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

November 11, 2011

Music of the heart

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:53 pm

November 11, 2011

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Kumud Mishra, Piyush Mishra, Shammi Kapoor, Aditi Rao Hydari

Director: Imtiaz Ali

Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar is a far-from-perfect film, but it has honesty and depth, which is mostly missing in Hindi movies today.

Ranbir Kapoor is Janardan Jakhar, a middle-class kid from Delhi’s Pitampura, who sets himself up to get his heart broken when he’s told he can’t be a great musician until he’s suffered great pain. Janardhan goes from a desperate struggler strumming his guitar at campus hangout spots, to an angsty star, now rechristened Jordan, who’s prone to violent outbursts. Indeed it’s love and pain itself that inspires this journey. His heart beats for the unattainable Heer (Nargis Fakhri), the gorgeous Kashmiri girl he befriended while in college, who is now married in Prague.

Despite several hiccups, especially in the film’s post-intermission portions, Rockstar is an admirable effort if only for how unconventionally director Imtiaz Ali tells this tale of great passion. The romance at the core of this film is a complex one, and the film offers no easy answers. Watch how Heer comes alive each time she’s in Jordan’s presence, whereas when he’s without her his longing prompts his best music out of him.

From the very moment in, it’s evident Imtiaz understands his characters intimately and gives us lovely little moments to know them better. Like that scene in which Janardhan’s sitting in a canteen and complaining that he’s shattered over being shot down by the campus hottie. “If your heart was really broken, you wouldn’t be sitting here eating samosas and arguing over chutney,” his friend tells him, calling his bluff. In a later scene where a bhabhi protects him from his irate brothers, he screams at her for being too touchy-feely. There’s sharp wit on display here, including a scene in which Jordan sits poker faced for the most part, while a music baron chats with him about a contract in the midst of getting a massage.

The film’s chief lapses are its meandering script, and its less-than-impressive leading lady, both of which cost the film dearly. Nargis Fakhri is lovely to look at, but offers very little in terms of acting, reducing her character ultimately to a simpering-whimpering victim. Of the supporting cast, only Kumud Mishra makes a big impression as Jordan’s mentor and manager Khatana, who watches helplessly as his friend sinks into a quicksand of despair.

Rockstar is never as surefooted as Imtiaz’s breakout hit Jab We Met, but it’s a braver, riskier film than any he’s previously made. AR Rahman’s score serves as the spine of this enterprise, emerging expectedly as one the film’s biggest strengths. A word also for Anil Mehta’s dramatic camerawork; not merely for the lush Kashmiri landscapes but also for the edgily-shot concert scenes.

But Rockstar belongs to Ranbir Kapoor over everyone else. It’s a riveting performance – from Janardan’s rough edges to Jordan’s wildly unpredictable ways – and Ranbir roots it in the real. Watch how he seizes the stage in the Sadda haq number and virtually makes the track his own. For Ranbir alone, this film deserves a watch.

I’m going with three out of five for director Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar. In these times of instant gratification, here’s a film that makes you think. Not a perfect film, but one that stays with you long after the lights have come back on.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Boy oh boy, such a joy!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:43 pm

November 11, 2011

Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, David Frost

Director: Steven Spielberg

Given that Steven Spielberg first discovered Tintin after a French critic repeatedly referenced the beloved reporter’s exploits in his review of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s fitting that Spielberg invests some of that distinct Indiana Jones spirit into The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. A globetrotting escapade through exotic locations, the film is packed with thrilling chases and swashbuckling action atop rickety seaplanes and hulking steamers. Quirky characters are involved in solving an old-fashioned mystery about a hidden treasure without any reliance on modern gadgets, and even John Williams’ booming score has a nostalgic feel to it.

Adapted from three original stories by Tintin creator Herge, Spielberg’s film sees our baby-faced hero (Jamie Bell) sucked into a perilous treasure hunt after he buys a model ship from a market stall and discovers that his new possession contains a clue to the whereabouts of a long-lost fortune in pirate plunder. Accompanied by his loyal dog Snowy, Tintin sets off on a typically thrilling adventure that takes him from storm-tossed oceans to parched deserts, hooking up along the way with the permanently sozzled Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), who becomes his friend and ally in his race for the pirate treasure against dastardly villain Sakharine (Daniel Craig).

