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RRR: pulse-pounding action that outperforms any of its contemporary American counterparts

Raju and Bheem capable of dancing as hard as they fight

RRR: It’s the eye of the CGI tiger!
RRR: It’s the eye of the CGI tiger!

From India, an epic worthy of your attention.

RRR (2022)

After two hours of having the snot beat out of them, a pair of unwittingly adversarial revolutionaries, pitted against each other by their British overlords, join forces for a final-hour battle against a common enemy. Overlook a few minor, at times ludicrous shortcomings, and you’ll find the type of pulse-pounding action that outperforms any of its contemporary American counterparts. A young mother assumes the two coins thrown to her by Gov. Buxton (Ray Stevenson) and his wife (Alison Doody) are in gratitude for the song her daughter Malii just sang, not her sale price. The girl’s kidnapping sets two contrary forces on the hunt: Raju (Ram Charan), a near-indestructible cop on the British army’s payroll, and Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.), Malii’s surrogate brother, who was already on her trail. On the outskirts of Delhi, a cast of thousands assembles to insist their leader be released. Only one voice is raised in dissent, but it’s enough to send Raju on the hunt. Similarly, despite hundreds of characters in the frame from which to choose, director S.S. Rajamouli has an uncanny flair for singling out the one face in need of our attention.

Bheem proves no match for a rampaging cartoon tiger, but a British soldier whipping him over a malfunctioning motorcycle is a different story. There’s even a lavish, mid-picture musical number against hate that proves Raju and Bheem capable of dancing as hard as they fight. (Take that, Tom Cruise!) Still, try as Rajamouli might, the fusillade of action that opens the film is impossible to top. The film’s one major fault is a menagerie of CG wildlife that fails to convince. The titular cluster of R’s stand for Rise, Roar, and Revolt, and after all these years of bombarding us with stiff-upper-lipped, Johnny-on-the-spot costumed do-gooders, it’s a delight to see the British get the shit end of the stick. 2022. S.M. ★★★★ (Now streaming on Netflix)

1UP (2022)

She dropped out of college after successfully selling her first video game; now, with 40 looming large, she still hasn’t figured stuff out, says Coach Parker. The character is played by Ruby Rose, who, in her mid-30’s, walked away from the potentially lucrative role of TV’s Batwoman and the security it offered. (Make that limped away: Rose blamed the departure on an on-set injury, while producers cited “complaints about workplace behavior.”) I for one was delighted to learn of the split. It meant there would be no wading through another heap of comic book drek to follow the career of someone whose work I’ve come to admire. The only uniforms in 1UP are the jerseys worn by the young team of high school gamers looking to turn pro. Esports has become such a worldwide phenomenon, one can now earn a college degree in multiplayer electronic gaming. Vivian (Paris Berelc) and Sloane (Hari Nef) make the team, but not unlike an Orthodox synagogue, the girls and boys sit apart. Add to that a macho team captain (Taylor Zakhar Perez) who believes the only reason two girls made the squad was their genitalia, and Vivian’s goals become twofold: a college scholarship and starting an all-girl team to kick some beta-male butt. Parker is recruited as team coach after the girls show up on her doorstep pleading for help. (She’s also a single mother, and the sight of her son young Ace (Robert Levey II) watching Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur in the wrong aspect ratio warranted a call to CPS.) It’s Pitch Perfect for the electronic gaming set, but the biggest jaw-dropper has nothing to do with the competition. Vivian’s roommate’s (Aviva Mongillo) sole purpose here is to advance a running gag about dispensing hallucinogenic drugs; when she finally tricks Vivian and Sloane into ingesting a couple of acid-laced cookies, they both envision the same identical Mario Brother climbing out of a drawer and trucking around the room. (My experience with LSD may be limited to one pleasant trip in the early ‘70s, but even I know there’s no such thing as synchronized psilocybin.) The team eventually makes it to the finals, with predictable results: the only thing less engaging than playing video games is watching people play video games. 2022. S.M. ★ (Streaming on Amazon Prime.)

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Sammy Davis, Jr.’s “Salt” meets Peter Lawford’s “Pepper”

Salt and Pepper and One More Time
RRR: It’s the eye of the CGI tiger!
RRR: It’s the eye of the CGI tiger!

From India, an epic worthy of your attention.

RRR (2022)

After two hours of having the snot beat out of them, a pair of unwittingly adversarial revolutionaries, pitted against each other by their British overlords, join forces for a final-hour battle against a common enemy. Overlook a few minor, at times ludicrous shortcomings, and you’ll find the type of pulse-pounding action that outperforms any of its contemporary American counterparts. A young mother assumes the two coins thrown to her by Gov. Buxton (Ray Stevenson) and his wife (Alison Doody) are in gratitude for the song her daughter Malii just sang, not her sale price. The girl’s kidnapping sets two contrary forces on the hunt: Raju (Ram Charan), a near-indestructible cop on the British army’s payroll, and Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.), Malii’s surrogate brother, who was already on her trail. On the outskirts of Delhi, a cast of thousands assembles to insist their leader be released. Only one voice is raised in dissent, but it’s enough to send Raju on the hunt. Similarly, despite hundreds of characters in the frame from which to choose, director S.S. Rajamouli has an uncanny flair for singling out the one face in need of our attention.

Bheem proves no match for a rampaging cartoon tiger, but a British soldier whipping him over a malfunctioning motorcycle is a different story. There’s even a lavish, mid-picture musical number against hate that proves Raju and Bheem capable of dancing as hard as they fight. (Take that, Tom Cruise!) Still, try as Rajamouli might, the fusillade of action that opens the film is impossible to top. The film’s one major fault is a menagerie of CG wildlife that fails to convince. The titular cluster of R’s stand for Rise, Roar, and Revolt, and after all these years of bombarding us with stiff-upper-lipped, Johnny-on-the-spot costumed do-gooders, it’s a delight to see the British get the shit end of the stick. 2022. S.M. ★★★★ (Now streaming on Netflix)

1UP (2022)

She dropped out of college after successfully selling her first video game; now, with 40 looming large, she still hasn’t figured stuff out, says Coach Parker. The character is played by Ruby Rose, who, in her mid-30’s, walked away from the potentially lucrative role of TV’s Batwoman and the security it offered. (Make that limped away: Rose blamed the departure on an on-set injury, while producers cited “complaints about workplace behavior.”) I for one was delighted to learn of the split. It meant there would be no wading through another heap of comic book drek to follow the career of someone whose work I’ve come to admire. The only uniforms in 1UP are the jerseys worn by the young team of high school gamers looking to turn pro. Esports has become such a worldwide phenomenon, one can now earn a college degree in multiplayer electronic gaming. Vivian (Paris Berelc) and Sloane (Hari Nef) make the team, but not unlike an Orthodox synagogue, the girls and boys sit apart. Add to that a macho team captain (Taylor Zakhar Perez) who believes the only reason two girls made the squad was their genitalia, and Vivian’s goals become twofold: a college scholarship and starting an all-girl team to kick some beta-male butt. Parker is recruited as team coach after the girls show up on her doorstep pleading for help. (She’s also a single mother, and the sight of her son young Ace (Robert Levey II) watching Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur in the wrong aspect ratio warranted a call to CPS.) It’s Pitch Perfect for the electronic gaming set, but the biggest jaw-dropper has nothing to do with the competition. Vivian’s roommate’s (Aviva Mongillo) sole purpose here is to advance a running gag about dispensing hallucinogenic drugs; when she finally tricks Vivian and Sloane into ingesting a couple of acid-laced cookies, they both envision the same identical Mario Brother climbing out of a drawer and trucking around the room. (My experience with LSD may be limited to one pleasant trip in the early ‘70s, but even I know there’s no such thing as synchronized psilocybin.) The team eventually makes it to the finals, with predictable results: the only thing less engaging than playing video games is watching people play video games. 2022. S.M. ★ (Streaming on Amazon Prime.)

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