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

September 28, 2012

RGV & Manisha Koirala on spirituality, ghosts and their favorite horror movies

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:02 pm

In this interview, filmmaker Ramgopal Varma and his Bhoot Returns star Manisha Koirala talk about reuniting after Company, and discuss spirituality, ghosts, and their favorite horror movies.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

God complex

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

September 28, 2012

Cast: Paresh Rawal, Akshay Kumar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Mithun Chakraborty, Govind Namdeo, Om Puri

Director: Umesh Shukla

Oh My God!, adapted from the popular Gujarati play Kanji Viruddh Kanji (itself evidently inspired by the Australian film, The Man Who Sued God), makes a compelling argument against the commercialization of religion, but the tone of the film is so shrill, the approach so preachy, you feel like you’re being tied down and forced to listen to a sermon for two-and-a-half hours.

Paresh Rawal stars as Kanjibhai Mehta, an antique-store owner in Chor Bazaar, who doesn’t believe in God, but has no qualms exploiting those who do. In an opening scene, he shrewdly manipulates a rich Rajasthani seth into parting with his expensive jewelry in exchange for a religious idol he acquired at a bargain basement price.

When his is the only shop that’s destroyed in an earthquake, Kanjibhai claims insurance for the damage, but is shooed away on the grounds that he isn’t covered against accidents caused by ‘an act of God’. Desperate and bankrupt, Kanjibhai sues both God and the insurance company, insistent that one or the other must compensate him. In court, as he goes about systematically and logically questioning the very existence of God, he’s confronted by an assorted bunch of sadhus, maulvis, priests, and holy men – including an effete swaami played by Mithun Chakraborty – who huff and puff and flare their nostrils each time he refers to them as God’s “salesmen” and to religion as their “dhanda”.

Along the way he finds an unlikely ally in his new houseguest, a perpetually smiling gentleman named Krishna Vasudev Yadav (played by Akshay Kumar), a modern day incarnation of Lord Krishna himself, who arrives from the skies on a swanky motorbike, and proceeds to guide Kanjibhai in this bizarre legal battle.

Despite its unusual, catchy premise, Oh My God!, co-written and directed by Umesh Shukla (who directed the Hindi version of the play that also starred Rawal in the lead), never exploits its full potential. While the film makes a solid case against blind faith, the excesses of religious rituals, and the self-appointed “collection agents” of God, it never sticks its neck out far enough, choosing instead to go with a cop-out ending, as if afraid to be too provocative. What’s more the film can’t shake off its stage-play feel, and suffers from some embarrassingly hammy acting from supporting players like Govind Namdeo, who plays an easily angered godman who’s at the end of his patience.

Still there’s much to enjoy here, including many of the witty dialogues, and particularly Paresh Rawal’s robust performance as the stubborn non-believer on a determined mission. Akshay Kumar, shot mostly in soft focus, a bright glow emanating from his mug, postures and preens throughout, allowing his co-star to do all the heavy lifting here.

In a sea of dumb Bollywood comedies (many starring Akshay Kumar himself), this one at least starts off a debate. For that alone, it’s not entirely a write-off. I’m going with two out of five for Oh My God!. Carry cotton for your ears to drown out all the shouting!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Milla Jovovich on ‘Resident Evil: Retribution’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:02 pm

In this interview recorded in Cancun (Mexico), Ukranian born Milla Jovovich, the star of such popular films as The Fifth Element and Luc Besson’s The Messenger: Joan of Arc — who became a fanboy favorite when she signed up to play Alice, the ass-kicking female lead in the big screen adaptation of the Resident Evil video games — talks about her approach to intense action scenes, and reveals why she likes to keep her punches hard.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 22, 2012

Rani Mukherjee on laughing at oneself, and romantic chemistry

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:18 am

In this interview, Aiyyaa star Rani Mukherjee reveals why didn’t want to do a dark film with Anurag Kashyap, and also admits she learnt everything about romantic chemistry from Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 21, 2012

Pack up!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:42 pm

September 21, 2012

Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hooda, Divya Dutta, Shahana Goswami, Mugdha Godse, Ranvir Shorey, Sanjay Suri, Helen

Director: Madhur Bhandarkar

In a tense opening scene, an actress, who only moments ago has been hurled out of a car onto the road, enters a police station, her body still trembling, her face smeared with tears and running mascara. Clutching a lit cigarette nervously, she takes a seat before a cop who is persuading her to reveal why she’s in this condition. “Did someone assault you?” he asks.

Heroine, directed by Madhur Bhandarkar opens with genuine promise, but very quickly collapses into a heap of lazy stereotypes. Sadly, the film offers no original insight into the minds of movie stars or the inner workings of the Mumbai film industry – this is a movie that might well have been made by an avid reader of gossip rags; it hardly feels like the work of an experienced filmmaker. At least with Page 3, Corporate and Fashion, Bhandarkar cast an outsider’s eye on different worlds. What’s his excuse for doing such a sloppy job on an industry he belongs to?

Kareena Kapoor stars as Mahi Arora, a top film actress whose rocky relationship with a married star (Arjun Rampal) is hurting her career. Obsessed and insecure about his affections, addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs, and possibly bipolar, she’s a train wreck waiting to happen. What follows is as predictable as the lunch menu at your office canteen – her life is derailed in pursuit of this man.

To reclaim past glory, a ruthless publicist is hired, a new romance is staged, rivals are sabotaged, and a sex tape is leaked. Sleaze, scandal, and drugs are all familiar ingredients in a Bhandarkar film, yet all you’re left with here is one flat cocktail.

The only pleasure Heroine provides is lending itself to a game of Spot The Reference. Bhandarkar litters the film with thinly veiled digs at well-known celebrities: an actress who empties a glass of red wine on the head of her married lover’s wife, a star who seeks to fill the void in her life by adopting a child, a superstar’s wife who has final say in the selection of actresses who can work opposite her skirt-chaser husband, even a Casanova cricketer who spends more time between the sheets with different actresses than on the pitch. Expectedly, there’s also an assembly line of two-faced, bitchy movie stars, gossiping gay designers, and corrupt journalists.

From the very start of Heroine, a sense of gloom and doom haunts this film. Mahi is perpetually in pieces, her eyes red-rimmed with tears or dazed by alcohol and drugs. There is an attempt to infuse some heart in the script when she forms an unlikely bond with a yesteryear star (Helen), or when she shares a tentative friendship with a Bengali art-house actress (Shahana Goswami, flashing enough cleavage to blind you!). But even this track ends up being unintentionally hilarious, when the two girls avoid each other awkwardly the morning after some inebriated ‘fooling around’. “I’m not a lesbian,” says Shahana, apologizing for what must be the worst crime in Madhur Bhandarkar’s book – being gay! In another instance that’ll have you rolling in your seats, Mugdha Godse, playing a top actress desperate to steal an endorsement deal from a rival star, asks her male model friend to sidle up to the “bisexual” corporate honcho in charge of the account.

But these moments offer little entertainment in a film weighed down by its terrible writing. Page 3 and Fashion weren’t particularly competent films, yet they had some semblance of a plot and a narrative, however formulaic. Heroine, on the other hand, is a bunch of scenes in search of a plot.

Of the cast, Randeep Hooda keeps it real as the charming cricketer who falls for Mahi, while Arjun Rampal seems ill-equipped to tackle the role of her mercurial lover. Divya Dutta is convincing as the manipulative PR consultant who’s available to discuss strategy with her client even when she’s in the middle of a bedroom romp. But it’s poor Kareena Kapoor who gets a pretty raw deal in this disappointing film. Mahi isn’t exactly a likeable character, yet Kareena plays the part with utmost sincerity. Matching the film’s over-the-top sensibilities with a deliciously camp performance, she’s the only reason this film is watchable.

Despite an entertaining first half, thanks to all the unintentional laughs, Heroine slips into a slush of melodrama post interval. By this point, it feels interminably long and boring. Bhandarkar loses his grip on the script, and it’s evident that his storytelling now desperately needs reinventing.

I’m going with two out of five for Heroine. It’s pack-up for this one!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Wes is more

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

September 21, 2012

Cast: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel

Director: Wes Anderson

As anyone who’s ever watched a Wes Anderson film will tell you, a mere description of the plot in no way prepares you for the sheer ingenuity and the delightful quirkiness of his work. His latest, Moonrise Kingdom, has many familiar elements from his earlier films – oddball characters, storybook visuals, an offbeat sense of humor, and yes, Bill Murray. But, while films like The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited focused on dysfunctional eccentrics, this one is about adolescent angst and the thrill of first love.

Set in the mid sixties on a fictional island off the coast of New England, Moonrise Kingdom is about a love story between two 12-year-olds. Sam (Jared Gilman) is an orphan who doesn’t fit in with his fellow cub scouts, and whose foster parents consider him emotionally disturbed. Suzy (Kara Hayward) lives at home with her family, but appears permanently sad and doesn’t speak much to anyone. The two kids meet at a church concert and realize almost instantly that they’re made for each other. A year later, they run away together. Pretty soon, everyone they know is searching for them, including Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Sam’s scout master (Edward Norton), the local police chief (Bruce Willis), and also a representative from Social Services (Tilda Swinton) who’s determined to take the boy back with her.

Much of the film’s charm lies in Anderson’s clever reversal of roles between adults and kids. Sam and Suzy, despite their age, speak in mature tones of companionship and longing. Meanwhile all the adults appear clueless over how exactly to handle this situation, and they come off as much less confident and assured than the young ones.

Beautifully written, with much deadpan humor and a lot of sincere affection, the film benefits from some deliciously odd exchanges between its characters. Witty and whimsical in equal measure, it has the feel of a quirky fairytale, and bears Anderson’s stamp all over it…from the cartoonish ‘action’ scenes to the over-stylized production design.

But it’s the excellent cast who invest in this film its big beating heart. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are pitch-perfect as a pair of married lawyers disconnected with each other and their kids. A bedroom apology scene between the couple is heartbreaking stuff. Edward Norton, as the fastidious scout leader who sends his troops off on hilariously dangerous missions, displays a flair for poker-faced humor; but it’s Bruce Willis who steals the film with a moving performance as the weary cop who’s never found true love. He’s matched only by the film’s two young stars – the very talented Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward – whose awkward, endearing romance is the centerpiece of this lovely film.

I’m going with four out of five for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. There’s sadness, emotional depth, and real feeling here. It’s a melancholic comedy that you absolutely shouldn’t miss!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Dredd right!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:38 pm

September 21, 2012

Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

Director: Pete Travis

Hats off to the makers of Dredd 3D for succeeding in burying the memories of that 1995 Sylvester Stallone version, Judge Dredd, that fans of the comic book still remember with horror. With their new film, director Pete Travis and writer Alex Garland bring the character back to his brutally violent roots, and stick to the concept of Dredd as a sardonic, single-minded dispenser of justice in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with criminals, the homeless, and assorted degenerates.

Most of the action takes place in a massive high-rise where Dredd and his rookie partner, the mind-reading Cassandra (Olivia Thirlby), get trapped when trying to flush out crime lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). It’s hard not to draw parallels with the excellent Indonesian film The Raid: Redemption that had a similar premise; and to be fair this one’s just as much fun if you’re not squeamish about blood and violence. Because bullets pass through cheeks in super slow-motion, and blood literally splatters out of the screen, all in glorious 3D.

Karl Urban, playing Dredd, sportingly keeps his mug hidden under that helmet throughout the film. His deadpan portrayal of our hero delivers some nice comic moments, like one in which he asks a murder suspect to confess to his crime so he can execute him on the spot…thereby saving himself a pile of paperwork.

I’m going with three out of five for Dredd 3D. It’s brisk and brutal, but a good time is guaranteed.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 14, 2012

Kareena Kapoor & Madhur Bhandarkar on ‘Heroine’ vs ‘The Dirty Picture’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:45 pm

In this interview, Heroine star Kareena Kapoor and her director Madhur Bhandarkar explain why no other actress could have played this role, and how their film compares with The Dirty Picture.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Sweet rush

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:38 pm

September 14, 2012

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D’cruz, Saurabh Shukla, Rupa Ganguly, Akash Khurana

Director: Anurag Basu

That rare film that puts a smile on your face even before a single frame of the story is revealed, Anurag Basu’s Barfi envelopes you like a warm blanket from the moment you settle into your seat. Even as routine acknowledgements appear on a black screen, you’re charmed by the accompanying ditty, Picture shuru, whose chorus instructs you to switch off your phones and submit yourself to the experience that follows.

There’s a lot that’s admirable about Barfi, particularly the simplicity of its characters and their actions. This is a film about inherently decent people faced with tough decisions. There are no villains in this story, only honest people who make wrong choices occasionally.

Ironic then that Basu himself suffers the same affliction… Not content telling a simple story without any fuss, he complicates the narrative with confusing timelines and a needless whodunit subplot. But more on that later.

