Friday, 20 December 2013

Film Review - Dhoom 3

                                         The Dhoomsday Conspiracy

Film: Dhoom 3
Cast: Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Uday Chopra
Directed by: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Duration: 2 hr 52 mins
Rating: * *

Going by the hype and frenzy of Dhoom 3, you would assume that the previous two films were cult classics but nothing could be farther from the truth. It is just that the franchise has got a name for itself and more over, this film stars Aamir Khan and in the last few years, everything that he has touched has turned to gold.

Dhoom 3 has already offered the film makers gold at the box office but beyond that there is not a great deal to gloat about. Clocking almost three hours, the plot is more labored than the labor room of the government medical hospital on a particularly busy day. Yes, it is a very slick film with lots of action but most of it is ineffective, pretty much like the Zimbabwean currency. Moreover, the screenplay doesn't make an effort to be convincing and there is a lot of ‘inspiration' that is drawn here. If imitation is the best form of flattery, Christopher Nolan will be mighty pleased to see Dhoom 3.    

Rewind to circa 1990 in Chicago where an Indian magician (Jackie Shroff) is having a tough time repaying the bank loan to keep his Great Indian Circus going. Looks like they don't want EMI's, they want the whole sum back which leads to him taking drastic measures.

His magician son Saahir (Aamir Khan) grows seeking vendetta against this particular bank. He vows not to rest in peace till he brings the bank and the owner whose name is Warren Anderson, to their knees.You may have heard of the rupee being floated by our V for vendetta guy believes in robbing the bank and lets those green backs fall from the sky. Now if you rob a bank will you try to make a quiet getaway or try your best to draw as much attention as you can so that you can race the cops on the bike? In this film, the answer is the latter. Especially considering that the bike he has a Transformer type BMW that can change its shape and also become a speed boat. I hope we get such bikes in India, might come in handy considering the traffic.

Speaking of India, we meet Inspector Jai (Abhishek Bachchan) who makes a grand entry in what is the most strongly built auto rickshaw ever, beating up baddies along with his side kick Ali (Uday Chopra). I can't remember the last time when we saw the same vehicle pass through so many walls.  

Considering the ineptitude of the Chicago police in tracking the culprit, the Indian police are summoned to crack the case. "Do we know who's responsible for the robbery?" asks the bank owner. "At this point, all we know is that he was a thief." says the policeman. Such an enlightening conversation.

Katrina Kaif is also seen a minuscule role, she auditions to be a part of the circus by showing her dancing skills and by impressing Saahir with the several layers of clothing she wears.  She becomes a part of the circus all right and they also get a standing ovation in America for singing Hindi songs in front of the audience.

The film makers have spent considerable amount of effort and money in making the film look good, except in the writing department. Aamir Khan's character drawing attention after a theft once can be pardoned once but to see the same thing every time, you would need a bottle of Hajmola to digest that.

A bit of tongue in cheek action is fine but mixing that up with a serious plot doesn't yield good results - for instance Samar's intention of shutting the bank are serious and so is the cops objective. As a result, most of the humor generated is unintentional except where Ali is involved to provide comic relief.

The cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee is from the top draw, the editing though could have been sharper, minus all the flashbacks. This may not be Aamir Khans most memorable performance but still he manages to carry the film through by adding that zing to his character.

If it was shorter, Dhoom 3 would have made it to the so-bad-that-it-is-good category but at three hours no bad film can be deemed as good. 

Published in The Navhind Times

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Hobbit:The Desolation of Smaug

Good Hobbits Die Hard

Film: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Duration: 2 hrs 42 mins
Rating: * * * 1 / 2

The second installment of The Hobbit trilogy directed by Peter Jackson lives upto its expectations. Much like the previous film, this one is also shot in 3D with a High Frame Rate (HFR) and the distinct quality shows.

Now, whether it was right for Jackson to split this not-so-thick children’s classic book by J.R.R. Tolkien into three films remains a subject of debate. It could have well been condensed into a couple of parts at the most but box office considerations had the better of it.

But there is no doubt that not many directors would have been able to pull off a film of this scale. The special effects, the fights scenes and the dragon Smaug will have you in awe. It takes off where An Unexpected Journey (2012) ended and the quest of the dwarfs led by the king (Thorin) continues to get repossess the kingdom of Erebor. The hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is by their side along with the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) who parts ways with at the earlier stage.

The dwarfs and Baggins have to overcome stiff resistance from the Orcs and then some gigantic spiders. Smaug (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) makes a rather late entry, almost couple of hours into the film, but when he does, he has all your attention.

