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Posts Tagged ‘Strong To Highly recommended series / movies’

Today’s movie(s) review is for the Baahubali series:  “Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015) and “Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion” (2017).
Now, before I get into my review, a few comments.  I have a few Indian friends from my time in Saudi Arabia, but I have practically no experience with their culture: historic or mythological.  I have only seen a handful of Indian movies and those, recently viewed (mostly in the last five years), on NetFlix.  What I’m taking so long to say is I have little to no background to understand Indian history or its cinema.  I watched the first movie because it was recommended by NetFlix and the second, because I enjoyed the first.
Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015)
This movie stars Prabhas as Shivudu / Baahubali (the hero / good king), Rana Daggubati plays Bhallaladeva (the bad guy / evil king), Ramya Krishnan plays Shivagami (the Queen designate), Sathyaraj plays Kattappa (the loyal / royal bodyguard), Anushka Shetty plays Devasena (the good king’s mother), Tamannaah Bhatia plays Avanthika (the good king’s girlfriend), Nassar plays Bijjaladeva (the bad king’s father and husband of the Queen designate).
Although a “foreign” film, the film’s speaking portions have been dubbed into English, but the movies’ songs remain in the original tongue, so to understand them you have to have your closed captions turned on.  I highly suggest you do this, as the songs add meaning to the movie.  They are not just background filler or for mood setting.
Basically, the plot is a mythic tale of heroism and courage in the face of evil.  The good king’s father is betrayed and the baby king is saved by the courage of a court handmaiden.  The infant (now named Shivudu) is adopted and raised by “regular” folk, but he quickly demonstrates strength and intelligence beyond his villager status.
Shivudu struggles against a cliff / waterfall, meets his future wife, saves his mother from imprisonment by the evil king and then leads a revolt against the evil king.  The royal bodyguard realizes at the end who the real king is (now called by Baahubali) and the movie ends.
“Indian” movies, to me, means bright colors, a cast of thousands, and (at some point) dancing.  By this strict definition, this is an INDIAN movie.  But, is it any good?  Particularly to a “Western” viewer?  Yes and YES!!  This is an action movie, a love story, a drama and a special effects extravaganza.  Much like any comic book adaptation (DC or Marvel) or any Chinese martial arts (fly by wire) movie, you have to suspend your understanding of physics, gravity, biology and human anatomy and then just settle in and enjoy the show.
Final recommendation: if you like action movies with drama, romance (but no sex), color and terrific scale – you will enjoy this movie – strong to highly recommended.
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” (2017)
This movie (with essentially the same cast) stars Prabhas as Shivudu / Baahubali (the hero / good king – father and son), Rana Daggubati plays Bhallaladeva (the bad guy / evil king – young and old), Ramya Krishnan plays Shivagami (the Queen designate), Sathyaraj plays Kattappa (the loyal / royal bodyguard), Anushka Shetty plays Devasena (the good king’s mother), Tamannaah Bhatia plays Avanthika (the good king’s girlfriend), Nassar plays Bijjaladeva (the bad king’s father and husband of the Queen designate).
This movie relates the palace intrigue which resulted in Kattappa killing the first good king (Amarendra Baahubali), who is the father of Mahendra Baahubali (the second good king).  Kattappa assists the son in reclaiming the throne and everyone lives happily ever after.  (Not so happily for the bad king and his father, of course.)
Is this sequel better than or equal to the original?  Better?  No.  Equal to?  Well, okay.  I enjoyed the first movie more and the sequel really just seems like more of the same.  Does that make it bad?  No.  It just makes it the same.  It should be noted, the Indian people voted with their wallets.  The original was the second most sales (in crore) of all time in their internal market.  What movie did it replace?  You guessed it.  The original / first movie.
Final recommendation: Strong to highly recommended. You can definitely watch this movie without viewing the first and enjoy it on its on merit. Again, good acting, drama, romance and vast scale special effects.  One more comment: this movie is not currently dubbed into English, so you are committed to sub-titles.  This was tolerable, but I definitely would have rated it higher if I could have enjoyed the visuals more and not had to bother with the distraction of reading.
Series recommendation:  Strong.  It isn’t often you can watch a series in or out of order and still enjoy both movies.  I think this is one of those rare series.  One caution for non-Indian viewers: my understanding is this a story about a “possibly” historic / mythological hero and kingdom – much like King Arthur in English lore.   You shouldn’t come away feeling you have any real knowledge of Indian history or geography, anymore than watching Marvel’s “The Avengers” teaches you anything about American politics or history.  Oh, yeah…  You’ll need lots of popcorn because each film is over two hours long.
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On This Day In:
2018 Nothing
2017 Approval First
2016 In Search Of Words
Day 2 – Blending
2015 At What Price?
2014 Intricate And Subtle Order
2013 Attention To Detail
2012 Aequanimitas!
2011 Consider This
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Goodbye, Mr. Chips”  (1934©)  —  book review
Like a dog with a fresh bone, sometimes I find it hard to let go…
Over this last weekend, I indulged my OCD and read the short novel “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1934©), written by James Hilton.  Amazon says the paperback is seventy pages, but there are eighteen chapters and most seem less than a full page long.  I read the novella in under two hours.  The book is in public domain, so you can download it and read it for free.
The book has a number of adaptations, including movies made in 1939 (a drama) and 1969 (a musical – review here), a TV series from 1984 (BBC) and a TV movie from 2002 (ITV).  More on these later…  (OCD remember).
The author, James Hilton was the son of a school headmaster and he attended a public boarding school.  Note: a “public” school in England is a “private” school in the U.S. Hilton is said to have based the work on both his father and a master (“teacher / instructor”) at his own school (although it is believed to be mostly based on the teacher at the school he attended).
The main character of the novel and movies, Mr. Chipping, spends the majority of his life (50-plus years) teaching Latin (and Greek) at a single school (Brookfield School) and the book is a reminiscence of his time there.  There are two notable occurrences: one is the meeting of a best-friend Herr (Max) Staefel, the school’s German language teacher and the second is a chance meeting with a young lady who ultimately becomes his wife.  The “shock” of the wedding is not just the marriage of a “confirmed” bachelor, but that the bride is considerably younger than the groom (on the order of 23 years) AND she is as attractive as he is staid.  The book is unclear how long they are wed (roughly one year to eighteen months) as she passes away in childbirth (on 1 April – “April Fool’s Day”).  Chipping stays long enough at the school that he instructs four generations of one family and, on his deathbed, only his housemaid is aware that he was ever married (over thirty years before the death scene).  This results in the famous lines that it was a shame he never had any sons of his own who might have attended the school.  Chipping’s dying response is that indeed he did, thousands of them – and all boys.
Final recommendation: very highly recommended!  I would recommend reading this very short book before viewing any of the four adaptations, but I have seen all of them (three of them in the last week) and you won’t be put off by reversing my call.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1984)  —  TV series review
This version of the novella was on the BBC in six half-hour episodes (roughly three hours run time) and starred Roy Marsden as Chipping and Jill Meager as his wife.  I am fairly certain this is the first version I saw of the adaptations as I have a distinct memory of the cricket scene which appears in the this version.  I believe I saw this version on PBS, and probably first viewed it with my new (British) wife in 1985, the summer after we married.  The series is available on YouTube, which is where I watched it this weekend.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  As stated above, this was my first exposure to the “Chips” story, so it has a special place in my heart / memory.  I will add this version is closer to the actual time frame depicted in the book and the first (1939) movie version.  It also is much closer to being an anti-war movie than the book or other adaptations.  Finally, in this version, Katherine (Bridges) Chipping is an unemployed governess living with her aunt in London, as opposed to the stage singer / dancer portrayed in the 1969 musical adaptation.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (2002)  —  TV movie review
Staring Martin Clunes (of Doc Martin fame) as Mr. Chipping and Victoria Hamilton as Katherine (Bridges) Chipping.  This version appeared on ITV and Masterpiece Theater as a two hour “TV movie”.  I watched it on YouTube where it runs as six episodes of approximately 15 min.  This version is not only an anti-war movie, it is also anti-bullying.  It goes out of its way to critique the hazing of new students and bullying of the younger and smaller students by the bigger, older and / or wealthier students.
At first I found it difficult to get past the “Doc Martin” typecast I have for Clunes.  I didn’t care for his aging (special effects / makeup work) as it looked like glued on rubber pieces.  It was more than halfway through, before I could finally see the role and not the actor in the role.  I have a feeling that was as much me as Clunes, though.  Also, the YouTube version I was watching lacked the start of the movie, so I was left wondering if any other parts had been cut out / off.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  If this (YouTube version) is the only version you can find, it is good enough for you grasp and enjoy the movie.  Clunes ends up convincing as Chips and Hamilton is equal to the role of Katherine.  She is not nearly as “young beauty” as Meager or as winning as Clark (in the 1969 musical), but, in her own way, I felt she owned the role – particularly in her telling of the tale of the “sun vs wind wager”.
So, all in all, my reading and three viewings of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” have been very enjoyable.  Each offered a slightly different aspect of what is considered a “classic” English tale and have hi-lighted (to me) what a true gem the story remains – even eighty years on (and counting).  I look forward to watching the 1939 version as soon as I can find it and to re-watching the others when they eventually become generally available (instead of broken up on YouTube).
* The post title is my weak attempt at a Latin translation of: “Goodbye Again, Three Times“.
