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

June 15, 2012

Pitch (im)perfect

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:33 pm

June 15, 2012

Cast: Sharman Joshi, Boman Irani, Ritvik Sahore, Seema Bhargava, Paresh Rawal

Director: Rajesh Mapuskar

Like the Munnabhai movies and 3 Idiots with which it shares its DNA, Ferrari Ki Sawaari is a well-intentioned film with its heart positioned firmly in the right place. And yet, this simple-minded tale about an ordinary family chasing an extraordinary dream never quite soars.

Sharman Joshi is Rusy Deboo, a government clerk who’s honest to a fault. When he accidentally jumps a traffic light, he searches for the nearest police post and insists on paying a fine. Rusy lives with his crabby father Behram (Boman Irani), a former cricketer who never made it to the big league, and his 12-year-old motherless son Kayo (Ritvik Sahore), a promising batsman who aspires to play like his idol Sachin Tendulkar.

When Kayo is selected for a prestigious training camp at Lords, Rusy must come up with the fee that’s way beyond his modest means. Unable to get a loan, the only option seems to involve stealing Tendulkar’s Ferrari for a wedding planner friend.

Starting off nicely as a portrait of a middle-class Parsi home, Ferrari Ki Sawaari coasts along comfortably, delivering clean laughs punctuated by occasional moist-eye moments. But from the moment Rusy makes off with the master blaster’s hot-wheels, the film seems to abandon all sense of logic, and subsequently sinks into a sludge of melodrama.

The business with a local corporator and his witless soon-to-be-married son goes on way too long, and a pre-climax scene in which Rusy appeals to citizens on live television when Kayo goes missing is so over-the-top it makes you cringe. More engaging is a comic track involving Tendulkar’s desperate housekeeper and his security guard who must trace the stolen Ferrari before their boss gets home.

Co-written and directed by Rajesh Mapuskar, formerly an assistant to Rajkumar Hirani, Ferrari Ki Sawaari is competently assembled, but never quite straddles the real and the exaggerated as effortlessly as Hirani’s films have. Still there’s much pleasure to be had in the performances here. Seema Bhargava is terrific as the feisty wedding planner who badly needs the Ferrari, and Paresh Rawal strikes the perfect note as an oily cricket administrator who the family approaches for a favor. Of the leads, Sharman Joshi makes Rusy wholly believable despite being written as a mild-mannered, too-good-to-be-true fellow. But it’s Ritvik Sahore as the confident but considerate Kayo, and particularly Boman Irani as the wronged, disillusioned grump who brings pathos to this film.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for director Rajesh Mapuskar’s Ferrari Ki Sawaari. A little shorter, a little more subtle, this one could’ve zoomed.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Thank you for the music!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:32 pm

June 15, 2012

Cast: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Mary J Blige, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Tom Cruise

Director: Adam Shankman

Soaked in kitschy 80s nostalgia, Rock of Ages is a goofy movie-musical that’s hard to resist. The film’s charm lies not in its familiar premise – of a small-town girl who arrives in the City of Dreams to become a star – but in its mix-tape soundtrack of rock-and-roll hits belted out by the film’s cast, and in the outrageous, incredible performance of Tom Cruise.

Adapted from a popular Broadway musical, the film, set in 1987, opens with Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a starry-eyed Oklahoma girl who, within moments of stepping off the bus in Los Angeles, is robbed of her belongings. She’s befriended by bartender-cum-aspiring-musician Drew (Diego Boneta), who gets her a job waiting tables at the Bourbon Room, once a rock music haven currently facing bankruptcy. Even as romance blossoms between the young hopefuls, Bourbon Room owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and his trusted aide Lonny (Russel Brand) struggle to save the place by hosting a mother-of-all gigs by debauched rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), despite much opposition from the mayor’s moralistic wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who’s determined to ‘clean up’ Sunset Strip.

Most likely to appeal to those who grew up on the head-banging tunes of Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Foreigner, Journey and more, Rock of Ages works as something of a guilty pleasure – an enjoyable trip down memory lane, despite its contrived, by-the-numbers plot that seems to exist only as an excuse to jam in all these songs. There are flashes of humor too, much of it provided by Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin whose romantic rendition of “Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” will have you chuckling in amusement.

But it’s Tom Cruise – long-haired, bare-chested, heavily tattooed, and sporting aviators and a fur jacket – who steals every scene he’s in, thanks both to his unmatched charisma and his surprisingly strong singing voice. You’ll find your pulse racing as he breaks into “I Wanna Know What Love Is”, during an unexpectedly steamy ‘interview’ with a Rolling Stone hack.

Too long by at least 20 minutes, and silly on more occasions than one, Rock of Ages is far from perfect. But the actors appear to be having a good time, and the enthusiasm is infectious. I’m going with three out of five for director Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages. For the music alone, this one’s worth a watch. Wanna bet you’ll come out humming the tunes?

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Dead fish

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:31 pm

June 15, 2012

Cast: Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, Katrina Bowden, David Koechner, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Lloyd

Director: John Gulager

From topless women splashing about in the water, to an unfortunate fellow who loses his penis to a stubborn fish, Piranha 3DD tries hard to recycle many of the same elements that made its 2010 predecessor, Piranha 3D, such trashy fun. But it’s precisely because it tries so hard that this film ultimately fails. For while the earlier film cheerily embraced its cheesiness and faux horror, Piranha 3DD comes off as calculated and desperate in its attempt to up the ante by packing the climax with relentless dismembering.

The plot, to be fair, is slimmer than a Pringles chip: A young girl returns home for summer break to discover that her creepy stepfather has given her late mother’s water-park business a sleazy makeover: he’s replaced the lifeguards with strippers, he’s introduced an adult pool, and he’s installed a camera inside to catch all the nudie action. What’s more, he’s been illegally pumping water from a nearby well that links to the ill-fated Lake Victoria of the previous film, where those pesky piranhas wreaked havoc. How long before those ravenous fish find their way into the water-park?

Living up to the double-D in its title, the film often feels like an endless montage of silicone bouncing and juggling in too-tight bikini-tops…that is until the little critters show up and start chewing off arms and legs and just about any body part they can get their teeth on. But while there is a lot of blood, expectedly there’s very little feeling.

Now it’s been 37 years since Jaws, but apparently teenagers still haven’t got it into their thick heads that going skinny-dipping in the night is not a good idea. To give credit where it’s due, the makers of Piranha 3DD offer a fresh spin on the swimming-in-the-moonlight cliche, with an entirely impossible but awkwardly comical scenario that involves a piranha finding its way into a girl’s most private area…a sequence that delivers its payoff in a later bedroom scene that is disgusting and amusing in equal measure.

The only other time you’re likely to laugh in this film is at the sight of has-been Baywatch star David Hasselhoff spoofing himself in a cameo as a celebrity guest at the water-park opening.

Alas, these are tiny pleasures in what is a dull, hopeless film. The 3D too is disappointing, employed strictly so the filmmakers can chuck an ugly CGI fish in your face every few minutes.

I’m going with one out of five for Piranha 3DD. Unlike the last film, it’s not even so bad that it’s good.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 9, 2012

Noomi Rapace & Michael Fassbender talk ‘Prometheus’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 2:14 am

In this interview recorded in London, Prometheus stars Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender talk about the link their film shares with Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic Alien, and about working with the legendary 74-year-old filmmaker.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Charlize Theron & Guy Pearce talk ‘Prometheus’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 2:13 am

In this interview recorded in London, Prometheus stars Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce talk about working with Ridley Scott on his prequel to 1979’s Alien.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Logan Marshall-Green talks about ‘Prometheus’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 2:06 am

In this interview recorded in London, Prometheus star Logan Marshall-Green talks about his role as committed archaeologist Charlie Holloway in Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 8, 2012

Sin city

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:53 pm

June 08, 2012

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin, Farooque Shaikh, Supriya Pathak, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Pitobash, Tilottama Shome

Director: Dibakar Banerjee

Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai is a crisp, take-no-prisoners drama about seeking justice in the complex landscape of the Indian democracy. The film benefits from the compelling performances of its cast and the director’s sharp eye for detail while narrating a simplistic, and at times predictable story that traces the inevitable nexus between Indian politics and crime.

In the fictional small town of Bharat Nagar that’s poised to become the next Shanghai, a respected left wing activist, Dr Ahmedi (Prosenjit Chatterjee), is mowed down by a pick-up truck after addressing a rally against a major redevelopment project that will render hundreds of poor families homeless.

When Ahmedi’s student Shalini (Kalki Koechlin) and his wife Aruna (Tilottama Shome) demand a probe into this hit-and-run that the police is quick to dismiss as a drunk-driving accident, the chief minister (Supriya Pathak) orders an enquiry commission to get to the bottom of the truth. Even as IAS officer Krishnan (Abhay Deol), who’s assigned to lead the enquiry, takes his job more seriously than his superiors had intended for him to, local videographer Jogi Parmar (Emraan Hashmi) stumbles onto some valuable evidence that could directly implicate the political bigwigs.

Based on the novel Z by Greek author Vassillis Vasilikov (its 1969 film adaptation by Costa-Gavras won two Academy Awards), Shanghai is rich in irony from the moment in, as it sets about exposing the reality behind the ‘India Shining’ dream. With nicely etched characters, a realistic shooting style, and a dollop of humor, Banerjee sucks you into his narrative, seldom letting the pace slip in the film’s less-than-two-hours running time.

As always, it’s the little moments that stand out in his films…a tense meeting of the enquiry commission is disturbed when a football, followed by a young child chasing after it, enters through the window. Moments later, following a heated exchange, the two principals slip on a wet-floor outside the meeting room. Earlier in the film, at the height of an uncomfortable confrontation in a hospital, a no-nonsense nurse casually strolls in, reprimands the offenders for hollering in the premises, then walks out just as unexpectedly as she entered. Even in the most intense situations, Banerjee gives us something to smile about.

There are disturbingly real moments too that feel uncomfortably familiar… a policeman’s apathy towards a wife confronting her husband’s corpse, or a criminal’s confidence at escaping the hand of the law because of his ‘connection’ with a powerful politico. If something’s missing in this film, it’s a sense of suspense, the pressure-cooker urgency that this kind of ‘thriller’ needed.

Good thing then that the actors hit all the right notes. In smaller parts, Supriya Pathak as the all-powerful madam-CM, and Farooque Shaikh as the seasoned, ever-practical bureaucrat are a joy to watch. Prosenjit Chatterjee as the uncompromising rabble-rouser is nicely cast, while Kalki Koechlin plays it grim from start to finish, teetering dangerously close to one-note.

But Shanghai belongs to its male leads: Abhay Deol, despite his wobbly Tamil accent, is terrific as a man temporarily conflicted between doing the right thing, and doing what’s right for him. His chameleon-like volte face from a polite, bullied man to a fellow fully composed and confident is one of the film’s best scenes. As for Emraan Hashmi, he steals the film as the gauche, stain-toothed pornographer with a selfless heart. It’s easily the film’s most winning performance, and Hashmi doesn’t once miss his mark.

The grand revelation in the end is a tad underwhelming, and the big evidence far too conveniently acquired. Yet, Shanghai is consistently watchable despite these lapses. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai. It’s a good film from one of Hindi cinema’s most exciting filmmakers…it’s just not great.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Space jam

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:59 pm

June 08, 2012

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba

Director: Ridley Scott

With Prometheus, director Ridley Scott returns to his sci-fi roots after 30 long years, delivering what is clearly an ambitious, epic-sized prequel to Alien, but one that’s sadly missing the very clarity and urgency of that film.

In 2093, after discovering an ancient cave painting that confirms the existence of an extra-terrestrial race, committed archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) set off on a voyage to the alien home planet on board the starship Prometheus. The ship’s crew includes icy corporate commander Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), amiable operations android David (Michael Fassbender), cigar-chomping Captain Janek (Idris Elba), and an assortment of medics, techies, and geologists. Their mission, funded by mysterious ageing billionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), involves nothing less than tracing the origins of mankind – who created us, and why?

Having landed on a distant moon, the ship’s crew begins exploring an enormous croissant-shaped hollow structure buried in the ground, and discovers pretty soon that they are woefully unprepared for what awaits them.

