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)…
 
the-american-047
 
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 đŸ™‚
 
 
 

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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…
 
Silent_pop5

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World Cinema

Shoeshine directed by Vittorio De Sica

51zb4ZVLnYL._SL500_AA300_ This is one movie that I have been wanting to see for a long time. I had seen “Bicycle Thieves” before by Sica, which is one of the rare movies that haunt you even by the mere mention of the name…And one thing that I realized after seeing these two movies by Sica is that he gives the killer blow right at the end – the silent walk by the father and the son in “Bicycle Thieves” and in this case Pasquale’s shattered cries as the horse, the hope, trots away, almost in despair…

 

Sica has a special touch with children and this movie really brings it out…
 

The heart of this story is, I believe, about innocence and how fragile it is. Its post-war Italy, a society trying to find new meaning. Children, as is always the case, become the hidden victims. Giuseppe and Pasquale, 453777390_587229a337 are two gamins in our story, who are shoeshiners and fast friends. Their only ambition in life is to own a horse that they love, for which they saved for some time. They get involved in a crime without realizing it, but which enables them to buy the horse. Their dream is short-lived though, as they are soon caught and thrown into juvenile prison.

And so starts their slow dehumanization. They valiantly attempt to keep up their humour and their strands of friendship together but a system which bothers only with incarceration and not with justice just does not allow that.
 

a image shoeshine image  2906 In an almost Dickensian atmosphere, children are treated as adult criminals, which then makes them into one and in an ironical self-serving judgement, the authorities turn around and say – “I told you so”

It has its own elements of dark humour and there is a faint underlying theme of absurdity in the cinematography as if the story is telling you how absurd the world is that makes children end up in prison and how absurd it is that we are able to rationalize it somehow.
 
The end of this story is both visceral and darkly poetic at the same time and as I said, is a hallmark of Sica’s movies. And it is an end that would haunt the viewer for a long time.
 

You become so close to the two boys and to some other inmates of the PDVD_035 prison especially Raffaele that in the end you almost feel like crying at the utter waste of it all…

This is one classic that you miss at your own peril. This is a movie to cherish and pass on. No review is enough until you actually see it…

 

I cant wait to see the rest of Sica’s movies – “Umberto D” and “Children are watching us”, next on list…

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Drama, English Movies

Dogpound Shuffle directed by Jeffrey Bloom

10876919_det Before writing a review of the movie, a little note on how damn difficult it is to find it!!!
 
I first saw this movie when I was somewhere around class IX or even earlier. Like so many gems, it was coming at an odd time – late afternoon or so and I just chanced to see it after it had already begun. I remember being mesmerized by the simple yet touching story about a man and his quest to free his dog. I found out the name later (from one of those TV guides that I used to pore over). I think I saw it once more but I am not sure…
 
The movie stayed with me for all these years as one of those childhood movies that you saw but which you want to see again. The internet age came and the download speed slowly increased so now we are now able to download videos effortlessly where we could download images painfully ten years ago.
 
This movie however remained elusive even after extensive searching. There were other hard to find movies that I eventually pounced upon – like “Silent Night”, “The Scarlet and the Black” etc but this one wasmoodysouldogpoundshuffle182 tough. Real tough…
 
So I get into these fits of energy when a notion seizes me and I keep searching for whatever catches my fancy like a maniac. The “Dogpound Shuffle” mania kept hitting me every second year. And this time I was ready to buy from Amazon if necessary.
 
But wonder of wonders!!! Amazon has only a VHS tape of the movie (obviously used!!). I mean, VHS? After having reeled a bit from this sort of a letdown from the god of online shopping, I searched like a maniac for any torrent that might even give me 1Kbps speed!!!
 
And just when I had almost given up, I found it!!! Where? In a DVD lending website based in India – 70mm!!! I had to kick myself more than a dozen times before I could actually believe that a movie that the awesome power of Internet and Amazon combined was not able to deliver was lying nonchalantly in a DVD lending library that is just a phone call away!! Irony of modern technology, no less!!! Anyway, so  thats how I got this movie…Phew!!!
 
index So about the movie. I watched it after almost 12 years and it still  retained the magic that I had felt then. The story of an old tap dancer who teams up with a failed prizefighter who plays harmonica to raise money to free his dog from the Dogpound is a story that O Henry could have been proud of.
 
It has all the qualities of an excellent short story – You get fleeting glimpses into the lives of the characters but all the story is told in action, in the dialogues and the story is one which is lived in present. And like the best of stories, this is about relationships between people – in this case between people who start off being together to survive, in order to gain something from the other and end up forming a kinship that is difficult to put a name to.
 
It has a old literature feel that gives it a certain feeling of old romance – of two drifters finding friendship and purpose in and from each other, in a story that is beautiful and touching in its message of friendship. This is a movie that gives off a warm snug feeling and leaves you wetfilm-dogpoundshuffle-eyed and laughing at the same time…
 
Its quite a wonder to me how this movie is not at all popular as it should be – a sentiment echoed, as I found, on Amazon and Imdb.com. This is a movie for all ages and for the whole family…
 
Well, I dont really care about others but I do know this – this is one movie I am making multiple copies of. This is a movie that is rare in every sense of the world…
 
I wish I could tell you to go and see it…Unless you get it from 70mm, good luck to you in the whole wide world!!!
 

 
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Action, Drama, English Movies

Watchmen directed by Zack Snyder

Watchmen_2 The problem with some books (more specifically graphic novel, in this case) is that they are literally untranslatable into movie form. Especially when the story is highly complex and interwoven with multiple characters with a storyline that needs to go back and forth in time to make sense.

The problem doubles when the storyline contains “Superheroes”. Then the movie has to take form of the typical action superhero format (Batman, Spiderman etc) or become watered down in its effort to appeal both to the graphic novel fan and to the mass audience. An example of the latter is V for Vendetta, which was a highly sanitized teenager version of the original novel, which more or less killed its appeal for those who cherish the original.

The plot, simply put (very simply!!) is this. Watchmen is about an watchmen_by_imladrisellethalternate/parallel world similar to ours but different in many others. In this world, US has won the Vietnam war but only because they had the help of the Watchmen (their predecessors, the Minutemen helped win WWII), a group of vigilantes who don't have special powers like typical superheroes (except one) but they still dress up as ones and help out with ‘saving the world’. They become unpopular however and are  disbanded. The story starts with one of them getting murdered by an unknown assailant. One of the Watchmen (Rorschach), who has refused to leave the ‘field’ decides to investigate…so the story and the movie begins…

Watchmen is as much a complex novel as V for Vendetta, if not more. The film-maker chose a simpler route to avoid the fate of V. TheyWatchmenSmiley simply copied the frames of the movie from the original. When I say copied, I literally mean a xerox. While watching the movie, I had a weird feeling that I was seeing the novel move in fast motion. Even the dialogues were the same. Which in a way killed it for me – I loved the original and seeing the same thing in front of me without any adaptation or original thought of any sort made the movie feel like a sham, made it feel like a rip-off. What made it worse that they still had to water it down significantly in order to make it comprehensible in the 3 odd hours it played (it was a long movie) – for example, the pirate  sub-story was gone…

Then I stepped back a bit. I realized that the novel cannot be made into watchmen_silk_spectre a movie and be pleasing to someone who loves the original. But for those who are not so close to the original or have not read it, it was more than above average. It has a great storyline, has fascinating characters, great camera and animation work and yes, superb music. I mean, when they played “Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel during the funeral of the Comedian, the movie took on a surreal air. And the opening song by Dylan as the movie is introduced fits the mood perfectly.

And yet, no matter what, you cannot relate to the characters, like you did in the original. Everyone remains just about distant…

So, if watchmen is something you haven't read, this movie is worth a watch, if only as a primer for the read. And if you have read the original, give this one a skip…

 

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rajneeti
Bollywood Movies, Drama, Popular

Rajneeti directed by Prakash Jha

Prakash Jha Rajneeti Wallpaper Ok, this is a review that I had been wanting to write ever since I saw it three weeks back. In that time, I saw, much to my surprise, that it was becoming a grosser…I wonder why…
But first of all my impression. It is plainly apparent that Jha is a big fan of the Godfather series and that he has borrowed heavily from the movie (he admitted as such – he used the word ‘inspired’ not borrowed though). In the mixture, he also put in themes from Mahabharata.
For someone who has literally grown up on the cult classics like the Godfather (both the movie and the book – both masterpieces in their own right), ‘Rajneeti’ proved to be a sort of a farcical déjà vu.
Scenes have been lifted unapologetically from the movies – the hospital scene, the horse head scene , the killing of the traitor in the car, the shooting of the don, the car bomb scene which effectively combined the Sonny shooting scene and the death of Pacino’s pregnantthe_godfather_movie_image_al_pacino__3_ wife, the transformation of the reluctant youngest son to the ruthless don…though none of them came close to the drama of the original
It was really too much. He should have just labelled the movie – ‘Rajneeti – Godfather scenes included’ or something. I don't quite fathom how someone like Jha could stoop so low to become akin to Anu Malik of direction. Either he thinks that the Indian audience wont care that the movie that they are seeing is a rip off (in which he seems to be dead right) or that the majority have  not seen the original or both…unfortunately, he seems to be right…
 

