Friday, October 30, 2015

Main Aur Charles

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 30th October, 2015
Time : 123 minutes
Director : Prawaal Raman; Music : Various;
Starring : Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadha, Adil Hussain, Alexx O’Nell, Vipin Sharma, Tisca Chopra, Mandana Karimi, Lucky Morani, Dijana Dejanovic, Kanika Kapoor, Nandu Madhav, Anastasia Fomina, Sandeep Punia, Heeral Mei, Saurabh Sarkar

An interesting story but the narrative style gives the film a highly disjointed feel and we never really get to know the enigmatic title character – no attempts to fathom what / how Charles is thinking / doing – just moving from one episode to another, from one woman / sexual escapade to another.

Supposedly on the life of Charles Sobhraj, the movie focuses on his jailbreak from Delhi, his escape to Goa (and the partying there), his relationship with Richa Chaddha and the attempts of Adil Hussain and Madhav to catch him – the rest of his life is largely ignored and not referred to. The relentless back and forth (too many flashbacks) also don’t help us get a clear picture.

Randeep’s look is quite cool and his expressions are bang on but his accent doesn’t work / jars. Richa, Adil, Vipin, Alexx and Madhav are very good in their roles as are the bevy of beauties we encounter on Charles trail. The soundtrack is excellent as is the styling, mood, look of the film. The scenes between Tisca (Adil’s wife) and Adil, especially when she is unabashedly showing her interest in the life of Charles, were the pick of the movie.

Unfortunately, by focusing more on the sexual conquests, the bikinis and the backless scenes, than anything else, the makers reveal their intent. They don’t really engage us with the complete story or the brain behind the man but revel in the more salacious aspects of the story.

In India we’re normally not very good at biopics – either trying to present the entire life or falling prey to hero-worship. This one, at least, selects a part of his life – chooses which aspects of his personality to communicate. It does glorify a criminal, someone seen as a psychopath and a cold-blooded killer. But thankfully, thanks to the episodic nature of story-telling adopted by the director, we don’t really feel too much or too strongly about anything happening on the screen


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 30th October, 2015
Time : 101 minutes
Director : John Wells; Writers :Michael Kalesniko; Music : Rob Simonsen;
Starring : Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Riccardo Scamarcio, Omar Sy, Sam Keeley, Matthew Rhys, Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman, Alicia Vikander, Sarah Greene

Gorgeous visuals of food – both raw and cooked ingredients. Fancy plate settings, culinary flourishes. Beautiful, minimalist decor restaurants. And, as one investor exasperatedly put it, chefs who ‘behave like schoolgirls’.

Bradley Cooper, a two star Michelin Chef, wants to redeem himself. He’d crashed and burnt spectacularly in Paris a while back – wine, women, drugs – had hurt himself and those around him. He’d done his penance, he feels, by shucking a million oysters. And now he wants to go for the third Michelin.

At first, in scenes reminiscent of A Team, he goes around putting his team of chefs together. And then, convinces an investor, Daniel Bruh’s family, (who’d already been badly burnt at his hands once in Paris) to invest in a restaurant with a clever bit of blackmail. Daniel, himself one of the best Maitre’D’s, eventually reluctantly agrees but does post some unusual conditions and Bradley begins work… Will his demons come back to haunt him ? His drug debts from the past ? Will he be able to get his motley crew to work together ? And, most importantly, what of his rivalries from the past, especially with Matthew Rhys, who has already bagged the coveted third star ?

The food part is fun – especially watching the ingredients transform into those beautiful dishes. Some of the conversations about food are fun too, such as ‘Why wouldn’t you eat at a Burger King vs a fancy restaurant which charges a 100 times’ – though the ones which try to be a bit deeper, like ‘What cooking means to you’, come off as a bit contrived.

Emma Thompson, Alicia Vikander and Uma Thurman have small cameos and Daniel, while he has an important role, it lacks the layers he’s so capable of – he seems a bit wasted. Bradley is good (his eyes look so blue!) but is a little flat. The ones who really impress are Rhys, Omar and Sienna – all chefs under Bradley

There is a layer of predictability around it – you can foresee some of the ‘twists’ a mile away. And finally, thanks to the proliferation of cooking shows on TV (Gordon Ramsay is a Chef Consultant to the movie), you wonder if there is really something new here at all…

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Last Witch Hunter

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 23rd October, 2015
Time : 106 minutes
Director : Breck Eisner; Writers : Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless; Music : Steve Jablonsky;
Starring : Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood, Julie Engelbrecht, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Isaach De Bankole, Sloane Coombs, Lotte Verbeek

There is just a teeny bit more to this than the typical Vin Diesel ‘Wham-Bam-Thank You, Ma’am’. A little less humour than usual but a little more story, one which is a bit more interesting than the normal fast cars, thrilling rides we’re accustomed to from him.

A witch-hunter (Vin Diesel), cursed with immortality by the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht), has to now, in present day New York, prepare for possibly his greatest challenge yet – one that will involve dream-walkers, resurrection, his chroniclers and some snazzy special effects

The world today has witches among us, but governed by the Axe & Cross Council via strict laws (such as not practicing any of the tricks classified as dark arts), which are enforced by Vin Diesel. He is their main weapon, keeping the dark forces of witchcraft at bay, maintaining the balance between witches and humanity. His deeds dutifully recorded by his Chroniclers (known as Dolans) – Michael Caine has been one for the last 50 odd years (this must be the first time in many years Mr Caine was called ‘Kid’), is about to retire, and Elijah Wood is his replacement.

Rose Leslie (the spunky wildling Ygritte from Game of Thrones ?) is a witch, a feisty one at that, and Isaach, Olafur (both warlocks) play crucial roles as well

Vin pretty much has one expression through the film – that of bored disinterest – with Michael Caine wasted in his role too. The sparkle is brought by Rose (she’s good!) and a succession of good looking women in one minute roles with Isaach, Olafur providing some good old-fashioned menace. The special effects are great, the story is decent enough to keep your interest hooked, despite the predictability / the Hindi filmy-ness of it all – watch, if a fan of Vin Diesel or nothing better to do.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 22nd October, 2015
Time : 144 minutes
Director, Writer : Vikas Bahl; Co-Writers : Chaitally Parmar, Anvita Dutt; Music : Amit Trivedi;
Starring : Shahid Kapur; Alia Bhatt; Pankaj Kapur; Sushma Seth, Sanah, Sanjay Kapoor, Vikas Verma

This is a desperate attempt at cuteness

Frogs, an animation back story, dreams drawn on strips of paper, horses, damsels that need rescuing (or someone to make them sleep), glitzy sets, flying ladybugs, more abbreviations than in the Oxford dictionary, a cuddly kind of love, an unending supply of songs, Karan Johar, fireflies, Sindhi jokes rehashed, gold, a touching father-daughter relationship, imaginary cups of tea (with two cubes of sugar), fake moustaches and the gravelly voice of Naseeruddin Shah – everything is thrown at us in the vain hope that something sticks, something connects – anything to distract our attention from the fact that there is no story – and the only thing with real substance in the film is Sanah

Add to this potpourri, a dominating matriarch (Sushma Seth) – who has decided that Sanah, her grand-daughter (born to her son, Pankaj) will get married to a golden, glitzy, garish Sindhi family (headed by Sanjay Kapoor) - a kind of a business deal to save them from impending bankruptcy. The fact that Sanjay’s brother, the groom, Vikas, is a gym / protein shake obsessed, narcisstic idiot with eight (and a half) pack abs, and precious little else doesn’t make them think again. Nor does the fact that he so obviously doesn’t relish getting married to the slightly overweight but pretty, smart Sanah, make the entire clan even pause for thought.

Alia, meanwhile, is a poor, little, wee anath, brought home by Pankaj, against the wishes of his mom or his wife. Obviously, there is a predictable secret somewhere but no one really questions the otherwise jelly-in-front-of-his-mother Pankaj or dissuades him from doing so. Alia is an insomniac, reads a lot of books, is a trivia queen but like all good girls, is waiting for her prince to come and put her to sleep.

Enter Shahid. The wedding organizer in the rented mansion / hotel. Who also doubles up as lead dancer. He doesn’t hit it off with Pankaj. Does with Alia. And you can, pretty easily, fill in the rest of the blanks…

Alia and Sanah (Pankaj’s daughter in real life too) stole the show with their performances. Shahid and Pankaj tried just that teeny-weensy bit too hard. The rest hung around in the background for their two bit parts

This was an attempt at a fairy story. A kind of a reverse Sleeping Beauty – where an insomniac prince is needed to make the insomniac princess fall asleep – and learn to dream. Will work for you if you’re under 12. Or like songs. And big fat Indian weddings (pun intended). Or sets with twinkling lights, heart shapes and cuddly-wuddly stuff. But will stretch interminably and senselessly for all others. Vikas Bahl, after Queen, this Shaandaar failure ? Et tu ?!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 16th October, 2015
Time : 136 minutes
Director, Writer : Luv Ranjan; Co-Writers : Rahul Mody, Tarun Jain; Music : Various;
Starring : Kartik Aaryan, Sunny Singh, Omkar Kapoor, Nushrat Bharucha, Sonnalli Seygall, Ishita Raj, Manvir Singh, Rumana Molla, Sharat Saxena

Disclaimer : I haven’t seen Part 1, just the video clip of the famous anti-women speech from the film (you can see it here)

Which guy hasn’t suffered at the hands of women? Danced to her whims, coped with her ever-changing mind and struggled in the never-ending battle to win her over and please her ? This, surprisingly good, movie narrates the story of three pairs and some immensely relatable situations…and does it without ever crossing over that fine line…

Kartik, Sunny and Omkar are great friends and room-mates. Each doing well, in their respective jobs, Omkar probably the best of all, and comfortable enough with each other to constantly take each others trip when the occasion demands (or sometime doesn’t even do so). Then they all strike jackpot, in the form of three gorgeous women, at around the same time. Kartik finds Nushrat (cute, bouncy), Sunny (the least predatory, most seedha of the three) finds the svelte Sonnalli (tall, lissome) and Omkar strikes Gold in the gym with Ishita (a gorgeous figure and she knows what to do with it).

Soon, though, and in no particular order, the following situations strike their relationship

An excessive preference for pink, dresses and selfies

Arguments about money – one woman always wants to pay for her half. Or does she ?

The dreaded debate about Facebook status, and then worse, a demand to know her mates password…

The three women not really getting along – sometimes making nasty remarks about the others

One woman is too scared to tell her dad about her relationship, always waiting for the right time, despite knowing the parents are ‘looking’

The entry of a woman’s best friend, a guy (Manvir Singh), who seems uncomfortably close to her

A woman can’t fathom the hisaab between the three mates. But, despite several appeal to not go there, wants to.

One woman listens too much to the advice of her two girl-friends

The cops get called by zealous, protective dad

The way a guy is used for odd jobs, pick up and drops by her and her family
A debate about the guy’s future plans, dreams – his desire to leave his job and set up a website

The refreshing part of the film was the non-judgmental way the women are shown to be very comfortable in their own skins, happy to drink, unabashedly wearing clothes of their choice, having no qualms about pre-marital sex (or if they do, that is not an issue). The guys are also reasonably straight-forward, neither behaving like a macho, khap panchayat or are just stringing the woman along for sex. Everything plays out quite normally, as you’d expect in real life, and is still so funny when presented the way it is. And, thankfully, the film-makers stick to their storyline and don’t clog it with back-stories or too many characters, sub-plots.

I was quite impressed with Omkar from a looks, acting skills perspective. Sunny was also quite good, as were Ishita, Sonnalli. Kartik was a little bit of a weak link – he looks a little sleazy, the chikna next door – and his expressions don’t always hit the right notes. The speech this time wasn’t as funny as the previous one and also didn’t totally relate to the situations in the film. But I loved the way the film ended – a good, gently sarcastic depiction of our men.

With each of the situations shown, you’re going to recall your own predicaments or those of someone you’ve known. The war of the sexes can be quite hilarious to observe. Unless you’re an involved party. And in this war, there really never is a victor…

Crimson Peak

Rating : 2/10
Release Date : 16th October, 2015
Time : 119 minutes
Director, Writer : Guillermo Del Toro; Co-Writer : Matthew Robbins; Music : Fernando Velazquez;
Starring : Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver

The biggest mystery in this slasher / horror / thriller is why Tom Hiddleston took up his role ? Could he have been any more wimpier ? And overall, apart from a few cheap thrill, scary moments, could the film have been any more predictable ?

Mia is a strong-willed, feisty character, brought up by her doting, rich father (Jim) after her mother died when she was young. She has written a ghost story, partly because of the fact that she can occasionally see her mother’s ghost (quite scary, and absolutely non-maternal in behavior) ever since the night she passed away. However big publishers are encouraging her to trash her book and instead write romantic novels instead. While her mom’s ghost keeps warning her to stay away from Crimson Peak.

The return of her childhood friend, a doctor (Charlie), to set up practice coincides with the visit of a British Baronet, Tom Hiddleston and his sister, Jessica. And then things get interesting. Or do they ?

The fact that you can guess every little story twist, along with even the way the ghosts make their entrance doesn’t help the movie. The overall depressing atmosphere, the sordid going-ons, the rather black and white characters and the gore (sickening, unnecessary stuff) – nothing helps the movie. And you’re really left wondering till the end why couldn’t the brother-sister duo simply move away ?

The film has only one possible, larger-purpose use. If you’re of the right age and a guy, and you take a girl / woman to this one, you’re almost guaranteed some cling time. Apart from that, found it to be a most frightening waste of time – and I lay the blame squarely on Tom’s doorstep – I simply wouldn’t have gone, if it weren’t for him…

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Short Films : Coming Into Their Own in India

An article I wrote on this often under-appreciated medium, short films, finally coming into their own in our country

Among the films I've mentioned - and attached the links for viewing - are Makhmal (starring Jackie Shroff), Debi (by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury) and Ahalya (made by Sujoy Ghosh, starring Radhika Apte, among others). I've also mentioned one secret film - based on a story by Stephen King - and possibly a way you can get to view that...

PFADZ, btw, is our website, a hub for creativity, where we even pay persons who post depending on our earning / article viewership


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 9th October, 2015
Time : 121 minutes
Director : Denis Villenueve; Writer : Taylor Sheridan; Music : Johann Johannsson;
Starring : Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan, Bernardo P Saracino, Maximiliano Hernandez

Sicario is derived from the Latin word ‘Sicarius’ meaning dagger man. In Spanish, it means hitman

There is an overwhelming sense of fore-boding, tension that pervades the film, as we watch, virtually through the mostly wide-open, terrified eyes of Emily Blunt, a major operation against a drug cartel…

Emily is relatively new with the FBI, but has been doing active service in that time, kicking down doors in her eighteen months there. The movie begins with one such bust of a house that contains a horrible secret…an outcome of the drug wars from Mexico. The next thing she knows, she is being asked if she’d like to volunteer for a DOD (Dept of Defense) Mission against the cartel – led by Josh Brolin (who’s an advisor to the DOD) and Benicio Del Toro (another advisor). She’s kept totally in the dark as to what’s happening, what’s the objective and soon finds herself more than a bit out of her depth.

Daniel Kaluuya (remember him from Johnny English?), her mate from the FBI, tries to be her eyes and years, help…but this is beyond even their boss, Victor Garber’s, paygrade. You do learn a bit, about how US agencies operate – a bit like their government – they think they’re above the law and try to retain control of events at whatever cost. Benicio is excellent as the silent and sinister type, while Josh is great too, talkative, with the Southern drawl but still menacing. Emily, unforgettable since The Adjustment Bureau, is the soul of the movie.

Secrets tumble. Details about their mission, divvied up in little sorties, are revealed bit by little bit. I loved the way the tension is maintained through the entire film – and even a moment of release – going for drinks at a bar after a rough day, still doesn’t allow the viewer to completely relax (in India most producers would go for an item number). And I liked the end – in all it’s different parts…sometimes, you do wonder what is the point of it all…