Friday, March 31, 2017

The Great Father (2017)

Director: Haneef Adeni
Writer: Haneef Adeni
DOP: Roby Varghese
Cast: Mammooty, Arya, Baby Anikha, Sneha
Language: Malayalam

David Ninan (Mammooty) is the great father, to his daughter Sarah whose hero worship of him makes you think whether the makers were intentionally going for a pretty potent Electra Complex in the initial part of the film. She tells tales to her schoolmates about David's supposed exploits in Bombay where he locked horns with the underworld. He is now a builder in Kerala and they are a rich posh family with the doctor mother being the other member. But the great father fails to protect his daughter when she meets with a harrowing experience in his absence. What follows is the father having to live up to the built-up reputation by bringing the culprit to meet a father's justice even as an acrimonious Andrews Eapen (Arya) is leading the investigation from the side of cops.

The film takes a while to get going and it is after the incident that happens to David's daughter that things start getting interesting. There is a lot of foreplay in the first half before David unleashes his black beast vehicle just before the interval point. This is good because it puts stop to most of the cheap potshots aimed at Mohanlal that was placed in the beginning of the film to draw some cheap applause. Second half of the film involves David leading a parallel investigation and he is ahead of Andrews most of the times. Plenty of stylish scenes are thrown in, where Mammooty is at his best, but the last stunt in the film is quite comically bad. Director had avoided having Mammooty do lot of stunts by keeping most of it off-camera with us being shown only the consequences. They would've been better off if he had defeated the peadophile serial killer using his brains rather than through a very laborious action sequence. Most of the action sequences in the film are quite poorly done including the car crash sequence at the beginning. Where it scores is with its stylishness, BGMs and the tender moments in first half of the film. There is one jump-scare moment which won't look out of place in a horror film.

Arya as Andrews Eapen is surprisingly good and the kickass BGM that accompanies him aids it in considerable measure. The film is produced by August Cinemas and the trademark yellow and white van makes another appearance after Double Barrel and Darwinte Parinamam. The film has a good chance of making it big in the box office as peadophilia related harassments are a hot topic in Kerala these days and the producers have cleverly positioned it as a family film as well. The film has even one character arguing the other side about peadophilia which is again a recent hot debate topic. Comedian Louis CK did it best with his bit in SNL and it is the best argument for looking at the problem with a little more open mind rather than shutting down the debate entirely.

Overall the film is a good watch with underwhelming beginning and end. Those who expect an overload of 'cool' scenes tailor made for fans might get disappointed and as will people who expect an intelligent thriller. You will be satisfied if you are expecting a mix of both. In that sense it is quite similar to Oppam but since it was marketed as a clever thriller, I was disappointed with that film. Great Father's marketing as a mix of many things will aid it as it manages the expectations.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Director: Tom Ford
Writers: Tom Ford, Austin Wright
DOP: Seamus McGarvey
Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aron Taylor-Johnson

A wealthy art-gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband's novel, which she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale.

Amy Adams plays the character of art-gallery owner who is living an unhappy bourgeoisie life in LA. She receives a draft of the first novel from her ex-husband who has named it after his nickname for her- Nocturnal Animal. The film has three timelines- present times in LA, the novel which is set in present day-ish Texas and New-York of twenty years ago when they met. The three locations play up to their usual stereotypes. When she reads the novel and visualises its characters, it is Jake Gyllenhaal himself who is playing the protagonist. While critiquing his writing, when they were married, she had accused him off writing about himself. Ending of the film is such that you suspect that the novel is quite autobiographic for him.

It is an excellent watch even though you do think it is kind of shallow and hollow after you finish watching it. That is kind of fitting considering how the protagonist's LA lifestyle is depicted. She seems to think that it is his revenge on her and there is this art painting titled 'REVENGE' she gets disturbed by, which can be seen as a nod to this. But I don't think that is how the audience is intended to take it.

I haven't seen any of Tom Ford's other films and he made his name as a fashion designer. It indeed is quite stylish in the present LA settings. The opening credits is certainly a very memorable one. Performances from all concerned are excellent and it is always a delight to watch Michael Shannon in action. Some might accuse a certain flimsiness in the characterisation of the novel part of the film but I thought it worked well to keep reminding the viewer that you're in a novel within the film.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, March 25, 2017

നായകൻ (Nayakan) (2010)

Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery
Writer: P.S. Rafeeq
DOP: Manoj Paramahamsa
Cast: Indrajith, Thilakan, Siddique, Jagathy
Language: Malayalam

The film revolves around a Kathakali artist, Varadanunni (Indrajith), who joins the underworld to take revenge on those who killed his family.

Malayalam cinema is going through a new wave movement right now and there can be a debate about which film's release can be considered as its starting point. Many cite Rajesh Pillai's 'Traffic' as it and its commercial success could be the reason for it. It is a film which I didn't particularly like but was a decent attempt nevertheless. If you look bit more back in history, Lijo Jose Pellissery's debut feature, Nayakan is a more valid candidate as the striking characteristic of this new wave is a more visual way of storytelling and Lijo is the best exponent of it. Traffic was one which relied too much on speech as a very obvious exposition tool and that was its main drawback.

