(Indie) Weekend Roundup: Today’s Special and The Heir Apparent Reviews

Bella proves she’s now one tough vampire chick by… arm wrestling??!

The Twi-hards rejoice once again with the release of the last movie of the behemoth Twilight franchise (wahoo!! free at last!) Their purchasing power truly cannot be denied! $141 mil this weekend alone domestically, topping the first part of Breaking Dawn‘s $138 mil. I did see the first part as my Twi-hard colleague lent me her dvd, I probably wait until she does the same thing again next year, simply for the unintentionally hilarious moments now that Bella joins her man as a vampire herself.

I skipped the cinema this weekend as I just wasn’t that interested in Lincoln and I sort of lost interest in Anna Karenina. I think I’ll just rent that instead. I doubt Keira with all her pouting could convey the depth of Tolstoy’s beloved character as he envisioned her in the book.

So my hubby and I opted for a couple of indies from Netflix Instant instead and we really enjoyed both of them. Here are my mini reviews:

Today’s Special (2009)

A young Manhattan chef Samir rediscovers his heritage and his passion for life through the enchanting art of cooking Indian food.

This 2009 foodie comedy is loosely inspired by the lead actor Aasif Mandvi‘s off-Broadway play, Sakina’s Restaurant. You might remember the Indian-American actor as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and also as Mr. Aziz of “Joe’s Pizza” in Spider-Man 2. He’s also done supporting parts in films like The Proposal, The Last Airbender and Margin Call.

Nice to see him in a leading role here and I immediately sympathized with his character Samir, a sous chef in a posh Manhattan restaurant who dreams of making it big. But when he’s passed over for another promotion, Samir promptly quits and plans to move to France, but fate has a different plan for him and he ends up taking care of his dad’s rundown Indian restaurant.

On top of that, Samir has to deal with family issues, the typical overbearing mother who wants to find him a Muslim wife, and a disillusioned father who constantly berates him that he’s not as good as his deceased brother. Samir’s personal journey is peppered with humor, heart-warming moments, and chock-full of hilariously eccentric characters. I love that even the minor characters — such as this one kitchen worker who could only say yes and no — are quite memorable.

The scene-stealer here is Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah as the free-spirited taxi driver Akbar whose chance meeting with Samir one night could be the best thing that ever happened to him. I don’t ever remember Mr. Shah in anything else before which is a shame as he’s quite a charismatic actor and his character is just so darn charming!

Just like any movies about food, the scenery is really mouth-watering. I tell you, it made me crave Indian food watching Akbar mentor Samir on the art of cooking Indian cuisine. Akbar is a passionate chef who cooks from the heart, which goes with the tagline of the film, ‘Life Has No Recipe.’ The relationship between these two are the best part of the film, as the romance between Samir and his former colleague (Jess Weixler) isn’t explored all that well.

Overall it’s an enjoyable ‘cultural comedy’ if you will, but anyone should be able to relate to its universal theme of family, friendship and the message of making the most of one’s ‘broken dream.’ I highly recommend this if you’re in the mood for an enjoyable off-the-beaten-path comedy.

4 out of 5 reels


The Heir Apparent (2008)

After a powerful billionaire is murdered, his secret adoptive son must race to prove his legitimacy, find his father’s killers and stop them from taking over his financial empire.

I remember seeing the trailer for this movie a while back but didn’t remember the title. Apparently this film is based on a graphic novel by a Belgian comic artist Philippe Francq, who incidentally is a big fan of the Tintin comics I grew up with. What I love about this film is its international flavor, which reminds me of Bond movies in the way it was shot in many exotic locations.

The protagonist is Largo Winch, played by French actor of Israeli-descent Tomer Sisley, a reluctant heir to a billionaire magnate, Nerio Winch. Largo gets entangled in a corporate conspiracy theory following the death of his adopted father. He has to prove his legitimacy to the shareholder of his late father’s company, the W Group, and also find out who kills him.

The film has some flashback scenes on Largo’s adoption and upbringing, both when he was living with a Croatian family designated by Nerio himself, and how Largo’s father has always prepared him to be his chosen heir. This personal journey of Largo keeps the story grounded, even if the twists start to pile up and the action gets more and more bombastic. Director Jérôme Salle likely borrows the style from Bond and Bourne movies, there are all kinds of chase scenes to be found here. Motorbike chase, car chase, foot chase, you name it, there’s even a scene of the hero falling into the ocean that’s highly reminiscent of Bourne Supremacy.

But despite its lack of originality, I think this is a pretty enjoyable and slick action adventure that should please action fans. There’s enough suspense and beautiful cinematography of exotic locales to keep up entertained as well. There’s one breathtaking scene where Largo rides a boat to a round island that’s supposedly near Malta (see below), but it was filmed in Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily, Italy. The scenery rivals that of a Bond film which is quite impressive given it’s only got a $30 mil budget.

I think Sisley is a pretty appealing leading man, even if he’s not exactly the most-skilled actor. He’s got a devil-may-care attitude to him, but he’s also got a warm side to him, especially during the scenes with his adopted mother Hannah. Apart from Kristin Scott Thomas, who’s excellent as always, most of the supporting cast is unknown. I think I’ve only seen Mélanie Thierry in the The Princess of Montpensier trailer and she’s got quite a steamy scene with Sisley. They use various languages here as well which enhances a level of authenticity and the music by multiple Oscar-nominee Alexandre Desplat is worth noting as well.

I like this one enough that I might actually check out the sequel, The Burma Conspiracy, which has the same director as this one.

4 out of 5 reels


So that’s my weekend roundup, folks. What did YOU watch this weekend?

48 thoughts on “(Indie) Weekend Roundup: Today’s Special and The Heir Apparent Reviews

  1. I’ve never heard of any of these movies, watched the trailer of The Heir Apparent you tweeted me. Doesn’t look too appealing, like you said it looks like they copied everything from Bond to Bourne. My pet peeves about action films these days is that some filmmakers aren’t even try to do anything “original” anymore. That’s why I despised Safe House and Total Recall remake.

    • Oh I think The Heir Apparent is pretty good, there are far less original American action flicks out there. Yes they’re paying homage to Bond and Bourne but there’s still a lot of intriguing stuff here to enjoy. This is waaaaay better than Total Recall. Wow, you say Skyfall AGAIN? I probably see it again on Blu-ray when it’s released.

  2. both movies sound good…tho the first one intrigues me more. I am into comedy lately. Since I discover that my Cillian plays more amazingly in his indie movies that his bigbudget ones…I am beginning to have soft spot for Indie and not so famous movies.

    This week, by coincidence, I watch 2 musical movies in the row…not sure I want to review them tho

    • I think you’d enjoy Today’s Special Nov, and I feel that being from Indo we could relate more to the story. Yes I’m glad I gave indie movies a chance this weekend as there’s no blockbuster movie that interest me this wknd, just glad the Twilight thing is [almost] over!!

      Oh which musical movies did you watch?

      • Once and Little Shop of Horrors. Once is terribly boring, lucky the music is good. I am glad Cillian turned the offer to be the leading actor.

        Twilight is a hit here *rolling eyes*

        • Oh I haven’t seen either one. I might give ONCE a shot one of these days, but it didn’t seem that appealing at first glance. I might be more interested in it if Cillian had been in it though, ahah.

          Ah geez, can’t believe that Twilight thing is such a big hit everywhere. Seriously!!

          • I might write a bit about Once along with David Tennant’s movie which I like more than Once. No…no…Cillian should stop playing in boring movies ;)

            well…everyone loves comedy ;) …and twilight is comedy!

            • Ahah, well it won’t be boring if he’s in it, Nov, ha..ha..

              Yes very true that Twilight is a comedy, unintentionally funny through and through!

              • aha!! are forgetting In Time? even with him in it I still can’t rewatch it :(

                Btw, we have European movie festival next week…but the timing is not right for me

                • Ahah, well I think Cillian is one of the best things about In Time, plus he looks good in black leather ;)

                  Oh, you’ve got a European Film Festival? I wish that happens when I’m visiting in early Dec. Btw, did you get my comment about The Mighty Boosh? Not sure if you still want it or not.

  3. In me anticipating a successful franchise to come out (LOTR), I forgot another successful franchise has already opened… Twilight! Never seen any in full, and I’m glad its ending!

    Both films seem interesting especially “Today’s Special” as I like films about food, but I’m currently on a diet as I plan to run a marathon on earlier next year so probably won’t see it any time soon (I’m easily seduced by the dark side).

    • I’m anticipating The Hobbit as well, I LOVE your post on LOTR characters, I might steal your idea and make my own top 10, hope you don’t mind :)

      If you like foodie movies, you’ll enjoy Today’s Special, plus you would be able to relate to Samir’s character I think. Oh good luck with your marathon, how cool is that. Is that in Malaysia? You’re in Kuala Lumpur right?

        • Cool! Good luck with the marathon Asrap. My husband does triathlons every year but running is his weakest part, I’m always amazed at people who could do marathons in such a humid climate, so drink plenty of water!

  4. I’m still catching up with season 1 of Once Upon a Time. The episode Skin Deep dwells heavily on Robert Carlyle’s Rumplestiltskin character, and lucky for us he and the writer narrate a commentary on this episode that’s even included on a rental DVD. Once you hear his real, distinctive Scottish accent, you realize how talented he is with the several other voices he uses as Rumple, as well as Mr. Gold He is easily one of the best parts of this visually stunning and well-acted series.

    • Hey, guess what? I’ve been checking out Once Upon A Time too, in fact both Ivan and I like it so far and we might watch more. I agree that Robert Carlyle is the best part of the show, I like him better in modern times though without all that weird makeup as Rumplestilskin! ;)

  5. Oh my, “dearie”… liking Mr. Gold better, do you? Don’t tell Rumple that, he has magic, you know… ha, ha!

    Actually, I like them both, and maybe even Rumple a little bit better ;-D. So glad you are both liking OUAT. I sure hope a third season is coming.

    • Ahah, yeah he’s quite a scary character but his Mr. Gold is mysterious and sophisticated :) I’m gonna keep watching Season 1 and see if I want to continue watching, I easily ‘fall off’ from a show, even with ARROW I haven’t gotten past the pilot!

  6. Interesting choices, Ruth. Hadn’t heard of either one. I didn’t get the chance to make it to the theater over the weekend, though I did get to see Louis C.K. perform downtown. He’s one of my favorite comedians going today, and his set was hilarious.

    I saw one movie over the weekend (also an indie flick) — Safety Not Guaranteed. Really enjoyed that one, and it’s well worth seeing if you haven’t yet.

    • Oh you got to see Louis C.K. live? How cool is that! He’s very funny indeed, I’ve only seen him in some talk shows though, haven’t seen his actual TV show.

      These two films are worth a look, Eric, I really enjoyed both. I’ve heard good things about Safety Not Guaranteed before, so yeah I might check it out.

  7. I watched about 6-7 shorts in a row as part of my duties for an online film festival. Stay tuned for post on my site concerning. It actually was fun. And on Thursday I went to a Ford Foundation/Sundance sneak peak for a documentary which will be airing on HBO sometime in the future. The clips we saw were pretty cool.

  8. Today’s Special looks like a great flick, I did not know that Aasif Mandvi ever got a lead before. I did watched Breaking Dawn pt.2 X) Yeah I figured it was fun to mock it for the last time. I also watched Lars and the Real Girl, I loved it. Gosling was great in it.

    • Yeah it’s nice to see him get a leading role, hope he gets to do more. Ahah, like Novia said, the Twilight movies are great if you’re looking for laughs! Oh I want to see Lars and the Real Girl!

  9. Today’s Special sounds like a fun movie. Sadly I didn’t get to see anything this past week. I did finish rewatching season 3 of breaking bad so I will be able to resume renting movies soon :) maybe I will go see skyfall again this week

    • It’s a good one indeed, Cas. Ah, you’ve been catching up on Breaking Bad. It reminds me of when I was catching up on Battlestar Galactica and I didn’t rent anything for weeks, ahah.

  10. I’m sold on both films. :) I saw Skyfall again this weekend, and I watched some more 2012 releases (Sound of My Voice, Safety Not Guaranteed, and Butter) – all of which I enjoyed.

    • Glad to hear, Josh! Wow, lots of people went to see Skyfall again, ka-ching kaching for the Broccolis :) Nice selections of films, I’ll be over to see your reviews.

  11. Always enjoy your min-reviews, Ruth.

    If you’re interested in a review of someone who is NOT a fan of the Twilight series, yet has seen every single one, check my latest review of Breaking Dawn – Part 2. I just posted it. :-)

    • Thanks Mark, I didn’t know you’re reading ‘em :) I just left you a comment on your Twilight review, good one, it’s way more entertaining than watching the movie!

  12. I tried not to “over-respond” and keep it to two per visit to your site (I even crushed a desire to gush on about Richard Armitage in North & South, as you had said it all, so eloquently…BTW the “train scene” video is down…now, I’ll have to dig out my DVD copy!), but I failed, as I’m an Indian film junkie in the biggest way, and a Naseeruddin Shah fan in particular (card-carryin’ member on my old blog: http://jennyketcham.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/naseeruddin-shah-a-man-for-all-seasonings/). I am so glad you saw and liked him in Today’s Special. As much as I like Aasif Mandvi, he sort of faded into the celluloid for me when Naseerji came on screen.

    Actually, he’s out in a movie right now, predominantly in English, called Finding Fanny, in which he plays a delightfully simple rural postmaster who finds out his one true love never received his marriage proposal when it was returned to him, undelivered, after forty-some years. Not as “senior-sexy” as he was in TS, but still endearing. His all-English films are more limited than I’d like, but they’re pretty diverse. Being Cyrus and Great, New Wonderful come to mind, and an action thriller set in London called Shoot on Sight, a good performance, if not the most stellar script. If you like him and ever want info on what to see with subtitles (he’s done over 190 films, so far) let me know!
    Jenny K
    Filmigoris.net

    • Hello again Jenny! Hey, there’s no limit to how many comments you can leave here, the more the better actually :D

      Hey I actually just rewatched some clips of North & South and yes, Richard is so swoon-worthy in that. But ever since I’m crushing on Toby Stephens, I’m not as in love w/ him anymore. Mr Shah is so awesome in Today’s Special! I have to admit that I don’t watch hardly any Bollywood films, despite being from Indonesia where it’s quite popular. Have you seen Bride & Prejudice though? Naveen Andrews is so awesome!

      Hey thanks for the clip of Finding Fanny, that sounds like a lot of fun!

  13. Naveen is always wonderful (as long as he’s not using his own accent, which sort of grates on me, for some reason…any other accent, no problem…I think I have that same issue with Jonny Lee Miller…love him in Eli Stone, don’t like him in much else. Go figure.). And B&P is fun, though it doesn’t have the full Bollywood impact that my friends and I seem to crave. It’s a bit of a gateway film.

    If you want to see a more “modern” Bollywood film, try to find a film by Zoya Akhtar or her brother Farhan Akhtar (who acts and directs). Both seem to be a more generally acceptable to US mainstream audiences, the songs being more integrated into the plot, etc. I’d recommend Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara, Luck by Chance, and Dil Chahta Hai, all available on Netflix download. Naseer does a cameo in ZNMD, too.

  14. Pingback: Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2014 Edition |

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