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

December 26, 2012

“Watching Ram Lakhan as a kid made me want to become an actor,” says Arjun Kapoor

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 4:17 pm

Rajeev Masand sat down with three of 2012’s most promising newcomers – Ayushmann Khurrana (Vicky Donor), Arjun Kapoor (Ishaqzaade), and Huma Qureshi (Gangs of Wasseypur) – to talk about competition and picking the right roles, for The Newcomers Roundtable.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

“Your first film chooses you,” says GOW’s Huma Qureshi

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 4:08 pm

Rajeev Masand sat down with three of 2012’s most promising newcomers – Ayushmann Khurrana (Vicky Donor), Arjun Kapoor (Ishaqzaade), and Huma Qureshi (Gangs of Wasseypur) – to talk about competition and picking the right roles, for The Newcomers Roundtable.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 21, 2012

Same old, same old!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

December 21, 2012

Cast: Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Arbaaz Khan, Vinod Khanna, Prakash Raj, Deepak Dobriyal, Nikitin Dheer

Director: Arbaaz Khan

Given that Dabangg 2 is a family production in every sense of the term – Salman Khan stars, his brother Arbaaz directs, Arbaaz’s wife Malaika Arora produces, and their sister Alvira Agnihotri does costumes – you can’t help but wonder why no one thought of roping in their father, veteran screenwriter Salim Khan, to slap the script into shape. Because while there’s some fun to be had watching Chulbul Pandey bash up the bad guys again and share a tender romance with his missus, nothing even remotely interesting happens in this film.

Now posted in Kanpur, our swashbuckling police officer hero applies his unique but unconventional methods of dispensing justice to keep kidnappers and thugs off the street. Having mended his relationship with his step-father (Vinod Khanna) and half-brother (Arbaaz Khan), and with his wife Rajo (Sonakshi Sinha) carrying his bun in her oven, Chulbul has none of the personal baggage he had to deal with in the earlier film. His only conflict here is with corrupt local politician Bacha Bhaiyya (Prakash Raj) and his hoodlum brothers, who have no regard for the law.

Arbaaz Khan, taking his first stab at direction, delivers a harmless and inoffensive film, but one that doesn’t have any of the unpredictability of Abhinav Kashyap’s Dabangg from two years ago. That film’s unique cocktail of irreverent humor and comic-book action made up for many of its script flaws, and gave us some truly terrific moments. Like that scene in which Chulbul breaks into a jig to the caller tune of a mobile phone that goes off during an action scene. Or that portion in which Chulbul’s shirt rips off his chest when he flexes his muscles. Arbaaz, for his part, comes up with little that’s original, repeating both those bits in Dabangg 2, only tweaking them slightly.

That’s true of the entire film, to be honest, which feels like a pale imitation of Dabangg. Between the dozen-odd action scenes filmed in slo-mo to suggest the impact of every punch, and the obligatory bosom-heaving item song, you’ve seen it all before. Clever punch lines are few and far between, and even Sajid-Wajid’s music has a recycled quality to it.

But a key problem with this sequel lies in the weak choice of villain. Prakash Raj, usually a competent actor, is reduced to a nostril-flaring, bulging-eyed caricature who poses none of the physical threat that Sonu Sood’s Chhedi Singh represented in the earlier film. Deepak Dobriyal, playing Bacha’s brother here, offers a deliciously slimy performance, but the character is terminated in what is possibly the best scene in the film, that takes place as early as interval point.

Expectedly Dabangg 2’s only strength is Salman Khan himself, who is the glue that holds together this slipshod film. He’s charming in his romantic, cheeky scenes with Sonakshi Sinha, he’s mischievous and endearing while teasing his father, and plain hilarious in his interactions with his sidekick cops. Sadly, Chulbul Pandey is an extraordinary man trapped in an ordinary, unexciting world in Dabangg 2.

