Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Director: Andrew Dominik
Writers:  Andrew Dominik, Ron Hansen
Cast:      Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell
Robert Ford, who idolized Jesse James since childhood, tries hard to join the reforming gang of Missouri outlaw, but gradually becomes resentful of the bandit leader.

With a running time of close to three hours and the obvious spoiler in the title for those who don't know about the related history, one would think it will be a dull watch. But you will be mistaken. The question is who is the coward. It is not just a western but a character study on the main two characters and how history was retold subsequently. The exquisite cinematography reminded me of  Terrence Malick films. Actually Andrew Domink wanted it to be more contemplative like a Malick film but was opposed by the studio. I hope Dominik gets to make more films.

Rating: 5/5

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Writers:  Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
Cast:      Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry
Faced with both her hit-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou  community and unleash ancient aurochs, six year old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.

The initial charm wears off pretty quick and become tedious as the film goes on. In that respect I found it to be similar to the much  overrated Amelie. The performance from the kid is great.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Killing Them Softly (2012)

Director: Andrew Dominik
Writers:  Andrew Dominik, Geroge V.Higgins (Novel)
Cast:      Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, Scoot McNairy, James Gandolfini
Jackie Coogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse.

Film is an adaptation of George V.Higgins novel 'Coogan's Trade' set in 2008 during the Obama campaign and election. The news of Great Financial Collapse of 2008 runs in the background and the the happenings in the film are metaphorically compared to the events that led to the crisis. It is very funny and shot very stylistically. The best film of 2012 from what I have seen.

So there with Coogan's monologue in the end: 
'My friend, Thomas Jefferson is an American saint because he wrote the words 'All men are created equal', words he clearly didn't believe since he allowed his own children to live in slavery. He's a rich white snob who's sick of paying taxes to the Brits. So, yeah, he writes some lovely words and aroused the rabble and they went and died for those words while he sat back and drank his wine and fucked his slave girl. This guy wants to tell me we're living in a community? Don't make me laugh. I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business. Now fuckin' pay me'.

Rating: 5/5

En kongelig affære (A Royal Affair) (2012)

Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Writers:  Bodil Steensen-Leth (Novel), Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
Cast:      Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen, Mikkel Boe
Language: Danish
A young queen, who is married to an insane king, falls secretly in love with her physician- and together they start a revolution that changes a nation forever.

It is very well shot,acted and largely historically accurate. Its been nominated for Academy Awards under foreign film category.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Minority Report (2002)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers:  Scott Frank, Jon Cohen, Philip K.Dick
Cast:      Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow, Samantha Morton
In a future where a special force unit is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes, an officer from that unit is himself accused of a future murder.

Haven't seen a Spielberg film in a while and the film reminded me why. He does not take into account the intelligence of the viewer and spoon feeds every bit of information which makes most of  his films uninteresting. There was good potential for the film despite its glaring plot hole, but Spielberg's direction doesn't help the cause. The Indiana Jonesque stunt sequence after Cruise finds that he is accused of murder is not in sync with the overall mood of  the film.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

L'enfant (The Child) (2005)

Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writers:    Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cast:        Jeremie Renier, Deborah Francois
Language: French
Bruno and Sonia, a young couple living off her benefit and the thefts committed by his gang, have a new source of money: their newborn son.

The film won Palme d'Or award in Cannes making it Dardenne brothers' second one after Rosetta. No soundtrack is used in the film even for credits and the sound of cars in the road are expertly used. We oscillate from feeling angry and sorry towards Bruno. Unlike other Dardenne films it has some funny moments and a redemptive kind of ending which was quite unexpected.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Directors: Charles Crichton, John Cleese
Writers:    John Cleese, Charles Crichton
Cast:        John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin
In London, four very different people team up to commit armed robbery, then try to double cross each other for the loot.

It is a very funny film with plenty of set piece comedy scenes. You expect nothing less when it has two Monty Pythons, Cleese and Palin, in it. Director Priyadarshan's Malayalam film 'Kakkakuyil' borrowed heavily from this film.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Central do Brasil (Central Station) (1998)

Director: Walter Salles
Writers:  Marcos Bernstein, Joao Emanuel Carneiro, Walter Salles
Cast:      Fernanda Montenegro, Vinicius de Oliveira, Matheus Nachtergaele
Language: Portuguese
An emotive journey of a former school teacher, who write letters for illiterate people, and a young boy, whose mother has just died, in search for  the father he never knew.

It is another road film from Walter Salles who went on to direct 'The Motorcycle Diaries'. The film is kind of predictable and didn't find it that great to be honest.

Rating: 2.5/5

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Before Sunset (2004)

Director: Richard Linklater
Writers:  Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Kim Krizan
Cast:      Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
It's nine years after Jesse and Celine first met; now, they encounter one another on the French leg of Jesse's book tour.

The film is in real time with many long takes. You can the see that the characters are more wiser and is a reflection on the time that passed from the previous film. It is as great as or even greater than Before Sunrise.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Director:Sean Durkin
Writer:   Sean Durkin
Cast:      Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes
Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.

It is a very well made film but is not for everyone. Have seen criticism about its ending as it lacks resolution and at the beginning as to why Martha was not forcibly taken back. I interpreted as, they want her to come back by herself and they just want to track her whereabouts in the end. There is not much point in analyzing Martha's actions as she is not in a so called 'Normal State'.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Look of Love (2013)

Director: Michael Winterbottom
Writer:   Matt Greenhalgh
Cast:     Steve Coogan, Stephen Fry, Imogen Poots
A look at the life of London porn baron turned property millionaire Paul Raymond. Film will release in March in UK.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)

Director: Mark Cousins
The story of film: An odyssey, is a documentary film about the history of film. presented on television in 15 one hour chapters with a total length of 900 minutes. Mark Cousins is a film critic from Northern Ireland and the documentary  is based on his 2004 book 'The Story of Film'.

It has been a great watch for me over the last three weeks. By the choices of inclusion and omissions of films, one can get an idea about the taste Cousins have for films and since it matches my taste I didn't find it problematic. A must watch for those who love films and their history.

Rating: 5/5

Friday, January 11, 2013

True Romance (1993)

Director: Tony Scott
Writers:  Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary
Cast:      Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman
Clarence marries Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.

This was Tarantino's first script and he sold it to fund Reservoir Dogs which came out before True Romance. Tarantino's original script was non-linear and had an alternate ending but on Tony Scott's behest it was changed. Great ensemble cast consisting of Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Samuel L.Jackson, Brad Pitt and Val Kilmer as Elvis. Many of them giving their best performance in very small roles. It is worth watching just for the famous Walken-Hopper 'Sicilian Scene'. It is a violently funny film.

The non-linear fan edit version of the film is also floating about in the usual places in the internet for those interested.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Django Unchained (2012)

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer:   Quentin Tarantino
Cast:      Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L.Jackson

With the help of his mentor, a slave turned bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

The film is entertaining like all other Tarantino films but doesn't have enough interesting characters to elevate it to be among his best films. Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L.Jackson carries the film and sadly the main characters (Django and Brromhilda) and their relationship are not very interesting or convincing.  Among Tarantino films, I rate it above only Deathproof and maybe Kill Bill at a stretch.

Soundtrack is excellent in most places but some horrible raps in it kind of spoils the mood.

Edit: Saw it again on big screen. Think it is Tarantino's second worst film, with the worst being Deathproof. Didn't feel the length on the first viewing but felt it this time around.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Inland Empire (2006)

Director: David Lynch
Writer:   David Lynch
Cast:     Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons
As an actress starts to adopt the persona of her character in a film, her world starts to become nightmarish and surreal.

If you consider the trilogy of David Lynch films set in LA-'Lost Highway', Mulholland Drive' and 'Inland Empire', all of them can be interpreted that events depicted are similar to the short story, by American author Ambrose Bierce, 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge'.

In Lost Highway, the reality part occurs in the beginning and the dream part, possibly when Fred Madison is about to be electrocuted, happens possibly in the second part of the film but it ends up as a cyclical loop. In Mulholland Drive, the most accessible and straightforward of the three, we start with the dream/fantasy and ends up with reality. In Inland Empire also we mostly see the fantasy and in between we are shown the presumed Reality of the Susan character.

The film was shot without a script and David Lynch used to give the dialogues daily to the actors. There are deleted scenes available as extras with which more sense can be made of it. The themes are infidelity, woman in trouble, redemption from  purgatory and kind of very spiritual in  nature. There are very detailed interpretations done along these lines available in internet for those interested. Seen some interpretations wherein which Lost Highway with its cyclical and eternal nature compared to 'Hell', Mulholland Drive as 'Purgatory' and 'Inland Empire' as redemption from the purgatory. Kind of make sense.

It is a challenging watch but a must watch for David Lynch fans. For those who haven't seen  any Lynch films, it is better to leave 'Inland Empire' as the last one to watch because of its level of mindfuckery.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Nebraska (2013)

Director: Alexander Payne
Writer:   Bob Nelson
Cast:     Devin Ratray, Bruce Dern, Stacy Keach
In Alexander Payne's new film that is in post production, an aging booze addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million dollar Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes prize.

Sideways (2004)

Director: Alexander Payne
Writers:  Rex Pickett, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Cast:      Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen
Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment, embark on a week long road trip through California's wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisles.

Was watching it for the second time and found it as good as the first watch. Not as dark as Payne's other film 'About Schmidt', but a brilliant character played by Paul Giamatti. It is criminal that he didn't win an Oscar for his role, but who gives a fuck about the academy. Film was also remade in Japanese.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Impossible (Lo imposible) (2012)

Director:Juan Antonio Bayona
Writers:  Sergio G.Sanchez, Maria Belon
Cast:      Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
An account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time.

The film is from the team that made the excellent Spanish film 'The Orphanage' . It is a very well made film and the Tsunami provide a backdrop in which the horror of separation of the family is shown. The criticism that it whitewashes the suffering of natives doesn't hold true. Some scenes especially in the second half are bit manipulative but credit should given for a very realistic portrayal of the events in their actual locations. The film is based on the true life incident of a Spanish family.

Rating: 3.5/5

Lost Highway (1997)

Director: David Lynch
Writers:  David Lynch, Barry Gilford
Cast:      Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, John Roselius
After a bizarre encounter at a party, a jazz saxophonist is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably morphs into a young mechanic and begins leading a new life.

Watched it for the third time and is my favorite David Lynch film. Film is non-linear with respect to time and space. It is also cyclical. Is it? You won't get a near neat explanation like Mulholland Drive, but is much more complex and greater.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The School of Rock (2003)

Director:Richard Linklater
Writer:   Mike White
Cast:      Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack
A wannabe rock star in need of cash poses as a substitute teacher at a prep school, and tries to turn his class  into a rock band.

It is an alright film but the weakest of the Linklater films I have seen so far. Normally he writes the screenplay for his films but he didn't for this film.

Rating: 2.5/5

Friday, January 4, 2013

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Director: Woody Allen
Writer:   Woody Allen
Cast:      Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Penelope Cruz
Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his  ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to reenter the picture.

Its another little gem of a film from Woody Allen who is now making films in Europe, where he finds money for it. Good performances from the excellent cast. The ending seemed a little too contrived though.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Director: Richard Linklater
Writers:  Richard Linklater, Philip K. Dick
Cast:      Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder
An undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug and begins to lose his own identity as a result.

The film is supposedly a faithful adaptation of Dick's novel and the animation technology used is rotoscoping. Even though the story is  very dark there are some really witty scenes especially involving Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson. It is a thought provoking and wonderful film. Philip K.Dick wrote the novel inspired from his real life events wherein which his wife and his friend had addiction problems. He brings a totalitarian dimension into it and kind of predicts the state in which US is now, with regards to its war against drugs.

Rating: 4.5/5

Ôdishon (Audition) (1999)

Director: Takashi Miike
Writers:  Ryû Murakami, Daisuke Tengan
Cast:      Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki
Language: Japanese
A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.

The film is not as gory as Miike's other films but is more disturbing than them nevertheless. Not for the fainthearted and you will get an idea from the trailer itself. Kiri,,Kiri,,Kiri...

Rating: 4/5