Review: Meaghamann

Aarya in Magizh Thirumeni's Meaghamann.
Aarya in Meaghamann.

All Hope Is Lost

If you were watching Meaghamann on the night of December 26, at Screen-1 of Inox Cinemas, Chennai Citi Centre, you would have heard a man yell “What the fuck is going on!” Dear reader, that was me.

At this point, you may ask, “But, you have walked out of movies before; why didn’t you do it this time?” The answer simply is this: Meaghamann is the destruction of Tamil Cinema as we know it. I have preached apocalypse after watching movies such as Aadhavan, Kandhasamy and Sura. But, Meaghamann is the chosen one.

For starters, you can never get the pronunciation right. Even the titular song calls it “Mee-gha-man” and later as “Me-gaaa-man”. In reality, the titular character is “Megaman”, a larger-than-life Superman. But, unlike Superman, Megaman has no Bizarro ego – for there simply couldn’t be another like him.

The film opens with a disclaimer that although the story takes place in Goa and Mumbai, all characters speak in Tamil so that the common Tamilian can understand the dialogues. But, when the dialogues come with such heavy accents and are often eaten up by the jarring background score, you doubt the fate of the common Tamilian?

Meaghamann is a death-blow to your eyes, ears and sanity. There are scenes that have queasy, handheld cinematography. These are not only out of focus, but are also guttural. And, why are there so many sudden cuts to sunlight. In a dark room like a cinema theatre, the last thing we need is blinding light. If you’ve ever wondered how vampires react to sunrise, Meaghamann offers you plenty instances to experience firsthand.

The story is pretty simple. But, it has been hacked to small, uneven pieces to a point that you may find Hansika amusing. An undercover cop has to arrest the leader of a drug cartel and must work his way to the top. Filmmakers always find some way to weave in romance, and that’s how you get Hansika Motwani, who plays an idiotic, chirpy neighbour with no self-respect.

But, if you were to know how Aarya single-handedly kills a room full of armed gangsters, you would rather choose to see more of Hansika. It is always amazing how gangsters run around with guns all the time, but USE knives while fighting the protagonist.

In any screenwriting class, you will be taught that the first ten minutes are the most vital ones. This is where you catch hold of the audience. Meaghamann revealed in its first ten minutes that there was nothing great to expect. But, instead it gave rise to a new level of greatness. Yes, I’m referring to the audience – those poor, clueless wimps who paid the price and spent more than 2 hours watching a train wreck of a movie.

And this time, give the audience a National Award. They fucking deserve it!

Hansika hasn’t been on my good side since her Tamil début in Maapillai. I haven’t found her of any good use. Or maybe, it’s because she hasn’t been convincing in any of the roles given to her. A heroine is not needed in Meaghamann. Unless she too is an undercover cop, I can’t see why her scenes weren’t cut from the editing table.

And here’s the pathetic part. The writer / director Magizh Thirumeni finds a desperate way to connect Hansika’s character with the main plot. He does succeed but it only leads to a Bourne Supremacy-styled theft of a mobile phone.

Is it just me or have movies started portraying sex as a woman’s fantasy? Hansika’s character is quite infatuated with Aarya that she fantasizes being “taken”. The fantasies please the heroine and spike the blood levels of the younger generation, but the scenario is quite long.

The film would have been less than two hours, if not for Hansika, who play a college student trying to perfect her Latin dancing skills. “In Latin, it’s all about the legwork” mutters Aarya as he helps her master the spinning technique.

At this point, you may ask “Is the protagonist an undercover cop or a Latin dancer?”

Here’s my reply: “He’s Megaman.”

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Review: 3 Days to Kill

Kevin Costner and Amber Heard in 3 Days to Kill.
Kevin Costner and Amber Heard in 3 Days to Kill.

2 Hours to Kill
Rating: ZERO

When the credits for 3 Days to Kill rolled, a person sitting near me read out the name “Luc Besson”. And he went on to make fun of it, relating it to Besant Nagar and the word “luck”. Having watched the film and a lot of other films by Besson, I think he is abusing his luck.

3 Days to Kill starts off like any action film starring Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Liam Neeson or Harrison Ford – an aging protagonist known for “old school” violence. And much like the aging Murtagh from Lethal Weapon  who famously quoted “I’m too old for this shit”, Kevin Costner too displays similar symptoms.

But, is Kevin Costner really old for this shit? He surely hasn’t done action films in a while. He truly belongs to the sports genre (Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup) and maybe the crime genre (The Untouchables). Being a one-man army has never been on Costner’s resume.

Being a one-man army wasn’t on Liam Neeson’s resume either. But, look at him now! Taken and its sequel, Non Stop, The A-Team and Unknown are all proof that Neeson is this generation’s John Wayne. He’s old. He’s a gunslinger. He’s got the looks.

And who made Neeson a bankable action star? It’s lucky Luc Besson, who has been a part of at least 50 films, as a writer, producer and sometimes a director. He’s known as “the John Hughes of action films”. But, there are signs that he’s losing his touch.

Take 3 Days to Kill where Ethan Renner (Costner) a veteran CIA agent is suffering from terminal brain cancer. In the film we are introduced to a young blonde CIA assassin named Vivi (Amber Heard) who looks more like a swimsuit model than a trigger-happy killer. Oh, and why do female assassins wear spandex costumes when killing someone? Wouldn’t it be better to dress like a normal person because it will be easy to blend in the crowd when getting away? And at this point, let’s totally not question why the said assassin shows off her glowing blonde hair and thick red lipstick when she’s pulling the trigger.

Ethan is told about an experimental drug that can extend his life and in return must help Vivi find a terrorist leader, who is known as ‘the Wolf’. Really? You’d wonder. From the Jackal to the Wolf, look at how villainous characters are named these days. And, here’s the funny part. To get the Wolf, they must first capture his right hand man, ‘the Albino’.

People in the cinema hall were laughing when they heard that the code names of an elite terrorist group were based on alpine wildlife.

And then, there’s the emotional baggage that he carries. Ethan has an estranged relationship with his family. When he’s not tracking down terrorists, he’s making amends with his daughter, played by Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit is still on my mind).

If you’re wondering why this review is out of touch in terms of context, it’s because I’m still in a state of shock. I cannot believe that someone made a blunder of a movie and managed to cast Kevin Costner in the lead role.

 

Review in 140 words or less: Dead Man Down

Dead Man Down movie still
Dominic Cooper and Colin Farrell in Dead Man Down.

Big Time Neo Noir Wannabe
Rating: ZERO

Dead Man Down is another thriller that tries to be a neo noir. In fact, the film is shot under cloudy skies and flickering light bulbs just to be characterized as an aesthetic neo noir. In fact, the characters behave one-dimensional just to reveal later that it was a setup. In fact, there is a woman who yearns to be identified as a femme fatale. In fact, I was bored at the beginning of this movie.

When watching a film like Dead Man Down, you have to keep some humour handy, so that when the film runs dry, you’ll be well ready to make fun of it. You wait till the end for the film’s best scene and well, you just keep waiting. There are no memorable scenes. That’s the sad reality of today’s cinema.

Review: Stand Up Guys

Christopher Walken, Al Pacino in Stand Up Guys
“Let’s shoot some birds.” Chris Walken and Al Pacino in Stand Up Guys

Are We There Yet?
Rating: ZERO

I’d love to watch Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin share screen space any given day. Which is why Stand Up Guys was on my must watch list. But, Stand Up Guys clearly isn’t their movie. It seems to have been made from scribbles taken from the notebooks of various filmmakers – Judd Apatow, Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritche to name some.

The film never really comes close to what you may have expected. That is the sad reality of this 90 minute mishmash directed by Fisher Stevens, whose acting career can be easily forgotten. Younger audiences who are used to the Apatow humour will probably laugh at Pacino after he’s admitted to the hospital in a very compromising situation.

The film’s plot involves an aging criminal Valentine who’s released from prison, and unites with his old partner in crime, Doc. Only, Doc has been asked to kill Valentine, or else Doc will die too. This forms the crux of a painful drag where we’re introduced to minor characters and forgetful scenes.

Given the stars who have a lot of mileage, Stand Up Guys is a let down. Given the crew who have possibly never worked out of the indie circuit, Stand Up Guys is a holler. And given the anticipated murmurs in the theatre, Stand Up Guys is a rip-off that does injustice to our beloved idols.

 

Review: Movie 43

Movie 43
Richard Gere reads our minds in Movie 43.

Is this the worst film of the 21st Century?
Rating: ZERO

Multi-starrers are generally viewed as a money-making machine. The genre for this is always comedy and the audience is international. Whether it’s a handful actors behaving like monkeys in Priyadarshan films or a group of cons pulling off an Oceans Eleven-like heist, multi-starrers are predominantly built on how big the fan base is. Multi-starrers also led to the creation of rat packs (60s), frat packs (80s) and then brat packs (90s-00s).

The original Oceans Eleven not only starred rat packers Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis. Jr. and Joey Bishop, but also had cameos from Cesar Romero, Buddy Lester and Shirley MacLaine. The 2001 remake also claimed top prize with a glorious cast of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Andy Garcia to start with.

Having said that Movie 43 is a tasteless film that unites a huge star cast through a series of hapless and sexually disgusting vignettes. The whole film is co-directed and produced by Peter Farrelly, who has traveled a long distance from There’s Something About Mary, which clearly remains the best comedy film from the Farrelly brothers. The cast ensemble includes prominent names such as Hugh Jackman, Kate WInslet, Richard Gere, Halle Berry, Gerard Butler, Anna Faris, Uma Thurman, Seann William Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Emma Stone, Kristen Bell, Naomi Watts and Jason Sudeikis.

From the moment you see a pair of testicles hanging beneath Jackman’s chin, you realize this is gonna be a weird ride. The best you can do is get out of the cinema and watch Iron Man 3 instead. Movie 43 puts you through a cinematic catastrophe that’s gonna haunt you forever if you continue watching it.

The actors perform blithely, grabbing hold of the 15 minutes given to them and doing the most they could to turn this movie into a bigger nightmare. Whether it’s Anna Faris’ lust for poop or Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant’s kiddish truth or dare moments, Movie 43 is garbage that even the municipality will ignore to clean up. Imagine a dog messes up your carpet and you casually walk by it every day without the slightest interest to clean it.

Movie 43 reminded me of another multi-starrer Couples Retreat which starred Vince Vaughn, Kevin James and Justin Bateman. That film had a paper thin storyline blown out of proportions to make a 100-minute junk. I’d watch that or even a combination of Madea films to avoid Movie 43.

Gore, violence, unwanted nudity and tasteless vulgarity are some of the elements Movie 43 is made of. I’m pretty sure you can figure out the rest upon reading this review.

Review in 140 words or less: Settai

Arya and Hansika in Settai

Shit doesn’t happen!
Rating: Zero

I don’t get why Settai is set in Mumbai when almost all the characters including a foreigner speak Tamil. This being a remake of Delhi Belly, I was hoping for the raw language the original had. Unfortunately, director Kannan swerves away and offers a U-rated film. Apart from Santhanam’s riveting comedy, the film has nothing new to offer.

The actors are dry, especially Arya and Hansika. Veteran star Nasser is easily the best actor among the cast. Even Subbu Panchu’s five-minute appearance was a relief when compared to the wooden performances the rest of the cast offers.

Foot Note: With 5 mindless songs reducing the pace, Settai is a watered down version of Delhi Belly.

Review: One For The Money

Katherine Heigl in One for the Money.

Wrong Girl. Wrong Place. Wrong Film.

Rating: ZERO

The opening titles tell you that One for the Money is based on the 1994 Janet Evanovich novel, which was a long-running bestseller much like its successors. The protagonist, Stephanie Plum may be any girl’s role model on paper, but in this cocky film adaptation, she upsets big time. One for the Money is a perfect example for what goes wrong in film adaptations. Converting a 250-page novel into a 90-minute film can be a pain in the neck for the writers. But, watching it onscreen is a pain in the backside for us.

Sometime ago, I found the novel on a corner rack of a bustling bookstore. The cover had been changed to the film’s poster and the words “New York Times Bestseller”, “Now A Major Motion Picture” were written all over it. As I began reading, I realized that Stephanie Plum was way better on paper. I doubt if Katherine Heigl understood the role before choosing to play it.

Screen adaptations of chick novels don’t work most of the time. Exhibit A – Eat, Pray Love. Exhibit B – Something Borrowed. Like I mentioned earlier, there are 3 novels that feature Stephanie Plum. But, I’m guessing Hollywood isn’t interested as this film is a box office failure. And why? Here are some reasons:

The warrants issued for bail jumpers come with the ‘Dead or Alive’ clause. I don’t know about you, but the last time that happened, Clint Eastwood strolled into a saloon and killed a notorious gangster in For A Few Dollars More. Secondly, it’s impossible to digest the fact that revolvers fire more than fifteen rounds without the necessity to reload. It is during this gunfight sequence that Heigl jumps around in slow motion, dodging bullets as girlie pop plays in the background. And then, upon arresting the bail jumper, comes the dialogue “You’re under arrest for bail jumping.”

One for the Money speaks its title. If you want to risk your money for this film, good luck! But, don’t come crying crocodile tears on how awful it was and how badly you need your money back. 

Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Nicholas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Wanna Turn A Nice Graphic Novel Into An Ugly Film? Hire Neveldine/Taylor!

Rating: ZERO

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are a filmmaking duo known for their unprofessional filmmaking. Crank and its sequel made Sura look like The Godfather and Silambattam look like… you know where I’m going don’t you? Neveldine/Taylor are known for 80-minute crapfests. So what does Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance have in common to their earlier outings? Here are some:

1. The hero who does anything for redemption

Chev Chelios was a frontrunner for a mob boss and his path to nirvana led other mob bosses to poison his heart. Johnny Blaze has a history of seeking redemption. The filmmakers see an opening as big as a dinosaur footprint and pose all kinds of challenges.

2. Leading lady who can’t act but can distract

Amy Smart from Crank anyone? It’s Violante Placido here. She was worthwhile in The American. But, you can’t expect that here. But, what good use is Placido when you have a PG-13 rating to achieve.

3. An antagonist who is as stupid as the film

Ciaran Hinds has played antagonist in several films. The recent ones include an Argentinean politician in Fast Five and a back-stabbing secret agent in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which was critically acclaimed. His role as the devil in this film just doesn’t help.

The film’s title goes Spirit of Vengeance. But, what Ghost Rider attains is the Spirit of Justice. Does that mean, there’s no Part 3? Many expressed disappointment when the first film came out. I wrote that the film was fun and junk put together and awarded it three stars. The second film lacks fun and retains the junk.

Nicholas Cage has had four disappointing releases last year. Apart from Ghost Rider 2, Cage has 2 more releases this year. Can Nouveau Shamanic do it for him?

Review: Rajapattai

Vikram and Deeksha Seth in Rajapattai.

Nothing but excruciating pain

Rating: ZERO is unfit for this film. We must try minus.

A commercial flick followed by an art house film and then again, a commercial flick, and on  and on… This is how Vikram works. He needs to impress both the audience and critics. While some of his big budgeted films like Saami and Dhool have tasted success, his recent lineup has been bad: Bheema, Kandhaswamy and now… Rajapattai.

Suseenthiran maintained realism in his last action flick, Naan Mahaan Alla, where Karthi struggled to fight the baddies. In Rajapattai, it’s Vikram’s way and he sends baddies flying all over the screen. A beautiful actress, Deeksha Seth’s Tamil debut is a sad story.

The film runs for 125 minutes with 25 minutes allotted for songs. So, in the remaining 100 minutes, Suseenthiran brings you action sequences that take up another 20 minutes. How does someone tell a story in 80 minutes? This ain’t Hollywood, where you can weave characters by dialogues. This is Tamil industry where characters need a scene or two to show their traits.

Vikram’s last art house film, Deiva Thirumagal was a disaster of all sorts. Does the man want to tell us that he can act too? We know he can! We’ve seen Sethu and Pithamagan, two films that’ll stand out any day. Ravanan was a link between art house and commercialism, and the actor did a good job in that crossover flick too. What else does he have to prove?

Rajapattai and Kandhaswamy are both Vikram’s downers. These over-hyped commercial cocktails are served without alcohol and hence, we feel cheated. But, the bartender (filmmaker) doesn’t care because he’s taken your money already.

If Tamil cinema needs a change, it needs to stop making films like these. Commercial entertainers are a must. But, these kinds of films that overdose on commercialism can be prevented.

Review: 7aum Arivu

Suriya and Shruti Haasan in 7aum Arivu

I’m fine with my six senses

7aum Arivu

Rating: ZERO

It began like a documentary and changed into a docudrama, before becoming a commercial mockumentary. A.R. Murugadoss has it all wrong again. I was appalled after watching Ghajini. He could have at least done justice to the original. But, Murugadoss tried to “Indianize” the concept and killed the film.

His half-baked performance continues in 7aum Arivu, where he doesn’t actually know what he’s trying to do in a film which connects Bodhidharma and his descendant, Aravind. Hence, he uses the plot of Assassin’s Creed and tries to blend Bodhidharma as a backstory. Horror of horrors, a genetic scientist is tracking the historical legend instead of a historian! Despite all this, I was still convinced to see what surprises Murugadoss had in store for me. I was bitter to find out 7aum Arivu had nothing in the second half other than a dry run for help and a lost cause initiated by the Chinese.

I really couldn’t understand that the Chinese decided to spread a virus in India, a virus that could be treated only by medicine made in China, and what was the reason for this? China wanted India to give them anything in return for the antidote. Jeezaloo! You guys are the worst.

Suriya seems to be the guy for performances like these. But, I just have one question: Is a jaw-dropping appearance enough? Don’t these actors see the need to act in accordance to a role? Monk or circus artist, Suriya is the same in terms of acting. When Murugadoss saw that Shruti Haasan couldn’t save the film, he should have planned Johnny Tri Nguyen’s antagonistic character better. But, he limits everyone else with hopes that Suriya’s performance will stand out. Sadly, he has even limited the story. And when did hypnotism shrink to a matter of seconds?

The last scene where Suriya commands everyone on science and religion is quite possibly the director’s message. But, why did he have to put us through all this hassle when he could have done it in a 30-second PSA!

After remaking movies for decades, Tamil Cinema is moving to video games. The day when Mani Ratnam or Gautham Vasudev Menon remake GTA Vice City is not far away I guess.