Sunday, 25 May 2014

Film Review - X-Men: Days of Future Past

Good Days Are Here

Film: X Men - Days Of Future Past

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Duration: 2 hrs 10mins

Rating: * * * 1 / 2

Among the currently running franchises, X-Men is one of those that rarely disappoints. Mathew Vaughn gave us a cracker in the form of X-Men- First Class and this film, the 7thin the series, is among the best so far if not the best. The script is taut and they have crammed in so much in two hours,it hardly gives you an opportunity to feel restless or bored at any point. The mutants are well and truly in top form.

Ten years and five films later, Bryan Singer returns as a director (he made the first X Men film followed by X-2) and he will also be at the helm of X -Men Apocalypse set for a 2016 release.

Since the story, collective and individual, has progressed quite far, there is no point in doing a recap and this film cuts straight to the chase. The Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) along with the other mutants, Magneto, Storm and of course Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) are under attack from Sentinels who are robots and are much stronger a force to resist.

The Mutants stand a chance to survive only if they travel back in time and alter the past so that the present circumstance can be avoided. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has the ability to transport a person’s consciousness back in time. Logan volunteer’s for the same and having been sent back to the early 70s his prime mission to stop Raven aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from committing a murder.  For that he needs the help of the Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), who is much younger then along with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who is kept in a high security prison, because of his involvement in the assassination of none other than JFK.

Peter Dinklage plays a scientist who designs the Sentinels that are inducted in the U.S army under instructions of President Nixon. 

Days of Future Past has some terrific action scenes like the ultra slow motion sequence in the prison where time is frozen or the finale where virtually a stadium is airborne. But at the heart of it, it also has a screenplay by Simon Kinberg that is engaging. It also helps that X-Men has some fascinating charactersand they are allowed to flourish, although not all of them get a chance. Storm (Halle Berry) for instance has a very minuscule role.

Those who don’t know the history of the previous X-Men films might be a little lost because there are plenty of earlier references and some are very smartly used. That line and scene for example, where the young Professor reminds Wolverine of their brief meeting when they came to ask him for help is a hoot.

It also helps to have such a talented cast. Fassbender as the young Magneto gives his character just the right shade of grey while James McAvoy admirably fills in as the young Charles Xavier. You can rely on Jennifer Lawrence and Hugh Jackman is eminently likable as always.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the best mainstream Hollywood flicks this year and that is a good reason to watch it.

Film Review - Heropanti

It’s a Khap Out

Film: Heropanti

Cast: Tiger Shroff, Kriti Sanon

Directed by: Sabbir Khan

Duration: 2 hrs 27 mins

Rating: * *

I happened to watch Heropanti in a theatre where I often saw films in the early 90’s and this remake of the Telugu hit Parugu is nothing but a reminder of the films of the 80’s and 90’s era. Completely over the top with a predictable storyline,Heropanti tests your patience with a running time of two and a half hours- by the time it gets to the final act, you are on your marks and set to make a dash.

A launching vehicle for Tiger Shroff (son of Jackie) the plot is older than the Harappa civilization. Set in Haryana, the daughter of a much feared goon (Prakash Raj, doing a similar role for the millionth time) elopes with a local guy, just before her wedding, making the Jats and the Khaps angrier than Godzilla. They round up the guys friends including Babloo (Tiger Shroff) who can decimate a mini army single handedly, making him a prime candidate for the next installment of The Expendables. Trivia – Sabbir Khan directed Kambakht Ishq that starred Sylvester Stallone.

And to remind us again and again and again, that the actor is Jackie Shroff’s son, that popular tune on the flute from Hero is played constantly.

He falls in love with the goons other daughter (Kriti Sanon) and gradually their love blossoms but not before the henchmen go helter-skelter in search of the eloped couple. 

There is a fair bit of singing and dancing and Heropanti is one of those films that as songs where the hero and heroine change their costume not less than five times during the course of a song. The plot is also contrived and you can see from light-years what is coming.

Tiger Shroff is earnest and not as bad as some of the new kids on the block and Kriti Sanon is also in the same league. You feel sorry for Prakash Raj though who gets typecast in these roles. If you want to revisit the 80s, then Heropanti maybe worth it, but somehow I don’t see too many takers. 

Film Review - Kochadaiiyaan


Film: Kochadaiiyaan

Cast: Rajnikanth, Deepika Padukone

Duration: 1 hr 51 mins

Rating: * 1 / 2

Before the actual films starts, you are told about how this film was made, what kind of technology was used and how it is a first in India. Big B is even seen saying that the history of Indian cinema will be divided in two parts, before and after Kochadaiiyaan.

With all the motion capture and photo-realistic technology aside, this film is a travesty when it comes to the story, at the end of the day, that is what concerns the audience. For professionals, the technology may be of some interest but there is no evidence whatsoever on the screen that this is something special. Honestly, even many of those kiddo television channels have more interesting stories.

But they don’t have Thalaivar.

For Rajnikanth fans, it doesn’t matter if the film has a story or not, his presence makes up for everything. But here, they don’t get to see him as they usually do since here he is presented more in an animation format.

The story is what you would read in Chandamama. Rana (Rajnikanth) is the army General of the Kingdom of Kalingapura who wants to settle scores with the King of Kotaipatinam. He is also in love with the Kings daughter (DeepikaPadukone) in this saga of revenge and action.

Kochadaiiyaan never really digs it’s teeth in, the animation maybe unique for an Indian film but by international standards, it is very ordinary. It also has one song too many for a film that is under two hours making it look like a musical. 

The film is undoubtedly meant only and only for his fans for the rest, it is sorely disappointing. 

Published in The Navhind Times on  25th May 2014

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Film Review - Godzilla


Monsters Ball
Film: Godzilla
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Duration: 2 hrs
Rating: * * * 

Since Hollywood had made Godzilla in the 90’s this version initially came as a surprise. But suffice to say that director Gareth Edwards, who made the indie film Monsters, has done a good job and the film comes out on top, thanks to the execution.

There is only so much you can do if you are going to make film like Godzilla and Edwards vision is as good as it can get.

Rather than stick to the standard narrative, the story gives it a bit of a twist. Godzilla is not the giant who destroys everything that comes in his way, instead he plays the superhero who helps mankind. Move over Spiderman, Godzilla is here.

The background is quickly dispelled off in an impressive montage during the opening credits. Bryan Cranston plays a scientist working at nuclear power plant in Japan when a disaster happens even though the root cause for the same is not known.

Several years later, against all odds, he is still trying to get to the bottom it. His son (Aaron Taylor Johnson) an explosive expert working for the U.S. Navy also lands up in Japan when a monstrous winged parasite that feeds on radiation takes off from the facility. Called as MUTO (or Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), it turns out he is not the only one and there is another one in a nuclear waste facility in the U.S that as escaped. Ken Watanabe plays a scientist and he must be a very good one because he rightly predicts how and what the animals are going to do.  

While the navy guys are putting in a plan to save the city from destruction, enter Godzilla, who takes on the MUTO’s which was actually a bit like the Aliens vs Predator franchise. Barring a few standard operational scenes (which I wish they had edited out) Edwards direction is impressive and he seems to be on the money. 

The idea of giving Godzilla a bit of a tweak to fight in favor of humans is a noble one and perhaps one of the few, if not the only way to make the movie different from what we have already seen over the years. Edwards also comes closer to making everything look real rather that only computer generated like a mindless Michael Bay film. 

Alexandre Desplat's music score is also one of the highlights of film, it has been a while since we heard the music score have such an impact. As a Godzilla film, it gives you enough bangs for your bucks. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 18th May 2014

Film Review - The Xpose

Just Dispose
Film: The Xpose
Cast: Himesh Reshammiya, Zoya Afroz, Sonali Raut,Yo Yo Honey Singh
Directed by: Ananth Mahadevan
Duration: 2 hrs
Rating: *

Without any malice, when you walk in to see a film that has been produced by a Reshammiya, which has a story credited to Himesh Reshammiya, the music by Himesh Reshammiya with Himesh Reshammiya in the lead role, then the chances of ending up feeling like a cockroach that has been sprayed with Baygon are considerably high.

I for one, felt that way after watching The Xpose, directed by Ananth Mahadev. It borders on those films that are so bad that they are good. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t cross the border and remains in the bad category.  

Set in the film world of the 60’s this rather inane story is about the death of an actress Zara (Zoya Afroz) who falls off a building during a high profile party. I saw her falling off at least four times before I stopped counting. 

Ravi Kumar (HR) is police officer turned South Indian hero who mouths some of the most foul dialogues – “Tumhare sharir mein itna khoon nahin jitna main ek bar mein moot deta hoon” he says, the translation of that line is best avoided.

Ravi Kumar wants to be a star in Hindi films now and Ananth Mahadevan plays a director who wants the change the audiences viewing habits and is making a Satyam Shivam Sundaram like film.

Zara’s friend turned rival Chandni (Sonali Raut) is the prime suspect and Honey Singh also tries his hand at acting and he plays a music director who is rather shrewd. While it tries to recreate the atmosphere of the 60’s and some scenes are based on real life incidents, the story just doesn’t go anywhere. 

Needless to say, Himesh Reshamiyya is no Agatha Christie when it comes to writing murder mysteries.

As for the Himesh’s acting, wearing suits and trying to pretend that you are great actor doesn’t make you a great actor. The ladies are purely used for decorative purposes in the film and the dialogues are cringe worthy, sample this one – “…na dance na expression na pose, sirf expose”. For those wondering about the ‘expose’ element let’s say the IPL cheerleaders have much more skin to show.

Xpose yourself to this travesty at your risk.

Published in The Navhind Times on 18th May 2014

Film Review - Children Of War

Freedom From The Known

Film: Children of War
Cast: Indraneil Sengupta, Raima Sen, Pavan Malhotra, Farooque Shaikh
Directed by: Mrityunjay Devvrat
Duration: 2 hrs 35 mins
Rating: * *

Based on the freedom of Bangladesh and the violence and genocide that ensued, Children of War directed by Mrityunjay Devvrat is a very sincere effort to tell the story but alas, the overall outcome leaves you a little cold.

A film based on facts should also throw some light on the historical element along with telling personal stories. Children of War has more of the latter and less of the former. It opens with an interview of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi talking to the western media and explaining India’s intervention in the struggle for Bangladesh. The year is 1971 and the Bangladeshis want independence, free from the clutches of Pakistan whose army resorted to a lot of atrocities during that period. A journalist (Indraneil Sengupta) is separated from his wife (Raima Sen) and she is taken to a camp where women are raped and treated brutally.

There is a parallel story of a brother and sister trying to make it to the Indian border while Victor Bannerjee plays an elderly gent rescuing some people to safety. But the film largely concentrates on the separated couple where the husband joins the Mukti Bahini, a rebel group led by the very sober looking Farooque Shaikh.

At many a times, the scenes in many of the personal stories are overdone. Indeed, what happened during those days was shocking but to portray it on the screen, it has to be done in the right measure to have the maximum impact. Unfortunately, the background score or the editing comes in the way and some the scenes go on so long that by the time they end, there is a mental disconnect. Pity because the director occasionally shows some flashes of brilliance, but as a package it doesn’t come off to well.

On the acting front, Pavan Malhotra as the army officer is menacing enough to give you the creeps, the rest are passable, a bit like the film itself.

Published in The Navhind Times on 18th May 2014

Film Review - Fading Gigolo

Woody Blues
Film: Fading Gigolo
Cast: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis
Directed by: John Turturro
Duration: 1 hr 30 mins
Rating: * * 1 / 2
Based on a premise that might seem a little outlandish, writer/actor/director John Turturro manages to craft a film that is somewhat in the Woody Allen mould. And since Allen himself plays one of the central characters in film, it can be assumed that the master writer provided some inputs to the script and even the way it is shot, Turturro perhaps wanted to pay a tribute to Allen. 

There are bits and pieces that you like and some of it is pedestrian. Turturro plays Fioravante a florist and Allen has Murray (Woody Allen) runs a bookstore. They don’t exactly have a hefty bank balance and the plot takes a turn when Murray’s dermatologist (Sharon Stone) confides him about having a ménage a trios with her friend (Sofia Vergara). So now who will be the third person with the ladies ? Mr. Fioravante of course and he even gets a tip for it although the thought of a woman like Sharon Stone paying 
John Turturro will give a lot of self confidence to lesser mortals.

Murray becomes the pimp and Fioravante the stud even though his services go beyond the obvious. For one, he is a good listener and pays details to all those things that make a woman happy. When a Jewish Rabbi’s widow (Vanessa Paradis) comes on the scene and gets friendly with Fioravante, the neighborhood bloke who keeps a close eye on everything gets interested.

The plot does get a little preposterous at times but also gets back on track quickly. While Turturro may not look like a stud he pulls it off with a charm. As for Woody Allen, you like him because he is Woody Allen and not because he does anything sensational in the film. On the whole, Fading Gigolo is watchable but not memorable. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 18th May 2014