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

August 13, 2010

Grumpy old men

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 9:05 pm

August 13, 2010

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Unfortunately the title Old Hogs was already taken, or it might have been perfect for a film that stars Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren, and features walk-on cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarznegger.

The Expendables, co-written and directed by Stallone himself, is a throwback to those good old mindless action movies of the 80s, except that the actual stunts and action choreography in this film didn’t need to be as old-fashioned and predictable as its plot.

Our heroes participate in a string of all-too-familiar gun-fights, car chases and explosion sequences in this tired tale about a bunch of mercenaries trying to take down a South American dictator and a former CIA operative-gone-rogue, while seeking to rescue a not-particularly-stunning damsel in distress.

The dialogues in this film are sparse, and the supposedly meaningful scenes make you giggle…like one in which Mickey Rourke recalls a moment in Bosnia when he knew his soul had dried up.

The Expendables is likely to work strictly for hardcore action-movie buffs, who might enjoy the frenetic pace of the blow-ups and shootings, and are willing to overlook the sheer cheesiness of this enterprise.

To be fair, although I prefer my action Jason Bourne style, I will confess I felt a certain thrill watching the legendary Stallone get down and dirty with younger, tougher guys. However, the climax is too long, and there isn’t a single fight scene that stands out for its originality or its unpredictability.

I’m going with two out of five for The Expendables. The only thing going for it is nostalgia. Thousands of bullets are fired, not one will graze our heroes; Stallone gets a tattoo imprinted on his back, doesn’t so much as wince. They don’t make movies like this anymore. People like me would say that’s a good thing!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Missing spirit

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 9:00 pm

August 13, 2010

Cast: Bobby Deol, Mugdha Godse, Shreyas Talpade

Director: Rajeev Virani

At the exact moment when a white-faced little girl is crawling up the ceiling, you realize that the heroine in Help needs rescuing. But unfortunately, it’s the writers behind this tame horror film that need help. Movies about the supernatural require an enormous amount of imagination. Yet the makers of Help exhaust all their creativity executing the slick special effects of this movie, leaving the script as dull as dishwater.

Help starring Bobby Deol and Mugdha Godse starts off intriguingly enough, but loses steam towards the halfway mark. Godse plays pregnant Pia who gets possessed by her twin sister’s spirit. When her husband Vic, played by Deol, enlists the help of an expert parapsychologist to figure out a cure for his wife’s condition, some ridiculous facts come tumbling out that put a fresh twist to the case.

By the time a wheelchair-bound Shreyas Talpade spins into the movie and starts mumbling about the five stages of a spirit, you’re ready to bail out. Director Rajeev Virani lends the film a polished feel, and Mugdha Godse gives the possessed Pia her best shot, but it does this horror no good.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for director Rajeev Virani’s Help. It’s far from frightening, and you’re scowling just as hard as Bobby Deol when you leave the cinema.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 7, 2010

Salma Hayek on motherhood & movies

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 2:42 am

August 06, 2010

She’s one of Hollywood’s sexiest actresses who burnt the screen with her scorching presence in such films as Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn. Now married and mother of a three year old girl, Salma Hayek still oozes enough oomph to set one’s pulses racing. The actress stars as a snooty fashion designer wife and mother in Grown Ups, a new comedy about reconnecting with one’s youth, and passing down important life lessons to one’s children. The film stars five of America’s funniest men — Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and David Spade — and Salma says it took a while before she felt comfortable performing comic scenes with them. I chatted with Salma Hayek in Cancun, Mexico recently.

August 6, 2010

Shallow gal

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:30 pm

August 06, 2010

Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Ira Dubey, Cyrus Sahukar, Amrita Puri

Director: Rajshri Ojha

Superficial and shallow like its protagonist, Aisha is a tiring film about a meddlesome, match-making millionaire, whose roots can be traced directly to charming 90s comedy Clueless, itself a contemporary take on Jane Austen’s Emma.

Sonam Kapoor stars as South Delhi-bred spoilt brat Aisha, who looks like she’s stepped straight out of the pages of Vogue. With her best friend, the equally vacuous Pinky (played by Ira Dubey), she spends her days maxing out her father’s credit card at fancy designer boutiques, and attending polo matches with the Capital’s swish set.

When her matchmaking designs on her new ‘behenji’ friend Shefali and the bumbling mithai-shop heir Randhir go awry, Aisha is forced to rethink her idea of love, and whether it can be arranged after all.

Abhay Deol as Arjun, her sister’s annoying brother-in-law often tries to stop Aisha from interfering in other people’s lives. But to complicate things further, a hunky childhood friend, and Arjun’s smokin’ hot colleague jump into the fray. Soon Aisha has to swallow the fact that she can’t control love, especially when it finally hits her.

A mish-mash of Clueless and the risqué American TV show Gossip Girl, this film unfortunately lacks the wit of the former and the edginess of the latter. Yet during the first half of Aisha, this combination is refreshing. The film is good-looking, it smacks of a certain bubble set in Delhi, and the dialogue (peppered as it is with countless ‘whatevers’) has still got bounce. It’s not hard to warm up to the characters initially, to even have a little fun at the endless row of parties that seem to make up Aisha’s social whirl. But there is such a thing as too much partying, and Aisha’s gang just never seems to grow up to any real-life emotions.

