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

April 12, 2013

Fathers and sons

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

April 12, 2013

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Dane Dehaan

Director: Derek Cianfrance

A searing honesty permeated every frame of director Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, about the decaying marriage of a young couple, played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. His latest film, The Place Beyond The Pines, is a more sprawling tale that follows two fathers and two sons over many years. Although it explores some ambitious themes, the film is way too long, a tad confused, and never as genuinely affecting as the earlier one.

Set in Schenectady, a small town in upstate New York, The Place Beyond The Pines stars a blond-haired Gosling as Luke, a motorcycle stunt rider in a traveling carnival. When he runs into an old flame (Eva Mendes), Luke is surprised to discover that she’s been raising his baby. In trying to provide for his son and win his girl back, Luke drops out of the carnival and sets off on a series of bank robberies. During one attempted getaway, Luke crosses paths with rookie cop Avery (Bradley Cooper), who has a wife and a baby boy of his own. Their fateful encounter alters the course of their lives and the destinies of their sons.

Despite their limited screen time together, Gosling and Cooper’s characters are a study in extremes. If Luke has a ticking time-bomb unpredictability to him, then Avery is cautious and guarded, as if his every word and action was carefully rehearsed and thought through. The film in fact is most engaging when it focuses on these two men (particularly Gosling’s tattooed, charismatic Luke), and before it slips into its third act that takes place 15 years after the story first opens. This last chapter, centered on the teenage sons of our protagonists, feels unnecessarily drawn out and largely contrived.

In Blue Valentine, Cianfrance made you care about his characters deeply without manipulating your emotions in an obvious way, or “spelling out” what you were expected to feel. A big part of the reason why Pines feels like a lesser film in comparison, is because the makers lay it on thick in so many places, particularly a scene in which a psychiatrist deconstructs Avery’s somberness after a supposedly heroic act. That scene has the subtlety of a trombone.

Through this interconnecting story of two families, Cianfrance addresses themes of fate, guilt, and the repercussions of the choices we make. Not all of it works, but you can’t accuse him of laziness. Skilfully shot, a lot of it hand-held, the film creates a recognizable sense of place, and gives us supporting characters that feel real. Chief among these is the seedy garage mechanic (Ben Mendelsohn) who introduces Luke to the idea of bank robbing.

Unfortunately the film relies too heavily on coincidence to drive its plot, and Luke and Avery’s grown-up sons simply aren’t compelling as them, rendering the finale a crushing disappointment. Still, I’m going with three out of five for The Place Beyond The Pines. Watch it for Gosling’s riveting performance, and for the ambition of its intentions.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 5, 2013

Konkona Sen Sharma & Vishal Bhardwaj on Ek Thi Daayan

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:39 pm

In this interview, Konkona Sen Sharma and her producer Vishal Bhardwaj talk about their new film, the supernatural drama Ek Thi Daayan. The actress joins an impressive ensemble cast comprising Kalki Koechlin, Huma Qureshi and Emraan Hashmi for this thriller.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

3 Idiots!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:51 pm

April 05, 2013

Cast: Ali Zafar, Devyendu Sharma, Siddharth, Tapsee Pannu, Rishi Kapoor, Lilette Dubey, Anupam Kher

Director: David Dhawan

Like a battering ram, David Dhawan’s puerile and frenzied remake, Chashme Baddoor, shatters and mauls your memories of Sai Paranjpye’s charming original. Light-hearted humor and innocent romance makes way for sexist jokes and cheesy puns…and the merits of keeping things simple are lost in the cacophony of screechy performances.

But I have a confession to make here – I didn’t hate the film. Dhawan is no Paranjpye, and his cinema is as subtle as a sledgehammer. The new Chashme Baddoor does no justice to the 1981 gem, but it’s not unwatchable either. What Dhawan’s shrewdly done – under the guise of remaking a much-loved classic – is repeated the template of many of his own previous films: Best friends fall for the same girl. When she’s leaning towards the other guy, what do you do? Sabotage their relationship, what else?

If the film doesn’t stink, it’s because Dhawan’s hired an enthusiastic trio of male leads who make the most of the wafer-thin material they’re provided. Sid (Ali Zafar), Jai (Siddharth), and Omi (Divyendu Sharma) are roommates sharing a rented home in Goa. Ever the slackers, Jai and Omi spend their days pawing girls and cracking lewd jokes. When their attempts to land the new girl in town (Tapsee Pannu) fall flat, they’re hell-bent on making sure Sid doesn’t succeed where they failed.

The dialogues are pedestrian but the actors – particularly Siddharth and Divyendu – often make them work because of their sharp timing. The entire film, in fact, hinges purely on the chemistry of the boys, who ride over many of the script contrivances. The same, unfortunately, can’t be said of the leading lady who exudes the charm of an ice cube.

In the Lallan Miyan role from Paranjpye’s film, Dhawan casts a heavily tatooeed, motorbike-riding Rishi Kapoor as the owner of a nearby restaurant whom our heroes permanently owe money to. He has a nice romantic track with Lilette Dubey who plays the boys’ landlady.

Still, the new Chashme Baddoor doesn’t entirely work because Dhawan appears conflicted between taking the characters on a journey of his making, and sticking to the blueprint of the original film. Much of the final act involving a fake kidnapping feels too naïve in a modern story, and Dhawan can’t seem to skillfully adapt the simple plot turns of the earlier film to his current day version.

If you’re willing to leave the memory of the earlier film at the door, there’s a chance you might enjoy the rat-a-tat sparring between the leads, and you might even find yourself chuckling at some of the crude humor.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for David Dhawan’s Chashme Baddoor. Like junk food, it has no nutritional value. But an occasional bite doesn’t hurt.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


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

April 05, 2013

Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund, Morris Chestnut

Director: Brad Anderson

The Call, starring Halle Berry, gets straight down to business. It’s a promising thriller that hits the ground running, never wasting any time setting up its intriguing premise. The film opens in the emergency call center of the Los Angeles Police Department, where dozens of operators manning the phone lines must calm down panicked callers while simultaneously assigning officers to their cases.

Berry stars as Jordan, an operator on the phone with a young girl reporting a break-in. When the call is disconnected, Jordan calls back, and the ringing phone leads to the girl’s kidnapping and murder. Blaming herself for the incident, a still-visibly-scarred Jordan retires from the call floor and instead becomes an instructor for the department, training new operators.

Six months after that incident, Jordan finds herself back on the line with Casey (Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin), a teenager who’s been abducted from a shopping mall and is calling from the boot of the car she’s been shoved into. Because she’s using a prepaid phone, her location is harder to trace, thereby drawing out the tension.

Keeping you on the edge for the most part, the film’s best bits are the ones in which Jordan guides Casey through possible escape plans. Director Brad Anderson’s action has a messy, urgent feel to it, and the pacing is just right. Despite the improbability of the situation, it’s hard not to find yourself hooked.

It’s a shame then that the film nosedives in the final act, when Jordan suddenly switches from a committed emergency operator to an action heroine. The clichés begin piling up once the action shifts from the Los Angeles freeways to an underground lair. What started off as a tense race against time quickly degenerates into a silly revenge story, and even fine actresses like Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin can’t save the film from its own contrived climax.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for The Call. It’s not entirely disappointing, but you can’t help thinking just how much better it could’ve been.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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