Streaming Video News: April 19, 2015

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with one new addition the catalog. 2014’s Bhoothnath Returns is now available for streaming, though I can only recommend it halfheartedly. A better choice is ABCD: Any Body Can Dance, which expires from Netflix on April 24, 2015.

Movie Review: Mr. X (2015)

Mr._X_Official_Poster1.5 Stars (out of 4)

When I described the plot of Mr. X to my father and brother, they both asked: “If you can’t see the hero, then why is the movie in 3D?” Good question. Having seen the movie, the best answer I can give is that director Vikram Bhatt is the market for a yacht and wants to pay for it with the 3D upcharge for tickets.

The use of a pointless 3D gimmick fits in a movie that is a collection of half-baked ideas. It’s a romantic revenge critique of the Indian justice system with a side of superhero origin story that’s also a sci-fi action thriller about an invisible cop.

Emraan Hashmi plays Raghu, an anti-terrorism agent in love with a fellow agent, Siya (Amyra Dastur). In order to save Siya’s life, Raghu is blackmailed into publicly murdering the Chief Minister.

Raghu flees, only to be cornered by his blackmailers and tossed into a pit of chemicals, a la the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. He survives an explosion at the chemical plant, but not without severe radiation poisoning.

Raghu’s friend Popo’s sister (stay with me) works at a pharmaceutical company, and she gives Raghu an experimental drug that will either cure the radiation poisoning or kill him immediately. He lives, with the side effect that he’s now invisible except in sunlight or under blue neon lights.

In the course of taking revenge on those who tried to murder him, Raghu encounters his greatest obstacle: Siya, who is all impulse, no introspection. She never questions why a good cop like Raghu killed the Chief Minister, deciding that their love must have been a lie and professing to hate him. When he finally tells her what really happened, she loves him again.

The reunion is short-lived, because she pulls a gun on him when he rejects her plan to arrest the culprits in favor of just killing them. Her feelings are absolute, until they change completely.

What’s funny is that Siya’s law-and-order approach actually works until Raghu shows up with a gun and sparks a hostage situation. He claims to be a “protector of justice” while actively working against a system that seems functional.

All this is to set up Raghu/Mr. X as a kind of folk hero, and Bhatt uses my least favorite Bollywood trope to do so: the man-on-the-street interview. A news report is interspersed with shots of everyday dopes praising Mr. X with stupid crap like, “I’ve heard Mr. X is totally cute.”

The problem — besides the sheer laziness behind this trope — is that the public doesn’t know the motive for Mr. X’s murders. They don’t know that he was set up. As far as anyone knows, the people Mr. X kills are upstanding public servants, yet the moronic interviewees hail Mr. X as a superhero.

As mentioned above, the 3D adds nothing to the film. However, the CGI invisibility effects are pretty good. Raghu appears and disappears smoothly as he moves from light to shadow, with sometimes only parts of his body disappearing. Bhatt uses the lighting to direct the audience to areas in each shot where Raghu is likely to turn invisible.

However, the practical effects leave a lot to be desired. A chase scene in which Raghu disappears leaves us with a visual of a wobbly, riderless motorbike being pulled along by an offscreen mechanism. It looks equally dumb when Raghu vanishes while holding Siya in his arms, making her appear to float in mid-air. The film’s fight choreography is awful.

Raghu is a hard guy to like because he doesn’t show much personality, except for when Siya makes him mad and his eyes get all buggy. It’s not Hashmi’s most interesting role by a long shot. Dastur is at least committed to Siya’s absolute sense of morality, but she needs to train her voice not to sound so shrieky when she screams. Siya’s wardrobe is outstanding.

Mr. X rates high in terms of novelty, but its execution doesn’t justify an overpriced 3D ticket.


Opening April 17: Mr. X

One new Hindi film opens in the Chicago area on April 17, 2015. Emraan Hashmi plays a vigilante with the power of invisibility in the sci-fi thriller Mr. X.

Mr. X opens on Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. All three are carrying the movie in 2D, but the Cantera is showing Mr. X in 3D as well. The movie has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! gets a third week at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles. MovieMax is holding over Dharam Sankat Mein for a second weekend.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include: OK Kanmani (Tamil) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and MovieMax, which carries the Telugu version — OK Bangaram — as well; Son of Sathyamurthy (Telugu) at MovieMax and the Rosemont 18; Patta Patta Singhan Da Vairi (Punjabi) at the Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale; and Ori Devudoy (Telugu), Kanchana 2 (Tamil), Oru Vadakkan Selfie (Malayalam), and Ennum Eppozhum (Malayalam) at MovieMax.

Bollywood Box Office: April 10-12

With no new Hindi-language competitors in U.S. theaters during the weekend of April 10-12, 2015, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! continued to perform very well. In its second weekend in theaters, the period thriller earned $158,227 from 80 theaters ($1,978 average), bringing its total U.S. earnings to $579,055. Its business declined just 53.3% from its first weekend to its second, second-best for the year behind NH10‘s 47% decline.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! would need to earn another $152,000 here in order to overtake Baby as North America’s highest-earning Bollywood release of 2015. Even with good word of mouth, a high IMDb rating of 8.3, and only two likely Hindi releases in the next two weeks — Mr. X and Margarita with a Straw — an additional $152,000 seems unlikely.

Update: Bollywood Hungama posted some additional earnings figures from the weekend. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know about Dharam Sankat Mein‘s limited North American release. It opened in 18 theaters, but only earned $6,580 ($366 average). Yikes.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Hollywood directorial debut Broken Horses didn’t fare much better. It earned just $19,528 from 40 theaters ($488 average). Yikes, again!

In its fifth weekend in theaters, NH10 earned another $1,683 from two theaters ($842 average), bringing its North American total to $319,872.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Q1 2015 Bollywood Movies Online

2015 has been an anemic year for Bollywood releases in the United States, and this weekend is no exception. With nothing new in theaters — and assuming you’ve already been to see Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! — this is a good weekend to catch up on some releases from the first three months of 2015 that you may have missed.

I’ve included links below to services carrying the films in the U.S., how much the movies cost to rent or purchase, and in what format they are available, if specified: high definition (HD) or standard definition (SD). All of the films supposedly have English subtitles.

Dolly Ki Doli
Google Play: rental = $3.99; purchase = $4.99
iTunes: SD rental = $3.99; HD rental = $4.99; SD purchase = $13.99; HD purchase = $14.99
YouTube: SD rental = $3.99; HD rental = $4.49; SD purchase = $4.99; HD purchase = $7.99

Eros Now: available for streaming with a $7.99 premium monthly subscription
iTunes: SD rental = $3.99; HD rental = $4.99; SD purchase = $7.99; HD purchase = $14.99

Spuul is streaming a pair of movies from 2015 that released theatrically in India but not in the U.S. Alone and Dirty Politics are both included in the cost of a premium monthly subscription, priced at $4.99.

Here’s how I would organize a weekend movie marathon of the above titles:

  1. Alone on Spuul ($4.99 monthly subscription)
  2. Dirty Politics on Spuul (included with the monthly subscription)
  3. Dolly Ki Doli on YouTube ($4.49 HD rental)
  4. Tevar on Eros Now ($7.99 monthly subscription)

My marathon would cost me $17.47, a price which includes two monthly streaming subscriptions. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Opening April 10: Broken Horses

While no new Hindi movies are opening in the Chicago area on April 10, 2015, we are getting a new film by a Bollywood director. Vidhu Vinod Chopra — director of Eklavya: The Royal Guard and producer of PK — makes his Hollywood directorial debut with Broken Horses, starring Anton Yelchin, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Thomas Jane.

Broken Horses opens on Friday in three local theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Tellingly, these are all theaters that regularly carry Bollywood movies, so don’t expect this to be a wide, 600+ screen release. Even without a wide national release or huge marketing campaign, Broken Horses could appeal to moviegoers who are undecided on what to see when they head to the theater, thanks to its easy sales pitch: “It’s about brothers involved in a drug war, and it stars Vincent D’Onofrio and the guy who plays Chekov in the new Star Trek movies.”

After a great first weekend, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! gets a second week at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Son of Satyamurthy (Telugu) at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, and MovieMax, which also carries the Malayalam film Oru Vadakkan Selfie.

Bollywood Box Office: April 3-5

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (DBB, henceforth) is off to a great start in the United States. During the weekend of April 3-5, 2015, it earned $335,550 from 84 theaters (none of which were in Canada, unfortunately). Its per-screen average of $3,994 is the second best opening weekend average of the year behind Baby, which is the only 2015 film to earn more money in its first weekend.

[Box Office Guru reports slightly different numbers for DBB than the Rentrak totals above: $338,637 from 82 theaters, $4,130 average.]

DBB‘s real claim to fame is that it earned more in its first weekend than three other 2015 releases — besides Baby — that opened in more theaters: Shamitabh ($215,512 from 137 theaters), Tevar ($125,908 from 125 theaters), and Badlapur ($225,250 from 92 theaters).

With only the mildest of competition hitting theaters this coming weekend — and with the distinct possibility that no new Hindi films will open in North America at all — DBB has the potential to hold up well through its second weekend. It also helps that DBB is the best film released so far this year. A final total of $650,000 would be great, but reaching Baby‘s $730,288 total seems unlikely.

In its fourth weekend of release, NH10 added another $7,905 from eight theaters ($988 average) to bring its North American total earnings to $316,633.

Source: Box Office Guru and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama