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

December 18, 2010

Ranveer Singh is Bollywood’s ‘New Kid on the Block’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:10 am

In this interview, 25-year-old Ranveer Singh (who’s Ranveer Bhavnani, by the way!), the star of Band Baaja Baaraat reveals how his life has changed since his impressive debut. He also discusses the industry’s expectations of him, and explains why some rumours hurt him and others didn’t.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

How cool: I got Tron-ified!

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:14 am

In this specially created video inspired from Tron: Legacy, Rajeev Masand gets Tron-ified!

December 17, 2010

Hot ticket!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:42 pm

December 17, 2010

Cast: Arunoday Singh, Konkona Sen Sharma, Raima Sen, Prem Chopra, Boman Irani, Rajpal Yadav, Shreyas Talpade, Shahana Goswami, Sushant Singh

Director: Vinay Shukla

Mirch, directed by Vinay Shukla, is a delicious idea that unfortunately doesn’t translate into a sumptuous film.

When more than one producer rejects his dark, artistic and ‘commercially unviable’ script, a struggling writer-director, Manav (played by Arunoday Singh) narrates a short story from the Panchatantra – about a woman caught red-handed with her lover by her husband – that finally has a potential producer hooked. Too short to work as a full-length feature, Manav comes up with four such stories, in which clever women manage to dupe their husbands despite being caught in the act.

These stories are smart and sexy, particularly the first two that are set in earlier times, and star Raima Sen and Konkona Sen Sharma as the adulterous wives who think on their feet. Both actresses return for the next two stories that are set in contemporary times, but these tales are considerably less mischievous than the previous two.

Mirch is let down by its slab-of-stone lead, Arunoday Singh who stars not only as the writer-director protagonist, but also appears as a recurring actor in the other stories. Between his wooden acting and his heavily accented dialogue delivery, you can’t help but think he was possibly cast because he was willing to show more skin than the ladies!

The film’s weakest link, in fact, is the far-fetched surface story of Manav, the desperate filmmaker who is surrounded by posters of Pyaasa and The 400 Blows and who reads Bergman on Bergman, but is urged by a producer to think more ‘commercially’. Sex is the only replacement for a big star in a Hindi film, he’s told, and is encouraged to come up with material that’s risqué – “bas vulgarity nahin honi chahiye“, he’s warned.

Shukla ends the film with a puzzling finale where an incident from the producer’s own life mirrors one of the stories he’s just been narrated. It’s too convenient and gimmicky, and sticks out like a sore thumb.

Mirch has moments of great fun, thanks to credible performances by Raima Sen and Konkona Sen Sharma as sexually liberated women who’re unapologetic about their libidos. The film is enjoyable also for it’s fresh take on women’s emancipation, and for the cunning manner it plays the gender reversal card. But alas, much of it seems disjointed when viewed as a whole.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for director Vinay Shukla’s Mirch. A stronger male lead and some tighter editing might have turned this into a crackling film. As it stands now, it’s as appetizing as a half-cooked meal!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bright lights, big pity

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:37 pm

December 17, 2010

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen

Director: Joseph Kosinski

The original Tron that released in 1982 was a path-breaking, visually stunning film that has acquired cult status over the years, and a legacy of fans who have waited patiently for a sequel that would take them back into Kevin Flynn’s digital universe. The computer effects in that film were remarkable for their time, but appear dated now. And it doesn’t help that they were used to tell a rather clunky story to begin with.

Tron: Legacy, that much anticipated sequel, is an eye-popping marvel of computer effects. But 30 years from now, there’s a good chance it’ll look just as dated as the earlier film. Because they still couldn’t fix the plot!

The new film opens with 27-year-old Sam Flynn (played by Garrett Hedlund) going in search of his father, computer genius Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges), who has been missing for many years. Turns out Papa Flynn is trapped in the Grid, that artificial world he designed. When Sam finds his way into the Grid, Flynns Sr & Jr must work together to take down Clu, Kevin’s digital duplicate who’s gone rogue and has taken over the virtual universe.

The premise itself is over-simplistic and the characters uniformly one-dimensional; yet the film’s dialogue is convoluted and incomprehensible, and packs so much jargon about the digital landscape that there are times you wish you were equipped with a guide-book while watching this film.

What keeps you glued to your seat, expectedly, is the film’s extraordinary visual design. Many familiar elements from the earlier film – those light cycles, glowing Frisbees and solar sails – return in sleeker, more stylish upgrades; and the action scenes are jaw-dropping. A light-cycle chase in the first half is one of the film’s fanciest highlights, as is a futuristic fight sequence in a floating virtual arena.

But Tron Legacy‘s biggest success is its use of 3D. The only film since last year’s Avatar to use the extra dimension with the objective of providing a wholesome, immersive experience, Legacy scores over the dozens of 3D rush-jobs like Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender that exploited the technology only for its gimmick value.

