Grant

Capsule Review

Grant was an admirable figure: animalistic in his approach to earning a victory for the Unions in the Civil War – a noble war, fought to limit expansion of slavery from only seven states, he followed up the win by becoming the 18th President of the United States. Although, he wasn’t as remarkable of a President as he was a military general, Grant’s morality was always in the right direction; he was an honest figure, he had good military strategy and the remarkability doesn’t stop there – Grant was actually made leader of a battlefield because there wasn’t anyone within sight in the military, with a West Point background. The book is not heavily reliant on analysis, trusting original letters and other such materials instead to do the talking of a very unlikely hero. It’s an important piece of biographical work for the little details into an inspiring military general’s life, from the measly breakfast he ate of cucumber in vinegar during a battle to his raging problems with alcohol.

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Napping Princess

Hirune Hime Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari poster.jpeg
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Capsule Review

Cast: Mitsuki Takahata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Arata Furata, Yosuke Eguchi, Hideki Takahashi and Rie Kugimiya
Director: Kenji Kamiyama
Rating: 9/10

Every once in a while a film comes around, which manages to act as the perfect blend of technology and dreamlike adventures: Napping Princess is all of that perfectly. In the film, the protagonist Kokone (Morikawa) is always having these dreams of an alternate world called Heartland – her ordinary existence in school comes to an end, when her father gets arrested; Kokone with her friend, Morio then dangerously try to save him. Soon it’s quite evident her dreams are something like a bizarrely assorted reflection of everything the young kid is all about. Kenji Kamiyama (from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex fame) weaves a high-flying tale that surprisingly leaves no room for any plot potholes – everything comes together brilliantly, and the scattered bittersweet moments in the film are unmissable too.

Mother!

Mother!2017.jpg
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Capsule Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Rating: 7/10

Mother! is a remarkable film. There is this ‘Poet’ (Javier Bardem) and the woman he created, the ‘Mother’ (Jennifer Lawrence), who is married to him, loves him and the two eventually even have sex, following which the Mother gives birth to a son but everything in the script doesn’t have so much of a relatively tranquil atmosphere. The brilliance of the movie is that it switches from light romance (which Lawrence emotes evocatively) to horror and then to utter tragedy.

Separate stories seem rather abruptly stitched with each other, at times in Mother!: for example, when the Mother tries to protect her infant, she fails – in the end, her son is brutally killed by the Poet’s fans, post his fans performing solemn ceremonies around him; the fans, who normally exhibit extremely loony behavior such as stealing objects from the pair to act as mementos, are around the two because of this book the Poet’s just published, which he finally manages to do when he finds out he’s going to have a baby – the thought of which makes the Poet overjoyed. This puzzle-like approach to storytelling by Darren Aronofsky makes for a bumpy-ride of mental adjustments sometimes, because everything moves so fast – a good handful of mini-stories juggernaut around before the overarching brilliant theme of the film (comprising of the three dramatic forms) manages to shine through.

After losing her son, Mother willingly gives up her love (well, what is left of it!) for the Poet, at his asking, and he rather quite brutally replaces her with another entirely new woman, another Mother, but who seems to be not very much different from the previous Mother. The movie is quite unique to begin with – a crystal placed in a frame turns a charred house into a temple-like home, an eerie romantic-tragedy but it works rather superfluously.

Baadshaho

Ajay Devgn's Baadshaho.JPG
By T-Series / Vertex Motion Pictures, Link

Capsule Review

Cast: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Esha Gupta
Director: Milan Luthria
Rating: 3/5

Baadshaho revolves around a prospective robbery: in 1975, a Maharani from one of Rajasthan’s many princely states’ afraid she is about to say goodbye to her gold, post losing her privy purse – a payment made to lower families in India, who previously use to rule but had permitted India to be (intact). To calm her fears, the Maharani ropes in Bhavani, her bodyguard, to protect the kingdom’s jewels under threat from a politician, Sanjeev (Priyanshu Chatterjee), seemingly from the Gandhi family; the Maharani’s enmity with Sanjeev is at its height during this time of Emergency.

