varma reviews

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Doctor Zhivago December 26, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Grand and Spectacular are the words to describe David Lean’s movies. His two most famous films Lawrence of Arabia and this one are more than enough to quantify his talent. I never saw a desert landscape captured so beautifully as it was done in Lawrence of Arabia…in this case it is the snow clad wilderness. His style of filmmaking reminds me a lot of the late Mukul S. Anand.

Doctor Zhivago (based on the famous book of the same name) in essence is the classic tale of a man torn between two women due to unforseen circumstances….in this case the backdrop is the Russian revolution. This is a theme which has proved to be quite popular in Telugu and Hindi movies; though in most of the cases it is handled in a lighter vein.

But more than the plot itself it is simply the visuals which captivated me. Editor Norman Savage seems to have been mesmerised by this and almost forgot his job. The resulting runtime is a staggering three and a half hours. Especially the second half of the movie is too sluggish but somehow I did not mind much; there was something seductive about the whole thing which made me want more of it. One of the best sequences of this enterprise is the extended train journey through the beautiful snowy landscape. A couple of scenes in the Salman Khan starrer Lucky find their inspiration here. Also, notable and conspicuous is the brilliant “Lara’s theme” composed by Maurice Jarre who also provided award winning scores for Lean’s other movies.

Omar Sharif underplays the subdued character of Zhivago quite well. Julie Christie is extremely enticing. There is a good supporting cast comprising of Alec Guinness and Rod Steiger. Freddie Young and Nicholas Roeg deserve special mention for their excellent cinematography.

Watching Doctor Zhivago truly gives you the feeling of watching an epic love story….even if the plot doesn’t interest you the magnificient visuals are compelling enough for a viewing.

Superman Returns December 25, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
For me watching Superman Returns was like watching Star Wars. Both were entertaining while they lasted, campy at times and the only thing which stayed in my mind after they finished was the vintage title sequence with John Williams’ theme in the background.

As far as superheroes are concerned Superman would be the last on my list…simply because he is someone I cannot relate too and hence cannot root for. Also, his attrocious costume is a complete turn off. I haven’t seen the movies starring Christopher Reeves before and Byran Singer helming the project was the only reason I went for the latest installment.

Superman (Brandon Routh) is back on earth after five years while his nemesis Lex Luthor is set to create mayhem in the world using certain “crystals” stolen from Superman’s secret cave. While resuming his daily routine as reporter Clark Kent he comes face to face with Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) who is now engaged and has a kid. That kid springs a surprise later in the movie. What happens is the usual stuff where our hero saves the world yet again battling both Lex Luthor and his feelings for Lois Lane.

Brandon Routh gives credibility to the character and his body language is perfect. There was lot of criticism about Kate Bosworth’s portrayal of Lane but I cannot comment as I haven’t seen any of the previous movies. Kevin Spacey is great as usual. Given that lately onscreen heroes like Batman and James Bond have been given a so called “reboot” to prevent them from becoming any more sillier; I was expecting a similar thing for Superman. Nothing like that happens here (remember…this is Superman Returns and not Superman Begins) but Singer tactfully adheres to the age old superhero formula without making it look ridiculous at any point of time. For fans of Superman this should be a welcome addition while for others it does its bit to entertain.

Exotica December 24, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
One of those really wierd films which intrigued me for some time but at the end wasn’t worth it. This is quite a dark and gloomy movie which deals about the obsession of Francis (Bruce Greenfield) with an exotic dancer Christina (Mia Kirshner). Add a couple of more wierdos - the ex-boyfriend and owner of the nightclub Eric (Elias Koteas) who is disturbed by the relationship between Bruce and Christina…another shady character Thomas (Don McKellar) also gets intertwined in this story.

Director Atom Egoyan is considered to be a master in this genre…where the audience is made to form their own notions about the characters until the reason for the characters’ behaviour is revealed in the end. For me Exotica did not seem as intelligent as it was trying to be. But the critics raved about this film and that’s the only reason I checked this out.

I did like the element of suspense which plays out with respect to the relationship between Bruce and Christina but the pace was too slow and I was getting very impatient for the movie to end. This is probably why I did not like it much. Also, the gloomy atmosphere was making me quite uneasy….actually I was having other problems the day I saw this and a film like this was the last thing I wanted to watch.

If the film’s description has appealed to you then go ahead and watch it but don’t really expect some fascinating psychological exploration of the human mind as the reviews promise (and duped me).

Roman Holiday December 22, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
I watched this movie a few years ago. This was the first Audrey Hepburn movie that I saw and I was completely blown away by her! She has the rare combination of good looks, innocence, mischievousness, screen presence and acting skills that won her an Oscar (and other awards) for Best Actress in her acting debut in Hollywood. She is a rare gem. Gregory Peck, who was a big star by then, insisted that her name be placed before the title of the movie because she was the star of the movie.

The movie, considered a classic, is still as fresh today. Hepburn plays a princess who is on an official trip to Rome. She has to follow a lot of traditions and protocol which her young mind is unwilling to take. She wishes to unwind and be a normal girl. So, she runs away. She happens to meet Gregory Peck, who is a reporter and wants to make a story out of this. He enlists the help of a photographer to shoot Hepburn’s one day jaunt for a newspaper story. What happens next is worth watching in this loveable film.

The writing (by John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo, listed as Ian McLellan Hunter) is very good. Though the plot is simple, the three main characters are well fleshed out and the dilemmas faced by the princess and reporter are nicely woven into this romantic comedy. There are memorable sequences in this film. William Wyler (Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of Our Lives, Ben-Hur, How To Steal a Million, Funny Girl) does an outstanding job as the director. I wasn’t really aware of Wyler and his achievements till I saw this movie. His talent converts this well written screenplay into a classic film. His skill and contribution to the film are visible throughout. A special mention needs to be made about the cinematography (Franz Planer, Henri Alekan) for this Black & White film. I am particularly delighted by how beautifully they capture Audrey Hepburn.

The performances in this movie are first-rate. Peck is the perfect leading man (the role was supposedly written with Cary Grant in mind). Hepburn is brilliant and there is noticeable chemistry between her and Peck. Eddie Albert does a good job as the photographer. Wyler extracts good performances from the supporting cast as well.

Everybody should enjoy this delightful movie that has the romance, humor, characters and performances giving it a wide appeal. I consider this movie is a treasure for introducing Audrey Hepburn to the world. Though I cannot imagine this movie without Hepburn, this would nevertheless have been a very good movie even if she wasn’t present. If you haven’t watched this film, check it out now.

Annie Hall
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
If someone showed me Annie Hall and asked me to guess when it was made I wouldn’t have replied anything prior to 2000. That is exactly the first thing which struck me about this flick. For something loosely classified as a romantic comedy it was just too ahead of its times…both technically and contentwise.

There is nothing much of a story here - in fact the same old stuff you would come across in any modern day rom com - but this was the one which started it. The dialogue is just too witty and when it is from Woody Allen it is even more so …there were lot of occasions where I could not control my laughter. Haven’t laughed so much for any movie lately. The sequence I recall the most and laugh is when Diane Keaton calls Woody Allen over to her place at three in the morning to kill a spider. The only drawback with such an intelligently written script is that there is some one liner in almost every word spoken that a few of them lose their intended impact.

Another striking thing you’ll notice is the narrative technique. This is why I said earlier that I’d make a wrong guess about when this was filmed. Split screens, people walking from one scene into an another (quite like what was seen in the recent Jaan-e-Mann), actors directly speaking to the camera addressing the audience are all styles which originated through this film.

Woody Allen is a true one man show. Whatever he did for this movie (acting, writing and directing) is marvellous. Diane Keaton isn’t behind either. The chemistry between the two is great - well…they were actually a couple before this movie and as a result it is rumoured to be based on the real life of the lead pair. Annie Hall can easily qualify to be a masterpiece and it definitely one of the smartest written movies of all time. Whether you like or hate the genre you’ll definitely enjoy watching this. It really is that infectious.

Scary Movie 4 December 20, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
David Zucker returns yet again with this spoof comedy - a genre he created in the eighties with Airplane!. This is supposed to be the “fourth and final installment of the trilogy” as the next one is going to change track from the previous four.

This one pretty much follows the same line as Scary Movie 3 - which actually was the first in the series to be directed by Zucker. With its basic plot derived from War of the Worlds it goes on to spoof other prominent flicks like Saw, The Village, The Grudge, Million Dollar Baby and even the infamous Tom Cruise incident on Oprah!

There are not too many laughs here but fortunately they don’t try to be too gross and disgusting (when compared to the first two parts). According to me the pick of the lot are the sequences based on Saw which were really well done. Also, the tripod visual effects were quite good. I am not sure if they lifted those from the original or filmed them again…given the moderate budgets of these flicks.

Anna Faris and Regina Hall reprise their roles as Cindy Campbell and Brenda…and they are funny as usual. Personally, I’d prefer the third installment over this one but still this isn’t too bad either. As it applies to all such flicks, you will only like this one only if you have seen or are aware of the source material behind the spoofs. Scary Movie 4 has some good laughs in between but on the whole it’s just about average….it wouldn’t hurt watching though.

Traffic December 19, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Traffic reminds you a lot about Stephen Gaghan’s latest Syriana. He is credited with the writing while Steven Soderbergh goes behind the camera. Like Syriana was about the intricacies of global oil politics and its effects, Traffic deals with the issue of drugs…more specifically on the drug trafficking between Mexico and the US. The intertwined stories of various people surrounding this murky world forms the plot.

Unlike episodic films this is a thriller where the action going on in each of the stories has a parallel effect on another one. The kind of narrative is the same which Gaghan used for Syriana though in terms of the plot Traffic is much less taxing on the brain than the latter. A distinctive technique used for filming is the use of different hues and camera movements for each thread….a technique also adopted in Mani Ratnam’s Yuva.

There is a huge cast including the likes of Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Erika Christensen and a lot more but the one who stands out is Benicio Del Toro as the Mexican cop. All the threads are equally interesting and thrilling. I was expecting a gloomy end given the proceedings but it concludes on a somewhat positive note.

Soderbergh deserves credit for coming up with an almost mockumentary which is better than any commercial thriller. He won the Best Director Oscar for this one. This is a great example of a movie which deals with a serious issue but never bores you at any point of time. Though it might not appeal to all audiences it is still a great watch even for an average viewer looking for a good thriller.

Inside Man December 17, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This movie first came to my attention when at the time of its release I read that the opening and the end credits were set to A.R. Rahman’s Chaiyya Chaiyya. I finally got to watch this only yesterday and all I can say is….Spike Lee rocks. A cracker of a movie - unarguably the best bank heist flick I’ve ever seen.

The action starts right from the very first reel and the tension and suspense never relent until the end. This is a bank robbery unlike any other. The intentions of the robbers are unknown as the negotiator (Denzel Washington) and the chief of the heist (Clive Owen) try to outsmart each other at every single opportunity. Also, there is another negotiator (Jodie Foster) sent by the bank’s owner who complicates the proceedings.

Another thing which impressed me about this movie is that it doesn’t try to be too preposterous; there is minimal use of hi-fi gadgetry unlike other movies in the genre which does not make this seem implausible at all. Lee has always been known for dealing with racism in his films and this one is no exception. I also like the way he credits his movies as “a Spike Lee Joint”.

Denzel Washington sports a different look and has a different role unlike his usual stuff and he is great here. Jodie Foster too is good in a shady role. Clive Owen is super cool and absolutely charismatic as the overly smart bank robber. He was really the show stealer. Terence Blanchard’s score makes sure the proceedings are always on a high.

Spike Lee and writer Russell Gewirtz are apparently working on a sequel currently. I wouldn’t want to miss that one. This truly is a great thriller which you should not miss. Also, be sure to watch this if you are a Rahman fan for he is responsible for the pumped up opening and closing sequence.

To Kill a Mockingbird December 16, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I loved this movie. Initially, from the plot summary on the cover it seemed to be a typical courtroom drama set in a racist society where the hero has to defend a black man against all odds. But the movie is much more than that. Having a Pulitzer Prize winning novel as its source was half the battle won.

The movie is narrated from a little girl’s perspective as she sees prejudice played out in her racist society and in her own personal experience….and how she finally understands and overcomes it through the invaluable lessons taught by her father.

Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a lawyer who takes the bold step of defending a black man in a rape trial. Meanwhile children Scout (Mary Badham) and Jem (Phillip Alford) are always busy figuring out the identity of their mysterious neighbour Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) about who there are lots of bad stories floating around. Also, they are subject to ridicule in their daily lives due to their father taking up the case. As said before, Scout reminicses the whole series of incidents which changed her worldview of things and taught her an important lesson which she would never forget.

There is a striking resemblance of the thread involving Boo and the children to that of Prabhu’s in Mani Ratnam’s Anjali. Even the father-daughter relationship resembles what I saw in that movie. That’s precisely why I was able to guess the conclusion of that segement way back during this movie’s initial reels.

Gregory Peck’s character Atticus is considered to be the greatest onscreen hero ever but it was Mary Badham’s portrayal of Scout which floored me. It’s been such a long time since I’ve been waiting to see a sensible and touching film involving children and this fulfilled my wish. To Kill a Mockingbird will definitely be in my list of must-see list of classics and I would highly recommend everyone to watch it.

Insomnia December 15, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Christopher Nolan has been a favorite with the critics with films like Memento, Batman Begins and the more recent The Prestige. Insomnia is another one to his impressive list. Actually it is the remake of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name.

At the outset it looks like a typical serial killer mystery, but thankfully for a change…it doesn’t turn out to be one. Al Pacino and Martin Donovan are bound to Alaska to investigate the brutal killing of a teenager. Also, both of them are under the scanner of Internal Affairs for some irregularities in their previous investigations. As they investigate the current case differences crop up between the two because of Donovan’s stand to strike a deal with Internal Affairs to get out of the mess. As they are almost about to nab the culprit in their current case Donovan gets shot and killed by Pacino accidentally. Though he feels guilty about the whole incident, Pacino decides to cover it up to save himself. However, things get worse when the actual killer (Robin Williams) witnesses that incident and blackmails Pacino. The main focus in the movie is on the dilemma which Pacino faces - on one hand he has to save himself from being convicted while on the other hand he cannot let Williams slip away for his crime.

This movie works mostly due to Al Pacino and also Robin Williams who has much lesser screen time but nevertheless impresses in an unconventional role. There is also Hilary Swank for support. Inspite of a not so great story, Nolan makes the proceedings highly interesting with the help of his great cast. A satisfying psychological thriller which should please everyone.

Casablanca December 14, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Another one of those classics which you’ll always find on any compilation of greatest movies ever made. Like I had observed for It Happened One Night the fact that plot devices resembling Casablanca have been adapted into lots of movies (especially Indian) is a clear reason why this qualifies as a true classic.

The movie is set during the beginning of World War II in a place called Casablanca - where refugees from the Nazi regime get “exit visas” to flee to America via Lisbon. Amidst this background, the plot is about Humphrey Bogart who reluctantly has to help his lady love (Ingrid Bergman) escape with her husband (Paul Henreid). A major part of the movie focuses on Bogart’s ambiguous character, his interactions with various people around him and how his life changes again when Bergman arrives into his life once again. The best part according to me was the climax. Even though it might look predictable by today’s standards because of similar stuff one would have seen over time; you have to give credit to the filmmakers for coming up with it 65 years back.

This is only the second movie of Humphrey Bogart which I saw and his acting cum characterization is pretty much the same as it was in The Maltese Falcon. Ingrid Bergman is definitely the most beautiful actress among those who I’ve seen from the black and white era. Both of them have a great screen presence together. The screenplay is very engaging and the dialogue is great…which I must say I did not expect from a story like this.

Here is some trivia…the term “usual suspects” atually traces its origin back to this film. Also, Casablanca is the film with the maximum number of entries in the list of greatest movie quotes compiled by the American Film Institute. You can surely watch this and I bet you’ll never complain even once that it is dated.

Mission: Impossible III December 13, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
The good things first. M:i:III pretty much salvages the mess made by John Woo in the second installment. Also the thumping theme music resembles the original rather than the crappy remix used in M:I-2. And yes…there is hell lot of action when compared to its predecessors.

Now to the not so good parts. Brian De Palma’s first installment had the vintage spy thriller feel and that’s what it was intented to be. But this one is more like a Michael Bay movie with things exploding all over the place at the drop of a hat. You can’t really figure out that the protagonist is a secret agent. Also, inspite of having lots of action things totally dry up towards the end. Unlike the memorable action sequences towards the climax of the other two movies, this one has practically none.

Coming the actual story….Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is now off the hook but is back in the field to trace a missing agent (Keri Russell) who was sent on a covert operation to track a dangerous arms dealer (Philip Seymour Hoffman). When she ends up dead, Hunt and his team are determined to get hold of Hoffman. But things don’t go according to the plan. And it’s upto Hunt to get out of this. Mind you…there is also a twist in the climax which is really silly.

Tom Cruise looks great in the action sequences but he wears a tired look throughout….very unlike the cool spy you had seen him before. The other person who stands out is Hoffman who is wonderful as the bad guy. There is oodles of action out here; the sequence on the bridge (a glimpse of which you catch in the promos) is the pick of the lot. J.J Abrams who has successful TV series’ to his credit like Alias and Lost makes an impressive debut.

All said and done, most of the shortcomings of M:i:III result when you compare it with its predecessors but as a mindless action flick it is a great watch…in fact one of the best action flicks in recent times.
Scarecrow December 12, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I never heard of this movie before. It was only the pairing of Al Pacino and Gene Hackman together which made me rent this. I found this one good in parts but not enough to qualify as a must see.

One reason I did not find it interesting is because the plot isn’t too great. It is like any typical Hollywood road movie except that there is more realism to it. Al Pacino and Gene Hackman are two strangers who accidentally meet and get together to start a car wash business according to the plan Hackman made while he was serving time in prison. This movie is about their eventful journey as they set out for their goal.

One thing which struck me while watching this movie is the resemblance of the characterization of the lead pair to that of Vikram and Surya in Bala’s Pithamagan (Sivaputhrudu). The scene in the prison where Pacino is badly beaten up and Hackman shows his affection for him; as well as the sequences towards the climax slightly hint that Bala might have got a tad inspired from this flick.

The movie ends on a somewhat tragic note. If there is one thing which holds this film together it is Pacino. Without him it would have been quite a pain to sit through this. Hackman is also fine but since he plays a subdued character he was completely overshadowed by Pacino.

The lowpoint is the pacing which really tests your patience. The only appealing stuff about this film is its authentic feel and the last 20 minutes or so when thinngs are a bit more interesting. Watch this movie if you like Pacino but otherwise this isn’t something you would regret missing.

It Happened One Night December 10, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
If you happen to come across various compiled lists of great comedies, you’d almost always find this one at the top. That’s precisely why I checked this one out. I did enjoy watching this flick but it was like watching it for the second time; because all along I could see Mahesh Bhatt’s Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin flashing through in front of my eyes….which made me realise that Bhatt did not “just get inspired” but outrightly lifted it down to the individual scenes. But before Bhatt, Raj Kapoor used the same material for Chori Chori - I haven’t seen that one so cannot comment about it.

Coming back to the original…this is considered to be the first ever popular romantic comedy. It was made in 1934 but nevertheless I felt it was lot better than most of the so called romantic comedies coming out lately. The story begins with Claudette Colbert running away from her millionare father to reunite with her husband who she married against her father’s wishes. She bumps into an out of work reporter (Clark Gable) on her way. When the story of her escape becomes public both come to an understanding - Gable would help her to reach her destination and unite with her husband while in return she would give him exclusive rights to her whole story. As expected they fall in love during their journey but a few misunderstandings creep in towards the end which get resolved for a happy ending.

Claudette Colbert has the eternal mischievous look on her face and she is great for the part. So, is Clark Gable who plays the perfect foil for her. The dialogue is extremely witty and it really is the highpoint of this movie. This became the first movie in history to be honoured with all five major Oscars.

Frank Capra created a plot device with this movie which has been used over and over again till date. Just recount the number of movies where the female lead is hooked to someone else in the beginning but a few encounters with the cocky hero changes everything….of course with a few heartaches towards the end. In that sense, this can be considered to be a true classic. If you have been game to romantic comedies of late then there is no way you won’t enjoy this. Even if you have seen the “inspirations” mentioned earlier this still holds its own to warrant a watch.

In Good Company December 9, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
There have been films made which revolve around corporate life but most of them are quite serious in nature. So, it was a refreshing change to watch this comedy drama which makes generous digs at corporate culture especially the employee firing part.

The story revolves around Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace (who you’ll see as Venom in Spiderman 3 next year) - Quaid is the advertising head of a sports magazine who is demoted to a lower position as the result of a corporate takeover. More shocking for him is the fact that his new boss is 26 year old Topher Grace. But since he has a baby coming and also needs money to send his daughter Scarlett Johannson to an expensive university, he cannot afford to leave his job either.

The first half of the movie mostly deals with the uneasy relationship between these two individuals but things get even more awkward later when Grace falls in love with Quaid’s daughter. Interspersed in between is a nice satire at corporate life. Especially the dig at the phrase “letting an employee go” as if it was a choice and the subsequent scene where Quaid fires one of his associates and he innocently asks Quaid what being “let go” meant. Also depicted is the clash between marketing “by the book” with lots of jargon and one which focuses on long standing relationships. The ending of the film was somewhat bittersweet but nevertheless fine.

Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace are absolutely charming in their roles and the chemistry between them is great. Johannson doesn’t have much screen space here. It is tough to believe that this movie comes from Paul Weitz who has to his credit the first and third installments of American Pie. He also directed the much acclaimed About a Boy prior to this. This is a great drama with a novel theme as its USP and some very nice humour. Unless you are some die hard fan of corporate culture you’ll like this one a lot.

The Longest Yard
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This is a 2005 remake of a 1974 movie of the same name starring Burt Reynolds. I remember that this movie opened well despite bad reviews from the critics. I thought that this might be one of those movies that is enjoyable but not intelligent enough for the critics. However, I have to agree with them this time.

The movie is mainly about a game of American football between the inmates of a prison against the guards that protect it. Adam Sandler plays an ex-player that leads the team of prisoners while Burt Reynolds plays the coach. The acting is nothing to rave about but Sandler is likeable. Chris Rock, in a supporting role, provides some laughs. Quite a few professional wrestlers appear in the movie including the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bill Golderg and Kevin Nash (Diesel). Predictably, Rob Schneider pops up in between as well.

Sheldon Turner’s screenplay has a sense of familiarity throughout. Whether it is the individual scenes or the characters or the twists in the story, everything is predictable. Director Peter Segal who has collaborated successfully with Sandler in the past (Anger Management, 50 First Dates) delivers a somewhat disappointing film.

This is a very formulaic run-of-the-mill comedy that doesn’t have enough real laughs for anyone that has seen a few comedies. The idea might have been somewhat likeable and new in the original but after 31 years, it has been done to death. Apparently there is another 2001 movie called Mean Machine, starring Vinnie Jones, that has been inspired by the same source material. Check this out if you are in the mood for a routine comedy film that you will not recollect the next day.

In Her Shoes December 8, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I wouldn’t really have watched this movie which at the outset looked like a regular chick flick but established names like Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, director Curtis Hanson and a bunch of glowing reviews made me go for it…and I wasn’t disappointed at all.

I’ve always found the theme of warring siblings very appealing though it has been done to death many times. More than that it is about the unlikely reunion of an estranged family. Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette are sisters who never really get along but an ugly incident drives them totally away from each other. Diaz - who till now lead a carefree life out of others money is now out alone to fend herself; a few events lead her to her hiterto unknown grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) in a new town. She mellows down a bit and becomes more responsible as she and her grandmother slowly bond. Collette comes later into the scene and one can guess how it all ends.

A story like this has lots of cliches and the trick is to have them in the right places and in the right quantity….this is where Curtis Hanson succeeds. But what ultimately stand out are the performances of Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine. I had seen Collette earlier only in a brief role in The Sixth Sense but she is wonderful here. She plays the typical deadpan, responsible elder sister to perfection. MacLaine as the grandmother is also great. Cameron Diaz has pretty much the same role she as in any other movie of hers.

In her Shoes with its fine mix of humour and emotions is something which should appeal to everyone.

Lolita December 7, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
When I saw the first promos of Ramgopal Varma’s Nishabd a few days back, I really wanted to watch Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita - rumoured to be the movie on which the former is based (but after watching this my guess is that it may not be true). The underlying theme is the relationship between an elderly man and a young girl. Lolita in that sense is quite controversial because the girl is question is in her early teens while the guy is actually her stepfather. Also, there is a mystery angle to the story which is answered only towards the end though it is something which anybody could guess.

The movie begins with Humbert (James Mason) barging into the place of Quilty (Peter Sellers) and Quilty ends up dead in his hands. It then goes into a flashback mode and traces back the whole story to the first scene. Humbert in his search for a new home comes across a widow Charlotte (Shelley Winters) who is head over heels for him. He happens to see her alluring daughter Lolita (Sue Lyon) in an inviting pose when he falls for her. In a series of events which follow Humbert marries Charlotte and she later dies in a freak accident. Following this Humbert and Lolita embark on their taboo relationship. How this relationship ends up finally and of course the role played by Quilty in all this forms the rest of the movie.

The most striking aspect of this movie is the depiction of the relationship between the two. Kubrick was apprehensive about the censorship during those times so there is absolutely no scene or even an explicit dialogue which is suggestive of the disturbing relationship between them. Apart from a few innuendos everything is left to the viewer’s imagination. The initial scenes involving Lolita are dealt in a lighter vein with the very famous theme playing in the background everytime she is on screen.

The performances by the entire cast are really good. Vladimir Nabokov (who wrote the original book) and Kubrick come up with an inventive screenplay making sure that they won’t get into trouble but still managing well enough to put across the real story. In fact the promotion materials had the line “How did they ever make a movie of Lolita” which is indicative of the risk they took making this flick.

This is a movie which relies more than anything else on the shock value of the story…not really a piece of work which addresses the issue of two people of varying age groups in love. Yet it entertains well while it lasts.
The Game December 5, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
A thriller from David Fincher is something one would not want to miss. The Game is no exception. Like his other movies, this one has an unusual plot. Michael Douglas is a millionare who on his birthday is presented a coupon for a game by his brother Sean Penn. This so called game is provided by an organization called CRS (Consumer Recreation Services) who make Douglas undergo elaborate tests before his actual game begins. As the movie progresses further, this mysterious game starts playing havoc with Douglas’ life while he tries hard to figure out what this whole thing is about.

As a viewer, it is not so tough to figure out where the movie is going and the climax is somewhat predictable; but this movie really is not about the twist ending…rather the fun part is everything which happens before it. The gripping screenplay and the visual style of Fincher once again prove why he is regarded as a great filmmaker.

The plot and the events happening on screen might look rather preposterous but nevertheless entertaining throughout. Michael Douglas fits the role of the millionare investment banker well. The supporting cast comprising of Sean Penn, Deborah Kara Unger and James Rebhorn are good. Like his other cult film Fight Club, this flick was not a box office success initially but gained popularity later on. On the whole, a great watch for anyone looking for a nice psychological thriller.

American Pie presents Band Camp December 4, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I never heard of this one till I saw this in my DVD store. It happens to be a direct to video release written by Brad Riddell and directed by Steve Rash who weren’t invovled with the original series. I recently saw this on TV and realised why it wasn’t released in theatres.

The film features Stifler’s younger brother Matt Stifler, played by Tad Hilgenbrink whose pranks causes him to be sent to Band Camp. From the original movies, Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad shows up in a cameo here. There isn’t much of a plot in this one and doesn’t do a good job of matching up to its predecessors. In fact, this spinoff is an insult to the American Pie movies.

The writers try to borrow from the previous movies but don’t do a good job. The film isn’t really funny. It is more like a television show for teens and is totally avoidable. Whether you hated the movies in the American Pie series or loved them, this isn’t a movie that you want to watch unless you are in your teens. Unfortunately though, it seems to have made some money and there is another film in the offing titled American Pie presents the Naked Mile featuring a cousin of the Stifler brothers.

Mad City December 2, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
A satire on the news media is something I’ve been waiting to watch….and Mad City delivers it pretty well. Dustin Hoffman plays a star reporter for a news channel - his portrayal is similar to that of Shahrukh Khan’s in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. One day he is asked to cover a story about a museum in financial crisis. While he is in the museum an embittered former employee (John Travolta) barges in with a gun to threaten the curator demanding his job back. Accidentally he happens to shoot a security guard plus there are children touring the museum. Hoffman decides to make a “hostage situation” out of this so that his television ratings soar. He is able to manipulate John Travolta and convinces him to cooperate to better his current situation. The madness which ensues forms the rest of the story.

What really works for this movie is its theme. Though the whole thing about news channels going to any lengths to sensationalize news is overtly exaggerated it still is able to drive home the point.

One thing which I did not like about this movie is John Travolta’s performance. He hams throughout and simply doesn’t fit the role. Hoffman on the other hand carries the whole show on his shoulders. This film came about 10 years back but is something one would enjoy watching today because of its relevance. I wish someone would make a movie satirizing not only the media but also the viewers who partonize it.

On the whole this flick is an interesting take on an important issue but goes unabashedly over the top doing so. Still, worth a watch.

The School of Rock
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This is one of those movies that could have gone horribly wrong. Thankfully it doesn’t. Richard Linklater (Bad News Bears, A Scanner Darkly), Mike White (The Good Girl, Nacho Libre, who also doubles up as Dewey’s roommate Schneebly) and Jack Black (King Kong, Shark Tale) are the three key players in the success of this film.

Black plays Dewey, a wannabe rocker, who is fired from his band because he is too weird. He poses as a substitute teacher to make some money to clear his debts while also trying to form a new band. He initially plans to while away his time in class till he realises that some of the children in the class can play music. He then decides to form a band with these students and enter a competition. How he actually does this and how it affects everyone involved is what this movie tries to tackle.

Though the premise seems simple, the movie has depth. This movie works on many levels and will appeal to a wide range of people. Mike White creates a screenplay (that was apparently written with Black in mind) that is very appealing. It appeals to kids and adults equally. It appeals to those who are looking for intellect and also to those who aren’t. Linklater directs this delightful film, making sure that the purpose of White’s writing is not lost in trying to make another formulaic comedy. He lets Black do his thing and it works big time. Most of Black’s scenes in the classroom are wonderfully imagined and executed.

Jack Black rocks! Black treats his character with utmost sincerity and makes the seemingly obnoxious Dewey very likeable. Another actor could have killed this movie but Black is perfect for the part. I can’t imagine this movie without him. The other major players in the movie are the kids and they do a neat job. Apparently, the music in the film is actually performed by the child actors (you can make it out the way they play their instruments).

I believe that following your heart, no matter what others think about it, is key to happiness and in my opinion, true success. This movie touches on that theme successfully (though not as well as Good Will Hunting does) and therefore gets more respect from me.

This is a feel good film that isn’t saccharine. This is a comedy that doesn’t feel the need to resort to slapstick to generate the laughs. The movie does fit into a genre but it steers clear of being unnecessarily formulaic. This movie has genuine charm and I would recommend it to everyone.

Shakespeare in Love December 1, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This multi Oscar winning romantic comedy is something I relished in parts but ultimately liked it in the end. This movie is a fictional story about Shakespeare which traces his life during the time he wrote and staged “Romeo and Juliet”.

Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) promises a play to two rival theatre owners (Geoffrey Rush and Martin Klunes); but he is unable to find any inspiration to complete it. Also, Rush is in deep trouble as he has to payback a huge amount of money to Tom Wilkinson…and promises to make Wilkinson a partner for his upcoming play. So, he is constantly after Shakespeare to finish the play. Incidentally Shakespeare meets Gwyneth Paltrow and they fall in love…and finally he gets inspired to write his famous play. She in turn is fascinated by Shakespeare’s work and wears a disguise to feature in his play as women were not allowed to appear on stage during that time. Then there is Colin Firth who is about to marry Paltrow against her will. How it all ends is for you to see.

The initial portions of the movie are good but once the courtship between Fiennes and Paltrow starts there are very long and boring moments especially when they keep making out in bed spouting sonnets and lines from the ongoing play. But the second half and especially the climax are very well written which made me forgive the rest. The biggest strength of this movie is the supporting cast of Geoffrey Rush, Ben Affleck, Tom Wilkinson, Colin Firth and Judi Dench who provide most of the entertainment. There is some very subtle humour in this one which impressed me. Also, the rousing music score by Stephen Warbeck is a highlight.

This is actually only the second comedy which won the Best Picture Oscar. On the whole a pretty good period flick which should appeal to you if you can somehow sit through the boring parts.

50 First Dates
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler star in this simple and pleasing romantic comedy. George Wing’s first screenplay takes a lighter look at short term memory loss after Christopher and Joseph Nolan’s more serious take on the issue in the thriller Memento. Barrymore plays a girl who loses her short term memory after an accident. She wakes up everyday to live what she believes is the same day. Her parents and some friends make sure that she continues to live life in the same way oblivious to her condition. Even if she does find out, she forgets it by the next day anyway. At this point, a chance meeting draws Sandler to her. What happens when Sandler tries to woo her and the changes he brings in her life form the rest of the movie.

Adam Sandler is appealing in a role that doesn’t require him to go over the top. Drew Barrymore is loveable as usual and suits her role well. The Sandler-Barrymore combination is quite charming. Among the supporting cast, Sean Astin (Rudy, Lord of the Rings Trilogy) gets a role that I wouldn’t have imagined him in and he gels. Rob Schneider, who has the habit of popping up in Sandler’s films and vice versa, gets a cameo and generates some laughs (though they don’t seem to fit in).

Wing takes an interesting premise and creates a likeable script making sure that the movie does not rely on stupidity to generate the laughs. The romance is also given enough importance and it is handled well without being completely formulaic or predictable. Peter Segal (Anger Management, The Longest Yard) directs this film and he does a nice job. This isn’t an intellectually appealing movie but it does most things right to please the target audience without being too dumb. Anybody who wants to see a feel good romantic comedy that has charm might want to check this out. Barrymore and Sandler fans do not need a special invitation to watch this one.
X-Men: The Last Stand November 30, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
There is one thing I can definitely say after watching this movie - I sorely miss Bryan Singer. Lot of people had apprehensions before the movie’s release about director Brett Ratner continuing Singer’s legacy and sadly quite a few of them are true.

When viewed as a stand alone superhero movie X-3 works but when the moment you begin comparing it to the first two movies the disappointment begins. First and foremost, the sleek and glossy look is totally missing. Probably Ratner wanted to establish his own style which doesn’t work. Also, the action sequences are overdone and look quite campy at times. The Golden Gate bridge sequence towards the climax was surely a tough thing to create but it actually made me laugh. In one of the scenes where Wolverine’s metal claws come out, the clumsy CGI was evident. On the brighter side, this movie is lot more eventful…going by the number of important characters who get wiped out. Also, there are quite a few new mutants - one of them is a lady with teleporting abilities but nothing compared to Nightcrawler who was seen in X-2: United.

The story is pretty much on the same lines as its predecessors. This time a cure has been developed to cure the Mutants and make them human. Magneto (Ian McKellen) uses this opportunity to justify his hostility with humans yet again…and embarks to destroy the cure and the people around it. This time to aid him there is Jean (Famke Janssen) who we come to know has enormous untapped power and a darker side. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry) are there on the other front to prevent this.

Hugh Jackman reprises his breakthrough role once again and he is charming as usual…but I did not like his costume in the end. The other notable performer is of course Ian Mckellen as the deviously likeable Magneto. The action is impressive in parts. Desipte all the negatives, you would definitely want to watch this if you have seen the previous two movies….because it does act as a fairly satisfying finale; otherwise you may skip this.

Panic Room November 28, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
For an utterly simplistic plot like that of this movie, one really wonders what is it that brought writer David Koepp and director David Fincher together. Once you watch the movie you’ll probably guess it was just to show to the world what they can do with a hopeless script like this.

Well, coming to the plot itself…it’s about Jodie Foster and her daughter moving into a grandiose house with an emergency “panic room” built with lots of ameneties like surveillance cameras and stuff. One night there is a break in by three guys (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam) to steal some hidden treasure in the panic room. You can probably guess the rest of the story from here.

As trite as the story might sound, it is altogether a different thing when you watch the movie. Koepp’s brilliant screenplay and Fincher’s innovative visual style - most notably the camera movements through walls and ceilings make this a gripping though predictable thriller. It’s almost two hours long but the pace never really slacks.

The cast is fine and there is nothing much for them to do except for running around and looking scared. This is a movie I would rate highly because I really did not expect much from it in the first place but it turned out otherwise. This is nice example of how a good screenplay can save the day for an otherwise mediocre script.

Suspect Zero November 27, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This is another one of those muddled thrillers where you end up feeling like a moron when the suspense starts to unfold. No doubt, you’ll find lots of movies with far fetched plots but atleast they don’t pretend to be realistic. This is precisely where this one falters.

Ben Kingsley is a vigilante who seeks out and kills other serial killers. There is some wierd ritual like stuff he does to actually predict when a murder or a kidnapping is going to take place in the future….how does he do it? Simple…there is an FBI training course for the same which can also be accessed through audio lessons; how cool! And Kingsley tries conveying this information to an FBI agent (Aaron Eckhart) who also seems to share certain similar traits. Most of the movie is about Eckhart’s troubles in trying to figure out who Kingsley actually was and what he was trying to say to him. Well, I actually gave away the spoiler in the story simply because it is not really worth it to watch the movie to find it out.

The presence of actors like Ben Kingsley, Aaron Eckhart and Carrie-Anne Moss is what made me rent this movie. The direction by Elias Merhige is good and the narrative is fine too but all this actually leads to the film’s undoing when the actual suspense is revealed. I really would not recommend this to anyone.

Sky High
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Sky High is a high school for kids of superheroes. Will is the son of two reputed superheroes but he seems to have no powers of his own. Kids in the schools are sorted into superheroes and sidekicks and Will seems destined to be a sidekick. His experiences and the expected appearance of a super villain make up the rest of the movie. The movie features a whole bunch of kids with Michael Angarano playing Will. Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston play his parents.

This movie released last summer (2005) and the trailers made it seem to be a promising mix of Harry Potter and the Incredibles. Though it never gets close to those movies, it isn’t a bad movie. Writers Paul Hernandez, Robert Schooley and Mark McCorkie come up with a screenplay that is mainly aimed at kids and teenagers. The movie does touch on some real issues (parental pressure and how kids cope up, the effects of success and popularity) but never tackles them with enough seriousness. Movies based on superheroes need a lot of imagination and creativity and the writers along with director Mike Mitchell (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigalow, Surviving Christmas) do a decent job on this front. This is what makes the movie worth watching despite its formulaic plot. I liked parts of this movie but I would have enjoyed it more if I was in my early teens. I would recommend this movie to kids who are in school. Those interested in the superhero genre might also want to check it out.

Midnight Run November 26, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Midnight Run refers to a relatively easy job in bounty hunter terminology (source: Wikipedia). This smash hit action comedy featuring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin is a fun filled road movie with lot of twists and turns to keep you happy.

De Niro is a bounty hunter who is hired by a bail bondsman to get hold of a certain Duke (Charles Grodin) who’s been charged with embezzlement of funds from a gangster (Dennis Farina)…and has now jumped his bail. What was supposedly a midnight run for De Niro turns out to be anything but that because there are couple of other parties who want to capture the Duke…namely the FBI and the gangster who was cheated by the Duke. Also, in the game is a rival bounty hunter (John Ashton) who is hired to takeover the job from De Niro after he fails to bring in the Duke by the specified time. What follows is an endless double crossing game with each one trying to outwit the other and get away with the Duke.

This was De Niro’s first major comic role and he is very likeable. But the role I really liked in this movie was that of Yaphet Kotto who plays the FBI agent Alonzo Mosely. Though he doesn’t have to speak much…it is his deadpan expressions which made me crack up. John Ashton as De Niro’s rival is also very good. Charles Grodin is okay…but he somehow looks a misfit in the otherwise perfect cast. This was director Martin Brest’s follow up to his earlier action comedy blockbuster Beverly Hills Cop. On the whole, this one’s a good timepass entertainer which should please everyone.

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride November 25, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
When Tim Burton and Johnny Depp come together for a movie you know you have to watch it. It is really of no consequence that what you are about to watch is actually a stop motion animation film.

This one’s a wonderful fairytale about a guy Victor (Johnny Depp) slated to get married to Victoria (Emily Watson). Though apprehensive of getting married to each other, it is love at first sight when they meet. During the wedding reharsal, Victor is unable to get his vows right and he subsequently decides to practise it in the woods nearby. Unfortunately, for him there is a corpse bride Emily (Helena Bonham Carter) on whose finger he accidentally slips the wedding ring and he is then transported with her to the world of the dead. Meanwhile Victoria’s greedy and destitute parents want to marry her off to a certain Lord Barkis (Richard E. Grant) who happens to be a wealthy man for their own good. Will Victor and Victoria finally unite…or is Victor destined to be with his corpse bride forever; you have to watch this flick to find out.

There are so many good things to talk about this movie. The biggest winner is its evergreen plot about true love winning against all odds. And then Tim Burton takes over with his brilliant visualization. Notice the way he portays the real world in black and white in contrast to the vibrant and colourful world of the dead. The animation is just brilliant. Burton and co-director/animator Mike Johnson’s creativity runs amok as they animate the dead characters in the movie…which generate ample laughs. The musical score and songs by Danny Elfman fit perfectly with the mood.

Though Johnny Depp isn’t there in person, Victor’s look closely resembles that of him. The rest of the cast is also great. I hardly watch any animation movies, but the prospect of Burton and Depp together was too hard to resist. This a must watch for lovers of animation flicks and of course fans of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton would not want to miss this one.
Slither November 24, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Some call it a tribute to B-Horror while others call it a spoof; whatever it may be Slither succeeds entertaining the viewer well as long as it lasts…which actually isn’t too long. Though a box office bomb, this was surprisingly one of the best reviewed movies of this year.

Apparently, this movie pays homage to a lot of low budget horror flicks of the seventies and eighties (which I am not aware of) but in general the major themes which appear in this pertain to alien body snatching and zombies. The best part is of course those yucky, slimy slugs which are all over the place trying to enter people’s mouths. I can never get myself to watch zombie movies or for that matter alien invasion horror stuff, but as a spoof these things appealed to me and made me smile quite a few times. As long as the gross-out visuals keep coming there isn’t much to complain.

The principal cast comprising of Elizabeth Banks (Betty Brant in the Spiderman movies), Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker is fine. Writer-Director James Gunn (who previously wrote the Scooby Doo movies) seems to have indulged himself a lot while making this unpretentious camp horror flick. The visual effects are quite good.

You will end up liking this only if you don’t watch it expecting some bonafide horror - as the posters might incorrectly suggest…as a horror-comedy it works just fine.

The Day of the Jackal
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I simply loved this movie. Probably the best cat-n-mouse chase thriller I’ve seen. Based on the very famous novel by Frederick Forsyth, this is the story of an assassin code-named “The Jackal” who is hired by a French terrorist group OAS to kill the then President of France Charles de Gaulle. What follows is a race against time as the Jackal tries to outwit the police to execute his plan while the police almost end up nabbing him every single time. You have to watch this flick to find out what happens finally on “the day of the Jackal”.

There are a number of things which catch your attention about this movie. First is the authentic look which makes it seem like almost like a real life documentary. I was under the impression that this really was a true story until I read about the movie. The controversial mockumentary “Death of a President” which made a lot of news lately probably might have taken its inspiration from this one.

Another thing to watch out for is the attention to detail. This film is about two and a half hours long but I never really was able to take my eyes off it at any point of time. The last few sequences towards the climax featuring the parade march is brilliant; it is tough to imagine how they could coordinate such crowd scenes 30 years back.

Edward Fox is cool as the Jackal and so is Michael Lonsdale who plays the detective on his prowl. Though Fred Zinnemann had a strong plot and screenplay in the form of the original book, he deserves full marks for his flawless execution. In 1997, this film was loosely remade with Bruce Willis and Richard Gere but it opened to really bad reviews.

As you read this you might feel that you’d have seen a lot of stories of this kind…but I still strongly recommend this movie to be on your must-watch list.

The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift November 23, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I had seen the first movie in the series and wasn’t totally impressed. The only thing that led me to watch this movie was the use of drifting (a special driving technique) in this movie. The primary reason to make this movie seems to be to showcase this technique and of course to make money in the process. The drifting makes the action different from the other movies in this series. I thoroughly enjoyed the action sequences in the movie wherever drifting was used. My favorite was the one where they drift through the traffic. However, everything else about the movie is awful.

“You Guys! You are always worried about who has the biggest engine!” says the girl, to which the guy replies “I guess I’m a guy. Its in my DNA”. That should give you some idea about how crappy the dialogue gets in this movie. The basic setup is quite similar to the first movie. The attempts by the writer, Chris Morgan (Cellular), to establish the characters and their relationships are quite lame. The writing is pathetic, the acting is bad (Lucas Black, Nathalie Kelley, Brian Tee, Bow Wow and a special appearance at the end by Vin Diesel) and logic is hard to find. The direction by the little known Justin Lin is passable. If anybody deserves real praise for this movie, it is the stunt directors and the stunt performers. Those who have an interest in cars or action movies in general might want to check this out for the drifting sequences. Others better keep away.

Click November 21, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
“What if You Had a Universal Remote….That Controlled Your Universe?” says the tagline - After watching Click one possible answer to that question would be - fast forward to the time when the movie ends. Click is not an outrightly bad or unwatchable movie; but I rate this low because the writers (who are five in number including Adam Sandler) botch up a very promising premise.

Adam Sandler plays a workaholic who puts his family on the backburner every time disappointing them. Also, he has a problem handling the various remote controls which swamp his house. So, one night he sets out in search of a universal remote to make his life simpler. He happens to bump into a certain Morty (Christopher Walken) who gives him a remote to control everything around him…literally. Things seem to working out for Sandler in the beginning as he fast forwards through the irritating aspects of his life (and also pausing and rewinding a few times)….but the remote begins to get out of control as it moves into an auto fast forward mode which keeps transporting Sandler farther and farther into the future based on his previous preferences.

The objective of all this is actually to bring home the point that “family comes first” - but after watching the campy second half you wonder if the aim was to make fun of the adage. There are a few funny moments in the first half to save the day but even the laughs go missing in the second half and I was waiting for the movie to end. I guess this is the third or fourth movie I’ve seen in recent years where there is a horny pet dog which likes to hump anything in sight - Hollywood writers seem to be fascinated with this joke.

Sandler is the same as he is in any other movie. Kate Beckinsale looks extremely good. Walken gets to play yet another mad scientist character and he seems to be getting very repititive in this role. David Hasselhoff is good as the boss. Click could have been a much better film than what it is; still you might like it if you’ve liked Adam Sandler’s previous flicks.

Trading Places November 20, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
When I read the plot of this movie on the cover, I guessed it was probably the inspiration behind the Chandrachur Singh-Arshad Warsi starrer Tere Mere Sapne. But since I don’t remember much of that movie apart from the characters “trading places” with each other, I tried this one and it turned out be quite entertaining.

Two wealthy stockbroker brothers have a bet for a dollar….one brother claims that given the right circumstances any person can flourish or stoop to a lowly life while the other claims that it’s all in the genes. To put their contentions to test they try reversing the circumstances of an employee of their firm (Dan Aykroyd) with that of a small time con (Eddie Murphy). What happens after this is anybody’s guess. The tagline for this movie says “They’re not just getting rich….they’re getting even” - which actually sums up the climax.

This premise is very apt for a crowd pleasing comedy and on the whole it does generate enough laughs to keep one happy. Eddie Murphy is hillarious in the initial portions - especially in his introduction scene where he pretends to be a beggar and also the scene where he is brought into his new home. Dan Aykroyd also fits the part quite well. Jamie Lee Curtis provides good support. John Landis does a good job directing this one. On the whole, a nice comedy with the requisite amount of laughs.

Happy Feet
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
I happened to see the theatrical trailer of Happy Feet this summer with a song and dance bit featuring the voice of Robin Williams and I knew I had to see this. It was released this weekend along with Casino Royale and nosed ahead on the weekend collections. The movie is about an Emperor Penguin called Mumble. All Emperor Penguins are supposed to sing to attract the opposite sex but Mumble can’t sing. Instead Mumble likes to dance and hence the name Happy Feet. As is custom with society, anyone that doesn’t conform to the rules is ostracized. His dancing is blamed for the disappearing fish in a satire on blind belief and religion. Thus, Mumble goes in search of the “aliens” who are taking the fish away along with some of his cross-cultural friends (five Adelie penguins and one Rockhopper penguin).

The capable voice cast includes Elijah Wood who voices Mumble, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and above all, Robin Williams who voices multiple characters, most notably Ramon and Lovelace. I cannot imagine this film without Robin Williams. He is just great. The song and dance in the film is charming and the soundtrack is fabulous. Apparently, the actors have done their own singing for the film (Wikipedia).

After some not so great talking animal animated features in recent times, the genre has lost some of its appeal. However, the writers (George Miller, Warren Coleman, John Collee, Judy Morris) make sure that this one hits the bulls eye. The good thing about this film is that it is not just about humor and talking animals. This film appeals not only to the kids but also to the adults with its subtle satire and messages. Though it becomes a bit too fantastical towards the end, the movie has already grabbed you and you aren’t willing to let go.

The director, George Miller (Babe, Mad Max) deserves great praise as do the animators. Miller makes great use of the camera and 3D to make a great looking film. Check out some of the chase sequences to see the difference. Some of the animals, especially the seals, are unbelievably realistic. This is the best use of 3D animation that I’ve seen. I had a great time watching this film and I would recommend this to anyone who likes animated features even if they are not old enough to get the deeper meaning.
The Maltese Falcon November 19, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Based on a famous novel by Dashiell Hammett this 1941 film was actually the third screen adaptation of the book. What made the book and the movie so famous was its depiction of the cold and unscrupulous private detective Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart) which set the precedent for other future movies in the genre. For instance, Jack Nicholson’s famous outing as detective Gittes in Chinatown.

As a movie though, it is just about fair which is understandable given the way plots for suspense thrillers have evolved to be more and more complex and intricate over the years. What I found interesting about this movie is the way the actual plot about the “Maltese Falcon” comes to fore very late into the movie; prior to that the mystery around the main thread is very nicely built.

Humphrey Bogart’s characterization more or less resembles that of James Bond - a cold, womanizing spy….just that it’s a private detective here. The rest of the cast is just about okay. The lines written for Bogart are really smart and witty - this is what I liked most about this flick.

This is a movie I would suggest you to watch only if you are curious about classics…as a detective story I would rate this as average. If you are looking a good suspense thriller you can skip this and try out something more contemporary.

Gone in Sixty Seconds
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
The movie is a remake of a 1974 movie of the same name written and directed by H.B. Halicki (who also starred in it and apparently died during the filming of a sequel to the movie). A car thief who has gone straight needs to come back from hibernation for one last job to save his little brother. The job is to steal 50 specific cars and to do this he needs to assemble his old team.

The premise is interesting enough for a commercial action thriller. However, the movie didn’t really generate the excitement that was expected of it. The writing (Scott Rosenberg) isn’t up to the mark in this movie (directed by Dominic Sena). Coming from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, you expect an escapist action flick that isn’t too hard on the mind but is pleasurable for the senses. This movie satisfies those expectations to an extent only. There is some of that conventional entertainment but just not enough.

The subplots in the movie aren’t appealing and Angelina Jolie is wasted (I wonder if it was a special appearance of some sort). Nicholas Cage and Robert Duvall are fine but the movie doesn’t require much from them anyway. The movie is actually quite boring till it gets close to the climax. A better thing to do would be to just watch the climax. Some of the action is impressive, particularly towards the end, so this maybe a decent watch for those interested in the genre. If you are in the mood for a formulaic action flick, you may find this fun but otherwise there isn’t much to remember this movie by. If you are interested in watching an action film featuring cars, The Fast and The Furious might be a better bet.

Cop Land November 18, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Cop Land is one of those rare movies in recent years for which Sylvester Stallone was not nominated for a Razzie…and for good reason. It is actually his deglam portrayal of an overweight sheriff with a hearing problem which makes this old-fashioned cop drama worth a watch.

The story set in the outskirts of New York - a place ruled by corrupt NYPD cops headed by Harvey Keitel and Robert Patrick. Stallone plays the laidback town sheriff with an unfulfilled ambition to be an NYPD cop; something he is unable to achieve due to his deafness. Also, there is Robert DeNiro - an Internal Affairs guy who wants to bring the corrupt coterie of cops to justice. He is eager to lay hands on any cop arrested for some misdeed and ready to spill the beans on the other cops’ activities but any such guy is always bumped before he gets to the hands of the investigating authorities. DeNiro seeks help from Stallone to expose the cops but Stallone doesn’t seem to eager to help. A few incidents later, his conscience is awakened and along with partner Ray Liotta he tries to clean up the mess.

Despite the cliched plot, this film works mainly due to Stallone and a gripping screenplay by James Mangold (Identity, Walk the Line). Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta are good as the primary supporting cast. De Niro’s role is more of an extended guest appearance. The music by Howard Shore is another asset to this movie.

Thought not among the best cop dramas I’ve seen, this still qualifies as one of the better ones. Despite receiving good reviews, this movie bombed at the box office. This makes a nice watch for anyone who likes cop dramas…and if you are a Stallone fan you would not want to miss this.

Three Men and a Baby
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This movie reminds you of those John Hughes’ comedies which were quite popular during the late eighties and early nineties. The title pretty much suggests what the movie is about.

Three roommates Tom Selleck (who you might remember as Richard from the sitcom Friends), Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson have a happy life together. Danson is an actor who has to be out for a while and one of his friends asks him for a favor to collect a package and safeguard it for a couple of days. His other two roommates are in for a surprise when they find an unexpected ‘package’ the next day - Danson’s love child abandoned by her mother. Now begins the best part of the movie where they try to take care of the baby. Also, to add to their trouble the actual package happens to be a shipment of heroin…for which the cops as well as the smugglers are hunting for.

What happens from hereon is pretty mediocre and doesn’t live up to the promising first half; simply because the focus moves away from the baby. Even towards the end when the mother comes to collect the baby back; the scenes are not so exciting. Still, there is some very nice humour sprinkled in the first half which make this movie on the whole quite watchable.

The three leads are quite good in their parts and so is the baby (or rather babies. Like in Baby’s Day Out two babies are credited for the role). Leonard Nimoy directs this film (who is better known for playing Spock in Star Trek). This movie was actually the biggest hit of the year it released. Apparently, this is also the inspiration behind Sajid Khan’s upcoming mega-budget directorial venture Hey Baby! This flick is not a must-watch or something but it does manage to make you smile and brings back nostalgic memories of movies you had enjoyed way back when you were a kid.

Amadeus November 17, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Eight Oscar wins is definitely a compelling reason to watch this film but I also had to overcome my dislike for European period flicks (mainly for those attrocious costumes)….and Amadeus ultimately was yet another pleasant surprise for me.

Mozart is someone who everyone knows to be one of the greatest music composers of all time. His symphonies are quite commonly used (for instance - the Titan Watches advert theme) though I didn’t know it was his until I saw this flick. This movie is not exactly a biopic of Mozart but it is his rise and fall as described by Vienna’s court composer Salieri who is perenially envious of Mozart’s prodigious talent. His clownish demeanour further infuriate Salieri who always keeps questioning God as to why He had to bestow such great talent on a joke like Mozart. Salieri plots to bring down Mozart and succeeds in doing it but in a very unconventional way. This movie also throws light on Mozart’s rather unpractical way of life….a trait shared by lot of geniuses.

With a runtime of 3 hours, it might sound a bit painful but believe me - it surely is interesting and watchable; the only scenes where I had an issue were when the actors sing in the operas and there are quite a few operas staged in the movie. Now to the best part - the performances. F. Murray Abraham as Salieri and Tom Hulce as Mozart are the life of this film. Both of them were nominated for the Best Actor Oscar and Abraham won. Though, I felt Hulce as Mozart was more entertaining of the two. Most of the supporting cast also does a good job.

The music which obviously is made up of Mozart’s tunes really brings grandeur to the whole movie. The sets and costumes are magnificent. Director Milos Forman truly deserves credit for making a period film like this on such a grand scale. Lovers of period dramas would definitely like this flick. For an average viewer looking for entertainment, this should make the cut too.

The Weather Man November 15, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Incidentally, in the last fortnight this is the third film I’ve seen after Jaan-e-Mann and Elizabethtown where the protagonist is a “loser”…and I did like all of them in varying proportions. This movie didn’t do well on its release nor received great reviews but I must say it did surpass all my expectations.

I would never have rented this if it weren’t for the credentials of director Gore Verbinski and Nicholas Cage. Cage plays a weatherman who’s having trouble with his personal life - an estranged wife and two kids who have their own troubles. Most importantly he has to live in the shadow of his extremely successful and respected father (Michael Caine). He continually fails to live up to his father’s expectations who thinks that his son is quite immature and incompetent. Most of the movie is about Cage’s endeavour to reconnect with his wife and kids and of course impress his father - with equal success and failure.

There are some really well written and enacted sequences which stand out - especially the “camel-toe” thread where Caine reprimands Cage to get his daughter’s wardrobe changed as she was called camel-toe in her school and subsequently Cage figures out that his daughter thinks it to be a word of praise; other notable scenes include the aftermath of the couples therapy between Cage and his wife (Hope Davis); and the final interaction between Cage and Caine towards the end.

Nicholas Cage is tailor-made for this role and he is just too good. His quirky expressions and mannerisms are something to watch out for. Among the supporting cast Michael Caine and Gemmenne de la Peña stand out. The background score by Hans Zimmer is very apt and greatly enhances the mood. One more thing I liked about this flick is its bitter-sweet ending.

Amongst the Hollywood flicks I’ve seen in recent times, I can definitely say this to be to the most underrated one. This film is for you if you are looking for a heartfelt comedy (actually…almost a black comedy).
Stealth November 14, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This is one of the those movies that takes the audience for granted completely. This is a wannabe blockbuster movie that has nothing to impress the critics and rarely has the capacity to excite the audience interested in escapist fare. Wikipedia claims that this is one of the biggest box office turkeys of all time (in terms of money lost). The movie had a production budget of $135 million (and more in marketing costs) and made under $77 million worldwide (

The movie aims to be an action adventure. A fighter jet that is run by a computer using Artificial Intelligence is developed by the US Navy. Three pilots are given the job of training this jet. As even a 5-year old might guess, the jet develops a mind of its own and the rest of the movie is about how the pilots save the situation and themselves.

The writing (W.D.Richter) translates an uninteresting and predictable premise to an awfully moronic film. It is a wonder that the studio was willing to invest so much in this dumb script. Director Rob Cohen (xXx, The Fast and the Furious) knows how to make action movies that appeal to the general audience but he can’t do much to save this one. This movie was Jamie Foxx’s next release after his Oscar winning turn in Ray. He doesn’t have much to do and he exits halfway through the movie (he must have thanked God for that). Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind, Glory Road) and Jessica Biel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cellular) play the main leads and they have a thankless job.

This is a B-grade movie with an A-grade budget. This film is so dense that it becomes quite funny. If you happen to watch this with a group of people who have a sense of humor, you just might enjoy it.

The Deep End
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This is quite a gripping thriller which only falters somewhat towards the end. Watching this movie reminded me of My Wife’s Murder - though there is nothing common between the two stories the underlying theme of the protagonist trying to cover up a killing to protect his/her family is something you might relate between these two flicks.

Starring Tilda Swinton (recently notable for her portrayal of the Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia), the story is about her troubled teenage son (Jonathan Tucker) who happens to be gay and one night during a fight with his partner (Joshua Lucas); Lucas accidentally gets killed. Though Tucker is actually unaware of this, his mother finds the dead body the next day and goes to great lengths to dispose it off. But the police somehow trace the body. To add to her woes there is a certain guy who blackmails her with a sex-tape of Tucker and Lucas for a huge sum. You have to see the movie to know how it all ends.

The most appealing aspect of this movie is its seeming authenticity which keeps the viewer interested in the proceedings. But as the film draws to a close, the events seem too dramatized and kind of letdown an otherwise well-scripted thriller.

Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic are good in the lead roles. Despite its flaws, this makes the cut as a nice gripping thriller with quite a bit of realism….If you saw this and liked it I would also recommend you My Wife’s Murder because I feel the latter is a much superior piece of work in a similar genre.

Elizabethtown November 13, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
It might sound silly, but the only reason I rented this flick was to see how Orlando Bloom looks in a contemporary get up. Prior to this the only movies I’ve seen of him are Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, LOTR and Pirates of the Caribbean - all of which were period flicks and I was really fed up of watching him in those.

This movie received really bad reviews but I somewhat did like it. It can be loosely classified as a wierd romantic comedy with unbelievable characters and unbelievable situations…but there was still a certain warmth about this movie which is sadly missing in other better received flicks in the same genre. Orlando Bloom is on the verge of committing suicide after the spectacular failure of a shoe he designed (the first 10 minutes or so where he eventually gets fired for this is the best part of the movie), but he has to postpone his plans when he learns of his father’s death in his hometown - Elizabethtown. His journey to this town, experiences with its eccentric townfolk and an unexpected relationship is what the movie is all about.

There is some smart writing sprinkled all over which provides some good laughs. The most appealing thing I found about this movie is the immensely likeable lead pair of Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst who share an amazing chemistry onscreen. On the downside, every possible cliche you might expect in a film like this is exhausted. Cameron Crowe directs this film who earlier made Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous.

As an overtly unrealistic feel-good flick Elizabethtown works just fine for the reasons mentioned before but otherwise you might want to look elsewhere.

Man on Fire November 12, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Somebody needs to tell Tony Scott that just having his trademark snazzy visuals and camera moves don’t necessarily make a great movie. This was actually a remake of a 1987 film of the same name. Scott was originally slated to direct the original but was dropped because he wasn’t famous out then.

Apparently, Quentin Tarantino suggested remaking this film in 2004 (and he seems to be one of the very few people who liked this movie immensely and rates it to be Tony Scott’s best). Also, this movie was the inspiration behind last year’s Amitabh Bachchan starrer ‘Ek Ajnabee’.

Nothing great about the plot….An ex-serviceman Denzel Washington is hired to be the bodyguard for a little girl belonging to a wealthy family (played by the “too old for her years” child prodigy Dakota Fanning - who I always find really irritating except for probably in “War of the Worlds” where she didn’t have to speak much). They slowly bond over time but one day she gets kidnapped and due to a failed ransom exchange she is presumably killed. What follows is a senseless revenge drama where Washington goes about killing anyone loosely associated with the kidnapping.

I was seriously waiting for this movie to end. After the first half I was expecting a nice action packed second half but at the end of the movie I can say the actionless first half was far better. I now feel I should have probably seen ‘Ek Ajnabee’ instead as it received fairly good reviews. Unless you are a Denzel Washington fan, you can easily skip this one.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan November 10, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
Every movie buff has been talking about Borat since the movie released last friday. The movie released in just 837 theatres in the US and created a sensation by taking in over $26 million for the weekend (its budget is just $18 million). When I first heard about this movie, I wasn’t interested one bit. When I got an opportunity to watch an advance screening, I passed it. However, I had to reevaluate my interest when it got some of the best reviews of the year so far.

The movie is a mockumentary about a television reporter from Kazakhstan who travels to America to make a documentary. Circumstances and Pamela Anderson (mainly Pamela) make him travel through the country meeting a variety of people. The movie has some staged portions and some real interactions with people (it is difficult to make out which is which). It has to be noted that the depiction of the Kazakhstan people is very over the top and nobody should take it seriously (though this seems obvious, you will be surprised to know that some people take what is depicted in movies far too seriously). It really is a satire on American culture and a great one at that.

Firstly, this movie isn’t for those who are easily offended. In fact, it isn’t even for those who are offended on occasion. You can enjoy it only if you can view it objectively. It is a satire on everything. This is probably the only film I know that can offend so many diverse groups of individuals. People of different countries, religions, race, gender, sexual orientation, class and more might be displeased, annoyed, embarrassed and outraged. The movie mocks everything from American humor to homophobia to feminism to George Bush. I had to suppress my laughter at times to make sure that I do not offend anyone beside me.

Crude, Obscene, Gross and Indecent are all words that different people might associate with this film. However, it cannot be overlooked that this movie is funny. I laughed till my throat hurt. When I first heard about a sequence in this film with two nude males wrestling, I believed that it would not make me laugh but that happened to be the scene where I laughed the hardest. More than being funny, it makes a point. It makes a lot of points! There is some very keen observation in the movie and in fact you might miss some of it the first time. The reactions of some of the people that Borat interacts with are highly shocking.

Sacha Baron Cohen, a British Comedian is the star of this film. The movie is apparently inspired by his Da Ali G Show. He does a great job as Borat and his spontaneity is the key to the humor in this movie. Ken Davitian is the only other person in the movie is a substantial role and his performance gets lost in everything else. The writers (Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer) do a great job with tremendous imagination and piercing observations. Larry Charles, who wrote for some episodes of Seinfeld, directs this movie and his contribution isn’t too much.

I would like to really know if Cohen wasn’t pummelled by someone at some point during the making of this film. To say that some of the things that he does in the movie are unexpected might be quite an understatement. Some of the sequences in the movie are unimaginable and almost unbelievable. I won’t tell you that this is the funniest movie of all time like some have said (it doesn’t join my list of favorite comedies) but there aren’t too many movies that have made me laugh as much (I’ve enjoyed a lot of comedies more than this for a number of different reasons). If you are one of those people that can laugh at themselves and is rarely offended by anything, you will definitely laugh till something hurts.

Dead Again
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
No matter how crappily they are made, I do enjoy watching reincarnation flicks from time to time. And there are quite a bunch of them in Hindi and Telugu if you might want to check out. As far as I remember, this is probably the only Hollywood movie I can recall seeing with this theme.

The story begins with a black and white footage of a news story covering a high profile murder committed by a certain Roman Strauss (Kenneth Branagh) who is found guilty of murdering his wife (Emma Thompson) with a pair of scissors. Fast Forward to the future and you see an amnesiac Emma Thompson having these same black and white nightmares. Fate finds her a helper in a reincarnated Kenneth Branagh with who she delves into her past with the aid of a hypnotist (Derek Jacobi). Ultimately, things are resolved - but not in the way you might guess after reading this review until now.

Andy Garcia and Robin Williams make cameo appearances. Emma Thompson has tremendous screen presence and she makes a great onscreen pair with Kenneth Branagh who also directs this flick. Actually, they were married to each other when this movie was filmed. If you have seen other similar themed films in Hindi or Telugu then you might not really find this new; but as for me I did quite enjoy watching this as it has been a really long time I saw a reincarnation flick and I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in such movies.
Cape Fear November 9, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
As you watch this movie, there is only one question which keeps haunting you…why on earth did Martin Scorsese direct this movie? If you actually happened to read about this movie before then you might ask another question….why on earth was Spielberg the first choice to direct such a movie.

The problem with this movie begins and ends with the plot itself. An ex-con stalking a lawyer and his family to seek revenge for the lawyer’s betrayal of him is not really a groundbreaking story. And on that, this was supposed to be a remake of an old movie with the same name. I wouldn’t say the movie was bad, but the screenplay never tries to rise above its below average plot and one cannot really blame Scorsese for that.

Still, when you see the climax sequence and another couple of scenes you might guess that Yash Chopra did get inspired by a few bits of this flick when he made his smash hit Darr. The performances by Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis are just about okay. I don’t really like stalker flicks so that is probably the reason I’ve rated this low. I would have liked this movie better hadn’t I known about the people behind it but coming from Scorsese this is a huge disappointment.

Shuang long hui (The Twin Dragons) November 8, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English, Cantonese. 1 comment so far
The movie also apparently goes by Brother vs. Brother, Double Dragon, Duel of Dragons, Seung lung kooi and When Dragons Collide and was made as a benefit film for the Hong Kong Directors Guild (according to IMDB). This film stars Jackie Chan in a dual role as twins separated at birth. One of them grows up into a musician while the other becomes a rogue. As promising as the premise sounds for a Jackie Chan action comedy, this one sucks!

The film tries to run (quite predictably) on the mistaken identity of these characters. Though it has been done before, with some good action and comedy, this movie would have worked. The movie has some gags that make you laugh a bit but it isn’t as funny as it needs to be. The action scenes are good, as you expect with Chan flicks, but they weren’t enough to satiate me. Except for the comedy in the tub and the climax, most of the movie is forgettable. Uninspired writing (Barry Wong, Hark Tsui, Tung Cho ‘Joe’ Cheung, Yik Wong) and direction (Ringo Lam, Hark Tsui) mar this film. Chan is good but that isn’t enough to save the film. On the whole, this is a disappointing Jackie Chan flick that only fans might want to watch.

The interesting thing though is that E.V.V. Satyanarayana was inspired by this film to make Hello Brother in telugu (starring Nagarjuna) that was later remade in hindi by David Dhawan as Judwaa (starring Salman Khan). Both of the movies worked at the Box Office and were liked by the audience. I quite enjoyed Hello Brother and still remember some of its crazy characters and weird but witty dialogue. It just goes to show that remakes aren’t a bad idea, especially when the original wastes a promising premise.

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Catch-22 is one of those rare literary phrases which have been accepted as part of normal English conversation. Based on a bestseller by Joseph Heller the movie adaptation was directed by Mike Nichols and featured Alan Arkin in the lead. This movie made in 1970 actually was a commercial failure but over a period of time has found its following. On the whole I did find this flick quite amusing.

Alan Arkin plays a World War II bombardier called Yossarian who is fed up of the war and wants to return home. But his commanding officer’s fetish for having the highest number of bombing missions for his squadron won’t let that happen. Yossarian then pleads insanity to get out but then he faces a Catch-22 situation - one could leave the war voluntarily by proving that he is insane; but his pleading of insanity to leave the war means that he is able to realize the danger of being in the war…which means that he is actually not insane. And so, he is stuck. The rest of the movie is more of a black comedy with Yossarian’s friends perishing one by one - for reasons definitely not attributable to enemy combat. The major themes which pop up in this movie are the general disenchantment of soldiers with war and war-profiteering.

The narrative moves in a pretty non-linear format which probably should have been groundbreaking during its time. The movie has a very open ending where Yossarian is shown fleeing the camp after being offered another Catch-22 deal. I found this film lot more interesting than Nichols’ much acclaimed The Graduate. Alan Arkin was really good as the protagonist Yossarian. Ultimately, this flick works quite well as an overt war satire and makes an interesting watch.

Enemy Mine November 7, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
When you are about to watch a science fiction film from a hardcore action filmmaker like Wolfgang Petersen (Troy, Air Force One, Poseidon, Outbreak, The Perfect Storm) you’d probably expect another of those actioners but surprisingly what you get is an emotional tearjerker (atleast that’s what it was intended to look like).

The futuristic plot involves humans and dracs (some creature resembling a huge lizard) fighting over space domination. During one such war, a human (Dennis Quaid) and a drac (Louis Gossett, Jr) get stranded on an unknown planet. Intially they want to kill each other, but slowly they learn to tolerate each other’s existence and over a period of time grow fond of each other and end up learning even each other’s language and culture. One day the drac dies leaving behind its offspring and entrusts it to Quaid for safe deliverance to the drac’s home planet. Now there are some obstacles before Quaid can accomplish his mission.

Well, at the beginning this plot looks interesting, but slowly the movie starts wallowing in every possible cliche you can find in a story like this. The worst part is that it is painfully slow, predictable and unintentionally funny at few places. It almost put me to sleep. Given, that it was made in 1985 the visuals are also quite tacky.

Taking the “universal brotherhood” story and using it in a sci-fi setting probably sounds good on paper but it is not particularly great when translated to the screen. I wouldn’t really recommend this unless you have trouble falling asleep.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles November 6, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
John Hughes - the man behind kiddie crowd pleasers like the Home Alone series, Dennis the Menace, Baby’s Day Out, Flubber etc. made this really sweet and hillarious comedy in the late eighties. Unlike his other movies which were critically panned, this one received rave reviews and was a great commercial success too.

You might probably guess from the title that the theme is a travel comedy involving a plane trip, rail trip, road trip and of course….a lot of stopovers. Steve Martin plays a busy executive who needs to reach home for thanksgiving. It’s just two hours on a plane before he reaches home but fate has something else in store; also to his dismay there is a talkative shower ring salesman (John Candy) he has to hook up with against his wishes. And then begins the fun. The humour in this movie is mostly slapstick but it still made me laugh throughout. Steve Martin doesn’t have too many lines but it is his reaction to things happening around him which makes you crack up. John Candy is also good as the quirky salesman.

This movie is essentially a “two guys who don’t like each other initially but slowly bond” movie which always has its appeal along with some “Thanksgiving Spirit” thrown in the end. I enjoyed watching this more so because it brought back memories of other movies Hughes made and which I really enjoyed as a kid. In recent years, this genre seems to have died a slow death. Anyways, this is a really fine comedy which both kids and adults can enjoy.

Tailpiece: This otherwise innocuous comedy received an R-rating because of a scene where a frustrated Steve Martin blasts a car rental receptionist using the f-word nineteen times in a sentence (source: Wikipedia).

The Last Castle
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
The ‘Castle’ in the title refers primarily to a prison. Robert Redford plays a court-martialed General who is sent to the prison where James Gandolfini serves as the warden. Initially, the warden admires the general but after an incident where his ego is hurt, a power struggle ensues. Redford simply wants to finish his term but Gandolfini’s atrocities against unwitting prisoners pull him into a game of one-upmanship.

The primary draw for this movie is the performances of the two main protagonists. Redford (All The President’s Men, The Sting) is good as expected. I hadn’t seen much of Gandolfini (8MM, The Mexican) before this and I was impressed. He holds his own against Redford and brings the movie alive. The names of the two protagonists are apparently those of two British Chess champions (according to IMDB). That is quite in tune with the Chess symbolism in the movie.

Film critic turned director Rod Lurie (The Contender) directs this prison drama that never quite grabs you like The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile or other good movies in the genre. The screenplay by David Scarpa (who is credited for the story) and Graham Yost (Speed, Broken Arrow) is absorbing despite its flaws. The clashes between the two protagonists are well depicted. The supporting characters are also essential to the movie and they are dealt with in an appreciable manner. The main drawback of the movie is that it tells an unlikely and far-fetched story that is the result of a fertile imagination. If you are willing to overlook that, it makes an entertaining watch.
The Manchurian Candidate November 4, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
A remake of a famous political thriller with the formidable team of director Jonathan Demme, Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep is something one would definitely look forward to watch. I wasn’t really aware of what the original movie was about or the book on which the film was based was about; I only knew that it was a political conspiracy theory flick.

Though I really enjoyed watching every minute of it I must say the overall plot was quite absurd (almost laughable if you really think hard) but hadn’t it been for the way it was shot or the presence of A list actors, it really wouldn’t have worked. Without giving away too much of the story, let me say that the plot is about a conspiracy behind the vice-presidential candidature of a certain war hero Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber). But Shaw himself and certain people he worked earlier with like Major Marco (Denzel Washington) have some trouble with dreams they’ve been having after their Gulf War stint. These dreams about being “brainwashed” make Major Marco embark on a dark trail to find out the whole truth behind this.

Meryl Streep is delightful in this one as the sinister mommy. Washington has pretty much the same kind of role as in any other film of his and he doesn’t disappoint as usual. The look of the movie is very slick and the screenplay is endlessly gripping. If it weren’t for the implaubsibility of the plot, this surely would have been the best political thriller I’ve seen. Nevertheless, as a fictional political thriller it is something not to be missed.

Office Space November 3, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This movie is written and directed by Mike Judge (who is most famous as the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head) and is based on animated shorts created by him. This is a savory satire on the work environment of corporate employees. The movie primarily deals with a guy who hates his job and would really like to do nothing. A meeting with a hypotherapist changes things for the better. He is promoted even when he goofs off while his friends are let go. At this point he comes up with a scheme along with his friends to exact some revenge by ripping off the company. Though the movie deals with the frustration of disgruntled employees, Judge makes sure that he includes dialogue and situations to provide hope for those in similar situations.

The movie doesn’t have a particularly strong plot. However, the premise has universal appeal and that makes it worth watching. There are some hilarious sequences where the identification factor is very high. The traffic sequence at the beginning sets the tone for the movie. The movie really takes you in after the initial few reels. However, towards the latter part of the movie (when there is an attempt to move the story forward), it does lose some of its charm. But, this isn’t enough to take the movie down because the entertainment that it provides initially makes it worth the price.

Ron Livingston delivers a very believable performance as Peter Gibbons. He is ably supported by David Herman (who plays Michael Bolton), Ajay Naidu (who plays Samir Nagheenanajar) and Gary Cole (who play the boss, Lumbergh). Jennifer Aniston plays the romantic interest who dislikes certain things about her job as well, but as she says, most people hate their jobs but find something to keep themselves going. Another noticeable character in the movie is that of Milton (played by Stephen Root) and the subplot dealing with his love for his Red Swingline stapler (a symbol for something that keeps him going) is highly amusing. Judge also plays a cameo in the film as Aniston’s Boss at Chotchkie’s in another funny subplot.

Mike Judge’s screenplay filled with identifiable situations laced with plenty of humor and irony is the key draw for this movie. The performances of the actors add to its appeal. Though, it has its share of flaws, you rarely observe them because you enjoy the proceedings so much. Watch this film when you need a laugh.

Bonnie and Clyde
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
The first time I came to know about this movie was last year when Bunty and Babli released and some reviews claimed it to be the Indianized version of Bonnie and Clyde. I never saw B&B…somehow had the feeling that I won’t like it anyways as has been the case with me for most of Yashraj’s recent flicks.

But I did see Bonnie and Clyde out of curiosity and I must say I liked it….not that I thought it was a great flick but because I found it quite fascinating that this was based on a true story. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were real robbers during the 1930s who used to rob banks, supermarkets and gas stations in Central America. When you watch the movie, the situations would look so filmy and unauthentic but imagining that something very close to this happened in real life is very amusing. I’ve heard of such robbers before only in comic books.

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are quite charismatic as the leads. Dunaway was really hot in the movie (especially in the opening sequence of the movie when she first meets Beatty)….all of the other films I’ve seen of her’s are from the seventies or beyond when she was ageing. So, I was quite surprised to see a very different Faye. Their other partners in crime include Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard and Estelle Parsons (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress).

You might want to watch this movie out of curiosity…..otherwise it is not really a great piece of work - as I said before I only liked it because it’s based on a true story.

Family Business October 29, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This is an unsatisfying film from Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men, Network) starring Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick (Godzilla, Election). Coming from any other director and starring other actors, this wouldn’t be as disappointing but you expect a lot more here considering the stature of those involved.

Connery, Hoffman and Broderick play grandfather, father and son. Connery is a thief all his life while his son, played by Hoffman decides to go straight midway and becomes the owner of a meat factory. Borderick is shielded from the family business and becomes a scholar. However, the stealing habit seems to be inherited and he comes up with an idea for a caper and what follows is what the movie is about.

The screenplay is based on a book of the same name, adapted by the original author, Vincent Patrick. The movie starts off interestingly and it seems to be willing to touch some unusual issues. After the promising start, it moves on somewhat slowly, and it doesn’t manage to pull you in. It never becomes the spellbinding film that you hope it would be due to the weak writing. The acting is of good quality but that isn’t enough to hold your attention because some of the actions of these characters and their underlying ambition is indistinct. I am surprised that Sidney Lumet picked such a feeble script. Maybe, the book caught his interest but something went amiss in the screenplay. This movie can be skipped unless you want to watch these actors at work together.

Mystic River
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Amongst the Clint Eastwood movies I’ve seen if I had to pick one, this has to be it. The movie is like its title itself - dark with an aura of mystery surrounding it.

The plot revolves around the lives of three childhood friends (Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon) whose paths cross again later in their lives when Penn’s daughter is murdered. Circumstantial evidence reveals that Tim Robbins could be the one behind it. Therein begins a drama which ultimately leads to the truth being uncovered. The ambiguity in Tim Robbins’ character really keeps the viewer wondering till the very end what his actually actions and intentions were. In that sense, this a very different kind of suspense from what you would normally associate with films in that genre.

Clint Eastwood (who surprisingly doesn’t star in this) does a brilliant job of directing this flick. But what keeps the film together are the performances of Tim Robbins and Sean Penn. Both won Oscars for their roles which I think were tailor made for them (if you have seen other movies starring Robbins or Penn you would know what I am saying). The supporting cast of Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden is also good. The pacing tends to be slow at times but it doesn’t bring down the interest level. This is a movie which should be enjoyed by anyone looking out for a realistic suspense drama.

Trial and Error October 28, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This Jonathan Lynn movie shouldn’t be compared with his previous courtroom comedy, My Cousin Vinny, because it cannot match up. On its own, it is a comedy worth watching. The premise is simple. Michael Richards fills in as a lawyer when his friend Jeff Daniels, who has to defend his boss’ relative (who by the way, is guilty), cannot make it. The case gets prolonged and meanwhile, Daniels falls in love with Charlize Theron when he is already engaged to his boss’ daughter.

Richards is good with his physical comedy but he is no Pesci. Those who love his Kramer persona in Seinfeld wouldn’t want to miss this movie. Daniels is good as usual in what is more of a supporting role because he isn’t the one that gets the best lines but he is very necessary to generate the laughs. Charlize Theron doesn’t lift her role as Marisa Tomei did in My Cousin Vinny but is fine. The movie is written by Sara Bernstein and Gregory Bernstein who haven’t done much work but come up with a decent script here. This movie is a nice comedy that provides you with a sufficient number of laughs without expecting you to shut off your brain completely.
My Cousin Vinny October 27, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
Easily one of the best comedies I’ve seen…My Cousin Vinny is somewhat an unusual one at that. Especially the main setting which is a courtroom doesn’t really ring a bell for a comic drama. In fact, in my DVD store this movie was categorized in the “suspense/thrillers” list. Only after watching it back home I realized it wasn’t one.

Two friends Billy and Stan Vincent accidentally steal a can of tuna from a supermarket. A few minutes later they are arrested for the murder of the clerk of the same supermarket. During a funny sequence of mistaken identities, these guys plead guilty for their crime but they aren’t aware that they were being interrogated for the murder. The comes in Vincent Gambini aka Vinny (Joe Pesci) to the rescue who happens to be Billy’s cousin and that’s when the fun begins. The mainstay of this enterprise is Joe Pesci who is absolutely delightful as Vinny. Even in scenes which might sound silly…for instance whenever he is woken up from sleep by the siren; his mannerisms truly crack you up. More than the lines written for him, it is the way he delivers it that makes all the difference. He is ably supported by Marisa Tomei.

Jonathan Lynn (The Whole Nine Yards) directs this venture and makes sure he keeps his viewers in splits most of the time. All in all this is a movie you’ll have a good time watching.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the same movie! Now, that is a good combination for the studio to make money. So, we are fed with this flick. Though making money was an important of making this film, I can’t say that there wasn’t much thought put into the script. The premise seemed very promising. Two assassins are married to each other with neither of them aware of the other’s profession. Their marriage is on the rocks and then they are hired to wipe out each other.

There was a lot that could be done with such a premise. Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Swingers) creates a good looking movie, no doubt, but that isn’t enough to make it good. The movie has some nice humor with witty one-liners but after a point, the writer (Simon Kinberg) loses his way. Actually the action (though it is stylishly done) is what spoils the movie, leaving it nowhere. Pitt and Jolie have chemistry and they work well together. Vince Vaughn gets a supporting role with some fun moments.

Though the movie wasn’t particularly good in the first half, I would have been happy if it remained in that state for the rest of the time. However, it only goes down from there. Towards the climax, I felt like banging my head into the nearest wall. I didn’t like this movie but I can see that as escapist fare that shouldn’t be taken seriously, this movie would appeal to some. Logic and script aren’t the movie’s strongpoints. Fans of Pitt and Jolie might want to catch this. Others aren’t missing much.

Abandon October 24, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Stephen Gaghan who was behind the critically acclaimed Traffic and Syriana made his debut with this thriller…which I must say doesn’t do justice to his present credentials.

Featuring Katie Holmes and Benjamin Bratt this film is about a detective (Bratt) investigating the mysterious disappearance of a certain guy from a certain college. He begins his work by getting in touch with Holmes who happens to be the missing guy’s girlfriend. What follows is the textbook psychological thriller stuff which does sustain your interest intermittently for most of the movie’s duration but is very very predictable to say the least. The plot is wafer thin and there aren’t many events or twists to keep the viewer guessing what happens next.

The only reason I saw this was Stephen Gaghan who wrote and directed this….and it can clearly be said that he has improved by leaps and bounds after this venture. Of course, Katie Holmes looks good throughout and you might want to watch it for her…just in case you happen to be her fan; otherwise easily avoidable.

Marvin’s Room October 23, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This film belongs to a category which is loosely termed “terminal illness movies”. In every such movie the plot almost always involves a dysfunctional family in which a woman ends up being diagnosed with cancer…and during her ordeal the family slowly comes togther and their problems seem to go away. No matter how cliched this theme sounds in writing, I must say that I’ve always had tears in my eyes when watching such movies. More prominent and recognizable flicks in this genre include the Julia Roberts-Susan Sarandon starrer “Stepmom” or the recent Johnny Depp-Kate Winslet starrer “Finding Neverland” (this doesn’t truly fall into that category but towards the end it did give me a deja vu feeling).

Why I chose this one over other similar movies is because the issue of the protagonist’s illness doesn’t come as a plot twist but rather acts as a catalyst to the growth of the plot. Marvin’s room is essentially about two estranged sisters Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton. One day Keaton finds out that she has leukemia and would need a bone marrow transplant from a relative to save her life. The only possible donor is her sister’s son (Di Caprio) who has his own problems with his mother. Keaton asks Streep for help and she in turn somehow manages to bring DiCaprio to Keaton’s home on some pretext. Also, in the story is Marvin - the sisters’ father who is in a vegetative stage and currently taken care of only by Keaton. As I mentioned before, the rest of the story predictably is about how the whole family comes together. What I love about this movie is the way the slow transition in each of the relationships is depicted…be it the mother-son, sister-sister or even the aunt-nephew. I never found even the slightest bit of pretentiousness; for which movies of such kind are criticized.

The touching performances by Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton are the stronghold of this feature. This is a slow movie but the strong emotional quotient is what glues you to this. Definitely a movie I would recommend everyone to watch.

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This charming children’s fantasy is based on a book of the same name by Ronald Dahl (who wrote books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach which were made into films and also wrote for movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). Matilda is an extremely gifted child born to lowlifes who do not have time for her. She is keen to learn and wants to go to school. When she joins school she is scared by the hateful and nasty principal. However, there is a ray of hope in the form of her teacher who realises her talent and encourages her. What transpires in the life of Matilda and these characters forms the rest of this magical film.

Mara Wilson (Mrs Doubtfire, A Miracle on 34th Street) is very cute and endearing as Matilda. Embeth Davidtz (Schindler’s List, Bicentennial Man) is goodness personified as Miss Honey while Pam Ferris (recently seen as Aunt Marge in Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban) does a commendable job as the cruel principal, Miss Trunchbull. Danny DeVito (who is effective as the narrator) and Rhea Perlman play the cartoonish parents of Matilda to good effect.

The characters in the movie are exaggerated but suited for a fairy tale world such as this. Danny DeVito does a good job as the director. He brings his vision to the script (Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord) and gives the movie a flavor and style that is all his own, veering it away from a conventional children’s film.

This alluring film has the right measure of sweetness, mischief, magic, humor, satire, exaggeration and faith. This film would appeal to adults as well as kids. Anyone who enjoys children’s fantasy or fairy tales should enjoy this movie.

My Little Eye October 22, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I regret watching this flick….somehow I was impressed by the cover and the plot; and was suckered into renting it. Based on famous reality shows like Big Brother the plot involves six people who sign up through the internet to stay together in some far off jungle under video supervision. All of them are required to stick together for the entire duration; the prize for which is a million dollars for each. Even if a single one opts out the game is over. Now, certain strange things keep happening which are intended to drive some of the people out from that place… far interesting; but the film gets progressively crappy as it nears its end and the climax forms the last nail on its coffin.

To achieve a realistic look the camera view is employed a lot of times but this doesn’t help when the plot is going haywire. It sure is creepy at the beginning but then it gets really boring and I was waiting for the movie to finish. But still, this was critically acclaimed in some circles for its theme. For me, this was the perfect case of good plot marred by bad execution. This is definitely amongst the below average psychological thrillers I’ve seen and I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.
Lucky Number Slevin October 22, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This is one of those movies that keeps you guessing till the end. Though you never know what is exactly happening, I never felt the urge to try and guess the final twist. The movie clues you in a little bit at a time but it never provides you with enough to give the plot away. The premise is simple. Slevin is an unlucky man in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is mistaken to be someone else and gets caught between two warring gangsters, an assasin and a cop.

The movie has a huge starcast with Josh Harnett playing Slevin, supported by Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci, Lucy Liu and even Robert Forster in a cameo. The performance by these A-list actors is obviously good and it makes the movie worth watching just to see these guys together. Out of these actors, I never thought much of Lucy Liu. However, she does a nice job as a girl with verbal diarrhoea.

Technically, the movie is distinctive. The director Paul McGuigan (Wicker Park) does a very good job. He manages to surprise you even more than what the script intends. The transitions, shot compositions, sets, camera work (Peter Sova) and editing (Andrew Hulme) make for a very slick flick.

The weak part in the movie is the writing by Jason Smilovic. The twists are turns in the plot are present just to make it convoluted. That is good because the underlying story is pretty average. Hence, the presentation and the way it is set up are used to make it interesting and intriguing. However, you do get the feeling that the writer is too smug. Just because the audience cannot guess the end doesn’t mean that it is an intelligent plot. I can see that some members of the audience will be pissed off by how the movie unfolds. I was never really completely drawn into the plot and the characters as I was to the other embellishments.

The dialogue is good for most part. It has humor and it is clever. However, there are times when there is too much dialogue making you feel that the writer is trying too hard to be smart. Coming to the characters in the movie, I never really rooted for any character in the movie. I felt they aren’t really developed in a way that the audience can fall in love with them (as in a Tarantino movie for example).

The plot has its share of glitches. Take Bruce Willis’ character for instance. He is crucial to the twists. Given his profession and temperament in the film, there seems to be no reason for him to do some of the things he does. So, this movie is definitely not to be scrutinized too much.

Overall I would say that the convoluted, contrived and flawed plot isn’t exactly its strong point. However, the technique, style, acting and dialogue are some of the things that make up for it, making it an entertaining watch. I was entertained and so will lovers of slick flicks.

Some Like It Hot October 20, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
For a Billy Wilder movie, this one surprisingly starts off with a well shot chase sequence. Though there is a crime angle it still is a comedy. The movie is about two out of work musicians that need to dress as women and be part of an all-girl band to hide from some gangsters who are after them. Though the cross-dressing theme has been used quite a bit since, the movie still appeals today. The pace never drops and for a movie made in 1959, that is something.

The movie stars Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. I love Jack Lemmon and I felt he steals the show here as far as the comedy is concerned. He is slightly over the top as required and just right for the part. His enthusiasm almost makes you believe that he really enjoys being a woman more than he really might have. My favorite scene in the movie is the one where Lemmon tells Curtis about the proposal from Osgood (played by Joe E. Brown), shaking a pair of maracas. And of course, the “nobody’s perfect” line at the end is the best way to finish the movie. Tony Curtis is good too and he lets Lemmon shine.

This is my first Marilyn Monroe movie and man is she HOT!!. There is something about her, a kind of innocent carelessness that makes it seem like she is unaware of her surroundings and that makes her all the more sexy. Her costumes (Orry-Kelly won an Oscar for costume design for both the men and the women) are brilliantly done and were definitely risqué (not just for a movie of that era but maybe even today). There is one scene where Wilder plays with the light falling on her body to tease the audience, as if her seductive allure wasn’t enough!

Like most of the films written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, this has some charmingly witty dialogue. The movie is a slapstick comedy, so it does have its share of improbable moments but you really don’t care about that when you are entertained like this. The movie was nominated for quite a few Oscars but lost to Ben Hur. Lemmon and Monroe did win the Golden Globes though (in the musical/comedy category).

This film was rated as the best comedy of all time by The American Film Institute. This is a very enjoyable comedy but I would rate Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine) or The Fortune Cookie (starring Lemmon again with another comic genius, Walter Matthau) higher, especially because apart from the comedy, those movies also worked as satires that I really could identify with. Nevertheless, a pleasureable experience recommended to lovers of comedy.

Spy Game October 19, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Spy thrillers are always fun to watch and when you have the charismatic pair of Brad Pitt and Robert Redford it seems all the more exciting. Though I enjoyed this movie I must say it wasn’t the fast-paced explosive action thriller I was expecting but a smart one.

Brad Pitt plays a CIA agent who is caught in China trying to rescue a prisoner for his own personal reasons…for which he is sentenced to death the following day on charges of espionage. When the CIA gets to hear this they seem not willing to save him as it might create an issue and disrupt an upcoming trade deal between the two countries. They then go on to interrogate Robert Redford (under who Pitt was groomed) to find some information which they could use to disclaim Pitt, let him die and avoid the blame falling on them. But Redford is keen to save Pitt because of their friendship and the fact that it was he who recruited and trained Pitt. Whether he is able to save him in a 24 hour span amidst all this interrogation is what the rest of the movie is about. The movie proceeds as a set of flashbacks where Redford details all his interactions and various missions with Pitt. Much of this doesn’t really contribute to the actual story but more to establish the relationship between these two guys and probably to justify Redford’s efforts to save him and also to give some screen time to Brad Pitt.

What makes this movie actually work is director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Enemy of the State, Man on Fire) who like his brother Ridley Scott has amazing style. The camera movements and the slick visuals make this look like a racy thriller though the plot actually isn’t. The first half of this movie isn’t that good but things start gathering pace in the later half and in the end this is a nice thriller worth watching…but remember that this more of a Robert Redford movie than a Brad Pitt movie. So, fans of Pitt might be disappointed a bit.

The Interpreter October 18, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This is quite a formulaic but well made film revolving around a purported assassination plot. Nicole Portman is an interpreter working at the UN who happens to overhear a conversation about a plot to assassinate a certain dignitary scheduled to visit the UN later. The object of this assassination is the dictator of a fictitous African nation who is accused of genocide and has been invited to the UN to provide his defense. Sean Penn plays an investigator who has been asked to verify the truth behind her claims. What follows is a somewhat predictable thriller.

This was the first ever movie to be filmed inside the UN General Assembly and Security Council buildings. Also, the dictator in the movie was apparently based on Zimbabwe’s Mugabe…which made the Zimbabwean government ban this one. Most of the movie is quite interesting and looks authentic but the events toward the end are too filmy. The performances are okay. Sydney Pollack (Tootsie, Out of Africa) directs this movie after a long hiatus. On the whole, a good (but not great) thriller which makes the cut.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
When I saw Johnny Depp in his black attire and sunglasses with a gun in hand, I couldn’t resist this one. This is the third movie in the series directed by Robert Rodriguez following El Mariachi and Desperado. The name of the movie is supposed to be a tribute to Once Upon a Time in the West (a famous Western by Sergio Leone who made what is probably the most watched Western Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood).

This movie is rarely about the plot but it works because it has style and imagination in abundance and is worth watching just for that. Apart from writing and directing, Rodriguez also shoots, chops and scores this movie. He is also credited as a producer, production designer, visual effect supervisor and camera operator. Talk about multiple talents! He does well in almost everything and is really the heart of the movie. The plot (which is alright) is just a placeholder for the snazzy action sequences, humorous dialogue and amusing confrontations and conversations.

You can’t help loving Johnny Depp. This is another delightful performance from the charismatic actor (or should I say star?). He also apparently wrote his own theme music while Banderas improved the original El Mariachi theme. Antonio Banderas is good as the main protagonist but I felt he was overshadowed by Depp. Salma Hayek makes a brief appearance. The movie also features Mickey Rourke (Sin City), William Dafoe (Spider-Man), Eva Mendes (Hitch) and Enrique Iglesias (yes, the singer!).

The movie has some really violent scenes that sensitive audiences might want to keep in mind. For me, Robert Rodriguez’s work and Johnny Depp’s acting are enough to watch this movie. Fans should want to watch this. Otherwise, I would recommend this movie to those who like slick action flicks.

The Usual Suspects October 16, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This is a really smart movie. Once it ends you feel that the only reason Bryan Singer made this was to trick the audience. This is a very innovative crime thriller unlike others. The movie begins with Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey in his Oscar winning role) being interrogated by the police about a huge shootout which took place the previous night in which he was involved. Verbal then narrates his tale (and that of his partners and also of a certain Kayser Soze) until the events of the previous night.

If you have seen con thrillers before then you’ll probably feel you know the twist ending but the filmmakers use unique plot movements to trap you. I wouldn’t elaborate further as it would spoil the fun in watching this movie. One more thing you might notice is that Sanjay Gupta’s Kaante - whose plot was inspired from Reservoir Dogs actually lifted a few things from this one too…for instance the characerizations of some of the leading men and the initial scene in the jail where all of them meet.

Bryan Singer who is known for his visual treats like X-Men, X-2 United and Superman Returns made his Hollywood debut with this flick. You might appreciate this movie for the clever screenplay or you might feel somewhat cheated…for me it was a bit of both; but nevertheless this cult thriller should be an interesting watch for anyone.
12 Angry Men October 16, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This is an exceptionally brilliant film that was the directorial debut of Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Network, The Verdict). This spellbinding film, made in 1957, was adapted from a 1954 teleplay (by the same writer) and was remade in 1997 (for TV) starring Jack Lemmon among others. Though it is now considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, it did not win any Oscars, having lost out to Bridge on the River Kwai in the top three categories (it did win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival).

The movie is about a court case. A young boy is charged with the murder of his father and all the evidence points to him being the culprit. The events in the courtroom are completed but the jury still needs to make a decision. Now, it is upto the jurors to decide whether or not there is reasonable doubt in their minds about the lack of innocence of the boy.

The movie takes place almost completely in the jury room (except for 3 minutes). We are used to seeing courtroom dramas that never show you what takes place in the discussions between the jury. Instead, we get to hear the final verdict from the jury. So, the idea to reverse that completely is a beauty. It is a beauty, not because it does something different, but because the film elegantly captures how important and difficult the responsibility of the jury really is and its importance in the American Justice system.

The acting is topnotch. Leading the cast is Henry Fonda, playing Juror #8, who is responsible for reminding the other jurors, the importance of the job at hand and for awakening their conscience. He is ably supported by the likes of Lee J. Cobb (On the Waterfront) and Martin Balsam (Psycho, On the Waterfront) among others. The acting is of primary importance in a drama like this and all the twelve actors contribute to the movie.

The beauty of this movie is its simplicity. The credit for this goes to Reginald Rose (primarily a writer for television) who creates a wonderfully taut and engrossing screenplay that remains uncluttered despite developing 12 well-defined characters. There isn’t a second in the running time of 96 minutes where you want to take a break and get away from the jury room. And, there isn’t an instant where the writer tries to move away from the story and the characters to provide the audience with some moments of relief.

This is a great subject for a movie and it fits in with Lumet’s repertoire. Lumet, apparently used different lenses and eye levels through the movie to increase the feeling of claustrophobia in the audience, raising the tension as the movie progressed. Lumet, who definitely has a place in my list of favorite directors, creates what might be his best film on debut (from the films of his that I have seen so far, this is surely my favorite).

This is an appealingly written, alluringly directed and superbly acted drama. This film is a treasure and shouldn’t be missed by any cinema enthusiasts. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, rent it now!

The Last Emperor October 15, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This sweeping biopic by Bernardo Bertolucci is a fascinating portrayal of the life of China’s last Emperor Aisin-Gioro Puyi. The fact that it won 9 Academy awards is what drove me to watch this.

Covering the events of the period between 1908 and 1967….the movie begins with the capture of Puyi along with hundreds of others as war criminals by China. During his stay in this prision, his life is shown as a series of flashbacks right from the time he is made the Emperor at the age of three to his final capture. What fascinates most in this movie is the portrayal of royal life (and the accompanying esoteric practices) in China’s Forbidden City. This was the first ever film to be allowed to film there. The total runtime of this movie is three and a half hours which might sound a bit too much but believe me…it’s definitely not boring at all. There are two things which stay with you after the movie is over…one is the haunting background score and the other are the sequences of Puyi’s early years till his marriage.

Bertolucci is among the most controversial directors in Hollywood whose films like Last Tango in Paris, Stealing Beauty and The Dreamers had raised a lot of eyebrows…this flick did not court any though (Wikipedia says that Puyi was considered to be a bisexual or homosexual but with the influence of the Chinese Government Bertolucci might have had to change that). If you are looking for entertainment then this is probably not the film to watch but this is surely a modern day classic….a fine biopic narrated with style.

Dog Day Afternoon October 14, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This is one of those movies which I never heard of before but picked it up just because I found the CD cover appealing. The front cover read “The robbery should have taken ten minutes. Eight hours later it was the hottest thing on live TV. And it’s all true”. This synopsis is what caught my attention and when I finally watched this flick I was truly impressed.

This is a rather heartfelt black comedy (almost filmed like a docudrama) about a certain Sonny (Al Pacino) who tries robbing a bank along with his partner Sal (John Cazale) (These two guys played brothers in The Godfather II). But things start going wrong even before the robbery begins. The greatness of this film lies in the unconventional nature of the robbers’ portrayal. You could actually visualize yourself acting the way Sonny does if you think for a while that you got depressed and frustrated for some reason and decided to rob a small bank. The reaction of the hostages and the crowd outside to Sonny all throughout the ordeal is quite amusing. The whole stuff is all the more believable simply because it is based on true events. Pacino is wonderful in his role; I would rate this to be his best performance among the ones I’ve seen. This is my first Sidney Lumet film and I am completely impressed. Finally, a bank robbery drama unlike any other similar themed flick you might have seen….highly recommended for everyone.

Cidade de Deus (City of God) October 12, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English, Portugese. 2 comments
This Brazilian film (the spoken language is Portugese) is inspired from real life events that took place in the sixties and seventies in Rio De Janeiro (and the black and white TV footage in the movie is apparently real). This ranks close to the top in my list of favorite foreign films so far. If I had to select three of my favorite gangster movies, this would definitely make it. After Goodfellas, this movie is one where I got a real feel for the life of the people in the mob.

The movie tells you the story of diverse characters in the slums of Cidade de Deus (which translates to City of God). Cidade de Deus is the name of a favela (slum) located in the district of Jacarepaguá, west zone of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (source: Wikipedia). The two primary characters are Rocket (who is the narrator) and Li’l Zé and the movie tracks the changes in their lives over many years as also the changing hierarchy of the mob in the City. It is amazing how well this movie captures the desensitization of society (at least part of it) to violence.

The screenplay by Bráulio Mantovani is adapted from a novel of the same name by Paulo Lins. Mantovani does a superlative job with the writing of this complex but taut film. Fernando Meirelles (who also made The Constant Gardner in 2005) does an exceptional job with the direction (Kátia Lund gets credit as co-director). The standout narration takes the movie far above its story and characters. The beautiful shots and framing in the movie are second to none. Cinematography (César Charlone), editing (Daniel Rezende) and other technical aspects too are top class. Meirelles and his crew make you realise that there is so much untapped brilliance in the non-English speaking world. I was happy to see that this movie was nominated for 4 Oscars in 2004 (though it was originally released in 2002) including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (It was Brazil’s entry for Best Foreign Film in 2003 and was, inexplicably, not nominated).

Among the cast Alexandre Rodrigues (Rocket), Leandro Firmino (Li’L Zé), Phellipe Haagensen (Benny) are notable. The young actors, who were apparently picked up from slums in Rio De Janeiro (according to IMDB), are short on experience but it doesn’t show much on the screen. I couldn’t really believe that most members of the cast aren’t professional actors. The convincing portrayals by these actors definitely helps the movie.

This movie had a strange effect on me. Though I was never bored for a second during its entire length, I felt like I had watched an epic saga spanning many hours due to the number of lives it tracks (successfully, I might add). I am generally not a person who vividly remembers every film. However, this film struck such an indelible impression that I could remember almost every scene for days after. Even today, I have haunting memories of this captivating film.

I feel that this movie works for most people. Those looking for a story will be satisfied. Those looking for a fast-paced movie will be satisfied. Those looking for ambience and characters will be satisfied. Critics and audience alike will be wowed by this movie. This is a shocking, violent, realistic film and not an escapist flick. Those looking for conventional entertainment should keep away. I should also warn you that the numerous characters and complicated screenplay need rapt attention and might put off some viewers (but believe me, it is totally worth it). If you enjoy movies about the mob or good movies in general, this is one that you don’t want to miss!

Gangs of New York
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Martin Scorsese who currently is getting rave reviews (and a strong Oscar buzz) for his latest flick The Departed…made this ganglord saga a few years back set during the Amercian Civil War. This was his first movie with Leonardo DiCaprio who has been the leading man in his movies ever since.

The movie begins with a gangwar (or rather streetfight) between two groups for the control of “The Five Points” district in New York…..the Natives (led by Daniel Day Lewis) and Dead Rabbits (led by Liam Neeson). DiCaprio is the son of Neeson who witnesses the death of his father in Lewis’ hands and returns after 16 years for vengeance. This is the basic plot but the political upheaval during that period is also something you get to see more prominently. The first half of the movie is rather sluggish and uneventful…the pace picks up only after the confontation between DiCaprio and Lewis and it keeps getting better and better thereon; if you have seen any movies based on the underworld before then some of the events you would see here might look familiar.

Though this film is based on historical events, it looks more like a fictional period film…I found it quite hard to believe that there really used to be street fights between gangs the way it was portrayed. The street mob violence towards the climax was very well filmed. Lot of effort seems to have gone into the sets and it shows. Daniel Day Lewis is the pick of the cast…I’ve never liked DiCaprio though. According to me the best part of this movie was the climax scene which features a changing collage of New York over time followed by an impressive title sequence (accompanied by a pumped up background score). This is a movie which I did not like much for the first 40 minutes or so, but slowly grew on me as it progressed and at the end I was quite satisfied. This is definitely among the better Scorsese movies I’ve seen….a well made historical period drama worth watching.

Training Day October 10, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
The first few reels of this movie gave me the impression that this is another of those follow-the-rules cop vs street smart cop stuff but it turns out to be more than that. Ethan Hawke plays a rookie cop who wants to get into the narcotics division, for which he has to train for a day under Denzel Washington. The movie revolves around these two and the events surrounding them during this “Training Day”. Hawke’s initial pursuits with Washington make him wary of the “street justice” he’s is being taught but little does he realize that while all this is happening he is also being setup by Washington to get out of a big mess he is in. You should watch the movie to find out how the day ultimately ends.

The biggest draw of this flick is Denzel Washington who moves aways from his usual goody-goody roles to play the role of a bad cop with style….for which he received an Oscar too. Ethan Hawke fits the role of a trainee cop perfectly. Most of the movie involves interactions between these two characters which keep the interest level high. The moral ambiguity of Washington’s character also comes out well. This would definitely be one of the superior cop dramas I’ve seen…though it is serious it does have enough entertainment and thrills to keep a casual viewer happy.
The Talented Mr. Ripley October 9, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
A really smart impersonation thriller featuring an impressive cast comprising of Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett…this is a flick I really enjoyed watching.

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is mistaken to be a former classmate of a rich tycoon’s wayward son (Jude Law); following which he is asked to goto Italy to persuade Law to return. But Ripley has different plans altogether once he reaches there. As he executes his sinister plans almost flawlessly, the only person suspecting him is Law’s love interest (Gwyneth Paltrow). When you watch the movie you realise how cleverly the screenplay has been written; especially the use of a period setting for the movie which makes it easier for Ripley to get away with certain things which would not have been possible if it were a contemporary set up. Writer-Director Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain, The English Patient) deserves full marks for the excellent pacing and narrative. The cast is also great, though I felt that Matt Damon walked straight out the set of Good Will Hunting. This is definitely a must watch for anyone who loves thrillers or con movies.

The Silence of the Lambs October 8, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I’ve been wanting to watch this for quite some time but only got a chance a few days back. This is actually a regular crime thriller about the police looking out for a demented killer “Buffalo Bill” who skins his victims and does other wierd things to their bodies…what makes it different from the rest is of course the presence of “Dr. Hannibal Lecter” (Anthony Hopkins). Though Hannibal is spooky enough…..I felt the whole “Hannibal getting into your mind” stuff was overdone. For instance, Jodie Foster is warned again and again not to communicate with Hannibal at a personal level; but all Hannibal does is ask annoying questions about her past and that’s pretty much there to it. In any case, the movie holds your attention till the very end that’s good reason to watch this. BTW, Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor Oscar for his role which is considered to be one of the shortest ever roles to fetch an Oscar. Also, this is the last movie to have won all five major Oscars…so you might want to watch it for this reason too.

The French Connection October 7, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This is a fairly simple cop thriller about two officers Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider trying to bust a drug deal. The “French Connection” refers to the fact that drugs were smuggled from France. What makes this film watchable more than the actual plot are the realistic visuals of cops chasing criminals….which take up much of the screen time. The car-chasing-the-train sequence is probably what you’ll remember long after the movie is over (I read that this is considered to be one of the best car chase sequences ever filmed). William Friedkin directs this movie…whose other prominent work is The Exorcist (which I feel is highly overrated). Watching this flick remined me of Gharshana/Kaakha Kaakha which also were stylish cop-chase-criminal movies without strong plots. On the whole, this is an above average cop movie engaging enough to warrant a watch.

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 4 comments
This movie is a variant of the secret agent genre. The Bond formula is religiously followed to create a diametrically opposite secret agent. The hero here isn’t suave and polished like James Bond. Instead, he intends to appeal to the masses with his unrefined persona and muscle power.

When I saw the trailers of this movie, I didn’t really warm up to the idea of watching Vin Diesel on the big screen. Despite my initial dislike for him, Vin Diesel works as an action hero because he has the presence and the muscle. His acting may not be hailed by critics but that is secondary in an action movie such as this. He looks good in the action sequences and that should satisfy fans of the genre.

Rob Cohen (The Fast and The Furious, Daylight) seems to know how to make a commercially viable action film. He fills the movie with quite a few adrenaline-pumping action sequences. The initial part of the movie has good action sequences and then right at the end. It is a good ploy because it gets you in the mood with the action at the start (at that point it was far more than what I had expected from the film). It does drag in the middle. There is a bit of humor but not enough for it to be called an action comedy. For fans of action movies, this would be worth watching just for the excellent action sequences. Anyone who might be fussy about the lack of a compelling story or intellect can give this one a miss.

Airplane! October 6, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This flick is supposed to be the one which kickstarted the genre of spoof comedies and also the careers of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker - who are behind other notable comedy series like Naked Gun, Hot Shots and the more recent Scary Movie.

Airplane! is a spoof on disaster movies (mostly based on Airport series of movies). I haven’t seen any of the originals on which this is based but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this. The humor is of the trademark kind which you’d have seen in the other movies these guys have made; silly at times but still makes you laugh. Among the cast Leslie Nielsen (Naked Gun series, Scary Movie 3 & 4) is the most recognizable face and he gets the best portions. On the whole this is a nice comedy which kept me entertained while it lasted…if you are in the mood for some laughs then this is quite a decent watch.

Born on the Fourth of July
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I’ve heard of this movie before but looking at the title I thought it must some routine World War II movie…but lately when I glanced over the DVD cover I found that it was by Oliver Stone and featured Tom Cruise. It was then that I decided to watch this and I wasn’t disappointed a bit. This movie was released three years after Stone made Platoon (which was based on his experience in the Vietnam War). I did like Platoon but I liked this one more. The themes in both movies are the same…which have their root in Stone’s disillusionment with the Vietnam War.

Cruise plays a young marine who is sent to Vietnam where he gets shot and subsequently paralysed from chest down; but not before he kills a few civilians (which pretty much happens to be everyone else’s experience as you’d know later in the movie) and one of his own squadron member. Once he is back from the war, he is distressed with the anti-war protests happening because he wants to believe that the reason he was sent to the war still holds good. Over a period of time his experiences with different people around him slowly make him come to terms with reality and he ends up becoming a promiment anti-war protestor. This story is actually based on the autobiography of a real war veteran named Ron Kovic. The movie is very gripping throughout…which I didn’t really expect given the theme. Another thing I loved is the background score by John Williams. This movie belongs to Tom Cruise and he delivers probably the best performance of his life. I would rate this to be Oliver Stone’s best along with JFK and a must watch for everyone.
The Departed October 5, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 5 comments
I got to watch an advance screening of Martin Scorsese’s latest movie The Departed (releasing this friday) and it is a magnificent film. The movie boasts of a huge starcast with Jack Nicholson, Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon in the key roles. They are ably supported by the likes of Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Vera Farmiga.

The movie is primarily a cop/gangster drama. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a cop who has been assigned to go undercover and join Jack Nicholson’s gang while Matt Damon plays a cop who has been planted by Nicholson to provide him information. How long can these two cops maintain their secrecy? Which of these rats is discovered first? Will the law catch up with the gangster? What happens at the end? Watch this on the big screen. I am really glad I did.

Jack Nicholson is expectedly brilliant as the devil incarnate. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon deliver strong performances. Its been a long time since I’ve seen a DiCaprio movie and I really liked him here. Among the supporting cast Mark Wahlberg gets an interesting role (most writers might have actually scrapped this role) and I was surprised me with his performance. The writing by William Monahan is excellent. There are splendid conversation and confrontation scenes filled with superb dialogue. Gripping and arresting are two words that describe the screenplay well. And the direction of course is excellent. Will Scorsese finally win an Oscar is predictably the biggest question in the minds of fans.

The movie is supposedly a remake of a Hong Kong movie called Wu jian dao (Mou gaan dou/Infernal Affairs) that was well liked by the critics as well as the audience. According to some, this movie improves on its original material and is a worthy remake.

We have seen many movies about undercover cops but this one sure beats most others that I have seen. Two cop dramas that have stuck in my mind in the past are P.C.Sreeram’s Drohi (Kurudhipunal in Tamil, which was a remake of Govind Nihlani’s Drohkaal) and Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential (in that order). I really enjoyed this one even more and would rate it higher than those two.

I know that some audience members hate Scorsese’s biopics like Raging Bull and Aviator or his other higly rated films like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas. Some people find those movies slow and pointless. However, this one is definitely not slow. After a certain point, it really moves at a searing pace. It has enough turns and twists (most of them aren’t predictable except the final one) to keep any average moviegoer happy.

This movie is R-rated and rightly so. Sensitive audience might want to keep away. The movie starts off well and continues to grow on you. At some points you do get the feeling that the movie might fall apart but fortunately it doesn’t. It goes from strength to strength culminating in a scintillating last half hour. Highly recommended. Don’t miss this one!

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest October 4, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
I wasn’t too keen to watch this movie because quite sometime back I had seen an “inspiration” of this…Priyadarshan’s Kyon Ki - which was the most boring movie (if not outrightly bad) I had seen in recent times. BTW, this is one of the only three movies till date to have won all the major Oscars (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress).

I didn’t like this flick that much…feel it’s somewhat overrated but back then in 1975 this probably was a fresh theme. The story is somewhat the Munnabhai MBBS kind…Nicholson is a convicted thief who pleads insanity and gets himself into a mental institution where he finds himself on the wrong side of an overbearing disciplinarian nurse (Louise Fletcher); the inmates love him for obvious reasons but ultimately his panga with the nurse costs him dearly…though he ends up becoming an inspiration for others. The performances of the cast are the mainstay of this flick. One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy this much is because I had already seen a bad remake before watching the original. Otherwise I think this is a pretty decent watch for anyone who enjoys drama sprinkled with some humor.

Down (Video Title: The Shaft)
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This has to be one of the worst movies I’ve seen in recent years. It is so bad that it isn’t even funny. My ex-roommate picked this movie at the DVD store probably due to the presence of Naomi Watts (she probably wasn’t as sought after in 2001). The movie is about a misbehaving lift that is killing and maiming people. The secret that is uncovered at the end is so atrocious that I do not even want to recollect it. It is not just the climax that is a problem, the movie as a whole sucks big time.

The movie, unbelievably, is a remake. Writer and Director Dick Maas rehashes his own Dutch film from 1983 called Lift De. I cannot imagine what was interesting in the original (maybe at the time the idea seemed fresh). Apart from the abominable plot, the substandard screenplay, unimaginative sequences, lacklustre performances from relatively unknown actors and innumerable other flaws bring this movie “down”. Watch this movie at your own peril.

The Pledge October 3, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
At the beginning….this starts out like an average hollywood suspense thriller…a young girl brutally molested and murdered, the suspect who is caught confesses and shoots himself and the case is closed….but our hero (Jack Nicholson) has his own doubts and sets out independently to find the real culprit; so far it’s pretty routine but then on it takes an unconventional turn and becomes more of a drama than a thriller as the movie concentrates more on Nicholson’s obsession with this and his resulting behavioural changes than what seemed like the real plot initially. This is what really sets this movie apart from others of this genre….I was expecting a standard suspense thriller and trying to predict the killer and any other twists but after a point of time I could see that the movie was changing track….so just sat back and enjoyed the rest of it without thinking too much. Jack Nicholson is the heart and soul of the movie. Sean Penn…who directs this movie keeps it interesting throughout. I would rate this as an above average thriller which you can watch mainly for Nicholson.

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This is an enjoyable children’s movie. It is about a kid in who finds millions of pounds just before the switch from Pound to Euro in UK. He believes that God has sent him the money and wants to use it to help poor people while his brother wants to just spend the money and enjoy it himself. What they do with the money (that actually is stolen) is what the movie is about. The title “Millions” is apt because it could refer to the money or the millions of people who need it.

The director, Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) uses appealing visual devices to make the movie very pleasing. Frank Cottrell-Boyce writes a screenplay that appeals to all ages. It has the intelligence and depth to interest the adults while making sure that it abounds in moments that will captivate the kids. Alexander Nathan Etel is very cute and is particularly charming as Damian while Lewis McGibbon provides an interesting contrast as his shrewd and selfish brother, Anthony. These kids get the most screen time and they are delightful.

This movie isn’t a laughathon like some may expect but it does have a sense of humor (a British one). It tries to pass a message or two to kids even as they enjoy the things that unfold on the screen and I believe it succeeds. This is a feel-good movie that can be enjoyed by adults as well as kids.

Unforgiven October 2, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this multi Oscar winning Western…considered by many to be Eastwood’s best. I enjoyed this movie more in the later reels…the first fifty minutes or so was really boring and uneventful…I almost felt like switching it off but slowly things start happening and at the end I must say I did like it. I’ve never seen a Western before so going by the theme I would loosely call it a redemption movie….the kind where the protagonist is a reformed bad guy who actually does something good….dies in the end and pays for his past sins…well, nothing exactly happens like that here but somehow this movie reminded of others with the “redemption” storyline.

The story begins as a group of prostitutes put up a reward for killing two cowboys who assaulted one of their own badly but got away with a minor fine from the sheriff (Gene Hackman). A young cowboy who wants the money lures a famous retired thief and killer William Munny (Eastwood). William is reluctant but the prospect the money holds for his kids makes him take up arms one last time along with his longtime friend Ed (Morgan Freeman). Their only obstacle is the sheriff who wouldn’t allow anyone with arms inside the village. What happens next is for you to watch. The major drawback of this movie is of course the extemely slow pacing….though the latter portions are interesting overall I still felt impatient sometimes. Eastwood as an actor has only 2-3 trademark expressions which he uses to very good effect in this one. This movie is for you if you enjoy slow dramas else you can easily give it a skip
The Untouchables October 1, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
The story about a team of good cops fighting a dreaded gangster must have been beaten to death over and over again…..but in the hands of Brian De Palma and his accomplished cast (Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Sean Connery and Robert De Niro) you get a stylish period thriller which you’ll love watching.

Costner plays officer Eliot Ness who vows to bring down the dreaded Al Capone (De Niro), but after initial failures he seeks the help of beat-cop Malone (Connery) who kind of becomes his tutor. Also, in his team of “Untouchables” are accountant Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) and a new police force recruit George (Andy Garcia). How this team helps in bringing Capone to justice forms the rest of the story. This is only my third De Palma film after Mission Impossible and Carlito’s Way and what I’ve come to notice is the way he chooses simple plots but builds a tight screenplay which makes all the difference…all these movies were thrillers which one can sit back and enjoy without having to be alert about every plot detail…this is what I really found appealing about his films. In 2008, Palma is bringing out a prequel to this movie called “The Untouchables: Capone Rising”. To sum it up….this should definitely be on your list of cop films to watch.

Lilies of the Field
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
The name of the movie comes from a verse in The Bible. Sidney Potier (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, To Sir, with Love) stars in the role that won him the Best Actor Oscar in 1963. The movie belongs to the inspirational and uplifting genre of movies. The story is about a construction worker who is traveling through Arizona and happens to come across a group of nuns who believe that he is sent by God to help them build a Chapel and ask him to do it for free. If you find this premise promising you will not be disappointed otherwise, you can skip this film.

James Poe adapts this movie for the screen based on a novel by William Barrett. Ralph Nelson produces and directs this unpretentious film in which three actors stand out. Sidney Poitier (who is my favorite black actor) is brilliant as usual. Lilia Skala is very believable as Mother Maria whose faith in God never leaves her. Stanley Adams is funny as the pragmatic owner of an eatery who helps with the building of the chapel for “insurance” (I loved the “insurance” idea which had me in splits).

I can’t agree for one second with blind faith but putting aside my beliefs, the movie is still enjoyable because it is a positive story that is well told. The movie is suprisingly short at 95 minutes but it may still seem slow for some. Though the premise may suggest that this might be a heavy drama it is not. It has a good mix of humor to go with the drama which never gets too heavy. It is honest and straightforward and that is its primary advantage. Watch it if you find the idea of a simple drama from the sixties appealing.

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn September 30, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
The second part of the Evil Dead trilogy, this is considered to be a defining film in the horror comedy genre. Directed by Sam Raimi (Spiderman series) this has all the ingredients which make a total campy horror film….with oodles of blood, severed heads and hands. I liked this one in parts….especially the sequence of the evil hand trying to kill the hero. But otherwise it was somewhat a bore because the same type of things keeps happening over and over again which weren’t adding much to the horror or the laughs. Some of the visual effects are quite good. As I said, this is an out and out camp movie… can watch if you haven’t seen a horror comedy movie before otherwise it won’t amuse you much.

The Parallax View
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
The reason I saw this movie was that it was made by Alan J. Pakula who was behind the engrossing investigative journalism thriller All the President’s Men. Even though this movie has a reporter in the lead trying to expose a cover up, this is more a fictional conspiracy theory movie which follows the standard hollywood template…nevertheless it’s quite an interesting watch.

Warren Beatty plays a reporter who happens to be at an event where a senator is assassinated. One person with a gun but who actually doesn’t fire a shot is suspected but he gets killed when the police try to nab him. But over a period of time the other people present at this event begin to die mysteriously. Now Beatty is convinced that there is a cover up and tries to investigate further. In one of his investigations, he comes across a recruitment exam of a certain “Parallax Company” wherein he decides to infiltrate into this organization and find out more. What he finds out there forms the rest of the movie. The concept of the climax in this movie is somewhat similar to what I saw in another Tim Robbins movie called “Arlington Road”. You can definitely watch this one if you like conspiracy theory thrillers.

The Rundown
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
Simple action movies haven’t been too common in recent years and this one fills that gap. This is an action comedy that has all the ingredients required to make it worth the price of admission. Of course, it is a given that there is not much here that will strain your brain.

The Rock (The Scorpion King, Doom) is good as an action hero. I would prefer him to the likes of Vin Diesel. Of course I am slightly biased to him because I did enjoy his stint as a wrestler in the WWE when I was younger. If The Rock delivers the punches, then Seann William Scott (American Pie, The Dukes of Hazzard) delivers the punch lines and does well. If Scott succeeds in generating the humor, it is partly because The Rock provides the platform for him to. Rosario Dawson provides the eye candy along with some kicks and Christopher Walken brings some respectability and fun to the role of the villain. I was pretty surprised to see Arnold Schwarzenegger make a Bollywood style special appearance in one short scene.

The director Peter Berg has style. I was pleased by some slickly shot scenes and appealing camera angles. I like movies set in the jungle and this one makes good use of the jungle setting. The action in this is not really the spectacular graphics and mind-blowing explosions variety and that really makes it pleasing because it has been rare in Hollywood in recent times. There are a few well-choreographed action sequences that I quite liked. The movie is filled with a lot of humor to supplement the action. I enjoyed this fun film and I would think anyone who is game enough for an uncomplicated action comedy will be entertained as well.

Wise Guys September 29, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
Brian De Palma who has made movies like Dressed to Kill, Carlito’s Way and Mission Impossible directs this comedy (not exactly his forte) starring Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo as two “bookends” (errand boys) for the mob. The movie follows the adventures of these two guys with seemingly limited intelligence when they get into trouble with their boss.

This is one of those comedies that requires the principals to do a good job for it to work. Danny DeVito (The Rainmaker, Get Shorty) is funny as always. Joe Piscopo (who hasn’t done too many movies but is apparently famous for his work on Saturday Night Live) really suits the role of the stupid guy and comes up with some hilarious expressions. Apart from these two, Lou Albano as “The Fixer” generates some laughs.

The good thing about this movie is that it isn’t as predictable as you expect it to be (the climax is an easy guess though). This humor in this film is mostly of the slapstick variety that may not appeal to some as much as it does to others. This isn’t a great comedy but it has its share of gags that make you laugh enough times to warrant a watch.


Post a Comment

<< Home