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Aladdin review: The Will Smith-starrer is a delightful summer treat and a perfect family-entertainer

Aladdin review: Guy Ritchie’s retelling of the age-old famous Arabian folktale – starring Will Smith as the Genie – will transport you to a world of love, friendship, fantasy and magic!

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A whole new worldMena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine sing the mesmerisingly beautiful romantic number from Disney’s 1992 animated film Aladdin, as they take a magic carpet ride together, discovering true love for each other. Director Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake of the much-loved animated film however doesn’t take you to any new world! Instead, the director sticks to recreating the old world magic of the original to the T and that’s the biggest draw to watch this film that stars Will Smith as the Genie. So is Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake better than the original? Read on to find out:

What Aladdin is all about: ‘Street rat’ Aladdin is a petty thief whose best buddy and partner-in-crime is his pet monkey Abu. Unknowingly, Aladdin falls for Jasmine, the princess of Agrabah. The Sultan’s wicked and power-hungry Vizier sends Aladdin to retrieve an old lamp for him from a magical cave. After finding himself trapped in the cave, Aladdin rubs the lamp only to find himself become the master of a three-wish granting Genie. How the good-hearted Aladdin goes about winning Princess Jasmine’s love with the help of the Genie and defeats the evil Vizier forms the crux of the story.

Yay: The story may be old, but Jasmine’s yearning to prove her worth as an able ruler and her feisty spirit that refuses to give in and bow down just because she’s a girl still resonates strongly with women even today. What also resonates even today is our fascination for a fantasy world where carpets can fly and rubbing lamps releases Genies. Well, director Guy Ritchie taps all this beautifully to recreate Disney’s animated film Aladdin (1992).

The humour-laced film has all the strong messages of the original in place without being preachy of course. What we loved the most was that the live-action retelling stays true – right through the film – to the original, so at no point do we feel short-changed. Whether it was a bid by the makers to play it safe or intentionally not to mess with a Disney classic, the move works in the film’s favour.

Will Smith as Genie gets our thumbs up! Naomi Scott shines through as Jasmine and Mena Massoud brings in the certain innocent charm of a street-smart Aladdin. The chemistry between Jasmine and Aladdin, carpet and Abu, Dalia and the Genie are all amazing to watch and leave you smiling.

The film aces in several departments right from the direction to the musical scores to the costumes and the CGI effects to the lavish and gorgeous set-ups. We loved the strong and impressive rendition of ‘Speechless’. You find yourself transported just as believably to the dusty streets of Agrabah as easily as you find yourself looking up at the magnificent palaces. The chase sequences are stunningly shot. There’s nothing over-the-top or anything that strikes you as out of place here.

The result is the story being told in the most entertaining and visually-appealing cinematic form. Adults will find themselves revisit their childhood and the children get introduced to a whole new world of love and magic.

Nay: Even in such a well-made film, unfortunately, there’re things that feel like a bit of a let-down! Merwan Kenzari as Jafar, frankly wasn’t convincingly evil or menacing enough to make for a formidable adversary. Iago, the macaw who played such an important character in the original was not explored onscreen as much as we would have liked it to be. Though Will Smith as Genie was an absolute treat, it somehow felt that the makers have not made him do complete justice to the character. Whether it was the dialogues or the CGI, but Will Smith felt a bit under-used here.

But what made us cringe were the dance sequences. While we understand that the Bollywoodish song and dance may tickle Hollywood’s exotic fantasies about faraway lands, for the Indian audience, it doesn’t do a thing. In fact, the execution looks worse than the level of performances one gets to see in reality dance shows here. Also in some scenes, the entire production value looks more suited for a broadway musical than a majestic film. Also the 3D effects are not used to create much of an impact.

CineBlitz Verdict: Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin makes for a fantastic family-viewing! It’s entertaining and it will take you to a world that’s magical and fantastical. A must-watch for kids! They will simply love watching the much-loved story being told on the big screen in such an entertaining way. A perfect summer treat, the film will bring a smile to your faces and you will find yourself humming along the songs with Jasmine and Aladdin!

Movie Reviews

The Zoya Factor review: Why so much fuss?

Sonam K Ahuja does a reasonably good job but the film is much ado about nothing.

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The Zoya Factor review

Alright, I haven’t read the novel (The Zoya Factor) on which this film is based. So, I went to watch the film with zero expectations. I just wanted to be entertained for those two hours in the theatre. But unfortunately, entertainment didn’t last for more than the first half. Sonam K Ahuja plays Zoya Solanki who was born on 25th June 1983, the day the Indian cricket team won the World Cup. Zoya’s father (played by Sanjay Kapoor), an avid cricket lover calls Zoya a lucky charm for the Indian cricket team.

Zoya hates cricket. But as fate would have it she finds herself becoming the official Lucky Mascot for the Indian cricket team. How that happens and whatever happens after that is the premise of the film. But there’s so much fuss around this silly sounding phenomenon. Cricketers and crickets fans alike are known to be superstitious. Most of us have watched tense cricket matches doing all sorts of praying rituals, just so that India wins the match or series. The madness reaches its peak when it’s the world cup.

My generation of cricket fans must have seen all the emotional outrage when things don’t go well for Team India. The World Cups of 1996, 2003 and 2007 have been prime examples of that. Post the 2011 world cup victory, fans have sobered up (or down?). The Zoya Factor involves one such world cup with lucky mascot Zoya on the Indian team’s side. The year in which the story is happening is not clearly mentioned. If it is present day, then a thing or two should have been changed w.r.t cricket rules (taking a runner is not allowed to a batsman anymore).

Trailer of The Zoya Factor:

What hurts The Zoya Factor is the lack of reasoning. We get to know how Zoya becomes the lucky mascot but why would the cricket board even consider something like this is a question (even if it’s just a movie) that doesn’t have an answer. The ‘Hows’ of a film can be debated and passed on but the ‘whys’ can hurt a film’s prospects big time. That’s the case with The Zoya Factor. There’s so much fuss created that you wouldn’t care for.

The film showcases everything on a superficial level. We don’t get to know much about Zoya (the protagonist) apart from the fact that every aspect of her life sucks. A more layered character would have added some weight to the film and the drama around her would have been somewhat credible and believable. Sonam K Ahuja does a reasonably good job as Zoya. She has put on weight for this role and she looks the part she plays. But more should have been explored about Zoya’s character. All the other characters are one dimensional, including that of Nikhil Khoda (played by Dulquer Salmaan), the captain of the Indian cricket team who starts dating Zoya. You don’t really feel connected to anyone’s journey.

Also read:Dream Girl review: Ayushmann Khurrana shines again!

The film drags a lot. There are some genuinely nice and funny moments but those are all in bits and pieces. There’s brand integration throughout the film. In a movie based on cricket an integration of Pepsi won’t hurt much as the brand has been associated with the game and cricketers for decades. Branding of a paint brand on the team’s jersey is still fine. It’s pretty much realistic too. (I like to write good things about film and I found myself looking for reasons to like this one).

The film drags a lot. There are some genuinely nice and funny moments but those are all in bits and pieces. But cricket, the centre of the whole circus should have been shot well. It is poorly acted and directed. The way the players play the shots or get out or drop catches or run their teammates out – it looks silly and lazy. All the clichés like no balls, sixes on the last ball, catches taken with a player’s feet touching the boundary line make their way into the film. It would have still been fine, had it been built up smartly. Interestingly, some of the cricketers and a board member look like they have been modelled on real Indian cricketers and officials. It’s fun if you spot it.

Also read: Chhichhore review: Nitesh Tiwari’s masterpiece is hilariously profound and overwhelming!

It is difficult to put together a cricket movie for the complex game that it is. Unfortunately, this is yet another failed attempt to crack a cricket movie. There have been quite a few made on contemporary cricket. Barring MS Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016) and Iqbal (2005) all others have been works which lack knowledge and detailing. Movies succeed on the suspension of disbelief. Unfortunately, The Zoya Factor didn’t work for me on that front. I left the movie theatre with the question, “Why so much fuss?”

Rating:

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Movie Reviews

Dream Girl review: Ayushmann Khurrana shines again!

Ayushmann Khurrana is not going wrong with any of his brave movie choices. The actor shines effortlessly in and as Dream Girl

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Ayushmann Khurrana in and as Dream Girl

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This is the third film released within a span of a week that owes its strength to its screenwriting. Chhichhore, Section 375 and now Dream Girl, this week has been good for writer-directors. Dream Girl relies heavily on its dialogue and capable shoulders of Ayushmann Khurrana. And both help the film sail through easy-breezy. Ayushmann Khurrana plays Karam Singh, a youth from Gokul, Mathura struggling to find a job. He has been portraying roles of Seeta, Draupadi, Radha in the mythological plays since he was a child. He can imitate a woman’s voice to perfection.

Struggling to find a job even after completing his M.A. he eventually takes up a job at a ‘friendship call centre’. He speaks in a woman’s voice, pretending to be a girl named Pooja. He aces the job, starts making big bucks, falls in love with a girl, gets the girl, pays off the loan of his father and everything is going hunky dory.

In a film, things can’t go well for too long. Without conflict, there’s no fun. The conflict in Karam aka Pooja’s life does occur before the intermission when he realizes who he has been talking to as Pooja’s customers. Writer-director Raaj Shaandilyaa keeps things witty and free-flowing. Nothing looks force-fit. The situational comedy comes out naturally. The characters don’t look caricatures. And there are no villains for the heck of it.

Also read: Chhichhore review: Nitesh Tiwari’s masterpiece is hilariously profound and overwhelming!

However, Dream Girl has its loose ends. For instance, it’s a little difficult to digest how a girl doesn’t know what her fiancé does for a living. Karam aka Pooja manages to overcome any hurdle without much trouble. People around him/her may seem troublesome but not much. Maybe, sometimes, that’s how real life turns out that easy; albeit for a brief phase. Life is all about perspective and so are films. The loose ends of the films don’t hurt too much as humor makes up for it.

Also read: Section 375 review: Justice and law battle it out in this sensible courtroom drama!

Writer-director Shaandilyaa keeps it popcorn entertainment and thankfully doesn’t become preachy towards the business end. His direction doesn’t look like that of a first-time director either. Annu Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Manjot Singh and Abhishek Banerjee do great justice to their supporting roles. Nushrat Bharucha has little to do as the film is mounted on Mr. Dependable Ayushmann Khurrana’s shoulders.

In his last three releases Andhadhun, Article 15 and now Dream Girl Ayushmann has portrayed polar opposite characters. In all his films he has managed to get into the skin of the character and managed to make it look effortless. Ayushmann Khurrana aka Pooja’s story in and as Dream Girl is a laugh-riot. So, if you’re looking out for fun-filled two hours in a movie theatre then there’s no harm in watching Dream Girl.

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Movie Reviews

Section 375 review: Justice and law battle it out in this sensible courtroom drama!

Akshaye Khanna spearheads Section 375 with his brilliant performance but the film’s real strength lies in its clever writing and direction.

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Section 375 review

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A lot has changed in the Hindi film industry in last few years as some of the age-old themes have found contemporary voices of writers and directors. One of those themes is courtroom drama. Bollywood seems to be getting over the over-sensationalised courtroom dramas where the lawyers are yelling over the top of their lung capacity and the judges are merely doing “order-order”. Director Subhash Kapoor’s thoroughly entertaining Jolly LLB and Jolly LLB 2, Anubhav Sinha’s thought provoking Mulk, and Chaitanya Tamhane’s poignant Court are some of the notable courtroom dramas in recent times. Director Ajay Bahl’s Section 375 – Marzi Ya Zabardasti is the new addition to this list. Point to be noted, the judges in these films have a great say in the cases than just delivering the verdict.

Section 375 decodes the rape law in India through a debate between following the law and whether justice has been done. A film director Rohan Khurana (Rahul Bhat) is accused of rape by a costume assistant Anjali Dangle (Meera Chopra). (Seems like loosely taken from actor Shiney Ahuja’s case.) The matter is taken to the court and the drama begins to unfold.

The narrative does not take anyone’s side. Rather it keeps you in pursuit of the truth through its twisted tale – his side, her side. The sympathy in any of the cases goes to the victim. How do you find the truth and most importantly how do you make sure that justice is done? The best thing that anyone associated with the cases – police, forensics, lawyers – can do is follow the law. It’s a complex and sensitive puzzle to solve.

Watch the Section 375 trailer here:

There are no fine lines in such cases, at least the one that this film shows. The lines have been blurred and crossed. Telling you more about the story will hurt your movie watching experience as the strength of Section 375 lies in the way the story unfolds, literally scene by scene.

Making a film on such a sensitive issue as rape in a rapidly growing, poorly informed, and easily manipulated population is difficult. Making an entertaining and though provoking film is even tougher. Writer Manish Gupta (Sarkar) who has also made films like The Stoneman MurdersRahasya provides all the information on the law and its layers, and plots the arguments between lawyers Tarun Saluja (Akshaye Khanna) of the accused and Hiral Gandhi (Richa Chadha) the prosecutor.

No emotional speeches, no feisty rivalries between the battling lawyers, no one getting into a physical fight in the court. It’s a breather from all the nonsense we have grown up watching. Director Ajay Bahl (he made B.A. Pass) and cinematographer Sudhir K. Chaudhary do away with the traditional pans and dollys. Instead they take multiple angles of the same scene, just like the story tries to show the different aspects of such cases and law. Even though it’s cleverly written and finely executed, Section 375 is a disturbing experience for the issue it tries to address. So, should it be watched in theatres? Yes.

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