Sunday, 22 September 2013

Breaking News

Breaking News (2004), is an action thriller from Hong Kong which was released in 2004. It was directed by one of the most celebrated directors in Hong Kong, Johnnie To. Chang Hing-Kai and Yip Tin Shing wrote the screenplay. It stars Nick Cheung as Inspector Cheung, Richie Jen as Yuen, Kelly Chen as Superintendent Rebecca Fong and Simon Yam as Asst. Commissioner Wong.  

The movie deals with the opinion molding power of media in today's world. It shows how media can corrupt some person or an organization's image and at the same time be effective in instilling hope and goodwill among the people too.

It is one of those few action films which successfully manage to blend action and sensible content together in order to give the viewer something to be amazed by and think upon.

The way in which the start of the movie has been shot is amazing. It starts with a shootout and a failed attempt by the Hong Kong police department in capturing Yuen and his gang. The police officers who operate this mission are badly defeated. While Yuen is running away, he encounters a police officer whom he overpowers. The timid police officer joins his hands and begs for his life. To the police department's bad luck, the media is present at that moment and the photographs of a police officer kneeling and begging before the criminal are circulated. This tarnishes the image of the police department. People start to lose their faith in the department.

The Police Department takes various measures to cover up for this embarrassing defeat. Superintendent Rebecca Fong, suggests that since their image was tarnished by the media, it should be through the media only that they improve it again. The department agrees. We are also introduced to Inspector Cheung and his crew who have been assigned to capture Yuen and his gang. After the police are able to track down the location of Yuen, the real action starts.  

Rebecca ensures that the media is present to shoot the whole event live, the event as in the capture of Yuen by the police department. Since it was Yuen who forced a cop down on his knees in that infamous embarrassing photograph, it is hoped that by arresting him on camera, the police can improve their image. And thus a 'bloody' reality show starts. 

Yuen gets a hold of this and he too plays it smartly. Various events are ensured by both the parties, the cops outside the building and criminals inside holding hostages, to somehow use and manipulate the media present on site. And for the media people its a day in heaven with so much of action and scoop around.

The movie progresses ahead with a pace that is sure to blow you off completely. The action, dialogues, etc are very well executed. The story itself is so heavy and good.

The movie currently holds a fresh rating of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. This movie was remade in Russia titled Goryachie Novosti (international title: Newsmakers). Talks of its remake in the United States are up with the possibility of Joel Schumacher directing it.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Shotgun Stories

I recently happened to check out the works of Jeff Nichols. He has made three films so far – Shotgun Stories (2007), Take Shelter (2011) and Mud (2012) and I loved all of them. It seems that he is here to make his mark and stay for a long time.

Here in this post I would like to cover Shotgun Stories (2007) which was written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Shotgun Stories stars
Michael Shannon, Douglas Ligon, Barlow Jacobs and others. Its the story of feud between two sets of half brothers after the demise of their father. 

The background of the story can be described through the angle of Mr. Hayes (the father, whom we never see in the film). Mr. Hayes had married twice. He had three kids from his first wife. He never cared about his first wife and his children through her. 

Meanwhile he had also married another woman and had four children through her. Over the course of time he abandoned his first wife and three children. The three children by the first wife - Son, Boy and Kid are the ones around whom the film centers.

Son Hayes is married to Annie and has a child Carter. He is a normal man except for his addiction to gambling. Because of this his wife leaves along with their son and now Son is alone. He asks his brothers, Boy Hayes, a basketball coach and Kid Hayes to move in his house.

One night they are visited by their mother who tells them that their father is dead. Son Hayes and his brothers go to attend the funeral. Present at the funeral is the second family of Mr. Hayes - his second wife and the other four children - Michael, Mark, Stephen and John.  

At the funeral, Son Hayes can't control himself when everyone around is praising the late Mr. Hayes while completely neglecting the fact that he had abandoned and left his first family on streets. So Son speaks some very harsh words and spits on the grave. Mark Hayes, the more violent in the second family retorts to physical measures. Although the dispute is broken by others, it is clear that a war has started.

From left to right : Son, Kid and Boy Hayes.
The film goes ahead with the war. It also deals with the costs that each of the family has to pay for their actions. 

Jeff's Nichols' direction is amazing. It is hard to accept that this is his first feature film. You see his brilliance in almost every frame and with every dialogue that he has written . Along with that one has to applaud the makers for their perfect casting. Everyone on screen does a perfect job and leaves you no space to complain or get bored.

It feels good to know that the film had got its due appreciation. Late film critic Roger Ebert named it as one of the best films of the year 2008. Bill White of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer named it as the best film of the year 2008. Philip Martin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and  David Edelstein of New York magazine named it 3rd and the 8th best film of 2008 respectively. The film currently holds 91% fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Hunt

The Hunt (Orignal Danish title: Jagten), which was released early this year has been receiving showers of praise from almost everyone who has seen it. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg , one of the founding brothers of the Dogme 95 film movement in Danish Cinema, this film has all that it takes to present a simple yet powerful picture in front of the viewer. Thomas Vinterberg co-wrote it with Tobias Lindholm.

The Hunt follows the story of a man named Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) who works in a kindergarten school. He is divorcee and has been struggling to maintain a stable relationship with his son who stays with his ex-wife.

The story is set in a small town where everyone knows everyone. At the beginning of the film we are introduced to Lucas and his group. Lucas has a best friend in Theo. Theo is married and has a kid daughter, Klara. Along with Klara, Theo also has a teenage son. Lucas is very close to Theo's family. He often walks Klara from her home to kindergarten and back.

All the things go on as usual until Klara sees some pornographic images on her brother's iPad. It doesn't make a proper sense in her innocent mind. What's worse is that she imagines and makes up a story which involves Lucas doing certain acts (sexually abusing, although nothing shown or even mildly suggested visually) with her.

When Lucas returns back the gift she had made for him, it triggers her emotionally and she confides her story to Martha, the head of kindergarten. Certain actions are taken according to the protocol. Slowly the whole town knows about it. And what starts as an innocent lie by a small kid turns out into a mass hysteria of the whole town against Lucas.

Everyone starts to shun Lucas. He is fired, his current girlfriend leaves him. His friends don't want to see him any more, the shop keeper won't allow him in his shop, etc. Lucas' son who believes in his father's innocence, comes for his help. That is the only relief for Lucas. Slowly the resentment of the people turns into voilence and Lucas has to deal with the dreadful mass hysteria against him.


The film currently holds a fresh rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. Thomas Vinterberg and his team deserve to be honored for taking such a subject and showing it in an effective way. Mads Mikkelsen gives some of the best performances we as a movie audience will ever see. The little girl, Annika Wedderkopp is adorable and shocks us with a performance that's way too ahead for someone of her age. Editing, music, cinematography and everything else about the movie is just so good. Overall the film turns out to be winner. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Tasher Desh

A few months back I saw Gandu, an Indian film which broke all the taboos of the Indian society with such an ease and flow that one hardly notices until the end credits appear. The effect of that movie was the only reason that took me in the cinema hall today to watch Tasher Desh, the latest film of Gandu's director Qaushiq Mukherjee aka Q. Now again this movie shook me and made me question my eyes and ears. Tasher Desh has nothing controversial like Gandu but still the story, narration and characters are unlike any other Indian characters you have ever seen.

Tasher Desh, the original play was written by the great Rabindranath Tagore. In an interview Q said, "this is one Tagore story that has fascinated me since I was a child. 'Tasher Desh' is completely different from his oeuvre. He experimented a lot with this play. In fact, critics find it flawed, so it became a children's play but it is not a children's play. It is very political. I think, we did not get it right contextually."

Tasher Desh mixes the elements of fantasy and surrealism in brilliant way. Q just refuses to go by the book to churn up an usual film. As it is being said, this film is literally Tagore on acid. Maybe this is not a film for everyone. But it's worth a watch. You either hate it or love it but you definitely won't be able to ignore it. For someone who isn't interested this can be quite irritating and torturous.

The film follows two parallel story lines. First line follows a writer who carries around a torn copy of Tasher Desh and second, of a prince and his adventures. The two stories are shown in distinct and strikingly different visuals. The writer's sequences are in black and white, symbolizing his dull and barren life while those of the prince are in bright colors.

The prince is bored of his usual and monotonous life. He wants to explore. He takes up his merchant friend along with him to roam and know the world. But they get stranded on a strange island. 

The people on the island live by rules. Everyone is named after the cards. Nothing happens here due to personal desires or wishes. In fact the very words, 'desire', 'progress', 'freedom' are banned from the usage. It is here that the prince instills a sense of dis-order and freedom through a beautiful musical sequence. This creates a kind of awakening on the island. A quest for liberation starts under the lady who is the Ace of Spades.

Meanwhile back in the real world, the writer meets his muse who symbolizes the Ace of Spades for him and this forms the storyline for his parts.

The themes of reality, anti-fascism, chaos, liberation and desires fit at proper places.  

Visually, this film is a treat to the eye. It takes time to grow on you but once it does then the surrealistic treatment by Q works wonders. 

One can take the entire film to be one long dream sequence too. That's the beauty of the story. People can interpret it in their own way. The combination of intoxicating visuals, breath taking sequences and the amazing musical scores works highly in favor of the film.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


Yojimbo (1961) has a sacred status for all Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune fans. The great Japanese director, Kurosawa's direction plus Mifune's epic acting skills makes this movie stand out among lovers of good cinema.

It is a period film. The story is set in the second half of the 19th century after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The movie starts with a samurai (Mifune), who finds himself unemployed. He is left without a master and cause. This forces him to wander around searching for a life and income. And incourse of this journey, the samurai comes across a town.

Now this town is in mess and has become a battle ground between the two rival gangs of Seibei and Ushitora. Turns out that Ushitora once used to work for Sebei. But when Sebei announced that he will pass the crime syndicate to his undeserving and foolish son, Ushitora breaks out and forms his own gang. Ushitora has two brothers. Inokichi a timid and somewhat soft man and Unosuke, a dangerous man. Unosuke is the only person in the town who has a pistol and this makes him even more powerful and dangerous.

The samurai after knowing all these, decides to use this situation in his favour. He believes that eliminating these two gangs would be good for the people of the town as well. The samurai then proves his worth and makes his skills known to these gangs. Now both of the gang leaders lobby hard to make the samurai join their respective gangs so that it will be beneficial for them in the war. But the samurai has different plans.

There are various other characters like a resturant owner, a government officer, a woman who has been exploited by Ushitora, etc.The samurai's intentions and his course of actions, the war between the gangs, the role of Unosuke and his gun in all of these form the rest half of the movie.

There was some controversy when Sergio Leone remade it as A Fistful of Dollars (1964) starring Clint Eastwood. After watching A Fistful Of Dollars, Kurosawa sued Leone and wrote to Sergio Leone that it is, "a fine movie, but it was MY movie.”

Yojimbo holds 97% fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Also it ranks 95 in Empire magazine's list of 500 Greatest Movies Of All Times.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

In The Name Of The Father

Jim Sheridan's In The Name Of The Father which released in 1994 is an amazing film. The screenplay was written by Jim Sheridan along with Terry George based on the autobiography Proved Innocent: The Story of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four by Gerry Conlon. It starred Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite and Emma Thompson in lead roles.

This film is based on the true story of four people who were falsely convicted for the IRA's Guildford pub bombings. Those four persons were commonly called as Guildford Four.

The film is shown through the life of Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four. At the beginning of the movie, we see him as a rebellious and mischievous young man in Belfast. His family is worried about him. They in turn send him to London so that he can make his life. On the way there he meets his old friend Paul Hill and the two enjoy their time in London without actually doing anything. One night without any place to eat or sleep, they end up robbing. With some money now, Gerry returns back to his home in Belfast.

And the next thing that we see is the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary arrests Gerry. He is brought back to mainland UK. His other friends get arrested too. The police torture and threaten Gerry and his friends for seven days under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and wrongly make them confess to those false charges. When Giuseppe Colon travels to England to meet his son he too is arrested along with the family of his sister-in-law, with whom he was staying. These people are termed as Maguire Seven.

The film continues with the trial, punishment and Gerry and his father Giuseppe's life in prison. They share the same cell. The film shows the attempts of a lawyer Gareth Peirce who campaigns for a re-trial and the release of these people and how things go ahead.

One of my personal favorites. It's one of most rightly cast movies ever. The father-son relationship portrayed between Giuseppe and Gerry is one of the best things in the film.

In The Name Of The Father got positive reviews and was received well. It has a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film got seven Academy Award nominations - Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Best Editing, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Pete Postlethwaite), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Emma Thompson), Best Director and Best Picture.

Monday, 13 May 2013


Audiences have always enjoyed love stories. There have been numerous stories told down throughout the ages. Most stories make people feel good. How about something different? Which is the most weirdest love story you have ever see? I'm quite sure you may have seen some. One such weird love story is 3-Iron, a South Korean film, released in 2004. It was written and directed by Kim Ki-duk, who is known for his unconventional stories and characters. 3-iron stars Jae Hee and Lee Seung-yeon as Tae-suk and Sun-hwa.

How is it different from any other story? The answer is that the two lead characters don't talk with each other. And to clear the first query which may come to your mind, they are not dumb. They maintain a silent relationship all throughout the movie, although towards the end, Sun-hwa speaks a few lines but there is no direct verbal interaction between the lead pair. Actually none of the characters talk much. The movie relies highly on emotions and abstract acts. 

3-Iron is a lovestory of Tae-suk, a drifter and Sun-hwa, an abused housewife. Although it is later made known to us that Tae-suk had a good education, we still see him as a drifter. He breaks into people's homes while they are away and stays there. He has good plan for that. He spends his days sticking take-away menus of resturants on the doors and later stops by to check which of them haven't been removed from the doors by their owners. This implies that people who stay in are away and Tae-suk gets in. Tae-suk is not a robber, on the contrary he washes their clothes, repairs their broken appliances, etc.

On one such break-in he meets Sun-hwa, the wife of an abusive man who has gone for a business trip. Since Sun-hwa has hidden herself to grieve, Tae-suk believes that the house is empty and breaks in.  An emotional bond forms between them. Tae-suk even saves Sun-hwa when her husband returns. She leaves her husband and goes with him. Her husband holds a grudge and that is also an important factor which influences the story ahead in a way.
The above events form just the first twenty minutes of the film, I'm really trying hard to not give away more of the story because that would rob you away of a splendid experience. Later you see the characters getting caught in their act of breaking in homes, also they are involved in a murder case and the subsequent imprisonment of Tae-suk. The movie goes ahead with Tae-suk's struggle against all of these odds to join his love in the end. The story ends in a very surprising manner, which is something we cannot anticipate during the first hour of the movie. The story can be boring and hard for someone without patience, trust me you need a lot of patience to soak the act in.

The film was received very well. It has won a lot of accolades around the world. It holds 87% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Exterminating Angel

The Exterminating Angel, (original Spanish title El ángel exterminador) is a Mexican film released in 1962. It was directed by Luis Buñuel, one of the most significant surrealistic film makers.

It was the second movie of the Buñuel/Alatriste/Pinal film trilogy, written and directed by Luis Buñuel, starring Silvia Pinal, and produced by her then-husband Gustavo Alatriste. Buñuel picked it from an unfinished play his friend José Bergamín was writing at the time. 

If one looks at the basic storyline, it is a story of a few people who have gathered for a dinner party but in some mysterious way they are unable to leave the room after the party.

It's a story which is set in the house of Señor Edmundo Nobile and his wife, Lucia, who host a dinner party. At the start of the party itself the problems build up. All the servants in the house resign from their works and leave the house without any intention or specific reason. Only the head servant is left who looks after the serving of the guests. It is somewhat implied that this has got something to do with the way rats leave the sinking ship. Different people arrive at the party. One thing is common, they all belong to higher class. They have different attitudes, beliefs and characters. They appear to blend in an amicable way but deep down inside they hate each other.

The dinner goes down well. The guests have a good time. After the dinner one of them, Blanca, plays a piano sonata. Everyone enjoys it. But when it gets late and everyone is expected to leave and return to their homes, none of them appears to do so. The men simply remove their jackets, the women loosen their gowns and lie down on the couch or chair or floor and sleep. Edmundo and his wife Lucia find it strange but they too join them. They think that since it's late now, the guests might leave next morning. The morning comes and the head servant brings some breakfast in the room. When the head servant is asked to bring something else, he finds it unable to leave the room and so do many of the guests who want to go back to their houses. They aren't trapped in a physical way but there is some psychological barrier that prevents them from leaving the room. And they realize they are trapped.

The story goes ahead with how these people who are now forced to live in the same room with limited food and water which exhausts soon. Hunger, hysteria, anger and enmity creeps up between the guests and it becomes very hard for them to live together in the same room. An interesting question which can arise in the mind of the viewer is that why can't help arrive from the outside? This is explained. The psychological or mystical barrier which keeps the guests from leaving the room also somehow keeps people from entering the mansion from outside.

It is one of the most brilliantly made movies ever . Every person is free to analyze or interpret it in his own way. Also there is a scope for a different interpretation of the story, every time you see it.

The film sparked controversies upon it's release due to various reasons. Spain and Vatican didn't receive it well and as a result all the negatives of it were ordered to be destroyed. It was banned in Russia because the idea of people not being allowed to "leave a party" was considered offensive and anti-government. But the film was received well by the masses. At the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, the film won the Palme d'Or. Mexican critics rank it as the 16th best film of the Mexican Cinema. The New York Times puts it as one of the best 1000 films ever made.

Friday, 1 February 2013


Its been a long time since I had been waiting for Vishwaroopan. Usually I don't review movies on my blogs, I just like to talk about the movies I like and which I want others to see but today is an exception. If you are looking for the allegations and controversies behind it then this is not the post to read because its strictly a movie review. But I would like to maintain the fact that there is nothing which I found to be offensive to any particular community.

Vishwaroopam - everyone in India now knows whose film it is, who is the actor, writer, director or producer. It  needs no introduction but still I would like to fill in the deatils. Vishwaroopam, is a Tamil film, whose Hindi version- Vishwaroop released in Mumbai today. It has been written, directed and produced by Kamal Haasan who is also the lead actor in it.

Given the exact nature of the story, its a spy-thriller, a genre which is somewhat unexplored in India. Although films like Ek Tha Tiger and Agent Vinod released last year, we never got to see any good concrete spy story. Vishwanath/Wiz (Kamal Haasan) is an Indian spy living in U.S.A. He is married to a much younger girl, Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) who is nuclear oncologist. Nirupama is unaware of the secret life of her husband and thinks that he is just a stupid Kathak teacher. She has married him just for the sake of a safe haven in U.S.A.

On the parallel, an Al-Qaeda Jihadi Omar (Rahul Bose) and his accomplice Salim (Jaideep Ahlawat) have planned to attack New York with a deadly nuclear weapon. Our hero Wiz has a past history with them from an earlier mission in Afghanistan.  With a series of events Wiz and Omar come across each other and the game starts.

The story has a lot to offer and two storylines go on together, the current feud between Wiz & Omar and the earlier mission of Wiz in Afghanistan when he is close and almost like a brother to Omar and Salim.

The performances by the actors are very good. Kamal Haasan proves his worth. Pooja Kumar and Andrea Jeremiah look beautiful and manage to stay on level. Shekhar Kapur with the little time he is seen on screen does a fantastic job. Rahul Bose and Jaideep Ahlawat too give out brilliant performances.

The film is worth a watch to everyone who is interested in good & entertaining cinema and a slap on the face of every person who thinks and criticizes Indian Cinema of not being on par with Hollywood. A good but somewhat incomplete story, a brilliant direction, great cinematography and lot of amazing action sequences.

I would have liked to go on with the end and the points left behind for the sequel. But it would spoil the experience of many who haven't watched it. Overall its a great film. Three and a half stars out a five, if you ask me. (If at all you ask me :P )

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

La Haine

La Haine is a French drama film which was released in 1995. It was written and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. It stars Vincent Cassel, Huber Kounde and Saiid Taghmaoui as the lead characters. The film was shot in black and white which goes well with the story and narrative of the film.

La Haine is the story of a day in the lives of three friends after a riot, Vinz, Sayid and Hubert. They live in the banlieues of Paris. They come from different backgrounds. Vinz is a Jewish boy who wants everyone to respect him and take him seriously. Sayid is guy who just can't shut his mouth and is a trouble maker. Hubert, an Afro-French boxer is the most wisest of the three.

Their locality witnesses frequent riots and instability. The youth and the cops are very hostile towards each other. The story starts on one day after such riots. During the riots a local boy named Abdel Ichaha gets seriously injured and goes in comma with a very little hope of life. Also during the riots a policeman loses his revolver. The police department and the press take the issue of possibility of the revolver falling in the hands of the wrong person and the dangers it can cause, seriously.

Its shown that Vinz has found out the revolver and plans on shooting a cop if their friend Abdel Ichaha loses his life in the hospital. Hubert who is the most matured of the three tries to calm Vinz down but that goes in vain. Also Sayid has to travel to Paris to collect money from a guy who owes him. The three set out to go and catch a train. Vinz carries his gun with him throughout. Things don't go smooth. Cops arrest them but Vinz manages to run. The cops who have arrested them turn out to be sadistic and humiliate Sayid and Hubert, detaining them for a long time which causes them to miss the last train of that night. Vinz too misses it and meets them on station later. The friends roam around the city.

The story goes on ahead with the friends watching the news about Abdel Ichaha and Vinz thinking upon his earlier words about Abdel dying. Also they encounter a group of other guys at whom they had shouted bitter words earlier, where its upto Vinz to use his revolver and take up a life to save their own. The next morning and the end of the film is unexpected.
The film derives it's title from the words said by Hubert: "La haine attire la haine!", which means "Hatred breeds hatred."
La Haine was successful upon its release. It was recieved very well by the critics too. 

It has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  
It was also ranked as #32 in Empire States magazine list of 'The100 best movies of world cinema.' Also it received a lot of awards.