Posts Tagged ‘2009’

Director: John Woo

Cast: Fengyi Zhang, Wang Ning, Yong You, Chang Chen, Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro

Action maestro John Woo returns with Red Cliff, a spectacular recreation of the legendary Battle of Red Cliff. This is the most expensive Chinese language film ever made and packs some outstanding action sequences, which will be etched your minds for some time to come.

The film opens in 208 AD at a time when China was divided into three warring states. Ambitious Prime Minister Cao Cao (Zhang) seeks permission from Han dynasty Emperor Xian (Ning) to take on Liu Bei (You) and Sun Quan (Chen) in the south and west of the country, sending 800,000 soldiers for the task. In retaliation, Liu’s strategist Zhuge Liang (Kaneshiro) proposes a diplomatic mission to negotiate an alliance with Sun Quan, the young ruler of Wu. The Commander in charge of Wu’s army is none other than Zhou Yu (Leung). Together, the two alliances come to an agreement to fight off Cao Cao who is in the meantime on his way with his naval and land troops to kick off the Battle of Red Cliff.

Leung’s performance is the strongest in the film; he is an expert martial artist and a good actor. The complexity of the character and intelligence of Zhou Yu portrayed by him is remarkable. Kaneshiro is brilliant as Liang as he appears calm and cool at all times, just like the characteristics of his character.

Woo has balanced action and drama very well in this film. The dramatic scenes and character developments are brilliant. During action the film goes into full throttle. Cleverly building the battle and action, the scenes are memorable. The journey from the introduction of characters each revealing them in detail, to the forming of strategies to stop the invasion is like a roller coaster ride. The concluding Battle of Red Cliff – with shots of 1000-strong invading ships will blow you away. This nail-biting climatic battle scene is like a movie in itself.

With the epic Red Cliff, Woo has incorporated art into war. Watch it for its elaborate battle scenes. Ending with all guns blazing, it is easily one of the best action films out there in recent times. Red Cliff is a thorough entertainer that is not to be missed!


Director: J.J.Abrams

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, and Leonard Nimoy

Star Trek as a franchise was getting old and desperately needed revitalizing.  Thankfully, that’s exactly what director J.J. Abrams has provided. He has managed to do so in a manner, which will please the cinematic standards of current audiences. Tributes to the original films and TV series, ranging from offhanded references to exact lines of dialogue will please the Trekkies. It is as successful a reboot of the franchise as anyone could have asked for, and it opens up a plethora of possibilities for the future.

James Tiberius Kirk (Pine) is persuaded to join Starfleet after a chance meeting with Captain Christopher Pike (Greenwood) of the new starship USS Enterprise. Meanwhile, the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock (Quinto) is trying to find his path between human ways and Vulcan values. Kirk and Spock both end up on the bridge of the Enterprise with other crewmembers. They are joined in time by engineer Scotty (Pegg) and a visitor from the future, Spock Prime (Nimoy). Then emerges a tremendous Romulan mining ship from 150 years in the future.  The pilot, Nero is here to exact his revenge on one Mr. Spock, by forcing Spock to witness the destruction of his two worlds, Vulcan and Earth. This pushes the duo of Kirk and Spock to battle Nero before he initiates the irreversible destruction.

You are thrown in to the action head on with lasers, explosions and crashes. The plot unwinds with lots of technically superb action shots. Chris Pine very ably captures the essence of James T. Kirk without aping the legendary Will Shatner. Zachary Quinto looks impressive as Spock and plays the role with a darker shade than his predecessor. Even the rest of the new actors fill the shoes of the old cast impressively. The pick of the actors is Simon Pegg with his comedy amidst all the action. The most memorable scene in the film comes when Kirk takes over as the captain of the ship.

The time travel story of Star Trek is a prequel and a sequel to the other films in the series, which is brilliant. It creates a new timeline, but one that still recognizes the former feats of the Enterprise crew. This will please the Trekkies and will simultaneously allow outsiders to join in the action. All in all Star Trek is an action packed ride as it treads in a new direction without forgetting its roots. Watch it!

Director: Todd Phillips

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha and Heather Graham

The Hangover is one of the funniest films released in the past few years. It is an incredible comedy filled with bizarre situations and whacked out characters. With constant laughter and chaos being thrown at you, it is not only a great comedy but also pretty intriguing ‘mystery’.

Doug (Bartha) is about to get married, so his best buddies Phil (Cooper) and Stu (Helms) decide to throw him a bachelor party in Las Vegas or Sin City as they call it. Doug’s fiancée’s odd and often ‘pant-less’ brother Alan (Galifianakis) tags along too. To kick things off, they go up to the roof of their hotel and do shots of Jagermeister, a highly potent drink. After a wild night partying it up Phil, Stu and Alan wake up to a trashed villa, a chicken, a baby in the closet and a gigantic tiger in the bathroom. They can’t remember a single thing about the evening. Oh, and Doug is missing. They spend the next day and a half trying to piece together exactly what happened during their long blackout in search of their about-to-get-married buddy Doug.

The key to the success of this film is the cast. All the performances blend with each other perfectly generating a terrific chemistry on screen. A special mention to Galifianakis as he steals the show playing the wide-eyed, slightly retarded man-child who’s up for anything. His speech of inviting the other guys to his ‘Wolf pack of one’ is extremely funny and to watch out for!

Fresh surprises keep coming as the story moves along bringing some crude, some stupid and some witty laughs. With the unpredictable plot twists; the jokes come so quick that you have little time to question what is happening. It stumbles occasionally, especially in the third act, when some of the lesser characters try too hard. But those are forgivable sins, considering how hilarious and entertaining the rest of the movie is.

All in all, The Hangover is an innovative path that a comedy has taken. There are some questions unanswered in the end, but you won’t care since the rest of it is so good. Watch it with your buddies. This is one of those movies that is not to be missed. A piece of advice: Wait for the end credits to roll.

Director:  Zack Snyder

Based on Alan Moore’s cult graphic novel, Watchmen is an action-adventure mystery set in the mid-1980s, in a mythical USA, where a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union looms large. Government-controlled, costumed vigilantes are an accepted segment of society, but independent crime fighters are no longer allowed to work their magic.

When Edward Blake a.k.a. The Comedian (Morgan) is murdered. Walter Kovacs a.k.a. Rorschach (Haley) is convinced that costumed heroes are being killed off so he makes contacts with his former companions to investigate. They are a diverse collection of people all with their own motivations for becoming costumed heroes including a lust for power, psychotic desire for vengeance, superiority complex or, in the case of Doctor Jonathan Osterman a.k.a. Doctor Manhattan (Crudup), having actual ‘superpowers’ as a result of a nuclear experiment gone wrong.

Haley stands out as Rorschach in the scenes where he is unmasked.  Performances by the other protagonists are average. In some places, the film feels artificially stylized and inappropriately cartoonish. That, in turn, undercuts the film’s key point that these superheroes have very human flaws and limitations. The postproduction of the film is top notch. Especially the scene where Dr.Manhattan suffers from a nuclear experiment is put together brilliantly. Even the opening credits set to tunes of Bob Dylan’s The Times, They Are A-Changin’ are to watch out for.

The multi-layered story of Watchmen was never going to be fully contained in a single film but this is an excellent adaptation and fans shouldn’t be too upset about what has been left out or changed. Even the tweaked ending retains the impact of the original. While the film adaptation of Watchmen by Zack Snyder (300) is not the masterpiece that some may have hoped for, it is an immensely satisfying cinematic experience.

Director: David Fincher / Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Tarajo Henson

‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ directed by David Fincher, takes its inspiration from one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories. Screenwriter Eric Roth takes only Fitzgerald’s central premise – a man is born old and gets younger as he advances through life – but he drops everything else, adopting a tone of sorrow and longing that’s actually much more in line with Fitzgerald’s other, better work. The story begins in 1918 and extends into present day, and, at every point, the art direction and clothing meticulously re-create the respective eras. The digital cinematography subtly evokes earlier photography.

The premise is clever. The film chronicles the life of Benjamin Button, played by Brad Pitt, whose mother dies during child birth, and whose father abandons him on the doorsteps of an old-folks home when he is born with the appearance of an elderly man. The home, run by a maid named Queenie, takes him in as a son, and people begin to see that he is in fact aging backwards, from old to young. We follow his story, set in New Orleans from the end of World War I in 1918 to the 21st century. It is primarily a love story between two individuals who are aging in opposite directions.

Being an ardent David Fincher fan, I walked into the film with high expectations. But I was let down. The film is good, but not great. I must concede though, this film has its strengths. Technologically, the make-up and height adjustments made to Brad Pitt are astonishing, and the way that he looks like an old man getting younger and younger progressively is extraordinary. Additionally, the performances, including Pitt and Blanchett, but also Tilda Swinton as a spy’s wife staying in the same motel Benjamin is, were good. The love story between Daisy and Benjamin interests one at first, but later in the movie it gets plain boring.

The first half was not bad. My interest was kept, I enjoyed the characters but when I started feeling lost and cheated, that I would never get any closer to the lives, feelings and deeper philosophies, the film lost me. Somewhere during the second half you realize that the film is too long and completely lacking any meaningful plot developments.

The ‘aging in reverse’ plot is more or less abandoned halfway through. When the movie returns to it, almost as an afterthought, near the end, there are no surprising twists to enliven the movie’s deadening pace. What you expect to happen does actually happen. All in all, is a tad too long and devoid of an engaging plot. If it is uncharacteristically radiant, it is also aloof and ordinary.

Director: Stephen Daldry / Cast: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes and David Kross

Law versus morality is at the chilling heart of this potent film whose complex themes begin with a young man’s first sexual encounter and traverses uncomfortable territory including that of harrowing war crimes. As the movie begins, the late-afternoon twilight seems to hide a quality of mystery, even sexual possibility.

A teenage boy, Michael (Kross) is suddenly taken ill on a German street. A woman in her 30s, Hanna Schmitz (Winslet), very curt and matter-of-fact, sees that he’s taken care of, and when the young fellow recovers, months later, he shows up at her apartment to thank her. To show the audience how Hanna explores the world of books and getting in touch with the world of reading and writing, Daldry presents to us a 30 something Hanna wanting to quench the thirst of literature through her almost daily physical intimacy with Michael. Shortly after, the pair begins a lustful affair that lasts only for a summer. Years later, as Michael sits in on a trial against female Nazi guards, he is shocked to find Hanna among the group.

‘The Reader’ is adapted by David Hare from the renowned best-selling literary sensation by German novelist Bernhard Schlink and is seamlessly directed by the formidable Stephen Daldry. It stars Kate Winslet in an Oscar-winning performance that is the best of her career. The story is told through the eyes of Michael’s older self (Fiennes), and the movie is told through a series of lengthy flashbacks. It’s a brilliant approach that allows us to see through Fiennes’ outstanding performance, the depth of the effect that his involvement with Hanna has had on his life. Winslet and Kross are the backbone of the film, as they portray Hanna Schmitz and the young Michael Berg, respectively. Ultimately, their chemistry and interplay is electrifying and makes you really feel for their characters.

The main reason to view this film is Kate Winslet. This has got to be the best performance of her already stellar career, where she is so bold as to accept and tackle an amoral role like Hanna, and still come out as someone that you can somehow sympathize with. The story is shocking, but in a way that will surprise and unsettle you. ‘The Reader’ informs, entertains, provokes our thought, and touches our heart and soul in deep ways.

Director: Sam Mendes / Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet

Based on Richard Yates’ 1962 novel (selected by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923), director Sam Mendes brings ‘Revolutionary Road’ to the big screen and reunites its stars for the first time since they paired for the highest grossing film of all time, ‘Titanic’. The film opens boldly enough, spending just a few fleeting moments showing us how the Wheelers (DiCaprio and Winslet) met before throwing us head first into their disaster of a marriage.

It’s the 1950’s in Connecticut. Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) Wheeler are married with two kids – a bickering couple that can break into a screaming match of hateful words in an instant. Both April and Frank seem to hate their mundane existence. Frank commuting to his soul-sucking desk job every day and April attending to her two kids like what is expected of her. It is April who takes the initiative to find a solution and mend their marriage. She proposes to relocate to Paris and start a new life. The plans reinvigorate the couple and everything seems on the right track. Despite the shocked reactions of their friends, the Wheelers are resolute in their plans. But slowly events transpire which challenge the ability to keep their plans afloat and thus their marriage.

‘Revolutionary Road’ dissects a marriage, in two distinct and significant directions. The movie captures the timeless torment of an unhappy marriage, in the way the spouses know each other’s weak spots and go for them, and in the way arguments can explode the simplest of beginnings.

The acting is of the highest caliber, especially by the always-amazing Kate Winslet. Whether she is yelling at Frank or holding back her emotions, you always feel April’s pain and empathize with her desire to escape a life of mediocrity. DiCaprio is just as good, and you can’t help but feel for his affecting but flawed, character. Moreover, the set design and costumes are immaculate, and the cinematography is perfect. But as you are an hour into the film, you will realise, although DiCaprio enjoys the same screen time, it is Winslet’s film.

‘Revolutionary Road’ can be interpreted in many ways. You can watch it from Frank or April’s point of view. Mendes’ direction shines through the dim premise and while it’s unlikely to leave any audience member happy, simply due to its depressing nature, it may just enlighten some.