Saturday, December 31, 2011

Secrets & Lies (1996)

Director: Mike Leigh
Writer:    Mike Leigh
Cast:      Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn, Phyllis Logan
A successful black woman traces her birth mother to a lower-class white woman, who at first denies it; emotions run high as everyone's secrets are exposed.

Its another masterpiece from Mike Leigh. Much of the dialog is improvised by the actors who pull off tremendous performances. Even the minor characters are excellent.

Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

X-Men: First Class (2011)

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers:  AShley Miller, Zack Stentz
Cast:      Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Kevin Bacon
In 1962, the United States government enlists the help of Mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start world war 3.

Its another origins story in the line of 'Batman Begins' and 'The Rise of the Planet of Apes'. Its not as good as those films and the saving grace is the performances from the actors. The plot is silly and the effects didn't feel that special.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Director: Rupert Wyatt
Writers:  Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Pierre Boulle (Book)
Cast:      James Franco, Andy Serkis, Frieda Pinto
During experiments to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease, a genetically enhanced chimpanzee uses its greater intelligence to lead other apes to freedom.

The apes and their story are handled with good emotions. The CGI and performance of Andy Serkis is great as Ceaser. The human characters lack depth and the initial experiment scenes are laughable. The last 30 minutes of the film is excellent. Overall its good but not nearly as good as its sequel 'Contagion', if you know what I mean:-)

Rating: 3/5

Monday, December 26, 2011

Z (1969)

Director:   Costa-Gavras
Writers:    Jorge Semprun, Costa-Gavras
Language: French
In Greece, following the murder of a prominent leftist leader, an investigator tries to uncover the truth while the government officials attempt to cover up their roles.

The film hasn't aged well. It lacks subtlety in terms of the agenda its projecting.

Rating: 2/5

Drive (2011)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writers:  Hossein Amini, James Sallis (Book)
Cast:      Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston
A Hollywood stunt performer moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.

The film has a very simple story but it stands out by the way of its characters and their moods. Performances are great and the soundtrack is magnificent.

Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Missing (1982)

Director: Costa-Gavras
Writers:  Costa-Gavras, Thomas Hauser (Book), Donald Stewart, John Nichols
Cast:      Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek, Melanie Mayron
When an idealistic writer disappears during the Right Wing military coup in 1973 Chile, his wife and American businessman father try to find him.

Film is supposedly based on a true story and doesn't degenerates into usual cliches. Performances are excellent.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Fortune Cookie (1966)

Director: Billy Wilder
Writer:    Billy Wilder
Cast:      Jack Lemmon, Walter Mathau, Judi West
A crooked lawyer persuades his brother-in-law to feign a serious injury to extract money from the insurance company.

This was the first on-screen collaboration between Lemmon and Mathau. Its a very good comedy film without a hollywood ending. The dialogues are witty and delivered in an old school way.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kafka (1991)

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer:    Lem Dobbs
Cast:      Jeremy Irons, Theresa Russell, Joel Gray
Ostensibly a biopic, based on the life of writer Franz Kafka, the mystery thriller film 'Kafka' blurs the line between fact and Kafka's fiction, creating a Kafkaesque atmosphere.

I haven't read any of the works from Kafka but still found the film engrossing which is testament to the skills of Soderbergh. With Soderbergh you will always get a film with great technical brilliance and Kafka is no different. The film was the second one from Soderbergh after the excellent Sex, Lies and Videotape and it was a financial failure but has got a cult following over the years.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Frank or Francis (2013)

Director: Charlie Kaufman
Writer:    Charlie Kaufman
Cast:      Nicolas Cage, Steve Carell, Jack Black
Charlie Kaufman's next film 'Frank or Francis' will be a musical about online film criticism. The musical elements of the film film apparently appear when the characters sing what they are writing online.

The Limey (1999)

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer:    Lem Dobbs
Cast:      Terence Stamp, Peter Fonda, Luis Guzman, Barry Newman
An extremely volatile and dangerous Englishman goes to Los Angeles to find the man he considers responsible for  his daughter's death.

Limey is a US slang word for Britons. The film is shot extremely stylishly with a the editing to go with it. The performances are excellent and the way the story unfolds is very fresh. It didn't do well in the box office.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) (2006)

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Writer:    Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Cast:      Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck
In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police (Stasi), conducting a surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.

The film won the academy award in the foreign language film category and deservedly so. The best part of the film is its subtlety. There is no showy dramatic scenes and no melodramatic finale.

Ulrich Muhe died shortly after the Oscars due to stomach cancer. He was a great actor who had collaborated with Michael Haneke in Benny's Video and Funny Games.

Rating: 5/5

Dead Ringers (1988)

Director: David Cronenberg
Writers:  Bari Wood, Jack Geasland, David Cronenberg, Norman Snider
Cast:      Jeremy Irons, Genevieve Bujold, Heidi von Palleske
Identical twin gynecologists take full advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart, until their relationship begins to complicate over a woman.

The performance from Jeremy Irons is stunning and the film grows on you as it progresses. In the end I think this is the best film I have seen from David Cronenberg. Jeremy Iron in his role reminded me of Christian Bale in American Psycho.

Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, December 16, 2011

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Director: Billy Wilder
Writers:  Agatha Christie, Billy Wilder, Larry Marcus, Harry Kurnitz
Cast:      Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich
This is an adaptation of Agatha Christie's tale of a man on trial for murder: a trial featuring surprise after surprise.

Charles Laughton's performance as the barrister is wonderful. Towards the end there are too many twists with the usual hollywoodish ending where crime never pays. Still its certainly worth a watch.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Apartment (1960)

Director: Billy Wilder
Writers:  Billy Wilder, I.A.L.Diamond
Cast:      Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray
A man tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue.

Stunning performances by the all three leads and especially Jack Lemmon. Its one of the best romantic comedy of all time and much of the humor is dark. It has a hollywoodish ending but I was rooting for it to happen. Kevin Spacey dedicated his best actor academy award for 'American Beauty' to Jack Lemmon.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ace in the Hole (1951)

Director: Billy Wilder
Writers:  Billy Wilder, Lesser Samuels, Walter Newman
Cast:      Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur
Kirk Douglas stars as a frustrated bug city journalist now stuck working for an Albuqueurque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.

The films that deal with media has been some of my favorite films. These include 'The Insider', 'Network', 'All the President's men'. Ace in the hole is a masterpiece that gets better with the age as the reality catches up with its prophecy. Its all the more relevant now in these times of NOTW phone hacking scandal and all.

The film was both a critical and commercial failure but its no surprise as it was far ahead of its time.

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Director: Adam McKay
Writers:  Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Cast:      Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell
Ron Burgundy is San Diego's top rated newsman in the male dominated broadcasting of the 1970's, but that's all about to change when a new female employee with ambition to burn arrives in his office.

Its a watchable film with some laughs in it, but overall thought it was very overrated.

Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, December 12, 2011

Paul (2011)

Director: Greg Mottola
Writers:  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Cast:      Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen (Voice of Paul), Jason Bateman
Pegg and Frost stars as two English comic book geeks travelling across the US who encounter an alien outside Area 51. The alien named Paul need to escape from Earth and they try to help him do that.

The film is like a well mannered spoof on Spielberg's films of 80s. I haven't seen ET and close encounters but still Paul is a very enjoyable watch even though it does not each the level of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Good to see Jason Bateman getting good roles after 'Arrested Development' and there is a cameo by Steven Spielberg's voice as himself.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Coriolanus (2011)

Director: Ralph Fiennes
Writers:  John Logan, William Shakespeare
Cast:      Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox
Coriolanus is actor Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut and is set for release on January in US. Its a film adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name in which a banished hero of Rome allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Red State (2011)

Director: Kevin Smith
Writer:    Kevin Smith
Cast:      Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman
Set in middle America, a group of teenagers receive an invitation for sex, though they soon encounter fundamentalists with a much more sinister agenda.

Film is a fictional account loosely based on the fundamentalist group Westboro Baptist church who are a bunch of loons. To take a closer look at their lunacy, you can watch Louis Theroux's 'Most hated family in America'.

The story of red state is very thin. There are some good performances from Michael Parks and John Goodman and the film is well shot. There is a voice cameo from Kevin Smith which is the last spoken dialog of the film.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Observe and Report (2009)

Director: Jody Hill
Writer:    Jody Hill
Cast:      Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta
Bi-polar mall security guard Ronnie Barnhadt is called into action to stop a flasher from turning shopper's paradise into his personal peep show. But when Barnhardt can't bring the culprit to justice, a surly plioce detective is recruited to close the case.

Its a watchable film. Nothing more.

Rating: 2/5

The Guard (2011)

Director: John Michael McDonagh
Writer:    John Michael McDonagh
Cast:      Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong
An unorthodox Irish Policeman (Gleeson) with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent (Cheadle) to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring.

Its a buddy cop film in the vein of 'Hot Fuzz' with its intentionally cliched scenes. It has an interesting set of villains with their philosophical musings. Its a good little film without achieving the level of "Hot Fuzz'.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bakjwi (Thirst) (2009)

Director:    Park Chan-wook
Writers:     Park Chan-wook, Emile Zola. Seo-Gyeong Jeong
Language: Korean
A priest is stricken with vampirism and is forced to abandon his ascetic ways after a failed medical experiment. He falls in love with his friend's wife.

The film can comfortably belong to many genres- Vampires, Noir, Comedy. I didn't like the first half of the film but the second half makes up for it. The cinematography is excellent as always in a  Park Chan-wook film.

Rating: 3.5/5