Saturday, August 31, 2013

We're The Millers

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 30th August, 2013
Time : 110 minutes
Director : Rawson Marshall Thurber; Writer : Bob Fisher, Steve Faber; Music : Ludwig Gorranson, Theodore Shapiro
Starring : Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter, Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Molly C Quinn, Tomar Sisley, Matthew Willig, Luiz Guzman, Mark L Young

Its unreal, more than a bit crazy, exaggerated. But its just so funny in terms of its dialogue, some of the situations that you excuse everything else and walk out with a huge smile on your face (please watch the end-credits as well !)

Jason Sudekis is a small time dealer of weed. Suddenly in debt to his superior, criminal kingpin Ed Helms (of Hangover fame) – who’s not into sportscars so has just bought himself a whale. He, Jason, is kidnapped and brought to Ed’s presence (hilarious sequence where Jason, with a black hood over his head, flanked by two big beefy black guys, is asked by the receptionist how she can help him and if she can get him tea / coffee etc). Ed, in order to forgive his debt, want’s him to go across to Mexico and fetch some drugs for him. And Jason realizes that there is no way he could do this alone without arousing suspicion, so decides to go as a family in a RV van – hiring or cajoling Jennifer Aniston, a neighbor and stripper, to pose as his wife, Emma, a homeless, tough girl to be his daughter. And another neighbor, a naïve, eighteen year old virgin and all round good boy, Will, to be the son.

Lets just say things don’t go totally as per plan. As mentioned above, most of the situations are unbelievable but the repartee & scenarios just keeps you going…whether its Jennifer’s guess of ‘Black Cock Down’ while playing Pictionary. Or Will’s rendition of Waterfalls. Or his mishap with the spider. Or his kissing practice. Or Jennifer’s brief moment of lesbianism. Or her warehouse striptease. Or Emma’s missed period, even though she’s only been doing anal. Or her momentary boyfriend, with his ‘No Ragret’ tattoo and ‘Y’all Know What I’m saying’. Or Jason’s ear-lobe fuck. Or his yelling while whispering with Jennifer. Or his instructions to the hairdresser…the surprises and laugh out loud moments just keep coming….

The performances by the four leads, Ed, Nick & Kathryn (a couple they meet on the way, with Molly as their daughter) are great…Jennifer, as usual smoking hot, yet equally able to transform into a normal looking mom with effortless ease. Jason is outstanding as the single, wise cracking, drug dealer (sorry, smuggler – there is a difference).

Not a film that’s going to change your life or make you think too much, but definitely one for the DVD collection. Preferably an un-Indian-censored one…


Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 30th August, 2013
Time : 154 minutes
Director : Prakash Jha; Writer : Anjum Rajabali, Prakash Jha; Music : Various
Starring : Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpayee, Amrita Rao, Girish Sahdev

It says the right things, talks about the issues with our system, talks about the issues faced when you revolt, also mentions briefly the choices faced during such a revolt (to align with a political party or not, to choose violence or ahimsa) and even, especially via Manoj Bajpayee, injects some amount of humour in the proceedings. Its also loud, preachy, tedious, stretched and comes with an unsatisfactory ending, and even has an item song and a ‘love’ track.

Retired school teacher, perennial do-gooder, educator to the poor, Gandhi-vadi Amitabh Bachchan finds reason (a just cause according to most of us) to revolt against the system. Is thrown behind bars. And then decides to make the issue, not personal (ignoring his own cause) but rather chases systemic change against a political-bureaucratic nexus that is absolutely unwilling to budge. He is joined in this battle by his daughter-in-law, Amrita Rao, an ex-student, ex-rowdy turned do-gooder, Arjun Rampal. By a rich businessman and worshipper of capitalism, who suddenly converts, Ajay Devgn and by leading news reporter / editor, Kareena Kapoor Khan. A lawyer and a police officer also play significant roles

Arrayed against this group is the ruling state coalition party, with Home Minister, Manoj Bajpayee as villain in chief and Vipin Sharma, Girish Sahdev and assorted others.

