Monday, 29 October 2012

Trouble With The Curve (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – No Troubles With The Film Though!

3/5 Stars

An ageing baseball scout, Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood), is struggling to retain his position in his organization. His daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who holds a grudge against her father for bailing on her during childhood, joins him on a trip to North Carolina where Gus is scouting for new talent.

It’s a ‘slice-of-life’ film. The father-daughter relationship, the budding romance between Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake and the self-discovery phase that all the three principal characters go through, makes ‘Trouble With The Curve’ a compelling watch.

Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is an ageing baseball scout, who is losing his vision, struggling to keep his place in his organization. His superior Pete Klein (John Goodman), who does not want Gus to go away, asks Gus’ daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to accompany him on a trip of North Carolina to make sure that he is fine. Mickey doesn’t get along with her father, as the latter had left her post his separation with her mother. However, despite the false start, Mickey and Gus reconnect with each other and start sharing their life’s problems. Mickey has her own grievances at her workplace where she has been recently appointed as a partner. Here, the father-daughter duo meets Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a rival team’s scout who was once scouted by Gus when he was a player. The story revolves around these three self-respecting, imperfect and gifted individuals.

The film has a ‘slice-of-life’ story. The actors, Eastwood, Adams and Timberlake, deliver fine performances. Their characters were very real, very human, and thus, so full of infirmities. Gus’ drive to prove his worth despite losing his vision, Mickey holding on to her father despite losing a golden professional opportunity and Johnny trying his very best to look for someone who wouldn’t waste his talent like he himself did when he was a player, makes the film very endearing.

Quite a few ‘little moments’ stand out in the 2-hour-film. Gus’ final call of reckoning, Mickey’s coming-of-age when she manages to hunt down a world-class pitcher, Johnny’s rage when he is discouraged by Gus from picking a much-talked-about player, Baseball conversations between Mickey and Johnny, the romantic equation between the two and many more. The understated performances and subtle dialogues make this film very relatable to audiences across the globe. The screenplay is a bit long than one would have liked, but the film does end on high!

Writer Randy Brown has written a fine, albeit simplistic, story that really strikes a chord with the viewer. There is not much of ‘sports’ per se in the film. Luckily, there’s not much baseball ‘jargon’ in the film. So, even those who do not follow the game will not feel lost while watching the film. 

‘Trouble With The Curve’ is based on relationships and ambition. A finely made film that leaves you a bit overwhelmed.

Shivom Oza

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cloud Atlas (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Beautiful, Poignant 3-Hour Saga

3.5/5 Stars

You may not find the relatively complex story overwhelming, but the sheer scale and magnificence of this 3-hour feature will certainly blow your mind away. An adaptation of the 2004 novel of the same name by David Mitchell, ‘Cloud Atlas’, the film has six interwoven stories from different eras.

The film covers six stories set in different time periods – 19th century, early 20th century, late 20th century, early 21st century, dystopian 22nd century and 170 years after the ‘The Fall’. The story of a particular era is discovered by the main character of the story in the succeeding era. The principal character in all the stories has a distinct scar on some part of his/her body, which, kind of, goes on epitomize ‘afterlife and related theories’. The concept, albeit a novel adaptation, was quite formulaic, but the screenplay, by word, was magical.

The official synopsis of the film reads, “An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.”

The main character of every story has an accomplice who plays an instrumental role in protecting him/her from evil forces (depending on the era that the story has been set in). You have an American notary rebelling against the ill-treatment of a the Moriori tribe, a young English musician going up against his ageing mentor, a young female journalist challenging the establishment, an on-the-run press publisher trying to escape out of a nursing home and a tribesman, living in the post-apocalyptic distant future, fighting an evil tribe. All the stories, characters and thoughts do not necessarily connect in the film, but by-and-large, the underlying theme in each of the stories strikes a chord with the viewer. The 20-minute finale is so gripping and poignant that it will force you to ponder over the film long after it’s over.

The cast of the film is as grand as the word ‘ensemble’ is.

Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Bae Doona, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant among others , give stellar performances and most importantly, look their parts.

The premise of the film is quite unique, so to speak, and the most difficult thing is to get your actors to be able to deliver convincing performances. Such films are never shot in the same order as the screenplay is written. So, huge credit for the work of genius that we see on the big screen should go to the editor, Alexander Berner. Cinematography for such a lavish film had to be gorgeous. The film could have been cut short by around 30 minutes. It could have left a stronger impact on the viewer. The run-time, close to 3 hours, of the film, is one of the few deterrents. The underlying message is wonderful. ‘Cloud Atlas’ just numbs you with its stories, thoughts, visuals and the enchanting music. Avoid judging the film mid-way. If you do go for it, sit back, watch it patiently, and make your assessment. It’s a sum of its parts. Magnificently visualized film, written and directed by Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski, ‘Cloud Atlas’ impresses at many levels.

Its complex storyline and the 3-hour-runtime are the two deterrents. However, it’s a beautiful film with a poignant message.

Shivom Oza

Friday, 26 October 2012

Liv & Ingmar (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Cinematic Love Story!

3.5/5 Stars

Liv & Ingmar is a documentary on the 42-year-old relationship between legendary actress Liv Ullman and the master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. It was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival as a part of The Real Reel section.

It's an immensely touching documentary on the romance, separation and subsequent friendship between the two cinematic legends. The archive footage has been tailored in beautifully as have the scenes from the several films in which they worked together.

Liv and Ingmar met in 1964, lived together for five years, had a child and worked in 12 films. Five decades on, following Ingmar's death, the love has still not died down. The documentary is predominantly interspersed with interviews of Liv Ullman. She speaks about her relationship with Ingmar over 4-5 major aspects. They are Love, Pain, Anger, and Friendship and so on. She speaks about the time that she spent with him at his famous house on an island in Sweden.

She speaks about the good times and the bad times leading to their eventual separation. She also talks about coping up with the separation and pursuing a career in Hollywood subsequently. She goes on to talk about how she bumps into Ingmar again and a friendship ensues!

The concept of the film is quite brilliant. With a balanced screenplay by Dheeraj Akolkar and fine editing by Tushar Ghogale, you don't realize how the 83 minutes breeze past. The music by Stefan Nilsson is touching in parts and when required, escalates the tension in the film as well. It's extremely courageous of Liv to come out and talk about a few uncomfortable aspects about her relationship. You could see that she was overwhelmed while talking about the physical violence and the indifference shown to her by Ingmar during the latter phase of their 5-year-old romantic liaison. It's really gutsy of her to come out and present truth the way it was.

It's a sensitive, touching portrayal about a true love story. Relish it and take something back.

Shivom Oza

Blancanieves (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - Not A Patch On 'The Artist'

3/5 Stars

A black-and-white, silent film, from Spain, ‘Blancanieves’ is based on the Snow White and Seven Dwarfs fairy tale. The film was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival as the closing film.

Although the screenplay and the performances move you, the film in totality is not a patch on 2011's ‘The Artist’. No character in the film has been properly established. The story hurries on a bit too much. However, by-and-large, it's a nice film. Just not a 'memorable' one!

Celebrated matador Antonio Villalta (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) gets injured during one of the bull fights, an accident which leaves him paralyzed. His pregnant wife Carmen (Macarena Garcia) goes into premature labour and dies after giving birth. Antonio, who receives a double blow of the handicap and the loss of his wife, becomes bitter towards his new-born daughter and rejects her. He ends up getting married to the nurse who looked after him (she is after his money in reality). However, things take a bitter turn for everyone concerned except the nurse. The daughter, who is christened Carmencita, lives with her grandmother, in deprivation of the love of her father. The father, meanwhile, has been living in a disparate condition at the hands of the 'then compassionate, now conniving' nurse Encarna (Maribel Verdú). Things worsen once Carmencita's grandmother dies and the little girl is forced to live by Encarna's rules. Carmencita, however, eventually ends up meeting her father, who is confined to his wheelchair, and makes up for all the fun that she missed during the childhood days. She also picks up a few matador tricks from her father. A few years pass by and Encarna decides that it is time to do away with Antonio. After her father dies, a murder attempt takes place on Carmencita as well. Although she survives, her memory does not. And then, she meets the SEVEN BULLFIGHTING DWARFS!

The performances are first-rate. The characters could have been better established though. The screenplay is fine for most parts of the film, but at times it does seem hurried. There is no prominent 'threat' as such in the film. Encarna is the major antagonist but even she gets side-lined during the latter half of the film. The film does lose some of its purpose towards the end. There is no clear justification given as to how Carmencita becomes such a fine matador. There is also no clear reasoning given as to why, post her success as a bullfighter, does she not take revenge over Encarna. There are a lot of unanswered questions in the film. 

While a film like this does not need to be logically flawless, these discrepancies do take some sheen off it. However, the Snow White fairy tale has been adapted in a fine manner. The 'black-and-white and silent' aspect has been handled wonderfully. There is no blatant 'me-too-The Artist attempt here. Director Pablo Berger has made a fine film.

Not a memorable film, but not a deplorable one either. It's a fine attempt. Not a must-watch.

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Electrick Children (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Electrifying!

4/5 Stars

The film Electrick Children, directed by Rebecca Thomas, is about Rachel, a 15-year-old girl who gets pregnant through ‘immaculate conception with music’!

The film boasts of a wonderful concept, beautifully executed by the cast and the director. You cannot classify the film in one particular genre. 96 minutes of joyful cinema on offer - lap it up! Electrick Children was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival as a part of the 'International Competition' section.

Rachel (Julia Garner) is a Mormon girl who has been cut-off from any form of modern technology by her overtly conservative family. However, on her birthday, Rachel chances upon a rock 'n' roll tape. She listens to a track called 'Telephone' on the tape and soon, she gets pregnant! Now, she believes that it was an immaculate conception by music. Her fundamentally religious parents reprimand her for being irresponsible and are about to force her into an arranged marriage. Rachel has no choice but to run away from home. She drives down to what she calls 'Electrick' Las Vegas. Her brother Mr. Will (Liam Aiken), who was also suspected of impregnating her and was asked to leave the house, had been sleeping in the same vehicle that she drove away. So, you had these two, who dress unconventionally, talk in a certain manner, are ignorant about any form of modern technology and do not swear, smoke and drink, in the middle of a city that's renowned for all the above. Rachel starts looking for musicians believing that she will eventually find the father or her unborn child, the singer of 'Telephone'. Will and Rachel start hanging out with this guy called Clyde (Rory Culkin) and his friends. It's amusing to watch the two 'pure souls' let their hair down in the city.

While Rachel is relatively more subdued, Mr. Will goes berserk (even landing up in a jail at one point of time). Rachel, who keeps looking for that musician, marries Clyde in what was the shortest ceremony of all time. Clyde, who is perpetually high, takes it seriously too. The film has a mix of everything, comedy, drama, religion, love, drugs, music! And at the same time, no particular genre takes over the entire film. In essence, the film does have an unbelievable premise but the execution is so wonderful, that you are most certain to overlook the 'plot-holes'.

 The three young actors do a splendid job. Aiken, who plays Mr. Will, had a tough role to perform. On one side, he was the conservative, non-swearing, timid person back home, but a visit to the city changes him completely. That transformation was absolutely delightful to watch. Julia Garner steals the show completely. Her unassuming charm, her impish smile, the innocence on her face and the almost-flawless body language, escalate the film to a completely different level. Rory, who plays the the dope head Clyde, gives a 'buzzing' performance too. Natural performers, these three!

Apart from the wonderful concept of the film, the screenplay and dialogues too worked wonders. Although, the cinematography Mattias Troelstrup is breathtakingly beautiful, at no point does it get indulgent. The story moves along briskly and credit for that should be given to the writer-director Rebecca Thomas and the editor Jennifer Lilly. The dialogues are bound to crack you up. The best part about the film is that no matter however grim the situation is, the comic relief is always there. And, yet you can gauge the seriousness of it all. There are biblical connotations towards the end, but still the film does not lose its 'fun' flavour.

Is this ‘meaningful’ cinema? No. If you need to, can you take a meaning out of it? Yes. In either of the cases, you'll leave the cinema hall with a smile on your face.

Shivom Oza

Amour (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - A Compelling Film On Unconditional Love

3/5 Stars

The lives of Georges and Anne, both of them retired music teachers, change when one of them gets a paralytic stroke. The film is about unconditional love.

'Amour' plays out the emotional card wonderfully. The two leads deliver outstanding performances. However, in its entirety, 'Amour' leaves a lot to be desired. The winner of Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the Austrian film was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival as a part of the 'World Cinema' section.
   
Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are retired music teachers leading a comfortable life in their plush apartment in Paris. Their daughter Eva, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her estranged husband.

All goes fine for the couple, until one day when Anne suffers an attack which paralyses her arm. Her condition worsens post a surgery where she bears the brunt of the 5 per cent failure rate. It is at this point, where Anne is confined to the wheelchair and her bed throughout the day, when the love between the couple is really tested. Georges and Anne still try to lead their lives as normally as they possibly can, given the circumstances.

However, with Anne's growing problems and Georges' own old-age concerns, there are pitfalls one too many. The story is pretty simple. The film is more about 'individual moments'. Georges' inner struggle, the love for his wife, his defiance in ignoring the 'expert' advice of his daughter and his neighbours and battling his own old-age problems, are captured wonderfully. Eva, in spite of being devastated owing to her mother's condition, is shown to be a more practical person rather than an emotional one. Although she does pay the odd visits to her ailing mother, that emotional connect isn't quite there. The atmosphere of a family, wherein you have someone as ill as Anne, is portrayed realistically. There are no emotional outbursts, just helpless, melancholic sighs. Silence plays an important part in the film. Although it wonderfully captures the mood, it does slow the film down considerably.

