Island Express

I had written about this short film some time ago, but a second watch meant a second post. My first post dwelled on the character of Leon (Prithviraj) but i did not comprehend how limited my perspective was until i watched the directors cut of ‘Island Express’.

I was of 4 years of age i guess, when one of the most horrendous tragedies in the annals of railway history occurred on July 08,1988. The Island Express derailed from atop the Perumon Bridge into Ashtamudi lake taking with it 108 souls to the green rooms of the great drama called life. I remember sketchy details : the grim,sad faces of my parents and the unemotional and detached voice of the newsreader of the Doordarshan channel. Like any tragedy not connected to me by the umbilical cord of a personal relation, this too became a dry leaf among the pages of History. I am not ashamed to say that it took this short film to remind me of the great loss of human life that day after all these years.

My friends who watched the movie with me had many a different favorite from this film but this plot stuck to me. Many a  different life converging at one place to pay homage to the loved ones who left them mid stride. In the words of the protagonist it is “Memory with a watermark” and it couldnt have been beautifully summarized. When i watched the movie again, what i found attractive was not the characters but the final five minutes of the movie when each character gives his/her own homage to their loved ones in the form of a few rose petals or a tear filled memory fleeting behind the irises. A human being is the most complex creation ever to grace earth with its presence, one that harbors good and evil in equal measure. There were people who gave up their last breath trying to save others that night and there were those who snatched away a few currency notes or a glittering ornament or two from the dead and the dying. Both existed that fateful day and will continue to do so….it takes all kinds to make the world.

This is my homage after 22 years to those souls, those unfinished dreams, unrealised love, those selfless and brave men and women who valued others more than themselves…I can never truly comprehend what Human Beings are. The movie was but a recollection in under 20 minutes… of hope beyond suffering, of life beyond the ultimate reality called death.

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Drona 2010….

The myths of Kerala are a treasure trove for any director with visual sense and a leaning towards fantasy to deliver a roller coaster ride of thrills in a movie. This has been amply proved in movies of the yesteryears like Atharvam, Sree Krishna Parunthu and so forth. Drona 2010 was movie i expected to be on the same lines, but like almost all movies with a huge hype it fell flat on its face.

The story follows family feuds, a marauding yakshi ( a female monstrosity that in turn is similar to the myth of the vampire),a brother duo of an atheist and a sadhu and the works. The basic plot is interesting and i could even make sense of the first half of the movie. Come the second half and i went off the rails…too much twists, turns and wanton complexities that leave the tale representing something that came out of a mixer gone crazy. I muttered to my friend during the movie ” I guess the script writer was on dope” and he muttered back ” Seems like the whole unit was”, that is how the movie feels. Scenes without any sort of logical connection to the main story and characters who do inexplicable things which are not explained anywhere.

There are two things i liked in the movie that are entirely peripheral in nature :

1 . The looks of Mammootty as Pattazhi Madhavan Namboothiri, the ascetic look and the blazing eyes are worth a watch.

2. The Yakshi played by Dhanya Mary Varghese…whoa !!! she is one of the most beautiful Yakshis to have been on silver screen..

But this is pretty much about it. When it comes down to what mattered in the movie, the looks of the lead actor and the cameo by an actress would never save a sinking ship….

Poltergeist

Horror movies are mostly messy affairs with loads of screaming,swearing and gore but Poltergeist is one of a kind in the sense that it is a family friendly horror flick. Even though this movie is older than me, this is one flick i have come to love.

A happy family moves into a new house that is almost picture perfect, hte reality however is something else. The house is built above an ancient tribal burial ground, the spirits are playful at first and those are scenes that even children would enjoy. The tables are turned quickly and the movie takes off from there. Steven Spielberg was the executive producer for the movie and the signature spielberg touch could be seen at places. What couldhave been a run-of-the-mill horror flick is made a throughly enjoyable 2 hours. Heather’o Rourke as Carol Anne steals the show alnog with Jobeth Williams who plays her mother. The tagline “they’re here..” is a real spine tingler even at this time and to add to it the special effects are real grand for a movie of the 1980’s.

A really enjoyable horror movie….

The Interpreter

Had high hopes for this movie before it began.Nicole Kidman,Sean Penn & Sydney Pollack…a combination to look forward to, the story was a bit cliche-ridden but otherwise it is a very enjoyable movie.

Tells the story of an interpreter ( played by Kidman) with the UN who overhears snatches of conversation concerning an assassination plot involving a tyrant from an African nation. In comes the secret service in the form of Sean Penn. Kidman’s character has a shady past that puts her high on the radar for the investigators.The story then goes over twists and turns and finally ends up with an comparitively satisfactory climax. Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman are wonderful in their roles, but at times it almost feels that the story line and the script lets them down at places. What could have been a crackling political thriller often becomes an exercise in lethargy as the viewer gets the feel that the story does not know which way to take.The film has its good moments, but most of the scenes have the been-there-seen-that kind of looks.

One thing that stayed with me even after the movie was a remark that Kidman’s character makes that Vengeance is but a lazy form of grief ( something to think about ???)

The Departed

Gritty,graphic & extremely indulging is The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s masterful take on Boston. The basic theme is from Mou Gaan Dou, which in itself is a personal favourite. Even though the chinese film was well knit and bursting with suspense, there were many a loose end. Scorsese binds up all the loose ends and does develop the characters and their backdrops exceptionally well.

“I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me”, the opening lines of the movie as dictated by Jack Nicholson’s character. The story about two men on opposing sides of the law and with contradicting loyalties drive the movie forward. Mark Wahlberg’s character is indeed one to watch out for, constant mouthing of profanities and the occasional warmth in his voice is not to be missed. The person who stole the thunder throughout the entire run of the movie was Jack Nicholson, Frank Costello is a monster of a character ( as a de niro fan i can’t help adding here…how would de niro have done this role ??…sigh !!!).

I hate to add that watching Mou Gaan Dou before this movie was indeed a handicap for it took the suspense part away, it was as if i could almost see the chinese film in parallel, but the acting and the dialogues are top notch and the chinese movie will not match up to it.

Curse of the Golden Flower

Stories of royalty at times are filled with power plays, treason, adultery and corruption, Zhang Yimou explores one such version in Curse of the golden flower. A powerful yet dysfunctional royal family and the tumults it faces, from the inside and outside form the crux of the tale.

The visuals are nothing short of breathtaking including the costumes.The version i saw was a dubbed one and the language is undoubtedly flowery, but still is entertaining to listen to. Chow-yun-fat as the emperor ping is a very good portrayal of a warlord with negative shades of character. Gong Li as the empress matches wits with the protagonist ( rather the antagonist) in such a god way that there is never a dull moment.

After watching Hero and House of flying daggers, i was expecting a martial arts wonder but surprisingly there is very little action in the movie. The film is more plot driven and is good at what it does too.

Mr and Mrs Smith

 

Here’s the story : Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are assassins and married to each other, somebody pits them against each other and BANG,BANG,BOOM….end of story. It was as simple as this. Around the time this movie came out, the two were already a couple ( the hot property in holloywood) and Doug Liman, the director makes ample exploitation of this fact. Don’t get me wrong Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a good entertainer ( along the no-brainer  lines that is ).

There are shootouts and explosions galore, steamy love scenes and attempts at comedy ( some of which falll flat and some which draw the occassional chuckle ). Proved to be a very light hearted movie inspite of being a thriller complete with a happy ending. The entire focus is on the couple, I waited in vain for a villain to show up…there were a bunch of balaclava clad hitmen who did nothing but got shot,stabbed,kicked and punched at. It would be almost a sin to expect more from a star couple movie.

Entertaining to a fair extent…

Inside Man

“Don’t judge a crime by its cover”… i should have paid more attention to the tagline for Inside Man before i started watching it. Started off as a usual bank robbery story, the kind we got to see in films ranging from heat to speed. The story was about anything but a bank robbery.

Clive Owen starts off with his own narrative about the story and then the stroy turns into how a bank robbery turns into a hostage situation and how a detective played by Denzel Washington assisted by Willem Dafoe try to diffuse the situation. The story takes so many twists and turns that it kept me guessing till the last minute. Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer make appearances. even though Foster was shown as the female lead she gets lesser screen time compared to the male leads, Willem Dafoe too gets a lesser amount of screen time. Like most of the heist movies it is primarily the sparring between the cop and the robber that is given more importance (don’t let that fool you…there’s more to the duel between the two men that does not come out until the penultimate scene).

Quite a brilliant Spike Lee joint…..

The Last King of Scotland

       

 

 

The first recollection i have about Idi Amin is from a small book named world famous crazy despots, though i do not remember much of the specifics i still remember the fact that he was a rumoured cannibal. Got a chance to watch documentary director Kevin McDonald’s directorial venture The Last King of Scotland, in which Amin is portrayed by Forest Whitaker in a brilliant light. James Mcavoy shines as Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, a brash and extroverted,wet-behind-the-ears doctor fresh out of college and on the lookout for a bit of an adventure.

The film opens with Garrigan graduating from the Medical College and hsi parents advising him to stay in his own country (Scotland that is…). Garrigan grows frustrated with this shell of comfort and randomly picks out Uganda to travel to and make a living, his initial spell involves coming to terms with the poverty stricken behemoth that is Uganda. A chance encounter brings him close Idi Amin, the newly appointed dictator, he takes to Amin’s charming persona and soon becomes the presidential adviser.  The story unfolds slowly as Garrigan comes to terms with the horror that is Idi Amin and his final escape.

Whitaker is brilliant as he switches from emotion to emotion in just seconds. He plays the darling of the media and in a flash switches to a paranoid and then to a patriarchal friend and to a murderous brute…the list of his images is rather an exhaustive one. The slightly gruesome before climax scene and his emotions in the final scene are just jaw dropping. McAvoy is very convincing as the flippant and brash young doctor whose amazement and fun in the initial stages slowly gives way to skepticism,disbelief and finally to horror towards the end.

It really was a very thrilling 123 minutes….

The Magnificient Seven

 

 

 

The good old days of the wild west in the movies…tough heroes, hapless heroines, showy villains and all the other blah blah is now a rarity. Ever since coming across movies like Unforgiven, 3:10 to Yuma and The proposition i have liked the harsh and more brazen way of stroytelling in those movies. John Sturges’s The Magnificient Seven was simply and purely a wonderful watch inspite of being nothing like the aforementioned stories.

The storyline is adapted from Kurosawa’s Shichinin No Samurai, a small community of farmers forever harried by a bandit Calvera (Eli Wallach) hires a group of seven gunmen to deal with the menace. What would have been a run-of-the-mill action story is converted into a very interesting 128 min by the stellar cast and the quirky dialogues. Cool is given a new definition by the 7 guys. Yul Brynner is very convincing as the leader of the pack with a vary outlook towards wayward violence. Steve McQueen is quick with his wisecracks as Vin. Two of the seven are given very little screen time, but the over acting-at-times Horst Buchholz as Chico makes up for most of the lighter moments in the film including a mushy little romantic twist in the story.

The good old ideals of honesty,loyalty,justice are given much importance in the movie, maybe that makes the movie all the more interesting. One of the timeless classics…