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Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010)

Director: Werner Herzog and Dmitry Vasyukov Genre: Documentary With "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" Werner Herzog ...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sanctum (2011)

Director: Alister Grierson
Cast: Rhys Wakefield , Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Dan Wyllie
Genre: Adventure

Sanctum (2011)Plot: A group of explorers trapped  underneath an unpredictable cave system must find a way out.

Visually spectacular and adventurously enticing--these are the only high points of the movie!

Sanctum (2011)
The canvas shot of Esa'ala Cave (cave-mouth shown in the movie is actually Cave of Swallows, Mexico) leaves you literally spellbound. All the underwater scenes are shot so immaculately that one can’t believe they were filmed in a studio!

Sanctum is partly based on real life events where a team of explorers face life-threatening circumstances in an underwater cave diving expedition. Their aim is to find an unmapped route from within the cave system to the sea.

The script is poor and acting is mostly mediocre.

I personally enjoy exploring caves but still didn’t find Sanctum as appealing as “The Descent,” even though former had better visuals.  


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Am Number Four (2011)

Director: D.J. Caruso.
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer
Genre: Sci-Fi
Plot: Some aliens are fighting and Earth is the battleground.

John Smith (Pettyfer) along with eight others escaped from his home planet Lorien as a child.
Lorien is under attack by Mogadorians. On Earth he has to keep a low profile as suggested by his guardian Henri. John has to keep moving and eventually comes to a Paradise, Ohio where he meets Sarah (Dianna) and falls in love. John now inherits his parents abilities and with the help of number 6 (Teresa Palmer, who is trying to look hot) eradicates the pursuing Mogadorians.
Sounds familiar? No wonders. Michael Bay is the producer of film!
The obvious SFX are there, as always in a Bay production.
There is nothing worthwhile in the movie, acting is terrible and direction even worse.
Timothy Olyphant as Henri is beyond irritating and definitely deserves a Razzie!

Still some teenagers, growing on a staple diet of uncreative computer-generated visuals and completely unoriginal science fiction stories, might moderately enjoy it.

Oh yes! The pre-credits brief soundtrack by Kings of Leon is somewhat hummable. The only respite in almost 1hr 40 minutes!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Der Untergang (2004, German)

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Cast: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara and Ulrich Matthes
Genre: History, Biography

Plot: 'The Downfall' is a peek at Hitler's last ten days through the eyes of his young secretary.

Der Untergang - Downfall (2004, German)
This is the best portrayal of a paranoid Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz) that you will ever see onscreen. The war at Berlin is backdrop of the movie and it focuses on life and affected psyche of the Nazis.
Such is the solidity of Bruno Ganz's performance that halfway through the movie,\ you actually feel for Hitler and curse the traitor Generals, SS etc.
Hitler is delusional in his optimism and is moving now non-existent armies to save the third Reich. His leaders are saving their own lives but some are still standing by his side--especially women and young children who are still fighting and dying as heroes for their Fuhrer.
Even though doubtful of his leadership, senior leader and adviser Speer is faithful and a friend to Hitler. He himself disobeyed Fuhrer’s direct controversial orders for the love of German citizen and Hitler's own good. Devout mothers are willing to sacrifice their children realizing that the future Germany won't be Hitler's dreamt, "Germania."

Der Untergang is a detailed study of those final days at the Third Reich. It captures the horror and confusion of people involved that could only be felt by watching this masterpiece.


Donnie Darko (2001)

Director: Richard Kelly
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Genre: Sci-fi, Mystery

Plot: Donnie Darko sacrifices himself to save his family and love without their ever knowing it. And how it all happens? One can always miss a trick in figuring that out!
Indeed one of the most complicated movies ever!

Without spoiling any plot details what you need to know is: there is a mysterious man-grown Bunny who makes a boy named Donnie do some strange things. This Bunny might be a hallucination or a time-traveler from future or Donnie might be caught in a time loop, or traveling back from a tangent universe! If you are into hocus-pocus then add a ‘Magic’ angle to it!