The rapport between the husband and the wife is wonderfully shown. Immense control in needed to play such characters, and both Jean-Louis and Emmanuelle come out shining. The film, albeit not a heart-wrenching love story, is a sensitive take on old-age. At many points, you will relate to the story notwithstanding your age. On the outset, it is about old-age love but the subject does have a universal appeal. Is love only about finding convenience or is it about adjusting and fending for the other person? If it is the latter, then how far can you go? 'Amour' answers this question. Michael Haneke delivers a fine film. This is as real as cinema can get. Tedious it may be, but it still remains 'real'.

Just because it has won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, does not make it a must-watch. Those who are not fond of 'meditative' films will not like this one. For the rest, love is not as rosy as some books and movies portray.

Shivom Oza

Beyond The Hills (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - A Brave Film On Orthodoxy In Religion

3.5/5 Stars

‘Beyond The Hills’ is a Romanian drama based on the lasting friendship of two girls who grew up in the same orphanage. The film has bagged the 'Best Actress' and the 'Best Screenplay' award at the Cannes Film Festival, 2012. It was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival as a part of the 'World Cinema' section.

With such brave storytelling by writer-director Cristian Mungiu, ‘Beyond The Hills’ raises important issues about religious fundamentalism and the orthodoxy of the leaders. It is certainly a compelling watch and does make you reflect about the state of the times we live in.

Alina (Cristina Flutur) and Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) grew up in the same orphanage and have been friends for the longest time. While Voichita moves on to become a nun at an orthodox convent, Alina stays with her foster parents and eventually moves to Germany to work as a waitress in a bar. It is when Alina visits Voichita at her monastery that problems start brewing. The Father and the Mother at the church are initially weary of having a non-believer and a sinner stay at their holy abode. However, they give in assuming that it won't be for long. Alina, meanwhile, longs for Voichita to come and stay with her in Germany. Voichita, who has given up the worldly ways, does not wish to change her path. Alina has nowhere else to stay. Her foster parents won't take her back neither will the orphanage. She is counting on Voichita to accompany her to Germany and start living with her. Her loneliness gets her to start doing strange things, such as get fits, harm herself etc. She is also frustrated owing to the fact that she is been made to give confessions and prove her 'sanctity' in order to stay in the monastery. Although she does believe in a higher power, it is the ways of the Father that annoy her to no end.

Her extreme behaviour gives rise to a lot of chaos within the place. The Father, who has never been too fond of Alina, takes it upon himself to extract the evil spirit out of her body. So as they start with the painstaking exorcism rituals, doubts start appearing in Voichita's head. The film raises so many important issues. Be it friendship, greed, love, belonging, religion, conservationism, humanity etc., the film strikes a chord on all the aforementioned counts.

The performances of the two girls are absolutely fantastic. There is so much control in their acts. At no point, does their extreme behaviour in the film starts looking theatrical. Even the Father, played by Valeriu Andriuta, is not the quintessential antagonist. Yes, his actions are in no way compassionate, but his character isn't a murderer. It's his ideology that really puts him on the firing line. The film is full of such contradicting characters. It does make you ponder over your own religious beliefs. There's a scene at the end of the film where a police car's windshield has dirty puddle water splashed all over it owing to a passing truck. Watch that scene carefully at the end. You will find a deeper meaning in the film.

Albeit ‘Beyond The Hills’ is a very good film, it may not be everyone's cup of tea. A bit long at 2 and half hours, the film takes its time to grow on you. However, it is brave attempt by the filmmaker and that should be lauded.

Shivom Oza

Ship Of Theseus (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – MUST, MUST WATCH!

4.5/5 Stars

A gifted female photographer, a devout monk and a money-minded stock broker, acquire a new lease of life owing to organ transplants. The film, directed by debutante Anand Gandhi, has been screened at the Toronto International Film Festival 2012. It was also screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival under the 'International Competition' section. Shivom Oza reviews this film.

The film is a must-watch, not just for its 'intellectual' content or its technical finesse, but the relevance of its subject too. It raises quite a few questions on topics as diverse as – Religion, Culture, Morality, Righteousness, Social activism, the works. Director Anand Gandhi has accumulated great performances, breathtaking visuals, splendid dialogues, 'real' locations and more importantly, a fantastic subject, in one film. And this is no mean feat.

The film is divided into three stories. The first one is about a gifted photographer, Aliya (Aida El Kashef). She captures terrific visuals with her camera and can work wonders with her snaps during the editing. Rarely is she ever dissatisfied with what she's clicked. Aliya's considered an extremely special talent, not only because she is a great visualizer. Her gift lies in the fact that despite being blind, she is able to eke out a good picture purely on her sense of hearing and touch. Although blindness isn't a major handicap for her as far as photography goes, she gets a cornea transplant done anyway. Having gotten her vision back, it could be assumed that she gets even better at photography than before. However, she doesn't.

The second story is about a devout Hindu monk, Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi). He is known for championing the cause of animal rights and has been fighting a case against scientific laboratories for conducting product tests on their animals. Although he is in agreement with the fact that animals have to be butchered in order to conduct these tests/ manufacture a product, he is against their ill-treatment prior to their slaughter.

He shares his ideas about life, religion, existence and karma with a young law intern Charvaka (Vinay Shukla). Their conversations completely light up the proceedings and provide the much needed comic relief. At the same time, the ideas that they discuss are extremely thought-provoking and do get the viewer to introspect. Maitreya's problems begin when he is diagnosed with last stage liver cirrhosis. His condition requires him to take large doses of medicines every day. The dichotomy is that these medicines are manufactured by the same pharmaceutical companies that he's been fighting the animal rights case against. 

According to the monk, all existence should be considered equal and not just humanity. Does he go back on his ideologies and get the treatment done or should he practice what he preaches?

The third story is about Navin (Sohum Shah), a young stock broker who has just gotten a kidney transplant done. Having been fixated to the idea of making big money, he never pays any heed to his 'social activist' grandmother's advice that he should go out, experience the real world and fight for something right. Navin comes from a different school of thought. His opinion is that going from village-to-village, distributing condoms amongst the natives is not really going to help. He means that an individual should put his/her own needs before anything else. Add a little bit of compassion, if you please, but largely it's about his/her self-interests. His dichotomy begins when he learns about a poor labourer Shankar whose kidney had been stolen in lieu of an appendicitis operation. Starting to get doubts about whether Shankar's kidney was transplanted to his body, Navin takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of the truth. His idea about life undergoes a change as well.

All the three stories put forth important ideas. The first one conveys that your disability could actually become your greatest weapon. The second one conveys that one could compromise on their 'ideals' to save their own lives. The third one portrays the psyche of an individual who knows that he's been a part of something wrong and that the wrongdoing has worked to his benefit.

At no point does the film, albeit full of interesting and thought-provoking ideas, get slow or in filmy jargon 'meditative'. The dialogues of the film really stand out, especially in the second and the third story. Gandhi has perfectly imbibed 'Mumbai' lingo into the dialogues and at the same time, given them a universal appeal. A lot of scenes, for instance, the conversations between Maitreya and Charvaka, the banter between Navin and his driver Mannu (played by Sameer Khurana), Navin's heated debate with his grandmother, among others, will evoke a lot of guffaws. And it should be noted that these scenes are not funny because they are filled with humour. It's because they talk about something that's real and relevant in today's society. It's the contradictions and the sarcasm that you will find funny.

The story, in itself, is a work of genius. Debutante Anand Gandhi has had the courage to come up with these issues, which are not much-talked-about, and has tackled them with élan. Another interesting aspect about the film is that it does not put forth rights and wrongs. You will find grey areas in every story and there is no 'convenient' closure provided.

There are times when you feel that the second story does slow down a bit. Despite having such well-written scenes, too much attention is paid to the visuals. You can't help but feel that the monk's story does overstay its welcome. This was the one and only flaw that you could possibly find in this masterpiece.

The finale of the film escalates it to a completely different level. It is a moment when all the pieces are put together and you start making sense of the rather philosophical quote that they use at the beginning of the film, "If the parts of a ship are replaced, bit-by-bit, is it still the same ship?"

The principal cast has delivered wonderful performances. It is difficult to imagine anyone else playing the three leads apart from Aida, Neeraj and Sohum.

The visuals have been superbly captured by Pankaj Kumar. The editor-quartet Adesh Prasad, Sanyukta Kaza, Satchit Puranik and Reka Lemhenyi have worked wonders with the film. Anand Gandhi has given India its 'international film' of the year.

This film could redefine 'independent cinema' in India. It is not a deep film. You do not need to be an 'art-film' admirer to like Ship Of Theseus. If you do not agree with the ideologies conveyed through the film, you could take back the breath-taking visuals and the sparkling dialogue. There's something in it for everyone. A must, must watch!

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Reality (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - Is The Hunger For Fame Self-Destructive?

3/5 Stars

The film, a French-Italian offering, is about a man Luciano and his obsession with the popular reality show Big Brother. How his want for being featured on the show turns him into a fame-hungry monster, is what ‘Reality’ focuses on.

Wonderfully conceived by Matteo Garrone, ‘Reality’ comprises wonderful performances, Aniello Arena, in particular, who plays the lead. The subject is a very relatable one for any sort of culture. The enchanting music, composed by Alexandre Desplat, escalates the film to a different level altogether.

Luciano runs a fairly successful fish store in the heart of Naples. However, in order to make ends meet, he also runs a side-business which involves selling kitchen 'robots' in the neighbourhood.

He also does his bit at the weddings enthralling the guests. Here, he gets overshadowed by the local popular reality star Enzo. His popularity among kids, women and the city folk, makes Luciano want to feature on Big Brother as well. He is egged on by his wife Maria, his kids and the extended family to give an audition for the much-talked-about reality show. He reluctantly gives in but then, the lust for fame does him in.

The subject of the film is one that relates across all cultures. Reality shows have captured the imagination of most middle-class households around the world. The short-lived, yet rich-dividend paying fame attracts all and sundry.

The magical camerawork by Marco Onorato works wonders for the screenplay. Italy has been captured beautifully in the film. The long shots, in particular, give the film a charming look. The screenplay too, is wonderful. Silence has been used very meticulously and conveys the melancholy that the principal character is going through. Director Matteo Garrone mixes light-hearted banter wonderfully with the grim helplessness of his protagonist. The film subtly asks the question, ‘Is the hunger for fame 'self-destructive'?’

The film tackles an interesting subject with a fair bit of maturity. There are funny moments galore, and the story reminds you of the wonderful Italian classics of the old. Lovely story, well told.

Shivom Oza

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Holy Motors (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - Awe-striking, Awe-inspiring, Awe-some

4/5 Stars

The film, Holy Motors, directed by Leos Carax, competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It revolves around a day in the life of Monsier Oscar.

Denis Lavant is terrific as the maverick Monsieur Oscar. Not often do you find an actor, who embodies such versatility in his range. The make-up department deserves special mention. Direction and writing par excellence! The film was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival under the 'Rendezvous With French Cinema' category.

Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) is man of many moods and faces. He is shows as someone whose 'profession' is to transform from one character to another. So, he is shown as a businessman, an assassin, a beggar, a monster and even a mutant (somewhat!). It is never made clear through the running of the film as to what Oscar's motives are. He is chauffeured around by an elderly, gentle lady who is doing her job of keeping her master safe. The two move around Paris running one assignment after another. The so-called assignments range from amusing to absurd. You have Oscar and a woman shown fornicating, albeit with their latex body suits on. There's another sequence wherein Oscar is supposed to kill a former accomplice Theo. Following the stabbing, he makes Theo's corpse appear exactly like him so as to make it look like his assassination. However, it does not go as planned and what you have is two Oscars lying on the floor in a pool of blood. There's one particular sequence in which Oscar is shown playing the accordion, and subsequently being joined by an orchestra. This particular instrumental is stupendous and the way it has been shot is mind-blowing. The story of the film is not linear. There are different interpretations that you can extract out of this French masterpiece. However, at no point does the film get tiring. It does get confusing, albeit pleasantly confusing! If that's an emotion!

The performances given by the lead actor and the rest of the supporting cast are marvellous. The make-up is out-of-this-world. The cinematography deserves special mention as do the special effects team.

Don't take this film too literally. Sit back, relish the proceedings. Once the film's over, give a long thought about what it's trying to convey. It has many connotations - political, man vs machine, religion v/s science. 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as someone in the film says. Apt for the film itself!

It's a different kind of film alright, but it is one that you should watch!

Shivom Oza

The Hunt (2012) Review – Wonderful Subject, Terrific Execution!

4/5 Stars

The film from Denmark, directed by Thomas Vinterberg, revolves around a 40-year-old man who is wrongly accused of child molestation.

The Danish film was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival under the 'World Cinema' category. The plot is gripping and the subjects discussed (which have been dealt with subliminally) are important, and well portrayed. Performances by the cast are brilliant and the writing-direction is simple yet sparkling.

40-year-old Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is already going through a rough time post his divorce, when he is falsely accused of sexually abusing his best friend Theo's daughter Klara. How he  comes to terms with the humiliation of being targeted as a child molester, along with losing the trust of his near and dear ones, including his son Marcus and new girlfriend, and ultimately strives to get justice is what ‘The Hunt’ is all about.