The first film in a planned trilogy – the second will be directed by The Lord of the Rings’ Peter Jackson who serves as a producer on this one – The Secret of the Unicorn is made using the increasingly popular performance-capture technology, that integrates live-action performances by actors into an animated universe. Doing the film in animation allows for the characters and the landscapes to look almost identical to the original comic book panels, which explains the stunning texture of this movie.

Tintin purists might grumble about a handful of liberties taken by the film’s writers in the process of turning three stories into one script, but Spielberg’s film stays true to the spirit of the books. Nowhere is this more evident than in the character of the disaster-prone-but-sporting Captain Haddock, who at one point uses his whiskey breath to refuel a stalling plane as it plunges towards the ocean. More comic relief is provided by bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), who sneak a few laughs with their synchronized asides.

Tintin himself remains a mostly blank character, not unlike the comic books. But Spielberg places him at the heart of a fast-paced, colorful adventure that is too much fun to resist. I’m going with four out of five for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. It’s the kind of film that’ll bring out the boy in you. Expect to have a big smile plastered on your face throughout.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The gods must be crazy

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:32 pm

November 11, 2011

Cast: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, Stephen Dorff

Director: Tarsem Singh

For many, the prospect of watching Henry Cavill spend roughly 110 minutes shirtless, will be a good enough reason to watch Immortals. This swords-and-sandals epic based on a slice of Greek mythology stars Cavill as Theseus, a peasant in ancient Greece, chosen by the gods to fight the evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) who wishes to bring the world to its knees. In order to stop him, Theseus must procure the Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power, which only the “virgin oracle” Phaedra (Freida Pinto) can help him find.

Less cheesy than Clash of the Titans, yet equally hard to take seriously, Immortals is directed by Tarsem Singh whose brilliant visual style is easily the film’s calling card. The war scenes are less bloody than 300, but there’s enough decapitation and dismemberment to turn off the faint-hearted. The most laughable portions in the film are those in which the beautiful gods leave their Olympian penthouse and prance about on earth in their shiny suits and bizarre headgear that resembles television antennas.

Henry Cavill, who’s been cast as Superman in the forthcoming Man of Steel movie is a charismatic actor who keeps a straight face while delivering some of the film’s corniest lines. Immortals is far from unwatchable, thanks mostly to its arresting visuals and a thrilling climatic battle scene in which Theseus charges directly into Hyperion’s army, slicing, dicing and stabbing his way through his enemies. To be fair, the 3D is immersive, and it enhances the film’s detailed production design. But it’s ultimately a clunky film that takes itself a little too seriously for its own good.

I’m going with two out of five for Immortals. It’s sexy, sure…but just not enough to drop everything you’re doing and head to the cinema.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 5, 2011

Jamie Bell on playing Tintin in Spielberg’s film

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:16 am

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexic0), Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell talks about his role as Tintin in Steven Spielberg’s take on the beloved comic book character, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 4, 2011

Comic cons

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:37 pm

November 04, 2011

Cast: Govinda, Sunil Shetty, Javed Jaffrey, Mahaakshay Chakraborty, Mahesh Manjrekar, Kim Sharma, Ravi Kissen, Mika

Director: Rajnish Raj Thakur

You’d have to jog your memory to remember, but a long, long time ago, Govinda actually had the comic chops to make you laugh. His spot-on timing and flair for the slapstick were virtually unrivaled. Today, unfortunately he’s like a grizzled lion that has lost his bite. Watching him in Loot, alongside such repeat offenders as Sunil Shetty, Javed Jaffrey and Mahaakshay Chakraborty, you’re filled with pity as you witness him struggle to make a joke stick. He’s reduced to doing strange accents in a loud voice. And he’s just not funny anymore.

Neither is Loot, for that matter, although it’s intended as an action-comedy about four conmen on the run from the cops and some goons, when their underworld boss sends them to Thailand on an assignment. Working off a lazy script, director Rajnish Raj Thakur’s film borders on Chinese torture – the plot is pointlessly complicated, the dialogues are expectedly third-rate, and the performances, right from Mahesh Manjrekar to Ravi Kissen, Kim Sharma and singer Mika (making his acting debut), are so grating that sitting in the theatre, you feel as if someone has just run their nails down a blackboard. Precious little is expected out of Sunil Shetty and Mahaakshay Chakraborty, but Javed Jaffrey and Govinda can’t rise above this flawed film either.

I’m going with a generous one out of five for  Loot. My favourite scene is one in which Mahaakshay’s character goes next door to demand that a noisy neighbor turn down his blaring speakers. In reply, the neighbor pours his glass of beer on Mahaakshay’s head. If only the audience could do the same to the perpetrators of this lousy comedy.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Parent trap

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

November 04, 2011

Cast: Chirag Paswan, Kangana Ranaut, Kabir Bedi, Poonam Dhillon, Sagarika Ghatge, Neeru Singh

Director: Tanveer Khan

Kangana Ranaut, her mangled accent aside, is the only bright spot in Miley Naa Miley Hum, a film so dreadfully dull, you’ll have to check your pulse when the lights come back on to find out if you’re still breathing. She stars as a scatterbrained struggling model (never mind that swanky home!) who accepts a rich scion’s offer to spend 20 days pretending to be his girlfriend in exchange for big money. The gentleman in question, played by newcomer Chirag Paswan, must hire a fake lover so his divorced parents won’t bully him into marrying girls of their choice.

The film, unfortunately, doesn’t give Kangana much to do. She’s a real hoot in a handful of comic sequences – like one in which she argues with a cab-driver over the fare she owes him – but her romantic track with Chirag is predictable, yet unconvincing. The chunk of this film’s drama involves the clash between Chirag’s selfish parents to stake claim on their son. So Chirag’s father wants him to play tennis, but his mum is dead against it. She wants him to marry a friend’s daughter from London, but dad has lined up the daughter of his buddy from Bhatinda. This guy has serious problems!

It’s a familiar plot, and director Tanveer Khan treats it without a hint of inventiveness or originality. It’s hard to muster up any sympathy for the protagonist either, because – how do you put this politely? – newcomer Chirag Paswan is as expressive as a blank slate.

The film is a waste of time and money on the part of those who made it and those who’re brave enough to watch it. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Miley Naa Miley Hum. It’s the kind of film that critics must suffer so you don’t have to!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Caper cut!

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

November 04, 2011

Cast: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Michael Pena, Tea Leoni, Alan Alda, Gabourey Sidibe

Director: Brett Ratner

Tower Heist could’ve been a highly entertaining comic caper, but like so many films directed by Brett Ratner, it settles for mediocrity. The premise itself has potential: a bunch of employees of a Trump Tower-style Manhattan high-rise seek payback on the building’s billionaire owner who robbed them of their retirement savings. Alas, the laughs dry up faster than you can say Ponzi, and the film quickly becomes a string of lazy gags.

Despite a formidable cast that includes Ben Stiller as the earnest building manager, and Eddie Murphy as the street thief he hires to help him and his fellow co-workers rob their boss, this action comedy isn’t consistent enough to seize your attention. Some of the best moments involve Eddie Murphy, who unfortunately enters the film fairly late, but steals every scene he’s in with his irreverent smart-mouthed humor. Watch how he squirms under the sexual advances of a Jamaican housekeeping maid (played by Gabourey Sidibe of Precious), or how he tests his rookie partners by daring them to steal items from the local mall.

The least you expect from any movie whose central conceit hinges on an intricate plan is a watertight screenplay without any holes. But Tower Heist appears to be scribbled together by writers just as raw as the crooks in this film. How do Stiller and his accomplices sneak into the building? Every single member of security has been lured away from his job by cake. Really?

The film’s big set-piece involves Stiller and his gang stealing a red Ferrari out of a penthouse by dangling it from the building’s roof. It’s an outrageous scene, but you’re willing to suspend disbelief. The joke goes too far when they slip the car into the elevator shell, and travel up and down the building with the car stationed vertically on a moving elevator.

The rest of the cast includes Matthew Broderick, Michael Pena and Casey Affleck as Stiller’s comrades, and Alan Alda as their swindler boss. Tea Leoni shows up as an FBI agent who enjoys a brief flirtation with Stiller’s character. There are a few moments of inspired lunacy between the actors, but the film is never wholly satisfying as a fast-paced caper.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist. The only reason to watch it is for a glimpse of vintage Eddie Murphy.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Good time guaranteed

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

November 04, 2011

Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser

Director: Andrew Niccol

Time is money.

