Saturday, 29 March 2014

Film Review - Noah

Breaking The Waves

Film: Noah
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Duration: 2 hrs 18 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2

A few eyebrows were raised when director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem For a Dream, Black Swan, The Wrestler) decided to make a film on the Biblical account of Noah. I must make a disclosure here that yours truly was also one of the skeptics but am glad to report that Aronofsky has not made a Roland Emmerich kind of a undemanding film, crammed with special effects. On the contrary, he has given a absorbing touch to the one of the most popular but not so highly elaborated episodes in the Bible.

There will be two ways to approach the film – one from a Biblical perspective and the other would be to appreciate it from a cinematic point of view and the director’s fascinating perspective of Noah’s character.  Those looking for the former will be sorely disappointed.

This is not the case of a direct storytelling, for instance the “Watchers” (Ents like characters from The Lord of the Rings) made of stone have no mention in the canon and though Tubal-cain existed, there is no mention of him trying to take over the ark.

The film opens with a quick recap of the Adam and Eve story which is told with fast cuts, a la Requiem For A Dream. Noah (Russell Crowe) lives with his wife (Jenniffer Connelly) and three children Shem, Ham and Japheth. Noah was around 500 years old when he sired the children but in the film he is just shown as a middle aged man who gets visions that the day of reckoning is not too far. He looks out for his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) seeking advice, who is more interested in fresh berries than anything else. He also comes across the “Watchers” who are basically fallen angels and it takes some convincing to get them on his side.

Convinced that the Creator (there is no reference to God at all in the film) is going to unleash something stupendous, Noah starts building his ark and he also has to fight the men of King Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) who plan to take over the ark. 

Noah also has another task on his hands- he is certain that the Creator wants to wipeout man mankind from the face of the earth and obedience to His orders is on the top of his agenda. That means, he has to kill his own family including the adopted daughter (Emma Watson), so that there can be a new beginning on the planet, minus the human beings.
Now that is where the writers Aronofsky and Ari Handel have done a commendable job, in giving the character of Noah a dark and edgy touch. He starts off as being all caring and loving but then later carrying out the Creators wishes becomes his first priority even if it means going against his own family and conscience. 

The message about preserving the environment is also loud and clear and perhaps Noah was also the first Vegan of his time. The audience sees him as an environmental activist but as a character, he was only doing what suited him best, which is to protect his own interests. 

 Apparently, the writers had a different ending in mind but eventually had to bow down to one that would please most audiences. After the strong build up, it seems like a letdown. Since there aren’t too many concrete details of say Noah’s drunkenness and the curse of Ham, they are shown in passing.

The pace of the film is certainly an issue and at 138 minutes it is a too long and sluggish at times. Also the Lord of the Rings kind of a fight between the ‘Watchers’ and the humans is a bit out of place.

The cast is superb – Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson deserve praise for their performances. Russell Crowe in the lead role is excellent conveying the travails of his character with great conviction.

All said and seen, whether you agree with it or not, Aronofsky’s vision gives us something to talk about. And speaking of destruction, it’s time to bring on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Film Review - Youngistaan

Free For All

Film: Youngistaan
Cast: Jackky Bhagnani, Neha Sharma, Farooq Shaikh
Directed by: Syed Ahmed Afzal
Duration: 2 hrs 13 mins
Rating:  * *

Youngistaan is one of those films that walks the middle path but pretends that is has some higher purpose all together. It could have been a taut political film but thanks to the shoddy writing, it doesn’t even come close.

Abhimanyu Kaul (Jackky) lives with his girlfriend (Neha Sharma) in Japan but the death of this father (Boman Irani) who also happens to be the Prime Minister of the country, prompts him to take a plunge in politics. Before you know it, he is sworn as the P.M. only to face resistance from his senior party workers not to mention the problems caused by his live-in relationship.

Farooq Shaikh (God bless his soul) plays his P.A and confidante and lending some credibility. The election talk in film can be made into an election guide for extreme dummies. A perfectly literate character asks “what is this code of conduct” and at one stage his girlfriend even asks how many seats are required to claim absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. As a means of educating the rural audiences it is fine but it still doesn’t suit the character asking such silly questions.

There is a lot of the wanna-be element in the film. When was the last time you saw security men in suits wearing dark shades in India? The same security men even violate the Motor vehicle act of 1988 by a standing on a moving vehicle.

Barring Farooq Shaikh there is nothing much to harp about in the acting department although Neha Sharma is not bad. Youngistaan is like a half cooked dish that is not terrible, but certainly not enjoyable.

