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Gran Torino June 24, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Whether this was Clint Eastwood’s final appearance on screen or not is still not clear; either ways Gran Torino marks a grand culmination of what Eastwood has represented through his characters all these years. There was wild speculation much before its release that Gran Torino might be the final “Dirty Harry” flick. The initial promos didn’t do much to suggest otherwise. It doesn’t really matter because Walt Kowalski preserves Eastwood’s legacy as good as a “Dirty Harry” or a “Man with No Name”.

Now, if you aren’t a fan of the legend called Clint Eastwood there is really nothing to look forward to from this movie. Walt Kowalski is a Korean War Vet – the bitter experience (it is suggested) of which turns him into a guy who is pretty cynical and angry with the entire world around him – in other words – Vintage Eastwood! Circumstances lead to the blossoming of an unexpected relationship with his Hmong (immigrants/refugees from war-torn Laos) neighbors which culminates finally in a good ol’ cinematic redemption for Kowalski.

I absolutely loved this one purely because of Eastwoods towering presence in a role which so well celebrates his on-screen persona – that he is behind the camera as well is an added bonus. The supporting cast of Ahney Her, Bee vang, Christopher Carley and John Carroll Lynch also do quite well. Gran Torino is a simple yet remarkably strong film built around the aura of its protagonist. It is no doubt one of Clint Eastwoods’s greatest outings as an actor and that’s what makes it a classic of sorts.

Gunde Jhallumandi April 13, 2009

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Director Madan’s most recent venture is a romantic comedy about a girl who creates an imaginary boyfriend to avoid the temptation of love and a village simpleton who goes to the city to get a degree that will allow him to become the Sarpanch of his village. As you might imagine, they fall in love and the imaginary boyfriend plays the most important part in the development of their relationship.

Debutant Aditi Sharma isn’t bad but Uday Kiran (who has gained a lot of weight) isn’t all that watchable anymore. The cast isn’t one of the film’s assets but its music is. Keeravani’s soundtrack is a mixed bag but has a couple of really good tunes. Telusa Manasa is a signature Keeravani melody and equally interesting is the naughty Pavada Kastha but its evocative lyrics are completely wasted as the song is played in the background while the opening credits roll.

Unlike Madan’s previous venture, Pellaina Kothalo, which was quite bearable and was based on an identifiable premise, this one is all contrived. As the absurd premise clearly manifests, the film aims to be a light entertainer and has a lot of farcical moments. Some of the silliness puts a smile on your face as does some of the dialogue but it has its share of irritating moments too. I’d put this in the “watch it if you really have nothing better to see” category.

Rachel Getting Married March 23, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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As it is obvious from the title, Rachel (Rosemary DeWitt) is getting married over the weekend. Everything seems to be in place except for the fact that her sister Kym (Anne Hathaway) is also returning from rehab. Kym makes a lot of people around her visibly uncomfortable; and as we come to know later, simply having been to rehab isn’t just the reason. There is one incident mainly which seems to be the cause of constant consternation and subsequently pent up frustrations in the family come to the fore as the day of Rachel’s wedding nears.

The film however is shot more like a docudrama which covers every trivial incident in the household over that period. That somehow didn’t work for me because most of film revolves around those offputting wedding rituals involving equally irritating characters. That probably seems deliberate because I just happened to read in Wikipedia that Jonathan Demme loved Jenny Lumet’s (daughter of Sidney Lumet) script precisely because of her lack of concern for making the characters likeable. That’s definitely true because Kym happens to be the only person you’d want to sympathize with – the main reason for that also could be that Anne Hathaway is just too good.The film only comes to life only when she is on screen. Apart from her Rosemary DeWitt as Rachel is also very impressive.

I also loved the score (Donald Harrison Jr. and Zafer Tawil) – especially the violin piece during the end credits. On the whole I didn’t find this film as engaging as other dysfunctional family flicks I’ve seen before but is still worth a watch for the performances of its leading ladies.

Revolutionary Road March 9, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Every now and then we always love asking ourselves that dreaded question “Is this what I really want to do my whole life?”. Especially if your work involves sitting behind a desk then this pesky question troubles you all the more often. Well, as everyone also knows the answer to that question doesn’t quite amount to the inspirational stories of a few select who “find their calling” in life nor to those people who actually believe/delude themselves that what they currently do is actually what they love to do. And then there are those who don’t give a damn about their “true calling” and steer through life as circumstances warrant.