Rajneeti2 The question to be asked is – could one relate to it? A police inspector slapping the member of the one of the most powerful political families in India?A gang-war happening within a political party which ends up decimating everyone? I mean really, what works in the environment of Mafia ridden New York of 1940s transplanted into the Indian political environment seems absurd. You don't kill powerful opponents in the middle of the road – its not Corleone vs. Tattaglias. I mean imagine Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharti going out on physical decimation wars. Police inspectors don't slap heirs to the political thrones, as they might have done to heirs to mafia families on the decline.
And I don't see the similarity to Congress that everyone kept talking about. True, every effort was made to make Kaif look like Sonia Gandhi (the wave especially and the accented Hindi coming naturally) and her rajneeti husband was assassinated but that's that…Just pre-launch hype.
The end result? I just remember multiple scenes of Mahindra Scorpios screaming their sirens coming into identical looking mansions and people with a put on air of mystery and menace streaming in. This scene must have looked admirable enough for the director to have repeated it atleast three dozen times. I also remember lot of individual scenes which seemed to have been stitched together just because they looked good in godfather (and made perfect sense there though sadly, not here). I was almost cringing as waves of déjà vu washed over me.
And as I said,  in the sad admixture, Jha puts in elements of Mahabharata – of Draupadi and Karn (or Karan). Again, the scenes seemed forced. Put in because it suited somebody’s fancy and not because it had to make sense.
The acting was terrible except to some extent from Ranbeer, though the transformation was not convincing as in the case of Pacino. Patekar looked the part maybe because these are the roles he usually does – so bvhvoutside the comfort zone for him. Kaif was wooden and Manoj Bajpai  was excruciatingly over the top. Devgan did not have the meat in the role to make an impact. And I didnt quite figure out why they put Naseerudin Shah in the credits…He had barely five minutes and his contribution consisted solely of siring an illegitimate child.
The plot made no sense. One thread did not follow the other. Truthfully, if it was a series, would have made more sense. Three odd hours was too short for all that was shown to be given meat. By the time, the movie winded to a halt after some senseless twists and turns, I was so weary and nauseated, I wanted to take a stiff drink.
And then it turns out that it was a hit!!! I think that the reason would be that we don't have a mature political genre for the movies. The last movie in that genre was the excellent and sophisticated “HazaaronHazaaronKhwaisheinAisi Khwaishein Aisi”. The genre and the look and feel of the movie is different from the usual stable. Plus we are political without knowing it and it seemed like a movie that would mix politics and intrigue – a deadly combination!!! Plus for someone who hasnt devoured Godfather, some of the scenes would look very interesting and arresting…More film makers should look at this genre and more of the “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi” please. “Rajneeti” would not be more than attractive junk for more mature audiences…
So Jha wins on the back of the inexperience of the movie going public…alls fair in politics and movie making it seems…

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Russians are coming russians are coming
Classics, Comedy, English Movies, Satire

‘The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming’ directed by Norman Jewison

russians-are-coming-dvdcover This is a movie that you will not hear of easily and after watching it, you would wonder why…

This is about as good a political comic satire as you would get. True, the acting is woody and over the top at times but the storyline is funny and the over the top action seems appropriate for the mood of the movie.

A Russian sub runs aground off the coast of America, on a small New England island town, when the commander of the sub tries to get a closer look of his ‘enemy land’. Not wanting to create an international incident, a nine man contingent is sent to the island in order to secure a motorboat to help draw out the sub.

And that is when the fun starts…in spite of the best efforts (may I say comical) of the Russians to make themselves blend in, suddenly the island is in the throes of an irrepressible rumour – The Russians haverussiansposter invaded!!!

The movie panders to stereotypes, both of Russian and American, in order to bring out the humour but it works quite well. As is quite obvious, the story is about how rumour feeds off itself and how panic spreads by the mere repetition of the rumour. The sight of the hapless and bewildered Russians trying to make sense of it all in face of them being branded as the steamrolling invading force is incredibly funny. The American gung-ho style of meeting the invader head on becomes funny when they actually start to search all over the island for the enemy who were supposedly all over the place…

russians4 There is obviously a message in the movie, if you care to look for it – as to how stereotyping and propaganda creates caricatures of people whom who we consider as enemy. But the message is so obvious that you sit back and enjoy the comical satire and you wonder how the poor Russian are ever going to get out of this one!!!

Alan Arkin is the best character in the movie – the over-confident second in command who feels his English is top notch (the scene where he teaches emergency words to his colleagues is simply hilarious). He is the translator and the coolest brain in the sub.

I think that the thing to be considered is that when the movie was top10warcomedies_10 released, in 1966, the cold war was at its absolute peak, the time when Dylan was singing “Let me die in my footsteps” (about the government generated scare of Russian annihilation). This movie is about how senseless all the propaganda is and that, to me, is a brave statement to make. And the best way to make a statement like that is by humour.

That, this movie does brilliantly…

 

 

 

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