Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jumanji: Twice Right.

There are some movies that you're convinced are never going to work, and they doesn't- like Baywatch. And then there are some movies that you're convinced are never going to work, and surprisingly they does- like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Jumanji was one of my favourite movies. It was funny and goofy and transported me to another world altogether. Every scene threw in a new surprise. And Robin Williams was amazing. When I heard they were remaking it, I had serious doubts. And then I heard Rock will appear in it with Jack Black. Still I had my doubts and gave upon it.

But when it released, it had a fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. So I decided to try it. And I feel it is exactly what it promised it to be- loads of fun. The makers were very successful in tapping the best out of all leading actors. The story is crazy, but kept me engaged. It was a wise move to make Jumanji a video game instead of a board game in the first part. Another good move was to make the whole movie set inside the jungle instead of being in the home like the first part. These re-touches made it different from the prequel and allowed to widen the canvas considerably.

The movie was largely dependent on the personalities of the main characters and they doesn't let it down. But it wasn't as magical as the first one.

Darkest Moment: Dialogue driven War thriller...

As an Indian, Churchill is no hero for me. The guy is an imperialist responsible for many atrocities like the Bangal Famine. His attitude towards Indians is condemnable. He forced Indian soldiers to fight for England and used Indian resources for the effect of war. There are many accounts of the valor of British soldiers in World War 2, but not much is heard about Indian soldiers who fought in the war and the Indian wealth used in fighting it. There is much for me to loathe him as deep as Hitler from an Indian view point.

Now, when I watch a movie made about Churchill, should I permit my bias to meddle with enjoying it? I am of the opinion that history is history, but when you make a fictional movie or write a novel by adapting an historical event, you should be ready to grant it a certain leeway for dramatic effect. Otherwise it is better to watch a documentary.

So when I sat to watch Darkest Hour, fully knowing the premise of it, I was all ready to watch it unbiased and take only the good things out of it. Darkest Hour is the story about Churchill's ascent to prime-ministership as a compromise candidate and how he manages to steer the opinion of his parliament and the public towards fighting Nazi threat instead of negotiating for peace.

The movie is mainly dialogue driven. But after finishing it, I had the effect of watching a thriller. There are no action sequences or battle scenes, and absolutely no suspense because we all are pretty aware how it turned out to be. But the rapid breathless pacing and the urgent atmosphere makes it feel like a thriller. Surprisingly, the movie has moments of humor and sentiment interspersed, which helps enormously in its enjoyment.

I had an issue with a scene were Churchill goes to public to ask their opinion. It was a sudden change of atmosphere and tone the movie was taking and so unbecoming of the man whom we saw till that moment. The scene doesn't seem probable and its depiction is also a bit unrealistic. I feel now that it was more like a dream that he had and not an actual happening though nothing in the movie substantiate my version.

Gary Oldman deserves his Academy Award for best actor for his characterisation of Churchill. To be using that much prosthetic and make up and still emote the subtlest nuances, is indeed great talent. He makes the man more endearing and human than his textbook depictions. I'm sure the sensitivity that his  Churchill displays in many scenes is a cinematic liberty to make us root for him.

If you loved the Nolan movie Dunkirk, you will be glad to see a more wider historic look on it here. The movie is a companion piece to Dunkirk and provide necessary exposition that Nolan never bothers to provide us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Ugly, Slimy Miss Lovely...!!!

There are certain movies that makes you feel terrible and drained out and filthy. You desperately need a bath after watching them. They are unpleasant affairs, with difficult subjects and not ready to sugar coat their intentions...

Miss Lovely is one such movie. It is about the C-grade Hindi movie industry scene in 80s and tells the story of two brothers whose business is to shoot cheap horror movies mixed with sleazy glamorous soft porn scenes. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the reluctant younger brother who, after meeting a beautiful girl and falling in love is desperate to make a romantic film. To do this, he has to break away from his dominating brother and it turns out to be an impossible task.

Miss Lovely is shot in a style and tone very similar to the cheap movies it is about. It contains very less exposition about its characters or their motives. It switches its genre effortlessly to crime thriller, noir, romance and an indulgent art movie. This switching of style can be a turn off for lot of viewers.

Miss Lovely is not a movie for all. It needs a certain tolerance and understanding of art to fully appreciate it... and lot of patience.

Hate Crime in Bomb City

Human beings, in a historic perspective, always had difficulty in appreciating someone different from them. Those with different color, language, religion, political ideology or even sexual orientation are always looked upon with suspicion and even hate. Things are slowly getting better with passing time and these days generally we see that, being at least tolerant with the different other is a value that is held in a high pedestal.

One reason for this change is the more globalised world where distances are getting reduced with advancement in technology. Also, in the emerging consumerist world, it is always beneficial for all to keep the bridges open and promote more give and take of ideas, technology and wealth. Another contributing factor is the thought processes of people that is generally getting more and more radical, because of the wealth of information and knowledge available at their disposal compared to earlier periods of history.

Still we see cases where primitive hatred and suspicion of someone, clouding the judgement and causing acts of intolerance against others who doesn't subscribe to their views. Hate crimes still happens all around the world. Bomb City is a movie about one such crime, a true story that happened in Amarillo, Texas, where a young punk singer was killed during a brawl, overrun deliberately by a speeding car, driven by another teenager, someone with better approval from community, because he's an active athlete and conforms to societal norms.

For me the more painful part was that the killer was acquitted by the jury, who comprised of individuals who looked down on the rebellious attitude and dressing style of punk kids. They refused to consider the evidences and testimonials that established beyond any doubts that it was a deliberate murder. It seems that the whole community took part in the murder, as they looked down upon a bunch of kids who adopted a different lifestyle choice other than theirs.

Bomb City seems deliberately manipulative at times, by trying to force the goodness of its protagonist into our throats consistently. It plays out like a propaganda sometimes. But even if we overlook it, it is evident that the point the movie makes is valid. This is a movie that forces you to think deeply about the world with all its differences.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Stoneman Murders: Dangerous, Noirish Nights

In 1980s there were a series of murders that occurred in Mumbai, then Bombay. Street dwellers- beggers and homeless persons who slept on footpath were killed using a heavy stone. The police were never able to solve them. Some years later, these kind of murders started in Calcutta. The media termed the incident Stoneman Murders, due to the usage of heavy stones as weapon. The police again failed to convict anyone.

Debutant Manish Gupta adapted the case into a suspense thriller titled The Stoneman Murders in 2009. The movie failed to generate any hype though was loved by critics. I wanted badly to watch it then, but soon had all forgotten about it. Last day, I happened to watch it, and it turned out to be a great experience.

K K Menon shoulders the movie with a fabulous performance as a disgraced policeman whose last chance to continue being one, is to solve this case. He is supported by a strictly adequate supporting cast led by Arbaaz Khan. Soon K K is on the brink of losing his sanity over the tough case. Will his persistence and diligence bring results?

The highlight of the movie is the cat and mouse chase between the killer and the officer, the killer being always one step ahead. It also helps that the protagonist is depicted as a questionable character with noble intentions, but rather unconventional method of investigation. K K exudes intense obsession and ruthlessness. The dark atmosphere that pervades the screen for most of the running time of the movie and its ominous score, builds up great suspense.

The resolution of the mystery, I felt was a bit disappointing. Another turn off was the actress who played wife of the protagonist. She was a sore thump in acting department. But the noirish setting and an atmosphere that screams danger every moment, along with an astounding performance of K K makes this worth a watch,

Mukti Bhawan: A story about death that teaches to live...

Mukti Bhawan is a lodge in Varanasi, on the banks of river Ganga, that facilitates the last days of elderly, who are ready to embrace their death. An old man realises his time has come and decides to live his last days there. But his decision forces his son to reluctantly take leave from his job and accompany him. This movie details their stay together at Mukti Bhawan.

A movie that's about death and the last days of people is expected to be bleak and depressing. But, surprisingly Mukti Bhawan or Hotel Salvation, as it is known internationally, neither. The movie, though having a laid back and leisurely pace, is vibrant and embraces life. It gives reassurance to its viewers that though death is a certainty, it is not something to be scared of. On the contrary, impending death is something that gives value to your life. The movie that starts off as a celebration of death, culminates into making a case to live our lives fully.

The movie, as I mentioned before, is slow, but interspersed with subtle comedy. The characters whom the father-son duo encounter are very real people. But it makes us feel that each of them are special in a unique way. It turns out to be a life changing lesson for the father and son. Their stay in Mukti Bhawan makes them to know each other more. The son gets to know the value of his life and his family. The father realises that though he has faltered as a father, he has made peace with it and still can prepare for his demise as a content person.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Kammara Sambhavam: Subversion of truth to make History

Kammara Sambhavam is a movie about rewriting the past to manipulate the present. This is an ever relevant topic, something that has been happening, is still happening and will always be repeated till the end of human race. The team behind this movie deserves a pat on the back for attempting something like this on such a grant scale, within the framework of commercial Malayalam cinema. The movie starts off as a lavish period movie and then evolves into a biting political satire by the end.

A minor political party needs a mascot, whom they find in an old freedom fighter Kammaran Nambiar whose story they found in a book written by an English officer. They decide to make a movie to educate people on the contributions of Kammaran. But then they realise the truth, that what happened actually wasn't as rosy as depicted in the book. Still they decide to go on with their agenda, tinkering history to their needs, adding masala elements to concoct a massive pot boiler of a movie.
The movie is shot wonderfully well. The locations are great, the acting is superb and its technically pretty awesome. Dileep and Siddharth does a commendable job with their roles, as well as the supporting cast. First half of the movie is incredible and immerse you in with some good suspense and great characterisation. But...

But, it is the second half that spoils all of it. I won't go as far to say it is bad, but still that part of the movie is jarring. In the second half they show you the movie they made within the movie. This movie is the one that's supposed to make the common people to like and idolise Kammaran. Well, it doesn't... I really wanted to like it after investing a lot on that great first half, but I could not. I know it is a great concept, something never attempted before, but the makers couldn't pull it off convincingly.

To summarise the movie, first half is a good period piece and second half is just a bit better than a Jalian Kanaran comedy skit. I would still recommend this movie for its great message and the incredible first half.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Carbone: Financial Crime Thriller with Street Credentials...

A bankrupt industrialist invents a new scam of cheating government by reselling the rights of CO2 pollution. The plan was to silently siphon the government off some millions and quit before shit hits the fan. But when some very questionable characters gets involved in the deal, all hell breaks lose. This is the premise of French thriller Carbone that I watched the last day. I wasn't expecting a Scarface when I heard about this one. But Carbone is a generic crime drama that ticks all the requirements of a reasonably well made one.

This is a story that's told hundreds of times, with the only USP being the novel method of scamming, which was borrowed from actual events. But the only flaw in the movie turned out to be the unclear way in which these deals are shown, without much details and with alarming simplicity. I'm not sure if the overnight rags to riches change is possible at all.

Otherwise the very run off the mill plot is narrated with much sincerity and passion. The actors were excellent. The pace of the movie never breaks and the emotional core of the whole enterprise is surprisingly believable. The climax is also similar to many movies of similar nature, but quite powerful.

Carbone doesn't open any new paths for future crime movies to follow. But I felt that the worn out premise is sufficiently covered with enough thrills to satisfy the fans of the genre.