Monday, 31 December 2012

Shorthand Rants...2012

It seems wrong to end the year on my lazy 'shorthand rants', as I have not bundled a bunch of films together for a long while...but due to shortage of time, here's my final post of 2012:

Seven Psychopaths, the latest offering from writer-director Martin McDonagh, is a fitting follow-up to his remarkable In Bruges (2008). Erratic, unpredictable and ever-so-funny, it's about a writer, Marty (played by Colin Farrell), who is struggling to put a story together and with the help of his dog-thief friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), he decides to write about seven psychopaths. As Billy and his associate, Hans (Christopher Walken), make the mistake of kidnapping the beloved dog of a crazy gangster (Woody Harrelson), all hell breaks loose and Marty gets more inspiration than he ever needed to furiously finish his story about psychopaths. The similarity between this film and In Bruges is that both stories have a protagonist, who gets embroiled in a much bigger problem than he ever imagined - and between a crazy friend and a crazier enemy, he has to find some way to survive the ordeal. Both films are well-written and tightly edited - so if you liked the former, you will love the latter. I know, I did.

Life of Pi is one of those books that sucks you in and leaves you with a slightly nostalgic / slightly hopeful feeling. It has generally been regarded as 'un-filmable' - but Ang Lee accepted this challenge with gusto. The main plot of the film is about Pi, a young Indian boy, who gets stuck on a small lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, with only a Bengal Tiger for company, for months. Saying any more than that will probably take away some of the surprises from the story, but trust me, this is no Castaway. The struggle for survival and the amazing experiences that we witness, conclude with a choice we make as individual viewers - and that is possibly the most interesting and heartbreaking side of the novel - and of the film. There are few films that match or surpass a really good book, but Ang Lee has done absolute justice to this almost impossible-to-film story. The computer-generated tiger looks and 'feels' more real than if it was standing right in front of me. Suraj Sharma, who debuts here, has delivered an outstanding performance, especially if you consider that most of his role required him to be interacting with a green-screen. The supporting cast is excellent too, with Indian actors of the highest calibre (Tabu and Irrfan Khan) - and to put it simply, Mr Lee has made a perfect film.

Jack Reacher proves yet again why Tom Cruise is such a Hollywood icon. Despite constant scrutiny and criticism of his personal life (his religion, his love-life, his never-to-be-forgotten Oprah interview), some of which seems to spill into what people think of his professional contributions, the man just keeps delivering entertaining films. He is an excellent actor (Born on the Fourth of July, A Few Good Men, Magnolia), who is also a bankable star (Top Gun, War of the Worlds, Mission: Impossible series) and is not too afraid to take some risks occasionally (Vanilla Sky, Tropic Thunder, Rock of Ages). At 50, he manages to look fresh, and considering the stunts he still insists on performing himself, he is definitely very fit. I should probably say something about this film, which is based on Lee Child's novel called 'One Shot', the ninth one in his series of Jack Reacher suspense thrillers. But considering how I have started this with the allusion that Tom Cruise is a great entertainer, suffice it to say that he completely embodies the screen version of Jack Reacher - a slightly stoic, slightly ascerbic, extremely intelligent investigator, who is also a cool-headed, killing machine when the situation calls for it. The eponymous character is introduced, built and performed to perfection - and I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

It almost seems like the year ended on a high note, as I loved my last few outings at the cinema - but unfortunately, one of the last films I saw this year was Midnight's Children, directed by Deepa Mehta and based on a novel (and scripted) by Salman Rushdie. It is by far, the worst film I saw this year (tough call that one, as Cosmopolis is a also strong contender for this trophy). Terrible dialogue, bad acting, interminable scenes and excessive length, are just some of the issues with this film. Of course, I have never been a fan of magic realism, but I honestly think this was the least of the problems with this joint venture between Rushdie and Mehta. What an absolute downer!

Anyway...70 cinema outings and innumerable home viewings later, 2012 is over. Bring on the next round!

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