Man vs Bee
If there is anyone who can pull off a film all on his own — we don’t need to look beyond Bean — it’s Rowan Atkinson. For decades, the British actor has converted the somewhat predictable antics of a bumbling bloke into extremely engaging primetime entertainment, often without uttering a word. His latest series Man vs Bee is yet another one-man show.
Man vs Bee is a nine-part Netflix series, which at a total runtime of 90 minutes could have well been a movie. In fact, a large part of the series gives the impression that it was perhaps intended as a film and was inexplicably chopped up into an episodic watch at the last minute. The series, which is created and written by Atkinson and William Davies, is exactly what its title proclaims it to be — a ‘face-off’ between a man (Trevor, played by Atkinson) and a bee.
Trevor debuts as a house-sitter at the imposing mansion of a tech-obsessed millionaire where even the simple act of opening a drawer is intimidating and requires one to refer to a manual. Left in his care is the family’s pet dog Cupcake, whose presence conjures much of the drama. Trevor, as expected from any Atkinson character, is a simplistic buffoon forever reprimanded by his ex-wife and struggling to take his teenage daughter on a vacation.
Quite a bit of the initial episodes — some of which are as short as 10 minutes — focus on Trevor trying to take care of the house, and spectacularly failing at it. Add to it an annoying bee that refuses to leave the house even after Trevor lays a million death traps for it. Throw some burglars into the mix and you have a series that is predictable in plot and basic in humour but one that will consistently make you chuckle.
A breezy binge if there ever was any, Man vs Bee is a throwback to the classic slapstick genre that we get to see so little of these days. Of course, there is some desperation to get laughs, including a face plant in dog poop. But if you are just looking to sit back and enjoy a few laughs at the end of the day, look no further.
Available on: Netflix
The Little Things
Denzel Washington. Rami Malek. Jared Leto. If there was an Oscar for best cast, The Little Things would win hands down. When it comes to the rest of it, well not quite. This 2021 film by John Lee Hancock is a neo-noir crime thriller, which in Se7en-inspired style has an old hand (Washington’s Joe Deacon) teaming up with the cop who has taken his place in the squad (Jim Baxter, played by Malek) to investigate a string of murders whose modus operandi is similar to some killings in the past that Deacon, while on the case, had become obsessed with investigating. All paths eventually lead to a loner, played by Jared Leto, as the culprit.
Exceptionally well cast and mounted well, at least initially, The Little Things has so much going for it, but somehow never lives up to its promise. The genre tropes feel too familiar and so much of it is repetitive, giving the film a boring, bloated feel. Its few female characters exist only to be disposed of and The Little Things plays out for far longer than it should have.
Washington, as always, deep-dives into his troubled character and makes the film partially watchable, but Leto is wasted and Malek’s surface-level acting (he needs to lose that clenched jaw stance, stat!) do the film no favours. A complete waste of the talent of three Oscar-winning actors. And for a film called The Little Things, this one has too many small missteps.
Available on: Netflix
Ms Marvel Episode 4
Chaos and Clandestines descend on Karachi in Episode 4 of Ms Marvel. Academy Award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy directs this episode which sees Kamala aka Ms Marvel (Iman Vellani) journey from the sanitised neighbourhoods of New Jersey to the bustling bylanes of Karachi. Which gives the makers of the show the opportunity to go all out in terms of bringing alive the colours and sounds of their setting. But to be honest, most of it is so stereotypically done — like dhols at the airport and cows on the street — that it makes one cringe. It’s almost as bad as how India was represented in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, save for that one heartwarming shot of Kamala and her grandmom hugging on the terrace and the visual representation of the horrors of Partition, with thousands cramming themselves into trains to cross the border. And then, of course, since this is Karachi, Pasoori plays out at one point.
It is heartening to see a Marvel project represent our story. Like when Kamala’s grandmother says, “My passport is Pakistani, my roots are in India”, and then urges the young girl to appreciate “the beauty in little pieces”. A lot of it is poignant, and there are at least two good action sequences, with Thailand passing off as Pakistan.
But the subcontinental representation is overdone and the plot has somehow meandered into Kamala’s burgeoining superhero identity (with an eye, of course, into tying it all into the larger MCU universe) rather than sticking to her coming-of-age story that the first two episodes promised. But hey, Farhan Akhtar pops in for a cameo, though he seems to be delivering his lines for stage rather than screen. And then, there is the promise of Fawad Khan in Episode 5. Ahem!
Available on: Disney+Hotstar
Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2
I missed Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 when it released in theatres and so when it made its way to streaming about a month after release, I tuned in. I wanted to see what the fuss was all about, given that the second film in the horror-comedy franchise is still going strong on the big screen and is well on its way to powering into the Rs 200-crore club.
To be honest, while the film didn’t really work for me as a whole, I did enjoy parts of it. Nothing in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 makes sense, and that’s what it was anyway aiming for. Kartik Aaryan — who winningly displays his comedic chops — carries the Anees Bazmee-directed film on his shoulders, but it’s Tabu, as expected, who packs a punch. In a double role and slapping on some crazy prosthetics, Tabu has a blast playing two roles, with Rajpal Yadav, returning from the 2007 film Bhool Bhulaiyaa, being a hoot. The plot twist, however, is something that genre buffs will sniff from a mile away, and it’s been done before even in Bollywood, most recently in the Bipasha Basu horror fest (in more ways than one) Alone. Hit the play button with very few expectations, skip a few portions in the middle, and you will have a decent ride on your hands.
Available on: Netflix