Friday, December 31, 2010

BLACK SWAN (2010)

A heartbreaking film of the year from the director who knows how to portray intense, disturbing and rather shocking personal tragedies; his ‘Requiem for a Dream’ is intolerable nightmare for many of viewers. Director Darren Aronofsky’s protagonist is not Black Swan; but the opposite. She’s a young uncorrupt and innocent ballet dancer named Nina. She’s dedicated and disciplined dancer who’s working too hard to meet the challenge offered by her demanding director who needs a face of ‘Swan Queen’- a performer who embodies both white and black swan for forthcoming new season of his show. Playing pure part of White Swan is quite natural for her but she constantly failed to portray the darker part. She has a rival too who knows how to manipulate men compromising with morality. Guided by ambition of perfection she slowly starts embracing her darker side along with her own downfall.

Aronofsky’s this film has texture of classical tragedy. Like those Greek or Shakespearean tragedies, it has element of hamartia- a protagonist blinded by ambition of perfection and on the other hand it represents world of fantasy where the clapping of audience comes with personal sacrifice. It’s not an easy character to carry; as it demands lot of practice playing perfect ballerina and on the other hand requires intense introspection. Without exaggeration it’s hard to see anyone except Natalie Portman. She is the muse born to play this part. Her metamorphosis from white to black swan is really heart wrenching one driven by ambition, jealousy, rivalry, hallucinations breaking her into physical-psychological trauma. Throughout the film Portman remains so effortlessly natural in expressions. She has only one guardian angel- her caring poor mother who finally witnesses in the climax how her sweet girl transformed into something so hostile. Along with so many others who’ve seen this, I must say that Portman is sure bet for this year’s Best Actress award. Supporting performances were impressive too and the amazing classical piano background by Clint Mansell surely deserved trophy.

Ratings-9/10

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

PHANS GAYA RE OBAMA (2010)

This year's quite unnoticed small budget surprise fun package; all bundled with pure desi tadka humor. The theme of the film is last year’s recession turned world where US economy caught cold and whole globe starts sneezing, including UP’s small town extortionist gang. They kidnap an NRI luring big ransom bounty. But the poor fellow is broke and came home to sell his ancestor’s haveli to save his home and family. As the guy revealed his misfortune, we see not one but several other gangs including a corrupt minister dealing their own share from smart chap and dollar dreams. Had it been released last year, it would get more audience and praise!

Writer-Director Subhash Kapoor has deserves pat on his back for gifting some of the most hilarious lines that you’ve ever heard, honestly speaking it just made me laugh out loudly. The second most amazing thing about the film is its authentic portrayal and characterization of America obsessed small town India in pure northern accent and gags. Most of the actors are quite unknown except Rajat Kapoor, Neha Dhupia and Sanjay Mishra-the man who most often seen as comic sidekick. But the man to watch here is Manu Rishi as Anni. Remember the guy who played Abhay’s partner named Bangali in OLLO! There’s fine support from Brijendra kala, Amit Sial & wild Amol Gupte whom we’ve noticed as Bhopa Bhau in ‘Kaminey’. the only eyesore and misfit in the film is Neha Dhupia playing female Gabbar but that’s not a big heck since her role comes much later and its too short.

I promise you that you will love to repeat some of the most crackling laughter here. Watch that ‘English shikho, America Jao’ scene where local English coaching tutor Tyagi is firing his local students in kickass angrezi. The second priceless fun is FBI-Saddam-Bush connection gag and then we see laugh ride whole bureaucratic extortionist department run by kidnapping king minister. Yes, there’s black humor, some of it is rude and over the top but the attempt is hundred percent honest to make you laugh in the time of crisis. I think this one of the most pathetic year of Bollywood where Hindi film industry is seriously and terribly lacking original and creative ideas, the film like this is a ray of hope for new talents who’ll shape and redefines it in coming year.

‘Don’t miss it’ is the final verdict.

Ratings-7.5/10

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964)

At the time of its release, The Beatles already established as cultural icons of 60s. The short hairstyle was raze even after a decade and the hysteric craze all over them is just phenomenon. There’s freshness in their melodies like no other, innocence and fun in their simple lyrics and their clone like presence express joy and freedom in all its impulsive rhythm. That’s the reason enough why they’re still timeless and ruling on No# 1 position of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Shot and edited by Richard Lester, this B&W semi documentary style film is a day in The Beatles lives. As film starts with title tracks, we see John, Paul, George and Ringo running in streets chased by surging crowd of girls. We see them on train, on road, in studio, at press conference and finally the concert. Their screen presence is impromptu, natural in all youthful energy and fun and though they’re more than celebrity then, they seem so unpretentious and down to earth. We can hear their easy go funny reply to fans and reporters and their recklessness on/off screen putting their manager and TV director constantly in mess. But the spirit of the film lies in their invocation to ‘do what you feel’ kind of freedom.

But above all the biggest reason to watch this film is great melodies. It’s just fun to see them performing with all irreverent fun. Watch their loose madness on track and field in ‘Can’t buy me love’. The real fun comes from Ringo who just before the climactic show ran away from theatre to street enjoying his carefree freedom. His messy fun continues on road, in restaurant and even on muddy potholes to win a gentle lady’s heart. The magic moment is concert coverage with melodies back to back and as they played ‘She loves you yeah…yeah…yeah’, camera pans to cheering, shouting, jumping frenzy of young girls with tears in their eyes. The way they drive orgasm to audience with their music, I must say ‘with love like that, you know you should be glad.’ And before it ends, do watch those classic black & white artistic images rapidly changing on screen along with ending titles.

Kudos to Richard Lester for bringing this nostalgic timeless experience.

Ratings-8.5/10

JOHNNY GUITAR (1954)

“A man can lie, steal and even kill, but as long as he hangs on to his pride, he’s still a man. All a woman has to do is slip once and she’s tramp.”

However contrary to the catchy title, the real hero of the film is Vienna played by Joan Crawford in her outstanding tomboyish strong act of self made owner of the saloon. She didn’t have angelic face but no one can deny her strong presence as she’s the real hero of the film overcastting all macho men including her returned love Johnny Logan/Guitar played by Sterling Hayden. “Never seen a woman who was more a man; she thinks like one, acts like one, and sometimes makes me feel I’m not,” said one of his loyal worker.

First twenty minutes drama in Vienna’s bar reveals almost everything from plot, characters and drama and conflict that push the film forward. Apart of Crawford and Hayden’s impressive acts, there’s fine supporting role played by Ernest Borgnine as Bart. Nobody can play pushy sidekick in westerns as he played here. Watch his crackling provocation in ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ or Peckinpah’s ‘The Wild Bunch’. Director Nicholas Ray’s this classic western has a bit of melodrama and strong feminist text too; quite unconventional to notice in western. Ray made reversal in the climax too showing shootout between Emma and Vienna. The film has strong use of fluorescent colors especially yellow and red. Nevertheless a Classic western.

Ratings-7/10

Saturday, December 25, 2010

BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955)

‘You got a body of the hippo but the brain of a rabbit. Don’t overtax it.’

A stranger, mysterious guest named Mr. Macreedy arrives by train at countryside small town of Black Rock. He’s got unwelcome hospitality from people of the town. The only aim of this outsider is to visit a place called Adobe flat, looking for a man named Komako. Nobody is providing him any information sniffing him strange suspicious guy. Slowly it reveals us the status of plot and characters filling the drama with enough conflict.

The film was made by John Sturges, the man who gave us epical ‘The Great Escape. Quite contrary to that this is a film with duration of just eighty minutes. It’s a fine cocktail of western meets noir giving you enough thrilling pleasure. This single day thrill story of one man reminds me Fred Zinemann’s classic western ‘High Noon’. Sturges finely brought the picture of godforsaken lawless small west town controlled by a man named Smith (Robert Ryan) and his loose sidekicks. I haven’t seen much of Spenser Tracy but as far as this film is concerned it’s one of his most memorable performances. He’s an old man keeping his one hand in pocket throughout the film and wearing no comment like attitude towards bunch of obstacle baddies until that tense filled provoking scene with duel at hotel bar. Tracy is just gentleman you love to watch. Shot in color it shows us splendid country side Wild West with fine cast and brilliant lines what you expect from classic Hollywood.

Highly recommended to classic fans.

Ratings-8.5/10

Friday, December 24, 2010

THE AMERICAN (2010)

It seems that Director Anton Corbijn is highly influenced by Jean Pierre Melville’s classic minimalist noir ‘Le Samourai’ starring mysterious and dashing professional assassin Alain Delon, here played by Hollywood’s gentleman star-actor George Clooney. He’s assigned professional who assembles and makes specialized assassin weapons for his patron’s clients. He is a professional who doesn’t pay heed to anything else than his assigned task and keeps all-time alert about his presence. There’s a stranger who follows him, a woman who called him ‘Mr. Butterfly’ and a prostitute with great body and like most men his only flaw lies in love.

Perhaps many of you won’t like this one, especially if you’ve not seen Melville’s stylish and minimalist film. Mind well it’s not routine assassin thriller. It’s slow, it’s stylish, it’s more frames and less dialogue and no background score and negligible plot. Corbjin successfully brought the rare touch of minimalism, quite a rarity in today’s commercial Hollywood but he ended it without giving us enough jolts or element of unpredictability. Clooney is fine but he seems too dry and serious compared to awesome Delon. The fine reason to watch once is it’s stunning cinematography portraying a remote hilly village in nature’s lap of Italy with fine extreme wide shots and aerial angles.

Recommend it to those who’ve seen Melville film and it’s another brilliant inspired version ‘Ghost Dog: The way of the Samurai’ made by Jim Jarsmusch starring awesome Forrest Whitaker.

Ratings-6.5/10

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

“I’m talking about the idea and I’m saying that it’s never finished.”

It’s classic theory- the well made film has surprise beginning, captivating middle and tangled end. David Fincher’s one of the most talked about film of the year has all three in right amount and it tells the story of world’s youngest millionaire at 18 with his own made friends and foes. It all begins with Harvard undergrad nerd’s messy date ended with split up. She called him ‘asshole’ at dating table and infact she’s right! He diverted his energy and started hacking pictures for Harvard’s social networking site ‘facemash’ with ranking hot girls of campus, raised the traffic overnight that crash Harvard’s whole network. And before we land up to the gain-facebook story, we see the pain- the lawsuits faced by Mark Zuckerberg.

So far the film has bagged 6 Golden Globe nominations in all major categories and will surely rule in upcoming Oscar race too locking horns with ‘Inception’. Fincher is the man of thriller and I was just wondering before watching this that how he could turn a biographical story of a programmer on screen while keeping intact the thrilling part. Credit must go to his colloboration with Aaron Sorkin’s award worthy screenplay writing skill that getting us all hooked from very beginning to the end.

The narrative shift plays brilliantly between two lawsuits Zuckerberg is facing- one from Winklevoss duo and Divya Narendra for stealing their idea and second from his close friend and partner Eduardo Saverin and then there’s all overshadowing personal story of Zuckerberg and his obsession to make ‘facebook’ a phenomenon success and common expression/almost a synonym of social networking leaving all rest of rival sites behind. Besides that the film has cheesy lines and not so often we find such awesome lines popping up in the film throughout from various characters- “They came to me with an idea, I had a better one,” said Mark; “When you go fishing you can catch a lot of fish or you can catch a big fish,” said Sean Parker to Mark on their first meeting; “Internet is not written in pencil mark, it’s written in ink,” said Erica to embarrassing Mark.

Film portrayed Mark Zuckerberg as role model hero; the face of 21st century youngest billionaire and tech geek entrepreneur driven by personal instinct and obsession then fame and money. He is impulsive nerd and arrogant fellow messing up his personal relations but he’s brighter genius who knows his might lies not in working for Winklevoss brothers but either with close pal (Saverin) or visionary dream merchant like Sean Parker. Zuckerberg is a dream entrepreneur for many who fathom the limitlessness of idea and than expand and nurture it with leadership and boon of technology along with getting right connections but then the coin has its flip sides too and Sorkin-Fincher have finely managed to bring that indirect voice too! The creator of social network giant is paralysed in his own relationship status!!!

Worthy to mention stellar performances from all young cast. As Mark, Jesse Eisenberg represents a face of genius trapped in his own whims and impulses and he truly deserves nomination for best actor. It also fine supporting acts from two other young men- Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. I like the soundtracks too. With Fincher and Sorkin’s topnotch work, there’re enough reasons why it becomes mustn’t miss film of this year.

Ratinga-9/10

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

GET CARTER (1971)

One of the blunt, forceful and captivating British gangster-noir made by Mike Hodges starring scene stealing Michael Caine as Jack Carter. To investigate the cause and avenge the death of his brother, he returns to his hometown. Once landed there he gets involved in complex series of incidents of local goons all setting up his fall in company of his mobster boss’s damsel.

Though the pace is slow, it builds the tension gradually. Hodges paid no concessions for morality and shows the seedy and stark naked face of underworld with style of modern noir and yet we don’t notice bloody violence that we expect from gangster flick. The film has fine camera work showing some of the unnoticed London locations with classy angles and shots. Casting is impressive too and Caine made his strong presence felt from beginning to end in one of his finest screen performance. Like every great gangster film there are several distinct and original scenes that stay in mind- Caine walking naked from his bed holding a gun, mob boss thrown from a multi storey high-rise parking garage or the climactic rough justice at deserted beach. The end is shocking and disturbing one but that’s what well made gangster films are!

Ratings-8/10

Sunday, December 19, 2010

CLERKS (1994)

“Every time I kiss you, I’m gonna taste 36 other guys.”

Writer-Director Kevin Smith’s low budget black and white debut film is a day in the screwed up life of two neighborhood shop workers named Dante manning the grocery store and Randal handling video renting store. We witness different oddball customers coming and screwing their heads with moments of hilarious adult fun. Poor Dante always bitching about her stuck up existence while facing personal relationship problems and trying to remain straight forward with customers than bored, porn watching and customer insulting smart crook Randal. The chemistry is just amazing.

It’s queer to know that Smith had worked in the same Quick shop grocery store since he was 19, and where he edited this film each night after the work hours. The fun is dark, adult but without being over the top it shows us the moments of real life screwed up situations over the counter culture fun. The characters are just awesome and the dialogues are full of witty and infectious humor. Watch those other naughty outsider pair too-Jay and Silent Bob (played by Smith) pasting that ‘I eat cock’ poster on the door. There’s lot of unpredictable adult laughter here and it’ll surely make up your Sunday afternoon.

Ratings-7/10

FOLLOWING (1998)

One of the most brilliant and impressive debut film by the man who remains one of the most exceptional writer-story teller-filmmaker of this decade. The architect who keeps challenging the viewers and redefining the ways films are conceived, written and narrated- ‘Inception’, ‘Memento’. His second remarkable skill lies in refreshing story telling ability- ‘The Prestige’ ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’. Does Christopher Nolan need any introduction?

The film begins with first person narrative by the protagonist-a mysterious lonely and bored man who for unknown reason starts following strangers. He is struggling writer who maybe tries to seek characters from life around. He has an important rule too-‘never follow the same person twice’. The trouble starts when he broke the rule. Next is surprise package of twist and turn unfolded in jigsaw puzzle kind of thrill in a way and manner what you expect from Nolan. His films represent smart complex and vigilante heroes who most of the time end up being victim of the set trap created either by outsmart antagonist or by the illusory web of their own minds. Check out which force works here.

There’s no exaggeration saying that one should compare Nolan’s this debut film at par with any auteur directors’ debut film ranging from noir thrillers made by Polanski to Kubrick. The movie is surely Nolan’s net practice for ‘Memento’ (non linear puzzle like narration) and the seed for ‘Inception’ too (watch the mysterious intruding burglar named Cobb who steals too personal things). It’s small budget independent film made with black and white print and unknown actors. The length of film is just one hour and ten minutes and shot at normal city locations of London and still it’s absolutely gripping thriller. The strength lies in his absolute control and command over all technical matters of filmmaking whether it’s script, screenplay, innovative story telling and it’s brilliant proof why script remains the most creative and powerful part in filmmaking if you want to make your film immortal one. Nolan is all one man show here with helm of story writer- cinematographer editor and director. Needless to say Nolan is unchallenged master craftsman from very inception of his career!

Ratings-9/10

PS- With this I’ve done with all Nolan films, I’ve to wait for two years for his upcoming ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.

Friday, December 17, 2010

THE HOST (Korean) (2006)

Along with ‘Oldboy’, this is one of the most profitable and popular Korean film of this decade that turned world’s serious notice to the Korean cinema. Not so often we find such comic, melodramatic and dark elements in usual Hollywood monster films. Writer-Director Bong Joon- Ho played wonderfully with sound and images to bring chaos where fear not only comes from ‘in your face’ but from blend of unpredictability and surprise.

We can sense the unpredictable danger from very beginning of the film where an old doctor ordered his apprentice to pour down the toxic chemicals in drain. The apprentice warned him that from drain this highly toxic stuff will go to river and it’ll contaminate the water and its biodiversity. But then he has to follow his boss’s order. Soon we see a strange monster creature rising from the river and turning the city into chaos of unpredictable danger. There is a deadly virus and its infection faux too. A father lost her dearest daughter to the beast but surprisingly she is found alive and next is all hunting search and struggle of a family against all odds. The film has awesome tense filled climax with majestic look to hunt the beast giving its instant cult monster movie status. However we can’t deny the influence of Spielberg’s master work ‘Jaws’ here.

Ratings-7.5/10

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SISTERS (1973)


Brian De Palma made some of the smashing psychological thrillers in the early phase of his career much before he made those commercial crime thrillers with Hollywood biggies that churned him name and fame. ‘Sisters’ is one of his quite off beat psychological thrillers that remain underrated for many of De Palma fans. One can easily guess the De Palma’s Hitchcock influence as soon as the film begins. Hitchcock’s long collaborator composer Bernard Herrmann’s scored the background of De Palma’s this film with same jarring opening score as ‘Psycho’.

The plot is about Siamese twin sisters, a murder, an intruding stranger who claimed to be a husband and investigation by one of witness lady reporter. The diabolic split personality of one of the twin is quite usual De Palma trait heightened in another fine thriller ‘Carrie’. The tension of dead body, voyeuristic peeping shots from apartment windows is again Hitchcockian but then De Palma has brilliant sense of camera; watch his split screen technique when the screen is divided in two parts during murder and we witness simultaneous intriguing action in two different windows on screen for few minutes. Quite unusual to De Palma films it has bizarre climax left open ending. Is dead body still in the couch???

More than mystery it’s a well made psychological thriller. Interested fellows should also checkout De Palma’s other equally entertaining thrillers like ‘Blow Out’, ‘Body Double’, ‘Carrie’ to name a few I managed to watch.

Ratings-7.5/10

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

THE JAPANESE WIFE (2010)

‘Without the truth, his letter would be worthless he thought, just as without the letters their twenty years as couple would amount to nothing.”

A Bengali school teacher living in the remote Sundarban village and a young Japanese girl meet through letters. The medium of their letters is English which is again a foreign for both of them. Still shedding the barriers of language and culture they fall in love with each other over letters and even get married through letters! They have been married for 20 years but have never met each other for a single time!

Director Aparna Sen adapted Kunal Basu’s tender and thin short story on screen by the same name. The relationship is quite improbable one and conflict is missing and so it’s challenging to show the bonding of characters just through letters as in original story. Having read the story prior to watching this film, I’m so excited to see its screen adaptation but it seems quite a dragging ordinary in the first half. Infact It failed to appeal me initially, even the narration of the film gets stuck in just voice over with exchange of letters and gifts that clogs the space for character development and fails to connect emotionally with the drama in the first thirty minutes.

But then Sen made certain necessary insertion in the original story which is just 14 pages affair. She enhanced and added fine colors to the character of Sandhya played by Raima Sen and she is the real breath of fresh air here as all hushed up shy young widow with a son living in Bose’s home. She’s the one whom he rejected to tie knot years ago. Her return being widow with a boy to his home seems embarrassing for him but slowly her caring approach like devoted woman breaks the inhibitions between two. Rahul Bose is convincing as always but his desi English pronunciation seems quite irritating compared to his competent urban flair but then one has to keep in mind that he has to seem probable as small town school teacher. Chigusa Takaku remained in the shadow throughout the film, it’s in the end she made her presence felt not as Japanese but Indian Wife!

Above all, I do believe that it’s improbable but innocent love story with moments of unphysical love and its unfulfilled longing, with those momentary shades of life’s joy and sorrow, loss and gain. Unlike Basu’s O Henry kind of sudden unexpected ending, Sen’s screen version seems more convincing and she gave it different height while maintaining and adding to the essence of original.

Ratings-7.5/10

Sunday, December 12, 2010

THE SEA INSIDE (Spanish) (2004)

A tetraplegic patient lying on a bed, listening Wagner on record. Suddenly we witness the slow movement of his paralytic hand; now like a miracle he’s on his both feet trying to walk. Then all of sudden he starts running and jumps out of the window to see the world outside, he's desperatly longing from long. Camera moves sweepingly towards the lush landscapes corresponding to Wagner’s symphony reaching high tones. He lands up at a beach to meet the woman he secretly starts loving on his bed after 27 years. The passionate kissing and hugging of two lovers on the beach slowly punctured when the Wagner record stop and with this ends the beautiful dream too!

It’s scene like this which makes the motion picture a visual experience like no other art form. Director Alejandro Amenabar without using any artistic gimmicks narrates the film so simply, so genuinely and so being human, it touches and invokes those sublime feelings to us- the audience. Here’s breathing human story of a man named Ramon, who wishes to end his 27 years suffering life on bed by Euthanasia. His public declaration and appeal to death puts him and his family in more embarrassing situation. There’re religion, government, judiciary and on personal front an older brother who always there to oppose his freedom to die. But this is just surface, the heart of the film lies in its sublime love story. Ramon’s close bonding with his lawyer and relationship with a frustrated woman who frequently visits his home is the soul of the film. I must say SLB has killed that most beautiful part of the original in his recently released poor remake ‘Guzaarish’ by shifting the bonding from lawyer to nurse. Watch the scene where sharing the cigarette, she lets him open up emotionally-‘Has any girl kissed you in past 27 years?” The bonding is natural and empathetic because she’s also experiencing the sea inside him.

Javier Bardem is an actor to watch here, see how just with facial expressions he wins your hearts. I must say he has a great range and he’s an actor who truly avoids conformity. Watching him in his Oscar winning ‘No Country for Old Man’ or Woody’s ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’ are 360 degree different from what he has done in this film. Watch the hug he got from his symbolic unborn son to whom he dedicated his poem, his intimate moments with both women and his climactic expressions after consuming potassium cyanide. And not only Bardem but Belen Rueda too and almost all other supporting cast remain dedicated to their characters.

Amenabar, who along with writing the script and direction also brilliantly helmed the touching background score of the film surely deserves standing ovation. Though the subject of the film is about death, he not even in a single scene emotionally manipulate his audience. Infact the emotional tone is so well restrained and subtle, dialogues so contemplative and characters seems so lifelike contrary to the stuffed and emotionally manipulative one as in SLB’s poor remake ‘Guzaarish’. There’s no past or flashback of Ramon in the film except a momentary scene showing his suicidal dive into the sea and few snaps to reminisce about. Remember it’s a Spanish film, where one has to read the English subtitles to follow its meanings and still it touches the right chords of your heart compared to all messed up Indian version by Bhanshali. Original always remain unbeatable. So true. I can’t resist quoting the last floating words on the sea in the film.

“The sea inside, the sea inside
and in the weightlessness of the bottom
where dreams come true
two wills come together
to make a wish come true.
Your look and my look
like an echo repeating, without words
deeper and deeper
beyond everything through the blood and bones
but I always wake up
and I always wish I’d be dead
to stay with my mouth
entangled in your hair.”

Ratings- 9/10

Thursday, December 9, 2010

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993)

What would you do if you stuck in a time? What if your every day is exactly the same day as yesterday? How about reliving the same day and its experiences every new day? No, it’s not the happiest day of your life that you chose but one which is most irritating and annoying one that keeps you hooked and trapped in the day which is your yesterday, today and tomorrow for ever!!!

It’s February 2nd the Groundhog Day where once in a year the eyes of this small northern hemisphere town turn to watch the master squirrel Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous weatherman that as by legend can predict an early spring. Here is another Phil who is a TV News Weatherman on the spot to cover the moment with crew. Unfortunately he is stuck in the same day repeating the same morning, same events, same places, same human encounters so his every day ends up with same experiences getting repeated like déjà vu vacuum. Soon he starts manipulating his experiences and starts romancing with his lady producer too but it’s hard to win woman in a day and so he finally decides to commit suicide. But even that can’t work out and the next morning once again he wakes up to his 6’o clock radio alarm like an immortal soul cursed to live.

It’s amazing screenplay where fun comes from déjà vu flux! There’s romance, fun, fantasy, emotions, drama all keep rolling on platter from that and result is fine entertainment. Writer-Director Harold Ramis deserved praise for using terrific conceit and the one which left unexplained. The other strong reason is to watch irreplaceable act by Bill Murray in one of his memorable and the best screen performance. So far this is my second Murray film along with ‘Lost in Translation’ and I must say he’s one of those terrific actor who remains underrated one. “Don’t you keep open the lines for emergencies and celebrities? I’m both. I’m celebrity in an emergency,” he said once. See how from his sarcastic, egocentric attitude driven guy with all those tongue in cheek expressions he transformed into a genuine angel like fellow getting most adorable man of the town.

Comedy rarely so genuine and fantasy never so full of life!

Ratings-9/10

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

MIGHTY APHRODITE (1995)

‘Who’s the boss between you and mommy?’
‘Who’s the boss? You have to ask that? I’m the boss…Mommy’s only decision maker.’

Our clap goes to Woody Allen and his legendary Groucho Marx, his big inspiration to coin few of great woody gags. The film is partly based on Oedipus myth and we witness both drama and story runs parallel to the film with common Woody trait where characters break and enter into both dramas puncturing the narrative. He brilliantly explored it in ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’. After adopting a child, the curious father (played by Woody) trying to trace the biological mother of his adopted kid and knows the ugly truth that she’s not just a dumb porn star- hooker. The flipside of the film is its too mediocre and thin second half where Woody tried to get the hooker mom settle respectively in society.

Though many of its fault lines and routine drama, there’re certain sheer Woody moments and scenes which make all his fans completely drooled to laugh. The nervous and embarrassing Woody lands up at hooker’s apartment is one big chill moment. Watch the objects showcased in her apartment- esp. that clock pendulum! The other one where the ambitious actress expresses her first shot for the film. Here are few great Woody one-liners from the film-

‘Every marriage goes valleys and peaks’. To that Woody replied, ‘I don’t mind going through a valley. But I don’t want to sink beneath sea level here.’

‘Curiosity’- that’s what kills us... Not muggers or all that bullshit about the ozone layer; it’s our own hearts and minds.

Ratings-6.5/10

Friday, December 3, 2010

BODY DOUBLE (1984)

It’s like watching double Hitchcock films in a single one! How? Read this- Jack Scully is a struggling actor working for B grade Hollywood films, frustrated husband who caught his wife sleeping with a stranger and starts living at friend’s luxurious home without any company. There’s a window with the telescope that can show him the neighborhood apartment’s provocative rich seductress where he let loose to his voyeuristic tendencies. Slowly his peeping eyes watch few other strange and mysterious things too that put her into peril. Seems like Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’, isn’t it? Not only this it has bit of ‘Vertigo’ too where the protagonist has his psychological flaw of being claustrophobic. There’s a murder, there’s a voyeur and but there’s not ‘a woman’.

Now if you’ve already seen those two absolutely must watch psychological thrillers made by Master Hitchcock, the plot here seems like know it all. Though the reason worthy to watch this is the stylistic treatment of Director Brian De Palma who blended cocktail of thrilling tension and sensuous voyeurism side by side with cleverly hiding the suspense. He used certain graphic violence and explicit provocative skin show but they’re just his props or common traits partly to hide the unknown actors. He had his queer inclination towards ingredients of B grade horror films too, watch the beginning and end of his this one along with ‘Blow Out’.

His experimental shot selections including his favorite panning shots is the treat. The way he filmed that tense filled drilling machine murder sequence is just awesome! Watch out those multitudes of brilliant shots and angle selections, the reason enough to suck into De Palma films. It was the time before he made his much appreciated ‘The Untouchables’ and ‘Scar Face’ with Hollywood’s two iconic actors. It was time, he’s heavily inspired from Master Hitchcock, Godard and Antonioni to name a few and made some of his cult creative films along with his contemporaries like Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg and Ridley Scott who shaped New Hollywood Cinema during 70s and 80s. Though among all these giants he was vindicated by critics either for being too much commercial or for representing kitsch Hitchcock; I’m sure many of them will agree today that he has done fair justice to all those Hitchcock inspired thriller films with style of his own.

Ratings-7/10

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BLOW OUT (1981)

While recording actual wind sound at late night, a sound effects recordist working for B grade horror flicks accidentally records a bang of bullet and witness a car accident. He manages to save the girl in the car, the next day he come to know about Governor’s death. Suddenly a photographer jumps up and proclaimed to media that he covered the whole accident at night and sold it to a leading news magazine. Here onwards starts the thrilling journey of bugging sound recordist to meet the loose end with sound and images to unveil the truth behind the assassination.

‘Blow Out’ is an edge on the seat thriller made by Brian De Palma starring young John Travolta and Nancy Allen. Though it’s inspired by Antonioni’s masterpiece ‘Blow Up’ and though it’s not one of De Palma’s best, it surely has De Palma’s firm grip with stylish touch and treatment both in writing and direction. Where Antonioni’s ‘Blow Up’ gave us intriguing feel about the photographer’s penchant to scrutinize the truth, this film intrigues us not only with images but sounds too. Unlike the queer open ending of the inspired one, De Palma made it all arresting thriller, strongly backed up by matching background score and some of the Hitchcokian camera takes and brilliant high angles.
Worth watching once if you love thriller/mystery.

Ratings-7.5/10

Monday, November 29, 2010

MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1991)

Compared to his early straight madcap funny films and some of his later made best films, this one is quite average Woody Allen entertainer. The plot and screenplay is thin, Woody shuffled the execution and narration with drama and thrill but it all seems too repetitive and stretched one as film progresses. Even Woody himself is over indulgent here and his cheesy gags and one-liners are quite a missing case. The film begins with death of Woody’s next door neighbor’s wife. Diane Keaton who played Woody’s wife is an obsessed private eye grows suspicious over the old widower (played by Alan Alda). Slowly under her mad frenzy she sorted out clues that turned natural heart attack death to a planned murder. Poor Woody has nothing to do except showing his routine paranoia and disorder runs parallel under shadow of his wife’s detective fixation.

Sidelining the weak points, the strong reason to watch it is the natural chemistry between Woody and her on screen/off screen muse Diane Keaton after a long gap. Though both of them seem quite aged here; the chemistry between them is as impeccably amusing one as in ‘Annie Hall’. Woody often pays tribute to nostalgic screen moments of those B&W classics in his films. He paid homage to ‘Casablanca’ and legendary Humphrey Bogart in his ‘Play it again, Sam’. Here he offered his homage to two unforgettable noirs of all-time- Billy Wilder’s ‘Double Indemnity’ and Orson Welles’s ‘The Lady from Shanghai’. Worth to mention that the city of New York remained Woody’s big fascination and almost an inseparable character in many of his films. The way he filmed all those city streets, parks, bridges and locations in his multiple films including this one are the best cinematic tribute ever paid to ‘the city that never sleeps’.

Ratings-7/10

Sunday, November 28, 2010

BANANAS (1971)

One of Woody’s early madcap comedy fully aimed to make you laugh out loudly. The president of Republic of San Marcos was shot down in front of public and live camera reporters and the power is replaced by awaited new dictator general. Woody is again what he always remained- a consistent loser and the funniest face of cynic. He’s working as machine tester who in order to win his girlfriend’s heart becomes a political rebel with mock company of Che Guevara & Castro. The film is loaded with some of the quirkiest woody moments packed with funny situations and brilliant one-liners as always-“I should be working at a job that I have some kind of aptitude for like donating sperm to an artificial insemination lab.”

Besides critiquing and mocking the new world governed by science, inventions and market hungry companies, scoop hungry television news channels it’s a fine political lampoon mocking political leaders from Castro to J. Edgar Hoover and off course communism. Watch that Exercising machine made for busy executives at office chair (reminds me Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’) or the advertisement of New Testament cigarette impromptu before the live news coverage and reporting of live bedroom consummation after wedding- all that comes from the mind of this gifted genius and intelligent Jew of our time.

Need I say ‘must watch’ for any Woody Allen films?

Ratings- 8/10

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

THE KILLER INSIDE ME (2010)

“The trouble with growing up in a small town is everybody thinks they know who you are.”

A young deputy sheriff is an unexpected face of psychopathic monster here. On the innocent face value of Casey Affleck lies a violent sadistic pervert who keeps on filling the screen with carefully planned out murders while remaining inside and outside of crime. I was expecting an interesting thriller but it’s quite a disturbing film stuffed with disturbing, pervert images of raw violence, lot of bedroom nudity and a sexually sadistic killer who kept on his toll because he can’t hurt somebody who’s already dead.

Casey Affleck is really impressive one, hope he’ll get better screenplay next. Then there’s Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson baring their bodies for him and ended up being punching bags of this sadist killer. Director Michael Winterbottom who made some impressive and thought provoking independent films including ‘The Mighty Heart’ emphasized more the unwanted part then wanted. It has interesting beginning but overall a messed up disappointment.

Ratings-5/10

Monday, November 22, 2010

MAHANADI (Tamil) (1993)

The film begins with Madras Central Prison and we see a new prisoner No-4005 named Krishnaswamy. Cut to flashback where he is B Sc Agriculture widower left with two kids living happily in his small village life. With insistence of a city dwelled rich man and dreaming his kids’ better education he landed up to city. His innocence and trust soon duped by the man and his touts. For uncommitted financial fraud he was thrown in jail where he becomes victim of torture and atrocity. Out of jail he found his son in company of road show juggler and his beloved daughter selling her body in Calcutta’s Sonagachi brothel.

While reading it seems like a typical movie, but fortunately it isn’t. The reason is fine direction and restrained execution by Santhana Bharathi and fine screenplay penned and acted by the multi-talented genius Kamal Haasan. This is another fine director-actor combination who gave another fine Tamil film called ‘Guna’. Though quite melodramatic in the middle part, the film finely represent the theme of city Vs village, OPM (other people’s money) Vs OPM (own personal money) and a heart wrenching story of a disillusioned upright family man who realized that ‘Satyamev Jayate’ won’t prevail in real life.

One has to watch the expressions of the common man’s helplessness and situational flux when he witnessed his young daughter in brothel and from what drama he took her back. There are certain scenes where Kamal made you realize that how naturally he enacted all those myriad emotions of God fearing village simpleton, devoted and caring family man, struggling father ultimately turned into a boiling volcano of revenge. No wonder why this living legend that beat all clichés of cinemas has deservingly won maximum number of National Awards in his career more than Amitabh Bachchan and Mammooty and record nineteen times Filmfare Awards in five languages, infact around the end of 2000 he wrote plea to the organization to exempt him from further awards. Undoubtedly he’s not just an actor; but actor in millions and absolutely a national treasure.
The film bagged National Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil.

Ratings-8/10

Sunday, November 21, 2010

GUZAARISH (2010)

There’re two opposite reviews about Sanjay Leela Bhanshali’s ‘Guzaarish’ that I’ve read in India’s two leading dailies. Times of India’s Nikhat Kazmi declared it an unusual film on many fronts and rated it 4 stars and on the other hand Express reviewer Shubhra Gupta claimed it lame copy of Javier Bardem’s critically appraised Spanish film ‘The Sea Inside’ and rated it with just 2 stars. After watching the film yesterday on screen, I would like to corroborate Shubhra’s opinion than over the top promoting words of Kazmi.

‘Romance decorated on artistic visuals’ is Bhanshali’s cine-forte but here he juxtaposed it with a man who is a paraplegic who’s wishing permanent relief from life’s suffering. All that hue and cries over his mercy petition and court drama packed with loads of emotional baggage runs in random order on screen. Here’s is a magician-lover who after an accident ended his affair with beloved-assistant and forced her to marry somebody else, all of sudden jumps to declare on his deathbed to marry his nurse. Hero-heroine must meet at the end is inevitable routine in Hindi films you see.

What’s the biggest flaw of the film is SLB failed to make emotional connection of audience with his protagonist which he so genuinely done in his ‘Black’. It’s not Hrithik but SLB who’s responsible for it. Here’s a queer case of a smiling paraplegic patient who after 13 years of his unfortunate accident declared his wish to die. Why? It’s a big question which SLB failed to answer. Why after all those years accompanied by his cheered radio following, committed close friends and above all world’s most beautiful cleavage showing nurse looking after him he wants to file a petition to court to let him die? Answer is plain vanilla-‘Suffering’. Sorry to say but I don’t feel suffering anywhere in the frames, neither inside nor outside of Ethan’s character; on the contrary he keeps laughing on and on even his last frame. Maybe SLB would say in future that viewers failed to find tears in those laughters!!!

In order to use full potential of Hrithik, SLB has given him multitasks to deliver. So Ethan Mascarenhas is a paraplegic patient on wheel chair, he’s the screen’s charming magician, he’s naughty-romantic patient, he’s preaching radio jockey spreading smiles to his followers and above all he’s benevolent Jesus Christ kind of superman who forgive his enemy too!!! Though against all flaws and odds I must admit that it’s only Hrithik Roshan who honestly and sincerely attempted all these over expectated jobs offered to him and he’s the sole reason why anybody sit throughout the film till final frame. Aishwarya’s act is really unimpressive and projected to fill the beauty on screen, the rest of the players are just okay.

As usual parts of SLB films, it has emotional baggage too especially that last ‘Death day celebration’ speech of Ethan, accompanied by his near and dear ones or that another emotionally blackmailing drama where an irritating lawyer is being locked for 60 seconds to fathom Ethan’s inner suffering in metaphorical magic box. It’s really bad script writing and editing where plot and theme runs random and Bhanshali tries to make it up with his impressive decorative larger than life frames on screen with worthy mention of fine cinematography.

For me SLB’s ‘Black’ was a moving experience. Though his last ‘Saawaria’ was bombed terribly at box-office and rejected by audience and critics, I must say it was a better film than this one. Mr. SLB, no more gimmicks next time please.

Ratings-5.5/10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

BODY HEAT (1981)

Bollywood’s copycat dummy director and limelight hungry Mahesh Bhatt had pilfered not only the story and plot but also copied scene to scene and dialogue to dialogue of this film in John-Bipasha starrer ‘Jism’ with just shifting the end to suit Indian audience. Bhatt without any shame credited the story-screenplay to himself in the film’s title! Nothing new for Bhatt camp or Bollywood, isn’t it! But as a matter of fact even writer, director Lawrence Kasdan too lifted the plot of ‘Body Heat’ from Billy Wilder’s classic ‘Double Indemnity’ but then he gave his own creative touch turning classic noir into steaming and absorbing erotic Neonoir hard to resist.

Kasdan maintained a subversive tone of his own invoking the atmosphere of heat and smoke not only in physical steamy scenes but to suburban town too. He brilliantly maintained
certain sort of distance portraying sensuous Kathleen Turner and didn’t let the erotic skin show take control over the plot like in-famous popular ‘Basic Instinct’ and unlike Sharon Stone, femme fatal Kathleen Turner didn’t bare it all and still kept us hooked to her bold body language and bitchy act. She’s enchanting femme fatale hard to resist, ‘To see her is to need her’. It’s quite surprising to know that it’s her debut performance. William Hurt’s character remained like shadow because Turner is scene stealer here. Kasdan successfully etched out fine supporting performances from Hurt’s two closest friends who sniffed all suspicious smoke and proofs against him try hard to save him from deep trouble but then when a man is in the mess, he keeps messing on good sides/signals too. Mickey Rourke’s surprise breakthrough role is again a cheer up.

Ratings-7.5/10

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DRIVING MISS DAISY (1989)

This simple low budget film did surprise wonder at Oscar winning not only 4 academy awards but also snatching Best picture trophy among two terrific deserving rivals ‘Dead Poets Society’ and ‘My left Foot’ excluding shockingly ‘Do the Right Thing’ in nomination. It’s all simple and light hearted film showing the strange relationship between a self-made, stubborn Jewish old lady and a newly hired black chauffer who can’t read. How relationship slowly grows between two souls from hate to love and liking of each others company in a period of 25 years. It also shows the period of 50s to 60s social where black worked in kitchen and doing household chores in rich suburban neighborhoods of States also getting up to University being faculty.

As a jolly good simpleton Morgan Freeman’s talent got noticed by Hollywood through this film. He carried his character with all his natural ease, though his looks and appearance reminds me of Watanabe in Kurosawa’s ‘Ikiru’. Fine chemistry between him and Jessica Tandy makes it a delightful feel good film to serve anytime. Though nomination and fine act, Morgan lost the Best actor trophy to more deserving Daniel Day Lewis for ‘My left Foot’. Director Bruce Beresford carried all sublime and subtle moments of strange chemistry growing in each others company transcending their differences. What’s more wonderful to notice is there’s not a moment of sadness in entire film. Hoke serving spoon to above ninety Daisy is a moment to wet your eye for sure!

Ratings-7.5/10

YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH (2007)

One of the most pathetic and the worst film ever made by the man who made ‘The Godfather’ series. It begins with an interesting premise- an aged scholar professor stuck by the lightening burned over all his body survived and slowly turned to his youth. He turns out to be a man of profound knowledge but also forms a new second personality. Bless comes with curse too! Till this point the film has bearable plot.

Then all of sudden all sorts of paranoia and romance starts fluttering with plot and story roaming freely like a stray dog. We are headed to double personality, oriental philosophy gyaan of transmigrating soul with a paranormal beloved speaking all sorts of dead/prehistoric languages from Sanskrit to Egyptian with horrible pronunciation to let this scholar complete his unfinished research about origins of language. What sort of pointless crap is this? Coppola kept going on messing the film with dead pan pace failing to make any sort of cinematic connection with plot, characters or drama. Tim Roth just sucks and what an utter waste of brilliant actor like Bruno Ganz?

It’s unbearable experience for me to sum up it all.

Ratings-4/10

Monday, November 15, 2010

OLDBOY (Korean) (2003)

A man is imprisoned for 15 years without any explanation and released without any explanation. He must find his kidnapper within five days. It’s a film which kept hiding ‘Why’ so tactfully and convincingly to give it a ‘cult’ status. Its action, drama and a psychological thriller that takes us to oedipal taboos, blind destiny, and hypnotism all coiled into a larger than life revenge material that brought the Korean cinema to take serious notice.

Despite the screen filled with gross torture and brutally violent images it serves innovative action sequences, camera work and packs vengeance mystery like never before. Min-Sik-Choi performed extraordinarily as hapless victim Dae-Su, a man turned into monster who vows to take revenge and later desperately begging like a dog. There are scenes which punctured your brain like eating live squid, pulling teeth, a man fighting goons with stabbed back all with stylistic knockdown.

After winning the Grand Prize of Jury at Cannes Film Festival in 2004, Director Park Chan-Wook stunned the audience by thanking the cast and crew and then thanking the four squids who gave up their lives for the vivid sushi bar scene.

Ratings-8.5/10

Sunday, November 14, 2010

KITAAB (1977)

Based on Samresh Basu’s novel ‘Pathik’ and written and directed by Gulzar, the film is a story of a personal journey of a run away boy traveling in a train without a ticket. The reason- the boy hates going to school and study; he wants to be a grown up man so that he can do whatever he wish and enjoy the freedom. In a flashback the film lets us in those lost innocent days and mischievous moments of childhood. Playing zero and cross on back pages of notebooks during the class, drawing cartoons of teachers, bunking class due to undone homework, instant bahanebaazi, pissing fun, smoking curiosity etc. ‘Cigarette bagair sochne ka majaa nahi aata’ said one of the self proclaimed boy philosopher. It instantly reminds me reading R K Narayan’s ‘Swami and his Friends’.

Gulzar made a film where we all relate our lost childhood and maintained a light hearted story telling filled with humor and fun in the first half and emotional drama in the second half where the roaming boy on railway platform realizes the importance of study. There’s moment of self actualization where the boy tries to steal money from an old beggar. What’s delightful about watching Gulzar films is his lifelike characters and situations where one can relate without any extra effort. Master Raju carried the role so naturally. Rest of the cast consists of Uttam Kumar, Vidya Sinha and others have done justice too. Pancham who scored some of the unforgettable nostalgic tracks for Gulzar films scored so low for this one. Though the film doesn’t have much scope for songs Gulzar penned an item number kind of song which he generally penned nowadays. Gulzar once said in interview that he quit making films because nowadays Vishal is making them. I wonder was it a compliment or criticism?

Recommended to all Gulzar fans.

Ratings-8/10

INCEPTION (2010)

“True inspiration is impossible to fake.”

Can we incept an alien idea to human mind through consciousness? Sooner the subject’s mind can always trace the genesis of that idea. But what if somebody navigates one’s mind and plants it through dark subconscious of dream? What if that idea can threaten the reality? Is inception so full proof? Sorry sir, we’re humans and though potential of human mind is just infinite, we’ve our own limitations.

The first fifteen minutes into the film and you’re lost in mazelike disorientation where dream and reality submerged like a challenging riddle; instantly giving you the clue that what you’re going to watch for next two hours around is all stimulating mind bending exercise. Inception is one hell of original and impressive material with its clever construction perhaps too complicated and challenging to comprehend fully in a single viewing for any normal viewer. While making it too intriguing and complex, it’s master architect (writer-director) Christopher Nolan has terribly deducted relaxation charm for the audience who generally used to watch the movie as it comes in narration and story telling or giving us space to emotionally connect to any of characters; instead one has to be so focused and alert to fathom it’s labyrinthine script somersaulting our brain even in the last frame.

The plot is all sci-fi where advance technology making the human enables to enter the mind of the subject through dream to steal the idea or plant the new one. And here comes our protagonist who’s professional extractor suffering from his own ghost of memories about his wife that puts his task in jeopardy. A corporate conglomerate hires him to plant an idea to topple his rival’s empire and in return he offers him an impossible reality erasing his fugitive identity. Incepting idea is no easy task and so he gathered the team consists of a dream architect, a forger, a chemist and a point man getting ready for the subconscious heist. Do I carry on this futile explanation any further?

I’ve read somewhere that over-explaining the plot is just bad script writing. But hey it’s Nolan where script-screenplay and presentation remain the big reason which makes his films an event in itself. We don’t easily forget films like ‘Memento’, ‘The Prestige’, or ‘The Dark Knight’. Here too, he skillfully kept us all hooked to solve the entanglement of a dream within a dream, dream within a reality and reality within a dream and at the same time moving forward with on going chase, action, visual effects packaged thrilling entertainment on the platter and we’re in a great limbo surrendering ourselves to his projections on screen. His mastery of direction, story telling and editing is so gripping and convincing that we don’t have a moment to think contradictory amid all sorts of twists and turns juggling around multiple dream layers moving back and forth.

Making and scripting this phenomenon film demands years of perseverance and post production work and Nolan was conceiving, researching and penning this idea for last ten years to Warner Bros. studio as he revealed after the movie released. Undoubtedly he’s master forger and knows what to steal in what amount from many paragon cinematic moments. But at the same time it’s no exaggeration saying that ‘Memento’(released in 2000) was a warm up practice for Nolan and after seeing this (in 2010) I’m so eager to know what comes next from Nolan’s mind (maybe 2020), hope he’ll give us clue guide to understand his film in single viewing.

Like almost all Nolan films, the film is absolutely topnotch in all technical divisions. Whether its production design, editing, background score by Hans Zimmer or Wally Pfister’s stunning and hypnotic cinematography. I haven’t seen ‘The Social Network’ yet, the film made by another equally brilliant filmmaker David Fincher but I’m sure both these films will lock horns at all awards ceremony in coming time. Seems like its ‘mind’ and ‘idea’ that rule Hollywood this year.

Truly a unique mind-bending exercise of this decade that boils up many plausible and implausible interpretations hard to resist.

Ratings-10/10

Friday, November 12, 2010

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2006)

Story of sacrifice, struggle, and courage of Japanese soldiers who defended their homeland against invading American forces during Second World War for around forty days. It was destined for them to die for their country in unfavorable situation where there’s no air or navy support and with limited young soldiers and short of ammunition the General had to counter the American air and naval attack on shore of Iwo Jima.

It’s quite surprising that Clint Eastwood made an absolutely Japanese film true to its salt with complete ensemble cast of Japanese actors including impressive Ken Watanabe as General Kuribayashi. The language of the film is throughout Japanese (reading subtitles are inevitable) and while watching film anyone can wonder that it’s film made by Hollywood. I don’t wonder why it won Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language film. The film has fine cinematography by Tom Stern; however some parts of the film are quite stretching especially in subplot of a disillusioned soldier saving his life from war but the film tries to focus on individual personal conflict of soldiers when death is the ultimate reality.
One more feather in the directorial cap of Clint Eastwood.

Ratings-7.5/10

Thursday, November 11, 2010

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950)

“After all, crime is only left handed form of human endeavor.”

Undoubtedly one of the finest caper film noir ever made by the man who made some of the classic noirs of all time. This is quite lesser known John Huston classic without his loyal company of Bogart but it’s immaterial for an auteur who knows his task damn well. He represents the city burgeoning with crime rate where crime represents secret nexus between professionals and respectable men of the city. It’s a biggest caper plan accompanied by professionals of trade from big fixer to professional on payroll-a planner, a box man, a topnotch driver, a hooligan. We see the topnotch jewel heist execution even while alarm goes on ringing but its aftermath cracking with double cross and messed up that makes it compelling watch. One don’t know the intentions of the man fixed with circumstances and that’s make all the difference.

Huston brilliantly handled plot and treatment where sniffing cops runs parallel to a bunch of professional criminals and kept everything on platter what you expect from great noir- plot, fine ensemble cast and performances by Sterling Hayden, Louise Calhern, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe and others, classic B&W camera work, tense filled moments and a surprising small presence of Marilyn Monroe as mistress. And amid all caper and crime, it’s again individual story of gang members who’re having their pipedreams of hope ended right near to their destinations. Oh yeah and one has to watch the way Huston begins his every film and ends it- this is another classic case of his repertoire.

Must for all noir fans.

Ratings-8.5/10

Thursday, November 4, 2010

LA FEMME NIKITA (French) (1990)

Luc Besson’s earlier thriller made much before his popular ‘Leon/The Professional’ showing his distinctive visual style and narration. There’s not much to ponder over plot where a criminal turned secret agent dangles between her personal romance and professional violent life and Besson generally made movies for broader cinema audience seeking entertainment. Anne Perillaud as Nikita is not seductive beauty but tomboyish and larger than life character represents powerful physicality on screen. Wonder to see Jean Reno in such a small subordinate role of cleaner as one can easily map out that it’s a net practice for his role in ‘Leon’.
Average watch.
Ratings-6/10

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

AAKROSH (2010)

Disappointed to see Priyadarshan’s take on honor killing; he stuffed the package with ingredients of routine bollywood with a single case lacking any insightful look or justification of honor killing and caste discrimination. As film ends we also forget the fiction just like reading everyday newspaper stories of honor killing. Watching this I wonder is he the same Priyam who gave us some of the finest Indian films of our time like ‘Kanchivaram’, ‘Gardish’ or ‘Virasat’. He explored the theme and subject so brilliantly in his last award winning ‘Kanchivaram’ but here everything is too shallow and gimmicky. The film has nothing new to offer except showing you violence of hinterland Bihar where two appointed officers doing their duties against all odds finally decided to offer their own sense of justice.

The film is too shoddy in editing and screenplay, lacking grip terribly. Characters and performances are too cardboard types except Devgan who maintained his usual intense screen presence. Over all the film becomes too dark and heavy predictable affair unsuccessfully trying to make you busy with chase and action sequences all around. For those who seriously wanted to see the film that did tremendous justice showing the dark reality of caste discrimination and its victimization of underprivileged people of Northern states, I recommend Naseer-Shabana starrer ‘Paar’ made by Gautam Ghosh.

Ratings-5/10

Friday, October 29, 2010

SERPICO (1973)

A definite cop film of it’s time starring firing Al Pacino as Frank Serpico. He’s an honest New York cop who took his solemn oath to wipe the crime out of the streets when he joined the department and soon discovered that honesty is not expected to be part of his job. He got scorn, mistreatment from his fellow officers while performing his job with utmost sincerity and integrity. Ultimately he has to pay the personal prize putting his own life in jeopardy.

The film is based on a true story and Lumet portrays the ugly face of reality where the whole system is rotten and corrupt from top cops to the mayor of the city everyone have their own share of cuts. And it’s damn difficult for a cop who single handedly challenged the authority. It’s also a fine character study combining elements of establishment and counter culture from closer look. The film has Al Pacino’s tour de force performance and like ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ he’s all exploding dynamite in the later part of the film. As an undercover cop who’s constantly shifting his attire and features on face with moustache and beard, Pacino looks less like a cop and more like a man belongs to seventies cult hippy culture. He got his second Oscar nomination and first for Best Actor Oscar that year but that year Jack Lemmon got it for ‘Save the Tiger’.

Ratings-8/10

Thursday, October 28, 2010

DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989)

“Carpe Diem lads, Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary,” proclaimed an unusual and charismatic English teacher Mr. John Keating played by maverick Robin Williams to the impressionable young students of his class. While quoting great poets from Whitman to Tennyson, he’s trying to prove a single point to his dear students: break the dangers of conformity. They’re in the institution ruled by tolling bells of strict disciplinarian Principal. Keating is sweeping the boys on his tune like that pied piper and preparing them for what they really want from life and not what their parent or institution expecting from them. But soon no longer they remain able to swim against the stream.

From scene to scene and dialogue to dialogue Aditya Chopra had ripped off this film to gift mass Indian audience crowd puller ‘Mohabbatein’. He highlighted the confrontation part between Big B and SRK with love story as subplot culminating it’s end with emotionally charged up lines whereas in this original it’s relationship between teacher and students is highlight. The ending is memorable showing us one of the most subtle farewell scene for any teacher without dialogue or emotional drama.

Robin Williams delivered another award deserving performance and he is the strongest reason to watch this film apart of Peter Weir’s sound direction and story telling.

Ratings-7.5/10

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (2007)

“There’s nothing wrong with the blueberry pie. It’s just people make other choices; you can’t blame the blueberry pie. It’s just no one wants it.”

Nothing is great about that line except watching its sublime context in the initial scene where two strangers conversing and sharing their late night food in a café by just a co-incidence. One is the owner of the cafe; the other is a girl who recently broke her heart. There’s bunch of unreturned keys kept in a jar in that café and every single key has its own story to tell! Guess who the storyteller is!

Extending his tale of unreceived love and its melancholy of ‘In the Mood for Love’, Wong Kar Wai shows us another naïve and weary modern lovers left with their agony of separation and then their loneliness is reciprocated by the other stranger. Why it just happens that feelings just went away soon after the initial instinctual driven feelings encounters with two poles apart maps of minds? How do you say goodbye so suddenly to someone you can’t imagine living without? This man has so many sublime things to tell and show like no other. Oh! Watch that beautiful unexpected slow motion kiss reciprocated with silence and tinge of mysterious smile and guys it’s one of the most sublime kiss I’ve ever seen in any film so far. It’s these little things which make Wong a gifted director to the world of cinema.

The plot is nothing but few disjointed pieces of characters connecting and disconnecting with each others lives. The film was shot at night, Wong’s fixation with smooth and intoxicating background score corresponding to beautiful cinematography with his penchant for slow motion moments. The part of Jeremy and Lizzie is the highlighted one with two natural performances played by Jude Law and Norah Jones. With their natural expressions both of them leads to those sweetest and subtle moments of love and it’s longing. As compulsive gambler but smart woman Natalie Portman is just amazing in her short but memorable role. She completely remain in her puzzle like character of a girl who doesn’t trust anybody or anything, guess I’ve seen more of her than quite stretching track of Rachel Weisz.

Absolutely must watch for anyone who’s able to love.

Ratings-8.5/10

Sunday, October 24, 2010

THE KARATE KID (1984)

Well made martial arts films not only show just mindless action but also tends to tell you the lessons worth to learn about self discipline guiding you to overcome your mental and emotional weaknesses. ‘The Karate Kid’ is film belongs to that category teaching that the secret of Karate lies in mind and heart, not in hands.

It’s a simple tale of a teenage boy living with his divorced and working mom, shifted to different town and school. He made crush on girl but soon became constant victim of school’s bully gang that challenged his strength. The cheerful boy loses his confidence in life and love ending up with everyday frustration of inferiority. That’s where an old Japanese neighbor comes to his rescue teaching him lessons with unusual training offering menial tasks to perform. It’s not only about teaching him karate but right attitude to balance his life and fix the problems of his life with self reliance. Don’t expect great action like watching Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan films because it’s an inspirational film for transformation aimed teenage audience.
Though a decent watch for mature kids too.

Ratings-7.5/10

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)

Based on Agatha Christie’s most famous mystery, the film is a fine screen adaptation by Sidney Lumet. Monsieur Hercule Poirot is one of my favorite detective characters, on screen played by Albert Finney accompanied by ensemble multiple star cast of Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and many other suspicious passengers on the board.

Though Finney seems quite loud and dramatic of Poirot, he finely represents the idiosyncrasies of his characterization with his queer methods of investigation. The denouement of the suspense in presence of all passengers with connection of number 12 is the highlight of the film. Recommended watch for all suspense lovers but don’t expect Hitchcock thrill. Though I strongly believe that reading ‘Queen of Mystery’ is addictive fun than watching any of her adaptation.

Ratings-6.5/10

Saturday, October 23, 2010

RAKHT CHARITRA (2010)

Vengeance is back on Indian screen with a baggage of excessive violence. After making one of the worst film of his career, Ramgopal Verma is back with a big bang. He returned to his fort of crime, violence, power, politics and thrill with the original real life story of Andhra criminal cum politician Paritala Ravi. This is his striking and desperate attempt with a punch with all his capable might and madness which either make you hate or just praise him for his daring effort showing you never before unthinkable violence and bloodshed on Indian screen. Though in showing reality of dirty nexus between crime, politics and shifting volatile power and portraying some of his character too diabolic, he crossed the limit of Indian audience and orthodox censor board but while doing it in his limitless frenzy he made another ‘original’ and ‘cult’ film for his fans.

This is the only Indian commercial film shot and made with a length of more than five hours and the reason enough why it has to be released in two parts. The first installment begins with impressive shifting of power that gave birth to revenge and bloodshed with mind-blowing treatment, brilliant ensemble cast and striking performances all with what one can expect from RGV’s diabolic dark mind. The film is saving grace and praiseworthy comeback not only for RGV but also for Vivek Oberoi and he’s the extension of fire what we witnessed in his debut ‘Company’ with the same mentor. Apart of him, the film has fine ensemble and supporting presence of many RGV loyal cast with certain new entries. The prominent among them is Shatrughan Sinha, who has short but impressive presence with his moustache less face as popular film star cum politician Shivaji with dialogues and attitude that suits his aura; this time his ‘Khamosh!’ is replaced with ‘Topic is over’. Abhimanyu Singh who blew our minds in his short but terrific presence as Ransa in ‘Gulaal’ has performed one of the most heinous and violent villain you have ever seen on Indian screen as Bukka. It’s in portraying him as ‘Rakshas’, RGV showed certain objectionable violence crossing all possible barriers. But the intensity of Abhimanyu Singh's act is visible in some of the striking scenes with his bloodthirsty rage in expression and pervert body language. Watch the scene where he continuously slapping the lady cop repeating ‘Touch nahi karna’ or another where he’s showing his temper when his brother comes to meet him in prison. Without a doubt he’s the villain of the year.

Technically film is almost flawless and has gripping editing with few avoidable distractions and a song. Cinematography, background score and production deserved clapping. The only complain is too dark portrayal of characters shedding their part of violence on screen. It would have been better if Ramu had explored multiple dimensions of their charcterization like 'Satya'.
He ended the film on interesting turn with showing you rushes of his second part releasing 19th on next month with the entry of South Indian superstar Suriya to give Vivek enough fire. I’m desperately waiting to see the second part and I’m sure that Ramu won’t fall short of my expectations in making this epic bloodbath of his career.

The film is strictly no, no to family audience and achche ghar ki bahu-betiyan. It’s all loaded for RGV fans who’re as mad enough as him. Watch it at your own risk, it's quite hard to digest for all.

Ratings-7/10

PS- "I am like a hardcore porn dvd. You might hate it, love it, look down upon it or get disgusted by it but if it is in the room you can't resist watching it."
- RGV's interesting comment on his blog.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

LEON (1994)

There are two things which make this hitman love story exceptional one. First is French director Luc Besson’s freshness of story telling using all popular ingredients in an engaging way with his unique shot selections of action running with quite unusual pairing between the hitman and teenage girl Matilda who has disturbed childhood. The second is performance of all three players- Jean Reno as Leon, the professional and disciplined hitman clad in John Lennon goggles is really impressive. Gary Oldman is absolutely awesome and he filled the screen with enough tension every time he turns on to screen, it’s surely his one of the career best. But for me the film belongs to the teenage girl Natalie Portman. She brought to screen a disturbed twelve year old girl seeking freedom from her damned family and its low life. She is protected by her next-door neighbor hitman in most critical situation of her life and then onwards having the playful company of the man under whose shadow she breathes as human.
For her Leon is savior, companion, desirable man and religion all in one and she wanted to be like him to get revenge of his younger brother. Portman remains so effortlessly natural and confident in her expressions and act that it’s hard to believe that it’s her debut film. For me she’s even more impressive debut than Jodie Foster in ‘Taxi Driver’.

Bollywood had made poor rip off ‘Bichchu’, starring Bobby and Rani and watching this, it seems so irritating experience.

Ratings-8/10

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

MACHETE (2010)

Robert Rodriguez who gave us some of the stylistic action flicks like ‘Desperado’ and ‘Once upon a time in Mexico’ returns with no brainer action flick fully loaded with action, violence, bloodshed, macho man and sexy seductresses typifying completely B genre action film. The violence this time is excessive with unimaginable weapons and gross bloodshed and the influence varied from Quentin Tarantino to Takashi Miike films.

Surprisingly the lead of the film is Danny Trejo, the man with criminal background in real life and whom we have seen as the dangerous man with many knives in Rodriguez’s earlier mentioned films. He’s having bad company of Steven Seagal, Robert Deniro with sirens in variety- Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan and Michelle Rodriguez showing their assets. The film pokes fun to Uncle Sam’s land and double face president’s policy towards cross border illegal immigrants confronted with Mexican rebel army of She (read ‘Che’).

The hospital massacre scene showing slaying of intestine and the church shootout sequence with kickass climax are just matchless to resist for action lovers and I’m sure that in a long run it will surely gain ‘cult’ status. I am eagerly waiting for its franchise since Rodriguez promises in the end titles-Machete will return in ‘Machete Kills’ and ‘Machete Kills Again’.

Mindless entertainer with return of violence in all sorts of excess.

Ratings-7/10

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

JONAH HEX (2010)

Not every comics hero turns out triumphant on screen. Jonah Hex is DC Comics new screen adaptation starring Josh Brolin as half disfigured scar face (freaky make up) western drifter and bounty hunter super hero. He is being hired as the last hope by US military to nab Quentin Turnbull, his old due revenge and now wanted terrorist. Watching its trailer, I was expecting a cool western stuff with company of Brolin and John Malcovich as Turnbull but its all thumbs down crap. Even Megan Fox is utter waste even in her oomph factor. The plot is zilch, action and gunfight is replaced with heavy CGI, score is just cacophony and summing up as B grader trash stuff. Better watch any B grade South Indian flick; it will give you at least some sort of entertainment.

Ratings-4/10