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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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X Men-Apocalypse, Review: X-Men, Ex X-Men, ‘To be’ X-Men, and the 4 Horsemen

X Men-Apocalypse, Review: X-Men, Ex X-Men, ‘To be’ X-Men, and the 4 Horsemen In the ninth instalment of the X-Man Marvel comics’ series, we are confronted with a devil incarnate villain who lived thousands of years ago in Egypt, and surfaces in the civilised world of 1983. Nobody grovels at his feat in this eon, so he takes great umbrage. He is able to learn English by listening to a TV broadcast just once (if only he would share that technology/software with us humans), and...

Bilal--A New Breed of Hero, Review: Idol greed v/s rebel breed

Bilal--A New Breed of Hero, Review: Idol greed v/s rebel breed Here’s the first animation feature film coming out from the middle-east, and it makes you wonder what took them so long. It’s a new, breakthrough breed, and may the genre prosper! A thousand and four hundred years ago, a slave boy, Bilal bin Rabah, dreamt of becoming a great warrior. Instead, he found himself and his sister working for a wealthy merchant, in a land far away from home. Thrown into a world where idol wo...

Money Monster, Review: Spend on it

Money Monster, Review: Spend on it Money makes the world go round. It can also drive a man round the bend! Jodie Foster’s financial thriller, Money Monster, juxtaposes TV ratings and credibility with Wall Street stock fixers. It also pitches a John Doe like victim against the establishment, in a battle of wits, and of lives. Heart-rending and irreverent in varying measures, the film is well worth investing your time and money in. Cable TV’s cocky Wall Street financial guru Lee Ga...

Buddha in a Traffic Jam, Review: Political pottery

Buddha in a Traffic Jam, Review: Political pottery “If we need to become a strong country and wish to shine, we need thousands and millions of Buddhas who can fight the traffic jam.” — Vivek Agnihotri, writer-director, to an Indian publication. He was trying to explain the meaning of the title, which has nothing to do with either Budhha or traffic, but maybe something to do with jam. No, the scene where a man says that he cannot leave the post of the worshipper at a mini-t...

Pelé-Birth of a Legend, Review: Exciting draw

Pelé-Birth of a Legend, Review: Exciting draw Whenever a football match begins, all three possibilities are in place: a win for side A, a win for side B or a draw. Wins are exciting, draws not really the desirable result, in the high voltage sport, the most popular game in the world. Pelé-Birth of a Legend, a docu-feature on the Pérola Negra (Black Pearl) of Brazil, promises a lot, delivers much less and results in a draw. To be fair, it is not a tame, goalless draw, but ...

Captain America-Civil War, Review: Danger...Us?

Captain America-Civil War, Review: Danger...Us? Emerging from the 2006 Marvel Comic storyline, Civil War, this is a top heavy assembly, where the heroes get divided into two camps and battle it out, before realising that unity in diversity must come first, and egos should take second billing. It is about two superstars taking opposing, dictatorial stances, but with so many characters doing their bit for the fans, the film is a democratic treatise. Villains, by comparison, are poorly delineate...

Mother’s Day, Review: Mom Com

Mother’s Day, Review: Mom Com Mother of two sons and a dedicated wife, philandering husband falling for sexy new babe, grieving widower raising two daughters, an aging couple who discover that they have an Indian for a son-in-law and a woman for the other daughter’s partner, an out-of-wedlock abandoned child of a mother who is now a TV celebrity...all set for a Mom Com, made for, and aimed at, Mother’s Day. Well, it could have been a Rom Com, except for the fact that so many...

10 Cloverfield Lane, Review: Hollowcaust

10 Cloverfield Lane, Review: Hollowcaust Ultra-thin story line, with some slick moments in the first half, is how one can sum up 10 Cloverfield Lane. A psychological, science fiction, holocaust, suspense tale, the film needed a rock solid unravelling. Instead, it goes off on an indulgent tangent, and you come out wondering, “So this was what it was all about?” It is the second film in the Cloverfield franchise. The film was developed from a script titled The Cellar, but while und...

Sujata Mehta: Teaching grandma to suck eggs

Sujata Mehta: Teaching grandma to suck eggs Yesteryear film actress and popular stage performer Sujata Mehta is someone known to me from the 1980s. Her husband, Latesh Shah, is known me perhaps a little longer. Both were stage actors, with Latesh also being a gifted director. Both won prizes at inter-college short play competitions, including those organised by the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), where I had occasion to serve as judge. Sujata got film breaks, like Pratighaat...

The Huntsman-Winter’s War, Review: Ice Maiden and Sinister Sister

The Huntsman-Winter’s War, Review: Ice Maiden and Sinister Sister What? No Snow White in the title? Right. Almost no Snow White in the picture too. Many Huntsmen, one ‘The Huntsman’, two evil queen sisters who hate everybody, including each other, a few dwarves, a kingdom of gnomes and monsters, and the ubiquitous mirror that often steals the image (read: scene). Evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who has the power of shooting tentacles to wrap her opponents, betrays her...

FRAMES, FICCI’s Media & Entertainment conclave, attracts 20 countries

FRAMES, FICCI’s Media & Entertainment conclave, attracts 20 countries FRAMES is big. There is no M&E (Media and Entertainment) event in the country bigger than FRAMES. For many years now, the venue is the idyllic hotel in Mumbai’s lake-district, and the only thing wrong with the location is the distance that many attendees have to cover to get there. To those unfortunate visitors who live either at the southern end of the island or the outer suburbs in the north, it could ...

Demolition, Review: Shun

Demolition, Review: Shun If ever there was a practical example of ‘deconstruction for the sake of reconstruction’ being taken too literally, here is one. Our protagonist, a tormented and meandering soul, cannot cope with the loss of his wife, which tragedy has benumbed him. So, he remembers what his father-in-law once said, that in order to rebuild something, you have to demolish it first. His father is a more than sane investment banker and his own boss (which means that our hero...

The Jungle Book, Review: Unputdownable

The Jungle Book, Review: Unputdownable A fitting tribute to the 1967 version on its golden jubilee, The Jungle Book is unputdownable. You might find differences in the two versions, and in the book itself. Don’t bother comparing. If the smooth-sailing songs make you sing-along (a friend seated on my left just wouldn’t stop), even better. Gaze into the volcanic eyes of the animals, marvel at the resourcefulness of the man-cub, and applaud the imagination of the writer who spun this...

The Divergent Series-Allegiant Part I, Review: Alley Giant

The Divergent Series-Allegiant Part I, Review: Alley Giant Three down, one to go. This film is the first of two cinematic parts, based on the novel Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth, and the third instalment in The Divergent Series of films. On the score board too, the series hits divergent marks. Neil Burger barely scraped through with the Divergent debut two years ago, while German director Robert Schwentke acquitted himself well in Insurgent last year. Sc...

Rocky Handsome, Review: Rocky terrain, bumpy ride

Rocky Handsome, Review: Rocky terrain, bumpy ride Okay, so John Abraham is a handsome hunk with codename. Rocky...Handsome...does that justify the title? Read on. John is great at action and decides to cash in on his forté yet again in another remake, with remake veteran director Nishikant Kamat. Remember John’s earlier home production called Force, remake of a Tamil film? This time, the team looks to the Far East, and settles for the gut-wrenching, bullet spraying, bone-crushing...

Batman v Superman - Dawn of Justice, Review: Bruced ego and the krypTonite show

Is there no justice in this world? Lex Luthor argues that since God takes sides, he cannot be a just hero, and likewise Superman, who is revered as God’s agent on earth. What if Superman went rogue, he postulates? So, he asks the White House to allow him to import kryptonite (rock from Kal El’s native planet, Krypton, that robs him of his superpowers) from an ancient ship wreckage in the Indian Ocean, just in case.... Senators are not impressed, possibly because instead of behavin...

Eye in the Sky, Review: Mor(t)al blows

Eye in the Sky, Review: Mor(t)al blows Collateral damage has been an emotion charged topic for debates world-wide, ever since the USA began bombing foreign locations, where, it believed, wanted persons were living, hiding or gathering. Along with its allies, notably the UK, the USA has been carrying out pre-emptive air-strikes for decades. Eye in the Sky (the title does not do full justice to its theme and thrust) is about the compunction experienced by a group of high-placed government offic...

Race, Review: Giving racists a run for their money

Race, Review: Giving racists a run for their money How long does it take for an Olympic champion to run 100 metres? Less than 10 seconds. Jesse Owens (1913-1980) was the first American in the history of Olympic track and field to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad. Back in 1936, the attention span of viewers must have been considerably longer than in this age of nano-second technology. Therefore, to make a 2h 14m film on events that occurred 80 years ago, to attract dwindling audiences...

The Program, Review: Enhanced performances

The Program, Review: Enhanced performances First, there was a musician called Louis Armstrong. Then most of earth and all of moon heard about Neil Armstrong. Much later, we read and saw the exploits of cycling champion Lance Armstrong. Louis remains a musical great. Man-on-the-moon was an unimaginable theory that captured the hearts and minds of the whole world, but has now found its detractors, probably growing steadily in number, who claim the whole program (American spelling intended) was ...

Triple 9, Review: 9 pins

Triple 9, Review: 9 pins If bodies count in a crime drama, the body count in Triple 9 is very high. In fact, hardly anybody is left alive in the end. So that makes it morbid. Decapitation and gore galore make it really blood-curdling. Cops and criminals mixing and mingling, while betraying and killing each other, make it confusing. High-profile robberies, blackmail, drug dealers, buddy-buddy cops, uncle-nephew, brother-brother, alcoholic cop, titillation (if the censors have let it pass), bet...

13 Hours-The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Review: Michael? No Bay!

13 Hours-The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Review: Michael? No Bay! This 144 minute film is a good 44 minutes too long for its own good. It reconfirms the golden rule that true stories are not necessarily film material, unless worked-on real hard by a team of talented individuals, more behind the camera than in front of it. That it is produced and directed by Michael Bay adds to the disappointment. How accurate it is, in terms of recent history, is a matter of debate, both in the USA and in Li...

Zootopia, Review: Viewtopia

Zootopia (known as Zootropolis in some countries) is Disney’s 55th animated feature, in 3D computer graphics. The theme--unlikely buddies teaming-up to solve a crime--is not exactly a novel idea in Hollywood productions, but buddy comedy-drama takes an entirely new meaning when the buddies happen to be a rabbit and a fox, and the villains are animals too, for this make-believe tale is set in Zootopia, a highly civilised, modern and automated mammal world, sans human beings. Though there ...

London Has Fallen, Review: The Butler did it

London Has Fallen, Review: The Butler did it If he can save the White House, can London be far behind? To be accurate, it never really fell. Yes, London Bridge was blown up. A few hundred armed terrorists, with a few dozen combat vehicles, had gained access to the city’s communications network, donned local police uniforms, blown-up most of the historical monuments and deployed surface to air missiles locked at the escaping US President’s helicopter, and all was well, until Mike B...

45 Years, Review: 95 minutes of great cinema

45 Years, Review: 95 minutes of great cinema A tender and touching British film waits you in the shape of 45 Years. If you have had enough of mass destructive action, comic superheroes and animation, try this slice of life that challenges you to find artificiality in either the narrative or in the performances. No action at all, no heroes, no animation, very little comedy, a few dies of subtle humour, and the sex quotient is a lesson in bedroom manners. The film takes place across six days, ...

Gods of Egypt, Review: With Gods like these…

An Australia-United States co-production, Gods of Egypt was shot in Australia, predominantly on green screens, at Fox Studios, Sydney. Most ‘Egyptian’ Gods are played by Caucasian actors and the boundaries between earth, the sky, heaven, hell, man, god, ferocious bird, plasto-metallic creatures, life and death, are all blurred. CGI, forced perspective, shooting with two cameras side-by-side, motion control, are the flavours of the day. Authenticity is conspicuous by its absence. R...

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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