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

August 15, 2014

Rani Mukerji: “I will continue to act. Adi doesn’t expect me to be in the kitchen”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:20 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Rani Mukerji talks about the relevance of her new film Mardaani in today’s times, and reveals where she found the strength to perform those intense action scenes. The actress, who married film producer Aditya Chopra in April, also talks about her fairytale wedding in Italy, and how life has changed for her since.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 13, 2014

Ajay Devgan on Kareena Kapoor: “She calls me a fossil. And she’s allowed to!”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:26 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Singham Returns stars Ajay Devgan and Kareena Kapoor talk about the pressure to deliver a bigger, better sequel, how their own relationship has evolved over the years, and the challenges of performing one’s own stunts.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 8, 2014

Pooch pooch hota hai!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:42 pm

August 08, 2014

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Tamannah Bhatia, Mithun Chakraborty, Krushna Abhishek, Johnny Lever, Prakash Raj, Sonu Sood

Directors: Sajid-Farhad

Anyone who’s ever got a bad review tends to believe that movie critics don’t want to enjoy a film. That they go into a movie thinking of new and different ways to shred it to bits. That’s not true I can assure you, and I’ve been doing this job for over 15 years. Watching bad films is exhausting, and writing about them even more so. Movie critics – just like everyone else – want to have a good time at the movies.

I for one, am tired of slagging off Akshay Kumar’s films. I genuinely want to be surprised by him. Special Chabbis was smart and well-acted and tightly directed, and it surprised me. But Akshay Kumar doesn’t make too many smart films. He makes movies like Khiladi 786, Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobaara and Boss. He makes it so easy to not like his films.

His latest comedy, the presumptuously titled Entertainment, belongs to the same family as Housefull, Housefull 2 and Rowdy Rathore. But on the dumbness scale of 1 to 10, this is Humshakals-level idiotic. Just consider the plot: Akshay Kumar is Akhil Lokhande, a down-on-his luck struggler who discovers he’s the illegitimate son of a recently deceased Bangkok billionaire. Good news, right? Not quite. The only thing that stands between him and his old man’s Rs 3,000 crore legacy is a pooch named Entertainment, who’s inherited that fortune. Encouraged by his friend Jugnu (Krushna Abhishek), he spends the first half of the film plotting to kill his daddy’s faithful four-legged friend, but finds himself repeatedly outwitted. When a pair of criminal uncles (Prakah Raj and Sonu Sood) show up with designs on the money, Akhil turns over a new leaf, and decides to protect the mutt instead.

It’s hard to imagine anyone over the age of six that would find this film funny. The humor isn’t just slapstick and cheerfully low-brow, it’s also repetitive and lazy in a way that Sajid Khan’s films come off intelligent in comparison. From the scarring sight of an overweight Akshay Kumar breastfeeding a baby in the first five minutes of the film, it’s downhill all the way. Mithun Chakraborty is the cash-obsessed father of Akshay’s girlfriend (Tamannah Bhatia), who, at one point advises his daughter to marry the dog because “all men turn into dogs after marriage anyway”.

Writer-duo Sajid-Farhad, who’ve collaborated on the scripts of Golmaal 3, Double Dhamaal, Singham, Himmatwala and Chennai Express, make their directing debut here, but show little flair for inspired lunacy. The film is littered with industry in-jokes and Bollywood references. “Kahan chale, Sonakshi seena taan ke?” Krushna’s character asks in one of many such puns.

Surprisingly the film isn’t particularly sensitive to canines either. The disclaimer at the start notwithstanding, it’s hard to believe that Junior, the trained dog who plays Entertainment, came away unscathed from the experience; he’s dressed up in a blonde wig in one scene. In another portion when he gathers a four-legged army to stand up to the villains, Akshay verbally attacks his friends. To the boxer he asks, “Tere baap ne kabhi boxing ki hai?” To the German shepherd, “Tera baap kabhi Germany gaya hai?”