The story deals with various subjects on different levels. Be it child molestation, trust issues, judgemental societies, mindless conjecture, character assassination etc. All of these subjects have been portrayed in a manner which mirrors the state of the society that we live in. We tend to come to conclusions easily and these convictions make us form judgements about the 'suspects' and we do not hesitate before harming them in any way. This is the reality, and that is what the film talks about. It also deals with the perceptions of the wronged individual. The helplessness that emanates from the protagonists face is impactful, intense and terrifying. Actor Mads Mikkelsen delivers a superlative performance in the film, as does the rest of the cast.

The screenplay of the film was brilliant. The way the audience is kept guessing right till the climactic moments in the film is exemplary. There are moments in the film where you may not agree with what's happening on an idealistic level. However, if you give it a deeper thought, you will find that so many instances incorporated in the film portray reality. The protagonist is beaten, abused, humiliated and 'wronged' time and again, but you keep hoping till the end that redemption will come. The film does not consciously project this hope and optimism. ‘The Hunt’ is all about the bitter truth. One which everyone eventually has to come to terms with. It does not have a convenient ending, but one should remember that not all endings are that.

Must, must watch film. It's a Danish film subtitled in the English language. Get hold of it anyhow and watch.

Shivom Oza

Monday, 22 October 2012

Like Someone In Love (2012) Review by Shivom Oza - Iranian Auteur Works Wonders With Japanese

4/5 Stars

The Japanese film is a story about 'true' love and missed opportunities.

The story, along with the screenplay, is stupendous. Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami excels and how! The cast too, gives a wonderful performance. Wonderful cinematography and editing escalate the visual appeal of the film. 'Like Someone In Love' was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival under the 'World Cinema' category.

The film revolves around three people; A young college student, Akiko, pays for her education by secretly working in an escort service (a fact unknown to either her grandmother or her boyfriend), Takashi, an elderly academician, who happens to hire the services of Akiko for one night, but ends up becoming more of a guardian-like-figure for her, and Akiko's controlling boyfriend who mistakes Takashi of being her grandfather instead of 'client'.

A dramatic revelation is on the brink throughout the duration of the film. The tension is very much prominent but it gets embedded within the delicate visuals, the pure emotions and the flawless technicality on display.

Rin Takanashi, who plays Akiko, Ryo Kase, who plays her boyfriend, and Tadashi Okuno, who plays Takashi, are superb. The subtitling of the film is neatly done. The screenplay is first-rate. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat at times, and on other occasions lets you sit, back and enjoy the marvellous visuals, acting and music!

A very fine film made by Abbas Kiarostami. Thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and smile-inducing, all at once!

Shivom Oza

The Dandelions (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Delightful Adult Comedy With Kids!

4/5 Stars

Rachel, a shy 9-year-old-girl, befriends the over-enthusiastic Valerie from her class. Both of their families bear the brunt, at least initially, of their over-zealousness.

The wondrous screenplay, sparkling subtitling (and presumably dialogue as well) and the mind-blowing performances by the cast, make ‘The Dandelions’ a must, must watch. Director Carine Tardieu makes a memorable film that should be watched and cherished. The Dandelions was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival as a part of the 'Rendezvous With French Cinema' category.

Rachel (Juliette Gombert) and Valerie (Anna Lemarchand) instantly hit it off during their first meeting. Rachel, initially a shy and a reserved girl, gets introduced to a new world (that of grownups) by Valerie. Together, they spy on their teacher, discuss her sexual exploits, use cuss words, share almost everything under the sun, and feel free to shed their inhibitions. However, Rachel has her own problems at home whereas Valerie is diagnosed with a deadly disease. Rachel's mother Colette Gladstein (Agnes Jaoui) suspects her husband Michel Gladstein (Denis Podalydes) of having an affair with Valerie's mother Catherine (Isabelle Carre). This situation brings along its own pathos-filled humour. The film tackles various issues concerning adults through the perspective of the two girls. Humour is one of the mainstays of this film with rib-tickling dialogues and sequences. Most of them, however, are filled with sexual innuendo. Still, most of you will end up finding them funny.

Superb cinematography by Antoine Monod, along with masterful editing, plays a great role in making ‘The Dandelions’ the masterpiece that it is. Every member of the cast is absolutely fantastic. The little girls are delightful. Even the actors playing the 'elder' roles are equally 'childlike', given the light nature of the film.
This film will make you laugh, smile, cry and reflect a bit. A joyous experience!

Shivom Oza

Gebo And The Shadow (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Compelling Family Saga!

3/5 Stars

Before anything about this film is mentioned, it must be noted that the director of ‘Gebo And The Shadow’, Manoel de Oliveira, will turn 104 this year. The abundant experience showed in his storytelling style. The film, adapted from a play, doesn't end up seeming too different from a theatrical presentation itself. It revolves around Gebo, his wife and his daughter-in-law, coping up with the notoriousness of his son, who is an outlaw.  

The film ends up becoming a compelling conversational drama. First-rate performances by the cast, astute cinematography and the simple screenplay, add a great deal of charm to the film. 

Gebo, his wife, Doroteia, and daughter-in-law, Sofia, are troubled by the prolong absence of Joao. While the mother is anxious to see her son, who has turned out to be a dreaded criminal, again, she is all the more saddened by the fact that her husband is hiding something from her. Sofia, although quite eagerly waiting for her husband to return, fears that once he does, things may not be the same. One day, Joao does arrive but ends up worsening the financial and the mental condition of his family.

The film is primarily about how much trust you can possibly invest in your loved ones. It also deals with the fact that no matter how miserable life gets, one should not do anything that leaves a question mark over their conscience. The film is mainly a conversational drama. Even the scenes hardly move beyond the living room, giving the film a play-like feel. The dialogue is wonderfully written and even the subtitling is well-done.
 
On an idealistic level, the film is open to various interpretations. The best thing about the film is that no character is entirely righteous or negative. They have their own justifications for the way they behave and it does make sense too. In real life, you don't seem people undergoing a sea-change in their basic nature and that is exactly what the film conveys. 

The dialogues may get a bit monotonous. It does get difficult following the proceedings in the middle where there's continuous conversation among the characters. Even tougher, for those who have to read the subtitles! However, the film is thought-provoking, without being overtly preachy. Fairly gripping as well!

Shivom Oza

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Stories We Tell (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Stories Well Told!

3/5 Stars

Filmmaker Sarah Polley, in ‘Stories We Tell’, has doubled up as a detective to discover a few untold family secrets. However, while filming the movie, she comes to terms with a few uncomfortable truths which leave her in a quandary.

