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 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:

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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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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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!

Noor – Bridget Jones type Rom Com with a serious issue shoe-horned in

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Under two hours is just not enough time for all the things this film wanted to be and do.  I have been anticipating Noor for months and months, mostly because I heard comedian Kanan Gill was going to have his debut in a Bollywood film.  If you’re not familiar with Kanan Gill, he has a hilarious Pretentious Bollywood Review Youtube channel, and is extremely amusing on Snapchat [@kanangill].

 

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Kanan Gill plays the character Saad from the book Karachi, You’re Killing Me by Saba Imtiaz who is the childhood best friend of Sonakshi Sinha’s Noor (Ayesha in the book).  There are films that have improved upon the source novel, but Noor is not one of those films.  Karachi, You’re Killing Me at first seems like a Bridget Jones knockoff, but the unique thing about it is the city it’s set in — Karachi, Pakistan!  In the book, Ayesha is a journalist with an incompetent male boss, and she covers everything from terrorist bombings to fashion shows.  It gave you a true sense of her life in the city in all its variety — how she had to get her liquor from her bootlegger — and how she loves the city, but also yearns for an international life working for CNN.   The novel reaches a real peak near the end when she and her boss are caught in a terrorist bombing, and her calm quick thinking saves her boss.

Noor the movie has some of the same fun light tone in the first half.  Like Bridget Jones, Noor obsesses about her weight, snacks on junk food, drinks a bit too much, and feels that attractive young men are merely an “urban legend” in Mumbai.  Changing the film’s setting to Mumbai just inherently takes away what was so unique about the novel.  But I think Sonakshi does a great job still in playing Noor.  She’s a modern young woman journalist, who cringes at doing a Sunny Leone interview when she really wants to be doing SERIOUS work.

The film keeps her Three Musketeer friendships with Saad (Kanan Gill) and Zara (Shibani Dandekar).  I loved Noor’s friendship with club DJ Zara and I wish there had been a bit more of their interactions, but again, this film was really short for a Hindi film.  Noor keeps the seemingly distracted but actually very supportive relationship of Noor’s widowed father.   I liked the actor who plays Noor’s boss, Manish Chaudhary but they made him a sort of Lou Grant type.  This was one of my biggest problems with the film adaptation because in the book, the boss is a total incompetent, and Ayesha’s mentor is another woman in the news business.  Missing that strong female role just erases a lot of the feminist message of the book.  If the boss is going to be a fusion of both book characters — then make it a woman for cripes sake!

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Not only does Noor change the setting to Mumbai but the serious issue that Noor the journalist covers is now organ trafficking.  They keep the romance with the sexy photo journalist, Purab Kohli as Ayan Banerjee.  She gets betrayed in her career for the scoop she has, and that leads to Saad (Kanan) taking her away to his home in London to get her away from the danger she’s in.

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Film stylist and costumer – I love you for giving Kanan this sweater/scarf look!

Kanan plays the devoted best friend with his signature snarky humor very well.  You could see the loving looks he gives to Noor who seemingly never catches on.  One minor quibble with the film adaptation at this point in the story is that Ayesha sees that the first photo prominently displayed in Saad’s apartment is one with her – not with any of his many girlfriends.  That little realization moment is missing, but I can forgive because Kanan is so charming in these scenes.

This second half of the film gets super serious because of the organ trafficking plot with Noor’s maid’s brother.  The actress playing Noor’s maid is one of the best things about the film.  She will break your heart.

But I found the whiplash change in tone a bit too much.  I think the film would have succeeded more if it had stayed more in the lighter rom com mode.  Maybe if the film had been a more traditional 2 and half or three hour length, it could have incorporated this dramatic change in tone better.

Sonakshi did a good job as Noor, and I’m glad she’s getting these starring female centric films, but I wish she could get ones with better scripts.  Kanan Gill did very well for a debut, especially in the lighter moments. I hope this leads to more roles for him.

