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

June 24, 2016

Crash and burn!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

June 24, 2016

Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman, Jesse Usher, Maika Monroe, Brent Spiner, Judd Hirsch, Vivica A Fox, Sela Ward, William Fichtner

Director: Roland Emmerich

In 1996, Independence Day became an instant sci-fi classic largely because its cutting-edge visual effects allowed director Roland Emmerich to mount an ambitious alien-invasion epic that felt thrilling and new and unlike anything we’d seen until then. I still remember being blown out of my mind at the sight of the White House exploding into smithereens?

In the years since, everyone from Emmerich himself and Michael Bay, to the folks at Marvel and DC, has found new and innovative ways to destroy the world and flatten entire cities. So much so that it’s hard to find a blockbuster today that doesn’t end in colossal digital carnage.

But the formula’s gotten rusty, and frankly CGI has got to the point where we’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see. How do you make a sequel then to the film that more or less invented the modern disaster movie? The answer, according to Emmerich – throw everything you’ve got at the screen, and hope that some of it sticks.

Set two decades after mankind’s triumph against the alien invaders of the last film, Independence Day: Resurgence unfolds during a happier time on Earth. There is peace, but we’re much better prepared to handle similar attacks, having taken that alien technology and developed more sophisticated spacecraft and weaponry. Most of the survivors of the original film return, with former president Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) plagued by visions of the aliens’ impending return, and former cable guy David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) bumped up to the top job at the Earth Space Defence. Even Dr Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) has woken up from a 20-year coma.

Conspicuous by his absence however, is Will Smith’s character, Captain Steven Hiller, who died while testing Earth’s first fighter jet based on alien tech…although it could be from reading this script, who knows! In his place we get Hiller’s son Dylan (Jesse Usher), who has none of Will Smith’s charisma. He plays a fighter pilot, alongside Jake Morrisson (Liam Hemsworth) and Jake’s fiancée Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), the ex-president’s pretty daughter. The young ‘uns are entrusted with firing back at the dastardly critters when they finally show up…this time in larger numbers, with more ammo, and in a single mothership so massive it spans across the entire Atlantic Ocean.

Expectedly Emmerich fires on all cylinders when it comes to sheer spectacle. So it’s not enough to merely uproot and upend major landmarks like Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and Malaysia’s Petronas Towers, they’re dropped like matchsticks upon other landmarks like the London Eye and the Tower Bridge. It’s the film’s most audacious set-piece, and it’s meant to be thrilling stuff, intended to make you giddy with excitement. But it’s hard not to drown in the sea of pornographic destruction when the film throws out disaster after disaster, barely pausing for you to get your breath back.

There are also plenty air-bound skirmishes – dogfights in the skies – but very quickly you’re consumed by an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. Only Goldblum gets a few moments of wisecracking dialogue in what otherwise feels like a soulless, deeply cynical film, whose makers typically don’t bother with showing us the repercussions of such widespread global destruction. It feels as if no one really dies or is hurt despite half the planet being completely savaged.

The younger cast, they just don’t have the presence to match Will Smith’s hotshot pilot from the earlier film. We also don’t get one clear hero to root for. Apart from a few impressive bits of sheer CGI spectacle, the film is sorely lacking in memorable moments and ends up feeling like a slog. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Independence Day: Resurgence. It doesn’t even deliver on the promise of dumb fun. For that, it needed to be a little less dumb and a lot more fun.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

Going for the kill

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 4:38 pm

June 24, 2016

Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Amruta Subhash

Director: Anurag Kashyap

The brutal murders in Anurag Kashyap’s serial killer film Raman Raghav 2.0 happen off camera for the most part. Yet I found myself flinching and turning away each time the screen went black, or the distinct sound of a metal rod making contact with flesh filled the room.

Kashyap’s film is not an easy watch. Nevertheless, his exploration into the mind of a killer, who, by his own admission, kills for no reason other than the fact that he wants to, is deeply fascinating.

Raman Raghav was a serial killer who operated in Mumbai in the mid-1960s, and subsequently confessed to having murdered 41 people. But Kashyap’s film is not about him, we’re told right at the start. It focuses instead on a copycat modern-day killer, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who holds up the notorious 60s psychopath as his inspiration, and feels a kinship to a coke-snorting police officer, Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal), whom he thinks of as no different from himself except that he kills from behind the privilege of a uniform.

In an interview he gave a few weeks ago, Kashyap said Raman Raghav 2.0 is the most romantic film he’s made. In a strange way, he’s right. Nawazuddin’s character, who goes by the name Raman, becomes instantly captivated by Raghavan, from the moment he first sees him, killing a stranger in cold blood and for no apparent reason. Raman has found a kindred spirit in the twisted cop, and from hereon he kills to feel close to Raghavan. Can there be a more pure and selfless love?

The film then is about the cat and mouse chase between cop and criminal, although like in Sriram Raghavan’s Badlapur, Kashyap too subverts the hero/villain template until the line begins to blur. The cop character is anything but a straight arrow, unable to so much as function without a hit of cocaine, and routinely abusive to his live-in girlfriend Simmi (a terrific Sobhita Dhulipala).

Siddiqiui is appropriately creepy as Raman, a long scar running down his forehead, an unmistakable glint in his eyes, and almost always dragging a long car jack behind him. In one of the film’s best scenes, you watch transfixed as he coolly cooks chicken curry in a home that he has forced himself into, while the family, trapped and terrified, await their fate.

It’s a testament to the actor’s abundant talent that you root for Raman when he’s being pursued by cops in a slum. Or you find his simplicity endearing when he can’t seem to make even a basic calculation. He reveals childlike pride while casually confessing his crimes to complete strangers. His delicious turn as the possibly demented killer is easily the biggest strength of the film.

Kaushal, meanwhile, never quite matches up to his co-star’s brilliance, squarely failing to turn Raghavan into an equally compelling protagonist. He has presence, but his performance as the morally bankrupt cop feels hollow and lacking in real feeling.

The film itself benefits from a propulsive music score (by Ram Sampat), some unexpected moments of humor, and an energy and pace that seldom dips. Kashyap is in good form, but ultimately Raman Raghav 2.0 doesn’t bring anything blazingly new or original to the serial killer genre.

I’m going with three out of five. It’s consistently engaging, but doesn’t get under your skin like some of Kashyap’s other films, particularly Black Friday,Gangs of Wasseypur, and the criminally overlooked Ugly.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

June 17, 2016

A solid kick!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:39 pm

June 17, 2016

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Diljit Dosanjh, Satish Kaushik

Director: Abhishek Chaubey

Udta Punjab gets off to a flying start…literally. Somewhere on the Punjab-Pakistan border, we see a discus thrower flex, then fling a package of heroin across a barbed fence. It lands in a field in Punjab where a Bihari migrant worker (Alia Bhatt) steals it, sparking off a chain of events that eventually links the four protagonists.

The film is hard-hitting and uncomfortable to watch, and mixes dark humor to a tale about the dirty drug and political nexus in Punjab. It becomes evident early on that the story and the characters are rooted in reality: there’s the politician who runs an anti-drug campaign yet is a secret manufacturer and supplier; the cops who turn the other way for a price; junkies who will give anything for another fix; and the coked-out rockstar who makes drugs sound sexy to millions of hooked youngsters. For once, our cinema reflects these ugly truths.

Director Abhishek Chaukey has a slick storytelling voice, but there are more than a few inconsistencies. Plus, the film is just too damn long. It’s a pity because Udta Punjab has an edgy energy. The film is trippy, and yet it’s staunchly anti-drugs, demonstrating just how destructive addiction can be.

That point is illustrated well through the character of Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor), a London-returned rocker modeled closely on Bollywood sensation Yo Yo Honey Singh. Tommy is routinely drugged out of his mind, and composes songs peppered with words like ‘coke’ and ‘cock’.

