Monday, January 01, 2007

Movies on a Plane and Dec 2006 Wrap-up

So after a year of watching mostly festival movies, it was perhaps appropriate that the year ended with a flux of commercial films and that too mostly Hollywood. I suppose a balance was restored with the wealth of rich movies seen throughout 2006 with commercial junk in Dec. Junk is necessary to make one appreciate the virtue of quality cinema. That being said, not all the commercial stuff was that bad. In order of viewing:

Dec 1 & Dec 2: Movies on a Plane
In the past, Emirates had a few movie channels for people in Economy class but this was the first time I got to enjoy their full movie library. Almost 120 movies to choose from. The good thing is I managed to see some movies that I wanted to see for a while but I also saw some forgetful stuff.

John Tucker Must Die: Rating 5/10

Not sure what possessed me to watch this as the first film. Nothing good to say about this. This is terrible even from the clichéd high school romance flicks standards.

An Inconvenient Truth: Rating 7.5/10

I ended up watching this film over two flights – London to Dubai & Dubai to New Delhi. It is a worthy watch in terms of the global warming content talked about. Although I wish this was made as an out and out documentary. A majority of the film is simply focusing on a lecture that Al Gore gave and no matter the importance of the material, the lecture does get a bit dry to watch. Nonetheless the message is grave and I am glad this film was made because despite all the evidence, people continue to ignore all the warning signs – For example, North Americans aren’t going to let go of their gigantic gas guzzling vehicles anytime soon. Hopefully, a movie and that too featuring Al Gore will give this topic more media time. Maybe the politicians will ignore the money from energy companies and think independently one day.

Little Miss Sunshine: Rating 8/10

I missed a few free screenings of this film in the summer and I delayed watching it on DVD. So stuck at a few thousand feet above the ground, I finally got the chance to watch it. It is a good movie even though I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Sure, the acting is very good and the script packed with witty dialogues but the film is still following the pattern of recent dysfunctional American characters. I quite liked the ending when the family came together to celebrate their differences.

The Break-Up

I can’t rate this film as I never finished it. On the first flight, I got to the 40 minute mark when the video was shut down almost an hour in advance in preparation for landing. The second time around, I made it to the 70 minute mark but once again, the video was shut in preparation for landing. Ofcourse, I don’t consider it a loss not having finished this film. There are some very realistic couple clashes scenes in the film (for example, the argument about wanting to do dishes vs sitting in front of the tv) but other than those, it felt like a run of the mill flick.

A Prairie Home Companion: Rating 10/10

Robert Altman’s last film is a perfect ending to his career. My outlook of this film would have been different if I had seen this movie in the summer as I had originally planned as opposed to seeing it after the legendary director suddenly passed away a few months back. After his death, a news item reported that while shooting for this film, Altman knew he was sick. So I wonder how much that influenced him during this movie’s filming because death hangs over this film constantly. From the opening to the closing shot, the movie feels like a final work, a sign-off film. In each scene, death is hovering over the characters, waiting to usher them off-stage. Did Altman feel likewise about himself and his career? Now, if I had seen this film in the summer I would not have focused on this aspect of the story but now, I can’t avoid making this comparison. Whatever his mood, this was a perfect end to his career. Thank you Mr. Altman for this final treasure!

19 days went by before I saw another movie, a record in the last 4 years.

The Holiday: Rating 7/10

On the evening of Dec 21, I entered the Paragon Theatre in Bangkok’s Siam Square. It was the best movie theatre I had been in my life. How I wish, I had been able to see a movie worthy of the grandeur that this cinema offered. The Holiday was a typical feel good holiday movie that had shades of Love Actually suffering with a Bridget Jones hangover. Nonetheless, it was easy viewing which allowed me to slip back in my seat.

