Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Compliance (2012)

Director: Craig Zobel
Writer:    Craig Zobel
Cast:      Ann Dowd, Dream Walker, Pat Healy

When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed. Based on true events.

It is quite obvious from the off that it is a prank call and you kind of know how the people involved are going to be manipulated by the caller. It is almost beyond belief that around 70 such cases happened in US. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. A different approach where in they kind of know its a prank but still goes along might have made a more interesting and disturbing film. It is essentially about Milgram Experiment but it would have been more interesting if it focused more on motivations of the characters.

Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, May 27, 2013

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Director: Peter Strickland
Writer:    Peter Strickland
Cast:      Toby Jones, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Cosimo Fusco

A sound engineer's work for an Italian horror studio becomes a terrifying case of life imitating art.

Toby Jones plays the role of the English Sound Engineer, Gilderoy, who expected to be working on a film about horses but ends up doing an Italian giallo film, Equestrian Vortex. We are not shown the visuals of the film but the horror is conveyed by the sounds created using vegetables and screams. Gilderoy is gradually sucked into the film he is working on in a case of life imitating art. The film's last act turns it into a mindfuck which sits very well with me. The horror aspects might have been more pronounced if I had seen it on a big screen. As it is it is a well made mind-bender.

The film was very well received by the critics.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, May 26, 2013

English: An Autumn in London (2013) (Malayalam)

Director: Shyamaprasad
Writer:    Ajayan Venugopalan
Cast:       Jayasurya, Mukesh, Nivin Pauly, Nadia Moidu, Ramya Nambeeshan

The film tells the story of some malayalees living in London. It has broadly four set of stories and respective characters that are connected in some manner. This multiple story angle is getting quite common in Malayalam films but it has been going on in Internationals films for almost two decades. Code Unknown by Michael Haneke is the best one I have seen among these. However Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu is the most famous exponent of multiple story line features.with his first three films following this pattern (Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel, together known as Death trilogy). 

English is written by Ajayan Venugopalan who is known for his involvement in 'Akkara Kazchakal'. Each of the story line has it own set of naive characters played by Nadia Moidu, Mukesh, Jayasurya and Ramya Nambeesan. These characters are also the weak point of the film as they appear to be very anachronistic and can be considered extinct by the 90s. The story line of Mukesh is the weakest of the lot and could have been totally avoided without any loss. The first half of the film is quite poor but the film redeems itself in second half. However I guessed both the twists from miles off but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Overall, Shyamaprasad's English is a watchable film with some 'New Generation' elements which is kind of a fad in Malayalam film industry. It is certainly much better than run of the mill shit like 'Ayalum Njanum Thammil'.

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Gangs of Wasseypur: Part 2 (2012)

Director: Anurag Kashyap
Writers:  Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh, Sachin Ladia, Anurag Kashyap
Cast:      Nawazuddin Ziddiqui, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Huma Qureshi, Zeishan Quadri

The saga of clashes between Qureishis and Khans abetted by the Singhs continue stretching over the 90s and noughties. Faisal Khan (Nawazuddin Ziddiqui) takes center stage following the death of his father and brother and plenty of new characters are introduced deftly.

The second part is more of a dark comedy with the introduction of new characters like Perpendicular, Tangent and Definite. If people were concerned  that with Manoj Bajpayee's Sardar Khan dead, the film will lack charisma, Nawazuddin Ziddiqui's Faisal Khan is as good if not better. Compared to first film less narration is used in the first half of this film and it is better because of it. The second half is a bit tiresome with unfunny chase sequences and it became more of a farce. 

Overall Gangs of Wasseypur is a great watch and it would have been interesting to watch it in its entirety in one go.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Broken Flowers (2005)

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writers:  Jim Jarmusch, Bill Raden, Sarah Driver
Cast:      Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Julie Delpy, Jessica Lange, Sharon Stone, Tilda Swinton

As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.

It is a simple film made in a slow broody manner which suits Bill Murray perfectly. Bill Murray gives another great performance in a film that deals with loneliness.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jagten (The Hunt) (2012)

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writers:  Thomas Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg
Cast:      Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp
Language: Danish

A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son's custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.

Film deals with mass hysteria and prejudice. Understated performance from Mads Mikkelsen which won him best actor award at Cannes and a wonderful performance by the kid played by Annika Wedderkopp. Just when you think towards the end that they are going for a feel good ending, you are reminded that things won't go back to normal for the protagonist. Another one to add to the list of great Scandinavian films of recent times.

Just looked up Vinterberg's filmography and realized that he had also made Festen, another great film.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, May 20, 2013

Shanghai (2012)

Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Writers:  Vasilis Vasilikos (Novel), Urmi Juvekar, Dibakar Banerjee
Cast:      Abhay Deol, Emraan Hashmi, Kalki Koechlin
Language: Hindi

Prime leader of a campaign against a big government project is killed in what appears to be a road accident. An IAS officer is ordered to probe the incident and the veils of falsehood begin to drop.

The film is adapted from Vasilis Vasilikos' novel 'Z' which was also made into a French film by the same name. I had seen the French film and found it very poorly aged. So it was interesting to see Dibakar Banejee's effort. The novel's theme is perfect for the India of today with the corruption that exists in every nook and corner.  

I found the first half of the film very cold but now when I think about it, it is good that way because of the cynical nature of corruption in India. It is filmed and acted with tremendous restraint, especially Abhay Deol. The film ends with nothing good happening which is also perfect. I rate it as the worst Dibakar Banerjee film but that is no sleight for this film as I rate him as the best Hindi film director going around (not that hard to be honest). It is kind of like a sister film to his debut feature 'Khosla Ka Ghosla' but much darker.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, May 18, 2013

House of Cards (2013) (TV Series Season:1)

Developed By: Beau Willimon
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, Michael Kelly, Corey Stoll

Francis Underwood is Majority Whip. He has his hands on every secret in politics - and is willing to betray them all to become President.

It is an adaptation of BBC mini series of the same name which is based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. Series premiered on the streaming service Netflix where all the 13 episodes were made available simultaneously. This I think will be an increasing phenomenon with the traditional TV broadcasting set for a decline. David Fincher served as the producer for the series and directed the first two episodes.

The characters Francis Underwood, Claire Underwood and Doug Stamper are the highlight of the show. Other characters are not very well written and many just act as plot devices without much depth. The thing is that once you've seen 'The Wire', you judge everything in comparison to it and that is very hard for other shows. I even found 'Breaking Bad' to be not that great having stopped watching after second season. House of Cards is a very watchable show with great performances from Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Michael Kelly. It starts of very well, the middle is not that great but ends rather well setting up nicely for next season. Some of the plot turns are not very plausible and will raise eyebrows. But I am certainly looking forward to the next season.

To end I will quote Francis Underwwod: 'A great man once said, everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.'

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, May 17, 2013

Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

Director: Anurag Kashyap
Writers:  Anurag Kashyap, Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh, Sachin Ladia, Rutvik Oza
Cast:      Manoj Bajpai, Richa Chadda, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Reema Sen
Language: Hindi

A clash between Sultan (a Qureishi dacoit chief) and Shahid Khan (a Pathan who impersonates him) leads to the expulsion of Khan from Wasseypur, and ignites a deadly blood feud spanning three generations.

The film was shown first at Canne's Directors' Fortnight in a 319 minutes version. For the theatrical release it was screened as two parts. The first part runs for around two and half hours. 

The first half of the film looked really clunky with lots of narration used to get the facts in but the second half makes up for it. Performances are excellent but I found the use of music poor in comparison to Dev D. Felt there was too much of it just for the sake of it. The film is rated A and has plenty of violence and language by Indian film standards. So it is a small step in the right direction in terms of progress.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Neram (2013)

Director: Alphonse Putharen
Writer:    Alphonse Putharen
Cast:       Nivin Pauly, Nazriya Nazim, Shammi Thilakan

Neram is comedy film which marks the directorial debut for Alphonse Putheran. It is solid debut along the lines of Guy Ricthie-Matthew Vaughn films like 'Snatch' and 'Lock, 'Stock and Two Smoking Barrels'. The film starts with the Quentin Tarantino quote, 'I steal from every single movie ever made'. It never takes itself too seriously and is well shot and stylishly edited. Songs are used well to move the story forward rather than to fill the quota. Should be viewed in the cinemas. Trailer is superb too but I am glad I didn't watch it before seeing the film.

The film will be released in Tamil as well. I don't know how different it will be in Tamil, but the malayalam film is not watered down at all with compromises like it is usually the case when films are shot simultaneously to be released in different languages.

Rating: 4/5

"Trilogia: To livadi pou dakryzei" (Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow) (2004)

Director: Theodoros Angelopoulos
Writer:    Theodoros Angelopoulos
Cast:      Alexandra Aidini, Nikos Poursanidis
Language: Greek

The Weeping Meadow is the first film of Angelopoulos' planned trilogy on modern Greece. It spans 30 years from 1919 Bolshevik revolution till the Greek civil war in 1949. The story unfolds as a tragedy in the life of the female protagonist played by Alexandra Aidini.

It is shot beautifully with plenty of long shots and is along the lines of a Tarkovsky film. A second viewing is required to appreciate it fully. The director Angeloppoulos died tragically in a car accident in 2012.

Rating: 3.5/5 

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

Director: Todd Solondz
Writer:    Todd Solondz
Cast:       Heather Matarazzo, Victoria Davis, Christina Brucato

Insightful look at an unattractive 7th grader as she struggles to cope with un-attentive parents, snobbish classmates, a smart older brother, an attractive younger sister, and her own insecurities.

It is Todd Solondz' first major film and as is usual with his films it is filled with characters for which we won't feel any sympathy. A very dark comedy on bullying and the bullied.

Rating: 4/5

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Director: Sofia Coppola
Writers:  Jeffrey Eugenides, Sofia Coppola
Cast:      James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett

A group of male friends become obsessed with a group of mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents after one of them commits suicide.

The film is an adaptation of the novel with the same name. I felt the film should have concentrated more on the boys leaving the girls even more mysterious. It looked more like a bitching about the bad parenting without fully exploring the fascination from the side of the boys.

Rating: 2.5/5

Thursday, May 9, 2013

American Beauty (1999)

Director: Sam Mendes
Writer:   Alan Ball
Cast:     Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch

Lester Burnham, a depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis, decides to turn his hectic life around after developing an infatuation for his daughter's attractive friend.

Saw this after a long time and it doesn't have the same impact that it had when I saw it for the first time. Still it is a great film and great comedy. It is not very subtle when it comes to handling the theme and the characters are a bit cartoonish. 'Happiness' and Haneke's 'Seventh Continent' handles similar themes in a superior way.

1999 was a good year for films with 'Insider' and 'Sixth Sense'. Both of them are better films than American Beauty which won the academy award for best picture.


Blood Simple. (1984)

Director: Joel Coen
Writers:  Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast:      John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh

A rich but jealous man hires a private investigator to kill his cheating wife and her new man. But, when blood is involved, nothing is simple.

Debut film from Coen Brothers and it is one of their best. Rewatched it after a long time. 

Rating: 5/5

The Intouchables (2011)

Directors: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Writers:    Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Cast:        Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy
Language: French

After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caretaker.

The film is based on a true story but feels very cliched. The story is very predictable. It is a far inferior film to the magnificent 'Rust and Bones' which is also similarly themed in some sense.

Rating: 2.5/5

"Todo sobre mi madre" (All About My Mother) (1999)

Director: Pedro Almodovar
Writer:    Pedro Almodovar
Cast:      Cecilia Roth, Penelope Cruz, Marisa Parades
Language: Spanish

Young Esteban want to become a writer and also to discover the identity of his father, carefully concealed by the mother Manuela.

It is a good film and nothing more. Wildly considered as one of Almodovar's best, I thought it was overrated.

Rating: 3/5

Das Boot (1981)

Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Writers:   Lothar G.Buchheim, Wolfgang Petersen
Cast:       Jurgen Prochnow, Herbert Gronemeyer, Klaus Wennamann
Language: German

The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.

It is an amazing film with a running time of close to four hours and trust me, you won't be bored one bit. It doesn't matter that the story is about a German U Boat, you will be rooting for the captain and his crew. The film uses a steady cam like shot for the movement of crew inside the boat which gives it a very real feel for us. One of the best films of all time.

Rating: 5/5

The Dictator (2012)

Director: Larry Charles
Writers:  Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer
Cast:      Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Anna Faris

The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.

Watching trailer is enough. All the laughs are there in trailer and rest of the film evokes hardly any laughter.

Rating: 2/5

After Hours (1985)

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer:    Joseph Minion
Cast:      Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom

An ordinary word processor has the worst night of his life after he agrees to visit a girl in Soho whom he met that evening at a coffee shop.

The film is a comedy and you can see the flourishes in cinematography that Scorsese uses in his subsequent films like Goodfellas, Cape Fear and so on. The film gets a bit tiresome towards the end but is a good watch nonetheless. 

Rating: 3/5