Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Foxcatcher Movie Review

Story: Thanks to his inherited fortune, John du Pont (Carell), cold and self-obsessed, can afford to indulge his eclectic whims, from ornithology and philately to freestyle wrestling. He wants to train his 'Team Foxcatcher' (named after his mother's horse-racing stable) to win big at the 1988 Olympics and enlists Olympic gold medallist brothers Mark and Dave Schultz to help achieve this.

Review: Mark (Tatum) and John reside at either end of the wealth spectrum. Mark has a wrestling gold from the 1984 Olympics and John, scion of the enormously loaded du Pont family, has a sense of hollow self-importance that sounds almost ridiculous if it weren't laced with a fairly apparent feeling that he is rather odd fellow with creepy mannerisms.

Mark is flown to John's estate in Pennsylvania and asked to train for the Olympics - gold and nothing less, mind you. He is put up in a chalet offering him every luxury, except any female company. Both men, however, are lonely and therefore, for a while, they soon become best mates - two individuals who commonly crave an elusive, inner sense of lasting accomplishment.

Dave (Ruffalo, excellent) later senses his brother is uneasy about something and flies to John's estate to train and more importantly, look after Mark. John meanwhile, desperately but quietly craves his mother's (Redgrave) approval. She loves horses but turns up her nose at wrestling, calling it a 'low' sport. John's derision for all things equestrian is apparent when, during one champagne-soaked evening, he yells to Mark: "They only eat and shit!"

The Carell-Ruffalo-Tatum trio put in terrific, edgy performances. Tatum thrills in his most mesmerizing performance to date as a hulking man-child who is emotionally stunted. But it's Carell's (otherwise known for his comedy roles) impeccable timing that gives his character a chilling, nuanced intensity tinged with hidden homoeroticism regarding his proximity to Mark.  is aided by a powerful script (Max Frye and Dan Futterman) and is based on a true story. The tale is no doubt an unsettling one... and yet, you'll not want to miss a second.



Jupiter Ascending Movie Review

Story: Jupiter (Kunis), a janitor, hates her dreary daily existence. She scrubs toilets for a living and dreams about a better, more purposeful existence. However, her destiny transcends washrooms, aliens and even planets. After a part-human hunter named Caine (Tatum) rescues her, she finds out, to her disbelief, that she actually 'owns' the Earth.

Review: Jupiter Ascending can be distilled down to a cosmic family tale involving planetary inheritances, sibling scheming, inadequately-explained references to genetic theory and plenty of action in between. In theory, this may sound like an imaginative mix, but what we get is an essentially simple story told in an overly (and perhaps needlessly) convoluted manner.

Jupiter, of the aforesaid existential existence, is at the focal point of this story. After Caine, the cyberpunk super-soldier who speeds around in jet-boots, rescues her from a bunch of aliens (a role he will reprise throughout the film), they head to a safe house owned by his old comrade Stinger (Bean) where he breaks the news to her that she is, among other things, royalty.
Jupiter is then kidnapped and taken to Kalique Abrasax (Middleton) in space, who further explains that Jupiter is a perfect genetic 'recurrence' of her deceased mother Seraphi, matriarch of an intergalactic royal family who owned planets and harvested its people for their genetic essence - the coveted fountain of youth.

As Jupiter now owns the Earth (thanks to her genetic makeup), Kalique needs her as part of the plan to harvest Earth. Her brothers, the suave Titus (Booth) and uber-villainous Balem (Redmayne) also need Jupiter to sign away her ownership of Earth.
Despite the dazzling effects and stellar art direction (also, more hairstyle variations than actual characters),  skimps on fleshed-out performances and offers little substance to chew on, compared to say, 1999's Matrix by the Wachowskis and easily their best in terms of scale-meets-mythology. The Jupiter-Caine love story angle falls flat but it is Redmayne's deliciously evil, ruthless Balem who you actually want to see more of. Thankfully though, there is enough originality in here to please hardcore sci-fi fans.



Mr. Turner Movie Review

Story: This is a detailed portrayal - flaws included - of the last 25 years of romanticist British painter J. M. W. Turner's life. Apart from his style - innovative use of illumination and broad strokes - we also get a revealing insight into his personal journey.

Review: Timothy Spall's depiction of Turner is in a word, earthy. The rotund artist's vocabulary is frequently punctuated by a string of porcine grunts and growls, all delivered by this scowling, jowly and not very jolly man.

Unmarried, he lives in a well-appointed home looked after by his sad-eyed housekeeper Hannah (Atkinson) who he occasionally has sex with. She craves his affection, but for him, sex is just that. His beloved father William (Jesson) does the groceries and shares a buddy-like camaraderie with Turner. Not so with Turner's former mistress Sarah (Sheen), angry with him for neglecting their kids.

What Turner lacks in terms of verbal expressiveness, he more than makes up for via his canvases. There too, he is unusual. Turner moistens dry parts of paint on his landscapes with spittle and, wielding his brush like a scalpel, stabs, scrapes and shapes blobs of paint into hazy sunset hues and masterful sunrises.
Despite its runtime and deliberately slow (Leigh clearly takes his time here) pace, both these factors are necessary for a story like this. After all, it harks back to an era when people rode in horse carriages and cameras (more precisely, the daguerreotype) were a new thing.

Turner was known for his use of light and yet, his own life had plenty of melancholic shades. A depressed soul, however, he was not. He slurs to a young woman at a posh dinner party one evening in between mouthfuls of custard and port, "loneliness and solitude are different." Turner finally does find love and companionship with the widowed landlady, Mrs Booth (Bailey), of a place he often rented. He lives with her, but does not get married.

Apart from the fantastic characterizations and top-notch cinematography, the real beauty of Turner's vision was his ability to find beauty in the seemingly ordinary.  



Love, Rosie Movie Review

Story: Based on best-selling author Cecelia Ahern's novel 'Where Rainbows End', Love, Rosie is the story of two childhood friends, Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin), who 'keep missing each other in love'. Long distance, failed marriages, even spats can't wear away the connection between the two people who always have other's back and turn to each other to seek solace. Do they end up living 'happily ever after'? Well, it's a rom-com.

Review: In 1989, Harry Burns professed his love for Sally Albright in 'When Harry Met Sally...' because 'he knew whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life with and he wanted the rest of his life to start as soon as possible'. Two-and-a-half decades later, with a new crop of actors, Love, Rosie attempts the same with formulaic candy-floss romance from Nora Ephron's memorable film and is quite successful in warming the cockles of our hearts.

Playing childhood BFFs, Collins and Claflin bring forth an enchanting chemistry. It is a pre-requisite for any romantic comedy to bring on screen the tangibility of their romance. The actors make Rosie and Alex's bonding affable. Their familiarity forms the crux of their romance and their ability to take each other for granted has a relatable vein to it.

Disaster strikes when Alex moves to Harvard to study medicine and Rosie's unplanned pregnancy (not with Alex's child) separates them. She decides to withhold the information and, suddenly, their lives take starkly disparate paths. The story establishes them as two flawed characters who visibly complete each other. Director Christian Ditter brings this out beautifully through tender scenes, like the one where Rosie discloses the truth about her baby to Alex and he asks if he could be the godfather.

There are many hiccups in this drama. Using the track 'Push It' during a childbirth sequence is enraging, but the warm sunshine-filled lovable frames purge these flaws. The film's ribald humour, like a condom mishap and another S&M disaster provide good laughs(sans sleaze).

Love, Rosie is quaint comfort-cinema that makes for an amiable watch.  



Wild Movie Review

Story: Based on the 2012 book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon) heads out on a gruelling 1,100-mile hike from the border of Mexico right up to the Canadian border to get to grips with life-altering incidents such as her divorce and the tragic loss of her mother (Dern). With each determined step, Cheryl inches closer towards self-realization.

Review:  benefits from a simple, strong and straight-ahead storyline; its multi-linear narrative offers us various perspectives, such as glimpses into various stages of Cheryl's life prior to the present day, via flashbacks. These windows into her past about what could have and what should have been, still torment her. The memories are amplified due to her solitude, even as she staggers and slogs along the harsh, sun-baked, rocky road of reality.

Even her impossibly bulky, bulging backpack, under whose weight she frequently buckles and stumbles, is a metaphor for the cross she willingly bears. Not surprisingly, and perhaps mercifully, her load gets lightened along the way, up to a point where, after facing the truth rather than running away from it, her conscience transcends guilt, fear and regrets of the past.

The opening scene shows her taking a breather on a craggy hilltop. Her feet are lacerated and swollen and her face, a picture of exhaustion-bordering-on-despair. But the flame of determination still burns bright with the will to soldier on. Cheryl's ex-husband (Sadoski), whom she's still friends with, encourages her along the way with thoughtfully-written letters and care packages sent to rest-stops in advance. Along the way, Cheryl meets various people ranging from helpful, like the farmer family who notice that she's starving and give her a hot spare ribs and mashed potato dinner, to creepy (two horny, drunken hunters) to amiable (fellow hikers to share laughs and swap stories with).

While the ending seems a bit hurried and underwhelming, it is Witherspoon who shines throughout. She is extremely convincing in this stripped-down role, whose character she appears to have completely and convincingly absorbed.