Friday night in NY: Punching at the Sun

punching Friday night in NY: Punching at the Sun  

Director Tanuj Chopra’s touching drama about Elmhurst-based teenager Mameet’s loss of his brother at a  robbery in the family’s convenience store  will be screened this Friday night (February 2nd) at the Museum of the Moving Image, located just over the 59th street bridge in Astoria.      

The movie starts at 7.30pm and there’ll be a discussion with the director afterward.

If you’re in the NY area, go see it!   In my review here, you’ll see the many reasons why I enjoyed it.

Kabul Express

poster%202 Kabul Express

Kabul Express is loosely based on the experiences of Kabir Khan (who wrote and directed the film) when he was reporting from there.   As  the movie opens we see two Indian journalists, a reporter and cameraman, land by helicopter in Kabul.   John Abraham is Suhel Khan and Arshad Warsi is Jai Kapoor.    

Suhel is pretty and does push-ups against the rubble of a building, Jai is gruffly  handsome and chain smokes.   The two are falling over themselves to get some footage of any remnant Taliban, which would be worth a mint back home,  and take off with a driver/fixer named Khyber (yes, like the pass).   It’s Khyber’s vehicle that gives the film its title.  

Before long on their trip,  they are tricked and taken hostage by a Pakistani soldier turned Taliban named Imran.   He is genuinely battle weary and all he wants to do is get back over  the border and retire, hoping to catch a glimpse of his estranged daughter before  the crossing, and so he uses the journalists for cover and the driver for his transport.   The denouement of the film is about that journey and what happens to the unlikely quartet (later, quintet) en route.

group%20photo Kabul Express

As you might guess, under the stressful circumstances, conflict abounds.   The Afghani driver and Pakistani kidnapper hate each other from the get-go, Jai gets irritated when Irfan keeps taking his cigarettes, but how are you going to argue with a man with an automatic rifle?   Later, he tries to make chitchat, launching off the name Irfan to talk about cricket, but that road soon turns bumpy when Jai insists that Kapil Dev was a better cricketer than Irfan Khan, much to Irfan’s dissent.

There are  doublecrosses and close calls, and, as one commenter to this post has mentioned, an encounter with members of one Afghan segment of the population, the Hazaras, who are spoken of by one  of the characters as being a particularly ruthless and violent group.   This is a move that the director has since apologized for, but it was something that caused anger in parts of  Afghanistan and Pakistan (where many Hazaras are settled) and led to a call for the film to be banned in Afghanistan.   I don’t know enough about the history of Afghanistan and its people to say anything about this issue, but  I guess the director tried to create dramatic tension by placing the characters in a situation where they would face some group of people they were supposed to fear, and I guess no matter who he wrote in the story, there would be offense taken (short of making up an ethnic group….).

John Abraham was o.k. in this film, somewhat of a lightweight, but Arshad Warsi  owns this  film, and the role is a great antidote to his Circuit  from the Munnabhai films.   He is totally believable as a camerman who is petrified of being killed and who is more interested in preserving his life, and his limited creature comfort (the ciggies), than getting a big story.   He and John make a good pair of opposites here.   And I loved Salman Shahid as the wily Imran, a character who has remarkable creativity and energy for the mission he’s on, regardless of the fact that he’s been fighting for years and is likely in his 50s.   In some scenes, he looked to me like he could be Nana Patekar’s Dad, albeit a fleshier one.

nanas%20dad Kabul Express

See it or skip it?

See it.   It’s a tightly made mainstream Hindi movie with no song-and-dance routines or  costume changes, that is over within approximately 90 minutes.  

And it’s a chance to vicariously see the blue skies and haunting, dry landscape of Afghanistan, and the gaping wounds  of decimated buildings, cropping up like excavated ruins of centuries gone by.   (Even the film’s website has some startlingly beautiful images.)

Indian Fish in American Waters

nav megha flag Indian Fish in American Waters

Let’s see, the microphone dipped and appeared onscreen in several shots, the acting was too low key by some actors and too over the top by others, and worst of all, the whole direction the film takes hinges on a misunderstanding that could have easily been cleared up way earlier than it was.

This film is the directorial debut of Manish Gupta, and stars Raj Vasudeva as the recently arrived IT engineer  Naveen Reddy, and Shweta Malhotra as Megha, the 2nd gen girl of Gujurati origin who meets and falls in love with him.   Along the way, Naveen is treated badly by his exploitative boss, Bobby Patel, who warns him  off Indian-American girls as “too much to handle.”   There are assorted friends on both sides, including Rushi, who refers to FOBs not as “Eff-Oh-Bees,” but rather “fobs”, and tells of responding to one who asked her what time it was, only to  find the hapless guy  instantly smitten with her.   Ugh.

bobby full Indian Fish in American Waters

The two lead actors are the only ones who engender any believability for how they handle themselves in their roles.   The rest of the film screams “First time attempt.”   And it succumbs to the worst error that some Hindi movies make, which is dragging out a plot twist.  

megha full Indian Fish in American Waters

In this film, someone lies and leads Megha and her family to believe that Naveen is married already, the wife  back in India while  he  looks for a U.S. girl for a green card.   Had this been real life, I can’t believe that no one would have actually said to Naveen much earlier on “How could you be married and lie about it?”   Instead, after  2 or 3 (I lost count) encounters after the erroneous tip surfaces, all that was said by the actors were  frustratingly vague, indirect statements, going nowhere near the actual issue at hand, when you know someone really should have burst out the truth in anger.  

See it or skip it?

Skip it.

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

harold%20and%20kumar%20poster Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle  

Ok, it’s not Bollywood, nor indie, but it does have a lead desi actor – Kal Penn – who we’re seeing more and more of, and with a big release – The Namesake – just around the corner.

kumar%20with%20keys,%202 Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

I thought this was going to be a total frat boy, asinine joke fest (think American Pie), but, bathroom humor included, there were some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and the film, part caper, part road movie, part buddy film,  has a crisp, well produced look to it.

Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn, or Kalpen Modi) are Cheech and Chong for the 21st century, though younger and not quite as crusty looking.   Both boys love to sit in their Hoboken (of course, Ground Zero for hard partying frat boys) bachelor pad and light up a blunt.

Harold, Korean-American number cruncher working at an investment bank, is the more tightly wound of the duo.   Kumar, pressured by his father (a doctor) to go to med school and follow in his footsteps, is more laid back and unflappable in most scrapes he manages to get into.   One Friday night, Harold comes home, bummed out over work his colleagues have dumped on him for the weekend, and his own fear of talking to the pretty Maria who lives in their building, sits down with Kumar and gets stoned.   The two see an ad for White Castle on TV and, now overcome by munchies,  set off on a mission to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, home of  a 24-hour branch.

Along the way, many stereotypes are trotted out, toyed with, and blown up.   On a stop at Princeton University, Harold bemoans the fact that a Korean girl pursuing him  keeps trying to drag him to her priggish Asian-American club.   Cornered by her and them, he’s forced to do some Q & A with a bunch of (surprise) ambitious kids who are even more buttoned up than he is.

Later, the pair meet Neil Patrick Harris as a very horny, older Doogie Howser, and Law and Order’s Christopher Meloni in an amazing make-up job that renders him abhorrent, as a gun-toting, truck-driving Jesus freak with a smoking hot wife.

H%20K%20and%20NPH Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

The movie trots along briskly from one mix-up on to the next mishap, encountering several buffoonish racist cops along the way who, naturally, get their comeuppance.

Having just seen Kal Penn in The Namesake, I have to remark that he seemed more natural as the rubber-faced stoner Kumar than as Gogol.   John Cho is handsome and compact, and, as the “making of” segment reveals, way more of a wild man than his character Harold would lead us to believe.

See it or skip it?

See it.   It’s a fun 90 or so minutes, if you don’t mind some crude potty humor in between tokes and jokes.

Govinda aur Gori

govinda%20and%20a%20gori Govinda aur Gori

This should be interesting, a vite voman as the love interest of a main character in a  totally mainstream Hindi movie that has nothing vaguely Rang de Basanti about it.

Will there be skimpy costumes?   Drinking?   Smoking?   Pre-marital hanky panky?   Will the woman playing Chichi’s mother threaten to throw herself down a well?

Can’t wait to find out…

He hugs well AND he smells good ?

srk%20kbc%20hug He hugs well AND he smells good ?  

Well, heck, maybe I will like Shahrukh Khan as the new host of Kaun Banega Crorepati  after all…..

I was pretty bummed back when the announcement of the switchover from AB to SRK came out.   I finally go and sign up for a package of Hindi channels, feverishly anticipating  fresh episodes of KBC (and KWK), and then His Eminence took ill, and later, left the show altogether.

But now, the BBC reports on SRK’s chummy behaviour in his debut.

Missed the maiden voyage last night due to a commitment (yes, and forgot to TiVo), so am looking forward to Day 2 with the King Khan tonight…

Update – Initial impressions: He looks very sharp, lovely grey suit and red tie, but wow, is he a Chatty Kathy compared to Amitabh!   And I miss the booming bass intoning “Computer-ji“.   “Mister Computer” just ain’t the same…