Thursday, April 24, 2014

Movie Review: 2 States

On one hand you could probably call 2 States better than most of Chetan Bhagat based movies, because it has a nifty concept. On the other (more accurate) hand you could probably call 2 States worse than most of Bhagat’s flicks, because it takes such a potentially clever concept and does nothing with it but involve stereotype jokes, lame romance, and really limp melodrama.

As Kai Po Che proved, in the hands of a talented filmmaker 2 States could have been a classic little rom com drama. With diretor Abhishek Verman the 2 States we've been presented with feels like a fairly fun rom com drama that's been overtaken by uninspired acting, generic plotting, overlong running time and a lethargic pace.

The plot is precisely what you expect, point by isolated point – guy and girl (Arjun and Alia) meet at IIM-A, fall in both lust and love, are trying to get married, and face a Herculean task because they’re from .. 2 different states. It’s an interesting concept for a comedy but unfortunately it’s all premise and no plot. We get some puppy-love romance, a handful of scenes which showcase the modern free spirited sexually liberated desi youth, one dozen music montages that give a respite from the banal exchanges between the leads and an unapologetically happy ending to keep the target audience appeased.

This is supposed to be a feel good family entertainer, and on that front 2 States is targeted towards its audience with an ultra precision sniper. There’s plenty of dynamics between South vs North India, and daddy issues to keep the target audience on their tenterhooks. There is a ton of ladai-jhagda between the in-laws to pander to the cultural mismatch between Chennai and Delhi. But the observations are clichéd and simplistic, and there’s a paper-thin superficiality throughout which makes the film a Swiss cheese layer.

There are key scenes where the guy impresses the girl’s parents, and vice versa. And there are key scenes where the cultural gaffes of both the South and North, like general pretentiousness and dowry are established. The latter is when you notice the slipshod tonal shifts that Verman employs while desperately aiming to pad the screenplay with every cliché under the sun. Thanks to the tonal shifts 2 States goes from light romance to simplistic social issue pandering with no consistency. We never really get to see the defining moments of the guy and the girl’s blossoming romance, which is both odd and silly because we never really care for them to remain together. Content detailing their love for one another is shown in music-montages, yet huge chunks of running time are dedicated to emotional wrangling.

It is also jarring to see the film dabble in broad, obvious, and unflattering caricatures of its characters. I'm not saying Delhi-ites and Madrasis have no sense of humour, but if you're going to bomb us with stereotypes it's probably better to do so with some creativity or wit. Banana leaf and Punjabi daroo offer a few stray giggles but 2 States never comes close to being creative or witty. It's just a goofy impersonation of both cultures, not a classy roast of them. We’re also meant to take the melodrama as sincere and effective, but it just comes across as manipulative. So the equation is this - spend one hour mildly chuckling as limp campus romance between Arjun and Alia is paraded, and then spend the other one and a half hour getting weepy-eyed as Arjun and Alia try to turn a hallmark greeting card into something with actual heart and soul.

And the actors certainly don't help matters. Aside from Alia’s occasionally fiery performance there's the virtually complete ineptitude of Arjun Kapoor’s puppy faced good guy shtick. The bloke just doesn’t emote in any scene, and can neither pull off the charming lover nor the frustrated punching bag stuck between both sides. Alia’s role here is not as well defined as in Highway, and her performance clearly shows that she’s a director’s actor. She does the occasional South twang, thankfully without overdramatizing it, but spends most of the film doing a cutesy smile. She does the cutesy smile even in a scene where her fiancé tells her the biggest emotional conflict of his life. Weird.

The parents are actually sort of good – Shiv Kumar and Revathy are subtly effective, despite being stereotypical. There’s also Amrita Singh’s stereotypical North Indian mother, and the stereotypical North Indian drunkard father played by Ronit Roy. The latter manages to smoke everyone else out of every single scene, mostly because he’s played the character for the third time in a row.

Dharma’s trademark visual style and a few moments of comedy aside, 2 States is mostly a chore and periodically infuriating. The filmmakers had a chance to go against all odds and make a classic and they blew it. Critical appreciation might not be the film’s target anyway, because it’s been marketed well enough to make a truckload of money.

(First published in Firstpost)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Interview with writer Parveez Shaikh

Vikas Bahl’s Queen became the sleeper hit of the year. The film, starring Kangana Ranaut as a girl who decides to go on her honeymoon in Europe solo after being jilted at the last minute by her fiancé, is one of the rare titles on which critics and audiences share an opinion: they’ve loved it. 

One of Queen’s many strengths is its well-observed script written by Parveez Shaikh, who earlier wrote the severely underrated and unfairly critically maligned dark comedy Ghanchakkar. Clearly, he’s one of the most interesting new writers on the block. I got a chance to interview Shaikh and chat about his roots, the origins of Queen, the state of the industry and the mystery behind Ghanchakkar.

MF: How did you land up in the crazy maze of Bollywood? Did you always want to be a writer, and was it the typical film writer struggle?

PS: I came to Mumbai for my graduation after which I joined advertising since I’d always wanted to write ads. That’s where I met Vikas Bahl, we worked on the same brands. Writing movies was never on my radar until later when Vikas joined UTV Spotboy. He asked me if I had any ideas for a movie, I told him a one-line idea of what was later to be Ghanchakkar. He liked it and signed me on to write it. So it wasn’t a struggle as such.

MF: How did Queen come about?

PS: Vikas had this idea of a girl going on her honeymoon alone. I loved it and came on board to write it.

MF: Was Kangana always envisioned as the lead for Queen?

We always had Kangana in mind to play the lead in Queen even before we started writing it.

MF: A female centric Hindi film almost never has a protagonist who is ‘normal’ or relatable. Why do you think this is the case with Bollywood?

PS: Even most male protagonists in Hindi films are not normal or relatable, so it’s not surprising that the female protagonists aren’t either. There are few characters in Hindi movies that you can genuinely relate to. This is because we always want to see our protagonists as larger than life people doing extraordinary things. But all that is slowly changing thanks to the multiplex audience and a new breed of writers and directors who are not afraid to keep it real. English Vinglish and Queen are good examples of this.

MF: What was the toughest part of writing Queen? And did you have to fight to maintain the balance between commercial and non-commercial elements?

PS: The toughest part was getting the structure right and to keep the audience engrossed throughout the film. Because in non-plot driven movie it’s for things to drag or slow down. And one thing I’ve realized is that our audience is extremely impatient. We didn’t really think of the commercial vs non-commercial aspect while writing it, we just wanted to be true to the story and tell it in an entertaining way. We knew that if we succeeded in doing that the commercial aspect would take care of itself.

MF: I personally found only one jarring moment in Queen. The film could have ended at the café where Rani dumps Vijay. It could have paralleled the scene in the beginning where Vijay had dumped Rani in a café. In hindsight, do you think the final scene in Vijay’s house could have been excised?

PS: The final scene is very critical - it gives a closure to Rani and to the story. Without it the story would be incomplete. When she walks away from him at the café, she tells him that she will meet him in India, she still not 100% decided that she doesn't want to be with him. That’s why what Vijay's mom tells her is so crucial. It just helps her make up her mind, it becomes the tipping point so to speak. The audience was not completely expecting her to give Vijay back the ring, so it was a nice surprise for them. In fact a lot of people clapped when she gives him back the ring.

MF: Were there any parts of the script that didn’t make it to the movie, and you wished they did?

PS: Actually no, most of the good parts of the script made it to the movie. Of course there will be parts that won’t be included because of the length but none which I miss.

MF: Ghanchakkar was an unfairly overlooked film. Do you think the critics (and some audiences) missed its point? Or was it a case of bad marketing? What do you think went wrong?

PS: No other film divided opinion like Ghanchakkar did and according to me that’s a good thing. The people who hated it, hated it with a vengeance and the ones who loved it, loved it passionately. We set out to do something different with Ghanchakkar and I feel we succeeded to a great extent. I’m extremely proud of the movie. I think the critics completely missed its point - they reviewed it like a regular thriller, which it wasn’t. They had a great chance to get the audience to watch something different. People who saw it on TV later were surprised that it got such bad reviews, they couldn’t understand why. About the audience, thanks to the posters they went in expecting to see a domestic comedy and were shocked to see a dark thriller with a very violent end.

MF: What are you working on next? Do you also intend to direct some time?

PS: I just finished writing Phantom, a political satire for Kabir Khan – it stars Saif and Kareena. I also wrote Shatir for Kunaal Deshmukh – that one has Emraan Hashmi. Both will be out this year. I’m currently working on a screenplay based on Anuja Chauhan’s book ‘Battle For Bittora’ for Anil Kapoor’s Film Company. I have absolutely no intentions of directing, I hate leaving my house. I’m happy being a writer.

MF: What sort of films did you grow up watching, and who are your favourite filmmakers?

PS: I grew up watching Roger Moore Bond movies and 80’s and 90’s Bollywood potboilers. I love films by Alexander Payne, Michael Mann, Paul Greengrass, Woody Allen and Fritz Lang. In India it’s Manmohan Desai, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Zoya Akthar and Anurag Kashyap.

MF: Which were the last three great films (Hindi or otherwise) that you saw?

PS: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Nebraska and Incendies.

MF: One piece of advice for wannabe writers in the industry? 
PS: Keep writing. If you write five screenplays, one will get made. And don’t give up your day job until you sign your second movie.

(First published in Firstpost)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Review: Snowpiercer

I became aware of the name Bong Joon-ho almost a decade ago when I watched a film that changed my life. It was a serial killer murder mystery that was so far away from the style of Hollywood, and so tense, gritty and audacious it cost me several nights of sleep. It was called Memories of Murder. The horror fan in me experienced some sort of a renaissance, and I grabbed friends by their collars and made them watch the film. Thanks to Memories of Murder coupled with another little one called Oldboy which I’d seen a week earlier, my love for Korean movies had well and truly crystallized.

Naturally, since then I proceeded to watch every single motion picture made by Joon-ho and Park Chan Wook. So when I got to know that these two titans were colliding for a single project called Snowpiercer, a crossover English language film, a science fiction action thriller, based on a popular graphic novel, my nerdingles glowed like fireflies. This is what I’d been waiting for all these years. And when I got to know that the producers of the film, the Weinsteins, were doing their best to chop the runtime and scuttle the film’s release, a volcano erupted in Jupiter. I was enraged beyond belief. But thanks to screenings at film festivals and the magic of the internet, fanboy rage was assuaged.

Snowpiercer now had a new problem. With so much emotional baggage and history attached to it, would it actually live up to its expectations? Let’s just say Joon-ho runs a whole train over all foreseeable doubts. This is an ambitious, intense, dark, brutal and consistently hypnotic motion picture, with all the intelligence and paranoid elements you expect from the likes of both Joon-ho and Chan-wook. It does to post apocalyptic sci fi films what Memories of Murder did to serial killer thrillers.  

Set entirely in a grimy, hideously ravaged train, Snowpiercer is an adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. I have not read the book so I can't comment on how close the film is to its source material, but it is clearly evident that the film adaptation stands on its own.

The world has ended thanks to a muddled up attempt at reversing global warming. The only human survivors on Earth are rolled up together in a self-replenishing train that hurtles across the globe. Now here’s the twisted part: To maintain the balance of nature, the head honchos of the train divide the humans into various compartments, with the poorest thrown in the back of the train in one single compartment. Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) has had enough and plans a revolution to take over the engine.

Everything I've divulged takes place in the first five minutes of the movie. The introductory scenes are as compelling as anything in Snowpiercer, and the movie really starts to roll after Curtis and his friends start crushing their way through to the front of the train.

