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

December 4, 2020

Be Kind Rewind review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:51 pm

May 23, 2008

Cast: Jack Black, Mos Def

Director: Michel Gondry

Be Kind Rewind is one of those films that’s got a terrific idea at its core. But sadly, it has nothing more.

After a failed attempt at breaking into a power plant — don’t even ask why — Jack Black gets heavily magnetized and ends up erasing every single videotape that’s lying on the racks at the video-store his friend Mos Def works at.

What do they do now? They don’t have enough cash to replace the damaged tapes with new ones, and worse still they can’t even find replacement tapes at other stores, because, let’s face it, who stocks VHS anymore, we’re in the age of DVD, baby!

Well, the two guys hit upon a ridiculous plan; they decide to “re-enact” the movies and rent them to unsuspecting customers. Yes, it sounds insane, but really what choice were they left with? You won’t believe how they go about shooting their own version of Ghostbusters, complete with theme music and all. And wait till you see them do Rush Hour 2 and Driving Miss Daisy, it’s absolutely hilarious!

Well, eventually, these ’20-minute versions’ become a rage among their customers and soon the entire neighbourhood’s queuing up outside the store for their favourite titles.

Now, for the most part, this film rests squarely on the comic talents of its two leads, but when the basic idea is stretched too far, boredom begins to set in. The film also spends too much time and energy on the video-store owner Danny Glover and his obsession with a legendary jazz musician.

Trimmed judiciously, this might have been a great watch, but in its current form, it’s only an average entertainer. So that’s two out of five for director Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind – you want to see a truly mind-bending classic, rent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on DVD, also directed by Gondry and written by genius screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:49 pm

May 30, 2008

Cast: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Igor Jijikine

Director: Steven Spielberg

You’re going to hear lots of different reactions to the new Indiana Jones movie. Many are going to love it, and for so many others it will inevitably fall short of expectations.

The truth is, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a perfectly respectable action-adventure film – it’s got some great set pieces involving sword-fights atop speeding jeeps, death-defying plunges down waterfalls, and some Tarzan-style swinging across trees with a troupe of monkeys. There are also enough chase sequences and narrow escapes to keep your bottom fixed firmly on your seat for the entire duration of the film.

For die-hard fans, the opening strains of John Williams’ now legendary theme music, and the very sight of that fedora will no doubt set pulses racing. Indy’s back after 19 long years, and he’s just as good as ever.

The film’s convoluted plotline follows the villainous Soviets in search of a legendary Mayan artifact – the crystal skull – said to possess supernatural powers. Indy follows the bad guys to Peru when he realizes the relic is in fact, the key to an extinct civilization.

It takes the first forty minutes or so to remind us exactly why we love the Indiana Jones movies so much — where else do you find that signature blend of mysticism, adventure, full-throttle action and slapstick humour?

Of course much of the film’s appeal lies in watching Harrison Ford reprise his role as the adventure-loving archaeology professor – sure he’s aged since his last outing, but he’s still looks just as charming in that leather jacket and that weathered fedora, and he can still snap that bullwhip with finesse.

For old time’s sake, the writers thrown in a scene in which he tangles once again with his most feared nemesis – a snake. Also for old time’s sake, he’s reunited with former sweetheart Marion Ravenwood (played by Karen Allen) with whom he shares some sharp-witted banter.

But some of the film’s most enjoyable moments are the ones between Indy and his brand new sidekick Mutt (played by Shia LeBeouf) – you’ll have to stop yourself from screaming out in excitement when they go through that spectacular motorcycle chase scene on an Ivy League college campus.

Having said all that, it’s also true fanboys will be disappointed by the fact that the new film’s lacking that sense of real fear you’ve always felt for Indy – it’s true, the special effects and the fancy action do give Indy’s obstacles a kind of make-believe feel. But then, let’s face it, the Indiana Jones movies have always been about fun and adventure, and that’s not lacking in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Much of that adventure, in fact, is provided by the excellent Cate Blanchett as the slinky Soviet femme fatale who’s determined to have our hero lead her to the the secrets of the crystal skull.

If I felt let down at all by the new film, it’s because the cheekiness that made Indy so charming, was hardly to be found here. The humour is almost gone.

But it’s still an enjoyable watch and possibly more fun than most films you’ve seen recently. I’m going with three out of five for directorSteven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Sure it’s not a patch on Raiders of the Lost Ark, but remember that was another time another day. A time when Indy crossing a wobbly rope bridge felt like an edge-of-the-seat moment. Today, remember, it’s all about the special effects. And to maintain even some of integrity of the original films today, is something we should be thankful for.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Sex and the City: The Movie review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:48 pm

June 06, 2008

Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth

Director: Michael Patrick King

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a fan of the show, but I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed reruns of Sex And The City every time I’ve caught one by accident. Of course what I think of the show doesn’t matter here. The truth is, ladies everywhere have been waiting for this, and now it’s finally here.

To be entirely honest, the Sex And The City movie doesn’t actually feel like a cohesive feature at all. At two hours and twenty-five odd minutes, it feels more like a string of episodes slapped back-to-back, if you ask me. The girls are back for their big screen outing, but I’m disappointed to report, the fun’s missing from this adventure.

Sex columnist-turned-author Carrie Bradshaw is planning a fancy wedding with Mr Big, but he’s having second thoughts. Cynical, razor-sharp lawyer Miranda is having trouble trusting her husband again after he confesses to having had a casual sexual encounter. Nymphomaniac Samantha is missing her promiscuous lifestyle even as she’s settled into a monogamous relationship with her actor boyfriend in LA. And ever the optimist Charlotte is enjoying a happy domestic life with her husband Harry and their adopted daughter Lily, but has never quite given up the hope of getting pregnant.

Now much of the show’s success and popularity came from its effortless humour, the clever one-liners delivered by its characters, and their ability to laugh at themselves and at each other in the most delicate circumstances. The problem with the film is the humour’s more slapstick than smart — there’s a horny dog, a character who shits in her pants, and a scene involving Japanese food as a sex aid. The script fails in interweaving all the characters’ storylines, and some characters simply don’t get enough material to chew on.

On the upside, say hello to Jennifer Hudson who makes an inspired entry into the story as Carrie’s personal assistant, adding a twenty-something perspective for female characters who’re now in their forties. Also — and all you ladies , listen to this clearly — it’s a mad orgy of designer brands; handbags, heels and wedding gowns, they’re all there! The film doesn’t cover much ground sadly, but like the show it ends up being about the bond these women share.

I’m going with two out of five and an average rating for Sex And The City: The Movie. Perhaps my opinion really doesn’t count here — after all I’ll never understand what all the fuss over that new Louis Vuitton handbag is all about.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The Other Boleyn Girl review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:43 pm

June 06, 2008

Cast: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana

Dir: Justin Chadwick

The Other Boleyn Girl tells the story of two sisters, Anne and Mary Boleyn — played by Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson respectively — who’re driven by their ambitious father and uncle to advance the family’s status by attracting the attention of Henry VIII, King of England, played by Eric Bana.

The girls are encouraged to seduce the monarch, whose wife Queen Katherine of Aragon has failed to give him a male heir. The King is drawn to younger sister Mary who he takes as mistress, but her conniving older sister edges aside Mary in her pursuit of the King, despite Mary’s genuine feelings for Henry.

Blinded by ambition, Anne stops at nothing until she wins the King’s affection and ascends to the throne after driving him to annul his marriage to Katherine and to pack Mary off to a country home.

A sizzling tale of rivalry between sisters, much like a historical soap-opera of sorts, The Other Boleyn Girl is an enjoyable piece of pulp whose facts are largely unknown, yet the stuff of intrigue and gossip for years. It’s impossible not to be hooked to this one-upmanship saga that’s performed remarkably by both leading ladies — Johansson does a swell job as the innocent romantic, and Portman is just perfect as the daring, deceptive sister.

It’s the usually terrific Eric Bana who is reduced to glaring angrily and striding in and out of the ladies chambers. We’ve all read our little bit of history, we all know Anne Boleyn is the one who lost her head, but you’ll never imagine why!

I’m going to go with three out of five and a recommendation not to miss The Other Boleyn Girl, it’s a juicy potboiler about love, sex and betrayal and it’s got a gorgeous cast that scorches through the screen.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The Happening review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:41 pm

Jun 13, 2008

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel

Director: Manoj Night Shyamalan

I see dead people. Lots of them actually in M Night Shyamalan’s new film The Happening, which isn’t quite in the league of his breakthrough hit The Sixth Sense, but it’s certainly not half as bad as his last film, that mind-numbing fairytale Lady In The Water.

Mark Wahlberg plays a science teacher in a Philadelphia school who flees to the countryside with his wife Zooey Deschanel when strange occurrences begin taking place in New York City. People are stopping dead in their tracks and killing themselves gruesomely.

It’s not yet known what has caused this but there are reports that this outbreak is spreading. While on the run from this inexplicable disaster, Wahlberg concludes these occurrences are the result of deadly airborne toxins released by plants and trees.

Of course there’s no real evidence to suggest any of this, but Wahlberg’s a science teacher so we in the audience and the others escaping with him have no choice but to go with his logic.

The Happening has an engaging enough premise and its got its fair share of supernatural thrills and B-movie creepiness, but unlike the filmmaker’s finest films, it doesn’t have that certain something that jumps out at you and pulls the rug from under your feet.

I’m not going to give out any spoilers here so I won’t tell you if it’s got a twist in the end. What I will tell you is that it keeps you under its spell for the most part, but then cops out just when you’re expecting the big bang.

Despite its obvious flaws, The Happening isn’t all that bad. In fact, there’s much to admire about the film. Disaster-movie fans will agree it’s a relief we’re not subjected to swarms of screaming-shouting people, clawing each other and fighting for seats in cars and trains in their efforts to go as far away as they can from impending death.

Also, you cannot help but enjoy the simplicity of the film’s basic premise and its treatment — no dizzying special effects, no ridiculous aliens, no fancy trimmings.

In a sense, The Happening is Shyamalan’s simplest film yet, and his most straightforward story. How I wish he’d finished it better. I’m going to go with two out of five and an average rating for M Night Shyamalan’s The Happening.

Lots happens, what happens stops happening eventually. But you never really know why it happened in the first place. That according to me is fraud.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The Incredible Hulk review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:39 pm

June 20, 2008

Cast: Edward Norton, Tim Roth

Director: Louis Leterrier

The Incredible Hulk stars Edward Norton as the guy in green. Now here’s a fantastic actor in a not-so-fantastic film that’s essentially just a bunch of big, explosive action scenes strung together.

Norton plays Bruce Banner, a scientist who when angered turns large and green, and you don’t want to be around him then. Banner wants to cure himself, he doesn’t like what he sees in the mirror when he gets mad, but a power-mad general wants to capture him so he can extract whatever makes him the Hulk and use it as a weapon.

Tim Roth plays Emil Blonsky, an over-zealous soldier assigned to hunt Banner down.

Amazed by the Hulk’s power and force, Blonsky gets greedy for the same kind of strength, and bullies a doctor into injecting him with a little Hulk juice that eventually turns him into The Abomination, the Hulk’s biggest nemesis.

Very different from Ang Lee’s 2003 film about the same protagonist, this film is a lot less talkie and a lot more hard-core action. The climax is one shameless special-effects heavy fight-scene between the Hulk and The Abomination, and if you think of it, it’s exactly like the big climatic action scene in Iron Man, which in turn was inspired by the big climatic metal-on-metal action scene from The Transformers.

With Edward Norton on board, I expected a more cerebral action movie, but this one’s for videogame-loving teenagers whose attention span is directly proportionate to how long it’ll take to finish that bucket of popcorn inside the cinema.

Two out of five. Strictly average entertainment.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Khanna & Iyer review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:38 pm

March 30, 2007

Cast: Sarvar Ahuja, Aditi Sharma, Manoj Pahwa, Mushtaq Khan, Prateeksha Lonkar, Neelu Kohli

Director: Hemant Hegde

Khanna & Iyer is a comedy about a Punjabi boy and a South Indian girl who elope from their homes because their parents won’t allow their inter-caste marriage.

They end up in a forest that’s full of outlaws who’re on the run from the police, and soon enough even their parents show up in the forest looking for them.

Now this is exactly the kind of film whose print should have gone missing on its way from the producer’s office to the cinema — believe me everyone associated with it would have been saved a lot of embarrassment.

But since that didn’t happen, and since the film did make it to the cinemas, let’s just focus on why it’s so bad. To begin with, it’s got a script that’s so juvenile, so childish that you’re convinced only a five year old could have written it.

It’s meant to be a comedy but the jokes aren’t funny — they’re stupid and they’re repetitive and if your idea of humour is an overweight Punjabi man spouting swearwords every minute, then a trip to the psychiatrist is long overdue.

I’m amazed that nobody who worked on the film had any idea they were making such an idiotic film — there’s no story to speak of, technically it’s shoddier than a home video, actors’ performances are abysmal and the direction by first-timer Hemant Hegde is virtually non-existent.

An inter-caste love story with sparring families could have been an interesting premise for a cleverly-written comedy, but Khanna & Iyer is ridden with clichés from start to end.

The lead pair — newcomers Sarwar Ahuja and Aditi Sharma — winners of a talent hunt apparently, are so lifeless, so wooden, you can’t help wondering if these two were the winners of that talent hunt, what must the other contestants have been like!

I know of several bad films that have at least some redeeming quality, but Khanna & Iyer is one of those rare films that has nothing right about it, it’s an error of judgement on the part of everyone who worked on it.

That’s zero out of five and two thumbs down for the tragedy that was meant to be the comedy calledKhanna & Iyer. Go stick pins in your eyes, that’s probably less painful than watching this film.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Get Smart review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:38 pm

June 20, 2008

Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway

Director: Peter Segal

The brand new Steve Carell starrer Get Smart is a film adaptation of a popular 60s TV series, but one that I must confess I’m not familiar with.

Doesn’t really matter though, as the film’s easy enough to understand without the background story.

Carell plays Maxwell Smart, an efficient analyst at a spy agency, who yearns to abandon his desk job and take to the field. He gets his chance eventually. He’s teamed up with the glamorous but agile Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) on his first real ‘outdoor’ assignment which involves foiling a crime syndicate’s nuclear weapons operation.

Smart turns out to be a clueless, bumbling secret agent who gets mistaken for a terrorist on an airplane, and then falls out of the airplane without a parachute, much to his partner’s frustration.

The film’s full of such childish gags, and to call this character a James Bond-spoof is a little insulting to Ian Fleming’s evergreen creation.

Carell is charming, he always is, he’s got great presence and he can do poker-faced humour like few can.

But if you really want to see Carell at his comic best, just rent episodes of The Office on DVD, you don’t have to endure this silly film for that.

To anyone older than 10 who finds this funny, I have just one thing to say: “Get smart, dude!” That’s two out of five. Just about.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Persepolis review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:36 pm

Jun 20, 2008

Director: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

In this day of sophisticated computer animation, here’s an animation film in simple black-and-white and grey about a coming-of-age story that you have to watch.

Persepolis, based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel, is the story of a precocious young girl from a liberal, cosmopolitan family in Tehran, and it unfolds during Satrapi’s growing up years during the Islamic revolution in the seventies.

The film discusses several grim events but it’s never dull or boring because Satrapi tells the story in a self-mocking tone that is always engaging.

Not only does Persepolis help give us a clear picture of how Iranians were suffering at the time, it also helps us understand Satrapi better – a self-confident rebel, a politically conscious teenager, a young lady with a very distinct voice and an opinion on everything.

Voiced in French by such acclaimed actors as Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni, the film comes with English subtitles and even though it’s Satrapi’s story, it’ll find resonance with anyone who’s witnessed and survived political or fanatical upheaval.

What’s remarkable about the film is the humour in Satrapi’s writing. Even in the bleakest of circumstances she’s able to lighten up the mood.

Persepolis is an animation film for adults. It’s a film for anyone with an open mind and an adventurous spirit. Three out of five and a big thumbs up.

Made of Honor review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:35 pm

Jun 27, 2008

Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monoghan

Director: Paul Weiland

It takes a special kind of talent to make a film as dull and predictable as Made of Honor. The movie stars Patrick Dempsey as Tom, a serial womaniser who beds a different woman every night, and never the same woman two nights in a row.

He’s the kind of Lothario who doesn’t ‘do’ love. But all that changes when he realises he’s fallen for his best friend Hannah (played by Michelle Monoghan) with whom he’s shared a strictly platonic relationship since college.

Tom’s decided to tell her she’s the one for him when she returns from a work trip to Scotland, but she comes back with a strapping Scotsman on her arm and a rock on her finger.

She’s getting married in two weeks, and she asks Tom to be her maid of honour.

Encouraged by his friends, Tom heads to Scotland for the wedding, determined to break up the alliance and win Hannah over for himself.

I know what you’re thinking – My Best Friend’s Wedding – and you’re not entirely wrong. But think of that film without any of the clever humour, without any of the natural charm both Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz brought to their roles, and without that stroke of genius, the gay best friend played by Rupert Everett.

Made of Honour has a few staple jokes about bad Scottish cuisine and ridiculous Scottish traditions, but that apart there’s really nothing in this film that is even remotely engaging.

Dempsey and Monoghan don’t have the kind of presence or chemistry that can rise above this severely flawed script, so for the most part you’ll just find yourself sitting in your seat and sighing as one predictable scene after another unfolds during the course of this punishment that lasts as long as one hour and 40 long minutes.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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