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

November 9, 2012

Shallow waters

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:42 pm

November 09, 2012

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Elisabeth Shue

Directors: Curtis Hanson & Michael Apted

Chasing Mavericks may be the real-life story of a teenage surfing legend, but it’s those deadly waves that are more fascinating than any of the characters in this film or the actors who play them.

This Karate Kid-like tale sees Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), a 15-year-old kid from a seaside town in California, persuade grizzled surfer Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) to train him to surf one of the biggest and toughest breaks in the world. Frosty, taking a page out of Mr Miyagi’s book, almost never takes Jay surfing, and instead gets him to do everything else under the sun…like write deeply personal essays on fear! Wax-on/wax-off, anyone?

Predictably, the unconventional tutorial prepares this fatherless boy not only for his big day out in the water, but for life in general.

Bursting with clichés at every corner, this film contains some of the phoniest dialogue delivered by any cast, particularly Gerard Butler, whose character Frosty is required to solemnly dispense cheesy life-lessons, even as Jay tries to stay focused despite his alcoholic mother, his indecisive girlfriend, and the bullies at school. The story of the real Jay Moriarity, who died tragically in a diving accident at 22, is a moving one, but he deserved a better tribute than this shallow film that is riveting only in its final moments during which Jay finally faces those intimidating but breathtaking waves.

I’m going with two out of five for Chasing Mavericks. If you must, watch it for the stunning open-water photography.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Creative bankruptcy

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:41 pm

November 09, 2012

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Josh Lucas, Danny Huston, Malin Akerman, Sami Gayle

Director: Simon West

Adding another entry to his already long list of embarrassing movie choices, Nicolas Cage stars as a desperate man trying to track down his teenage daughter in Stolen. Sure that premise sounds suspiciously similar to Liam Neeson’s career reinventing hit Taken, but this film doesn’t deliver any of the guilty pleasure offered by that 2008 actioner.

Cage plays Will, a veteran thief who is released from prison eight years after he was arrested for his involvement in a heist that didn’t quite pan out. Will wants to reconnect with his estranged daughter, but as it turns out, she gets kidnapped and bunged into the boot of a taxi by his crazy former partner (Josh Lucas), who wants his share of that final robbery they undertook together, which he’s convinced Will has been hiding all along.

It’s a premise ripe for unintentional laughs, but Expendables 2 director Simon West and Cage himself seem to be taking the material too seriously to have much fun with it. Only Josh Lucas delivers a deliciously over-the-top performance as the manic one-legged villain with missing fingers. The action isn’t bad, but it all feels monotonous and one-note. Setting the story against Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans lends some color to this mostly flat thriller, but not enough to merit a watch.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Stolen. Cage himself looks like he couldn’t care less. Why should you?

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 3, 2012

Ang Lee and his actors on ‘Life of Pi’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:31 am

In this interview, Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee and his actors – Tabu, Irrfan Khan, and newcomer Suraj Sharma – talk about their new film, Life of Pi, based on the impossibly fascinating bestseller about a boy stuck on a lifeboat with a tiger.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 2, 2012

Javier Bardem on playing new Bond baddie Silva in ‘Skyfall’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:56 pm

In this interview recorded in London, Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem talks about slipping into the part of blond-haired bad guy Raoul Silva in Sam Mendes’ new Bond film, Skyfall.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bond girls Naomie Harris & Berenice Marlohe on ‘Skyfall’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:01 pm

In these interviews recorded in London, Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe talk about playing the new Bond girls in Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. The actresses insist there’s more to a Bond girl now than just physical beauty.

(These interviews first aired on CNN-IBN)

Daniel Craig on playing Bond again in ‘Skyfall’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:57 pm

In this interview recorded in London, Daniel Craig talks about reprising his role as James Bond in Sam Mendes’ Skyfall.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Soul food

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

November 02, 2012

Cast: Kunal Kapoor, Huma Qureshi, Vinod Nagpal, Rajesh Sharma, Dolly Ahluwalia, Rahul Bagga

Director: Sameer Sharma

Like some culinary concoctions that take forever to stew before they’re finally ready, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana is a satisfying and enjoyable film, even if it does take its own sweet time to come together.

Kunal Kapoor stars as Omi, a young man who has failed to do much with his life, despite having stolen from his home and moved to London in search of better opportunities. When a local goon he borrowed 50,000 pounds from demands his money back, Omi returns home to his village in Punjab, hoping to somehow procure the cash from his family.

An orphan since he was a little boy, Omi is welcomed back warmly by his doting aunt and the cousin he grew up with, even if his uncle remains stubbornly suspicious of him. His ageing grandfather, meanwhile, is losing his mind, and as a result, the thriving dhaaba he once ran has remained shut for months. Left with no other option, Omi realizes he must figure out the secret ingredient in his grandpa’s signature dish, Chicken Khurana, and sell it to a rival restaurateur in exchange for big bucks. There is also the question of his childhood sweetheart (Gangs of Wasseypur’s Huma Qureshi), now a local doctor, who is engaged to his cousin.

First-time director Sameer Sharma roots his story in a Punjab that feels real and recognizable, with all the dust and grime; a far cry from the glossed-up Punjab of big-banner Hindi films that only tend to focus on mustard fields and bhangra nights. He populates the landscape with quirky but delightful characters like the pot-smoking god-woman (a terrific Dolly Ahluwalia), the son of a local underwear-store owner who aspires to break out of the family business (Mukesh Chhabra), and my favorite – Titu mama, the loutish brother of Omi’s aunt (played by an excellent Rajesh Sharma), who has a knack of saying all the wrong things at the wrong time.