The visuals in the film standout and a particular action scene while the dwarfs are rafting in barrels, gives you your moneys worth.The length is slightly daunting and there are several portions which might appeal to only to fans of the novel. If you are not aware of the ‘fine print’ of the story you might end up feeling a bit desolate at times.

The manner in which it has built up, the last installment which will release in a years time, should be a befitting finale. 

Published in the Navhind Times on 15th Dec 2013

Film Review -Jackpot

From Boom To Bust

Film: Jackpot
Cast: Nasseruddin Shah, Sunny Leone, Sachiin Joshi
Directed by: Kaizad Gustad
Duration: 1 hr 32 mins
Rating: * 1 / 2

Jackpot directed by Kaizad Gustad is one of those films that try to be very clever and takes itself so seriously that at no stage does it realize it has become a parody. Even at 92 minutes including a couple of songs, it appears to be way too long.  

To be fair, the basic plot had some potential but even to spot that, you have to really stretch your imagination. Set in Goa, Nasseruddin Shah plays a casino owner with dreadful dreadlocks. He is simple known as boss. Not sure what exactly Sunny Leone’s character is designated as- she is his secretary, casino manager, woman Friday all rolled in one. 

A self proclaimed con artist Francis (Sachiin Joshi) teams up with them and hatches a rather contrived plot to buy a big chunk of land which also involves another complicated conspiracy. 
Using a non linear structure, Gustad attempts a film that makes it to the so bad-that-its good category. Wonder what prompted Nasseruddin Shah to take up this role but he shines whenever he is on the screen, as he usually does and Sunny Leone is there to fulfill the glamour quotient which she does quite well.

The odds of coming out of the theater tearing your hair are considerably high with this Jackpot. 

Published in the Navhind Times on 15th Dec 2013

Film Review - Last Vegas

For Old Times Sake

Film: Last Vegas
Cast: Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline
Directed by: Jon Turtletaub
Duration: 1 hr 45 mins
Rating: * * 1 / 2

Last Vegas is a film that sails through only and only because it has a set of actors whom we’ve loved watching over the years. Replace them with a younger cast and there will be nothing to write home about as far as this film is concerned because the story is no great shakes.

A bunch of guys, four to be precise have grown up being best friends. Now in their 60’s, they all have their own problems to deal with. Archie (Morgan Freeman) who has a few health issues lives with his over caring and married son. Paddy (De Niro) has become a lonesome man after the death of his wife and there were some issues between him and their other friend Billy (Michael Douglas), a successful man who is all set to marry a woman who is in her early 30’s. That leaves Sam (Kevin Kline) who has knee problems not to mention his titanium hip but also has a carte blanche from his to do anything in Vegas.

All four of them head to Vegas for Billy’s bachelor party and while they are looking for a good time, the ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ type, couple of them fall for a charming singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen) bringing back memories of the past.

While there are some funny lines on the whole the script never rises above the ordinary. But what keeps the film going is the charm and the chemistry of the four actors. Even when there is the odd dull moment they manage to steer the boat clear. 

There is no clear standout performance as far as these four actors of considerable repute are concerned; they all have their moments in the film. They make this otherwise average film watchable. 
Published in the Navhind Times on 15th Dec 2013

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Film Review - R...Rajkumar

                            Dumb and Dumber

Film: R… Rajkumar
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha
Directed by: Prabhu Dheva
Duration: 2 hrs 27 mins
Rating: *

Directed by Prabhu Dheva (don't miss the newly added h in the surname), who has a couple of 100cr films under his belt, R…. Rajkumar (earlier known as Rambo Rajkumar, till Rambo got into the act and threatened to sue the producers) marks a new low on every count in the name of cinema. Meant to appeal the masses, surely if this is entertainment, then sir, spare us from it, please.

Juvenile gags, jokes about rape and a non existent story this is nothing short of a travesty.  In one scene, the villain who is learning to speak English keeps repeating 'I am your bull, you are my sh*t' and then he combines the words together, acknowledging what the audience thinks about the film.

In another scene where the policeman is about to rape a woman, he is interrupted by a phone call, some men and women were laughing like hyenas. On a sociological note, that was quite worrying.

The film is set in an unknown part of the country where we two rivals and fighting to control the drug trade. Enter RR (Shahid Kapoor) a new kid in town who joins Shivraj (Sonu Sood) and helps him eliminate members of the other gang led by Ashish Vidyarthi. 

When he is not breaking bones, he is admiring the village damsel Chanda (Sonakshi Sinha), actually pestering would be an appropriate word rather than admiring. Like many filmi heroes he bludgeons her into submission only to discover that his boss has also fallen for her. It doesn’t help that she also happens to be the other rival niece compounding his problems and the audiences as well. 

