The Last Voyage of the Demeter
The Last Voyage of the Demeter feels like a movie from a different era. To a point, it is—writer Bragi Schut first drafted his adaptation of the 'Log of the "Demeter"' sequence in Bram Stoker's Dracula in the early 2000s. It's a capital letters Hollywood Creature Feature—a grimmer straight horror cousin to 2004's action/horror hybrid Van Helsing. At its best, it's an admirably gnarly monster flick—bolstered by sturdy craft from director André Øvredal and consistently good performances from a game ensemble. At its worst, it loses confidence and resorts to bumbling attempts to guide its audience by the hand—most notably in its prologue and epilogue. Continue Reading →
The say goes: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But they forgot a couplet: fool me three times, I’ve just watched The Happening. Continue Reading →
Boys With Toys
A project that director/co-writer Barry Levinson had been working on for over a decade before it emerged in theaters in 1992—at one point, it had been planned as his directorial debut before he turned to Diner (1982) instead—Toys offered viewers a mélange of holiday sentiment, strident anti-war satire and the sometimes-unholy combination of schmaltz and schtick that marked the typical Robin Williams performance of the time, all produced on a budget high enough to outstrip the GNP of actual countries. There's no reason on Earth to think that such a bizarre combination would have worked, and Toys' eventual critical and commercial failure would seemingly confirm that it didn't. And yet, while I concede that the film as a whole is a mess—it is an undeniably intriguing mess with just enough moments of genuine brilliance to help get through the rougher and clumsier passages, of which there are more than a few. Continue Reading →
Writing with Fire
Across the rugged state of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India, a team of women journalists is bustling. Khabar Lahariya (‘Waves of News’), India’s only women-run newspaper, takes its responsibility to the community very seriously. These dynamic women are out amongst the people, documenting their stories, sharing them, and seeking answers on their behalf, often at great personal risk. Continue Reading →
I must admit something upfront: I am incapable of fairly reviewing a Tom Hanks movie. I simply love him too much. Not in a thirst Tweet way, but rather in an “America’s Dad” way. I would trust him to sell me a car, even if he had never sold a car before in his life. He simply cannot do any wrong in my eyes. While it’s true that Hanks hasn’t appeared in a film that, on its own merits, was more than just “fine” since 2013’s Captain Phillips, even his recent work remains at least watchable, thanks to the warmth and humanity he brings to every performance. So too does he in Finch, Miguel Sapochnik’s sci-fi drama that wins no points for originality, but still works, thanks (T. Hanks?) to its star. Continue Reading →
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
The characters in Mira Nair’s films walk along a knife’s edge of great change. On one side: what was; on the other: what could be. In Mississippi Masala, a young woman of Ugandan Indian heritage and a Black American man fall in love, a relationship that causes a scandal among the conservative in both communities. In Monsoon Wedding, the chaos of a gigantic Indian wedding teases out familial secrets about infidelity and abuse. And in The Namesake, a married couple who are practically strangers move from India to America and start a life together, adapting to the strange rhythms of a new country and each other. Continue Reading →
In order to successfully adapt a beloved novel for the screen, a filmmaker must interpret the story in a way that both expresses their unique directorial vision and faithfully renders the original narrative. Mira Nair’s adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Namesake achieves this challenge beautifully, harmonizing with the novel while shining as a deeply touching classic in its own right, resonating both with audiences who have read and loved the book as well as those who are new to it. Continue Reading →
Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love
When it comes to matters of sex and desire, there are two Indias: One is the ‘land of the Kama Sutra’—the book on the art of love and lovemaking—where temples are intricately adorned with sculptures performing acrobatic-yoga sex. The other is the land that looks away from this heritage and has not only proudly adopted Victorian attitudes to everything carnal but is also violent in its defense of this misguided notion about “true Indian culture”. It is no wonder then that it breeds a sexually repressed (over)population. Continue Reading →
If you want to know everything about the past, present, and future of America, watch a presidential election unfold. If you want to know the same about India, attend an Indian wedding. Indian weddings are, by and large, a microcosm of the ‘state of the nation’ that culminates in the communion not just of two people, but two entire families. Monsoon Wedding, Mira Nair’s fifth theatrical feature, is a multi-generational epic centered around a single Indian wedding and uses the setting to examine class structures, closeted skeletons, and an oncoming cultural identity crisis of India amid globalization and the emergence of a new generation. Continue Reading →
For a nation that produces hundreds of films a year in a multitude of languages, India’s presence at the Academy Awards is almost shockingly muted. India has submitted films every year since 1957, where K. Asif’s epic melodrama Mother India scored a nomination but lost to Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria. Since then, only two other films made it to the ceremony: Mira Nair’s 1988 debut feature Salaam Bombay! and Ashutosh Gowariker’s 2001 cricket drama Lagaan. That’s three films over six decades, with no nominations since 2001. Continue Reading →
ఎక్స్ట్రా ఆర్డినరీ మ్యాన్
Ireland’s good-natured paranormal rom-com is uneven in spots but makes up for it with charm & wit.
Romantic comedies are a nice escape from the real world, mostly because they in no way reflect what the real world actually looks like. Everyone’s thin and gorgeous (even though the audience is supposed to buy them as plain and dowdy), with exciting careers that allow them to afford loft apartments in Manhattan. Most love stories with “regular” looking characters in non-glamorous jobs have touches of pathos to them, like John Hughes’ Only the Lonely or Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty. Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s Extra Ordinary is the rare lighthearted rom-com featuring normal, relatable characters who fall in love not because a cruel world pushed them together, but because they just happened to be the right person for each other. That it also involves ghost hunting and virgin sacrifice is merely a bonus.
Rose (Irish comedian Maeve Higgins) is a lonely driving instructor, and the daughter of paranormal investigator Vincent Dooley (Risteard Cooper), whose videos on the science and lore of the supernatural are featured throughout the film. Rose inherited Vincent’s ability to communicate with the dead, but gave up the family business after Vincent was killed in an accident involving a bus and a haunted pothole. Hapless widower Martin Martin (Barry Ward) hires Rose for driving lessons under false pretenses -- he really needs help with the ghost of his late wife, Bonnie, who mostly bullies him from beyond the grave about what shirts to wear, and when to pay taxes.
Though their attraction to each other is immediate (Martin is thoughtful enough to show up for his driving lesson with a sandwich, juice box, and single breath mint for Rose), Rose wants nothing to do with his spooky situation. She gives in only when Martin’s teenage daughter, Sarah (Emma Coleman) appears to become possessed. It’s not Bonnie who’s possessing Sarah, however - she’s under a spell cast by has-been rock star Christian Winter (Will Forte). Christian has made a pact with the Devil, agreeing to sacrifice a virgin in exchange for his next album becoming a hit. Falling in love along the way, Rose and Martin, who turns out to be an excellent conduit for exorcising ghosts, team up to rescue Sarah before Christian can complete his end of the deal. Continue Reading →