I’m going with a generous three out of five for Tron: Legacy. It’s a light-and-sound show like nothing seen before, but if it were much shorter, it might have worked better as a music video!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Familiar love

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:25 pm

December 17, 2010

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Gemma Jones, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch

Director: Woody Allen

There are four principal protagonists in Woody Allen’s latest film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, and each is seeking more from life than has been dealt to him. Alfie (played by Anthony Hopkins) is a rich, retired man who leaves his ageing wife for a twenty-something hooker who makes him feel younger. His embittered wife Helena (played by Gemma Jones) finds solace in the comforting assurances provided by a fake fortune-teller, and his daughter Sally (played by Naomi Watts) is an assistant at an art gallery who has a crush on her boss. Sally’s novelist husband Roy (played by Josh Brolin) is battling writer’s block, even as he spends his days flirting shamelessly with a pretty neighbor.

Set in London, this film about romantic frustration among the upper class is a satisfying but never quite exhilarating comedy from a filmmaker who’s dealt with the same themes, and written suspiciously similar characters before.

In fact, it’s not surprising that more than one character in this film is convinced that she existed in a previous life – indeed, variations of most characters in this film have popped up before in earlier films by Woody Allen. Hopkins’ character, Alfie, for one, doesn’t seem too far removed from the character Sydney Pollack played in Husbands and Wives – the old guy who dumps his wife for a young hot woman, only to regret it soon enough and beg his wife to take him back.

Despite its familiar elements, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger doesn’t have the sharp wit of Allen’s best films. It does, however, benefit from competent acting by its ensemble cast, particularly Lucy Punch who provides most of the laughs as the ditzy gold-digging hooker who steals Alfie’s heart, and Gemma Jones as the unsuspecting biddy who’s being fleeced by a psychic con-woman. In smaller roles, Antonio Banderas appears as Sally’s gallery owner boss, and Freida Pinto does little else but look pretty as the music student who Roy takes a fancy to.

In the end, the film is but a tepid reflection on ageing and regret. It’s got some clever moments, but those are few and far between. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. It’s far from his best work, but watchable nevertheless.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 11, 2010

“I don’t know if there’s a place for me in Bollywood,” says Freida Pinto

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 4:53 pm

VIDEO!

In this interview recorded in Goa during the International Film Festival of India on December 2, 2010, Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto talks about her recent success in Hollywood, about working with such acclaimed filmmakers like Woody Allen and Julian Schnabel, and about her interest in working in Indian films.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Dwayne Johnson on how to get those 18-inch arms

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 3:58 pm

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico), Hollywood star Dwayne Johnson (popularly known as The Rock) explains why he’s doing a blood-soaked action movie like Faster when he’s already cornered the family-friendly turf with films like The Tooth Fairy and Welcome to the Jungle. This professional wrestler-turned-actor talks about doing his own stunts in the movies, and also reveals how you can get those 18-inch arms.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 10, 2010

Dilli dilwalon ki

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:57 pm

December 10, 2010

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Neeraj Sood, Manish Chaudhari

Director: Maneesh Sharma

Band Baaja Baaraat is a rather unlikely offering from Yash Raj Films, a studio that has seldom deviated from its tradition of making extravagant movies featuring larger-than-life stars.

This charming entertainer directed by Maneesh Sharma is set in middle-class Delhi and tells a story of two ordinary characters. Newcomer Ranveer Singh stars as Bittoo Sharma, a Delhi University graduate who’ll do anything to avoid returning to his village Saharanpur, where a life of sugarcane farming awaits him. He offers to become partners with his friend Shruti Kakkar, a Janakpuri resident played by Anushka Sharma, who wants to set up a wedding planning business.

Band Baaja Baaraat benefits enormously from its two core strengths – sharp writing, and shooting on location. Both, in fact, give the film and its characters a real, believable feel. Bittoo’s strong accent, the way he says ‘binness‘ instead of business, the pair’s aspirations to graduate to planning fancy Sainik Farms weddings, and the clever dialogue by Habib Faisal are the kind of little touches that make all the difference in this film.

The first half is immensely enjoyable as Bittoo and Shruti establish their company and their reputation by working hard to organize the best weddings they can. The conflict arises around intermission, when we learn that Shruti herself may have broken that one key rule that she laid down for them before they started out – “Jisse vyapaar karo, usse kabhi na pyaar karo” (meaning: don’t fall in love with the person you’re doing business with). The second half of the film, unfortunately, loses steam early on. The pair bickers continuously, and logic goes out of the window, only for things to fall comfortably back into place in the last 15 minutes or so.

Yet for the most part, Band Baaja Baaraat works because it’s invested with an earnestness that’s become increasingly rare to find at the movies. It’s refreshing to see mostly unknown faces playing smaller parts like Bittoo and Shruti’s flower supplier, caterer, and their own families. In fact, the supporting cast does a competent job of never turning these characters into caricatures.