We’re also introduced to the other key players – Alia Bhatt, in the role of the nameless Bihari girl who gets mixed up with nasty drug dealers; and Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh), a corrupt cop who’s happy to take a cut from the local drug business until he sees how it ruins his addict brother. Sartaj is inspired to expose the nexus between a political bigwig and the drug trade by doctor and activist Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor).

What gets in the way of the film’s confident narrative is the occasionally sketchy characterization and script contrivances. A lengthy sequence in which Preet and Sartaj sleuth around in a drug manufacturing unit feels out of place here, not to mention out of character for a medical practitioner. Luckily, Amit Trivedi’s dynamite score distracts you when the screenplay sags.

The film is also elevated by its terrific performances, especially from Alia Bhatt, who pours desperation, innocence and ultimately strength into her character. She blows you away with her acting. The surprise package is Punjabi star Diljit Dosanjh, who has undeniable presence, and a sincerity that makes you root for his character. In addition, he brings an authenticity to the film. The tentative chemistry he shares with Kareena Kapoor is particularly charming, and it’s a sheer joy to watch the actress sink her teeth into a role that does justice to her talent. It’s not a showy part, but Kareena brings Preet to life with her easy, natural performance.

Shahid Kapoor, meanwhile, although perfectly cast as the self-absorbed, swaggering rockstar, plays the part a little too on-the-nose. He plays Tommy for laughs mostly, and nails those bits. But you wish he’d give us a deeper sense of the emptiness gnawing away at his insides. Nevertheless, Tommy and his entourage, including a terrific Satish Kaushik as his manager-uncle, keep the absurd humor coming. A scene in which his hangers-on forget to bring him his Diet Coke is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. The censor furore dragged it into controversy for the wrong reasons, but I recommend that you watch it for the right ones. This is uncompromised cinema – the film has its highs and lows, but delivers a solid kick.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

Sibling revelry

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:38 pm

June 17, 2016

Cast: Krrish Chhabria, Hetal Gada, Vipin Sharma, Vibha Chibber, Vijay Maurya, Suresh Menon, Ninad Kamat, Bharati Achrekar

Director: Nagesh Kukunoor

Do you believe in miracles? Director Nagesh Kukunoor’s delightful new film Dhanak rests on the idea that if you want something badly enough, the whole universe conspires to make it happen. If that reminds you of a line from a Shah Rukh Khan movie, well, the superstar’s king-sized presence runs all through Dhanak, as the man who will deliver the miracle. Yet the real stars here are Krrish Chhabria and Hetal Gada; they play blind 8-year-old Rajasthani boy Chhotu, and his older sister Pari, who set out on an impossible journey to get his vision back.

Salman Khan fan Chhotu and Shah Rukh Khan fan Pari are inseparable siblings, orphaned in an accident a few years ago. Left in the care of a hapless uncle and his heartless wife, Chhotu loses his eyesight due to malnutrition. When Pari sees a Shah Rukh poster that makes a case for pledging one’s eyes for donation, she believes that the movie star can help her brother get his sight back. This will fulfill her promise to show Chhotu a rainbow before his 9th birthday.

Pari and Chhotu run away from their home in a small village, hoping to catch Shah Rukh in Jaisalmer where he is shooting for a new film. But they must make their way across vast expanses of desert to get there, and it’s their naivety and sheer optimism that powers them. The two meet a bunch of stereotypical strangers along the way – an American hippie, a god-woman, a kind old man with nefarious intentions – yet the predictability is somewhat dialed down by the fact that Kukunoor keeps the tone light and the dialogues funny. You may roll your eyes at the obvious Indian exoticism (there’s even a blind clairvoyant gypsy, for heaven’s sake!), but the charming personalities of these two kids and the sheer ambition of their dream make you a willing participant in their journey.

Chhotu is a smart-mouthed tyke with a short fuse and lots of bravado. He may be blind but he’s full of spirit, and Chhabria plays him like an absolute natural, making it impossible not to root for him from the moment in. Chhotu’s strength is his sister Pari, and Gada plays her beautifully, as protective and loving, but also ready with a tongue-lashing when his appetite gets the better of him. Their fanaticism and bickering over their rival heroes will have you bursting into laughter.

