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

October 31, 2013

Asghar Farhadi on facing censorship & winning Oscars

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 2:31 pm


In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Asghar Farhadi, Iranian filmmaker and Oscar-winning director of A Separation talks about continuing to make films in his home country within prevailing censorship norms and restrictions. Farhadi also talks about his new film The Past which he shot in France, and about the recurring themes in his recent films.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

October 25, 2013

Hack alert!

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

October 25, 2013

Cast: Manish Paul, Manish Chaudhari, Varun Badola, Elli Avram, Puja Gupta

Director: Saurabh Varma

I wouldn’t be surprised if Mickey Virus was greenlit only because some smart-alec marketing wiz pitched it as the next Vicky Donor. Problem is, this film is never more than just a good pitch. A concept in search of a plot.

Happy-go-lucky drifter Mickey Arora (Manish Paul) spends his days hanging out with friends, hacking into software and websites just for fun, or to make a quick buck. When a string of mysterious murders in Delhi points to an organized cyber-crime ring, a local cop (Manish Chaudhari) recruits a reluctant Mickey to help the police department in solving the case.

First-time writer-director Saurabh Varma shoots the film’s lighter scenes without too many hiccups, but fails to raise the stakes when Mickey himself becomes embroiled in the mess; you never once feel like he’s truly in danger. None of the supporting characters are fleshed out substantially, least of all Mickey’s friends who go by the nicknames Chutney, Floppy and Pancho.

There’s a lot of staring into computers and muttering about servers and firewalls, but the film makes hacking look so easy, you have to wonder why more people don’t take it up as a full-time profession. The suspense in the end feels contrived, and the twists along the way are not hard to guess.

Leading man Manish Paul has an easy manner about him, but he’s lumped with a script that doesn’t give him much to do aside from contorting his face repeatedly. His romantic subplot (with model Elli Avram) lacks spark, and the songs are nothing to write home about either. The only other actor who makes any impression is Varun Badola, as a sidekick cop, who delivers cheeky one-liners with a straight face.

Mickey Virus isn’t unwatchable, but at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it certainly overstays its welcome, offering little by way of laughs or thrills. I’m going with two out of five. Walking out of the cinema, you’ve forgotten it already.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)



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

October 25, 2013

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Peter Capaldi

Director: Bill Condon

The story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his mission to expose the dark secrets of governments and corporates ought to make for a thrilling film. But The Fifth Estate, directed by Bill Condon, is a mostly dull affair. While Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch is convincing as Assange – complete with lisping voice, lank white hair, puffy eyes, and a paranoid glare – the film never goes beyond newspaper headlines to tell us anything we don’t already know.

Keenly aware that it’s hard to take a bunch of guys sitting in front of computer screens and turn that into compelling drama, Condon borrows The Social Network approach, focusing on the relationship between Assange and his loyal lieutenant Daniel Berg (Daniel Bruhl). It’s a friendship that gradually sours when Berg realizes that his charismatic partner is strangely indifferent to the human lives that might be endangered in the process of leaking explosive US intelligence documents about the Iraq War.

Aside from a thrilling final act that involves the mainstream media’s simultaneous worldwide release of those sensitive cables, most of The Fifth Estate feels surprisingly inert, possibly because it lacks the focus and cogency that made All The President’s Men such an involving whistleblower tale. Questions about the ethics of WikiLeaks are raised, but no firm stand is ever taken.

Handsomely mounted, but ultimately too safe in its reconstruction of deeply complex events, this film runs but never flies. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for The Fifth Estate. Watch it for Cumberbatch’s appropriately creepy performance as Assange.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Farhan Akhtar on the film that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:59 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar talks about the film that changed his life. He picks a black-and-white Hollywood classic that he says helped him prepare extensively for one of his own films. Farhan also remembers his meeting with the star of this film, his very idol.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

A Separation’s Asghar Farhadi on his new film, The Past

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:58 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Asghar Farhadi — Oscar-winning Iranian director of A Separation — talks about leaving his audience with questions and reveals why he doesn’t paint his characters either black or white. Farhadi also talks about making his new film, The Past, in France, away from the censorship and restrictions of Iran.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

October 18, 2013

Cold justice

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

October 18, 2013

Cast: Rajkumar Yadav, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Prabhleen Sandhu, Baljinder Kaur, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Kay Kay Menon, Mukesh Chhabra

Director: Hansal Mehta

“By subjecting me to injustice, the Lord taught me the importance of fairness. By throwing pain, humiliation, and torture my way, he taught me to be strong.” It is with these words, spoken in a voice-over by the film’s protagonist, that director Hansal Mehta’s Shahid opens. Easily one of the strongest films you’ll see this year, it’s based on the true story of controversial human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi, who was gunned down in cold blood in 2010, presumably for defending a 26/11 accused, who, as it turns out, was acquitted last year.

Mehta cuts a sympathetic portrait of Shahid (Rajkumar Yadav), who we first meet as a young boy scarred by the barbaric violence he witnesses during the communal riots of Mumbai in 1993. The devastating impact of those events prompts him to join a terrorist training camp in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. But in a terrific scene that illustrates the actor’s ability to convey volumes without the crutch of words, he changes his mind and heads back home, only to be picked up and thrown into Tihar Jail where the cops try to beat a confession out of him for his suspected links to terrorist outfits.

These charges, never proved, are dropped subsequently. But our protagonist really comes into his own (much like the film itself does) when he acquires a law degree and becomes determined to help other innocent people like himself who’re labeled terror suspects without sufficient evidence to support that claim.

For seven years Shahid Azmi fought the cases of men and women who he believed were wrongly accused and imprisoned under terrorism charges, securing as many as 17 acquittals in all. Mehta’s film is not only a story of courage and conviction, but one that questions the hypocrisy of our legal system, and urges us to confront our own prejudices. In a scene that stings with honesty, Shahid asks a packed courtroom if an accused by the name of Matthew, Donald, Suresh, or More, would be singled out and subjected to the same injustice as his client Zaheer, who has remained in jail for a year-and-a-half although no evidence could be gathered against him.

If there are problems with the film, it is the questions that Mehta and his co-writers leave unanswered in their rush to beatify their subject. Details about Shahid Azmi’s time and his exact role in Kashmir are hazy. And the filmmaker appears reluctant to go into the subject of who killed Shahid. To be fair, these issues are fast forgotten in an otherwise powerful, moving film.

Mehta succeeds in giving us a fascinating hero, and constructs an engaging film around him. Occasionally, in scenes between Shahid, his brothers and his domineering mother, the director even gives us moments of unexpected humor. A big reason the film never feels contrived is its remarkable cast and their pitch-perfect performances. Particularly worthy of mention: Prabhleen Sandhu as Shahid’s wife Mariam, who brings depth and real feeling. Also, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub (last seen playing Dhanush’s friend in Raanjhanaa), wonderful as Shahid’s trusted sibling Khalid. Expectedly it’s Rajkumar Yadav who provides the soul of this fearless film. Relying on minimalist instinctive acting over loud theatrics, he delivers his second winning performance this year after Kai Po Che.

The film itself is brave and unflinching, and oozes the kind of sincerity that you long for in most Hindi films. I’m going with four out of five for Hansal Mehta’s Shahid. Well made, and gripping till the very end.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Courage under fire

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

October 18, 2013

Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener, Max Martini

Director: Paul Greengrass

Like in United 93, director Paul Greengrass’ gripping chronicle of events on board the hijacked 9/11 flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, there’s an unmistakable sense of urgency that runs through every frame of Captain Phillips. A harrowing account of the 2009 storming of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates, this live wire, time bomb of a film grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go till the end.

Tom Hanks, delivering possibly his strongest performance since Cast Away, stars as Rich Phillips, captain of the American freighter Maersk Alabama that’s making its way from Oman to Mombassa. In a terrific scene that has all the thrills and the immediacy of a documentary, four armed Somali pirates hijack the vessel despite the best efforts of Phillips and his crew to shoo them off.

Without sentimentalizing them, Greengrass takes care to flashback to the desperate conditions of the Somalis’ lives, asking you to consider their limited options before dismissing them simply as villains. By pitting Phillips directly against the frail but ferocious leader of this band, Muse (first-timer Barkhad Abdi), the director personalizes a terrifying experience. Tension mounts as the pirates’ ransom plan begins to crumble, and they take off with Phillips in a cramped lifeboat, demanding millions for his safety.

Using jerky hand-held camera moves and brisk editing, Greengrass evokes fear and claustrophobia as he thrusts us into the center of the action. Hanks keeps Phillips calm and grounded for the most part, a veteran skipper trained to think on his feet. Then in the film’s final 15 minutes, as Phillips succumbs to post-traumatic stress, Hanks is nothing short of riveting. He has a worthy co-star in Abdi who is fascinating as the fidgety, desperate pirate leader.

Greengrass, who brought an unlikely cocktail of kinetic action and real feeling to the second and third films in the Bourne trilogy, strips this story bare in a way that he’s able to say something important about the unfair world we live in. He gives Captain Phillips the depth required to be more than just a story of heroism and bravery.

I’m going with four out of five. This is brutal, edge-of-the-seat filmmaking that you cannot afford to miss.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


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

October 18, 2013

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarznegger, Jim Cavieziel, Vincent D’onofrio, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Vinnie Jones

Director: Mikael Hafstrom

Unlike The Expendables films that take pride in cramming as many past-their-prime action heroes that are looking for an easy pay-cheque, Escape Plan offers us the pleasure of watching Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarznegger in their first true-blue cinematic jugalbandi.

Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a jail-break expert hired to slink out of US prisons to test their security systems. When he reluctantly accepts an offer to test a new facility designed to hold the world’s most dangerous criminals, he discovers he’s been double-crossed. With the sadistic warden (Jim Cavieziel) keeping a close eye on his every move, Breslin must turn to fellow grizzled inmate Emil Rottmayer (Schwarznegger) to help him in his breakout plan.

It’s not a bad premise, but it all unfolds so slowly, you’ll be checking your watch repeatedly to make sure it hasn’t stopped working. Many of the twists here are predictable, and the action scenes rather ordinary, which you don’t expect from a film starring the two greatest icons of the genre. Strong dialogue has never been the mainstay of action movies, and Escape Plan is no different, barring a few clever lines. When Stallone lands a lazy punch on his Austrian co-star, Schwarznegger hisses back: “You hit like a vegetarian.” How do you not cheer for that?

Alas, director Mikael Hafstrom fails to tie up loose ends in the film’s mediocre script, and the two legends themselves appear a tad embarrassed to have signed up for this snoozefest.

I’m going with two out of five for Escape Plan. Stallone and Schwarznegger deserve better. And so do we.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Ayushmann Khurrana on the film that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:28 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Vicky Donor star Ayushmann Khurrana talks about the film that changed his life. This Chandigarh boy has vivid memories of his favorite film and speaks eloquently and fondly about the reasons it remains embedded in his brain and heart.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

October 16, 2013

Horrible bosses

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:10 pm

October 16, 2013

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, Danny Denzongpa, Ronit Roy, Shiv Pandit, Aditi Rao Hydari, Govind Namdeo

Director: Anthony D’Souza

There’s an unwritten rule in film reviewing: thou shall not be prejudiced against a movie before watching it. Ironically, that rule must be sidestepped if one attempts to review an Akshay Kumar film with fairness. Think about it. Unless you’re able to accept and move on from the fact that a majority of his movies are brainless, tasteless affairs, how do you survive a film like Boss while still trying to be fair to it?

The problem here is that despite making those concessions – the movie requires that you apply neither common sense nor taste – Boss is still a pretty forgettable film.

Akshay Kumar bashes, slams, clobbers and punches his way through the 2 hours 24 minutes running time of this movie, even as the sound of every crunched bone and displaced jaw echoes through your ears. Akshay’s playing Boss, a good-humored goonda who accepts a contract to bump off Shiv (Shaitaan’s Shiv Pandit), an innocent fellow in love with a sadistic police officer’s sister. The cop (Ronit Roy) has promised to marry his sister (Aditi Rao Hydari, memorable only for a ‘bikini moment’) to the idiot son of a corrupt minister he’s in cahoots with. But Boss learns that Shiv is in fact the brother he was estranged from when their father (Mithun Chakraborty) disowned him as a child.

Directed by Anthony D’Souza, who helmed that awful underwater adventure Blue, this remake of the Malayalam hit Pokkiri Raja is packed with lengthy flashbacks, cringe-inducing melodrama, and the kind of pedestrian dialogues that evoke memories of bad 80s potboilers.

The action scenes are surprisingly gruesome, their effect amplified by the sound design. The film’s gags, meanwhile, are uniformly juvenile. Roughly half a dozen times, bad guys are kicked or whacked in the crotch; another time Akshay asks a fellow to be careful where he’s sitting or a nail might hurt his “ande”. He plants a bomb in a bad guy’s backside naming it “Bum chiki bum” even as Shakti Kapoor shows up with a pair of pliers to disengage it from the man’s anatomy. And in one scene, talking about a girl he rescued, Akshay says he regards her as his sister, after whom he named his truck “Behen ki lorry”. Get it?

Only occasionally you catch glimpses of Akshay’s famed comic timing, especially in a scene in which he mock fights with Shiv to throw off the bad guys. Talented actors like Mithun Chakraborty, and even Danny Denzongpa, playing Akshay’s adoptive father Big Boss, are completely wasted, while Ronit Roy as the permanently scowling cop appears to be the only actor taking this drivel seriously.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five. Neither original, nor entertaining, this Boss deserves to be fired!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress