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

March 13, 2015

The con is on!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:36 pm

March 13, 2015

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

Directors: Glen Ficarra & John Requa

Will Smith’s greatest strength as a movie star has always been his consummate charm, even if it did fail him in his last starring role, in the deathly dull sci-fi stinker After Earth. Thankfully, Big Willie brings his A-game to Focus, a glossy, slick con movie that coasts along nicely for the most part, until its final act when logic is stretched to breaking point and the film stops being fun.

The action is centered on master con artist Nicky (Smith), and sexy blonde Jess (Margot Robbie) who begs him to take her under his wing after she clumsily tries to rob him. He recruits her in his team of highly skilled thieves, teaching her how to swipe wallets and pinch purses with the ease of a pro.

Directors Glen Ficarra and John Requa (who also wrote the script) keep the tone breezy and light as Nicky teaches Jess the art of the con, and ends up falling for her. It’s never fully clear what their respective motives are, and that’s part of what keeps the film interesting – is he conning her, is she conning him, are they both conning each other?

It’s also very clever at times, because it genuinely surprises you in places where you expect the usual clichés of the genre. One elaborate set piece that unfolds in a private seating block during a Superbowl-like football match in New Orleans delivers nail-biting tension and then a superb payoff.

Smith and Robbie have terrific chemistry; she’s almost as charming as him, and appears to have a natural gift for comedy. But their relationship is sadly underdeveloped. As a romance between two con artistes who can’t fully trust each other, the film feels half-baked. The script further slips in the second half, when the drama moves to Buenos Aires a few years later, where Nicky is working a scam.

By this point, the filmmakers are stacking up twist after twist, and the snappy tone of the film becomes darker and heavier as the stakes are raised. I found the final twist too far-fetched even for a con film, and I came away wishing that they’d retained the lighthearted touch of the early portions.

Still, I’m going with three out of five for Focus. Will Smith seems to be having a good time, and for a large part of the film you do too.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Heavy metal

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:35 pm

March 13, 2015

Cast: Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

Director: Neill Blomkamp

District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp’s latest film Chappie has a distinctly recycled feel to it. I spent most of the film’s running time picking out all the references to other sci-fi movies until I was too bored to care anymore.

The action unfolds in a not-so-distant future where a robotic police force successfully serves and protects a chaotic Johannesburg that is perennially on the verge of anarchy. Deon (Dev Patel), the ambitious engineer who designed these Robocop-style crime-fighters aspires to create a fully operational sentient model that can think for itself, but he’s barred from doing so by his chilly boss (Sigourney Weaver). When he creates one on the sly, however, the child-like droid, Chappie (played via motion capture by Sharlto Copley), is captured by a gang of criminals who mostly teach him violence and bad manners. As it turns out, that training comes in handy when Chappie must fight back against a lumbering assault robot named Moose, designed by envious rival engineer Vincent (Hugh Jackman) who is no fan of artificial intelligence.

Blomkamp borrows ideas and themes liberally – from his own previous films, from Robocop, The Terminator and Westworld, and also from Philip K Dick novels – but Chappie fails to rise above the clichés of its genre. It’s loud, silly, and never offers much more than a few moments of irreverent humor, and the occasional thrilling set piece. The big problem is that Chappie’s transformation from impressionable sweet-natured child to lethal killing machine isn’t emotionally satisfying. And Blomkamp doesn’t give us any character that’s truly worth rooting for.

I’m going with two out of five for Chappie. It’s derivative and not particularly fun. Hardly the best way to spend two hours on a lazy weekend.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

March 6, 2015

Nawazuddin Siddiqui: “You can’t compare me with Irrfan Khan”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:51 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Badlapur star Nawazuddin Siddiqui talks about the importance of money while picking films, and his need for isolation while preparing for a role. The actor also explains why he’s often irritated by those pesky comparisons with Irrfan Khan.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ director Sharat Katariya on the film that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:50 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Dum Laga Ke Haisha‘ director Sharat Kataria talks about the film that changed his life. 36-year-old Kataria, who has written films like Bheja Fry and the as-yet-unreleased Cannes gem Titli, explains what he learnt from this film, and how it has influenced his own cinema.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Weak brew

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 9:38 pm

March 06, 2014

Cast: Arjun Mathur, Sugandha Garg, Mohan Kapur, Nandini Sen, Ishwari Bose-Bhattacharya

Director: Manu Warrier

It’s not often that a man gets closure in his life and in relationships through coffee, but Dev Anand Cariappa, the tortured protagonist of Coffee Bloom somehow manages this feat. Directed by debutante Manu Warrier, the film is set in the plantations of Coorg, as Dev approaches his ancestral home to bury his mother’s ashes.

It’s difficult to get involved with a drifting, angsty loser, and Dev (played convincingly by Arjun Mathur) is hung up on several issues – a failed love affair with lingering bitterness, his inability to hold a job, and his rash decision to sell off his mother’s beloved coffee plantation. Ironically, the estate is now owned by his ex-girlfriend Anika (a nicely understated Sugandha Garg) and her annoyingly cheery husband Srinivas Panicker (Mohan Kapur, loud and energetic). The past comes alive when the ex-lovers meet again. Meanwhile everyone holds their breath for the delicate coffee shrubs to bloom so they can all get on with their lives.

Warrier sets up an interesting premise, but cripples it with a deathly slow pace. Coffee Bloom has a silly turning point involving a marauding elephant and a gunshot that make way for a farcical, half-baked investigation. The emotional outbursts between Dev and Anika, and their touching final scene, fare better in holding your interest.

Unfolding against eye-watering landscapes of Coorg, the film nicely conveys a sense of life and simmering feelings in a sleepy corner of India. There’s also a sloppily written character of a Bengali prostitute, who speaks in broken English. The typical hooker with a heart of gold; she provides the film with some comic relief in the heavy-duty emotional scenes.

With tighter editing and writing, Coffee Bloom had the ingredients of a good drama. I’m going with two out of five. It is sadly a weak brew; adequate, but nothing to write home about.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Sea sick!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 9:37 pm

March 06, 2015

Cast: Garret Dillahunt, Tom Felton, Jake Abel

Director: Brian Falk

Against the Sun is the latest entry in the ‘ocean survival movie’ genre, which includes such superior films as Life of Pi, the Robert Redford starrer All is Lost, and even the recent Angelina Jolie-directed biopic Unbroken. Based on a true-life ordeal of three Navy airmen who crash-landed into the Pacific just weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, this film follows a familiar narrative while plodding along lethargically in what frankly feels like real time.

Stuck on a tiny raft for as many as 34 days with no food, water, navigational equipment or even a flashlight, pilot Harold Dixon (Garret Dillahunt), bombardier Tony Pastula (Harry Potter’s Tom Felton), and radioman Gene Aldrich (Jake Abel) bicker, bond, and occasionally blame each other, all the while struggling to survive violent storms above and hungry sharks below.

Aside from the typically overwhelming visuals of those stretches of gleaming blue water, there is little to admire in this film that is handsomely mounted but lazily scripted. Director and co-writer Brian Falk sticks to a predictable story arc, and it all unfolds so unremarkably you’ll have trouble staying awake.

I’m going with two out of five for Against the Sun. Sadly, this ship has sailed.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

« Newer Posts

Powered by WordPress