Dhaka, Dec 21 (UNB) - Outlandish in more ways than it can possibly orchestrate without going into frequent tailspins, Aanand L Rai's Zero, a superstar vehicle with wildly wobbly wheels, is a monumental mess. The film possesses a certain scale for sure, the visual effects create the desired illusions and an energetic Shah Rukh Khan lends the vertically challenged male lead a degree of charm and chutzpah but it is let down by a hopelessly muddled screenplay, reports the NDtv.
The unlikely Meerut-to-Mars voyage of the protagonist, Bauua Singh, is undermined by a slew of whimsicalities that defy logic and an uneven tone that borders on the gratuitously facetious. The heavy-handed humour that it generates hinges on the character's lack of inches. Not funny at all. If that isn't sickening enough, the film brings in a woman grappling with limited motor skills for the purpose of mirth and emotional manipulation despite this individual being a person who has discovered water on the surface of the red planet.
Zero is also purported to be a romantic drama about a dwarf seeking his place in the sun and employing means fair and foul to get there but at no point does the often unlikeable man's tribulations strike a genuine chord. Take SRK out of Zero and it would be just big-budget twaddle masquerading as a movie with a difference.
The garrulous hero, a man not averse to conflicting impulses by way of a defence mechanism against the constant ridicule he faces on account of his short height, makes up for his perceived inadequacies with an unending torrent of words. He has an avid listener in his best pal Guddu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), a man of severely weak eyesight who carries a large torch in order to 'see' things.
Bauua takes on far too many avatars to be convincing. His 'superhuman' qualities do not bestow on him either bionic strength or the zeal of a crime-busting crusader. Instead, they turn the dwarf into a lover, a fanboy, a runaway bridegroom, a dancing champ, a guinea pig for a scientific experiment and an accidental spaceman who stands in for a chimp that plays truant. The character, endowed with the magical ability to literally pluck stars off the sky, is constantly on the move but the film he is supposed to power never reaches the point of propulsion.
Zero opens in Meerut - in the first sequence, the set makes the Uttar Pradesh town look like the Wild, Wild West - where Bauua has repeated run-ins with his exasperated father (Tigmanshu Dhulia) while his mother (Sheeba Chaddha) has a hard time shielding him. The 38-year-old matriculate's repeated attempts through a matchmaker (Brijendra Kala) to find a bride for himself also yields no results. He is at his tether's end.
Bauua's life changes when he chances upon the wheelchair-bound Aafia Yusufzai Bhinder (Anushka Sharma), a brilliant half-Pathan, half-Punjabi space scientist whose ambition is to see India in the forefront of the global mission to send a manned spacecraft to Mars. For him, it is love at first sight - he mistakenly presumes that the amiable Aafia is his equal because she is the first girl he can look her in the eye. For her, his antics are mere temporary diversions. She is only on a brief visit to the land of her birth from the space centre where she works in the US.
Bauua first humours Aafia by dancing Shashi Kapoor-style to Humko Tumpe Pyaar Aaya (a robust Kalyanji-Anandji composition from Jab Jab Phool Khile, about a humble Kashmir boatman who falls for a rich tourist). Then he gets a full-on love ditty staged in a hotel corridor complete with Holi colours and rain machine-induced showers.
Before the first half draws to a close, Bauua's obsession with a troubled, a hard-drinking movie actress Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif) leads him astray. A day before his wedding to Aafia, an inebriated Babita, coming off a painful breakup, kisses Bauua smack on his lips for all of three seconds. He turns his back on Aafia and scoots.
Post-intermission, Zero flies too high and too helter-skelter to make any real sense at all - you watch with steadily declining interest solely because a superstar is at the heart of the effort. If nothing else, Zero is Bollywood's first film that does not wind up with a desperate race-against-time reunion in a railway station or an airport but on the launchpad of a spacecraft headed for outer space.
If only the film hadn't been so utterly spaced out and the physical disabilities and shortcomings of the two principal characters been treated less cavalierly, Zero might have added up to something more than it eventually does. It yields no percentage because of its unacceptable, insensitive central premise that defines a four feet-something man and a cerebral palsy-afflicted woman primarily in the light of what they lack. Their drawbacks drive the drama but the constant harping on what they aren't at the expense of what they could be can only leave is cringing.
For Bollywood fans, Zero offers a parade of luminaries - Sridevi, Karisma Kapoor, Kajol, Rani Mukerji, Juhi Chawla, Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt in a party scene, in which the hero seeks to demonstrate the unique talent for doing a rapid-fire countdown and sending stars streaking across the night sky and Salman Khan along with choreographers Ganesh Acharya and Remo D'Souza in a passage that has Bauua win a dance competition without breaking a sweat.
Of course, in this latter sequence, we do not see any of the other contestants. Understandable: giving the dance stage to extras would amount to waste of precious footage in a 164-minute film designed for a Bollywood megastar exploring new pastures. After all the film also has to account for Abhay Deol and R Madhavan in walk-on parts.
Shah Rukh cannot be faulted. He gives his hundred per cent to liven up Zero, but for a film running on empty that is only a zero-sum game. Anushka contorts her face and angles her lips to deliver her lines - Full marks to her for effort. Katrina, who inevitably makes her entry with an item number, tries her best to convey the angst of a public figure whose life is a series of mishaps.
Zero, riding on SRK's back, reaches for the stars. But its astral ambitions are thwarted by a lack of imagination and genuine understanding of the minds of people struggling to ward off undeserved ridicule and earn rightful recognition. But whoever expects such niceties from a movie that rarely rises above the level of unalloyed bilge?
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Abhay Deol, R Madhavan, Sheeba Chaddha, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub
Director: Aanand L Rai
Rating: 2 Stars (out of 5)
New York, Dec 21 (AP/UNB) — The movie theater was dead, they said. After ticket sales slumped in 2017 , due largely to the worst summer season in more than a decade, pundits far and wide predicted the hastening demise of moviegoing, an inevitable casualty to the rise of streaming.
This year, the movies flipped the script.
This weekend, as "Aquaman," ''Bumblebee" and "Mary Poppins Returns" arrive in theaters, ticket sales will reach a new record for the year, passing the previous 2016 high of $11.4 billion. Driven in part by zeitgeist-grabbing cultural events like "Black Panther," ''Crazy Rich Asians" and even documentaries like "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" the box office is expected to end up around $11.8 billion for the year. The overall domestic gross is up nearly 9 percent from last year; ticket sales are up about 6 percent.
And it's not just in North America. Propelled by Chinese moviegoers, global ticket sales should, for the second time ever, exceed $40 billion. Saudi Arabia declared itself open for business to Hollywood, after more than 35 years without theaters. In the United Kingdom, cinemas are headed to their best year since 1971.
"This year serves to confirm that the movie theater business is strong and growing in the long term, even though it can be cyclical in the short term," said John Fithian, president of the National Organization of Theater Owners, the trade organization known as NATO. "Last summer of 2017, when there just weren't very many movies coming out that had any traction, we confronted the inevitable story about the impending death of the movie theater business. And we said back then: It's all about short-term product supply."
"We knew that once the movies came back, we would be fine," said Fithian.
Even in a year where "Star Wars" flopped, the hits have indeed returned, even if they've come from some predictable places. All of the year's top 10 movies were either sequels, reboots or based on a comic book. Even this year's Oscar front runner, "A Star Is Born" ($376.6 million worldwide and counting for Warner Bros.), is a remake. The top three films of the year — "Black Panther," ''Avengers: Infinity War," ''Incredibles 2" — all come from market-leader Disney, which is also in the process of gobbling up 20th Century Fox.
But there were some less likely hits, too. Mid-budgeted films like "Bohemian Rhapsody," ''Halloween," ''Creed II" and the year's best-selling original movie, "A Quiet Place," had a significant role in driving the record box office. For the first time ever, four documentaries — "RBG," ''Free Solo," ''Three Identical Strangers," ''Won't You Be My Neighbor" — each cleared $10 million. Surprise successes — a franchise-birthing "Spider-Man" spinoff ("Venom"), a well-reviewed "Transformers" movie ("Bumblebee") — outnumbered the disappointments ("Skyscraper," ''Robin Hood").
Above all, the movies were often in the center of the cultural conversation, never more so than with the history-making "Black Panther," which became the third-highest grossing domestic release ever ($700.1 million) not accounting for inflation.
Hollywood executives say the year has demonstrated that 2017 was an aberration.
"When the experts out there were talking about the end of theatrical moviegoing, I just didn't buy that to begin with," said Jim Orr, distribution chief for Universal Pictures, which had hits in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," ''The Grinch" and "Halloween." ''It was just some scheduling moves that happened along with some movies that just underperformed. People want to go out. They want the social experience. They want to be in theaters. And we proved that exponentially this year."
The box-office rebound came in a year during which Netflix launched its most ambitious original movie slate, premiering some 70 new films. Though Netflix this fall relented to a degree by playing three of its films ("Roma," ''The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" and "Bird Box") exclusively in theaters before premiering on its streaming service, Netflix and exhibitors remain at odds over the benefits of the traditional theatrical window.
Yet there is a growing sense that Netflix may not be public enemy No. 1 for movie theaters, after all. In 2018, Netflix has gained millions of subscribers, just as movie theaters have surged. Co-existence is possible. Last month, a NATO survey found that 33 percent of moviegoers who see nine or more movies a year also spend 15 hours per week on streaming platforms.
"We have maintained for years that streaming in the home is not taking away from the moviegoing experience," said Fithian. "If anything, streaming in the home is damaging other forms of home entertainment. Cable television, for example. DVD sales, for example."
Streaming will only be more omnipresent in 2019, when Disney and Warner Bros. are set to debut their own Netflix-like services. But both studios remain resolutely devoted to exhibition and in releasing some of their biggest releases in traditional slow periods on the calendar. The year's biggest movie, "Black Panther," opened in February. Three of Warner Bros.' top performers — "The Meg," ''Crazy Rich Asians" and "The Nun" — benefited from the typically quiet dog-days of summer.
"There were some really good movies that were spread out through the year," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. distribution chief. "That's the real takeaway: Make good movies, people will come."
But disruption is still at the door. Subscription services remade the moviegoing experience, led by the swift rise and fall of MoviePass, which took credit for the box-office revival before its inexpensive pricing structure proved unsustainable. MoviePass ran out of cash, repeatedly revamped its business model and descended into chaos, lawsuits and even a fraud investigation.
The box office still chugged along (Fithian calls MoviePass' impact "overblown") and other subscription services (notably one by AMC , the world's largest chain) entered the fray.
Other threats to the movie theater loom. When Disney's acquisition of Fox is made official, there will be one less major studio in Hollywood. Further consolidation is expected, something Fithian grants "poses a challenge" for exhibitors that depend on a steady supply of movies. But he pointed to others that have picked up the slack: STX, Annapurna, A24, Bleecker St., Amazon and Apple, which last month partnered with A24 for a slate of films.
Whether 2019 will continue the box-office trend or see a repeat of last year will come down, as it always does, to the movies. Analysts are bullish, predicting another record-setting year thanks to a Disney-heavy lineup including sure-fire blockbusters "Avengers: Endgame," ''Captain Marvel," ''Frozen 2" and "Star Wars: Episode IX."
"On paper, that year is going to make this year look like small potatoes," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore.
Of course, similar predictions were made for 2017, too. That's the problem with movie scripts. They can always be rewritten.
Dhaka, Dec 20 (UNB) - A get-together program ‘Poetry Evening on Hafez Shirazi’ will be held on Friday at Iran Cultural Centre in the city.
Iran Cultural Centre in Dhaka will arrange the programme on occasion of the ‘Shab-e-Yalda’, a traditional night of Iran (The longest night of the year).
Ambassador of Iran in Bangladesh Mohammad Reza Nafar and Poet Asad Chowdhury will be present as special guests.
Los Angeles, Dec 20 (AP/UNB) — Jennifer Lopez learned a long time ago that in the entertainment business you can't just sit around waiting for opportunities, you have to make them for yourself. It's the simple reason "Second Act," her first film in three years and her long-awaited return to the glossy, modern-day fairy tale, exists.
"I'm quite particular," Lopez said on a recent afternoon in Los Angeles. "I've been offered a couple of movies over the past couple of years but unless it's the right thing and I get the right types of opportunities, I'd rather create them. That's mine and Elaine's mantra. We don't force things, but we don't wait around either ... If no one is giving us the stories that we want to tell, then we'll create them ourselves."
Elaine is Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Lopez's longtime friend and producing partner who've worked together on projects like "The Boy Next Door" and "Shades of Blue." ''Second Act," which hits theaters nationwide Friday, was her idea. She thought that Lopez would be the right woman to play the 40-year-old big box store worker with business savvy but no degree who gets a chance to prove herself to Madison Avenue's elite. A little bit "Working Girl," a little bit "It's A Wonderful Life," it was right up Lopez's alley.
"We're stuck on these movies because we know, we grew up on them and we know. They're necessary. People need inspiration. They need to believe in a fairy tale," Lopez said. "I think that is the evolution of the romantic comedy. It's not so much about falling in love with Prince Charming, it's about falling in love with yourself and your life and realizing that you have to be the love of your life."
Lopez, 49, said she even cried describing the story in a pitch meeting to STXfilms Chairman Adam Fogelson ("Our great champion," she said), who agreed on the spot to make the movie.
"(He) believes in these types of movies and believes in women producers," she said.
They signed on a director, Peter Segal ("50 First Dates"), carved out some time in Lopez's busy schedule ("I literally think she's the busiest person on the planet earth," Segal laughed) and got to filming in New York City, which proved to be its own kind of challenge.
"It was crazy shooting in New York with her," Segal said. "I remember one scene we're in Central Park, going down the mall, the promenade with her, you know the same one of 'Kramer vs Kramer' and 'When Harry Met Sally' and there are all the vendors who are selling caricatures, and their sketches are like Michael Jackson and Barack Obama and Jennifer Lopez! It's like, 'Hey can we turn those around?' She's everywhere."
Then there were the ever present looky-loos and paparazzi, some of whom they had to digitally erase from shots in post-production.
It's just part of doing business with Lopez, an industry unto herself. She knows she is tough to pin down, but always makes sure to give her all when she's there.
"Everyone who gets in business with me has to bear with me a little bit because I do so much and I always want to be great when I'm in front of you," she said. "Once you get in the rhythm of that, you're like, ok she's going to show up. It may take her a minute for me to get her but when I get her, she's going to be 100."
She hopes that people find inspiration and hope in "Second Act." One person who already found himself quite emotional about the film is Lopez's boyfriend Alex Rodriguez, who related to being self-conscious about not having a college degree.
"He didn't get to go to college because he went into the big leagues at 18-years-old and he always missed that," Lopez said. "When he saw it he was like 'I felt inadequate because of that.' He's one of the greatest baseball players of all time who has made some of the biggest contracts, but it's not about that, you can feel inadequate being measured up to others because of their privilege and intelligence."
Lopez herself only attended one year of college, but for her, that was a choice that was necessary to jump-start her performing career. Still, she remembers feeling self-conscious and not worthy of some of her successes early on, like becoming the first Latin actress to get $1 million for a role ("Selena").
"I probably didn't realize how important it was. I was so young at the time. And there was a lot of to-do made about that," Lopez said. "Back then you were kind of ashamed like maybe I didn't deserve this. You come from a culture where you don't ask for anything. But now I realize that it was important because our community needed that boost to say, 'Yes we are just as valuable as any other actor playing leading role in Hollywood in a big film.'"
Lopez doesn't like the word "reinvention" — it implies that you have to be something different than you are — but rather she prefers "evolution." And she believes change is happening in the entertainment film industry because women are forcing it to.
"It takes time for us to believe in ourselves. I didn't believe it back then and it happened to me," she added. "Now I'm at a point in my life where I think yes, I do have worth and value and I should be compensated in this way or that way and I do deserve to have a good life and I do deserve to have love... We all are our own activists, we all are our own change, we all are our own vessel to have the life that we deserve but we have to believe that we deserve it."
New York, Dec 19 (AP/UNB) — Penny Marshall, who indelibly starred in the top-rated sitcom "Laverne & Shirley" before becoming the trailblazing director of smash-hit big-screen comedies such as "Big" and "A League of Their Own," has died. She was 75.
Michelle Bega, a spokeswoman for the Marshall family, said Tuesday that Marshall died in her Los Angeles home on Monday night due to complications from diabetes. Marshall earlier fought lung cancer, which went into remission in 2013. "Our family is heartbroken," the Marshall family said in a statement.
In "Laverne & Shirley," among television's biggest hits for much of its eight-season run between 1976-1983, the nasal-voiced, Bronx-born Marshall starred as Laverne DeFazio alongside Cindy Williams as a pair of blue-collar roommates toiling on the assembly line of a Milwaukee brewery. A spinoff of "Happy Days," the series was the rare network hit about working-class characters, and its self-empowering opening song ("Give us any chance, we'll take it/ Read us any rule, we'll break it") foreshadowed Marshall's own path as a pioneering female filmmaker in the male-dominated movie business.
"Almost everyone had a theory about why 'Laverne & Shirley' took off," Marshall wrote in her 2012 memoir "My Mother Was Nuts." ''I thought it was simply because Laverne and Shirley were poor and there were no poor people on TV, but there were plenty of them sitting at home and watching TV."
Marshall directed several episodes of "Laverne & Shirley," which her older brother, the late filmmaker-producer Garry Marshall, created. Those episodes helped launch Marshall as a filmmaker. When Whoopi Goldberg clashed with director Howard Zieff, she brought in Marshall to direct "Jumpin' Jack Flash," the 1986 comedy starring Goldberg.
"Jumpin' Jack Flash" did fair business, but Marshall's next film, "Big," was a major success, making her the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million. The 1988 comedy, starring Tom Hanks, is about a 12-year-old boy who wakes up in the body of a 30-year-old New York City man. The film, which earned Hanks an Oscar nomination, grossed $151 million worldwide, or about $320 million accounting for inflation.
The honor meant only so much to the typically self-deprecating Marshall. "They didn't give ME the money," Marshall later joked to The New Yorker.
Marshall reteamed with Hanks for "A League of Their Own," the 1992 comedy about the women's professional baseball league begun during World War II, starring Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell. That, too, crossed $100 million, making $107.5 million domestically.
More than any other films, "A League of Their Own" and "Big" ensured Marshall's stamp on the late '80s, early '90s. The piano dance scene in FAO Schwartz in "Big" became iconic. Hanks' reprimand from "A League of Their Own" — "There's no crying in baseball!" — remains quoted on baseball diamonds everywhere.
On Tuesday, Marshall's passing was felt across film, television and comedy . "Big" producer James L. Brooks praised her for making "films which celebrated humans" and for her helping hand to young comedians and writers. "To many of us lost ones she was, at the time, the world's greatest den mother."
"She had a heart of gold. Tough as nails," recalled Danny DeVito, who starred in Marshall's 1994 comedy "Renaissance Man." ''She could play round ball with the best of them."
Marshall's early success in a field where few women rose so high made her an inspiration to other aspiring female filmmakers. Ava DuVernay, whose "A Wrinkle in Time" was the first $100 million-budgeted film directed by a woman of color, said Tuesday: "Thank you, Penny Marshall. For the trails you blazed. The laughs you gave. The hearts you warmed."
In between "Big" and "A League of Their Own," Marshall made the Oliver Sacks adaptation "Awakenings," with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. The medical drama, while not as successful at the box office, became only the second film directed by a woman nominated for best picture.
Carole Penny Marshall was born Oct. 15, 1943, in the Bronx. Her mother, Marjorie Marshall, was a dance teacher, and her father, Anthony, made industrial films. Their marriage was strained. Her mother's caustic wit — a major source of material and of pain in Marshall's memoir — was formative. (One remembered line: "You were a miscarriage, but you were stubborn and held on.")
"Those words are implanted in your soul, unfortunately. It's just the way it was," Marshall once recalled. "You had to learn at a certain age what sarcasm is, you know? When she says it about somebody else, you laughed, but when it was you, you didn't laugh so much."
During college at the University of New Mexico, Marshall met Michael Henry, whom she married briefly for two years and with whom she had a daughter, Tracy. Marshall would later wed the director Rob Reiner, a marriage that lasted from 1971 to 1981. Tracy, who took the name Reiner, became an actress; one of her first roles was a brief appearance in her mother's "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Marshall is also survived by her older sister, Ronny, and three grandchildren.
Marshall's brother Garry, already established as a writer, coaxed her to move out to Los Angeles in 1967. She studied acting while supporting herself as a secretary — a role she would later play on "Happy Days." Her first commercial was for Head & Shoulders opposite a then-unknown Farrah Fawcett.
"I just cannot bring myself to accept that the homely person on the screen is me," Marshall told TV Guide in 1976. "I grew up believing an actress is supposed to be beautiful. After I saw myself in a 'Love American Style' segment, I cried for three days. I've had braces put on my teeth twice, but they did no good."
Marshall never again matched the run of "Big," ''Awakenings" and "A League of Their Own." Her next film, the Army recruit comedy "Renaissance Man," flopped. She directed "The Preacher's Wife" (1996) with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. Her last film as director was 2001's "Riding in Cars With Boys," with Drew Barrymore. Marshall also helmed episodes of ABC's "According to Jim" in 2009 and Showtime's "United States of Tara" in 2010 and 2011, and directed the 2010 TV movie "Women Without Men."
Marshall, a courtside regular at Los Angeles Lakers games, left behind a long-in-the-making documentary about former NBA star Dennis Rodman. When the project was announced in 2012, Marshall said Rodman asked her to do it.
"I have a little radar to the insane," explained Marshall. "They seek me out."