Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mud (2012)

Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer:    Jeff Nichols
Cast:      Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland

Two teenage boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love.

Mud is Jeff Nichols followup to his excellent atmospheric 'Take Shelter'. This film is also set in rural America and is basically a coming of age story. When you strip it down it is very cliched, but being in the good hands of Jeff Nichols and the excellent cast it is a very good watch. You care enough for the characters to be quite happy with the feel good nature of it even though the central story is flimsy at best.

Didn't realize it was Reese Witherspoon playing the character of Juniper. Michael Shannon also plays a small role in this film.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Only God Forgives (2013)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer:   Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast:      Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm

Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok's seedy underworld, is compelled by his mother to avenge the death of his brother.

If you though the film is about a Thai kick-boxer from the trailer, the joke is on you. It is difficult to interpret, but guess it is about Oedipus complex and the guilt that Julian is experiencing. Vithaya's character-could be a figment of Julian's imagination or not. Every shot is a visual treat and the violence is just poetic. Film was widely panned by the critics, but fuck them. It is an amazing watch even though nothing is certain about the plot. Several laugh out loud moments are there. Watch it in the right mood.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chopper (2000)

Director: Andrew Dominik
Writer:    Mark Brandon Read (Books), Andrew Dominik
Cast:      Eric Bana, Simon Lyndon, David Field

Chopper tells the story of Mark "Chopper" Read. a legendary Australian criminal who wrote his autobiography while serving a prison sentence. The film is based on his book 'From the Inside' which was a best-seller.

I saw the film without having much background information about the character on which it is based and the film starts with a disclaimer that it is a heavily fictionalized account. Don't know how true it is but you can see Eric Bana giving a career best performance in a role you won't associate him with based on the roles he has done in Hollywood. Film marked the debut of the hugely talented New-Zealand born director Andrew Dominik who has made just three films in the last thirteen years, all of which can be classed as great films.

If you like gritty dark comedies then Chopper is a must watch. The film uses color very well to contrast between the prison scenes and the society scenes. However I saw it in a shitty youtube print.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, July 19, 2013

Side by Side (2012)

Director: Christopher Kenneally
Writer:    Christopher Kenneally
Features:Keanu Reeves, David Lynch, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Derek Ambrosi

The documentary investigates the history, process and workflow of  both digital and photo-chemical film creation.

I was under the impression that the film vs digital film was all about the difference in quality and the cost associated with the two. Never thought about how big a difference digital film making is having on the entire process of making a film. The size of the camera, length of a single shoot (limited to 10 mins in traditional films), ability to see what you have shot instantly; all of this is a sea change from the days of film cameras. All the post production levels have undergone seismic change with the arrival of digital;be it editing, coloring and archiving. With all these changes the power is also shifting within the Director, DP, Editor and colorist. 

The directors and technicians who are getting interviewed for this documentary can be classified as those who are in favor of digital (David Fincher, Robert Rodriguez, Soderbergh), those who are against it (Christopher Nolan) and those who are kind of neutral (Scorsese). Keanu Reeves who is doing the interviews is kind of neutral but is a bit nostalgic about the films. It is fascinating to see the reactions of various people to the big change that their industry is experiencing. A must watch for those who are fascinated by this medium.

Would have liked to see Quentin Tarantino getting interviewed as he is one who is so pissed off with digital and the change that is happening in the industry that he is planning to retire after making his tenth film.

Rating: 4.5/5

Gozu (2003)

Director: Takashi Miike
Writer:    Sakichi Sato
Cast:      Yuta Sone, Sho Akiwa, Kimika Yoshino
Language: Japanese

A Yakuza enforcer is ordered to secretly drive his beloved colleague to be assassinated. But when the colleague unceremoniously disappears en route, the trip that follows is a twisted, surreal and horrifying experience.

Channeling the spirits of David Lynch's surrealism and David Cronenberg's body horror, this is another mindfuck from the Japanese film machine that is Takashi Miike. The film starts off nicely enough in a genre conforming way unlike Miike's films but soon enough descends into the realm of horror surrealism. As is usually the case with Takashi Miike's films, it ends up as a farcical comedy with a literal 'Anti-Climax'. Film ends with the image of three main characters living happily in an implied menage a trois arrangement. Miike operates in our Freudian sub-conscious territory.

The film was meant for a straight to DVD release but it was well received at Cannes and it led to a theatrical release. A must watch for people who are familiar with Miike's work and for others, they might be better to start off with his other works like Odishon or Black Traid Trilogy.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rescue Dawn (2006)

Director: Werner Herzog
Writer:    Werner Herzog
Cast:      Christian Bale, Zach Grenier, Steve Zahn

A US Fighter pilot's epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission over Laos during the Vietnam War.

It is another film for which Christian Bale shed a lot of weight and if it is for a chance to work with Werner Herzog, then it is totally worth it. The film was shot in reverse chronological order as it is easier to gain weight than to shed it. Shot in beautiful landscapes, it is another Man Vs Nature story from Herzog based on the real life experience of Dieter Dengler. It is not a contemplative piece as is usually the case with Herzog but a tale of raw endurance aided by a huge amount of luck. We as audience will feel the same joy as Dieter when he is rescued finally. There is no in your face show of patriotism or courage which is not usual in these kind of films. 

Dieter Dengler committed suicide in 2001 after being diagnosed with a neurological disorder. Herzog had earlier made a documentary titled 'Little Dieter Needs to Fly' about the same story in 1997.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Field in England (2013)

Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers:  Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley
Cast:      Michael Smiley, Reece Shearsmith, Julian Barratt, Peter Ferdinando

It is a black and white film set during 17th century English civil war where a group of people escape the war through an overgrown field. One of them influences others into a search for a man he is looking for and a psychedelic trip follows where the captor turns captive.

It is difficult to describe the film. It has been classed as a horror film but I found it to be more of a dark comedy. I was not too impressed by Wheatley's previous film 'Sightseers' but this one was a great watch. It is technically excellent and has a solid script to back it up. Script is by Wheatley's frequent collaborator and partner Amy Jump.

The film was released in several platforms simultaneously. Apart from getting a limited theatrical release, it was broadcast in Channel 4 and Blu Ray DVDs were made available and also as video on demand the same day. This could be the way forward for small budget Avant-Garde independent films. The multi-platform release was very successful.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Arappatta Kettiya Gramathil (Malayalam) (1986)

Director: P. Padmarajan
Writer:    P. Padmarajan
Cast:      Mammootty, Nedumudi Venu, Sukumari, Ashokan
Language: Malayalam

Arappatta Kettiya Gramathil, which translates as 'In the village which wears a warrior's belt', is a film from the legendary director P. Padmarajan based on his short story of the same name. It revolves around three men who end up in a brothel in a remote village and the problems they encounter in the next 24 hours.

The film can be interpreted as a critique of the society in general in terms of its hypocrisy. The three characters played by Mammootty, Nedumudi Venu and Ashokan can be seen as representation of the director itself by being amoral hedonists. The arrival of a new girl in the brothel causes communal problems in the village as both the leaders want first dibs while the girl refuses since she was cheated into the situation. The three men end up rescuing her from the situation. The last act of the film is a bit conventional as it tries to find a moral center. 

It is amazing that such subject matters were dealt in Malayalam cinema in those days. Recently Malayalam cinema has taken a turn for the better with plenty of films  pursuing edgier themes even though nothing exceptional has been produced so far. Hopefully we will see better outcomes as a result of these first steps.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, July 5, 2013

The House of Mirth (2000)

Director: Terence Davies
Writers:   Edith Wharton, Terence Davies
Cast:       Gillian Anderson, Dan Aykroyd, Eric Stoltz

A woman risks her chance of losing her happiness with the only man she ever loved.

It is an adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1905 novel set in New York. It is about the tension among the upper class about social status, jostling by the newly rich and the perils of thinking independently in such a set up. It is an unforgiving environment and the protagonist, played excellently by Gillian Anderson, finds it out for herself that conformity is the only option. The theme is universal and applicable for almost all the societies of the world.

Rating: 3.5/5