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

July 15, 2011

Pottery yarn

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:30 pm

July 15, 2011

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton

Director: David Yates

For ten years, it has all been leading up to this moment. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the final episode in the eight-part movie saga, culminates in the awaited showdown between the teenage wizard and his lifelong nemesis Lord Voldemort, who finally enters the gates of Hogwarts to seek out Harry. At roughly 2 hours and 10 minutes, Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the shortest film in the series, and understandably the most grim.

The new film picks up exactly where the last one left off, with Harry, Ron and Hermoine still searching for Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes, which they must destroy if the Dark Lord has to be once and for all defeated. Meanwhile Voldemort is in possession of the coveted Elder Wand, which he has stolen from the tomb of Professor Dumbledore and which will make him invincible.

In one of the film’s stunning early-set pieces, our trio of young heroes recovers a Horcrux after breaking into a vault at Gringotts, then makes a thrilling escape riding on the back of a fire-breathing dragon. Following this, the action quickly shifts to Hogwarts, where the mood is expectedly somber given that Death Eaters and Dementors loom large outside campus walls.

Even as you count down to the brutal confrontation between Harry and Voldemort, director David Yates ties up many loose ends along the way. Major secrets are revealed, including a shocking one involving Professor Snape, and much-loved side characters like Professor McGonagall and Neville Longbottom finally get their big moment in the spotlight. The Battle of Hogwarts is easily one of the most inventive set-pieces executed in the entire series, and Yates and his team of VFX artists once again exploit the opportunity to deliver some truly exhilarating moments.

Harry Potter, now wiser and older than his years, must contemplate the inevitability of death and the true value of friendship. Daniel Radcliffe bites into the part with a steeliness we’d only seen a glimpse of before, and delivers a mature yet vulnerable performance that touches the heart. His best scenes in this film are those in which he realizes the sacrifices he must make for the greater good.

Ten years ago, the casting of unknown child actors Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone seemed like a stroke of brilliance; but each has evolved into a polished young actor who owns his role completely, bringing a wide range of emotions and such depth to each character’s roller-coaster journey. Ralph Fiennes makes for a suitably fearful Voldemort, but it’s Alan Rickman who leaves a lasting impression for his delicious portrayal of the complex Professor Snape.

It’s impossible not to be overwhelmed in the final’s final scene, which brings its principal characters to a full circle since we first met them. I found myself holding back my tears in the end, much like one would while saying goodbye to old friends.

I’m going with four out of five for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It’s not merely a fitting farewell to a much-loved series, but also that rare summer blockbuster that marries an emotional, stirring story with jaw-dropping visual flair.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

July 8, 2011

The kids are all right

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:05 pm

July 08, 2011

Cast: Naman Jain, Irrfan Khan, Sanath Menon, Rohan Grover

Director: Vikas Bahl and Nitesh Tiwari

Good ideas don’t always translate into good films. Chillar Party is one such well-intentioned movie with a message for children and adults alike. It starts off promisingly enough, but loses all track of its audience and script, turning into a confused mess by the time it drags to the end.  And yet, it is to the credit of the enthusiastic, pint-sized cast and Chillar Party’s two writer-directors, Vikas Bahl and Nitesh Tiwari, that you feel that at least in portions, this film is both sweet and fun.

The film’s title refers to a kiddie gang of young boys belonging to Chandan Nagar colony – a rambunctious group of imps with nicknames like Second-Hand, Encyclopaedia, Silencer, Jhangiya and the rather politically incorrect-sounding one, Panauti. To this motley crew joins the less privileged Fatka, an orphan who earns his keep by washing the cars in Chandan Nagar’s compound and who bunks in an abandoned car with his faithful dog Bhidu. After a shaky start, the Chillar Party gang becomes firm friends with Fatka and Bhidu, and this part is endearing; the lengths that each of them will go to for the sake of friendship.

Yet all of this is threatened by a grim and glowering politician who, for reasons I still haven’t quite understood, becomes determined on getting Bhidu captured by the dog pound. The neta’s agenda comes across as confused, and suddenly Chillar Party takes a turn for the absurd.  

To save their beloved four-legged friend Bhidu, the Chillar Party gang takes up a signature campaign to get a No Objection Certificate from the colony’s residents. When all else fails, this group of boys takes out – wait for it – an underwear campaign that has crowds of Mumbai’s kids join in. The sight of all these children marching the streets in their underwear isn’t cute; in fact it feels exploitative, and to a large extent unsavoury.

The problem with Chillar Party is that it goes about a completely convoluted way to deliver a sweet message. Apart from the fact that the kids here fight for what is right, it also subtly talks about erasing the class divide. Yet where the film could have been warm and cute, the minister angle in the plot botches it up. It also drags on endlessly, so while the children are endearing — especially the terrific Naman Jain who plays Jhangiya — you’ve run out of patience long before the film is over.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Chillar Party. It isn’t half bad, but the party pooper here is a script that has no direction home.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

No crowning glory

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:00 pm

July 08, 2011

Cast: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P Henson

Director: Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks has pretty much made a career out of playing Average Joes, but even the most ordinary characters need interesting stories to merit a movie based on their lives. Larry Crowne, which Hanks co-wrote and directed in addition to acting in it, casts him as possibly the most boring, bland character he’s played on screen yet.

We realize less than five minutes into the movie that Hanks’ middle-aged character, Larry is basically a nice guy. For a sales clerk at a supermarket, whose job involves retrieving abandoned shopping carts from the parking lot and stocking supplies on high shelves, he’s unusually cheerful and has an infectious enthusiasm that he seems to pass on to his colleagues. But then he’s abruptly fired one day when management decides his lack of a college education has made him unpromotable.

Larry quickly signs up for community college, where he makes friends with a fellow economics student who gives him a slick makeover and also introduces him to her boyfriend’s motor-scooter gang, with whom he rides around the city and hits local diners every afternoon. He also gradually softens his cynical and unhappily married public-speaking professor Mercedes (played by Julia Roberts), who will predictably go on to become his love interest in the story. At the end of the film, Larry has got a job in the kitchen of a diner owned by his friend. He’s cleared economics, and he’s also got an A+ in public speaking…although it’s unclear if he got that grade for the charming but vacuous speech he delivered in class, or because the teacher is crushing on him.

Larry’s is not an extraordinary story. Hell, it’s not even that uncommon. So many older Americans go back to college to improve their lives. What makes Larry a somewhat interesting character is the fact that he’s a good man who draws mostly good people around him. But in the absence of a dramatic story around such a character, I’m still not convinced he makes for a compelling protagonist of a movie.

Mike Leigh’s unforgettable film Happy-Go-Lucky was pegged on a heroine who was irrepressibly cheerful, but Leigh invested much by way of character depth to hold up his slim plot. In contrast, Larry Crowne offers neither a memorable story nor a deliciously layered lead.

I never thought I’d say this about a Tom Hanks film, but watching Larry Crowne is less fun than watching paint dry. It’s a huge disappointment from Hanks, who previously directed the thoroughly enjoyable musical comedy That Thing You Do! Even Julia Roberts appears bored out of her skull going through the motions of this film.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Tom Hanks’ Larry Crowne. My advice to fans of the two-time Oscar-winning star: skip this one if you don’t want your heart broken.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Farhan, Abhay and Katrina on ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:00 pm

In this interview, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol and Katrina Kaif talk about their new film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, about shooting the film in Spain, and about getting to know each other on the job.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

July 2, 2011

Emraan Hashmi on what goes into shooting those steamy love scenes

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:40 am

Star of such films as Murder, Zeher, Kalyug and Jannat, Emraan Hashmi explains what goes into shooting those steamy love scenes.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Oldboy

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:12 am

July 01, 2011

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Sonu Sood, Prakash Raj, Hema Malini, Raveena Tandon, Sonal Chauhan

Director: Puri Jagannadh

Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap is positioned as the ultimate wet-dream for Amitabh Bachchan fans. Indeed it’s a loving showcase for the almost 69-year-old actor who gets to demonstrate to the world that he can still sing and dance and beat up the bad guys in style. (Not that we needed any convincing). The film’s director, Puri Jagannadh admits in the closing credits that the film’s been made by a fan, and is meant especially for fans of the evergreen superstar. Discerning viewers, more than likely, will wish the film had a little more to offer in terms of an engaging plot and interesting characters, in addition to the unabashed Bachchan-worship.

The story of this film is merely incidental. All you need to know is that Bachchan stars as Viju, a veteran Mumbai sharpshooter who returns to the city after a hiatus in Paris, and seeks employment in a gangster’s team. The plot is padded with such supporting characters as an ex-wife, an obsessive admirer, an inquisitive landlady, a menacing gangster, and a young cop. Each of them gets a fair share of screen-time, especially the cop (played by Sonu Sood) and the bad guy (played by Prakash Raj); but make no mistake, they’re side players in a one-man show.

Dressed outrageously, in mostly white suits and floral shirts, accessorized with multi-colored scarves and a pair of watches, Bachchan parodies some of his older films, the characters he played in them, and the lines he made famous. It’s a joy to watch him when he’s in on the joke, but when the film takes a turn for the serious, you realize exactly how silly the whole enterprise is. It is to the actor’s credit alone that he keeps you in your seat even as the film’s nonsensical plot unfolds at a leisurely pace.

Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap gets tiresome after a point, and the problem here is overkill. There is just so much fun you can have watching Bachchan beat up men half his age. Raveena Tandon is goofy as his long-time admirer, but the laughs wear thin when she flutters her eyelashes and practically drools over him for the fourth time in an hour. In contrast, the understated romantic track with Hema Malini is what the word ‘chemistry’ was invented to describe.

Amitabh Bachchan, the star, deserves a better tribute than Bbuddah. If you’re an unconditional fan though, you’ll make your peace with this one. I’m going with two out of five for director Puri Jagannadh’s Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap. It’s an inoffensive but lazy film that barely scratches the surface of this big, bright shining star.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Good shit!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:04 am

July 01, 2011

Cast: Imran Khan, Vir Das, Kunal Roy Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Shenaz Treasurywala, Poorna Jagannathan

Director: Abhinay Deo

Packed with rude humor and made with the intention to shock you, Delhi Belly is a filthy comic thriller that works because it’s a smartly paced wild-ride. Mind you, it doesn’t have a madly inventive story. Yet with sharp performances and a tight script by Akshat Verma, it’s 90 minutes well spent.

