“The Dark Knig…

“The Dark Knight Rises” had one of the most sensational openings ever, compounded by the unfortunate incident in Aurora, CO. It’s the third movie in the mother of all trilogies, it is the most anticipated movie of 2012, drama never seems too far from the Batman series, but I’m yet to see a thoughtful critique which treats it as a film. And as a movie, it’s as flawed as Batman himself. It has its moments, it has its charms, but it fails to reach the pinnacle, and reminds me of unfulfilled potential, something that Christopher Nolan suffers from, as well. 

Christopher Nolan is an excellent writer, but ultimately, a visually boring director. He doesn’t spend a whole lot of time trying to create a mood, an atmosphere. Take, for example, the scene where Batman reveals himself to Jim Gordon, this should have a great impact on the audience, but it is so poorly fitted into the movie, you feel absolutely nothing. Nolan wants to leave you breathless with all the plot twists. He wants to give you that joy of figuring out the many twists and turns, he wants to give you that jolt of “Ha! Bet you didn’t expect that coming!”. This becomes a problem when there is far too much to go over. The movie literally hurtles towards the end, not fully resolved and not always logically. The climax was so bad, I almost groaned. Or was the climax just someone’s imagination? You may never know (cue spinning/wobbly top!) 

The film had a lot of merits. Nolan had a really difficult job of finding a villain for Batman who was at least as menacing as The Joker. So he picks up someone who is crazier than Joker. What made Joker an incredible villain was he was the absolute anti-thesis of Batman. Batman believed even the worst person had some good in him/her, Joker believed the exact opposite. It was the proverbial Good vs Evil, but it also wasn’t that simple. At the end of “The Dark Knight”, the Batman had been banished from the city of Gotham, so “Good” won a sort of Pyrrhic victory, if you will. This did, in theory, set up a wonderful premise for the final part of the trilogy. 

The movie returns 8 years later, with the city at an uneasy peace. The peace of the city gets distorted with the arrival of the super villain, Bane. He takes over the city, imprisons Batman and unleashes hell. This represents some of the most captivating sequences of the film. Bane believes “You don’t know despair, until you’ve seen hope”. He wants to destroy “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things”. He wants to break the city at its core. He wants to show them true despair and his grand plan is fitting. But, Batman saves the day. 

Why does Nolan have a problem with normal voices? The exchanges between Bane and Batman are so distorted that I had to guess what they were talking about. The final sequence was an absolute disappointment. Hand-to-hand combat scenes were particularly bad. The ham-fisted political commentary about the Occupy movement was somewhat contradictory and unwarranted. 

My most favourite Nolan movie still remains a tie between The Prestige and the Dark Knight. But this film is a nice addition to the trilogy and provides a satisfactory climax. I hope no one tries to reboot the series again.

 PS: The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy, it’s a single story in three movies. 

 

 

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Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene is Sean Durkin’s debut film starring Elizabeth Olsen and Sarah Paulson. Elizabeth Olsen is the third sister and is quite unlike the other two sisters, in that she is more than just a beautiful woman. She is by far the most beautiful woman on screen, I think, and most certainly reminds me of Scarlett Johannson. If not for anything else, watch this movie for her.

The movie is not about the plot, but if you insist, it is about a girl who has been part of an abusive cult and “escapes” it to return to her sister who is the only family she has. The movie is essentially her struggle to get back into society and forget the past. But paranoia sets in, and she is not able to rid herself of the past. She is paranoid that members from her past will catch up with her. It starts to shred the semblance of calm that she tries to display, piecemeal.

It is a very assured debut by Sean Durkin, and the editing is remarkable. It puts you right in the middle of the protagonist’s paranoia and gives you a great sense of isolation and fear. I still cannot get over how incredibly beautiful Elizabeth Olsen and what a powerful performance as a broken young woman she has provided. Also, she has perfect breasts. I should probably just dedicate a separate paragraph to note how insanely perfectly shaped they are. I can’t wait to see her in a Pedro Almodovar movie.

If you are looking for a film that is absolutely devastating to your psyche and starring an incredibly beautiful woman, watch MMMM.

Troll Hunter?

This movie on Netflix kept coming up on my recommendations, because apparently I would rate it 4 stars, Netflix kept saying. Usually Netflix’s suggestions, which are based on your previous ratings, are pretty fair, but this one I thought was a little cuckoo. Surely, a bug in the algorithm. I decided to challenge Netflix and watch the film. This is why I love Netflix.

Troll hunter is a Norwegian film about how a bureaucratic organization inside the Norwegian government is trying desperately to cover up a secret that has been held from almost the middle ages. Oh, I kid. NOT. Trolls are the focus of this movie, in case you haven’t guessed (and if you haven’t, you aren’t particularly bright). Troll hunter is an agent of the government who has been exterminating trolls for as long as he can remember and is now tired of being paid a pittance. He is now ready to leak this outrageous story to a bunch of college kids out on a college project.

This is the Blair Witch project of Norway, only it is a hundred times funnier. It begins with a statutory note saying this is part of a real footage obtained and edited and the movie proceeds in mockumentary style, and what unfolds is an a brilliant mixture of satire, some middling CG and excellent acting. The CG indicates there wasn’t a great budget to work with, but it is sufficiently freaky.

This is one of those rare diamonds that I make me like Netflix all the more.I hear Hollywood has bought the rights to this movie. Watch it before it gets bastardized.

How you Doin’ ??

I found Sudhish Kamath’s first film “That four letter word” to be a huge disappointment. I went for its premiere at the Chennai Film Fest, with a friend, and remember being distraught. Here was a man who used to trash unfortunate Bollywood movies like no man’s business on Hindu, and he came up with a movie that felt very pretentious and fake. So you can understand if I was a little guarded going in to “Good Night | Good Morning”, Sudhish Kamath’s latest directorial attempt, co-written by Shilpa Rathnam.

I liked the honesty about the film. A drunk dial phone call that lasts a night between two strangers, who by the end of the movie, know enough to start having feelings for each other. When you realize the premise of the movie, you understand that it needs excellent writing and brilliant acting (and you also realize this was a song, in the movie Azhagan). We have that in abundance. Manu Narayan plays a virgin insurance salesman, with baggage and an inability to let go. Seema Rahmani plays a cocky cynic, so sure of herself that it is hard not to be intimidated. There are few other characters, who are, for the most part only to provide their phones to continue the conversation. There is also a Bunuel-esque touch where all the flashbacks and dream characters are also played by the same actors.

There is an abundance of jazz (always a mark of good taste *cough*snob*cough*), and the meandering quality of the dialogue is much like.. well, jazz. That they managed this level of seeming ease is a credit to the writers. The split-screen technique is used rather effectively and the instances when it’s not used make it even more effective.

It has done enough to make me want to revisit “That Four letter word” and maybe even make an effort to like it (most likely won’t happen).

The portrait of a psychopath’s mother

“We need to talk about Kevin” is a terrifying film to watch. Lynne Ramsay directs and co-writes this astonishing film about… what? How a child, a mother doesn’t want to have, becomes a murderer? What not to do with aggressive children? The breaking down of a family at the hands of a maladjusted, hateful kid? I guess it is all of these things.

A movie of such quality is possible only through strong acting and there is enough of it, throughout the movie. What do you expect in a movie with Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly. But the most important performances in the movie are from the three actors portraying Kevin at different stages. The teenager Kevin was slightly disappointing in that he was too evil and far too easy to hate.

Tilda Swinton looks incredibly helpless and you can see hope fading from her eyes through the course of the film, and fear replacing it. The movie employs the cliched non-linear screen play but uses it cleverly. The present is constantly interjected with events from the past, and her present predicament starts making sense, little by little.

