Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Director: Terry Gilliam
Writers:  Hunter S.Thompson (Book), Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni, Tod Davies, Alex Cox
Cast:      Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Tobey Maguire

An oddball journalist and his psychopathic lawyer travel to Las Vegas for a series of psychedelic escapades.

The film is based on Hunter's novel of the same name and the journalist character is supposed to be him.  Johnny Depp spent around four months with him to get into the character and remained a great friend to the man till his death. He fulfilled Hunter's last wish by firing his ashes out of a cannon shaped in the Gonzo symbol.

It was a project that was trying to get made for more than two decades and the novel was considered unfilmable. They finally got the right people attached with Terry Gilliam at the helm and Depp playing the role of the journalist. Guess it takes us through the experience of drug taking without actually taking any. The narration that is done by Depp excellently conveys the essence of the film in which the journalist is writing nostalgically about the famous 60s and the bitter end to it. A must watch for those who haven't taken any drugs and also especially for those who have.Well, that covers just about everyone I guess.

Just a shame that Depp stopped acting in interesting films at the turn of the century.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Withnail & I (1987)

Director: Bruce Robinson
Writer:    Bruce Robinson
Cast:       Richard E.Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths

Two unemployed but educated wannabe actors wasting away their lives in London in the late 60s go to countryside for a weekend. A middle aged homosexual uncle of one of them is also there in the mix to complicate the situation.

I had seen the film before and thought it was just good. Recently came across a thread about it in the Liverpool Forum I frequent (RAWK), in which people were again waxing lyrical about the film which shows the cult following it enjoys, I decided to revisit. Enjoyed it much more this time round with me being more familiar with the nature of British comedies. The film is full of quotable lines and the ending is really heartbreaking. Bruce Robinson has just made four films in his career with the latest being 'The Rum Diary'. 

Rating: 4/5

Monday, September 23, 2013

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers:  Brian Aldiss, Ian Watson, Steven Spielberg
Cast:      Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, William Hurt

A highly advanced robotic boy longs to become 'real' so that he can get back to his human mother.

The film was in development from the 70s under Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick was not convinced with the CGI capabilities of the times and thought that he needed a real robot to play the role of protagonist. He then passed on the project to Steven Spielberg who decided to make the film after Kubrick's death. The thing is that the two directors in question couldn't be further apart in the kind of style and themes they usually handle and the film was inevitably going to be skeptically reviewed by the critics. Predictably it didn't do that well both commercially and critically when it came out.

So with a similar mindset I sat down to watch it but was really bowled over by it. The film is really very dark for most parts and it was like watching a horror film. Haley Joel Osment gives another wonderful performance after 'The Sixth Sense' and carries the film on his young shoulders. Spielbergian sensibilities takes over in the latter part of the film with a totally unnecessary last act. Despite that it is a wonderful film and just a shame that Kubrick didn't make it because if he had, it would almost certainly have been one of his best. It certainly wouldn't have been a PG-13 either. As it stands it is a great film slightly spoiled by its last 20 minutes. 

Film came out just before 9-11 and have the twin towers still standing 2000 years from now.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Easy A (2010)

Director: Will Gluck
Writer:    Bert V. Royal
Cast:      Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Stanley Tucci

A nerdy high school student inadvertently starts a rumor about her promiscuity which kind of snowballs out of control.

Film is sharply written with plenty of smart lines and a great central performance. It has plenty of references to the novel 'The Scarlet Letter' and Emma Stone plays a Juno like character that is getting quite common in American films. Plenty of laughs in the first half of the film but it kind of loses its steam towards the end. But still a great one time watch.

Rating: 3/5 

Crazy Heart (2009)

Director: Scott Cooper
Writers:  Scott Cooper, Thomas Cobb (Novel)
Cast:      Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell

Jeff Bridges plays an alcoholic country musician who is forced to reassess his life after a doomed romantic relationship.

The film I thought was very similar to Aronofsky's 'The Wrestler' but with a redemptive ending. But you root for it and suits the film really well even though it is predictable. Jeff Bridges sung all the songs that he is performing on the stage and deservedly won plenty of awards for his role in this film.

Rating: 4/5 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Casino Royale (2006)

Director: MartinCampbell
Writers:  Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis
Cast:      Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Mads Mikkelsen

In a reboot of the franchise, Daniel Craig replaces Pierce Brosnan as James Bond who is more  of a 21st century version  in the mould of Jason Bourne. He has to defeat Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre in a high stakes poker game to prevent him from getting away with $100 million and to bring him in. 