There is nothing going in the films favor – the plot is hackneyed, the lines are strictly from the 80’s but on the whole, it doesn’t even match up to the standards of some of the films then. He calls her lollipop (what kind of a name is that anyway?) and there is also a rather elaborate description about what will happen on the wedding night. Enough endured.

There were some people in the audience who were laughing their guts off but perhaps they even find picking the nose as a funny act. 

The choreography and the music are the only non-irritating aspects of the film. As for the acting, they could all have phoned in their part even though Shahid Kapoor shows a little more zest than that.

Watch it at your own risk.

Published in The Navhind Times on 8th Dec 2013

Film Review - Hunger Games: Catching Fire

                                Game On

Film: The Huger Games: Catching Fire
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Duration: 2hrs 25 mins
Rating: * * * 1 / 2

Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games lives upto its expectations – it slightly on the longer side in terms of its length, but the build up to the finale is solid. As it has been happening with trilogies or final parts lately, the last book Mockingjay will be split into two films scheduled for a 2014 and 2015 release respectively.
Catching Fire starts off where the previous film finished. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) the winner of the games along with Peeta (Josh Hutecherson) are quietly revolting against the system. The two are forced to make public appearances as heroes but she takes every opportunity to show her discontent. That makes President Snow (Donald Sutherland) very angry and he comes with an ingenious plan, forcing all the previous winners of the games to compete with each other. That is one easy way to quell the rebellion and ensure that all previous heroes die in the contest.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the game controller and designer while Woody Harrelson returns as the alcoholic mentor. An almost unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks also makes an appearance along with always impressive Stanley Tucci.

The story builds up steadily, till the mid point the groundwork is being laid but once the games start it gets engrossing. The structure of the story is as such that in the end, you are asking for more.

The cast has done a terrific job. Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman are all seasoned actors and play their roles with conviction. The film is yet another triumph for actress Jennifer Lawrence who is clearly amongst the best on the scene today.   

Catching fire is eminently watchable, the next two films hopefully will be even better. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 8th Dec 2013

Monday, 2 December 2013

Film Review Bullett Raja

                                    Bullet Mar Bheje Mein         
Film: Bullett Raja
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Jimmy Sheirgill
Directed by: Tigmanshu Dhulia
Duration: 2 hrs 18 mins
Rating: * *
With films like Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster and Paan Singh Tomar, as a director Tigmanshu Dhulia had made a mark for himself.  With his latest offering Bullett Raja, the scale is bigger but not necessarily better.  Riddled with a script that needed some serious tinkering, there is the occasional spark that shows Dhulia’s talent but on the whole, this is a let down.
The film has politics, romance, friendship, vendetta and all that could make a good Bollywood potboiler. But somehow it doesn’t add up primarily because the characterization is weak and many scenes are irrelevant, thanks to the poor editing.
Set in the heart of Uttar Pradesh, there’s  Raja (Saif Ali Khan) who gate crashes at a wedding party. There, instantly he becomes friends with Rudra (Jimmy Sheirgill) and soon they are like Jai and Veeru (there is also a  joke about that). A shrewd politician (are there any other type?) played by Raj Babbar takes them under his wings and makes them in charge of U.P ki security. This effectively means that they have to bump off anyone their boss asks them to.
Soon, they become local heroes and Raja even rescues a damsel in distress (Sonakshi Sinha) who is an aspiring actress but there is no sign of that ever in the film again. Their falling in love is as believable as Kim Jong doing the dandiya with Hillary Clinton. Vidyut Jamwal plays a police inspector who is put in charge of reigning in Raja and the finale is also quite loose as if the film makers had enough of it. 
                There are no surprises at any stage, it is all so very predictable.  And its all the more disappointing because with the ordinary story Dhulia doesn’t elevate it much either. There is the odd scene that you let out a chuckle (like the scene where a dacoit wants to surrender) but by and large it is not very engaging.
                There is the proverbial item number plus a song in a disco and the romantic ditties, these are not Dhulia’s strengths. His understanding of politics is also much better than we get to see on the screen.  The editing is tacky and some of the action sequences in the first half are pedestrain. 
                The cast is sincere but they needed some solid material on hand. Ravi Kissan as the contract killer plays his part well but Saif Ali Khan looks like he is sleepwalking through his role. If you venture into this film, then don’t expect much from it. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 3rd Dec 2013


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

First among equals

Films to Look out for at IFFI this year

With more than 300 films being screened at the 44th International Film Festival in various categories choosing what to watch from among them can be bit of a Russian roulette, especially considering that the list of films is not available well in advance.Yours truly has seen some of them while others are based on reviews and achievements at festivals worldwide. Films in the competition section or Masterstrokes, more often than not, are safe bet. Here are 20 films to look forward to at IFFI this year.

