Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jack Reacher

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 28th December, 2012
Time : 130 minutes
Director, Writer : Christopher McQuarrie, based on the book ‘One Shot’ by Lee Child; Music: Joe Kraemer
Starring : Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Alexia Fast, Joseph Sikora, Robert Duvall

5 random people gunned down in cold blood by a sniper. A man, Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), who lives in the shadows. Who served with distinction in the various trouble spots and then simply disappeared off the grid. He had helped convict a troubled sharp shooter while in the military and when the same person is arrested for the shooting, strangely enough, he asks for Jack Reacher.

The DA (Jenkins) has a record for convictions, and combined with a super sharp detective (Oyelowo), it looks like an open and shut case. However, the DA’s daughter (Pike), also a lawyer, doesn’t approve of her father’s methods and takes up the shooter’s defense. And hires Jack Reacher as her lead investigator. And they both realize nothing is what it seems…

There is something refreshingly realistic about this film. The hero bleeds. He doesn’t behave like a hero, lives in grungy hotels, wears simple clothes, doesn’t want to fight unless absolutely necessary. The fights are mostly hand to hand combat, done without any special effects, where every punch is thrown old-school style, every kick is felt. Werner Herzog and Jai Courtney make for chilling villains, again making their presence felt without too many histrionics.

Rosamund Pike and Tom Cruise have an interesting chemistry, and Tom, sensing her idealism, makes a very interesting request when they join forces. Just to make her understand what the real world is like. There is also a funny joke about 'Mission Accomplished'.

The movie has a dark, grim, granular feel that enhances the storyline and helps keep you hooked. The atmospherics are superb, the plot interesting (wasn’t too happy with the end but it wasn’t bad), the acting great. After all the gadgets, fancy locales, gizmos, special effects of several recent films, this one is more back to basics and enjoyable in part just because of that.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dabangg 2

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 21st December, 2012
Time : 129 minutes
Director : Arbaaz Khan; Writer : Dileep Shukla; Music: Sajid-Wajid
Starring : Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Prakash Raj, Vinod Khanna, Arbaaz Khan, Deepak Dobriyal, Manoj Pahwa

A clearly defined hero. Salman Khan. In new territory. Kanpur. One clearly defined baddie. Prakash Raj. Hooligan cum politician. The inevitable conflict and confrontation. Several irritating songs. Very little plot wise. Some decent dialogue. Decent action. Good humour, in parts. And a film that meanders and takes its own sweet time to arrive at the only conclusion possible.

I’ll give it this much though. Its not one of the mindless films going on, with no head or tail, just silly, crass gags. The hindi dialogue for the most part is good. In parts, very good. The jokes do not seek to appease the lowest common denominator and maintain a certain standard, not sinking to the cheap, crude gags that most other films delight in.

Whats missing is a story with anything new. Or any sort of spark, which the first Dabangg possessed in spades. Salman struts his stuff. Sonakshi has a muted role, with her eyes downcast rather than smouldering . Prakash Raj rages, frets and fumes. Manoj Pahwa and other assorted policemen provide back-up to Salman, cleaning up when required, cheering him otherwise.

This one is a harmless film, nothing staying with you when you leave the hall, no ‘seeti-blowing’ moment, nothing, apart from the songs, which you will possibly hate. A lukewarm, timepass film which Just doesn’t raise a strong emotion either way.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 14th December, 2012
Time : 169 minutes
Director : Peter Jackson; Writers : Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Guillermo Del Toro, based on the novel ‘Hobbit’ by JRR Tolkien; Music: Howard Shore
Starring : Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Adam Brown, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis, Barry Humphries, Manu Bennett

I haven’t read Lord of the Rings, nor seen any of the films (I think I may have seen the first one but got bored of the special effects). I liked the fact this film delved more into the human angle, the who, the why rather than just the action. But in doing so, it became quite slow, lengthy, drawn out and quite predictable.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the Hobbit, is picked by Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the Wizard, to help a gang of dwarves, led by their King Thorin (Richard Armitage) reclaim their kingdom from a dragon. Gandalf feels Bilbo has lost the sense of adventure he used to possess as a child and is in need of one. Bilbo resists, objecting to how the dwarves eat, use the furniture, drink and behave, even spoiling his mother’s lace doily. But then eventually joins the motely crew. Elves, Goblins, magical swords, forests under a spell, bloodthirsty Orc’s astride giant wolves, and a mysterious ring which gives the wearer certain powers all ensure the sought after adventure doesn’t disappoint.

Great special effects, stunning landscapes and cinematography ensure the film works visually. But the pace is slow to begin with and flags a couple of times in the middle. Also, there is an air of predictability about the way most of the enemy encounters shape up, with the usual suspects coming to the rescue. Also, possibly because I haven’t read the book, I wasn’t able to emotionally connect too much with any of the characters, though I was rooting for the brave, hardy dwarf king a bit by the end.

Am not sure about taking kids below ten for the film, with some of the creatures shown likely to pay them a visit during the night. However, if you do intend to see it, there is no better place to do so than a theatre. This one is not made for watching on the telly.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Khiladi 786

Rating : 2/10
Release Date : 7th December, 2012
Time : 140 minutes
Director :Ashish Mohan; Writer & Music: Himesh Reshammiya
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Asin, Mithun Chakraborty, Raj Babbar, , Rahul Singh, Manoj Joshi, Sanjay Misra

Disaster from frame one till the end, all in the name of providing entertainment / masala. I think I’ve begun to recognize the ingredients : lack of story, all similar looking fight sequences using cables, item numbers every few minutes coupled with jokes that desperately try to be funny and the same few lines repeated again and again in the background.

The non-existent story, by Himesh Reshammiya (also co-producer), gives himself a substantial role, possibly the only way he could get one, as the good-for-nothing son of a wedding planner cum match-maker. Himesh is determined to make at least one match happen and opportunity comes when a spunky girl, Asin, who delights in scaring grooms away, comes their way. She turns out to be the sister of a Don, Mithun, who wants a ‘sharif’ khandaan for his sister. Himesh happens to know someone, who he feels will be able to handle her. A cop in Punjab who specializes in breaking bones and cracking jokes, Akshay. The rest of the movie is spent just trying to make the match happen.

Raj Babbar, Johnny Lever, Manoj Joshi, Rahul Singh and several others have forgetful cameos. Inane sideplots include Akshay’s international family history and long lost brother, Asin’s love interest who’s struggling to get out of jail and a wheelchair bound person who lives in the Don’s house with his sister. The songs are universally terrible and when the final phera happens you’re the one who feels like distributing sweets.

Life of Pi

Rating : 9/10
Release Date : 23rd November, 2012
Time : 127 minutes
Director : Ang Lee; Writer : David Magee based on the book by Yann Martel; Music : Mychael Danna
Starring : Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Gerard Depardieu, Rafe Spall, Shravanthi Sainath, James Saito, Jun Naito

This is a curious, incredible, cerebral and visually delightful film that left me only with an insatiable desire to immediately order for the book to ponder the varied messages – whether hidden or obvious – delivered through the enigmatic Irrfan in its lead role.

Pi’s father owns a zoo in Pondicherry and for various reasons decides to shift to Canada. However, the ship they’re travelling in, complete with their animals, runs into a massive storm and Pi finds himself travelling in a lifeboat along with a magnificent Royal Bengal Tiger. One adventure follows another. Hope gives way to despair, the proximity to death gives birth to a raw, fearless courage and Mother Nature’s wonders are given center stage in a film which reminds you what adventure is all about…

Amusing anecdotes punctuate Irrfan’s recital of his pre-adventure days. Of how his name of Pi came about. Of how he learnt swimming. Of how he followed three religions simultaneously. Of how his father taught him what the world is about, its harsh lessons. Of how he had his heart broken. Suraj Sharma, who plays the younger, ship-wrecked Pi, is as perfect for his part as were Irrfan, Tabu (Pi’s mother) and Adil Hussain as his practical father.

There are so many visual, aesthetic treats in the film that its hard to pick one or even some. The swimming pool, Piscine Molitor, which seems to float between the ground and the sky. The jellyfish which light up the ocean with a fluorescent blue. The island which has its own secrets. The images of his family, of the ship visible to him through the depths of the ocean. Its so hard to pick a moment.

On the intellectual level, am still trying to come to grips with what it all meant. Probably a reading of the book will help it come together better. For now, as most fantastic stories did when I was younger, it has left me wide-eyed with amazement, with a sense of pride that someone made a film with such a wondrous visual fabric. Vigorously recommend seeing it in a theatre, in glorious 3D, before it gives way…

Friday, November 30, 2012


Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 30th November, 2012
Time : 140 minutes
Director :Reema Kagti; Writers :Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar; Music : Ram Sampath
Starring : Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rani Mukherjee, Shernaz Patel

This is a film as much about coping with a loss as about its main plot, and it unfolds in a slow, steady, leisurely, manner, never letting you escape its foreboding grip and inveigles you with the strength of its characters and their superlative performances.

Aamir, a renowned, upright police officer in Mumbai, is struggling to cope with the loss of his eight year old son in a tragic accident. Other casualties of the loss seem to be his ability to sleep and his relationship with his wife, a brooding, silent Rani. He is assigned a case which seems straightforward yet inexplicable, the death via a car crash of a film star, a case which, as per his juniors, is destined for the ‘A-final’ list of unsolved cases in the city. Its this case, and his hunt for clues which leads him to Mumbai’s red light district and he meets among others, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the crippled, gossipy go-to man of a pimp and Rosy, one of the top girls of the same pimp.

It’s a treat to watch Aamir, who feels every inch a tortured soul, battling with his own guilt, his own demons and the memories of his son. Unsmiling, silent, taut, body bent, as if braced for another impact, eyes darting from one place to another, usually expressionless. Searching for clues. Tired with life. Unable to live on. He is truly one of the greats of our generation, able to change form despite his superstar status.

The other superlative performance is from Nawazuddin. From the smallish role in Kahaani, to the lead in Gangs of Wasseypur 2 to this role as the man who knows everything, who yearns for a better life and alternates between playing helpless victim of circumstance to the man who is determined to play his own game, complete with his love story.

Kareena is at her bewitching, enticing best. Coquettish, always smiling, she senses Aamir’s pain and wants to help. Perhaps wants something herself too but its never completely clear what and even Aamir struggles to figure her out and despite his best efforts isn’t totally immune to her charm.

Rani, quiet, almost with her own personal cloud of gloom around her, lends her smallish but important role its own dignity. And Shernaz Patel as the nosy and freaky neighbor completes the list of fine performances.

I enjoyed the pace of the film. Its focus, its sticking to its two, often intertwined plotlines and refusal to deviate in any other direction, which included item numbers, lipsynch songs or other moments of comic relief. There is a sense of humour but it chooses to make an appearance in only a few select moments. I enjoyed the atmosphere, the sense of gloom, driven by the tragic happenings of the past and a sense of impending, further loss of life. The music is excellent, totally in keeping with the mood.

Human beings are complex, often beating ourselves up, blaming self when bad things happen, torturing the mind with ‘what if’ scenarios. There are several unfair things that happen, that we struggle to cope with, find fair explanation for. I sometimes feel the biggest fallacy is we try to make everything conform to reason, a strict rationale. While in the world around us there are thousands of inexplicable things that occur on an everyday basis. Life can be strange and perhaps that’s what Aamir’s quest is about…