Friday, August 28, 2015


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 28th August, 2015
Time : 136 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : Kabir Khan; Co-Writer: Parveez Sheikh, based on a novel Mumbai Avengers by Hussain Zaidi; Music : Julius Packam
Starring : Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Sabyasachi Chakrabarty

Despite an emotive topic, you struggle to feel anything. Especially for the characters – portions of the blame can be assigned to the script, casting, dialogue and editing – you just kind of go through the motions on this one, till right at the end, where you begin to root (a little bit) for things to go as planned.

Based on the book, Mumbai Avengers, this one is seriously wishful thinking about avenging the 26/11 blasts. About finding someone to go about killing those responsible for those blasts wherever they may be – vigilante justice, American style. A RAW think tank, headed by Sabyasachi and powered by Zeeshan, dreams this mission up, finds the right people and goes ahead without government permission.

They settle on disgraced soldier, Saif. Living in isolation in icy wilderness. Who finally says yes. And then goes about pursuing his assigned targets across the globe. Aided by Katrina Kaif, a London based information source for RAW. And an inept ISI (they really do make someone who regularly conducts operations against India with ease, look like bumbling buffoons).

For starters, Saif isn’t really believable as tough guy on a suicide mission. And it’s not just his fault, as the script doesn’t build him up or point out why he’s the right guy, apart from telling us he was court-martialled. Katrina, she of the famous pout, just doesn’t look plausible firing assault weapons. She doesn’t move or behave like she’s in the counter-intelligence business. And her front, a medical organization (something like Medecins Sans Frontieres), again doesn’t make sense, one minute she’s in London, next in Beirut, then in Syria and then in Lahore, almost as per her desires, going around with heavily armed men. Even the villains aren’t built up well enough – you know a little bit about them from news reports – but if they’re so easy to access (especially the first target), then you really do wonder why India isn’t doing something about it

This one is a little bit of a flatline, despite the exotic locales and the jingoistic plot. Struggles between trying to keep it real or filmy, succeeds at neither and even at the end, when things do pick up it’s just patriotism which eggs you on, aided by lots of Bollywood masala and dialogues, rather than anything substantive.

Man From U.N.C.L.E

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 28th August, 2015
Time : 116 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : Guy Ritchie; Co-Writers: Jeff Kleeman, David C Wilson, Lionel Wigram based on the TV series by Sam Rolfe; Music : Daniel Pemberton
Starring : Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Sylvester Groth, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris, Christian Berkel, Misha Kuznetsov

This one is all style, barely any substance but still quite good fun

It’s 1960, the peak of the Iron Curtain paranoia. An American agent , robber turned spy, Henry Cavill and Russian KGB, Armie Hammer, have to combine with East German car mechanic, Alicia Vikander, to track down her father (Udo), a top Nazi nuclear scientist, who’s disappeared from the USA. The suspicion is he has been taken by a wealthy Italian couple, Elizabeth Debicki and Luca Calvani, known to be Nazi sympathizers, who work closely with his brother, Sylvester Groth, and plan to sell nuclear weapons to the Nazi remnant’s, seeking to make a comeback to the world stage.

One thing you’re guaranteed with a Guy Ritchie film is a pulsating soundtrack, and an attitude to match. This one doesn’t disappoint either front and you get a gaggle of good-looking people too.

I’d never really warmed up to either Henry Cavill (Man of Steel), found him wooden, or Armie Hammer (Lone Ranger), who came across as a bit of a softie, but here they work in their respective roles. Alicia and Elizabeth provide plenty of leggy glamour, while the men strut around in fancy suits, with all posh fashion brands bandied about (What would go better with a Boss belt, a Rabanne suit or a Dior?). The one liners are pithy, crisp and plentiful. The contrast between the leading men well-defined. And everyone lives in this beautiful, happy world while plotting world destruction.

The plot, strangely for a Guy Ritchie film, is the weak link here. Nothing much really happens and what does, doesn’t make complete sense (there would surely be easier ways to do this and surely wealthy, intelligent villains should display more sense ?). But, it’s undeniably fun and you surely wouldn’t mind another film in the series, especially with Hugh Grant, from British intelligence, running the show…

No Escape

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 28th August, 2015
Time : 103 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : John Erick Dowdle; Co-Writer: Drew Dowdle; Music : Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders
Starring : Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare, Sahajak Boonthanakit

Imagine landing in an exotic (for the Americans) land, somewhere around Thailand,Vietnam, with your family, only to find, in a few hours the place erupting in a revolution with vigilante mobs going around executing all foreigners on sight.

