Saturday, 29 September 2012

Thoughts on Barfi!

         A cousin of mine tells this joke every time we talk about Bollywood- 
Q- What do you call a Bollywood movie that is completely original and has not been copied from any other film?
A- A flop.

          I know that it is a very cynical attitude towards an industry that is primarily responsible for my love for movies in general, and I do like to give it the benefit of the doubt that I barely watch Bollywood movies anymore and hence miss out on quite a few good ones. However, it is also hard to deny that the majority of the "big Bollywood blockbusters" nowadays are either copied from crowd-friendly Hollywood action or comedy movies, or as the latest trend goes, from bombastic, nonsensical and occasionally fun South-Indian movies. Now I am not judging either of these types of movies. They are both made for a specific audience and they deliver suitably. My bone to pick is solely with Bollywood, and this copycat attitude.

           To be fair, Bollywood has been copying, or as we like to call it, "being inspired by" other movies for a very long time, and with all sorts of results. But a recent discussion in my film studies has piqued my interest in this issue. The topic was about how as an industry, or even a country, we don't seem to have a distinctive identity when it comes to our movies, except that they are colourful and have musical numbers. Big whoop. It is kind of sad considering that we are the land of geniuses like Satyajit Ray and Raj Kapoor. Admittedly I am not that well-versed in their work, not at all in Ray's case (yes, I do hate myself), but the fact is that we are capable of such films and the current state of mainstream Bollywood is a bit tragic. 

           Now all this brings me to Anurag Basu's Barfi! First and foremost I have to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly and I do think that it is a very good movie. But its "inspirations" are so in-your-face. Anyone who is a film buff can easily pick out which films the various elements of Barfi! were taken from. Slapstick gods like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton are obvious influences, the look and style is clearly reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie, there are a couple of scenes lifted from Donald O' Connor's incredible "Make 'Em Laugh" from Singin' in the Rain, and there is also traces of The Double Life of Veronique and Benny and Joon. Due to all this, Basu has been getting a lot of heat on plagiarism allegations, especially since it was announced that Barfi! is India's entry to the Best Foreign Film category at the 85th Oscars.

         Here is my question- what is the difference between an homage and a copy? Because I would say that I was thrilled to a lesser degree than others around me who have not seen the many films that Barfi! borrowed from. Basu, when trying to defend his film, gave examples of film makers like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese who do emulate other films and film makers into their own final products. Tarantino was actually the very person I kept coming back to while discussing Barfi! with a friend right after we had seen it. My main argument was that maybe the reason why I love his movies so much is because I have never watched any of the films that he uses as inspiration. Except one- Bande à part, which is where things got even more complicated in my head, because it is a known fact that the dance in it was a major influence on the Mia-Vincent's Jack Rabbit Slims dance. But apart from both being incredibly awesome and a bit random, they are actually very different dances. So if this indeed is how Tarantino makes all of his films, then they can never be called copies of anything. But Barfi! did in fact imitate scenes, although in different contexts and I really don't know what to make of it.

          Also I have to give credit where credit is deserved, even if we are talking about something as controversial as possible plagiarism. The thing is that yes, Barfi! has "been inspired" by many other films and isn't a completely original work, but once again look at the people and films Basu chose! There is actually a split second where there is a cut-out of Chaplin on the screen in between this very Chaplin-esque chase between the protagonist, Barfii and silly policemen. Therefore instead of yet another film with terrible one-liners and actors with their shirts being ripped off on their own accord and god knows what, here we have a film that celebrates these wonderful movies and people and does a more than decent job of using elements from them in its narrative.

          Obviously Barfi! is much more than just this amalgam. The acting is superb. Ranbir Kapoor is pretty much the actor of his generation at present, and note how I say actor and not star, because the man knows how to act. He is splendid as the titular character, a happy-go-lucky, deaf and dumb, simple man who loves life and lives it to the fullest. Also the two actresses, Priyanka Chopra and Ileana D'Cruz, are both revelations. Chopra plays an autistic girl with a great deal of honesty and sincerity, something I really did not expect from her. D'Cruz, a newcomer in Bollywood, is just so beautiful and acts like a veteran in her field, so natural and understated. A perfect trio for such a film. Also I love that the film was set in Calcutta, aka my hometown, and Darjeeling, and that too in the 70s! There is such a dearth of period films in Bollywood. And I really adored the setting. Very few Bollywood films are set here anymore, and Barfi! looked gorgeous. The music is rather lovely too.

         I am happy that such a happy film has been chosen as India's entry to the Oscars (there have been some dreadful ones in the past) and also that people are liking it so much. Of course many argue about how it is "completely unique" and I reflexively roll my eyes... Also when they say/post that it has been nominated for an Oscar, my blood boils just a little bit. But keeping my crazy cinephile tendencies aside, I am actually pretty convinced that it will not be nominated, seeing how tough the competition is this year with films like Amour, and because of well, all the reasons/rambles I have stated above. 

        I would like to end this post by asking repeating my earlier question and posing a new one-

What is the difference between an homage and a copy?

And if you have seen Barfi!- what did you think of it and its Oscar chances?

       In case your answer to the latter question is 'no', I highly recommend it. 
       Thank you for reading :)

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Small Roles... Big Performances Blogathon

        When I heard of this blogathon being hosted by Ruth of Flixchatter, I got really excited because I love small roles that have massive impacts. But I could not decide on one and after thinking it over and over again in my head, one performance, though not as obscure as the guidelines say, stands high and above any I can think of to bestow such a title on. I have spoken about two more that are second and third in my eyes respectively.

The many many honourable mentions- Everyone in Scott Pilgrim VS The World, especially the awesome Kieran Culkin, Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, Stanley Tucci in nearly everything he has done, likewise for Allison Janney, Michael Cera in Juno, Chia Hui Liu in Kill Bill Vol.2 etc.

Noah Taylor in Submarine

Very few characters can make me laugh like Taylor's Lloyd Tate. He's like the most adorable depressed person ever. There is always a tinge of humour in his sadness and vice versa. Whether he is explaining about his love for oceans or giving his son Oliver relationship advice or drinking lemon water for days on end, he is so subtly, almost pathetically funny, and my heart goes out to him in every scene of his in this movie.

Favourite part of his performance- "Listen, look, I know you think I'm very boring, you know... but once I ripped my vest off in front of a woman, and err... it was very effective actually. It produced a very atavistic response."

Imelda Staunton in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

In a way, almost the entire Harry Potter cast, certainly most of the adult actors, should qualify for this blogathon. I choose Staunton out of all of them because her Dolores Unbridge was a fantastically awful woman. I mean I hated her in the books, but with Staunton's pinkness and squeaky voice and this truly sinister undercurrent in her performance, I was terrified of her in the movie. Do not be fooled by the cat-lady act. Give me a 1000 Voldemorts any friggin' day, but keep this fuzzy pink monster away from me!

Favourite part- Inviting Harry to that super creepy office of hers for detention, and making him write "I must not tell lies" with his own blood *shudders*.

Kevin Spacey in Se7en

Se7en is a very disturbing film. We are shown all these horrific murders done by some diabolical mastermind. It is only towards the end of the film that we see this John Doe, the man behind the deaths. We already have formed an opinion, an image of him in our heads, and when Spacey walks into that police building, covered in blood, he is everything we had imagined and more. 

Spacey is amazing as John Doe. All of his actions, his provocations, his "admission" of his "sin"- everything about him is incredibly scary and effective. You can understand how this man is capable of committing such atrocities. It is a bone-chilling performance, which helps make Se7en the modern thriller classic it is.

Favourite part- When he is sitting in the backseat of the police car, telling Mills and Somerset of his "perfect, flawless series of murders" and how no one will ever forget them or him. He was right of course.

       So there you have it. These are my choices. Do check out Ruth's site for other entries. Also tell me about your choices in the comments. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

"Because you were the first. The first face this face saw."

         I love the Ponds so much! Their penultimate episode in Doctor Who, "The Power of Three" made sure that we, along with the Doctor, will remember what an incredible pair of companions they are. Their brilliant chemistry with Matt Smith's Doctor, especially Karen Gillan's Amy will be sorely missed, to put it mildly. She's back to being my favourite companion along with her husband Rory and previous companion, Donna. She certainly is the companion I am most fond of, because my journey with Doctor Who started with her as much as with Smith's Doctor.

      Still, I will have to say that "The Power of Three" is probably my least favourite episode of this series so far. It is written by Chris Chibnall, who also wrote "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship". The main plot with the cubes, highly reminiscent of the Russel T. Davies era, is not actually that interesting. However, seeing how fantastic this series is going, the episode had some truly unforgettable comedic and emotional moments.

1. I love the beginning where they show a montage of all the adventures that the Ponds have had with the Doctor so far, with Amy narrating in the background.
2. The cubes have come! I have no idea how many cubes they made for this episode. Also Brian! I love Mark Williams as Brian Williams. Least irritating relative ever (Wilfred Mott was adorbs but gosh he made me cry a lot)!
3. All the news channels talking about the cubes, plus a little Brian Cox, is very RTD. You know how all the episodes have been cinematic till now- well, for me this episode was plainly of the RTD genre. But I suppose it is fine for it to be less cinematic because right now the writers are just making sure that we are completely head over heels in love with the amazing Ponds, so that they can snatch out our hearts and drive a bulldozer on them next week. MOFFAT!! *shakes fist*
4. It's been 10 years of travelling with the Doctor for the Ponds? What? I know we aren't supposed to question the logic of Doctor Who, but still, it is a little hard to believe that it's 2020 for them.
5. RORY IN HIS PANTS! Amy's reaction is HILARIOUS here.
"There are soldiers all over my house and I’m in my pants.
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6. New character! Yaaay! I loved Jemma Redgrave as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. She had such a calmness and wisdom about her. I haven't watched any Classic Who, but she's the daughter of long-time companion Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart who died in the last series.

7. Anyways she's heading UNIT (RTD!) now, and I love it when she says, "With a dress sense like that, you must be the Doctor." BAZINGA! Also then their discussion on how people have taken the cubes home and opened more than a 1000 Twitter accounts for them, the Doctor's reaction is priceless. Almost made me give up Twitter.
8. That of course was only the start. Matt Smith is really funny in this episode. The Doctor's inability to be patient made him, and the Ponds go mad. "Patience is for wimps!" Rory's face here has to become a meme.

9. Anyways the Doctor goes and the Ponds get on with their lives. I like this look into their life a lot. It shows how "normal" people can have such fantastical inner lives, and also how both these existences have meaning for them.
10. Things You Can Do With Extraterrestrial Cubes: Planet Earth Edition-

11. Brian and his patience with the cube almost parallel's Rory's with the Pandorica. Williams is so subtly comic. I wish he comes back later on (yes I *do* know how unlikely that is, but he's just so awesome!).
12. I love how the Doctor tries to do good- like when he takes Amy and Rory to the newly opened Savoy for their anniversary, only to have a Zygon ship under it. Or Amy getting married to Henry VIII on the same day. Poor Doctor.
13. Brian, along with being hilarious, also has a more meaningful role in this episode when he asks the Doctor about what has happened to his previous companions. It is both a painful look back and terrifying foreshadowing. Who knows what fate awaits the Ponds :S Makes one think that as spectacular as it must be to be someone like the Doctor, it must also be infinitely sad.
14. This was my favourite part of the episode-
I'm going to miss Amy so much. She is also the prettiest companion in the new series. Perfect ginger queen.

15. So the Doctor gets domesticated with his bffs the Ponds. There are a lot of throwbacks in this episode, not only of RTD, but also many things from the Amy-Doctor-Rory run. There are the pictures in the poster and then all three eating fish-custard together. I don't think we will ever see fish-custard being eaten again :'(
16. Everything in this episode made me so sad :( :(
17. One day the cubes get activated and all of them behave differently, as Kate points out. I liked this aspect of the cubes, even though it did not really make sense in the big picture. Still, the cube that plays the Chicken Dance music is boss.
18. Another excellent part of the episode comes when the Doctor, exasperated with these elusive cubes, goes out to the river Thames to get some fresh air, since UNIT obviously has its headquarters in the basement of the Tower of London, and Amy goes with him and they have their heart to heart. I can easily imagine this one scene being one of the best, not only in this series, but ever. 
Amy and the Doctor talk about how the Ponds seem to be stopping in their "Doctor life" to get on with their "real life". How it now feels like running away from responsibility, in response to which the Doctor says a new "life quote" as I like to call them, that is just purely inspirational and beautiful- 
"I’m not running away. But this is one corner… of one country, in one continent, on one planet that’s a corner of a galaxy that’s a corner of a universe that is forever growing and shrinking and creating and destroying, and never remaining the same for a single millisecond. And there is so much, so much to see, Amy. Because it goes so fast. I’m not running away from things, I am running to them. Before they flare and fade forever."

By this time I was already in tears, but then Amy asks him why he keeps coming back to her and Rory, and I completely lost it-
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I love their relationship. The girl who waited and her imaginary friend, the raggedy man. Obviously this has always been what we thought of their relationship, but it is obvious now that she means a lot to him as well. The Doctor needs the Ponds and his Amelia Pond now more than they need him, and all the episodes in this series have made us understand that. Their exit is going to be deadly.

19. Anyways, back to the cubes now. The power suddenly goes off and then the cubes start ticking from 7 to 0. Then they emit the electrical currents they had absorbed to attack the hearts of the humans, causing them to die due to cardiac arrest. The two-hearted Doctor also gets affected, as his left heart stops due to this. Still, they pinpoint all the seven places these surges of electrical waves are coming from, one of which is the hospital where Rory works.
20. Oh yeah, Rory and Brian were abducted by these weird aliens in scrubs with mouths shaped like gas masks-meet-puffer fish, who took them to the space ship that is connected to the hospital through the portal in the goods lift. Yawn.
21. So Amy, Doctor and Kate go to the hospital, and just as the Doctor finds the little android girl who is the source of the cubes' power in that area, he goes into cardiac arrest again, which leads to another sexy Doctor+Pond moment. The last one was also in a Chibnall episode- remember? Obviously you do. Over here, it is Amy instead who literally rips open the Doctor's shirt to well, give him an electric shock to restart his heart.
God I love this show. Notice how the bow tie stays on.

22. Okay this is where I leave you. The ending is definitely the worst part of the episode, even though there is a very scary-looking villain, a clever observation by the Doctor that humans should not judge other races' bedtime stories because "You can talk -- wolf in your grandmother's nightdress?", more scary foreshadowing, a truly terrible last line by Amy explaining the episode's title, and Brian Williams everybody-

         So yes, as an episode about cubes, "Power of Three" was kind of blah. But it shines in showing us the inner life of two of the longest running companions in new Who, the alien-ness and childish qualities of the Doctor, his poignant relationship with Amy, and a lovely new character in the form of Kate. As I said, it is a set-up for the next episode, "Angels in Manhattan" so that like the Doctor, we are more attached to the Ponds than we have ever been, which will make their farewell truly sad. 


Saturday, 22 September 2012


     Yes, this was supposed to be posted two days ago. Sorry for the tardiness people. Downton Abbey had taken over my life. It's pretty fun. I want to be Maggie Smith in my next life. "What is a weekend?"

1) I meant to write about this last week but my memory has become shite now. Anyways, what is with all these television shows being adapted from famous films?! So far I am only excited for Hannibal, which is based on the Thomas Harris books on Hannibal Lecter. Hugh Dancy will play Will Graham, the role that Edward Norton played in the grossly under-viewed Red Dragon. The role of Lecter, made famous by Sir Anthony Hopkins, will be played by Mads Mikkelsen in the show. The best thing about it though is that it has been created by Bryan Fuller, who made my darling Pushing Daisies. Another show is Bates Motel, which is a prequel of Psycho. I got a little warmed up to it when Vera Farmiga took on the role of Mrs. Bates, but then it was announced that Freddie Highmore will play her son, Norman Bates. That's goddamn ridiculous. He's Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for crying out loud! And his total blandness in The Art of Getting By is making me terrified of watching this show, and not in a good way. Norman Bates is one of my two favourite cinematic villains (coincidentally, the other is Hannibal Lecter) and he is just going to get butchered in this show. Ugh. And then, shows based on Heathers and The Apartment are in production as well. The Heathers one will apparently be about the daughters of the characters in the cult classic, called the Ashleys. As Heather Chandler would say, "Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw."

2) Silver Linings Playbook won the top prize at TIFF '12. Who would've thought? Okay so now my most anticipated films of this year are: 10) Silver Linings Playbook, 9) Beasts of the Southern Wild, 8) Much Ado About Nothing, 7) Argo, 6) Skyfall, 5) The Master, 4) Perks of Being a Wallflower, 3) The Hobbit, 2) Seven Psychopaths, 1) Django Unchained. One more film that has caught my eye is Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha. It just looks like something I would like. 

3) Posters- The new Hitchcock biography named Hitchcock (what else?) has caught my eye too, but I am not adding it to the list till a trailer comes out. Which will not be long, I presume, since the absolutely delicious poster has been released. It has the right amount of Hitch's signature cheeky, morbid humour. Also it will be cool to see if Sir Anthony Hopkins can come in the way of Daniel Day Lewis's Lincoln for that much wanted Oscar (I am on the side of the former presently). Skyfall has a number of posters out. There are two main ones. I like the cool blue one more than the more classic one, but both are good. I just think the former is what we would expect out of Craig's Bond, and I like how minimalistic it is. There are a character posters too, like that of the baddie, played by Javier Bardem. Finally there is the surprisingly brilliant poster of Michael Bay's next, Pain and Gain. Have we misjudged him? :O

4) Trailers- The new Hobbit trailer is all kinds of pretty and has re-bumped the film to nearly the top of my most-eagerly-awaited list. This book made me happy, and I adore both Bilbo Baggins and Martin Freeman. Also I am guessing Peter Jackson will try his best to justify the three movies, so maybe he'll make them super-awesome. There is the trailer to the Ethan Hawke starrer horror movie, Sinister. It does look a bit creepy, but it will strictly be a DVD watch for me, if anything. The new Skyfall TV spot has reassured me that Bardem will be a truly scary villain indeed. Also I promise you that I am going to hoot in the theatre when Daniel Craig fixes his suit after jumping on an exploding train. I must. Another TV spot that has coloured me impressed is Park Chan-wook's Stoker that has three actors I really love- Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. A proper trailer will come out later this week, but I think this film has the fucked-up family/ lots of awesome violence thing down. The extended look at Les Misérables is impressive, but I'm still not all that buzzed about this film. Except for Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway of course. I will probably sell my left kidney to see Jackman sing, and that part in the video when he does gave me goosebumps. Finally, the trailer of the week is Jab Tak Hai Jaan, which has Shahrukh Khan, Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif and looks like what a Bollywood film should look like. I have missed those kind of films. Let's hope it is good, in spite of how weird SRK and Kaif look with each other.

5) Finally, Parks and Recreation has returned! Woo hoo! "Meet the meat" has to be one of the funniest things that has ever been said. Anyways, here is Adam Scott speaking about my philosophy in life when it comes to sports-
Well said sir.


Friday, 21 September 2012

“I'm a nut, but not just a nut.” ~ BILL MURRAY

Total fucking legend.

You are my Rushmore :)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

"Today I honor the victim's first."

         I have already spoken about how the current series of Doctor Who is way more cinematic than all the others before it. Episode 7x03- "A Town Called Mercy" might just be the highest point of the series in this aspect. A sci-fi western if there ever was one, it looked and sounded absolutely fantastic, and this is coming from someone who regularly proclaims that westerns are her least favourite genre and equal to sleeping pills. I loved it!

My favourite "movie poster".

        Written by Toby Whithouse, who also wrote The Shining-esque "The God Complex" last series, this episode explores the morality of a character like the Doctor. Whatever little I have seen of westerns, there are always important characters that have both good and bad in them- outlaws, corrupt rangers, the "loose women". I guess that is why this setting was the perfect backdrop to the Doctor's own fight against good and evil, and how both carry consequences. The episode was directed by Saul Metzstein, who also directed the previous episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" does a breath-taking and a very authentic job here, at least for me, to bring together all the necessary elements of a western, with a bit of Who of course.

1. The episode starts with a mysterious alien named the Gunslinger chasing and gunning down another alien and declaring that he has one more name in his kill list, The Doctor. Firstly, I must say that the Gunslinger looked great. In theory he could have looked comical- what with the mixture of Clint Eastwood and the Terminator maybe, but he does manage to evoke fear. Especially when he walks, you can feel how powerful he is. An actor named Andrew Brooke played him and he had to be covered in makeup and prosthetics. Well done make-up team! Also the effects team, because the way the Gunslinger seems to appear and disappear was uber cool.

2. The setting looks gobsmackingly beautiful. The episode was actually filmed in Almería, Spain, where more than a 1000 westerns have been filmed, including A Fistful of Dollars. So they really did capture one of the truest depictions of western towns that we have seen on the silver screen.
3. The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive at a town called Mercy accidentally, as their original destination was the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico. But they decide to stay because "Anachronistic electricity, keep-out signs, aggressive stares... Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?" Poor Doctor. He really loves an adventure, and I think his secret wish to be a cowboy comes true in this episode. Well, sort of...

4. Because when he next walks into a saloon (uh duh), he orders "Tea. But the strong stuff. Leave the bag in" all while trying to battle a toothpick in his mouth. He isn't even able to walk with a cowboy strut without making it awkward. So cute.
5. But then when he announces his name to the people at the saloon, along with the fact that he is in fact an alien, they literally carry him out and throw him over the town's boundary of wood and stones, and then he is made to come fact to face with the Gunslinger. But before anything can happen, the town's marshall, Isaac comes in the way and takes the Doctor back in.
6. The truth is that the alien doctor that the Gunslinger wants isn't the Doctor himself, but Kahler-Jex, an alien whose ship had crashed near Mercy and had subsequently made it his home and helped its inhabitants during a cholera outbreak and also brought electricity to it. However the appearance of the Gunslinger, who had demarcated the town and blocked anyone from entering (unless they don't have any food with them like the Doctor and his companions) or exiting it, and his demand for Jex had turned the inhabitants against the 'good doctor'. Still Isaac, grateful for all the things Jex had done for Mercy, refuses to give him up because he thinks that will bring chaos into it.
7. The Doctor then goes to get the TARDIS to evacuate the village, on a horse named Susan, who wants his master to "respect his life choices". Obviously the Doctor speaks horse, and his apparently two way conversation with Susan brings much hilarity. As someone said on Tumblr, Susan and Tricey should get their own spin-off show. I second this motion.

