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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 ...

Friday, July 15, 2011

From here to eternity (1953)

Director: Fred Zinnemann
Cast: Burt Lancaster (Sergeant Milton Warden) ,Deborah Kerr (Karen Holmes), Montgomery Clift (Robert E. Lee Prewitt), Frank Sinatra (Angelo Maggio), Donna Reed (Alma Lorene)
Genre: War, Romance

Plot: This bona fide classic covers the lives of the soldiers at a Hawaiian army base in the weeks before bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Newly transferred from another base, bugler Robert Prewitt (played by Montgomery Clift) angers his commanding officer (Philip Ober) by refusing to fight on the base’s boxing team. The officer makes Prewitt’s life difficult by giving him the worst duties possible. Deborah Kerr -- won an Academy Award for her performance as wife of the commanding officer -- has a passionate extramarital affair with Sergeant Warden (Burt Lancaster). Prewitt's friend Maggio (Sinatra) dies because of the harsh beating meted out to him by Staff sergeant 'Fatso.' Prewitt soon exacts revenge but gets seriously wounded himself. Meanwhile, Pearl Harbor bombing looms unbeknownst.

The movie has a very strong screenplay, performances are very real and believable.
Frank Sinatra’s acting career was revived after he won an Academy Award for his role as Prewitt’s spirited friend - Angelo Maggio, in this movie.
Famous for his boyish charm Clift delivered another grand performance as a hard headed army-man. Lancaster was simply flawless as a 'hard on surface' Sergeant.

Prior to this Clift gave another solid performance in "A place in the Sun." He really was a dashing personality. Tom cruise would be proud of his looks! Nobody can say what more he could have achieved, if it wasn't for his unfortunate car accident from which he never fully recovered.

Released in 1953, the film won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Recording.

Watch it for Montogery Clift !


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

Director : Frank Lloyd
Cast : Charles Laughton,Clark Gable,Franchot Tone
Genre: Adventure, History

Plot : Captain Bligh, his crew, newly arrived Midshipman Roger Byam and Under-Officer Fletcher Christian begin a voyage that will forever change the rules of a sea journey.

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
Once a classic always a classic. However, in case of this movie it is a role which is truly a classic. Not often do you see Clark Gable's enormous on-screen persona dwindling--it did here in the blinding light of ruthless Captain Bligh's magnificent role-play!

You feel raging hatred for the cruel Ship captain like never before and that's what gives Captain Bligh his immortality as an actor.

His HMS Bounty in on board for a voyage to Tahiti. Bligh proves to be a tyrant leader--somewhat greedy and corrupt but nonetheless courageous. After six pleasant months on Tahiti, Christian leads the crew to mutiny on the homeward voyage. Byam takes no part in the mutiny, and when captured, defends himself against charges that he supported Christian. Also, he brings forth the tyranny/reality of Cpt. Bligh to the world.

This particular incident highly impacted the Captain-Crew relations throughout England for better. By the decree of the then English Queen, harmony and respect overtook the previously meted out slave-like treatment aboard a ship.

A super movie!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Lost Weekend (1945)

Director: Billy Wilder
Cast: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Frank Faylen, Phillip Terry   
Genre: Drama

The Lost Weekend (1945)
Plot: Struggle of a failed, alcoholic writer  with life, love, friends and everything else worthwhile.

If you want to experience cinema which is beyond words, look no further. The Lost Weekend has it all.
Spot on direction by Billy Wilderand, very strong performances by the lead trio: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Frank Faylen, and a strong script complementing both.

Milland's character is fight is alcoholism. Will he succeed, will he win this personal battle? Yes he will, of course...but without spoiling the classic for any of you: it's not about whether he will succeed or not, it is about "How". This "How" is the backbone of film/script and has been dealt with to perfection, and brought on screen.

A definite must watch.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Shining (1980)

Director: Stanley Kubrick 
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, Danny Lloyd
Genre: Suspense, Mystery

Plot : An alcoholic,unemployed man (with a problem of anger management) takes a job as a caretaker in secluded hotel atop Rocky and moves there with his family ignoring the risks of cabin fever.

Another genius movie by the master.
Right from the word go "The Shining" captures you - visually as well as psychically. Starting with heavenly scenery of the Rockies to apparent and deliberate awkwardness of all the characters, especially Jack Nicholson's, "The Shining" completely engrosses you.

Kubrick's has a way of setting a specific atmosphere with the use of visual effects and body language of his role players.With "Clockwork Orange" he created an implicit environment, here he creates somewhat eerie atmosphere which last all through the movie.

Shelly Duvall and Danny Lloyd-wife and son of Jack, have such a wonderful chemistry and my personal favourite scene "RED RUM" involves them.
This particular scene reveals the mystery behind the red rum and is a testimony to class of Kubrick.

Only thing that might deter one from enjoying the movie is its length, but unlike "Sparatacus" here the duration is completely justified.


Inception (2010)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
Genre: Science Fiction

Christopher Nolan takes your mind for a ride!

Inception (2010)
Another super movie by the 'now' Master; almost flawless. And that's where its weakness lies! Nolan's only movie that I never repeated because everything was so explicit in the first watch only. Strength of a Nolan movie is, you try to find some missing piece or a wrongly fitted one (read a flaw) and hence you see the film again. E.g., Memento, Prestige.

Another reason you repeat a Nolan movie is its immaculate narration or because it is a sheer masterpiece. E.g. Batman Begins, Dark Knight. Inception can't be placed in any of these categories. It's rather unlike Nolan, and with all those extra special-effects feels more like a Cameron movie!

Every Nolan movie gives you a sense of uniqueness, this didn't seem original as a concept. Anyone who has read those numerous B-grade Golden graphic novels or even Marvel comics; especially about some particular X-Men mutants who have been into the depths of mind before Nolan, will know what I am talking about here. And in case you still have your doubts, read about Incubus and his female version ( I don't recall the name) who have been playing with our mind for centuries!

Acting-wise every one delivers as expected. Joseph Gordon Levitt is a promising prospect and this is another feather in his cap after critically acclaimed "The Lookout." Caprio's had a few shades of his earlier work and he reminds you of "Shutter Island" a bit.
Agreed, every movie is inspired from or based on something, but being a huge fan of Nolan and with all that hype surrounding Inception the expectations were so high .Though expectations didn't exactly come down crashing for me--even though this review sounds like so! I did enjoy the film thoroughly :)

Nolan, after all a  human, is expected to come up with a masterpiece every time, which he invariably does.
Same film by some other lesser director would have received more accolades  but from Nolan you expect more than just adding a few layers to dreams which have been traversed before.

Definitely a must watch. For goodness sake it is a complete film :)


On The Waterfront (1954)

Director: Elia Kazan
Cast: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb
Genre: Crime

On the Waterfront
Plot: Courage takes shape.

Terry Malloy (Brando) is a carefree dude whose brother Charley works for local crime boss Jhonny Friendly.

Jhonny Friendly has Terry's friend killed in plain view but all witnesses keep mum, as most of them depend on Friendly to get some Longshoremen job in that period of great financial depression. Friendly silences anyone who raises a voice against him – often by killing them. 
The patience of people is slowly running out but they need a courageous man to lead them. Father Barry keeps persuading everyone to take a stand against Friendly, especially Terry.

Initially Terry is unwilling to testify against Friendly but soon falls in love with his dead friend's sister, who along with father Barry plays an important part in his transformation into an honest man.
This relationship threatens Friendly as he fears Terry might testify against him. He asks Charley to straighten out his brother. They have an argument over it. Later (A very powerful and famous scene) in a car Charley tells Terry to give up his relationship, to which he disagrees. 

Here Terry—once a prize fighter—laments to his brother that he could have been a good fighter had Charley and Friendly not fixed his matches to lose for money.
Charley feels some remorse and hands his gun to Terry and leaves. Eventually, Charley is killed and Terry seeks vengeance against Friendly, he is equally supported by other workers and together they break-free of Friendly’s dictatorship.

The plot sounds pretty clich├ęd now but it wasn’t so in 1950s. Anyways it's not just the plot but the marvelous direction by Kazan and overall acting for which the movie is a must watch.


Friday, July 1, 2011

All the King's Men (1949)

Director : Robert Rossen
Cast : Broderick Crawford,John Ireland.Joanne Dru
Genre: Drama

Plot: You will vote for the Devil itself, if Willie Stark asks for it!

Willie Stark is an honest Southern Populist (Pro Farmer and rural) politician who is ultimately consumed by power. This movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren.

Broderick Crawford won an Academy Award for his performance as Willie Stark, a small-town lawyer who wins the hearts of constituents by battling government corruption. Warren modeled Willie Stark on Huey Long, who served as governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and United States Senator from 1930 to 1935.

The film is an in-depth, genius showcase of character deterioration. Stark becomes more and more corrupt as he rises through the ranks of government. He becomes governor, has a couple of extramarital affairs, and is finally assassinated by one of his friend-turned-foe.

The film also won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Mercedes McCambridge as Sadie Burke.

Anybody who wants to be a leader of some sort, especially a politician, must watch it.The way Crawford delivers his hard hitting 'Pro-Hicks'. speeches is pure mesmerizing.
Ireland also puts on a better than good show but sadly gets overshadowed by ever so vivacious Willie Stark.
And Joanne Dru is a beauty!


You Can't Take It With You (1938)

Director: Frank Capra
Cast: Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Edward Arnold, Jean Arthur
Genre: Comedy

IMDB : "The stenographer Alice Sycamore is in love with her boss Tony Kirby, who is the vice-president of the powerful company owned by his greedy father Anthony P. Kirby. Kirby Sr. is dealing a monopoly in the trade of weapons, and needs to buy one last house in a twelve block area owned by Alice's grandparent Martin Vanderhof. However, Martin is the patriarch of an anarchic and eccentric family where the members do not care for money but for having fun and making friends. When Tony proposes Alice, she states that it would be mandatory to introduce her simple and lunatic family to the snobbish Kirbys, and Tone decides to visit Alice with his parents one day before the scheduled. There is an inevitable clash of classes and lifestyles, the Kirbys spurn the Sycamores and Alice breaks with Tony, changing the lives of the Kirby family".

Yes it doesn't sound like a "never-before" plot! However, it is the treatment of the subject by director and actors alike that won the movie sheer accolades in the bygone era and holds it in good stead even today.
Grandpa Martin Vanderhof comes across as one of the most lovable and friendly character till date and Kirby senior as hell-bent snobbish. And it is the climax scene, when finally Kirby senior lets go of his cloak of superiority and plays the harmonica with the universal grandpa, that gives your soul an ultimate cinematic high.


How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Director : John Ford
Cast : Walter Pidgeon,Maureen O'Hara,Anna Lee,Donald Crisp,Huw Morgan
Genre: Drama

This classic revolves around a tightly knitted mining family residing in a beautiful Welsh valley (though actual shooting took place in US only). Strength of the movie lies in it's touching voice-over narration.

The times are changing and the pastoral countryside has to deal with the advent of modern industrialization.
Sons have to move out of their families, a once peaceful neighborhood is brewing with tensions, fathers have to take tough decisions, and so on. But among all this the love--within families--and harmony--with thy neighbor--still prevail, showing a way to live in a changing world.

Donald Crisp, as a proud father of six siblings and a revered leader among miners delivers a power packed performance.

Wholesome cinema.


The Damned United (2009)

Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Michael Sheen, Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall
Genre: Drama, Biography

Plot: True story of England's most successful national football manager, Brian Clough.

The Damned United (2009)

The Damned United tells of Brian Clough's rise to fame with the qualification of his native club Derby to 1st division, against all odds. Then, a trip down the dungeon as manager of  the then Champion, Leeds United, for a horrendous 44 days. And finally winning the back-to-back European Cups with Derby. A feat unmatched even today.

There is genuine depth and meaning in this film. A powerful script is supported by superb direction and spot on chemistry among actors. Film atmosphere is further charged with timely flashbacks, clashes of heavy weights, rivalry among best mates, and pumping adrenalin. Emotions are running real high.

Among all this drama, actors have done a fantastic job. Colm Meaney is justly arrogant as Don Revie. Timothy Spall is a superb best buddy as Taylor. Michael Sheen as Clough is simply stellar.

Might I say an underrated masterpiece..

The Warlords (Chinese, 2007)

Director: Peter Chan
Cast: Jet Lee,Takeshi Kaneshiro,Andy Lau
Genre: War 

Plot: The most dreaded war in the history of mankind.

The Warlords (Chinese, 2007)

Set in the 1860s, movie depicts the story of an imperial general Pang who loses all of his army in the Taiping rebellion of Chinese civil war. More than 70 million people died in this war. Pang survives by playing dead. He later joins some bandits, forms an army, and makes two blood brothers in the bandit leaders: Jiang (Takeshi) and Erhu (Lau).

It's a very well told movie about a gruesome and lengthy war and it's consequence. There is death, killing, betrayal, frustration, starvation; every possible aspect/effect of war has been blended with the story beautifully. The three blood brothers Pang, Erhu, and Jiang have been very special. Their love for each other is undying.

City of Suzhou is under seize by the brothers for years. Both sides are hoping there is food with the others but there is none. Erhu ventures alone in the city of Suzhou and the ruler of city dies deliberately in a fight with him but also asks him to promise his people and army won't be harmed. Erhu delivered a power packed performance in a scene where some 4000 Suzhou POWs are killed due to shortage of food.

Pang aims for universal peace and fights for it but imperial leaders won't let it happen. The climax scene where Jiang and Pang die is quite touching.

The brothers eventually conquer imperial city of Nanking too and are on top of the world. The imperial politics ultimately spell their doom, though the brothers keep the Blood oath alive--even in death.

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