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

October 14, 2011

Drown and out

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:57 pm

October 14, 2011

Cast: Anand Tiwari, Vinay Pathak, Rajat Kapoor, Sadia Siddiqui, Pitobash Tripathy, Sita Ragione Spada

Director: Praveen Kumar

“There’s nothing more dangerous than a Bihari in love,” says the concerned uncle of an NRI girl in Jo Dooba So Paar: It’s Love in Bihar. This clunky comedy stars Anand Tiwari (of The President is Coming and Aisha) as Kesu, a slacker boy who returns home to a small town in the cow-belt when he’s thrown out of boarding school for being a nuisance. Lazing around with friends when he’s not assisting his truck-driver father, he takes in the violence and corruption around him that is a part of the local ecosystem. Then, he falls hopelessly in love with a friendly NRI girl who arrives in his part of the woods on a research project, but before he can tell her, her white boyfriend shows up. And shortly after, she’s kidnapped.

This odd film from director Praveen Kumar gives off a sense of incompletion, as it never quite comes together as anything coherent. Despite a strong cast that includes Vinay Pathak, Rajat Kapoor, Sadia Siddiqui, and Pitobash Tripathy, the film is hard to sit through because the plot makes very little sense. The talented Anand Tiwari plays Kesu as an unpredictable fellow who is at the verge of revealing himself, but the script doesn’t give him any moments to shine.

I’m going with a generous one out of five for Jo Dooba So Paar: It’s Love in Bihar You keep waiting for something out of the ordinary to happen…anything really. But nothing does. It’s as boring as watching paint dry.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

To Sir, with love

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:30 pm

October 14, 2011

Cast: Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso, Noah Emmerich

Director: JJ Abrams

Set in the late 70s, Super 8 is a gripping thriller from Lost creator JJ Abrams, that follows a bunch of school-going friends who accidentally capture footage of a major train crash while shooting a low-budget zombie film. Something escapes from the wrecked train, and pretty soon the army is crawling all over town. Then the plot goes all E.T. on us.

Its title referring to the old film format used by home-movie enthusiasts, this nostalgia-soaked adventure is evocative of the film’s producer Steven Spielberg’s early hits, particularly Close Encounters of the Third Kind, whose visual style it emulates. Like Gremlins and Goonies (which he also produced) and E.T. itself, Super 8 is above all things, a tale of youth and friendship. The kids here not only have a great sci-fi adventure to solve, but also tackle a heap of prickly emotional issues – everything from the death of a parent, to young love – that make the movie surprisingly heartfelt.

The three protagonists that stand out in the film are Riley Griffiths, who plays Charlie, the excitable director of this home-made movie; Joel Courtney as Joe, the make-up genius in this motley crew, who’s at odds with his cop father; and particularly Elle Fanning as the brazen school beauty who has her own domestic troubles. This young cast is the emotional core of Super 8, and the reason the film remains grounded even when the plot occasionally teeters on the brink of sheer cheesiness.

It’s a good old-fashioned entertainer that delivers nifty special effects and gimmicks, but doesn’t let them get in the way of a solid, moving story. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Super 8. Make sure you stay till the end credits for a clever surprise!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Raunch party

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:23 pm

October 14, 2011

Cast: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Ari Graynor, Blythe Danner, Ed Begley Jr

Director: Mark Mylod

Freaked out by a study in a glossy magazine that claims women who’ve slept with more than 20 partners are unlikely to ever get married, Ally (Anna Faris) decides to track down her 20 former lovers and settle down with whichever one has best husband potential. For this mission, she enlists the help of her hunky, horn-dog neighbor Colin (Captain America’s Chris Evans) – and it’s hardly a spoiler if I were to tell you that after a string of embarrassing encounters with her exes, Ally realizes Colin is the one for her.

This raunchy rom-com has a by-the-numbers predictability to it; even the ‘meet cute’ moments between the leads aren’t original. Ally and Colin bicker and flirt over pizza, play strip basketball, and go skinny-dipping in the middle of the night. Yet it’s watchable because Anna Faris has sharp comic timing and knows how to work a joke. Her reactions alone, when each ex drops the proverbial ball on her, are hilarious to say the least.

