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Avatar 3D December 19, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Cinema means different things to different people. For some, it is about the story. For some, it is about entertainment. For some, it is about technique. For me, it is about the imagination. It is about the effective translation of a vision. And ultimately, it is about the experience.

As far as imagination and experience goes, Avatar is an unparalleled accomplishment. Writer-Director James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator 2) creates a new world that makes the best use of the new technology that he has helped pioneer over the last decade. Pandora (the alien world created for this film) is a masterpiece that sells 3D like nothing ever has in the past.

After Titanic, Cameron once again takes a story with universal appeal  (not to mention the social relevance) and mounts it on a gigantic scale. Cameron immerses you in this new world and the technology is never really at the forefront (except in the logical part of your brain that might tell you it is make-believe). I didn’t really know how involved I was in the film till Pandora was attacked and the pain felt almost tangible.

With motion capture, it is always hard to assess an actor’s performance but it seems much easier with Avatar. Zoe Saldaña (Star Trek) is only seen in her Na’vi (the inhabitants of Pandora) form and stands out as Neytiri. Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation) plays an able Jake Sully.

It goes without saying that this is an experience that no one should miss. If you are planning to watch this and you are not aware of the technology behind it, my sincere request would be to read a little bit about it to allow yourself to really appreciate a mammoth achievement in filmmaking. And try your best to watch it in IMAX 3D.

Movie Roundup: 18/12/2009 December 18, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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1) True Crime (1999)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Isaiah Washington

Definitely among Eastwood’s lesser works, this one’s just an above average drama-thriller about a reporter trying to save a death row inmate from execution. Works mostly for Eastwood’s presence – can be easily skipped otherwise.

2) Below (2002)
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Davis, Olivia Williams

A really well made horror flick about a crew trapped in a submarine under water and – creepy stuff whose explanations seem to lie in secrets held by certain members of the crew. BTW, this flick was written and produced by Darren Aronofsky. It featured in some year-end list of the best sci-fi films of the decade and that’s why I checked it out in the first place.

3) Lorenzo’s Oil (1992)
Directed By: George Miller
Cast: Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Peter Ustinov

I really have mixed feelings about this one. If it weren’t “based on a true story” this would have been in my list of most emotionally manipulative movies ever. Lorenzo’s Oil traces the story of the Odones who perseverance against all odds to find a cure for their son Lorenzo’s debilitating ALD syndrome. It is incredible what they ultimately achieve but portraying it as an overly triumphant battle against an unjust and uncaring world seems too contrived. I honestly felt that a few of the alternative viewpoints presented by other characters to the Odones were quite apt given their circumstances. On the whole it’s a really engaging watch and you do get to learn a thing or two about biochemistry. This film came out in 1992 just a few years after the original set of events transpired. Once you watch this I am sure you’d want to know what ultimately happened to Lorenzo in real life.

Movie Roundup: 16/12/2009 December 16, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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1) Chicago (2002)
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah

Now this is what I call a musical!!! Not that I’ve a lot of them to be able to judge but from what I’ve seen this completely stands out be it the format or the entertainment quotient. A satirical take on media and celebrity fame, this one is embellished with awesomely choreographed numbers (by Director Rob Marshall himself) commendably performed by the cast. I only checked this out due to the initial buzz generated by the first trailer of “Nine” – which is getting mixed reviews right now but still managed to bag prominent nominations as the awards season begin. You should check this out even if you are apprehensive about musicals – this  just might be the one which might would your conception about them.

2) Sneakers (1992)
Directed By: Phil Alden Robinson
Cast: Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, River Phoenix, David Strathairn, Sidney Poitier, Mary McDonnel

Sneakers is the ideal hi-tech heist flick. It has everything you’d want in one – unbelievable plot and gadgetry, fast pacing, loads of humor and excitement (and as always) a few words about friendship and loyalty. The charming cast is an icing on the cake. Also check out James Horner’s catchy theme.

3) Death of a President (2006)
Directed By: Gabriel Range
Cast: Hend Ayoub, Brian Boland, Becky Ann Baker

It’s amazing what these guys have achieved with their 2 million budget. Still having been publicized as the most controversial film of the year/decade – I wished it went much further than the usual post 9-11 flicks. The shock value of the premise – the assassination of the then President George W. Bush and its aftermath – works very well; especially the way they’ve used the mocumentary format. The visual effects are superb and the movie also is quite effective as a thriller – much better than other films dealing with similar themes. Tone down your expectations about what you’ve heard about this one and you’ll surely relish it.

Movie Roundup: 15/12/2009 December 15, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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1) Terms of Endearment (1983)
Directed By: James L. Brooks
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels, Danny DeVito

Now this one’s a real tearjerker. Most of the film feels like one of those familiar indies about dysfunctional families with quirky characters but then it gets so real when death comes into the picture…it becomes really hard not to be moved. This is one of the really few movies where I had a tough time stopping my tears. And it has this amazing theme (btw a really bad version of this plays as the call waiting tune of a mobile service provider – Airtel or Idea I think!) which is so evocative – especially once you’ve seen the film. If you objectively look at it, the whole “terminal illness” angle seems manipulative but like I said, it seems so believable that you won’t have a reason to complain. Quite an unforgettable film!

2) Role Models (2008)
Directed By: David Wain
Cast: Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Jane Lynch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb’e J. Thompson

A comedy in the Apatow tradition – far less outrageous yet packs in a lot of crowd pleasing laughs. Rudd and Scott end up in a community service program where they have to pair up with “troubled” kids to mentor and bond with them. Fun ensues with all the familiar themes you come to expect with such films. I liked this one a lot more than other prominent comedies which made a splash last year.

3) The Lost Boys (1987)
Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland

You can’t escape at least a few of the big budget vampire (close cousins also include fallen angels, zombies, werewolves) movies ready to invade the screens in the next couple of years – and if you’ve also taken an oath to stay away from the Twilight Saga; then “The Lost Boys” is your perfectly respectable initiation into the genre. It might not be the purist’s idea of a vampire flick (it might even be seen as a parody) but I couldn’t bother about that as long as it kept me entertained. The Coreys are absolutely hilarious but don’t go near those direct-to-DVD sequels just because their names are associated with them.

Inglorious Basterds October 14, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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One of the most visible and appealing aspects of Tarantino’s films are those long winding conversations – absolutely having nothing do with the plot (if any) yet turn out to be the most memorable parts. Technically, Inglorious Basterds happens to be a montage of just such exchanges – the difference being that now they do have to do something with the film. A Tarantino enthusiast couldn’t ask for more so it isn’t an understatement to say that Basterds is an instant classic. But be warned if you are not accustomed to QT – the constant grumbles and a few walkouts in the auditorium weren’t too surprising to me.

When Tarantino announced he’d be making a World War II movie it made almost everyone curious (with a little disbelief). Basterds never gives a damn to convention – what you see in the trailer is rather the tamest part. The very first conversation – which I think lasts for about fifteen minutes gives you a hint of things to come. For someone who has seen the movie, it is really hard to describe the content and yet convince someone who hasn’t seen it; that Basterds is one of the most riveting thrillers in recent memory.

Unsurprisingly, this film like every film QT has made comes with its share of memorable characters. Christoph Waltz is the name on everyone’s lips and rightly so. Hans Land aka “The Jew Hunter” is to Basterds what the Joker was to The Dark Knight – maybe more. Evil was never so sexy. French actress Melanie Laurent is super as Shosanna Dreyfus. I hope we get to see more of her now in mainstream Hollywood. Though playing the lead, Brad Pitt seemed relatively sidelined but he proves yet again what a riot he can be when he’s funny. There’s a huge bunch of supporting characters – Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Eli Roth, Omar Doom to name a few who perform admirably well.

Inglorious Basterds is yet another maverick piece of work from Quentin Tarantino – who expectedly subverts the genre to give us another memorable film. Oh..as usual he manages to fit in some great soundtracks.

Quel maledetto treno blindato (The Inglorious Bastards) August 21, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Italian, Movies, Reviews.
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In anticipation for Quentin Tarantino’s latest film (it releases today), a local theater recently arranged a screening of Enzo Castellari’s 1978 film, which is the inspiration for the title and part of the premise. This is a fun film that is filled with action, excitement and humor. It isn’t the most sophisticated piece of filmmaking but a very well-executed one nonetheless.

Think of it as a crass, crazy version of The Dirty Dozen. A group of American soldiers are being shipped off to a military prison when they are attacked by the Germans. In the ensuing melee, they escape. As they try to get to the safety of Switzerland, they are caught up in a mission to steal a warhead from under the Nazis’ noses.

Armed with a promising premise for an entertaining movie, Castellari rarely deviates from the main plot and ensures that the film chugs along at a rapid pace. Even the ridiculous love track is so short and inconspicuous that it doesn’t make much of a difference despite the fact that it is totally unwarranted and is inelegantly crammed into the script. While this isn’t the sort of film where you’d nitpick the flaws, the pace and focus surely make it easier to overlook them.

If you’re really looking forward to QT’s Inglourious Basterds, this one should raise your excitement levels. It certainly whetted my appetite. Even otherwise, this is an amusing adventure that you should enjoy unless you expect your exploitation films to be more refined.