Curse of the Golden Flower (directed by Zhang Yimou): Rating 7.5/10

I didn’t have to wait long to see another film. This time, it was the KLCC complex theatre at the breath-taking Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 23rd. This is clearly one of the most breathing taking visual films of the year, however the paper thin story can’t hold up this big budget disaster. I am really beginning to miss Zhang’s lesser budget flicks (pre 2000) where he was able to focus on the story. I loved 2002’s Hero but 2004’s House of Flying Daggers suffered from a weak love story. Curse of the Golden Flower has a very impressive first hour but after that the movie ends up being a joke. The CGI armies are easy to pick-out, the action scenes laughable (B-movie almost) and the film continuity and editing is choppy. It seems little thought was given to the second half of the film and scenes were rushed so as to get the movie completed on time.

Bhagam Bhag(directed by Priyadarshan): Rating 5.5/10

After directing classy South Indian films, Priyadarshan entered Bollywood with a bang – 1997’s Virasat was one of the best movies the song & dance industry has seen in the last decade. Ofcourse, partial credit for that goes to Kamal Hassan who penned the original story for 1992’s Thevar Magan. After that stellar debut, Priyadarshan had a mixed bag of results before coming up with a gem of comedy in 2000’s Hera Pheri. Six years on, people still continue to talk about that movie with warmth and love. Ofcourse, that film also gave Priyadarshan and his screen-writer Neeraj Vora an opportunity to spawn off an alternate fast-paced comedy genre compared to the crude formula comedies of David Dhawan. Priyadarshan brought out the best of Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar as the two formed an intelligent comedic partnership as opposed to the antics of Govinda in Dhawan’s talkies. I always felt that Priyadarshan was making more intelligent versions of Govinda comedies and was waiting for him to direct Govinda alongside Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar. I finally got my wish and with some expectation I stepped into the theatre on Dec 27th at New Delhi’s PVR theatre.

Sure, there were some genuinely funny moments and it is clear that the best parts of the movie are those which involved clever, fast-paced dialogues in absurd situations. But when it comes to the story, the movie is a complete failure. It is too easy to find faults with the plot but atleast along the way, there are a few laughs to be had. Now, it might make sense for Priyadarshan and Neeraj Vora to only focus on a simpler story which could fully exploit the rich dialogues and crazy scenarios. Still, I didn’t mind seeing this movie just for the few funny moments. But I can’t help being disappointed at the overall effort. How can any director make such a joke of a film? Did David Dhawan walk onto the set and kidnap Priyadarshan and make this film? It certainly feels like it at times.

My Super Ex-girlfriend: Rating 6/10

I was expecting to access Emirates movie library on the two flights back on Dec 29th and Dec 30th. But I was to be disappointed as the type of flights I was in had the old entertainment system with only a handful of pre-selected movies showing on each seat’s personal tv screen. I only watched one movie and that too this average comedy which combined relationship problems with super hero powers. Yawn…

Everybody Says I’m Fine (2001, directed by Rahul Bose): Rating 6.5/10

I had wanted to see this movie for a while but I was never able to get hold of it. Getting a VCD/DVD in India proved difficult as well. So I was quite happy to find a VCD in Singapore. The film is nothing special, more like a good short extended to a feature length. Rehaan Engineer plays a Xen, a hair stylist who can hear people’s thoughts when cutting their hair. That concept does lead to an interesting film but overall, the movie suffers from problems with other independent Indian English movies – poor acting and average productions values.

The Host (directed by Bong Joon-ho): Rating 8.5/10

I finally managed to see this film on the last day of the year (Dec 31st). My expectations of the film were different. I expected that the monster in the film won’t be seen until the end or maybe not even seen at all. So I was quite surprised to see the crazy mutated creature 15 minutes into the movie. In that regard, the film feels like a throw back to the old Godzilla movies and the people running, screaming scenes are a testament to that. But Bong Joon-ho makes this a cut above the genre monster movies and focuses on the characters (a family of four) instead. Also, there are beautiful jabs at America and people’s lack of respect for nature and the environment. A nice way to end film viewing for 2006!


Reel Fanatic said...

Believe me, you definitely didn't miss anything by not seeing the end of the instnatly forgettable "Break-Up" ... "Curse of the Broken Flower" is definitely on my must-see list this year, though it will most likely have to be on DVD in my little corner of the world

Sachin G. said...

Good to know :) Curse of the golden flower is certainly a visual treat. I was lucky to have seen that in the theatre.