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

April 28, 2013

The Bombay Talkies Roundtable

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 5:10 am


In this interview with Rajeev Masand, four of Hindi cinema’s most relevant filmmakers – Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar, and Zoya Akhtar – talk about collaborating for the portmanteau feature Bombay Talkies that commemorates 100 years of Indian cinema. Each of the directors talk about the films that changed their lives, the filmmakers who influenced them the most, and the films they wish they’d have made.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 20, 2013

Nicolas Cage on his caveman instinct in ‘The Croods’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 2:00 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand recorded in New York, Hollywood star Nicolas Cage talks about playing overprotective caveman Grug in the animation film The Croods, and reveals that the character’s mantra is in fact totally far removed from his own approach to life.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

‘The Croods’ directors on comparisons with ‘Ice Age’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:59 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand recorded in New York, Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders – directors of the new animation film The Croods – discuss comparisons with that other prehistoric animation movie series, Ice Age, and also reveal how they keep the process of filmmaking spontaneous even though these films take years in production.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Emma Stone & Ryan Reynolds on wanting nice legs and washboard abs in ‘The Croods’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:44 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand recorded in New York, Hollywood heartthrobs Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds talk about their characters in the new animation film The Croods, how they prepared to play these cave-dwellers, and the input they were allowed to have in deciding how their characters would look on screen.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 19, 2013

Poor little witch girls

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:55 pm

April 19. 2013

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin, Huma Qureshi, Pavan Malhotra, Vishesh Tiwari

Director: Kannan Iyer

A very different beast from Makdee, his charming directorial debut from eleven years ago, Ek Thi Daayan, co-written and co-produced by Vishal Bhardwaj, sees the filmmaker revisit the mythology of witches once again. But where Makdee was an old-fashioned fable about a village witch who supposedly turned humans into animals, Daayan, set in the modern, urban world, is intended as an eerie supernatural thriller.

First-time director Kannan Iyer sets up the film nicely, introducing us to our protagonist Bobo (Emraan Hashmi), who appears to have everything…a successful career as a magician, a supportive fiancée, Tamra (Huma Qureshi), and even a young boy they have chosen to adopt. Yet, Bobo is haunted by hallucinations of his dead sister. When he delves into his past through hypnosis, he must confront his memories of the mysterious woman, Diana (Konkona Sen Sharma), who was hired to babysit his sister and him as kids.

Iyer does a good job of conveying the curious, suspicious nature of an eleven-year-old obsessed with the idea of the dark side. When Diana enters their lives, all young Bobo needs is a clue to confirm his theory, and Konkona plays up the intrigue deliciously.

Back in the present day, just when Bobo appears to have shut out the past, another mysterious woman, Lisa Dutt (Kalki Koechlin), enters his life. Bobo insists she’s a witch, but Tamra befriends Lisa and convinces him otherwise.

The film’s USP is co-writers Vishal Bhardwaj and Mukul Sharma’s decision to transport the folklore of witches to the heart of a modern-day story. Young Bobo believes that hell exists at the bottom of his building, and he’s constantly trying to program the lift into traveling all the way down below the ground floor where mean neighbors, evil stepmothers and khadoos watchmen have been banished. There’s potential in the premise that your nanny, or the woman buying your flat, could be hiding a sinister secret.

But alas, the film reveals its chinks in the final act when it arrives at an underwhelming climax involving such clichés as child sacrifice and particularly a human-versus-evil forces face-off that seems straight out of a bad Vikram Bhatt movie, complete with laughable special effects. The “big twist” is easy to predict, and the film’s message so pat, you can’t help rolling your eyes the moment it’s delivered.

In the thrills department, Daayan packs one or two effective jump-in-your seat moments, but for the most part it cruises along on the strength of its suspense alone. Emraan Hashmi gives a nicely contained performance, never going into ham-and-cheese mode as the paranoid protagonist. A word also for Vishesh Tiwari who leaves a lasting impression as young Bobo.

Yet, despite its solid pedigree, the film sadly is never greater than the sum of its parts. The makers exploit more than a few age-old superstitions associated with witches, but have nothing particularly new or important to say.

I’m going with two out of five for Ek Thi Daayan. It nicely builds up intrigue, but leaves you wanting more in the end.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Double trouble

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:52 pm

April 19, 2013

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, Max Irons, Jake Abel, William Hurt

Director: Andrew Niccol

When an alien enters the body of a nice teenage girl, her original spirit refuses to leave, her head now crowded with two voices that want different things…including two boys who aren’t particularly fond of each other.

Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight books, recycles the same love triangle formula, only replacing vampires and werewolves with a sci-fi spin. The Host, based on another bestseller by Meyer, is just as spectacularly silly as that heavy-breathing franchise, but with a leading lady far more charismatic than the grimacing heroine of those blockbusters.

Saoirse Ronan plays Melanie Stryder, one of the last surviving humans in a future where the earth has been conquered by aliens. When Melanie is captured, an alien “soul” known as Wanderer is placed inside her body. But problem is, Melanie refuses to go away.

So although what you see is one person, it’s actually two of them in there, bickering and disagreeing on virtually everything. Matters get particularly complicated after our protagonist flees the alien headquarters and joins a rebel group of human survivors in their mountain hideout. Here Melanie and her mental roommate wrestle with their respective feelings for Jared (Max Irons) and Ian (Jake Abel), thereby turning this whole thing into a creepy affair between three bodies and four identities.

To be fair, it isn’t just Meyer’s asinine story, but also director Andrew Niccol’s sterile execution of the plot that makes The Host such a challenge to sit through. Ronan is the saving grace of this solemn, humorless film; it’s an achievement that she manages to play both Melanie and Wanderer without bursting into laughs at the clunky dialogue or the idiotic romantic portions with the guys.

I’m going with one out of five for The Host. At best it’s unintentionally hilarious…how do you not crack up when two voices in one head argue with each other over kissing a boy?

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Cave people

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:50 pm

April 19, 2013

Cast: Voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke

Director: Kirk DeMicco & Chris Sanders

Set in prehistoric times, The Croods is what you might describe as “Ice Age with Humans”. The film’s message – that being adaptable is the key to one’s survival – is conveyed through the story of a close-knit family of cave dwellers.

Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) is the over-protective patriarch of a tiny Neanderthal clan who insists they stay huddled together in their cave, so they don’t risk being eaten alive by wild animals outside. His rebellious teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) is desperate to explore the world, and she finally gets her chance when the family is forced to abandon their home in the wake of a deadly earthquake. Their guide, as they set out on an adventure to find a new place to live, is a fearless young man named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) who has discovered this cool new thing called “fire”.

Working from a script that John Cleese originally contributed to, writer-director team Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders deliver a film that’s visually inventive, and occasionally brimming with originality. The Croods covers familiar themes like embracing the unknown, the generation gap, and parental sacrifice, and while it’s all done with a light hand and plenty of cheap laughs, it never soars with great ideas like so many Pixar films do.

Yet it helps that the film’s pacing is brisk, the candy-colored animation first-rate, and most set-pieces exhilarating…particularly a terrific early sequence in which the family makes a furious and coordinated chase for breakfast, dodging the predators that loom over their heads.

Expectedly Cage and Stone (who pull off the father-daughter number with such energy) do most of the heavy lifting here, but the makers also give us an ensemble of quirky characters including Grug’s long-suffering wife, his shrew-like mother-in-law, a lunkish son, and my favorite – their incoherent toddler, who is the family’s secret weapon. More imagination appears to have gone into creating the film’s Avatar-like critters that combine the features of different animals, and swoop around majestically, as if exploiting the 3D.

Simplistic, yet funny in generous doses and even occasionally moving, The Croods has enough to entertain young audiences. I’m going with three out of five and a recommendation to take the kids.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 12, 2013

Play acting

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:50 pm

April 12, 2013

Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Kunal Roy Kapur, Pooja Salvi, Gaelyn Mendonca, Sulbha Arya, Evelyn Sharma

Director: Rohan Sippy

Nautanki Saala, directed by Rohan Sippy, hinges on the wobbly notion that if you save someone’s life, he becomes your responsibility.

Ayushmann Khurrana plays Ram Parmar, or RP, a kind-natured theatre actor who, while rushing home after work one night, notices a random stranger trying to kill himself. RP stops the fellow – a homeless, heartbroken chap named Mandar Lele (Kunal Roy Kapur) – then proceeds to straighten out the poor sap’s life, first by allowing him to crash at the home RP shares with his girlfriend, then by reuniting him with his ex, ditzy florist Nandini (Pooja Salvi). But as often tends to happen in such films, RP ends up falling for Nandini too.

Based on the 2003 French film Apres Vous, set in a Parisian restaurant, Nautanki Saala stages its comedy against the backdrop of a long-running play. Although intended as a farce, the film is never as outrageous as it needs to be, settling instead for the kind of inoffensive silliness that’s often plain boring. RP’s attempts to break up Nandini and her new lover come off as infantile, and his unwavering commitment to help Mandar is puzzling after a point.

