Mistress America (2015)

Mistress America review.

written by Souranath Banerjee

A refreshingly intelligent comedy that guarantees a smile on your face!

My Ratings: 4/5.

Personally a fan of director Noah Baumbach, who started his career Kicking and Screaming, swam around with The Squid and the Whale for good, then introduced us to the brilliant Frances Hamistress-america-poster2and While We’re Young his latest film Mistress America has finally reached us and it’s simply awesome!

A dry and witty comedy, often hilarious though, which revolves around the unique friendship of two women and their inhibitions.

‘There’s no adultery when you’re eighteen. You should all be touching each other all the time.’

‘You are much more of an asshole than you initially appear.’

‘I don’t give a shit, because I am not a friend of Tennessee Williams.’

That’s Brooke (Greta Gerwig) for you and some of her hilarious dialogues – she being the older woman and a self-proclaimed artist who is always ready with such valuable pieces of advice and comments for mistress-america-poster1her would-be step sister Tracy (Lola Kirke), a young college teen.

In the very beginning of the film Brooke, unconsciously though seduces young Tracy with the promises of the cool and carefree bohemian lifestyle of an artist in New York, but can she live up to her fancy commitments forever?

Mistress America apparently has the fluidity of an easy going comedy but the insecurities and fears, the hopes and yearnings of the characters adds so many layers to the film that it becomes a perfect light-hearted study of human psychology!

A film that hinges on the superb performances of the two lead actors.

Greta Gerwig, (unforgettable earlier performance in and as Frances Ha) in this film joins director Noah Baumbach as a co-writer and also manages to deliver superbly as an internally confused woman who mistress-america-posterdesperately wants to fit in.

And very well complemented by Lola Kirke as the young not-so-confident girl who is ready to be charmed by someone she can look up to but soon finds out how misleading the real world and it’s people can be. 

Great screenplay, crisp dialogues and terrific natural acting that makes the film a delight to watch.

Not too early to profess but Noah Baumbach for me is probably the only director who can keep up the tradition of the classic Woody-Allen-style of smart and witty comedy films in future.

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.comthefilmstage.com

Nil Battey Sannata (2015)

Nil Battey Sannata review

written by Souranath Banerjee

An issue based film double dipped in a cup of sweet mother-daughter-emotions, and it’s totally worth your time!

My Ratings: 4.1/5.

Stardom in Bollywood always guarantees a mega box-office collection but what if, you are in a mood to tell some decent humane tale through a film of real values and quality?

Well, for that all you need is a couple of brilliant actors like Swara Bhaskar and Riya Shukla, a director with a vision similar to Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and an awesome story like Nil Battey Sannata!

Yes, a highly anticipated film (among the non-comercial cinema
Nil-battey-sannata-reviewlovers) Nil Battey Sannata is finally released and it’s superbly entertaining, very emotional and most importantly a film that perfectly resonates our society.

A young mischievous girl Apeksha aka Appu studying for her 10th class board exams, when asked about her future career plans replies to her mom Chanda (who by profession is a ‘bai’ or house maid) –

‘Ek engenier ka beta engenier banta hai, ek doctor ka beta doctor, toh bai ki beti kyaa banegi?’

Now this particular line though delivered in casually by a girl says a lot about our current Indian society. It portrays the general mentality of a kid coming from a family below the poverty line whose dreams to become a doctor, engineer or collector is automatically restrained and are forced to be moulded according to their financial/social status.

Nil-battey-sannata-reviewThe film makes us question that being a single mother and that too from a poor financial background, is it too ambitious for Chanda (Swara Bhaskar) to dream a better future for her beloved daughter Appu (Riya Shukla)?

Though the film essentially revolves around the social issue of education and it’s importance in our community (especially for the women) but the real brilliance of Nil Battey Sannata comes from the  unique relationship between a mother who sacrifices her life’s happiness to give her daughter a decent education and her daughter who being too immature and naive doesn’t able to value her mother’s sacrifice (or so it seems to be).

Nil Battey Sannata though predictable at times has been made with great care and sensitivity, and it does manage to pull the right strings Nil-battey-sannata-reviewto make the audiences all chocked up and teary-eyed by the end.

And then, the superlative acting by Swara Bhaskar (she has always been my favorite and a real performer)Ratna Pathak (sheer perfection)Pankaj Tripathy (brilliantly funny), Riya Shukla (immense potential) and a couple of other child actors – such exclusive natural performances are the real reason for the film’s success.

It ends with a dialogue about achieving your dreams that instantly reminds us of The Pursuit of Happyness, but then Nil Battey Sannata is definitely a film to watch and get inspired from.

If you like good films with simple human sentiments – don’t miss it.

Poster courtesy: www.bollywoodmdb.com

Best Boxing Films (10+1list)

Best Boxing Films.

written by Souranath Banerjee

The first boxing film I saw was Rocky, the epic violent scenes of rocky-posterSylvester Stallone battling it out in the ring for honor had made huge impact on me as a teenager, so much so that I wanted to be a boxer at the time! 

But soon enough I saw a real boxing match (The Bite Fight) where Mike Tyson tries to bite off Evander Holyfield’s ear and that sure helped me change my career options and for good.

In fact boxing as a game can be traced back to as early as the Bronze Age (between 3000 BC and 2500 BC).

It is indeed one of the most barbaric form of sport which has it’s roots directly imbedded in the times when gladiators were thrown in an arena for the sheer sadistic pleasure of the viewers, and the so called entertainers had to battle it out till their last breath!

champion-posterOf course the rules have been civilized and sophisticated.

Today, the boxers are generously paid and in return are encouraged only to hit and knock down their opponent (instead of killing them) and we, the (less demanding) audience still enjoy the blood, the pain and the agony of two people fighting each other purely for our entertainment.

We not only buy expensive tickets to cheer them live on stage, but also relish a few emotional movies made on their lives (be it fictional or biographical); a combination of the boxer’s sentimental family background and enough gory fight sequences always seem to work fine for us!

So, let’s celebrate some of the Best Boxing Films ever made till date.

Let the rounds begin!

10. Ali (2001)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl2FSulKQq4

ali-posterHe often unapologetically boasted that he was THE greatest boxer of all times and who can say he was wrong in saying that?

Directed by Michael Mann, this is one of the best biographical account of the all time famous boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

The film is a perfect balance of his epic success in the ring and also his famous personal life.

9. The Boxer (1997)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o55UrRbni50

The-boxer-posterA man recently out of prison tries to resume his life as a boxer and starts a boxing club to train fresh talents.

Directed by Jim Sheridan, this film is not entirely on boxing and it’s glory but about the power of boxing as a sport that has the ability to knit a community (or at least try to). 

Brilliant film that doesn’t shy away from commenting on political violence and it’s after effects.

8. Southpaw (2015)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh2ebPxhoLs

southpaw-poster1A tragic accident crashes a boxing champion’s life but he needs to trin himself, comeback for the title and win, at least for the sake of his young daughter.

(click for review)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the film boasts of some brilliant acting and realistic gory fights along with a decent touch of emotions from a boxer’s life.

7. Fat City (1972)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UevWnct5pkQ

fat-city-posterOne young enthusiastic boxer and the other one is a middle aged fighter, and how their life stories get intertwined.

Superlative acting and an uncommon way of storytelling that makes this film unique.

Directed by John Huston, this is one of the most unconventional boxing film that deserves a lot more attention than the usual.

6. Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3h4EHZSj6k

requiem-for-a-heavyweight-movie-poster-1962-1020209637According to the doctor boxer Mountain Rivera must put an end to his career because of his injuries but his crafty manager is all set to use him for one last fight!

Directed by Ralph Nelson, this is one outstanding film that revolves around a boxer’s life and portrays the sad scenario of how a boxer is often used as a tool to make money by the people he trusts.    

5. Cinderella Man (2005)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlbHzcH4VJY

Cinderella-Man-posterThe brilliant comeback story of James Braddock, a boxer whose career was supposedly over, returned to the ring and became a winner.

Directed by Ron Howard, this Oscar nominated film is such a enchanting tale that successfully teleports you to that particular era (1930s) and makes you attached to the Braddock family for real. Probably the most emotional boxing film I have ever seen.

4. Creed (2015)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCBzWLVQgk8

creed-posterThe latest in the Rocky series, but this time Rocky Balboa doesn’t fight himself but mentors one of his past rival Apollo Creed’s son to become a champion.

Great script and awesome acting, and most interestingly superbly realistic fight sequences that makes the film unique.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film does keep up to the great tradition of Rocky Balboa’s legacy.

3. The Fighter (2010)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71l-kIhJ5j8

fighter-posterDirected by David O. Russell, this is one film that is very close to my heart, not entirely because of the tensions inside the boxing ring but also outside it. 

The film portrays the the early years of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother Dicky Eklund who was also his trainer.

Absolutely brilliant performances and a great biographical boxing drama.

2. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_RsHRmIRBY

million-dollar-baby-posterWon four Oscars including Best picture, a film that tells a tale of extreme determination and courage, the story of a woman who trains herself against all odds to become a professional boxer.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, it is one of the most riveting boxing film that highlights the trainer-trainee relationship to a new height.

A recent Indian boxing drama Mary Kom also has a similar story line but then it’s also a biographical account of famous Indian boxing champion Mary Kom.

1. Raging Bull (1980)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiVOwxsa4OM

raging-bull-posterThe biographical take on renowned boxer Jake LaMotta, his violent temper and destructive attitude that affects his life both in and out of the boxing ring! 

Exceptional performances, brilliant direction, camera and edit and a perfect script – winner of two Oscars.

An epic boxing drama, probably the most popular boxing film ever, directed by none other than Martin Scorsese!

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

+1. The Set-Up (1949)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vbuwvR3q_o

set-up-posterA rare combination of a film-noir and a boxing film!

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Robert Wise, this is one dark sports-drama were the boxer desperately tries to win the big game, unaware that a bet has been placed by his manager for him to lose!

Great storytelling and the boxing scenes are superbly shot, I am sure this film is the inspiration for many future boxing films that followed through the years ahead.

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.comwww.themoviedb.orgwww.traileraddict.comstallonezone.com

Best Lesbian Films ever made (10+1list)

Best Lesbian Films ever made

written by Souranath Banerjee

Best Lesbian Films ever made: In the year 2013 a brilliantly artistic film called Blue Is the Warmest Color won the Palme d’Or, the highest honor awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.

Lesbian-filmsDirected by Abdellatif Kechiche, it is (according to me) the most sexually graphic and emotionally potent cinema essentially based on a lesbian relationship.

Now, the word ‘lesbian’ refers to women who are romantically and/or sexually attracted to other women; a female homosexual.

And in spite of homosexuality being a taboo for years, excellent queer films have been made on lesbianism (even on gay or bisexual relationships) throughout the history of world cinema that respects and honestly portrays the love between two human beings regardless of their gender.

So, here are some of the Best Lesbian Films ever made that successfully represents lesbian relationships on celluloid.

10. Bound (1996) 

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kA0K66yQxo

Lesbian-filmsBefore venturing into the world of The Matrix, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers) debuted in filmmaking with this gritty lesbian sex crime drama!

A suitcase stashed with money ready to be stolen, a master plan that needs to be executed to perfection and two girls who seem to be madly in love – but can they trust each other till the end?

9. My Summer of Love (2004) 

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1L45nP7FOo

Lesbian-filmsFrom the Oscar Winning director Pawel Pawlikowski, this is the tale of two young women who over the summer season gives company to each other and soon starts a passionate lesbian love affair!

A delicately shot film that tip toes on the trust factor of the relationship, and explores so many facets of women. Though the ending is not exactly what you expect it to be!

8. Margarita, with a Straw (2014)  

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zy3F0WVDK0

Lesbian-filmsDirected by Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar, a film that largely revolves around a lesbian relationship of a young girl with cerebral palsy.

(Click for review)

Finally, an Indian film that dares to explore the sexual urges of a disabled person and also makes us realize that their attractions and infatuations are in no ways different from any of us.

7. Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ2yZjnPwQc

Lesbian-filmsOne of Peter Jackson‘s earlier films, this is a biographical account of two young girls, deeply attached to each other and living in their own fantasy world.

But things turn unfortunate as their parents sensing their friendship to be too intimate than desired, tried to separate them.

The debut film of Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey.

6. Show Me Love (1998)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtpXpFylSn0

Lesbian-filmsTwo cute teenage girls in a small town and their love story – well the film is exactly that and fortunately much more.

Directed by Lukas Moodysson, this is a film that touches the depths of so many emotions and depicts love, friendship and teenage infatuations from a very simple yet realistic point of view.

A film that makes you laugh and cry at the same time.

5. Aimee & Jaguar (1999)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DdmtmVvCBg

Lesbian-filmsDirected by Max Färberböck, the film is about the courageous lesbian relationship between a Jewish girl (disguised under a German name) and a German housewife during the time when Jews were being mercilessly hunted down from all around Europe.

Historically significant as well since it’s a biographical account and it’s captured on screen with such brilliance.

4. Carol (2015)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4z7Px68ywk

Lesbian-filmsA young girl attracted to a married older woman who openly seduces her, an impulsive spark of romance that makes their lives both volatile and euphoric.

(Click for review)

Directed by Todd Haynes, a perfect lesbian love affair beautifully put on screen, a liaison between two people most unexpected of falling in love!

3. The Killing of Sister George (1968)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Clqfsd7sYJU

Lesbian-filmsA superb black comedy and a somewhat unusual way of portraying a lesbian relationship.

Brilliantly directed by Robert Aldrich, this film is all about elderly Sister George and her young girlfriend and then the various twists and turns in their relationship.

Excellent characterizations and superlative performances that ensures the film’s brilliance.

2. Fire (1996)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnshN0wqiCo

Lesbian-filmsDirected by Deepa Mehta, this is one powerful Indian film that tells the story of two wives from a middle class family who being frustrated by their loneliness and dissatisfied sex-life ignites a lesbian relationship among themselves.

Bold and thought provoking – though globally appreciated and well received but was predictably banned in India right after its release!

  1. Persona (1966) 

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

Lesbian-filmsA nurse is assigned to take care of an actress who doesn’t want to speak anymore, and soon the two women find themselves curiously attached, and their personas seem to mysteriously coincide with each other.

Though any direct lesbian relationship is never implied in this Swedish classic, but then acclaimed director Ingmar Bergman masterfully plays with the complexity of the women’s psychology and their instincts. A treat to watch for Cinema lovers!

Even in the films like David Lynch‘s Mulholland Drive and Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan, the lesbian theme is only a layered part of the main plot.

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

+1. Mädchen in Uniform (1931)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnlAS-hMtic

Lesbian-filmsA classic lesbian drama (probably the first of its kind), and not surprisingly the film achieved a cult status.

Directed by Leontine Sagan and Carl Froelich, this is the story of a young girl falling in love with her (lady) teacher within the strict restrictions of a boarding school.

The German film though initially had great success was later banned and prints destroyed during the Hitler regime.

A few other Lesbian films which didn’t make the list are:

Club de femmes (1936), The Children’s Hour (1961), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Another Way (1982), The Kids Are All RightLesbian-films (2010), Saving Face (2004), I Can’t Think Straight (2008), Room in Rome (2010), High Art (1998), Desert Hearts (1985), The Fox (1967), The Secrets (2007), The Duke of Burgundy (2014), Monster (2003), Dyketactics (1974) (Short), The Runaways (2010), and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972).

A few TV Movies that explore lesbian relationships:

If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000), Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story (1995), The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010), Daphne (2007), The Truth About Jane (2000) and Gia (1998).

A few TV Series that are essentially developed with lesbian themes:

FingersmithLesbian-films (2005), Tipping the Velvet (2002), Portrait of a Marriage (1990), Sugar Rush (2005), The L Word (2004), Anyone But Me (2008) and South of Nowhere (2005).   

And finally, a few documentaries that explore lesbianism:

Paris Was a Woman (1996), Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (2009), Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (1992) and Word Is Out (1977).

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.comcinema.comwww.iwannawatch.to.

Before I Wake (2016)

Before I Wake review

written by Souranath Banerjee

With better performances and a proper ending the film could have achieved real greatness in this particular genre.   

My ratings: 3.7/5

A regular horror flick surrounding a scary child and some clueless adults terrified by the unknown – well, close enough but not that stereotyped after all.

before-i-wake-poster2Before I Wake is a supernatural thriller where the basic concept revolves around a child’s dreams that become real, but unfortunately so does his nightmares!

Yes, an orphaned 8-year-old boy, Cody (Jacob Tremblay) who is recently taken in by a young couple Mark and Jessie (Thomas Jane and Kate Bosworth), but soon enough the loving foster-parents discover Cody’s special talent (unintentional though) to turn his dreams into actual physically-tangible reality.

As long as they are bright colored butterflies or cute dead kids back to life, nobody seemed to complain but when the dreams started to conjure up hollow-eyed demons who likes to swallow up people, its time to panic and look for a remedy to stop Cody’s nightmares.

before-i-wake-poster3The horror coefficient is high but the real USP of the film Before I Wake is the child actor Jacob Tremblay’s superb performance and of course the brilliant use of visual effects.

But then the acting abilities of the grown ups, specially Kate Bosworth playing the desperate, grief stricken, emotionally drenched mother towards the end of the film needed to look a bit more convincing.

And then, the ending itself for me really doesn’t live up to it’s expectations, open ended to the extent of undecided!

Nevertheless, director Mike Flanagan is surely honing his skills in the horror genre, Before I Wake being his third horror flick after Absentia in 2011 and Oculus in 2013 and is definitely his best work till date.  

If you like being scared you will be rewarded generously.

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com

The Jungle Book (2016)

The Jungle Book review

written by Souranath Banerjee

For some, this film will remain as a happy childhood memory and for others, it’s simply a nostalgia! 

My Ratings: 4.1/5.

The incredible story based on the jungles of India comes first hand for the Indian audience as The Jungle Book gets its release in India one week before any other country of the world!

jungle-book-poster4The heroic survival tale of an abandoned “man cub”  Mowgli, a wild kid in an underwear who can easily converse with all the wild animals in the forest!

And why not, since he has been parented by the wolves, Akela (the alpha male wolf-pack leader) and Raksha (the sensitive mother wolf), and then, Mowgli’s best buddies are none other than Bagheera (the protective black panther) and Baloo (the lazy mischievous bear)!

Mowgli’s life is mostly all fun and adventures unless he ends up face to face with Kaa (the hypnotic python) or King Louie (the power hungry orangutan, the King of the apes), but then, there is someone who doesn’t want a man-child in the jungle, the notorious Shere Khan (the one-eyed evil tiger) who desire to eat Mowgli alive!

All our favorite characters leaping straight out from the pages of Rudyard Kipling‘s collective fables (novel), and this time they are not jungle-book-poster7mere cartoons (as our childhood memories made us believe), but they are all dramatically alive and unbelievably realistic in this brilliant CGI drama.

A confession though (most probably a collective confession of all  those who were lucky enough to enjoy their childhood in the 90s); my instant recognition of the ever-popular character Mowgli and his friends neither comes from Kipling’s famous novel nor from the original Disney animated classic masterpiece The Jungle Book (1967).

It’s actually connected with the Japanese Anime television series called ‘Janguru Bukku shonen Môguri’ which was later dubbed in Hindi as ‘The Jungle Book’ and was aired on the one and only Indian channel of the time Doordarshan way back in 1993.

Ah! those lazy Sunday mornings and the unforgettable title song composed by none other than Vishal Bhardwaj and written by Gulzar!

And the impact of that TV series is the sole reason for me to watch the latest Disney Jungle Book film in Hindi!  – probably the first time ever I have intentionally seen a Hindi dubbed version of an English film and it’s totally worth it.

Fortunately this time, it’s not just a stiff translation but the jungle-book-poster6Hindi dialogues has been specially written by Mayur Puri and the Hindi voice-over artists are also the top in their business, Nana Patekar as Shere Khan, Priyanka Chopra as Kaa, Irrfan Khan as Baloo, Om Puri as Bagheera and Shefali Shetty as Raksha.

But keeping aside the nostalgic memories, the film directed by Jon Favreau is in itself a triumph!  

Visually stunning cinematography by Bill Pope and perfectly complimented by John Debney‘s music.

The young debutant actor Neel Sethi has done a great job playing the central character but the most astonishing feat is undoubtedly the computer graphics used to create the hyperrealistic animals and the jungle-book-poster8locations, the exceptional quality achieved by the combined effort of the studios Weta Digital, MPC and Digital Domain.

The film although it narrates the same old story but overall it’s a much darker version of the original tale; some intense violent moments and chilling chase sequences that makes the film frightfully dramatic (specially from a kid’s perspective).

Make no mistake this film in India is Certified as ‘U/A’ and for the right reasons too.

But then, the success of yet another version of The Jungle Book only confirms our love for Mowgli, a character so unique and universally acknowledged as Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s Tarzan, and also that the adorable wolf-raised-kid will always have a special place in the hearts of the Indian audience!

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.com