Sunday, May 28, 2017

La isla mínima (Marshland) (2014)

Director: Alberto Rodriguez
Writers: Alberto Rodriguez, Rafael Cobos
DOP: Alex Catalan
Cast: Raul Arevalo, Javier Guiterrez, Nerea Barros
Language: Spanish

In the Marshland a serial killer is on the loose. Two homicide detectives who appear to be poles apart must settle their differences and bring the murderer to justice before more young women lose their lives.

Film is set in 1980 Andalusia, Spain as it is transitioning to a democracy after the end of Franco's regime. The older detective is the product of the previous regime while the younger one is from the present times with little respect for authority. The film has been compared with first season of True Detective and you can see that the comparison is not only coming because of the surreal marshy settings but also because of the dynamics between the two leads. To add to the similarities, it also ends with some loose ends not tied up together. The village in which the killings took place and the local police are a bit antagonistic towards the detectives and they are not very forthcoming in terms of divulging what they know. The film is not really about the plot or how ingenious their solving of crime is but rather about the atmosphere and mood it conveys.

It is a great watch overall with excellent performances from the two lead actors. The color tone and camera angles are such that you won't get the full glory of its cinematography on a small screen but you still can feel that it was very well done. Several of Sergio Leone's Western classics were set in Andalusia and you do get a feel of that even though the location is marshy and not a desert. It is a pretty cool watch.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, May 22, 2017

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: John Hodge, Irvine Welsh
DOP: Anthony Dod Mantle
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremmer, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller

After 20 years abroad, Mark Renton returns to Scotland and reunites with his old friends Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie.

First things first, almost every frame in this film is fucking gorgeous. More often than not a film which comes as a sequel this years apart will be looking at how the characters have changed over the years. In T2 we find out that nothing much has changed and the film has almost the same plot as the first outing. Many had problems with this but I enjoyed it thoroughly. All the major characters who survived T1 makes an appearance. We approved of Renton betraying his friends and running away with the money at the end of T1 and by the end of T2 we realise that money is not a big difference for them at this point of their lives.

Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor had a falling out after the former cast Leonardo for 'The Beach'. The feud took a lot of time to get resolved and finally we got the Trainspotting sequel that we were waiting for. Am not sure whether Irvine Welsh's 'Porno' has same characters as Trainspotting because I read somewhere that this film placed the characters from Trainspotting in Porno rather than it being a straight adaptation.  Many memory flashes from the first film is used and the soundtrack is kick-ass as expected. There are some very convenient plot developments but you forgive that because it still is a riot.

"'Choose life'. 'Choose life' was a well meaning slogan from a 1980's anti-drug campaign and we used to add things to it, so I might say for example, choose... designer lingerie, in the vain hope of kicking some life back into a dead relationship. Choose handbags, choose high-heeled shoes, cashmere and silk, to make yourself feel what passes for happy. Choose an iPhone made in China by a woman who jumped out of a window and stick it in the pocket of your jacket fresh from a South-Asian Firetrap. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and a thousand others ways to spew your bile across people you've never met. Choose updating your profile, tell the world what you had for breakfast and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, desperate to believe that you don't look as bad as they do. Choose live-blogging, from your first wank 'til your last breath; human interaction reduced to nothing more than data. Choose ten things you never knew about celebrities who've had surgery. Choose screaming about abortion. Choose rape jokes, slut-shaming, revenge porn and an endless tide of depressing misogyny. Choose 9/11 never happened, and if it did, it was the Jews. Choose a zero-hour contract and a two-hour journey to work. And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and maybe tell yourself that it's better that they never happened. And then sit back and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody's fucking kitchen. Choose unfulfilled promise and wishing you'd done it all differently. Choose never learning from your own mistakes. Choose watching history repeat itself. Choose the slow reconciliation towards what you can get, rather than what you always hoped for. Settle for less and keep a brave face on it. Choose disappointment and choose losing the ones you love, then as they fall from view, a piece of you dies with them until you can see that one day in the future, piece by piece, they will all be gone and there'll be nothing left of you to call alive or dead. Choose your future, Veronika. Choose life."

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Toni Erdmann (2016)

Director: Maren Are
Writer: Maren Ade
DOP: Patrick Orth
Cast: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller
Language: German

A practical joking father tries to reconnect with his hard working daughter by creating an outrageous alter-ego and posing as her CEO's life coach.

