Gone Girl (2014)

My Ratings: 4/5.

Filmmakers have always been sniffing around the subject of marriage; the advantages, disadvantages, compatibility, infidelity – all angles tried and tested.

And then there comes Gone Girl, a unique film that dares to skin the pretentious layers of a so-called ‘happily married’ life and disembowels the raw and ugly sentiments of a seemingly perfect couple.

Directed by none other than David Fincher, the master of thrillers and the director of films like Fight Club, Se7en, The social Network, The girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

So, the expectation was high but the film keeps its promise.

One fine morning Nick’s wife Amy goes missing; Nick calls the police and eventually the press to find her. But soon enough the poor husband, Nick himself becomes a suspect.

Is Nick as innocent as he claims to be? Is Amy alive? Or did Nick kill his wife?

Gone Girl is fast paced film that demands your full attention, a superbly crafted thriller that plunges into the depths of a psychologically twisted marital relationship of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike).

Brilliant performance by Ben Affleck but the real stunner is Rosamund Pike; she proves to be the perfect cast possible for the gone girl character.

Carrie Coon as Ben Affleck’s sister, Neil Patrick Harris as the ex-lover, Kim Dickens as the detective and Tyler Perry as the lawyer – all have done justice to their characters.

David Fincher’s team consists of his favorite cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and editor Kirk Baxter, and also his favorite composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. And yes, they all have done their bits perfectly.

A disturbingly awesome suspense thriller that you shouldn’t miss.

In fact Gone Girl is not just a thriller but it mocks our current society. I think David Fincher through his film takes a dig at us, at out endless efforts to always present ourselves dignified and loved; our constant struggle to showoff an image of fake everlasting happiness.

Whom are we kidding?

‘Happily married’, ‘Perfect couple’, ‘Loving wife’, ‘Devoted husband’ – once you have seen Gone Girl these words won’t mean the same to you.

Happy New Year (2014)

Written by Abhikendu Deb Roy.

Ratings: 3/5.

A mission is usually of three parts – the aim, the act and the outcome. Mission ‘Happy New Year’: To accomplish an act of theft in the midst of a World Dance Championship. Result: No prizes for guessing, mission successful. It is the act in between which is the essence of this 3 hours long movie.

Director Farah Khan, after a disastrous Tees Maar Khan, is back with the actor she had started her career as a director. Needless to say, the entire plot revolves around Shah Rukh Khan, a meticulous planner who is out there to take revenge for his father’s imprisonment due to a false accusation. A commercial movie like this can never end with a gory conclusion; so you know what happens at the end. It is how he arranges his teammates for the dance competition and the theft likewise is what makes the journey interesting.

Happy New Year was meant to be an SRK movie. Right from his entry exhibiting those 8-pack abs, hoots and claps across the hall are heard every now and then. His acting can never go wrong, and maintains the personality of a team leader. He appears stylish as well, his golden streaks and a rugged goatee being in fashion these days. However, Shahrukh looks tired and aged in some of his scenes, the energy missing almost throughout the entire film.

Boman Irani, Abhishek Bachchan, Sonu Sood and Vivaan Shah play their parts pretty moderately, with a few glimpses of overacting getting noted down from each of them at parts.

Unlike other Khan movies, this is one of those very rare specimens in Bollywood where heroines are just not merely diminished to the role of a showpiece. Farah must be appreciated for giving Deepika Padukone enough opportunities to showcase her talents. Deepika works wonders for this film and is probably the brightest actor among them all, emanating positive vibes and energy.

A linear script keeps the plot simple, but makes it too predictable at parts. Logic is seriously lacking in the script, but one must not, in such a film, ask for explanations of a double role or a team of non-dancers winning the trophy on an international platform. It does carry a few minor twists here and there which take the level of interest for a viewer a few notches up the hill.

With dance championship as one of the building blocks of the film, you can expect superbly built stages with a visual treat of lighting. Inspite of indoor sequences predominant, the set design has been put to larger-than-life situations with intricate detailing of the canvas. Cinematographer Manush Nandan is apt for the portrayal of such a magnanimous film.

