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Dance Academy (2010)
Wonderful show -- Please come back!!
Although I'm not a dancer myself I LOVE dance shows and movies. I found this show on Netflix streaming a couple months ago and quickly finished it (too quickly I'm afraid.) It's just a wonderful show! It took me all of two episodes to fall in love with all the characters and become totally invested in their lives. Although this seems to be advertised as a "kids show", as a 21 year old I never felt like this was too juvenile for my tastes. The issues the kids deal with range from cute (oh, the relationship dramas!) to heartwrenching. Even my dad became obsessed!
All the performances are good, with some better than others. The actress who plays "bitchy" Abigail is especially fantastic. There are cute boys galore (and yes, I did feel like a bit of a weirdo for squealing over Christian when the actor playing him is probably like 17, but oh well!) and lovable friendships and frenemy-ships. BEST of all, there is actual dancing -- and lots of it! The actors have all obviously had some kind of training in ballet. I suppose experts would be able to point out their technical failings, but to my untrained eye the dancing was so much fun to watch. A lovely connection is made throughout the show between the characters' need to dance and their lives in general.
The show takes place at a 3-year dance school in Sydney, Australia. Seasons 1 and 2 cover the first two years. So I'm praying that there will be a third season for the final year -- I heard they were planning one. Fingers crossed!!
Really gripping and beautiful!
Other reviews have already stated most of what you should know about this amazing movie, but let me just add: if it feels preachy or a little badly acted in the first 10 minutes, don't abandon it! It quickly gets over that and becomes one of the most well-made, subtle, beautifully picturized and acted films I've seen recently. It's utterly heartbreaking. Despite being laden with meaning, it doesn't feel burdened by the responsibility of getting across its message(s). It's slow and steady but I was not bored for one second. I remember one scene with the father having a conversation with someone. No action, no music, just two people talking. I felt like I was watching someone's real life. I think that's this film's real strength -- it follows the natural rhythm of life and just feels so REAL. Unlike most films which are constructed to have a lead up, climax, aftermath etc., this one flows more naturally. What happens, happens, whenever it needs to. There is one character who could have easily come off as a comic-book villain, but thanks to amazing writing and acting we actually, despite our best efforts, DO see him as a human. It's quite incredible how the director was able to do that. Oh, and the music!! The only song that was totally out of place was that Bol Do song with Atif and the girl. But the rest was just lovely. My favorite is the Hona Tha Pyar song. As for Atif, his part is really small. He plays a nice guy and it's hard to find anything wrong with his performance since it was so unchallenging. But he sure is cute and has a nice presence on screen. The actor who played the father did a great job. He was devout, conflicted, disgustingly evil and vulnerable at the right times. I really didn't know how to feel about his character, and that's a GOOD thing!
My complaints include the brevity of the role of the main girl. The actress was just amazing, and I could see it in her that she had SO much more to give. I felt like the director gave us this beautiful female character and didn't fully take advantage of it or of the actress's talents. After the Big Sad Scene (you'll know it when you see it), the ambivalent reactions of the mother and sisters might be upsetting to viewers. Also, the last song is very beautiful but the sequence that goes along with it, while plausible, is very rushed and feels unrealistic compared to the rest of the film. But the very, very last shot kind of saves it.
In short, highly recommended. It's unique and special. This director has his own style, and I love it.
Namastey London (2007)
Wow, Surprisingly Wonderful!!
I've been wanting to review this movie since I saw it a few months ago, mainly because I think it's so underrated. I only got it for my sister who was on an Akshay Kumar trip. I've seen dozens of typical Bollywood romances and while I usually find them entertaining in one way or another, they generally fail as "romantic comedies". They might be a bit funny here and there, but as for being really romantic? Hardly. I can only think of a few films like DDLJ and KKHH that made my heart skip a beat with their love story. Hence I was surprised to find myself completely drawn in and moved by the romance in this film. There are some wonderful moments, such as the "ishq di mere mitra pehchaan ki",the Veeraniya song, the ballroom dance lesson.
There are too many "pros" for this movie, so hopefully I don't run out of space listing them. Katrina Kaif: regardless of what people say, she's utterly charming, adorable, and in this film at least her acting's spot on. Akshay Kumar is the only older actor that can convincingly play a youngish guy opposite a young actress without making me uncomfortable or indignant. He oozes coolness and sexiness in this film, and gives a wonderful performance. The basic plot of this movie was unique, to me at least, and I loved it. I love the fact that Jazz's family are not super rich -- no false images of fame and glory in a foreign country for the Indians watching this. The conflict between traditional values and a comfortable material life is portrayed wonderfully through the characters of Jazz's parents and Kumar's character, and the issues that immigrants face are discussed in a way I haven't seen in other Indian films. The soundtrack is unique, and one of the best. I love it more every time I listen. And the musical numbers fit the film perfectly, with excellent choreography. It doesn't try to be a comedy, but the funny moments come at the right moments and really made me laugh. The general production -- directing, acting, editing, etc. -- is far above what you tend to see in Bollywood movies. It's VERY well made, which surprised me.
There is one big drawback to this film, and as you might suspect it's the treatment of Anglo-British people. As is routine in patriotic Indian movies, they are portrayed as morally loose, culturally insensitive douchebags. I understand the need to contrast "pure" Indian values with "corrupt" Western ones, but they really go overboard in at least two scenes. Some scenes, such as Jazz's fiancé making fun of Akshay during the rugby match, portray racism against Indians in a more accurate and less anachronistic way -- they should have retained such lower-key moments and scratched the exaggerated stuff. Another aspect of this movie that Western viewers might not love is the sense of moral superiority in the characters of Jazz's father and Akshay, and the suggestion that the only thing that can save her from the corruption of the West is a good Indian husband. To me, though, this suggestion was couched in such a convincing love story that I really didn't see it that way. It also helps that Akshay's character isn't self satisfied throughout the film, but actually gets his heart broken. One more thing: some of the music numbers sound like they were recorded in a fish tank. It's a shame since they're all so good.