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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.

Yuganiki Okkadu (Aayirathil Oruvan) February 12, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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In production for almost two years, Selvaraghavan’s magnum opus is finally out. To be honest, though I had high expectations from this film I kinda figured out it might in the end turn out be that great – given the track record of modern “period fantasies” in Indian cinema. I couldn’t have been more wrong – Yuganiki Okkadu totally blew me away! It’s bold, it’s original and most importantly – absolutely engrossing till the very last frame. The latter aspect could also be attributed to the fact that almost 40 minutes of footage from the original Tamil version were chopped off for Telugu audiences.

Yuganiki Okkadu begins as a rescue mission to an unknown place find the whereabouts about an archaeologist who had gone missing in search of a lost Chola Kingdom. I cannot give away anymore of the plot without major spoilers. Selvaraghavan (who also wrote the film) beautifully blends adventure, historical fiction and the supernatural – and it is precisely this expert plotting that mostly earns the film its brownie points. It is also very humorous in some of the most unexpected places. This is also a film where the elaborate set-pieces and VFX seem so much a part of the film – rather that stand out as the lone USPs in plotless blockbusters. But then this isn’t a film for a casual viewer or someone whose idea of a film is a “family entertainer”. There is uninhibited blood, gore and raw sexuality which is sure to alienate a considerable number of people.

The casting is again spot on. Karthi (his second film after three years), Reemma Sen and Andrea are the naughtiest trio you’ll see on screen for a very long time – especially the risque moments between them are a hoot. Parthiban excels in a major supporting role. G.V Prakash again comes up with a great score. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a Telugu movie so much in recent years and I can be pretty sure no one is going to bring out a movie like this in the future unless Selvaraghavan tries being even more awesome.

Movie Roundup: 14/12/2009 December 14, 2009

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I haven’t got a chance in the last few weeks to catch any new flicks in cinemas, so I thought I’d start writing regularly about films (both old and new) which I do catch on DVD every now and then.

1) Orphan (2009)
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Isabelle Furhman, Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard

“There is something wrong with Esther” – Indeed!

Quite a few people touted this to be the next horror cult flick but the box office returns weren’t that encouraging for this one. In any case, this is a thoroughly creepy flick which had me entertained throughout. It’s a nice take on the “Evil Child” genre which works for its novel premise and most importantly the “evil child” herself – played to perfection by Isabelle Fuhrman. There are times when it looks cliched but proceedings are quite gripping with the scares and laughs coming in at the right times. It’s a must watch for horror movie fans looking for something different.

2) Joshua (2007)
Directed By: George Ratliff
Cast: Jacob Kogan, Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga

I happened to watch this just a few days after Orphan and the first thing which strikes you is that Vera Farmiga is again playing the mother of an “Evil Child” and incidentally in both the films she happens to the first one to have suspicions about the child (not to mention in both the films the child inflicts immense psychological mayhem on her that she is moved to an asylum in both cases). Joshua never attempts to be a horror flick like Orphan but is an intelligent thriller which is quite creepy nonetheless. Again, a lot of the film depends on the child protagonist – played by Jacob Kogan who is excellent. Worth a watch if films in this genre interest you.

Also, don’t blame me if this movie changes the way you look at children again….

3) The Mist (2007)
Directed By: Frank Darabont
Cast: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones

Would you rather be eaten by B-movie monsters or ritually sacrificed by an End-of-Days religious cult? That pretty much sums up The Mist. It sounds rather silly but Frank Darabont does indeed deliver a commendable entertainer. It’s part horror-comedy and part social-commentary packaged in a B-Monster movie format. Strongly recommended.

Inglorious Basterds October 14, 2009

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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.

The Taking of Pelham 123 August 3, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Director Tony Scott’s remake of the 1974 thriller starring Walter Matthau (titled The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) is a stylish update that introduces the film to a new generation but doesn’t do much else. I watched the original a few years ago and like that film, this is a simple thriller that has nothing special. It is fun while it lasts but isn’t something that will stay with you.

An NYC subway train is hijacked by a group of criminals, the head of which calls himself Ryder. He threatens to kill the passengers unless his demands for a ransom are met within the next hour. A subway dispatcher, Walter Garber, finds himself in the middle of the chaos, negotiating with Ryder. He has to use all his skills to keep Ryder from killing the passengers. But how does Ryder plan to get away with the money? Is he really after the ransom or something bigger?

The major difference between the original and this update is that the actors in the original help raise the film to a higher level while the actors in this one do no such thing. John Travolta’s character is in sharp contrast to Robert Shaw’s in the original. He overdoes his part. His mad man act is quite familiar by now and it irritates more than a little. Denzel Washington is a suitable choice and he plays it right but I’d definitely prefer Walter Matthau any day.

Scott (True Romance, Man on Fire, Deja Vu) and writer Brian Helgeland (L. A. Confidential, Mystic River, Man on Fire) have all the ingredients to make a watchable thriller and they do but this one does not distinguish itself from its predecessor much. Scott adds some more action and a laptop with a webcam and internet connectivity to reflect the time but there isn’t much incentive for viewers who have seen the original to drag themselves to watch this.

This isn’t a film that you’d need to run to the theater to watch but it should make for entertaining viewing on a lazy day at home.

P.S. If you don’t mind watching a film from the seventies, the original is a better choice.

State Of Play May 1, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Based on a six-part British television miniseries, this is a complex tale of corporate and political conspiracy. Set in Washington D.C., State of Play tells the story of a journalist, Cal McAffrey, investigating the death of a woman working for a Congressman, Stephen Collins, who also happens to be his friend and roommate from college. While it is made to seem like an accident at first, he and his associate, Della Frye, soon discover that it is a murder and that powerful people are involved. Now, he must uncover the story to save his friend and get over his guilt.

This film seems to be based on some really solid material. The screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan (who wrote The Kingdom), Tony Gilroy (the writer-director of Michael Clayton, Duplicity) and Billy Ray (who co-wrote and directed Breach) is quite an asset. Though it is presented quite competently as a thriller, there is quite an interesting drama bustling underneath that layer. The film hints at some complex relationships without really delving into them. Sad, because they seemed quite potent. The journalistic setting of the film, quite reminiscent of films like All The President’s Men, is what allows it to be a thriller and it certainly makes the film all the more effective. For this part, director Kevin MacDonald (The Last King of Scotland) sets the stage from the very first scene for an engaging thriller and doesn’t let go till the end.

The film has a cast of brilliant actors. Apart from topliners Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, the film also features the likes of Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn and Jason Bateman. With such a cast, this is a film that was difficult to really avoid. Crowe gets a meaty part and he sinks his teeth into it (and he is a better match for the part than Brad Pitt). Affleck is impressive too. McAdams has a really lovable persona and I’d love to see more of her in roles like these but Robin Wright Penn (soon to be seen without the Penn) is the one that springs a surprise in a role that has limited screen time. Mirren is always a pleasure to watch and she gets a little bit of scope to do her thing unlike, say, a National Treasure: Book of Secrets. I was also quite happy to see Bateman in a role that, for once, doesn’t seem to be an extension of his part in Arrested Development.

This is one of the more watchable thrillers in recent months, Watch it for the actors. Watch it if you enjoy thrillers. Watch it if you like tales of political intrigue.