Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hollywood 2013

Although Roland Emmerich’s 2012 predicted otherwise, Earth and its inhabitants have survived the year in a most unspectacular way. Which means… another whole year of lots and lots of movies! It is difficult to be shielded from the marketing onslaught that precedes the release of big budget movies, let alone discover the smaller gems that hardly get more than a week in cinemas. Therefore, to bring some sanity to Hollywood’s calendar year, here is a list of 40 films to look forward to in 2013, sans the publicity circus.

Note: All release dates mentioned are for the USA, for the sake of some order. They are also, due to the general unreliability of soothsayers, subject to change.

Monday, December 24, 2012

24FPS vs 48FPS High Frame Rate

I have now watched THE HOBBIT AUJ in both the 3D formats that it is released in as far as frame-rate is concerned. I watched the standard 24FPS version on the best 3D screen in the country, Meydan's IMAX cinema. I then watched the 48FPS High-Frame Rate version at the Grand Snakeplex. Without the slightest of hesitation, I wholeheartedly support the HFR experience.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

9th Dubai International Film Festival (2012) – Day 7

16th December 2012 (Day #7)

All three movies I watched today competed at the Cannes Film Festival 2012, two of them winning big. But I don’t quite agree with the accolades of these movies got. Here are my reviews of IN THE FOG, AMOUR, ME AND YOU.

IN THE FOG (V TUMANE)/ Russia/ 128min/ 2012/ In Russian
Director Sergei Loznitsa follows up his brilliant film MY JOY from 2010 (played at DIFF ’10 and reviewed by me) with IN THE FOG, a movie that again explores a bleak and rural territory of what was the Soviet Union. The film is set during World War II, when Germany had control of USSR, and focuses on three characters — a rebel, a coward, and a person who is neither a rebel nor a coward but is mistaken for a rebel by the Germans and for a coward by the Russians. By delving into each of the three characters’ back-story, the movie explores how war (or in a wider context, oppression) forces people to make choices. The movie shows us just one scenario of an end-result of the different choices. Like MY JOY, IN THE FOG is humorless and portrays hopelessness as a by-product of a land consumed by war. This film is more conventional and also more accessible than the experimental yet superior MY JOY, but it carries many recognizable traits of the director — effective use of flashback, revisiting one location at two different times, strong and dark visuals, long takes, and an extremely cold countryside. After MY JOY and UN THE FOG, let us hope the director completes his thematic trilogy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

9th Dubai International Film Festival (2012) – Day 6

14th December 2012 (Day #6)

Day 6 took me to Kashmir, London, and the English countryside. My reviews of VALLEY OF SAINTS, MY BROTHER THE DEVIL and SIGHTSEERS.

VALLEY OF SAINTS/ India/ 82mins/ 2012/ In Kashmiri, Urdu
Set amidst the political conflict and environmental issues of Kashmir’s Dal Lake region, VALLEY OF SAINTS is about a young man who is a water-taxi boatman. He plans to leave Kashmir with his friend, to get away from the troubled area, but they get stuck in town due to a curfew. During this time, he develops a crush on the guest of a boathouse — a student there to study the environmental degradation of the Dal lake. Beautifully and soulfully shot, VALLEY OF SAINTS does well to keep the two issues in the backdrop, instead making it an evident reality of life in Kashmir. This works better than many other films that bring the issue(s) to the forefront, pleading you to acknowledge it. Kudos also to director Musa Syeed for mesmerizing us with his visuals of Kashmir, and specifically Lake Dal. These are not your standard postcard images, but the fauna of the region, including the dirt and pollution that they live in. It is refreshing to watch a movie set in Kashmir that doesn’t patronize or victimize the place.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, others.
Release date: December 13, 2012 (UAE)

Peter Jackson, who redefined the words “epic”, “fantasy” and “trilogy” with THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies, now brings us a new set of films that again fall under those three words, with the addition of the word “prequel”. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, the first of the prequel trilogy, is all that it was marketed to be, and more. But more isn't always better. While THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY does suffer from excess in exposition, it delivers on entertainment. And while Peter Jackson’s love for excess should have been reined in to make this a better film, fans of Tolkien will recognize the same excess as his passion for the source material.

9th Dubai International Film Festival (2012) – Day 5

13th December 2012 (Day #5)

The weekend is upon us! I review 3 movies on Day 5 of the 2012 Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).

DETROIT UNLEADED/ U.S.A./ 92min/ 2012/ In Arabic, English
Made by an Arab-American director, starring Arab-American actors and full of Arab-American colloquialisms, DETROIT UNLEADED is a comedy that limits its scope because of the limited audience it caters to. People who identify with the cultural-references and humour will enjoy this film. For others, it can either be a light-hearted insight into the Arab-American sub-culture, or they will be lost, looking for something to identify with. After Sami’s father is shot by robbers in his gas-station, Sami has to abandon his dream of going to California to study and takes up his father’s position — this time behind bullet-proof glass. The movie explores his budding romance with a friend’s cousin and his realization of what he really wants to do. The film, specifically its humour, will work well for the audience it caters to. For others, watch it if you want to experience a funny take on a different culture.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

9th Dubai International Film Festival (2012) – Day 4

12th December 2012 (Day #4)

Midway through the week-long festival, I've discovered some true gems and some not so precious ones. Today I caught four screenings, and one of them blew my socks off!

