Tuesday, 28 March 2017

''Spotlight'' (2015 film)- Review

Directed by: Tom McCarthy
Released: 2015
Country: United States

Genre: Biographical drama

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian D'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Jamey Sheridan, Billy Crudup

Rating: 4 out of 5


The film ''Spotlight'' is based on a true incident. Spotlight is an investigative team of the Boston Globe, and once every few months they publish thought-provoking, investigative stories that expose many of the injustices happening in the society. They decide to look into the matter of a Catholic priest molesting children, and they come to find out that higher authorities did nothing about it although they knew. As the members of Spotlight look deep into the matter, they come across more shocking revelations that indicate that there were many such incidents happening in Boston, and nobody did anything to expose them. The team then investigates the incidents in depth, interviewing lawyers and victims to publish their story and to make the public aware.

It took me some time to get into the film, but once I did, I was completely captivated by it. The film deals with a thought-provoking subject matter, and the way things slowly and eventually unfold is really interesting. It slowly transported me to its world, and once it did, it became gripping and captivating. Excellently directed, well-made, well-scripted and with excellent performances, this is definitely a very thought-provoking film. 

There is a scene in which two of the members of the Spotlight team- Michael Rezendes and Sacha Pfeiffer (played by Mark Ruffalo and Rachel MacAdams- on another note, the two of them deliver particularly excellent performances)- horrified by the revelations they have come across while researching for the story they are about to write- are talking on the porch. We can see how devastated they both are. We can see that they are not just working for a story. They are working on the story because they care. They want to put an end to the crimes that has been overlooked and covered up for such a long time. They are working on the story because they want to put an end to the injustices happening in the society. 

Monday, 27 March 2017

''Howards End'' (1992 film)- Review

Directed by: James Ivory
Released: 1992
Country: United Kingdom

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


The house called Howards End is deeply cherished by Ruth Wilcox, a supporting character in the film ''Howards End''. The character, played by Vanessa Redgrave, shows her love, her longing for the house that she has inherited when she talks about it, and in her eyes we can clearly see the love that she retains for the house. Although a minor supporting character having comparatively less screen presence, her love for Howards End has a long-lasting impact in the film.

The film, based on the novel by E. M. Forster, has a screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Set in the Edwardian era, the film centers on the Schlegel sisters, Margaret (Emma Thompson) and Helen (Helena Bonham Carter). The Schlegel sisters belong to the enlightened, well-informed, intellectual upper-middle class. The film focuses on their encounter with two different social classes that bring an impact to their lives and the lives of those around. They meet the Wilcox family, an wealthy family headed by Henry Wilcox (played by Anthony Hopkins). The sisters- especially Margaret- are in friendly terms with the Wilcoxes, and at the same time, they come into contact with Leonard Bast (Samuel West), a financially insolvent clerk. The Schlegel sisters want to do their best to help Mr Bast, but over the course of time, their interaction with the two different classes- and the clashes and conflicts, misunderstandings and old revelations caused by it- impacts their relationships and their lives deeply. 

I loved the way the story develops over the course of time, helping us to get more familiar with the characters. At the end of the day, ''Howards End'' reflects human nature. Henry Wilcox, while definitely not an evil person, reflects to an extent the upper class hypocrisy, causing much of the conflicts in the story. We can also understand Margaret, levelheaded and sensible, and the way she is eventually stuck between the lifestyle followed by the Wilcoxes and the humanistic principles she has grown up with and has always followed. And then there is Helen, who is more passionate and will do anything to help the Basts.

How many other films give us the opportunity to see Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter in the same frame? All of them deliver excellent performances in ''Howards End'', making the characters they play real and human. Vanessa Redgrave is extremely memorable too in her brief but memorable and important role. Samuel West is great as Leonard and Nicola Duffett, as Leonard's wife, arises sympathy for the character with her acting as we get to know more about her background and what she has endured.

This is an excellently-directed film. The film starts showing Ruth Wilcox walking through the gardens of Howards End. Although seemingly insignificant at first, I eventually thought that this part was iconic, reflecting Ruth's deep love for the house. Then again there is another scene, much later in the film, when Margaret comes to Howards End for the first time. She walks around the exterior, walking through the gardens, amazed at the beauty. She has, of course, been told all about the house by Ruth, whom she had befriended- the scenic beauty of this scene is excellent.

Class conflict in the society and the impact it brings in human life, how each social class reacts to it and is affected by it- this is presented with depth in this film. At the same time, the characters are strong and well-developed, helping us to live the story with them. ''Howards End'' reflects filmmaking at its finest. Besides having an excellent screenplay and performances, it has a calm atmosphere, but this calmness has a plethora of emotions in it which develops over the course of the film. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

''Beauty and the Beast' (2017 film)- Review

Directed by: Bill Condon
Released: 2017
Country: United States

Genre: Musical, Romantic, Fantasy, Drama

Rating: 4 out of 5


It is love that triumphs in the long run and this is the underlying message of ''Beauty and the Beast''. Here is a story that I have loved and treasured since my childhood, and this beautiful remake made me not just nostalgic but it also charmed and amazed me with its powerful, strong message dealing with the victory of love.

The film is, of course, a remake of the 1991 animated film of the same name. Along with ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarves'', ''Cinderella'', ''The Little Mermaid'' and ''Pinocchio'', ''Beauty and the Beast'' is one of the films I grew up with. As such, I had been eagerly waiting for this remake. And I was not disappointed. It is a charming and beautiful film.

The story is that of an arrogant, narcissistic prince, played by Dan Stevens. When one evening, during a party, he misbehaves with a frail, old woman who appears in his palace, the old woman turns out to be an enchantress, who transforms the prince into a monstrous beast and the members of his household are transformed into household objects- like clocks and pots- that can talk. The enchantress also wipes the memories of all those living around the palace, making them forget the existence of the prince and his palace. She leaves with the prince a rose: when the last petal of the rose has fallen, the prince will remain a beast forever- unless he finds true love before the last petal falls.

Several years later, when the beautiful Belle- played by Emma Watson- ends up in the beast's palace after some accidental incidents and the beast imprisons her in his palace- the members of the beast's household think that it is Belle who can break the curse.

The film conveys the message of the power of love really well. The story is exactly the same as that of the 1991 film. There is even a background story about Belle's parents that was absent in the 1991 film. The characters have a lot of depth in them. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens deliver excellent performances. Besides them, Luke Evans, playing the antagonist, Gaston, is amazing too. The supporting cast is extremely impressive as well: Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, and Josh Gad. 

Every single thing in the film is reminiscent of the animated film we love and cherish. The music and the songs transport us back to the 1991 film. Of course, this film can never replace the animated film. However, that does not mean, by any means, that this film has to be neglected. The 2017 remake is lovely and enchanting in its own right. No, it is not as great as the original. Yes, we are aware of the storyline and most of the songs. However, with its brightness and positivity, the film overwhelmed me. Power of love is not just reflected in the chemistry between the Beast and Belle, but also in the chemistry among the different members of the Beast's household, Belle's love for her father and vice versa, and Morris's (Belle's father's) love for his late wife.

Like Belle comments in the middle of the film, the members of the beast's household find a reason to be hopeful and optimistic about even though they are going through sorrows and despair. But in spite of that, their love for life, the sunshine- things they haven't enjoyed since the curse was placed on them- make them retain hope for life, for better days. The film gives us the opportunity to celebrate the power of love all over again. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

''A Place in the Sun'' (1951 film)- Review

Directed by: George Stevens
Released: 1951
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic drama

Rating: 4 out of 5


In ''A Place in the Sun'', Montgomery Clift plays the role of George Eastman, a poor relative of the wealthy Charles Eastman (Herbert Heyes), a wealthy industrialist. He is given a job by Charles Eastman in a factory owned by him. Meek and from a poor background, George is intimidated by the upper class lifestyle of the Eastmans and the people they associate with. In the factory, George meets Alice Tripp (played by Shelley Winters), a plain and simple co-worker and finds himself falling in love with her. However, he is soon befriended by Angela Vickers, played by the elegant Elizabeth Taylor, and he finds himself falling in love with her too. Angela, a renowned socialite, introduces George to the upper class society and their relationship gradually deepens. However, when he discovers that he cannot abandon Alice easily- for a reason grave and serious- he becomes confused and ultimately, the situation leads to disastrous consequences.

