Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Thursday, 29 May 2014


Blended is a classic example of the dumbing down of a summer holiday film for families.
An Adam Sandler and a Drew Barrymore movie comes with a set of not so great expectations, barring exceptions like 50 First Dates. You know it has to be a romantic comedy and an average one at that. And with a title likeBlended it reduces whatever little appeal there is. On both counts, the movie stays pretty much at the expected level. This is more of buffoonery than romance, that too of the sitcom variety. The kind that fits all age groups amongst family audiences, especially in the summer holidays.
The premise is common enough in Hollywood. A single mom, Lauren (Barrymore) and a single dad, Jim (Sandler), with a handful of children each, meet on a blind date that gets over in five predictable minutes. Both are extremely conscientious parents. As clichés would have it, he is a widower who fathers and mothers three girls and she, a divorcee who parents two boys. He is the dad who catches his daughter at awkward, embarrassing moments. She is the dutiful mom who carries a grown up boy up the stairs and bangs his head now and then. Obvious growing girl problems involving makeovers and boy problems that tackle baseball misfits, come up.
The film starts on a regular note, with the usual bad date discussions and silly insults the lead couple throw at each other. A most convenient cancellation of an exotic and adventurous holiday by a friend lands the couple and their children at the same resort in Africa. Some unconvincing “oh, not you” moments follow as the families are even stuck together in the same room and the same table at meal times. This happens to be a resort where stepfamilies come to ‘blend’ with each other.
Forced humour, bad gags involving children, wild ostrich rides, rhinos, ball games and a young woman who jiggles her chest every time she speaks; makes this two hour long film stretch more than ever. Stereotypical African characters who do nothing but sing and dance, does little to make the story any more credible.
In a particularly low IQ scene, we see Drew Barrymore parasailing, spotting some giraffes and elephants below and screaming the obvious, “OMG, I can giraffes”. Sadly, despite all her sweetness and charm as a loving mom, she can’t rescue the story much. Not when there is zero romance and non-stop glorifying “99 per cent” parenting life.
If romance is what you are looking for, rent a good old DVD. Maybe 50 First Dates or Music and Lyrics.
For a few laughs, a couple of sitcoms might be worth your time than Blended.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

X-Men:Days of Future Past:Marvel-ous X-perience

(This article has first appeared in
X-Men comic book lovers are in for a metallic spectacle filled Simon Kinberg scripted 3D epic that joins some old dots and appeases any past discontent with disarming ease.
X-Men: Days of Future Past gives a fast forward, faster backward roller coaster experience that switches time lines in seconds. Set during two time periods - a post apocalyptic near future 2023 and 1973; boasting of an attractive ensemble of "X-Men" stars, the superhero film is supposedly the second most expensive one by 20th Century Fox, after Avatar.
Is it a prequel or a sequel? Well, it’s both. Timeline is the best device used here to satisfy the young and the old. Watch out for an absolute stunner of a tension filled sequence in which Wolverine in his younger self time frame suddenly snaps into his actual, older self, losing track of a crucial and fatal moment involving Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence).
In rare light moments, the VFX work has some fun, using Quicksilver’s (Evan Peters) gift for supersonic speed and stopping time. A freeze frame involving a bullet fire round, shows him maneuvering every bullet as if they were bubbles. Jim Croce’s song, ‘Time in a bottle’ plays delightfully to this marvellous sequence.
Such moments and one liners like “take it slow” are few and far between. This makes this somewhat complicated but familiar plot sit long and heavy at times.
The seventh film in the X-men series; it is based on the 1981 story by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. First published in "The Uncanny X-Men”, the story depicts a dystopian future where mutants are captured or killed by robotic mutant hating ‘Sentinels’. Kitty Pryde sends her mind back to the past to stop a fatal moment that turns humankind against the mutants, in order to avoid a destructive future.
In the film, expectedly Kitty is replaced by the much popular Logan/ Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) while Kitty (Ellen Page) aids him in the mind transport. Wolverine's consciousness is sent back in time to prevent the blue paint bodied, red haired Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the sentinels’ mastermind, Trask (Peter Dinklage), getting captured and have her mutant DNA used to destroy the rest of the mutants.
Wolverine time travels in his mind to his younger self, meets the younger and a depressed Professor X/ Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who has lost his special powers and can only walk after taking a serum drug.
Amidst trips from China to Paris to Washington, we see changing dynamics between Charles and Eric from enemies to team players and their competitive hold over Mystique. This central plot is the better and the most engrossing part of the entire rescue saga.
We are treated to spectacles where Mystique changes bodies, Charles enters minds while he struggles with the voices in his head, Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) wields metals, bullets and stadiums, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) lends some battling strength and Wolverine bares his knuckle claws.
If you have a favourite amongst X-men, this film will satisfy each one. Mine was the young, extremely expressive and more human Charles.
But don’t bank too much on either the brawny superhero, Wolverine or the evil but not so scary central villain, Bolivar Trask.

