What to Watch on Netflix Instant : Edition #19

The Scapegoat ( The Scape goat ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - United Kingdom ]- The Scapegoat (UK, 2012)

John Standing lives a lowkey life as a teacher at a boarding school. At a local pub one day,  he spies someone who looks exactly like him. The other guy, Johnny Spence, spots him too and they decide to sit down for a drink to talk about the strange phenomenon.

John wakes up to find that Johnny has made off with his identity, leaving him his (Johnny’s) belongings. Thoroughly taken aback, John is about to make a clean breast of things, but is entranced by the allure of wealth enough to go along with the charade. But of course, surprises await poor John.
 

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner- Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (US, 1967)

Dr. John Prentice and Joanna “Joey” Drayton are in love and want to get married. This is somewhat of a problem since they are on the opposite sides of the pigmentation spectrum, in a race-divided America. John, older and more worldly than 23 year old impetuous Joanna, insists that they meet her parents and take the next step only after their unreserved acquiescence. Joanna tells him that his concerns are unnecessary since her parents are forward-thinking liberals who believe in equality.

This very interesting film explores our deep-down prejudices – those that remain after we scratch the liberal-looking surface.

Life in a Metro- Life in a Metro (India, 2007)  

This film has a multi-layered cast and an expansive storyline. The many characters in the film are connected by tenuous threads, but the stories are mostly independent, and focus on the many forms of love and the dream of a good life in a bustling metropolitan city.

This lovely film is dirtied by Anurag Basu and features Kaykay Menon, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kangana Ranaut, Nafisa Ali and Dharmendra among others. Life in a Metro also has a fabulous soundtrack.

Full review here.

Duplex- Duplex (US, 2003)

A young handsome couple, very much in love, want to set up cosy house together. So they look for a home, and find one they really like. A minor downside to their dream home is the ancient renter, a not-all-there old lady who has been renting forever and cannot be ousted. The couple bite the bullet and buy the home anyway.

They move in, only to find that the cute,  grandmotherly looking lady is actually the renter from hell.

Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore impress in this family-friendly comedy.

My Piece of The Pie- My Piece of the Pie (“Ma part du gâteau”, France, 2011)

Single mom France loses her job at the local factory in her small town and is forced to go to work in neighboring Paris, in order to provide for her family. She gets a job cleaning for rich, power hungry stock broker Steve. Slowly Steve gets to depending more and more on France, and she gets to subtly influence his character from an arrogant, selfish power broker to something more remotely human.

This film seems like it’s going down the “Pretty Woman” route, but it turns unexpectedly into a film about morality and social integrity. I will say that I saw this film mostly for Gilles Lelouche, but watching lovely Karin Viard steal the show was an unexpected bonus. An interesting watch.

Posted in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2012, bollywood, comedy, drama, english, family-friendly, foreign, french, Hindi movies on Netflix, hollywood, Netflix Recommendations, social issues, UK | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Amit Sahni Ki List (18th July 2014)

Is Vir Das (of Delhi Belly/Revolver Rani fame) finally getting his due?

Das also makes his singing debut in this film with the song “Pyar Hai Ek Kutti Cheez”. Ah! The romance! The poetry! :-)

Posted in 2014, bollywood, comedy, goofy, humor, Previews, quirky | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania
Rating : Average (3/5)

Genre : Romance
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 18 minutes
Director : Shashank Khaitan
Cast : Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Shukla, Ashutosh Rana, Kenny Desi, Gaurav Pandey, Sahil Vaid
Kidwise : PG

Kavya Pratap Singh (Alia Bhatt), bratty girl from Ambala meets equally bratty Delhi munda Rakesh “Humpty” Sharma (Varun Dhawan). Their casual camaraderie leads to pyaar-shyaar, and even though Kavya bids adieu and heads for Ambala to get married to NRI Angad Bedi (TV star Siddharth Shukla), Humpty is set on “winning” her back. So while the first half of the film is light and fluffy, the second half settles into “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” mode, where the girl waits for her Prince Charming to come rescue her from the inevitable.

Now since this is Ambala we get the Punjabi overdose – patialas, patriarchy, Bauji, Beeji, Veerji and a spitfire of a girl who settles into subservience as soon as she sets foot in her parental home – because that’s what good little Indian girls do. Bauji’s (Ashutosh Rana) word is final, and the women just stand by and nod.

Still, I have to say that I quite enjoyed the pre-interval phase. The dialogues and the lingo are impeccable. Alia is superb because she is quite the small-town kudi-from-Punjab in her mannerisms and her accent. Dhawan is no slouch either, and does very well – great acting, emoting and dancing. Even his comic lines are down pat. The songs are cute, energetic and fun, just like in all Johar productions.

Problems occur when the film starts to get into heavy-handed desi patriarchy mode. Truth be told, Karana Johar and Co. have never quite gotten over the DDLJ hangover. This film tries to be modern, but the modernity is limited to Facebook slang. The rest of the film is pretty regressive in it’s tone and follows the DDLJ theme in the predictable second half.

Alia and Varun look cute together, and there are moments in the film where you actually feel for the young couple in love, but those moments are few. Dhawan might have the necessary ingredients to be a Bollywood hero, but he comes up rather short in the looks department. In one scene, Kavya refers to Humpty and his friends as “vanar sena” (the monkey army), and I thought she was spot-on! When the film involves comparisons with a better looking, better built , more intelligent and suave Angad, doltish Humpty pales into the woodwork. Love is blind (in this film it had to be) but HSKD failed to show me why. I should have been rooting for Kavya and Humpty, but I really didn’t care; I’d rather she’d have chucked Humpty and married Angad instead.

If you watch Bollywood films, you might think that Indian women have a thing for stupidity, given how brain-dead the heroes seem to be. That is not true. Dim-witted heroes abound, and Humpty is no exception. He is also more emotional and flies off the handle fairly quickly (in one scene rushes to the scene to beat up goons who eve-tease Kavya) – and that’s apparently seen as a good thing. We are supposed to be amused as Humpty and his friends Shonty (Gaurav Pandey) and Poplu (Sahil Viad) tie up their History professor, and threaten to do worse if he does not award Humpty a passing grade.

When it comes to dim-wittedness, the otherwise sharp Kavya is not far behind. There is an incongrous scene where Kavya, who at this point barely knows Humpty, decides to casually (and innocently) sleep over at his place (Humpty’s accommodating dad has made a quick exit), along with Shonty and Poplu, and this after she’s challenged Humpty to a beer-guzzling contest and had a few herself. I do give Johar’s films a bit of free pass when it comes to realism, but I could not see this happening in India, where news of rape fills the newspapers, and eve-teasing/street-molestation is an everyday occurrence.

The other problem is the whole melodramatic overdose. I mean, theek hai, Indian filmmakers have to harp on the parental/family ties ad nauseum. We are like this only. OK. Done. But here’s a scenario where I wish someone (scriptwriter/director/producer) would grow some brain cells : Princess Kavya has come to Delhi from Ambala vowing to buy a wedding lehenga for 5 lakhs after being rebuffed by wealthy dad and brother. It’s a wedding lehenga, not a fund for starving orphans, but Humpty, his dad, Shonty and Poplu seem to treat it with the same importance, sacrificing to gather the money; poor Kavya might die if she doesn’t get to wear a Manish Malhotra lehenga on her wedding day (sounded like sweet deliverance to me).

In summary, “Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya” tries to convince us that under our shallow, bratty shells, we all are golden-hearted, lovable, emotional fools. I was not convinced of course, although the film is a tolerably mindless, predictable entertainer. Johar & Co. try to meld together modern snazziness with the timeworn and stale DDLJ formula. I say grow up and move on already.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, goofy, masala, rating-PG, romance, watchable | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Bobby Jasoos (2014)

Bobby Jasoos
Rating : Excellent (4.2/5)
Genre : Mystery
Year : 2014
Running time : 1 hour 57 minutes
Director : Samar Shaikh
Cast : Vidya Balan, Ali Fazal, Supriya Pathak, Tanvi Azmi, Rajendra Gupta, Zarina Wahab
Kidwise : PG

The object of movies is to entertain, to enthrall, to mesmerize preferably via a strong story, good direction and believable characters. Such story-based movies in Bollywood are scarce, (especially this year, when one mindless film follows another), so when one like Bobby Jasoos does come along, it is a must-see.

