Saturday, June 27, 2015

Inside Out

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 26th June, 2015
Time : 94 minutes
Directors, Writers : Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen; Music : Michael Giacchino
Starring : (voices of) : Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan

Which are the different emotions that guide us, interplay inside our head ? What really does happen in there ? Wouldn’t we just want to be happy all the time ? Could we ? It’s always fun when an animated movie raises such fundamental questions…and answers them in its own simplistic style…

Inside little Riley’s head run five emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – and they’ve been with her since she was born. She’s an only child, happy, bouncy, loved by her parents, enjoying a normal existence in Minnesota, when suddenly, at the tender age of eleven, her first major crisis arrives. They have to move to San Francisco, due to her father’s work. Now she, and her five emotions, have to navigate through a new city, new home, new school, new friends…the works…

There is an extended sequence, which takes us out of Riley’s mental control room, and shows us other portions of the mind – a quite fascinating take on how our mind is organized, it’s different components, memories, islands etc. This part does go on for a little bit too long, drags a bit but is also when some fundamental realizations are made…

This isn’t one of those laugh out loud movies. There are a few moments of slapstick humour but most of the movie is funny in a more subtle way. Though a brief look at Riley’s parents inner minds is assured to bring on more than just a smile. Do stay for the end-credits, where they do a swift tour of some of the movie’s supporting cast. Events wise, there is nothing dramatic that really occurs, it’s all quite normal day-to-day stuff in our lives, - but then isn’t there a lot of depth to be found even in the most mundane of activities ?

PS : Whatever you do, do not arrive late for the film, as it’s preceded by a most beautiful, touching short (also by Pixar) called Lava…

Child 44

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 26th June, 2015
Time : 137 minutes
Director : Daniel Espinosa; Writer : Richard Price, based on the novel by Tom Rob Smith; Music : Jon Ekstrand
Starring : Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Vincent Cassel, Fares Fares, Jason Clarke

This is like one of those brooding, heavy Russian novels – where an oppressive, weighty air of depression hangs over everybody and everything (most of the movie is set in the just-rid-of Stalin 1953). I think there is actually just one scene where someone smiled. And in the midst of it all, Tom Hardy, a rising star of the secret service, has to cope with the intrigues of office politics, the indifference of his beloved wife (Noomi Rapace), and the ‘minor’ challenge of finding a serial child killer in a country where murder doesn’t officially exist. Murder, after all, is a capitalist disease, borne of greed and cannot exist in Paradise.

There is a touch of much ado about nothing. Something cinematically is not handled the right way as the emotion, the shock, the revelations don’t come through with the requisite impact. There is a lot happening – the jealousy of a fellow officer, Joel Kinnaman, who’s a little too quick to pull the trigger. The travel internally, the glimpses of industrial Russia, the chasing down of a traitor (Jason Clarke), the change in fortunes, the horrible death of the child of a close friend and colleague (Fares Fares) and the meeting with a General, Gary Oldman, who reluctantly helps with the investigations. It was also disappointing to see Noomi, so feisty in Sherlock Holmes : Game of Shadows, reduced to a rather passive role.

But through it all, it doesn’t manage to inveigle us emotionally – apart from some feelings towards our hero – waging a lone, heroic battle against the rest of the world – you don’t truly feel the shock, horror, anger that you should as the tragic, horrible events occur. Just an overall sense of apathy, which isn’t good for a film which seems to last longer than it actually is…

PS : Rant Begins : Why do westerners take so much delight in only showing, portraying the negative sides of the non-western bloc countries ? Has there ever been a Hollywood film, set in Russia, which shows its positive aspects, happy people ? Isn't this a most dangerous, insidious form of propaganda ? : End of Rant

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 19th June, 2015
Time : 154 minutes
Director, Writer : Remo D’Souza; Music : Sachin-Jigar
Starring : Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Lauren Gottlieb, Prabhu Deva, Dharmesh Yelande, Sushant Pujari

Disclaimer : I haven’t seen ABCD – the first film

Some great dance sequences. Some ordinary ones. An over-stretched movie and plot, replete with storm-in-the-teacup kinda conflicts and emotional, melodramatic moments that fail to move you at all

Our heroes from the first one are caught up in a scandal as they copy an international act, move for move, in a local competition. Rapidly becoming the nations biggest punching bag, they seek redemption by going for an international hip-hop dance competition, with the auditions in Bangalore and the finale in Vegas… Along the way, merely after watching him dance once, they decide they must have Prabhu Deva as their choreographer

Varun and Lauren, among the main leads, are excellent on the dance floor. Shraddha is good but not in the same league. Dharmesh Yelande is good too but the one who really catches the eye through his dance moves is a deaf-mute character (though not during a forgettable emotional side-track he is burdened with).

Dance films – Indian or international – suffer from being predictable. This one is no different. The story tries to add a layer of redemption, of national pride (ho-hum, what’s new?) but pays only lip service to either storyline. The whole drama around Prabhu Deva’s back story turns out to be quite laughable. The songs are quite ordinary – nothing to really stick. The choreography, sets are super, though, as are some of the touches of humour. They could’ve dialed down on the melodrama and probably could’ve wrapped up the movie in half hour less, and done away with one or two ‘twists’ of the literal and non-literal kind…


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 19th June, 2015
Time : 120 minutes
Director, Writer : Paul Feig; Music : Theodore Shapiro
Starring : Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz, Richard Brake, Nargis Fakhri, 50 Cent, Allison Janney

Lots of crude and crass humour, about a fifth of which is bleeped out and only a tenth makes you smile. Ludicrous situations. And the older-Bond-style villains, the type who’re happier to chit-chat than actually kill.

Melissa moves from being CIA agent Jude Law’s voice, eyes and ears – basically his assistant and researcher – to being an agent on her own, thanks to a certain set of circumstances. Her brief is to track and report Bobby Cannavale, in the hope he will lead them to Rose Byrne, who in turn would lead them to a missing, hot, portable nuke which is in the process of being auctioned to the highest bidder, and likely to enter USA.

Of course, Melissa is not going to be content just reporting – but will get into the thick of action, aided by her assistant, the bumbling, lanky Miranda…

The million dollar question is why did Jason Statham take up a terrible role as a highly strung out, competitive CIA agent ? Nargis Fakhri has a minute part in the film – a comical action sequence she gets to join but not much else (doesn’t even make the opening credits). The worst was reserved for Peter Serafinowicz, who got the part of a sex-crazed Italian agency resource, who uses every opportunity to grope Melissa…

The makers here seemed to be struggling with the question of whether to make this a spoof (along the lines of Johnny English, Spy Hard) or to try to keep it real. Currently, it just kind of fell through the cracks

Friday, June 12, 2015

Jurassic World

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 11th June, 2015
Time : 124 minutes
Director : Colin Trevorrow; Writers : Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, based on the characters created by Michael Crichton; Music : Michael Giacchino
Starring : Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Jake Hohnson, Omar Sy, Judy Greeer, BD Wong

It’s entertaining, it’s fun, it’s scary, it’s spectacular.
It’s also highly implausible, soul-less, and lacks a real differing opinion or ideological conflict.

Jurassic World has opened up as a major tourist attraction on Isla Nublar, the same venue as the first epic film. It draws in thousands of visitors, is owned by Irrfan Khan, run by Bryce , who happens to have her nephews Ty & Nick, visiting. The park relies on new species or dinosaur attractions every few years to keep tourist interest alive. And towards this end they have created a genetic hybrid – a new species, Indominous Rex – which, as per the brief is scarier, tougher, bigger….and cooler !

Chris Pratt is the tough army types who is working on a special program to train velociraptors to obey his commands, Vincent D’Onofrio is the greedy, army type who has an ulterior motive.

And when the Indominous escapes from its cage…things fall back to as they were, 65 million years ago...

I liked the way they kept bringing up the spirit of Jurassic Park – showing the locales where the action for that film had happened – using a similar storyline (nephews out in the wild, dinosaur on the loose, owner, manager and tough guy out trying to rescue them) and even stray action sequences towards the end which were reminiscent…

It was also fascinating to see things like a petting zoo and a water attraction – both involving dinosaurs – which does raise the question if sometimes we, humans, really understand the forces we are dealing with?

However – you felt nothing really for any of the characters. No one really made any impression on you (lacked star power too, possibly), and did or said anything that truly stayed with you. There was no real emotion, no feelings which stood out – and no moments of real humour. Lots of things here didn’t make sense either – unlike the first, where everything seemed actually possible. And there was no real ideological conflict – a slight moral one perhaps- but again nothing like the ‘life will find a way’ theory expounded in Michael Crichton’s seminal novel.

You need to watch it though, for some great special effects, truly hair-raising, goose-bumpy moments and super action sequences, including an epic fight towards the end. At the end of the day, a really expensive film to give you some cheap thrills…

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Dil Dhadakne Do

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 5th June, 2015
Time : 170 minutes
Director : Zoya Akhtar; Writers : Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Farhan Akhtar (dialogue); Music : Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy
Starring : Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra, Anuskha Sharma, Farhan Akhtar, Rahul Bose, Zarina Wahab, Ridhima Sud, Manoj Pahwa, Parmeet Sethi, Khushi Dubey, Divya Seth Shah, Pawan Chopra, Ayesha Raza Mishra, Sarah Hashmi, Dolly Mattoo, Ikhlaque Khan

Members of which Indian community are most likely to throw a lavish foreign cruise party to celebrate their anniversary, inviting family and friends, when they are crippled by debt ?

That same community, their mannerisms, dialogues, behavior, conversations are absolutely nailed, almost perfectly. And that is what is most enjoyable about the film – the close look at a dysfunctional family and their equally crazy relatives and friends. The story otherwise isn’t much and the ending is…well, it would need a lifeboat to rescue it…

(From separate conversations)
Auntyji 1 : (recovering from her daughter’s broken engagement) : Maine na Mata ki Chowki rakhi hai

Auntyji 2 : Teri maid phir bhaag gayi hai ? Yaar, what do you do with your maids ?

Auntyji 3 : (when scolded to get a life, after spending too much time match-making) : Yeh paagal ho gayi hai ? Hummein job kaun dega ?

Auntyji 4 : (when asked to have a drink) : Nahin, mujhe arthritis hai so I cant hold a glass for long

Auntyji 4 : (about above Auntyji, at another point in time) : Inhein asthma bhi hai!?

Auntyji 5 : Aise Delhi main thodi dance kar sakte hain, log kya kahenge

Anil Kapoor : Head of the family. Self-made man. Reminds everyone about it constantly. Has an eye for the pretty ladies. And business trips with them. He is very good as the the testosterone filled dad, prone to getting his own way. And is central to the best scene of the film, a medical emergency

Shefali Shah : Wife. Advisor in tough times. Doormat (to be trampled upon) at others. Prone to eating. Chocolate. Especially when nervous. She was the actor of the film, communicating volumes through her eyes and expressions. Didn’t have too many killer dialogues but one stood out, on the topic of marital incompatibility – “Husband hai, judwan bhai nahin”

Ranveer Singh : Happy go lucky. Infectiously funny. Loves to fly. Isnt good at handling Dad’s business. Has tried. Is being asked to marry daughter of rich friend. To do his bit for the family business. Ranveer does what he does best – brings tons of energy to his role, which seems written for him – and looks, acts, behaves his part. The puke jokes were brilliant!

Priyanka Chopra : Super successful, has set up her own business. Married to the wrong guy. By her parents. Used to being over-looked by them for her brother. But for some reason, it still hurts. After a long while, Priyanka gets a role where she isn’t just eye-candy. And boy, does she do it justice. That guilty look after a sudden, stolen kiss…

Rahul Bose, Priyanka’s stiff hubby, does excellently in a negative role that, strangely, lacks layers. Zarina Wahab as Rahul’s mom is great too – especially with her various ailments. Manoj Pahwa is very good as a loud, happy friend (Oh, yaar, apni biwiyon ko itne saal jhel liya hai, yeh kya baat hai). As are the various wives and other uncles. Special mention of Khushi Dubey as a wise-cracking young ‘un (Beta, agar saj ke nahin baithoge, to ladka kaise phasega ?) and Riddhima Sud, who does a super job as a bimbette type. As an exasperated Ranveer tells her, when she is caught out once, kissing the wrong guy – “There are 500 rooms on the ship!

Anushka is good in her role as Ranveer’s love interest. Farhan is effortlessly excellent in his brief role – again, he doesn’t seem to be acting but just being himself (Tum itna smart hote huay itni stupid kaisi ho sakti ho?!)

It desperately stretches out. Has an unnecessarily convoluted end. The songs were ordinary, though the background score was great. Thought the whole thing about the dog as a narrator was contrived. But it gets its characters right for the most part. And nails the Punjabi ethos, complete with its extravagance, large heartedness, hypocrisy, male dominance and above all, the intrinsic humour…