I’m going with an easy three out of five for Dhanak. It’s a crowd-pleaser that drives the point home about seeing with your heart instead of your eyes. Shrewd message for a film that’s not perfect, but is all heart.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

Fishy business

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

June 17, 2016

Cast: Voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ty Burrell, Ed O’Neill, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton, Hayden Rolence, Sigourney Weaver

Director: Andrew Stanton

Like Hindi cinema, Hollywood’s fascination with lost and found themes is unending…whether literally, or figuratively when characters go on cathartic journeys to ‘discover’ themselves. Finding Dory, sequel to Pixar’s gorgeous, emotional classic Finding Nemo falls somewhere in between. Dory, the Blue Tang fish with a short-term memory problem does get lost, and clownfish father-son Marlon and Nemo have to find her. But Dory is also looking for her lost identity here and searching for home.

Is Finding Dory the visual sucker-punch that Nemo was 13 years ago? No, but it is a solid sequel – the film has its share of teary moments, there are many hilarious characters, and some dazzling animation on display. All of this makes up for the fact that the film feels overlong and has an unmistakable been-there-seen-that quality to it.

Kooky amnesiac Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) finds herself remembering flashes of a childhood spent with her loving parents (Eugene Levy & Diane Keaton), and sets off all the way across the ocean to California’s Marine Life Institute to find them. When her friends Marlon (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) lose her, we watch two parallel sets of misadventures. Dory gets help from Hank (Ed O’Neill), a cranky scene-stealing octopus who has incredible camouflage powers. Meanwhile, Marlon and Nemo rely on the kindness of two cockney-voiced sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) and a madly eccentric bird named Becky. A near-sighted whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and her Beluga whale pal Bailey (Ty Burrell) regularly step up to help Dory navigate her way out of danger. And there’s also Sigourney Weaver, making a terrific voice-only cameo as herself.

This being Pixar, we get multiple subliminal messages delivered over the course of the film – that you can dare to be different, how not to let your disability stand in your way, and that friends can be your family. Director Andrew Stanton, who also helmed Finding Nemo, does a great job conveying these themes and ideas, but Finding Dory also gets sucked into the sameness of the scenarios that dominated the earlier film.

Ellen DeGeneres is once again the heart of the film as Dory. Her scatterbrained ramblings sound a little old when the film opens, but she flies (literally!) as the story progresses. As for Hank, the moody octopus, he deserves his own spin-off movie – somebody make that happen! I’m going with three out of five for Finding Dory. It’s sweet and consistently funny, but never breaks new ground.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

June 10, 2016

Slow, but steady

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

June 10, 2016

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vidya Balan, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Padmavati Rao

Director: Ribhu Dasgupta

Deftly switching between an unsolved kidnapping and a copycat crime eight years later, TE3N, directed by Ribhu Dasgupta, is a compelling thriller that slowly draws you into the suspense at the heart of its plot. Slowly being the operative word.

John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan), his shoulders drooped, his tired eyes unable to conceal his anguish, sits quietly on a bench in a police station, awaiting news of any progress in his granddaughter Angela’s kidnapping and murder case, which he is unable to give up on. Too bad for John, everyone else has long lost hope of solving the case – the police, led by the sympathetic but helpless investigating officer Sarita (Vidya Balan), the original officer on the case who has now become a priest, Father Martin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui); and even John’s own wheelchair bound long-suffering wife.

But out of the blue, a kidnapping occurs again, the case strikingly similar to that of Angela’s. Sarita enlists the help of a reluctant Father Martin, who is still racked with guilt over what happened all those years ago. Meanwhile, John, who stumbles upon a lead, goes on his own mission trying to unravel the truth piece by piece. The film follows each of the three characters as they seek closure in their cases.

Kolkata makes for an evocative setting, and Dasgupta relies heavily on atmospherics. With audio tape recordings, fountain pens, phone booths and a rickety ol’ scooter serving as key plot points, you get the sense of being stuck in time in an old city, which, cinematographer Tushar Kanti Ray films lovingly, adding texture to the story.

The screenplay (by Suresh Nair and Brijesh Jayarajan) unravels skillfully but also sluggishly, particularly the first half which culminates in a terrific twist. You do wish, more than once, that this thriller would gather pace, but frankly this isn’t so much a nail-biting tension-ridden tale as it is a suspense-soaked whodunit.

Then there are those plot holes…like the apparent ease with which John wanders in and out of people’s homes at will. As with many films in the genre, we’re required to take a giant leap of faith when faced with the facts of the crimes. The timelines are also occasionally puzzling, while some of the songs, though pleasant, stick out in this thriller.

What helps TE3N along is its superb cast of actors, each never trying to upstage the other, but steadfastly committed to their characters. Amitabh Bachchan brings to the table what only he can as the inconsolable grandfather, driven to find the kidnapper and bring him to justice at any and all costs. He’s excellent in the role, conveying defeat and helplessness in everything from his body language to his dialogue delivery. Nawazuddin Siddique turns guilt into a fine art, his subtle acting a foil for his character’s thirst for the truth. Vidya Balan, although billed as a special appearance, is reliably solid each time she’s on screen, raising her brow, curling her lip to effectively communicate more than words can.

Even if you do end up predicting the climax, it’s an engaging journey following all the clues and dodging the red herrings. Dasgupta’s efficient direction and an inherently riveting plot (thank you Korean film Montage, whose official remake this is!) ensure that you’re consistently invested in the outcome of the investigation. The film is as much about old age, guilt, redemption, and the morality of revenge.

I’m going with three out of five for TE3N. Had they put a little more pace into it, this thriller could fly.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

Fright nights

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:35 pm

June 10, 2016

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Franka Potente, Simon McBurney

Director: James Wan

Nothing in The Conjuring 2 can match the terrific hide-and-clap sequence from the earlier film – let’s face it, that was always going to be hard to top – but that’s not to say this sequel doesn’t pack its share of solid scares. With 2013’s The Conjuring, director James Wan, creator of both the Saw and Insidious franchises, managed to pump fresh blood into a genre as creaky as the haunted house thriller. This time he gives us a slow-building pressure-cooker of a film that’s a respectable follow-up.

Set in 1977, not long after their success in the now famous Amityville case, the film sees hotshot paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) dispatched to London to look into the complaints of a family who claim they’re being terrorized by a spirit.

Cash-strapped single mom Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four kids are dealing with a lot in their home – toys go on by themselves in the night, furniture starts flying across the room, and there are frequent rumblings and rattlings from behind the walls that can’t be explained. But things really come to a boil when youngest daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) begins to growl in an old man’s voice, and their lives become seriously endangered.

The film’s period setting and England’s gloomy weather contribute a lot by way of atmospherics, and the Hodgson home in a working-class London suburb is all kinds of creepy with unsettling dark corners and rotting damp walls. Wan sets up the mood for some effective scares, giving us the kind of jump-in-your-seat moments we’ve come to expect from him now. Creepiest of all is a scene involving a framed painting on a wall, and the appearance of long white fingers from behind it.

But like the earlier film, what really separates this one from your standard issue horror movie is the level of performance that Wilson and Farmiga bring to the table. They’re such good actors they sell the audience on even the cheesier aspects of the story, and of course on the romantic bond between the couple.

Although it feels way too long at roughly 133 minutes, and takes many liberties with the truth while still insisting it’s based on true events, The Conjuring 2 ultimately succeeds in delivering slow-mounting dread punctuated by powerful moments of absolute terror. I’m going with three out of five. I don’t know if I can see a nun dressed in a habit without a chill going down my spine.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

June 3, 2016

Life, or something like it

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 8:40 pm

One is repeatedly told that blood runs thicker than water, but that theory is put to test in the wickedly funny Kannada film Thithi, from first-time director Raam Reddy. The film’s powerful opening and closing shots are trained on a father and a son respectively – two men related by blood but who could not be more different from each other.

The father is the cantankerous Century Gowda (Singri Gowda), so named because he lives past 100. As he drops dead in the film’s opening sequence, the narrative revolves around his ‘thithi’ ceremony, the 11th day feast held to mourn his death. Century Gowda’s son is octogenarian Gadappa (Channegowda), a free spirit who roams the fields, sleeps under the skies and is addicted to Tiger Brandy. His reaction to his father’s death? “No big deal,” he shrugs.

Clearly there is no love lost between the two – a fact explained later in the film when Gadappa narrates a scandalous story that led to his estrangement from Century Gowda. Gadappa tells the story in flickering firelight to a spellbound audience, his matter-of-fact tone in contrast to his tragic tale. It’s one of the best scenes in a film that celebrates life and death in equal measure.

But Thithi isn’t just the tale of these two men. It also involves Gadappa’s materialistic son Thamanna (Thammegowda), who now wants to inherit Century Gowda’s agricultural land. Thamanna is willing to lie and cheat and bribe his way to get his inheritance, even if it means faking his own father’s death. Thithi is also the story of Thamanna’s son Abhi (Abhishek MN), a girl-crazy gallivant, determined to seduce a headstrong shepherdess. How the three generations of Gowdas – Gadappa, Thamanna and Abhi – fare in the 11 days leading up to Century Gowda’s thithi forms the basic story.

Bit by bit, Raam Reddy and his writer Eregowda, involve the entire village of Novekoppalu and its inhabitants, setting up this slice of life film with strong characters – like the firecracker female owner of a toddy shop, a henpecked good-for-nothing local, even the snow-haired village loon who dances in front of funeral processions.

Look carefully and you’ll notice the points Reddy wants to make – about family, materialism, desire, individuality, and the all-pervasive humor that laces life if we only look a little closely. Did I mention that the cast is full of non-actors, all locals from Novekoppalu village? You won’t guess from the way they emote…their casual, earthy language and their idiosyncrasies suck you right in.

I recommend that you do not miss Thithi. Raam Reddy’s debut is searingly honest, and yet so charming that its characters stay with you long after the lights come back on.



That lazy feeling!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:40 pm

June 03, 2016

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan, Ritesh Deshmukh, Boman Irani, Jacqueline Fernandes, Lisa Haydon, Nargis Fakhri, Jackie Shroff, Chunky Pandey

Directors: Farhad-Sajid

There’s good news and bad news for anyone who’s having trouble trying to make up their mind whether to watch Housefull 3. The good news is that despite sticking to the core values of the previous films in the series – meaning it’s offensive, frequently racist, and flat out harebrained – it’s never a soul-crushing experience in the way that some Akshay Kumar starrers can be (yes, Rowdy Rathore, I’m looking at you). Meanwhile the bad news is that the film feels tempered – as if deliberately holding back its punches – which is just as frustrating, given that moderation has seldom served comedies well. As a result we’re left with a film that’s entirely puerile, only sporadically funny, but not even so bad that it rattles you. It’s a plain and simple bore.

Writer-director duo Farhad-Sajid (the men behind that other spectacularly awful Akshay Kumar comedy Entertainment) take over the reins of the Housefull franchise from Habitual Purveyor of Bad Taste Sajid Khan, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell their styles apart. Things come in threes in the new film, which features a trio of leading men, as many heroines, and even a villain with three sons.

When London millionaire Batuk Patel (Boman Irani) convinces his daughters Ganga (Jacqueline Fernandes), Jamuna (Lisa Haydon), and Saraswati (Nargis Fakhri) that bad luck and death comes calling each time a woman in the family gets married, the young ladies conspire with their respective boyfriends to overcome this obstacle. For reasons too idiotic and convoluted to go into, Sandy (Akshay Kumar) pretends he’s crippled waist down, Teddy (Ritesh Deshmukh) plays blind, and Bunty (Abhishek Bachchan) acts as if he cannot speak.

Farhad-Sajid, who’ve also written both the previous Housefull films, have an abiding love for puns, and can’t resist the urge to shove them down our throats throughout the film. Batuk’s lines are peppered with choice gems like: “Aadmi ko hamesha khush hona chahiye, gambhir toh Gautam bhi hai.” His daughters appear to suffer from a similar condition. All of them tend to translate English expressions into Hindi when they speak. Like: “Woh meri seb ki aankhen hai”, which means, “He’s the apple of my eye.” Or try this: “Hum bachche nahin bana rahe”, by which they mean, “We’re not kidding.”

The punning becomes repetitive pretty soon, the disability jokes are strictly hit and miss, and inevitably the filmmakers’ next targets are the black maidservants working at Batuk’s home. It’s up to Akshay Kumar to breathe some life into this lazy film…which he does. His character Sandy suffers from a split personality disorder, becoming the violent Sundi each time sometime utters the word ‘Indian’. In one of the film’s only genuinely clever jokes, we see Akshay assaulting himself when Sundi is in conflict with Sandy. It’s a terrific gag, but like everything else in this film it’s repeated many times over and eventually becomes tiring.

By the time Jackie Shroff shows up, a little before intermission, playing a former underworld don who has a connection with Batuk and the girls, Housefull 3 has slipped into autopilot mode. Very little is funny hereon, aside from a few in-jokes including one involving Aishwarya Rai’s wax statue. Oh, and there’s also Chunky Pandey, who returns as franchise regular Aakhri Pasta, but mercifully he only turns up in a few scenes.

At the end of 2 hours and 14 minutes when the lights came back on, I figured Housefull 3 was tiring but not infuriating like other similar comedies, including the previous installments in the same franchise. If that’s good enough for you to invest precious time and money, then hey, who am I to stop you? I’m going with two out of five.

You know what I’d pay to watch? The adventures of Sandy and Sundi in a smart comedy. Come on, someone make that movie!

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

Two much of a good thing!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:38 pm

June 03, 2016

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Kim Basinger, Angourie Rice

Director: Shane Black

Let’s face it, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are not exactly obvious choices for a buddy-cop comedy. But they sure do appear to be having a hell of a time riffing off each other in The Nice Guys. The famously intense stars work up quite the chemistry as a pair of unlikely partners investigating the disappearance of a young woman in 1977 Los Angeles.

Gosling’s character Holland March is a clumsy, drunken private eye routinely hired by confused old ladies looking for their dead family members. Crowe plays rough-knuckled Jackson Healy, a thug-for-hire who beats up people in exchange for cash. After an awkward first meeting – during which one of them breaks the other’s arm – they team up, albeit reluctantly, to solve the case of a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley), who may have links to a recently killed porn star, and to a political controversy involving the Detroit auto industry.

It’s a harebrained plot that doesn’t always make sense, but even during the film’s weakest moments, it’s the back and forth between the two men that keeps you entertained. This odd couple bickers incessantly, and over practically everything. Their scenes together crackle, particularly when they’re joined by Holly (Angourie Rice), the whip-smart 13-year-old daughter of March, who proves to be a far more intrepid investigator than her old man. She practically steals scenes from right under the nose of her seasoned co-stars, emerging the moral centre of the film.

Which doesn’t mean the two leading men are spared the heavy lifting here. Although he’s playing the foil to Gosling’s buffoonish character, Crowe – grizzled, and his paunch straining the buttons on his floral shirts – is in great form, revealing an as-yet unseen gift for deadpan comedy. Gosling, meanwhile, displays a flair for slapstick, and a propensity for humiliation. He seems to be having a good ‘ol time smashing through windows and falling off balconies, but the piece de resistance is a scene in which he’s struggling to close a bathroom stall door while juggling a magazine, a gun, a cigarette, and his pants around his ankles. I can’t remember the last time I laughed this hard.

Writer-director Shane Black creates a violent, sleazy, sexy world of the late 70s; a noir-ish setting in which he places this tangled web of a plot, and these relentlessly hilarious characters. Even if the story doesn’t quite add up in the end, the actors and the jokes are so sharp you’ll have little reason to complain.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for The Nice Guys. It’s a whole barrel of fun.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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