The film’s one key problem is its snail-paced screenplay that hobbles along lazily before coming to the point. Repeated flashbacks contribute little to the film’s central premise, and there are too many indulgent distractions, particularly in the first half, that challenge your patience.

If the film still works despite these hiccups, it’s because Sharma and his writer Sumit Batheja know the world they’ve set up and their characters intimately. They gives the film a nice, lived-in texture, and to their characters they give crackling dialogue, mining many laughs simply from their interactions. It helps that Sharma has a strong cast of actors who infuse real feeling into their parts, particularly Huma Qureshi who shines as the feisty doctor still hurting from betrayal.

In the end, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana is a warm and fuzzy comedy that benefits from the insider’s eye that the director casts on this garrulous community, and their love of food and family. At 2 hours and 15 minutes, the film feels bloated and over-long, but stay with it and you won’t regret it.

I’m going with three out of five for director Sameer Sharma’s Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. All that talk of food will make you very hungry when the lights come back on again.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Blond with the best!

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

November 02, 2012

Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney

Director: Sam Mendes

Given the promise of Casino Royale and the subsequent disappointment of Quantum of Solace, it was clear the James Bond franchise – currently in its 50th year – needed a shot in the arm, and a filmmaker who could put things back on track. In Skyfall, Sam Mendes, the Oscar-winning director of American Beauty, has delivered a thrilling addition to the 007 movie legacy, and a film that strikes just the right balance between familiarity and freshness.

So while Mendes doesn’t hold back on such Bond staples as exotic locales, long-winded chases and exhilarating stunts, even an appearance from that iconic silver Aston Martin, he also slyly adds poignant undertones and character depth to a brand of films that has seldom promised more than a series of smart thrills. Fortunately for us, this cocktail proves potent, and aside from the nauseatingly sentimental finale, Skyfall is a terrific ride.

The film opens with a killer pre-credits sequence in which Bond (Daniel Craig in his third outing as 007) and fellow MI6 operative Eve (Naomie Harris) are hot on the trail of a target in Istanbul who’s stolen a hard-drive that contains the identities of every Secret Service agent embedded in terrorist organizations across the world. Leaping off a jeep, Bond chases the target across rooftops on a motorcycle, before taking the fight to the top of a train…until a gunshot knocks 007 into a river.

With Bond presumed dead, M (Judi Dench) and MI6 suffer deadly attacks back home in London. When 007 resurfaces, he’s still rough around the edges from his wounds, but heads off to Shanghai and then to Macau, where the mysterious and sexy Severine (Berenice Marlohe) leads him to Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a campy, blond-haired bad guy who has an old axe to grind with M.

With a director bearing the credentials of Sam Mendes on board, Skyfall was always going to be more than just a mix of glamorous girls, gadgets, and spectacle. Although that’s not to say Mendes doesn’t deliver those pleasures. He does…just differently.

Bond still beds at least three women in this film, but reveals his strongest ties to M, a sort of surrogate mother in his orphaned life. As far as gizmos go, fans will be happy to notice the reappearance of Q (now played by Ben Whishaw), who makes a joke that exploding pens are a thing of the past. The modern gadgetry includes tracking radios and hacking softwares, which, although more realistic, aren’t nearly as much fun. (As if to please the fans though, Mendes does throw in one joke involving M and the ejector seat in Bond’s Aston Martin DB5.) Meanwhile, any doubts about Mendes’ capability to shoot big action set pieces are quickly dispelled following that spectacular opening sequence in Istanbul, and one particularly ballsy London underground bombing scene.

But perhaps Mendes’ biggest achievement here is in setting up a compelling human drama around this action. He raises an important question about the relevance of field agents in the modern technological world, and asks you to consider the possibility that Bond might be too old for this job now. Skyfall is also the first film to take us all the way back into Bond’s past and offer us an insight into why he may be the way he is.

But more than Bond even, it’s Javier Bardem’s Silva, who takes centrestage with a deliciously chilling performance as the unhinged villain, whose pathological need to get even with M places him right up there on the list of cinema’s most creepy psychopaths. Bardem is the film’s trump card, and Mendes uses him superbly.

The film isn’t without its problems though. Gaping plot holes, a weak Bond girl in Severine, an over-long climax in the Scottish countryside, and an uncharacteristically teary ending all go to prove that there’s nothing quite like the perfect Bond film. Still, Skyfall gets so much right.

Like Roger Deakins’ gorgeous cinematography for one – a fight in a darkened Shanghai office building, illuminated only from the neon signage outside is one of the film’s finest sequences. Adele’s full-throated belting of the theme song is a nice throwback to the Shirley Bassey years; and then there are all the clever one-liners that’ll leave you smiling. Bond himself is at his most human here, played solidly by Daniel Craig who balances the iciness of a super-spy and the vulnerability of a man unsure of his own future.

Hard-core franchise loyalists may argue this isn’t the Bond they grew up with. But it’s only fair that each new filmmaker who takes a stab at 007 be allowed to interpret it his own way. Mendes, for his part, does a bang-up job.

I’m going with four out of five for Skyfall. Don’t ask if you should watch this film, ask when you should watch it. The answer is right away!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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