Monday, February 24, 2014

Definitely, Maybe

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 14th February, 2008
Time : 112 minutes
Director, Writer : Adam Brooks; Music : Clint Mansell
Starring : Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Rachel Weisz, Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Adam Ferrara, Derek Luke, Liane Balaban, Annie Parisse, Nestor Serrano, Kevin Kline

An intelligent romantic comedy which explores three relationships and also three different streams, parenting, politics and, of course, love…with a pronounced, wry, self-deprecating sense of humour, as we chart the path of Ryan Reynolds to where he is today…about to get divorced and having a chat with his daughter, Abigail, about his love life.

Abigail, all of ten, has just had her first sex education class, leaving her with lots of unanswered questions…like why one of her classmate’s parents say he was an accident (how can someone have sex by accident), why do people have sex if they don’t want kids and also, what is the man-word for slut ? One thing leads to another and Ryan is forced to tell the entire story of his adult love life, his relationships…he sneakily, though, agrees that while talking about his past, he wont tell her which one is his current wife (Abigail’s mom)…she has to guess…

What the film does so beautifully is intersperse the love story (with a touch of mystery) with Ryan’s emotions and trials as a parent…the cute way the daughter nestles amongst her various pillows, the realistic, very adult-ish conversation between them, how he handles her various anxieties, particularly about the happy ending and also her astute observations.

Amongst all the positives, it also showcases the reality of American politics. It shows the disappointment of Ryan, a campaign worker for Clinton’s ‘92 election blitz and also a political analyst in the early part of his years (and an aspiring politician himself), with all that’s going on around him. How we support, almost with a blind eye, all the obvious shortcomings in our chosen candidate, the disillusionment as we realize that its all about power and money, with truth and integrity the first sacrificial offerings at the political altar. Had experienced the same first hand with Rajiv Gandhi and later VP Singh, and recently saw others experience it with AAP.

The music is simply excellent, the acting / performances spot on – no praise high enough for Ryan and Abigail, the real lead pair of this film. Both get their emotions, expressions exactly right, make you root for them, cheer for them and their discoveries. We also have an energetic, bouncy turn by Isla Fisher, a seductive one by Rachel Weisz, a confused, coming of age one by Elizabeth. Forget Ryan, you also find yourself falling in love with all three. And, finally, we have a scathing, going down in flames cameo by Kevin Kline.

After a long time, saw a film which made you go through a roller-coaster of such emotions and laugh at the same time. The bet over the cigarettes, the nicknames (copy girl, toilet paper guy, ‘Yes, I’m her Daddy’), the one-liners (I’m with two Freshmen, who on a good day, equal a sophomore), there is enough to keep you going and for the movie to keep on playing in your mind for a long time. Definitely one for the DVD collection !

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 14th February, 2014
Time : 126 minutes
Director, Writer : Spike Jonze; Music : Arcade Fire
Starring : Joaquin Phoenix, (Voice of) Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, Matt Letscher, Chris Pratt

He, a loner, still struggling to come to terms with the impending divorce from his childhood sweetheart (Rooney Mara). As a sign of changing times, he has a job as a letter writer for, where he writes letters for other people on various occasions (birthdays, graduation etc). He, on a whim, decides to buy a brand new operating system, which promises to be cutting edge, interactive, intuitive like never before. Which can view the world through his mobile phone camera. Talk to him like a person (voice of Scarlett Johansson) through an earphone, understand his needs, likes, dislikes. And then, he proceeds to fall in love with it !

The amazing part of how beautifully the movie is constructed is that at no stage do you feel this is a leap too far…everything is built up nicely, there is a logical progression. You see the friendship developing, the incredible things that the system is able to do, you can sense his loneliness, his lack of confidence after the failure of the biggest relationship of his life. And you feel for him, you want him to be happy – he is alone but not a creep, he has diffident manners but his letters display a sentimental heart. He has friends – Chris Pratt at his workplace, Amy Adams in his apartment block – but no one really close. He even tries to date (a gorgeous, available Olivia Wilde) but is too caught up in his past at that stage to be able to go further. And there is the operating system, which is evolving at every step of the way…figuring him and itself out, going far beyond what its programmers would’ve dreamt of.

Joaquin is so believable in his role, its uncanny. His look, demeanour, body language, eyes all conveying an overwhelming underconfidence, the life of a loner. Who changes, bit by little bit, as his relationship develops. And Scarlett’s voice is so husky, throaty, sensuous, she makes even a ‘Can I send your emails?’ sound unbelievably sexy. She gets her voice modulation bang on - especially as she begins to have doubts of her own, interacts with other people, takes over Joaquin’s life.

It was quite an experience sitting through this one. Its slow but insidious in several ways, getting inside your head and refusing to leave. And it definitely makes you relook at your computer, your operating system differently – you wish for certain technological advancements to arrive quite quickly here !

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 21st February, 2014
Time : 133 minutes
Director, Writer : Imtiaz Ali; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Alia Bhatt, Randeep Hooda, Durgesh Kumar

Its voyages of self-discovery that seem to move the needle for Imtiaz Ali – with films like Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar and now this one, he seems fascinated by the confused lives well-to-do people lead, of their search for what and who makes them tick.

This is probably the strangest one of the three – a rich girl being unintentionally kidnapped around her wedding day – and then after a while, developing a bond with her kidnappers, enjoying a life of ‘freedom’ vs her normal constraint laden life. Of course, you also get some gorgeous visuals, a pulsating background score, some lovely, touching moments and also a strange, bittersweet end…but I found it an interesting watch, albeit not one I would be rushing to the theatres to view again.

It does drag a bit – there are almost more shots of our countryside than of the actors. Some of the scenes seem contrived. Some deliberately manipulated to wring some emotion out of us. Some unrealistic. And some, especially the topic of child molestation, downright uncomfortable.

It’s the unlikely lead pair, though, of Alia and Randeep (who else in the film industry would’ve dared to make a film with almost only these two ?) who make the movie watchable. Alia is far from the finished article but would encourage her to do more such roles than the candy floss, sugar coated bimbette role she chose to launch her career with. She gets it right here. You connect with her – even if not with everything she does – she makes you laugh, appreciate her predicament, sympathize with her as she grows in confidence as the film progresses. An excellent effort for someone in only her second film. And that dance sequence to the mash-up was just amazing, with full marks to Durgesh Kumar for his role in it !

Randeep scowls through most of the film and it’s a testament to his acting skills that he still makes you feel for him. Life hasn’t been kind to him, and the kidnapping, where the girl he has grabbed to save his skin, turns out to be the daughter of a well-connected, powerful man, is just another of fate’s unkind twists. Both he and Alia carry a deep secret / regret in their lives too, and just how deep, we discover through the film.

It was interesting to see a body language coach in the credits – he certainly did his job – Randeep’s squat, the way he wore a blanket around himself, the limp, lifeless way he walks around – was all spot on, as were the sights and sounds of driving around the highways of our gorgeous country. The tea stalls, the music, the fields, the eating places, the helpful people and the beautiful natural beauty around us. If nothing else, this one is going to make you want to go on a long drive !

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 14th February, 2014
Time : 153 minutes
Director, Writer : Ali Abbas Zafar; Music : Sohail Sen, Julius Packiam
Starring : Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Saurabh Shukla, Irrfan Khan, Pankaj Tripathi

1. After giving us two brothers falling for the same woman in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Ali Abbas stays on topic, with two friends-who- are-thicker-than-brothers committing the same folly.

2. It traces the rags to riches story of our two heroes, Ranveer and Arjun, and then the battle of wits vs supercop, Irrfan. While both fall for a cabaret dancer, Priyanka.

3. This is an over-the-top, mindless, Salman-esque film. Logic takes a back seat wherever the need for drama is felt to be greater. Slow motion shots are liberally sprinkled, as are muscled torsos, six packs and high octane bravado

4. The childhood friends are refugees from Bangladesh & for some reason seem very touchy about being called that. They turn to crime as a means to survive and their early years and escape to Kolkata is quite nicely shown, including a nice cameo by Pankaj Tripathi and the child artistes

5. The twists are quite predictable, regular Hindi film watchers (and they’re the only category I would recommend the film to) will be able to see them coming a mile off.

6. The film is too long by at least thirty minutes. Couple of songs, some of the slow motion shots, lots of the dialogue needed to go…the second half, in particular, had characters doing strange stuff.

7. Arjun Kapoor really stood out, stealing the show from some of his seniors…he’s good, got his part right. Priyanka looked hot, after a long while. Ranveer was hamming it up too much, for my taste.

8. There is a tendency among a lot of our film makers to manufacture conflict, simply because they feel a good story needs it. So is the case here. The clash between the heroes is a veritable storm in a teacup, nothing a couple of appropriately timed phone calls couldn’t have solved.

9. There are a few great visuals – one top angle of an umbrella opening in the rain, lots of Durga Pooja ones, the colours, Howrah Bridge. Some tender moments. And a very dramatic, stretched climax

10. With the right degree of patience and a comfort with the inane brashness of most action-oriented Hindi films, you may actually be able to ‘enjoy’ this one. Not for everyone, though.


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 14th February, 2014
Time : 118 minutes
Director : Jose Padilha; Writer : Joshua Zetumer based on the ’87 screenplay by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner; Music : Pedro Bromfman
Starring : Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Samuel L Jackson, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, John Paul Ruttan, Aimee Garcia, Zach Grenier, Patrick Garrow

For those, who like me, loved / grew up with the ’87 original, there is considerably less soul and lots more techie stuff in this one. The lead character is a lot less likeable too. But, the film makers here, have charted quite a different course here and seem to have set things up quite nicely for a sequel – which should work quite well, given that a lot of the technical details are now out of the way

Most of the narrative coming from a belligerent news show host, Samuel L Jackson, who points out how robots are used increasingly by USA abroad but thanks to an obdurate senator, Zach, they aren’t allowed on home soil. And the Michael Keaton led Omnicorp obviously suffers as a result. After yet another face-off between the Zach and Keaton, the latter is convinced the only way out is to put a man in a suit (why does he have to be injured though is something not quite answered). And when Joel is taken down trying to chase down a known criminal, Patrick, Keaton calls upon a doctor, Gary Oldman. And Robocop happens. In a significant variance from the earlier film, the wife (well played by Abbie Cornish) and son (John Paul) have a prominent role too

There is too much time spent on the mechanics, on the how, the construction of the suit…the fun really begins when the Robocop hits the streets…and there are glitches…and to keep things interesting, there is a key employee at Omnicorp, Jackie Earle, who cant wait to shut down this experiment.

The moments between the wife, son and Robocop, also the relationship between Gary Oldman with the Robocop & Keaton – the doctor trying to do the right thing by his patient and the family, while Keaton, representing the ugly side of capitalism, trying to move ahead for profits - provide some of the human angle to the whole thing. The action is good, slick, everything you would expect from a major Hollywood production. It makes for engaging viewing, and things heat up nicely in the second half…there are enough changes vs the original to keep you hooked…all in all, a nice watch and a nice way to spend an afternoon…

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Hasee Toh Phasee

Rating : 2/10
Release Date : 7th February, 2014
Time : 141 minutes
Director : Vinil Mathews; Writer : Harshavardhan Kulkarni; Music : Vishal Shekhar
Starring : Sidharth Malhotra, Parineeti Chopra, Adah Sharma, Manoj Joshi, Anil Mange, Sharat Saxena

This has got to be the worst, most confused, convoluted, stretched, cringe-worthy film to come out of Dharma Productions. Sidharth Malhotra performs well. There are about 3-4 moments / situations which are memorable. Other than that, including the set-piece, unwanted formulaic noise that passes for songs, it’s a disaster all the way through. Even the title is misleading and has nothing to do with the film.

Sidharth Malhotra, after abetting Parineeti’s escape from her household, falls for Adah. Goes around with her for seven years. And is now poised to get married to her. Except she keeps threatening to break-up. Almost ritualistically, every month. Because, fundamentally, despite being good hearted, he is good for nothing…has never made money or done well for himself. And now, Adah has dug her heels in – either he gets the funding for an IPL contract. Or she walks. Into this mix, re-enters Parineeti.

And proceeds to behave very, very strangely. A very weird, implausible story is revealed drip by ridiculous drop. She takes pills all the time, eats like its going out of fashion, drinks lots of water, steals toothpaste, swallows sugar sachets by the dozen. Despite it being his wedding, with a house full of guests, Sidharth is able to spend a lot of time with her, goofing around, gallivanting etc

‘Minor’ things like stealing from parents, sending the father to the ICU with a heart attack are given a sweet, saccharine glow. The characters show no remorse. Behave in ways no other person is known to have – revealing more would unfortunately reveal plot points so will seethingly stay silent.

The best part of the movie was watching Sidharth, who looks and acts much better than in his debut film, Manoj Joshi, who played his to-be father-in-law, with a great deal of zen and pragmatism, and Anil Mange, who in a supporting role as one of Sidharth’s relatives, was hilarious with his small-town, aspiring Indian Idol act. Adah looks pretty. Ish. And that is pretty much that.

With an item number to begin the movie, another in the end, a shaadi song in the middle and a ‘dard-bhara’ geet in the middle, you know you are in for something completely formulaic, more marketing / packaging than actual content. There were several interesting threads that could’ve been explored, a film made on either a mad scientist angle, or of two good for nothings coming together or of a girl who constantly steals from her parents…all ideas that merit exploring…pity they chose to mix it all up, keep it as soul-less as possible and delivered this unpalatable mish-mash !

Saturday, February 01, 2014

One By Two

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 31st January, 2014
Time : 139 minutes
Director, Writer : Devika Bhagat; Music : Shankar Ehsaan Loy
Starring : Abhay Deol, Preeti Desai, Rati Agnihotri, Lillete Dubey, Jayant Kriplani, Darshan Jariwala, Anish Trivedi, Geetika Tyagi, Preetika Chawla, Tahir Bhasin, Netrapal He-Ra Singh, Yashika Dhillon

A movie about two confused characters falls completely flat on its face as the most confused person turns out to be the story writer. The stop-start pace of the film doesn’t help either as we follow our lead pair, who, instead of being thankful for what they do have, choose to be miserable, and sulk / frown for the ultra-long duration of the film. There are a few moments which resonate, but are too far and few in between to salvage the movie.

Abhay Deol is in an IT firm, well thought of by his boss, has two good friends as colleagues (Preetika, Tahir), a doting Mama (Darshan Jariwala) and loving parents (Rati, Jayant), so everything should be hunky dory, right ? Nope ! He has just been dumped by his long time girlfriend (Geetika) and he spends the first half moaning about it, trying to get her back. His highly intrusive mother also wants him to get married and finds a cute girl (Yashika) for him to meet. And he picks up the guitar and begins to strum after ages.

Preeti has been brought up in England, has studied dance in New York and pursues the same as a career, while living with her mother, Lillete, in a plush apartment in Mumbai. Again, lots to be happy for, but a succession of fruitless one night stands, her mom’s alcoholism, the rigged voting of the dance competition she enters and her abortive attempts to bring her rich, industrialist father (Anish) back into her life give her cause to be unhappy.

The music is good, probably the best thing about the film. And some of the dance sequences are imaginative, executed well. A few stray remarks – a comment by Abhay’s boss about 25 years, one by Preeti about her thong adjustment, one by Abhay’s colleagues towards the end at his arranged marriage meeting and the whole cops kavi sammelan with its rich poetry inspire some smiles but otherwise the writing and the characters are too weak, too confused to sustain the film. The idea behind the film is interesting but its just too painful to watch, with the characters doing things you just don’t understand, especially in a very stretched second half…