Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Memories of Murder is a rarity in that despite being a ‘based-on-real-events’ movie, it has still managed to go beyond the mere facts on which it is based. A very well made policier – it is about South Korea’s first recorded case of a serial killer – the movie meticulously follows two foe-turned-friends cops – a veteran, sardonic street-smart officer for whom end justifies the means, and a smart young rookie who dares to be different – trying to get hold of the slippery culprit. However, the actual tracking process fades in comparison to the gradual transformation of the characters revealed through deft change in mood and tone of the narrative. Despite the seriousness of the plot, the director has never shied from including darkly comic moments of near absurdist proportions at various instances of the fluid structure. One of the most striking aspects of the movie lies in its exceptional cinematography – the lush, panoramic outdoor shots have been perfectly juxtaposed with the decrepit squalor of the interiors. Never afraid of depicting the nastier sides of crime investigation, this wonderfully enacted movie has managed to pull surprises at nearly every turn of its crisp length.
Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Genre: Crime Drama/Black Comedy/Mystery
Country: South Korea
Saturday, 27 June 2009
In between the assembly line of mindless, glossy Hollywood sci-fi flicks with SFX worth millions and actual content not worth more than a dime, once in a while we get to experience movies as audacious in ideation, as thrilling in content and as terrific in execution as the first two Terminator movies (the low-budget cult Terminator and its gargantuan blockbuster sequel Terminator II – Judgement Day). With their spine-chilling tales of cyborgs sent back in time to kill (and protect) Sarah Connor who would give birth to the future leader of the resistance against world domination by robots, and the teenage video-game punk John Connor who would actually lead the struggle, respectively, the movies present terrifying, apocalyptic futures where the world is reduced to killing fields dominated by cold ruthless machines. Containing jaw-dropping special effects way ahead of their times, fantastic plots, spectacular action sequences that have become ingrained in every movie-goers’ minds, and themes that doomsday sci-fi writers have always been predicting, the movies also introduced the world to a new superstar in the form of the Austrian hunk Arnold Schwarzenegger. Linda Hamilton is especially memorable as the sexy, muscular mom striving to save her son. Dialogues like “I’ll be back” and “Hasta La Vista, Baby” are stuff that legends are made of. The fact that these two iconic James Cameron classics are still as popular among movie lovers as they were when they were released, and that they have inspired a whole generation of inferior imitations, is a testimony to their place in the pantheon of the most ground-breaking and trendsetting movies ever made.
Director: James Cameron
Genre: Action/Science Fiction
We now know what the world will look like once the Judgement Day has arrived – cold and heartless like this movie by McG, director of the Charlie’s Angels series. To be honest, the movie isn’t really bad per se, only that it falls way below the kind of expectations that this particular franchise makes the audiences harbour. John Connor, played by Christian Bale (still suffering from an overdose of Batman hangover), has finally taken over the mantle of resistance against the machines unleashed by Skynet – but it’s a battle whose losing side he seems to be a part of. And then arrives a mysterious former death row inmate who might not really be what he seems. As a standalone movie it is a decent popcorn summer blockbuster – the dystopian future, presented through steel-gray washed cinematography, looks well etched out. However, but for one moment of inspiration (watch the movie and you’ll know which), the action sequences and the special effects are just about decent without ever being jaw-dropping or spectacular. On the whole, the only real good thing that probably came out of it is that it made me want to revisit the iconic first two movies of the series.
Genre: Action/Science Fiction
Thursday, 25 June 2009
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Social Satire/Psychological Drama/Road Movie
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy/Social Satire/Road Movie
Saturday, 20 June 2009
If I were to describe Layer Cake in one sentence, it would have to be ‘Guy Ritchie movie minus the black comedy’. Given that it was made by the guy who has produced all of Ritchie’s movies, that's understandable I guess. Of course that doesn’t mean this Brit thriller isn’t good; rather it’s far from it, it’s a pretty darn engaging piece of work all right. Set in the high-flying dog-eat-dog underworld of drug marketeers, this is as stylized a film as it is mind-bending, what with its labyrinthine plot filled with double-crosses and twists galore. And at the centre of the plot is a cool, suave, soft-spoken middleman, expertly played by Daniel Craig, who has decided to quit while he is on top (no pun intended). And, to put it mildly, that’s when the trouble starts – after all he is in the kind of business where nobody gets out alive, even if he has the smarts for it. Sleek, fast, snazzy and entertaining – this is the kind of movie you’d enjoy watching, but not the kind you’d like to ruminate over a drink. The photography is good and the background songs are well chosen. Watch the movie with an empty mind, and you might even end up enjoying it.
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Gangster Movie
Monday, 15 June 2009
Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Genre: Thriller/Crime Drama/Americana
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Director: Ari Folman
Genre: Animation/Docu-Fiction/War Drama/Psychological Drama/Avant-Garde/Experimental
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Directed by the legendary Robert De Niro, The Good Shepherd is an epic espionage movie, though very unlike most of its ilk. Through the eyes, life and personal choices of Edward Wilson – a mild mannered, quiet and intelligent man who makes the journey from being a poetry student at Yale to head of counter-intelligence at CIA, and through elaborate use of flashbacks to let us know how he became what he became, we are presented with a deglamourized picture of the murky and severely lonely world of covert operations. And in the process we are also told how OSS during World War II gradually evolved into CIA during the Cold War. The movie boasts of an all-star cast – Angelina Jolie, John Turturro, Alec Baldwin, Willian Hurt et al, and even the likes of De Niro’s old buddy Joe Pesci and De Niro himself in cameos; however the low-key approach of the script never allows them to be spectacular or to grab attention. Through exceptionally detailed in its recreation of a lost era and Matt Damon’s precision portrayal of the emotionally distant protagonist, the movie managed to go places where most cloak-and-dagger movies fail to. However, given a choice, I would pick De Niro the actor over De Niro the director on any given day.
Director: Robert De Niro
Genre: Drama/Political Drama/Spy Film/Epic
Monday, 8 June 2009
Director: Curtis Hanson
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Coming of Age
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Directed by militant feminist Catherine Breillat, Anatomy of Hell doesn’t really deserve a review (by a professional, or as in my case, otherwise), even though the French lady has earned a certain reputation for her dare where tackling controversial subjects and depicting explicit content are concerned. Fat Girl, for instance, was a reasonably compelling watch. With Anatomy of Hell, however, she didn’t just blur the thin line between art and pornography, she crossed it with some distance to spare. The meeting of a bored lady and a misogynist gay guy, who she has paid to “watch” her, over a period of four nights, turned into a fest of one-upmanship where pretentious pseudo-philosophical rambling is concerned. It was in fact difficult for me to decide which was more intolerable – the director’s tawdry sermonizing (indeed, feminism has got to be a leading contender for the worst of all ‘ism’-s) or the nauseous flesh parade that would put even a porn director to shame.
Director: Catherine Breillat
Genre: Drama/Erotic Drama/Feminist Movie/Experimental
Saturday, 6 June 2009
Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Genre: Comedy/Crime Comedy/Buddy Film
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Director: Matteo Garrone
Genre: Crime Drama/Gangster Drama/Slice of Life/Ensemble Film/Docu-Fiction
Monday, 1 June 2009
A post-apocalyptic world where humans have taken to cannibalism for survival, is tailor-made for a gore filled horror flick. Instead what we have here is a darkly comic fantasy fable filled with bizarre visual beauty, and a fascinating work on absurdism (in a way, cinematic version of nonsense verse) – aspects which earned it cult status. The first feature film of French wunderkinds Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, Delicatessen is a fairy tale turned on its head. The entire story is set at a dank, derelict and dilapidated building, owned by a comically monstrous butcher, and filled with some of the most grotesque characters one can hope to see. And in this morbidly outlandish world develops a strangely touching romance between the gauche daughter of the butcher and a former circus clown (smartly played by Domique Pinon) who everyone wants to, well, eat. Like in Jeunet’s future solo films Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, it is filled with surreal imagery, pitch black humour, subtle pathos and enthralling visual beauty. The movie also boasts of one of the most brilliantly choreographed sequences that I've seen – watch the movie and you’ll immediately know which scene I’m referring to.
Directors: Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro
Genre: Black Comedy/Fantasy/Absurdist Comedy/Avant-Garde/Experimental/Cult Movie