As the film drags on in its pretty stilettoed feet, you get restless in your seat. After all, these characters aren’t layered, this romance isn’t original, and after intermission especially, the script moves clumsily all over the place. What’s worse, while Amit Trivedi’s music has its moments, the movie is littered with too many songs.

One of the key reasons Aisha doesn’t work is its central protagonist – the character is written lazily. She may be spoilt, but her actions are often inexplicable. Is she making a career as a wedding planner or a charcoal artist? Why does she have no interest in boys herself?

Doesn’t help that Sonam Kapoor offers a cardboard cutout personality to the lead. She plays the airhead convincingly and pulls off the flighty princess part, but flounders when it comes to drumming up tears, anger or hurt. Abhay Deol is more sure-footed. He injects a natural charm to the instantly likeable Arjun, but their climax, Pretty Woman-inspired, is a copout.

Of the remaining cast, Ira Dubey makes an impression as Aisha’s fickle best friend; and Cyrus Sahukar displays spot-on comic timing as the foolish-but-earnest Randhir Gambhir. But it’s Amrita Puri in the role of the small-town simpleton Shefali, who steals the film with the best lines and a performance that is more real, more honest than the rest of this superficial film.

I’m going with two out of five for director Rajshri Ojha’s Aisha. It’s like a pretty flute of champagne, but it loses its fizz far too quickly. Watch it at best for the same reason you watch the Sex & the City movies. To ogle shamelessly at the orgy of designer brands.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Grumble in the jungle

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:15 pm

August 06, 2010

Cast: Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Nimrod Antal

Grabbing your attention from its very opening scene – in which Adrien Brody literally falls from the sky into a dense forest – Predators hits the ground running.

The film’s got a simple premise: a disparate group of tough-nut strangers find themselves marooned in a tropical jungle on a strange planet, being attacked by predatory aliens. Like the original film in the series, 1987’s Predator that starred Arnold Schwarznegger, the monsters in this movie sense the presence of humans by their body heat.

This fifth installment in the franchise, however, features more than one species of beasts. In a terrific early sequence the group of humans is attacked by a pack of multiple-horned boar-like creatures that look like they could rip you into shreds on immediate contact. The chief monsters in Predators are dreadlocked lizard-like extraterrestrials that can vanish and appear at will, thus proving a formidable enemy to the ordinary but armed humans.

Brody stars as Royce, a military mercenary, and the first in this group to figure that they have been selected as game on a hunting preserve, and that the predators will prey on them one by one. Alice Braga is a sharpshooter with a conscience; Topher Grace plays a nerdy doctor. The rest of this group comprises a Mexican mafia thug, a Russian soldier, a Japanese warrior, a gloomy African, and a sleazy death-row inmate in orange overalls.

The film starts off promisingly enough, as the group slowly begins to understand what kind of trouble they’re actually in. But it’s all downhill from the point Laurence Fishburne shows up as an exasperated survivor who has managed to stay out of the way of these beasts long enough for him to lead this group into his secret hiding place.

The special effects are not too bad, but in the end Predators is reduced to a typical cat-and-mouse chase movie with preposterous action. And that’s a pity, because it almost worked as a morality tale – this group of humans who were predators on earth, now finding the tables turned on them.

Not a complete waste of time if you enjoy the sci-fi/thriller genre, I’m going with two out of five for Predators. Watch it if you have the stomach for excessive blood-spill.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The nicest Mr Bad Guy

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 9:01 pm

August 06, 2010

Cast: Voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segal, Russel Brand, Julie Andrews

Directors: Chris Renaud & Pierre Coffin

Contrary to its title, Despicable Me is a charming and hilarious animation film that kids and adults will equally enjoy.

Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is a slightly over-the-hill villain who’s being beaten at his own game by the new kid on the block, a young bad guy named Vector (voiced by Jason Segal) who’s just stolen a pyramid from Egypt and replaced it with an inflatable replica. To show the world that he won’t be overthrown by an amateur upstart, and to prove he’s still got his evil mojo intact, Gru must come up with a brilliant plan that will establish him as the biggest, baddest villain of all time.

Gru decides he will steal the moon.

Working with him to pull off this coup is his chief consultant on the project, a mad scientist named Dr Nefario (voiced by Russel Brand), and the ‘Minions’ – dozens of small, yellow, capsule-shaped creatures who adore Gru, and who scurry about doing all kinds of jobs for him.

To steal the moon, they need to shrink it first, which means Gru must swipe the “shrink ray machine” from Vector’s den. So Gru adopts three little orphan sisters with the sole purpose of using them to distract Vector. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that once these adorable girls enter Gru’s home, they make their way into his heart as well.

