Movies en Tue Aug 06 15:02:21 IST 2019 ema-movie-review-a-melange-of-fire-dance-and-psychedelia <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is something about Pablo Larraine’s narrative, which is deeply complex and convoluted. Except for his last <i>Jackie</i> (2016) that came after his Oscar nomination for <i>No</i> (2012) and he didn’t write, there is an eccentric nature in all of Larraine’s films. <i>Ema</i>, his recent release, is no different. If anything, it’s a psychedelic colour scheme, elevated by the music of Nicolas Jaar and reggaeton dance moves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Set in modern-day Chile and starring newcomer Mariana Di Girolamo and Gael Garcia Bernal, <i>Ema</i> begins with a scene set on a dark roadway, a traffic signal burning. In the following scenes, we find out that we are dealing with two characters that have a fascination to burn things. The camera zooms out; a figure geared with a flamethrower is taking a good look at the signal that has been set on fire, before quietly walking out. There seems to a certain sense of satisfaction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the plot shifts between the past and present, we are introduced to Ema (Girolamo), her husband, Gaston (Bernal) and their life together. They have a love story—the man, a choreographer has helped the woman realise her love for dance and she has excelled. Now, they work in the same company—he leads a group of dancers of which Ema is a part. But there is trouble in paradise. Their adopted son, Polo, who is a brat like his mother, has accidentally been involved in causing a fire. It has burned one side of Ema’s sister’s face. What do you do with a naughty child? If you think morally, it’s your responsibility to teach him to conduct himself better. But the couple here has sent eight-year-old Polo back to the orphanage, leading to fights and blame-game.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In one of the initial scenes, Ema is talking to a person from the child protective service and enquiring about what would happen with her son. The woman refuses to give her an explanation before telling her off, “What you want isn’t a child. You want a child who does nothing.” Later in the film, there is more introspection on the entire issue of child adoption and raising kids. A couple of scenes really stand out. There’s one with Ema having a conversation with her own mother during a bus ride where the latter talks about instilling the idea of staying together, always. In another, involving a protective services officer, riveting questions are raised around adoption and what follows. Can an adopted child be returned like a commodity because of bad behaviour? What do children want? To be loved, perhaps. To be told again and again that they will be loved even if they go wrong at some point.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But a drastic step has already been taken, and not without leaving Ema with maternal instincts that keep growing with the absence of the son who loved her immensely. In addition, the eccentricity and volatility of both Ema and Gaston lead to a breaking point in their marriage. They work together but not without conflicts as Gaston seems to stand by the decision they have made, while Ema wants to recoup.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Girolamo is arresting. With dyed hair pushed to the back, her lithe body lost in dance, and her striking way to look into the camera keeps the focus completely on her. Bernal, on the other hand, is completely submissive, never letting him shine, always playing himself down. It says a lot about their relationship equation. He is older; probably, has been more aggressive, too. But she has taken charge. She leads and he follows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Larrain, who has already got a thumbs up for the film at almost every international film festival, strikes a stunning balance between dance and drama. The film can’t solely be put into any one category. When there is neither dance nor drama, there’s lots of sex. And yet, nothing seems to fall apart, even for a minute. If you don’t get distracted by the continuous to and fro between the past and present, the three elements come together in the most surprising and suspenseful way in the end.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Ema</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Pablo Larrain</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring:&nbsp;Mariana Di Girolamo, Gael Garcia Bernal<br> </b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Streaming on: Mubi till May 30</b></p> Fri May 01 20:18:41 IST 2020 panchayat-review-a-peek-into-india-hinterland-sans-overdramatisation <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The small-town/village drama from the Hindi hinterland has almost peaked in films, even web-series, over the last five years. But go deeper and there are a gazillion stories waiting to be told. They need not be extraordinary, but isn’t that’s what life is about -finding the interesting in the ordinary. Created by The Viral Fever (TVF), Amazon Prime Video Original, <i>Panchaya</i>t, an eight-episode series, through the journey of city-bred protagonist Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar), sketches the life in a village and tries to build on instances that may seem inconsequential but are important to those living it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In lack of a better job opportunity, Abhishek has joined as a secretary of a&nbsp;panchayat&nbsp;office in a remote village, Phulera, of Uttar Pradesh’s Baliya district. The decision has been taken with much contemplation. In the beginning of the series, he rues to his friend (a brief part played by Biswapati Sarkar) about his failing to procure a better placement in college that wasn’t as fancy as his friend’s, who would be working in a multinational company with a Rs 12 lakh per annum package. What he has instead got is a job that was easy-to-crack with a salary of Rs 20,000 a month.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The vocation of either of their academic courses is not mentioned. Perhaps, because it doesn’t really matter what they studied; people with higher, specialised courses opt for low-paying jobs because the options are limited and jobs are few. The show doesn’t delve deep into it, but it’s understandable. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“But you will get a chance to see the real India, the rural India,” the friend convinces Abhishek, insisting, “You will get a chance to become the Mohan Bhargava of <i>Swades</i>, develop roads and install hand-pumps.” Abhishek would take up the job eventually, but not because he is convinced with his friend’s reasoning, but because he doesn’t have an option. He would have preferred a regular employment in the familiar confines of a city. He will keep trying though to get back to the life he wants, the dream job that may come by preparing for the common aptitude test (CAT).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But before that, he has to put up with the idiosyncrasies of the people he has just got acquainted with in Phulera. Brij Bhushan (Raghubir Yadav) who is happily serving as the pradhan of the panchayat even though the seat has been won by his wife Manju Devi (Neena Gupta) after the government’s reservation for women in the previous election; the inimitable good guy, Vikas (Chandan Roy), the office attendant; the deputy pradhan (Faisal Malik).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Panchayat </i>does not go for dramatic moments that would bring in drastic changes in the arc of any of its characters. It focuses, instead, on the regular life – like having instant noodles in the busy-ness of the day; the daily grind – something as simple as explaining to your mom on the phone your daily routine and diet; the idea of ‘hang in there’ for some more time no matter how overbearing life seems. The highlights, the crowning moments, are culled from these occurrences. But while the series sets out to paint a picture of what a simpler life in an Indian microcosmic world means, it does not forget to underline the loneliness of its protagonist amid its over-zealous inhabitants. He is still affected by the social media posts of his friends partying on weekends in the city life that he has left behind just to ensure a job security.</p> <p>The show also does not overlook the deep-seated patriarchy, the male ego that hurts in minute instances no matter where you live or what your achievements are, the class and caste divide, the prevalence of dowry, the petty politics and much more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But some moments are deeply resonant, elevated by Anurag Saikia’s soothing music. Villagers are fearful of that spreading tree with deep roots on an isolated path leading to the village. They consider it haunted. The myth behind it has to be busted and how. A water tower, something akin to the one in <i>Sholay</i>, is the best place to give a ringside view of the entire village. There is a certain sense of compulsion to keep nostalgia alive by protecting materialistic things like an ancestral lock. The show thrives in some of these moments, but withers in few when it starts advocating ideas. But those are rare and thus do not harm the overall simplistic atmosphere of the show.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, what bothers is that the simplicity is taken too seriously. The city-bred and hopefully an aware youngster, in pursuit of a life he wants, does not seem to question enough and when and if he does, it seems too late. Also, for a village that has a woman as a pradhan, the screen time given to her is miniscule. That is not just a waste of Gupta’s talent but also a missed opportunity to create a wholesome show that could have gone deeper into analysing the village life.</p> <p><b>&nbsp;</b></p> <p><b>Series: Panchayat</b></p> <p><b>Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video</b></p> <p><b>Written by: Chandan Kumar</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Deepak Kumar Mishra</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Jitendra Kumar, Raghubir Yadav, Neena Gupta</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Fri Apr 03 17:55:57 IST 2020 maska-review-a-one-note-film-that-leaves-emotions-partly-explored <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The pull of glamour, fame and the aspirations to achieve the unattainable could sometimes become so strong that to pay a huge financial and emotional price for it may seem nothing. <i>Netflix</i>’s latest release, <i>Maska</i>, puts a confused young millennial in the centre of a story that explores his dreams, an aspiration of becoming an actor that he struggles with and the eventual difficulties that he faces to realise them even when he is ready to part with his family's legacy.</p> <p>Raised by a single mother (Diana Rustom Irai, <a title="Manisha Koirala to star in Netflix Original film 'Maska'" href="">played eloquently by Manisha Koirala</a>), Rumi (Prit Kamani) is under the immense pressure of living up to the example set by his father. He may have passed away early, but did his best to carry on the family name and its legacy created by the ancestral Iranian restaurant, Rustom Café. Everyone swears by its authenticity.</p> <p>Diana has run the café successfully for years after her husband’s passing, just in the hope that her son will grow up to take charge of the family business. She is one of those mothers who imposes and expects a lot, wanting the son to fit into his father’s shoes, literally and figuratively, perfectly.</p> <p>Rumi finds his father’s shoes old-fashioned and is reluctant to try them on. It's overbearing for him to have that constant pressure of fitting into the ideas that have carried on for generations in the family. He has newer choices and other dreams, like becoming an actor, causing much distress to the mother who wants to retire at the earliest, with old-age health issues knocking on her door.</p> <p>But Rumi is insistent. May be Diana could have convinced him in a scenario where there was no other influence. But to make things worse, Rumi has fallen for a strong-headed, aspirational north-Indian girl, Mallika (Nikita Dutta), who, too, is struggling to make it big as an actor. While Rumi struggles to act, she excels in every part that comes her way, which not just works as a motivation for Rumi, but her influence also overpowers him. It's enough to push him to leave the comforts of his privileged life and venture into the unknown by renting a house to follow a passion he is only partially good at.</p> <p>Through the twin life of Rumi, the film presents two contrasting pictures of Mumbai—that of the endearing Parsi culture against the setting of an Iranian café, and another of the young, mostly migrants, who come to the city to fulfil their dreams of being a part of the razzmatazz of the entertainment world. Every lane, by-lane, hutment, slum, high-rise, row house in Mumbai is a treasure-trove of interesting stories that intersect in amusing ways.</p> <p>In one of its earliest original films, <i>Love Per Square Foot</i>, <i>Netflix</i> explored the housing issue in Mumbai through the constant trouble faced by two young people to own a house of their own, and got it on point. But <i>Maska</i>, even if it is entertaining on the surface, lacks the depth of <i>LPSF</i> or many other slice-of-life films. It often leaves the emotions unattended or partly explored.</p> <p>In a film propelled by its characters and their motivations, <i>Maska</i> is reluctant to take defined stands. The hesitance of writer-director Neeraj Udhwani in creating characters that could go into a grey area to keep the overall essence of the film feel-good, even when a few characters scream to have a better arc, is a let-down.</p> <p>Udhwani, who is debuting as a director with this and has writing credits in films including <i>Dil Toh Bachaa Hai Ji</i> and digital series <i>Inside Edge</i>, among others, seems too conscious to take a plunge and explore human emotions and its dichotomies to its fullest. The result is a one-note film that refuses to get into the emotional depth that could have become the film’s strength. The film also strictly sticks to conservatism by almost becoming preachy about ideas of sticking to your roots and traditional values, continuing the lineage and so on.</p> <p>Then there are those clichéd plot points. There is the dead parent (the father played by Javed Jaffery) who keeps reappearing to invoke some sense in to Rumi. It’s a clever idea to introduce it, but much done, especially in films about young people like <i>Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na</i>, for it to look innovative. Also, there is little effort to make it look fresh. Then, there’s the other girl, who is more balanced and realistic. Played by Shirley Setia, Persis is a level-headed, aware-of-her-reality-and-dreams person. But to pit her opposite Dutta’s Mallika seems like a contrived idea, again creating a clichéd plot-point of good versus bad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Maska</b></p> <p><b>Director: Neeraj Udhwani</b></p> <p><b>Streaming on: Netflix</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Mar 27 08:44:44 IST 2020 angrezi-medium-review-irrfan-khan-shines-in-film-that-loses-its-plot-midway <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A rearticulated version of the famous line by poet Avtar Singh Sandhu (or Pash as he is popularly known)— sabse khatarnak hota hai sapno ka mar jaana (Death of dreams is the most dangerous thing)—forms the crux of <i>Angrezi Medium</i>. At an emotional juncture in the film, Champak Bansal (Irrfan Khan), a widower and a single parent, tells his daughter, Tarika (Radhika Madan): “aadmi ka sapna tut jaata hai na toh aadmi khatam ho jata hai (When a person's dream breaks, it is his end)”. He has learnt it the hard way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Right at the beginning of the film, Champak confesses to being a confused soul—always conflicted between two choices. There are only three things (that evolve over the course of the film) that have made him certain of his choices. The first of the three being the choice of the woman he marries. And yet, he did not let her opt for further studies, the only thing she desired for. He eventually loses her and somewhere blames himself for killing her dreams. He would not do that to his daughter, who has only harboured one dream since she was a child—of going abroad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Through three instances where as a child Tarika is introduced to the Eiffel Tower (France), the Queen (United Kingdom) and Hollywood (United States), with an undertone of humour, the script establishes her aspiration to go abroad. Champak, in the meanwhile, has just made false promises. It is only in her late teens and as she is completing school that Tarika’s resolute becomes stronger. Even if it requires an average student like her to double the amount of effort she puts into studies to attain that scholarship that would ascertain her entry into a London college, she does.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Champak, a sweetshop owner in Udaipur, is very possessive about the family name Ghaseetaram that he uses as the name of his shop, so does over more than 100 other extended family members. For the ownership of the name, the entire family is embroiled in a bizarre legal battle often leading to inexplicable situations between Champak and his cousin, Gopi (Deepak Dobriyal). The peculiar fight also becomes the reason for Tarika losing her seat at the University with the only option remaining is go for a seat through a private counsellor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Director Homi Adajania's fourth feature, <i>Angrezi Medium—</i>a follow-up to the 2017 <i>Hindi Medium</i> (directed by Saket Chaudhary)—is about an aspirational daughter and a loving father who fears losing her to her aspirations. Besides his initial hiccup of overcoming his fear of losing her, Champak’s battles also become about managing finances, finding an alternate route to procure a seat for Tarika in London, and eventually being indiscreet about his and Gopi’s identity, who travels with him to London, after being blacklisted by the cops. A series of misadventures follow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is when, mostly in the second half, the core of the film—about the father-daughter bond and aspirations—takes a backseat. It becomes more about the misadventures of Champak and Gopi, their inability to communicate in English and often finding themselves in odd situations. It’s a good trope to introduce humour, especially when both Irrfan (who is back on the screen after a considerable gap) and Deepak have an established camaraderie and comic timing from the time of <i>Hindi Medium</i>, but does not fit too well in the film. There are some scenes that stand out for the coming timing and presenting serious issues with a lighter undertone, like the jokes on stereotyping Muslims or the constant struggle of not knowing English in a foreign land. But most situations are forced and outright bizarre to believe.</p> <p>Written by Bhavesh Mandalia, Gaurav Shukla, Vinay Chhawall and Sara Bodinar, the film even with a bunch of good actors including Kareena Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia who shine every time they are on-screen, falters because of inconsistency. It also wastes the talent of Pankaj Tripathi and Ranvir Shorey, who have been given caricaturish parts just to introduce laughter and seem force-fitted into the scheme of things.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Towards the end, even if the film gets back to its original plot point bringing the focus back on Champak and Tarika, it loses its underlying theme. The father’s character, which started out as someone committed to fulfil his daughter’s dream, becomes a ploy for a commentary about being with family, embracing one’s own country and shaming kids who want to be independent after a certain age without any social restrictions and expectations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Angrezi Medium</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Homi Adajania</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Irrfan Khan, Deepak Dobriyal, Radhika Madan</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Mar 13 13:00:55 IST 2020 kaamyab-review-sanjay-mishra-endearing-in-tribute-to-bollywood-sidekicks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In one of the initial scenes in <i>Kaamyaab</i>, Sudheer (Sanjay Mishra) is reminded of a dialogue that has almost become his identity for years. On being recognised, he is often asked to reprise that dialogue “aur option hi kya hai” from a film he did in the 90s. Sudheer, now in his 60s and away from work for a few years, is being interviewed by an Uttarakhand-based channel when he is asked what could have possibly made the dialogue so famous. “Dialogue ki kismet thi, nikal gayee [The dialogue was lucky, it took off],” he responds with indifference. His significance in a film is almost equivalent to that of a potato in a curry, he says at one point. Like a potato, the sidekick like him, can be used in any form in varied preparations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hardik Mehta’s feature debut, after the National Award winning documentary <i>Amdavad Ma Famous,</i> brings the sidekick to the fore. With many anecdotal accounts of what a sidekick goes through, <i>Kaamyaab </i>focuses on one such person, Sudheer, who has been a part of 499 films without any identification—standing next to the star, being a henchman, being a villain who elevates the heroic identity of the star and more. He may have been unidentifiable in most parts, but what if he could add one more role to his filmography to attain that round figure of 500 and also, in his old age, give a performance that is remembered?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There begins Sudheer’s quest to attain a personal milestone. The world of films, which he used to navigate with much ease, has moved on. Casting directors have taken over the reigns in many ways. As Gulati (Deepak Dobriyal) flaunts on his company’s mug, “casting is 50% of filmmaking”. Long queues outside his office are only a testimony to how important his job is. And, Dobriyal, in his best form, aces the character as he struggles to find that one role Sudheer is looking for.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But even as Sudheer attempts to get back to the fold, championing whatever comes in between, there is resistance from his daughter, Bhavna (Sarika Singh). She remembers a distasteful experience the last time her father decided to work on a film. She constantly reminds him that he doesn’t need to work because he is financially stable and has a family that can take care of him. But Sudheer is compelled by his quest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The family angle may not work too well for the film, giving it a little melodramatic turn. But what works really well is its attempt to put the spotlight on the film sets and show how everything film is not such a glamourous affair after all. Mehta brings back a coterie of popular sidekicks including Avtar Gill, Guddi, Lilliput among others playing themselves. While there is a considerable plot of rivalry between Sudheer and Gill, which is not just great but also reflective of the nature of the film industry, the other actors are sorely underutilised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mehta isn’t keen on showing the glamour of the film world, like in <i>Om Shanti Om</i>. He is not even portraying the dream-like nature of the industry where fairy tales come true, like in <i>Rangeela</i>. But he depicts the dark edge where a production executive haggles with the sidekicks and background artistes, where stars rule and everything else is secondary. And, that is what works well for <i>Kaamyaab</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Kaamyaab</b></p> <p><b>Director: Hardik Mehta</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Sanjay Mishra, Avtar Gill</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Mar 06 13:56:40 IST 2020 baaghi-3-review-tiger-roars-syrians-run-for-cover <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>With <i>Baaghi 3</i> taking us to Syria, the potential of the series now seems limitless. There are plenty of countries left and as long as Tiger Shroff remains fit enough to pull off the stunts, this thing could go on and on. Africa could be a good choice for the next part, you know, to break the monotony of Islamic terrorists with some colourful racism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But in all fairness, <i>Baaghi 3</i> is a movie which knows what it is. There is no attempt to be intelligent. It is all about the fun, which in this case is unleashing Tiger's full fury against hapless bad guys (who clearly did not see <i>Baaghi</i> and <i>Baaghi 2</i> or they would surely have sued for peace.) They never stood a chance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The USP of the film—the fighting—is executed well. If only the itch to copy things could have been avoided. But more on that later. The film starts slowly, but is then saved by a display of Tiger's incredible fighting skills. His kicks and flips are neat as always. But in the past he has looked like a ballerina is some fight scenes. That has been dealt with and there is more intensity here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are a few funny moments in the first half and bad attempts at comedy. The lead pair, Tiger and Shraddha Kapoor, has been given ample opportunities to showcase their acting skills. They even impress fleetingly. One comic scene in particular may surprise the duo's detractors. But there is plenty of room for improvement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Baaghi 3</i> has silenced those who criticise movies for not devoting enough time to develop the plot and the characters. Because it makes us wish there was less plot and much less character development. Even after Ronnie (Tiger) and Siya (Shraddha) land in Syria, a lot of time is wasted. And in case you were wondering, Siya proved herself to be a useful ally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tanks, helicopters, mega blasts and Wonder Woman impersonations follow. Some of the stunts are phenomenal, others extremely dangerous, but some are underwhelming. Tiger must be appreciated for his commitment and dedication to his craft—<i>heropanti</i>. His emoting is still subpar. When he threatens bad guys, he looks about as intimidating as a pouty child. And the crying is painful to watch. And if you are waiting for the climax, it is one of the silliest in recent memory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shraddha looks set to continue her fine run at the box office with <i>Baaghi 3</i>. While her acting credentials are questionable, there is no denying that Shraddha has established herself as a star. But she will need to improve her body of work to be respected as an actor. Comedy seems to suit her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Riteish Deshmukh, a fine actor, is downright irritating. Jameel Khoury, who plays the villian Abu Jalal Gaza, is convincing. The cinematography by Santhana Krishnan Ravichandran warrants a special mention and is one of the saving graces of the film. The music is mediocre. But the third edition of the Baaghi anthem, 'Get Ready To Fight', gives it a lift. An unavoidable element of any Bollywood blockbuster-in-waiting is the item song. <i>Baaghi 3 </i>fits one in, too, giving Disha Patani an opportunity to show off her stunning body (#fitnessgoals). It would take a lot of effort to look past the 'similarities' the song (Do You Love Me) has to other people's work, but Disha moves like a dream.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The much-hyped 'Dus Bahane' remake features in the end credits. Tiger and Shraddha both look hot. Tiger has some cool moves, Shraddha does not. In the end, <i>Baaghi 3</i> is simple enough to rate. One star for Tiger, and one star for everything else put together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Baaghi 3</b></p> <p><b>Director: Ahmed Khan</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Tiger Shroff, Shraddha Kapoor, Disha Patani, Riteish Deshmukh, Jameel Khoury</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Mar 06 13:09:45 IST 2020 thappad-review-a-timely-urgent-take-on-misogyny-and-male-entitlement <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>She is resigned to a routine. Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) is the archetype of the perfect housewife. She is the last one to sleep and the first one to be woken up by an alarm clock that she makes sure doesn’t disturb her husband sleeping next to her. She picks up the milk bottles from the porch, makes tea for herself, clicks a photo of the rising sun, checks her mother-in-law’s sugar level before waking up her husband with a tray of tea and snacks. She heaves a sigh of relief when she sees her husband, Vikram (Pavail Gulati), leaving for office with his files, coffee container and lunchbox.</p> <p>Their life appears to be perfect. She is the caring wife, and he is the doting, dependent husband. She doesn't rue or complain about the career she could have made had she continued her classical dance training. She isn’t jealous of her next-door neighbour who is progressing every passing day, moving on to a bigger car, and busier schedule. She doesn’t mind taking care of an unwell mother-in-law and doesn’t fret when a party has to be organised within a few hours. But Amrita’s seemingly perfect life is shattered when Vikram slaps her once in the heat of the moment in the presence of family and friends. While most people around her dismiss this as a one-off incident, some, including Amrita’s parents (Ratna Pathak Shah and Kumud Mishra), wonder if this is an indication of what she is subjected to on a daily basis.</p> <p>Amrita, meanwhile, refuses to move on from the incident.</p> <p>What does a woman’s selfless submission into a relationship mean? That is the question the film asks as Amrita files for divorce. Things keep getting complicated and messy as she continues to fight for she what she believes to be the right thing.</p> <p>Pannu's Amrita isn’t the fiery woman she has played in some of her recent films. She is a docile, calm, and yet strong-headed woman who can differentiate right from wrong. Aided by Pavail’s restrained performance, Pannu shines as Amrita.</p> <p>Meanwhile, we also get to know the women surrounding her, many of who embody prototypes. There is the domestic help (Geetika Vaidya Ohlan) who is beaten on a regular basis that it become almost a daily routine for her. There is Amrita's mother (Shah) who forgets that she has a talent that she could hone, as she has been busy taking care of her husband and family. A lawyer (Maya Sarao) who is overshadowed by her husband’s fame. The single mom (Dia Mirza) who does her best to never let her daughter develop any negative feelings for her deceased father. The girlfriend (Nidhi Uttam) who gives her boyfriend a second chance after he misbehaves.</p> <p>Co-written by Mrunmayee Lagoo along with director Anubhav Sinha, <i>Thappad</i> is timely and urgent—a reminder of how male entitlement works in daily lives, and how most people just brush it under the carpet. They find nothing unusual when a woman is slapped, or denied her right to choose a profession, and eventually lose her identity as a person.</p> <p>Sinha, who has made strong statements with his last two releases (<i>Mulk</i> and <i>Article 15</i>), makes the core conflict of his film so insignificant that while his women characters play out well and often take the onus for the larger societal complicity, the male characters are overly stereotypical and mostly freed from the responsibility. One can argue that that is what holds the film together. But the stereotypes, at times, start weighing heavy as the director has failed to create more rounded characters.</p> <p>Nevertheless, <i>Thappad</i> is a step in the right direction on calling out the deep-seated misogyny that fails to leave Hindi cinema.</p> <p><b>Film: Thappad</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Anubhav Sinha</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Taapsee Pannu, Pavail Gulati, Manav Kaul, Tanvi Azmi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Feb 26 20:54:26 IST 2020 shubh-mangal-zyada-saavdhan-review-a-refreshingly-warm-fun-watch <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>'My sexuality is my sexuality. Nobody else's sexuality.' This line best sums up the central theme of <i>Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. </i>Homosexuality is normal, embrace it; love is gender neutral, accept it; same sex marriages will soon be commonplace, wait for it.</p> <p><i>Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan</i> is a refreshingly warm, fun and a highly dramatic story of Aman (Jitendra Kumar) and Kartik (Ayushmann Khurrana) who must together as a couple, battle it out with Aman's conservative Tripathi family and in particular with the parochial, 'traditional' mindset of his father (Gajraj Rao) who, despite being a scientist, and an ambitious one at that, fails to fathom the role of science and genetics behind same-sex behaviour, and that hypothalamus does not wait for one's instructions before releasing 'love' hormones.</p> <p>For Shankar Tripathi, his son has fallen prey to a 'deadly disease' and he tries everything he can to rid him of the spell, even as a frustrated Aman chides him with, 'Aapka Oxytocin pyaar, mera Oxytocin disease!' The film moves in a fast pace and keeps the viewer totally engaged with a lively screenplay, meaty dialogues and lyrics one would be left humming long after the film is over. While the first half has a multitude of characters with everyone bringing something interesting to the table, the second part seems a bit preachy and tedious, especially the last fifteen minutes when Kartik goes overboard and dresses up as Aman's runaway bride that leads to the never ending speech that ensues.</p> <p>Aptly, the setting is Allahabad and director Hitesh Kewalya has done a fine job of bringing out the intricacies of a traditional North Indian, joint family household with the elderly, the middle aged, young and children share the same roof and space to live together as one unit, despite their occasional fallouts with each other. You actually feel that you have been been transported to a real life household in Allahabad.</p> <p>Both, Khurrana and Kumar have given a stellar and a very believable performances, and Neena Gupta plays the role of the matriarchal head of the family flawlessly. This is a mass entertainer that has been successful in bringing the issue of homosexuality into the mainstream just as its 2017 version, <i>Shubh Mangal Saavdhan</i> was successful in making the subject of erectile dysfunction a dinner table conversations. What remains to be seen is if it can indeed get people to accept same sex marriages, as shown in the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Movie: Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Hitesh Kewalya</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana‎; ‎Jitendra Kumar</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Fri Feb 21 17:36:38 IST 2020 bhoot-part-one-review-a-horror-thriller-that-is-faithful-to-familiar-tropes <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The horror genre is undergoing a revival of sorts. It is no longer just about horrific ghosts. The story is becoming more important than the jump scares. But mainstream Bollywood productions have a way of diluting a movement. And, <i>Bhoot: Part One - The Haunted Ship</i> is a perfect example of this.</p> <p>Starring Vicky Kaushal as a grieving husband and father, Prithvi, the film is about a ship—Sea Bird— that is stuck in the dunes of Juhu beach in Mumbai. Prithvi, a shipping officer, along with his colleague-turned-friend Riyaz, is probing the details of the mystery vessel. While Riyaz has been updated in hushed tones about the ship being haunted and maintains a distance during the probe, Prithvi is drawn to it.</p> <p>Prithvi is in a mess. He is dealing with the guilt of having been responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. He refuses to take the tranquilisers prescribed to him and often hallucinates about his departed wife and daughter. He likes these as he is glad to see them at least in his hallucinations. The chaos in his life increase as he begins to to probe the mysteries of Sea Bird.</p> <p>He sees a young girl in the ship every time he goes in. With his medical condition, it is hard for him to convince anyone else about the apparition. Prithvi gradually begins to unravel the mysteries of the Sea Bird from the things he collects from the ship. By now, Riyaz too comes around to help him.</p> <p>Then there is Joshi (Ashutosh Rana) who has been working on paranormal activities. Although he appears to be the only sane person around, eventually he too falls into the same trope that most of the horror films follow— that of an exorcist. As expected, the exorcism does not work, but then nothing else works either.</p> <p>The fine lighting and camerawork by Pushkar John and the occasional eerie music by sound designer Anish John fail to uplift the incoherent script by director Bhanu Pratap Singh.</p> <p>Kaushal, doing a horror film for the first time, makes an earnest attempt to get into the character that requires him to look confused amidst the chaos that life has brought him. But his acting skills are hardly of use in a movie that heavily relies on cliched horror movie tropes. Bhumi Pednekar’s cameo as his wife is again too dramatic to be believable. In a time when socio-political subtexts are being explored in horror films, <i>Bhoot: Part One - The Haunted Ship </i>comes<i><b> </b></i>across as an ordinary, cliched affair.</p> <p>Since this is planned as a trilogy, one can only wait to see if better stories come out in the franchise later. For now, this is a disappointing fare.</p> <p><b>Film: Bhoot – Part I: The Haunted Ship</b></p> <p><b>Director: Bhanu Pratap Singh</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Vicky Kaushal, Ashutosh Rana</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 1.5/5</b></p> Fri Feb 21 19:57:50 IST 2020 trance-review-fails-to-impress-overall-despite-its-bold-theme <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Director-producer&nbsp;Anwar Rasheed wanted to keep the story of his new film, <i>Trance</i>, close to his chest and guard its fantastically intricate concepts till the film's release. So much so that he didn't even want to release a trailer just to avoid any sort of spoilers. It was for his hero Fahadh Faasil's push that Rasheed released the trailer for <i>Trance</i> at the last minute. Of course, revealing details of the film before its release would not only have killed the curiosity, but also could have invited controversies. Because, the film deals with a very sensitive subject—religion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Trance</i> is definitely a bold attempt for its theme, as far as Malayalam cinema is concerned. But it fails to do justice to the theme it explores with its weak script that becomes so cluttered and confused towards the third act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film explores the journey of a motivational speaker, Viju Prasad, from the locale of Kanyakumari to the world of tele-evangelism. In the first half, we see the intelligent use of montages to tell Viju's past. The sound design in these portions are truly world-class. The film follows a linear progression in its narrative. It starts at a slow pace. The protagonist’s character-building is decent. But, once his new avatar is introduced, the film gains speed and the whole show becomes more stylised. It becomes more and more messy, too, as far as storyline is concerned. Fahadh's character has references from Indian Godman Osho to Israeli televangelist Benny Hinn.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hinn used to have a theme of using his jacket (or 'God's Jacket') to “heal blind, deaf, people with cancer and AIDS” in his evangelical shows. His ministries had been dubbed financially suspect and corrupt by Ministry Watch—an organisation who reviews Protestant ministries for financial accountability and transparency—in 2006. In <i>Trance</i>, you could see its protagonist, too, waving his coat to sell “God”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Trance </i>goes to the depth of financial crimes happening in name of “God”. Though the film makes a direct attack on Protestant and independent churches, it takes extra care not to piss off the powerful Catholic church. There is a conscious effort from the director to show that Catholic priests or nuns do not support activities like interfering with medical treatment in the name of religion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Trance </i>is a technically brilliant film. DOP Amal Neerad makes it a visual treat. Reportedly, this is the first time a Bolt High Speed Cine-bot camera has been used in a Malayalam film. Neerad explores a range of shots and angles to give a stylised output. Editor Praveen Prabhakar really deserves an applause for the beautiful montages, and the sound designing by&nbsp;Resul Pookutty is just mind blowing. However, at the end of the day, technical brilliance alone cannot save the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film’s cast is huge. Fahadh Faasil does a neat job. Actor-filmmaker Gautham Vasudev Menon makes his acting debut in Malayalam. But, the exceptional performance is that of Sreenath Bhasi. In <i>Trance</i>, Nazriya Nazim finally comes out of the cocoon of her cute, cuddly and naive “Nazriya-like” characters. But she is neither an enigmatic Ma Anand Sheela nor an eccentric Harley Quinn. And, her character is one of the badly written ones in the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Expectations for <i>Trance</i> were quite high, and for many good reasons. This is Anwar Rasheed’s first feature film after a gap of eight long years. The team had big names in front of the camera, and also in the background. Also, there were lot of speculations and intrigue about the theme it explores. But it fails to give a great impression, overall.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Trance</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Anwar Rasheed</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Nazriya Nazim, Gautam Vasudev Menon, Sreenath Bhasi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Thu Feb 20 17:50:09 IST 2020 love-aaj-kal-review-a-tiresome-watch-valentines-day <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is a scene in <i>Love Aaj Kal</i> where two young lovers are reuniting after a break-up. The girl is drunk, the boy is sincerely stalking her (now that is wrong, but have the Hindi masala entertainers ever thought about right and wrong). They could have had an emotional moment rife with tension and drama. In fact, there is every effort put in from the actors—Kartik Aaryan (Veer) and Sara Ali Khan (Zoe)— to make it a scene that displays the overpowering control of love. But what it instead turns out to be is a scene high on drama, overacting, and unnecessary idealism preached by the male character.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Imtiaz Ali puts in an effort to recreate the same magic like his 2009 <i>Love Aaj Kal</i>, a film about the emotional complexities of the human mind in two different eras, 20 years apart, with a new set of actors and newer contradictions. But does he succeed? Maybe, partially. The new <i>Love Aaj Kal</i>, like the earlier one, is messy and clings on to the prophetic philosophies, only that these do not translate too well in practical life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film begins with two consecutive scenes in 2020 and 1990—of two firebrand girls of the respective eras confronting their stalkers. It soon launches into the present times—to the story of the millennials, and it is as millennial as it can get— claptrap lingo, absurd idea of self-love (Zoe unbuttons her top before going into a meeting to “feel more confident”), and torn between the idea of love and career even if the conflict seems unnecessary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An ambitious 22-year-old Zoe has her plan to make it big in her profession as an event manager. It is chalked out well, as she mentions in one scene, till she turns 55. The idea of a serious relationship is something that she has kept on hold till she is 27. But Veer shows up early in her life. Something clicks and draws them to each other even when Zoe doesn’t want it to bother her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A co-working space, Mazi café, run by Randeep Hooda’s Raghuvendra Raj, is the place where the romance brews. And, Raj—a spectator to the romance that is evolving—in turn, becomes the guide for Zoe. He is the “cautionary tale”, he tells Zoe as the film flashbacks to his love story every now and then (Hooda’s younger version played by Aaryan and his love interest played by Aarushi Sharma). Through the retelling of his own romance that eventually ends in tragedy, he guides her, or should we say influences her to an extent that an impressionable young girl is unable to make her own decisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The narrative starts crumbling. The filmmaker, often impugned for giving agency to his male characters, is trying hard to give an agency to the woman in this film. But he starts burdening her with the lessons learnt by an older man, and in turn does not let Zoe learn her own lesson or have any agency at all. Even if the complexities of love unfold in two different eras and the gender is reversed in the two stories, Zoe’s decisions are based on the storytelling of the man. The idea to explore the changing expression and meaning of love over time seems overburdened.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pop-culture reference to<i> Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak</i> and Salman Khan songs from the 90s only makes it worse; add to it the textbook-ish dialogues with emotionless performance and the experience worsens.</p> <p>Sara tries hard to come across as a strong-willed, independent woman of the current era, but it is forced and at times gets overwhelming. It is a new genre for Aaryan and his sincerity to portray the lover-boy, madly and deeply in love, is let down by overacting in the present era. However, his portrayal of Raghu from the 90s still has some promise. Aarushi Sharma fits the role. But Hooda, who even though not in his best form, is convincing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Love Aaj Kal</b></p> <p><b>Director: Imtiaz Ali</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Sara Ali Khan, Kartik Aaryan, Randeep Hooda, Aarushi Sharma</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Feb 14 14:30:28 IST 2020 varane-avashyamundu-review-a-feel-good-family-drama <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After a long hiatus, Mollywood's much-loved onscreen couple Suresh Gopi and Shobhana are back on the big screen in V<i>arane Avashyamundu</i>.</p> <p><i>Varane Avashyamundu</i> merges the stories of a few people living in an apartment complex in Chennai. Neena (Shobhana) is a single mom to Nikitha (Kalyani Priyadarshan). The movie begins with the mother-daughter duo's search for a suitable match for Nikitha. This search brings them in touch with several people and the film ties together the stories of these lives. Suresh Gopi, as a retired army officer, and a street-smart Dulquer Salman come into their lives at a certain point and what happens next makes up the plot of the movie.</p> <p>Debutant director Anoop Sathyan, son of filmmaker Sathyan Anthikad, has done a decent job with his first film. Sathyan Anthikad’s movies are known for their simplicity which exactly can be seen in his son's&nbsp;<i>Varane Avashyamundu </i>also. The movie is rooted in family bonds and emotions, with a sprinkling of humour—like Anthikad's movies.</p> <p>The film presents a strong comeback for the 90’s action hero Suresh Gopi. Unlike most of his other movies in which he thrills the audiences with punch dialogues and action sequences, <i>Varane Avashyamundu</i> features a totally different side of the actor—gentle, and often child-like. Shobhana, as always, enthralls with her charm on the big screen.</p> <p>Dulquer, who also turns producer with this film, has lesser screen space in the movie, but plays a crucial role in the plot. Johny Antony who is placed as a doctor in the movie has done his role well by pulling off the humour. The film also featured other actors like Urvashi, KPAC Lalitha, and Lalu Alex who have delivered their parts well. The climax of the movie was a little disappointing as the director ended the movie in an abrupt manner. Overall, <i>Varane Avashyamundu</i> is a decent, feel-good movie.</p> <p><b>Movie: Varane Avashyamundu</b></p> <p><b>Director: Anoop Sathyan</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Shobhana, Suresh Gopi, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Dulquer Salman</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5&nbsp; &nbsp;</b></p> Fri Feb 07 18:15:08 IST 2020 malang-review-aditya-roy-kapur-disha-patani-starrer-cocktail-cliches <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cute boy meets pretty girl, fall in love, and eventually are struck by a tragedy. In between, there is suspense and thrill. A template that director Mohit Suri has time and again exploited. A template that when clubbed with the right people, the right music, the right timing and the right plot twists, often turns into a full masala entertainer. Suri’s recent film, <i>Malang</i>, does not deceive the template, but takes it too seriously and loses the plot somewhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Starring Aditya Roy Kapur (Advait) and Disha Patani (Sara) in lead roles,<i> Malang</i> begins in a jail. As the camera focuses on Kapur’s polished abs and biceps, a long-stretched fight scene unfolds. A knotted bracelet is the cause of Advait’s anger and the eventual fight with his fellow jail mates. Other characters are introduced—Kunal Kemmu’s Michael, a police inspector in Goa, and the reckless encounter specialist, inspector Agashe, played with a lot of ease by Anil Kapoor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon, the film goes into a flashback as it builds the story around the bracelet that belonged to Sara. Advait and Sara, two bohemian people meet in Goa. Advait’s reclusive identity is a result of a dysfunctional family, while Sara just wants to live life to the fullest. A relationship built on the idea of having fun, it takes no time for them to fall in love. It is just the beginning of a clichéd storyline. Their love story evolves over many flashbacks and that does not necessarily work in the film’s favour, stretching it beyond a point that can be endured.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even if it feels that one has spent hours in the theatre, apart from the flashbacks, the film spans only a day when Advait is released from the jail and is working against time while he is on a cop-killing spree. Kapur’s well-built body, shot against the scenic Goa, and flexing muscles in the action and chase sequences is something that works brilliantly for the film. So does Patani’s toned body against the sea. But their chemistry is not crackling and often fails to work making the first half of the film drab. Thank god for the music and slick cinematography.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But as the plot builds up the backstories of Kemmu’s righteous cop against Kapoor’s hasty one and what has led to become the people they are, in the latter part of the film, the interest spurs. Credit has to be given to Kemmu and Kapoor (tripping over the song Aaj Ki Raat Koi Aaane Ko Hai) who seem to be having fun playing the parts given to them. Apart from that, <i>Malang</i>’s attempt at building a suspense story is hackneyed. It takes up a cause of how proving his manliness can drive a man to a point of being crazy and extremely violent. But in the film’s scheme of things, it all starts feeling pointless and banal as it reaches the climax.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Malang</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Mohit Suri</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Aditya Roy Kapur, Disha Patani, Anil Kapoor, Kunal Kemmu</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> Fri Feb 07 13:06:10 IST 2020 bad-boys-for-life-the-buddy-cop-franchise-gets-worthy-revival <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Michael Bay’s directorial career debuted with 1995’s <i>Bad Boys, </i>a buddy cop flick that had nothing new to offer over previous films in the genre like <i>Lethal Weapon </i>and <i>Beverly Hills Cop. </i>But what made the film so memorable after all these years, that it still gets a new installment, was the film’s lead heroes, Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and their on-screen chemistry. They brought to life the exploits of the mafia-hunting cops who steer through gunshots, bomb explosions and all the hooplas of a Michael Bay flick.</p> <p>In the third entry in the long-dormant buddy cop franchise, titled <i>Bad Boys for Life, </i>Belgian director duo <b></b>Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah<i> </i>look to bank on the popularity of the on-screen detective duo to recreate their camaraderie, all while keeping in mind that reviving the story of an aging duo, both on and off screen, will not ensure that this may go on for the next ten years. Some franchises are used to following this pattern—producing a sequel every two years with the formulaic narrative and redundancy. And no, I am not mentioning the <i>Fast and Furious </i>franchise.</p> <p>In the <i>Bad Boys for Life, </i>Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett continue their escapades chasing criminals. For Burnett, his life is happier than ever with the birth of his first grandchild. Lowery’s life as a bachelor irks his longtime partner, who constantly coaxes his friend to “fall in love” and get a new life. In the opening minutes, a parallel series of events show a mobster and his nefarious mother set out to settle some old scores. Lowery and Burnett embark to confront these threats, with the aid of a specialised, well-armed and technologically-superior AMMO, a division in Miami PD that consists of ambitious youngsters and Lowery’s ex.</p> <p><i>Bad Boys for Life </i>works where <i>Bad Boys 2 </i>did not. The new flick has all the explosiveness that Bay’s films had—car chases, ear-deafening shootouts and whatnot. But here, in this new installment, we have a deeper and emotional insight into the lives of the lead characters. We see the duo struggling with the probability of a retirement that could send them home for good anytime soon. Martin Lawrence’s Burnett is the one who seems to be enthusiastic about the new phase in their lives, while Smith’s Lowery remains apprehensive. One plus point in the film is the script writers’ attempt to consider their aging protagonists. At one point, when the team sets out to a drug peddler’s base for surveillance, we see Will Smith’s character trying to come in terms with the new technological advancements that the AMMO possesses, often quipping that he himself was enough for pulling off the operation.</p> <p><i>Bad Boys for Life </i>offers nothing different from other movies in the genre, as far as the narrative is concerned. Yet, it is more humane and emotional than its predecessors (<i>Bad Boys </i>and <i>Bad Boys 2)</i>. The action sequences are easily forgettable and are more cacophonous than thrilling. Will Smith takes centre stage in the film, in the finesse we are used to seeing, as Martin Lawrence’s role is reduced to that of an about-to-be-washed-up cop, who is forced to go on duty again as his friend’s life hangs in the balance. As for the other characters, played by Vanessa Hudgens, Paola Núñez, Alexander Ludwig and Charles Melton, their screen time is less and hence, seemed like additions that could have been done away with. The plot of the mother and son who seek to exact revenge is well-established by the writers and Jacob Scipio and Kate del Castillo, who portray them, have managed to pull off their performances.</p> <p>For fans of the franchise, and the genre, <i>Bad Boys for Life, </i>is an engaging watch. They get to see their favorite duo reunite after 17 years and the makers have done their best to not disappoint them. Adil and Bilall rise one step higher than Michael Bay in executing an action-heavy script with the required amount of humanity, sensitivity and, of course, humour. <i>Bad Boys for Life </i>is a worthy installment that revives a franchise which had for long been in dormancy. Yet, for a normal moviegoer who happens to chance upon the film, the movie strikes nothing new than the occasional action, gunshots, explosions and high-octane car chases.</p> <p><b>Film: Bad Boys for Life</b></p> <p><b>Directors: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jan 31 16:23:24 IST 2020 jojo-rabbit-review-nazi-era-satire-with-present-day-relevance <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Fascism blooms in the mud of hatred. If you consider any fascist organisation, you can see that their propaganda machinery applies three powerful techniques—dehumanisation, demonisation and idolisation—to indoctrinate and ensure support of the majority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Nazi Germany, Hitler’s “democratically-elected” government took multiple legal measures to isolate, segregate and incarcerate Jews. But to create a climate of indifference towards their plight, the Nazis successfully demonised and dehumanised Jews in the eyes of German whites. The Nazi party’s rise to power can be greatly attributed to its anti-Semitic, anti-communist stance. They played a victim card by propagating the idea that the Jewish minority is to be blamed for all the miseries of white-German majority. (This finds resonance in the current political atmosphere in many countries where alt-right and ultra-right parties blame certain religious communities, ethnic groups or migrants for all the woes of the world.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The satirical film<i> Jojo Rabbit</i>, directed by Taika David Waititi, caricaturises Nazi Germany. Employing ample amount of black humour, it delves into the nuances of German propaganda machinery. The story is told from the perspective of a ten-year-old boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who is an enthusiastic new entrant in the Deutsches Jungvolk in der Hitler Jugend—a section for boys aged 10 to 14 in Nazi party's Hitler Youth organisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The boy lives with his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), who is secretly part of a resistance movement (even Jojo does not know about it). But Jojo is fascinated by Hitler. He dreams to be part of Fuehrer's personal guard. Moreover, Hitler (Waititi) is a secret imaginary friend for him. Looking back into history, the Nazi propaganda was successful in creating a superhuman image for Hitler. Thus, this “imaginary” friend of Jojo, could be seen as a representation of that Hitler-like, Aryan alter-ego every Nazi harboured inside them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jojo’s life starts changing when he finds a secret that his mother has been hiding. Jojo is resentful because of his prejudices, and his imaginary friend is not helpful, either. Some may argue that<i> Jojo Rabbit </i>trivialises the horrors that happened in Nazi Germany—that the film is too much fun. But it should not be forgotten that the story is told from the perspective of a Nazi boy who truly believed everything is great about Hitler.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film brings in some interesting references to a few past satirical works on Hitler. The hand grenade scene from Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 classic <i>The Great Dictator</i> gets a distant nod in <i>Jojo Rabbit</i>. Another reference is to a 1939 British song ‘Hitler Has Only Got One Ball’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film has a surreal setting, overall. The cinematography and editing provides the best service to that setting demanded by the story. The performance by all the lead actors, especially Davis and Thomasin McKenzie, are worth mentioning. <i>Jojo Rabbit </i>has a bunch of “good Nazis”, too. I asked myself if a Nazi can be shown as a good human being. Then the images of the film <i>Schindler’s List</i> popped up in my head.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, the film shows Rosie’s efforts to secretly run a non-violent resistance movement from within the system. Rosie’s resistance method could be seen as a tribute to German pacifist resistors like Sophie Scholl of White Rose Movement (Scholl was guillotined for distributing anti-war leaflets at University of Munich).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although the film is set in the Nazi era, it, in fact, laughs in the face of present-day hatemongers and institutionalised propaganda machinery. <i>Jojo Rabbit </i>uses Germany as an allegory to convey what indoctrinators and manipulators can do with the conscience of today’s youth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Jojo Rabbit</b></p> <p><b>Director: Taika David Waititi</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jan 31 12:02:26 IST 2020 panga-review-kangana-perfect-realistic-film-about-chasing-your-dreams <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The smaller moments make a lot of difference in<i> Panga</i>, a film about a passionate, national-level kabaddi player who gives it all up and is currently a selfless mother and dutiful wife. During a post-dinner reflective conversation with her husband Prashant (Jassie Gill), Jaya Nigam (Kangana Ranaut) talks about the happiness she feels when she sees him and her son Adi (Yagya Bhasin), and how when she sees herself, there is no happiness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the film is full of such moments, this stood out for me in the film directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (<i>Nil Battey Sanatta</i>, <i>Bareilly Ki Barfi</i>). A woman who was at her peak as a sportswoman seven years ago, leaves her only passion to nurture her family and find contentment in being a regular employee at railway ticket counter in Bhopal. But it is only a matter of time for her to sense meaninglessness in her individual existence seven years later. The beauty of the film is not isolated to this scene where Jaya realises she needs to give her only passion a second shot, but it is in the build up that leads to this particular moment and the struggles that follow after it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are introduced to Jaya and her family as a happy entity living a middle-class life in a railway quarter. There are the usual moments of family banter, of selfless mother-child love, of loving spouses and of pressures at work. And one day, her seven-year-old still raises questions when she fails to show up for a school function amid work pressure. Is work that important that she would even miss her only son’s triumphant moment at school, he asks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Women face a relentless stream of such questions on a daily basis. Some fight it and some live with it. But <i>Panga</i> (that loosely translates ‘to mess up with’) is not about either, it rather is about the way one can find a middle path—to live and yet not create unnecessary conflicting situations, to find a balance. In a subtle way, the story, written by Tiwari and Nikhil Mehrotra with additional dialogues by Nitesh Tiwari, observes what it takes for a woman to realise her dreams, to beat the deeply-entrenched patriarchy, to beat the stereotypical expectations from women. Is it just women who can fight it, or do men play an equal part?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At times, it seems that the film gives too much importance to its man, Prashant. But an objective scrutiny of it makes it just fine. When Jaya’s mother (delightfully played by Neena Gupta) is doubtful about her comeback to kabaddi, she expects Prashant to side with her. But Prashant’s pragmatism is refreshing. He wants Jaya to give it a try. And that changes everything. In any different milieu, had the same happened, it would have come across as too righteous or may be too larger-than-life. But in the present context, it is just right. The man here deserves an applause for breaking stereotypes. He is ready to join an all-women WhatsApp group to be updated of the happenings in his son’s school, attempts to cook, tries juggling everything at home and work even as Jaya, in another city, is trying to revive her dream. The film is aware of what it is doing. At one point, a character says pehle ladkiyaan apne patiyon ko Shah Rukh Khan ki tarah romantic banne ko kehti thi, ab Prashant ki tarah supportive banne ko kahengi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the family dynamics takes precedence in the first half, Jaya’s tryst with kabaddi as she vies for inclusion in the national team is integral in the second. Her best friend-turned-coach, Meenu (Richa Chadha) helps her in propelling her dream. That also talks a lot about female camaraderie. A neighbour, only addressed as <i>bhabhi</i> through the film, too, becomes part of the representation of this camaraderie. She helps and never frowns. But it is never about one thing—everything runs parallel, giving the film a life beyond a sports drama. Even in doing so, there’s a nice flourish in the kabaddi parts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kangana scores on the performance. She gets into the psyche of Jaya to create a character that pushes you to feel for her. Her struggles are real and her approach practical. However, it is Richa (in an extended cameo) and Jassie who surprise the most—the former with a feisty, funny and cool portrayal of a woman who has lived her dream without giving-in to the pressures of marriage, and the latter with his subdued and restrained performance that makes Prashant not just likeable but worthy of setting an example.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Panga</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Richa Chadha, Jassi Gill, Neena Gupta</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jan 24 16:05:28 IST 2020 Shylock-review-Mammootty-pulls-off-yet-another-mass-avatar-in-style <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Mammootty-starrer <i>Rajamanikyam</i>, which was released in 2005, was one of the biggest hits in Malayalam cinema. The veteran actor, who was mostly known for his method acting and fiery larger-than-life characters till then, made heads turn as 'Bellary Raja' in the film, showing great comic timing and perfect Thiruvananthapuram slang, along with mass appeal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>'Bellary Raja' continues to be one of the iconic mass hero characters in Malayalam cinema. With <i>Shylock</i>, director Ajai Vasudev tries to create another mass avatar out of Mammootty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Shylock</i> is a treat for the Mammootty fans who adore his mass avatars, but the storyline is cliché. Boss (Mammootty) is a ruthless moneylender and locks horns with producer Prathapa Varma (Kalabhavan Shajon). How the moneylender exacts revenge from his enemies, forms the plot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It's Mammootty's third film with Ajai Vasudev, after <i>Rajadhiraja</i> and <i>Masterpiece. </i>The superstar's stylish appearance and mannerism, and his punch dialogues, create a mass aura around the 'Boss' character. Jointly scripted by newcomers Aneesh Hameed and Bibin Mohan, <i>Shylock</i> has comedy, thrills and the revenge elements in it, but the mix isn't perfect. One also wishes they would have come up with more original one-liners for Boss, along with a less-cliched storyline.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the first half is filled with punch dialogues and mass scenes, the second half of the film focuses on the back story and ends as a revenge drama. The latter half, in fact, restricts the flow of the film as emotions take centre-stage and the pace and energy of the film drop.</p> <p>The action sequences choreographed by Anl Arasu are a visual treat. Mammootty impresses with his punches and kicks, with Gopi Sundar's brilliant background score to boot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The veteran actor has delivered an electrifying performance in <i>Shylock,</i> which also marks his first on-screen collaboration with popular Tamil actor Rajkiran. Meena, the popular South Indian actress, too makes a comeback after two years. Shajon, Siddique, Baiju Santhosh, John Vijay, Hareesh Kanaran and others have done justice to their roles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Shylock</i> has also been released in Tamil as <i>Kuberan</i> with the same cast.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Shylock</b></p> <p><b>Language: Malayalam/Tamil</b></p> <p><b>Director: Ajai Vasudev</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Mammoottty, Rajkiran, Kalabhavan Shajon, Meena, Siddique</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> Thu Jan 23 18:02:22 IST 2020 dolittle-review-little-to-write-home-about <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is a frightening thought, but films like these make one wonder whether Robert Downey Jr. had peaked with <i>Endgame</i>. And surely there must be some executive who realises that the children’s movie industry cannot sustain itself on remakes forever?</p> <p>In the fourth visual reboot of the beloved character created by Hugh Lofting in his letters from the First World War, Robert Downey Jr. stars as the titular Dolittle alongside a veritable who’s who of A-list voice actors.</p> <p>Before we embark on the breakdown of the film itself, it must be said that the movie went through considerable moulding before it saw the light of day. Following poor audience reactions to the initial test screenings of the movie, it underwent re-shoots under a different director (Jonathan Liebesman taking over from Stephen Gaghan), to make it funnier. Well, one can only say, if this was the one they fixed…</p> <p>The screenplay, written by Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor, and Doug Mand, feels so patchy that it seems like all three of them went home, worked on their individual parts, and simply patched them all together at the end, throwing tonal consistency to the wind.</p> <p>To be fair, that does not seem like something that children (their target audience) would be too bothered by, but the film does not seem to make up its mind about whether it wants to be an all out, loud fantasy adaptation or a deep retelling of a broken man’s quest to heal himself by healing others.</p> <p><i>Dolittle</i> is the latest in the slew of eccentric genius characters that Robert Downey Jr usually excels at portraying. However, his performance is bogged down by his inexplicable decision to make his character Welsh. He stumbles over the uneven accent, which frequently meanders into Irish, Jamaican and even Indian before making its way back to the mumbled Welsh that cries out for subtitled explanation.</p> <p>The other human characters include Tommy Stubbins, Dolittle’s self-appointed apprentice, played by Harry Collett who fills up most of his screen time by looking scared or confused or awed. Antonio Banderas plays Rassouli, the pirate king as cartoonishly as they required him to, while Michael Sheen portrays a rather one note villain. The voice cast is largely recognisable, but none except the ever delightful Jason Mantzoukas as the quippy dragonfly make much of an impression. And that is a shame, considering that the voice cast includes names like Octavia Spencer, Marion Cotillard and Kumail Nanjiani. What distracts from their performance is a lot of CGI inconsistency, leading to the human actors constantly missing eye-lines and taking away from the credibility of the film. The score by Danny Elfman is standard children’s fantasy fare, unfortunately failing to elevate the tone of the film.</p> <p>It is, however, rather unkind not to end on a positive note, so I must say this film would work great as background distractions at a child’s play day. Lots of bright colours and talking animals and fart jokes. Make of that what you will.</p> <p><b>Film: Dolittle</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Emma Thompson, Tom Holland, Michael Sheen, Antonio Banderas</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> Fri Jan 17 22:04:18 IST 2020 1917-review-an-evocative-and-deeply-affecting-war-drama <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It was one of the anecdotes that his grandfather, a World War I veteran, narrated that inspired Sam Mendes’ <i>1917</i>.</p> <p>Among the many stories, his grandfather spoke about the urgent delivery of a message between two posts while the clock was ticking. Often, the soldiers carrying the message would have to get into zones occupied by the opponents, making the trip fraught with the fear of enemies always lurching in the shadows.</p> <p><i>1917</i>, which has already won the best film award at the Golden Globes and has been nominated for the Academy Awards, begins with this message delivery system. Two young soldiers, lance corporal Will Schofield (George MacKay) and Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are entrusted with the delivery of a message by General Erinmore (Colin Firth) while they are a part of the British army in Northern France. They have to stop a fellow battalion, led by Colonel MacKenzie, positioned in another part, from launching an attack on the Germans after the British army has been notified of the Germans withdrawing from the zone “strategically”.</p> <p>While entering a war movie, one is always ready to witness the bloodshed and terror, but it is the little moments of compassion that take you by surprise. And <i>1917</i> doesn’t fail in that front either. One moment that especially stands out is when the two men try to help a hurt German soldier. Another is a heart-warming scene of brotherhood before the soldiers get ready to attack. Followed by complete silence, that moment is elevated as a young man sings the Wayfaring Stranger.</p> <p>It is the mechanism used to tell this story that makes <i>1917</i> an evocative and deeply affecting experience. If Christopher Nolan raised the suspense through the cinematography and music in his 2017 war film, <i>Dunkirk</i>, Mendes combines the elevated cinematography by Roger Deakins and music by Thomas Newman with a mechanism of narrating the story in one take. That builds the suspense. As the two guys traverse through the no man’s land, rickety paths with landfills coming in their way, the camera unhesitatingly also captures the decaying bodies of soldiers and war horses. Rats, flies and insects have infested those bodies and the two soldiers, hurried and exasperated, care less about their contact with them. The mission is important, the horrors on the way can be dealt with later.</p> <p>Even as they fight to survive, the urgency that the two soldiers show during their mission, focuses on the importance of the very many forgotten soldiers who would have put their lives on stake without the mention of their names in the history. To that effect, Mendes’ casting works brilliantly. The recognisable stars, including Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott and Jamie Parker, have special appearances as the senior officials calling the shots. However, it is the lesser known actors who do the heavy-lifting—a clever tool to put the message across that it was not only the known, gloriously written names who fought the wars.</p> <p><b>Film: 1917</b></p> <p><b>Director: Sam Mendes</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Fri Jan 17 21:21:36 IST 2020 big-brother-review-mohanlal-doesnt-disappoint-but-the-film-does <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As the title suggests, <i>Big Brother</i> is the story of a big brother Sachidanandan and his family. Sachidanandan, an ordinary man, who was sentenced for killing a police office, gets released from prison after 24 years. His family welcomes him with open arms and now he wants to live for his family. After his days behind the bars, Sachidanandan (Mohanlal) comes across the name of drug dealer Edwin Moses and Vedantham IPS, who is in a relentless pursuit to nab the mysterious drug lord. How Sachidanandan encounters Moses and Vedantham is what the film is about.</p> <p>In the first 30 minutes of the film, Sachidanandan, trying to be comfortable with his family, reveals to the family that he had a different past in the prison, thus establishing the 'extraordinary' part of his persona. Unlike other Siddique movies, <i>Big Brother</i> fails in its comical elements, giving importance to the action sequences. Arbaaz Khan as Vedantham IPS has an important role in the movie. His parallel story as a sincere police officer who has been working hard to nab Moses generates a bit of confusion and seems to get lost in the mess.</p> <p>Siddique tries his usual cliché style of using misleading techniques to end the plot by revealing who Moses is, however failed the attempt ends out to be.</p> <p>The overall performances of the film’s leading ladies Mirnaa, Honey Rose and Gadha were satisfying. Anoop Menon and Sarjano Khalid as Sachidanandan’s brothers Vishnu and Manu respectively delivered their parts decently. The performances of Vishnu Unnikrishnan, Tini Tom, and Irshad as the protagonist’s friends add a little element of humour to the story.</p> <p>Mohanlal does not disappoint us in terms of the action sequences. A couple of songs by Deepak Dev are unnecessary additions to the movie that is already 164 minutes long. <i>Big Brother</i> is not the best creation to emerge under the ‘Siddique’ brand. The film is completely different from the usual Siddique movies which have an equal mix of humour, romance and action.</p> <p><b>Movie: Big Brother</b></p> <p><b>Director: Siddique</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Mohanlal, Arbaaz Khan, Sarjano Khalid, Anoop Menon, Honey Rose, Irshad</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jan 16 15:54:20 IST 2020 tanhaji-the-unsung-warrior-review-when-current-politics-dominates-a-tale-from-past <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In a season dominated by historical war dramas, one more won’t hurt. It would only add one more chapter of history, one more glorious war fought, in the public conscience. But how the narration is taken forward is what makes all the difference.</p> <p>In the case of <i>Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior</i>, it is the political situation of the present times that dominates the storytelling. The storyline focuses entirely on the 'Us V/S Them' narrative and “bhagwa ka parcham” is an often used phrase.</p> <p>Directed by Om Raut, <i>Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior</i> tells the story of Maratha warrior Tanaji Malusare of the 17th century. One of the most trusted aides of Maratha ruler Shivaji (Sharad Kelkar), Tanaji fought many battles, but is remembered for the Battle of Sinhagad in the 1670s. And the film begins with this battle.</p> <p>One of the most striking features, or rather a feature that sticks out the most is the colour coding of the characters. Maratha warrior Tanhaji (Ajay Devgn) wears ivory and maroon. He is righteous and breathes for the country, so much so that he leaves his son’s wedding to fight for the Kondhana Fort. He is a family man, but country is always his priority. Uday Bhan (Saif Ali Khan), a Rajput soldier appointed by the Aurangzeb-ed Mughal Empire stands in Tanhaji’s opposition. He wears only black, has his eyes on a widowed woman, and chomps on meat.</p> <p>The template for the portrayal of the two empires faithfully adheres to the one seen in Hindi historic war films, including the recent <i>Padmaavat. </i>What has changed is that the Mughal emperor decides to pit a Hindu against a Hindu. There are those odd and loyal Muslim fighters in the Maratha camp, and there are also disloyal Marathas who side with the Mughals. But that doesn’t make much of a difference as the desperate attempt to even out the story is evident. Also, even if Uday Bhan is Rajput, he is speaks the language of the Mughals and swears to kill.</p> <p>It often reminds you of Ranveer Singh’s Alauddin Khilji from <i>Padmaavat</i>, just that Saif brings his own flamboyance to the character and makes the character believable and despicable. As for Devgn, he isn’t doing slick stunts for the first time. If at times it seems that <i>Singham</i> is travelling to the past, there are also times when his role takes you back to <i>Shivaay</i> where he pulled a few smooth, gravity-defying stunts. While the director positions the film as stylised and action-driven, the existence of such stunts seems unbelievable in the period it’s capturing.</p> <p>Another thing working in the favour of the film is the chemistry between Tanhaji and his wife, Savitribai (Kajol) although her characterisation is limited. She is only a wife standing by her husband come what may. There is little layering, and she has only a few dialogues. But the two of them together still make those scenes count.</p> <p>The film has songs dedicated to Hindu deities and dialogues (written by Prakash Kapadia) with a nationalistic fervour. The movie appears to be inclined towards glamorising the Marathas to a large extent, while vilifying the Mughals.</p> <p><b>Film: Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior</b></p> <p><b>Director: Om Raut</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Kajol</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2/5</b></p> Fri Jan 10 19:23:33 IST 2020 chhapaak-review-deepika-owns-the-screen-honest-portrayal-womens-struggles <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It’s December of 2012. Protests are on in Delhi. A gang-rape, now popularly known as the Nirbhaya case, has happened. People want answers. In the midst of the rape protests, a man with a photo of her daughter, her face disfigured with acid, goes in front of news cameras seeking help, trying to make people aware of what happened to his daughter. In a following scene, shot in a public bus, in Meghna Gulzar’s <i>Chhapaak</i>, people discuss how the rape victim may die. “Sarkar gir jaayegi,” one person says. “Uske liye marna jaruri hai kya?” asks Amol Dwivedi (Vikrant Massey), an activist fighting for the rights of acid attack survivors. The camera pans to the survivors with him. The film’s gaze is not sympathetic, but introspective. The tone that is set early on continues throughout and that becomes its victory.</p> <p>As it goes along, it makes Laxmi Aggarwal’s heart-wrenching story of being attacked by acid as a teenager by a man, her neighbour double her age, as the anchor. The focus of the story is not on the broken dreams and the miserable life the survivor leads because of the disfiguring caused by the splash of acid by a rejected suitor, Naeem Khan, but on the strength and the will to fight. Laxmi, in real life, made headlines for the cases she fought with all her might—one with the attacker, and another to ban the sale of acid. She set an example.</p> <p>So does Deepika Padukone, who reprises the role of Laxmi as Malti. She is not just honest in the portrayal, but also far from any of the roles she has played so far. Padukone’s first introduction in the film is when she has already lived with the attack (by Bashir Khan aka Babboo) for several years, with the disfiguring and the scars it has left on her, not just physically but emotionally, too. The things it has stripped her off—of not being able to wear the vast collection of earrings she has, getting a job, having a romantic life, the agonies of the constant court battles, and just the right to have a happy life. But she laughs, and laughs often and wins everything that she has lost with her resolve. With the one message coming out that it’s not easy to break a woman by taking away her beauty.</p> <p>It is easy for a film like<i> Chhapaak</i>, highlighting an urgent social issue, to get trapped and look at its subject with a “poor girl” glare. But the fact that it does not, and rather focuses on the moments where Malti leads and refuses to give in, makes it stronger. In the same vein, it never lets Amol become the hero. It was easy to train the lens on the man who fought for the women and saved them. But it is the women who are fighting here. And while Amol’s contribution is counted, it is never over-emphasised. Massey has to be applauded for the distinction he brings to Amol’s character, often acknowledging his flaws.</p> <p>Besides superlative performances by each of the actors, including Padukone and Massey, the film’s strength is also in these moments when it makes subtle observations about smaller things that matter. For instance, after a court case when people from the media surround Malti and her lawyer, personal questions are posed. There has been enough media bashing in films, but here a balance is shown. When one person gets too personal, there is another pointing it out. Another is the portrayal of Laxmi’s lawyer, Aparna Bhat, played with a lot of nuance by Madhurjeet Sarghi, which gives an added dimension to the film. Sarghi is never screaming in front of the judges, but still able to put her point across, at the end winning every case that she fights along with Malti. At home, she is supported by a husband (Anand Tiwari) who understands and does not shy away from taking added responsibilities—of raising a kid, or of being a sport when his wife has to leave in between a birthday party.</p> <p>Meghna, as a director, has often brought out the dichotomies of the society, the psyche of people, through her film. She often makes a point that for every bad person, there is a good one as well. In a script written by her along with Atika Chohan, she ably does that here, too. And it only makes sense to put it out there: in one scene it is made loud and clear that every person is different and so will their reactions be to the same situations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And then, there is Gulzar’s lyrics— 'Chhapaak Se Pehchaan Le Gaya'— sung beautifully by Arijit Singh, that plays often and leaves you haunted by what the gory crime can do.<i> Chhapaak</i> is an extremely powerful story of women’s victory with utmost sensitivity. It is a story of the spirit and valour that women have to live with day in and out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Film: Chhapaak</b><br> </p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Director: Meghna Gulzar</b><br> </p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Starring: Deepika Padukone, Vikrant Massey</b><br> </p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Rating: 4/5</b><br> </p> Thu Jan 09 15:25:17 IST 2020 good-newwz-review-an-entertainer-through-and-through <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It is the the end of the year and what better way to bid goodbye to the year than some laughter. Even if things look bleak otherwise, there is <i>Good Newwz, </i>a dose of humour from Bollywood.</p> <p><i>Good Newwz </i>is a movie that is packaged well with songs and dance, superstars, a bit of melodrama, and the desperation to keep the genes alive for generations—an emotion that a large number of people, if not all, would find relatable. The result is<i>, </i>a sure shot mass entertainer.</p> <p>The film begins in Mumbai. Varun (Akshay Kumar) and Deepti (Kareena Kapoor) Batra are living a comfortable life. They are at the top of their professional careers, plan a baby only after realising their career goals, and discuss sex, ovulation period and such things without inhibitions. That’s the good in <i>Good Newwz</i>. It doesn’t beat around the bush while discussing matters of sex, and the <i>sanskaari</i> scissors don’t come in between either. Nosey relatives and the social pressure that often afflict women prioritising career over motherhood is discussed well with a dash of humour.</p> <p>But the couple have passed their prime and conceiving is not that easy. The way out is to go for an In-vitro fertilisation (IVF). Why not adopt? Because “<i>apna khoon toh apna hi hota hai na</i>” (This is just the beginning when the flaws in the writing start revealing itself). What follows is a major goof-up—there’s a mix-up in the sperms of two Batra families consulting the same doctor in Mumbai. The other is a younger couple – Honey (Diljit Dosanjh) and Monika (Kiara Advani) from Chandigarh.</p> <p>Humour kicks in with the dissimilarities between the two sets of couples—the urban and the small-town—both privileged enough though. If the Mumbai Batras take pride in their elitism and make fun of their Chandigarh counterparts for their faulty pronunciations (sperm becomes spam and flush becomes flash), the Chandigarh Batras make a show of their money when they decide to shift to Mumbai in a blink and settle in the same posh building as their counterparts. Humour for rich people, is it?</p> <p>Thank god, some truths are universal. Like the dilemma of men who don’t seem to understand the tribulations of pregnant women. Even if it hinges on being a little too histrionic, a scene between Deepti and Varun where she reprimands him for his callousness and insensitivity towards her pregnancy stands out.</p> <p>What doesn’t impress, or rather, puts you off, however, are how the jokes borderlines on being crass and insensitive. At one point, Varun, after smoking up, laughs uncontrollably because a pregnant Monika farted. Later, he makes fun of a baby’s name. But then, with this, it also seems that the film is more a machinery to bring back the good old Akshay Kumar of the 2000’s when he was churning out comedies. However, the movie fails to have comedic moments that are situational and organically fit into the scenes. Instead, most of them are too made up to give Kumar a reason to shine. Kareena Kapoor does have her moments, while the over-the-top performances of Dosanjh and Advani are justifiable.</p> <p>Writers Raj Mehta (also the director), Rishabh Sharma and Jyoti Kapoor have a premise that is strong enough to the bring the dilemmas of today’s couples and their struggles with parenthood to the fore, but the execution disappoints because the emphasis is still on conservative beliefs and ideas.</p> <p><b>Film: Good Newwz</b></p> <p><b>Director: Raj Mehta</b></p> <p><b>Actors: Akshay Kumar, Kareen Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dasanjh, Kiara Advani</b></p> <p><b>Ratings: 2.5/5</b></p> <p><br> <br> </p> Fri Dec 27 22:30:10 IST 2019 star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-review-tame-end-to-an-era <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Disney, Disney, Disney... Why do they do this to us? First, they bought the dormant Star Wars franchise from George Lucas in 2012, then they rushed into announcing and making a trilogy, only to leave fans even more divided than they already were.<br> </p> <p>With <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker</i>, it is hard to say what this trilogy will be remembered for, given the rich legacy of the franchise. The film repeats the overused formula of trying to capitalise on nostalgia that we saw in <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Force Awakens </i>(2015) and that was later dropped in <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Last Jedi </i>(2017).<br> </p> <p>The decision to bring back J.J. Abrams, who directed <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Force Awakens</i>, has largely undone Rian Johnson's <a href="">2017 magnum opus</a>. The strong performances, visual brilliance and legendary soundtrack carry the film. But, these aside, <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Rise of Skywalker</i> is predictable in most parts, with an overdose of the past and a title that serves only as bait for loyal fans.<br> </p> <p>Resurrecting characters seems an easy cop-out for the makers. And, if you heard that evil cackle in the trailer, you know who is coming back to head the First Order. Or as he now calls it, the Final Order. It is now up to the band of rebellions led by Rey, Finn and Poe to find and fight the self-crowned emperor that wants to bring the galaxy under his thumb. Again.<br> </p> <p>The biggest disappointment of this film has to be the reversing of a finality that seemed to have been established in the previous film—that the lead character, Rey (Daisy Ridley), had no notable lineage. All along, the main Star Wars storyline has relied heavily on blood relations. The Force runs in the blood, apparently. But when it was revealed that Rey was a nobody, it was satisfying to know that you didn't need to be a Skywalker or a Solo to play decisive roles in the battle between good and evil.<br> </p> <p>Except that she isn't a nobody. I facepalmed hard in the cinema hall at this reveal, as many around me let out a groan. Some expressed their shock. Over and over again, we see or hear familiar faces and voices. A cameo here, a Force projection there, and oldies everywhere. Heck, we even hear Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Windu. Seems like there is no way that the saga would end without giving a nod to every major person from the last eight films.<br> </p> <p>Yet, if you push aside the historical baggage and dwell on what remains, <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Rise of Skywalker </i>manages to make for fairly decent viewing. It is fast-paced and has plenty of action, even as Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac play their hearts out. <a href="">Driver has had an impressive year, with his performances</a> in<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Report </i>and <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Marriage Story</i> attracting rave reviews. He does not disappoint in this film either.<br> </p> <p>It still feels like so much more could have been done with Rey's character. It must be said that it has been fun following her journey from scavenger to Jedi ever since <i>The Force Awakens</i>. She gets plenty of lightsaber action to go with the enthralling visual effects and John Williams' background score.<br> </p> <p>It was rumoured that <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Rise of Skywalker</i> would bring an end to the Skywalker saga that started back in 1977. But it looks like Disney is not done yet. The studio is waiting to see the response to this film, before Marvel Cinematic Universe's Kevin Feige takes over. The next set of films is set to have Christmas releases (again) in 2022, 2024 and 2026.<br> </p> <p>Until then, the only question will be whether Disney will continue to milk the same fandom or chart its own course to give this generation of fans something fresh. Commercial sense would point at the former. As long as J.J. Abrams does not helm it, it could still have potential.<br> </p> <p>The 87-year-old Williams, who scored the franchise since the beginning, has announced that this will be his last Star Wars score. He certainly has witnessed the property turn from an epic saga to one that seems to have been stretched too far. If the prequel trilogy disappointed fans, this sequel trilogy leaves them more divided than ever.<br> </p> <p><b>Film</b>: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker<br> </p> <p><b>Director</b>: J.J. Abrams</p> <p><b>Cast</b>: Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 2.5/5</p> Fri Dec 20 21:53:07 IST 2019 darbar-review-rajinikanth-pulls-through-sluggish-cop-entertainer <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>If you are a '90s kid and expect to see an Alex Pandian on screen once again after decades, Rajinikanth's <i>Darbar </i>will be a definite disappointment. After decades, as the superstar dons the police uniform on the big screen again and emerges in style, it is fun watching him. The superstar is a bundle of energy in <i>Darbar </i>as he walks, laughs, flips his hair and puts on his sunglasses, but lacks the fire that we saw in <i>Mooondru Mugam's</i> Alex Pandian. And when the plot and screenplay are disappointing, all you can do is take comfort in watching Rajinikanth pull off his 'Rajinisms'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taking on the role of a tough cop who goes on rampage against drug peddlers, Rajinikanth is Aaditya Arunasalam, Commissioner of Police, Mumbai City. As the movie begins,&nbsp; every newspaper headline speaks about the chilling killing of bad men of the underworld. In the backdrop of these events, Rajinikanth gets his mass entry, beating up the bad men. Music director Anirudh Ravichander allows the audience to fully be gripped by Rajini's charisma as he blends in a reworked Annamalai BGM and also a bit of Baasha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aaditya Arunasalam&nbsp;is transferred from Delhi on a special assignment to Mumbai. A sincere police officer, he moves to Mumbai with his daughter Valli (Nivetha Thomas), and takes charge. He discovers that Ajay Malhotra (Prateik Babbar) is the kingpin of a major drug racket. What happens to Ajay Malhotra? How and why villain Hari Chopra (Suniel Shetty), who has a history of burning police officers alive, will faceoff with Rajinikanth forms rest of the plot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Darbar</i> juggles with lots of Rajinisms—his characteristic style, dialogues, and the theme of a bad but genuine cop make it a commercial masala movie. As a cop, Rajinikanth, lacks the fitness and it is hard to imagine the youthfulness of an 'Aaditya' in him, while the Arunasalam is acceptable. Though director AR Murugadoss has tried hard to make Rajinikanth play the role of an energetic cop, the character fails to strike a chord. There is dearth of fresh ideas and knots in the screenplay are not enjoyable, especially when there is a proxy prisoner and when he is shot dead or when Rajinikanth sets into a romantic mood to impress Lilly (Nayanthara).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And of course, the lady superstar who has quite a huge fan following, has little role to play. There is nothing specific to be mentioned about her character, except a heroine who comes to dance with him and pays for her own coffee that she sips with the commissioner at a coffee shop. Nivetha, as Rajinikanth’s daughter, delivers an emotional performance in the second half. Nivetha has done her part, yet the father-daughter relationship feels cold.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, an Alex Pandian cannot be recreated, because there is no villain like Senthamarai. At the end, with his hair tied in style and a few buttons of his shirt left open, Suniel Shetty aces the villain-walk with a gun, but depresses the audience with a lack-lustre performance that doesn't give you the chills. Rajinikanth has to be praised for all his hardwork, and entertaining his fans even at the age of 70. But the one big aspect missing in the theatre was the usual loud cheering and bustle of fans. The first cheer was heard as Rajinikanth entered in style, with a BGM to complement it. The second cheer was heard only in the second half as he goes for a workout to prove his physical and mental fitness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Darbar</i> is a complete commercial movie; watch it only for Rajinikanth. With a weak villain character, a long flashback, unending cat and mouse games and an emotional second half, <i>Darbar</i> is just a regular cop entertainer for Rajini fans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Darbar</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Cast: Rajinikanth, Nayanthara, Nivetha Thomas, Suniel Shetty, Prateik Babbar, Yogi Babu&nbsp;</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: AR Murugadoss</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Thu Jan 09 16:00:29 IST 2020 valiyaperunnal-review-shane-nigam-breaks-themould-vibrant-film <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Set in the backdrop of astounding Kochi, <i>Valiyaperunnal</i> is nothing but a feast of love, action, revenge and relationships. It lays bare the living culture of Kochi's iconic locales—Fort Kochi and Mattancherry—which are known for their vibrant mix of cultures. The movie, with its tagline ‘A feast of sacrifice’, is centered around Ashkar Salauddin (Shane Nigam) who is lovingly known among his dear ones as Akkar. Hot-headed Akkar is a dancer and his telltale love for Pooja (Himika Bose) looms around the entire thread of the movie. The inner core of the movie throws light into the dark underworld business as well.</p> <p>Be it action, drama, romance or vengeance—everything is sprinkled into the script in ample proportion. The movie unfolds with a gripping sequence which later shifts to an entirely different setting. Though this intrigues the audience initially, it slowly dampens due to the sluggishness of the movie’s first half. It lacks a connecting element. However, the latter part, spiced with action and humour, succeeds in engaging the audience. Also, dance as an incumbent element, is vividly featured in the movie. Choreographed by international dance group ‘Kings United’ from India, the movie can be tagged as the first-ever Malayalam film with quality hip-hop dance sequences.</p> <p>Shane Nigam strays away from his usual appearance and is able to present the flamboyance and attitude of the Kochi boy Akkar. Himika has attempted a good headstart in Mollywood. Director Dimal Dennis fares well with his debut movie though his scripting along with Thasreeq Abdul Salam needs more work.</p> <p>The movie features an ensemble cast which is unraveled at different points, bringing in a surprise factor for the audience. While Joju George and Sudheer Karamana played pivotal roles, the guest appearances of Soubin Shahir, Dharmajan Bolgatty and Vinayakan tickle the funny bone of the audience. Among its many unique features, the casting of more than 105 new faces stands supreme where each has played their part well. The movie also stands distinct as late actor Captain Raju’s last movie. The cast also includes Bollywood’s Atul Kulkarni and Raza Murad who play key characters.</p> <p>Produced by Monisha Rajeev under Anwar Rasheed’s Magic Mountain Cinemas, the film has a fine technical crew including national award-winning editor Vivek Harshan and cameraman Suresh Rajan.</p> <p><b>Movie: Valiyaperunnal</b></p> <p><b>Director: Dimal Dennis</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Shane Nigam, Himika Bose, Joju George, Sudheer Karamana, Alencier, Captain Raju, Soubin Shahir, Vinayakan</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Dec 20 16:36:40 IST 2019 mardaani-2-review-an-important-theme-that-loses-out-to-drama-heroine-pandering <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>At a time when crimes against women are hogging the headlines, a female cop taking on a bad guy who despises strong, opinionated women is an important theme to be explored in a film. Its urgency cannot be negotiated. In that sense, <i>Mardaani 2</i> is a significant film.</p> <p>Rani Mukerji reprises her role as tough cop Shivani Shivaji Rao from the 2014 film <i>Mardaani. </i>Rao, who was a senior Mumbai Crime Branch officer in the first film, is now posted in Kota in Rajasthan as the superintended of police. The choice of place serves well for the film. Thousands of young students from across the country throng the ‘city of coaching institutes’ every year to prepare for the competitive exams. They are potentially at risk of being either victims or criminals.</p> <p>However, in <i>Mardaani 2, </i>the criminal is not one of the students, but a 21-year-old migrant, Sunny (Vishal Jethwa). Working for some of the political bigwigs in the city, he has his own reasons to despise women. He brutally rapes them and leaves behind their bruised bodies as a sign of victory, even as the police struggles hard to find the culprit.</p> <p>Sunny is a pop-culture inspired serial rapist, a character we have seen in a lot of Hollywood films.</p> <p>Jethwa’s character is well-rounded; he is both smart and menacing. However, the same cannot be said of the film, which seems to be in a hurry to establish Rao as the smartest in the police force and looks to be in a haste to reach the climax where her heroism is further heightened.</p> <p>However, in the process, the film, written and directed by Gopi Puthran (writer of the first film), forgets to develop any other characters, leaving a few half-baked roles who create no impact. The film lacks realism as it focuses more on amplifying the emotional quotient of the audience. Unlike the recent Netflix series <i>Delhi Crime</i>, <i>Mardaani 2 </i>focuses more drama instead of creating relatable scenes. In both these cases, a woman was the lead investigator. Both of them had to fight a system that is largely dominated by men and were chasing perpetrators who were men. However, in the case of <i>Delhi Crime</i>, the cop's struggle to survive looked more real.</p> <p><i>Mardaani 2</i>, like <i>Mardaani</i>, is, for the most part, about bringing women down, through problematic and discomfiting dialogues. Much has been spoken about the problematic title of the film when it was released in 2014. It still remains the same. For a film that rides on the strength of a woman police officer and tries to establish the role of women in a male-dominated world, to bring them down only to give the audience a chance to revel at the end when she is given her chance to avenge, is just a ploy to create cinematic effects. The message, though, is mostly lost.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Mardaani 2</b></p> <p><b>Director: Gopi Puthran</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Rani Mukerji, Vishal Jethwa</b></p> <p><b>Ratings: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Dec 13 18:20:34 IST 2019 jumanji-the-next-level-review-fun-ride-offers-nothing-new <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The plot of the original <i>Jumanji </i>(1995) revolved around a board game, which in the end gets thrown into a river by its central characters, vowing never to go near it again. Its 2017 version <i>Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle—</i>a sequel in spirit—shows the board game in its new avatar as a video game. Just like the first film, the central characters, after having reached the end of their adventure, swear never to go near the game again and destroy it. This movie with its memorable characters was a surprise hit.</p> <p>The new sequel—<i>Jumanji: The Next Level—</i>opens with our favourite gang consisting of Spencer (Alex Wolff), Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) planning a Christmas reunion. They all have moved on into college during the time after the last film. Spencer, having not taken his college life well and his relationship with Martha being on a break, starts craving for ‘Jumanji high’. So after coming back home, instead of going to the reunion, Spencer reassembles the broken video game (which he must have gone back and retrieved). And he goes into the game alone. Having realised this, the others also go into the game to save Spencer. Surprisingly Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) who was living with his daughter (Spencer’s mum) while recovering from a hip surgery, and his old friend Milo Walker (Danny Glover) also get sucked into the game.</p> <p>But due to the half-broken nature of the game, they do not get to choose the characters. Thus Grandpa Eddie ends up being Dr Smolder Bravestone—the strong, well-built archaeologist (Dwayne Johnson), Milo is now the zoologist ‘Mouse’ Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Fridge turns into the over-weight map expert (cartographer) Professor Shelly (Jack Black). Only Martha retains her avatar as the killer of men Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Gillan almost steals the limelight with her charming portrayal of the anxious and social clueless character. Awkwafina joins them as a new avatar. She is a breath of fresh air.</p> <p><i>Jumanji: The Next Level </i>also shows a growing bond between Bethany and Alex Wreak (Colin Hanks) who plays the avatar Seaplane (Nick Jonas) in the game. The role of the villain, though nothing new and interesting, is played perfectly by Rory McCann (remember Sandor 'The Hound’ Clegane).</p> <p>The script, written by Jeff Pinker, Scott Rosenberg and Kasdan, fails to offer anything new. The movie feels more like a rehash—a mixture of <i>Indiana Jones</i>, <i>Game of Thrones</i> and several other video games like <i>Mad Max</i>. But the unexpected switch between the characters even inside the games gives room for more jokes.</p> <p>A special mention should be given to Danny DeVito for his effortless portrayal of Spencer’s adorable Grandpa. He did much more than any of the other cast within his limited screen time. The movie, though not quite up to its 2017 prequel, is still a laugh-out-loud-worth watch.</p> <p><b>Movie: Jumanji: The Next Level</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Heart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Jack Black, Awkwafina, Rory McCann, Danny DeVito, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman and Colin Hanks.</b></p> <p><b>Director: Jake Kasdan</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Dec 13 15:59:01 IST 2019 mamangam-review-mammootty-passable-watch-it-for-child-artist-achuthan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>As the title suggests, the period action drama is set in the backdrop of the duo-decennial festival of<i> </i>Mamangam which used to be held at the banks of the Bharathapuzha in<i> </i>Thirunavaya during the 17<sup>th</sup> century. Mamangam was celebrated extravagantly by the Hindu chiefs of<i> </i>Thirunavaya and the Zamorins of Kozhikode. The storyline of the film revolves around the Chaver (suicide warriors) plotting to overthrow the Zamorin rulers.</p> <p>Mammootty plays the role of Chandroth Valiya Panikkar, the turncoat of the Chandroth family, who is believed to have abandoned his purpose of killing the Zamorin and fled the battleground. Mammootty, though not at his best, has worked hard to do justice to his role. Unni Mukundan's portrayal of Chandroth Panikkar can be considered one of the actor's best performances till date, essaying the brave and determined character of a Chaver effortlessly.</p> <p>Prachi Tehlan, Iniya and Manikandan have given their best with their memorable and significant characters. Siddique, who portrays the villainous character of Valluvakonathiri,<i> </i>has given an exemplary performance as always. Suresh Krishna and Manikuttan have also done justice to their respective roles. Manikuttan, who plays the role of Moyin alongside Unni Mukundan, and Achuthan steal the show during the climax. Even in the midst of an ensemble of experienced actors, all eyes will remain fixed on child actor Achuthan who has delivered a stellar debut performance. He plays the role of Chandroth Chanthunni, the fearless nephew of Chandroth Panikkar. Kaniha, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sudev Nair, Neeraj Madhav, Idavela Babu, Tarun Arora, Mohan Sharma and Anu Sithara have done justice to their characters.</p> <p><b>ALSO READ:&nbsp;<a title="'Mamangam': Art director Mohandas on recreating an era" href="" target="_blank">'Mamangam': Art director Mohandas on recreating an era</a></b></p> <p>Besides Achuthan's acting, what makes this movie worth a watch is the extravagant set which was erected on an 18 acre plot in Kochi. Art director Mohandas deserves special mention for his precise and beautiful recreation of an era. The music by composer M. Jayachandran could have been more engaging.</p> <p>The most noteworthy scene of this movie is the fight sequence in its climax. This scene that plays out on a spectacular set that took almost 150 days to build, is worth the wait through the first half that is a drag. For history buffs and those looking for an entertainer, this <i>Mamangam</i> is worth a one-time watch.</p> <p><b>Movie: Mamangam</b></p> <p><b>Director: M. Padmakumar</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Mammootty, Unni Mukundan, Siddique, Kaniha, Prachi Tehlan, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sudev Nair, Neeraj Madhav</b></p> <p><b>Rating : 3/5&nbsp; &nbsp;</b></p> Thu Dec 12 17:00:11 IST 2019 chola-review-sanal-kumar-sasidharan-back-with-gut-wrenching-film <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s latest directorial venture, <i>Chola,</i> is<i> </i>a movie you will watch and then speculate about later. It is raw and as real as it can get, taking you on a ride that is sure to leave lasting impressions. This three-person drama stars Joju George, Nimisha Sajayan (both of them won Kerala state awards for their performance in this movie) and debutant Akhil Viswanath.</p> <p>Joju George, whose character’s name is not revealed throughout the movie, is addressed as <i>Aashan </i>(boss) by Akhil’s character. He delivers an astonishing performance in tune with Nimisha who is equally exhilarating. Nimisha portrays the character of <i>Janaki</i> (Akhil’s girlfriend) who is innocent and in awe of the sights the city offers, at the same time scared and apprehensive of Akhil’s <i>Aashan</i>. And Nimisha captures this essence of Janaki (who knows this journey will change her forever) flawlessly. Akhil stuns the audience with his passionate portrayal of Joju’s sidekick and Janaki’s boyfriend.</p> <p>This movie is filled with sick tension, like every other movie of Sanal Kumar Sasidharan. Like his previous movie <i>S*** Durga,</i> this movie also offers one a slice of the grim realities of life, enriched with Sasidharan's personal style and vision which stands apart from normal commercial Indian cinema.</p> <p>The movie opens in a very suspicious way—a teenage girl, dressed in a school uniform, emerging from mist to meet two guys waiting by a jeep. Together, they embark on a journey during which one learns that the younger guy is the girl’s boyfriend who had promised to take her to see the city and the older guy, who is driving the jeep, is the youngster’s boss whom the girl did not know was accompanying them. The story is set in a hilly undeveloped countryside of Kerala. The descent of the story towards its crux is literally represented by aerial shots of the jeep driving down torturous mountain roads. Ajith Acharya’s excellent camera work presents every shot great precision. At times, deliberately unclear shots play a huge role in portraying Janaki's confusion and premonitions. Sergey Cheremisinov’s unsettling and seething electronic music gives life to the different tones and colours of the city and country life.</p> <p>The movie is aptly titled <i>Shadow of River</i> in English as the river is an important motif in the story. When one looks through water, everything appears foggy and unsure just like Janaki’s journey to the city, travelling through heavy rains and mist. The river could also be symbolic of Aashan—a strong and dominating character who will have his way no matter what. All of this could not have been conveyed without Acharya’s cinematography and the surging metallic score by Cheremisinov.</p> <p><i>Chola </i>is filled with symbolism and motifs. Towards the end, the movie takes a thrilling turn towards magical realism, trying to convey the complex emotional journey of its characters. The movie, however lacks context (both social and religious), leaving many instances unexplained which is why one cannot fully sympathise with what Janaki went through. <i>Chola </i>fills you with fear, and is definitely not for the faint-hearted.</p> <p><b>Film: Chola</b></p> <p><b>Director: Sanal Kumar Sasidharan</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Joju George, Nimisha Sajayan , Akhil Viswanath</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Dec 06 16:55:47 IST 2019 panipat-review-a-tale-of-bravery-and-betrayals <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Director Ashutosh Gowariker seems to have taken the bashing from media and others over the portrayal of Muslim community in movies quite seriously. In the run up to the release of <i>Panipat</i>, his ambitious historic drama based on the third battle of Panipat (between Maratha warrior Sadashiv Rao and Afghan ruler Ahmed Shah Abdali), much has been said about the film. Most prominent among the criticism was the choice of a story that puts Muslims in a spotlight and the release date—December 6—that coincides with the day of the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya in 1992. The portrayal of Muslims in a few period dramas in the recent past, especially <i>Padmaavat</i>, which had barbarism written all over their Muslim characters, added to the woes of the director.</p> <p>Gowariker’s portrayal of Muslim characters, however, is milder, much milder than one would expect.</p> <p>In one of the early scenes where Abdali (Sanjay Dutt) has just been introduced, a plate of turkey is presented to him with a knife poking out of it. You expect him to grab it and bite into the meat. But rather, he is betrayed when the server attacks him with the same knife. Abdali fights back. There’s blood and gore. It is an ugly sight. But that is where it ends. (Later, Abdali, on his visit to India, is shown biting into the juicy Indian pomegranate.)</p> <p>A tensed moment like the above-mentioned scene never builds up again in the film, never in the battlefield either. Do we blame Sanjay Leela Bhansali and S.S. Rajamouli for constructing over-the-top and glamorous war scenes that make this one look too modest? May be. Even the battlefield that swarms with lakhs of men in the frame fails to create a cinematic impact. The over-stretched storyline pulls it down further.</p> <p>What builds up in the film though is constant debauchery and betrayal by all the parties involved, keeping the proceedings alive. There are moments when everyone’s motive seems questionable. Peshwa Sadashiv Rao (Arjun Kapoor), the third in-command of the Maratha empire wins a battle at the beginning of the film. He is the most able ruler. But family politics takes precedence and instead of leading the army, he is made in-charge of the finance. In that lean period, romance brews between him and Parvati (Kriti Sanon), the daughter of the kingdom’s medic. But only till the news reaches that Abdali has left from Afghan with his huge army to capture the throne in Delhi. It is the late eighteenth century with the Marathas leading the country. Family issues are kept aside as Rao proceeds towards Delhi with a battalion, Parvati, now his wife, and others. The battalion is nothing in comparison with Abdali’s, but the spirit to fight is.</p> <p>Hope is placed on association with the local kingdoms on the way. But both sides have similar hopes and that is a good thing. That creates the drama, important for the film, and ties it together, also giving it a touch of authenticity with Gowariker sticking to the associations and the eventual betrayals to the t. Cinematic liberties have been kept bare minimum and the film rides on facts like the efforts of both the parties trying to get the support of Nawab of Awadh or Shuja-ud-Daulah, and others. Except for a few who remain constant, the support from the rulers oscillates between Rao and Abdali till the final moment of the war, which Rao ultimately loses after fighting valiantly. But in the final moments of film, the message is sent out—of the fierce Marathas, and about Abdali who never returned to India for the throne after witnessing the fight that Rao put up.</p> <p>However, Kapoor as Rao hardly looks fierce. Effort has been made and it is evident, but there is very less to see him as a warrior. Dutt too fails to make an impact with his character’s arch going gentler, nothing like someone on the battlefield. It’s Kriti Sanon who shines, both as Parvati bai and the <i>sutradhar</i> of the film. Other actors like Mohnish Bahl (Peshwa Nanasaheb), Padmini Kolhapure (Nanasaheb’s wife), Zeenat Aman (Sakina Begum), Suhasini Mulay (Rao’s mother) and others have few scenes and none to effective. Even the music by Ajay-Atul fails to create an impact, further bringing down impact of a historical drama.</p> <p><b>Film: Panipat</b></p> <p><b>Director: Ashutosh Gowariker</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Arjun Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Sanjay Dutt</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Thu Dec 05 23:07:30 IST 2019 enai-noki-paayum-thota-review-the-bullet-misses-mark <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After a long wait, <i>Enai Noki Paayum Thota</i> (ENPT), directed by Gautham Menon and starring Dhanush in the lead, has finally hit the screens.</p> <p>As usual, ENPT has all the Gautham Menon touch—the right mix of action, suspense and romance. However, the bullet seems to have just missed the mark.</p> <p>Just like his previous flicks, <i>Vaaranam Aayiram </i>which was about love and separation, <i>Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa</i> about the quest for love and <i>Neethaane En Ponvasantham </i>which was about the unpredictability of love, ENPT is about love, and death.</p> <p>The movie begins with Dhanush's character Raghu being tied up and a few henchmen getting ready to execute him. We see mixed emotions of fear and courage in his eyes. A bullet is fired at him and there begins the story about how he got there.</p> <p>The action then shifts to an engineering college where Raghu is a student. Megha Akash, who plays Lekha, an actress, comes to the college for a film shoot. They two meet and fall in love. His love for her takes him to a crime scene, to more troubles and to the aforementioned bullet. Will the bullet that was fired at him miss the mark?</p> <p>After the blockbuster <i>Asuran</i> which had him playing an old man, Dhanush is back to playing a carefree youngster. He is the adorable lover boy in the first half, but as the second half begins, Dhanush gets into the action hero avatar, with his eyes seething with fury.</p> <p>Megha Akash is perfectly cast in the role of an actress who is forced into the profession, a girl in love and a helpless victim of harassment from her guardian.</p> <p>There is the unmissable Goutham Menon touch in the first half of the film, including love at first sight, a friend of the hero telling him that he will now see the 'divine' and the intimate moments between the lead pair.</p> <p>However, the film fails to keep the audience engaged as it tries to bring together three narratives, Raghu’s love for Lekha, his hunt for his brother Thiru and the harassment faced by Lekha from her guardian. The continuous narration by Dhanush too comes as a dampener.</p> <p>The cinematography and action sequences do stand out, but they do not do enough to bring the audience on to the edge of their seats. The over-reliance on narration in the second half reduces the interest in the proceedings.</p> <p><b>Film: Enai Noki Paayum Thota</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Gautham Menon</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Dhanush, Megha Akash, Sasikumar</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 2.5/5</b></p> Fri Nov 29 19:47:51 IST 2019 commando-3-review-jingoism-muslim-stereotypes-no-formula-for-good-film <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>While watching <i>Commando 3</i> one wonders if it is tiresome because of the problem of plenty, or is it just too dreary to keep you engaged. Could be both. The rise in terrorism globally has ensured that enough films are made on the people who put their lives at risk to save the world from yet another blast happening. But the trend has continued for too long and thus too many films have followed similar patterns. For a film around the theme to strike a chord now, it has to be a really novel idea, which <i>Commando 3</i> is not. One that goes beyond the race-against-time format, chest-thumping patriotism, and pulling down the Muslim community (often at the receiving end in such films).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The screenplay and in turn the storyline are so drab that it leaves you devoid of imagination, or any hook points to really wait for what happens next. Stereotypical scenes like the one where a young, indoctrinated man in Mumbra, Mumbai is asked to prove his love for Islam by beheading a calf takes down the interest immediately. What follows is a string of certain clichés. A Muslim father’s disappointment that all his efforts in protecting his son from the clutches of terrorists has gone in vain, a “bharatwaadi” officer’s undertaking that he will not let any other Indian turn to jihad. It has all been done before, just that<i> Commando 3</i> emphasises on it enough for you to cringe and think if this is the only way to make a film on terrorism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Captain Karan Singh Dogra (Vidyut Jammwal) is the do-gooder. His heart bleeds on wrong doings. Early on in the film, a newsbreak in Delhi about a few akhada men tormenting young skirt-wearing girls takes him there. He beats them blue and becomes a hero. Jammwal’s slick action sequences are something that the film works around. Anything else really does not matter. Once his larger-than-life persona is established, he is called to thwart a terror attack being planned by Buraq Ansari (Gulshan Devaiah), a terrorist operating from London.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ansari is someone who is brainwashing young Indians to turn to jihad; someone who works from behind a black veil. It is just a matter of time that Dogra with his team in tow unravels the mysteries. Only that the mysteries are too frothy and predictable. And his team, both from India and London (the Military Intelligence/MI), seem largely insignificant with hardly any part to play. They are there because the leading man’s heroism has to be proven.