• Notes on Rehashing
    Read Now
  • The Artificial Insemination of Reality
    Read Now
  • Cinéma 68
    Read Now
  • Almayer's Folly
    Read Now
  • Approaching Present Infinity, Part 2
    Read Now
  • Festival Report: Revolutions and Political Processes at the 16th International Film Festival of Kerala
    Read Now
  • Govind Nihalani's Party: A Network of Confrontations
    Read Now
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford
    Read Now
  • Capsule Reviews
    Read Now

Capsule Reviews

 | Capsule Reviews |

  BY Gautam Valluri and Anuj Malhotra

War-paint: Gina Carano in Haywire (2011)

Haywire | Steven Soderbergh, 2011, USA

Following up quickly to his recently released Medical Epidemic Thriller Contagion (2011), Steven Soderbergh gives us this charming little film that has all the makings of a cult movie. Professional Mixed Martial Arts champion Gina Carano takes on the role of a hitwoman/ heister who is betrayed by her boss. She then spends the rest of the film beating up an impressive cast of today's smartest male actors. This aforementioned cast includes (in no particular order): Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Doughlas and more. The film is largely set in Ireland and has a soft-focus to its day exteriors that is so reminiscent of the great films of the 1970s. The best scene in the film is the main heist sequence where Carano's team breaks into a building to retrieve a target. The sound design in this sequence is perhaps one of the best of the year. Worth every penny! - GV 

Moneyball | Bennett Miller, 2011, USA

This film is testament to the fact that a biopic based on America's favorite pastime cannot go un-patted on the back by Americans. Bennett Miller's follow up to his 2005 classic Capote is a pale failure in terms of cinematic language. What is it with Hollywood and trying to penetrate the deepest personal indulgences of its biopic subjects (victims rather)?. Okay we get it that the film is about the historic 20 game victory of the Oakland Athletics in the early 2000s and the fact that their team manager used computer analysis and statistical predictions as the basis for his team selection and then went onto change the way the game is managed. But why must we see how screwed up his personal life was? Why must we need to know that his young daughter can sing well and does indeed demonstrate her skills through a very ironic song in the middle of a guitar store? Who cares! Perhaps, a David Fincher would've shown us the workings of the program that was developed. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in his recent train of solid supporting roles is terribly wasted in this film. It could've been anyone in that role! Why did we need Hoffman there? And coming to Brad Pitt- its just too hard to look at him as a loser. An actor of his stature brings with him the air of demi-godly celebrity that is hard to shake off and suspend disbelief. Jonah Hill is perhaps the only interesting actor in the ensemble as he does not quite bring any expectations with him to the frame and hence, whatever he does comes as a nice surprise. - GV 

Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close | Stephen Daldry, 2011, USA

Stephen Daldry is perhaps the biggest Oscar wannabe there is at the moment. His last two films are incredibly tailored to get nominated for the academy awards and nothing more. The Reader (2008) still had encouraging performances by Kate Winslet and David Cross but here inIncredibly Loud and Extremely Close, the performances are all crying 'nominate me!' towards the audiences. Someone must suggest to Daldry that he make his films just in time for the Oscar deadline and then screen it only to the members of the academy and then be done with it. Perhaps, go as far as even having a limited 1-week release in NYC or LA for consideration purposes. Its a surprise that Max Von Sydow was nominated for his performance as an old man who does not speak. His part in the film is very minuscule and may even be considered a MacGuffin to the maximum. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock give out short, lukewarm performances and ultimately it is Thomas Horn who is bestowed with the responsibility to carry the movie forward on this teenage shoulders. He does do well, there are signs of brilliant acting in the film - most prominent in that rapid montage scene at his first meeting with Von Sydow's character. What he can do is yet to be seen. The saving graces of the film? Alexander Desplat's score, Chris Menges' cinematography and the undeniable photogeny of New York City. - GV 

Paan Singh Tomar | Tigmanshu Dhulia, 2012, India

When the film comes to an end, a disclaimer in white font sprouts across the darkness that is always the final image of any film: ‘This is how sporting heroes are treated in this nation.’; this proclamation is then followed by a set of arbitrarily chosen names of Indian sportsmen who did well for the country but were forgotten, before the credit rolls. The problem with the film may lie precisely in the discrepancy between this entirely theoretical (and by the way of title-cards, literary) proposition, and the filmic proposition. While the actual film is about, or atleast seems to be about a perverse coming-of-age tale, a Forrest Gump-y narrative about a man from the hinterland who, through the virtues of sheer (initially) naivete and (later) ego, attains sporting glory before the feeling of personal vendetta and an unhelpful police force him to pick up the gun and become a dacoit – the filmmaker himself seems to believe in a more profound cause: that of unsung sporting heroes. One would like to believe that for any film to be good, even if accidentally, the theoretical proposition of a filmmaker in making it must somehow be woven in the very fiber of the film: in the manner of its aesthetic, or its narrative – the film’s beliefs must reflect that of its filmmaker’s. The main character of the film does proclaim verbally, with great irony, his treatment at the hands of the country – but those are entirely superficial calls for justice, and in effect, these pronouncements of tragedy are hardly ever visible in his almost romantic conduct of his life as a dacoit. Now, if Dhulia had chosen to make this film as a thriller-for-fun, an unapologetic biopic of a braveheart hinterland-martyr who has no moral justification for picking up the gun, instead of attempting to somehow make it seem more profound than it really is (a dacoit story – has to be about caste-related injustice, and injustice at large), this may have been a significantly better film. - AM 

War Horse | Steven Spielberg, 2011, USA

Steven Spielberg drenches this film into niceness. The characters talk to each other like characters used to talk in the great talkies of the 1930s. Set against the backdrop of World War I, the nice people in the film are nice and the bad people are bad. This two dimensional stereotyping of characters lends the story an air of superficiality that is not usually expected in a Steven Spielberg film (unless its E.T. or any of the Indiana Jones' adventures). One knows from the start that the horse will be reunited with its innocent owner- because thats what happens to innocent people, they get their horses back. The film in the end, feels too long and really has nothing significant to say. Perhaps it is better received among the younger audiences but I hate to think that the same group would later stop by at the video game parlor to play Halo 3. - GV 

Carnage | Roman Polanski, 2011, France/Germany/Poland/Spain

One may be inclined to think otherwise, but the most significant events in a Polanski film often transpire indoors – like the new Bresson productions, which betray a sense of tourist-paranoia, Polanski’s films are that of a claustrophobic, an outdoor adventurer who is forced to tell a story from inside an enclosure – as such, his films reek of indoors-paranoia: a sense of incessant and all-permeating doom whenever a character is forced to stay inside an apartment (the urban horror trilogy) or a building (The Pianist (2002) or Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)) or a township (as in Chinatown (1974)).As such, one may only imagine how heady a recipe for a nightmare his latest Carnage is, because in it, all characters are forced, for one reason or the other, to stay indoors during the entire duration of the film (ala The Exterminating Angel (1962): same plot, different ideas). It is also easy to presume that a screwball (tragic, not comic) predicament such as this, wherein two couples that belong clearly to two different social stratas are confined to an apartment, will invariably become a discussion of socio-inequalities – but such is not the case, because the theme consistent throughout the film is infact the opposite: endorsement and in graver times, validation. As the dubious social façade of tolerance/permissiveness falls off (as it had to), each individual in the room tag-teams with an outsider (for everyone in the room, there are two outsiders) to rally against his/her own respective partner – as such, they are happy to take any second opinion that confirms their reservations about their partner. In that, Polanksi’s last film resembles most distinctly his first, Knife in the Water (1962), where the outsider is brought on-board merely to witness marital discord. It is also interesting to note Polanski’s choice of setting: New York (a subway outside the window, see?), where a faux-artsy wife and a husband who supplies bathroom fittings (so distinctly American) played by two American actors welcome into their home two outsiders – a British actress and an Austrian husband. - AM