Friday, 16 May 2014


Himesh Reshammiya starrer, The Xposé, clearly aims at being the frontbencher’s film in which Mahesh Bhatt meets Madhur Bhandarkar. And yes, it entertains with scandals and unapologetic sensationalism.

There is ‘murder’. There is more than one ‘heroine’. The film claims to be based on real events. Of course, these are random and heresay. There is no pretention of a storyline that does not match Himesh Reshammiya’s self-image of a hero who takes centrescreen. And then, there is the major draw that has the young cheering in the theatre. Namely, Yo Yo Honey Singh.It does not matter that he never attempts to act. The song ‘Ice-cream khaungi…”, though not that great, is already a chartbuster. Set in the Bollywood of the 60’s,the glamour, the costumes, vintage cars, large studio sets, make a grand though tacky sight. It is certainly not ‘The Great Gatsby’ in its styling. In fact, the dialogues are more from the 80s. But then, the audience does not care. Every punch pulls a loud laugh.

As if, all of the above is not enough, the makers pull no strings at getting the eyeballs. They make the newcomer lead, Zara (Sonali Raut) wear a wet white saree, show just about enough of titillating skin (after all, the film is called Xposé) and do a ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram”. Of course, she is no Zeenat Aman and the maker is no Raj Kapoor.Yet, it works. The actress actually makes all her clothes dropping and bitchy talking, quite an interesting watch without coming across as B grade.

So does the dimunitive, slight Himesh bhai in long thick jackets, walking slow motion with his back to the camera, right till the last shot. After all, he is Ravi Kumar, the cop turned Southern star with a killer attitude. Modeled after yesteryear’s Raj ‘Jaani’ Kumar, he shoots off dialogue after dialogue that cater to the front gallery. Whistles and claps are guaranteed here.

More so because Ravi Kumar makes it clear in one scene that he does not have to be a hero. He is the superhero. Indeed he is. In real life, he runs into a burning film set and saves the rival film’s heroine, Chandni (Zoya Afroz). While doing so, all he has to do is lift a tiny palm just to stop a huge burning structure from falling on her. In fact, he can even take his time to exchange that ‘love at first sight’ look with the adoring damsel he has just rescued. Sunil Dutt and Nargis during the shoot of Mother India, would never have guessed it was this easy.

Ravi Kumar stars opposite the slutty Zara in his upcoming film. The virginal Chandni stars in the rival film, Rina Mera Naam.Black marketing (Irrfan in a short and forgettable appearance) and other manipulations by rival filmmaker causes Ravi Kumar’s film, directed by Subba Prasad        (Ananath Mahadevan, director) to flop. On the night of a party following an awards night, Zara is found dead. She is said to have jumped from a top floor, drunk. The film, which begins at this point, goes into a long flashback and comes to the murder only towards the end. The case gets solved in quick and easy scenes. Wish it had worked out like this with the real case of young actress, Divya Bharti which still remains a mystery.

Himesh Reshammiya has lost 20 kgs but is on his way to gain the much needed popularity and stardom after Xposé. For this super achievement, he needs to thank his dialogue writer, Bunty Rathore.

On this Indian election results day, we have an unlikely Bollywood winner. Please smile, Himesh Bhai.


(This review has first appeared on
78 year old Woody Allen reminds me of the late Dev Anand. Both have been bad actors who can either charm or irritate. Like his Indian counterpart, Woody also has a never say die spirit when it comes to directing. To his credit however, it is his excellent writing in movies like Match Point and Midnight in Paris; which has seen him through other repetitive, biographical films.
Fading Gigolo seems to be a script tailor made for Woody. As usual he doesn’t go beyond playing himself: a harmless looking old, garrulous man, Murray (a Brooklyn book shop owner to suit his thick glasses and intellectual image) who chats up women on behalf of his friend. In other words, he plays pimp to his friend turned gigolo. His character is best described in a small chuckle worthy scene when his friend, Fioravante (John Turturro, also the writer and director) asks him:
“Are you my friend?”
“I am a friend.”
“And you want to turn me into a whore?”
Desperate times have led to desperate measures. Murray’s bookshop is closing down. Fioravante’s flower business is not in full bloom either. Without wasting any screen time, the film begins right when Murray makes this absurd proposition to his sexy and younger friend. He has just been randomly told by his rich Dermatologist, Dr Parker, (the scintillating Sharon Stone) that she and her girlfriend (Sofia Vergara) wouldn’t mind paying for a night of threesome adventure. Given Murray’s persuasive charm, the friend does not require much of a push. This part of the is the most unconvincing too.
Starting at a charming, awkward rendezvous with Stone, Fioravante quickly moves on to humour laced series of bedtime stories. An accompanying jazz soundtrack throughout, adds to the light tone of the film. The rich, hot women blatantly discuss the much in demand gigolo’s skin and his ‘pistachio’ flavour. His six feet plus something height is the real deal for the sexy Sofia whose deepest woe is that she has always dated only short men.
Murray is so taken in by his new found role in the world’s oldest profession is that he tries to sell the idea of his friend as a ‘therapist’ to a young Hassidic widow, Avigal (Vanessa Paradis).
Here, the sexual tone, which never borders on vulgar despite some explicit scenes, subtly changes from harmless fun to gentle romance. There is some amount of New York Jewish cultural and ethnic element thrown in here. However, the film chooses to touch upon it very lightly. A neighbourhood parole officer (Liev Schreiber) gets involved, taking the film into a somewhat unconvincing territory of love and loneliness.
The film stays on the periphery with its light treatment all throughout and simply fades away from memory as the end titles roll in. I would have loved to watch more of the screen scorching Sharon Stone, the luscious Sofia Vergara and their tryst with an exotic gigolo beyond what exists.
Fading Gigolo, despite a dash of humour, a male fantasy premise and Turturro as a wannabe Woody; doesn’t quite have the mojo.

Monday, 12 May 2014


Amole Gupte, writer, director, lyricist and producer, takes the safest path to telling the same old story of chasing one’s dreams against all odds. Only, it’s done lovingly. Like growing a much cherished plant. Unfortunately, it’s as  painstaking too.

Every Hollywood sports film has a tried and tested formula. It usually revolves around an underdog who wants to excel in something beyond his reach. There is always that coach who is a reflection of the underdog. He has dreamt the same dream but destiny has dealt some cruel blow, which has snatched the dream forever. So he does the next best thing. He helps the underdog come out a winner.

A much more superior version of the story originated in India and was told in the most fascinating way possible in Mahabharata, through the coach, Dronacharya and determined disciples, and Arjun.

Gupte replaces archery with skating here. Eklavya is a young boy, Arjun Waghmare (Partho Gupte, Amole Gupte’s son). The film opens slowly with beautifully shot frames in red tones showing a diya being lit. The stunning cinematography (by Amol Gole, Vikas Sivaraman) is the hero of the film. It captures the gaze, takes its time to move and lovingly builds a feel good mood, enticing the viewer slowly into Arjun’s little world of prayers and a loving, peaceful family.

In an excellently edited sequence (by Deepa Bhatia, also the producer), we see Arjun is no longer in his wonderful, protective environment. He is now a chaiwalla in Mumbai, out of school and out of his village; forced to earn a living now that his father is no more. We only get to see the edited part of the story at a crucial moment in the most engaging and Gupte’s trademark emotionally charged manner, much later.

At night, Arjun’s workplace turns into a skating ground where rich children wearing shining skates costing upto a lakh, come and practice under the guidance of their young coach, Lucky Bhargava (Saqib Saleem, Huma Qureshi’s brother), the modern age Drona.

