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Movie Review: Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann is an unconventional comedy drama written and directed by Maren Ade, portraying a father desperately trying to patch things up with his estranged daughter. A practical joker with a fake teeth and wig disguise that recalls early Leon Schuster pranks, Winfried tries to reconnect with his hard-working daughter, Ines, by resorting to his outrageous alter ego, Toni Erdmann. From retired "slacker" to business coach, Winfried's attempts to win his daughter over go from nuisance to social time bomb as he associates with her colleagues and becomes more entrenched in her working life.

For the most part, this German language coming-of-age drama is a two-hander, focusing on the fractious relationship between the father and daughter. By means of a fly-on-the-wall account, we experience the amusement, history, irritation and uneasiness of the familial bond, as Winfried arrives unexpectedly in Romania, where Ines is brokering an important business deal with a big client. Part serious about being married to her job, part wanting to let go and burst out laughing at her father's bold and incredibly silly interactions as Toni Erdmann, we experience several layers of dysfunction in this candid dramedy.

Toni Erdmann 2016

"My people will contact your people."

Like a German version of About Schmidt, we journey with the pairing as the complete opposites learn from each other and try to find a way to repatriate. It's a heartwarming, silly and fun-loving film, which moves from stupid pranks to outrageous and daring social experiments. Spending more time with family, not working so hard or taking life less seriously seem like lifelong goals, yet serve as the underlying message in this touching albeit ridiculous comedy drama.

Peter Simonischek is reminiscent of Gerard Depardieu in terms of his physical presence and clownish demeanour, delivering a delightful and easy-going performance. Sandra Hüller's tightly-wound turn completes the comic duo as she serves up a complicated mix of amusement and irritation with her unorthodox yet persistent father. At 2 1/2 hours, it does seem long, but remains entertaining by virtue of its voyeuristic docudrama style, warm natural flow of comedy, undercover travelogue and heartfelt family drama.

While there's nudity and one unusual sexual encounter, Toni Erdmann has a playful tone and operates like a bag of tricks, constantly surprising one with its low-key blend of authentic drama and silly comedy. The chemistry and performances from Simonischek and Hüller make it seem so, and much like a cabaret, it's a delight to see what they'll throw at us next. While it's not on par with About Schmidt, it remains a memorable, quirky and entertaining father-daughter portrait.

The bottom line: Enjoyable

Talking Movies with Spling - Mogadishu Soldier, Mama Colonel and Deep Blue/Middle C

Spling reviews Mogadishu Soldier, Mama Colonel and Deep Blue | Middle C (screening as part of the Encounters Documentary Film Festival in South Africa) as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Comin' in Hot - 'Baby Driver' Movie Trailer

If you thought Fast and Furious was cool... get ready to be schooled by Baby Driver, the latest star-studded film from acclaimed writer-director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)! This trailer is coming in hot and Baby Driver will be trailblazing its way onto the big screen in South Africa on 4 August, 2017.

A talented, young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. When he meets the girl of his dreams (Lily James), Baby sees a chance to ditch his criminal life and make a clean getaway. But after being coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love, and freedom.

Movie Review: Sachin - A Billion Dreams

Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a documentary about the Indian cricket prodigy, who went on to inspire a nation. Directed by James Irvine and featuring a host of interviews and voiceovers from cricket legends, personalities, family and friends - this comprehensive film covers his early childhood, how he was introduced to cricket and how it became his life. While many will have heard the name, Sachin Tendulkar, known as "The Little Master" in cricketing circles, few know the back story and impact he's had on the face of the sport and its borderline religious status in India.

Sachin Tendulkar started playing cricket at an early age and attributes much of his passion for the game to his brother, Ajit, whose influence has been ever-present throughout his career. Starting with the fanfare of Sachin's destiny as a world-class batsman and an icon for the game, we're whisked back to his pre-teen days as a prankster, growing up in a conventional middle class setting the youngest of four. Through docudrama and narration from Tendulkar himself, we get an inside perspective on his early life from the bustle of his neighbourhood to receiving his first bat and training at the cricket academy nets.

From his youth, Irvine paints a picture of a young man, whose obsession for cricket and natural talent led him to become a force and local schoolboy legend. Breaking cricket records and staying in to the complete frustration of his peers, he quickly became a media sensation as his rise to fame saw the teenager appear for his country. Sachin: A Billion Dreams tracks Tendulkar's meteoric cricket career from a memorable and defiant early innings to lauding critical acclaim and winning the hearts of the adoring Indian fans who would tune in just to see his innings or chant "Sachin... Sachin".

Sachin: A Billion Dreams

"Photographers, I think I'm ready for my close-up..."

However, this biographical documentary isn't simply about Sachin's personal life and achievements, but covers Indian cricket's highs and lows... starting with their impressive World Cup win in 1983 and following their triumphs and blunders up until 2011. Sachin: A Billion Dreams pores through decades of uneasy team dynamics, captaincy changes, coaching disasters, mismanagement issues, national embarrassment and scandals that rocked the sport. While taken from Sachin's perspective, we get a wonderful crash course overview of cricket in India, chalking up the good, the bad and the ugly with a sense of objectivity.

From being the nation's darling to being cooped up in a hotel for 7 days to avoid confronting angry fans, we get a strong sense of just how much value was placed on Tendulkar and the pressure he underwent to perform for his team. Perhaps Sachin became a national symbol of hope, demonstrating that the game of cricket cuts across classes and everyone has the opportunity to seize their destiny, represent their country and achieve success.

The documentary features archive footage, interviews and includes present day material as Tendulkar becomes the storyteller. At almost two and a half hours, it's almost as long a slog as his historic double century one day innings, yet manages to keep you locked in thanks to great sound design, glossy visuals, sharp editing, good pacing, engaging infotainment and some fresh insights. The filmmakers aren't getting up close and personal with Tendulkar, whose face and demeanour has always appeared to be guarded much like his playing style. Instead, we're getting a fan's summation of his career, which is empathetic and ultimately glorifying.

Tracking India's world cup triumphs and failures gives the film an international flavour as they detail a longstanding rivalry with Pakistan and many gripping games against Australia during the Shane Warne years. Unfortunately, South Africa doesn't feature much apart from the match-fixing saga with Hansie Cronje, some great bowling from Alan Donald and Gary Kirsten's years as India's coach. Perhaps Tendulkar didn't fare as well against the Proteas than he did against other great cricketing nations.

Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a competent, lightweight and entertaining sports documentary. While it borders on becoming a puff piece, the correlation between Tendulkar's prowess and India's collective sighs, and the multi-generational family ties give the film a greater sense of importance and intimacy, which is brought together in a moving farewell speech to a stadium of devotees. While it's primarily aimed at Indian, and then international cricket fans, there's enough pulpy biographical material, news history and sports trivia to satisfy the curious, much like a flashy celebrity behind-the-scenes round-up.

The bottom line: Enjoyable

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