Streaming Video News: July 26, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with several new additions to the catalog. The 2016 Malayalam film Munroe Island (aka Mundrothuruth) is now available for streaming, as are the Indian television shows Buddha Sutra, The Great Escape, Kissa Currency Ka, and Samagri, Sampatti Aur Sauda. Instant Watcher also has a link to the cooking show Ithihas Ki Thali Se, but the show isn’t available on Netflix just yet. Look for it to join the streaming catalog soon.


Bollywood Box Office: July 21-23, 2017

Is it time to question Tiger Shroff’s potential to be star who can carry films internationally? Shroff’s fourth film, the dance flick Munna Michael, went all but unnoticed in its opening weekend in North America. From July 21-23, 2017, Munna Michael earned $64,756 from 73 theaters, averaging $887 per theater. His previous low opening weekend average was $1,360 for last year’s underrated superhero comedy A Flying Jatt, which opened in about the same number of theaters (79). Shroff’s combined total North American earnings for all four of his movies are $744,105.

On the plus side for Shroff, his upcoming projects are more traditional action films, including a sequel to his most successful movie, Baaghi (which earned $437,243 here), as well as a potentially disastrous Rambo remake. Then again, how many fans will be drawn in simply by the genre and not because Shroff’s name is on the marquee?

In its second weekend, Jagga Jasoos earned $117,736 from 106 theaters ($1,111 average), bringing its total to $788,777.

Mom closed out its third weekend with $27,297 from 22 theaters ($1,241 average), for total earnings of $579,077. Also in its third weekend of release, Guest Iin London earned $167 from three theaters ($56 average), bringing its total to $50,813.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Movie Review: Phobia (2016)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon

Anxiety is a difficult disorder to explain to people who don’t have it. While everyone experiences mild anxiety from time to time — be it a fear of heights or speaking in front of a group of strangers — it’s nowhere near the kind of crippling fear that can accompany serious anxiety attacks, a panic that can make an otherwise ordinary task seem terrifying.

Phobia comes as close to accurately depicting a panic attack as any film I’ve seen. It’s so effective that I’d caution those with a history of anxiety problems make sure you’re in a good mental state before you watch it. I thought about bailing a couple of times, it was that intense.

Radhika Apte stars in Phobia as Mehak, a single artist living in the city. She leaves an exhibition of her work early after feeling some bad vibes, falling asleep in the taxi on the way home. She awakes to find the cab driver molesting her behind some abandoned buildings.

Even though she escapes the attack, Mehak develops agoraphobia. Fearful of the outside world, Mehak hides in her apartment for months. Concerned by Mehak’s lack of improvement, her friend Shaan (Roshin Joy) and her sister Anu (Nivedita Bhattacharya) conspire to drug Mehak and move her to a new apartment, hoping that the change of scenery will fix everything.

Their actions exemplify one of the biggest challenges for anxiety sufferers: not being believed, or the fear of not being believed. By definition, phobias are irrational overreactions to perceived threats. My mother’s fear of snakes was so extreme that even a picture of a snake provoked the same terror as if one was actually slithering toward her.

Yet Anu and Shaan treat Mehak as though her fear can be diffused with logic. Shaan refuses to take out the garbage, hoping that leaving it will motivate Mehak to leave the apartment and walk down the hall to the trash bin. He doesn’t understand that the twenty-foot-long hallway might as well be twenty miles, as far as Mehak is concerned.

Mehak’s tortured attempt make it to the bin is Phobia‘s shining moment. Mehak breathes rapidly, her shirt soaked in sweat. She ties a makeshift rope of sheets to a shelf and then around her waist, as though she’s climbing out of the window and not stepping out into the hallway. If she falls, she’s afraid she won’t be able to retreat to safety. The whole sequence captures the overwhelming nature of a panic attack. Mehak’s terror is depicted perfectly by Apte, who is absolutely tremendous in the film.

Mehak’s condition only gets worse in the new apartment when she starts hallucinating sounds and images of a bloodied woman whom she assumes is “Jiya,” the previous tenant who suddenly went missing, leaving all of her belongings behind. Mehak is simultaneously too scared to go out and too scared to stay in. Shaan’s answer is set up security cameras in the house, as if Mehak’s haunted psyche can be soothed by proof.

The apartment itself looks like an upscale haunted house. There are mirrors everywhere and lonely paintings that take on a sinister air in the dark. The living room is separated from a hallway by a backless shelving system made up of niches ripe for peeping through. One of the bedrooms is full of artfully strewn about furniture.

Yet director Pawan Kripalani doesn’t deploy the horror tropes in his arsenal in the expected ways. He routinely directs the audiences gaze through mirrors and security cameras and the peephole in the door, but the anticipated jump scares never arrives. Phobia — which Kripalani wrote as well — isn’t about momentary thrills, but the persistence of Mehak’s fears.


Streaming Video News: July 22, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Heera with an exciting new addition to the catalog. The reincarnation drama Raabta — which just released in theaters on June 9 — is now available for streaming!

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with two American movies from 2011: Bobby Khan’s Ticket to Hollywood and When Harry Tries to Marry, starring Zenobia Shroff, best known for playing Kumail’s mom in The Big Sick.

Lastly, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with a bunch of new additions, including the Pakistani movies Ho Mann Jahaan, Waar, and Wrong No., as well as the comedy special Aditi Mittal: Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say and the India-set Swedish TV show Delhis vackraste Händer. For everything else new on Netflix or Amazon Prime, check Instant Watcher.

Opening July 21: Munna Michael

One new Bollywood movie gets a limited release in the Chicago area on July 21, 2017. Munna Michael stars Tiger Shroff as a dancer who teaches a gangster (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) how to cut a rug.

Munna Michael opens Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 29 min.

After a slow opening weekend in North America, Jagga Jasoos carries over locally at the South Barrington 24, AMC River East 21 in Chicago, AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Mom gets a third week at MovieMax, Woodridge 18, and South Barrington 24, which also holds over Guest Iin London for one show daily.

In honor of its 15th anniversary, Devdas is showing locally on Sunday, July 23 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the River East 21, Niles 12, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, AMC Dine-In Rosemont 18 in Rosemont (already sold out), AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, and Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Movie Review: Jagga Jasoos (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Jagga Jasoos is an ambitious movie that I’d love to rate more highly. There were portions of the film that I liked very much, and I appreciate the world director Anurag Basu built and the way he told his story. Yet Jagga Jasoos is bloated with material and far too long.

Jagga Jasoos opens with a framing device featuring Katrina Kaif’s character Shruti as a children’s entertainer and author of a comic book series about her friend Jagga, a teenage detective. A troop of kids under her direction reenact scenes from the comics, before the action transitions to the world of the books, starting with Jagga’s childhood and his adoption by a man he calls TutiFuti (Saswata Chatterjee, best known to Bollywood fans for playing the unassuming assassin Bob Biswas in Kahaani).

TutiFuti coaches young Jagga to sing as a way to overcome the boy’s stutter, a device that enables Jagga Jasoos to be a traditional musical, with much of the plot and dialogue sung rather than spoken. The movie is punctuated by standalone tunes to accompany dance numbers and montages, with the best of those songs being the forlorn “Phir Wahi.”

TutiFuti is called away on a secret mission by a man known as Blackmail Sinha (Shaurab Shukla), leaving Jagga to grow up alone in a boarding school. By the time he reaches his teenage years, Jagga (now played by Ranbir Kapoor) has developed a knack for solving mysteries.

He stumbles onto an arms-smuggling caper with international implications, involving a journalist — Shruti — and possibly even TutiFuti. Shruti and Jagga travel to Africa to find TutiFuti and uncover the secret mission he’s been on for so many years.

The whimsy factor is high in Jagga Jasoos, not only because of all the singing but because of a visual style reminiscent of director Wes Anderson (whom Jagga Jasoos cinematographer Ravi Varman praises in the interview linked to below). Basu incorporates a number of comparatively low-tech special effects — such as deliberately using obvious stock footage of African animals or showing a plane flying over a map instead of actual land — for a fresh take on retro movie-making. The modern CGI effects that aim for realism and fall short draw more attention to themselves than effects that are intentionally outmoded.

Jagga Jasoos is at its best when Jagga and Shruti are together in his hometown along the border with Myanmar. The town and school have their own charms that help to create an immersive environment. When the duo leave town, they leave that quaintness behind for a plot that is grander in scale but less engrossing.

Removing geographical boundaries frees Basu to inject untold (and unnecessary) amounts of quirkiness into the film, particularly regarding the unseen criminal mastermind Bashir Alexander. By the time Jagga and Shruti board Bashir Alexander’s personal circus train, I had reached my limit.

Disney India would’ve been better off splitting its swan song into two films, a la Baahubali, rather than making one film to serve as both a setup for a hopeful sequel and a catch-all in case box office numbers deem a sequel unwarranted. Forcing Basu to cram as many ideas as possible into one film not only inflates the runtime beyond a reasonable limit, but it cuts short plot development in favor of visual spectacle. I’m still not sure what Blackmail Sinha’s goal was or who he was working for, and the framing device isn’t well explained either. Shruti’s students sing a song about not caring about the world’s troubles because they are protected by a “sign on the door,” but it’s unclear to what they refer.

For all its ambition and innovative ideas, Jagga Jasoos isn’t the movie — or movies — it could have been.


Bollywood Box Office: July 14-16, 2017

Things didn’t go so well for Jagga Jasoos in North America. From July 14-16, 2017, it earned $482,887 from 210 theaters ($2,299 average). That average barely puts it in the top half of Hindi films for the year here, just behind Tubelight, which was also considered a disappointment. Still, Jagga Jasoos‘s total was good enough to rank in 15th place at the overall US box office for the weekend, and its per-theater average was better than the averages of the movies ranked 8th-14th.

There are numerous reasons to explain why Jagga Jasoos wasn’t a blockbuster here, from the movie’s unique concept to it being a family oriented film opening during peak season for big-budget superhero flicks and animated fare. Jagga Jasoos‘s earnings fall within the expected parameters for recent films featuring its two stars. It earned more than Ranbir Kapoor’s Bombay Velvet in its first weekend but less than his Tamasha; it earned more than Katrina Kaif’s Fitoor but less than her Baar Baar Dekho.

Mom held up great in its second weekend in theaters, retaining nearly 40% of its opening weekend audience. It earned $99,535 from 63 theaters ($1,580 average), bringing its total to $493,245 — already nearly double its opening weekend total of $260,433.

Guest Iin London fared much worse, losing 85% of its opening weekend audience and taking in $4,494 from eight theaters ($562 average). Its total stands at $49,161.

Tubelight closed out its fourth weekend in theaters with earnings of just $200 — $138 from one Canadian theater and $62 from one theater in the US. It has total earnings of $1,575,849.

Source: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama