Burning Movie Review: A mysterious triangle

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Even though you sense a brilliance as the film ends, you can’t help but feel the weariness

The title of the Korean-language film, Burning (Beoning), has a significance that you only realise when the film warrants you to. Before the real meaning of ‘burning’ comes out, you get to envisage fire as it is perhaps the first thing that would come to your mind when you think of ‘burning’. Director Lee Chang-dong sets two different contexts. Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), in one of the scenes, reminisces about an agonising incident from his childhood where his father coerced him into burning down the clothes of his mother. In another lengthy sequence, Ben (Steven Yeun wears a smile throughout for this character to suggest a strange, evil person inside him that works so well) reveals his plan of setting fire to one of the greenhouses near Lee Jong-su’s home. This makes Lee Jong-su search for all the greenhouses he could find near his home before hearing a mysterious revelation from Ben that he already torched one thereby leaving Lee Jong-su perplexed. Finally, treading this slow-paced mystery, you reach a point when Lee Jong-su, whose girlfriend, Hae-mi (immersive performance lent by Jeon Jong-seo), has gone missing, is burning with anger and ends up killing the suspect and setting the car on fire with the dead suspect lying inside it.

Burning, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, is thought-provoking and mysterious. Hae-mi’s character is closed-book. Her act of pantomime while having dinner with Lee Jong-su is enigmatic. When Lee Jong-su visits her home, she calls her cat but there is no cat to be seen which leaves him thinking that she is calling an imaginary cat. There are moments when she is emphasising upon the search for the meaning of life. There is ambiguity about Ben too as to what his relationship with Hae-mi is all about. Lee Jong-su keeps receiving a phone call but the person on the other end keeps mum. A sort of mystification always surrounds the lead characters of the film. But the film feels humdrum at different stages. The snail-paced storytelling doesn’t help either. Even though you sense a brilliance as the film ends, you can’t help but feel the weariness.

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Someone Great Movie Review: A dull take on love, relationship and break-ups

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The film tries to be too cool with everything that it is doing. But the more it does so, the more irksome it gets.

Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) is sitting alongside a stranger and is emotionally revealing to her that her 9-year-long love relationship with Nate (LaKeith Stanfield) just ended. The stranger, though listens to all of that, abruptly stands up and walks away leaving Jenny clueless. She reaches out to her best friends Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise). She is moving to a different city and wants to have a blast with her friends for one last time before they all move on with their lives. Netflix’s Someone Great has a clichéd story that even 90 minutes of run-time makes you feel like it is too long. It is so annoying that all you would be thinking is – “Come on, get it over with!”.

It sort of gives you an opportunity to take a peek into the lives of Jenny and Nate. You get to see how the bond between them grew stronger and eventually how the fallout happened. But these scenes are so short-lived that you hardly get attached to these characters and never actually get to feel Jenny’s affliction. But this is the only character whose life is shown a lot more than that of Blair and Erin. And Gina Rodriguez has acted tremendously well. So, after a prolonged depiction of her dejectedness of having broken up with her long-time boyfriend in combination with Gina’s great performance, you do understand her feelings of wanting to reunite with her boyfriend.

Then, there’s Erin neglecting her girlfriend before finally saying, “I love…” and her girlfriend responding back in an instant saying, “I love you too”. This is designed to be a touching scene. But, Erin’s love-life hasn’t been given any emphasis. So, you can’t expect anyone to be moved by this. Blair’s relationship with her boyfriend is full of pretence. Therefore, you would have already figured out that this would end too. And so it does! Moreover, Blair’s relationship with her boyfriend hasn’t been given any significance. You don’t really care whether they get along well or not. Brittany Snow’s weak performance doesn’t help either.

The jollier times that these girls enjoy together is perhaps the only phase which I felt was nice (Watch out for the singing and dancing that these girls do together). ‘Latina’ written on Jenny’s shirt or the ‘Feminist’ written on sofa cushion do their bit of magic as well.

The film tries to be too cool with everything that it is doing. But the more it does so, the more irksome it gets. Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great is a rom-com that is a commonplace.

Kalank Movie Review: Almost 3 hours of tedium!

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I survived (Somehow). That’s all I can say after an excruciatingly painful watch and a tiring experience.

Kalank deserves a rap on the knuckles for the kind of restlessness it leads you into. Having sat through the first half-an-hour of the movie and endured the colossal boredom, I wasn’t surprised that I started going into the state of slumber. There’s a big announcement in a dramatic way as to who’s the father of one of the protagonists and who’s his mother as the film nears the intermission (Something that turns out to be a child’s play as you would have precisely predicted it much sooner than they actually reveal). And there’s some sort of romance building up in the midst of India-Pakistan partition issues that hardly move you. The biggest of all problems is that the screenplay is structured in the Indian soap opera style! I didn’t walk out of the cinema hall midway. I had made up my mind to check just how badly it all unfolds in the film.

The story is set in Lahore during the time when India was on the cusp of Independence from the British and the birth of Pakistan was on the cards. The film shows the glimpses of conflict between the followers of Hindu and Muslim religion which ultimately result in indiscriminate killings in the end. Director Abhishek Varman’s focus is more on the lives of a Hindu girl Roop (Alia Bhatt) and a Muslim guy Zafar (Varun Dhawan) and how this affects the people related to them.

Call it inspiration. Or, an attempt to use elements from hit films or even a TV series. This jejune film does have elements that make you hark back to some of the greatest films or series but that doesn’t work in its favour. Do you want a bit of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator sort of action? You got it! You see a strong and muscular Zafar involved in bullfighting. Be ready to witness one of the greatest CGI work in this sequence (pun intended). If you wanted to get a feel of that iconic “My heart will go on” sung by Celine Dion for Titanic or Ramin Djawadi’s haunting main title theme for Westworld, Kalank’s background score by Sanchit Balhara and Ankit Balhara gives you modified versions of the same. In fact, when the teaser of this film was released, film critic Raja Sen tweeted saying that it has ripped off the theme music from the TV series The Flash. And Bollywood also has its very own to look up to. So, you do get to recall Shah Rukh Khan’s famous train scene from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge as Alia Bhatt, who has boarded the train, shouts out to Zafar and he runs to hold her hand in a dramatic fashion and get onboard. The more this film tries to make this film interesting, the more it plummets miserably.

Brace yourselves. Almost every lead actor has an “intro” song too. The unnecessary and not-going-well-with-the-mood-of-the-film songs were probably meant to give you a sigh of relief and give some respite from an otherwise stodgy collection of scenes in this film. But that doesn’t save the film either.  A ‘special’ mention to a song where Roop has turned up at the brothel of Bahaar Begum (Madhuri Dixit). Roop wants to take singing lessons from Bahaar Begum and actually starts singing to a great perfection along with her in the first meet itself (It looked like Roop did not really need singing lessons at all). Outside of this Brothel, Zafar hears the voice of Roop and is mesmerised. Zafar meets Roop on her way out and leaves an impression on her just like that! And there blossoms a romance (actually, tries to blossom).

Not only the relationship between Zafar and Roop fails to bloom, but the not-so-moving tale of Dev Chaudhry (Aditya Roy Kapur) and his ailing wife Satya (played by an affecting Sonakshi Sinha in her short stint) also does not go well.

A grim-faced Sanjay Dutt as Dev’s father is terrific but does not have much to do in this film.

Well, then what did I really like in this film? I got to know that Lahore city is known as Lohaaron Ka Sheher (City of blacksmiths) and this is how it got its name.

I survived (Somehow). That’s all I can say after an excruciatingly painful watch and a tiring experience.

Us Movie Review: Creepy and horrific

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You feel the thrills. You get scared. But you are not terrified to an extent that would make your heart pound faster.

There’s a cloth with blue-coloured circles of the same size. The clock displays 11:11. There are similar looking bluish public toilets on a beach. A flock of white birds are taking off for a flight together. The reflection of a girl on the mirror or the presence of twin girls in a beach creates an eerie picture. Such is the brilliance of Director Jordon Peele that as he creates an air of strangeness and unknown factor in Us, the ‘similarity’ in different scenes seem haunting. And then the moment comes when the tunnel-dwelling döppelgangers, who look exactly like the ones living above the ground, are standing outside Wilson family’s home. On seeing the döppelgangers, one of the family members utter, “It’s us!”.

Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o is terrific in this character) stays close to her son Jason (Evan Alex) and daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph). Her phone call to the police is of no use as they never arrive. Her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), who acted as if he is unfazed by these döppelgangers, is now worried sick. The Wilson family now have four people inside their home who look like them but cannot talk except for the one who looks like Adelaide (When you get the reasoning behind this towards the end, it is shocking). From here on, the creepiness takes hold of the narrative. Jason’s lookalike has a burnt face underneath the mask. Zora runs away on to the streets as her lookalike goes after her wearing a smile. Gabe confronts his counterpart on a motorboat. There’s another family who does not even get a chance to face their counterparts as they get killed as soon as they open their door.

You feel the thrills. You get scared. Michael Abels’ music does the trick too. But you are not terrified to an extent that would make your heart pound faster. Jordon Peele’s debut film Get Out is an epitome of horror and can make you jump out of your skins. Call it a sophomore slump or something else, his second feature film Us isn’t as horrific as Get Out.

It looks like Jordan’s forte is in writing thriller or horror scenes. The interactions between the members of the Wilson family, before their encounter with döppelgangers takes off, are supposed to be funny. But they never seem so.

Even though there is a considerable slump felt as the movie nears its end, the feeling of fearsomeness is kept intact throughout.

Shazam! Movie Review: Rekindle the inner child

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Shazam! is all fun and frolics.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a 14 year old boy, runs upstairs, reaches the terrace, jumps from the edge of the terrace screaming a magic word Shazam!, transforms into an adult, muscular superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi) wearing red outfit with cape and flies away in the night sky (Such a visually appealing scene). He has been chosen as the new champion by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) to confront the evil powers. But, being still a teenage boy, he deals with the “supervillain” Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) in his own childish ways that make for jovial and funnier scenes in the midst of serious pursuit.

Director David F. Sandberg’s Shazam!, which is based on a DC Comics’ character, has a familiar plot that is bolstered by a great concept. Instead of an adult, a kid gets to be a superhero. He finds the stick of the dying, old wizard, who transfers the power to Billy, as “gross”. When he says out loud a magical name, his physical appearance changes and he looks like an adult. But his mental state still remains the same i.e of a teenage boy. This turned out to be really interesting as the movie progressed. It was like a dream-come-true moment for a kid who experiences magical powers. He could only think of flying like Superman. He randomly charges the smartphones of people. He goes out in the streets brandishing his abilities and taking selfies with people. He takes away boxes of beer from a shop, takes a sip and finds it to be “gross” (anything Billy does not like, it is gross). He goes inside the shop again and replaces them with packets of chips. His foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) gets him to test all the different abilities of a superhuman he has ever come across and posts them on social media. Such scenes rekindle your inner child. I could remember Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse where the lead character is, again, a teenage boy and his experience with his new-found abilities look funny (Did I cross over to Marvel Cinematic Universe? That was unintentional).

Like Billy, other characters, who too are mostly kids, make up for hilarious instances. There’s Billy’s foster sister Darla (Faithe Herman) who gets “uncomfortable” by the “silence” and keeps talking all the time. There’s a foster brother who is a video game freak and yells all of a sudden while playing busily. There’s another foster brother who keeps a stern face and nods as a means of saying “hi” to Billy. Even Freddy, who gets to experience the superpowers himself, jokes around in front of an evil monster saying that it’s the first supervillain he is going to fight with.

Billy’s pursuit of finding his real mother is entertaining as he goes about making fake calls to police officers and tries to get the residential address where his mother might be living. But when he gets to know the reason why she left him, it does not come off as a big surprise or does not really cause a huge impact.

While talking about DC Comics, you can’t leave out Batman and Superman. Shazam! does pay a tribute to these iconic characters (Wow! moment when that happens) that have lived with us for many years.

A man dressed as Santa Claus, who is horrified by the sight of evil monsters and superheroes fighting them all off, snatches the mic from a television reporter on the street and shouts, “It was f***ing crazy man”. Yes, I went crazy too witnessing this super adventure. Shazam! is all fun and frolics.

