WAR DOGS

“War Dogs” is a fun, quirky film (though with more F*** words than you can shake a stick at) and – absolutely fascinatingly – a film based largely on true events.

2 youngsters – Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz –  become international arms dealers, exploiting a U.S. government initiative that allows businesses to bid on military contracts.  They scour the internet, find the contracts posted online – all in the name of transparency, bid for the contracts, source the merchandise from some of the planet’s murkiest corners, and become overnight millionaires.

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And this is all absolutely true.

To quote the film’s director, Todd Phillips: “To me the guys are heroes…The government knew that they couldn’t source 100m rounds of AK ammo in the middle of a drought after two Iraq wars. So they went to these two kids knowing they were gonna source it in a shady way, and as long as nobody knows, wink wink we’re cool. For me the film is an indictment on the US government and their process of procurement, and the guys are kind of awesome.”

And this is what makes the film such fun.

These 2 youngsters, who rock up to meetings with government officials stoned out of their minds, are super likeable, and you are clearly gunning for them. (Yes, agreed.  Bad pun.)

Miles Teller (David Packouz) and Jonah Hill (Efraim Diveroli) are both excellent, playing the young, hustling, “bro” lifestyle to perfection, though Jonah Hill does tend to steal the limelight.
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The real David Packouz even has a small part in the film.

Well worth watching.

And I learned a little piece of recent, crazy American history.

Indian Summers

How is it possible to be so out of step  – and, perhaps to coin a phrase – so out of thinking step, with pukka critics, with the folks with a day job, who review TV for a living, who get paid to pass judgement?

We just finished watching “Indian Summers” last night, and when Episode 10 was over, the mood was, “Thank the good Lord THAT series is done and dusted”.  But, hey, what’s this?  Everyone else seems to have loved it.

Can it be me?  Am I the one at fault for not liking such a super expensive period production?

Perhaps my critical instincts are not honed enough.

Or, perhaps, more prosaically, me a Brit, married to an Indian and the mother of two gorgeous Anglo Indian children, and living as we do here in India, and my husband having grown up in Simla…perhaps our critical antennae are tuned a little differently.  I say “our” because, for the record, hubby was as underwhelmed as I was.

We were given the boxed set last month, while on holiday in England, and once back in scorching Delhi, we settled down to watch it with great anticipation, naively imagining something as fabulous as “The Jewel in the Crown”, perhaps, or “Heat and Dust”.  I mean, after all, in the aftermath of such a totally gorgeous, glorious, fabulous production such as “Downton Abbey”, here comes a period drama about India in the last days of the Raj…ooh, yes, what could be nicer.  Gorgeous frocks, gorgeous scenery, drama.  We imagined it all.

Not a bit of it.

Frocks first of all, because it’s the easiest thing to deal with.

Why does Ms. Walters wear that same rather peculiar dress, looking more 1960s than 1930s, over and over and over again?

Why does Leena wear the same dark green sari over and over and…

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Now onto that gorgeous scenery.  My sister (who kindly gave us the DVDs) mentioned that it was filmed in Malaysia.  Perhaps if you don’t know India, don’t know Simla, it might have worked, but since we do and we do, it didn’t.  The look, the architecture, the vegetation, the sounds, the tea plantation – none of it looked nor felt Indian.  Sorry, but it just didn’t.  It looked and sounded like tropical Malaysia

Now I am going to have to tread a little carefully in my next comments, in this age of uber PC-ism…but sorry, the Parsi family did not look remotely like a Parsi family.  Ditto those orphans, who looked nothing like Ango-Indians, not even remotely like mixed race children.  It would have been so much more dramatic, I think, to have had children who looked the part.  Especially the oddly feral little boy Adam.  If he had looked pale and half European, I feel he would have been a much more haunting and dramatic presence.  More unsettling.

And, yes, on a point of order : I may be wrong here, but I do not believe in a million years that the Viceroy would have done bad Indian accent, head waggling impersonations.

And as for the slow, oh-so-slow lingering camera angles…that just went on and on and on…my goodness me but they did drag things out.  The action sort of speeded up in the final 2 or 3 episodes, where suddenly all the wandering plot lines were yanked together, but then – blow me down with the proverbial feather –  just when you thought they had dispensed with the slow filming, we have Mr. Dalal running in slow-mo.  And we have long, lingering footage of Mr. Dalal and Alice dancing …it’s OK, we get it.  They love each other and are gazing lovingly at each other across a crowded dance floor.  We.  Get.  It.

