Movie review: Basmati Blues

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a movie you have never heard of. I only really find out about it when I was buying a ticket to its screening. This is Basmati Blues.

IMDb summary: A brilliant scientist is plucked out of the company lab and sent to India to sell the genetically modified rice she created – which she doesn’t realize will destroy the farmers she thinks she’s helping.

Writing and Directing

Basmati Blues was written by Dan Baron (who also directed the film), Jeff Dorchen, and Danny Thompson. These filmmakers either don’t have anything else or anything worthy of note on their IMDb pages. Also, they have made this movie back in 2012-2013 and it has been kept from release for 5 years (definitely for a reason(s)). Even now, it has only been released in a handful of countries (either in the cinema or on DVD). I think that the US premiere date is still a couple of months away and even when the picture does come out, there won’t be any advertising for it. So, how bad is it?

Story

Basmati Blues has been justified online as Hollywood’s homage to Bollywood. That justification was an answer to the critique that the movie was just appropriating the culture of India. Whether that was truly the case, I’m not entirely sure. The film seemed to be a somewhat collaborative project between the East and the West (based on a mixture of English and Hindu names in the credits), while the familiar Bollywood traits – songs, dances, bright colors, slapstick humor – seemed to have been celebrated in this picture. Nevertheless, the movie’s lead and the villain were white. The shades of the white savior narrative were present too (at least the said saviour wasn’t male so maybe that’s better? It isn’t). The idea that farmers in India would be so trusting of a Western corporation was just plain stupid. People from the East have little reason to trust the West and, if the West still doesn’t get why, we are gonna be stuck in the current global relations for a long time.

Anyways, even if you divorce the content of the film from its context, it still had problems. The fact that it was sort of a musical about science (at least in the beginning) seemed like a bizarre combo. The villain was so cartoonish – his whole evil corporation belonged in a Sunday morning animation (and he wasn’t cartoonish in a right way for the performance to be seen as a parody). The main character was annoying too – she seemed to be highly intelligent in the lab but clueless about the world, the different cultures, and just life in general. The love story aspect was cliche, cheesy, and predictable (really Hollywood-y). I guess at least from the structural point of view, the film was well-written as the plot ideas that were introduced during the first act, did come back in the third (the horse, the monkey seeds).

Visuals and Music/Dance

Basmati Blues looked okay. The views of India were nice, but then again, I could have watched a documentary to see more of them. A lot of noticeable green screens were used for musical numbers. The numbers themselves were fine. The songs weren’t that catchy and I wanted to see more choreographed dances. Again, I should probably watch a true Bollywood film rather than a Hollywood knockoff to see the things that were lacking here. Genre-wise, Basmati Blues have been classified as a comedy and while it certainly had intentional moments of humor, I was mostly laughing at the unintentional ones (which is both bad and good).

Acting

One person who wishes this film would never come out is Brie Larson, who played the lead. She wasn’t awful in the movie but she also wasn’t great. Her performance here is a far cry from her outing in Room (for which she won an Oscar) and I don’t think that it comes close to her other films either, like Free Fire, The Glass Castle or even Kong.

Somebody who should be even more ashamed of their work on this movie is Donald Sutherland, who was literally a cartoon villain. He recently played a very distinct villain in The Hunger Games but in that franchise, he had a layer of menace and sophistication. I don’t know what he was going for in this film.

The two romantic leads (cause, of course, there had to a love triangle) were played by Utkarsh Ambudkar (TV actor) and Saahil Sehgal. Both of them were as good as the script allowed them to be.

 

In short, Basmati Blues was either Hollywood’s homage to or appropriation of Bollywood. No matter which side of that argument you stand on, I think we can all agree that the final project wasn’t great. And yet, if you are somebody who can enjoy a movie ironically, you might find Basmati Blue hilarious, absurd, or both.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Basmati Blues trailer

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Movie review: The Greatest Showman

Movie reviews

Hello!

What you get when you take the songwriters of La La Land and add them to a retired Wolverine? This is The Greatest Showman!

IMDb summary: inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

Writing

The Greatest Showman, written by Jenny Bicks (one of the writers on Sex and the City) and Bill Condon (directed Beauty and the Beast, wrote Chicago, did both on Dreamgirls), is the story of P.T. Barnum. Being a mainstream musical that values entertainment value over accuracy, The Greatest Showman puts a fictional and quite an optimistic spin on a really dark and depressing real-life story. Barnum’s circus was not the safe haven for the different and marginalized, it was a prison for the so-called ‘freaks’ who neither the society nor Barnum himself actually cared for. And while there are some hints in the film for Barnum’s darker side (him turning away from his performers, and following the money and the high society’s acceptance instead), the overall final product can hardly be called a biography. Nevertheless, if one divorces the movie from its source material and takes it as a fictional story, then The Greatest Showman can absolutely be enjoyable (that’s how I enjoyed the movie – by treating it as a fictional musical rather than a biography).

Thematically, the picture explored ideas of hope and celebrated imagination and tolerance (again, take it as a fictional story, not a biography). It also expressed some ideas about hoaxes as lies for a good purpose (felt iffy about that message). The Greatest Showman also attempted to be a celebration of difference, however, it didn’t end up doing much else than just showcasing the difference – what I mean by this is that the script lacked character development for the majority of the performers. P.T. Barum received the most development, him being the lead and all, but even his personal arc was rushed at the beginning.

Directing

A visual effects supervisor Michael Gracey debuted as a director with The Greatest Showman and did quite a good job. Of course, he did get a lot of help from the aforementioned songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (their other credits include Dear Evan Hansen – a new and beloved Broadway musical as well as ‘Runnin’ Home To You’ – the song from The Flash musical episode) and composers John Debney and John Trapanese. The choreographer Ashley Wallen is also responsible for the success of the film’s musical numbers. And the musical numbers were plentiful. While on the first hearing, all of the songs somewhat blended together for me, upon a second listen, I started to appreciate them all separately. While ‘This is Me’ was certainly a great song and deserves the awards recognition it is getting, my favorite track was actually ‘Never Enough’. That song might be a bit too depressing and too real for the academy/other awards voters. What I wish that The Greatest Showman had less of was the reprisals of its songs. There were a lot of them and maybe a bit too many for a less than a 2-hour movie.

I’ve seen a few complaints online about the fact that this old school musical had a modern soundtrack – I actually loved the combo of old and new, but, then again, I liked how The Great Gatsby used modern music and I just love easy pop songs in general. I also loved how the movie realized its setting of a carnival/circus – I always thought that circus was a rich and realistically magical setting that is open to a lot of possibilities. In fact, The Greatest Showman’s circus numbers reminded me a bit of one short carnival sequence in the remake of Fame which I have always adored (linked it here).

Acting

Hugh Jackman (X-Men, Eddie The Eagle) starred in the lead of the film and did a good job. There was a reason why he so desperately wanted to make this movie – he knew he would be very good in it. It took me a few songs to get used to him not singing opera-like classics – I have only really heard him singing in Les Miserables before.

Zac Efron (The Disaster ArtistBaywatch, Mike and Dave, We Are Your Friends) was also really good in the picture and it was fun to see him coming back to his roots – a genre that made him well known in the first place (yes, I did grew up watching him in HSM, don’t judge me). Zendaya (Spider-Man) also delivered a wonderful performance, made even more amazing by the fact that she was actually the one doing the trapeze stunts. Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea) was also great in the film and in a less depressing role than she usually plays.

Rebecca Ferguson (The Snowman, MI5) delivered a great performance too – I loved the scene of her and Hugh Jackman just looking at each other. However, the most notable scene of Ferguson’s wasn’t even notable because of Ferguson herself – the aforementioned song ‘Never Enough’ was sung by her character but not by the actress herself. She was only lip syncing to the vocals of  Loren Allred. Lastly, Keala Settle rounded out the cast and was superb.

In short, The Greatest Showman was a great musical with delightful performances that was a bit let down by its mediocre writing

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: The Greatest Showman trailer

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Movie review: Magic Mike XXL

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s see where the hell Channing Tatum’s career is going and review Magic Mike XXL. 

I have been closely following Tatum’s career since he appeared in the first Step Up film (review of the whole franchise). That film defined my childhood, so I feel like I must see every movie that Tatum stars in, no matter how boring it might be (BTW,can’t wait for Gambit).  While I applaud his decision to embrace his stripper past, I believe that making a sequel to a 2012’s Magic Mike was a mistake. The original film was fresh and surprising – something the audiences have never seen before. On top of having that surprise element, the film was actually a really great comedy/drama – it had good jokes and some deeper undertones. Sadly, the sequel throws it all away. All we get is a boring road-trip film full of cringe worthy moments and big name actress, who have no purpose being there.

IMDb summary: Three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance.

Character by character

The ladies

Andie MacDowell had nothing to do and her character could have been played by anybody. Elizabeth Banks stopped by during the final act but didn’t bring anything to the table. The only one who really impressed me was Jada Pinkett Smith. She was amazing emcee and really knew how to get the crowd going. Also, she looked amazing. I wish I could look that good when I am here age. I am used to seeing her with short hair and in a sparkly dress like in Gotham, but she can definitely rock long straight locks and a pant suit.

Amber Heard played the new love interest for Tatum’s character. She seemed interesting at first, but they never really developed her character or explored her past, so she became just another chick in the crowd that Tatum can dance on. 

The guys

All the male entertainers had their moments. I really enjoyed Channing Tatum‘s and Stephen “tWitch” Boss’s last performance (both of the are Step up alumni). Matt Bomer and Donald Glover had some nice singing moments. Joe Manganiello had a funny gas station scene. Kevin Nash and Adam Rodríguez were also part of the cast. This is probably one of the most diverse group of guys in a film in recent years.

Anyway, the dialogue between these actors was really stiff and even cringe worthy. Sentimental moments felt flat, although the team of friendship was quite nicely conveyed. In addition, I liked how they were able to include each performer’s personality and life goals into their stripping.

They also explained why Alex Pettyfer’s and Matthew McConaughey’s characters were missing from the film. We all know the behind the scenes reasons but it’s nice that they addressed that in the film as well.

The music

The soundtrack of the film was quite good too. To be fair, it consisted mostly of the songs are are played on the radio over and over again. But, since I’m okay with pop music, I’d enjoy it. Dam it, I’m trying o hard to find nice things to say about this film.

All in all, it was an okay drama movie and even worse comedy. The dance performance were okay but not that surprising, the dialogue – awkward and wooden and the story – boring and snooze worthy. Lastly, visually, the film was really beautiful. 

Sorry for the short review, I just can’t seen to find anything to say about this film. It was not good but not bad either. It was just there.

Rate: 2.75/5

Trailer: Magic Mike XXL 

P.S. A week has passed since I saw the film and I do remembered it with a smile on my face, so maybe I was to harsh while judging and criticizing it. The film definitely has a staying power.

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Movie review: Step Up 5: All in + a look back to a whole franchise

Movie reviews

Hello!

Another group of movie reviews. Hope you enjoy it!

I have been introduced into Step Up world when I was 9 years old. I remember at that time watching the first Step Up (2006) and falling in love with it. I have seen it countless times and it was like my favorite movie of childhood. Now, as I grow older, I understand that these movies are far from perfect: storylines are really predictable and acting is not that great. However, dancing is badass and no one can argue with that. And let’s face – it is all what we need in a good Step Up movie.

As I said before, I have first seen Step Up (2006) when I was like 9 or 10 years old, my older neighbor who was 13 at that time showed it to me and I remember dancing with her all day after watching it. I liked Channing Tatum in it and I also believe that that story was the most original of them all. Rate 4.5/5

Step Up 2: The Streets (2008) focused more on street dancing and hip hop but most importantly it introduced us to Moose played by Adam Sevani. He acts like glue to this franchise like Agent Coulson is to Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is also my favorite character.  Going back to the movie, that final dance in the rain was my favorite dance number till Step Up 3D came up. Rate 4/5

Step Up 3D (2010) is my favorite step up movie story wise. It also has some sick dance numbers but then again, every Step Up movie that comes out is better than the last one and dance numbers are more kick-ass. I also loved the fact that they brought a lot of previous cast members for the third film and I was also really excited when they decided to do that in the 5th film as well. In addition, I really liked Alyson Stoner’s and Adam Sevani’s pair, their dance number in the street was super fun. My favorite part of the movie is the montage of preparation for the final battle in that game station basement. Rate 5/5

Step Up 4: Revolution (2012) is also a really fun movie which explores the theme of fighting for what is right. It also includes flash mobs which were so hot during 2012. My favorite parts are the dance in the museum and the dance in the office. Rate 5/5

Step Up 5: All in (2014). So, two years came by and we have another Step Up movie. I went to see it on an opening night so spoilers ahead if you don’t want to know anything about this film.  I liked that they brought all the previous cast members and that the main characters were are also well know (the girl (played by Briana Evigan) is from 2nd movie and a boy (played by Ryan Guzman) is from 4th). The whole movie felt like a reunion.

The plot seemed predictable at first but I liked the twist of The Mob turning against new team and then the twist at the end that it was all a scripted reality show. The character development was also better in this movie. We got some Andie’s back story, we also got to know what happened after the events of the 4th film to the Mob, and finally, we followed up on Camille’s and Moose’s love story. 

However, I got to say that, in my opinion, they ran out of ideas when it comes to dancing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the performances, especially that Sean’s and Andie’s dance of the carousel in the old Vegas Park and Moose’s dance in the bar but they weren’t super fresh, new or exciting. I guess I have seen too many dance movies and previous 4 Step Up films did not do any favors to the choreography of this film. Moreover, since it is Vegas, everything became more about the show and less about the dancing and techniques. Lastly, I would like to mention two little aspects of the movie which I really enjoyed: Robot love and Twin dancers! Rate 4/5

All in all, my favorite Step Up movies are 3rd and 4th, then comes the original movie from 2006 and then The Streets and 5th film are my least favorite. If they make a sequel I will probably watch it, but be less excited. Hope you have a great evening. Bye!

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