Wednesday, 29 June 2016

''Brooklyn'' (2015 film)- Review

Directed by: John Crowley
Released: 2015
Country: Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters

Genre: Romantic drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


''Brooklyn'' tells the story of Ellis Lacey, a young Irish woman, who leaves her small Irish town for the United States in search of a better life, leaving behind her widowed middle-aged mother and supportive elder sister. Life in New York, at first, feels unfamiliar to Ellis, making it difficult for her to adjust there. She longs for home and her life in the small idyllic town. However, things change when she meets Tony, a handsome young Italian man played by Emory Cohen, at a dance. Falling in love with him, she finds it easier to adjust in her new home, in her new country. She becomes more socially adept, more friendly than before, and on the other hand, her love for Tony flourishes. However, their relationship faces a challenge placed by distance when Ellis suddenly has to go back to Ireland after  a dreadful tragedy.

 ''Brooklyn'' is a charming and sweet film. I enjoyed and loved it from the beginning to the end. The screenplay is excellent and I loved how beautifully it touches the subject matter, making the film a fresh and beautiful one. Romance is such a genre that can become cliched if it is mishandled, but this film avoids the cliches, it is beautiful and thought-provoking, touching and sweet. I find it hard not to mention one particular scene. There is this scene where Ellis and Tony are on a bus, and at one point, they are both smiling, without looking at each other, smiling at life, happy for having met each other. I found this this scene to be one of the most beautiful and charming scenes in the film.

Saoirse Ronan is so wonderful in this film! I have admired her ever since I first saw her in ''Atonement''. Then came films like City of Ember, The Lovely Bones, The Way Back, Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I loved her in all of these films. But in ''Brooklyn'' she delivers a performance so magnificent that it rivals her own excellent performance in ''Atonement''. As Ellis, she is sweet and strong, expressing all of the emotions of the character with precision and strength. I felt so proud of her in the confrontation scene with Miss Kelly, possibly one of the most important and well-written scenes of the film. Emory Cohen, as Tony, is perfect as well. Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters deliver excellent performances as well.

Excellently acted, directed and written, ''Brooklyn'' is definitely a magnificent and charming film, a lovely love story.

4.5 out of 5

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

''Fight Club'' (1999 film)- Review

Directed by: David Fincher
Released: 1999
Country: United States

Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf Aday, Jared Leto

Genre: Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Theme-wise, ''Fight Club'' is a satire of the increasingly materialistic society of the modern world, the effects of isolation, how consumerism has taken away from human beings their souls and energy. Storywise, its a captivating psychological thriller that climaxes with something that is unpredictable and culminates in an unforgettable ending.

''Fight Club'' is basically the story of a narrator whose name we never get to know know, played by Edward Norton. Entangled in a monotonous corporate life, his life seems to revolve around the materialistic society of the present world, collecting expensive furniture and commodities to satisfy himself. His life feels dull to him, he feels monotonous, lonely and bored, and suffers from insomnia. He starts going to support groups pretty much everyday, finding out that the things said by those at the support group- cancer patients, for example- helps him to actually get a taste of life, as there he can find the soul that he feels is missing in the otherwise materialistic society.

The narrator's life changes the day he meets Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt. They meet on a plane. Tyler is a soap salesman. Finding out that his house has mysteriously caught a fire, the narrator moves in with Tyler, who he feels is a charismatic friend. He engages infistfights with Durden, finding it strangely entertaining. Very soon, seeing them fight in the streets, curious onlookers crowd around them, and, encouraged by their curiosity, Tyler and the narrator open a ''fight club'', an underground club where at nights, men meet and engage in fistfights. They feel as if fistfights are giving them solace and relief, and the narrator's life eventually changes as with the passage of time, things start getting out of control and he is not exactly sure about Tyler's plans anymore.

Important in the story is the character of Marla Singer, played by Helena Bonham Carter. The narrator had initially met Marla in the support groups he visited, and he had found out that like him, Marla also was not affected by any of the problems these support groups were for but rather frequented them because she wanted to. Things get messy as Marla starts a relationship with Tyler, much to the narrator's shock.

This is such a thought-provoking film, a film with excellent depth. It presents a story that is unpredictable and way too twisted. It is one of those films which, when watched for the second time, will have you see all the situations in a completely different way as you will be aware of the twists, allowing you to view the incidents in a whole new way.

Besides having an excellent story, the film is a social commentary and satire, a criticism of the materialistic culture prevailing in the modern world. At the beginning of the film, the narrator lives just another corporate life, trying to find happiness amidst furniture and appliances. Isn't this the major problem prevailing in the world today? People lacking souls and finding pleasure in commodities and appliances? I found the narrator a very believable character: entangled in the present world, living a monotonous and soulless existence. How can only commodities- not emotions- give someone a happy life? This is the major issue that the film tackles. Why are human bonds and emotions so ignored and avoided by many in the present world? Where the narrator truly finds relief are the support groups- where he cries hugging the people actually suffering from different problems- and experiencing these true emotions gives him solace. I appreciated the satire and the social commentary prevalent in the film from the beginning to the end.

Brad Pitt is unforgettable as Tyler Durden, and Edward Norton is amazing, really very amazing as the unnamed narrator. From the insomniac person at the beginning of the film, to the the person finding a different meaning in life, to the person realizing that something is wrong with what is happening around himself and figuring things out- leading to the big twist- he is perfect, simply perfect. Helena Bonham Carter- she is great, just great as Marla, a mysterious and strange woman.

''Fight Club'' can get a bit too violent at times, but the film is a must-watch. It is an exceptionally brilliant satire with a story that left me wondering and trying to interpret it in a lot of different ways.

4.5 out of 5  

Thursday, 23 June 2016

''Being John Malkovich'' (1999 film)- Review

Directed by: Spize Jonze
Released: 1999
Country: United States

Genres: Comedy, Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5


''Being John Malkovich'' is pretty much a breath of fresh air: an extremely imaginative and original film that left me impressed and fascinated. This is definitely one of the most unique films I have ever watched.

The story revolves around three people: Craig, a puppeteer played by John Cusack, his wife Lotte, played by Cameron Diaz (in a makeup and hairstyle that almost makes her unrecognizable. I did know that Diaz was in this film and I kept looking for her and only a while later did I realize that the actress playing Lotte is actually Diaz), and Craig's colleague Maxine, played by Catherine Keener. Craig gets a job and his office is situated in the 7 1/2th floor of a huge building- this very interesting floor is situated between the seventh and eighth floors, and have low ceilings. This is fascinatingly interesting, and there is a popular (and interesting) story about why the ceilings are so low. Craig feels attracted to the beautiful Maxine, though the latter does not really pay him much attention. One day, Craig discover a portal on the wall of his office. He enters the portal, only to find himself in the mind of the famous actor John Malkovich. For ten or fifteen minutes, the portal allows the person who enters it to become Malkovich, to see the world through Malkovich's eyes. Craig is amused and tells this to Maxine: who comes up with a potentially profitable business plan: they would let people enter the portal and get into John Malkovich's brain in return for money. However, things take an unpredictably different turn when Craig tells about the portal to his wife Lotte, resulting in incidents that eventually, besides sparkling up revelations, changes the lives of all three of them.

I started watching ''Being John Malkovich'' knowing only the basic premise. I only knew that the film is something about a portal leading John Malkovich's brain. I was curious as the premise sounded pretty interesting. Once I started watching it... I was getting speechless scene after scene. The concept is so very original, so amazing! New revelations, unpredictable revelations crowd the film, and we can never guess what will happen next. No formula works in this film: each and every scene of it is something new, something refreshingly original. Each revelation is interesting.

You can probably guess that the thing I loved most about this film is the fresh and imaginative concept. Over the course of the film we get to know more and more about the portal around which the film is centered. We get to know what will happen if John Malkovich himself enters the portal. We get to know secrets about the portal. And of course, in the center of the film we have three very, very interesting characters: Craig, Maxine, and Lotte, whose lives will never be the same as they themselves go through continuous realizations and revelations that not only change their lives but are also powerful enough to leave the audience speechless and fascinated.

The performances are wonderful, of course. John Cusack is really good as Craig. Cameron Diaz, looking pretty unrecognizable, and Catherine Keener, playing Maxine, deliver unforgettable performances, making the two characters strong and believable. I found these two characters better-developed than Craig. John Malkovich portrays himself and he is wonderful.

''Being John Malkovich'' is one of the most original and imaginative films I have ever watched. Films as imaginative and fresh as ''Being John Malkovich'' are hard to find, and when found, they should be devoured and enjoyed to the fullest.

5 out of 5    

Thursday, 16 June 2016

''Sabrina'' (1954 film)- Review

Directed by: Billy Wilder
Released: 1954
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic comedy, Drama

Rating: 4 out of 5


Sabrina, the protagonist and titular character of the film, is played by Audrey Hepburn. This was her second major film role, the film being released in the year after the great ''Roman Holiday'' was. Directed by Billy Wilder- who also happens to be one of my favorite directors- this is a charming little film, a sweet love triangle, and has extremely funny moments that evoke great laughter.

The film begins when Sabrina is still a teenager. She is the daughter of a chauffeur employed in the household of the Larrabbees, an immensely wealthy family. Linus (Humphrey Bogart) and David (William Holden) are the two sons of the elderly Mr and Mrs Larrabee. Linus is serious, hardworking and workaholic, while David is careless and carefree, having already married and divorced thrice. Sabrina has been infatuated with David since her childhood, and is heartbroken when she finds herself unnoticed, finding her feelings unrequited. Sabrina's father arranges for her to go to Paris and study cooking. Sabrina goes rather unwillingly; however, living in Paris helps her view life with more optimism. She returns several years later, now a polished and sophisticated young lady, and immediately captures David's attention. David falls in love with her, and Sabrina is delighted to find her feelings finally being returned. However, the Larabees are planning a marriage between David and the wealthy Elizabeth Tyson, an association which would be greatly helpful for the family business, and seeing David falling for Sabrina, Linus decides to somehow divert Sabrina's attention from David, but instead finds himself falling for Sabrina, while she, in spite of herself, also finds that she is drawn to Linus.

I really admired the film. I liked the way it remains an interesting love triangle without becoming sappy. Audrey Hepburn's performance is full of emotional depth. At the beginning of the film she is an innocent, immature teenager who feels devastated when her love is unrequited, but when she is older, the character is more mature, more understanding, and though still in love and delighted when David returns her feelings, does not let love fully drive her. Humphrey Bogart, playing a serious middle-aged man who has never fallen in love before, makes the character of Linus believable and interesting. William Holden's character, David, is rather very carefree and careless and so has slightly less depth than the other two major characters. But still, all three of them deliver performances that leave us impressed. The supporting characters are impressive as well. I specially admired the performances by John Williams, who plays Sabrina's father, a person who is deeply concerned observing how his daughter is deeply in love with his employer, and Walter Hampden, who plays David and Linus's elderly father and brings a lot of comic relief in the film! Trust me, Hampden's performance is wonderful!

Besides romance, there is a lot of humor in the film as well. There were quite a few scenes that made me laugh out loud! They really did! While the overall film has a significant amount of emotional depth, the comic reliefs and funny scenes actually make us laugh out loud! The screenplay is excellent, perfectly balancing the tone of the film, making it emotionally deep but at times lighthearted as well.

I know I probably write this thing in every single Billy Wilder film I review but I must write it here as well: the more I watch films by this man, the more I admire him. ''Sabrina'' is a wonderful little film with an excellent screenplay, sufficient emotional depth, humor and comic relief, and very memorable performances. 

4 out of 5

Friday, 10 June 2016

''The Reader'' (2008 film)- Review

Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Released: 2008
Country: United States, Germany

Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, Lena Olin

Genre: Romantic, drama

Rating: 4 out of 5


I was fifteen. I was coming home from school. I was feeling ill. And a woman helped me. 

These are the very last words spoken by the male protagonist, Michael, in the film. And this is how the events of the film actually initiate. In a narrative that shifts between decades, the story initiates in 1958, when a 15-year-old boy, Michael, feels sick when he is coming back home from school. Hanna, then a woman in her mid-thirties, helps him go back to his home. After spending several months in bed, recovering from scarlet fever, Michael goes to Hanna's small apartment, meaning to thank her. However, he soon becomes smitten by Hanna, falling in love with her, and the two of them, in spite of their huge age gap, start an affair. Hanna loves it when Michael reads to her, and again and again, shown through several touching scenes, Michael reads to her. Months pass in this way, but when Hanna is promoted in her job, she leaves without telling Michael.

Several years later, Michael, now studying law at Heidelberg, attends court sessions as part of a seminar. He has to observe a case in which six former female guards at Auschwitz- one of the the most notorious Nazi concentration camps- are being tried. They have been convicted after the recent publication of a book by a Holocaust survivor, where the author linked some deadly incidents with these six guards. Michael is shocked to learn that one of these six guards is none but Hanna herself. He is horrified to learn that Hanna once worked for the SS. Charges have been brought against her, but very soon, Michael learns that Hanna has been protecting a secret- a secret of which she is deeply ashamed- but a secret which might help reduce her sentence and punishment. 

Kate Winslet and David Kross, with their pitch-perfect performances, make the chemistry between Michael and Hanna strong and powerful. I thought David Kross was the one who delivered the most powerful performance in this film, among the three major actors. Just observe his expressions: a teenager smitten by a woman way older than he is yet genuinely in love, or the way he expresses his pain when an angry Hanna tells her that he is not important enough for her, or the scene when he breaks into tears in the court, his horror and shock knowing what Hanna has done, yet his love for her- a powerful feeling that has stood the test of time and continued to exist- is still as strong as it was.

Kate Winslet was excellent as well. She makes the character of Hanna so realistic with her powerful performance. I really admired Winslet's performance in the prison scenes. I won't describe it in detail as I won't like to include spoilers, but yes, her performance in those scenes was simply excellent. Ralph Fiennes, as the older Michael, makes the character more complete, more realistic. All three of them, Winslet, Kross and Fiennes, deliver excellent performances.

I am not sure if I really loved this film. I was deeply moved, yes. The film touched me: it was an emotional journey, almost an emotional roller-coaster. But the subject matter itself is so problematic, and so is the character of Hanna. Hanna has done such things in the past that are impossible to be forgotten and forgiven. Once you think deeply and analyze the character, its quite impossible to fully sympathize with the character. But at the end of the day, ''The Reader'' is a film about two people, two people who love each other and one of them going to many lengths to keep the other happy in the face of adversities- and the way he does it, and about how a teenage love- perhaps a strong teenage infatuation- survived the test of time. A deeply moving and emotionally intense film, at the end of the day.

4 out of 5