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On This Day In:
2018 Tweets From The Disrupter-In-Chief
2017 Do We Still Listen To Her Silent Lips?
Not Now, Not Ever
2016 Why Do You Write/Blog?
2015 Can Your Repeat The Question, Please?
2014 On Faith
2013 My Name Is Charles Stein
2012 Faiths And Sorcery
Made And Kept Free
2011 Multi-Source Learning

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Today’s post will be a long one, so if you’re not interested in my reviews, please come back another day…
The three series being reviewed are “Pride And Prejudice“, “Stranger Things” and “The Punisher“.  P&P is on DVD and the other two were both viewed on NetFlix.
Pride And Prejudice  (1940) —  movie review;  (1995)  —  series / movie review
Starring Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet, this is the black and white version which appears on cable channels periodically – which is where I caught it one afternoon while casually channel surfing.  Because I enjoyed the 2005 version, so much and the 1995 version, too, I thought I’d give it a view.  The story is essentially: small village with landowner family of five female daughters is thrown in a tizzy over the arrival of a very “suitable” bachelor.  Even better, the bachelor comes with a friend, who is also a very suitable bachelor (Darcy).  Lizzy takes an immediate dislike to Mr. Darcy while the oldest sister (Jane) falls madly in love with the first bachelor (Mr. Bingly).  Blah, blah, blah, happy ending.
In this version, I was left with a “satisfied” grin.  It was enjoyable to watch, and, because I’m so familiar with the story, I’m looking for my favorite parts.  Unfortunately, while Olivier and Garson “seemed” good in their roles individually, to me, they lacked the chemistry to make the story believable.  There are also a couple of changes in the film which I found curious.  For one, the costumes seemed more modern and more American than British.  This impression may be just in comparison to the 1995 version.  Another difference was that Darcy’s aunt refuses the marriage to Lizzy as a test of her love, whereas in the other versions, the aunt is doing it for reasons of societal class difference and because the aunt believes Darcy to be “given / promised” to her own daughter since childhood.  Basically, it makes the aunt a redeemable character, which I don’t believe she was meant to be.  I guess, I’ll have to read the book to find out ultimately.
Final recommendation:  moderate.  It’s okay.  I guess anything with Olivier is considered a “classic”.  I say it has historical interest, just as I enjoyed “Bride And Prejudice” (2004) because of the Indian / Bollywood interpretation.  (Review here.)
Having watched the 1940’s version, I decided to re-watch the 1995 BBC version.  Starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, this is widely considered one of the great BBC television productions of all time.  Running time is not quite 5-1/2 hours long and therefore this version has the time to flesh out the characters more than the more recent 2005 film version which I have seen multiple times.  My daughter (Rebecca) says she considers this the “definitive” adaptation of the novel to film.  I beg to differ with my favorite being the 2005 version.  I would put this a very close second though.
With this second viewing and having seen some of his other works, I am thoroughly a Colin Firth fan.  He kills this role.  Even though I’ve seen this version before, I must admit, I didn’t really remember it.  It has time to add a lot more to the story and IMHO, this makes the whole version better.  There is a “famous” scene of Darcy approaching a lake on his property.  If you know much about England, you know that even on the warmest of days, open water is rarely warm.  This is actually one of the reasons accidental drowning is so common there (several hundred each year).  Anyway, Darcy is despondently approaching a lake and my first instinct was “plot twist, this isn’t going to end well”.  But then, of course, we get the now famous and career making wet T-shirt (ok, it’s a cotton long-sleeved pullover) scene of Darcy stumbling upon Lizzy on his way to the house to dry off.  Ladies still swoon…  LOL
Final recommendation:  Highly!!  I struggle to find things to criticize about this version.  Okay, it’s longer than the 2005 movie and Mrs. Bennet and Kitty are much more annoying in this version, but this slight comment is simply evidence of how good the whole is.  Well, worth re-visiting!
Stranger Things  (2016 / 2017)  —  series review
Stranger Things is a two-season (so far) science-fiction, horror, coming of age made for NetFlix series.  There are 17 episodes.  Eight in the first year and nine in the second.  The series occurs in the 1980’s, in a rural / sub-urban town in the mid-west (Indiana).  The series has lots of references and homages to earlier works of music and film from that period.  The series was recommended to me by my son (James), who advised me it was “MUST” see.  Even more than THOR, the (at that time) up-coming Justice League, Punisher or Longmire…  So, okay.  I watched it.  The series is very much an ensemble cast so I’m not going to bother listing all fifteen to twenty of the “main” actors.
Absolutely, terrific!!  The series has adults, older teens, younger teens, nerds, jocks and just regular folks.  It also has hell-hound aliens, extra-dimensions, mind-control, telekinesis and X-mas lights!  My son said, he hopes I don’t scare easily at night or I’ll have to watch all 17 hours straight through.  It wasn’t anywhere near THAT intense, but it is very good.  Basically, I’m (again) late to the party and this was the smash hit for NetFlix last year.  I’m jumping in here, one month after the release of the second season.  As per normal for NetFlix, the whole series for the year is released on the same day to encourage binge watching.  So, I did.  Season 1 on day 1 and Season 2 on the following day.
But, what is the show about?  Well, there’s a government experiment gone wrong.  They are developing children into “X-men”, with various abilities.  Season one is mostly about a girl with telekinesis abilities.  Season two brings in her “sister”.  Not really her sister, but they grew up together.  So, girl escapes and meets young boy from town.  Fall in love, blah, blah, blah.  In the meantime, the government agency has accidentally opened a gate into another dimension, which is a lot like ours, but it has been conquered by an alien (large spider-like shadow) which controls a bunch of little flesh eating aliens.  At the end of Season one, the girl saves her friends and the world by closing the portal.  Season two opens a year later and girl is still missing and the original abducted kid knows the aliens are coming back.  Blah, blah, blah, teen angst, blah, blah, blah, child angst, blah, blah, blah, adult angst.  Big finale, the kids kick alien butt and the girl saves the world.  Afterwards, smoochy, smoochy at the Winter Ball.
Final recommendation: Strong to highly.  This is a well made combination of practically every kids science-fiction movie you’ve ever seen.  Some of the references are almost (but not quite) tongue in cheek, but they work and this is a series well worth the time to watch it.  I’m not sure if I’ll watch it again soon, but I’m almost certainly up for another binge before the release of season 3, next year.  I would caution that although kids play predominant roles in this series, this is NOT for below age-12 viewing.  Some scenes can be intense and there is a moderate amount of alien violence.
The Punisher (2017)  —  series review
This series is a spinoff from the DareDevil series also on NetFlix.  The Punisher appeared in season two – and pretty much took it over – so, now he has his own show.  Basically, the family of a military expert is killed and he takes revenge against the killers.  In DareDevil, he does most of the work.  In this series, he almost finishes the job.  He leaves one guy, who he promises to come back for.  Blah, blah, blah.  Segue to season two…
Does it work and is it any good?  If you like this kind of thing (explosions, excessive violence, gratuitous sexual scenes, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, lots and lots of guns and gun fire, and did I mention explosions), and I do, then you’ll enjoy this series.  And, I did.  So, I enjoyed it…  The question was is it any good?  As a comic book adaptation, it is very good.  As an action / adventure / who-dun-it, it’s pretty good.  As a realistic portrayal of armed and unarmed combat, uh, it’s a comic book…
The series stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as his partner David Lieberman / Micro, Ben Barnes as Billy Russo (Frank’s wartime friend who ends up being a bad guy), Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani (Homeland Security Officer), Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson (a confused Vet who becomes a domestic terrorist), Paul Schulze as William Rawlins (the main gov / CIA bad guy from “the war”), Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle (the Vet “do-gooder” medic), Jaime Ray Newman as Sarah Lieberman / Micro’s wife, and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page (a carry over from Daredevil).
The series is mostly dark, in the same vein as the DareDevil series, the Chris Nolan / Batman movie trilogy, and the recent John Wick movies.  It deals with a host of issues, from right and wrong, free press, privacy, vigilantism, friendship, personal loss, and a rather bizarre attitude that “justice” almost always ends with violence – particularly gun violence.  While the depiction of violence is pretty accurate, the depiction of physical recovery is essentially: “and then a miracle happens.”  There are scars, but recovery is almost instantaneous.  Like I said: comic book…
Final recommendation: moderate.  This series would be rated higher if they had let the actors simply act more and kill / maim less.  It is definitely for mature audiences ONLY.  It feels strange to say (admit) it, but I enjoyed the acting and the story more than I did the violence.  Go figure…
Final comment: I was not a follower of “The Punisher” character in the comic reading days of my youth.  I was reading them when he was introduced in DareDevil and Spiderman, but the character never “really” captured my pre-teen and teen imagination.  During my Army days though, I was an avid follower of “The Executioner” book series written by Don Pendleton, which was the basis for the comic character.  The monthly book series currently runs to over 400 episodes and is being ghost written since Pendleton’s sale of the series and subsequent death.
Thanks to any who managed to make it through the entire post.  Let me know if you agree / disagree with my reviews…
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On This Day In:
2016 Feeling Warm Yet?
Four Documentaries
2015 Just Like All The Others
2014 In My Own Vanity
2013 Filled With Words
2012 Lectio Auget Existentiae Meae
2011 Lied Lately?
2010 Born To Work At Faux News
Lost Again (Uh, Make That Still)
Qui Genus Humanum Ingenio Superavit
They’re Back… (Part 1)

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