Movies & Plays To Check Out (JAN 2017)

MOVIES:

Hidden Figures

This movie centers on three brilliant African-American women (referred to as “human computers”) working at NASA in the 1960s. The three leads are Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae (who is also a singer). They are joined by Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Kristen Dunst, and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards; Luke Cage). Before Col. John Glenn (up-and-coming actor Glen Powell) went into space, Henson’s character (Katharine Johnson) had to “check the math” behind the mission. I learned that Johnson is still alive in small-town Virginia- wow!  Check out the trailer below.

 

Lion

Critics have raved re: Dev Patel in this film, as well as the boy who plays Indian adoptee to Australia (Saroo Brierley) as a child.  In case you’re NOT a big fan yet of the British-Indian actor, know that Patel is transformed for this role (hair, body, and accent).  I’ll be seeing it next weekend.

See the trailer below; the cast includes Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, and David Wenham.

 

Singin’ in the Rain (in select theaters: SUN, 1/15 & WED, 1/18)

TCM and Fathom Events is co-presenting this musical at select theaters for two days ONLY. This movie premiered 65 years ago (1952) and stars Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds (who recently passed away at age 84), and Donald O’Conner. I heard about it on TCM, then checked online for details (see link below).

http://fathomevents.com/event/singin-in-the-rain/more-info/details

One of the most famed/respected dancers/choreographers of her time, Cyd Charisse, has a supporting role. Checking IMDB, I found that Rita Moreno is part of the ensemble (VERY cool). I’ve never seen this film before, but it’s available on YouTube for ONLY $2.99! 

 

The Salesman (AFI Silver Theatre: SUN, 1/22 at 5:15PM)

This film is part of the 21st Annual Iranian American Film Festival which was previously held at the Freer Gallery (now undergoing renovations).  It is directed by Asghar Farhadi (A Separation), who is NOT afraid to realistically tackle subjects which are still taboo in his native Iran. While A Separation was about impending divorce, this film deals w/ the assault of a young wife and her husband’s subsequent emotional turmoil and drive for revenge. I got my ticket already.

Follow the link below for tickets and see the trailer.

https://silver.afi.com/Browsing/Movies/Details/m-0100001136

 

PLAYS:

As You Like It: Folger Shakespeare Theatre (Pay-What-You-Will: TUES, 1/24 at 7:30PM)

This adaptation of The Bard’s comedy will run from JAN 24th – MAR 5th starring actors from Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. I’m interested in this b/c I’ve only seen one movie re: this play. I haven’t read the play (it’s rarely taught/studied in schools/universities). 

See the link below for more info.

http://www.folger.edu/events/as-you-like-it

Caroline, or Change: Round House Theatre (UPDATED: Pay-What-You-Can on THURS, 1/26 at 7:30PM & WED, 2/1 at 7:30PM)

This is a musical written (book and lyrics) by the renowned Tony Kushner; it contains aspects from his own life as a boy growing up in the South. The play centers on Caroline, an African-America maid for the Gellmans, a Jewish family in 1960s Louisiana. It combines different types of music: spirituals (gospel), blues, Motown, classical, and Jewish klezmer and folk. 

More details at the link below.

http://www.roundhousetheatre.org/performances/caroline-or-change

Dangal (2016) starring Aamir Khan

NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.

Indian superstar Aamir Khan is known as a perfectionist, even when it comes to posters.  When I lived in NYC, I used to regularly attend monthly meetings of SAWCC (South Asian Women’s Creative Collective); though I wasn’t an artist (like most of the women), I wanted to meet interesting desis.  One night, we had a presentation by the young lady who’d worked as the main graphic artist on Lagaan (before moving to the U.S.)  She was working late in her Mumbai studio, when Aamir Khan called her up re: a small change to one of the poster designs.  Wow, talk about attention to detail!

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Young Mahavir (Aamir Khan) gets ready for a wrestling match.

This film will definitely hold the viewers’ attention, even more so than Lagaan, thanks in part to its exciting/tense action sequences.  But this isn’t a historical epic, it’s a (real-life) family story, which MAY be even more compelling to some of you who regularly read this blog.  I didn’t know anything about the story before going to see it last week, aside from the fact that Aamir had gained and lost a LOT of weight for his role.  I later learned that three out of the four (VERY natural) young actresses in the film hadn’t acted before!  I esp. liked the chemistry between the two girls who played the sisters as pre-teens, as well as the charm of their older teen boy cousin. 

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Life is sink or swim- a lesson that Mahavir wants his daughters to learn.

Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan), a former national wrestling champion, wins medals and respect in the ’80s.  Unfortunately, he never gets the opportunity to prove himself on the world stage; there is NOT enough money/resources dedicated to his sport.  He loves wresting, so he spends time training other men in the mud pits of his village.  After a time, Mahavir settles into married life (w/ his wife Daya, played by Shakshi Tanwar) and a desk job in his home region of Hariyana.  He has high hopes for a son, whom he plans to teach to be an even better wrestler than himself, and win gold for India. 

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Young Geeta is cheered by surprised locals after winning matches.

His wife gives birth to four daughters though the years.  Mahavir’s family and his small community is disappointed, thinking that the dream for wrestling glory is dead.  But after his two eldest girls, Geeta (Zaira Wasim) and Babita (Suhani Bhatnager), beat up two local boys who insulted them, Mahavir is spurred into action.  His daughters will become wrestlers under his coaching!  Gold is still gold, Mahavir is bold enough to think, and who’s to say that a girl can’t win one!?  Watch the trailer below.

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

NOTE: This review contains MAJOR SPOILERS. 

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Hardened Rebel fighter Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and newbie Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones)

We know there are a set of Star Wars superfans who simply CANNOT take criticism of their beloved franchise.  However, I’m NOT one of those viewers!  This prequel has a female lead in Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) as we saw in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Jones does the best she can w/ the material given.  There is a LOT of racial diversity among Jones’ male co-starts.  However, this film sorely lacks character development!  Sorry, BUT it’s rather tough to care about characters if we don’t get to know their much re: personalities, motivations, histories, etc. 

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The Death Star was built by a team of engineers headed by Galen Erso (Jyn’s father)

I wanted to see a BIT more of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelson) and his wife; we don’t how/why they got on the wrong track of working for The Empire.  Also, why does Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) have such a big chip on this shoulder?  I wanted to know a LOT more re: his past, aside from the (obvious) fact that he’s been fighting for a long time.  It was cool to see Luna after MANY years!  He still has that youthful face and slim body.  There is a new droid working w/ Andor, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), who provides some snarky humor.        

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Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed)- the pilot who defects from The Empire

Social media (as well as a FEW people I personally know) were esp. excited to see Riz Ahmed, a British-Pakistani/Muslim actor on the big screen.  Sure, he’s part of the rag-tag Rebel band, BUT doesn’t get to do much!  Donnie Yen’s character (the blind/deeply spiritual warrior) was  more effective, thanks in part to his badass martial arts skills.  Guess we STILL have to wait for a desi brother to get a (bigger) break…

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Orson Krennic (Ben Mendolsohn) oversaw the building of The Death Star

The new baddie, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), is pretty interesting; I think it’s b/c the Aussie actor takes relish in being a villain (check him out on Season 1 of the Netflix drama Bloodline).  I esp. liked the scene where he got called to meet w/ Darth Vader, then got (painfully) put in his place.

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Darth Vader (still voiced by James Earl Jones) meets with Krennic

I was impressed by the scenery, action sequences, and the “bringing back to life” of several actors from George Lucas’ original Star Wars films (thanks to technology).  Speaking of the original films… This film’s last scene (featuring the young Princess Leia) has taken on a special/poignant significance following the sudden death of actress Carrie Fisher.