Thursday, January 30, 2014

August : Osage County Review

I felt terrible when Merly Streep was once again nominated for this year's Oscars for best Actress, when the performance of Emma Thompson for 'Saving Mr. Banks' was ignored; but then i hadn't watched this insane and scorching movie. Merly Streep has that command over the character that we have seen over and over again and again, where she just sucks you into her characters head, and make you believe that if you were her(the character), this is exactly what you would find yourselves doing.

She is unbelievable as the highly melodramatic mother who is internally dealing with abandonment issues. She has cancer and she is living on pills. The death of her husband brings her three daughters home, where there is a constant fight among the four, about who is responsible of this whole mess.

Merly Streep swoops the whole area from her counterparts in all the scenes she makes a nod. She rants continuously about her abandonment, about her daughters lives, and about her husband. I have never seen Meryl so high pitched since 'Mama Mia' . She is bossy and a boastful know-it-all, that she doesn't notice who she hurts in order to make her statements.

Julia Roberts as the eldest daughter, has also earned a nomination in the supporting actress list for this years Oscars. She portrays a control-freak, who is on the verge of a divorce from her husband and has no idea how to deal with her disobedient daughter. She tries to come into this house and set straight all the mess made by her mother. Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis are the other two daughters who, like anyone else in this dysfunctional family have a lot going on.

The movie is very much a performance based one, based on the dark comedic play by Tracy Letts, who has also written the screenplay for this movie. When you think of this movie with a Merly Streep as its poster girl, we would cease to look any forward for decent performances. But in here, we are shocked to find some excellent scenes where the supporting cast holds its own. With a genius actor in Benedict Cumberbatch who had a relatively easier role in here; but then when you see this on-screen arrogant mad genius play a humble and socially awkward character, you would stand up with a hearty ovation. The other surprise among the cast was Chris Copper and Margo MartinDale. Margo, an amazing actress who is very used to doing supporting roles, kicks in with a one-scene firework, that has her morph from the amiable fat old lady to an angry dark bitchy girl. It was Whoa!! The movie also features Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney and Abigail Breslin.

One very amusing part of the movie is that the main plots unfurl in two or three really big scenes, which happens around the dinner table. The characters talk about themselves, and others, and try to clean up their good slates, finding only more and more guilt and pain. The director John Wells, deliberately but yet subtly brings around engaging conversations, as if right out of a play, and delivers some really good moments for you to like about.

August Osage county, moves up my list, because of its engaging screenplay and intelligent performers.

Friday, January 24, 2014

'Her' is all about him...Joaquin Phoenix

We had just seen and wondered where he went wrong last year, to not have been able to stand on the Oscars podium with the golden statue in hand. In fact, he didnt receive any of the major awards for his jaw-dropping performance in 'The Master'. This year again this man arrives with another exceptional performance, very much in contrast to his awkward character in 'The master' in 'Her'.

Spike Jones futuristic, surreal in some ways romance of a man and his artificial intelligence, is simply a bizarrely likeable movie. Theodore played by Joaquin, is lonely after his divorce, and finds comfort and support in a modern OS which talks to its users after understanding the psyche of the user. It goes very well for long, and he is convinced that he has fallen in love with this OS in the way that he would have loved a human. Things change and the movie tries to subtly put across the challenges of human and technology interactions. A little surreal in the way Jones has characterized the AI (with Scarlett Johanssens voice), but able to convey the meaninglessness of not having a real relationship. The movie does at times encourage the possibility of a love story with machines and AI, but doesn't go overboard with the idea. Can love thrive without a physical body? This theme though approached by many in different ways, like love through letters or through phone, now finds a new interpretation here. He does successfully bring out the emotions though the protagonist was in love with an OS. The movie moves from being just another smart or an intelligently written futuristic drama, to a touching and warm love story.

Joaquin Phoenix has always been in films where performance will always be the highlight. Him , and yet another impressive performer, Amy Adams, who was with him in 'The Master' too, have given admirable but subtle performances for this movie. Amy Adams would be more happier with her work in 'American Hustle', but her small but consistent act, gives the movie more amp. Rooney Mara as the divorced wife, and Olivia Wilde as a date, justifies their roles too.

With just two main characters and an exploration to find love in a age where people are more connected to machines than the person sitting a palm away from you, 'Her' raises a few questions and in a way, answers many of them too, which come out to be food for thought for the viewers. Even after being a post-modernly tech and highly fictional futuristic drama, it touches all the right notes of human emotions.

Monday, January 20, 2014

New series on Starz 'black sails' pilot on Machinima

This is what i read today

"Machinima has debuted the premiere of the new Starz show, Black Sails, today – a week before the show hits your TV screen!"

...and in a moment i was online to look for this new episode, which i thought would debut only on 25th on Starz. I was excited because i loved the 'Pirates' from the 'POTC' series till the third, and then I had really thought that the writers and story makers went out of steam for anything new about pirate lifes. Its then I see this show name, and I thought that this was a good way for the Pirates to regain some popularity again. So with that hope, i started watching the first episode.

The 'Black Sails' takes place in 1715, which is two years before the famous, R L Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' s storyline. Captain Flint is in search of this huge ship from Spain, which carries an amazing treasure. They are followed by the Navy, and enemy pirates alike. Moreover, there seems to be a mutiny within their ships too. The first episode gets to all that, and makes the premises clear. We, from next episode have more interesting twists and turns to watch out for. The journey is ready, and now the captain should be well starting to recruit. What are your choices?? From the executive producer Michael Bay. So do not 'not' expect fireworks.

Captain Flint is played by Toby Stephens of 'Die Another Day' fame, and for Indians you might be more familiar of him as the English friend of Mangal Pandey in Aamir's ' Mangal Pandey : The Rising'.

A decent take on a pirate's story, and interestingly the ones in 'Treasure Island'. Seems to be a must watch new series of the year. Watch the full episode here (not available in many countries):

Well atleast watch out for the trailers if you are catching it on TV next week

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club Review

Dallas Buyers club is a movie from the indie cinema houses which deals with the familiar area of a regular man going up against the powerful government authorities. But this is no thriller, but a sensitive portrayal of the protagonist, Ron Woodruf, and how he lived through after the diagnosis o AIDS, while fighting with the government for the right medication.

The movie is about the heart-warming struggle of an HIV patient confronting the authorities selling profitable drugs to patients, even though it is known to have adverse effects on them. Ron, smuggles better medication unapproved by the FDA, and sells to people like him, and that gets him into a lot of struggle with the FDA and the law. The movie tries to take in a large issue and sell it through the struggle of one man, and it is beautifully done.

Mathew McConaughey and Jared leto's excellent transformations -  not just into the psyche of the characters but literally into their bodies too - is not justified when I say was 'amazing'. Mathew follows the notes of Christian Bale and breaks down his body into one weightless mass, with nothing but bones tearing out of it. Added to that his charm and emotional range, and his performance skyrockets to incredible levels. A good few years for you now, huh, Mathew?? If i had any doubts on the best supporting actor this year - thats vanished after watching an astonishingly easy work of Jared Leto as a transgender. He lives the role without letting one moment pass by where you can see anybody else but a transgender. Both of them had won a Golden globe in their categories, and no doubt are the front runners for this years Oscars. If anybody else can be as proud as them, it would be only Christian Bale for his transformation as a fat fraudster in 'American Hustle', or the frail brother in 'Out of the Furnace'.

Music was scantily put, but helped the movie in its treatment. Jenifer Garner looked ever so beautiful in her role as a doctor who can't stand the authorities and their bullying.

The movie might not stand out as an 'issue' movie, but can be proud of being a performance powerhouse, and does have a decent script to go about. Selected in the category of Best Film too, this year, 'Dallas Buyers club' deserves the attention it gets.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

12 years a slave review

Steve McQueen's '12 years a Slave' has been doing rounds at the major award nights this year. This tale of a free black man, forced into slavery and made to suffer and work in the most brute conditions, is a story of pain and sorrow. Unlike other films on Blacks, this is not a story of liberation, but the pain of submission. Steve McQueen adapts the biography of Solomon Northup who was kidnapped by businessmen and sold into slavery.

The movie won the Golden Globe last night, for the best film in Drama category. But, i felt that the movie forces the audiences into visuals of violence to garner empathy, whereas otherwise they would have failed to establish anything valuable in the movie. The sufferings of Blacks in those ages were the focus and that was brought about through the experiences of Mr. Northup. I felt 'Daniel Lee's The Butler' had made me empathize and relate to the movement of Black's liberation more than this movie could do.

Chiwetel Ejiofor will get more nominations for his representation of Mr. Solomon and how he falls and survives in the pangs of slavery. A mean and brutal performance, just like his character in the movie, from Michael Fassbender might see him to the stage of Oscars this year. While yet another chance for an Oscar in the performances category could come from Lupita Nyong'o, who plays a young black slave mistreated by the lustful Fassbender character and his jealous wife, played by Sarah Paulson. If the movie tries to squeeze sympathy out of you, its from this character.

Short, but significant roles were handled by Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti. The music by Hans Zimmer, was somewhere in his usual league, sometimes over burdening a movie with this sort of harshness to it.

A movie made typically to woo voters on award nights, it would seem; and it looks like it is working too. But otherwise I wouldn't oversell it to the audience.

Friday, January 3, 2014

'Saving Mr. Banks' delivers a heartwarming story about the making of 'Mary Poppins'

'Mary Poppins', a popular American musical by the Disney Pictures, was immensely liked by the people and the Academy. But this film was almost not-made; And 'Saving Mr. Banks' tells you how Walt Disney convinced the author of the book, Pamela, (oh! I'm sorry) Mrs P.L.Traves, to agree to give the rights for the movie adaptation.

The movie is not just about the egos that Mrs.Traves had or the prowess Mr.Disney had, but it is about how two people connected to a story. While Mrs.Traves wrote about it, Walt Disney wanted the whole world to see it. The whole film is about their creative differences, and why Mrs. Traves thought that the reel adaptation was a bad idea, and what changed her. It is inter cut with a story of a irresponsible but loving father who is supposed to be the character to be saved, Mr. Banks, and his little daughter, which tells the viewers why it was important that 'Mary Poppins' was made right.

The performances i adored, especially Emma Thompson as Mrs. Traves. She clings
to her dear book with her life. Emma gave life to someone who is intentionally cautious and unintentionally funny at the same time. A performance i would like to be listed as a nominee at the least, at the Academy function. A winner from the performances, I, have seen this year surpassing my previous favourite Sandra Bullock for 'Gravity'. Tom hanks is equally funny and warm as 'the' Walt Disney. I wouldn't have lingered about his role, but for the exemplery performance towards the end where he convinces the lady to make the movie. A monologue that squeezes your heart, and makes you believe how convincing Walt had been.

Paul Giamatti as Mrs. Traves cab driver had a role that he could cherish. He puts his lovable face to the fore and wins your hearts (and also Mrs. Traves'). Colin Farell plays the irresponsible father, Mr. Banks, or who it represents in Mrs.Traves' life.

'Saving Mr. Banks' seemed an odd title for this story until you learn what it is all about. It is about the love for your creations and also for where the creations come from. A dream to show off something you make and show off exactly the same way that you feel, is a difficult task. But the joy, when it is fulfilled is something more than getting results.

'Saving Mr. Banks' achieves the task to convince audiences about the story behind the making of 'Mary Poppins' and justifies both Mrs. Traves and Walt Disney. But more than that it tells you why 'Mary Poppins' had to be made. I would say what 'Gravity' achieved in the area of visual compelling, 'Saving Mr. Banks' does with emotions. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lee Daniel's 'The Butler' reviews the Black American history

Lee Daniel's 'The Butler' sounded like an underdog story, with a black American getting a job as a butler at the white house. But, 'The Butler' is not an underdog story. It is a recap of the vast atrocities faced by the blacks in America in the last century, seen through the eye of a scared and non-participative butler in the country's biggest institution.

Based on real events, 'the Butler' is about Cecil Gaines, who was born amidst chaos where the blacks could be shot at for no reason at all. He grows up to be a house keeper with the help of a few good people and serves the white. He becomes quite popular and soon is invited to the white house to serve the President. From here he watches the world change. He watches the leaders make big decisions. He sees the revolution the blacks bring about and the change of hearts. He serves various President's until he could take no more.

Forest Whitaker is a mature actor and his performance of the butler from a youth to the aged, through various stages in the life of the butler, and the various phase of change in American history is sensitive and subtle. His portrayal of an over-protective dad, and a scared citizen is one of the best this year.

Oprah Winfrey, as the lonely wife who felt abandoned by her husband to his work, plays a strong mother and a dejected character. Oyelowe as the son, who is rebellious towards the father, and against a nation supporting injustice is a performance to watch out for. I would have had him on the top of the support cast list. Then there is a long line up of actors who come as the Presidents of America in Cecil's service period. Robin Williams, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber and James Marsden. I loved James as Kennedy.

The movie is significant in the sense that it takes a non-participative black, and most of the times works with a script where in the character is a silent watcher. He is a person subjected to the horrors of not being to have a say,even in his own life; And he has accepted his fate and wants these horrible things to be absent in his children's life. But his over protective gestures don't help his children who rebel and go out. He never really takes part in the revolution but becomes a great force nevertheless.

Lee Daniel has shown this change through the last century towards black in a seemingly distant and apparently harmless manner, but says a lot even then. It pains your heart, but still reminds you that you were not there. You are just a silent watcher. You do nothing to change the atrocious attitudes in your society.

A good reason to expect this movie at the Oscars, for performances and script.