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

August 13, 2011

Scrawny to brawny

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:00 am

August 12, 2011

Cast: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper

Director: Joe Johnston

Blessed with an old-fashioned charm that you don’t find in most modern blockbusters, Captain America: The First Avenger is a simple, straightforward superhero film that places greater emphasis on story and characters over special effects and set-pieces. Dating all the way back to World War II, this origin story stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, a scrawny Army reject who enlists for a radical experiment, becomes a buff soldier with superhuman strength, then takes on the Nazis and a power-crazy villain who’s making dangerous plans for world domination.

ADD-afflicted teenagers seeking instant gratification in the form of relentless action and blinding VFX are likely to be underwhelmed by the film’s beautiful art-deco look and feel, which is so far removed from the CGI-created worlds of Green Lantern and Transformers 3. Captain America himself, an ideal of American manhood, is a traditional superhero whose weapon of choice is a red-white-and-blue shield. He single-handedly penetrates the army base of Nazi leader Johann Schmidt (played by Hugo Weaving), and releases hundreds of captured soldiers. The film then is less spectacle and more a celebration of single-minded determination and derring-do.

When the action becomes a bit monotonous in the second half, it’s Chris Evans whose endearing portrayal of Captain America continues to keep your interest alive. Evans also scores big points for investing humor and heart into the earlier puny avatar of Steve Rogers, giving us a protagonist to root for. Also terrific is Tommy Lee Jones as the gruff commanding officer who’s skeptical of Rogers’ abilities.

An enjoyable evening out if you’re happy to embrace nostalgia, Captain America: The First Avenger” is good ol’ fashioned fun; I’m going with three out of five. It leaves you looking forward to The Avengers next year when Captain America will join Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and other Marvel superheroes for a new adventure.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 6, 2011

Ram Gopal Varma and Mahie Gill on ‘Not A Love Story’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:06 am

In this interview, filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma and his leading lady Mahie Gill talk about their new film Not A Love Story, that’s inspired by the gruesome Neeraj Grover murder of 2008.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 5, 2011

A better life

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:03 pm

August 05, 2011

Cast: Harsh Mayar, Gulshan Grover, Pitobash Tripathi, Husaan Saad

Director: Nila Madhab Panda

Inspirational and humorous in equal measure, I Am Kalam is the heartwarming story of a poor boy who aspires to learn; a young dreamer determined to rise above his humble roots and carve his own destiny. Directed sensitively by debutant Nila Madhab Panda, the film avoids melodrama while delivering an important message about children and the importance of education.

Harsh Mayar is Chhotu, an uneducated but bright young village kid whose mother drops him off to work at a dhaba owned by an old acquaintance on the outskirts of a small town in Rajasthan. With his toothy smile and his affable manners, Chhotu quickly wins the affection of his boss Bhati (played by Gulshan Grover) and the foreign tourists who visit the dhaba. In between his daily responsibilities of washing the dishes and serving the patrons, Chhotu pores over his books, nursing the seemingly impossible dream of getting an education.

On learning through a television news broadcast that the country’s then-President funded his own schooling by selling newspapers, Chhotu rechristens himself Kalam and discovers a role model to look up to. He becomes friends with a rich young prince named Ranvijay (played by Husaan Saad) who shares his books with him, and also catches the fancy of a French tourist named Lucy (played Beatrice Ordeix) who offers to take him to Delhi and get him admitted into a school.

Never losing track of the film’s central theme or the message it wishes to convey, the script by Sanjay Chauhan allows enough room for light laughs. It’s hard not to be amused by Chhotu’s clashes with Laptan (played by Shor in the City’s Pitobash Tripathi), the Hindi film-obsessed wannabe actor who also works at the dhaba. More far-fetched but also mildly funny is the subplot involving Bhati’s crush on Lucy.

I Am Kalam works as much for its intelligent script as it does for its convincing performances. Pitobash Tripathi is terrific as the envious Laptan, and Gulshan Grover brings the right mix of humor and feeling to the part of Bhati. Husaan Saad is a perfect fit as ‘poor little rich kid’ Ranvijay, but the film of course belongs to Chhotu. Harsh Mayar, who won a National Award for his performance in I Am Kalam delivers a wholly believable, endearing performance as the boy who wants more from life. His smile alone will melt your heart.

Integrating music cleverly into the plot, director Nila Madhab Panda gives us a realistic slice of Rajasthan that’s hard to find in our over-styled Hindi films.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for I Am Kalam. It’s a charming little film that’ll leave you wiser and happier. Don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Apes of wrath

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

August 05, 2011

Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is quite the mouthful as far as movie titles go, but the film itself is more fun than most summer blockbusters that came out of Hollywood this year. It features thrilling scenes in which an army of apes clambers across cars on the Golden Gate Bridge knocking down the cops who stand in their way. In one terrific sequence shot in downtown San Francisco, an angry ape yanks out a manhole from the road and tosses it at an oncoming police car. But the piece de resistance is a scene in which a hulking gorilla leaps off the bridge and into a police helicopter hovering close, taking down the chopper with the sheer force of its attack.

The first Planet of the Apes film of 1968 starring Charlton Heston is considered a cinematic benchmark that spawned five movie sequels and an animated TV series. While this new film has been described alternately as a reboot of the franchise and a prequel to the first film, truth is it works just fine as a stand-alone movie.

Set in the present day, the film stars James Franco as Will Rodman, a genetic scientist working hard to find a cure for Alzheimer’s so he can help his sick father (John Lithgow). He thinks he’s found the perfect treatment when he tests a new drug on a chimpanzee that responds immediately, showing a rapid increase in its IQ. Unfortunately the chimp goes beserk soon after, which prompts the medical board to shut down Will’s program, convinced that no breakthrough has been made yet.

Despite orders to kill all monkeys that were being tested, Will finds himself unable to put down a helpless newborn chimp that he ultimately smuggles home. Caesar, who’s got some of that new drug in him, grows up to be a fast learner. Within a few years he’s picked up sign language, he wears human clothes, and has become an intrinsic part of Will’s family. But just when things are going smoothly, an unfortunate incident in the neighborhood results in Caesar being packed off to animal services, where for the first time he encounters others of his kind. It’s not long before Caesar leads the other apes in revolt against their captors, which sets the stage for that thrilling climax at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Intended as a cautionary tale about the repercussions of messing with nature, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is as much a reminder that animals, however affectionate or ‘human-like’ they may seem, are unpredictable and can succumb to their primal instincts. Director Rupert Wyatt sets up the story nicely with some touching scenes between Caesar and Will. Andy Serkis, who brought Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings films, plays Caesar here, aided by the same combination of special effects and performance-capture technology. Serkis commits himself to the role so diligently it’s impossible not to be moved by Caesar’s sense of feeling betrayed, his anguish and his confusion.

Not everything works, though. The film slips into sheer silliness during many portions at the animal facility where Caesar is held…like that laughable scene in which Caesar and a circus orangutan communicate through sign, while we’re provided with subtitles to stay in the loop. Freida Pinto who stars as a vet and Will’s subsequent girlfriend has precious little to do, much like Brian Cox who is wasted as the manager of the animal facility where Caesar is held. James Franco too, while he’s convincing as the ape’s parent-figure, fails to rise above his underdeveloped part, going through most scenes with a frown.

But Rise of the Planet of the Apes makes no bones about the fact that ultimately it’s all about the spectacle. The film takes flight in its final 20 minutes when the apes wreak havoc on the city. The CGI and special effects are seamless, and Andy Serkis invests heart into Caesar, delivering the best and only performance of this film.

I’m going with three out of five for Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It’s unabashed silly fun, and a good way to unwind over the weekend.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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