You will see nothing that you haven’t seen before, in terms of what the baddies do. Using the cops to arrest protestors, break up gatherings, use of paramilitary forces, water cannons, tear gas. Framing false charges. And also nothing new, in terms of what the good guys attempt. Candlelight vigils, facebook pages, posters, marches, mobile marketing and even self-immolation and a fast unto death.

I liked the fact that there were some debates during the revolt, with Kareena expressing a POV different to that of the male leads. The acting is universally good, even though the characters are all more than a bit melodramatic, all slightly unreal in their black & white-ness. The plot just stretches, meandering its way to a largely unbelievable climax. The movie has its heart in the right place but it’s the charisma of the leads that probably makes it watchable, but only just.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Madras Cafe

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 23rd August, 2013
Time : 130 minutes
Director : Shoojit Sircar; Writer : Somnath Dey, Shubhendu Bhattacharya; Music : Shantanu Moitra
Starring : John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Siddharth Basu, Prakash Belawadi, Piyush Pandey, Rashi Khanna, Ajay Rathnam, Sanjay Gurbaxani, Kannan Arunachalam

There is an honesty in this film, a commendable effort to stay true to its genre, lacking in several other films. The hero here doesn’t suddenly become a superhero or a killing machine, doesn’t take his revenge by stripping off his shirt and bloodying all those in his vicinity. When things don’t go his way, he doesn’t start a private war or indulge in heavy dialogues. And the war in Sri Lanka never gives way to romance or sizzling songs in lush jungles. Oh, and there is not a single item number. Not even in the end credits.

Its about the war in Sri Lanka, through the 80’s and 90’s as India struggled via its ill-conceived IPKF (Peace-Keeping Force) to bring peace to its neighbouring emerald isle, in the battle between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Landing into this arena is John Abraham, playing a RAW agent, who has to sort out friends and foes amongst his boss, Prakash Belawadi, his super-boss, Siddharth Basu, the Ajay Rathnam led violent guerilla separatist forces, the political solution favouring faction led by Kannan and Nargis Fakhri, a war correspondent from London.

Slightly fictionalized but taking real events as its base, the film moves at a decent clip, shifts locales, from lush jungles, butterfly fishing nets, concrete blocks and island hideaways. There are a few twists and turns, the action moves between Lanka and India, there are personal losses suffered, there is a change of stance too often in the corridors of power in India and soon, there is a tangible threat to someone important in India.

What doesn’t work that well is that the twists are predictable, given away before hand. The story of politics, betrayal, vested interests and changing stances has been seen before. So, while the film is gripping, interesting, there is a little bit of ‘whats new here storywise?’ going through your mind.

The acting is excellent throughout, right from John, who immerses himself into the character, to Prakash, Siddharth, Ajay and also a lovely cameo from Piyush Pandey. Nargis has a small part but she fits into her role well. The huge ensemble cast also does well, supporting the leads at all times.

The contrast between the Tamils shown in Chennai Express and the ones shown here cannot be imagined. What works in this film is keeping things real. Showing the ugly side of war. Showing how the wheeler-dealers always survive. The developed countries instigate trouble, playing both sides, just to keep arms sales up. And how the first line of casualty, the real sufferers are always the common man….


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 23rd August, 2013
Time : 129 minutes
Director : Joshua Michael Stern; Writer : Matt Whiteley; Music : John Debney
Starring : Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Luke Haas, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren, Ron Eldard, Giles Matthey

Based purely on the movie, The Social Network, I quite enjoyed the character of Mark Zuckerberg, and even though he is shown to be a bit of a prick, would love to work for him. However, based on Jobs (the movie), I’m really left with mixed feelings about the iconic genius named Steve Jobs, and surely that cant be right ?