Prometheus is mounted on a much grander scale than its predecessor, and as it turns out the film’s clunky screenplay tries to pack in too many things at once, failing to do justice to both the Science v/s Faith debate, and the thriller aspect of the story. The film’s central act in particular feels bloated and confusing, and although Scott raises profound questions about creation and mortality, he leaves as many queries unanswered.

Yet, there’s much that works here, especially the film’s slick cinematography and gorgeous design; Scott gives us some striking imagery (in glorious, well-employed 3D) that is hard to get out of your head even hours after you’ve left the cinema. In the thrills department, Prometheus may not ooze the suspense that coursed through virtually every frame of Alien, but a spectacularly chilling sequence involving a self-supervised Caesarean is likely to have you digging your nails into your armrest. There are also some gruesome creature scenes evocative of the earlier film, but none that catches you quite by surprise in the way that chest-bursting scene in Alien did.

Look out also for Michael Fassbender’s deliciously creepy turn as the android butler who goes about the film with a suspicious agenda – it’s easily the best performance in Prometheus.

In the end, this prequel pales in comparison to Alien, but is eminently watchable despite its shortcomings. You’re unlikely to be bored during its roughly 2 hours 20 minutes running time, although you’ll wish the film was smarter.

I’m going with three out of five for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. It’s no classic, but it’s unquestionably entertaining, and gives you much to talk about. Worth a watch.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Animal crackers

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:39 pm

June 08, 2012

Cast: Voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cranston, Martin Short, Frances McDormand

Directors: Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon, Tom McGrath

After stopping off in Madagascar and Africa in the previous films, that gang of animal escapees from New York City zoo continues its globe-trotting tour with a shiny, bright and somewhat breathless adventure through scenic European cities in the aptly-titled Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.

The new film opens with Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith) stranded in Africa by their cunning penguin pals, who’ve taken off with their airplane for some high-stakes gambling in Monte Carlo. Missing their life in the Big Apple, the foursome literally swims their way to Europe to nab those naughty penguins and to fly back home. But things don’t quite go according to plan, and pretty soon the gang is on the run from a psychotic animal-control chief, Chantel DuBois (voiced with delicious smarminess by an excellent Frances McDormand), who seems determined on capturing her first lion. Madagascar 3 comes into its own when the desperate New Yorkers meet a circus heading to Rome, and offer to join the troupe with a bag of fresh tricks and ideas to liven up their act. ((pause)) The first film in the series to embrace 3D, this ‘threequel’ delivers many laughs and plenty color, but the action unfolds at such a frenetic pace, it’s as if the filmmakers want to cram in everything they can so the viewer doesn’t have a moment to stop and question the plot-holes.

There are, however, some lovely moments too…like nutty lemur king Julien’s (Sacha Baron Cohen) romance with a big she-bear on a bicycle, and the sheer camaraderie that develops between our four heroes and the new friends they make in the circus, particularly Vitaly the frustrated Siberian tiger (Byan Cranston), Stefano the goofy Italian sea-lion (Martin Short), and a beautiful Italian jaguar named Gia (Jessica Chastain).

The film’s third act is an orgy of neon and music with some amazing pyrotechnics, as the animals stage an eye-popping circus extravaganza that little ones in the audience are sure to be completely seduced by. The 3D serves well here as things come flying at you in glorious technicolor, even as the usual message of following your dream and valuing your freedom is drilled into your head all over again.

Madagascar 3 is light and breezy and enough fun, even if it is a little hollow and missing the crackling wit of the previous films. I’m going with three out of five. When the curtains come down on this adventure, you’ll leave the cinema smiling… It’s like that old friend you enjoyed hanging out with, but are in no hurry to meet anytime soon again.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 2, 2012

‘We make films about values we believe in,’ says team Ferrari Ki Sawaari

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 1:14 am

VIDEO!

In this interview, the team of Ferrari Ki Sawaari — producer and co-writer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, dialogue-writer Rajkumar Hirani, and actor Sharman Joshi — talk about their film, a light-hearted tale about family and passing on the right values.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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