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

February 17, 2012

Boring sex

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

February 17, 2012

Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Bibb, Lake Bell, Nick Kroll, Michelle Broth, Martin Starr

Directors: Alex Gregory & Peter Huyck

Despite that titillating title, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy is neither funny, nor particularly sexy. Jason Sudeikis stars as a 30-something New Yorker who, along with his close group of friends, spends every weekend throwing elaborate theme parties and getting horribly drunk at his summer home in the Hamptons. When his father decides to sell off the place, the group decides to have one daring, final celebration…yes, you guessed right…a good, old fashioned orgy.

Unlike No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits which at least attempted to answer that important question – Can friends have sex and still be friends? – this film doesn’t deal with any of the real questions that might emerge in this kind of situation. A Good Old Fashioned Orgy seems content with making lame jokes about sex toys and masturbation. Each of the eight core characters come off as such lightweights, it’s hard to believe they’re actually real people in their 30s.

None of this might have been a problem if the film was funny. Or sexy. But it’s not. The orgy does take place in the film’s final act. But it’s surprisingly dull.

I’m going with one out of five for A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. Who’d have thought a comedy about group sex could be so boring? Go back and watch The Hangover again. It’s smarter, braver and so much funnier.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

February 10, 2012

Friends and lovers

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

February 10, 2012

Cast: Imran Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak-Shah, Ram Kapoor, Sonia Mehra

Director: Shakun Batra

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, starring Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor, is a competently made romantic-comedy with a predictable story at its core. A straight-laced architect meets a free-spirited hairdresser in Vegas; they get drunk one night, and wake up the next morning to find out they’re married. Even as they decide to annul the marriage, the couple realizes they have a connection.

It’s fairly typical stuff, and first-timer Shakun Batra adds all the usual ingredients. If you’ve seen even three decent rom-coms, you know where this is headed. Yet these characters feel real, and they grow on you gradually despite their standard-issue problems – he has controlling parents, she only lives for the moment. But it’s the curveball that the writers throw at you in the end that displays a rare maturity about relationships that films in this genre seldom possess.

It’s hard to believe, I know, given that the film opens with a stereotypical and slapstick introduction to Imran’s character, Rahul The first 20-odd minutes or so are a bumpy affair, but the film picks up steam once the leads are thrown together and left to work through their differences.

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu is a narrative that unfolds mainly through dialogue, and the lighter moments come at you as the odd couple gets to know each other. The humor hits the mark many times and falls flat occasionally, but the movie doesn’t grate because the characters aren’t trying too hard to be cute. A scene in which Rahul’s ex-girlfriend decides to get frisky with him in a restaurant toilet stall, much to his horror, is amongst the high points in the film’s first half.

There are touches of Jab We Met to be found here as Kareena’s character, Riana, encourages Rahul to let go of his inhibitions and live a little. In fact, like that runaway hit, Kareena ends up being the soul of this film too, although Riana is more urban and polished than Geet. And like that distinctive Punjabi set in Jab We Met, we meet Riana’s jolly Goan-Catholic bunch when the couple lands in Mumbai. Even Rahul’s parents, played by Boman Irani and Ratna Pathak-Shah, are total stereotypes. She’s a fashion-obsessed socialite, and he a humorless, success-driven businessman; yet these caricatures are salvaged by convincing performances.

Despite his wide-eyed, one-note approach in the early scenes, Imran Khan slips comfortably into his role as the story moves along – he’s fantastic when he has meltdowns; like that emotional one with Kareena in a school, or seething with anger against his parents at a dinner table. It’s refreshing also to see him let go in the foot-tapping Auntyji song, and he shares a surprisingly warm chemistry with Kareena. Meanwhile, it’s heartening to see the actress sink her teeth into a role she deserves, and has fun with. She may not be treading new ground here, but Kareena infuses energy into even ordinary talkie scenes, and strikes you with how fresh-faced she can look after all these years.

At 1 hour and 50 minutes, the film is light and breezy, and mercifully never turns too syrupy for your taste. I’m going with three out of five for director Shakun Batra’s Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. I was particularly impressed by the unconventional but entirely appropriate ending. I think you will be too.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Animal instincts

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

February 10, 2012

Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Niels Arestrup

Director: Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg’s War Horse is a schmaltzy, sentimental saga of the love between a boy and his horse – boy meets horse, boy loses horse, boy is reunited with horse. It’s the classic romantic formula…although with an equestrian twist.

Based on a 1982 children’s novel that’s also been adapted into a successful stage play, the story opens shortly before World War I in the English county of Devon, where a young farm boy, Albert (Jeremy Irvine), becomes attached to the colt his drunken father buys to spite his vindictive landlord. The kid names the horse Joey, and trains him to plow their rocky land. When the threat of bankruptcy looms over the family’s head, Albert’s father sells the horse to an officer in the British army, who’s setting off to war. Albert, meanwhile, signs up for the army in the hope of somehow being reunited with his four-legged friend.

Joey passes from hand to hand amidst the carnage of war. At one point he’s captured by the German side and used in battle against the British. At another point in the story, he lands up at the farm of an old French jam-maker, whose spirited young granddaughter takes a shine to him. By the end of the war, he’s touched many lives, and a half dozen or so people believe they own the horse.

At nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes, War Horse practically drowns in sappiness. From Janusz Kaminiski’s overcooked cinematography to John Williams’ self-important score, everything about Spielberg’s film appears shrewdly calculated to push your buttons and to tug at your heartstrings. To be fair, it’s not hard to be moved by the film’s final moments, but that’s emotional manipulation for you.

A few war sequences are especially stirring, including one that involves dozens of soldiers hiding in a wheat field before staging an attack. But for the most part it’s a cloying film that doesn’t possess the same honest heart as Spielberg’s previous war films – Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. It’s an overlong, suffocating affair that looks all pretty and epic but feels rather hollow inside.

I’m going with two out of five for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. It’s so long and exhausting, I dub this film ‘Bore Horse’.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

February 3, 2012

Exhaust fan

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:33 pm

February 03, 2012

Cast: Akshaye Khanna, Shriya Saran, Mughda Godse, Satish Kaushik, Vijay Raaz, Annu Kapoor

Director: Rumi Jaffrey

Setting up the sort of premise that’s usually treated with a much lighter hand in the popular television sitcom Office Office, the makers of Gali Gali Chor Hai construct a well-intentioned but labored tale of the common man’s vulnerability against day-to-day corruption in society.

Akshaye Khanna stars as Bhaarat, a middle-class bank cashier in Bhopal who must pay the price for refusing to allow a local political candidate to set up his campaign office in a spare room in his home. When the cops come calling to inform him that he must reclaim a table fan that was allegedly stolen from his home, Bhaarat finds himself sucked into a whirlpool of bureaucracy and bribes.

There are some laughs to be had as Bhaarat navigates his way through the judicial system by greasing the palms of everyone involved…from the police and the lawyers, to witnesses, and the thief too. All this for a fan that didn’t belong to him in the first place. There are some light moments also in his repeated attempts to rid himself of the fan in the film’s second half.

A subplot in which Bhaarat plays Hanumaan in the local Ramleela, hoping to be promoted to the role of Lord Ram someday, has a few nice touches. But the same unfortunately can’t be said for another lazy subplot in which Bhaarat’s wife (Shriya Saran) feels threatened by a sexy paying guest (Mughda Godse) living under their roof.

Gali Gali Chor Hai doesn’t say much that hasn’t been said before, and it doesn’t say it interestingly either. Never smart enough to be described as a satire, it fails ultimately because it’s dreadfully dull.

I’m going with two out of five for director Rumi Jaffrey’s Gali Gali Chor Hai. Even a sleazy item song by Pakistani starlet Veena Malik is unlikely to shake you out of your slumber.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Adventure (b)land

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

February 03, 2012

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Luis Guzman, Vanessa Hudgens

Director: Brad Peyton

As kiddie-friendly family films go, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a harmless, breezy adventure that offers likeable characters and some exciting 3D set-pieces. Just don’t go in expecting more.

Sequel to the 2008 hit Journey To The Centre of The Earth, the new film opens with our hero, the same teenage science-nut Sean (Josh Hutcherson), teaming up with his step-dad Hank (Dwayne Johnson) to decipher a message sent by the kid’s missing grandfather. When the code hints at the existence of the unchartered island that inspired literary classics Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, and The Mysterious Island, Sean and Hank set off to the South Pacific, joined along the way by a zany helicopter pilot (Luiz Guzman) and his pretty daughter (Vanessa Hudgens).

The island itself is something out of a Universal Studios theme-park ride with exotic reptiles popping out of nowhere so the actors have a reason to run around the place pretending to look scared. A little more disturbing than the angry creatures in this film is the sight of Michael Caine turning up as Sean’s feisty grandpa – at one point, the celebrated British actor even takes a ride on a giant bumblebee!

If watching Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine spar it out verbally is your idea of fun, there’s plenty of that in this inoffensive but formulaic film that doesn’t even give our protagonists a worthy nemesis to defeat. All they need to do is get off the island in time before a flood threatens to submerge it completely. Ho hum!

I’m going with two out of five for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. It’s basic and predictable, but the CGI-enhanced chase sequences might appeal to the young boy in you!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Mind games

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

February 03, 2012

Cast: Dane Dehaan, Michael B Jordan, Michael Kelly, Casey Letter

Director: Josh Trank

What would you do if you discovered you’d suddenly acquired Magneto-like powers that allowed you to control things with your mind…to move objects around without lifting a finger, to crush a car by simply willing it, to fly in the air even? More than likely you’d have fun with it. It’s what three high-school students in Chronicle do, when they realize they’ve each gained superhuman telekinetic powers after touching a giant crystal in a mysterious underground hole.

Cleverly mashing up the superhero and found-footage genres, the makers of this engaging thriller tell us the story of three youngsters – one permanently armed with a video camera he uses to shoot just about everything – whose lives change when they come by these powers. It all starts off harmlessly with them performing childish pranks like scaring a little girl in the mall with a flying teddy bear, or blowing wind up cheerleaders’ skirts at school. But when one of the boys, a troubled teen with an ailing mom and a drunkard dad, starts to abuse his powers, you realize what Uncle Ben meant when he told his nephew, Peter Parker: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

As with most such films, the found-footage conceit becomes a little bit strained after a point, especially when you’re expected to believe that a character is continuing to record everything, even as he or she is on the run from life-threatening enemies. The makers of Chronicle try to think ahead of that complaint: one of the characters learns to control the camera telekinetically, which allows the camera to float around the characters recording everything that’s going on. It’s far-fetched, but to be honest it doesn’t really matter, because by then you’re too busy enjoying the action to care about the plausibility of what’s going on.

That’s true also of the film’s final 15 minutes or so, in which the angry kid practically tears apart the city of Seattle in an outrageous but very enjoyable finale, that’s achieved with some excellent special effects. And because they’ve cast all unknown actors in the film, you have no idea who’s going to make it and who won’t in the end.

Packed with several thrilling moments – like the time the boys first discover they can fly – Chronicle is an original and smart action movie that you will undoubtedly enjoy. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five; you won’t be bored for a minute.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Daniel Craig & Rooney Mara on ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:30 pm

In this interview recorded in Cancun,  Mexico, the stars of David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo — Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara — talk about preparing for their roles in the dark, disturbing thriller.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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