So, yes, actually – very disappointed, both in the muddled storyline and the seriously mediocre acting (other than the fabulous Roshan Seth, who dazzles.  And who is the only one in that family who really looks and sounds like a Parsi).

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Who is the hero of the piece?  Ralph Wheelan and/or Mr. Dalal?

Are we actually supposed to like Ralph?  I do hope not, because my only thought was that by marrying a woman whom he thinks is rich but is actually skint, at least this scheming manipulative man would be getting some kind of comeuppence.  What a nasty, two-faced hypocritcal bit of work he is.

Cynthia is just downright unpleasant.  And can anyone tell me why she was at the hanging?  Her role as a glorified innkeeper permitted her that?  I hardly think Dalal pere et fils coming to her all-white club was comeuppance enough for her.

So little did I like her character that I actually thought she was going to go up in flames in the final episode when she drunkenly lights candles – and why the Hindu shrine in her drinking den?

 

Not a fan.  Not at all.

And what’s with the plural “summers” in the title?  Does that mean there is more to come?

 

FYI, here’s what Channel4 said about their own show:

  • Set against the sweeping grandeur of the Himalayas and tea plantations of Northern India, the drama tells the rich and explosive story of the decline of the British Empire and the birth of modern India, from both sides of the experience. But at the heart of the story lie the implications and ramifications of the tangled web of passions, rivalries and clashes that define the lives of those brought together in this summer which will change everything. It’s the summer of 1932. India dreams of Independence, but the British are clinging to power. In the foothills of the Himalayas stands Simla; a little England where every summer the British power-brokers of this nation are posted to govern during the summer months.

    – Written by Channel4

The Hundred Foot Journey

It’s not that any film with the  glorious Helen Mirren and the equally glorious Om Puri will automatically be brilliant…well, actually, now you come to mention it, yes, it will, and yes “The Hundred Foot Journey” is.

This is one of those genuinely feel-good movies, and to see it in Delhi (where I live) made it even more special.

The story line is simple.  Indian immigrants, fleeing mob violence in Mumbai, and the death of the family matriarch, end up in the South of France and decide to settle there and open an Indian restaurant.

They end up in the South of France more by accident than by design, since their old rattletrap of a car pretty much makes the decision for them, giving up the ghost just outside a perfectly bijou little hamlet in France.

They find a property and start to rebuild the restaurant they had in Mumbai, before it was burned to the ground.

The only problem is that their chosen venue is right across the road – about 100 feet away, in fact – from a one star Michelin restaurant, owned and run by Madame Mallory, played to perfection by Helen Mirren. I don’t know why I was surprised at the excellence of Ms Mirren’s French. Stupid of me, really.

Throw in yet more racism – tackled head on by Madame Mallory – and oodles of “snobbisme”, and a burgeoning romance or two, and the result is a gorgeous, happy, genuinely feel good film.
Seeing it in India, Om Puri’s muttered Hindi asides (many of them asking advice of his beloved late wife) needed no translation, and the audience clearly loved him and his approach to the patronising snobbery of Madame Mallory.

It was fun watching the crucial (& cross-cultural) masala omelette test. I guessing having lived away from Europe for so, so many years, and having come to expect/require a dash of masala on everything, the idea of experiencing a masala omelette for the very first time is cute –  we dilliwalas certainly enjoyed Madame’s reaction.

There is no great message, no particularly heavy insights to be gleaned from “The Hundred Foot Journey” – so just sit back and enjoy the film.
It is visually lovely, has a feel-good ending, so what more can one ask?

Ms Mirren and Mr. Puri are excellent.

And as for the gorgeous Manish Dayal…well…

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Made in Dagenham

This uber-feel-good film escaped my notice when it opened in 2010 (sadly, I don’t think it never made it to the Delhi cinemas) and so thank you to the good friend who gave me the DVD.

A lovely film, with a stellar cast, and oh my word for someone who remembers the 1960s rather too well for comfort, what a gorgeous visual treat this film is.

Beehive hair dos.

Biba clothes.

Barbara Castle (has Miranda Richardson ever looked so fabulously better and feisty?)

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All those classic 1960s markers are there.  Harold even makes an appearance, but minus his trademark pipe.

 

The story is based on the true events of 1968, where female workers at the Ford Dagenham car plant walked out in protest against sexual discrimination, and unequal pay.

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And the real live heroines of the story :

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It is a beautifully filmed, fabulously detailed, period film (though that word “period” sounds a bit ancient, especially when I remember the 60s…) starring some of Britain’s finest – Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, the beautiful Rosamund Pike, Bob Hoskins, the fabulous Geraldine James, and from over the Pond, Richard Schiff playing to perfection a pushy American executive in slow and rather dreary Dagenham.

What resonated particularly with me, beyond the spectacular recreation of the 1960s –  was it really such a relatively benign era? – is the fact that living in India, a concept like sexual discrimination is still so far from being banished.

 

Lovely film.  Truly feel good.

Recommended.

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My favourite moments of “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”

What a fun movie, and despite its length (3 hours 7 minutes) time didn’t drag

Disclosure time : I have a vested interest in the movie, she states a tad grandiosely, since I was a blink & you miss extra in the crowd scene in Melbourne, so obviously I wanted to see the final product.

Well, what self-respecting extra wouldn’t?

I enjoyed the film very much, and I think the team and I did a good job (oooh, I AM enjoying this!)

Anyway, seriously, what were my favourite moments?

1) Anything involving the fabulous Farhan Akhtar without his shirt on.

And there are lots of such moments, so that’s all well and good.

Have a dekko:

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There is a serious amount of footage of him in the male equivalent of the wet sari number, I guess – namely the clinging T shirt number – and though I could have done without the images of him wringing the sweat out into mugs and buckets, the fact remains that the sweat was the result of all those clingy T short moments…

Joking aside, what a physique this actor has.  I thought he was fabulous, and looked every inch the part of a Sikh.  His year + of intense training worked.  He looks every inch a top class athlete.

And by the way, is it me, or does Farhan Akhtar look more and like the real Milkha Singh as the movie progresses?

 

2) The boy who plays young Milkha – Jabtej Singh – is fabulous.  A smile to die for and a great little actor.  That child is a natural.

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3) Sonam Kapoor is so pretty and dresses so beautifully, and please, please, please can I have that lovely red outfit with the white flowery dupatta –  very chintzy looking prints, almost Liberty-esque.  Gorgeous.

4) Since I loved Meesha Shafi in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, I was happy to see her again, looking every inch the Parsi swimmer.

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5) Loved seeing Ladakh.  Am off there tomorrow, as it so happens, on a high altitude trek and climb, but seeing Farhan Akhtar sprinting up such steep slopes did rather shake whatever self-confidence I had in my own pre-trek fitness…here he is running, dragging a whacking great tyre behind him…

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So there you go.

Good film.

Made me cry.  The Partition sections were done very well, I thought. Graphic and moving.

And I managed not to blink at the moment when I flashed across the screen in a nano-second.

Is The Great Gatsby better in 3D?

This is an entirely loaded question, of course, simply because I cannot see things properly in 3D.  It’s a long story, but basically I have pretty weird eyesight and so all those jazzy effects of 3D are a complete waste of time and space as far as I am concerned.

Which begs the question as to why I booked tickets to see “The Great Gatsby” in 3D of course.  Actually, is it even showing in Delhi in 2D?

To answer your question – it was a mistake.

Anyway, there we were in the fabulously expensive Director’s Cut in PVR –  yes, I know, I know, adding insult to injury – when I discovered the horrid truth.  That those stained glasses (really Director’s Cut.  Really ?  Rs 700 a ticket and mucky 3D glasses) so, those (greasy) 3D glasses were going to be redundant.

The last movie I saw in 3D – also by mistake –  was “Avatar” and I was bitterly disappointed, because all the colours looked dull.  I later watched it normally, in 2D, and hey presto the colours were fab.

This time, I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything on the colour front, as the film didn’t look dark, and I kept taking off the glasses to compare, and it all looked jolly bright.  And I didn’t find the 3D effect as much of a spoil sport this time round.

I enjoyed the film, loved the clothes  – oh, the clothes –  loved Leonardo diCaprio, who is such a great actor, and so, no, I don’t think I missed too much.  Snowflakes and the great dancing by the pool scene, my girlfriend told me, were brilliant 3D moments, so if that’s all I missed, then it wasn’t too bad, then.

