Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Walk Among The Tombstones

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 19th September, 2014
Time : 113 minutes
Director & Writer: Scott Frank (based on the novel by Lawrence Block); Music : Carlos Rafael Rivera
Starring : Liam Neeson, David Harbour, Adam David Thompson, Dan Stevens, Astro, Eric Nelsen, Razane Jammal, Laura Birn, Marielle Heller, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Natia Dune, Mark Consuelos, Sebastian Roche, Danielle Rose Russell

The film opens with a montage of a man touching a woman, brushing his hands through her blond hair, caressing her body. She’s moving about too, against a pristine white background. Its only at the end you realize she is gagged and bound. And everything isn’t what it seems. Gripping. Gritty. Needed a twist to be great but passes muster thanks to Liam Neeson doing what he does best.

Women are being kidnapped. Huge ransoms being asked and paid. However, the women are being returned dead. Cut up, in pieces. And since they’re related to drug dealers / traffickers, there are no cops involved. Which is why, Liam Neeson, a private investigator, ex-cop, gets involved…

Its slow, with a constant sense of menace through the film – not one of tragedy or depressive but more of nastiness, dread. Dan Stevens, who is the person who actually hires Liam, also has the same sense of being wound up too tight about him, a quiet, seething anger, a coiled cobra, just waiting to strike . He wants Liam to find the men who did it. And then walk away so he can dispense his own brand of justice.

There is a fascinating sub plot, involving Astro, a young black kid Liam befriends, who wants to be a detective. Both have their own tragic stories, both getting on with life, neither wanting the other to feel sorry for him…

You really have to compliment the supporting cast here – everyone fits perfectly including David Harbour, Adam Thompson, Sebastian Roche and Olafur Olafsson – who has a memorable end to his cameo. I also wish Hindi films learn from how the soundtrack works in movies like this – it stays in the background, just enhances the mood but doesn’t intrude or overpower.

I enjoy watching such films, slow, full of foreboding, as if carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a major twist in the end – felt the film was perfectly placed for one – but still works thanks to a tight script and a riveting lead performance.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 19th September, 2014
Time : 130 minutes
Director: Shashanka Ghosh; Writer: Indira Bisht (very loosely based on the 1980 film of the same name); Music : Sneha Khanwalkar
Starring : Sonam Kapoor, Fawad Khan, Kirron Kher, Ratna Pathak Shah

A fictitious chat with the Director and Producer of this very irritating turkey

Me : Why would you take the rights of a classic like Khoobsurat and then change everything to this extent ?
Director : (looking distinctly uncomfortable) Well, it was about a no-rules character entering a discipline heavy household. But it wasn’t my script…you’ll have to check with the writer and producer
Producer : You’re not looking at it from the right perspective! Tell me, who would come to watch my daughter, with her acting skills and box office record, if I didn’t say it was a remake of Khoobsurat

Me : My point is different – if you have taken the rights, then why not stick with that storyline – I mean it worked brilliantly in the original ? The whole middle class ethos, the clash of wills between Dina Pathak and Rekha, the endearing characters…why change it all ?
Director : looking even more uncomfortable, just points his finger towards the producer
Producer : We took a classic Jane Austen novel for a previous film and didn’t stick to that, to yeh kya cheez hai ? We just made it more aspirational, yaar ! Everyone loves royalty in India, look at how much we follow the British monarchy, so we brought that element in. This also allowed Sonam to live up to her fashionista image – she could now dress in anyway she wanted, which also takes the focus off her acting. We also brought in different ethnic groups – Punjabi’s, Rajputs, Bengali’s to broaden the film’s appeal. We even got a Pakistani lead actor, hoping for some controversy but despite several anonymous messages to Shiv Sena, they simply did nothing about it…too busy with the elections, unfortunately !

Me : But don’t you think you went way over the top ? I mean most of her actions, behavior was ludicrous, especially for the role of a reputed doctor coming to look after a royal ? And the less said about Kirron Kher, the better…
Director : I think the pressure of trying to keep the film around the two hour mark doesn’t really allow us to build characters the way the earlier three hour films could
Producer : (leaning back, putting his arms behind his head) I find your question to be anti-feminist and offensive to women !

Me : (aghast) What ???
Director : (bemused but his half-smile tells me he’s been through stuff like this during the shoot)
Producer : Do you ask for logic when a scrawny ShahRukh beats up 200 people in Chennai Express? Do you question it when Salman’s roar in Jai Ho makes a 100 goondas scatter in Jai Ho or when a London bus is suddenly driving around in Warsaw in Kick ? Or when the tiny Aamir starts bashing up many big guys in Ghajini ? Then why should you ask such silly questions for my daughter’s film ? Why should you be looking for logic in Hindi films at all, especially mine ? Havent you seen my earlier productions like Shortkut ?

Me : (deciding to change the topic) Am just curious about Fawad’s character - what he did all day – he just seemed to be always roaming around the palace like a ghost, stalking Sonam and didn’t seem to have ever seen any action under the sheets to fall for Sonam ?
Director : We allude to his several business deals, show one and then, well, it is a love story…so we have to show them together…
Producer : Even I felt that the audience may not get it, so we even added a scene where Sonam calls herself Hawt ! Not Hot! Mind you, but Hawt! – That’s how the kids talk these days. And then we even made her wear these outlandish dresses so she would really stick out and be noticed – only problem, the dresses were so crazy, we struggled to find a reputable designer who would give his name to the film

Me : Fawad, despite his slightly wooden acting, seems to have many admirers…
Director : He wasn’t bad, is extremely good-looking and does have a huge fan following, thanks to his TV serials…
Producer : (rubbing his hands with glee) Yes – I think that’s the formula we’re going to adopt from now on – find projects where the male star has a huge fan following and figure out a way to put Sonam in it. It worked in Raanjhana, people went to watch Dhanush but she got credit for being in a hit. And now Fawad alone will add about 10 cr to the box office of this film. Another 10cr comes from all the different ethnicities we put in, 10 from calling it a Khoobsurat remake (chortles) Sonam even called it a tribute to Hrishikesh da – she has a really good PR agency, they can get almost anything printed…
To you see, cost to recover ho gayi ! (Turning to the director) Next film project, we should have 10 such 10cr reasons, then we can even break into the 100cr club !

I and the director decide to terminate the interview…

Maze Runner

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 19th September, 2014
Time : 123 minutes
Director: Wes Ball; Writers: Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, TS Nowlin (based on the novel by James Dashner); Music : John Paesano
Starring : Dylan O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson

This is one of those films where nothing really makes sense, you don’t truly understand what’s happening, if you haven’t read the book or seen the second (soon to be released) part. There is a certain sense of mystery / intrigue at the situation, and you do feel for the likeable, Dylan, but he keeps getting thrown into different situations without us really getting to know him or the situation better.

Dylan wakes up in an elevator, without an recollection of who he is or why / how is he there. The elevator reaches a glen where there are other boys, pretty much in the same predicament. The glen is surrounded by a tall maze. Which opens and shuts everyday. And changes shape. Also contains creatures called the Grievers which kill the boys. And the only way out, is through this maze.

Aml Ameen is the leader of the boys in the glen, the first one to arrive some three years ago. Thomas Brodie-Sangster (great to see him all grown up after Love Actually) and Will Poulter (Of We’re The Millers fame) are amongst the trusted old hands, while Blake Cooper is the baby of the group and Ki Hong Lee one of the runners, those who’re fast / strong and go in and out of the maze on a daily basis trying to find a way out. Life in the glen has a pretty defined pattern but all that changes after Dylan’s arrival…

What keeps the film going are the various challenges thrown at the group, the vastness of the maze, the inherent dangers faced from the Grievers – everything happens very quickly. Which leads to the main flaw in the film – because things happen so fast, you don’t really get to know anyone, understand / like / dislike any of the boys (apart from the instinctive feel) or really appreciate the situation as even that keeps changing !

I guess the special effects, the huge set, just the idea of such a situation makes this film worthy of a one time watch, but only that…and only just…

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 19th September, 2014
Time : 123 minutes
Director & Writer: Habib Faisal; Music : Sajid-Wajid
Starring : Parineeti Chopra, Anupam Kher, Aditya Roy Kapur

This is a sweet, but extremely predictable story. One where you wish there was more meat, literally, to justify the title. You visually do see lots of food, in some cases being consumed too, but apart from stray mentions of ‘my grandfather’s recipe’, you don’t really talk about food – the favorite dishes, the taste…and thus what is cooked up is just another love story.

Tired of incessant dowry demands from would-be suitors, Parineeti, one day, decides to get even. Till then, along with her father, Anupam Kher, she ekes out a normal, humdrum, middle class existence as a Hyderabadi Muslim, complete with dreams of America. Inspired by a huge settlement in a local dowry case, she decides she will entrap some rich, dowry demanding family and then use the settlement money to fulfill her dreams. Off they go to Lucknow, under fake identities. And meet Aditya Roy Kapur, who runs, one of the city’s most popular eateries. And then the plan changes. Or doesn’t it?

Being a Habib Faisal movie, it obviously gets the mileu right – whether its that of a Hyderabadi Muslim (with their sing song dialect), or that of a wannabe middle class person (dreams of America while being a salesgirl at a local shoe store, wants a guy who speaks good English – even better if with an American twang), or even the scared/worried father, desperate to get his daughter married off. In fact, one of the more endearing sub-plots, which was briefly introduced but not really built on, related to Anupam Kher’s job as a legal clerk, his own knowledge of the law and the court system yet, despite some egging from colleagues, his inability to fly – ie make the transition from being a clerk to becoming an advocate – despite retirement being just around the corner.

Aditya and Parineeti, both, did justice to their roles, making their slightly over-the-top characters come to life. I particularly liked Aditya’s screen presence, he has this slightly gangly look but more than makes up with his expressions and a shy, disarming smile. Hope he doesn’t take up any more drunk, suicidal roles. The supporting cast, including the various demanding parents and suitors, was fascinating to watch – their mannerisms, the way their ‘requests for help’ were communicated (since no one actually uses the word dowry) and also the communication between spouses.

All in all, a good film, a sweet love story, but one which doesn’t really rise above the average Bollywood romcom and one where the title, Dawat-E-Ishq, seems like almost an after-thought, to differentiate itself from other films in this genre, without any substantial meat or spices in the script

Friday, September 12, 2014

Finding Fanny

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 12th September, 2014
Time : 102 minutes
Director: Homi Adajania; Writer : Homi Adajania, Kersi Khambatta; Music : Mathias Duplessy
Starring : Deepika Padukone, Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Kapur, Arjun Kapoor, Anand Tiwari, Ankur Tewari

Naseeruddin Shah : is a shy, solemn loner, the post master in a village where no one posts or receives any mail, still is a choirboy singer even though his days of being a boy are well behind him. And he brays, nay, sobs inconsolably as he receives a marriage proposal he’d made to his beloved Fanny via mail, forty-six years ago. It was never posted ! And the only one who understands him, is willing to help him is the girl he considers to be like a daughter, who he thinks will make one lucky bugger a great wife…Deepika…

Deepika Padukone : ethereal, leggy, flashing that dimpled smile of hers, a vision in floral dresses, floating through their tiny Goan village, remains upbeat despite all that’s happened to her, with her husband choking to death on her wedding day, she till today isn’t sure whether she should’ve accepted her hubby’s proposal or gone with his friend instead, her quiet admirer, the quiet, quite infatuated… Arjun….

Arjun Kapoor : left town the day Deepika was going to get married. Rumour has it he went to Mumbai and was successful in some business. Is now back in their village. Not happy about how things have turned out. Prone to angry outbursts. Alone in his dilapidated house, which is falling apart. And working on his old car, which is also falling apart. Which he’s just sold to…Pankaj….

Pankaj Kapur : is the new man in town, an award winning artist, a painter who earns huge sums for his every brush stroke. Is enjoying his solitude, the idyllic sylvan surroundings, his alcohol. And is also indulging in his fetish for ‘big’ women…by ogling at Dimple…

Dimple Kapadia : who does have a really large ass ! Also happens to be Deepika’s mother in law and house mate, the woman who makes the tiny village tick, the one who organizes everything and loves being the centre of attention…the type who will try to commit suicide but will cough first to make sure someone is watching…the stingy type who will hide the cookies if she thinks her guest is eating too many…the type who feels too many drinks don’t agree with her legs. Gout? Inquires Pankaj, solicitously ? No, she laughs, it makes them spread open…

These five quirky characters set off on a drive to locate Naseer’s precious Fanny. In the dilapidated car. From the village that we’re assured is so tiny, you cant locate it on a map. And interesting things happen on the way.

This is one of those delicious movies where its not so much about the story but more about the characters and the conversations. Where the script and the dialogue is, quite refreshingly, actually king. Where the music sets the mood but doesn’t overpower. Where the performances by the stalwarts, Pankaj, Naseer are every bit what you would expect – they get into the skin of their assigned roles, changing body language, their walk, their way of talking to ensure we believe in them. Pankaj, in particular, has more scope to display his intensity, especially in a little bit towards the end.

Dimple is very good too, dominating yet hesitantly finding her way through the challenges life has thrown at her. Arjun has probably the most unidimensional role and he does it credit. In acting chops, probably the one who has to go the furthest, but he can still hold his head high after this one. And Deepika…ah, sweet, lovely, Deepika! Anyone who doubts whether she can act…I mean, really act…better be advised to watch this one. None of the histrionics, over the top gestures and mannerisms of say, Chennai Express…just subtle changes of expressions, a slightly quizzical mien of inner happiness with just a smidgen of indecision.

This is one of those films which is about journeys, self-discovery, life and more. The lessons made easy with the humour and the idiosyncratic dramatis personae. Set in a place where we all wish we could be…simpler, where time seems to stand still. And its not so much about Finding Fanny, but finding love…at any age…

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Mary Kom

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 5th September, 2014
Time : 123 minutes
Director: Omung Kumar; Writer : Saiwyn Quadras; Music : Shashi-Shivamm
Starring : Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumaar, Sunil Thapa, Rajni Basumatary, Shishir Sharma, Robin Das, Shakti Sinha

There is a lot to like about Mary Kom, the movie, based, of course, on the real life of our famous Indian boxer from a tiny village in Manipur. Its inspiring, am sure, to all women who watch the film, sends the right message. Priyanka, in the lead role, gets the feistiness spot on, showing the hot-bloodedness in normal life, which is probably what made her such a terror in the ring. The idyllic surrounding, the discouragement from the father, the simple hamlet she hails from, the odds she overcame, the amazingly supportive husband (hard to imagine anyone not from the North East being half as encouraging), the bulldog of a coach who turns the fighter into a boxer, the corrupt, good for nothing Boxing Federation, headed by one of the nastiest individuals you could encounter, the political instability of the region and, most of all, the many triumphs of the lion-hearted boxer. It all comes through.

However, you do wish they’d made some of the things a little less melodramatic, a tad less filmy. And while Priyanka does overall justice to the role, there are some parts where she looks / behaves / has the body language more of a supermodel than a boxer. I also wish there was a bit more about how she actually developed into a world class boxer in the first place - it happens almost too easily here, one moment she joins the coaching clinic, the next she is in the National’s pummelling her opponents. Finally, instead of making the film try and convey almost every facet of her life, I wish, like most other successful biopics, the makers had instead focused more on one or two incidents which truly made Mary Kom one of India’s more revered sportspersons. I could well imagine a film simply on her life post motherhood since that is what made her truly an unprecedented legend…

Some of the supporting cast were exceptional. The husband, Darshan, came across as a really sweet chap (perhaps too sweet?), the coach, Sunil Thapa, as sufficiently bull headed, the Federation official, Shakti Sinha, sufficiently hateful, and the mother, Rajni, sufficiently maternal, all deserving special mention. There was some talk about Danny being chosen for the coach’s role but having a relatively unknown person in the role made it more credible.

I applaud the central message, the thought behind taking one of our female sporting icons, from one of our most neglected states and making a feature film. However, at the end, most sports films suffer from a bit too much melodrama, usually an over-enthusiastic sound track and a bit of a standard plot structure, predictability. This one, is no different !

PS : Couldn't resist putting one of the real hero