Even more intriguing than what was added is what’s on its way to Netflix. The Hindi version of Saaho arrives on December 8, followed by The Sky Is Pink on December 11. It also turns out that Netflix is the new home for the Excel Entertainment back catalog, which left Amazon Prime last week. (More recent releases like Gully Boy will stay on Prime for the foreseeable future.) Netflix was Excel’s original streaming partner about 4 or 5 years ago. We’ve got new web addresses and a confirmed debut date of December 15 for all of the Excel films that haven’t been on Netflix before, including Bangistan, Dil Dhadakne Do, Game, and Karthik Calling Karthik.
While I can’t confirm that the rest of the catalog will definitely return on December 15, here are the addresses for all of the Excel films that were previously on Netflix so that you can add them to your List, just in case:
2006’s Don was the first Hindi movie I saw in a theater, so it has a special place in my heart. It is a fun thriller with a sense of humor. Don 2 doesn’t do its predecessor justice.
In fact, Don 2 hardly even acknowledges the movie that spawned it. Sure, the international supervillain/anti-hero Don (Shahrukh Khan) is back, as is his archrival, Vardhaan (Boman Irani), and the cops Malik (Om Puri) and Roma (Priyanka Chopra). But five years have passed since the audience last saw this group together.
A few lines of dialog explaining Roma’s desire for justice — in the last movie, Don tricked her into falling in love with him after killing her brother — would’ve been helpful reminders for the audience. The movie’s few indirect references to past events are meaningless to anyone who missed the first movie.
Don 2 opens with a European drug kingpin putting a hit on Don. This sets up a huge fight scene in Thailand, but the storyline is subsequently dropped until the very end of the film. Surely, there must have been a way to trigger a fight scene in a way that relates to the rest of the plot.
The story truly begins when Don gets himself thrown into a Malaysian jail in order to help the imprisoned Vardhaan escape. Don wants to steal some money-printing plates from a bank in Germany, and Vardhaan has information that can be used to blackmail one of the head bankers. The former enemies put aside their mutual hatred and work together.
The story of the heist is amusing enough, and the cast members act their parts well. But the whole affair feels underwhelming, due primarily to the film being presented in 3D.
3D has the effect of dimming the images on screen, so Don 2 lacks the vibrancy of recent Excel Entertainment productions like Game and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It’s a shame not to be able to see Thailand, Switzerland and Germany in their usual splendor. The 3D also dims the tiny English subtitles to near illegibility.
Apart from one exciting car chase through Berlin, there aren’t enough scenes that warrant the addition of 3D. Fight scenes in close quarters feel muddled by the effect, and the gimmick doesn’t enhance the story.
More disappointing than the lackluster visuals is the lackluster story, specifically Roma’s role in it. The film emphasizes a lingering romantic tension between Roma and Don but drops the ball in regard to her real reason for being in the film: she’s foremost a police officer intent on catching a notorious criminal. As she’s written, she’s not a very good police officer.
Roma is not only a step behind Don at all times, she’s a step behind the audience. She struggles to discern the identity of a man in a police sketch so accurate it might as well have the guy’s name written on it. The two times she manages to “capture” Don, it’s not a result of her police work. The first time, he turns himself in. Later, he’s ratted out by a co-conspirator.
It’s a real disservice to Chopra that her character is so poorly written. In Chopra’s hands, Roma is tenacious yet likeable, and handy in a fight. Lara Dutta’s moll character, Ayesha, similarly could’ve been better developed.
The experience of watching Don 2 isn’t entirely unpleasant. It’s a mostly-competent heist movie that gives a nod to earlier films in the genre, particularly in terms of its evocative musical score. But it could have — and should have — been so much more.
It seems as though the hallmark of American comedies for adults in recent years has been to include as many graphic bodily function gags as possible. It’s why I don’t generally see comedies in the theater: I’m likely to walk out when things get too disgusting.
Delhi Belly, India’s first mainstream foray into Western-style gross-out comedy, comes as a relief because the filmmakers realize that a little goes a long way. By emphasizing quality over volume when it comes to scatological humor, Delhi Belly showcases the genre at its best.
Freelance reporter Tashi (Imran Khan) lives in a filthy apartment with his two pals, photographer Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapur) and cartoonist Arup (Vir Das). Tashi’s gorgeous but ditzy girlfriend, Sonia (Shenaz Treasurywala), takes a package from a suspicious Russian man in the airport where she works as a flight attendant. Without realizing that the package is full of contraband, Sonia asks Tashi to deliver the package for her so that she can run errands.
Tashi hands the package off to Nitin, who promptly contracts a case of “Delhi belly” (diarrhea) from some unsanitary street food. Nitin asks Arup to deliver the package on his way to the doctor, who’s requested a stool sample from the ailing Nitin. You can guess what happens when Arup makes his deliveries.
Delhi Belly is not a typical Indian film, and not just because of its genre. The dialog is primarily in English, and the plot structure is also more like a Hollywood film. Bucking the standard formula for a two-hour-plus masala picture — split the story into two halves, separated by an intermission — Delhi Belly‘s plot has three acts that run continuously for 100 minutes, sans intermission.
What results from these breaks with Indian cinematic tradition? A damned funny movie. The writing is hilarious, and the dialog generates as many laughs as the physical gags and fart jokes do. Fair warning: even by much looser American ratings standards, this would be an R-rated film. Copious use of the f-word, violence, reference to sex acts and scatological humor make this adults-only fare.
Director Abhinay Deo — who failed to impress with his debut earlier this year, Game — shows a real flair for comedy. The story is well-paced, and Deo uses the camera deftly to exaggerate the ridiculous situations Tashi and his pals find themselves in. The movie’s two musical numbers are hysterical and fit seamlessly into the production.
There’s also an emphasis placed on the relationships between the main characters. The friendship between Tashi, Nitin and Arup never wavers. When Tashi and Nitin meet a hip, cynical fellow journalist named Menaka (Poorna Jagannathan), it’s clear that she fits in with the goofy trio much better than Sonia does. This is a group of misfits we want to see succeed, and great performances by the cast only enhance that desire.
If I had to sum Delhi Belly up in one word, it would be “satisfying.” It has everything I want in a comedy. As long as you can stomach the cuss-words and gross-out gags, this is about as good as it gets.
After two weeks of new releases, there are no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area this weekend. Next weekend sees the debut of Dum Maaro Dum and the Disney pic Zokkomon, both of which are candidates for a wide international release.
Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Mappillai (Tamil), Shakti (Telugu), Teen Maar (Telugu) and Urumi (Malayalam) at the Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove is also carrying Teen Maar.
Another new Hindi movie opens this weekend in the Chicago area. Thank You stars Akshay Kumar as a detective trailing three husbands whose wives have caught on to their womanizing ways. Kumar’s character loses his professional objectivity when he falls for one of the wives, played by Sonam Kapoor.
The murder mystery genre is a well-established one — so much so that audiences have internalized the genre’s rules, whether consciously or not. Game breaks a number of rules that the genre demands must be followed, ruining what is otherwise a great-looking and well-acted movie.
Game starts with a promising contrivance. Billionaire Kabir Malhotra (Anupam Kher) summons four people to his private Greek island right at the moment they are most in need of rescue. Tisha (Shahana Goswami) is caught driving drunk, O.P. (Boman Irani) is about to lose his political career, Neil (Abhishek Bachchan) is on the run from Colombian drug dealers, and Vikram (Jimmy Shergill) has a suitcase with a dead body stuffed inside.
Malhotra’s generous offer isn’t quite what it seems. He holds the three men responsible for the untimely death of a daughter he never knew he had. And Tisha is his dead daughter Maya’s fraternal twin sister. Malhotra has enough dirt on the men to ruin their lives, dirt which he plans to turn over to international authorities in the morning.
The circumstances of Maya’s death are divulged within the first 30 minutes of a 135 minute movie, so that’s clearly not the movie’s real mystery. Instead of moving the story forward from that point, the plot is interrupted by Neil flashing back to Maya (Sarah-Jane Dias) performing a burlesque dance number, ruining the flow of the film.
At the fifty minute mark, the true mystery is finally revealed. Malhotra dies alone in his office — presumably by his own hand — and all of his evidence on the men is destroyed. The international authorities arrive, but lead inspector Sia (Kangana Ranaut) is forced to let the four invitees go home. Her primary suspect, for no apparent reason, is Neil, and she begins trailing him to uncover his guilt.
There’s a lot to like about Game. Bachchan and Ranaut are compelling leads, and veterans Kher and Irani deliver as always. Goswami and Shergill make the most of their supporting roles. The movie is beautifully shot in gorgeous locations in India, Turkey, Thailand, England and Greece. There are a few great action sequences and one painful jogging chase scene that ends when the pursuers succumb to sprained ankles and side cramps.
But the film’s plot has some issues that are too large to be glossed over. To paraphrase a familiar axiom about mysteries, the outcome must, in retrospect, feel unpredictable but inevitable. There’s nothing about the ultimate outcome of Game that is any way inevitable, despite a few half-hearted attempts at retroactive continuity.
The introduction of new major characters, illogical plot twists, and ludicrous revelations dominate the last 30 minutes of the movie. Plot twists can’t exist independently for the sake of shock value alone; they must exist in service of the larger story (or else they’d just be called “twists”).
The filmmakers didn’t understand that, after a good mystery, the audience should leave saying, “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.” Instead, Game‘s audiences will exit theaters wondering, “Where the hell did that come from?”
With the Cricket World Cup winding down, India turns its attention back to the movies. Game — the first Hindi film to open in the Chicago area since February 25 — stars Abhishek Bachchan as one of four suspected murderers summoned to an island to determine the identity of the real killer. The strong cast also includes Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Kangana Ranaut and Jimmy Shergill.