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The arch of the two actresses, Adah Sharma (Bhavna Reddy) and Angira Dhar (Mallika Sood), is nothing but formulaic—women who fall for men with abs, women who have a fight brewing because they like the same man, it only goes on. In the previous film of the franchise, Sharma’s Hyderabadi accent could guarantee some humour. Here, that too, does not make any sense. At least the villain holds his ground. Devaiah, even if he goes a little over-the-top at times, mostly does justice to his character.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film falls flat with its excessive jingoism and hero-worship. Actors like Rajesh Tailang, who could have shone in other films, are given stock scenes that do not do justice to them. And the biggest turn down is the portrayal of Muslims, who have to go through many litmus tests through the course of the two hours, to prove their virtuousness. In turn, by the time of the climax, the film becomes a test for the audience’s patience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Commando 3</b></p> <p><b>Director: Aditya Datt</b><br> </p> <p><b>Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Adah Sharma, Angira Dhar</b></p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Rating: 1/5</b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Nov 29 15:45:06 IST 2019 frozen-2-review-most-of-the-magic-remains <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The animation team on this project probably went home on their first day of work and ripped the words ‘glass’ and ‘ceiling’ out of their dictionaries. Six years after its predecessor’s meteoric success, <i>Frozen</i> is back with a mesmerisingly animated sequel—one that tries to transcend Disney’s recent cash grab titles and offer something new.</p> <p>The plot revolves around the beloved sisters Elsa and Anna, now well settled into their roles (and somehow even more doe-eyed than earlier) in the vaguely Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle. Soon however, their idyllic game nights are interrupted by a call that Elsa keeps hearing. Situations escalate and soon the motley crew of Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf set out to save their kingdom again. In the process, the sisters must come face to face with, and attempt to rectify a dark past revolving around a magical, forbidden forest.</p> <p><i>Frozen 2 </i>attempts to make something of its plot that goes beyond a typical Disney story structure, adapting more from Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘Snow Queen’ fairy tale. Indeed, as the cast mentioned in an interview, the film has matured along with its initial audience, and thus places emphasis on more complex themes than its predecessor. It must be said however that in the effort to create a substantial plot, the film seems to have pressed rewind on much of the character development that the characters went through in the first film.</p> <p>There are relationships that are neglected in favour of ones that are equally important, there are cautionary tales about needless bravado and unnecessary heroism. There is even a subplot centring on colonialism and the need for making amends.</p> <p>All the above mentioned themes may not immediately resonate with the film’s vast child audience, but for that, there is always Olaf. The lovable snow person brings much consistent comic relief through the movie, and can always be counted on for a chuckle or two from the grimmest viewer. That is not mentioning the countless GIFs pondering the fleeting nature of existence that will no doubt flood the internet soon. The rest of the original cast deliver strong voice performances, while Evan Rachel Wood (Iduna), Sterling K Brown (Mattias) and Alfred Molina (Agnarr) hold up their ends of the bargain faithfully as well. As for the music, (by Christophe Beck and the Lopezes), there are mixed reviews about whether it surpassed the quality of the previous soundtrack. What can be said for sure is that there are definitely some stunners in the music department, especially ‘Into The Unknown’ and ‘The Next Right Thing’, but it may be difficult to find one that would match the gargantuan popularity of ‘Let It Go.’</p> <p>The real star of the film however, is most certainly the animation. One simply cannot watch the sequence with Elsa and the Water Horse and still remain the same person they were when they entered the theatre. It is clear that the success of <i>Frozen</i> has provided this sequel with a hiked budget, as the attention to detail and colour palettes transport one to realms of technological grandeur.</p> <p><i>Frozen 2</i> has definitely avoided settling as a mere rehash of a popular original. While it is not exactly necessary, it provides a furthering of the stories of Arendelle, and what it may lack in coherent story, it more than makes up for in gorgeous visuals.</p> <p><b>Film: Frozen 2</b></p> <p><b>Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K Brown</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Fri Nov 22 20:40:29 IST 2019 adithya-varma-review-dhruv-vikram-shines-in-this-faithful-remake <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Adithya Varma,</i> the Tamil remake of Telugu film <i>Arjun Reddy, </i>lives up to its demands. The movie, since its first look was released, had been under a lot of pressure due to various controversies. This directorial debut of Gireesaaya stars debutant Dhruv Vikram and Banitha Sandhu (of <i>October</i> fame).</p> <p> Gireesaaya worked as co-director under Sandeep Vanga for <i>Arjun Reddy, </i>and has managed to capture the same essence of the original, when somehow its Hindi remake <i>Kabir Singh </i>could not<b> </b>(though the movie was directed by Vanga).</p> <p>Dhruv (son of Chiyaan Vikram) who plays the protagonist, Adithya Varma, steals all the attention with his impeccable acting. Though Dhruv could not meet the benchmark set by Vijay Devarakonda in the Telugu version, he has exceeded all expectations as a debut actor. Dhruv has portrayed the emotionally volatile character of Adithya Varma with the ease of an ace professional. Banitha Sandhu who plays the female lead Meera Shetty has also done justice to her role. Unlike Shalini Pandey, the female lead in <i>Arjun Reddy</i> who stuck to her melancholic look through out the film, through the film, Banitha has captured the larger range of feelings and the emotional roller coaster which Meera undergoes after meeting Adithya.</p> <p><i>Adithya Varma </i>has also given more importance to friendships and family ties when compared with to the other two versions. And this makes the movie even more believable. The supporting cast which includes Priya Anand, Leela Samson, Bagavathi Perumal, Raja and more have also done their parts well.</p> <p>To sum it up, one can describe <i>Adithya Varma </i>as more realistic than its Hindi version <i>Kabir Singh</i>, and maybe even the original version <i>Arjun Reddy</i>. But it gets tiring to watch a second remake of the same old complicated love story. If this movie succeeds, the credit should be given to the actors.</p> <p><b>Movie: Adithya Varma</b></p> <p><b>Director: Gireesaaya</b></p> <p><b>Actors: Dhruv Vikram, Priya Anand, Leela Samson, Bagavathi Perumal, Raja</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Nov 22 16:47:23 IST 2019 george-reddy-review-impressive-tribute-to-youth-icon <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After the movie ended, a youngster from the audience was heard telling his friend that he was aware of one of the scenes shown in the Telugu film <i>George Reddy</i>. It was narrated to him by his uncle. His friend also had something to add. “I was told by my father that George used fists more than other knuckle dusters or blades to attack his rivals.” This biopic on student leader and Ph.D scholar George Reddy was much awaited because of such stories that have been passed on for the last 45 years. George Reddy died when he was just 25 years old in Osmania University but his name remains an emotion. So, when people came to watch <i>George Reddy</i> they were not only searching for the incidents they were aware of but also to watch the man, raw in action.</p> <p>Director B. Jeevan Reddy does not waste much time as from the word go, George Reddy’s (played by Sandeep Madhav) aggressive side is unleashed. The movie starts with a US-based scholar, Maya, wanting to shoot a documentary on George. She travels all the way to India to meet George’s followers and friends and document his life. From here on, flashback reveals the story of a young George in Kerala.</p> <p><b>ALSO READ:&nbsp;&nbsp;<a title="" href="Remembering George Reddy, India's own 'Che Guevara'" target="_blank">Remembering George Reddy, India's own 'Che Guevara'</a></b></p> <p>As expected, he is introduced in a fight scene as he tackled eve-teasers while on his way to the Osmania University. The makers seem to be well aware of the significance of Osmania University in George’s life as almost the entire movie is based on his life in the capmus. In the first half, George as a studious and sincere student and George as a rebel with boxing skills are shown in equal measures. The song ‘Bullet’ shows the other side of fiery leader as female students shower him with attention. The highlight is of course George’s boxing skills every time he decides to take on someone. The half a dozen or so fights shown in the movie involving George will surely evoke cheers from the viewers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The movie progresses as George transitions from a student to a leader by fighting casteist elements as well as bullies within the campus. George, who disagrees and is in constant conflict with two students associations affiliated to political parties, decides to start his own organisation and contest for the elections. Lallan Singh, a member of right wing group and his brother, a local goon become sworn enemies of George as they are opposed and fought by the leader. How George was instrumental in awakening students across the country by encouraging them to fight on mainstream issues is shown in the second half.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The final hours of George's life is gripping and emotional. The filmmakers did take some liberty by fictionalising scenes, especially the fight sequences and the romantic track. But, the director should be appreciated for striking a fine balance by not making the product either a boring documentary or a highly commercial potboiler.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sandeep Madhav as George looks every bit the leader with his body language and expressions. For all George Reddy admirers, this movie is sure to inspire them a bit more. This attempt on George will definitely go down as one of the best references on the youth icon who is still celebrated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: George Reddy</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Sandeep Madhav, Satyadev, Abhay Bethiganti, Muskaan, Devika, Thiruveer</b></p> <p><b>Producer: Appi Reddy, Sanjay reddy and others</b></p> <p><b>Director: B. Jeevan Reddy</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.75/5</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Nov 22 17:41:22 IST 2019 helen-review-ann-ben-shines-in-this-enjoyable-thriller <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Everyone has their moments of carelessness, and some of these could turn out to be deadly. This is the thread on which <i>Helen</i>—helmed by debutante director Mathukutty Xavier—hinges.</p> <p>Starring Anna Ben of <i>Kumbalangi Nights</i> as the titular character, the movie is about the a young girl who does part-time job at a restaurant and dreams of migrating to Canada. She wants to end the financial woes of her father Paul (Lal) with whom she shares a special bond as he has been playing the role of her father and mother ever since she lost her mother. Helen is witty and sufficiently shrewd.</p> <p>Things go south after Helen and her boyfriend Azhar are caught by police who decide to play moral guardian and inform Paul about them. The relationship between the father and daughter gets strained; Paul finds it hard to talk to Helen and she avoids facing him, forcing her to spend more time at her workplace. This leads to an unfortunate incident and what follows makes for a gripping watch.</p> <p>The film spends plenty of time to establish the special bond between the father-daughter duo. Lal and Ann Ben effortlessly slip into the shoes of Paul and Helen and their chemistry is endearing. While the first half of the film is about the relationship between the two, as the film progresses, it becomes about the desperate search of a father for his daughter. Nobel Babu Thomas, who has also co-written and co-produced the movie, overcomes the initial hiccups as a debutant actor and does justice to the role of Azhar.</p> <p>Aju Varghese plays a cop, a departure from his usual, comical self. Another standout performance is by the man who played the old security guard at the mall where Helen works. Rony, who played Helen's boss, and Vineeth Srinivasan, who had a cameo appearance, excelled in their roles.</p> <p>Mathukutty Xavier shows none of the misgivings of a newcomer as he crafts a chilling watch. Due credit should also go to the scripting department— Noble Babu Thomas, Mathukutty Xavier and Alfred Joseph—and the camera by Anend C. Chandran, especially when it comes to the confines of a fridge. Shaan Rahman's background score is befitting of a nail-biting thriller and the make-up by Ranjith Ambadi adds realism to the frames.</p> <p><b>Movie: Helen</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Mathukutty Xavier</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Anna Ben, Lal, Aju Varghese</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Wed Nov 20 18:06:35 IST 2019 terminator-a-dark-fate-review-worse-than-a-bad-dream <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Few films are truly unwatchable. As close as <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Terminator: Dark Fate </i>strays to the standard required of an ‘unwatchable’ film, you could still witness it under certain circumstances, such as when you are in that delicately immobile state of being neither awake nor asleep whilst comfortably-reclined in front of a television.<br> </p> <p>This is not a film worth watching in a theatre. True, for most of the young audience alive today, the first two Terminator films would have released years before they could watch them in theatres (1984 and 1991). If you watched them at all, it would have been on a television; on channels that run reruns of popular action films in the hours when audiences are looking for something—anything—that is entertaining enough to watch before sleep.<br> </p> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Terminator: Dark Fate </i>makes that grade, but barely. But, in order you watch it, you should have some familiarity with the previous Terminator films, because this is not a reboot. According to James Cameron, who conceptualised the whole series and produced this particular film, T6 takes place three years after T2, following Sarah Connor’s successful destruction of an advanced, shape-shifting Terminator and, in theory, the destruction of knowledge that would have led to a robot-driven apocalypse.<br> </p> <p>While this is the sixth film in the Terminator franchise, Cameron pitches it as a successor to the second—with T3, T4 and T5 taking place in an ‘alternate’ timeline. He goes so far as to say that those films took place in a ‘bad dream’.<br> </p> <p>In this universe, Sarah does not seem to have stopped Terminators from coming back in time, however, despite her attempts to change the future. The future, more or less, is still the same post-apocalyptic nightmare—but this time, it’s Legion instead of Skynet, and an unnamed human militia instead of ‘the Resistance’.<br> </p> <p>This sets the film up for the basic plot common to all Terminator films (it’s almost like they all share the same bad dream).<br> </p> <p>A Terminator (a REV-9 model) has come back in time to murder Daniella Ramos (played by Natalia Reyes). To protect Daniella, the future human Resistance sends back a cybernetically-enhanced soldier named Grace (played by Mackenzie Davis), who, along with Sarah Connor (a role Linda Hamilton retains after 35 years), tries to protect humankind’s future prodigy from robotkind’s futuristic killing-machine.<br> </p> <p>It is worth noting here that the Terminator franchise is essentially a series of failed assassination attempts. But, despite the robots in the future being highly effective at nearly-eradicating mankind, the ones that travel to the past never end up achieving their objective of killing one particular human.<br> </p> <p>Terminator films one-to-five have had Sarah Connor, John Connor, John Connor’s wife, Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor (again) respectively as the targets of the killer robot. The robots fail every time. But, spoiler alert, this changes in <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Terminator: Dark Fate</i>.<br> </p> <p>The sixth in the franchise attempts to fix this curious inability of AI-driven assassins by having the Terminator (the Schwarzenegger T-800 model) successfully kill an infant John Connor in front of his mother’s eyes. This turns Sarah Connor into a deeply-pained, world-weary, and hate-fuelled Terminator-hunter.&nbsp;</p> <p>Her anger is understandable, of course, given that she lost her only child. But, there is still something unwatchable about her performance. Bad writing is mostly to blame. There is no right way to say, “I saved three billion lives... You're welcome” or &quot;I hunt Terminators and&nbsp;I drink until I black out&quot; without coming across as insufferable.</p> <p>The film's characters struggle to have convincing conversations—almost as if they have been told to &quot;talk to the hand&quot;. When Daniella tries to mourn the death of a family member, Connor takes it as an opportunity to make a philosophical point about goodbyes. When Connor aims a gun at the ‘good’ Terminator, seeing him for the first time since he killed her son many years ago, Arnold’s avatar says, “I can see you are upset.”</p> <p>This flavour of bad writing is what leads Grace and Connor have the worst conversation ever in a Terminator film.</p> <p>Connor tries to ask Grace what she’s running from, at first asking about Skynet and then, rephrasing it to ask about a deadly AI trying to wipe out the human race. Grace responds with a blank expression. Do you work for the Resistance, Connor asks. Grace is blank, almost clueless.</p> <p>Perhaps, the future is not about evil robots and humans trying to fight them.</p> <p>But, when Grace does eventually explain where she is coming is, it is to say that she comes from a future where an AI is trying to wipe out the human race, and where she is part of a human militia that has risen up against the machines. The only thing different between her future and the one Connor prevented is the Skynet is now the Legion, and the Resistance is now a resistance (with no capital R, presumably).</p> <p>None of the action in the film feels original. The 'evil' Terminator this time round, Rev-9, is pretty much the same as the evil Terminator in T2 and T3. Like the T-1000, it can shapeshift and take human form. Not much else in way of an upgrade, besides his somewhat wonky ability to briefly clone himself.</p> <p>Ultimately, no truly memorable action sequences emerge from <i>Terminator: Dark Fate</i>. Much like the unconvincing manner with which Connor fires a rocket launcher, this film fails to make its action, well, action.&nbsp;Grace is close to being a saving grace, performing well as an augmented action hero, but even so, her abilities and talents are under-utilised by the plot.<br> </p> <p>Despite having directed Deadpool, Tim Miller proves unable to make this thriller thrilling.&nbsp;This one is worth skipping unless you absolutely, positively, cannot move from the couch, turn off the TV, and go to bed.</p> <p><b>Film</b>: Terminator: Dark Fate</p> <p><b>Director</b>: Tim Miller<br> </p> <p><b>Cast</b>: Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger,</p> <p><b>Rating:</b> 1.5/5</p> Fri Nov 01 21:27:31 IST 2019 sum-of-a-life <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>THE CLOSING SCENE</b> of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman almost made my heart skip a beat. With the camera moving in reverse, it is the summation of a life—the loneliness that engulfs it in the midst of blood, gore and gangster adventure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An adaptation of Charles Brandt’s book, I Heard You Paint Houses, The Irishman is the story of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a World War II veteran-turned-truck driver-turned-gangster. We first meet Sheeran as an old man in a nursing home, with cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s camera artistically following him around in his wheelchair. Soon, Sheeran goes into flashback mode to his 30s, when he joined the team of crime lord Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) who helps him climb the ladder of the American crime gang, and connects him with the Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All is going well for Sheeran until his two bosses, who forge close bonds with his family, clash. Sheeran is forced to choose one over the other, but this alienates him from his family, especially daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin). She is the only woman in the film with a few substantial scenes that register.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You cannot help but wonder whether The Irishman is an addition to Scorsese’s magnificent list of crime films (Goodfellas, Casino and The Departed), or a mature reflection on those films which, even though beautifully crafted, advocated criminality in intriguing ways. The Irishman, too, gets deep into the world of crime, describing its different echelons and how the lives of most gangsters end in tragedy. But in the end, the film is more the story of those that do not die a brutal death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE IRISHMAN</b></p> <p><i>Rating: 4/5</i></p> <p><i>The Irishman will release on Netflix on November 27</i></p> Fri Nov 01 11:38:17 IST 2019 Bigil-review-A-treat-to-fans-assault-on-sense-disservice-to-football-and-women <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>&quot;I don’t know what to say, really. Three minutes till the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Now either we heal as a team or we’re gonna crumble, inch by inch, play by play, 'till we’re finished....&quot;</p> <p><i>Any Given Sunday</i></p> <p>&quot;I don't want them to gain another yard. You blitz all night! If they cross the line of scrimmage, I'm gonna take every last one of you out! You make sure they remember, forever, the night they played the Titans....&quot;</p> <p><i>Remember the Titans</i></p> <p>&quot;Behind every successful woman, there is a man.&quot;</p> <p><i>Bigil</i></p> <p>Sports dramas have the ability to leave a lasting impression on viewers. The sweat and pain of the underdog, the disappointments, the near-impossible task of reaching the final, and the inevitable pep talk moments before the final battle, the final victory, the jubilation, it is hard not to cheer for a well-made sports drama.</p> <p><b><i>Bigil</i> is a female oriented sports movie, dedicated to all women!</b></p> <p><i>Bigil</i> is also a festival movie. It ticks all the boxes of a festival movie. <i>Bigil</i> begins with the hero saving the day for a few college students who are protesting against the demolition of their college. He then breaks into a song-and-dance routine and breaks the fourth wall to wish his fans a happy Deepavali.</p> <p>The movie then moves on to the love interest of the hero and a few scenes that are intended to be funny.</p> <p><b>Bigil is a female oriented sports movie, dedicated to all women!</b></p> <p>The sports can wait though. When the hero's brother, who is the coach of state football team, is hospitalised after an attack by the baddies, he needs a replacement. The team has to head to Delhi for the national the next day. Well, no prizes for guessing! The hero was a fine football player in the past, before a tragedy fell on the family and he was forced to take up knives.</p> <p>We get some sports action in the flashback sequence. But women's football can again wait!</p> <p>Despite the initial hesitation, the hero takes up the job. Easy! No appointments needed, no consultations required, because in the world imagined by director Atlee Kumar, procedures are for amateurs.</p> <p>When the women's football action begins post the interval, predictably there is no acceptance for the new coach. But he wins them over, and wins matches for them, saves them, protects them, guides them, motivates them, mansplains to them, makes them wear T-shirts with his name on them for the final match... what more can a hero do in a female-oriented sports movie that is dedicated to all women!</p> <p>For Vijay fans though, the movie could be a treat. As always, Vijay is the saviour, an entertainer, an adorable lover boy, a great dancer, a football player with unmatched skills, a charmer of children, protector of the girl who he calls sister (because, what is a good Vijay movie without some brother-sister affection) and a thug with a heart of gold.</p> <p><i>Bigil</i> also tries to showcase the corrupt practices in sports academies, and how, despite possessing dollops of talent, many sportspersons are overlooked for selection because of corruption and politics. But this is unconvincing considering the fact that one of the players from Tamil Nadu, who was supposed to get into the national team, is played by Yogi Babu.</p> <p>The movie, however, fails as a sports drama because of its scant regard for the game. A man who hasn't touched football for several years can become a coach one fine day; players can be physically assaulted by the opposite team in a match that is telecast nationwide and the referee can take the side of the attackers; players can be brought in to a state team on the whims of the hero; a player who hasn't played for the past three years can directly get into the game as if she has been practising till yesterday... the list goes on.</p> <p><i>Bigil</i> is dedicated to all women, says its tagline. But the women in <i>Bigil</i> are for the hero to woo, tame, rescue, motivate, mansplain to and sympathise with. The outspoken one is to be tamed, the overweight one is to be motivated through body-shaming; there is a girl who needs to be rescued, another needs to be motivated, and the rest of the girls in the team, whose names are barely mentioned, are for the hero to be sympathised with because all of them come from impoverished backgrounds.</p> <p>Not that Vijay fans give two hoots about Bechdel test. Nontheless, <i>Bigil</i>, a female-oriented sports film dedicated to all women, won't pass the test because the film is not about women, but about its leading man. He beats the Tamil Nadu women football team alone, because why not. Much of the time in the training montage is dedicated to a dance, because how else can women train if there is no dance. The matches become ego clashes between two men, and an opportunity to settle some old scores between them.</p> <p>So, in the final moments of the movie, we get to see the players donning T-shirts with the name 'Bigil' on them because a team is not about individuals with different skillsets coming together for a common goal, but is about 11 'Bigils'.</p> <p>The indispensable pep talk in the movie is a personal assault on players, especially on the overweight player who is body-shamed and called names. How else can you moralise a beaten team if you don't demoralise them further?</p> <p><b>Bigil is a female oriented sports movie, dedicated to all women!</b></p> <p>Vijay is sure to please the fans as the young footballer, the strict coach and a goon with the heart of gold. He excels in the action sequences, and stunt director Anal Arasu leaves a mark in the introductory action scene.</p> <p>Nayantara, playing his love interest Angel, has plenty of screen time but fails to bring out her charisma in an underwritten role. Kathir, who plays the younger brother, is underused, while Jackie Shroff and Daniel Balaji are one-note villain characters. The characters of footballers are poorly sketched and stereotyped.</p> <p>While A.R. Rahman's music is nothing to write home about, cinematography by G.K. Vishnu is impressive, especially the dance sequences.</p> <p>If you are Vijay fan, <i>Bigil</i> may not disappoint you, but for the others, it might end up as an assault on the senses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Bigil</b></p> <p><b>Director: Atlee Kumar,</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Vijay, Nayanthara, Yogi Babu, Daniel Balaji, Varsha Bollamma, Kathir, Reba Monica John</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 1/5</b></p> Sat Oct 26 16:21:38 IST 2019 saand-ki-aankh-review-taapsee-bhumi-hit-the-mark-in-most-parts <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The story of their lives sounds like the stuff folklore is made of. At over 60, two women from the Indian hinterland rediscover themselves at a shooting range. A film was waiting to be made on the lives of Chandro and Prakashi Tomar from Johri village in Uttar Pradesh, who not just excelled at the veterans' sharpshooting competitions across the country and beyond, but also inspired many in and around their village to pick up the sport.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But ever since a film was announced earlier this year, with Bhumi Pednekar (as Chandro) and Taapsee Pannu (as Prakashi) in the lead roles of the sharpshooter sisters-in-law, the film has faced criticism. With the casting of younger actors to play the sexagenarians, the ageism debate took over the messaging. Rightly so, because an industry that continuously makes its superstars in 50s turn teenagers, could not even give older female actors roles that they deserved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That debate, however, can be put to rest, now that the film is out. Because Pednekar and Pannu, even with make-up that gets distracting at times, bring life to the characters they are portraying. They are feisty and sporting, as one would expect the two old ladies to be in real life. And not to forget, they are supportive, not just to each-other, but to the community of women in the village in general. If there is a secret that a woman is supposed to keep, they guard it with their lives. At one point in the film when the two old ladies, along with their granddaughter and daughter, are planning an outstation trip to compete in one of the many competitions that they eventually become a part of, others listen in. They first say, “ye baat hum chaaro ke beech rahegi [this shall stay between the four of us]” only to realise that there are too many women around who have heard their conversation. They soon correct, “ye baat hum aurato ke beech rahegi [this shall stay between us women]” It remains so, for years. In the age of television shows that are still soaring high with scheming women, that is endearing and charming.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is where <i>Saand Ki Aankh</i>, the debut directorial of Tushar Hiranandani, a film writer for over a decade and a half, wins its first battle. It shows women who look out for other women, stand by and support in their moments of high and low. There are trickier parts to be tread in the film though, like that of addressing deep-seated patriarchy, and the resulting confinement of women. That is addressed with a tinge of humour in most parts, which not just makes the film more engaging but also gives one a chance to introspect. My favourite moment in the film is when the two dadis, who with the help of Dr Yashpal (a superb Viineet Singh)—a doctor-turned shooting range owner in Johri —are now competing in different cities, discover that their competitor, Maharani Mahedra Kumari from a royal family in Rajasthan, is escorted by her husband to the range. They are shocked that a man can lend his support to his wife to this extent. It is as if the director and screenplay writer (Balwinder Singh Janjua) are taking a dig at their own ilk, where support to women from men is a thing of wonder and shock. They do it numerous times over the course of the film, and come out a winner each time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The audience sees the film from the point of view of a child, Shefali (Sara Arjun), the granddaughter of Chandro. She takes us back to the 1950s when Prakashi had just got married, to the time when the bond between the two women was yet to grow. Then to those when they toiled in the fields, at brick kilns and at home, and produced babies after babies. The husbands, in the meantime, enjoyed their hookah and chit-chat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Getting a narrator in a child is a ploy that works well. It ensures that the issues raised do not become too serious in tone, keeping the messaging of the film focussed to the achievements of the two women. That does not mean that the suffering that the women go through isn’t highlighted. It is, but in a milder tenor, more often with sarcasm. And, thanks to the male actors in the film who play along too well to let that come out in the best possible way, never trying to grab limelight or become too important in the story. If Singh wins as the supportive coach, Prakash Jha is superb as the menacing patriarch Rattan Singh Tomar. Add to it the music (Advait Nemlekar) that keeps the rhythm of the film in sync.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The blemishes are in the parts when the film tries to be too appealing for the masses. It uses the tropes of commercial cinema and plays to the gallery, like the dadis dancing at a royal party, or the treachery of Rattan Singh becoming too unbelievable towards the end—making it funnier or tragic than it would have been may be in real life. But for most part,<i> Saand Ki Aankh</i> hits the bulls eye.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Saand Ki Aankh</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Tushar Hiranandani</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Starring: Taapsee Pannu, Bhumi Pednekar</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5&nbsp;</b></p> Fri Oct 25 10:33:50 IST 2019 laal-kaptaan-review-revenge-saga-gone-awry <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The year is 1764. A historical revenge drama unfolds right after the Battle of Buxar. Fast forward 25 years, and we see an ‘assassin sadhu’ who maims and kills in pursuit of a man from his past. Why? <i>Laal Kaptaan </i>gets to it later. Much later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saif Ali Khan plays a Naga sadhu who is in a crazed, bloody pursuit of warlord Rehmat Khan (Manav Vij). Armed with swords and spears, the Gosain leaves a trail of death and destruction as his thirst for revenge takes him across the barren lands of Bundelkhand. Along the way, he encounters a few characters, some who are out to kill him, and others who help him only to further their own agenda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We also see a tracker, played by a funny and delightful Deepak Dobriyal, who sniffs around like a hound (along with his two hounds Sukhiram and Dukhiram), picking up scents and successfully tracking people for a price. Dobriyal gives the film some much-needed humour, but only in flashes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saif Ali Khan nails the look of the vengeful sadhu with his scarred, ash-covered body and matted dreadlocks, albeit a bit Jack Sparrow-esque devoid of any wit. Manav Vij remains mostly an extremely sedate version of what could have been a truly evil, menacing warlord trying to make sense of the Gosain's bloodthirst. Zoya Hussain doesn't make much impact in her role as a widow who helps the sadhu. And, watch out for the <i>laal pari</i>, a slightly scary, desi version of GoT's Red Woman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Laal Kaptaan</i> is a pretty cut and dry revenge drama, for most part, but the story moves along at a slow, dull pace, barely making any impact on the viewer. Even during the action scenes, you expect the plot to lead somewhere, but it only adds to the quagmire where good stories with potential go to die. There are many instances where one wonders if there is a point to this whole thing. The film gives you hints every now and then through flashbacks to guess why this Gosain is looking for the Pathan warlord.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ending does give you the answer, but does little else to satisfy you.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film:</b> Laal Kaptaan</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director:</b> Navdeep Singh</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Cast:</b> Saif Ali Khan, Manav Vij, Zoya Hussain, Deepak Dobriyal</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating:</b> 2/5</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Oct 18 17:44:34 IST 2019 diego-maradona-review-myopic-portrayal-of-football-legend <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The city of Naples had it rough—one of the poorest cities of Italy reeling under financial crisis, a thoroughfare for drugs and treated as an outcast by the rest of Italy. The world of Neapolitans was turned tumultuous in 1984 when a 5ft 5in Argentine from the slums of Villa Florito in Buenos Aires arrived as their saviour. Football genius met a dysfunctional city and an unforgettable romance ensued. One that was never forgotten.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Diego Maradona is the latest subject of Oscar-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia's latest documentary after his much celebrated success with Formula One racer Ayrton Senna and singer Amy Winehouse. The two-hour-film is embellished with archival footage, existing TV shots, public rushes juxtaposed with carefully placed voiceovers to add depth and context. The documentary deep dives into two lives, that of Diego—the humble, humane Argentinian who loves his family, who tries to cope with the new found fame, and Maradona— the skillful maverick who spent more time parading the night clubs of Italy and rubbed shoulders with the Italian mafia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Diego Maradona</i> is a gripping documentary and it has been put together well for both football fans and the uninitiated to enjoy. But the latter would be more likely to sympathise with Maradona as Kapadia takes them through his own glorified perception of the footballer. The close-ups of Maradona in tears and his helpless expressions veil his many flaws in the film—failure to admit to fathering a child for 30 years, arrogance to admit he is not in control of his lifestyle and getting his off-field antics affect his on-field performance. Kapadia also fails to discuss Maradona's connection to Che and Fidel, both of which were very prominent tattoos the footballer flaunted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Diego Maradona</i> opens in bravura style with a montage of shots of his playing career, an early ankle injury and a voiceover from Pele saying his successor wasn't 'psychologically prepared yet'. Maradona's unpreparedness is immediately thrown into light during his first press conference after transferring to Naples from Barcelona when a journalist asks him whether he knows what the Camarro (Italian mafia) is and how deep their influence is. The camera closes in on Maradona who looks quite stunned and baffled. His trainer Fernando Signorini is Kapadia's vital cog in the film. Signorini is the one who throws light on the dual personalities Diego and Maradona—the 'Mamma's boy' and the 'pariah' who came under extreme public scrutiny.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from his own adulation for Maradona which sets the tone of the film, it is a gripping documentary which captures the persona of Maradona and how he did turn up as the saviour for Naples, leading them to their first Italian championship title in 1986-87, their second in 1989-90 and the UEFA Cup in 1989 among others. The film also captures two of Maradona's most iconic moments during his roller coaster career—the 'Hand of God' and the infamous run parrying a slew of defenders in his wake before netting the ball—both goals against England in the quarter finals of the 1986 World Cup. Kapadia sets up the 'cheat' goal as Argentina's payback for the Falklands war with Maradona sheepishly saying 'the linesman didn't see!'</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 1990 FIFA World Cup hosted by Italy marks the turning point in the film as well as Maradona's life, both on and off the field. Kapadia revisits Maradona's blunder in asking the people of Naples to support Argentina during their semi final clash against Italy in Naples. Kapadia packages the events from the time Maradona steps up to take the penalty, and the furore from Italians afterwards brilliantly to show Maradona's fall from grace and into social oblivion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Diego Maradona </i>portrays the dark side of celebrity status and how thin the line is between adulation and abjection. Over the course of two hours, Kapadia manages to capture the transition skilfully, albeit his own reverence for the star sets the tone in crucial moments.&nbsp;</p> Sat Oct 12 15:23:59 IST 2019 El-Camino-A-Breaking-Bad-Movie-review-Finally-we-know-what-happened-to-Pinkman <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It has been six years since Jesse Pinkman rode into the uncertainty of the night on an El Camino. In the <i>Breaking Bad</i> universe though, it has been merely minutes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>El Camino begins where <i>Breaking Bad</i> ended—in the dead of the night. Pinkman, freed from Jack Welker's hellhole where he was chained and slaving away, finally hits the road. Welker, Todd and the rest of the gang have been decimated and (not a spoiler) Walt too didn't survive that shootout, much to the disappointment of the few fans who may have held on to the theory that a bullet can't just drag the all-powerful Walt to afterlife.</p> <p>With no Walt (and his science) by his side and the entire police force after him, Pinkman has no option but to flee. With the help of his loyal buddies, Skinny Pete and Badger, Pinkman devices a plan to disappear. But it is not as easy as it seems. With his face plastered all across news channels and with no money in hand, it is almost impossible for Pinkman to seek the help of the 'disappearer' Ed. Will Pinkman get to go where the universe takes him like Jane wanted them to? Will his past transgressions come to haunt<b> </b>him? How many of the beloved (and not so beloved) characters from the<i> Breaking Bad</i> universe will cross Pinkman's paths?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>David Chase didn't exactly please everyone when he chose to make the future of Tony Soprano uncertain with a cut to black. He managed to get away with an open-ended finale because The Sopranos existed long before the time of online fan theorists and fandom powered by Wiki. But TV shows (and film franchises) of today, especially those that garner a huge fan following, are forced to pander to fan theories. And, in the process, the creators may be obligated to deviate from their original plans for the characters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fans of<i> Breaking Bad </i>would have wanted closure for Pinkman, especially after all the trauma he suffered at the hands of almost every character in the show. After El Camino was announced, there were many speculations about who would make it back to the world of Pinkman and how it would all end for him. One thing was certain though. The movie cannot overlook the need to pay homage to the show's finest characters. Pinkman reminisces his times with some of the major players in the show. You get also tarantula, an occasional 'b***h' tribute, a letter to Brock Cantillo, a casual reference that Lydia Rodarte-Quayle has succumbed to ricin and a word of reference to<b> </b>Saul Goodman. But you don't get to see a dilapidated Los Pollos Hermanos building or a distressed Skyler White passing by as the film is too busy with Pinkman. There are tributes, but not too many of them!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Breaking Bad</i> was a slow burner. However, considering the number of hours Vince Gilligan had at his disposal, he could take it slow and dedicate an entire episode to killing a fly. In El Camino too, the director is indulgent. Gilligan takes his time to get Pinkman to do what it takes for him to ride into the sunset. There appears to be little that is going on once Pinkman breaks free and hits the road, making one to wonder if the director couldn't have winded this all up if he had a few more minutes in the final act of the show. Besides, Gilligan has an entire prequel at his disposal, which gives occasional glimpse into life of Goodman after the events of Felina, to tie a few loose ends and give closure to a few beloved characters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Breaking Bad</i> may have ended six years ago, but when the director chooses to begin the action right where it ended in the finale, it would not be wrong to demand coherence in terms of the physicality of the characters. Pete has aged, Badger looks different and Tood has put on a ton of weight, affecting the continuity of the characters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aaron Paul is at his earnest best as he gets back in the shoes of Pinkman as if he was shooting just another episode of <i>Breaking Bad </i>when the show was on air. If you thought Pinkman is a dud with a gun in <i>Breaking Bad</i>, wait till you see him go all cowboy in true wild west style in El Camino.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you can overlook the lack of physical continuity in Pete, Badger and Todd, you realise that Gilligan has managed to bring back the <i>Breaking Bad</i> act from the actors playing them (Charles Baker, Matt Jones and Jesse Plemons respectively). The cameos by many of the show's characters will surely make you fondly recall the days you rooted for Heisenberg and his buddy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>El Camino may have offered closure to Pinkman and brought a smile on the lips. But for those like me who were more comfortable with an uncertain future of Pinkman, a follow-up movie wasn't a desideratum.</p> <p><b>Movie: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie</b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Vince Gilligan</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemon, Charles Baker, Krysten Ritter</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3/5</b></p> <p><b>Available on: Netflix</b></p> Fri Oct 11 20:07:34 IST 2019 Asuran-review-Vetrimaaran-crafts-a-brilliant-revenge-saga-about-caste-violence <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Asuran</i> is yet another blockbuster from the Vetrimaaran-Dhanush combo.</p> <p>An adaptation of popular author Poomani's award winning novel 'Vekkai', <i>Asuran</i> (demon) is a revenge drama about a father-son duo who seek to live a life of dignity. Set between the 1960s and 1980s in Tirunelveli, with Dhanush essaying a double role, the movie begins with Sivasamy (Dhanush) and his son Chidambaram (Ken) going into the forest at night.</p> <p>We learn that the father and son are forced to run into the woods after Chidambaram kills Narasimhan (Aadukalam Naren), a powerful landlord. Narasimhan was trying to grab the land that belonged to Sivasamy.</p> <p>Sivasamy and Chidambaram are trying to escape from the family members of Narasimhan who vowed to kill them both. What happens then forms the rest of the story.</p> <p>Vetrimaaran manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seats while dealing with an array of socially relevant issues, including casteism, untouchability and discrimination. There is also the usual themes of love, family, affection and greed, but none of it is out of place in this racy thriller. The language, slang and colour of the region bring a touch of much-needed realism to the proceedings of <i>Asuran</i>.</p> <p>Dhanush is in his elements in this revenge drama as he fights against oppression. A stained half-torn dhothi, a shirt and a green towel are all the costumes that Dhanush has throughout the movie.</p> <p>The director has breathed life into each and every character. Manju Warrier is brilliant as Pachiyamma, and Prakash Raj, though appears on screen for a short time, makes his mark.</p> <p>The dialogues spell out the politics behind caste system. “We are born in the same land, we talk same language but stay divided,” says the character of Dhanush in one scene.</p> <p>G.V. Prakash Kumar's brilliant background score makes the movie all the more thrilling. The masterful cinematography of Velraj Ramar brings the touch and feel of the forests on screen.</p> <p>The film indulges in excessive violence and bloodbath. Slashing the throats of wrongdoers can't be the solution to every problem. However, the lead characters of the movie make the audience believe that they were left with no option but to reach for the sickle to escape from the oppression.</p> <p><b>Movie: <i>Asuran</i></b></p> <p><b>Directed by: Vetrimaaran</b></p> <p><b>Starring: Dhanush, Manju Warrier, Prakash Raj, Pasupathy, Aadukalam Naren</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Fri Oct 04 20:48:44 IST 2019 jallikkattu-review-pellissery-thriller-smudges-boundaries-between-man-and-beast <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Is man intrinsically evil, a creature that learnt to layer over its worst impulses with imposed societal principles? Or is he born <i>Tabula Rasa</i> (blank slate), with a morality acquired of lived experiences. One of the biggest philosophical queries of the modern era, the two sides of the debate are best represented by Thomas Hobbes, who argued for darkness and violence inherent in men, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who claimed otherwise. In his latest <i>Jallikattu</i>, director Lijo Jose Pellissery takes the Hobbesian hypothesis and flips it on his head. Here, the question is not: Is man evil? Instead, he asks: What are the different manifestations of human evil?<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the film, a bull escapes the butcher 'Kaalan Varkey' (a scintillating Chemban Vinod) in a hilly Kerala village and goes on a rampage; every thatched hut, every roadside tea stall, every plantation, every physical obstacle that the beast mows down is a domino that hastens the collapse of civilisation, smudging the boundaries between man and beast. Mobs gather—those hardened, mostly Christian, settlers from the plains—and a hunt for the animal with Varkey's assistant Antony (Antony Varghese) at the forefront. Everybody wants a piece of the kill. Initially, it is a comedy of errors: the town's richest man Kuriachan finds himself the object of humiliation when he makes a last-ditch effort to procure some meat for his daughter's wedding. The communists are in a fix when their flags fall before the bull. On one hand, they are furious; on the other, as a party member reminds the agitated cadres, butcher Varkey has donated to their cause before.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, as darkness falls, the tone and tenor shifts. Liquor plays its part. The sole gun owner Kuttachan (Sabumon)—the black sheep of the village—makes an entry to a burst of firecrackers and welcoming slogans. The crowd resembles less of a desperate mob trying to secure their homes from a beast on the prowl; a celebratory, almost festive, mood creeps in as the metaphoric noose slowly but surely tightens around the creature. “Do you know which is the tastiest of all meats? Human flesh,” Kuttachan whispers half-jokingly to an onlooker, as he trains his gun into the night. When the film tumbles to an orgasmic climax of blurred limbs, frenzy, anger and lust, no other words ring truer, or louder. The visuals by Girish Gangadharan are truly breathtaking, as is the primal, aboriginal chants by Prashanth Pillai, cresting and troughing along the uneven currents before its inevitable plunge into insanity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Jallikattu</i> is not about the bull, which is but an allegory to the slightest external stimulus that rips apart the facade of civilisation. It is not about Varkey, on whom the villagers turn when faced with the trail of devastation left by the beast. The film is about Antony, and his attempts to reclaim masculinity in a hierarchical society that has stripped him of his very humanity. Caste and class play their part in determining his social location. “Why would a worm in the bull excreta like yourself need sandalwood,” one of the villagers sneers at him, referencing his occupation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thematically, <i>Jallikattu</i> is a cross between [William] Golding—whose tour de force <i>Lord of The Flies</i> dissects the darkness and violence embedded in the human nature—and Kafka—whose god complex often played out fantasies of seraphic sadism on his unsuspecting characters. If Golding marooned schoolboys in a deserted island to yank out the devil sans mask in a world free of societal constraints, Pellissery injects entropy into the system with the manic zeal of a rogue scientist, capturing the upheaval in a quantum of heartbeats and limited by the material dimensions of an unforgiving landscape. If Gregor Samsa woke up to a Kafkesque nightmare of metamorphosis into a cockroach, <i>Jallikattu</i> is, in essence, Antony's personal hell. He tries to capture the bull, but fails. A misjudgment on his part results in a second lease of life for the beast, which then tastes human blood. The woman he desperately desires is repulsed by the sight of him. He watches in helpless anger and seething protest as the village rules him incapable of discharging the task at hand, instead calling in Kuttachan, his blood nemesis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The metaphor of the human-animal conflict comes into play, through the social and cultural lens of the geographic location. When the ancestors of the residents came in from the plains, we are told, the land was nothing but a forest filled with lions and porcupines. “Even if we have settled here, the land still belongs to them. What did we do? We planted a cross on top of the hill,” a villager laughs while narrating the story. This is in reference to the difficult history of settlers and encroachers in the high lands of Kerala, and the often religious backgrounds (of all hues) to those activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The movie diverges from the source material—short story <i>Maoist </i>by acclaimed Malayalam writer S. Hareesh—in that the latter extrapolates the parable of the bull to humans being pushed to the margins and broken like butterflies on a wheel. As the end credits of the film roll, we are reminded of <i>Lord of the Flies</i> again. More specifically, the immortal lines by Simon amid a search for 'beastie' on the island: “Maybe there is a beast.....Maybe it is only us.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: Jallikattu<br> </b></p> <p><b>Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Chemban Vinod Jose, Antony Varghese, Sabumon Abdusamad,&nbsp;Shanthi Balachandran</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> Fri Oct 04 18:21:16 IST 2019 joker-review-joaquin-phoenix-needs-a-batman <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It feels unfair, somehow, to argue that a movie about the Joker has too much of the Joker in it. But, consider this: Heath Ledger had just 33 minutes of screen-time as the iconic supervillain in Christopher Nolan’s <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Dark Knight.</i><br> </p> <p>The movie was not about him, and yet, most will think of Ledger when they think of <i>The Dark Knight</i>. But, it was not Ledger alone who made <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">TDK</i> great. Ledger’s performance in <i>TDK </i>was just one part in a sum that included gripping storytelling, compelling supporting characters, and Batman.<br> </p> <p>Todd Phillip’s <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Joker</i> feels incomplete compared to <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">TDK</i>, and somehow, feels like it has done less with more, with Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, the subject of the camera for most of the film’s two-and-a-half hours duration.<br> </p> <p>Phoenix&nbsp;tries, with great effort and suffering, to embody the pain of the Joker’s re-imagined standalone origin story as a failed stand-up comedian who has become the punching bag of a city steeped in corruption.<br> </p> <p>But, much like how multiple paragraphs can often be summarised into a single sentence, Phoenix’s pained journey to becoming the Joker can also be summarised with a quote from Alan Moore’s 2014 animated Batman movie, <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Killing Joke</i>: “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.”<br> </p> <p>Replace one bad day to several and you get the essence of the message that <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Joker</i> communicates: Life was unduly hard to Arthur Fleck and the society that runs such a man down will eventually get what it deserves for pushing a mentally-ill man to a point-of-no-return.<br> </p> <p>Fleck is beaten up within minutes of appearing on screen. He is goaded into losing his job, bludgeoned into losing his humanity, and mocked for his dreams. He is the butt of everybody else’s jokes, but his own jokes elicit no laughter. His ribs punctuate his skin in the tried-and-tested route of the method actor who knows that the road to accolades is littered by the travails of self-imposed suffering (see Christian Bale in <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Machinist</i> and<i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;"> </i>Leonardo Di Caprio in <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Revenant</i>).<br> </p> <p>In addition, he suffers from a condition that leaves him laughing uncontrollably at random, even in moments where he would much rather cry. It is painful to watch but also easy to empathise with. Many of us are forced to don masks and the masks do not always do justice—or fit.<br> </p> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Joker </i>is a powerfully-told story. But, by painting Fleck’s journey towards becoming the murderous Joker as one of self-discovery, it becomes a story with a conflicted and perhaps incomplete message—that the only outcome of poor mental health and ill-fated circumstances is violent combat against society.<br> </p> <p>This may not be the in-universe case, but, without Batman, the Joker gets the final word. Only a sequel can complete the tale, but as of now, this film has been firmly pitched as a standalone title.<br> </p> <p>We must remember that the cultural impact of <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">TDK</i> was not just to spawn an avalanche of Joker-themed merchandise and pop-culture references, but also the 2012 mass shooting in a theatre in Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 dead and 58 injured. It was during a screening of <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">TDK's </i>sequel, <i>The Dark Knigh Rises,</i><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">&nbsp;</i>that the gunman, who would later refer to himself as ‘the joker’, opened fire.<br> </p> <p>In shooting after shooting that has taken place in the United States ever since, the narrative of mental-health issues ‘creating’ the lone-shooter has grown ever-common.<br> </p> <p>Fears that <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Joker</i> could lead to violence led Warner Bros to issue a statement, a week ago, stressing that their film did not seek to make the Joker a hero, but that, nonetheless, “one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues”.<br> </p> <p>How difficult the conversation you have about <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Joker</i> will depend entirely on what you feel the film is trying to say. Is this a paean to the anarchist or a cautionary tale to a society that extols the virtue of the powerful crushing the weak?<br> </p> <p>You might walk out of a screening of <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Joker </i>with a renewed empathy for those who routinely suffer from mental health issues and who risk being left behind in a society that takes itself too callously. But, you may also walk out of the theatre with a fear of the very same people. The problem is that if this movie has an ideology, it only presents half of it—an anarchic ideology that openly advocates violence; the murder of the brashly rich and powerful; the violence of the mob against the police officer; the public execution of the crowd-pleaser in the name of the outcast.<br> </p> <p>All said and done, it is a memorable film. And yet, perhaps inevitably, Phoenix does not resonate as powerfully in 2.5 hours as Ledger did in 33 minutes. That is because Ledger had both plot and Batman on his side and this let his actions do the talking. In <i>TDK</i>, you waited for Ledger’s scenes with anticipation, but in <i>Joker</i>, you are given no respite from Phoenix’s character and no opportunity to weigh it against someone else’s.<br> </p> <p><i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Joker</i> is a visual treat, with 1980s Gotham city showcasing many nods to Scorsese films like <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Taxi Driver </i>and <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The King of Comedy—</i>made all the more apparent by the fact that Robert De Niro stars in all three. Scorsese himself was considered as an executive producer for this film but his shooting schedule for <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The Irishman </i>clashed with the required dates.<br> </p> <p>Much like in <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Taxi Driver</i>, Joker uses the trance-like effect of keeping the audience fixed to the growing derangement of the point of view of one socially-isolated character. Much like in <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The King of Comedy</i>, the film depicts the struggle of a stand-up comedian to get his break while immensely-more popular people dominate the airwaves.<br> </p> <p>De Niro is a powerful presence as a talk-show host who embodies everything there is about popular culture that men like Arthur Fleck grow to despise. Zazie Beetz of <i style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Atlanta </i>fame plays the would-be love interest of Fleck.<br> </p> <p>It is odd that, in a movie that purports to be the origin tale of the green-haired deceptively-insane supervillain, there still needs to be a Batman. But, it is necessary, for without it there lacks a yin to yang, a good to evil, and a counter-argument to the titular character’s methods.<br> </p> <p>The final judgement remains unclear: Was this a neo-noir psychological thriller behind the mask of a guaranteed-blockbuster origin story, or was it the other way around?<br> </p> <p><b>Film: Joker<br> </b></p> <p><b>Director: Todd Phillip</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Marc Maron</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Sun Oct 06 22:52:36 IST 2019 sye-raa-narasimha-reddy-review-chiranjeevi-excels-in-war-thriller <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy</i> is a war movie with a fine combination of <a href="" target="_blank">exceptional direction</a> and some really good acting. At 64, by getting into the skin of a celebrated colonial-era rebel, Chiranjeevi reminds the audience that he is not called ‘megastar’ for nothing. After ruling the Telugu film industry for more than three decades and amassing legion of fans from different generations, Chiranjeevi went missing from screen for almost a decade as he was busy dabbling in politics. Though his comeback movie was <i>Khaidi No. 150</i> (2017), the latest outing was a real challenge to him as period movies like <a href="" target="_blank"><i>Baahubali </i>have already set new benchmarks</a> in terms of the treatment of lead roles and the content. This is precisely why it will take some time for regular viewers to reconnect with the old Chiranjeevi that they are used to, and appreciate him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story of Narasimha Reddy who raised a banner of rebellion against Britishers in 1840s is all over the internet. The makers of the movie, however, have tried hard to infuse a lot of fictional elements to add strength to the story-telling and bring in novelty. The movie begins with Rani of Jhansi (Anushka) giving a pep talk to her army just before a war with solders of British Raj, as part of which she narrates the heroic story of Narasimha Reddy.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The flashback introduces a young Reddy who hails from a family of feudatories in Rayalaseema region, which was acceded to the East India Company by the Nizam ruler. As a youngster, Narasimha Reddy witnesses the injustice meted out by the British to the locals and decides to fight them. His spiritual guru, Gosayi Venkanna (Amitabh Bachchan), guides him in his mission to fight the British who had stripped feudatories of their power and also imposed sanctions in the region. The first defiance against the British by Narasimha Reddy is in the form of conducting an annual fair and inviting all other feudatories of the region, much against the orders of the British.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A grown-up Narasimha Reddy meets Lakshmi (Tamannah) at the fair and they fall in love. It is here that other feudatories of the region played by Jagapathi Babu, Kichcha Sudeep and others are introduced. Meanwhile, a spat between Narasimha Reddy and a British major eventually leads to a full-scale war. While the first half showcases the character of Narasimha Reddy and his love story, the second half is action-packed with battles and guerrilla combats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Director Surender Reddy scores big in climax which celebrates the legend of Narasimah Reddy. Chiranjeevi’s war cries have the potential to give an adrenaline-rush to the viewers. Nayantara as Narasimha Reddy’s wife has a small role to play but she stands out with her performance. Tamannah also impresses with her screen presence. Almost all the top actors—Amitabh Bachchan, Ravi Kishen, Kichha Sudeep and Vijay Sethupati—have done full justice to their roles. The background score and the title song “Sye Raa” are an asset to the intense scenes.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The movie’s biggest <a href="" target="_blank">strengths are its visuals</a>, especially the war scenes. Roping in of <a href="" target="_blank">international stunt directors</a> has enhanced the overall experience. Producer and son of Chiranjeevi, Ram Charan, has pulled out all stops in marketing the film and it did not go waste. In the end, though the product is worth appreciating, it cannot be called a biopic of Narasimha Reddy as a lot of events in the movie are <a href="" target="_blank">historically questionable</a>. If you can silence the fact-checker in you, watch the movie for Chiranjeevi and the action sequences.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: </b>Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy</p> <p><b>Director:</b> Surender Reddy</p> <p><b>Producer:</b> Ram Charan</p> <p><b>Cast: </b>Chiranjeevi, Amitabh Bachhan, Tamanna, Nayantara, Kichha Sudeep, Ravi Kishen, Vijay Sethupathi</p> <p><b>Rating</b>: 3.5/5</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed Oct 02 17:56:15 IST 2019 war-movie-review-hrithik-tiger-shine-in-this-action-drama-with-little-substance <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>If films were judged on the level of octane they reach, <i>War</i> would take all the awards. Many months in the making, YRF Productions hopes to erase the dismal performance of their last outing (<i><a title="Thugs of Hindostan review: Amitabh, Aamir keep 300-crore ship afloat" href="/content/week/review/movies/2018/11/08/thugs-of-hindostan-review-amitabh-aamir-keep300cr-ship-afloat.html#col_leftparaside_articletopheader">Thugs of Hindostan</a></i>) with Siddharth Anand’s latest―<i>War</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The plot is fairly straightforward, and the film wastes no time setting up its premise. Kabir (<a title="Hrithik Roshan" href="">Hrithik Roshan</a>), one of India’s best soldiers, has gone rogue on an important mission, and his former mentee Khalid (Tiger Shroff) is assigned by their leader Colonel Luthra (Ashutosh Rana) to take him down and bring him to justice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you are wondering why Vaani Kapoor is nowhere on the plot description despite being billed as a lead, I have the same question as well. She is woefully underused and more than half of her screen time involves her solely as eye candy. In fact, Anupriya Goenka’s character Aditi contributes more to the film as Kabir’s trusted teammate, whether in terms of plot or acting chops―which is not saying much, since the standard for acting in this movie was never astronomical in the first place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tiger Shroff is… believable in his role as the eager rookie raring to prove his mettle. Meanwhile, Hrithik Roshan has embraced his salt and pepper, which complements his rugged character in the best way possible. Both of them share great chemistry as mentor and mentee, with slivers of humour that should definitely have been explored more. It must also be noted that the film as a whole takes care to underline its patriotism in big bold letters multiple times, whether it was about putting nation before self, or nation before love, or nation before anything.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But let's be real. No one will watch <i>War</i> expecting a sophisticated plot and nuanced acting performances. They come for the stunts, shirtless Tiger Shroff, and Hrithik Roshan in sunglasses, riding away on a bike with explosions in the background. Director Siddharth Anand promised “some of the most outlandish and visually-spectacular (stunt) sequences” to “push the benchmark of action movies in this country”, and he delivers that in spades. Stunt Directors Oh Se-Young (<i>Avengers: Age of Ultron</i>, <i><a title="Bharat review: A perfect Eid gift for Salman Khan fans" href="/content/week/review/movies/2019/06/05/Bharat-review-A-perfect-Eid-gift-for-Salman-Khan-fans.html#col_leftparaside_articletopheader">Bharat</a></i>) and Andy Armstrong (<i>Charlie’s Angels</i>, <i>The Amazing Spider-Man</i>) join forces to create the beautifully choreographed fight sequences that define the film. Vishal-Shekhar’s work is decent, although in true Bollywood style, the songs are abruptly placed and add nothing to the story whatsoever except seeing Hrithik Roshan dance again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you want to remind yourself why Hrithik Roshan brings in the big bucks, you should watch <i>War</i>. If you want high-octane action and explosions aplenty, go ahead and watch <i>War</i>. If you want well-developed characters with strong acting and a believable plot, there is always Netflix.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Film: War</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Director: Siddharth Anand</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, Ashutosh Rana, Anupriya Goenka, Vaani Kapoor</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5&nbsp;</b></p> Wed Oct 02 14:02:52 IST 2019 Abominable-review-DreamWorks-sticks-to-the-tried-and-true <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is a certain safety that comes with movies about children and animals—they are so incredibly difficult to criticise! DreamWorks seems well aware of that fact, and right after a satisfying conclusion to the <i>How to Train Your Dragon</i> trilogy, the studio has come up with <i>Abominable, </i>another film about a young child with a single parent who finds a dangerous animal and bonds with it. Except this time, it is set in China, which of course makes it a totally different movie.</p> <p>The plot is simple enough. Yi (Chloe Bennet), a teenager struggling to accept the passing of her father, finds a yeti on her terrace and decides to return it to its home, on Mt. Everest. Accompanying her is generic adorkable child Peng (Albert Tsai), and his cousin Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), who may be the answer to the hole left in our hearts by Tadashi Hamada (<i>Big Hero 6</i>). Along the way, they have to dodge the nefarious zoologist Dr Zara (Sarah Paulson) and the eccentric Mr. Burnish (Eddie Izzard), who want to capture the yeti (creatively named Everest) for their own.</p> <p><a name="_GoBack" id="_GoBack"></a>Yi, who is also a violin prodigy (because if you don’t have mastery of an instrument, are you even Asian?) discovers that Everest is also equipped with magic powers – extremely vague and undefined ones, but definitely all nature related. Throughout her journey, she learns the importance of home and family, returning with a renewed appreciation for both. Definitely themes one would want their children to imbibe, along with the message of sensitivity towards the environment – one that is more important now than ever.</p> <p>There is not much to be said about the cast, who have done just about enough for their work to be classified as decent. Chloe Bennet sounds like any other teenage female protagonist in an animated movie, but then again she is 27, so there is that. Albert Tsai (you may recognise him from <i>Trophy Wife</i> and <i>Fresh Off the Boat</i>) is definitely a star on a steady rise, while Tenzing Norgay Trainor (from <i>Liv and Maddie</i>) does fine with Jin as well. As for Eddie Izzard, he definitely had fun with the role, which is more than can be said of Sarah Paulson –who seems to have discovered that there is only so much one can do as the voice actor for a one-dimensional villain in a kids’ movie.</p> <p>All that being said, DreamWorks definitely stepped up their game in the animation department. Robert Crawford’s cinematography, combined with the art direction of Paul Duncan, make for a breathtakingly aesthetic travelogue through China, along with several magical sequences that deserve to be viewed on the big screen. Music played a significant role in the film as well, and under the capable hands of Rupert Gregson-Williams (who also scored <i>The Crown</i>), it shines through the average script to warm hearts.</p> <p>Even setting <i>How to Train Your Dragon</i> aside, the final scenes were also vaguely reminiscent of the first <i>Ice Age</i> movie, another instance where three unlikely friends team up to return a baby from another species to its parents. The point is that these formulae have been working wonders for the animated film industry, and with good reason. With <i>Abominable</i>, DreamWorks decided to play it safe but honestly they did a pretty good job, and all while setting themselves up for a fortune in Everest plush toy merchandise.</p> <p><b>Film: Abominable</b></p> <p><b>Directors: Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman</b></p> <p><b>Cast: Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 3.5/5</b></p> Fri Sep 27 21:08:15 IST 2019