varma reviews

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Rain Man September 28, 2006
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I’ve always liked movies where the theme was about two brothers/partners who don’t initially like each other but over a period of time slowly start to bond. Rain Man is a nice example of such a film.

Tom Cruise discovers that his father gave away much of his wealth to his (previously unknown) autistic brother (Dustin Hoffman)…now to get his fair share of wealth he has to get custody of his brother by hook or crook. An then begins a rather amusing road trip which brings these two closer to each other. The movie is filled with humourous moments generated by Hoffman’s character and the subsequent frustrations vented out by Cruise; most notably the scene where Hoffman interrupts Cruise while he is having sex and the sequence on the road where Hoffman insists on getting an underwear only from K-Mart. The actors perfectly complement each other throughout. Directed by Barry Levinson this movie garnered all the major Oscars for that year (Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Director) which is a good enough reason to check out this really charming flick.

The Forgotten
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This one seemed very interesting from the promos that even said this was best movie in its genre since The Sixth Sense. Of course, I always knew that it was an overstatement but the premise was definitely interesting. A mother vividly recalls her son but everybody around her believes that she is only imagining it. What is the truth? How can everyone forget what she remembers? Is she imagining everything in her mind? If not, why would anyone want to make everyone forget about her son? The premise raises a lot of questions and appeals to your imagination.

Julianne Moore is good and keeps us hooked to a certain extent. The direction by Joseph Ruben (Sleeping with the Enemy) is fine but the main fault lies with the writing by Gerald Di Pego. An interesting premise and saleable actors always bring audience to the theatres (despite what the critics say) and I remember that this movie made a decent amount of money at the box office. I wonder if the makers banked on this fact when they planned this movie.

The idea that a mother never forgets her kid may appeal to certain people (which was certainly not the case with me). The initial part of the movie keeps you engrossed and raises your expectations but as it unfolds further it only goes downhill. The climax really lets you down. Frankly, it is an insult to your intelligence. If you have not seen this movie yet, my advice would be to keep away but if you have seen it, this movie is one that is best “forgotten”.

Red Eye September 26, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
I liked this movie because it is a simple yet effective thriller…in fact it is quite believable if you ignore the last few minutes. A hotel receptionist (Rachel McAdams) meets a co-traveller (Cillian Murphy) aboard a plane who threatens to get her father killed if she doesn’t change a hotel reservation of some high profile politician. Most of the movie is about what happens on the plane between these two characters…and this portion is grippingly narrated by Wes Craven (of Scream movie series). As I mentioned before the portions filmed on the plane are very believable because of the simplistic plot and tense moments between the protagonists. One more thing I noticed is the length of the film which is probably just over an hour….when the movie was coming to an end I thought that there is going to be some additional twist which would extend the plot because it was quite surprising for me to see a movie end in 70-80 minutes. On the whole a well made thriller worth a watch.

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This movie is about the trials and tribulations of the people working at a television network. It tries to capture the degeneration of morals and values under the constant pressure of success and money. The movie is filled with marvellous performances. Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall play the central characters to great effect. Dunaway is a revelation as Diana Christensen (she won an Oscar for her brilliant portrayal). Finch brings Howard Beale to life while Holden throws in an equally competent performance (Finch beat Holden for the Oscar).

At some point in the movie you might wonder if it is too implausible or over the top. If that happens, remember today’s news channels and remember Jerry Springer and that will lay all doubts to rest. This movie is about what could become and it certainly could go to that extent if it already hasn’t. In this day and age where everything is driven by money, fame and power, anything is possible. This movie was way ahead of its time in 1976. Towards the end you get the feeling that the writer has probably lost it but he doesn’t. There are a few different directions that the movie could have gone but the writer takes us to the one where he gets to show as many ways as possible in which humans have deteriorated into Howard Beale’s “humanoids”.

The movie is directed by Sidney Lumet who has given us gems like 12 Angry Men and Dog Day Afternoon. The main credit for the movie though, should go to the screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky. It touches on so many things and so well. The characters are very real. Even in my limited experience of life, I have seen characters like Diana Christensen (people who have nothing else in life except work and people who are not capable of any real feelings). I have already come to realise that money is the key driving force behind most things even in places like the academia. I shudder to think of a corporate experience where Currency is God.

This movie is filled with interesting characters, dialogue and discussion. This is a thought provoking film that has great depth and I would strongly recommend this to those who like to observe and think.

Three Kings September 24, 2006
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I’ve never really been a fan of war movies…almost always they are just visual spectacles but don’t go beyond that. But this one completely took me by surprise…this is simply the most engrossing and entertaining movie I’ve seen in recent times. First and foremost this is not a conventional war movie and this is its major strength.

The setting for this movie is the end of the 1991 Gulf War and the Three Kings in this story are George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube who are pretty frustrated about the fact that they haven’t really done anything in the war. They are waiting to get back when they chance upon a map of a bunker where Kuwaiti gold bullion confiscated by Saddam Hussein are stored. Without informing the rest of their company they set out to get this gold hoping for a better life where they dont have to do their boring day jobs. But things don’t go perfectly right in their mission. You have to watch the movie to find out how it all ends.

This movie was quite controversial as it was cynical about the war….the torture chamber scene between Mark Wahlberg and and Iraqi Republican Guard is one of the prominent ones which puts forward this view. What I really love about this movie is the way director David Russell blends humor and emotion perfectly for a serious theme like this…..aided with gritty visuals throughout - I found the scenes very imaginative where they show what a bullet does inside a human body. All the performances are really good….George Clooney is one actor who seems to be doing some really meaningful stuff in the last few years. This is definitely going into my list of all time favorites and I strongly recommend that everyone watch this.

Any Given Sunday
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Oliver Stone changes track from his usual darkish political stuff and makes a movie around football (the violent American version). I have two opinions after watching this movie….I would call it much ado about a football game but also a rocking entertainer. Though it loosely falls into the category of underdog sports movies, it is more than that and surely much better than the ones I’ve seen.

The story revolves around the coach of a losing football team Tony (Al Pacino), the team’s profiteering manager Christina (Cameron Diaz), the much loved aging superstar quarterback Rooney (Dennis Quaid) who gets badly injured during a game but has full support of the coach to get back into the team despite the manager’s losing confidence in him….and a new young star Beamen (Jamie Foxx) who guides the team to new victories but is under fire from his fellow team members and coach for not follwing the proper tactics, for not being a team player and for having success go over his head (ala Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman). You can pretty much figure out the story which moves around these characters and a few others and how everything falls in place in the end. But what makes this movie watchable is the picturization of the games itself with some pumped up music playing in the background. This in fact takes up most of the screen time….though I don’t understand the game or the terminology surrounding it…still great fun to watch it. If you have seen S.S Rajamouli’s Sye then after watching this you’ll figure out where he got the idea for the final touchdown scene. In any case, this is a total paisa vasool movie which one would enjoy as long as it lasts.
Absolute Power September 23, 2006
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I found the title “Absolute Power” very corny….something fit for a Van Damme or Steven Seagal movie, but I rented this only because of the star cast consisting of Clint Eastwood (who also directs this), Gene Hackman, Ed Harris and Laura Linney. The plot is rather frivolous…a famous thief (Eastwood) breaks into the house of a billionare but when he is about to leave…witnesess the billionare’s wife assaulted by the President (Gene Hackman) and when she tries to struggle back, she is shot by two intelligence agents who arrive on time…also on the scene is the Chief of Staff who organizes the cover up. Though they come to find out that someone has been witness to this crime they don’t really bother to trace him at first. Following a press conference by the President later where he fakes grief at the killing, Eastwood decides to gets back at him and what follows from thereon is a standard cat and mouse game.

The movie is definitely engrossing but I wonder why Eastwood chose to make a movie with such a contrived plot….In that sense I found this disappointing. I would rate this as an average movie overall which you can watch if you don’t find anything better.

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This movie garnered for the lead actress Felicity Huffman probably every major award nomination…but the reason I saw this was the interesting theme. Huffman plays a transgender (male->female) who has to undergo a final sexual reassignment operation (which as explained in the most hillarious sequence of the movie is “to turn your d*** inside out”). One day she receives a phone call from her son (who she doesn’t know) in prison who needs help. Because of this her psychologist does not give her a consent letter to undergo the operation until she deals with her son. Pretending to be a missionary, she embarks on a trip with her son (Kevin Zegers) to drop him off to his stepfather….but that doesn’t work and now the son wants to meet the real father. On their way, they stop at her parent’s house where she has to deal with her shocked parents about her transformation. In the middle of all this both father/mother and son slowly start bonding without the son knowing the truth.

The best part of the movie are the two sequences when the son discovers that she is actually a transexual and later towards the end when he discovers that she is his father. The plot might seem fit for a serious drama but making it into a humorous one is where director Duncan Tucker succeeds. Both the lead performers are brilliant. On the whole a very nice light-hearted road movie worth your time.

Holy Smoke
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I saw this movie a while back and I have to say that this is one heck of a weird movie. A lot of what was happening on the screen did not make any sense to me whatsoever. At the outset, it felt like a very amusing film and provided a few laughs. However, as it progressed, it flummoxed me. The story is about a girl who is fascinated by a cult in India (I have my own doubts about the authenticity of the depiction of this part. I can’t believe that so many foreigners are influenced by such cults as depicted in the movie). When she decides to stay back in India, her parents hire someone to bring her back to normal. And thats exactly when the movie starts self-destructing. Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs, Wise Guys) and Kate Winslet (Titanic, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) star in this film directed by Jane Campion that has too many deranged characters. I hated this film and I would suggest that everyone keep away from it.

Back to the Future September 22, 2006
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This much loved adventure classic by Robert Zemeckis is something I checked out very recently. This story is about a teenager Marty (Michael J. Fox) who goes back into time accidentally through a time travel car created by a mad-scientist kind of character Dr. Brown (Christopher Lloyd). In the past he has a task on hand….to make his parents come together to protect his own existence in the future. But there is a slight problem….his mom (who is a teenager now) is more infatuated with Fox than his would be father. The rest of the movie is about how he achieves this and comes “back to the future”. This film was produced by Steven Spielberg so you’ll notice his style of filmmaking sprinkled all throughout. I would put this movie in the league of E.T in the sense that both of these have true crowd pleasing moments aplenty and a wonderful background score which I truly felt were the major strength of both these movies. Michael J. Fox and Christoper Lloyd are the life of this movie….it’s really hard to imagine this without these two. On the whole, this is a delightful movie which will be relished for generations to come.

American Beauty
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One of my all time favorites, this one’s a tragi-comic story of a dysfunctional family where every member of the cast is peculiarly quirky in his/her own way. When it was playing in theatres I was wondering what all the hype was about given the fact that it won five Oscars. I didn’t find the trailers interesting enough. The first time I accidentally caught it playing on TV and ever since I’ve been loving it whenever I watch it.

The strength of this movie is the characterization of every actor….an aura of mystery surrounds every one of them and this is what holds your interest. I remember seeing a somewhat similar movie called “The Ice Storm” by Ang Lee which I liked too but not as much as this one. The background score is also simple and haunting and stays with you for a long time. The dark look of the film also enhances the mystery. Kevin Spacey tops the list of performances. Director Sam Mendes’ work is really commendable. I rate this one very highly and recommend this to anyone who is game to watch something refreshingly different from the routine.

8MM September 21, 2006
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This movie starts off with a very interesting premise where a private investigator (Nicholas Cage) is hired by an old lady to investigate a “snuff movie” she found in her dead husband’s locker. Till I saw this movie I didn’t know what a snuff movie was. The Wikipedia definition says that “A snuff film is a film, sometimes pornographic, that allegedly depicts actual murder, produced for entertainment purposes.”. Now Cage sets out on the trail to figure out if the movie was actually real and if so who really was behind this. To aid his journey he takes the help of an adult content store owner played by Joaquin Phoenix (this was the inspiration for Emraan Hashmi’s character in Kalyug). Till this point, the movie is quite interesting but then it slowly goes downhill and ends up begin a very routine thriller. But still, on the whole this film works mainly because its plot meanders around the murky world of pornography which definitely makes this an interesting watch.
Pay It Forward September 20, 2006
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This movie had a fascinating idea that I liked very much. The idea is to do three good deeds for people that are totally unknown if someone does one good deed for you (and the chain goes on). Apart from a very positive thought, it has three very capable actors in Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment. However the screenplay (Leslie Dixon), based on a book of the same name (Catherine Ryan Hyde) isn’t as strong as it could have been. It would have been better if the focus was on the pay it forward idea throughout. However, the script meanders and a possibly great film ends up as an average one. Inspite of its flaws, I was interested for a large part of the film but the climax just killed the good feeling that had built up inside me. I couldn’t figure out any strong reason that redeems the climax. This film directed by Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker, Deep Impact) is still a watchable flick. Anyone who doesn’t mind watching a flawed drama with a captivating idea and good performances can catch this.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind September 18, 2006
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Before anyone watches this movie, one has to know what a “Close Encounter of the Third Kind” actually means….otherwise you might be a bit disappointed with the end of this otherwise brilliant movie. Put simply, this could mean an “intelligent communication” with an alien and/or and alien abduction (a theme which resonates hard in UFO stories).

Now coming back to a plot this is about two people who’ve witnessed alien spacecraft and have experienced some sort of contact with them which causes them to draw close to the spaceship for a “close encounter”. The whole movie is about incidents which act as communication to them by aliens and how they finally reach their destination. This is one of Spielberg’s earliest movies but I caught up with this only sometime back. What really amazed me is his ability to keep the audience gripped throughout even with such a wafer thin plot almost 30 years back! that just shows his brilliance as a filmmaker. The performances are good and so are the special effects - considering that it was made such a long time back. This is a movie which can be truly called a “sci-fi thriller” and you shouldn’t miss this if you like such themes.

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When I picked up this movie at the DVD store, I was hoping for an average thriller and I wasn’t disappointed. The primary draw was the writer Jeb Stuart (Die Hard, The Fugitive) who debuted as a director with this film (he hasn’t done anything since). This is a serial killer flick which is more of a cat and mouse game than a mystery. This isn’t the movie which keeps you guessing who the killer is because you know who it is early on. From that point on you feel that it is too easy and simple if he is the killer and start doubting the others. The director provides you with instances to doubt the others and that is clever.

The movie starts off with an interesting opening sequence that shows that Stuart does have some directorial skills. The setting of the movie in the snow and the small towns is good and gives you a disturbing feel (violence in a serene setting is always unsettling). At one point it is very confusing why one person is killed. Similarly, an accident seems strange. These seem stupid and unnecessary at first but they are present for a reason that you do realise after some thought. The movie is more complicated than it needs to be but that helps to keep the viewer interested in what could have been a bad and boring film.

Dennis Quaid isn’t great as LaCrosse but the other three primary actors are likeable. Danny Glover, Jared Leto and R. Lee Ermey are well cast in their roles. This movie keeps you immersed till the end and that is where you should stop thinking any further. If you start asking the ‘Why?’ questions, then the movie seems lousy. The movie is contrived, but that keeps your mind occupied and that is fine by me. Though it is pointless, it is still a watchable thriller that is also forgettable.

The Angrez September 17, 2006
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This hillarious film more than anything else will probably be remembered as the ultimate tribute to the Hyderabadi dialect. Yes..there is a plot too (and some lame performers) but it is of no significance as long as the “Ismail Bhai” gang is present on screen to crack you up over and over again with every line they utter especially the guy who plays Salim - he single handedly steals the show from every one else…I missed his name in the credits somehow. In fact, I found the actual story to be somewhat of an irritant…I wish it had revolved totally around the gang and its conversations.

The Hyderabadi dialect has been shown quite a few times in mainstream Hindi cinema but alas the guys spouting it were either Shakti Kapoor or Johnny Lever who could never do justice to the humor inherent in even the simplest of conversations….this movie amply capitalizes on this aspect is probably the only reason why it works big time. I am not sure if someone who isn’t from Hyderabad would enjoy this but if you are a Hyderabadi then there is no reason why you should miss this one. More good news is that there is a new flick called Hyderabad Nawabs which is playing and inherits the same cast from its predecessor.

Without a Paddle
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At the outset, this seemed to be a very crazy comedy on the lines of “Road Trip” and “Harold & Kumar go to WhiteCastle” because of the plot….which is about a group of friends on a boat trip through the wild trying to find a treasure to fulfill their dead friend’s dream. But right from the beginning, the humor seems to be conspicously missing… the end of the movie you really wonder if the filmmakers were trying to make a comedy in the first place. The promising cast consisting of Seth Green (who I loved in the Austin Powers movies and The Italian Job), Dax Shepard (Zathura) and Matthew Lillard (Scream and Scooby Doo) is totally let down by a lame script. Apart from a few funny lines here and there nothing much happens to keep alive your interest. The only way one might like this movie is to forget that it is supposed to be funny. If you are looking out for a laugh-out-loud flick then safely give this a miss.

North Country September 16, 2006
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Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand star in this flick which is based on a book called “Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law”….now that’s a pretty big name for a book and it pretty much summarizes what the movie is about plus it has all the regular cliches you’d find in such kind of movies. This is a textbook movie which almost always garners an Oscar nomination for the actors involved. I found it just about okay…somewhat pretentious just like other movies of this flock. While watching this I was reminded of Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia and Jodie Foster’s “The Accused” which I also consider equally pretentious. What irritates me about such films is that they seem to get made only for the heck of getting an award or two. The movie is not boring or anything like that but I wouldn’t recommend this….probably female audiences might like it more.
The Graduate September 15, 2006
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Another of those overhyped award winning classics…this one is about a college graduate (Dustin Hoffman) who has no clue of what he wants to do but is constantly given gyan by everyone around him; ultimately he just ends up having an affair with an older lady (Anne Bancroft) after she makes relentless moves to seduce him. But Hoffman eventually falls in love with Bancroft’s daughter (Catherine Ross). The mother doesn’t want this to happen and the affair comes out in the open…..the rest of the story is about how he finally unites with a heartbroken Ross. I wouldn’t say that this movie is bad but there is nothing great about it either. This was Hoffman’s first Hollywood movie and he was good. Rotten Tomatoes says this about the movie as a “satirical coming-of-age comedy that became an emotional touchstone for an entire generation”….well maybe, but definitely not for me. You can still watch this because it doesn’t bore you.

Failure to Launch
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This movie is about a guy in his thirties, who is unwilling to leave his parents house and has a problem with committment. A professional is hired to drive him away from there. If it is amusing in one sense to Americans, it is amusing in a totally opposite way to Indians. Matthew McConnaughey (Sahara, How to Lose a Guy in 10 days) might have the girls swooning and that is the primary reason for his presence. Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City) is fine. The most interesting performance in this one is by Zooey Deschanel (Elf, Almost Famous).

This movie feels like an alternate version of Hitch with a different premise and the genders interchanged (and an average screenplay). There is neither the charisma of Will Smith nor the comedic talent of Kevin James here to make this one as funny or likeable. As the climax suggests, there is no intention to be serious or realistic here. It is aimed at a certain audience and as the Box Office results suggest, it worked. There isn’t much here that will enthuse critics or those looking for intelligent cinema/comedy. That said, it is a light romantic comedy that lacks the romance but provides some laughs and can be watched (and forgotten), especially by the female members of the audience (who will enjoy this more often than not).

Mississippi Burning September 14, 2006
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Racism has been the central theme of many flicks…this is another prominent one. Starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe the story is about these two FBI agents who are sent out to investigate the killing of three Civil Rights activists in Mississippi by the notorious Ku Klux Klan. Hackman and Dafore have different ways of working and they don’t particularly like each other but ultimately have to come together towards the end. The plot is a fictionalized account of an actual incident. During the investigation, the passive complicity of the town’s people in the crimes committed and their condonation of racism makes the lives of the investigators tougher who have to overcome all odds to nab the culprits. The pacing is nice, though it is not an edge of the seat thriller. One the whole, this is good thriller worth your time and probably an educational film about the Ku Klux Klan.

The Score
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When you think about Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton (Fight Club) in one movie, you don’t want to miss it. So I watched this Frank Oz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Housesitter, Bowfinger) directed heist flick with a lot of expectation. This is an interesting movie but it lacks the pace or the amount of excitement of other films in the genre. It is not much of a slick flick. The primary plus for the movie is the acting. However, actors of such calibre were unnecessary. Marlon Brando is wasted in a miniscule role. De Niro and Norton get some scope to showcase their talents and they make good use of it. Angela Bassett has a neat supporting role. The movie does have its share of interesting conversations and robbery planning and execution scenes but nothing really fresh. We generally expect movies in this genre to have some unexpected twists and unpredictable sequences. There isn’t much of that here. Some of the twists are quite predictable, especially the climax, which takes off some of the sheen from the movie. This is an average heist flick that could be watched for the actors.

St. Elmo’s Fire September 13, 2006
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I watched this movie because I distinctly remember Sajid Khan mentioning on television that this movie inspired Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai. I don’t know if he was talking about the promotional stills or something else because there is not even an ounce of this movie in that one. Considering what I was expecting from this movie, I was thoroughly disappointed. Even without expectations, the movie was an average one for me. The film is about a group of friends who have graduated from college and are getting on with their lives. Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever, Batman and Robin, A Time to Kill) co-writes and directs this film that has its share of amusing and appealing moments but those were not enough to keep me interested. I can see that this movie would probably appeal to those who were college students or college graduates in that generation due to the identification factor. For the rest of us, especially those of us who did not grow up in America, this flick is avoidable.

Sense and Sensibility September 12, 2006
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I wasn’t too interested in this one as I had seen the Indian adaptation of this much loved Jane Austen novel in Rajiv Menon’s Priyuraalu Pilichindi/Kandukondein Kandukondein. But I checked it out because I do like watching such feel good stuff from time to time. The story as most people know is about two sisters and their rather varied journeys through life as they find their suitors. This is a story which everyone will like….it has love, suffering and betrayal but everything falls nicely into place towards the end….something which works very well for a movie adaptation. The only irritant I found is that it is a period drama. I somehow find it very hard to watch costume dramas especially set in England or France. Apart from this, it is a nice movie to watch even though it’s slow. The performances by Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman are all fine. But if you cannot bear slow dramas, then you can check out Rajiv Menon’s version.
Diamond Men September 11, 2006
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This film is more about a journey than a story. I have never thought about diamond salesman on the road and that just made the basic premise fresh and interesting for me. As the movie progresses, it develops from being interesting to absorbing. This movie is a drama about two characters and it displays a captivating sliver of American life that we rarely witness in mainstream cinema. Robert Forster is brilliant (who also played an important role in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown) as a diamond salesman at the end of his career trying to mentor a younger Donnie Wahlberg (brother of Mark Wahlberg), who is just getting his feet wet in the business. It works well as a study of contrasts that end up influencing each other’s lives. There is some engaging dialogue between the two as well as some of the other principal characters. The screenplay by Dan Cohen (who wrote and directed this film) is amusing and keeps you pleased throughout. This is a pleasant film that I enjoyed thoroughly. If you find the idea of a journey of two diverse individuals from an uncommon occupation appealing, this movie is for you.

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Today is the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, so I decided to write step aside for a while and write about a documentary rather than a feature film.

From the very moment after the 9/11 attacks, there has been lot of material (both text and videos) available on the web about possible conspiracy theories suggesting the direct complicity of the US government. Why I singled this one out is becuase it is the latest, most professionally done and covers not just 9/11 but also many other similar operations - the proofs for some of which are newly declassified CIA documents. This actually reminded me about the final scene in Oliver Stone’s JFK where Kevin Costner makes a satirical comment saying that some day after 20 years when people no longer care about what really happened (in this case referring to JFK’s assassination) some CIA document is going to get declassified which is going to reveal the whole truth. Anyways, this documentary was made by famous US radio host Alex Jones and was released earlier this year at a 9/11 Truth Movement symposium. He made it available for free on Google Video (This is also available on You Tube). I’ve been following this stuff for quite some time, but what really interested me in this documentary is the analysis of other events like the 7/7 London bombings etc.

Like any conspiracy theory, this one (as well as other similar material on this issue) has its fair share of critics. But if you honestly go by the number of loopholes the official version wins hands down….in fact the strongest evidence in favor of the official version is that…’s the official version…the government said so….it has to be true dummy. Anyways, I guess quite a few people would have seen this already….but if you haven’t you should definitely give it a try….whether you believe it or not it’s still important that everyone sees this…and it’s free!

Bee Season September 10, 2006
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This is a lesser known film which was released last year starring Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche. In fact the reason I rented this was only because I found the DVD cover very appealing. This movie is actually quite complex and fuzzy but at the end I guess I quite liked it.

The story is about a normal family…mom, dad and two kids (played by Max Minghella and Flora Cross). Gere plays a professor who is very obsessed with the teachings of a certain Jewish philosopher. Unconciously, he tries to rub this on each of his family members throughout….but things suddenly start to change when his daughter tops the school spelling bee (personally, I don’t really understand why there is a contest like a spelling bee and why so many people are obsessed about it); which makes him take overzealous steps in training his daughter for future contests…the primary reason for this being that he is able to see his daughter give shape to his personal beliefs. This overbearing attention given to the daughter slowly drives his son away who slowly rebels by trying out other faiths. Meanwhile his wife (Juliette Binoche) who has traumatic memories of her parents death displays some mysterious behaviour….I felt that Binoche’s characterization was really the lowpoint of the film because it is really tough to provide a plausible explanation of her behaviour even at the end. The daughter who has this ability to visualize any given word (thanks to some cool visual effects) is somehow able to figure out the cause of this family dysfunction and takes a bold (but predictable) step in the end to set things right.

The perfomances by each of the cast members is brilliant. Despite many flaws in this film, I rate this film well because of the themes it was trying to convey…sometimes we unconsciously impose things upon others or obsess over certain stuff without realizing the effect it has on people around us…by the time we realize this it’s probably too late. I would recommend that you watch this…even though you may not like it…..this surely will make you think long after the movie is over.

The Jacket September 9, 2006
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This is a psychological time-travel thriller featuring Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley in the lead. Brody plays a soldier who’s been shot in the head during a war; which puts him into an amnesiac condition. After being falsely arrested for a murder, he is declared insane and sent to a mental institution….where the lead doctor wraps him up in a straitjacket and puts him into a morgue enclosure…as part of his unconventional treatment. In this state Brody is able to travel into the future and comes across people who he knows in the present…among a few things he also comes to know that he would be dead in a few days. The rest of the movie is about how he helps certain people with this ability and also tries to find out how he actually died.

What I found appealing about this movie is that it does not try to be too complicated while at the same time keeping up the interest level for the viewer. Though this deals with time-travel it is not a film where you have be racking your brains hard to figure out the plot. The movie bears an eerie look throughout and the scenes where Brody experiences hallucinations are quite nicely done. If there is one reason to watch this one it has to be Adrien Brody…he is just too good. The kind of authenticity he brings even to a commercial thriller like this is admirable. I found out in the end credits that this movie was produced by George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh. It was a commercial and critical failure, but I would still recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for a pychological thriller which doesn’t tax your brain much.

Zathura September 8, 2006
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It’s been quite a long time since I have seen a film of this kind. The movie has the tagline “A new adventure from the world of Jumanji”…that’s because both Zathura and Jumanji are orignially books written by the same author Chris Van Allsburg. Jumanji has been one of my favorite fantasy movies as a kid which I find it interesting to watch even today.

Zathura is pretty much the same concept only that the setting is that of outer space instead of a jungle. Though in terms of the visuals I found Zathura less exciting than its predecessor but what works here is the underlying theme throughout the movie….which is sibling rivalry. The bickering between the two kids (Jonah Bobo and Josh Hutcherson) is very cute….some of the lines written for them are quite funny. The performances by these kids is very nice…..they really are the mainstay of the movie more than the SFX.

Unfortunately, this movie bombed badly at the box office inspite of having received critical acclaim. This is a fun film which I did enjoy watching and you should watch it if you like fantasy.

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This is a typical Hollywood disaster movie minus the explosions. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (who earlier made Troy, Air Force One, The Perfect Storm etc..), it’s a multistarrer with Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding Jr and Rene Russo.

As the name suggests this movie is about a deadly virus outbreak which spreads across a whole town and starts killing its inhabitants while spreading it on to other people. The protagonists are in search of an anti-serum from a monkey which actually started spreading the virus….our heroes need to find the monkey before the US government blows up the town for “national security” reasons as usual. The first half of the movie where the spread of the virus is shown is very engaging. It slackens a bit in the middle but gains momentum again towards the final reels. As I said before this is a typical disaster movie…though not as entertaining as the ones made by Ronald Emerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day after Tomorrow). The performances are okay…as you know there is nothing much to perform in such movies apart from running around.

Wikipedia says that after this movie was released there was a debate about a what-if scenario like this and if the government would really go and blow up a virus-infected town to stop the disease’s spread…..(well, my view is a resounding yes). On the whole, this is the genre of film in which Hollywood has attained perfection…..and as such this proves to be an entertaining popcorn flick.
A History of Violence September 8, 2006
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The critics raved about this movie (based on a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke) but when I read the story outline I felt it was very similar to many movies, especially those in the Seema genre in Telugu cinema. However, the excellent reviews made me watch this movie to see what was so good and different. This movie was very good in terms of quality but there isn’t much about the story that was unlike the other movies. The plot isn’t the strong point of this movie as some critics had me believe. If you really haven’t seen a movie that has some of these elements of intrigue and mystery about a person who may have a hidden past, then you may find the story appealing. The good thing about the story though is that it creates multidimensional characters that are very believable. The relationship of the husband and wife and the parallels between the son and the father are very interesting. The question that kept popping up in my mind was “What if someone who is very close to you has a hidden past?”. This movie makes you think and questions of this kind are what make the plot seem interesting.

Though the plot isn’t particularly fresh or appealing, what this movie has is a master at work. David Cronenberg’s mastery is visible in many scenes. The opening sequence of the movie and the two sex scenes between the lead actors are unforgettable. Cronenberg (who also made films like Dead Ringers and The Fly) does an interesting take on what is ultimately a pointless story. He takes an average plot and creates a movie that is a couple of notches higher. The violence in this movie is different from what we are used to seeing in most movies. The three primary actors Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello and Ed Harris deliver commendable performances. This is a slow moving thriller/drama that appeals to a niche audience. This movie is not for those who want an interesting story or fast-paced entertainment. Those who are particularly interested in filmmaking and want to catch Cronenberg at work might want to watch this.

Wedding Crashers September 7, 2006
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Last year’s runaway hit…this raunchy R-rated comedy is about two buddies (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) who keep crashing weddings to sleep with the bridesmaids. In once such wedding, Owen Wilson falls for Rachel McAdams…and our crashers get to spend some time with her family. This is where the fun part begins. BTW, this became the highest grossing R-rated comedy ever beating the record of “There’s something about Mary”…..there are plenty of moments to make you laugh throughout. Among the cast Vince Vaughn stands out; the supporting cast is also too good. Also, there is a hillarious cameo towards the end by Will Ferrell. This has all the ingredients of a successful adult comedy and you should watch it if you like movies in this genre.

Amores Perros (Love’s a Bitch)
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This Mexican film received immense critical acclaim and praise apart from an Oscar nomination (it lost to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in the foreign film category in 2000) and that raised my expectations. I enjoyed this film but probably not as much as the critics. From the common viewer’s perspective, this is not as enjoyable a film as it is from a director’s or writer’s perspective. I liked the movie more after it ended as I had some time to comprehend what I had witnessed.

Each of the three interlinked stories has a lot of depth and some of the nuances of the stories are not easily apparent as they unfold. Dogs form a key aspect of each of the stories (hence the title). This movie is very well written (by Guillermo Arriaga who also wrote 21 grams, Babel and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) and the stories are expertly interwoven. This movie takes us through the lives of its characters with the dogs providing an interesting parallel to the humans and their stories (a lot of contemplation was necessary before I realised this). One of the stories reminded me of some people who tend to show more interest or love for dogs than human beings (which isn’t something that I can relate to or accept).

This movie apparently inspired Mani Ratnam’s Yuva/Ayudha Ezhuthu to the extent that the format is similar. There are three interconnected stories linked together by an accident (the interlinking is not really new). That is where the similarities end.

This is the debut film of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (who has also made other critically acclaimed films like 21 grams and Babel, which is now traveling the festival circuit) and he has superb command over style and technique. The acting is laudable too and Emilio Echevarría in particular has great screen presence. There is freshness in the stories and the narration is realistic but this movie does not offer entertainment and many might find its pace to be slow. This movie is for those who like good/different/intelligent cinema and are willing to invest some thought in the movie.

Christmas with the Kranks September 5, 2006
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I believe that sometimes film critics tend to hate some comedies that are enjoyed by a large part of the audience. So, when this movie took a critical panning but made a decent bit of money at the 2004 Christmas Box Office, I thought the it might be decent enough to watch. After all, this was an adaptation of a John Grisham novel called Skipping Christmas. However, when I actually caught this movie starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, I was disappointed. This movie has very little going for it. It is neither amusing nor funny. It had very few moments that actually made me laugh. The christmassy ending fails to lift your sagging spirit. The premise was interesting but the screenplay (by Chris Columbus who made the first two Harry Potter movies as well as the first two Home Alone movies) falls flat. This movie should be skipped (pun intended).

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One of those movies which try to make you think too much but ultimately leaves you scratching your head. A psychiatrist (George Clooney) is asked to make an emergency visit to a space station which is on a mission to a new star/planet called Solaris. Once he reaches there, weird things seem to be happening….people (referred to as visitors) start appearing there from nowhere….apparently, these so called visitors are created from the memories of the visitor existing in the mind of the inhabitants of the space station…slowly and steadily this phenomenon begins screwing up everyone’s mind and ultimately they decide to escape from the space station. What happens ultimately in the final scene of the movie is somewhat incomprehensible…though I found different interpretations of this scene on the net when I was trying to find some spoilers.

This film was directed by Steven Soderberg (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve) who does have an interesting plot on hand but somehow makes it quite convoluted. One more problem with this movie is its slow pacing, which adds to the frustration. This is a movie which you would find interesting in parts but the conclusion would leave you a bit bewildered. You can watch this out of curiosity but I wouldn’t really recommend it as such.

The Shawshank Redemption
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Considered to be one of the finest movies of the nineties, this is one of those films where the story prods along and then takes you completely by surprise towards the end.

The plot involves a man convicted of murder (Tim Robbins) who feels that he is innocent…and his life in the Shawshank prison. He slowly befriends many of the inmates as well as the wardens and becomes quite popular. He does get involved in quite a few things during his stay in the prison…the significance of which is only known towards the end. The screenplay is brilliant…this is the kind of film which you would want to watch a second time to try and pick a few loopholes. I’ve read in a few places that Nagesh Kukunoor’s Teen Deewarein was a remake of this one…but that’s all crap; each one is a brilliant movie in its own respect…one should watch both to see what I am saying.

The performances are all brilliant especially Tim Robbins and so is the screenplay by Frank Darabont. The theme of the movie which is about undying hope might sound very cliched but the way it has been presented on screen changes the whole picture. This is definitely a movie you should check out.
A Fish called Wanda September 4, 2006
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This one’s quite a funny movie whose plot revolves around a jewel theft and the subsuequent chaos when some of the participants try to run away with the loot after double crossing the others. It stars Kevin Kline (who won an Oscar for his role), Michael Palin, John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis. What works for this movie more that the situations is the characterizations of the lead actors.

Kevin Kline plays a really dumb guy who thinks he’s an intellectual and hates being called stupid while Palin is an animal lover who has a heavy stutter…it is these two characters who generate the maximum number of laughs. The rest of the cast too is quite effective. Though it is silly at times, on the whole a nice comedy which should keep you smiling.

Carlito’s Way
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A nice movie about an ex-druglord trying to leave his past behind and wanting to start life afresh. Directed by Brian De Palma, this one stars Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante who’s just finished a jail stint of 5 years and wants to start life afresh by doing a business of renting cars in Bahamas. But he needs to make money before he gets out, so he buys out part of a night club to make the money he needs before he shifts base…He also gets his long lost girlfriend to get away with him….But ultimately he gets caught up in a few issues because of which he’s on the run.

The movie begins with a scene of Carlito being shot and about to die and his life is narrated by him as a flashback. What impressed me most about this movie is its simple plot but gripping screenplay, though predictable you’ll still want to watch what happens next. Pacino is good in his role…but the scene stealer is Sean Penn who plays a slimy lawyer with panache. The penultimate reels reminded me of Satya and Gangster…which had similar themes in terms of mafia-men being on the run. This is a simple movie with engaging moments which everyone should enjoy watching.

Big Trouble
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This was a movie that was supposed to be released around the time 9/11 happened and it was postponed because the movie had some terrorist elements (a nuclear device is smuggled aboard a plane). When it was finally released, it was a big dud at the box office grossing less than 8.5 million dollars for its 40 million dollar budget. This movie definitely deserved better (when you realise that movies like The Dukes of Hazzard collected over $100 million worldwide, the irritation worsens). This is based on a famous novel by humorist Dave Barry (who apparently won a Pulitzer prize). The presence of Tim Allen (whom I immensely liked on the hit TV show Home Improvement) and director Barry Sonnenfeld (who made famous comedies like Get Shorty and the Men In Black movies) brought my attention to this movie. I found the humor in this movie to be very enjoyable though I would not rate it as a great comedy. There were quite a few “rolling on the floor” moments for me in this one. It has quite an interesting ensemble cast. The characters are definitely funny even if they aren’t ones that will be liked by critics. Despite its flaws, the laugh quotient was pretty high and I would strongly recommend it to folks who are willing to laugh through a movie without taking the characters and the plot too seriously.

Open Water September 3, 2006
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Based on a true story, this is a realistic account of a vacationing couple who go scuba diving and get left out alone in the middle of an ocean becuase of a headcount screwup by the crew escorting them. The rest of the movie is about what happens to them in the next 24 hours.

The premise is actually novel….but unfortunately becuase of the effort made by the filmakers to try and be realistic…makes this movie quite boring. You keep waiting and waiting to see if something happens but your wait just keeps prolonging. The end is quite tragic but I felt relieved that the movie was finally over. The aim of the movie was apprently to make the audience feel the fear and tension of the stranded couple but it fails to convey that. I believe during filming they used real sharks to create the right effect but it doesn’t matter to a viewer who cannot differentiate anyways.

In totality, I would not rate this as a bad film but a film which could have been much much better had it used the right cinematic chill effects rather than the realism which fails to do its job….in fact I would suggest that you watch this because the critical reception of this film has been very good, so maybe you’d like it unlike me.

Citizen Kane September 2, 2006
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I’ve been waiting a long time to rent this movie out. Given the fact that this is considered almost unanimously to be the “greatest American motion picture of all time”….was enough of a reason to watch this. But also the fact that this was made 65 years back held me back because I was pretty confident that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy watching this. I took the risk now that I can bitch about it here if I didn’t like it. Anyways, I watched it with very low expectations and at the end of it…I was very impressed. Also, considering that it was made in 1941 I was even more impressed. To classify this movie into a genre…it should qualify to be a biopic but the way the plot unfolds it could be classified loosely as a thriller too.

The movie begins with a documentary feature on a certain Charles Foster Kane - who is a megalomaniac newspaper baron…and covers his entire life. When this lasted for more than 5 minutes, I almost believed that this was a documentary and was heading for the net to read about it to confirm….when the documentary ends and the actual movie begins. It happens that a group of reporters are watching this documentary and are fascinated with the last word uttered by Kane on his deathbed….which is “Rosebud”. Now, one of the reporters is on a mission to figure out what “Rosebud” meant. He begins by talking to people who knew Kane very closely one by one. Each of them narrates his/her story with Kane which is shown as a flashback and directs the reporter to another person who they think would probably know what Rosebud meant. This is how the story progresses and ultimately in the end you do get to know what Rosebud is. This kind of narrative is what impressed me the most. I generally find biopics very uninteresting but when the screenplay is so gripping, it does compel you to sit till the end. I can say that this is a way to trick people to sit through a biopic (like I was).

After watching this, I read about this movie and found more interesting things. The character of Kane is apparently based on a certain publishing tycoon called William Hearst and Howard Hughes (I would agree with this as the characterization of Kane had similarities with Howard Hughes as portrayed in The Aviator). Orson Welles who wrote, acted and directed this movie had his image tarnished so badly by Hearst that Welles’ career almost ended. In fact, during the Oscars that year whenever the name of this movie came up there were loud boos from the audience…that was the kind of negative image which was created in the people’s minds. On the whole, this is a movie which people of any generation would find interesting to watch. Go for it.

Chinatown September 1, 2006
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As I was writing about 36 China Town a couple of posts ago, I recalled this movie which I had seen some time back. Starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway this was directed by Roman Polansky (whose other movie I loved was The Pianist). Considered by many to be one of the best screenplays ever written, I did enjoy watching this and would definitely rate it well…given the contempt I seem to have developed watching some overhyped classics made before the 80s.

Though technically it can be called a murder mystery, it doesn’t have the standard format of one. It’s a nice thriller with adequate twists and turns to keep you interested throughout. Also, the climax is quite unconventional for a movie like this. The performances by the lead pair are really good and so is the screenplay. This is definitely one of the very few movies from the past which I did enjoy watching and would recommend to everyone.

Tailpiece: I read that there was a trilogy planned intially with “Jake Gittes” (name of the character played by Nicholson in this movie) as the pivot. Nicholson made a sequel called the The Two Jakes which flopped badly and so they abandoned the idea of a third part altogether.
E.T: The Extra Terrestrial August 31, 2006
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There is something about this movie….it just makes me feel so happy whenever I happen to see it. This is the movie to watch if you want to see the Steven Spielberg-John Williams magic truly at work.

In all of Spielberg’s films, the score by Williams has been absolutely brilliant but E.T is the one where you truly get goosebumps. The best scene of the movie is when the kids riding their bikes while fleeing from the police get airborne and the theme plays in the background. BTW, this particular scene has been given a fitting tribute in Mani Ratnam’s Anjali in the “Magic Journey” song. The plot is something which everyone knows, thanks to pale imitations like Koi Mil Gaya. And the theme music was blatantly used as the background for ETV. The kids are cute…especially the little Drew Barrymore. I guess most of the people reading this would aleady have seen this movie….but if you haven’t then you shouldn’t miss it. Do check out the 20th anniversary edition which has better digitally enhanced effects.

Flightplan August 30, 2006
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This is a thriller where the director takes the audience for granted. Featuring Jodie Foster, the plot begins when she boards a plane with her daughter and finds her missing after some time….with no one on the plane having any clue about seeing her daughter even boarding the plane in the first place.

This has all the ingredients of a standard thriller but when the suspense comes out at the end you’ll end up feeling like a jerk. What happens towards the end is too improbable and unrealistic. In fact, I would have been satisfied if they introduced some supernatural element or even aliens! This is good example of how to screw up a workable thriller. There are too many loopholes in the screenplay.

You can watch this if you have nothing else to do…it doesn’t bore you but will surely disappoint you at the end.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner August 29, 2006
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I love this film. I can’t stop raving about this one. You don’t hear enough praises of Stanley Kramer and his movies like this one and Inherit the Wind (produced and directed by him). Superlative screenplay, realistic characters, striking dialogue, skillful direction and magnificent acting make this a brilliant film.

I’ve seen hundreds of movies where the love between two people is put in jeopardy by their conflicting backgrounds. Through all those movies, I was longing to see the right one and this is it. This is the movie that I hoped somebody would make (actually I hoped that I could make something like this if I ever made a movie) but its already been made and in 1967 at that. The screenplay and dialogue by William Rose is extraordinary and the direction by Stanley Kramer is marvelous. Every character, every emotion, every dialogue seems real and logical. Between the four parents, the reactions encompass most things that parents would do in such a situation. The characterization of the lead pair is very natural and believable and adds value to the script. There is some oustanding dialogue in the movie but if I had to pick one the “I don’t owe you anything” speech by Poitier would be it.

As long as there is discrimination of any sort between people, this movie will be relevant. The movie has race as the point of conflict but it might as well have been anything else. Religion, Creed and Caste are very real points of conflict till today in most places around the world. I can even see Sexual Orientation being the point of conflict in current times.

Every actor in the movie performs remarkably well. I loved Sidney Poitier as Dr Prentice. His presence on the screen demands so much respect. Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading role (for Lilies of the Field) and after watching this movie I can see why. Spencer Tracy (who was also topnotch in Inherit the Wind apparently died just a few days after the movie was completed) plays the father to perfection. Katharine Hepburn (who was romantically linked to Tracy for a long time till his death) is excellent as the mother. She takes on the role with poise and speaks mostly with her expressions. Katharine Houghton (who is Hepburn’s niece in real life) plays the daughter and suits her role perfectly. Cecil Kellaway plays the family friend Monsignor Mike Ryan and does an expert job. Roy Glenn and Beah Richards play Poitier’s parents with Richards getting some wonderful scenes to enact and she delivers. I was very happy to know that this movie was nominated for 9 Oscars and won two (although I feel it could have done with more).

Most of the movie is discussions that run over the length of a day. If you enjoy films with intellect like Swades and Good Will Hunting you should love this movie. Anyone who has grown up on a consistent diet of romantic flicks should watch this to see what those movies are missing . This is not escapist cinema, so stay away if you are expecting entertainment of that sort.

Van Helsing
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This movie reminded me of the Vittalacharya movies of the 60s in Telugu but doesn’t come near the quality of any of those. This is a totally campy movie. Though it seems to be, this is not a horror movie by any stretch of imagination. The special effects are good. I haven’t ever seen a Dracula/Frankenstein/Vampire kind of movie, so the setting was kind of interesting for me. There is nothing in this movie that would really appeal to a thinking mind but the kid inside might enjoy it. Kate Beckinsale looks good. Hugh Jackman isn’t as likeable as in the X-men movies or Swordfish. If you happen to watch this film you really need to stop thinking. As camp, there are plenty of funny moments. Kids and those who can enjoy campy movies might like this though I don’t really recommend it to anyone.

