Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Look - #15

THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH
An Autobiography by 'Mahatma' M.K.Gandhi

Plot: The autobiography of one of the greatest men to have ever lived. We get to experience the transformation that made him what he was straight from the horse's mouth.

Highlights:
  • The extensive coverage he gives on the events in his childhood in India; his struggle to overcome distractions and difficulties to become a barrister; the life and times in South Africa are fresh news on which I have not even had an idea before.
  • His obstinacy,grit,stubbornness - call it whatever - on matters of principles that he laid after some of his experiments with truth are startling! Especially the examples he offers that show his determination to stick on to his ideals in Dietetics, non-possession, Brahmacharya, ahimsa, truth, medicine, religion etc. are unbelievably terrific and inspiring.
  • The portions of his times in India focus more on the lesser known issues such as the Bihar, Gujarat labour union issues and this gives clues to the question on how he was able to inspire and get the respect of an entire nation.
  • In all, this life-story would make one's respect for the nation's supreme hero grow manifolds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #222

Movie: The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Plot: A farmman joins force with a bunch of men who are against unlawful soldiers who were responsible for the death of his wife and kid. When the men get captured, he alone escapes and tackles the soldier chase with the aid of a veteran red indian and they even save a Kansas girl-grandma duo. The good deeds of his make these good people help him in his final vengeance act.

Highlights:
  • Clint Eastwood's work, behind the lens is admirable, for, the film looks like one made by a veteran director. He was a budding director when he made this one.
  • Clint Eastwood, in front of the lens, as Josey is stylish with his derogatory spitting antics; He continues from where he left at The Man with No Name trilogy, though a tad more subtly.
  • The side-kick characters are all memorable & the sarcastic dialogues and the intense conversation with Ten Bears Red-Indian are awesome.
  • The sets, costumes & locations are noteworthy.
Lowlights:
  • "When you've got to shoot,shoot; Don't talk" says Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; That gem of an advice isn't followed in this film too & that makes the villains look dummy
  • Music could have been more inspiring
A decent Howdy Western from the Clint Eastwood stable.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An year of reviews - gone in a flash!

It's been an year since the start! Looking back, 221 doesn't seem to be a small number..

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #221

Movie: Ko (Thamizh, 2011)


Plot: A News journal photographer helps a student-politics outfit in its quest for election victory against two supposedly corrupt veteran politicians. A bomb blast during one of their rallies results in the death of the hero's friend among others and with vital clues from the recordings of the event that day, he unravels the men behind the bombing. In between all this is his romantic duel with an editor who helps him in his search.

Highlights:
  • The twist in the second half of the film is its core and that part has been covered quite well.
  • The casual performance of Jiiva, a good show (towards the end) by Ajmal & the attractive looks of the tall 'The Rock' eyebrow-ed lass Karthika help in making the watch a better experience.
  • The strenuous location hunt for songs (Gala gala, Amali Thumali), picturisation of duets and decent cinematography are other pluses.
  • Harris's songs are pluses;The club song wasn t given its due thanks to some poor picturisation.
Lowlights:
  • The very first hour, with its wayward screenplay and kiddish sequences, is a dampener.
  • It is understandable that the message being conveyed is 'The camera is mightier than the cartridge'. But the ever-clicking hero's show to stress on that point is amusing.
  • The way the new Chief Minister is handled is a mockery.
A 'Passable entertainer'. Nothing more, Nothing less.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #220

Movie: Dressed to Kill (1980)

Plot: A woman is murdered in an elevator by her own doctor's fellow patient and the murderer is after a witness to the murder; Police and the murdered victim's nerd son track the murderer in parallel leading to riveting revelations in the end.

Highlights:
  • Brian De Palma seems to be a suspense master and here too he keeps the viewer guessing with his thrills.
  • The roles of the witness,student and the psychiatrist are the ones that make a mark.
  • The conversations in the police interrogation scenes are especially good.
  • The final climax is fitting to the genre the film is set in.
Lowlights:
There is quite a bit of sleaze over the cut-off we normally give to good films.

A Sleazy & Suspenseful Thriller.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #219

Movie: Due Date (2010)


Plot: The travel plans of a business executive, on his way to attend to his wife's pregnancy, gets jeopardised thanks to an eccentric hollywood wannabe actor. The duo travel the breadth of USA on a car trip & face and handle crazy situations crazily before getting right on time for the delivery!

Highlights:
  • Zach Galifianakis & Downey Jr. make this a decently hilarious film.
  • Zach, with his crazy talks,deeds and his pet dog, irritates and makes one laugh wonderfully. Especially his antics at the Western Union & weed house (The Brando act)!
  • Downey Jr. gives him superb company and shows his desperation of being at the hands of a crazy fellow nicely.
  • The Jamie Foxx scene and quite a few others have hilarious dialogues.
Lowlights:
Logically very weak; Not as good as Hang over.

Utterly crazy;Nevertheless it's enjoyable!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dheivathirumagan - Unusal & Enjoyable songs!

There are some director-music director combinations that arouse expectations & interest. Not surprisingly, quite a lot of them produce scintillating music every time they shake hands. Only rarely do such combinations fail.On top of such a list is Ilaiyaraja/AR Rahman – Maniratnam, AR Rahman – Shankar & there are quite a few directors who team well with Yuvan. The tried and tested Gautham Harris team is yet another example. The latest to join the elite list is Vijay-GV Prakash duo. Their latest offering is the album of ‘Dheivathirumagan’. Looking at the promos and now with some beautiful songs, it is highly likely that the film is going to be a blast with Vikram at his best yet again.

Before any further praises, the dissection of all the songs now begins:

1. Kadha Solla Poren (Vikram, Kids)
This one , on the lines of Raja Chinna Rojavodu Kaatu Pakkam song will be children’s delight. With a pleasant guitar loop , some funny kiddish lines and a lively rendition by Vikram, the song is sure to hit the bull’s eye – the proverbial bull here being the kid in each of us. The grand interludes to depict a funny Raja story will demand some nice picturisation which, going by the lofty standards he has set with his picturisation of songs in Kireedom & Madrasapattinam, Vijay is sure to provide.

2. Jagada Thom (SPB)
What starts off like a gloomy number gets its kick with a nice unusual beat and turns into a pretty inspiring motivational song. Who’s better than SPB to sing songs placed for such situations. The lyrics are passable. The highlight is the repetitive tune that SPB and a lady sing together. The flute & humming in the middle is a nice fit.

3. Vennilave (GV Prakash)
This song is touching and emotional thanks to an inspired singing performance by GV Prakash – Here’s one music director who doesn’t have an unusual voice and can pass off as an effective run-of-the-mill and not-so-peculiar singer. He seems to have taken cue from his uncle’s Anbendra Mazhayile but has delivered a pretty moving song at that.

4. Vizhigalil oru Vaanavil (Saindhavi)
This is the staple GV Prakash melody of the album. He has been good in this genre of slow soliloquising melodies and this is not much different. It is sure to be appealing. The beats have traces of Akkam Pakkam and the delivery of the song by his to-be-wife Saindhavi is to be appreciated. The laudably good intermediate flute and piano portions are reminiscent of Ilaiyaraja’s influence on modern composers. A particular tune that comes time and again reminds me of some famous Yuvan song.

5. Pa pa paa pa paa (Vikram)
Songs of this type come once in a bluemoon. And when they come, they become instant pleasers. Full credits for GV Prakash for this mature composition that literally combines many instruments into a song of such a peculiar genre. Here again, he shows his brilliance in flute with yet another pleasant bit. Vikram , with his altered voice, is at his expressive best with this rendition and he seems to show his massive improvising skills in this area too! His effort is enjoyable (enviable, probably for some of his peers). The amusing lyrics add to the fun and this is my pick of the album.

6. Life is Beautiful (Theme)
There is a tune (a familiar one) that is first whistled. The same tune rendered with a flute makes one take notice. Then, the mother of all instruments Violin plays the tune adding value to it. What follows next is thorough improvisation of the tune with a violin chorus and that takes the note to a higher pedestal. This theme music, if used at the right places in the film, is sure to add to the emotional effect.

7. Aariro (Haricharan)
This is more or less a stereotype nonchalant melody that falls easy on the ears. The song starts off on a soft piano note and slowly gathers momentum to reach its high point at a high pitched note. The tabela flute medley in the middle is classy and bears resemblance to a similar note in the all famous Kannukku Maiyazhagu song. The singing of Haricharan would be best described as a dedicated effort.

With variety within a periphery, the album looks neatly poised to bring the apt feeling that the film is expected to evoke. Yet again, with a versatile show GV Prakash shows his calibre in giving different but winnable tunes for differently winnable genres of films. The combo has more than satisfied my expectations after all!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #218

Movie: Sisters (1973)


Plot: A TV show actor who visits a fellow model at her place is brutally murdered by her twin sister. The model , with her ex-husband cover up the action by removing all clues when the police get in. But, an editor from the neighbourhood is certain to have seen the last seconds of the murdered person and is relentless in her chase for clues. Finally, when she discovers the mystery there are surprises aplenty!

Highlights:
  • Brian de Palma's story has all that needs to be in a suspense thriller and the screenplay is racy without any branch-offs which is a plus.
  • The camera angles employed, Bernard Herrmann's music and some the split-screen method of showing the action suit the film's tempo perfectly.
  • The performance of the Danielle twin and that of the writer are notably good.
Lowlights:
It wouldn't have taken so much to find the suspect if the dead man was found missing by his family. That angle is totally missing.

Delivers substantial suspense resembling Hitchcock's style.

Two Line Reviews - #217

Movie: Abre los ojos (or) Open Your Eyes (Spanish, 1997)


Plot: A handsome flirtatious guy finds the love of his life and exactly at that point, he is deliberately made to be involved in an accident by his ex-lover which causes his face to disfigure terribly. This creates in him a gloomy sense of inferiority and he races against dreams and hallucinations in his battle to win back his love.

Highlights:
  • The theme of the film is unheard of and claps to Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar's writing & direction which have helped him present the unusual subject in an interesting fashion.
  • The man who plays the protagonist is suave as the handsome dude and is expressive & emotional as the desperate loser.
  • Penelope Cruz's beauty is irresistible and she has an amazing screen presence.
  • The unusual and sci-fi like climax is convincing which is a relief.
An 'one of a kind' Love story, well told.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #216

Movie: White Heat (1949)


Plot: A well-planned train robbery involving $300,000 is followed by lack of any money laundering  and eventually lack of clue for the police. Things get tougher for them when the suspect claims to have robbed elsewhere during that incident. The police tackle this tricky situation by sending an undercover agent as an inmate to the suspect in jail. He earns his trust,partners him in a jailbreak and a burgle plan & finally helps them nab the entire criminal network!

Highlights:
  • The intelligent script and screenplay make this film a treat to watch.
  • The mutually possessive mother son duo is brilliant; Especially James Cagney as the criminal Cody Jarette with his tactful ways and superiority complex puts up - in his own dialogue - a 'top of the world' show.
  • The police strategies of tracing the whereabouts of the criminals were interesting to watch.
  • The heated-up conversations add to the entertainment offered.
Classy thriller - A blast from the past.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #215

Movie:  Babel (Multiple Languages, 2006)


Plot: An American woman is shot accidentally in Morocco by a Moroccan boy whose father had bought the rifle from a friend who had got it as a gift from a Japanese hunter. Meanwhile, the kids of the shot lady are caught in another problem involving a gun when their caretaker takes them on a round-trip from San Diego to Mexico for her son's marriage.

Highlights:
  • The idea that ties up countries, languages, locations and 'guns' to narrate simple yet peculiar incidents is novel and the making is pretty interesting with a neat screenplay.
  • The nativity that the 'Moroccan father-kids' bring is brilliant. So, is that of the Mexican caretaker lady! Brad Pitt's, the deaf Japanese mute girl and the Moroccan aide to Pitt are other nice roles.
  • The photography is simple and superb; And the soul of the film's theme is Gustavo Santaolalla's stirring music.
A novel idea filmed wonderfully!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #214

Movie: 8½ (Italian,1963)


Plot: A popular director prepares for a new film. The director unknown for showing love in his films attempts to bring in characters from his past, stories from his childhood and is highly confused on what he is looking to make. Troubles get compounded when his wife reveals to him his lack of love or feelings for others and of his selfish ways. This, in a way ruins his movie plans.

Highlights:
  • The actor who plays the confused and nostalgia-affected director Guido does his role pretty realistically. He's well aided by some of the other prominent roles - that of his wife etc.
  • Some scenes in the middle and the conversations are pretty intense and sensible.
  • The climax monologue of the critic to the director is surprisingly good in this otherwise nonsensical film.
Lowlights:
  • Among confusing films, there are abstract films, there are open-for-discussion films and then there are absurd films. To me, this falls in the last category. To finish off watching it was an ordeal.
  • It is understandable that the film is on a confused director making a ridiculous mistake; To show it to the audience exactly that way is ridiculous too.
Absurd to the core; This critically praised Fellini film disappoints.

Two Line Reviews - #213

Movie: Frenzy (1972)


Plot: In London, a neck-tie murderer is on the run and he keeps murdering young women, strangling them with a tie. Strong evidence gets gathered against a short-tempered bartender. When two of the murdered women are his ex-wife and his girlfriend, the police convict him. That's when the police chief suspect someone else too and the original killer gets caught in the end.

Highlights:
  • An amazingly written story that could happen even in today's world; That is topped by the brilliant direction of Alfred Hitchcock with his usual spooky, suspenseful treatment.
  • The performers are the characters who play the suspect killer and the killer.
  • The wonderful side-track of the police sergeant chief and his cuisine loving wife is humourous and enticing too!
Yet again, Hitchcock weaves his magic!

Two Line Reviews - #212

Movie: Hereafter (2010)


Plot: A french TV editor miraculously escapes from the jaws of death by surviving a Tsunami; In UK, a kid loses his twin brother in an accident; A man in San Francisco has the unimaginable gift (or curse) of connecting with dead ones. The first two seek the truth behind the existence of a life after death and their problems get solved when the third comes their way.

Highlights:
  • An endearingly made film on a gloomy & hitherto untouched subject. Clint Eastwood takes all that is necessary to give the right amount of emotions, suspense and content to it.
  • Matt Damon, the kid and the french woman - the pivotal characters are perfectly sketched and they play their roles with aplomb. Matt Damon especially; The pride he shows as a Dickens fan is natural action at its best.
  • The graphics showing the Tsunami is of lofty standards!
  • The way the incidents are connected, though seen before, is apt for a subject like this.
Melancholic & Memorable; Ignored for no reasons for the Oscars last year..

Friday, April 8, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #211

Movie: Changeling (2008)


Plot: One evening in the year 1928, a Californian woman finds her child missing and makes a complaint with the LAPD. After months, when the LAPD re-unite the mother and the child, the mother finds that the kid brought back is someone else! When she presses this case with the LAPD, she is thrown into a mental facility. With sheer grit and support from an activist, she ensures that the miscreants are punished.

Highlights:
  • Clint Eastwood's touch is unmissable! His direction plays a huge role in bringing this story this emotional.
  • I haven't seen much of Angelina Jolie; So her spellbinding performance surprised me. As the deprived mother and the resilient truth seeker, she's brilliant.
  • The suspense portion and the characters and scenes that are part of it is shockingly terrific.
  • The artwork & music that are apt to the times described in the film are appreciable.
Clint's magic works bigtime; Brilliant gem!

Two Line Reviews - #210

Movie: Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA (or) Joint Security Area (Korean,2000)


Plot: At a border post separating North Korea and South Korea, friendship blooms between post guards of the two countries. A sudden intervention jeopardises the friends' usual rendezvous and some of them get killed.

Highlights:
  • The very idea of the film is so genuine and astounding. A sensitive subject has been handled in the deft of ways.
  • The screenplay of the film which shows the reasonably straightforward events with the effect of twists is good.
  • The shoot-out scene and the various build-ups given to it are special.
Lowlights:
The likeliness/close resemblance of most of the Korean characters creates a tough confusing time!

A reasonably good cross-border tale.

Two Line Reviews - #209

Movie: Salinui chueok (or) Memories of Murder (Korean,2003)


Plot: A number of women get murdered in similar fashion all over a Korean city. Murders coincide with rain and a song broadcast on a radio station. With no other clues, police officers of different cities unite to find the psychopath serial killer on the run.

Highlights:
  • The film's suspense level gets maintained till the end and events aren't hyped too. The quiet flow is notably good.
  • The performances of the police officers ; Especially that of the officer from Seoul. Their egos in competing against each other in solving the case prove that Ego is not always a bad thing!
  • The sentimental scenes come at the right times and evoke the correct response.
A sound suspense thriller!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #208

Short Movie: The Great Train Robbery (1903)


Plot: A group of bandits attack a control station master and make an oncoming train stop at a desired signal; They board the train there and loot money from passengers and ride off. They are chased by public and then there's a gun-fest!

Highlights:
  • It is a 'silent film' with no sound effects ;no music; no dialogues!
  • This  Edwin Porter film is considered a milestone for all the right things; Such a terrific film shot outdoors brilliantly with crisp editing must have been special as it would have been unheard of before 1903!
  • The sequence where the passengers are asked to get off the train & the shooting scene are nicely shot.
A Path-breaking film that probably led a revolution in movie making!

Two Line Reviews - #207

Short Movie: Laughing Gas (1914)


Plot: Chaplin is an assistant to a dentist; In the absence of the dentist, when Chaplin assumes the role to treat patients all hell breaks loose!

Highlights:
  • There's not much but whatever comedy is shown passes off as 'laughable'.
  • The methods Chaplin use to control the anaesthesia induced laughter of a patient evoke laughter.
Lowlights:
  • The film seems to lack any purpose.
  • The comedy too wasn't unseen off of Chaplin.
No laughing gas this.

Two Line Reviews - #206

Short Movie: The Face On The Bar Room Floor (1914)


Plot: An artist loses his long time love to a client who comes for getting his portrait drawn. After years of memories,when the artist sees the client and his lover with their kids,he chooses the company of a bar and finally passes out in it.

Highlights:
  • An adaptation of a poem without any dialogs or even narration boards - a daring attempt and it is also successful in grabbing the viewer attention.
  • The soothing piano music that accompanies the show onscreen for the entire duration.
  • Chaplin has performed differently - He's not the usual cross-footed tramp here!
A different watch-worthy attempt of Chaplin.

Two Line Reviews - #205

Short Movie: The Fireman (1916)


Plot: Chaplin works in the fire department. After a poor reaction to an alarm, he earns the wrath of his co-workers and that makes him extra careful later on. How this troubles others and spoils the fire-fake-for-insurance plans of a wealthy man forms the rest of the plot.

Highlights:
  • There is so much of slapstick and all that is in the usual Chaplin style - enjoyable.
  • The reverse sequences that keep coming time and again are funny. So is the way by which Chaplin irritates the stout fireman.
Just a routine Chaplin comic flick; Not special.

Two Line Reviews - #204

Movie: The Kid (1921)


Plot: A lady orphans her illicit child and a poor Chaplin finds the kid on the streets. After failed efforts on trying to pass the burden elsewhere, he finds a note attached to the baby and decides to parent the orphan. After five years of an affectionate bonding, the mother finds her son and Chaplin and the kid react to it!

Highlights:
  • The emotions run high in this Chaplin film. In that way, it is very different. A touching narration helps.
  • The kid who plays 'the kid' has acted unbelievably well and that is what ensures an emotional viewer involvement.
  • Chaplin is at his best as usual; with his pranks and expressions alike.
  • The scene where the men from the asylum try to get the kid from Chaplin is very very special!
A surprising Emotional stunner from Chaplin!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #203

Movie: The Birds (1963)


Plot: In a bay-side town in California, migratory birds of different feathers flock together in attacking the public residents. The plight that a particular family undergoes is showcased in this unusual thriller.

Highlights:
  • The concept is a winner! The dreadful scenario of What would happen if birds unite and start attacking human beings is told by Hitchcock and Co in a manner that would shock and shake the viewer. My admiration for Hitchcock now knows no bounds.
  • The performances of the Brenner family - Man,mother & sister is highly convincing; The fear enacted by them is realistic.
  • 'Tippi' Hedren is brilliant in her role. It is very surprising to note that it is her debut film.
  • The graphics (or however it was called in the 60s) of showing the bird attacks & the fire-accident are highly commendable.
Lowlights:
The end is very much 'open-ended' and that lessens the impact to an extent.

Not many films are eerier than this Hitchcock classic!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Two Line Reviews - #202

Movie: Marnie (1964)


Plot: Marnie is a seasoned thief,a liar and a victim of psychological troubles. When she tries to do her con work on a rich Philadelphia businessman, he falls in love with her and even marries her. She is later made to know that he had already knew a bit of her past and his careful investigation helps in finding the cause of her thievery acts and in discovering her true self.

Highlights:
  • To me, this stands right up there with the best works of Alfred Hitchcock. It is as good as the highly acclaimed films of his making its low popularity a mystery. A tactful and intense presentation makes it work big time.
  • It is Sean Connery in the early days of his career and as the rich and persuasive businessman, he is rock-solid and his dialogue delivery deserves a special mention.
  • Tippi Hedren as Marnie lives her role and plays a crucial role in making the film very interesting.
  • Bernard Herrmann's grand music,the amazing camera angles & crisp dialogues are admirable.
One of Hitchcock's very best works!