Sunday, December 05, 2004

December 2004 Wrap Up

Facing Windows: Rating 7/10

I missed seeing this at the Film festival but a good Italian friend told me this was not such a great movie (despite winning numerous domestic Italian movie awards). And I agree with him, this movie was not great at all, but quite bland. Sure the acting was good and the story had potential but in the end the movie was boring. There are two parallel stories in the movie and despite the director trying to tie them together, they never really feel seem connected.

The House of Flying Daggers:

Rating, Story: 3/10
Rating, Technical aspects (Visuals, Fights, Set Design): 10/10

A huge disappointment!! Sure there are great fight scenes – people will talk about the Bamboo & snow field fights and the colorful sets at the start of the movie but overall, the movie is incomplete. The movie starts off with an elaborate story line but once the love triangle kicks in, the assassin/conspiracy story is forgotten. In fact, if the love triangle was given so much importance, then what was the point of having the assassin story line?
The love story is much much weaker than either Crouching Tiger or Hero!

The Day After Tomorrow: Entertaining but full of plot holes, as expected.

Rating, Plot: 4/10
Rating, Visuals: 8/10

This movie was much more easy to watch than I had expected J The CGI graphics are really good and the ice storms, tornado’s, etc are very chilling and had my attention. Ofcourse, the negative point is the weak screenplay, choppy acting in some parts and well huge plot holes. None the less, it is a fun movie to watch.

The Girl Next Door: Rating 6/10

Unlike other high school movies, this flick does have a decent story line in mind -- a hooker moves next door to a high school outcast and changes his life. Now as clichéd as it seems the story line would have worked. However, the movie tries to do too much and is muddled up by the end – the movie moves from a high school comedy to a romantic flick to a dark comedy and then finally ends up by showing that the porn industry has a sweet and tender side.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Rating 8/10

The Riddick character was amazing in Pitch Black and in this movie once again, he steals the show. With a bigger budget, the Chronicles is a visual pleasure. The CGI graphics are quite something and the entire Story world is great. This is a role made only for Vin Diesel and he completely dives into his character.

Before Sunset: Rating 10/10

This movie will not seem as good if one has not seen Before Sunrise. That being sad, the movie starts off 9 years after the first movie left off. The movie is a delight to watch. And the camera work plus editing is flawless, it is perfect. The only negative comment about the movie is that I still think that Ethan Hawke’s expressions are weak in some scenes just like in the first movie. But Julie Delpy is perfect as usual.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

November Wrap-up

1) Intimate Strangers (Directed by Patrice Leconte, Produced by Alain Sarde): Rating 8/10

This is a classic French movie and has a few signs of an Alain Sarde production as well (for example Nathalie, Jet Lag, Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud, Dry Cleaning). Those signs involve a relationship in trouble and ample intelligent conversation which tries to resolve the situation. This time around the sensuality is all in the conversation itself. A woman walks into a shrink’s office and starts unloading her worries. Then just like that, she abruptly ends her talk and walks off wanting to return for another session. The only snag is that the shrink is not a shrink at all but a mere tax advisor; the woman had walked into the wrong door. So the tax advisor heads down the hall into the therapist’s office to get advice on what do with the situation. Needless to say, he continues to listen to the woman’s needs. The movie heads towards a predictable ending but there are some interesting events along the way. If one has seen plenty of French movies, then this one will not seem to be that great. Still a decent watch! It is still refreshing to see un-glossy actors giving an amazing performance, which only French movies can provide.

2) Monsieur Ibrahim (Directed by Francois Dupeyron): Rating 11/10

This is a PERFECT movie! Along with Exils, this is the best movie I have seen this year. It is refreshing to see Omar Sharif (who plays a Turkish shop owner) given a charming role which he plays to perfection. But the real gem of this movie is the young actor, Pierre Boulanger, who gives a virtuoso performance as the 14 year old Momo. Boulanger’s expressions are priceless (feisty when they have to be, innocent when needed) and Omar Sharif rightly believes that this kid will be a star one day.
So what’s the story? A majority of the movie involves Momo’s coming of age tale -- Momo never really knew his mother because she left when he was an infant and his father is off on his own most of the time. So Momo balances his mostly solitary life with meaningful conversations with M. Ibrahim. And this is where he grows from a young boy into a useful man. The last bit of the movie involves a road journey as well. But a truly pleasant movie!!!!!!!!!!

3) The Mother (Directed by Roger Michell): Rating 4/10

A rating of this movie depends on the fact whether one buys the affair development between a mother and her daughter’s boyfriend. If one buys the entire process, then like most critics, one will be bowled over by this movie. But if one does not believe the story, then the entire movie seems contrived and pointless. Curiously, the movie is based on Hanif Kureishi’s book so I am not sure how the book might have been. An elderly couple comes to London to visit their children. And typical of this day and age, the children have a busy life and can’t look after their parents. The father dies on the trip and the mother finds her entire life shook-up. She opts to stay in London with her daughter as her son is too busy always. Through a very smooth and casual process, the mother rediscovers her zest for life in the arms of her daughter’s boyfriend (a man half her age, give or take a few years). I just didn’t buy the entire process and well thought the entire movie was a waste.

4) Bon Voyage (Directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau): Rating 5/10

Maybe I was not in the mood but this movie just didn’t interest me one bit. It has an interesting cast with Isabelle Adjani, Gerard Depardieu and Peter Coyote. But this murder chase movie set in the mood of World War II seemed really boring.

5) Trio of Truffaut movies – Also there are trio of Francois Truffaut movies that I am currently finishing up.

a) Bed and Board – This is the fourth in the Antoine Doinel series of movies with 400 Blows, Love at Twenty, Stolen Kisses being the other three. Unfortunately, I saw the French version without any subtitles. But such was the beauty of the movie that I managed to follow more or less what was going on.
b) Stolen Kisses – The 3rd Antoine Doinel movie, with 400 Blows being the first one. Once again, the movie glides effortlessly as Antoine goes from one failed project to another.
c) The Last Metro – I have not finished this 1980 movie starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu.

6) Hiroshima mon Amour (Directed by Alain Resnais) -- I am trying to finish up this 1959 movie so I can watch and understand H-Story, the 2001 Nobuhiro Suwa movie about the making of the original Hiroshima movie.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

October Movie Wrap-up

1) Carandiru (directed by Hector ) : Rating 10/10

This movie is based on a true story. But as it turns out certain characters were changed from real life to fit the movie mould. Nonetheless, this is a very interesting movie. The story revolves around an incident in a Brazilian prison where riot squad massacred un-armed prisoners for purely political reasons. The movie is divided into two segments – the first segment (almost ¾ of the movie) focuses on the prisoners and their stories, lives etc as seen from the eyes of the Prison Doctor. The second segment outlines the prison massacre.

This method works quite well – since we have come to identify the prisoners from the first segment, the massacre puts things into perspective.

2) Close Your Eyes (also known as Doctor Sleep): Rating 9/10

Quite a thriller from the UK! The story revolves around a doctor who uses hypnosis to cure his patients of their smoking habits. During one case, he tells his woman patient not to think of nasty images like a girl floating in the water next time on. The woman is surprised – how on earth did the doctor read her mind? Well as it turns out she is a cop working on a serial killer case. She enlists his help in trying to solve a bizarre sequence of killings.

3) The Ladykillers (directed by the Coen Brothers): Rating 5/10

Once upon a time a movie by the Coen brothers was a sure thing -- Blood Simple, Fargo, O Brother Where Are Thou, The Big Leobowski, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn’t there! But that has changed. For the second year in a row, they have produced a dud. This could have something to do with the fact that like the dull and boring Intolerable Cruelty, the Ladykillers is not a script written by the two brothers. There is only so much a person can do when working with someone else’s script or even a remake. Even though Ladykillers has the typical Noir elements from other Coen movies but it is not enough to liven a movie.

Massively disappointing!!

4) Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (Korean movie by Ki-duk Kim): Rating 8/10

The director of the Isle returns with a visually pleasing movie. The story is simple enough – a Buddhist monk lives with a little boy on a floating monastery in the middle of a lake. The movie starts off in Spring and shows the lives of the two monks. The little boy is mischievous and goes out of his way to harm animals around him. So the elder monk teaches the boy a lesson. We next move to Summer when the little boy has grown up into a teenager -- an age where his hormones are acting up. When a young woman comes to stay at the monastery, well his sexual drive kicks in. From there on, the next seasons outline different stages in the young monk’s life. The movie eventually comes full circle to the start, just like things eventually do.

The Winter story is visually STUNNING. Beautiful!