Lucky is another kind soul (there are too many here) who jumped in front of a car to save a student’s life and broke his foot. His dream is to help his students win a skating championship game. His brother, Bugs (Anuj Sachdeva, quite handsome), an ex skating expert, now an investment banker, wants him to quit his dreams and join him in the States. Their subplot really drags and is a contrived attempt to tug at the overdone sympathy theme.

Meanwhile, Arjun is enthralled by the skates. The little wheels give his own dreams new wings. Now comes the interesting part. No, it’s not his attempt at skating. It comes in the form of his four friends from the slums. These are victims of child labour; boys  who collect garbage, work at garages, embroidery factories and sell gajras. The major part of the story follows these five children (‘paanch pandav’) and how their die hard spirit helps Arjun fly on his bright red, zari embroidered, wheels with ghunghroos, his new found ‘hawaa hawaai’.

These friends, especially Gochi (Ashfaque Khan) ends up charming, more than Arjun. While Arjun works at the empathy level built into the plot, there is very little additional characterization. The film falls drastically because of this. Neither Arjun nor Lucky do anything for us to root for them.

Every single character in the film is extremely kind hearted. This sugar syrupy treatment ends up coming across as extremely artificial. A constantly sobbing mother, a ‘bechara’ fatherless child who cannot afford skates, two brothers without parents and a bunch of street children who don’t have food to eat; all this together make for a ‘poor me, poor India’ story that doesn’t quite gel.

There is no antagonist or conflict here. Except poverty. This leads to some ‘Taare Zameen Par’ kind of preachiness on lack of basics like food and education. A dialogue here is thrown in for good measure, “School jayega to ghar mein kya kitaab khilayega?”    
All the actors including Partho Gupte and Saqib Saleem are fairly average. The only one who stands out a little is Ashfaque Khan who plays the outspoken and bolder Gochi.

And the winner is… the fetching camera work. Even the garbage and gutters are made to look like work of art. That’s the only reason to watch ‘Hawaa Hawaai’ which slips and fails to inspire with its slow and safe treatment.

The song from Mr India featuring the glittering and gorgeous Sridevi might be your better bet.


The black bleakness attached to coalmines is nothing compared to the bizarre nonsense in the name of movies, mafias and the biggest myth of all, ‘mother’s love’. Koyelaanchal is the worst possible film that pretends to have any connection with any reality whatsoever.

This is not surprising, considering the director, Ashu Trikha’s previous debacle like 'Enemmy'. It is even less surprising when the lead star cast boasts of worn out wood chiseled Suniel Shetty and a still handsome but ineffective, weak voiced Vinod Khanna whose bright jackets and orange tikkas on the forehead, do nothing to make him look like a formidable mafia boss. Their city bred looks and flat diction are a far cry from their small town characters from backward Bihar backdrop.

Despite the low angled, slow motion, in-the -shadow introductory shots and constant loud explosions and a particular slap sound replay throughout the film, this Bihari goon, Surya Bhan Singh (Khanna) amuses more than terrorises. Even his Hanuman pujas are as old as Amrish Puri’s chants in Subhash Ghai films from the 90s.

The pretense at hard hitting reality starts with a historical beginning stating how the Government took over the coalmines business with the 1973 Coal Mines Act and this gave birth to the coal mafia in some Bihar belts like Jharia. The makers probably had ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ in mind.
However, you see nothing of any actual coalmine activities and so called ‘mazdoor’ exploitations except for undecipherable, long, poetic speeches. By now, Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha from ‘Kaala Patthar’ are deeply missed.

 Yet, you bravely decide to hope for an uncut diamond somewhere deep buried within the loud and meaningless coalmine blasts and even louder background score.
Instead you find the most ridiculous tall rock in the form of a silent slave, Karua (Vipinno).The bare chest, sinewy muscles, long hair, cold eyes are meant to scare more than Gabbar. This heartless rock kills and shoots at his master’s orders. He then digs his hands into his bloody handiwork and writes with blood on walls. The villagers watch in shock and children simply wash their footballs off the splattered blood.

Karua’s activities move on to sleazier visuals just as the plot quickly shifts away from the new collector in town,Nisheeth (Shetty)out to challenge the mafia man. Karua visits a local prostitute, (Roopali Krishna Rao, the only decent actress trapped here unfortunately) who has a heart of gold beneath deeper blouse necklines than yesteryear Bindu’s.

The massacre king turns into a devoted slave when he is with the ruler of the coalmine township. He sits at his beloved and trusted God and‘malik’, Surya Bhan Singh’s  pedicured feet. Slowly and lovingly, he washes them in a big tray. Then, carefully, he picks up the tray and drinks the holy water.

If this kind of filth does not disgust enough, there is more. Like a woman, stripped, stark naked, wailing in front of an entire village. Plus some violence in the form of naxalites who apparently “fall here straight from China” in a badly attempted dialogue humour. For a dose of some meaningful message thrown in, there is a documentary within the film, called  “Budbak Bhansali”. Some real faces of the tribals suffering in silence, however, fail to make Koyelaanchal any more convincing. Just like those pseudo pictures of  ‘real India’ in Facebook travelogues.

The story soon takes a bizarre turn from the ruthless world to the gentler ones of mothers, little village girls and babies. From landmine explosives, the sound effects mercilessly bombard us with shrill baby cries.
Hatred and violence is replaced with tender, loving Johnson baby care. We even see a baby kissing the picture of the silent rock monster, Karua.
Incidentally, that’s supposed to be the most meaningful moment in the film. 

The baby at whom Shetty looks dumbfounded, in the end. His best expression ever.
Because it took him the entire film’s 2 hours 26 minutes to realize that the baby was the hero, not him.

No wonder then that Shetty throws up at one point. So might you.

Friday, 2 May 2014


“I just had safe sex. And I did a Rex.”  

It’s been a week since Ranveer Singh admitted to this in the Durex commercial. Predictably, it has already gone viral and got more than a million views on the Internet.

There are 2 kinds of branding happening here. Brand Sex and Brand Ranveer.

There is nothing secretive or taboo about sex anymore. Sex does not have to be either sleazy or sensual or lusty only. It is plain and simple fun. Just like a good, peppy song and dance number.

And this is where Ranveer scores (no pun intended).

His first big hit, ‘Band Baaja Baraat’, established him as the actor to watch out for. Someone who plays a Delhi loafer in a pretty non-filmy manner. His looks being more of an average Joe, he had the advantage of fitting into any kind of role.

Soon,’Lootera’, a period romance film with a non-commercial tone, firmly placed him as an actor to be taken seriously. Ranveer was suddenly this intense character with surprising shades to him.

But it was ‘Goliyon ki Raasleela-Ram Leela’ that won him some recognition as a star. His pairing with the hottest and the most successful actress of the year, Deepika Padukone, got him a wider and more colourful canvas. His rumoured relationship with her helped, of course. The image was now of a lusty lover, Ram, which worked with the young.

Now, out of the blue, out shadowing all these films in past four years, it just took a two minute Durex commercial to give a more welcome image to help define both sex in India and Ranveer. While Pooja Bedi’s Kamasutra ad was banned, some 20 years ago, Ranveer’s move has been cleverly plugged as him being the first ‘A-lister’ Bollywood star to endorse a condom.

All thanks to an excellent team comprising the director- Karan Kapadia, choreographers-Ceasor and Bosco,cinematographer-Ravi Varman and music director-Mikey Mcleary.

 Ranveer is now widely accepted as this bundle of energy, who is great fun and a rockstar. His rap song written by himself and the well-choreographed dance is the perfect way to connect with the young who love sex. Now they have the permission from the star himself to admit it.

Apparently, ‘Rex’ is defined as “a physical expression of joy and ecstasy experienced after a wonderful sexual experience has moved you”.

Going by the ad’s viral popularity, the young are loving it. Not just because their favourite film star is rapping and talking to “lovers all over the world”. But because it sends out a clear message that sex is fun, sex makes you feel good. So good that you sing and dance all day.

More importantly, the ad does not talk to married couples. It is specifically addressed to young lovers. It lifts the taboo on not just sex in general but also premarital sex.

It talks in their kind of language too.”baarish ko girne do…haath mein leke khushiyon ka chaata..” To promote safe sex,the youth icon talks about always carrying a condom in the pocket.

It’s not surprising then that the commercial will go a long way to boost Ranveer’s  popularity.

Plus the  big secret is out. Indians do have sex. They just need to Rex it up…AHA…AHA... O.M.G…