Glen Garry GlenRoss: Bloody Electric.. Nuff Said

Glen Garry GlenRoss: Bloody Electric.. Nuff Said

You know why I know this is a good movie? My mom, who does not give 2 shits about cinema, stopped doing what she was doing and started watching the movie with me. No context, no questions asked, nothing. All she wanted to do was listen to the conversation unfolding on screen. David Mamet, do you know the magnitude of your accomplishment!

Glengarry Glen Ross is a drama film directed by James Foley, written by David Mamet and stars Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey and Jonathan Pryce. The film follows two days in the life of 4 real estate salesmen and their boss after a new target is set for them owing to some underperformance.

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That is a seemingly wafer thin plot set in motion by David Mamet as he writes a screenplay based on his Tony and Pulitzer winning stage play. Mamet is a surprisingly forgotten name amongst the general film going public. Most people are familiar with his work but Mamet has rarely been held on the high pedestal that a Tarantino or Sorkin is. His filmography includes the endlessly watchable State and Main, modern classic The Untouchables and the take-it-or-leave-it follow-up to The Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal. But through all those acclaimed works, Glengarry Glen Ross rises to the top.

There are many reasons as to why this film resonates with such a large audience. While the laser focused direction and hilariously profane script are what warm me to it, the magnetic performances by its 5 leads are never far behind. The film has Al Pacino who adds just the right amount of Al Pacino to it, Alan Arkin and Ed Harris with brilliant turns as disgruntled employees to Kevin Spacey’s understated boss and Alec Baldwin who walks in R. Lee Ermey’s everyone and walks out almost stealing the movie (you’ve seen the scene with the one line and the brass balls).

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But the theme of the film, a scathing inditement of the American dream, is essayed out to absolute perfection by a grandfatherly Jack Lemmon. A hot shot salesman in his prime, Shelly Levine’s world comes crashing down as the very real possibility of him losing his sole source of income dawns on him.

The story of a man pushed to the very edge with no looking back is always compelling as it makes for empathetic characters but when said character is fuelled by a measured performance like this one, it elevates the film to a level reserved for a select few. The very deliberate set design which places the cast of characters at positions of hierarchy and the specific dialogues written for each of them open a window to the ever fading middle class and draws a parallel to the much-acclaimed Death of A Salesman.

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While salesmen, at least the sort shown in the film, are few and far between in modern day, the film’s sobering message is one that is relevant forever. The dog-eat-dog world we inhabit which empowers youth and sidelines the old might be maligned but is still one we choose to live in. The film is geared toward making an audience take a deep look at the world around them, the endless parade of zingers, quips, jokes and insults help keep the film entertaining till that lump falls into your stomach at the final shot.

Okja: Bong Joon-Ho’s Look Into A Child’s Coming of Age And Some Animal Rights Too

Okja: Bong Joon-Ho’s Look Into A Child’s Coming of Age And Some Animal Rights Too

Bong Joon-Ho continues to make outlandishly quirky films and they surprisingly resonate with most audiences. How does he do it? With The Host, he made a film about a lake monster which has its genesis owing to illegal waste dumping in the world’s water sources. Amazing. With Snowpierecer, he made a film about the prevalent class system plaguing the world using different classes of people live in different sections of a train circling the world (as a metaphor) because post-apocalypse. Astounding. With Memories of Murder, he made a film about the fragility of confidence and ego while treating us to the quirkiest set of detectives put to film. God damn it. How? And now we have Okja.

Okja follows the story of little girl Mija and her quest to save her pet super-pig Okja from being slaughtered. Okja is a one amongst 26 rare pigs seemingly discovered by Tilda Swinton’s corporation. These pigs grow to enormous sizes and are believed to be the answer to the world’s hunger crisis. The pigs are sent across the world to 26 different farmers which are to be taken back to HQ after 10 years to be bred and fed to the world. As Will Smith from the 90s would say, DAYUM!

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The absurdity of the concept aside, Okja is a fantastically fun time at the… um… Netflix. Rarely do I see a film that has such a great handle on its inherent silliness. A person accustomed to Bong Joon-ho’s work knows the style the filmmaker goes for and to the ones unaccustomed to it, “Welcome To The Party!” To paraphrase V from V for Vendetta, Bong Joon-Ho uses over-the-top ness to get prescient messages across while seldom taking sides. This is a tight rope act in every sense of the word but the man has talents that lend to such possessing a distinctive aura about his work. This might divide most audiences but to me, this is cinematic bliss.

Gorgeous shots of pristine Korean wilderness which are quickly replaced by the concrete jungle (so to speak) create a fantastic backdrop for a story that has more depth to it than it initially lets on. While some of the hijinks might seem implausible (Mija has to die 500 different times through the course of the movie) and some of the performances might come off as jarring, the film has a firm handle on what I feel is a very important message that kids need help understanding. Mind you, the film might not be fully appropriate for most kids.

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While the ethical and political debate about animal rights rage on through the course of the film and our real world, the film shrouds its most important lesson under the sea of endless PCP induced posturing. Without spoiling the fantastic final sequence, the film teaches Mija that the real world has no time for her emotions. The film teaches her that the world works via the barter system and to have something you love, you need to part with something too. I cannot begin to stress how important a lesson this is for not only children but a few grown-ups as well.

As a personal opinion, I cringe when films/people tell children that believing in themselves or true love will melt even the hardest of people while facilitating dream accomplishments. As most of us know, this is a fallacy and this film intelligently weaves this message into its narrative without ever being heavy handed about it.

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Neither the Animal Liberation Front nor the big businesswomen seem entirely out of place with their belief systems. While the people who want to save the animals/have them be treated fairly seem right when decency is taken into account, I end up asking myself “if I was a man in a remote country with no access to clean food or water (let alone internet) how seriously would I consider the living condition of livestock when I could starve to death if I chose not to eat said animal’s meat?” I would never know because I’m yet to be in such a perilous position. These two sides have been wrestling in mind for as long as I can remember and being a vegetarian myself, I could make arguments favoring both sides.

My personal thoughts aside, the film has a fantastic cast of characters all of whom (except Mija) are gloriously over the top. From that guy in the ALF who refuses to eat anything because he wants to leave no footprint on the earth to Jake Gyllenhaal’s ridiculous animal scientist, each character is rendered to be as such because the story is being processed through the eyes of a child. While this might not excuse the film’s campiness for a few, viewing the film through this prism might help most to connect to it better. The loud and jarring culture shock a city might levy onto a child living in the mountains is explored quite vividly.

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While the film has its issues and is most definitely not for all comers, I’m hard pressed to find another piece of media that aligned with my thoughts about the animal rights issue to such a high degree. The film does not provide any answers but I commend it for asking the right questions. Once one looks past all the caricatures it creates, (based on a few real world people) the film is sweet yet fantastical story carried by one of the best child performances this side of The Host.

Valerian and The City Of A Thousand Planets: Luc Besson’s Newest Cult Film

Valerian and The City Of A Thousand Planets: Luc Besson’s Newest Cult Film

Ah, Luc Besson is back on our screens. We know Luc Besson – the only (currently) 58-year-old director who has the artistic sensibilities of a 15-year-old. How else could one explain his truly splendid yet overwhelmingly campy previous efforts Le Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element (the pinnacle of Besson’s campiness)? After the ill-fated Joan Of Arc film and Arthur trilogy which steered wildly away from this previous work, Besson made a comeback of sorts with Lucy, a film that can stand toe-to-toe with Pacific Rim as one of the smartest dumb movies ever made owing to its preposterous plot and kinetic pace.

In 2017, he visits his teen sensibilities again by adapting one of his most beloved childhood comic books, Valerian And Laureline. The cinematic version of the aforementioned comic Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets might possibly take up the mantle of the first big budget cult movie to emerge from the summer of 2017. Why would I assume this film will only attain cult status and not be a full-blown blockbuster? Well, dear reader, that has to do with its plot, characters, visuals and overall camp factor.

Valerian And The City of A Thousand Planets follows the titular Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) as they attempt to bring peace and prosperity to the sector of Mul (which is located in the vivid planet of Alpha) by providing its citizens with pearls which are inexplicably replicated by an alien creature that sort of resembles a dinosaur (called a converter) while keeping the evil Commander Arun Filitt (Clive Owen) at bay. Yes, you just read that, and I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to all the other truly bizarre sub-plots, strangely compelling characters and paraphernalia the film has on offer.

For the full version of this review please click:

Valerian and The City of A Thousand Planets Review

Goutham Nanda: Well.. Um.. Gopichand Is Fun Again

Goutham Nanda: Well.. Um.. Gopichand Is Fun Again

I might be on an island with this opinion but I was quite disappointed at Gopichand’s foray into being a hero. His menacing turns in Varsham and Jayam had me salivating at the fact that Tollywood had found a captivating bad guy who would be the consummate immovable object to any good guy’s unstoppable force.

The good guys were disposable but Gopichand’s intensity and ominous screen presence were inimitable. While movies headlining him have ranged from bad to passable to the occasional good, his characters in said movies rarely, if ever, captured the imagination like his aforementioned cracks at being a villain. Could Goutham Nanda be the film that would shift my perspective and help me embrace Gopichand as a “hero”?

Turns out, not quite.

Goutham Nanda follows the stories of Goutham and Nanda – the former the sole heir to a massive fortune amassed by his oft-absentee parents and in search of an identity of his own; and the latter the sole heir to his parent’s never-ending series of issues, poverty and debts, and dreaming of living the high life while endlessly parroting The Wolf Of Wall Street’s most quoted line.

Owing to a chance meeting and a minor application of twin magic, the men exchange their ecosystems for a period of 30 days as a means to experience their deepest desires.

Goutham Nanda Review

The Spectacular Now: So Very Honest, Mature, Lively and Lovable

The Spectacular Now: So Very Honest, Mature, Lively and Lovable

God damn it! Every time I plan on watching a film that’ll lull me into a sense of brain-dead bliss and won’t employ me to think, I end up with a film like this. I recently experienced this phenomenon when I ran into Fifty Shades Darker. The Spectacular Now and Fifty Shades Darker might be split by a chasm of quality but both films activated my mind to a surprisingly high degree. While Fifty Shades Darker provided contrived and unsexy trite while wasting multiple good opportunities of elevating itself, The Spectacular Now works as a beautiful and poignant portrayal of the slice of life between the end of high school to the start of college.

The Spectacular Now follows the life of Miles Teller’s Sutter as he attempts to “She’s All That” Shailene Woodley’s Aimee (as a rebound girlfriend) but quickly realizes that he is in a film way better than the aforementioned seminal teen romance. This is a story about two Middle American high schoolers that actually feels like a film about two Middle American high schoolers. The overly dramatic/loud high school crowd is near non-existent, judgemental friends are relegated to background players and the main characters are given ample amounts of time to breathe and explore. This is a rarity in modern teen cinema and when this combines with an exceptionally gentle handling of the subject matter, we have a film that most members of the audience will look back on quite fondly, I know I will.

A chance meeting between a hungover Sutter and a newspaper delivering Aimee kicks off a movie long conversation which might prove a worthy rival to the excellent Before trilogy(with breaks). The usual pitfalls of the bitchy ex or man running behind two women only to realize true love has been staring him in the eye all along are cleverly dodged with a very mature set of female characters. All of them understand Sutter’s downward spiral and are willing to help him and themselves in one way or the other. The nonchalant approach the film takes, through the first hour, exploring the many nuances of Sutter and Aimee’s characterizations is a joy to watch.

I had the sense of being a fly on the wall watching their camaraderie bud along the course of the last days of high school. The duo takes a shine to one another and the portrayal of said liking is extremely subdued but never stops being effective. Sutter’s penchant for defusing troublesome situations and his fear of forming a connection combined with Aimee’s single minded dedication and warmth concocts a beautiful relationship in which the characters find themselves organically. I cannot stress how rare that is in modern cinema.

Director James Ponsoldt handles the subject matter deftly. His sensitive touch on the complex thought processes of youth is commendable. The film bullied me into having a soft corner for Sutter and to foster a genuine liking for Aimee. I saw a lot of who I was and still am (to a certain degree) with Sutter. His lack of drive or purpose, his stumbling through life, his fear of failure, the undercurrent of sadness that underlines his very existence, so on and so forth struck a deep chord with me and helped keep my eyes glued to the screen looking for the next paragraph in a very important chapter of his life. Yes, I also do love Aimee’s maturity, caring, self-assured behavior and all that jazz.

The Spectacular Now is a deeply affecting film for a multitude of reasons which do not only begin and end with its characters. While the film has a solitary contrived moment, it does not seem out of line with the characters presented. There is a level of restraint required to not jump the shark when a story like this one is being told. This story does not require bombastic line readings or musical numbers or romantic gestures which envelop a whole neighborhood. It has what it actually needs in spades.

The miniature universe created for Sutter and Aimee is a big enough canvas for a tender story to unfold. A film with no cheap moments and a genuine understanding of the human condition is hard to come by and I need not convince myself too much to absolutely adore something so stunning.

Jagga Jasoos: A Love Letter To Cinema That Feels More Like A Greeting Card

Jagga Jasoos: A Love Letter To Cinema That Feels More Like A Greeting Card

Films like Jagga Jasoos are the reason I stopped doing letter/number scores on my reviews. The simple fact is that I cannot adequately describe my outlook about the film via a number or a letter. If I were to rate it a 3/5, would that mean the film is as enjoyable as all my other 3/5 reviews? No. Is it more enjoyable? Maybe? Is it better than the other 3/5 films? No. But, what constitutes that grade? What do I take into account for it? and what has my world come to? Too many questions, I’ll do my best to steer away from them.

Jagga Jasoos follows the life of the titular, Jagga Jassos (Detective) as he tries to find his estranged adoptive father in the backdrop of an illegal arms deal. That is the basic plot of the film, which kicks in only after the intermission has come and gone. That is first of the very few but very palpable complications the film has to work through.

I’ll mention an overlooked flaw. If Katrina Kaif’s character is 25 and Jagga is in high school, wouldn’t their romantic inkling be just a tad illegal? Food for thought and let’s move on.

There is something to be admired about the film and how it goes about its business. Taking a line from the screenplay of Kaminey, the film’s titular character has a stammering problem. To alleviate this, he is advised to sing his tête-à-têtes by his adoptive father. The film quickly becomes an out and out musical (not your run-of-the-mill stuff where the film pauses for a flow-killing song) comprising of 29 songs (some of which are masquerading as dialogue) on a whole. These music, lyrics, and visuals seamlessly blend to create a very unique optical and auditory experience.

This is cute, but as we know all too well, too much of a good thing is no good. This narrative style and structure combined with an unexplainable need for excess hamper the flow of the film. A film so vibrant and lively stalls many times as superfluous and overlong sub plots take center stage. These scenes are in the film to source character development but they come off as filler.

There is a saying that the worst sort of scene in any film is one that adds nothing of significance to the plot. Jagga Jasoos does not have those scenes but what it does have are sequences of emptiness punctuated by token bits of plot progression. This phenomenon truly takes a turn for the annoying during the conclusion. This is a segment of the film where bright colors and expertly choreographed extended chase sequences mean nothing as the resolution rings hollow. This is when one truly realizes the smoke and mirrors act the film has going on, even though those exact smoke and mirrors kept the film entertaining for the most part.

However, there is one aspect of the film that I can commend without any contention and that is its fearless leading man, the incomparable Ranbir Kapoor. The man is one of the finest actors working today. He is an actor who stands head and shoulders above the rest of his peers owing to his sheer ability and undeniable talent. His mere presence elevates films from the fiery bowels of mediocrity and makes them watchable. Saurabh Shukla, Saswata (Bob Biswas) Chatterjee and Katrina Kaif do their jobs well but all pale in comparison to the man carrying the film on his seemingly frail shoulders.

The photography, music, performances and ambient sounds that sync with said music showcase Anurag Basu’s talent as a director. Wrangling up the much maligned Pritam and deservedly lauded Amitabh Bhattacharya and letting the two men explore their craft on such a big canvas while trying to concoct a fully engaging near three-hour film is no mean task. Yes, the film does not wholly succeed in all that it is going for but the charm exuding off the screen more than makes up for the film’s shortcomings (again, for the most part). The camerawork and staging of scenes are impeccable. The choreographed line readings and actions are jubilant. I could go on and on.

I could pull a page out of the film’s playbook and be overtly clever while expressing my feelings about this it. But the fact is the more I think about the film, the more divisive I get. There is so much to love but the film has multiple glaring pitfalls. Every fun bit of visual brilliance or acting is completed with a pointless or overlong sequence. It’s a juggling act falling apart at the seams.

I’d read that the film had a troubled production owing to daily script rewrites and multiple edits. A film of this scale needs a steady creative vision which knows when to stay restrained. Even though the restraint is virtually non-existent in this effort, I would watch the hell out of another Jagga Jasoos (make it a franchise). Films like this come around once in a very long time. The film manages to be its own thing while it takes a whole lot of inspiration from multiple avenues of pop culture. It is a joyous celebration of all things cinema even if the final product does not deliver on the promising setup.

Patel SIR: I Never Knew I Could Be So Nice To Bad Movies

Patel SIR: I Never Knew I Could Be So Nice To Bad Movies

Jagapathi Babu’s reinvention has always fascinated me. During my time as a young whipper-snapper, I lived in a house with aunts who swooned over his film roles and personality a la those women in the opening montage of Desamuduru. No one, however, can stay a heartthrob forever, and I was keen to see what the next chapter in his career would be. Would he turn an aging actor clinging on to the image of his prime or would he choose to metamorphose into a character actor who added gravitas to the films he chose to appear in? And how would he manage to pull off whatever choice he made?

The man himself surprised us all after a brief hiatus from major motion pictures. He went home, reimagined his persona and came roaring back with a salt and pepper hair-beard combo. The move from the oft-unrewarding leading man roles to memorable villain/character actor roles has delivered, and how. His popularity has shot into the stratosphere as he has become the talk of Tollywood while rubbing shoulders with A-list talent, old and new.

The trailer for his newest venture Patel SIR, with a lone man sitting amidst a hoard of human carnage accompanied only by a little girl, brought back shades of one of 2017’s better films, Logan. Jagapathi Babu as Logan? Hmm, many Telugu film aficionados would pay good money to see that. Patel SIR, while not Logan, has a good enough theme – that of an “aravai yella, aaru adugula musaladu” exacting revenge on a bunch of men who took something very essential away from him and his trusty sidekick, the little girl.

Thus, we are back at it again with one of cinema’s most overused narratives, Vigilante Justice. This form of storytelling is compelling when the proverbial unstoppable force meets the also proverbial immovable object. A good mix of action, character, motivations, plot and (essentially) redemptive violence drive these stories. However, Patel SIR drops the ball on many of these fronts. As a quick example, when the only event that threatens to stop the hero is a stroke and not any of the bad guy’s evil schemes, the film has an irreparable problem, as it cannot create possibly an ounce of tension.

For the full version of this review please visit:

Patel SIR Review