The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de motocicleta)

US Presidential hopefuls take RVs, Che went on a motorcycle. The point is you need to go on a road trip to become a successful leader of the people

Ee Adutha Kalathu (Recently)

Strange and familiar make an appearance together for the first time in Malayalam cinema and the pair is a hit

Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl

Four feisty ladies, upbeat music and a handsome conman. Anushka gets Ranveer. Bollywood gets Parineeti

Das Boot (The Boat)

Best WWII film ever, in fact the best war film ever. In true German fashion, restraint is applied by shooting the entire movie inside a U-boat

Neelathamara (Blue Lotus)

Blue lotus shares the same stature of blue moon in Malayalam, so do good remakes. This one bucks the trend.

Search this blog

Dec 22, 2005

I Heart Huckabees

Psuedo artsy crap. I do not know why this film got rave reviews. Anyway I could be prejudiced because I am wary of the whole game involving psychoanalysis, therapists and their couches.

Dec 18, 2005

Closer

Not bad, afterall it had Clive Owen.

Dec 15, 2005

Sarkar

Abhishek Bachchan could act and Ram Gopal Varma could do no wrong.

Dec 6, 2005

AIFF 2005: Kamikaze Girls

Kamikaze Girls is a wacky comedy from Japan.

Dec 3, 2005

Jackie Brown

Another flash of Tarantino's brilliance - script, direction and a more human story than his most other films. After Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction this is a bit low key, looks like step in Tarantino's growin' up process.

Dec 2, 2005

Motorcycle Diaries

"What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land" - Ernesto Che Guevera, Motorcycle Diaries - his memoirs. Thats what you feel after watching the movie, like you've crossed a new frontier.

Travel is an eyeopener - to the world and to your innerself. If Ernesto Che Guevera had not gone on his life changing motorcycle expedition across the length of South American continent, the world would have sold lesser tee shirts and coffee mugs, we'd not have got a charismatic revolutionary icon to represent the world's inner struggles with a loveable name - Che.

Directed by Walter Selles, the film is about this legendary journey undertaken by two impressionable young people who had dreams about changing the world to make it a better place. Yeah I know we all have/had such dreams(most of us are kind hearted people) but seldom do we act upon them. We - the ordinary beings who stop far short of Che Guevera are happy with our I-Pods, our brand new beemers and our annual subscription at the hippest gym to worry about the starving millions in thrid world. We do care for them sometimes, when we watch movie like the Motorcycle Diaries or Salaam Bombay. Then the pressures of life overtake us - we have to pay bills, raise families, think about the next promotion or like me - plain lounge online.

I respect Che Guevera despite the murders he committed later in his life, because he crossed the unconquerable threshold. I respect him for crossing over to the other side - for doing what he believed in, instead of contemplating or devising plans on alleviating human suffering and for being honest about his intentions. There is a line in the film where Ernesto wonders how the natives who practised skills like advanced urban planning, brain surgery and the like be conquered by Spaniards who were far less competent, he believes there is only one answer - the Spaniards had gunpowder. The very same idea forms the crux of Che's revolution, unlike Gandhi he believes that revolution or freedom of the downtrodden from the clutches of their powerful masters requires guns and ammo - there is no other way and he breaks free the conventional crutches of society to live his idea and principles.

The film charters the subtle transformation of a sheltered affluent college kid in to the revolutionary we now know as Che(played by Gael Garcia Bernal).Gael Garcia does a real good job(tries hard to shed the lover boy image I am accustomed to in his earlier films) so does Rodrigo de la Serna who plays Granado. I exhort you to take the journey thru' Andean chill, the barren Atacama and the jungles of Amazon with Ernesto Che Guevera and his jovial companion, Alberto Granado(it was an interview with Granado in NPR which led me to this movie, it was being shot at that time and yes Granado is still alive and well at 82). It is a journey of a boy becoming a man of the world accompanied by a beautiful sound track, the story of a life that made a real difference. Salut! dear Che!

Nov 27, 2005

Robot Stories

An sci-fi anthology film composed of 4 stories, winner of major awards and the setting is Japan - duh..where else, could it be?

Nov 20, 2005

The Front

A funny take by Woody Allen on how Hollywood coped with the blacklisting of the McCarthy Era. Allen plays an insurance salesman who poses as front to real screenwriters who are prohibited to work by Senator McCarthy.

Oct 17, 2005

BW in Color

This Best Foreign Language Oscar Winner of 1976 tells the story of a small mismatched troupe of French expatriates in French Equitorial Africa during WW1 trying to stage a battle with Germans in the same place, to support the war efforts of their country in the real war raging somewhere far off.

In a way it is a sarcastic portrayal of the colonizers(French in this case), how primitive they are beneath the flaky superiority they tout based on their skin color. The film presents a universal manipulative play that has taken place in many battles and wars since time immemorial - the real war is fought by the people who are the least associated with the cause. Both the French and the Germans, the opposing sides in this movie has native Africans to fight for them, finally the British contingent which arrives bearing the news of the ending of the World War is led by an East Indian captain named Shashi Kapoor.

The film is a humorous take on what happens when a small group of expatriate Europeans overcome with national spirit tries to stage their own mini version of a World War in the heart of Africa. Their interactions with natives, the behavior of natives, the natives' interpretations about the white man and his culture are all subtly hilarious.

Oct 16, 2005

Hindi: Veer Zara

Melodrama and Shah Rukh Khan are twins separated at birth. A love story meant to bring together two divided peoples who are really one at heart - India and Pakistan, Veer Zara has some brilliant songs.

Oct 9, 2005

Frida

I saw Frida, a couple of weeks back in a torrent of films and forgot to write about it. Its a must watch if you like Salma Hayek (that means more than 80% of the guys out there), she looks beautiful as Frida and she has shown the nerve in this movie to go beyond the conventional western notions of beauty, like having a monobrow, as the real Ms.Kahlo had. Apart from that, it is a good movie, worth your two hours, traces the story of the life of Mexican painter/cult figure Frida Kahlo.


A tram accident at 15 leaves Frida bed ridden and opt for a career in painting, which was her hobby till then, instead of pursuing medicine, which she had wanted to do. Frida was a wild and independent spirit, who later married one of the noted painters of the time, Diego Rivera.

Every scene of the movie is like a painting and true to the Mexican theme, very colorful, trying to match the color scheme of Frida Kahlo's paintings. Her paintings were as colorful as the cheerful and active person she was and were mostly women oriented. The famed Russian philosopher-politician Leon Trotsky is seen being hidden in Frida's house, when he flees Russia to Mexico. According to history, Frida Kahlo was confined to wheelchair most of the time after the accident in her teens. Although in the movie, we see a lot of Frida, running around and being the center of attraction of Mexico's bohemian leftist parties etc. An honest opinion can only be made after I read the biography of Frida, which after the movie, has become real popular. Written by Margaret A. Lindauer, Devouring Frida : The Art History and Popular Celebrity of Frida Kahlo should be a good Frieda primer for those of you who want more of her.
in the pic above(The real Frida Kahlo)

Oct 8, 2005

Chocolate

Waste of a movie

Oct 5, 2005

Kinsey

You think you discovered sex? Wrong, the real sexual revolution happened at the time of your grandmother, thanks to some ground breaking research by Alfred Kinsey. The movie is an account of his life, work and times, where the title character is played by Liam Neeson.

Sep 28, 2005

AIFF 2005: Ellektra

A weird movie with a weirder set of character and their travails. The one thing that stood out though was the cinematography and the slick editing.

Score - 3.6/5

Sep 26, 2005

AIFF 2005: Mirage (Ilusija)


A beautiful, well narrated and well shot film by the young Macedonian director, Svetozar Ristovski. The protagonist of the film is a 10-11 year old young boy fighting his own way in to life in the newly liberated former Yugoslavian province of Macedonia.

Like the new country, struggling to find its place, with hopes of a better future maybe in a faroff time, Marko - his hopes, ambitions and tribulations is a representative of his people.Incredible performance by the young boy who played Marko aided by a superb script.

Score - 4.3/5

Sep 24, 2005

AIFF 2005: Araguaya

Araguaya - A Conspiracy of Silence, the Brazilian film directed by Ronaldo Duque tells the story of the leftist uprising in the late sixties and seventies in the poor impoverished villages of Amazon Delta from the perspective of a French priest. The rebels are young city bred intellectuals who take up guns and live amongst the villagers while planning an uprising against the ruling military junta at the time.

Score - 4.1/5

Sep 22, 2005

AIFF 2005: Trona

Another movie about a dude bored out of his life in present day USA, who finds himself in the middle of a desert one fine day. His interactions with the locals and the views he takes in form the background of the movie.

Score - 3.9/5

Sep 21, 2005

AIFF 2005: Eighteen

Pip is a teenager who leaves home after an accident(caused by inadvertently by his own father) causes the death of his gay brother. On his eighteenth birthday he gets an audio cassette from his now-deceased grandfather describing his WW2 memoirs, himself a teenager of eighteen at the time. It is like parallel stories in two different war zones - one is a world war that changed the course of the world and the life of his grandfather and the other is Pip's lone battle, his experiences as a street kid finding a way out in the urban jungle of contemporary life.

Score - 3.5/5

Sep 11, 2005

Station agent

An interesting indie from Thomas McCarthy. The protagonist in the movie is a dwarf, played by Peter Dinklage, who is a loner with a passion for trains. He moves to a train station in rural New Jersey left to him by his best friend when he dies.

Moving in, to the train station, some other people come in to his life, who are as lonely as he is, with their own personal troubles and losses. The dialog is natural, free flowing and unintentionally witty. The photography is unassuming, yet speaks stories through the shots and the three characters - that of Peter Dinklage, then the Cuban American hot dog vender, all lively and chatty played by Bobby Cannavale and the lonely divorcee played by Patricia Clarkson are perfect for their parts. Human and touching without being over the top sentimental - it is a movie about ordinary lives shot in ordinary light.

Sep 7, 2005

AIFF 2005: Bitter Dream(Iran)

Khab'e Talkh (Bitter Dream)is a contemporary Iranian film directed by Mohsen Amiryoosefi which deals with the black comedy of death through the final days of a grave keeper, Esfandiar, in the historic Iranian town of Sadeh. It's out of the box subject, where a keeper and preserver of the dead bodies become concerned about his own death in his final days is both comic and meaningful in a mortal sense. The film also provides a glimpse in to the Islamic traditions of death and burial in Iran and the social interactions in their society. Starting off like a documentary with a TV camera crew, the film unfolds in a slow but steady pace and is taut throughout.

Score - 4.2/5

Get On the Bus

Spike Lee's films are a breath fresh air - usually about 'brothers' with a capital B. An African American director turning his camera on his own community and culture is indeed refreshing in the same way Chris Eyre does through his films for Native Americans.

Most of the movie is shot inside the bus, but that does not restrict its scope - analyzing a wide range of issues confronted by the present day African American society, like gangs of SouthCentral LA, homosexuality, Republicans vs Democrats, crime and punishment, so on and so forth. It has a surefire script that can give valuble material for quotes and bumper stickers and some pretty good charecterization.

Sep 6, 2005

AIFF 2005: Far Side of the Moon

Far Side of the Moon is a film by the French-Canadian director Robert LePage about the influences on growing up in the age of the space-race, 1950,60s & early 70s and the relationship between two siblings, now in the forties. Their mother's death(obviously a suicide) is the incident that brings the two brothers in to a single frame. The film is peppered by small but observant nuances on ordinary life, like the comment about gays having it all, ("but like most gays I know he's carefree, rich and lucky")the scenes at the gym and the visual language used by the director is intriguing.

Score - 4.1/5

Sep 4, 2005

AIFF 2005: Dr.Ravi and Mr.Hyde

A comedy about an Indian(not as in Native American)physician with a good practice in Pittusburg, afflicted with a mid-life crisis which in his case manifests as a wild dream of making a movie. The film pretty much follows how the doctor tries to achieve his dream.

Score - 3.2/5

Sep 3, 2005

AIFF 2005: The Coat Room

About a guy bored out of his life who takes a up a job in the coatroom of Philadelphia Mueseum of Art, where his collegue, the daring Miss.Claire with her pluck and sarcascm breathes a new life in to our hero.

Score - 3.3/5

Aug 26, 2005

AIFF 2005: Erosion

An interesting movie from Ann Lu, where the protagonist engages in the risque experiments of living other people's lives as his realizes his own life as he knew it is slipping away from him. Erotic, intense and engrossing at the same time, the film is technically tight and has succeeded in bringing out memorable performances from its actors.

Score - 4.1/5

Aug 24, 2005

AIFF 2005: Flowers

From director Jeff Woods, a human essay on the great divide between the college dream and the reality after graduation. Jeremy is a recent law graduate who plans to start his own law firm sometime in the future, but for the time being he earns his bread working in a flower shop.

Score - 3.9/5

Aug 21, 2005

AIFF 2005: After Roberto

Visually compelling film set in the historic cities of Italy like Genoa, Pisa and Venice, especially when seen through an architect turned director's eye it is indeed a feast, especially when you are an architect yourself and the camera pans to the exact spots in the landscape you want to look. Louis Fusco, the director himself plays the part of the main character who is being pursued in a physical and metaphysical level.

Score - 3.9/5

AIFF 2005: Land of Milk & Honey

A bizarre comedy about mothers trying to murder their own kids after having genetically altered cow's milk. Under the guise of a darl comedy it also takes on contemporary relevant issues like genetic research, motherhood etc.

Score - 2.7/5

Aug 19, 2005

AIFF 2005: Lacklustre Syndrome

A lackluster movie.

Score - 2.2/5

Aug 16, 2005

AIFF 2005: When Do We Eat

A family reunion on a Jewish Passover which turns awry when the patriarch is slipped a dose of ecstacy by his young son. An interesting look at the dynamics of large families in a cliched setting of a family holiday.

Score - 3.3/5

Aug 10, 2005

AIFF 2005: In Memory of My Father

I started watching it thinking it was a documentary, realized it was not after the film ended. It definitely is very real to life with the its hand held camera, the story and the actors. But the film didn't sit well with me because of its I-Me-Myself perspective, my cultural alienation from the story made it harder for me to understand what it was all about - except an hour and a half of dramatic self indulgence.

Score - 2.8/5

AIFF 2005: Navarasa

Directed by acclaimed Indian cinematographer Santosh Sivan, Navarasa(or Nine Emotions) looks in to the back of beyond - to a third gender, not recognized by Indian society. I do not know whether we should call them transvestites in Western way, they themselves have christened themselves Aravanis taking cue from a story in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata.

The movie is more of docudrama than a feature film, with a story woven to its edges maybe in an attempt to humanize it and make it more interesting.

Score - 3.8/5

Aug 8, 2005

AIFF 2005: Kaadhal(India)

The film opens with a Tamil folk song providing background to the moving images of everyday life in the South Indian temple city of Madurai. The theme of the film has been the lifeline of Indian film makers since the dawn of the industry - love. The difference here is, the story is based on a true story and is shot in a true-to-life manner. The camera as well as the script(although if you are dependent on subtitles some of the essence of the script is lost.) is above par. I think the movie is a commercial release but the finesse of the film makes it a class apart.

Score - 4.3/5

Aug 7, 2005

True Crime

True Crime

A film from Clint Eastwood, a Hollywood persona who I've no qualms about placing in my personal pantheon. An innocent on deathrow and an aging casanova news reporter is the only one who has some clues about his innocence. Will he be saved or won't he? It is a tight film, in usual Eastwood style and is guaranteed to keep you at the edge of your seats till the end. Good one.

Jul 7, 2005

Sideways

Jun 29, 2005

stromboli

Stromboli

Ingrid Bergman is one of my favorite actresses from the yesteryear. Directed by Roberto Rossellini, a great director of neorealist cinema, the then-paramour of Bergman and the father of her illegitimate child(later he married her), this film was overlooked and thrashed by the critics not for its lack of quality but because of the illicit affair between the director and the lead actress. The affair almost ended Bergman's career in Hollywood, before she resurfaced six years later with a major hit.

Back to Stromboli, the title is the name of one of the most active volcanoes on earth, situated on one of the Aeolian Islands of Italy. I think the film was made there as well. It is the story of a young woman(played by Bergman), a foreigner and a war refugee who gets married to an Italian man and sets up home at his village in Stromboli.The clash of cultures is apparent from the start, the villagers don't like the new bride and she, in turn despises the claustrophobic nature of the island community.

A natural film, probably because it was originally made in italian and not exactly tailormade for Hollywood, Stromboli is a cultural and cinematic education for the viewer.

Jun 27, 2005

shattered glass

Shattered Glass

Another brilliant underrated film. Directed by Billy Ray, Shattered Glass is the real life story of a reporter, Stephen Glass who worked for The New Republic Magazine in Washington DC in the late nineties. His fall from grace after being the whizkid of the newsteam has been perfectly reproduced in the movie. The script credits go to the director, Billy Ray himself. Together with some classy performances by Hayden Christensen(as Glass) and Peter Sarsgaard as editor Chuck Lane, Shattered Glass is worth a watch for people who like serious cinema.

Jun 24, 2005

Mumbai Express

One thing you have to give to Kamal Hassan as a writer-producer is, he chooses novel themes for his movies, right from Apoorva Sahodarngal, Kuruthi Punal, Nala Damayanti to this most recent - Mumbai Express.

Mumbai Express is the story of a guy who rides motorbike in the 'Well of Death', (you know the circus act where a person rides a motorbike along the walls of a deep well like construction)and his nickname in the profession is Mumbai Express and this character is played by who else but Kamal Hassan in the movie, afterall he is the producer.

It is a comedy caper about a heist planned by three guys and one of them is hospitalized a day prior to heist Mumbai Express is called in to take his place. The story goes from there. Vijay Raaz(he is such a natural actor), Om Puri, Manisha Koirala (btw I forgot to say, I saw the Hindi version, Tamil version has different actors.) and other actors in their supporting roles are at their comic best, all credits to Kamal Hassan's story and script, although Saurabh Shukla did the Hindi dialogs the gist of the script came from Kamal, I think.

The only problem (found in all Kamal Hassan movies) is Kamal tries to become the good samaritan and the invincible hero in all his movies, but then when doles our the dough it'll be that way, right. Come to think of it, that's what superstars in commercial Indian movie industry are supposed to do, that's what the junta wants to see.

Jun 23, 2005

Imaginary Heroes

Still waters run deep - so does serious cinema, Imaginary Heroes is one such film. The suicide of the star swimmer, the much adored elder son sends a suburban American family crumbling, there are unspoked secrets waiting to burst out and loyalties are under scrutiny.

Directed by Dan Harris, Imaginary Heroes is about ordinary people, the Travis family, in the wake of a tragedy. But I'd say the movie belongs to Emile Hirsch, who plays the younger son of the Travis family, the about-to-graduate-from-high school, Tim Travis. Hirsch lives and breathes as Tim throughout the film, a commendable performance. As disenchanted parents, Sigourney Weaver and Jeff Daniels are good in their roles too. A dark film about the darker shades of family.

Jun 22, 2005

Employee of the Month

An unexpected surprise, a twist to the tale which came out from the blue. It is the movie in which the story shows us only what we should see and hides other important bits of information till the end to facilitate a ninety degree turn in the plot.

Matt Dillon plays a bank employee who gets fired from his job and on the same day his fiance, played by Christina Applegate breaks off their engagement. Thats all I am going to tell about the story and the story hasn't even started here! Steve Zahn has the role of Dillon's longtime buddy, as the wacko, Jack who steal stuff from corpses. The movie has a dark sense of humor and is totally unpredictable. From director, Mitch Rouse, this is an underrated, overlooked, real cool flick which came out in 2004, but no one seemed to have noticed it.

Jun 20, 2005

Bloom

Wish I had read the Ulysses before I saw this film. Though it does not seem like it is an easy task. Touted to be one of the best works in literature, it is said that only a few people have finished the book.

Bloom is a cinematic adaptation of Ulysses, a labor of love that took more than a decade for fruition, for director Sean Walsh. The story progresses primarily through the voice-overs of its main characters, which is Mr.Bloom, Mrs.Bloom and the young Mr.Dedalus. Stephen Rea and Angeline Ball carries the film on their shoulders with their solid performances. The camera, especially the outdoor shots are a tribute to the emerald isles of Ireland but can't say the same for indoor lighting though.

The story is slow moving, there are some inspiring poetic verses, but it was difficult to connect with the costume drama sequences which came somewhere in the middle of the movie. Or maybe I should reserve my judgements till I read the original Joyce's creation.

Jun 17, 2005

Padam Onnu Oru Vilapam

Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam is the malayalam title of the film directed by T.V.Chandran. A thought provoking movie about the travails of young Muslim girls in rural Kerala, Padam Onnu centers around the life of Shahina, the fifteen year old protagonist played to perfection by Meera Jasmine.

This is one of those movies that will exhort you to take action against the unjustices of society, the under-age marriage of young Muslim girls to men twice or thrice their age who already have a bevy of legal wives at home. This film has won a many national(India) and international awards and for a pretty good reason too.

Jun 16, 2005

bonfire_of_vanities

Bonfire of Vanities

Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith in this Brian De Palma caper about greed, lust and vanity in and around Wall Street and Manhattan. Loved the flick, it was entertaining, had a good story, some interesting characters and a neat narrative style.

The only Tom Wolfe book I have read is non-fiction, called From Bauhaus to Our House. With its incediary take on the architectural icons of twentieth century that book provided quite some entertainment for the architect in me. This film makes me want to check out some of Mr.Wolfe's novels.

Jun 12, 2005

Snehithan

Jun 10, 2005

Parinita

Jun 8, 2005

All Or Nothing

A gritty take on real life with achingly real life characters. It is impossible to believe that the characters in the film were played by paid actors, they looked unbelievably real.

Directed by Mike Leigh(Dir:Vera Drake)the film looks at the beaten down lives of a few families in a South London housing complex. In the second half the film focuses its attention on one particular family. It is gray and depressing to watch but towards the end a bit of sun shines through.

Jun 4, 2005

Sathyam

Directed by Vinayan, this Malayalam movie stars Prithviraj as the hero turned police officer. Although movie starts off in the same lines as an earlier Malayalam blockbuster Kireedom which starred Mohanlal, in Sathyam, Prithviraj is not the kind of hero who'll be bullied down by circumstances. A 'not bad' masala movie of the recent past.

Jun 2, 2005

Hitch

Hitch had a really long run at the local movie hall we frequent. This fooled us in to thinking that it must be a fun movie. I had high hopes because of Will Smith, being an old fan of his from the days of The Fresh Prince.

Unless you are a hardcore romantic(which I am not by eons), don't fall for Hitch. The only redeeming factor this movie has(if it has any) is Kevin James who plays Albert who is one of Hitch(Will Smith)'s clients. I also suggest that if the animation flick The Incredibles ever be remade with real human being actors, then Kevin James be cast as Mr.Incredible. Back to Hitch, I realize maybe I am just not the Andy Tennant(the director of Hitch) type, 'cause I hadn't liked his previous film - Sweet Home Alabama much either, despite its good run at the box office.

Jun 1, 2005

Crash

May 28, 2005

Shijie(The World-China)

Days in the life of amusement park employees in China. An informative portrayal of modern China and its people.

May 25, 2005

50FirstDates

50 First Dates

An easygoing romance, this film has Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore as lovers in Hawaii. Some jokes are hilarious and then there is Rob Schneider, just in case you feel a lack of comedy anywhere. I liked the lines of the old Hawaiin(or china man?)man at the restaurant in some of the opening scenes.

Adam Sandler is cool, I don't usually like his roles in all his movies, but the last one I saw before this - Spanglish, he did a neat job. This one although not different from the usual Sandler roles is okay too. Drew Barrymore suffers short term memory loss and that is the whole premise the movie is built upon. She is a natural, both at ease with romance and comedy. All in all - an easy on the eyes Sandler-chick flick.

May 24, 2005

It All Starts Today

French movies bore me with their length and their lack of dialog for minutes at a time. As one of my friends put it, I have bought myself in to the Hollywood culture, maybe I have.

This French movie starring Philippe Torreton as a kindergarten teacher is long by Hollywood standards but has ample conversation. It is the story of an ordinary everyday man who sometimes fails, sometimes triumphs trying to fight for the good cause in the midst of a failing economy and wretched cirumstances. It is like a piece of life presented before an audience without any makeup.

May 22, 2005

My Brother Nikhil

May 17, 2005

Vaastav

One of Mahesh Manjrekar's first films, and possibly his best film to date. Sanjay Dutt has portrayed the prototypical Mumbai Don to the hilt, which led him to similar roles in similar movies after Vaastav.

With its true to life characters and typical Mumbaiyya tapori Hindi, Vaastav is a rare Bollywood movie bridged the popular, commercial attitude of Bollywood with vaastav(the reality.) The performances by the supporting cast are also above par. I was watching it for the second time and as it is often said, the truth or the reality(vaastav) is hard to resist.

May 14, 2005

Hindi: Shabd

May 13, 2005

OldSchool

Old School

A funny no-brainer. Good for goofy laughs with friends on Saturday nights.

May 10, 2005

Road to Ladakh

Road to Ladakh gives the feel of a short stretched to feature film length, not that it has lost any of its tautness in the process. From the Oscar nominated Indian documentary film maker Ashvin Kumar, Road to Ladakh stars Irrfan and Koel Purie in the main roles.

The stark and expansive landscape of Ladakh plays an important part in the movie. The length of the movie is very short by Indian standards, maybe that could be one of the reasons why the director decided to keep this movie under wraps and convert in to a Hollywood film. IMDb site says the production of the Hollywood version is underway which has Irrfan in the same role as he had played in the Indian version, but Koel Purie's role is being done by some American actress.

With money to spare and Indians becoming rich enough to afford the exotic Ladakh is fast becoming a hot spot, hope the roads will also improve. Coming back to the movie, Ashvin Kumar himself appears in one scene in the movie as the Indian army officer's driver. All in all, it is not a typical Indian movie, someone is trying to deviate the beaten path of high emotions and drama and venturing in to the rarefied realms of subtlety.

May 8, 2005

Y tu Mama tambien

It is an explicitly sexual movie. So if you are not comfortable with raw portrayal of sexuality and explicit dialogs, please stay clear of this one. What else can of you expect from a coming of age movie about two teenage boys set in the beautiful beaches of Mexico?

It is a movie about trips - a sexual discovery trip, a trip to the lovely beaches, a cultural trip through Mexico of the present, a trip through a life with a terminable disease and within these trips there is life, sex, drugs, music, fried fish and beer. Above everything the film is an incredible character study - of two teenagers growing up, their lingo, their acts, their lives and that of the young woman who is facing some of life's worst crises set against the very believable social fabric of current day Mexico.

May 6, 2005

Tango Charlie

Nowadays Bollywood movies are a lot better than watching Malayalam films. The quality of latter has forever been going downhill and seems to be beyond rescue. Tango Charlie(wonder what is the significance of the term in aviation, 'cause I have heard Tango Charlie mentioned in pilots' transcripts aired in NatGeo?) in this movie is the codename of a BSF jawan, played by Bobby Deol. Ajay Devgan also plays an important role in the movie as Deol's commanding officer.

Suneel Shetty and Sanjay Dutt strats off the movie with their special appearnce roles as two IAF patrol pilots. Sanjay Dutt is a laugh riot from start to finish(was for me). With his tapori Bambaiyya Hindi it is fun to hear him mouth an IAF Squadron Leader's dialogs.

The film takes up the cause of India's BSF soldiers, an often forgotten branch of the Armed forces and fits in encounters with almost all prominent terrorist groups actively assaulting the nation from within like Bodos, mujahiddeens imported from Pakistan and the like. Although it is quite impossible in the real case that the same BSF soldier might be called to defend all these volatile zones simultaneously, it gives you an idea what an ordinary BSF jawan goes through for the sake of his country and then dies off as yet another unknown soldier.

Although not a great film, like the star studded Border, Tango Charlie is an ok movie with a believable script. Ajay Devgan and Bobby Deol has given commedable performances. Not a bad 'timepass'.

May 4, 2005

Salam Namaste

May 2, 2005

Autumn Marathon

This Russian movie is almost a quarter century old, tells the story of a middle aged professor and his relationships with two women, namely his wife and his girl friend.

It is interesting to know how people lived in Russia in the late seventies and the early eighties, which was also the time I used to read much about Russia thanks to subsidized subscriptions of Russian children's magazines. The movie reiterates the fact that man-woman relationships are pretty much the same, whether they are behind the Cold War's Iron curtain or in the free world.

May 1, 2005

Welcome to Mooseport

Welcome to Mooseport

Although actors have done their parts well this movie lacks something. You cannot say it is the script or the camera or the editing, but something is certainly amiss.

Gene Hackman and Ray Romano play their roles, that of an ex-President and the town's handyman running for mayoral office respectively, quite charmingly. Hmmm...now that I think about it, the story was kind of unbelievable, made-up and predictable.

Apr 30, 2005

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams packs more wackiness in to his novels than any camera can ever dream of reproducing. The newest offering of his work from Disney reiterates this fact. After watching Disney's new movie today, which had been burning, smoking and broiling in the back burner for years, I'd have to say we have some good news and bad news. The good news is, Disney has done it better than the BBC, the bad news is neither is anywhere near the book. But I understand Disney's has been a good effort, as I said earlier it is hard to reproduce DNA's verbal wackiness on film.

Some of the oft-quoted lines from the novel have been included in the movie and I think a lot of definitions and explanations like who Vogons are, what a pan galactic gargle blaster is etc have also been incorporated. What the film lacked(acc.to.me)is the technical finesse you'd expect from a Hollywood film. Although there are some commendable CGI sequences like the view from the Vogon ship as it shoots up from the earth, the movie lack the usual slickness of Hollywood special effects. Maybe they were deliberately cutting down on the CGI because afterall it is a British movie, they might not want it to look like another Matrix Revolution or Rotations. But I thought the opening credits sequence looked like something out of a home movie edited by an amateur.

The fans of THHGTTG will definitely flock to the theaters to check how the story turned out on the big screen, but one thing I am certain is that not many newbies are going to get converted in to DNA fans after watching this movie. It is hard for someone who has not read DNA to comprehend what the fuss is all about. It does not have the almost impossible goal the heroes of the Lord of the Rings(another book series turned in to movie) were striving to reach. What made both readers and non-readers appreciate LOTR is the collective baited breath on which the story rode along the magnanimously impressive landscapes.

THHGTG is not a goal oriented story, although some additional characters(a new villain for instance) and more stress on the personal relationships between the characters seems like an effort from the part of film makers to make it a goal oriented movie. The crazy digressions that pepper THHGTTG-the novel and make it unique, cannot be done effectively in a movie which has to stick to a definite time frame and keep the audience's attention at the same time.

For me, it was good to see my favorite novel on the big screen finally. I was not much impressed by the BBC-TV series, probably because it felt really dated by the time I saw it in the late 90s. My advice would be if you have not read any of DNA, don't waste your money on this movie, you can probably rent it sometime later. And if you have read DNA, you probably would not need my advice.

Apr 28, 2005

Il Postino

An earthy film about a rural postman in an Italian island and his meeting with the poet Neruda who was living in the same island in exile. Nominated for a posthumous Oscar, Massimo Troisi(he died of a heart attack a few days after the production ended) plays the title character with such perfection that it is hard to notice he is acting, he lives and breathes the character of the innocent village postman.

Great script, beautiful landscape and Pablo Neruda teaching our love-bug bitten Postino a few tricks of his trade, what else can you ask for?

Apr 27, 2005

Udayananu Tharam

Watched the newest blockbuster from Malayalam movie industry, Udayananu Tharam. It is indeed one of the better films that has come out in Malayalam in the recent past, a respite from the unbearable comedies whose main purpose is to make idiots out of their viewers. It is a tight, technically decent film with Mohanlal in the title role and Sreenivasan in the main supporting role.

The magic of Mohanlal-Sreenivasan duo, both the actors now in their forties, is missing. Even the natural chemistry the two had in their hit films of the eighties like Nadodikattu and Pattanapravesham is absent. Mohanlal is in his best physical form in the last few years. The selling point of the movie, from my perspective, is its songs and an almost natural script, which is a rarity these days in Malayalam cinema. Still it is nowhere near the best Sreenivasan had come out with in the past. Since it is a movie about South Indian filmdom the writer(Sreenivasan) has taken liberties to include not-so-hidden references to real life stars and their antics. For example, Malayalam movie viewers are aware of the much publicized media aided tug of war between a young actress and her greedy family, then there is the part where it says superstars are now in to pickle and readymade food business(you know who is doing that). Rosshan Andrrews, the director himself was a struggling assistant direcotr before he made this movie, which is what the main character played by Mohanlal portrays in the movie.

Meena looks good and comedian Salim Kumar (the only one amongst the new breed of comedians I've liked) has a serious supporting role. For a change, climax does not involve an emotional deluge which seems to be a prerequisite these days for a succesful run at the Kerala box office. Hope this will herald a wind of change in Malayalam movie industry.

Apr 26, 2005

Mumbai Express

Get Shorty

Get Shorty

Get Shorty is one of those total-script films, one which relies heavily on the smart-alecness of the script and the right choice of actors than anything else. Well, they did make a right choice roping in Travolta for the main role, he is the best mob guy who has come out of Hollywood in the recent past.

For a movie like this a lot depends on casting the right actors and they hade done it right - John Travolta, Rene Russo, Gene Hackman, Danny De Vito, Delroy Lindo,Dennis Farina and James Gandolfini are all perfect choices for their parts. It is good movie, that has to be watched carefully (make sure you don't skip dialogs). Mob guys and Hollywood has always been a winning combination, right?

Apr 25, 2005

Meet the Fockers

Liked it better than the original Meet the Parents. All credit to Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand. I also liked DeNiro better in this one. There is not much of a plot, except that this time around we are going to meet Focker(Ben Stiller)'s parents. A jovial entertainer, the success of which solely depends on the entertaining capacity of its actors.

Apr 23, 2005

Wings of Desire

It is unfortunate to start a review by mentioning the remake when the real one is so much better. But so is the ways of the world where everyone is aware of Hollywood movies than an obscure film from Germany or India.

The remake I am talking about is the Nick Cage starrer, City of Angels and the original is Wings of Desire directed by Wim Wenders. The story is about two angels watching over human beings in Berlin and one of them falls in love with a circus artist.

Scenes are shot in black and white and color, for angels see the world in black and white. The camera captures the angelic view of urban Berlin in swooping down and floating shots, thoughts of people are verbalized and this constitute most of the talking in the film. It is a poet's movie, as the thought passages in the script written by Peter Handke reflects. It might not have been a commercial success(I have no idea whether it was or not), but it is tribute to life - the life which can smell coffee, can taste metallic taste of blood on the lips and can touch an apple.

Apr 22, 2005

The Passion

I have liked Mel Gibson films for their crowd appeal, their gigantically populated landscapes and the raw emotion they can wrench out of the audience. Although I do not rank Passion anywhere near Braveheart, it is clear why Christianity is such an easily marketable religion. Afterall, all human hearts respond to pain and suffering or so I think.

Jim Caviezel is a good choice to play Christ. He looks good as historical figures, like his Count of Monte Cristo. Gibson has also amply used Italian(or Italian-Americans?) in the cast, most probably due to their physical likeness to early Jews, perhaps?

The film follows the events from Jesus's arrest to his crucifixion and one final shot of his resurrection. In a way it adds to the sin theory purported by Christians that all of humanity in one way or other is responsible for the inhuman punishment meted out to Christ and are thereby irredeemable sinners. Has to give it to Mel Gibson for artfully directing it as it is such a controversial theme and one about which everyone has opinions.

Apr 19, 2005

CID Moosa

Malayalam comedy is steadily going downhill and it is Harishree Ashokan who is driving it turbo charged down the slope with the aid of superstar Dileep. I like Dileep, but his roles and the movies he produce have now become breeding grounds of sickening pseudo-comedy. It is true that when one is the producer, the main intention is, unless one is a millionaire philathrophist who doesn't mind losing a few millions, to make a profit. But was there no other way to reap profit than to make such a joke of a movie?

Travellers & Magicians

A roadtrip in the idyllic Bhutanese style set against the majestic backdrop of Himalayas. A young government officer of the raring to go kind, trapped in a backcountry village gets his passport to freedom when one of his friends mails him about getting a visa to go to United States, his dreamland. To embark on this journey, he has to reach Thimpu first. The film follows his journey to Thimpu, hitching rides, with interesting fellow travellers. A beautiful film, a cultural window to the present day Bhutan and it breathtaking landscapes and simple people.

Apr 17, 2005

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

Watched two Lindsay Lohan teen flicks on two consecutive days - Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Mean Girls. Not exactly of any cinematic value expect to keep your teenage girls off the phone for two hours. My intention was to feel the pulse of the American teenager, especially girls - two cultural education films, lol.

Apr 15, 2005

Malayalam: Mazha

La Mala Educacion

After Hable con ella and Todo Sobre mi Madre, this is my third Almodovar film to date. Gael Garcia shows his wide range, he has done an about-turn from his role in Motorcycle Diaries to this one, as a cross dresser he could give Julia Roberts a run for her money. This is also the first time I've seen a mainstream director(mainstream as I visualize it is not exactly Hollywood) deal with gays and gay relationships in a mature environment and make them the main theme of the movie instead of having them as 'butts for jokes' props. Cinematography is good, wish they had shown more of the director(Enrique in the film)'s house, it looked architecturally interesting. Overall a different film.

Apr 12, 2005

Choker Bali

Apr 10, 2005

Sideways

A coming of age film for the middle aged. Like all coming of age moments this one also involves alcohol - wine. Two friends embark upon a last week of freedom trip through the wine country of California, before one of them is about to get married at the end of the week.

Alexander Payne, the director seem to specialize in lonely men searching for meanings in life, usually before they are about to get in to a relationship or after they are suddenly and unexpectedly freed of one. I am talking about Sideways and his directorial venture before that, About Schmidt. Personally, the film strikes a chord with me because California's wine country is one of my eternally favorite landscapes. While living there we had spent many a weekend driving and wine tasting in the numerous wineyards that dot the valley. It is a well-kept(or well known, whatever you prefer) secret of California, that behind the busy facade of Bay Area or LA, a few miles is all that require to take you in to another country - the rolling valleys of wines, wineyards, grapes and a country lifestyle. You go sideways from the busy main stream and you are in an enchanted place, maybe it'll help you to rediscover your self.

Apr 6, 2005

Ee Parkkumthalika

This movie ran to packed houses all over Kerala when it was released and was one of the main films which catapulted Dileep to superstardom in Malayalam movie industry. Supposedly a comedy, the comedy in this movie shows is representative of low, crass dialogs and rib breakers not ticklers which pass of as comedy in Malayalam these days. There is not one decent script writer these days in Malayalam except for Sreenivasan. Lesser said about Parakkumthalika the better.

Tamil: Nala Damayanti

Apr 5, 2005

To Sir With Love

Sidney Poitier is a fine specimen of a man. Whenever I watch him in movies, I feel that he was what the African Americans wanted to be after their emancipation from slavery. But somewhere along the way, many of them lost sight of that vision, and became drug pushers and Addidas & Nike pimps. Now it is left to Chris Rock to rescue them, hope he makes some impact.

I had read a portion of the book by E.R.Braithwaite as a part of an English lesson in high school. It was wonderful to see Poitier play the title role, I cannot think anyone else doing it. A good story about an unruly bunch of British teenagers in their final year at highschool who are brought to 'their senses' and ultimately won over by a newly appointed black teacher.

Apr 1, 2005

The Art of Dying

One of the cool ghost/horror films I've come across in recent times. The Art of Dying is about six friends who are somehow involved in the disappearance and death of a seventh person - their friend and an eccentric genius of a painter. At the beginning of the movie we do not know what had really happened to the painter guy, the story unfolds as the film progresses. It eventually turns in to a nail biting ghost story sans the cheap tricks. I liked the movie, takes place in some city in Spain and one of the better made films about the subject of cheating death.

Mar 28, 2005

Bhoot

Ram Gopal Varma is the best director to come out of Bollywood in recent times. If Shekhar Kapoor can get Hollywood films to direct, it is high time Varma got a chance. Bhoot is an excellent cinematic composition, taut, no-nonsesnse, a ghost story with just the right amount ghost in it. No Hindi movie I've watched recently comes anywhere near the technical perfection, acting and overall quality of Bhoot. Urmila Matondkar and Ajay Devgan deliver excellent performances, the rest of the cast is also good. Hats off to Ram Gopal Varma

Mar 27, 2005

Without a Paddle

This is the perfect movie for a saturday/sunday night with friends. In the simplest terms it is the story of three friends who go searching for a treasure in the Cascades National Forest following the clues left behind by a dead fourth member of their childhood gang. They leave their real life jobs behind and embark upon a journey none of them are familiar with. Its a fun trip.

Mar 26, 2005

Half-Baked

Another one for all the fans of Dave Chappelle. It is a not so new movie(1998) which is an A-Z about weed and weed smokers. If you are offended by the overwhelming onscreen presence of marijuana, you should stay clear of this movie. Dave Chappelle as usual is funny, as he is in all movies he co-writes. It is a stupid, full length funny movie about Dave and his three friends on loose and high.

Mar 25, 2005

Bus174

This must be the only documentary in which the entire hijack(of any kind) has been filmed live and clear anywhere in the world. If CNN's live broadcast(of shooting flares and dim gun totting figures and tanks) of Kuwait War of 1991 was a major event in TV history, Bus 174 is a major milestone in documentary film making.

Better than a crime thriller, it keeps you on the edge of your street for the whole two hours because you know that the Bus 174 is hijacked for real, the trauma the passengers undergo when one by one each one of them is paraded by the hijacker at gun point is real, there is no hero waiting in the wings for the right moments to kick the living lights out of the hijacker, only the incompetent Brazilian police.

More than an action movie, Bus 174 is also a sociological statement. The hijacker himself a victim of the police cruelty, the inhuman treatment of street kids and the justice system in Brazil turns his wrath on a group of bus passengers on Dec 12th 2000. He wanted to be in the world's eye for one day and wanted to take revenge for the 1993 Candelabrian street kids massacre(he was one of the survivors), hijacking Bus 174 was his fifteen minutes of fame, though it went on a lot longer than 15 minutes. The entire hijack episode on live TV is interspersed with talks with policemen, hijacker's friends, relatives, the hostages(at a later point in time) and the review of the police system, society, favelas and the social treatment of street kids. A very serious, must watch, mile stone documentary.

Mar 24, 2005

Eat a Bowl of Tea

The travails of immigrants in the New World - this time it is the Chinese immigrants before WW2. An arranged marriage, the bride comes over to the US and the troubles begin. But wait, it is not a serious film as the issues involved may make you believe. Shot in a funny vein, it is a light look at the serious problems faced by immigrants.

Mar 23, 2005

Matchstick Men

Since Matchstick Men didn't make any box office ripples, I didn't expect much from it - but I was in for a surprise. It turned out to be a good one! One doesn't expect this kind of low key movie from Ridley Scott, who is 'prone' to epics. But in my opinion, he did well.

Matchstick Men is the story of two con artists, Roy(played by Nick Cage) and Frank(Sam Rockwell), one of them has Roy has a severe case of OCD. Midway thru' the movie Roy's 14 year old daughter(Alison Lohman) turns up and this changes the flow of the whole movie. It is a very intriguing story, a con with a twist at the end. A good one.

Mar 22, 2005

Death Becomes Her

It is a funny, satirical Hollywood entertainers, much in the lines of Stepford Wives. Death Becomes Her stars Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis(in a very different role)in the three main roles. The movie makes fun of the Hollywood's obsession to stay young forever and its repurcussions if someone happens to succeed in doing that, all of course, with a pinch of humor. An entertainer to the core.

Mar 21, 2005

Bombay Talkie

For anyone who is interested in the making of movies, it is fun to watch a movie which is about the movie world. In my knowledge there are not many films about the Bollywood of the sixties and the seventies although a lot of Bollywood's best films came out during this period.

Bombay Talkie provides an insiders view of Bollywood, through the lives and times of the young actor called Vikram, played Shashi Kapoor. His real life wife Jennifer Kendal/Kapoor has the role of a western writer who visits Bollywood and falls in love with the married actor, he's married to the beautiful Aparna Sen. Pak, later UK actor Zia Moyinuddeen plays another important role in the movie as a writer of Bollywood movies, and a companion of Kapoor and Kendal.

Unlike the usual Bollywood masala stuff, this 1970 film from Merchant Ivory trio is natural, earthy, informative and revealing. We see rare glimpses of old actors and singers going about earning their daily bread - we can see Helen as Helen doing takes and retakes of dance numbers, Jalal Agha (remember Pan Parag ad, "aur mere liye?") as a young budding actor by the name Jalal Agha, Usha Uthup as the upcoming western singer(the only one at the time) with her maiden name Usha Iyer - for Bollywood afficianados this movie is an unforgettable walk down the memory lane. If this is not all, the film has excellent story line, written ofcourse by Ruth Prawar Jhabhwala which revolves around the young dashing actor, his wife, his writer friend and the 'toofan' which comes in to their lives as the western writer played by Jennifer Kendal. Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kapoor had been married 12 years by the time this movie was shot and in this movie Jennifer plays the other woman.