Dhanush is Excellent in VIP

In anticipation of Dhahush’s upcoming VIP 2, I took the first VIP movie with me on my recent vacation to watch.  Dhanush is such a good actor!   The title VIP is shortened from Velaiilla Pattadhari (English: Unemployed Graduate)

 

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I am really impressed with Dhanush.  I had previously only seen his Hindi film Raanjhanaa with Sonam Kapoor.  He was very good in that, but his role was kind of stalkerish.

11In VIP, Dhanush plays a young man who has a civil engineering degree, and has been looking for the right job for 4 long years.  His father is frustrated with him.  Dhanush’s younger brother has a good job.  He applies and applies and can’t catch a break.  He belongs to a Facebook group of other unemployed young graduates.  I had no idea this was such an issue in India.

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There’s an adorable romance with Amala Paul who moves in to the house next door.  She sees a lot to admire in this unemployed young man, and can’t help but be witness to all his struggles next door, and family drama.  They have great chemistry together.

Dhanush is fantastic in the couple of action scenes, and a really good dancer.  I also really loved this montage love song:

 

After a family tragedy, a coincidence leads to him getting a break, and getting a construction project.  The second half of the film deals with his struggles with an arrogant young rich developer.  He calls on his extended network of other unemployed graduates to help him out, and it was very moving.

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I’m really excited to see VIP 2 now.  I don’t know if it will be a continuation of the story, or another retelling of a similar unemployed graduate tale.  The key is that it has Kajol! Not sure if she will be his boss or nemesis or what.

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Ninnu Kori – Wonderful Chemistry between Nani and Niveda Thomas

I went to see this Telugu film, Ninnu Kori (Wanting You) with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood, going in knowing nothing.  Margaret had heard it was a good Rom Com, so I took a chance.  It was a delightful Telugu Rom Com with great chemistry between the leads Nani and Niveda Thomas.  Go here to read Margaret’s review.

 

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It was driving me crazy where I had seen Nani before — and at the interval I asked Margaret, and she reminded me Nani was the the hero in Eega!

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The first half is fantastic and I loved the meet cute between Nani and Niveda.  Nani’s dancing is also terrific.  Character actor Murli Sharma who normally plays cops, is Niveda’s stern father, and it was great to see him in a comedy role like this.  The initial conflict in Niveda and Nani’s relationship is quite believable.

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The love triangle with Aadhi is where I started to have issues.  Maybe it’s just my American sensibilities, but the first half was SO great, that the resolution of the film was a let down.  I felt like the screen writers were forced to tell a more traditional story ending, and they didn’t sell it to me as Niveda’s HEA.

Still, I really enjoyed seeing Nani and Niveda on screen together, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more films from both of them.

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The Big Sick – My favorite Rom Com in years

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Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani appear in The Big Sick by Michael Showalter, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Nicole Rivelli.

I have been anticipating The Big Sick‘s theatrical release since it started a bidding war at Sundance in January.  There was a slow roll out of the film, first just NY and LA and then adding a few cities each weekend until finally it came to my Chicago Suburb.  It made it to 5th in the US box office last weekend.  I saw it on a Wednesday matinee and it was nearly sold out!  On a Wed at 1:30!  (Granted it was Senior discount day, but still!)

I was worried the film wouldn’t live up to my hightened expectations — the trailer is so amusing, but I shouldn’t have worried.  I loved it!

I wasn’t familiar with Kumail Nanjiani really, as I’ve only watched a few episodes of his HBO series Silicon Valley.  He just is so charming and sweet in this film.  He immigrated to the US from Pakistan when he was 18, and has a tight knit family.  His father requested that Anupam Kher play him in the film, and they finally found a cousin of Anupam’s to reach him in India.  When Anupam first called Kumail after he read the script, Kumail hung up on him because he thought it was a prank!

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Zenobia Shroff, who I think has a few Bollywood credits, plays Kumail’s mother in the film.  Kumail wants to pursue a career as a stand up comic, but his family just wants him to take the LSAT and agree to an arranged marriage.  His mother has girl after girl “just drop by” when Kumail is home for dinner with his family.