Only Johnny Lever succeeds in delivering genuine laughs as Habibullah, the dead billionaire’s manager, who reacts apoplectically each time someone gets his name wrong. He’s the single saving grace in this overcooked, misguided comedy that left me feeling like I’d been pummeled on the head for a full 2 hours and 20 minutes.

I’m going with half, yes just half out of five, for Entertainment. This could be hazardous to your health; doesn’t matter if you’re a movie critic or a movie buff, so go in prepared.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Space cowboys!

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

August 08, 2014

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, voices of Bradley Cooper & Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Karen Gillian, Michael Rooker, Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, Josh Brolin

Director: James Gunn

Guardians of the Galaxy, based on one of the relatively lesser-known comic books in the Marvel canon, is a very different film from the Iron Man, Thor or Captain America movies. Unlike most superhero films today whose storylines and conflicts are inevitably rooted in the real world, here’s a cheerfully silly adventure that prides itself on being an escapist treat. It’s a comic book movie that actually plays like a comic book.

The film takes its irreverent tone from its leading man Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a cocky, wisecracking space outlaw who we meet stealing a magical orb coveted by evil warlord Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). For reasons too complicated to get into, Quill winds up in a space prison in the company of green-skinned alien Gamora (Zoe Saldana), tattooed hulk Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), gun-slinging raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a walking-talking tree, but with a very limited vocabulary. This oddball crew joins forces and plots a daring prison break – one of the film’s coolest set pieces – then spend the rest of the movie working together to prevent the orb from falling into the hands of Ronan, who wants to use it to conquer the cosmos.

Expectedly the film is packed with nifty special effects, and the 3D justifies itself with an impressive depth of field, particularly bringing an extra thrill to those dogfights between rival spaceships. But it’s the relationship between the five mismatched protagonists, their snappy banter, and the film’s refusal to take itself seriously that are its real strengths. Co-writer and director James Gunn brings a lightness of touch that is refreshing. The serious moments in the film are sandwiched between freewheeling action, snappy dialogue, and cheeky pop-cultural references. There’s even a terrific 70s and 80s soundtrack, courtesy of the mix-tape in Quill’s beloved Sony Walkman.

What rankles about the film is that it feels way too busy for its good, crowded with more characters than is possible to keep up with. Solid actors like Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, and John C Reilly barely get any screen time, while an important character like Thanos is introduced but never adequately employed. It’s evident also that the makers couldn’t decide on one definitive conclusion; the film has multiple endings. Yet these are minor issues in a film that is mostly enjoyable, and one that gives us such a charming set of heroes. Chris Pratt may be no Harrison Ford, but he’s terrific as the goofy Quill, and his verbal sparring with Rocket gives the film some of its best moments. But the real scene-stealers are the computer-generated stars: Rocket, the wrathful, weapons-savvy raccoon, and Groot, whose single line of dialogue is exploited for both laughs and sentiment.

Guardians of the Galaxy feels fresh and zany, and impossibly hard to resist. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five. As superhero movies go, this one’s unique and original. Don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Soul food

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:30 pm

August 08, 2014

Cast: Om Puri, Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Juhi Chawla, Michel Blanc

Director: Lasse Hallstrom

The first five minutes or so of The Hundred-Foot Journey are so clunky you’d be forgiven for slumping in your seat despondently, writing off the film as another one of those clueless Hollywood productions determined to reinforce the same old ‘exotic India’ clichés. But after poor Juhi Chawla is dispensed with, having made a short-but-embarrassing cameo as a mumbo-jumbo spouting mother who passes on her culinary skills to her son, the film finally takes flight.

Based on a book by Richard C Morais, and helmed by Chocolat director Lasse Hallstrom – who knows how to work such themes as culture clashes, and the power of food to bring people together – the movie stars Om Puri as the patriarch of the Kadam family who moves his brood of five to a small village in the South of France. Here, he rents an abandoned property to restart the family-run Indian food business that they lost in a communal riot back home in Mumbai. Naturally this doesn’t go down well with Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), the haughty owner of the fine-dining French restaurant that sits directly across the street from the Kadams’ upstart eatery.

