Sunday, January 13, 2019

Uri (The Surgical Strike) Mini Movie Review

I don't believe in jingoism. Which is why I wasn't sure whether I wanted to watch 'Uri : The Surgical Strike'. The thought of watching yet another variant of 'Let's go kill some Pakistanis', a film which could possibly be politically motivated, manipulative, didn't excite me. I expected the movie to have all the subtlety of Mjolnir (Thor's hammer).

I'm so glad I was wrong.

Rating 7/10.

Vicky Kaushal is a leader in the Special Forces, comes from a fauji family, and even his brother-in-law (sister's husband), Mohit Raina, (remember him from the serial Mahadev?) serves with him. Vicky's forte is planning (and executing) counterstrikes. We get a glimpse of his skillset when he carries out a mission in Manipur, in response to a terrorist attack on an army convoy. Family circumstances compel him to move to a desk job, as his mother, Swaroop Sampat, has Alzheimer's and he wants to spend some time with her before her memory fades away completely. The top brass is supportive and a nurse, Yami Gautam, is provided to help care for her. Then the attack on Uri happens. And a decision is taken to execute a surgical strike.

I loved the way they didn't make the film all about chest-thumping, Indian flag waving, anti-Pakistan rhetoric. I liked the way humour was brought in, on several instances (esp a junior official in Indian intelligence, who develops Garuda). I loved the variety of emotions displayed through the movie - a young girl, yelling even through her tears, her father's battalion's war cry. An officer worried about his mother. A quiet Air Force officer, Kirti Kulhari, biding her time on another desk job.

But, most of all, I loved Vicky Kaushal. You simply can't take your eyes off him (is it too much to hope that our fake film awards recognize this performance?). In a fabulous understated performance, his usually impassive face shows only the barest change, emotion required, but it's enough. And he's very believable in his role, fantastic in the action sequences. I loved him in Raazi, even enjoyed his acting in Manmarziyaan and loved him here too !

I wish there was more shown of the strategy / planning, yes, all of it can't be true / so simple, yes, filmy drama has been infused in adequate doses - but it still works, despite it's flaws. And special mention for the soundtrack (Shashwat Sachdev) !

Kudos to the supporting cast - Mohit, Yami, Kirti, Manasi Parikh Gohil (Vicky's sister), Dhairya Karwa, Paresh Rawal, Rajit Kapoor - and most of all to debutant Aditya Dhar, who has written and directed this film.

I don't believe in jingoism. But stand proudly and sing the national anthem everytime it's played in cinemas. Not for the mess our country is in or the grubby, greedy politicians and bureaucrats (previously or currently in charge), mostly hell bent on robbing, dividing us. But I do it out of respect for our freedom fighters and armed forces, and their dream of what India could be. Uri, for all it's flaws, reminded me of that dream once again. To all my friends who've served, this one's for you !

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Bumblebee Mini Movie Review

Bumblebee, the prequel to the Transformers series (an entire collection based on toys created by Hasbro btw), tells the story of how / why the robots that convert into machines got on Earth. It all began with a cute, yellow VW Beetle. And cute, I guess, is the best one word description of the first 90 or so minutes of it's 154 minute running length. The other words could be cliched, predictable. But it somehow, possibly with the aid of a great 80's soundtrack, finds a way to keep you hooked.

Hailee Steinfeld, the other key protagonist, has her own story. A father who died, a family (a permanently irritated mom, irritatingly sweet / dumb stepfather and younger brother) that doesn't really seem to care. She's stuck in a fairground job that's going nowhere and is miles away from the swish set she'd love to be a part of. And that's when the Beetle and Hailee Steinfeld discover each other, forming a bond that is strong, engaging and, at times, even funny. Jorge Lendeborg Jr is her neighbour, trying quite hard to be her friend. And John Cena is the big, tough, distrustful military guy who wants to blow all robots to smithereens.

Towards the end, though, it becomes, for want of a better word, a Hindi film. Impossible stuff happens. Repeatedly. Kids transform into superheroes (pun intended). And the US Military is shown in a very unflattering light, still obsessed with the Cold War, amongst other gaffes (in a rather mean, unnecessary side dialogue, one of the Decepticons - the evil robots - addresses another one as 'Comrade').

So, cute, predictable, perfectly suited for young teens (especially those who adore Hailee) and perhaps a one time watch for adult audiences.

Rating : 6/10

Monday, January 07, 2019

The Mule Mini Movie Review

One of the best things about this movie is the new light you see Clint Eastwood in. You've become so used to see him be a cussed, grouchy senior, it's actually fun, especially in the opening few minutes, to see him laughing, chatting, joking, dancing with his peers. However, when faced with a downturn in the business, faced with the prospect of letting down his beloved grand-daughter (Taissa Farmiga, I'd liked her in At Middleton, along with big sis Vera, who's, of course, brilliant in Up In The Air) he turns into a drug mule. Someone who carries drugs for the cartel from one place to another. And becomes hugely successful. So successful that he gets to meet cartel head honcho Andy Garcia but also comes under the radar of DEA agents Bradley Cooper and Michael Pena, along with their boss Laurence Fishburne.

How all this, along with solving the problems of his family including a wife, Dianne Wiest (remember her spunky turn in The Birdcage?), who hates him and daughter, Alison Eastwood (his feisty real life daughter), who won't speak with him or attend a party if he's there, is the story of the second half.

I liked the way the film showed how easy it is to get sucked into becoming a drug mule. The works easy, the money's great and if you don't get caught (or until you do), it seems perfect. We see a number of young kids get entrapped this way, especially when they go for holidays to countries known for drug production. And while loving the slow, languorous pace and the fine performances of all concerned, I found the final act, the last third, so to speak, a bit too tame, too easy. Can't imagine that happening in real life (and this movie is inspired by a true story). That brought the overall rating down a bit, else it's good for a chuckle or two, or a relaxed evening watch.

Rating : 6/10

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Mary Poppins Returns Mini Movie Review

Rating 5/10

Confession - I've seen but don't remember too much of the original Mary Poppins.

I get, like the overall message. How we lose our innocence, wonder, curiousity and sense of anything is possible, as we age, grow from being a child to becoming an adult. Am not sure the chosen style of storytelling is the best way to deliver it, especially in today's era.

Mary Poppins (played by Emily Blunt), is a super nanny. For some reason she's connected to this particular family, had tended to the siblings Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer when they were kids and now arrives when trouble is brewing in their life. Ben's lost his wife, isn't doing too well financially (it's the time of the Great Slump), his house is about to get repossessed by evil bankers (headed by Colin Firth) and his 3 adorable kids are having to mature, become worldly way too soon due to their circumstances. Cue the return of Mary Poppins and soon the children are dancing, singing and believing in the impossible once again. The other characters include Lin-Manuel Miranda, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep (in little more than a cameo).

Emily Blunt is incandescent, am a huge fan and she didn't disappoint. The kids are lovely, everything you'd want them to be. But the rest of the movie meanders. Too much song, too much dance and too little story. I love The Sound of Music, has to be one of my, if not THE, all time favourites, so it's not that I'm against musicals but (I was mentally comparing) in Sound of Music, almost every song advanced / was critical to the story. Here, there were many instances of song for song's sake. And the story was too simplistic, highly predictable.

Probably a one time watch if you're a fan of the actor or the genre. And definitely worth showing the young ones (upto early teens) - perhaps kids nowadays age too fast and this could be an antidote.

KGF Mini Movie Review

Rating 8 / 10

I didn't have time to watch when it released and wasn't sure about making the effort to go to the cinema vs waiting for it to come on TV.

Boy, am I glad I did! This movie is best enjoyed in the theatre.

The story is implausible, from a macro perspective there is nothing new, yet it is engaging. And it unfolds at a breathless pace- there isn't a moment's rest, something happening on the screen literally every minute and there are enough twists and turns, revelations to keep you invested in the big screen (don't think anyone around me looked at their mobile phones through the film).

Yash is a fatherless child, brought up by his feisty mom, who wants to instil bravery, fearlessness in her son and makes him promise to her, just before her death, that he will become rich and famous one day. His journey takes him to Bombay, begins working for a don and then makes a name for himself. His journey then takes him to Bangalore, where he meets his love interest (Srinidhi Shetty, who plays a spoilt PYT with elan). And then, finally, he arrives at Kolar Gold Fields.

What keeps it interesting is the editing (frequent cuts back and forth, the story being told as a flashback, and even some future snippets - from Part 2), the action sequences (frequent slow mo, brutal, kept simple, and some nice touches of humour), awesome visuals (I think South Indian directors / camerapersons are ahead of their Hindi counterparts in this aspect of their craft) and the sequential introduction of villains. As a kid, Yash believes the Don he works for is the most powerful man in Mumbai. But then one day he sees him saluting someone else. And then, when that journey takes him to Bangalore, he realises there are even bigger fish (or crocodiles), and that he still doesn't have the big picture. Also, quite interestingly, they don't show songs in full, just a couple of minutes at a time, so keeps the engagement going, not letting the story or the tension flag. There are shades of Mr Natwarlal (the mining story), Deewar (Yash as a kid is a shoe shine boy) and the superhero persona of Amitabh Bachchan from his earlier action movies and it's all done well.

Hadn't seen any of Yash's previous films but now want to. His presence, demeanour is spot on. And, given my body shape, am glad his physique isn't about obscene muscles but he's just well built with a family pack !