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

April 27, 2012

How to shoot a superb opening credits sequence

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 10:59 pm


Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar talks about how she conceived and filmed that incredible opening credits sequence of her debut film Luck By Chance, that’s been unanimously voted by movie-buffs as one of the finest and most memorable opening sequences in Hindi movies.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Mark Ruffalo on playing The Hulk in ‘The Avengers’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

In this interview recorded in Los Angeles, Mark Ruffalo talks about playing Dr Bruce Banner and his alter-ego The Hulk in director Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. The actor, who slips under the skin of the angry green fellow after two actors (Eric Bana and Edward Norton) have already played the part before in previous films, says he saw his interpretation of the character as an extension to how those actors played the part.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Death train

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:35 pm

April 27, 2012

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Anil Kapoor, Zayed Khan, Kangana Ranaut, Sameera Reddy, Boman Irani, Mohanlal

Director: Priyadarshan

Perhaps it’s appropriate that Priyadarshan no longer refers to himself as director of his films, choosing instead to go with the credit “Filmed by Priyadarshan”. The extent of his involvement on Tezz for one, hardly qualifies as anything more than mere ‘filming’, given that it’s an unapologetic rip-off of the popular Japanese film, The Bullet Train.

Ajay Devgan stars as an engineer in London who’s deported home to India when the authorities discover he’s been flouting immigration laws. He returns to England four years later, determined to seek revenge for being separated from his wife Kanagana Ranaut, who for reasons unknown stays back and pines for her husband instead of catching the next flight to India and joining him there.

Now in terrorist mode, Devgan plants a bomb on the London-Glasgow Express, threatening to blow up the passenger train if his demand for 10 million Euros isn’t met. He’s aided in this mission by Zayed Khan and Sameera Reddy, who owe him a favor from a few years ago.

Even as Boman Irani comes close to popping a vein as the distressed control-room head who must figure out ways to keep the train running, Anil Kapoor struts about coolly as a quick-thinking counter-terrorism officer who’s on the trail of these troublemakers. Aside from some tacky CGI shots of criss-crossing trains, much of the action in Tezz unfolds outside of the railways, as Devgan and his accomplices dodge the cops on everything from canoes and speedboats to motorbikes and fast cars. Occasionally the chase sequences work – particularly a thrilling foot chase between Zayed Khan and Anil Kapoor – but many of them are so lazily filmed and edited that they inspire no nail-biting tension whatsoever.

From leather jackets and trench coats to dark glasses and monkey caps…if only half the budget spent on the trendy wardrobe of the actors in this film had been utilized to hammer out a more sensible script, perhaps Tezz might have been a less stupid film. In one embarrassing scene, a British cop insinuates that Anil Kapoor might have intentionally botched up the case because he’s protecting the terrorist, who’s also Indian. More idiotic is the manner in which the terrorist’s nationality is discovered – while communicating with him on the phone, Boman Irani hears him mutter a Hindi swear word accidentally. But nothing is more preposterous than the film’s positioning of Devgan as a wronged man. Seriously…this guy is threatening to blow up a train for having been deported because he was an illegal immigrant! And we’re meant to root for him?

If that doesn’t make you laugh, Anil Kapoor’s accent most definitely will. Kapoor earnestly tackles his role, as does Devgan, but you can’t help feeling like you’ve seen all this before…in films like Speed and The Taking of Pelham 123 to name just a few. Boman Irani tries desperately to cling on to his dignity, but it’s only Mohanlal, as an anti-narcotics officer on board the doomed train, who scrapes by without completely embarrassing himself.

Tezz has many of the ingredients for an engaging, fast-paced thriller. What it needed was a director to assemble its parts and make them work. Alas, Priyadarshan is content with merely filming.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Tezz…awfully boring for a film that promises speed and thrills.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Saving the world in style

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:32 pm

April 27, 2012

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard

Director: Joss Whedon

Comic book fans who’ve kept their eyes peeled to the Internet for every scrap of news since the film was first announced, will be delighted to know that The Avengers more than lives up to their tall expectations. The truth, in fact, is that even if you’re unfamiliar with the Marvel universe and the back-story of these superheroes, you’re still likely to find yourself cheering for the sheer spectacle that’s up on screen.

After successfully introducing movie-goers to Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and Thor in previous films, the decision to get all these big guns firing as one was brave to say the least…given that each of them inhabits a different space, and comes with his own set of quirks and characteristics. But writer-director Joss Whedon, a lifelong Marvel fan, recognizes that challenge clearly, and uses exactly that to form the basis of his story – in order to come together to fight a common enemy, these superheroes must first sort out their own egos and differences.

That enemy, by the way, is Loki, the Asgardian demi-god who you might remember, was banished from the heavens at the end of Thor for his propensity to create inter-galactic mischief. The Avengers opens with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) stealing the Tesseract, a powerful energy source, with which he intends to open a portal to space to summon an alien army to help him enslave all mankind.

In response, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), director of international peacekeeping agency SHIELD, gathers his best men: billionaire industrialist Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), supersoldier Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), god of thunder and Loki’s brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth), ace scientist and Hulk alter-ego Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), along with slinky Russian spy Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and expert marksman Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Together they must work as a team to thwart Loki’s world-ending scheme…but there’s that small matter of fighting amongst each other to resolve first.

Director Joss Whedon maintains a cracking pace, switching deftly between spectacular action sequences, and witty interaction scenes between the characters. Expectedly, Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man gets the best lines here, especially his clever putdowns to the others – to the red-caped Thor he asks, “Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?”, while to Banner he says: “I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”

It’s particularly remarkable how Whedon ensures that the story remains rooted in the characters, without ever compromising on the punch-ups and the adrenaline-pumping set-pieces. The film’s third act for one, a thrilling alien-bashing finale on the streets of Manhattan, is pure fanboy wet-dream.

The performances are top-notch across the board, particularly from Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk far more sympathetically than in the two previous films that starred Eric Bana and Edward Norton as the angry green fellow. Ruffalo nails the almost precarious relationship between Dr Banner and his alter ego, and delivers plenty spontaneous laughs.

In the end, The Avengers isn’t just the ultimate spectacle, but also incredibly smart and surprisingly humorous. I’m going with four out of five for The Avengers. It raises the stakes for comic-book movies hereon… Batman and Spider-man, are you listening?

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 21, 2012

Fashion fairytale

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 9:49 pm

April 20, 2012

Cast: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane

Director: Tarsem Singh

If there’s one thing to be said about Mirror Mirror, Tarsem Singh’s campy retelling of the Grimm Brothers fairytale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, it’s that everyone in it seems to be having so much fun! Particularly Julia Roberts, who stars as the Evil Queen, from whose perspective the story is told. Embracing the part with relish, Roberts delivers a delicious performance as the vain, insecure despot who loathes her beautiful stepdaughter, and taxes the local peasants into starvation to fund her extravagant lifestyle.

Lily Collins plays Snow White, but she’s no tragic princess pining in a tower; she escapes from the Evil Queen’s watch, meets seven thieving dwarves, wins their affection, and is trained by them in martial arts. Meanwhile, Armie Hammer (of The Social Network) strikes all the right notes as the handsome and somewhat goofy prince, who is repeatedly captured and stripped down to his long-johns by the cunning dwarves.

A sumptuous visual affair, not unlike Singh’s earlier films, Mirror Mirror has gorgeous set design and some of the craziest costumes you’ll see on screen. There are some nice twists too – like the Evil Queen’s cougar-like flirtation with the Prince, and the kiss that Snow White lands on the Prince to pull him out of a slumber and not the other way around…but it all just seems different for the sake of being different, clever for the sake of being clever, never in service to the story.

Occasionally the dialogue works, but for the most part it’s flat. Where the film spectacularly fails is in creating enough fireworks between Snow White and the Evil Queen, and in fully realizing the relationship between Snow White and the dwarves…which, if you think of it, was really the whole point of the fairytale.

I’m going with two out of five for Mirror Mirror. The film serves up some striking visuals that’ll be hard to get out of your head. If only there was more to it…

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

No cop out, this!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:05 am

April 20, 2012

Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Brie Larson

Directors: Phil Lord & Chris Miller

If movies were people, 21 Jump Street would be the younger brother of The Hangover, both belonging to the same family of potty-mouthed comedies that are undeniably hilarious. But where The Hangover was blazingly original and thrived on its outrageousness, this one takes a familiar set-up and turns it on its head with perceptive writing.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are well cast as a pair of incompetent, baby-faced cops in their mid-twenties, who’re sent undercover as high school students in order to crack a teenage drug ring. The joke here is the culture shock faced by our two heroes as they discover that high school has changed considerably since the ten-odd years they were last here…so much so, in fact, that the once-nerdish Schmidt (Hill) now fits in comfortably with the cool kids, while dumb-jock and prom king-prototype Jenko (Tatum) finds favor with the geeks he once tormented.

Inspired from an Amercian TV series in the late 80s that launched the career of a certain Johnny Depp, the film borrows only the premise of undercover cops infiltrating a high school, but ditches the dramatic tone of the show for its own brand of raunchy, smutty humor complete with penis jokes, gay-bashing references, and recreational drug use among teens.

The real pleasure lies is in watching the film’s leads sportingly play off their own images. A slimmed-down Jonah Hill (who co-wrote the film) is terrific as the nerdish Schmidt, who’s always had trouble talking to girls, and Tatum – who is the big surprise here – displays a flair for playing a bone-head. Together they strike up a winning chemistry and make for an endearingly likeable pair despite all their dirty banter. In one particularly hilarious scene, the two partners must shove their hands into each other’s throats so they can puke up a drug they reluctantly consumed.

21 Jump Street loses some of its steam in those tired car-chases and action scenes, although it does contain a clever running gag about explosions. Another gag in the film’s climax, about a criminal who’s shot in a delicate spot, turns a little too crude even for non-prudes. Nevertheless, for the most part it’s a consistently filthy and funny film that benefits enormously from its first-rate cast, including Ice Cube as the profanity-spouting boss of our heroes, and an A-lister in a hilarious cameo.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for 21 Jump Street. It’s that rare adult comedy that’s smart and stinky at the same time. Don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Scarlett Johansson & Jeremy Renner on ‘The Avengers’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 4:29 am

In this interview recorded in Los Angeles, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner — who play Black Widow and Hawkeye in the big superhero ensemble The Avengers — talk about filming the movie’s intensive action sequences, and about getting into their roles.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum on ’21 Jump Street’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 3:30 am

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico), Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, the stars of 21 Jump Street talk about their hilarious new film, and about striking the balance between funny and potty-mouthed.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 13, 2012

Camera shy

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

April 13, 2012

Cast: Pulkit Samrat, Amita Pathak, Ashok Pathak, Mohan Kapoor

Director: Supavitra Babul

It’s hard to say for sure if it’s his rakish charm or the lure of that video camera he wields that has the townsfolk seduced in Bittoo Boss. A mini hero of sorts in his native Anandpur, no wedding is complete without his presence. Each time he swaggers into a shaadi, often hours late, he raises the spirits of tired relatives and spreads cheer when he points his camera in their direction, promising to take a “sesky shot”. Bittoo (played by Pulkit Samrat) is no ordinary wedding videographer. As the film’s nicely done opening sequences establish, he doesn’t just shoot weddings…he creates memories.

It’s unfortunate that the same surefootedness that debutant director Supavitra Babul shows in setting up the narrative, disintegrates into a trite, preachy affair in the second half. The tone shifts when the plot twist is introduced – humiliated by the girl he likes (Amita Pathak) for his simple ambitions and modest means, Bittoo takes the drastic decision to shoot pornographic videos to earn big bucks; he arrives in Shimla to secretly film honeymooning couples in hotel rooms.

I’d be giving away too much if I went into how this film ditches the quirky potential of its premise, and instead goes down a silly, sanctimonious path. It all comes undone when Bittoo, messiah-like, “rescues” the very couples whose privacy he’s meant to invade: first, an under-age pair of students, then an awkward simpleton and his bindaas wife.

There’s even a speech in the end where he knocks porn, and points out how sex is actually the most “natural act of love”. Yet his words have such a self-righteous ring to it that you’re turned off by the halo around his head. You see, it’s not what this film is saying that’s the problem here; it’s how it’s saying it.

Bittoo Boss is an enjoyable enough ride until it goes off-track. Of the cast, it’s Ashok Pathak in the role of scrawny Shimla cab-driver Bikki who steals the film with his manic energy. Pulkit Samrat gives a confident turn as Bittoo, despite the Ranvir Singh-Band Baaja Baarat hangover that you can’t shake off. Samrat balances the character’s vulnerability and cockiness competently.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Bittoo Boss. The film tosses around some interesting ideas, but can’t seem to make them work as a perfect whole.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Rihanna on making her acting debut in ‘Battleship’

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

In this interview recorded in Tokyo, international pop sensation Rihanna talks about making her movie debut in the big action blockbuster Battleship, and explains why acting is an altogether different beast from making music.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress