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

June 30, 2012

Andrew Garfield on ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:36 am

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico), 28-year-old Andrew Garfield who starred in such popular films as The Social Network and Never Let Me Go talks about being picked from among hundreds of hopefuls to play the web-slinging superhero inThe Amazing Spider-Man. The actor who has famously said he had a connection with the comic-book superhero since he was a young kid, reveals he was thrilled to slip into the red-and-blue spandex suit, but became nervous pretty early on.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Minimum returns

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:32 am

June 29, 2012

Cast: Sonu Sood, Naseeruddin Shah, Neha Dhupia, Vinay Pathak, Amit Sadh, Swanand Kirkire

Director: Kabeer Kaushik

A thriller about the power struggles within the Mumbai police force and the repercussions of such cops-versus-cops clashes,Maximum, directed by Kabeer Kaushik is an interesting idea that sadly doesn’t translate into a coherent film.

Opening in 2003 when the police had more or less weeded out underworld elements from the city, the film recounts the rivalry between two encounter cops, incited by the manipulations of corrupt politicians, greedy businessman, and dons forced to operate from overseas. Sonu Sood stars as Pratap Pandit, an expert sharpshooter and pride of the force, whose authority is challenged by disgruntled senior officer Inamdar, played by Naseeruddin Shah, who Pandit once reported to.

The film is a blur of plans being hatched, accomplices switching sides, and information being compromised. But it’s hard to stay awake when it’s all unfolding so slowly… Many bullets are showered in the film’s climatic confrontation at a railway bridge, but by then you’re counting down to the end credits.

Kabeer Kaushik, whose taut debut Sehar remains one of the most memorable cop films in recent years, appears caught up trying to make everyone and everything look very ‘serious’ in this film. As a result, it’s all too grim and dull, and we don’t even get characters worth caring for.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Kabeer Kaushik’s Maximum. Only Sonu Sood performs earnestly, but he’s let down by a humorless script. He deserved better. So did we.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Men of steel

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:26 am

June 29, 2012

Cast: Sheikh Nasir, Farokh Jafri, Shafique Shaikh, Shakeel Bharati, Akram Khan

Director: Faiza Ahmed Khan

Armed only with a handicam and an unputdownable spirit, Sheikh Nasir, an amateur filmmaker in Malegaon, a small industrial town about 270 kms outside Mumbai, struggles to make his version of the Superman story, titled Malegaon Ka Superman. But there are many hurdles to overcome…like raising the Rs 50,000 or so it will cost to make this film; finding a girl willing to play the damsel-in-distress in this conservative, mostly Muslim-populated town; and then there is that delicate business of figuring out how to make his superhero fly. In her charming documentary Supermen of Malegaon, Faiza Ahmed Khan casts a warm, affectionate eye on Nasir’s bumpy journey to realize his dream.

Early on in the documentary, Nasir bemusedly wonders why so many people are credited for doing different jobs on a Bollywood film set. After all, he shoots, directs, produces and edits his own material, scours markets for his props, and sketches a design for the local tailor to stitch the superhero suit. He does have a handful of accomplices – a soulful writer who arrives on the set to recite the dialogues as the actors speak, and a sound technician-cum-dubbing artiste-cum-special effects whiz all rolled into one, who even shaves his head to play the Lex Luthor-like villain in Nasir’s film. His lead actor is a spindly powerloom worker, Shafique, who comically channels Charlie Chaplin and Mr Bean when he plays Superman who must fight the evil of tobacco in Malegaon.

Expectedly, it’s a far-from-smooth production. At one point the camera falls into a lake, another time the shoot must halt four days to accommodate Shafique’s wedding, and on one occasion Superman slips into a ditch while performing a stunt. But these turn out to be small hiccups in the way of Nasir’s sheer inventiveness and passion. It’s hard not to gape in amazement as he mounts himself and his camera on a bullock-cart to take an up-down crane shot, or when he rides a cycle with assistants hurling him ahead when he desires a zoom.

Supermen of Malegaon cheerfully celebrates the enthusiasm and the commitment of this motley group to make the best possible superhero film they can. At roughly 65 minutes it’s brisk, enjoyable, and will have you smiling from ear to ear.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Supermen of Malegaon. If you love the movies, make time for this one.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Along came a spider

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 12:20 am

June 29, 2012

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Dennis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan

Director: Marc Webb

If Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man is still fresh in your memory, there’s a good chance the new reboot might feel boringly familiar. This is after all the origin story all over again – Peter Parker gets bitten, he discovers his ‘spider powers’, he uses them first on the school bully, then goes out in the street to fight crime, finally clashing with a fearsome villain while cops and New Yorkers look on in amazement.

To be fair, despite covering pretty much the same ground as that earlier film, The Amazing Spider-Man still works. You could put it down to the emotional depth that (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb brings to key scenes, or simply to leading man Andrew Garfield’s refreshingly original approach to the part.

A solid actor, blessed with oodles of charisma and unmistakable presence, Garfield pitches Peter Parker as a brooding introvert who prefers the company of his skateboard to actual friends. Playing him less nerdish than Tobey Maguire did in Raimi’s film, Garfield’s Parker is a smart, often wisecracking hero, and a pleasing comic presence in the early parts of the film, as he learns to cope with his new powers. Take that terrific scene in the New York subway where Parker surprises himself and fellow commuters with his sudden strength!

Webb, meanwhile, helming his first big-budget studio film, delivers a surprisingly moving blockbuster that works best when it’s focusing on characters over set pieces. Nowhere are his skills more evident than in the scenes between Garfield and Emma Stone, who stars as Parker’s classmate and subsequent girlfriend Gwen Stacy.

Easily a more likeable presence than Kirsten Dunst’s vanilla Mary Jane, Stone plays Gwen funny and smart and sexy, and invests in her real courage and emotional strength so she emerges a worthy ally and confidante to Parker. The couple has crackling chemistry, and it’s hard not to root for them when they’re mooning over each other, like in a delicious rooftop scene where Parker finally shares his secret with her.

Grounded firmly in a real, believable universe of Webb’s making, despite its fantastical premise, The Amazing Spider-Man feels more like a coming-of-age tale than anything else. After an opening prologue of Parker as a young boy being passed off to his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) by his parents, we jump forward to see him as a teenager who’s begun to ask questions about his parents’ mysterious disappearance. This leads him to his father’s former colleague, Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), a scientist involved in some groundbreaking genetic research, who transforms into a giant reptilian monster when he tests his latest formula on himself. Even as Parker grows to embrace his own superpowers, he must stop The Lizard from wreaking havoc in the city.

That brings us naturally to the film’s action scenes that appear less elaborate than we’re used to seeing in modern superhero films like The Avengers. There’s a nice bit in which Spider-Man rescues a young boy from a burning car dangling off the side of a bridge, and then there is his final battle with The Lizard at the top of a skyscraper. Both are considerably less thrilling than the sheer swinging sequences, and those portions in which Spidey leaps off tall buildings. You’ll find yourself at the edge of your seat, your nails digging into your armrest, as you watch him dive into the open sky… It’s a testament to the fact that Webb’s given us a superhero we genuinely care for.

Despite its faults – the standard-issue storyline, the 138-minute running time, a thankless role for Irrfan Khan, and the gratuitous 3D – this reboot of the Spider-Man saga rests almost entirely on the romance between its leads. Indeed, Garfield and Stone alone make this movie worth your time.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for The Amazing Spider-Man. You’ll be surprised by how warm and funny it is. Definitely deserves a watch!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 27, 2012

Marc Webb on directing ‘The Amazing Spider-man’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 5:55 pm

When 500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb was hired to direct The Amazing Spider-man, many in Hollywood joked he got the job thanks to his name! In this interview, recorded in Cancun (Mexico), the filmmaker reveals exactly why his film will be nothing like Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, and also explains why he cast Andrew Garfield as the web-slinging superhero.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 22, 2012

Emma Stone on playing Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-man

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

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico), Emma Stone, the star of such hits as Crazy Stupid Love and The Help, talks about her biggest role yet – playing Gwen Stacy, the romantic interest to the web-slinging superhero in the comic-book reboot, The Amazing Spider-man. Stone, who’s currently rumored to be in a romantic relationship with her co-star Andrew Garfield, says she enjoyed her friend Bryce Dallas Howard’s portrayal of the same character in Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 3 in 2007, but insists hers is a whole different approach.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)


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

June 22, 2012

Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathi, Richa Chaddha, Reema Sen, Huma Qureshi, Jaideep Ahlawat, Piyush Mishra

Director: Anurag Kashyap

On the surface, Gangs of Wasseypur is a revenge saga, a tableau of vengeance between generations of gangsters. Scratch that surface and you’ll discover more than just a grim portrait. Director Anurag Kashyap decides to tell this story his way, infusing it with moments of sly wit that give the blood-soaked drama irresistible color.

I’m reminded of a scene mid-way into the movie where Manoj Bajpayee’s character Sardar publicly embarrasses his archenemy Ramadhir Singh, played superbly by Tigmanshu Dhulia. Sitting atop a megaphone van, blasting that 80s disco hit Kasam paida karne wale ki as a dancer leads the way with trademark Mithun pelvic thrusts, Sardar pauses the song to issue a calm threat to the mine owner-turned-local politico. There is palpable dread coming off Ramadhir Singh as he watches Sardar from his balcony.

This is gang warfare set in the badlands of Dhanbad’s Wasseypur district, but tinged with humor and heightened by music. It makes for a heady movie cocktail, and since Kashyap has divided his saga into two parts, you’ll leave the cinema thirsting to know how it all ends in Part 2.

What hurts the film however is its arduous length. At roughly 2 hours and 40 minutes, Gangs bears down on you, especially the opening half-hour or so, with its countless characters and complicated family tree…portions that might have benefitted from tighter scripting and judicious editing.

The involved back-story of how Sardar’s father Shahid Khan (played by a magnetic Jaideep Ahlawat) kicks off a rivalry with the Qureshis is mixed in with Wasseypur’s socio-political history. When Shahid Khan is murdered by Ramadheer Singh, it sets off the revenge trail that lasts between the Khans and the Qureshis over generations.

The movie’s central character is Sardar, who vows to avenge his father’s death, not by killing Ramadhir, but making him endure many silent deaths through humiliation and the fear of being stalked. The best way to describe Manoj Bajpayee’s crackling performance would be to say that you can’t separate the character from the actor. Sardar is brutal when he kills, he cowers when he’s caught cheating by his wife Nagma, and is in a trance of lust when he first sets eyes on ‘womaniya’ Durga, who becomes his second wife.

Gangs has a cast that delivers in spades – be it Tigmanshu Dhulia as Ramadhir Singh, or the excellent Pankaj Tripathi as butcher Sultan Qureshi, who takes on Sardar. This film is a male bastion, but the women are unforgettable. Richa Chaddha sparkles as Sardar’s steely wife Nagma, while Reema Sen as the sensuous Durga says more through her eyes than her sparse lines. If there’s a character that holds up to Sardar, it’s his pot-smoking son Faisal, played by the terrific Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He’s the closest thing to Michael Corleone in this Godfather-styled, Tarantinoesque film, and a scene by the lake when he tentatively courts a film-crazy Mohsina (played by Huma Qureshi) is just deliciously funny.

Filmed crisply, without any gimmicks by Rajeev Ravi, Gangs is both steeped in cinematic tradition, yet modern in its treatment. You’re especially seduced by the way Kashyap blends the songs into his narrative, often using them against the film’s most visceral, violent scenes. A big thumbs-up for composer Sneha Khanwalkar who goes all guns blazing to deliver a marvelous mixed-bag of a soundtrack that contains such irresistible gems as I am a hunter and Keh ke loonga.

Bolstered by its riveting performances and its thrilling plot dynamics, this is a gripping film that seizes your full attention. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur. Despite its occasionally indulgent narrative, this bullet-ridden saga is worthy of a repeat viewing, if only to catch all its nuances. Don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Thrice too often

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:32 pm

June 22, 2012

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Prachi Desai, Vrajesh Hirjee, Neha Sharma

Director: Kunal Kohli

In Teri Meri Kahaani, Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra play a couple destined to fall in love across lifetimes. There’s just no getting away from each other for these two, who invariably connect in every birth, only for their romance to be repeatedly thwarted.

In 1960 Bombay, struggling musician Govind (Shahid) and film-star Rukhsar (Priyanka) begin a tentative courtship over train journeys and in film studios, unmindful of the fact that there are three people in their relationship. In current-day England, while on a rebound from a fresh break-up, Krish (Shahid, again) meets Radha (Priyanka, again) at Statford-upon-Avon; they spend a fun evening together before heading off to their respective universities where they continue their romance over Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging, until a misunderstanding drives a wedge between the young couple.

Then, rewinding all the way back to a small town in pre-Partition Punjab, Javed (Shahid, yes still him!), a cocky Lothario spends his time bed-hopping between the local women, until he falls for Aradhana (Priyanka, yes she’s back too!), the daughter of a freedom-fighter who finds him too flighty for marriage.

Borrowing its structure – three separate love stories featuring the same actors – from the celebrated Taiwanese hit Three Times, this harmless but dull film from director Kunal Kohli feels longer than its two hour running time because of the predictable nature of its episodic narrative. Kohli relies on period sets and costumes to differentiate each story, but alas, a bouffant here, a pathani there can’t take away the sense of sameness that plagues each chapter because of its consistently flat writing.

To be fair the opening love story, or the sixties romance, has a nice charm to it, despite the tacky chroma backgrounds and CGI sets. The couple’s first meet-cute moment on a Bombay-bound train is particularly enjoyable, and there are other lovely moments too, including Ruksar’s impatience to see Govind, who she assumes has landed up at the studio to see her. Channeling Chaplin in his Tramp-like get-up, Shahid Kapoor offers a winning turn as the lovable guitarist.

You’re unlikely to enjoy the subsequent love stories as much, what with all the overacting from both leads – particularly Priyanka Chopra in the modern-day portion where her American twang suddenly makes an appearance, and Shahid Kapoor in the 1910 episode who puts you off with his smugness. This final chapter, in fact, makes a complete joke of the freedom struggle, weaving corny humor and elaborately choreographed dance numbers into scenes set against the nationalist movement.

Teri Meri Kahaani doesn’t work despite potential in the premise. It feels soulless and superficial, and is unlikely to find many fans.

I’m going with two out of five for director Kunal Kohli’s Teri Meri Kahaani. In one song, Shahid and Priyanka dance inside the Globe Theatre where Shakespeare staged all his plays. Let’s just say the Bard will not be pleased.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Dry spell

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

June 22, 2012

Cast: Voices of Kelly McDonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane

Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

The best Pixar films – Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E, Up, and the Toy Story trilogy – all have one thing in common: they appeal as much to adults as they do to kids. The studio’s latest film Brave, however, can be safely described as a children’s movie. After all, the animation is gorgeous but the humor is mostly slapstick, and the message is hammered into our heads repeatedly. Plus, the film’s premise – of a feisty princess who must undo a witch’s dastardly spell in the face of danger – feels old-fashioned and familiar.

What’s refreshing though, is that Brave features Pixar’s first female protagonist in 17 years. Set in 10th century Scotland, the film narrates the tale of Merida (voiced by Kelly McDonald), a free-spirited princess who’s more comfortable with a bow and arrow in her hand, than wearing tight corsets and learning how to curtsey. When her mother Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson) insists that Merida pick one of three knucklehead heirs to marry, the rebellious redhead obtains a spell from a witch to change her pushy mother’s mind. Unfortunately that spell creates a ‘bear’ of a problem, and now Merida must gather all her courage and race against time to save her mother’s life.

Exploring such themes as tradition v/s modernity, the need for healthy communication in parent-child relationships, and the pressure of expectations, Brave is likely to strike a chord with pre-teens and young adults. The film has some stunning visuals of the Scottish highlands; there’s humor to be found in the scenes between King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connelly) and the varied lords in his castle; and there are also a few teary-eyed moments between Merida and her ‘beastly’ mum after the spell takes its toll.

But don’t expect to lose your heart to these characters. They just don’t have the depth of Carl Fredrickson and Ellie in Up, or Woody and Buzz in Toy Story 3. Neither layered, nor blazingly original like many of Pixar’s previous films, Brave offers relentless action and silly laughs instead…which isn’t exactly a terrible recipe for a children’s film.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Brave. It’s got its moments, but you can’t help feeling let down.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 15, 2012

Rohit Shetty on switching loyalties from Ajay Devgan to SRK

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:44 pm

In this interview, Bollywood’s hit-machine, director Rohit Shetty says he’s committed to making entertaining films, and doesn’t care for awards or good reviews. After delivering five solid successes with Ajay Devgan, Shetty talks about working with Shah Rukh Khan next.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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