“Play, Games, and Disappearing Reality”

“Play, Games and Disappearing Reality”
Published: March 13, 2010


Considering Play was co-written by Eric Zimmerman, the biggest Ludic Century advocate I know, the short film presents a remarkably ambivalent vision of the future of gaming. Almost nothing in the film is clear, and it revels in this ambiguity to good effect. The viewer is left with space to play with the plot even after multiple viewings. I’ve seen it three times and still can’t figure out who the protagonist is, what the game being depicted is, or what kind of “real” world the film is set in. And all that, maybe, is the point.

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The LA Times reviews “Today’s Special”

“Capsule Movie Reviews: Today’s Special”
Published: Nov. 19, 2010

Directed with verve by David Kaplan from Aasif Mandvi and Jonathan Bines’ exceptional screenplay, “Today’s Special” stars Mandvi as a sous-chef at a Manhattan restaurant whose plans to head to Paris for further culinary study are derailed after his father suffers a heart attack and he must take over the family restaurant in Queens.

Imaginative, warm and witty, the film, inspired by Mandvi’s prize-winning play “Sakina’s Restaurant,” is an irresistible delight, its theatrical roots vanishing amid a gracefully cinematic evocation of life in Jackson Heights, a venerable Queens neighborhood with an inviting human scale and grand rooftop vistas of the New York skyline. It is alive with a screen full of captivating characters, all written with affection and exquisitely played by a raft of fine actors.

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Hollywood Reporter review: “Today’s Special”

“Today’s Special – Film Review”
By KIRK HONEYCUTT, The Hollywood Reporter
Published: Nov. 17, 2010

A winning comedy set in a New York Indian restaurant sends out engaging characters and great looking food from its kitchen.

A dozen years ago, Aasif Mandvi, the Indian-born actor who is now a correspondent on “The Daily Show With John Stewart,” wrote and performed a superb one-man show called “Sakina’s Restaurant.” He played a young Gujerati sponsored by a New York Indian family to come to American and work in their restaurant. Switching accents and costumes with abandon, Aasif played every character — the father, daughters, son and, of course, the fresh-of-the-boat youth encountering the American Dream.

Using this stage show as its inspiration, Mandvi and a group of filmmakers have cooked up a thematically similar movie, Today’s Special, a feel-good fable about a talented cook and second-generation Indian, who discovers his destiny and own version of the American Dream when he takes over his father’s run-down Tandoori Palace restaurant. While it tracks familiar themes of generational clashes in immigrant families, upward mobility and Old World vs. New World values, Today’s Special does so with vigor and a pleasing sense of comedy. Not hurting matters for foreign and Indian film devotees, the film features two icons of Indian cinema, Madhur Jaffrey and Naseeruddin Shah.

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The Boston Globe reviews “Today’s Special”

“Movie Review: Today’s Special”
By WESLEY MORRIS, The Boston Globe
Published: Nov. 19, 2010

Samir (Aasif Mandvi) is a sous-chef at a good Manhattan restaurant. When he’s passed over for a shot at running a new restaurant, the executive chef who overlooked him explains that Samir doesn’t cook with the soul required for the job. Dejected, he quits and plans to cook in Paris. Then life intervenes. His father (Harish Patel) has a heart attack and puts Samir in charge of his restaurant, a little place in Jackson Heights, Queens, crammed between a beauty supply store and a kebab house.

The dining room is shabby. The kitchen is a sty. The few customers find the greasy food disgusting. Eventually, Samir reluctantly hires Akbar (Naseeruddin Shah), a free-spirit cabdriver who claims he once cooked for Indira Gandhi. Akbar is a godsend for Samir: His food amazes, his unruly technique educates. Shah is a bonus for the movie. This smooth, self-confident, inarguably sexy veteran actor doesn’t steal the film so much as wrap it around his finger.

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Time Out reviews “Today’s Special”

“Today’s Special”
Published: Nov. 19, 2010

Mumbai-born, British-raised Mandvi won an Obie for his 1998 one-man show Sakina’s Restaurant and has graced numerous movies (The Mystic Masseur, Spider-Man 2, It’s Kind of a Funny Story), but he’s best-known here as a correspondent for The Daily Show. Refreshingly, Mandvi and ex–Daily Show scribe Jonathan Bines relegate snark to the back burner in their screenplay for Today’s Special, an intimately scaled domestic comedy that, like a well-spiced meal, gradually radiates warmth without overwhelming its main ingredients.

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Huffington Post reviews “Today’s Special”

“HuffPost Review: Today’s Special”
By MARSHALL FINE, The Huffington Post
Published: Nov. 17, 2010

There’s not a lot new about David Kaplan’s Today’s Special — yet this comedy, from a script by Aasif Mandvi and Jonathan Bines, finds ways to take an old formula and give it new life. Think of it as a familiar recipe whipped up with different spices.
And that’s all the food metaphors or puns for this review of a movie about a chef who learns a little something about how to cook.

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Movie Review: “Today’s Special”

“Today’s Special” ★★★★
By KEN HANKE, Mountain Xpress Asheville & W. North Carolina
Published: Mar. 22, 2011

From its inception in 2003 to its demise in 2009, I saw every narrative feature entered in the Asheville Film Festival. That’s well over 100 movies. Only three of them was I ever compelled to keep a copy of for myself, and at that top of that list was David Kaplan’s Year of the Fish (2007)—a film that won Best Feature and the Audience Award. I remember co-judge (along with Don Mancini) Robby Benson remarking, “I wish I’d made it,” and I know what he meant. It truly was—and is—a magical film. Well, Kaplan’s next film, Today’s Special, comes to town on Friday. It may not be as magical, but it’s a worthy and utterly charming follow-up.

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Eric Kohn reviews “Little Red Riding Hood”

“DVD: Little Red Riding Hood and Other Stories”
By ERIC KOHN, The New York Press
Published: June 4, 2009

No American filmmaker has expressed the same degree of fascination with the adult themes of fairy tales as David Kaplan. But he deserves the niche. It begs noting that Kaplan staked his claim in this field long before completing his first feature, “Year of the Fish,” in 2007. That movie, a contemporary rotoscoped version of Cinderella set in New York’s Chinatown, offers only one glimpse of Kaplan’s revisionist oeuvre. His landmark short, “Little Red Riding Hood,” recently hit DVD with insightful commentary from the director and a glimpse at his other morbid fables.

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New York Post reviews “Little Red”

By V.A. Musetto, The New York Post
Published: May 31, 2009

WARNING: This fairy tale isn’t meant for kids. I’m talking about David Kaplan’s twisted, 12-minute version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” narrated by Quentin Crisp and starring a then-16-year-old Christina Ricci as a not-so-innocent girl who goes to visit Granny and instead encounters a lecherous wolf.

The black-and-white short, made in 1997, features cannibalism, toilet talk, face licking and a mean striptease performed by the child for the benefit of the wolf, portrayed by sexy Timour Bourtasenkov, an accomplished ballet dancer.

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