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Fooled by a Bad Trailer March 25, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Films, Movies, Reviews.
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If you happened to watch the trailer for Jim Sheridan’s “Brothers” and decide to check out the film – the only reason could be to find out why such a stellar cast and director are associated with such a beaten-to-death plot line. This is a film where you can make creepily accurate predictions about what is going to happen and when. The surprise is that the film actually works – it doesn’t really soar too high but the differential between what you expect and what you get is large enough not to have any complaints. It is one of those rare films where every rule in the book is followed faithfully but still the outcome seems fresh enough to warrant a look.

Coming to following “every rule in the book” here’s another one which just doesn’t turn out to be watchable but is undoubtedly one of the best films in its genre. I am talking about Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut “Whip It” with an awesome all-female cast led by Ellen Page. “Whip It” combines the familiar genres of the sports underdog and coming-of-age teenage flicks to concoct a delightful entertainer. I never really knew what Women’s Roller Derby was before but this was one of my best sport-in-a-movie experience for me. I feel really bad this was totally ignored at the box office despite overwhelmingly positive reviews (maybe the lackluster promos should be blamed for not generating enough interest). Has to be the happiest film I’ve seen in a long time – don’t miss it.

Movie Roundup: 03/02/2010 February 3, 2010

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1) Up in the Air (2009)
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

Reitman’s latest is an enjoyable cynical take on relationships (or the lack of it) centered around its quirky lead (played with ease by George Clooney) who’s job is to fire people “with a personal touch” and accumulate airline miles. Down the line it starts to get a bit too familiar to my liking but there are pleasant surprises towards the end. Anna Kendrick excels in a supporting part.

2) The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
Director: Grant Heslov
Cast: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey

A satirical look at non-traditional techniques used by the US Defense establishment to turn their men into Jedi warriors. Led by an excellent cast, the movie is fun most of the times – and equally unbelievable given that the premise is “based on true events”. It loses steam in its final portions but still worth a watch for its unique premise.

3) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Neil Patrick Harris, James Caan

I’d prefer to settle for actual meatballs. For me Cloudy… was only amusing in parts. Though it had most elements of any successful animation flick in place it seemed to me like just another Pixar wannabe. I’ve read somewhere that quite a few of the sight gags work mainly in 3D – which could be one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy it on DVD.

Movie Roundup: 29/01/2010 January 29, 2010

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1) Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans (2009)
Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer

When Nicolas Cage is stoned and on the brink of a breakdown one can safely assume that it is one of the very few good films he makes to redeem himself. Bad Lieutenant easily qualifies for that. A regular gritty cop drama elevated singularly by Cage’s performance.

2) Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong

With the ultimate geek combo of Downey Jr, Law and Ritchie this film would still have made the cut even if it was far less impressive than what it is. Except for Holmes purists who might take exception to Ritchie’s treatment I don’t see how one cannot like it. A perfect blend of action, suspense and humor – I absolutely loved it and it definitely ranks among the best flicks of the year gone by…..bring on the sequels!

3) District 9 (2009)
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James

Worth all the hype it deserves, District 9 is an visually stunning and though provoking sci-fi flick which defies a lot of traditions in the genre. The premise might seem familiar with the usual themes of evil corporations but Blomkamp’s visual narrative takes it to a different level. It’s hard to get this film out of your head for a very long time after seeing it.

Movie Roundup: 18/01/2010 January 18, 2010

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1) The Last House on the Left (2009)
Director: Dennis Iliadis
Cast: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Sara Paxton, Aaron Paul

I don’t think one has to see Wes Craven’s original to figure out how crappy this remake is. It’s just another of those mediocre alone-in-a-house-stalker thrillers. If it weren’t the remake of a famous film, nobody would have even been talking about it. Skip it unless you are game for anything with a horror label.

2) K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard

The “Based on a True Story” part of the film was quite disputed but nevertheless this one’s a pretty gripping cold war submarine thriller about a famed Russian sub called K-19 which ends up in troubled waters – faced with the choice of its crew asking for American assistance or pull off an impossible nuclear missile fix under the command of its eccentric captain (Harrison Ford). It’s mostly enjoyable but could have been shorter.

3) (500) Days of Summer (2009)
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

Not quite the anti-romcom I expected – it’s more of a cleverly designed one where the narrative and quirkiness disguise its mundane premise. Despite my bias against the genre, I did enjoy it a lot thanks to the clever non-linear screenplay and winning performances from the lead pair. For chick-flick lovers, it can’t get better than this – for others this is one of the rare films you’d enjoy without embarrassment. Also check out Chlo√ę Moretz (from the upcoming Kick-Ass) in a hilarious supporting role.

Movie Roundup: 11/01/2010 January 11, 2010

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1) Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Cast: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt

An ex-IRA member is scheduled to come face-to-face with the vengeful brother of one of his victims after 33 years….for some “reconciliation” TV documentary. It’s quite interesting and has some funny moments (especially the retakes during the filming) but loses steam midway. The guilt-redemption theme doesn’t work that well as expected – watchable on the whole.

2) Serenity (2005)
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin

I remember reading a lot of good things about this during its release, but that never translated to box office gold. Nevertheless, Serenity is one of the most entertaining sci-fi flicks I’ve ever seen. Loads of action and humor with some very impressive SFX given its medium budget. This little gem is a must watch if sci-fi is your genre.

3) Point Break (1991)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, Lori Petty

Keanu Reeves in his first major action role stars as an FBI rookie out to nab a group of serial bank robbers. His quest leads him to befriend a bunch of surfers which ensures you get a heady dose of alternating action and surfing sequences. Viewed today, the film clearly seems to mark the transition between the eighties and nineties action flick incorporating elements from both. I didn’t dig the surfing part much but the rest of the action makes it a great watch.

Movie Roundup: 08/01/2010 January 8, 2010

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1) The Tenant (1976)
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas

Polanski finds himself as the new renter of a creepy looking apartment which played host to its previous occupant leaping out of its window. Slowly things start happening to the new tenant. For someone watching the movie today, the plot might seem a little dated but Polanski the director makes it work effectively even if Polanski the actor isn’t quite up to the mark. This is supposed to be the third part of his “Apartment Trilogy” after Rosemary’ Baby and Repulsion. I’ve only seen Rosemary’s Baby and I can say “The Tenant” doesn’t quite match the standards of that one, it is still a great psychological thriller.

2) Misery (1990)
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: James Caan, Cathy Bates, Lauren Bacall

Being stuck with your “number 1 fan” isn’t quite the experience one would want to have if the “fan” in question is Annie Wilkes. Kathy Bates in her Oscar winning role – brings to life one of the scariest on-screen characters in this Stephen King adaptation. This is also considered to be one of the best films based on the author’s work. A great thriller which is far scarier than a lot of so-called “horror” flicks.

3) Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Director: Don Siegel
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan

A superb prison break movie. Far better than your average seventies thriller with Siegel-Eastwood  in top form.

4) Play Misty for Me (1971)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills

Eastwood’s first directorial venture was the precursor of all “crazy woman stalker” flicks and can still hold its own – especially for a genre which is well past its overkill stage.

5) 2012 (2009)
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson

Emmerich is back in form with the mother of all disaster movies but I seem to have lost interest in them for a while now. And sequences of ground breaking away as our protagonists run/drive/take-off do get monotonous after a while. What also pissed me off completely even before watching the film; is the fact that out here discussing the “scientific evidence” about its content was considered to be the greatest intellectual activity by a large number of people (I was a victim at least twice). If all you expect is a disaster flick, this more than works.