Thursday, 29 August 2013

Ranthology 2013 - Part:Four

2 Guns (2013) - Directed by Baltasar Kormákur (of Mýrin 2006 fame), this is a refreshing and fun take on the typical cop-buddy film. Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) are undercover agents, who are forced to work together when they get framed for crimes they did not commit and their respective agencies disown them. Blame the 80s action film fan in me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the barbs and exchanges between the two main characters - and after a very long time loved Denzel in a film. And Wahlberg just keeps knocking them out of the park! Recommended only for gun-action film fans.

Only God Forgives (2013) - Ryan Gosling gave us The Believer, Blue Valentine, Drive and so many, many other great performances. Nicolas Winding Refn gave us Bronson and Drive. Kristin Scott Thomas has given us countless plays and films, which are uplifted just by her presence. What could possibly go wrong when any one or all three of these turn up together? Oh so, so much! This is one of the most difficult and exceptionally bad films I have seen this year and it almost physically hurts me to say that about a Gosling film. If it was just pretentious or just gruesome or just soulless or just boring, it would still be alright. But this was all of the above and then some. An excruciating experience.

The Wolverine (2013) - A massive disappointment, after 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which in itself isn't a masterpiece to begin with but at least had charm on its side. With continuity errors galore, bad dialogue, worse acting and only barely decent stunts, this sequel felt flat and stale. Four years of anticipation, which was further heightened by a strong marketing campaign, felt completely wasted.

Monsters University (2013) - OK, the statement above shows some correlation between time spent in anticipation and the depths of my disappointment. So, this dud of a follow-up to 2001's unbelievably cute Monsters Inc disappointed me to a whole new level. Why this film needed a sequel, I fail to understand. And even if it did, did it have to be like a high school musical? An unfunny, uninspired, half-cooked animation that is best avoided.

Wadjda (2012) - Who'd have thunk it? A film conceived and made in Saudi Arabia. Written and directed by a Saudi woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour, with a cast of mostly women, led by Waad Mohammed - a 10-year-old girl who packs more punch than many an established Hollywood actor. A story that tries to cover as many social issues as possible, like it has only one chance of getting the message out, that still manages to strike the balance between witty, realistic and relevant. It is the story of a pre-pubescent girl, Wadjda, who is a bit of a tomboy and would much rather be riding a bike (completely unacceptable in her society) with her best friend (a small boy around her own age), than be like her far more 'proper' classmates. Since no one would buy her a bike, she decides to take matters in her own hands and enters a Qur'an recitation competition that would provide her with the required funds through the prize money. With that as the front, the story has various threads running, some of which expose the hypocrisy, the double-standards, the paranoia and the difficulties facing women in Saudi society. But rather than portray them as victims, Haifaa has highlighted the strength of these women and made the audience privy to an ongoing struggle, leaving us with hope, rather than despair. Made in extremely difficult circumstances, in a country where the female director couldn't freely interact with the male crew, the completion of the film itself is testament to the will of the people. Wadjda is a lively, funny film - but at its core is a message of female empowerment. The best thing about it is that it never feels preachy. Instead it is very tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating. Very highly recommended, despite the low production values.

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