180 minutes may seem too long for a film these days, but once you dig into that couch at a plex with a tub of popcorn, you won’t get a hint of how the time is passing by, thanks to the moderately tolerable rib-ticklers and the adrenaline upsurge. But there were patches of the film which could have been done away with, had the editor Anand Subaya noticed.

Dance numbers are expected from a film with such a theme, and there are too many. Countless songs tend to drag the film a bit, but you will enjoy the beats of Indiawaale and Satakli. The only romantic number Manwa Laage has a déjà vu of the romantic hero. But that one song during which you just cannot take your eyes off from the screen is Lovely, the introductory item song of Deepika. Vishal-Shekhar could have come up with a soundtrack of superior quality.

Final Verdict: You will like the film if you are a Shah Rukh fan and if you go in with the mindset of enjoying a masala flick. We however miss the romantic chocolate boy Shahrukh from the olden days. There is a pinch of patriotism in the potboiler as well. It is surely an entertaining film, but surely not a meaningful one.

And also expect Shah Rukh’s youngest son Abram to headbang with his doting father at the end of the movie.

Dr.Prakash Baba Amte – The real Hero (2014)

My Ratings: 3.7/5.

Our current society is a mirror where people can only see themselves, the more they try to perfect their reflection the more it gets distorted. A never-ending self-centered struggle, a rat race where even if you win you still remain a rat.

But of course there are a few exceptions like Dr.Prakash Baba Amte who has given his entire life for the welfare of other living beings (humans and animals).

Dr.Prakash Baba Amte – The real Hero is a biographical film made in Marathi language on the selfless lives of Dr.Prakash and his wife Manadakini.

Son of the great social worker Baba Amte who dedicatedly helped the lepers who were abandoned from their villages in the outskirts of Maharashtra, Dr.Prakash decides to carry forward his father’s intention that is to serve the poor and the helpless throughout his life.

Prakash-Amte-1So with the sole intention of helping others Prakash Amte becomes a doctor and refusing the metropolitan comforts he goes to reside in the very interior villages of Maharashtra to treat the poor tribals for free.

Dr.Prakash Baba Amte along with his wife Manadakini and a small team of dedicated people established their own 24hours open desi-clinic in Hemalkasa – a project called Lok Biradari Prakalp for the development of tribal people.

Soon he managed to establish a school for the tribal children known as the Lok Biradari Ashram.

Prakash-amte-3His heart not only bled for the humans; he also treated the injured/orphaned wild animals from the nearby jungle. Amte’s Animal Ark was built; here animals are kept in cages, fed and nursed till they recover their health. It looks like a mini zoo, as there are a variety of animals – tigers, leopards, lions, eagles, snakes, hyenas, bears you name it!

Well I can keep on writing on Dr.Prakash Amte’s achievements but lets get back to the film and discuss about how well writer/director Samrouddhi Porey has captured the essence of Prakash Amte’s eventful life.

I personally feel the time span of a bit more than 2 hours is a very less time to portray the doctor’s struggle and his achievements.

But the film indeed has done justice, not only touched the important aspects of Amte’s life but also has stressed the emotional moments with dignity. Good camera work and intelligent witty dialogues has made the film worth it.

But then again without Nana Patekar and Sonali Kulkarni’s natural performances the film wouldn’t have been half as entertaining as it is presently.

Prakash-Amte-2Nana Patekar has always been a stalwart in acting but in this film we don’t see him delivering his famous hyperactive dialogues; here he is calm and determined, matured and dependable. He proved that he indeed was the perfect choice for Dr.Amte’s role.

Mohan Agashe does his cameo as Baba Amte in the film.

A better background score could have had a more impact but overall a decent film, both entertaining and educational.

We should at least be aware of the presence of such people like Dr.Prakash Baba Amte who has the courage, dedication and determination to give their entire life for the welfare of others.

The film doesn’t make him a hero but it does share the story of a real life hero with us. I guess the film serves it’s purpose very well.

The Judge (2014)

My Ratings: 3.3/5

The genre loosely termed as Family Drama has always patronized this particular theme where the prodigal son, the black sheep of the family returns to his hometown after ages to attend a funeral or wedding and somehow gets entangled to his roots.

The Judge is the latest addition to this theme but may be not the best one.