The director’s cut, including scenes about a book "The Philosophy of Time Travel" written by a character in the movie Grandma Death, makes it comparatively easier to understand. Otherwise, the varied explanations of the movie...to each his own!

Possibilities are infinite with this mind boggling piece of cinema! Try one yourself and ponder over it :)


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thor (2011)

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston,
Genre: Action, Adventure

Plot: The Norse God has been banished from Asgard to Earth.

Thor (Hemsworth) is a carefree and vivacious Norse god of lighting and thunder whose recklessness - combined with his younger half-brother Loki’s treachery - force high father Odin to exile him from Asgard.
He is devoured of his powers and his hammer Mjölnir has been separated from him till the time he proves himself worthy again.
On earth he falls for archaeologist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman - yes not a nurse/doctor of comic!).
Back in Asgard an illness has put Odin to sleep and Loki proclaims himself ruler of Asgard.  
Thor’s friends in Asgard decide to help him but Loki realizes this and wrecks havoc on Earth.
Thor finally gets back his hammer and defeats Loki. While doing this Thor has to destroy the across-realm portal, hence he is stuck in now peaceful Asgard and his heart is left with Jane Foster on Earth.

It is a complete popcorn entertainment and actors deliver as expected. Kat Dennings is pretty to look at but has nothing much to do in the movie! Anthony Hopkins, as always, makes his presence felt in a short role.  

Story is nothing ground breaking just the usual stuff but execution and casting is fantastic, more like perfect. And Asgard does look like a realm of Gods!

Thor would have been far superior if it was made like Hulk, with plenty of time devoted to character development. Especially more focus on background details of Thor and his hammer Mjölnir would have been ideal.
Present movie seems more like a hurried introduction of Thor to the non marvel-comic aware audience, so that when Avengers is out nobody is asking ‘who is he’!!

Graphics and Sfx are good but they don’t require glasses! I didn’t even use mine.
In fact 3-D ruins some scenes like the Canvas shot of Asgard.
Realm of Asgard is all gold and it always has a emanating orangish tinge – especially at sunrise and sunset. But 3-D renders it a bit darker in tone.

Those who enjoy their Marvel comics religiously and watch the movies diligently – the post credits especially – will know something grand is just around the corner!
The trend that started with Hulk and Iron-Man movies continues with Thor, if anything it has become lengthier!
We have already been hinted on an Iron Man – Hulk showdown as well as Captain America’s comeback (Captain America is out in July 2011). Avengers are definitely gearing up for the big showdown, with S.H.I.E.L.D agents and Nick Fury prancing around all over. Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) has also been introduced. And Norse God is here too!
Now only scenario that looks fit enough to feature all the Avengers, including Iron Man and Thor, will be “Banishment of Hulk” from Earth. The way things are going with Avengers 2012 release it will be the likely plot.
 But that will possibly leave our pretty lass Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) out of the fray or with a petty role! And right now the way things are going for our petite goddess that’s highly improbable!

So another scenario, following on the heels of Avengers that will have plenty for Jane Foster, could be “Defiance of infamous Superhero Registration act” where all these forces combine again. Green Lantern (June 2011) is out as well which makes for inclusion of a tempting JLA angel as well!

But there is a third scenario as well!
The Paramount and Marvel Entertainment bosses might have just thrown the ball in the audiences’ court to see their response. And they still have not finalized the plot that will culminate together all these superhero franchises including Green Lantern currently held by Warner Bros. Anyways who would want cut open a Golden goose!

Back to Thor! Even though it's not a grand epic - that I expected will welcome a legendary God - it is worth all your money with some mind boggling action sequences.

 7.5/10                                                             Source: http://www.worldcinemareviews.co.cc/

Planet Of The Apes (1968)

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Cast: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter.
Genre: Science Fiction

Plot: A space expedition crew crash lands on a distant planet in future.

We all know the story and the twists. All I want to do is reassert the fact: Original is always the best!

Technically, movie is very sound. And the makeup is top notch even by today's standards. The climax is more sensible in this one. A nuclear wipeout makes more sense to me!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

AO: The Last Neanderthal (2010, French)

Directed: Jacques Malaterre
Cast: Simon Paul Sutton, Craig Morris, Aruna Shields
Genre: History

Plot: An attempt to unravel the mysterious disappearance of an entire species some 30,000 years ago – the Neanderthal.

Ao, le dernier Néandertal - AO: The Last NeanderthalThe movie is set around the last days of the Neanderthal. Most of them are dying of a strange illness – which actually is a result of increase in global temperature and other climatic changes. 
Homo-Sapiens is a young species thriving in the new changing climate. Some of them are even killing scattered Neanderthals. 

Ao (Simon Paul), a Neanderthal, is leader of a small nomadic clan. He is a fierce hunter but together with his clan lives in harmony with surrounding nature and animals. As a rule, Neanderthals only take from nature what can be easily replenished.  

While Ao is away, a group of Homo-Sapiens murders his entire clan along with his wife and newborn daughter Nea. Ao soon hunts down the killers but can’t bring himself to kill them as he isn’t a murderer. 
All alone now, Ao journeys across Europe in search of his home, and brother from whom he was separated in his youth--a tradition where Neanderthal clans exchange their young ones to maintain peace.
In his long journey he is given the snub by most he meets due to his ape-like features, and is feared for his colossal strength. He is captured by a Homo-Sapiens tribe where he falls in love with a Homo-Sapien woman, Aki (Aruna Shields) who is pregnant. Aki has been imprisoned by her clan for sacrifice. Ao helps Aki and sees Nia in her newborn.

Ao fights for his survival, and to protect his loved ones. With help of Aki’s herbology he even overcomes the strange illness. He wants to take the cure to his brother as well and finally reaches home only to realize his brother and entire clan has already been consumed by the illness.  
Ao realizes he is probably the only one of his kind left. Aki along with her daughter Nea decide to live with Ao, away from other quarreling clans. Ao interacts with nature and animals -- he can understand what ‘wind’ says and on his wail wild mares come out to feed a hungry human child. He is happy that Neanderthal ways will live-on through Nea.

In the end movie puts up a very valid question – How long will Homo-Sapiens survive or are we the end of evolution?

It is a low budget movie and at times camera even dwindles a bit (e.g. Ao’s fight with Polar bear scene). Though overall camerawork is very commendable and beautifully captures a 30,000 years old Europe. Make artist have done a great job and narration is fair.

Despite a promising plot director fails to capture your imagination for long, and acting at best is average.

Watch it if you enjoy prehistoric period movies.


Flesh+Blood (1985)

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Burlinson, Jack Thompson, Fernando Hilbeck
Genre: Medieval Fantasy

Plot: A medieval saga of a band of mercenaries who are pledged to exact revenge on an Italian noble lord who doesn’t live up to his promise.

Flesh+Blood (1985)Flesh+Blood is set in early 1500s when Black Death has just begun spreading its claws in Italy. There is no law and order left in the country side—murder, rape, and loot are common occurrence.

An Italian noble Arnolfini (Fernando Hilbeck) hires a band of mercenaries and farmers-turned-soldier to win back his city lost to a coup, while away. Arnofilni promises the mercenaries a day's plunder in the city but once victorious he makes his commander-in-chief Hawkwood (Jack Thompson) drive them out of the city without food, water, or weapons.

Mercenaries have no shelter and are devastated. Their leader Martin (Rutger Hauer)–a brave, carefree and eccentric man soon loses his infant son too. While digging the grave for his dead son, Martin unearths a wooden statue of Saint Martin of Tours–a saint with a sword. The mercenaries’ priest proclaims it as a sign from God and Martin takes up the sword to lead them.

They soon kidnap Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the virgin betrothed of the Arnofilni’s son Steven (Tom Burlinson). To avoid gang-rape, Agnes initially fakes love for Martin and uses her—recently come to fore—sexuality to manipulate him but soon falls for him.

Arnofilni was fatally wounded by mercenaries and Hawkwood has retired. Steven—highly intellectual but not a soldier—enforces Hawkwood to come out of retirement. Together they siege the castle mercenaries are using as a hideout. During the siege Hawkwood is infected by the bubonic plague—the Black Death and Steven has been captured by mercenaries. Hawkwood uses an unorthodox medical technique, mentioned by Steven, to cure himself. Once fit, he decides to bring in more troops but flings pieces of a diseased dog into the castle before leaving.

Steven flings one piece to water well and Agnes sees him doing so. She decides to keep it to herself as she still loves Steven. At breakfast most of the mercenaries are soon infected by poisoned water, though when Martin attempts to drink; Agnes slaps the cup away from his hands.

Now mercenaries are dying and fleeing the castle. Soon Hawkwood and Arnolfini, who has recovered from his wound, return with an army to enrage the castle. Agnes and Steven leave the castle and some of the surviving mercenaries pledge fealty to Arnofilni.

Martin is assumed dead, Agnes and Steven are hugging each other; at the same time Agnes notices Martin slipping out of the castle with some plunder in his sack, which she keeps mum about.

Acting is not a strong point of the movie, it is rather mediocre. But it is very much possible director wanted it to be so, as there is much focus on skin and gore.

The strong points of the movie are its blackish humor and young Jennifer Jason Leigh – who manages to look pretty, and at the same time hell-bent sexy! Take her out and movie goes kaput. There is plenty of blood-gore and full-frontal nudity which blends in well with the scenario and is done artistically, well...more like need of the hour!

A must watch if you enjoy a middle age saga.


Astro Boy (2009)

Directed: David Bowers
Cast: Charlize Theron, Freddie Highmore, Eugene Levy.
Genre: Animation

Plot: Astro Boy must save Metro city from an invention gone horribly wrong.

Metro City is a technically supreme, above the clouds, adobe of the rich and powerful – a place bottom dwellers long for. The movie begins some time before Astro Boy’s origin and shows in detail the reason of his creation. A celebrated Metro City scientist creates Astro Boy as a replica of his dead son. 

Circumstances lead to Astro Boy being cast away of the city. Down below he makes friends with other cast aways who are either lost humans or rejected/obsolete robots.
In time Astro Boy teams up with his friends to save the city which rejected them all.

Nothing unique about the story but it is well made and brings out some pleasant emotions.


Roommates (1995)

Director: Peter Yates
Cast: Peter Falk, D.B. Sweeney, Julianne Moore.
Genre: Comedy, Drama

Plot: An aesthetically made movie about an old man and his grandson.

The first thought that comes to mind after watching this movie: Extremely under rated!

Rocky (Peter Falk) is a full of life, young-at-heart old man. Michael Holeczak (Sweeney) is his grandson who loses his parents at a very young age. Rocky takes him in and eventually Michael grows up to become a doctor. 

Rocky now lives alone but soon is told to move out to be placed in a retirement home. He refuses stubbornly as an old man does. Michael finally convinces Rocky to come and live with him.   
Their lives now move together and despite of all the consistent tussles they have an unconditional bond of love. Rocky even helps Michael win his girl (Moore), get married and raise a family. 

Every road has a few bumps and out of the blue their happy family is struck by tragedies.
Michael is distraught and it is his wife and grandfather who bring him solace at different times.
Rocky is diagnosed with cancer, though he soon recovers to see Michael and his children through their biggest loss.
Rocky stays with his grandson through the thick and thin but is worried he won’t always be there for him. In the end, Rocky makes his grandson realize he must grow stronger to face adversities by himself.  

The movie is plain lovely and Peter Falk, as an eccentric old man, delivers a powerful performance.

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