HERE AND THERE (AQUI Y ALLA)/ Spain, U.S.A., Mexico/ 110min/ 2012/ In Spanish
HERE AND THERE is a non-engaging slice-of-life film. Set in the present day in a small village in Mexico, Pedro returns to his family after a few years in New York doing small jobs. His plan to earn a living is to start a band to perform at occasions. Over a few years, we watch Pedro make ends meet and adjust to life with fewer and fewer opportunities to earn a daily living. HERE AND THERE offers an insight on the “immigrant worker” life and back-story, but although it is observatory in nature, never forms and emotional bond with Pedro. Thus, the movie is episodic and distant – it serves the purpose of a documentary, but by being a work of fiction.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

9th Dubai International Film Festival (2012) – Day 3

11th December 2012 (Day #3)

Day# 3, and I am deep in the zone – living and breathing movies has become second nature! Today, I watched 3 movies.

GATTU/ India/ 80min/ 2012/ In Hindi
Made primarily for children, GATTU is a sweet and an overly simplistic movie with a lesson. Gattu is a little orphan boy who works in his uncle’s tin-yard. Uneducated and not really interested in work, Gattu yearns for kite-flying, and specifically to bring down “kali”, a black kite that reigns supreme in the neighbourhood’s sky. Since the tallest roof in the area is the school’s roof, Gattu tries to steal into school to have a go at kali from there. GATTU is aimed at kids and set in the real world; there are no evil characters and the boy never really finds himself in real peril. What does happen though is that he makes mistakes, and by the end of the film, learns from them to set things right. GATTU is short (only eighty minutes), it is humorous and good fun. Although it will be appreciated by (and be beneficial for) pre-teen children, its limited commercial appeal means very few will actually get to see it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

9th Dubai International Film Festival (2012) – Day 2

10th December 2012 (Day #2)

Today onwards, it is down-to-business at the Dubai International Film Festival. Of the three movies I watched today, a Chinese, a German film and a French film, I had much hope from the German film. But alas, it was the most disappointing of the three movies I watched.

THE LOVE SONGS OF TIEDAN (MEI JIE)/ China/ 91min/ 2012/ In Chinese
Set in rural mainland China, specifically inner Mongolia, THE LOVE SONGS OF TIEDAN is a light-hearted family drama built around the art of Er Ren Tai, a style of folk-song performance. Over the film’s span of 26-odd years, we first meet Tiedan as a little boy, smitten by his father’s friend. When we rejoin him later as an adult he has learnt singing from his father as an art, farming being is daytime occupation. Over time, we see Tiedan grow up and go through love, heart-break and eventual serenity. All through, Er Ren Tai performances are threaded into the movie’s fabric. Shot almost entirely outdoors, the movie is lovely to watch and an adequate amount of humour keeps it light-hearted and engrossing. While the movie isn't exceptional enough to win accolades, the intriguing mix of Er Ren Tai and cinematic story-telling make for a fascinating viewing.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

9th Dubai International Film Festival (2012) – Day 1

9th December 2012 (Day #1)

As the glitz and glamour descends on Dubai to officially kickstart the 9th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival, welcome back to my coverage of the festival. While covering all 158 movies over the next week is a dream I can only dream, I instead endeavour to bring you the best (humanly) possible and most comprehensive coverage of DIFF. Over the next seven days, look forward to my reviews of over 24 films. The schedule for Day 1 of the 2012 Dubai International Film Festival included just one film, the opening night red carpet gala: LIFE OF PI.

LIFE OF PI/ U.S.A./ 126min/ 2012/ In English, Tamil & French
Ang Lee’s LIFE OF PI makes for a phenomenal time at the cinema, chiefly due to the director’s mastery over the medium. Adapted from a celebrated book deemed unfilmable, the movie presents an astounding tale as a visual extravaganza. Epic in scale yet intimate in its telling, LIFE OF PI is about Pi, a young boy (played by Suraj Sharma) shipwrecked in a rescue boat with a ferocious Bengal tiger for company. Without being heavy-handed or deliberate about it, it ultimately is also about God and faith.

Life of Pi (2012)

Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, others.
Release date: December 18, 2012 (UAE)

Ang Lee’s LIFE OF PI makes for a phenomenal time at the cinema, chiefly due to the director’s mastery over the medium. Adapted from a celebrated book deemed unfilmable, the movie presents an astounding tale as a visual extravaganza. Epic in scale yet intimate in its telling, LIFE OF PI is about Pi, a young boy (played by Suraj Sharma) shipwrecked in a rescue boat with a ferocious Bengal tiger for company. Without being heavy-handed or deliberate about it, it ultimately is also about God and faith.