‘Wonder Woman’ review – A triumph for superhero cinema

Diana Prince had several tasks to carry out: she had to get accustomed to the world outside her bubble of Themyscira, fulfill the mission of the Amazons, and most importantly, lay the foundation for female-led superhero films, or even films, in Hollywood. And while following in the footsteps of such flops as Catwoman and Elektra isn’t difficult, Patty Jenkins and her team more than had their hands full with the expectations going in. Wonder Woman faced the inevitable (and more than anything, petty) backlash from male audiences who cannot fathom female fans let alone a female superhero, and on top of that, it came within the DCEU, a franchise which has only received mixed opinions so far. Owing to all this, I walked into the film with uncertainty and fear, both of which were converted to hope for not just the future of the DCEU, but also of a Hollywood which can think beyond white males to helm their films.

Continue reading

The Best of 2016 in Film – Dreamers, witches and nice guys.

It seems that the events of 2016 have birthed a new generation of cynics, and at the turn of the new year, all one can hear around are people crying over the horrible year that has passed. However, being one who prefers to count gifts over curses, I consider ourselves blessed to have received a stellar list of films, taking various different genres to stranger waters, and realizing the full potential of some others. Now while the movies that big franchises and studios have churned out were more in the form of financial investments than works of art, 2016 has witnessed masterpieces from global filmmakers and the independent categories. The following is the list of films that I think made the most of their run-time this year, and deserve to be seen by one and all. (This year, I’ve added suggestions of old movies similar in some way to each film on this list, so the doubtful ones can decide what to watch.)
Continue reading

‘Hell or High Water’ review – A perfect Western for these imperfect times.

The reason why movies that came to be known as the ‘old west’ genre came to be so popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s was the tense, dangerous atmosphere which elevated a simple story of people pitted against each other by circumstance or desire. In Hell or High Water, David Mackenzie tells such a simple story of two brothers and a cop on the hunt, their motivations and tenacity made to resound in our minds through the bleak environment and the discomforting tension pouring out of every scene. Embracing the formidable setting and the sepia palette that comes with it, it is an exercise in restraint, never flinching in the face of the terror it creates, and not allowing you the use of more than the edge of your seat.
Continue reading

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ review – The magic of imagination and social commentary

Harry Potter fan or not, when you hear about a spinoff to the British franchise 5 years after the last movie, set in New York and based on the author of one of Harry’s schoolbooks, only one word comes to mind: ‘cashgrab’. Especially when said spinoff is a prequel, studios tend to crowd the movie with references and easter eggs – usually in the form of ancestors of the original characters – turning them into a commercial mess and without a story to stand on its own on. However, finally relieved of a ‘chosen one’ protagonist and stepping outside school grounds, the franchise of witchcraft and wizardry takes us into an interesting period in magical history which we have only heard mentioned second-hand before. Bursting at the seams with pure imagination of the likes to only come from J K Rowling’s wonderful mind, and walking the fine line in building its world and telling a compelling story on its own, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a delightful film to be lost in.
Continue reading

‘Doctor Strange’ review – Marvel can only go so strange.

At the time we meet them, the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are all connected by a thread of similarities: they are all battling their own inner demons, facing problems with their personal relationships, played by the best talent that Hollywood can muster and communicate solely through jokes and openers to exposition. After the premise, however, the filmmakers are allowed to experiment and be creative with their stories – as long as the essential ingredients of an infinity stone, references to other Marvel films, and villains exasperated enough with our reality to open portals for other worlds to take over, are not missed out in the process. Doctor Strange is the nth film in the franchise (Where n is twice the number of years since Iron Man came out. Well, almost.) for which an end looks nowhere near,  which tells the story of a doctor who learns to forget everything he knows, as he embarks on a journey of endless metaphysical possibilities. Armed with an extremely intriguing premise, an exceptional cast and amazing visuals, this is a film that hits all the notes required of the franchise in its race to that last portal battle, while also trying some new things along the way.
Continue reading

‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ review – Wild at heart and oddball to the core.

As Pixar’s Up taught us, there is something inherently endearing about the relationship between a grumpy old man and a little kid who keeps getting on his nerves. While at first glance, this movie might seem no more riding on the same emotional coattails, and while on closer glance, the overall story seems to have many of the same beats, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is its own movie, something you’re sure to notice from the very first scene. Directed by the same mind that brought us the inventively hilarious What We Do in the Shadows, this is an extremely original film that introduces its audience to unchartered frontiers of emotion, visuals and chaptered storytelling. Rooting itself in the distinct culture and landscape of the New Zealand countryside, it takes us down a heart-warming path filled with measured dark humour and boundless imagination.
Continue reading

‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ review – A Tina Fey comedy in wartime Afghanistan

In the military, the phrase ‘whiskey tango foxtrot’ is jargon for ‘what the fuck’, indicating a general sense of disbelief. An appropriate title for a situational comedy set in the Afghanistan war zone, this is clearly also the three words flashing in the mind of Kim Baker, the protagonist that sounds and acts like Tina Fey, played by Tina Fey. Belonging to a genre that Hollywood seems starved of, ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and is based on the memoir by the real Kim Barker, ‘The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan’. Smartly written, insightful and sweet all at the same time, this quintessentially Tina Fey story combines the social debates and cultural conflicts relevant to today, with a universally personal story of fulfilment. Offering us an alternative perspective of war and the people involved, it tries to show us the exact lengths that people are willing to go to keep their mind off the depressing violence. Continue reading