‘Manuscripts Don’t Burn’ review – But authors do.

There is a moment of suspended animation in Manuscripts Don’t Burn where a character nonchalantly places a laundry clip over the nose of another, watching the latter suffocate to death slowly from having both his mouth and nose sealed. It is a chilling moment, and one that strikes the viewer exactly where the director intends the film to strike. Mohammed Rasoulof’s 2014 film is a fictional retelling of the infamous Chain Murders of Iran, a series of murders and disappearances of Iranian intellectuals who had been critical of the then government. Starting with the lead character – the man commissioned by the government to carry out the extortion – the film makes choice after interesting choice in its narration of the hunt for a banned manuscript. Taking its time with each moment and lingering on the seemingly mundane bits of daily life, the silence of the film and its observers is deafening.
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‘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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‘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.

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‘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

‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ review – The spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused

You would think that we as an audience know exactly what to expect from a frat comedy, having seen more than a fair share make their way to the screens, starting with Animal House back in 1978. Fast, loud and surrounding its protagonist with a bevy of cookie-cutter characters, it wastes no time in pushing the adults out so that the rock and roll can blare, the beer and girls can come pouring in, and the party can start. With Everybody Wants Some, however, Richard Linklater chooses to go a different way, sketching out the characters of the people who call the frat their home and the pack-mentality that binds them, without leaving out any of the dazed fun. Staying true to the themes of its spiritual predecessor – Dazed and Confused – this glance back at the ‘80s picks up from the weekend before college, and meanders through the many parties and escapades the team needs to make it to the first day of college.
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‘The Conjuring 2’ review – Love in the time of demonic possession

Ask any group of people about the Amityville Horror House or the UFO sighting at Roswell, and you will find that these stories of the allegedly supernatural usually revolve around the question of belief; some accepting them for reasons beyond comprehension, and others finding rational reasons to debunk the accounts. Inviting global attention at the hands of the media in the age of growing rationalism that was the late 20th century, most of such recorded accounts were treated to contradicting interpretations from the public, dismissing many cases as cries for attention. It is one such famous story of belief and doubt that James Wan adapts in his sequel to the well-received The Conjuring, inspired by real-life investigations conducted by Ed and Lorraine Warren into the accounts of an English family haunted by what came to be known as the Enfield Poltergeist. Chronicling the tale of demonic possession of a child and its bearings on the press, the society and the Warrens themselves, this sequel carries a story we’ve heard countless times with previously unknown flair and dedication, making it a horrifying experience despite the predictability of its plot.
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‘Hail, Caesar!’ review – The Coen brothers’ love letter to ’50s Hollywood

Ah, Hollywood in the ‘50s: a period marked by extravagant, glitzy productions that ranged from the biblical epics like Ben-Hur to the romantic musicals like Singin’ in the Rain, and saw the rise of stars like Audrey Hepburn and Gene Kelly. But it is also not an unknown fact that despite the memories of grandeur associated with the era, most of these films were served to the public as fantastical escape from the fear surrounding the Cold War and the Red Scare. It is exactly this strange mix of superficial glam and underlying political conspiracies that the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have tackled in their ambitious satire Hail, Caesar!, a much needed comedic break from their serious recent works. A satire that runs from one caper to the next, the film does lose its foot at times, but the performances are hilarious and offbeat enough to keep you rooted to your seats.
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