Monday, November 29, 2010

MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1991)

Compared to his early straight madcap funny films and some of his later made best films, this one is quite average Woody Allen entertainer. The plot and screenplay is thin, Woody shuffled the execution and narration with drama and thrill but it all seems too repetitive and stretched one as film progresses. Even Woody himself is over indulgent here and his cheesy gags and one-liners are quite a missing case. The film begins with death of Woody’s next door neighbor’s wife. Diane Keaton who played Woody’s wife is an obsessed private eye grows suspicious over the old widower (played by Alan Alda). Slowly under her mad frenzy she sorted out clues that turned natural heart attack death to a planned murder. Poor Woody has nothing to do except showing his routine paranoia and disorder runs parallel under shadow of his wife’s detective fixation.

Sidelining the weak points, the strong reason to watch it is the natural chemistry between Woody and her on screen/off screen muse Diane Keaton after a long gap. Though both of them seem quite aged here; the chemistry between them is as impeccably amusing one as in ‘Annie Hall’. Woody often pays tribute to nostalgic screen moments of those B&W classics in his films. He paid homage to ‘Casablanca’ and legendary Humphrey Bogart in his ‘Play it again, Sam’. Here he offered his homage to two unforgettable noirs of all-time- Billy Wilder’s ‘Double Indemnity’ and Orson Welles’s ‘The Lady from Shanghai’. Worth to mention that the city of New York remained Woody’s big fascination and almost an inseparable character in many of his films. The way he filmed all those city streets, parks, bridges and locations in his multiple films including this one are the best cinematic tribute ever paid to ‘the city that never sleeps’.

Ratings-7/10

Sunday, November 28, 2010

BANANAS (1971)

One of Woody’s early madcap comedy fully aimed to make you laugh out loudly. The president of Republic of San Marcos was shot down in front of public and live camera reporters and the power is replaced by awaited new dictator general. Woody is again what he always remained- a consistent loser and the funniest face of cynic. He’s working as machine tester who in order to win his girlfriend’s heart becomes a political rebel with mock company of Che Guevara & Castro. The film is loaded with some of the quirkiest woody moments packed with funny situations and brilliant one-liners as always-“I should be working at a job that I have some kind of aptitude for like donating sperm to an artificial insemination lab.”

Besides critiquing and mocking the new world governed by science, inventions and market hungry companies, scoop hungry television news channels it’s a fine political lampoon mocking political leaders from Castro to J. Edgar Hoover and off course communism. Watch that Exercising machine made for busy executives at office chair (reminds me Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’) or the advertisement of New Testament cigarette impromptu before the live news coverage and reporting of live bedroom consummation after wedding- all that comes from the mind of this gifted genius and intelligent Jew of our time.

Need I say ‘must watch’ for any Woody Allen films?

Ratings- 8/10

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

THE KILLER INSIDE ME (2010)

“The trouble with growing up in a small town is everybody thinks they know who you are.”

A young deputy sheriff is an unexpected face of psychopathic monster here. On the innocent face value of Casey Affleck lies a violent sadistic pervert who keeps on filling the screen with carefully planned out murders while remaining inside and outside of crime. I was expecting an interesting thriller but it’s quite a disturbing film stuffed with disturbing, pervert images of raw violence, lot of bedroom nudity and a sexually sadistic killer who kept on his toll because he can’t hurt somebody who’s already dead.

Casey Affleck is really impressive one, hope he’ll get better screenplay next. Then there’s Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson baring their bodies for him and ended up being punching bags of this sadist killer. Director Michael Winterbottom who made some impressive and thought provoking independent films including ‘The Mighty Heart’ emphasized more the unwanted part then wanted. It has interesting beginning but overall a messed up disappointment.

Ratings-5/10

Monday, November 22, 2010

MAHANADI (Tamil) (1993)

The film begins with Madras Central Prison and we see a new prisoner No-4005 named Krishnaswamy. Cut to flashback where he is B Sc Agriculture widower left with two kids living happily in his small village life. With insistence of a city dwelled rich man and dreaming his kids’ better education he landed up to city. His innocence and trust soon duped by the man and his touts. For uncommitted financial fraud he was thrown in jail where he becomes victim of torture and atrocity. Out of jail he found his son in company of road show juggler and his beloved daughter selling her body in Calcutta’s Sonagachi brothel.

While reading it seems like a typical movie, but fortunately it isn’t. The reason is fine direction and restrained execution by Santhana Bharathi and fine screenplay penned and acted by the multi-talented genius Kamal Haasan. This is another fine director-actor combination who gave another fine Tamil film called ‘Guna’. Though quite melodramatic in the middle part, the film finely represent the theme of city Vs village, OPM (other people’s money) Vs OPM (own personal money) and a heart wrenching story of a disillusioned upright family man who realized that ‘Satyamev Jayate’ won’t prevail in real life.

One has to watch the expressions of the common man’s helplessness and situational flux when he witnessed his young daughter in brothel and from what drama he took her back. There are certain scenes where Kamal made you realize that how naturally he enacted all those myriad emotions of God fearing village simpleton, devoted and caring family man, struggling father ultimately turned into a boiling volcano of revenge. No wonder why this living legend that beat all clich├ęs of cinemas has deservingly won maximum number of National Awards in his career more than Amitabh Bachchan and Mammooty and record nineteen times Filmfare Awards in five languages, infact around the end of 2000 he wrote plea to the organization to exempt him from further awards. Undoubtedly he’s not just an actor; but actor in millions and absolutely a national treasure.
The film bagged National Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil.

Ratings-8/10

Sunday, November 21, 2010

GUZAARISH (2010)

There’re two opposite reviews about Sanjay Leela Bhanshali’s ‘Guzaarish’ that I’ve read in India’s two leading dailies. Times of India’s Nikhat Kazmi declared it an unusual film on many fronts and rated it 4 stars and on the other hand Express reviewer Shubhra Gupta claimed it lame copy of Javier Bardem’s critically appraised Spanish film ‘The Sea Inside’ and rated it with just 2 stars. After watching the film yesterday on screen, I would like to corroborate Shubhra’s opinion than over the top promoting words of Kazmi.

‘Romance decorated on artistic visuals’ is Bhanshali’s cine-forte but here he juxtaposed it with a man who is a paraplegic who’s wishing permanent relief from life’s suffering. All that hue and cries over his mercy petition and court drama packed with loads of emotional baggage runs in random order on screen. Here’s is a magician-lover who after an accident ended his affair with beloved-assistant and forced her to marry somebody else, all of sudden jumps to declare on his deathbed to marry his nurse. Hero-heroine must meet at the end is inevitable routine in Hindi films you see.

What’s the biggest flaw of the film is SLB failed to make emotional connection of audience with his protagonist which he so genuinely done in his ‘Black’. It’s not Hrithik but SLB who’s responsible for it. Here’s a queer case of a smiling paraplegic patient who after 13 years of his unfortunate accident declared his wish to die. Why? It’s a big question which SLB failed to answer. Why after all those years accompanied by his cheered radio following, committed close friends and above all world’s most beautiful cleavage showing nurse looking after him he wants to file a petition to court to let him die? Answer is plain vanilla-‘Suffering’. Sorry to say but I don’t feel suffering anywhere in the frames, neither inside nor outside of Ethan’s character; on the contrary he keeps laughing on and on even his last frame. Maybe SLB would say in future that viewers failed to find tears in those laughters!!!

In order to use full potential of Hrithik, SLB has given him multitasks to deliver. So Ethan Mascarenhas is a paraplegic patient on wheel chair, he’s the screen’s charming magician, he’s naughty-romantic patient, he’s preaching radio jockey spreading smiles to his followers and above all he’s benevolent Jesus Christ kind of superman who forgive his enemy too!!! Though against all flaws and odds I must admit that it’s only Hrithik Roshan who honestly and sincerely attempted all these over expectated jobs offered to him and he’s the sole reason why anybody sit throughout the film till final frame. Aishwarya’s act is really unimpressive and projected to fill the beauty on screen, the rest of the players are just okay.

As usual parts of SLB films, it has emotional baggage too especially that last ‘Death day celebration’ speech of Ethan, accompanied by his near and dear ones or that another emotionally blackmailing drama where an irritating lawyer is being locked for 60 seconds to fathom Ethan’s inner suffering in metaphorical magic box. It’s really bad script writing and editing where plot and theme runs random and Bhanshali tries to make it up with his impressive decorative larger than life frames on screen with worthy mention of fine cinematography.

For me SLB’s ‘Black’ was a moving experience. Though his last ‘Saawaria’ was bombed terribly at box-office and rejected by audience and critics, I must say it was a better film than this one. Mr. SLB, no more gimmicks next time please.

Ratings-5.5/10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

BODY HEAT (1981)

Bollywood’s copycat dummy director and limelight hungry Mahesh Bhatt had pilfered not only the story and plot but also copied scene to scene and dialogue to dialogue of this film in John-Bipasha starrer ‘Jism’ with just shifting the end to suit Indian audience. Bhatt without any shame credited the story-screenplay to himself in the film’s title! Nothing new for Bhatt camp or Bollywood, isn’t it! But as a matter of fact even writer, director Lawrence Kasdan too lifted the plot of ‘Body Heat’ from Billy Wilder’s classic ‘Double Indemnity’ but then he gave his own creative touch turning classic noir into steaming and absorbing erotic Neonoir hard to resist.

Kasdan maintained a subversive tone of his own invoking the atmosphere of heat and smoke not only in physical steamy scenes but to suburban town too. He brilliantly maintained
certain sort of distance portraying sensuous Kathleen Turner and didn’t let the erotic skin show take control over the plot like in-famous popular ‘Basic Instinct’ and unlike Sharon Stone, femme fatal Kathleen Turner didn’t bare it all and still kept us hooked to her bold body language and bitchy act. She’s enchanting femme fatale hard to resist, ‘To see her is to need her’. It’s quite surprising to know that it’s her debut performance. William Hurt’s character remained like shadow because Turner is scene stealer here. Kasdan successfully etched out fine supporting performances from Hurt’s two closest friends who sniffed all suspicious smoke and proofs against him try hard to save him from deep trouble but then when a man is in the mess, he keeps messing on good sides/signals too. Mickey Rourke’s surprise breakthrough role is again a cheer up.

Ratings-7.5/10

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

DRIVING MISS DAISY (1989)

This simple low budget film did surprise wonder at Oscar winning not only 4 academy awards but also snatching Best picture trophy among two terrific deserving rivals ‘Dead Poets Society’ and ‘My left Foot’ excluding shockingly ‘Do the Right Thing’ in nomination. It’s all simple and light hearted film showing the strange relationship between a self-made, stubborn Jewish old lady and a newly hired black chauffer who can’t read. How relationship slowly grows between two souls from hate to love and liking of each others company in a period of 25 years. It also shows the period of 50s to 60s social where black worked in kitchen and doing household chores in rich suburban neighborhoods of States also getting up to University being faculty.

As a jolly good simpleton Morgan Freeman’s talent got noticed by Hollywood through this film. He carried his character with all his natural ease, though his looks and appearance reminds me of Watanabe in Kurosawa’s ‘Ikiru’. Fine chemistry between him and Jessica Tandy makes it a delightful feel good film to serve anytime. Though nomination and fine act, Morgan lost the Best actor trophy to more deserving Daniel Day Lewis for ‘My left Foot’. Director Bruce Beresford carried all sublime and subtle moments of strange chemistry growing in each others company transcending their differences. What’s more wonderful to notice is there’s not a moment of sadness in entire film. Hoke serving spoon to above ninety Daisy is a moment to wet your eye for sure!

Ratings-7.5/10

YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH (2007)

One of the most pathetic and the worst film ever made by the man who made ‘The Godfather’ series. It begins with an interesting premise- an aged scholar professor stuck by the lightening burned over all his body survived and slowly turned to his youth. He turns out to be a man of profound knowledge but also forms a new second personality. Bless comes with curse too! Till this point the film has bearable plot.

Then all of sudden all sorts of paranoia and romance starts fluttering with plot and story roaming freely like a stray dog. We are headed to double personality, oriental philosophy gyaan of transmigrating soul with a paranormal beloved speaking all sorts of dead/prehistoric languages from Sanskrit to Egyptian with horrible pronunciation to let this scholar complete his unfinished research about origins of language. What sort of pointless crap is this? Coppola kept going on messing the film with dead pan pace failing to make any sort of cinematic connection with plot, characters or drama. Tim Roth just sucks and what an utter waste of brilliant actor like Bruno Ganz?

It’s unbearable experience for me to sum up it all.

Ratings-4/10

Monday, November 15, 2010

OLDBOY (Korean) (2003)

A man is imprisoned for 15 years without any explanation and released without any explanation. He must find his kidnapper within five days. It’s a film which kept hiding ‘Why’ so tactfully and convincingly to give it a ‘cult’ status. Its action, drama and a psychological thriller that takes us to oedipal taboos, blind destiny, and hypnotism all coiled into a larger than life revenge material that brought the Korean cinema to take serious notice.

Despite the screen filled with gross torture and brutally violent images it serves innovative action sequences, camera work and packs vengeance mystery like never before. Min-Sik-Choi performed extraordinarily as hapless victim Dae-Su, a man turned into monster who vows to take revenge and later desperately begging like a dog. There are scenes which punctured your brain like eating live squid, pulling teeth, a man fighting goons with stabbed back all with stylistic knockdown.

After winning the Grand Prize of Jury at Cannes Film Festival in 2004, Director Park Chan-Wook stunned the audience by thanking the cast and crew and then thanking the four squids who gave up their lives for the vivid sushi bar scene.

Ratings-8.5/10

Sunday, November 14, 2010

KITAAB (1977)

Based on Samresh Basu’s novel ‘Pathik’ and written and directed by Gulzar, the film is a story of a personal journey of a run away boy traveling in a train without a ticket. The reason- the boy hates going to school and study; he wants to be a grown up man so that he can do whatever he wish and enjoy the freedom. In a flashback the film lets us in those lost innocent days and mischievous moments of childhood. Playing zero and cross on back pages of notebooks during the class, drawing cartoons of teachers, bunking class due to undone homework, instant bahanebaazi, pissing fun, smoking curiosity etc. ‘Cigarette bagair sochne ka majaa nahi aata’ said one of the self proclaimed boy philosopher. It instantly reminds me reading R K Narayan’s ‘Swami and his Friends’.

Gulzar made a film where we all relate our lost childhood and maintained a light hearted story telling filled with humor and fun in the first half and emotional drama in the second half where the roaming boy on railway platform realizes the importance of study. There’s moment of self actualization where the boy tries to steal money from an old beggar. What’s delightful about watching Gulzar films is his lifelike characters and situations where one can relate without any extra effort. Master Raju carried the role so naturally. Rest of the cast consists of Uttam Kumar, Vidya Sinha and others have done justice too. Pancham who scored some of the unforgettable nostalgic tracks for Gulzar films scored so low for this one. Though the film doesn’t have much scope for songs Gulzar penned an item number kind of song which he generally penned nowadays. Gulzar once said in interview that he quit making films because nowadays Vishal is making them. I wonder was it a compliment or criticism?

Recommended to all Gulzar fans.

Ratings-8/10

INCEPTION (2010)

“True inspiration is impossible to fake.”

Can we incept an alien idea to human mind through consciousness? Sooner the subject’s mind can always trace the genesis of that idea. But what if somebody navigates one’s mind and plants it through dark subconscious of dream? What if that idea can threaten the reality? Is inception so full proof? Sorry sir, we’re humans and though potential of human mind is just infinite, we’ve our own limitations.

The first fifteen minutes into the film and you’re lost in mazelike disorientation where dream and reality submerged like a challenging riddle; instantly giving you the clue that what you’re going to watch for next two hours around is all stimulating mind bending exercise. Inception is one hell of original and impressive material with its clever construction perhaps too complicated and challenging to comprehend fully in a single viewing for any normal viewer. While making it too intriguing and complex, it’s master architect (writer-director) Christopher Nolan has terribly deducted relaxation charm for the audience who generally used to watch the movie as it comes in narration and story telling or giving us space to emotionally connect to any of characters; instead one has to be so focused and alert to fathom it’s labyrinthine script somersaulting our brain even in the last frame.

The plot is all sci-fi where advance technology making the human enables to enter the mind of the subject through dream to steal the idea or plant the new one. And here comes our protagonist who’s professional extractor suffering from his own ghost of memories about his wife that puts his task in jeopardy. A corporate conglomerate hires him to plant an idea to topple his rival’s empire and in return he offers him an impossible reality erasing his fugitive identity. Incepting idea is no easy task and so he gathered the team consists of a dream architect, a forger, a chemist and a point man getting ready for the subconscious heist. Do I carry on this futile explanation any further?

I’ve read somewhere that over-explaining the plot is just bad script writing. But hey it’s Nolan where script-screenplay and presentation remain the big reason which makes his films an event in itself. We don’t easily forget films like ‘Memento’, ‘The Prestige’, or ‘The Dark Knight’. Here too, he skillfully kept us all hooked to solve the entanglement of a dream within a dream, dream within a reality and reality within a dream and at the same time moving forward with on going chase, action, visual effects packaged thrilling entertainment on the platter and we’re in a great limbo surrendering ourselves to his projections on screen. His mastery of direction, story telling and editing is so gripping and convincing that we don’t have a moment to think contradictory amid all sorts of twists and turns juggling around multiple dream layers moving back and forth.

Making and scripting this phenomenon film demands years of perseverance and post production work and Nolan was conceiving, researching and penning this idea for last ten years to Warner Bros. studio as he revealed after the movie released. Undoubtedly he’s master forger and knows what to steal in what amount from many paragon cinematic moments. But at the same time it’s no exaggeration saying that ‘Memento’(released in 2000) was a warm up practice for Nolan and after seeing this (in 2010) I’m so eager to know what comes next from Nolan’s mind (maybe 2020), hope he’ll give us clue guide to understand his film in single viewing.

Like almost all Nolan films, the film is absolutely topnotch in all technical divisions. Whether its production design, editing, background score by Hans Zimmer or Wally Pfister’s stunning and hypnotic cinematography. I haven’t seen ‘The Social Network’ yet, the film made by another equally brilliant filmmaker David Fincher but I’m sure both these films will lock horns at all awards ceremony in coming time. Seems like its ‘mind’ and ‘idea’ that rule Hollywood this year.

Truly a unique mind-bending exercise of this decade that boils up many plausible and implausible interpretations hard to resist.

Ratings-10/10

Friday, November 12, 2010

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2006)

Story of sacrifice, struggle, and courage of Japanese soldiers who defended their homeland against invading American forces during Second World War for around forty days. It was destined for them to die for their country in unfavorable situation where there’s no air or navy support and with limited young soldiers and short of ammunition the General had to counter the American air and naval attack on shore of Iwo Jima.

It’s quite surprising that Clint Eastwood made an absolutely Japanese film true to its salt with complete ensemble cast of Japanese actors including impressive Ken Watanabe as General Kuribayashi. The language of the film is throughout Japanese (reading subtitles are inevitable) and while watching film anyone can wonder that it’s film made by Hollywood. I don’t wonder why it won Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language film. The film has fine cinematography by Tom Stern; however some parts of the film are quite stretching especially in subplot of a disillusioned soldier saving his life from war but the film tries to focus on individual personal conflict of soldiers when death is the ultimate reality.
One more feather in the directorial cap of Clint Eastwood.

Ratings-7.5/10

Thursday, November 11, 2010

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950)

“After all, crime is only left handed form of human endeavor.”

Undoubtedly one of the finest caper film noir ever made by the man who made some of the classic noirs of all time. This is quite lesser known John Huston classic without his loyal company of Bogart but it’s immaterial for an auteur who knows his task damn well. He represents the city burgeoning with crime rate where crime represents secret nexus between professionals and respectable men of the city. It’s a biggest caper plan accompanied by professionals of trade from big fixer to professional on payroll-a planner, a box man, a topnotch driver, a hooligan. We see the topnotch jewel heist execution even while alarm goes on ringing but its aftermath cracking with double cross and messed up that makes it compelling watch. One don’t know the intentions of the man fixed with circumstances and that’s make all the difference.

Huston brilliantly handled plot and treatment where sniffing cops runs parallel to a bunch of professional criminals and kept everything on platter what you expect from great noir- plot, fine ensemble cast and performances by Sterling Hayden, Louise Calhern, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe and others, classic B&W camera work, tense filled moments and a surprising small presence of Marilyn Monroe as mistress. And amid all caper and crime, it’s again individual story of gang members who’re having their pipedreams of hope ended right near to their destinations. Oh yeah and one has to watch the way Huston begins his every film and ends it- this is another classic case of his repertoire.

Must for all noir fans.

Ratings-8.5/10

Thursday, November 4, 2010

LA FEMME NIKITA (French) (1990)

Luc Besson’s earlier thriller made much before his popular ‘Leon/The Professional’ showing his distinctive visual style and narration. There’s not much to ponder over plot where a criminal turned secret agent dangles between her personal romance and professional violent life and Besson generally made movies for broader cinema audience seeking entertainment. Anne Perillaud as Nikita is not seductive beauty but tomboyish and larger than life character represents powerful physicality on screen. Wonder to see Jean Reno in such a small subordinate role of cleaner as one can easily map out that it’s a net practice for his role in ‘Leon’.
Average watch.
Ratings-6/10

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

AAKROSH (2010)

Disappointed to see Priyadarshan’s take on honor killing; he stuffed the package with ingredients of routine bollywood with a single case lacking any insightful look or justification of honor killing and caste discrimination. As film ends we also forget the fiction just like reading everyday newspaper stories of honor killing. Watching this I wonder is he the same Priyam who gave us some of the finest Indian films of our time like ‘Kanchivaram’, ‘Gardish’ or ‘Virasat’. He explored the theme and subject so brilliantly in his last award winning ‘Kanchivaram’ but here everything is too shallow and gimmicky. The film has nothing new to offer except showing you violence of hinterland Bihar where two appointed officers doing their duties against all odds finally decided to offer their own sense of justice.

The film is too shoddy in editing and screenplay, lacking grip terribly. Characters and performances are too cardboard types except Devgan who maintained his usual intense screen presence. Over all the film becomes too dark and heavy predictable affair unsuccessfully trying to make you busy with chase and action sequences all around. For those who seriously wanted to see the film that did tremendous justice showing the dark reality of caste discrimination and its victimization of underprivileged people of Northern states, I recommend Naseer-Shabana starrer ‘Paar’ made by Gautam Ghosh.

Ratings-5/10