Saturday, 30 August 2014

Film Review - Raja Natwarlal

Who Con Tha

Film: Raja Natwarlal
Cast:Emraan Hashmi, Humaima Malick, Kay Kay Menon, Paresh Rawal
Directed by: Kunal Deshmukh
Duration: 2 hrs 21 mins
Rating: * *

Directed by Kunal Deshmukh, Raja Natwarlal is one of those films with an extremely improbable plot that relies completely on the final pay off.  The problem with taking the audience round in circles for over two hours is that no matter how smart the climax, it’s not easy to forget the parts that look contrived. Besides, I can’t think of another similar film in recent times where the heroine’s character was so irrelevant to the plot and yet she gets so much screen time.

Inspired by a host of films starting from The Sting, Oceans 11 to desi flicks like Khosla Ka Ghosla and Special 26, Emraan Hashmi plays Raja a conman who works with his partner (Deepak Tijori) and when he has the time and money, he courts a bar dancer (Humaima Malick). Like all small time guys, Raja wants to go for the kill – one big job that will settle his future. That mission goes wrong and he loses his partner. The money they stole belonged to ruthless Indian businessman Yadav (Kay Kay Menon) based in South Africa.

In a bid to seek vengeance, he meets Yogi (Paresh Rawal) an ex conman himself who assembles a team of like-minded con men and off they go to South Africa.

Turns out that Yadav is a big cricket fan, he even knows the weight of Sir Don Bradman’s bat which was used in the 1937 Ashes series. Raja and co. then hatch a plan to dupe him which is so complex and throws all logic and reason out of the window.

A few liberties are always taken in films but if it does too often you lose interest in the proceedings. Clearly the script writers relied too much on the revelation in the climax and ignored the plot points leading to it. Romance generally has very little scope in such film and here it is a mega-drag because too much importance is given to it. Add to it, the songs don’t’ help the already dampened spirit.

It’s a pity because with the right tweaking Raja Natwarlal could have been a nice little caper but ends up being a forgettable flick.

Film Review - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Comic Action Returns

Film: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Cast: Megan Fox, William Fichtner, Whoopi Goldberg
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Duration: 1 hr 40 mins
Rating:  * * *

A reboot of the franchise and a remake of the 1990 film of the same name, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may not be the most popular comic book around and the title of the film also suggests that it meant for young kids but TMNT surprisingly turns out to be a decent compact film that has to offer some entertainment for all age groups. It is not the kind of film that you might remember in the years to come, but it is not a dreadful as it appeared to be initially. 

TMNT traces the origins of the story much like the 1990 film. April O’ Neal (Megan Fox) is a television reporter who mostly covers ‘frothy’ lifestyle events. But she is determined to be the next Christiane Amanpour by reporting on serious issues. Meanwhile a spate of crimes hit the city of New York and an underground organization Foot Clan is responsible for it. But a vigilante group is also there fighting the Clan and April happens to witness one such encounter – 6 foot something talking turtles that also happen to by Ninja warriors with other skills beat the bad guys to pulp. 

Turns out they are named after Renaissance artists - Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello who were trained by a rat called Splinter are quite a handful in their own right. April also discovers an old connection with them and her scientist father. Most films now-a-days have a villain who wants to control the world and here it is Eric Sacks (William Fichtner) a billionaire who wants to create a conflict and make money by resolving it. 

Whoopi Goldberg has a cameo as Aprils boss but her character vanishes out of the blue and doesn’t even make the cursory comeback in the end.

The story is pretty much the standard and predictable one but it’s the characters that make the film more interesting, especially the turtles. Each one has its own trait and they are fun as a team, they look bigger and stronger than the ones we saw in the previous film. 

At 100 odd minutes, the film is pacy and there is enough humor from time to time to keep it light weight, the scene in the elevator for example is a hoot. Technically, the combination of live action along with CGI is quite impressive. And since Michael Bay is one of the producers, it shows in the action scenes which bear his mark. And no prizes for guess whose idea it must have been to show Megan Fox’s backside during a chase scene.

All in all, the turtles offer some harmless entertainment. 

Film Review - Step Up All In


Every Body Can Dance 

Film: Step Up All In
Cast: Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigen, Adam Sevani
Directed by: Trish Sie
Duration: 1 hr 52 mins
Rating: * * 1 / 2

The fifth installment in the Step Up series which started in 2006 (which means they are churning one film in less than 2 years) is very much in auto-pilot mode. It looks like whenever the producers are ready with the money and the choreographers are ready with next set of dance steps, screenwriters are hired to weave a ‘story’ around the characters and voila, a Step Up film is ready. For directing it, this time they have Trish Sie who has made a few music videos 

Since a lot of the juice was already squeezed, this time they decided to get characters from the previous films together. Sean (Ryan Guzman) along with his crew The Mob move to L.A and are looking for that big break which never comes. The other members split while Ryan comes to know of a dance competition (what else?) that offers a life changing opportunity. He meets Moose (Adam Sevani who joined the franchise in (Step Up 2) who introduces him to Andie (Briana Evigen) and a new group is formed who will participate in the big competition.

In one scene Moose says, "Does everything have to end in a big, giant dance battle?" the answer is, if it is a Step Up film, surely it has to.

You don’t expect a character development or some kind of a story in such a film but then it doesn’t have to be so bland either. The dances are well choreographed but there is more razzle dazzle to it rather than anything else. It also appears that modern day dancing looks good only when you can do acrobatics rather than display some grace.

You won’t see the actors from Step Up in many other films because primarily, they are not good at acting, they can dance. At this point you miss Channing Tatum because he could do both.

Teeny boppers who have watched the previous films will not miss this one but on the whole it -doesn’t have a great deal to offer. 

Film Review - The November Man

Out in The Cold

Film: The November Man
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko
Directed by: Roger Donaldson
Duration: 1 hr 48 mins
Rating: * *

After playing the most popular spy in cinema, Pierce Brosnan returns to play a CIA agent in The November Man. Unfortunately, it is an eminently forgettable venture and you might want to go home and watch Brosnan as Bond or Remington Steele to undo the effects of this enterprise. While it is not a dreadful film, it surely is quite lame and gets progressively worse.

Based on the novel There Are No Spies it borrows from all spy thrillers but the concoction doesn’t blend well. It opens with a shootout, Peter Devereaux (Brosnan) and his protégé David (Luke Bracey) are in the middle of an assassination attempt when the latter disobeys an order which results in a death of an innocent boy.    

Fast forward a few years later, Peter has retired but he forceful circumstances push him  in the thick of action again, this time in Russia where he has to protect an informant who turns out to his ex.  But it doesn’t go according to plan, she gets killed and the CIA is now gunning for his head with the protégé now in charge of eliminating him.

The plot thickens further as Alice (Olga Kurylenko, the Bond girl from Quantum of Solace), a social worker has some vital information about the prospective Russian president. 

There are too many cooks involved in this broth and the film keeps cutting from one to the other. There is Peter, Alice then David and his girlfriend, the to-be Russian president, the current boss of CIA Wenstein, Peter’s former boss Hanley who is arrested by the CIA – there are too many side stories here and the focus keeps shifting.

It’s not even clear what relationship Alice and Peter share. In one scene they are discussing their future course of action and in the next, she wakes up in his bed and you are not quite sure what happened in between, not that it would make a world of difference but it would be good know nevertheless. It would at least prove that the story is progressing sequentially.

The direction and the screenplay is inconsistent, it is as if both of them gave up in the latter half of the film. Brosnan who worked with Donaldson in Dante’s Peak has been there done that when it comes to his performance.

A word about the censor board - even though the film has an adult certificate, swear words are beeped out and a couple of cuts also look abrupt.  Now one can understand if it is a consistent policy not to allow swear words but then it is permitted some films and beeped out in others. The answer to this is certainly not blowing in the wind.