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Movie Roundup: 15/04/2010 April 15, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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This weekend I checked out Green Zone. If not anything else, the cold reception which greeted this film only only confirms the misgivings I had about The Hurt Locker. Green Zone brings back the awesomeness of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon once more and needless to say – their collaboration works big time yet again. The result is something which works quite well as a thinking person’s Iraq War Drama as well a purely visceral and relentless action thriller.

But then you hear cries about the film being so dated and cliched – ya right! what we really need is another groundbreaking film about noble US troops suffering in a bloody quagmire caused by ungrateful natives. The whole conspiracy angle in the movie is definitely dumbed down but that doesn’t take away a bit from what the film is trying to convey. Even if I disregard the plot, I must say I haven’t enjoyed a “war movie” (technically it can be called so) like this in a long time.

Another little gem I happened to watch was the Michael Caine starrer Harry Brown. This flick came out in the UK sometime last November but I am surprised not hearing about it in the awards circuit. The promos gave the impression that it was some kick-ass vigilante flick with Caine doing the kick-assery. Not exactly – I would have been still happy it were but Harry Brown turns out to be much more than that. It’s one of the most intense crime dramas in recent times.

I don’t know how much of the milieu portrayed in the film is accurate….the whole thing was pretty disturbing and at the end I was both angry and depressed about what I saw in the film. Comparisons to Gran Torino will justifiably be made but honestly they are two very different films. Harry Brown also has a theatrical release in the US later this month – just in case you want to watch in on the big screen. It is one of those rare films which look deceptively simple on the surface but totally blow you away eventually.

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The Italian Job 1969 April 24, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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When I saw the more recent version of The Italian Job (Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron), I enjoyed it quite a bit. When I read the reviews of the film, however, it seemed that many critics found the heist/chase in the original version starring Michael Caine to be better. At that point in time, I had my doubts about that claim but after watching the film, I have to agree that they were more than right!

Written by Troy Kennedy-Martin and directed by Peter Collinson, the original is very different from its successor, not only in terms of content but also in spirit (and location – this one actually happens in Italy). This film is not aiming to get the audience upbeat or excited through fancy gimmicks and heist scenes. In the early stages, I felt like I was watching a project manager plan, strategize and practice for a task with his team. It is actually quite interesting to view a heist from that perspective but by today’s standards this segment isn’t exciting. However, once the team manages to steal the gold, the film steadily gains a charming persona.

The heist and the following chase sequence take up a third of this film and are memorable to watch. This film is worth watching for this part alone and I felt compelled to watch it more than once. Even if you dislike watching old films for whatever reason, I’d still recommend that you watch the last third of this film.

The Dark Knight July 19, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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The most awaited movie this summer finally arrives in theatres. Film geeks have been churning out post after post on the blogosphere awaiting its arrival and the phenomenon isn’t going to stop post-release. Almost every critic worth his salt has raved about it. If you thought Batman Begins was super, wait till you watch The Dark Knight. It meets all the expectations and then some.

A question that everyone is asking themselves is whether this is the best superhero movie ever. Before you go there, you might want to ask yourself if it is a superhero movie. Batman was always one of the most identifiable superheroes because he didn’t have real superpowers. In his two Batman films, director Christopher Nolan (who has dabbled in noir more often than not) has employed a dark tone and a lot of logic to make Batman feel very real. He continues that in this film, making it feel like a crime thriller more than a superhero movie. If we still were consider it a comic book superhero film, I’d say it tops my list (and that of so many more).

The film is centred around three major characters. Harvey Dent, the white knight of Gotham, who provides people with the hope that he can change things for the better. Batman, the dark knight of Gotham, whose work seems to have worsened the crime in the city. And finally the Joker, a psychopathic killer who terrorizes the city with his own crazy, unpredictable but believable motives for doing so. Will the white knight take Gotham forward? Will the Joker ruin Batman and Gotham? Can the Batman still stay incorruptible?

The screenwriters (Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, who’ve worked together on Memento and The Prestige) devise this film to take forward the story of Batman and Gotham. The film isn’t about superheroes. It is about criminals and crime fighters and how they affect each other. It is about the emotions, the motives, the psyche. It is about rules. It is about those who live by them and about those who follow none. The remarkable screenplay is driven around these ideas and not around the villains or their dumb ideas for world domination or the action sequences. Newer situations and conflicts are created, ensuring that the movie doesn’t feel repetitive (and that is always a problem for sequels). Everyone has a good reason for their actions. Everything is as realistic and logical as it has ever gotten in a comic book film. Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Following, Insomnia) created a successful reboot for a dead franchise and he takes it a step further this time. His contribution to the film – the detail, the tone, the vision, the execution – is superlative.

I loved the designs of the vehicles, weapons and the sets the first time (production design by Nathan Crowley). They are even better here. Wait till you see the Batpod in action. I was totally blown away by its introduction in the film. The action sequences are also much better this time around. The Joker’s makeup is very natural and the extended lips create a great effect. But the best part is the visualization of Two Face. It could scare the shit out of many.

Christian Bale continues his wonderful work (I especially like what he does with his voice for Batman) in the role that opened many doors for him. The late Heath Ledger brings the Joker to life in a delightful performance. Aaron Eckhart is well cast as Harvey Dent and he very much feels like someone whom people can instantly like and put faith in.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is a suitable (many will say better) replacement (for Katie Holmes) for the part of Rachel Dawes, who is caught between the two knights (no, it isn’t a perfunctory love triangle). Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox play their supporting parts to perfection while Gary Oldman as James Gordon is just as convincing and even more integral.

Now, after all the praise the question still remains. Should you watch it? The answer isn’t a resounding yes. If you’ve liked Batman Begins and have caught a whiff of the hype, you’re probably going to see this (if you haven’t already) irrespective of my opinion. But there are others who didn’t like that film much. Some found it too dark. Some found that the action or entertainment wasn’t enough. Others found it complex. Maybe they expected a popcorn movie and ended up with something else. If you are one of those, I wouldn’t particularly push you to watch this.

P.S. As I eagerly await Nolan’s sequel to this film, I prepare myself to understand that it will be hard to top this. So, anything that is at least close to matching the original is good enough for me.