This week, we begin in Mumbai:
3 1/2 stars
Rated PG, 104 minutes.
Available Tuesday on Blu-ray and DVD and in various digital download formats.
Using a narrative device as old as the novel itself, writer-director Ritesh Batra renders a charming, bittersweet tale about two souls who find an unlikely connection. Set in the crowded bustle of today’s Mumbai, the mostly English-language film shows how comfort can often be found when and where least expected.
The film uses Mumbai’s curiously complex system of lunchbox delivery to tell the story of Ila (Nimrat Kaur), a young woman growing old too quickly as she prepares a daily gourmet meal for her corporate husband. The delivery system picks up the multi-layered lunchbox destined for his office.
But one day, the system misfires with the lunchbox ending up with Saajan (Irrfan Khan), a stuffy widow and insurance bureaucrat nearing retirement. He recognizes the mix-up but eats the meal anyway, before sending it back with a note thanking the sender.
Before long, the two are exchanging daily notes, with each growing more personal, candid and revelatory. During the period, Saajan must also deal with an engaging yet over-eager assistant struggling to learn the older man’s job.
From his bare epistolary premise, Batra paints a loving portrait of two souls dying to open up. Saajan makes the unlikely yet believable transformation from a man dreading life to one responsive to change and new opportunities. Ila also blossoms, no longer content with her husband’s neglect.
Batra, with the help of his two fine lead actors, successfully mixes pathos, romance and humor.
DVD extras: director’s commentary.
Kismet (3 stars) The Warner Archive Collection gives a Blu-ray release to this Broadway musical based on Edward Knoblock’s play.
By 1955, the warhorse had already been made into films three times, including a silent version, a 1930 version with Loretta Young, and a 1943 version with Ronald Coleman and Marlene Dietrich. Vincente Minnelli, with uncredited help from Stanley Donen, directed this musical rendition, with music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest.
Howard Keel stars as a gregarious street poet in ancient Baghdad, and Ann Blyth plays his daughter. She catches the eye of the ruling Caliph (Vic Damone). Father and daughter become embroiled in various court intrigues while animated dance sequences play out to such songs as “Stranger in Paradise,” “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” and many more.
It’s all colorful, glorious silliness made palatable by a fast pace, memorable music and engaging performances.
Not rated, 113 minutes.
DVD extras: The odd assortment includes a somber, 30-minute documentary on “The Battle of Gettysburg,” a cartoon set in prehistoric Dallas directed by Tex Avery and narrated by Tex Ritter, trailers for both the 1944 and 1955 versions, an audio-only bonus, an outtake from the “Rahadlakum” song sequence, and more.
The Jungle (2 stars) What has The Blair Witch Project wrought? Using the same hoary techniques that have become a genre cliche, director Andrew Traucki finishes his so-called “Trilogy of Terror.”
While being filmed, ostensibly, for a documentary, a group of Australian nature conservationists (with Rupert Reid and Agoes Widjaya Soedjarwo) enters the foreboding Indonesian rain forest to look for an endangered leopard. Of course, much of their journey takes place at night, setting the scene for seen and unseen terrors.
They also end up facing a mysterious demon lurking somewhere in the dark, one that scares away the guides and maybe the audience. Prepare for an excessively shaky handheld camera, bad lighting and over-apoplectic characters.
Rated R, 84 minutes. Movie-only disc.
And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:
The Bridge: The Complete First Season As the sophomore season approaches of this critically acclaimed breakout series, its first 13 episodes arrive on four discs.
Based on the Scandinavian series Bron, it takes place on the U.S.-Mexican border, beginning the night a severed body is left on a bridge dividing the countries.
Since the body turns out to be two different women, both an El Paso detective, Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), and a Juarez detective, Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir), must work together, making one of TV’s oddest but most interesting buddy teams. The high-strung, almost comically tactless Cross is, in the words of a colleague, a “bona fide wacko.” Ruiz is more laid-back, despite having drug cartel kingpins breathing down his neck.
Together, they must work throughout the season tracking down the serial killer responsible for possibly hundreds of deaths. Meanwhile, numerous subplots unfold around a not-so-grieving widow (Annabeth Gish) who discovers her late husband was smuggling migrants, a police chief (Ted Levine) about to retire, an alcoholic journalist (Matthew Lillard) and a shady lawyer (Lyle Lovett).
Rated TV-MA, 645 minutes on Blu-ray, 656 minutes on DVD.
DVD extras: select commentary; a 21-minute “making of” featurette, “Building the Bridge,” with cast and crew interviews; the 10-minute featurette “Ciudad Juarez: The Other Side of the Bridge with Damien Cave,” a New York Times reporter Cave; and 21 minutes of deleted scenes.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Afflicted; For Those in Peril; Like Father, Like Son; The Return.