Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

January 8, 2010

Impossible is nothing!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 1:59 am

January 08, 2010

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Uday Chopra, Dino Morea

Director: Jugal Hansraj

Films with titles like Pyaar Impossible are begging to be spoofed. This impossible romantic comedy between a geek and a gorgeous girl stars Uday Chopra as nebbish nerd Abhay, who spends most of his college years crushing on the campus hottie Alisha (played by Priyanka Chopra), who barely notices him at all, even though he once saved her from drowning.

The two of them cross paths again, seven years later in Singapore, when divorced single-mother Alisha mistakenly hires Abhay as a nanny to her six-year-old daughter. Happy to just be around her, Abhay doesn’t reveal his identity and sportingly goes along with the situation.

Before long he’s won over the girl, an annoying, precocious tyke who decides to play cupid between mummy and nanny. Together with the kid, Abhay sabotages Alisha’s budding romance with her colleague Varun (played by Dino Morea), who by the way has also stolen Abhay’s revolutionary new software program and passed it off as his own.

Directed by Jugal Hansraj and written by Uday Chopra, Pyaar Impossible is painfully predictable, and offers nothing original in its writing or treatment. On more occasions than one, the makers compromise basic common sense to deliver scenes that are offensive or plain dangerous. Alisha leaves her six-year-old daughter to be supervised by a male nanny she has met less than 5 minutes ago. On another occasion, the kid volunteers to sleep over at a friend’s house so Abhay can get some alone time with her mummy. The morning after she asks him for all the details.

To be entirely honest, I didn’t quite understand what the film was trying to say in the first place. That beauty isn’t skin deep and that there’s more to love than just surface-level attraction? I suppose that’s why Alisha ends up with Abhay in the end. But why doesn’t the same logic apply to his interest in her? After all I can’t think of one reason why anyone would be drawn to Alisha if it isn’t for her beauty – she’s pretty harebrained, she’s not a responsible mother, she has a fake accent, and she dresses like a tart. If you ask me, Abhay’s too good for her.

Pyaar Impossible doesn’t work because it’s hard to empathize with any of the characters and because the actors fail to rise above the flawed script. It’s back-breakingly long at two hours and twenty-odd minutes, and I can’t remember one single scene that made me smile. The humour is ordinary, and the pre-climax romantic scene in a Mac store is the most embarrassing I can remember in recent times.

For Salim-Suleiman’s peppy music score alone, I’m going with one out of five for director Jugal Hansraj’s Pyaar Impossible. Indeed, it’s impossible to find much love for this film!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

All shimmer, no shine

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 1:53 am

January 08, 2010

Cast: Fardeen Khan, Sushmita Sen, Ishita Sharma, Shah Rukh Khan

Director: Mudassar Aziz

Dulha Mil Gaya starring Fardeen Khan and Sushmita Sen, has been four years in the making, but has arrived almost fifteen years too late. A predictable old-fashioned entertainer that’s a throwback to those homogenous family films of the mid-90s, Dulha Mil Gaya borrows so much from the Yash Chopra/Karan Johar school of synthetic filmmaking that it’s hard to tell if there’s anything original to this story at all.

Fardeen Khan stars as NRI playboy Donzai, who must marry the village bumpkin his dead father has chosen for him if he wants access to his $5-billion inheritance. He arrives in Punjab and weds simple desi girl Samarpreet (played by newcomer Ishita Sharma), who is way too conservative and unpolished for his tastes. Marriage solemnised, Donzai leaves his new wife back in the village and returns alone to Trinidad where he continues with his wild, partying ways.

Samarpreet, not one to give up easily, lands up in Trinidad a few months later, and discovers the cad has forgotten her. Fortunately she bumps into supermodel Shimmer (played by Sushmita Sen) who gives her a complete make-over, down to a wardrobe of cleavage-baring dresses and table manners to boot.

Expectedly, Donzai falls for her in this new avatar, and the couple is happily reunited. In the end, Samarpreet returns the favour to Shimmer by enlightening her that nothing is more important than love, and by convincing her to not let go of her doting boyfriend (played by Shah Rukh Khan).

Co-written by debutant director Mudassar Aziz, the screenplay of Dulha Mil Gaya skittles from cliché to cliché, packing in every stereotype you can think of – from a gay butler named Lotus, to a karva chauth ceremony that ends with Shah Rukh making an entry accompanied by swelling background score.

What saves this film from complete disappointment is Sushmita Sen, who in a stroke of casting genius, plays an exaggerated version of herself, delivering an inspired performance as the snootiest, ditziest diva with the funniest lines you can think of.

On entering the first-class cabin of an airline and spotting a small-town simpleton in her neighboring seat, Shimmer knowingly declares, “Aah, upgraded passenger!”

Dulha Mil Gaya is well-worn, formulaic fare that might appeal to viewers who find comfort in the familiar, and who are still excited by those hackneyed stories about righteous Indian girls who show materialistic NRI boys the error of their ways.

I’m going with two out of five for director Mudassar Aziz’s Dulha Mil Gaya; if it’s not entirely unwatchable, you have Sushmita Sen to thank!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

It’s a Guy thing

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 1:41 am

January 08, 2010

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams

Director: Guy Ritchie

Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is an irreverent, comic-book take on the adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s cerebral London detective. Robert Downey Jr stars as the beloved private eye who’s been reinvented as something of an action hero who leaps out of buildings, dodges explosions, and gets down and dirty in a violent bare-knuckle brawl. Along with his relatively reserved sidekick, the dependable Dr John Watson (played by Jude Law), he still solves crimes for a living, but the pair spends most of their time bickering and sniping like an old married couple.

The film’s silly plot involves the villainous Lord Blackwood (played by Mark Strong), who after being arrested and executed for satanic practices in the film’s opening scenes, somehow engineers his return from the dead and hatches a nefarious plot to rule the British Empire. Holmes and Watson, of course, must stop him.

Ritchie’s film is sheer popcorn entertainment with the kind of blockbuster trappings he’s consciously avoided in the past – computer-generated special effects, big action set-pieces, and that pricey 19th century production design. The good thing is there’s enough here for his hardcore fans to not feel completely alienated. There’s a kinetic energy to the action scenes that’s vintage Guy Ritchie, and occasionally he employs his trademark super-slo-mo to the hand-to-hand combat scenes that instantly remind you of the best bits in both Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

But Sherlock Holmes is a buddy film in the end, and it’s the fraternal bromance between Downey and Law that keeps you engaged. Both actors are in excellent form, and their witty banter makes up for everything else that’s amiss, including a half-baked track involving Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, a mysterious woman from Holmes’ past.

Too much is happening all at once, and while that does throw you off occasionally, Sherlock Holmes is an enjoyable enough watch for the sheer charm of its two leads. Jude Law delivers a low-key yet elegant performance as Watson, giving his co-star all the room to shine. As the boozing, brawling Holmes, Robert Downey Jr is excellent. With the twitch of an eye or the subtle shift of a smile or a frown, he conveys a variety of feelings, and literally grabs the film from the word go.

I’m going with three out of five for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes; at best it’s a cheeky re-imagination of a British national treasure, but boy it’s jolly good fun.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Fright night

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 1:37 am

January 08, 2010

Cast: Micah Sloat, Katie Featherston

Direction: Oren Peli

Paranormal Activity is the 15,000-dollar scary movie that turned into a 100-million-dollar box-office phenomenon thanks to an ingenious viral marketing campaign and word-of-mouth publicity in the United States last year. Even Steven Spielberg famously revealed he was too scared to watch the film alone at night and had to turn it off after a few minutes, only to resume watching it the next morning with his curtains wide open to allow the sunlight in.

The film, which opens in India this week, was directed by Israeli-based debutant Oren Peli, and was shot over seven days in his own home.

The plot is simple enough for a fifth-grader to follow. Katie and her boyfriend Micah are troubled by nocturnal noises in their San Diego home. To find out what it is that’s going bump in the night, Micah sets up a video camera while they sleep. What we watch on screen, is the footage that was subsequently found.

Fans and critics alike have described Paranormal Activity as the Blair Witch Project of our times, and while the comparison doesn’t seem entirely unfounded given that both were purported as “real discovered footage”, let me be honest here, this film didn’t scare me!

To be fair, some bits do thrill. Two scenes in which you see Katie awaking from her sleep and standing by for hours watching Micah sleep are genuinely eerie. As are the film’s final moments which pack a hard punch. But for the most part of the film’s 85-minute running time, very little happens, and you shift restlessly in your seat wondering what all the fuss is about.

It’s a novel idea, no doubt, but if you ask me, both The Blair Witch Project and the much superior Cloverfield used make-believe amateur footage to much better effect.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five and at best an average rating for the over-hyped Paranormal Activity; it’s going to take a little more effort that that to scare me. If you’re easily spooked however, perhaps it may work for you. I’m still recovering from the dizziness that all the hand-held camerawork caused me!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 1, 2010

Domestic disturbance

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 2:32 am

January 01, 2010

Cast: Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgley

Director: Nelson McCormick

What would you do if the man who’s about to marry your newly divorced mother turns out to be a creepy, suspicious fellow that no one but your mother seems to trust?

That’s the question at the heart of this week’s new Hollywood release The Stepfather, a predictable old-fashioned thriller about a serial killer who hunts down unsuspecting single mothers, marries them, and eventually slaughters the whole family when they disappoint him.

Dylan Walsh stars as the homicidal maniac David, who’s moved in with his latest victim Susan (played by Sela Ward) and her two young kids. She suspects nothing, but when her older son Michael (played by Gossip Girl‘s Penn Badgley) returns home from military school, he’s convinced something’s not quite right here.

Remake of a 1987 B-movie in which the killer protagonist is firmly established as a man who blows his top when he realizes that each new family he joins can’t live up to his perfect dreams of wholesome domestic bliss, this new version paints him as a cold, soulless murderer pretty much from the opening credits sequence itself. Walsh volunteers a one-note performance as the psychopath; he fails mostly to bring a menacing sense of doom to his scenes. You get a few modern plot gimmicks involving mobile phones and the Internet, but what’s missing here is any real logic.

Think of it as a strictly time-pass watch with no real thrills, including a lame climax in an attic that’s falling apart. Obviously the filmmakers realized their film packs barely any punches, and decided the only way to compensate for that is by throwing in lots of gratuitous shots of the buff Penn Badgley and his sexy girlfriend making out in his bedroom and in the pool dressed in nothing but tiny bathing suits.

A generous two out of five for The Stepfather. Watch it if you have nothing better to do.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Stuck in a rut

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 2:22 am

January 01, 2010

Cast: Celina Jaitley, Farooque Shaikh, Abhimanyu Singh

Director: Mahesh Nair

The makers of Accident on Hill Road deserve credit for lawfully acquiring the remake rights of the Hollywood thriller Stuck on whose plot their film is based. That is the only credit they will get for this film.

Pointing out the problems with Accident on Hill Road is like drawing up a grocery list. The film’s far-fetched premise involves Celina Jaitley as a dim-witted hospital nurse who doesn’t know what to do when she accidentally knocks down a man with her car, and he’s injured and stuck in her shattered windscreen. She leaves him in her garage, his rear end sticking out of her glass. She whacks him with a cricket bat. She has him tied up, and more or less choked in a plastic bag. She even douses him with petrol. The victim, a true braveheart (played by Farooque Shaikh), miraculously survives this treatment. Meanwhile, Gulal‘s Abhimanyu Singh plays Celina’s sleazy, drug-dealer boyfriend who shows up to help her with her little problem.

The film’s convenient screenplay never allows you to empathise with either the victim or the guilty although you know that both are desperate and in great pain over their respective situations. The performances are embarrassingly over-the-top, even as Celina turns convulsing into a new acting style, and Abhimanyu mutilates the English dialogue with his stilted delivery. Your heart goes out to poor Farooque Shaikh who spends the most part of the film with his bum sticking out into the air. If it wasn’t so unintentionally comical, this film would be a test of your endurance.

I’m going with one out of five for director Mahesh Nair’s amateurish Accident on Hill Road. If you’re bored and have money to waste, gather some friends and head to the multiplex. You’ll never laugh this hard!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Morning sickness

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 2:15 am

January 01, 2010

Cast: Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Neha Dhupia, Anu Menon, Navneet Nishan, Dalip Tahil

Director: Saurabh Shukla

Raat Gayi Baat Gayi has the ingredients for a movie one would probably enjoy very much, but somehow they never come together.

There’s a Hangover-style premise, in which a married man wakes up the morning after a night of heavy drinking with no recollection of whether he slept with the red-hot siren he was flirting with at the previous night’s party. There are some fine actors working here including Rajat Kapoor as the man in question who must piece together the events of the previous night, Vinay Pathak as his buddy who’s preoccupied with marital issues of his own, Dalip Tahil as the host of the party who seems determined on delivering holier-than-thou sermons, and even Neha Dhupia as the mysterious hottie who Rajat Kapoor’s character may or may not have done the nasty with.

Not so much a raucous comedy, Raat Gayi Baat Gayi is in fact a slice-of-life ‘relationship movie’ in which characters yak solemnly and endlessly about fidelity and betrayal. There are a few nice touches here and there, mostly the casual exchanges between characters and the natural performances, but many key scenes – including the centerpiece seduction sequence between Rajat and Neha – are heavy in dialogue and lacking in action or drama. As a result, the pace drags and boredom sets in.

Ultimately the film examines the modern Indian marriage, peeping into the problems that plague couples who’ve been together more than a few years. Rajat’s wife, played by Iravati Harshe, is facing insecurities related to her career; Vinay Pathak’s wife, played by Anu Menon, needs to be reassured that he still loves her when she discovers his Internet porn; and Dalip Tahil’s wife, played superbly by Navneet Nishan, can’t help trying to solve others people’s problems because her own marriage might be a sham.

Saurabh Shukla directs with an easy hand, allowing the actors enough room to interpret their characters, but it’s the writing here that’s mundane. Most scenes lack the energy that was required to elevate this film into the sly, tongue-in-cheek satire that it was intended to be. What you get is a promising but sadly tiresome film that feels too long even though it’s less than two hours in running time.

I’m going with two out of five and at best an average rating for director Saurabh Shukla’s Raat Gayi Baat Gayi; the film makes some interesting observations but doesn’t do it interestingly enough!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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