Wonder Woman: Not a review.

If Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, what would it be like when Wonder Woman is scorned, i couldn’t but help feel curious. So here goes.
The weekend past turned out to be one of tough choices for the cinephile in me when i had to decide between a movie with a female super villain and one with a female super hero lead.At the risk of being branded a chauvinist and a misogynist i admit that i had held out from watching the latter for a week but when the going gets tough, the tough gets going and thats how i ended up going to a show of Wonder Woman at the multiplex around the corner and i swear that it had nothing to do with the fact that my wife wanted to watch it too.

The internet would have you believe that though DC has two of the greatest superheroes to ever don a cape in its camp, it took Wonder Woman to restore faith in the DC Universe and save it from sinking into oblivion cinematically.Though this is indeed the “post-truth”, so to speak, in these times of paid news, fake news and online promotions when even established media houses can’t tell a genuine story from an ad campaign,i couldn’t but help feel that something was rotten in the state of California,Hollywood to be specific.The kind of gushing reviews that are doing rounds were conspicuous by absence when a genuinely female centric film like Hidden Figures hit the screens.Yeah apples and oranges, i know but if you think i am exaggerating, the fact that DC had the clout to convince the United Nations to appoint Wonder Woman as an honorary ambassador for women’s empowerment last year is proof enough.Come to think of it, though UN withdrew the announcement after drawing considerable flak from all quarters, the timing of the declaration and DC’s campaign sounds more like an ambitious marketing ploy rather than a coincidence.

When i finally did got around to watching the movie, i realized that cinematic swindle that unfolded before my eyes was second only to what the makers of Twenty Twenty did to Mammootty, if you know what i am talking about, but then you don’t.Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman stays true the original comic strip character traits, making her an embodiment of innocence, honor and of course superhuman skills but she ends up using these mostly in the realm of fantasy fighting mythical villains while the real world is actually saved by Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor.
In fact you have to be ignorant beyond measure not to notice that its Steve Trevor who saves the day and in fact dons the thinking cap on more than one occasion.Though you could argue that i have gotten it all wrong and that the film is exactly how its supposed to be, for a character being marketed as a feminist icon, it did look more than a bit odd to me.

Patty Jenkins helmed Charlize Theron’s Oscar vehicle which i have watched in only bits and parts but i am familiar with her work in the remake of the scandinavian series ,The Killing, which again featured a female lead and was an engaging watch with some truly unique characterizations.The Swedes and the Danes have always been miles ahead of Hollywood when it comes to ground breaking concepts and breaking gender barriers on screen, The Millennium trilogy and The Bridge to name a few.
This may sound like a ploy of mine to win over the animal lovers now that i have invoked the wrath of feminists rather Wonder Woman fangirls, but i have to say that the honor for greatest no man’s land run on screen belongs to War Horse and not Wonder Woman.And if you think that no female lead has kicked ass in a movie like Wonder Woman did, you obviously haven’t seen Lisbeth Salander in action and she doesn’t need magical bracelets either.Pepper spray, she makes do with.

 

Manichitrathazhu: In retrospect.

Flipping through channels on TV is a ritual that’s being seriously threatened by the arrival of binge watching and i was honoring this time old tradition the other day when the sight Mohanlal,Thilakan,Innocent and Nedumudi in a single frame made me stop and put the remote down.Manichitrathazhu was playing on Asianet,for the umpteenth time but i didn’t find myself complaining, rather was only too happy to sit back and watch though the film was almost close to its ending.The fear of ghosts and darkness i had outgrown as a kid, when I realized that the living were far more sinister and dangerous but Manichitrathazhu managed to stir up my fears of the unknown every time I watched it, especially the scenes where Nagavalli starts making her presence felt.I can’t decide if it’s just the visuals or the background music, maybe bit of both, in fact I’ve been told that the makers researched raagas that invoked fear for the haunting BGM that has attained cult status today.

The film needs no introduction and it has been remade in all the major regional languages but the original remains a class apart, the fact that the best minds in the Malayalam film industry came together behind and in front of the camera, being just one of the reasons why. Manichithrathazhu is what happens when a Malayali filmmaker sets his mind on making a horror-thriller for a Malayali audience, that is to just say, a thinking man’s horror film. You could rightly debate that the film is a psychological thriller and not a horror film in the true sense but then again, you didn’t know that until the end credits had rolled.

While even the most celebrated Hollywood horror movies have resorted to demonic possessions and supernatural presence to send a chill down the viewers spine, Manichitrathazhu delves into the complexities of the human psyche with a subtlety and realism that is indeed the hallmark of malayalam movies our times ,notwithstanding the fact the protagonist does break into a song at the most crucial of moments in the film, but thats just our way of telling a story and i wouldn’t want it any other way either.

The movie does not attack the customs and traditions of the largely patriarchal community against the backdrop of which the story unfolds, rather it chooses an inclusive narrative, treading a middle ground where scientific methods and cultural symbols find equal footing in the progression and culmination of the tale.That the film successfully managed to scare the living daylights out of the viewers without any special effects sequences speaks volumes of the skills of Madhu Muttam, the reclusive script writer and Fazil the director, though the movie is also known for the collaborative efforts of the most successful filmmakers of the time.

Rectify : The Best Series That You’ve Never Heard Of.

If all of life’s experiences of an individual and of the people around him, their hopes and dreams, their disappointments, fears, tragedies and losses could be written down in so many words, captured in the most poignant of frames, performed and enabled earnestly by artists at the pinnacle of their crafts, to a level of perfection that seldom presents itself in any form of art, that’s Rectify for you.

I used to think that Breaking Bad and Bryan Cranston were the best things to happen to television, until Aden Young simmered onto the screen with Rectify.And its not just Young, every actor who’s part of the series leaves a lasting impression on the viewer and these are hitherto unknown actors too, at least to me, which makes one think about the celebrated stars of tinsel towns around the world.Here’s a bunch of artists, living their roles with endearing performances,backed by some of the most honest and soulful screenwriting you would ever come across in the medium, and getting little or no recognition in terms of accolades and leaves their work to speak for itself.

The show moves at its own pace,is not eager to impress,does not slip into the trappings of any genre and stays true to its soul, to the very last frame.Rectify is not just the best show to ever hit the screen that you have never heard of, its art at its finest.The fact that it didn’t win any of the most known television awards is ironically a reflection of the very theme of the show, i think, something very wrong and unfair, that cannot be rectified, like most things in life.Aden Young proved that he is one of the best out there when he literally breathed life into Daniel Holden for three magnificent seasons and here he explains why you shouldn’t watch Rectify and in case you choose to disagree with him, do watch out, rather listen out for some of the best sound mixing works to ever hit the small screen and thats just one of the many bests one could associate with the series.

 

Logan : The Review.

Logan is to the X-Men film franchise,what the “The Dark Knight” is to the Batman films.James Mangold has an impressive resume already and he has delivered a Marvel movie which doesn’t look or feel like a Marvel movie and this film without doubt would definitely be counted amongst his best works.I would go so far as to say that this has to be the best X-Men movie to ever hit the screens, in fact it is one of the best superhero movies ever made, indeed.
Its a welcome change from the mind numbing CGI action mayhem that has been fed to us of late by Marvel and DC.Of course this movie features some of the bloodiest and most gruesome action sequences i have ever seen in any superhero film but it plays out like a gritty action drama and not once do you feel that its an X-Men franchise film that you’re watching, well i may have exaggerated a bit there, but you’ll know what i meant when you go watch the film yourself.

Logan is disturbing, dark and brooding not just for the sake of it and is a classic example of what good writing and visionary filmmaking can do to the most exhausted of themes.Mangold engages the viewer successfully and has managed to connect to an audience outside the cult fan base for the X-Men franchise here, i felt.There are quite a few lighter moments too which doesn’t feel forced at all and here again the credit goes to the writing.
Hugh Jackman plays “Old Man Logan” to the T while Patrick Stewart gets to play a Professor X who’s quite out of character,pun intended.The film does feature child artists in some extremely violent scenes and wouldn’t be surprised if it does raise a few eyebrows,but why should movies be any different in a world where children are bombed in their homes and wash up ashore lifeless.I couldn’t help wondering if Mangold was silently delivering a message too with this film, presenting a “dystopian” future not too far ahead of our times, telling us where we are headed.The self driving trucks were the most obvious of indicators of how close we are to Logan’s world, at least to me.#logan

Split : The Review.

Manoj Night Shyamalan is back to doing what he does best in Split.He gave us a glimpse of the Shyamalan of yore in The Visit and here he assures us that he has got his groove back.Made on a budget of 9 million USD,Split has already raked in ten times that figure.The Visit was noticed for the fact that it cost 5 million and earned almost a 100 million at the box office.Has to be the Indian in him,i‘m tempted to say, considering the fact that his country of origin recently managed to launch a space probe successfully,to orbit the Mars on a budget lesser than what Hollywood spent on a movie set in space.
Its also a fact that the writer-director faltered more than once when he worked on bigger budgets.
The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs had established Shyamalan as a thinking man’s filmmaker but the mediocre stuff that he churned out for almost a decade and half since those films gave us an impression that the critics who were only too eager to write him off had a point indeed.Shylamalan finally has let his craft do the talking, proving his detractors wrong ,with Split.While this film may not entirely win over his critics, it will definitely wake them up to the fact that the man hasn’t lost his touch entirely.

James McAvoy owns the screen in this film about a man with 23 personalities and the only two other actors who gets to share screen space with him ,almost make up the entire cast of the film.Betty Buckley and Anya Taylor-Joy, who it seems is turning into permanent fixture in anything horror deliver gripping performances too.The tension and suspense that Shyamalan builds in a simple therapy session scene is worthy of Hitchcock,i would say and Shyamalan does indulge in his fascination with the supernatural , to a limited extent,here too.At a time when every other movie is about a Marvel or DC superhero and their “Universe”, Shyamalan hints at building his own universe in Split.Before Sam Raimi and Nolan kicked off the superhero origin story trend,it was indeed Shyamalan who gave us the thinking man’s superhero with Unbreakable,i think.And its anyones guess why Bruce Willis is a frequent collaborator,Shyamalan was 18 when Die Hard was released.

Dangal : The Review.

Game over Hollywood,authentic,rousing sports movies are no longer just your forte, there is a new contender in the ring, so to speak.I’d decided that i wouldn’t write anything about this film even before i watched it simply because as a viewer you know already that Aamir Khan wouldn’t disappoint you ,being the perfectionist he is and to even try and dissect a movie with those kind of standards would be something that’s beyond me.I honestly can’t recall the last time when an Aamir Khan movie turned out to be a disappointment.But now that I’ve watched the film, i have to share my thoughts on this movie.There it seems ,is no other go.

Sports to us is mostly just cricket and with the kind of space and encouragement rest of the sports gets in the country, its hardly any surprise that we don’t have many genuine sports movies either,except for a Chak De or a Bhaag Milkha or a Lagaan ,to an extent.This Aamir Khan movie where he delivers the restrained performance the character demands to the T, is not just about him and every character you see on screen leaves an impression on you, in fact Aamir Khan is absent from the frame in the most riveting moments of the film.If the child actors carry the film in the first half not just with their charm but with the sheer physicality of their roles, the older girls deliver an endearing performance in the second half.Yes, there are the customary song and dance sequences that Bollywood can’t live without but trust me once the film is done with you, you wouldn’t want it any other way.

The film has two Commonwealth wrestling bout sequences and these scenes are so perfectly choreographed, shot and performed that the viewers end up forgetting for those last thirty minutes that its a movie and not the actual Commonwealth wrestling match of 2012 thats unfolding before them.The scenes are truly world class and i can’t think of a movie from any other part of the world where a contact sporting event was so authentically filmed.Dangal’s wrestling sequences are in the same league of perfection as the F1 racing scenes in Rush.It is a highly fictionalized account of the true story and cinematic liberties have been taken, obviously but this movie is indeed a milestone and it does justice to story of the struggle and triumph of the Phogats.The first thing i did after the movie was to lookup Geeta Phogat’s 2012 Commonwealth wrestling match on YouTube and I know I’m not the only one who must’ve done that. #Dangal

Just Stand Up Already.

Us Indians have been conditioned to listen,not listened to ,all through our formative years.From parents to teachers to elders to peers, we constantly learned what we were supposed to do in what ultimately turned out to be an eternal quest for “what’s best for you” and we were only too happy to oblige too.In fact most of us are thankful for all that.There’s no telling where we would have ended up if it wasn’t for that timely rap on the knuckles.You did not choose the school you went to, you never got to pick the subjects that you were taught and there were occasions even where we were told who to be friends with.
We took this conditioning with us beyond our years of growth physically, when we set out on our own into the big bad world.Even when it comes to decisions like marriages a total stranger doing the kind of calculations on a wooden board that would have left George Boole perplexed, tells us if its a make or a break.Basically you have the whole system telling you what’s best for you,round the clock.Even better, by now you know what’s best for your family and your friends too.Yes you’re already passing around the mantle that was passed on to you recently.

This is why i fail to understand why some of us shift uncomfortably in our chairs when we are told that we are required to stand up when the national anthem is played in the movie halls.You are only being asked to do what you’ve done all throughout your life, doing as you’re told that is.Yes ,you’re absolutely obliged to prove your love for the country to every other person who’s in there with you.Its not up to you to ask if the anthem is played every time a cabinet of ministers or a court of law is in session.All you need to be is that brick in the wall.Thats your sole purpose in life.So quit acting as if you just got off a Volkswagen Type 2 on you way back home from Woodstock and just go ahead and stand up wherever you are asked to, already.