I guess the trailer pretty much gives you the story line.

Hank Palmer, the hotshot city lawyer comes back to his hometown to attend his mother’s funeral but has to extend his stay when he learns that his father, Joseph Palmer, the Judge of the town is suspected of homicide!

Did The Judge really kill somebody? Will his son be able to defend him?

Yes, the film eventually answers these questions but not before Hank Palmer resolves all his past issues – his messy relationships with his father, his two brothers, his girlfriend and so on.

And believe me Hank takes his time – the film is 2hrs 22mins and could have been a much better experience if it was at least 15 to 20 mins shorter.

Most of the times actors feel lucky to have been casted in a particular film that eventually make their career but in films like The Judge, the film itself should feel lucky that actors like Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall are part of it.

Robert Duvall perfectly fits the aged, stubborn and respected Judge who hates to love his middle son Robert Downey Jr, still blames him for his accidental childhood mistakes and more importantly for leaving him and his hometown.

On the other hand Robert Downey Jr flawlessly plays the confident, arrogant city lawyer who wants to help his family especially his father as much as he wants to go back to his city life and forget his past.

The tussle, the conflict, the brilliant father-son chemistry between two such distinguished actors is the only reason to watch The Judge.

Vera Farmiga and Billy Bob Thornton also made their presence felt in the film.

The dialogues in the film are often a bit too loud and straight forward, i felt a few more subtle emotional sequences could have challenged the actors in a better way.

Especially the court room scenes – too dramatic almost in the verge of losing reality.

But despite of not having a perfect script or exquisite camera angles or crisp editing, the director David Dobkin still goes lucky with his casting.

The Judge is a slow emotional film; before you buy the tickets do make sure you have the time and the mood for it.

Kill the Messenger (2014)

My Rating: 4/5

Kill the Messenger is based on a true story; it’s about a courageous man who blew the whistle on CIA and paid the price for it.

Journalists have always played a big part in political thrillers and Kill the Messenger is no exception, in fact it is a biographical film based on a reporter’s life.

In the mid 1990s Gary Webb was a happily married man, a loving father and a reporter with great instincts, and as a professional he wholeheartedly believed in finding the truth and sharing it.

But some stories are so dangerously true that sharing them has their own consequences.

The film Kill the Messenger focuses on Gary Webb’s life that took a summersault when he, in spite of being warned by the authorities, openly published his articles by the name of “Dark Alliance” that reveals CIA’s involvement in drug trafficking.

Now many blame CIA for everything that’s going wrong in today’s world but fortunately Kill the Messenger only concerns with the event of CIA importing huge amounts of drugs (cocaine) to be sold in the ghettos all across US to raise money for arming the Contra rebels of Nicaragua.

Remember it’s a true story!

Director Michael Cuesta has done a good job maintaining the thrill and suspense elements intact throughout the film. He has concentrated more on Gary Webb’s life than the actual CIA scandal.

The look and feel of the film, the in-between montages of real footages cleverly blended, even the color tones – all add up to make the film more realistic. Sean Bobbitt as the cinematographer needs to be mentioned.

Jeremy Renner playing the central character does a great job; it’s through his performance that the audience can actually connect to the story in an emotional level. Relations with his wife and his eldest son are very well weaved into the main storyline.

The film is worth watching for those who enjoy political dramas or even biographical films and Cameos by Andy Garcia and Ray Liotta.

P.S. – Let me know if this film reminds you of Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford starrer All the President’s Men (1976).


Annabelle (2014)

My Ratings 4/5.

It is said that fear makes our hair grow at an alarming speed; now if this statement is to be taken seriously then by the end of the film Annabelle, a baldy should come out with a decent ponytail on his head.

Yes, the release of Annabelle IS good news for those who aren’t scared of getting scared out of their wits.

annabelle-posterAs the poster says ‘Before The Conjuring there was Annabelle’.

Annabelle, the star character of this film is supposedly an expensive vintage doll that was introduced in one of the creepiest films of last year The Conjuring (hope you remember).

This film is Annabelle’s back-story, sort of a revelation of its dark dark past.

So Annabelle being the ugliest collector’s item is gifted by the caring husband John to his loving pregnant wife Mia but soon enough Annabelle gets cursed by some blood thirsty Satan lovers.

And since then throughout the length of the film Annabelle successfully haunts and terrorizes this innocent couple – till it gets what it wants!

The basic plot isn’t that unique but what is interesting is how director John R.Leonetti (who was the DOP of The Conjuring and Insidious series) has built up the elements of suspense.

The ticker of a sewing machine, a few innocent drawings by a kid, the uncomfortable flicker of the light-bulbs, the creaks of a rocking-chair, or even an inflated readymade pop-corn foil about to burst; annabelle-poster1such visuals cleverly juxtaposed with appropriate music have the potential to inflict enough thrill for the panic-lovers.

Decent acting by the main cast, the couple Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) both has done their part well. Even the baby is adorable.

And superb editing by Tom Elkins, the person responsible to bring out the sudden shrieks and the nervous giggles from the audience in regular intervals.

This film will surely remind you of Chucky and Rosemary’s Baby and The Skeleton Key and also a dozen other horror flicks. But still Annabelle is unique as it is probably a combination of all those horror thrillers, blended and battered to perfection.

I would suggest not to expect much though.

Annabelle is neither a masterpiece nor an Oscar winner but undoubtedly an entertainer. And most importantly it scared the shit out of the audience.

Haider (2014)

My Ratings: 3.6/5

If Macbeth is Maqbool, Othello is Omkara then what does Hamlet stands for in Bollywood-adaptation language?

Hint1: The film is released on 2nd Oct but it’s full of violence!

Hint2: A gun is kept hidden inside the toilet to be used later but the film is not related to Coppola’s The Godfather by any chance.

Hint3: The film in a very sarcastic way pelts stones at Salman Khan flicks but luckily enough most of the Salman-fans are not accustomed to such clever sarcasm.

Ok on a serious note – Is Haider really THE film of this year? Vishal Bhardwaj’s best film till date? Or is it simply a ‘chutzpah’ – nothing more than a well-shot lineup of a popular Shakespearean tale haphazardly told using Kashmir as the backdrop?

Such conflicting film-reviews always make me feel like a monk who must set out on a journey alone in the search of the truth.

And yes, after watching Haider I must say it is one of the most cinematic films made in Bollywood. Applause for the cinematographer Pankaj Kumar.

The delicate emotions shot through the white translucent drapes, the colorfully lit wooden houses in the verge of destruction, a blood red woolen scarf on the white snow, the golden hued flames from the fireplace gently reflected on Ophelia’s hair … and many more of such beautiful images that promises to linger around in your memory for a long time.

Wait, did I say Ophelia?

I must have meant Arshia (Shraddha Kapoor), the second love of Haider’s life.

The first one of course being his own mother Ghazala (Tabu). Fortunately the role of the invisible King Oedipus is handled in a very subtle and matured way.

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

Since it’s an official adaptation the story is predictable but Vishal Bhardwaj as always has utilized his cast in a brilliant way to tell his own desi-version of Hamlet.

The script does seem a bit abrupt at times especially to include the unnecessary songs in the film.

For example the sudden romantic song sequence right after the tragic news of Haider’s father’s death, then the gravediggers keep singing while digging graves and while shooting people as well; and the never ending dance performance of Shahid Kapoor to convey a not so subtle message to his evil uncle Kay Kay Menon.

I really think Vishal Bhardwaj creates good music but that’s not an excuse to put unnecessary songs in regular intervals.

But these issues are shrouded by the brilliant acting performances by each and every actor in the film.

Shahid Kapoor did try his best to be the loony, melancholic Hamlet who talks to the skeleton head and plots his revenge. Shraddha Kapoor does her bit efficiently.

Kay Kay Menon and Irrfan Khan are both outstanding as usual, so natural and dynamic, though unfortunately they don’t share the screen space together in this film.

And of course Tabu is at her best, such a powerful actor who proves herself time and again. Her character is probably the toughest to play since it has many facets and conflicting desires. And what a splendid job she has done!

Overall a good film which could have been a great film. Honestly for me Omkara and Maqbool were more layered and well scripted than this one.

But never the less this disturbing combination of Hamlet and Kashmir is definitely worth a watch.