Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

I think I have a problem with this: American Sniper

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

I read the book American Sniper shortly after it came out. I have also read several other memoirs of Navy SEALS. Chris Kyle, the author of American Sniper, as you probably know, retired from active service and was later killed by a mentally disturbed man at a shooting range Kyle owned. Now there’s a movie about the book.

FYI: I have now added a paragraph at the bottom to address yet another controversy about this movie.

The controversy I’ve heard around the movie goes like this: Kyle killed people and talked about it. He was callous and unfeeling, and possibly not a very nice person. I have seen comparisons between success of the movie with things that are unrelated that imply that Americans of the sort who would see American Sniper are terrible people. Example, juxtaposing the movie’s successful opening with people who gave Bill Cosby a standing ovation.

Today, after writing a draft of this post, I went to see the movie because, one, I wanted to see it anyway, and two, since I was so bothered by some of the conversation, not seeing the movie would leave my opinions and thoughts less informed than they should be.

The Review Portion

Clint Eastwood is a very good director. There’s no doubt about it. Great material to work with, and yet I often felt that if I’d not read the book, I couldn’t have followed the movie as well. In fact, several times, I thought, oh, right, that’s [some character] from the book, because those roles were not clear to me. Alas, and probably no surprise, Kyle’s wife was sadly one-dimensional. I don’t mean the actress, I mean the screenplay and the directorial decisions. More than once I whispered “eff you.” Because of course the woman is shown as unable to understand the man she married. So, you know, the eff.

More important, I did not see this movie as a glorification of killing or an endorsement of the war in Iraq; at times quite the opposite. One of the strengths of the movie was showing moments of internal conflict and Kyle’s (as he was shown to us on the screen) refusal to acknowledge that even his brothers-in-arms had times of profound doubt.

Frankly, though I enjoyed the movie, and though it made me as sad as ever about war in general, and Iraq in particular, it’s not Eastwood’s best work. It’s a bit uneven and might have been better served by spending slightly less time on shooting and explosions and more on demonstrating the brotherhood of the soldiers. Thus ends the review portion of this post.

On War And the Warrior Trope

Here’s a fact, there are branches of the military, the SEALs being one, that have achieved a mystical standing. By definition, these men are extraordinary. They embody everything we glorify about warriors. I find it odd not to acknowledge the power of that trope and the reality behind it. Spartans. Athenians. Amazons. Roman Gladiators. Alexander The Great. Picts. Scots. The history of humans includes the history of war and warfare. Setting aside issues of the elision of women and minorities from history and warfare, this is us. As humans. We can recognize and admit the power of the warrior trope without also elevating war to heroic status.

Story vs. Truth

The movie represents Kyle at three removes. Kyle, the person, is gone and unable to speak for himself. His memoir is a writing and all writing is a remove from the person who is the writer. More, when there is a co-writer, there is yet another remove. What’s on the page are the words that convey words spoken, not the actual experience.

Writers are tricky people. They understand how and when to manipulate with words. It behooves us all, when we are reading a text, to remember that fact. It’s even more important when the writer of a memoir isn’t the subject of the memoir. And even so we cannot represent or assume the words on the page are equivalent to Kyle. They are a representation of him. And now we have a movie of the book; a representation of a representation.

The Thing that Bothers Me

It bothers me that there seems to be a conflation of Kyle, the movie, and its viewers that suggests that because Kyle killed people for a living that all the viewers of the movie are ascribed bloodthirsty motivations for seeing the movie. Further, suggesting there is some relation between a SEAL sniper doing his job and the alleged actions of Bill Cosby is offensive. How is a soldier doing what his country pays him to do anything like Cosby?

Whatever you may feel about the role the US is playing in the world, we should not be denigrating the men and women who serve in our military nor should we be making sly or not so sly insinuations about the moral worth of members of the military because we might disagree with US politics or decisions to send our military into war. Kyle, personally, did not set US policy. He did not commit crimes.

It is entirely possible for someone to read and see American Sniper while maintaining an ability to separate the actions and culpability of a White House Administration that put our country at war in Iraq under less than truthful circumstances with the actions of the soldiers who were sent to fight.

Bill Cosby is alleged to have committed several crimes. Assaults against women whom he allegedly drugged so that they could not object or consent. It is offensive to me that anyone would conflate the part-of-the-job actions of a member of the US military with actions that are a crime and suggest that viewers of the movie must also support Cosby.

Further, I have read American Sniper and seen the movie. I have not become a bloodthirsty, jackbooted conservative. Nor would I have given Bill Cosby a standing ovation. But then, I would also never have gone to see Cosby, knowing the allegations against him. I can deplore that the US went to war in Iraq at the same time that I support the women and men who are sent to fight on our behalves.

Idiots are Not an Excuse

Just now I saw tweets about the movie in which someone screen-capped several tweets in which people who saw the movie said they now hated Iraqis and want to kill “them” where “them” was a racial epithet. That tweet said with full ironic sarcasm: “It’s just a movie.”

Kyle was killed by an American, after his service was over. Not an Iraqi. Should the movie not have been made because there are idiots out there incapable of seeing the tragic irony of that? What should we do, give a test before the movie and refuse to admit people who we feel lack critical thinking abilities?

It is equally possible to see this movie and think, as I did, no wonder they hate us. Yes. That’s right. It’s not just a movie. The problem isn’t the movie. The problem lies in the hearts of minds of the people who see the movie.

Share

Movie Review: Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

One Girl. Three Guys. Too Much Plaid

This is Rampal’s second movie, but the one that actually showed first, so this one also introduces Arjun Rampal.

How to summarize the plot. Well. It’s so crazy ass it almost works. Isha (Kirta Reddy) wins a scholarship to study cardiology in Glasgow. The sponsor of the scholarship, Yash (Sunil Shetty) falls for her the instant he sees her. Later, she meets this other guy, Taj (Aftab Shivdasani) who doesn’t seem to love her but I guess really does. There’s also Gaurav (Arjun Rampal) who also falls in love with her.

Yash is dirty stinking rich, and Taj is the son of a man who is stinking rich. Gaurav is poor.

The movie is about who she ends up with, with a very strong theme of why girls should pick their own damn husbands.

And The Object of Doom is . . . .

The Object of Doom (OOD) is the cursed item in a Rampal movie that when you see it you go WTF?? Wardrobe gives the OOD to Rampal because he’s the only man alive who could survive the curse. In other movies it’s been a hat, a white belt and a blue suit.

At first I thought the OOD was the shirt Rampal is wearing for his first dance scene because, wow, it’s just not a great shirt. But he has such a charming smile, I wasn’t sure. If the shirt, which I think was a Hawaiian shirt, had only been a little uglier Rampal would have been utterly adorable. Instead, he’s just insanely cute. That’s the secret power of Hawaiian shirts, as every American knows. However, it turns out that in this film, the OOD is plaid and it was NOT given to Rampal. The result is tragic. Someone in wardrobe effed up badly.

Let me try to explain. Taj and his family live in Scotland. His father is is Lord Bharadwaj and they live in a castle. I was down with that. I figured he was a life Peer, or just newly ennobled. For my historical fans, Lord Bharadwaj is variously addressed (in English, so it’s not a subtitle translation problem) as: Lord. Lordship. The Lord, and other inaccurate stuff but, interestingly, never Laird. Because he’s a Scottish lord, Lord B wears plaid. A different pattern of plaid every day. (Scottish plaids, as you know, are clan specific.) He wears, plaid jackets, entire plaid suits, scarves and plaid pants. OMG.

I have NEVER seen such a horrific abuse of plaid in my life. And, when we first meet Lord B, he’s wearing red plaid and shooting skeet and right there on the lawn is a white guy with long blond hair (possibly an actual Scot) in the old style plaid where ALL you’re wearing is the plaid cloth wound around the torso etc, only his is blue plaid. Also blue-plaid man is sitting on a white horse. Bareback (Not THAT bareback). Because, what Scottish Lord DOESN’T have a Scottish guy on a white horse on his front lawn?

Also, at one point, just as an aside, I recognized the interior of the castle, because I have been there, and it was Stirling Castle. (The residence of the Dukes of Argyll) So, Lord B, who is a Scot (I presume) but who is also Indian, has apparently left the decor of his house intact from the previous owner, so all the portraits in the background of any interior castle shot (there are lots) are white men in powdered wigs and frock coats.
Some of the outside castle shots were NOT Stirling Castle. It was a castle-melange.

The Medical Student does no studenting

Anyway, you figure Isha is wicked smart, seeing as how she’s studying heart disease and angioplasty and won this scholarship. But she’s never actually in a hospital, only in classrooms with chalk pictures of a heart with the label “AORTA” next to it. So here she is at the University of Glasgow studying heart anatomy and then everyone goes to Switzerland to party.

The REAL Plot

Yosh (filthy stinking rich guy), having falling in love at first sight, calls Isha’s folks and arranges a marriage. Isha, however, has other ideas about marrying a stranger, because, what about HER life? She lets him down easy but Yosh does not take it well. He hires Rampal to do something or other, I was never really clear on what, that is to result in Isha agreeing to marry Yosh. The payout is 1.45 million pounds. Meanwhile, Isha is studying hearts, staying with Lord B, and Taj (Lord B’s son) is all, hey, we’re friends, that’s all!

Before this, Rampal is a model who never shows up for any of his bookings, to the despair of his agent (a woman) who is in love with him. Rampal quits modeling and goes to Scotland to make a cool million and almost-a-half. His agent follows, continuing to make bookings for which Rampal does not show up. So, of course, Taj steps in and is a HUGE success.

Let me share this, because, well, lookit:

So, anyway, Rampal puts his evil plan into play, and he and Isha fall in love in the Alps. Yosh gets wind of this and is plenty mad so he goes to Scotland to get revenge and smoke cigars. Only, Rampal’s evil plan plays out, and it works. Next thing you know, Isha and Yosh are an item. The plan actually IS evil and for a while I was not very much in charity with Rampal’s character. Rampal, who is not entirely happy with the outcome, takes his check to the bank where Taj just happens to be the boss, and the evil plan is uncovered.

Taj is suddenly madly in love with Isha and so Lord B calls her folks and arranges a marriage. I think Isha at this point has two prospective husbands. Then wild shit happens and Isha tells Lord B and her folks to please pick who she should marry because they know what’s best for her. They pick Taj. Then she sees Rampal give Yosh back his money. Lord B accuses Rampal of blackmailing Isha– which is actually the one evil thing he didn’t do –and then everyone agrees she should marry Rampal (because, yeah!) Arjun Rampal!

Yosh decides to marry an annoyingily perky friend of Isha’s and Taj decides to marry Rampal’s agent. The End.

Reasons to watch this movie

The relationships and the way they develop, fall apart and are re-made are really interesting. Rampal’s redemption is … I’m still working on that. But I think he redeemed himself. There’s also a Rampal-only song which is mostly him showing his (real life) modeling chops (see below) and that in itself is worth the whole movie.

There’s also a shower scene and several gratuitous scenes of a shirtless Rampal. (Thank you!) Also, Scotland, Switzerland, the Alps and Stirling Castle. The first song is catchy with interesting choreography. There’s a sort of disturbing song with Yosh and a sort of pretend-Isha, but his clothes in this song are totally a reason to watch. Gorgeous. Some of the other song and dances were, alas, poorly choreographed and, well, one of the women had 1) the ugliest shoes ever and 2) no ability to dance in the way she was asked to dance. Rampal has very good control of his body so he’s fun to watch move. Also, he totally rocks the heat.

In the last third of this movie, it’s as if Rampal went and got acting lessons. He’s all angsty and heartbroken, and he totally steals the movie. I swear, you think he’s going to come right through the screen and grab you by the shirt, stare into your eyes and cry out, “My God, the PAIN! I LOVE her!!!! And I can’t have her.” If I knew more about movies and acting, I might be able to say why that is.

Reasons NOT to watch this Movie

In this movie, Rampal is mostly pretty good. The scenes where he had a lot of dialogue didn’t go so well for him because, well, he wasn’t playing off the others. Some bad dancing not by Rampal. Bizarre plot twists.

The take away

A qualified win. But it’s interesting.

Share

Movie Review: RA.One

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

I didn’t think I’d be able to see the Bollywood SciFi/Adventure movie RA.One until it was out on DVD, but it was showing in a town about a hour away so my sister and I went. W00t!

The movie stars Shahrukh Kahn, Karina Kapoor and Arjun Rampal and would be a win even if those three were all the movie had going for it. But it’s not. This movie was loads of fun.

As most of you know I am a major action movie fan and this movie had tons of action. Shahrukh plays Shekhar, a video game programmer who wants to impress his young son, Prateek, who does not have much use for heroes. What he wants is a game with an unbeatable villain. Thus are RA.One (Rampal) and G.One born: an unbeatable villain (RA.One) linked to the hero (G.One) by dohickies that plug in about where their hearts would be. The programming is so so awesome that inside the game, RA.One achieves sentience. G.One, by the way, has been programmed with Shekhar’s personality, love of aphorisms, and a belief in our inherent goodness.

RA.One leaves the world of the video game for the real world and embarks on the search for revenge against Prateek, who has beaten him in the penultimate level of the game. RA.One kills Shekhar who admits to being Prateek in the hope that RA.One will stop going after his son. It is, of course, the ultimate sacrifice. Through a series of events, Prateek realizes that RA.One is alive and after him. He’s able to bring G.One out of the game in the hope of saving everyone’s life. Through much exciting fighting, chasing, more fighting and with a break for some almost romance between G.One and Shekar’s widow (Kapoor) and then a train exploding through a train station, RA.One and G.One face off in a battle to the end. As you might imagine, good wins over evil, but it’s bittersweet. . . until we see that G.One has been brought back. . . (Sequel Bait!)

Special Effects and Action

Total win. The FX did not take the place of the plot and they were also colorful and extremely effective. RA.One’s non-human appearance was scary. This movie is visually fun. Here is my favorite visual of the film:
Oh, come on. What did you think it would be?

Because, the minute Rampal was on the screen? Good Lord. The movie cranks up several notches because Rampal 1) is too gorgeous to believe and 2) totally rocks the villain. The fight choreography was decent to really good. The chase sequences great. There was good wire work. Since the characters in these scenes were superheros/supervillians, there was inhuman and gravity defying running, jumping, leaping and other feats of athleticism. There were homages/tips of the hat to: Terminator, Speed, Iron Man, Superman, Spiderman. This was special effects as they ought to be done: enriching the movie, not taking over it.

My obversations

There were several cameos most of which went right over my head, except once when I could at least tell the person was a Big Deal. I just didn’t know who the Big Deal person was. Which is only my ignorance in play.

There was a lot of humor, some of the wry, some of it just flat out hilarious.

The movie is long, but I’m now used to that. There wasn’t a bunch of backstory, it was just a lot of story being told. The singing and dancing was fun. SRK is at his most appealing in these scenes. The romance between Shekhar and his wife Sophia was touching and quite sexy. The building relationship between G.One and Sophia was also sweet and sexy. SRK was adorable in these scenes. SRK is both powerfully adorable and stand up and cheer for him heroic. I very much appreciated that Sophia was brought into the action scenes. She didn’t just stand around and scream.

Arjun Rampal

My one complaint is that he did not appear in the movie until quite late. His voice, did, though and I stand by my claim that he has one of the sexiest voices around. The RA.One character previous to Rampal’s scenes (as RA.One) has taken on the physical appearance of another man who was quite good, but not Rampal. However, it made sense. Once RA.One took on Rampal’s appearance there were plenty of scenes like these:

Mostly I was in awe. Rampal was a scary MoFo with some wonderful backdrops and other framing shots instead of blood and guts to prove it. Thank you. Also a thank you to wardrobe for losing his shirt. Next time, try to lose SRK’s shirt, too.

The Take Away

Total win. This was a fun movie and Rampal was scary and gorgeous. I’m so glad I got to see this movie in the theater.

Share

Movie Review: I See You

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

I See You clocks in at just barely over 2 hours, so it’s one of the shorter Bolllywood films I’ve seem.

This movie had great production values and a talented cast. I can’t say as much about the script because parts of this story descended into Three Stooges-eque farce. The main story, however, is intensely romantic. I watched this movie with my sister and at the end we both went, ohhhhhhh because it was just so sweet.

Rampal plays Raj Jaiswal, an Indian living in London who stars in a TV talk-show-ish thingee called British Raj. I really enjoyed the humor of the show title because 1) It’s funny and ironic and 2) It’s the only humor that wasn’t slapstick.

The Romance

Raj is a player. He loves women, women love him and he’s loving his single life. His hot date with a co-star is ruined when discovers a strange woman in his apartment. He learns, however, that only he can see and touch her. In fact, she is the spirit of a woman, a physician, who is in a coma. The romance of this movie involves Raj discovering why and how her life is in danger and figuring out how to stop the bad guys from killing her physical body. Without realizing what’s happening to him, Raj falls in love with this spirit. The end is just lovely. Complete and utter win.

The Comedy

Oh, Lord, where to start. Most of the comedy was just . . . dumb and a writing fail. The series of events that grounded (I use that term VERY loosely) the comic events just didn’t make sense. They weren’t remotely based in reality and most effective comedy has at least a kernel of plausibility. It’s like Beavis and Butthead were sitting a room stoned out of their minds making up shit that could happen in this movie they wanted make. It was Benny Hill level humor. Nurses in tight outfits. Doctors who just happen to have private ambulances at their disposal, comatose women stolen out of the hospital and parked in an apartment. Anyway. Fail.

The Takeaway

I’m tempted to watch this movie again, only I’d fast-forward through the stupid parts and only watch the romance, which was just lovely. Especially the ending. Which probably won’t be what you think.

Share

Movie Review: Om Shanti Om

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Shah Rukh Khan

This movie stars Shah Ruhk Khan and Arjun Rampal so it’s a double win, not the least because SRK is ripped in this movie. Also, my copy of the movie came with a poster of SRK that shows off all the hard work he did to get that six pack. ::swoon:: Did I mention to poster is SIGNED? Well, it is.

As with many Bollywood movies, there’s LOADS of backstory here, to the point where there are really two different movies. I’m getting used to this as it is a different take on story. In many cases, I think, the amount of backstory included considerably weakens the main story. Not in this case. This is a movie about reincarnation and the first part of the movie tells the initial love story and its tragic ending. The second half, as you might imagine, is the story of the reincarnated characters and eventual justice.

SRK plays bit-part actor Om Prakash who is hopelessly in love with leading actress, Shantipriya (Deepika Padukone). Om doesn’t have a chance with her, but he loves her madly anyway. It turns out that Shantipriya is secretly married to a producer Mukesh Mehra (Arjun Rampal). Mehra is not a nice man. Not at all. He’s deliciously played by Rampal. During filming of a movie in which Shanti stars and Om (comically overplays) his bit part, Om saves Shanti from dying in a fire and the two begin a charming, lovely friendship. It’s really well done.

Even after Om learns of Shanti’s marriage to Mehra, his love remains steadfast. Mehra arranges for Shanti to die in a fire and it’s an evil, evil, evil plan. Evil. And he succeeds. Om tries to save her and cannot. Indeed, he later dies in the hospital. The night of his death, he is reincarnated as Om Kapoor, the son of a famous Indian actor and, as the second half of the movie begins, he is 30 years old and a famous actor in his own right. He has a well known fear of fire.

It’s been 30 years since Shanti’s death, but her evil husband, Mehra is still alive and has been successful in Hollywood. He’s back in India and wants to make a movie with Om Kapoor. Om slowly recalls his previous life and how Mehra murdered Shanti. Om is out for revenge. And he gets it.

This movie was really really good. The ending was Hollywood Noir and extremely well done. There’s a surprising twist toward the end that really brings home how evil Mehra is.

The Take Aaway

Total win. Watch it. The title song, Om Shanti Om, is loads of fun. Great singing and dancing. Also as the credits run there’s some fun stuff to watch.

Share

Movie Review: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

What? No Arjun Rampal?

Sorry, no. But you get Shah Rukh Khan and he is pretty darn awesome.

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai


This movie was two, two movies in one. The first half is the absolute silliest most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in a while. It’s 10 years or so before the main story and everyone is in college and they’re wearing these WTF outfits and acting like they’re in Welcome Back Kotter, I swear to God. There’s a whole trainwreck sub-plot theme that suggests it’s just fine to harass women — they like it! It makes them hot!

Oh Lord, I wasn’t sure I could survive it other than the whole rubber necking thing. But the singing and dancing was GREAT and that helped a lot. Plus SRK is smoking hot.

Anyway, Rahul (SRK) is best buds with Anjali, this girl in college — really truly best buds, only she realizes she’s in love with him and he does not get it even a bit. Instead he falls for this hot babe and they get married and are happy and have a daughter while Anjali leaves and, we presume, goes on with her lonely life . . .

Back to the Future

Rahul’s wife has died and his 8 year old daughter, also named Anjali (NOT a coincidence!) through letters left by her mother now has the task of finding his best college buddy Anjali. At this point, the movie turns amazing. It’s really good, if a bit contrived but who cares! Rahul and Anjali have astonishing chemistry and did I mention SRK is smoking hot? It’s just so sweet and she almost marries the wrong man and and wow.

The Take Away

The power of the performances and the romance in the 2nd half of this movie completely make up for the ridiculous beginning.

My vote for best caress ever in a movie. If you love romance in movies, this scene is amazingly hot and sexy.

Highly recommended.

Share

Movie Review: Moksha

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Moksha (Salvation)

This appears to be Rampal’s first movie, since the credits say “Introducing Arjun Rampal” and he is surprisingly good in it considering some massive story problems. It’s not a half bad movie actually.

But I must warn you — maybe warn isn’t the right word. Someone involved with this movie has a water fetish that involves Arjun Rampal and to that person, I give a heartfelt thank you.

Arjun Rampal


We get Arjun Rampal frolicking in all kinds of water. Rainwater, ocean spray, waves, underwater, waterfalls, rivers, fake perspiration, an oasis.

At least twice he is shirtless! and for some time he is wearing a shirt that is mostly rags. There is a very very strange dream sequence when he pees his pants. I am not kidding. Some of the water frolicking is in Rampal-worshipping slo-mo so again, thank you, you twisted freak whoever you are.

I envy the person who had the job of spritzing Rampal with water whenever they needed more fake sweat which was a lot. This movie was beautifully filmed. Really. Especially when the shots involved Rampal. There were lots. With water and hair flips and beads of water running down his perfect face and taut muscles and …..

Right, I’m back.

Was there a Plot?

Well, yes, I guess so. But I didn’t like it much. Rampal is a lawyer who doesn’t practice law because it’s all corrupt and no one will help the wrongly accused poor people. He lives at home with his racehorse training father and seems to have an entire suite of rooms for his own use that is at least as big as a regular house. He does some horse training I think, but he doesn’t actually have a job.

This stalker girl walks up to him and tells him she loves him and he, wisely, manages a weak smile and backs slowly away from the crazy girl. Only, it turns out she’s the love of his life after all and they agree that they will mutually support each other no matter what and if they don’t the punishment is death. But they don’t get married.

Then he wants to start this legal aid society in order to defend innocent poor people but that takes money which he does not have and he is unable to convince anyone one to donate to an endowment. So he gets the brilliant idea that he will rob a bank to fund his Legal Aid Society. Genius! And it’s all OK because he’s doing it for the innocent poor people. Stalker girl, however, is unconvinced his plan is a good idea and tries to talk him out of it. This, he points out, is in violation of their mutual support agreement and you know what that means, right? (He might, possibly, be crazier than Stalker girl.)

On the morning of the big heist he gets to the bank only to find the place swarming with armed guards. Someone, a female someone, has called in a warning. The bank heist cannot take place as planned.

The next thing you know Stalker girl is dead and he’s defending himself in his murder trial. He gets off, believe it or not, and then we learn that he did kill stalker girl because she betrayed their pact only THEN he finds out it wasn’t her that called in the tip — she did not betray their pact and he is really really sad. The end.

Seriously.

The Take Away

This is an Arjun Rampal water fetish film. Watch it.

Share

Movie Review: Asambhav

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

This is a thriller, action-adventure movie straight out of the 1960’s but made in the 2000’s I believe. The screenwriter watched Rambo and the original Casino Royale back-to-back one too many times.

Asambhav


The movie starts out just like my favorite Jet Li movie ever, Bodyguard from Bejing, where superhero bodyguard Jet Li is single handedly wiping the floor with a series of bad guys only, as we find out at the thrilling conclusion of the opening sequence, it was all a training run and Jet is in trouble for his unorthodox methods of saving the subject.

Just like Captain Adit Arya (Rampal)! He’s in some paratrooper outfit which never quite made sense. For US viewers the obvious comparison is that Adit is basically a US Navy SEAL, only Indian and without the teamwork. Later on there is a fairly awesome shot of Rampal in a wetsuit. He single-handedly wipes out an enemy encampment and there’s awesome military-fu and vine swinging and explosions and at the end of the opening it’s all a training exercise.

Then Kashmiri separatists/Al Qaeda Terrorists kidnap the present of India and hold him and his home from Harvard for the summer knock-out of a daughter hostage on a posh and isolated Italian island Resort. I’ve seen elsewhere that they’re in Switzerland not Italy, but whatever.

Captain Adit Arya to the rescue! By himself but for a single sidekick who stands in for comic relief except when not and a beautiful Indian singer who ends up joining the gang because she’s being framed for drug smuggling. His mission is to pretend to be a journalist interviewing the Indian President and the beautiful Indian singer is posing as the photographer and then . . . uh . . . he does stuff . . . it’s never quite clear and I never understood why the Indian Army wouldn’t send in a team of SEALS elite paratroopers to take out the terrorists and rescue the President.

Intead, Adit is undercover and there’s this weird stuff going on with the Indian Embassy in Italy/Switzerland and some idiot puts Rampal in a cheap suit with what is obviously the White Belt of Doom and he has to pretend to an Indian Mobster that he can sing and dance and guess what! He can! Awesome. Only the belt is horrible. Honestly. What straight man under the age of 70 wears a white belt? Answer: not one single one. Obviously, the belt is a curse of some sort.

I am beginning to think every low-budget Indian film has a cursed item that someone has to wear and, as usual, they give the Item of Doom to Rampal because no one else could survive the curse.

Anyway, there’s all this undercover stuff that lasts days and how do we rescue the President of India from terrorists/Kashmiri separatists I’m-only-a-reporter-fu and some pretty lame fight scenes but we get Rampal in a wetsuit so that was good.

The Take Away

Production values are low and the special effects budget was minimal. The martial arts choreography left something to be desired. The plot will make your brain hurt. I recommend not thinking about it. The only reason to see this movie is Rampal.

Share

Movie Review: We Are Family

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

We are Family

This movie, which stars Arjun Rampal as the recently divorced Aman, is based on the US movie, Stepmom. Having never seen Stepmom, I can’t comment on how it compares to the original.

Anyway, Aman is a photographer who is amicably divorced from Maya. They have three children ranging in age from 6 to 13. The children stay with their mother. Aman is a devoted dad. Maya appears to be a stay-at-home mom who is a bit over-protective and, yes, a perfect mother.

Aman has met someone else whom he loves, fashion designer Shreya. Aman introduces her to his ex and his children and it does not go well. You wouldn’t expect the older kids to take it well and they didn’t. I was surprised by how un-nice Maya was about it and in particular that she actively participated in and encourages her older children in speaking badly about Shreya. Shreya has no experience with children and pre-teens and she’s getting sabotaged by the kids, particularly the eldest daughter, and Maya. Tough times. They get even tougher when Aman caves in to Maya’s insistence that Shreya not be around her kids ever.

Maya gets diagnosed with cancer and Aman is there to support her. She’s not responding well to the treatment, and Aman tells Shreya that he’s moving back with Maya. He’s doing it for the kids. What he does not do is tell Shreya that he still loves her, but they are not happy apart. And yet, there is this strong hint (touching hands!) that Aman is having sex with Maya. Maybe. Hard to say. There’s no scene where Aman has a separate bedroom. Maya’s condition gets worse and basically, she asks Shreya to move into the house and be ready to take her place when she dies.

So, there’s Aman living with two women, his ex-wife and his ex(?)-girlfriend and the movie never really addresses the issue of who loves who (or in what way) and who’s sleeping (or not) with who. Shreya continues to have a hard time because Maya continues to allow the children to act-out and to also actively sabotage Shreya with Aman and it’s all a little odd. Maya is dying and it’s really sad and Shreya is trying to cope with all the petty little hates and her love for Aman and Aman, I have to agree, is in a hard place because he’s a decent man doing a very decent thing in support of Maya and his kids, who are, after all, losing their mother.

Then Maya asks Shreya to remind her eldest daughter on the occasion of her future marriage that her mother loved her and it’s really sad and then it’s a few years later at the daughter’s marriage and you can see that Aman and Shreya and the kids are fine and that they have never forgotten their mother.

The take Away

This was a well done movie with great production values. Rampal is really really good in it and so are the two women. But I just don’t understand the failure to clarify the relationships between Aman, Maya and Shreya. It’s … odd … to think that he might be sleeping with them both and unsettling to think he would be sleeping with Maya only, when it’s Shreya he loves. Is he getting any? Is he having pity sex with Maya?

What does any of that say about the role of women? Is Shreya just supposed to shut up and watch the man she loves have sex within the “marriage” he’s returned to? Would she really be OK with him doing them both? Or is he silently suffering and not having sex with anyone while he waits until it might be appropriate to pick up with Shreya when things are less of an emotional disaster for everyone? But THERE WAS THAT WHOLE HAND HOLDING THING between Aman and Maya and only one bed and no sign ever that he was sleeping on the couch or whatever.

Still, it was a good movie. High marks.

Share

Movie Review: EMI

Monday, September 5th, 2011

My Bollywood adventures continue. I am so completely loving this!

EMI: Liya Hai to Chukana Padega

Once again, the structure of this movie is quite different from what I’m used to. I think, however, that there’s a LOT I missed because the title wasn’t explained anywhere. Also, parts of this movie struck me as silly and disjointed.

But not this: Arjun Rampal

This movie follows four separate stories involving people who take out loans and are, for various reasons, unable to pay them back. The Good Luck Recovery Agency is an outfit that, as you might guess, is in charge of securing payment on the delinquent loans. The story of the owner of the agency ties back and resolves the other four stories. It’s almost like watching five different movies with a magic wand at the end.

At first I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out what the Good Luck Recovery Agency had to do with anything aside from comic relief, and fairly ridiculous comic relief at that. It was like watching the comic relief in a Hong Kong martial arts movie: completely unsophisticated and very boy-driven humor. In other words, the humor, while it was obvious it was supposed to be funny, wasn’t very funny to me. In the way that so many women fail to find the Three Stooges very funny.

But those four stories, which are woven into the beginning of the movie without reference, yet, to the Good Luck Recovery Agency, ranged from meh to interesting to funny to heart-breakingly sweet.

Arjun Rampal plays a man who intends to “borrow until he dies.” He was hilarious in this part. And gorgeous, of course. His story line was a favorite of mine because he was just so good. His comedic timing was wonderful. Then he meets the woman of his dreams . . . just as his financial house of cards is collapsing. She dumps him because she expects to be taken care of in style. Alas, he wears the dorkiest hat ever (Why? For the love of God, why?)

I can just imagine the conversation in costume:

“Hey, here’s a hat someone needs to wear.”
“Whoever wears that hat is going to look like a doof.”
“Yeah. That hat is going to kill someone’s career.”
“Better give it to Arjun. No one else can survive the hat of doom.”
“Hey, Arjun! Wear this hat, k?”

Only his major hotness saves him from looking like a doof.

Another of the story lines involved a father who borrows money to support his rather spoiled son’s dreams. This story line was sweet and tender and I teared up several times. You could see the looming financial disaster and oh, my. Even if this were the only decent part of the movie, I’d give this a recommend. It was just so beautifully acted, particularly by the father.

There’s a young couple that borrows so they can marry and go on a honeymoon. For me, this was the least compelling of the stories.

A woman’s husband commits suicide and leaves her with a daughter to support. She can’t get the insurance to payout and she borrows money in order to pay off certain nefarious persons who are supposed to provide evidence that her husband was murdered. Even though this was one of the more emotional stories with some really fine acting on the part of the widow, I had the most trouble with this story. In the West, what she’s doing would be fraud and she’d go to jail for it. So I think I’m missing some cultural context.

Sattar’s story wraps up all the others. He’s a self-made man of humble origins who now employs over 400 people via The Good Luck Recovery Agency. From what I could tell the agency is essentially an extortion racket ala the Mafia, only on behalf of a bank for at least some clients. But now Sattar wants into politics and he is advised to do some good deeds. Initially, he struggles with the concept of doing good. Isn’t employing 400 people good enough?

Then Sattar meets the widow and his story turns into one of the most touching romances I’ve seen in quite some time. He’s smitten from the very moment he sees her. Arjun Rampal’s character agrees to bring them together and plays a sort of Henry Higgans to Sattar’s Eliza Doolittle. And then he has dinner with the widow and he’s just so in love, you can’t help but root for him and he pulls it off. He really does.

Sattar-in-love becomes the solution to everyone else’s financial troubles in a Deus ex Machina way that was silly but whatever. Then there’s a big PSA at the end about the evils of borrowing money and living beyond one’s means.

The Take Away

For me this started out as a jumbled mess of a movie that came together quite late but completely won me over on the strength of 3 of the stories. The romance is wonderful and Arjun Rampal and others turn in some truly excellent performances.

Thumbs up.

Share