Dir: Amar Kaushik
*ing: Rajkummar Rao, Shraddha Kapoor, Aparshakti Khurrana, Abhishek Banerjee, Pankaj Tripathi, Vijay Raaz
Written by Raj and DK and directed by first-timer Amar Kaushik, Stree has the small town of Chanderi being terrorized by an evil spirit (dubbed “Stree” by the locals) which keeps abducting the male (and only male) residents of the town at night. Will the trio of friends, Vicky (Rajkummar Rao), Bittu (Aparshakt Khurrana) and Jaana (Abhishek Banerjee) remain safe with the help of the local Stree expert, Rudra (Pankaj Tripathi)? And what is up with the mysterious girl (Shraddha Kapoor) who shows up in town at the start of the local religious festival? And what secrets does the befuddled author (Vijay Raaz) of a book on the Stree know?
Horror-comedy is a tricky balancing act. The first Fright Night (1985) got it absolutely right. The sequel didn’t and neither did the 2011 remake with Colin Farrell. Zombieland is another horror-comedy that hit the bullseye. But the misses greatly outnumber the successes in this genre and while it’s nice to see Bollywood stretching its horizons with this rare attempt at horr-com (Go, Goa, Gone – also written as well as directed by Raj and DK, being the only earlier Bollywood entry in this genre I could think of) Stree is yet another example where the filmmakers don’t get it exactly right.
While the acting is first-rate (Rao and Tripathi are particularly terrific) and the movie scores points with some nice, easy laughs the frights are rare and overall unsubstantial. The script is also a bit fuzzy with some mixed messaging going on even despite its pro-women subtext. Perhaps the filmmakers will be able to go one better with the recently announced sequel.
Cut to chase: A horror-comedy that provides a few nice laughs but not enough scares.
Dir: Victor Levin
*ing: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder
Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder were pretty big in the nineties and early noughties but the subsequent years saw their stars waning. Currently, however, they are both experiencing career resurgences. Reeves is cool again thanks to his John Wick movies and Ryder is an integral part of the Netflix juggernaut, Stranger Things. So it was with some optimism that one approached Destination Wedding, hoping that these two likeable stars would keep their streak going. Unfortunately, these hopes end up being completely dashed. Destination Wedding is a romantic comedy with both romance and laughs entirely absent.
Writer/director gets props for coming up with an unconventional script which is basically a two-person play disguised as a movie featuring a couple of misanthropes. But a romantic comedy doesn’t necessarily need to be very original to work. As long as the leads are appealing and have chemistry and they play reasonably agreeable/relatable characters the audience can end up reasonably satisfied. Ryder and Reeves have undeniable appeal and their chemistry works (kind of) but they play such unlikable and dispiriting characters that it becomes an ordeal to spend the movie’s ninety minutes running time with them. As Keanu Reeves’ Frank observes about people: “We’re all tired, trite, trivial, tiresome, tone-deaf narcissists.” And Frank and Lindsay (Ryder) absolutely live up to that description. On top of that the observations that Levin makes them spout aren’t particularly witty or insightful. The movie doesn’t even have the courage to see its set-up to its logical end.
Cut to chase: Watch only if you are a die-hard Keanu Reeves or Winona Ryder fan.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection