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

April 22, 2011

Dorm dread

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

April 22, 2011

Cast: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet

Director: Christian E Christensen

Leighton Meester, who stars as spoilt little rich girl Blair Waldorf in the Gossip Girl series, slums it out as a nutjob collegian obsessed with another female student in the insultingly dumb teen thriller The Roommate.  A worthy contender for Most Unoriginal Movie of the Year, this lame Single White Female rip-off sees Meester’s clingy character, Rebecca develop a dangerous crush on her roomate Sara (played by Minka Kelly), who has just moved to this Los Angeles campus from a small town.

Sorely lacking any tension or suspense, and devoid of a single original plot-point, the film regurges the same ol’ formula all over again. So Rebecca — desperate for Sara’s attention, and jealous of anyone or anything that is close to her — goes on a violent spree torturing boyfriends both ex and current, murdering a pet cat, and punishing a male professor who hit on her roomie. There’s some girl-on-girl kissing, a mild lovemaking scene between Sara and her new boyfriend, and a phone-sex scene involving Rebecca. Normally such gratuitous sex would ease the pain of watching this kind of dreadful film; but The Roommate is so appallingly bad, it’s hard to find a single redeeming quality.

I’m going with one out of five for The Roommate; it’s a badly written, badly acted, and badly directed thriller that offers no thrills whatsoever. Stay home and stare at the ceiling instead. This film is a waste of time and money.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 16, 2011

Abhishek Bachchan & Rohan Sippy on mixing movies with friendship

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:44 am

In this interview, childhood buddies Abhishek Bachchan and Rohan Sippy talk about mixing movies with friendship. They’ve done three films together so far, and Abhishek says he hasn’t read a single one of Rohan’s scripts in entirety!

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 15, 2011

O brother, don’t bother!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:33 pm

April 15, 2011

Cast: Om Puri, Deepak Dobriyal, Shreyas Talpade, Yograj Singh, Ragini Khanna

Director: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba

The stoner comedy is a genre of films that revolve around the use of marijuana in a lightweight, usually harmless fashion. The Big Lebowski from the Coen Brothers is a stoner comedy that’s achieved cult status; even the Ashton Kutcher-Sean William Scott starrer Dude, Where’s My Car? has its share of fans. Teen Thay Bhai, starring Om Puri, Deepak Dobriyal and Shreyas Talpade has only one scene of mild drug use, a scene in which the three protagonists who play estranged brothers, meet a group of hippie girls who treat them to piping-hot parathas laced with hash. Yet, it’s probably fair to label Teen Thay Bhai as a stoner comedy, because it’s pretty clear this movie could only have been made under the influence of mind-altering substances.

The wafer-thin plot requires that the three siblings who can’t stand the sight of each other, stay together at a snowed out cottage in Himachal for a few days each year, for three consecutive years. If they can do this, they’re allowed to have the multi-crore inheritance their grandpa has left them.

You’d imagine that the film’s remarkable cast would at least exploit this slim premise for some laughs. They don’t. Saddled with a pathetic script and the kind of slapstick humor you’ve seen in Anees Bazmee-Akshay Kumar collaborations, fine actors like Om Puri are reduced to performing fart jokes.

His character, Chixie Gill is a grumpy, small-time shop owner in Bhatinda, who’s struggling to get the eldest of his three overweight daughters married. Deepak Dobriyal is middle-brother Happy Gill, a fraud dentist whose only solution for every condition is a painful tooth extraction. And Shreyas Talpade is Fancy Gill, a struggling actor in Punjabi films who dreams of moving to Hollywood. When they’re not walking into doors or falling off the roof of the house, the brothers confront each other with grievances they’ve long contained. But it’s hard to feel any empathy, not least because the very next moment they’re electrocuting each other with a tennis racket-shaped mosquito-killer.

If Teen Thay Bhai was merely slapstick, you’d settle into it after a while. But the film never finds its tone. Apart from a few inspired moments of lunacy, this movie is schizophrenic to say the least, going from spoofy to bizarre to sentimental, and yet remaining consistently dull throughout.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for debutant director Mrighdeep Singh Lamba’s Teen Thay Bhai. This isn’t merely a bad film, but a shocking one. Shocking because it wastes the talents of three excellent actors, who’d probably have been funnier if they’d been asked to improvise instead of sticking to this stinky script.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The unkindest cut

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

April 15, 2011

Cast: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere

Director: Wes Craven

Scream 4, like the first film in the series that released all the way back in 1996, is packed with characters that are horror-movie geeks. They remember every tiny little detail from classic scary movies, and have come up with a fairly accurate set of horror-movie rules. Yet these are the same kids who’ll answer the door right after they’ve received a threatening phone call, or they’ll leave the safety of their homes to venture out to desolate places when they know there’s a bloodthirsty killer on the loose. Such kids are plain idiots. And you wouldn’t have any Scream movies if it weren’t for idiots like these who lend themselves to the same premise to be rehashed every few years and served up as new.

Arriving 11 years after the third instalment, Scream 4 is once again set in the small American town of Woodsboro where so many teenagers have been killed over the years that you wonder why they don’t just move out when they’re old enough to go to high school! Neve Campbell reprises her role as Sidney Prescott, survivor of a string of grisly killings that saw everyone from her family and neighbors to her closest friends and boyfriends lose their lives.

Sidney returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the first killings to promote a book she’s just written. Barely has she had a chance to fix her make-up, that a new set of killings start to take place, imitating the earlier ones. A killer in the same Ghostface mask starts taking down kids from the local high school that Sidney’s neice Jill (played by Emma Roberts) and her friends attend. David Arquette is now Sheriff Dewey Riley, and Courteney Cox his wife, former-journalist Gale Weathers who helped solve the previous killings, and wrote the books that inspired the movies that have turned Sidney into something of a legend among the high school’s horror-movie geeks.

Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, the creative duo that fashioned the franchise, Scream 4 indulges in much self-referencing, which is fun in the beginning but gets tiring after a while. The movie-within-a-movie opening is sure to get a few chuckles, but after that smooth start it doesn’t pan out.

I enjoyed the first two Scream movies, but I was disturbed by how brutal the killings have gotten this time. Or perhaps gratuitous violence and unprovoked hatred just doesn’t seem like as much fun in these times when campus shootings are a reality.

Like the previous films, the identity of the killer is meant to be the big payoff in Scream 4. I won’t give that away, of course, but I will say it was smart of the filmmakers to choose a motive that makes enough sense in these times.

I’m going with two out of five for Scream 4. Avoid if you have a weak heart.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Rango souffle

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

April 15, 2011

Cast: Voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy

Director: Gore Verbinski

The creepy crawlies in Rango are a far cry from Pixar’s kiddie-friendly critters like the rat-who-can-cook in Ratatouille and the ingenious inventor-ant in A Bug’s Life, or even that faithful cockroach who follows around his robot pal in Wall-E. An assortment of ugly but fascinating creatures make up the cast of Rango, which, with its smart script and occasionally subtle humor, is unlikely to appeal to very young fans of animation anyway.

Johnny Depp voices lonely lizard Rango who arrives in Dirt, a small Western town populated with rodents and reptiles, which is on the brink of collapse because water supply is running dangerously low. Fooling the desperate townsfolk into believing that he’s a fearless gunslinger, Rango becomes Sheriff. Now he must help secure water for the locals, and find the strength to protect them from their Machiavellian mayor and a machine gun-toting rattlesnake.

Helmed by Gore Verbinski who directed Depp in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, this clever adventure echoes many classic Westerns in its parched landscapes, and the use of such typical scenarios as bank hold-ups, saloon brawls, and high noon face-offs. The dialogue is razor-sharp, and the principal cast offers some fine voice-work, starting with Depp himself who invests Rango with a quirky temperament, and Isla Fisher who shines as Beans, the fast-talking female lizard who has a habit of freezing at peculiar times. In an obvious homage to Chinatown, Ned Beatty voices the town’s water-hoarding mayor who has sinister intentions.

The animation itself is ambitious and remarkably detailed, and the film’s tone is urgent without ever turning sentimental. Rango is that rare animation film that has edge, but doesn’t pander so it can reach out to larger numbers.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Rango. It’s an unusual but enjoyable romp that demands patience, but leaves you feeling rewarded in the end.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Identity crisis

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

April 15, 2011

Cast: Liam Neeson, January Jones, Diane Kruger, Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella, Bruno Ganz

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Unknown, starring Liam Neeson, is a gripping suspense thriller about a man who wakes up from a coma to discover that his identity has been stolen.

Neeson’s character, Dr Martin Harris has just arrived in Berlin with his beautiful wife, played by January Jones. She’s the sort of icy blonde you’d expect to see in a Hitchcock film, and her steely glare alone is enough proof that all’s not well here.  Martin is in town to attend an international microbiology conference, but once he and his wife arrive at their hotel, he realizes that he’s left his briefcase behind at the airport. Hopping into the first taxi outside, he heads off to retrieve his belongings. But an accident causes the taxi to crash into a river, and Martin goes into a coma. When he awakens four days later, he hurries to the hotel to see his wife. As it turns out, she claims not to know him, and a man he’s never seen before pretends to be the “real” Martin Harris. Puzzled, he seeks out the taxi driver from that fateful day (played by Diane Kruger) to help him piece together what happened.

Intriguing for the first hour or so while it taps into the protagonist’s paranoia and his sense of exclusion in this foreign city, Unknown quickly boils down to a series of ridiculous car chases and shoot-outs. The plot itself, despite the brisk pacing, is ludicrous to say the least, but that nifty twist ending is impossible to predict. Much of the joy comes from watching a fine actor like Neeson pump believability into this far-fetched enterprise.

As thrillers go, Unknown succeeds in keeping you glued to your seat. And when you leave the cinema in the end and ponder its implausibility, you have to admit the ride was enjoyable nonetheless.

I’m going with a generous three out of five for Unknown. Despite its limitations, it’s a well-crafted B-movie that’s a fun watch.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 11, 2011

“Yes I want to produce films,” says AR Rahman

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 1:27 am


He has two Oscars, heaps of other national and international honours, and now he has an official biography. Music composer AR Rahman, who was in Mumbai to attend the release of his biography, The Spirit of Music (a collection of conversations with eminent film historian Nasreen Munni Kabir), spared a few minutes to discuss his early hits, the influence of Mani Ratnam on his career, and his journey to the peak of Indian film music.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 9, 2011

Dirty picture

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:58 am

April 08, 2011

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Bobby Deol, Irrfan Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Celina Jaitley, Rimii Sen

Director: Anees Bazmee

There’s no polite way to say this – director Anees Bazmee’s Thank You is an awful, awful film. Five writers are credited with having worked on the script, and yet all they could come up with is a moronic plot about three women who hire a detective to expose their cheating husbands. Bazmee dips into his seemingly never-ending vault of sexist dialogues and slapstick gags to deliver yet another unmistakably sleazy comedy.

Bobby Deol, Irrfan Khan and Sunil Shetty are three married friends in Toronto who can’t keep their privates in their pants. When their wives – Sonam Kapoor, Rimii Sen and Celina Jaitley – decide they’ve had enough, they hire the services of Private Eye Akshay Kumar to teach their husbands a lesson.

Badly scripted, shoddily photographed and embarrassingly performed, Thank You is one of those rare films that gets absolutely nothing right. Ever since the undeserving success of No Entry, Bazmee has churned out a string of comedies on similar lines. Cheating husbands and forgiving wives are staple characters in Bazmee’s regressive films, which invariably end with these doormat women going back to their repentant spouses. But repetition is the least of this film’s problems… Thank You doesn’t work because it’s just not funny.

At best Irrfan Khan occasionally livens up dull scenes with his straight-faced humor, and he’s complemented by Rimii Sen who matches his timing. But the big disappointment of course is Akshay Kumar, who works through his scenes on auto-pilot mode. Once a sharp comic actor, it appears as if Akshay himself is now tired of doing the same thing over and over again.

What you take back with you as you leave the cinema in the end, is the repugnant image of these four male actors – each well into his 40s – slobbering over blondes half their age. They’re dirty old men, and Thank You is a dirty little picture.

I’m going with one out of five for director Anees Bazmee’s Thank You. Be smart, exercise your right to say no!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bird mentality

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 12:49 am

April 08, 2011

Cast: Voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Jemaine Clement, Tracy Morgan, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx

Director: Carlos Saldanha

More colorful than an Asian Paints shade card, Rio will make you want to go straight to your travel agent and buy a flight ticket to the throbbing Brazilian city. This new animation film from the makers of Ice Age is a vibrant, feel-good adventure that follows a formulaic and familiar path, but it’s made with such affection, and voiced so charmingly that it’s hard not to enjoy.

After his Oscar-nominated performance as the nerdish founder of Facebook in The Social Network, Jesse Eisenberg gets pigeonholed (pun unintended) as the voice of nerd-bird Blu. Snatched out of the trees when he was little, and taken to America where he ends up being raised by singleton bookshop-owner Linda (voiced by Leslie Mann), Blu is a happily domesticated macaw who doesn’t think it’s odd that he never learned to fly. “This is the life,” he says as he dips his beak into his afternoon cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows.

When a bird rescuer persuades Linda to bring Blu to Rio de Janiero to breed with the only other remaining blue macaw, Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway), sparks don’t exactly fly between the birds. Before they know it, however, Blu and Jewel are stolen by bird-smugglers, and their escape plan hampered by the fact that they’re chained together.

Pleasant but by-the-numbers, this lightweight family entertainer borrows plot points from a handful of previous animation hits like Happy Feet, Up and Toy Story 3. What’s missing in terms of an inspired storyline, however, is made up for in rich visuals that practically come alive in 3D. Stunning aerial shots of the city, and that colorful depiction of the carnival are two easy highlights.

But the real strength of Rio lies in its remarkable voice talent, and the quirky, comical characters that populate its scenes. Jesse Eisenberg gives Blu a neurotic edge, bequeathing the bird with his trademark fast-talking style that works brilliantly. The other star voice belongs to Jemaine Clement who’s terrific as nasty bird Nigel who, in one of the film’s best scenes, intimidates a troupe of monkeys into searching for the escaped birds. Nigel gets some of the film’s best-written lines, and is a worthy nemesis to the parrot protagonists.

There may be little that’s new about the film’s fish-out-of-water theme, but its colorful palette and endearing characters make it an adventure you don’t want to miss. I’m going with three out of five for Rio. Much fun for kids and adults alike!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

April 8, 2011

Just miss it!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:22 pm

April 08, 2011

Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Nicole Kidman

Director: Dennis Dugan

You have to be a die-hard fan of Adam Sandler to not be disgusted by the crude, tasteless humor in Just Go With It, his appropriately titled new film that asks you to cut it some slack.

Sandler stars as Danny, a successful Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who pretends to be unhappily married, so women will sleep with him out of pity. He has a frumpy assistant, Katherine (played by Jennifer Aniston), a single mom raising two precocious kids. At a party, Danny meets the much younger Palmer (played by Brooklyn Decker), and they make a connection instantly. But when she discovers the fake wedding ring he carries around, he makes up a lie about an impending divorce, and begs Katherine and her children to play along by pretending to be his family.

There are many reasons to not like this film – the plot’s entirely predictable, there are way too many sick jokes about breast implants and penis enlargements, and clocking in at roughly 1 hour and 50 minutes it’s much longer than it should be. Still, if you can look beyond those repeated references to shit, and more than a few scenes in which characters get hit in the groin, there are a few jokes that work. Danny’s scenes with Katherine’s daughter, an aspiring actress who insists on speaking in a cockney accent, are hilarious. There are a few inspired moments of improv by Sandler that are genius – like the Gollum voice he breaks into to describe his lucky ring: “It’s my precious!” Jennifer Aniston too is in surprisingly good form, giving us a glimpse of those comic chops we fell for during her sitcom years.

But as an audience we deserve better than Just Go With It. Credited as a legitimate remake of the 1969 comedy Cactus Flower (which David Dhawan plagiarized in 2005 to make the Salman Khan-starrer Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya), this film is low-brow entertainment at best. Why a fine actress like Nicole Kidman would humiliate herself in an entirely thankless, unfunny supporting role remains a mystery.

You don’t go into an Adam Sandler movie looking for sharp wit or classy dialogue. But there’s no excuse for such few laughs. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Just Go With It. The best thing about the film is its gorgeous Hawaiin setting. Now if you could only throw these annoying people off the island!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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