Movies to look out for this week

Karthik Calling Karthik [IMDB]

Story of a loser, whose life changes with the help of someone on the phone who also claims to be Karthik

Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Deepika Padukone, Shefali Shah

Direction: Vijay Lalwani

Teen Patti [IMDB]

An eccentric mathematician discovers an equation that can redefine the principle of probability and randomness - and decides to experiment with it on teen-patti games in Bombay's underground casinos

Cast: Amitabh Bachhan, Ben Kingsley, R. Madhavan,

Direction: Leena Yadav

Invictus [IMDB]

Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon

Direction: Clint Eastwood

It's Complicated [IMDB]

When attending their son's college graduation, a couple reignite the spark in their relationship ... but the complicated fact is they're divorced and he's remarried

Cast: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin

Direction: Nancy Meyers

The Princess and The Frog [IMDB]

A fairy tale set in Jazz Age-era New Orleans and centered on a young girl named Princess Tiana and her fateful kiss with a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again

Cast: Anika Noni Rose (voice), Bruno Campos (voice)

Direction: Ron Clements, John Musker

Ip Man [IMDB]

A semi-biographical account of Yip Man, the first martial arts master to teach the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun (he was Bruce Lee's guru)

Cast: ADonnie Yen, Simon Yam

Direction: Wilson Yip

Aahat - Ek Ajeeb Dastan

A movie about a visually impaired-girl's struggle for a normal life.
This movie was shot in 1974, but never released. Its being released in a few single screen theatres in Bombay this weekend

Cast: Vinod Mehra, Jaya Bachhan, Amrish Puri

Direction: Kishore Rege
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Movies to look out for this week

Toh Baat Pakki

A comic take on the Indian family's perpetual search for a suitable groom for their daughter

Cast: Tabu, Sharman Joshi, Vatsal Seth

Direction: Kedar Shinde

Up in The Air [IMDB]

With a job that has him traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham leads an empty life out of a suitcase, until his company does the unexpected: ground him

Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman
Direction: Jason Reitman

(Up in The Air has been nominated for best movie and best actor oscars)

Click [IMDB]

A photographer and his girlfriend are puzzled by vague silhouettes in all the photographs he takes

Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Sneha Ullal, Rehan Khan

Direction: Sangeeth Sivan

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief [IMDB]

A teenager discovers he's the descendant of a Greek god and sets out on an adventure to settle an on-going battle between the gods.

Cast: Logan Lerman, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean

Direction: Chris Columbus

Year One [IMDB]

Zed, a prehistoric would-be hunter, eats from a tree of forbidden fruit and is banished from his tribe

Cast: Jack Black, Michael Cera

Direction: Harold Ramis

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My Name is Khan

There are a lot of jokes floating around the internet about how all of us netizens, who made a hue and cry about the MNIK controversy, should tender an apology to Bal Thackeray. Because the man was just trying to save us from the exasperation – and the feeling of a need to strangle someone - when watching the latter half of My Name is Khan. Karan Johar may be going around the town (actually make it the world) shouting that this is his most realistic work to date, but it is actually his most hair-tearingly frustrating work to date.

All the talk about intent and heart-in-the-right-place counts for nought when you are forced to wait excruciatingly for a movie to end. Three times in the second half, you think the movie has come to an end, only for it to move further along, for needless subplots and time waste. Remember Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham - the scene in the mall where Hrithik gets everyone face to face? It would have been a good enough ending if the movie had finished there with some simple apologies, but Karan Johar had to add a needless scene between Hrithik and Amitabh, and then the crappy final scene between Amitabh and Shahrukh. My Name is Khan does the same, only much crappier !! A good 30 min could be easily lopped off from the end and it would improve the movie enough to earn a recommended review from this blog.

Because even in its present form, My Name is Khan has a very commendable first half. Shahrukh Khan puts in one of his better performances – cleverly making use of his natural ability to bob his head - to fit in the Asperger’s Syndrome frame. The character has drawn inspiration from a lot of sources – his Rizwan Khan is a combination of Rainman’s Dustin Hoffman and Forrest Gump’s Tom Hanks. Brilliant at solving mechanical problems and puzzles, innocent and very endearing – Shahrukh gets us rooting for his character quickly. His scenes with Kajol in their courting phase are a joy to watch – especially watch the proposal scene

However, all this good work is thrown down the drain by the ultra melodramatic second half. When 9/11 results in a personal loss, Rizwan Khan sets on a journey across the country (like Forrest Gump) – and movie goes to the dogs. It seems difficult to believe that the same director who made the first half with much more sense, suddenly tosses all logic out of the window and becomes heavy handed with the sentimental stuff. And its not even good emotional stuff – very tacky. And it just doesn’t end …

Also, unlike Taare Zameen Par, My Name is Khan doesn’t really educate the people about Asperger’s Syndrome – except that they cant express emotions. Rizwan Khan has random allergies like yellow color, hugging and loud noises – so its not exactly clear what Asperger’s Syndrome is.

The talk of Kajol-Shahrukh chemistry, I think is just bunkum. What you love to see is just Kajol only – she is charming & radiant on screen – a treat to watch. Although she too cant escape the scourge of the second half – she becomes a dull, pathetic shadow of herself. The one other performance that is worthy of praise is Sonya Jehan – who plays Rizwan’s caring sister-in-law. The other performances are adequate, nothing outstanding.

There are plot holes the size of trucks in the movie, but then logical storylines has never been Karan Johar’s forte. It’s a shade under three hours long, but feels closer to four. Shahrukh Khan fans (and they are much more numerous than I would like) would no doubt flock to the movie, irrespective of what I have to say. For the the others, my recommendation is to stay away from the theatres and wait for it to show up on tv – and make sure even then you don’t watch more than 60-80 minutes of the movie.

PS – Another internet joke floating around
Why did Ashutosh Gowariker love My Name is Khan ?
Because someone made a movie longer than him

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Valentine's Day

Frankly, it is becoming a little difficult to write detailed reviews about romantic movies – they are all essentially similar, just the actors change around. Valentine’s day, if you havent noticed (Movies to look out for this week), has a HUGE star cast (all A-listers) – and so in that sense it’s a pleasure to watch. Its an ensemble story, reminiscent of last year’s He’s Just Not That Into You (and Love Actually way back in 2003). Its similarly entertaining, and its predictable. The only thing lacking in the oomph factor – none of the females are that hot really. Misses a Scarlet Johansson if you ask me

There are far too many storylines in the movie – recounting all of them would essentially give the whole movie away. There are the usual old couple, a young couple, a couple who hate Valentine’s day etc stories. The tracks do not throw any real surprises at you – except maybe the Bradley Cooper one – and the best friend’s story is a little too predictable. But its all wrapped in a nice mushy packet for you to watch with your loved one.

Single guys – this movie is really not suitable for you. Girls, you watch any romantic comedy, so I guess you will anyway watch this movie. Couples/Married folks – you don’t have a choice, do you :) ?

The movie doesn’t quite reach the heights of director Garry Marshall’s previous works Pretty Woman or Runaway Bride, inspite of Julia Roberts being present in the movie. It is a decent timepass - nothing more, nothing less

3 star
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Movies to look out for this week

My Name is Khan [IMDB]

Rizwan Khan, suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, undertakes a cross-country journey to meet Barack Obama - to tell him he is not a terrorist

Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Kajol

Direction: Karan Johar

The Wolfman [IMDB]

Upon his return to his ancestral homeland, an American man (Del Toro) is bitten, and subsequently cursed by, a werewolf.

Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Hunt

Direction: Joe Johnston

Valentine's Day [IMDB]

Intertwining couples and singles in Los Angeles break-up and make-up based on the pressures and expectations of Valentine's Day

Cast: Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Queen Latifah, Jessica Biel, Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher, Bradley Cooper, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway,
Direction: Garry Marshall

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Remember the angry young man movies of the yore ? The hero grew up in the slums, had a widowed mom, a sister and a brother, a best buddy and a dream to make it big one day ? Well, if you look at it, Striker is just a modern interpretation of that story – except that its one of the most engrossing movies to have come out in the last couple of years. Unfortunately it also means that clichés like sister getting raped by the villain and hero falling in love with a rich man’s daughter are not there in movie [chuckles]. I am just kidding, Striker isn’t anything like those cheesy old bollywood melodramas.

What Striker is, is a gripping tale of a slum guy with a gift of carrom – who is determined to make it beyond his current 10x10 in Malvani (a suburb of Bombay near Malad) - but is not a sports movie. What we get a deliciously grey character whose morality is not clear – he doesn’t mind playing for money, but will not become a kheli (bhai’s official player). (Carrom in the 70s and 80s is a game controlled by local slumlords with all games having betting on them – and all the best players invariably end up playing for the local bhai Jaleel). Even while playing for money, he stays away from bhai-sponsored events and will play with amateurs instead. Surya’s motto is – you cant beg for it, snatching is not right – so you have to win.

One of the reasons why Striker is such a interesting movie is Surya – played awesomely by Siddharth. He is an enigma – we never get to know what he feels about all the events that happen around him. He shows normal responses like rage and frustration, or the shy smile at his lady love. But we never get a window into the soul of Surya – which makes him very complex and very real-life. We don’t quite know his feelings for anybody – except his sister, whom he clearly loves. With Madhu (the sympathetic fisherwoman) or Noorie, his short-lived love – Surya reacts, but we never get to see the turmoil within

The only time we get to see Surya clearly is when he is with his friend Zaid (Ankur Vikal). Zaid is a carefree, self-depreciating, wastrel friend, who should get all the best-supporting actor awards if they were awarded on merit. Played by Ankur Vikal, whom you have seen in bit roles so far, Zaid is the one with whom Surya laughs, fights and bonds – their relationship holds through everything.

