What To Watch On Netflix Instant : Edition #21

In A World...- In a World (UK, 2013)

Carol Solomon is a vocal coach who’s constantly being told by her father that she is not good enough for her chosen field, that she should leave the big jobs to the big boys. He himself is a successful voice-over artist but makes no attempt to help her, or even just be supportive. Then when Carol finds new opportunities, she is pleasantly surprised.

I liked this film, because I liked Lake Bell’s character here. This movie is a Sundance winner, but besides that it is moving and likable and earnest. It is also written and directed by Bell, so kudos to her. This may not be the slickest, smartest film you’ve ever seen, but it is a good one.

Swades - We The People (2004) (Shahrukh Khan / Hindi Film / Bollywood Movie / Indian Cinema DVD)- Swades (India, 2004)

I’ve seen this film so many times, and I love it each time. Swades is about a young NASA engineer, who comes to India on what he thinks will be a short trip, because he has to take care of this one thing. As it happens, that one thing burgeons into so many others.

Swades stars Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan, and this has to be his finest performances ever. The film itself is honest and moving, and asks many questions without hiding behind jingoistic patriotism. Plus it has a fantastic soundtrack and background score by Oscar winner A.R. Rehman.

Full review here.

The Last Days- The Last Days (“Los Ultimos Dias”, Spain, 2013)

This is a post-apocalyptic film, where we look at life after the event. The event in this case is a massive, unexplained agoraphobia, causing all of humanity to hide inside buildings afraid to venture out in the open. Our software programmer protagonist Marc must fight to find his missing fiancee amid all the chaos.

This was a superb, atmospheric film. It was tense, suspenseful, studded with those moments where there are lots of dark places; you know that there are things hiding in those dark places. And the hero has like, one match. Which goes out.

This isn’t horror though, nor is it (very) bloody or gory.

Unfinished Sky- Unfinished Sky (Australia, 2008)

Australian Outback farmer John Woldring  comes across a woman who speaks little English. She seems rather worse for wear and is obviously fleeing from something. John is a loner, and naturally gruff and taciturn. The fact that they don’t speak a common language is making it harder to understand what she needs to say.

This film is part romance, part thriller. I’d just randomly added it to my watch-list because the story sounded intriguing. Suffice it to say that it exceeded all my expectations – a great watch.

The Contender- The Contender (USA, 2000)

Vice-Presidential candidate Laine Hanson is not the most liked person in Washington. She’s offended people by being the most suitable person for the job, when they already had the ideal candidate in mind. So the nay-sayers go on a modern day witch-hunt, looking for something in her past which will dethrone her from the President’s good graces, and force him to reconsider her candidature. What they find is something so lurid, it leaves the country reeling.

Joan Allen shines in this film; she is the very epitome of grace and dignity. A remarkable film about women and sexism in politics.

Posted in 2000, 2008, 2013, All Netflix, bollywood, drama, english, film festival, foreign, Hindi movies on Netflix, hollywood, mini-reviews, Netflix Recommendations, politics, post-apocalyptic, romance, spanish, suspense, thriller, UK, women | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Mary Kom (2014)

Mary Kom DVD - 2014 Bollywood Movie DVD With Subtitles Region FreeRating : Good (3.3/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 2 minutes
Director : Omung Kumar
Cast : Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumaar, Sunil Thapa

Going in to see this move, I had my expectations set. This is a bio-pic and Priyanka Chopra stars. She does a great job in the lead role, and the movie is a good watch.

As you’ll probably know the film is about Indian female boxer Mary Kom, or “Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom”. We see Mary as a short-tempered school-going youngster, who’s got no trouble letting loose with her fists. She gets beaten up pretty soundly in the bargain, but that doesn’t deter her. When one day she comes across a boxing gym, and is exhorted by a teacher there to learn to fight properly, Mary has finally found her dream.

The path to her dream, though, is hard, and struggle filled. Her father thinks her penchant for boxing unnatural and is unsupportive. Mary struggles on, and wins many laurels. Then comes marriage and motherhood which completely yank her off her chosen career-path. Now boxing is but a distant mirage.

I liked this film, because honestly, how can you not like a film with such a gutsy protagonist? Priyanka is quite fabulous as Mary, and she looks very fit, every inch the boxer. I’d read criticism of the film where it was opined that a North-eastern actress should have been chosen to play Mary. While that might have its merits, I do think that choosing Priyanka to play the lead here made sense, because it gives the film a wide commercial appeal. India creates few true world champions (and why that is, is a different discussion), and even fewer films are made on the lives of those athletes. When the films are made though, we want to make sure they draw good crowds, so more folks know of the greatness of these sportsmen/women.

Darshan Kumaar plays Onler Kom, Mary’s supportive husband. It was heartening and moving to see the unstinting way he supports his wife. The rest of the supporting cast is also pretty good. I’m not too impressed with the choppy direction though. This is Omung Kumar’s first film as a director so there is hope. The songs are just about average.

Still, I’m recommending Mary Kom, to those of you who’d like to see a film which makes sense and spreads a good, positive message. This one is well worth your time.

Kidwise : This is a film about boxing, so lots of (violent) boxing bouts are present. Other than that, this is a pretty kid-safe movie.

Posted in 2014, bio-pic, bollywood, family-friendly, rating-G, sports, women | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Kill Dil (November 14th, 2014)

Hold your horses people – this is not a sequel to Kill Bill :-). This is a very inventively named movie starring Ranveer singh, Parineeti Chopra, Govinda and Ali Zafar. The only saving grace here appears to be director Shaad Ali, who’s had a pretty decent track record. I loved Saathiya, and liked “Bunty aur Babli” and “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom”.

Kill / Dil comes from Yash Raj Films; the dialogs are already making me a little queasy. Ranveer Singh appears in yet another “young gun” role. Parineeti speaks the most atrocious Punjabi, for a Punjabi kudi, that is. This one sounds like a hit.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, crime, Previews | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : The Shaukeens (November 7th, 2014)

This is a film I might regret showcasing here. I do it because director Abhishek Sharma (he also directed “Tere bin Laden”) shows promise, and because this appears to be a spinoff of the 1982 Rati Agnihotri starrer “Shaukeen”. The original Shaukeen was a Basu Chatterjee film and was a story of 3 “tharki” old men. The lasvicious old men exist in this modern avatar too, and with the story-line the way it is, “The Shaukeens” could easily go south. I hope it doesn’t, and I hope the director treads a fine line between the funny and the risqué.

Here’s hoping for the best.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, Previews, remake | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Haider (2014)

Haider (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Rating : Good (3.5/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 40 minutes
Director : Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast : Tabu, Shahid Kapoor, Narendra Jha, Kaykay Menon, Shraddha Kapoor, Ashish Vidyarthi, Aamir Bashir, Irrfan Khan

Director Vishal Bahrdwaj has made two previous films inspired by William Shakespeare’s plays : Maqbool (based on Macbeth) and Omkara (based on Othello). Haider is based on Hamlet, and set in Kashmir circa 1995.

Aligarh University student Haider (Shahid Kapoor) has returned home to Anantnag after his father’s disappearance. His father Dr. Hilal Meer (Jha) has been arrested by the Indian Army, after harboring a known terrorist in his home. The doctor’s whereabouts are now unknown. Haider meets his grieving mother Ghazala (Tabu) at his Chacha Khurram Meer’s (Menon) home, where he realises that there is more to his father’s disappearance than meets the eye.

Haider reminded me faintly of Gulzar’s Maachis, in it’s man-against-system story telling. Bhardwaj has situated the Bard’s story amid the disruption of the Kashmir valley. The Indian Army is out in full force. Roadblocks, searches and curfews are a way of life. It is a time of suspicion and unrest.

Haider is long and tragic, and maintains a depressive mood throughout with the snow and the starkness. The plot events are tragic, there is much sadness and crying, angst and anger. It moves slowly, but still manages to engross until about the last 1/4th of the film. Like in his earlier films, here too Bhardwaj creates memorable characters and casts them beautifully. Tabu is superb as the happy/sad Ghazala Meer with the perpetually moist eyes. Kaykay Menon is marvelous as the politically wily Khurram. And Irrfan Khan as the limping Roohdar is impressive even in his short role. Even minor characters like the video-parlor owning brothers Salman & Salman, with their “Maine Pyar Kiya” fetish, are uniquely interesting.

While Shahid is acceptable as Haider, his character failed to elicit much of a response from me. Shahid is a fine actor (remember “Kaminey”?), so I’m going to blame character development here. Shraddha Kapoor as Haider’s sympathetic lady-love Arshee also fails to bring the heft required by the role. Kulbhushan Kharbanda appears fleetingly; it was disappointing to not see more of him.

I did like the film although it falls short when compared to Maqbool or Omkara. Bhardwaj is a genius, and creates an atmospheric film, pulling the viewer into the deep end with him. I do think that he goes a little OTT towards the end (the singing grave-diggers etc.), but then finishes off the movie very strongly. I did not feel an emotional pull for the hero, although he is wronged. And that I can partially chalk up to the fact that the movie seems sympathetic to the terrorists and mildly anti-Indian-Army. Bhardwaj also takes on AFSPA, and it’s human rights implications, so the plot is muddied a bit; this is not just Hamlet, this is Hamlet in the time of terrorism.

Haider has an impressive soundtrack and a gorgeous background score. Bhardwaj also provides the music, imbuing each song with the hopelessness of the characters singing them.

This movie is a large dose of gloom and doom, delivered in Bhardwaj’s characteristic style, and well worth a watch.

Kidwise : Lots of bullet and bomb-filled violence, and shots of bloodied corpses. Some love-making scenes, although it is all pretty decently done.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, directors, drama, rating-PG15 | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Revolver Rani (2014)

Revolver Rani (DVD)Rating : Average (2.5/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 12 minutes
Director : Sai Kabir
Cast : Kangana Ranaut, Vir Das, Zakir Hussain, Piyush Mishra

I had high expectations from this film. It had Kangana Ranaut, a bevy of talented actors, and a strong female lead character. This should have been one of those quirky cult films which you remember long after its release. Well, quirky it is, but all its quirky bits fit together so awkwardly that the film does not rise above mediocrity, if that.

Ranaut plays Alka Singh, a trigger-happy political candidate from the Chambal area. Her political prowess is largely due to the guidance of her wily uncle, Bali Mama (Piyush Mishra), who wishes to realize his own dreams of wealth and power through his niece. Alka’s political ambitions get sidetracked when she falls for wannabe-Bollywood-hero Rohan Mehra (Das). She declares that her political career will take second place to her home life; she wants to be a wife and mother first. This enrages Bali who sees this as the death knell to his ambitions, especially when the opposition party is gaining strength. Her declarations of wanting a homely life also put Rohan in a fix, since he is seducing Alka only to further his career.

Alka Singh’s character is eccentric and foolhardy, impulsive and trusting. Kangana, with her wiry frame and wildly curling hair imbues Alka with a ferocious energy. Her vernacular accent and her artificially darkened skin color (which looked fake, btw) give us the impression that Alka is a small-town girl who has risen to power. That power, unfortunately, has gone to her head. Piyush Mishra is fantastic as the shrewd Bali Mama. Zakir Hussain, another fine actor, treads a fine line between comedy and brutishness as Udaybhan Tomar, Alka’s political nemesis. Vir Das plays fickle toy boy Rohan with ease. The rest of the cast is just as impeccable.

Revolver Rani is part satire, part spoof. It makes pointed jabs at petty politics, the apathetic government, social conditions and Bollywood. The satire is cloaked in dark humor, but some scenes do get pretty brutish. The film’s plot is unpredictable, but does get quite bizarre. Even though Alka is boorish and stupid in her own right, I still felt for her predicament, so Ranaut succeeded there. Unfortunately, the film is so clunkily put together, that it is hard to really like it.

This was not an uninteresting film, but oh, it could have been so much better.

Kidwise : This film is not for a younger audience. There is a fair amount of violence, and brutality against women, as well as situations of a sexual nature.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, drama, politics, rating-PG15, satire, social issues, women | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Haider (2nd October 2014)

After making superb film adaptations of many of the Bard’s plays (Maqbool, Omkara) , Vishal Bharadwaj returns with an adaptation of “Hamlet”. The film is set in Kashmir, and stars Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon and Shraddha Kapoor.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, directors, Previews | 4 Comments