Archive for June, 2013

Ghanchakkar

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Ghanchakkar
Release date: June 28, 2013
Directed by: Raj Kumar Gupta
Cast: Vidya Balan, Emraan Hashmi, Rajesh Sharma, Namit Das, Parveen Dabbas

Raj Kumar Gupta’s take at comedy, i.e. Ghanchakkar is a murky tale of  a bunch of equally eccentric characters placed in an odd setting together.

Sanju (Emraan Hashmi) is a whiz safe-cracker who is stealth even in his personal life. His wife is the massively fashion-obsessed, heavily Punjabi Neetu (Vidya Balan) always experimenting with her cooking and wigs alike. A sudden call from Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) shakes Sanju’s daily activities out of a self-imposed ban on doing any more robberies.

Idris (Namit Das) is Pandit’s shady accomplice. Armed with a gun, he likes to bully people while the two hold ‘business meetings’ in Mumbai’s local trains during the night. Their introduction is creepy and unfunny. The lines aim for some comic peaks, eventually falling into the valleys. The motive seems unclear here, or perhaps I was fooled.

After their robbery plans go right, there’s a glitch: Sanju has stashed the mega-millions somewhere and due to an accident is suffering from a partial memory loss problem. This memory loss leads to the actual major conflict of the film, ranging from him forgetting his former accomplices to suspecting his closest ones of fleeing away with the money. The said patch leads to interesting situations and laughter fits in bits and pieces.

Vidya Balan carries off her part with expected integrity and power, even Hashmi has the befuddled look throughout perfectly. Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das carefully evolve from the ghoulish beings to parallely stuck pawns in a larger game. The cast may be limited but never falls short of delivering. Setu’s cinematography of a space-crunched Mumbai is shockingly expansive and preys on dark themes. Shockingly, Amit Trivedi’s soundtrack compositions are limited and his dubstep background score is covered more.

The film’s inherent spirit keeps fluctuating from amusing to plain flat, and plain flat to whimsical. You expect it to carry on the same track but it doesn’t. There’s simply not much physical searching for the money, and there’s more of let-me-recall-what-happened-three-months-back-by-sitting-on-my-hands. It makes you want the film to end early, and with the predictable approach that the makers choose to unveil the big bombshells you are outright unimpressed and disappointed.

Blood and gore are used in moderation, and with the silenced cuss words, it appears as if the producers wanted to play safe. Ironically the self-censoring isn’t detrimental to the plot’s success. I will be lying if I don’t admit breaking into an anxiety attack induced by laughing at the phone-sex sequence, but that’s one of the three main highlights along with the individual performances and the cinematography. The writing tries very hard to transcend through the next level, only to stay in mediocrity.

Ghanchakkar aims for greener avenues and ends up straying into dry lands. The flaws aren’t as grave, yet they end up one-upping the innate wit and smartly placed pop references.

My rating: **1/2 (2 and a half out of 5)

Man of Steel

Man of Steel Poster
Man of Steel
Release date: June 14, 2013
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Cast: Henry Cavill, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Lawrence Fishburne, Ayelet Zurer, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix

Man of Steel starts off with Kal-El emerging out of Lara Lor-Van’s vagina with no blood/umbilical cord on him, so obviously he isn’t a mortal. He’s made of Steel. That made me wince, so it’s safer for me to refrain from whining about these moments.

The film has a lengthy backstory to establish the reason why Kal-El’s parents chose to send him to Earth from Krypton and build a new adversary in the form of General Zod (Michael Shannon). It played out once, and Jor-El recapped it once again for his all grown-up son. It hurt my patience irreversibly. I know it’s a reboot and it needs time to grow as a film on screen, but it wouldn’t have been endurable had it not been for the expectation of some action or an interesting turn to the story in the second half.

By the halfway mark, the bad guys resurfaced and there was hope. (Yes, ironic.) For the major part, the usual Clarke Kent-ish Superman (played by Henry Cavill) is Kal-El groping in the dark all the while discovering his cliche real identity. Russell Crowe’s part as Jor-El is testing as he drops into long monologues at every chance that he gets. The only character that induces life into an otherwise grim and dark screenplay is of Lois Lane’s. Fatefully, her budding romance with the man of steel is treated with little regard.

There are non-linear tracks playing simultaneously and I am a fan of that approach, but I couldn’t find much to pull myself into the shockingly predictable endeavors. There are only a few philosphically and symbolically impacful sequences transcending throughout all the parallel tracks.

There are also very limited attempts at forced humor, but the most unintended hilarious scene is where Clarke puts on his reading glasses and no one recognizes him as he goes in front of the same people who saw him at a meter’s distance without them. That one never fails!

Man of Steel is not a particularly good film, it’s just the much-awaited-first-film-that-lays-the-foundation-for-future-sequels and that alone would find takers.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Fukrey

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Fukrey
Release date: June 14, 2013
Directed by: Mrigdeep Singh Lamba
Cast: Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma, Manjot Singh, Ali Fazal, Priya Anand, Vishakha Singh, Pankaj Tripathi, Richa Chadda

A bunch of cash-crunched guys set out to make big on their vain plans is Fukrey summed up in a line. Though it isn’t this plot that entirely holds the film.

Hunny (Pulkit Samrat) and Choocha (Varun Sharma) bunk school and have knack for winning lotteries. They dream of breaking into Bishop College, after failing the final year three times in a row. The college’s guard-cum-peon Pandit (Pankaj Tripathi) offers them the final examination question papers for a steep price. Laali (Manjot Singh) is Billa Halwaai’s son who also wants to get into the same college, needs money to grease the palms and magnanimous hands of the administration.

Zafar (Ali Fazal) is a struggling musician in dire need of means to get his father treated at a respectable medical center. All of their vices and needs lead them to Bholi Punjaban (Richa Chadda) whose character is strongly inspired by the Delhi sex-racket queen Sonu Punjaban. The stakes are raised and they have a few risks to take.

The pace of the film is very indulgent to be a tightly-packed out-and-out entertainer. The laughs are generous and cunningly scattered all over the narrative. Fukrey is hilarious through thick and thin and K.U. Mohanan’s stellar photography gives Delhi a different feel. The strength lies in the individual characters and their characterization.

The unpretentious representation of Delhi is accentuated by their performances. Be it the small love story between Neetu (Vishakha Singh) and Hunny, Laali’s prayers at the Gurudwara, whatever tales Choocha rakes up, Bholi’s powerful influx or Panditji’s slight English. There’s subtlety in humor and in the depiction of the plot’s conflicts too.

The issue here is that there’s too much crammed up to keep it taut. Spared for a dance number, you can bear up with the length otherwise. The climax is prolonged and a bit off as an extension of what  preceded it upto that point. Again, the individual characters’ depth and their performances are extremely appraise-worthy. All of the cast is near perfect.

Fukrey may not be an enlightening revelation, but it’s a delightful addition to the slice-of-life-boys-version category.

My rating: *** (3 stars out of 5)

Now You See Me

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Now You See Me
Release date: May 31, 2013
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Mélanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Common, David Warshofsky

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t. This line had to fit somewhere. (I missed the start, so I give them the benefit of doubt.)
Forget that you ever read those two lines.

The summer film is a semi-thriller-cum-whodunit with the exception of the actual murder. A group of four performers: Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) are assembled by an anonymous benefactor, claiming to be a member of the mystical lineage of The Eye. They find a rich sponsor in the form of insurance magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) who pits them as the next big thing in the world of magic.

After they manage to perform a heist on camera, also going against the conventions of the trade. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is assigned to be the lead investigator along with Interpol Agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent) on the whole magic fiasco. Agent Vargas is intrigued by the history aspect of their tricks and does her research 24 x 7. Literally. Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) is a retired magician who makes money by exposing other magicians’ tricks on his TV show. Rhodes and Bradley try tracing the self proclaimed Four Horsemen’s steps.

The characters that are on the run aren’t given much footage, neither their reasons are well-established, except for a few confessions about not knowing what could happen next. The major focus is on the interpretation of their techniques by the people trying to nail them down. Jesse Eisenberg  does his usual fast-talking shtick which very much fits in with the arrogant air around his persona. Isla Fisher plays up the eye-candy quotient with spunk. The tricks and script devices are pretty slick and you are gripped until the intermission.

Mark Ruffalo is tenacious on the job, while Mélanie Laurent has the French accent and all the um, Omelette Du Fromage wonder to her character. The climax is laced with hiccups, it leaves with some questions unanswered and the rest overtly answered. Safe to say, the film disintegrates after the halfway mark. But the disintegration isn’t particularly jarring. The film leaves you half an ounce smarter about a few more magic tricks too!

My review: *** (3 stars out of 5)

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