8. Soon the Doctor chances upon Jex's ship, which isn't damaged at all, and from its records finds out that Jex was in fact a member of a group of scientists who had experimented on their people and created cyborgs to save their war-ravaged planet, and that the Gunslinger was in fact one such tortured cyborg. On his return, he demands an answer from Jex. We get to see a very dark side of the Doctor here, full of anger and hatred, which is further aggravated when Jex says that in him, he sees a mirror of himself.

9. In his anger, the Doctor drags Jex out of the town, across the line. He even points a gun at him, which is very uncharacteristic of him, and reminiscent of his ruthless treatment of Solomon in the previous episode. But Amy intervenes, with a gun of her own which she keeps shooting accidentally. "Everyone who isn't an American, drop your gun!" Isaac remarks. This episode is full of great dialogue. Here, when the Doctor tries to tell Amy that he wants to honour the victims of all the people he saves because of his mercy, Amy responds and tells him that they have to be better than this, and this is what happens when he travels without companions for too long. Amy reminded me a lot of Donna at this point, who too realized that the Doctor needs to be around people to stop him from going into the grim places of his personality, which let's face it are v.v.v. grim indeed.
10. The Doctor realizes his mistake of course, but by the time he tells Jex to come back, the Gunslinger has arrived already and is about to shoot when Isaac comes in the way and gets hit instead. Ben Browder, who played Isaac, was really good. As I read in a review, he tried doing his best "Josh Brolin" :P His character was strong and kind and as he lies dying in the Doctor's arms, he tells him that both he and Jex are good men. He dies making the Doctor the marshall, and then the Doctor makes Amy his deputy.
11. One thing I will say negatively about this episode is that Rory barely has any role or lines in it. Boo.
12. The Gunslinger then gives the Doctor an ultimatum, till noon the next day, to hand Jex over otherwise he will show no mercy to anyone.
13. The scared townsfolk want to give in and they all come to demand the Doctor to fulfill the Gunslinger's demands, but the Doctor tries to show them how this will be against Isaac's wishes and his death would thus prove futile. Still one boy tries to engage the him in a gun duel, but he manages to pacify him and says one of my favourite quotes from the episode, "Violence doesn't end violence, it extends it."

14. The best part of this episode is definitely the character of Jex and closely he resembles the Doctor's. Even the quote above can be used to define all of the Doctor's existence in one way. Adrian Scarborough does a splendid job with this role, showing the guilt and self-hatred and bitterness and goodness still of this character. His chemistry with Matt Smith is brilliant, and both the actors play off each other very well, as their characters demand it. When the Doctor says that for Jex, Isaac's death would be another casualty in his "endless, bloody war", it literally echoed Madame Kovarian in series 6's "A Good Man Goes to War" in which she says that Melody Pond is their weapon in "the endless, bitter war" against the Doctor. Jex's goodness is a way to compensate all the destruction he has caused. He bitterly provokes the Doctor saying, "It would be so much simpler if I was just one thing, wouldn't it? The mad scientist who made that killing machine, or the physician who has dedicated his life to serving this town. The fact that I'm both... bewilders you." But then he tries to explain how he is very affected by all the evil he has done in his life, by telling him of a belief of his people about how when one dies, they have to carry the souls of all who they've wronged and Jex is scared of death because of the burden he would have to carry.
15. All these things completely reflect back on the Doctor. He is exactly all these things too. His said burden is perhaps the biggest in the universe, even moreso because he understands why. As Jex then comments, "We all carry our prisons with us. Mine is my past, yours is your morality." This obviously is a food for thought, because very often we see the Doctor stuck between trying to save everyone, but having to choose the more righteous side, and then hating himself over his mercy.

16. The Doctor then gets a plan to trick the Gunslinger and save Jex. At this juncture I will stop with the storyline (GO WATCH IT!) and just say that whatever happens redeems both the Gunslinger and Isaac and all ends well in the town of Mercy.

          As I said, the look of this episode is to die for, with all the scenic beauty of a true mid-western town from the 19th century. Along with that, Murray Gold's score is excellent and adds much to the atmosphere. The ultimate winners of this episode are Whithouse, Scarborough and Smith. Whithouse wrote a superb tale that shows us the lengths of the Doctor's sense of justice and morality code. The characters were all shades of grey, especially Jex, brought so wonderfully to life by Scarborough. He got voted as a character and not a monster by the BBC website, something I completely agree with. We cannot call him a monster because of how much he and the Doctor are alike.

             And of course Matt Smith is amazing in this episode. His range, from being the bumbling idiot in the saloon to someone who very well deserves titles such as "the Oncoming Storm" or "the Predator". He brings out both the light and the dark in the Doctor. His hurt and disgust at seeing his crimes in Jex's ship, his anger at Jex, his grief at Isaac's death, his weariness at listening to Jex's all-too-familiar tale- all the facets are shown equally and expertly by Smith. Gillan too is very good and we just continue to be scared about what will finally drive her away from the Doctor after two episodes (gasp!).

        An outstanding episode, "A Town Called Mercy" has definitely become on of my favourite Doctor Who episodes ever and is the best one of the series for me so far.

         Next week, we see things from the perspective of the part-time time travelers, the one and only Ponds in "The Power of Three". Not just Amy and Rory, but Brian is back too! Also UNIT has returned. Oooh.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Mini Reviews- Margaret, 2 Days in New York, Bachelorette

          The theme for this set of mini-reviews is the one and only New York City. Specifically women out and about in NYC.

Margaret (Dir: Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)

Basic plot- A well-to-do and outspoken teenager, Lisa Cohen, witnesses a horrific bus accident that she partly blames herself for. As she comes to terms with that and how to deal with it, she also has to handle her relationships with both of her divorced parents. A flawed but brilliant coming of age story.

           It is not easy to write a synopsis of a movie like Margaret. I was half-tempted to write "teenage girl stuff" to describe it, even though the exact situations that Lisa finds herself into isn't what happens to most of us. Margaret is a frustrating yet beautiful look into the mind of a young person who is coming to find out the realities of this world, and her path to disillusionment about it and herself. It is also about the various cultures and classes of people that live in a place like New York, the discrepancies in the justice system and is also a family drama about a broken one. But mostly, it is one of the best coming of age tales that I have ever seen. We see how this girl continues making mistakes and having loud obnoxious arguments, but we also see how the accident and her guilt about her actions affect her. I called it frustrating because I found it very hard to both like and dislike this character. Lisa is almost completely the opposite of me, but I still "got" her. One of my most favourite parts of the movie was when she is talking about her feelings over the victim of the accident Monica, who is played by Allison Janney in a brief byt heart-shattering scene, to Monica's friend Emily, played by an equally brilliant Jeanie Berlin, which causes her to lash out at Lisa- "Because... this isn't an opera! And we are not all supporting characters to the drama of your amazing life!" That one line for me was what this whole movie was about. Yes, Lisa is self-centered, but so is everyone else and it is very difficult not to be that. I feel that Margaret is about Lisa discovering that there is a world outside of herself, and how to live with that and in that.

            Yes that is a bit of too much for a mini-review, but again, Margaret is that kind of a movie that just goads one to talk on and on about it. Also I saw it during my pre-20-imaginary-drama-phase, so it ended up reducing me to a bundle of emotions. One of the biggest reasons why it succeeds in doing that is because of its excellent cast, led by a very young-looking Anna Paquin. Paquin disappears into the role of Lisa. Her anger, her innocence, her bitchiness, her disappointment- everything. Completely marvelous job. She is aided by other fine actors like J. Smith-Cameron who plays Lisa's actress mother who is going through her own life problems, Matt Damon, Rory Culkin, Mark Ruffalo, Jean Reno, Matthew Broderick, John Gallagher Jr. and Lonergan himself, who plays Lisa's father. Still despite all these amazing aspects, one cannot deny the fact that it is a very clunky movie. All the elements of Lisa's life and those around her don't gel as well as they should. There are scenes that have no reason to be there; some feel too long and some too short. The whole setting of New York is very scenic to look at though. Because of all these pluses and minuses, Margaret is an impossible film to rate, but quite easy to love and appreciate and spend hours thinking over.

Rating- n/a

2 Days in New York (Dir: Julie Delpy, 2012)

Basic Plot- Marion is now in a relationship with Mingus, and in the event of her art show opening, invited her Parisian family to their house in New York for a weekend. The cultural clash, Marion's show and subsequent selling of her soul test the strength of their relationship over these two days.

