Bang Bang!, 2014

There is a certain genre of Hindi movie that falls into the realm of mindless surrealism.  In the vernacular, it is referred to as a “masala” movie.

Bang Bang! is the latest offering in the genre, and what a fine specimen it is.  It’s got great James Bond-style action, lots of songs, great dancing, pretty faces, and melodrama galore.

What more could you possibly want on a Friday night? :)

Here’s what I mean:

 

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This is Where I Leave You, 2014

This is where I roll my eyes and begin to make gagging sounds…

Well, maybe that is a bit uncharitable given the all-star cast of actors that this film boasts, but I do believe it portrays a plethora of dysfunctions all in one family that just seems one too many, and I wonder if audiences worldwide (forgive me for always considering the worldview) might get the impression that this may be more the norm to all American families in general. And that it perhaps takes the most dire of reunions such as those to be had at funerals to settle differences, conflicts, and unresolved childhood and adolescent issues.

Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, and Jason Bateman are all quite shining in their performances, but you somehow wish they were put to work on a better script. There are certainly a few moments of unbridled comedy, but they unfortunately are not overwhelmingly in favor of making the film a memorable one.

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The Drop, 2014

Bad guys look like good guys look like bad guys. But not everyone is kind to pets. And tough girls are really soft on the inside and sometimes like bad guys who may happen to be good guys. Or not.

Well, all this in the historic borough of Brooklyn in New York City should make for an exciting story – only, it happens to be only mildly interesting, all things considered.

Naomi Rapace, the girl from the Dragon series trilogy gives a good performance, and James Gandolfini is very much in his element in this last performance of his acting career and life. Although lacking in a tight storyline, there is an element of suspense and a twist toward the end, and the bartender Bob, an actor by the name of Tom Hardy that I am not familiar with, actually does quite a decent job of projecting a certain façade while concealing dark secrets that we don’t learn about until the very end.

Overall, somewhat forgettable, but no major regrets for having gone to the movies on a Wednesday night.

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Discount Day? I Guess That’s Our Cue!

The last picture James Gandolfini was in.

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Finding Fanny, 2014

You know how you sometimes can eat a meal in a fancy restaurant but come away feeling no satisfaction for having had it? That is somewhat how yours truly felt from having watched Fanny albeit having gone in with great expectations for a fine feast.

One can only hope that Dimple Kapadia’s huge posterior must have been a prosthetic one, and if not, well, then one wonders how she could have let herself go like that. But regardless of how real or artificial said posterior might be, I would venture to say that it was probably one of the more interesting elements of the film.

Which is surely saying very little, for the cast is indeed an impressive one. With character actors such as Naseeruddin Shah and Pankaj Kapur in the fore, not to mention Kapadia herself, alongside the young and beautiful likes of Deepika Padukone and her love interest Arjun Kapoor, one would expect to be sucked into a grand tale with fine acting. Alas, no matter how fine the acting, the tale itself was a very weak and shaky one, and by the end of it all, one is not sure if the appropriate reaction ought to be irritation, disappointment, or even mild anger. Because, how can it be that with such a lovely group of actors in a setting as picturesque as the small verdant towns of the western coastal state of Goa, could such drivel be drummed up.

The movie is all in English which is all fine and good, and perhaps the only interesting note that reflects the linguistic diversity of the country. And the other redeeming feature, of course, is the lovely landscape of Goa.

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Mary Kom, 2014

The girl can act. It’s true. Priyanka Chopra seems to have given her all to bring the character and story of Mary Kom, an Indian boxing legend, spring to life on the silverscreen. Were it not for her convincing portrayal, I probably wouldn’t have really become aware of, let alone appreciate, the struggle of this woman in a male-dominated society and in a country that places little value on the beauty and power of sports in general, and sports played by a woman, in particular.

In addition to offering us a lively account of Mary Kom’s life and struggles to make her name in the sport of boxing, the film is also a window into the northeast corner of India – into the beautiful place and people that call the state of Manipur, home.

Although having been born and raised in India, I have had practically zero-exposure to anything Manipuri, and looked on in amazement at the portrayal of poverty-stricken rural life in Manipur. It matters not that the movie might have been shot in neighboring Imphal; what matters is the accurate portrayal of the life of the people in a land that has all but forgotten them.

Another sad fact that was illuminated is the callous attitude of the Indian government’s policies and practices that do little to build and support athletes and sports infrastructures in a country of a billion people. Is it not a shame that so little emphasis is placed on nurturing the children and youth of the land to seek out their potential to possibly excel in so many individual and team sports?

And so, in light of all this, to see a young woman rise up against all odds to make her family, her state, and her country proud, is indeed a cause célèbre – one that will, I hope, make young girls everywhere sit up and take notice, and perhaps give themselves permission to dream and hope for a more equitable, brighter, and vibrant future in the field of sports.

Ms. Chopra certainly is the star of the film, and rightfully so, although her husband in the story does a fine job of supporting her professional ambitions even as he more than shares all parenting responsibilities. Another note to self: I wonder if the average Indian male is paying attention…

Sure, there’s a touch of melodrama, Bollywood-style, but hey, so what? If that adds to the appeal of the story and brings in the masses, why ever not?

And as a far sidebar, I enjoyed very much the beautiful vistas of the Manali area – a most beautiful part of Himachal Pradesh, another state within India, that rivals the Swiss Alps in beauty and grandeur with the great Beas flowing right through the city.

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Magic in the Moonlight, 2014

This latest Woody Allen offering is charming in its simplicity. Especially in an era where motion pictures are anything but simple in style, scope, cinematography, special effects, sound effects, etc. Perhaps a little too simplistic, but refreshing nonetheless.

A classic theme of faith vs. reason forms the underlying current of the storyline, and we are treated to lovely vistas of the French Riviera in evening light that include vintage cars and elegant costumes, all of which of course, pale in the glow of the young American woman from Kalamazoo, Michigan, played by the lovely Emma Stone. Colin Firth is the consummate Englishman actor, but one can’t help wonder if a girl as young as Stone might truly fall in love with a man his age. Or is that how art reflects life given the well-known personal life of the director, Mr. Allen?

I suppose there have been more remarkable films of Mr. Allen than this one; and for all you know, this one might very well seem like a recycled one, but all flaws notwithstanding, there is a sweetness to it, and for someone like myself who is willing to intentionally turn a blind eye to such thematic matters, it is time well-spent.

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