It’s not a bad way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, or wait till it’s out on DVD. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for What’s Your Number? It racks up no surprises, but there’s something refreshing about a rom-com heroine who can be potty-mouthed and endearing all at once.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

October 8, 2011

Aziz Ansari & Nick Swardson on the pressure of being funny guys

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:45 am

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico), stars of 30 Minutes or Less Aziz Ansari and Nick Swardson talk about the pressure of being funny guys.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Jesse Eisenberg on life after the Oscar nod

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:40 am

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico), The Social Network‘s Jesse Eisenberg talks about his new comedy 30 Minutes or Less, and explains how life has changed since the Oscar nod.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

October 7, 2011

First in crass

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:36 pm

October 07, 2011

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan, Kangana Ranaut, Lisa Haydon, Chunky Pandey, Arjun Rampal

Director: David Dhawan

Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgan play rival con artistes in director David Dhawan’s Rascals, a third-rate comedy that borders on the offensive. Dutt’s character, Chetan, poses as a social worker and motivational speaker who’s trying to dupe a rich socialite out of her crores. Devgan’s character, Bhagat, pretends to be a blind Naval officer so he can get his paws on the same girl. Kangana Ranaut is Khushi, the lady in question, who is repeatedly fondled, groped, undressed, and practically molested by these ageing perverts. I’ll be on her side if she decides to press charges.

David Dhawan, who’s no purveyor of good taste, plumbs new depths of crassness with this expectedly insensitive film that’s so short on real jokes that it makes light of everything from starving orphans in Somalia to the physically handicapped. In one scene that’s meant to be funny, Kangana’s character organizes a sports day for blind people, to which Dutt offers this priceless gem: “Jinko chalte chalte thes lagti hai, unke liye aapne race rakhi hai.

The film’s plot, if you can call it that, involves Dutt and Devgan trying to foil each other’s plans to get their way with Kangana. The lines are replete with sexual innuendo, and the gags are embarrassingly crude. At one point, Devgan gets Kangana to strip down to her bikini top because he claims her bright yellow shirt is hurting his slowly healing vision. In another scene, while struggling to put a pair of shorts on a passed-out girl in his bed, Dutt complains: “Ab pata chala, kapde utaarna itna aasaan hai, lekin pehnana kitna mushkil.

The truth is: Dhawan’s films have always been sexist and regressive, but there was a time you could count on him to deliver the laughs regardless. Rascals, as it turns out, is an infuriatingly unfunny film. Unless grown men making silly faces is your idea of comedy. Arjun Rampal in a special appearance is typically one-note; and Kangana Ranaut does inspire a few chuckles, but those are unintentional, and the result of her awkward timing.

I’m going with one out of five for director David Dhawan’s Rascals. Donate your cash to charity instead of wasting it on this wretched film!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

That old feeling

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:34 pm

October 07, 2011

Cast: Zayed Khan, Dia Mirza, Cyrus Sahukar, Tisca Chopra, Satyadeep Mishra, Farida Jalal

Director: Sahil Sangha

Too long by at least thirty minutes, Love Breakups Zindagi is the kind of over-familiar schmaltz that might have felt less of a slog, had it featured charismatic leads with sizzling chemistry. But Zayed Khan and Dia Mirza can’t unfortunately pull off this film’s cliché-ridden screenplay that borrows heavily from the Aditya Chopra/Karan Johar brand of breezy, urban romances.

It all starts at (where else!) a big fat North Indian wedding, where our protagonists meet as strangers, but over the course of much singing, dancing and making merry, discover that sparks have begun to fly.  Since both are already in committed relationships, neither of the two articulates their feelings for the other, although everyone from their friends to you in the audience can see exactly where this is going!

From tight close-ups of pakodas and jalebis being fried in hot oil, to Farida Jalal as a kindly grandma who begins matchmaking from the moment we see her, the film’s first half is bursting at its seams with every wedding-movie stereotype you can possibly think of. Yet, it’s sitting through the film’s corny post-intermission portions that require nerves of steel. The screenplay limps along unhurriedly through a series of contrived ‘meet-cute’ moments between the leads, and the characters spew so much relationship mumbo-jumbo that you feel like you’re inside a Hallmark card factory.

Zayed Khan and Dia Mirza go through their scenes with a filmi flair, their acting always coming off as ‘acting’. It’s the film’s comparatively fresh supporting cast – particularly Cyrus Sahukar and Tisca Chopra – who inject some humor and a hint of relatability into their scenes.

Love Breakups Zindagi is an inoffensive film that has pleasant music and neat production design. First-timer Sahil Sangha directs with an easy hand, giving the film a light-hearted feel. Alas, he’s working from a script that offers nothing new or exciting to chew on.

I’m going with two out of five for Love Breakups Zindagi. It’s a tiring retread of a once popular formula that’s wearing thin now.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Misses a beat

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

October 07, 2011

Cast: Rajeev Khandelwal, Soha Ali Khan, Mohan Kapur, Mrinalini Sharma

Director: Neerav Ghosh

Slipping further and further into a vortex of drugs, alcohol and meaningless sex, the protagonist of Soundtrack, genius DJ Raunak Kaul (Rajeev Khandelwal), suddenly goes deaf one day. It’s an intriguing premise, borrowed legitimately from the Canadian film It’s All Gone Pete Tong, that itself claimed to be based on a true story.

Treated without the requisite pinch of humor or irony, director Neerav Ghosh delivers a boring film that’s as indulgent as the character whose life-story it portrays. Khandelwal, usually a terrific actor, appears grossly miscast as the hedonist hero, and plays him with a misguided sense of seriousness. You’re meant to feel for Raunak and root for him to overcome his impediment, but there are two problems here. First, he’s been such a shallow figure that mustering up any real sympathy for him is a near impossible task. Second, Khandelwal’s appearance and physicality in no way reflects Raunak’s supposed inner breakdown. The actor is on stronger ground in the film’s later portions, when his character takes up with a deaf girl (Soha Ali Khan) and commits himself towards finding fulfillment.

The film’s second half in fact has a bunch of endearing moments, and the director seems more capable handling these conventional scenes. Soha has a warm vibe to her, but it’s Mohan Kapur as Raunak’s opportunistic manager who seems to get the tone that is required here.

Soundtrack doesn’t work consistently because it’s amateurishly directed, and because even those scenes of Raunak’s debauchery are so tackily filmed. Even if you survive this film’s every other flaw, chances are you’ll be exhausted by those long, hallucinatory interactions between Raunak and his alter-ego that manifests itself as a clown.

I’m going with two out of five for Soundtrack. Somewhere in this tiring film is a promising idea that hasn’t been fully exploited.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Heavy metal

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

October 07, 2011

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Kevin Durand, Anthony Mackie, Evangeline Lilly

Director: Shawn Levy

Set in a not-so-distant future where human fisticuffs are now passé and the new craze is all robot-boxing, Real Steel stars Hugh Jackman as Charlie Kenton, a washed-up ex-pugilist who struggles to make a living from getting his low-end robots into underground fights. Brash and shortsighted, Charlie pits his mechanical fighters against rivals that are impossible to defeat; no wonder he’s buried in debt, and each of his robots badly destroyed. Just when things can’t possibly get any worse, he’s burdened with the responsibility of his estranged 11-year-old son Max (Dakota Goyo), a stubborn kid who insists that Charlie rebuild an outdated scrap-yard robot named Atom, and train him for the fight circuit.

Directed by Night at the Museum’s Shawn Levy and produced by Steven Spielberg, Real Steel is equal parts noisy action movie, and father-son bonding drama. The boxing scenes are thrillingly filmed, including a classic David vs Goliath climax; it’s the film’s emotional journey that feels like pure cheese. Borrowing its blueprint from classic sports film The Champ, father and son resolve their differences, the kid becomes a partner, his dad grows up, and everyone turns into a better person.

A less charismatic actor might have collapsed under the weight of such formulaic writing, but Hugh Jackman holds on to his dignity till the very end, where he feeds every move to Atom by shadow boxing. Dakota Goyo has some endearing moments as the precocious Max, especially those bits where he teaches Atom some nifty dance steps. But if Real Steel works, it’s purely and singularly on the strength of its hulking metal warriors that pack a solid, determined punch.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Real Steel. The thunderous action alone makes up for the strictly standard storytelling.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Crazy stupid fun

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:29 pm

October 07, 2011

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Michael Pena

Director: Shawn Levy

30 Minutes or Less is a very silly but very entertaining comedy about two idiots (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) who kidnap a laid-back pizza delivery boy (The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg) and strap him with a vest full of explosives, forcing him to rob a bank for them. It’s a ridiculous plan, but wait till you hear what’s behind it! These moron kidnappers need to pay a hitman to kill McBride’s wealthy father, so he can inherit his dad’s money and open a tanning salon that’ll actually be a front for a whorehouse.

The pace of the film is breakneck, and the repartee between characters so sharp, your sides will hurt from laughing. But it’s Aziz Ansari, as the panic-stricken pizza guy’s best friend, who steals the film with all the smart lines. When Eisenberg suggests checking the Internet to find a way to diffuse the bomb, Ansari replies seriously: “The last thing I looked up online was how to make a quiche, and I f****d that up pretty bad.”

Directed by Reuben Fleischer who gave us that zany comedy Zombieland, this outrageous follow-up hits all the right notes thanks to the hysterical interaction between its two pairs of principal players. There are car chases and shootouts, but nothing’s more enjoyable than the banter between the boys. Don’t miss the hilarious sparring that ensues when Ansari finds out Eisenberg slept with his twin sister.

I’m going with three out of five for 30 Minutes or Less. Like junk food it has no nutritional value. But you won’t be able to resist it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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