Owen Wilson, finds himself in this predicament, with seemingly no way out. He and his wife, Lake Bell, with their two young daughters (Sterling, Claire) arrive for his expat job with an American water company, barely settle in their hotel and soon find events spiraling out of control. The Prime Minister is shot dead and soon bloodthirsty mobs roam the once peaceful streets. Pierce Brosnan, British, had been on the same flight as them, is in the country primarily for women (or so he says), is staying on the same hotel and may have a part to play, as he’s a regular in the country. But things look really bleak…

This one is all about the tension. About moving from one predicament to another. Just when the family (and you) begin to feel slightly safe – Boom! – next thunderbolt will strike. The young daughters are also shown to be the typical American types – will feel hungry, want to go to the bathroom, wont want to jump – even when clearly their own lives are in peril – and Owen, who’s not been very successful in life and has to mend bridges with his wife – has his hands full as they try to stay alive

It’s not a bad one time watch though I’ve never heard the word ‘Okay’ spoken as many times in one film. The violence shown is brutal, but the pressure-cooker atmosphere does permeate through and makes you want the young American family to make it to safety. Of course, whether they do or not, is another matter.

PS : Found it deliciously ironical that one of the possible safe options was for an American family to go over to the nearby Vietnamese border and seek asylum.


Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 31st July, 2015
Time : 163 minutes
Director, Writer : Nishikant Kamat; Co-Writer: Upendra Sidhaye based on an original story by Jeetu Joseph; Music : Vishal Bhardwaj (songs), Sameer Phatarpekar (background score)
Starring : Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Shriya Saran, Rajat Kapoor, Kamlesh Sawant, Ishita Dutta, Mrunal Jadhav, Rishabh Chaddha, Prathamesh Parab

There are two surefire signs that I’ve seen a great movie. One is that I run through the entire plot in my head, asking ‘What would I do if I were in the protagonists place’ and the other is that I write the review almost immediately.

So, at 230am, having just returned from a late night show of Drishyam, with three movies lined up tomorrow morning, here goes…

Ajay Devgn lives in Pendolim, Goa and has been there for many years, running a successful cable TV business. He is a film fanatic and is loved and respected in the community. His lovely family, comprises his wife, Shriya Saran and two daughters, the teenaged Ishita Dutta and the little cutie, Mrunal Jadhav. However, their idyllic life is soon shattered due to no fault of theirs…and they are soon hunted by the police, in particular, the top cop of Goa, Tabu …and even the cops from his local station, who’ve known him since childhood including Kamlesh Sawant, who hates his guts…

It isn’t easy viewing because of the content but incredibly gripping…and you await with bated breath to find out the next twist and turn. There are some fascinating sub-contexts too – much is made of the fact that Ajay is only educated till the fourth standard –while everyone around him, including his wife and the cops chasing him, are more educated. The running battle between Kamlesh and Ajay is fascinating too, a bit more than banter at first, but gets nasty soon enough. And there is a sly sense of humour too – even in the tensest moments (like Tabu’s outburtst when yet another witness says the same thing).

The beautiful surroundings of our favorite holiday state also make for the perfect backdrop to the tension and the drama. And the music, for a change, doesn’t intrude but adds to the atmosphere. Ajay Devgn works better when he is understated, as here. Tabu is fantastic too – balancing tough cop with vulnerable mom extremely well. Shriya was god but overacted just a little, while Ishita and Mrunal were quite good as their daughters. However, it was Rajat Kapoor, as Tabu’s husband, and Kamlesh, who really stole the show with their performances.

It’s rare to find a Hindi film that is close to flawless – there are niggles, little issues here and there, but overall, it just works – its nice and compact, for a change not going off-topic, and getting the mix of emotions, story and facts right. A real cat and mouse game, where for a change, you cant really figure out who exactly is the cat and who is the mouse…

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Gift

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 21st August, 2015
Time : 100 minutes
Director, Writer: Joel Edgerton; Music : Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans
Starring : Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Tim Griffin, Allison Tolman

This is a creepy little film that manages to get under your skin and provides a satisfactory climax. For almost all concerned.

High-flier Jason Bateman has just joined a new company and moved to California with his lovely wife, Rebecca Hall. They choose a lovely, open-plan house – the kind with fantastic views, more glass than anything else – and begin the process of settling in. She is a little introverted, restrained, recovering from a miscarriage the previous year, and they’re both pretty keen to put that behind them and start a family afresh. And then, in a chance encounter, they meet Jason’s school-mate, Joel, at a store. And he begins to bring them gifts, to help them settle in, and soon minor fissures in paradise start to appear…

What is fascinating about this film is that any and all eventualities are open around the halfway point. You have no idea who is doing what, why…there is just an insidious build up of tension, without you really knowing why or anything dramatic happening. Even the music score is excellent that way, being around in a very non-intrusive way. The characters are extremely well developed – again built up over time, with little incidents rather than a rush of information.It was good to see Jason in a role quite different from his normal, like Hancock, and similarly good to see Rebecca in a leading role after bit parts in movies like The Prestige, Iron Man 3 and Transcendence. But it was Joel who really stole the show - in a very quiet, understated way - a real revelation to see what he came up with in a movie written, directed (debut) and starring himself...