Super Deluxe Movie Review: Sink into the ethereal blissfulness

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Source: Twitter | Gopi Prasannaa

Super Deluxe leaves you with thoughts – about life, our existence, the perception of normalcy and questions over what is considered right (or wrong)

Greatness of Director Thiagarajan Kumararaja, who garnered towering praise for his debut film Aaranya Kaandam, was well-known. His second film Super Deluxe is beyond greatness. It’s blissful and enlightening. After a thrilling and exceptional neo-noir gangster movie like Aaranya Kaandam, Thiagarajan has taken several leaps forward since then and there’s an unprecedented masterclass shown by him through his latest film. Super Deluxe leaves you with thoughts – about life, our existence, the perception of normalcy and questions over what is considered right (or wrong).

Super Deluxe has three disconnected stories (Not to forget that it is powered by super-stylish background score of Yuvan Shankar Raja). When I say disconnected, it means that they have no real dependence on one another and the events in each of those stories are taking place without any relation to the other. But somehow their worlds collide at some point and alter the lives of characters involved completely. There’s a lot happening in these stories that keep you on your edges throughout the movie. A small kid named Rasukutty (Ashwanth Ashokkumar), in the first story, is excited to see his father returning home after several years. And when his father returns, he is, now, revealed to be a transwoman named Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi) which leaves his wife Jyothi (Gayathrie’s dejected and shocked countenance in this role moves you) in utter shock. The second story shows a group of teenage boys adroitly planning for a movie time together. Why is planning required in the first place just to watch a movie? They are planning to watch a porn movie and revel in sexual pleasures that they will obtain from it. The ultimate revelation as they play the movie on television is that the actress turns out to be one of the boys’ mother. The third story shows that Vaembu (Samantha Akkineni) has slept with her ex-boyfriend in her home and he has died just after the sex. While she is frozen with horror, she looks out from her window and sees that her husband Mugilan (Fahadh Faasil) is returning home on his motorcycle. The intriguing start to all of these three stories sets the wheels turning right from the incipient stage. The film never allows you to slip into a train of thoughts and its interesting turn of events keeps you engrossed throughout.

The entire first half of the movie is evenly mixed with both the seriousness and the humour. It is only in the second half that the gravity of those grave situations starts to overpower the hilarity attached to them. Take the case of transwoman Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi has outstandingly shed his masculine nature and has lent a terrific performance). It is hilarious when Rasukutty repeatedly runs to the door to see if his father has arrived. And when he does arrive, Rasukutty’s grandfather, funnily, due to his old age, has no clue who that is. Even though Rasukutty accepts his father for what he is now, the outside world has not welcomed Shilpa with open arms. Shilpa is sexually abused by a police officer Berlin (Bagavathi Perumal is amazing in this character) and even mocked at by school children (A direct potshot at the importance of sex education for children). In another story, there are comedic instances where Vaembu openly confesses that she had intercourse with the man who died immediately after sex and her husband Mugilan tries to take a look at dead man’s penis to figure out if that’s the difference between him and the dead man. Later, a threat from police officer Berlin and his demand for intercourse with Vaembu makes you uncomfortable. In the story involving the teenage boys, their meet up with the boss of goons and their pursuit of money remains one of the most side-splitting instances in the film. But one of the boys is admitted in a hospital and it’s agonising to see his mother Leela (Ramya Krishnan), a former porn actress, begging to Doctor to start the surgery. It shows the horrifying reality of some of the hospitals taking no interest in saving lives but to rake in money. The situation gets worsened when Arputham (Mysskin), the religious and superstitious father of the dying boy, takes his son to his place of worship in the hope of saving his life (You really get annoyed by this superstitious Arputham character. That’s how well this character is written).

I was mesmerised by the camera work and the detailed shots. Shots captured using still camera were phenomenal (As Shilpa is strolling along the street with Rasukutty, in one scene, the colourful posters on the wall makes up for a picturesque shot). Sometimes, the background scenes play important role in defining a moment and even explain so much about the situation a character is in (Rasukutty suddenly gets lost and Shilpa frantically searches about the street. At this instant, we see ‘Real World, Magic Event’ scribbled on a wall). Even the depiction of life in different forms enthrals you. No matter how much trouble you are in, there is a life beyond your purview which keeps moving (Vaembu and Mugilan are caught in a complicated situation. A dead man is kept inside their refrigerator. Some guests are sitting in their living room. Amidst all this, the camera closely focuses on the ants busily crawling up the wall).

With the representation of lust, infidelity, extraterrestrial life, superstition, sexual abuse, sex education, dejection, merriment, harsh reality and everything in between, Super Deluxe has a much bigger thing to convey. And in what style! The teenage boys go to a cinema hall to watch a porn movie called ‘Super Deluxe’ and it’s through this adult film, we get to look at a much bigger picture of life as a guy narrates in a preachy and quirky tone. This is a film where Thiagarajan questions what is considered a ‘normal’ life and what should be done (or not to be done) so as to be accepted by society. We get to realise that we all are one. This is one world. Super Deluxe is the greatest Tamil-language Indian film I have ever witnessed. I can even go on to say that it is one of the best films of all time.

Review of How To Train Your Dragon Movie Series: Peace and Unity

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How To Train Your Dragon is a film series comprising stupendous animated action fantasy that shows that there is strength in unity and with unity comes peace and mirthfulness.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is taking his dragon, Night Fury a.k.a Toothless, for a flight. The dragon dives straight to the ground before altering its direction just above the ground level and going upwards and soaring at a great height. This is so fantastically depicted that we get immersed in a phantasm and feel like we are the ones riding that dragon. This is also the first taste of successful flight for Hiccup as a dragon rider in the first instalment of How To Train Your Dragon series. The immersive experience remains intact in the subsequent follow-ups to this first part.

Based on Cressida Cowell’s series of books by the same name, this film franchise, set in a dreamy world, has a moving story that, with human-dragon friendship, illuminates how unity and togetherness can bring about a much-needed peace and happiness even in the real world. How To Train Your Dragon shows Hiccup, a small kid, often termed weak and incapable of fighting, leading the way to prove how love can prevail over hatred. In How To Train Your Dragon 2, it’s Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) living alone amongst the dragons and safeguarding them to ensure that one species do not get wiped out because of assault by the other (again, a much bigger picture represented where, in reality, we hear of a number of animals in danger of extinction due to man’s callous activities). While Hiccup has got this “dramatic flair” of protecting and loving the dragons from his mother, we can only learn from him and apply that in this world we love so dearly so as to protect endangered animals on our planet. Well, I am not sure if this is what it tried to depict but, in a way, it did seem to be sending out this strong message – This world is not only for humans.

Hiccup’s father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) leads from the front in killing the dragons for the security of people but the other side of his character, that is understanding and affectionate, takes over due to Hiccup’s influence. The father-son relationship was, especially, touching as Hiccup lovingly reminisces about the time spent with his father as a young kid in How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

The series is committed to showing a world where women are part of the decision-making process and are as strong as men. Hiccup’s father asks for the opinion of his wife on what she thinks is needed to be done as she opines and leads them along to save dragons. She, also, can be seen winning in an arm wrestling match against a muscular-looking man.

The series has its share of hilarious instances too. My favourite of all is the one where Night Fury takes the cue from his master Hiccup to impress a female dragon Light fury but winds up doing them all wrong and even weirdly enough.

John Powell’s exceptional music lent a great value to this film. It magnified the emotions attached to different scenes and aptly blended with the mood of the film.

The fairy tale endings of the first two parts did not work for me and seemed draggy. Even some of the revelations did not really come off as a surprise (Hiccup says that he did not kill Night Fury as it was frightened like him but the events leading up to this revelation was suggestive of the reason for his refrainment and it was a child’s play to figure this out).

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World made the most of the foundation laid down by the first two instalments. It was easily the best of this film franchise. Even though it has a proper ending, it still leaves a sign of continuity and one can only hope that it resumes from where it left with another remarkable outing. Nevertheless, How To Train Your Dragon is a film series comprising stupendous animated action fantasy that shows that there is strength in unity and with unity comes peace and mirthfulness.