Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Beauty And The Beast - Trailer Review

The trailer has arrived, and it's pretty spectacular. One of the most beloved tales ever told, the film brings it to life in a stunning, cinematic event directed by Bill Condon. The film boasts an extraordinary ensemble cast that includes Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

Walt Disney Pictures unveiled the first trailer back in May, which broke the trailer views record set by the studio's blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Beauty and the Beast trailer was watched a whopping 91.8 million times in the first 24 hours, besting the record for most-watched teaser of 88 million views set by the first teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Will this new trailer be able to break the all-time Star Wars: The Force Awakens record for most views of a full trailer, with 112 million views for the final trailer? We'll have to wait and see.

This new incarnation of Beauty and the Beast gives Belle a new backstory. In the original animated classic, her father Maurice was an inventor who was trying to sell his wood-chopping machine when he became imprisoned in the Beast's castle. This project flips the script, with Belle as the inventor of music boxes, which her father builds for her. She also invented a washing machine, so she could spend her time reading instead of doing laundry.

Bill Condon directs Beauty and the Beast from a script written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Stephen Chbosky. The director stepped in to replace the original filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who left the project back in the summer of 2014.

Beauty And The Beast will be in cinemas on March 17, 2017.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Ghazi Attack - Trailer Review

The trailer of The Ghazi Attack, the Telugu/Hindi bilingual naval war film, is here! The nearly one-and-half minute trailer introduces all the major characters, played by Rana Daggubati, Taapsee Pannu, Kay Kay Menon, Atul Agnihotri, Nassar and Rahul Singh. Moreover, Amitabh Bachchan's narration and seeing the Late Mr.Om Puri on the silver screen once again will be an added bonus for Bollywood fans.

The plot is inspired by the sinking of Pakistani submarine, PNS Ghazi, ahead of the 1971 Indo-Pak war near the eastern coast of India by Indian Navy’s destroyer INS Rajput. It is partially based on debutant director Sankalp Reddy’s own book Blue Fish.

The trailer packs in the action one expects from a war film, setting the mood and premise of the film from the word ‘go’. Almost all the shots are tight close-ups of characters and action inside the sub.

Touted to be ‘India’s first war-at-sea film’, The Ghazi Attack has major parts of the film shot indoors or under water.

All the principle characters look lean and fit, in keeping with their roles. Gone is the bulky Rana (who plays Lt Commander Arjun Varma) from his Bhallaladeva avatar from Baahubali. Taapsee, who plays a Bangladeshi refugee, too looks suitably lean.

The film is slated to release on February 17.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Kaabil - Movie Review

CAST: Hrithik Roshan, Yami Gautam, Ronit Roy, Rohit Roy, Narendra Jha, Girish Kulkarni

DIRECTION: Sanjay Gupta

DURATION: 2 hours 19 minutes

When it was reported that Sanjay Gupta is teaming up with Hrithik Roshan for a revenge drama named Kaabil, I had presumed that Gupta will adhere to his tried and tested method of using whacky characters with cool one-liners and slick thrills.

However, to my immense surprise, Gupta decided on a fresh approach to tackle this subject, for which he deserves kudos. But will this film be 'capable' of impressing everyone at the box-office? Let's find out

Set in Mumbai, Kaabil revolves around Rohan Bhatnagar (Hrithik Roshan), a visually impaired man, who doesn't let his disability affect his life in any way. Rohan meets Supriya (Yami Gautam), another visually impaired person and the two fall in love over coffee dates and dance sessions and tie the knot.

Everything seems to go well until Supriya is raped by Amit Shelar (Rohit Roy), the spoilt brother of corporator Madhavrao Shelar (Ronit Roy). When the law fails to deliver justice, Rohan decides to take matters in his own hands and unleash vengeance on the perpetrators. How a visually impaired avenger manages to not only vanquish the bad guys but also pull the proverbial wool over the eyes of the police department is what the rest of the film is all about.

Hrithik has always challenged himself when it comes to playing any role-from Guzaarish to Koi Mil Gaya and even in Kaabil, the light-eyed hunk delivers an impressive performance as the blind avenger, who relies on his other senses and his intelligence to accomplish his mission. Mind you, Rohan is no 'Daredevil', but his character is heroic nevertheless for the simple reason that he doesn't have any superpowers. Yami Gautam is quite pretty and puts in a decent effort and the chemistry between the lead pair is quite endearing. Rohit Roy is quite unimpressive as the baddie while Ronit Roy, who has impressed us with his role in films like Ugly, comes across as a caricature with his fake Marathi accent. Narendra Jha and Girish Kulkarni, who play cops in the film, have done an adequate job.

As for the film itself, the concept is quite intriguing. How does a visually impaired man avenge the rape of his wife in the absence of any superpowers or sidekicks? Till the second half, when Rohan finally decides to take the law in his own hands, you will be left wondering how exactly he is going to beat the bad guys. The cat and mouse game between Rohan and the antagonists is possibly the only highlight of the movie, though it seems somewhat incredible that Rohan is always a step ahead of the opposition, which makes him seem invulnerable and unreal.

Though the film is infused with drama and thrills, the slow pace of Kaabil may prove to be its undoing as Gupta takes his time in getting to the point. Also, a revenge thriller is not effective if the antagonists are not sinister enough and here, Gupta has failed to come up with villains menacing enough to make you wince at their deeds. Also, some of the locations are very obviously fake, which tends to put one off.