But I’ll definitely check the papers more carefully next time.

My favourite moments of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I hadn’t read the book, though I know I should have.  Have to read it by next week for my Delhi book club, as it so happens, but this review is all about the film.

I loved it –  it is visually fabulous with photography to die for, and filmed with such compassion and open-mindedness, that you leave the cinema feeling moved and saddened at the alienation, yet fully understanding why.

There is little point spoiling your enjoyment of the film by telling you the plot, but suffice it to say it charts the reluctant transformation of an intelligent westernised Pakistani living the American dream who is singled out, questioned, and ultimately alienated by the country he loves, all in the tragic aftermath of 9/11.

So, my best moments ?

1)  Every single visual moment of the film.  The photography/videography is gorgeous, lush, sweeping – oh, every adjective you can summon up.  There is a slightly retro feel to it, and the air of genteel dilapidation that hangs over so many of our subcontinental monuments was brilliantly captured.

2) The music, especially the utterly, thrillingly fabulous “Kangna” which I have promptly downloaded and have been playing non-stop all morning.

I am trying this out for the first time –  giving you a link to an audio clip – so let’s hope this works.

http://www.dhingana.com/kangna-song-the-reluctant-fundamentalist-hindi-latest-37fa849

3) The warmth of Pakistan, which translates just as easily into the warmth of India, where I live.  I loved the moment when Changez goes for chai in the US.  Very moving.

4) The innate dignity and grace of the Pakistanis vs the brasher Americans.

5)  Om Puri, whose acting I have loved for years, asking about his son’s career.

6) Love love love the newcomer, Meesha Shafi.  OK OK, I stand corrected – Ms Shafi is terribly well-known but she is a newcomer to Hollywood, at least, and she dazzles and I wanted to see more of her.

(And, how thrilling –  I googled her, and found out that she will be in the soon to be released Bollywood film “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, in which I will be a blink and you miss extra)

And out of all of these fave moments, if I had to choose just one – oh, without a moment’s hesitation “Kangna”.  Too fabulous.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Take a generous helping of the best of British acting talent.

Add an exotic (yes, really) location like Rajasthan, India.

Combine with great filming and the result is a colourful, happy, feel-good, entertaining confection.

This film is  a delight.

It may not be the most searingly important film on the circuit, and it might not address issues of world importance, but it manages to make you happy, make you smile, make you cry a little bit (though I do cry at the drop of a hat, to be fair) and after all, why else do you go to the cinema ?

Our standard noisy Delhi cinema audience, who had chattered and gossiped on their mobiles through all the trailers, were pin-drop quiet during the movie.

Admittedly a few mobiles did go off, but that’s par for the course. There’s always one who ignores the request to turn the critters off.

It was extra fun, as a Brit living in India, to sit and watch a film about Brits moving to India.  The (Indian) audience clearly loved the movie, though I realised I was a lone voice laughing out loud at “building tea.”

The film tells the story of a group of British pensioners lured to India in separate ways and by separate decisions, to spend their twilight years in what they imagine will be palatial splendour, with almost certainly an overlay of colonial glory.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is, shall we say, not quite what they had expected.  Despite the bubbling enthusiasm of the young manager Sunny (Dev Patel) the palace of their dreams is little more than a tatty, run down hotel.  Bags of charm but certainly not splendid.

The British pensioners react in various ways.  Some complain, some hate it, some good-naturedly accept it and some eventually come to love it. Each one of them tackles this new chapter of their lives with different degrees of positivity and gung-ho-ness.

The pensioners are all ever so British, in ever so many different ways.

I won’t spoil the plot, but suffice it to say that it has (almost) a totally happy ending.

The cast is beyond stellar with Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith turning in fabulous performances.  Maggie Smith is utterly brilliant.

Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton –  the cast is absolutely perfect.

Despite the revulsion some of the Brits feel at the squalor and dirt and chaos and noise of India, overall the country comes out a winner.  India is not romanticised, but by and large the Indians are kind, polite, caring, non-whingeing nice people.  Certainly nicer than the British families most of the pensioners have left behind in England.

A happy feel-good film, beautifully shot, and a perfect family choice.