The dashing Bhavani (Ajay Devgn) has to work with a smooth goon, Dalia (Emraan Hashmi) and Sanjana (Esha Gupta) to protect his helpless Maharani, who he harbours romantic intentions for, as well. Esha Gupta’s character, even though absorbing, was not as elaborate as it should have been – Sanjana works with Bhavani and Dalia because she is very grateful to the Maharani and spends some time romancing Dalia too but it largely seems a character wasted on cinematic opportunity, in part because she has to share screen-space with a Maharani, who is bent on (pathetically) not doing much other than playing a damsel in distress.

A caper follows, in pursuit of the pot of gold, where Bhavani fights to snatch away the army truck (of gold), going from Rajasthan to Delhi, assigned to a Major Seher Singh to caretake. Baadshaho’s dialogues have a pat angle to it, which is enjoyable and its main plot: the jostle for the gold is done up in a typical Hindustani-avatar (films-wise), which meant it had less depth and more cinematic charisma – depth isn’t what you can expect really from a movie slated to be about the Emergency and instead only utilizes that time bracket effectively with bell bottoms and not much else.

Annecy 2017: Funny animals & an unlikely pair

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

A marvelous animated collaboration inbetween Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert, titled The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales premiered at the 2017 Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France. The film is a collection of short stories comprising of a fox, a duck, a lizard and a stork. The longest story, and by-far the most moving one too, has been allocated to the fox, who one day while out looking for food comes across some baby chicks that he must look after; the fox immediately switches from his major naturalistic desire to eat the chicks, to a loving and doting parent instead.

The other animals have rather equally interesting experiences of their own: a lazy stork hands over the task of delivering a baby to a rabbit, pig and duck and the lizard is a random figure, versed in Mandarin. Humorous and intelligent, the choice of animation for the movie is a mix between sketches and something primarily off the nineties, which makes the film even more of a curiosity to want to appetite. It’s the all-out adventures of a range of funny and neurotic animals running around though, which delivers, each story (complete with a lively music score as an accompaniment) just brilliantly.

Rating: 9/10

A Slient Voice

A Silent Voice is an adaptation of a seven volume manga series into one full feature length film. That thought alone suggests it’s an impossible task but the movie, which also premiered at Annecy (2017),  shouldn’t be expected to be an animated play-by-play of a comic novel because what it is, is a rendition of the key elements of the manga of the same name by Yoshitoki Oima. The movie opens with an attempted suicide by a boy called Shoya Ishida. Shoya tries to take his own life by jumping from a bridge – he’s a bully who in class use to terrify a young deaf and mute girl called Shoko Nishimiya.

Shoya doesn’t have any friends in school because of his bullying ways, and Shoko has a similar disposition herself: she is always at the receiving end of other kids’ jokes. Shoko hopes for forgiveness from Shoya and in pursuit of that the two become friends, and even wooing is thrown into the picture for a very unlikely pair. It’s a relationship filled with hurt, sporadic comic moments fetched by Shoko’s newfound friend, Tomohiro Nagatsuka, but pushed together by loneliness, and yet what is striking throughout it all, is how different Shoya and Shoko are from each other; Shoya can only communicate with the help of sign language, so her life is quiet but the isolation in school for Shoko, makes him look like he’s always yearning for, at least, a chance of redemption for his previous acts and an exit from this prevailing state of quiet loneliness.

Rating: 7/10

Amazing Spring Sounds

Bruno Mars ’24K Magic’

Bruno Mars’ new album is a fresh take on sounds of the nineties – in the R&B department. Inspired by songs from the decade, which Mars classifies as the kind of songs all the girls in school would love to listen to, which he would belt out once upon a time in his life, 24K Magic is a good follow-up to Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010), Unorthodox Jukebox (2012) and his dubious collab Uptown Funk (2014). It’s largely a party anthem, and a glorious party anthem, centered on R&B, which is really hard to find. Expect the expected though, with audacious lyrics and new tracks stylistically springing off hits by Boyz II Men and Michael Jackson.

Rating: 4/5

Harry Styles ‘Harry Styles’

Harry Styles’ debut album, since One Direction went on hiatus, was his one chance to carve out something entirely different: a solo project, which would be just as magical as the songs his band is recognized globally for. A mix of rock – particularly, the Los Angeles rock anthem variety, and ballads, it’s very different material because the music is more mature than before in Harry Styles.

The opening track Meet Me In The Hallway, is expressively about a singer/poet from the 11th-13th centuries who travels to and fro from the south of France to the north of Italy, to entertain the rich + a lot more of similar bases, like the big rock anthem Only Angel, where Harry sings of a woman who’s a devil between the sheets and how he thinks he might just like that he cannot take her home to his mother because she loves to wear mini skirts – fascinating…a really fascinating invented tale in the lyrics for Only Angel.

Everything, surprisingly, is an exploration of rock in the album, as often a departure from a prominent pop band grows into for a young star of Harry Styles’ stature. In fact, this might just be the biggest indication of a conscious switch from pop to rock for the British star but it would have made for an even better album to have the sounds mix with pop, as much as well.

Rating: 4/5

Linkin Park ‘One More Light’

Linkin Park has gone in a brand new direction from the previous amazing genres it had placed itself in as a band – rap metal, alternative metal and alternative rock. The latest album is a cleaner pop adventure, filled with melodies and sounds, which sound more contemporary than before. It’s a shocking move away for the band towards something a lot more experimental but it really is still far greater sounds when the band sticks to what it’s known to do – what it does best, which is brilliantly chart in nu-metal, instead.

Rating: 3/5

 

Celebrating Women Authors

Tales which manage to thrill and entertain

Someday, Someday, Maybe

Franny Banks is nowhere close to living the dreams that brought her to New York: in the mid-nineties, Franny can instead be found in an ad for unpretty festive sweaters and waiting tables. Franny wanted to make it big in Broadway but all the fans she has after nearly two-and-a-half-years at it, are her two friends: Jane and Dan. Because of such minute progress, as would perhaps be common nature in deep waters, Franny finds consolation in simpler thoughts of just moving back in with her ex and leave all of these dreams behind, especially since she’s almost out of money, her agent seems estranged and Franny’s father is at her tails asking her to leave her acting classes and come back home. But Banks cannot bring herself to live out any portion of it because her dreams are valuable to her. Fighting random attention deficits caused by the acting class flirt: James Franklin, who suddenly notices her and holding out on hopes of impressing people who could recruit her, or even just a speaking role, the book is good lighthearted reading on the hopeful journey Banks undertakes to become another Meryl Streep someday.

The Forgotten Room

It is the year 1945 and Dr. Kate Schuyler, practising privately at a Manhattan hospital, discovers a mysterious picture: one of the patients in the hospital, Captain Cooper Ravenel has a tiny portrait where a woman is wearing a ruby pendant passed down to Kate by her mother. Kate and Captain Cooper begin to investigate on the story and in the process of that fall into Olive Van Alan’s life stories during the late 19th century in the the United States of America. Olive, has had an interesting life: bouncing from richness to abject poverty; the duo also encounter Lucy Young, who travelled from Brooklyn to Manhattan during the twenties in search of a father she did not know. I liked the theme of this book and the years of rich history explored through numerous characters’ lives – it’s not so very often that you come across a tale which begins in a timeframe characterized by war but still overwhelmingly portrays people’s lives affected by something other than the war.

The Perfume Collector

Grace Monroe and Madame Eva d’Orsey are two women whose lives intertwine in the most unexpected of ways. Grace is a London socialite in the fifties, married into a world she does not belong in and everyone seems to think so. Madame Eva, on the other hand, is a much older lady who leaves her entire estate to Grace, at the time of her death, even though Grace does not know who she is. But because of that entirely unexpected inheritance, Grace goes to Paris to learn more about Eva, whose life trails from New York to Paris in the twenties; she had also won the heart of a very famous Paris perfumer. Eva’s life is mesmerizing – it was imprinted onto perfumes, three of them, but what is extraordinary in the novel is the mystery inheritance left to a woman, fallen to hard times and her journey to discover more about her generous benefactor, who from the looks of it has had no ordinary life.