Friday, October 19, 2012

Student Of The Year

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 19th October, 2012
Time : 146 minutes
Director : Karan Johar; Writer : Rensil D’Silva; Music : Vishal & Shekhar
Starring : Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Sidharth Malhotra, Rishi Kapoor, Ram Kapoor, Ronit Roy, Manjot Singh, Sana Saeed, Kayoze Irani, Mansi Rachh, Sahil Anand

This film is clearly not meant for me, or my ilk, I am not the target audience. It is set on Planet Bubblegum and its accompanying satellite, Moon Candyfloss and comprises :

Introductory songs for each of its three leads

Cool lingo

Soulful looks

Designer dresses

Shallow characters

Rippling abs – both male and female
Swimsuits worn as low as they can – again both male and female

Plunging necklines and rising hemlines – only female

Multiple buttons open for shirts and sherwanis – ony for the male leads

Cardboard characters at home

A picture perfect school, auditorium, facilities that wouldn’t be out of place at an international Olympic training venue

Multiple item numbers, which inform us what the leads are going through at various points in time

Storms in teacups, which seem to derail lives or funnily bring them together again

Where the normal, minor stuff like Boards or A-levels / O-levels, Grades etc are NEVER mentioned – the only thing worth living for is obviously the internal college competition

The all Important, life changing competition, offering full scholarship to US Ivy league colleges, which includes (hold your breath) a treasure hunt, triathalon and (now exhale slowly to avoid risk of serious injury), a dance competition

And a predictable, feel-good ending, which is full of the sweetness and fluff that you would expect from its makers

There are moments of fun. Alia pouts like anything. Shops, is tasked with looking good, Is shown to be long-legged but intellectually dwarfed. Her ‘Main Maa ban ne wali hoon’ was one of the more comical lines. Sidharth is essentially given the department of soulful looks (mostly directed at Alia) and occasional instances of hunk-ism. He is the serious type, the one from a humbler background, short of money (though it never stops him from wearing cool threads or having the best sports accessories money can buy), who wants to become someone, someone like Ram Kapoor, the mega rich tycoon. And also, the father of Sidharth’s enemy turned friend turned…Varun Dhawan. Varun is the cool, casual, mischevious one. Has known Alia for years, is her boyfriend but isn’t sure about her. Wants to be a rock guitarist but we don’t really see him ever practice. Good things come to him without breaking a sweat, who typified the tagline of a now bygone brand, Denim – ‘For the Man who doesn’t have to try – too hard’.

There are several ancillary characters (the funniest, with some of the best lines, being Sahil Anand), and they all, for reason or reasons unknown, battle it out for the Student of the Year trophy, the brainchild of the effeminate, ‘Don’t you know I’m Gay’ Dean, Rishi Kapoor.

The film, like a reluctant swimmer, consciously never goes into deeper waters, preferring to only paddle in the comfortable, shallow sections. The characters are neither consistent nor have any layers. It stretches towards the end, where you just want it to be over. And, predictably, the end holds no surprises

Unlike the seminal student films of our era, I missed a core central message or a central theme, for example, Jo Jeeta Hai Wohi Sikander, was about the poor, good for nothing kid, who suddenly has to come of age and make it big. Even Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was single-mindedly about a triangular romance. Am struggling to put my finger on what this one was about. Having said that, I know there are going to be many takers for the popcorn philosophy practiced in this film, the light moments, the stereotypes, the glitz and the glamour. This is not set in the real world but on Planet Bubblegum. Watch, if you aspire to be its inhabitant.

Premium Rush

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 19th October, 2012
Time : 91 minutes
Director : David Koepp; Writers : David Koepp, John Camps; Music : David Sardy
Starring : Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dania Ramirez, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Wole Parks, Christopher Place, Aasif Mandvi

This is a high adrenalin, high speed bike ride, in the middle of Manhattan, on a sports bike without any brakes. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, our main protagonist, does this for a living, working as a courier, breaking every traffic law, actually, doing exactly all the things most two-wheeler riders or autos do in India, riding on the wrong side of the road, jumping red lights, changing lanes at wont, swerving in and out etc.

One particular delivery, though, runs into trouble. There is this mean, ill-tempered guy, Michael, who wants it at any cost, a pretty Chinese immigrant, Jamie, who wants it delivered safely and as if that was not enough, an NYPD bicycle cop, Christopher, who wants to have a word or two, Joseph’s now on, now off girl-friend, Dania, is also involved and his competition in both the courier and the girl-friend department, Wole Parks, wants a piece of the action. And it all unfolds at a very brisk pace, on the streets of New York.