Having said that, Kaabil remains a 'not bad' fare purely due to Hrithik's performance and the novel concept (novel by Bollywood standards, I mean).

My Rating: 2 / 5

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Raees - Movie Review

CAST: Shah Rukh Khan, Mahira Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Atul Kulkarni

DIRECTION: Rahul Dholakia

DURATION: 2 hours 35 minutes

Raees is set in the Gujarat of the 1970s and ‘80s, when Prohibition has been in effect for well over two decades. It narrates the story of Raees Alam (Shah Rukh Khan), in whom the famed entrepreneurial spirit of the Gujaratis takes a turn that runs contrary to the letter of the law.

We start off with Raees as a young child, who serves as a runner for a bootlegger. In school, he has trouble reading the board; he is given a pair of spectacles. The glasses give him his vision back, they also give him a violent aversion to being referred to as “battery”.

Raees is affected by one particular incident — when he is upbraided by a policeman for warning an establishment selling illicit liquor of an impending raid, his mother steps in to save him. The cop ridicules Raees’ mother for being a ragpicker, she tells him, “Koi dhanda chhota ya bada nahi hota, aur dhande se bada koi dharm nahin hota” a thought that impresses her son greatly. He decides that he will get into the liquor business himself, but not the cheap desi daru one — he is going to go the whole hog with imported spirits. For this, he signs up to be a runner for Jayraj Seth (Atul Kulkarni) — the first one to ever observe of Raees: “Baniye ka dimaag aur miyanbhai ki daring”.

We see Raees grow into a young man, determined to set up his own business rather than serving as a lackey to anyone else. This is easier said than done, of course. And so the stage is set for Raees to outwit not just his contemporaries in the business, but also the law.

The law here shows up in a particularly challenging way in the person of Inspector Jaideep Majumdar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an honest, upright, unflappable (if eccentric) officer.

It is perhaps a sign of how vital this antagonistic but oddly respectful relationship between Raees and Majumdar is to the plot that Nawazuddin’s ‘entry scene’ is filmed with as much style as Shah Rukh’s himself. (He appears — to great effect — as a Michael Jackson impersonator!) Not even Mahirah Khan, who plays Raees’ love interest and later, wife, is given the same kind of entrance.

By halfway point, we have Raees as the leading figure in the illegal liquor business in his part of Gujarat, firmly in Majumdar’s sights, and having descended into a spiral of shocking violence that he hasn't anticipated committing.

A note on the violence itself: this is no stylised, sanitised action. It is brutal, bloody, and very physical. The violence reaches a crescendo with Sunny Leone’s ‘Laila Main Laila’ song — an oddly operatic soundtrack to Raees’ most violent act yet.

How is it that you root for Raees Alam despite his being the ‘bad guy’? Why do you want Majumdar, the good cop, to fail? While Shah Rukh Khan’s portrayal no doubt is the major reason, it also has to do with how the role has been written by Rahul Dholakia.

Raees is motivated primarily by the profit motive, he is not a sadist — although he isn't averse to using violence when the situation demands it. But he is also endearing, especially in the moments reserved for his wife and his closest friend (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub). Even in his arrogance, he is appealing.

The second half builds on this other side of Raees Alam: the Robin Hood do-gooder sort, who earns the goodwill of the poor with his charitable deeds. The frenetic pace of the plot so far slows down a bit as we spend some time getting to know Raees, the man. By a twist of fate, this is also the time when Majumdar (Raees’ old nemesis) is getting to know the gangster he’s been on the tail of so far. The connection between the duo is depicted cinematically: when Raees wishes for some chai, it is Majumdar, far away, who reaches out for his cutting glass.

Raees’ trajectory is very similar to that of Pablo Escobar (as seen in the Netflix series Narcos; or even in any of the other gangster flicks director Dholakia has said he was inspired by, such as Godfather and Scarface. Surprisingly, Raees' approach also reminded me of Abhishek Bachchan in Guru, delivering this monologue: 'Sarkari darwaze the yeh aap ke banaye hue. Ya to laat mar kar khulte the ya ji hazoori de ke. Maine dono kiya, jahan laat mar sakta tha laat maari, jahan bola salaam do maine bola salaam lo'). He comes from nothing, rises to dizzying heights, but discovers that it is when you reach the top that you must face the biggest hurdles.

Raees realises this when he is let down by his collaborators in the government; he now decides to wrest the power he does not have yet — political, and contests elections. You can't help but know that his rise cannot go unchallenged. Soon enough, his troubles are beyond his powers to fix — be it in terms of money, muscle or wit.

All the while, Raees is hurtling towards some dangerous end.

Before we reach the end though, there are plenty of twists and turns — betrayal, defeat and widespread death.

There is a circularity to the story and dialogues as Raees races towards its finis. It also gives a chance for Shah Rukh Khan to deliver what is by far the most crowd-pleasing dialogue of them all: “Dhanda mera dharm hai, par main dharm ka dhanda nahi karta.”

What a fine, fine performance this is by Shah Rukh Khan — possibly a career best. And what a fine, fine film this is by Rahul Dholakia. Its triumph is that it brings the best of ‘Bollywood’ — the sheer entertainment and glamour and scale of it — to a gripping story. What it's attempting is most evident in a scene where Raees (Shah Rukh) is juxtaposed against an image of Amitabh Bachchan in his 'angry young man' avatar on a movie screen. That one quick clip speaks volumes. Which brings us to the cinematography of KU Mohanan, without which, Raees would not be such a visually rich experience.

Watch Raees for Shah Rukh Khan. Watch Raees for Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Watch Raees for Rahul Dholakia. But most of all, watch Raees for Raees.

My Rating: 3 / 5

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Irada - Trailer Review

Arshad Warsi, Naseeruddin Shah Pack a punch in this engrossing trailer. Directed by Aparnaa Singh, Irada's trailer carries the stamp of a dark, noir thriller that has been missing from the big screen for a while now.                                                                                                        

Arshad Warsi might no longer be Jolly LLB, but his whistle blowing days seem far from over. The actor returns in the trailer of Aparnaa Singh's Irada, alongside the mysterious Naseeruddin Shah and Sagarika Ghatge. The thrilling trailer released today carries the stamp of a very interesting noir film, the sort of which has been missing from the Hindi cinema for a while now.

Based on a conspiracy seemingly around drugs, the trailer offers a glimpse into a very interesting film. Shah plays the vengeful old man seeking to avenge his daughter's death, while Warsi plays the snarky, street smart NIA officer seeking to unearth the entire murk.

The trailer is filled with some witty remarks, effective punch lines, and dark shayari in the gravelly voice of Shah. Warsi seems to be in fine form delivering the dry wit of the Singh's dialogues with panache. The presence of talents like Divya Dutta (looking menacing), and Rajesh Sharma adds to the promise of the cast.

Singh, who helped Anurag Kashyap with the research for Black Friday (2005), is making her directorial debut with Irada. The film is being produced by Falguni Patel and Prince Soni.

The film is set to release in cinemas on 17 February.

Commando 2 - Trailer Review

The trailer of Commando 2 is out featuring Vidyut Jammwal, Esha Gupta, Adah Sharma and Freddy Daruwala. The film deals with the issue of black money in the country. The film is a sequel to 2013 film — Commando: A One Man Army which was a directed by Dilip Ghosh.

The trailer opens with a stylish appearance of Karanvir Dogra who’s a court marshalled commando. He is in search of a man named Vicky Chaddha, who he discovers is India’s most wanted black money agent. The story moves ahead and he finds out that Vicky has been arrested and kept in Malaysia with his wife. What then comprise is larger-than-life action, an introduction of other prominent characters — Esha Gupta, Freddy Daruwala and Adah Sharma.

Apart from the hard-core stunts that the rusty hero is doing in the film, the chemistry between Vidyut and Esha also makes for a highlight. The trailer while does not promise anything new, it sure does look like completely filled with the quintessential Bollywood film masala. Commando 2 also seems to be unravelling the interpersonal relationships between the government and the various defence authorities.

Vidyut Jamwal is the most talented film martial artist in India today, and he's nearing his international breakout. I'm not sure that this will be the film that does it, but I know there are a few projects waiting in the wings to follow this up and I firmly believe it's only a matter of time. Jamwal has the skills and agility of a Tony Jaa with the physique of someone much beefier, add those to his supermodel good looks and I bet we see him on the same level as Jaa and Yen in terms of international fame very soon.

The first film in the series, Commando: A One Man Army had opened to mixed reviews. It, however, brought enough praises for Vidyut’s performance and action sequences.

Will Commando be able to surpass the magic the previous film in the series spread? I sure hope it does.

Directed by Deven Bhojani, the film is set to release on 3rd March. Presented by Reliance Entertainment and Jayantilal Gada in association with Sunshine Pictures Pvt. Ltd., Commando 2 is being produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Coffee With D - Movie Review

CAST: Zakir Hussain, Sunil Grover, Anjana Sukhani, Dipannita Sharma and Pankaj Tripathi

DIRECTION: Vishal Mishra

DURATION: 2 hours 3 minutes

Arnab Ghosh (Sunil Grover) is a prime time journalist with a leading news channel. Thanks to his provocative and overpowering interviews, no politician agrees to appear on his show and he is soon demoted to an earlier slot.

Unhappy with his demotion, Arnab plans to come back with a bang and that’s when a unique idea strikes him.

He pitches a live interview with the country’s most dreaded man, D to his editor Roy (Rajesh Sharma). While Roy earlier brushes it off as a stupid idea, after facing pressure from the channel owners for their dropping ratings, agrees to go ahead with it.

Helping Ghosh on this big story is Neha (Dipannita Sharma) who is termed as the best ‘news writer’. She is shown to be a Lifestyle editor at the channel.

Post making a few funny stories surrounding D’s personal life that instantly go viral over social media, Ghosh gets a call for interview with the real man.

Will Arnab be able to get D on a live interview and will he return alive is what is left to see.

Vishal Mishra’s Coffee With D supposedly landed in problems with the real Don and had to postpone their release. Although, after I watched this film, I wonder how D could even have had a problem with it. There is so much stupidity in this film that may be how lightly they have taken Don’s character, could have irked him.

