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

June 29, 2014

Armaan & Deeksha: “We didn’t get along when we first met”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, the debutant leads of Lekar Hum Deewana Dil – Armaan Jain and Deeksha Seth – talk about pressure and expectations, and about stealing AR Rahman’s music. Armaan, grandson of Raj Kapoor (his mother Rima Jain is the legendary filmmaker’s daughter), talks about his impressions of the late showman, and reveals what he’s learnt from his cousin Ranbir Kapoor.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 28, 2014

Mark Wahlberg: “It’s the first film of mine that my kids want to see”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:23 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, recorded in Hong Kong, 43-year-old Oscar-nominated Hollywood star Mark Wahlberg talks about his role in Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, which he reveals is the first film of his that his kids want to see. The actor, a self-confessed sports fan, also talks about investing in a cricket team in the Caribbean Premier League.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 27, 2014

I Saw The Villain!

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

June 27, 2014

Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Shraddha Kapoor, Ritesh Deshmukh, Aamna Sharif, Kamaal R Khan, Shaad Randhawa

Director: Mohit Suri

Five minutes into Mohit Suri’s Ek Villain, and a major character is killed off. Great way to get your attention. The rest of the film is divided between flashbacks of a charming love story, and a somewhat unconvincing revenge mission.

Guru (Sidharth Malhotra) is a hot-headed, cold-blooded assassin working on the orders of a Goa don. He softens under the influence of Aisha (Shraddha Kapoor), a cheery chatterbox and selfless do-gooder, who gets under his skin despite himself. Meanwhile, Ritesh Deshmukh is Rakesh Mahadkar, a mousy lower-middle class MTNL employee, who vents his frustration over his nagging wife at the unfortunate women who make the mistake of locking horns with him. These two narratives intertwine predictably, setting off the payback plan.

Suri, a competent director, who has a knack for ripping off foreign films and ‘Indianizing’ them by adding a romantic subplot and a superhit soundtrack, employs the same formula here. The victim on this occasion is the Korean revenge saga, I Saw The Devil. Suri and his writers tone down the violence, amp up the melodrama, throw in a love story, and give the psychotic serial killer a justification for his misogyny. It’s all very Hindi filmi, complete with corny lines that’ll make you roll your eyes in disbelief.

To give credit where it’s due, Suri makes the most of this flawed script, delivering a consistently watchable film even if it isn’t always satisfying. The plot is plagued with logic issues, and there’s virtually no suspense in the cat-and-mouse chase between villain and avenger. Yet each time the thriller element fails, it’s the romantic track that returns to resuscitate the film.

Shraddha Kapoor has a luminous presence, and it’s hard to take your eyes off her when she’s on screen…although you may want to shut your ears from listening to her constant chappad-chappad. She shares a warm chemistry with Sidharth Malhotra, who does very well as the silently simmering type and gets a few nice moments to show off his brooding intensity. It’s Ritesh Deshmukh, though, who springs a surprise, delivering a compelling performance, both as the browbeaten everyman, and in his volte face as the stonehearted killer.

It’s a shame then that despite the uniformly impressive performances, and Suri’s nifty directing skills, the film is only moderately fulfilling. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Ek Villain. If you’re still wondering, the real villain here is the lousy script.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

All sound and fury

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

June 27, 2014

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Li Bingbing

Director: Michael Bay

More than anything else, you’ll wish you’d carried a cushion to watch Transformers: Age of Extinction, the noisy fourth entry in Michael Bay’s robots-versus-robots film series, which clocks in at a butt-punishing 165 minutes. To be fair, Age of Extinction delivers pretty much everything one would expect from a Transformers movie – both the good and the bad, and then some.

Early on, we’re introduced to new protagonist Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), overprotective single dad and scrap collector-cum-inventor in rural Texas, who discovers his beat-up truck is actually Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots. But set in a future where the government (led by Kelsey Grammer’s shady CIA chief Harold Attinger) has declared an unofficial war on all Transformers, the film quickly turns into a relentless chase, with Attinger and his cronies hot on the heels of Cade, his teenage daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), and her boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor), who hit the road with Optimus and his friends. This plot, which jumps from Texas to Chicago to Beijing to Hong Kong, is further complicated by the presence of a Steve Jobs-like techno-wiz (Stanley Tucci) who has aligned himself with Attinger to replicate the Transformers metal in pursuit of huge profits, and to create a robot army to protect the nation. There’s also an inter-galactic bounty hunter, Lockdown, who trails the skies in a gargantuan spaceship, hell bent on capturing Optimus.

But you know, of course, that all this is just an excuse for the orgy of excellent special effects, and the metal-on-metal action that these films are truly about. The humans are largely irrelevant on this busy canvas dominated by giant city-smashing robots, although there is some nice humor derived from the affectionate bickering between the nerdy dad, his bombshell daughter, and her hot-headed boyfriend.

If Age of Extinction doesn’t fail as spectacularly as the last two films in the series, it’s because Bay pulls out all stops to give his target audience of 11-year-old boys exactly what they want – a non-stop assault of sound and fury, lightning-fast movements from the colossal heroes, and enough moments of genuine awe and shock. The very appearance of the massive Dinobots is likely to send fans into a collective rapture, particularly the moment Optimus rides into the screen on one. And although the climax goes on and on for what seems like eternity, thrill-seekers will be duly satisfied with all the carnage.

Like the previous films, this fourth installment is beset with script holes, clunky dialogue, hammy acting, and the overconfidence of a director who doesn’t know when to stop. But for fans of the same noisy but vacuous spectacle that these films have come to represent, Transformers: Age of Extinction is actually a step up from the last film.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five. Now if only you’d carried that cushion.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 20, 2014

Mohit Suri on Sidharth & Shraddha: “I love them so much, I can’t see them getting hurt”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:48 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, the stars of Ek Villain – Sidharth Malhotra, Shradha Kapoor – and director Mohit Suri explain why it’s no tragic love story despite its dark undertones. The trio also reveals which of them was most nervous while filming action scenes.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Ham shackles!

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

June 20, 2014

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Ritesh Deshmukh, Ram Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Tamannah, Esha Gupta, Satish Shah, Chunky Pandey

Director: Sajid Khan

Years ago when I was in my twenties, I woke up one night with an unbearable pain that was later diagnosed as a kidney stone. The damn thing had lodged itself somewhere in my intestines, and it was literally the worst pain I’ve felt in my life. Watching Sajid Khan’s Humshakals, I was reminded of my helpless, miserable state from so many years ago.

This singularly unfunny film plumbs the depths of comedic bankruptcy by a director who quite frankly, hasn’t delivered anything funny in a long time. Unless the sight of two dwarves, their faces buried in Saif Ali Khan and Ritesh Deshmukh’s crotches, dangling off the actors’ pelvises as they try to shake them off, is your idea of a good laugh. Or a lip-smacking, lecherous Ram Kapoor trying to rape Ram Kapoor-in-drag is your definition of entertainment.

The plot, if you can call it that, is noodle-thin. Saif Ali Khan is Ashok, the heir to a vast business empire. Ritesh Deshmukh is Kumar, his best friend. Get it?  Ashok, Kumar! Anyway, Ram Kapoor is Ashok’s uncle, Kunwar Amar Nath Singh or Kans, and he wants to take over the business. So he recruits lookalikes of both men, a pair of crazies from the local asylum, to achieve this. Eventually we get three sets of doppelgangers – three Saif Ali Khans, three Ritesh Deshmukhs, and three Ram Kapoors – and we also get a migraine in the process.

In keeping with the standards set by Sajid in his previous films, the jokes in Humshakals are uniformly low-IQ. So dwarves and gays continue to be easy targets, and he can’t resist making fun of the mentally challenged, the disabled, or the obese either. Nothing is sacred, no joke too offensive in Sajid’s world. The problem, unfortunately, is that most of the jokes just aren’t funny. The film, in fact, is really a series of gags that misfire. Your heart bleeds for Saif as the Nawab barks, sniffs and growls when a mind-altering drug sends him into full canine mode. The scenes in which the three men go undercover in drag to seduce their lookalikes are so embarrassing, you have to wonder just how well the actors were paid, or perhaps if they were blackmailed into sacrificing their dignity.

The few moments that do work are the throwaway jokes, and they invariably involve Ritesh or Ram Kapoor’s characters. During a tense brainstorming session, Ram, playing a germ-fearing loony passes around hand-sanitizer casually. And unlike Saif, Ritesh pulls off the dog routine amusingly, including a bit in which he humps the leg of another actor. To be fair, Ritesh is the only actor here who doesn’t entirely disappoint, once again revealing a knack for physical comedy and some sharp timing. Sadly, the opposite is true for Saif, who is completely out of place here, trying very hard to carry a joke, the effort always visible.

The actresses – Bipasha Basu, Tamannah and Esha Gupta – have precious little to do but look good in short skirts, and shake a leg in the song sequences. Satish Shah shows up as a sadistic asylum warden who counts Saddam Hussain, Idi Amin and Hitler as his inspirations. He gets the film’s best joke, when he ties up our heroes and subjects them to what he describes as the ultimate torture – he’s going to make them watch Sajid Khan’s Himmatwala.

That bit of self-deprecatory humor aside, this is essentially a tasteless, overblown affair that plods on for 159 brain-numbing minutes. I’m going with half out of five, yes just half out of five, for Sajid Khan’s Humshakals. I’ve never had one, but I imagine a ruptured appendix would hurt less.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Comfort food

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

June 20, 2014

Cast: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, Oliver Platt, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr, Emjay Anthony

Director: Jon Favreau

There’s not a lot by way of story in Iron Man director Jon Favreau’s Chef, but this is nonetheless a pleasant comedy that’ll have you drooling into your popcorn, then rushing to the nearest eatery as you leave the cinema.

Favreau casts himself as Carl Casper, a master chef at a fancy Los Angeles restaurant, whose bossy owner (Dustin Hoffman) won’t let him be creative with the food. When a major critic slams him in a review, Carl has an epic meltdown that costs him his job and goes viral on the Internet. Left with no choice, he invests in a beat-up food truck and takes a road-trip with his ten-year-old son and a faithful friend (John Leguizamo), discovering subsequently that there’s no greater joy than rustling up delicious Cuban sandwiches for appreciative folks.

Filled with the kind of genuine heart that makes up for the film’s familiar narrative, Chef feels surprisingly fresh, possibly because it’s filmed with such affection. We get montage after glorious montage of food preparation, and Favreau himself is terrific as a man who must return to basics in order to rediscover his passion and reconnect with his kid. The film finds a nice way to stay contemporary by illustrating the impact of social media as a parallel subplot in the storyline, with Twitter playing a significant role in Carl’s takedown and then his reemergence.

Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara is nicely cast as Carl’s supportive ex-wife, and Favreau pulls in favors from his big-name star friends – Scarlett Johansson, who plays a sassy restaurant manager, and Robert Downey Jr, who cameos as Carl’s ex-wife’s flaky ex-husband. The real star of the film, however, is the food itself. One scene in which Carl lovingly prepares spaghetti left me with a craving for Italian food for the rest of the day.

I’m going with three out of five for Chef. It’s simple, but like good cooking, there’s love gone into it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 13, 2014

Four square

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

June 13, 2014

Cast: Mohit Marwah, Vijender Singh, Arfi Lamba, Kiara Advani, Jimmy Shergill, Anshuman Jha

Director: Kabir Sadanand

“Yeh Fugly Fugly kya hai?” goes the title song of director Kabir Sadanand’s muddled film. It’s also a question you ask yourself repeatedly as you leave the cinema after a viewing, still baffled by the wildly inconsistent narrative.

Four friends on the cusp of adulthood live it up in their native Dilli, staying out till late, flouting the rules because one of them has an influential dad. The Dil Chahta Hai and Fukrey influences are hard to miss, but weighed down by bad acting, banal dialogue, and clumsy execution, there isn’t a hint of authenticity in these bonding scenes. The quartet – Dev (Mohit Marwah), Gaurav (Vijender Singh), Aadi (Arfi Lamba), and Devi (Kiara Advani) – finds themselves in a bind after locking horns with sadistic Jat thulla, Inspector Chautala (Jimmy Shergill), who threatens to frame them for murder unless they pay him an obscene amount of money.

But this premise, not all bad, gets a Rang De Basanti-inspired twist as the story becomes one about fighting corruption, defending one’s honor, and inspiring a national awakening. Alas, none of it rings true because the writing’s so affected. There is no connective tissue between individual scenes, and Sadanand resorts to stereotyping of the most lazy order. We get flaming gay men who pounce at anything that moves, lecherous rich women with a taste for young men, fat ladies who send their daughters out to please clients, and oily politicians who can’t keep it in their pants.

Of the cast, Jimmy Shergill is deliciously evil as the blackmailing cop, but watch how he hams as the character finally gets his just desserts. The four youngsters, sadly, leave no impression, particularly Olympic boxing champ Vijender Singh, who survives the comic bits but struggles in the dramatic scenes. The one character that stayed with me was a feisty old biddy who distracted an income tax officer while her grandson made off with wads of notes. Genuine comic moments like these are few and far between in this well-intentioned but sloppy film.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Fugly. In the end it’s neither thrilling nor stirring. Just an opportunity lost.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Enter the dragon!

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

June 13, 2014

Cast: Voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, America Ferrara, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill

Director: Dean DeBlois

There’s a lot going on in How To Train Your Dragon 2, which picks up five years after the events of the earlier film. No longer a threat to the people of Berk, dragons and humans now live happily in this ancient Viking village…a point established firmly in the film’s opening sequence, in which a thrilling dragon race is underway. Meanwhile, our hero Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is being groomed to take over the chief’s position by his father Stoick (Gerard Butler), although he’s more interested in exploring the world with his trusted dragon Toothless. Danger looms in the form of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), a dreadlocked villain determined to capture all dragons so he can control them.

Seldom as lighthearted as its predecessor, this sequel cuts deeper, taking Hiccup and Toothless on an emotional journey that is more dramatic, and darker even, including a tragic twist that might be too intense for little kids. Many characters from the 2010 film reappear, including Astrid, Hiccup’s feisty girlfriend (America Ferrera), and Stoick’s cheery right-hand man Gobber (Craig Ferguson). We’re also introduced to a gaggle of new characters, chief among them the mysterious Dragon Rider Valka (Cate Blanchett), who, as it turns out, shares a deep unbreakable bond with our young protagonist.

The busy plotting notwithstanding, the film truly works on the strength of its terrific visuals and 3D imagery, particularly the flying scenes, which are at times edge-of-the-seat exhilarating. There is both wonder and awe in the assortment of dragons that we encounter, each perfectly rendered and unique. The film also packs some nice moments of man and beast bonding, especially the playful portions between Hiccup and Toothless, who have come a long way since the last film.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for How To Train Your Dragon 2. This is that rare sequel that doesn’t just deliver more of what worked the last time, but forges ahead with brave new ideas.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Grace is gone!

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

June 13, 2014

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Parker Posey, Frank Langella

Director: Olivier Dehaan

Grace of Monaco stars Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman as Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly, who left Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco in the 1950s. Kidman is a fine choice to play Grace; few other actresses embody that old-fashioned Hollywood glamour like she does. But it’s a performance so stiff and plastic, it belongs at Madame Tussauds. To be fair, the film itself isn’t much better, focusing on an incident in Monaco’s history that few are likely to be interested in.

Beset by criticism from Monaco’s royal family that the story has little truth to it, the movie – co-produced by India’s own Uday Chopra and Yash Raj Films – opened the Cannes Film Festival in May to mostly scathing reviews. Set six years after her fairytale marriage, the film catches Grace as she yearns to act again, for Alfred Hitchock in his film Marnie. Her potential return to Hollywood, however, is seen as poor timing what with a diplomatic crisis looming. Her husband, the Prince (Tim Roth), after all is busy fighting off French efforts to tax Monaco and reclaim the principality.

Shot elegantly with soft-focus lenses, the film looks gorgeous and nicely recreates the era. But director Olivier Dahaan doesn’t know what story he wants to tell – political drama, portrait of a troubled marriage, or a Grace Kelly biopic. In the end, he does very little justice to any genre, the film suffering particularly on account of its stilted dialogue and one-note characters. I lost count of how many times someone tells Grace that she’s playing the greatest role of her life.

Naturally you’re reminded of the equally awful Naomi Watts starrer Diana, in which the fellow Australian actress played another much-loved princess. But while that film was so bad you couldn’t help laughing at its silliness, this one is just a plodding bore. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Grace of Monaco. If you’re having trouble sleeping lately, this is just the cure you needed!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress