The Front Row Review of Fugly

New Delhi. Four friends who live by the motto of the three musketeers - all for one and one for all. A perversely brutal and corrupt cop. The friends make a wrong move. The cop starts to blackmail them. He makes their lives a living hell until they have no option but to retaliate.

Rahul Handa’s story begins with an intriguing suicide attempt and at least until interval, director Kabir Sadanand manages to keep you hooked. There’s a lot here that doesn’t work - the background music is deafening, the Delhi atmosphere is synthetic, lame comedy dilutes the tension, the social messages are clumsily tacked on - and yet I was interested in the quicksand that that these four are sinking in. Debutants Mohit Marwah and Kiara Advani are attractive and competent and Jimmy Sheirgill, playing the horrific Chautala, has a chilling menace. His introduction is the film’s best sequence. Kabir demonstrates exactly what Chautala is capable of.

But post-interval, Fugly becomes entirely logic-free. The friends decide they can solve their many problems by throwing a farm house party, complete with hookers and drugs. It’s a stressful situation but they find the time to sing a song that goes: I’m good in bed baby, baby, I’m the hall of fame, I’m good in bed, baby, baby I’m the king of the game. To get the farmhouse, they make a deal with some lecherous aunties. In exchange, one of them has to spend the night there. How can you take any of this seriously? As Rahul and Kabir try to stir up Rang de Basanti-style patriotism, Fugly becomes more and more preposterous. By the end, anything is possible, including a patient with third-degree burns physically fighting with the mighty Chautala on a hospital bed.

Now that’s what I call Fugly. Despite the good intentions, this one is a misguided mess. I’m going with two stars.

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The Front Row Review of Grace of Monaco

Grace of Monaco has all the ingredients of a juicy soap opera - a gorgeous kingdom perched in the South of France, a dashing prince, a princess who is also an Oscar-winning actress, political and marital drama, mouth-watering jewelry and costumes. I was eager to be transported into the incredible life of Grace Kelly, especially because it was being enacted by another Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman. But sadly, Grace of Monaco is leaden, vapid and inexplicably dull. The only thing that works here is the jewelry and costumes.

The film takes place in 1962 - a fraught time when Prince Rainier III is facing a diplomatic crisis, the princess is struggling with life choices and their marriage is under great strain. Grace, counseled by a priest played by Frank Langella, polishes herself into becoming the perfect princess, rejects Hollywood offers and saves Monaco by embarking on a charm offensive. The sequences of her training, during which she learns to emote and speak as per palace requirements, are among the funniest in the film - unintentional of course.

Director Olivier Dahan and writer Arash Amel have taken such liberties with facts that the Royal Family of Monaco actually put out a press release calling the film a farce. But the problem here isn’t the lack of historical accuracy. The problem is that the film is lifeless and overtly artificial. Despite Kidman’s overwrought performance, it never comes alive.

Grace of Monaco works neither as fairy tale nor a deconstruction of a fairy tale. I’m going with two stars.

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The Front Row Review of How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a surprising film. Like the original, the sequel is also based on a world and characters created by Cressida Cowell. We are back in the Viking village of Berk where the good folks, led by Chief Stoick, have integrated dragons into their lives. Man and beast live in absolute harmony, with the boisterous citizens of Berk even playing a Quidditch-like game on dragons with sheep replacing the quaffle.

The first half feels frantic yet predictable with the affable, adolescent hero Hiccup facing daddy issues, lots of soaring dragons and a cocky dragon hunter threatening the peace. And then, writer-director Dean DeBlois punches us in the gut with a narrative twist that I didn’t see coming at all. And quite suddenly, the film shifts from a routine, genial romp to a story with serious emotional stakes and complexity. Here, actions have serious consequences.

This probably won’t work for very young viewers but everyone else is likely to leave How to Train Your Dragon 2 smiling. Like its predecessor, this film is also staggeringly beautiful. You could get lost in the detailing of the dragons, especially when Hiccup discovers a dragon sanctuary where creatures of all shapes and sizes live. The dragons, toplined by Hiccup’s best friend Toothless, have real personality. Together, Hiccup and Toothless travel an emotional arc the anchors the film.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has both visual and emotional density. I’m going with three and a half stars.

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The Front Row Review of Grace of Monaco

Grace of Monaco has all the ingredients of a juicy soap opera - a gorgeous kingdom perched in the South of France, a dashing prince, a princess who is also an Oscar-winning actress, political and marital drama, mouth-watering jewelry and costumes. I was eager to be transported into the incredible life of Grace Kelly, especially because it was being enacted by another Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman. But sadly, Grace of Monaco is leaden, vapid and inexplicably dull. The only thing that works here is the jewelry and costumes.

The film takes place in 1962 - a fraught time when Prince Rainier III is facing a diplomatic crisis, the princess is struggling with life choices and their marriage is under great strain. Grace, counseled by a priest played by Frank Langella, polishes herself into becoming the perfect princess, rejects Hollywood offers and saves Monaco by embarking on a charm offensive. The sequences of her training, during which she learns to emote and speak as per palace requirements, are among the funniest in the film - unintentional of course.

Director Olivier Dahan and writer Arash Amel have taken such liberties with facts that the Royal Family of Monaco actually put out a press release calling the film a farce. But the problem here isn’t the lack of historical accuracy. The problem is that the film is lifeless and overtly artificial. Despite Kidman’s overwrought performance, it never comes alive.

Grace of Monaco works neither as fairy tale nor a deconstruction of a fairy tale. I’m going with two stars.

Read More Movie Review

The Front Row Review of How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a surprising film. Like the original, the sequel is also based on a world and characters created by Cressida Cowell. We are back in the Viking village of Berk where the good folks, led by Chief Stoick, have integrated dragons into their lives. Man and beast live in absolute harmony, with the boisterous citizens of Berk even playing a Quidditch-like game on dragons with sheep replacing the quaffle.

The first half feels frantic yet predictable with the affable, adolescent hero Hiccup facing daddy issues, lots of soaring dragons and a cocky dragon hunter threatening the peace. And then, writer-director Dean DeBlois punches us in the gut with a narrative twist that I didn’t see coming at all. And quite suddenly, the film shifts from a routine, genial romp to a story with serious emotional stakes and complexity. Here, actions have serious consequences.

This probably won’t work for very young viewers but everyone else is likely to leave How to Train Your Dragon 2 smiling. Like its predecessor, this film is also staggeringly beautiful. You could get lost in the detailing of the dragons, especially when Hiccup discovers a dragon sanctuary where creatures of all shapes and sizes live. The dragons, toplined by Hiccup’s best friend Toothless, have real personality. Together, Hiccup and Toothless travel an emotional arc the anchors the film.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has both visual and emotional density. I’m going with three and a half stars.

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