The film works best in its most zany moments, like the portion where RP mimes words and phrases discreetly to help Mandar get through an acting audition. Or an earlier scene where RP must read Mandar’s suicide note to his cataract-afflicted grandmother, changing the words as he goes to make it more upbeat. There are some nice supporting characters too, who pop up occasionally to deliver a few laughs. Like the effete producer of RP’s play, who is at his wit’s end with Mandar during his audition, yet agrees to cast him when RP offers a sweet trade-off. Even the Malayali hospital receptionist who needs an interpreter to unscramble her rushed instructions.

But alas such genuinely inventive bits are few and far between in this muddled film that becomes a sentimental love triangle midway. What sucks the soul out of Nautanki Saala is the unfathomable casting of the vapid female lead. Newcomer Pooja Salvi is about as expressive as a sack of grains. She contributes little here, beyond batting her eyelids while seesawing from one man to another.

Ayushmann Khurrana carries forward his confidence from Vicky Donor, yet he’s exasperatingly over-animated and too slick for a character that needed to ooze a naïve sincerity. It’s Kunal Roy Kapoor as the slobbering, sloppy man-child Mandar, who wins your heart with his nicely understated performance.

Like previous films directed by Sippy, Nautanki Saala has a winning soundtrack, and unfolds across real locations in South Mumbai, a part of the city rarely seen in our movies. Still, they contribute little to the film’s slight, over-stretched premise, and the portions at the theatre are needlessly long and not particularly funny.

I’m going with two out of five for Nautanki Saala. Sippy never brings the lightness of touch needed to pull off this kind of film. Like the title suggests, it’s all empty theatrics. And wait, the film also has the unique distinction of capturing one of the longest on-screen smooches in a long time…shot in such excruciating close-up that you might throw up your lunch.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

John Abraham on finding his groove

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:50 pm

Ten years in the business, and the focus has remained on his good looks and his strapping physique. But with Shootout At Wadala, his next release, and Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Café, John Abraham insists the audience will finally see him in a new light. In this interview with Rajeev Masand, John Abraham talks about making Rs 100-crore hits versus the movies that matter.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Eyes wide shut

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:45 pm

April 12, 2013

Cast: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo

Director: Joseph Kosinski

The new Tom Cruise starrer Oblivion borrows from so many films, you could start a game of “spot-the-reference” the moment you settle into your seat. There’s a little Total Recall, Minority Report, Moon and Wall-E in there, while the mid-air action scenes have a distinct Top Gun feel to them.

It’s a stylish-looking sci-fi set in a not-so-distant future where the Earth has been more or less destroyed after a war with an alien race. Much of the planet has been turned into a radioactive wasteland, and the surviving population has been transported to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, where they must start afresh. Cruise plays Jack Harper, a blue-collar repairman responsible for maintaining the fleet of drones that patrol the lifeless planet. Jack and his wife Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), who live in a space-ship like house that floats high above the clouds, are the Earth’s last remaining residents. Their mission – mining the planet for its remaining resources – will be completed in two weeks’ time, after which the couple will head to Titan to join other humans. But then Jack rescues a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko) from the remains of a shot-down spacecraft, and it leads him to a colony of supposedly alien ‘scavengers’ that reveal a disturbing truth.

The film’s visual palette is minimalist yet spectacular, particularly the open vistas of a nuclear-ravaged Earth, with the tops of famous landmarks poking out through the dust. Cruise jets around the place in a futuristic helicopter, being chased by drones, narrowly missing the sides of mountains…these bits are thrilling, and Cruise performs them with a nice balance of nervous energy and cool confidence. But much like his last film, Tron: Legacy, writer-director Joseph Kosinski has created an eye-popping but unengaging experience.

Over the longest two hours and five minutes of your life, Oblivion packs in a mawkish story about a brave human determined to control his own destiny. There are too many twists that add little value here, and the climax appears intentionally obtuse. Despite setting up its premise with genuine intrigue, the film quickly leaves you puzzled, then exhausted by its lethargic pace. Tom Cruise, oozing movie-star charisma, does his best to salvage this dreary enterprise, but is let down by the stilted script.

Jack’s inner journey, which should have been the film’s focal point, never feels even remotely authentic. And don’t even get me started on Morgan Freeman, who shows up in an all-black superhero-like rubber suit, complete with cape and dust-shielding glasses!

I’m going with two out of five for Oblivion. What stays with you in the end is the gorgeous imagery. My favorite visual was a far-off shot of Cruise and his wife swimming romantically in their pool, seen through the glass walls of their floating home.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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