‘Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum’ (Evidence and the Eyewitness) review – The film you must watch.

I don’t usually review non-English language films on this blog, and I have many reasons for it, one of the biggest ones being the smaller audience for these films. Writing a review is a pretty time-consuming task, and with my readership being as low as it is already, writing one for a non-universal language just doesn’t seem worth it. (The few Indian language films I have reviewed are also the result of requests by my friends.) But last night, I saw a film called Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum – in my own native language of Malayalam – which changed my previously held opinion and reminded me of why I started doing this in the first place. This film, the title of which roughly translates to ‘Evidence and the Eyewitness’, is one which deserves to be seen by a larger audience: and that is the purpose of this review. With excellent cinematography by Rajeev Ravi, and featuring Fahadh Faasil, Suraj Venjaramoodu, and Nimisha Sajayan in lead roles, this Dileesh Pothan film is a real-life masterpiece in its truest sense.
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‘Loins of Punjab Presents’ review – Cringe masala.

When my friends sat me down and told me that we would be watching a film named Loins of Punjab Presents, I certainly wasn’t expecting much. But having just arrived in the scorched city of Delhi after a long flight, I was in no mood for complex character dramas, and this didn’t seem the type. And while the movie is definitely no mockumentary as claimed by its Netflix page, it does stay true to the tone of its title and packs quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. Though an Indian film, it is almost entirely in English and follows the organizers and participants of a ‘desi’ singing competition held in New Jersey. Stuffed with characters that satire popular Indian stereotypes to the extreme, this turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable film for a setting similar to the one I watched it in.
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‘Get Out’ review – The most important horror film of our time

The reason many classic horror films fail to chill audiences today is the fact that the scariest ones of the time are rooted in the mindset of the people of that time. If you look back at the history of the horror genre, both in films as well as literature, patterns start to develop. Now while this is clearly because of the trend that got people in the cinema seats, there is a deeper reason for the popularity of each variant of fear. The popular fear of alien invaders in the films of the ‘50s can be traced to the fear of the American society which was constantly under the threat of foreign invasion, threatening their all-American values. The ‘60s and ‘70s saw an American population glued to their televisions which shocked them with stories of psychopaths and mass murderers such as Ted Bundy, and Hollywood responded with movies such as Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, realizing and heightening their fears. Get Out is the debut film by Jordan Peele, of Key & Peele fame, who subverts his usually comedic type for a far darker story that is too realistic for the times we live in.
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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.)
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‘La La Land’ review – Here’s to the ones who dream

What makes a great song, a great film or, for that matter, any great work of art? Damien Chazelle’s answer to that question is that great art is anything done by a person who is passionate about it. His latest film La La Land is then a testament to great art, combining the passionate performances of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling with the equally passionate filmmaking by Chazelle in a story that brings two characters, equally passionate in their own arts, into each other’s lives. While being a refreshing revival of the grandiose Hollywood musical, La La Land also turns out to have the biggest heart of any film in a long time. And in this year when most of the world seems to be taking a step back for the worse, isn’t an escape of optimism something we could all use?
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‘Little Sister’ review – From an unconventional premise, an unexpected masterpiece.

If there’s one thing you can count on your kids to do, that’s rebel. And what better way is there to rebel against your ultra-liberal, atheist parents than to run away and become a nun (especially when those parents wished you to grow up as a lesbian Satanist)? Set against the backdrop of a pretty unconventional American family, Little Sister follows its protagonist’s return to her family home for the first time since she ran away, and the seven days she spends there to dig her family out of the metaphorical dirt. Directed, written and produced by Zach Clark, this film gives the homecoming cliché its own wacky spin, balancing glee and gloom as brilliantly as it works the dissonance of the premise into the story.
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‘Don’t Think Twice’ review – As real as comedy gets

It came as a shock to the world to hear that Robin Williams, the man who made us laugh in madness when we were at our lowest, was in constant battle with depression to his very last days. Comedy is brewed from sadness, and the former has no meaning but when coming from a place of desperation and pathos – perhaps there was some truth to Alan Alda’s character describing it as ‘tragedy plus time’ in Crimes and Misdemeanors, although not in the way he meant it. In Don’t Think Twice, we are introduced to ‘the Commune’, a New York improv comedy troupe of six people, each carrying their own blue devils onto stage every night. Mike Birbiglia brings us an incredibly poignant and human film, as we follow each realistic character through their own troubles, as well as they way they deal with each other’s.
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‘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.
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‘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.
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