5) Bus 174 (Brazilian Documentary):

This documentary has gotten nothing but rave reviews everywhere. It centers around a real-life bus hostage situation in Brazil where the media beam the entire incident live on tv. The documentary has interesting parts and tries to piece the entire story together – the identity of the armed person, the motives behind the act, the role of the police, and how things turned out. The film gives a realistic look at the characters used widely in movies such as City of God, Carandiru and Man of the Year. But for some bizarre, I didn’t find this movie that engaging. I lost interest after a while and well was bored.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

October Movie notes

1) La Belle noiseuse (aka The Beautiful Troublemaker) directed by Jacques Rivette: Rating 7/10

This 1991 French movie is all about Emmanuelle Beart or specifically Beart’s body. Michel Piccoli plays Edouard Frenhofer, a reclusive painter with his own unique painting style. Frenhofer has stopped painting a while ago but when Beart agrees to pose for him, he finds his rhythm back. There are things about art which are difficult to translate and the same goes for this movie. Some things don’t translate fully but nonetheless a decent movie. Beart’s expressions are spot on as usual.

2) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (directed by Michel Gondry): Rating 6/10

A great story idea penned by Charlie Kaufman, Gondry and Pierre Bismuth but a very poor on screen execution. Jim Carrey as expected is great in his role but the problem really is with the movie rhythm. The movie is caught in between a European and Hollywood feel. If it was a truly a French movie, then it would have worked. If it was in the realm of a complete Hollywood movie, then maybe it could have made it. The story is around the idea that people can go to a certain company to erase their painful memories. The journey through Carrey’s brain when his memories are being wiped is a great visual achievement. But in the end, very disappointed.

3) Coffee and Cigarettes (directed by Jim Jarmusch): Rating 4/10

A series of 11 black and white shorts filmed with a common thread of caffeine and nicotine. 10 of the shorts feature coffee, 2 have tea (with one being coffee free). I think only one short does not have cigarettes.

Anyway, the first 6 movies can be discarded. That is a big thing considering the first one stars Roberto Benigni as a severe coffee/cigarette junkie. Jarmusch shot the first few shorts in 1986 and then finished the rest of the films in 2002/03 or so. After movies such as Ghost Dog, Night on Earth, Dead Man, I was expecting more from him. But in the end, most of the efforts are not that great.

The seventh movie titled ‘Cousins’ starring Cate Blanchett in a double role is quite good. This is the only movie which features expresso.
The 8th movie is best forgetten.
The 9th movie titled ‘Cousins?’ is probably the best of the lot starring Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan. This is the only short which does not have coffee but only tea.
The 10th movie starts Bill Murray & RZA, GZA (of the Wu-Tang Clan) and is not bad. This one also features herbal tea.

4) Ju-on: The Grudge (directed by Takashi Shimizu): Rating 6.5/10

I finally watched the original Japanese movie before the Hollywood remake is released on Oct 22. Now, I was expecting a lot more scary scenes from this movie than what transpires. But in typical Japanese horror fashion, the scares are brought on by carefully constructed scenes focusing on background music and tiny details. There is no need for slashing gory scenes to make people jump with anticipation; just simple scenes which slowly unravel the horror works efficiently. The story revolves around a haunted house, which has a curse placed on it because of a murder committed there. Anyone who comes in contact with the house will not survive no matter where they run to. The movie is jam packed with situations which evoke horror even before anything is shown – dark attics, an empty bathroom, closets, dark rooms, etc. It is not a bad movie but I guess what disappointed me was the expectations I had from this flick.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Festival Wrap Up

Well the festival is over. There were quite a few good movies that I saw and I even missed seeing some of the more popular festival movies. My overall pick for the favourite movie was Exiles by Tony Gatlif. But here is the summary of the final few days:

Day Seven: Thu, Sept 30

The Motocycle Diaries (directed by Walter Salles): Rating 8/10

If this movie did not have the name Che Guevera associated with it, then there would have hardly been any hype around it despite it being well acted and beautifully shot by Eric Gautier (truly deserving of his Cannes Award). The movie is NOT about Che but instead about two young men, Ernesto and Alberto, who plan a road trip through Latin America. The motorcycle trip comes with its problems and adventures, and is a life altering experience for both. There are no technical flaws with the movie, but the only thing that weighs the movie down is the hype.

Kopps (directed by Josef Fares): Rating 10/10

A hilarious movie set in a small crime free Swedish town. Since the crime rate is non-existent, the local police station is about to be shut down. Facing the prospect of losing their jobs, the Kopps decide to boost the crime rate themselves. Interesting characters all around – well acted and just plain fun.

Slim Sussie (directed by Ulf Malmros): Rating 8/10

Another movie set in a small Swedish town. A brother, Erik, returns to his hometown to find his sister, Sussie. It has been a few years since Erik left the town to head to the city and soon learns that things changed quite a bit for Sussie. Each person has a different version of what happened to Sussie and trying to piece everything together becomes a problem for Erik. The movie is jam packed with references to Hollywood movies (Usual Suspects, Clockwork Orange, etc) and contains some memorable characters. When the pace of the movie slows down, a few songs help pick up the slack.

Day 8: Friday, Oct 1

Facing Windows (directed by Ferzan Ozpetek):

I was late for this movie and since the show was sold out, I was turned away with quite a few other people.

Primer (directed by Shane Carruth): Rating 8/10

A classic festival movie -- small budget ($7000 dollars) & a great idea! Four young engineers work in a garage (outside of their regular 50 hour a week jobs) to come up with the next big thing. What the big thing is supposed to be, none of them knows; they just go with the flow. The start of the movie is impossible to comprehend as technical terms are thrown around, but it is clear it has something to do with freezing temperatures. Two of the men stumble onto something and decide to keep it from the other two. This is where the movie goes off on a different tangent (sci-fi) – the two men find a way to create their very own time machine. It is an interesting watch, even though hard to understand everything. Each person will take something different from this movie.

Day 9: Sat, Oct 2

Exiles (directed by Tony Gatlif): Rating 11/10

The best movie for me at the festival! It stood head and shoulders above everything else. That being said, the movie might be a hit or miss for others. The story is simple as can be – Zano and Naima decide to leave Paris and head to Algeria to find their roots. Their parents were from Algeria and they are keen to return to a land they have only heard about (they don’t even speak Arabic). Their journey consists of heading through Spain and finally sneaking into Algeria (the Algerian border is closed). Since this is a Tony Gatlif movie, the traditional flamenco musical sequences are present. And an additional bonus is the presence of Rai music (not truly Rai but shades of it). A movie with a simple story but brilliant direction (Gatlif rightly deserved the best director award at Cannes). At no point in the movie does anything seem fake – this is a movie made by a person who cares to make a movie, who has a story to tell, who has something to convey. This is not a movie made for money but out of love. A classic!!!!

Lost Embrace (directed by Daniel Burman): Rating 5/10

A disappointing movie! For some reason this movie bagged a couple of awards at the Berlin film festival.

Red Cockroaches (directed by Miguel Coyula): Rating 4/10

A movie made on a shoe string budget, apparently $2000 dollars. The movie is shot entirely on dv camera and was edited by Coyula on his computer. There are some neat aspects in the movie but overall it is hugely disappointing. The movie is set in the future where DNA manipulation can bring back dead people. Acid Rain causes mutations and red cockroaches are the carriers of this mutation disease. Adam immediately takes to a woman he sees in a subway station. But she disappears and all he finds is a tooth. A few scenes later, Adam discovers the woman, Lily, is his long lost sister who Adam and his mother had thought to be dead. Adam and Lily engage in sexual union and once the incest starts, the sci-fi angle is thrown out of the window.

One can say that given the small budget, this is a significant effort. But there are too many loop holes in this one. Now, with a bigger budget, something could be made from this story.

Day 10: Sun, Oct 3

Memron (directed by Nancy Hower): Rating 7/10

A mocumentary completely in the style of Christopher Guest! Memron was once the biggest company on the planet but due to some book-keeping errors (err, stealing money), the company is facing bankruptcy and are forced to lay off more than thousands of employees. The movie shows the plight of the employees and takes a jab at the CEO’s who still continue to be given VIP treatment despite being crooks.

First five Festival days can be found here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mid-way through the Film Festival

The festival has reached its halfway point and what better time to take the night off and recharge for the final four movie packed days. So here’s the news so far:

Day One: Friday, Sept 24

Of the three movies I had originally planned to see, I could only attend the midnight feature, Saw (from America by James Wan). The two that I missed were August Sun (from Srilanka) and Kamchatka (Argentina).

Saw (directed by James Wan): Rating a solid 9/10

A midnight feature is deemed to be cultish, gory, scary, etc. Saw is not as gory as the original version that premiered at Sundance, but it is still a stellar movie. The opening scenes are some of the best I have seen this year. Picture this:

The movie opens in darkness with a man immersed in a bathtub with a blade looking device escaping down the drain. The man hears another man’s voice. The other man says he has found a light switch. The lights come on slowly, one by one. Two men, strangers to each other, find themselves on opposite corners of a large, dirty bathroom. In the middle of the bathroom floor, equidistant from the two men, is a man lying dead, face down in his blood with a gun in one hand (part of his head seems blown off). Both men have one of their legs chained to the pipes on the wall. The men can’t remember why they are here? Who has brought them? What’s going on?

The movie then unfolds brilliantly. Echoes of Seven and Cube come to mind. But this movie stands on its own. The only negative point is a bit of slack near the ending but usually with this kind of genre, the endings try to achieve too much. A worthy see nonetheless. And when you consider this is an effort from a first time director, then the movie seems an even greater achievement.

Day Two: Saturday, Sept 25

11’09”01 – 11 different directors with each short film lasting 11 minutes, 9 seconds and one frame.

There are some interesting flicks in this one and some which will offend for sure. Here is a quick rating of each one

1) Segment from Iran by Samira Makhmalbaf: Rating 6/10

For some reason I didn’t take to this one. It is set in Iran dealing with refugee Afghani children and their school teacher trying to tell them about the incident. Topics of God and destruction are brought up.

2) Segment from France by Claude Lelouch: Rating 7/10
Set in New York dealing with a deaf, mute woman whose is on the verge of breaking up with her boyfriend (who works as a tour guide in the Trade Centers).

3) Segment from Egypt by Youssef Chahine: Rating 6/10

It brings up interesting ideas of a certain country's foreign policies and killing of innocent people but does not have a consistent flow. Also, made with the mood of a typical Egyptian movie (with dramatic background music)

4) Segment from Bosnia-Herzegovina by Danis Tanovic: Rating 9/10

An emotional piece which shows that one must keep on demonstrating even though no progress is being made.

5) Segment from Burkina Faso by Idrissa Ouedraogo: Rating 10/10

This was the only humorous segement. A boy believes he has seen Bin Laden in his small African village and rounds up his friends to nab Bin Laden so that they can claim the 25 million dollar prize.

6) Segment from United Kingdom by Ken Loach: Rating 10/10

This is the best of the lot. It shows an exiled Chilean in London remembering Sept 11, 1973 when America helped dispose of Chile’s government and supported the installation of Pinochet’s dictatorship.

7) Segment from Israel by Amos Gitai: Rating 8/10

This was a good episode which showed the media circus that follows real life terrorist incidents news reporting.

8) Segment from Mexico by Alejandro Inarritu: Rating 9/10

Powerful. Effective. And ends with the words “Does God's light guide us or blind us?”

9) Segment from USA by Sean Penn: Rating 10/10

Sheer genius. But the one to offend most people. It can be interpreted in a number of ways.

10) Segment from India by Mira Nair: Rating 7/10

Based on a true life story about a Pakistani person mistakenly judged as a terrorist in New York because of America’s blanket 1984 laws.

11) Segment from Japan by Shohei Imamura: Rating 3/10

This one sticks out from the rest. Set in 1945 Japan. A solider returns from the war and chooses to live like a snake rather than be human. The movie ends with the snake saying “There is no such thing as a Holy War”.

Clean (directed by Oliver Assayas): Rating 6/10

Oh the hype. Maggie Cheung won the Best Actress award for this movie at Cannes this year. And yet, she is the weakest element in this movie. The movie lacks any emotion and is cold and un-interesting. The only time Maggie acts with emotion is when she switches to Cantonese but in French and English, she delivers her lines with zero emotion. A huge let-down.

Kontroll (directed by Nimrod Antal): Rating 10/10

The buzz around this Hungarian movie ensured the line-up’s were huge and people were turned away. And what a movie it is!!!! The movie follows the lives of the underground subway metro staff on their daily routines – the insanity, the male power games, the inner turmoils, hilarious passengers, etc. The first half is a hilarious movie but the second half explores the shades of darkness lurking beneath.

Day 3: Sunday, Sept 26

Hukkle (directed by Gyorgy Palfi): Rating 7/10 

No dialogues, but simply beautiful countryside of a small Hungarian town. An old man hiccups while life moves at a snail’s pace. In between the close up shots of snakes, insects, water, fishes, pig’s behind, there is a murder taking place. Enough clues are shown for us to piece together who was killed and how. A very offbeat movie which demonstrates the power of images.

Nathalie (directed by Anne Fontaine): Rating 9/10

A classic French movie. Emmanuelle Beart and Fanny Ardant are just perfect in their roles but Gerard Depardieu is not given much to do.

Nothing (directed by Vincenzo Natali): Rating 7/10

I headed into this movie only because it was by the director of the cult hit, Cube. The movie starts off poorly but really kicks into high gear after the first 20 minutes. The premise is best not told but that two friends who are social outcasts find themselves stranded in white empty space.

Note: The other option instead of Nothing was the Swedish movie, Kopps. Everyone I have talked to says that Kopps was hilarious. And sure enough, Hollywood is planning to remake this movie.

Day 4: Monday, Sept 27

I passed up the chance to watch the Czech movie, Zelary and award winning French movie, Since Otar Left. From word of mouth, it seems Zelary was well received.

The Shield (directed by Frederic Provost): Rating 6/10

I was disappointed by this French action movie. The slow and dull start really dampened things but the movie eventually managed to pick up.

Day 5: Tuesday, Sept 28

Choker Bali (directed by Rituparno Ghosh): Rating 6/10

This was the first time in the festival that my view of the screen was blocked by tall people sitting in front making it was hard to read all the subtitles. The movie started 20 minutes late and since I wanted to make the Brazilian movie later in the night, I had to leave the theater with 20 minutes to go. Will have to catch up with it later on.

Man of the Year (directed by Jose Henrique Fonseca): Rating 8/10

The hype around the movie was staggering because everyone had compared it to City of God. Well the movie is not as good as City of God but it is a good movie. A man loses a soccer bet and has to dye his hair blond. From then on, his life takes a completely different turn. Shades of Scarface, City of God, and every other slick gangster movie out there. Visually the movie is really good (the cinematography oozes with coolness, right out of a Michael Mann movie).
Note: For the second time in the night, it was hard to read the subtitles. This time we sat in the 2nd last row (as opposed to the 6th row from the front in Choker Bali) and a cascading stream of heads made it impossible to sit still. Apparently everyone around had the same problem.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Being Cool or being over-smart

Collateral (by Michael Mann): Rating either 10/10 or simply 3/10

Ok I admit I am a big fan of Tom Cruise. Despite the negative image of him, I believe he works hard in all his roles no matter how good or bad the movie is; the hard work could be in terms of acting or doing stunt work like in the terrible MI2. Collateral is a movie loved and praised by virtually every single critic out there. In fact, the actors and director also know this is a great movie. Which would explain why in every scene the actors are trying so hard to be smart, to be intelligent, to say the right things, to have the exact expression on their face -- they know they look good and the movie will be lapped by everyone.

Funny, now I see why all the critics hated Vanilla Sky -- they thought Cruise and Crowe were being cocky in making the movie. But the truth is that Vanilla Sky actually had a genuine purpose to it's story. Collateral on the other hand is an exercise in over-brilliance, and over-smartness. That being said, the movie is indeed shot brilliantly by Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron. But that is a trademark for Michael Mann movies -- his blue and green filters gave his movies like Heat, The Insider and Ali a very cool feeling.
The story for Collateral is simple enough -- Jamie Foxx plays a cab driver who ends up getting the assassin from hell, Tom Cruise, as a passenger. Cruise wants to hire Foxx for the entire night, and go from killing to killing without Foxx finding out. But things don't go as planned. The movie then develops into a cat and mouse game between the actors. For the coolness factor, some reference to Jazz is thrown in (you have to have a Miles Davis story, ofcourse), some philosophy is added to the mix, some magic realism symbols are portrayed (in a scene amid the chaos, a pair of foxes cross the cab's path; a symbol portraying that Jamie Foxx will outfox the killer, or that savage animals are roaming freely, pointing towards the killer Cruise, etc).
But just like Kill Bill, both movies I think fall under the weight of their over-smartness.Funny thing is a year ago I would not have noted such a thing and would have praised the movie to the hilt. But seeing a lot of foreign movies and the genuine story telling elements out there, this movie seems pointless. Sure it is excellent by the cineplex standards, but I got bored in the end. Mark Ruffalo has an interesting part and one dramatic scene involving him is very un-hollywood like. Javier Bardem is brought in to narrate a pointless story (equally as bad as David Carradine's SuperMan story in Kill Bill).

Final verdict: who am I to judge this movie? This movie knows it is so good that I don't have anything to say. Whoever critizes this movie will be labelled as having no taste!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Quick summary of weekend movies

This is a very quick summary of three movies I saw this weekend.

1) Elephant Juice (1999 movie by Sam Miller): Rating 5/10

The movie is about relationships. There are some interesting moments but what I think kills the movie is the bad usage of the background sound. At times, the hip music is too loud and you can't hear the characters. The music is too over-powering at times, when the scene does not require it to be. The beautiful & talented Emmanuelle Beart is ok in this movie.

2) 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut): Rating 8/10

Do I dare rate this classic great movie? Yah I think I can.

3) In the Mood For Love (by Kar Wai Wong): Rating 7/10

I finally got around to watching this movie. And it's good but not that great. The music is great, and comes on at just the right times. The mood & feel for this movie are good.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Trio of French movies

1) Le Placard (The Closet) by Francis Veber: Rating 10/10

20 minutes into the Closet, I wanted to bet that the director was the same person behind the 1998 French Hit, the Dinner Game. And sure enough, I was right. This was because both the Closet and the Dinner Game have an underlying similarity involving astute observances about how people really judge/manipulate others. Both those movies had Thierry Lhermitte playing a character who likes to have fun at the expense of others, a person who likes to toy with other’s emotions just because he can. The only current Hollywood director I can think of who makes such movies is Neil LaBute (Examples include The Shape of Things, Your Friends and Neighbours, In the Company of Men).

The Closet starts off with François Pignon (played by Daniel Auteuil) on the verge of getting fired. Despite working hard for 20 years in a Condom factory, Pignon is considered a boring person by his co-workers. And the macho Felix Santini (a fanstastic performance by Gerard Depardieu) considers Pignon an idiot and can’t wait to be rid of him. His job was the only thing holding Pignon together after his wife left him two years ago and his son refuses to acknowledge him. So when he learns he will be fired, he wants to kill himself. Thankfully his neighbour saves him and helps him with a plan to save his job. The neighbour suggests that Pignon fake coming out of ‘the closet’ -- that way he won’t get fired. And sure enough, the plan works. But things get complicated and Pignon’s dull life gets kick-started with a bang.

The movie shows how even the tiniest behavior can be judged in numerous ways by other people, and how delicate human relationships really are. It is a fine thread that everyone is walking on and sometimes it just takes a little bit to push someone off the edge or even help them to safety. There are good performances all around and the impressive Jean Rochefort (who really would have made an excellent Don Quixote in Terry Gillaim’s abandoned movie) is the company director who is baffled by Pignon’s sexual orientation.

Note: What is a sign that a foreign movie is really good? When Hollywood wants to remake it! Sure enough, the Closet is going to be remade in 2006 with Gurinder Chadha as the director.

2) Belphégor (Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre) by Jean-Paul Salome: Rating 5/10

By the end of 2004, Jean-Paul Salome is going to be better known for his movie Arsene Lupin (based on a popular French comic book about a thief who robs the rich). But in 2001, Salome directed the beautiful Sophie Marceau and the impressive Julie Christie in this Horror movie about a soul that resides in the Louvre. The trouble starts in 1935 when an evil soul escapes from a 2000 year old Egyptian Mummy casket (being transported to Marseilles). Somehow the casket makes it to the Louvre where the soul strives to make it to the nether world. In order to do so, the soul must inhabit a human body, piece 7 pieces of Egyptian artifacts, and perform an ancient ritual to complete the journey to the other world.

In the end, the movie is nothing but a gloried journey through the halls of the Louvre (and even then only the same 2-3 halls are filmed repeatedly). One of the biggest problems with my movie copy was that it was dubbed. Dubbing is always a bad idea and the original French movie with English subtitles might have better but I still doubt if it would be any more entertaining. The movie is hardly scary and is dull at parts.

3) Vidocq by Pitof: Rating 10/10

This was a surprinzingly well done movie. The movie is set in 1830 Paris at a time when conspiracies and science ran amok. The movie is shot in manufactured sets with a Digital Camera -- in this case, the combination works. One can tell that the sets are fake, but the digital camera gives everything a closer and realistic feel -- the close-up's are effective and everything seems to be surreal. Overall, the movie does feel straight out of Alan Moore's From Hell -- cobble stoned roads, a mysterious killer on the loose, opium dens, detective on the case, etc.

The movie is about the search for a mysterious killer, the alchemist, who wears a mirror-mask and dons a long black cape. The Alchemist is responsible for killing a few notable men on the Parisian society. The movie starts off with Vidocq (played by Gerard Depardieu) on the case of the alchemist when he and the Alchemist fight a duel which results in Vidocq getting killed. Then the story is told in flash-backs and how Vidocq managed to get on the trails of the Alchemist. The rest is better watched......

Note: At times, the movie set-up feels like another French movie, The Brotherhood of the Wolf. But that movie fell apart at the end, and the ending is where Vidocq manages to stay afloat.
Also, the director Pitof (birth name, Jean-Christophe Comar) made his Hollywood debut in 2004 with Catwoman. I might just have to check out Catwoman just to see what Pitof did with that material.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

One Mystic River, One Dangerous River

1) Mystic River (by Clint Eastwood): Rating 10/10.

This was a movie loved by the critics & packed with stars -- Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Lawrence Fishburne, and directed by the legendary Eastwood. The movie contained all the elements that the Oscars love -- topics of abuse, guilt, crime, redemption, misery, etc.
As a result the medai hung 'must-see' tags around this one.
So what's the verdict?
Yes the movie is worth watching! Yes, it is that good. Stephen King said that movie 'would burn in your memory'. And he is right. It leaves one with a haunting feeling.

If you let this movie get you emotionally, then you will be strung along and will feel the misery even before it happens in the movie. The only negative complain I had was with the sound -- the dialogues were barely audible in parts. This could be due to the fact that most of the dialogues were soft spoken and in whispers.

The movie starts off showing three young friends playing street hockey together. A certain 'incident' later, the movie jumps 25 years into their lives. The three kids have grown up (Penn, Robbins, Bacon) but we are not given much insight into their past 25 years. We gather little info about their lives as the movie moves along. Alternatively, we can freely fill in the gaps ourselves based on certain characteristics on display. Other than that, it's better to watch the movie without knowing the story and make your judgements along the way.

Initially, I was praising Lawrence Fishburne's character as being the most objective of the 4 men, since the other 3 were tied down by past burdens of friendship. But as the movie goes on, his objectivity proves to the undoing in some ways. If only people showed more faith, rather than jumping to conclusions.

Anyway...very good movie

2) Krai Thong (by Suthat Intaranupakorn): Rating 3/10

I was expecting something completely different from this Thai movie. I thought it was a tale about kings, warriors and love. Well it's about love all right and a different kind of warrior -- a Crocodile Hunter. And the crocodile in question is no ordinary beast, but one who can change into a human form. A B-grade horror movie with clearly fake computer simulations. And for the added exotic factor, the male monster crocodile has 2 female beauties in an underground cave to keep him company.

The title refers to Krai Thong, the warrior who hunts the human-croc down. Krai Thong finds himself married to two sisters (how this happens is hilarious to watch in itself). But Krai Thong is not happy with 2 women, he needs more. So he kills the evil human-croc and gets the underground beauties as well. One man, 4 women. Two women who live on land and two that live below land. Perfect :)

Hmm...the movie is funny when it shouldn't be.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Weekend Flicks

1) Memories of Murder (by Joon-ho Bong): Rating a solid 8/10

Memories is based on the real life Serial killings in South Korea (around 1986-87 or so). There was no clear motives for the crime & the only common link was the fact that all the victims were women (unfortunately as all serial killings seem to be about). The small town cops are not equipped to handle such a case and stumble from vague guesses to even more hazzier motives. Enter a detective from Seoul who decides to shed some light onto the case. Based on the collective efforts, the police are finally able to piece together the face of the killer & his plan. The killer's face is never shown nor are his motives revealed. And even when the police chase the killer, they are unable to do anything because of inconclusive evidence.

The movie is a gripping thriller which keeps us guessing. And the movie tries to be as objective as possible without diving into contrived situations. The ending is unlike any other ever shown in a Hollywood serial killer flick which is what makes this a very good movie. The acting, the cinematography, editing, direction are all top notch. So why is it only an 8 out of 10? Not sure. But well worth the watch.

2) Sada (by Nobuhiko Obayashi):

It had to happen someday and it did -- I finally rented a Japanese movie without english subtitles. Since I don't understand chinese either, the chinese subtitles were not any help :) The movie is about the real life of geisha Sada Abe who shocked society when she sliced off the penis of her lover and wandered the streets with it (in 1936).

From what I could gather, the movie follows her life from the first time she lost her virginity, to her first love (a true mystery man), through a series of lovers to her court case. The movie is mostly in colour with some parts in black and white. An interesting scene starts in colour, shifts partly in black and white with only Sada in color (and her lover in b&w) until the entire scene is in b&w.

3) The Dressing Room (by Sanjay Srinivas): Rating 5/10

Another cricket movie but thankfully much better than the disastrous Stumped (2003). The movie tries to show a behind the scenes look at what goes on in the players dressing room on the eve of a big match. The story is around a goodwill cricket match between India and Pakistan to be held in Srinigar. The match may not be played due to terrorist threats (a bomb had gone off earlier in the week close to the stadium). The players are expected to continue training while the two governments try to reach an agreement regarding the match.

Since the movie is a low budget flick, we are not shown the match, which is a good thing. Sometimes a low budget can be a boon as it helps the director to focus on the story. But in this case, the story is contrived and rushed to a predictable climax. There are some bright moments tucked away in this movie. Sonali Kulkarni plays a tv reporter who does a decent job. But the real gem in this flick is Tom Alter, who for decades played a villain in Bollywood flicks. One wonders why no-one ever gave him a decent role in a movie? This time around he is the coach & physio for the Indian team.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Batoru rouiaru II: Rekuiemu (2003)

Battle Royale II (by Kinji & Kenta Fukasaku): Rating 5/10

Having been a huge fan of the Original movie, I was hesistant to watch this movie because as we all know that sequels hardly live up to the original. And in this case, the sequel is muddled, confused and a plain mess. Part of the reason could be that the original director, Kinji passed away before the movie was completed. As a result, his son Kenta took up the job of finishing the movie. The movie looks to be in two different mind sets.
Also the original was based on a book which laid the foundation for the material really well. The second one had to work on an original script. Anyway, on with the review...

BRII takes place 3 years after the first one. In the first one, the adults had come up with a game to teach the youth a lesson -- every year a class of troubled youth is selected & put on an island where they to have them kill each other. Only one survivor should remain otherwise all the students would be killed. Well in the first one, there were two survivors (one male and female). The start of BRII shows us that the male student (Nanahara) has started a terrorist organization to take revenge on the adults. Nanahara is tired of adults waging wars and killing innocent children all over the world, especially Afghanistan. His terrorist organization is residing on an island (just like the island in the first one, hmmm). The adults decide to send the new group of BR students to the island to kill Nanahara.

The movie starts off as the BR game, transforms into a war movie (the landing on the island is eerily similar to Saving Private Ryan), morphs into a terrorist/political movie before turning into a tribute to Afghanistan and ending as a journey movie. Yes there are comments relating to a certain country which bombs other countries whenever it feels like it, yes this other country hardly shows any adult behaviour, but the comments do not fit in the movie. They seem forced.

On a positive note is the role of Takeuchi Riki. In the first movie, Takeshi Kitano was the impressive teacher. This time around the role needed someone with more edge, more hatred. And Takeuchi (of Dead or Alive movies) is perfect for the role. But even his evilness falters near the end and....

Enough said!! I was hugely disappointed with this movie.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Heaven, Head of State, 101 Reykjavík

1) Heaven (by Tom Tykwer): Rating 7/10.

10/10 for the first half of the movie, 4/10 for the second half.

What happens when you combine a famous German director (Run Lola Run), a legendary Polish writer (Krzysztof Kieslowski), a talented English Actress (Cate Blanchett), a rising American actor (Giovanni Ribisi), well known foreign producers (Anthony Minghella & Miramax to name a few) and put them together in an Italian movie?
A slice of Heaven? One would expect so!
But although Heaven has a very intriguing setup, the movie completely strips reasonable logic in the second half. The police station is always empty, anyone can walk in unquestioned, a person can be murdered quietly, etc.

Even though the original story was by Kieslowski, the movie has echoes of Tykwer's The Princess and the Warrior. Tykwer's Run Lola Run was fast paced and relentless, but The Princess was downright slow and reflective. And Heaven follows in the same poetic paths.
It's not a perfect movie. But it is worth seeing. Oh yah, the cinematography by Frank Griebe is stunning.

2) Head of State (by Chris Rock): Rating 4/10

Oh what a mess! Chris Rock's directorial debut is a plain mess. It does not know what it is -- a spoof, a comedy or a political satire. The movie does try to poke some well needed fun at the current American administration's attitude and policy, but it is wasted.

3) 101 Reykjavík (by Baltasar Kormákur): Rating 8/10

What can one do in a cold and dreary place? If it is always snowing, what can people do besides drink and have endless parties to forget their misery?

The movie is centered around Hlynur and his aimless life. Hlynur is almost 30, still lives at home with mom, does not have a job, nor does he know what to do with his life. His girlfriend, Hofi, is a pain and always on his case. Enter Lola: the Flamenco dancing woman who is a friend of Hlynur's mom. Lola stays with Hlynur while his mom is away, and well things happen. Upon retuning, Hlynur's mom reveals to Hlynur that she is in love with Lola. And Hlynur still has feelings for Lola. So what happens next?

The movie is oddly amusing and very watchable.

Monday, August 23, 2004

August Movie Talk

I will only focus on the commerical movies as opposed to the festival screenings. Also, next to each movie is a quick rating (out of 10). Here goes:

1) Control Room (documentary by Jehane Noujaim): 10/10, A+
This is a really good movie. It shows that despite all the negative media coverage that Al Jazeera might be the only remaining democratic media outlet on the planet. There are two sides to every story. But Al Jazeera has tried to show the story by taking the middle path. In doing so it has drawn criticism both from the Arab World and the Western World. A must-see.

2) Secret Window (*ing Johnny Depp): 5/10
If it were not for Johnny Depp, this movie would be an utter waste. It is a decent movie until the last third. What makes it terrible is the predictable ending. That is not the fault of the director though -- the movie was based on an old Stephen King story. But one wishes that a different take was done on a highly predictable conclusion.

3) Breaking News (Dai si gein) by Johnny To: 6/10
Hong Kong's happening director returns with a bang! Breaking News is dull at the start & the end but strongest in the middle, where the director superbly incorporates some of the cat-mouse-mind-games elements from his earlier work, PTU. The movie is about a few gang leaders cornered by the police in an apartment building. The police were humiliated earlier by the gang leaders, so in order to save face, they decide to control the media information and spin the news to their advantage. Each police officer has a camera in their helmet and the police control room gets to decide what to show. For example, a particular chase sequence ends when the gang members safely run into an apartment and explode a gas tank in the hall, thus keeping the police at bay. But the police only decide to show the sequence where the gang members run into the apartment and edit the explosion scene out making it look like the police won. One of the gang members captured the real events via his camera cell phone & decides to upload the information on the web from the apartment. This results in the media accusing the police of lying and escalates the mind games between the police and the gang.
The most interesting sequence of the movie features the gang leaders cooking calmly while the police await outside -- a stylish scene that will surely be copied by Hollywood in the future.

4) Samsara (by Nalin Pan): 10/10
One of the most beautiful movies I have seen this year!! Perfect. It is a long movie but manages to be entertaining throughout and ends on a philosophical note. 'How do you prevent a drop of water from drying up?'. The entire movie essentially focuses on this question. A Buddist monk decides to renounce his religious life for the worldy pleasures of sex and love. But despite getting married, he begins to realize that satisfying one desire, always leads to other desires. The movie highlights his journey but more importantly, it tackles the spiritual question from a woman's point of view as well. It is always men who are willing to get up and leave for the mountains. But what about the women they leave behind? Did anyone ask what happenned to Buddha's wife?

5) Zhou Yu's Train (by Zhou Sun): 4/10
I was so looking forward to this Li Gong flick but was hugely disappointed. The movie moves backward and forward in time, all the time splicing Li Gong's train travels with the poems of her lover. But I lost interest very quickly. Maybe one day I might revisit this one.

6) Maria Full of Grace (Joshua Marston): 6/10
First time director, Joshua Marston, made a splash with this movie. Maria, won the audience award at Sundance and newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno won the Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival. Yes, the 23 old Catalina has acted wonderfully. But what about the movie? The story is about drug mules who carry pellets in their stomach from Colombia to the USA. The movie takes a realistic approach showing Maria's life in Colombia and how in order to make some quick money, she agrees to become a mule. Anyway, this is sort of the movie the West loves to applaud and admire. But despite good acting and cinematography, the movie is ok.

7) Les Invasions barbares (aka The Barbarian Invasions) by Denys Arcand: 10/10
This is a wonderful movie by the Canadian director Arcand. It is sort of a sequel to the 1986 movie, The Decline of the American Empire. Having not seen the 1986 movie, I really liked Barbarians. A must see.

8) Drunken Master (by Woo-ping Yuen): 8/10
Jackie Chan established himself as a martial arts legend in this 1978 movie. The martial arts movies in this movie are absolutely amazing. One can see how this movie has served as 'inspiration' for a whole array of movies, including the recent Kill Bill.

9) Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (by George Clooney): 5/10
Maybe I was not in the mood, but I really lost interest in this movie after 20 minutes or so. A failed talk show writer gets recruited by the CIA for assignments around the world. Hmmm...

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Movie talk: A break from the festivals to talk of Conspiracies

Ah, what would the world be without the X-Files, Conspiracy theories and countless postings of the 'truth' on the internet? Why it would be like the world shown on TV in 'The Manchurian Candidate'!!!

This 1962 remake is updated to incorporate recent world events. The movie starts off with the 1991 Gulf War (why it is called a war is a mystery, it should be more like arranged appeasement) right up to the present day of colour coded terror alerts and constant warnings of rogue states with dangerous weapons. Jonathan Demme does a good job of incorporating Orwell's 1984, present day political stupidity and the role of presidential assassins (think Kennedy) into this multiplex movie. Denzel Washington, who always have a good screen presence, plays his role of Ben Marco in a restrained manner. His acting is never over the top and works well for this movie. Meryl Streep steals the show with her role as the caring mother and ruthless senator. Liev Schreiber is effective in his role as the conflicted, controlled Ray Shaw. The movie is interesting enough but contains few problems -- a few scenes are poorly edited while certain others are shot with terrible camera angles (some of the close-ups do not achieve the intended effects). And then some aspects of the script are contrived and simplified, most likely to keep the movie flowing. At the end of the day, it is still a commerical movie. So the script flaws are understandable.

Is the movie worth a watch? Sure, why not. It is better than recent Hollywood flicks.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Too many movies to talk about!!

So many movies, so little time! It has been a while since the last update. So brace yourself for quite a few reviews:
1) PTU (Police Tactical Unit) by Johnny To – This Hong Kong movie will surely be remade into a Hollywood version.  It came highly recommended to me but I found it disappointing.  The story is simply enough – a cop loses his gun one night through his own fault.  The cop’s friend in the PTU agrees to help him find his gun until dawn, and after that this incident would have to be reported.  What follows is a glimpse into the night life underbelly of Hong Kong – the mafia, the tensions/distrust between the Police, the CID and the PTU.  One thing is for clear – anyone out on the street at 4 am is a member of the Mafia, the Police or a petty thief. 
2) Double Vision by Kuo-fu Chen – This movie starts off really well.  A series of mysterious deaths puzzle the local police – a man is found dead on the 17th floor of his office building, his body is frozen and the autopsy indicates he was drowned, yet he never left his office; a woman is found burned in her apartment but nothing else is damaged. The story has all the elements of an X-File, and even has David Morse playing an FBI agent flown into Hong Kong to help unlock the case.  Where this movie fails is in the last 20 minutes – the mysterious deaths, the cultish story could have been a good material but the ending, argh!!! The ending ruined everything.
3) Love Actually – I didn’t mind this sugar coated candy at all.  What made it worth watching was the single scene of the British Prime Minister standing up to the American President. Good show, jolly chap.
4) Infernal Affairs by Wai Keung Lau & Sui Fai Mak – That is not a typo, it is Infernal not Internal.  This Hong Kong movie is being remade by Hollywood, and that comes as no surprise.  I am sure some Hollywood exec sold this movie as ‘Donnie Brasco meets Heat’.  We have seen moles in Mafia gang stories, we have seen criminals hidden within the police force.  But this movie combines these two elements – there is a mole in the police force and one in the Mafia.  And both the Mafia head and Police Chief come to the conclusion at the same time during a face to face meeting.  They take it as a challenge and plan to continue their regular business while trying to sniff the mole out.  What follows is a cat and mouse game.  And the person who guesses wrong, dies.  The movie was highly successful in Hong Kong and has led to two Sequels.  It is worth the watch.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Film Talk - Festival and Commercial Ones

1) EuroTrip -- 'Stupid Fun' describes this movie. Good thing I am not offended by this movie, as there are scenes which are sure to cause some people to take offense. The movie is surprisingly not as bad as it looked. The movie is not crude as American Pie but has its moments of craziness. The most hilarious scenes involve the British Soccer Hooligans, led by the effective Vinnie Jones, and the robot mime fight.

2) Love Actually -- Actually, this movie is not that bad. Sure, it is dripping in sugar, but the one scene where the British Prime Minister (played by Hugh Grant) stands up to the bully American President (played by Billy Bob Thorton) makes this worth it. Over the top near the end, but candy coated entertainment.

3) Wu Jian Dao (Infernal Affairs) -- You know a movie is good if Hollywood comes knocking to buy the remake rights of the film. The original 2002 Hong Kong movie is a sure fire thriller indeed. We have seen many movies of moles within gangsters, or moles inside the police force. But this movie has moles in both the gang and police world. And when the respective gang boss and police head find out that their group contains an insider, they simply challenge each other to see who will smoke the traitor out first. The bet is simple -- whoever loses, dies. And what follows is a cat and mouse game, a slow steady chess match.

One can see a Hollywood exec. selling this movie as 'Heat meets Donnie Brasco'. Will it work? Probably. But the original is interesting enough. Infernal Affairs 2 and 3 have been released in the last year as well.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Movie Talk -- Hum Tum, 35 minutes in

Is it possible to call a movie the worst movie ever made 35 min. in? Probably if it is a Bollywood movie. Ofcourse, it is far to easy to criticize a Bolly movie. So I will try to go easy:

1) Is it too much to expect having Indian cartoon characters in an Indian movie? The recent Shaadi Ka Ladoo had western cartoon characters. And in Hum Tum, it looks highly unprofessional to have western cartoon characters speaking Hindi dialogues. Looks like bad dubbing.

2) Why does every Hindi movie aspire to be a 'Dil Chahta Hai'? Dil Chahta Hai was great, and every other rip-off will always be a wasteful and pathetic effort.

3) If every Indian hated Boom, then why is the music for Boom ripped off for 'Hum Tum'?

4) Have Indian men in Bollywood never fallen in love? Have these Indian men never had an actual conversation with a woman in their life? If they had, then they would have know how to write dialogues and scenes for a screenplay.

5) When will foreign cities stop be misrepresented in Bolly movies?

6) Marriages. Marriages. When will marriages be stopped used as a cheap backdrop for movies?

7) Enough with Dilwale. The end.

8) Ofcourse, people still see such movies and actually like them. And then the same people think 'Boom' was a bad idea. WOW.

At this point, it seems it will take a miracle to salvage this waste of a movie. Easily one of the worst movies EVER made. And that is being kind. Ofcourse, I am the wrong person to say anything about this movie. One must have the ability to overdose on sugar to watch this. Forgive me if I like my chocolate cake with a little bit of a mocha kick.

Oh wait. Abhishek B. has just entered the movie. Surely, there is no hope for this one :)

Movie Talk - Yuva, really. Which Yuva?

Once again, the same problem, repeated again. A promising movie which falls flat because of the length (all Bollywood movies have to be more than 2.5 hours) and the lack of a valid screenplay.

A good story structure and a few good scenes put together do not make a movie. When will they ever learn? The movie starts out with the three characters interacting on the famous Calcutta bridge. Then the movie breaks into each individual story and shows how the 3 people end up on the bridge. So far so good. It is atleast an interesting try. Now in case if anyone does not know the movie is shot in Calcutta, the director has made sure that the famous bridge is in every other scene. Apparently, everything in Calcutta revolves around this famous bridge :) But where is the intellectual side of calcutta? Where are those famous coffee houses where brilliant minds met and fought about the future of the country? And when a coffee place is shown, it is Coffee Day, the new franchise template hang out.

And once the story converges back to the bridge, it starts to fall apart. Predictable would be an understatement. And the bridge fight scene also contains some CGI graphics, which really are a significant improvement over previous bolly movies. Ofcourse, one can notice the graphics when a computer generated car passes through one of the actors (Abhishek). So not a perfect blend of CGI but getting the movies are moving in the right direction apparently.

Once again, we are to lament about what could have been a good movie. Cinemaah, you are right with all your comments :)

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Movie Talk -- Different Cities, same praise

1) City of God -- This movie finally saw the light of day on an official DVD/Video release on June 8, after being delayed few times by the producers. The movie was to be released on DVD firstly in Feb, then in March, and then another April date was pushed back to June. The first 2 dates made sense in typical Hollywood fashion -- re-release an Oscar nominated movie in the theatres to grab some extra cash because of the hype. But the April postponement makes no sense. Nonetheless, the movie is finally here.

Is the movie worth the wait? Yes. Is the movie that good? Yes. Is this the sort of movie that Western critics love to praise? Yes. This is exactly the movie which the intelligent western critics can debate about -- how a third world country is ravaged by corruption, poverty, violence and lawlessness. The perception that corruption does not exist in the West is a myth -- one only needs to look at how insurance companies, lawyers, and even certain election results to know the truth. But when it comes to foreign cinema, the West judges movies with cultured lenses.

So what is the movie about? The movie outlines the slums inside and outside Rio, it shows how crime starts at the lowest level and spreads until it takes over the entire system, it details all the major players involved in drug and corruption traffacking.
There are hardly any adults in the movie with the criminal gangs ranging from 6 - 18 years of age. There are some 4 year olds with guns in their hands and some mid 20's who know to use a knife as well.

The movie, which is said to be based on a true story outlined in a book by the same name, is fact paced and shot beautifully. This is a real visual treat and the camera is used amazingly to take us on a criminal ride through Rio's underbelly, or the upper starta which feeds on the underbelly. The pacing of the story, using flashbacks, is highly effective and adds to the mood of the movie.

2) My Sassy Girl -- What is Love? How do two people meet? Why do two completely different people like each other? What happens when they start falling in love?
Some many movies have tried to answer these questions. Some succeed and some end up failing miserably.
My Sassy Girl is another such movie tackling the question of love, life and everything in between. It takes a light hearted approach with even the dramatic serious moments shown in a tender light. The movie is based on real-life internet postings about the writer's relationship with his girl-friend. And the end result is a highly watchable and enjoyable movie.
Hollywood is planning to remake this in 2006. One can wonder how much of the original story will be trashed in the Hollywood blender.

3) Musa the Warrior -- A Korean epic outlining the battles between the Yuan and Ming Dynasty in 1300's China. The movie drags on and on... For lovers of such battle epics, this one might be a useful watch; for others, missing it, will do no harm. One positive note is the expressive and perfect acting of Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hero).

4) San Geng (Three) -- A series of 3 seperate short movies by three different directors. Two of the 3 short stories have similar undertones and infact could have taken place in the same apartment complex, whereas the third one in a Thai tale.
a) Memories (by Jin-woon Kim) starts off at a fancy residential compound (complex) which proclaims to make dreams come true. A husband seems to be having nightmares and gradually we learn that the nightmares are because of his missing wife. The movie is spliced with shots of the missing wife as she tries to return back home to her life.
The two stories come together in the end but along the way are some chilling and nervy moments.
b) Going Home (by Peter Chan) -- This is the best of all the 3 stories. A cop moves to a building, slated for demolition in a month's time, with his young son. Most people are moving out and the building only seems to have one other resident. Or so it seems. What are ghosts? Can dead people be revived? What are memories? The movie is chilling at times and slowly unwinds towards a surprize but not unexpected ending.
c) The Wheel (by Nonzee Nimibutr) -- Are puppets possessed? Are curses real? Can spirits be only evil? The story takes place around a Kohn stage troupe. This is the weakest of all the three movies and stands on its from the other two.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Movie Talk -- Slash, Rip, Silence, Poetic

1) Harry Potter 3 -- Ah, how can one critize this movie? Critics are so busy gushing over this movie, maybe because they have to take own kids to see the film, maybe if they say anything bad, the newspaper would be flooded with hate mail....

So here's a review for fans of the Series -- This is the best movie of the year. It is totally fun. Time flies by in a second. You will not have more fun in a theatre. Sure, it is darker than the other two, but what a great movie!!!!

And now for a review from a sober point of view -- The movie is not as long as the other two but still needlessly drags on.  Sure it is a bit darker than the other two, but ultimately feels like a waste of time. One can only wish if like in the movie, time can be reversed and the 2.5 hours wasted on seeing this movie be gained back.

2) The Butterfly Effect – Flutter. Flutter. A butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the planet, a tidal wave results on the other side. And so goes the Chaos Theory. The Butterfly Effect uses this notion of Chaos theory to create a scenario along the lines of trying to move backwards and forwards in the Space-Time field. A rip in any part of the field will subsequently alter the forthcoming events; that is if something is changed in the past, the future will be altered accordingly. The movie moves in such rapid pace between reality, perceived reality and altered reality that the lines blur, somewhat. Does the movie work? Yes, in the story line it is trying to show. Is the movie going to be trashed by critics? Yes. The movie has all the ingredients that American critics love to bad mouth. Does the movie achieve its purpose? Yes. It shows the chilling effects if one wishes to try to change their past -- one could end up being more unhappy, more miserable or worse, one could find themselves in a situation where one can never get out of. The movie is worth watching, worth thinking about, and better, worth thanking that we didn’t take the other road in the past. Because if we had taken that other road, we would not have been here. And that surely would have been worse.

3) Elephant – A poetic tragedy. Gus Van Sant simply places his camera in the corridors of an average American high school, choosing not to take sides, choosing not to judge students, teachers, parents but simply to follow them, simply to listen to them, and simply to observe. The most chilling scene occurs when the two students arrive at the school ready to kill fellow students and teachers. The audience knows what is about to happen before it actually does -- Columbine, indeed! The surreal approach to the movie takes the edge off the horror though the Critics believe it adds more chilling effect. The movie is not chilling as it could be, but it does leave its mark. In the entire movie, there is one forced scene -- the kiss between the two boys is not needed. But in a movie which refuses to take sides, show any resolution, maybe it simply is meant to be there. How often in life do we do things which serve no purpose? The ending might leave one unsatisfied, and ask “What was the point of that movie?”. That is a difficult question to answer. But the movie deserves a look, just for the plain message that screams from the silent corridor walls – “Don’t turn a blind eye to the obvious”. In a country which promotes violence, which bombs other countries at will, which shows nothing but gun killings on regular tv, should it be a surprise that the youth (whose minds are so easily influenced) take to random killing for fun? Why is so much time spent on blaming other sources but not facing the obvious problem? Violence, hatred need to be curbed. And having guns around will never lead to any resolution.

4) Battle Royale – One of the most chilling movies ever made alongside the German movie, The Experiment. The Experiment dealt with adults placed in situations of power. But Battle Royale has young high school kids dealing with power, survival and inner violence. While Elephant might have been poetic, Royale is graphic and gory. But it is riveting, it shakes you up even if you are used to watching Yakuza slice and dice movies. The movie is based on Koushun Takami’s book of the same name. Inside the front cover, Takami wrote “I dedicate this to everyone I love. Even though it might not be appreciated”. True words indeed. How can such a work and a subsequent movie be tolerated? Well it can be. The movie presents an alternate future where the unemployed youth are a threat to the adults. So each year, the adults randomly pick a class of students and send them to a remote island to play ‘Battle Royale’. The game will be over only when a single student survives. For this to happen, the single student should kill all the other students. If a single survivor does not exist, then the necklaces around the student’s neck would explode killing every single student with no winner. The students are randomly given survival kits with each kit containing a different weapon – a gun, a knife, an axe, a frying pan, an electric stun gun, a grenade, a pair of binoculars, etc. It is up to the student how they choose the weapon. Once a student kills another, they can acquire their opponent’s weapon. Simple, isn’t it? Takeshi Kitano plays the teacher overlooking the class involved in this game. When survival is at stake, how do people change? How do young kids, already with hormones raging, react? If any of the above interests you, then this movie is worth a watch. If not, staying away will not be a problem.

5) Zatoichi – Ah, the Blind Swordsman is back. Takeshi Kitano revamps the legendary tale with computer aided tricks while paying homage to the works of Akira Kurosawa. The setup includes familiar elements – a samurai, a struggling ronin, helpless villagers, oppressive rulers, rival gangs, the village idiot who dreams of becoming a samurai, geishas seeking revenge, the inn keeper, the gamblers. But Kitano leaves his style on the movie and the result is a poetic, peaceful slumber. It is unfortunate the movie is being released on the heels of Kill Bill, as some of the sword killing scenes will be compared. But Zatoichi is the real stuff, the stuff from which Tarantino drew his inspiration, and Kitano takes the sword kills a step further than the previous Samurai filmmakers. A must watch for lovers of the genre.

6) Van Helsing – Here is a movie which people love to hate: a big summer Hollywood blockbuster. So is it really that bad? Almost. It does have some really good effects, some neat film-making, and some good story lines. Kate Beckingsale, fresh from her ‘Underworld’ role finds herself on the other side of the Vampire hunt. She has been totally misused in this role – her beauty and charm are covered up with layers of makeup and poor costumes. Hugh Jackman really does not do anything worthy in the movie except show up and say the lines. The comedic element is present, with some minor references to a Bond like gadgets lab. The story line is not bad, one wishes it could have been given the full support of better acting and better direction.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Movie Talk -- Ying Xiong (Hero)

Yimou Zhang's Hero is a modern day classic!

The Rashomon style story is complimented with philosophical words, colorful backgrounds (oozing with symbolism), poetic swordplay and brilliant expressive acting. The movie will surely draw comparisons with Crouching Tiger, but Hero stands apart because of its poetic style. There are layers to the story which are peeled off in a style similar to Rashomon.

Jet Li, Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger), Maggie Cheung (her perfect expressions are on display in every scene), Donnie Yen and Daoming Chen are the main players in the movie. Chen plays the King of Qin whose life is constantly under the threat via assassins. Three of his deadliest assassins have been killed by the humble Nameless warrior (Jet Li). The intelligent king is intrigued on how the Nameless warrior defeat all 3 enemies while his army failed in the past. The stories of the 3 killings, which are unwrapped slowly, trigger varying transformations in both the king and Nameless.

Vibrant. Poetic. Beautiful.

Movie talk -- Meenaxi: A Tale of 3 Cities

It is interesting that the movie Meenaxi suffers from the same problem as the main character shown in the movie. The main character Nawab (played wonderfully by Raghuvir Yadav) is inspired in a flash of a second and sees an entire story unfold before his eyes but when he tries to pen the story down, he suffers and is unable to extract the beauty from his mind onto paper. What a common problem most writers have!! The stories written inside the human mind are often more interesting than the words that make it on paper.

In the same manner, the story might have been highly interesting for the writers of the movie (Owais Husain and M.F Hussain) yet they cannot translate that vision onto the silver screen. A huge failure of that vision is because of the inept performance of the two lead actors (Tabu & Kunal Kapoor). It's time to state the facts -- Tabu is only useful for roles where she has to sit in a corner crying and playing the helpless woman; she is the last person who can be seductive. This movie required a woman who was seductive, a woman who haunted the mind of the writer, a woman who drove the writer mad. If the writer imagined a character like Meenaxi, then one is forced to say that the writer has no imagination. Even a juvenile writer would imagine a more exotic femme fatale than the Nawab in this movie did.

Now if the Nawab was falling for a poetic image of a woman, then Tabu still fails on that front. She is not poetic, even her body movemovements are awkard, jerky and unpleasant. No man would ever imagine such a BORING fantasy. The less the said of Kunal Kapoor, the better. It is getting highly tiring to have all the male models turned actors sounding like John Abraham. Even if the same person is dubbing for these male models, there is no attempt for creativity in the voice. The playback singers are far more talented.

None the less, Meenaxi is not a complete waste. The movie ventures into interesting areas, but it is frustrating to have such a creative attempt fail in this manner. One can clearly find trademark Santosh Sivan camera shots in the movie. Watch for those close up shots of a camera, the sand flying, the water, etc and you know that Santosh Sivan is letting us know what he is present. In reality, those close up shots have no purpose in the movie. But you can be assured that Indian movie fans will be drolling over the beauty that Sivan has to show us. The truth is the beauty of a movie depends on an array of camera shots and angles, not just some patent 'magic' moment shots which do nothing to uplift a movie from its drowing state.

Final thoughts on Meenaxi -- If the movie was reshot frame by frame with a real exotic Indian woman (namely NOT Tabu), and a trained actor (namely NOT a male-model-turned-actor-who-has-not-learned-acting), the movie might be saved. Until then, like the sands of Jaisalmer, Meenaxi fizzles harmless into the horizon.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Arsenal -- The Greatest team in English Football History

What Manchester United? The media, the fans always go ga-ga over Manchester. Before it could be attributed to David Beckham, but he is no longer there. And now it's finally time to face the truth. ARSENAL are the BEST team in England. No more questions can be asked. Enough! They have finished the 2003-04 season unbeaten. If you factor in things like how the League gave Arsenal severe punishments for merely pushing Ruud Van, how Arsenal were without Wiltord & other key players for most of the season, how Arsenal had the smallest squad in the league, then their achievement seems even more improbable.

The Gunners have the best player on the planet in Thierry Henry. Forget Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul, Nedved (of Juventus), Henry is the real deal. This is another fact the International media seems to ignore. Everyone seems to be dazzled by Real Madrid but Arsenal deserve a lot more credit than they are given.

For now, Arsene Wenger's boys are the best there are!!!!!!!!
Thank you Gunners for giving the fans a great season (the F.A. Cup and Champions Cup losses pale in comparison).

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Calling India

Well it was a typical quiet wednesday night. Then the phone rang. As I picked the phone up, the static and noise on the other side indicated, yup, this was another call from India and its growing call centers.

So I was prepared for the typical run drum routine.

Caller: "Are you Mr. []."
Me: "yes I am."
Caller: "I am calling from StarTech [or whatever the 'star' name is] and I want to ask you first if you are Indian.."
Me: "Actually I am not interested. I have got calls from you guys before."
Caller: "That's fine, I am not asking anything. I just want to know how much you pay for your long distance calls to India."
Me: "I don't call India [which is the damn truth]"
Caller: "What! You are an Indian and you don't call India?"
At this point I could have said a number of things but I have wanted to hang up on these guys for the longest time and that's what I did.

A much better answer would have been:

Me: "Do you call Spain?"
Caller: "Why would I want to call Spain?"
Me: "Exactly." At this point I should have hung up.

So this new kid was clearly not trained about the proper sales technique. But what can you expect? These new generation of kids might live in India but they are not Indian. Their lives revolve around everything American -- from the multiplex movies to eating out at Mc D's, Pizza Hut, TGIF's, etc, shopping at the brand name stores, etc. Oh yeah, let's not forget the fancy happenning cell phone. For some reason, this Indian kid was not talking in the fake American accent these guys are trained for. Maybe he thought since he was calling an Indian, there was no need to fake it up.

Just because someone has a last name of India, does he mean that person is expected to call India? Maybe this is why Gustad's 'Bombay Boys' hit more of a chord with Indians living outside of India than in India.

I have met people whose 2-3 generations have never been to India. Is there anything wrong with that? In this day and age, we are still stuck on traditional identities. A sad fact.

Oh well. Much ado about nothing. East is East, West is West. The two shall meet but apparently not via a phone line.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Movie Talk

Some thoughts on recent movies:

1) The Corporation -- the 2.5 hour documentary has some chilling insights into the cruel greedy corporate world. Unfortunately, the film runs a little longer than it should. The points are hammered home in the first 30 min or so, with the remaining time spent on repeating the same things or pursuing examples which don't serve a purpose.
However, for people who have never seen anything wrong with the corporate world, this one sided view offers a wake up call. There is nothing wrong with presenting this lop-sided view as the media is constantly busy trying to shove views down people's throats.
The film contains interesting interviews with Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Vandana Shiva.

2) Kill Bill Volume 2: The second half of a single movie is interesting enough, though it drags on a wee bit longer than it should have. For pure kicks, the first movie is a relentless rush. The second one, although slower, focuses on interesting character development and witty dialogues. Die Hard QT fans swear by this movie. But despite some great scenes, it seems QT should have listened to Miramax and edited the movie into a single version, with the remaining 45 minutes or so available on DVD.
Instead we have 2 movies, and 3 possible DVD's. QT fans have no problem with that. But this is a dangerous precendent set by a film studio -- producers have power to slice a movie openly as they please and the general public are not allowed to complain.

3) Big Fish: What's the big deal? Really. What is so great about this? Nothing. One of the most boring movies in recent times. Not according to the critics though.

4) Bubba Ho-Tep: An ancient Egyptian mummy in cowboy boots. Hee Haw. Elvis is alive, and so is JFK, although the former president is stuck in someone else's body. Sounds like fun, don't it? Well it ain't. Neat germ of an idea. But....

5) The House of Sand & Fog: An interesting watch. Not a chilling thrilling as the critics made it out to be, but yes, the movie does have an interesting end.

6) Something's Got to Give: And it does. Diane Keaton is fab in this one. Sure, the movie is predictable. It's meant to be. If you miss this, nothing is lost. If you see it, nothing really is gained there.

7) The Passion of the Christ: Hmmm...what can you say about this one? It is not a pleasant watch. Is it worth watching? If you skip it, you don't miss much. If you do see it, you will see an interesting perspective of the horrible physical suffering of Christ. Pure, raw suffering -- flogging, blood, skin coming off, nails being driven through a palm.

8) Hellboy -- Has some humour with some interesting moments. Not an edge of the seat movie. But a more mature Comic book movie than some others in the genre.

9) Main Hoon Ha -- good for you man. You 'can be' as much as you want man. I really don't care. For the record, 'main bhi hoon na'. What do you have to say about that?

10) Don't tempt me -- Ok, I won't. But Penelope Cruz does tempt. An interesting view of Heaven, Hell, Angels in heels, and the rest in between. Along the lines of Kevin Smith's 'Dogma'.

Scribbles and Ramblings

As things begin, so must this blog. Here we go.
History will remind us how special this week was:
1) Valencia crowned Liga Champions after an astonishing collapse by Real. Nothing fake about the win there -- pure hardwork.
2) Arsenal remained unbeaten after 37 games. Thanks to Reyes -- the Spanish connection.
3) Werder Bremen won the Bundesliga in the best possible manner, a 3-1 win away to defending champs, Bayern Munich. The result left no doubt about the best team in Germany.
4) Milan & Roma take dives. But will it be enough for Perugia?
5) 5 in a row. Zoom Zoom.
6) 3-2 overtime win for the red hot Flames. Sharks or no sharks.
7) Stand off. Enough said!!!