Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

Director: Marc Forster

Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric.

Rating: 3/5

‘Quantum of Solace’ is a direct sequel to ‘Casino Royale’, so watching that first is a must. It also brings a much needed reality check to the series, making the films run into each other instead of our previously stereotypical super-spy saving the world every single time from space-based lasers and other nonsense. Craig is a superb Bond, erasing the criticism of his initial casting and really starting to emphasise the darker nature of the character without completely destroying the humour and sex appeal of previous Bonds. And this is the film’s biggest problem – it’s still the milestone of expectation of the earlier films, knowing that legions of fans want nothing more than Moneypenny and Q, ‘Bond. James Bond.’, Vodka Martinis and some straight-up sex.

Most of the best aspects remain from Casino Royale. Daniel Craig if not the best Bond ever is certainly the best actor to have played him and his interaction with Judi Dench’s M has plenty of on screen chemistry . Mathieu Amalric’s villain Dominic Greene follows in the tradition of the Craig era Bond baddies. In that he’s not a maniac sitting in a bunker trying to destroy the world. He is just a very greedy man wanting to make lots of money and killing anyone who stands in the way of his corporation. I can’t help thinking that maybe a little more screen time could have been dedicated to character interaction.

The plot is very weak and un-involving, in my opinion. The story does have originality in it. Let’s face the fact that in the global economy, nations compete with each other for foreign investments. That aspect is pushed to the extreme in the film with Greene’s scheme and deal with Bolivia. True enough, some governments out there make deals with these kinds of “investors” even if it would mean danger. Come to think of it, the last time I saw deep intelligence politics as far as the Bond movies go was in ‘From Russia with Love.’ But honestly, being a huge Paul Haggis fan, I was expecting a plot as exciting as that of Casino Royale. I was let down. The saving grace in the plot would be sub-elements like how the teething relationship between Bond and M continues to build with the development of trust, as well as the return of limited allies whom we’re likely to see feature in future Bond films. What I also love is the fact that in his transformation phase, Bond is portrayed to be vulnerable.

Director Marc Forster seemed to lack the knack for directing action sequences though, with everything in quick edits and delivered in a blur that it’s hard to figure out who’s Bond, who’s not, that you just switch off and consider two stuntmen taking potshots at each other. The stunts and chase sequences along with the edits is very Bourne-esque. Well this does not come as a surprise since they hired the editors and the 2nd Unit Director from the Bourne Series

What is impossible to forgive however is some quite atrocious editing in the action scenes where everything is so blink-and-miss. What makes it even worse is that director Marc Forster has some great visual ideas, especially a shootout in a restaurant where the only sound heard on screen is the sound of the opera but all this is bloody ruined by subliminal editing where shot lengths are micro seconds! You’ll have to see the movie to find out how terrible it looks. In fact a large percentage of the film feels like it ended up on the edit table.

The film even has something approaching subtext, by virtue of Marc Forster’s superb visual sensibility. An example includes Bond cradling a badly wounded friend, juxtaposed with an earlier scene in which he calmly ‘cradles’ a wounded foe awaiting his pulse to expire. Best of all though, is a pregnant pause shared by Bond and Greene just before the mayhem begins at the Tosca that literally speaks a thousand words.

All in all, fast cut editing technique, dangerous stunts and endless action pieces all make it entertaining but this misses out on the gadgets and witty one-liners that make Bond … well Bond. Take away the references to MI6 and it’s hardly any different to your regular action blockbuster. On the technical side, the influence of films like the Bourne or Die Hard series is strong. The camera has been brought much closer to the action, a lot more use is made of hand-held or just generally shaky cameras. This is not representative of the Bond films I grew to love over the years.

Same goes for the music- it is an excellent soundtrack, some really nice tunes in there, but it just isn’t Bond. In fact the classic full orchestra Bond theme can’t even be heard once during the entire film. All of these things by themselves aren’t bad at all but the series has just gotten a little too far from its roots.

There are two ways of looking at this. One is the positive opinion in that QOS is infinitely better than some of the crap we saw under the Bond banner in the 70s and 80s, perhaps even better than some of the lesser Brosnan films. That is the correct opinion. The negative opinion is that QOS is ultimately disappointing in many ways and should have been better as it eventually turned out to be just-another-popcorn-action flick. Unfortunately that is also the correct opinion.


Director: Laurent Cantet

Cast: Francois Begaudeau, Wey Huang, Franck Keita and Esméralda Ouertani

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Class (Entre le murs) is a vibrant documentary style drama set in an inner city Parisian school. This remarkable film is a semi-autobiographical story of the novelist and lead actor Francois Begaudeau and his real life experiences as a teacher in a multi-racial school in Paris. The engrossing drama in the film comes from the unexpected results of interactions between a teacher and his pupils.

Francois Marin (Begaudeau) is a dedicated high school teacher who teaches French and grammar in a Paris high school. He tries his best to respect differences and challenges the students to do their best at the same time. We meet Sandra (Ouertani) who is a sharp-wit constantly pushing against authority. Wei (Huang) is the son of illegal Chinese immigrants whose mother could face possible deportation. Souleymane (Keita), an African student from Mali is a consistent disrupter who becomes the central focus of the film when it is debated whether or not he should be expelled from the school.

Begaudeau plays a version of himself realistically. The students in the classroom, who are not professional actors, are also very candidly portrayed with tremendous authenticity. All the characters are presented to the audience from real life, with all their shortcomings and good qualities. The Palme d’Or won by this film at Cannes is extremely well deserved as it has brought real life to the celluloid in an extremely engaging way.

The hand held camera work of the film adds a certain immediacy to the proceedings. By the end of the first half, you feel that you are in the midst of the chaotic classroom. The film becomes increasingly interesting when Marin discusses Plato’s ‘Republic’ with Sandra and the class. Also notable is a scene when a girl comes to him after the last bell rings for the year and says in all sincerity that she learned nothing at all in the year.

The Class is packed with social, ethical and psychological issues and is honest about racial tensions. What works best for the film is that it feels like a ‘slice-of-life.’ All in all, this is a strong, thought provoking and a very optimistic film. A must watch.

Director: P.J.Hogan

Cast: Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Kyrsten Ritter

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Rebecca Bloomwood (Fisher) is a clumsy girl who funds her designer wardrobe with her credit cards and dreams of writing for the ‘Alette’, a Vogue-like glamorous magazine. But the only job Becky can fake her way into is at a financial magazine called ‘Successful Saving’. So successful are her jargon-free columns that she lands a TV spot and the love of her charmingly rich, but hard working boss Luke Brandon (Dancy). Based on Sophie Kinsella’s best selling novels, Confessions of a Shopaholic is designed to appeal to people who simply were born to shop and enjoy spending money without considering those disastrous consequences.

Isla Fisher is luminescent. She is incapable of making a bad movie good but she makes it entertaining to watch anyway. Dancy does his level best in a thankless role. Ritter gives a decent performance as Rebecca’s roommate. The film’s supporting performances are mostly a mixed bag, partially owing to the cast and partially owing to not being given much to do.

This brainless chick flick reinforces the worst stereotypes. Trying to disguise itself as a cautionary tale on the perils of conspicuous consumption, it fixates so much on materialistic cravings that it ends up doing just the opposite. The problem is that filmmaker P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend’s Wedding) spends so much time glorifying everything Gucci and Prada that by the time the film gets down to moralizing it feels misguided and vacant. It has moments of fizz and fun as it seesaws to the inevitable happy ending, but it is no more than a laugh-free time waster.

Director: Harald Zwart

Cast: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith and Taraji P. Henson

Rating: 3 out of 5

A remake of the 1984 classic of the same name, ‘The Karate Kid’ is faithful to the original film in terms of aesthetics. This film plays by the same basic rules as the 1984 original.  Despite a strikingly similar screenplay, it manages to feel distinct through its subtle updates in plot, protagonist, and setting. This is director Harald Zwart’s shot at redemption after making the excuse-for-a-movie ‘Pink Panther 2’ last year.

Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mom (Taraji P. Henson) travel to China, where she has been transferred by her car-maker employer. Dre isn’t happy to be trading Detroit for Beijing, but he soon falls for Meiying, a student at his school. This doesn’t sit well with the local band of bullies, all of them experts at the ancient martial art of Kung Fu. (Yes, that is when you question the title of the film.) Mr. Han – the handyman (Jackie Chan) reluctantly agrees to teach Dre how to fight, after almost accidentally signing him up to battle his enemies in an upcoming kung fu tournament.

Jaden Smith impresses here as the film’s star, handling the action and emotional scenes in a very effective way. His character arc from a rash rebel to a calm and composed martial artiste is handled very well. Chan for once has ‘acted’ in a film. He is still at his athletic best at the age of 56! Chan portrays a few emotions in the film which I didn’t know he was capable of doing. A pleasant change from his usual comic antics.

The cinematography of the film is beautiful. Every shot of China including the ones of the great wall, the Forbidden City and the mountain temple is picture perfect. Roger Pratt who has shot two Potter films and Troy has done a fabulous job of bringing the busy streets of Beijing to life in the film.

And although the film does get unnecessarily draggy at times, with quite a number of subplots that are slightly unevenly played out, the training scenes and final battle accomplishes its job in engaging the viewer. When I went for the film in the theatres, people clapped and cheered during the climax. I guess that is a huge compliment to the film.

