2013 – A Review

Pop that bubbly and kiss 2013 good bye and bring out those notepads to make the resolutions for 2014! I am not the sorts to make resolution and even unlikely to keep one all through the year. But 2013 must be an exception to that rule and what I am hoping is a turning point for me. Back in jan 2013 I made a resolution to write about every movie I saw and as a result I started my blog. Since its inception the blog has generated 4600+ hits and given me many a joy as a result.

There were many highlights like when Ashok Banker posted my review of his 8-part Ramayana series on his facebook page! That was the push I needed to convince myself that I was onto something good. But even before that the blog’s very first post was a fresh and refreshing movie which has continued to be the benchmark against which all other movies I saw this year were compared to – Kai Po Che.

In a year of 100 crore plus blockbusters which required as many aspirins to overcome the headaches they caused there were little indie gems ( can’t believe I am using the word Indie in the indian cinematic context!) which made the year a lot more bearable.

Summarized below are my top 10 picks , my bottom 5 and the 3 biggest disappointments. This is not the whole catalogue of movies released in 2013 – just the ones I made an effort to go watch, there are still Oscar heavy hitters like 12 years a slave, August Osage County , The Wolf of Wall Street  which I am yet to watch and review.

Top 10 : (in alphabetical order) top 10

Bombay Talkies : a first of sorts where 4 mainstream big-name directors came together to present 4 short stories which celebrated the 100 years of Indian Cinema. Each story holding its own and neither director trying to one-up the other  but rather trying to tell an earnest story. Incidentally this is also one my most shared reviews and some people commented that they didn’t immediately see the connect I made between the four stories but did definitely agree afterwards.

Fukrey : A serious rib-tickler thanks to the antics of Choocha and Bholi Punjaban. And featuring the song of the year “Ambarsariya” this one was the most surprising as we went in expecting very little and came out clutching our sides which hurt from laughing out loud. A comedy that did not depend on physical gags and potty humor – my pick for the best comedy of the year!

Gravity : the opening 12-minute sequence is an experience that cannot be compared to any that we have had in theaters ever. A trip to space that we had only imagined so far but was brought life in glorious IMAX by the visionary Alonso Cuarón. Sandra Bullock should trade in her Oscar for best actress for blind side and ask for a new one for this one.  The magic of cinema as it was meant to be.

Go Goa Gone : A zombie movie made in india? You have got to be kidding me! And no Ramsay-fication of the same? Get out of here! This was a close second to the comedy of the year pick. Again went in with very little expectation came out with goosebumps from the gross zombies and a hurting jaw from all the laughing.

Kai Po Che :  I hate Chetan Bhagat and his brand of Indian-English Lit. but to take his story “3 mistakes of my life” and to make it into a sensitive, humorous and realistic tale of friendship, politics and redemption is not mean task.  This introduced us to 3 promising actors and redeemed a director after his overrated RockOn debut.  My personal favorite of the year, and a movie that will only get better with time.

Madras Café : this almost made it to the most disappointing because of the over simplification and the lack of cloak and daggers that I wanted from a smartly crafted and a beautifully shot political thriller. But I cannot take away from the fact that sujoy ghosh made a smart movie with believable performances from 2 of the worst actors.

Prisoners  : comparisons to Zodiac and Se7en are always going to bode well for any movie in my book and this dark and violent thriller about a man on rampage after his little girl goes missing is something that still gives me the chills when I recall the look of abject hatred on Hugh Jackman’s beautiful face. My pick for the best ensemble acting of the year, Jackman, Melissa leo, Paulo dano, viola davis, maria bello all bloody brilliant and I don’t hate Jake Gyllenhall anymore!

RamLeela :  This one is a controversial pick I know. Many people have written off Sanjay Leela Bhansali as a director more consumed with erecting humungous set pieces and working in monochromatic mode than concentrating on the story and character development. I disagree, and strongly at that. RamLeela , a Shakespearean adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in rural Gujarat between warring clans of Rajadi and Saneda and a opulent multi-hued visual spectacle is the best Bhansali has done in years. This is devdas and HDDCS good. Most definitely the best soundtrack of the year with every single song a win in my book. Give it a watch without preconceived notions against Bhansali and you will be happier for it.

Rush :  Nothing – the answer to the question what can Ron Howard not do? To a person who detests Formula one this was definitely one of the best sporting movies ever made. The rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt captured beautifully without playing the sympathy card for either of the protagonists. Daneil Bruhl turning in one of the best supporting acting all year. Beautifully shot, exquisitely scored – this was a highlight of the year without a doubt.

Ship Of Theseus :  The redemption of Bollywood in its 100 years of existence which has been marred by either blatantly plagiarized Hollywood fluff or story-less superstar billed histrionic orgy. Ship of theseus took a Grecian paradox ( had people googling what the hell a paradox is ) and turned it into poignant moving cinema which proved to the masses that you don’t need a small country’s GDP-equivalent budget or big-name stars to make a beautiful and technically adept movie. You need a brilliant director, a strong script and absolute dedication to your craft. Karan Johar rightly said – this movie makes every other filmmaker feel inferior. This should have been India’s entry to the Oscars’ foreign language category.

 

Bottom 5 ( In alphabetical order)

bottom 5

B.A. Pass : what promised to be a sensual Noir film ended up being a one-note repetitive mess which went no were and failed because the director was more consumed by trying to make a stylized movie which tried to touch upon every cliché possible rather than to make a simple story told in layers.

Bhag Milkha Bhag : the trailer set the pulse racing with a buffed up Farhan Akhtar running with a tyre tied to his waist against the stark ladhak landscapes. What was promised as a sporting bio-pic ended up being a boring meaningless mess. I had  such high hopes and I was left clutching at straws trying to find any redeeming factors about this movie.

 Chashme Baddoor : how can you take a Farooq Sheikh and Deepti Naval classic and butcher it so that it bears no resemblance to the original movie from which it was adapted from.  Chashme Baddoor is how.  

Dhoom : 3 : I knew this was going to be bad – but so bad that I had to take notes for my review! Every single thing about this movie was an absolute stinking turd. The only saving grace? The world now is in on the secret I knew for years! Aamir Khan is a conman who in guise of perfectionism is a hack who has only gotten lucky with a few good films and is essentially a worthless actor.

Satyagraha : Amitabh is good the rest is bad and Prakash Jha is  quickly become a tiresome director to sit through and when the new channels rehash the same political conundrum the nation is going through better than a national award winning director there is something definitely wrong with the movie.

Biggest Disappointments:

disappointment

 Lunchbox :  the end product failed to live up to all the hype surrounding the release of the movie and the hue and cry that followed afterwards when this movie was not selected as India’s official entry to the oscars. sure it is a cute little story but it did not live up to the potential that it held and ultimately the biggest disappointment for me for the year.

Man Of Steel : Snyder sullied the name of Nolan by making this mess of a movie. The perfect choice for superman Henry Cavill was not given enough to do in the movie which was more Snyder & Goyer  and less Nolan (chris and jonathan both) . a BIG disappointment all around.

 Nautanki Saala! :  the rising star of the last year Aayushman Khurana fails to entertain and the movie overall is just a giant mess. Less than catchy tunes and a story that had the potential but fails to deliver is the reason why this movie makes it to my list of big disappointments.

 

So there you have it – I wish I had seen more movies this year than I did and that is a resolution I am certain to make for 2014 and as a result more reviews to write and read. I will try to add more variety than just movie reviews and there is an exciting prospect under development which when accomplished I will be very very very happy to share with all!  Here is wishing all you readers of my blog a very happy new year and good luck with those resolutions! Make a resolution because it feels great at the end of the year when you sit down to look at what you have accomplished!

 

 

Prisoners – A Review

Denis Villeneuve directs a stellar star cast of Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis Paulo Dano and Melissa Leo in Prisoners a dark and brooding tale of the kidnapping of two little girls and the aftermath that follows.

Villeneuve who directed the critically acclaimed Incendies the 2011 Canadian entry to Oscar under the foreign language category, creates a dark and depressing atmosphere that begs to ask the question how many creeps can one town hold. The story written by Aaron Guzikowski weaves a suspenseful drama that has you constantly holding your breath, biting you fingers and alternating between the edge of seat to the back of it with your eyes covered in horror.

Jake Gyllenhaal revisits the same playground that he made such an impact on in David Fincher’s Zodiac with his detective Loki character but gone are the clean cut boy scout good looks and mannerism instead he is more reminiscent of Viggo Mortensen’s character from Eastern Promises with his tattoos and the nervous tick of eye-blinking.  Hugh Jackman is rage personified as the father who has lost his daughter and the one viable lead suspect is let go because the police cannot bring charges on him.  Paulo Dano plays that creepy suspect who rides a RV that was parked near the house just before the girls disappeared.

Terrence Howard and Viola Davis play the parents of the other girl who gets abducted along with Jackman and Maria Bello’s daughter.  In supporting roles Howard, Davis and Bello are all very good but the surprise comes in the form of Melissa Leo who plays Dano’s Aunt. Just wait for the Third act of the movie to have your Jaws drop and you will know why Leo is known to sneak in award worthy performances when no one expects her to.

Roger Deakins arguably among the best working cinematographer in Hollywood is a genius behind the camera. With his masterful eye the tree barks and the snow tracks take on a life of their own. The movie is richly marinated in darkness and Roger uses every available blimp of light masterfully, the candle lights, the low incandescent bulbs, all throw lights that jump of the tried and creased face of Jackman to show a man driven insane by rage. The close up shots of the characters are unnerving and leave you in need of a shower because of how dirty it gets.

This is a slow meandering story that goes to places that you don’t expect it to. There are twists and turns that will shock and surprise you.  Hugh Jackman is in top form and Dano turns in a creepy performance that has you alternating between hating him to feeling sorry for him and Melissa Leo continues to surprise with her choice in picking roles that really allow her to sink her teeth into and turns in a fantastic performance that in any other year would be getting all the buzz for supporting role. Denis Villeneuve makes his Hollywood debut in fine form almost reaching the greatness of Zodiac and Mystic River. This is a movie not to be missed under any circumstance.

The Fighter

Who said you need multi-million dollar set pieces and groundbreaking photo realistic CGI to make a good action movie. Hollywood has been accused of becoming too dumb and relying on CGI and 3d instead of good acting/directing/scripting to deliver a killer punch. Not so with David O Russell’s “The Fighter”. The Fighter is the story of “Irish Mickey Ward” and his unusual path to world heavyweight championship. The fighter is also the story of Alice Ward, Mickey’s mother and her brood. But more than anything else the fighter is the story of Dicky Eklund, Mickey’s half brother and trainer.

We are introduced to Dicky as a HBO crew follows him around shooting a movie which he believes is biographical of his glory days where he defeated Sugar ray. Dicky is a local legend and generally loved by all but you soon see through his delusions and see a crack addict who’s various infractions are overlooked by his equally delusional mother Alice. Dicky and Alice are Mickey’s trainer and manager respectively and keep getting him into fights he shouldn’t be in and Mickey ends up badly shaken up after one such fight with a 20 pound heavier opponent. Mickey starts seeing Charlene and you see cracks finally appear as Mickey picks the promoter Lanano and agrees to cut Dicky out of his boxing life so that he can focus. Mickey O’ Keefe (playing himself – a Lowell Massachusetts police sergeant) trains Mickey as Dicky is in the prison. While in prison the movie airs and Dicky finally sees himself as the world sees him now – a fallen star and a crack addict. When Mickey visits Dicky in prison Dicky gives him tips for his next match. In the match when his strategy starts to fail Mickey uses what dicky taught him and lands the KO that takes him to the world championship title match.

For the championship match as Dicky brings everyone together and takes Mickey tohis victory all you can do is cringe with each punch that lands on Mickey’s face and cheer with every punch that he lands on his opponent.

This is an ensemble movie – a movie where Russell gathered some of the best acting talents available in Hollywood. You have Amy Adams who plays Charlene –Mickey’s girlfriend who has grown from strength to strength with her supporting roles in Doubt and a leading turn in Julie and Julia. Melissa Leo who was nominated for her lead turn in The Frozen River plays Alice Eklund the mother who turns every possible situation into the Dicky Show. Mark Wahlberg plays Mickey Ward and turns in yet another impressive performance which is hard to believe considering his white-boy-who-raps-and-poses-in-tighty-whiteys beginnings. But the movie clearly belongs to Christian Bale who as Dick Eklund is beyond brilliant. He is one of the finest actors working in Hollywood today. He is a deceptive chameleon who beefs up to play batman and looses over 30 pounds to play the crack addict dick Eklund. When you are watching him you do not see the actor you see the character he is bringing to life.

See this movie because it is simple compelling and at times gut wrenching, see it for it is one of finest ensemble movie this year.See it because if looking at an emaciated Christian bale is hard, imagine how hard it must’ve been for him to get into that role.

This is a reproduction of an article published on my facebook page