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

August 10, 2012

Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif on Ek Tha Tiger and the ‘blouse’ controversy

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 8:48 pm


In this interview, Ek Tha Tiger stars Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif reveal what drew them to Kabir Khan’s latest spy thriller, and clear the air on a certain ‘blouse’ controversy that made it to the headlines recently.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN on August 7, 2012)

Sons of Sardar

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:40 pm

August 10, 2012

Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Richa Chadha, Huma Qureishi, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Zeishan Quadri, Aditya Kumar, Reema Sen

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Showered with bullets in an elaborately staged coup at a highway gas station, Sardar Khan (a mercurial Manoj Bajpai) succumbs to his wounds. At his funeral, grief-stricken wails are comically drowned out by a singer belting out Yaad teri aayegi on a microphone, his fingers maintaining tempo to the beats. Almost immediately, Gangs of Wasseypur II transports us back to that whimsically violent world that Anurag Kashyap first introduced us to roughly seven weeks ago.

This is a universe where men model themselves after film heroes, cradling vendetta in their hearts while cold-bloodedly carving out a crime empire. In the midst of a deluge of bullets and bloodied bodies, Kashyap and his gang of writers continue that curious pastiche of violence, humor, and zabardast music in a saga spanning generations of rivalry.

And yet, it’s hard to deny that Wasseypur II is lacking. In plot for one… Despite the cinematic flair, this film weighs down on you, seeming like an endless series of killings without a narrative to string it all together. Where is the method to this madness? Unlike the earlier film that took its time (too much time, to be fair) to set up the chapters, this sequel hits the ground running with relentless gun battles and daylight murders. Yet it feels curiously empty, as if the characters are just moving around in impressive set pieces.

There’s a nicely done sequence in which a gangster fumbles to tie the naada on his pyjama even as he’s switching clumsily between two mobile phones, an impatient assassin on one line; on the other, a henchman assigned to trail a target in a vegetable market. It’s a cleverly written scene that delivers laughs, but it plays out too long for its own good.

Chase sequences are the mainstay in Wasseypur II, but here too, they outstay their welcome. It feels as if Kashyap, so enamored by that brilliant, breathless foot-chase scene in his earlier film Black Friday, is determined to outdo himself here with at least four chases that start out interestingly but seem to go on forever.

Where Kashyap scores is with the characters that he brings in, most of whom have an obsession with Hindi movies and their heroes. As the feud between Ramadhir Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia) and Sardar’s hash-smoking heir Faisal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) deepens, we are introduced to Faisal’s younger brother Perpendicular, a devil-may-care ruffian who wields a razor blade in his mouth, flicking it around with his tongue like he would a kamikaze sword. If Faisal is the Amitabh Bachchan worshipper, then his half-brother Definite prays at the altar of Salman Khan. Faisal keeps his emotions cloaked, his vulnerabilities bared only to his movie-mad wife Mohsina, who sings quirky ditties to lift his spirits. Faisal is the Wasseypur version of the reluctant Michael Corleone – sucked into the mafia, despite his intentions. In contrast, Definite wears his feelings recklessly on his sleeve, and together they work at avenging the barbaric murders of the family.

As with the earlier film, this sequel too is richer from the shining performances of its terrific ensemble – be it Richa Chadha as the steely matriarch, Aditya Kumar as the lisping Perpendicular, or Huma Qureishi as the feisty Mohsina. Co-writer Zeishan Quadri offers an outstanding turn as the hilarious yet feral Definite, while Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as the fearless Faisal, is the film’s standout artiste, a ticking time bomb of violence and emotion.

If Wasseypur II has one fatal flaw, it’s the indulgence of its director, so in love with his baby that he doesn’t stop introducing pointless subplots and characters until the very end. Where the earlier film benefitted from the delicious machinations of its players and an overall sense of intrigue, the sequel never goes beyond a typical vendetta story.

I’m going with a generous three out of five for Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur II. Overlong and tiring, this film is saved by memorable characters and the fine actors who bring them to life.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bourne again

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

August 10, 2012

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney

Director: Tony Gilroy

The fundamental problem with The Bourne Legacy is that it contains too much talking and very little action. It’s a far cry from the earlier Bourne films, particularly Supremacy and Ultimatum, both directed by Paul Greengrass whose frenetic shaky-camera shooting style and breathless direction turned those films into smart, realistic action-thrillers.

Tony Gilroy, who’s co-written and directed The Bourne Legacy (and who co-wrote each of the three earlier Bourne films), is clearly more interested in the cerebral over the visceral. Much of the new film involves characters solemnly watching footage on television screens and discussing what can only be very important matters in deathly serious tones. But the truth is, although lots of information is thrown at you, very little is interesting or even crucial to the plot.

Jeremy Renner takes over as leading man from Matt Damon (the actor left the franchise in 2010 when Greengrass famously decided he didn’t want to do another Bourne film; Damon said he wouldn’t do one without Greengrass), although The Hurt Locker star doesn’t play Jason Bourne. He’s Aaron Cross, another highly skilled superspy on the run from the CIA, who wants him dead in order to cover up all evidence of their own dirty dark secrets. As he dodges government drones and assassins hired by ruthless Col Eric Byer (Edward Norton), Cross enlists the help of Dr Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) to obtain the drugs he needs to keep himself going.

Renner has the presence, but alas not the vulnerability that Damon brought to his role; it’s hard to care for Cross in the manner that you rooted for Bourne, and that could be blamed on his thinly sketched character.

Gilroy cleverly connects this story to the existing Bourne universe, although we never see Jason Bourne in Legacy, However the film suffers considerably on account of its lethargic pace, and the only time you feel like you’re watching a true-blue Bourne film is during that thrilling climatic chase scene through the streets of Manila.

I’m going with two out of five for The Bourne Legacy. After three terrific Bourne films, this is one sequel we didn’t need.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 4, 2012

Farah Khan & Boman Irani on tummy tucks, on-screen kisses, and selling lingerie

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:33 am

In this interview, Farah Khan and Boman Irani talk about their “clumsy romance” in the middle-aged rom-com Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. The actors discuss tummy tucks, on-screen kisses, and lingerie.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 3, 2012

All body, no soul

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:39 pm

August 03, 2012

Cast: Randeep Hooda, Arunoday Singh, Sunny Leone, Arif Zakaria

Director: Pooja Bhatt

It takes a special kind of skill to make a film as harebrained as Jism 2. To say that its script is ridden with plot holes is an understatement; the plot itself is like a big, black hole there is no coming out of.

Adult film actress Sunny Leone makes her ‘legit’ movie debut starring as porn actress Izna, although it’s hard to say why she’s meant to be a porn actress, given that this teeny-weeny detail doesn’t further the plot in any way whatsoever. Or perhaps director Pooja Bhatt doesn’t recognize the difference between a porn actress and a prostitute, because within the first five minutes of the film, Izna has picked up a man at a bar, taken him to a room upstairs and has had sex with him.

Anyway, Izna is offered ten crore rupees by Intelligence officer Ayan (Arunoday Singh) and his boss Guru (Arif Zakaria wearing a wig so big, it threatens to swallow his face) to seduce her ex-boyfriend Kabir (Randeep Hooda), a former cop-turned-eccentric terrorist who has the blood of dozens of innocent people on his hands. The secret agents want Izna to gain Kabir’s trust again and steal files containing details of his misdeeds that they tell her he’s saved on his laptop. When Izna refuses to go along with their plan, insisting that she’s still scarred from being dumped by Kabir six years ago, Ayan tells her she ought to do this for the sake of her country. “Apni mulk ki madat toh main already kar rahi hoon kapde utaar ke,” she tells him straight-faced. “Lekin har jism ki expiry date hoti hai,” he replies, in what has to be the most unintentionally comical exchange of words.

When they’re finally able to convince her to join their mission, Izna and Ayan must pretend to be an engaged couple and move into a villa in a French colony in Sri Lanka, literally across from the villa where Kabir has been hiding out.

At this point I can think of at least two questions begging to be asked: If the Intelligence Department knows exactly where he’s staying, and they’re so confident they know where he hides his secret files, couldn’t they just swoop down on him themselves instead of recruiting a porn actress to do the job? And secondly, does every terrorist/assassin in a Hindi movie maintain a file with evidence of his own crimes that can implicate him instantly? Seems kind of dumb, doesn’t it?

Well moving on, when Kabir sees Izna again, it doesn’t take long before something inside him starts to stir…no, not his heart, presumably a body part lower down, because he’s remained completely celibate all these years – “no girlfriends, not even prostitutes”, a psychiatrist who treated him has revealed to the Intelligence officers hot on his trail. So even as Kabir falls hard for her, Ayan has developed feelings for Izna himself.

Widely advertised as an erotic thriller, Jism 2 has some clumsy lovemaking scenes, but none of the sizzling chemistry likely to satisfy anyone seeking more than just cheap titillation. Neither does it have that edge-of-the-seat-tension you expect in a juicy suspense story. To give you an example, this is the kind of film in which everyone from undercover agents and deadly assassins, and really anyone with a secret to hide, leaves their mobile phones lying around carelessly at the most crucial times.

The film’s chief conceit – you’re meant to be guessing until the end whose side Izna is actually on – is betrayed by Sunny Leone’s wooden acting, and her overuse of the ‘heaving bosom’ approach in response to every situation in the film, be it joyous, distressing, or romantic. Predictably, she’s uninhibited in the sex scenes, but can’t muster up any real feeling. The usually dependable Randeep Hooda, meanwhile, goes a little overboard with all the feeling; he hams it up as the nut-job assassin who regards his crimes as the purging of a corrupt society. Alternating clunkily between melancholic and hyper, Hooda constructs a wildly implausible character that inspires most of the unintended laughs in this film.

Unlike the earlier Jism that Pooja Bhatt produced but didn’t direct, this sequel has little of consequence to say about relationships based on lust. The previous film was a well-acted, adult thriller that had rare sexual frankness. In comparison, Jism 2 feels hollow and exploitative…a film in search of a story. Despite some terrific music and Pooja Bhatt’s neat production design, it’s let down by laughable dialogue and a pace slower than my 90-year-old grandmother on a race track.

I’m going with one out of five for Jism 2. For all its pretentious babble on love and pain, it’s a film that leaves your own jism in much pain as you finally get out of your seat.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Memory lapse

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:37 pm

August 03, 2012

Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy

Director: Len Wiseman

How ironic that a film whose key conceit involves wiped-out memories is so easily forgettable itself… The new Total Recall, adapted from a Phillip K Dick short story, and remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarznegger starrer, is a joyless bore of a film that possesses none of the campy charm of its predecessor.

Set somewhere in an unspecified future where all of Earth has been destroyed, save for an elite United Federation of Britain and The Colony, where the poor masses live in squalor, the movie stars Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid, a factory worker in a dead-end job. Understandably, Doug and his hot wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) dream of a better life. Doug shows up at a company called Rekall where you can pay to have any memory planted in your head, so your dreams can be a pleasant escape from your sad reality.

His visit to Rekall, however, throws up a revelation he had no idea about – Doug was previously part of an underground rebel group, and in love with fellow resistance fighter Melina (Jessica Biel). When his identity becomes known, he’s attacked by Lori, who, as it turns out, is an assassin working for the evil overlord of the Federation.

Director Len Wiseman updates the special effects to give us some cool high-tech gadgets, an army of stormtrooper-like soldiers, and an almost entirely CGI universe, including the giant elevator that makes the trip between the two worlds. Unlike the earlier film, directed by Paul Verhoeven, there’s no Mars-centered fantasy this time. What’s also missing in the bland new remake is the humor of that previous film, both intentional and unintentional. The proceedings here are deadly serious, and Wiseman leaves little room for cheeky dialogue and character development.

Colin Farrell plays his part without a hint of irony, and Kate Beckinsale gets another opportunity to show off her action-heroine chops but little else. A hand-to-hand fight scene between Beckinsale and Biel in a speeding elevator is edited so frantically that you’re denied the excitement of watching a visceral catfight.

I’m going with two out of five for Total Recall. The action scenes are engaging, and perhaps the film might appeal to those who haven’t watched the earlier version. For the rest of us though, it’s a good thing we won’t have to visit Rekall to delete all memories of this new film.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Let’s dance!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:35 pm

August 03, 2012

Cast: Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Peter Gallagher

Director: Scott Speer

The plot’s still threadbare and the dialogue still cheesy, but Step Up Revolution has some thrilling, well-choreographed dance numbers…and let’s face it, that’s the reason we still go to these movies.

Fourth installment in the popular Step Up franchise, Revolution is set in gorgeous Miami Beach where local kid Sean (Ryan Guzman) and his band of young street dancers called The Mob stage elaborate flash-mob performances in public places across the city, hoping to win a big cash prize in a contest sponsored by YouTube. Emily (Kathryn McCormick) is a poor little rich girl badly trying for a spot in a prestigious dance troupe. When Sean and Emily meet, sparks fly. But there’s that tiny little issue of Emily’s father (Peter Gallagher), a real-estate baron who wants to tear down Sean’s working-class neighborhood to construct an upscale hotel complex in its place.

Making full use of 3D, director Scott Speer films frantic, vibrant dance routines bursting with energy. The Mob stages dazzling dance spectacles in the middle of a crowded street, at a restaurant, and at a city council meeting, but one-set piece at an art gallery, in which dancers pop out of artworks and transform into sculptures, is particularly stunning.

Unfortunately, however, Step Up Revolution feels like a parade of actors so unquestionably bland that it’s unlikely you’ll remember even one of them as you walk out the door when the lights come back on in the end. Also rather unconvincing is the film’s anti-capitalist message, and that clunky subplot of The Mob staging their climatic dance-off to protest against the neighborhood’s proposed corporate takeover.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Step Up Revolution. The acting and the script have two left feet; watch it if you must for the infectious energy of its dance numbers.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Colin Farrell on slipping into Ahnuld’s shoes for the ‘Total Recall’ remake

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:39 am

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico), Hollywood star Colin Farrell talks about slipping into tough-guy Arnold Schwarznegger’s shoes for the new Total Recall remake, and explains the challenges involved in filming a Phillip K Dick story.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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