No it really is, in Gattaca director Andrew Niccol’s new sci-fi thriller In Time, that’s set somewhere in the unspecified future where time has replaced money as currency. This is a world where a cup of coffee will cost you four minutes, and a bus ride makes you poorer by an hour. This is a world that’s divided into zones; the wealthy ones with more time on their hands live in the fancy parts, while those living hand-to-mouth, one day at a time, are relegated to the ghetto.

Before I forget, this is a world where people stop ageing at 25. After that, you only live another year, unless somehow you can access more time. There are time lenders for that, which operate just like banks – you can borrow time at a ridiculously high rate of interest. Or you could just steal from another person, which explains why the crime rate in the ghetto is so high.

Every person in this world is born with a glowing digital clock on his forearm that displays how much time he has on him. When time is exchanged, borrowed, or stolen, the digits change accordingly. When your time runs out, you drop dead on the spot. The way I see it, the best thing about living in this world is that you could be as old as 80, and you’d still look 25. No fear of greying or wrinkles!

The film’s plot is centered on Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), a blue-collar worker who is given a hundred years as a gift from a suicidal man. On the run from the corrupt police force, or Timekeepers, Will enters the posh time zone and kidnaps a rich time-hoarder’s daughter (Amanda Seyfried). It’s not long before she understands his drive to fix this inequitable system, and helps him in robbing her father’s time banks and distributing the wealth among the have-nots.

Despite some gaping plot holes, In Time works as an engaging action thriller, and benefits from a convincing performance from Justin Timberlake as a boy from the ghetto. The film skillfully makes references to inequalities of class, and Man playing God, and it also contains many metaphors about the way we live today.

I’m going with three out of five for In Time. It’s a smart action movie that’s well worth your time.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Shallow waters

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

November 04, 2011

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr, Nathan Gamble

Director: Charles Martin Smith

Dolphin Tale is inspired by the true-life rescue of an injured dolphin, after it became entangled in the ropes of a crab trap off the coast in Florida. That dolphin came to be known as Winter, and she sportingly plays herself in this anything-but-subtle film that squeezes a half-dozen cheesy subplots into the central story of this animal’s fight for survival after it loses its tail.

The film’s hopeful message and its earnest tone make it a suitable watch for young audiences who’re unlikely to cringe at its over-sentimental contrivances like an animal rescue center facing bankruptcy, a promising swimmer who becomes depressed after losing a leg in war, and a reclusive, fatherless kid who has no friends. Even the parallels between the dolphin and wounded war veterans are made obvious enough to reach out to young kids, while adults must make do with Morgan Freeman’s charming performance as an eccentric doctor who agrees to build a prosthetic tail for the maimed mammal.

I’m going with two out of five for Dolphin Tale. It’s an inspiring yet insipid watch, most likely to be enjoyed by animal-loving little ones.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 1, 2011

Masand’s Verdict: Max Payne inflicts maximum pain

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rajeev @ 7:08 am

  Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Chris O’Donell, Olga Kurylenko

Direction: Josh Moore

The only thing that seems to make any sense at all about Max Payne is its title. Sitting through this stylish-looking but incomprehensible action movie is an experience that inflicts maximum pain.

Based on a popular video game of the same name, the film stars Mark Wahlberg as a scowling NYPD cop determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his wife and child. This journey takes him into a murky underworld of tattooed assassins, powerful liquid drugs, and mysterious flying beasts. It’s also the kind of film in which an ostensible good guy saves the hero from certain death, only to immediately betray him twenty minutes later and then try to kill him. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to just let him die in the first place?

Watching our hero mow down row upon row of bad guys with weapons of all shapes and sizes, chances are you’ll be sitting there in your seat numbed by all the violence. It’s particularly annoying because the film’s plot is practically impossible to understand till one character in the film finally spells it out for both Max Payne and us, the poor audience. The single saving grace of this film is its monochrome photography which gives Max Payne a neo noir look. But that’s not enough to keep you engaged through its entire duration.

I’m going with one out of five and a thumbs-down for the bullet-fest that is Max Payne; the only thing more painful than the film itself is a rumor I read that they’re preparing a sequel.

Rating: 1 / 5 (Poor)

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