Coming after the Pierce Brosnan shitfest, Casino Royale would have seemed to be an Oscar winning film. Problem with the film is that during the poker game, which is kind of the center-piece of the film, some of the script is so poorly written that you have to cringe your way through the expositions. Then there is the product placement by Sony which is so obvious. Action scenes are well done and Daniel Craig is good as Bond but this is certainly not better than Skyfall. Story-wise Casino Royale had a better one, but Skyfall had the better Director. That ultimately is the difference between the two films.

Rating: 3/5 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Director: Oliver Stone
Writers:  Quentin Tarantino (Story), David Veloz, Richard Rutowski, Oliver Stone
Cast:      Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Robert Downey Jr., Tommy Lee Jones

Two victims of traumatized childhoods become lovers and get married and go on a killing spree. They capture the imagination of the nation by the glorification of their acts through mass media.

Tarantino had sold the script, to fund his debut film Reservoir Dogs, and it was rewritten by Oliver Stone and the others because of which Quentin asked them to remove his name from the credits. Film is shot in a psychedelic manner with plenty of Black and White footage, animations and what not. Soundtrack is good (Trent Reznor) and Robert Downey Jr. is amazing. Rest of the film is very underwhelming. Apparently Tarantino's original screenplay had given more time for the media story arc but Stone rewrote it to give more time to Mickey and Mallory which for sure was a mistake. They don't have the chemistry or the depth that similar characters in 'Wild At Heart' and 'Badlands' had. Can see why Tarantino is so pissed off with this film.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dead Man (1995)

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer:    Jim Jarmusch
Cast:       Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, John Hurt, Iggy Pop, Robert Mitchum

William Blake, an accountant, is injured and on the run after killing a man. He encounters an Indian named Nobody who prepares him to a journey into the spiritual world.

Film is a surreal western with an improvised guitar background score by Neil Young. Even though it is slow paced, there is plenty of dry humor with Johnny Depp's weary performance being the highlight. The film is known for his well researched portrayal of the Indian tribes and the conversation between those characters are not subtitled. It is a very good watch and having not seen any other Jim Jarmusch films, I have plenty of his other films to look forward to.

Rating: 4.5/5 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jack Reacher (2012)

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writers:  Christopher McQuarrie, Lee Child (Novel)
Cast:      Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins

A trained military sniper kills five random people in a city, leaving plenty of evidence, and asks for Jack Reacher when he is made to confess.

Film is based on 'One Shot' of the Jack Reacher series by the British Author Jim Grant who writes under the pen name of Lee Child. In the novel the character Jack Reacher is a ghostly brooding character whose only physical description ever given is that he is very tall, which Tom Cruise is not. This annoyed the fans of the novel series as soon as casting of Tom Cruise got out and plenty of criticism the film received have been because of that. They might not have captured the sensibilities of the book fully but it is a good action thriller. Some of the actions by the protagonist is bit out of sync with the way he is portrayed on the screen but would have made sense if they didn't dilute the portrayal by going for a PG-13 rating ,which sadly  is a must for big budgeted studio films. Werner Herzog who plays the villain steals the show in the very few scenes he is in. 

The film made around 220 million on a budget of 60 million which is quite decent but very less compared to the blockbustery stuff that Tom Cruise usually turns up in. If they are gonna make a franchise out of it, I hope they make it even more darker and not fucking PG-13.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, September 14, 2013

12 Angry Men (1957)

Director: Sidney Lumet
Writer:    Reginald Rose
Cast:       Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam

12 jurors in a claustrophobic room, on a hot sweaty day, trying to reach a consensus on a  murder trail where the odds are stacked heavily against  the 'Not Guilty' verdict.

I had seen the film about five years back and didn't really think I would find it as great as I thought of it as back then on repeat viewing. You tend to notice all the subtle things that you missed first time round. I have seen many film fans who watches plenty of good quality films but are not  big fans of repeat viewing Some would say a film should convey everything it has to say on just one viewing whilst others say they simply don't have time. The thing is the film might not have changed over the years- but you change, your world-view changes and the perceptions you have about the film changes. Good films are worth revisiting.

Henry Fonda plays an architect who is the only one who think he didn't see enough evidence to reach a 'Guilty Verdict'. Over the course of film he persuades others to change their verdict as the jury verdict has to be unanimous for it to hold. Great thing about the film is that all the 12 jurors are etched out very well and you actually remember them by their background and nature by the end of the film. You have the annoying Yankees fan who reminded me very much of the usual Manchester United fans. Then there is Lee J. Cobb who gives a great performance as the troubled father of a 22 year old who is clouding his judgment based on his personal troubles. You have the prejudiced guy with a running nose, a European immigrant who knows  Spoken English, Working class man, guy who did well from his slum background,smug wall-street guy, wise old guy, funny guy from advertising, too polite guy, well-mannered school teacher who is the moderator and then of course the Henry Fonda character who is an architect. One might think a bit of stereo-typing is going on but you don't feel like it when watching the film. The film is about how prejudice and all other minor things going on in your life cloud everyone's judgment. If you end up wondering whether the boy was guilty or not at the end of the film-then you are really missing the fucking point.

12 Angry Men is certainly Sidney Lumet's best film but all said and done 'Dog Day Afternoon' is still my favorite.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

La Jetée (1962)

Director: Chris Marker
Writer:    Chris Marker
Cast:      Davos Hanich, Etienne Becker, Jean Negroni, Helene Chatelain
Language: French

A childhood memory of a lady and death, World War 3, underground future, time travel. If this sounds very much like Terry Gilliam's brilliant film '12 Monkeys', it is because it was inspired by this 1962 short film La Jetee. Film is a series of beautiful black and white photographs with the story being told through narration. Unlike 12 Monkeys, it doesn't overly focus on the 'save the world motive' but more on the relation between the protagonist and the lady from his dreams/memory. The twist at the end is a bit different from the 12 monkeys one and I think this is better. Have been meaning to watch this film for a long time.

 Chris Marker died last year. Should catch up with his other films.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, September 9, 2013

Miller's Crossing (1990)

Director: Joel Coen
Writers:  Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast:      Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden, John Polito

Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne), an adviser to a prohibition-era crime boss, is trying to keep peace between warring mobs but gets caught in divided loyalties.

I had seen it a few years back and was watching it again as part of my plan to go through the Coens filmography again. I didn't love it on first watch and the plot being very complicated could be one reason. This time round I loved it. It is their third film and after making a noir and a comedy, this time they jump to the gangster genre. As always they do genre-bender job out of it which is always great. Tom is an ice-cool character who is always calculating what is in it for him. But still it is really a love story and by the end both of them do kind of self destruction. There are several great scenes and dialog set-pieces.

Whats the rumpus? Its all about the angles...

Rating: 5/5

Bernie (2011)

Director: Richard Linklater
Writers:  Skip Hollandsworth, Richard Linklater
Cast:      Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey

In small-town Texas, a very well liked local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow and things go bad subsequently.

The film is based on a true story and it is a black comedy dealing with death. Story is narrated through interviews with the townsfolk and many of them are the real people from that town. It gives the film a very real feel and it is wonderful to hear their Texas accent. Matthew McConaughey comes up with a storming performance and he has been in some real good films recently. Richard Linklater is among the best directors that are active now and his filmography speaks is top quality with great variety and quality. Its another film in which he has put Jack Black to good use.

All things said the film is a bit one-sided which is expected when it is based on real story and the crew is interacting with the protagonist. The film would have been interesting even is it is not based on a true story with the theme being the way in which public sympathy operates and how it can turn a blind eye sometimes so easily.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Spring Breakers (2012)

Director: Harmony Korine
Writer:    Harmony Korine
Cast:      James Franco, Vaneesa Hudgens, Selena Gomez

Four college girls who end up in jail after they rob a restaurant is bailed out by a drug dealer, played by James Franco, who wants them to do some dirty work.

I was expecting a B-grade exploitation flick along the lines of Death Proof but it doesn't have any of the funny elements of Tarantino's flick in terms of dialog or characters. Only good thing about it was the hilarity of Selena Gomez' character's narration and weird church and prayer scenes. James Franco's character is interesting. Film very much forgettable.

Rating: 1.5/5

Thursday, September 5, 2013

We're the Millers (2013)

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writers:  Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, John Morris
Cast:      Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Anniston, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter

A small-time pot dealer creates a fake family to move a shipment of weed into US from Mexico.

It is a politically incorrect comedy in the mould of Horrible Bosses and such. Plot as such is predictable but there are plenty of laughs and performances are good. It does not sustain the level till the end when the group of people start forming a bond along the predictable lines. Still a good one time watch.

Rating: 3/5