Movie Review: October

To be frank, I don’t expect much from Varun Dhawan. Yes, I had thought that he was better looking than Sidharth Malhotra in Student of the Year. But that had been about it. Over the years, Sidharth Malhotra has selected a better variety of movies, even though his acting is okay-okay, if not abysmal. Varun Dhawan, on the other hand, has been seen in mostly rom-coms, it feels like, bar Badlapur.

So when the trailer to October came out, my first reaction after watching it was: What the hell is this movie about? It seemed like such a mish-mash, even though the background score and the cinematography (whatever I could make of from the trailer) made it look like an artsy film. Moreover, the positive reviews stoked my curiosity and now, I couldn’t pass up a chance to watch the movie.

Daneesh Walia (Varun Dhawan) or Dan as he is known to friends is a strange, strong-headed character who does as he likes and has his own notions of right and wrong. He is a regular 21-year-old in other matters and an intern at one of the biggest 5-star hotels in Delhi. His friends are constantly exasperated by what he does. Shiuli Iyer (Banita Sandhu in her acting debut) is in the group, but they don’t have much of an interaction. But when Shiuli meets with an accident, their worlds clash and thus starts a story about love and its various forms.

I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to watch Varun Dhawan act and go ‘Wow!’ But October is one of those films. Dan is really annoying in the first few minutes of the movie, but soon, you start going with the flow. You don’t even realize when he goes from making you want to punch him to being completely adorable. Yes, he still is impulsive and does stupid things at times, but hey, don’t we all?

This might as well be Varun Dhawan’s best film of his career. There is no doubt at all that he has improved a lot since his comic capers. And if you were to ask me, when Judwaa 2 came out, irrespective of how much it might have earned, all I could think of was: Oh God, there he goes again! Won’t there be any change in what he chooses?

And now, with October, I feel there is hope after all, that despite his choices that annoy me just a tad bit from time to time, Varun Dhawan has promise. He is not a bad actor, but if he chooses more films like Badlapur and October, it might make his repertoire impressive and help him break the mould that he is so firmly fixed himself in.

Banita Sandhu, in her acting debut shows promise in whatever screen time she has. She is beautiful, carries herself well and with confidence, and molds herself into the character as long as she is on screen. Let me be honest: I didn’t expect much from her, but she was a surprise. And let’s just hope she doesn’t end up forgotten and as a one-film wonder because I’d definitely like to see her full-fledged acting.

Another praiseworthy performance is of Gitanjali Rao as Shiuli’s mother, Vidya, a professor. She is restrained in her grief, and still, you can feel the pain radiating off of her. Despite all this, you can feel her hope of getting her daughter back from the clutches of death.

All of these performances, however, need to pay obeisance to the director Shoojit Sircar and scriptwriter Juhi Chaturvedi. Without a strong script and brilliant directing, there is no question of the actors coming up with such laudable performances. Shoojit Sircar is known for the offbeat films he directs – not in the sense of budget, but in the viewpoint of the script. And when he joins hands again with screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi, his old collaborator, with whom he has worked on Vicky Donor and Piku, all you can expect are fireworks.

For some, this movie might seem a little dragged in places. But stay patient and sit through it all, and you’ll find yourself affected like you haven’t been in ages. Love, love, love October!

Why doesn’t Bollywood promote more movies into mainstream like this? L

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Ground.

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

I’m not a fan of horror. Mostly because I get scared very easily. The last time I watched a horror movie, sandwiched between my brother and my husband, both of who decided not to let me budge, was a big disaster for me, entertainment for them. So you can understand why I’ve always been skeptical about horror movies. But when my husband said he wanted to watch A Quiet Place, directed by John Krasinski and starring him and Emily Blunt, I reluctantly agreed, but mostly because I have a teeny, tiny girl-crush on the lady.

A Quiet Place is set in a world where you must remain silent, or face an end, thanks to blind extraterrestrial creatures. The tagline for the movie is, If they hear you, they hunt you. Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), along with their children, Regan (who is deaf), Marcus, and Beau, look for supplies while using sign language, because of the no-sound rule. Beau is killed by a creature, no thanks to a toy airplane. Fast forward a year, and the Abbott family is living on their farm, trying to survive through each day. How they curb the sounds, and how they make sure they aren’t caught forms the rest of the story.

I knew John Krasinski was a funny guy, but the depth he has shown in this film, both as a director and an actor, is mind-blowing. Creativity has no limits, they say, and this is true of this film. And thanks to the screenplay by Krasinski, Scott Beck, and Bryan Woods, silence gets a new level of importance through this movie. It shows you that you don’t need words to prove your love for your loved ones.

The actor who absolutely takes the cake is Emily Blunt. She is raw, emotional, and motherhood personified. Given, Krasinski is almost as good as her, but that’s the point. Almost. Blunt is exceptional as she sobs, jumps in front of her children to save them, grieves, is afraid – every little action seems like a masterpiece in itself. The last 15 minutes are full of absolute emotion. I wasn’t surprised to find tears rolling down my face as my heart broke in two. In one particular scene, Krasinski outshines Blunt. And his guttural scream will haunt me for a long time to come.

Though I’d gone into A Quiet Place thinking it’s a horror film because that’s what it’s supposed to be, apparently, I found it more on the lines of an extremely gripping suspense thriller. Dystopia scares me and this movie was exactly that. What if something like this happens in the future? With our intelligence and what we are doing to the planet, I don’t think it will be long before creatures like the Death Angels will make our Earth into A Quiet Place.

You must gather all your strength if you’re going to watch A Quiet Place. You’ll need it because the movie scares you with its soundless storyline. There are no empty jump-scares. Everything in there happens for a reason and has a consequence. The no-sound rule for survival in there seeps out and embeds itself into your head, making you think that you have to stay silent or something is going to sprint through the walls and eat your head off. It’s that effective.

With a combination of a taut screenplay, crisp direction, and brilliant acting, A Quiet Place deserves all the applause it can get. John Krasinski, in particular, thanks to the multiple roles he has taken up for this project. Every second holds your attention, and makes you hold your breath. And that is not an easy task to do.

So when I say that you should go watch this horror movie, go watch it. Because if I can sit through it, so can you. And the list of reasons I mentioned above will make sure that you fall in love with the movie. Emily Blunt in particular, but also John Krasinski. What an incredible couple!

Rating: 5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Event Cinemas NZ!

Movie Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One is based on a book of the same name by Ernest Cline. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tye Sheridan, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Ben Mendelsohn, and Olivia Cooke, the adaptation, as my husband tells me, differs a lot from the book. And now, I can’t wait to go home and start reading it. [Yes, I’m sitting in a café and writing this review. 😛 ]

It’s the year 2045. The world is in complete chaos and on the brink of collapse. But there is one thing that is giving hope to everyone: a game called OASIS. The winner of the game, Oasis, will inherit the company, this was put in motion by genius extraordinaire and trillionaire, James Halliday, just before he died. And now, vicious businessman Nolan Sorrento wants to win this game and pocket everything on offer. It is up to Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), and Samantha Cook (Olivia Cooke), and their friends to save the game by assuming their avatars.

The Ready Player One screenplay has been written by Ernest Cline and Zak Penn. This is probably the reason why the crispness translates on screen and gives us an experience of a lifetime. There are inside jokes and references to a number of books and movies that any movie buff and/or bookworm will fall in love with.

The CGI action sequences got quite a number of loud hoots from a particularly enthusiastic audience in the theater. I was surprised, thinking that there were so many people who read the book and were watching the movie. But then again, it could have been that they were enjoying what was transpiring on screen. I surely was. And I haven’t read the book. Yet!

In addition to the action, Ready Player One is humorous to the point of no fault. Yes, it is a thriller, but it reels you in and sets you in motion like a spinning totem until the very end. You have the opportunity to connect the dots. But this fast-paced movie does it all for you without taking away the entertainment factor. In no aspect is it lacking. Well, what else can you expect from a Steven Spielberg movie?

In addition to the entertainment, Ready Player One gives you heavy doses of truth cloaked in the humor that we talked about earlier. The emotions of the characters are so raw, so real, that you cannot help but identify with them when they explain their beliefs. Of course, it’s not the intensity, but the lightness with which they treat it that you watch on in awe and wish that you could be like them. But I laughed the most when 11-year-old Xo is irritated when people are surprised he’s 11 years old and plays the big, badass game of OASIS.

The acting in the movie was awesome, except for Ben Mendelsohn as Sorrento. Out of five levels, with fifth being the highest, if everyone else was on the fifth level, I thought Mendelsohn was somewhere between the third and fifth. He tries too hard to look evil, I felt. Though, I must say, at his last expressions in the movie, I sort of melted and brought him up from third to somewhere between third and fourth.

All in all, Ready Player One is a brilliantly entertaining thriller, with drama and humor thrown in for good measure. It keeps you on the edge of your seat till the very end. And that is a compliment not many movies today can boast of doing.

Go watch it! As soon as possible!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Flickering Myth.

[Review for Ready Player One, the book will be coming soon. Keep watching this space!]

Movie Review: Padmaavat

There’s an ad for Maruti Suzuki that has stayed with me ever since it was first aired on TV. A kid plays with his toy car, driving it across every surface he can find. On the sofa, on the bed, on the floor, on someone’s tummy, in front of the dog, on the kitchen counter, in the fish tank – everywhere. When he gets to his father’s stomach, the father puts down his paper, exasperated, and tells his son, “Oye chote, bas kar yaar!” To which the son replies, “Pappa ki karaan! Petrol khatam hi ni hunda!”

Padmaavat is like this car – khatam hi ni hunda!

Padmaavat is the story of Rani Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), a queen in the early 1300s. A brave woman with the right sense of justice, administration, and genteelness, Padmavati went on to marry Rajput Raja Maharawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) of Chittor. On the other hand, there is the vile and ruthless Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) who stops at nothing to get what he wants. He married Mehrunnisa (Aditi Rao Hydari), his uncle Jalaluddin Khilji’s daughter. He later murdered his uncle to gain the throne, much to the chagrin of his wife.

When the banished Rajguru of Chittor, Raghav Chetan turns up at Khilji’s doorstep saying that Rani Padmavati is everything that Khilji looked for in a woman, Khilji is overcome with want and invites Maharawal Ratan Singh to Delhi. When the Rajputs snub his invite, Khilji attacks Chittor and later demands to see Padmavati. What the Rajputs do, what Padmavati herself does, and whether anything is enough forms the rest of the story.

Like all of his magnum opuses, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has made sure that Padmaavat too has everything that awes us. There is grandeur in sets and story, there is emotion, there is sense, there is courage – there is so much that comes together beautifully to show us a part of history that defines courage in its own way.

The best part of Padmaavat, however, is not the queen herself, but the villain. Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji is absolutely scary. His performance as the ruthless Khilji will give you goosebumps and leave you with no doubt as to Ranveer Singh’s credentials as an actor. He may be a happy-go-lucky, quirky man in real life, but onscreen, he sets everything on fire. He owns his role with an intensity that nobody else could have pulled off. I liked him earlier, but now, after Padmaavat, I have a newfound respect for the guy. There’s nothing he cannot do. And for that, I am thankful. Because not many people will get to this level of perfection.

Deepika Padukone is the majestic Queen Padmavati. She is good as the doting wife, and fierce administrator in the absence of her Rawal-sa. Deepika exudes the strength of the character and it’s hard not to agree with her. In the end, though Deepika was good, I wouldn’t say it was better than her role in Bajirao Mastani. Moreover, Ranveer steamrolled everyone in the film.

Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh is everything that’s required of a Rajput king. He’s tall, bearded, and strong, and has his values clean and clear, though that would finally be the end of him. There isn’t anything that you can actually put a finger on to show that he was not good. But somehow, as with Deepika Padukone, he gets majorly overshadowed by Ranveer Singh.

One special appearance that stood out was that of Aditi Rao Hydari as Mehrunnisa, Alauddin Khilji’s wife. She brings out the heartbreak in her eyes, as she watches her husband lust after another woman and go on a rampage in every walk of life. As in that age, she is the submissive wife, unable to do much, though she does come through in the end. Special applause for Aditi Rao Hydari for a stellar role.

Another performance that was lauded in the media was Jim Sarbh’s role as Khilji’s slave-general, eunuch Malik Kafur. But though I felt that his performance fit well into the movie, I didn’t find it extraordinary. But hey, that’s just my opinion. Maybe that is what is enough acting in today’s time and age.

Padmaavat has been mired in controversy ever since it was announced. Sets were attacked and destroyed, and the actors and the director were threatened. Someone even threatened to cut of Deepika’s nose if the film released. It all made me angry. Are we still living in the Stone Age where there is no common sense at all? Whatever was shown in the film actually happened. It is not Bhansali’s opinion. Merely a retelling.

It is unfortunate, yes, that people decided to take a historical event and turn it into something that’s completely stupid. But that is their stupidity. People in this time and age are easily offended, even with a topic that is currently irrelevant. Instead of focusing on the courage that Padmaavat teaches us, people decided to go ahead, belittle themselves in their head, and then blame the director. It is your problem if you feel reduced to a vagina. By saying that, you yourself are belittling yourself. You cannot ‘reduce’ to a vagina. I don’t have to tell you that without a woman, there is nothing in the world. So how can you put a vagina to the lowest level of respect there is? Is that all your self-esteem and self-worth allows you to be and do?

It is infuriating how people will go to any lengths to stay in the news. They’ll get mortally offended at a topic such as this, call themselves ‘Sena’ (army), and then turn around and say the exact same thing that the sane part of the community was trying to put into their heads. Why can they not understand that the events in the movie happened centuries ago. You cannot just go and apply them as lessons now. If you do, you are stupid. There’s no two ways about it.

It took a movie as gorgeous and well-made as Padmaavat (even though it is such a long movie) to make me realize I’m ashamed that I live among people who are so thick-skinned they don’t want to listen to what the other has to say.

Here’s to hoping that this changes in the near future!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Matters India.

Wonder – Makes You Cry and Makes You Feel Good

Okay, so Wonder was on my TBR list for a long time. I had heard so much about it that I knew I had to get my hands on it soon. But unfortunately, the movie Gods made sure the movie was announced before I could read the book. And before I could lay hands on the book, I had to go watch the movie. Thanks to my husband. 😉

Wonder is, true to its name, an absolute wonder. Jacob Tremblay plays August ‘Auggie’ Pullman, a boy with Treacher Collins syndrome (in which deformities scar the face and are mostly untreatable) that has been home-schooled. And now, his parents deem it right for him to finally start attending school. Wonder is the story of how Auggie overcomes all the negativity that comes with having a different face layout despite undergoing multiple surgeries.

Isabel (Julia Roberts), Auggie’s mother, and Nate (Owen Wilson), Auggie’s father, along with Auggie’s sister, Olivia ‘Via’ Pullman (Izabela Vidovic) form the core of the strength behind how Auggie sees the world. And as more people enter it and see Auggie’s world for so much more than what it is, you descend into tears.

There are a lot of awesome things about the movie. The best part, however, is that it moves you to tears when you expect the least. The next best part is that you don’t mind it one bit. Beautiful in its warmth, Wonder knows its worth with every frame of the movie. It works hard on what R. J. Palacio has built in the novel. And when such a genius as Stephen Chbosky helms the film, it is bound to turn into what it proves to be.

Wonder is a world in itself. A world where realizations are palpably eminent. A world where kindness is not too far off. A world where there is no discrimination against the different. A world where despite the majority of rejections, there is always a clique that stays in your corner. It is heartwarming in the way it makes you empathize with others

R. J. Palacio’s debut novel, Wonder, translated to the big screen may not hold the same awe (I haven’t read the book yet), but I’m sure it gathered the essence of the story pretty well. Tears were flowing freely, laughter was thrown about gaily, and smiles dazzled frequently. I would want to watch the film again!

Performance-wise, Jacob Tremblay owns the film, though I must say Owen Wilson as the Dad who keeps the family together with his wit and humor is a wonder too. The entire cast cohesively puts together a movie that is wonderful in the way it advocates kindness and empathy. It champions the cause against bullying and everything within your system yearns to break out and hug Auggie. You know it isn’t possible but if you even thought of doing so, you know you’re watching a good movie.

It just filled my chest to watch such an amazing movie. And now, I cannot wait to read the book! And I hope it is soon enough that I read the story and cry. I don’t mind crying because of this story. I don’t mind it one bit!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Collider.com!

Click on the image below (my Amazon Affiliate link) to buy the book, Wonder:

The Greatest Showman – A Glossy Version of P.T. Barnum’s Life

Phineas Taylor Barnum. This was the man who gave birth to show business. He pulled the different out of the crowd and gave them wings. He promoted equality, to treat everyone equally, and in this way, to be the philanthropist that the world would take note of. At least that’s what the movie tells us.

In reality, however, P. T. Barnum was a visionary with an exceptional imagination. He was a great believer in using hoaxes to bring success to himself. While The Greatest Showman showed him as uniting different people, included those of color, the real Barnum had a slave, a commonality in those days. To be fair, he knew what he was doing and believed that entertainers and hoaxes went (or rather go) hand in hand together. How would one explain magic shows, then?

The Greatest Showman is, fittingly, a musical. For the man who brought show business to life, his life story should be nothing less than a great show of pomp and splendor, both visually and audibly. But it is all gloss over the reality of the man called P. T. Barnum.

Hugh Jackman (sigh) plays P. T. Barnum in this overly glorified movie version of the man who introduced the world to show business. Barnum marries childhood sweetheart Charity (Michelle Williams) and they embark on a journey to build a world together. Barnum loses his job and when he comes back home, a trick he uses with his daughters gives him a business idea and he sets out on a wild goose chase.

Barnum takes out a loan and starts a museum, the failure of which sends him headfirst into another dimension. This is where a related tangent opens up to him. He starts a search for unique people. He sees something in them. He brings them out for the world to see, in a format that warms people’s hearts. There is grandeur in his schemes to equalize and normalize these people. But even in those times (actually more in those times), haters were a larger percentage of the population than there are today. Although, I must say, it seems like it’s coming full circle now.

What follows is whether or not Barnum keeps his head when success rears its head. Will his dreams that grow bigger uproot his life, or bring stability to it? For it is when confronted with this that a man’s true worth comes forth.

The Greatest Showman stirs a part of the heart that runs after exciting, tantalizing music that makes you tap your feet. As an Indian who watches Bollywood churn out song after song, it made me happy to watch the show on screen. Agreed, The Greatest Showman is a musical. But the sad part is that is one with an amped up soundtrack that tries to be the best. And when something tries too hard, it grates on your nerves. It’s as if you want to correct it, but cannot. Moreover, you cannot put your finger on what exactly you need to be doing right.

The performances are above average, Hugh Jackman taking the cake. I knew he could sing but had never heard him in action. But oh boy! The Greatest Showman made me ask why Barnum was named thus and not Jackman. Also, special mention to Zac Efron as Phillip Carlyle. I was pleasantly surprised, maybe because the Baywatch trailer had me dead.

The only performance I didn’t like was that of Rebecca Ferguson’s Jenny Lind. Just like the music of the film, she tried too hard. I saw this in a few scenes and even though the others had her play her part well, these were the ones that stood out like a sore thumb. Also, Zendaya. She has the same expression that she had in Spiderman: Homecoming and it made me wonder if she can act at all.

The music, the cinematography, and a majority of the performances give you a strange thrill that keeps you entertained. In hindsight, however, it is not much of a story to go on. And the way the entertainment is kept up despite this is an ode to every department. Although, I’d like to say that I have a newfound crush on Hugh Jackman after this one.

All in all, The Greatest Showman is an energetic, foot-tapping musical, sans a great story (a good one perhaps), that you can definitely watch once! If not for anything else, watch it for Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Playbill.com !