Maradona:Villain or Victim?
Sound Entertainment/Worldmark Production, R299
For all those of you going through bad withdrawal symptoms after the end of being addicted to a 23-day-long nasty 2012 Euro Cup football viewing which ended last Sunday, here’s some methadone therapy till the next international football is upon you. Don't get fooled by the cheap photocopied-in-the-kirana shop production quality of the DVD cover. This 1995 documentary isn’t just a hotchpotch of photos of the Argentine footballing genius accompanied by spinning newspaper headlines played to dull commentary (although the constant guitar strumming in the background can drive you nuts). On the whole, Maradona: Villain or Victim? isn’t a bad introductory lesson to the great rock’n’footballer, even if whoever directed this film was too embarrassed to put his name anywhere in the credit lines as there is no original footage, only archival stuff.
The feeling that some of you may have watched this on Doordarshan is a possibility. The narrator, British actor John Shrapnel, reads out the decent script (written by B-movie actor-football enthusiast Ken Sicklen) with a calmness that goes well with the turbulent subject. When we see El Diego celebrate after that second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, Shrapnel’s voice is unfluttered. When he narrates the moment when Maradona, during the 1994 World Cup in USA, is tested positive in a drug test, Shrapnel could be describing plants in a gardening show. But somehow, not only does this work, the voice actually draws you in.
The docu has some rare footage which makes up for its amateurish production quality. Take the goal that Maradona scores for Napoli in 1987, still brimming with the genius of ‘86 in him. The snippet shows him trap the ball on his bull-chest, turn, dodge one, then two defenders, leaving a third defender trailing and then pound it into the net. It’s a rare gem of a clip and I, for one, am thankful to have been able to see it. We also get B&W footage of a very young, shy Diego telling us about his two dreams: “The first is to play in the World Cup. The second is to be a champion.” This isn’t Serbian director Kusturica’s great, demonic documentary on Maradona. But till we get that on DVD, this one will have to do.
Season of the Witch
Excel, Rs 499
This film seems like one of those fantasy-history-action movies that needs 22% of the brain to be active and the rest devoted to rewinding key scenes and munching on a TV dinner. But it turns out that this
supernatural, period road movie
isn't that bad at all. Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman as Teutonic Knights come across as a 14th century Jai-Veeru duo in chain-mail. While Cage's pinched, brooding look throughout the movie
can come across as rather daft, Perlman’s bum-
chum humour plays the
Director Dominic Sena provides a blasted heath atmosphere to the story right from the start when we encounter the hanging of three women suspected of being witches. The twist in the scene is that one of the three women really is a witch who, post-hanging, despatches the priest to hell.
Behmen von Bleibruck (Cage), after cutting his blade through countless infidel bodies with his fellow crusader Felson (Perlman), suddenly finds himself in an ‘Ashoka’ moment — the warrior waking up to the horrors of war — after inadvertently killing a young woman whom he mistakes to be an enemy soldier. Behm’n’Fel give up on the church and venture to go back home in Austria where they find the plague ravishing towns, and where they are captured as deserters.
Christopher Lee of good old Dracula fame plays a cameo as a dying-of-the-Black Death cardinal, who, in return for their freedom, asks the two proto-bikers to find a sacred book from a monastic town that contains lines which, when read out loud, can disarm a girl suspected of being a witch — and of inflicting the plague — of her noxious powers.
What works for the film is the clever use of the viewer believing that all witches, including the ones in this film, are ill-treated or off-kilter women tyrannised by men in holy order. What Season of the Witch does, with dark, possession-horror cinematic language, is to flip this switch making some of the witches really, well, witches. If you're into fantasy or horror or historic movies, this fantasy-horror-medieval film should get you one small step closer in getting interested in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal one day. Or, at least, that’s what I hope.
This Means War
Excel, Rs 499
Take an old situation that happens to all of us — two best friends liking the same girl — along with the less common situation of the girl liking both the guys and trying to crack the puzzle of which of the two gentlemen will be the Mr Right for her and you could have a latter-day Shakes-pearean comedy. Except in this Joseph McGinty Nichol aka McG-directed rom-crom (romantic crime-comedy), we’re not going to get much traction beyond the fun of seeing hotties making us laugh simply by trying to make us laugh. Which is not bad coming from a film made by the director of Charlie's Angels and starring the increasingly-resplendent Reese Witherspoon and Captain Kirk and Mr Spock — by which I mean Chris Pine, who played the young Kirk in the 2010 prequel of Star Trek, and Tom Hardy, who will play the super-villain Bane in the forthcoming The Dark Rises.
The two boys are CIA operatives and have been grounded after failing to keep a mission covert – and, in the process, killing a bad guy’s brother, which makes for one (German?) baddie seeking vengeance. FDR (Pine) is a lady’s man and can’t get enough of the bachelor’s life. His buddie-colleague Tuck (Hardy) is a divorced man with a son who is looking out to venture into the dating sea again. In the end, he takes the help of an internet dating service – where Lauren (Witherspoon), a product testing executive also seeks companionship. And here’s the twist: Lauren bumps into FDR after her first date with Tuck and…
The situational comedy is decent enough, especially in scenes where both our CIA Romeos use fellow agents to keep tabs on the girl they have started to fight over. Listening in to what Laurent has to say about each of their pros and cons is, as Shakespeare would have said, merry. But the problem with the film is that somewhere in the middle we already know who the girl will end up with. Clue: the one she has on-screen chemistry with. It’s like having the last page of a thriller embedded in every page after page number 30.