Film Review - Sabotage

Crime Patrol

Film: Sabotage
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Terence Howard
Directed by: David Ayer
Duration: 1 hr 48 mins
Rating: * * 1 / 2

While both are thrillers, this Schwarzenegger starrer has nothing to do with the Hitchcock film of 1936 which was based on the Joseph Conrad novel. Directed by David Ayer Sabotage turns out to be one of those average action thrillers with a premise that had the potential to become a gripping film. Instead, the pedestrian screenplay and the not-so-inspiring direction makes it a passable flick.

Schwarzenegger plays John ‘Breacher’ the leader of an elite Drug Enforcement Agency task force who is carrying some emotional baggage from the past. He along with his other team members are able and ruthless professionals who are investigated after $10 million dollars go missing after a raid. One of his colleagues gets killed by a ramming train and that starts the chain of deaths among those who were involved in the raid.

Sam Worthington (of Avatar fame) is James ‘Monster’ Murray, a tonsured angry young man who is married to Lizzy (Mireille Enos), both are close friends of the leader of the pack. One by one, they start getting killed in the goriest fashion and when the ‘suspense’ is revealed, it doesn’t come as a big surprise.

The way some of the scenes are shot, especially the handheld ones, there is an attempt in vain to make it look intense when actually it is not. At times, you get the sense the film makers were trying to be too clever, like the shot where the camera is rigged on the gun.

There is plenty of violence to boot and it is not as if the script demands it. Some of the action scenes in the finale are well executed but pray what is our censor board upto? I’ve never seen a film that has an A certificate and yet so many swear words are beeped out. At times, there are long passages of silence in the middle of a sentence.

Schwarzenegger as the cigar chomping boss gives a gutsy performance but otherwise Sabotage has little going for it. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Film Review - Ragini MMS 2

Horror Of Another Sort

Film: Ragini MMS 2
Cast: Sunny Leone,Sandhya Mridul, Parvin Dabbas
Directed by: Bhushan Patel
Duration: 2hrs
Rating: * 1  / 2

Ragini MMS was not such a bad film at least you were not tempted to make a dash for the exit door. But with Ragini MMS 2 within minutes of the film starting, you want to escape like a bat out of hell. There is no story to speak of in it and neither can Sunny Leone’s anatomy nor her gyrations and heaving can save this unmitigated disaster.

The film has been termed as a horrex, a combination of horror and sex. There was no evidence of the former and the latter was cringe worthy at best. But I guess the film makers know that there are there are enough babydoll fans to ensure that the producers laugh their way to the bank.

Sunny Leone plays Sunny Leone in this film, a pornstar who is acting in a film which is based on Ragini MMS and Pravin Dabbas dons the role of one of those over the top directors. As it happened in Blair Witch Project 2, they decide to make a film on the same location where the original incident of Ragini had occurred. She also wants to get into her character which prompts the director to say “tum porno se Rituporno kyun ban rahi ho” or something to that effect.

Most of the crew lives in the haunted house and creaking sounds are heard at night which is a good occasion for Ms.Leone to investigate the matter, more importantly, in skimpy night wear.

There is an element of ‘comedy’ introduced and there is also some ‘romance’ involved with a writer who he looks as pale as someone who has just seen a ghost.  The finale attempts to rouse some scary moments but it is too little too late. Divya Dutta plays a ‘U.S returned psychiatrist’ but all the tantra mantra mumbo jumbo in the end is just rubbish.

To be fair to Sunny Leone, she carried her role well, there were worse actors than her in this film itself. On the whole, I’d rather be subjected to ghosts in real life (if at all they exist) than endure this Ragini experience.

Published in The Navhind Times on 23rd Mar 2014

Film Review - Muppets Most Wanted


Still Jolly Good Fun

Film: Muppets Most Wanted
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell
Directed by: James Bobin
Duration: 1 hr 50 mins
Rating: *  *  * 1 / 2

Director James Bobin revived the Muppets on the big screen with the 2011 film becoming a grand success. Rarely does a sequel of a film stand up to its predecessor and Muppets Most Wanted is jolly good fun for everyone.

Even though the story is simple there is something enchanting about it and the funny lines galore making you chuckle from time to time.

Constantine (voice of Matt Vogel) is the world’s most dreaded frog and a number one criminal who manages to escape from the Gulag prison in Siberia . The Muppets meanwhile have recruited a new manager (Ricky Gervais) who is planning a deadly heist with the criminal. Since Constantine and Kermit the leader of the Muppets look alike, there is a switch and the two villains use the Muppet shows to execute their nefarious plans.