That’s a cue for some enjoyable scenes of competitive sabotage between Papa Kadam and Madame Mallory. From buying up all the crayfish at the farmers market to filing complaints with the mayor, they will stop at nothing to embarrass the other. Meanwhile, the old man’s son and star cook Hassan (Manish Dayal) becomes obsessed with mastering classic French cooking techniques, finding an ally and a romantic interest in Margeurite (Charlotte Le Bon), a pretty sous chef from the rival restaurant. Madame Mallory thaws after a racist attack on the Kadams’ establishment, and when she discovers Hassan’s talent, she offers him a chance to train in her kitchen, hoping that with his help her restaurant may earn a coveted second Michelin star.

Produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, and scored by AR Rahman, The Hundred-Foot Journey is unabashedly sentimental, and Hallstrom knows exactly which buttons to push when. There is some nice dialogue sprinkled here and there, but the food-porn cinematography is clearly the star here. Expectedly, we get gorgeous montages of both Indian and French food being prepared lovingly, and one particular scene of an omelette being cooked made me particularly hungry.

Yet the film feels at least 20 minutes too long, weighed down by those portions in which Hassan takes a job at a fancy restaurant in Paris, where innovation is the key word. That detour aside, the film manages to appeal both to the stomach and the heart, even if the inevitable romance between Papa Kadam and Madame Mallory feels pat. Above all else, the film is a breezy watch because Om Puri and Helen Mirren are simply terrific in it.

I’m going with three out of five for The Hundred-Foot Journey. This is comfort food for those who like their movies all warm and fuzzy.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 1, 2014

Legend behind the lunk

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

August 01, 2014

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Peter Mullan, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Ingrid Bolso Berdal

Director: Brett Ratner

Die-hard fans of Gladiator and 300 would do well to stay away from director Brett Ratner’s Hercules, a trashy swords-and-sandals saga based on the brawny titular hero of Greek mythology. Ratner possesses neither Ridley Scott’s refined storytelling skills, nor Zack Snyder’s sharp sense of imagery, but like Bollywood’s very own Rohit Shetty, he knows how to deliver a masala movie with clap-trap lines and a hero worth rooting for.

Borrowing the wig Arnold Schwarznegger wore in Conan The Barbarian, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson steps up to play Hercules, who according to legend is the demigod son of Zeus and the slayer of such deadly beasts as the nine-headed water-serpent Hydra, and the Nemean Lion whose head he wears in battle. Except that there may be little or no truth to those lofty stories.

Based on a popular comic book series, Ratner’s film suggests that for all his strength and courage, Herc is actually a mercenary warrior who uses inflated tales of his godly parentage and epic feats to intimidate his enemies. In this particular adventure, he’s hired, along with his half-dozen comrades, to defend the kingdom of Thrace from an evil warlord and his possibly supernatural army; a task they accomplish only to discover that things aren’t as simple as they’d been led to believe.

Next thing you know, Johnson is pummeling the bad guys with his tree-trunk sized club, lifting up charging horses and chucking them to the ground, and in one climatic moment, he even topples a towering statue made of stone with his bare hands. Ratner keeps the pace frantic, and punctuates the action with cheesy dialogues that somehow work because Johnson and his co-stars deliver them with panache. The plot barely hangs together, and the big CGI battle scenes are staged without much slickness, but the leading man at the heart of this film has both the charisma and the action chops to distract you from these hiccups. He’s surrounded by an ensemble of weighty ‘actor’ types – John Hurt, Peter Mullan, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes and Ian McShane – but this is The Dwayne Johnson Show and he comes away without embarrassing himself, even if he does labor through some of the more emotional scenes.

Packed with not-too-bad 3D effects – arrows whizzing out of the screen, dangerous creatures lunging at you – and unapologetically embracing its B-movie ambitions, Hercules is watchable and occasionally good fun too. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five. Just don’t go in with Gladiator-level expectations.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Brain drain

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

August 01, 2014

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi,

Director: Luc Besson

Luc Besson, the director of such films as La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, knows a thing or two about creating iconic female action heroes. His latest, Lucy, is another stab at a high-concept action movie with a tough chick at its centre.

That would be Scarlett Johansson, who plays an American student in Taiwan. Within the first ten minutes of the film, she’s kidnapped and forced to be a drug mule for an Asian gangster. But after taking a savage beating, when the package of mysterious blue crystals that’s been sewn into her abdomen ruptures inside her, the overdose in her bloodstream turns Lucy into a sort of superwoman. Not only is she incredibly strong now, it also unlocks corners of the brain never used by humankind, thus giving her the kind of impossible skills that even Black Widow, the character Johansson plays in The Avengers, would be envious of.

It’s a terrific B-movie premise (reminiscent of the Bradley Cooper thriller Limitless), but Besson seems more interested in the story’s clunky existential concepts than the slick action we’ve come to expect from him. The film cuts back and forth between Lucy becoming smarter and more skilled as her brain capacity increases, and a professor in Paris (Morgan Freeman) lecturing a class on the endless possibilities, if only a human were capable of using 100% of their brain. It’s a lazy spoon-feeding device, the idea of “explaining” verbally what’s playing out on screen. Even more bizarre are the jarring cuts to images of a tiger preying on its dinner, and Tree of Life-style evolution montages comprising everything from dinosaurs and simians to bustling urban metros.

Yet the first hour or so of this 90-minute film is pretty enjoyable, specifically when we stick with Lucy, who develops all sorts of amazing powers including the ability to make armed henchmen levitate in air. You root for her as she hunts down other bags of the drug, and there are even a few moments of genuine humor in the race-against-time scenario. But it all goes off the rails in the final act, when the narrative basically mirrors the chief conceit of the recent Johnny Depp turkey Transcendence. It’s a royal mess that I could make no sense of, to be honest.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Lucy. At best it’s a guilty pleasure, with a convincing performance from Johansson who convincingly goes from victim to warrior with the ease of a pro.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

True Bromance!

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

August 01, 2014

Cast: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Nick Offerman, Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell

Directors: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return as a pair of unlikely, bumbling cops in 22 Jump Street, one of those rare comedy sequels that succeeds in delivering even more laughs than its winning original. Returning directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller retain the self-mocking tone of 2012’s 21 Jump Street by poking fun at the predictable nature of sequels and their reluctance to take chances.

It’s a recurring joke in this film, whose very premise is constructed around it. After successfully busting a high school drug racket in the earlier film, officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are dispatched by their permanently angry boss (Ice Cube) for the exact same assignment. Only this time, they must infiltrate a college to figure out who is behind a major drug dealing operation.

The other running gag in the film involves the ‘bromance’ between the two men, which serves as a dig at the homoeroticism in so many buddy-cop movies. When Jenko befriends a jock in the college football team, Schmidt becomes jealous. The pair has the funniest beak-up scene in any recent romantic movie or comedy.

All of it works because the directors serve up the jokes at a fast and furious pace, and because Hill and Tatum make such a terrific comic pair. Tatum is especially hilarious as the dumb Jenko; he plays his stupidity to perfection, confusing ‘Cate Blanchett’ for ‘carte blanche’ in one scene.

Like in the previous film, the action set-pieces aren’t particularly original or impressive, and to be honest nothing about the film feels groundbreaking. This is dumb fun, well performed and cleverly written. And it works. Seems highly unlikely, however, that the directors could pull off a third film around the same slim ideas. But, hey, they’ve thought about that already. Make sure you stick around for the closing credits where we get a glimpse of what future installments of this franchise may look like if they stick with the same formula.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for 22 Jump Street. It’s wildly entertaining, you’ll have a blast.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Nawazuddin Siddiqui on Kick: “No fear of being sidelined. If they came to me, they needed a real actor”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:36 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Nawazuddin Siddiqui – who played the villain opposite Salman Khan in Kick recently – talks about finally tasting success with Kahaani and Gangs of Wasseypur after years of struggle, humiliation and rejection. The actor also discusses his career ambitions and what he hopes the blockbuster success of Kick will translate into for him. Nawaz spoke in Hindi, and Rajeev tried to keep up.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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