Figuring Out the Love Life- Seriously Single

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Hot packs, good looks, loads of booze. Yes, that’s the fun you are going to have in Seriously Single before we get to the serious stuff. The film is a breath of fresh air on the dating scene and yes there are happy endings in this one too.

This South African gem has been directed by Katleho Ramaphakela and Rethabile Ramaphakela and has been written by Lwazi Mvusi. (Source: Wikipedia)

The film revolves around two parallel love stories of the room mates Dineo (Fulu Mugovhani) and Noni (Tumi Morake) and their love interests Lunga (Bohang Moeko) and Max (Yonda Thomas). These independent ladies are exploring their personalities and while one is practical, the other one is a typical romantic. They have to end facing their conflicts and make a tough decision.

The buzzing soundtrack and the cool location helps you stay on the screen. The fashion too is so creative and this is a chic flick just like the Bridesmaids. African cinema makers have got what it takes. This Netflix film drops in at the right time for some especially during the pandemic and hopefully can be an eye opener however painful.

Raw and Honest- All About Nina

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All About Nina Courtesy Wikipedia

The combination of a horror actress and a rap star is very unusual. Mary Elizabeth Winstead known for her role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and now recently in Gemini Man, is shown as a vulnerable but resilient stand up comedian in All About Nina. Starring opposite her is the American rap start Common. He is spectacular and the show stopper in this raw and honest film about a struggling stand up comedian facing her childhood trauma on stage.

The film has been directed by debutante Eva Vives and she has made a good impression. Eva is clever in the scene where Nina is topless and rehearsing her lines. She also does not divert from her protagonist by making us fall more in love with Common yet she does not let us dwell in Nina’s self pity.

Brace yourself for about 90 minutes of uncomfortable but very real emotions from the eyes, oops mouth of Nina.

Sweet Love Story- Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

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Eurovision-Song-Contest-The-Story-of-Fire-Saga_-Courtesy-Wikipedia

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga-Courtesy-Wikipedia

Will Ferrell is not exactly a very handsome actor but he is a gem of an actor. He is heartwarmingly sweet in the love story- Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.

The film has been written by Will and Andrew Steele and has been directed by David Dobkin of “Wedding Crashers” fame. The film also stars Rachel McAdams as Sigrit Ericksdóttir and Will Ferrell’s love interest. Will Ferrell is Lars Erickssong and the film is based on their quest to win the Eurovision Song Contest and show their small town of Húsavík that they can get the prized title.

Lars has been shown as a shy boy who is depressed at the passing away of his mother but when he hears ABBA life turns around for him. Sigrit becomes his other half and thus starts the journey to prove to Lars that she can also become his better half.

Pierce Brosnan is looking handsome in the silver fox look as Lars’s widowed father Erick Erickssong. Dan Stevens from Beast to Alexander Lemtov, Russian contestant with homosexual overtures is a delight.

This sweet love story has the fascinating backdrops of Iceland, their accent and the Will Ferrell antics that make it interesting and a breath of fresh air amidst this COVID-19. However with the growing international artistes who can be admired due to platforms such as Netflix, as audience you feel it is time to see Icelandic actors playing the role of their own story. Then again, the magic of this story may not have reached a wider audience if it did not carry huge credible stars like Will, Rachel and Pierce.

A must watch for a nice easy afternoon, go for it. This might become a long list of films in Hollywood that are going to become more musical. Hollywood cannot deny the demand for music and songs in their storylines anymore.

The Magic of The ELEPHANT QUEEN

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The acclaimed feature documentary, The Elephant Queen, filmed in Tsavo East National Park and the Greater Amboseli Tsavo ecosystem will screen across Kenya. The Elephant Queen tells a stirring and intimate story about the most majestic and sentient animals in Africa. This family-friendly film stars the ultimate leading lady, Athena, an elephant matriarch who will do everything in her power to protect her family when they are forced to leave their waterhole.

The film is directed by Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone with Etienne Oliff as Assistant Director and produced by Victoria Stone and Lucinda Englehart. The film is narrated by Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Boy who Harnessed the Wind and The Lion King). Rarely do we get such an intimate glimpse into the animal kingdom and an insight into an elephant family. Yet this is a story not only about elephants but of the animals that live at their toenail height…a tardy goose, a tenacious dung beetle and a determined tortoise to name a few. This story is not just entertaining, it is one of survival, family and coming home.

“The Elephant Queen is the result of eight years work, but really it is the culmination of a life’s work of filming in the wild. We had worked together for 25 years in East Africa making wildlife films before we felt confident enough to bring something different to a film about elephants” said Deeble and Stone. “Living in the wild, elephants had always been tangential to our lives, but never characters in our films. Over the years we’d stored memories of scenes, experiences and interactions we’d seen, 2 particularly of smaller animals with elephants – but never thought of telling a story about them until we got caught up in the devastating drought of 2009. Seeing how the elephants reacted, as families, in the face of such adversity made us realise just how like humans they are – the decision-making, leadership, empathy, grieving and sentience that they showed was astonishing. The intrigue and connectivity we knew, along with the emotional scenes we witnessed was a compelling combination. It made us determined to tell their story”. (Deeble and Stone). In partnership with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), a series of 28 learnto-read books based on the film’s wildlife characters and themes will be going into schools across the country.

This literacy initiative is part of the wider Outreach programme designed around The Elephant Queen and supported by BESTSELLER® Foundation. As with the reading series, where authentic natural history is woven into engaging stories, a series of children’s plays, short videos and other outreach activities will inspire a new generation of Kenyan conservation leaders. The outreach materials will be hosted on www.elephant.co.ke and available after Easter. The Elephant Queen has inspired audiences and made friends for Kenya wherever she has travelled – from the top international film festivals including Toronto and Sundance to cinema screens across the US. The film, which celebrates Kenya’s extraordinary wildlife and biodiversity, won the Cinema for Peace Award and the UN World Wildlife Day Biodiversity Award and was awarded Best Cinematography at DOC NYC. The movie has been translated into Kiswahili and Maa for public screenings.

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone The Elephant Queen is the result of 8 years work, but really it’s the culmination of a life’s work living in the bush. We had worked together for 25 years in Africa making wildlife films before we felt confident enough to bring something very different to a film about elephants. They had always been tangential to our lives in the bush, but never characters in our films. Over the years we had stored up memories of scenes, experiences and interactions we’d seen, particularly of smaller animals with elephants – but never thought of telling a story about them until we got caught up in a devastating drought in East Africa. Seeing how the elephants reacted, as families, in the face of such adversity made us realise just how like humans they are – the planning, decision making, leadership, empathy, grieving and sentience that they showed were astonishing. But elephants don’t live in isolation – we had unique experience of the relationships that they had with much smaller animals.

We were excited about what the combination of an elephant family story, together with the drama of the daily struggles of the creatures that lived at elephant toenail height, could bring to the screen. The cast of the elephants’ tiny neighbours promised to give us scenes of incredible intimacy that would be in contrast to the epic scale of the elephants and their adventures. Our primary aim was to make a story-led film that would take an audience deep into the elephants’ world and, by extension, into the mind of an elephant matriarch. We wanted to show the decisions she had to make, and what it took in terms of leadership for her family to survive and flourish. We didn’t want to make a traditional information-driven documentary, but tell an emotional story, based on what we saw over the four year filming period and what we knew happened – backed up by 25 years of wildlife observation and experience. With The Elephant Queen we wanted audiences to fall in love with elephants – for the simple reason that we need to love before we care, and only if we care are we moved to act. It is a critical time for elephants and they need our care and support more now than they ever have. When it came to story-telling style – our aim was for a film that would combine elements of the Lion King with Shrek and March of the Penguins.

A film that would appeal to everyone – a combination of observational live action, combined with the type of humour and visuals that are more commonly associated with animation. If we had a narrative mantra, it would be ‘show, not tell’ – to give the audience the satisfaction of having their own experience. Chiwetel Ejiofor was the perfect voice for the film – not a ‘Voice of God’ rendition, but a soft, story-telling voice – at times empathetic, at others moving the story along. We didn’t want a voice that sat ‘out front’ or led the film, but a voice that bedded in and was soft and sometimes lilting. We were looking for a voice that would never trample on its subject, but coax it along – at times standing back to let the elephants and others speak for themselves, at others to be leaning in and warmly engaging, and we found this in Chiwetel’s voice. The writing was an integral part of the process from the start of filming. At times we knew the lines we wanted to use before filming and they determined the type of shot and sometimes its duration. Possibly the biggest decision we had to make was on naming some of our characters (not something we have done before). In part, this happened because we tended to give them names so as to distinguish one from another when discussing them. When it came to the script, we considered whether it was too anthropomorphic, but we felt that elephants share so many of our human emotions and feelings that not to name them (even scientists now do so), would have been to do them 5 a huge disservice.

As for Stephen, well the name just stuck and we couldn’t let it go – we tried a more Swahili name but feedback from a Kenyan test screening was hugely in favour of keeping Stephen as it is a very popular name in Kenya. From the outset we knew that natural sound would be an important part of the storytelling, and to record it we had dedicated sound recordists ( Norbert Rottcher and Pete Cayless) for the four years we spent in the field. After an early demonstration at Wounded Buffalo Sound Studio of Dolby’s new Atmos® we knew that the system would deliver the immersive soundscape we were looking for. It gave us the ability to have up to 128 distinct tracks and pan the sounds across the auditorium in a way that we hadn’t been able to achieve before. So much of elephant communication has an infrasound component – that if you are close to them, you can feel. Somehow, Tim Owens, the film’s sound supervisor, using Dolby Atmos® brought this to life in a way we wouldn’t have thought possible, and the result is completely immersive. We knew from Alex Heffes’ previous scores for The Last King of Scotland, Queen of Katwe and The First Grader that he was highly attuned to African sensibilities and subjects, and that he had the ability to produce both epic melodies, but also work with the smaller more intimate scenes that are so much a part of the film. What we didn’t know was how much he cared about elephants, so it was the perfect fit. His music is at times powerful and dramatic, at others haunting, evocative and restrained but it has a coherence and apparent simplicity that complements the film in a way we could only have dreamt of at the outset. It can be difficult to read animal feelings and intentions, and we wanted to avoid predictable music for animals and sometimes play them ‘against type’. Alex’s score perfectly demonstrates what can emerge when the composer spends enough time immersed in the subject and reads it right.

For visual style, the most important word was intimacy – we wanted proximity so the audience would feel they were there – whether at the home waterhole or travelling with Athena’s family. During the pre-journey phase of the film the camera is more static to suggest the concept and tranquility of ‘home’, as a place where it feels good to be still and to dwell. On the journey we try to keep the camera on the move; sometimes accompanying the family, at other moments conjuring the feeling of travelling with the dust-storms or the rolling desperation associated with the drought. Trying to achieve proximity sometimes meant flying up amongst thunder clouds in torrential rain in our light plane, trying to operate the strut-mounted camera with one hand while trying to control the plane with the other. At other times it meant spending months in a cramped steel box, below ground, filming the action at dung-beetle eye level. Wherever we could, we shot the action from the viewpoint of the two worlds – either that of the elephants or the tiny creatures that live in their shadow, at elephant toenail height. Before the project started we had tested RAW cameras and were early adopters of the RED® camera system. We knew the film would take years to shoot and wanted to futureproof the material by shooting in 5/6K – the highest resolution available, which was perfect for 4K display. Cinematographer, Mark Deeble was particularly keen to shoot RAW because of the artistic latitude it would provide in post-production, rather than having the ‘look’ baked in when filming. So much of shooting wildlife under natural conditions is about ‘getting the shot’ and building the sequence and he felt this was where the emphasis should be, rather than be concerned with the ‘look’ in the field.

After weeks of testing, prior to filming, he shot the film using a variety of vintage lenses which he felt had a smoother character that matched the timeless story we were telling, and were less clinical than their modern digital equivalents. In editing, the same principle applied. We wanted to make an audience feel they were there, as if they’d experienced at first hand, what we’d filmed. It meant letting shots play 6 out as long as the action warranted it. It involved trying to avoid fast cuts that might help a difficult junction in a sequence, or add a pace that wasn’t naturally there, but would ultimately be less satisfying. Some shots, like the dung-beetle fight scene run for almost a minute without an edit. Over such a long period filming, it was essential that editing should begin in the field so that we could start to achieve the story-telling style we wanted, and make sure that sequences were fully covered. Victoria Stone edited for the entire time we were in the field and then worked alongside editor David Dickie back in the UK. Editing in a tent had its challenges: scorpions and venomous centipedes liked to live in the dark recesses of the edit equipment cases; ants built their nests in computers; thunderstorms flooded the edit tent and rodents bit through electric cables and caused power outages on a regular basis. Keeping the generator topped up, meant a walk out into the bush in the dark with a can of petrol, where an encounter with elephants was a probability and a lion or leopard a distinct possibility. We wanted a setting for the film that was different to anything that had gone before and would be completely fresh – Tsavo offered it. We knew Tsavo would be both a challenge and a risk, but one we decided to take. Tsavo’s elephants are not as tame and habituated as those in Amboseli or Samburu and consequently less photographed and less well known – but Tsavo is home to most of the world’s last remaining giant tuskers. They are iconic elephants of which only about 12 remain. They have enormous tusks – so large that they almost reach the ground, and it was these elephants that we wanted to celebrate.

We wanted characters that visually took us back to a timeless elephant Eden – in part for narrative reasons, but also to show what we still have, and what is so threatened. The problem was that they had been heavily poached and consequently were wary and secretive – some of the largest bulls only emerged from deep cover at night to feed, and some matriarchs were so defensive that they would charge from hundreds of meters away. It took almost two years to find our star matriarch and then months to win her trust, and be able to get close enough to film her family. We could never have imagined that one of our ‘stars’ would be killed by poachers over the period we filmed. Tsavo offered us the cast of smaller animals we wanted to film alongside the elephants – animals that were absent from Amboseli and other elephant strongholds like Samburu. We knew that filming them would be a real challenge. Bullfrogs mate for only a few minutes, normally at night, and only when the rains have been very heavy – which might be years apart. Finding them meant wading through pans inhabited by crocodiles and driving thousands of kilometres through the bush, stopping at every flooded pan and listening for their calls. We saw them mating, and managed to film it, only once in four years. Finding their youngsters was slightly easier for the tadpoles formed shoals that were visible from the air, if we flew low and slow. We knew that the inclusion of the smaller animals would give a sense of scale and bring a unique dimension to the project, but it was essential that they had to add to the narrative by interacting with the elephants in some way, and it was achieving those sequences that took time.

An undertaking of this kind wouldn’t have been possible without a team, utterly dedicated to the subject, and what we were trying to achieve. We feel very privileged to have spent 4 years working with an extraordinary team – from Assistant Director, Etienne Oliff, all the way through to the film’s short-term interns.

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Truthfully Daring- Joker Film Review

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Courtesy of NME

This film is not only difficult to watch but painfully true about what a few are going through in their lives. We may be living in comfortable lofts or cozy townhouses and travel to work or show up at school like all is normal, but guess what things are not so cool after all.

Joker is definitely a masterpiece for actor Joaquin Phoenix who has come close to winning the Oscar for Best Actor twice in 2006 for Walk the Line and then in 2013 for The Master. There is no doubt this time, it is his turn. This is no comic book character but a real life child who is struggling to make the world happy.

Screenwriter Scott Silver has woven a web of hallucinations, delusions and reality under the dark weight of Gotham city. Possibly never before has the contrast between the Rich and Poor being so obvious in a Hollywood film. Will this arouse any #MeToo type of movement?

Todd Phillips has done a very interesting job of the film, who would have thought, the guy who directed the Hangover series can direct Joker. It is no wonder that actor and now producer Bradley Cooper has contributed to this amazing film. The trio is completed with cinematographer Lawrence Sher who is exceptional too with Joker.

When Hildur Ingveldar Guðnadóttir got your attention for Sicario, you had to notice her talent and she has beautifully composed the soundtrack for Joker.

The film will have a long list of Academy Awards nominations, but most importantly it will question the Joker in you?

It is like sitting in front of your own talk show hosted, in this case by Robert De Niro.

Why does the world play with you? Why can’t they understand you? Or do you know and feel things they don’t?

Bright Star- Blinded by the Light Review

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Blinded_by_the_Light_(2019_film_poster)

Blinded by the Light Courtesy Wikipedia

Ever since Bend it Like Beckham I have been a huge fan of Gurinder Chadha and her latest film Blinded by the Light is just so cute.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a new bright star has arrived – Viveik Kalra who plays the role of Javed.

Blinded by the Light is based on the book, Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor.

This South Asian breakthrough story is full of the typical Asian drama, yet it carries that young spirit looking for their own path to success. There are several surreal moments, from the neighbour appreciating Javed’s talent to the girlfriend Eliza helping Javed’s father. All along we are the same, but nationalities, caste, religion or social stigmas have kept us apart.

Blinded by the Light is carried by the mature music and words of Bruce Springsteen – “The Boss”.

The most favourite scene was when Javed returns the gold bangles to his mother, who had to pawn them to pay the house bills when her husband lost his job.

The film’s look was authentic and the use of Bruce’s songs was cool. A.R. Rahman did the film score and composed a new song – For You My Love.

Parental Challenges- Chhichhore Review

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Chhichhore

After making a huge blockbuster like Dangal, director Nitesh Tiwari had set the bar high. Chhichhore has been an excellent choice. He has also written the story, screenplay and dialogues.

The film showcases the parental challenges that the young parents are facing with their busy careers, unfulfilled marriages and competitive children. If only, someone took the time to relive the good old times or just let their children see the many options available.

The ensemble includes Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Varun Sharma, Prateik Babbar, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Naveen Polishetty, Tushar Pandey, Saharsh Kumar and Mohammad Samad as the teenager in distress.

Some may find the pace slow and the bald heads a little irritating but the message is simple and powerful. Teenagers are struggling with peer pressure, social image and educational achievements.

Varun Sharma steals the show and Sushant Singh Rajput delivers an excellent performance of a leader, boyfriend and father.

Chhichhore is a must watch and should go around the world to spread the simple message of how there are options in life. You can always make a choice.

Lyrical Romantic Masterpiece- Kabir Singh Film Review

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Kabir Singh Courtesy of Wikipedia

Kabir Singh Courtesy Wikipedia

Kabir Singh is not an obsessive lover but an open lover. He knows who he is and what he wants. There has never been a more close to reality romantic hero from Bollywood in ages and Shahid Kapoor has performed his best ever.

Kabir Singh is a love story between Dr Kabir and the new student Preeti. He holds no inhibitions in declaring his love and displaying it, yet maintaining her dignity. His weakness is his anger, but that is what makes him more relatable. This makes him a 3D character.

The real hero of the film, however are the meaningful and soulful lyrics and music. Since Aashiqui 2, Kabir Singh has brought to life the love songs and they will resound for many years to come. The new music duo of Sachet-Parampara are one to listen out for. Their song Bekhayali is stunning in rock sound and cracking with lyrics by Irshad Kamil. Arijit Singh, Armaan Malik, Jubin Nautiyal and Vishal Mishra all realize how rich this soundtrack is and have added their successful personalities to the album. Shreya Ghosal should have been allowed to do the song Pehla Pyaar too.

Another winner in the film is Kabir’s Dadi. It is refreshing to see an elderly act maturely, usually such interventions come through a Yash Chopra grandma in a glamourized set who drops a sprinkle of wisdom. In Kabir Singh, it was as if your grandma would say that to you.

Director Sandeep Vanga was the suitable choice for this project. Kabir Singh is the Hindi remake of his directorial Tamil film Arjun Reddy.

Kabir Singh is blazing with passion, risks and reality of today’s modern love.

 

A Kenyan Pride- The Lion King Film Review

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The Lion King Courtesy Wikipedia

The Lion King Courtesy Wikipedia

Bringing a remake to life with the current technology and intelligent audience can be quite a challenge.

Luckily the story of The Lion King remains untouched and Director Jon Favreau delivers a the old age father-son story with its original touch of family bonding, for the Pride.

The Lion King is the story of King of the jungle Mufasa and the principles and morals he passes down to his son Simba.

Simba is like your typical young child who wants to grow up fast, is innocent and pure from the heart. His uncle Scar takes advantage of this naivety and lays a trap for father and son and Mufasa dies.

Simba feels guilty and ends up with new friends Pumba and Timon. They help cheer him up and until he becomes an adult they are all one three happy family. Nala, who is Simba’s childhood friend and now sweetheart finds him and convinces him to return to the Pride and overthrow Mufasa.

The choice of voices for the characters has been brilliant. Danny Glover as Simba, Beyonce Knowles-Carter as Nala, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar, Seth Rogen as Pumba, Billy Eicher as Timon and James Earl Jones as Mufasa.

Director Jon Favreau had proven his talent and vision through the Netflix production of The Jungle Book (2016) and gave us a taste of what was to come.

The use of technology to create the real life characters has been awesome and the savannah plains inspired from Kenya, are gorgeous.

The film remains true in script to the original. Perhaps a few new scenes relevant to today’s generation would have been more interesting, for example the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” could have become a more digitally enhanced dream sequence.

Otherwise for the next 25 years we are set until the next remake of The Lion King.

Who’s Your Super 30? Film Review

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Super 30 Courtesy Wikipedia

Super 30 Courtesy Wikipedia

Yes it is true that Education is not a basic human right and a big money making business. While many Governments pretend to offer it free or try to, the quality is affected and the number of students can make it harder to maintain a stable environment and infrastructure.

But this is not a lecture about how education can be fixed (which it should be), apart from making it more relevant to life skills and creativity and definitely affordability and equality, this is a Film Review of Super 30.

Hrithik Roshan has been almost invisible from the silver screen since Kaabil and has been missed. He brings a powerful, honest and heartbreaking performance in the portrayal of real life mathematician hero Anand Kumar.

Super 30 is the story of transformation, inspiration and determination of one simple man called Anand Kumar. Anand is a genius mathematician and through the sheer aspiration of his father and then his own conviction to train a group of 30 students to get an equal chance at changing their fate.

The film’s director Vikas Bahl, though he faced sexual harassment charges upon the launch of publicity for the film, has delivered an excellent film. Sanjeev Datta has written a masterpiece that with the entire effort of the cast and production crew deserves an entry into the Academy Awards. If the Oscar can go to A Beautiful Mind or The Theory of Everything then why not Super 30.

The film also inspires a person to think who can be their own “Super 30” where they can help change lives and possibly bring in equality, opportunities, justice or a breakthrough.

One of the best scenes was when Anand (Hrithik) takes the blessings of the tea boy who told him about getting published in the Mathematics Journal. That was not only a turning point in his life but a testament to the honesty and respect he had for others and most of all for education.

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