Movie Review: Roar — Tigers of the Sundarbans (2014)

roar2 Stars (out of 4)

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“I am unnecessarily putting all of you in danger,” says Pandit (Abhinav Shukla) to his soon-to-be-dead commandos. Yes, you are, Pandit. But if you didn’t, we wouldn’t have Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans — an inept killer animal flick that is nevertheless tons of fun.

Pandit imperils his army buddies to settle a personal vendetta against a tiger. His photographer brother, Uday (Pulkit), rescued a white tiger cub from a poacher’s trap in the Sundarbans. Instead of just leaving the tiger alone, Uday brought the cub to his house, where it was collected by the rightfully pissed forest warden (Achint Kaur). The mother tiger followed her child’s scent to the house and killed Uday.

Neither Uday or Pandit ever comprehend why what Uday did was wrong. When a human steals a tiger cub from the forest, how exactly is a tiger supposed to differentiate between a poacher and a well-meaning photographer?

Armed with an unwavering sense of his own righteousness and a helluva lot of guns, Pandit heads into the forest to kill the tiger that killed his brother. (Never mind that killing tigers is illegal.) Pandit recruits a gaggle of fellow commandos, none of whom is given any meaningful character traits.

The exception is the lone female commando, CJ (Nora Fatehi), whose distinguishing character traits are her breasts. Her battle gear consists of a fishnet glove, skimpy shorts, and a camouflage bustier.

Lest the crew run short on cleavage, Pandit hires a sexy tracker, Jhumpa (Himarsha). She echoes the female warden’s warnings to Pandit that Uday’s death was merely the act of a mother protecting her child. Pandit brushes off their suggestion as womanly sentimentality. However, when a male poacher named Bheera (Subrat Dutta) says that Uday was killed because of the tiger’s protective maternal instincts, Pandit believes him immediately.

This unwillingness to believe the women is a good example of Pandit’s dominant trait: he’s an asshole. He shouts a lot and is mean to the people who try to help him on his pointless, fatal quest. He doesn’t do a single heroic thing in the movie.

After the tiger escapes Pandit’s first ridiculous trap — which involves suspending some of the gang up in the trees by jock straps — his team follows the tiger’s trail downriver, into some misty, mystical tiger homeworld. Legend has it that no one who has ever ventured past the mist has been heard from again. Yet the second CJ is separated from the group, some dudes try to rape her.

The acting in Roar is abysmal. The camerawork is terrible. The story is beyond stupid.

But that’s not why people like me pony up for absurd killer animal movies. It’s all about the bad CGI action, and boy, is there a lot of it in Roar. Though the movements of the white tigress were motion-captured from actual tigers (orange-colored ones), her coloring is painted on, making the whole creature look synthetic. The tigress swims through deep water, yet manages to find purchase and leap onto the team’s boat.

Most of the action consists of the crew posing while holding guns, but not moving much. That’s because the trees of the Sundarbans have to send their roots up through the ground in order to get oxygen during high tides. The ground looks as though there are 6-inch-long sticks poking out of it every few inches. As a result, chase scenes are laughably slow as the actors tip-toe through the woods trying not to impale their feet.

Roar‘s funniest quality is the morality governing Pandit’s quest. The theme of almost every recent killer animal and disaster movie that’s aired in the United States in recent years — primarily on the Syfy channel — is that humans have tampered with nature, and now nature is fighting back.

Pandit’s view is that nature is freaking dangerous, and we’d better nuke the Sundarbans to save us from the man-eating tigers, flying snakes, and bloodthirsty flamingos. The movie’s theme is so hilariously stupid that it can’t even be called irresponsible. The key to enjoying Roar — which I certainly did — is not to take it remotely seriously.

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Opening October 31: Super Nani and Roar

Knowing the titles slated for release, I would’ve bet my house that there would be no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area on October 31, 2014. Instead we get two new releases, one of which looks bad in a bad way, and another that looks bad in a good way. Super Nani is the bad in a bad way one. I can’t take the ridiculous old lady makeup on 60-year-old Rekha.

Super Nani opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 13 min.

The other, much more exciting release is Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans. I love killer animal movies, and this one looks replete with horrible CGI. This almost makes up for Dear V/S Bear not opening in the U.S.

Roar opens on Friday at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and MovieMax Cinemas in Niles. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 59 min.

On the heels of a monstrous opening weekend, Happy New Year carries over at the River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, AMC Loews Crestwood 18 in Crestwood, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, Marcus Addison in Addison, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Karthikeya at the Muvico 18; Current Theega (Telugu) at the South Barrington 30; and Kaththi (Tamil w/English subtitles) at Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge. MovieMax carries Current Theega and Kaththi, as well as Tamaar Padaar (Malayalam), Poojai (Tamil), Oka Laila Kosam (Telugu), and Vellimoonga (Malayalam).

Are Big Bollywood Screen Counts Good for Theaters?

When writing about Happy New Year‘s opening weekend box office performance in the United States and Canada, I was intrigued by the way that Bollywood movies’ per-screen averages have decreased over the years as screen counts have gone up. The examples I cited in my weekly box office update were Om Shanti Om (114 theaters, $15,474 per-theater average) and Chennai Express (196 theaters, $12,328 average), as compared to Happy New Year (280 theaters, $7,417 average).

With more and more Bollywood films opening on 200+ screens in North America (e.g., Happy New Year, Bang Bang, Dhoom 3, Krrish 3, Ram-Leela, Besharam, and Kites), theaters that regularly carry Hindi films have likely seen their per-screen earnings for each film decrease. But are these diminished averages still high enough to make it profitable for new theaters to carry major Bollywood releases?

For an example, I looked at the Marcus Addison theater in Addison, Illinois, in the western suburbs of Chicago. The Marcus Addison has carried Indian films in languages other than Hindi sporadically over the years, and recently programmed Bang Bang and Happy New Year. Eight other theaters within twenty-five miles of the Marcus Addison also showed Happy New Year over the weekend of October 24-26, 2014.

Was it really worth it for the Marcus Addison to carry Happy New Year, when there were so many other theaters in close proximity showing it as well? The answer is yes. I checked Box Office Mojo for the per-screen average earnings of all the movies showing at the Marcus Addison that weekend and ranked them from highest to lowest, also noting each film’s week of release. Happy New Year‘s average was second highest of the nineteen films that played at the Marcus Addison from October 24-26.

  • The Principle (Week 1; only theater showing it in U.S.): $8,657
  • Happy New Year (Week 1): $7,417
  • Ouija (Week 1): $6,955
  • John Wick (Week 1): $5,568
  • Fury (Week 2): $4,209
  • Gone Girl (Week 4): $3,556
  • St. Vincent (Week 3; 1st week of wide release): $3,395
  • Kaththi (Week 1) $3,374
  • The Book of Life (Week 2): $3,228
  • Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Week 3): $2,309
  • Dracula Untold (Week 3): $1,860
  • The Equalizer (Week 5): $1,696
  • The Judge (Week 3): $1,673
  • The Best of Me (Week 2): $1,575
  • The Maze Runner (Week 6): $1,572
  • Addicted (Week 3): $1,566
  • Annabelle (Week 4): $1,337
  • The Boxtrolls (Week 5): $840
  • Men, Women & Children (Week 4): $119

Happy New Year beat not only older Hollywood movies, but also every new Hollywood film released that weekend as well. The only film it lost to was a documentary that happened to make its U.S. theatrical debut at the Marcus Addison that weekend.

With so much money to go around, theater counts in excess of 300 can’t be far off.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Bollywood Hungama

Spooky Bollywood Movies on Netflix

Click here to view my full, up-to-date list of all Hindi movies currently available on Netflix.

Halloween is just days away, and although horror flicks are still somewhat rare in Bollywood, there are several creepy Hindi films available for streaming on Netflix to get you in the mood for the holiday.

Raaz_3dRaaz 3 (2012)
I loved Bipasha Basu as a movie star so desperate to hold on to her fame that she makes a deal with the devil. Emraan Hashmi plays her conflicted boyfriend, and Esha Gupta the up-and-comer who drives Bipasha to black magic. While by no means terrifying, Raaz 3 does have some eerie, atmospheric sets and fun performances. My review

 

13b13B (2009)
13B has a neat premise: a daily soap opera predicts the horrors that await a family in their new apartment, but only the husband (played by R. Madhavan) realizes the show’s significance. While more of a creepy thriller than out-and-out horror flick, it serves as an entertaining satire on obsessive TV viewing habits. My review

 

Dangerous_Ishhq_PosterDangerous Ishhq (2012)
The best thing to be said for Dangerous Ishhq is that it’s a pretty film to look at. Karishma Kapoor returned to the screen after nine years to play a model who hallucinates the deadly events of her past lives. This supernatural murder mystery makes up the rules as it goes along, and the acting is just okay. My review

 

Gauri_-_The_UnbornGauri: The Unborn (2007)
Atul Kulkarni and Rituparna Sengupta play a married couple who must protect their daughter from a spirit that seeks to claim her. Sounds scary.

Bollywood Box Office: October 24-26

Happy New Year got off to a roaring start in its first weekend in North American theaters. From October 24-26, 2014 — plus some Thursday night preview showings — Happy New Year earned $2,076,873 from 280 theaters ($7,417 average per screen). That’s the biggest opening weekend performance of the year by a wide margin over second place Bang Bang, which earned $1,410,383 from 292 theaters.

However, Happy New Year‘s opening weekend earnings fall short of Shahrukh Khan’s biggest ever opening weekend in the United States and Canada. That honor goes to last year’s Chennai Express — also co-starring Deepika Padukone — which earned $2,416,213 from 196 theaters.

Among the three films Khan and Padukone have starred in together, Happy New Year ranks third in terms of per-screen average in North America. Its $7,417 ranks behind Chennai Express ($12,328) which ranks behind 2007’s Om Shanti Om ($15,474). Yet Happy New Year‘s average is still high enough to rank third for this year, behind only The Lunchbox and 2 States.

Other Hindi movies showing in North American theaters over the weekend include:

  • Bang Bang: Week 4; $19,536 from 20 theaters; $977 average; $2,578,746 total
  • Haider: Week 4; $3,326 from six theaters; $554 average; $1,036,098 total
  • The Lunchbox: Week 35; $160 from one theater; $4,050,393

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Happy New Year (2014)

Happy_New_Year_Poster_(2014_film)3 Stars (out of 4)

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Director Farah Khan knows how to give the people what they want. Happy New Year is exactly what it’s supposed to be: loud, flashy, sexy, and tons of fun.

Everything you need to know about the film’s tone is conveyed in the first five minutes, during which a muddy, shirtless Shahrukh Khan is sprayed clean with a hose. It’s so overt that one can’t help but laugh, while simultaneously being wowed by Khan’s ripped abs.

Khan plays Charlie, a guy who’s been down on his luck ever since his father (played by Anupam Kher) was framed for robbery by Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff), a diamond merchant. Charlie’s chance for revenge comes when Grover publicly announces his plans to transfer some diamonds through Dubai, holding them in a safe at the Atlantis, The Palm hotel.

First Charlie recruits his dad’s old buddies: explosives expert Jag (Sonu Sood) and safe cracker Tammy (Boman Irani). He rounds out the team with Jag’s hacker nephew, Rohan (Vivaan Shah), and Nandu (Abhishek Bachchan), a drunk who’s a dead ringer for Grover’s son, Vicky (also Bachchan). The crew agrees to the job before Charlie tells them the kicker: they have to enter the World Dance Championship in order to get into the hotel.

Even though the plan is for Rohan to get the team to Dubai by rigging the vote, they have to at least appear like a real — if somewhat inept — dance troupe. Nandu recruits Mohini (Deepika Padukone), an exotic dancer, to help them, though she’s kept out of the loop regarding the team’s true mission.

Mohini is the film’s best comic relief. She’s enamored of men who can speak English, so she falls instantly in love with Charlie. Her eyes glaze over when he says something as simple as, “Excuse me,” and a breeze magically appears to blow her hair. During one song-and-dance number, things catch on fire or explode every time she touches him.

Padukone deserves as much credit for her fit body as Khan does for his. She’s in amazing shape, as evidenced by her athletic dance moves in the song “Lovely.”

Director Khan — who also co-wrote the film — goes out of her way to treat Mohini’s bar dancer character with respect, reminding the audience that women choose such professions for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with a lack of morals. Padukone does a wonderful job depicting Mohini’s resolve and self-respect.

The director’s progressive gender politics come through in the amount of skin she chooses to show as well. In a reversal of Bollywood norms, there are far more shots of Sood’s and Khan’s naked torsos than Padukone’s bare abdomen.

There’s also a nice example in Happy New Year of the difference between a racist character and a racist movie. The WDC’s defending champs hail from North Korea. When uneducated Nandu refers to the champs as Chinese, claiming that “they all look alike,” Charlie immediately rebukes him for it and greets the team in Korean.

On the other hand, the movie uses gay jokes as punchlines far too casually. Explicitly gay characters are costumed outrageously, and romantic overtures from one man to another are always shown as laughable or scary.

There’s also a brief shot in the film that will at the very least be jarring to Western audiences. The hotel vault holding the diamonds is lined by dozens of bodyguards of different ethnicities. The guard next to the door appears to be a white man, and he has a tattoo of a swastika on his right arm. I know that the swastika is a positive symbol in Hinduism, and perhaps the man is Indian. But in the West, the only white men with swastika tattoos are Neo-Nazis. Either way, in deference to international sensitivities, the filmmakers likely should’ve covered the tattoo.

Those issues aside, Happy New Year is exactly the lighthearted fare audiences want from a Bollywood spectacle. The characters are motivated by love for their family and country. Dance numbers feature colorful costumes and pyrotechnics. The talented cast supplies plenty of laughs. Kudos to Director Khan for giving her audience their money’s worth.

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Streaming Video News: October 24, 2014

I updated my list of Hindi films streaming on Netflix because two movies are expiring soon. The 2008 documentary Children of the Pyre leaves the streaming service on October 29, 2014. Just two days later — on October 31 — Ishaqzaade makes way. If Haider got you in the mood for more Shakespeare, you’ll want to check out this terrific Romeo & Juliet tale from 2012 starring Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor.