Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Toofan (just one small spoiler) review


Don't get attached to heroines who smile too much






Its a sports epic that comes from one of India’s best modern working directors-  Rakeysh Mehra. It has music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (who are not composing music as frequently as their talents merits). It has Farhan Akhtar as struggling youth from a troubled background who finds direction and purpose in sports. It isn’t Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. It feels like wishes it was.

Toofan is a completely fictional tale of Aziz Ali – a vasooli bhai types – who finds real purpose and discipline through boxing.  He is encouraged and supported in his endevaour by local Dr. Ananya Prabhu (Mrunal Thakur speaking impeccable Marathi) who happens to be the daughter of renowned Boxing coach Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal giving a powerhouse performance once again). While in itself that's not a new premise at all, the movie is also a love (jihad) story and has elements of religious discrimination as well.

Here’s the thing- the movie is well made, technically sound, the humor works well, there is decent music and the sports sequences are well shot (Mehra shoots the boxing scenes with his characteristic style). However, what mars the movie is the sometimes uneven and predictable flow. Now if you have seen enough Hindi movies, you know when the actress starts smiling a lot and dances with orphans AND senior citizens both, she is gonna die soon. This is not even a spoiler. According to every working Indian script writer, the only way to ensure that the death of a female character hits hard is to make her Jesus or something close to him. But what you expect doesn't really happen when you expect it, but yes it does happen later on and for the flimsiest reason imaginable. In keeping with the communal discrimination themes of the movie- there could have been 10 different ways for the characters death to mean something however its quite random. 

Speaking of the religious discrimination parts, well I honestly don’t think mainstream Bollywood has developed the kind of sensibility and intelligence required to handle such a sensitive topic. Though the issues faced by Aziz and later on by him and his Hindu wife are very very real. There is still a very conventional way this is treated in the movie. If it was any other director, I may have forgiven it. But I honestly expected better from the guy who directed Bhaag Milkha and Rang De Basanti.

There are just so many cliche’s in what could have been a more sensible take. So of course there is a old matronly nurse (played expertly well by Supriya Pathak)who is obviously christian and who speaks in “Tumko Jasti karne ko kaun bola” type Hindi. She is the only one willing to help the newly wed Muslim-Hindu couple.  The Hindu girl’s father is of course communally biased spouting some really insensitive lines about Muslims despite his best student being Muslim (?). Now he is shown to have good reason for being so too. But that part is not given the weight it should have. It could have been a really insightful take on violence, redemption, things that divide or unit us.

But the movie then veers again into sports territory with rivalries, hastily introduced fierce young opponent who we are TOLD (not shown) but just TOLD is very deadly. It almost feels like 2 different movies and while battling personal demons and sporting rivals is a common theme especially to boxing movies- it just doesn't mesh as well together as it should. There is a point where our hero is going to make a return to the ring after a long hiatus, yet his first steps in the ring are just edited over and shown to us via a news paper montage. There are scenes you would expect to be cut short which drag and vice versa. The felt like it knew how to box didn't know where to land its punches (oh yeah...puns are back).

Yet the movie is brilliantly acted by Farhan Akhtar who not only emotes with his face but his physique as well (ladies, go watch it for that reason specifically).  Paresh Rawal is the real powerhouse here and Mrunal Thakur has a charming presence on screen but requires some improvement in the acting department.

Also, my one big problem with Indian sports movies is that there is not enough sports in it (Fuck you Dhoni a Untold Story. Fuck you for not giving me an insight into one of Indian crickets most brilliant minds) . Like we get it, its about the drama behind the sport etc etc. But how about showing us how that plays into their sport as well. How about making a sports movie like you would make a war movie- clearly making us understand the strategies not just through words but visually as well.  Wouldn't it be awesome instead of rising music and slow motion telling us that the character is bringing out a special move or trying a different strategy why not SHOW us that on screen? Why not let the characters very movements inside the ring/ground, their strategies be front and center rather the drama behind it? Rocky movies have been doing this so well. Rocky has a well defined style in the movies, which changes over the years, it is challenged and Rocky has to adapt to those challenges. Look at any martial arts movies, the fighters have different styles which is an expression of their personality. Their movements often convey...anyways rant over. Might make a separate post about that later.

The music is average – with the title track being a straight rip-off of Zinda from Bhaag Milkha. There is one song called ‘Begaani Shaadi mein’ which sounds like its from the late 90’s or early 2000’s for no reason at all since the movie isn't exactly a period piece. Shankar Ehsaan Loy can and definitely need to do better. So does Rakeysh Mehra. You guys are all better than this. The story was conceived by Farhan Akhtar and developed by Anjum Rajabali (who has written good movies like Pukar, Ghulam, Rajneeti etc). But it kinda felt like Akhtar got his best buddies who had made a great sports epic before just to put his ideas on screen...which doesn't work as well.

So to summarize, although Toofan is cliche’ in parts and engrossing in others. While the COVID era has changed my ratings system in that I cant say this is better watched on TV – because that's the only way to watch it. But well, if you have a Saturday afternoon to spend while eating Biryani/Kofta, it is a good one time watch.

My rating is – Worth Watching Once (if you have the time).

Toofan is streaming on Amazon Prime. 

PS - If you really wanna watch good Hindi cinema content- Go watch Ray on Netflix.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984 (spoiler free) review

You really thought the risk of hospitalization is going to stop me from enjoying a DCEU movie?

Wonder Woman 1984

Directed by - Patty Jenkins

Cast - Wonder Woman...oh sorry Gal Gadot...I can't honestly tell if she's actually a goddess in real life or not, Pedro Pascal, Kirsten Wig, Chris Pine and others. 

"Greed...for lack of a better word, is good." - Gordon Gekko

That's the famous line from the movie Wall Street (1987). Like every movie which is a product of its times, the line really captured the go-getting and 'ends justify the means' spirit of the 80's. Even though I might have been 2 when the 80's ended and far away from America to understand the decade, but when has USA ever let you forget their culture with regular doses of it in pop-media? The 80's are making a big comeback in modern media in the form of Nostalgia. - Stranger Things, the IT movie etc. being real proof of that. 

Before walking into Wonder Woman 1984, I honestly thought there was no reason story-wise to set the movie in the 80's other than marketable nostalgia. I mean after the first one set during the First World War (1918), the second one could easily have been set during Cuban missile crises or Vietnam or just plain old modern day. But its not just the nostalgia marketability, the 80's at least for this generation represents a decade of excess and growth of mass media, consumerism, private enterprise etc. It is in fact the perfect set up for a cautionary tale on the evils of wanting to 'achieve' everything. 

You really thought a DC comics movie is just about super-powered people beating the crap out of each other in a big special effects heavy fight, peppered with childish humor and saving the world at just the last moment? Yes it is about those things and so so much more. That's why I would risk a pandemic to go experience one. 

WW84 differs drastically in its tone from the first one, while still retaining some of its elements. Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) is a blonde scheming business-man who is a liar, manipulator and a TV personality (You could technically compare him to Trump, but Maxwell Lord is a comic book character). He comes across a mythical artifact which can fulfill all your wishes. His plan is to conquer the worl....wait no... its not that for a change. Its actually not exactly wanting to conquer the world. He is deeply emotional person with a troubled past who wants to make wishes come true for everyone. Wonder Woman learns the hard way that when our wish comes true but there's always a price to pay for it. Barbara Minerva (Kirsten Wig) shows the dangers of empowerment without wisdom. 

That's the thing, there are so many thematic and story elements in the movie worth analyzing and enjoying for someone with my bent of the mind, I can ignore some of the flaws. With the involvement of hacky comic book writer Geoff Johns, the movie is perhaps the last of the DCEU movies to try and pander to the critics complaints of not being 'bright' or 'cheerful' enough. The movie has more than necessary amount of cheese and campiness almost on a level comparable to the old Superman movies. (which are good but I was never a fan of) Maybe its a conscious tribute or Johns' hacky attempt at 'hope and optimism' but the mall fight after a fantastic opening sequence involving powerful Amazon warriors feels like it came from a different movie. 

Also, another glaring issue is the lack of energetic and memorable action scenes like the first one. The bell tower fight of the first movie or 'no-mans-land' scene are iconic. The stunt team in this movie is different and it shows. Some of the stunt work could have used improvement. (also, could've used the original Wonder Woman theme more, instead of a different more orchestral version)

However what shined in the movie is the story and the characters...which is what a movie is more or less supposed to be. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman cannot get better in terms of portraying the character but she does a lot of improvement over the first one in terms of acting. She conveys the heartbreak, the pain, the fear of her character really well...a superpowered goddess who would have otherwise felt distant if not for her very human emotions. Kirsten Wig as Barbara Minerva/Cheetah was convincing in her journey but I believe she could have been given more to do. The two villain formula popularized since The Dark Knight can be a good formula if done well, its not that her character was forced into the story, it did have some relevance to the overall themes but still, somewhere it feels she could have been done better. 

But the absolute scene stealer, the man who makes the movie is Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord. Any movie, especially a action-adventure superhero movie is only as good as its villain. DC has a fantastic track record since Nolan's trilogy of delivering great villains who often steal the show. Maxwell Lord is almost Lex Luthor-ish at first but a more in-your-face and more relatable villain. The climactic 'fight' between him and Wonder Woman is also her realizing her own mistakes and making him realize his. Its such a personal and touching story...Maxwell Lord with his flaws and his wish to solve everything is inherently all of us when we are afraid and feeling empty from within.

Another aspect that I really loved about the movie is that even though its a bit hacky and melodramatic in parts, Patty Jenkins direction has a sincerity to it that feels genuine and heartfelt. It is not trying to mock anything about the 80's, neither breaking any fourth walls to make any meta-jokes, its merely presenting the story as the characters would live it and that's why the jokes land and make you chuckle when they have to. It gets emotional when it has to unashamedly and yet doesn't lose itself. Another great thing that it does, is use Hans Zimmer's heart wrenching 'A Beautiful Lie' from Batman V Superman at a crucial scene in the movie. There are some missed opportunities to connect it with the larger DCEU but I honestly think audiences and DC/WB have moved beyond trying to fit everything into a one-size fits all universe. 

The movie can come across as a mixed bag to many who loved the intensity of the first one and also to anyone who loved the unique action scenes of Aquaman. It is somewhere in the middle of those, yet it is a sort of easy watch. It does pose some interesting questions yet not even close to the philosophical intensity of the BvS or MoS level. However, to put it simply, if you were to put it on when a bunch of people gathered, it would be an easy and fun watch. It's almost got those Indiana Jones like feel to it in terms of re-watchability. (also has some similarly cool mythological/historical mystery aspects in it which I wish they would have explored more).

The movie is definitely TOTAL TIMEPASS!


You know what's the next big DC movie coming out?????????? 


Monday, December 7, 2020

Tenet (spoiler free) review

I mean there is actually no point writing the words 'spoiler free' for this movie not only coz I wouldn't really be able to explain the movie in one viewing even if I wanted, but even if I did spoil it, there is no way you would understand it. 


Cast- John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia and others. 

Directed and written by : The only director whose movies are worth risking a disease for 

So what kind of movie is this - A suave and cunning spy who will go to almost any length to for the mission, he finds himself in a cold war against a secretive faceless enemy. He is entangled in a web of lies, manipulation and finds a femme fatale along the way. He uncovers a world ending conspiracy, led on by a Russian oligarch who is of course played by a British actor and is obviously an abusive villainous torturous megalomaniac. Our protagonist is swift as a cobra in his words and his fists. Plus he gets special gadgets and tech to help him along the way. 

If you thought of a Bond film, then you are right. It's no secret that Nolan has always wanted to make a one. The opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises is a testimony to that. Tenet on the surface is a just like a Bond movie....but that's the thing....Nolan's movies are many things on the surface yet there is so so so much dig beneath. 

Tenet is a Bond movie with time travel elements. But again that's only on the next level. If you thought Inception was complicated and it took you 4 viewings to understand the plot, then Tenet might take at least 8 to fully understand. And just like Inception perhaps a million more to truly appreciate the intricate poem that Nolan weaves. 

Yes you read that right...Nolan's movies are poetic. Nolan has often been criticized for making 'puzzle box movies' that are intricate and fun to solve but lack emotion. Anyone who says that hasn't really understood what makes Nolan different from most other directors working today. Yes, he does create frustratingly complicated plots that often have you scratching your head for days but always and I mean ALWAYS beneath those elements is the story of a person looking to solve the maze he has gotten himself into. One look at Leonard Shelby from Memento or Cobb from Inception and you realize his movies are more than puzzle boxes. Interstellar is literally about how love can transcend even the laws of physics and I still wonder why people think of him as a 'cold' emotionless film maker. 

While Tenet doesn't have the heart of Interstellar or the emotion of Inception, it doesn't need to. Its a fast paced global thriller that still manages to pack in emotion when its needed. The movie does slag a slight bit in the middle when our Protagonist meets Kat (Elizabeth Debicki)..but it doesn't really stall the movie. The movie is fast paced and never lets up doesn't matter which way its moving (yes that's a wink and a nod to the time inversion that happens in the movie).

Many might feel that unlike Inception which does exposition in the best possible way...often holding your hand when it needs to...Tenet just doesn't. It can be a bit jarring to watch it at first and get confused by all that is happening. However, it is obviously all intentional. There is a reason I would call his movies poetry... just like a good poem it has layers upon layers of words, then of grammar, then form, then meter...finally the sentiment. It's all meant to be appreciated, marveled at, interpreted but not necessarily logically understood. Yes I know its sounds weird saying that about a Nolan movie but a character in the movie itself says this "Don't try to understand it, just feel it" . This is perhaps an attempt from Nolan to tell us to sit back and enjoy the movie as a unique cinematic experience rather than dissect it. (But Nolan being Nolan I have zero doubts that he probably actually invented the technology to shoot this movie and perhaps got a Nobel prize in physics for it or something).

Nolan has really grown as an action director and the opening scene itself is one of the best I have seen in any movie for a while. Speaking of which while I was disappointed to hear Zimmer wont be scoring this movie, Ludwig Goransson does a equally good job. The synth-techno aspects really compliment the sci-fi nature of the movie and yet never come across as superficial or unremarkable. The music is catchy energetic yet soulful and mystical. 

John David Washington performs his role with such ease proving that a black James Bond would be absolutely easy to digest ( I honestly didn't know he is Denzel Washington's son). Robert Pattinson has obviously moved on from his Twilight days and is acting force to be reckoned with. The cool with which he moves about in the movie you would assume he just walked on set and performed the role. I am really excited to see him play Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Batman next year. Also Dimple has a much bigger role than I thought. (Would have loved if Nolan made her run in slow motion a la Sagar but hey you cant have everything) 

Am not gonna humiliate myself by rating a Nolan movie...its obviously a Classic...this might be his most complex yet action filled movie yet. Do try and watch it in a theatre if possible. (Theatres need all the help we can give them). Watching a Christopher Nolan movie is more of a process than incident. He is perhaps the only living film maker whose movies begins in your mind when it ends on screen....

Easter Egg/References :

So I usually do a list of easter eggs/references for a Nolan or Snyder movie, here's a few I could find out on first viewing :-

1) The villains name Sator and his company's names Rotas are inversions of each other. 

2) The word Tenet itself is a palindrome - its spelled the same way backwards. (this was pretty much known before release)

3) There is a Casablanca reference towards the end where one of the characters says "This is the end of a beautiful friendship" mirroring/inversing the famous line from Casablanca - "This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship"

Am sure there are several more that I haven't caught yet.  I might do a spoiler filled review once

Monday, June 15, 2020



Getting a Amitabh Bacchan movie for free in your home during what is turning out to be shitty year when half the world is either dying, unemployed, unpaid or under lockdown would seem like a blessing. But for me it’s not so. Not that it’s a curse, not that it’s a bad movie. An Ayushmann Khurana movie even if bad is at least interesting. Same can obviously said of Big B in his second innings, rarely has he starred in a unwatchably bad movie.

If you watch Gulabo Sitabo’s trailer, it’s your generic- ‘set in a small town wacky story having lower middle class characters and humurously commenting upon real problems’- movie, so immensely popular after Gangs of Wasseypur (Bareilly Ki Barfi, Shubh Mangal Savdhaan, Toilet ek Prem Katha etc etc) . The trailer was nothing eye-grabbing but nothing bad either. If not for presence of the two lead actors, it perhaps wouldn’t have garnered my attention.  The story is about an old landlord – played by Amitabh- and Ayushmann Khurana who will obviously play a wacky character with a heart battling some social evil who will have some scene stealing comic lines (basically Ayushmann Khurana in any movie). There-in lies my problem. No not with Khurana running his Dukaan as usual, I mean that’s the kind of roles he does best. But my problem lies with Big B.

Yes you read that right, my problem lies with Amitabh Bacchan.  If like me you grew up in a household that worships Bacchan, where his iconic lines are exchanged over coffee, tea, beer, dinner, lunch, during Holi, Diwali..most occasions except funerals (although am not entirely sure we haven’t quoted one during a funeral), in a house where changing the channel if Sholay is on is an impossibility and watching the shitty  SRK Don is a blasphemy, you would have the same problem.
Look at the some of the films in last 4-5 years he has starred in – Piku, Pink, Sarkar 3, Thugs of Hindostan, 102 not out etc. Although I know Sarkar 3 is an absolute train wreck of a film compared Piku, I for the love of God can’t watch Piku. I still haven’t and probably never will. You mean to tell me – the Vijay who with the intensity of a billion suns in his eyes says - “Main aaj bhi feke hue paise nahi uthata..” is now a old farting, guy with Diarrohea? FUCK NO. I cant watch that. I have similar problems with 102 not out and now with Gulabo Sitabo.

I mean I get the fact that he is nearing 80 now and for a guy nearing 80 to say he has aged gracefully is always an understatement. For someone who experienced the peak of Superstardom Bollywood had never seen before, then came crashing down…then to re-invent himself at an age when Stars of yesteryear usually resort to doing fatherly roles and compete with the ruling Badshah’s of the industry represents a mountain of determination that only someone who portrayed Vijay Dinanath Chauhan could have. Age has allowed him to break the shackles of his image and do roles like Pa or Cheeni Kum when his southern counterparts are still more or less doing the same roles they did in the 70’s and 80’s.

That’s all to his credit but I for the love of God can’t watch the most manliest man to ever man the screen be reduced to an crippling old mess. Not that he can’t do it well, obviously he can. Doesn’t mean I have to watch it. I mean it’s been what  45 years since Sholay released (in my mind for some reason it’s still just 25-30 years) and am STILL unable to get over Jay’s death. I can accept him in powerful roles like Badla or Pink (which am honestly yet to watch but that’s my love for Big B fighting against my irritation with Tapsee Pannu) or Sarkar but you can’t just reduce Don to mumbling old man on a khaat.

Is this childish? Yes of course it is. Movies are pretend and we are all allowed to be childish about what we like in them and what we don’t. So am pretty sure Big B does a great job in such roles, am sure he’ll do more roles suiting his age or whatever interests him, but I will only continue to watch the ones where he exudes grace and intensity. That’s what he represents to me in real life. The critic in me might appreciate and like those movies and roles, the fan in me will never truly love them.

Friday, September 6, 2019

IT Chapter 2 (Spoiler free) review

This and then Joker coming out in October…WB really bringing in the clowns.

IT:Chapter two


Cast- James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Bill Skarsgard, Stephen King himself in a cool cameo and others

Writer – Gary Dauberman

Very rarely do I mention the writer at the start of my review. But I feel it’s earned here. The first IT was quite frankly one of the better modern horror movies in the line of Conjuring, Sinister etc. Being based on an iconic Stephen King novel, it was not just about the supernatural horror but also about the characters that are affected by that horror. The children acted well, the movie was well directed with some goofy but some genuinely scary scenes and if you grew up in a small town, you could completely relate to your childhood. See, Stranger Things the beloved supernatural Netflix series takes its inspiration from many King novels, IT being one of them. To have chapter one conclude on a satisfying but promising note that IT may come back 27 years later, was a good feeling to leave the theatre with.

But things fall, things on earth and what falls is...fallen. The first one was co-written by three writers- Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman. While there isn’t much on the net about Chase Palmer but Cary Fukunaga is the director and writer of True Detective season 1 on HBO for which he won an Emmy. He also wrote and directed the acclaimed drama Beasts of No Nation. Oh and he is also directing the next Bond film- No time to die. As for Gary Dauberman his writing credits include fantastic movies like Annabelle, Annabelle creation, The Nun etc. His only good writing credit may be the Swamp Thing series (which I haven’t seen because WB/DC are motherfuckers who don’t give a shit about having their own app available outside the US). Fukunaga was also slated to direct the Chapter one but left due to creative differences where Muschietti took up and brought Dauberman. Now I don’t pretend to have any experience with movie making to know what parts of Chapter one were whose script but I do know enough about writing to know the stark difference between Chapter one and two.

While Chapter one has a more concise story, better flow and less goofy horror. Chapter 2 is just odd. It’s very badly paced, lacks any flow that leads us to a climactic battle but has some good bits of human drama and some decent horror scenes. I am not saying Dauberman is a bad writer, but this movie is badly written compared to its predecessor and even compared to Dauberman’s other work which were functional if not bad horror movies.  

The casting is fantastic though and all the adults look perfect progression of their childhood characters physically and otherwise. I have always been a fan of James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain’s acting and both do expectedly well here. McAvoy especially carries the emotional weight of the movie I feel since his character is the one endowed charged with it. Also, I just love characters who are vulnerable but not stupid in horror movie situations and still have their common sense around. Special mention must be made of James Ransone and Jay Ryan. Ransone portrays the adult version of Eddie (who was portrayed by Jack Dylan Grazer as a kid). He looks and acts exactly the way an adult Eddie would act. Also Jay Ryan portraying the fat, silent kid in school who turned into a hot successful architect is just beyond perfect  Bill Hader also acts well but comes across as childish or too marvel-esque (Marvel-esque means a character who cracks jokes for no apparent reason because that’s what 90% of MCU characters do) at times. The casting and the acting is so good that even without the flashbacks you can actually relate the adult versions with their kid ones. Bill Skarsgard is perfect as Pennywise the clown  and his mere laugh and presence is more terrifying than anything the increased VFX budget for the sequel can offer.  The rest of the cast do really well and their chemistry with each other is the highlight of the movie for me.

Somewhere you do get the idea where the movie was going in a sense that instead of just a general thrill ride, the movie is trying to delve into fears which haunts us all while growing up.  The fear of leaving a town, the fear of life repeating itself, crippling adult depression, fear of coming to terms with our innermost demons, fear of how childhood was still a simpler time even if you were faced by a demonic entity in the form of a clown, fear of letting go of nostalgia. But somewhere all that is set aside for playing “You are my angel, my darling angel” while a zombie corpse vomits on someone. (seriously what the fuck was that? when was that set up? When did it suddenly turn into Deadpool or Shaun of the dead? and mind you Shaun of the dead has better horror scenes than this one) What scenes could have been the scares 'n' thrill ride also come out as goofy at times. Maybe its corporate instructions from a studio which just doesn’t know how to make tonally consistent successful franchises and after two financial disappointments (Godzila KoTM and Detective Pikachu) is desperate for success. Or maybe it’s just bad writing.

Also about the scary scenes, maybe I am sterile to horror movies by now but my wife who DOES NOT like watching horror movies at all, could comfortably sit through most of the stuff. There were hardly a few scenes where the tension was built up. The scenes were more gross than scary. One thing however that was well done was how the flashbacks were integrated within the overall narrative. It was done very efficiently, sadly that efficiency of pace is not carried out into the remaining story.

I was kinda disappointed by this to be honest. I didn’t go in expecting a great horror movie because knowing what I know about the novel, I was expecting more of a supernatural/fantasy thriller more like Harry Potter or Stranger Things. It’s weird how something that pays homage is doing better than the original. I wanted the Lovecraftian angle of IT’s true identity explored and while they do touch upon that, I feel the mysticism angle could’ve been played better. The movie also ends like 3 to 4 times giving me a feeling as though the writer and director were confused where to finally end and they put in everything. The movie has its moments and isn’t a complete disaster and you have to watch it if you liked the first one. But tonally speaking the difference between the first and the second one is similar to what was between Dawn of Justice and Justice League.  While the first one may  was a complete movie with a better flow and proper build up and earned climax. The second one was just –meh. I mean Chapter two isn’t a complete shit-show like Josstice League but in terms of being more disappointing than the first one they are close. Until I saw this movie I was happy that Andy Muschietti was slated to direct the much awaited solo Flash movie. Now am slightly worried. He needs to be given a better writer because Chapter 1 was remarkably better than this.

I watched Chapter 1 with my wife the other day in preparation for this one and found out that I could still watch it again. Sadly Chapter 2 is only –Worth Watching Once.

  • Harley Quinn is back bitches!! And the faux IT trailer turning into a Birds of Prey teaser genuinely surprised some of the audience who hadn’t already seen the leaked version online.
  • Doctor Sleep trailer (sequel to the Shining) looks really interesting.  
  • Also now we wait for the really scary clown to arrive. Joker in theatres October 4th!!!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Mission Mangal (spoiler free) review

Sholay, Don, A Wednesday, Sarfarosh and…



So what do Sholay, Don, A Wednesday, Sarfarosh and this movie have in common? Just like all these movies Mission Mangal has the tightest script I have seen in a Bollywood movie in a long time. Now am not saying the movie is an all time classic like Sholay or Don, but from my perspective, these are the few Bollywood movies which have a script with just the right amount of everything they need to make them work. The movie is as long as it needs to be without feeling too long or too rushed, there is hardly a moment wasted here or there to indulge the directors personal fetishes (looking at you Anurag Kashyap and Ram Gopal Verma), all the dialogue including the humor have a point (staring the fuck at the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe accusingly) and it has the right amount of drama as and where it needs to. Look at that list of movies- two of them were written by the greatest script writers ever- Salim Javed (Sholay and Don), all the others including Mission Mangal were written by their directors. This just goes to show that when a director makes a movie based on a story he has written, it usually flows much better because he knows the ins and outs of it all.  
While looking at the credits of any Hindi movie, am very much interested in who wrote or directed it, because based on that I kind of know what to expect. When I saw experienced director R Balki (Cheeni Kam, Pa, Padman) named as one of the writers, I was glad that at least we'll get a decent movie. But I was in for a pleasant surprise when the movie surpassed my expectations. I went in looking for a Uri like patriotic drama (I can enjoy that), with bad Bollywood level CGI and some unnecessary dramatic moments. Well it almost had none of it. There were no deshbhakti speeches, not more than were necessary to get you involved in the film and also the unnecessary melodrama was just not there. The movie forgoes cliche's and gives its characters actual depth thus making them more than cutouts.
 For example the movie begins with us in Vidya Balan’s home showing her doing the working mom routine – cooking breakfast, chiding her husband, ironing her saree etc. Sanjay Kapoor plays her typical Indian male husband – strict with his kids, too lazy to get up and do house hold work, watching CNBC early in the morning etc. Now usually with movies like these, the family especially the husband would have been used to create drama regarding emancipation of women, orthodoxy etc. however that is never the case. Initially though Sanjay Kapoor’s character might feel like a typical strict Bollywood dad, the movie gives him time to shine as well. Yes you heard that right, the movie gives Sanjay Kapoor time to shine and makes his little arc about learning to loosen up important to the overall fucking story of India's Mars Mission. 
 The movie introduces a plethora of characters but manages to convey their backstories and motivations without letting their little stories become bigger than the main one. All the while making subtle points about womens rights, religious bias, orthodox point of views, religion, science, patriotism, spirit of discovery, bureaucracy etc. seriously I can keep going on and on about how really good the script is. The movie even ties up all the arcs perfectly, none…I mean not even one single line is uttered which does not have a resolution later on in the movie. Even a joke about ordering one by two tea is addressed and used brilliantly two scenes later. The movie must also be credited with respecting the scientific lingo and technical jargon perfectly. Usually in movies (Hollywood or any other) either the science talk is way too deep or too superficial, but just like good science based movies like The Martian or Interstellar, this one simplifies it to a level that anyone with general intelligence can understand it but without treating us like simpletons. This crash course in physics is then used perfectly to create the thrilling moments when in spite of knowing that India did succeed in its Mars Orbiter Mission.
However  a great script is nothing without a good cast to perform it. And this is the perfect cast- every one really does justice to their character. Akshay Kumar is like Will Smith at this point. There is just some charisma to him that you are naturally drawn to him. Of all his peers, especially the Khans(with exception of Saif oddly, who is doing great in Sacred Games), he is surprisingly the one doing the most experimentation from Masala movies to sports movies, historical epics and these 'based on a true story socially conscious' movies as of late. Here he plays a cheeky, sarcastic, yet silently optimistic genius…I mean I almost want him to play Tony Stark at this point that’s how well he portrays this role. However, his measured performance allows him to be an influential presence without overshadowing anyone because the script does not make him the one hero of the story fighting against the system or whatever (looking the fuck at you 3 idiots). Just like actual space missions, he is one of the many characters and it can be said that other than his presence, the real fulcrum of the story has to be Vidya Balan. There is no doubt that she is a phenomenal actor but here she brings in her star power charm as well. She is perhaps the most convincingly genuine ‘cool’ mom I have ever seen in a Bollywood movie before. Her coolness comes not only from the script but the soothing yet strong presence she brings on screen. She casually orders two beers for her and her husband while wearing a saree and searching for their daughter in a disco with none of it looking too unreal. All the rest of the cast –including Dalip Tahil- whose presence always means that he’ll be playing a villain, give measured performances. They stop two steps short of becoming caricatures and become well rounded characters.
The movie based on India’s Mars mission had actually no reason being this engaging, funny, charming and having this much depth. It covers all points from the need for a space program, to the politics behind it and also the technical challenges surrounding it. It explores contemporary Indian society through its characters but doesn’t overdo it. It also does not dramatize the reality too much and gives credit to the real stars at the end – the scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and even if you are not an overtly patriotic Indian these days (like me) it will still bring sense of pride to your heart watching how this almost impossible challenge was accomplished. The lines at the end culled from Narendra Modi’s speech are the cherry on the top. Just like its titular Mars mission the movie is well executed without wasting an inch of resource and in perfect time (just 2 hours to convey stories of about 7 characters and the main story). This has to be my favourite Bollywood movie since Andhadhun (2018). It’s probably the best movie I have seen this year yet. Absolutely must watch. DO NOT MISS THIS AT ANY COST.

Because the movie is SUPPERIFIC!!

PS-Now that you are interested in Space programs after hearing about this movie, try reading about the mysterious death of the father of our space program- Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.  

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Super 30 (spoiler free) review

What was the last Hrithik Roshan movie you watched in a theatre?


CAST- Hrithik Roshan with bootpolish on his face and a questionable Bihari accent, Mrunal Thakur, Pankaj Tripathi, Inspector Abhijeet from CID (I googled ‘Super 30 cast’ and his name doesn’t show up on the first page. Also, am lazy but you get the point) and others.

DIRECTOR – Vikas Bahl

Let me make one thing clear- I like Hrithik Roshan. I used to love him, when he first appeared. Hrithik Roshan is the BEST – no doubts here- The BEST looking Indian male ever. He is that HOT. Hrithik Roshan is the only Indian actor I can see being James Bond or star in the MI series. He did star in a remake of Tom Cruise’s Knight and Day (Bang Bang) but the movie was okay-ish. Hrithik Roshan is the only Indian actor who I can see being India’s first true super-hero. He was one in 2 super-corny superhero movies that were a prime example of wasted potential – the Krrissshhhh movies (I am not familiar with numerology and the number of letters in that clusterfuck of a title.)
That’s how I view him though- wasted potential. With his looks, dance moves, killer body and decent acting potential- this guy should’ve been ruling the industry. He just isn’t. If you ask me why, I don’t really know. If you are over 25, you would remember the kind of craze and hype that surrounded him when he made his adult debut in Kaho Na Pyar Hai. Subpar movies like Na Tum Jaano Na Hum and Aap Mujhe Acche Lagne Lage were hits only because of his presence. That was back in 2000-2002 (God, I feel old…). 18 years since then, he has only acted in 22 or so films in major roles, not considering cameos or special appearances. Now that’s not a complaint. Another star kid with a bit of potential – Abhishek Bacchan- debuted around the same time but has acted in 48 films till date and about 15 or so special appearances. Most of them wear okay movies but still dude’s got more variety in his portfolio from comedy to political thrillers to drama. Also Abhishek has worked with directors ranging from Suraj Barjatiya and Ram Gopal Verma to Mani Ratnam. And as an overall star package, Abhishek is nowhere close to Hrithik. Maybe Hrithik is choosy about his movies a la’ Aamir Khan or recently Ranbir Kapoor. But somehow even after playing everything from a super-hero to a quadriplegic to a Mughal king, the only major iconic role anyone remembers Hrithik for is the retard from Koi Mil Gaya (Oh shut up, am allowed to call fictional characters retards). I remember there was a brief phase after Koi Mil Gaya where his Forrest Gump rip-off role would often slip into his other roles and I would just wait for him to go into “Maine Koi paap nahi kiya, toh mujhe kyun sazaa milti hai” mode.
Maybe it was this or somehow seeing such visual and acting potential being squandered off, I wasn’t being drawn to Hrithik anymore. At least not enough to get me to watch his movies in a theatre. I literally had to google his filmography to remember the last Hrithik movie I watched in a theatre and it was Agneepath. That also I had watched because Sanjay Dutt looked menacing and well Katrina’s figure is best witnessed in widescreen. Although Hrithik was great in the movie- unfortunately, again it’s not a role I would remember him for. I think this is Nature bringing balance to life. One cannot have everything in life. Being blessed with such Greek god like looks and acting potential, Nature deems it that people will just not find your work really memorable. Or maybe it’s just me.
Keeping all this in mind, when I first saw the Super 30 trailer- I was turned off. Like really really off. The concept was interesting, being based on a true story and all. But wanting me to believe that the guy who is India’s equivalent in terms of talent and looks to Tom Cruise, is suddenly playing a poor Bihari professor is just too much of a leap of faith to make. So out of sheer boredom, when me and wifey decided to just watch some movie – Super 30 was the winner of a sheer elimination process. (Fuck Kabir Singh, No Lion King coz I don’t want my childhood ruined and fuck Marvel for already ruining Spiderman for me). When I walked into this movie after purchasing tickets at the counter and not using Book my Show like a peasant, I desperately walked in wanting to give Hrithik a chance, coz I still genuinely like him. When I saw the name of the director in the opening credits, I kinda assured myself that the director of Queen (Shaandar was a big mistake I was willing to look over) would treat a subject like this with some kind of intelligence.
20 mins into the movie, after bearing with Hrithik’s boot-polish look and atrocious Bihari accent, there is a scene where the central character- Anand Kumar- receives some great news. Hrithik acts the fuck out of that scene. He doesn’t speak but shows a mixture of teary eyed happiness and relief and excitement at the same time. I was on-board after that. I told myself- however way the movie goes, Hrithik is gonna own this role – even with the odd accent. Am sorry I just can’t get over the fact that why couldn’t they get any other actor to do this role- Nawazuddin, Pankaj Tripathi  (who is in this movie in a different role but who looks more like the real life Anand Kumar) , Rajkumar Rao...hell even Vicky Kaushal would’ve looked better. But still there are moments where Hrithik really shines for me, especially when he lets his eyes do the talking. Hrithik commits himself to the role and I wouldn’t say it’s his best performance till date, but certainly the character written for him allows him a lot of things to do. And he does it all. Plus, the script is an ultimate under-dog story and everyone loves that.  
Super 30 is a fictionalized account of Anand Kumar, a real life hero who started free wing of IIT-JEE classes for poor students in Bihar and met with fantastic results. Although the movie takes a lot of liberties and I mean Bollywood level liberties which obviously mean love-stories and item numbers, the story more or less tries to focus on the real problems plaguing the education system in India. Issues like prevalence of Education mafia, the income gap between privileged and under-privileged class form the main themes of the movie. Although a quick google search will tell you the HUUUUUGE difference between the reel and real life Anand Kumar, the movie does not claim to be a biopic. But it doesn’t claim to be a fictionalized take either.
That is one major issue I had with the movie. Sometimes it goes into over-dramatic territory with the portrayal of real problems Anand Kumar must have faced. There are literally scenes where he has to fight to feed his 30 hungry students. The politicians and the coaching class people are typical villains who would go to any lengths to stop Anand Kumar’s free coaching. There is song and dance and some scenes are unnecessarily dragged out. But just when things look to be going off the rails, the movie pulls back to kinda show us why the previous scene was necessary. Normally for a 3 hour movie with such ups and downs, I give the criticism that it should have been a bit shorter. While I would say the same here, but if asked to edit, I wouldn’t exactly know what to cut out. The love story obviously has to go. But the rest, am not so sure. There is a scene towards the end, where the movie turns into a Home Alone type scenario. While all of it is very cool, I was a bit anxious to see the direction they were going.  It was then I thought that if the movie had just committed itself to a fantastical tone like Inglorius Basterds or 300, instead of depicting history, had they depicted a story, it would’ve worked better for me.  
But hey the audiences loved it. Some of the dialogue was cool and whistle worthy and some of the masala twists did work. Hrithik’s performances was 100% and by that I mean make what you feel of it. I felt he left nothing back and even though I feel he was miscast- still it was a great performance on his part. The rest of the cast- particularly the kids do really well. Pankaj Tripathi is a seasoned actor now and roles like these are what he does for practice. New girl Mrunal Thakur has a good presence on screen though she is just a “love interest” character essential in Bollywood biopics because film makers feel people wouldn’t watch any movie if it doesn’t have some kind of pyaar in it. She does do well and would like to see her in more movies.
All in all, the movie was an up and down ride for me. I seriously don’t know how to rate it. I haven’t seen a movie in recent times which has me this divided about it. When it worked, it worked really well and when it didn’t, it still kinda worked. I guess. I really don’t know. The music by Ajay Atul although made with a lot of effort, is nothing to write about and some characters in the story just come and go without any background or direction. The movie does make math cool and I’ll give it that. But then goes into ameer-gareeb drama. Urgghhh! Rating this movie is harder than cracking JEE.

I am just gonna go out and say – Watch this if you have Nothing to do but also maybe watch it once on Amazon or Netflix or something.

P.S. –
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