Friday, October 31, 2014

Maps to the Stars (2014)

Director: David Cronenberg
Writer:    Bruce Wagner
Cast:       Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Evan Bird

A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family- chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their past. Benji (Evan Bird) and Havana (Julianne Moore) share the same agent and the former is a child actor in a studio franchise while the latter is an aging struggling actor. They are both thoroughly unlikable characters who have much in common. Their fate become more intertwined  as the film progresses the connections between all the characters become more and more apparent.

After targeting the wealthy 0.1% in 'Cosmopolis', Cronenberg is now aiming his gun at Hollywood, which he says is both seductive and repulsive at the same time. This is his first film to be shot in US in a career that has spanned almost fifty years so far. It can be described best a pitch dark comedy similar in lines to Todd Solondz' work. Instead of ordinary unlikable characters in his films like 'Happiness', here you have their counterparts from Hollywood. The performances from all concerned are excellent and it wouldn't be surprising if Julianne Moore gets her Oscar for this role. Evan Bird would intentionally remind you of Justin Bieber, Cronerberg's fellow Canadian. The title 'Maps to the Stars' refer to the ones that you get in LA with details of where the stars are living.

Cronenberg has never hid his disdain for Hollywood but that doesn't get in the way of the film because it is largely plot driven. That makes it a more accessible film when compared to 'Cosmopolis' but it won't be up everyone's alley. It is a very difficult film to describe but is certainly a must watch for Cronenberg fans as he continuously evolve even after hitting the 70s.

Rating: 4/5

Frank (2014)

Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Writers:  Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan
Cast:       Michaal Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy


Jon, a young wannabe musician, discovers he's bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.

The character Frank is mostly inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the comic persona created by Chris Sievey. It is a fictional story inspired by some other musicians and started off as an adaptation of Jon Ronson's, who was part of Sidebottom's band, writings. Fassbender plays the role of Frank and it is commendable that he chose to play this role where his face is hidden behind a head gear almost whole the way through. He is in good company with both Hugo Weaving (V for Vendetta) and Edward Norton (Kingdom of Heaven) who had played two very memorable faceless characters over the last decade. Film is largely set in Ireland where they go to create their debut album and it is a UK-Irish co-production. 

It would remind one of Spike Jonze's works that converts a very quirky idea into comedic film, with some serious subtext, which loses its steam by the third act. I was also left with the same feeling after his latest film 'Her'. He even made fun of his work in his film 'Adaptation' which has a Charlie Kauffman like character who is struggling for a proper last act for his script. Frank also suffers from a weak and rushed third act. It can be seen as a film on musicians dealing with themes like artistic integrity, popularity of mediocrity, fleeting limelight in the era of social networks etc. It sustains a sense of mystery almost whole the way through and performances are excellent. I don't know whether the soundtrack is a hit but I really liked the quirky music created by Frank's band 'Soronprfbs'. All of it were created live by the actors involved. There is a sequence in the film which is similar to one in 'Big Lebowski' in a good way. It was also good to see tweets getting some screen time though I suspect some of them had more than 140 characters. Overall it is a great watch.

Frank: [singing] Stale beer. Fat fucked, smoked out. Cowpoked. Sequined mountain ladies. I love your wall. Put your arms around me. Fiddly digits, itchy britches. I love you all.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ida (2013)

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writer:    Pawel Pawlikowski
Cast:       Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik
Language: Polish


The film is set in 1960s Communist/Stalinist Poland. Anna/Ida grew up as an orphan in a catholic orphanage and is on the verge of taking her vows. She is send back to visit her aunt, her only living relative, by the mother of the convent. Her aunt, Wanda, turns out to be an alcoholic and promiscuous Jewish lawyer. Ida learns about her Jewish ancestry and her persecuted family and both of them embark on a journey to find the place where they were buried. 

The film is as much about Wanda as it is about Ida. Wanda is saddened by Ida's future of being a nun and prompts her to enjoy the life a bit first before taking her vows, since only then she would know what she is sacrificing. It is Wanda who is more affected by their journey with Ida being more bemused by it. When Ida gets back to the convent there is a hint that she is confused by her own sexuality. If you put some significance to that scene then the ending becomes even more ambiguous than it really seems. 

There have been many films with Holocaust as background and as Kate Winslet sarcastically puts in the 'Extras' episode, it is a sure shot way to win an academy award, which she went on to win for her role in 'The Reader'. Ida is another holocaust based film but it is not central to the story. It has been very well received by critics and not as much by the general audience if one goes by the IMDB rating. That might be possibly due to the ambiguous nature of it and I thought it was a great watch.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Rover (2014)

Director: David Michod
Writers:  David Michod, Joel Edgerton
Cast:       Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy

10 years after what is described in the opening line as a collapse, a hardened loner pursues the men who stole his car, his only possession. Along the way, he captures one of the thieves'  brother, and the duo form an uneasy bond during the journey. It can be described as a dystopian road film. It is not made clear whether the collapse is internal to Australia or the whole world. US currency is the only one that is accepted by many of the sellers and one can surmise that it maybe restricted to Australia.

I don't know whether it is a case of my bias towards Economics and global trade showing, I saw many allusions to Australia's dependence on China during its so called resource boom. It is possible that if China were to crash, Australian economy could also face traumatic times though one would think being a developed economy/ democracy they would have planned well for the eventuality. Eric (Guy Pearce) is a farmer and he confesses  to an army officer, during an exposition scene, that he killed his wife and her lover ten years ago and nobody cared about that. He says he was more saddened by the reaction of the collapsing society in and around him than his wife's cheating. The tagline for the film which describes his character is 'Fear the man with nothing left to lose'. The thieves are related to the mining business which is part of Australia's more recent history. The latter has led to Australian dollar appreciating in value in recent times and thereby affecting Australia's other exports like farming output. One could guess that there is this underlying conflict between the farmer and the miner is also playing out in the film with the latter being related to crony capitalism. The thieves cannot understand why Eric is risking everything to get his car back and we are given the reason at the end when we see him burying his dead dog that was in the trunk. Rey (Robert Pattinson) is an half-wit and he is kind of an in the middle character who is contrasted with both Eric and the thieves. As he says during one of the conversations, 'Not everything has to be about something', which is also a nod to the audience regarding the film itself.

I haven't seen any of the shiite twilight films and therefore my view on Robert Pattinson's credentials as an actor is not biased by them. I have seen him only in 'Cosmopolis' and now in 'The Rover' and he was excellent in both. Guy Pearce, whom we never see enough in films these days, is also great in this bearded brooding role.

David Michod got worldwide acclaim after his debut Australian family mob film 'Animal Kingdom'. It was a good film but I found it to be a tad overrated. 'The Rover' was much anticipated and upon release many have expressed disappointment with it. I thought it was great and is the better film out of the two. The Australian outback settings, cinematography, soundtrack and the performances are great and David Michod is another promising young director to keep an eye out for.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ദൈവത്തിന്റെ വികൃതികൾ (Daivathinte Vikrithikal) (1992)

Director: Lenin Rajendran
Writers:  M. Mukundan (Novel), Lenin Rajendran
Cast:       Raghuvaran, Srividya, Thilakan, Malavika
Language: Malayalam


The film tells the story of Alphonso, a man who chooses to suffer a slow, torturous life in his little village, Mahe, in preference to fortunes and pleasures away from it. It starts in 1954, the year in which 230 years of French Colonial rule ended in Mahe and Alphonso, who worked as a magician for French audience, had the opportunity to migrate to France. Many Indians who had considered themselves as belonging to Francophone culture opted to do so but Alphonso is in love with his land Mayazhi and thinks that he would be able to make a living there even though his audience have left. This turns out not be the case as they struggle to make ends meet.

I went to Mahe only two days back and it was kind of a 'Baader-Meinhof' experience when this film tuned up on TV.  I had seen it years back without understanding much of it. Mahe is a place which has not retained much of its French history unlike Pondichery. Film is an adaptation of M. Mukundan's novel with the same name and is considered to be a sequel to his other work 'Mayyazhipuzhayude Theeranagalil'. Alphonso faces alienation in his own land from people who think of him as a foreigner due to his Francophone culture. Film dwells upon the meaning of term ethnicity, as his own love for the land is contrasted with other natives who had gone to France and came back rich and act like what we call derogatorily in Kerala as 'Puthanpanakkar' (Newly rich). The way he reacts to the events on the film is also in a much more European way (libertarian) and not the traditional Indian Patriarchal manner. 

The story had so much potential but the film is not very good. I haven't read the novel to comment on the source material but the film suffers from a poor script and not very good acting by some of the principal characters. It will be quite difficult for an actor from Kerala to portray the Alphonso character and that would explain the choice of Raghuvaran for the role of protagonist. Malavika, who plays the role of Alphonso's daughter Elsy, is also not from Kerala and her struggles with the language is also a burden for the film. Dubbing is quite common in Malayalam films, but when you have two of the main characters being dubbed by other people, the problems with lip sync stick out like a sore thumb. Am quite surprised to find that the film won numerous Kerala State Awards.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, October 27, 2014

Manhunter (1986)

Director: Michael  Mann
Writers:  Thomas Harris (Novel), Michael Mann
Cast:       William Petersen, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Tom Noonan


Former FBI profiler Will Graham  (William Petersen) returns to service to pursue a deranged serial murderer named 'Tooth Fairy' by the media. Will Graham had earlier helped in catching Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), who is now under maximum security, by putting himself in the shoes of the psychopath leaving him physically as well as mentally scarred. He returns back to service with some trepidation because of it since he thinks there is only a thin line between him and the psychopath that he is pursuing. 

This film has been on my watch list for some time and was getting postponed due to lack of subtitles. The accents and the mumbling are a bit hard to follow without subtitles to help, and I had to concentrate really hard and be in an investigative mode to figure out what was really happening. I have heard various people describing it as the best Hannibal film and Cox's Lecktor as the best portrayal of the character Hannibal. On the former point I don't necessarily agree even though I have watched only 'Silence of the Lambs' among all other Hannibal films and I don't think Manhunter is better than it. Brian Cox is great as Hannibal even though he is there for just two or three scenes. Some have criticized Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal as too hammy and Oscar baiting. I have to watch it again to comment on that. 

Manhunter is a very good watch but in some places it has not aged particularly well. This is true especially for the soundtrack used. William Petersen was there in Friedkin's 'To Live and Die in LA', a film that I love from the 80s with its characteristic soundtrack. It is that role that put Petersen ahead in the casting for his role in Manhunter. Friedkin was also considered for the serial killer role which ultimately went to Tom Noonan who is excellent in the film. He isolated himself from the other actors and the climax scene in which Petersen jumps through the glass to confront him was the first time they met during the filming. Michael Mann is known for the ultra realism he goes for in police procedural films of his and you get that in Manhunter as well.

If I were to rank Michael Mann's film the order would be:

1) The Insider
2) Heat
3) Collateral
4) The Last of the Mohicans
5) Manhunter

His debut film 'Thief' starring James Caan is also supposed to be good.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cosmopolis (2012)

Director: David Cronenberg
Writers:  David Cronenberg, Don DeLillo
Cast:       Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Durand, Samantha Morton


Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year old billionaire asset manager's day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.

It is among the few films that I watched twice in two days and it kind of demands that if you don't pay close attention. First time I was kind of sleepy and on second watch I understood what he was really going for. So this was my third time watch of this Cronenberg film which is an adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel with the same name that came out in 2003. The resentment towards the 1% with the slogan 'We are the 99%' of Occupy Wall Street was realized after the 2008 global financial crisis and so the novel was kind of prophetic. To be fair it is not really the 1% but the 0.1% that Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) represents. He is kind of from the hedge fund creed who takes huge bets on all sort of things based on what they claim to be the information that they process to spot things that others can't. He is married to a girl, from a billionaire family, who is pretending to be a poet and they haven't had sex yet. He lives in an apartment on the top floor of a skyscraper for which he has two elevators catering to his different moods (slower one with Satie's music to calm him down and another faster one set to some shitty sufi-rap music).  His limo contains cool screens giving him data from all the financial markets and he also gets daily medical checkups. Doctor that day informs him that he has got an asymmetrical prostate. He had made huge bet by shorting Yuan and things go tits up as it appreciates and thereby ruining his wealth. Over the course of the day he meets various people related to his business, his sex life and his wife who ultimately dumps him when she hears of his financial troubles. He then takes a self-destructive path and meets two people who wants to assault him to varying degrees of viciousness. 

The first hour of the film shows the staleness of the billionaire's life and he is shown to be worrying about pointless things like buying a chapel all to himself and denying it to wider public. The second half of the film gives a little bit time for those who are protesting against the system. They vandalizes his limo and are seen to be throwing dead cats as their protest, shouting-'There is a specter that is haunting the World-Capitalism'.  The thing is that, the film is not very one-sided. The creators are also criticizing the pointlessness of the protests and their motivations for doing it. The questions that film raises could easily be put by showing a Silicon Valley billionaire in stead of a Wall Street one. The problem with the 0.1% of the society is that they are almost invisible to the wider public and they live a life that is cut off from the reality of the rest of the population. This will help in fostering the discontent and help in making changes to the system in what might be violent means. This is exactly what prompted Andrew Carnegie to advocate philanthropy during the gilded age to get people on side of capitalism. It seems we are in a gilded age again with all the silicon valley billionaires pledging their wealth for philanthropic purposes partly for their egos and partly to be on the right side of the people. They are at least visible which cannot be said about the wall street assholes who screw up things but still get to keep their wealth.

Overall the film is great but it might not be to everyone's liking with its intended coldness. 2012 had two limo mindfucks with the other being 'Holy Motors' and both of them are great.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, October 20, 2014

In the Loop (2009)

Director: Armando Iannucci
Writers:  Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
Cast:       Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison


The film satirizes Anglo-American politics in the 21st century and the invasion of Iraq, specifically how false intelligence was used to obtain the UN security council vote. It is a spin-off from the BBC television series 'The Thick of It', with almost all the regulars in it showing up albeit as different characters with the exception of Peter Capaldi, who reprises the Malcolm Tucker role.

Most of it is set in US where there is a UN vote on Iraq war. Tom Hollander plays the role of a UK minister who inadvertently uses the phrases 'War is unforeseeable' and 'Climbing the mountain of conflict' in two separate interviews becoming the poster child for both the against-war and for-war camps in US politics. You get what you expect from a 'The Thick of It' spin-off and it can be classified as political swear comedy. Even the pocket swear machine Jamie (Paul Higgins), the crossest man in Scotland, and the guy who played Julius Nicholson (Alex MacQueen) makes an appearance. Steve Coogan is also in it playing an angry constituent from the minister's seat going batshit over a collapsing wall. The third season of 'The Thick of It' came out just after the film was released and it is a shame that Jamie didn't feature in third or fourth seasons of TToI. 

Highlight of the film would of course be the famous standoff between Gandolfini and Tucker with the latter having the last laugh with his statement 'Don't ever fucking call me English' to a decidedly confused looking Mr. Tony Soprano. Iannucci was extremely pissed off with the way the consensus was built for Iraq war and he uses this film to vent. He also uses the way BBC was bullied by the Tony Blair government, for its WMD evidence reporting, in the film. It is interesting the way they contrast the UK and US styles of politicking with the latter being too self important and former with all the insecurities being US' bitch when it comes to foreign policy. 

'In the Loop' was made for a meager budget of a million US dollars and was screened initially at the Sundance film festival garnering positive reviews. It also got academy awards nomination for 'Best Adapted Screenplay'. With TToI and In the Loop we have got about 15 hours of unadulterated genius from Armando Iannucci and it seems he is not going to revisit it again. The film might have brought him under HBO's attention resulting in Julia Louis-Dreyfus starring Political comedy series 'Veep', which is not nearly as good as TToI but still a great watch. I guess if 'In the Loop' got released post the success of Veep in US, it might have been a bigger box office success.

Rating: 5/5 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Eastern Promises (2007)

Director: David Cronenberg
Writer:    Steven Knight
Cast:       Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl


A Russian teenager living in London who dies during childbirth leaves clues to a midwife (Naomi Watts) in her journal that could tie her child to a rape involving a violent Russian mob family.

I had seen this film once before when it came on TV years ago. I don't remember whether it was before I came across Cronenberg's other works or after. Anyway 'Eastern Promises' and 'A History of Violence', both starring Viggo Mortensen, are an odd couple of films in Cronenberg's filmography in the sense that they are very non-Cronenbergian. The man who is most famous for the body-horror genre doing a couple of mob films albeit with a twist on the mob genre was really indeed odd. He followed it up with 'A Dangerous Method', a Carl Jung period film which also featured Mortensen in the role of Sigmund Freud. Looks like Cronenberg has now moved on to Robert Pattinson who starred in 'Cosmopolis' and his most recent film 'Maps to the Stars'. It seems he is again going back to Cronenberg mode with a Lynchian twist based on Cosmopolis and from what I heard about 'Maps to the Stars' which I haven't seen yet. He has been a vocal critic of Hollywood system and his latest film is the only one shot or set in US and it is supposed to be an outsider's look on the farcical side of Hollywood. Can't wait to watch that.

Coming back to Eastern Promises, my view on it has not changed on repeat watch. It is more than good but not great. Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel are excellent but I just didn't think much of Armin Mueller-Sathl who is supposed to be the mob king. The story of a king who is disappointed by his prince is not a novel idea and some of the rituals done by the Russian mob looked a bit unconvincing in its portrayal, not that I am familiar with it. When you watch for the first time the twist works well. I don't think there is enough in the Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) story for it to be the central one in the film. There is no real conflict in his motivations which is what many other undercover films depicts (Donnie Brasco, The Departed, New World etc). Probably that is exactly what Cronenberg is going for, just bending the genre rules. Film was written by Steven Knight who directed Tom Hardy starring excellent little film 'Locke'. A sequel for Eastern Promises was discussed but didn't take off and now the project is dead.

All the three Cronenberg-Mortensen films are solid without being great. A supreme director dabbling with themes that he didn't handle in his career thus far. But its is great to see that he is back  again doing what he does best-mindfucks. 

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Thick of It (2005– 2012)

Creator: Armando Ianucci
Cast:      Peter Capaldi, Chris Addison, James Smith

The Thick of it satirizes the inner workings of modern British government with the spotlight particularly on a small ministry called DoSAC (Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship). The star of the show is PM's enforcer and media spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, arguably the greatest television characters of all time. It is supposed to be largely based on Alastair Campbell who occupied a similar position in the Tony Blair government.


First two series of it consist of 6 episodes (3 each) in which Hugh Abbot (Chris Langham) is the DoSAC minister. It was followed up with  two one hour episodes special to coincide with Gordon Brown's anointment as the PM with the TV series also following something similar. The third series of eight episodes had Nicola Murray (Rebecca Font) as the DoSAC minister as the story follows up to the last days of the government's tenure with it ending with the final call for an election even as the governing party is divided over leadership. Malcolm Tucker's position also starts looking vulnerable. The fourth and final season again follows the real life British politics with an odd couple coalition in power (the Present Tories & Lib Dems coalition). Malcolm Tucker continues in his role but in the opposition party and the story mirrors the real life News of the World scandal with it also featuring an enquiry into the culture of media  leaks in Westminster.

So that is 22 episodes and around 12.5 hours of television and I would say it is my favorite comedy TV series of all time. I think even if you take the genre away also, it would probably sit at the top along with 'The Wire'. Maybe it is not a fair comparison considering its considerably shorter run time when compared with Seinfeld, but that is really the nature of the best from British TV-quality over quantity. Some have called it the twenty first century 'Yes Minister', but I like to call it as the adult version of 'Yes Minister'. Yes Minister is great in its own right but looks a bit formulaic with its episodic structure for my liking. Yes Minister had politicians as the naive lot with the bureaucracy  pulling the strings whereas in 'The Thick of It', the incompetent politicians and bureaucracy are strung along by the media spin doctor signifying the change in nature of the British politics. As Malcolm himself puts it during the enquiry, the morality of it had gone long way back and it is now essentially a popularity contest.

It is a show that gave us the expressions like one on the left along with, from bean to cup you are a fuck up, the all swearing eyes, omnishambles (used as Romneyshambles in real life much later), NOMFuP (Not my fucking problem) etc. There are just too many and the length of its wikiquote page is testament to that (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Thick_of_It). Not to forget Malcolm Tucker's interpretation of Star Wars which goes like this:



Malcolm Tucker: It's time for you to step up Ollie. What's that film that you love?
Ollie Reeder: What film?
Malcolm: The one about the fucking hairdresser, the space hairdresser and the cowboy. The guy, he's got a tin foil pal and a pedal bin. His father's a robot and he's fucking fucked his sister. Lego! They're all made of fucking lego.
Ollie: Star Wars?
Malcolm: That's the one. It's like that, where you kill all the bad guys, and you'll be able to blow up the big...
Ollie: Death Star.
Malcolm: The Death Star thing. Then you can go and live happily ever after on the planet with the teddy bears.
Ollie: They're Ewoks.


Somewhere in between the specials and season three they also made a film called 'In the Loop' where many of the characters from 'The Thick of It' go to US as British envoy and plays a role in starting the Iraq War in a shambolic way. It was directed by Armando Ianucci and was also great. An American remake of the show was planned without the involvement of Ianucci which didn't take off but the currently running HBO show 'Veep', which is also created by Ianucci, is somewhat like a US  inferior version of 'The Thick of It'.


There might not be another series of 'The Thick of It' on the pipeline unless something very interesting happen in British politics for Armando Ianucci to change his mind. I can't imagine a show without Malcolm Tucker in it and at the end of the series four, his character had a closure from which if he were to make a comeback it would feel very contrived. Armando Ianucci was also the mind behind 'Alan Partridge' which is also another top British comedy series and in Alan Partridge and Malcolm Tucker he has created two of the most iconic characters in British comedy.

If I were to rank my favorite comedy TV series', it would look something like this (rankings below the third spot might vary depending on the mood):

1)  The Thick of It
2)  Seinfeld
3)  Peep Show
4)  The Office (the original UK version)
5)  Curb Your Enthusiasm
6)  Alan Partridge
7)  Spaced
8)  Arrested Development
9)  Father Ted
10)Extras

So that is seven of the them UK and three US, out of which two are from Larry David. Only three out of the ten had more than five seasons (Peep Show, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm). So I guess I prefer UK comedy over US and quality over quantity.

Rating: 5/5

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Directors: Wachowski Siblings
Writers:    Wachowski Siblings
Cast:         Keanu Reeves, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne

The human city of Zion defends itself against the massive invasion of the machines as Neo fights to end the war at another front while also opposing the rogue Agent Smith.


The final film in the Matrix Trilogy is the weakest of the three. The problem with it is that after the meeting Neo had with the architect at the end of the Matrix Reloaded, everything was up in the air with some people even interpreting that Zion was another Matrix within the Matrix. In terms of philosophy and plot twists, reloaded was great and what happens after that in Revolutions is a bit of a letdown. It is kind of all over the place with a preference to Eastern philosophy with some ramblings on Karma, Love, Light & Darkness and all that. There is also some allusion to Yin-Yang with respect to the place of Neo and Smith in the whole setup. All that said, the action sequences are better than the one in Reloaded basically because there is some clear narrative to it rather than a show-off feel.

Some people still cling on to Zion being another Matrix interpretation and I don't think it stand up to scrutiny based on what they show in Revolutions. I think we can more or less trust what the Architect explains in Reloaded and the choice that Neo makes at that point is supposed to make everything unpredictable. He chose to return to Zion instead of helping the architect in rebooting the matrix and picking up survivors from Zion to repopulate it. This meant that machines are going to kill all in Zion and system crash of Matrix will kill all connected to it and thus destroy all mankind. As machines lay siege on Zion, Neo go to the machine city to offer the peace treaty as both Machines and Humans now have a common enemy in Agent Smith. Neo sacrifices himself and that is about it. The final scene has Oracle and Architect having a discussion on the situation at end where the Zion and Matrix coexist. People who want out from the matrix are free to join Zion and I suppose the war will again start once people from Matrix start to move in trove to Zion. 

All that said, it is still a great watch even though you kind of feel there wasn't much in it when compared to the other two films. The philosophy associated with it is a bit binary and Hippie. The acting talentlessness of  Keanu Reeves also come to the fore and script also presents plenty of cliched sequences, especially in Zion. When I saw it for the first time there was much time gap between the other two. This time round I saw all three pretty close together and I enjoyed it more than the other times.

Rating: 3.5/5 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Contagion (2011)

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer:    Scott Z. Burns
Cast:       Laurence Fishburne, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle, Bryan Cranston, Chin Han

Healthcare professionals, government officials and everyday people find themselves in the midst of a worldwide epidemic as the CDC (Center for Disease Control) works to find a cure.

I recently read an article about the 'Gwyneth Paltrow bashing' that is prevalent on the net and she is also not immune to that within the film community itself. It listed several films that do the same and it seems that Soderbergh tried to capture the 'Zeitgeist' by casting her as the promiscuous patient zero for the epidemic depicted in the film. Hell, I searched for an article on the Ebola outbreak and came across one which compares it to one shown in Contagion and in it also Paltrow gets bashed for some comments she made in the presence of Obama.  The film informs us about an epidemiology term R0 which refers to basic reproduction rate and gives an idea about number of cases one virus generate over the course of its infectious period. The virus in Contagion has an R0 of greater than two and a mortality rate of 25%. For the current Ebola outbreak the respective figures are in the range 1-2 and 50-70%. For SARS and HIV-AIDS it was in the range 2-5. The Ebola virus spreads through bodily fluids which makes it less infectious than SARS or the one depicted in this film but it is far more deadly. 

The film got praise for its authenticity from the scientific community and plenty of research was done by the creators prior to filming to make it so. For many people in the scientific community, the scenario is not a matter of if but when and the current Ebola outbreak gives us a real life glimpse. In the film they refer to the Spanish flu epidemic which wiped out 1% of world population and some of the epidemics like Polio, Smallpox and measles had R0s greater than five. In the globalized world that we live in with frequent air travel you don't need that high R0 figure for it to spread all over the World creating more and more clusters affecting millions of people in no time. I don't think I have seen any other medical epidemic films but am familiar with Robin Cook's works like Outbreak, Coma and Brain. What is good about the contagion is that it does not try to vilify the establishment which is dealing with the virus. When you have a super villain in the form of a virus you don't really need more human villains to make it thrilling. It is as much about virus as it is about the societal response to it. In no time the whole thing turns anarchic and you have the all too familiar sight of bloggers shouting about government conspiracy. It also makes you wonder about the trouble we might have with the whole manufacturing set up of drugs in the private sector's hands. I think if it happens it will be nationalized in no time like in a war situation. 

The only problem I have with the film is the last scene showing the day zero events. It shows a deforestation done using the equipments manufactured by Paltrow's company- causing the bat to move to a pig-farm and starting the chain of events leading to Paltrow getting infected. That is just a convoluted way for the director to send a non-subtle message regarding where he stands on private sector which we are already familiar from his films like 'Erin Brockovich' and 'The Informant!'. The soundtrack is excellent and most of the film was shot in real locations without relying much on studio settings. Soderbergh again collaborated with Scott Z. Burns to make another medical thriller of sorts, Side Effects.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, October 11, 2014

വീട്ടിലേക്കുള്ള വഴി (Veettilekkulla Vazhi) (2011)

Director: Dr. Biju
Writer:    Dr. Biju
Cast:       Prithviraj, Master Govardhan, Indrajith
Languages: Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil

A doctor with a haunted past is left with the difficult task of uniting a five year old boy with his father, who is the head of a terrorist organization. What follows is a road trip in search for the father touching Kerala, Rajasthan and Ladakh.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out the entire story from the first five minutes of the film itself. But I think it is intentionally done so that we may concentrate on the trip rather than be bothered by what is going to happen, and it works.  As the saying goes: it is the journey that matters, not the destination. The success of the film depends a lot on the principal two characters and Prithviraj portrays his role with tremendous restraint, which really plays into his strength. The kid is also very good in an affable meekish way and is a refreshing change from the usual staple served up by Malayalam films off late. It is filmed with commendable authenticity on great locations that convey beauty, despair and danger all at the same time. It doesn't try to justify one side over the other on the terrorism debate and is done in a matter of fact way. Soundtrack is sparsely used and when done, it is not for manipulating our emotions. At around 90 minutes it is certainly aimed at a sophisticated audience.

I don't know whether the channels think that we are allergic to subtitles or is it simply  a case of taking for granted that Malayalees understand both Hindi and Tamil. The character played by Indrajith speaks Tamil and I couldn't figure out half of what he was saying. The film was screened at various film festivals where it got good reception. It won the national award for best film from Malayalam in 2010, the same year that 'Adaminte Makan Abu' won the national award outright. I haven't seen that film to really compare the two. I don't think it got much of a theatrical run if at all it was released. It is a great watch.

Rating: 4/5

Red Eye (2005)

Director: Wes Craven
Writers:  Carl Ellsworth, Dan Foos
Cast:       Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox

A woman is kidnapped by a stranger on a routine flight. Threatened by the potential murder of her father, she is forced to assist her captor in assassinating a politician who is staying in the hotel where she works.

Red Eye flights are those which start late night and reach early morning and are named as such because of the fatigue symptom of having red-eyes due to such late night travel. Film is a stripped down thriller which offers what you expect very much in a neat way. Performances are good from the principal characters although one feels that Cillian Murphy, who is Irish, is struggling a little with the American accent he is trying to pull off. The ambition of the film is limited and we are shown whatever is necessary without any pretensions. It is a cheaper looking 'Panic Room' where the claustrophobia of the house and the 'panic room' is replaced with the economy class seats in a plane. It is a solid little film and a great one time watch.

I haven't seen any other films directed by Wes Craven, who is most famous for 'A Nightmare on Elm Street'. The role that Cillian Murphy is not too dissimilar from his Scarecrow in 'Batman Begins' which also came out in 2005. I read a recent interview he did with Guardian I think where he comes across as someone with integrity towards his craft without playing by Hollywood rules. So any films that he picks is pretty much guaranteed to be interesting. Rachel McAdams is supposed to be in talks for a role in True Detective Season two and she is a solid enough actress.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, October 10, 2014

സുകൃതം (Sukrutham) (1994)

Director: Harikumar
Writer:    M. T. Vasudevan Nair
Cast:       Mammootty, Gauthami, Manoj K. Jayan, Shanthikrishna, Narendra Prasad
Language: Malayalam

Mammooty plays the role of a writer/journalist, Ravi, who is suffering from blood cancer. He decides to go back to his family home, to spend his last days, where his aunt & uncle lives. Everyone in the family adjust to the fact he is going to die soon only for him to recover from the cancer miraculously through alternative treatment.  He finds out that this turn of events is an inconvenience for those who are close to him as all of them had adjusted and made plans for life after his death.

I remember watching it on Doordarshan during my schooldays and I used to hate when they opt for ultra serious films like this. Blood Cancer was an epidemic in Malayalam Cinema those days and as soon as they show someone with blood coming from nose, audience themselves can make the diagnosis. Another frequent event was main characters dying from road accidents and people used to watch with baited breadth whenever the director shows an extended shot of characters driving with special focus on wheels. 

Death/dying is the central character of the film with focus on the behavior of people who are in and around the central character. Cancer is something that is left out largely in Hollywood and 50/50 when it came out was commended for tackling an oft neglected topic. So it is good to see that a Malayalam film had tackled the subject so brilliantly that early. Cancer is an ailment that pretty much guarantees death and is a perfect plot device to tackle the topic of dying and how it affects relationships. The film takes it further by complicating everything by having the patient recover from the situation only to discover that everything around him has changed in a bad way. Ingmar Bergman's 'Cries & Whispers' is one which portrays the pain and indignity associated with death in a harrowing manner. In this film, Ravi's response also carries some indignity especially after he recovers. One minor drawback of the film is the naivety shown by him in some situations which does not sit well with the intellectuality of his character. Another thing is they could have done the last act with a little more subtlety. Special mention for the brilliant Narendra Prasad who is always a forceful presence with his amazing voice and dialog delivery. He plays the role of the doctor and the explanation for the recovery is given in a convincing manner because plenty of things associated with human body and its mechanisms are still a mystery. Film relies on the popular adage that when it comes to cancer, plenty of things depend on how the patient respond to the reality of their situation.

The film is written  by the ever dependable M.T Vasudevan Nair, the most recent recipient of J.C. Daniel award. It is not directed by M.T's frequent collaborator Hariharan, but by  Hari Kumar whose other films include Jaalakam, Udyanapaalakan and Swyamvarapanthal. An interesting trivia about the film: It was produced by Mr. Atlas Ramachandran who has become a sort of cult figure among Malayalees with his characteristic appearances in Atlas ads.The film won the national award for best film in Malayalam for the year 1995.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, October 9, 2014

പക്ഷേ (Pakshe) (1994)

Director: Mohan
Writer:    Cheriyan Kalpakavadi
Cast:       Mohanlal, Shobana, Shantikrishna, Thilakan, Innocent
Language: Malayalam

Balachandran (Mohanlal) had to sacrifice his childhood love (Shobana), to marry into a rich family who only wanted his IAS status, in order to save his poor family. He lives a life of regret and despair even as his father-in-law (Thilakan) uses him to get over the bureaucratic hurdles.

The film is a simple love story which doesn't take the usual cinematic path. It is a failed love where they sacrificed their relation for the family and when they meet again after ten years, it again takes the same path. It is different in the sense that we don't usually get a mature midlife crisis film in Malayalam. I has seen it more than fifteen years back and on re watch it is not as good as I thought it was. It relies too much on coincidences and one particular character taking a an uncharacteristic and unexplained u-turn which is not at all credible. Still it is a very good watch largely because of the good cast and different treatment to an age-old story.

It is interesting that Pavithram, which also came out in 1994, had Mohanlal and Shobana playing a not too dissimilar couple in a similar storyline even though that relationship is not central to the story. I always used to rate Pakshe as the better film out of the two but I might have to change that if I see Pavithram again. Thilakan-Mohanlal is one of the best father-son duo in Malayalam cinema and in most of their most famous roles they are usually at loggerheads. In Pakshe also it is no different but there is a minor difference with Thilakan playing Mohanlal's father in law. When I checked the poster for Pakshe I got the DVD cover which had Mohanlal and Shobana from 'Manichithrathazhu' in it. It reminded me of the DVD cover of the film 'Mudra' with Mammootty posing with an aimed revolver sporting a sun-glass no less. Talk about misleading viewers.

Rating: 3/5
 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Director: Bryan Singer
Writer:    Christopher McQuarrie
Cast:       Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite

A sole survivor tells the twisty events leading up to a horrific gun battle on a boat, which begin when five criminals meet at a seemingly random police lineup. 

Many films that got released after Reservoir Dogs tend to get tarred as Tarantinosque because of what people perceived as style influences. Sometimes these comparisons can be very lazy because it could mean any one or more of the following: Non-linearity, Violence, Profanity, Inane ramblings about things that got nothing to do with the plot. For me the thing that is the most prominent characteristic of a Tarantino film is the last one-random conversations between the characters. I guess Usual Suspects got tarred with the same brush because of the liberal use of the F word and its non-linearity. While Tarantino films are never about the plot or mystery, Singer-McQuarrie film is all about that and it is one of the best in this category. Tarantino described it as one of the worst among what are categorized as post-Tarantino films. It will depend on what your definition of post-Tarantino film would be but it is certainly one of the best films from the 90s.