Not content to present a simple cat-and-mouse chase and fight scenes, Joon-ho repeatedly subverts your expectations and plays a few tricks on us as well.

As he goes deeper and deeper in the train Curtis finds himself tangled in a web of lies and deceit. There is a scene much like the one where Neo meets the architect in The Matrix, except the choice here is far more devastating for Curtis. Through Curtis the film asks you a series of questions: how far would you go to maintain the natural harmony? Who are we to define classism and separate humans in order of necessity? And if necessity calls for it, would you corrupt yourselves to indulge in a totalitarian regime because it is for the good of the society? Would you sacrifice a few hundred humans to save a few thousand? Curtis’ revolution soon becomes a curse to him as he is unable to acclimate to all of this. You’ll be as strung out and helpless as Curtis by the time you’re done with the questions the film poses.

The final cut runs two plus hours but if it ran another hour I doubt you'd hear much complaining. Joon-ho raises a number of themes and it’d have been great if he’d explored them further. Especially because unlike in stuff like Elysium, the class divide issue here is pretty engaging. And it’s not for the faint hearted because the social commentary here is pretty fucked up.

There are a few exciting fight sequences, best of which features a tunnel and axe murderers, but for the most part Snowpiercer is all about exchanges of intense dialogue. A lot of what happens in the train echoes the unspeakable horrors North Korea and the film boldly relies on character dynamics instead of visual exposition.

And yet the film is visually stunning, the atmosphere painstakingly created to make it look like a dirty fast moving train. There are a ton of visual cues that don’t register in the first viewing. In one scene a goon dips his axe in fish blood – I had to rewatch this and Google the fish to understand the significance of the scene. Adding to the film is the uniformly excellent cast, with Chris Evans in his most effective performance since Sunshine. And with Sunshine and now Snowpiercer Evans has appeared in two sci fi cult classics. Song Kang ho, the regular in both Joon Ho’s and Chan Wook’s films has a key role as a stoner with the keys to all the train doors. Both Ed Harris and Tilda Swinton have proved in the past that they have the chops for villainous performances, and here they bring a clarity and logic to their characters that make the antagonists all the more fascinating. 

Snowpiercer is a tremendous accomplishment, one of those rare smart thrillers that make you gawp excitedly. It’s not just a movie, it’s a reason to celebrate great cinema and to grab your friends by their collars and make them watch it.

(First published in DNA)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America The Winter Soldier

There were a lot of problems in Captain America The First Avenger. It was way too jingoistic and far too silly to maintain its façade of seriousness. The visual effects too weren’t very interesting – they were just merely adequate. The villain was a great actor playing an underdeveloped character. And the hero was only mildly more charismatic than the guy who played Thor. A lot has happened since that movie. The Avengers took the world by storm. Marvel is now a bigger, more confident company, and it shows in Captain America The Winter Soldier.

Winter Soldier takes every single gaffe of the first movie and rectifies it with glee. This is a completely different movie, and to an extent a brave one too considering its style and themes. And it sure as hell is more exciting and better arranged than the Thor sequel. It’s also better than the hit-and-miss Iron Man 3. That’s right – Captain America has well and truly arrived and Tony Stark is going to have to make way for the shield in the Avengers sequel.

While the first movie was a sort of ‘Amurica Roxx’ episode, the new film is a paranoia thriller with a hint of espionage drama. Steve Rogers (once again played wonderfully by Chris Evans) is now digesting the post Avengers world of SHILED and trying to come to terms with his ‘present’. Things take a turn when an Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) comes aboard the team with plans to turn it into a weaponized big brother central organization. It could seem like a ham fisted attempt at echoing the Edward Snowden incident, but it sure is a lot of fun. There’s also some funny camaraderie between Rogers and his new friend Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie, who turns into something cool later on in the film).

Moreover, the visual effects have taken a gigantic leap forward – some of the action set pieces are bigger than the previous movies in the canon. I won’t describe any partiular set piece, and I’d recommend you don’t see any trailers of the film either - because the action here is different, and more interesting than the other Avengers universe films. What actually makes them interesting is that they’re placed to move the plot forward, not just for mindless eye candy – even though there’s plenty of that too. And directors Joe and Anthony Russo deserve full credit for understanding that the Marvel films need to go in a new direction.

The Winter Soldier chracter is handled pretty well, even though you don’t need to be very smart to guess his identity. Comic book fans will be pleased too for the way the film sets up the foundation for future movies. The film is very good, and Marvel’s confidence proves it – they’re unwilling to move the release date of the third film, which coincides with the Batman-Superman movie. It’s Marvel vs DC, and after watching this movie I can confirm that Marvel is winning. So bring it on.

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: Noah

I’ll be honest – when it was announced that Darren Aronofsky was making a film on Noah’s Ark, I was disappointed. This is a filmmaker who has made path breaking cult hits such as Pi and Requiem for a Dream. Even Black Swan, which wasn’t a very original film was still dark and had that Aronofsky edge to it. I wanted him to make another thriller or a drama, and I didn’t least expect him to make a biblical epic. So how does Noah fare? It’s the least impressive Darren Aronofsky film, but not necessarily a bad one.

The problem with Biblical epics is always the same – they’re based on stories told over and over again, and they take themselves too seriously. As an atheist I may be biased against a film on Noah but that doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy a good yarn on the big screen. Noah, it turns out, is the most ‘commercial’ Aronofsky film, while still barely maintaining the dark nature of his direction. The bigger problem was the film comes just a few years after the epic disaster of Steve Carrell’s Evan Almighty, which tried to spoof Noah’s tale. 

Russell Crowe is a bald, bearded badass of a Noah, and the film has a lot of the filmmaking and visual style of Nicholas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising. Like that movie, Noah has a hypnotic quality to it whenever it digs into the psychology of its mythological characters. Like that movie, it poses a few moral dilemmas to the audience through its protagonist. There’s a Lord of the Rings vibe to it as well, especially when the supernatural stuff and CGI monsters arrive. It’s grand and it’s visually spectacular, and it does manage to pull off its vision in the big VFX money shots. Not to mention the amazing score by Clint Mansell who reuses some bits from his previous Aronofsky collaboration The Fountain.

Unfortunately, that’s all there is to the movie – it’s a fun CGI fest, hollow on layers and philosophy. If you want to see a Noah theme park ride, this is the best ever made. But if you want to see a double-edged, ambitious, deeply introspective version of Noah, you’ll be disappointed. The film assumes that everything in the Old Testament is true, and asks you to assume the same. It does pander to the Christian audiences more than the average existentialist Aronofsky fan. It’s a mainstream film, for mainstream audiences, with mainstream actors. It’ll be your own fault if you expect anything remotely different or edgy from the movie. Don’t blame Aronofsky for trying something commercial – he’s crossed over fairly well, and you’ll enjoy the movie for what it is.

Movie Review: Oculus

The last three years have been some sort of a golden era for modern horror in Hollywood. With titles like Insidious and its sequel, Sinister, Mama, The Conjuring and You’re Next, things are certainly looking up for the horror film buff. Oculus is the latest entry to this pantheon and it is visually overpowering, well-acted, dark and creepy. It’s part psychological thriller, part mind trip, part straight up horror and just a small part of character-based drama, and full on entertainment.

The story is frightfully simple - the film chronicles the brother and sister duo of Tim (Brenton Thwaits) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan) who lock themselves in their old house to destroy a mirror, which they believe was responsible for the deaths of their parents.

Now here’s the twist – the film is presented from the point of view of both the siblings, and they’re both unreliable narrators, so we’re never sure whether to take the supernatural elements at face value. Director Mike Flanagan superbly weaves together the psychological setbacks of a traumatic childhood event with a haunted house scares. The narrative waltzes back and forth between the present day Tim and Kaylie and their younger versions who faced a harrowing night in the very same location.

For a film about a haunted mirror Oculus is pretty darn smart. Flanagan knows how ludicrous and clichéd the theme is, and he uses the clichés to his advantage. Tim and Kaylie are equally familiar with the stupidity of a ghostly mirror. So Kaylie uses all means of modern recording technology and other paraphernalia like thermometers and alarm clocks to make her scenario as believable as possible. Cleverly, Flanagan makes her character the psychologically fractured and obsessive one, so she has a reason to perform her bizarre experiment to ‘kill’ the ghost in the mirror. Her brother, recently out of a ward after years of counseling and psychiatric help is convinced that his sister is losing her mind, and that puts him on the side of the cynical audience. It’s an intelligent plot device and it’s refreshing to see a classy, creepy and effective ghost story in the modern age of torture porn and CGI heavy hollow scares.

Most of the film is set in one house, so the single location set is a nice touch to ramp up the tension. The film drips with atmosphere and there’s plenty of old fashioned scares. Rarely do modern horror films capture the unsettling silences of a spooky house, and Flanagan achieves just that with his directorial hand and sense of timing. Only James Wan’s movies absorb the viewer into them, and Flanagan comes very close to perfection. And unlike in most horror films the acting here is phenomenal, with Karen Gillan in particular in a surprisingly layered role. Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackoff gets a great turn as the kids’ hapless mother, and she also renders the most horrifying jump scare in the film.

Whether you’re a horror buff or not, you should seriously consider watching Oculus on the big screen. It’s a really fun film with a lot of aural and visual style, and that means all the aesthetics and not just Karen Gillan.

(First published in MiD Day)

Movie Review: Cheap Thrills

I see dozens of horror thrillers that deliver a solid plot and a couple of attempts at actual suspense, only to follow those moments up with crummy gore and a disappointing ending. It’s difficult to maintain the suspense and deliver a climax that lives up to its plot. Enter EL Katz’s Cheap Thrills, a pitch black, hilarious, and audacious horror comedy that delivers its goods by the truckloads.

Cheap thrills premiered at SXSW last year to blaring applause. Borrowing the style of the original Saw and reminiscent of Bobcat Goldwait’s God Bless America and World’s Greatest Dad, Cheap Thrills is much more than its title. The film follows a couple of old friends who’ve hit rock bottom in their professional careers – they find a mysterious guy named Colin in a bar who offers them ridiculous amounts of money if they indulge in bizarre challenges. The guy is much like Mike Whitney from Who Dares Wins, except the dares are twisted and creepy.

The interesting thing about Cheap Thrills is that it makes you ponder over the line between right and wrong. The two desperate men come from different backdrops, one is a family man and the other is a common thief. When the chips are down, both men become equally desperate to score some easy money. One of them has to do it for his family, the other has to do it to start a new life. Which one would you call more righteous, or less sinful?

Therein lies the deliciously simplistic appeal of Cheap Thrills. It’s a basic, but compelling horror story, and it executes it with such panache that you'll be more than willing to overlook the few rough spots. We’re never told who Colin is or why he is offering money for crackpot games. He’s just another rich guy, so rich that he has to indulge in depravity to fulfill himself emotionally. In any case nitpicking would be ignoring the fact that the film was designed to be a simple but effective cat and mouse chase. Two mice, one large hyena and one sincerely brutal cat, to be precise.

As the desperation to win increases, Craig and Vince lose themselves more in insanity. The challenges increase from hitting dart boards, to defecating in the neighbors house, to more despicable and sadistic acts. This could have come across as schlocky like in most torture porn movies but the actors Pat Healy and Ethan Embry are terrific in their roles and elevate the film beyond the schlock realm. They both begin as annoying jerks but slowly thaw out once the jolts start hitting the screen. David Koechner contributes some fine work as the bizarre Mike Whitney. You can see genuine madness in his eyes when he uses Craig and Vince as puppets in his fiendish little game. There’s even Sara Paxton playing a character who is supposedly Colin’s wife and engages in some massively psychotic behavior.

And that’s the entirety of the cast. Four main characters and an hour of hair raising games. Director Katz, making his debut brings a lot more style and confidence to a story that could have been a hollow mess in the hands of a lesser filmmaker. From the opening scene to its horrifying finale Cheap Thrills maintains its forward momentum with ferocity. It’s creepy as hell, audaciously written, beautifully shot, anchored by fine performances and has a director who's not afraid to go the extra mile in terms of intensity and black humor. Cheap Thrills is intelligent filmmaking and a gigantic guilty pleasure, except that I don’t feel any guilt making you watch the film.

10 Most Interesting Movies from SXSW 2014

South by Southwest, or SXSW for short is a week long party in Texas comprising of movies, music and tech. It has neither the smugness of the Oscars nor the pretentiousness of Berlin and Venice. It’s pure and simple fun, and the quintessential fest for geeks of all manners. It is also famous for ushering in some seriously great movies. Below are ten of the most talked about films from this year’s SXSW, all of which you need to keep an eye out for.

Fort Tilden
Last year Short Term 12 won the top prize at SXSW and went on to become one of the most moving and beautifully made films of the year. This year the prize went to Fort Tilden, a quirky comedy about two young girls trying to find a beach in a suburb. It’s supposedly a sort of Frances Ha meets Lost in Translation, and that is enough to make one excited.
Some of the best horror films over the past decade have come from SXSW and this year is no exception. Creep stars co-writer Mark Duplass as a creepy guy inflicted with Fatal Attraction. The film is produced by the guys who made Paranormal Activity but this film is a comedy drama rather than straight up horror.
What we do in the shadows
Another horror comedy comes from filmmakers Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi which stars a bunch of vampires who meet at an annual monster get together in New Zealand. A documentary crew gets permission from said vampires to cover their party, and hilarity ensues.
While making School of Rock, A Scanner Darkly, Before Sunset and Midnight, Richard Linklater had been shooting a radical project over the course of more than a decade. Boyhood follows a child who grows up in Texas over a course of twelve years from 2001 to 2013. It’s a technique that’s been done in Michael Apted’s ‘Up’ series but never before in a feature film of this scale.
The Raid 2
The Raid 2 still remains the most anticipated film of the year and the acclaim is through the roof. Evidently Director Gareth Evans has taken the best parts of the original film and pumped some seriously high dosage of acid for the sequel. We should be thankful that we’ll get to see it this May.
The Guest
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett put a new spin on the home invasion genre in the critically acclaimed You’re Next a couple of years ago and their latest project is evidently even more visceral. The Guest is a mixture of a 90's Cronenberg movie and an 80's John Carpenter movie, and is a dark comedy mystery thriller with a heavy dose of violence.
The Infinite Man
What if Groundhog Day was used by someone who could turn back time and fix his broken relationship? Director High Sullivan uses the idea to supposedly grand results in his debut film. It’s certainly similar to last year’s About Time but is allegedly funnier, more intelligent and raw than the easy fluffiness of that film.
Director Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank chronicles the bizarre real life story of musician Chris Sievy (played by Michael Fassbender) who wears a large mask and turns into an alter ego named Frank Sidebottom. The film is an insightful debate on an artist’s dependence of someone other than himself to find his artistic inspiration.
The Internet’s Own Boy
A year ago Aaron Swartz, the internet hero who operated Reddit, compiled data for all of us, and faced 35 yrs of jail for the same, committed suicide. He was 26. The internet paid tribute to Swartz but still no one away from keyboard knows who he is. This could be fixed thanks to director Brian Knappenberger’s film The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz which records the young prodigy’s heartbreaking rise and fall.
10,000 KM
Like Crazy was a great film on long distance relationships and writer-director Carlos Marqués-Marcet's 10,000KM is supposedly even more terrific and ‘real’. The entire film only stars the couple going through the ups and downs of being romantically involved via computers. I suspect this plot device will become more prevalent over the next few years, considering so many contemporary youngsters can identify with it.