Category Archives: Movies

Me & Bollywood (A story of 2nd Chances)

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Me & Bollywood (A story of 2nd Chances)

Growing up I can’t remember exactly when I first heard the term “Bollywood”, all I know is that I found it funny because it seemed to sound like a cheap rip off of Hollywood. So in my mind it was natural to assume their movies were similarly sub-par, after all how could a developing country with its lack of cinematic history compete against the mature American film industry. I considered this assumption justified when I watched my first few Bollywood films, they were so bad that I can’t even bother to remember their names. The stories were always invariably tragic, the plot straight as an arrow with few twists if any, the director must have been a monkey because all he ever did was use a sudden burst of background thunder before zooming in on an actor’s face and finally they all seemed to be musicals. Now, I have nothing against musicals some of my favourite films are musicals such as “The Sound of Music” or “My Fair Lady” but for every film produced to be a musical, that’s just boring, sometimes you need a good action film or psychological thriller like”Charade”. So needless to say I decided never to watch a Bollywood film again.

Some years went by and I was fortunate enough to stumble onto an interview on CNN with an Indian actress, Preity Zinta. I had no idea who she was but just as I was about to change the channel the interviewer asked a question that I found myself very interested in, “So what’s with all the Musicals in Bollywood?” I decided to let her reply before changing the channel, and what she said made me give Bollywood a second chance. She spoke about how many indians actually live a hard life, filled with poverty and disillusionment and that’s why Indian films are filled with so much song, dance and colour, to provide them with a momentary escape from their tough existence.

Preity Zinta claims the colour, song and dance is meant to provide a momentary relief from a tough existence

This took me completely by surprise because I found myself having committed a great mistake when watching those indian films many years a ago. I had tried to evaluate them from a western standpoint, when in fact these films were not meant to be evaluated in such a fashion. The issues they centred upon which I found mundane and overused were actually things that they in india were grappling with but the western world had moved on from. Issues like arranged marriages, poverty and patriotism. So I decided to give Bollywood one last try.

I scurried to my local video store and began to browse the Bollywood section. I knew that this might well be my last chance to try and appreciate Indian film so it was important that I picked a good movie, because if I didn’t then all was lost. As I spent several minutes looking through the videos one suddenly caught my eye. It was titled,”LAGAAN” and though I had little idea what that meant by reading the back of the case I discovered it centred around a game of cricket. I reasoned that since I loved cricket this would probably be my best bet and so scampered home to watch it. (See Trailer Below)

In a nutshell, I loved it. The story was wonderful and epitomized India’s desire to be seen as equals with its colonial master. The use of cricket which has come to illustrate India’s global emergence really tied into the story, in fact I could hear in the background of the movie one of the British officers saying, “this country has a great future in this game.” The director’s use of camera angles and choice of shots were more than a match for his Hollywood counterparts. I was also largely pleased with the use of musical numbers. They were used to highlight key moments in the film and they added to the films charm and made the audience feel part of the adventure and did not take away from the plot at all. The actors were also very good, the lead, Aamir Khan reminded me a little of Leonardo Di Caprio. In hindsight now, having watched some of his other works, “Three Idiots”and “Fanaa” for instance, I would say he definitely has the versatility and energy that Di Caprio has.

After my experience with “Lagaan” I have since watched a few other Bollywood films, some good, some bad and some ugly but I have come to the opinion that poor films regularly occur in Hollywood as well so I’m not holding it against them. It goes without saying that the future of Indian cinema is very bright, they not only have a strong home audience which is blessed with a rising standard of living but the export of Indian culture through global migration has made Indian films more appealing to western movie goers. This has even led to hybrid East/West films such as “Bend it Like Beckham”, “On the other end of the line” and “Bride and Prejudice” becoming increasingly popular.

Indian film has grown up very quickly and their directors are fast learners, they don’t have the long history that Hollywood has as a result of great directors like Sir David Lean or Alfred Hitchcock which means they are still building their legacy and what it means to produce a truly Indian film. The old Bollywood films that I first watched and despised are from a bygone era and boy am I glad they are.

Prometheus (2012)

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Sometimes you go to the movies when you’re bored or if you really have no other creative first date ideas, but other times you go because you really want to watch the movie. Before Prometheus the last time I went just to watch the movie was in 2009 for the revamped Star Trek, being a life long Trekkie I just had to see what J. J. Abrams the producer of Lost could bring to the legendary franchise. This time around I went because I wanted to see Sir Ridley Scott go back to his roots.

Many of you know Ridley Scott as the director of Gladiator or Kingdom of Heaven but before he made movies about legendary Roman figures or the crusades he made a little film in 1979 called Alien. This was and remains to this day one of the greatest Sci Fi Horror films of all time and set him on the way to making some really great films. Yet after Alien he never touched the Sci Fi Horror genre again, till now. Prometheus is a chance for a new generation to witness one of the great film makers of our time show us just why he deserved a knighthood.

Prometheus is the real deal, not something like Avatar which anyone could tell was just a Pocahontas meets the Smurfs rip off.  With a cast that includes the talents of Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender and a really good story line it really is a Ridley Scott film. One of the really cool things about the movie is its name.

Prometheus was one of the ancient greek titans it was believed that he created man out of clay and that he stole fire from the gods and gifted it to man. The gods were very displeased with him for this and chained him to the side of a cliff where a huge vulture would eat his liver out by day and it would grow back at night for the next days feast. The crew on board the Prometheus are searching for the creators of man who they believe to be aliens yet what they find is not what they were expecting.

The story line can at times be confusing because you are essentially taken on the journey with the crew and learning things as you go along. So most of the time when they’re confused so are you but at the same time when they have an epiphany it feels like you did as well. Is the movie scary ? Not really, its a bit gross at times but no one said aliens are supposed to be clean.

The ending of the movie is very special and I don’t mean that it has anything to really do with the events of the film but it is more like a gift from Sir Ridley Scott to his long time followers. While most people at the end of the movie would be saying to themselves what was that last tiny bit and what does it have to do with the movie? A true follower of his films will have a small smile on their face and say, “nice one!”

Overall it’s not as good as Alien which will always be looked upon as the benchmark but it is a wonderful piece of work. So I give it 8 out of 10 stars. If you’re looking for a much more spoiler like review with more explanations of the alien universe click here for one of my fellow bloggers review of the film.

The Ramen Girl (2008)

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The title says it all so I should probably stop writing now, but I’m not going to. This isn’t a movie that was ever on my must watch list, I just happened to see it while browsing Netflix on a lazy day and thought I’d give it a shot.

I’m a bit of a food lover so the idea you could make a whole movie centered around Ramen ( A japanese noodle dish) did intrigue me a tiny bit. I guess the most educational thing I learned from this movie was that there exists a ramen museum in Yokohama, which just sounds crazy but yes if I’m ever in Yokohama I plan on checking it out. Before I write more about the movie you might as well have a gander at the trailer.

This is the first movie I have watched which stars the late Brittany Murphy who died tragically in 2009. She plays the films protagonist Abby, who as you could probably tell from the trailer does not seem to be having the best of times. The best way to describe Abby is to say she’s just precious, although we see her drink and smoke she seems to be something out of a children’s book my guess is she was modeled after Heidi, the swiss fictional character. She is inquisitive, loving, fiercely determined and very child like.

The movie is not extremely special and doesn’t do much more than offer a brief period of entertainment but you could sense the writers were trying to go a lot deeper. They explore japanese culture especially the japanese obsession with perfection. I once saw a BBC video on japanese children’s lunch boxes and saw mothers spend hours making the perfect lunch boxes for their kids every morning only for it to be devoured in 15 minutes.

There is also a brief moment where we see Japanese superiority on show, when one of the characters explains he was teased as a child for having Korean grandparents. Some of you may not know this but the need for purity is very important in japanese blood lines, the country shut the whole world out for several years just to preserve this and still to this day some of the citizens look down on foreigners.

This movie really is a struggle to rate, it’s a bit of everything and so does not perform exemplary in any particular category, maybe the producers were looking for mass appeal. Also the ending is a little bitter-sweet which is rather uncommon. She succeeds in some of her goals while fails in others, this is very much like real life. However nobody watches a movie to see real life, I’ve already got enough of that to deal with. So I’m going to give it 6.5 stars. In retrospect the movie seems to be a less awesome version of the Karate Kid 4 which stars Hilary Swank. To anyone who’s interested in watching this movie, make sure you do it with a good bowl of ramen!

The Sleeping Dictionary (2003)

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I recently watched this movie on Netflix and found it quite entertaining, it’s not anything that you will remember vividly years from now like Titanic or The Bridge On the River Kwai but it’s a great watch if you’re in the mood. The film is extremely long and its story all too familiar but its cast makes up for this very well. It stars somewhat underrated actor Hugh Dancy playing the role of British overseer John Truscot and the gorgeous Jessica Alba playing Selima the beautiful linguist. They compliment each other very well and you really get to see just how good they are acting in such unconventional roles.

When I heard about Selima being a “sleeping dictionary’ the first thing I did was google if this still went on in Sarawak and if I could sign up for lessons. I’m sure there are very few men who could resist the chance to learn a language in this most unusual way.

I really enjoyed the first half of the movie, unlike the second half it was more playful with the couple getting to know each other, I particularly enjoyed the scene where Truscot tells Selima in his culture he must wait to be married before sleeping with a woman. To which Selima replies, “but then without practice you will be bad at sex and your wife will be unhappy.” Try as he might abstinence eventually goes flying out the window and he has to explain to her how his culture has suddenly changed, that’s my boy!

The second half of the film deals with secrets being uncovered and there are quite a few of them. These secrets add an extremely touching feel to the movie which sometimes feels lost because everyone in the film must seemingly choose between duty and happiness. It shows human beings have many faces the face they wear when nobody else is looking and the face they must put on in public, the two hardly ever match and they tear at each other constantly.

I would rate the movie at 7.5 stars it is playful and touching yet at the same time serious and dramatic. The plot although has been done before yet has a small twist which is always nice. You can watch the movie on Netflix and Youtube, if you do please tell me what you thought of it.