I watched both of Allu Arjun’s films Arya and Arya 2 to get ready for DJ

Several commenters on my reaction to the trailer of Allu Arjun’s new film DJ told me I should watch Arya 2 and Arya.

I’m super excitecd for DJ now after seeing Arya (2004) and Arya 2 (2009) over the last 2 days.  Only Arya 2 is the MUST see movie, but you should watch the
opening dance number of Arya, to get a sense what a great dancer Allu Arjun is.  Arya was his breakout film, and the debut blockbuster for director Sukumar — the guy who directed 1: Nenokkadine!
Like most Indian “sequels”  Arya 1 and Arya 2 are not continuations of the same story thread, but variations on the same theme.
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Arya 1 has Arjun playing Arya, and he’s in a love triangle with Geeta and Ajay and the setting is college.  Ajay is your typical college tough stalker.  He decides Geeta will be his and threatens suicide to make her date him..  Ugh.  Arya loves Geeta but expects nothing in return.  He even helps to get Ajay and Geeta togehter, etc. when her father wants her to marry someone else.  Geeta is played by a former model, and she has only one basic expression the entire film — looking miserable.  She has the charisma of a wet dishrag.  Ajay is your basic evil boyfriend.   Arya (Allu Arjun) carries the entire movie by sheer force of his cheerfulness, charm and excellent dance numbers
Seriously, Allu Arjun is THE best Telugu dancer I have seen yet.  He dedicates Arya 2 to Michael Jackson, and he can MOVE.  This dancing ability leads to great action sequences, because he’s really acrobatic in his kicks and so on.
I thought I had to watch Arya 1 to get Arya 2, but it’s not necessary as Arya 2 is a stand alone film, and not a continuation of the first film’s story.  It’s amusing enough, and was a blockbuster hit at the time, but not nearly as enjoyable as the second film.  The heroine is just so passive you want to scream, and the plot fairly regressive — except for Arya‘s selfless love.
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It just made me appreciate Arya 2 all the more.  To see how Allu Arjun had grown as a dancer and actor and the director!  .  I’m really glad I waited until now to watch Arya 2, because it is just that much more funny to me now!
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Arya 2 is brilliant, because it is a total riff and send up of all the usual Telugu movie tropes.  And it makes fun of them all, while referencing Darr and even has a white dog at a wedding JUST like the one in HAHK!  But what the director does with the dog in the scene just had me in stitches.  The whole movie is very entertaining, if a tad long.
First off, we start with Arya and Ajay as fellow child orphans and there is something off about Arya.  He demands to be Ajay’s friend, and is a psycho possessive kind of friend.  The whole movie is taking that brotherly Dost bond to the far reaches of the extreme.
They fall in love with Geeta at the exact same moment — and she’s played by Kajal who I LOVE, so she’s a spitfire and not a dishrag.  They actually flip a coin for her, again riffing on sexist Telugu tropes over and over again, and mocking them.
There’s the forced wedding, the battling families, and on and on.  And throughout Arya is mostly completely off his rocker, and yet still mostly likeable!  It’s a great performance.  And so great of the director to make the main character with negative shadings — he has his blown up Darr sized picture wall of Geeta in his room and all.
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The whole set up is in a way similar to the first movie — Arya has a struggle between his love of Geeta and this time his possessive love of his friend Ajay.  He wants them to be happy, and works to make it possible for them to be together — while occasionally slapping his own face to remind himself, “Have to give Geeta back to Ajay, Have to give Geeta back to Ajay…)  Also, Ajay is not a cardboard villain type.  You go back and forth in and out of sympathy with his shades of gray third wheel character.  Kajal is sometimes a spoiled brat — and has a penchant for throwing down cell phones and breaking them, which I found to be a very funny running gag.
Don’t expect an emotional rollercoaster with crying and pathos.  Expect to laugh and laugh — and be delighted by the clever action scenes, and the allusions to so many other films.
That comedy uncle guy, Brahmanandam is in it as the HR manager of Ajay’s tech firm where they all work, and he has a toned down performance — and was really good!  I actually liked him in this one!
This Arya 2 number is just jaw dropping AMAZEBALLS!!   Allu Arjun’s dancing is off the chain!
I’d still say that Prabhas is my number one in Telugu films, and Mahesh second.  Alllu Arjun has the best dance skills by far, and real comedic chops, though.

I Really Liked the Romance in Sushant Rajput Singh’s Raabta

I didn’t LOVE Raabta as much as Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood did, but it was a welcome couple hours of escape for me this weekend.  We have a family member that has just been put into hospice, and this movie took me away to beautiful Budapest for a bit.  Several shirtless scenes of Sushant also helped very much, the first in the very first minute of the film.

As Margaret said, it’s Magadheera, but totally different.  If you want an action film, go see Magadheera.  But Raabta is a timepass romance with some angst.

 

Wonder Woman – So Inspiring to Young Girls and the Lift We All Needed

I can’t review Wonder Woman like any old film.  It shouldn’t be so momentous that a woman director has directed for the first time a superhero film, that cracked $100 million opening weekend.  But it is.  Patty Jenkins had directed an Oscar winning independent film, Monster, that cost $8 million, had garnered the Directors Guild Award for the TV Series The Killing — and yet…. the headlines said it was a “gamble” to let her helm a superhero film.  It is maddening.  When young male directors are given huge action or superhero films after smaller indie films, it’s not called a gamble.  The Mary Sue called out this double standard misogyny.

I can’t separate my review of the film from what it has felt like to read about other women’s reaction seeing the film.  It’s everything to see a woman centered superhero film, directed by a woman.  And then there are the pictures of the little girls who dressed up to see the film, or got to meet their heroine.  Gah!

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I was a young girl when the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman TV show aired in the US.  I watched it every week!

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It is everything for these girls now to have both a female lead for Star Wars and now Wonder Woman.

So, how was the film?  It was good.  Very good.  I don’t know if I can call it great merely as a film — but at this point, it’s not merely a film, it’s a cultural phenomenon.  I can’t separate all my feelings out.  I will tell you that Gal Godot was excellent as Wonder Woman.  When she was cast, people said her accent would be horrible — you know what?  I thought it was perfect.  It made her seem that much more “other” — that she had been raised on this isolated island away from the world.

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Chris Pine was fantastic.  It was huge that someone who had headed up his own franchise, Star Trek, was willing to play the sidekick to a female Superhero.  This is what Chris Pine said back in 2015 when he was cast as Steve Trevor:

“What excites me most is to work in a movie with a superhero woman. With a woman in the lead role. I am teamed with this intelligent, beautiful and strong woman to defeat the villains and save humanity.”

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He had a nice comedic touch in early scenes with Gal Godot, and there was great chemistry between them, too, especially in a nice scene where he teaches her to dance.  Let me just tell you also, another nice thing about a woman director — we learn just how much male nudity you can have in a PG-13 film!  He’s not a damsel in distress, but he’s always the one to say, “No, Diana, you can’t do that.”  And then he turns around and she’s already done it.  Like the incredible No Man’s Land scene.

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I really enjoyed the early part of the film, where we see little girl Diana watching her aunt, General Antiope train the Amazon warriors.  And how cool is it that Robin Wright, Princess Buttercup herself is this badass warrior! Connie Nielsen was also perfectly cast as Diana’s mother.

I really enjoyed the film right up till near the end.  It was a solid film.  The battle on the Amazon Isle was great.  But nothing was so visually stunning that it took my breath away.

Where the film was a bit lacking for me was the villain reveal and the way the film ended.  I won’t go into spoilers exactly why.  My main issues, though were with the villain’s motivation.  As my son said, “The themes got a bit muddy there at the end.”  Still, this was a film that was about something and not just watching superheroes crash into buildings.  Diana believes in the inherent goodness of humanity, and then learns the world is more complex than she thought.  Someone’s sacrifice restores her faith in humanity.

There is actually Oscar talk about Wonder Woman.  This is big.  And I’m not just talking about technical VFX awards.  Anne Thompson of Indie Wire wrote today that she could see a supporting nod for Chris Pine and a best actress nod for Gal Godot.  Wouldn’t that be something to see?

I have been going back and forth on my rating between four and four and a half stars.  It’s not a perfect film, but it felt so damn good.  Gal Godot is the perfect Wonder Woman  — And for those little girls!

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Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam Video Review – Naga Chaitanya’s new family drama film with Rakul Preet Singh

Rarandoi Veduka Chudham (Come, Let’s Watch the Spectacle) is an enjoyable family drama starring Naga Chaitanya and Rakul Preet Singh.  This I believe is their first film together, and the first time I’ve seen Rakul in a film.

This film is put out by Naga Chaitanya’s family banner, and he did well in the film, but frankly, I enjoyed his 2016 films Premam and Sahasam Swasaga Saagipo much more.  The first half of this film is slow, but it’s saved by the last hour or so of the film when the conflict comes to a head.

I also enjoyed seeing Jagapathi Babu again as Naga’s father.  He was Mahesh Babu’s father in Srimanthadu.

 

 

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Comrade In America – First Video Review together with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood!

Margaret of DontCallItBollywood and I have been friends for a couple of years, and I was the one that got her to start watching Malayalam films.  There’s only one theater in Chicago that plays them, and we meet in the middle there to watch them together when we can.  It’s a 45 minute drive for both us — but for Dulquer, it’s worth it!  I’ve started doing regular reviews on the Bollyfools Youtube channel, and this is my first joint video review with Margaret.  We filmed it quickly in the lobby of the theater, so I apologize in advance for all the background noise.

CIA didn’t blow us away, but it was an enjoyable one time watch.  Margaret’s more extensive review of CIA is posted here.

 

 

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Meri Pyaari Bindu – Video Review of a Charming Delightful film!

I loved this charming sweet film!  Ayushmann Khurrana and Parineeta Chopra were both great in this best friends to lovers romance.  First time director Akshay Roy did a fantastic job, and I can’t wait to see more films by him.  I loved how he gave a wink and a nod to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, and even directly referenced Natalie Portman in  Garden State.

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Half Girlfriend Video Review – Infuriating film!

While there were some parts I liked, this movie made me crazy for what it might have been.  With the director Mohit Suri and the hits he’s had with Ek Villalin and Aishiqui 2 plus a book by Chehat Bhagat, you’d think this would be great, but it just didn’t work for me at ALL.  The more I thought about it, the more infuriated I got.  I happened to see the same showing as Kathy Gibson, who REALLY hated it.

 

 

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Sarkar 3 Review – Amit Sadh and Amitabh were great but film not my favorite

I went to see Sarkar 3 without seeing the first two films in the series beforehand.  Margaret of Don’tCallItBollywood clued me in to the backstory from the previous films, which are heavily influenced by The Godfather films.  I went to Sarkar 3 because I wanted to see Amit Sadh in this kind of role.  I loved him in Sultan, and he was fantastic in Running Shaadi earlier this year.   Here’s the video review I did for Bollyfools:

 

 

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Moviemavengal no spoiler video review of Bahubali 2 – I was interviewed by Kartik of BollyFools

 

Kartik of BollyFools was seeing the IMAX showing right after mine so he asked if I would do a short video review after seeing the very first showtime of Bahubali 2 in the US.  Salim of BollyFools then edited it down to this video they posted on the BollyFools Youtube channel.  Thanks for the opportunity!

Bahubali 2: The Conclusion — Does Not Disappoint! It’s Amazing! No Spoilers

With a sequel, especially one this anticipated, there is that fear that it just cannot live up to the first movie, or the hype.  I am here to tell you, after having just spent $40 to see the very first IMAX show of the day, that it satisfies.  It completely satisfies.  Rajamouli has done it again!!  It was absolutely glorious to see it on the huge IMAX screen.  Totally worth the money to me.  Kartik from Bollyfools Youtube Channel interviewed me moments after I came out of the screening:

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Everyone has spent two long years wondering #WKKB – Why Kattappa Killed Bahubali.  The first film left us with possibly the biggest mystery cliffhanger of all time.  I’m not going to spoiler the movie for you.  You need to experience it all for yourself.

I just loved how the movie circled back to the beginning in lots of ways — thematically and visually.  You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

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I loved being in a first day crowd that was whistling and yelling for the big entrances.  Prabhas is AMAZING!  One thing I really loved about the film is that it had some wonderful moments of humor.  After I saw Bahubali the Beginning, I sought out Prabhas’s other films, and in his rom coms especially he has such a mischievous sense of humor and play in his wooing.  And Rajamouli let him show that side.  Kattappa as matchmaker is just a delight.

Rana as Bhalladeva turns SO evil.  Shockingly so in some parts.  Great performance as the villain, and the final epic battle between Shivuvu and Bhalla at the end of the film is everything you could hope for in a mano a mano fight.  Really thrilling.

Anushka Shetty really shines as the proud warrior princess.  She does have flaws — I liked that she wasn’t just a perfect doll.  Unfortunately, Tamannah is only really seen in the final battle sequence.  This movie is more about the love story of Shivuvu’s parents.

There are great battle scenes, too, but much of the movie, which almost till the end takes place in the time of Bahubali the elder, is about the family drama.  What leads to Bahubali’s death?  Why did Bhalla chain Devasena in the courtyard?  Who put that arrow in Sivagami’s back?  All the answers are very satisfying.  You can guess where the story is mostly going to go, just from the first film, but there are still some surprises along the way.  Pride goest before a fall, is all I’ll say.

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Someone asked me if I like this better than the first film, and I can’t really answer that.  Because you can’t get back that feeling of wonderment the first time you saw the imagination and visuals of Bahubali.  Now you expect Rajamouli to blow you away.  There was one love song that literally went into a flight of fantasy that had me saying “Wow” out loud.

The score is particularly effective in heightening moments of tension and drama.  I don’t know that the soundtrack songs are quite as catchy earworms that the first film songs were.  But especially the beautiful harmonies of the female voices singing together in this one are growing on me:

I saw Bahubali the Beginning four times in the theater alone.  I don’t know how many times I’ll see this one, but I know I’m taking all three of my sons to see it for Mother’s Day.  I’ve told them this is what I want for my present — for us to see it together.  That will make the second Indian film they’ve ever seen, but the first in a theater.  I loved that at my 2:30 shows there were parents who had taken their kids out of school early to see the show.  I told one little boy that someone must love him very much.

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There are scenes and tableaus from this film that will always stay with me, but one in particular is Prabhas sleeping with his head in Sivagami’s lap.  Since I don’t speak Telugu, I didn’t realize some of the songs lyrics talk about that.  This film does have a romance and brother rivalry, but at the core it’s about the relationship of a son with his mother.

This is such a great film!  I left ecstatic and wishing I could see it all again right away.  There’s revenge that’s sweet, and redemption, too.

Bravo S. S. Rajamouli!  Bravo Prabhas and the rest of the cast!  You’ve done it again!

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