Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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Movie Reviews

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

I have slowly been getting in more Bollywood movies. I’ve seen 3-4 more over the last 6 weeks. I’m finding them incredibly entertaining and extremely inspirational, and not just because Shah Rukh Khan and Arjun Rampal are hot men. The movies I’ve seen so far work the emotions like you wouldn’t believe. There’s practically no special effects so they have to actually have a plot. If they’re running out of plot, well, let’s sing and dance! It’s incredible fodder for a writer. The stories are wonderful, even when they’re completely sappy or strain credulity.

I feel I’m still culturally clueless and I find myself wondering about what names signify in these movies — if they do. For example, do Indian surnames indicate ethnicity/caste/class/religion? If so, to what extent does it matter? And what clues and subtext am I missing because I don’t understand the significance of names?

Anyway, I am absolutely loving my exploration of Bollywood films and if you’re a writer looking for different ways to think about story, there’s a goldmine here. Plus some really fun movies.

My Name is Khan

This movie stars Shah Rukh Kahn and is the one that was filmed about 20 miles from my town. The movie is LONG. It’s interesting throughout but the last 45 minutes or more derail and take a stunningly good movie down several notches. But most of this movie is so good I still think everyone should watch it. I tell you I cried like a baby at least twice. Oh my goodness.

Most of the movie takes place in the US and primarily Northern California, though there is a Road Trip later on. Shah Rukh Khan plays a fairly highly-functioning autistic man who falls in love and marries an Indian woman. There’s a tragedy that will break your heart, after which his wife says something unfortunate that Khan takes very literally. This sets him off on his Road Trip. A couple more things happen that will make you cry because all you want is for Khan and his wife to find each other again and wow. Maybe that won’t happen.

Then the movie derails with Khan ending up in some sort of fantasy rural South town being flooded by a hurricane and he saves everyone and the social and racial metaphors are flying so thick all you can do is wish the popcorn had lasted longer while you duck being bludgeoned by THE MESSAGE.

But then everything turns out OK and I cried again.

Total win of a movie. Plus, SRK is hot. There, I said it. It’s true.

Rab Ne Bana di Jodi

This is another Shah Rukh Khan movie. I LOVED this movie. LOVED it even when I totally couldn’t believe the premise. I also secretly wished there had been a slightly different twist but it doesn’t matter. It’s so cute and funny and the singing and dancing is fun fun fun!!

SRK plays a complete nerd who works for Pubjabi Power and he is secretly in love with this woman who is utterly out of his league. Fate conspires to bring them together in a marriage of convenience. He has to pretend he’s not in love and she’s had her heart so thoroughly broken it takes her a while to think about what her life is like now.

She loves to dance and he pays for her to join this dance class/competition where at the end couples will compete for best song and dance. THEN he secretly joins the class as Raj, super hot mechananic and fate intervenes again and they are paired as a dancing couple. As Raj, SRK breaks out of his nerdiness and romances his wife WHO DOES NOT RECOGNIZE her own husband because he has shaved off his mustache. (He keeps a fake one for when he’s his “real” self.)

Here’s the thing: It is actually not completely unbelievable (at first) that she does not recognize him. The physical transformation is astonishing and so is the personality change. The couple is, after all, more or less strangers to each other. At first, this worked for me. But as they get to know each other (as Raj and husband) that failure became less and less believable for me. She really ought to have figured it out.

There’s lots of emotion with the singing and dancing because SRK is romancing his wife as two different people and well, it’s really worth watching. The premise is silly and fun but the sub-text is quite serious and a bit angsty.

Total win of a movie.

Dil Ka Risthta

This movie stars Arjun Rampal and, well, he’s the only reason to watch it. There’s unrequited love, amnesia, a secret baby that is a secret from the mother (I am NOT kidding) and a fake marriage. The theme of fate runs through many Indian movies and that’s the solution to this one.

Basically, the plot is this. Jai (Arjun Rampal) is a wealthy business tycoon who falls deeply in love with the stunningly beautiful Tai (Aishwayra Rai). Seriously, this woman is so beautiful it hurts to look at her. Problem: Tai is madly in love with someone else and none of Jai’s huge “I am Rich as Hell Isn’t This Romantic” stunts do him any good. In fact, he’s a bit stalkerish and she tells him to take a hike and marries the man she loves. They have a wonderful marriage– they’re poor but so happy you could gag — and then a baby! Poor Jai. He can’t stand to see the love of his life so happy, it’s driving him to drink.

Then, one night he’s out drinking with his girl buddy and he drinks and drives and no one is wearing a seat belt. Jai crashes the car, girl buddy goes through the windshield and dies AND the car hits another car and in that car are . . . . Yes. Tai and her beloved husband who dies. I think Jai might get a sexy scar or something.

So, in the hospital, it turns out that Tai has total amnesia and the doctors warn everyone that if anyone tells her about her true past, she will have a brain hemorrhage and die. The solution is for Jai to pretend to be the father of her baby with his dead wife having been Tai’s sister or maybe her best friend, I can’t remember and they all live together in Jai’s fabulous South African mansion with Tai’s mother who has perfected the art of evil glances at Jai, who, after all, is responsible for the destruction of Tai’s happy life.

Jai himself is horrendously guilty. You never saw such pain in your life. There’s singing and dancing and they’re falling in love only he can’t let her know how he feels because, yeah, he killed her husband in the car crash, is pretending he’s the father of her baby, which she doesn’t even know is actually her son, and basically everyone is lying to Tai but especially him.

Then more stuff happens and she remembers her past (no hemmorrhage!) and she forgives Jai because obviously fate intended for them to be together.

The Stare of Evil mom was amazing. Rampal was gorgeous. The movie was terrible. But I might watch it again.

Yakeen

This was another Rampal movie and what stands out in my mind is Arjun Rampal in the shower. I think there was more, but I’m blanking. He was in the shower. OHmygod.

OK, I’m not really blanking out. This was a movie I thought I had all figured out and it turns out I totally did not. Three times. Holy CRAP! This movie had more twists than any Hollywood Noir of the 1950’s, which, clearly, I think was the inspiration. I can’t even begin to describe the twists and turns except to say that there’s amnesia (Yes! More Amnesia!!) and nobody is who you think even when you’re convinced you know.

Total win for the shower scene.

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