One of the signs of a good movie is that it makes you want to discuss it in full – reveal the plot details simply to be able to have a conversation around them. The genre normally doesn’t lend itself to watching the film again – but here it will be interesting to see it from the start, knowing what you know. It’s a good mindf**k of a film, great to watch late at night, build-up the atmosphere and wonder what the hell is going on…

Friday, August 21, 2015


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 21st August, 2015
Time : 120 minutes
Director: Ketan Mehta; Writers: Mahendar Jakhar, Ketan Mehta based on a true story; Music : Sandesh Shandilya
Starring : Nawazuddin Siddique, Radhika Apte, Gaurav Dwivedi, Tigmanshu Dhuliya, Prashant Narayannan, Pankaj Tripathi, Ashraf Ul Haque

It’s an incredible story.

A man, Nawaz, in one of the most impoverished districts of India, with no means at his disposal, deciding to create a path through a rocky mountain, to ensure the fate that befell his beloved wife (Radhika), doesn’t happen to anyone else. He takes 22 years to hammer his way through and create a path. Overcoming countless obstacles – weather, lack of support from his father or the villagers, corruption, bureaucracy, the upper caste folk – he persists and succeeds.

However, strangely, I didn’t find the story all that inspiring. There was a touch of madness to his resolve, he lost a lot in terms of his relationships (friends or children) and got made a fool by the scheming bureaucrats and the mukhiya of his village

Nawaz gives a great performance, is very believable and Radhika is very good for the brief while she is there but I couldn’t help feeling that there was nothing new in the film – casteism, politicians bleeding the country dry, impoverishment – we’ve seen it all and (sadly) are almost inured to it…The humour is good – earthy and spicy, the music is very good

This is a story that needed to be told but perhaps it would’ve been better off as a short film, documentary or even a chapter in our school curriculum – making it a feature film made it stretch a bit too far.

All Is Well

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 21st August, 2015
Time : 126 minutes
Director, Writer: Umesh Shukla; Music : Sanjoy Chowdhury
Starring : Abhishek Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Asin, Supriya Pathak, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub

This is an ad for the book Secrets masquerading as a movie

It’s also silly, maudlin, reliant on slapstick and ludicrousness and has one of the worst soundtracks in recent memory

Abhishek returns home from Bangkok after ten years to find his dictatorial, stingy father, Rishi Kapoor, deep in debt to the local toughie, Zeeshan Ayub, and his mother, Supriya Pathak, suffering from Alzheimers. Salvation could lie in some jewelry, left in the safe-keeping of his mother’s brother. Or the sale of his Dad’s bakery – which the Dad is fundamentally against. Thus begins a ridiculous, hare-brained ‘adventure’, which also involves Asin (who reads Secrets everyday), and is about to go in for an arranged marriage, but wants to get married to Abhishek, only he is too grumpy / anti-marriage (having seen his parents loveless one) to do so…

Along the way, the father-son bicker and try to resolve their issues, the toughie’s gang stumble and fumble their way around, stupid caricatures of Punjabi families abound, while Asin gives lovelorn looks and sheds silent tears.

The performances are average – the only one who impresses is Zeeshan – and the music is downright terrible. The second half, towards the end, improves a bit and does make a few valid points but it’s lost in the midst of the overall silliness. This is definitely a film that is the complete anti-thesis of its title…

Fantastic Four

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 21st August, 2015
Time : 100 minutes
Director: Josh Trank; Writers: Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank based on the Marvel comic by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; Music : Marco Beltrami, Philip Glass
Starring : Miles Teller, Michael B Jordan, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson, Owen Judge, Evan Hannemann, Dan Castellaneta

Owen Judge, a young kid, wants to build a teleportation device, despite the cynicism of his teacher, Dan Castellaneta. With his friend, Evan’s support, he succeeds and when older (as Miles and Jamie), they manage to build a larger machine, which, at a science fair, catches the attention of Reg Cathey (who runs a foundation) and his adopted daughter, Kate Mara. Toby Kebbell and Reg’s son, Michael also join the project. They succeed with a monkey but then, when they experiment on themselves, things go wrong…

This film gets a lot of Super-hero movie rules wrong

a) It’s too soon for a remake – the last one in the series was just 8 years ago – the earlier faces are still fresh in our minds and the comparisons are inevitable

b) There is no action – just a lot of unbelievable scientific mumbo-jumbo about teleportation, dimensions. You don’t even see the Four in action till the last 15 minutes

c) The whole premise – the whole bit about space travel - is scarcely credible. As mentioned in the movie, the ease with which it happens gives it a school project feel

d) The casting is all wrong. None of the four, with the possible exception of Miles Teller, exude any charisma or flair. Everyone is too grim, somber. Even Toby Kebbell (remember him in RocknRolla?) fails to lighten things up as the bad boy.

e) The mood of the film is just too melancholic, especially for a super hero film. No one smiles, has fun. The rivalry between Miles and Toby is scarcely developed as is the romance between Miles and Kate. Everything is just about the project and the foundation led by the benevolent Reg Cathey (House of Cards) versus the board led by the war-minded Tim Blake Nelson

The talented Miles (Whiplash) is probably the only one who shines in this version. The others fail to demonstrate any personality or traits, and along with the entire film, make no impression whatsoever on our minds.