Thursday, 18 May 2017

Memento (2000)


As far as cinematic experiences of the mind go, nobody has influenced and hypnotized us in recent times like director Christopher Nolan. Though often leaning towards the incomprehensible, incoherent and logic-defying, Inception (2010) and Interstellar (2014) were unforgettable big screen experiences.

But for me, Memento is Nolan's finest, grounded and most convincing 'mind-awe' film. Based on a short story by Christopher's brother and frequent collaborator Jonathan Nolan, Memento is a jigsaw puzzle that comes together with alarming clarity.

The reverse-chronological narrative cuts across two timelines. Both story nerves feature at its center, Leonard, an insurance investigator who suffers from anterograde amnesia (short-term memory loss). Leonard's condition, as he puts it, is a consequence of two men attacking, raping and killing his wife, while severely injuring Leonard. The first attacker was caught, Leonard is in search of the second fugitive attacker, believed to be called John G.

As habitual viewers of linear storytelling, Memento may get you disconcerted and impatient at first. There's a good chance you will pause and opt for another movie. 

Don't. 

Hang on and watch carefully. 

A rich reward for cinema lovers, as the threads untangle the horror and puppetry of it all.

As a constant vindication of Christopher Nolan's early, unmistakable genius, Memento is his finest psychological/mystery thriller film yet.

(Yes, Indian film viewers will identify the similarities to A.R.Murugadoss directed revenge films, the Tamil version, Gajini (2005) and the Hindi remake Ghajini (2008). Both films just used Leonard's memory loss premise, rest was a rehashed formulaic revenge saga, at best.)

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Fast & Furious 8 (2017)


A bucket of popcorn and the latest Fast & Furious movie now share a similar notoriety. Both are superficial, temporary and at best, a passing joy. Fast & Furious 8 resembles a below par TV series. The only saving grace, since Fast & Furious 7 was so, so bad, that Fast & Furious 8 seems a relief in comparison.  

The formula is in place, one just goes through with it, with assembly line mechanics. Fast cars, hero-gone-rogue, somebody's baby boy, heartless villain, a couple of hot girls, pseudo machoism,repartee-filled dialogues, big-budget mega blasts and the main characters, barely getting scratched.... 

It is all a money-making, 'play it ultra safe' Hollywood territory. 

What a waste of an ensemble cast! For Vin Diesel is an underrated act, Charlize Theron is spot on. Dwayne Johnson is good as usual. Michelle Rodriguez seems jaded, while Kurt Russell is enjoying himself. Jason Statham and Tyrese Gibson (dumb but lively buffoonery) stand out. But there is not an inch of cohesion to hold their parts. 

Everything happens with epic predictability. You know nothing can beat Diesel and team (yawn). Certainly not nuclear submarines and definitely not anything remotely Russian! 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)


This live action remake of a 1991 animation classic plays it safe, but for little plot tweaks and character inclusions.By retaining the original soundtrack and musical storytelling, Disney mostly dampens the experience for young and adult audiences alike.

Characters mouthing songs at every opportunity is now a time-jaded medium. Yet two song picturizations bring out the film's best, classic moments. Gaston, a uproarious, witty, humorous song on vanity is good 3D fun. The Beast's anguish hits you harder in live action, via the heartrending Evermore. Applause for the original music composer, Alan Menken and the sharp-witted lyricists, Tim Rice and Howard Ashman.   

Emma Watson is perfectly cast as Bella. A dream role rendered almost perfectly. She is the film's strength, exuding courage, grace, and nobility.Dan Stevens is effective as the Beast. 

Luke Evans stands out as Gaston. Evans nails a role that could so easily be irritating and exaggerated. The much talked about 'gay' moment, is a blink-and-miss hint. 

Classic in parts, and a good children's film otherwise, Beauty and the Beast (3D) is a pleasant one-time fantasy watch.No new daring territory is covered here, which is both a pity and joy. A joy, for Beauty and the Beast as a bedtime story for kids still echoes as relevant. For a darker, mature treatment, don't ask Disney ever. Never.    

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Lion (2017)


It's 1986 and 5-year-old Saroo lives with his mother, elder brother Guddu and little sister Shekila at Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh.Saroo's mother breaks rocks at a quarry for a living, the brother subsists on odd jobs.

One day, a stubborn Saroo insists on accompanying Guddu to work. The older sibling relents and the brothers take the evening train.Saroo is sleepy on alighting, so Guddu leaves him at the potentially safe and deserted station, promising to return in some time.
Hours later, Saroo wakes up calling out his brother's name. He boards an empty train and falls asleep.This is where Saroo's epic lost and found journey begins, spanning two continents and two decades.

Lion is a competent recreation of an amazing true story. The first half is harrowing, largely poignant thanks to Sunny Pawar's charming, astonishing take as the young Saroo. In comparison, the second half seems stretched to evade the imminent conclusion. 

Somehow, searching on Google Earth for a lost home is not as cinematic as a lost boy in a wicked city.

Dev Patel is expressive, the performance pales in comparison to the emotions Pawar evokes.Rooney Mara's girlfriend character is a story-staller. Nicole Kidman is poignant as the mother, David Wenham as the father is adequate. 

How Saroo and Manthosh get adopted by Australian parents is never clearly explained.The film's touching climax make up for the hiccups to a degree.

Lion is not without its flaws, but sincere emotions are at play here and they make Lion a necessary one-time watch.The film title origins is a nice, little tidbit at the end.