Kumail meets Emily at one of his stand up shows.  She yells “Whoo Hoo” when he asks if anyone in the crowd is from Pakistan.  Then he gently tells her she should never heckle even if it’s a positive thing.  “Even if I yell out that you’re great in bed?” They have so much chemistry in the film.  It’s adorable.

maxresdefault (27)When Emily finds the cigar box full of pictures of Pakistani women his mother has been trying to set him up with, they have a huge argument and break up.  Shortly afterwards Emily becomes seriously ill and is put into a medically induced coma in ICU.  Kumail has to notify her parents, and it’s very awkward when they are all in the waiting room together at the hospital.  Ray Romano and Holly Hunter play Emily’s parents, and they have a loving, but bickering relationship.  It felt very real to me.  Emily has told her parents about the breakup, so they don’t see any reason for Kumail to stay — but he has to.

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Kumail has kept his relationship with Emily a secret from his family, because a cousin who married a non-Muslim white woman has been completely cut out of the family.  He is torn by his love of Emily and his devotion to his family.

Even though I knew things would work out, I cried in this film.  I also laughed out loud, and laughed a lot.  It is so funny.  Ray Romano and Holly Hunter were given license to improvise some of their lines, and they are gems.  Judd Apatow is a producer on the film and helped Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon write the real life story of their rocky courtship into a workable script.

I heartily recommend you listen to Terry Gross’s interview with Kumail and Emily on Fresh Air.  It’s fascinating hearing the process they went through to make this film with Apatow, and also more background on their families and relationship.

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This film is about a real life conflict and a traumatic time in the lives of Kumail and Emily.  I won’t spoil how it all works out, but it was glorious to watch it unfold.  I highly, highly recommend that everyone see this film.  It lives up to the hype, believe me.  Just a delightful script, and great performances all around.

I’ve been reading about how we’re finally getting to see and hear Muslim-American stories.  There was Hassan Minhaj’s fantastic comedy special Homecoming King and of course Aziz Ansari’s Master of None series also on Netflix.  But this is the big time — a film on the big screen.  This film was made before we were in the midst of the Trump presidency, but seems even more topical now.

 

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M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story – Compelling first half, that falls apart in the second

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I was traveling overseas on vacation and the M.S. Dhoni movie starring Sushant Singh Rajput was one of the “international” choices on the plane movie entertainment system.  So, I took a chance on it.  I know nothing about cricket — only as much as you pick up watching Lagaan.  I knew nothing about Dhoni either — only had heard his name.

 

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The first half of the film with the story of Dhoni’s childhood and early days trying to work up to the big leagues I found very compelling.  The two romances in the film were also very well done.

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After I watched the movie, I read about how many months Sushant spent working with cricket coaches to perfect the signature Dhoni swing.  I can’t speak to how well he embodied Dhoni since I haven’t ever watched the real man play, but he did a good job acting the part.

The second half of the film just fell apart for me.  It was sixer after sixer in a highlight reel of games that didn’t mean anything to me.  I suppose they were important.  Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood shared with me that she saw this film in a theater crowded with Dhoni fans who anticipated every big moment, and even change of jersey colors.  I was watching it alone on a plane, so I didn’t have that to give me any sense of dramatic tension.

 

I shouldn’t have to be an expert in cricket or the man Dhoni to feel dramatic tension and be swept up in his story.  I’ve seen other films about sports I know nothing about that are some of my favorite films ever.  Asif Kapadia’s documentary about the Formula One racer Senna is incredible.  (Kapadia went on to win the Oscar for Amy.)  I was on the edge of my seat practically the whole movie.  I’m a fan of Michael Sheen so I watched The Damned United, about the short reign of a football coach for the Manchester United team.  The conflict between Sheen’s character and the team, the management, and especially his best friend and partner is an incredibly dramatic story.  Highly recommend both films, btw.

Dhoni participated in this film, doing several hours of interviews, and they used those real details to give the “untold” story.  But that meant that they glossed over some other real events to stay in Dhoni’s good graces.  He was a “consultant” or executive producer or something on the film.  There were little moments that just slid by, that you could have based the entire dramatic arc of the second half on — like his insistence as captain of the India team to force out a few older players who weren’t “fit” to start rebuilding the team toward the World Cup years in the future.  Just mentioned and then glossed over.  There were a few moments like that.  Instead we got more footage of sixer after sixer.  I actually almost dozed off watching it.

Anupam Kher is of course great as Dhoni’s father.  He’s always great.  The music montage numbers were good.  Those songs were in the charts for weeks.  And I did like the romances.

I guess I give it 2 and a half stars for the good first half.  If you’re a fan of cricket and Dhoni, this film may be for you.  If not, give it a miss.  It’s on Netflix streaming currently in the US.

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The Amazing Classic Malayalam Mohanlal film Spadikam

I’ve been on vacation out of the country for a couple of weeks, so I’m catching up on the films in theaters.  One of the films I brought with me on my iPad was Mohanlal’s Spadikam which is on ErosNow.  I love that ErosNow lets you download films now!

 

I loved the crazy action, but especially the intense family drama between Mohanlal and Thalikan, who plays his stern father.  Devasuram is still my favorite Mohanlal film, but this one is right up there.

The film is also readily available on Youtube.  Check out how crazy the first 10 minutes of the film are.  The viewer is just dropped into the action, with no initial clue as to who Mohanlal is fighting or why.

Baby Driver – Fantastic Fun Action flick with Heart

I unabashedly adore Edgar Wright.  His Cornetto trilogy  starting with Shaun of the Dead are so hilarious = the second, Hot Fuzz is one of my favorite films of all time.  And the brilliance that is Scott Pilgrim!

So, when I saw this trailer for Baby Driver, my anticipations was at a fever pitch.  It is fantastic.  Not laugh out loud guffaws like I had in Hot Fuzz, but oh, so clever.  I’m no Fast and Furious type of girl, but the driving is simply amazing.  I’ve read that it surpasses some of the Fast and Furious movies.

The music in it is insanely good.  Hot Fuzz is still my favorite film of his.  This one is a bit more “straight” heist film, but with quirks.

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It doesn’t have quite the laugh out loud humor as Hot Fuzz,  but it has more heart.  Ansel Englort (Baby) I had seen in Fault in Our Stars, where he was very good, and in the Divergent series only.  He’s great.
Baby has to do “one more job” for Kevin Spacey and then he’s done with this life.  Yep.  Seen that plot before many a time, but it’s got some twists and turns that keep it fresh.
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It’s just fun to see Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm in the same scene.  Full stop.
The character Baby has ringing in his ears from a childhood accident so he always has earbuds in with music to drown out that sound.  In one fun scene, one of the robbers — an actor I recognized from Walking Dead — challenges Baby about the head phones and takes off his sunglasses.  Baby just calmly pulls another pair of shades from his jacket pocket.  The robber knocks those off, and turns around, and Baby pulls out another pair of glasses from his other pocket.
In another scene, he stops the gang of robbers from pouring out of his car to start a heist until he can restart the song on his iPod.  Then every movement and shot of the gang is choreographed to the song.
There’s a lot of cleverness like that — and less the outright guffaws that Hot Fuzz gave me.  There’s so much choreographed to music and the insanely good soundtrack — the editing is soooo good in this film.
Baby Driver is one of the top films I’ve seen this year.
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I loved the romance of Baby and Deborah.  It was driving my crazy where I’d seen the actress, Lily James, before.  She was Rose in Downton Abbey!  Here with a drawling Southern accent.  The whole film is set in Atlanta, and I even recognized the Peachtree center food court next to my last conference hotel in one chase scene.  (Gotta love those Georgia film tax incentives!)
There’s a wonderful scene in a laundromat where Debbie and Baby share headphones and then dance to the song he’s sharing with her, with different colored clothes swirling around in the machines.  Just magical chemistry in that scene alone.
Highly, highly recommend this film.  I loved it.  It’s almost perfect, in fact.
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You’ll leave the theater with a smile on your face, humming this song: