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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.

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Duplicity March 28, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Tony Gilroy’s latest directorial venture is a corporate espionage thriller featuring a romantic entanglement between Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. Like his previous film, Michael Clayton, this one is quite complicated too. Little can be divulged about the plot without give away anything or lying. But the title of the film describes the intent of the characters and the film accurately. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Duplicity is “contradictory doubleness of thought, speech, or action; especially: the belying of one’s true intentions by deceptive words or action”.

Gilroy, who co-wrote the Bourne movies, is no stranger to thrillers. The premise is intriguing, the dialogue is solid and the screenplay is gripping. Unlike Bourne or Clayton, this film also has its share of lighter moments. The opening scene at the airport hangar sets the tone for the film and is one that stayed with me after.

Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are a treat to watch and the supporting cast is first rate. Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Lady In The Water), in particular, is superb as the unscrupulous CEO who wants to beat his competitor at any cost. Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), in a smaller part, plays his nemesis.

While this film requires you to pay attention and utilize your gray matter, it isn’t the sort of film that makes you ponder. Duplicity is more mainstream than Michael Clayton and should find favor with audiences that enjoy this genre and do not mind a convoluted non-linear narrative.

Taken March 20, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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An ex-spy is trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter, who now lives with her mom and wealthy stepdad. The daughter goes off to France with a friend despite his reluctance to send her alone. Both girls are taken away in a bid to push them into prostitution. Now, it is upto to the father to use his skills and connections to get his daughter back.

Taken has a simple plot, a focused screenplay and a lot of action that does not fall under the stylish but unbelievable category. Bryan Mills is a more believable spy than Jason Bourne or James Bond and in a way, less exciting too. Unlike the Transporter action franchise, also commissioned by producer and co-writer Luc Besson, this film lacks humor but its pace and 91 minute length keeps you from noticing.

In contrast to my expectations, Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Love Actually) actually looks quite good with a gun. The entire film depends on his portrayal of the spy and his success at the task lends credence to the film.

Taken is an unexpected success at the box office and isn’t a bad watch if you are looking for a simple, well-paced action film.

A Wednesday ! October 7, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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For once, one can claim rightfully that Bollywood had delivered a true edge-of-the-seat thriller. And that’s good enough reason not to miss this one. It all happens on a Wednesday as Police Commissioner Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher) sets out to handle the toughest case in his life. An unknown caller (Naseeruddin Shah) demands the release of 4 “terrorists” and in return promises to reveal the location of multiple bombs he has planted in different parts of the city. A few incidents later Commissioner Rathod realises that the guy isn’t joking and moreover that getting hold of him isn’t as simple as he might have thought. That’s pretty much of the plot one can reveal without spoiling the experience of people intending to watch it.

A Wednesday is a very well-intentioned film. It has a point to make and does it very well. But in the process it makes quite a few simplistic assumptions about important issues. If you really think – you’ll end up asking a lot of questions for which the film has no convincing answers. One needs to keep that in mind before watching this for the film’s intelligence is in its execution rather than content. This film never relies on snazzy editing techniques or any other visual paraphernalia to generate the thrills. It simply shows that all you need is a crisp screenplay devoid of unnecessary scenes to hold your audience’s attention.

Naseeruddin Shah is expectedly brilliant. His portrayal is so convincing that many questions which would otherwise have been raised about his character simply vanish when he is in charge of the proceedings. Anupam Kher is apt as the Police Commissioner. It’s actually Jimmy Sheirgill’s turn as the volatile tough-as-nails encounter specialist which impressed me the most. Probably the first time I’ve seen him in such an avatar. Let’s hope this gets him more mainstream roles.

This is the second film of this year (after “Aamir”) helmed by a deubtant (Neeraj Pandey) which has opened to rave reviews. And fortunately, unlike the other one it has performed pretty well at the box office – quite an encouraging sign. Whatever loopholes you might find with A Wednesday are only after you are done watching it. The almost breathless two hours as the film unfolds won’t give you a chance to do anything else than remain glued to the screen.

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.

Wanted July 3, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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What a rush!

Sexy. Supercool. Awesome. Funtastic. These may be apt one-word descriptions for this film.

Pointless. Also another apt description.

Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch) delivers an extremely stylish, visually inventive action thriller. Wanted is the tale of a nobody who finds out that he is the son of a dreaded assassin. He is recruited by the Fraternity, a secret organization of assassins founded a thousand years ago, to kill a rogue assassin who murdered his father. After gruelling training sessions, he is finally ready for the job. But is he really ready? What surprises await him (and us)? Can he complete the job?

Frankly, I knew I was going to love this film after the first chase sequence. And if anyone is not having fun by that point, chances are that they will not enjoy this film.

This film is full of sensational (not to mention impossible) action sequences that have been composed brilliantly and executed even more skillfully. The action choreographer, the visual effects team and the director deserve all the praise they can get. Bekmambetov’s ingenuity is visible throughout the film and this film could have been a big dud without him.

James McAvoy (Atonement, The Chronicles of Narnia) hardly struck me as an action hero but he delivers. He makes a smooth transition from an accountant to an assassin, making both of them believable. Angelina Jolie makes this film even more sexier than it already is and it is always wonderful to watch Morgan Freeman.

The film isn’t for everyone though. Remember, it is based on a graphic novel series (written by Mark Millar with art by J. G. Jones) and there can be a lot of things that could be considered silly (if bending bullets seems preposterous, wait till you hear about the ridiculous Loom of Fate). But this film doesn’t intend to be realistic and Bekmambetov makes sure that you realise the film’s distate for the laws of nature in the first ten minutes.

The film may have scant respect for logic but it does have enough in its plot to keep your mind occupied. It may be incessantly violent but it has been made with great imagination. It may be a wet dream for guys who lust for sexy action films but it is also art. It may not find favor with everyone but it will make money and it will be imitated. It may be construed by some as an inconsequential forget-me-soon summer movie but it is not and it will stay with me for a long time.

Those who want something “sensible” can go elsewhere but those who feel low on adrenaline should definitely watch this.