Friday, September 23, 2011

Speedy Singhs (2011)

The problem with Speedy Singhs is that it revels in its mediocrity It does not, even for a single moment, bother trying to rise above it. Its narrative is flat. The sports sequences look choreographed and lack energy.  It’s an uninspiring sports tale and a very routine cultural comedy. It tells us little about the Sikh/Indian community in Canada and instead chooses to get caught up in painful cliches. The attempts to shoehorn Bollywood elements are particularly cringe-inducing. The song with the CGI ice rink with the Taj Mahal is just wrong. And why are they listening to the finals telecast on the radio when they have huge TV screens at home? The characters are thinner than stick figures and the performances are uniformly wooden. Virmani looks good but could really use acting lessons. Camille Belle is too busy looking pretty to bother expressing. Rob Lowe and Russell Peters are wasted. Anupam Kher plays a role he has done a thousand times before.

So my recommendation is as follows: 

If you want a cross cultural sports comedy, rent Bend It Like Beckham instead,
If you want an ice hockey movie, watch Miracle or even The Mighty Ducks.
If you want a rousing sports movie, watch Remember the Titans.
If you want to watch an underdog story, go see Chak De India one more time.

But avoid this one. Seriously. Films like these give formula a bad name.

Rating: 1.5/5

Mausam (2011)

Mausam is about two lovers set over a period of ten years. Harinder “Harry” Singh (Shahid Kapoor) and Aayat Rasool (Sonam Kapoor) meet as teenagers in Mallukot, Punjab in November 1992. She has run away from the violence in Kashmir. For him, it is love at first sight. They court each other for a while and then, one fine day, he finds her house locked and gone from his life. 7 years later, in April 1999, they meet in Scotland. He’s now an Air Force pilot and she’s training to become a ballerina. They rediscover their love for each other and make promises of marriage. Unfortunately, fate has other plans. As national and global events determine the course of their lives, they fight against all odds to be reunited once again.

Expectations can be a bitch. And Mausam is a perfect example of that. I expected a lot from the film and tried really, really hard to like it. Quite unfortunately though, the film is a mess, and a big one at that. The story of lovers torn apart by circumstances had a lot of potential. A premise like this has delivered some of the greatest romances of all time including Casablanca, Kabhie Kabhi, The English Patient, Veer Zaara and others. Mausam gets quite a few things right. It has a very likable leading pair with good chemistry and some earnest supporting performances. The photography by Binod Pradhan is nothing short of exquisite. He captures not only the beautiful locales of Punjab, Scotland and Switzerland well but also manages to bring an emotional intensity through his camerawork in several key moments. The film features some exceptional music with Pritam playing against type and coming up with a great mix of sufi and folk music. Irshad Kamil’s poetry is emotionally mesmerizing. At a time when lyrics are getting increasingly cheap in the name of “hip, youthful and urban”, his lyrics haunt you with their poignancy and depth.

However, all of the talent in the world cannot make up for a weak story and a bad script. The film squanders all its merits with an extremely weak, uneven and choppy screenplay. There are abrupt shifts in tone, continuity issues and inexplicable disappearances of characters. Although Pankaj Kapur’s heart is in the right place, his writing skills need a lot of work. The story is unconvincing and the separation of the two lovers seems forced in several places, particularly in the post-interval portions. It’s difficult to feel anything for the characters despite all their sighing and crying (and there is a lot of that). With a runtime of 3 hours, the film is excessively long by a good 45 minutes. There just isn’t enough plot to justify the bloated runtime. The linear narrative also makes the story far too predictable. The plot twists can be seen from miles away. The excessive length robs the narrative of any life or joy. Too much time is spent on mundane details and too little on character development. By the end, enduring the film is actually agonizing. The climax, set in Ahmedabad in 2002, is actually tasteless, joyless and bland. All in all, Mausam aims for epic romance, and fails rather epically at it. It is, in my opinion, one of the biggest disappointments this year.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

Crazy, Stupid, Love is basically four love stories rolled into one. First, there’s an old couple is going through a marital crisis (Julianne Moore and Steve Carell). Then we have a 17 year old girl falling for a much older man, a 13 year old falling for that 17 year old and a serial womanizer (Ryan Gosling) meeting a girl who changes his life (Emma Stone). 

It overcomes the familiarity of its plot with a few smart surprises in the second half that are likely to catch most of the audience off guard. It also benefits greatly from a refreshing mix of laugh out loud funny humour and an emotional earnestness that makes its characters endearing. The interesting ensemble delivers some fine performances. It is great to see Julianne Moore in a role worthy of her talent. It’s been far too long. Ryan Gosling successfully plays against type and shows us his comic side. Emma Stone is effervescent, hilarious and her lines are also very, very meta. Unfortunately, the film suffers from unevenness as the directors are unable to balance the four love stories adequately. Some stories get more footage than necessary at the cost of the developing the others better. Also, the needlessly extended climax and an unnecessary, rather creepy subplot (involving certain nude photos) mar the impact of an otherwise great romantic comedy. Yet, overall, this is a surprisingly smart and charming film about love between some really crazy, stupid but also good and loveable people.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Friends With Benefits (2011)

Two incredibly attractive, wise cracking leads.
A script that puts their wise cracks, foul mouths and amazing bodies to great use.
Energy bursting from every pore of the film.
A perfect exercise in pure formula like the director’s previous work Easy A.
Solid support, particularly from Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson.
Wish there was more of Patricia Clarkson though.
Meta-humour and film references in almost every scene.
This is formula for the Community generation.
Deluded and unrealistic just like every other romantic comedies.
But. Oh. So. Fun.
Bonus: Flash mobs. How can you not love them?
Verdict? Sit back and enjoy.

Rating: 3.5/5

P.S: I think I will stick to short reviews from hereon, at least for a while. What say?
P.P.S.: If the Community reference makes no sense to you, you are poorer for it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011)

The thing about froth is this: It makes a drink more interesting, appetizing and gives it a fresh look. However, ultimately, it’s just a whole lot of bubbles that eventually fizzle out. What matters is the drink at the bottom: how much and how good that is. In case of Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, the froth is great. The product is slick and the embellishments work. However, the drink itself is just about average. That is not to say it’s a bad film. I’ve said it before, I will say it again: Formulas exist for a reason. When used properly, they can be quite entertaining. MBKD, for better or for worse, is pure formula. It plays to the strengths of the formula by embracing its silliness and having a jolly good time with it, making it just about entertaining enough to make it worthwhile.

The story is clear from the trailers itself: Luv (Ali Zafar), who lives in London, wants to settle down with an Indian bride. He leaves the bride hunting to his younger brother Kush (Imran Khan), an assistant director, with a penchant for the filmy. After much searching, he finds Dimple (Katrina Kaif), a reformed wild child who knows how to enjoy life to the fullest. As the wedding preparations are underway, Kush and Dimple find themselves falling for each other leading to a comedy of errors.

The story, script, dialogues and direction are all by first timer, Ali Abbas Zafar.  His story is routine and his script is uninspired. It maneuvers through the various romantic comedy clich├ęs as if written in autopilot. There are no plot twists whatsoever and the film plays steadfastly to the formula. It is also too long by 15 minutes thanks to the needlessly extended climax.

Nevertheless, the film works by and large primarily because it avoids the emotional and the sappy and keeps the proceedings light throughout. The dialogues are hilarious in several places and Zafar, the director directs the film with a sure, steady hand. He embraces the filmy and goes to town with it. The film is abound with movie references and some of them truly bring the house down. He relies on the goofiness of its primary cast that delivers well. Katrina Kaif’s character is genuinely interesting and for the first time, she actually delivers a great performance. She is laugh out loud funny, gorgeous and charming without trying too hard. Her performance here is similar to Kareena Kapoor’s in Jab We Met. Her chemistry with Imran Khan helps make even the dullest moments bearable. They look great together and complement each other throughout. Imran Khan has mastered the role of the boy next door and enacts his role effortlessly. He does seem to break out of character during some of the songs though. Ali Zafar is awkward and ill at ease initially but settles into his role reasonably well as the film progresses. The music is zesty and helps add to the youthful atmosphere the film is aiming at. The production work is excellent and the camera feasts on the beautiful people and historical locations.

Ultimately, MBKD is hardly hatke. There isn’t anything here that you haven’t seen before. Nevertheless, it is harmlessly frothy, forgettable, filmy fun that will keep you entertained throughout. It is a perfect date movie: sweet and amusing enough to entertain and predictable enough to allow for other extracurricular distractions. 

Rating: 3/5