I’m going with a generous two-and-a-half out of five for Arbaaz Khan’s Dabangg 2. What this film needed was personality and character; what it’s left with is sameness. But that’s probably enough for Salman Khan fans.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The stuff of dreams

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

December 21, 2012

Cast: Voices of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law

Director: Peter Ramsey

Rise of the Guardians has been described as a sort of children’s equivalent of The Avengers, what with its similar premise of mythical heroes coming together to defend the world against a dastardly villain. But despite the beautifully rendered animation and some impressive voice work, the film feels bloated from packing in too many things at once, and simply doesn’t offer compelling enough characters to make the journey with.

Based on William Joyce’s popular book series, Guardians of Childhood, this good vs evil story sees Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and a mute Sandman, train reluctant recruit Jack Frost to fight alongside them when the nasty bogeyman (aka Pitch) threatens to put nightmares and fear in the heads of little children around the world, thereby making them forget these much-loved heroes.

The story mostly focuses on Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), a white-haired loner with icy superpowers, who feels underappreciated by humans and insecure about his place in the world, until he’s approached to team up with the rest of the guardians against their common enemy. But the film, unfortunately, appears to suffer from an identity crisis: Jack’s depressing back-story sits uneasily with the laughs provided by our sword-wielding Santa (Alec Baldwin) and an aggressive Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman). Creepiest of them all is the hummingbird-like Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and her dozens of minions who go on and on about…what else but teeth! It’s the film’s cloaked-in-black bad guy Pitch who leaves a lasting impression, thanks to the silky-voiced performance of Jude Law.

Rise of the Guardians is stunningly animated, but the storyline feels convoluted and eventually feeble, despite the frantically-paced action. Some moments are sheer genius, but it’s never consistently engaging.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Rise of the Guardians. You’ll enjoy it in portions; in some parts you’ll struggle to stay awake.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 15, 2012

Imran Khan on why he isn’t chasing the Rs 100 crore dream

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 2:45 am

In this interview, Imran Khan talks about being cast as a Haryanvi character in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Mattru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola. He also discusses the possibility of a film with uncle Aamir Khan, and reveals why he isn’t chasing the Rs 100 crore dream.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 14, 2012

Such a long journey!

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

December 14, 2012

Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Plummer

Director: Peter Jackson

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, directed by Peter Jackson, clocks in at a whopping 2 hours and 40 minutes, if you don’t count the roughly 15 minutes it takes for the end credits to roll. Given that Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy grossed nearly 3 billion dollars and won 14 Oscars in all, it’s hardly surprising that the studio happily green-lit The Hobbit, and didn’t complain when the New Zealand-based filmmaker decided to squeeze three films out of JRR Tolkien’s rather slim 300-page prequel to the Rings saga. But despite its gorgeous sweeping visuals, spectacular special effects, and some terrific action sequences, this first installment in Jackson’s three-film adaptation can’t help feeling long and overblown and stretched beyond limits.

Set 60 years before The Lord of the Rings, An Unexpected Journey opens with a younger Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) enjoying life in his snug hobbit hole when Gandalf (Ian McKellen) pops by. The long-bearded wizard seeks to recruit him in a mission to help a group of dwarves reclaim their ancestral homeland from an evil dragon. But Bilbo, who prefers his books and his quiet life, has no interest in taking an adventure. Pretty soon, however, a band of unruly dwarves shows up at his doorstep and raids his pantry; they toss plates, bang heads, and devour everything in sight. You’re just as surprised as them, when the next morning Bilbo decides to join their brigade, and heads off with them on their mission.

Lasting about an hour, this set up is tedious, but the film becomes more exciting as the actual journey kicks off. Jackson literally leaves no page unturned as the traveling adventurers encounter nasty trolls and orcs and goblins along the way. A sequence that involves two mountains coming to life and fighting each other is one of the film’s most thrilling set pieces, and Jackson knows how to shoot and edit action scenes in a way that you can enjoy them and admire their sheer visual inventiveness.

Yet, the truth is that for all the sound and fury, not a great deal actually happens in this initial episode. Fans universally embraced the Lord of the Rings films because of Jackson’s winning blend of live action, CGI, and performance-capture technology. Those elements are very much in place here, but the story feels mostly padded and unfocused, and if you really think about it, by the time this film closes, the characters end up not much further than where they started.

It doesn’t help of course that our 13 dwarves are not particularly interesting. They’re hard to tell apart with their interchangeable scowling faces and rhyming names – like Bofur, Bifur, Fili, Kili, Oin and Gloin – and Jackson never gives them distinctive individual traits. However, the film benefits considerably from three central performances: Martin Freeman as the warm and affable Bilbo Baggins; Richard Armitage as the proud and brave dwarf-leader Thorin; and Andy Serkis reprising his role as Gollum, particularly in one enjoyable scene where he duels it out with Bilbo in a riddle game.

Other fan-favorite characters make fleeting appearances here, and Jackson shrewdly lays down faint trails that will be picked up in the next two films. I watched An Unexpected Journey in the standard 24 frames-per-second format, and not the controversial 48-frames-per-second format that Jackson filmed in, so I can’t say where I stand in the debate over the merits of this new technology. (Only a handful of cinemas across the country are playing the film in 48 fps). The 3D, meanwhile, is immersive, sucking you into Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but also making the images appear a tad darker than they actually are.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has little of the awe and shock and wonder that thrillingly accompanied The Lord of the Rings saga. Those films felt new and exciting and unlike anything we’d already seen at the time. Which illustrates exactly what Jackson is up against this time. Still there’s no denying that there’s solid, skilled filmmaking at the heart of this film.

I’m going with three out of five for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Don’t set your expectations too high, and you’ll come out satisfied.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 7, 2012

Aamir Khan on the twist ending of ‘Talaash’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:15 pm

In this interview, Aamir Khan dissects Talaash, reveals what he thought of that twist ending, and how the makers tried to ensure the twist didn’t get leaked before the release of the film.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Stupidity unlimited

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

December 07, 2012

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Asin, Himesh Reshammiya, Mithun Chakraborty, Raj Babbar, Mukesh Rishi, Rahul Singh

Director: Ashish Mohan

Khiladi 786 stars Akshay Kumar, who breaks into a Himesh-voiced song at the drop of a hat. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, except that Himesh Reshammiya himself appears in this film. Which means you have two people on screen with the same voice – Himesh Reshammiya’s voice. Creepy, positively creepy.

The nasal-voiced crooner who’s credited as Actor, Singer, Music Composer, Story Writer, and Co-Producer of this film, allows Akshay to take centrestage as a fake cop from Punjab named Bahattar Singh, who desperately wants to be married. Bahattar, along with his father and uncle, Sattar and Ikhattar (Raj Babbar and Mukesh Rishi), masquerades as a cop and nabs smugglers on the Punjab border. For this reason his family has remained disreputable for years, and a good Indian wife is hard to come by.

Enter Himesh Reshammiya as Mansukh, the incompetent son of a Gujarati match-maker, who vows to find a suitable bride for Bahattar, unaware that he’s no real cop. His search ends at the home of local don Tatya Tukaram Tendulkar (Mithun Chakraborty), who’s looking for a respectable groom for his sister Indu (Asin).

Directed by first-timer Ashish Mohan, an erstwhile assistant of Rohit Shetty, Khiladi 786 is funny, but only in spurts. For the most part, it’s as enjoyable as watching a kitten struggle to shake off the firecracker that some mean kid tied to its tail. If you laugh, they’re probably guilty laughs – how can you be amused by such cruelty?

At the receiving end of writer Himesh Reshammiya and director Ashish Mohan’s tasteless sense of humor are dwarves, handicapped people, and particularly foreigners who’re reduced to embarrassing racial stereotypes. Bahattar’s grandmum, or beeji as she’s affectionately referred to, is a big, fat African woman – which explains why his father and uncle sport Afros and glued-on sideburns. His mother is Canadian, his aunt Chinese. These women exist in the film only to have jokes directed at them and to dance awkwardly in the big family numbers.

A key subplot in this film involves Indu’s boyfriend, an unfortunate fellow (Rahul Singh) who is repeatedly jailed for some unintentional crime he commits each time he steps out of prison gates. It’s the kind of juvenile humor that might appeal to those below the age of eight. The film, then, rests squarely on the shoulders of its leading man, Akshay Kumar, who redeems it to some degree with his manic energy, his endearing but bovine grin, and his skill at delivering clever one-liners like he’s just come up with them. The action is all routine stuff – nothing you haven’t seen in Rowdy Rathore or Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal movies – but Akshay’s had enough practice pulling it off with flair.

Khiladi 786, with its pedestrian humor, inane plot, and hammy performances, begs the question: haven’t we had enough? How many more times will charismatic actors help stupid films get made?

I’m going with a generous two out of five for Khiladi 786. Akshay Kumar fans may not complain. The rest might prefer the company of an Asprin.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Game over!

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

December 07, 2012

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Judy Greer, Dennis Quaid, Noah Lomax

Director: Gabriele Muccino

How anyone can rope in so many charming actors and yet make such an unremarkable film is the one single thought that’s going through your head as you watch Playing For Keeps. This inoffensive but formulaic romantic comedy squanders away the talents of its sexy cast by trapping them in such a predictable script.

Gerard Butler stars as George Dryer, a former soccer-star who relocates to a suburb in Virginia to make amends with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) and their nine-year-old son. Desperately broke, George grabs the opportunity to coach his son’s soccer team, but finds himself becoming popular with the kids’ moms, who throw themselves at him shamelessly. Among these is a clingy divorcee (Judy Greer), a rich housewife trapped in a loveless marriage (Uma Thurman), and a well-connected temptress (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who offers to hook him up with an ESPN sports-casting job.

Although there are some laughs to be had at the soccer moms’ desperate attempts to seduce the hunky coach (Judy Greer nails it as the pathetic single mom who gets Butler to sleep with her almost out of sympathy), Dryer’s disinterest and complete passiveness towards them is utterly unconvincing given what we have already learnt about his colorful past in a casual comment made by his sports-anchor friend in an earlier scene.

The film’s only genuine moments are the ones between Butler and the kid (Noah Lomax), who have a warm and believable chemistry together. Biel offers an earnest performance as Butler’s vulnerable ex, but it’s such an underwritten part, there’s little depth she can bring to it. Butler himself isn’t too bad, but the script never really makes him earn his redemption, sorting out his mess a little too easily, thereby never allowing you to truly root for the character.

I’m going with two out of five for Playing For Keeps. It’s not a terrible film, it isn’t unwatchable either. It’s just dull. And that’s a shame given all the talent involved.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Ghost of a good time!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:35 pm

December 07, 2012

Cast: Voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Andy Samberg

Director: Gendy Tartakovsky

In Hotel Transylvania, Adam Sandler may well have delivered his most enjoyable performance in years…ironic, given that you never see him in the film! Sandler provides the voice of Count Dracula in this smart and lively 3D animated movie that makes the same point as Monsters Inc – that ghosts and spirits and fearful-looking monsters are more scared of humans than the other way round.

Sandler’s Dracula is an overprotective single father who only wants to shelter his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) from the world of nasty humans. Their sanctuary is the remote castle hotel he has built for fellow monsters to relax and unwind, without any threat of pesky humans sniffing them out and troubling them. But on Mavis’ 118th birthday, a wayward backpacker named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles into the hotel and, inevitably, Dracula’s darling daughter falls for the human much to daddy’s horror.

Director Gendy Tartakovsky keeps the pace brisk, throwing in lots of clever lines and some nicely realized characters. Among those who get maximum screen-time is a henpecked Frankenstein (Kevin James), the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Blob, and my favorite, a weary Wolfman (voiced superbly by Steve Buscemi) who seems ill-equipped to handle his litter of manic kids. Hotel Transylvania’s greatest strength is the remarkable animation itself, and the rich detail in virtually every frame.

The film does lose steam in its final twenty minutes or so, when it hurtles towards its predictable, feel-good ending, but there’s one Twilight joke so well-timed, you can’t help but leave smiling.

I’m going with three out of five for Hotel Transylvania. Adam Sandler anchors the film with a full-bodied, terrific performance that reminds us just what a gifted comedian he is. Watch this film, you’ll enjoy it!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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