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When it comes to the historical epic, Hollywood has not had much of a
successful run over the past few years. Big budget productions from
directors like Wolfgang Petersen and Oliver Stone have left a bad gash
on the historical epic genre. Leaving apart the historical accuracy of
the films which could stir up elaborate debates by themselves; Troy was
far from satisfactory, and Alexander was just plain sad. The only
exception was Zack Snyder's beautifully stylized 300.
Mongol is an offering from Russian film-maker Sergei Bodrov known for his Academy Award nominated work Prisoners of the Mountains, nominated for the Best Foreign Film category. That perhaps is the only similarity between these two films of his. Mongol was nominated in the same category in 2007.
Mongol tells us the story of young Temudjin, of how he became the great Khan, Genghis Khan. The major part of the story is a telling of his early childhood and his growing up by Temudjin himself, now in captivity. Being a story of his growing up, most of the emphasis lies in lessons, learning the ways of life. To fear, to be brave, to defy, to make friends, and so on and so forth. The film shows us Temudjin's slow transformation from being the oppressed son of a Khan, awaiting death once he his found by his enemies who want the crown of Khan, to his becoming the great Khan himself.
The film's lead Tadanobu Asano, playing the role of Temudjin is considerably good. But the one deserving more credit is Sun Honglei who plays Jamukha, Temudjin's 'blood-brother' who became his enemy. Sun Honglei is a revelation. He commands attention with his screen presence. His role is a lesson in how to control the glare of the camera. Apart from some solid acting, the film has a brilliant background score, often haunting; and some top notch cinematography. The fight sequences are exceptionally well-made, and some of the landscape shots are beautiful. The camera tracking in the war sequences toward the end of the film deserve special mention.
Recalling Troy and Alexander, Mongol is a far superior film, from all angles. It shows everything it wants to in graphic detail in its mere two hour run-time. It has an extremely fast-flowing narrative which ensures that the viewers are never tired or bored of what is going on on-screen.
Mongol is only the first of a trilogy on Genghis Khan, and it is a very very good start to what promises to be an epic story. The second installment, The Great Khan is due out in 2010.
8.5/10. Worth it.
At the present times, when the film and film-making in general has
undergone such a drastic change that more often than not, a major
portion of the viewers is accustomed to a film with either action, a
lot of humor, exceptional chills, over-the-top stories, and so on and
so forth. The very root of film-making seems to have been forgotten.
The film, we must remember, is also an agent of communication. It puts
forward a message. Good Night, and Good Luck is such a film.
As we hear David Strathairn's Edward R. Murrow speak, we are reminded of the positive points of what we call television. He asks the public not to underestimate or overlook the fact that television has a potential to inform and educate. Good Night, and Good Luck is basically a political drama, playing out an event that took place in the early 1950's in the Columbia Broadcasting System. The war of words between CBS' broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and Republican U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. It is more of a docu-drama with actual footages and dialogue from the happenings.
Directed by George Clooney, who also stars in the film, Good Night, and Good Luck is completely in black and white. It is exceptionally stylized. The repeated shots of Strathairn holding his cigarette, the light reflecting off his well-oiled hair, and his chiseled expressionless face; the glare he gives the viewers at the end of each broadcast, is the very point of the film. There is no added material here, no extra ingredients to spice up the events and modernize it, no effort to make it more appealing except for giving it the actual look and feel of the 50's. Almost the entire film is inside the CBS newsroom, or its adjacent offices. The music that occasionally plays in the background is more often than not a part of the diagesis, perhaps a jazz recording, or a broadcast in an adjacent room.
Then there is Edward Strathairn's performance. Flawless. His acting, more than anything else, takes us into understanding and realizing the consequences of the events that are taking place. The calm yet ruthless nature of him, the clarity with which he speaks in the broadcasts, is perfect. The supporting cast is also top notch with the likes of Frank Langella, Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson. Frank Langella is exceptionally brilliant in the sequence in his office with Clooney and Strathairn.
At ninety minutes, the acting and the stylization make the film a visual treat. It is however suggested that one be informed of the events that the film portrays beforehand. It is the mere representation of an event; without any explanation, any commentary, any justification whatsoever. The film never tries to be something it cannot. It is not meant to be an entertaining action-packed film. It's action lies in the play of dialogue between characters and the facts that the conversations eventually reveal. It is man against man. One trying to bring out the truth about the other. It is a debate. It is a fiery battle of words between two men. It is about one man who dared to tell the truth, and went to all ends to bring it out into the open. Good Night, and Good Luck is a detailed and accurate account of the feud between broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.
In 2004, the creators of the box-office hit Independence Day came out
with another apocalyptic science-fiction film. Roland Emmerich's The
Day After Tomorrow soon became one of the highest grossing films of all
time. The crisis brought into account something that the entire world
had been avoiding and hushing up for quite some time. Global warming,
although indirectly, was finally being addressed to. Critics however
did not much agree with the scientific accuracy of the film.
Nonetheless, the destruction the film showed, opened eyes.
In 2006, came out a documentary on global warming. The piece was written by former United States Vice President Al Gore. An Inconvenient Truth was not merely a film on global warming. Not only did it address the entire topic at point blank, it also did not make the use of computer generated graphics to show us the crisis we were facing. Finally, the issue that the world might indeed be on the verge of chaos, the fault being our very own, was coming out into the open.
An Inconvenient Truth, apart from being an eye-opener by the time it ends, is also a film made with a lot of care. Just by looking at Al Gore throughout the entire screenplay, one notices the flawlessness with which he talks about the issues of rising CO2 levels and the state of the earth at the time of the last Ice Age. Even if The Day After Tomorrow was termed as scientifically inaccurate, it showed us things which, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, one will realize were right. The known fact that students have learnt in school, about the temperature rising and the melting of the polar ice-caps resulting in a rise in sea-level, which eventually drowns low-lying areas, etc etc; is all true. All that and more. A particular sequence in the film shows us Al Gore commenting on satellite images of various low-lying areas of the world- The San Francisco Bay, the area around the rivers of Japan, the Bay of Bengal. Then comes the unexpected turn. The images that follow show us the state these places will be in in less than fifty years time given the continuation of dumping CO2 into the atmosphere at the present rate. The images are shocking, showing us the displacement of over 100million people all over the world. And that, speaking for itself, happens to be just the beginning.
When they marketed the film with taglines like 'Nothing is scarier than the truth' and 'By far the most terrifying film you will ever see' they actually meant it. An Inconvenient Truth beats any blood and gore slasher film when it comes to chills. The photographs of places on earth taken now and decades ago will shock you beyond belief. The change the earth has gone through in the last fifty years is more than the change it went through in the previous thousand. That itself is fact enough to make anyone realize the need for change, and the time at which the chance to act is running out. A very noticeable factor about the film's narrative is that Al Gore explains the entire progress of global warming, its consequences, etc etc; almost in layman's terms. More often than not he uses cartoons to explain the situation and bring it to life. The technique not only adds as a comic relief, but it also acts as a more effective explanatory technique ending with the realization of something dire. Making the truth all the more difficult to handle. It is a contrast that he uses to full effect.
An Inconvenient Truth also shares with us the life of Al Gore. One gets a very warm feeling listening to his story, right from the start. From where he lived, to how he grew up, and all for the purpose of showing us how much he wants us to care for his cause, how much he wants to see this world care about itself. It's very easily noticeable, how much effort the man himself has put into this project. The fact that the entire team have dedicated their heart and soul to this cause shows very clearly. This is not a film. This is a lesson. A lesson about the wrongs we have done to our planet, and the consequences we must face unless we rectify them. A lesson that everyone on the face of the earth should learn to see what Mother Earth is going through at the cost of our progress. It is time to face the music.
At the end of the film, contrasting the image of the Earthrise, which is perhaps the most influential environmental photograph ever taken, Gore talks about another photograph (the one above). It is a photograph taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft taken from a record distance of 6.4 billion kilometers away. Known as 'Pale Blue Dot', the image is exactly as its name tells us. It is the Earth, lost in the vastness of space, a small dot in the middle of nowhere. An insignificant speck on the face of the Universe.. Or is it?
The closing credits of Children Of Men starts with the laughter of
children, echoing a line spoken in the film itself - 'Very odd, what
happens in a world without children's voices'. That line itself sums up
the shocking nature of the film. This is not make believe science
fiction. This is not human beings turning into zombies due to some
drug. This is the slow death of the human race. This is humanity which
has not heard a child's voice in almost two decades. This is chaos.
This is disorder. This is dystopia. And amidst all that, this is hope.
Children Of Men sports all the characteristics of an action-packed science fiction film with its outstandingly orchestrated long and drawn-out single-shot action sequences, it's grim setting, the hinted darkness which is present throughout the length of the film, the beautifully grim and dead and at the same time uplifting background score and soundtrack. It is all that, and it is more. Within, lies hope. Lies faith. Lies redemption. Woven together with spellbinding perfection by director Alfonso Cuaron, Children Of Men is an apocalyptic film that raises the bar for films of the genre.
Based on P.D.James' 1992 novel of the same name, Children Of Men is an extremely well-written and well choreographed piece of cinema. The screenplay, most of the credit for which goes to Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton is an absolute gem. Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography takes you to an entire different level in the art of film-making. The action sequences are brilliant. The picturisation, perfect. It is a relatively small film supporting an immense story. At an hour and forty four minutes, it never ceases to be jaw-dropping.
The year is 2027. It has been almost twenty years since the birth of the last human being. Starting of with the death of the youngest living human on earth, we are thrown into a world of turmoil. A world where human beings are grasping onto whatever hope they might have left. People are glued to the telecast airing the death of the youngest living human on earth. And hope, it seems, is fading away, ever so slowly. What Cuaron succeeds in doing at point blank is something we have already witnessed in some science fiction films of the decade. It is the same as what Spielberg did in The War of The Worlds, it is the same as what Abrams did in Cloverfield. We are tossed into the middle of a horrific crisis with no hope whatsoever of question or recovery. It takes us a few minutes to realize what exactly is going on. And therein lies the genius that makes this film brilliant.
The films boasts of some fine performances by Clive Owen and Michael Caine. Michael Caine, there for only a few sequences is a treat to watch. Oana Pellea, who plays Marichka the gypsy deserves special mention. She plays the character, who perhaps, gives you a feeling of hope. She cannot communicate much, yet she goes out of her way in order to help out as much as she can.
Children Of Men is simply a treat to watch. It is a film that will put you on the edge of your seat. It is a film that will get your heart racing. It will get you involved. There will be scenes that will shock you, scare you, awe you. And all to show you something even greater. Something even more important. You will feel the pain. You will feel the fear. You will feel the helplessness. You will feel the human race clawing for a grip at the edge of humanity. And at the end of it all, there will be hope.
There Will Be Blood is visionary director Paul Thomas Anderson's
adaptation of Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil!. Set in the early
1900's, it tells the story of a man's ruthless quest for power and
wealth during Southern California's oil boom. It was nominated for
eight, and won two Academy Awards.
There Will Be Blood is, simply put, a powerhouse lasting two and a half hours. By the time it ends, one cannot help but be awed at what has gone on on-screen. Daniel Day Lewis, known for churning out the greatest performances by any present day actor, is at his vicious best. After roles like that of Christy Brown in My Left Foot, and Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting in Gangs of New York, he is back, and with more to offer. It is a treat simply watching him on screen. He is credited for being the most selective actor around, and for good reason.
Expect P.T.Anderson's best work till date as well. Topping masterpieces such as Magnolia and Boogie Nights is not an easy job. So we would think. There Will Be Blood is a whole new arena to what Anderson can do as a screenplay writer. Certain sequences in this gem of a film stand out as particularly magnificent. The background score played during the derrick fire sequence is beyond description. It is a few minutes of perfection. Haunting. Expect to go wide-eyed. The cinematography top notch. The rhythm and motion, in perfect harmony.
There Will Be Blood is a story about ambition. Greed. Hatred. About a man who is so self absorbed that he cannot imagine anything apart from what he wants. And he does everything he possibly can to get it. The shock of what the film shows is stays for a while after one has seen it. Not merely because of the actions it shows us, more because of the ways and the circumstances in which the actions have been performed. From greed. From whim. From madness. Daniel Day Lewis' Daniel Plainview is such a man. And his performance puts forward to us as much of him as it possibly can. It is simply shocking.
The character of Eli, portrayed by Paul Dano, deserves special mention. Especially for the way it all comes out in the last 20minutes of the film. Another brilliant sequence there. Paul Dano does marvellously to keep up with Lewis in this particular sequence in the film. It is hard to believe that anyone of his age can stand up to Lewis in so powerful a sequence. The last 20minutes of the film will leave you speechless. It is a lesson in acting and cinematography, in editing and sound mixing. It is a film in itself. There Will Be Blood is a masterpiece that deserves a lot more respect and credit than it has received.
And I quote Daniel Plainview from the scrumptious final sequence : Did you think your song and dance and your superstition would help you, Eli? I am the Third Revelation! I am who the Lord has chosen!
There Will Be Greed. There Will Be Vengeance. There Will Be Blood.
After all the success and box office smash of a relaunch to the Bond
Franchise, Quantum Of Solace comes in with low expectations, the
smallest run-time for a Bond film, an absolutely new and original
script, a name suggested by none other than the star of the show
himself, and a truckload of critics waiting to write it off as 'just
another Bond film which could not live up to it's former'.
Michael G. Wilson's plot and Marc Foster's direction creates an all new Bond. All over again. If Casino Royale re-invented James Bond, as a character. Quantum Of Solace redefines him as a human being. Once again, we must bear in mind the Bond of the old days. One who has a License To Kill, is devoid of all emotion whatsoever, who has gadgets coming out of his toes, who lives the sweet life, and one who is never to be harmed. Well, here, Bond is already, as Mathieu Amalric's slithery Dominic Greene puts it, 'damaged goods'. As is his new partner, Olga Kurylenko's Camille Montes; with a scarred back (very noticeable. believe me!). They both put themselves through danger for very much the same reason. They are merely different people.
For more firsts.. Quantum Of Solace happens to be a direct continuation of Casino Royale, kicking off minutes after where the previous left us. It is not written by Ian Fleming. The script, the work of Michael G. Wilson. The name, inspired by the title of a short story from For Your Eyes Only.
The song for this one, Another Way To Die, performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys, is decent. Definitely has a better feel to it in the opening credits rather than in the original video. And similar to Casino Royale, it is the tune that runs through the length of the film. The film is an hour and forty six minutes of edge of the seat stuff. It hardly lets you breathe. The direction, bearing in mind the amount of action it has, is of the highest quality. Quantum Of Solace is, if truth be told, a solid action entertainer. Don't think about Casino Royale while or before or even after watching it. Don't compare. Never compare. Standing alone, Quantum Of Solace is a good film. It is a follow up. The lies, the betrayal, the hatred, the wounds, everything from the previous, gets carried into this one. Whatever happens, happens because of whatever has already taken place before. I recall something I've been taught in film studies class - Cause and effect. Direct relation.
Daniel Craig, I repeat, is still the perfect Bond. After this, it seems more like he was born to play James Bond. The ice-cold blue eyes, the fear-anger-hatred he portrays with them, his sheer physicality, the dialogue delivered as calmly as possibly, the expressionless face - it's all in the eyes. Craig, till Casino Royale came along, is the Bond we never had (all due respect to Sir Sean Connery). Mathieu Amalric is the bad-guy who wouldn't have been had they still been following the old norms of Bond. Much like Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre. He is perfectly slithery. Olga Kurylenko has that fineness in her too. Almost like she was made to play Camille. She's brutal, cold in her own way. Yet she too is vulnerable. She too happens to be damaged goods searching for revenge.
You lost someone? Find whoever who did it? Let me know when you do. I'd like to know how it feels.
With Quantum Of Solace, to James Bond, is added more feeling. More emotion. More brutality. More reality. And the people who undertook this uncertain venture have definitely gone all out in trying to successfully reboot the Franchise. Quantum Of Solace is a good sequel to an even better film.
Stranger than Fiction is a 2006 dramedy film directed by Marc Forster,
also known for directing films such as Monsters Ball, Finding
Neverland, The Kite Runner, and the upcoming Quantum of Solace. It is
written by Zach Helm. It stars the extra-ordinary talent of Will
Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Queen
As the narrative states early on in the film, Will Ferrell's character, Harold Crick, is all about numbers; and this story, is about him and his wristwatch. The weird intervenes when Harold starts hearing the voice of the narrator in his head, narrating his every move. All this, unknown to the narrator herself. The concept is taken from Miguel de Unamuno's Spanish novel, Niebla. However, Zach Helm's screenplay is extremely well written, perhaps worthy of much more praise than it got. There are numerous double-meaning references in the film which one would probably miss at first viewing. Stranger than Fiction is a film which demands numerous viewings to spot out any flaws. The film is so perfectly made than one could often find oneself looking for flaws in it, which aren't there at all.