What They Don't Talk About When They Talk About Love (Indonesia)
Dir: Mouly Surya
This film was nominated for the Grand Jury prize at Sundance and it won an award at Rotterdam. The story is about  blind and deaf people in love.

In Hiding (Poland)
Dir: Jan Kidawa-Blonksi
Jan Kidawa-Blonksi’s films were a revelation when his retrospective was held at IFFI a few years back. In Hiding set during WWII is about the relationship between two woman, is in the competition section. It stars Magdalena Boczarska who won the Best Actress at IFFI in 2010 for Little Rose.

So Much Water (Uruguay) 
Dir: By Ana Guevara, Leticia Jorge
It has won a couple of awards at festivals (Miami, San Sebastian) and even though the story of a divorced father spending time a holiday with his son and daughter may sound familiar, the film apparently stands out.

The Great Beauty (Italy)
Dir: Paolo Sorrentino
In simple words, do not miss this film. You might just be watching next years Oscar winner but even though it is too early to make predictions,The Great Beauty is surely in the crème de la crème of 
the films at the festival. 

The Act of Killing (Denmark-Indonesia)
Dir: Joshua Oppenheimer
This documentary is an absolute must watch in which former Indonesian death squads reenact what they did. Their atrocities went unchecked and this chilling docu-feature will leave you shaken and stirred. 

Apur Panchali (Bengali)
Dir: Kaushik Ganguly
The film is a biopic on Subir Banerjee, the child actor who played Apu in Satyajit Ray’s classic Pather Panchali and never faced the camera since then.


Mother I Love You (Latvia)
Dir: Janis Nords
Winner of Grand Prix of the Generation Kplus International Jury at Berlin and Jury award at Los Angeles, this is a story of a teenage boy drawn into crime but doesn’t let his mother know of his misdeeds. It is Latvia’s entry at the Oscars this year. 

A Touch of Sin (China)
Dir: Zhangke Jia
Nominated for Palme d’Or and winner of the Best Screenplay at Cannes, it has four stories about random acts of violence. Even though it has got mixed reviews, it should be worth a dekko.

Short Term 12 (USA)
Dir: Deston Cretton
A film loved by critics and audiences alike, Short Term 12 is gem of an independent film to come from U.S.A. The film is set in a foster care home and has a stellar performance by Brie Larson.

The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
Dir: Rithy Panh
Few years back, there was Waltz With Bashir an animation film that told the story of a conflict, The Missing Picture is about the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia. It is their entry at the Oscars and it also a winner in the Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year.

Dual (Slovenia) 
Dir: Nejc Gazvoda
This is a story of two young women who meet at the airport, they become friends but one of them has a secret. The director’s previous film A Trip was Slovenia’s entry at the Oscars in 2011

Love is All You Need (Denmark)
Dir: Susanne Bier
The film she made before this one won an Oscar for the Best Foreign Film. Love is All You Need is a light film that has romance with Pierce Brosnan in the lead. This one is meant for those who like crowd pleaser.

Circles (Serbia)
Dir: Srdan Golubovic
Another film not to be missed, it has won several awards including the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. The consequences of a tragic incident that occurred 12 years earlier are confronted in this film which is Serbia’s entry at the Oscars.

Blue is the Warmest Color (France)
Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche
For the first time ever at Cannes, two actresses were awarded the prize; the film won the coveted Palme d’Or. It’s a story of a young girl discovering herself when she meets another young woman. Love, lust, longing, heartbreak– it is all there in this 3-hour film.

Ilo Ilo (Singapore)
Dir: Anthony Chen
Winner of the Golden Camera at Cannes, Ilo Ilo is about the friendship between a maid and a boy, while the mother feels jealous of them. The film is Singapore’s entry at the Oscars.

Fandry (Marathi)
Dir:  Nagraj Manjule
Manjule already has a National Award for his short film Pistulya and with his first feature he has shown that he is here to stay. The story of a young boy in love, it also deals with the caste system. While it moves at a decent pace, the ending will knock your socks off.

Stray Dogs (Taiwan)
Dir: Ming-liang Tsai
Winner of the Grand Special Jury prize at Venice the film is about a father and his children who wander about in Taipei till they meet a stranger. 

In Bloom (Georgia)

Dir: Nana Ekvtimishvili
Their official entry at the Oscars, the film has won awards at several festivals around the world. It is about two teenage girls who fight to survive post the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Past (Iran)
Dir: Ashgar Farhadi
The Past may not be as good as A Separation but it is still ahead of many others and is eminently worth a watch. Bérénice Bejo’s acting is truly outstanding.

Harmony Lessons (Kazakhstan)
Dir: Emir Baigazin
The debut feature of the director has won several accolades, it’s a story set in a village in Kazakhstan.

Laxmikant Shetgaonkar's Baga Beach (His previous film Paltodcho Munis won an award at the Toronto fest), Jafar Panahi's Closed Curtain (not his best but film but neverthless) and Like Father, Like Son (won a jury prize at Cannes) and The German Doctor (about an Argentine family who lived with Josef Mengele without knowing who he was, Argentina's entry at the Oscars), these films are also expected to deliver the goods. 

(Published in The Navhind Times)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Film Review - Ram Leela

                             Old Wine, New Bottle & Gift Wrapped

Film: Ram Leela

Cast: Ranvir Singh, Deepika Padukone, Supriya Pathak

Directed by: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Duration: 2 hrs 33 mins

Rating: * * 1 /2

Like most Sanjay Leela Bhansali films, RamLeela has a big canvas, stunning visuals and is very self indulgent. On the flip side, the story inspired by Romeo and Juliet is one of those that have been churned out with clock work regularity. In fact, you wish that Bhansali had treated the story a little differently than just to indulge in those ‘oh-look-how-beautiful-this-is’ kind of shots.
Excessive songs, including an item number and a not so convincing screenplay is not how you want to see another version of one of the Bards most popular tragedies.

“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo” he wrote. The reason for the woe here is the enmity between two clans, on one side is the relatively calm Ram (Ranvir Singh), his brother (Abhimanyu Singh) calls the shots. On the other side of the fence we have Leela (Deepika Padukone) whose mother runs the show in the family. Not a very pleasant woman you want to be around, she can even chop off a finger is she feels like it. The two communities fire more bullets in the air and each other than you saw in The Expendables.

Ram and Leela fall in lust first and love comes later, both cause severe consternation in the communities. They decide to elope but their families won’t give up. It is easier to understand Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle rather than figure out the unnecessarily twisted complications and misunderstandings in the latter part of the film.

There is no doubt that Bhansali has a remarkable eye for visuals - the colors, framing and lighting is extraordinary. There are a few scenes that have the chutzpah but inconsistency mars otherwise. The songs keep popping up (including an item number by Priyanka) like any other film and the editing is very lenient. Take the scene for example where a widow is being chased by men from the opposition camp, first it goes on in the narrow lane, then there is a long shot along with a couple in slow motion and it is in scenes like these that the indulgence shows.

 The dialogues are apt and full credit to the writers, Garima and Siddharth for the same. On the acting front, Supriya Pathak as the don smolders fire playing her character with élan. Richa Chaddha is convincing, Ranvir Singh and Deepika Padukone share a good chemistry, the actress though impresses with every outing.

Ram Leela is old wine in new bottle which is gift wrapped. 

(Published in The Navhind Times on 17th Nov 2013)

Film Review - Insidious 2

                        Haunted House             

Film: Insidious 2
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne
Directed by: James Wan
Duration: 1 hr 45 mins
Rating: * * *
After the success of Insidious (2010) directed by James Wan, a sequel was always on the cards. Meanwhile, the popularity of The Conjuring this year also elevated the status of the director who returns with Insidious - Chapter 2. 

Wan clearly has a knack for making horror films, even though the genre has become very predictable he knows how to keep the viewer engrossed. Unlike most gimmicky horror films, he doesn’t scare the viewer every ten minutes but instead, builds up the tension and suspense.

The one issue with Chapter 2 is that it has quite a few links with the first film, those who have seen it, will enjoy it best. It continues where the previous one left off with a quick flashback in the beginning. Renai (Rose Byrne) is recovering from the incident where Elise their friend was killed and her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson) is the suspect.

The strange occurrences continue in their house and she fears for her children. Meanwhile her mother in law seeks help from other sources and there in begins the journey to unravel the mystery. Sequels usually disappoint because of lackluster stories but the chances are very high that if you enjoyed the first part, the second one will not let you down. Even though the basic premise moves on expected lines, there are some nice touches from the writer and director which elevate the proceedings.
One the whole, it is an enjoyable treat for horror buffs. 

(Published in The Navhind Times on 17th Nov 2013)