Posts Tagged movie

The Hate U Give – Movie Review


The Hate U Give is a movie based on Angie Thomas’s award-winning book about the experience of Starr Carter, a black teen who witnesses the fatal police shooting of a close friend.  Directed by George Tillman Jr. and written by Audrey Wells, the movie tells the story of race and racism, powerfully and without putting people into well defined buckets. It does not encapsulate “one black experience” of police suspicion and brutality towards black people, in a single story, and it does not summarize “one white reaction”, with a single story. Instead, in telling the story of a young black teenager against the backdrop of police suspicion of black people, father preparing his black children with stern lectures on how to behave during inevitable police stops; against the backdrop of white privilege, upward mobility, gang wars, poverty, and drugs, the movie offers a powerful portrayal of what it often means to grow up black in America.
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Not all black people have a single story and not all grow up in poverty or in gang infested neighborhoods, or in dysfunctional homes. And yet, society often notices the color of the skin, before noticing the individual person, in that skin. Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) is a black teen. After a brief brush with criminal justice system and bad influence, her father (Russell Hornsby) owns and operates a store in a largely black neighborhood. It is on account of her mother’s (Regina Hall) determination, persistence, and relentless focus on education, and mom’s determination to change the circumstances and preempt the dysfunctionality in her family from affecting her children, that Starr’s future looks bright. Starr and her two brothers (Dominque Fishback and Lamar Johnson) attend the affluent, predominantly white prep school, and for a while appear to be completely shielded from the experiences of other black people around them.Image result for hate u giveHowever, an unfortunate incident puts the family right in the center of it all. One evening, Starr is driven home from a party in her neighborhood, by her childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith). On the way home, they are stopped by a white police officer and unarmed Khalil is shot without any prominent reason. As the city erupts in riots, Starr has her own soul searching to do. Her friend Khalil is maligned because he was involved in drug peddling as he was taking care of his family while his mother was going through cancer treatments.

Image result for hate u giveAmandla Stenberg is fantastic as Starr. This movie is immensely powerful because it focuses on the individual story of a young teen so well that it is through her experience, that we get a peek into the ignorance of some of her white friends as well as the openness of others. It is through her experience, that we learn, that it is not just a single major trauma of seeing a friend killed by gangs or by cops, that a young person is scarred. Instead, it is also the exhausting seeping of energy, drop by drop by drop. As an upwardly mobile person, Starr feels the pressure to hide her “blackness” from her non black peers, and her acquired “whiteness” from her black friends.  Being half a person at any give time and living half the truth in each circumstance, takes an enormous toll and builds upon all the other traumas. It is through her experience that we learn how society has created two separate worlds, where even black cops are suspicious of black folks. In the end, this is a film about how one girl finds her own voice and opens the door to living a more authentic life. Not that it will be easy. But finally Starr finds the freedom to be her complete self, regardless of the context in which she interacts.

This is one of the best films of the year. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the film 4.9.

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Book Club – Movie Review


Inspired by the steamy bestseller “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the movie “Book Club” offers for the fainthearted, the best comedy, minus any actual S&M action. A group of senior women, Vivian (Jane Fonda), Diane (Diane Keaton), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol  (Mary Steenburgen) choose to read the steamy bestseller and the result is a superbly funny comedy. These women are not the only high profile star cast. The men who enter their lives also make a fine cast and also deserve a special mention; they are, Mitchell (Andy Garcia), Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), Arthur (Don Johnson), George (Richard Dreyfuss), Tom (Ed Begley Jr.).
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The desire for intimate companionship for seniors and perhaps for women more than men, is often relegated to the trash heap, in the channels of intimacy. While in some cultures, desire for intimacy among women may be a matter of amusement or may be discouraged in the espoused interest of safety, in others, it is actively frowned upon, banned and even punished.. (Watch my review of a similar Bollywood movie “Lipstick Under My Burkha” http://bit.ly/2p5b2Xm ). Cold showers is a remedy often prescribed in India, for any “wayward thoughts of intimacy”.

Image result for book club, movieBut it is not just in the realm of physical intimacy that this film delivers. Loneliness and craving for a companion who may be at similar stage in life, is often one of the most significant need among senior citizens. The film scores on addressing both of these issues, the significance of companionship and the need for physical intimacy, and shows how they sometimes (but not always) go hand in hand.  Very likely these women have been doing book club for years. Maybe the right impetus, right circumstances did not arrive until this moment when all of them are intrigued with the thought of exploring the idea of intimacy and provide mutual encouragement. It matters but little, as long as they seized the moment.

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Using the steamy book as a stepping stone, these women explore the aspect of physical intimacy; and at first kicking and screaming and later gently, glide into the cozy realm of emotional intimacy. They all at first, seem to concur with Vivian that “emotional connection is highly overrated” and make a pact “we shall not go gentle into the good night”. Brilliant and witty use of metaphors supplies an endless stream of humor. These feisty, fearless, independent women who provide companionship, solace and support to each other, fight the focus on softer, gentler aspects of intimacy with the opposite sex, for as long as they could. But in the end they find that physical intimacy is that much more satisfying and joyous when they are or if they are also able to find emotional connection.  Even those among this feisty group, who can’t find intimacy, get it. Sharon sums up about love (and it is rephrased here), love does not happen because the person is intelligent or pretty and it’s not the sun or the moon or all the meaning we load onto it; love is just a word, until someone gives it meaning, and you find that someone when you put yourself out there.  \

It is a beautiful movie and on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate it 4.7 – in theaters now.

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Tumhari Sulu – Movie Review


Unlike a typical feminist Bollywood heroine, Sulochana or Sulu (Vidya Balan) in this movie, is neither excelling in athletics (Mary Kom or Chak De India), nor is she on a mission (Kahaani), nor is she fighting for a right cause (Mardaani). Instead, film “Tumhari Sulu”, written and directed by Suresh Triven, is about a typical middle class suburban “housewife”, beaten down by her more ambitious and traditional family, buoyed by her love for her husband and son, and occasionally dreaming of a better life and yet perfectly happy with her life as it is.

Image result for tumhari suluSulu’s life takes a turn when her obsession with entering small contests and winning prizes lands her in the role of a nighttime RJ and catapults her to fame. Her husband Ashok (Manav Kaul) works as a manager in a small tailoring firm and puts up with inefficiency, disdain and insults from his bosses, just to bring home a paycheck.  With his wife’s entry into the workplace and resulting fame, Ashok not only has to deal with his work pressures in a dead end job, but has to pull higher load of responsibilities on the home front, while he is forced to listen to judgmental comments from others about his wife’s career.

How will Ashok and Sulu’s family resolve the new challenge that is rocking their relationship? Vidya Balan is highly entertaining as Sulu and Manav Kaul has played a strong supportive role. The challenges faced by this family may easily mirror those faced by many suburban middle class families and their experiences when gender roles go through a ringer. With fabulous cast and excellent subject matter, this film had a huge potential to be one of the social blockbuster films. Instead with unnecessarily elongated time, useless songs, weak climax and slow meandering pace, it seems to lose focus and fails to leave a mark.

On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate it a 3.2 .

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“Dum Laga Ke Haisha” – Bollywood Movie Review


Dum Laga Ke Haisha is a beautiful romantic comedy that offers the laughs amid touching, tender moments, as a young couple, forced into a marriage by the family elders, tries to find what is in their own heart, and in the process finds a way to each other’s heart.  Brilliantly written and directed by Sharat Katariya, the scenes flow seamlessly, without appearing excessive or contrived.

Insecure young man, Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) has nurtured his own version of a perfect life partner, a beautiful slim girl.  His family, led by his overbearing father (Sanjay Mishra), chooses a girl for him, based on reasons that are purely practical.  An educated girl from a good family would help uplift the family economically by bringing in an extra source of income.  After all, Prem is deemed a failure by his father.  Their attention is drawn to Sandhya Tiwari (Bhumi Pednekar), who is educated and aspires to be a teacher.  Sandhya is also plump but then looks are often relegated to the least useful category, when arranging a marriage.  

Tiwaris and Vermas get together, through an intermediary, and arrange a marriage between their children, Prem and Sandhya.  Prem throws a fit and refuses to marry a girl who is plump.  His father scorns his lack of educational success and admonishes him that he is no better, “dasvi to nikal na paya, juhi chawla ke sapne dekh raha hai”.   In the end, the unwilling groom is compelled to acquiesce to the marriage.  Thus begins an awkward relationship, between a reluctant husband who despises being forced into the marriage and the girl who dreamed of love.  Prem laments to his friends “mere ghodu baap ne zindagi barbad kar di meri” and later resolves, “mein kuch karunga aur apna astitv banaunga”.

Sandhya is educated and has plenty of spunk.  When she found her husband mocking her in public, she leaves Prem and his family, and files for divorce.  The clever girl, appropriately defines the problem for the judge, “ji prem ka vivah tha sandhya ke saath, lekin prem to tha hi nahin”.  As the bitterness between the couple has reached the breaking point, much to the chagrin of the families, the couple is forced to look for deeper, more lasting meaning of love.  After all beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and sometimes, in the well groomed muscles, as you will find out :).  

It is a fun, light-hearted comedy.  Khuraana and Pednekar are fantastic, in their roles.  Their life appears to evolve naturally, without feeling contrived.  I rate the movie 3.7 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

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“Bahubali: The Beginning”- Bollywood Movie Review


Director S. S. Rajamouli’s “Bahubali: The Beginning” is first part of two part series.   Shot simultaneously in Tamil and Telugu, and released in a dubbed Hindi version, overseen by producer/director Karan Johar, it is a Bollywood version of Hercules/ Superman movie.  South Indian actor, Prabhas, as Bahubali, with his sheer muscular physicality, can single handedly fight armies, while defending the helpless, whereas the gentler side in him is moved to lift a two ton Shiva lingam out of the earth and bring and position it under the waterfall, so his mother can fulfill her oath of pouring water over it 116 times.

In the history of Indian cinema, Bahubali, with a budget of reported $40 million, is the most expensive production, to date.  Post release marketing has also been extensive.  Bahubali boasts the largest film poster in the world (a 50,000 square-foot billboard in Kochi).  Now Bahubali is expected to break box office records in India and around the world.  

Believed to be orphaned as an infant, Bahubali miraculously survives a murder plot, and is found by a local village woman, who raises him, as her son.  Growing up, Bahubali is pulled by the lure of the mountains that surround the village.  Despite his mother’s admonitions, he keeps attempting to scale the high mountains ,and finally succeeds.  High up, near the clouds, he meets the love of his life, Avanthika (Tamannaah) who belongs to a rebel group, seeking to overthrow a kingdom that is wrongfully usurped by its current king, and rescue the queen, who is held prisoner.  Bahubali proclaims his love for Avanthika and promises to take on her cause.  Bahubali is then called to fulfill more duties, than he might have bargained for, and the adventure will continue in part 2.

I rate this movie as 3.8 on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being excellent.  It has action galore.

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“Fury” – Movie Review


Director David Ayer’s “Fury” could have been a great movie.  It moves at good pace and keeps the attention of the audience.  Performance by WarDaddy (Brad Pitt), well its awesome, but then he is Brad Pitt, and his men gunner Bible (Shia LaBeouf), Hispanic lead driver Gordo (Michael PIna) and the mechanic Coon-Ass (Jon Berenthal), and the newcomer to join the team Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) does not lack oomf.  But it is the story and the character development that is coming up short.

Set during the final days of World War II, as the Allied forces were moving through Germany, they were finding pockets where Nazis were putting up their toughest resistance, including putting kids to fight and leaving hanging corpses of those who refused to fight.  WarDaddy’s tank Fury along with 3 other tanks on a mission, gets caught up in an ambush that destroys all the other tanks, except Fury.  On its way back, Fury happens to come upon a mine and breaks down.  Before it can be repaired, the men notice that very soon close to 300 SS troops would come upon them.

English: WESTERN DESERT, EGYPT. 1942-09-16. TA...

English: WESTERN DESERT, EGYPT. 1942-09-16. TANK OFFICERS OF THE ROYAL SCOTS GREYS INSPECTING DAMAGE DONE TO A GERMAN PZKFW III AUSF E MEDIUM TANK BY THEIR GENERAL GRANT M3 MEDIUM TANK. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the men suggests that they leave the tank and flee, saving their lives, but Mr. WarDaddy decides to stay and hold off the advancing Nazi troops for as long as he can, and one by one, the  other men decide to stay and fight till the end.  Now there are a few problems with where this is going.  If it were a true story or was based on some real life events, this would become immediately interesting.  On the other hand, if more details were shared about these men that would make us root for them, it would also make it imminently interesting.  However, in the absence of both these conditions, one wonders why so much blood, gore and sacrifice of these men makes it a story worth being cast into a movie.  We know nothing about them except that they are from the Allied forces.  They are almost nearing the end of the war.  Yes, these 5 super heroes valiantly hold off 300+ SS troops for a long while, and inflict heavy casualties, vaguely reminiscent of the Spartans.  But why?  If the war was coming to an end, it was only a matter of short time before every single Nazi soldier (including children and others forcibly recruited) would be surrendering.  What happened to the promise WarDaddy made to make sure all of his men would go home?

Somehow I fail to see justification for severed heads, decapitated limbs, hanging corpses and more in a movie drawn out over 2 hours.  The subject matter is not new, storyline is trite, and these men’s valiant sacrifice against approaching Nazi troops seems contrived and wasted.  It hardly seems like a story that needed to be told.  On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 3.0.

 

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The Imitation Game – Movie Review


A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett)

A three-rotor Enigma with plugboard (Steckerbrett) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on a series of true events, the movie tells the story of how a team of young bright mathematicians cracked the Nazi code that helped the Allies win World War II.  Prominent among them was, a brilliant, young Alan Turing, who was a British computer scientist, mathematician, logician, philosopher, marathon runner and is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.  And he was a homosexual.  A small seemingly irrelevant details about his sexual orientation, at a time in history when homosexuality was a crime, also makes this beautiful movie, a devastatingly sad one.

Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) was recruited by British Intelligence Agency M16 to crack Nazi codes, including Enigma, which was considered unbreakable.  Turing’s team included Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), Hugh Alexander (Matthew William Goode), Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong), and John Cairncross (Allen Leech).

During World War II, strongest weapon of the Axis forces were their Enigma machines, which were largely unbreakable and enabled them to plan and communicate their strategy, unhindered.  Turing and his team built a machine to break the code, that allowed Allied forces to intercept Axis communications and gave them access to information that ultimately helped the Allied forces win the war.

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park - geograp...

Alan Turing Statue at Bletchley Park – geograph.org.uk – 1591025 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The focus of the film is primarily on the time that Turing spent at Bletchley Park.  Bletchley Park was the central site of UK’s top secret, code breaking operation.  It is presumed that the “Ultra” intelligence produced at Bletchley shortened the war by two to four years, and that without it the outcome of the war would have been uncertain.  Besides Turing’s team, there were a whole cadre of brilliant young women working on manual code breaking, and “Bletchley Circle”, a mini series, recently aired on PBS, tells the story of four women who reunite years later to track down serial killers.

In 1939 however, this was such a top secret operation that everyone was forbidden to share any details of their work.  At the end of the war, these unsung heroes of the war, quietly went home.  The movie is also a sort of an indictment of Britain’s shoddy treatment of these heroes, primarily Turing, who was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual behavior and he accepted oestrogen injections (equivalent to chemical castration), to avoid prison.  In 1954, Turing committed suicide.  His is a story that needs to be told and kudos to Director, Morten Tyldum and Screenplay writer, Graham Moore for bringing it to the screen.  Cumberbatch has done a fabulous job as Turing.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.8.

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Wild – Movie Review


Wild is a movie about one woman’s journey from deep and profound loss to joy and abundance of life; from life of relative comfort to willingly, if somewhat recklessly undertaken, 1,100 mile walk.  Based on a book “Wild: From Lost to Found on Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed, the movie portrays Stayed’s physical journey through rattle snakes, frogs, wolves, and foxes, through merciless heat of the desert and bone-chilling cold of the Sierras.  And the movie shows her mental journey, through flashbacks of her life with her mother, her husband, and her experimentation with sex and drugs.  I will keep this review brief since I have already written a review of the book and here is a link to the book review http://bit.ly/16pUB9Y .

Thousand Island Lake (2997m) and Banner Peak (...

Thousand Island Lake (2997m) and Banner Peak (3943m), looking southwest from John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail at 3080m, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The film, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (of Dallas Buyers Club), is adapted from a screenplay by Nick Hornby.  Vallee has done a great job of translating Strayed’s narrative into scenes depicting Strayed’s journey.  Reese Witherspoon has a challenging role in playing Cheryl with grit and determination, Cheryl grieving the loss of her mother, Cheryl caught up in experimentation with drugs and sex, Cheryl voicing her frustrations during her challenges in the journey and so on.  Witherspoon is cast in almost every frame.  Like Strayed’s backpack, monster, Witherspoon carries the challenging role beautifully.

As I previously mentioned in my review of the book, Strayed’s story also reminded me personally, of the month I spent (very very long ago — yes I am ancient – LOL), with 4 of my fellow climbers/hikers in the Himalayan mountains, each of us carrying our own monster packs with tents, mats, food, stove, crampons, rope, ice ax and blistered feet.  With the other more experienced climbers, I climbed through the glacier, crossed a river, weathered a 10 feet fall on icy glacier that was stopped by my ice axe, and fully bathed only after a span of almost 27 days.  My journey was not as challenging as Strayed’s, neither was I lost so desperately (although I was “searching),, nor can I say that I was “found” at the end of my expedition.  But what resonates with me, about this story, is that there is something fabulous and profound about living for some time, immersed in nature, dealing with challenges presented by nature, and taking care of basic needs.  It is like combined meditation for body and mind.

I rate this movie 4.6 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent.

 

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“The Monuments Men” – Movie Review


“The Monuments Men” directed by George Clooney, based on a true story, boasts a huge star power that includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, and Hugh Boneville.  The year is 1943 and World War II is almost coming to an end.  Along with millions of lives lost in this devastating war, at risk was an incalculable loss of artistic and cultural treasures, as the Nazi soldiers were plundering millions of pieces of art and when it was not possible to haul away the loot, they were destroying them.

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, Brugge

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, Brugge (Photo credit: Erf-goed.be)

Making his case to send in men to secure this loot, at the beginning of the movie, Clooney says, “we are at a point in history where the Nazis are trying to destroy our way of life and it is a high price, if the very foundation of modern society is destroyed”.  He asks, “Who will make sure that the statue of David is still standing and Mona Lisa is still smiling”?  One of the generals, questions Clooney, “You want to go into war zone and tell our men what they can and cannot destroy”?

Finally, six brave men undertake the task of finding the hidden treasures, of securing them, conserving and cataloging them.  This was a monumental mission.  The men tasked with the mission were not soldiers, but were art curators, museum directors, and art historians, attempting to secure literally millions and millions of pieces of art. They get only minimal support from the combat troops who considered their main mission to save lives, not art.  These men operate with minimal resources, in the absence of packing materials etc. to carefully load and transport the art they find.  And they literally are in a race for time as the new boundaries are getting drawn.  They get help from an unexpected source, a French woman (Cate Blanchett) who spied on the looting operation of the Nazis for years and carefully noted and cataloged the pieces for years.

The movie based on the book by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter and produced by Grant Heslov and George Clooney, celebrates this monumental task undertaken by these brave men and a woman. In the end, they saved millions of pieces of art, sculptures and more. In one mine alone, they found 16,000 pieces of art.  In the quest for art, they also found 100 tons+ of gold stashed by the Nazis.

The movie could have been more engaging, the story could have been better told to do justice to the enormity of the mission, where a few men are scurrying like rats through the still smoldering battle, with dogged persistence, to secure for coming generations, a link to the past, a treasure that society will only come to value in the years to come.  But this is a story that must be told and one that is engaging and uplifting.  I give the movie a ranking of 3.9 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

 

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