Friday, November 29, 2013

Movie Review: Frozen

Since Disney bought Pixar, two things have happened – the Disney films have become better and better while the Pixar films have become significantly worse. Whether you take that as a blessing in disguise for Disney or as a tragedy for Pixar is up to you, but with Frozen one thing is for sure – Disney is back in a big way.

Without a doubt, Frozen is Disney’s most visually spectacular and enjoyable film since 1994’s The Lion King. It’s obviously not as good as the latter, but it is way more entertaining than 2010’s fun Tangled. The film finally achieves what Disney had been trying in the last two decades – it finds the right balance between the nostalgia of the old Disney films and characters and forging some new ground into narrative and style. Plus as a bonus you get to see an amazing Mickey Mouse 3D short film before the movie begins.

Like most Disney films the plot contains a kingdom, a princess, a mysterious handsome prince, an everyman of a hero, ‘true love’, a supernatural curse, half a dozen songs, quirky perpetually smiling good natured side characters, not so subtle life lessons and lots of ice. Every element of Frozen has been done before but directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee find that sweet spot between a throwback and the contemporary, thanks to some great characters, dialogue and truly outstanding visuals, demonstrating that good writing and not just CGA makes for a good animation film.

What makes Frozen so refreshingly different from the rest of the Disney cannon is that the filmmakers challenge the viewers’ expectations and as a result there is no central antagonist in the film. There are no evil Wazirs or shady sorcerers or witches to make the hero fight against, instead Frozen plays out like a fun character based comedy-drama with a tinge of adventure thrown in. And surprisingly it works this time, despite the fact that a similar tactic used by Pixar in Brave failed. More importantly, for the first time in years, a Disney movie managed to pass the Bechdel test. 

The lack of a villain is counterbalanced by a terrific voice cast including Kristin Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Alan Tudyk – because they aren’t big stars it enables you to invest in their characters rather than constantly and jarringly be reminded that a recognizable big movie star is voicing some computer puppet. The filmmakers also subvert the old good-vs-evil storytelling gambit with a grown up, astute sensibility and yet is still fun enough to keep the kids entertained. There’s plenty of jaw dropping large scale animation, which is not terrible in 3D but will most definitely be better in 2D. This has been a pretty very weak year for CG animation movies and Disney shows them all who the boss is. Watch it on the most gigantic screen that you can find.

(First published in MiD Day)

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Dirties

What is a great movie? A great movie is a motion picture that sets out to do something new in its genre and not only achieves its goal but also manages to surpass your expectations and set a new benchmark in said genre. Following that definition, the Canadian indie film The Dirties is a truly great film and a near masterpiece.

Written, directed, edited and starring newbie filmmaker Matt Johnson and Owen Williams, The Dirties effortlessly mashes together dark comedy, social commentary, drama, bromance and Hollywood all with a distinctly meta flavor. The film takes on the risqué subject of gun control and school shootings in America and does it in a way you won’t believe until you see it. We’ve had films like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant and We need to talk about Kevin, which were moving, shattering dramas, but The Dirties approaches the subject with a funny bone. This a comedy about two guys who plan a school shooting and making a film out of it. On paper making or watching a dark comedy such as this seems like a morally reprehensible act, and the fact that Johnson managed to pull it off in his bizarre comedic way is evidence of the film’s staggering achievement.

The Dirties won the Grand Jury trophy at this year’s Slamdance Film fest and it deserves a hell of a lot more than that. It’s a found footage film within a film within a film, and it becomes more and more arresting as it unfolds. Matt and Owen play themselves, or at least a younger version of their own selves -  they’re high school kids, childhood friends and also crazed movie geeks obsessed with pop culture and filmmaking. Their school project, a harmless short film becomes a horror movie when Matt muses over how ‘real’, ‘awesome’ and ‘path breaking’ it will be if they actually shot a few people in their school and filmed it.

The entire film ends up as a found footage movie about these two trying to make a found footage film. If that isn’t meta enough, there is a scene in The Dirties where Matt and Owen’s film instructor forces them to make cuts in their profanity laden footage to make it PG-13, and Matt decides to actually kill some people. It’s a brilliant, cheeky stab at the Hollywood studio system which forces filmmakers to turn their art into commercialized populist balderdash. Another fascinating aspect of the film is that it brings out the dark side of Matt’s movie geekiness – he loves cinema so much and he’s so obsessed with movies he slowly begins to lose his grip on reality. In one of the best scenes in the film, Owen, by now clearly shocked by Matt’s increasingly bizarre behavior berates him for living his life as if being in a movie. It’s a moving, poignant scene that throws in a gauntlet or two towards filmmakers and writers lost in objectivity, and like the majority of the movie it’s never been done before.

The Dirties also really gets what movie buffs are about. Like any hardcore movie nerd Matt and Owen (in the film) consume movies like water – they make references to Irreversible, Being John Malkovich, Back to the future, Star Wars and dozens of other films in any casual conversation. Johnson also films these scenes without being ostentatious, thus giving a relatable vibe to them. He also very subtly nails the psychological aspect of it where Matt’s breakdown finally occurs and, instead of making pop culture references, he starts trying to become a pop culture icon. 

Stuff like this wouldn’t have been possible without some excellent acting from the cast. In a found footage film one is constantly aware of either the genuine fakeness or the fake ingenuity of the film, but in The Dirties the acting is so good it fills the void between both scenarios and lets you accept the film for the way you want it to. If your first impression of The Dirties is of a meta film within a film, you’ll go along with the flow; if you think it’s just a movie shot with a handheld camera, you’ll still appreciate its style. I can’t think of a single found footage movie in recent times that managed to pull you away from its gimmicky technicality and let you keep your focus on the story.

With the Sandy Hook incident in the recent past and the pang of Columbine still ringing in the ears The Dirties does a tremendous job of rubbishing the perceived reasons for the incidents and establishing how society glosses over the true nature of youth psychology. Johnson makes it a point to muse that school shootouts are not as simplistic as a reaction to violence in movies. The media always digs out the recent past of the shooters without really delving into their lives and trying to understand what made them resort to such violent behavior, and The Dirties ends at the exact point where the media would start excavating. Little things like these make The Dirties a great movie and Johnson an astute observer and a giant talent, and I won’t be surprised if more and more movies in the future are made this way. 

(First published in DNA)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Movie Review: Singh Saab the Great

One does not simply review a Sunny Deol-Anil Sharma film. It would be like trying to grab a palm full of water, or explaining String Theory in one line. If you’ve seen Gadar, The Hero: Love story of a Spy and Apne, you’ll know that the films they make transcend eons and multiverses, and their sum excellence cannot be quantified because they are beyond the realm of human understanding. Only a far more superior species with significantly higher IQ would be able to fully cognize the various layers and cryptic stratums of the films’ innate art.

As the trailers of Singh Saab the Great proclaimed, Sunny and Anil come together, and the world suffers a lot. To make you understand how significant this combo is I have to lead you to a Marvel metaphor. Sunny and Anil coming together is an epoch busting event - it's like Batman, Superman, X Men and the Avengers coming together to punch one single ant at the same time. The resultant injuries suffered by the ant are what we experience whilst watching a Sunny-Anil movie. But the pain is sacred and therapeutic, because we’re blessed with what we see on screen, just like the ant is blessed with the touch of Marvel superheroes’ fists.

Now then,





If so then Singh Saab the Great is the movie for YOU!

STAND UP AND WHISTLE as Sunny Paaji makes his entry on a motor bike through flames and random doves in slow motion.

LAUGH WITH DELIGHT as Sunny Paaji grabs goondas, pours pooja ghee over them, picks them up like a little toy with one hand and hurls them in a burning pyre.

SOIL YOUR TROUSERS WITH EXHILIRATION as the camera zooms a hundred times over Sunny Paaji’s eyes and a TIGER ROARS every time he opens them.

INTRODUCING 19-year-old Urvashi Rautela wearing 57 layers of makeup, displaying tremendous acting skills by smiling despite being paired with a hero 40 years her senior.

CO STARRING Prakash Raj as the only character he has played in the last ten years, hurling Punjabi one liners like a boss in Kannada accent, hamming to the hilt and desecrating over the goodwill he built through Iruvar and Kanchivaram.  

FEATURING a host of cash-grabby cameos from Johnny Lever, Shabaaz Chandrakanta Khan, Sanjay Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, Yashpal Sharma, Rajit Kapoor with their paychecks sticking out of their pockets.

TRY NOT TO DAMAGE YOUR HANDS APPLAUDING when Sunny Paaji proclaims that there is a Gandhi in him, but also Patel and a Bhagat Singh, and kicks a goon in the stomach who lands on an electric fence which catches fire and explodes like in a Michael Bay movie.

TRY TO CONTROL YOUR AWE when Sunny Paaji kisses his heroine on her back, wears sunglasses and says ‘Don’t I look like Dharmendra’s son now?’

TRY NOT TO DISCOLATE YOUR JAW when Sunny Paaji quotes Guru Govind Singh about sorting things out amicably, and then grabs some swords thrown at him in mid-air and engages in a sword fight as an Opera singer bellows ‘Singh Saab Singh Saab Singh Saab’.



Rating: TAD TAD TAD TAD TAD (Five TADs out of Five)

(First published in Firstpost)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Movie Review: Insidious 2

James Wan has said that he has washed his hands off the horror film genre, and this is exceptionally sad news for those who watch Insidious 2. This is a filmmaker who has not only created some of the most seminal modern horror movies over the past ten years but has also managed to craft a haunted house horror sequel that manages to be a genuinely interesting watch rather than a cliched shameless cash grab.

Picking up immediately after the events of the first movie, Insidious Chapter 2 builds on a nice little mythology that expands into a fun and terrifying story. Those who’ve seen the first movie will be familiar with the horrific photographic image of the old lady in the black wedding dress who crossed over from The Further into the world of the living. The sequel focuses on this interesting character and we get to check out what fresh hell this woman is capable of unleashing upon us.

The Lambert family is once again under stress, as Renai (Rose Byrne) is convinced that her husband (Patrick Wilson) brought back something terrible with him during his astral journey and killed the medium. Despite changing houses the bump-in-the-dark noises at night continue, much to Renai’s chagrin, and no one seems to be willing to listen to her.

Sounds cliched? No fear. Wan compensates the familiarity of the plot with his trademark flair for scaring the liquid potty out of you. This sequel is more intense and frightening than the first movie, that too by a significant margin. To achieve this, Wan pulls a few tricks from The Conjuring into Insidious 2. The atmosphere is constantly, unrelentingly creepy and the lack of blood or gore is even more impressive for a film this unsettling. By now he’s pretty much mastered the art of making you feel uneasy, and not resorting to cheap tricks for the same. It helps that the story was written with some effort and not as an afterthought to the jump scares. Even the title card is frightening, which is hilarious and unbelievable when you think about it. It just suddenly appears in big, red bold font with hair raising music and you're left screaming in your seat.

The problem with the first Insidious was that the Darth Maul antagonist, despite having an awesome appearance was poorly written, didn’t really add to the story and we never got to know what he actually wanted. Wan and his writer Leigh Whannel iron out this kink this time around and give you a villain that is hackneyed, but certainly more well defined in intent. Sure, it gets a little convoluted towards the end but it’s thrilling and fun, and definitely better written and scarier than the first movie to keep you hiding under the popcorn bucket. There’s some hope for more Insidious mayhem because the ending opens a door to a sequel, and hopefully it’s only a matter of time until Wan finishes his Fast and Furious movie and gets back to filming spooky houses.

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: Ram-Leela

Just when I was becoming sick to death of Bollywood’s flimsy love stories, toothless commercial baits, and insipid mush marathons created exclusively for populist consumption, along comes (Goliyon Ki Raasleela) Ram-Leela, a wonderfully cynical movie that re-energises my movie-love batteries and gives me a chance to like the song and dance genre of desi cinema. 

Romance, humor, action, drama – there’s a lot of everything in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film, almost to a fault. At two hours and 40 minutes, with a song every five minutes, the film seems like bonded labour on paper. And yet, the seemingly countless songs and gigantic running time are not enough to extinguish the fun found here and it still winds up as a smart, funny, frequently exciting love story that is packed with strong performances, solid direction, several colourful characters, and best of all, some tremendous lines. 

Bhansali’s earlier films have delivered two or three half-hearted attempts at a tragic romance, only to follow the poignant moments up with aimless, wandering plots, set gazing and cheesy acting. Ram Leela, on the other hand, has intensity, fire and energy in every single scene. It’s also laden with a few surprisingly powerful plot contortions that you probably won’t see coming. 

Ram Leela has the soul of a cynical old noir peppered with a few small glimmers of masala. We all know the story by now. Borrowing a few pages from Shakespeare’s play and more so from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, this movie is the epitome of formula. The setting is a crazy ‘Bhansalized’, fantastical trigger happy version of a place in Rajasthan-Gujarat, where a guy and a girl from two rival, constantly-clashing mob gangs fall for each other while the others are spraying bullets and shedding blood. Therein lies the simple appeal of the film, but Bhansali subverts your expectations with some unexpected twists and even a shrewd political turn that makes the film a compelling watch. It helps that the leads Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh have terrific chemistry to complement Bhansali’s frenetic direction and the truly gorgeous set pieces. 

There are many terrific moments strewn throughout Ram Leela, like the ‘Aankhon ki gustkhiyan’ style sequence between the two leads and Bhansali’s rendition of the famous balcony scene. But the reason his movie works is because it’s a lot more than the sum of a few fantastic parts. Even in the opening sequence during which a shootout breaks out, Bhansali finds the faint line between arthouse, commercial and populist. It’s evident that even he’s tired of an industry that’s becoming more and more standardised and heartless with every passing year. He brings a lot more style and passion to a film that, in the hands of a less accomplished commercial Bollywood director, would be a hollow mess. A scene where a bunch of hoodlums pull out their guns and start shooting bottles has the comic irreverence you generally expect in a Vishal Bharadwaj movie, and it offers a glimpse of how commercial Bollywood cinema is capable of tipping the scales, just a bit, in a new direction. 

Sure there are a few things the film could’ve done without, like three to four songs, and Raza Murad’s hammy cameo, but there are enough goodies in the film (especially the dialogues) to make you overlook the rough spots. The direction, outstanding production design, gorgeous cinematography are supported by a surprisingly strong cast, and Padukone is a wild-eyed anchor in a sea of formula. Three years ago you’d never have expected her to improve so drastically and command the kind of energy she does now. Ranveer, on the other hand, is a weak link. It’s a whole different movie whenever he isn’t in a scene. It’s not that he doesn’t try, but that he tries too hard to chew scenery and he just doesn’t have the effortless charm of someone like Ranbir Kapoor. 

Their co-stars do a fine job of bringing the typical stereotypes to life – Gulshan Deviah, Richa Chadda, Abhimanyu Singh, Sharad Kelkar each have their own moments and at least a semblance of wit and colour. But Supriya Pathak as a god-fearing matriarchal mob boss is awesome here, with a rascally twinkle that intermittently threatens to turn villainous. Watch the scene early on in the film where she shouts at her fumbling masseuse and you’ll know that she should do more movies. 

By the time Ram Leela winds down with a finale that would make Luhrmann proud, Bhansali does a pretty good job of winning his intended audience over. It would have been so easy for the film to wallow in opportunistic schmaltz or obvious sentimentality but instead Ram Leela is a slyly fun movie, and one that is best appreciated on big screens.

(First published in Firstpost)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Review: Satya 2

If Thor, with all his might, banged his hammer on my nether regions, the pain would still be mild compared to the cataclysmic, apocalyptic agony of watching Satya 2. 

Packed with catatonic acting, cheap sets, tacky songs, hilarious drama and more GoPro action than you can digest, Satya 2 is yet another nail in Ram Gopal Varma’s professional coffin, or another laurel in his filmmaking wreath, depending on your cinema sensibility. If you take the original Satya and eliminate every visible aspect of filmmaking know-how, you’d still get a better movie even if it is very similar to this quasi-sequel. 

One of the most challenging and intriguing things about Satya was its writing. The plotting was so concise and the lines and the characters seamlessly connected with the neo noir direction that launched a whole new genre of cinema in India. Satya’s style became the backbone of dozens of crime thrillers, sadly Bollywood rehashed the formula to increasingly turgid results and this shameless and bungling sequel is the latest example. 

The spectacularly untalented Puneet Singh Ratn stars as the titular character, a mysterious young man who lands up in Mumbai with a plan of one day ruling it. After getting a taste of some money and making connections with shady people, he embarks on his spree of plotting, laundering, manipulating and murdering – all to establish a social context of crime lords being more humanitarian and effective than the government. 

With the synopsis out of the way, I struggle to figure out where to begin describing the film. Let’s start with writer Radhika Anand who seems to have been hustled into letting RGV direct her script. I find it impossible to believe that Ms. Anand would pen a slutty female character named ‘Special’ who bends over and whispers ‘Mera naam Special hone ki ek bahut badi kahaani hai’, so I assume she wrote a good story treatment, which the venerable RGV promptly mangled into his own trademark Penthouse-like script. 

Remember the memorable acting, awesome camerawork, gritty frames, Bhiku Matre and all the stunning thrills like the movie theater bust out from the original Satya? Yeah, all that stuff is not in this sequel. The Mumbai underworld concept is given casual lip service in the beginning, and for some moronic reason, Satya 2 simply reuses scenes from the original film, Company, D, Sarkar, Bhindi Bazaar and countless other D-company movies made over the past ten years. It’s very unsettling to see the self-references RGV makes in Satya 2 – he does it in a grotesque manner, assembling all his previous glorious creative outputs together in an outlandish horrifying design, and watching the film really does feel like stepping inside the mind of a demented man. 

The golden rule of RGV cinema abides – every other scene is shot with a GoPro camera in horrendous resolution, with psychotic camera angles that have literally no bearing on the story and plot. At times RGV channels his inner Gaspar Noe and shoots scenes with a camera attached to a toy helicopter flying over buildings. Instead of panning, the camera jerks around, moving clumsily and hilariously like a clumsy ghost. Adding to the visuals is the famous RGV-branded ‘Govinda Govinda’ dramatic reaction music that kicks in every time something remotely dramatic happens. If RGV directed your life, every time you pick up your toothbrush or sip water or tie your shoelace, loud blaring percussion would suddenly roar around you. 

I’m positive that RGV and his casting director deliberately set out to find the worst possible cast on the face of the planet because the performances here are unreal. Even if Anaika Soti and Aradhna Gupta had never seen a camera before in their lives, and even if Mahesh Thakur was injected with a gallon of LSD, and even if the lead Puneet Singh were actually a doorknob with drawings of eyes and ears on it, the acting would still be higher in quality than what we get to see in Satya 2. After a point it is heartbreaking to see these guys ham, tumble, and wrestle with their facial muscles for two and a half hours. 

RGV seemingly has no qualms about having his name dragged through the dirt. With Phoonk, Agyaat, Dongala Mutha, Not a Love Story, Department, 26/11 and now Satya 2, it is clear that he loves to revel in the ineptness of his movies, like it’s a badge of honour to be called India’s worst working film director. He’s clearly here to stay and in no hurry to make a good film. 

(First published in Firstpost)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Movie Review: Thor The Dark World

Despite the presence of Kenneth Brannagh behind the camera I thought the first Thor was an okay film, and a mostly unmemorable one. At this point I can’t recall a single scene from that movie. Things changed post The Avengers and Thor 2 is a significantly better, more entertaining and definitely a more memorable movie.

Directed by TV veteran Alan Taylor, Thor: The Dark World corrects most of the mistakes of its predecessor, and adds on a large dose of humor – something that was severely missing in all of the pre-Avengers movies (barring Iron Man). Surprisingly, this is not as much a Thor movie as much as it is a Loki movie. Let’s face it, Thor was entertaining only when he was made fun of by Tony Stark in The Avengers, and Marvel have realized that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is a cooler, more fun character than the drab muscular Chris Hemsworth. In fact we get to meet Loki in the film before Thor makes his entry.

The story is sadly a mishmash of Captain America, the first Thor and The Avengers – angry villainous dude in outer space needs to find some strange otherworldly object that would give him the power to destroy Earth and take over the universe. This is lazy writing no doubt, but the film has a couple of neat action set pieces including a fight through wormholes, apparating from one world to the other. The action itself is way more expansive than the first movie, and it’s not overblown or exhausting like in the recent Superman feature. One other thing where Thor 2 improves vastly on is the artwork – all of the CGI and practical sets have this awesome blend of ancient Viking designs and futuristic sci fi overtones. Whether it’s a laser equipped ship crashing into the medieval Romanesque Asgard or a CGI beastie running around London or a human turning into a scary, unstoppable monster, the artwork of the special effects has got you covered, if you watch it in 2D.

Thor 2 also has the same problems that Iron Man 3 did – it’s a mess, and it shows. The narrative is all over the place, catering to the dumbest possible audience. From jarring editing to tonal shifts, there is no semblance of flow or continuity to be found in Thor 2. The heroine, once again, exists only as a damsel in distress, and is once again played by a laughably bad Natalie Portman. Also there is absolutely zero sense of wonder or discovery along the way because we’re given the whole mystery in the first five minutes. It’s annoying, and the dumbing down was clearly Marvel interfering with the director’s vision and process. It might be a ‘winning formula’ but it’s unfair to Taylor that Marvel didn’t take a risk and refused him a chance to make a smarter, more cohesive movie.

To make up for its gaffes Thor 2 has not one, but two post credits scenes, one of which is guaranteed to blow your mind because it offers a glimpse into the unbelievably massive scope of Marvel’s next film. I won’t spoil the name, but I can assure you that this film crosses two different universes, and is so ginormous it makes the Batman-Superman movie look puny in comparison. Guess away.

(First published in MiD Day)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Zero Charisma

To an extent, I am a nerd. I have watched thousands of movies, read hundreds of comics and played a truckload of video games over the past two decades. Instead of socializing with relatives I prefer sitting in my room and playing video games or discussing The X Files with my other man-child friends. I’ve seen movies that made caricatures of nerds, but I’d never ever seen a movie about nerds – until I watched Zero Charisma.

Directed by the editors of Best Worst Movie Katie Grahams and Andrew Matthews, Zero Charisma is an utterly, darkly hilarious (and a wee bit tear-jerking) film that plunges into the bizarre, hysterical depths of nerd culture. This isn’t anything like The Big Bang Theory where all the characters are grossly exaggerated and the jokes are watery thin. The protagonist here literally has zero charisma – he’s an outcast, a burly overgrown dude who has nothing to show in life but his mastery of tabletop RPGs with friends who are even bigger losers than him.

Scott (played by Sam Eidson) is a modern day, comical version of Travis Bickle – he hates the idea of modern computer games that detach you from the spirit of social gaming, and he will go to any extent to preserve the sanctity of table top RPGs and being a ‘game master’. Every Thursday night is Game Night where he sits with his fellow nerds in his grandmother’s kitchen and initiates a medieval fantasy game where he acts out the cut scenes and the characters through an amusingly flimsy system of rules that he has formulated. Despite his age he plays passionately with his action figures in his bedroom and really hates it when someone unceremoniously walks in. He truly loves the spirit of the games and the tiny culture he is part of. Which is why he can’t take it when a new member joins in his team and turns out to be smarter and better versed with geek culture than him.

Directors Grahams and Matthews truly get nerd culture. When Scott plays with his action figures or moderates his games, an epic World of Warcraft and LOTR orchestra style music kicks in to reflect what Scott sees in his head during those moments. Two years ago in Bombay I met a celebrated filmmaker whom I worshipped like a God and he turned out to be a spineless hypocrite who can’t give two shits about cinema or his fans. I was reminded of this incident when Scott meets his idol, an ageing tabletop RPG enthusiast and is dumbstruck by his lack of tact for his fans and interest in the spirit of tabletop gaming.

Zero Charisma also beautifully establishes the contrast between its two central characters – Miles, the popular, successful, handsome, new guy in the team uses geek culture for fun for his own benefit, but for Scott it’s a disease he can’t get rid of. Scott’s family life is a depressing hell – his only means of escape is by indulging in the fantasy world of his games and listening to Death Metal. It wouldn’t have been possible to empathize with Scott had the character been played by anyone but Eidson – his comic timing is terrific and he brings this helpless innocence to his character, just enough to make you laugh at him but also reach out to him. It’s admirable that the filmmakers supplant the protagonist’s pity with humor and still manage to move you. And it’s even more incredible that this movie is accessible to those who aren’t even familiar with nerds, games, metal, dungeons and dragons.

There are many, many more things in Zero Charisma that make me sure that it will be remembered over the next twenty years the way we remember Clerks now. Like that Kevin Smith movie, this is a funny, tiny budget indie with observations that have never been made before and characters who’re part of a culture that’s always been a bit misunderstood. Real life hardcore nerds will see their own lives unfolding in front of their eyes, and they’ll be glad that someone finally made a movie about them instead of ridiculing them. For that, I give directors Grahams and Matthews 500 Experience Points. 

(First published in DNA)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Movie Review: Krrish 3

Having survived Rakesh Roshan’s Koi… Mil Gaya and Krrish, I walked into Krrish 3 knowing what to expect – ‘inspiration’ from Hollywood films, inept direction and special effects, laughable dialogue, not-so-great songs and actors who don’t feel embarrassed by their cringe-inducing roles. What I didn’t expect was for Krrish 3 to be so mercilessly, excruciatingly boring. 

The superhero of atrocious superhero filmmaking has struck again, and it’s not a pretty sight. Take the most superficial components of X-Men, Batman, Superman, Spiderman and even Shaktimaan; stuff them together in a litter bag, set that bag on fire and inhale the fumes – that’s pretty much what Krrish 3 feels like. The film is two and a half painful hours of poorly presented, unexciting action scenes, awful computer graphics, unimaginative storytelling and Hollywood theft of the most blatant and shameless variety. 

So divorced from the spirit and energy of superhero films is Krrish 3 that it feels like something cobbled together by a bunch of clueless people who are convinced that Hrithik + Dance + Flying + Kangana cleavage = free money from cinemagoers. Superhero fans and movie geeks, even the teenage ones, deserve a lot better than this. The ‘plot’ picks up a few years after the events of Krrissh 2 (better known as Krrish). Junior and Senior Hrithik are up against a superhuman baddie named Kaal. This time, family gets kidnapped and things get personal, because Kaal is to Krrish what Venom is to Peter Parker. Will Krrish save the damsel in distress from Vivek Oberoi’s clutches? Watch the movie to unravel the mystery! The film is proud to claim five screenplay writers, which suggests that either the writers are Superhero Nom de Plumes of Rakesh Roshan, or they expect their audience hasn’t seen a single Hollywood movie or read a comic book.

Flip to any random sequence of Krrish 3 and you’ll see a film instructor’s worst nightmare: 

a) Acting that is clumsy at best and unintentionally funny at worst. For some bizarre reason, Hrithik, who is in fact a massive talent, spasms and quivers his face every time he wears his Krrish costume and flies. Does the cold wind of Mumbai’s stratosphere make him shudder? 

b) Costumes and sets that look like they were recycled from Alif Laila. A lot of buildings collapse and crumble like the 1950s’ Japanese Godzilla movies. 

c) Songs written and choreographed to give the impression of a mammoth collision of various terrible components from 90s’ Bollywood. 

d) Action choreography and editing that makes Ajooba look modern and stylish. Shyam Benegal has directed better action scenes than those found in Krrish 3. 

e) More product placements than you can count. A big experiment that Krrish’s Scientist Papa does with lights has a prism branded ‘Flair Pens’. In another scene, Hrithik and Priyanka literally walk into a frame from either side and the camera focuses on two prominent brand hoardings instead of their faces. 

Astoundingly, Krrish 3 is able to showcase CGI that seems to have been created using MS Paint. Seriously, the special effects in this movie make Ra.One and Aditya 369 look like the works of Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Bergman. One wonders if Rakesh Roshan has seen Rajinikanth’s Enthiran, because a film that arrives three years after Enthiran should be more action packed and imaginative. But the soulless action set pieces in Krrish 3 just sit there, lazily trying to dazzle you with shrieking stupidity. Oberoi, who is initially a combo of Professor X and Magneto, later wears a metallic costume that looks like it was bought from a clearance sale at a Halloween store. Think Shaquille O’ Neal from Steel, but infinitely more ridiculous – that is what Oberoi’s ‘scary villain’ looks like in Krrish 3. The poor guy looks even more amusingly ludicrous during the flying and landing scenes because the CGI is almost worse than the croma from Supermen of Malegaon

Kangana Ranaut, who is smart and candid in person, is given perhaps the most embarrassing role of her career. She’s made to wear latex S&M costumes and deliver her lines in elliptic staccato. From Ranaut’s blank (but beautiful) face to the perpetually-confused one of Exotic Chopra and including all the scene-chewing cameos from Arif Zakaria, Rajpal Yadav, Mohnish Behl and Rakhee Tandon (Sweety from Hum Paanch), this is a movie that has desi versions of pretty much every character from every American superhero series. And just as Mystique morphs so smoothly into different personas, your bewilderment morphs into contempt as you watch Krrish 3, because really, the film is just a filmmaker calling you a moron for two and a half hours. 

(First published in Firstpost)