The most heart-breaking scene in the film is when Tilda, having a tough time calming the child who is bawling away, takes him and goes to a nearby construction site with a drilling going on. The drilling overpowers the kid’s bawling and she soaks in the moment. The brief moment when she doesn’t have to hear the kid’s crying. The crying comes back, and along with it, a smack back to reality. She is a parent entrusted with the upbringing of a child and she has little clue how to do it.

In retrospect, the movie seems more about the parents’ failure to understand a troubled child. The society is very quick to judge the mother, for being a failure. And there is enough evidence to suggest that the mother has not forgiven herself and may never will. This is the reason I find films like this and to be absolutely scary and terrifying. More so than any horror film.

Mayakkam Illai

‘Mayakkam Enna’ is an intensely passionate film. It tries to grab you by the balls, kick you in the crotch and then slap you a couple of hundred times, for good measure. I came out of the film bruised, battered and aghast at the fake closure I was provided.

Selvaraghavan is immensely talented. He is a wonderful technician who understands how to set up a scene up, and there are extended sequences with minimal background scores which work magic. His subjects are often flawed people, and he particularly seems to be interested in how people change and evolve. This has been a running thread in his films, Thulluvatho Ilamai, 7G Rainbow colony and now ‘Mayakkam Enna’.

In this movie, the subjects under consideration are Iron Woman and Dysfunctional Fucktard. IW meets DF in a volatile scene, involving slapping and name-calling (munda kalappai, been long since I heard that one). IW is GF of DF’s friend. Only, she isn’t. They are just “dating”. IW likes DF better. Nay, she loves DF. IW knows exactly what dating means and yet, doesn’t have the courtesy to tell her current BF that she wants to break up with him. But she is loyal to DF to an absolute fault.

Fate and some incredibly bad acting by the stud photographer, ruin DF’s lives. DF takes it out on IW, who are married by now. DF turns alcoholic, abusive, and becomes that irritating fly that you just want to swat, but IW will not. Love. She will see this man make a MAN out of himself. Along the way, she makes a few men uncomfortable. DF succeeds in life, through a quirk of fate.

There is a bedroom scene where the guy farts, and then the girl playfully spits on him. THIS is ok. But when DF and IW kiss, we won’t show because its too shocking for our audience. Are you trying to poke at our inherent hypocrisy, Mr. Selvaraghavan? I sure hope so.

I am not sure I completely understand what Mr. selvaraghavan is attempting to say with this movie. He has the ability to be the Eric Rohmer of our cinema. He creates characters that normally will not be appreciated by tamil cinema. But he seems too driven by a commercial desire to provide closure. There is a brilliant technician in Selvaraghavan. I am still waiting for the auteur to come out.

The Fan’s Lament

In fandom, your loyalty is often tested. There are days when you wished you weren’t a fan of someone/some team. The Indian cricket team did its best to lose many fans today. I’m not one of them.

Teams and their fans often share a love-hate relationship, owing to the very nature of the beast. The team, as an entity, is much like a human being. The same team, which made you rapturously happy, can also punch you in the gut, and if you are a Pakistani fan, maybe even stab you in the back. But, like with best friends, you stay committed. You give them chances, because they mean something to you. They have done enough to earn your love. Don’t give up, just yet.

The Indian cricket team will most likely lose this match, and the next one. Their performance today was one of hopelessness. We never looked like we wanted to play. We had to be cajoled and coaxed into being there. At this time, the same can be said of the fans. Coax and cajole us, my beloved team.

As a fan of the sport first, and then of the team, I was disappointed by the quality. We were tired, and bowled dross for the most part of the day. The day at Trent Bridge where we leaked more runs than today had more drama. But today was desperation. We were looking at bowling 90 overs, not take 10 wickets. Days like these, test your loyalty more than any other day.

I believe in this team. I believe in this rickety, ramshackle team. Yes, it is on its last legs. The new ones don’t seem agile enough and very soon, when the old hands move on, there are bound to be teething problems. But, the wait, I’m sure, will be worth it. I haven’t given up yet. Nor should you.