Arnab Ghosh’s character is inspired from former Times Now Editor-In-Chief, Arnab Goswami. While Sunil Grover taps into the personality of the journalist quite aptly, it’s the foolish representation that seems lame. The real Arnab maybe dramatic but his intelligence is not a farce. One huge problem with the script of this film is its poor representation of media. The chief editor demoting a prime time anchor to a cookery show is not only hard to believe but next to impossible. What’s even funny is that after he gets demoted, we see his credit cards becoming invalid for use in the next scene.

The so called edit meeting looks like a freak show or a school classroom with the journalists being thrown out for pitching bad story ideas. Dipannita Sharma’s character is a classic case of stereotyping women journalists covering lifestyle beats as bimbos. It’s pathetic to see how women journalists are portrayed in cinema. Every scene with Dipannita’s character is laden with sexual innuendos. It’s as if the writers cannot imagine a woman reaching a high position, without compromising to her boss.

Coming to the main angle of the story, the ‘Coffee with D’ concept is portrayed foolishly. Jokes such as D’s right hand not having enough balance on his phone are expected to make you laugh. Also, how conveniently we see the channel manufacturing stories that are actually fake to grab D’s attention.

Thanks to the censor board, a lot of dialogues in the film are muted, which breaks the link in most scenes.Overall a weak script pulls this film down miserably.

Sunil Grover is better known for his comic act on the television show, Comedy Nights With Kapil. The comedian is seen playing the lead here and well, he surely lacks the potential to be one. He is likable only in parts and after a point, his mimicry of Arnab turns irritating.

Zakir Hussain plays the character of D. He is an actor with great potential but the script fails him and he probably comes across as one of the most disappointing Don ever.

Pankaj Tripathi does his part well. His comic timing is spot on in the film.

Rajesh Sharma could have been well suited for the role of an Editor to a Hindi news channel that sensationalizes news than in this case. His dialogue delivery as the boss who blurts out things like ‘Grab him by his b*lls’ looks uncomfortable.

Dipannita Sharma and Anjana Sukhani hardly make any impact with their roles.

Vishal Mishra’a Coffee With D is flawed on a lot of levels. Apart from the script, there is also a major issue with the way the film has been shot. The locations choices are quite below average and especially the whole TV channel and studio set up looks terrible. Successful channels have swanky studios, this one looked like it is a dingy parking lot turned into a studio.

The family scenes, featuring Sunil Grover and Anjana Sukhani seem highly disconnected from the rest of the story and a lot of them are even unnecessary. It seems there have been some big time loopholes in the editing in this case.

Songs are introduced randomly and form as a big distraction in most cases because the music is not appealing.

The dubbing for many scenes has not been done properly and hence the audio and video do not blend.

Background score for most scenes is atrocious.

One particular scene where Dipannita Sharma is seen stripping, is forcefully added as a commercial element but could have easily been chopped off.

Mishra’s Coffee With D is basically a failure in all major departments.

When the film is about Don Dawood and an Arnab Goswami doppelganger, you expect jokes galore. What you get instead is this craving to run as far away from theater as possible.

So Coffee With D is strictly avoidable. Don’t waste your money on this one!

My Rating: 2/5

Friday, January 20, 2017

Logan Trailer 2 - Review

The newest trailer for Logan is here, and it gave us a bit more insight into. Let’s take a closer look at this newest trailer by examining every scene to see what new information we can learn about the Logan, Charles Xavier, and Laura in the second trailer for the film.

The film may not be as post-apocalyptic as I originally thought. The trailer opens up with Laura in a gas station, eating some chips. She grabs a pair of sunglasses and is approached by the station employee who tells her she needs to pay for everything.

To this point, we were a bit under the impression that society had broken down. However, considering there's a fully stocked gas station still operating, maybe we're in a transitional period, before the world becomes completely dystopian.

This trailer isn't shy about hiding the fact that Laura can hold her own in her fight. She flips over the attendant, and it looks like she's about to punch him in the face. Luckily, Logan comes to the man's rescue and tells Laura, "Not ok!"

While the gag of Logan stealing some cigars is worth talking about alone, from the looks of what else is available at the gas station counter, they're in Texas for this part of the film. There's no insight, at this point, to where they are headed or why.

This trailer makes it apparent that Charles, Logan, and Laura are all traveling together in a limo. We see a shot of the car traveling across what could be Texas or Oklahoma.

X-Men comics exist in the X-Men film universe. While looking through the books, Logan says, "Maybe a quarter of it happened, and not like this. In the real world, people die." This may refer to the great disaster that killed all of the X-Men, which was referred to in the first trailer. In the comics, Logan killed the X-Men. Will that still happen here?

We get a shot of Logan leaving the limo, which Xavier is in. It looks like Xavier will be a much larger part of this film than I originally thought. Apparently, during this scene, there is some sort of rift between them. There is something Logan doesn't want to talk about.

Donald Pierce shows up with the Reavers, and they're looking for Laura. This really isn't new, since the first trailer dealt primarily with this. However, what Pierce says is new information: "I need the girl." What does he need her for? This appears to be more than a hunt for a mutant. Could Laura have escaped from a Weapon X-like program that Logan was in, and the Reavers were hired to bring her back?

Logan is taken down very easily by Pierce. It seems like Logan tries to put up a fight, but he's no match for this group. In the comic version of this story, Logan is against violence, so I'm wondering if that aspect of his personality was put into this film.

One of the Reavers was sent to handcuff Laura, and that didn't go well for him. Laura walks out towards the mercenaries and lets her claws come out. The second trailer really hits on the fact that Laura is not someone to be messed with.

There's a very quick and awesome scene of Laura slashing a Reaver's throat. It's hard to make out who the person actually is, but it does not look like Pierce.

The trailer takes a turn here, and the good guys are on the run. Laura jumps onto the hood of the limo, which Logan is driving. We also get a few scenes we saw in the first trailer of Laura killing a few people.

There's a quick shot of Pierce standing next to a road while a bunch of cop cars drive by. And if you pay close attention to the sign in the background, they're 15 miles outside of Ada, Oklahoma. There are a few places, in Oklahoma, where both those mile markers are accurate. I think they could be in outside of Roff, OK, which is somewhat close to the highway that runs from Texas to Oklahoma City.

In the first trailer, we saw this same shot. However, this time, it's a bit extended, and we also get a reaction from Laura. The whole room is shaking, so maybe Xavier's powers are running amok?

Finally, there's a shot of Logan and Laura fighting together in the woods. It may not add a whole lot to the story, but it looks exceptionally cool. I’m thinking this isn't the final battle of the film. Maybe this is when Logan finds Laura for the first time?

Logan claws its way into cinemas on March 3, 2017.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

xXx : Return Of Xander Cage - Movie Review

CAST: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette, Samuel L. Jackson


DURATION: 1 hour 47 minutes

Before we talk about Deepika Padukone in Vin Diesel-starrer xXx: Return of Xander Cage, who frankly is the only reason why most people in India care about this movie, let's talk about an important distinction.

There have been good films with over-the-top characters or a ridiculous plot. But there is a difference between over-the-top characters and plots and downright stupidity. Having an outlandish plot or some crazy, wild characters does not mean that the filmmaker has the right to abandon logic altogether or make the film as unrealistic as possible.

Keeping this in mind, let's now look at the basic plot of xXx. In the movie, a powerful device called 'Pandora's Box' — which can be used to send any artificial satellite revolving around the earth crashing into the planet to cause deaths — falls into the hands of the bad guys. And it is up to extreme athlete-turned-government spy Xander Cage, played by Diesel, and his allies to recover Pandora's Box and save the day.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the premise of the movie. Better movies have been based on more absurd plots.

xXx seem like a movie made by a thirteen-year-old with some sort of teenage fantasy about mindless and unrealistic action scenes, sex and some cheesy one-liners is the horrible execution of this premise.

Vin Diesel's character Xander Cage, the super spy, is at the centre of this disaster. He obtains crucial information about his mission by seducing a group of beautiful women and later, when his boss asks him how he got such sensitive information so quickly, says that he had to go 'under cover' to get it. This is the kind of juvenile sex joke that high school kids laugh at when they are new to the concept of sex.

When Cage's boss Jane Marke (played by Toni Collette) offers him the assistance of some tough and experienced soldiers for his mission, Cage throws them off a plane and says he prefers some other teammates.

He then chooses three other people. Two of these include a skilled sniper and an experienced driver, which makes sense because these skills are important for espionage missions. His third choice, out of all characters imaginable, is a talented DJ.

What kind of people should you choose for assistance in a dangerous mission in which fatalities are expected? A tough soldier? A super spy? A brilliant hacker? Nope. According to Xander Cage, the answer is a brash disk jockey called Nicks, played by Kris Wu. There is even a scene in which Nicks uses his groovy tunes to save Cage's life. This would be hilariously apt if xXx was a spoof, which it is not, or at least that's what we're led to believe.

Diesel basically tries to portray that brat with a good heart and quick wit whom we can't help but love. Instead, he ends up playing a downright jerk with lame jokes who makes no sense. For example, in another scene, Cage tries to show off his knowledge about the world by saying that in today's times, there are only rebels and tyrants. When his boss cleverly asks him which one he is, setting up the scene for a powerful dialogue, Cage says, "I'm xXx", which — you guessed it — makes absolutely no sense.

On the other hand, Deepika Padukone and Donnie Yen try to save the film in their own way.

Padukone, who plays Cage's love interest Serena Unger, does the best an actor can do in a film in which a DJ is part of a super spy's team. Her character stands out from the others because of genuinely good acting and dialogue delivery. Unger is also the only character apart from Cage in the film with a hint of a backstory. And it is also a bit refreshing to see Padukone's Indian accent not getting replaced with some fake American accent, something which makes her character look more natural. It’s a terrific showcase for Deepika’s captivating presence, her agility in demanding action scenes, and above all, her blazing confidence.

Yen plays Xiang, who has many confrontations with Cage in the film. The best action sequences in the movie are because of Yen, with a very well-choreographed melee combat scene between Xiang and some other characters towards the end of the movie which show how skilled Donnie Yen is in martial arts.

But Padukone's charm and Yen's expertise in martial arts are not enough to save this film.

A good action movie or spy thriller is always much more than the action. Movies like Kingsman: The Secret Service, John Wick and The Raid also have some outlandish elements but are great action movies because apart from the mesmerising melee combat, explosions , they focus equally well on the story, characters and the emotions associated with both.

Watching xXx: Return of Xander Cage can only be fun if one is purely interested in stunts and nothing else. Good cinema, though, is much more than mere stunts.

My Rating: 2 / 5

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Haraamkhor - Movie Review

Director: Shlok Sharma

Star cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shweta Tripathi, Trimala Adhikari, Mohammad Samad, Irfan Khan

Run Time: 90 minutes

The Censor Board objected to the ‘bold’ content of Haraamkhor because they thought the Indian audience was not ready for such experimental cinema. This forced the makers to make a legal appeal before the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, which delivered the verdict in the movie’s favour.

Now that the film is released, the board will have to explain why they thought the film was not suitable for Indian audiences. Probably because Haraamkhor can connect with most of us. And it’s told sensibly.

An affair between a 15-year-old student and her much older, married teacher is the centerpiece of Shlok Sharma's directorial debut. Sandhya (Shweta Tripathi), daughter of a police officer, is drawn to Shyam (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the small town's mathematics teacher. Surreptitious looks are exchanged and clandestine meetings arranged but what makes Sandhya's heart beat faster for Shyam is never quite understood. Is it crazy stupid love? Is it loneliness? Is this falling for the 'he is so bad so good' guy?

If their relationship is illicit and disconcerting, then Kamal (Irfan Khan), Sandhya's tuition mate, is the more innocent. Kamal's adoration of Sandhya is encouraged by his overzealous classmate Mintu (Mohammad Samad) who comes up with ideas to help Kamal woo her. Most are juvenile and often land the two in trouble. The boys endearing rapport most reminded us of Fandry's friendly duo Jabya and Pirya. Casting director Mukesh Chhabra, basking in the success of Dangal, has found three talented kids including the boy who dresses up in the Shaktimaan outfit.

The kids are the heart of Shlok Sharma's story, and his decision to see Shyam-Sandhya's affair through their eyes makes Haraamkhor a fascinating watch. Mintu is aware that something is brewing between Sandhya and Shyam, who is referred to as Kalua (dark faced), and wants Kamal to up his game to get Sandhya. Their knowledge isn't used for malicious purpose or more significantly to pass a judgement. This is in contrast to the Central Board of Film Certification which has made the makers add a disclaimer about how sex with a minor is a punishable offence in few scenes. It left me wondering why don't we have disclaimers every time the hero stalks/eve teases the heroine, or an attempt to rape is shown on the big screen? The liner disturbs the viewing experience by emphasizing on the awkwardness which has already been established in the first place.

Sharma though is keen to show the kids curious, constantly trying to outsmart Shyam who is seen more as the obstacle in Kamal's way than a wrongdoer. Sandhya is the film's most complex, and also divisive, character. Abandoned by her mother and raised by a father who is secretly romancing his androgynous colleague, Sandhya throws herself knee deep into a messy relationship. What she construes as love, is anything but for Shyam. In what was her first film, Tripathi does a fine job playing a vulnerable character.

It only helps that she spends a chunk of her screen time in the trusted company of Nawazuddin Siddiqui who brings a mix of sardonic humour and aggression to adulterous Shyam. Siddiqui uses his eyes to demonstrate Shyam's manipulative and mischievous ways. Needless to say some of the finest moments of Haraamkhor belong to Siddiqui. From Shyam's tiff with his wife to his annoyance with the boys, he shines in all but Siddiqui is at his best when he makes the most casual scenes memorable such as when he flirts with a student's mother or flings the chalk at Sandhya in the class.

Sharma is more in command with character studies than building the narrative. With Sandhya's fate decided, he sluggishly moves towards the finale which takes an unexpected, if overtly violent, turn. Haraamkhor's amoral leads don't make it an easy watch but Sharma's non-judgmental study of humans with all their fallibilities and the performances makes this film real and relevant.

Brave and original, Haraamkhor walks the razor’s edge. One tiny mistake, and it could have been pronounced morally twisted. Some may call it immoral even now.

However, Haraamkhor is one film you just shouldn’t miss, even if it’s just to see how Hindi cinema is exploring new themes with finesse.

My Rating: 3/5

OK Jaanu - Movie Review

Director: Shaad Ali

Star cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Shraddha Kapoor, Leela Samson, Naseeruddin Shah, Kitu Gidwani

Run Time: 137 minutes

Ok Jaanu hit the screens on Friday the 13th, January, 2017. The theme of commitment phobia itself feels as fresh as an over-gnawed chewing gum. On top of that, if, like me if you’ve have already seen the Mani Ratnam original Tamil movie “Ok Kanmani”, then surely you will feel the Hindi remake plays out way to be too dull and dreary in comparison, lacking in the vital spark and passion.

Much of the charm of the original (too lightweight to be in anyone’s best of Ratnam list anyhow) was in the pair of lovers — played by Dulquer Salman and Nithya Menon — scintillating together as well as on their own, making you believe in the life-altering ways of love. Kapur and Kapoor, however, are eminently lacklustre.

Ok Jaanu feels like an update on Saathiya, considering Shaadi Ali started his innings in Bollywood with Saathiya, which again was a remake of Mani Ratnam’s “Alaipayuthey”. And it’s not just to do with the Mumbai setting or the love blossoming in local trains. There it was all about making a young marriage work, here it is about eventually embracing marriage after living together in sin. It is all about opting for a life together even while pursuing separate dreams. And in both the films these life lessons come through an older couple — SRK and Tabu there and in this case the much older Naseeruddin Shah and Leela Samson in whose house the couple lives-in. As for the film holding up marriage as a norm, as the right thing to do, well that’s another debate altogether.

In remaking the original, Shaad Ali brings little that is new to the screen. The Mumbai setting, scenes, dialogue, camera placements and angles, even the colour palette and production design seems to have been reproduced verbatim.

The names of the couple — Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) and Tara (Shraddha Kapoor) — their occupations, which are - video game developing and architecture, their family histories and background, their idols Zuckerbeg and Balkrishna Doshi, their dreams of going to the US and Paris — all is as it was. Right down to the way the sun rays fall on the faces of the lovers in one scene in the local, the carroty glow it lights them up with, it all harks back to the original. Why they even greet each other with the same odd Oye of Dulquer and Nithya. Every little moment hits you with déjà vu.

A few things do change; Hindustani classical music concert replaces the kutcheri. The new gaming visuals in opening credits feel fresh. But not every change is necessarily for the better. The insertion of the remixed Humma Humma, for instance. The couple of things that work here are Kitu Gidwani’s (who plays Tara’s mom) gorgeous saris and the presence of Naseeruddin Shah. He charms, holds your attention just by being himself, by effortlessly inhabiting the frames. I was left wanting more of Naseer. And wishing that Bollywood would get more adept at the young love thing, but none of it happened.

All in all Ok Jaanu is just watchable because it does occasionally touch both the heart and the ear. But it is never able to shrug off the fluff that clings to its body.

My Rating: 2/5

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Kung Fu Yoga - Trailer Review

Anyone expecting to see Jackie Chan practicing yoga in the upcoming film “Kung Fu Yoga” might be disappointed. Chan’s latest collaboration with director Stanley Tong (“Rumble in the Bronx,” “Super cop’) is heavy on the kung fu, and light on the yoga. The trailer for the film features Chan doing what he does best — kicking butt while narrowly avoiding certain death.

After Mallika Sherawat managed to bag eleven minutes of screen time in The Myth a few years ago, now Disha Patani and Amyra Dastur will now get to share screen space with none other Asia’s biggest star, Jackie Chan in his new movie Kung Fu Yoga. And unlike Mallika, it looks like at least Disha Patani has something substantial to do in the movie.

The film has been set up on a large scale, as Jackie Chan takes the action from China to India to Dubai. And just what you expect from his movies, there are a lot of gags in the trailer. The best bit I liked was the portion where Jackie Chan finds himself in a car with a lion and when the car takes for a leap, the similar expressions on both the beast and the man is damn funny. For the action junkie, there are rooftops fights, running away from hungry hyenas, and more stunt sequences set in the icy hinterlands. The trailer however has an uncanny similarity to Jackie Chan’s own movie ‘Chinese Zodiac’.

Speaking about the Indian stars, Disha Patani has the maximum screen time followed by Sonu Sood and Amyra Dastur in the trailer. I have to say, Disha looks really beautiful especially in the scene where she is seen in the Indian attire. Sonu Sood plays an antagonist in the movie, and he gets to have a couple of fighting scenes with Mr Chan himself!

However, the trailer could have avoided the usual stereotypes attached to India like that levitating sadhu. After having born and stayed in this country for my entire lifetime, I have not seen one myself so I wonder how these foreigners always manage to catch a glimpse of these ‘miracle workers’.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Chinese archaeology professor Jack (Chan) teams up with beautiful Indian professor Ashmita and assistant Kyra to locate lost Magadha treasure. In a Tibetan ice cave, they find the remains of the royal army that had vanished together with the treasure, only to be ambushed by Randall (Sonu Sood), the descendant of a rebel army leader. When they free themselves, their next stop is Dubai where a diamond from the ice cave is to be auctioned. After a series of double-crosses and revelations about their past, Jack and his team travel to a mountain temple in India, using the diamond as a key to unlock the real treasure.

The Movie is all set to Release on the 3rd Of February 2017.

Passengers - Movie Review

Passengers, the big movie that starts off Hollywood fanfare for movie buffs in India at the start of 2017, is a very exciting proposition. It has two best-selling and very popular leads in Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, cast opposite each other for the first time. It is directed by Morten Tyldum, known for his Academy Award-nominated work in the 2014 movie, The Imitation Game.

The film tells the story of a man who wakes up 90 years sooner from an induced hibernation on board a spaceship bound for a new planet. After living all alone for a year and trying every possible way to go back to hibernation, Jim (Chris Pratt) finally decides to wake up fellow passenger Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), whom he had been admiring for months. Aurora falls in love with Jim only to find out that he intentionally woke her up from hibernation. Shattered and heartbroken, she distances herself from him and Jim starts living in the guilt. The romance of the two takes a back seat when Captain of the ship wakes up too and finds out that the ship is about to blow off in space. Now it's upon Jim and Aurora to keep their personal grievance aside and save the 5000 lives sleeping on the ship.

The concept is fresh, the actors are brilliant but the film still fails to strike the right chord. It's neither a saga romance nor a thrilling experience. The film is too smooth, rather on the edge of being boring. The plotline is stretched and plot holes are visible throughout. One hour into the film and you can sense that the makers went haywire with the story only to make it a mushy romance.

The vulnerability of two stranded passengers with no hope of a new life is missing. Another Hollywood space story, Gravity, strived only on the vulnerability of its character, Passengers could've taken a note or two. The film scores averagely on everything. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence fail to create magic with their chemistry and at times situations look forced which is very unlike these A-list actors.

The interior of the spaceship and the technology is undoubtedly intriguing but it offers nothing new to what we've already seen in other sic-fi films.

Although, if we keep aside the heavy expectations from a space drama starring big Hollywood actors, Passengers makes for a good romantic watch. A man and a woman bound by their helplessness and actually being the last man and woman in each other's life is something interesting to watch.

However, the film leaves you with nothing too great and thus becomes an underwhelming space ride with a romance makers failed to tap properly. The film had already done decent business in the west and being the first release of the year in India, it is expected to make a good profit.

The plotline had a lot of potential to become an epic space saga but instead of making the film a one-of-its-kind space-love story, the makers turned it into a predictable, 'I-am-there-for-you' romantic adventure. Not done Morten Tyldum.

Go for Passengers with no expectations and you might even like the film but I’d suggest you wait for it to air on TV.

My Rating: 2/5

Friday, January 6, 2017

Baghtos Kay... Mujra Kar! - Trailer Review

Hemant Dhone is making his directorial debut with the film Bhagtos Kay Mujra Kar. The trailer of the film has been released and it indeed looks interesting.

Taking an unusual topic for his story Hemant Dhone is also playing one of the three male lead in the film. The film is a tribute to Chhatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj. Hemant has also written the script of the film.

Bhagtos Kay Mujra Kar deals with the subject of the present restoring beauty and prestige of the historical monuments of Maharashtra.

The present generation and also the government is negligent towards the preservation of cultural heritage of our state. The film calls attention to such issues that has been thrown the spotlight on.

Hemant Dhone stated that he has picked up this subject that is close to his heart and indeed calls for immediate attention.

More than the authorities it is the common man in Maharashtra who needs to open his eyes to such relevant issues.

Hemant is also acting in the film. The cast includes Jitendra Joshi, Ankit Vishwasrao and Hemant Dhone.

Hemant had earlier contributed as a script writer for the film Poster Girls. Now he is stepping into direction.

The producers of the film are Gopal Taiwade Patil and Vaishnavi Jadhav. Music is given by Amit Raj.

The film is slated to release on 3rd February, 2017.

Running Shaadi.Com - Trailer Review

The trailer of Taapsee Pannu starrer RunningShaadi.com has just been released on YouTube. Going by the trailer, one can safely say that it is going to be a laughter riot. The film is directed by Amit Roy who is more renowned in the industry as a cinematographer.

RunningShaadi.com is co-produced by Ronnie Lahiri, Shoojit Sircar and Crouching Tiger Motion Pictures. Taapsee's previous collaboration with Sircar was Pink. The film was a huge success, commercially as well as critically. And, from what is evident from the trailer, Taapsee looks set to extend her good form.

Starring opposite Taapsee is Amit Sadh whose movie career has finally started to take a shape. While his role in Sultan got him the much-needed attention, RunningShaadi.com seems like the the perfect platform for him to showcase his real talent

As the title suggests, RunningShaadi.com is a about a bunch of friends who run a bureau that helps couples to elope. The film's idea is both funny and innovative.

The trailer seems to capture the spirit of the idea very well. It betrays an air of madness that such projects thrive one. One hopes the movie lives up to the expectations set by the trailer.

Presented by Crouching Tiger Motion Pictures & Rising Sun Films, RunningShaadi.com stars Arsh Bajwa and Brijendra Kala in the supporting roles.

The film is slated to release on 3rd February, 2017.

Rangoon - Trailer Review

The trailer of the much-awaited Vishal Bhardwaj movie, Rangoon is finally out. After teasing the audience with three posters, the movie's Twitter handle shared the trailer on Thursday night.

Shot mainly in Arunachal Pradesh, Rangoon is set against the backdrop of World War II, when India was also fighting its own battle for independence.

The love triangle between the leads, Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut and Saif Ali Khan is stunningly portrayed.

Kangana plays Julia who is a popular film actress, and Saif plays a filmmaker in love with her. Shahid plays Nawab Malik who is a soldier who happens to meet her when she is sent to Burma. What follows is a story of love, war and deceit.

Vishal Bhardwaj, like always, has brought out the best from the actors. Casting Shahid Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan together in a movie surely did raise a few eyebrows. But looking at them in the trailer, sporting those moustaches, has probably proved Bhardwaj’s point.

Both Shahid and Saif have done some of their best works in Vishal Bhardwaj movies. One cannot easily forget Saif as Langda Tyagi in Bhardwaj’s Omkara.

Shahid also proved his strengths as an actor in movies like Kaminey and Haider. Kangana Ranaut is her usual outstanding self in the trailer.

Like all other Vishal Bhardwaj movies, this one also seems to be high on background score. That is what happens when the director of the film is also the music composer. The cinematographers have flawlessly recreated the World War II era.

The movie is set to be released on 24 February and is bound to set the screens on fire this year.

Badhaai Ho - Movie Review

How often have you watched a movie about a middle class family living in a cramped flat and wanted to move in with them, if not forever t...