Most of its action erupts within a derelict apartment shared by three buddies – Tashi, Arup and Nitin – struggling to make the rent. Tashi, played by Imran Khan, is a journalist with a nagging fiancée from hell, Sonia (played by Shenaz Treasurywala). An airhostess, Sonia orders Tashi to drop off a parcel she’s promised to deliver as a favor for a friend. The unsuspecting girl has been used as a courier by a diamond-smuggling ring, and it all starts to go terribly wrong when the package is mistakenly swapped by Arup (played by Vir Das). All hell breaks loose when a stoic gangster, played wonderfully by Vijay Raaz, receives a stool sample instead, belonging to Nitin (played by Kunal Roy Kapoor), who has been struck by a horrific case of Delhi belly. Yes, I have to admit it’s disgusting, but it’s also very funny.

Adding to this strange cocktail of characters is Tashi’s free-spirited colleague Menaka, played by Poorna Jagannathan, who unfortunately is still trying to shake off a jealous, boorish ex-husband. Expect screeching car chases, colorful expletives (one of which is even written backwards into a song), a stylishly-shot gunfight in a hotel room, and a generous dose of irony.

Delhi Belly is solid storytelling; it isn’t complicated, but has enough mild twists to keep you entertained. Director Abhinay Deo does a good job of sinking his teeth into the script, and what helps it along are hilarious performances by Vir Das and Kunal Roy Kapur. Imran Khan, meanwhile, clearly enjoying himself in a part with no star trappings, sportingly allows his co-stars to take the lion’s share of jokes here.

Despite its title, this film is no ode to Delhi – it’s a madcap caper that frankly could have been set in any city. Yet it’s Ram Sampath’s music for Delhi Belly that plays almost another character in the movie, right from the lazy KL Saigal-style opening credits, to the jazzy pop of the closing credits comical-spoof featuring Aamir Khan. My favourite, in fact, is an outrageous number, choreographed by Farah Khan, where Arup has his disco revenge on his girlfriend for jilting him.

Uninhibited and naughty, Delhi Belly is an enjoyable comedy that has enough frenzied moments to keep you in your seats. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for director Abhinay Deo’s Delhi Belly. A good laugh is guaranteed.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

July 1, 2011

Metal asylum

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:28 pm

July 01, 2011

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whitley, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Patrick Demsey

Director: Michael Bay

If all you want from the new Transformers film is to watch robots fighting for two-and-a-half hours, you won’t be disappointed. As far as spectacle is concerned, director Michael Bay raises the bar considerably with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, delivering some jaw-dropping action sequences that are further enhanced by the remarkable use of 3D. Most stunning of these is one in which a python-like Decepticon strangles a skyscraper by wrapping itself around it, spraying glass everywhere, and prompting the humans trapped inside to leap out of windows and slide down the face of the rapidly tilting tower.

Unfortunately, Bay doesn’t know when to stop. He overwhelms our senses with a relentless and deafening battle sequence between the Autobots and the Decepticons that lasts close to 60 minutes, and ends with the city of Chicago resembling a post-apocalyptic ruin. It’s exhausting; at times it’s hard to distinguish the good robots from the bad ones, and midway through the crash-bang-boom my eyes glazed over. But like I said, if all you seek is non-stop carnage, you’ve come to the right place.

Dark of the Moon opens with the preposterous back-story that in 1961 the first Moon landing was fast-tracked not so much to make ‘giant leaps for mankind’, but to investigate the crash of an Autobot spacecraft into the dark side of the Moon. It all proves to be part of an elaborate Decepticon plan to take over the universe and enslave mankind. Expectedly it’s left to Shia LaBeouf and the Autobots to save the world again.

Now even if you were willing to overlook the rotten acting by Rosie Huntington-Whitley (who replaces Megan Fox as Shia LaBeouf’s girlfriend), and the cheesy dialogue that Josh Duhamel is saddled with, how do you bring yourself to forgive Michael Bay for wasting such fine actors as Frances McDormand and John Malkovich who appear as the director of national intelligence and LaBeouf’s new boss respectively? Also a newcomer to the series, Patrick Dempsey shows up as a slick businessman working both sides of the fence; while John Turturro, returning as former FBI agent Simmons, brings the only laughs in this otherwise grim film that’s missing that sense of daft fun that made the first Transformers movie so enjoyable. Of the robots, Bumblebee is back, as is Optimus Prime trusted friend of the humans who welcomes the return of his mentor Sentinel Prime.

Although an improvement on the last film Revenge of the Fallen, this third installment in the series has barely any humor or emotion to speak of. Because these films are based on a line of children’s toys, presumably they’re meant to appeal to the 7-year-old in each of us. If you’re expecting more than just explosions and loud action scenes, prepare to be disappointed.

I’m going with two out of five for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. At a running time of roughly 2 hours and 35 minutes, you’re going to need a lot of patience to survive this one!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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