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Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


Before I begin to talk about “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug“, I’d like to clarify 1 thing. While I simply adore  “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, undoubtedly the most critically and commercially successful trilogy in the history of cinema, I am by no means a fan. Though I liked all 3 films quite equally, as I did “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, none of the films are as close to my heart as they are to the legions of fans across the globe. So, the following views do not belong to a biased nerd, but are quite neutral. And now that I have made myself clear, and in the process discredited my opinions in the eyes of millions (or more realistically, the few who are reading this), let’s get down to business.

The storyline continues the events of the first installment, in which the hobbit Bilbo Baggins travels with the wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield into the Kingdom of Erebor, taking them through Mirkwood, Esgaroth, and Dale to combat with the dragon Smaug.

When you follow-up such a prestigious set of films, (harsh) comparisons are going to be inevitable. But this film is a perfect representative of all 4 films that it follows. Like each of them, there is not a single dull moment throughout its (substantial) running time, with sub-plot after sub-plot and successive action set pieces. There is a lot of mythology, various creatures, more back stories than your history syllabus, which is all good. But also, like them, not all the sub-plots work. While some make you jump up and down with excitement like a little child, others just act as fillers, probably to uphold it’s reputation of running lengths that push the 3-hours mark. Also, the reluctance/refusal to kill off any characters in all the films is astounding.

While this film is the first not to feature Gollum/Smeagle, my favourite character throughout the series, it does mark the return of Legolas, a favourite amongst the girls. It also wonderfully touches upon things that we had come across in the previous trilogy, including Bilbo’s growing obsession and attachment to the ring. One thing to be noted is that this film and the previous one contain a lot more humour, which was one complaint I had against the LOTR trilogy. But in the process, it has lost some of the grimmer tones of the previous films, something that I had loved about them. As a result, the stakes just don’t appear to be as high as they were previously. So, none of the films have quite managed to strike the right balance when it comes to tone.

But despite tonal problems, you have to give it to Peter Jackson. The guy’s commitment to the film is unrivalled. Admittedly, his decision to make 3 films out of a single J.R.R Tolkien novel, as opposed to the 3 novels that the previous trilogy was adapted from, seemed dodgy at first and maybe even money-oriented, but the guy has managed to create 2 extremely exciting films so far that never seem short of adventure. Having spent almost half his career making the two trilogies, he seems so well-versed with Middle Earth that I suspect he cuts vegetables at his home with a sword. At no point does his direction crumble under the weight of expectations and never does he try to outdo the LOTR trilogy, all the while just trying to tell a story of a common hobbit (common in Middle Earth, that is). He, along with his team of screenwriters (that most notably contains director Guillermo Del Toro) crams the film with exciting episodes and characters that look and act crazy.  Also, his ability to create exciting action set pieces is probably one of the highest order across the globe, and his command over the technical aspects of the film and the special effects is remarkable to say the least.

At the cost of further aggravating the LOTR fans out there, I feel Bilbo is a much better central protagonist to build around than Frodo was. While Frodo’s bravery was unquestionable, Bilbo is every bit as brave, but much more captivating, useful, capable and much less prone to making mistakes and causing accidental harm to people around him. I believe if Sam had been the ring bearer in the first trilogy rather than Frodo, he probably would’ve made it to Mordor and back before supper was ready. On the other hand, Bilbo has saved the people around him and proven himself worthy of responsibility on countless occasions. Martin Freeman has done a swell job of playing Bilbo and exhibiting all the character’s shades. From initial confusion and refusal to growing confidence to the dark shades (courtesy of the ring) to heroism, he does everything with considerable charm and makes the character so likeable.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes to Martin Freeman’s Watson in the BBC series “Sherlock”, does the voice work for both the Necromancer and that gorgeous, gorgeous, simply gorgeous dragon Smaug. He doesn’t get to do much as the former, but excels in the latter role, spewing venom with every word that he utters. But considering the vast talent of the guy, he probably could’ve pulled this off in his sleep. Ian McKellen returns in his role as Gandalf The Grey, and once again manages to bring considerable intensity and humour to his character at the same time. Orlando Bloom, as Legolas, must probably be a treat to women’s eyes while he manages to kill dozens of Orcs, but doesn’t get to speak much. All the actors play the dwarves act admirably, but just can’t make us care for them as the supporting characters did in the LOTR films. The acting, though, remains great across the board, with nobody being an eyesore.

I’d like to end this review with a rant and cautionary advice. The quality of 3D has deteriorated so much across the country, it is hard to believe. 3D is by far the the biggest turn-off about watching a film theatrically, even more so than the anti-tobacco advertisement preceding the films. This is literally the worse experience that I’ve had in a cinema hall, and I saw “Joker” and “Himmatwala” in the theatre. I would seriously recommend you to watch this film in a cinema hall to fully appreciate its grand scale, and I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed, never mind if you’re a fan or not. But I plead to you to watch it in 2D, even if you have to watch it in a theatre in a slum. Just go for it.

Rating: 7.5/10

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©Piyush Chopra for

Filmy Flashback: Chennai Express Derailed; Audiences’ Brains Injured


Since several years, there has been one pertinent question in Indian culture that everyone wants the answer to – Who will win this year’s IPL? But never mind that. There’s another important question that everyone wants answered – What happens after death? Well, I found out after watching this abomination of a movie. I stared at the face of death, probably went to the other side for a couple of seconds and came back. And it wasn’t pretty.

Let’s start from the beginning. Of the film. So, 40-odd years old  orphan Rahul’s (SRK) 99-years old grandfather dies when he sees Sachin get out on 99. If that was the reason for his death, he should’ve died twice before (yes, I googled it). But moving on. Rahul promises his grandmother that he’ll float the ashes in some random village in South India, but instead plans to go off to Goa. I’m guessing his membership at a resort there is about to expire. Or maybe he has a complimentary massage coupon or something. Or, taking a cue from Shah Rukh Khan’s real life, maybe he has to perform at some rich industrialist’s wedding. So, to fool the old lady, he actually has to get on some random train (called Chennai Express; hence the idiotic title), rather than bidding her adieu from home. Terrific. But as he’s about to get off from the train to meet his friends, running comes Meena (Deepika Padukone). Cue DDLJ music and he gives her his hand to get on the train. There are many other such self-referential bullshit moments in this film, but for the sake of my own sanity, I shall not discuss it.

So, the girl is in the process of getting kidnapped by her father’s men, who is a Don in South India. Rahul also gets kidnapped in the process and gets taken to South India, where everyone speaks like they’re saying “Herpes Herpes Herpes” on repeat mode. Through voice-over narration, he tells us how scared he is and says dialogues like “agar iski izzat ka sawaal hai, toh yeh meri izzat utaarne kyu aa raha hai.” At that point, I wished that this film would turn into the film “Barfi!” so that he would just shut the fuck up. Anyway, the girl lies to her father that she  and Rahul are in love, because that’s exactly what you want to do with a Don – blatantly lie to his face. So, after a scene involving drug smuggling to Sri Lanka that was so bad that I actually got up and repeatedly smashed my head against the wall, the two pretend-lovers escape.

When I had first heard that Rohit Shetty’s next film was called Chennai Express, the first thing that I thought was “he’s crazy, he’s gonna blow up a train this time”. Then I thought, “what if the train came down and fell on top of Shah Rukh Khan? That’s not such a bad idea”. Sadly, nothing of this sort happens. Instead, multiple cars are blown up once again. Car stunts in Rohit Shetty films are like Mallika Sherawat belly dancing in “Maiyya Maiyya”: they have no idea what they’re doing and they look amateurish, but they’re doing it anyway.

By now, I begin to think of other things I could’ve been doing that would’ve been preferable to watching this snooze-fest. I could’ve had a crow crap all over me than watch this piece of crap. I could’ve plucked my hair out each strand at a time for 2.5 hours instead. I could’ve put my hand through a fan and that would’ve hurt less. But thankfully, after a couple of compulsory romantic songs and heroic speeches and a spiritual awakening, we finally get to the climax of the film. Here, Rahul gets beaten to a pulp by our villain who, judging by his lack of expressions, also plays the role of a tree trunk in the background. Such a hardworking guy. But after getting beat-up enough to evoke audience sympathy and make the heroine scream like she’s being molested, Rahul then turns into his superhero character from “Ra.One” and beats the shit out of the villain.

After having seen Shah Rukh ham so much that you could make a sandwich out of it, and just when the end credits start to roll and you finally think that your nightmare is over, “Rohit Shetty and Team” have other plans. On comes Honey Singh’s “Lungi Dance”. Oh, I’m sorry. It’s “Yo Yo” Honey Singh; no offence to his “fans”, or as we normal people like to call them, “mentally challenged Yo-tards”. Right then, I felt that after being continually stabbed for about 2.5 hours, I finally got shot through the head for a much-welcomed death. Or maybe that after ordering an expensive hooker and playing antakshari with her all night, she finally slapped me in the face, spit on me and left. Or…. I’m running out of analogies, but I think you got the point. What is ironical, though, is that after having cried throughout the length of a comedy film and not having gotten a chance to even smile once, I get an innocent text from a friend of mine soon after and I fall off my seat laughing.

I can’t sum this film up better than by borrowing a dialogue from a very good Shah Rukh Khan movie “Om Shanti Om”. Anytime you see Chennai Express playing anywhere, you should go “Bhaagoooo! Bhaagoooo!”. As for what happens after deateh, I think I saw the Devil making people watch “Don 2″ as a punishment for their sins. The poor souls were screaming as hell. I hope they rest in peace.

Rating: 3/10

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©Piyush Chopra for

Krrish 3 Film Review: Superhero or just a jerk?


There are very few movies that can make even the most cold-hearted people (me being one of them) cry. But this film, along with “127 Hours”, holds the distinction of making me sob like a little girl, albeit for completely different reasons. While “127 Hours” was a masterclass in filmmaking, this film is a tutorial on how to disgust people. It is terrible on so many levels that I stopped counting midway. I howled and begged for mercy, but there was no let-up. It is also a landmark film, in the sense that it’s the first film where I heard so many people in a multiplex muttering “kya chutiya hai, yaar”.

The film opens with a guy getting injected with a virus, after which he starts turning red and purple. There’s no way of telling whether it was because of the virus or because he simply couldn’t tolerate being in the same frame with Vivek Oberoi. If Professor Xavier and Magneto from the “X-Men” films had sex and gave birth to a child, and that child turned out to be a retard, it would be like Vivek Oberoi’s character Kaal. The action then shifts to Mumbai, which actually looks more like Macau or Vegas. Here, Krishna (Hrithik Roshan) drapes his wife’s (Priyanka Chopra) ghagra and goes around saving people. At one point in the film, he actually investigates stolen ice-cream. His father Rohit Varma (also Hrithik Roshan) lives with him too. Rohit carries around a torso made of pillows and dresses like Dev Anand, which might be a homage to the legend or just poor wardrobe choice.

Kaal has also produced a hybrid breed of humans and animals called “maanvars”, one of whom is also Kaya (Kangana Ranaut). This leads to further rip-offs from the “X-Men” franchise, with Kaya being a duplicate of Mystique. Rest of the plot involves a lot of hogwash about genetics, viruses and antidotes, which just serve as an excuse for the special-effects laden scenes and for shameless promotion of any and all brands represented by Hrithik Roshan. In between, there are dialogues so cringe-worthy that I’ve started to look like a Chinese guy due to excessive cringing.

India seems to be going in the wrong direction when it comes to special effects. First came Rajnikanth’s “Robot”, which remains the gold standard and pinnacle for Indian sci-fi. Then came the terrible “Ra.One”, which atleast had pretty decent special effects. And now, Krrish 3 is just plain tacky. The much talked-about special effects seem as if they had been drawn by hand rather than being computer-generated. The best special effect of the lot has to be the flicker of an expression that comes on Kangana Ranaut’s face.

Who doesn’t know about this film’s brilliant soundtrack? I’m pretty sure Rajesh Roshan was being beaten on the head with kitchen utensils while he was composing this music, where a black guy singing “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram” isn’t the most offensive song in the film. It has to be the magnificent piece of artistry called “God Allah aur Bhagwan”, where our superhero dances around a statue of himself quite similar to the one being made for Sardar Patel right now.

There is so much overacting in this film that you could lend the extra acting to John Abraham and Katrina Kaif for their next 10 films and still have leftovers for Saif Ali Khan. Hrithik Roshan irritates as Krishna, irritates as Krrish and irritates as Rohit Varma. Priyanka ‘Exotic’ Chopra has made it a norm to look hot and act bad. Kangana is terrible, but she does manage to look good in those scenes where her hair isn’t parted from the centre and pulled into a knot so tight that you could actually see her brains spilling out of her skull. As for Vivek Oberoi, he gets to give exactly 2 expressions- stone and marble. He also has a wicked laugh every five minutes, which sounds like Amrish Puri orgasming, and gets to wear a suit made out of silver foil from your tiffin box.

The film ends with the birth of Krishna’s son, leaving room open for another sequel. Since then, I’ve been praying to “God Allah aur Bhagwan” to save us from the apocalypse that the sequel would be, to which all three replied in unison, “Krrish will save you, beta”. Why can’t I just die?

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©Piyush Chopra for