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

June 26, 2015

Anushka Sharma, tell us a joke!

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:32 pm

In this segment produced by Rajeev Masand, Bollywood star Anushka Sharma tells us a joke.

(This segment first aired on CNN-IBN)

Kabir Khan & Nawazuddin Siddiqui on their superstar Bhaijaan!

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:52 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Bajrangi Bhaijaan director Kabir Khan and actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui talk about ironing out their “teething troubles” with Salman Khan, about the pressure of completing this film as Salman’s hit-and-run case unfolded, and why it’s not a ‘typical’ Salman Khan movie at all. Kabir also recounts casting Nawazuddin in a small role in his earlier film New York, and how a single-scene performance by the actor reduced Irrfan Khan to tears.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Child’s play

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

June 26, 2015

Cast: Archit Devadhar, Amruta Subhash, Parth Bhalerao, Gaurish Gawade, Swanand Raikar, Atharva Upasni

Director: Avinash Arun

I can’t think of another film I saw recently that stayed with me like Killa has. This incredible Marathi film by debutant Avinash Arun tells the simple coming-of-age story of an 11-year-old boy in rural Maharashtra, but there’s such emotional truth to his experiences and his journey that it’ll feel real and familiar even to those raised in very different circumstances.

Chinmay (Archit Devadhar) has moved with his mother (Amruta Subhash) from Pune to a small coastal town in the Konkan region where she has been transferred in her government job. Chinmay, who lost his father the previous year, is a well-behaved, sensitive boy, but he’s overcome with feelings of isolation as he struggles to adjust to his new surroundings. He’s a smart student, but the new school appears to be populated with unruly local kids with whom he has little in common.

Even if you’ve never lived outside of a big city, most of us at some point or the other in our lives have known what it’s like to walk into a (class)room and feel like an outsider. To feel like you don’t belong. Based on the director’s own experiences growing up, Killa evokes an authentic sense of displacement and ‘not-fitting-in’. Chinmay acts out by repeatedly confronting his mother, dismissing her cooking, and by being rude to the neighbors. She for her part, is dealing with her own problems at work, but tends to internalize her feelings. Your heart goes out to the pair as they negotiate their new life.

When Chinmay makes friends with a group of boys in his class, we see his surroundings with a new set of eyes. Arun, who is also the cinematographer of the film, shoots in the monsoons, giving us lush green landscapes and swelling seas. The film benefits from a strong sense of place and time. Arun paints a vivid portrait of childhood in rural India: cycle races along the Ghats, a trip to a nearby fort, an afternoon catching crabs on the beach.

There’s a distinctly melancholic feel and pace to Killa, which is appropriate given the themes that the film explores. Arun exercises remarkable restraint in telling this delicate story, and he’s aided by his excellent cast. Archit Devadhar is a complete revelation as the impressionable protagonist; his expressions reveal maturity far greater than his years. Amruta Subhash conveys both strength and heartbreak through a nicely understated performance; she’s riveting on screen. But the scene-stealer in Killa is the pint-sized Parth Bhalerao, playing Chinmay’s friend and puppy-torturing local scamp Bandya.

Killa is as much a story of friendship, trust, forgiveness and grief. It makes some nice observations about childhood and the bond between a single parent and a child. You’ll come out feeling a tinge of sadness, but also fully satisfied with how things turn out for our little hero.

I’m going with a full five out of five for Avinash Arun’s deeply moving film Killa. If there is such a thing as a perfect film, my vote goes to this one. Don’t miss it. At any cost.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Beautiful mind

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:36 pm

June 26, 2015

Cast: Voices of Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind

Director: Pete Docter

In the pantheon of great Pixar films, Inside Out, the studio’s latest, ranks right up there alongside its best with the Toy Story movies, Wall-E, and Up. It’s also easily the most audacious. From putting a lonely waste-disposal robot at the centre of a surprisingly humane love story, to killing off a lovable heroine 15 minutes into a film, the brave folks at Pixar haven’t shied away from taking bold risks. But the new film goes where few have gone before – it takes place almost entirely inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl.

That girl is Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias), whose perfect little world is turned upside down when she moves from Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents. Understandably she’s struggling to adjust; there’s a new school to go to, new friends to be made, and nervous parents watching over. The real drama, however, goes on in Riley’s head, a control room of activity, where we meet the five emotions that run the show: Joy (a terrific Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). This motley group, led by Joy, is responsible for Riley’s mood, occasionally fighting amongst themselves for dominance, but mostly working together to take care of her core memories, which in turn shape her personality.

It’s a gorgeously realized world – the inside of Riley’s head – where memories are little glowing orbs that show up to be sorted and stored away. There’s a train of thought that puffs along every now and then, imaginary friends from Riley’s past, a theme park called Imagination Land, and the Dream Factory where dreams are manufactured. These are big, cerebral ideas – particularly for the film’s younger core audience – and co-writer/director Pete Docter niftily makes invisible concepts visible to demonstrate the workings of the brain. When Joy and Sadness go missing accidentally, it’s left to the other three more negative emotions to take charge, thereby turning Riley quieter, sullen, and – pardon the pun – plain joyless.

It takes a special kind of talent to bring such depth and heart to this kind of an intellectual premise. Inside Out is bright and vibrant and richly animated; it’s also honest, emotional, and incredibly funny in places. The filmmakers employ a bittersweet tone to address key themes like the loss of innocence, and the importance of sadness in order to have a wholesome childhood experience.

While there is no question at all that you will laugh out loud several times, be prepared to tear up occasionally. Don’t say I didn’t tell you – adults will likely enjoy this film much more than kids. I’m going with four out of five. It’s a bold leap in storytelling.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 19, 2015

Move it!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:38 pm

June 19, 2015

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Prabhudheva, Lauren Gottlieb

Director: Remo D’Souza

During a key scene in ABCD2, Varun Dhawan’s character Suresh, while delivering a pep talk to his dance troupe, emphasizes that “we dance to express, not to impress”. But don’t be taken in by that naïve declaration. Every little moment in this film is over-styled and over-scripted to the last detail – from the elaborate dance sequences that go on and on and on, to the emotional moments in this true-life inspired journey of a Nalasopara troupe that’s accused of cheating on a reality TV dance show. Apparently the only way to redeem themselves is by participating in a global hip-hop competition in Las Vegas. No prizes for guessing what happens at the end of this predictable scenario.

Like the earlier film, 2013’s ABCD, this sequel has some incredible dancing…that psychedelic opening sequence, a Chaplin-inspired routine, and even the dramatic Ganesha-infused climax. To be fair, everything is amped up in ABCD2, starting with the casting. Matinee idols Varun and Shraddha Kapoor step in to play the leads, a bump-up from the last time when professional dancers took central roles. The story and dialogues have more cheese than a double margarita pizza. This is 1980s melodrama wrapped up in 21st century hip-hop. In one scene where Suresh is chastised by a judge for cheating, he’s told that he has brought shame on his Padmashri Award-winning dancer mother who “died with her ghunghroos on”. I kid you not; they use those exact words!

Things look up when the disgraced troupe convinces Vishnu Sir (a returning Prabhudheva) to become their guru. In just one fluid sequence at a club, the veteran shows that he’s still got what it takes, easily outshining an entire bunch of dancers half his age. His acting is patchy, not unlike the professional dancers in this film who express so much more when they’re matching beat for beat. The script too, packs more clichés than I could count – a ‘bad’ German dance troupe that trash talks, a pivotal team member who betrays Suresh’s troupe, and a minor accident that results in the appearance of ABCD’s Lauren Gottlieb. This is the kind of movie where a deaf mute dancer coughs so incessantly that when he spits blood into a Turkish towel one morning, you’re hardly surprised.

Expectedly, ABCD2 makes up for its amateurish storytelling with its often jaw-dropping set pieces and the sheer hard work of its leads. Varun and Shraddha are so earnest, you’re willing to forgive their less-than-convincing histrionics because their dancing – particularly Varun’s – is mighty impressive. Both actors hold their own against the professionals without losing face.

If only director Remo D’Souza had curbed his enthusiasm and trimmed this film by a good half hour, it wouldn’t feel like such a slog. Despite all the high-energy up on screen, you feel drained after 155 minutes of non-stop song and dance. I’m going with a generous two-and-a-half out of five for ABCD2. Sure anybody can dance, but it takes more work to keep an audience consistently engaged.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

She’s got the hook!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:37 pm

June 19, 2015

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Nargis Fakhri

Director: Paul Feig

There’s a reason Melissa McCarthy is arguably one of the finest comic actors of our times – it’s because she’s totally unafraid of looking stupid. From her terrific breakout in 2011’s Bridesmaids (for which she earned an Oscar nomination, no less), she’s consistently revealed a flair for physical comedy, and razor-sharp improv skills that most actors can only envy. Take that scene in which the ladies get a bad case of the shits while trying on expensive dresses at a fancy Vera Wang-like boutique. Who can forget how McCarthy’s character beats the others in a dash to the restroom, making it only as far as the sink?

In Spy, her third collaboration with director Paul Feig (after Bridesmaids and The Heat), McCarthy stars as Susan Cooper, an unassuming desk analyst at the CIA, tasked with being the eyes and ears of a narcissistic Bond-like field agent (Jude Law). But when he’s killed by a devious Bulgarian arms dealer (a hilarious Rose Byrne) and the agency is compromised, her boss (the always dependable Alison Janney) has no choice but to throw the untested Cooper into the field.

Feig, who has revealed that he always wanted to direct a Bond film, does the next best thing here: he crafts a clever send-up of the spy genre, skewering all the typical 007 cliches from over-the-top villains to high-tech gadgets disguised as stool-softener pills and a fungus spray. Expectedly, many laughs are mined from the dumpy makeovers that McCarthy’s character must resort to in order to go unnoticed. But to be fair, Cooper turns out to be pretty good at her job, and Feig stages some nifty action scenes to make that point, even if it’s all done within the realm of comedy. Like that scene in which she fights back a knife-wielding Nargis Fakhri with – what else? – a frying pan.

The secret sauce in this movie, however, is Jason Statham, who sportingly has fun with his own image of a typical lunkheaded tough guy. Cast as a fellow agent who refuses to take Cooper seriously, Statham’s scenes with McCarthy are pure comic gold, particularly one in which they’re dangling off a chopper. There is much pleasure to be had also in the scenes between McCarthy and Byrne, who spend most of their screen time together trading hilarious insults.

Never a spoof in the vein of Johnny English or the Austin Powers movies, Spy is funny without being campy or foolish. It’s smartly written, and deliciously performed by an A-list cast led by the ridiculously talented McCarthy who never ceases to surprise.

I’m going with four out of five. It’s an evening well spent at the cinema.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bros before hos!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:36 pm

June 19, 2015

Cast: Adrien Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrera, Jeremy Piven, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Billy Bob Thornton, Haley Joel Osment, Ronda Rousey

Director: Doug Ellin

I’ve read so many scathing reviews of Entourage that I have to wonder if I watched a different film. Fans of the original HBO series (that ended after an eight-season run in 2011) will note that at its heart it’s still a celebration of enduring friendship. Essentially it feels like a 90-minute episode of the show; the latest chapter in the raunchy, excess-filled lives of our boys from Queens who struck big in movie-town.

When we first meet them, on a boat in the Mediterranean, we learn that a lot has happened in the lives of movie-star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his ‘bros’ since the show ended. Vince is single again; his marriage lasted all of nine days. His best friend and manager Eric, aka E (Kevin Connolly) is going to be a dad with his ex Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Turtle (Jerry Ferrera) no longer chauffeurs the gang around; he got rich from investing in a tequila company, and he lost a ton of weight. Meanwhile, Vince’s older half-brother (and C-list actor) Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) may have finally landed a role that could change his life.

I know what you’re thinking – what happened to Ari Gold, right? Still furnishing most of the laughs, Ari (Jeremy Piven) has gone from hot-headed superagent, to hot-headed studio boss. Having reluctantly greenlit Vince’s directorial debut, which, by the way, has gone way over-budget, Ari heads to Texas to squeeze the extra cash out of an oil baron (Billy Bob Thornton), who in turn puts his scumbag son (Haley Joel Osment) in charge of making the decision.

Director Doug Ellin (who also created the show) keeps the plotting slim, never raising the stakes too high. Like the show, the movie too coasts along on the easy-going charm of its protagonists, and a generous helping of Hollywood voyeurism. So there are the usual beach parties crammed with bikinied babes and a slew of celebrity cameos, with everyone from Warren Buffet and Tom Brady to Liam Neeson and Pharrell Williams making an appearance. MMA fighter Ronda Rousey is the only one who gets a sizable role…as a possible love-interest for Turtle. In a movie slammed for being misogynistic and for its disposable treatment of women (fair enough, I won’t contest!), she’s the one female character who doesn’t come off looking like a pushover.

As a fan of the show, Entourage offered me comfort in the familiar. It was a bit like catching up with old friends who you haven’t seen in years. Everyone’s older, but a few drinks in and you realize nothing has changed.

I’m going with three out of five. If you missed the gang like I did, you’ll be happy to catch up.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Entourage stars Adrien Grenier & Kevin Connolly: “No complaints if we’re forever identified as Vince & E”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:02 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand recorded in Los Angeles, Entourage stars Adrian Grenier and Kevin Connolly explain how they prepared for the show’s crossover to the big screen, and why they have no complaints if they’re forever identified as Vince and E.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Entourage stars Jerry Ferrera & Kevin Dillon: “Gotta take the Johnny Drama approach. Have to keep working for better parts”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 7:14 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand recorded in Los Angeles, Entourage stars Jerry Ferrera and Kevin Dillon talk about what the show’s fans wanted most from them, and how they plan to beat being forever stereotyped as Turtle and Drama.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 17, 2015

‘Spy’ star Jason Statham on working in comedy: “I didn’t want to be the one screwing up”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:26 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand recorded in Los Angeles, SPY star Jason Statham talks about his initial anxiety over starring in this Melissa McCarthy comedy, and why she has gone on to become his favourite actress. Statham also reveals what he’d like to do next in his career.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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