The non-linear narrative really works here, else the sameness of the biking sequences would’ve got monotonous. The background score, the trick bike shots, the plot slowly unfolding, corrupt cops, the snakeheads, the doors within doors of Chinatown, honest cops, the frenetic pace of the film, all help make it an edge of the seat watch.

Gordon-Levitt is rapidly becoming the new, young chameleon of Hollywood. Switching identities between romantic, action films almost at will. He is a daredevil here, likes to live life fearlessly, gave up a law career because he never wanted to wear a suit or do a nine-to-five, gave up trick cycling because of some broken collar bones. He loves what he does and the fact that someone pays him to ride through the streets of the Big Apple, fast...

This is not one, which is meant to make a lasting impression on your mind, has no messages or crazy concept or theme, apart from giving you a good, vicarious, cardio-vascular workout. And in that, it succeeds and how…

Taken 2

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 12th October, 2012
Time : 93 minutes
Director : Olivier Megaton; Writers : Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen; Music : Nathaniel Mechaly
Starring : Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Rade Serbedzija

The Albanians he killed in the first installment want revenge and led by Rade, they land up in Istanbul where Liam Neeson is about to holiday with his ex-wife, Famke and daughter, Maggie.

This is the film not about the where, the why but quite simply about the how. Ignore the implausibility’s of turning Istanbul into a battleground, throwing grenades casually, firing in the streets without retaliation or several cops landing up. Just focus on how Liam Neeson is going to get even with the bastards chasing him and his family.

Intersecting circles, sound checks, grenades, timing the drive when under the hood, all merge nicely with the obsessive, meticulous man Liam is shown to be. The setting is good, Istanbul seems to lend itself to thrillers with its exotic locales. Maggie comes of age in the movie, not altogether plausibly though, more like a Hindi film heroine, while Famke is convincing as the helpless mom. And the beauty with Liam is, like Harrison Ford, you instantly take a liking to him and trust him. Him, you always seem to believe.

I also think this film could’ve been better if, like the first one, the bad part (the pick up) happened quickly and without warning and then we are left with the prospect of the good guy hunting down the bad. Else, unfortunately, until we come to that part, we are left with a slightly nervous, pit in the stomach feeling.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 12th October, 2012
Time : 118 minutes
Director & Writer : Rian Johnson; Music : Nathan Johnson
Starring : Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Pierce Gagnon, Jeff Daniels, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Qing Xu, Tracie Thoms, Paul Dano, Frank Brennan, Garret Dillahunt

What a delicious, intriguing concept. So logical and neatly tied together. Enacted brilliantly, told with a human touch, creating characters that you care for. And an end which makes you step back and silently applaud.

I’m going to struggle to explain the story without revealing too much. My tendency, to walk in without having seen any trailer or poster, really paying off this time, with everything coming as a fresh revelation. Would recommend, especially if you’re a sci-fi fan and you liked movies like Matrix, to just go and see it without reading any further. If still not sure, read on.

Time travel has been invented thirty years into the future. And has been made strictly illegal, due to the various repercussions , it can have. Strictly illegal. It is also extremely difficult, in that future era, to dispose of any bodies / to kill anyone, since everyone, everything is tagged. So, the mafia of the future, has come up with an innovative idea. They have hired people today, in the present era, known as Loopers, who’s sole job is to be present at a designated time, at a certain place. And kill the person, sent by the future mafia, all handcuffed, with a hood covering the face, and dispose of the body. In return for a lot of money, paid via silver bars. Fascinated ?

There is more. Since the time travel thing is so illegal in the future, thirty years hence, if you were a looper today and lived another thirty years, you could get the mafia into trouble by talking about who all you killed, when etc. So the mafia, eliminating all loose ends, abducts and sends your future self back to the past to you. But this time with gold bars instead of silver. Basically, when you as a Looper, see gold bars instead of silver, you know you are seeing yourself thirty years hence. You kill your future, older self, collect the gold bars and walk away, knowing you have thirty years to live and enjoy with your wealth. This is known as ‘Closing the Loop’.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a Looper. Brought up, picked up from the streets by Jeff Daniels, who has been sent from the future to set up and control the entire operation. Joseph wants to walk away one day, go to Europe. And to that end is learning French. However, his life soon turns upside down when he meets Bruce Willis, his older self.

Emily Blunt, a farmer, single mother and her son, Pierce, who’s ten years old, have a vital role to play in the second half of the film. There is an interesting take on the future world, which is shown to be poor, lawless and dilapidated for the most part, with the Loopers and the muscle employed by Jeff to manage the Loopers, being amongst the privileged ones.

The acting, the humour, the premise and the situation, slowly suck you in. Another angle in the story is that of telekinesis, which is a bit more common in the future, than today. This isn’t one of those where there is action, stunts every minute but rather the story and the characters engage you cerebrally and maintain a vice like grip throughout. The end, as mentioned already, is simply perfect. Joseph, Bruce are as great, performance wise, as you would expect them to be. Emily (loved her in Devil Wears Prada and Adjustment Bureau) is beautiful and achingly accessible at the same time. Pierce is the surprise package, with a role that is so well enacted, it almost freaks you out.

There is a fascination about time travel, that has enchanted generations. This film, doesn’t focus on the technology at all but more on the titillating thought of meeting your older self. It humanizes the otherwise complicated concept, just as ‘Back to The Future’ did years ago. This is a grimmer, more suspenseful version, but in no ways less interesting.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 12th October, 2012
Time : 148 minutes
Director : Sachin Kundalkar; Writer : Anurag Kashyap; Music : Amit Trivedi
Starring : Rani Mukherjee, Prithviraj, Subodh Bhave, Nirmiti Sawant, Amey Wagh, Jyoti Subhash, Satish Alekar

Crass, loud, senseless. I cannot fathom how it came about. Am sure illegal substances were involved. Or a foreign conspiracy. I don’t think we have the imagination to be so bad by ourself.

The story is actually very simple. A ‘young’ (its Rani after all) Maharashtrian girl is looking to get married, is going through the whole arranged marriage scene with her family, eventually even meeting a nice guy (Subodh). Meanwhile, she develops the hots for a budding painter (Prithviraj) studying at the college where she works. Sounds fine ?

The makers now make every character weird (what was her grandmom smoking ?), throw in innumerable fantasy dance sequences (all featuring Rani and her battle against the bulge), ensure everyone dresses crazy (her fruit-cake co-worker takes the cake on this one), and ensure nothing makes any sense.

Just to give you a sample. The father repairs ancient phones and smokes four cigarettes at one go. The brother gives shelter to stray dogs and sleeps outside on a fortified bathtub. Her co-worker dresses, in one memorable instance, with just the yellow Police ‘Do Not Disturb’ duct tape wrapped around her and loses no opportunity to stand on top of a table and practice hitherto unseen Bollywood dance moves. The grandmother zips around on a motorized wheelchair and has more gold than calcium in her teeth. Prithviraj’s chest foliage is almost as dense as Anil Kapoor’s in most scenes, yet is miraculously gone for all his muscular item songs.
The plot stops making sense by the first twenty minutes. Lack of editing means the film stretches and stretches for a shuddering two and a half hours. And Rani’s determination to smell her way through life stinks big time.

In one of the scenes in the film, Rani goes to a drug dealer to attempt to buy some of his wares. She should’ve just gone within the film unit, am sure several of them were high on it while making this one.


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 12th October, 2012
Time : 133 minutes
Director & Writer : SS Rajamouli; Co-writer : Janardhan Maharshi; Music : M.M. Kreem
Starring : Sudeep, Nani, Samantha

(Hindi Dub of Telugu film, Eega, which combines live action and animation)

Don’t think I’ve seen something so innovative, original, come from within our country in a long time.

Big, bad businessman Sudeep is used to getting whatever he wants. Including women. When he catches a glimpse of pretty, young Samantha in his waiting room, he wants her. So much so, that he writes a cheque for Rs 15 lakhs for her fledgling NGO straight away. And then tries to wine and dine her. Only to find she secretly enjoys the attention she gets from next door neighbor, Nani. Sudeep, in his typical brash style, gets Nani abducted and kills him. Not before Nani, though, having learnt of Sudeep’s nefarious interest in his love, Samantha, vows to kill him. And is promptly reincarnated as a fly. How this tiny creature will seek to stop this aggressive businessman and protect his love, Samantha, from him, is the subject of the movie.

The special effects are great, the plot highly interesting and the methods adopted by the fly fascinating. Its not like Sudeep doesn’t do anything about the pesky fly. Insecticides, bullets, security guards with fly swatters, bullet proof glass, CCTV cameras and a lot more are pressed into service to counter the buzzing menace. However, our fly always seems to find a way.

Its quite funny and never so implausible that you disconnect from the film. The acting is good, the characters are well etched and there are several instances where you’re taken by surprise. The dubbing (it’s a Telegu film) is a bit of an issue but is still enjoyable despite that.

We need more movies like this. Conceptual, well-executed, fun, slick. Very, very enjoyable.