But at the heart of this film are its delightful leads. The ambitious but straightforward Shruti Kakkar, played with a zeal we haven’t seen before in Anushka Sharma’s previous roles. And Ranveer Singh as the unpolished but lovable Bittoo Sharma, who steals the film with a confident, uninhibited performance that is the best thing about this film. Both actors share a comfortable chemistry that make this film an easy watch.

I’m going with three out of five for director Maneesh Sharma’s Band Baaja Baaraat. It’s a romantic comedy done correctly. Fun, but with warmth at its heart. Don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Such a drag!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:49 pm

December 10, 2010

Cast: Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Akshaye Khanna, Sunil Shetty, Sushmita Sen, Kangana Ranaut

Director: Anees Bazmee

In one particularly tasteless scene in director Anees Bazmee’s No Problem, Akshaye Khanna dressed in drag, is mistaken for a prostitute and picked off the street by Anil Kapoor, who brings him home and begins to grope him on the bed. It’s after Anil has practically climbed on top of him, that Akshaye tells him he has AIDS, a trick that makes Anil back off right away.

In another scene, Paresh Rawal spots Akshaye Khanna with black paint smeared all over his face, prompting him to make a loud declaration that he hates blacks. This incident takes place at a crowded beach in Durban where most of the film is set, and where Paresh’s character is promptly beaten up by the African locals who are understandably offended. One outraged woman even says: “Obama is the President of America, and you still hate blacks?”

No Problem, as you can tell, is a rather ironic title for a film that is offensive on so many levels.

The core plot of this spectacularly stupid film involves a diamond heist gone wrong. Sunil Shetty stars as a nostril-flaring gangster, Sanjay Dutt and Akshaye Khanna play petty thieves, and Anil Kapoor is a police officer who is ticklish because he has two bullets lodged in his stomach. Each of them is in search of these diamonds that have gone missing. Sushmita Sen stars as Anil’s schizophrenic wife who alternates between doting on him, and trying to kill him. Kangana Ranaut is Sushmita’s eccentric, narcissistic sister who falls for Akshaye.

In the tradition of his previous films, Welcome and Singh is Kinng, director Anees Bazmee works with a non-existent script to create humor out of oddball characters and chaotic situations. I didn’t think much of either of those two films, but there were some genuinely comical moments in both. The gags in No Problem, however, fall flat repeatedly because the actors participating in them are in auto-pilot mode, and because the jokes are just not funny.

Your heart sinks when veteran 70s villain Ranjeet appears as a gangster’s henchman with facial hair to rival Teen Wolf. But believe me, you ain’t seen nothing till you’re confronted with the sight of a gorilla letting out a powerful fart in the film’s climax, which sends Anil Kapoor flying to the other end of the room.

I’m going with one out of five for director Anees Bazmee’s No Problem. Move over Housefull, 2010’s most abysmal comedy has arrived!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Blood thirsty

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:20 pm

December 10, 2010

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Oliver Jackson-Cohen

Director: George Tillman Jr

Faster is the kind of blood-splattered revenge film that doesn’t bother with such niceties as character names. So Dwayne Johnson is introduced to us as Driver, an ex-con who, on his release from prison after 10 years, finds a car hidden for him in a junkyard, and goes hunting down the men who killed his brother in a bank heist-gone-wrong. As he takes down his enemies one by one, shooting them squarely in the head, he discovers he has a detective on his trail. Billy Bob Thornton is Cop, who with his hot female partner (played by Carla Gugino) must try to figure out Driver’s next potential victim, and stop the crime before it’s committed. Also in pursuit of Driver is an assassin we know as Killer, a pretty-boy British millionaire (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who takes hit jobs because he’s bored!

This unbelievably silly film is actually an extended chase sequence between these three characters; and expectedly the relentless shoot-outs are meant to make up for the absence of a script. Unfortunately the action isn’t compelling enough to take your mind off the film’s dozen other flaws.

Like the bizarre subplot involving Killer, who is a professional hit-man for free. We first see him practising what looks like a blend of martial arts and break-dancing, and apparently he’s the only guy in the world who can perform those deadly moves. At one point he declares to his girlfriend: “I’ve won, I’ve beaten yoga.” At least one character in Faster has a drug addiction problem, although I suspect the writers of this film may have been smoking something while dishing out this drivel!

Dwayne Johnson, who ditches the family-friendly turf he’d cornered with films like The Tooth Fairy and Race to Witch Mountain, proves why they call him The Rock. In this film, he resembles a slab of granite – solid and strong, but completely expressionless. As a cold-blooded killing machine, he has presence in the action scenes, but not enough to make this ridiculous film any less intolerable!

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Faster. Even for action-movie fans, this one’s a tough slog. Watch it only if you enjoy scene after scene in which bullets pierce people’s heads. Of course, if you do enjoy that, you might want to get your own head checked first!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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