I went into the film with knowledge that it is a comedy film and, hate to bring in a stereotype, but German films are not known for their comedy. The recent Hitler film 'Look who's back' ended up as very poignant towards the end even though it was supposed to be a laugh out loud comedy film. Toni Erdmann is is in the category of cringe comedy like the TV series 'The Office'. The drama is on an equal footing with the comedy here or even more prominent and it is a slow burner. The film starts from the perspective of the father but as it progresses we realize that it is the story of his careerist daughter who is leading a sad lonely life in Bucharest (Or is it Budapest). She is a consultant who is primarily in the business of advocating outsourcing and retrenchment of workforce. She calls her father a man living in the 70s with a green agenda. In the beginning of the film, we find Toni to  be very intrusive and the daughter puts up with it but as his behavior becomes even more outrageous she starts losing her shit. But by the end she kind of accepts him as the pain of her sad lonely life takes over and she begins to let go a bit. There is a sequence of her singing in the film and it is the kind that you watch with hands partially covering your face.

It is a great watch overall but is not recommended for everyone. Cringe comedy can be a hard watch for many especially if it is as dark like this. The film is almost three hours long. Toni's character is loosely based on director's own father. The film was nominated for academy awards in the best foreign film category and also was in the running for Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, May 20, 2017

ഗോദ (Godha) (2017)

Director: Basil Joseph
Writer: Rakesh Mantodi
DOP: Vishnu Sarma
Cast: Wamiqa Gabbi, Tovino Thomas, Renji Panicker, Aju Varghese
Language: Malayalam

The film is set in a fictional Kerala village (Looks more like TN though) where the old generation and new generation are at loggerheads with each other over the usage of a play-ground. The old dudes want it to be used as a wrestling arena and is led by their captain (Renji Panicker) who is also a strict father to Anjaneya Das (Tovino Thomas) who is in the latter camp which wants the ground to be used for playing cricket. Captain forces his son to leave for Punjab to join an M-Tech course and there the son meets a wannabe wrestler (Wamiqa Gabbi) who is forced by her family to stop pursuing it.

Am not a fan of Basil Joseph's debut hit 'Kunjiramayanam' and I couldn't get past forty minutes of it. I found the humour in it to be too spoon-fed and the pacing not right at all. What made me watch Godha first day itself was the presence of very promising Tovino Thomas and the involvement of E4E, a very dependable production banner in Malayalam. Godha didn't disappoint at all. The humour in it works very well and it should be seen as a fun comedy film with Wrestling as the background rather than a hardcore sports drama film. It does go the clichéd sports drama route in its last act which is the weakest part of the film. A weak last act is becoming a pattern for E4E films with both Guppy and Ezra guilty of it.

The star of the film is undoubtedly Wamiqa Gabbi who plays the role of the Punjabi lass. Film is quite feministic in its take and doesn't compromise the female lead character for some cheap applause for its male lead. Renji Panicker is playing against type which is a relief as his Mr Cool new-gen father roles have become quite clichéd. Performances from all concerned are excellent with Aju Varghese also playing a prominent role among the friend circle. There is a sequence in Punjab which trolls the beef politics of our current times but it looks a bit tacked on as I don't think Sikhs are that passionate about Gau-matas. There is also the clichéd introduction to Punjab using a Punjabi wedding, which to be fair is gorgeously shot. The conversation portion during the wedding party is one of film's high points.

E4E films are guaranteed to be technically marvelous and Godha is no different. Shaan Rahman's music and background score adds so much to the film and please do try to catch it in the best possible screen with Dolby Atmos as it demands it to be seen that way.  At 2 hours, it is cut to right length even though interval point is quite lopsided with first half being significantly shorter. Overall, it is a very good watch with a weak last act stopping it from being great.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Get Out (2017)

Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
DOP: Toby Oliver
Cast: Daniel Caluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener

A young African-American man visits his Caucasian girlfriend's family estate. He is little uncomfortable because his girlfriend hasn't informed her parents that her current boyfriend is black. But she assures him that they are not racist and are super-liberal and would've voted for Obama a third time. Yeah, right. Things get a bit diabolical there.

