Life at the Movies

Beverly Hills Ninja (1997) sent up the family guy, the respectable sinning of the Beverly Hills rich, and the debt the Chinese pay to their ancestral prophecy, all for a few laughs.

These subtleties centered in the negative, which is unsurprising, for a trashy comedy from the 90’s.

For all its send up of Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills Ninja still celebrates the Hollywood machine by delivering a Chris Farley comedy vehicle, which nevertheless is stupefying. Apart from the few laughs at the beginning.

Should we celebrate the Hollywood machine because of a Chris Farley vehicle made to please? Nah. The movie’s pathetic.

The subtleties are revealing in a plot that’s threadbare. Basically, the story is about a long awaited one, but who may not be the one.

Haru was washed ashore and raised by ninjas, but is clumsy, however well-intentioned. Surely not the one.

When Haru’s on a mission to save a woman, an accomplished ninja must help him out, shadowing him. We’re supposed to laugh, but don’t.


First subtlety. The family guy, probably from Middle America, is shown as a bit of a bully. This happens when the guy’s son is alarmed by taking Haru too literally. What Haru is reported to have said winds him up with a punch in the face from the family guy.

Second subtlety. Beverly Hills is a lavish place for respectable sinning. Dressed in swank and driving porches, carried with cool detachment, the counterfeiters could embezzle under your nose.

Third subtlety is sending up or poking fun at ancestral prophecy. The long awaited hero may be a bumbling idiot.  Think Inspector Clouseau (from The Pink Panther) in ninja gear—which makes him also dangerous. Ancestors deserve more respect, now.

* star (out of * * * * * stars)

A couple who treat one another well—because they are in love—told in a naturalistic setting.

At the movies, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a couple engage one another positively in every moment they are with one another. That’s Paterson (2016): out on DVD since April 4 in North America.

In their everyday abode, in the city of Paterson, New Jersey, this couple chats about ordinary things. Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver, comes home every night to a relationship with his “other half” Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) a relationship which is good.


She’s a dreamer who embarks on projects of fancy which are supported by Paterson. Never an argument, a snide word, nor a fatal miscalculation of judgment.

It’s a love match which Paterson writes about in his journal—in poems that his wife says should be published. He likes to keep his poetry secret, though, as if the rhythm he expresses in lines holds more meaning in his life than a publishing contract would.

Chemistry of life

Paterson (1)

The ordinary moments in a relationship—more than meets the eye. However, to the eye the passing everyday remarks and comments may seem drab. The day-in-and-day-out routine of life merely rudimentary. But Paterson revels in them and reflects life back to the viewer. There is a point when one engages in the everyday experience and the characters seem like us. Our life is reflected back to us. It’s soothing as life, as we would know it, unfolds on the screen.

Later, one is moved by Paterson’s reaction to a distressing event, the only such event in the film. He has to come to terms with it. A mysterious poet from Japan is there for him in a moment like this. When life takes a bad turn, the poet says that there is nothing like an empty page to begin again with.

Paterson is more than a slice of life, more than a piece of life. It exudes the chemistry of life—in poetry, relationship, and the everyday experience. And what comes out is beautiful.

* * * * * (out of * * * * * stars)

With the last of the 2016 movies already available or nearly ready for home viewing, I have compiled a list of some my stand-out films of 2016:


Instinctively, I got on board this quiet yet suspenseful science fiction thriller Arrival. It twists and turns and surprises. Looking between the lines, there appears to be a life affirming theme in there as well, despite the trappings that come with alien invasion films, that eerie psychic-honed mind reading.


A quietly effective drama about coming to terms with losing a husband, Natalie Portman gets across the grief and loneliness of being a widow absolutely convincingly. Portman has very good support from John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, and Greta Gerwig. Jackie takes you on a journey through Jackie Kennedy’s dark night of the soul and out of it.


Lion is a compelling drama about losing your birth family by accident and attempting to find them twenty-five years later. The loose ends of one’s life need resolving. Putting the pieces back together is what’s important here without offending the family who adopted. The lost Indian boy was adopted by an Australian family—and then sought what happened to his birth family.


Perhaps the matter of faith in a rescue mission is sidelined in Sully, but the movie is nevertheless a good dramatic recreation of the infamous yet famous landing of a plane on the Hudson River in 2009. The dangerous yet successful landing made many New Yorker’s day—during the height of an economic recession and a general lull.

5.Hello, My Name is Doris

This is an unconventional romance, and not a love story, that’s mainly set in the mind of a 60-something female office worker (played by Sally Field). Doris (Field) fancies her much younger supervisor and embarks on a fantasy that crosses into real life. It’s not exploitative, but sensitively and good naturedly handles the material.

6.Eddie the Eagle

This inspirational feel-good film is about taking on life though you may fail. Yet getting involved is better than thinking, what if?


Defense in the Oxford dictionary is defined as “defending; justification; defendant’s case or counsel; players in defending position; fortifications”.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), in the Iron Man movies, is in a defending position. He has inherited weapons and defense manufacturer, Stark Industries.

In Iron Man (2008), a showing of the capabilities of Tony’s new “Jericho” missile goes wrong in the desert of Afghanistan. Terrorists capture him, but he is kept alive though seriously wounded.

There is a way out. The Yinsen, the terrorist group, will let Tony go if he builds a missile for the Yinsen.

It’s a no brainer. Why would he build a weapon for the enemy?

It’s a theme in World War II movies, where the brains of an outfit is coaxed into building weapons for the other side, much against their own conscience. The theme is in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

In a movie, it’s always a let-down when someone with the know-how starts to design something dangerous for the opposition.

However, their life is at risk if they don’t.

When it matters, standing up for principles can be difficult but seems to be necessary.

Tony does not go down that path of compromise. He will defend his country and his honor no matter the risks. It is also a matter of survival. So he builds the Iron Man suit, which is powered armor suit, with the intention to escape through superior muscle.

Tony will not give in to the enemy’s demands. He’s defending himself and his country by not giving over a weapon to the enemy in exchange for his freedom.

His fight for escape is hard-won, but he will not give in. The justification he has for defense is that a weapon in the hands of a terrorist is a terrible thing. He couldn’t live with his conscience if he ever did give in to the terrorist’s demands, not that he would.