Vidya Balan plays Bilkis Ahmed or Bobby, a feisty young Hyderabadi woman born into a conservative Muslim family. She has little interest in household tasks or feminine frivolities like clothes and make-up, and runs around with one goal in mind – to become a detective. Her unladylike demeanor and her clamor for working outside the home leave her father disgruntled. At 30, almost an old maid according to some, and the butt of jokes, Bobby remains steadfast nevertheless with the support of her loving mother.

Turned away by the only detective in town, Bobby decides to set up shop on her own. The cases when they come are local domestic disputes and altercations and background checks for marriage alliances. Tasawwur (Fazal) is a regular client who comes to her with some of his personal problems.

Bobby is tiring of these small-town shenanigans when one day a plum case literally lands in her lap. A mysterious rich stranger wants a girl found, and all he has to go on is a name and a physical characteristic. Bobby is ecstatic because the fee he is offering is large. She manages to find the girl, and soon the same client wants another girl found. Although gleeful, Bobby now starts to have serious misgivings about her client.

This film starts off slow – think low-key rural drama – but revs up very nicely. Vidya Balan veritably sparkles with energy as vivacious Bobby, who’s sure about her career goals, yet wanting to please her father and be the good daughter. Ali Fazal is also a good fit as Tasawur, the young upwardly mobile whipper-snapper news anchor who wants to break out of Charminar’s narrow lanes and build himself a new life, complete with modern wife. You might remember him from Fukrey, where he unimpressively played Zafar, poetry spewing limp noodle. In this film he is so much better, probably because the role itself is better defined. The easy off-hand camaraderie between Bobby and Tasawwur is quite entertaining to see.

Even the supporting cast is fabulous – Supriya Pathak is Bobby’s doting mom and Tanvi Azmi plays Kausar Khala, Bobby’s match-making aunt. Rajendra Gupta is Bobby’s dour and weary-looking father, and what a wonderful job he does!

Bobby Jasoos is not the usual in-your-face, bombastic entertainer. It is a jolly tale of a single, very determined and resourceful young woman. Bobby has qualities rarely found in most Bollywood heroines – she is strong-minded, intelligent and holds her ground. Exuding an earthy confidence Bobby never doubts her abilities, and has a penchant for speaking her mind pretty truculently. Most importantly she thumbs her nose at society’s rules of honor and “izzat” – a nice change from the wimpy heroines wilting under the disapproving male gaze. I quite liked her.

Bobby Jasoos is well directed. I found it endearing with its realistic characters and story. It does have a tepid predictable ending, but remains an entertaining film and a great watch for the whole family.

Kidwise : Barring some necking, this is classy and clean.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, drama, family-friendly, feel-good, humor, mystery, rating-PG, recommended, women | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Ek Villain (2014)

Ek Villain (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Rating : Poor (1/5)
Genre : Thriller
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 9 minutes
Director : Mohit Suri
Cast : Sidharth Malhotra, Shraddha Kapoor, Reitesh Deshmukh
Kidwise : PG-15

“Ek Villain” looked so good from the trailer that I was fooled into thinking it would be an actual thriller, with a story and believable characters. Since I persuaded a bunch of people (family included) to come with me to see the film, I am currently persona non grata with quite a few folks. Allow me to warn you off this film and prevent you from making the same mistake.

So there’s Guru (Sidharth Malhotra), a killer for hire, who is captured by the police but let go because of lack of evidence. Then there is Ayesha (Shraddha Kapoor), an ever smiling do-gooder of the nausea-inducing variety. Ayesha is a self-sacrificing self-made martyr, who on the slightest whim cracks open her handy diary (she carries this around everywhere) and jots down additions to her to-do list. On this bucket list are lofty aspirations of “saving a life” comingling with other earthy desires like “watching dolphins swim”/”spending time in a butterfly garden” etc. – you get the idea. Shraddha Kapoor with her thin frame, high-pitched voice (it drills straight into your brain) and feigned wide-eyed innocence, only serves to enhance the gratingly annoying quality of Ayesha’s character – like nails on a blackboard.

Ayesha finds Guru in the police station when there on another altruistic mission, and decides that Guru fits the bill for the “saving of life” category. Then on, she clings to him like a limpet. Guru, exhausted from fending her off (I sympathized), decides to help her with her bucket list. Sadly, fate (and a terrible script) intervenes. People start dying off mysteriously, and the film morphs pretty quickly from a lazy romance to a shoddy murder drama.