        A sequel to her delightful 2007 film, 2 Days in Paris, Julie Delpy's alter-ego Marion is a sweet, neurotic character that once again has to juggle her boyfriend, this time played by Chris Rock and not Adam Goldberg, and her crazy French family consisting of her jovial but at times inappropriate father played by Delpy's own father, Albert Delpy, her overtly sexual sister Rose, played by Alexia Landeua and Rose's current boyfriend Manu, played by Alexander Nahon, who was one of Marion's ex-flames. Mingus is often made very uncomfortable by this band of outsiders, so as to speak, and this starts to put strain on his otherwise normal relationship with Marion. One of the most endearing elements of the film is when Mingus discusses his problems with a cut-out of President Barack Obama in his office. Another more thematically cool concept shown is Marion selling off her soul as part of her show and then trying to buy it back from the very surprising buyer.

          Still with these ideas, 2 Days in New York somewhat fails when it comes to execution. 2  Days in Paris focused more on just the relationship between these two really different people, but Delpy in 2 Days in New York brings in a lot more but isn't able to fit it all together very well. I also felt that the setting of Paris in the first movie ended up having more charm than this more foreign setting of New York. It is obviously a very personal work for her because like her character Marion in the movie, she too had recently lost her mother and we see how this affects the character, and possibly Delpy herself. The supporting characters have their funny moments and I really love the dad. Delpy is definitely the best in show, her high point being the conversation that she has with a reputed critic about her art. All in all, a fun watch.

Rating- 6.5/10

Bachelorette (Dir: Leslye Headland, 2012)

Basic Plot- The B-Faces consisting of the icy queen bee Regan, junkie rock-n-roll chick Gena, the ditzy blonde redhead Katie and their sweet but overweight friend Becky were the shit in high school in the 90s. Cut to the present day, Becky is the first one getting married, much to the chagrin of the rest of the prettier though bitchier gang and when they all get together for the bachelorette party the night before the wedding, all hell breaks lose in the form of a torn wedding gown. While trying to figure out how to mitigate the situation and have the maximum fun in the process, they also have to come to terms with their past and present personas.

        First up, let me just say that I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS MOVIE! It is everything I wanted Bridesmaids to be. No I am not comparing; I'm just saying that when I went to watch that, I was expecting this. Hell, I still argue that Bridesmaids should have been called 'Bridesmaid' instead. Now Bachelorette gives us bridesmaids- crazy, confused, coke-snorting, high-school-bitchy, awesome bridesmaids in the form of Regan, Gena and Katie. This film is like Mean Girls grown up, but still holding on to their teenage selves. Yes it is loud and vulgar, but the amount of depth that these characters still manage to show is outstanding.

           The three B-Faces is played by Kirsten Dunst as Regan, Lizzy Caplan as Gena and Isla Fisher as Katie. The first time I saw the movie (I have seen it twice because that is how much I love it!), Caplan's Gena stood out the most because of her monologue on blowjob-scale to a fellow passenger on a plane, her struggles with her ex-boyfriend Clyde, played by the uber-adorable Adam Scott, and just coming to terms with how her "life is a concert she never liked". In many ways hers is the most obvious arc and Caplan is both hilarious and heartbreaking in her role. But the second time round, I noticed how absolutely brilliant the roles and performances of Dunst and Fisher were as well. Dunst's bitchface is a thing to be worshipped. I loved her need for efficiency and her total badassery at getting things done. And like Lisa in Margaret, I understood why she was the way she was. Finally Fisher, who is the most underrated of all of them, has a beautiful vulnerability to her role, which is probably the saddest of them all. She is really funny, but is possibly the most messed up one too. Splendid work done by all three.

         Other actors were really good too. Rebel Wilson was funny and quite likable as Becky, which people will argue is not a word to throw loosely around in this film. Meh, I liked/loved everyone. I already adore Scott from Parks and Recreation and his character is sort of pathetic and charismatic at the same time, which makes him my favourite one outside of the three girls. James Marsden played the best man and the male alter-ego of the driven Regan and their bathroom um, rendezvous is very amusing. Kyle Bornheimer plays the very sweet Joe, who has been love with Katie since he sold her pot in high school. Also, this film has my favourite kissing scene of the year so far. Headland based the movie on her 2010 play of the same name, and her dialogue and an honest look into such women, which is further perfected by equally genuine performances, makes this film a joyous riot to watch. Hell, it is practically flawless for me, except a little bit at the end when Dunst and Wilson chant "Fuck everyone" which just irks me to no end. 

Rating- 9.5/10