The Canadian film, a part of 'Special Presentations' at the Toronto International Film Festival 2012, was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival. Although the film tackles a variety of issues, ranging from infidelity, liberation, coming-of-age, reunions, homosexuality, sexuality and emotional insecurity, you don't feel muddled up at all. It may not be everyone's cup of tea and digesting such a film will take a fair amount of patience but 'Stories We Tell' indeed is a good film.

Sarah has thought of putting together a documentary, featuring her close family members and family friends, wherein the interviewees, while getting nostalgic about the past, reveal a few uncomfortable truths. Sarah, for instance, is reminded of the fact that she is her mother's child from a man other than the one she considers as her father. Various sensitive topics are presented in a very subtle manner. For instance, father-daughter bonding, true love, infidelity, sexuality, family, loneliness etc. The film does not have a linear plot, so to speak, but you don't get confused at all.

While the entire cast of the film is wonderful, Sarah Polley has excelled as the director-screenwriter. The editing by Mike Munn too is brilliant. Lovely montages, close-up shots, archives, the vintage feel along with giving the contemporary times a classic touch. The nuances have been captured wonderfully by Iris Ng, the Director of Photography.

‘Stories We Tell’ is a sensitive film. It may not be everybody's cup of tea. However, if you give it time, it will force you to think about your own loved ones. Whether you can really forgive, forget and move on. The film is, in essence, about acceptance. Acceptance of facts, circumstances, emotions, love or the lack of it!

Shivom Oza

On The Road (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Directionless

2/5 Stars

Aspiring writer Sal Paradise gets affected deeply upon the arrival of his 'liberated' friend Dean Moriarty and his young wife Marylou. The trio takes a road trip across the country and meets several people who impact their journey and their lives.

At the conceptual level, the film works. However, to be attentive enough for close to 150 minutes is something else. The film, albeit embellished with marvellous visuals and brilliant acting, fails to engage the audience. The plot isn't gripping enough to hold the audiences for so long. The film was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival under the 'World Cinema' category.

Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) is one shy fella from New York. The aspiring writer meets the laidback vagabond Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund). Both of them hit it off instantly. Dean is an alcoholic, speed demon, drug-addict, sex-addict, maverick and plain demented. He likes to live the 'high' life and believes in trying out just about everything, even threesomes, including another man. He can do just about anything for money. He marries a girl because he needed money for car fuel. He, assumedly 'straight' until then, has sex with another man, once again for favours in exchange. Greedy and selfish he certainly is, but then he is egoistic too. This is why his friendships/relationships/marriages are always on the brink of collapsing! His young wife Marylou (Kristen Stewart) (not to be confused with the car fuel one), an extremely sexually-liberated woman, along with him and Sal, set off on a road trip! Their journey is barraged with mysterious occurrences. While discovering the outside world, the three learn a lot about themselves and each other. Sal, who is too busy to finish his book, learns a thing or two about friendship and trust. Marylou learns what it feels like to get hurt and Dean doesn't learn anything, until it gets too late.

Kristen Stewart is absolutely mind-blowing in the film. Although the film was found lacking at some parts, her performance shines all the way through. Sam plays the understated Sal perfectly while Garrett owns the part of Dean Moriarty. However, the writing was found a bit wanting. The film drags on and on, without any real purpose. Although their lives are affected owing to the journey, there is too much of jumping around between one place to another and the repercussions of the journey on them are not really clear. Even the setting, showing the America of the 1940s and the 1950s, could have been a lot better. Cinematography is just about decent. Direction by Walter Salles leaves a lot to be desired. Had this film been edited a bit differently, it would have been something else (for the good, of course!).

Although the subject is interesting, you may avoid this one.

Shivom Oza                                                       

Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Stunning; Visually And Emotionally!

3.5/5 Stars

Winner at various International film festivals, notably Cannes and Sundance, Benh Zeitlin's ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival as a part of the 'International Competition' Category. The film is about a six-year-old child, Hushpuppy, and the story of her coming-of-age.

The film, visually, is magnificent. Conceptually, it is an excellent debut feature. However, the film takes its time to grow on you.

Hushpuppy and her father live on an island that is cut away from the rest of the 'developed' regions in the vicinity. They survive on sea animals, possess an almost-cannibalistic lifestyle and are perpetual go-getters. 

However, Hushpuppy's world comes crashing down as her home (or as she calls it, her 'bathtub') is caught amidst a storm. Nature shows her fury as not only do their permanent home and their other makeshift homes keep crumbling, but they get attacked by pre-historic creatures. The film, kind of, tries to portray this 'end-of-civilization' scenario, and does it very successfully too. To add to Hushpuppy's woes, her father has been diagnosed with a deadly disease. So, the little girl, who believes in the concept of 'THE UNIVERSE' being almost a part of an individual's being, takes it upon herself to battle these dangerous odds. In the meantime, she sets out to find her mother, whose love she has been deprived of since childhood.

‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is a wonderful attempt by a first-time director. Benh Zeitlin could have kept the narrative a bit more linear but then, in the end, when the pieces fall together, you have a good film at hand. The kid, Quvenzhane' Wallis, is exceptional and so is the rest of the cast. The music by Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin too, is phenomenal. Ben Richardson has wonderfully captured the visuals, adding to the 'drama' of the film.

The film is about the coming-of-age of the young girl. A tale exceptionally put together by a debutante director. Although, the film will take its time to grow on you, it will leave you with a smile.

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Ted (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – The Talking Teddy Bear Fumbles A Bit!

2/5 Stars

A lonely kid John wishes that his Christmas present, a large teddy bear, comes to life to become his best friend. And he does!

‘Ted’ is quite delightful in some parts, utterly dull in most. The cast, including Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, deliver decent performances. Seth MacFarlane, albeit wonderful with the voiceover, falls a bit short on the direction aspect. Brilliant ‘live-action’, but becomes a bit too dull towards the end.

Circa 1985, Josh Bennett (Bretton Manley) is a friendless kid who gets gifted a huge teddy bear on Christmas by his parents. Having developed a very close bonding with the stationary, mute stuff toy, Josh wishes that the bear comes to life and befriends him. Voila! That is exactly what happens. An innocent wish, on the night of a shooting star, turns into an unbelievable miracle. Josh and the newly christened bear, ‘Ted’ (Zane Cowans), become thunder buddies.

Years go by, but the camaraderie is unaffected. Just that the duo, 35-year-old Josh (Mark Wahlberg) and the somewhat older Ted (Seth MacFarlane), now smoke joints, sip beer, watch vintage television series (Flash Gordon!) and just have a good time. Now, Josh is going through a rough patch. With an ordinary job at the car rental service and, more or less, no real aim in life, Josh finds it tough to live up to his girlfriend Lori’s (Mila Kunis) expectations. Lori doesn’t approve of Josh and Ted’s mingling, most of which includes smoking up and getting wasted! Things reach a point when Lori asks Josh to choose between her and Ted! Put in the mix, Lori’s skirt-chasing boss and a maniacal father-son duo pursuing Ted!