This film is supposed to be a thriller, but it is so poorly made that the element of “thrill” is laughably absent. There is very little rhyme or reason to the script and storyline, and the characters are sparsely sketched, poorly delineated and miscast. Malhotra as Guru, is hard to swallow as a bad guy, biceps or not. This actor, with his “good guy” face, is going to have a hard time playing negative characters because he does not look the part. Even as a nice guy, he can barely pass muster because of his limited acting skills. In a role which calls for much more anger, aggression and angst, Malhotra fails to deliver. But it’s not all his fault, the character is fairly cardboardish to begin with; we know very little of Guru, or of the way he thinks. Reitesh Deshmukh plays a middle class office worker striving to find his footing at work and home. Even though he doesn’t do too poorly, his character appears silly and not too bright.

Another major problem with this film is the way it depicts the killer’s motives for picking his victims, in that they are all outspoken women, who appear to have talked down to the killer. While the perpetrator is of unsound mind, it is still disconcerting to see how the storyline sort of pushes the blame onto the women, like if only they had not raised their voices and scolded the killer/criticized his work (rightly in some cases) they might have remain unscathed; sounds like subtle victim-blaming to me.

The film veers hither and thither, without much direction. There is one main goal of course – to find and bring the killer to book, but that is long drawn out and extremely ill-plotted. It takes a little more than 2 hours for this film to finish and by that time it almost drains your will to live :-) . This is a not only a bad film, it is a stupid one too. Stupid as in non-scary-stupid-thriller with an inane storyline and doltish characters. Keep away from this hot mess.

Kidwise : Ek Villain gets pretty violent and gory, because the killer’s weapon of choice is a screwdriver and he wields it for maximum effect – all aggressive slashes and sharp-edged body slams. Voluptuous Prachi Desai also appears in a beer bar item number. While this song is not as terrible as some out there, it is still pretty vulgar.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, cringe-worthy, rating-PG15, stinker, thriller | Leave a comment

Har Kisi Ko : Redux

Here’s the classic version – from the 1986 Sridevi – Feroze Khan starrer Janbaaz:

And then there is this remix version, from Boss, Akshay Kumar – Sonakshi Sinha’s latest venture. Boss is apparently forgettable, but the remix is nicely done.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, music, remix | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Her (2013)

HerRating : 3.5/5

I was intrigued when I saw the trailer for Her. What an interesting premise! Isaac Asimov in his books and short stories has written about a society where humanoid robots are ubiquitous and hard to tell apart from humans, so lifelike are they. With the growing “smartness” of our devices, it is not a far stretch to imagine an intuitive, artificially intelligent operating system – a far advanced cousin of the sometimes witty Siri.

This OS gives itself a name, Samantha, and speaks in Scarlett Johansen’s voice. Samantha makes divorced writer Theodore Twonbly (Joaquin Phoenix) very happy because she is smart, efficient and almost like a real person minus the physical presence, filling his lonely hours with lively conversation and humorous suggestions. Everything is good until Samantha starts evolving, and develops cumbersome human-like feelings.

I’m not a big Spike Jonze fan; I didn’t like “Being John Malkovich”. Her, however is kind of a sweet film. It portrays Twombly – he writes beautiful, moving letters for a living (apparently in the slight future, you can earn actual money doing that) – as someone who’s having a hard time coming to terms with his loneliness post-divorce and is still hanging on to memories of his wife, Catherine. Catherine (Rooney Mara) is angry and hurt and hints at the many problems in the relationship. You do sympathise with Catherine, but the film makes you feel for Twombly’s plight in spite of all the negative aspersions cast on his character.

The film itself is very slow, with many scenes where the dialogue appears muted, and others where nothing happens physically – we might watch the character think, or just sit or lie in bed ruminating – Twombly is portrayed as just that kind of person. I can see where you might want the film to pick up, but stories like these are best told at their own pace, with space for contemplation and feeling. Post-watch, as I write this review, I am left with a feeling that it was a beautiful poignant film.

P.S.: What’s with high-waisted pants of the future?

Posted in 2013, directors, hollywood | Leave a comment