Tina Fey plays a Siberian prison guard and there are cameos by Salma Hayek, Christoph Waltz and Celine Dion. The tone of the film is on the lighter side and while there is the message about friendship et al, for most parts it doesn’t take itself seriously.  There is a fair bit of singing and dancing and the musical pieces add to the charm.
The repartee between a couple of detectives, an American CIA agent and a Frenchman is hilarious and when a film has characters of different nationalities, their accents can also add some humor.

The film will charm the old timers familiar with the Muppets and will certainly win some new hearts as well. It is always fun to watch Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey although the former is a bit low key in the film. They may be age old but the Muppets are still good fun. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 23rd Mar 2014

Film Review - Need For Speed


Speed Highs

Film: Need For Speed
Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper
Directed by: Scott Waugh
Duration: 2 hrs 12 mins
Rating: * * 1 / 2

The title of the film borrowed from the popular video game, makes it amply clear as to who the target audience is. Those who like fast cars and racing even the plot thin will enjoy this ride, even though we have had enough that in the Fast and the Furious franchise. Those looking for a story and well developed characters, this is not quite the right film.

Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is a street racer and going by his skills he can give the Formula 1 drivers a run for their money. He is cheated deceived by another racer, leading to an accident and he is even sent to prison. Once he is out of prison his aim is to participate in a race that is organized clandestinely by this rich man (Michael Keaton). In his endeavor, he gets considerable help from a British girl (Imogen Poots) who joins him on his adventure.

Apart from the race stunts and the car porn, there is nothing particular to harp about here. It is like a Rohit Shetty film, but in English of course. And the cars are much more expensive. Clocking over two hours, the length is also an issue – such kind of action flicks should be short, sweet and to the point. Nevertheless, those who have the need for speed, will have a good time but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good film.

Published in The Navhind Times on 23rd Mar 2014

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Film Review - Bewakoofiyaan

Courting Trouble
Film: Bewakoofiyaan
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Sonam Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor
Directed by: Nupur Asthana
Duration: 1 hr 55 mins
Rating: * *


Bewakoofiyaan directed by Nupur Asthana (of Mujse Fraandship Karoge fame) is a film that doesn’t sizzle and doesn’t completely fizzle either. It is harmless but certainly insipid and whatever happens in it, you can see it coming from furlongs.  The otherwise reliable Habib Faisal has written a script which is pretty much on auto pilot mode without any surprising deviations.
Mohit (Ayushmann) is a marketing executive with an airline company who has everything going for him. A cushy job, car and a girlfriend Mayera (Sonam Kapoor) whom he wants to marry. She is also a working woman who incidentally earns more than him. Her father V.K Saigal (Rishi Kapoor) is a retired IAS officer and he disapproves of the young man, he even tests him with a game of squash. 
Now our marketing bloke loses job thanks to the recession and soon faces a depleting bank balance. V.K meanwhile keeps a close eye on the prospective son-in-law who is forced to take a loan from his girlfriend. What could have been a nice drama ends up being all over the place. There is a bit of comic element, the expected breakup, bonding between the two men and finally a reunion of the boy and girl where they live happily ever after.
A fair bit of the film is quite convoluted and instead of delving deeper on the relationship in the time of crisis, instead it just skims the surface and unnecessarily focuses on the males. In one scene Mohit even climbs through the window to teach to his father in law about computers.  After the initial love hate relationship, they become friends before you can say Yo !
The character of the father who comes off more as a caricature, is the weakest link. Thankfully, he is played by Rishi Kapoor who always adds value, no matter how or good or irrational the role is.
The lead pair of Sonam Kapoor and Ayushmann Khurrana is sincere and likable and share a sparkling chemistry. You wish they had a better screenplay to show their skills.      

Published in The Navhind Timess on 16th March 2014

Film Review - 3 Days To Kill


A Parisian Adventure
Film: 3 Days To Kill
Cast: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld
Directed by: McG
Duration: 1 hr 55 mins
Rating:  * *


3 Days To Kill is a typical action film produced in the factory of Luc Besson. Like the Transporter, Taken & Taxi series there is very little in terms of plot and it tries to rely on the action mostly. Since the story is written by Besson, don’t expect much character development or a story; on that count, it is all flimsy. Plus if you think only Bollywood has clichés then you ought to watch this film. It is more clichéd than a Sajid Khan film.

Kevin Costner plays Ethan, a CIA agent who wants to call it quits and get back to his estranged family. He also learns that he has a certain form of cancer with very little time to live. From America, he makes a dash to Paris to see his young daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) doesn’t call him ‘dad’ and prefers his first name because for years, papa didn’t have time for the family since he was too busy with his work.

Since his wife is out of town for a few days (3 to be precise), he gets a good opportunity to bond with his daughter. Meanwhile he is entrusted with another mission with a quid pro quo. A rather mysterious woman (Amber Heard) has a drug which will cure his cancer but in turn he must hunt down and eliminate a considerably dangerous terrorist.  When a film has villains named ‘The Wolf’ and ‘The Albino’ you know you can’t take it too seriously.

Fortunately, there are some lightweight scenes where the film also doesn’t take itself too seriously, like the one where Costner kidnaps a man and asks him for the spaghetti recipe, while he is on the phone with his daughter. 

Our hero has to battle professional as well as personal problems – in one of those age old scenes, he even saves his daughter from a bunch of goons in a discotheque.  On the action front, some of the chases on the streets of Paris are well executed.

Kevin Costner does an admirable job (though you can’t help but think of Liam Neeson) and carries the film on his own. On the whole, if you are looking to kill some time then this one is just about okay.   

Published in The Navhind Timess on 16th March 2014

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Film Review - Queen

All Hail The Queen 

Film: Queen
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Lisa Hayden, Rajkumar Rao
Directed by: Vikas Bahl
Duration: 2 hrs 20 mins
Rating: * * * * 

Vikas Bahl’s Queen is an utterly delightful film that will bring a big smile on your face when you walk out of the auditorium. Smartly written with great attention to detail and extremely well acted, it is the kind of film that reminds you of the reason why you fell in love with movies in the first place.  And if Bollywood can make such good films sans all the A list stars, then more power to it.

This is a story of self discovery under the most unusual circumstances. Like a host of films in recent times set in the capital, this also begins as a Delhi story. Rani (Kangana Ranaut) is all set to get married to Vijay (Rajkumar Rao), even the mandatory sangeet and dancing is done when she is dumped at the altar or rather mandap in this case. Just a day before the wedding, he calls it off. 

After lying low for a day without food, the Rajouri girl stuffs and couple of laddoos meant for the wedding and decides to do the honeymoon trip, alone. The trip was intended for Paris and Amsterdam and off she goes on her own. It is almost like a French revolution for her when she meets Vijaylakshmi (Lisa Hayden) who is a carefree maid, stripper and mother. The two hit it big time in a case of female bonding. The scene where they go on a drinking spree is a hoot and not since Amitabh Bachchan has anyone carried off a drinking scene so very well like Kangana has. 

In a touristic adventure, she manages to escape from a mugger and then proudly says “Woh phir kabhi Delhi walon se panga nahin lega” (He’ll never mess around with a Delhite again!)

After the Parisian venture, the next stop is Amsterdam where she is forced to share rooms with men – a Russian, a diminutive Japanese and a black Frenchman. The Delhi girl discovers that life is so much more than she knew, or rather, was allowed to explore back home. Is it a coincidence or a smart piece of costume designing that wears a t-shirt which says Alice in Wonderland? 

With the multi-national characters around, thankfully, it does not turn into a Mind Your Language kind of an affair; instead there are some genuinely funny and touching moments. The cookery episode and the Pakistani girl in Amsterdam were avoidable but that is an absolute minor grouse.    

It is the dialogues and wonderfully crafted scenes like the one where her family wakes up everyone they know to find out “Hing ko English mein kya kehte hain?” (What is Hing called in English?) It is called Asafoetida in case you want to know. And if you don’t know what ROFL means, check out the scene in the sex toy shop where she innocently goes on a shopping spree.  

All the characters are pitch perfect – she has a family at home whom she keeps updating via internet and cellphone, her supportive grandmother reminded me of Vicky’s grandma from Vicky Donor.  

Hats off to the screenwriters Chaitally Parmar, Parveez Shaikh, and the director himself not forgetting Kangana, who is credited for the additional dialogues. With Chillar Party and now Queen, Vikas Bahl has elevated himself in the list of directors to look forward to.
Amit Trivedi compositions are music to the ears and the songs are beautifully picturized as well. 

Lisa Hayden as the Paris girl with all the oomph is first rate. Credit should also be given to Rajkumar Rao who hardly ever puts a foot wrong. But the show belongs to Kangana Ranaut who gives a stellar performance in the lead role. Her savior faire is worth a trip to the theatres and the way she dances to that old song Hungama ho gaya (Anhonee, 1973) redeems the price of your ticket.

I hope they bring back the character of Rani in a future film, it will be wonderful to see more of her. But meanwhile, please book your tickets to this Queen.