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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The man from earth jerome bixby
English Movies, Science Fiction

The Man from Earth directed by Richard Schenkman

220px-The_Man_from_Earth "The Man from Earth", has become a cult classic, for primarily one single reason

In an age when films and television seek to hold our, supposedly ever shortening, attention-span with ever more doses of action and shocks and thrills, "The Man from Earth" succeeds in holding our completely rapt attention with something which is supposedly, utterly, out of fashion – conversation.

Also, this film became a classic not with any production house backing but by the most democratic popularity of all – word of mouth. In fact, in an extraordinary move, its producers have publicly thanked P2P networks for making this film a success

If someone told you that a whole film can be confined to just one room, having a handful of characters sitting and talking for  the whole length of the movie, you might wonder who in their right sense would make a movie like this in this day and age, much less see it. "Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?" was a fluke, you may say…

It is here that your intuition might fail you. Because this will be perhaps one of the best movies that you will ever see. Not only will you be held in a complete grip throughout but at the end, you might realize that the best thrills that we get are not from high speed chases or a jump from a skyscraper, but from stimulating ideas – ideas that completely challenge what you think. Ideas, when presented by a skilled scriptwriter, can completely bowl you away. For don't be fooled, "The Man from Earth" is a roller coaster ride, from the starting scene to the end

Conceived originally in early 1960s by Jerome Bixby, of the Star Trek (original) fame and one of the best science fiction writers of all times, "The Man from Earth" was completed on his deathbed in 1998, making this his final work. Fans of science fiction will instantly recognize the imprint of the golden era of science fiction – which depended more on mind expanding ideas rather than on exotic unrelatable visuals

John Oldman is a departing university professor, who is thrown a farewell party by a handful of his colleagues, at his house. The departure is sudden and Oldman's colleagues want to know why he is in such a hurry to leave. Oldman isman from earth group reluctant but under pressure, he begins to tell his extraordinary story. He begins by asking his colleagues to suppose a hypothetical situation, a possibility – what if a Cro-Magnon man survived to this day, thus living for 14000 years!!! That's the spark that sets this film alight.

Among Oldman's colleagues is an archaeologist, a biologist, an art historian and a devout Christian and a psychiatrist. When such a pantheon of minds is confronted with a fantastic idea as agelessness, the setting is perfect for a firefight – of words. And it does not disappoint. Each person has his own unique take on the situation and everyone fights a duel between believing this fantastic possibility and their own prejudices and beliefs. Its extraordinarily stimulating to hear  the ideas that come forth. Everything is challenged – from history and the way we look at it, religion and what we believe, our ideas about our minds, our deep seated cultural beliefs. And tightly packed into ninety odd minutes, this is one long conversation that you wish will never end!! It is like a concoction of a high caffeine mixed with mind expanding drugs…

Slowly the utter shock at the onset is replaced by credulity followed by a grudging wonderment of the possibility. And then of course there is the dynamite climax. A climax that is as shattering as any Dan Brown could have dreamt of. And 2409_5 the way that this happens keeps you on the tenterhooks throughout. The script and the pace never slackens and as you are slowly drawn into the absorbing setting inside Oldman's house, the mood changes subtly as revelations and possibilities become even more fantastic and real at the same time.

Daylight is slowly replaced by flickering fireplace as the people inside the room face a life-changing dilemma – to overturn everything that they had believed in – about history, religion, beliefs, culture or to try and find a way to believe the whole story to be untrue. The struggle between letting the mind expand and staying within the comfort zone of common wisdom becomes fierce as the film rushes to the end.

This is one film that will make you hold your breath till the end by just talking to you.

Watch this!! That's the only thing I can say – you wont be disappointed even if your favourite movie till yesterday has been American Pie!!

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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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paan-singh-tomar
Bollywood Movies, Popular, Thriller

Paan Singh Tomar directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia

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Paan Singh Tomar makes for good movie recipe…a national sports champion turning bandit to avenge injustice

Like a desi Robin Hood

Paan Singh Tomar, the movie, is also a sad testimony to the fact that unless he had turned bandit, a movie would not have been made on him. Not if he had broken a thousand sports record

The movie itself proves what the movie tries to say.

Ironic

The real Paan singh But it makes for a great script. And with the irrepressible Irrfan Khan in the lead role, you can expect the screen to come alive. And it does. Irrfan Khan brings to Paan Singh Tomar an amused dead pan humour that suits both Paan Singh the athlete and the Paan Singh the bandit

Like Paan Singh Tomar says in the beginning, while giving an interview – “dacait to parliament me hai, hum to baagi hai” (dacoits are in parliament, I am an outlaw)

 

Its the same Paan Singh Tomar who readily joined the army sports team because he was told that he could eat as much as want without limits

The movie starts off with a flashback, while giving an interview to a local newspaper, of how he first becomes a national steeplechase champion, creating records that will stand for decades and then how a disillusioned Paan Singh turned bandit to avenge his land grabbing of his ancestral property

There is good rhythm in the first part as we see the rustic youth in the army turning into an athlete. His talents as anPaan singh soldier inexhaustible runner is soon recognized and he goes on to represent India at the Asian Games. He is a good family man and is content with loving his wife and his children. Mahie Gill as his wife plays the perfect supporting role – a wife who will support Paan Singh no matter what and who understands why he has to act the way he did.

The first half ends with the transformation of Paan Singh Tomar as he is pushed into what has been both the curse and the blessing of Chambal valley. Turning bandit is both an act of liberation and defiance and an act of desperation. And Paan Singh tries his damn hardest to defy his fate – going through all ‘proper channels’ to try and get his issue resolved.

He even tries to use his sports medal to try and persuade. In a heart-wrenching moment when his medals are thrown away by an openly corrupt police inspector, Paan Singh finally sees the truth. He sees the only way open…

Mocked and derided at every turn by a compromised establishment, facing apathy by even the district collector, Paan Singh does what many men and women before him had done and what many after him will do – he turns to the only route that will give him justice. Through the barrel of a gun

The second half is his journey as a bandit – from taking his revenge to finally falling to police bullets, refusing to surrender till the end.

The second half is also the story of the sheer futility that he faces as he realizes that he has to be always on the run. Even if he completes his revenge, he realizes, there is no going back. Paan Singh Tomar will only run for his life now. He can never again run for sport. As he gains notoriety and his gang becomes big, he knows that he only has to go forward. That this was the life chosen for him. Not by him but chosen for him.

I do have an issue with the second part. It seemed a little incomplete. The Paan Singh we could relate to in the first half paan_singh_tomar_20120319 seemed to disappear somewhat in the second half. The storytelling in the second part dealt more with action than with the man. We see he becomes a bandit but what we don't see what it does to him. Except for a few scattered dialogues, we don't see the dilemma much. The man who loved his family to bits – does he not miss the wife that he loved so much? If he did and I am sure he did, that fact never makes an appearance. We know that he realizes the futility of it all but Irrfan Khan as the Paan Singh Tomar on screen does not share it with us.

However the second half is action packed and the chase that ensues between Paan Singh and his main nemesis is one the most riveting moment. Especially when Paan Singh uses the same strategy to run over obstacles as he did when he ran for India – the tragedy of his situation could not have been made starker

The end is shot with care and the very last that we see of Paan Singh leaves you with a good closure…

Another thing to note is that the dialogues are almost completely in rustic dialect. This is a great move. Since you understand what is being said well enough, the dialect gives a very earthy and real feel to the movie. You can almost feel how Paan Singh must have talked

Overall, Paan Singh Tomar is a welcome direction that Hindi movies are taking. India is filled with folklore and mythical figures.Chambal folklore especially has never been exploited as it should have been. Man Singh, Putli Bai cry out for a245909-paan-singh-tomar portrayal on the screen. We really don't need to go to exotic locales or dance in Greece or in front of pyramids to get audiences anymore

Paan Singh Tomar's success is testimony to the fact that the we, the audience today, want a good story told. And we want a a sincere movie not a fluff in the wind…

This one really should not be missed. Irrfan Khan as Paan Singh Tomar will leave quite a mark on you… and so will the ending credits, when you realize just how many sportsmen have been neglected to death. Makes the movie even more telling…

This is a good article that I found on the web post the movie release – well written piece on a journalists journey today to Paan Singh's homeland

Times crest article – here

and a Frontline article related to Chambal dacoits – here

What do you think?

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Hugo Chavez Revolution will not be televised
Documentary, English Movies

This revolution will not be televised directed by Kim Bartley and Donnacha Ó Briain

 
The_Revolution_will_not_be_Televised In an age of 24 hours television, when we have the whole world beamed to us by an almost inexhaustible array of channels, "This revolution will not be televised" poses some very uncomfortable questions about what we are fed everyday from the newsrooms of the world
 
A paranoid's favourite statement is – "We are being lied to". This being an affront to our superior intelligence, we choose to deny, even though we realize the kernel of truth in it. Or as Kurt Cobain put it succinctly – "Just Because You're Paranoid, Don't Mean They're Not After You"
 
When you see something like "This Revolution will not be televised", you realize that the paranoid is probably much saner than we thought. And you wonder what else is here that you think you knew, but probably don't know s**t
 
The setting of the documentary is the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela in which western influenced and financed groups and army elements tried to oust Hugo Chavez, the charismatic rebel president who had come to power on the back of a popular upsurge. Chavez was intended to become another bloody statistic in the long history of popular presidents in Latin America removed by force, the United States always being the alleged culprit. Look at what happened to Allende
 
Filmed by Irish filmmakers Kim Bartley and Donnacha O Briain, what was originally intended as a biographical sketch of the Hugo Chavez, turned into a fascinating look into the coup events as situations changed rapidly and drastically around them.
 
 

 
The filmmakers trace the whole coup attempt – from the inflammatory buildup by the private media, to street demonstrations in which mercenary snipers shot unarmed civilians to the chaotic events in which a section of the army backed by a US funded businessman took control of the government. It almost seemed like deja vu. images
 
It mirrored innumerable such events that has happened in the past – from Arbenz to Allende. The coup masters very smugly proclaimed that they have regained the control of the country that was theirs by right, which the upstart revolutionary Chavez had taken from them for a short time. All seemed according to script.
 
Then incredibly, completely against the tide of history, the coup was defeated. The South American continent, so used to being beaten down by its big neighbour north, saw something so unprecedented that it has become an example of hope for millions of people. The rebel army generals and the businessman put up as the puppet President were ousted from their new posts within just 2 days. Not by any armed insurrection or any military or armed intervention.
 
But by the common man on the street, who just refused to give up hope and just bscap0025cz5refused to give up on the president who had given them so much hope. Joining them was the common soldier, who had more in common with the population demonstrating for Chavez than with the generals leading them. The soldier, who  refused to obey orders and the common man, who refused to lie down again. These led to one of the most unprecedented moments in history
 
As to why Hugo Chavez inspired so much loyalty among the rank and file of the population and why he inspired such an abiding hatred in the elite which had ruled Venezuela for most of its history, is beyond the scope of this review. But just to give an idea, Chavez was the first non-white president in Venezuela since probably the Spaniards overran South America 500 years ago. And then refused to kow-tow to the elites, instead preferring to reach out to the impoverished mass. Chavez instituted a huge program of education and literacy along with a program to raise the political consciousness of the people. For the first time, the people were encourage to read the constitution and understand their rights. In short, Chavez gave to the 99% of the population a hope that they never thought existed.
 
And for this, he was hated (and still is) passionately by the ones he had ousted. Their power on the country was slipping. Hence the time-honoured tradition was resorted to – remove the elected president in the name of democracy or human rights, depending on the flavour of the season. In this case, both reasons werebscap0022rq3 used….
 
What this documentary does show starkly is this. It is so easy to subvert the media and what it shows us and 'educates' us that it is frightening. So much depends on the way the camera angle is shown – a crowd of 100 can be made to show 1000 and vice versa. People being shot on the streets – by the government or the mercenaries outside the view of the camera?
 
Chavez never banned the media, and even then was accused of muzzling free speech.This documentary shows what a sham "free speech" can be, when that term is used to slander and turn an event into what the media owners want. After months of calling Chavez to be everything from a tyrant to a dog on the street, after the illegal coup attempt was done, the media celebrated the event as a "Victory for Democracy" and more hypocritically "Victory of the people", without ever consulting the people
 
"This Revolution will not be televised" is unique because it was bang in the middle of the unfolding events and we are able to get an unique glimpse into the event from both sides. The events as reported in the private media and how it was actually happening.
 
revnot2 After the people revolted and refused to be cowed down. And then, when the soldier refused to fire on the crowd, the game was up. Chavez was rescued from the jaws of death by the paratroopers who remained loyal to him and brought back to a deliriously cheering crowd. And what does he do to the people who had him nearly killed in cold blood? Nothing. He lets them go."Victory for people" and "Victory for Democracy" indeed.
 
It is not only a fascinating watch that moves like a thriller. It is also a peek into how our "Free media" works. How a group's agenda is projected as the will of the nation. Its a stark pointer to the fallibility of the notion that a free enterprise is necessarily a free of bias enterprise.
 
And you wonder what else we have not been told and not shown
 
And you wonder, how many revolutions were not televised?
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

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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.
 


Nine_Lives-970253858-large

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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