Jobs drops out of college and just loiters around. Smokes pot. Attends some classes which catch his fancy. Walks out of ones that bore him. Drifts a bit. Visits India (shown in a very groupie kind of way). Works for Atari, hates it, hates working for someone else. And then, by accident, observes something his friend Steve Wozniak is working on, and so Apple Computers is born.

Quite how the transition from lazy, unassuming drifter to design guru, hard-ass negotiator and consumer visionary happens is never made clear. Also, how a rather friendly, though self-obsessed guy becomes a raging demon, selfish bastard and insufferable prick in the work place is also not understood. But the film then merely traces his rise, fall and triumphant return along with the boardroom battles at Apple that marked the years from its setup to the beginning of this century.

I found Ashton Kutcher’s acting pretentious. Could see that he was trying to play a part, which body language / gestures / mannerisms wise was alien to him. The most clear cut personality shown was actually Josh Gad, playing the part of Steve Wozniak and Dermot Mulroney, who was one of the early investors. Quite a few characters struggled to make an impression, especially Luke Haas, didn’t quite understand what that was about. The background music also tries too hard to make us feel different emotions – the amount of time you hear what I call ‘rousing’ music is a sure fire indicator of that.

What works are the locales and Jobs fanaticism, which shines through, especially about design & symmetry, about trying to create things that consumers haven’t experienced yet. About not following the path of IBM and Microsoft, but instead blazing a whole new trail. And also the realization that genius territory seems to come with loads of eccentricities.

There isn’t a clear point to the story though, and that probably is its biggest flaw. Especially with geniuses, you have to pick one aspect of their life and showcase that best as you can in the two hours that you have. Here they try to touch upon everything, leading to an uneven pace, a fractured storyline and a hazy picture of a true visionary of our times.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbaai Dobara

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 15th August, 2013
Time : 160 minutes
Director : Milan Luthria; Writer : Rajat Aroraa; Music : Pritam, Anupam Amod
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Imran Khan, Sonali Bendre, Mahesh Manjrekar

Or Alternatively Titled

Gangster ban gaya Champu


How Weird Spellings Don't Change the Fate of a Bad Film


In Which Nothing Much Happens


Kahaani Kahan ?


The Case of the Bombastic Dialogue Overdose


Majnu vs Ranjha


Sirf Romaance. Dobara. Phir Dobara. Aur Dobara. Phir Se Dobara. Dobara Dobara…

Immediately after sorting the cast in this one, they probably hired a very good dialogue writer. But forgot to develop the story. So throughout the film, there is dialogue after dhansu dialogue….but rapidly, since there is really no context to it, it begins to fizzle and ends up boring the living daylights out of you

Akshay is Don. Who is on a major self-praise trip. About how powerful he is. Also Brainy. Intelligent. Villainous. Though we never really see much of what makes him all of that, just repeated references by himself. And a few instances of that display of the power, people paying obeisance etc. He uses and abuses women. Till he meets Sonakshi. He also drags a promising young kid, Imran, off the streets and includes him in his gang, kind of brings him up. And the kid falls in love with the same woman. That’s what the whole movie is about…

Very incidental, and almost comical are the scenes involving attacks on Akshay by a rival leader, Mahesh Manjrekar. And also the cops in Mumbai. Who one minute force him into elaborate disguises, trickery etc when he wants to meet his old flame, Sonali Bendre (small but dignified cameo). But in the next frame, he is strutting around at a televised film awards show, having drinks, mingling with guests while assorted journos float around etc. Its that kind of film…

Whats most galling are the flimsy characters created. You feel no sympathy for Akshay. Who apart from looking good in some very expensive threads, does little to make us like him. Or Imran, who seems like a total misfit in the whole film – can understand why he was cast but it doesn’t work. There is something about Imran’s demeanour which makes everything he says / the way he moves more cityslicker than tapori. One of the characters at the end even tells him ‘tu abhi bachcha hai’, which doesn’t bode that well for a guy who is supposedly a criminal and is being touted as Akshay’s Vazir ? Sonakshi does reasonably well (till the climax) with her innocent looks, cleavage etc but again you don’t quite understand her motives either. The climax is laughable, downright ridiculous.

There are a couple of nice songs (found Taiyyab Ali quite awful, not a patch on the old one from Amar Akbar Anthony) but again they just overdid the whole soulful sufi, romantic looks, dream sequences, lustful longing. There are some funny moments – Akshay has most of the clever dialogue (to tera plan use kishton mein maarne ka hai ?) but the whole story, barely enough for a thirty minute feature, simply bores you. Aygain. And Aygain. And Aygain…

Friday, August 09, 2013

Chennai Express

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 9th August, 2013
Time : 143 minutes
Director : Rohit Shetty; Writer : K Subaash; Music : Vishal-Shekhar
Starring : Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Sathyaraj, Nikitin Dheer

Only 15% of the film is actually on the Chennai Express, the train
60% of the jokes / laughs in the film involve the way South Indian’s are portrayed speaking Hindi or English
95% of the action scenes involve the use of cables
Another 30% of the jokes are through the use of old songs (and one ad) being recycled
20% of senti, God-fearing dialogue is mouthed by Deepika

75% of the action happens in slow motion
30% of all vehicles shown, at some point or another, tumble through the air (in extreme slow motion)
The remaining 80% of all emotional, over the top dialogue is delivered by Shahrukh, including a very repetitive ‘power of the common man’
60% of the storyline is a kind of homage to other films, most notably DDLJ
100% of the film lacks a coherent plot to hold it together

Basically, Shahrukh enters a train and, thanks to Deepika entering the same train, his life changes. They travel south, meet Deepika’s family (Sathyaraj as her strong, silent father), run from home, fight her fiancée (a full of screen presence Nikitin) and generally do all the silly stuff that happens only in movies.

All women, who by definition are usually die-hard fans of SRK, will love the film. All others will find it drags, especially in the second half, with a silly, contrived, unbelievable climax rounding things off.

There are enough light hearted moments to keep you entertained but the “Main aati, tu jaati, khana laati” jokes begin to wear thin after a while. The funniest sequences involve the train ride, with the short-lived battle between Shahrukh and the four goons, his hysterical screaming & being scared at the same time, his & Deepika’s attempt to communicate via song and her simple explanation of the past. The locales, once they get to the south, are stunning. And perhaps one of the songs can be heard again.

The end is particularly cringe-worthy, basically a ridiculous reprise of DDLJ. Its harmless enough but such a decibel heavy film that, unless you are very fond of SRK, you will find it just about palatable.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Conjuring

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 2nd August, 2013
Time : 96 minutes
Director : James Wan; Writers : Chad & Carey Hayes; Music : Joseph Bishara
Starring : Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotheron, Sterling Jerins

Infestation. Oppression. Possession.

Horror. Ghosts. Demonic Spirits.

Evil. Malevolent. Satanic.

In 1971, a family comprising Ron, Lili and their five daughters (Shanley, Hayley, Joey, Mackenzie and Kyla) move into their new home. And then things take a nasty turn. A couple, the clairvoyant Vera and the biblical Patrick, specialize in uncovering the truth behind such occurrences. Though this time their daughter, Shannon, may get unfortunately drawn in as well.

The film is tight, so tense that the intermission is huge distraction. Its a tale simply told, without much melodrama, little fuss. There isn’t much time spent building the characters but enough to make us care for them. And the presence of the six children makes sure we are on a knife edge (sorry, couldn’t resist) throughout the movie.

Horror, as a genre, isn’t really my choice of poison. This one doesn't get into slasher mode and works because of its inherent simplicity. It doesn’t try too hard to convince you of what is, why etc, just narrates a story. Its upto us whether to believe or not…Fear, as they say, is a choice we make…