1995 was the breakout year for Kevin Spacey with his turns in Se7en and The Usual Suspects. The actors signed for the film taking pay cuts and creators struggled to get it financed. It was made with a budget of $6 million and was a critical and commercial success. The marketing for the film featured posters with the line 'Who is Keyser Soze?'. Some people have criticized the twist to be disingenuous and as something similar to 'it was all a dream' kind and I don't agree with that. Even if he made some of  it up, there is certainly plenty of truth in what he said based on what the other survivor from the boat says-the 60% burnt Hungarian. The script is genius and the direction exceptional. Towards the end of the film it frames two people as Keyser Soze one after the other in no time based on montage and repeated dialogs. It is some feat from Bryan Singer because the film would have failed if the audience didn't really get what he was trying to say. I have seen it about 7 times I think and it is always interesting, which is proof for the quality of script and acting, despite it relying on mystery/twist. 

Christopher McQuarrie won the academy award for original screenplay and Kevin Spacey for best actor in a supporting role. It is a shame that Singer and McQuarrie didn't go on to make any other film that are even remotely as good as The Usual Suspects. Singer is now more of a studio director and McQuarrie had directed 'Jack Reacher' recently and is currently directing Mission Impossible 5. He also wrote screenplay for Tom Cruise starring 'Edge of Tomorrow' and 'Valkyrie' which was also directed by Bryan Singer. If one were to compare, I would say Christopher McQuarrie is making a better fist of it these days than Singer.

Rating: 5/5

Den skaldede frisør (Love Is All You Need) (2012)

Director: Susanne Bier
Writers:  Anders Thomas Jensen, Susanne Bier
Cast:       Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dyrholm, Molly Blixt Egelind
Language: Danish, English

A hairdresser who has lost her hair to cancer finds out her husband is having an affair, travels to Italy for her daughter's wedding and meets a widower who still blames the Worlds for the loss of his wife.

I decided to watch the film when it came on TV because I remembered it being given a good review by Mark Kermode. The story is kind of predictable in a feel good way but what makes it different is the odd characters and their relations in the two families that came together for the wedding. There is a real class difference between the two families and the groom is struggling with his sexuality. The father of the bride decides to take his much younger girlfriend to the wedding and the groom's father is getting hit on by his sister-in-law even as he falls in love with bride's mother. So it all kind of complicated and cringey but that makes  it different. That said it is not nearly as good as 'About Schmidt' or 'Sideways' because it kind of falls in between the rom-com and cringe-com genre. The original Danish title of the film translates as 'Bald Hairdresser'.

Trine Dyrholm was in 'Festen' and 'A Royal Affair' both of which were great. I should get back to watching 'Borgen', which is a Danish political drama TV series. The problem I have with it is that I have already watched 'The Wire' and you kind of judge everything on that. Each episodes of Borgen tend to get resolved  which I don't like. The advantage that a TV series have over cinema is that they can use the time that they have to build characters slowly and progressively and I don't like it when they try to resolve something in an episode itself. I digressed (lame attempt to fill the page). Love is All You Need is a decent watch without being great.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Inception (2010)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer:    Christopher Nolan
Cast:       Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy

A thief who steals corporate secrets through use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a dying billionaire mogul's son.

It was I think the first and only English film that I managed to watch very close to its release date (second day) after waiting for it with great anticipation since the inception of its viral campaign. Didn't get tickets at Satyam Cinemas and saw it at Devi which is not a very good theater in Chennai. I again saw it at Satyam the next week and when Escape Cinemas opened in Express Avenue, I saw it for a third time which is my highest for any film in terms of big screen viewing. Some idiots will quip that I saw it multiple times because I didn't understand it but they can do one. The basic story is not very hard to understand if you pay attention but when you see it for the first time you will feel the same way way as the characters do when they wake up in the plane. You kind of understand it but is not entirely sure of it. The multiple viewings help to fill the gaps and appreciate the level of details they have carefully woven into it making a convincing narrative. The ambiguous ending gives us the license to speculate. Some viewers were put off by the ambiguity of it but I didn't think it was disingenuous. The fact that the character Mal is doubtful about the reality of it and the conversation they have at the end about the improbability of the world that Cobb believes to be reality should give the viewer enough amount of doubts to support the ambiguity. 

It can be rightly described as the only block buster big budget film from recent times that demands a lot from the viewer and takes their intelligence for granted. Nolan got the backing from the studio to fulfill his vision based on the strength of the performances of his Batman films. I am kind of ambivalent to Nolan these days because he tend to get very overrated by the fanboys and I don't care much for his Batman films. I just wish he uses his time and clout to make more original films like Memento, The Prestige and Inception. A criticism that one could make at Christopher Nolan is that his films don't have many/any memorable character developments and the only one that I cared much for is Guy Pearce's Leonard in Memento. He is all about big ideas and innovative narrative techniques and creating interesting characters is not his forte. Memento has a DVD extra feature in which you can watch the film in chronological order and it is apparently very lame. That just shows how good the direction was for Memento to make a very ordinary story seem genius by the way it is shown to the audience. That said, Seinfeld kind of did it first without resorting to short term memory loss in the Indian trip episode 'The Betrayal'. 

If I were to rank Nolan films as of now the order would be:

1) Memento
2) Inception
3) The Prestige
4) Following
5)Batman Begins
6) Insomnia
7) Dark Knight
8) Dark Knight Rises

Nolan has indicated that he is open to the idea of making another film in the Inception universe and all the actors are signed on if he eventually plan to make it. I am not too sure about it because the main attraction for it was the big idea of it that he presented and if that element of surprise is not there I don't think it will work out.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writers:  George Clayton Johnson, Jack Golden Russell, Harry Brown, Charles Ledrer
Cast:      George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts

Daniel Ocean and his eleven accomplices plan to robe three Las Vegas casinos owned by Terry Benedict simultaneously. 

It is a remake of 1960 film with the same name and is supposed to be way better than the original. Soderbergh is a director who largely followed the principle of 'One film for me', 'One film for the studio' so that he could obtain the funds to cover the subjects that he really likes while still staying in the studio system. I am a big fan of his films in the former category (Sex Lies and Videotapes, Kafka, Limey, Traffic) but even while making commercial ones for the studio he managed to make some real good films like Contagion, Magic Mike, Side Effects, The Informant and last but not least Ocean's Eleven. From the films that I listed you may very well guess that am not a big fan of 'Erin Brockovich' and 'Out of Sight'. Soderbergh, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon are people with similar sensibilities with all of them being leftish liberals and from the outside looks like not the typical 'Egoistic Wanker' Hollywood type. Soderbergh, Clooney and Pitt had already made it in in Hollywood lark and Damon was still up and coming with Bourne Identity on the pipeline when Ocean's Eleven came out.

It is slickly made with an offbeat kind of humor which can be off-putting for some. Plot is a little complicated but not impossible to follow. The film has a twist in it but it is not really about that. Despite being billed as a crime thriller, it is really a cool comedy with big stress on the cool part. The same team followed up the film with Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen making it a trilogy. The second one a real bad film and third one is decent. I have seen all of them multiple times.

It seems Soderbergh is finally fed up with the studio system and the present state of Hollywood with him announcing retirement from making films and moving into TV with the HBO series 'Knick'. It is a real shame because some of the films that he made off late were all good except for Haywire. HBO TV movie 'Behind the Candelabra', for which he was not able to get a release in US, was also great with outstanding performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. If I were to name my favorite Soderbergh films, then the current order would be something like:

1) Sex Lies and Videotapes
2) Kafka
3) Traffic
4) Contagion
5) Ocean's Eleven
6) Magic Mike
7) The Limey
8) Behind the Candelabra
9) The Informant
10) Side Effects
11) Ocean's Thirteen
12) Erin Brockovich
13) Out of Sight
14) Ocean's Twelve

Damn, he was a prolific filmmaker since I am yet to see many of his not so well rated films. With the Ebola outbreak and all that, I think it is a good time to revisit 'Contagion'.

Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

Director: Brad Bird
Writers:  Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec
Cast:       Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist

The IMF is shut down when its implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name.

The fourth one in the franchise is the best one yet with some very fresh action set pieces and 'Burj Khalifa outer wall climbing' being the highlight. The regular features in the MI films like self destructing messages are done with plenty of humor and Simon Pegg is given more importance to good effect. The pace at which it goes till the end of Dubai sequence is breathtaking after which the events are a bit of a letdown. By then it uses up all its set pieces in the great category and culminates with the sequence in India which was very tiresome. The last five minutes of the film is unbearable and I really don't know why they had to include it. What is up with with all the ambassador cars in what is supposed to be Mumbai.

The good thing about Tom Cruise action films is that since he does most of the action sequences without a stunt double, you really get the thrills the action set pieces commands. What makes this one the best is the right kind of humor accompanying the action sequences which generates genuine laughs without being corny ('No shit', 'Masks', Simon Pegg one liners). There is the typical Tom Cruise run to be added in his compilation and this time you get a different shade of it in a sandstorm. 

I don't know whether the studio was planning to groom Renner for the lead role in the subsequent installments but it seems the same acting team will star in the next one which is due out next year. Christopher McQuarrie (Usual Suspects) will be directing it and that is an interesting choice. The directorial pick for Ghost Protocol was also out of left-field since Brad Bird made his name by directing animation films with this being his debut in a live action one. He certainly made his mark with this film. I enjoyed it more than Skyfall even though it lacked a proper villain. I really wish I had seen it at the cinemas.

Rating: 4/5

സെല്ലുലോയ്ഡ് (Celluloid) (2013)

Director: Kamal
Writers:  Vinu Abraham, Kamal
Cast:       Prithviraj, Sreenivasan, Mamta Mohandas, Chandini
Language:Malayalam

The story of J C Daniel, who made the first Malayalam film 'Vigathakumaran' in 1928, resulting in his exile from hometown due to bankruptcy and eventual downfall.

Film is a must watch for Malayalam cinema enthusiasts. I say that because it is a story that one should be aware of and not necessarily because it is a great film. The film has its flaws, especially in the former half of the film which depicts the making of 'Vigathakumaran'. The caste aspects and its equations are overplayed and J C Daniel is portrayed as a whiter than white character. There was really no need to overly show him and his family being above all that. The action of casting someone from the 'lower caste' to play a 'nair girl' in the film would have been enough to convey where  he stands on these matters and they could have left the rest of it in a subtle manner without banging it on our heads. It would have left some element of surprise regarding the fate of 'Vigathakumaran' when it was eventually released. It would also have given some credibility to the 'J C Daniel turning his back on his family' angle which comes later in the film after his attempt to produce a second film.

The film gets much more interesting when it jump cuts to 1966 from 1928. Portrayal of an old J C Daniel by Prithviraj is surprisingly good. Film is based on 'Life of J C Daniel' by Chelangatt Gopalakrishnan and 'Nashta Naayika' by Vinu Abraham. Sreenivasan plays the role of Gopalakrishnan , a film journalist. He finds out J C Daniel's whereabouts in Tamil Nadu and make efforts to get him the recognition that he deserves from Kerala government. The cultural secretary played by Siddique is apparently the famous author Malayattoor Ramakrishnan and the chief minister during that time was K Karunakaran. This generated some controversy due to the casteist interpretation of their actions in the film even though their identities are not explicitly given. The final jump cut to 2000 coincides with the release of Mohanlal starring 'Narasimham'. The irony is not lost because that clusterfuck of a film ushered in plethora of Malayalam films having larger than life heroes from which we haven't still recovered.

Overall the film is a very good watch. The flaws in it are the ones to be expected from an above average director from the old school era. The two songs in it are excellent giving the feel of the times but the necessity of them in the film can be questioned. I am getting quite fed up with the reliance on local slangs as a comic vehicle in these kind of films. It is one thing when it is done by actors who can definitely carry it and other when limited actors try to do them in a farcical manner

Rating: 3.5/5