Movie Review: Jack The Giant Slayer

Hollywood needs to stop handing out budgets of $200 million to people like it is pocket money, because it is not, and 99 percent of these humongous budget movies fail to do what is expected of them – entertain. It is harder to please audiences nowadays, but in this day and age, no one wants to pay a premium to watch a terribly scripted tech demo of colossal visual effects.

Jack The Giant Slayer is a mess from start to finish. The romance is painfully clichéd, the adventure is dull and the only thing Giant in the film is its budget. As the film goes on it becomes increasingly shocking to assimilate the fact that the writer-director team of Christopher McQuarrie and Bryan Singer who made The Usual Suspects have been responsible for the muddle on screen. Singer seems like a two hit wonder thanks to the horrid Superman Returns and the even worse Valkyrie that preceded this film and it is not hard to figure out why he has decided to direct the next X-Men installment next. In Jack the Giant Slayer Singer comes dangerously close to demonstrating that the genius behind Keyser Soze’s story was a fluke. Not only does he fail to create a fresh or likable bunch of central characters but he also fails to create a sense of adventure despite the $200 million CGI entrusted to him.

The film tries to be a radical adult version of the ‘Jack and the beanstalk’, here we have a young man (a miscast Nicholas Hoult) as a farm boy who falls for the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) and inadvertently chances upon a bunch of fabled magic beans. Upon contact with water the beans sprout into a giant tree that connects the kingdom to the land of the villainous giants. One thing leads to another and Jack sets off with the king’s elite guard to rescue the princess – a plot that seemed stale even when Super Mario Bros came out. Like Snow White and the Huntsman last year, the film falsely promises to offer a twisted and unique take on a beloved children’s property. What it does offer is a dreadfully written villain (played by Stanley Tucci) whose backstory and intentions were either left on the cutting room floor or were never scripted to begin with.

The giants are incredibly detailed, each one of them has a distinct character – Fee, Fi, Fo and Fum are given some serious screentime and even some character dynamics which is a nice touch. The giants are also quite disgusting, some dig their noses and then taste their fingers – something kids will enjoy giggling over. The humans are quite terribly sketched though, each given worse dialogue and motives than the next. Seeing as the film fails completely in story and character, one expects to at least see a decent CGI demo. The special effects are great and expensive looking no doubt, but not something you have never seen in cinema before. The characters stare at the imagery as if there is something epic going on but you never once share their sentiment, and the 3D feels as tacked on as ever. The action and big finale are downright boring and everyone involved in the film seems constantly confused about its target audience. Hopefully Singer’s X-Men reunion won’t disappoint as well.  

The Second Annual Fauxscar Awards

From milking cash cows to ludicrous PR stunts, across unashamed digital IMAX thievery to complete disregard for the audience's well being, the land of Hollywood brings many-a-joys.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the deux edition of the Fauxscar Awards - Hit it John Williams!


WINNER: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Why make one movie when you can split a book into two? No three! That's two whole more billion dollars right there! Kaching! 

Runners up: 
  • Titanic 3D
  • Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2
  • American Reunion
  • Taken 2


WINNER: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. 

Apart from being the worst superhero film since 'Fantastic Four', the 3D in 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' was beyond any acceptable or known levels of terrible. The only advantage of it was that it significantly reduced the details on Nicolas Cage's face.

Runners up:
  • Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
  • John Carter
  • Wrath of the Titans


WINNER: Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2

After four years of back to back movies, each more unbearably painful than the previous, the finale proved to be a big rollicking glob of awfulness. Teens got what they wanted - an ethereal hero with shaved chest and glowing nipples, Maybelline eyeliner wearing Volturi, Revlon lipstick wearing werewolves and the Dabur Amla Kesh Tel vampires at war with each other.

Runners up:
  • The Apparition 
  • For a Good Time Call
  • The Lucky One



Regarded by esteemed critics as a moving, emotionally charged masterpiece that transcends love and togetherness, Amour was actually found footage drama captured through a camera outside a Help Age India hospice.

Runners up:
  • Cosmopolis
  • Farewell My Queen
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
  • On The Road


WINNER: That's My Boy

With a script that exudes the charm of a used diaper, 'That's my Boy' brought us the two most unlikable characters of 2012 in the form of Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg. The funniest 'jokes' in the film were a scene involving a brother and sister having sex and a reference to pedophilia.

Runners up:
  • The Watch
  • Friends With Kids
  • Tower Block


WINNER: Piranha 3DD

This was not only the worst movie of 2012 but also one of the worst, most misogynist movies to ever have graced cinema screens. Choice scenes included a Piranha getting stuck in the anus of a fat man, the removal of which results in 3D views of the man’s feces.

Runners up: 
  • Battleship
  • The Divide
  • Gone
  • The Three Stooges


WINNER: Killer Joe

The most innovative use of conjugated genitalia involved a scene that had a woman unzipping and going down on Matthew Mcconaughey's ... piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken. 


WINNER: Anna Karenina

BEST Movie Based on a Video Game that is Based on Movies

WINNER: Act of Valor

The Katherine Heigl Award for the Shittiest Katherine Heigl Rom Com of the Year

WINNER: Katherine Heigl for One for the Money


WINNER: Skyfall

Runner up: The Avengers


WINNER: Rihanna in 'Battleship'.


WINNER: Channing Tatum's crotch in 'Magic Mike'


WINNER: Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman


WINNER: Nipples in Magic Mike


WINNER: Liam Hemsworth as the Pussy in The Expendables 2


WINNER: The Amazing Spider-Man. With great power comes great bullshit.


WINNER: Man on a Ledge


Runners up:


WINNER: Misogynist fuckface Bret Easton Ellis, for his nuanced and heartfelt thoughts on Katherine Bigelow.

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Beautiful and moving, Silver Linings Playbook boasts powerful performances and a bizarre narrative that makes you laugh your entrails out during the funny moments and reach for the Kleenex during the others. It also makes you wish for every guy with a broken heart to find a Jennifer Lawrence to fix him and dance with.

Director David O Russell combines the zany elements of his Flirting with Disaster and the suburban dramatic themes of his The Fighter to great effect. Bradley Cooper, in an Oscar nominated turn stars as a bipolar man who has thrashed his wife’s lover and has arrived home after a stint at the psychiatric ward. He still believes he can get his estranged wife back, but his family and his therapist believe some pills would be better suited instead.

Typical of O Russell films, the characters surrounding him exhibit eccentric energy as well; his father (De Niro in top form) is a thoroughly superstitious, semi violent football addict who likes his TV remote placed only at a particular angle. His neighbor who is a super-hot but certified lunatic widow (Lawrence) develops an interest in him. In one scene our hero paces his room in the wee hours of the night because he cannot agree with the nihilist overtones of Ernest Hemmingway. Later when the attractive crazy widow from next door throws herself at him he blames her for her poor social skills, following which she literally chases him down the streets in every morning. These are not just eccentricities in the characters, they’re marvelously detailed quirks that manage to be relatable rather than forced thanks to the terrific cast.

O Russell gloriously demonstrates his knack of directing scenes of family conflict, all of which are so superbly staged one begins to wonder if they’re hilarious or heartbreaking. The banter between DeNiro and Cooper is in particular incredibly intense as a hint of mental illness running in the family is superbly established. The loud back and forth between the characters is bipolar as well, constantly veering from laugh out loud to crushing drama. The film somehow manages to walk the tightrope between the themes of mental instability, dysfunctional families, new love and closure while still being an entertaining, crowd pleasing bit of cinema, complete with a dance contest as the finale. The timing is impeccable as there’s a flicker of light whenever things get too dark, and every single bit of humor has a tinge of darkness to it.

O Russell manages to make the dance contest rise above the contrived plot device, making it a metaphor for moving on instead of moping around with a broken heart. Both leads play wounded characters scrabbling their way to wellness, and no one else but Jennifer Lawrence could’ve pulled her role off – she is one of the very few Hollywood actresses who doesn’t confuse vulnerability with weakness. When she’s not smiling, her snarling dialogue delivery is an unremitting Gatling Gun of words. Towards the end of the film Lawrence takes on the football crazy family and delivers a rapid fire monologue that pretty much annihilates everyone else in the room. By the end of the monologue I found myself standing up and clapping, having fallen completely in love with Miss Lawrence. I’d be surprised if you don’t experience something similar. 

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: A Good Day to Die Hard

Hollywood has milked the cash cow to the very last drop. Bruce Willis’ famed franchise is now sagging as badly as his face. Prepare for the pounding pain of Under Siege 3, a film that is being released in theaters as A Good Day To Die Hard. The fact that the presence of Steven Segal could have improved the movie makes one want to throw screenwriter Skip Woods out of a high rise window in slow motion.

Coming off the dumb yet surprisingly fun Die Hard 4.0 five years ago, A Good Day to Die Hard undoes all the feverish fanboy style hard work put in the previous installment. While parts two, three and four satisfied even the die hardest of fans the new movie directed by John Moore is awful in every possible way. Moore previously directed the horrendous Flight of the Phoenix, the Omen remake and the terrible Max Payne, the mystery of how the studios were convinced to give Moore the keys to the Die Hard franchise will probably be the plot of Die Hard 6. Incidentally, all the previous installments were intended to be other films (Die Hard 1 was supposed to be Predator 2), and it is possible that the movies turned out to be entertaining quite by accident. So when a filmmaker deliberately went about making a Die Hard movie, he somehow failed spectacularly.

Even Abbas-Mustan could have come up with a more imaginative plot – John McClane’s estranged son deliberately gets himself imprisoned in Russia for a mass breakout, has his mission jeopardized when John himself shows up in Moscow in front of his car and uncovers a conspiracy that connects with the Chernobyl incident. It boggles the mind that this story comes from the 43-year-old writer Skip Woods instead of a 10-year-old with a bunch of action figures in his playroom. One can smell the moldy lack of creativity oozing through the screen every time the film focuses on McClaine’s son, knowing that the previous movie was about his daughter. Woods has previously been responsible for such gems as Swordfish, Hitman and Wolverineand one is convinced that he has already penned the next Die Hard movie, which sends John McClaine to space to rescue his astronaut nephew from interplanetary terrorists who want to burn NYC with a laser beam.

The least one expects in an action movie are enjoyable action scenes, and not only does the film refuse to offer those, but John Moore’s direction gives the impression of someone who endlessly bores you just because he can. Woods and Moore even fail at paying homage to the previous films – there are numerous one liners that hark back to the first three movies, and someone even falls off a window in slow motion. Unfortunately all of these scenes involve Jai Courtney, who plays Jr McClaine with the subtlety and charm of an iron table being dragged against marble floors. The man is hopelessly uncharismatic not just as an actor but as a living organism in general. The original Die Hard owes its cult fame not to Bruce Willis but to the sophisticated, charismatic Alan Rickman whose Hans Gruber still consistently appears at the top of the Best Villains of All Time lists on the internet. In A Good Day to Die Hard the villains are as threatening as Crime Master Gogo – one of the bad guys constantly eats a carrot and even dances a jig for five whole minutes – it seems like the whole movie was a sadistic experiment to destroy a lucrative franchise as shamelessly as possible. As for Bruce Willis, he has obviously lost interest in the series, and one hopes the sequel to Red turns out to be as fun as the original.

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: Murder 3

Less a movie and more a sustained assault on your patience levels, Murder 3 is so unrelentingly terrible to endure it feels like being beaten with a brick for two hours.

You don’t watch the Murdermovies to experience the script’s exploration of the frailty of human nature across the social divide and cherish its provocative urban authenticity. You watch them to see smoochie boochies and sensual tushies. Sadly, a tax form is more sensual and a documentary about gardening is more thrilling than Murder 3.

Other than showing off the Bhatt camp’s Hollywood and World Cinema DVD collection, Murder 3 is a failed attempt at making an erotica thriller featuring a morose Randeep Hooda, newcomer Sara Loren who in 4 kilos of makeup can best be described as a Slumdog Barbie, and Aditi Rao Hydari who continually has the expression of a 12-year-old boy upset about his stolen candy. Debutant director Vishesh Bhatt tries to keep the sex quotient up and the audience engaged by incorporating stylistic touches from D-grade Sylvia Kristel's films. Mahesh Bhatt's English-To-Hindi script translator plays clumsily as do the directorial flourishes: the shots of satin, smooching, perverse mirrors, and gratingly uninteresting songs that make the film radiate the charm of a Bhojpuri version of The Hidden Face. Aditi Rao Hydari and Sara Loren do their best to simulate ‘sexiness’ on a human level, but the former kisses Randeep Hooda as if he tastes like a bowl of unrefrigerated 14-day-old milk, and the latter tries to overcompensate so hard one begins to wonder if she needs a trip to the emergency room and treated for full body tourettes. 

The story is directly lifted adapted from The Hidden Face, so apart from the Bollywoodized ending, there's nothing new for those who have already seen the film. The hardest work the filmmakers put in this film was by blocking the trailers of the original movie before release. Just like in the original, Murder 3 consists of a mélange of horror movie gimmicks and twists that are more amusing than engaging. The thrills are so packed with clichés and nonsensicalities that they’re impossible to act out, so the trio of actors, when they are not bursting into melodrama, smile mysteriously. Hooda gives a bored performance exuding the sleepy-eyed faux-macho posture of snooty disaffection. Sara Loren is a high quality bad actress, rubbery and plasticky enough to remain non-biodegradable in the centuries to come, whose lack of range makes Eesha Gupta seem nuanced by comparison. The Mickey Mouse-voiced Hydari is an incredible actress to watch, because the fact that she outdoes Sara Loren at being terrible in the film is quite a stunning feat. Mahesh Bhatt had claimed that this film would be to Hydari what Arth was to Shabhana Azmi, sadly Murder 3 is to Hydari what collagen was to Lil Kim’s face. Even Rajesh Shringarpure, well known in the Marvel universe as The Thing cannot elevate the film to a watchable level. The Bhatts even borrow the aesthetics of the original film, but somehow manage to make Goa look tedious, and ten minutes into the second half the film ends up making a powerful argument for staying home instead of paying money to watch it.

Murder 3 may be an ‘official remake’ but it is a rotting puddle of regurgitated bile, a solid case of classless direction that is better suited for 90’s school kids who had no access to Emmanuelle on the internet.

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

There are more than three hundred different ways a film based on the killing of Osama Bin Laden could have slipped up factually, narratively and aesthetically. It is a testament to the exceptional directing prowess of Katherine Bigelow that Zero Dark Thirty stands as such a gripping and thoroughly detailed chronicle of the events surrounding the hunt for OBL. It’s not just a storytelling triumph but also a major research and cinematic achievement.

This is not an action movie as much as it is a stunning exercise in character and plot development. Bigelow and her writer Mark Boal spin a dizzying array of names, informants, spies, anonymous tips, dead ends to pummel you with information, virtually making you part of the investigative team and trusting you to be part of the procedural rather than spoonfeeding you the way most Hollywood thrillers do. It's not often that a film manages to make you as morally confused as the characters on  the screen. The only other American film in recent history to be smart enough to utilize this technique is 2005's Syriana. 

Much has been written about the depiction of ‘inaccurate’ torture scenes in the film. The argument is silly because firstly, depiction is not endorsement, and secondly, it is ridiculous to assume that the CIA lovingly offered candy to folks while asking about the whereabouts of Bin Laden. Bigelow depicts the scenes in brutal and gruesome realism without veering towards tacky torture porn territory. The biggest strength of Zero Dark Thirty, in fact, is how unglamorous it is. Bigelow de-glamorises and de-Hollywoodizes the story with a crankshaft. Neither is there any chest thumping American sloganeering (unlike most Hollywood war movies) nor is the film an Army recruiting commercial (unlike most Hollywood war movies). And unlike most Hollywood movies, Bigelow’s film is written around a strong female character, one that is played to searing detail and strength by the lovely Jessica Chastain.

Nitpicking in Zero Dark Thirty would be nothing but moaning just because one can. One apparent nadir of the film is the underdeveloped SEAL characters. That couldn’t be helped because the SEAL Team Six personnel are nameless and faceless ghosts and developing those characters would have felt needlessly tacked on. Another issue in Zero Dark Thirty is the lack of focus on the SEALS’ training before the mission, something that is covered extensively in this New Yorker article. Naturally it is impossible to squeeze in all the details of the aforementioned piece in one movie, only a full blown miniseries would accomplish that feat. The actors (Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt) who play the SEALS manage to leave a mark despite having very brief roles and spending majority of their screen time under helmets in the dark of the night. The supporting cast of CIA operatives including Jason Clarke, Edgar Ramirez, Kyle Chandler, Stephan Dillane and Jennifer Ehle are written to perfection. And as a result of the insane amount of data crammed in those two and a half hours, Zero Dark Thirty whizzes by like a bullet. You know how the film is going to end, yet nothing can prepare you for the blistering final twenty minutes at the Abbotabad compound. Bigelow times the raid to stunning specifics, matching its runtime to the actual raid, superbly detailing the military tactics, without selling out and adding in loud gunfire and Call of Duty style flashbangs. It’s pretty much a masterclass on how to craft heart stopping tension and gritty realism without using lazy techniques like shaky cameras and a cacophony of yelling and screaming.

If Katherine Bigelow and Mark Boal impressed you with The Hurt Locker, prepare to have your expectations challenged – because Zero Dark Thirty will blow you away, right from its unsettling black screen opening to the backdrop of 9/11 audio to the end. And just like The Hurt Locker, it will keep curdling like a tenement fire in your skulls long after you’ve left the theater. 

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: Mama

A girl looks out the window and casually remarks ‘Daddy, there is a woman standing outside, and her feet aren’t touching the ground’. The snarky grin on your face begins to crumble.

Produced by the Sensei of creepy art direction Guillermo Del Toro, Mama is a chef-de-oeuvre of modern horror up until three fourths of its way. It doesn’t even matter if you find the final act a tad undercooked because by then you’ll already have seen one of the best horror movies made since 2007’s El Orfanato.

Mama is exquisitely directed by Andres Muschietti who expands upon his 2008 short film of the same name that he co-directed with his sister. Five minutes in, you begin to realize that Mama isn’t typical Hollywood smut horror but one that challenges the clichés of the genre and the stock set of characters that come attached to it. Muschietti relinquishes the comfort of tried and tested horror tropes and instead serves a whole new set of subtly terrifying set pieces. He also brings in an all-female cast, which, going against the genre, is actually not offensive to women.

The plot is as simple as it is unsettling – four years after the mysterious death of their father, two girls are found in an abandoned cabin in the woods in feral condition. Their uncle decides to take care of them by bringing them home, but a shadowy feminine figure accompanies them to their new house. There are no mirror shots, nor are there any hackneyed false scares, the filmmakers pile on layer upon layer of hair raising dread as the tension becomes almost unbearable for your urinary duct. The mood and atmosphere is quite reminiscent of Orfanato, the best scene of the film is one that doesn’t feature the shadowy Mama on camera but shows the kids playing with ‘someone’ in their bedroom. It’s subtle yet powerful enough to decrease the temperature of your nether regions. There is also a nice surprise for those who have seen the short film beforehand as Muschietti makes sure the fans part the theater satisfied and the newcomers part with their gonads.

Jessica Chastain, fresh off the Oscar eyeing turn in Zero Dark Thirty is a sort of a big deal here, she plays a character that was probably never done in Hollywood horror – a punk rock guitarist aunt who is neither sexualized typical of the genre nor is a weak or delicate scream queen. She does scream a couple of times when the title character shows up in her face but so would you. Even the kids are quite unlike the ones found in other thrillers and the actors (8-year-old Megan Charpentier and 4-year-old Isabelle Nelisse) are incredible. Muschuetti superbly argues the burden of choice that the characters make – the uncle is hospitalized and the reluctant aunt is left to deal with the kids, and the children who must choose between a woman who can give them love and a great life and a woman who can give them love even in death.

There are a few contrivances and inconsistencies in the plot, and it’s a bit annoying to see the film harking back to Hollywood snare of illogical characters. At one point the uncle pulls out some strange photograph and wanders away into the jungle for no reason whatsoever and you’re left scratching your head. The biggest gaffe arrives in the CGI-laced finale when we see ‘too much’ of Mama that makes the novelty and terror fade away. The final scene, however, is unexpectedly moving and provocative, one that signals the arrival of a major talent behind the camera.

(First published in MiD Day)