Wednesday, February 27, 2013

L'eclisse (1962)

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Writers:  Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, Elio Batolini, Ottiero Ottieri
Cast:      Monica Vitti, Alain Delon, Francisco Rabal
Language: Italian

A young woman meets a vital young man, but their love affair is doomed because of the man's materialistic nature.

It is considered as the last part of the trilogy which was preceded by L'Avventura and La Notte. I haven't seen those. It is a very good 60s film having similar spirit to the Godard films.

Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, February 25, 2013

Get the Gringo (2012)

Director: Adrian Grunberg
Writers:  Mel Gibson, Stacy Perskie
Cast:      Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Daniel Gimenez Cacho

A career criminal nabbed by Mexican authorities is placed in a tough prison where he learns to survive with the help of a young boy.

It is a good action film with an interesting story. Haven't seen Mel Gibson's action films of the old to compare. The film also has an alternate title: 'How I spend my summer vacation'.

Rating: 3/5

Antiviral (2012)

Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Writer:   Brandon Cronenberg
Cast:      Caleb Landry Jones, Lisa Berry, Sarah Gadon

After becoming infected with the virus that killed superstar Hannah Geist, Syd March must unravel the mystery surrounding her death to save his own life.

Directed by Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg, in terms of theme like father like son. But the film is not that good and is just watchable.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

Director: Terence Davies
Writers:  Terence Davies, Terence Rattigan (play)
Cast:      Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale

The wife of a British Judge is caught in self destructive love affair with a Royal Air Force pilot.

It is a very simple story set in 1950 London and is based on a play from Terence Rattigan. The initial part of the film contains heavy music reminiscent of old films and it takes a bit to figure out the relationships. Once it is done the film is very engrossing.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Perfect Sense (2011)

Director: David MacKenzie
Writer:   Kim Fupz Aakeson
Cast:      Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Lauren Tempany

A chef and a scientist falls in love as an epidemic begin to rob people of their sensory perceptions.

Seen it being compared to Contagion but they are entirely two different films with Perfect Sense being a character driven story. It is a good little film that revolves around a what if scenario.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Sessions (2012)

Director: Ben Lewin
Writers:  Ben Lewin, Mark O'Brien
Cast:      John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H.Macy

A man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest.

The film is based on an essay by Mark O'Obrien on whom the film is based. The director Ben Lewin is also a polio survivor. It is a good watch with interesting characters and a festival circuit hit.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Tenant (Le locataire) (1976)

Director: Roman Polanski
Writers:  Gerard Brach, Roman Polanski, Roland Topor
Cast:      Roman Polanski, Isabell Adjani, Melvyn Douglas

In Paris, the shy bureaucrat Trelkovsky rents an old apartment without bathroom where the previous tenant, the Egyptologist Simone Choule, committed suicide.

It is the last among what is called as Apartment Trilogy based on their theme. Thought it was the weakest of the three but still a great film.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, February 14, 2013

End of Watch (2012)

Director:David Ayer
Writer:   David Ayer
Cast:      Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick
Shot documentary style, this film follows the daily grind of two young police officers in LA who are partners and friends, and what happens when they meet criminal forces greater than themselves.

It is way overrated and just a watchable film. The whole found footage thing is very contrived and it starts of like every other shitty buddy cop film. Action scenes are good and that is the only saving grace. When you have seen 'Wire' all this crappy grittiness looks lame.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001)

Director: Jan Harlan

The career and the life of Stanley Kubrick explored through pictures, clips from his films, his old home movies, comments from his colleagues and a narration by Tom Cruise.

I was having some doubts regarding Stanley Kubrick's standing as the greatest director of all time and this documentary banished those thoughts. He was so far ahead of his time and the scale in which he operated is part of his greatness. To make those films with that kind of scale without having to compromise is something he earned over his career. Many of the things I read  about as Kubrick trivia are shown in the documentary but it is great to hear it from those who have worked with him. Plus we can hear from Scorsese and Woody Allen along with Spielberg and Sydney Pollak. The documentary is directed by Kubrick's brother in law who also worked with him for many years.

Shame that he didn't get to make his Napoleon and second world war film.

Rating: 4.5/5

Slacker (1991)

Director: Richard Linklater
Writer:    Richard Linklater
Cast:      Richard Linklater, Rudy Basquez, Jean Caffeine

Presents a day in the life in Austin, Texas among its social outcasts and misfits, predominantly the twenty-something set, using a series of linear vignettes. It just follows a character for some time and then move onto another and so on. The little stories are not resolved and just moves on to another one.

It is an experimental film and serve as a prelude to Linklater's later films in terms of the sort of discussions the characters engage on. It is a good watch but nothing more.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, February 10, 2013

TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard (2013)

Director: Simon Klose
Features: Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij

Viva La Piracy! An intellectual freedoms documentary based around the interpersonal triumphs, and defeats of the three main characters against the largest industry in the known universe. The Media Industry.

The film was released for free on Piratebay and Youtube. It is a great watch for those who are familiar with the case. Even for others it is a great watch if you are interested in internet freedom and media business. To quote from the film:'It is not that the young people want to steal or commit a crime. They just have a different consumption pattern. The market has to adapt'. If the film industry don't adapt in this digital age, they will soon struggle like the music industry. No sympathies from me as they are earning shitloads from shitty remakes, sequels, prequels, 3-D and superhero films. They deserve whatever that is coming their way.

Rating: 5/5

Friday, February 8, 2013

Argo (2012)

Director: Ben Affleck
Writers:  Chris Terrio, Tony Mendez, Joshuah Bearman
Cast:      Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Aarkin
A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.

The film has surprisingly good humor and the near misses in the ending were added for cinematic effect. It is a great watch  and among the three Ben Affleck directed films, I will rank this below Gone Baby Gone.

Rating: 4/5

Amour (2012)

Director:  Michael Haneke
Writer:     Michael Haneke
Cast:       Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Language: French

Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple's bond of love is severely tested.

Unlike other Haneke films, Amour is very accessible for the audience. But that doesn't make it any less depressing. Like in his other films it deals with alienation and helplessness. It will make you think about many things including assisted suicide.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

De rouille et d'os (Rust and Bone) (2012)

Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers:  Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, Craig Davidson
Cast:      Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure

Put in charge of his young son, Ali leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Ali's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.

As someone put it, it is a love story between a mentally handicapped man and a physically handicapped woman. With the premise ripe for wallowing in misery and ample scope for melodrama, the film is full of surprises. Another masterpiece from Audiard,  even though some might find the ending not in sync with the overall theme of the film. But I loved it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, February 4, 2013

Grizzly Man (2005)

Director & Writer: Werner Herzog

A devastating and heartrending take on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October of 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska.

The fact that they died is revealed pretty much early and from the interviews shown early, you don't feel much sympathy for Timothy as he was kind of asking for it. Werner Herzog goes on to film it as a character study of Timothy and by the end we see him as someone who is having an opposite worldview to nature when compared to Werner Herzog. Herzog is also considered as a mad director when it comes to taking risks but Timothy had a romantic view of nature and it is in stark contrast to his attitude towards human beings and civilization.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (2007)

Writer & Producer: Adam Curtis

The series consist of three one-hour programmes which explore the concept and definition of freedom, specifically, 'how a  simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today's idea of freedom.

The first episode, 'Fuck You Buddy', focuses on John Nash's game theory and how it was used in psychiatry to define what normal behavior is for people. The second episode, 'The Lonely Robot', is mainly about game theory applied in biology (Selfish Gene) and how this was taken to mean human beings as rational, predictable beings looking out for their own self interest all the time. Based on this the liberal governments in US and UK started changing public institutes by introducing a system of incentives which only led the public officials and staff gaming the system. The third episode, 'We will Force you to be Free', is mainly about Isaiah Berlin's concept of positive and negative liberty. This concept was new to me in its definition form but had an inkling about it from my readings. It essentially means that if people believe something to be the absolute truth or mechanism for Utopia, it will always lead to repression as End always justify the means. The attitude of Western Governments to regimes in the third world and their affairs are explained in this context.

Some of the arguments are presented in a one-sided way. I don't see what the problem is with the thinking that humans are self-interested. We are self-interested but the problem was introducing a simplistic model based on this view. As is explained in Richard Dawkin's brilliant book, 'Selfish Gene', we follow a 'Tit-for-Tat' policy for most of our decisions which makes it a bit more complicated way of following self-interest. If the technocrats and politicians introduce some stupid incentivized system ripe for gaming, it is their problem and not a slight on the concept.

Still it is  a great watch on the whole.

Rating: 4/5

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers:  Edith Wharton (novel), Martin Scorsese, Jay Cocks
Cast:      Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder
Tale of the  19th century New York high society in which a young lawyer falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman's cousin.

Didn't really think this period was really gonna engross me but  it did. Good to see Daniel Day-Lewis playing a character with subtle emotions compared to the showy for which he gets much praise. Still would like to see him playing a normal role in a contemporary picture.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (2004)

Writer & Producer: Adam Curtis
The three part documentary film compares the rise of Neo-Conservatism in US and Radical Islam in different parts of the Muslim world and paints a picture wherein which they are essentially the same. Both are formed with a view to protect their so called culture from what they see as degrading liberalism by harping on about the role of religion in Society as a source for greater good.

In US, it traces the actions of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in the '70s and '80s when they had USSR as the phantom enemy of US in a world where it is a battle of good US versus the bad people that  are against it. The philosophy that the Neo-Cons believe in is that you need a state of fear among the people to unite them and politicians can exert their power.  First they invented the declining USSR as the phantom enemy in the '80s and then later the so called Global Terrorism Network. 

The Radical Islamists on the other hand first tried  to get into power using the democratic process so that they could then abolish it. Seeing this threat, the Generals repressed them which led them into declare war on the regimes. When their war didn't get support from people, they declared war on the people who supported democratic process and considered them as fair game for their cause.

The documentary has many funny elements especially with the usage of some film videos and soundtrack. The main players in the archival footage gives all the exposition for Curtis and it unfolds like a tragic comedy. The high point being the fact that Al Qaeda was a term invented by US administration itself in their effort to try Bin Laden in his absence before 9/11 for the Nigerian Embassy bombings. Another one was the new Neo-Con chief of CIA wanting CIA to provide evidence in the '80s for the Soviet Support for various terrorist groups in the World which was based on his readings from a book. When CIA checked the book, it is based purely on the propaganda that CIA itself invented earlier.

I will end with a quote form the documentary itself: 'In a world in which people don't believe in anything, then people who believe in something is their biggest nightmare'.

Rating: 5/5

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (The Baader Meinhof Complex) (2008)

Director: Uli Edel
Writers:  Bernd Eichinger, Uli Edel, Stefan Aust (Book)
Cast:      Martina Gedeck, Moritz Bleibtreu
A look at Germany's terrorist group, The Red Army Faction (RAF), which organized bombings, robberies, kidnappings and assassinations in the late 1960s and '70s.

The portrayal is very raw and the film doesn't take sides. It just shows what they were without any glorification unlike how it usually happens with the films that deals these kind of subjects. I thought the second half was much better when all the main characters are imprisoned and their minions outside progress from one fuck-up to another.

The term Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is also used to refer to frequency illusion in which a word or thing that recently has come to one's attention suddenly appears everywhere with improbable frequency. I am also experiencing the same with what I have been viewing lately with the Adam Curtis documentaries and getting familiarized with the '70s.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Doors: When You're Strange (2010)

Director: Tom DiCillo
Narrartor: Johnny Depp
A look at the late '60s and ealry '70s rock band The Doors, including rare exclusive footage.

The documentary only uses archival footage and some footage that Jim Morrison himself shot are spookily apt for this documentary. They have also chosen in Johnny Depp, a good narrator for the Jim Morrison story.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, February 1, 2013

Turks fruit (Turkish Delight) (1973)

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writers:  Gerard Soeteman, Jan Wolkers
Cast:      Rutger Hauer, Monique van den Ven
Language: Dutch
The film is a love story of an artist and a young woman, starring Rutger Hauer and Monique van den Ven and is based on the novel Turks Fruit by Jan Wolkers.

The characters are portrayed in a cartoonish way and in certain aspects the film reminded me of Polanski's Bitter Moon which came out much later. It is one of the most successful films of the Dutch Cinema.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Century of the Self (2002)

Writer & Producer: Adam Curtis
This British Television documentary focuses on how the work of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud and Edward Bernays influenced the way corporations and governments have analyzed, dealt with and controlled people.

It is essentially a retelling of 20th century Anglo American history (Majorly American) by focusing on how Freud's ideas and psychoanalysis shaped it. Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, used Freud's ideas that humans are essentially irrational beings, to help corporate sell to them product they don't need by stoking their desire. He is also considered as the father of Public Relations, which essentially is a tool for propaganda. The bubble that led to depression and the rise of Nazis in Germany are put into context. Then there is the post war era of mass produced goods after which in the 70's, backlash against Freud's ideas caused the rise of individualism. This was again exploited by the businesses by putting into use Maslow's idea of Hierarchy of Needs and Self Actualization. This was also used in politics by Reagan and Thatcher to rise into power. The last episode in this four part series focus on how Democrat and Labour parties embraced the idea to come back to power and thereby undermining their own ideologies.

It is a great documentary and a must watch. The entire thing is available on Youtube and is posted above.

Rating: 4.5/5