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The Invisible Woman (2013)
So Quiet A Life
"I have lived my life in the pages of those novels. I should not have expected their author to have lived so quiet a life". This exclamation by one of the characters in 'The Invisible Woman' resonates the feelings of the audience unaware of the secret love of one of the most beloved author - Charles Dickens. His stories have inspired many a writers, playwrights and fanatics of literature. His character had those flawed human characteristics which made them real and easy to connect with. Still a secret held for the longest time by a celebrity whose charm and gentle nature would attract everyone around him, is naturally unexpected.
'The Invisible Woman' released last year is the story of the secret love affair of Charles Dickens with much younger Ellen 'Nelly' Turnan. Dickens is at the height of career when he meets this confident and intellectually mature young woman and falls for her. It is the unconventional nature of their relationship and the determination to keep it a secret which becomes the subject of Nelly's emotional revolt.
Ralph Fiennes is not just a remarkable actor in both cinema and stage but carves his own niche as a director. Not that there is a distinct style here but yet again he chose a story quite unknown to the mainstream. His directorial debut 'Coriolanus' was a rare masterpiece by Shakespeare. And this time he chose Dickens' personality to portray. Despite all his talents this film belongs to Felicity Jones. Playing Nelly with the required restraint, she carries the whole movie on her shoulders. Nelly is confident, intellectual and more mature than others her age. Her character reminds me of the independent spirit of Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice minus the fun. Jones plays her part with ease showing Nelly's flaws in talent and her emotional turmoil and yet portraying her as an attractive personality. Coming back to Fiennes donning the hat of Mr. Dickens. Even his character carries a restraint and the feelings are never revealed on his own. I would have loved to see more chemistry between the lead pair. Nevertheless the performances are excellent. Kristin Scott Thomas as Nelly's mother is convincing as a mother troubled about her daughter's future. I hated Tom Hollander in Pride & Prejudice, but now I realize it was only his genius as an actor in playing the irritating Mr. Collins convincingly. I loved his role as Wilkie Collins who is a friend to Dickens and reference to Nelly.
Even technically the film is very sound. The images carry a texture heavily filled with grain until the two protagonists get together after which it becomes a smooth and much open imagery following the emotions the lead characters. Cinematographer Rob Hardy as become one of my favorites. His work in 'Broken' and 'Red Riding' are reminders of a new age of visual styles which are brave, unconventional and experimental and constitute the new age British cinema. The costumes though got Michael O'Connor, the designer, another nomination at the Oscars blend quite well into the atmosphere and the performance to be noticed as a separate entity except for the black dress Nelly is wearing while briskly walking at the beach. There is genuinity in the period set designs. But being a character and performance driven film everything merges into one element. It is now evident that Fiennes is not very fond of music constantly playing in the background. Both his films are dry in terms of any expected uplifting of the emotions by the use of music. Maybe its his experience as a theater artist that comes to play depending on the performances of the actors alone to convey the required amounts of emotion.
Not just another period drama, 'The Invisible Woman' is a film of an unconventional relationship which remained in the shadows for a long time just like the characters of Dickens classic Great Expectations. Its a revelation to a celebrated personality. A must watch for non-readers and literature lovers alike.
Dedh Ishqiya (2014)
Dedh Saari Ishqiya
A correction in the number - everything about Dedh Ishqiya can be measured as twice the amount presented in the earlier installment. With more fun-gun n' run and exquisite beauty its like one of the most memorable welcome note to a new year.
How are we not bound to enjoy when a screenplay is full of conversations that are saturated with Gulzaresque quirks, lyrics and humor? We have grown up in awe of Gulzar's peculiar lyrics. He is the one writer who presents us the essence of a language, be it Urdu, Hindi, awadhi or punjabi. Sharing the same passion for language, Vishal Bhardwaj and his own style of humor and ethnic dialogs make this film an essential one in the history of Indian films.
There is so much to this film. Its like a full course meal. And Urdu is one of the main dishes served on the platter of Khalu and Babban's new adventure. Along the course we are also served Thumris, Mushayras and a Qawwali all wrapped in a Nawabi cloak. All of it is so overwhelming that a second helping is a must.
Thanks to director Abhishek Chaubey for breaking the status quo and bringing an intelligent script to the screens. Brilliantly written characters and plot progressions are engaging. Madhuri Dixit makes a strong comeback. She carries the same charisma as she did years ago that made everyone crazy about her. I loved how there is a sad undertone to her character when she is introduced but manages to smile and look beautiful nevertheless. The way Madhuri has pulled off the the conflict of her character is commendable. Huma Qureshi also pulled off a confident portrayal. Naseeruddin Shah as the romantically diverted Khalu uplifts the effect of the Urdu poems with finesse. Vijay Raaz as the wannabe Nawab Jaan Mohammad adds peculiarity to his character and becomes part of the most memorable scenes from the film. Watch the scene where everyone is at gun point and waiting for the other one to drop the guns but ultimately end up standing the same way till morning (its the most intelligent piece of humor in films in recent years).
Now for the scene stealer. Arshad Warsi's portrayal of feisty and lustful Babban binds the Ishqiya franchise into one. His mannerisms and comic timing adds Babban to the list of most memorable characters.
Lajawaab is the word for this flick.
What a ride!! Literally, the latest installment in extrapolated Hobbits tale was no less than a ride in an amusement park. Thrilling, entertaining and everything we loved from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Resuming their journey, Bilbo Baggins along with the dwarfs find new challenges on the path forward to the lonely mountain. Only BIlbo is a new leaf now. He is more courageous and more involved in helping his fellow trekkers in their mission. And it is one thing he acquired during his journey that helps him prove his worth as a rightful choice as a burglar.
'Desolation of Smaug' is an improvement in every way over the first Hobbits movie. The narration is better, and the story has more substance to offer - the conflicts, doubts, bursts of courage, approaching evil etc. The things I liked about the Lord of the Rings trilogy are found in this movie. There is an air of suspense before plots or new characters are revealed. A creepiness is there to haunt. And it just doesn't end there. The awesome action sequence where our friends make an escape through the river riding in empty barrels was spectacular.
And when we start to imagine if a movie can offer more thrills, we have - 'The' dragon. Smaug is the best dragon or gigantic creature in movie history. Benedict Cumberbatch's voice as the goldophillic dragon is the treat of the movie. Its scary, daunting and intimidating. The voice circling in surround sound raises goose bumps. To quote Jeremy Jahns from youtube - "That's one big Batch of Cumber".
It's just unbelievable, we'll have to wait another year to complete the story. Its amazing how the ending to this movie creates a craving towards the continuation of the story. It was almost 3 hours long, still the heart wants more. Only thing we can do now is to wait for a 20 minute extended edition on blu-ray. Smacking delicious precious!!
Can't Miss Katniss
Hype for a movie can be completely misleading (read Twilight). The first of the Hunger Games movies also wasn't up to the expectations. I only remember the blood shed and shaky cams from that one. This time, I wanted to play safe, so I checked out the credits. And they make the new Hunger Games movie quite credible.
Francis Lawrence dons the director's hat for the sequel (even the future ones) to make an adaptation that sports emotional depth and consistent storytelling. Who's Lawrence? As a director he's ventured us into the unknown realms with 'I Am Legend', 'Constantine' & 'Water For Elephants' (Awesome, Awesome & Lovely respectively). This time too he brings along his skills for uninterrupted, no fillers and sensitive storytelling.
Living in the limelight post their win in the last year's Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are again drawn into the arena to their fright to participate in Quarter Quell. This quarter centenary games involves participation of all living winners from each district. Only this time things have changed. People have found hope against the system in Katniss as a beacon. Her victory is showing sparks of revolt all around. Its only in time we will know how the system reacts.
The sequel is an overhaul of sensibilities. The fragility and the vulnerability of emotions among the ones who survived the horror of previous games is among the chief elements that were portrayed genuinely. Academy Award winner Simon Beufoy's (for 'Slumdog Millionaire') script is a thorough exercise in a build up to what will become of the revolution. Comparisons can be made with the first part of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows which in a similar manner made only the story proceed and build anxiety for the action and showdowns in the sequels.
Overall the atmospherics make this movie worth the time. For me, my favorite Hollywood composer James Newton Howard's score supportingly provides the emotional leverage to the scenes. For me it's hard to believe, but I am already waiting for the sequels. Let the Mocking Jay take flight.
Bullett Raja (2013)
Raised the Temperature, But Couldn't Explode
Before watching Bullett Raja I couldn't stop myself from running a Tighmanshu Dhulia movie marathon and build the mood for what I would watch on the big screen last Friday. It payed off and the movie didn't disappoint.
The plot builds up with the chance encounter between Raja Mishra & Rudra Tripathi, played by Saif & Jimmy Shergil respectively, which lays the foundation to a partnership that will transform them from being common to men of power and local heroes. Together Raja & Rudra take on the nexus of politicians and businessmen in UP, creating a havoc in their system and find themselves on their hit list.
Crisp dialogues and smartly written characters keep us hooked to the story. It is the camaraderie between Raja & Rudra that is to look out for. Our very own Butch & Sundance if I must say. Also there are identifiable instances from real life incidences which are subtly infused to the script - a hit man dressed up as a woman and pretends to be crazy to escape an arrest.
It is post the interval the script starts to lose steam. There are scenes which feel like fillers and completely unnecessary. There is no evidence of Sonakshi Sinha's role doing any justice to her screen time. Vidyut Jamwal plays his character with grit and a smirk making the character's input interesting, but introducing him single handily taking out an entire crew of chambal dacoits (??) - c'mon!
"Aap humein support karo, hum bisphot kar denge". Didn't feel it exploding but Bullett Raja has enough heat to keep us warm and break thaw with other screenings this winter.
"Men love women. But more than that, men love Cars".
Hear, Hear! Absolutely! Studies say men think about sex every 3 minutes. Hmm, but no doubts about the 2 minute gap. That's reserved for machines. Curves of metal, humming engines and the adrenaline.
This week at the movies, Ron Howard's 'Rush' pays tribute to the Man- Machine relationship and it doesn't get more intimate than this.
Rush is inspired by real life rivalry between Formula 1 racers James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Them ruled the tracks in the 70's and it was their riff that kept them ahead.
The film boasts of well written and performed characters. Hunt is a partying brat, a womanizer who believes in enjoying the life to the fullest. Niki Lauda on the other hand is a complete contrast. He's disciplined, knows his tech inside out and being the son of a businessman, knows the economics of the trade. One's a British and the other a German, even the accents are different. The only thing common between the two is the passion to drive, and unconditional love towards their machines.
Its a simple story of these drivers trying to beat each other with their rivalry acting as the main catalyst. Look out for their interesting verbal conflicts for lighter moments.
Now for the hero of the film. Cinematographer Anthony Dodd Mantle takes us to places where no one has ever been. Close ups of axle joints, acceleration pedals, exhausts of the engine breathing fire and screeching tires as the cars move at the speed of 170 mph are breathtaking. Especially the starting of the last race in Tokyo where the tracks are wet after rain, the first skid of the tires are shown in slow motion throwing water droplets away from its periphery. I mentioned intimacy, didn't I? All he does is use his experience of handling primitive digital cameras right from the days of Dogme95.
Never has being seated in a cinema hall been so thrilling. Don't forget to put your seat belts on, you are in for a ride.
To what extent can a man go to protect his loved ones? Is violence justified only because it will help bring them back from hand of the evil?
'Prisoners' which released in India two weeks later than America is a must watch had anyone missed the chills and atmospherics of thriller classics such as 'Se7en' and 'Zodiac'. Its the story of a desperate father taking matters into his own hands after his daughter and her friend go missing and the police discharges the prime suspect in the case.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the film provides an introspection on our moral grounds at times when evil lurks around. Touching the themes of torture and violence, it is an engaging (at the same time - disturbing) drama. The contorted twist towards the end turns it into a thrilling mystery leaving us puzzled as looking for answers.
Supported by a brilliant caste, the pace of the screenplay gets an uplift by their natural stance and the brilliance of their performance delivery. Hugh Jackman as the father and Jake Gyllenhaal as the frustrated lead investigator prove to be the perfect choice for the roles. Paul Dano as Alex Jones - the prime suspect plays his character so profoundly that we will hate and pity him at the same time. Stark photography by 10 times Oscar nominee Roger Deakins provides the atmospherics and the chills that completely draws us into the drama set in cold and bleak streets.
With 'Rush' released the week before and 'Prisoners' matching up, maybe the Oscar season has already started.
The Romance of Lady D
'Diana', starring gorgeous Naomi Watts as the late Princess of Wales, is an account of the last two years of her life including a secret love affair with a surgeon of Pakistani origin- Dr. Hasnat Khan. The film starts after Lady Diana's official separation from Prince Charles. Finding purpose in humanitarian issues brings her closer to the surgeon. Romance blooms and thus starts a series of secret meetings and paparazzi dodge-ball (Hasnat being a confident yet private person and Diana being constantly referred as "the most famous woman in the world").
Watts in every way is a reminiscent of the late princess. The mannerisms, the stance, the expressions - are convincingly attractive (or maybe it was just me who got carried away). But to get to the depths of her feelings is where her charms don't lead us. We don't really get to know what's in her head while she moves ahead in the world, building her own identity. This detachment makes this flick just a third person account of the difficult life Lady D lived. The choppy editing further confuses this film as a documentary. Its disappointing coming from Oliver Hirschbiegel, the director who gave us a classic biopic following Hitler's last days (see Der Untergang/Downfall).
Watch 'Diana' if you are in mood for a light headed romance. The quirks and dialogues between Diana and Dr. Hasnat are worth the while. If you expect to have a chance to glance upon the lives of royal family or anything related, then you are in for a disappointment.
This was a chance wasted to resurrect an impeccable beauty on screen. Lets hope they don't spoil another with 'Grace of Monaco' releasing next year (even that doesn't look promising to me. Nicole Kidman playing Grace Kelly!! aww c'mon)
Try getting out of the theater. 'Gravity' won't let you.
For years film makers have been trying to convert cinema theaters into warp zones for traveling to new vistas. The result, is 'Gravity'.
Don't say the question "what would one do if stranded in space", never came to your mind. We have seen the images in Kubrick's "2001:A Space Odyssey" and Danny Boyle's "Sunshine", and those left us pretty scared. Whoa, we got ourselves a new genre - SPACE HORROR!! But Alfonso Cuaron's 'Gravity' isn't just a movie, it's an experience. Sitting in our seats we feel the anxiety, emptiness of space (adoring the beauty at the same time) and gasping for air. Its a story of survival, embracing our fears and making decisions when the most necessary of all resources are absent. Do we let the situation take control of us and lose hope or take a grasp on our life? This experience is not as empty as the vast vacuum of space.
Its surprising how convincingly real the images are. The cinematography and the lighting leave us awestruck. And the most amazing part is the physics of the bodies in space. The 3D immerses us further into the scene and wow - we are floating. Alfonso Cuaron, after giving us visual masterpieces like 'Children of Men' and 'Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (my favorite of the eight movies)' lands a benchmark in every way. Difficult 15 minute shots with no cuts, visual transitions from third person to first in the same scene are rare achievements.
Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has just enlisted himself among best cinematographers ever in history. Is there any stopping him? He stunned us with his work in 'The Tree of Life' and 'Children of Men'. He has even surpassed himself.
Flawless in every way, 'Gravity' is the cinema experience that happens only once a decade and opens our minds to new stories and fresh approach.
Captain Phillips (2013)
O Captain, My Captain!
Fridays are getting better with an exciting pick each week. With 'Gravity' fever still soaring, we are treated with another intense and immersing drama with 'Captain Phillips'.
The plot does not waste time in unfolding the main event. The true story of 2009 hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates, has Captain Richard Phillips on board as in-charge. He is experienced and knew the dangers of entering the waters infamous for recent hijacking incidents. So when his ship is actually taken over by pirates his senses are in full action. The flick follows his decisions and tricks he uses to survive when he himself is taken as hostage.
Apart from being a convincing reproduction of the true events, what makes this movie great is the sense of realism attached to it. Its hard to remember the last time I could have vouched for the intelligence of every character in a movie. Everything makes sense and we are pardoned any overt heroics or histrionics.
What I found interesting is that even the pirates have a personality of their own. Check out the self proclaimed Captain of the pirates - Muse. He is confident, brave and strategic. His fellow call him Skinny but watch him as he takes over the ship and follows his own plan - he's intimidating. Everyone is wooing Tom Hank's performance (I'll come to that), but for me this guy steals the show. Played with conviction by Barkhad Abdi, this pirate hijacks the movie single handedly.
Has Paul Greengrass ever made a bad movie? His style as a director is clearly visible in this flick. He will always be remembered for his semi documentary approach. With two Bourne movies and a 'United 93', 'Captain Phillips' is another laurel to his CV.
And then, Tom Hanks. Throughout the period of tension he shows the calm approach of the Captain. His portrayal has an astounding effect on us. It is in the last few minutes of the film that he gives a performance that reminds us of a tour-De-force that was 'Cast Away'. It made my eyes water and made me feel the restlessness and shock that the character went through. Wait for the awards season, a nomination is certain.
Thrilling rescue sequences and powerful performances makes 'Captain Phillips' worth our time and one of the best movies this year.
P.S. : Alert - This is an engrossing movie. Buying popcorn is definitely going to be a waste. Enjoy.