Kalavaadiya Pozhuthugal Movie Review

Director: Thangar Bachan

Cast: Prabhudeva, Prakash Raj, Bhumika Chawla, Inbanila

Rating: 3/5

Once the late Ismail Merchant, instrumental in creating some of the finest period films, told me that a movie must tell a good story and say it well to create a buzz. And Thangar Bachan’s (who shot to fame in 2002 with his Nandita Das starrer, Azhagi) latest outing, Kalavaadiya Pozhuthugal (Stolen Moments) endears because of its fascinating story. Unfortunately having been in the cans for about 10 years or reportedly so, the film may seem somewhat dated. But then this is only a minor hiccup in a narrative styled with subtlety and a sense of purpose.

Admittedly, Bachan’s plot about unrequited love and triangular attraction may not be very novel, but the way in which the director handles these time-worn themes is impressive. Barring a couple of scenes – where Prabhudeva’s Porchezhiyan gets into a dance number (the actor is a fabulous dancer) and takes the stage for an awfully preachy sermon – he acts with wonderful dignity, not letting his emotions sink into a weepy affair.

A student of masters degree and ditched by a rich girl, Jayanthi (Bhumika Chawla), Porchezhiyan vanishes from her life for many years before a chance meeting with her opens up old wounds and painful memories of a romance all gone wrong. Set to marry Jayanthi, Porchezhiyan is slapped with a false criminal case and jailed for a decade – the period when her father coerces her into marrying a rich, but kind businessman, Soundararajan (Prakash Raj). When his car crashes on a highway, Porcheziyan, working as a driver, rescues him, takes him to the hospital and pays the admission fee out of his day’s earning. However, when he reaches the hospital a couple of days later and sees Jayanthi there, he slips out. But Soundararajan will not rest till he meets the guy who saved his life, and with the help of the phone number that Porchezhiyan had left at the hospital, traces him. What follows is a series of heartaches that both he, by then married with a daughter, and Jayanthi must endure.

This may not be a great storyline, but Bachan has this enormous capacity to handle man-woman relationship with utmost sensitivity, and he does get good performances out of his actors. If the helmer has been able to keep Prabhudeva’s tap-dancing itch under control, Bachan also draws riveting piece of acting from Chawla. What moved me most was Prakash Raj. So used to seeing him as a screen villain – sometimes clownishly so – Prakash Raj delivers excellent stuff as a man who dotes on his wife, but also conveys that he has the maturity to handle Jayanthi’s once-upon-a-time love affair.

Somehow, I feel that it is movies like Kalavaadiya Pozhuthugal that will remain etched in memory long after the lights have come on and the curtains have fallen.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)

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Tiger Zinda Hai Review

Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Angad Bedi, Kumud Mishra, Sajjad Delafrooz and Paresh Rawal
Ali Abbas Zafar’s Tiger Zinda Hai is an out and out Salman Khan-film and tailor-made for his loyal fan base who wouldn’t miss the film for the world. But that also is the saddest part of the film in that we’ve reduced an actor to just being a ‘superstar’.

A sequel to 2012’s Ek Tha Tiger, Tiger Zinda Hai picks up from where the first film left off. Somewhere in Austria, Tiger (Salman Khan) is now a married man living with wife Zoya (Katrina Kaif) and son Junior. Both stars reprise their roles as spy agents for RAW and ISI respectively and when 40 nurses (25 Indian and 15 Pakistani) are taken hostage in Iraq by religious extremist group ISIL, Chief Shenoy (Girish Karnad) hunts Tiger down and assigns him the job of rescuing Indian nurses. Upon a little convincing by Zoya, Tiger sets out on the mission and forms his special team, comprising of actors Angad Bedi, Paresh Pahuja and Kumud Mishra. Events unfold and Zoya and her team join in and the rescue mission is now a joint venture between RAW and ISI. How the teams unite and devise several strategies to free the nurses make up the basic plot of the film.


It’s a fact that Salman Khan’s loyal fan base doesn’t necessarily look at a film plot or its lack thereof but buy the ticket to see their hero pulling off some unbelievable stunts and delivering some whistle-worthy dialogues. And Zafar, who has previously helmed Sultan, co-starring Salman and Anushka, knows the audience quite well and serves them just what they’ll like- a savior in the face of Salman bhai. The entire film is an out and out Salman-film wherein he does all that he wishes to and all that was possible in the hands of filmmakers and yet remains unharmed. He does what he does the best and like his fans would say, Salman is in his element throughout. What his element is, however, remains a separate topic of debate.

The initial scenes wherein Salman and Katrina share the frame are warm and family-like. But Katrina, who opts for a rather straight face throughout the film, barring one or two scenes, only shines when she throws a punch or perhaps in the song Dil Diyan Galan wherein she looks gorgeous. That’s all. As an ISI agent set out on a mission, one’d have expected a lot more screen time for Zoya but alas.

tiger-zinda-hai-1

The supporting cast, too, holds their own in whatever little screen time and dialogues they get alongside Salman. Iranian actor Sajjad Delafrooz, who plays ISC Commissioner Abu Usman, does a fine job but his fluency in both English and Hindi, turns out a little disturbing for the character. While Paresh Rawal as Firdaus is a delight and evokes chuckles every time he’s on screen.

Much that makes Tiger Zinda Hai a far from unbearable watch includes its technical finesse. The film, which isn’t bad per se, rides high on high-octane action sequences and there’s plenty of them. While some of which are amusing, some are too far-fetched. Right in the first half, Tiger battles a pack of wolves, rides a horse, jumps terraces and begins to take on ISIS alone until of course, Zoya joins. But having said that, the well-tuned combination of chase sequences and the background score make the action impactful. The technical finesse of camerawork, cinematography and the entire post-production rounds it up to a visual delight and makes it difficult for you to take eyes off the screen.

Over the years, Salman has established himself as a super-star who fans only expect a certain kind of entertainment from and Zafar has categorically cashed in on Salman’s heroic figure- both onscreen and offscreen- and in a way, reduced the real-life incident of 46 nurses taken hostage in Iraq to a hero-worship story with strong bits of patriotism and Indo-Pak ties thrown. As a spy thriller set in the world of espionage, cinegoers might have felt better with more thrills and less of Salman’s heroic presence but nevertheless, the film might give them the potboiler entertainment they’ve been searching for in the year that saw the likes of Shah Rukh Khan’s Jab Harry Met Sejal and Salman Khan’s Tubelight come crashing down at the box office.

And as for Salman fans, this sure is a Christmas delight as their Tiger is back with a roar.

Rating: 2/5


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Downsizing Review

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Director: Alexander Payne So the one crumpled rosebud in the otherwise perfect cinematic universe created by director Alexander Payne in Downsizing is its leading man, Matt Damon. According to calculations, an excess of 900 billion fictional dollars has been spent on rescuing Damon from various times and places in space. And while in this movie it costs a trifling 15000 dollars to reduce him to five inches in height, as the end credits come on, one can’t help feeling that it’s more money down the drain. Like really, this guy?

But as stated, this is the only blemish of Downsizing, a sci-fi satire that deals with the intriguing ‘what-if’ of shrinking people down to five inches in order to tackle environmental issues, over population and waste. After the process is discovered/invented by Norwegian scientist Jørgen Asbjørnsen, it is quickly co-opted around the world, with private companies offering people the opportunity to sell all their assets, undergo the process and retire to an idyllic life in built-to-scale luxury communities with almost every possible amenity and luxury provided. Because of their scaled-down requirements of space, sustenance and other resources, a relatively modest sum of money in the regular-sized world translates into a life of leisure and luxury for the ‘Downsized’.


This ‘Downsizing’, despite its obvious advantages for the environment, is only taken up by about 3% of the population over the nearly-20 years the film takes place, and Payne is also quick to point out its many disadvantages. Because of the specialized needs of the downsized, regular-sized housing markets, consumer goods and other industries suffer, along with a dearth in tax collections due to lesser people generating income. Countries have a new fear of tiny illegal immigrants passing unchecked through their borders while totalitarian regimes use the irreversible process to punish dissidents and more effectively imprison them.

This is the world in which we’re introduced to Paul Safranek (Matt Damon), an occupational therapist who helps treat work-related injuries, and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig). In order to be rescued – sounds familiar – from a life of financial obscurity and to provide his wife with a better standard of living, Paul decides to sell all his assets and convert that sum of 1,25,000 dollars into a downsized lifestyle worth 12.5 million at Leisure Land, a high-end ‘small-living’ community complete with his own McMansion and a lifetime’s worth of leisure activities.

While things don’t go exactly to plan, Paul eventually does get downsized and embarks on his new life, which includes meeting and forming a burgeoning friendship with his party-loving European neighbor Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz) as well as Vietnamese émigré and amputee Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau) who cleans Dusan’s luxurious house and lives in a ghetto situated far away from Leisure Land’s entitled environs. Because of course there’s income inequality in the ‘Downsize’ as well.

And it is with elements like these that Payne (who also co-wrote the film) shows his mastery at telling a visual tale. What could simply have been a fascinating sci-fi story/film becomes a social commentary on class and wage divides, race relations, the effects of the Anthropocene (a proposed epoch dated from the onset of significant and observable human impact on the Earth’s geology and environments) as well as the very future of humanity itself. In the midst of stunning visuals, the film’s characters don’t speak lines so much as have deep, sometimes rambling, conversations on morality, society, technology and man’s remorseless consumption of everything around him. And whenever it verges on becoming preachy, something jaw-dropping or hilarious or gorgeous or just plain weird happens to shake up the film’s momentum.

The casting is impeccable. Jason Sudeikis, Neil Patrick Harris and Wiig perform their fleeting roles with aplomb, while Waltz is as arresting as ever; his amoral, hedonistic portrayal of an aging Serbian sybarite and occasional bootlegger takes the audience (via Paul) into the unregulated underbelly of Downsizing, a “Wild West” of parties, drugs, sex and potential business opportunities of transporting and selling contraband with a world view that is both cynical and charming. Dusan admits he’s a “bit of an ***hole” while cheerfully pointing out that the world needs ***holes to get rid of its shit.

But the true stand out is Chau, whose Ngoc Lan Tran, the Vietnamese dissident who is empowered, driven, decisive, impatient to the point of being curt and is caring to a fault. Despite losing her village, her home, her family, her friends and a leg and despite being imprisoned, tortured and shrunken against her will by her own government before fleeing to America as a political refugee (“all so she could come and clean my toilet, you have to love this country” cackles Dusan at one point, not unkindly) and finding only a menial job and a shanty home in the land of the free and the home of the brave, Tran isn’t so much of a pillar of her impoverished community as she is its backbone. She cares for and feeds the old, sick and or dying, scrounges for any medicines that might help them and spends every waking moment in service to others while expecting not a thing in return. Chau doesn’t play Tran, she IS Tran from her stumbling but determined walk to her pidgin English to her indefatigable concern for others to the way she keeps calling Paul a “stupid, stupid man”. And while her character history — and her Samaritanism despite it — is heart-wrenching, Chau manages to infuse no small amount of humor in the way a handicapped but feisty immigrant woman efficiently deals with the vagaries of the self-indulgent, entitled Americans who surround her. Tran isn’t just a character, she’s an emotional workout: from inspiring you with her actions to bringing a lump to your throat with her pithy observations and memories to eliciting chuckles at her friendly contempt for “crazy, stupid” and mostly white men.

And that brings us to Matt Damon. It isn’t that Damon is a bad actor, it’s just that his usual act of ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances is never very likeable. It’s just really hard to get yourself to invest in him or care about him, which is kind of important for a lead character one would think. Presumably Payne wanted an everyman to play the main role to make it easier for the audience to fill his shoes and inhabit this remarkable world themselves. And sure, apart from when he’s playing an amnesiac spy or astronaut with issues, Damon has made himself a Hollywood A-lister on the strength of his everyman-ness, but really. This guy?

Rating: 4.5/5

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Black Mirror Season 4 Review

Spoiler Alert: This review contains a few spoilers to some episodes.

Black Mirror holds up a literal black mirror to contemporary and near-future human society and behavior and our collision course with technology. And as science fiction would suggest, that’s a collision that will likely see man wiped out by his own hubris, a la Terminator style, at the worst. At best, we’ll just be mindless drones to our cybernetic overlords. Given this happy premise, Black Mirror‘s creator Charlie Brooker has usually taken the series on a road to perdition, even if it’s more technological than biblical. There are way too many villains and very few heroes in the show’s universe, which is probably why the odd episode like 2016’s San Junipero — which implied a happy ending — makes such a big splash. After all the gloom and doom, it’s always nice to get a dose of hope.

And so for the fourth season of the show, Brooker tries to infuse some hope (and way too many references to San Junipero) into the otherwise bleak world of Black Mirror. Don’t get us wrong, there’s plenty of tech-inspired misery for you to binge on, but every once in a while you get a nice boost of endorphins to brighten your viewing. Look, instead of coming up with clever metaphors why don’t I just break down the season for you, with episodes ranked worst to best.

Crocodile

Look, we get it. Black Mirror is bleak and harsh, and doesn’t pander to light-heartedness. But there’s being bleak because it’s an effective way to tell a story and then there’s being bleak simply for the sake of being bleak. Crocodile, which is this season’s third episode, unhappily falls into the latter category. Not even an atom of hope in this one, basically.

Andrea Risebrough’s Mia Nolan is a successful, innovative architect who is saving the world one innovative office-cum-residential complex at a time. Also, 15 years ago, she and her boyfriend-at-the-time ran over a cyclist after driving back from a drug and alcohol-fueled party, and proceeded to hide the crime.

So 15 years later, when her former boyfriend — who’s unemployed and a recent awardee of the nine-month sobriety chip — decides to come clean and confess to the crime anonymously, Mia naturally decides to murder him in her hotel room. This then fuels a kill spree in which Mia murders a Muslim insurance investigator, her black husband and their mixed-race two-year-old blind baby to cover her tracks. Also, a hamster’s memories lead to her being finally convicted.

Despite the rodent-empowered ending and the gorgeous backdrop of Iceland wherein all these quasi-adventures take place, this is perhaps the worst episode in four seasons. It doesn’t matter that the insurance investigator loves peppermint twirls (always a humanizing factor), or that Black Mirror’s sonic Easter egg “If you know what love is” echoes through the episode, it’s just really unnecessary. Perhaps Brooker wanted to remind us that human beings are terrible. But we have Twitter feeds, we already knew that.


Metalhead

So this isn’t so much an episode addressing ‘specific and real-time concerns with future technology’ (the leitmotif of Black Mirror) as it is a vague warning of things to come: a dystopic world where humans are kind-of, sort-of being hunted down merely for wanting to get stuff.

Lead actor Maxine Peake attempts to survive a timescape which involves very few humans (there are literally two other people, who get disemboweled in the first 10 minutes of the episode) and a cybernetic race of search-and-destroy dogbodies (literally Doberman-shaped kill machines) who seek and destroy people that take stuff that doesn’t belong to them. It’s not about loyalty or morality as such; it’s the most messed-up tutorial on ‘this is mine, don’t touch’.

There’s no explanation as to how and why humanity became a hunted species; the only possible one I could come up with was that we had programmed these guard/attack dogs to guard our own technologies from other humans and they eventually overran the world because humans don’t understand the concept of ownership, intellectual or otherwise. So whoever programmed these cyber-hounds didn’t include a manual on copyrights and other ownership modules in the software. Weird!

Shot entirely in B&W, it’s visually arresting because of the hunting trope and is the shortest Black Mirror episode to date. And that’s all it has.


Hang the DJ

The weird thing is, despite realizing its attempts to shamelessly cash into Season 3’s San Junipero, you can’t help go along with Hang the DJ. Naomi Campbell’s Amy and Joe Cole’s Frank are utterly engaging leads; two normal young people trying to find their perfect match via tech-approved The System, featuring a vestibule-like sentient touch pad known as Coach.

Marooned in ‘The Hub’, Amy and Frank are just a girl and a guy, trying to get along, in a curated world in which The System and Coach are trying to find people their ‘perfect match’. This means putting users through a series of relationships with ‘expiry dates’ until each person’s ultimate partner is located, thanks to calibrations fed in from their previous dalliances. Amy and Frank’s first relationship has an expiry date of 12 hours; after various relationships they’re set up again with another expiry date. They decide to ultimately buck the system as they find the perfect match in each other despite an App’s dire warnings.

This would have still worked but then there’s the episode’s big reveal: they’re both simulations of human beings. Thereafter you realize that you were emotionally invested in beta-testing online avatars for Tinder Plus. Pass.

Arkangel

Are you a parent? Have you ever been terrified about what your kids get up to? Arkangel has a solution. A simple, painless inoculation of spyware into your child’s head gives parents an e-tablet provides you with a creepily intrusive POV in to what their children are doing, saying or even feeling. Kid’s blood sugar going down? You get a notification. Kid trying out narcotics? You get a notification. Kid’s cortisol/stress hormone levels going up? You get a notification and also get the option to visually and aurally blocking out the source of stress. This is great if your toddler has to cross a home guarded by a bark-happy dog; perhaps not so much if your toddler is alone at home with a grandparent who gets a stroke and is immediately blocked out of sight and sound due to potential stress.

Rosemarie DeWitt’s Marie is a single-parent to Sara, and prey to every single-parent’s nightmare of not being there for their kid. After briefly losing Sara in a park, Arkangel’s (free) beta technology seems a boon to the working mother. Until Sara fails to register that her granddad is having a stroke. Lesson learned, Marie puts away her Arkangel tab, and let’s Sara be. Until Sara hits high-school puberty and begins lying to her mother.

Re-enter Arkangel, and Marie being treated to a first-hand perspective of Sara losing her virginity, doing drugs and generally growing up. Marie doesn’t take it well; Sara, on finding out that her mother is spying on her takes it worse. Guess who wins? Technology, of course.


Black Museum

This has Black Mirror pandering to the Easter-egg obsession of many a cult series’ internet followings, and is just amazing as it comes seasoned with the technologies of previous Black Mirror seasons as well as new ones. Douglas Hodge is the grotesque yet engaging proprietor of the Black Museum, a road-side attraction featuring cybernetic-influenced human crimes, into which bored traveler Nish (Letitia Wright) stumbles, while seemingly waiting for her vintage car to charge its solar battery.

A mostly flashback-enforced episode featuring the breakdown of individual morality in the face of technology, Black Museum has Hodge playing Rolo Haynes, an immoral business executive who marketed and endorsed Black Mirror‘s previously featured technologies to individuals and governments mostly to everyone’s detriment. Finally kicked out of both government and private enterprise, Haynes establishes his freak-show featuring victims and villains from previous private-public joint ventures, initially catering to the general public and then the more morally bankrupt and sadistic.

With a slow reveal of intentions, aided by Haynes’ vicarious pleasure in narrating his tales of woe, this is one slick, sick episode. In a good way.

USS Callister

Perhaps out of sheer sympathy for all that humanity went through in 2017, the first episode of Black Mirror‘s fourth season is its most feel-good, if only in a virtual sense. It’s also its best.

Jesse Plemmons is Robert Daley, the apparently mild-mannered (read loser) Chief Technical Officer and co-founder of Callister Inc., an extremely successful multiplayer online VR game, who’s not so much despised by CEO and co-founder James Walton (Jimmi Simpson) and his employees as he is derided for his anti-social behavior. So, perhaps, it’s no surprise that Daley has his own offline modification of the game confined to his home, modeled after his favorite childhood TV show, Star Fleet, wherein he is the fearless captain of a space exploration vessel manned by digital copies of his co-workers from the real world.

Dazzlingly retro, Star Fleet isn’t so much a carbon copy of Star Trek (though it is that) as it is a spoof of it — complete with attractive women in attire wildly inappropriate for the freeze of deep space as well as Wagnerian villains and quasi-alien monsters — at least in the eyes of the Black Mirror production crew. Daley himself is a fervent believer in the high moral standards of Space Fleet, its declared mission and most importantly, the strict chain of command.

That’s because more than a joy ride into space, for Daley, his Space Fleet game is a way to vent out his frustrations on his real-life colleagues in a virtual world. Yes, he’s basically a troll. So the alpha-male CEO Walton becomes a sniveling lieutenant, a snooty receptionist becomes a blue-skinned first officer and other members of the crew are digital imprints of Daley’s colleagues who’ve slighted him in the past. And in typical Black Mirror style, Brooker has you initially rooting for the villain, until you realize Daley’s true nature.

Because this isn’t self-therapy, it’s sadism. It doesn’t matter that the ship’s crew are digital avatars of real people, it doesn’t matter that it’s technically not real. The avatars themselves think and feel and emote but Daley has them dancing on his puppet strings. We’re exposed to his machinations through new employee — and subsequent new crew member — Mia who refuses to separate her digital self from her real one and becomes a far more effective nemesis to Daley’s power-play than any of his space adversaries. Finally, it becomes a game of wits and means as digital avatars try to break into the real world in order to get deleted and thus become free. It’s bizarre, it’s beautiful, and it’s also really funny. Enjoy!

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All The Money In The World Review

Cast: Christopher Plummer, Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris,

Director: Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott’s new film All the Money in the World is based on the true story of the world-famous kidnapping of the grandson of oil tycoon John Paul Getty in 1973. It’s a fascinating story, not least because the miserly billionaire, who was the richest man in the world at the time, famously refused to pay a dime of the $17 million ransom demanded by the kidnappers to let the boy go. Equally fascinating is the behind-the-scenes story of how Scott – the great director of films like Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator, and The Martian – made a bold decision, only six weeks before the film’s scheduled release, to recast the central role of the wealthy baron that he’d already shot with Kevin Spacey. Concerned that the film might become collateral damage when sexual abuse allegations against Spacey emerged in late October 2017, Scott replaced the House of Cards star with 88-year-old Christopher Plummer, reshooting his scenes in a mere nine days, adding an additional $10 million to the film’s cost.

Shrewd move, and one that appears to have paid off nicely. For not only is Plummer much closer in age to Getty than Spacey was, he’s also terrific in the role. He plays the tightfisted billionaire as affable, yet chillingly detached; a ruthless man with ice running through his veins. The sort of person that installed a phone booth in his mansion so his guests could pay for their calls.

Meanwhile Charlie Plummer (no relation to Plummer Sr) plays Getty’s 16-year-old grandson Paul who’s held captive after being picked up from the street in Rome, and Michelle Williams is Gail, the old man’s estranged daughter-in-law and the boy’s devoted but broke mother. Mark Wahlberg is cast as Fletcher Chase, an ex-CIA man on Getty’s payroll, who is tasked with bringing back the boy without spending any money.

On the surface the film feels like a relatively lightweight entry in Scott’s canon of masterpieces given that its overarching theme – the corrupting influence of enormous wealth – is not exactly new. But the veteran filmmaker gives it the pace and the rhythm of an action thriller, and dials up the urgency in recreating much of the frenzy and the chaos that the Italian press created around the kidnapping.

At the same time, Scott maintains a tight coil of tension throughout, cutting between the parallel tracks of the terrified young boy being held by impatient captors, and the battle of wits between his stubborn grandfather and his desperate but determined mother.

Christopher Plummer digs deep to explore the heart of a man whose capacity for love is limited to money or the enduring assets he can buy with it. Michelle Williams brings a sort of quiet intensity and passion to the part of the resolute mother. Gail is a portrait of humanity and emotion, and in that she is a fitting rival to the pitiless Getty. Together, the two actors are the beating heart of this film.

Given Ridley Scott’s keen eye for detail and his virtually unparalleled visual aesthetic the film is evocatively shot and the recreation of both 1970s Europe, and specifically the grandeur of Getty’s world, is faultless. Even without having anything profound to say about wealth or greed, he delivers a consistently watchable film that benefits enormously from its two central performances.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for All the Money in the World.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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The Greatest Showman Review: Glorious Concoction of Typical Hollywood Musical and Convincing Cast

function collapse(){$(‘.qr’).toggle(500, function() {if ($(‘.qr’).is(‘:visible’)) {$(“.expup”).css(“background”, “url(https://images.news18.com/static_news18/pix/ibnhome/news18/exp-uparrow.gif)”);} else {$(“.expup”).css(“background”, “url(https://images.news18.com/static_news18/pix/ibnhome/news18/exp-downarrow.gif)”);}});}This is what you ever want, this is what you’ll ever need and this is the line you’re greeted with the moment The Greatest Showman begins. A typical musical with nothing extraordinary in it but just enough happening to love everything about the film. Boasting of a cast including the likes of Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, and Zendaya among others, the musical, based on the life of America’s most popular showman PT Barnum, is a hit with the perfect balance between chaos and emotions, music and dance and of course the rise and fall and rise again success of the man of actually invented the spirit and form of circus.

The storyline is as basic as it could get while portraying the good side of an incredible man. The film takes Barnum’s (in)famous believe-it-or-not attractions — Tom Thumb, Dog Boy, Tattoo Man, the Bearded Lady — and transforms them into sensitive enlightened outcasts of a 19h century identity politics. From a woman with a beard singing in her best behavior while wearing a corset to a dwarf playing a general, the film gives wings to imagination, just like Barnum’s life.
The film begins with Barman’s childhood- in tattered clothes and shoes, tending to rich men, only to be left on streets after the demise of his father; two things that never ever leave his side are his dreams and love. Once in a steady job, Barnum goes on to marry his childhood sweetheart, much to the opposition of her rich, aristocratic father. After being dismissed from his job, he starts working on his own aspirations, of hoodwinking people and still bringing joy into their monotonous routine. There begins a series of events, from starting from scratch and rising to a circle he always wanted to be in, to succumbing to the dark side of success and again rising like a phoenix, only this time, giving priorities to the things that he really ever wants. The film completes a whole circle, assembling everything required for a good musical, in between.

The cast and Benj Pasek, Justin Paul’s original score are the strength of the film. Hugh Jackman as PT Barnum is just magical. Jackman again proves himself as an accountable actor be it a superhuman franchise or a sensitive musical. The way he incorporates Barnum’s glee, impulsiveness and regret is just phenomenal. Zac Efron and Zendaya are a delight to watch, and even though their story might not be the center of the stage, it definitely is the support the plot requires. Michelle Williams as Charity, Barnum’s wife is subtle, vulnerable and the perfect reality to his imagination. She keeps the man and the story grounded.

Hollywood has a flair of cherry-caking every glorious biopic and to be honest it is no different. The struggles, though present, are few, and the focus is mainly on making the show a joyful experience, just like the real man would’ve wanted. The plot had potential to go behind curtains a little more and bring out something freakishly different or more for the brain to invest into, but director Michael Gracey chose to tread the white path instead of grey.

Nonetheless, one and a half hour of the show is nothing short of glorious concoction. The songs have a peppy-pop vibe to it and will linger with you long after you leave the theater. The choreography is equally mesmerizing and you expect nothing less from a film made on the life of a great showman. What’s interesting is the way diversity and identity crisis has been played in the 19th-century frame. Obviously, it’s far from the reality in more aspect than one, but isn’t it the job of a musical to immerse you in your world of perfection and happiness?

For PT Barnum every individual was a star and the makers of The Greatest Showman try to make it true. A screen time full of imagination, brilliant score, immersive plot and happy telling. Just a great show, the man himself would’ve approved. The Greatest Showman is the kind of film where all the pieces click into place, and Jackman’s Barnum changes the world by getting the whole world to believe that.

“The noblest art is that of making others happy”- The Greatest Showman lives up to this quote by Barnum till it’s last beat.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Tiger Zinda Hai Movie Review: A Beloved Leading Man and Some Thrilling Action

Tiger Zinda Hai doesn’t inspire much confidence in India’s Research & Analysis Wing if they’re shown reaching out to a former Super-Spy, presumed dead for the last eight years, to lead their most urgent mission. Frankly, what should one make of this? They have no one on their roster with a similar set of skills? And what if Bhai said no? It makes me very afraid for our safety.

So it’s a good thing Salman Khan aka Tiger can be persuaded out of retirement, enjoying life with his former-ISI agent wife Zoya (Katrina Kaif), when 25 Indian nurses must be evacuated from a terror group’s base in Iraq before the US launches an airstrike that will wipe out the bad guys and everything and everyone within a close radius.

Tiger Zinda Hai is an improvement on 2012’s Ek Tha Tiger whose simplistic politics of the region and cringey central romance distracted from some decent action sequences. Loosely based on true events, the new film, however, is a slick affair, and although the politics is still simplistic, director Ali Abbas Zafar goes balls-out with the action, kicking things off with an impressive Bhai-versus-a-pack-of-wolves sequence in the Austrian Alps. The actor, in fact, is in pretty good form, sporting stubble to convey age and maturity, and the sort of puffed-up torso that makes him look like a life-size GI Joe toy. In one of the bits that got maximum applause from the audience in my cinema, a shirtless Salman sprays bullets at a phalanx of bad guys, full Rambo-style. Zafar, who directed the far superior Sultan last year, allows his leading man to play to the gallery, giving him multiple slow-motion entry shots and clap-trap lines. The grand rescue plan involves Tiger and his hand-picked team of experts (a sniper, an explosives guy, and a techie) sneaking into an oil refinery in Iraq, then making their way to the hospital where terrorist leader Abu Usman (Sajjad Delafrooz) is holding the nurses captive. It’s a race-against-time mission, and the makers cram the film with jingoistic patriotism, an India-Pakistan brotherhood angle, and multiple instances of a woman saving the day.

What’s interesting is that this cocktail somehow works. Logic and subtlety are sacrificed at the altar of spectacle and sentiment. The characters are painted in broad brushstrokes, and the supporting cast – including Paresh Rawal as an Indian fixer – turn in serviceable performances. Katrina gets some terrific action moments and she executes them well, but make no mistake, the heavy lifting here is left to Salman Khan, and he’s clearly up for the challenge.

Tiger Zinda Hai is way too long at 2 hours and 41 minutes, but it packs some thrilling action and a beloved leading man presented in just the manner that the fans seem to want to see him.

I’m going with three out of five.

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Firangi Movie Review: The Kapil Sharma Starrer is Downright Insipid

Kapil Sharma is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in Indian comedy circuit. From being a contestant on The Great Indian Laughter Challenge to becoming the owner of The Kapil Sharma Show, the ace comedian has only upped his game.

However, the star is yet to taste success in films. Kapil had first tried his hand at acting two years ago, but was unable to impress the audience. And now he is back with another big screen outing, Rajiv Dhingra’s Firangi.

The film doesn’t have an engaging plotline or a love-story to vouch for… a big disappointment for Kapil Sharma fans. 

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Bright Movie Review

Netflix has proved itself to be one of the biggest platforms this year attracting A-list Hollywood actors to come and experiment with their cinema. After Brad Pitt’s lukewarm War Machines, Will Smith decided to test the digital waters with fantasy action film Bright. And unlike War Machine, the film turned out to be a fair good deal, amalgamating biblical fairy tales with the real-time situation of the world (read: the USA, in particular).

Set in a parallel-universe version of Los Angeles, where humans live in ‘tactful harmony’ with Orcs, Elves and Fairies, Bright hinges on the relationship between two reluctantly paired police officers: battle-scarred beat cop Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and his idealistic new partner, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the first Orc ever allowed on the force. In this social structure, at the bottom are the Orcs, who dress like inner-city thugs, costumed in sports jerseys and gang colors up to their Shrek-like heads, which feature unique pigmentation as they are tagged ‘blooded’ on their Orc-deeds. Then come the humans who seem to live in a kind of post-racial, post-gender-segregated equilibrium. And above that hover the Elves, the elite class who hoard the wealth and spend their days running the world and shopping.
The complicated social structure is in no place forced down your brain but becomes visible on its own through character interactions, the division of districts, body language around different species and even through the graffiti and posters on the walls. Everybody in this world is intimidating in their own hierarchical way. It’s astonishing how the makers of the film have picked up a relevant topic of inclusion and weaved it around a fantasy, thus subtly, the film says a lot about diversity, crimes against a certain group based on their ethnicity, color, and religion, all of this in a politically charged environment , deserves a standing ovation. Bright is a brilliant twist on an old dynamic that simultaneously supports an allegory about today’s relevant discrimination that can actually be used as a detailed analytical dissertation on various socio-political topics.

The film is an ambitious, well-executed Netflix production that benefits from the way director David Ayer’s gritty, streetwise sensibility balance out an elaborate comic-book mythology, without letting go the ground of magic, miracle, and prophecy.

Will Smith is in bang-on form, the cop we missed since his Bad Boys days. There are moments you’d be reminded of his previous outings as a witty, foul-mouthed cop, only this time the street cop is more matured and evolved and in all good ways, it shows. Edgerton as Jakoby presents the sensitivity of an un-blooded Orc with sincerity; discarded from his community and disrespected in the one he is currently living in, the way he tries to fit in the uniform and win the trust of his partner, makes you feel for him.

It’s a complicated social system to establish, and yet, Bright does it without relying on traditional exposition. However, the film does have its flaws, in order to get rid of all stereotypes, the director creates certain new ones. The Latinos are still the drug dealers, the family scenes of Ward aren’t convincing enough and there is a certain continuity problem with his ‘family-man’ aspect. Still, the film manages to hold on to your attention and present the mythical tale of Orcs, Elves, and fairies in a gun-down, street-smart way.

This one deserves a watch for the way it subtly deals with the concept of identity and inclusion, and for the chemistry between Smith’s Ward and Edgerton’s Jakoby. A bad-ass way to end the year, indeed.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Star Wars-The Last Jedi Review: ‘Watch One May, Enjoy One Must’

In a galaxy not so far away and a time not so long ago, JJ Abrams decided to revive the monstrously popular Star Wars franchise and received blessings from the critics as well the series’ old loyalists, those who blatantly rejected the spin-offs made in the early 2000s. Expectations were high with the eighth chapter and the title The Last Jedi just added to it. Star Wars: The Last Jedi deals with the cinematic universe’s most respected characters, ‘Jedi’, and marks the end of the order with a ‘ray of hope’. Enthralling and still nostalgic, the eighth chapter fulfills most of the fandom’s appetite.

Second, in the rebooted trilogy, the film focuses on Rey and her training from Luke Skywalker himself, who is on a self-exile, in the most unfindable place in the galaxy, while the Resistance is spearheaded by Princess Leia, played by the late Carrie Fisher. There is a lot of Leia in The Last Jedi. In fact, in a franchise that has always been progressive about the representation of women, The Last Jedi is basically run by them in every way possible- from General Leia’s leadership to Leia’s second in command Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo’s (Laura Dern) sacrifice and save-the-day sisters Paige (Veronica Ngo) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran)- who each get their moment to shine.

Meanwhile, Rey remains the character most likely to carry on the Jedi tradition, having piloted the Millennium Falcon to the remote island where Luke is hiding, although he proves a far more reluctant teacher than Yoda ever was. With the force by her side, trying to balance the energy, Rey has concerns about Kylo Ren and at parts, the man in question does resemble Darth Vader’s torn-self. This image released by Lucasfilm shows Daisy Ridley as Rey in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," in theaters on December 15, 2017. (Image: AP) Adam Driver is a gifted actor and his vulnerability as Ben Solo and Kylo Ren (the heir to Darth Vader himself) tears you up from inside. There’s light in him, but the dark force is equally strong with him, splitting his image. While Rey has her clarity, Kylo is still finding his way in the dark and that is apparent at several moments. Nonetheless, Ren does make a shrewd but naive villain and he has a long way to go before he fills up his grandfather, Vader’s, shoes.

Director Johnson provides real character details for the good guys, even for the minor ones and their losses, thereby etching every character with greater impact than in the previous movies.

The Last Jedi possesses the same reverence for the galaxy Lucas created, paying homage in all the right places (from the chills we get from John Williams’ iconic fanfare to the new-and-improved walkers that appear during the climactic siege).

Another aspect in which the force is strong with The Last Jedi is the VFX. The jaw-dropping action sequences keep you on the edge of your seat, and the mid-air thrill of ‘will-they-won’t-they’ keeps you engaged throughout. There are various references to the past films, which were bound to happen, considering Hamil’s return to the franchise. From him entering the Millennium Falcon, to meeting his old pal R2D2, and a brief glimpse of his own journey- the film has enough dose for the old and the new order of fans.

However, the Johnson’s directorial does feel stale at key moments. It is predictable and feels as if the director was specifically asked not to tamper with the film’s fundamentals. While this might appear a good thing, there’s only so much you can ignore in the name of fandom and nostalgia. At a given point, the films have to steer on their own and as stated in the film, “the new rebellion has to rise as we have everything we need”- including a new hope to a new leader, new complex relationships and a new Supreme Commander.

While The Force Awakens was an out and out grand homage, The Last Jedi does provide a narrative, to begin with. The Force Awakens was essentially a heightened reboot of A New Hope, recycling many of the 1977 original thrills in fresh form with a mostly new cast. This latest chapter was positioned as the new trilogy’s The Empire Strikes Back— which is to say, a darker, more serious chapter that deepens the underlying mythology, shapes its emerging hero, sets up an epic cliff-hanger and introduces a few big twists into the equation.

Now it’s all in the ninth chapter to carry it forward and deliver a fresh take on this classic series. Rest, spin-offs like Rogue One will keep the galaxy story-mongers satisfied (We hope…!)

Engaging, advancing and thrilling, The Last Jedi doesn’t disappoint on major levels and we can thank the makers for not messing it up and for being true to the force. As Master Yoda would’ve said, “Watch One May. Enjoy One Must.”

Rating:3/5

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Fukrey Returns Movie Review

The 2013-released film Fukrey got quite a lot of things right- impressive cast, perfect comic timing, interesting story-line and an extended character in the face of capital city Delhi. Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, who directed the prequel, is now back with its sequel titled Fukrey Returns.

As the title suggests, the cast members including Pulkit Samrat, Varn Sharma, Ali Fazal, Manjot Singh and Richa Chadha, are expected to reprise their roles and carry forward the hilariously entertaining franchise.

Don’t set expectations too high for this one!

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Fukrey Returns Movie Review

Director: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba
Cast: Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma, Manjot Singh, Ali Fazal, Richa Chadha In the 2013 release, Fukrey, Varun Sharma’s Chucha was forced to sleep so that he wakes up with a lottery-winning dream. In its sequel, directed by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, Chucha is made to stay up to utilize his gift and premonition up another lottery-winning sequence. And that perhaps is the only new thing in the film apart from a couple of insignificant details.

If a sequel is produced after a gap of 4 years, one expects some sort of growth- in both characters and the story; but alas. The film continues to drag on its familiarity and stales what came as a breath of fresh air the first time. Fukrey Returns tries to sell itself on the recall factor and while it works and tickles the funny bone sometimes, it loses out on an opportunity to present something fresh. The plot and trajectory of the story-line is all too familiar for the ones who have seen the previous film.


All characters reprise their roles and the film kicks off a year later from where it ended the last time. But not much has changed in the year it seems. Pulkit Samrat is the same old confident Hunny, Varun Sharma is the innocently dumb entertainer Chucha, Manjot Singh is the fearful business-boy Lali and Ali Fazal is Zafar bhai, the wisest of them all. Pankaj Tripathi takes on the baton as the witty Pandit Ji who continues to swear by the idea of ‘jugaad’.

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All is well until Richa Chadha’s Bholi Punjaban makes a comeback. She is all set on a revenge after her release from the prison. Joining her in the mission are her two faithful African servants and ‘mantri ji’, whom she had vehemently put down in the earlier film. The characters remain same and so do their love stories. Hunny is as awkwardly in love with Priya (Priya Anand), Zafar is singing to the tunes of Neetu (Vishakha Singh) and so is Lali (even though silently). Meanwhile, Chucha is still planning his future with Bholi Punjaban.

Fukrey primarily worked because it got hold of the most little things and presented in a relatable format. Like the youth’s aspiration to make quick money or the Hunny-Chucha bond that worked as a reflection of real life bro-code or the Hunny-Priya ‘french-kiss’ conversations, or the beggar that turned out to be the richest character in the film or the ‘quintessential Dilli’ things including the mata ki chowki scene.

The sequel, however, fails to live up to the expectations as it only refurbishes the main points in a different packaging. One can also trace back the order of sequences in a blink of an eye. While the first half still works on the recall factor, the second is a mix-up of too many ideas and that makes the film feel like a stretched saga of unnecessary details. Even the jibes that crack you up in the beginning, lose the potential to get you laughing after a point. The film lacks a vision and that perhaps is an aftermath of the success the makers tasted with the 2013 film. It has its moments, but the moments are only stolen and recreated from the first film.

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The cast, which was impeccable in the previous venture, is led down by a sluggish narrative this time around. More so, Richa’s Bholi Punjaban loses the spunk- partly because of her character detailing and partly because she tries too hard. While Chucha is the star character, Hunny, Zafar and Lali, too, deliver a decent performance. But it’s Pankaj Tripathi, whose wit and comic timing never tires and he manages to make you giggle even when you find yourself disappointed by the plot.

Watch Fukrey Returns if you like but don’t expect the spark of the original. Plus, the giggles are more like a reminder of the original Fukrey and nothing more.

Rating: 2/5

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Firangi Movie Review

Kapil Sharma is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in Indian comedy circuit. From being a contestant on The Great Indian Laughter Challenge to becoming the owner of The Kapil Sharma Show, the ace comedian has only upped his game.

However, the star is yet to taste success in films. Kapil had first tried his hand at acting two years ago, but was unable to impress the audience. And now he is back with another big screen outing, Rajiv Dhingra’s Firangi.

The film doesn’t have an engaging plotline or a love-story to vouch for… a big disappointment for Kapil Sharma fans. 

View the original article here