I started watching the film expecting it to be a simple romantic drama. However, the plot development and turns in the story astounded me. It was heartbreaking and emotionally intense. Monty Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters brought their characters into life. As the protagonist, Monty Clift's performance is extremely powerful. I am not going to get into details as I definitely don't want to spoil anything, but- thanks to the screenplay and Clift's excellent performance- the character develops a great depth over the course of the film. Elizabeth Taylor is magnificent as the glamorous Angela, and the scenes she shares with Clift are truly memorable. However, I think Shelley Winters's performance stands out from the rest because of her character. I felt for her, I felt great sympathy for her character; she was trapped in situation and that is not her fault at all. The scenes by the Loon Lake are atmospheric- the atmosphere being pretty different from that of the rest of the film- and the calls of loon birds make the atmosphere even more haunting.
 Ultimately, with its plot and character development, excellent screenplay, and great performances, ''A Place in the Sun'' turns out to be a heartbreaking and emotionally powerful film.  

Saturday, 18 March 2017

''The Imitation Game'' (2014 film)- Review

Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Released: 2014
Country: United States

Genre: Historical, biographical, drama, war, thriller

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


I sometimes find war movies intimidating. Even historical and biographical films can be slightly intimidating. But in case of ''The Imitation Game'', it was exactly the opposite. I loved, loved, loved the film. From the beginning to the end. I loved every second of it: the film was intriguing, it dealt with a concept extremely interesting and sometimes suspenseful, and it had characters that over the course of the film I learned to appreciate. The story has depth in it, a lot of depth to be honest, and this depth develops over the course of the film.

''The Imitation Game'', based on a true story, shifts between three periods, each period contributing to develop the character of the protagonist, Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch). Turing is a mathematician, a Cambridge University graduate, and during the World War II, he gets a job at Bletchley Park, and his work is to try break the Enigma codes that the Germans use for communicating. Turing decides to develop a separate machine for working and for the decryption, a method which Commander Alastair Denniston, played by Charles Dance, disapproves- and it is disapproved initially by the rest of the people working in the team as well, as they think that they are making no progress at all. However, eventually his co-workers start respecting him and cooperating with him. He also appoints a very intelligent young woman, Joan Clarke (played by Keira Knightley) to work with them. The team work hard for decryption, and they know that breaking the Engima codes will greatly help them win the war or at least, to shorten the war and lessen the damages that it might cause.

Unknown to others, Turing is a homosexual, a fact he tries to hide because back then, homosexuals faced a lot of discrimination. The other two time periods also greatly contribute in the development of the character. One of the time periods shows a young Alan Turing, studying in an all-boys' school, bullied because he is different from the others. The other shows Turing's life after the war, as the police suspect him for being a spy: no record is found of his wartime activities, and as such, they investigate, thinking that he might have a shady background. And over the course of the film, over the course of the three different times periods, I eventually started to love the character, as the film developed a great depth in the character. 

I really admired the way the story is narrated and presented. I loved the way it shifts between the time periods, helping us get an insight into the life of Alan Turing. Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent in his role, he really is. I started to feel as excited as the characters when they performed their researches for the decryption, when they worked to develop the machines. Although at the very beginning the co-workers of Alan had little depth, over the course of the film each of them became an individual, each of them became distinct and recognizable. Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, and Matthew Beard play the four co-workers of Turing and I must say I started to love the way the eventually cooperate with each other in their work. Each has his own chemistry with the major character, Alan Turing. The chemistries are all unique and interesting. Keira Knightley, of course, brightens up the film a lot, and remains extremely memorable. I loved her character and the way it develops, I really did. 

By the time film ended I had become intrigued by the story, the characters. The story and its ultimate culmination were emotionally powerful, it really was. After watching the film, I read about Alan Turing, Joan Clarke and the other people involved in the work of breaking the Engima codes. Although there are factual and historical inaccuracies in the film, apparently, and certain things, certain characters in the film are overly romanticized, I hardly think that matters because the film succeeds in what it wants to do: it tells us about Alan Turing, someone about whom I really hadn't heard much before watching this film and at least now I know about some of his contributions. After watching the film, I read about the things the film deals with, and now I know about them. Yes, it succeeds in what it tries to do. It succeeds in being an excellent, moving film- with an excellent screenplay, a magnificent story and great performances- and it succeeds in making the audience aware of the life and works of Alan Turing. 


Thursday, 16 March 2017

''Bringing Up Baby'' (1938 film)- Review

Directed by: Howard Hawkes
Released: 1938
Country: United States 

Genre: Comedy, Romantic

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


''Bringing Up Baby'' was such a hilarious ride! It was really funny, sending me into feats of laughter every other minute. I laughed all the way and really admired the film.

''Bringing Up Baby'' is about a paleontologist, Dr David Hoxley (played by Cary Grant), who is about to receive a huge donation for his museum from a very wealthy woman. However, things go wrong during his meeting with the lawyer representing the woman when he comes across the eccentric, happy-go-lucky, carefree Susan Vance (played by Katherine Hepburn), who hilariously distracts him and sways him away from his meeting with the lawyer. But his accidental meeting with Susan leads him to a series of hilarious adventures and misadventures, involving not only him and Susan but also a tame leopard called Baby who was sent to Susan by her brother Mark. 

I cannot describe how much the film made me laugh. It was so funny, so hilarious, so goofy. Every single incident in the story, right from the very beginning, sent me into feats of laughter. The screenplay, the dialogues: everything is so excellent, so magnificent. I loved every single thing about the film; I kept laughing out loud. Katherine Hepburn is unforgettable in her goofy role as Susan. It is such a memorable, hilarious character. Cary Grant, as the mild-mannered David, is brilliant too. The two look so sweet together, apart from the hilarity that the two characters cause. There are supporting characters too- quite a lot of them- who remain memorable as well, all contributing to the story. And there is the leopard Baby, played by a trained leopard called Nissa: he too gave such an amazing performance and looked really cute indeed!
This is an excellent screwball comedy that I would highly recommend!   

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

''Manchester by the Sea'' (2016 film)- Review

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan
Released: 2016
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


''Manchester by the Sea'' is a gorgeous masterpiece, a cinematic achievement. In its emotional content it is raw and real, taking us into the depths of human emotions in a way that we can all feel it, relate to it. 

The protagonist is Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), who works as a janitor in Quincy, Massachussets . From the very first time we meet him we can understand that he is depressed, that he finds no purpose in life. When he comes to know that his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), has suddenly passed away, he rushes to Manchester-by-the-sea (where Joe used to live). There, he is perplexed to know that in his will, Joe had named him the guardian of his teenage son, Patrick (played by Lucas Hedges). He plans to take Patrick with him to Quincy- much against Patrick's will as he has many friends and is involved in many extracurricular activities in Manchester. However, Lee has to wait in Manchester till the burial of Joe, who cannot be buried right now because of the snow caused by the New England winter. Over the following weeks, Lee and Patrick slowly reconnect through both misunderstanding and understanding, disagreement and agreement.

From the very beginning of the film we can understand that things have fallen apart for Lee. Flashbacks show us that there was a time he had a happy family life, with his wife (who is played by Michelle Williams), three children, back when he, like Joe and Patrick, used to live in Manchester-by-the-sea. I asked myself what could have happened, what exactly could have happened that Lee has such a different, sadder life now? Perhaps an ugly divorce? But when I came to know what actually happened, it broke my heart. It really, really did. I cannot express how shocked I was. Lee's past is revelead around halfway into the film and when I came to know about his past the film got a new momentum in my eyes. It was then that the character felt so real, so fleshed out. It was then that the film got its emotional momentum and this explained a lot of things in the film. It was heartbreaking but it is this revelation, along with other small revelations, that made the film as emotionally overwhelming as it is. Though it had started as pretty emotional, Lee's tragic, heartbreaking background helped me to really get inside the film, to feel the characters, to understand the situation, to cry along with them.

The emotional tone of the film is supported by the surroundings itself: there is the wintry Manchester, snow on both sides of the road, wintry and cold, and just then you can catch glimpse of the sea, so calm, so gentle. It is in this winter that the entire story takes place. The haunting background music adds a lot to the story as well.

The reason that the film becomes so unforgettable is the fact that we can feel the characters, we can feel how they feel and why exactly they feel that way. I could understand why exactly the conflicts arose between Lee and Patrick. I could understand why exactly Lee and Patrick had the disagreements that they had and I could understand that none of them was to blame to for it, that they both were right in their own way. I loved their developing chemistry (there is a very touching scene in which Patrick has a panic attack and Lee consoles him, calling Patty, which was his nickname for Patrick when the latter was just a child). Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges are excellent in the roles. Then there is Michelle Williams playing a character, though having comparatively less screen presence, moves us anyway with her past and what she has endured. These are raw, real characters and this is where the success of the film lies. It took me right into the depths of the troubles, depression and sufferings that the characters are going through and it made me feel for them. How can I possibly not  love a film that is so emotionally overwhelming, so real?