captain phillips
Drama, English Movies, Recently Posted

Captain Phillips – Subtle, gripping and surprisingly poignant

Captain Richard Phillips: There’s got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people

Muse: Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America

Captain_Phillips_poster Initially, I admit, I was a bit reluctant to watch the movie. For a couple of reasons – post the complex and sensitive ‘Syriana’, it has been tough work   finding a portrayal that was is not either a self-pitying American version of white man’s burden or an out and out macho version of how American military goes about its business. Though thankfully, movies like Rambo have moved out of fashion. Secondly, the theme seemed like one where there will be quite a bit of action – though with Tom Hanks in there, I was sure it wont be of the Bruce Willis and Nakatomi Tower variety. More like the cat and mouse variety, I reckoned

Well, I can say that I feel lucky that I was persuaded to watch Captain Phillips. In its short running time, it was gripping and surprisingly subtle, with the best acting, probably, not coming from Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips but Barkhad Abdi playing Muse, the Somali pirate captain. At the end, it leaves with you with a feeling of having watched a well made, well balanced movie. It also leaves you with an ache you cant shake off. Continue reading

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Bollywood Movies, Crime, Popular, Recently Posted

Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1) directed by Anurag Kashyap

00-Gangs-Of-Wasseypur-2012-VMR-Covers-Album-Art Gangs of Wasseypur, for me, is a landmark in Hindi movies. There has been quite a few path breaking movies which have come recently – Taare Zameen Par, Udaan to Dhobi Ghat, Kahaani and Paan Singh Tomar recently, which have slowly started creating a market for movies with strong unique stories. Gangs of Wasseypur will be among the top in this list and will also have a few uniques to its name

I don't recall a Hindi movie that was intended to be produced in two parts from the start, different from a sequel. Which is a gamble. Since if the first half does not catch on, the second one will have no takers. But this confident gamble seems to have worked out for Kashyap and his cast

And another thing about Gangs of Wasseypur is that the whole universe of the movie is in a very believable hellhole of rural India. In the genre of movies dealing with gangs and the underworld, started primarily by Ram Gopal Verma, most have dealt with urban gangs, mostly Mumbai based. The fact that India has a very rich tradition of banditry and mafia culture across its length and breadth has been largely ignored till now except in superficial ways. This criminal culture is heavily intertwined with local politicians and police, to be almost indistinguishable from them. This has usually been shown in a very fantastical light – e.g. Singham, Rajnikant movies etc. These have never really got into the teeth of the matter.

Gangs of Wasseypur completely rips away this curtain of shallowness and presents to us a story which is completely raw and bloody and completely believable. Local mafia in a rural town of India is shown exactly how it is – driven by history, sustained by opportunistic politics, driven to a frenzy by a people who know no other way to survive. The characters are in a world where there is no moral compass of right or wrong. The right or wrong is completely dependent on who is on top and who has the muscle. Might wins at the end, no matter what else you put up at the table. You either fight and hope to win or you are suppressed by a heavier boot everyday. If Paan Singh Tomar was about banditry – outlaws who are forced to take up arms for dignity or revenge, Gangs of Wasseypur is all about the choice of a lifestyle. There is a revenge aspect all right but its mostly about gaining power, money and fame.

There is no sugar coating in the world of Gangs of Wasseypur. You swear, fuck around, kill people with a knife, gun or agangs-houseful bomb depending on the day, intimidate the police, earn a cut from illegal mining and hack bodies. Sometimes all in a single day! And nobody will think of asking for a justification nor will any be offered. Things are right or wrong just because, well, it is and because the guy on top said so.

The rawness of this world is something that is seen to be believed. Many people will be turned away by what they see as  'excessive' violence. I differ. There is no unnecessary violence at all in the movie. Each kill drives the story forward and I didn't find any violence for violence sake. In any case the whole point of Gangs of Wasseypur is that there is a continuous war outside your door. Do you sit back or dream or do you kill to love yourself? For those who like sanitized violence, watch the highly stylized violence of Singham. Gangs of Wasseypur is real. Deal with it

What increases the realism is the fact that real stories make up the Gangs of Wasseypur storyline – stylized and adapted for the screen. So you know right from the time that they show the history of Wasseypur (from 1941), you are dealing with real stuff. And talking of realism, the acting is something that needs to be seen to be believed. There are no ‘extras’ in this movie. Each character has a role to play, a story to tell of their own. Each in its own way takes the story forward. Manoj Bajpayee, the central character in this first part, shines as the complex gangster who kills to save a 335437-interview-with-zeishan-quadri-writer-of-gangs-of-wasseypurwoman’s modesty and sleeps around blatantly cheating on his wife, at the same time. The galaxy of talented stars around him – Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Jaideep Ahlawat, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Reemma Sen, Richa Chadda, Huma Qureshi are all deliciously rural Bihar – sing song dialect with the choicest swearwords, homemade revolvers and all. They get completely  into the story. Not for the characters of Gangs of Wasseypur the superficiality of mere rural clothes over urban behavior. These guys walk, talk and fuck like guys in Gangs of Wasseypur should!!