Spanning forty years in the life of Murphy — or Barfi as he calls himself — a poor chauffeur’s son played by Ranbir Kapoor, the film unfolds in the early 1970s. He’s a happy-go-lucky deaf-mute boy in Darjeeling, forever on the run from a portly cop (Saurabh Shukla) for his petty misdemeanors. Doffing their hats to Chaplin in these comical chases, Basu and his star deliver a range of delightful slapstick moments.

Barfi falls for the delicately pretty Shruti (Ileana D’cruz), whom he woos relentlessly. But, in a scene lifted straight out of The Notebook, Shruti is reminded why their romance can have no happy ending. In a later scene, one of the best in this film, Barfi wordlessly acknowledges the gaping divide between Shruti and himself. Gesturing towards his torn pockets, his ripped shoe, his inability to hear or speak, Ranbir beautifully conveys Barfi’s deep hurt at being rejected. His life finds new meaning when he’s saddled with his childhood friend Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra), an autistic girl belonging to a wealthy local family.

The film works best as a love story, and Basu infuses humor and heart into the relationships between his three leads. There are lots of lovely little gems in Barfi, like those moments in which our hero repeatedly ‘plucks’ his heart out and offers it to Shruti. Or the test of unconditional friendship that Barfi puts his loved ones through, that involves a collapsing streetlight. How can you not break into a smile when Barfi exposes his own leg to a fellow passenger leering at Jhilmil’s bare calves during a truck journey?

Yet these lovely bits are offset by a messy screenplay packed with too many flashbacks, and a long-drawn second half that doesn’t benefit from the Gone Baby Gone-inspired subplot about a botched kidnapping. The tone now shifts abruptly from gentle humor and quirky romance to clunky suspense.

And yet, despite the indulgences, it’s hard to overlook the sheer skill invested in this enterprise, starting with Ravi Varman’s remarkable cinematography. Each frame is lovingly composed, the camera caressing those Darjeeling and Calcutta landscapes with unmistakable affection. Pritam’s music, some of his best work yet, is an assortment of charming melodies that lace the silences in place of dialogues. Basu particularly films the title song, Aala Barfi with startling originality.

Filling out smaller roles with relatively lesser-seen but fine actors like Rupa Ganguly (as Shruti’s mother) and Akash Khurana (as Barfi’s father), Basu draws heartfelt performances from his committed cast. Ileana leaves a lasting impression in her Hindi film debut, conveying both love and pain through those beautiful, expressive eyes. Priyanka escapes the typical pitfalls of playing an autistic character, making Jhilmil a wholly believable girl whom your heart goes out to.

The film, however, belongs to our silent hero, and Ranbir Kapoor owns the part completely. Never turning Barfi into a caricature or a stereotype, Ranbir adds wonderful layers to this seemingly simple fellow, and once again proves why he is his only competition.

Sadly, Basu’s film goes on too long and drags its feet in the end. Barfi had the potential to be great cinema, but as it stands it’s a respectable film that’s still better than a lot else you’re likely to see. I’m going with three out of five for director Anurag Basu’s Barfi. It’s a treat like the mithai it takes its name from. Go on, indulge your sweet tooth.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The money shot

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:36 pm

September 14, 2012

Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Nate Parker, Tim Roth

Director: Nicholas Jarecki

Arbitrage stars Richard Gere as a sort of anti-hero whose unforgiveable transgressions deserve punishment, but who’s so irresistibly charming it’s hard not to root for him.

Gere plays Robert Miller, a billionaire Wall Street investor who is at the cusp of selling his company. Literally days before the deal is signed, it all threatens to blow up in his face, when evidence of his financial improprieties are at risk of going public. Around the same time, his affair with his mistress also looks dangerously close to being exposed because of an unfortunate accident he’s involved in.

This taut financial thriller co-stars Susan Sarandon as Miller’s long-suffering wife, Brit Marling as his daughter and the CFO of his company who’s just got wind of the fraud, and Nate Parker as a poor black kid who Miller leans on for help.

Working off a sharply structured screenplay in which Miller’s multiple dilemmas inevitably overlap, director Nicholas Jarecki keeps tightening the noose around our hero’s neck, thereby making him (and us) virtually gasp for air in the film’s most tense moments. Tim Roth shows up as a pesky detective who links the accident to Miller, and goes after him with a stubborn determination. The film’s winning hand, however, lies in its pointedly cynical observation that money can in fact buy just about anything.

I’m going with three out of five for Arbitrage. Don’t get thrown by all the financial jargon, this is a nicely done suspense that asks some tough questions. And Richard Gere is terrific in it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress