Tag Archives: remake

Movie Review: Chef (2017)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The first half of Chef is delightful. The second half is repetitive, with remarkably low stakes for the main character.

Writer-director Raja Krishna Menon’s official adaptation of Jon Favreau’s 2014 film Chef relocates the story first to New York, and then to India. Roshan (Saif Ali Khan) is a lauded but temperamental chef working in a fancy restaurant in New York City who loses his job when he punches a dissatisfied customer. His coworker Vinnie (Sobhita Dhulipala) suggests that Roshan’s uninspired cooking of late might be reinvigorated by a trip to Kerala to visit his pre-teen son Ary (Svar Kamble) and his ex-wife Radha (Padmapriya) in the city of Kochi.

After many years away from his son, Roshan is delighted to find that Ary is as much of a foodie as Roshan was at the same age. He takes the boy up to Delhi for a tour of his childhood haunts in his neighborhood of Chandni Chowk, including an uncomfortable reunion with his own estranged father (Ram Gopal Bajaj), who disapproves of Roshan’s career choice.

Back in Kochi, Radha enlists her rich, handsome boyfriend Biju (Milind Soman) to make Roshan an offer designed to keep him in India: a ramshackle double-decker bus to refurbish into a food truck. Roshan gets over his initial insult, seeing instead an opportunity to work on the project with Ary and strenghten their relationship. Still, Roshan longs to restore his reputation and reap the financial rewards of a triumphant return to New York.

As one would hope from a movie so titled, there is a lot of tantalizing food on display in Chef. A mouth-watering sequence in which Roshan cooks tomato chutney is alone worth the price of admission. It’s part of a strong first half which takes its time introducing the characters and their relationships, leaving enough room for the camera to linger on some gorgeous grub.

There’s a moment where it seems as though Chef is going to delve into anti-capitalism, with friends of Radha’s mentioning Che Guevara and Vinnie referring to Roshan’s New York loft as a “middle-class trap.” But after that, the importance of money in Roshan’s life seems more a matter of convenience. It’s very important when he needs to give Ary an excuse for why he must return to New York, less so when Roshan explains to Ary the work ethic he learned as a poor apprentice cook in Delhi. Money is readily available for the duo’s impromptu Delhi trip or to dress up the food truck to the nines.

In Chef’s second half, the action slows down and scenes repeat themselves. It becomes increasingly clear that Roshan isn’t going to face any real consequences for his previously neglectful behavior (or for his desire to once again physically distance himself from his son). Radha and Ary are only ever annoyed with Roshan for a few minutes, forgiving him as soon as he whips up something tasty by way of apology.

Roshan himself is in constant need of validation, whether he’s seeking praise for his cooking or showing off one of the many other skills he’s mastered, from dancing to guitar playing. It’s presumably borne out of his own truncated childhood, having run away from home at fifteen to escape his father’s enmity. Still, it’s odd that no one is willing to even challenge Roshan’s attention-seeking behavior, let alone demand that he behave like a grownup and get over himself.

Roshan’s childish streak makes it hard to sympathize with the way he parents Ary, who’s hardly allowed to have an emotional reaction at all before Roshan corrects him. Invariably, Ary responds with a glum, “I’m sorry, Papa,” prompting Roshan to tickle him as they both laugh. Despite a likeable performance by young Svar Kamble, Ary never feels like a real person.

The same can be said for Roshan and Radha. Khan and Padmapriya are good in their respective roles, but the characters are written with such limited emotional ranges that the story feels incomplete. Likewise, supporting characters like Vinnie, Biju, and Roshan’s dad don’t seem to exist outside of the main plot, only materializing when Roshan needs something.

Chef falls short of what could have been, especially considering how well it starts. Nevertheless, those in the mood for food porn will find plenty to savor.

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Split Screen Podcast, Episode 16: Rahasya vs. Talvar

SplitScreenPodcast

Another episode of the Split Screen Podcast featuring yours truly is live! In Episode 16, show host Shah Shahid and I compare two 2015 movies based on the 2008 Noida double murder case. Rahasya‘s release — nine months before Talvar hit screens — followed a lengthy court battle, and Shah and I discuss the legal drama surrounding the films as well as the two movies themselves.

You can subscribe to the Split Screen Podcast at iTunes, or you can listen to Episode 16 in your browser on this page at Shah’s website, Blank Page Beatdown. Every episode of the Split Screen Podcast can be found here, including Shah’s preview of Bollywood movies coming out in the second half of 2016. I’m featured in the following episodes:

Split Screen Podcast, Episode 12: Rocky Handsome vs. The Man From Nowhere

SplitScreenPodcastThe Split Screen Podcast is back! In Episode 12, show host Shah Shahid and I initially try to view Rocky Handsome through the eyes of someone who’s never seen the South Korean movie on which it’s based, but the gloves come off once we start comparing Rocky to The Man From Nowhere, one of my favorite action films. As our pal Parth Gandhi tweeted:  “Won Bin >>>> John Abraham.”

You can subscribe to the Split Screen Podcast at iTunes, or you can listen to Episode 12 in your browser on this page at Shah’s website, Blank Page Beatdown. Every episode of the Split Screen Podcast can be found here. I’m featured in the following episodes:

Opening August 14: Brothers

One new Hindi movie opens in the Chicago area on August 14, 2015. Brothers: Blood Against Blood — starring Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra — is the official remake of the 2011 Hollywood film Warrior, which stars Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy. I really, really liked Warrior, and this remake fills me with trepidation.

Brothers opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 36 min.

Bangistan gets a second week at the South Barrington 30, which also holds over the Pakistani film Bin Roye.

Drishyam carries over for a third week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan gets a fifth week at the Gardens 1-6, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian films showing in the Chicago area this weekend include:

Movie Review: Desi Boyz (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Desi Boyz borrows liberally from the plots of movies like The Full Monty and Loverboy while failing to really understand either. Both of the Hollywood comedies are about ordinary men pressured into selling their bodies (in one way or another). In the process, they learn that romance is about more than looks, and that men and women both have insecurities about sex.

Debutant writer-director Rohit Dhawan misses the point of the movies he’s aping, and instead casts two of the hunkiest actors in India — John Abraham and Akshay Kumar — to play a pair of down-on-their-luck Londoners forced to dance at bachelorette parties for dozens of sexy, scantily clad women.

Abraham plays Nick, a financier, and Kumar plays Jerry, a mall security guard and (gasp!) college dropout. Jerry is  responsible for his young nephew, Veer, following the deaths of the boy’s parents. Nick is planning a dream wedding for his girlfriend, Radhika (Deepika Padukone).

Their plans fall apart when they are both laid off. In order to keep child services at bay, Jerry signs on with an escort service called Desi Boyz. Nick reluctantly agrees to help Jerry for Veer’s sake. While their new careers forestall financial ruin, child services take Veer when they learn the source of Jerry’s income. Radhika spots the guys performing at a bachelorette party and dumps Nick.

While film’s promos focus on Abraham and Kumar as strippers, that plotline is dropped after the first half of the movie, never to be resurrected. The second half falls into the doldrums as Jerry goes back to college and Nick tries to win Radhika back by living in a trailer on her front lawn and smoking pot with her dad, played by the always delightful Anupam Kher.

All of this is supposed to enforce the tidy moral messages that dignity shouldn’t be sacrificed for short-term gains and that one can only succeed with a college degree. So why does Jerry, immediately upon getting his degree, blackmail someone into giving him a job with false accusations of sexual assault? What kind of moral message does that send?

There’s similarly inconsistent character growth in the Nick and Radhika storyline. Nick, the supposed champion of hard work, ultimately wins Radhika back by being a slacker. Radhika is no peach herself, leading on a nerdy suitor played by Omi Vaidya solely to make Nick jealous.

Desi Boyz would’ve been more interesting had Vaidya and Kher played the guys forced to become strippers. Or Nick’s character could’ve been marginalized, shifting the focus onto Jerry as he supports Veer and pays his way through college working as a male escort. (How did broke, jobless Jerry find the money for college anyway? The movie doesn’t explain).

Rohit Dhawan has some potential as a filmmaker if he can keep his stories focused and his characters consistent. I like his debut better than most of the movies I’ve seen by his father, filmmaker David Dhawan.

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Movie Review: We Are Family (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

I tried to write my review of We Are Family right after seeing it yesterday, but I was too drained. The movie — a remake of the 1998 Hollywood film Stepmom — has a depressing enough premise, but it goes all out to maximize the waterworks.

The remake’s star cast is anchored by Kajol. She plays Maya, a divorced mother of three kids who’s not quite over her globetrotting photographer ex-husband, Aman (Arjun Rampal). When Aman brings his new girlfriend, Shreya (Kareena Kapoor) to his youngest child’s birthday party, Maya and the kids immediately despise her.

When Shreya inadvertently endangers the youngest daughter, Anjali (Diya Sonecha), Maya forbids her from ever seeing the kids again. Maya then discloses to Aman — on the condition of secrecy — that she has cervical cancer. He agrees to move back home to help out and dumps Shreya with no explanation. Everyone is miserable.

Shreya drops by with a present for Anjali, and Maya decides that, if she succumbs to cancer, her kids are going to need a replacement mom. She tells Shreya about her medical condition and asks her to move into the house. This allows Maya to supervise Shreya’s training in the motherly arts.

Career-girl Shreya has little aptitude for childcare, and Maya is hard on her. The kids begin to warm up to their stepmom-in-training, irritating Maya, even though it was she who invited Shreya back into her kids’ lives.

Kajol and Kapoor both give incredible performances. They convey so much with just a look. The movie is primarily about two women trying to understand their roles in a complicated family, and the most touching moments are between Maya and Shreya.

Rampal manages to keep Aman from becoming a villain. He’s unreliable, but he’s not a bad guy. The kids’ parts are similarly well-acted, especially considering how irritating child actors can be. Little Anjali and her older brother, Ankush (Nominath Ginsburg), are curious, without being too wise for their years.

The break-out star of the movie is Aanchal Munjal, who plays teenage daughter Aleya. Her home life gets turned upside down right at the age when she’s transitioning into young adulthood, a challenging task under the best of circumstances. Munjal plays Aleya as resentful, but not wholly without reason, and not without empathy.

The movie falls apart in the final act, when Maya’s condition worsens. At that point, the film becomes an orgy of grief. There are multiple scenes involving crying children, clearly designed to provoke sympathetic tears in the audience. The ploy works the first several times, but eventually loses its effectiveness.

After the movie was over, I had a headache from all of the crying (my own and the characters’) and just wanted to take a nap. It was 3 p.m. My Friday night was already ruined.

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Opening September 3: We Are Family

This weekend’s new Hindi release is a big one: We Are Family — a remake of the 1998 Hollywood film Stepmom — starring Kajol, Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal. Because of the familiar plot and talented cast, this is probably a good movie for Bollywood newbies.

In the Chicago area, We Are Family opens on Friday, September 3, 2010 at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville. Click here for nationwide theater information. The movie has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 55 min.

Peepli Live sticks around for a fourth week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30. The Golf Glen 5 is also carrying over Lafangey Parindey for a third week.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Penn Pattanam (Malayalam) and Thakita Thakita (Telugu) at the Golf Glen 5.