But the main reason why you should watch Striker is because this movie will keep you firmly in your seats no matter what – because the director just doesn’t let you guess whats going to happen next. Just when you think you have it figured out, something happens which throws all calculations off. There are innumerable sequences where you think there are only two possible outcomes of this - and the director will move the story to a third direction. The movie moves as a furious pace and it doesn’t slack right till the end where again, the director ends the movie on a note that nobody would have expected.

The movie sometimes has a feel of a docudrama – so authentic are the visuals of the ghettos in Malvani and the seedy locations of carrom clubs. The ending of the movie is not completely satisfying, however – it looked like the makers decided to abruptly end the movie. If the ending was in the same league as the rest of the movie, it would have been a whole hearted 4.5 star movie. But in its current form, it still is a recommended watch.

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Movies to look out for this week

Striker [IMDB]

A movie set in the '80s in Bombay, based on true life accounts of the people of Malvani - and about one guy's love for the game of carrom

Cast: Siddharth (of Rang De Basanti), Anupam Kher, Aditya Pancholi
Direction: Chandan Arora

Law Abiding Citizen [IMDB]

A frustrated man decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of his family's killers free. He targets not only the killer but also the district attorney and others involved in the deal.

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx

Direction: F. Gary Gray

Armored [IMDB]

A newbie guard for an armored truck company is coerced by his veteran coworkers to steal a truck containing $42 million. But a wrinkle in their supposedly foolproof plan divides the group, leading to a potentially deadly resolution

Cast: Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Lawrence Fishburne
Direction: Nimród Antal

Couples Retreat [IMDB]

A comedy centered around four couples who settle into a tropical-island resort for a vacation. While one of the couples is there to work on the marriage, the others fail to realize that participation in the resort's therapy sessions is not optional

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kristin Davis, Jean Reno

Direction: Peter Billingsley

Old Dogs [IMDB]

Two friends and business partners find their lives turned upside down when strange circumstances lead to them being placed in the care of 7-year-old twins

Cast: John Travolta, Robin Williams

Direction: Walt Becker
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Road to Sangam

A small low budget movie that almost no one has heard of – is one of the most nuanced, heart-warming tales I have seen. It is a story with loads of heart, which all of us need to see – if for nothing else, to remember who we are as a country. It is a commentary of our times, yet very gently, it questions our conscience about some of our society’s beliefs. Story wise, it is like a childrens parable, where everything ends well – the cynical among us might scoff at it. But Road to Sangam’s achievement lies in its ability to make us look at each other, in a Gandhian way – something that we have long forgotten to do, despite Raj Kumar Hirani’s best efforts.

In Allahabad, Hashmatullah is a sincere, god-fearing motor mechanic, well liked in the community - and is also the general secretary of his neighbourhood mosque committee. He is entrusted with repairs to an old Ford V8 engine, ignorant of its historical significance that it once carried the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi for immersion at the Sangam. He promises he would repair the engine and he would do it as soon as possible. But when some of his innocent neighbours are arrested by the police after some bomb blasts on suspicion of harbouring terrorists, the committee sends out a ‘farman’ to down shutters in the locality as a protest.

At this point, Hashmatullah comes to know the significance of the engine – and is stuck in a dilemma. One on hand, he wants to finish his work - but to open his shop, he would have to go against the mosque ‘farman’ and his ‘quam’.

While on the face of it, it’s a story of a common man stuck in a larger-than-life situation, Road to Sargam morphs into a story of how we need to find a common ground between our two communities – without stepping on each other toes. And the reason why Road to Sangam is such a fantastic movie is that it doesn’t do or say anything explicitly – everything is gently suggested or implied. No flag waving jingoism, nor any flower-giving gandhigiri. Its so nuanced, it would take you a while before you figure out that it could even pass off as a patriotic movie!

The star of the show is Paresh Rawal (who in the same week gave a langoor-looking performance in Rann). Its here that he shows us what wonderful performances he is capable of – because we are in a serious danger of forgetting it after his Priyadarshan movies. In Road to Sargam, he plays Hashmatullah with conviction – showing us the gradual move from doubt and confusion to resolve. Accompanying him in performance honours is Pawan Malhotra. Playing the jingoist maulvi, his high pitched nasal voice make him almost unrecognizable and very believable. Om Puri doesn’t have much dialogues –and does competently.

It would give you an idea of how good or bad the movie is when you consider that Tushhar Gandhi (Mahatma’s grandson) plays himself in the movie – for a considerable part (without dialogues though). Road to Sangam is a non-judgemental look into the collective paranoia of the muslim society in India – and how sometimes it just requires a few voices of reason and some patience. The movie does have its fallacies – some of its scenes should have been written more tightly and the solution director Amit Rai provides is bordering on naïve. But these pitfalls do not distract from the appeal of the movie. Road to Sangam touches your heart with its sincerity and feeling. I repeat, it is something you shouldn’t miss.

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