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Movies Reviews

Thappad Movie Review – A Slap That Rings Hard

Thappad, directed by Anubhav Sinha, is about one event. A husband slaps his wife in a fit. Big deal, right? “Move on” is what most people in India would say. After all, if it’s the mental conditioning of the majority of women in our country that tells them to swallow their pride and keep pretending to ‘save’ their marriage, even when that marriage has cracks deep within it. It is about an important social message that takes a look at an event that many of us would have experienced first-hand in our lives, and examines it thoroughly. From its social ramifications to the emotional turmoil that follows both man and wife, Thappad takes a brilliant look at both sides in the aftermath of one such event.

Taapsee Pannu plays Amrita, a loving housewife busy enough in the monotony of her life to not complain about it. Her husband Vikram (Pavail Gulati) is similarly busy in his own professional life, seemingly too self-indulgent in his own right. Their marriage appears to be a perfect one. She rushes to feed him breakfast, while he rushes to the office while on a call. It seems typical, right? Well, just hold on to it. This is the routine of their lives. A seemingly mindless routine that no one complains about, and accepts it the way it is. That is of course, before the titular Thappad (slap).

Taapsee Pannu in Thappad
Taapsee Pannu in Thappad

In one intimate, yet an explosive moment, everything changes. I won’t get into many details about how the event comes to be, as I’d rather you find that out yourself when you’re in the theater. But let me just set up the scene in the most basic manner: There’s a party. Guests are all over. The husband is mildly drunk and mad at a workplace incident, and the wife is trying to reign him in. WHACK! In one swift movement of his hand, Vikram has turned Amrita’s world around. The sad part? He doesn’t realize it. Of course, this is just the inciting incident after which a lot of things follow, but just as Anubhav Sinha has intended in his filmmaking style, it’s important to set up the moment meticulously.

I should also add that it’s not just this couple that film and its events followed. Sinha and co-writer Mrunmayee Lagoo have added a bunch of supporting characters whose lives are impacted directly by this event. Whether it be Dia Mirza’s character (a widow) or Geetika Vidya Ohlyan’s breakout role as the housemaid, there are enough characters who’re struggling with their own relationships. Other actors like Ratna Pathak, Tanvi Azmi and Kumud Mishra provide ample emotional support for both of our protagonists.

Pavail Gulati in Thappad
Pavail Gulati in Thappad

Before I get to Taapsee, I have to mention Pavail Gulati’s excellent performance in his first lead performance in a feature. While you’ve probably seen him before in Kalank and Made in Heaven, it’s in Thappad that he’s truly shown his range. Playing the husband who’s almost an antagonist isn’t an easy role, and Gulati has managed to deliver a performance as natural as possible.

Taapsee Pannu is of course as good here as she has been in her other films. It’s quite a change of pace to see her play a more subdued character than say compared to Shabana. With this film, she continues her streak of acting in bold films which aren’t just made for commercial entertainment but has something relevant to say. From playing an obliviously happy wife to someone who takes a stand against the views of men, women, and others in light of her situation,

Taapsee and Pavail in Thappad
Taapsee and Pavail in Thappad

Anubhav Sinha has crafted a film that takes a look into the psyche of society and how it looks upon the relationship between a married couple. And he has done it effortlessly. The film’s side plots run in tandem with the main conflict and add their own unique perspective on the situation at hand.

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Movies Reviews

Paul Movie Review – Underrated, Funny, Outstanding

Paul, directed by Greg Mottola and written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, is about two English geeks, Graeme and Clive, who come to America to attend Comic-Con and explore alleged UFO sighting locations. On their journey, they come across Paul, an alien trapped on Earth for decades. With the government hunting them down, they must get Paul home safe and sound.

Paul
Graeme, Clive and Paul

Paul is fucking hilarious. The humour is what shines the most here. It’s clever and intriguing; not one joke feels out of place or mistimed. But what else do you expect from Pegg and Frost? They know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to comedy. In hindsight, all the jokes are actually childish to an extent, but the film has a very mature core, hence it works. And this contributes to the overall theme; we all need to learn to let go of seriousness in life and occasionally embrace our childish side. The main characters start out as man-children and end up as more mature adults, without letting go of their geeky, nature. There’s even a scene where a child looks at Paul and accepts him and his existence, whereas every adult faints at the first sight of him. This brings me to running jokes. This movie has a few of them and knows precisely how many times they should be brought up. Like I said, Pegg and Frost know what they’re doing. Paul also has a very subtle message of care and humanity. Paul constantly cares for the human characters; he helps them physically, and emotionally and the only reason they succeed is because of care in return for him. It pushes them to get him home safely. But the priority of this film was laughs, it will get loads out of you.

The characters are the second biggest positive here. Paul is filled with extremely likable characters, main and supporting. Starting with the duo from the Cornetto Trilogy, as stated before, they’re man-children who learn to care and mature by the end. And during that journey, they keep us hooked by Pegg and Frost’s smooth and perfect delivery of jokes, appealing screen presence, and enjoyable chemistry. Even the rest of the cast is quite skilled in humour. Ruth Buggs’ (Kristen Wiig) comedy lies mostly in her cursing, but everything she comes up with is so unique and absurd, it works. The film does something special with the antagonistic characters. Everyone who chases the main characters down represents an exaggerated problem America suffers from. For example, Michael Bluth plays the role of the government out to capture an individual just for being different, not committing a crime. Throughout the film, he plays this serious agent on the lookout for Paul. This means his punchlines need to be delicate and sophisticated, and he plays them masterfully. He has some great interplay with the ‘Law Enforcers’ of America; cops played by Barry Berkman and Charles Boyle (who is quite familiar with this, I bet). Paul is also chased down by Ruth’s father, a devoted and almost brainwashed Christian, who tags Paul as the devil at first but by the end labels him the miracle of God. They’re even hunted down by some rednecks played by Todd Packer and Todd Alquist, who make fun of two random guys sitting beside each other for being gay, even though they are the exact same.

Paul
The cops and government agent out to catch Paul

And of course, Paul. He is the most entertaining alien they could create. He represents the mature core mentioned earlier as he constantly helps his friends out by fixing physical impairments and helping them get over their emotional arcs, he doesn’t want to see them get in trouble because of him, and we’re even shown some people he prioritizes before himself. All this ironically makes him more human than alien and that’s where the genius lies. Seth Rogen plays him just like a real person, and that helps us connect with him, contributing to us as viewers being on board with everything the characters do.

Paul
Paul is an alcoholic and addicted to smoking

From a technical standpoint, the film is more impressive than it seems. The direction doesn’t try to have a voice of its own as the makers realize the characters and humour are really what make the movie special. It goes for a very casual tone which seems like the perfect fit for this story. The editing and score work beautifully to hold the emotion of every scene, making it flow seamlessly.

As far as gripes with Paul go, I have very few. The themes of the film could be better realised and prioritised just a bit more. Obviously understandable they wanted to go for laughs, but a few places just feel like they missed the opportunity to make it more solid. The characters, while not surface-level, could stand to come off as a little deeper. Even one more layer of complexity would have made the film much stronger. And having their arcs culminate at the end instead of toward the middle of the film would make for a better experience. But they make up for it by being so enjoyably funny and appealing.

Overall, Paul will absolutely, 100% keep you laughing from the very first scene. The humour shines so brightly in the film that you don’t want it to end. The makers realized that entertaining characters, subtle comedy, and unique charm are needed for this movie to work, and they succeed in giving us just that.

You can stream Paul right here on Netflix.

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Movies Reviews

Game Night Review – Pieces Without a Board

Game Night, directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, is about Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams), a competitive couple who take part in a murder mystery game night hosted by Max’s brother, Brooks. Things take a turn for the worse when unknown to them, the game is intercepted by real criminals.

Game Night
Max and Annie

The pros of Game Night definitely lie in the direction, cinematography and the lead actors. The directors approach this movie with creative energy which they achieve with some really innovative shots. These combine very well with the cinematography to give a unique look to the film, which piques your interest. There are shots where the camera rotates with a door lock keeping it completely still in the frame while everything else moves, and shots with the camera locked to a car door so it moves as the door does. The best example of this is a long take through a mansion towards the end of the second act. You can tell the directors harnessed their creativity into making this look like a one-of-a-kind experience. The tone of the film fits perfectly with the look; self-aware and not too serious. The focus remains on giving us a fun, entertaining affair.  The score is very electronic and game-inspired, adding to the tone of the film. The editing also paces the film quite well and times the jokes so that most of them hit perfectly. It brings the uniqueness of the direction to the forefront, letting us absorb the vision fully.

The lead actors also carry this movie really well, especially Bateman. He delivers the humor in such a subtle manner that you can’t help but laugh. This type of comedy that doesn’t work on paper but does on-screen due to the performances is quite refreshing. It puts into focus how much everyone from the writer to the director to the actor to the editor needs to be on the same wavelength to make comedy work. The subtlety shows that they respect the audience enough to get the joke. McAdams also does a great job, her humorous moments, while not as many as Bateman, are sprinkled throughout and worthy of a laugh. Their chemistry doesn’t drive the film like I would’ve wanted but its still a bright spot. Some of the side actors, namely Jesse Plemons and Billy Magnussen also deliver punchlines quite smoothly. However, while the acting is one of the best elements of the film, the direction is really the standout.

Game Night
The Participants of Game Night

But this direction is more than worthy of this script. Game Night is severely lacking in a solid substance. It’s understandable the focus was on making something entertaining, but it shouldn’t be done at the cost of the substantial matter. Characters are given very basic arcs and development comes more from things they say to each other, rather than action. In fact, the whole film is too plot-driven as opposed to character-driven. This makes it a more surface-level experience than it should have been. For example, Max and Annie’s competitive nature is given a moment of use toward the end, but it doesn’t mean anything to the story, instead it just comes off as a contrivance and they play it for a joke. The method of delivering exposition is almost primitive. Characters will have conversations where they give us the information we need, but they are so obviously tailored for this purpose only, and not in a clever manner.

The whole first act has a very inorganic feel to it, which just draws more attention to the writing. Surprise twists are brought up, but they don’t work as they don’t change the story or put a new spin on it. Instead, they’re forgotten two minutes after being brought up, making them seem pointless overall. The humor also suffers due to the writing. In the context of the pace and tone of the film, subtle humor is the perfect fit, and for the most part, it is achieved due to the actors’ performances. But the script drags so many jokes just a little too long to the point where the subtlety wears off and they just become unfunny. They had something great but ran with it just a bit too far and they lost it.

Game Night
Situations are funny but go on a bit more than needed

The characters of Game Night needed to be more fleshed-out. Max and Annie’s competitiveness is established through a very effective montage. It’s refreshing and well-executed. However, it leads to very little in the overall story. Max’s arc revolves around his lack of confidence due to the envy he has for his brother. This is where his competitiveness stems from and it’s more than a decent idea. It’s set up to be his main problem and constantly brought up throughout the first half, yet everything is resolved by just one small monologue the brother delivers toward the end of the second act. There was an attempt to make Max more courageous and daring after this resolution, but the humor in this portion of the film doesn’t gel with what they were going for. In fact, his wife is the one doing the major impactful action toward the end instead of him, just to play it off as a joke. Jokes are obviously needed in a comedy but not when it’s done at the cost of good character development. It’s too rushed and treated as almost unimportant in the bigger picture. His want and need aren’t interwoven like they should be, making his arc seem too contrived. I’m talking this much about just him as he’s the only one given any amount of weight.

The story moves forward because things happen to the characters, not because they make things happen. It just focuses on what they’re supposed to do instead of why. The subplots don’t really add anything to the movie, other than some laughs, and are more than forgettable. It almost comes off as filler. Characters are just funny, not interesting, even though the actors do their best to portray them on screen. The character of Gary is set up to be an obvious villain but turns out to help in the end. The actual villain is just some guy introduced in the third act. He has been talked about through the movie, but it doesn’t lead up to a big reveal. He just appears. There’s not much of an antagonistic force other than the situation they’re in that can drive the film forward in an interesting manner.

Jesse Plemons as Gary

Overall, Game Night is an amusing experience as it does have some obvious creativity behind the camera, upheld excellently by the talent in front of it. The technical aspects, tone, pacing, score, and overall vision are really solid and special. The directors seriously did more than the best they could with the story and script which was extremely lacking in anything that could be considered noteworthy. This film had all the support to make it great, just nothing to actually support.

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So Bad It's Good

Batman and Robin: An Organized Mess

A film where you take the biggest stars of the 90s, George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Uma Thurman, release it in summer and still create 2 hours and 5 mins worth of a disastrous opus. Yes, we’re talking about Batman and Robin – a summer film, which was a Franchise film lost to Hercules,  Men in Black and the granddaddy of them all – Face/Off (hallelujah!)

Batman and Robin is a movie about dressing up people in order to look cool and showing nipples on a bat suit to make it alluring, I hope, was set to be the DC’s most ambitious movie at that time. It sounds sort of unbelievable that a movie about companionship and the legacy of such a celebrated comic book hero would lose the moral high ground, the box office collection and the storytelling skill to a movie, in which Nicholas Cage is pretending to be John Travolta and vice versa. 

Regardless of what you have heard of Batman and Robin, there a lot of things to learn from the film. Believe it or not, some technical stuff in the movie is genuinely well done. There is another situation in which this movie helps. It helps you in understanding the humor of the absurd, something that TV shows like Rick and Morty do consciously. 

We usually think that Batman vs Superman was started by a comic excerpt. The hype started exactly in 1997 when Batman very easily referenced Superman’s working manners without any studios putting in any cases. 

Honestly, if we can look at this movie as an homage to the 60’s Batman, starring Adam West, this movie can be considered smart. However, Unlike Thor Ragnarök or Kung Fury, this doesn’t even do that. 

So, what makes this movie good in a few aspects. Let’s start with the good parts of this film (yes, there are a few) 

The screenwriter of this film is Akiva Goldsman. Now, that does sound like a relatively common name, doesn’t it? He was a writer for (going from worst to best excluding Batman and Robin) Batman Forever, I, Robot,  I am Legend and the Academy award-winning, Ron Howard directed A Beautiful Mind. 

Some of the dialogues are genuinely very clever, but it suffers from the Riverdale Syndrome. Let me explain, Riverdale has snappy dialogue, but the setting is always wrong. For example,  Jughead making a Silence of the Lambs reference makes sense, as he is a film buff but if Veronica makes reference from movies in any genre from any era, it has no development. 

Similarly, Batman is developed to be a complex character who doesn’t sleep and spends most of his time delivering justice to the city of Gotham, never has it ever been mentioned that his inspirations are Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer. 

Cinematographer, Stephen Goldblatt follows all the rules that need to be followed to make an aesthetic movie and perfectly aligned movie. The movie has a very aesthetic sense of framing and not even once do we feel like the camera handling hasn’t been done by a professional. Yet, because of the acting and the overall Mise-en-scene (no fault of the production designer), the film looks campy and not convincing. 

Image result for Bat nipples

They even hired the most bankable editor in Hollywood for superhero films, Dennis Virkler. Fun fact about this film. It’s the first film to win A Golden Raspberry Award and a Grammy award (which was also a Razzie nomination) 

This film is great if we pay homage to Adam West. The film is great if it wanted people to make spin-offs, funny jabs or even funnier more realistically hilarious movies. However, it was great for the character development of the caped crusader, who feels like an opening act to Sunil Pal. 

Like how Roger Ebert said, it went for the “toy-ic approach”. However, I disagree. I feel like I wouldn’t let any 3-year olds be around such toys and ruin his/her imagination forever. I want kids to like Batman, our generation was lucky to have both Nolan and Schumacher within a span of around 8 years. 

Staying in the technical realm, the best thing about Batman and Robin is its production design. Granted that it’s campy and over the top, but Barbara Ling stayed true to the vision of the film which was either made by the producers or the director. Either she was able to get the vision properly or the ecstasy trip that she had lasted a bit longer than she expected (if that is the case, please find me her number) but either way it worked. 

Now we pull out the big guns. 

A lot of the material has been taken from the animated series, or at least they tried, but they forgot to take the most important things from the animated series, the brilliant art, the compelling characters, and a genuinely good batman story. Also, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong. But I guess I can’t blame them for that. 

Let’s start with the highest-paid actor of Batman and Robin. Not Batman, not Robin, not even the best Part about Pulp fiction and Kill Bill, but Ice Terminator. 

Ice Terminator/ Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze in Batman and Robin
Ice Terminator/ Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze

Ice terminator is the world’s most complex character ever written. More complex than John Nash from a beautiful mind. In A Beautiful Mind, John Nash copes with his sadness with the help of Mathematics. In Batman and Robin, the Ice Terminator uses ice puns to not melt his icy heart. After his wife is suffering from some Irish Syndrome, (which I feel like only happens after drinking their beer) our Ice Man starts curing her and suddenly meets with an accidentHowever, unlike the terminator, he falls in cold lava and lo and behold the Ice Terminator. (Is this much Ice okay for the recognition, Google?) 

Now people can say whatever they want to about the film, but I feel like George Clooney is the perfect Casting for Bruce Wayne. However, I feel like the Producers felt like he wasn’t even fit to play Batman. Let me elaborate, the most Iconic dialogue of the caped crusader is his introduction. He uses it with great levels of intimidation. It’s probably as Iconic as James Bond’s introduction and the, “We are gonna need a bigger boat” line. But the moment we hear Clooney say, “I am Batman”, we have Arnold in the frame who I guess after reading the previous Rant you would know, is not the fucking Batman. I just feel like the producers wanted to Jizz off to Arnold, so they put him in all the iconic shots where, you know, he wasn’t even supposed to be. They were so obsessed with him that back then if I pitched the idea of the movie “Locke” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be writing this review on an Acer laptop, but would rather be in a mansion and living the Shah Rukh Khan life in Om Shaanti Om, or his life in general. 

And don’t get me wrong. I am one of the biggest Arnold fans out there. It’s just a tad bit disappointing that after doing several classics he ended up doing this and ever since this film he has hardly done any concepts that he became famous for. 

Also, they used George Clooney very poorly. From his, “I am Batman” to “I trust you, Alfred” all looked like a courtesy lick. 

Image result for batman and robin

Remember the complex character Bane from The Dark knight rises? Remember how he meant something? Remember how for a short period of time we rooted for him? Remember how broke the soul of Batman? Well fuck that, cos this a dumbed-down version of Bane which could’ve easily Given George Lucas the idea of Jar Jar Binks or Ang Lee the idea of Hulk, or Imtiaz Ali the Idea of Love Aaj Kal 2( yes I am going to use the number 2, its not anything like the first) .

Bane in Batman and Robin
Bane in Batman and Robin

Chris O’ Donnel plays a try-hard annoying version of Matt Damon from Talented Mr. Ripley. I am shocked that the Ice terminator’s wife didn’t catch this Irish Syndrome. Moving on. 

Uma Thurman has the weirdest graph possible with her filmography. She went from Pulp fiction to Batman and Robin to The Avengers (the other one) to Kill bill. I kid you not, it forms “u” in terms of a graph. She was by far the best part of this film. Unlike the rest of the characters, her puns come after a kill or an action. She gives a very Total Recall vibe, while Schwarzenegger after killing says the iconic, “Consider that a divorce” unlike in this film, where he cracks the ice puns like, “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice age.” in between a fucking fight. 

Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin
Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin

The most confused character in the entire film has to be Alicia Silverstone who plays, Batgirl/Alfreds niece/Nightrider/Bruce Wayne hater/Bruce Wayne lover/Equal rights activist/ men hater… wait, what? Oh yeah, I remember. Towards the end of the film, she starts dissing all the men she has ever experienced except for her Uncle Alfred. I guess the producers had just gotten to know about the Bechdel-Wallace test exactly when 90% of the film was done and they realized they could pander to a larger audience. 

Before reaching the conclusion, I would like to point out the reason or the scene where I stopped taking the movie seriously. When the Ice Terminator can’t get a very important Gem, a very valuable gem from the hands of Batman and Robin, he calls out his Arctic Monkeys (yes literally) and they come with their Hockey sticks and within 2 mins this Gem becomes a hockey puck, and every actor on set starts Acting like they are auditioning for Chak De! India. And in a few scenes, I could actually suggest the filmmakers see how smooth the hockey scenes go. Just like Chak De.  A Superhero film. Like Chak de. Yeah, it’s understandable why  George Clooney still apologizes for Batman and Robin.

Image result for chak de india

In conclusion, I would like to say that Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote had more evil plans as compared to the aforementioned Antagonists. At least in Looney Tunes, the end goal is to either kill the bunny or kill the roadrunner. Whereas, here the main goal is to bring equilibrium and care about the environment. So, the next time you watch this movie (which you will, I know it), ask yourself this one question, Are they the bad guys or is Batman the bad guy? Or are you? 

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Anime Reviews

Your Name (Kimi No Nawa) Movie Review – Love Pulls Through

Your Name, written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, tells the story of Mitsuha, a high school village girl, and Taki, a high school city boy, who inexplicably begin to swap bodies. The film is extraordinary in the concept itself, and its execution elevates it to one of the finest films ever made.

The Different Lives of Mitsuha and Taki in Your Name
The Different Lives of Mitsuha and Taki

The story of Your Name, as mentioned, is extremely unique. A body swap romance is something never even heard of, let alone done, and done so well. It is emotionally gripping, to the point of making the entire experience feel completely real and convincing; barely a moment where you doubt anything. The film presents a world where we are kept apart from what we want, and the only way to get through is pure, unencumbered drive for it. The characters are constantly facing obstacles in their pursuit to find each other and their quest to just be happy. At the midpoint when they finally decide to find each other, they stop swapping bodies, almost like the universe doesn’t want them to be together. This happens at every turn in the film, to the point where their actual meet-up feels like a massive load of your chest. The concept of body-swapping in itself is special and it’s thrust even higher by manipulating time. We find out Mitsuha’s life takes place three years before Taki’s (Another major obstacle for them). This leads to him finding out she might have died in the comet strike three years ago making him question all his experiences till now; was it all a dream? The film also keeps hinting at this idea, making us question everything as well, even though we don’t want to. It adds to its world by saying we can only dream about happiness in this nihilistic world. And even though it ends with them succeeding in finding love, this event adds another element to its philosophy which makes it even more interesting. The midpoint of Your Name adds a great mystery to the story, inducing genuine curiosity in finding out what happens next. It’s another small way of pulling us into the film. Everything until now was so involving that when Mitsuha is revealed to be alive, it’s almost like you can breathe again.

The concept of ‘Musubi’ is a motif in Your Name; A representation of God and the flow of time. I see this as building up the ideology of the film further with the concept of fate. We know that it’s their drive for love that gets them together in the end, but was it the drive that changed fate altogether, or did fate change itself seeing how committed they were to each other? The film gives you much to ponder over. The idea of love always finding a way, destiny aligning itself for you if you want it enough, and the added element of making you question everything so far toward the middle, all makes for an exceptionally well-thought-out story.

Mitsuha and Taki

The characters are the life-force of Your Name. Mitsuha and Taki both want to find each other as they need to fill a missing hole in their lives with something, or someone. They dream about this frequently, as is set up in the opening. Taki is a city boy who resides in Tokyo leading a modern, 21st-century life. Mitsuha lives in a smaller, more traditional town built in the crater left by a millennium-old meteor. A classic example of how different their lives are is shown by their concept of a café. For Taki, it’s a high-class restaurant with extravagant and expensive dishes that look like art pieces. For Mitsuha a café is simply having coffee on a bench beside a vending machine. It’s simple yet when combined with the need of the characters furthers the message of the film; despite the lives we lead, our emotions can be the same as that’s what really matters in life. Through a brilliant intercut sequence in the first half, their want to find out about this new person in their life is established. This very naturally blossoms into wanting to find each other to fulfill their need throughout the second half. The first half induces a genuine curiosity by presenting this unique body-swapping concept, both in the characters and the viewer, supporting their realism which is why we are on board with them in their quest through the second half. It gives both of them emotional moments so that we don’t feel as if only one is the protagonist who we’re supposed to side with (Marriage Story, anyone?).

The events of the plot lead to furthering character arcs in a satisfying manner. For example, only after Taki goes on a date with someone, that is set up by Mitsuha when she’s in his body, does he realize that he wants to be with her. This sets his quest to find her in motion, unraveling the mystery of the timelines and the comet. Only when they switch again after all this and Mitsuha sees his efforts, does she accept her passion for him as well. Which leads to an immensely character-driven climax. This sequence and these characters in Your Name represent the possibility of love pulling through in a world set up to be filled with trials and tribulations. Taki and Mitsuha fully accept their feelings, even forgetting who the other person is to an extent, furthering the ‘love finds a way’ concept. I see both character’s friend’s as fate helping them out a little, seeing how committed they are to help them.

Mitsuha's Friends in Your Name (Kimi No Nawa)
Mitsuha’s Friends

Every action they take is purely to fulfil their need in life. Taki leaves his entire life in the first world city just to travel all the way and meet her. Mitsuha finally confronts her father whom she has a strained relationship with to evacuate the town so she can meet Taki in the future. Finally, the body-swapping in Your Name genius as it achieves two major goals for the story. It lets Mitsuha and Taki experience another person’s life completely different from their own, filling the missing hole in their life. And two, on a more physical level, when they’re finding each other while swapped, in a sense they’re looking for their own body. This implies that their quest to find each other can also be seen as a quest to find themself, working toward filling that hole in their life and how similar or ‘soulmate-like’ they are.

Makoto Shinkai’s direction is perfect. Every second in Your Name is dedicated to pulling you into the story, whether it is through gorgeous animation, humor unique to Japanese anime or pure emotional and visual storytelling. Every tiny detail in the film aims to make these two seem like real people. From their actions, reactions, and relationships. The animation style lends to this brilliantly. In so many sequences the camera moves like its handheld, giving a feel of real life, yet the animation provides an aesthetic beauty that can only be achieved in this art form.  It achieves realism without photorealism. The choice of hand-drawn animation feels human, furthering this authenticity. Visual motifs are quite prominent. Every door slides open when they are a step closer to finding each other, and slides shut when they move a step back, for example when they stop switching for two whole weeks. Mitsuha’s string is the most notable connective tissue they share, it being the only physical object they possess at different times and that alerts each other of their presence. The score is also immensely gripping. It not only captures but heightens the emotions we need to feel, especially in the climax. The final 20 minutes of the film are the most captivated by a movie I have felt in a while, from an emotional standpoint. The struggles they face in this sequence are really brought to the forefront, escalating from racing against the clock to a whole town being destroyed. The comet represents the final obstacle they must overcome in order to fulfill their want and need. It’s a situation where they must race against the clock and a situation of life and death. You are on the edge of your seat and your eyes are watering throughout. Even though they have met, it doesn’t absolve the burden completely, as the goal was to be together. The film fully drains your emotions to the last drop in the final moments, where Mitsuha and Taki keep running into each other but don’t meet despite them feeling something, as they’ve forgotten. It implies that even if everything disappears, love cannot.

String as a motif in Your Name (Kimi No Nawa)
Love Finds A Way

Your Name takes you on an emotional roller-coaster. It pulls you in, gives you an unforgettable experience and leaves you with more than plenty to think about and feel. It is an emotionally draining experience but in the best way possible.

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Movies Reviews

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) Review

Birds of Prey was conceived along with a bunch of other DC projects right after Suicide Squad’s smash success, especially with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. The character made her first live-action appearance in the David Ayer’s 2016 ensemble. While Suicide Squad itself saw mixed reviews at best, DC was confident in keeping Harley around for future spinoffs like a Harley & Joker, Gotham City Sirens and Birds of Prey. So when Robbie personally pushed for Birds of Prey to get made, it piqued my interest. I’ve only known about the property a little, having never read much of those comics.

To say that Birds of Prey exceeded my expectations is an understatement. Directed by Cathy Yan, a relatively unknown director of indie fame, the film is a bold move for DC/Warner Bros. It continues the winning streak of risk-taking, innovative and director-driven films that DC has been putting out recently. The first of these starts off with the film being rated R and making good use of it. There’s plenty of cursing and gore in the film, but none of it is gratuitous.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey

The film stars Margot Robbie, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Messina, and Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. With ensemble films, you run into risks of not giving each character enough time for development. It’s certainly present here, but less so than I expected. Each character is given just enough history for us to care, with the rest chewing the scenery. It’s a fun dynamic, one which makes everyone fun to watch.

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is once again the center of attention here. It seems like Robbie has finally made the character her own, carving out a new identity which is not dictated by style, but substance. By choosing the also produce the film, she’s made sure that every action that Harley takes comes from the core of her character. The same goes for Ewan McGregor, who’s just so damn fun to watch, regardless of the ruthless actions he takes. Beware though, die-hard comic book fans might not like the direction they take these characters, especially McGregor’s Roman Sionis (aka Black Mask). But once you look past that, you’ll see Birds of Prey as DC’s most progressive film since, well, quite a while.

Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis and Chris Messian as Victor Zsasz in Birds of Prey
Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis and Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz in Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey takes the best parts of Suicide Squad and Deadpool and blends them together seamlessly. Told from Harley’s perspective, you’ll constantly find yourself (as an audience) being addressed by Joker’s ex-girlfriend. As such, the storytelling itself is skewed in terms of structure, with the first half being sort of out of order.

Let’s get back to the story then, which is where things start to fall apart. Much like Deadpool 2, Birds of Prey has its own snarky kid who brews trouble for everyone – Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). It doesn’t take much time for her to get annoying, being more of an excuse to bring together the damsels into distress. Thankfully though, the rest of the supporting cast is fun to watch, especially Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who brings a strong performance as Dinah Lance to the table. I’ve been a big follower of the CW’s Arrowverse, and Smith’s Black Canary is one for the ages. While she doesn’t get to use her powers much, it’s a great foundation for the character to build upon. Rosie Perez’s Renee Montoya is great, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress steals the show, if only in small doses.

Director Cathy Yan on the set of Birds of Prey
Director Cathy Yan on the set of Birds of Prey

I have to give props to Warner Bros. for bringing in Cathy Yan to helm the project. While she’s relatively unknown, I’m confident that after Birds of Preyshe’ll be getting a lot of offers to work on more blockbusters. The way she handles action is gorgeous, giving enough breathing (and beating) space for characters without extensive cutting. It’s mildly reminiscent of the John Wick films, which makes sense as the action scenes were choreographed by the Chad Stahelski (John Wick’s director). Yan manages to cross genres within this one film, with one scene feeling like something out of a sitcom, to another feeling right in place inside the Batman Arkham games. It’s toxic, brutal but also gleefully fun, just like Harley Quinn.

 

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