Posts Tagged ‘movie review’

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.

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, and Ayelet Zurer

After a rather tasteless adaptation of Dan Brown’s bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, director Ron Howard reunites with Tom Hanks for more international intrigue. This time around with a lot more action and less boredom. Some bizarre plot points aside, Angels & Demons is a decent thrilling ride through the breathtaking Rome.

The movie begins with the death of the Pope and the gathering of the College of Cardinals to select the next Pontiff. However, before this happens, four of the most revered Cardinals are kidnapped and message left in their place. This leads the Church to turn to Langdon, a man with the knowledge of symbology that could help them track down those responsible. It turns out to be the return of the Illuminati, a scientific sect following Galileo that were hunted and killed by the Catholic Church. The Illuminati says that a cardinal will die every hour, and then at midnight Vatican City will be destroyed from an explosion from ‘antimatter’ stolen from CERN, a Swiss scientific facility. With the help of camerlengo Patrick McKenna (McGregor), acting church leader until there’s a new Pope, and particle physicist Vittoria Vetra (Zurer), Langdon must race against time to save the Catholic Church.

With a cast of award winning actors, Ron Howard does a good job of directing a story that was easier to follow than The Da Vinci Code. Though not quite as expressionless as his first attempt as Robert Langdon, the considerable talents of Tom Hanks largely go to waste once again in this film, as his role is not fleshed out. Zurer’s character does little more than follow Hanks around from scene to scene and translate Latin and Italian for him. Ewan McGregor delivers a convincing performance as the quiet but knowledgeable Camerlengo.

Very talkative in the first half, the film picks up as we get into the latter stages. The plot thickens as our hero deduces the clues that no one else can see. The funny scene where Vittoria tears a page out of Galileo’s book in the Vatican Archives will make you yelp. Even notable is when after a description of Pius IX’s “Great Castration” of Vatican City male statues; Langdon is asked if he is anti-Catholic. Slyly, he retorts, “No. I’m anti-vandalism.”

Overall, Angels & Demons is an entertainer. The interesting blend of facts and fiction makes the plot engaging. While the direction may not stand out, the cinematography is extraordinary as we travel through the picture perfect Vatican and Rome. A piece of advice: Go without expectations and you will be thoroughly entertained.

Director: David Yates

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent, Tom Felton and Alan Rickman

Following the success of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix director David Yates returns at the helm, directing the sixth installment of the series. The mix of comedy, romance, drama, and adventure into one, makes it marvelous and great fun to watch. It might just be the best Harry Potter film yet.

The film kicks off with a dizzying sequence where the Death Eaters attack central London resulting in the crashing of the Millennium Bridge into Thames. Then on, the main plot focus is Dumbledore (Gambon) luring former potions professor Horace Slughorn (Broadbent) back to Hogwarts so Harry (Radcliffe) can dislodge a key clue regarding the Dark Lord from the professor’s resistant mind. Slughorn taught Tom Riddle, who transformed into Lord Voldemort, and only he knows critical information crucial to unlocking the Dark Lord’s defenses. Meanwhile Draco Malfoy (Felton) is experimenting with a Vanishing Cabinet in Hogwarts’ attic while Professor Severus Snape (Rickman) makes an unbreakable vow.

Once back at Hogwarts in the sixth year, Harry finds a book on potions that has copious handwritten notes by ‘The Half Blood Prince’, which he uses. Harry’s newfound ‘skill’ at potion making draws the attention of professor Slughorn. There’s also a subplot where Harry along with his pals for eternity, Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson), are in battle with a powerful force – teenage hormones.

The acting in this film than in the earlier ones is better in quality because of the maturity of all the actors in the film. Grint shows a keen sense of comic timing as Ron. Especially the scene where he consumes the love potion is hilarious. She looks wiser Beautiful Watson engagingly deepens her version of Hermione. But best of all is Radcliffe playing Harry as he delivers the best performance so far playing this character. Gambon does solid work in the vital role of Dumbledore, as he injects humanity to the character. The pick of the acting is Broadbent’s performance as it holds the film together beautifully.

David Yates does a stylish and ingenious job with the direction as several scenes stand out in this film. Watch out for the scene when Dumbledore and Harry travel together into the caves in search of a secret. The CGI work is stellar and the sequence looks magnificent visually. The cinematography sets the tone for the whole movie right from the start, and turns the series in an even darker direction.

Die-hard fans of the books will surely complain about some deletions, especially the showdown of the good and evil in the climax, which has been cut down from a major portion in the novel to only a few minutes worth of screen time. But you will realise that this is a difficult book to adapt as it is setting up a platform for the action packed final chapter of the series which will be made into two films.

This film combines a lot of genres and makes the film feel more real and more magnificent than the others. And when it ends, you just can’t wait for the next two to release.

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, and Billy Crudup

“We’re havin’ too good a time today, we ain’t thinking about tomorrow”. This line and the film that follows, places John Dillinger firmly within context and gives you a better idea of who this man was, what he was up against and why he became an icon during the Great Depression.

Set in 1933 against the backdrop of the Great Depression Public Enemies follows the legendary crook John Dillinger (Depp), a man who stole millions from banks and eluded capture in the process. This film largely chronicles the attempts to bring Dillinger to justice by a newly formed FBI whilst also throws light on the gangster’s romance with Billie Frechette (Cotillard). J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI (Crudup) quickly mobilizes to address the Dillinger’s mayhem at large in the country’s heartland. He appoints morally sound Melvin Purvis (Bale) to run his Chicago office. Purvis and his crew inexorably put the screws on, just as the city’s organized crime syndicate becomes annoyed by the FBI scrutiny aroused by Dillinger and other reckless gangsters.

Director Michael Mann (Heat, Miami Vice) does not waste any time warming up as he throws you right into the action from the very beginning of the film. The depiction of 1930’s America is near perfect in this film. The shaky camera work might make some audiences dizzy but works perfectly for the story as it puts you right in the middle of the chase sequences and shootout scenes. The best example of this is the shootout scene at the house where Dillinger is holed up.

Depp controls the screen pretty much throughout the film and delivers a cold and intense performance. He portrays Dillinger’s two key characteristics; charm and menace with panache. Look out for the scene where Dillinger enters the police station fearlessly and goes into the ‘Dillinger Investigations’ department going unnoticed by cops. Bale on the other hand is too stiff throughout the movie barring the climax, which makes his performance average. But both of them put together as adversaries works great for the film.

One problem that Public Enemies suffers from is the lack of character depth in many of the characters. At times, it seems as if you are expected to know and understand the characters before watching the film because it is a real life story. But apart from these minor glitches, Public Enemies makes a great watch packed with some good performances and action sequences.

Director: McG

Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin

Terminator Salvation is an all out action flick lacking soul due to its brittle storyline. But it will not satisfy the die-hard franchise fans looking for a worthy sequel to the first two films after the mishap that was Terminator 3. This installment of Terminator is all style and no substance.

The story opens in 2003 with death-row inmate, Marcus Wright (Worthington), agreeing to surrender his body to Cyberdyne systems for experimentation after execution. In 2018, the war between the small patches of human survivors and the machine army wages on. John Connor (Bale) is now the spiritual leader of the Resistance.  Following a botched mission Connor loses his entire unit and somehow activates Marcus. Later, Kyle Reese (Yelchin), the soon-to-be time traveling father of John Connor and some young man who inadvertently saves Marcus from an attack is abducted and taken to Skynet headquarters with thousands of other human slaves. Connor knows that he must rescue Reese. But as one would expect, not everyone and everything is, as it seems.

As a summer blockbuster, Terminator Salvation is striking. Director McG does a good job of keeping the action tight and breathtaking. There are several excellent action sequences in this film, and all of them are handled with panache. Probably the best thing about the film is the use of the variety of Terminators ranging from T-600s to T-800s.

But the big problem the film faces is that it lacks focus. The movie moves into a new area of storytelling in this universe created by James Cameron, and looks confused with the story it really wants to tell. The script is the real culprit here. Agreed, there are some mind blowing CGI action sequences in this film, which make it an out and out action blockbuster. But without a core storyline, everything falls flat.

Christian Bale is the biggest downer in this film. His role is not fleshed out enough to portray him as the messiah of the Resistance that he is supposed to be. He is just seen irritatingly shouting in the microphone transmitter throughout the film. On the plus side Sam Worthington does a wonderful job as Marcus Wright trying to find salvation and redeem himself.

The film does not resolve any issues brought up by the storyline, clearly keeping it’s options open for a sequel. But at the end of it all, you will realise that perhaps it is better if the franchise is terminated. Watch it for the action sequences.

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!