Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Baby Reindeer

This was recommended to me by a reliable Facebook friend.  Every thing he has recommended has been well worth the effort.  "Baby Reindeer" was different and in some ways disturbing.  It is worthwhile to watch some series that challenge your comfort zone and "Baby Reindeer" forces one to realize not everyone lives like we do.

Based on the experience of the author, in this case Richard Gadd who wrote acted  and was also an executive producer in it.  From the little I knew I expected to see about an annoying stalker.  Gadd's experience had a profound effect on him, but it is admitted that some details were changed to be dramatic, and also I suspect to protect others.  

Sex plays a pivotal role.  Not so much pornography, but explicit enough to make some cringe and feel some of his vulnerability.  But that does reflect a real part of the world.

One impression is that Richard was a very vulnerable person and was identified as such.  He is aware of his weakness.  The first three episodes we are confronted with his stalker and find her very annoying.  By the fourth episode we learn about a previous experience that perhaps made him vulnerable.  Along the way he had girlfriends, one of whom was trans and a therapist for sexual violence.  

This difficult story required a lot talent.  Here are a few of the contributors.  

Richard Gadd plays really himself.  He is the writer and an executive producer.  He took the one year course at the Oxford School of Drama.  He is a Bi-Sexual Ambassador for We Are Survivors.  He has 30 credits as an actor, 5 for writing and 2 as a producer including a one episode writing stint for "Sex Education" (2020).

The two directors both started their career in foreign markets.  Weronika Tofilska started in Poland and moving to the United Kingdom developed a record of 12 directing credits, 8 for writing and 2 for Assistant Directing.  Josephine Bornebusch got her start in Sweden and has since compiled 8 directing credits, 7 for writing and 35 as an actress.

The team of two brothers, Evgueni and Sacha Galperin have composed backroom scores over Europe including Russia, France, United Kingdom and United States including "The Family" (2013), "Loveless" (2017), "Paterno" (2017), "The Whole Truth" (2017) and "The Undoing" (2020).  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2023/01/the-undoing.html

Two experienced  cinematographers handled the photography.  Krzysztof Trojnar with 24 cinematography credits and Annika Summerson with 45 credits manged the seven episodes.

Three experienced editors took responsibility for the editing; Benjamin Gerstein with 40 editing credits, Peter Oliver with 54 credits and Mike Holliday with 41 credits.

Jennifer Gunning played  the aggressive stalker. Martha.  She has 38 acting credits including "Pride" (2014) and 6 episodes with "Prime Suspcct" (2017). 

Nava Mau plays  Teri, his trans girl friend who is also a sexual violence therapistt which is some of her real background.  She has 6 acting credits, 4 as a producer and 2 as a director.

Nina Sosanya plays Liz, another of Gadd's girlfriends.  She started in theatre in England.  She has 78 film  acting credits including "The Jury" (2003), "Love Actually" (2003),  "Last Tango in Halifax" (2012-2015, 18 episodes), "Shetland" (2014) and "Juliet, Naked" (2018) .

Tom Goodman-Hill played Darrien, an unscrupulous sexual predator.  Before his acting career took off he was a school teacher.  He has 109 acting credits including "The Imitation Game" (2014).

First staged as a one man show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, re-written a few times before becomin this television series script.

If you are curious about abnormal sexual behavior this will perhaps satisfy you or possibly whet your appetite.  For me it is enough to know that such behavior does exist and it is good to  know reality.

Available on Netflix in English.

I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Laapataa Ladies

This seemed like a time filler only, but it packs a powerful story   

It starts with a film convention of two women getting mixed up, an easy task with two women encased in face covering wedding garments.  Naturally there is a lot of confusion upon efforts to reunite them with their new husbands.  

One of them is actually resistant and gradually we learn her story and watch her efforts to avoid her new husband.  A comic crooked cop comes to the rescue and helps illuminate  some cultural anomalies that are being changed.  

