (like the first one) and despite there being no A list star, it still goes ahead and spends over $40 mn. Wonder when we’ll be able to do the same in India ?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crazy Stupid Love

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 29th July, 2011 (USA)
Time : 118 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Glen Ficarra, John Requa; Writer : Dan Fogelman; Music : Christophe Beck, Nick Urata
Starring : Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon, Analeigh Lipton, Jonah Bobo, Liza Lapira, Joey King, John Carroll Lynch, Josh Groban

“The war between the sexes is over. We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise”

What is amazing about this film are the surprises you get at every turn, every corner. Just when you think its getting predictable, you anticipate a certain move, ‘BAM’, it’ll surprise you. And in a very natural, realistic way, without seeming to be trying to do so, without it ever getting over the top.

“Demi Moore is 15 years older than Ashton Kutcher. They seem happy together.”

Right from Ryan Goslings first pick up attempt, the whole ‘it could’ve been cancer’ and subsequent applause for Steve in his office, the slaps & how surprisingly it does get evened out later, the jumping out of a car while its moving, the babysitter’s crush, the cologne gift, the entering of the room without knocking (by the babysitter) and what she witnesses, the ‘valium’ boyfriend, the googling of ‘moms crying in bed’, the raising of the chair by Robbie for the conversation in office, the unexpected meeting with the 8th grade teacher by the parents, the conversation with the hairdresser, the protectiveness of fathers towards their daughters & the need for them to be role models for their sons. The ending is possibly one of the best I’ve seen in recent times, totally unexpected like the rest of the film.

“I don't know whether to help you or euthanize you”

Steve Carell and Julianne Moore are married for 25 years. Have lovely kids. And now seem to have a crisis in their relationship. Steve meets someone at a bar (Ryan Gosling) who attempts to change his personality. The kids have issues of their own. Julianne Moore cant make up her mind. And it all comes beautifully together at the end.

“You're life is so PG-13”

Both situationally and dialogue-wise, this is a great script. To be able to constantly spring a surprise through the film, to do it without losing the thread of the story & different subplots or making the characters seem non-manipulated is impressive. The background music is fantastic, accentuating every mood and emotion effortlessly. The acting is uniformly brilliant, right from Marisa’s cameo, Jonah’s anguished thirteen year old, Liza Lapira as the best friend who knows whats wrong, Analeigh as the babysitter trapped between crushes, John as the henpecked husband & possessive father and the leads – each one of them just pefect. And the jokes aren’t bad too…

“The bags under your eyes looks like Hugh Hefner's ball sack”

As pointed out by my friend who saw it with me, the movie achieves a fantastic impact without having to try too hard in terms of fancy camera work, weird camera angles or too many locations (3 homes, 1 school and 1 bar is pretty much all we see).

“I'm going to help you rediscover your manhood. Do you have any idea where you could have lost it?”

There is a lesson in this film for our industry. On how to be original without fear. I don’t think we’ve got the talent or the balls to be able to do something similar right now

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Friends With Benefits

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 22nd July, 2011 (USA)
Time : 109 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Will Gluck; Writer : Keith Merryman, David A Newman; Music : Halli Cauthery
Starring : Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Nolan Gould, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Shaun White

“You know, why don't they ever a make a movie about what happens after they kiss?”
”They do. It's called porn.”

There is a 25-30 minute period when the movie doesn’t really make sense, gets sentimental, uses clichés and becomes boringly predictable. This period includes the end, which is definitely not a high point. For most of the rest of it, its got great dialogues, funny one liners, some good character sketches (Sam, the magician & Woody Harrelson stood out) and Mila Kunis is so hot ! (God, I’m such a sucker for good eye candy !)

“I could put up a video of me mixing cake batter with my boobs. And it will get eight million hits.”
Pretty much along the lines of No Strings Attached and Love & Other Drugs (to name two recent similar films), this follows a couple mating, and trying to do so without adding the status of a relationship to it. Its just about sex. But then, as cinematic and most people’s relationship history will testify, its unlikely to remain that way.

“Why do women think the only way to get a man to do what they want, is to manipulate them?”
”History. Personal experience. Romantic comedies.”

So much of a romantic comedy relies on the looks, charm and chemistry between the lead pair. I thought Justin played his part well, within his limitations, slightly stiff, in line with his character. Its Mila Kunis though, after her star turn in Black Swan, who shatters the thermometer here again. Hot, feisty, vulnerable, lovely eyes, fits the character extremely naturally and with aplomb.

“Why can it not be like that? It's a physical act. Like playing tennis. Two people should be able to have sex like they're playing tennis.”

I thought the whole thing about Alzheimers was unnecessary. And I didn’t see the point of Woody’s character while enjoying the way he plays it. The music is nothing to write home about.

“Do you know how hard it is to pee with a hard on?”
”No, actually.”
”It's like two lines of traffic merging into one. It takes time.”

The sad part about watching it in an Indian theatre is that you lose out on the sex and nudity. The fact that I still enjoyed the film shows that the dialogue is good and that the lead pair really work. A predictable chick flick but good fun…

“But you said I was your soulmate”
“I did ? When ?”
“When we were at the bed & breakfast having sex”
“But that doesn’t really….”
“Count ?” (hits him)

“So, no?”
”No! Not having sex with you.”
”Is it your special time? They have an App for that. No, wait!
[he moves his cell phone close to her waving it over her body]
Nope. You're good to go.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 9th September, 2011
Time : 145 minutes
Director & Writer : Ali Abbas Zafar ; Music : Sohail Sen
Starring : Imran Khan, Katrina Kaif, Ali Zafar, Tara D’Souza, Parikshit Sahni, Kanwaljit, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Arfeen Khan

You pretty much know the story, given the title and the promos. While there are a few twists and turns, they are of the minor, storm in a teacup rather than shake the world variety. However, to their credit, the journey is fun, light hearted, enjoyable and despite your knowing the destination + some weak acting by Imran, we’re in a pretty good state by the time we get to the end credits.

Imran, a sorted type, is entrusted by big brother Ali Zafar (completely mixed up, based in London type) to find a good Indian bride for him. Katrina, a rebel, rock star in her earlier years (when her and Imran’s paths had crossed), now seems like the perfect choice. Except that Imran falls for her.

Fizzy moments include Katrina’s internet interview of Ali Zafar, with the final question having the maximum impact on the audience and the interviewee. Imran’s best friends (Rohit / Shumit), who lighten up the scene with remarks like ‘Bhabhi badi frank hain’ or even ‘oye angrez ki aulad, main tera bachpan ka dost hoon.’ when Imran protests a bit too violently on being discovered (the final bit here about a ‘missing you’ card in the VIIth took the remark to another level). Rohit, after a lot of digging, I've realised is played by the multi-talented Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, who also played the title accused in NOKJ. Its sad though, that in our star obsessed reporting, such a fine character actors name doesnt even get a mention...

Katrina continues to silence detractors with her assured performances. Ali Zafar continues to show immense promise. Imran was weak here, especially in terms of facial expressions. Missed the natural acting of a Delhi Belly, which I think was his most competent performance so far. And while Tara D’Souza does well, I think she was miscast a bit for this part, needed someone with a little more oomph.

Some surprises, including a couple at the end make it more interesting. I like the way they kept it light, non-sentimental (would’ve been very easy to go the other way in some scenes). The peppy songs, which rip off a lot of recent hits in their picturisation, help. Its quite a taboo topic in India, took some guts to make it and in this era of moral policing, worth a watch just on those grounds alone.

That Girl in Yellow Boots

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 2nd September, 2011
Time : 109 minutes
Director & Co-Writer : Anurag Kashyap ; Co-writer : Kalki Koechlin; Music : Naren Chandavarkar
Starring : Kalki Koechlin, Prashant Prakash, Naseeruddin Shah, Gulshan Devaiah, Puja Sarup, Divya Jagdale

If it were not for the receptionist (Puja) and the Kannada villain with the heart of gold (Gulshan), this story of a gori girl from UK, coming to India to find her father, would’ve faltered. Its been told before. But not this way. She speaks Hindi quite fluently, works in Aaspaas Spa, has a seedy life, a junkie boyfriend, no photo of her father, just a name & a letter, has issues getting her visa renewed, has a run in with the gangster from Bangalore and earns money by making sure her massages have ‘happy endings’ for her clients.

While her story, her journey is interesting, told quite realistically, warts & all, its jerky, a bit slow in parts and maybe some of the characters came across as too weird (the boyfriend being a prime example), almost as if they’re put in there by the film-maker just to make a point.

It’s a side of life that’s rarely seen by most Indians, the kind of harassment faced by those with a fair skin, the clumsy visa renewal & police verification process, the lustful, lecherous looks given by every passerby. Its not to say there are no nice people. The gentle Naseer, with his blessings, is a breath of fresh air, but one that Kalki, too absorbed in her quest is unable to really appreciate.
Kalki shines in this role. Impassive for most parts, letting her eyes do the talking, apart from a few moments when she lets her anger rip. The stars of the show though, are the talkative receptionist – she talks non stop about every topic under the sun and also shows a softer side (seems to genuinely care about Kalki) plus a hard as nails part (zyada mat ghoorna, ankhein noch longi) when called for. Gulshan, as the sentimental, smiling villain is the piece de resistance. His attempts at switching off the TV. The respectful way he speaks to those around him. His smiling ‘we already know’ when Kalki informs him that her boyfriend isn’t there nor does she have cash. Simply brilliant.

It’s a perspective which is put forward. One that doesn’t necessarily make sense. Am not sure a middle class English girl would go through what Kalki goes through. And, separately, that by itself doesn’t make it watchable. Just because there are all sorts of loonies, kooks and perverts out there, doesn’t mean their story should be told