Wednesday, 29 March 2017

''Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown'' (1988 film)- Review

Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
Released: 1988
Country: Spain

Genre: Comedy-drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


I really admire Pedro Almodovar's films. ''Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown'' is my third Almodovar film- the other two being ''Volver'' and ''The Skin I Live In''. ''Volver'' is one of my all-time favorite films. ''Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown'' is a marvelous film too. I enjoyed every bit of it and would really, really recommend it.

The story is about Pepa, played by Carmen Maura, a well-known television actress whose boyfriend, Ivan, leaves her. Ivan does not even respond when she tries to contact him. Pepa apparently has something very important to tell him. Two days pass by and she still gets no word from Ivan. She starts suspecting that Ivan has gone back to his ex-wife Lucia. As she tries to find Ivan, a hilarious situation ensues that involves not just herself and Lucia but also: Candela; a friend of Pepy's who is in a deep trouble; Ivan's son Carlos- played by a young Antonio Banderas- and his fiance Marisa; a feminist lawyer who, through hilarious and coincidental ways- becomes involved in the story; a damaged telephone; a burnt bed; two policemen;  and some spiked gazpacho. 

At one point in the film, a character- after witnessing the messy and problematic situation that arises because of the things that happen in the film- asks Pepa if she is pulling his leg (when Pepa tries to explain the situation to him). The question comes as no surprise. The things that happen throughout the film are goofy and crazy and hilarious. It is simply crazy- the mess and hilarity caused by the characters. I laughed and laughed and laughed. At the same time, the characters and the antics kept me thoroughly entertained. The interesting thing is that they are all normal, average people (except Lucia, who had been in a mental asylum), but they are entangled in a hilarious, cartoonish situation because of their actions or the situation they are in. There aren't many characters in this film but the few characters are very interesting in their own way, each adding to the hilarity and goofiness of the story. The screenplay is excellent and the performances- especially those from Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano (playing Candela) and Rossy de Palma (playing Marisa) are excellent.

This is definitely a very funny and entertaining film, but hidden in this hilarity is a serious story whose seriousness we almost forget while watching it but we are reminded of it anyway near the end of the film: the major focus is on Pepa, who has deeply loved Ivan- someone who never loved her back the way she loved him. Hidden in the hilarity of the situation is a story of unreturned love and betrayal. 

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?


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

''Seven'' (1995 film)- Review

Directed by: David Fincher
Released: 1995
Country: United States

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Drama, Mystery

Rating: 5 out of 5


Oh David Fincher, David Fincher. ''Seven'' has to be one of the grittiest and darkest films I have ever watched. As such, it is also one of the most captivating and intelligent films I have ever come across. And when I say intelligent, I really, really mean it. It has a storyline so brilliant that I kept- with apprehension and fear, I might add- waiting for what might happen next, trying to guess things, and often being met with shock and horror. Yes, indeed, ''Seven'' is a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant film. 

The very first character we are introduced to is William Somerset, played by Morgan Freeman, an experienced detective who is about to retire, who, for the last few days of his career, has to work with the young David Mills, played by Brad Pitt, who has just been transferred to the city. The city is dark and has a lot of crimes going on- something that greatly upsets Tracy- the wife of Mills- played by Gwyneth Paltrow. The very first thing Somerset and Mills investigate together is the murder of an overweight man who was forced to eat until his stomach burst open. The second murder they come across together is that of a lawyer. However, one thing that deeply troubles Somerset is the fact that in the locations of both murders they could discover something written: in case of the location where the obese man was killed, the word has ''Gluttony'' is found, and in the place where the lawyer was murdered, the word ''Greed'' is written on the floor with blood. Somerset immediately thinks that the two murders are linked: the killer, whoever that is, is killing people in a way that would somehow relate to the seven deadly sins: pride, lust, greed, sloth, gluttony, wrath and envy. Somerset, experienced and having seen a lot of the criminal world, has his own ways of tracking the killer down, and Mills, initially not friendly with Somerset, eventually becomes to trust him as they investigate the gruesome murders together, as they try tracking the person who, by means nobody knows, is being able to cover his tracks and continuing to commit the gruesome acts. 

The dark atmosphere of the film is clearly reflected in the way Somerset thinks. Having been in the profession for decades, he has seen a lot of the darkness, the extent to which humans can go, how the world can be so scary, so sinister. Mills, on the other hand, young and having a lot more to see, does not feel it the way Somerset does. A feeling similar to Somerset's is reflected in the way Tracy thinks. Having lived in a safe city all her life, the city she has had to come to because of her husband's work seems unfamiliar and strange to her, with all the crimes going on around her. It is definitely not the kind of life she had ever dreamed for herself. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt both deliver excellent performances, and Gwyneth Paltrow, although having comparatively less screen presence, is great too. Kevin Spacey is unforgettable in his role as well. The screenplay is excellent- much more than excellent- and about the director, David Fincher, nothing really needs to be said. He astounded me with ''Fight Club'' and now, having seen ''Seven'', I can understand what a great filmmaker he is. 

I kept thinking about the film, the storyline, and the way it culminates so unpredictably for hours after I finished watching the film. The story is so masterfully designed, each and every brick is placed so perfectly that when I came across the final, shocking twist, I was undoubtedly surprised but at the same time, I could not admire the film enough for its sheer perfection, for the way everything falls into place, the way things lead to the finale. Trust me, I was kept in a great suspense throughout the film, and when the final scenes came along, I kept waiting, with my heart beating fast, for something that I knew was sure to shock me but at the same time, something that I thought would give the film the perfection I now know it definitely has.



Monday, 13 March 2017

'"Carol'' (2015 film)- Review

Directed by: Todd Haynes 
Released: 2015
Country: United States, United Kingdom

Genre: Romantic drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


''Carol'' is a quietly beautiful film- simple, sublime yet breathtakingly beautiful. It is a film that left me speechless with its simplicity, emotional depth and poetic beauty. 

Set in the 1950s, the film stars Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird, a well-off woman who is about to be divorced. She has a little daughter. Rooney Mara, on the other hand, plays Therese, an aspiring photographer working in a department store. When Carol and Therese come across each other- it happens when Carol is looking for a Christmas present for her daughter in the department store Therese works in- they are instantly attracted to each other. As time passes they develop a romantic relationship in an era where homosexuality has little acceptance. However, there is Carol's husband, Herge, who will do whatever it takes to ensure the sole custody of their daughter, and he is ready to accuse Carol of ''immorality'', threatening to expose the fact that she has had homosexual relations.

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara both deliver excellent performances, bringing into life both the characters. I particularly admired Rooney Mara's performance. She brought such an emotional depth into the character of Therese that I really loved the character. The chemistry between the two characters is beautiful and extremely touching. From the first moment they meet there is something about the chemistry between the two of them that overwhelmed me, kept me glued to the screen. I loved the way the two of them make each other feel so special. Kyle Chandler is present as Carol's husband Herge, a nasty character that I just loathed. You can never keep a child away from a mother and that is exactly what he tried doing. I really disliked Herge and can find no reason to sympathize with him. Sarah Paulson gives considerable support as Abby, with whom Carol had once had an affair, and although we do not see that much of her, I really appreciated her for the support she provides to both Carol and Therese.

With an excellent screenplay, amazing performances and a story that along its way steadily turns emotionally deep and moving- while retaining its quietness and simplicity all along- 'Carol'' is a film that really touched me with its emotional intensity and two richly developed protagonists. 


Sunday, 12 March 2017

''The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie'' (1969 film)- Review

Directed by: Ronald Neame
Released: 1969
Country: United Kingdom

Genre: Drama

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


For those of us belonging to the Harry Potter generation, the name of Maggie Smith is synonymous with that of Professor McGonagall. It was delightful to see a much younger Maggie Smith in a role as unique as that of Miss Jean Brodie in this film.

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher teaching in an all-girls' school. Having a very romanticized view of the world, Miss Brodie often drifts away from the strict curriculum of the school, often teaching her students such things that the headmistress, Miss Mackay (Celia Johnson, who is much better known for her role as the protagonist in the lovely ''Brief Encounter''), disapproves of. However, Miss Brodie has her own charisma, her own strength, and she hand-picks girls from her students every year, teaching them special things. They are known as ''Miss Brodie's girls''. Unknown to most people but suspected by her special girls, she has an affair with the art teacher of the school, and also one with the music teacher. However, the woman whom we initially see as a slightly immature spinster turns out to have rather dangerous effects on the people around her- as her immature, over-romanticized view of the world and life lead her to do such things that might land those around her- and herself- in trouble. 

 Ah, what a character Miss Jean Brodie is! Maggie Smith does a perfect job portraying her. Her character development is excellent. Initially a woman who is immature and rather interesting, she eventually turns out to be a much more complex character, a person you cannot like and yet cannot hate, a person you don't want to pity but end up pitying, as we see how her immaturity, over-romanticized views can have such drastic effects, can lead to such dangerous consequences. The other actors gave excellent performances as well, and I especially admired Pamela Franklin, who plays Sandy, one of Miss Brodie's favorite students, and a character that eventually goes on to play a very important role in the story.

The plot development is also really good, as the story takes sudden turns and becomes much more complex than the idyllic story it had started as. The plot development takes place steadily, and one has to admire the film for that. 

I really liked this film- really, really liked it- but personally I think it would have been far more satisfying to me had there been characters I could admire more. I mean, the character development and plot development are done really well (Miss Jean Brodie is a very strong character, trust me), but I wish I could really love just one of the characters.  But other than that, I really liked the film. 


Saturday, 11 March 2017

''Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'' (2016 movie)- Review

Directed by: David Yates
Released: 2016
Country: United Kingdom, United States

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Ah, what a wonderful treat for a Potterhead like me! Being someone who literally grew up with Harry Potter, it is always delightful for me to find anything- anything- that somehow relates to the Harry Potter universe. ''Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'' is, in that sense, perfect. It is a prequel to the Harry Potter series and has a screenplay written by none other than the great J. K. Rowling herself. I loved the film and cannot wait for the subsequent sequels!

Set in the 1920s, film basically revolves around Newt Schamander (played by the great Eddie Redmayne) who is an English wizard who loves magical creatures and beasts, collecting and rescuing them and in doing so, he saves them from extinction. He comes to New York, bringing with him only a suitcase which is filled with magical creatures (in fact, with the use of magic, he has created a little world for his creatures inside the suitcase, a world that we eventually get to know about over the course of the film). He comes across a Muggle, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and is, for some inevitable reasons, compelled to perform magic in front of him. This is, however, witnessed by Porpentina 'Tina' (Katherine Waterston), who works for the ministry and is shocked to see magic being performed in front of Muggle (Muggles are called 'No-Maj' in America). Things get worse when it is discovered that Newt's suitcase has been exchanged with that of Jacob and Tina and Newt are compelled to track Jacob down. 

On the other hand, havoc is being created throughout the city. The Ministry believes that it is being caused by none other than the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. However, when word gets out that Newt has brought with him a suitcase where dangerous creatures reside, the Ministry start suspecting that it might be Newt who is responsible for the havoc- an accusation that is baseless. But what is actually happening in the city? Who is actually responsible for all the attacks? How are the troubles being caused? 

There are many things in this film that remind us of the fact that it is the prequel to the Harry Potter series. The film starts with our beloved ''Hedwig's Theme''. Spells that we had encountered in the Harry Potter series (like 'Alohomora' and 'Petrificus Totalus') are here in the film. It was like being transported to those days again, when we would wait for the next Harry Potter film and all the familiar things, the familiar spells would charm us. The film made me really nostalgic, it really did.

The film has a wonderful atmosphere, and the fantastic elements really impressed me (the safe haven that Newt has created for his creatures inside his suitcase is really impressive. It is so beautiful). Other than that, the story itself is really wonderful, full of twists and turns. The four major characters (Newt, Jacob, Tina and Queenie, Tina's sister) are really, really amazing and the roles are really well-acted. I hope we see more of them in the upcoming sequels!  I really started caring for these four characters, they are well-written and fleshed out! J. K. Rowling's screenplay is excellent: she did it again, transporting us back to the amazing fictional universe that she created all those years ago and had made us fall in love with! And this time, too, she introduces such amazing characters that we cannot but admire them, care for them. I would recommend this film not just to Potterheads but also to those who love fantasy and adventure, to those who appreciate an excellent screenplay, to those who love characters with depth, and to those who love great, unpredictable stories!  

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

''La La Land'' (2016 film)- Review

Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Released: 2016
Country: United States

Genre: Musical, Romantic drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


When it comes to dreams, it is hard to chase them and it easy to give them up. It is easy to be swayed by disappointment but when one has a firm determination, one can easily reach that goal and- as we see in ''La La Land''- if there is somebody- just one person- by you when you are chasing your dreams, if there is somebody initiate that light of inspiration in you, that journey becomes easier.

''La La Land'' is the story of Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) and Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling). Mia has a day job as a barista but aspires to be an actress. She left university and came to Los Angeles so that she could land a role in a movie or a TV series. She attends auditions after auditions and is rejected over and over again, but she is still firm in her determination. Sebastian, on the other hand, is a jazz pianist who aspires to keep jazz alive. However, as he does not play according to the conventional methods, he is fired from his job. Over the course of the next few months, he comes across Mia again and again, and as they start falling in love, they inspire each other to follow their dreams. Mia inspires Sebastian to start eventually his own jazz club where he will be able to play the kind of music he loves, and Sebastian inspires Mia to write a play where she will act. But as time passes the collision of reality and dreams happens...

I loved ''La La Land''. I really, really did. From the very beginning of the film there was a sort of lively charm as dreams and reality kept colliding (although not always in a positive way). I loved the songs, the production design, and the score. The screenplay is amazing, and Damien Chazelle does a really good job directing the film. Everything in the film has a vintage, 1950s touch, and had it not been for the mobile phones and modern cars that the characters use, I would have thought it was set in the 1950s.

I loved the very essence of the story, of how we should follow our dreams and how we should not think of what others think or whether others care about what we are doing, but that we should be solely focused on what we are trying to do, and that should be our aim, that should be our dream, and no matter how hard reality might be, we need to focus on our dreams instead of falling prey to the world around us that might cause us to fall prey to competition, to the constant insecurity of what others might think of us and our work.

At the center of the story, of course, there are two lovely characters: Mia and Sebastian. The chemistry between the two of them is heartwarming and beautiful. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling give undoubtedly powerful performances. I think all of us, to an extent, can relate to these two characters as throughout our lives we go through what these two experience throughout the film: powerful dreams and insecurity, intimidated by the competitive world around us that often forces us to forget who we really are and to abandon our dreams as, according to that world, the ''reality'' is so much different than the dreams. But for many of us, our dreams are what we strive to turn into reality, in spite of what those around might feel and might say, and just as Mia and Sebastian were there for each other as they tried following their dreams, we also find a person- or several people- in our lives who become the driving force for us, inspiring us to reach our goal.

4.5 out of 5