Descendants george clooney
Drama, English Movies, Popular

Descendants directed by Alexander Payne

Descendants flatters to deceive…unfortunately

descendants-movie-golden-gl__oPt What happens when your wife suffers a terrible accident and you know that she is never going to wake up from her coma

At a time when you were contemplating resurrecting a marriage that has gone cold

and you are like a stranger to your own children because you have been busy with your work too long

And then you are hit with the revelation that your wife had been cheating on you and was planning to leave you

What happens is that you get a brilliant premise for what can be a brilliant movie. Except "Descendants" flatters to deceive and wastes what is Clooney's brilliancy

I haven't read the book that 'Descendants' is based on but from the reviews I read, it seems that the strengths of the book has not translated into the movie's strengths

George Clooney as Matt King is a man who has been busy with being a lawyer and a land baron rather than being a father and a husband. As he mentions at the start, his younger daughter has grown from 3 to 10 and he has not been witness to the in between years and his older daughter has a drug problem. They are strangers to each other. And now they have to get to know each other since the connecting link between them, their mother, is gone.

As Matt grapples with the problem of how to relate to his two daughters and how to handle the grief of his wife'sfirst_clip_of_george_clooney_s_the_descendants_arrives-558x345 accident, he finds out from his own daughter that his wife was having an affair. In a tizzy, Matt rushes off in his slippers, in the famous running scenes shown in the promos, face taut with agony and shock to find out the details from his wife's friend.

And so begins a hunt for the wife's lover. With his daughters in tow, Matt goes on a road trip to confront the man. Whom he finds eventually. And the movies drags on to a close…

About this time, the 'Descendants' started to lose the plot for me. I mean, the first part was barely holding it out and the second part left me completely cold…

My biggest gripe is that the script leaves us feeling Matt as pretty one-dimensional. Except for flashes of nascent spark in the first part, especially when he finds out about his wife's infidelity, Matt seems mostly unperturbed by his wife's  condition. Beside grappling with the daughters, whom he seems to get back in touch more or less easily, he seemed to spend much of the time preparing for his wife's death. The anger that he feels at his wife's betrayal does not lead to anything much except for a somewhat farcical hunt for the lover. And when he does find him, you would expect some riveting dialogues…doesn't happen.

The-Descendants-007You would expect a man in his situation to be introspective – after all, there might have been good reasons for his wife's infidelity. He was not always there and she was lonely might have been one. But we never get to see that side of the story. Even the goodbye scene with his wife seems out of the blue, with almost no buildup. Does he forgive her, does he forgive himself? We don't know.

We see how Clooney, as Matt is trying to deal with on the outside but we don't get to see the inside of the man. There is attempt at humour but they come out as unnecessarily lighthearted. And there is attempt at grief but they come out a little contrived. Even the decision about the land – we don't get to know whether that was a genuine decision from the heart or an attempt to get back…

After a while it becomes a little difficult to connect to what is happening on the screen. There is not much here that descendants_trailerfin_hdwould separate this from numerous other movies with the same theme.

Descendants had a unique chance to show us the turmoil of a man who is very much of our times, caught in a pincer between a world that he neglected but depended on and a world where he spent much of his time but which becomes a stranger to him. And it had the talents of George Clooney for doing exactly that. 

Unfortunately, inspite of the best attempts of Clooney, the Descendants neither quite sparkles nor connects. It just about whets your appetite – to read the book…by Kaui Hart Hemmings of the same name…

Well that's just my opinion. How did you find Descendants?

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Gold rush charlie chaplin
Classics, Comedy, English Movies, Popular

The Gold Rush directed by Charlie Chaplin

Gold rush charlie chaplin So, this was the movie that Chaplin wanted to be remembered for the most
 
Your own jury can be out on that one but one thing is for sure, along with his other great classics like “The Kid” or “City Lights”, “Gold Rush” would rank as one of the all time classics – a feast that can be enjoyed not matter what your age or what your mood for that matter.
 
Its a measure of Chaplin’s genius that he could sustain his audience through a full length silent feature movie, a length which many modern movies struggle to fill with any meaning, with all the tech wizardy in hand.
 
Much like “The Kid”, which came earlier, Chaplin is able to combine comedy, pathos, a keen sense of human nature and a social  non-judgmental commentary and a sense of irreverent frivolity.
 
Many people today mistaken Chaplin with slapstick or physical comedy, which is a tragedy of ignorance. Almost none of his works are of the kind that would make you laugh without making you think, however subtly. And that is where the power of something like “Gold Rush” comes into focus.
 


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The Tramp is now in the middle of the infamous Gold rush in Alaska of the late 19th century. And as ever, he is bumbling along alone, with his trademark top hat, ill fitting coat and stick, all in the wilderness of Alaska. He is the lone prospector trying his luck in the advertised El Dorado, with only a map drawn with just north south arrows.
 
On the way to struggle to fame, he meets quite a few characters along the way – the thug, the prospector who finds the mountain of Gold and then loses it, the ladies man Jack, and the woman who he falls in love with – Georgia, a dancing girl in one of the prospecting towns.
 
With his inimitable charm and bumbling confidence, the Tramp does what he does best – makes you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same  dance-halltime.
 
Between fighting a bear, almost getting eaten after being mistaken as a chicken and escaping from a see-sawing house on an cliff edge, the Tramp is the dreamer who falls madly in love with Georgia, who only finds him a useful foolishness.
 
Some of the most indelible imagery of “Gold Rush” is of the Tramp being a misfit even among misfits. The image of him facing the dance hall, back towards us, with people dancing gaily around him, while he just watches with us seeing his face is one of the most enduring image.
 
And of course who can forget the simply hilarious dance of the rolls – charliegeorgiazwone of the most famous scenes of all times. A scene that combines a comic timing, comic expressions, a virtuoso skill at the pantomime of dance using rolls, all happening at the backdrop of it taking place in a dream where the tramp is imagining a happy place with a reality quite different. If one scene can define the whole movie, it would have to be this one
 
What finally happens is something that you have to find for yourself as telling the ending is spoiling the fun. But unlike many of his earlier movies, I found the ending to be a bit equivocal.
 
The beauty of “Gold Rush” and probably why Chaplin wanted to be remembered for this is that this movie works so well on different levels. It depends on what how the viewer wants to take it. On the surface is a classic Tramp caper with his inimitable style.
 
Dig a bit deeper and you  catch glimpses of social satire – on human greed, on human frailty, on vanity, on capriciousness, of pride and of love based on material and physical aspects. And the ending with the kiss, with the Tramp acting the imperious millionaire, is an ending you can take in more ways than one.
 
Easy to see why the Tramp is such a loved character, even after almost a 100 years after he came on the screen and also easy to see why “Gold Rush” would remain one of the most well-loved of Chaplin’s movie.
 
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The roll dance

 

 

 

 

Roll Dance Gold rush

 

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Charlie-Chaplin-in-Modern-Times
Classics, Comedy, English Movies, Popular

Modern Times directed by Charlie Chaplin

mo There are some movies that you can enjoy immensely as a child and then realize how much more there is to enjoy in the same movie, years down the line…

Perhaps that is why movies of Chaplin are ageless. You laugh and cry with him as a child and as a ‘grown up’, but as the latter, you realize the true genius of the man.

Art without commentary on things around it is worse than useless, a mere trinket, soon forgotten. This movie proves that the medium can provide entertainment and make a profound political statement as well, while never becoming preachy or descending into propaganda.

And the best way to make a statement, especially a political one, is to make it through a satire. And this is what this movie does brilliantly…

The very first scene gives a clear indication of what is to follow – a herd of sheep morphs into people coming out of a factory while the  voice over narrates the joy of pursuit of happiness via modern capitalism.

Chaplin is a worker in a factory, a place where literally everything ischaplin modern_times_2 controlled and the worker is no better than another cog. The boss is a like Big Brother, appearing on TV screens (even in the bathroom) and commanding the work to be speeded up (all the while himself doing nothing except work on jigsaw puzzles). There are many memorable scenes in the factory sequences – that of Chaplin trying to keep up with his work of screwing nuts, being force-fed by a feeding machine which is supposed to increase productivity (by cutting down on lunchtimes) and of course of Chaplin having a nervous breakdown.

This was made at the time of the Great Depression and Chaplin proves his genius by weaving into the story all the tensions, the helplessness, the dehumanisations that the common man went through in trying to chaplin_moderntimes_01 maintain his dignity. Right from trade-unions to robbers trying not to starve, to street-smart yet vulnerable gamins trying to get by, Chaplin brings in every aspect of society at that time – all the while, never losing his comic touch. He pairs up with an doughty orphaned  gamine girl (Paulette Goddard) – making a team of two, a team that is determined to survive at all costs.

Amidst all the gloom of the times, the two are refreshing in their innocence and their unwillingness to let go of their small dreams. The scene where the two dream of a home together is hilarious as it is touching.

The film ends with them walking towards the horizon, not giving in to failure. The last lines of the movie pretty much sums it all up –

Gamine: What's the use of trying?
Chaplin: Buck up – never say die. We'll get along.

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As simple as that…

When it ends, you realize that you have laughed with abandon at the all of the crazy scenes (the waiter scene, Chaplin’s nonsense song, the roller skating scene among many many others) and have also been touched profoundly.

It is a movie that makes as much sense today as it did seventy years ago. Except the superficial looks, nothing much has changed really…

A movie not to be missed. Chaplin and film-making at its absolute best…

 

 

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wag-the-dog
English Movies, Popular, Satire

Wag the Dog directed by Barry Levinson

wag_the_dog_ver3 A delightful movie about spin doctors and how they can be shaping our reality right as we breathe. And it is so funny and mind boggling that you fear that its true!!!For isn’t truth stranger than movies?

This movie is a cult-classic. And you soon see why…

The first lines of this movie sets the tone for what you realize is going to be quite a different movie – Why does a dog wag its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail. What if the tail is smarter than the dog? It would be the tail wagging the dog!!!

The American president’s re-election campaign has run into serious trouble with a sexual misconduct allegation that is just about to burst the dam. So what would you do? You would call the spin doctors of course. And what would they do? Obviously create a world-shaking crisis that would over-shadow everything else and induce a panic-stricken population to rally behind its hero president (if you create it, you can defuse it – especially if its a fake event)

And the man behind the creation of the event – Robert De Niro. Who 66279-004-C54F3A8Ebetter to portray a man who is amoralistic and who does his spin doctoring as an everyday job. But since this is a truly magnificent event, who would he employ? Hollywood of course!!! in the shape of Dustin Hoffman. Its a world of people untroubled by the ethical  dilemma of any sorts – the only worry is of logistics. Truth and justice are words that would be met with quizzical stares by people here – people who run our world of policies and information.

So a war is manufactured and sleeper cells in news agencies are activated and modern information democracy does what it does best – create a blinkered dictatorship of news.

Problems arise and are solved and with each solution, you begin to gain more insight into how the world might really be working!!!

007418_25 Its funny but not hilarious. Its funny in a very terrifying sort of way, a combination of words that can be understood only when you are through watching the movie. And the feeling only grows towards the end…

But there are these moments when you realize that the movie makers are really telling a stark truth couched in a satire. You see shades of the American administration strategies over the years (The Bush years especially are pre-empted by this movie). And then something that was the coup-de-tat for me – the two spinners (De Niro and Hoffman) talking about arranging the Nobel Peace Prize for the President. I did a literal double take. Well, Obama’s advisors sure see the movies!!!!

A movie like few other. A movie that needs to be seen to be believed.

One thing is for sure. You will not be unaffected by this one.

 

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Action, Classics, English Movies, Popular, Thriller

Heat directed by Michael Mann

heat The definitive robber-cop/crime thriller movie. I had heard a lot about it but only managed to watch it yesterday. And boy did it blow me away!!!

The first thing that you drool over is right in the first few seconds when the casting comes up – Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Ashley Judd, Tom Sizemore and more. That itself was a warning signal that I better wake up to what follows…

Then of course you realize that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are squared off against each other, the former being a career cop who hunts down career criminals like Niro. Then sets the thermometer even higher and if the name of the movie had to have a second meaning, it would have been the epic battle between two of the most stylish and talented actors in Hollywood.

The thing about this movie is that it never once goes down the road of cliched scenes or dialogues that other gangster movie go down so easily. There are no stereotypes. You understand and reach out to both sides – the cop whose life is unravelling and the robber who goes against his instincts to fall in love. The dialogues are taut and one piece of conversation between Pacino and Niro in the restaurant would surely rate as one of the most intensive conversations in the movies – it was so poetic and full of imagery. This conversation, more thanheat1 anything epitomised the movie.

The characterization is complex, the characters are multi-faceted and you constantly see new sides to every person. That makes this movie highly engrossing and makes you a part of each moment.

And one thing you realize while watching this movie is that reason why we are fascinated by movies populated by these kind of characters. They, the cops and the robbers, live amongst us but all we can ever do is cower when the firefight rages on. We may look upon them with awe and fear but its so difficult to get a glimpse into their lives (other than the idea that it must be exotic and dangerous), difficult for us to see them as normal people with different temperaments (as Niro and Pacino remarked, they cant do any other thing). We watch, fascinated, because we could never really understand them, even if told and shown. This, I believe, is the movie’s main triumph. Without stereotyping, without cliches, it told, amidst everything, a very human story.

heat-large-tm And what would an action movie be without the action? This movie could boast of one of the best action sequences (the bank robbery), with machine guns slugging it out in the middle of a street and all you hear is the ferocious rat-a-tat and the screams and the guttural commands. Rivetting!!!

So, anyway you look at it, this movie is perfect…the actors, the acting, the script, the dialogue and the dialogue delivery, the action, the suspense, the complex characters, the story behind the men and women. This is a movie that you can watch many times and find something new everytime. Just became one of my all-time favourites…

 

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Action, English Movies, Popular

Avatar directed by James Cameron

20raeew Probably the most hyped movie of the first decade of this century. A film that boasted of elements that were deemed to be game-changers, be it the technology used or the story told.

Question is how did it pan out in actual experience? The opinion about the movie can be neatly divided into two parts – about the technology and about the story

The technology is truly path breaking. Seeing it in 3D makes for an unforgettable experience. Cameron has built an immersive alien world that you feel an intimate part of, a few minutes into the movie. Its as if the greatest creation of science fiction writers, which has hitherto been in the mind only, has been rendered in full colour detail on screen. And this is a movie that has been made keeping 3D in mind. And when the action begins, you feel the thudding of the ground, feel overhead the scream of the giant birds as they dive bomb into you. Movies after Avatar would have work and their dollar cut out to surpass the standard set. The bar for now seems pretty steep.

About the story. The core of the story is pretty standard. The underdogjames_cameron_avatar_videogame_image_03 fighting an impersonal military juggernaut. The ‘noble savage’, close to the soil, fighting wanton capitalists who only see the wealth under the ground and completely oblivious to the unity of spirit and energy that forms a life-system of these ‘savages’. Numerous stories, by science fiction or other fiction/non-fiction authors have been written on the same theme. Good over bad, nature over machines – Thoreau would have approved. It has themes that even half-baked activists of every hue would relate to – be it anti-militarists, environmentalists, anti-technologists, anti-imperialists, naturalists and many more

avatar_james_cameron_guy So, no, the story is nothing exciting. There are no stirring speeches either a la Braveheart (the one speech fell pretty flat!!) and the action sequence though brilliant was a tad short for the all the build-up prior to it.  And the story or characterization was pretty shallow. You don’t really get to ‘know’ the characters, though considering the epic scale of the movie, that would have been really asking too much.

But the saving grace (and which was a big one) was that this simple theme and story was candy-wrapped in the most gorgeous setting you would have ever seen on screen and that itself almost stops you from looking closely at the shallowness of the story.

So is it for keeps? For me, not really. Without the 3D gogs, I would not want to watch it – the scenery would be too flat. And once the novelty wears off, the story or the acting would not be something I would find enjoyment in.

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inglourious-basterds
Action, English Movies, Popular, Satire

Inglourious Basterds directed by Quentin Tarantino

watch-inglorious-bastards-online A quirky film with signature Tarantino plastered all over it. It is quirky, irreverent, absolutely non-formulaic, action packed both in terms of dialogue and actual physical action. And it takes a fictional look at World War II, a view that is sardonic, funny, taut and serious all at the same time. It takes a very talented person to make a scene seem all four at the same time. And by god, it has been pulled off.

The title takes its name from a group of Jewish-American guerrilla group that forms to give the Nazis a taste of their own medicine (entirely fictional of course). Except as we see, they become not much different from the Nazis themselves. When the baseball bat swings and smashes the skull of the Nazi officer kneeling, you are jolted into realization that the Allies were about as brutal as the frequently excoriated Nazis (for those who need facts to back this up – look up Dresden bombing). Especially when the Nazi officer refused to betray his comrades and replied a few seconds earlier to the question asked as to his reason for getting the Knight’s cross – “For Bravery”. And the next thing you know is the Allied soldier killing a kneeling unarmed man. It can present quite a paradigm shift.

The movie progresses via ‘chapters’, which take up different threads of the main story at different points of time, with the final chapter typing up all the stories. Much of the stories are made up of extended dialogues, the tautness of which never flags, even when the conversation is between just two people for over 15 minutes. The camera work and a sense of danger and possibility of sudden violence ingloriuous-basterds-affiches-L-4 keeps you on the edge. The German officer Hand Landa played by Christoph Waltz is both terrifying and charming to a high degree (and his presence overshadows everyone else, including Brad Pitt). His conversations with different people in the movie are truly memorable for their undertone of menace.

The setting, the story, the premise is highly fictional of course. This is no history lesson by a long shot. But you don’t go into this movie thinking of military logic. Nazis could not have been vanquished as stupidly as shown here (the climax though is a bit too much to take and for me, did take away some of the quality of the movie). But then, this is supposed to be a movie that you go along with the flow and enjoy the action unfolding on the screen.

It’s a hell of a ride!!!

 

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