Predictable but unabashedly cute, Despicable Me doesn’t shy away from tugging at your heartstrings. The little yellow ‘Minions’ are the most lovable creatures who evoke enormous affection without ever needing to use words. And the tale of the nasty fellow who’s actually a softie inside may be a familiar one, but it still works because Steve Carell turns Gru into such a vulnerable chap. His back-story – a kid traumatized by his mother’s indifference – lends this film some of it’s funniest moments.

At least one scene – a thrilling roller-coaster ride that Gru takes the girls on – justifies the price of watching this film in 3D, but its heart lies in its characters and their relationships. Expect to find a lump in your throat more than once, especially in the scenes between Gru and the little girls, and one particularly touching one in which the Minions offer him their savings to build a rocket after the bank turns down his request for a loan.

Despicable Me doesn’t have the sheer inventiveness of Up or the bravado of a film like Wall-E. But it’s a simple enough entertainer that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy in the end.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Despicable Me; it’s among the best animation films this year after Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon. Don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 5, 2010

Aamir Khan: Why we can’t make Inception

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 3:30 pm


Bollywood’s most respected actor explains why we can’t make a film like Inception.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

O father, where art thou?

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 3:45 am

The Brazilian film, Central Station is on my list of favorite foreign films of all time. It’s a film that touches your heart like few films can.

Set in Rio de Janiero, Central Station is about an elderly woman Dora, who runs a little stand in the local railway station where she writes letters for people who are illiterate. Dora’s one of those bitter, mean-spirited, cynical women who rarely mails any of these letters that people pay her to write; instead she stuffs them in a drawer in her house, and pulls them out occasionally to laugh over them with a roommate.

On one particular day, a mother and son use her services to dictate a letter to the woman’s missing husband. Just moments later, the mother is struck and killed by a bus, and her 10-year-old son Josue knows only one person in Rio – Dora!

Very reluctantly and only after exhausting all other options, Dora takes the boy in and agrees to help him find his father who lives far away in an interior city.

From this point on, Central Station is a road movie, but it’s really about the unlikely friendship between a 67-year-old woman and this 10-year-old boy. It’s not so much about the search for the boy’s father as it is about Dora’s reawakening.

We meet Dora as an insensitive, dishonest person, and although the film is about the change her personality undergoes, the film never becomes sappy or sentimental. The film is held together by a tour de force performance by Fernanda Montenegro, the Brazilian actress who plays Dora. It’s the kind of performance you’re unlikely to ever forget.

There’s also Vincius de Oliviera, the young actor who plays Josue; he’s remarkable and spontaneous, and you’ll never believe he’s an untrained actor – in fact, a shoe-shine boy who was discovered by the film’s director Walter Salles at an airport some years ago.

Central Station is one of those rare films that leaves you feeling both happy and sad at the same time. It’s got an inherent charm that’s very hard to resist.

August 1, 2010

Three’s company

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 9:00 am

Can you think of a film that you’re embarrassed to admit you really enjoyed? The kind of film the term ‘guilty pleasure’ was coined for..?

Threesome is exactly that kind of film. The one you watch in your teenage years, or with friends over beer and a good laugh. It’s a romantic comedy about three roommates — two guys and a girl — who are mistakenly assigned to the same two-room dormitory on campus. After the initial problems adjusting to these awkward living arrangements, the three of them become fast friends, but eventually they’re left to deal with each other’s sexual feelings.

Now before you dismiss it as another American Pie-type fratboy flick, let me tell you there’s more to it than just sex jokes. It’s really a film about friendship and love and about a relationship that’s so unusual, you don’t know how to define it.

Stephen Baldwin and Josh Charles playing Stuart and Eddy respectively, aren’t quite sure how to react when Lara Flynn Boyle — playing the beautiful Alex — moves in with them. Stuart the campus stud tries to seduce her, only to learn that she’s attracted to introspective Eddy, who in turn is hiding a secret of his own.

What I like best about Threesome is the fact that it’s an extremely sincere film — I know that’s a word that’s rarely used to describe a campus comedy. But it’s true, there’s a rare honesty to this film and its characters, which you don’t find in most of these young fratboy films.

Of course it’s bold and it treads on very tricky ground, but that’s just why it’s so watchable even after all these years. And the reason I’m embarrassed to admit I enjoyed it so much is because you’d think you’d outgrow such films once you’re out of college, but Threesome is really one of those guilty pleasures that you’re happy to revisit after all these years.

It took me months to find a copy of the film on DVD, but see if you can locate it sooner than I did. It’s raunchy, it’s brazen, and it’s a very enjoyable watch.

Angelina Jolie on ‘Salt’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:58 am

July 23, 2010

Few actresses can slip so effortlessly into a role originally written for a male lead…

Angelina Jolie, who pretty much carries the spy-thriller Salt on her own strong shoulders, has always been an adrenalin junkie. No wonder she does most of her stunts herself, and is happy to embrace every seemingly impossible challenge. Even if it means taking on the lead in an action blockbuster that was created for Tom Cruise.

In this interview with Jolie (which first aired on CNN-IBN) that I conducted in Cancun,  Mexico recently, I asked her about her for jumping off heights and her tendency to go after strong characters.

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