The story is engaging, but the reward comes near the end and is one of the reason I am including this as one of my top favorite films of the year.

It is not an accident that this film is so worth the effort to see it.  A few of the contributors are outlined below.

Aamir Khan was producer along with ex wife Kiran Rao and Jyoti Despande.  Aamir Khan is one of the premier actors and film makers in the world.  As he got established he became an actor who concentrated on one film at a time. He abstains from drinking and smoking, but will do so if a film role requires it.  Related to filmmakers he started as a child actor, but became a star with "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak" (1988).  Most of his films were successful at the box office including "Dil Chata Hai" (2001), "Mangal Pandey" (2005), "Like Stars on Earth" (2007), "Ghajini" (2008), "3 Idiots" (2009), "PK (2014), "Dangal" (2016) and "Secret Superstar" (2017).  "Lagaan:  Once Upon a Time in India" (2001) started his success in the Chinese market (meaning he was at various times the most famous actor in the world with more than two huge markets).  Like Tom Hanks, Aamir did a lot of running, but he has a good body as has been required in some of his films.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/07/dil-chatha-hai-bollywood-classic.html and  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/03/pk.html and  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/07/the-making-of-lagaan-chale-chalo-lunacy.html 

Kiran Rao was director and producer.  She worked her way up from assistant director.  In 2001 she met Aamir Khan on the set of "Lagaan:  Onc Upon a Time in India" (2001).  They married in 2005 after Aamir's divorce.  After a few miscarriages they used a surogate to have a child.  After their divorce they agreed to co-parent.  They collaborated on several films both during their marriage and afterwards.  Some films included "Like Stars on Earth" (2007) and "Dangal" (2016).  She was an assistant for "Saathiya" (2002) and a favorite, "Swades" (2014).  How I became more aware of Kiran:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/01/ship-of-thesus.html

Still another key producer was Jyoti Despande.  She has often been put on lists for Today's Most Powerful Woman in Business.    She is the CEO at Viacom 18.  She has 53 credits as producer including "OMG 2" (2023), "Dunki" (2023) and "Article 370" (2024).  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2023/10/omg-2.html

Sneha Desai wrote the script.  She had acted and written for Gujarati stage.  She has 4 credits for writing and 3 as actress.

Ram Sampath composed the music.  He started writing jingles for advertising.  He also played keyboard for a rock group and at one time collaborated with an Australian rock band.  As he got involved with films he was able to win a plagiarism case.  He has 36 film composing credits including "Peepli Live)" (2010), "Delhi Belly" (2011), "Talaash:  The Answer Lies Within" (2012) and "Raees" (2017).

Vikash Nowlakna was the cinematographer.  He has 16 credits for cinematogrpay and 9 for C Department including amera and Electrical including "Black" (2005), "Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year" (2009), "The White Tiger" (2021) and "The Green Planet" (2022).  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/01/the-white-tiger.html

Jabeen Merchant has 38 credits including "7 1/2 Phere:  More than a Wedding" (2005), "Manorama:  Six Feet Under" (2007) and "NH 10" (2015).  

Pratibha Ranta plays Jaya, one of switched brides.  She was Miss Mumbai in 2018.  She has 3 acting credits.  

Nitashi Goel played Phool, the other switched bride.  This was her first adult role, having played a lot of youngsters and teens.  She has trained in Kathak dancing.  She has 17 acting credits including "Vicky Donor" (2012) and "M.S. Doni" (2016).   Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/vicky-donor-cf-dharala-prabhu.html

Sparsh Srivastav plays Deepak, one of the grooms.  He has 10 acting credits.

Ravi Kishan plays Manohar the police chief.  He is associated with Bhojpuri fillms and once dubbed Tobey MdGuire as Spiderman.  He has been very popular on reality television as contestant, judge and host.  He is currently an elected Member of Parliament.  His 231 acting credits (spread over Hindi, Telegu, Kannanda, Bhojpuri and Tamil) include  "Tanu Weds Manu" (2011), "Agent Vinod" (2012),  "Lucknow Central" (2017) and as the leading man in "Maamia Legal Hai" (20240.

Chhaya Kadam plays Manju, a street vendor who helps one of the brides.  She started acting on the Marathi stage.  She has gone onto 54 film acting credits including "Andhadhan" (2018), "Sairat" (2018) and "Gangubai Kathiawadi" (2022).  

Satendra Soni played Chotu, a short helper for Manju.  He has 5 acting credits including "Doctor G" (2022).  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/12/doctor-g.html

This film may well sneak up on you, but is well worth the effort.  At first I wondered what all the fuss was, but towards the end I felt rewarded. 

I have bolded film titles for the first mention. 

Available on Netflix in subtitled format.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Finding Ola First Series

"Finding Ola" is not my first Egyptian movie, but the most American I have seen.   My assumption is this depicts upper middle class.  It is not likely that very many Egyptians live in this manner, but be assured there is plenty of Egyptian content.   

It is a typical drama, comedy and romance.  Ola's two children, her mother, her ex mother in law, the widower and his daughter who spends much of her time in the Ola household, her ex husband, her two business partners  and her ex husband's new celebrity girlfriend leads to a delicate dilemma.  The viewer will be caught between interesting choices.  Ola herself is delightful.

At one point prompted by friends, Ola does express an interest in dating, but learns there are many pitfalls.   We follow her business challenges and her personal ups and downs.

This is very engaging film professionally done.  Key personnel include

Ghada Abdel Aai is the creator and a script writer.  He has 3 writing credits.

Hadi El Bagoury was the director.  He did commercials and music videos before getting into films.  He has worked on films in Dubai, Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco.  He has 20 credits as a a director and 4 as producer including "Excuse my French" (2014).  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/09/excuse-my-french.html

Maha Elwazir was the second script writer.  She got a Ph.D. in Film and Women Studies and is currently a film studies professor at Cairo University.  She participated as a writer for the Arabic adaptation of the American hit, "ER". She has 4 film credits including "Newton's Cradle" (2023).   Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/02/newtons-cradle.html

Khaled Al  Kammar handled the music.  He has 38 music credits including "Excuse my French" (2014)

Hind Sabry  plays Ola plus was an executive producer.  She is a lawyer. As a Tunisian actress she won the top award at the Venice Film Festival and and later accepted an offer to sit as a judge for the Festival.  She has 48 credits including "The Island" (2007, "Asmaa" (2011) and "Excuse My French" (2014).   She is world class.

Haney Abel plays Hashim, the husband.  He is founder and member of an Arab music band,   He has 39 acting credits 9 for composing and 3 from the music department including "Asmaa" (2011) and "Excuse My French" (2014).

Sawsan Badr played Sohier, Ola's mother and the brand face for a skin cream.  She has 120 film credits.

Nada Musa played Nisreen a close friend and business partner to Ola.  She has 28 film credits.

Available on Netflix, subtitled or dubbed.  A second season is being set up--you won't want to miss it.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Amar Singh Chamkila used dirty lyrics to success and an early death

As a teenager (and young adult) I was very used to vulgar songs and did my share of participating.  Mostly forgotten now.

"Amar Singh Chamkila"(2024) starts off with the assassination of Amar and his wife Amarjot, plus two band members.  We learn later that this crime is unsolved.

 Shortly after this we learn a little bit about Amar's success.  He sang vulgar songs.  An example of vulgarity was provided when a young girl asked what  "boner" meant.  An older expression I had long forgotten.  His songs had a beat that encouraged people to dance.

As Amar get rolling, he loses his first duet singer.  Quickly gets a second, Amajot and eventually was coerced into marrying her.  A detail that came out later was that he was already married.  They continue together and had a child.

His popularity was widespread.  Some young people asked some elderly women if they were aware of the vulgar songs and they admitted that they "discretely" danced to it.  He performs in other countries, particularly Canada where Punjabis have gathered

The thrust of this film is the conflict between popularity and censorship.  Sikh religious leaders at one point get him to sing devotional songs, but his fans protest.  Later the religious authorities threaten strong action and he is required to give up his "naughty" songs among some other restrictions.  He ignores and we return to the beginning of the film.

To give a feeling of reality we see archived footage videos and photos of the real couple side by side of the film couple that are stunningly similar.

It is a fascinating story of popularity and censorship.  You will get a sense of conflict.  The cast and crew are top notch.  Here are some of them.

Imtiaz Ali was director and script writer.  He has 18 writing credits, 11 directing and 6 for producer. including "Ahista Ahista" (2006),  "Love Aaj Kal" (2009), "Jab We Met" (2007), "Rockstar" (2011), "Highway" (2014) and "Tamasha" (2015)/  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/02/tamasha-wonderful-story.html

A.R. Rahman, in truth he was the deciding point for me  as a lot of his music is in my library.    He had done commercial jingles when Mani Ratman invited him to write for a film "Roja" (1992).  I had not realized that Rahman wrote for the Tamil market, but has expanded to Bollywood,  American, English etc.  With the encouragement of  Andrew Lloyd Webber he wrote for a stage musical, "Bombay Dreams" that had long runs in both London and New York. He has 201 composing credits and 81 for the music department including "Bombay" (1995), "Fire" (1996), "Lagaan Once Upon a Time in India" (2001), "Swades" (2004), "Water" (2005), "Rang de Basanti" (2006), "Ghajini" (2008), "Slum Dog Millionaire" (2008), "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" (2012), "Highway" (2014), "100 Foot Journey" (2014) and "Tamasha" (2015).    Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/07/the-making-of-lagaan-chale-chalo-lunacy.html  Elsewhere Rahman had commented that he often gives producers a difficult time in order to get what he wants and feels the film benefits--this comes out a bit in this blog.

Sylvester Fonseca was in charge of cinematography.  He has 29 film credits including "Lust Stories" (2018), "Sacred Games" (2018-2019) and "Choked Paisa Bolta Hai" (2020).

Aarti Bajaj was the editor.  She has 47 credits including "Jab We Met" (2010), "Karthik Calling Karthik" (2011), "No One Killed Jessica" (2011), "Ishaqzaade" (2012) and and "Highway" (2014). 

Mukesh Chhabra was in charge of casting.  Mukesh Chhabra helped with the casting.   After studying acting he spent over six years teaching and acting.  He is noted for bringing such faces as Rajkummar Rao, Sushant Singh Rajpt, Mrunal Thakur, Prateik Gandhi, Sanya Malhotra and Fatima Sana Shaikh to the screen.  He has 227 credits for casting (+ 29 for the casting department and 29 for acting) including "Amal" (2007), "Kai Che Po" (20130, "Wrong Side Raju" (2016), "Mom" (2017), "Sacred Games" (2018-19), "Sanju" (2018), "Notebook" (2019), "The Family Man" (2019), "Dil Bechara" (2020), "Laal Singh Chaddha" (2022), "Jaane Jaan" (2023) and "Dunki" (2023). For a film where Mukesh had a lasting impression check  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/05/kai-che-po.html

Diljit Dosanjh played Amare Singh Chamkila.  He was the first Punjabi actor to be featured on New York Times Square.  He has 82 acting credits and 27 for the Music Departmnet including "Udta Punjab" (2016), "Phillauri" (2017), Soorma" (2018), "Good Newwz' (2019) and "Jogi" (2022).  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/02/good-newwz.html

Parineeti Chopra played Amarjot, duet partner for Amar.  As a youngster she used to sing with her cousin Priyanka Chopra Jonas and their fathers.  She received triple honors at Manchester She took at job at Yash Raj Films as a public relations consultant, but soon got into acting getting a big breakthrough with her first film, "Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl" (2011).  She has 70 acting credist and 2 for the music department including "Ishaqzaade" (2012), "Shuddh Desi Romance" (20130, "Hassee Toh Phasee" (2014),"The Girl on the Train" (2021), "Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar" (2021) and "Mission Raniganj" (2024).

Anjum Batra played Tikki and one time friend of Amar.  He has 13 credits including "Dev D" (2009), "The Dirty Picture" (2011), "Jersey" (2022) and "Maamia Legal Hai" (2024).

Mohit Chauhan was a key backup singer, but also made a cameo appearance.   He once sang one of the most romantic songs in my memory in the film "Jab We Met" (2010).  He has 142 Music Departmnet and 16 as an actor  including "Rang di Basanti" (2006), "Delhi-6" (2009), "Love Aaj Kal" (2009), "Zindagi Na Milega Dobara" (2011), "Tamasha" (2015), "Sultan" (2016), "Lucknow Central" (2017), "Pad Man" (2018) and "Notebook" (2019).

This film enjoys popular and critical success.  Available on Netflix, subtitled or dubbed.  It captures a part of the Punjabi culture which has traveled globally including here in Canada..

I have bolded the first mention of a film I have seen.

Monday, April 15, 2024

A Judy Blume classic makes it to the screen

Judy Blume is an author that seemed to write about girls and women and their issues.  Her books were popular and movie studios were very interested to turn that popularity to the screen.   She resisted the easy money as she felt a lot of her stories would be distorted and lack the impact that inspired them.  A combination of looser censorship rules and and the search for original material led to a script for "Are you there God?  It's me Margaret" (2023)that Judy could approve.

Essentially the story is about a teenage girl approaching puberty.  Her parents are fairly modern, but we soon learn (indeed most of us can identify that we are very influenced by our same age colleagues.  Two events are their focus:  breast enlargement and menstruation.  There is also an element of one upmanship that involves lying.

Religion plays a role.  Her father is Jewish, but the family doesn't practice any religion.  Margaret sometimes feels the need to express her feelings and talks with God.  She also decides to attend a variety of religious ceremonies including Jewish, Protestant, Catholic.   She meets her mother's evangelical parents which goes well for awhile, but when they start an effort at conversion they are asked to leave.

Margaret and her three friends achieve some of their female milestones and share their new status.  Another student who had been more developed as a woman had been ostracized until Margaret made an effort to know her better.

It is not done to titillate,  but rather to inform.  It is both realistic and tasteful.  The cast and crew deserve praise     

Judy Blume, wrote the original novel. and had refused to permit a film version until confident a film would adhere faithfully to the book.  She has written 25 books that have sold over 85 million books in 30 languages. She has been active against censorship and book bannings.  In 2023 Time magazine included her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.  She can be seen walking a dog in the background.

Kelly Freemon Craig directed, scripted and helped produce the film.  She has an English degree from UC Irvine.  She has written sketch comedy.  She has 5 writing,directing and 1 producing credits.

James L Brooks was another producer.  He is one of only 6 directors to have won 3 Oscars for the same film; Best Picture, Best Adapted Script and Best Director.  Heavily involved with television he has also won 21 Prime Time Emmys.   He has 43 writing, 24 producer and 7 directing credits including  "Mary Tyler Moore" (1970-1977), "Rhoda" (1974-1977, "Lour Grant" (1977-1978), "Big" (1988),and  "Jerry Maguire" (1996).

Hans Zimmer wrote the music.  He is German born and trained, but got his first significant breaks in England.  His first two American films each son a Best Picture Oscar.   Has won 2 Oscars and numerous other awards. Is noted as a pioneer at combing old and new technologies.  He has 149 credits for the Music  Department and another for 245 for composing including "Rain Man" (1988), "The Lion King" (1994), "Inception" (2010), "Rush" (2013), "Interstellar"(2014),  "The Crown" (2016-2022)"Dunkirk" (2017), "Blade Runner 2049" (2017), "Dune (Part One)" (2021) and "Top Gun Maverick" (2022). 

Tim Ives was the cinematographer.  He has 32 film credits including "House of Cards" (2013).

Nick Moore was the editor.  He has 30 editing credits including "Notting Hill" (1999), ""About a Boy" (2002), "Love, Actually" (2003), "Leap Year "(2010), "The Ottoman Lieutenant" (2017) and "Burnt" (2017).

Abby Ryder Fortson played Margaret, a role that required spunkiness, and a naivety that matured.  She has 19 acting credits including "Ant-Man" (2015) and "Ant-Man and the Wasp" (2018).

Rachel McAdams, cAdams played Barbara, the mother.  Born in London, Ontario graduating from York University in Toronto.  She has 44 credits including "Time Traveler's Wife" (2005), "Midnight in Paris" (2011), "The Vow" (2012), "About Time" (2013), "A Most Wanted Man" (2014) "Spotlight" (2015),  "The Little Prince" (2015) and "Game Night" (2018).

Kathy Bate plays Margaret's grandmother.  She has played a lot on Broadway.  She has 128 acting credits, 10 for directing and 2 for producing including "Straight Time" (1978),"Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean" (1982), "Fried Green Tomatoes" (1992), "Titantic" (1997), "The Blind Side" (2009), "Midnight in Paris" (2011) and "Bad Words" (2013).

Benny Safdie played Margaret's father.  He often works with his brother Josh.  Benny has 15 writing, 25 acting, 9 producing and 16 directing credits including "Uncut Gems" (2019) and "Oppenheimer" (2023). 

Although it covers heavy topics like sex and religion it is an uplifting film.  I watched it on a DVD and learned a bit on their special features.

Saturday, April 6, 2024


 "Litvenenko" (2022) is based on a true story, that on the surface is hard to believe.  It takes not only skill, but also gall to pull what the Russians did and have since repeated.  We are introduced to Alexander Livinnenko as he finished up a meal in September of 2006.  Almost right away it seems he is in the hospital  and now bald.  They call in the police who are at first skeptical as he claims he has been murdered and names his murderer, Vladimir Puetin.  Doctors and researchers try to find out what is killing him, but it is finally found to be polonium and Litvenenko already knows he will die.

The rest of the series is devoted to trying to learn how it was done and what was the motive.  The English police actually traveled to Moscow where they were misled.  The scientific search did establish two men who actually executed the poisoning.  Marina wanted to follow her husband's request to blame Putin publicly.  The British government refused to cover it citing international concerns.  A lot of effort to reverse, but it is several years before we see an archived video of Prime Minister Theresa May announcing the Russian government's responsibility for the murder.  We are told that in September  of 2021 the European Court of Human Rights declared the Russian Government was responsible for the assassination.  

For motive we know that Litvinenko had been ordered to kill a Russian businessman and refused.  He was persecuted and publicly criticized Vladimir Putin.  He fled with his wife and son to Britain, went into their security protection and eventually became a British citizen.  Before Theresa May made her announcement, Putin made a statement claiming Litvinenko was so low he was below Putin's attention and certainly not worth killing.  Obviously Litvinenko was not below his attention.

Since that time we have seen other suspicious deaths.  Alexander Navalny got a dose on an airplane and fortunately the plane was diverted to a hospital where they knew what to look for and could fix it. 

Polonium is a word I recently learned more about.  I had read the word in news coverage of a few other Russian assassinations attempts. I thought it was an exotic chemical.  Tutoring an English language student we learned that polonium had first been discovered by Madame Curie who was looking for something else which turned out to be radium.  She named an unexpected element polonium as a tribute to her native country, Poland.  It is rare, but her discovery was not in Russia. The over riding factor is the cost of  mining it.  unless of course you have a pirority for needing a difficult to trace poison.   

Jim Field Smith was the director and an executive producer.  He had been a member of the Dutch Elm Conservatoire, a comedy sketch group that toured the United Kingdom.  He has 18 credits as a director and 15 as a producer. 

George Kay, wrote the script and was an executive producer.  He has 24 credits as writer, 9 as producer and 2 for directing.  He crated and wrote the scripts for  "Lupin" (2021-2023). 

Gabriel Prokofiev wrote the music.  He is the grandson of famous Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev.  He has composed classical and electronic music with his compositions being performed by such orchestras as BBC Philharmonic, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony Buenos Aires Philharmonic and the Royal Seville Symphony.  He has 7 film credits. 

Ed Moore,was the cinematographer  He has 24 cinematography and 26 camera and electric department credits including "Shetland" (2018).

David Webb, was the editor.  He has 30 editor credits including "Sex Education" (2019-2024) and "The Gentlemen" (2024).

Mark Bonner played Superintendent Timmons.  He has 77 credits including "Wire in The Blood" (2002), "Line of Duty" (2014), "Grantchester" (2024), "Unforgotten" (2017), "Shetland" (2015-2020) and "Guilt" (2019-2023).

Margarita Levieeva played Marina Litvinenko.  She was born in Leningrad and had two grandmothers who survived the World War II Leningrad Siege.  In her youth she was involved with rhythmic gymnastics.  She has 38 film credits including "The Lincoln Lawyer" (2011) and "The Blacklist" (2013-202016).  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2023/09/shostakovich-and-siege-of-leningrad.html

Sam Troughton played a key detective Brian.  He had performed on stage for both London's National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company.  He has 40 film credits including"Foyle's War" (2012) and "Chernobyl" (2019).

Mark Ivanir played Alexander Goldfarb, a close friend of the Litvinenko family and an outspoken Putin critic.  He was born in Ukraine and immigrated with his family to Israel.  With the Israeli army he took by in a clandestine operation to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel.  After his army time he enrolled in a clown school and as a clown he traveled over Europe.  With his military experience and his lingustic talent he fit into a lot of films.  He speaks English, Ukrainian, Russian, French,Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic and German..  He has 155 credits including "Schindler's List"(1993), "The Blacklist" (2014) and "Away" (2020).

David Tennant played Alexander Litvinenko.  He was the youngest student at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.  He becme a prominent member of the Royal Shakespare Company.  He has 175 acting credits and 5 as a producer.  His films include "Foyle's War" (1992) "Hamlet" (2009), "Escape Artist" (2013), "Broadchurch" (2013-2017), "Des" (2020) and "Inside Man" (2022). 

Stephen Campbell Moore played the barrister Ben Emerson.  He has 61 credits including "The Lady in the Van" (2015) and "Downton Abbey" (2019).

American voters need to be aware that Vladimir Putin is someone who Donald Trump seems to admire and publicly supports.  Never forget that Trump took Putin's word against his own security experts.   Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/house-of-trump-house-of-putin.html

I watched a DVD copy.

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

Thursday, April 4, 2024


Over the past few years I have become conscious that engaging films are increasingly coming out of Asia and not just Japan, South Korea and India.  Thailand and the Philippines have a long tradition, but I am now noticing Indonesia, Singapore and lately Malaysia.  The world is increasingly linked and bright minds have more resources to use in creative manners.

"Pulang" (2018) is an unusual love story.   A husband leaves his wife to sail around the world seeking a fortune promising to return.  She waits in total 61 years.  At one point she travels to Hong Kong and misses him by a day or so.  We follow the husband and also his son and grandson.  He felt a failure because he was no better off than when he left.  One friend, Lum was in occasional contact with him.  Not all love stories have a happy ending, but here there is left a feeling of timeless love.

The film is professionally done.  The cast and crew are to be commended pushing the Malaysian cinema forward.

A key figure in the development of this film ua Ahmad Isham Omar who discovered a gravestone of his grandfather in Liverpool, England.  He is listed as writer, uncredited producer and for the theme music.  He started with music being a musician, arranger, songwriter and producer.  At one time he was an executive producer with Disney+ responsible for Southeast Asia content.  He has 9 credits for producing films and 2 as a writer.  

Kabir Bhatia was director and lead editor.  Born in India he got some experience with Indian television before heading to Malaysia.  His first film directing in Malaysia was remade in Indonesia and he was invited to direct it.  He has 27 directing, 12 producing and 8 writing credits including "Don" (2006).

Aubrey Suwito wrote the music. He has 2 music credits.

Zambrees Haras handled the cinematography with 9 credits.

Remy Ishak played Othman.  He has 40 credits.  

Puteri Aisha with 4 acting credits.

Alvin Wong play Lum, the friend.  He has played in Malaysian, Indonesian and Cantonese films,   He has 32 film credits.

Juliana Evans played Alia, a British relative.  Her father was English.  She was raised in Malayasia and got a start young.  At age 12 she was a host on television and at age 16 hosted a popular tv. show.  She also was a rhytmic gymnast.  Juliana studied acting at Western Michigan University.  She went on to study acting at the Los Angeles campus for the New York Film Academy.  She has 17 film credits.

This film would be a good introduction to Malaysian cinema.  Available on Netflix with subtitles.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Believers

We have seen Christian and Jewish hypocrites, but most of us are unconscious of Buddhist hypocrites.  Still if there wasn't something strong at the core hypocrites would need to find another cover.

In "The Believers" three teenagers (Game, Win and Dear) fail at a gaming business venture and find themselves in very deep debt. They try to find an alternative to get out of debt and stumble on the idea of taking advantage of the Buddhist temples that seem to generate large income with little accountability.

They are very clever at how they manipulate those who run a small temple.  But they do attract attention.  They are basically laundering money, but others see temples as a great way to deal drugs.  Some of the monks are corrupt, but we also learn that many had been forced into monasteries by poor parents. 

The plot revolves around the schemes to pay off their debt and to deal with accusations of drug dealing.  They get involved with religious and miraculous symbols.  

There are a few sincerly religious people and one character is very good at articulating his beliefs.

Along the way you get a view of Thailand from moderately well off to poorer sections.from natural wild settings to modern cities and of course beautiful temples.   But it is really people who make this film so memorable.

Wattanapong Wongwan is the director in only his second feature. 

Aummmarapora Phandintong is the creator and a key writer for this series.  She has 13 credits for writing and 2 credits for the Script and Continuity Department.  She also was creator for "Analog Squad" (2023), one of my top favorites from last year,  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2023/12/analog-squad.html

R.J. Khanijaon provided the music.

Kittiwat Semerat was a cinematographer with 5 film credits.

Paradorn Vesurai was an editor with 6 editor, 2 editorial department and 2 composing credits.

Teeradon Supapunpinyo plays Win.  He speaks English and worked with Ron Howard directing  in "Thirteen Lives" (2022).    He played in a rock band.  He has 27 film credits including "Bad Genius" (2017) and "In Family We Trust" (2018).http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/09/in-family-we-trust.html and http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/06/bad-genius-out-of-thailand.html

Pachara Chirathivat played Game.  Was a band member including writing music, singing, keyboard and guitar.  He has 16 actnig, 1 composing and 1 soundtrack credit.Achiraya Nitibhon played Dear, sister to Game.  She took an online course with the Berklee College of Music.  As a singer she once had the number one hit in Thailand.  She has 2 film credits.

Channarong Khuntee-tao played Tang, one of the manipulators.  He has 11 acting and 1 directing credit.

Pramod Sangsorn played Yod, a detective who went against his superior.  He has 2 acting credits.

Will make you more conscius Available on Netflix dubbed or subtitled.