‘Blade Runner 2049’ review – A genius sequel to a groundbreaking film.

Ridley Scott made the original Blade Runner back in 1982, loosely based on Philip K Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, taking as many creative liberties as he could to give us the influential masterpiece it is today. It was also a decade which saw the rise of many unique cinematic visionaries, and Hollywood was not quite the franchise-churning machine it is today. While it is difficult to find modern visionaries in the rubble of superhero films and nostalgic sequels, there is one I have been keenly following for a while – Denis Villeneuve. Standing miles ahead of his peers with his previous films like Prisoners, Sicario and last year’s Arrival, he has just ventured into sequel territory (which usually means creative death), but comes out all guns blazing, with Blade Runner 2049. Unfortunately, Blade Runner does not enjoy a pop culture fan following à la Star Wars and Ghostbusters, a compromise it made when it opted for thematic depth over blockbuster entertainment. This was made evident when I saw that I was one of only 10 people at the screening, and the pitiful box office response.   
Continue reading

‘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

‘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?
Continue reading

‘La Tortue Rouge’ review – The story of life woven in fairytale yarn

They say the best pictures need no words, and what are films but moving pictures? La Tortue Rouge (The Red Turtle) is the latest animated feature from Japanese giant Studio Ghibli, and has its signature themes of surreal journeys, humanity and ennui written all over it. In fact, it was the studio’s wonder child and animation maestro, Hayao Miyazaki who saw director Michael Dudok de Wit’s previous work in Father and Daughter and convinced the studio to take him on. Free of the restraints of language and dialogue, this Robinson Crusoe-esque tale of a man washed ashore on an island sings a universal song of isolation, dreams and the cycle of life.
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

‘X Men: Apocalypse’ review – Underlining the exhaustion of superhero films

The X Men have been through a lot over the past two decades, and I don’t mean just the missions the actual students at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters have been on. Following several missteps in the bloated The Last Stand and the universally panned Origins: Wolverine, Matthew Vaughn breathed fresh life into the mutant saga with First Class, and after Bryan Singer came back on board to wipe the slate clean with Days of Future Past, it seemed as though the directions available for the third film in the new series to take were boundless. Unfortunately, Singer’s Apocalypse is a cluttered superhero movie that tries to fit way too many plotlines into what could have been an interesting discussion on its opening lines – a mutant so overpowered that it thinks itself a god – making it feel rushed and thrown together despite its long runtime. The franchise that pretty much kicked off the current age of superhero films seems now to be choking on the clichés it helped make popular, making its audience feel the exhaustion of the genre, like no other film before it.
Continue reading

‘The Witch’ review – A dark fairytale of temptation and original sin

In the Old Testament, the Book of Job tells the story of a righteous man whose family is put to the ultimate test of faith by the devil, by infliction of the harshest disasters that make him search for answers. Eventually, his faith survives the test and his family is led to salvation by God, who remains strikingly silent in this dark tale of a family that calls back to Job’s. While reviewing last year’s excellent Goodnight Mommy, I mentioned how twins hold a significant place in horror conventions, but there is a far more marked motif that births some of the genre’s most haunting work: religion. Combining these two terrifying elements, and going a step further than most films before it, is Robert Egger’s The Witch, the phenomenal experiment in atmospheric disturbia that bagged him the Best Director award at Sundance this year. Set in the age of Christian Puritanism and suppression of female individualism, this home-run in visual story-telling tracks the horrific undoing of a family that petrifies the viewer by drawing them into the darkest fairytale put to screen in a long time.
Continue reading

‘Captain America: Civil War’ review – The best Marvel movie yet

If you had told me five years ago, fresh off the release of The First Avenger, that the Captain America Trilogy would go on to rival Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy someday, perhaps the most generous reaction you could expect was laughter. Now it is 2016, where superhero films dominate almost every inch of entertainment accessible to man, and fresh out of Civil War, that statement carries an argument that packs its share of punches. The Russo brothers have shown, with The Winter Soldier, their ability to take an unshakeable love of comic-book mythology and pop culture, and arm it with a penchant for intelligent direction of political thrillers, an art they perfect in the latest film in the franchise. Civil War not only gives its audiences their money’s worth in a visual feast of action set-pieces and homage to the source material, but also gives them emotional satisfaction in the interactions and development of these characters that have been carefully built over the past films.
Continue reading