To me, the original will always be special. Mr. Miyagi is a legend in my mind. But, this remake is very well made and engaging. It is one of the very few remakes that stand on its own feet. Watch it.

Director: Bahman Ghobadi

The first film to be made in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the devastating Turtles Can Fly is set in a Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border just before the US invasion in 2003. Director Bahman Ghobadi concentrates on a handful of orphaned children and their efforts to survive the appalling conditions. It is a powerful cry on behalf of children caught up in war and tyranny.

Ghobadi immerses the viewer in the nightmarish realities of daily existence in this makeshift community that’s located within a forbidding natural landscape. There’s no running water or electricity, the fear of gas attacks is palpable, and kids use their bare-hands to defuse land mines in the surrounding fields, which they then trade for machine guns at a market.

One of the central characters we meet is a young boy named Sorano, who goes by the nickname ‘Satellite’, being the only one at the camp who knows how to install TV-satellites. A leader of sorts amongst children, he helps everyone. One day a girl named Agrin arrives at the camp, together with her brother (who has lost both his arms to land-mines) and a little baby. During the first days, Sorano and the other children don’t  care about the newly arrived strange family. But after a while, Sorano wants to help them, especially after he is smitten by Agrin and finds out her brother foresees the future.

Using an entirely non-professional cast, Ghobadi doesn’t ignore the gestures of tenderness and humanity displayed by his brutalised characters. There is no overt political message in the film, yet the hundreds of parent-less children in the film, many with broken limbs from exploding land mines, tell a story of war that transcends politics. This is a powerful, disturbing, yet ultimately beautiful film that deserves everyone’s close attention.

Directors: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen

Cast: Bruce Dickinson, Janick Gers, Steve Harris, Nicko McBrian, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith

Iron Maiden has been one of the most successful and influential bands on the heavy metal scene over the years and are still going strong more than thirty years later.

Like all good ‘rockumentaries’, Flight 666 is one for both the band’s fans and music lovers in general. Directed by Sam Dunn and Scot McFayden (Global Metal), this film is an access-all-areas look at Iron Maiden during an ambitious world tour. Last year the band embarked on their largest tour yet labeled the ‘Somewhere Back In Time’. Equipped with their own customised plane called ‘Ed Force One’ which contained their entire stage show and tour equipment, full touring crew and piloted by Bruce Dickinson (lead singer), the band flew across the globe in forty-five days, playing in thirteen countries to over half a million fans in only the first leg of their tour.

The tour kicked off in Mumbai. And if you were at that concert and you watch this film, you are sure to get goosebumps! And with each venue they jump, the number of fans only gets bigger. Another interesting aspect this film captures is the craziness of Iron Maiden fans and the lengths they would go to just to make it to a show (wait till the band visit South America!). The film shows you just how inspirational and influential the band has been in so many people’s lives around the world. The most interesting part of the film comes when somewhere in South America you see an interview of a priest who has 162 Iron Maiden tattoos on his body and is known as ‘Father Iron Maiden’ within his flock!

The concert footage in this film is some of the best out there and the songs will keep your feet tapping over the entire length of the film. Up The Irons!

Director: Michael Moore

After examining General Motors, the Columbine shootings, and the attacks on the World Trade Center, Michael Moore takes on the American Healthcare System with Sicko. Moore is at his best with this film that tackles a subject relating to every American citizen.

Moore begins by giving examples of families whose circumstances changed rapidly because of their insurance situation. The family which went from having a good house and being able to put their children through college to living in their daughter’s basement, as a result of medical crises. Then there were people whose insurance would not pay for treatment they badly needed, or would pay for only half of it. He also goes on to show a list of conditions, which would debar someone from getting insurance. Moore gives the viewer enough examples of failure and deception to weave a depressing film.

Later in the film, Moore takes us on a journey to see what the healthcare system in rest of the world is like. By visiting Canada, England, and France, Moore gives us a glance inside these countries, which have socialized medicine. You might feel the need to research one specific issue yet the movie stands as a conclusion in itself: the medical system in the US is targeted towards profitability and health is a business.

There are some very powerful moments in Sicko. It’s difficult to hear Americans talk about the death of a spouse, the loss of a limb, or their bleak financial outlook and not have some sort of reaction. The film has some amazing footage of care for people who genuinely deserve it, and a quiet scene at a Cuban firehouse that will move you.

All in all Sicko is a film that will depress you, will make you think and might even provoke you. In the end, if you ever learn something you have only a superficial knowledge of the problem. It’s a must watch to broaden one’s worldview and learn about issues that transcend politics.