Sunday, January 30, 2005

2005 -- New year, new movies

Back to movie watching!

1) Ocean’s Twelve – Rating 9/10 for Entertainment value, Story (what story?)

This was the first Hollywood movie I have seen in Madrid (or in Europe for that matter). It was difficult to find a theatre which showed movies in English but I managed to find the single theatre that showed English movies with Spanish subtitles as opposed to all the other theatres which have Hollywood movies dubbed in Spanish.

If I had not seen this movie in Europe I would have hated it. This movie is not even close to the cool factor of Ocean’s Eleven. But all the European references (two mentions of Madrid), one huge plug for Arsenal, the amazing selection of Gotan Project’s music and the jazzy role given to Vincent Cassel made this enjoyable. There is a complete lack of story and the screenplay is to be taken with a huge slice of disbelief.

2) The 39 Steps (1935 movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock) – Rating 10/10

This is vintage Hitchcock. Despite being an early film, it is technically excellent. A simple story which movies at a brisk pace. A man is watching a theatre show. A gunshot causes commotion and as he leaves the theatre, he runs into a woman who asks to leave with him. Since he is taken by her, he agrees. When he reaches home, the woman mentions that she was the one who fired the gun. Why? Because she is a spy and her life is in danger. Ofcourse, the man does not believe her and laughs it off. She mentions that the two men standing on the road across his apartment are trying to kill her (and indeed there are two men underneath the street light). In the middle of the night, the man is woken up as the woman blurts something and falls dead on his bed. He then notices the knife stuffed in her back. From there on, he tries piecing what she said and in the morning, he finds himself as a wanted fugitive. Just a good movie!!!
One can see how in the upcoming decades a lot of films 'borrowed' Hitchcock's elements from this movie.

3) Man on the Train (original title Homme du train, directed by Patrice Leconte)

I started watching this movie but due to a DVD technical problem, most of the opening scenes were skipped. I never did finish this movie but it looked dull enough. I might revisit it one day.

4) Beyond Borders (directed by Martin Campbell) – Rating 6/10

Such promise but a real disappointment in the end! The tag line leads us to believe this is a love story set against the backdrop of some of the World’s dangerous spots – Ethiopia, Cambodia and Chechnya. But the big problem is that the love story never feels real and the entire plot seems forced.

5) A World Without Thieves (original title Tian Xia Wu Zei directed by Xiaogang Feng) – Rating 9/10

This is hugely enjoyable movie except the ending. Andy Lau and Rene Liu are two con artists who excel in their field. But Rene’s character is having doubts and wants to quit -- she even insists on visiting a Tibetan monastery to pray. When she finds out that her co-partner stole from innocent people at the temple, she is disgusted. She briefly parts ways where she encounters a village simpleton who helps her (they don’t get much simpler than this guy). After she gets back together with her co-thief, they find themselves at a train station seething with thieves. The village simpleton is also looking to catch the same train and is taking his entire life savings with him – he wants to return to the village, buy a house and get married. Everyone warns the simpleton not to take the money on the train as there are thieves around. To prove that there are no thieves, he loudly announces at the train station that how much money he is carrying. Such a public announcement attracts all the thieves. The con couple take to him and look out after him (the woman treats the simpleton like her brother and the male counterpart wants to steal the simpleton’s money to teach him about life). But when another rival thieves group go after the money, the movie develops in a rivalry contest between the two groups of thieves. A very good movie! And then there is the ending. No one in Hollywood or Bollywood will have guts to make such an ending. In some ways it is poetic and given the movie context, it is logical.

6) 2046 (directed by Kar Wai Wong)

The supposed sequel to 2000’s In the Mood for Love is an intriguing watch. However, since the movie did not come with any English subtitles I am not yet qualified to fully rate it. One can clearly find traces of In the Mood for love in this flick. For the record, Ziyi Zhang is absolutely perfect in her role.

7) Raincoat (directed by Rituparno Ghosh): 9/10

This is a play. No question about it. One only wishes it was a pure play as that would have saved the horrible flashbacks which add nothing to the movie. That being said, it is a very good story indeed. But what spoiled the movie for me was the poor work of Ashwariya. I don’t know if I should blame her or the director or both. Ashwariya’s character is supposed to be a simple villager yet in the flaskbacks (before she moved to the city) every sentence spoken by her contains words of perfect English and her manners show plenty of sophistication. Yet when she movies to a big city as Calcutta, she behaves more like a villager than she did while living in the village! She claims not to know any English but every now and then, she speaks some words with perfect English such as ‘Dietitian’ and yet in some words her village accent returns (like ‘phone’). Her dress sense seems to represent complete abandon, maybe to point towards her village care free sense of life?

Why am I being so harsh on such a good movie indeed? I have to. Given how much praise is heaped onto Rituparno and Ms. Rai, one should expect a completely polished product with no room for errors. Yet there are errors. That being said, Ajay Devgan is perfect, as is Annu Kapoor.

8) Other Bollywood flicks:

Musafir – Good idea despite a few Hollywood copied scenes. However, poor direction, lack of acting from the actresses and a dull screenplay are the bad parts. Heck, even the item songs are badly choreographed.

Naach – Shades of Rangeela all over the movie. It starts off really good but the last 30 minutes are a drag. If the main point of the movie is to portray dance as an art form (be it expressionism, ballet), then how come at the crunch moment, the dances are reduced to traditional Bollywood item numbers? There are some scenes of sheer goodness though.

Hulchul – Surprizingly I enjoyed this more than the above two movies. A lot of parallels with Priyadarshan’s ‘Doli Saja Ke Rakhana’. A good watch overall.

Swades – The less said the better. It could have been a good movie if it was not busy preaching a sermon every few minutes. Is it so hard to make an honest real movie? Apparently. This movie tried to Bollywood-ize reality and that never works.

9) The Whole Ten Yards – Rating 4/10

I really loved the original but this sequel is plain bad. There are a few genuine funny scenes but overall it is a highly dull flick.