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

November 19, 2010

Seven up!

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

November 19, 2010

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Jason Issacs, Imelda Stanton

Director: David Yates

The new Harry Potter film opens with a grim declaration from Bill Nighy’s character, a stern-looking Minister of Magic: “These are dark times, there is no denying.” His words serve as a warning to prepare us for the events that follow in what is easily the most adult Potter film yet.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I – seventh film in the series and first of a two-part finale – there are moments that are likely to unnerve even grown-ups in the audience. A Hogwarts teacher meets with an unpleasant end, Hermione is brutally tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange, and deadly snakes show up and create trouble. There are several appearances by Voldemort too, who raises the stakes, pulling out all stops in his relentless pursuit of the boy wizard.

The first film in the series to be set away from Hogwarts, Deathly Hallows Part I sees our three protagonists – Harry, Hermione and Ron (played by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint) – on the run from Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters. Along the way, as they navigate through thick forests and camp out in the wilderness, they must track down various things that will help them fight against the evil forces. These include a ‘horcrux’ containing a sliver of Voldemort’s soul, and the coveted sword of Gryffindor. They must also decode a peculiar design that holds the key to the deathly hallows.

Directed by David Yates, the franchise’s longest serving director with four films under his belt, Deathly Hallows Part I is a tough slog for anyone unfamiliar with Potter past. From the fourth instalment onwards, the Harry Potter movies ceased to work as stand-alone films, and this one, in particular is impossible to comprehend if you haven’t followed the story.

For faithful fans, however, the great payoff in this film, is watching the three leads rise to face the emotional challenges they’re confronted with. Rupert Grint offers rare maturity to those scenes in which his character, Ron, is consumed by a bout of jealousy over the closeness between Harry and Hermione. You can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness as Hermione casts a spell to remove all trace of herself from her Muggle parents’ memories; and equally poignant is the scene in which Harry visits the grave of his murdered parents.

The film is not without exhilarating moments either. The most terrific is the sight of seven Harry Potters in the same frame, achieved in the film thanks to some handy polyjuice potion. Soon after, there’s a thrilling chase sequence in which Hagrid and Harry dodge Voldemort’s Death Eaters by indulging in some gravity-defying stunts on a motorcycle. My favourite, however, is a lovely scene that occurs during a tense portion while they’re hiding out in the forest. To lighten the mood in their tent, Harry urges Hermione to dance with him to a faint tune coming from a ramshackle radio. It’s one of those rare moments that manages to be incredibly sweet and yet leaves you with that lump-in-the-throat feeling when it’s over.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I is an engaging film for the franchise’s loyalists, but at 2 hours at 26 minutes it’s too long and painfully slow, particularly that portion in the outdoors during which our heroes mostly wait around pensively in a tent. The film ends too abruptly, with the death of a beloved character, but it whets your appetite for what promises to be a big showdown in the final film that will be released next July.

I’m going with three out of five for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. Despite its lapses, it’s a thrilling lead-up to the big finish.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 18, 2010

“I hadn’t eaten a batata vada in 15 years,” says Hrithik

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 11:05 pm


In this interview, Hrithik Roshan talks about Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish, and explains why it holds a special place in his heart. The actor reveals that he’d decided to refuse the film even before reading the script. When he did say yes, however, he discovered that preparing to play the role of a disabled magician involved rediscovering the pleasures of junk food!

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 13, 2010

Justin Timberlake & Andrew Garfield on The Social Network

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:41 am

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico),  Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield talk about their roles in David Fincher’s The Social Network. Popstar-actor Timberlake stars as Napster founder Sean Parker, while Garfield (who was recently cast as the new Spider-man) plays Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin who sues his former best friend Mark Zuckerberg.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 12, 2010

Full network!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:32 pm

November 12, 2010

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara

Director: David Fincher

The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, is my favourite film this year. It’s also one of the smartest films I’ve seen recently, and it’s packed with rapid-fire dialogue that’s so rich, so clever, you’ll want to see the film a second time to enjoy it all over again.

A story about the founding of Facebook may not sound like an exciting premise for a thrilling movie. But Sorkin seeks out the human drama behind the birth of one of this century’s biggest pop-cultural breakthroughs, and uses that as the centerpiece for his terrific script.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, the geeky Harvard student who in 2004 started Facebook in his dorm room, launching a social media revolution, and becoming the world’s youngest billionaire at 26. Zuckerberg’s rise to fame also spawned two lawsuits, the first from fellow Harvard students, the Winklevoss twins who accused him of stealing their idea and turning it into Facebook. Zuckerberg was also sued by the site’s initial financial backer and his only friend, Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield), for denying him fair credit and his promised share of profits.

The real Zuckerberg, incidentally, has dismissed the film as pure fiction. It’s not hard to see why. Based on Ben Mezrich’s book, The Accidental Billionaires – although Sorkin famously did his own research – the film portrays Zuckerberg as a neurotic nerd who has terrible social skills; who came up with the idea of Facebook after he was dumped by his girlfriend; and who sold out the only friend who stood by him.

Zuckerberg may not be shown in a flattering light, but he makes for a compelling character. The great irony, and the film’s key observation, is that the man who connected as many as 500 million people through a common platform, might himself be the loneliest guy in the world.

Fincher and Sorkin dramatize the story by employing a non-linear narrative, jumping forward and backward through time to cut between the creation of Facebook and the subsequent lawsuits against Zuckerberg. The dialogue is so sharp and the soundtrack so haunting, they give the film an edge-of-the-seat quality that’s hard to describe.

As Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg is excellent, creating a paradoxical figure who’s ruthless and arrogant one moment, nervous and innocent the other. In the end, you never quite feel like you’ve figured out Zuckerberg and that’s appropriate in this kind of film, which asks of you to decide if he’s hero or villain.

Andrew Garfield offers a solid performance as Eduardo Saverin, CFO of the fledgling Facebook, and Justin Timberlake brings suitable rock-star flair to the part of Napster founder Sean Parker, who befriends Zuckerberg.

Ultimately The Social Network is a riveting tale of friendship, trust and betrayal. While the film’s biggest strength is unquestionably its genius writing, Fincher directs with a confident hand, delivering a visually crisp palette to match Sorkin’s biting lines.

I’m going with five out of five for The Social Network. It’s the best film I’ve seen this year — a smart film for a smart audience. I recommend you catch it at the cinema right away!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Ham and cheese

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:32 pm

November 12, 2010

Cast: Helen, Zeenat Aman, Kabir Bedi, Rituparna Sengupta, Yuvraj Parasher, Kapil Sharma

Director: Sanjay Sharma

Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun… ambitiously tries to be India’s answer to Brokeback Mountain. Unfortunately, to even refer to Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun… as a film would be stretching the truth.

It’s unlikely that you’ve ever seen a movie as absurd as this. With the idea of making a gay love story, director Sanjay Sharma gathers a spectacular bunch of ham artistes like Zeenat Aman, Helen, Rituparna Sengupta, Asha Sachdev and Parikshit Sahni, and pairs them up with stiff-as-wood newcomers like Kapil Sharma and Yuvraaj Parasher, making them all speak stilted Hinglish dialogues. One of Dunno Y…’s biggest crimes is how it massacres basic English grammar.

This is the kind of movie in which the country’s biggest superstar is married, but a closet gay. That isn’t the most shocking part. The superstar is played by, heaven help us, Aryan Vaid, sitting a bathtub and stroking a gigolo’s face with his foot.

In fact, this film’s script, written by its lead actor Kapil Sharma, is awfully amateurish and you wonder if it was scribbled together on the set. He unfolds his story in a Catholic home where three generations live together, headed by the matriarch played by Helen. All this family does is fight, have steamy love affairs or throw parties where they get drunk, bite into chicken drumsticks and play – hold your breath – pass the parcel!

Until its interval, Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun is a mish-mash of ridiculous moments and third-rate acting. Post-interval, the married son of Zeenat Aman, played by Yuvraaj Parasher, starts seeing a gay prostitute played by Kapil Sharma. The director aims for tender moments, but once again it backfires. You’re tickled by a scene in which the two lovers force-feed a mountain of bread to tiny puppies, but you’re turned off by their titillatingly filmed love-making scenes. The film rumbles on to a teary Brokeback Mountain conclusion, yet Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun does little for the gay cause through its cliched representation.

Of the cast, only Maradona Rebello shows a flicker of acting as Zeenat Aman’s youngest son in love with his brother’s wife. Yuvraaj Parasher seems carved out of stone, while Kapil Sharma accompanies all of his lines with a creepy smile on his face. Rituparna Sengupta tips into overacting, screaming cuss words like a shrew over the phone in one scene.  Zeenat Aman is Sphinx-like, barely showing any emotions, except when she leers at herself in the mirror and says: “You’ve still got it.”

This definitely gets my vote for being the most unintentionally funny film of 2010. Which is why I’m going with one out of five for director Sanjay Sharma’s Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun

You might wonder why and how a film like this got made, but believe me, it’s so comical, you get your money’s worth just laughing at it. Indeed, its only merit lies in the fact that it’s so bad it doesn’t bore you, even for a single minute. Watch it… go on, I dare you!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Jesse Eisenberg on playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:30 pm

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico), 27-year-old Hollywood actor Jesse Eisenberg talks about his career-defining role as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in David Fincher’s The Social Network.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Black hole

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

November 12, 2010

Cast: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison

Director: Colin Strause, Greg Strause

Packed with elaborate special effects but missing any semblance of an intelligent plot, Skyline is a bargain-basement version of films like Independence Day and War of the Worlds.

The alien invasion premise is an old one, but director duo Colin and Greg Strause do nothing to infuse any originality in this tired scenario. Poorly written and embarrassingly enacted from the word go, Skyline follows Jarrod and his girlfriend Elaine (played by Eric Balfour and Scottie Thompson) as they travel to Los Angeles to celebrate the birthday of a friend, who has recently hit the big-time as a singing star. After a long evening of drinking and celebrating, the passed out partygoers are woken by an eerie blue glow streaming in through the blinds. Turns out a giant spacecraft is hovering over the LA skyline, and ugly alien beasts are running riot through he city, hunting down humans to harvest their brains.

The film’s shoestring budget means the action is restricted to a single residential complex. So most of the film involves the protagonists hiding in apartments, running up and down stairwells, or shouting for help from the terrace, even as they’re closely pursued by the tentacled aliens. Sadly, they have nowhere to go. And neither does this movie.

Although the creature design of the aliens is interesting, and the special effects aren’t half bad, Skyline is nowhere as smart as District 9, and doesn’t have the overall visual inventiveness of that film either.

Hardcore fans of sci-fi are likely to enjoy the film’s final 15 minutes in which humans and aliens go hand-to-tentacle in a desperate fight for survival. But that’s a small payoff at the end of an immensely boring film.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Skyline. Directed by the Brothers Strause – the special effects wiz-kids who worked on films like Avatar, 2012, and Iron Man 2 – this is a cheesy, incoherent mess. Stay far away.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 10, 2010

Dustin Hoffman on Kung Fu Panda: “Doing an animation film is like phone sex”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:34 am

In this interview recorded in Cannes in May 2008, veteran Hollywood actor Dustin Hoffman talks about his first stab at animation voicing Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. The actor also reveals his favourite movie moment in a long and illustrious career.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 9, 2010

Blast From The Past: Jack Black on ‘Kung Fu Panda’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 5:00 pm

In this interview, Hollywood star Jack Black talks about his role as lazy panda Po in Kung Fu Panda, and his fondness for Indian food. This interview was recorded in Cannes in May 2008.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Daniel Radcliffe on nearing the end of the Harry Potter journey

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:17 pm

In this interview recorded in London in July 2009, Daniel Radcliffe talks about nearing the end of the Harry Potter journey, about filming kissing scenes, handling success gracefully, and what it feels like when he isn’t recognized.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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