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

April 1, 2011

Bored games

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:36 pm

April 01, 2011

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut, Jimmy Shergill, Shahana Goswami, Boman Irani, Sarah Jane Dias, Anupam Kher, Gauhar Khan

Director: Abhinay Deo

Borrowing its set-up from the Agatha Christie bestseller And Then There Were None, director Abhinay Deo’s Game opens with a millionaire inviting four strangers to a private island, where he reveals that each of them is hiding a dirty little secret that connects them to each other.

Over 70 years since it was first published, and many screen adaptations later the book still offers a premise that’s ripe for reinterpretation. Game, unfortunately, squanders that potential.

Abhishek Bachchan plays a nightclub owner and drug baron in Istanbul, Boman Irani a Prime Ministerial candidate in Bangkok, Jimmy Shergill a movie-star in Mumbai, and Shahana Goswami a boozed-out journalist in London. The four of them, strangers to each other, arrive at a Greek island on the urging of Anupam Kher’s character, who has evidence to implicate them in the death of his daughter. Before he can expose them however, he is mysteriously killed. Kangana Ranaut, an officer from the International Vigilance Squad shows up at the scene of crime and allows the four suspects to return home. But she’s planted surveillance cameras across the globe to track their movements so she can figure out who the killer is.

What the film lacks in terms of intrigue and suspense, it tries to make up for with slick visuals. But it’s hard to remain engaged in a thriller that has no place for basic logic. Packed with clichés that make you cringe and plot-holes the size of craters, Game is a colossal bore. The film’s first half in particular is a test of your patience as it involves so much banal talking that you want to stuff cotton in your ears. The second half is just silly chases and pointless flashbacks involving newcomer Sarah Jane Dias’ character, who plays the murdered girl at the heart of this story.

The acting is serviceable at best, save for Kangna Ranaut who at least attempts to lift this dumb script with some energy on her part. The big twist in the end feels lazy, and the identity of the murderer is so obvious you don’t even feel worthy of a pat on the back for guessing correctly. A disappointing music score and sloppy dialogues add to your overall feeling of being underwhelmed.

The only respite in Game is some eye-watering photography, a thrilling foot chase sequence in Istanbul, and a surprisingly understated romantic track involving Abhishek Bachchan’s character. Unfortunately that’s not enough to save this mess of a thriller.

I’m going with a generous two out of five for director Abhinay Deo’s Game. If you really want to play, grab a bat, a racket or a football and head out into the open for the real thing.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Class dismissed

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:29 pm

April 01, 2011

Cast: Jackky Bhagnani, Puja Gupta, Angad Bedi, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Arshad Warsi, Ritesh Deshmukh

Director: Remo D’souza

Four friends with no interest in academics create a fake university so they can fool their families into thinking they’re getting a real education. This premise was the foundation of the lame 2006 comedy Accepted, of which Faltu is an even less enjoyable rip-off.

Directed by well-known Bollywood choreographer Remo D’souza, Faltu is, for the most part, a dumb comedy about dumb kids partying. Jackky Bhagnani plays a slacker who enlists his pals to set up a sham college they can pretend to attend, while in reality they do nothing else but get drunk, laze around in a swimming pool, and break into dance routines. Some hundreds of similarly unambitious kids sign up to share the same empty dream, and Arshad Warsi and Ritesh Deshmukh star as the only approving adults who participate in their vacuous plan.

Like the American film it shamelessly plagiarizes, Faltu might have been marginally tolerable if it had no pretentions of being anything more than a raucous campus comedy. But in the second half the film wants to make a serious comment on our flawed education system; and modeling itself after 3 Idiots, it makes a case for vocational learning. You have long-drawn scenes in which kids train themselves in everything from tattoo design and hair-styling to fitness and cookery, relying on tutorial videos by professionals in the business.

If Faltu never works, it’s because the script doesn’t have a shred of integrity. The film doesn’t raise one original argument or convey a definite point of view. The entire movie in fact, appears to be an excuse for the actors to participate in a never-ending string of music videos. And although some of the songs are hummable, by the time the eighth musical set-piece plays out, you’re completely and utterly exhausted.

It doesn’t help that the singularly unattractive cast doesn’t have one acting bone between them, and that the film feels much longer than its roughly two hours running time.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Faltu. Getting a root canal is less painful.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Master plan

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:18 pm

April 01, 2011

Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slatterty, Terence Stamp

Director: George Nolfi

The Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon is based on the outlandish but undeniably fascinating premise that unknown to us there exists a secret worldwide network that keeps mankind running according to a pre-written plan. An agency of officers that wear fedora hats and carry books with magical maps is supposedly lurking around the corner to ensure that none of us deviate from our pre-determined path.

The idea itself originates from a 1954 short story by legendary science-fiction author Philip K Dick; and the film works despite the occasional speed-bumps in the script because writer-director George Nolfi sets it in the present day, and gives us protagonists who’re likeable and not hard to root for.

Damon stars as David Norris, a hotshot New York politician who is instantly smitten when he runs into pretty ballerina Elise, played by Emily Blunt, during a chance encounter in a hotel men’s room where he’s rehearsing a campaign speech. There’s an instant chemistry between them, but she’s got to leave.

Clearly he wants to see her again, but it doesn’t happen. If you’re wondering why they can’t find each other living in the same city, it’s because someone’s making sure they don’t. That someone is Harry (played by Anthony Mackie), a “case officer” assigned to David, who must make sure Elise and him never cross paths again. When Harry slips up on the job by accident, David and Elise bump into each other on a bus, three years since their first meeting, and pick up where they left off.

When David and Elise fall hard for each other, the young politico is let in on the secret existence of the “Bureau”. He’s warned not to pursue Elise because it’s not part of “The Plan”; he’s threatened that if he does, they’ll erase his brain.

Surprisingly simple in its logic, The Adjustment Bureau is no head-scratcher like Inception. There are no layers beneath layers, hence little joy in the process of discovery. Much of the film involves breathless chases across New York as David tries to literally outrun his fate, but the cat-and-mouse pursuit gets tiresome after a while as the men resort to increasingly mundane ways of coming between the couple. The absence of a twist in the end, or even the fact that the stakes never really seem high enough, come in the way of this film emerging as a consistently compelling thriller.

But what keeps the film afloat is the entirely convincing romance between David and Elise. In fact, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt deliver such winning performances, you’re even willing to overlook the film’s sluggish pace and a bunch of gaping holes in the script.

I’m going with three out of five for The Adjustment Bureau. Don’t expect too much by way of thrills, but prepare to be won over by a charming romance.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

A twist of crime

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:04 pm

April 01, 2011

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H Macy, Josh Lucas

Director: Brad Furman

Matthew McConaughey stars as cocky LA defense attorney Mick Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer, a slick, cleverly-plotted crime thriller adapted from Michael Connelly’s bestselling book. Haller works out of the back seat of his chauffeured car, hopping from one court to another, representing hookers, drug-dealers and the kind of assorted lowlifes that no one else will. His conscience comes into play when he takes the case of spoilt Beverly Hills playboy Louis Roulet (played by Ryan Phillippe) who’s been charged with brutally attacking and near-murdering a prostitute. His client insists he’s innocent, and that the hooker is out to fleece him. The case looks simple enough at first, but new twists slowly emerge that force Haller to confront his morals.

The film is stylish and suspenseful, and never lets go of your attention thanks to brisk pacing and some shrewd plotting. Like some of the best thrillers, The Lincoln Lawyer keeps you guessing until the end – not about who the villain is, but about how Haller will take him down.

The twists are hard to predict, the dialogue is crisp, and McConaughey is complemented by a fine supporting cast that includes Marisa Tomei as Haller’s ex-wife, William H Macy as his catty investigator, and Josh Lucas as the prosecutor he goes up against in court. Director Brad Furman paints a realistic, seamy picture of downtown Los Angeles, and gives us a relatable leading man who’s far from perfect.

Moody and gripping, The Lincoln Lawyer is a throwback to those fine noir films of the 70s; I’m going with three out of five. Not a bad way to spend a lazy evening.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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