A special note about the music. Sneha Khanwalkar is truly a force of nature when it comes to extracting music from noise and creating amazing sounds. In Gangs of Wasseypur, she has created some ground-breaking music. Music created from emigrant history and localized, the music is something of a revelation. Listening to them separately, the music of this movie is a collector’s item in itself

Gangs of Wasseypur brings something quite different to cinema. All I can say is that I cant wait for Part II. This review will be complete only then

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We need to talk about Kevin
Drama, English Movies

We need to talk about Kevin directed by Lynne Ramsay

We-Need-to-Talk-About-Kevin "We need to talk about Kevin" is a film you wont forget in a hurry…the theme and the mood that the film creates will ensure this

This is one film that is truly difficult to review. It cannot be easily bracketed. What makes this even more difficult is that its in the form of a narrative where the narrator herself does not quite seem 'balanced'. The movie is adapted from the novel by the same name by Lionel Shriver

If I have to best describe it, "We need to talk about Kevin" is a horror film in the most terrifying sense. It turns what we consider our safe haven – the family, the home, the child and parents into an universe where horror can happen almost casually and naturally. And its not the horror of a ghost or a supernatural being or something not of this world but the horror which is completely human.

What if your child is destined to kill when he grows up and somehow, in some chilling way, you had an inkling of this ever since he was born?

Eva (Tilda Swinton ) is the mother of Kevin. The film opens with Eva living in a rundown house, with a host of neighbours who hate the sight of her. Her house and car is defaced with paint and graffiti. Eva seems neurotically nervous andwe_need_to_talk_about_kevin-large jumpy. And right from the start we know that something has gone terribly wrong with her life.

That is the life we are slowly shown – in carefully crafted flashbacks. From her wooing by Franklin (John C Reilly) to her wedding, it seems like a fairytale. Then Kevin is born and things slowly change, irrevocably. Right from the start Kevin seems to be at war with his mother – almost willfully playing mind games with her at an age when he had not even learned to walk on fours. And believe me, the child Kevin can be quite frightening. The father is always blind to Eva's pleas and explanations – dismissing them as something that exists inside her mind only. And Kevin, right until the end, acts absolutely 'normal' with the father, who until the very end continues to treat everything as normal. Eva, it would seem is the only one, to whom Kevin shows his true self.

The film switches between the present and the past, both of them slowly coming closer. You slowly get an inkling as to what may have happened. Of course nothing quite prepares you for what actually happens…

Eva seems to have become permanently imbalanced but continues to try and find a way to come to terms with 'normal' life. Once a successful travel writer, she takes work in a small travel agency and drives home alone to her ramshackle We-Need-to-Talk-About-Kev-007 house. She becomes so used to people hating her that small kindness or a friendly word seems to actually rattle her. One can literally feel the nightmarish world her life is. And yet she hangs on to life and whatever sanity she has left. And you wonder what she is hanging on for…

And as the film progresses we see that she visits Kevin, who is now in prison. And until the very final scene, they sit opposite each other without talking, without speaking one word, not even looking at each other properly.

What is so powerful about the film is that dialogues are sparse. The rest is filled with imagery and music and noise. The imagery used is probably one of the best ever created in cinema.The opening scene is of Eva soaked in red tomato juice in Tomatina festival followed by a white satin curtain blowing in the wind across a open garden door, the significance of which we get at the very end. The music is eerie and beautiful with a tinge of horror at the edges. The song – "Everyday" originally sung by Buddy Holly, one of my favourites, is played back in a slow moving, eerily shot Halloween backdrop, while Eva is driving home. It has altered the song for me forever. The noise and the silence used in this film is used like a sharp weapon – the scene of Eva drowning out baby Kevin's cries with the noise of a drilling site is a scene that will haunt.

Combine this with the haunting presence of Tilda Swinton and an atmosphere of impending disaster throughout. "We need to talk about Kevin" will keep coming at you long after its over…

In the end, a note regarding the imagery again. A lot of this movie is perception. Its about how you want to interpret it. Eva is seen scrubbing off the graffiti and the paint off her door and window throughout the movie, slowly, painfully butWeNeedtoTalkAboutKevinTomatina she keeps at it. And just before her final meeting with Kevin in the film she completes the process. Her door and window is clean again.

 

In the prison, at their final meeting, Eva asked Kevin the simple question – why?. What Kevin says is probably the most chilling yet pitiful part of the whole film. It leaves you unsure of how it goes forward for these two. Eva walks off into the bright white light, ending the film that had started with bright red. Was there redemption? For whom? Was it even possible…

 

You feel a strange pain in your heart as the movie draws to a close. There is a strange sense of closure yet non-closure at the end and it tugs at you.

This is one film that you will think of often and you would think of Kevin and of Eva too…

P.S – A note about Oscars. You see this and you see why Oscar is losing its relevance year after year. A movie like this is not even a contender for many major awards and wins nothing. Truly remarkable!!!

 

 

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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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Drama, English Movies

Nine Lives directed by Rodrigo Garcia

1217376136_1217672299 While seeing this and while trying to put a word to the beauty of what was unfolding, I was reminded of the way some photographs seem to capture some things perfectly and while you watch, you seem to find hidden layers of meaning in the same photo – in the trees, in the eyes, in the mouth and so on.
 
 
If I have to describe this movie, this is how it seems – a series of beautifully and thoughtfully shot photographs with meanings in every frame. It is a movie made with lots of care, for its characters, for the situation and for the ‘baggage’ (as the Glenn Close says) that we all carry around
 
 
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia, son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ‘Nine Lives’ is a series of nine snapshots revolving around nine women and the situation they deal with. There is no beginning and there is no end. Perhaps it can best be described as windows into the lives of the characters, a small chance to see a small part of their lives.
 


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Stephen Hawking mentioned a few days back that he feels that women are the biggest mystery of the universe. ‘Nine Lives’ show also how varied each woman can be. Through situations of helpless anger, hopelessness, adultery, pain, sacrifice, yearning, fear we are offered glimpses of the strength, vulnerability and resilience of nine women.
Each of the nine stories are independent of each other but the characters from one story sometimes show up in others – just like life.
 
 
sissy_spacek5 Much like O Henry stories, each of the nine are a richly textured world of its own, with its own set of rules and past. Because there is no ‘end’, you end up wondering what may happen next. And because the director does not give you closure, you can only wonder about the answers – just like life.
 
 
The stories start as if in the middle of the telling and as you watch you piece together of where the characters have come from and by the time the climax appears, you get a fair idea of the life of the character and even though there is no ‘end’, you still feel a sense of incomplete completeness, to use an oxymoron.
 
 
There has been a spate of movies like these recently, trying to weave stories with separate incidents. However what sets ‘Nine Lives’ apart are two things -the sheer weight of the acting talents and the power of  the storytelling.
 
 
The cast includes Glen Close, Robin Wright Penn, Amanda Seyfried, Elpida Carillo, Ian McShane, Jason Isaacs, Aidan Quinn, Holly Hunter, William Fichtner, Joe Manegna. Almost to a T, all of them have given powerhouse performances. Perhaps because the time to make a presence was so limited, it seems that each of the actor has found some inner reserve to bring out that extra spark.
 
 
nine_lives Many of the performances require speaking with the body rather than with words and that is where this movie left its impact on me. The scene at the shopping mall aisle, the climax scene in the funeral home, the cutting short of the adultery and the last breathtaking scene of Glenn Close all without a single word said more or less makes this one a must watch.
 
 
Watch this not for passing the time because ‘Nine Lives’ will suck you in by the time the second story ends. Watch this if you like feeling being a part of a well told story, watch this if you like thinking for some more time after the credits roll.
Some of these stories will stay with you for quite some time

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Drama, English Movies

The American directed by Anton Corbijn

george-clooney-the-american (2) If you just happen to read the promotional summary of this movie which reads “An assassin hides out in Italy for one last assignment.”, and look at the poster, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a Jason Bourne or a Neeson “Taken” type of swashbuckling movie…
 
If you sit down to watch this with an intent to lose your blues in an orgy of fast moving punches and adrenaline pumping chases, you would be sorely disappointed. And that is only because this is a case of bad marketing…
 
Because this is probably one of the best movies that I have ever seen. And it becomes one not due to any breakthrough theme or espousing some philosophy that multiple views to get the aha moment.
 
It does this by having a screenplay that almost makes it a visual O Henry short story – a taut storyline that leaves more questions than answers, by a character sketch that is as profound as it is multi-american_set_image_george_clooney_butterfly_tattoo_01 dimensional and yes having a background score that almost gives a dark poetic feel…It had the same feel as Uzak (Distant) does in most part…
 
At the centre of this extraordinary movie is perhaps one of the most (till yet) under-rated actor of our generation – George Clooney. Watch this movie, Up in the Air, Syriana, Michael Clayton, Oceans series, One fine day and the sheer extraordinary range of Clooney comes through. And this movie is given its quality by his sheer presence.
 
Clooney is Jack, an ageing assassin, looking for a way out, another life. A man of few words, almost of Spartan laconism and never betraying emotion, at times he seems like a cold calculating machine who shows GEORGE-CLOONEY-THE-AMERICAN no remorse (especially when you get past the first 5 mins).
 
However as we move along, we realize that its just a job for him and its the same as when we do something over and over again, we end up doing it highly efficiently and without thinking. And as we see, he is not without his demons either. Or a conscience…
 
Where Clooney shines through as Jack is that he gives one of his best performances without so much as a handful of dialogues. Its all in his eyes and his slight changes of expression and postures. Its when you see a performance like this that you realize we as humans respond much more to body language and visual signs rather than to spoken words.
 
As you watch this movie, you begin to feel extraordinarily close to Jack and you begin to understand him and how he is feeling and all2010_the_american_020-thumb-640xauto-217156 without hearing anything much from him!! Its only then that you appreciate the depth of this performance.
 
A performance that for me reaches its opus at the end. The mingled expression of anger, frustration, pain, regret, helplessness, determination in one single moment is a performance that few actors can manage – past or present. The whole movie, for me, was given the perfect ending in the last five minutes.
 
Violante Placido (As Clara) also plays a superb supporting cast as the quintessential prostitute with the golden heart (a role as old as modern cinema and yet never seems to touch the heart!). The transformation of the relationship and the growing maturity of the relationship between Jack and Clara is another of the highlight of the movie (as is the relationship between Jack and Father Benedetto)
 
This is a movie that should be watched for the depth of the performances and for its perfect screenplay (the ending of the movie is something that i found better than the book’s on which its based – A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth). And yes watch it especially for Clooney who gives his most subtle, understated and yet powerful performance till now (after Syriana)…
 
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Oh and yes there action sequences – short, brutal and yes silent!!
 
This is a movie that stays…
 
One more thing…there are just about tonnes of people who either have no clue about what the movie was about or did not watch it through, or both – sample this review for instance 🙂
 
 
 

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Drama, English Movies

Silent Night directed by Rodney Gibbons

 silentnight (1) This movie, for me, is like “Dogpound shuffle”, a gem almost completely unknown generally. A movie that I saw on TV on a delightful channel called Hallmark (which stopped being aired long time back) way back in middle school and a movie that I craved seeing ever since. Internet finally came to my rescue and I was finally able to get it on my hard drive…
 
There is a certain appeal about movies that play out in a room or a house and dont use outside locales (the best case in point being “The Man from Earth”). That is because you have to rely on intelligent and taut scripting and need to have completely fleshed out characters to hold attention. You more or less rely completely on conversation to make the story.
 
Right from the first frame, you realize that this is going to be a dramatic movie. The scene of  Elisabeth Vincken (Linda Hamilton) trudging on the snowy wastes of a forest tugging along her son Fritz Vincken (the narrator), the landscape littered with wrecked tanks and dead soldiers, makes you take notice…

It is 1944 and Elisabeth Vincken is a German mother with a young son  who goes upto the family log cabin in the forest, which you realize is the theatre of the Battle of the Bulge, ostensibly to get to a safer place. But she has a deeper reason, which is revealed later…

 

 

 

 

 

The drama starts when their cabin is invaded first by three American soldiers, one of whom is seriously injured, followed soon after by three Germans. Events take such a turn (which it would be a spoiler to reveal!) that Elisabeth comes into a position where she is able to broker a temporary truce between the two parties so that they l9eave their weapons outside. It is naturally an absurd position to be in, in the middle of World War II and the soldiers are naturally incredulous at the situation but as it happens, it is something that they decide to abide by…for the moment…and they settle down to celebrate a very unusual Christmas
 
This is when the movie really comes into its own. The characters are so life-like that you begin to understand the personalities of each within a few minutes. The situations are realistic and makes the story move along at a clip. Mutual suspicion (after all you are supposed to be killing each other!!!) slowly starts turning into curiosity and later even grudging warmth.
 
The basic attraction about the movie cannot be understood unless the movie is watched since its all in the dialogues and the reactions of the different characters thrown together in this unusual situation. The Silent_pop1 atmosphere is always laden with taut tension (with the threat of things getting out of hand any time) and nervous camaraderie as everyone, over the course of the night, begins to understand a little bit of the other.
 
The whole story is about something very basic about human nature – we are as easy to be at each others throat as to be sitting around a table eating together, a paradox. And this simple fact is beautifully captured. At the end, after a dramatic ending, you wonder whether thats not the best way to defuse all wars – make them all sit around a table for dinner!! And yes, I loved the ending – completely went with what you would have expected from each of the characters.

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, if you were wondering at the outlandish situation (as i did), you would be pleasantly surprised to know that it is in fact a completely true story!!! This is one of those “happens only during wars” kind of story…and the fact that it is true makes it all the more compelling.
 
 
This is one gem of a movie that is difficult to find but it is one that is for keeps. Somehow my movie library seems complete with this…
 
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