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Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

It’s five o’clock on a Sunday and we’re sitting in Olive. We have good food and drink in our bellies, time on our hands and a strange reluctance to call it a day. What better way to spend time than watching a movie? Everyone wants to go for Iron Man but I veto that. The next choice is It’s a Wonderful Afterlife which we all agree upon. F wants to go for it because she’s Gurinder Chadha fan. A wants to go because he doesn’t want to watch Iron Man and he doesn’t want to watch Badmaash Company. Me, I just wanna stare at Sendhil Ramamurthy and drool.

Even though we arrive at the choice of film with minimum dissent, it is still six thirty by the time we leave. So we drive to Globus where there’s only a single screen and that’s screening Badmaash Company. Onwards to Suburbia where also they’re showing Badmaash Company. We drive to some four multiplexes and all that’s running is Badmaash company. By now we’re wondering if it is not the universe telling us something. “If by universe you mean Yashraj Films, sure,” A retorts.

We got to Gaiety-Galaxy as a last resort and all that’s running there is, you got it, Badmaash Company. Defeated, we bow down to Yashraj Films’ superior marketing, buy the tickets (only 75 bucks for balcony!) and walk in during the first song.

That is twice in two days I’ve missed the beginning of a film and I’m wondering if it doesn’t augur something. Turns out it does, that the film is crap. Although to be fair to Parmeet Sethi, he has tried to address the logical issues that invariably crop up when you’re trying to make a film like that.

*Someone please tell him that insider trading is illegal, though.*

The premise of the film is simple. It is early 1990s. Boy live in chawl, boy has ambition. He want become rich, not slave away in dead end like dad. Unfortunately for boy, boy’s father think all businessmen capitalist pigs. Boy goes ahead anyway and set up Friend’s & Co with three other friends, one being squeeze. Friends & Co business model import duty evasion on Reebok Shoes, duniya ki sabse badi shoe company. The largest shoe company in the world.

Enter Manmohan Singh and duty rationalisation. Overnight boy’s business go bust. He then decide to move to the US of A. He decide this because he want grow bigger and better. But mainly he decide this because it is Yashraj Film and Yashraj Film always shoot abroad. In the US of A they make plenty money and spend plenty more. And then, since it is Bollywood film and not Catch Me If You Can, it is only matter of time before his life catch up with him.

In Parmeet Sethi’s defence, while the story may not be much and the editing is choppy in places, the film doesn’t drag. In terms of performances, Shahid Kapoor tries to act like SRK which is funny because SRK can’t act. But he’s still better than the others which says a lot about the overall acting levels in the film. Anushka Sharma looks slim and svelte and has the requisite wardrobe but doesn’t have the looks for sexy.

Yikes! Enough time and money wasted. No more films for me. With the exception of Kites. And that also only because of Hrithik Roshan and the associated drool factor.

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Iron man released this Friday and I had no idea it was releasing. For some strange reason that upset me. A closer inspection of my feelings revealed it had to do with being robbed of anticipation. You see I like the anticipation of watching a film almost as much as (and in some cases even more than) watching it. It’s a bit like the anticipation of a meal après a fast. Much more fun than the actual act of eating.

Anyway to get back to story, I figured out why they launched the film with such little publicity. That’s because they figured they’d spend the money in bribing the reviewer instead. Four stars the-fucker-who-shall-remain-unnamed gave it.

As soon as I read the review, I dropped everything I was doing (including an expensive china dish) hopped into an auto and sped to Cinemax to catch the cheap morning show (I’m only a poor writer and can’t afford regular shows) although at 140 a ticket the only thing cheap about it is the management’s disgraceful attempt to pass it off as a cut price ticket. AND IT WASN’T EVEN FOR THE RECLINING LOUNGE! AND I MISSED THE FIRST FEW MINUTES PRIOR TO THE OPENING CREDITS.

The plot, for the lack of a better word, is closer to home now that the evil Paki terrorist horse has been flogged to death. And the enemy this time around is the US Army that wants to obtain the Iron Man technology. Impervious to Tony Stark’s trademark braggadocio assertion, the suit is not Iron Man, I am, the Army appoints Stark’s friend ‘Rhodie’ Rhodes to acquire it. To add to Stark’s woes, the thingie he wears in the centre of his chest, the motor that keeps the shrapnel away from his heart is giving him Palladium poisoning.

Then there are Tony’s other nemeses, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke). Justin Hammer’s got a real hard on for a lucrative Army contract. The only problem is whatever his company, Hammer Tech manufactures has as much sizzle as a damp Diwali cracker. Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), an evil Russian genius hates Tony Stark because Tony’s father, Howard Stark was responsible for getting his father deported to Russia. “Well that makes two of us,” Tony should’ve said to him, at least according to the back story they’ve given him about how (sob) his father never loved him.

That’s the plot. The rest of the film is a lot of mumbling on Robert Downey Jr.’s part, blowing up a lot of cars in Monte Carlo, him giving grief to Pepper Potts, him flirting with Agent Romanov (Scarlett Johansson), him bullying Jarvis.

A whole lot of talk and not much action. You know, I’m thinking the new trend they’ve started on TV, subtitling? Excellent idea. Especially when you got to watch someone like Robert Downey Jr. who has a tendency to mumble. Far funnier? Sam Rockwell. At least I could understand what he was saying. And what was that whole thign about Sam Rockwell oozing malevolence? Does malevolence means ineptidue in your lexicon, Mr Reviewer?

Mickey Rourke, neither good, nor bad. Indifferent is the word that comes to mind. Gwyneth Paltrow is efficient as the long suffering Pepper Potts. Scarlett Johansson is sexy as Agent Romanov. On an aside though, why did they make her a brunette when everyone knows blonde = sexy. And isn’t Romanov a male name? Shouldn’t it have been Romanova? What are they trying to do, rewrite sexy and gender equality?

My verdict, go watch the Hindi version. At least, it will be coherent and hilarious. Sample:

“Tony Stark, lauh purush ki tukneek amrikan thal sena ke havale kar do.”

“Kabhi nahin. Lauh purush purush se banta hai, tukneek se nahin.”

Doesn’t make sense? Neither does the movie.

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Disclaimer: Two back to back reviews of Jason Reitman’s films is a mere coincidence (facilitated by the purchase of a brand new DVD player) and not a premeditated act. The reviewer, any one in her immediate family or her pet cat, are not being paid, in cash or kind, by Reitman. The reviewer claims, in her defense, that she didn’t know Thank You for Smoking was Reitman film. It had been lying with her for the longest time and the only reason it didn’t get viewed (and reviewed) earlier was its advanced format, a format the reviewer’s former, antediluvian player pouted at.

Thank You for Smoking is a satirical look at the intrigues of the PR Machinery of Big Tobacco. The story is that of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), the spokesperson for Big Tobacco. Naylor is a glib spin doctor whose arsenal consists of four words  –  convince, confuse, deflect, bribe, and he uses them effectively.

Hell, he can make anti – tobacco lobbyists look bad while sitting next to a lung cancer patient with all the outward and pity inducing symptoms – bald pate, wheelchair bound, stick thin, sallow complexion – of the vitiating disease. The scene where he goes to his son’s school to give a talk on his job and almost gets booted out for telling seventh graders that smoking isn’t bad is too funny.

In his own words, Naylor’s job is ‘to talk’ and he does that tirelessly. He spins and spins and spins. All the time. He has few friends and none outside his line of work. The two friends that he has are all from his line of work, i.e., spin doctors for Big Gun and Big Alcohol, or, as they, self-deprecatingly call themselves, Merchants of Death. They meet regularly to vent and bitch about do-gooders.

The only genuine relationship he has is with his son which is one of mutual love and respect.

Naylor is Now conflict enters his life from various sources. A senator from Vermont, Finnistre (William Macy) is threatening to go more graphic about the warning labels on cigarette packets and the Marlboro Man is threatening to lash out at Big Tobacco for giving him cancer and teen smoking (Big Tobacco’s bread and butter) is at an all time low.

No problem. Naylor has the fix for all. However, all the good work Naylor’s done threatens to come to nought when a sexy reporter (Katie Holmes) seduces him into spilling all and a bunch of anti-tobacco lunatics kidnap and poison him with nicotine patches. Things come to when he has to make a choice about his son’s future.

The story is as much about how Naylor goes about solving these problems as about his relationship with his precocious son whom he takes along with him everywhere.

The film is hysterical. The characters are all stereotypes. All the characters are caricatures. Special mention to Rob Lowe’s Hollywood Superagent and Robert Duvall’s’ smoke-till-I-die Big Tobacco chief. There are no ‘deep’ moments, and yet it is extremely effective anti smoking film. Yes, don’t let the title fool ya. The film works because there is no preaching of any kind – subtle or overt. Everyone gets their ass taken and nobody on either side of tobacco fence gets spared.

It is not Reitman’s best film – amongst the three films I’ve seen, I would rate it after Up in the Air and Juno. But even Reitman’s worst (and debut) effort is right up there with the best of the industry.

Statutory warning: This film kills with laughter.

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Take a film that’s tagged as a recession romantic comedy, put in George Clooney in it, marry the two and what do you get? A light, breezy film, right? Wrong. Up in the Air is actually a meaningful film masquerading as a romcom.

Meet Ryan Bingham (Clooney), a man who is fires people on behalf of bosses who are too chicken to do it themselves. He travels 300 plus days a year, which means he has to spend ‘65 miserable days at home.’ He has no friends and a family he’s barely in touch with. He is comfortably ensconced in a ‘cocoon of personal detachment.’ And who can blame him? Many policemen, doctors and people in difficult jobs get somewhat desensitised over time in order to function.

What he has, however, is gold membership of all travel related clubs and a frequent flier mile count that’s outta this planet. If he can help it, he never spends on anything unless it somehow adds to his miles. After all, the ten million mile number, which happens to be his goal, doesn’t happen by itself.

He meets a kindred soul, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) in the first class (?) lounge at an airport. Sparks fly over a deliciously double entendre conversation involving phrase like ‘How Big’ and ‘impress me’, only they are referring to cards classification and club membership / benefits. Soon they’re jumping into bed, on their way to a casual fling. Of course, with their crazy travel schedules setting the next date is not an easy task. Still, one is managed some three months later when he’s in Fort Lauderdale and she’s in Miami. Out come the laptops and the relevant weekend is marked on the calendar.

Meanwhile, back at office in Omaha, Nebraska, enter the fresh-faced young recruit Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) and the man who fires people for a living is in danger of becoming redundant himself. Natalie comes up with the idea of firing people via video conferencing thereby saving the company beaucoup travel dollars.

However, what she possesses in bright ideas, she lacks in experience. Therefore Clooney is roped in to show her, well, the ropes. Clooney effortlessly slips into the role of a mentor and teaches her everything from the value of buying the right luggage to the morning after protocol post a one-night stand. In the process, some of her youthful hope and enthusiasm rubs off on his cynical side and he decides to take a chance on love.

The film, doubtless, will strike the right chord with the viewers especially in US and Europe. Which is precisely why the film was made, I suspect. To cash in all the recession blues hanging heavy all around. What I didn’t expect was that the makers would come up with an exceptional film in the process. I’ve seen Jason Reitman’s Juno, and while I thought it was a pleasant enough film, I didn’t think it was outstanding.

However, Up in the Air is not only a gem of a film, it delivers a sucker punch right in the solar plexus. It is insightful, edgy pastiche of the modern, jet-setting corporate culture with its mindless obsession with material possessions. It doesn’t have any forced or unrealistic situations and/or cartoon characters which we’ve come to expect from comedies. Razor sharp dialogue is the only concession the film makes to the genre. The film is both funny and poignant in parts. Given the theme, the film doesn’t weigh you down at any point. Well, except during Natalie Keener’s first firing episode. I have to admit, I felt so bad for Mr. Samuels I bawled like a baby.

On the whole, however, it is, as it promises, a mature comedy. As you can tell, I really, really, really liked the film.

Note: not to be seen when you’ve just been laid off yourself, lost a loved one or generally when PMSing.

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I saw Kaminey last night. And it didn’t appeal to me. And no, it wasn’t the burden of expectation because these days I leave all that behind. Whenever I find everyone raving about a film or a book, I immediately become cautious. So, I went in fully expecting to not like it. However, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t like it. It was more like I found it boring.

To begin with, the theme was boring. I find all gangsta movies boring, unless of course they’re Tarantino films. And in our case, with Ramu having ODed on them, I find I can without one more gangster film. The story is straight forward enough. It’s a classic story of identical twins – one good, one bad – and a mix-up. There it is. That’s the story.

Since the story is neo-noirish  (dealing with the corruption of the soul), predictably Vishal Bharadwaj’s treatment is the same – lots of dark shots, excessive use of the steadicam etc. The film is slow to build up. It takes up all of the first half (whatever happened to grip your audience in the first ten minutes?) and had me fidgeting within the first twenty minutes. While I understand the importance of a build-up, for me it was like get on with the story already. Why? I don’t know. I guess I didn’t find the characters funny, endearing or engaging.

For instance, I didn’t find the hotel scene at the beginning particularly cleverly written or shot. The characters of Francis and the two corrupt policemen were, well, yawn. In fact, most of what happens in that hotel is boring. What does Francis want, what does Tashi want, who are the twins, what do the policemen want…who cares?

At the outset it is clear that Bharadwaj’s inspiration is Tarantino. The story is straightforward enough but the telling lies in the treatment. It is all about random, ridiculous events altering the course of the story and allowing the underdog to emerge the victor. But while Tarantino’s random events are shock and awe (remember the scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta gets shot?) Bharadwaj’s are, what the F? The sidekick backing the car onto the senior policeman? Seriously?

And when Tarantino engages us in a long dialogue between John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson, we are riveted. The long, long, long pub scene in Death Proof has us hooked.  But when Bharadwaj does it (the whole episode with Bhope and his cronies in Charlie’s kholi), it induces fidgets. It does not flow naturally even though it does end with a vintage Tarantino shock incident. A case of trying too hard? Maybe.

The climax is long drawn out and seems to never end. The runtime is 150 minutes and I was fidgeting for 120 of them.

Having said that, I also say that Kaminey is the best Bollywood film I’ve seen this year. For one, at least the story is not the run-of-the-mill, boy-meets-girl romance or a ridiculous Neeraj Vora comedy. And two, the performances are good. The stars are playing the characters for the most part and not themselves, although Shahid does slip-up once in a while. Priyanka does a good job of the spunky Sweety.

Only Bharadwaj could have elicited such performances and goes to show that Vishal Bharadwaj is probably the best (commercial) director we have today. If only he could ignore that tag and not be compelled to ‘try too hard’ to live up to it.

And now I’m off on a holiday. See you guys on September 7.

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In the past few days I’ve become a pariah in my social circle. The reason? I hated Love Aaj Kal. Yeesh, it’s like being in the USA at the time of Schindler’s List!

You’re just saying that to be contrary, they say. Not strictly true. I’m a writer myself and would never, repeat, never trash someone else’s creative venture just for the heck of it.

My reason for not liking the film is simple. I’m spoilt. Woody Allen spoilt me for movies on relationships set in urban milieu. My argument is further validated when you look at all the reviews going around. No matter what their grading for the film – good, bad, ugly – they are unanimous in giving a thumbs up to the Veer Singh-Harleen track.  

I dunno about you guys, but a loquacious, oh-look-at-me-I’m-such-a-cool-dude Saif ain’t quite the neurotic Woody Allen. Love Aaj Kal doesn’t quite have that Annie Hall edge. And Annie Hall was made in 1977!

The only thing I liked in the film is the music. Dooriyan and Chor Bazari are very melodious. As for Aaj Din Chadheya, damn the song is hummable (skip the YouTube video). I can’t quite get it out of my head. I don’t know how he does it, stealing from here and there and all, but he delivers. Every time.

I was eagerly awaiting Kameenay, but now I’m apprehensive.

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Picture this…a delinquent is given charge of a very expensive machine to run it as he pleases. Indeed, run it aground if he wishes….what’s that?…no, it’s not a quirk of fate…it is a carefully considered decision…No, no, I’m not talking about George Bush, although I do see your point. I’m talking about the latest Star Trek.

As for Angels and Demons, let’s not even go there. The plot is this: The Pope dies and the next four cardinals in line to succeed him, the preferati (have I got this correct?) are kidnapped by some sicko claiming to be a member of the secret society Illuminati. Now it’s a race against time if the four cardinals are to be saved and the succession to go off without a hitch.

But fear not, the rules are relatively simple and the only knowledge required is that of the location of ancient churches in Rome and the various statues in them. A job, apparently, only Robert Langdon can do.

No conspiracy theory here. This is an out and out thriller, a genre Dan Brown is not good at. Makes me kinda nostalgic about the strike period.

Oh, I also did an interview with FHM India. Give it a read if you, as the article says, wish to know ‘her quirks, chic lit and also answers to those strange questions you have always wanted to ask writers!’

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