The film kind of gets mixed up with its principal genre. Should it be a romantic comedy or an emotional drama or a raunchy comedy or a mix of everything? We don’t figure out till the end. There are some moments in the film which evoke loud guffaws. However, most one-liners lack the punch. There’s a scene in which Ted and Josh go head-on and get involved in a 2-minute-long heated altercation. Assumingly, the scene must have been written as a funny one but then, on film, it just looks absurd.

Mark and Mila deliver nice performances. Seth does wonderfully in the voiceover. Even the dialogues are quite good. However, the screenplay falls short. The film should have been a bit shorter. The first-half was half-decent but the latter part, instead of salvaging the film, ends up worsening it. The animation and visual effects are absolutely brilliant. Director Seth MacFarlane does an average job.

‘Ted’ is not a bad film. However, at some point in the second half you may end up asking yourself – “When is it going to get over?”

Shivom Oza

Janleva 555 (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – The Title Says It All!

0.5/5 Stars

The film is about a group of friends who set out towards a remote area to make a film. Mysterious things start happening.

There are good films, bad films and terrible films. Janleva 555 goes beyond terrible. Laughable acting, cringe-worthy dialogue and garish music notwithstanding, the camerawork should have at least been a saving grace. However, this film fails on every count.

The film is essentialy about snake-bites. It starts with a showreel featuring well-known names such as Prabhu Deva, Vyjayanthimala, Sonu Sood among others, who plead to the audience to watch this film since a part of the proceeds are going to victims of snake bites who need ventilators on an immediate basis.

We cut to two friends, Neelam (Kalpana Pandit) and Pooja (Shona Chabra), who are in love with two guys. These four alongwith a few other friends decide to make a film on the issue of snake-bites! The director of this team is a guy called Steve (Cliff Janke). So they set out towards a remote town. However, things go awry when Neelam turns into an ichchadhaari naagin. The rest of the story is as absurd as the aforementioned bit.

Agreed, the film is being made for a good cause. But then, they could have made a documentary instead. Why attempt to make this 'commercial' piece (which too, was a pathetic one) when you don't have the resources for it? The period elements, the unnecessary song-and-dance routines, the ridiculous stereotyping of the gay community, the film, fail at every level possible.

The title says it all!

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Premium Rush (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’ Is A Better Bet!

1.5/5 Stars

Wilee, a New York City bicycle messenger, picks up an envelope that invites trouble from all quarters.
Quite a silly film, really. Cycling enthusiasts may enjoy the stunts, but that’s about it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt tries hard to salvage the film with his performance but the script is just too weak.

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) doesn’t believe in doing a job that requires you to wear suits. He doesn’t believe in using the brakes, neither is he a big fan of gears. All he is fond of is meandering through the streets of New York City on his bicycle. He is a bicycle messenger. He believes that if mail, telephone, internet et al, don’t do the job, bicycle messengers most certainly will. The film ‘Premium Rush’ is about a series of events that occur over 5-odd hours. Wilee is trying to cajole his ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Dania Ramirez) to get back. Wilee’s nemesis, Manny (Wolé Parks), tries to outdo him in every department – looks, physique, cycling, Vanessa! Their banter is fun initially but later on, it gets too garish. 
The problem begins when Vanessa’s roommate, Nima (Jamie Chung), delivers 50 thousand dollars that she has saved for two years to Mr. Leung (Henry O), a Chinese hawaladar, for a ticket that she must deliver to Sister Chen. She is doing all this to get her son and mother in one of Sister Chen’s ships that smuggle people from China to United States. She cannot get them to United States through the legal discourse owing to the fact that she had written an article on Tibet a while ago (which irked the Chinese authorities).

Moving on, so Wilee becomes the go-to man for the delivery of this ticket. He doesn’t know what the ticket is for and what dangers will it lead him to. He is followed through the city by one maverick gambling-addicted police officer Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon). Bobby wants the ticket for he owes huge amounts of money to one Mr. Lin. Yes, the story is very confusing. The dots do connect in the end but then the screenplay isn’t taut enough to last for two hours.

Except Joseph Gordon-Levitt, everyone else is just ordinary. The casting of the film is quite poor, to put it mildly. At one point, it looks like the actors were picked up merely for their ethnicity and not for their acting skills. Chinese, American, Mexican, Indian, it was a cultural casting coup.

The writing (David Koepp and John Kamps) is quite poor. The screenplay could have easily been a good thirty minutes shorter. The dialogues were unfunny and bland, at best. There is absolutely no thrill in the film. Even the climactic sequences have been unfolded very abruptly. Considering, they dragged the film so much the least they could have done is to give the film a better end. Overall, the film is quite a downer. The cycling stunts have been performed well by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. That’s about it!

Talking of ‘cycling’ films, ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’ is a better bet!

Shivom Oza

Argo (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Enlightening, Entertaining and Engaging!

4/5 Stars 

Based on a true story, ‘Argo’ is about six Americans, who although escape from being held as hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, have to find refuge in the home of Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor. The film is about the rescue operations undertaken for these six American diplomats.

The film is an absolute must-watch. The cast, that looks amazingly similar to the real men and women involved in the crisis, delivers first-rate performances. Ben Affleck gives a fine performance as an actor and shines as a director.
The year is 1979. During the ongoing Iranian revolution, Islamic ‘revolutionaries’ (or the terrorists as the Unites States refers to them as) take over the U.S. embassy in Tehran. This action is in retaliation for the support given to their recently-deposed Shah by the U.S. While sixty-odd diplomats are taken as hostages, six of them (four men and two women) evade capture and find a hide-out in the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). No one, except the State Department back home in the U.S., knows about the situation of the six escapees. They then begin to explore options of getting them out of Iran. CIA operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with a rather improbable idea. It strikes him while watching the sci-fi film ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ that they can create a cover-up that the escapees are Canadian filmmakers, hunting for locations in Iran for a film called ‘Argo’.
So Mendez and his supervisor Jack O’ Donnell (Bryan Cranston), along with a Hollywood make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), hatch out a plan to start creating buzz around this cover-up movie. They set up a fake studio for this fake film and even hold a presser to get the media to talk about it. Back in Tehran, the situation gets all the more serious as the revolutionaries find out that there have been escapees. They have been trying to put back the shredded documentation that they found at the embassy to look for vital information, the identities of the escapees in particular.
So Mendez enters Iran anyway carrying fake identities, fake film material, fake passports and fake documents. Will the six hostages get rescued? Will Mendez leave them in the lurch? Will the U.S. government ditch the seven Americans stranded in Tehran?
‘Argo’ is a superb ‘political’ film. The scenes, the locations, the props, the body language, the characterization and the costumes are absolutely circa 1979. The best thing about the film is that while it is based on a true incident, there is not too much of ‘history’ and ‘trivia’ thrown in consciously. All the important bits of information are brilliantly etched into the screenplay so there is no need to ‘educate’ the audience with needless narrations and overlaying text. The on-goings within the U.S. government, the state of the film industry, condition of the people living in Tehran, all of these aspects are portrayed in a very realistic manner. None of this takes away from the ‘suspense’ element in the story. There is no blatant stereotyping. The predicament of all sides has been handled in a very delicate manner. This film is a delight not just for its brilliant performances and gripping screenplay, but also the important bits of history that it provides.
The casting of the film is first-rate. Not a single actor/actress looks/seems unfit for the role that they play. Right from the look to the dialogue delivery to the body language, the cast gets it right! Ben Affleck is brilliant as Tony Mendez. The actors, who play the six escapees, are also superb. The best dialogues have been given to the make-up artist-producer combo played by John Goodman and Alan Arkin. Alan has some hilarious lines in the film. Most of them are take-offs on the film industry. In a tense, dramatic film, such moments provide the much-needed comic relief.
The screenplay (Chris Terrio) is engaging, realistic and has a fine mix of drama, subtlety and humor. Director Ben Affleck superbly gets it all together on the screen. The scenes are very well-written. In most of the scenes, silence has been used fantastically. Joshuah Bearman, who wrote the article ‘Escape from Tehran’, has also been credited as a writer. Overall, the film excels wonderfully in the writing department. The music by Alexandre Despat is splendid. After ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, he scores yet another winner.
One of the best films, based on real-life accounts, made in recent times. Enlightening, entertaining and engaging, ‘Argo’ is a must-watch!
Shivom Oza

Friday, 12 October 2012

Chittagong (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Unexplored Territory Captured Successfully

3/5 Stars

Set in British India, ‘Chittagong’ revolves around a 14-year-old boy, Jhunku, and his journey towards becoming a life-long freedom fighter.

‘Chittagong’ is a very well-made history-based film. Earnest performances from the cast, including Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Raj Kumar Yadav and the young boy Delzad Hiwale. Writer-director Bedabrata Pain makes a sparkling debut. The kids were splendid too.

14-year-old Jhunku Roy (Delzad Hiwale) had a comfortable life ahead of him. Having an influential British, Wilkinson (the wonderful Barry John), as a mentor, Jhunku had his eyes set on further education at the Oxford University in London. An untoward incident, which leads to the murder of one of the revolutionaries in Surya Sen’s (Manoj Bajpayee) team, incites Jhunku in taking up arms against the British. So, despite the disapproval of his parents, Jhunku joins Surya Sen and the rest of his team. Their first significant conquest is the Chittagong Armoury Raid on April 18, 1930. However, the British soon suppress the army and regain their ascendancy at Chittagong. The rest of the film is about Jhunku’s self-discovery. Surya Sen plays more of a mentor’s role in the film. The rest of the revolutionaries Nirmal Sen (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), Lokenath Bal (Raj Kumar Yadav) and Anant Singh (Jaideep Ahlawat) play their parts excellently.

The most intriguing aspect about the film was that ‘Chittagong Uprising’ is an incident that has not been taught to most of us in our history books. If at all, there is a brief mention of Surya Sen. So, the subject chosen is an important one. Kudos to the director Bedabrata Pain (who is a former NASA scientist with 87 patents to his name) for not incorporating any unnecessary element in the film to make it more 'commercially viable'! History wise, the film stays true to the actual events. The clipping that appears at the end of the film is awe-inspiring. It briefly talks about every significant part of the team followed by a message from the real-life Jhunku himself. That 5-minute-clipping gives you a better perspective about the men who mattered. The film has been shot terrifically by Eric Zimmerman. The art-direction could have been a lot better with a higher budget. However, looking at the relatively small scale at which they’ve made the film, it is a job well done! The patriotic fervour wasn’t quite there. You would expect a film, based on freedom struggle, to arouse feelings of patriotism within you. This film didn’t quite strike that chord till the 5-minute-clipping at the end. Still, ‘Chittagong’ merits at least one watch since it’s a subject that a lot of us are unaware about.

Sure, we know our Mahatma Gandhis, Bhagat Singhs, Mangal Pandeys! Let’s get to know the Surya Sens too!

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Taken 2 (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Takes Us In Yet Again

3/5 Stars

After daughter Kim gets kidnapped in ‘Taken’ (2009), it’s the parents’ turn. Ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills finds himself in the middle of yet anther kidnapping. His own!

Action-packed just like the first film in the franchise! Don’t go in finding logic, there’s none. However, the 90-minutes-long (pleasantly short) film cuts in some breathtaking stunts, witty dialogues, charming father-daughter bonding and lots of illogical plot-points! Works well, if all you’re looking for is entertainment.

After the events in Paris in ‘Taken’, the family members of the men whom Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) killed while looking for his kidnapped daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), return to their homeland Tropojë, Albania, for the funeral. Here, Murad Hoxha (Rade Šerbedžija), the leader of the slain men and the father of Marko, whom Bryan killed through electrocution, declares that they will find their culprit to avenge the loss of their loved ones.

Bryan, meanwhile, is trying to get closer to his daughter. Although he gives her driving lessons frequently, it is only until recently that he finds out that she has a boyfriend. Playing the over-protective father to the T, Bryan lands up at the boy’s residence to get Kim back.

Kim’s mother, Lenore (Famke Janssen), meanwhile, is drifting away from her present husband. After her husband cancels Lenore’s and Kim’s holiday to China, Bryan suggests that the two accompany him to Istanbul.

What Bryan doesn’t know is Murad and his people are aware of his whereabouts. So they are followed all the way to Istanbul. Bryan and Lenore get kidnapped. All Bryan has is a communicating device through which he can keep in touch with his daughter Kim, who is hiding away in a closet in a hotel room in Istanbul. Bryan lets Kim to open his suitcase, wherein all his equipment has been kept. Through some weird topography, Bryan figures out his own location using his daughter’s help. Bryan asks Kim to throw grenades in the middle of nowhere on a deserted terrace just so that he can figure out his distance by hearing the sound. Yes, Bizarre but it’s the movies!

We all know what happens in the end. Who knows if there’ll be a third film! However, ‘Taken 2’ is quite enjoyable. Who goes in looking for logic in these films anyway? The chase sequences on the streets of Istanbul have been shot excellently. Even the action sequences are brilliantly choreographed. The background score of the film is fairly good. Overall, the film promises a great mix of action and entertainment and delivers to a great extent. The cast, thankfully, does a wonderful job. Liam Neeson still packs a punch!

Director Olivier Megaton delivers a fairly good action film. Although there is nothing extraordinary about the writing, the story is simple to understand. Action films can work without weird aliases, biological warfare and all that razzmatazz. And yes, shorter lengths can work wonders!

Shivom Oza