Ida (2014)

Ida film review.

My Ratings: 4.3/5.

Only a few very rare films have images so powerful that they tend to overshadow everything else, even the narrative and the storyline seems to dissolve in the pure beauty of each and every frame.

Ida is such a rare gem.

ida-poster3It is a simple story of an orphan young nun named Anna (real name Ida) who before taking her final vows to God takes a trip along with her aunt (her only relation) to know about her parents.

1960’s Poland being the backdrop Anna’s parent’s identities are linked with secrets that brings back past uncomfortable memories from the days of the Nazi invasion of Poland.

But still Anna is determined to know the truth.

Shouldered by the two main characters Anna (introducing Agata Trzebuchowska) and her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), just about 80 mins long, this Polish film takes us into one of the best road trips ever – a compact script and very natural performances.

ida-poster1Both Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal are credited for the rich black and white artistic imagery. Cinematography at it’s best.

The film is uniquely in square format (aspect ratio 1.33 : 1) and interestingly most of the frames have huge amount of negative space on the top. I think it some how signifies the presence of God which relates to the inner religious struggle of Anna throughout the film.

Director Pawel Pawlikowski makes sure that his film Ida has a profound impact on the audience, his visual style of storytelling and his creative sense is surely admirable.

Official submission of Poland to the Best Foreign Language Film category for the 87th Academy Awards, Ida wins the Oscar!

Definitely the most visually pleasing film of the recent times and missing this film may even be considered as a sin!

Big Eyes (2014)

My Ratings: 3.2/5.

Finally Tim Burton is back with his latest film Big Eyes based on the dramatic ‘true’ events from the lives of the famous artists Mr. and Mrs. Keane.

Set in the 1950’s California the film revolves around a married couple – Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), an artist who specializes in drawing children with big, sad eyes; and her husband Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), the perfect smooth-talking salesman (although he claims to be an artist too).

Seems to be a perfect marriage until Margaret’s big-eyed children-paintings suddenly become a hit and Walter starts taking credit for Margaret’s work!

A somewhat unevenly entertaining comedy that gives you the satisfaction of enjoying a good film while at the same time making you think – it could have been much better.

No complains with the performances of Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. Both did a fabulous job and stayed true to their character’s ambiguities. 

Actually the first half of Big Eyes is pretty flawless; the story races with speed and ambition, the characters real and emotions high. But after the second half the treatment is often too melodramatic and the characters (especially Walter in the courtroom scene) seems too caricatural.

Tim Burton’s eccentric, comic touch is always a treat for his fans though this time it seemed abrupt and inconsistent.

Superb production design by Rick Heinrichs, art direction by Chris August and awesome work by costume designer Colleen Atwood, the film really makes us time travel into the 50s era.  

Overall Big Eyes is a fine portrayal of Margaret Keane’s life, how she becomes a victim of artistic plagiarism and finally how she musters enough courage to find her long lost dignity, fame and artistic freedom.

If you are a fan of Amy Adams go for it, she is absolutely brilliant.

Foxcatcher (2014)

My Ratings: 4.2/5.

Foxcatcher is a film that tells the tale of two troubled souls, a multimillionaire and a wrestler, both disturbed and consumed by their own ambition and distorted personal lives.

Bennett Miller who has previously made films like Capote and Moneyball this time wins the Best Director Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival with his latest release Foxcatcher.

Wrestling enthusiast John du Pont (Steve Carell) who also happens to be a multimillionaire invites the Olympic gold medal-winning wrestlers duo – Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), to join his sports team called ‘Foxcatcher’ with an offer to sponsor their training for the 1988 games in Seoul.

A generous gesture as it may seem but soon the coach-athlete alliance takes an unexpectedly dangerous turn.

Foxcatcher deliberately takes a calm and composed route that lures us into the disturbing depths of human psyche and finally leads to a disastrous conclusion.

FOXCATCHER-POSTER2Winning a good many awards and critic’s admirations Foxcatcher already has three Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Picture.

Tremendous exhibition of acting capabilities by both Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo who spent extensive six months professional wrestling training for their parts.

In a particular scene Channing Tatum became so intensely involved into his character’s struggle that he actually bashed a mirror with his head which was originally not in the script!

But again the real surprise package in Foxcatcher is Steve Carell himself, the famous comic actor we know from past films like Crazy, Stupid, LoveDate NightDan in Real Life ; though this time i can assure you he is not in the mood to make you laugh.  

Foxcatcher doesn’t fit the mainstream, melodramatic sport-movie pattern but after watching i am sure you will be thankful it didn’t.

A slow paced psychological thriller that shouldn’t be missed.

Two Days, One Night (2014)

Two Days, One Night film review.

My Ratings: 4/5.

A few years back i watched a film named The Kid with a Bike directed by two brothers from Belgium, and was in awe with the unique slow and sensitive narrative and the genuineness of the characters. 

The Dardenne brothers (Jean-Pierre DardenneLuc Dardenne) have done it again and their latest feature Two Days, One Night is probably their best signature work till date.

The film is Belgium’s official submission to the  Best Foreign Language Film category for the Oscars.

The protagonist Sandra (Marion Cotillardhas got two days and one night time to individually meet up with all her colleagues and convince them to let go of the tempting bonus money and instead vote for her. If they don’t, Sandra looses her job. 

The basic plot of the film can’t be any simpler than this but it’s the execution that makes all the difference in the world.

Two-Days-One-Night-poster3The character of Sandra is so well distinguished, a wife and a mother; her struggle with depression, her quest to maintain dignity, her love for her family and even her respect for her co-workers decisions. A woman who is both strong and vulnerable at the same time.

And then of course the simple presence of mesmerizing French actress and singer Marion Cotillard – what a performance! She has done excellent work in many of her past films including InceptionRust and Bone, and very recently The Immigrant but this film is something special.

Long takes, simple camera angles, natural dialogues and flawless acting maintains the much needed super-realistic feel and saves the film from being repetitive after a point.

Two Days, One Night is not as simple as it looks apparently. The film has many layers and it cleverly reflects on our current society and it’s inhabitants. It’s also about family bonding (the tremendous support Sandra gets from her husband Manu, played by Fabrizio Rongione) and friendship and trust. It’s about making a difficult choice between being selfish or being human.

Take some time out, relax and switch off your cell phone. Only then you will be able to truly enjoy Two Days, One Night. Don’t you dare miss it.

Whiplash (2014)

My Ratings: 4.3/5.

“Nieman, you earned the part. Alternates, will you clean the blood off my drum set?”

The above dialogue sets the tune of the film so damn well.

Whiplash is a film that stretches the boundaries of all previous student-mentor relationship based dramas.

The story of Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a 19-year-old aspiring jazz drummer and Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), his brutal school music instructor.

Pumped up with such energy and passion, a young achiever ready to shed enough blood and sweat till he achieves; while on the other hand a tutor who believes in pushing his pupils to accomplish beyond what’s expected of them.

Whiplash is a gritty and uncompromising take on ambition and success from the point of views of both a trainee and the trainer.

whiplash-posterShot over a period of just 19 days, writer-director Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash has taken the festival circuit by storm since its 2014 Sundance Film Festival premiere.

Performances are outstanding: Miles Teller (one of the most talented young actor of recent times) perfectly exhibits the young musician’s hunger for perfection and fame, while J.K. Simmons (his best ever performance) brilliantly commands the ruthless manipulative jazz instructor’s part (in search for the next Charlie Parker).

The casting director Terri Taylor deserves a mention for such a perfect casting. Justin Hurwitz must be credited for the awesome Jazz music through out the film.

Numerous awards and acclamations aside, Whiplash is a film that kind of syncs your heart with young Andrew’s drums and by the end of the film they beat together with passion.

I am not exaggerating. Watch the film and then you tell me!

Force Majeure (2014)

Force Majeure film review

My Ratings: 4.4/5.

Force Majeure is a term generally used to define the risks which are beyond the reasonable control of anybody; legally also known as the ‘acts of God’.

For example an avalanche or even a threat of an avalanche!

Now how does a person react in that split second of time when one assumes his life to be in danger? In such a life-threatning moment will a man prove himself to be ‘man’ enough and defend his family or will he panic and run for his own life?

For Thomas who has come for a ski holiday in the snowy mountains of the French Alps with his wife Ebba and the two kids Harry and Vera, such a decisive moment will have a profound effect on his life and will turn their family dynamics upside down.

Force-Majeure-poster1Directed by Ruben Östlund, Force Majeure is an outstanding dark comedy that delves with certain aspects of our human nature which we poor humans are often not so keen to admit even to ourselves. 

The scenic beauty of the snow clapped mountains captured by Fredrik Wenzel when put in sync with the often used music from Antonio Vivaldis Summer Concerto gives the film an eerie sense of danger, a state of anxiety that perfectly matches with the moods of the characters.

Brilliant performances and impeccable comic timing by the actors – Johannes Kuhnke (Thomas)Lisa Loven Kongsli (Ebba), Vincent Wettergren (Harry), Clara Wettergren (Vera) and of course Kristofer Hivju (Mats).  

Storytelling also at it’s best, plenty of clever dialogues and subtle moments that make this film one of the best of 2014. Among a long list of awards Force Majeure has already won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. It is also been selected as the Swedish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Oscars.

Force Majeure is a film that throws light on the overall perception of heroism and what it takes ‘to be a Man’ as it dissects the aftereffects of a momentary act of cowardice.

Watch it.

 

Ebar Shabor (2015)

Ebar Shabor review.

Written by Abhikendu Deb Roy

Rating: 3.2/5

It appears that the season of detective films have predominantly taken over the season of winter, here in the Bengali film Industry. After Byomkesh and Feluda, Detective Shabor Dasgupta is working on a murder mystery somewhere entangled between money and love. Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay has been borrowed time and again by the likes of Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen and several other renowned film makers. But none had the courage to excavate and unravel the realms of Shabor till a certain Arindam Sil decided to translate the pages of ‘Rwin’ on screen.

Arindam Sil is back with his second directorial venture, post-Aborto. While Aborto dealt with office politics and relationship issues, Ebar Shabor is a totally different ballgame. Sil, on one hand keeps the nerve-chilling suspense high and on the other hand, makes the pace of the film a tad bit slow somehow stooping down the level. Sil, along with co-screenwriter Padmanabha Dasgupta, has tried to deal with each suspect of the murder one by one, but could have been way more interesting if he had stirred up all the chapters of this whodunit and revealed the homicide at the climax. As the story progresses, the suspense drops steadily and the revelation doesn’t give you the kind of goosebumps you had been expecting.

Ebar-Shabor-posterShabor Dasgupta aka Saswata Chatterjee is sheer brilliance in the film. However it must be added that his look and attitude might bring in some déjà vu for all those ‘Proloy’ viewers. Subhrajit Dutta as Shabor’s sidekick, the convict Swastika Mukherjee and the characters related to the murder viz. Ritwick Chakraborty, Payel Sarkar, Debolina Dutt, Rahul Banerjee are well above the bar. Prime Suspect Abir Chatterjee is having the time of his life. He proves yet again that he can get out of his comfort zone and play the role of a sleuth or a murder suspect. One person who must receive special mention is June Maliah, bringing upon two reflecting sides to her role.

A major portion of the film has been shot indoors. The detailing and virtuosity of the indoor shoots are reflected through the art director Nafisa Mondal’s works. The outdoor shoots have been kept simple, shot in prime locations like Gariahat and Esplanade to name a few. Cinematographer Sirsha Ray does a decent enough job for this homicidal thriller. Sujay Dutta Ray, in the edit table, kept the film as tight as possible with a running time of 2 hours 5 minutes, with almost every frame indispensable.

Another jewel of this film is its background score and music. Bickram Ghosh works wonders for this 2 hours 5 minutes film. The BGM keeps you intrigued and instigates your grey matter to start working with Shabor. There are two songs which come up post-interval are apt to the screenplay of the film. Adho Ghum, by Ujjaini Mukherjee, crops up right when the suspense is at its peak level while Nei Raat, by Saptak Bhattacharjee and Isheeta Chakravarty is a chase sequence backing song, just before the jigsaw puzzle is solved. Both the songs are a gift to the film, allowing the story to flow ahead.

One amazing thing about Ebar Shabor that’d keep a lasting impression on you even when you walk out of the plexes is the first 3-4 minutes of the film. To be precise, the opening credits are shown in such a startling manner that you expect one blockbuster of a thriller from Sil’s latest creation.

Final Verdict: This thriller keeps you at the edge of the seat making you think time and again. This thriller allows you to change your views of the characters every now and then. This thriller allows you to take a dig at the complex dealings of human relationships. But unfortunately, this thriller is lacking the desired amount of thrill, in spite of keeping you hooked to your couches for the initial part of the film.

Unbroken (2015)

My Ratings: 2.5/5.

Here comes the first review of 2015; a war drama, an epic tale of survival, a journey of a man through tremendous hardship and adversities and yet his soul remains unbroken!

Yes, the film Unbroken desperately tries to portray Louis “Louie” Zamperini‘s extraordinary life, especially focused on his adventures or rather misadventures while he was serving his country in the WWII. 

Escaping death in a plane crash Louis Zamperini manages to stay alive in the middle of the sea for 47 days on a raft (without proper food and water) along with two of his fellow army men until finally the Japanese army rescues them. He was taken in captivity as a war prisoner, tortured and tormented till the war ended.

Based on Laura Hillenbrand‘s brilliantly written book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption the film also highlights Louis Zamperini’s fame and success as an athlete who represented USA in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

Directed by Angelina Jolie (her second feature as a director), and though the screenplay credit boasts of names like the Coen Brothers (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen), the film still falls short of my expectation. 

First of all it’s a tad too stretched and then again the dramatic moments are not dramatic enough (if that makes any sense).

Good camera work by Roger Deakins though but the music doesn’t have much impact.

And also according to me the character graph of Zamperini doesn’t properly gets revealed in the end. He evidently suffers a lot but does anything change in him because of such intense struggle for survival? How does he cope with his normal life when it’s all over?

While watching Unbroken you can’t help but compare it with legendary films like The Bridge on the River Kwai and Life of Pi which again doesn’t particularly help the film.

But one thing that definitely needs to be appreciated is Jack O’Connell‘s excellent performance. He as the lead character is the body and soul of the film, and probably the only reason to watch Unbroken.

Hope 2015 gets better than this.

Best of Bollywood 2014.

Best of Bollywood 2014.

written by Souranath Banerjee.

It’s time to ride the flashback roller coaster in search of some meaningful cinema in Bollywood that released in the year 2014.

The phase ‘meaningful cinema’ itself is debatable since everyone interprets cinema in their own way. For me a film that successfully walks the thin line between quality content and entertainment always wins the race.

So, let the race begin.

1. Queen

queen-posterMost entertaining film of the year and an award-winning performance by Kangana Ranaut.

(Click for the film review)

Girl power punched with fun and friendship.

Awesome music by Amit Trivedi, Vikas Vahl’s superb direction – a great story of a girl who learns to live her life Queen style!

film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGC6vl3lzf0

2. Highway

highway-posterBrilliant performance by Alia Bhatt – so natural and spontaneous that she has even managed to eclipse a much senior actor like Randeep Hooda.

(click for the film review)

The film takes you in a tour of the whole North India; the combination of Imtiaz Ali’s direction and A.R.Rahman’s soulful music – a treat for film lovers.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o66nNnGZ5Rg

3. Haider

Haider-poster

Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider is a film that doesn’t shy off from it’s attempt to show the real Kashmir (set around 1995), the daily agony of the locales and their struggle to survive the police, the military and the numerous violent groups inflicting terror.

(click for the film review)

A combination of Hamlet and Kashmir that is definitely worth your time.

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xakmvJ0WPa4

4. Ankhon Dekhi

ankhon-dekhi-posterThis film deserves a lot more appreciation, a beautiful story of a man with a strange conviction – he wants to believe only what he sees with his own eyes!

Rajat Kapoor skillfully directs this family drama and Sanjay Mishra gives the best performance of his life.

A rare gem – entertaining and thoughtful cinema.

film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3yKUHI2mE4

5. City Lights

Citylights-posterAfter the National Award winning film Shahid, (director) Hansal Mehta and (actor) Rajkummar Rao comes together with yet another promising film.

(Click for the film review)

A remake of the British film Metro Manila, uncomfortably real and raw, the film forces us to look at poverty and despair from disturbing proximity.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fyO8OFK9yw

6. Ugly

Ugly-poster

Anurag Kashyap‘s Ugly is a thriller that revolves around the kidnapping of a little girl and the rigorous search that follows. A nasty tale of mayhem, greed and corruption that doesn’t spare anybody – no one comes out clean and innocent.

(Click for the film review)

Probably the most dark film recently made in Bollywood.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fyO8OFK9yw

7. PK

pk-poster

The much awaited film PK is the latest Aamir Khan flick directed by none other than Rajkumar Hirani; a blockbuster that seems to have broken all the records in box-office collection.

(Click for the controversial film related article)

A light-hearted comedy with an important social message! A film surely worth a watch.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fyO8OFK9yw

8. Miss Lovely

Miss-lovely-posterThe underground sleazy film industry of the 1980’s is never been explored before in such gritty details.

Ashim Ahluwalia (the director) has captured the dark underbelly of the C grade industry with brilliant realism.

Anil GeorgeNawazuddin Siddiqui and Niharika Singh have all given superb performances.

film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzoAOoHdACk

9. Filmistaan 

filmistaan-posterA fresh take on the popularity of Bollywood and also the India-Pakistan tension.

(Click to see the film review)

Filmistaan deals with pretty sensitive issues but always with a divine comic touch.

Great acting performances overall; especially the dynamic and hilarious Sharib Hashmi.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-0LWnz8Ut0

10. Children of War

Children-of-War-posterHistory often gets blurred with time but such courageous films revive them and voices the truth.

(Click to see the film review)

The film successfully recreates the horrific crimes orchestrated by Pakistan over the Bangladeshi (Bengali) people in the pre-independence era of Bangladesh in 1971. Great effort by director Mrityunjay Devvrat.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzIa0wYfUwU

and (The ‘+1′ film is not necessarily the best but certainly the most crazy one. A must watch)

+1. Mary Kom

Mary-kom-poster

Mary Kom, the biographical film on a farmer’s daughter from Manipur, who become a boxer and creates history by being the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships.

(Click to see the film review)

Directed by debutant Omung Kumar and produced by Snajay Leela Banshali – one of Priyanka Chopra‘s best performance till date.

Film trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzIa0wYfUwU

And some honorary mentions are Finding FannyMardaaniKya Dilli Kya Lahore2 StatesBhoothnath ReturnsDedh IshqiyaHolidayHawaa HawaaiLakshmi and of course Sulemani Keeda