These are the movies I want to watch in the coming months, with their Indian release dates.
September 2: Don’t Breathe, directed by Fede Alvarez. The premise, where a bunch of youngsters break into the house of a blind old man, who happens to be a badass, is interesting.
September 9: Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood. It’s the first major film shot almost completely in IMAX, and features airplanes and Tom Hanks.
September 16: The Shallows, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Another interesting premise, about a girl who needs to cross a not-very-wide body of water, easy enough except there’s a shark.
September 23: The Magnificent Seven, directed by Antoine Fuqua. A western starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio.
September 30: MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, directed by Neeraj Pandey. Sure, nothing about this sounds exciting, but the director made A Wednesday, Special 26 and Baby.
October 7: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, directed by Tim Burton. It’s basically Tim Burton’s X-Men, with Eva Green taking on the “Professor X” role.
October 14: Inferno, directed by Ron Howard. Yes, I liked the novel. In fact, I generally like Dan Brown’s novels. Really. Unfortunately, the adaptations have been disappointing.
October 21: Keeping Up with the Joneses, directed by Greg Mottola. A spy comedy starring Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis. This could be even better than last year’s “Spy”.
October 28: Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, directed by Karan Johar. I don’t know. Could be the next MNIK, could be the next SOTY. Good cast, though. Fawad Khan was amazing in Kapoor and Sons.
November 4: Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson. Benedict Cumberbatch. Tilda Swinton. Rachel McAdams. Chiwetel Ejiofor. Mads Mikkelsen. Magic. Marvel.
November 11: Rock On!! 2, directed by Shujaat Saudagar. I cannot overstate how hyped I am for this, but Shraddha Kappor? Really? That’s like casting Megan Fox in a sequel to Mission: Impossible.
November 16: Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve. “Realistic alien invasion movie” might sound like an oxymoron, but once you watch the trailer, you realize these guys really mean it.
November 23: Moana, directed by Musker and Clements. A lot of the hype comes from there being a Disney Princess of colour, but I didn’t believe it would actually be good until I saw the trailer.
By far the one I’m looking forward most to is Doctor Strange, since the heavy hitters such as Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and La La Land are probably not coming out till November.
Neither Hell or High Water nor Kubo and the Two Strings released when they were supposed to last month, so it’s not a good idea to get one’s hopes up. Still, it looks like 2016 might just redeem itself.
Sure, 2017 may have stolen 2016’s thunder with the announcement of Dunkirk a few days ago, but 2016 still has a lot of cryofreeze-worthy movies. So many, in fact, that I had to leave out highly anticipated movies like Rogue One (I don’t trust Gareth Edwards), Doctor Strange (don’t trust Scott Derrickson either), WarCraft (haven’t played the game), Jane Got a Gun (haven’t experienced Gavin O’Connor’s awesomeness firsthand), Zootopia/The Jungle Book (trailers weren’t great enough), Ghostbusters (too young to be nostalgic), Star Trek Beyond (trailer was horrible), Kung fu Panda 3 (that’s how exciting 2016 is, even KFP didn’t make it) and many, many more.
There are a few more very, very exciting movies coming out this year that only barely missed out, but I’m more interested in seeing your reaction when you reach the end of the list and realize you didn’t see them there.
10. Sully – Kicking off the list is Sully, a biopic of American pilot Chesley Sullenberger directed by Clint Eastwood. The cast of this movie, lead by Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart, itself would have been enough to convince me it is going to be awesome, but it was Eastwood’s name that secured its place on the list. The last biopic he directed, American Sniper, ended up one of the best movies of 2014, and I’m sure this one will repeat that feat.
9. X-Men: Apocalypse – Directed by Bryan Singer. Not only was Days of Future Past awesome, but this is one franchise where the prequels have consistently been better than the originals. A kickass trailer and Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse pretty much sealed the deal.
8. The Magnificent Seven – This western, directed by Antoine Fuqua, is a remake of the 1960 western The Magnificent Seven, which itself was a remake of the Akira Kurosawa classic, Seven Samurai. Fuqua directed Training Day starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke and last year’s awesome Southpaw. Not only does The Magnificent Seven reunite him with Washington and Hawke, but also stars Chris Pratt and Vincent D’Onofrio. Wow.
7. The BFG – Directed by Steven Spielberg, BFG is short for Big Friendly Giant. It is a Disney Fantasy movie, and that coupled with the title would make one think this is going to be a standard kiddie flick. Sure, Spielberg excels at basically any genre he touches. Sure, the trailer possesses the one quality such a movie needs the most: wonder. But it still will be a kiddie flick, right? Oh wait, I forgot to mention: It is based off of a Roald Dahl book. So it won’t just be a kiddie flick. It will be a smart kiddie flick. I’m in. (Actually, I was in at Spielberg.)
6. Hail, Caesar! – The Coen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, True Grit) are well known for their handling of humor in their movies, so a comedy written and directed by them is an obvious pick. It becomes more obvious when you consider that it stars George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlet Johansson, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum and Josh Brolin. Still not sold? I’ll let the trailer do the rest of the job.
5. Deadpool – Directed by Tim Miller. You know what makes a comic book superhero even more awesome? When he knows he’s in a superhero movie. Ryan Reynolds has already shown us he can play an awesome Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and in the trailers so far, he seems to be even more awesome as Deadpool. The humor feels perfect, the action feels perfect, it’s as self-aware as it needs to be, and it’s irreverent as hell. This movie exists because of the fans, and so far, it seems like it was made for the fans. Warning: the trailer is NSFW.
4. Everybody Wants Some – This movie probably won’t be for everyone, it’s a very personal choice. You see, I’m a big soppy fan of Richard Linklater’s movies. He makes indie movies like Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy and Boyhood. His movies are basically a bunch of people talking to each other. And these conversations are not only very real, but way more interesting than most real conversations. So while on the surface, this seems like just another college drama, it is safe to expect much, much more than that.
3. Finding Dory – Inside Out showed us that Pixar is back to making beautiful, emotional, smart movies. But you see, we didn’t really need that to be excited for Finding Dory, because it is directed by Andrew Stanton, the guy behind Finding Nemo and Wall-E. So we know this isn’t just a cash-grab. Or if it is, it’s the good kind of cash-grab. And if you remind me of how Cars 2 made the mistake of bringing Tow Mater to the forefront, pushing Dory into the spotlight is a decision I can get behind. She’s more fun than Nemo and Marlin anyway.
2. La La Land – Haven’t heard of this movie? Until a few hours ago, I hadn’t either. La La Land is a romantic musical dramedy starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, directed by Damien Chazelle, the guy behind Whiplash. I wouldn’t place so much faith in a director based on just one movie, but you see, Whiplash isn’t just a great movie, it is one of the greatest I have EVER seen. If you need more motivation, well, JK Simmons is in it.
1. Captain America: Civil War – The very idea of superheroes is a problematic one. Always has been. It takes a dump on the whole ‘we are born equal’ thing. A few people’s whims now dictate the fates of billions. And these people aren’t elected. And we all saw the consequences of such unsupervised individual decisions in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now the only way to deal with this issue seems to be to treat superpowers, which are basically a part of who these people are, as weapons that need to be registered. No wonder people are divided on this. So now we have a superhero civil war, Captain America leading one side and Iron Man the other. And the reason I have complete faith that this issue will be dealt with properly is because the movie is directed by the Russo brothers, the directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of Marvel’s best movies to date. Also, Tony Stark saying “So was I.” Plus, it introduces Spider-Man, guys!
Honorable mentions: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice by Zack Snyder, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by David Yates and Silence by Martin Scorcese.
Also, bonus list, these are the 5 Bollywood movies I’m excited for:
5. MS Dhoni: The Untold Story – Really scraping the bottom of the barrel here, the only reason I’m interested in this movie at all is because it is directed by Neeraj Pandey, the guy behind A Wednesday, one of the best Indian movies ever made.
4. Fan – SRK hasn’t been picking great, or even good movies for quite some time now, but this seems like he’s finally going to start taking things seriously. The concept sure sounds interesting. SRK plays a guy who’s a fan of SRK. Let’s see how this goes.
3. Rustom – Also directed by Neeraj Pandey, this one has the benefit of starring Akshay Kumar. Their previous collaborations, Special 26 and Baby have been good popcorn fun. [Update: It was all a lie. Neeraj Pandey isn’t directing it after all 😦]
2. Raees – Also starring SRK, this movie has a really cool teaser. Cool enough to put it at the #2 spot. Seriously, I know virtually nothing about this movie, but I’m pumped for it nevertheless.
1. Aligarh – Citylights and Shahid are 2 of my favorite Bollywood movies, making Hansal Mehta a guy whose work I really look forward to. Add to that a premise (biopic of a homosexual professor) very progressive by Bollywood standards. Add to that universally rave reviews from festivals. Add to that Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkumar Rao, and you have a movie that almost made it to my overall list.
There are times when I feel like all hope for Indian TV is lost. Then Yudh comes up and I feel like we’re back on track. And then I get depressed again.
We’ve complained for years about the lack of watchable Indian TV. But what incentive do visionary creators like Ribhu Dasgupta have when people won’t watch? When the network airs the show at 10:30 PM, 4 days a week, and doesn’t even have a repeat telecast, how many will even bother?
Enough moping around, time to gain the series a few viewers.
Yudhishthir Sikarwar (Amitabh Bachchan), boss of a huge company he built from scratch, is suffering from a disease which weakens him psychologically and gives him only a few years to live when every aspect of his life is simultaneously and systematically attacked.
Yudh is a psychological thriller and I don’t use that term lightly. Amitabh Bachchan plays a character who, on the surface, is the typical angry not-so-young badass Amitabh Bachchan character, but inside, he is seriously screwed up. But even as he descends into insanity, it is impossible not to care about him when one realizes that he really has nothing to lose here. The thousands (or was it tens of thousands?) of people working for him could lose their livelihoods, bridges could collapse, everyone who cares for him may suffer, and that really is what shatters him, and not any significant personal harm.
And he’s not the only one. The show takes the typical tropes of the loyal daughter, the bratty son, the cautious sidekick, the efficient secretary and turns each one of them into characters we know and care about, but with some really ugly skeletons in their closets. There is no clear right and wrong here, and the biggest question here isn’t really “Who’s the bad guy?”, because we are left wondering how many of the decisions made by the so-called heroes make them the bad guys.
What a series like this needs the most is a mood. Yudh has it in spades. In terms of plot progression, the series moves at a breakneck pace, but in any individual scene, we feel not hurry, but tension as the action slows down for reflection, and to give the characters more time to really pull us in, to convince us of the gravity of the situation. And the score isn’t just the best I’ve heard in Indian TV, it’s one of the best I’ve ever heard. It was ringing in my head days after the series ended. In fact, it’s been playing in my head the entire time I’ve been typing up this review. I wish they released a soundtrack, but then again, how many people would really buy it?
Kay Kay Menon has a minor role in the series, and it’s worth mentioning because when he and Amitabh Bachchan are in a scene together, it’s him one focuses on. He commands it. Watch Shahid for more of Kay Kay Menon being awesome.
I recommend: It’s free on the Sony website and youtube channel. Watch it. Please. In fact, watch it and then rate it on IMDb. Also, recommend it to others. Indian TV is calling out to you.
Happy New Year Readers! Today starts a series of posts remembering what 2014 gave us in the fiction department. We begin with Filmistaan, my favorite Indian movie this year. So what if I saw just six of them? It still was awesome!
Assistant director, wannabe actor and Bollywood buff Sunny gets kidnapped by Pakistani terrorists and is held hostage. He is confined in a house belonging to a man who makes his living selling pirated Hindi movies, and they bond over their shared love of cinema. The movie goes on to celebrate the unifying power of cinema, something that I believe can be extended to the unifying power of stories in general.
Both the protagonists are instantly likable, and from the outset, I wanted Sunny to succeed in returning home yet I could not bear the thought of the two guys separating. The actors do an excellent job too, as the experienced and novice movie-lovers respectively.
For a movie which, for the most part, is about Indo-Pak friendship, it could have been terrible to begin with Pakistani terrorists abducting an Indian. However, this movie did an excellent job of fleshing out the characters to the point that even the terrorists were more than their messed up ideals, they were people, unique and with likes and dislikes of their own. Yet the characters we really empathize with are the civilians, showing us that the issue is terrorism, not Pakistan, and, more importantly, that they are not the same.
The plot occasionally feels far-fetched and over the top, with moments where Sunny’s love for Bollywood seems to reach irrational levels, but seeing as that is portrayed as a part of who he is, it’s forgivable.
The soundtrack, devoid of song-and-dance tracks, enhances the lighthearted feel of the movie, but is also tense when it needs to be.
The only problem I think I have with this movie is that Sunny is a Salman Khan fan. What the hell Sunny? I really wanted to like you more.
To summarize, this movie you’ve probably not heard of, by a director you’ve probably not heard of, starring actors you’ve probably not heard of, is a movie I stumbled upon, and thank 2014 I did!
I recommend: If you remember the typical song and dance old school Bollywood movies (which, concerning as it is, are not that old school) fondly, but are tired of them and want well made movies which spend every minute of the runtime trying to enhance the storytelling, watch this. If you don’t hate Pakistan, more specifically, Pakistanis, watch this. If you do hate Pakistanis, I don’t know if you’ll enjoy the movie, but I would really love it if you watch this.
At the outset, let me make this clear: I liked the movie. Now we can begin.
An alien comes to Earth, has trouble going back home, has trouble adjusting here, hears some sort of omnipotent entity called God can help him get back, does everything anyone tells him to do to contact God and send his request, fails, and we have a movie contemplating issues with the way religions work and the irrationalities of the decisions people make in the name of how they believe God functions.
We also have a love story between a Hindu girl and a Muslim guy which runs into the usual troubles and a story of the alien’s unrequited love for the Hindu girl.
Notice that, had that second paragraph of the synopsis not been there, it would have made complete sense, and would actually have been more interesting. That was exactly the case with the scenes pertaining to those paragraphs. The only thing they added to the movie was runtime.
Another issue with the storytelling in this movie was the tone. That is something really important in determining a movie experience. For example, when watching Inception, you hang on to every word and expression, and both your brain and your pulse are racing. When watching Dhamaal, however, you don’t look for logic and character development in the plot. Not that thrillers don’t have humor or emotional moments and comedies don’t have wit, just that these moments fit seamlessly into the tone of the movie. This, however, was like drunken driving (see what I did there?). You want to focus and reflect on the struggles of the alien and the lackings of human society, but the movie keeps reminding you not to take it seriously by making people act uncharacteristically simply to move the plot forward or playing songs where a bunch of people randomly start dancing. The slapstick comedy (the only language the alien’s able to learn is Bhojpuri, you know, that funny language) doesn’t help either. While the movie was busy cracking adult jokes, some of which were pathetic enough to classify in the same category as fart jokes, there was this one joke which I actually found funny, but clearly, the writer realized how good the joke was, for the movie kept cracking that joke on and on and on till all it did was make me yawn. (Yaaay! Rhyme!)
One of the things the movie did best was the way it handled the anti-religious themes. It introduced us to someone who has a completely unbiased viewpoint in order to make us realize the absurdity of our
beliefs practices. Also, being an atheist, there is only one argument I have heard for religion that has made any sense to me, and this movie did not forget to put that argument forward.
This movie was directed by Rajkumar Hirani. That guy who also directed Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munna Bhai and 3 Idiots. You must have noticed some of the common factors, like a sort of defiance against an established structure, a lot of cuteness, slapstick humor, but you know another thing that’s common? Boman Irani. For more of Boman Irani being awesome, watch Positive, a 17 minute short movie. It was directed by Farhan Akhtar and stars Boman Irani and Shabana Azmi, and I probably don’t need to tell you more to convince you to watch it.
All in all, PK was a fine concept but a poorly made movie.
I recommend: If you’ve already seen OMG: Oh My God!, skip PK. If you haven’t, watch OMG: Oh My God!, then skip PK. OMG is basically the same idea and almost the same discussion in a well made movie.