Sunday, November 30, 2014

Predestination (2014)

Directors: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Writers:    Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig, Robert A, Heinlein
Cast:         Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor

The life of a time-travelling Temporal agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

It is another one of those thrillers with time travel as theme with a twist of Inception thrown in. To pick holes in its plot is a futile exercise since time travel films are anyway rife with 'Bootstrap Paradox'. So best way to judge the film will be whether you were immersed in it throughout and whether you want to watch it again. It did both of those for me and therefore I reckon it is a great film. The cast is great and the directors who are known as 'The Spierig Brothers' look promising. It is another good Australian film in an year which looks like a great one for Aussie Cinema. 

Let me see if I have got a hang of the plot. If you are planning to watch it, I would recommend so, don't read ahead. We learn over the course of the film that time travel was invented by an organization in 1981 and you can travel 53 years on either side of the year zero, 1981. It is used to send Temporal agents to the past in order prevent crimes and Ethan Hawke is one of those. There is a a terrorist called Fizzle Bomber on the loose in late 60s and early 70s with his biggest operation happening in 1975. Ethan Hawke is assigned to do prevent the fizzle bomber. First scene of the film has someone getting burned while handling the bomb and someone else is also intervening on the proceeding and the bomb goes off. My initial impression was that the man who got burned was the agent and he is given facial reconstructive surgery. Then it cuts to Ethan Hawke who is given another go and he goes back to 1970 as a bartender and meets a writer who tells him his/her life story. After the story is over Hawke prompts him to join the organization and before that he takes him back to 1963 where he meets his past, which is a she, and proceed to have sex with her conceiving a baby. The baby is stolen by Ethan Hawke who goes back to 1945 and put it in the orphanage and it grows up to be the girl from 1963. So far- the writer, the girl and the baby are same people. So the writer fucks with himself/herself giving birth to herself/himself who is taken back to continue the cycle. Then Ethan Hawke makes one more attempt at stopping the bomber and it turns out that the burned man was indeed the bomber (first scene). He again goes back in time and reaches 1975 where his time travel machine was supposed to decommission, and it does not, and he pieces together clues to find out that the bomber is another older version of him and he kills him. It turns out that the writer, girl, baby, Ethan Hawke and bomber are all one and the same. I don't know whether it made any sense to you but the million dollar question is what is the purpose of all this and whether there was any real fuck ups they are trying to fix. At the end of it, what exactly he is trying to fix is not clear. Maybe the girl is fucked by different versions of herself and the point of the story is whether she ends up bitter after it. Since the bomber had long hair, Ethan Hawke must have thought it was she who was the bomber but in fact it was another version of him. But that doesn't make any sense since she is anyway gonna have sex change operation. It is a clusterfuck. I know what happened in the sense that all of them are the same person but the motivations are not clear. I guess I will watch it again but I don't think all of it will become clear. Maybe it was just a cerebral experience in terms of figuring out the plot and nothing much more to it.

Film is based on Robert A. Heinlein's short story "—All You Zombies—".To sum up it is great watch, rehashing the Looper theme but it goes several iterations further. Cast is great but I don't know whether it will remain great on further viewings. Whether you enjoy it or not will very much depend on how arsed you are about plot making any sense. 

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Gambler (1974)

Director: Karel Reisz
Writer:    James Toback
Cast:       James Caan, Paul Sorvino, Lauren Hutton

Alex Freed is a literature professor. He has the gambling addiction. When he has lost all his money, he borrows from his girlfriend, then his mother and finally some bad guy that starts chasing him. Despite all this he cannot stop gambling.

Film is semi-autobiographical based on James Toback who also was a professor with gambling problem. It is also seen as a loose adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's short story 'The Gambler'. One would expect a thrilling humorous film if you go by the title in similar lines to 'The Sting'. It is anything but. It reminded me of 'The Hustler', which was also a very serious film that I also went in thinking it would be a light one. It is a serious look at Gambling addiction  and posits that the addicts are people who look for prospects of losing to give them the fix of uncertainty associated with it. Freed himself says that he let go off bets that he knows has a high chance of winning in favor of longer odds one that would give him the necessary fix of uncertainty and pain. If that is not clear enough for the audience, you have got the end sequence of him behaving in a destructive manner at a non-gambling scenario when his gambling debts are on the clear. The film plays with the audience expectations giving them a protagonist who doesn't give them anything to root for and when the debts are cleared, we are also as uncomfortable as him since it ended up corrupting him. 

I don't know how credible this portrayal is for gambling addicts as a whole but at least it was like that for James Toback, who wrote the screenplay. It is getting remade by Rupert Wyatt (Mark Wahlberg as lead) after a Scorsese-DiCaprio remake project fell through. James Caan starring 'The Gambler' is a great watch with it being an adult look at gambling addiction without any glorification.

Rating: 4/5

St. Vincent (2014)

Director: Theodore Melfi
Writer:    Theodore Melfi
Cast:       Bill Murray, Jaeden Lierberher, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts

A young boy whose parents have just divorced finds an unlikely friends and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door. Bill Murray plays more or less himself in the film, like George Clooney in Gravity, and Naomi Watts is his Russian hooker friend.

It is a formulaic feel good film with a great cast. Bill Murray, the kid and his mother are great in their roles and Naomi Watts is alright. It is filled with some great one-liners and the performance of the kid is particularly great as you get what you expect from Murray. It loses  its steam towards the end but is nevertheless a very good watch. 

Bill Murray is someone who is famous for being very inaccessible for the filmmakers to get him act in a film unless you are Wes Anderson. So you can pretty much guarantee that the film he picks will be interesting on some level. Naomi Watts must have picked this one to get a chance to share some screen time with Bill Murray.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thief (1981)

Director: Michael Mann
Writers:  Frank Hohimer, Michael Mann
Cast:       James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Robert Prosky, James Belushi

Becoming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safe-cracker agrees to do a job for the mafia, who have other plans for him.

A thief doing one last job before retirement scenario has been done to death in cinema and if you trace the lineage, maybe you will conclude that Michael Mann's feature film debut 'Thief' to be the big daddy. Mann worked five years in television drama before making this film and you can see many of his trademarks already in there-meticulous attention to detail, groundbreaking soundtracks, exquisite night cinematography. All the tools that are shown being used to commit the robbery are real ones and the actors were trained to do it. I think the only other film I have seen James Caan in is Godfather, and he himself rates Thief along with the former as his best performances. His mannerisms are quite similar in both and maybe it is characteristic to him. Soundtrack for the film was done by Tangerine Dreams, who also did Risky Business which I saw quite recently.

While watching Thief, you will realize how much it influenced Ryan Gosling starrer 'Drive'. Both Caan and Gosling portrays characters who are basically very similar even though they both give it very different identities due to their mannerisms. The famous dinner scene monologue lays bare the character in Thief and it very well explains his motivation behind the actions he take at the end. Apart from James Caan's great central performance, you also get some great performances in very small roles-his fatherly prison friend, his bar man, an Asian waiter who is there in only one scene etc. One part in Michael Mann's collateral that I thought was very corny was Jamie Foxx's stupid post card. Well, it turns out that it was a homage to Thief which also had a central character motivating himself with something like that. Now I cannot wait to re-watch 'Heat' to pick up other references he might have placed in it. 

It is a difficult film to describe as it is very experiential and is a must watch Neo-Noir genre classic. Up there with Micheal Mann's best who occupies a unique place i Hollywood being a genre onto himself. If you go by decades I have always considered 80s to be the weakest for English language films. I might have to reconsider that position as I catch up with some 80s classics and Thief certainly classifies as one.

Rating: 5/5  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

JFK (1991)

Director: Oliver Stone
Writers:  Oliver Stone, Zachary Sklar
Cast:       Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones

A New Orleans DA discovers there's is more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.  He disputes the Warren Commission's lone assassin theory and contends that multiple shooters were involved which by default makes it an act of conspiracy. 

Am not a big fan of Oliver Stone. Platoon was great while I found the rest of the films that I have seen of his to be average (Scarface, Natural Born Killers & Any Given Sunday). I am also not a big fan of 'Conspiracy Theories' because I don't think it is quite possible to keep a lid on what they accused to be conspiratorial involving a large number of people. So I was really not that inclined to watch JFK but I think the situation in US is such that it is not a stretch to believe that such an assassination to be carried out involving people occupying the highest of its intelligence community. I have been listening to Dan Carlin's 'Hardcore History' podcast lately and there was this one episode in which he discussed the cases of World leaders being under the influence of things they were taking which might have affected their decision making. He cites Napoleon, Hitler and Kennedy as some examples of people who were administered a lot of drugs by their doctors that won't be acceptable  these days. Kennedy's case is unique because his medical records, that were declassified recently, offers us access to see whether he could have been under the influence while we cannot say anything for sure about the older leaders. Kennedy was taking a lot of steroids and other stuff from a doctor whose license was revoked years later for doing the same for different pop stars. That reminded me of a theory which said that CIA assassinated him basically because his decision making was very impulsive and that he almost started a nuclear war. So it is suffice to say that I was kind of primed to watch this film.

The film won praise for its editing and it was very important for it to make sense to the audience with the use of flashbacks, reenactments and what not especially with its running time of close to three and half hours (Director's cut). Still I found the first half of the film, which basically is an investigation into who Lee Oswald was, to be quite boring with  an average script. Still it is essential for it to be there for you to buy the conspiracy theory that the film is advocating in its second half. Kennedy, in his time as US President with decisions on Cuba, Soviet Union, CIA oversight (through McNamara) etc, could have been assassinated for various different reasons and the film points the fingers at US intelligence community and Defense Department with their motive being Kennedy's decision to withdraw from Vietnam. Post war US being a War machine which looks for it in all places so that the various businesses could line their pockets from it is a  position that has been strengthened due to Dubya and his neo-cons' excursions in Iraq. I found the second half of the film, which went into answering 'Whydunnit', to be more interesting but I don't know whether it was because I watched the film over two days. 

Many can argue about the veracity of what Oliver Stone is claiming but all have to admit that it is great film-making. His attitude was that against what he claims to be a fictional myth like Warren Commission's version of the event should be a counter-myth from his side. At the end of the film it states that all the documents connecting to the event will be declassified by late 2020s only but after the release of the film JFK act was passed which led to the formation of Assassination Records Review made (ARRB) because of which  declassification will occur as early as 2017. Films don't matter, eh?

Obvious parallels could be made with Costa Gavras' 'Z' and Kurosawa's 'Rashomon'. Stone himslef said that Z was more of an influence with it also featuring a political assassination in a fascist state. Oliver Stone, himself a Vietnam war veteran, has made plenty of Vietnam war films and JFK can also be considered to be one of them. As for the question of believing the conspiracy theory surrounding JFK assassination- am inclined to buy it. JFK is certainly Oliver Stone's best film.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lucy (2014)

Director: Luc Besson
Writer:    Luc Besson
Cast:       Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi

A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Luc Besson said that Lucy will be part Leon, part Inception and part 2001: A Space Odyssey. Well, it is all that without any of their seriousness. The scientific theory of 'Humans only using 10% of their brains and what if they use more of it?' scenario is not very credible but don't let that fact prevent you from enjoying the film. The same thing was used in 'Limitless' where also it was some drug that enhances the brain usage. In that film the story was more about how the protagonist was using it for his own gains while Lucy finds herself to be less of a human with her increased capabilities and is not motivated by things like greed. She decides to put it for a good cause by getting in contact with a professor (Morgan Freeman) who did some theories based on the central premise. In that regards it will remind one of 'Transcendence'. Anyway when you consider the three big sci-fis that came out this year-Transcendence, Lucy and Interstellar, Lucy was the most fun basically because it didn't take itself too seriously. It was the second most expensive French production and was a big box office success grossing close to $460 million, which is remarkable considering that it was a female led R-rated film.

The film has a definite B-grade and Grindhouse vibe to it which actually made it more enjoyable. The car chase scene in particular was very cheesy like one you would find in a Bollywood film. Some of the visuals used for the 2001 like sequence was great. Luc Besson did some great work in the early part of his career (The Big Blue, Subway and Leon) after which he has remained primarily in the cheesy action genre mainly serving as executive producer for franchises like Transporter and Taken. His turn as director for something like Lucy which mixes the sensibility of the action genre with his own sensibilities from the earlier part of his career, turns out to be really enjoyable mish mash of a film.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Risky Business (1983)

Director: Paul Brickman
Writer:    Paul Brickman
Cast:       Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano

A Chicago teenager is looking for fun at home while his parents are away, but the situation quickly gets out of hand.

Film is a satire on rich suburban teens who are meant to join Ivy league colleges and faces the pressure to be 'Perfect'. Normally people would describe this film as belonging to the coming-of-age genre, but I don't think there is not much of that for Joel (Tom Cruise). He is still kind of naive at the end of  it as he is in the beginning and does't go full 'What the fuck!'. When he gets his dad's Porsche back from the workshop, you can see kids on bi-cycles overtaking him. I don't know whether this kind of genre-bending is intended or it is a case of director not wanting to be criticized for giving a 'bad' message. I will lean on it being intentional and the film works well as something which sits between a film like 'The Outsiders' which is almost melodramatic and 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' which is an all out comedy.

Film launched Tom Cruise to stardom and the Ray-Ban Wayferer model's annual sales shot up by 2000% after its release. It was very well received critically as well as commercially with considerable praise for its intelligence and stylishness. But I don't think it has aged that well especially considering the quality of the films that came in the genre subsequently. The soundtrack is done by 'Tangerine Dreams' giving it a characteristic 80s feel along with the opening credits.

Rating: 3/5 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Closer (2004)

Director: Mike Nichols
Writer:   Patrick Marber
Cast:      Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen

The relationship of two couples become complicated and deceitful when the man from one couple meets the woman of the other. 

Film is an adaptation of Patrick Marber's award winning play of the same name. The director Mike Nichols, who passed away yesterday, is also someone who jumps between stage play and films and is quite adept at adapting a play into film. The film does have a stage play feel to it when it comes to the dialog and same can be said of Nichols' debut classic 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?', which won Elizabeth Taylor an academy award. Closer landed academy awards nominations for both Natalie Portman and Clive Owen. Nichols is of course most famous as the director of classic romantic comedy film 'The Graduate' and apart from the three films mentioned so far, I have also seen his last directed film- 'Charlie Wilson's War' which was also a good one without being a romantic comedy.

Closer will not be suitable to everyone's taste but I loved it. It is evident that the director, a veteran of this genre, cuts through all the bullshit and give us an adult look at the subjects. The two ladies are Americans while the gentlemen play English characters like their real selves. I don't think there is any conversation involving anyone other than any two of the four main characters and all the four characters are in one room only during one scene. The play and thus the film is based on Mozart's opera 'Cosi fan tutte' which is referenced in the films quite a few times. The funniest couple of scenes in the film involve both the male characters. Clive Owen, who plays the Dermatologist, is the only one who is sure of what he wants and continually sows the seeds of destruction for Jude Law's relationships. Over the course of the film the power relations in both the relationships get inversed along with their habits like cigarette smoking/non-smoking. Overall the film is a great watch if you are up for what I felt was a very different treatment.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Coherence (2013)

Director: James Ward Byrkit
Writers:  James Ward Byrkit, Alex Manugian
Cast:       Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon

Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead. 

Film is mostly restricted to a living room and the quantum theory based on the famous analogy of Schrodinger's cat is kind of used to give credibility to the story. In the Schrodinger's cat analogy, the cat will be either alive or dead once you open the box whereas it can be both dead and alive as long as the box is closed. The film uses the comet moment of the story to postulate that it caused a state called coherence/ decoherence (Am not sure which but I suspect the latter) which is the many-worlds interpretation of the quantum mechanics. In this state, different versions of reality are interfering with each other. In the film when the current goes off, some of them leave the house they are in but sees the same house two blocks away in which their other world versions occupy. By the end of the film all of them seem to be from different versions of the reality with their own totems which can be used as an identifier. It is a very interesting way to use scientific idea to create a very different film. But it is better to see as a fantasy mystery than a proper sci-fi film.

Film was made on a micro-budget of $50K and marks the directorial debut for James Ward Byrkit. I put off watching the film since his IMDB page showed his involvement with the shitty Pirate of the Caribbean franchise. Turns out he was involved just in the Art Department of those films. Considering the budget it is certainly a very good effort and is worth a watch. It is not as inaccessible as  'Primer' which proved that there is an audience for such mindfucks. Some of the expositions in Coherence are cringey and you kind of question their initial reactions to events. But once things become clear it is very good and it will be interesting to see when the different characters get out of the house to see whether all of it hold up to scrutiny.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wonders of Life (2013)

Presented by: Professor Brian Cox

It is a five part television documentary series presented by physicist Professor Brian Cox about the origination and evolution of life on our planet Earth. Coming from a physicist, there is obviously a stress on physical and chemical properties which made life possible and its evolution into complex beings on Earth. The series was produced by BBC and China's state television network CCTV.

The five episodes, each of which is set in one particular continent, covers:

1) What is Life? -This episode is set in South East Asia explains what is life and how it began on Earth. The possible starting point is given as deep oceanic vents with the required proton gradient.

2) Expanding Universe?- Episode is set in North America (US) and details how senses arose based on laws of science. Carbon cycle is also explained in detail.

3) Endless forms most beautiful- Is set in Africa and Madagascar examining how complex organisms got evolved and why Earth is such a fertile ground for such evolution. It explains that even though many people dismiss evolution as a random mechanism, it is anything but since there is an underlying mechanism called Natural Selection which governs whether the random mutations persist.

4) Size Matter-This episode is set in Australia and looks at how the laws of Physics determine the range of sizes for organisms that is possible in both land and water and why water animals can grow to relatively large size compared to land ones.

5) Home- The final episode is set in Mexico, and details what makes Earth a home for life and what ingredients were required for complex life to begin. It explains how water got trapped in Earth and also the presence of oxygen in our atmosphere which is vital for the carbon based life that persists in our planet.