The director, Sunhil Sippy, is my biggest problem with Noor.  The direction was at times amateurish and horrible.  Scenes felt awkwardly filmed or dragged on much too long — like Noor’s tearful, “Mumbai, you’re killing me!” diatribe monologue that miraculously goes viral online.  I know the source material could have been a really great film, and that’s why I left the theater disappointed.  It’s not Sonakshi’s fault, or Kanan’s or Purab Kohli’s.  The fault lies squarely on the shoulder of the director.  Sonakshi and Kanan deserve a better script and film.  The last epilogue scene over the credits where Saad awkwardly proposes to Noor was adorable.  Give us more of that!

The end credit song feels just completely tacked on — wait, we need a Badshah rap and throw Diljit Dosanjh in too, for no reason at all.

I wouldn’t run out to the theater to see Noor, but it would be fine to stream when it becomes available online for the a timepass.  It tries to have a feminist message, with a modern Indian career girl at the center, so kudos for that at least.

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Amen – Pellissery’s Quirky Musical Comedy

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Lijo Jose Pellissery’s 2013 Malayalam film Amen has all the elements that should make it a tailor made movie for me.  It’s a quirky comedy about a band competition and the lead actor even plays the clarinet, the very instrument I played as a child.  The film reminded me very much of the comedies of Michel Gondry or Wes Anderson.  We have a cast of odd characters in this Kerala village.  Pellissery seems to have a troupe of actors he likes to reuse — like Wes Anderson does in his films.  The film has a magical realism element to it, like the film Amelie.  There’s an inherent sweetness to the story, and a nostalgia for life in this little village with it’s troubled church.

The film opens with a story about a prank delivery of a packet of faeces causing a fued between two families in the village.  This has nothing to do with the main story of the film, but sets the scene of a village where everyone gets in each other’s business.

The opening credit animated song was perhaps my favorite song sequence of the whole movie:

 

The cinematography of the film is stunning, set in the scenic Kuttanadan area of Kerala, where the most common mode of travel is by canoe or ferry boat.  The ferry brings a new priest to this village, Vincent Vattoli (Indrajith) but at first he’s not recognized as a priest because he wears secular clothes and dances with a young French tourist on the ferry boat.  He arrives at the church under the iron grip of the stern head priest Father Abraham (Joy Matthew) and the corrupt sacristan.  Father Abraham is ready to tear down the church and abolish the church’s band.

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Fahahd Faisal (Solomon) plays clarinet only in secret to his love Shoshanna (Swathi Reddy).  He’s the son of the most famous clarinet master player of the area who died in a boat accident.  Solomon can’t overcome his fears to play with the band, and in their yearly competition, until Vincent Vattoli comes to town.

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There are some gorgeous set pieces when Solomon plays his clarinet in the dark to Shoshanna, and on a boat in the moonlight.  But his character is such a nebbish that I had trouble sympathizing with his plight.  Shoshanna’s family locks her away after she almost elopes with Solomon.  Swathi Reddy does a decent job and has some spunk to her, but she doesn’t have a lot to do in the film.

There’s another one of Pellissery’s long tracking shots for a song set during a “toddy” shop fight between the two rival bands, with the cameramam ending the scene floating away in  a boat.

This film should be my catnip, as I love Wes Anderson films, but this Amen film just did not resonate with me.  The romance between Solomon and Shoshanna is sweet, but I really didn’t like Fahahd’s nebbishy wishy washy character.  I did like Indrajith’s priest character, and he even gets his own song as the French tourist fantasizes about him!

The music was interesting because it’s entirely Western musical instruments.  In fact, with songs like When The Saints Go Marching In, it had a sort of New Orleans Jazz sound to the band combos.

 

This is my third of Lijo Jose Pellissery’s films, and so far my least favorite.  I love, love, love Angamaly Diaries, and I really enjoyed City of God.  Evidently, before Angamaly Diaries, I think Amen is the director’s most crowd pleasing film.  It must evoke strong emotions for the Kerala audience that just didn’t translate to me.  I admire the technical brilliance of the film making, and Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood does a great job expanding on that aspect.  But, Amen for me is a film I admire, but doesn’t make me love it.

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