Tag Archives: Filmmaking

Film Review: Swan Song (2021)

In a very advanced future, Cameron Turner (Mahershala Ali) is in the last phase of his life because he is dying from an incurable disease and leaving behind his wife Poppy (Naomie Harris) and a kid who have no knowledge of his illness. Dr. Scott (Glenn Close) strongly recommends replacing himself with his clone that will keep his family away from the grief. A proposal that sends Cameron further in a state of perturbation.

My problem with the film is that such a limited plotline is stretched to 112 minutes of the screen time which makes this slow-burn more on nerves. There is no doubt about the film being better than average with a quality casting and Mahershala giving a splendid performance. But the plot is so small that the film basically does no favor in screenwriting. A story like Swan Song deserves its place in a sci-fi episode of some television drama; speaking of which reminds me of Black Mirror. This Swan Song is an authentic Black Mirror episode.

Swan Song is thoughtful and questions you about your existence that is predicted not to be that long and you have to leave your family behind. If a human clone is an answer to eradicate or lower the level of grief in the human race, where will it end? How will you bear to be replaced and decide not to inform your family about the development? Your nature of death cannot delay but the distress upon your family can be reduced. Science further finds solutions and discovers the answers somewhere in the universe but the dying human cannot wait in queue for the last train to heaven as the emotions get restored in the clone to please his/her family. Thou shalt not covet!

Mahershala Ali will break your heart, burn your vehemence and make you extremely impatient. Swan Song is your typical sci-fi diet that should be watched alone in a dark room so that you theorize and digest the deep understanding about dramatizing the clone situation.

Ratings: 6.5/10

Film Review: King Richard (2021)

King Richard reminds me of a few references like the legendary cricketer Viv Richards because he is often called King of Cricket since his 1987 documentary and William Shakespeare‘s plays Richard II and III. For the South Asian audience, King Richard will make them think of the film being the American answer to Bollywood’s Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal, also based on a real-life story.

For me, as a huge tennis fan, who was blessed to watch this beautiful sport on television since 1992 and was lucky to have watched many great legends since then, I do understand the contribution of the William sisters who dominated in tennis for more than a decade especially Serena. Therefore, a film about them became necessary to watch. But for me, the surprising factor was that the film was centered around their father Richard Williams so I assumed that the real-life story has to be that compelling to focus on him rather than his daughters. I had never known the backstory before they became the legends and now after watching the film, I am touched.

King Richard is basically about a crazy-a** visionary paterfamilias who had, believe it or not, devised a 78-page plan about his two daughters to transform them into highly successful tennis stars, wait for it, even before they, I mean Venus and Serena, were born. Yes, there is a father who wrote a success story even before bringing them to the earth. How insanely willful, confident and determined will he be?!? The film shows his strict personal and sports discipline and training about his daughters, how he shapes their careers, and what difficulties, racial problems, and Compton’s rough life does he face during all that time.

The biggest plus about the film is that about 90% of the screenplay, the incidents, and the important events are all historically accurate making you trust the presentation. The film is majorly plotted from Richard Williams’ autobiography Black and White: The Way I See It. Therefore the film is compelling and the pace keeps you attentive to the continuity, especially in the middle of the film.

Will Smith for his leading role as Richard Williams is considered highly certain to take the Best Actor award at the upcoming Oscar function. Honestly, to my surprise, the performance wasn’t really that wow to consider him one of the best from 2021. I have watched better performances from Will before, most significantly The Pursuit of Happiness was a far better performance than this. He didn’t meet any challenging segment of performance in the entire film, besides the scene where the Child Protective Services enter their house. In fact, it is Jon Bernthal‘s supporting role of Rick Macci that has me taken aback. The usually tough-guy image of Jon is completely switched to a friendly ever-smiling softhearted coach and I cannot believe how well did he perform this. This performance is quite different than he usually does.

Although I find the film very touching and impresses me with its being accurate, unfortunately, there are some strong issues that drop this real-life sports drama at loose ends. Let me explain to you why. The film focuses on Richard Williams as a dedicating father but does not touch on his ‘other’ issues like his role in business, his past marriages, and his fatherly role for the other daughters. Venus-Serena chemistry is horribly lacking. Despite the fact that the father prioritizes career of Venus over Serena, there is no sign of emotional breakdown between the sisters. Their being besties, even in such difficult changing times, look flat, no changing gears. The other daughters were completely extras and hype girls, absolutely no sign of their role as sisters. There should have been some detailing about why the parents preferred to focus more on Venus and Serena than the rest of their children. Maybe the film misses all these points deliberately because the William sisters are the executive producers.

But it is not like if Richard Williams is depicted as the holy father with no indication of making wrong choices. There are heated exchanges of him with his wife where we discover his dark side. The film shows his anger and stubbornness. His controversial decision to pull his daughters out of the junior tennis circuits is dramatized in a way that looks like his father did make a wrong decision about their careers and lives.

But the message of the film is conveyed to the audience. The cinematic portrayal of this father and his dedication and building two legendary careers from the courts of Compton was highly paramount.

Ratings: 6/10

Film Review: The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

What introduction should I give about this stupendous adaptation? I mean during the entire drama, I was searching for words to describe this film. How must I pass my judgment about this film? How can anyone imagine William Shakespeare‘s tragic play with such credulous care? Joel Coen! The first time you directed without your brother and what have you done?

Yes, I have more questions in my mind. How can a film balance the aesthetics and methods of theatrical presentation so accurately? How come a Black Macbeth becomes so acceptable to us? Is this because he is Denzel Washington? Or the selection of a Black actor for a white Macbeth really clicked and really hummed the ever-running identity politics campaign.

Macbeth was my first proper reading after my school life. I don’t remember if there were any non-white characters in the play so pardon my memory. But I am not complaining, I am questioning if the character identity should be altered for the sake of voicing for the global campaign of identity politics. And I fully praise Denzel Washington’s performance, he took the mantle of the character and delivered splendidly.

Going black-and-white made the visual artistry more amicable to literature and I think The Tragedy of Macbeth has paved the way for looking at the Shakespearean works in tremendously different parallel. I have watched Sir Lawrence Olivier‘s Richard III performance especially the ”Now is the winter of our discontent” scene and now after watching this, I can just imagine him doing the same number in this parallel and it looks more stunning.

If any of Sir Lawrence Olivier or William Shakespeare was alive, he would have been proud of Joel Coen’s execution and understanding. This film is up for many Oscar nominations, most importantly for cinematography, production design, score, costume design, direction, and Denzel’s performance. Easily be one of the best films produced in 2021.

Ratings: 8.9/10

Film Review: Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021)

A struggling composer and playwright Jonathan Larson (JL) is reaching 30 but still knocking the doors of the industry to listen to his pieces and grab the opportunity. This film centers around his hardship and personal account of his dedication that was becoming questionable due to not meeting his mark. The film is about JL’s stressful and collapsing sparks of a musical journey before “Tick, Tick… Boom!” happened.

The film, by all means, is an exceptional musical drama where Andrew Garfield is at the heart of the film. He resurrects JL and displays a powerful performance. Maybe the film won’t be praised that much if Andrew was not picked to play the best performance of his career. We may have another musical case in Andrew surely reaching to the Oscars just like Riz Ahmed last here and I won’t be surprised if he wins it. Let me tell you why – facial performance! Just marvelous. Look at him, just look at him when he has to work on the note and electricity is cut. Or when he has an argument with Susan that leads to breaking up. Even his acts in most of the songs were so energetic, especially that crazy number with Vanessa Hudgens was crazy.

The screenplay was the other plus and such fabulous writing was possible due to extensive research on JL’s works. Director Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tony Award-winning writer Steven Levenson got access to his works at the Library of Congress that built most of the script. And this is why this musical drama looks distinguished from the other projects.

While their research helps in shaping a story close to JL’s work there do are damages on the accuracies. Also, the first thirty minutes are too musical to watch. Overall, I think Miranda’s debut as director deserves praise for doing a musical that wasn’t stereotypical but on the aesthetics of JL’s works which I mean is an observer can have a clear idea that this is how JL would have wanted to direct his Tick, Tick… Boom.

Ratings: 6.5/10

Film Review: Eternals (2021)

For thousands of years, the group of immortals called Eternals have defended planet earth from the unnatural species of predators called Deviants. But in the present day, one of the Eternals finds out that the deviants still exist and they need to assemble to complete the unfinished business once and for all.

I haven’t read about Eternals in comics, so this film is the source of whatever the director felt to make the use of Jack Kirby‘s creations. So on paper, Eternals, I believe, are the strongest group of superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And the group being socially diverse makes sense as the celestial picked his team to find deviants around the world.

A recent winner of the Oscar for Best Director, Chloé Zhao, was roped to work on this MCU project that brought a lot of challenges for the production. Because an Oscar-winning director for a superhero project becomes hyper-interesting as the audience expects the comic-book film to be a well-written and fine productional craft. And then the cinematography, visual effects, and Ramin Djawadi‘s score are other plusses giving a boost to the motive of the story.

But I am looking at the bigger picture. Into its fourteen years of existence and twenty-sixth film in line with the greatest cinematic universe ever, how important is this film for the future? Zhao’s direction does bring new breathing and way of observing a Marvel film but I guess despite having the magnitude of her quality presentation, the plotline is neither apt nor the screenplay is compelling.

If a viewer with a bird’s eye has to scale down a 156-minute film, he/she will certainly realize that there is something really wrong with the film. Let me try to point out why Eternals is not even close to being considered an average film.

One major blemish about the film is the introduction. This group of immortals is new to the audience and we have no idea how they were ever created. A Star-Wars-style intro text is not enough to accept them the way they are. Yes, the intro text emphasizes that they were needed but how these people ever become Eternals, there is no backstory. Instead, we travel time with them and observe how they protect some ancient civilizations and empires from deviants. I felt the dramatizing of old times was taken way too seriously and lost the meaning between the lines. Two of the Eternals are shown to develop a romantic interest in Babylon in 575 BC. Next scene? They are getting married in 400 AD in the Gupta Empire. The same amount of time would have been taken in dramatizing the intro text.

Another factor that ‘may’ have not worked with the audience is that Eternals is very quintessential to MCU aesthetics. They are so close to perfection and lacks human sympathy that was found for almost all the Marvel superheroes in the previous films. Seeing them fighting and killing the deviants straight from the start without knowing their whys and hows makes the purpose bleak.

The middle part of the film is a dead soul. The audience can easily give his/her popcorn to the person on the other seat and leave the theatre giving up. Amongst the team, Sersi (Gemma Chan) was easily the least favorite of all the characters, and she was chosen to lead the group. In the cast, I need to know why such established actors like Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie were part of this project. Especially Jolie, what a terrible waste! Even Kit Harrington is not utilized.

There is no villain in the film. Fine, it is not compulsory to have a villain in a superhero film but the story has to be much captivating; the grip of the screenplay was loose. Eternal is a confusing experiment in which the director struggles to plot the film in a non-linear style and attempts to apply forced humor out of nowhere to keep the audience somehow happy. As the film tries to find its zone of compliments with such an excessive time, the film loses its transmission and drops flat.

Ratings: 4/10

Film Review: Don’t Look Up (2021)

Two astronomers find out that a comet is about to hit the planet in six months. So they try to explain and alarm the catastrophic situation to the president and to the media but to their shock, no one believes them or takes them seriously. Instead, Adam Mckay shows a deep disturbing materialistic world where humans are greedy, careless, and irresponsible.

Don’t Look Up is a mockumentary or an ugly horoscopic ultra-predictor of the cosmic negligence that is excessively thoughtful. The elements may connect to everything how the world revolves now like global politics or global warming. Adam Mckay since The Big Short has been pretty much critical about US politics and the new dark dramedy is a poetic way of protesting.

Don’t Look Up has a star-studded cast in Leonardo Di Caprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Himesh Patel, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep but they all had an average performance besides Di Caprio, and Jennifer Lawrence. Especially Di Caprio’s display of anger on the live show was just terrific. I felt that piece of performance was a bit personal as he himself has been voicing his concerns about global warming for years.

I think the film will definitely make rounds at the Oscars. Nominations for the best editing, original screenplay, actor, actress, director, and picture look very likely to me. The final thirty minutes were simultaneously disturbing, destructive, and melancholic. Looking at the plotline, I was eager to know how the film is going to conclude and Adam Mckay perfectly put it to an end. Don’t Look Up definitely is one of the best films of the year.

Ratings: 8.7/10

Film Review: The French Dispatch (2021)

I want to confess about my writing film reviews that it is always difficult for me to review the films directed by Wes Anderson. It is like a challenge to describe or judge his filmmaking artistry, his scrupulous application on the contemporary aesthetics, and to praise his narrative and visual understanding over the subject on repeat.

His latest work is The French Dispatch; Wes has called his project ‘A love letter to journalists’. And he rightly said so.

The film is about the editorial staff of the newspaper The French Dispatch that wants to republish three articles from the past in what will be the final issue of the newspaper after the death of their editor. So the film majorly picturizes those three articles with an obituary.

As usual, The French Dispatch is another Wes Anderson masterpiece that is thoughtful, artistic, and kaladeiscopic. It is a dark comedy but at the same time, the characterization of human elements like greed, nudity, poverty, power, rage are so well detailed in such an eye-catching camera work.

There is so much depth in artistic detailing. It is so gratifying when you watch a morning sketch of Ennui. Or the introduction of Café Le Sans Blague and the young boys and girls staring at the camera or dancing weirdly gives you a sharp reminder of some stylish retro films of the French Wave. One of the stories about a mentally disturbed artist, Moses Rosenthaler, was like an autobiography of suicide. The reeling towards each of his traveling segments was so well-directed.

The French Dispatch is the voice of liberation that successfully empowers the ethics of humor in the melancholic wisdom of thoughtful articles in the colorful odor of neoclassical realism. A fabulous stellar cast including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Benicio Del Toro, Timothée Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, and many more makes this anthology drama more special.

This film is an honorary work in tribute to old-school journalism. Those who love poetry, those who are nonconformist, rebel, advocates of liberalization, and commentators of artistic presentation needs to watch this film. In short, this film is ‘A Work of Art’.

Ratings: 8.8/10