Syriana August 28, 2006
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This critically acclaimed political thriller by Stephen Gaghan deals with the middle-eastern oil politics in which the US indulges. The plot is actually based on a personal memoir of a former CIA agent….the characters have been made fictional but the theme has been retained.

There are multiple subplots in this movie which kind of converge towards the end. I found the movie mostly interesting but there were quite a few places where things went over my head…especially in the portions featuring the oil company negotiator with the government. The movie is very realistically shot which gives it the authencity it needs. The performances are all good…specially George Clooney who also won an Oscar for his role. I personally recommend this film if you would like to get a very general idea about how oil diplomacy works and its effects. Of course, this one did generate quite a controversy in the US becasue of the way it has been portrayed. This is a movie where you have to think a bit and even though it is a thriller please stay away if you are looking for entertainment.

Ying Xiong (Hero) August 27, 2006
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Visually, this is the most mesmerizing movie that I have ever seen (it was said to be the most expensive Chinese film at the time). The action sequences are breathtaking and are more like choreographed dance sequences. The action sequences (Siu-Tung Ching also known as Tony Ching Siu-Tung) combine together with the beautiful costumes (Emi Wada), colors, sets (Tingxiao Huo, Bin Zhao), special effects, cinematography (Christopher Doyle), framing and direction (Zhang Yimou, who later made the similarly stunning House of Flying Daggers in the same genre) to create what I would call visual poetry. The first time I caught this movie in Mandarin at the theatre, I was so stunned that I forgot to read the subtitles for a while. I can watch this movie multiple times even without any sound and still gape at every frame.

The story (supposedly inspired from history) is about a king in ancient China who is trying to unite the warring kingdoms into one and assasins who are after his life. This movie is not really about the story or plot but the Rashomon like narrative works as an excellent placeholder that allows for many things other than taking the story forward. Those who are looking primarily for a story might find this a slow moving film but will be excited by the multiple viewpoints (if they haven’t seen Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon yet). These viewers might find the story, emotions and depth in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon more pleasing compared to this movie.

Zhang Yimou (who apparently started out as a cinematographer) makes use of different color schemes and choreographed action with different styles and settings for each retelling of the story. My favorite action scenes include the one between the men at the lake and the one between the women in the forest among the leaves. I could go on and on describing the beauty of each sequence but I won’t. Those looking for a story, conventional entertainment and fast paced action can avoid this movie but if you have the habit of enjoying the visual appeal of a movie, don’t miss this dazzling extravaganza.
28 Days Later August 27, 2006
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I read a lot about this 2003 film which received glowing reviews…some said that it invented a new genre of horror, but I found it was just another zombie movie in disguise.

I hate zombie movies…I’ve seen also seen the very critically acclaimed and commercially successful George Romero film “Land of the Dead” but I still can’t figure out why people are so crazy about it. Well, the plot is pretty simple….people are affected by a virus called “Rage” and they become zombie like creatures attacking everyone out of….guess what…rage. The only thing which is commendable about this movie is the way it was shot showing a completely uninhabited England….including the streets and freeways. I later read that the filming was done early mornings to get this effect. Unless you like zombie movies, please stay away from this.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
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Another one of my Spielberg favorites. Though this movie was supposed to be made by Stanley Kubrick, because of his demise before the production Spielberg took over the reins and filmed it. This is one of the very very few movies in which I had tears in my eyes towards the end.

The plot is a futuristic sci-one one where a new experiment to create a robot with emotions is taking place. The first experimental piece called David (played by Haley Joel Osment) is given to a family whose only child is in a coma like condition. David starts loving his family very much but when their original child recovers circumstances make the parents abandon David. David realizes that he is a robot and longs to be “real”. He finds a friend (a robotic gigolo played by Jude Law) who embark on a search to make David “real”. Towards the end when David realizes that he is just another piece in the assembly line of robots with feelings he is grief stricken and jumps off a building. At this point I expected the credits to roll but what happens in the next fifteen minutes just glued me to my seat. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest movie climaxes.

The performances by Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law are great. Spielberg is brilliant as usual. This one’s surely a must watch.

V For Vendetta
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This movie is based on a graphic novel by the same name. Though technically it is a superhero movie, do not expect it to be another action adventure. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile watch because of the content.

In the original novel, the setting is that of a totalitarian Britain and V is a masked superhero who inspires and leads its citizens to anarchy. The amusing thing the Wachowski Brothers (makers of the Matrix movies) do is to base the plot upon references to current political events using alternative theories about the ongoing “War on Terror” and making fun of the US rhetoric. For example, there is a fear mongering government-controlled right wing news network featuring a televangelist who keeps warning the world against “Muslims and Homosexuals”…..a Gitmo like detention facility with people wearing orange jumpsuits, the head of state who keeps uttering the word “National Security” more than anything else and his subordinate who owns a major portion of a pharmaceutical company and lot more. It is all these references which makes the movie interesting more than anything else. Actually, you can check out the article about thie movie in Wikipedia to find out more allusions like the ones I mentioned.

Though, I was a bit disappointed because I too initially expected it to have enough action as in any superhero movie, but nonetheless this one kept me entertained. This is actually a nice example of how an important issue can be transformed into a rather frivolous format to make it apt for commercial viewing and probably to avoid controversies. I would recommend this movie to be seen once whether or not you like superhero movies.

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I generally try to avoid biopics but the plot summary on the DVD cover gave me the impression that this could be very interesting. Plus, this was nominated for the best picture last year at the Oscars and also won the award for best actor - Philip Seymour Hoffman (who truly deserves it). But unfortunately, I was quite disappointed with this one. Probably the biggest bore I’ve seen lately.

Well, this is a true story of a famous American writer Truman Capote and what he went through when writing his most famous book “In Cold Blood”. Capote - a self pompous gay writer is facsinated by a multiple murder story which he reads in a newspaper and travels to that place to find out more…eventually he befriends the convicted murderers and ultimately after talking to them decided to write a book about the whole affair. Initially he works towards getting them released but after this whole affair drags for five years, and when the convicts finally get a stay order for their execution…Capote isn’t too pleased as he is also under tremendous pressure to finish that book and the book cannot be finished until the convicts’ fate is decided.

Though the plot on paper might sound interesting, believe me it was a big big bore to watch. Huffman in the title role though is excellent. Please stay away from this movie, unless you have a liking for biopics no matter what.

Inherit the Wind
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Stanley Kramer (who also crafted the excellent Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner starring Sidney Poitier along with Spacer Trency and Katherine Hepburn and is known for his socially relevant films) directs this movie released in 1960. The movie is based on the so called “Scopes trial” (also known as the “monkey trial) of 1925 wherein a high school teacher (John Scopes) was arrested and convicted for teaching the theory of Evolution in conflict with the state laws in Tennessee. This movie runs on two things. One is the brilliant screenplay and the other is the towering performances by the two key actors. Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond and Frederic March as Matthew Harrison Brady turn in knockout performances and form the backbone of the movie. Gene Kelly is cast against type in a supporting role and does well. The screenplay by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith (based on a play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee) is outstanding and the dialogue is exceptional. This movie makes you think (you would enjoy it even if you don’t want to think). The conflict between Creationism and Evolution exists till date and that is what makes this movie seem so relevant even today. This is not a movie for those who are looking for conventional entertainment. However, this is an arresting movie and I would think anyone who enjoys a good movie would savor this one.

Taxi Driver August 25, 2006
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I think this is one of the most overhyped movies I ever saw…Directed by Martin Scorcese and featuring Robert De Niro, the story about a taxi driver (you guessed it!!!) who is unhappy with the society and becomes a vigilante kind of figure to take action…more specifically to free a prostitute (played by 13 year old Jodie Foster).

Well, it is considered to be one of the most controversial movie ever made…I seriously fail to understand why. Though De Niro’s performance is very good, the screenplay is very sluggish…so typical of the films made in the seventies. One reason I may not have liked the movie is because most of us have probably seen hundreds of Indian movies about heroes trying to take the law into their own hands to change society, so when you venture out to watch a highly acclaimed movie and figure out that it’s the same thing which you’ve been watching all along, it surely disappoints you big time.

I suggest you to watch this movie only if you are keen to figure out the hard way as to why this is the most “controversial” movie ever made.
The Ring August 25, 2006
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This spooky film successfully kickstarted the genre known as J-Horror….which means to remake Japanese horror movies in which the ghost is almost always a creepy looking Jap kid with a bleached face….The others I’ve seen in this genre are The Grudge and Dark Water. But I consider Ring to be far superior to these.

First and foremost the plot is very interesting….a killer videotape which causes the death of anyone who watches it after seven days. The best part of the movie is the videotape itself. That tape really was disturbing. In fact, I don’t think the movie would have been as good as it was if the tape was less creepier. This was directed by Gore Verbinski (who later made Pirates of Caribbean movies) while the original Japanese movie was made by Hideo Nakata. The sequel to this movie flopped badly though.

I rate this among the best horror movies which Hollywood has produced in recent years…and should be watched by all horror fans.

Road to Perdition August 24, 2006
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This is my favorite gangster movie…but then this is more of a father-son bonding movie. Generally, this particular genre almost always revolves around a sport but when you mix this with a mob backdrop the result is refreshingly different.

The movie though is quite slow paced. But I was very engrossed for the whole duration. The emotional moments are very expertly handled….and the climax is very apt. Tom Hanks is good as usual, so is Jude Law. The kid who plays Tom Hanks’ son is also very good.

If you like mob movies then I strongly recommend this movie to you. But don’t expect any fast paced action.

The Clearing
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This movie stars Robert Redford, Helen Mirren and William Dafoe. The quality of actors was what pulled me to this movie and they deliver. This is a kidnap drama which has some depth. It gives you a feel for the characters and makes you think. It does not tell a particularly interesting story but gets by with the drama. Though it has intelligence, this movie is a bit too slow. First time director Peter Jan Bruigge (who has produced movies like The Insider and Miami Vice) does a decent job. This movie is strictly for those who enjoy slow paced dramas.

On The Waterfront
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This highly rated film was released in 1954 and won 8 oscars. Now thats a lot. So you expect quite a bit from the movie. This is a very good movie. A very well written, acted and directed movie. Audiences from this generation tend to find some of the older movies slow but this is a well paced movie. The depiction of crime in this movie is not something that I have seen so far in any movie of that era and that probably played a part in the huge critical success of the movie. Though this might have been the original, we have seen similar stuff in many movies since. So, some of it seems very familiar and reduces the impact of the movie. Nevertheless it is still a very good movie and is worth watching just for the acting.

Among the many movies inspired by this one, two came to mind instantly. The first scene (and the killing of Dugan later) reminded me of Mukul Anand’s Hum. The setting of the docks, the killing of Amitabh’s father and friend seem to have their inspirations here. The second scene remimded me of Vikram Bhatt’s Ghulam which ripped off this movie. Apart from most of the screenplay, the boxing incidents that are only mentioned here come to life in that one. Even when I watched it the first time that movie was an average one (though it was highly overrated by the audience). The music and Aamir added to the success of that one. The climax fight featuring Aamir Khan and Sharad Saxena has to be one of the longest unrealistic fight sequences in Hindi cinema. Aamir seems bloody, down and out and gets up (when a small boy cheers him) to knockout the relatively fresh Saxena. Now this kind of thing suits WWE but not cinema that wants to be taken seriously. In comparison the small fight in the climax between Brando and Cobb is extremely realistic. Cobb fights as I would with my brother while Brando shows some boxing skills that his character requires him to.

Elia Kazan (who also made A Streetcar Named Desire) directed this movie written by Budd Schulberg based on a true incident (the reporting of which won a Pulitzer Prize for Malcolm Johnson). This is a good screenplay that was well directed for the screen. Marlon Brando is the key to the movie. He is topnotch as Terry Malloy. There are few actors that emote with more than just their faces and Brando was probably one of the first few. You can’t help noticing what he does with his hands as also his looking away from the camera. I couldn’t take my eyes off his hands in a simple conversation scene with Eva Marie Saint (Saint dropping her glove was supposedly by accident during the rehearsal while Brando improvised and this was repeated for the actual take). The beautiful Saint (who also featured in North by Northwest, which is so far my favorite Hitchcock film) puts in an excellent debut performance. Lee J. Cobb (who also featured in Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men, which is definitely one of the greatest movies ever made), Karl Malden and Rod Steiger make up the splendid supporting cast. Apart from the acting, the backdrop of the waterfront certainly added to the movie. Anyone who enjoys acting and drama should watch this movie.

The Village August 23, 2006
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I consider this be M. Night Shyamalan’s most underrated movie. Though it was not a box office dud….it still did not manage to please the critics as well as the general audience. The mistake people make while watching Shyamalan’s movies is to compare everything with “The Sixth Sense”. I’ve had discussions about his films with my friends in the past and everyone has the same complaint….Signs was stupid because it had aliens….The twist in The Village is not as good as the one in Sixth Sense etc..

Frankly speaking, The Village is Shyamalan’s most realistic film in the truest sense of the word…and it deals with a very interesting theme…..that of using fear of the unknown to create a make believe world for others to live. The movie has its creepy moments throughout ….this is one thing you can expect from Shyamalan without being disappointed….and the performances are first rate especially by Bryce Dallas Howard.

I feel if you watch this with an unbiased mind….you’ll surely like it like I did. Otherwise, please stay away.

Fight Club
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I remember this David Fincher movie more than anything else for…..having the baap of all twist endings. Post Fight Club, I actually was able to predict the climax for quite a few movies as this provided me a new dimension to look at with respect to the endings of psychological thrillers.

The plot is quite interesting…a frustrated salesman (Edward Norton) suffering from insomnia keeps attending support groups meant for other ailments to feel good. Things work for him for a while until he meets another lady (Helena Bonham Carter) like him which brings his insomnia back. Then he comes across a certain Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) with who he starts a “Fight Club”….what happens next is for you to watch.

For the record, I read that this film was not released in India because the censor board found it too violent. I love the dark look of the film which gives it the right flavor throughout. This is a must watch for anyone looking for an imaginative theme…even otherwise it’s going to keep you entertained thoroughly.
Sideways August 23, 2006
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This movie was the forerunner for the 2005 Oscars, but ultimately did not garner many….but I liked this one immensely.

The story is about two friends one who is about to get married in a week and the other who is unable to get over his ex….these guys embark on a road trip to California wine country. The rest of the movie is about their experiences during that week. What works for this one is its smart humor and a brilliant performance by Paul Giamatti.

I didn’t have too many expectations from this….which made me like it even more. On the whole a breezy road movie definitely worth a watch.

Flavors August 22, 2006
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First things first. This is not another movie about American Born Confused Desis. This film is about desis who have moved to the USA. It tries to capture different experiences through the different characters in the movie. This one is very funny and an observational gem. It avoids the cliches that movies in the genre seem to abound in and yet makes great observations about the lives of desis making it feel very realistic.The identification factor is very high for desis who have moved to the USA. I know various people whose experiences match many of those in the movie. This movie is for anyone who enjoys humor.

This movie is written and directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK (Dasarakothapalli). These guys are telugu software engineers who left their jobs to make movies. They spent a few years honing their skills before embarking on Flavors (they did a one hour film called before this one). They do a stylish job and the interlinked stories are very well told. The quality of this movie is way above movies like American Desi, American Chai and so on. In fact it is an injustice to compare this movie with such films. It is more a mainstream film. I would rate it higher than films like Bend It Like Beckham, Monsoon Wedding and Bollwood Hollywood. This movie has been to various film festivals and won awards for the directors as well as some of the actors. Anjan Srivastava and Bharti Achrekar (famous for their roles as Mr and Mrs Wagle in Kundan Shah’s tv serial “Wagle Ki Duniya”), who play the parents from India are as always excellent. Reef Karim and Pooja Kumar who play Kartik and Rachna do a good job. Punit Jasuja who plays Ashok Mittal is very funny. Most of the actors are comparatively serious ones and not first timers. This helps the movie. The music by Mahesh Shankar (who also scored for the telugu film Vennela), Leslie Lewis and few others adds to the movie. Some of the background music is excellent. This film is a must watch for desis and recommended for others too.

12 Monkeys
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This one’s a futuristic time-travel thriller featuring Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeline Stowe. The plot put simply deals with Bruce Willis being sent back to the past to stop a virus from being unleashed by a group called “12 Monkeys” which has resulted in destruction of mankind in the present. You need to watch the movie to figure out what happens after that. The central idea conveyed in the movie is very interesting which is….when someone tries to go into the past to correct something in the future, he ends up being the cause for what happens in the future….quite a confusing statement but this movie shows this paradox very well.

The visuals in the movie are very good. I felt the movie to be very convoluted and confusing in the beginning but if you somehow sit through, you’ll start making sense of it as it progresses. Actually, I did not understand the significance of the last and final scene in the aeroplane….but when I searched for a spoiler on the net, it made sense.

In any case, I recommend this strongly for anyone interested in time-travel stuff (and is willing to think a bit)

The Italian Job
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This is a remake of a very old movie with the same name….Starring Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Jason Statham, Seth Green and Charlize Theron, this is a very entertaining con movie about a group of people trying to extract revenge from their former partner who betrayed them. I really found the character played by Seth Green - who calls himself Napster - very hillarious.

Cool action sequences (especially toward the climax involving the traffic signals), good humor sprinkled in between and a dependable cast make this a enjoyable joyride. Check this out if you are looking for two hours of fun

National Treasure August 21, 2006
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This is the kind of movie that critics hate and the average moviegoer loves. This is total commercial masala at its best. Some movies are not meant to be analyzed and this is definitely one of them. Jerry Bruckheimer is famous for his blockbuster masala flicks that have the critics tearing their hair out while he laughs his way to the bank and this follows the same path (and a sequel is on the way too). If you want to enjoy this movie, you need to stop thinking. I enjoyed this one and so will those who like masala adventure flicks.

Braindead (also known as Dead Alive)
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Not many know about this B-Horror movie made by Peter Jackson (made way before LOTR and King Kong). In fact, I too only came to know about this a few months back.

I very fondly remember when this movie was released in Skyline cinema in Hyderabad about 8 or 10 years back. They had huge advertisements warning people below 18 years of age, pregnant women and people with heart problems not to enter into the theatre. At that time I was probably 13 or 14. Since, the theatre was very closeby to our house…me and my friends decided to do the dare one evening….we went in very scared but when the movie started we were in for a complete surprise… was a total joyride….it came as a complete surprise to me that this was more like a spoof on horror than an actual horror movie.

When King Kong released last year, I was casually checking out Peter Jackson’s filmography on rottentomatoes….when I came acroos this. I saw this movie a long time back once but I still remember it today for the good time I had watching this.

I highly recommend this to everyone….you’ll have a great time watching this for sure

The Da Vinci Code August 21, 2006
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This highly anticipated movie based on the bestselling novel of the same name was recently released to packed shows and long queues at the ticket counter. Critics who got an early viewing of the movie were not really happy with what they saw. Nevertheless the movie took the Box Office by storm as expected and was especially stellar at the Foreign Box Office. It has been a long time since I’ve read a novel (I love to read but I don’t find the time anymore), so despite the hype I did not read this one. I did stand in the long queue alongwith many fans of the book to watch this on the first day.

The novel was not on the bestsellers list for nothing. So it was definitely captivating. The plot had very engaging twists that kept you hooked and thinking. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this movie and the supposed lies. These made the plot very absorbing. When most people watch a movie, they don’t believe everything that they see on screen, so it doesn’t matter what was said and whether it was true or not. What does matter is whether it was interesting and it was.

Ian McKellen, who seems to be making a habit of starring in blockbusters (X-Men, Lord of the Rings), is highly likeable in this movie. Tom Hanks, whom I really admire, is not at his best here. Audrey Tautou, whose claim to fame in the USA is the Oscar Nominated Amelie, seems to be miscast in her role (though she performs decently). Paul Bettany, Alfred Molina and Jean Reno do well in supporting roles. Ron Howard, who has made films like Gung Ho, Apollo 13, Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man does a decent job here but this is definitely not among his best.

I feel that sometimes the critics take an enjoyable movie and tear it down when it wasn’t meant to be analyzed and I felt that this might have been the case here. However, after watching this movie, I felt that the critics were probably not totally off target. Though the movie held my interest, the dark feel of the movie and its length made me uneasy at times. I actually guessed the surprise way too early in the movie to actually believe my own guess. The movie is not only about its ultimate surprise, so it still doesn’t take away much. After watching the movie, I felt that reading the novel would be far more exciting. Anyone who likes mysteries or thrillers and hasn’t read the novel would want to watch this movie. Fans of the novel might want to give this a skip unless they want to compare what they imagined while reading and the way it is visualised in the movie.

Minority Report
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I really love this movie…I rate this as one of the best thrillers I’ve ever seen. Though Spielberg has made thrillers in the past before, I guess this is first time he’s attempted truly edge of the seat stuff.

I have an inclination for movies revolving around time travel….though Minority Report doesn’t deal exactly with that it still deals with the concept of “setting up circumstances in the present for something to happen in the future” which I’ve been very fascinated about. The screenplay is fantastic….you cannot take your eye off the screen as you’ll miss something important; the beautiful thing about this movie is that the action and plot go so much hand in hand….never did I feel that the movie is deviating from the plot…Also, the special effects play an important role in taking the movie forward.

If you like futuristic thrillers, this is something you should not miss as it cannot get better than this. Spielberg rocks!!!

American Graffiti
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This film made by George Lucas (pre Star Wars) and produced by Francis Ford Coppola is considered to be one of the best films of all time and was nominated for many Oscars too. The movie is about the events which happen during one night involving 4 friends who have finished school and are about to move forward.

Actually, the cover of this movie says….”Where were you in the 60s?” On reading further about this I found out that this movie was made in 1973 but the setting was in the 60s…so, this was kind of a nostalgic look 10 years back at that time. Anyways, I found the movie strictly okay with some interesting moments interspersed here and there. But I surely consider this better when compared to other “classics” which were made during this period and which I’ve seen. Coming to the cast the only recognizable face was director Ron Howard and Harrison Ford (in a cameo).

I think you can watch it only if you have the curiosity to check out famous movies made in the past…otherwise give it a miss

The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
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One of last year’s biggest blockbuster, this is a fantasy tale based on famous childrens writer C.S Lewis’ novels. Given the glowing reviews and well made promos I had high expectations from this one….its always great to watch a well made fantasy adventure; but I was somewhat disappointed with this one.

What I dislike about this movie is it’s pace….which is very slow given that it is supposed to be a full fledged adventure. The visuals are good (as always), but they don’t hold your interest for long. The child artists were cute….especially the little girl. The plot is loosely based on Christian theology….that’s probably a reason it was aggressively promoted ala Passion of the Christ…and reaped good results as it was released around Christmas.

On the whole you can watch this once….but don’t have high expectations. In anycase, there are 6 books in the series and given the box office success of this one in all probability you’ll have the other 5 coming soon.

All The President’s Men
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This movie is based on Woodward and Bernstein’s famous book (of the same name) about the Watergate scandal. Woodward and Bernstein were investigative journalists from the Washington Post who helped uncover the truth behind Watergate. It tells you the story of these two journalists and how they uncover the truth with their careers on the line. Since this is based on the real story, there is a lot of detail in the movie. Considering the people involved and the gravity of the situation, every tiny detail is interesting. This is not the commercial thriller that you might expect though the narrative format makes it every bit as satisfying. Watching this movie gives you a real feel for how journalists and newspapers work. Apart from the investigation, the movie also shows the professional lives of these two journalists (though they do not seem to have a private life at all) and this is just as interesting. This is a fascinating drama starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in the principal roles and is directed by Alan Pakula. Hoffman and Redford deliver the goods as does Pakula. There isn’t a boring moment in this one for those who aren’t well-versed with the details of Watergate. For those who are, this is still enjoyable though they may find some details controversial. Anybody who likes drama or is interested in history would want to watch this one.

The Birds August 20, 2006
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Technically, this film is a great achievement for the 1960s. It is rated among Alfred Hitchcock’s best in terms of technique. I believe that in terms of storytelling too this was an achievement because there isn’t much of a plot. Yet, Hitchcock manages to grip you with the narrative (the pace is slow compared to present day movies but that is to be expected). It starts off in typical Hitchcock fashion with the viewer having no indication of what would slowly develop into something of a horror movie. Horror movies generally show things that we know have a really low probability of occurence (ghosts, serial killers and other weird occurences). In this movie though, the horror comes from something that we observe regularly and deem harmless (this is the kind of horror that I really enjoy). That is the reason why this movie is able to create horror. However, the climax was a total letdown for me. This is primarily because there was no explanation for the attack by the birds. It was totally my fault because I was racking my brains trying to come up with a reason for the attacks and felt letdown when there was none offered. I believe that many viewers might feel the same. There are some technically brilliant scenes in the movie but my favorite is the definitely the discussion in the restaurant/bar which is not really about technique. There is depth in the movie for those who like to think (well, sometimes imagination can create depth and symbolism that was never intended by the filmmakers). IMDB notes that there is no musical score for this movie, which somehow I did not notice. This movie will be worth watching for those who are technically inclined but the average present day moviegoer would want to skip this one.
Stay August 20, 2006
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I just watched this movie featuring Evan McGregor and Naomi Watts…….you know what, I just went crazy!. God knows what was happening in that….I tried Wikipedia for the spoiler and here is what was written there before a page long “speculation”

Please note: This is a preliminary and highly speculative interpretation, and one which is still under development. Hopefully this will encourage the thinking process about the movie and further our overall understanding of the plot. Do not take these interpretations as concrete or verbatim, and feel free to build upon this section if you feel you have something to add or help clarify. Finally, do not read this section if you have not watched the movie, as it contains critical plot explorations that will detract from the experience of watching the movie for the first time!

I have definitely seen movies where you have to think a lot….but in all of them things start falling into place towards the end, but in case at the end of the movie you keep scratching your head even more.

If you have time, please try watching this and explain me (if possible) what was going on in the movie. BTW, this movie was made by Marc Forster who previously directed Finding Neverland (which surely was very comprehensible)

Bad Santa August 19, 2006
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A raunchy Santa movie is not exactly a recipe for success at the Christmas Box Office. At the cost of losing the family audience, Bad Santa attempts this and achieves Box Office success. This one takes everything Christmassy and turns it on its head. Though there is no skin show in this one, the content is undoubtedly R-rated (according to IMDB there are 243 profanities in this one). Billy Bob Thornton in the role of a crook posing as a department store Santa is excellent as is Brett Kelly who plays the kid. Some of the best scenes in the movie involve these two. In fact it is the kid’s role that brings freshness to the script. Otherwise, this movie would have turned out to be an average one. Tony Cox also gets a good role to play and he performs well. John Ritter and Bernie Mac chip in with cameos. I do enjoy the formulaic Christmas movies from time to time and that makes this all the more enjoyable. If you enjoy dark humor, you will enjoy this movie. This one is undoubtedly very funny.

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One of my favorite thrillers, this very controversial Oliver Stone film deals with a counter theory regarding the assassination of John F Kennedy.

Based on true events, the film deals with the efforts of a district attorney (played by Kevin Costner), who unravels the mystery behind John F Kennedy’s murder. Though the theme sounds fit for a documentary, Oliver Stone keeps you gripped all through. I really liked Kevin Costner in the movie.

Actually, before I watched this a few months ago, I thought that JFK was a biopic of Kennedy, so I was never interested….in fact I rented it only when browsing through the cover I read that it was a political thriller.

Aside from the fact that it is based on true political events, this is still a must watch for everyone who enjoy thrillers.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose August 18, 2006
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Hollywood keeps churning out horror films at an alarming late….most of which open at #1 position at the BO and fizzle out the next week making a decent profit. Most of them are crap but I felt this one to be a relatively better horror product in recent times.

What makes this one better is its narrative format….The movie is basically a courtroom drama (it is inspired from a true story) where a priest is tried for causing the death of an 18 year old Emily Rose during an exorcism ritual. The story of Emily is narrated by different witnesses in the court as a flashback. A few of the scenes are quite spooky. Though, towards the end it loses fizz.

It stars Tom Wilkinson and Laura Linney in the lead roles. I think this is good example of how narrative style can make an otherwise crappy product watchable - of course no one to beat Quentin Tarantino in this area…

Overall, you can surely watch this once if you like horror.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
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Probably the most eccentric director-actor combination to exist ever….this is another welcome addition to Tim Burton-Johnny Depp repertoire. This is the only their second movie I’ve seen (the other one being the brilliant Edward Scissorhands).

It is very easy to dismiss Charlie…. as a kiddie movie…..but I strongly feel every age group is going to enjoy watching this as much as I did…The story is very simple….a bunch of kids are invited to tour a famous chocolate factory created by Willy Wonka….Johnny Depp in one of his best roles….who actually is testing them in order to choose a worthy successor for his factory.

The visuals are just delicious…I bet you’ll be tempted seeing all those chocolates. I wish I was Charlie. Every time I think about this movie I am tempted to have a chocolate….right now I am going to get one

La Vita e bella (Life is Beautiful)
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Italian, English. 1 comment so far
A humorous take on the Holocaust is not something that many would imagine attempting. Roberto Benigni not only imagined it but attempted it and successfully too. To summarize, this movie is about how a father tries to shelter his young boy from the harsh realities of a concentration camp while trying to find a way to help him escape. This film depicts how a positive outlook and imagination can help even in the worst of conditions.

The chaplinesque Benigni is not someone that you imagine seeing in a movie about the Holocaust but here he is as the main protagonist. The early part of the film does provide some scope to display his natural comedic talent while the latter part of the film is a great showcase for his talent behind the screen. Roberto Benigni co-writes (alongwith Vincenzo Cerami) and directs this movie that won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film alongwith the Best Actor for Benigni apart from the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. That speaks voulmes for Benigni and therefore I will not elaborate further. This is a moving and uplifting film that is really about love and positive thinking under damning circumstances more than it is about the Holocaust and everybody should watch it.
Requiem for a Dream August 18, 2006
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Haunting and scary are two words to define this movie. The story is about a couple of drug addicts and a pill-popping mom….and how their addiciton screws them up completely. The setting is very dark and from the first reel itself you know this is not going to be a pleasant movie….added to that a brilliant haunting background score, which you’ll never forget.

Some scenes are quite creepy, especially when the lady who plays the mom starts hallucinating about the refridgerator moving…..also towards the end the decaying wound on the hero is very gory. Plus there is quite a bit of nudity too. But on the whole this movie succeeds very well in what it is trying to convey.

Don’t miss this movie if enjoy watching dark and depressing stuff.

Memento August 17, 2006
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Wow! What a movie! This one totally plays with your mind. If the narrative style is unsetlling, the plot is perplexing. As the end credits roll, you feel like you don’t know what hit you. You feel like watching this movie again to appreciate it completely but as you continue thinking you realise that what you see and understand is still open to more than one interpretation. Watch this if you like thrillers or mysteries and have the patience to think about complex plots and you will not be disappointed.

The screenplay is based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story “Memento Mori” (a latin phrase meaning “Remember you are mortal” according to Wikipedia) which was released only after the movie was published (so the screenplay is considered original, according to IMDB). The screenplay was written by Jonathan and his brother and director of this movie, Christopher Nolan (who also made critically acclaimed movies like Batman Begins and Insomnia). If Jonathan gets the credit for the idea, Christopher gets credit for his brilliant execution. However, this is not the only movie based on short term memory loss (though it may have been one of the first). So, more than the novelty of that idea, it is the narrative technique and the plot that make the movie what it is. I would like to know whose idea it was to have a reverse chronological narrative because a straight narrative with a single flashback would also have sufficed though it would not have made a similar impact. It would be interesting to see if an alternate cut of the movie can be made with the existing material to see how different the experience of watching the same material in a different order would be (and believe me, with this movie, it will feel a whole lot different).

Matchstick Men
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This movie by Ridley Scott starring Nicholas Cage and Sam Rockwell is one of the most innovative con movies I’ve seen. (BTW, this was the inspiration for last year’s Bluffmaster).

The story is about a big time conman played by Nicholas Cage whose life gets a bit complicated when his 13 year old daughter comes into his life. As he and his partner (Sam Rockwell) try to pull off a big one, things seem to be working fine until something goes wrong towards the end.

The screenplay is brilliant….there is no way one can guess what actually transpires towards the climax. The performances too are good. I’ve seen quite a few movies involving conmen but I single this out because unlike others it is very believable and does not involve the use of high profile gadgets and stuff like that.

Even if you have seen Bluffmaster, I would still recommend that you watch Matchstick Men because Bluffmaster is only inspired from this movie and is not a remake.

Date Movie August 16, 2006
Posted by Shujath in English. 1 comment so far
I wanted to check this one sometime back since since this was from 2 of the writers of scary movie series (I’ve only seen the third part which I enjoyed very much). Date Movie is supposed to be a spoof on romantic comedies….but believe me, this is the most disgusting movie I’ve seen in a long time. There is a desperate attempt to make every scene funny, but every attempt falls flat and you don’t even laugh for a moment.

Anyways, technically the movies which were being spoofed were My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, Hitch, Shallow Hal, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, Kill Bill, The Wedding Planner and many more….

I was actually having my dinner while watching this and there are so many times I felt like puking….so, please stay far far away from this unless you enjoy gross humor.

Behind Enemy Lines
Posted by Sai in English. add a comment
This is a completely formulaic thriller. Though I do enjoy movies in this genre, this one doesn’t make the cut. After watching many similar flicks, it seems that this one doesn’t have enough of the ingredients that makes these flicks likeable to the general audience. Owen Wilson in an action movie is not something that I wanted to see unless he was providing the comic relief. Owen doesn’t do that in this movie. Gene Hackman does not get a chance to shine. The basic storyline seems interesting (not novel though) for this genre but the movie does not hold your interest as the plot unfolds. In fact the plot is too thin and tests your patience. To give credit to the director, there are a few well shot action sequences but that is not enough to watch this movie. Owen runs and runs while the screenplay drags. I did not like this movie and anybody who has seen a few movies in this genre should give this one a miss.

Love Actually
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
I loved this movie. I loved this movie a lot. This has to be in my list of favorite comedies. This British comedy has genuine charm and really funny moments ranging from the mild variety to the laugh-out-loud variety. The basic theme of the movie is that “love actually is all around us”. Love can be of different forms between any two people (not the boy and girl variety which can supposedly happen only once and is decided by god or in heaven and shit like that). This movie tries to capture the different forms of love that is all around us (Nikhil Advani who made Kal Ho Naa Ho is supposedly making his latest “Salaam E Ishq” inspired from this one). The movie has a bunch of love stories (between parent and child, husband and wife, friends and so on including the normal variety of course) that are interlinked. Though this is generally categorized as a romantic comedy, I would prefer to call it a comedy just because the phrase “romantic comedy” brings up images of many formulaic Hollywood movies in this category (of which some are definitely good but this one is just different). Though it is an R rated comedy for sexuality, nudity and language, I really feel that it could have done with a better rating (it couldn’t be PG-13 though) because some of it is really stuff that is not as raunchy as it is charming and amusing.

This is Richard Curtis’ first directorial venture (and the only one so far). He had earlier written many successful romantic comedies including Bridget Jones’ Diary, Notting Hill, Four Weddings And A Funeral and Bean. A special mention needs to be made about the way in which all the stories are interlinked. This is definitely not an easy thing to do but it was done with great success in my opinion. Curtis has definitely succeeded as a director here. There may be stuff in this movie where logic is not exactly strong but I was too busy laughing that I did not happen to notice them. Most of the individual stories and likeable and funny even though they only a have a short time to develop and there is no scope for character development. The story that I found most amusing is the one featuring the body doubles. The ensemble cast has famous names including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightely, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Billy Bob Thornton and even Rowan Atkinson. My favorite performance of the lot is undoubtedly the one by Bill Nighy (who starred in the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest as Davy Jones) as the ageing popstar. Hugh Grant and Liam Neeson are always hugely likeable. Keira Knightely is stunningly beautiful. All these capable actors and even the lesser known ones like Thomas Sangster (who plays the kid, Sam) add to the movie with their performances. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is game enough to watch an R-rated comedy.
L.A. Confidential August 15, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
This multiple oscar nominated movie starring Kevin Spacey, Russel Crowe and Guy Pearce is the the best cop thriller I’ve seen. It is a very interesting premise with each major character having a subplot of his own….and how they eventually cross paths later.

Writer-Director Curtis Hanson has woven a terrific screenplay which keeps you interested all through till the very end. I really liked the character of Kevin Spacey who plays this showbiz cop who mentors a reality show based on him. Russel Crowe is also good as the hot headed cop.

What really impressed me about this movie is that it doesn’t have a dark atmosphere generally associated with thrillers of this type….this is more glitzy. You should watch this movie even if you have the slightest inclination for thrillers

Kill Bill
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This is my first Quentin Tarantino movie (his fourth) and he is excellent (for all practical purposes, this is one movie though it is released in two volumes). His command over technique and style is apparent from the very first scene of Vol I. Though we tend to hold Hollywood movies in high regard this kind of style is absent in most of them. This movie is extremely violent. The blood in Vol I could probably fill a pond. I wonder if there were some sensitive audience members in the theatres that were barfing due to all the blood on the silver screen. The number of different (and extremely imaginative) ways to kill people in this movie is probably a record for a movie by far. Tarantino tries to bring all his influences and ideas for this genre and fills this movie resulting in the over 4 hour length (112 min for Vol I and 136 min for Vol II and the pacing isn’t exactly what most audiences would like). I don’t know if I can recommend this movie to anyone. Those who like style/action/extreme violence/Tarantino might enjoy this movie. Coming to me I like this movie a lot and thats for various things other than story and entertaintment in a conventional sense (it has its share of humor though).

It has to be said that Vol I and Vol II are very different. Vol I was mostly style, action, violence and blood. The story was conspicuous by its absence. So I really did not expect much more from Vol II. But Vol II has something you can call a story. It has more dialogue, less action and very less blood compared to Vol I (apparently 41 people are killed in Vol I and only 3 in Vol II). Yet this movie is not about the plot as much as it is about the style, technique and humor. This one could really be called an international movie with Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Japanese, French and Spanish accompanying English. Apparently Quentin Tarantino has paid tribute to innumerable movies of this genre from various countries that he loves (including many B-graders). Check out the trivia on IMDB or Wikipedia to note his tributes (to various influences) in the movie. Due to a lack of knowledge of these movies, I did not get most of the tributes. The Q & U at the end of Vol II is apparently Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman. I am not sure that Uma actually contributed to the writing as IMDB credits her for.

There seems to be some Indian connection that I can’t restrain myself from mentioning. The five-point-palm-heart-exploding technique looks straight out of Shankar’s Bharateeyudu/Indian (not the five steps part though). I don’t know if both were influenced by the same source or if it was just a coincidence (the Marmakala in that movie was supposed to be an Indian martial art). Another interesting thing is that Kamal Haasan used animation in certain violent sequences in the movie Abhay which was released in 2001 much before Kill Bill.

If I had to pick one violent scene from each volume as my favorite, my pick from Vol I would be the killing of Boss Tanaka by O-Ren Ishii (O-Ren threatening to collect more heads holding Tanaka’s head in her hand and the blood fountain were excellent) and from Vol II it would be the killing of Elle by Kiddo (the eyeball squishing is, for lack of a better word, crunchy).

The Island August 14, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English. add a comment
Michael Bay’s movies have a very simple plot….things blowing up…and then some more things blowing up….and then - you guessed it right some more explosions! But you know what…in last year’s The Island (which btw is his first bonafide flop) Bay tried to tell a story…and that too a sci-fi one. But somewhere in the middle he gave up and went back to back to what he does best - blowing up stuff.

If you have enjoyed his previous flicks like the Bad Boys series, Rock, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, you can sit through this too….but as I said before the action comes in much later in the movie and that is what I found a tad disappointing. Plus leading man Evan McGregor doesn’t fit the action image well….Scarlett Johannson is eye-candy as always. As I mentioned, the Island was the biggest debacle of 2005.

Nevertheless, the good news is that Bay seems to have learnt his lesson and is going back to his roots for his next mega-venture Transformers (You can catch the first teaser on the net) which is co-produced by Spielberg.

Goodfellas August 13, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This is an excellent movie. This movie is not about a story. It is about getting a feel for gangsters’ lives. It is about understanding how they live, who their friends are, where they eat, how their wives live, the rules they have to live by, their society, their world. This movie succeeds big time in creating the atmosphere for the audience to start feeling the lives of these gangsters. Anybody who is looking for a fast paced movie or for a story or entertainment should keep away. This is for the audience willing to soak in the ambience and feel what the characters feel. This is for the audience willing to think and understand the characters, their choices, their dilemmas, their lives and their deaths. This is the best film I have seen so far depicting the life of the mob (though other films including my favorite Ram Gopal Varma’s gangster trilogy do depict it well to some extent, it is only as a part of a larger story/theme).

This is my first Martin Scorsese movie and I would have to say he rocked. This is a movie where the direction overshadows the screenplay (Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese based on a book by Nicholas Pileggi). In the hands of most other directors, this movie would not have been what it is. Joe Pesci (who I absolutely loved as Vincent Gambini in My Cousin Vinny) and Robert De Niro excel in their supporting roles while Ray Liotta as the main protagonist and Lorraine Bracco as his wife do a great job as well (though this is the only movie of either of them that I’ve seen). This is a must watch for those who appreciate the art of filmmaking.

The Truman Show
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
This is a good movie. Those who watch movies for stories should like this one. Anybody who loves to imagine or admires the imagination of others will love this movie. It is well written (Andrew Niccol, who had earlier written the interesting Gattaca and also provided the story for Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal which I happened to like) and well made (Peter Weir, who made Dead Poets Society earlier). This is a story that is difficult to sell if the director goes wrong and Weir gets it right. From a directorial and writing point of view, there are some really cool ideas in this one.

The question of whether you would prefer to live in a make-believe world or the real one is something everyone should ask themselves but don’t. Just like Truman, most of us live in a make-believe world. The difference is that, with Truman, everybody around him creates the world that he loves and believes while he lives in it. With us, we also take part in the creation of this make-believe world along with the people around us and as we act out our lives rather than live them, we start totally believing in this created world and forget reality. As Christof tells Truman, it is a make-believe world but it is one where he is safe, just as we are in ours.

With this movie, you realise what an underrated performer Jim Carrey is. Most of his detractors would have changed their opinions after this movie. The supporting cast including Laura Linney, Ed Harris and Noah Emmerich is also good. This movie works as an interesting story, a satire and a social commentary too. This movie has its share of humor without losing focus at any point. This is a lovable movie for all except those with a distinct dislike for thought.

Being Cyrus August 12, 2006
Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, English, Hindi. 1 comment so far
Really cool movie….especially the first 30 minutes is really gripping and raises your expectations really high; though as the plot unfolds towards the end I felt a little disappointed but on the whole a great watch.

All performances deserve special mention…especially Boman Irani, the guy who plays his father, Naseeruddin Shah and Saif. Debutant director Homi Adajania successfully weaves a gripping tale which only probably loses steam a bit towards the end.

Coming to the plot it’s about a guy who enters into a dysfunctional Parsi family and the plot slowly unfolds from there. One more thing I loved is Salim-Sulaiman’s background score which is simply brilliant. Also, the title sequence was impressive. If you appreciate dark and weird thrillers then, this one is a must watch !
United 93 August 11, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 4 comments
When this movie was being released, there was a lot of controversy about whether it was too soon to make a film based on 9/11 considering that the dark day was still a fresh wound in the minds of the people. A lot of critics raved about the film and I watched it on the first day. I did not in the least expect to be moved because I knew everything that was unfolding on the screen. Yet it affected me and my friends deeply. And therein lies the greatness of the movie. All credit to the writer and director, Paul Greengrass for selecting an unconventional form for the movie. Without any strong dialogue, without any characterization of the people that would make us feel attached to them (or for that matter hate them), without trying to manipulate the audience’s feelings, he still manages to affect us with the reality (as well as his imagination since everything that happened on that day is not exactly known). This is a moving film that is worth watching. Though it keeps you glued to your seat throughtout its running time of 91 minutes, the film lacks any sort of commercial/entertaining aspects that an average moviegoer might want. So those looking for entertainment should keep away.

Good Will Hunting August 10, 2006
Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, English. 1 comment so far
Different people have different levels of talent, ability or intelligence. Those who have higher levels of these are generally expected to reach greater heights of achievement by utilizing their potential to the max. Should such capabilities become a burden to those who posess them. A person with a great vocal ability is expected to achieve greatness as a singer but what if he hates music? Should he still be forced to pursue singing just because he has the capability (I would say ‘NO’ but practical experience suggests that people around you i.e. parents, friend, well-wishers etc. influence you to do things that you would not ordinarily pursue because they believe they know what is best for you). If you have ever had similar questions in your mind, you will love this movie. From my childhood to this day, this question has been bothering me. Apart from the quality of the movie, the identification factor (in terms of the thoughts - I don’t claim to be a genius like Will Hunting in the movie) places this movie in my list of favorites. Watching this movie rekindled the urge in me to write and direct a film (Yes, I’m pursuing other things because people believe that is not the best thing for me to do while I believe that I would have been a happier following that path even if I was not a great success).

The screenplay I believe is the key to this movie and hats off to the writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Another key aspect of the movie is the dialogue because the movie is mostly conversations and little else. The performances of Matt Damon and Robin Williams apart from the able supporting cast add to the experience. This is an enjoyable experience for most (unless you are looking only for mindless entertainment). I would highly recommend this movie.

This is one movie that I wish Indian parents (I can’t comment on those from others countries) would watch. This is because Indian parents tend to decide most things for their kids (or at least have a great influence on the decisions) from their career path to their life partner. Even the more progressive ones like mine still stop me from taking what they think are undue risks. We should give our children choices and let them decide what they want to do instead of deciding what is best for them. What is best for you is not necessarily the best for everyone else (or anyone else for that matter). Doing what one wants is what makes him/her the happiest. That I believe is true achievement.


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