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M Cream (2014)
3/10
M Cream Review: – Sex, Drugs, but Not Much Rock N Roll
24 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

It's bemusing to see how Director-writer Agneya Singh hit all the right notes with his characterization, yet keeps missing the mark with his story arc and narrative flow. The biggest problem with M Cream lies in the indecisiveness of what he wants to show. What begins as a road- trip to find a famed-magical hash in a mystical land whose very existence remains a mystery, keeps making detours to political grievances, activism, rural issues faced by villagers, and stanza after stanza of life lessons being imparted through endless preaching.

For a movie about being cool and hip and trippy, M Cream is way too preachy. Everything from the Tibetan crusade to deforestation to Gandhism is touched upon without anything reaching any sort or real purpose. It's like the kind of reactions you'd expect if you'd try and have a logical discussion with an actual stoner – lots of half- baked replies and topics cut short because of the other party zoning off. If that was the aim of this film, then it certainly scores a home run. But, a movie, unlike a stoner's life, needs proper direction and purpose, even if it's based on stoners and hash.

At the end of it all, M Cream scores points for its characters, performances, Mingjue Hu's cinematography (Dharamsala and its neighboring areas seldom looked this beautiful), and novel concept. However, for a film that touches upon a unique premise, it just comes across as an idea that's trying to break free from mainstream clutches rather than actually standing out. It's neither a fun film like Pineapple Express or The Big Lebowski nor does it make pertinent statements like Udta Punjab or Hare Rama Hare Krishna. M Cream just makes a lot of noise without actually saying much.
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5/10
Dhilluku Dhuddu Review: Scary and Funny in Parts, Lacks Punch Overall
24 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 2.4/5 stars

Santhanam, who's quite popular among Kollywood fans despite usually playing the hero's friend or comic relief, is back as a lead hero after Inime Ippadithan, which did find considerable favor among the audience. In Dhilluku Dhuddu, the funnyman may not have the best script to back his rib-tickling skills and pleasant screen-presence, but he more than makes up for the sluggish screenplay with his charm and effortless humor, able to evoke at least a mild chuckle out of the most forceful and drab comical elements.

This time he plays a staunch disciple of the deity, Muruga, who decides one day to go for a vacation to an outlandish bungalow, with his fiancé, Kajal, and their families. Once there, strange occurrences begin to occur, and both the families quickly get embroiled in a sticky scenario, which not only leans toward the supernatural, but also offers many comical situations, whether intentional or intentional.

The plot is quite flimsy and has been done to death in previously similar horror-comedies, but Rambala's direction keeps things moving along at a decent pace, ensuring that you're moderately engaged in proceedings. Rambala perfectly understand Santhanam's strengths and exploits them to full advantage. However, he could have easily done away with the over-the-top, glorification shots of Santhanam, and instead paid more attention to making the romantic track between the lead pair look more natural. In fact, the first half has way too many unnecessary heroic entries, which detracts from the actual narrative quite a bit. It's only after the interval that the film picks up steam and things start falling into place. This is where Rambala's and Santhanam's combined talents come to the fore, and they manage to salvage Dhilluku Dhuddu just enough to make it passably engaging fare.

Where the movie scores is in its one-liners, with Santhanam getting to mouth some cracking and hilarious punch-lines, which should appeal to both the classes and masses. He's also shown great improvement over his last film as a solo hero, and it's to his credit that he carries the weak script and some of the other actors on his shoulders. His romantic interest, the debutant Shanaya is pleasing to the eye but needs considerable work on her dialogue delivery before she can be considered for more-important rolls in bigger films. The other actors fail to leave a mark.

Dhilluku Dhuddu also benefits from Deepak Kumar Padhy's cinematography, which evokes a chilling atmosphere and an eerie feel throughout the film's runtime. Thaman's background score also backs up the visuals, but his songs barely pass muster. Gopi Krishna's editing also does the job as he manages to offer some brilliant jump scares and shock moments.

All in all, Rambala's transition from the small to the big screen in his debut feature is mostly smooth, but the choppy parts are too distinct to ignore. He shows promise in handling the humorous scenes but falters more times than can be overlooked, when it comes to inducing scares and building the suspense, which could also be attributed to the messy script. Santhanam's presence and the funny dialogues are what help Dhilluku Dhuddu stay afloat.
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5/10
Great Grand Masti Review: Too Little Masti, Too Much Sasti
24 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 1.9/5 stars

Yet another adult-comedy emerges from Bollywood to try and titillate our senses. And with the kind of stuff on display in Great Grand Masti, courtesy the sensuous Urvashi Rautela, the target audience will certainly find plenty of reason to get titillated. But, what of the other section of the audience – the ones who look for actual comedy in an adult comedy. Does the movie have anything to offer in terms of genuine laughs or is it all crass humor, double-meaning jokes, and one shot after another of scantily clad women?

Well, the good news is that (at least to a moderate extent) the third installment in the super-successful Masti franchise (India's most-profitable adult-comedy series) has its genuinely funny moments. Hell, there are times when you'll actually burst out laughing both because of the well-scripted gags and the actor's belief in them. Scenes where the trio of Riteish Deshmukh, Vivek Oberoi, and Aftab Shivdasani undress before one of their mother-in- laws to have a foursome with her or when they a man makes them masturbate at gun point will makes even the biggest of prudes giggle.

The plot is completely bonkers, but that wouldn't have been the issue had the gags and jokes been constantly funny. Amar, Meet, and Prem played by Riteish, Vivek, and Aftab are as usual not getting enough of bedroom action from their wives, this time because of meddling in- laws. Amar has an ancient palace that he's just inherited, and Prem gets an idea (like always) to have "great grand masti" this time with village belles instead of stylish city gals. The problem is that the palace is inhabited by a spirit who died a virgin (bear with us) and now needs a one night stand to release her soul into heaven. However, there's a twist – the lucky bugger who'll sleep with her will unluckily have to travel with her to heaven.

The problem is that there's just a handful of truly funny scenes and way too much of the other titillating stuff that plagues most Bollywood adult comedies of late. Most of the other gags appear forced and many of the jokes are straight out of a college student's WhatsApp chat history. And while a sex-comedy does need to have sex, skimpiness, and spice, its time our Directors, who attempt to make such movies, need to realize that the story-arc should merit the sexy stuff and not the other way around. For this, they don't need to look any further than when the industry began making sex- comedies, when films like Masti and Kya Kool Hai Hum evoked belly- full of laughs for those who like their humor laced with naughtiness. Matter of fact, it was Director Indra Kumar who had started it all with Masti. How then he's wavered so far from his own brand? The unmelodious songs don't help either.

What makes Great Grand Masti pass muster is Urvashi Rautela (surprise, surprise). She's in complete form as the sex-crazed virgin ghost and her exaggerated expressions, which would have looked unnatural in a well-scripted movie, are totally in place here. She's backed well by our three mastikhor heroes, who can play these parts in their sleep now. Sadly, Pooja Bose, Mishti, and Shraddha Das, who play our heroes' wives, are painfully bad and mess up in delivering even simple lines.

Watching Great Grand Masti is similar to attending a buffet clogged with way too many extra-oily dishes and just two or three items to savor. After you're done with the experience, those items may not be savory enough to wash away the tastelessness of the other items.
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Sultan (2016)
8/10
Sultan Review: Triumph, Tears, Glory, and Brilliant Entertainment
24 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.7/5 stars

O re, Sultan! Those are the words along with the infectious background score that echoes at crucial junctures in the latest Salman Khan starrer, and that's the sentiment with which you walk out after the film is over. Sultan is the kind of film that goes easy on you at the start, you won't get your hopes up but you'll also enjoy the breezy entertainment that unfolds on screen, and then gradually, steadily, it keeps growing on you till you can't help but lap up every emotion, every dialogue, every punch, every kick, every cry of pain, and every shout of triumph with open arms.

It's the dialogues, inspiringly emotional story, Salman Khan's inescapable on screen charm, and Anushka Sharma's knockout performance that are the real victors here. The narrative is something you'll guess from miles away, but it's the treatment and moving dialogues that completely bowl you over. Salman, who plays Sultan Ali Khan (for those still living on the moon), is a 30-year old, carefree guy, with no ambitions in life other than enjoying each day as it comes. During one such jovial incident, he bumps into Aarfa (Anushka Sharma) by accident, and falls head-over-heels in love. After a few innocent pranks to win her over, she starts warming up to him, and at this point you think you've seen it all before but the Salman's mischievous nature and Anushka's perfect Haryanvi diction and no-nonsense outlook to life is keeping you mildly engaged.

Until one day, when she blatantly refuses his advances and insults him for his happy-go-lucky outlook, and you realize that Sultan has something deeper in store than a run-of-the-mill love story against a wrestling backdrop. When she tells Salman that she cannot love a man she can't respect, and his on screen dad explains him that the path to respect more often than not is through disrespect, you get ready to buckle in, and be swept up in a good story that's beginning to scratch the surface. Dialogues like these are peppered throughout the movie, lending it that meaningful punch that packs an even bigger impact than Sultan's in-ring punches.

From here on, Sultan takes stock of his life, and his meteoric rise to the top, couple with training and fight scenes that deliver several knockout punches are a treat to the eyes. He gains respect, he gets the love of his life, he wins all that there is to win, and you thoroughly enjoy the roller-coaster ride through the first half, only to realize that Director and writer Ali Abbas Zafar (his best work by some distance) is not done tapping into your emotions just yet. Sultan's respect and honor, which he fought so hard to achieve, turns into arrogance, and this transition is shown with brilliant control and fluidity because of both the trajectory of the plot and Salman's magnetic appeal. If you thought that Bajrangi Bhaijaan was his best till date, then you've seen nothing yet. Given his meatiest role to date, Salman chews every frame he's in, and you can't help but be won over by his innocence and spirit. Where his accent and mannerisms falter, his energy and attitude with which he portrays the character keeps winning you over. The final scenes, where he fights back for his love, respect, and also humility, is something straight out of the handbook of how to captivate an audience. Salman makes sure that no one will walk out of the theater without a smile on their face.

If Salman is attitude personified, then Anushka proves yet again why she's one of our most versatile actresses going around today. Forget her impeccable diction that never once leaves her character, it's her silence that speaks volumes. Scenes in which she breaks down or motivates Salman again leave you transfixed at her potential to steal the show even in front of superstars. And to Salman and the makers' credit, she's no mere prop in the film. Randeep Hooda and Amit Sadh are serviceable in their minor roles.

A word for the music too. For once, the songs in a Salman film aren't used as breaks from the plot but take the plot forward. Even the baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai track is brilliantly integrated, and the title track will give you nothing short of goosebumps. The editing could have been crisper and there are quite a few scenes that demand suspension of your belief, like an MMA fighter eating regular food or a washed-up wrestler mastering MMA moves within six weeks, and then besting pro fighters. But, like we mentioned earlier, you can't help but flow along with the emotions of the film and ignore such logical loopholes along the way.

Can a 40-year old local wrestler become an MMA champ? Probably not. But, then again, stranger things happen in sports, stranger than movie scripts too. Muhammad Ali when his third championship belt when no one gave him a whimper of a chance. And, while watching Sultan, you can't help but not bother about such trivialities. You'll laugh and cry and feel sad and exalt in joy at the character's journey. You won't be able to restrain yourself from clapping and cheering him on (After ages we witnessed an entire theater clapping at several points in the movie.). Sultan is a perfect commercial entertainer and a brilliantly packaged holiday treat. It's not just a movie, it's an Eid event that Salman has gifted his fans and neutral moviegoers alike.
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Zootopia (2016)
10/10
Zootopia Review: Immensely Enjoyable, Surprisingly Topical, Absolutely Unmissable
10 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 4.9/5 stars

The ingeniously conceived and brilliantly executed "Zootopia" offers a subtly delivered, thought-provoking message that's as timely and topical as its gorgeous visual splendor is immersive and delightful. And, it does all this and more while being fast-paced, extremely witty, at times rib-tickling hilarious, and wholly exciting. It's the kind of matured entertainment that doesn't alienate adults but also ensures that it refrains from talking down to kids.

The largest elephant to the smallest shrew and everything in between live in the city of Zootopia – a mammal metropolis, a melting hot- pot of cultures and races, where various animals live in harmony, at least on the face of things. Enter Judy Hopps, the first bunny to join the police force. Her dreams and zeal are quickly sent for a toss when she learns just how arduous a task it is to enforce the law. Not one to ever be deterred, Judy jumps at the chance of cracking a mysterious case that's left the entire force baffled. However, that also means teaming with Nick Wilde, a wily, fast- talking, con-fox who makes her job and life all the more harder.

On the surface, this Disney venture is quite conventional on many levels, but as the layers begin to peel off, there's so much wit, flair, and subtle hints at societal woes that it outperforms many a deeply themed, adult-driven drama. This is dressed as nothing but a buddy-cop movie aimed at kids that slowly and unexpectedly metamorphoses into a political thriller, with underlying social and racial themes. A la, George Orwell's Animal Farm with a sweet, modern-day Disneyfied twist – "Zootopia" almost plays like an LA film noir that delivers a feel-good message about being non- prejudiced to folks, who're different to us in race, and the need for tolerance in an increasingly fearful and diverse world.

"Zootopia" just scores on so many home runs on so many fronts that it instantly finds itself right up there with the cremè-de-la-crème of Disney classics like "The Lion King", "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Beauty and the Beast", and "Aladdin". So entertaining, so satisfying, so introspective.
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10/10
Raman Raghav 2.0 Review: Psychotically Delicious and Gorgeously Disturbing
10 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Movie-buffs all over, it's time to rejoice because one of India's cinematic masters is back in his elements, doing what he does best – engrossing us in a rich canvas or visual story-telling, striking a perfect balance between high-quality art and higher-quality entertainment, and teasing us till the very hand till we're all but eating out of the palm of hand. With Raman Raghav 2.0, Anurag Kashyap comes roaring back into form after the commercial and critical debacle that was Bombay Velvet. He delves deep into the psyche of a bona- fide psycho – clearly defining the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath – and comes up with a film that's as cinematically thrilling as it's psychologically haunting.

Nawaz, who plays the notorious serial-killer Raman, is inspired by the real-life serial-killer, Raman Raghav, who used to terrorize Mumbai's streets back in the 1960s. He's completely devoid of emotional connect, except when he feels the pleasure of smashed brains and flowing blood. The screenplay (fabulously researched and intricately constructed by Kashyap and Vasan Bala) follows his exploits as he navigates the bylanes, slums, and rundown apartments of Mumbai, piling on the bodies and indulging his dark fantasies. Scenes where you see pure pleasure in his eyes as he targets his kill are testimony of the kind of effort and thought-process gone into making this film. But it isn't just the directing, writing, and acting that makes it so great. Every minor thing like the editing between scenes and dark lighting of dingy locations adds to the depth of the film. Even the songs strike a perfect chord to take the plot forward, with Behooda being particularly transitional to the narrative.

However, Raman Raghav 2.0 isn't just about the thrills and chills one wants a movie of this kind. Yes, it delivers all that, and in copious amounts, but it's also so much more. From the opening sequence, where Raman wants others to know (and chooses the police no less) of his devilish deeds and brilliantly devious mind, we realize that here's a character striptease of a man on the opposite spectrum of society; the type we've heard about on the news or read in leading dailies, but haven't really had the misfortune to encounter in reality.

You're literally made to feel Raman's madness regardless how much it scares you. And credit for this has to go as much to the Nawazuddin as its owed to Kashyap and his team. The actor, who has enthralled us with many a gut-wrenching performance in the past, as arguably delivered his finest yet. He's as effective rolling in the gutter to hide from the police as he's in terrorizing his own family while giving into his sinister cravings. And it would have been so easy for any actor to portray Raman as a cliché of similar characters known to moviegoers, but it's Nawaz's deep understanding of his character and methodical approach to it that makes it stand out from scores of other psychos portrayed on screen before – like the comic touch he bring to the maniacal role without overdoing it.

Nawaz makes you believe that he was born to commit these hideous acts, which is why he can't really help himself. And, it's this conviction that makes you also believe when he goes in search of his partner-in-crime. After all he's Raman, and he needs a Raghav to form a deadly-duo in reverence of the murderer he idolizes. Who he chooses as his accomplice or his better-half like he puts it? Well, that twist will literally shake the ground beneath your feet. It's certainly not something you'd want us to reveal.

Hunting this monster is Vicky Kaushal, who plays the DCP of the Mumbai Police Force unlike any cop we've seen in Indian cinema before. He's an addict to the core, and has no apologies about being one just like Nawaz has none about his murderous vices. Kaushal is as emotionally bare as Nawaz, with the only difference being that they emotional voids are targeted at the opposite spectrums of the law. Kaushal can't even bond with his girlfriend, Sobhita Dhulipala, who shines in a small but significant role, showing that a character doesn't need to be major in order to be meaty. And, kudos to Kashyap for once again using his keen eye to spot fresh talent. The cat-and- mouse played between the psycho and the cop hurtles to consequences you'd never see coming, with Kaushal playing the perfect foil to Nawaz's devilry.

Kashyap ensures that we get as up close and personal, with this evil mayhem, as could be possible through the medium of cinema. He literally directs the heck out of Raman Raghav 2.0. Scenes are palpable tense, emotions are stripped bare, and you have no clue about what could come next. Just like in the mind of a true psycho, anything and everything is fair game in this movie. It's unlike anything you've seen in Indian cinema before because while we've had great thrillers, we've never seen a no-holds-barred, blood-soaked spectacle of this kind.

Raman Raghav 2.0 is in the league of darkly demented suspense films like Psycho and Se7en, and Nawaz's character is up there with the greatest psychos ever seen in the history of cinema.
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Te3n (2016)
7/10
Te3n Review: Quite Engrossing, Not Quite So Thrilling
10 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3/5 stars

A thriller that hits multiple notes and evokes diverse emotions from a viewer during its 2-hour+ duration, Te3n is one of those movies that amazes you at times and frustrates you at others. It has the potential to keep you riveted at the edge of your seat, but it's content with making you sit attentively at most.

From the opening scene itself, you feel like you could be in for a treat. The frail yet unmistakably imposing presence of Amitabh Bachchan as an old man, surveying a busy police precinct is exactly the type of scene that leaves the audience wondering – what could have happened? Enter Vidya Balan as the chief inspector, with a calm yet no- nonsense demeanor, who tries to comfort Bachchan for something tragic in his past that still haunts him; and the story is set up really well within the first 15 minutes itself.

Bachchan plays John Biswas, a man who refuses to give up hope on finding the murderer of his only grandchild, even when all others around him – law-enforcers and family alike – have decided to move on. Eight years after the crime remains unsolved, John's intent and conviction of finding the culprit remains steadfast as ever. Almost like a man possessed with a single-minded focus, John's steely resolve goes unnoticed behind his meek, shabby, and harmless outlook. And nailing this multi-faceted complex character to the hilt is that old warhorse, the performer of all performers, the Big B. It's unbelievable how this man excels in every little nuance, every slight emotion; reinventing himself in each character he plays even without seeming like he's trying to. Just when you think what more can Amitabh offer on screen, along he comes with another act to marvel in awe. Additionally, his rendition of the song Kyun Re that plays in the background of one emotional scene is the icing on the cake. Two other songs also play in the background, but they hamper the narrative more than taking it forward.

But this is no one-man show. Bachchan enlists Nawazuddin Siddiqui in his quest, regardless if he wishes to aid him or not. Nawaz plays Father Martin, an ex-cop turned priest, who was also, incidentally, the cop in charge of rescuing John's granddaughter all those years ago. He leaves the force as a result of the severe mental trauma experienced when he couldn't save the kid in time. Though he seeks the priesthood as an outlet to find peace and move on, John isn't quite ready to let him retire to a life of prayer and service just yet.

However, when another kidnapping occurs eight years later, with exactly the same M.O. as John's granddaughter's case, it's exactly the stimulant Martin needs to spring back into action. And spring back he does because this is Nawaz we're talking about. He plays the perfect foil to Bachchan's meatier character, and together, the two play off each other admirable to set us on a wild goose chase. Sandwiched between them is Balan as the cop in charge of the current case, and she's like the mayonnaise that makes the sandwich all the more scrumptious. In fact, Balan has got a substantial supporting role in Te3n, and why she's credited with a guest appearance is best left answered to the makers themselves. Both Balan and Nawaz are at the top of their game. The only thing is that they come up against a veteran, who's not only got a much meatier role, but has years more experience behind him.

So, if everything works so smoothly, what's the issue, you may ask. Well, that's the thing – if things only move along so smoothly, it's because these three actors ensure that they rise above the narrative whenever it threatens to steer off-course. Though Te3n is based on a brilliant Korean film called Montage, what separates the two is the pace and the handling of intricate portions. Director Ribhu Dasgupta does a fine job as long as he's moving the thriller along by the numbers. But the moment the screenplay (well adapted by Suresh Nair, Ritesh Shah, and Bijesh Jayarajan) demands that he looks at things with a complex eye, the inconsistencies in the flow become too evident to overlook. Plus, he decides to play such scenarios by dropping the pace to almost a crawl, wherein he muddles the difference between a slow-burning thriller and just a slow thriller. Also, the big twist that comes in the end satisfies you without exactly leaving you stunned, which would have been fine had Dasgupta not set up the story for an earth-shattering revelation. And that's where the performances of Te3n become all the more crucial to keeping you interested in what's going on.

Te3n may not be the thriller you're expecting, but it still is a thriller that you'd be content walking away from. It had the potential to be so much more, but, thankfully, it at least does enough with that potential to leave a good enough impression on you. With its performances and some suspenseful scenes that hit the mark, Te3n will make for a decent trip to the cinema this weekend.
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Housefull 3 (2016)
2/10
Housefull 3 Review: A Comedy that Induces Pain but Not From Laughs
10 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 1.4/5 stars

Housefull 1 was a very funny movie, no two ways about it. Unless you're a really difficult person to please that movie would have made you laugh. It almost made us think that Sajid Khan, with all his shortcomings, could at least give us a decent laugh (then Himmatwala and Humshakals happened), and the film's box-office performance sparked off a franchise. Housefull 2 wasn't as funny, but it had its laugh-out-loud moments (courtesy Akshay Kumar and Johnny Lever), and you at least walked away from it amused. Housefull 3 is just one God-awful mess that even Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh, and Boman Irani, with all their impeccable comic timings, cannot salvage.

Let's begin with the plot…wait a second – what plot, which plot, there is no plot. Comedy sketches on TV have better plots than this. Random gags (that are funny only according to Director-writer duo Sajid- Farhad and their co-writer K. Subash) and a few repetitive set pieces constitute the entire film's screenplay, that's it. Sample this – for some strange reason, most of the movie revolves around a massive garden lawn, the façade of a palatial mansion (not even the mansion itself), and a wax museum that looks straight out of a Dharavi ghetto, which bring you to the question, what was that massive budget of the movie utilized for?

The rest of the story (for lack of a better word) revolves around how Akshay, Riteish, and Abhishek feign being lame, blind, and mute to gain favor with Boman and marry his daughters Jacqueline Fernandez, Lisa Haydon, and Nargis Fakhri. Enter Jackie Shroff, and our three dudes have to interchange their disabilities to impress him because it turns out that he's actually the girls' daddy dear. In all fairness, this presented a recipe for genuinely funny comedy, but all that Sajid-Farhad offer up is one harebrained, unfunny gag after another.

As for the gags, they oscillate between three notes – unfunny, cringe-worthy, and pain-inducing. There are films where the jokes fall flat, and then there's Housefull 3, which makes you want to break into an impromptu standup comedy act just so that your fellow viewers could leave with some small dose of laughter for the money they've paid. Thankfully, the makers have steered clear of homophobic jokes or below-the-belt humor this time. Sadly, they also have seemed to stay away from the jokes, too. And the songs, well, suffice it to say that they have a reputation to uphold in keeping with the rest of the film.

When a Director makes you miss Sajid Khan's skills, or rather the lack of them, behind the camera, you know that something has gone terribly wrong right from the scripting stage to the final finishing touches. And, just so if you get lured into that pointless argument of leaving your brains at home and just enjoying some brainless entertainment, then ask yourself – how can something be entertaining if it's already being declared as brainless. Jacqueline, Lisa, Nargis, and Abhishek, and Jackie Shroff wander aimlessly through the entire movie while Akshay, Riteish, and Boman do their best to salvage this mess, but when each line in a comedy fails miserably, the plot is in total shambles, and the jokes are something even six- year olds would find juvenile, then what could expect even good actors to do. Even Aakhri Pasta – one of the highlights of the first two films – makes this one look like an unfunny raasta.
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13 Hours (2016)
8/10
Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Review: Bay Can Direct and Direct He Does
29 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.7/5 stars

"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" is Director Micahel Bay's most mature effort hitherto, and almost makes you forget his cinematic abominations in the past few years; almost, ranking with his best efforts like "The Rock" and "Armageddon". Film schools will hardly declare it as a shining example of brilliant filmmaking, but all the tough SOBs in the Navy Seals, Delta Forces, and Marines - the ones whose opinions actually matter here because they're the ones who go through such harrowing experiences to keep us protected - will, in all probability, give "13 Hours" two thumbs up.

The story of the by now well-known attack on the CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 generally sticks to what is thought to have happened, and provides some tense action scenes while paying due reverence to the sensitivity of its subject matter. But, then again, Bay's expertise in staging elaborate and exciting fight scenarios was never in doubt, it's been his handling of other directorial aspects that have made many of his efforts almost intolerable. Thankfully, this time we get the Bay of "The Rock" rather than the man behind the misfires that were "The Transformers" movies and his other mind-numbing crapfests.

"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers" of Benghazi is a gut-wrenching, tense, action-packed, yet emotionally draining war movie, and Bay can still direct if he sets his mind to it. Why doesn't he do it more often?
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Azhar (2016)
7/10
Azhar Review: It's Time to Set the Record Straight
29 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Walking into the movie Azhar, you'll be expecting to see a lot of the preconceived notions you have about the man and the cricketer unfold on screen. By the time the movie is over, you'll be walking out questioning most of what you thought you knew, your preconceived beliefs having been dealt a severe blow.

Director Tony D'Souza and his writer Rajat Arora brilliantly capture the journey of one of India's greatest batsman, right from his birth to his eventual exoneration by the court, focusing equally on Azharuddin's storied career as well as the shocking scandal that derailed it. Along the way, he makes us remember that this man's career is indeed worth remembering, and the controversy that erupted toward the end of it needs to be looked at from a different angle. Tony's Boss and Blue suddenly feel like distant memories.

All Azhar ever wanted was to dedicate his life to playing cricket for India and fulfill his maternal grandfather's dream of him completing 100 test matches, which he tragically fell short of by a solitary match. And this dream, his every emotion, the man's simplicity, never-say-die attitude, introvert nature, and humble yet fighting spirit is captured to the T by Emraan Hashmi, who finally gets a movie deserving his talents after some time. He smashes every dialogue, every scene, every mannerism, every inflection in his tone, and every expression in his eyes for a six. When all's said and done, it may not go down as the year's best male performance, but it'll definitely be remembered among the year's ten best.

Giving Emraan able support at every step are Lara Dutta and Prachi Desai as the prosecution lawyer and his first wife, Naureen. Lara's tough-as-nails over here. Prachi is a symbol of support and niceness and her performance shines. She surely nails the 'good' spouse part but she definitely has a lot more to offer in terms of acting and it would be great to see her in different kind of roles. Nargis Fakhri, however, is a complete letdown, and falters big time in both emoting and dialogue delivery. She towers over Prachi in height, but it's the other way around when it comes to their performances. Gautam Gulati is stylish in his small part, and his performance in the film should fetch him more urbane roles in the future. He exudes flamboyance as ex-cricketer and Azharuddin's teammate Ravi Shastri, and it'll be interesting to see what he can do with a meatier role.

Matching Nargis in terms of disappointment is the timing of the film's music. The songs are no doubt chartbusters, but they do little to take the story forward, especially Nargis' Oye Oye track. A serious sporting flashback like Azhar needed songs that help its character's journeys progress, which, sadly, isn't the case. Also, Tony's Direction while good, stumbles slightly while handling the court room scenes, which form some of the major points in the movie.

Azhar may not go down as one of the best biopics ever made. But, when the dust settles on the movie and its eponymous subject's story, quite literally, it'll emerge as a highly absorbing tale that takes you through a roller coaster of emotions and nostalgia. Perhaps, the best aspect of the movie is how it compels you to introspect and question whether Azhar was actually guilty. And, that itself is a rare feat for any movie to accomplish.
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6/10
Captain America: Civil War Review: Very Exciting, Hardly Memorable
22 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

"Captain America: Civil War" ushers in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with action and thrills galore, but it sacrifices a lot of the wit and does away with the strong adversaries that had made our favorite superheroes' battles all so exciting. Also, unlike "Winter Soldier", Directors Anthony and Joe Russo aren't able to strike a perfect equilibrium between action, drama, humor, CGI, and characterization this time around. However, where "Civil War" scores major points is in having the gumption to delve into thought- provoking themes.

After another incident involving The Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. With many people beginning to fear the actions of superheroes, the government decides to push for the Anti-Hero Registration Act, a law that limits the actions of these extraordinary individuals. The new directive fractures The Avengers, resulting in two camps – one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for The Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other by Tony Stark following his surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability. Eventually, things escalates into an all-out war between the superheroes while a new foe emerges from the shadows to take advantage of the volatile scenario.

At a time when superhero films dominate the summer movie calendar almost every year, "Civil War" aims to lodge itself in the upper echelons of the very best of this action-subgenre, but, somehow, manages to fall just short despite its best intentions and obvious efforts. The movie is very, very good, make no mistake about that, it's just not among the finest from the MCU (like their erstwhile sterling ventures such as "The Avengers", "Guardians of the Galaxy", and this one's own predecessors, "Captain America" and "Captain America: Winter Soldier"). You may love it while watching it, but it's more of a flirtatious kind of love that'll soon dissipate, unlike the profound connect one may have for the other aforementioned titles. Still, it succeeds in being another shining example of how Marvel transforms comic-book action figures into larger-than-life action heroes with real-life character traits and issues, which is one of the prime reasons that it has met with so much success while other superhero franchises have faded away.

"Captain America: Civil War" is certainly an enjoyable action- adventure that'll appeal to everyone from fan-boys to adrenaline- junkies, to entertainment-seekers to those looking for a well- crafted movie. It just falls a tad short in terms of plotting and believable conflicts in drama, which provide a few obstacles along the way – especially in the final act. So while "Civil War" may be an appealing movie, it does not end up being a memorable one.
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Mr. Right (I) (2015)
7/10
Mr. Right Review: A Lot Goes Right for Mr. Right
16 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.4/5 stars

Breezy, ballsy, crazy, and, most importantly, entertaining, "Mr. Right" is a screwball, hit-man, action rom-com if you will, where Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis from "Some Like it Hot" meet James Bond, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, and even a bit of Bruce Lee. The plot is unabashedly insane and could have done with a lot more explanation; the characters are bat-sh*t crazy and could have had better arcs, but the film as a whole is quite funny and enjoyable, mostly due to its effervescent lead pair that make this candy-floss tale of blood and romance more charming than it has any right to be.

After going through a painful break up, a woman meets a man who appears to be perfect for her. However, as their relationship develops, she learns that he is a former hit-man. Their new, but genuine relationship is tested when his dark past comes back to haunt him. As the bodies pile up, she needs to decide whether to flee or join in the mayhem.

Sam Rockwell, who literally dances his way through the action sequences with kicks, knives, guns, and punches (who'd have thought that Rockwell could have ever pulled such stuff off), hasn't played a character this satisfying in years while Anna Kendrick, although always funny, has never been let loose like this. Rockwell and Kendrick are a match made in some bizarro version of Cuteville, and literally sell the film's quirkiness on their backs alone. In- between, RZA pops up for a fun cameo as a kindhearted gunman for hire.

For those who can warm up to this insane amalgamation of cool, mystery-assassin homage and adorable, love-at-first-sight schmaltz, "Mr. Right" may just be the most enjoyable action-comedy since Melissa McCarthy's "Spy" last year.
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Baaghi (2016)
7/10
Baaghi Review: Do not mess with these rebels in love
11 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Baaghi is one of India's most realistically choreographed action movies, and that rare Bollywood film, which not only showcases martial arts fights scenes, but does so with style, confidence, authenticity, and homage to this ancient and revered art form. (Other similar Bollywood vehicles that come to mind after watching Baaghi are Akshay Kumar's Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi and Vidyut Jammwal's Commando.) By no means will the film offer you a unique, immersive cinematic experience, but, then again, it doesn't pretend to do so either. What it sets out to do is take you on a pulsating, highly entertaining roller-coaster of emotions, romance, action, music, exotic locations, and, then, some more action – a feat that it accomplishes admirably well.

If you think that Baaghi is all about the action, then think again. If you're one of those who've seen the terrific 2011 Indonesian film, The Raid: Redemption, and assumed from some of the rushes in the trailer that Baaghi is a version of that film, then, once again, you couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, Baaghi is action- packed, yes the climax has a few elements similar to The Raid, but, at the end of the day, it's an out-an-out Bollywood potboiler done right after a long time.

Director Sabbir Khan handles some of the emotional moments as well as the action sequences with good maturity, showing how much he's improving with each film. However, he has miles to go before learning how to put together a cohesive narrative, and his handling of both romantic and comic sequences leaves a lot to be desired, with some pseudo-funny situations ending up being literally cringe- worthy.

Tiger Shroff has improved by leaps and bounds since Heropanti. His action skills were never in doubt, and they've been utilized to mind-blowing results here. There's no way that your heart won't beat faster every time Tiger spins a bad guy's head off with one of his cool kicks. But, it's his dialogue delivery that has shown a marked improvement, with him delivering some classic one-liners and witty repartees like a tough action hero should. However, he still needs to work quite a bit on handling emotional scenes.

Shraddha is no damsel-in-distress over here, and she makes a good case for making an action film centered on her alone. Her acting skills were never in doubt to begin with, and she impresses yet again. But, the surprise package all the way is Sudheer Babu, who strikes just the right balance between menace, over-confidence, and ruthlessness. He's a great discovery from the south, and after Baaghi, more Bollywood filmmakers should take notice of him.

At the end of the day, Baaghi will satisfy people who love a good entertaining ride, it'll satisfy those who love action films even more, and it'll also appease those who're looking for a sensibly made film that, though packs in a lot of commercial aspects, never goes overboard with them. It's not without its flaws or logical loopholes, but it draws you in, entertains you to the hilt, and leaves you with your heart racing. That's about as good as it gets for a weekend dose of entertainment.
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7/10
The Jungle Book Review: A Wild and Almost Wonderful Adventure
11 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.6/5 stars

From the opening sequence of "The Jungle Book" itself you know that you're in for one of those on screen adventures that transports you to a different land. It shows our little, lost jungle boy Mowgli running along with his pack of wolves, and the entire scene offers a terrific advertisement of the excitement in store. The audience is transported to a world full of adventure and wide-eyed wonder from the word go. The luscious landscapes, stunning visual effects, breathtakingly realistic animation (every animal looks alive), and excellent use of lighting all combine to immerse you in a jungle environment that you feel you're a part of. Not since 2009's Avatar has a make-belief world looked so engrossing and imaginative on screen.

So our boy Mowgli is enjoying the wild life with his wolf pack and mentor Bagheera (the panther), when the jungle witnesses a drought, which forces him to go to a place called the 'peace rock' – where all animals can gather for a drink of water, comfortable in the knowledge that no creature can attack another. Unfortunately, our baddie Shere Khan (the tiger) has no respect for the law of man or beast, and after catching the boy's scent vows to devour him for a tasty snack. The rest of the film demonstrates Mowgli's journey to the other side of the jungle, where he strikes a friendship with the rolly-jolly Baloo (the bear), and his efforts along with the help of his furry friends to thwart the dinner plans of the evil Shere Khan.

Mowgli's interactions with Baloo, Bagheera, and his adoptive mother Raksha (the wolf) are filled with many touching moments, which evoke a well of emotions within you. Director Jon Favreau and his writer Justin Marks also show a great amount of respect to the animal kingdom and refer to them as people instead. Balancing out the emotional undercurrent are the thrilling action scenes, which are put together so smoothly and are shot with such detailed planning that you are able to almost experience every pounce, leap, and narrow escape. Of course, the brilliant 3D conversion also plays a huge part over here.

Where the film falters more often than can be overlooked is in stringing together a cohesive plot to tie the wonderful set pieces and wondrous sequences together. More often than not you get the feeling that the makers have paid a great deal of attention to each scene at the cost of forgetting to link them together. In addition, some of the narrative arcs feel rushed, especially the all-too hurried climax, with more than a few plot contrivances. Thankfully, it gets saved by another striking set piece and an electrifying nail-biting action scene in the denouement.

"The Jungle Book" is no doubt a rip-roaring adventure that more than does justice to its jungle roots. It also offer yet another reason to feel optimistic about Walt Disney's decision to turn its own animated masterpieces into live-action features. It's just that for all its exhilarating sequences and visual grandeur, the 2016 live- version is not a 'bare necessities' adventure like the 1967 animated-classic.
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7/10
Justice League vs. Teen Titans Review: Adults vs. Teens has Never Before been so Action-Packed and Fun
8 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The DC animated universe introduces us to some engrossing new characters and plot elements with "Justice League vs. Teen Titans", the recent, exciting adventure in their entertaining DTH-video series.

Fusing traditional Justice League superheroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Cyborg against a bunch of upstart adolescent crime-fighters, and pitting them against each other could easily have turned out to be a convoluted muddle, a la "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", but some fairly solid writing by Bryan Q. Miller and Alan Burnett, and more than a few innovative and pulsating action sequences envisaged by Director Sam Liu (Batman: Year One, Justice League: Gods and Monsters) make this a breezy ride that's guaranteed to whet your appetite for some plain, simple, no-holds- barred fun. If you still desire to see DC superheroes battling each other, this is a far more rewarding investment than "Dawn of Justice".

As is the norm with these movies, "Justice League vs. Teen Titans" is short and snappy, clocking in at about 75 minutes, which means its themes are mostly presented on the surface, with little time for any deeper exploration. Nevertheless, this latest offering from DC's popular and highly entertaining animated universe – the only avenue where they still score over Marvel – has an enjoyable comic-book appeal, and it sets up the Teen Titans nicely for their own series of screen escapades.
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Fan (I) (2016)
9/10
Fan Review: Shah Rukh Khan comes roaring back into form
1 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Having sat down for the first-day-first-show of fan, I was tentative and super-excited at the same time. At one hand there was a feeling that SRK will be seen in an intense, engrossing film after quite some time, and on the other hand I couldn't help but recollect the disappointment left over the last few years. By the time I was walking out of the theater, my mind was completely blown, all disappointments washed away, and a smile was plastered wide across my face, with joy and contentment swelling in my heart. I had just witnessed not only one of Shah Rukh Khan's best films, but one of Bollywood's best films ever; period! The SRK that ruled over millions of hearts through his sheer charm and talent was well and truly back.

To say Fan is a highly engaging, edge-of-the-seat, unpredictable, and even at-times-shocking thriller would be doing it a great disservice. Indeed it's all that, but it's also so much more. It's a heartfelt ode and a stirring tribute to the superstar's millions of fans the world over, especially the die-hard one who literally live and breathe his name. However, it's also a heartfelt plea – told through a terrifically entertaining plot – to all his fans to admire him, but never worship him, because, while he does love them, he, too, is after all only human, and can never live up to their every expectation.

It all begins with his doppelganger, Gaurav, whose character beautifully captures the unimaginable extents a fan can go to for their favorite stars. When Gaurav finally gets an opportunity to go to Mumbai, his every prayer is finally answered. Motivated with but one dream to meet and greet his idol, Aryan Khanna, his world comes crashing down when his disturbing display of love isn't appreciated by the moviestar, and he's told in no uncertain terms that he needs to get a reality check on life. After that, Director Maneesh Sharma weaves an intricate cat-and-mouse game of a common man going to unspeakable lengths to make his idol realize a fan's worth. Whether or not his methods or at least some of the reason behind them are justified are beautifully left open by Sharma for you to decide. His sublime direction, leaves it up to you to choose whose side you want to be on.

The only places where Sharma's direction falters is in the completely predictable climax – adding another unnecessary chase scene, making it one too many for the movie – and the entire Delhi sequence that ultimately links to the climax. It's also hard to believe that Aryan travel to Delhi sans his coterie and roams around Delhi's gallis like a simple common man without being recognized. Additionally, it gets a tad preachy at the end. However, much of the blame also lies with Habib Faisal's shoddy scripting in such situations. Weren't it for these haphazardly sewn sequences, I'd have given Fan a perfect score.

Complaints aside, there are a few scenes where the direction and writing stand out in triumph. One is when a massive crowd gathered outside Aryan's house is slowly dispensing, and we see some of their belongings scattered around; a box of sweets brought by Gaurav for Aryan trampled upon in the commotion, which together act as a metaphor for how scores of fans get lost in the crowd each year, with their hopes to meet their idols dashed. Another scene, where Aryan is standing alone on a stage, the lights dimming around him, with an entire stadium lying empty, stands out for how it shows that stars are nothing without their fans. Gaurav makes Aryan realize this through a series of evil ruses – where he impersonates him at several global events after having studied him for a year – simply because he didn't live up to his claim that he's everything because of his fans.

Nevertheless, no matter how good Sharma's direction is, regardless how entertaining and immensely engaging the plot is, Fan is an out- an- out Shah Rukh Khan show from start to finish. For all those missing the supremely talented performer of old, and for others who were having a field day questioning his script choices and acting prowess of late; the star actor silences them all in the only was one should – through his work. As Gaurav, he captures every emotion, every heartbreak, every pain, ever moment of insanity so delicately that at one point you actually feel sorry for the character, only to be reminded a moment later that he's gone too far. And, as Aryan Khanna he's all about the charm and magnetism that made us fall in love with him in the first place. Yogendra Tiku and Deepika Amin are also perfectly cast as Gaurav's parents as is Waluscha de Sousa, who's surprisingly effective in a bit part as Aryan's wife.

Perhaps, the best aspect of Shah Rukh's dual act is in how he convinces us that the two central characters are completely different personalities yet have some startling similar traits. And, all we can do is sit back, with wide-eyed wonder (despite the stretched-out finale), and find a bit of Gaurav in ourselves, too, while we fall in love with this enigmatic actor and undisputed superstar all over again.
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2/10
Santa Banta Pvt. Ltd. Review: Try to Find Laughs at Your Own Peril
24 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

There are moments in "Santa Banta Pvt. Ltd." when you think that you're in for two hours of harmless fun, where the jokes, though silly, will never fail to tickle your funny bone and put a smile across your face. Like how Santa and Banta's weak grasp of the English language keeps leading to hilarious outcomes or their tendency to mix up names makes everyone from gangsters to RAW agents lose their composure. And, then, there are other moments when you're left with a puzzled look, wondering why the jokes and gags go from being silly and fun to being irrational and forced. To put it in a nutshell, Santa Banta Pvt. Ltd. is sporadically funny in parts but fails abysmally as a whole comic vehicle.

To be fair, it wouldn't make sense to expect a wittily scripted, sharply executed comedy in the first place. The main characters, after all, became popular through Wassap jokes exchanged between friends and bored uncles. And, the movie does start out as an entertaining ride that uses such jokes to good effect. The problems start creeping in when the filmmakers seem to run out of jokes to hold together a 2- hour script, which is when the comedy that was flowing freely begins to stumble, and the jokes that were making us laugh naturally in the beginning barely elicit a few chuckles for the rest of the movie.

Both Boman Irani (Santa) and Vir Das (Banta) do their best to make us enjoy the ride to the very end, but even their impeccable comic timing isn't enough to conceal those scenes that ask us to laugh instead of making us laugh. Vijay Raaz, Sanjay Mishra, and Ram Kapoor do their bit to lend support to Boman and Das, but they all are let down by a shoddy script and hackneyed direction. Neha Dhupia and Lisa Haydon are added purely for the purpose of eye-candy, and the numerous scenes that use them to titillate the senses contradicts the filmmaker's statements claiming this to be a kids' film.

"Santa Banta Pvt. Ltd." may be enjoyed remotely by the kids, but with the kind of access they have to far superior animated children's fare from Hollywood, I'd doubt that they'd even go for this tripe. Their parents, however, are bound to reject it after the jokes and gags wear thin within the first few scenes itself.
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The Invitation (I) (2015)
9/10
The Invitation Review: A Sinister Dinner Game that Would Make Hitchcock Proud
11 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 4.6/5 stars

"The Invitation" makes brilliant use of its tense premise to deliver a highly effective and unexpectedly smart slow-burning thriller. The plot is quite simple really, but it's narrated with such a wicked eye and shrewd hand by Director Karyn Kusama that the tension seems all too real and always simmering just beneath the surface, waiting to burst out at any moment, eventually culminating to a jaw- dropping, sinister climax that's wholly rewarding after approximately 90 minutes of buildup.

When Will shows up to his ex-wife, Eden, and her new husband, David's, dinner party, he begins to suspect their intentions and even goes to the extent of thinking that the couple have something ominous planned for their guests. In the house that was once his, the haunted Will becomes more and more convinced, with the signs surrounding him, that Eden, her new husband, and her new friends have a mysterious and terrifying agenda for Will and her old friends. But, with Will still coping from the tragic loss of his son – and Eden having moved on – his grip on reality and the validity of his doubts come into question. As the evening moves on, things only get murkier for the guests at the house as well as those seated in the theater.

If the movie works as well as it does, it's because Kusama adeptly elicits suspense through shadows, silences, and ricocheting looks, and, almost nonchalantly, makes us question Will's and our own suspicions, only to pull the rug from beneath our feat when we least expect it. She ratchets up the tension masterfully, building to a finale that's as chilling as it's brilliant, helped in no small way by a effective cast that's wholly committed to her vision.

However, along with being a little gem of a thriller, "The Invitation" also draws some of its mysterious aura from the emotional undercurrent of grief that acts as a major subplot as the suspense unfolds. Besides tantalizing us with wickedly clever plot devices, the movie also takes a fractured look into people desperate to change even if that means becoming different people all together. With this instant winner of an indie flick, Ms. Kusama has more than earned her place at Hollywood's elite table, and not inviting her to dinner would certainly make the affair less appetizing.
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Jai Gangaajal (2016)
6/10
Jai Gangaajal Review: Tough cops do not make a tough movie
9 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 2.3/5 stars

It's been thirteen long years since the release of Prakash Jha's classic crime drama, the cop film Gangaajal. That's about where the similarities between the Ajay Devgn and Priyanka Chopra-starrer end. Jai Gangaajal is neither a direct sequel of its predecessor nor does it pack as many gut-wrenching punches as the first film did. Does Priyanka make an impact as a cop charged with handling an entire jurisdiction? She certainly does. Does Prakash Jha make a convincing debut as an actor? Or boy, you bet he does. Does the film live up to the lofty standards of the 2003 classic and Prakash Jha's direction in general? Umm…not so much.

Like most of Jha's films, this one too is based in the hinterlands of Bihar where some unscrupulous politician types are oppressing and hacking some helpless villager types. Unlike most of his films, the atrocities suffered by the villagers come across as coerced for the sake of shock value rather than something that takes the plot forward. Amidst all this is one of the region's main cops, B.N. Singh (Prakash Jha), who does have the guts and shrewdness of an astute policeman to set things right, but would rather pander to the miscreants for a share in the pie.

Thrust into this volatile scenario is Abha Mathur (Priyanka) the district's first ever female S.P. She's as ballsy as she's sharp, and is in no mood of letting the most powerful of evildoers get away even with an inch of unlawful behavior. This incenses the land's main thug, Babloo Pandey (Manav Kaul) and his brother, Dabloo (Ninad Kamat), resulting in several heated confrontation between the three thereafter. How Mathur deals with these offenders; whether she is able to restore some semblance of law and order to the land; do the villagers finally get justice; and does Singh finally have a change of heart forms the rest of the film's narrative.

While the above elements may seem like a step in the right direction to take Gangaajal's legacy forward – beside being something Jha is known to handle adeptly – the problems begins when Jha and his writers try to cram too many issues in the screenplay. Everything from land- grabbing to farmer suicides to political alliances and more has been touched upon without elaborating on any single point. The outcome is a tad messy film that disappoints when so much more was expected form the combination of Jha and Chopra.

Priyanaka, who's on a roll with her Hollywood projects, proves yet again why she's our most convincing actress in action scenes and while delivering tough dialogues. Sadly, the script doesn't allow her to shine enough. Kaul and Kamat are effectively menacing as the villainous sibling and Jha impresses every step of the way. If only, the proceedings on screen unfolded as evenly as their performances.

Alas, Jai Gangaajal will go down as a film with some good punch- lines, few emotional moments, believable raw action, and nothing much else.
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Rocky Handsome Review: The action rocks with some heart to boot
9 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.4/5 stars

Biff…! Bang…! Boom...!...goes John Abraham for the most part of Rocky Handsome, and in the course of all the mayhem on screen, he sets our pulses racing and heartbeats thumping. This has got to be one of the slickest action movies, with some of the best fight scenes ever made in Bollywood. John plays an ex-RAW agent in the movie, who used to be the best and most badass agent of his time, and it's evident that the filmmakers have taken every ounce of effort to make his action scenes realistically deadly and brutally intimidating to suit his character, which ultimately play a huge part in getting the tone and intensity of the film right.

However, the action isn't the sole contributing factor to getting that tone and intensity spot-on for most of the movie. Rocky Handsome is an out-an-out action film no doubt, but it's one of those rare action spectacles that don't feel the necessity to shred their emotions to show their strength. In other words, the action is mixed with plenty of heart to set it apart from just another routine punches-and-kicks movie solely meant to satiate action junkies. There's something for everyone, and those looking for a sensible plot with strong characterization won't be disappointed. John's arc flows along nicely and his transformations and backstory do justice to his role.

The other actor whose character arc will leave you rooted to your seat and rooting for her is Diya Chalwad as Naomi. Her innocence and cute gestures will tug at your heart strings to the point that you'd be hoping with all your will that not even a hair on her body is hurt. Naomi's abduction by a deadly drug cartel in Goa is what brings John out of hibernation and sets him on a path of rampage. It's her character that causes all the conflict in the film and transitions in the narrative, which makes Diya's act all the more commendable, and Director Nishikant Kamat's job of handling this kid nothing short of spectacular. She's literally the axis along which John's every decision and our entire focus revolves.

Speaking about performances, Kamat is a revelation in his acting debut, and makes us wonder why he didn't try his hand in front of the camera before. He plays the leading baddie, Kevin Pereira, with just the right amount of menace, coldness, and cowardice as the role demands. The same however can't be said for Tandy Murdal, who plays his brother and second-in-command. He's every bit as over-the-top as Kamat is restrained, and his overacting gets so annoying after a point that you wish his character dead not because he's villainous, but simply because his presence distracts your viewing experience. Ditto for Nathalia Kaur as Naomi's mother, Anna, who emotes and mouths dialogues with the same expressions that someone would make upon being forced to devour a plate of rancid meat. Sharad Kelkar and the other supporting actors are pleasant on the eye.

But enough about the heart and the feelings; at the end of the day Rocky Handsome is an action film, and every action fan who craves for good, realistic action movies in Bollywood (quite a rarity) needs to watch it. If John is seen as a powerhouse who can clear hordes of baddies, it's because the martial arts choreography (a combination of Aikido, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, and Judo) is meticulously crafted, and cinematographer Shankar Raman's somber and brooding frames elevate the dark, morbid mood of the film. Mind you, some scenes are excessively violent, so be sure you have the stomach to watch them. The film has been officially adapted from the terrific 2010 Korean movie, The Man from Nowhere, and it's more than a worthy remake because it carves its own identity by tweaking the story in several places while also paying respect to the original by retaining its core essence.

If it wasn't for the songs that stick out like a sore thumb and end up distracting the story at crucial junctures, I'd have given the movie an even higher rating. And, to our dismay, these sore thumbs are one too many to be ignored and they detract quite a bit from the actual story. Also, John's flashback scenes with his deceased wife (Shruti Haasan) are overcooked and don't evoke the same pathos as his equation with Naomi. Additionally, Kamat's direction while otherwise crisp commits the error of wrapping certain things too neatly and spoon-feeding the audience. It's time our Directors respected our deduction capabilities and treated us with the same maturity as western audiences are. Such sore-points while minor are hard to overlook, and end up slotting the film in a rung below some of Bollywood's greatest action films like Baby, Khakee, and Pukar.

Nevertheless, Rocky Handsome is still one wholly entertaining, exhilarating, bloody joyride that demands to be seen on the big screen. The knife-fight scene in the climax alone is worth the price of admission.
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1/10
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review: You know you've sunk to a new low when last year's Fantastic Four is no longer the most boring superhero movie ever
3 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 1/5 stars

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" derails a potentially powerful story along with some of the most iconic heroes of comic folklore for an obsession with dark tones and darker themes that are all just a poor excuse for mimicking Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight Trilogy" masterpiece. While that trilogy was by far the darkest of all superhero movies, it was also extremely engrossing, thoroughly entertaining, and overall fun to watch, with even a bit of humor strewn here and there - elements that Director Zack Snyder and writer completely forgot were intrinsic to a superhero film's success. They all don't have to provide as much fun and humor as Marvel's movies (though "Captain America: Winter Soldier" showed that Marvel can even find a much darker tone amidst their staple fun times), but in aiming for everything dark and grimy under the night sky, things certainly don't need to get lifeless and morose.

"Dawn of Justice" is plainly and simply a shockingly joyless and overtly prolonged affair that presents its two beacons of justice as angry, cranky, melancholic, gullible men-in-tights. As far as the acting goes: Irons and Adams aren't given any scope to showcase their superlative acting chops; Affleck looks the part but can't act the part; for some inexplicable reason Snyder is still adamant about not allowing Cavill to act when he's proved that he most certainly can; and Eisenberg desperately needs a new acting style. Add to that the big, loud, bloated nature of the film, with everything transpiring within it feeling vacuous, and you end with a profoundly dissatisfying movie- watching experience that's ugly, incoherent, and unmitigatedly boring in every sense.

I mean, when Alfred couldn't care less about what his beloved Master Bruce does anymore, or if Wonder Woman has better things to do than save the world, we should probably take a cue and leave this hot, steaming pile of dump in the doldrums where it belongs.
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10/10
Eye in the Sky Review: As Thoughtful and Timely as it's Riveting and Gripping
3 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 4.7/5 stars

Exceptionally taut, nerve-wrackingly tense, and extremely timely, "Eye in the Sky" is backed by brilliant direction from Gavin Hood and all-round powerful performances to deliver a rivetingly cerebral and grippingly topical spin on the modern, wartime political thriller.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Dame Helen Mirren), a UK-based military officer in command of a top secret drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, discovers through remote surveillance and on- the-ground intel that two of the world's most-wanted targets are planning a devastating suicide bombing, and the mission escalates from "capture" to "kill". But as American drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is about to engage from his Nevada base-of-operations, a nine-year old girl enters the kill-zone triggering an international dispute over the moral, political, collateral, and personal implications of modern warfare, which reaches the highest levels of US and British government.

"Eye in the Sky" can get quite disturbing upon first viewing, but as the dust settles down, quite literally at certain points, you realize just how balanced and ambivalent it is in separating right from wrong. Most of all, it's a very compelling film, offering the best elements of both a pertinent drama and suspenseful thriller. Thankfully, this is also one of those rare movies that doesn't make any excuse for the terrorists, and shows them for the scumbags they really are while also reasoning with the west's stance of eradicating them by any means necessary.

Yet, "Eye in the Sky" provides no easy answers, only tough questions about the harsh necessity of following orders and the bitter yet unavoidable reality of the cost of war, particularly in times such as these, and therein lies the brilliance of this wartime thriller – in making us think as much as it makes us chew our nails while delivering edge-of-the-seat suspense. It's an ethical and immersive film about the collateral damage and complexities of drone warfare. Hood directs the socks out of the movie, not letting the tension up for a moment throughout this nail-biter, which almost unfolds like a taut and concise stage play.

After eons I can unequivocally state that we've been dealt a real, riveting white-knuckle thriller to rank with the best of Hitchcock. I'd be shocked if this doesn't make most critics' ten best by the year end.
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Ip Man 3 (2015)
8/10
Ip Man Soars Back Into Action
20 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.7/5 stars

Donnie Yen is as charismatic as ever, the plot moves along smoothly, and the martial arts sequences are a sight to behold; collectively making "Ip Man 3" a worthy (alleged) conclusion to the saga of the man who spearheaded the introduction of Wing Chun to the 20th century. This time, Ip Man is called upon again to protect his city from a brutal gang led by a crooked and ruthless property developer hell-bent on taking control of major real-estate zones by any means necessary, including the school Ip Man's son and his friends go to.

Though the closing chapter of the biopic of the Kung Fu Grandmaster isn't as tightly plotted as the previous two installments, the on screen drama does more than enough to keep you engrossed, some of it even evokes poignancy (however, in other places, it tends to lag, especially when treading an emotional path), and the fight scenes are as always a treat to the eyes. Donnie Yen continues to showcase why he's among the best action stars to ever grace the silver screen, and him squaring off against Iron Mike Tyson is nothing short of orgasmic for action movie buffs. If this is the last we see of Yen as Ip Man, then it's a rewarding way to send off the character.

The movie will inevitably make viewers wanna Wing Chun after watching it, simply because it's so damn affably entertaining just life the life of its subject and the actor portraying him. Also, early on in "Ip Man 3", a young Bruce Lee visits Master Yip, and, midway, the Master pays him a visit back. It doesn't contribute anything meaningful to the plot, but if the encounters happen to lead to a fourth film with the Grandmaster and his most-famous pupil beating up baddies in unison, we wouldn't be complaining.
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8/10
Gerard Butler Saves London from Falling
16 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 3.7/5 stars

"London Has Fallen" is tailor-made for fans of the golden age of action movies (read 80s and 90s), who loved their heroes ballsy and brawny, their guns big and bad, their one-liners witty and offensive, and their fight scenes brutal and raw. Yes, the sequel is a tad sillier and clumsier in places than its predecessor – the surprise hit (and one of the best action films of the last decade) "Olympus Has Fallen" – but it's still great fun nevertheless.

After the British Prime Minister has passed away under mysterious circumstances, all leaders of the western world must attend his funeral. But what starts out as the most protected event on earth, turns into a deadly plot to kill the world's most powerful leaders and unleash a terrifying vision of the future. The President of the United States, his formidable Secret Service Head, and a British MI6 agent, who trusts no one, are the only people that have any hope of stopping it.

Think of this movie along the lines of what Schwarzenegger or Stallone or Willis used to do so well, but, only this time, the Soviets are replaced by Islamist terrorists and Gerard Butler takes over the mantle of "mean action hero". And, thankfully, this is one of those rare movies that doesn't make any excuse for the terrorists, and shows them for the scumbags they really are while also justifying the west's stance of eradicating them by any means necessary.

The bullets keep flying, witty one-liners fly faster than the bullets at times, punches and kicks are regularly thrown, and Gerard Butler does a swell job at once again portraying Secret Service Head Mike Banning as one badass action hero. In short, it might not be a novel piece of entertainment, but it's still one adrenaline-pumping, testosterone-driving, entertaining action movie nevertheless, harking back to a time before heroes always had to wear suits and pander to kids (not that I'm saying those movies aren't also entertaining as hell). So grab your popcorn, fasten your seatbelts, and be ready to be thoroughly entertained. If you're looking for anything else from this, then you're in the wrong place, mate.
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Spotlight (I) (2015)
10/10
Great…Just Great…No Two Words about it
6 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Reviewed by: Dare Devil Kid (DDK)

Rating: 5/5 stars

"Spotlight" is an exemplary film that shows us the staggering amount of hypocrisy, religious pandering, and face-saving that goes on in the world, from the bedrock of our society right to its highest echelons. More than just an account of ghastly occurrences, "Spotlight" is a mind-numbing, blood-boiling portrait of the pain and suffering experienced by scores of innocent kids around the world at the hands of the pseudo-moral custodians of society. The film tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigative team that shook the city to its core and created a crisis in one of the world's oldest and most-trusted institutions.

When the Boston Globe's unyielding "Spotlight" team of journalists probes accusations of pedophilia against the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation unveils a decades-long subterfuge at the highest levels of Boston's religious, legal, and government establishments, all to preserve a hypocritical, almost criminal pious façade, eventually leading to a plethora of revelations around the world. The way the team go about doing their job compels us to genuinely admire journalists, who work tirelessly to unveil the facts concealing grave issues plaguing modern society, even if those issues bring forth the wrath and clout of powerful, populist institutions like the Catholic Church. Another extremely pertinent thing it manages to achieve is in being a blueprint for journalistic ethics and impartiality, especially in times of subjective news reporting as these.

Tom McCarthy's Direction and his screenplay – co-written with Josh Singer – shrewdly and effectively balances some much-needed wit along with the movie's harsh truths. But where "Spotlight" hits a whole home run is in placing the audience alongside the reporters, enabling us to partake in their disbelief, repugnance, and frustration. The breathless, tense, highly intense performances from a top-notch, fully absorbed, and wholly dedicated all-star cast are almost tangible from the cushy upholstery of out theater seats. Each actor portrays an indefatigable fortitude (Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, and Liev Schreiber – in that order – just do it a tad more than the others) to uncover the length and breadth of decadence unfolding on screen.

"Spotlight" is an intricate web, but, when it's finally untangled, a remarkable and striking picture emerges.
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