Film is very relevant for its time where people are questioning the idea of post-racial America. It is not the racism of regular redneck Americans that is being scrutinized but that of the liberal elite types. That said, it is not political in the serious award bait kind of way and is more of a genre film with the genre being horror-comedy. The central situation is a black guy attending a party full of white guys with only the servants being the other black presence. The debutante director, who made his name as a comedian, could go the places that he did go because of it being a comedy film under the veneer of horror.

Film is produced by Blumhouse, founded by Jason Blum, that had also backed 'Split'. They are known for making low-budget horror films which tend to do very well at box office with Paranormal Activity being one of their earlier features. Get Out was made with a meagre budget of $5 million and went on to gross over two hundred million. It is a great watch overall with an excellent central performance from Daniel Caluuya who you might remember from Sicario. One film that you could compare it with is Hot Fuzz but with more full-on horror.

Rating: 4.5/5

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Director: Mel Gibson
Writers: Robert Schenkkan, Andrew Knight
DOP: Simon Duggan
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer

WW2 American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who served during the battle of Okinawa, has vowed to never take a weapon and kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the medal of honor without firing a shot.

His choice of non-violence is due to religious reasons as a Seventh Day Adventist but he feels compelled to join the war effort as everyone around him is doing so. The first part of the film deals with his family background and his cheesy romance with a nurse from the military hospital. He joins the army but is faced with tremendous pressure to quit due to his refusal to pick up a rifle to do rifle training. He wears an extremely smug look that we are used to from evangelical folks and you feel like punching him in the face the same way his colleagues also do. He manages to pass the training with the help of a religious exception and has to assist his unit in taking over the 'Hacksaw Ridge' which is a very difficult target to achieve for the Americans.

Film is unique in the sense that it is told from the perspective of a medic which we are not very used to in war films. One which did do this before was the Band of Brothers episode 'Bastogne', which is also told from the perspective of a medic, and is incidentally my favorite episode of the series. The cheesiness of the first half of the film makes a weird sense by the end as the second half is just quite brutal warfare. It is a great watch overall with some great war scenes that can quite match Saving Private Ryan's first twenty minutes for intensity. The budget for the film was only $40 million and it looks much higher than that. Vince Vaughn is very good in his role as the sergeant and Hugo Weaving is great as the alcoholic ex-army man dad who doesn't want his sons to join the army. Many still cite Brave-Heart as Mel Gibson's best film and I haven't seen that one to make a comparison. The only other one I have seen of his is 'Passion of Christ', which I watched with my friends at the cinemas going to the next town, and I still can't figure out for the life of me why I did that. I am not generally a fan of actors becoming directors and find their efforts quite underwhelming. Hacksaw Ridge is certainly an exception.

Rating: 4/5  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dheepan (2015)

Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré
DOP: Eponine Momenceau
Cast: Antonythasan Jesuthasan, Kalieswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby
Languages: Tamil, French

Dheepan is a Srilankan Tamil warrior who flees to France and ends up working as a caretaker of flats outside Paris. Dheepan is not his real name and he had fled Srilanka with a lady and a girl posing as the deceased Dheepan family so that they could use their passports.

Film doesn't delve deep into the nuances of LTTE conflict in Srilanka as it anyway assumes the French audience doesn't know much about it and needn't be given too much details. The atrocities committed by the Government forces during the last days of the conflict did make Worldwide headlines. All these kinds of ethnic conflicts do have a universal language. The film did come out a time when the refugee crisis in Europe was making headlines and it earned Audiard a Palme d'Or at Cannes.

The apartment projects that Dheepan is working in is a Banlieue like setup and largely occupied by other non-first generation migrants. It is also beset with first-world problems like drug related gang wars. Same time Dheepan is also dealing with the fake family that he now has and his fake wife is reluctant to invest much into it. It is an engrossing watch from the get go and is difficult to describe the tone of the film. It basically is about how Dheepan and his 'family' integrates into the French society even though at its margins. People might find problems with how it ended as some have interpreted it as Audiard juxtaposing civil war in Srilanka with the gang wars in Europe. I saw it more as him showing the latter very much as a first world problem rather than equating both of their scales.

PS: It was indeed very strange to see a Tamil language film set in France.

Rating: 4/5