Revolutionary Road is about a couple who end up epotimizing what can horribly go wrong when each of those answers are adopted at the wrong moment. Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) seem to have reached a dead end once they move into the suburbs on the arrival of their first baby. Frank is constantly coplaining about his job, posing himself the same question mentioned above while April has nothing to look forward to in her new setting. As a panacea to both their problems, she comes up with the idea of giving everything up and moving to Paris (the place where Frank always wanted to go) and let Frank figure out what he ultimately wants to do while she finds a secretarial job. This rosy plan seems obviously impractical to everyone around except for the “lunatic Ph.D” guy who lauds them for having the guts to rise above their humdrum suburban existence. Frank and April seem to be ready to carry out their plan against all odds when something happens which calls into question everything which led them to this decision in the first place.

If you actually stepped into the movie after a considerable amount of time it would appear to you that Revolutionary Road is just a well made drama about marital discord and that is what you’ve probably heard about the movie too. But this film is much more than that. Although the setting seems to be somewhere in postwar fifties the problem it deals with is more relevant than ever today. The whole essence of the film is beautifully captured in its tagline – “How can you break free without breaking apart?” Frank and April’s answer to that question is well – disturbing to say the least.

The events on screen might seem a bit too theatrical but the powerhouse performances of DiCaprio and Winslet overwhelm everything else so absolutely that you can actually feel the whole thing happen right in front of you. Thomas Newman’s score makes it all the more haunting. Revolutionary Road is yet another amazing offering from Sam Mendes. Apart from being wonderfully unsettling, it is the only movie in a long time which actually made me think. Even if nothing of this excites you, still watch Revolutionary Road because it’s still one heck of a gripping drama even if you strip away the intellectual baggage.

The Wrestler March 3, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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If at some point in your life you’ve been hooked to Pro Wrestling and always longed that somebody make a film centered around this sport – and I mean one which isn’t a silly flick about fanboys; then you’re in luck. Darren Aronofsky’s acclaimed film is a much welcome entity in the sports underdog genre.

Sure it faithfully adheres to the stock elements in this genre – a down and out wrestler (“Randy the Ram”) trying to connect with his estranged daughter and whose only confidant is a stripper (“with a heart of gold” of course!). What makes the film notches above any similar flick you might have seen is the unbelievably authentic performance of Mickey Rourke. His being a professional boxer might have helped him to an extent to physically prepare for the role but that’s just one part of the story. As the has-been trying to find keep his life from falling apart further Rourke is absolutely convincing and really makes you feel for him. There are times you feel things getting a bit too melodramatic but thankfully those moments never go out of hand.

The best part centres around the wrestling bouts themselves. The staged brutality to entertain the spectators (the no-holds-barred hardcore match especially) in contrast to the unbelievable camaraderie between the players backstage is something which amazes you. I am not quite sure if that sort of thing exists in the big professional leagues (WWE, TNA et al). Given the physical onslaught the wrestlers go through and the corresponding “care” their bodies need to be given to withstand that; no wonder you hear about so many premature deaths and emotionally disturbing acts.

Though I stopped following the sport a few years back, I remember a lot of people who used to ask me (and everyone else who watched it) why I would be excited about something which is obviously “fake”. I don’t think I had a clear answer back then or even now – it’s akin to asking why one loves a movie even though you know everything is “fake” or “staged”. Anyways, Rourke apart there is also Marisa Tomei – who continues her newfound tradition of appearing naked in great films. She and Evan Rachel Wood just fill the customary supporting parts and nothing more is expected of them.

I also liked the way the camera follows behind Rourke most of the time – it gives that mockumentary feel which makes Randy “The Ram” look even more authentic. Aronofsky delivers one of the best redemption movies ever and if not for anything else Mickey Rourke’s tour de force act alone makes it a must watch.

Milk February 23, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to any public office, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk is the story of his life, his triumph, his activism and his unfortunate death.

Written by Dustin Lance Black and directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, Paranoid Park), Milk is an affecting, moving film. The period and the gay rights movement are captured very well and the audience can sympathize with the problems of being openly gay during the period.

But this is ultimately the story of one man and Sean Penn portrays him brilliantly. I have witnessed a few of Penn’s performances before this one, but here he is a completely different person and you only see Harvey Milk after a while. The film also features admirable supporting turns from Josh Brolin (W, American Gangster), James Franco (Spider-Man 3, Pineapple Express) and Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer).

Apart from his political life, the film also tracks his personal life and relationships. This helps the audience relate to Milk as an ordinary person as opposed to a hero. It also helps the straight folks in the audience who do not have gay friends and do not understand how their lives function to find them to be just like everyone else.

Milk has a great story to tell and features a knockout performance from Sean Penn. It captures an important period in history of the gay rights movement and the fundamental problem of fighting for your rights has universal appeal. Watch it if the idea of a docudrama based on a real life personality appeals to you.