I had previously seen Brian Cox presented TV series 'Wonders of Solar System' and 'Wonders of Universe' prior to this, and he does very well to explain basics of things. Coming with a history of being in a music band (D:Ream), these documentaries' of his are characterized by being very atmospheric with great ambient music. I always prefer these to the loud narration and exaggeration of US produced documentaries. It is accessible to all and it is always good to get your basics right. Wonders of Life is not as exciting to watch as WoSS and WoU but it is still very good and the progression is increasingly complex, like life.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, November 17, 2014

Boyhood (2014)

Director: Richard Linklater
Writer:    Richard Linklater
Cast:       Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater

The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to 18. It was filmed over twelve years with the four main actors working with Richard Linklater to film for a few weeks every year to capture the young man's life though it is as much a story of his mother's life. Mason and his sister Samantha are raised by their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) who is already separated from their dad (Ethan Hawke) when the story begins. She gets back into college and get a proper job and along the way marries two other people who are prone to be alcoholic over the course of the film. His Dad who starts off as a man chasing his passions ends up as quite a  financially successful career guy with some regret over leading a more prosaic life. 

It is a hard film to describe but is certainly one of the best films I have ever seen and is a cinematic achievement. I don't know if something like this has been ever attempted before. It was not even possible for Linklater to tie the actors to a contract due to the De Havilland law, which makes it illegal in US to contract someone for more than seven years of work. I don't know how well charted out the story outline was when they began, but I suspect Linklater must have improvised as they went on to suit with how the kids were growing up. Mason grows up to be a introvert who is passionate about photography and art. He is also very existentialist and I guess it is Richard Linklater that is talking to us through him. 

There is a point in the film where the transitions in all of their lives comes through clearly. It is Mason's fifteenth birthday and his dad is taking him and Samantha  to visit his wife's parents. As he collects them it is evident that he is now more of a rich family guy who has let go off his passions and Mason's mum is still quite poor, now with her third husband who is ex-marine. The gifts that Mason receives that day from his Dad's family are- a Bible, a suit and a shot gun, all of which are completely at odds with whom he actually is. 

Another great sequence in the film is towards the end when Mason is leaving his mother to go to college. She is now back in a small house without any companions and when Mason refuses to take the first picture of her that he took with him, she breaks down completely. She laments about how her life has just been a series of milestones and the next step is her funeral.'Indian Culture Upholding' assholes can point out how this film is depicting the sad state of Western family system where there is no stable environment for growing kids and how alone the parents would be in their retirement life. Well, then things are not much different in India these days when it comes to the latter point, You can take a look at how rounded individuals these kids are when they are about to hit twenty whereas these careerist fuckwits in India don't really have a clue on how to live a good life (subjective to each individual) till it is too late.

It is funny to see how much Richard Linklater is projecting himself on to Mason's personality. I can safely hazard a guess that he is also a liberal existentialist guy without taking any of of his other films into account. I don't know whether I relate so much to his films just because of our similar outlook to things. I think Republicans won't take the film too kindly. The film ran close to three hours and I didn't want it to end (take note Christopher Nolan) and could have easily seen another three hours of it. I hope they revisit Mason's story again after a few years and he is at a stage where you don't need to film every year. Or as Linklater put it, you can see Boyhood as a prequel to the Before trilogy. 

It is criminal how underrated Richard Linklater is. I think he will certainly be in my top-25 directors of all time list and Boyhood is his master-piece. It now holds a score of 100 in metacritic and 99 on rottentomatoes. 

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Signal (2014)

Director: William Eubank
Writers:  Carlyle Eubank, William Eubank, David Frigerio
Cast:       Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, Laurence Fishburne

On a road trip, Nic and two friends are drawn to an isolated are by a computer genius. When everything suddenly goes dark, Nic regains consciousness-only to find himself in a waking nightmare.

It is another one of those indie sci-fi films made on a shoe-string budget. It largely oscillates between horror, mystery and surreal genres but the basic story is not interesting enough to make it any good. Director puts it as a case of someone conflicted by making decisions based on logic or emotion. It is another sci-fi film from 2014 that wants to put 'LOVE' onto a pedestal along with 'Interstellar'. I don't know if it is because of me being a cynical heartless bastard, both these films didn't really work for me. It is a decent enough watch which makes you go 'Is that it?', at the end. Oh, aliens abducted them and are being tested on in their space-ship. Okay, crack on then...

Rating: 2/5 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers:  Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Cast:       Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine

The Earth has become almost uninhabitable due to plunder of resources by mankind and the resulting shortage in food supply. Cooper, an ex-pilot who trained at NASA many years ago, is living as a farmer with his two children and their grand-dad. Possessing still an inquisitive mind, he discovers a secret NASA site with the help of his daughter. There he learns that Earth won’t be habitable for much long and his children’s generation will be its last if they are not able to populate another Earth like planet. They have discovered a wormhole near Saturn and he is invited to go on for a mission which involves travelling through the wormhole to another galaxy in order to check the habitats of potential Earth-like planets. They have two plans-Plan A is solving an equation as they travel which will help in migration of people to the potentially habitable planet or failing, that Plan B, which means using the samples they are taking with them to produce man-kind there. Cooper obviously prefers the former plan since he wants to save his children he is leaving behind along with all the humans that are left on Earth. Problem with their near-light speed travel is that they will age much slower than people in Earth because of Time Dilation.

I caught Inception on the second day of its release and saw it again twice on big screen subsequently. Difference between then and now is that I am not arsed about Christopher Nolan anymore. He is overrated by all and sundry these days and I didn't find his Dark Knight trilogy to be all that. Since Inception, he also served as executive producer for ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Transcendence’, two very average films. So I wasn't expecting much from Interstellar and was prepared to be pleasantly surprised if it turned out to be any good. The factors mentioned above were not the only reasons for my pessimism. With, ‘Interstellar’ he is dabbling with the sci-fi genre for the first time. Some people might call ‘Inception’ a sci-fi film but in my opinion it was more of a fantasy action film centered on a very interesting idea about which they were not obligated to explain whether it is scientifically possible. In ‘Interstellar’, he is supposed to deal with things that are theoretically possible based on the known laws of our universe or other credible scientific postulations. The problem with that is, for a film with such big ambitions, how are you going to do the expositions without it feeling just that to the audience. He did them seamlessly in his films like ‘Memento’, ‘Inception’ and ‘The Prestige’, but those were more related to the suspension of disbelief by the audience and keeping up with the narrative techniques. All these films had very suspect scientific rationale behind their central ideas (creating duplicates in The Prestige for eg) but we were not bothered by it since we were caught up in figuring out the brilliant and complex narrative methods he was using. Another problem with him handling a sci-fi film for me is that all my favourite ones from this genre deals with existential questions (2001: A Space Odyssey, Bladerunner etc) and Nolan is not someone who creates rich characters that we care for. The only one that I cared particularly care for was Guy Pearce’s Leonard in ‘Memento’, which I rate as his best film.

So was I pleasantly surprised by Interstellar? The answer is a big fucking NO!!! As expected expositions were terrible, especially in the first half. Did I care for any of the characters? The answer is again as you might expect: N-fucking-O. The only interesting character in the film was TARS and it was a fucking robot. In a film whose central idea is a protagonist who is conflicted by choosing between trying to save his children or instead stand for the greater good my saving the species-I only cared for a robot. You may say that the most interesting character in 2001: A Space Odyssey was also a robot called Hal-9000. Yes that is true, but it/him was the central character in that story. Did Interstellar touch upon all the sci-fi/Hollywood film clichés? Reluctant hero-check, an Icarus like figure who backstabs the crew-check, token black man in the crew-check, token romance angle-check, a big deception by a father figure-check. I was laughing my arse off (not literally) when Anne Hathaway’s character started theorizing about love as a rationale for picking the next target planet since that is where her boyfriend went. Give me a fucking break! Also the set-piece action/thrill sequences felt like Nolan doing them by numbers so that audience don't get too bored.

The positives for the film are of course the stunning visuals and Hans Zimmer’s fantastic soundtrack. The technical effort behind the film should be appreciated but Nolan just forgot about the basics. I am a person who is very much interested in Cosmology, theoretical physics principles behind the origin of our galaxies, Big Bang etc and I have watched many episodes of BBC’s horizon documentaries relating to those things. If you want to engage your brain in a thrilling way, you are better off watching those than the three hour long Interstellar. Towards the end of it, Cooper jumps into a black hole and goes back in time to help his daughter solve the equations. As far as I know, our scientists don’t have much idea about what happens after the Event Horizon is crossed because the Standard Model breakdowns and nothing is supposed to escape from it. So the scientific veracity of the things shown after that point in the film might be questionable but it might be a case of him imagining things. But truly, I don’t give two shits about it to crack my head on making sense of the film. The most interesting thing that happened was that the server in the cinema hall, where I watched it, hung up when Cooper was meeting his aged daughter right at the end. When they rebooted it, the film started ten minutes prior to that point which was like us going back in time. But the film was still shit.

I have seen some people comparing it with Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’. Gravity was just a disaster film that happened to be set in near space. The things that went right for that film was its near real time length of ninety minutes which didn’t give us time to think too much about any of its silliness. It didn’t aim to be much more than a cool action flick that is purely a genre film and any weak points that it had, was to do with the back-story bit that they tried to shoe horn with some existentialism thrown in. Interstellar is much more close to the level of Transcendence than even a film like ‘Sunshine’, forget 2001. It is the weakest film that Christopher Nolan has directed so far. It is based on Jonathan Nolan’s story and script and Steven Speilberg was initially supposed to direct it. That may explain some of the sappiness.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, November 14, 2014

മുന്നറിയിപ്പ് (Munnariyippu) (2014)

Director: Venu
Writers:   Unni R., Venu
Cast:       Aparna Gopinath, Mammootty, Saiju Kurup

Anjali Arackal (Aparna Gopinath) is working as a freelance journalist and on her assignment as a ghost writer for a Jailer (Nedumudi Venu), she meets Raghavan (Mammootty) who is serving time for murder of his wife and a girl from his boss' family where he was working as a driver. He has already served twenty years, six more than what he was supposed to because he prefers life in prison, and he refutes the contention that he is a murderer to the journalist. She gets interested in his story and gets her hands on some of the philosophical ramblings Raghavan had written which she uses to publish a story about him on a national magazine. She gets a book deal for Raghavan's life story and pressure him to get released from the prison. With the deadline looming, Raghavan faces writer's block which infuriates Anjali even as the communication between them gets strained.

The title of the film literally translates as 'Warning' but the tagline for the film is 'The Deadline'. The big question regarding Raghavan's innocence looms large throughout the film but it is mostly in the background. Anjali does some preliminary investigations regarding that but it seems that she is convinced of his innocence without doing a thorough check in her haste to get a good story and the recognition associated with it. This might not have been a problem for her magazine story, which was more to do with his philosophical writings, but the book deal that she signs up for is supposed to be based on his life story. After he gets released from prison, she arranges his accommodation in a small room so that others don't get access to him and puts pressure on him to complete the whole thing in twenty days. In effect, like her senior colleague suggests, she has moved him from one prison to another and it is totally unreasonable and irresponsible from her part to expect someone to do a creative work with threats of deadlines and financial contracts imposed on them. The sign of things to come are shown to us when she first takes him from jail to the new accommodation, as she chides him for lowering the window glass of her car to get a good feel of how things have changed over the last twenty years. It is not clear whether it is the success that screws up her behavior or whether she was like this the whole time. I think latter is the case because of the first scene in the film where she is reprimanded by the highway police for using phone while driving. Instead of feeling a teeny bit of guilt, she proceeds to blame the colleague of hers whose car she was using for not informing her that the papers of car was not in it. 

Some people have complained about the ending but in my my opinion if you didn't see it coming, you were not paying attention. The pivotal sequence in the film is Raghavan encountering a reader in the streets who takes him to a bar to meet his friends. There they have a discussion about the idea of freedom and Raghavan suggests that freedom is extremely subjective and that for him, being in jail was not a case of his freedom being lost. He then proceeds to say that for revolution, whether it is at home or in society, bloodshed is inevitable. When they press him about whether he killed people for restricting his freedom, he gets agitated and it is only the second instance of him doing so in the whole film with the other being him encountering whom he thinks to be the people he worked for as a driver and whose daughter he is supposed to have killed. I think bar scene in itself is enough for us to draw the right conclusions regarding his innocence and where the film was heading. Another interesting question we have regarding Raghavan is that whether he was this philosophical even before he was in jail or not. During the bar scene when they ask him whether he used to write before his murder case, he replies that writing didn't come as part of his punishment which suggests that it is not something he developed while in jail. If that is not enough for the viewer, then there is the possibility that at least some of ypu must have also felt bashing her head in, like I did, when she was pressuring him to write.

So what I mean to say is that twist, if at all you felt it as a twist, was not at all disingenuous. Performances were excellent from the two leads with Aparna Gopinath being particularly great. I was perturbed by the presence of all the pseudo-intellectuals at the beginning of the film because it is a cliched feature in what are called as new-gen films these days. But that is in keeping with the film since the protagonist journalist in the film is also one. Film got some minor criticism for it being a bit misogynistic and regressive as some people interpreted the advise that some characters give Anjali- to quit doing things if they are not worth the hassle; to be targeting working women. I think that is reading too much into it since that advise is not gender specific. 

 Overall the film is a great one which does not dumb down things with silly expositions for the audience. Mammootty is no s stranger to prison influenced films with Bhootha Kannadi, Mathilukal, and Artham already in his filmography and 'Munnariyippu' is a worth addition. It was Venu's second directorial effort after a gap of 16 years with Manju Warrier starring feature film 'Daya', which also I liked when I saw it many years ago, being the debut one. He made his name as a cinematographer and hopefully wouldn't take this much time to release his next feature.

Rating: 4.5/5  

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

Director: Anton Corbijn
Writers:  Andrew Bovell, John le Carre (Novel)
Cast:       Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Daniel Bruhl, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe

A Chechen Muslim illegally migrates to Hamburg, where he gets up caught in international war on terror. As soon as he lands, he is the target of a German Intelligence Agency wing headed by Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who wants to track him to the next guy higher up in the food chain whereas other intelligence departments just want to arrest and parade him. US intelligence is also represented by Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) who half agrees with Gunther's wait and watch approach.

Film is an adaptation of John le Carre's novel of the same name which was published in 2008. It was based on the real life story of a German citizen of Turkish origin, Murat Kurnaz. It is a critique of George Bush's policy of extraordinary rendition, government sponsored abduction and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one country to another, on the wake of 9/11 as a strategy for its War on Terror. In the film, Gunther is an old fashioned spook who wants to develop a network and and play the long game. As he puts in the film:It takes a minnow to catch a barracuda, and a barracuda to catch a shark. . The whole film is his attempt at doing so in order to get some leverage on a Muslim Charity which acts as a front for Terrorist organizations. 

It is very rare for us to get a spy film about actual spying. Most of the time we get only explosions and set-piece action sequences without much actual spying involved. 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy', another John le Carre adaptation, was also in the same mould as 'A Most Wanted Man' but it was really more of a spying within spooks film. 'A Most Wanted Man' becomes a genre bender when the genre should be all about films like these. This was the last film completed by Philip Symour Hoffman before his untimely death and he is terrific as the protagonist and we expect no less. The characters in it speak English throughout which is more like how Bryan Singer's 'Valkyrie' did without accent. Slight German accent is used in 'A Most Wanted Man' but at no point does it feel corny. Some expositions are not well done and Robin Wright seems to be in awe of Philip Seymour Hoffman but the ending of the film justifies it and it made me go 'all Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes'. 

Overall the film is a great watch and it takes the intelligence of audience for granted. It is always a good sign when you don't want a film to end. Anton Corbijn, who previously directed 'The American' which was also a very good film, is certainly one to look out for. He seems to have done quite a lot of music documentaries and also the Ian Curtis of 'Joy Division' biography film.

Rating: 4/5 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Writers:  Michael Wilson, Rod Sterling, Pierre Boulle
Cast:      Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter

An astronaut crew crash lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved. The crew is supposed to have traveled at near light speed and due to time dilation they aged by only eighteen months whereas in Earth it is around 4000 AD. 

If you want to know about time dilation, general relativity and stuff like that, Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' is highly recommended. I got a vague handle about the concepts when I read it some time back but would like to read it again. The fact that Earth has aged by 2000 years is significant to the story because the big twist in it is that it is in-fact their planet Earth only where they landed, which Taylor (Charlton Heston) realizes only when he encounters the fallen piece of Statue of Liberty at the end. The stress on time dilation in itself is a big clue but you don't really need that to figure out where it is going because just a basic understanding of evolution itself is enough, which the protagonist Taylor doesn't seem to possess. They encounter humans first and then the master of the planet-English talking apes. If they were indeed on an earth-like but different planet, then it is very unlikely that the species evolved over there would be exactly like the ones on Earth. Lets just for a minute suspend our disbelief and suppose that it also followed the same evolutionary path, but then why the fuck should they evolve into speaking the same fucking language. So what I am saying is that if the viewer understands evolution and assumes that people behind the film also do, then from the get go itself you would realize that it is indeed planet Earth. Then the whole thing of that being a twist doesn't really work and only thing you have apart from that in the film is the mildly humorous take on Ape Bureaucracy and scientific thinking which is similar to the one Europe had during the Dark ages. That and Charlton Heston's Humphrey Bogartesque performance as the protagonist-Taylor.  

I had seen parts of the 2001 film with the same name and going by its wiki page the plot is much different to this one. It doesn't seem to rely on this big stupid twist but I don't know whether the protagonist realize it much after Ape starts talking in English. For the original Planet of Apes to work, it needs an audience that doesn't understand evolution like its protagonist Taylor. It might have got such an audience in the late 60s but still that is no excuse. Overall the film didn't work for me not just because of the twist (which I was aware of) but the satire part of it was not good enough to make it interesting.

Film was a big hit and drew praise for the prosthetic used for the apes. Coming as it was during America's Civil Rights Movement, some people also interpreted it as a metaphor for Blacks ruling over whites. 

Rating: 2/5  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Director: Matt Reeves
Writers:  Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Cast:       Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Kerri Russell

Ten years after a pandemic disease, apes who have survived it are drawn into a battle with a group of human survivors. Apes are in a position of strength and the politics in their camp leads to the inevitable war. 

This is that rare case of a sequel being much better than the first film. I guess you can pretty much consider Rise of the Planet of Apes (RatPoA) as the first one in the franchise because it is the one which starts off the story that leads up to the late 1960s film 'Planet of the Apes'. I haven't seen that one but I am aware that it had a twist ending with the humans in it, who landed on the planet in a space ship, finally realizing that it was indeed the Earth by spotting the fallen Statue of Liberty. It was a film which came out during America's Civil Rights Movement, drawing an interpretation of it having a metaphorical racial subtext to the story. One could wonder that, since most people who are going to watch the prequels already know to where it is going, whether they will be able to manage it to be interesting enough. I found the first half of RatPoA to be be quite average but that was required to set up the character Ceaser (Andy Serkis), future king of the apes. The second half of the film was great with a kick-ass final battle on the San-Francisco Golden Gate bridge. 

One would have assumed that Apes might have gone to war with the humans and that is how humans got wiped out from the planet. I don't remember whether there were any clues about the pandemic which was gonna wipe out most of the human race in RatPoA. It seems the characters played by James Franco and Frieda Pinto died due to the disease with one of them possibly being the patient zero. Film starts with Ceaser and his subjects living in the forest thinking that humans are all but gone from near their area. Kuba (nickname of Joseph Stalin) is the fiery first assistant ape to Ceaser and he is bit of a war monger when they encounter a group of humans who are in search of a dam to power up their colony in San-Francisco. Then it is like game theory in action with both groups having characters distrusting the motives of the other group waiting for a spark to start the war. It is initiated by Kuba who kind of do a coup. Ceaser and his human friend try to broker peace without success setting up the prospect for an all-out war between the humans and apes in the immediate future. It is another great performance from Andy Serkis but Gollum still remains as his best role. 

Matt Reeves replaced Rupert Wyatt for the sequel and he manages to make a film with tension throughout and having characters with depth. There is nothing novel about the story since you could replace the groups of apes and humans with the very common case of two countries who distrust each other and are on the brink of the war. The CGI is impressive and the motion capture for the apes were done in external sets unlike the prequel. Overall it is great one time watch but if you ask me whether I am looking forward to the next films in the franchise-it is a case of wait and watch. If the reviews are good like for this one I will watch but not expecting too much since there is not much scope for anything path-breaking story-wise.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Filth (2013)

Director: Jon S. Baird
Writers:  Jon S. Baird, Irvine Welsh (Novel)
Cast:       James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan

A corrupt cop manipulates and hallucinates his way through a bid to secure a promotion and win back his wife and daughter.

Film is an adaptation of Irvine Welsh's novel of the same name. Trainspotting was hilarious and repulsive at the same time whereas Filth lives up to its title by being more repulsive than hilarious. Bruce (James MaAvoy) is a thoroughly unlikable character who bullies and deceives his way through his colleagues projecting all his insecurities on them. James McAvoy's performance as Bruce is great but the problem I had with the film is that the supposed twist at the end has been done to death. Also the tone of the film is not consistent since it cannot make up its mind as to whether it is a comedy or a repulsive thriller. The motivations for Bruce to behave in such a manner doesn't justify his actions making him thoroughly unlikable. I don't have a problem in watching a film where we don't have anyone to root for as long as they don't try to make us rethink about the central character at the end which I think is a bit disingenuous. They should have just gone full retard. It was interesting to see 'Frank Sidebottom' character used in this film since I saw 'Frank' quite recently.

All that said it is a pretty good one time watch with great production quality and soundtrack. Radiohead's 'Creep' at the end is quite apt. Watch it like as if you would watch a cheap B-film like Danny Boyle's 'Trance' was. 

Rating: 3/5

നമുക്കു പാർക്കാൻ മുന്തിരിത്തോപ്പുകൾ (Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal) (1986)

Director: P. Padmarajan
Writers:  P. Padmarajan, K. K. Sudhakaran (Story)
Cast:       Mohanlal, Shari, Thilakan, Vineeth
Language: Malayalam

A beautiful and well-told love story of of a guy who falls in love with the newly moved neighbor girl. But the girl's situation was worst than he thought when he finds that the man who was told to be her father was her step-father.

Film is set in Mysore, Karnataka and the title translates as 'Vineyards for Us to Dwell In' . If you go just by synopsis, it will look like a 'Painkili' story from a Malayalam weekly but in Padmarajan's hands it is just something else. The film stands out basically because of the understated acting and mannerisms. The extra members in Solomon's (Mohanlal) household are characters that many of us would find living in our house at some point of time. Antony (Vineeth) is a college student who is staying in his aunt's house far away from his home. Mary is some distant relative with a tragic past staying in the house and family sort of accepts her into the fold as she is keeping company to the old mother.  The film only consists of a very few characters but the relationships between all the characters, not just the main ones, are properly developed. Most of us would relate most to Antony, who looks up to his much elder cousin Solomon. This is a relationship that is common in majority of Padmarajan-Mohanlal films where Mohanlal plays the cool guy (Thoovanathumbikal & Season being the other two am referring to). Thilakan plays the character of step-father who metes out step-fatherly treatment and even some more to Sophia (Shari), Solomon's love interest. It is another great performance from Thilakan.

I saw the film for the first time some four years back with some friends. We all loved it then and were egging Solomon not to do some silly revenge thing at the end of it, which would have been the path most filmmakers would have taken. Even though I immensely enjoyed it first time round I really didn't think it will be worth a re-watch, and I was wrong. The usage of lines from Solomon's songs in Bible would have been not this good but for the fact that it is Mohanlal who is delivering it. Padmarajan is someone who uses songs and theme music really well to add to the story.  Padmarajan, being a writer-director, is a rare breed in Malayalam cinema. But unlike his most other films which were based on his own writings, this one is a loose adaptation of K.K. Sudhakaran's novel. It is shame that the visual quality of the print that they have preserved is not very good which is true for many films from those times.

Overall the film is a great watch and it is such a simple story very well-told with a great atmosphere. At 137 minutes, it is comparatively a shorter length film by Indian standards. It seems 1986 was a very busy year for Padmarajan with five releases. He directed eighteen films over twelve years from 1979 to 1991 and I have so far seen ten of them. When you put those numbers into context you can see why he is considered to be the greatest Malayalam film director. The ones that I haven't seen are mostly his earlier works.

Rating: 4.5/5 

Monday, November 10, 2014

22 Jump Street (2014)

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writers:    Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman
Cast:         Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube

In this sequel to 21 Jump Street, big changes are not in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.

It is now common in sequel films to make fun of itself for being a sequel and stating it is not as good second time round. Well, I found 22 Jump Street to be better than the first one. The bromance is deeper in this one with the issues like open bromance handled and it is a running gag. It is an alright watch but do stay for the end credits which makes fun of how they are going to milk the franchise over the next decade or so.

Rating: 3/5 

Manakamana (2013)

Directors: Stephanie Spray, Pacho Valez

A documentary capturing different groups of pilgrims who travel to Nepal's Manakamana temple in cable cars. Static camera in the cable car films the visitors during the course of their journey which takes about ten minutes each. Some of the characters are also filmed during their return journey and many of them are seen to be taking animals with them to be sacrificed in the temple.

I don't know whether the characters are aware that they are getting filmed but I guess they are not. Life doesn't afford us moments where we can simply observe aq random someone at close quarters without the fact that we are staring at us altering their behavior. It is like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle-the simple fact that we are observing will alter the subject's behavior. Then there is the fact that it is not polite to simply stare at someone. The film delivers by giving us the opportunity to do so with many of the characters simply sitting in the cable car without too much talking. There is no external music and except for two girls who speak in English, language spoken by them is Nepalese I guess which I don't understand. The print that I had came without subtitles and I thought it was meant to be watched without understanding what they were speaking. When they mentioned the names of people who helped with subtitles during the end credits I just went FFS! Still I can claim that it is an experimental method of watching and if I watch it again, but with subtitles, it could be turn out to be an entirely different film.

Whether the film rewards you will depend completely on the viewer. I saw the first forty five minutes without finding it all that impressive and took a nap. Then I saw the rest of it after the said nap and it was a wholly different level of experience. One journey featured an exclusively animal (goats) travelers who were set to be sold to pilgrims to be used as sacrifices to the God (Must be an asshole of a God). Then there were two very old ladies struggling to eat melting Chocobars. Watching someone eat a Chocobar (any stick ice-cream for that matter) can be hideous and am not talking just about the fellatio connotations. 

Overall it is a very interesting experimental documentary. There have been many videos circulating featuring film clips without their music (Star Wars one for example), You could watch the film without subtitles like me or use it to understand what they are talking about. Anyway it is a great watch.

Rating: 3.5/5 

This Is the End (2013)

Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Writers:   Seth  Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jason Stone (Novel)
Cast:        Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill

While attending a party at James Franco's house, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and many other celebrities are faced with the apocalypse. They initially think it was just an earth-quake but gradually realize that it is indeed the Apocalypse as described in Book of Revelations and they have to be good to each other to get sucked up into heaven.

After watching many contemplative films recently, I thought I would watch something that doesn't need you to involve your brains much and give you some cheap laughs. As expected, 'This is the End' served that purpose without being a comedy classic or anything. The film is cleverer than you think with the characters playing themselves in a self-deprecating manner. There is also an element of spoof in it with there being the token black man in this group of American friends. It is not exactly Bro-mance and the film is not as good as the sum of its parts but it is worth a watch for some mindless laughs.

Edgar Wright's 'The World's End' and 'This is the End' came out quite close together and similarity of their apocalyptic nature was apparent with some preferring the latter. In my opinion 'The World's End is a far superior film despite it being not as good as other films in the 'Cornetto Trilogy'. Among the 'Frat-Pack' films, there have been quite a few over the last decade, the one I like most is 'Superbad' which starred Jonah Hill, Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, though one could fret whether it counts as belonging to the genre but you get the idea.

Rating: 2.5/5

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Üç Maymun (Three Monkeys) (2008)

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Writers:  Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan, Ercan Kesal
Cast:       Yavuz Bingol, Hatice Aslan, Ahmet Rifat Sungar, Ercan Kesal
Language: Turkish

A politician gearing up for election kills someone in a car accident. He persuades his driver to take the blame for it in return for a lump-sum amount of money when he gets released apart from his regular salary that will go to his family which consists of his wife and a jobless son. When he is in the jail, communication breaks down between the members of the family.

The title of the film is based on 'Gandhi's Three monkeys'-which is depicted usually by the sculpture of three monkeys conveying- "See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil".  
It actually originated in Japan in the seventeenth century but became famous as a visual metaphor for Gandhi's non-violent fight against colonialism, oppression and injustice. The other side of this tolerant and peaceful society is one which chooses a head in the sand approach and this is what Nuri Bilge Ceylan explores in the this film. Even as driver's wife enters into an adulterous relationship with the politician, the members of the family chooses to bury their heads in the sand since they can tolerate the disturbing status-quo and is quite happy with the monetary reward. Out of all the Ceylan films I have seen, 'Three Monkeys' is the most plot driven one and it works out as a noir genre piece. It is also the only one in which Ceyan has got writing partners which might explain the tonal difference when compared with his other films. 

I don't know whether the print I got was bad because there wasn't much color in the film and it looked like a grim greyish hell. It could be intentional as well considering the subject matter. Overall the film is a great watch but I think the story is much more relatable for people from the developing world because of the power distance between the characters which the Western audience might find unusual. I didn't particularly like the ending bit where the driver is seen persuading a poor acquaintance to take the blame for a crime that his family committed. Thought it was a half-arsed attempt by the director to shoe-horn a message that people from all classes behave in similar manner when they are in a position of relative power. It is definitely the weakest Ceylan film I have seen but still a very good one.

 Rating: 3.5/5