Nayakan is more of a technical achievement, which is a given in LJP films, than being an interesting story with interesting characters. Like his recent film Angamaly Diaries, which is also his best one yet, it is told in a quite non-linear fashion. The characters in it are quite campy and some of the performances and getups quite amateurish, including the one from the director. Siddique character in it seems to be a reference to Gary Oldman from Leon. Both LJP and Prashanth Pillai have grown tremendously well in their craft but Nayakan still is a very worthy effort as a debut one. It kind of becomes quite non- interesting by around the midpoint of the film but the glorious climax action sequence helps the audience to leave on a high-note.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, March 18, 2017

അലമാര (Alamaara) (2017)

Director: Midhun Manuel Thomas
Writers: John Manthrickal, Mahesh Gopal
DOP: Satheesh Kurup
Cast: Sunny Wayne, Aditi Ravi, Renji Panicker, Aju Varghese, Seema G. Nair
Language: Malayalam

Midhun Manuel Thomas' third feature film, Alamaara, revolves around a newly married couple and their marital problems encapsulated by the troubles an Alamaara, gifted by the girl's parents, would bring. Even before the marriage, the parents from both camps are at odds with each other and small problems snowballs in a comedic fashion.

I loved MMT's first film as a director, Aadu ,
which has cult status now among Malayalee audience. It didn't do well at box office and his followup to it, Ann Maria, did do well even as it was not nearly as good as the former. It was a good one-time watch and so is the case with Alamaara. It has its comedic moments and little bit of wackiness, but no way close to Aadu. Highlight of the film is the narration by Salim Kumar as the Alamaara itself. His tone and delivery is so good that you're reminded of the old days. The fact that his health has been quite poor and looks so thin these days might have added some nostalgia value to this voice only performance.

First half of the film is paced quite well but you do feel quite a lag in the second half. It is bit of a hit and miss when it comes to its comedy bits as well as performances. Manikandan, Kamattipaadam fame, is cast as Sunny Wayne's maternal uncle and is a spoof of Kerala's garden variety Sanghis who do like a bit of beef with lots of onion. Sunny Wayne works well as the aloof protagonist but does struggle during the scenes where he has to bring some intensity. Aditi Ravi, debutant leading lady, is alright in her role but the recent spate of real life looking heroines in Malayalam cinema have made appearances of traditional movie star like looking ones a bit disconcerting.

Overall it is just a decent one-time watch but you expect much better from MMT. His lack of involvement in the writing process is reflected in the output. This feels like a quick project that he needed to finish off before putting the shift in for the eagerly anticipated sequel to Aadu. I had seen it yesterday morning (First day, first show) but delayed in writing the review coz I was as lazy as Midhun was while he made this movie.

Rating: 2.5/5

Friday, March 3, 2017

അങ്കമാലി ഡയറീസ് (Angamaly Diaries) (2017)

Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery
Writer: Chemban Vinod Jose
DoP: Girish Gangadharan
Cast: Antony Varghese includes among the 86 debutants who absolutely rocked

Angamaly Diaries tell the tale of sort of a low level gang from their childhood to their late twenties. You really don't associate a sophisticated underworld with a town like Angamaly and Lijo sticks to the basics as he depicts the incidents from their lives which chiefly revolves around Pork farming business. I was not aware that Angamaly was famous for its pork and it is apparently big business there.

Angamaly is the meeting place of two of the busiest roads in Kerala as the NH 47 meets Main Central road (MC). It is also the place where the first multiplex of Kerala was established. Only in Kerala you would find a multiplex inside a State Transport bus terminal complex. Even though it is just 35 Kms from my hometown, I am not too familiar with it because Kerala is such that you will have around 6 biggish towns in a 30 KM radius with their own identities, based on the way LJP portrays Angamaly.

This is the film which follows up LJP's big budget disaster Double Barrel . Unlike most people, I very much enjoyed Double Barrel while I disliked, Amen, his only commercially successful film so far. Double Barrel is very good and could have been great if he had cut around 20-30 minutes from it. The fact that he is making a film featuring an all debut cast might have blessingly reined him a bit as it is cut to right length at 132 minutes. It is filled with delightful humour and second half of the film revolves around an incident which happens at the interval point.

What is unique about the film is the relationship between its so called heroes and villains. They give it and take it in a professional manner without too much personal vendetta coming into it. It is nothing personal, purely business. Since we're unfamiliar with such a treatment in our films, there is a constant sense of dread amidst all the humour which aids the film. LJP had also told that the treatment he is going for in the film requires unfamiliar faces as he didn't want the audience to have any preconceived notions about how they might behave. I totally understand now what he meant by that. Performances from the entire cast is just magnificent and it is the villains who ultimately steal the show.

You expect top notch quality on the technical front from an LJP film and he delivers on that unsurprisingly enough. Prashant Pillai's music is rawness at its best and BGM is stylish for all the set-pieces. Film's climax features a 11 minute single shot sequence featuring, apparently, around 1000 people. It is breathtaking but I wish I was not informed of it ahead of the release by the makers themselves. I can't really find any faults with the film and can't wait to watch it again. It should do well at the box office as there were claps both at the interval point and when it finished.

Rating: 5/5