Will Ferrell has never been better. His role as the suddenly frustrated man who many think has gone nuts because of the intervention of that voice in his head, is brilliant. Then there are Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman, who seem to have been miscast, but a few seconds into their roles, the roles seem made for them. They own their characters. Like I said before, everything in this film seems too perfect, and also, too simple. There is also a very cute, nice chemistry between Ferrell and co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal. Every one of the characters seem to share a beautiful chemistry between them.
Stranger than Fiction lies in the league of films like The Truman Show, Fincher's Zodiac; all amazing in their own way, but simply not for everyone. Hence their underrated-ness. This, remember, is a story about a man named Harold Crick, and his wristwatch.
8.5/10. Loved it.
A Wednesday is a film about an idea. The idea of one man. An idea by
one who can make a difference. And it is about what that one idea can
accomplish. It is directed by Neeraj Pandey and was released by UTV
Spotboy Productions. It stars Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Jimmy
Shergill, Amir Bashir, and Deepal Shaw.
The script of A Wednesday is extremely well written, as is the screenplay. Sanjoy Chowdhury's background score is gripping, as is Fuwad Khan's cinematography. With numerous uncanny camera angles and slow motion shots with involving background music, A Wednesday is technically brilliant. The acting could not have been better. Naseeruddin Shah is a revelation, as is Jimmy Shergill. Anupam Kher also does a good job. The fact that the characters are absolutely involved in the situation makes it more of a treat to watch. The flow of dialogue and human emotions is perfect.
A Wednesday is Neeraj Pandey's vision portrayed to perfection by Naseeruddin Shah. There isn't a moment throughout the two hour film when you will not be involved. There isn't even time for you to look away. It's thrilling, keeping you on the edge of your seat, from start till end. It will get you thinking. It will shock you. You will be awed, and you will thank yourself for seeing this film. It's only that good.
Welcome To Sajjanpur comes from visionary director Shyam Benegal. It
stars Shreyas Talpade, Amrita Rao, Ravi Kishan, Ila Arun and a whole
host of others. Benegal, popularly known for his parallel films, with
Welcome To Sajjanpur, shifts to a comedy/parallel film. The touch of
realism/naturalism in terms of social and political conditions is
unmistakable in this film, and more often than not, it is the base of
The most flashy thing in Welcome To Sajjanpur comes even before it's opening credits. The UTV Spot Boy banner. From then on, everything about the film is primitive. It's setting. 'Some' village which was once called 'Durjan'pur, but was renamed by Nehru himself to Sajjanpur. It's people. Mostly uneducated. There is a man who portrays a doctor in the film, but he appears in a grand total of one scene. There are the numerous bai's and mausi's, and Ramsingh's and Ramkumar's (among the numerous Ram's whom the narrator speaks of in the introduction, while brushing his teeth with a twig). The comes in the superstitions. I shall only speak of the one that says a girl must get married to a 'kukur' (yes, a dog) because she is, well, unlucky (or whatever one calls it when translated into primitive, religious Hindi. Then comes the political state of things. It's election time. There is a eunuch (acted brilliantly by Ravi Jhankal) running for it, along with your gang of gangster-type people who roam about on motorcycles with their 'mamaji's' sitting behind them, carrying a rifle. Etcetera etcetera..
Shreyas Talpade does well as the film's lead. The narrative, always having a comedic spark to it, does not disappoint. The acting is top class. Ila Arun, Yashpal Sharma and Ravi Jhankal are priceless. Also the man who plays the Subedar (damn, i forgot his name). The songs are mediocre. Bheeni bheeni's picturisation is done very well, with what one can only call a dream sequence. Aadmi azad hain acts as the revolutionary (comedy) song, as does Munni ki baari (yes, it was sung after Jhankal's Munni bai won in the election). Kunal Kapoor makes a nice guest appearance.
You wouldn't miss anything if you do not see Welcome To Sajjanpur. It's a decent watch though, which introduces you to certain bits and pieces of primitive Indian thought and action. 6/10.
The Kite Runner is a film based on Khaled Hosseini's bestselling novel
of the same name. It is directed by Marc Foster, and was adapted for
the screen by David Benioff. Most of the film's dialogue is in Persian
Dari, with subtitles for the regional language. English is also used in
the film. It was nominated for an Oscar for Alberto Iglesias's
The Kite Runner is, simply put, a very good book to screen adaptation. It is so predominantly because of the engaging background score which switches comfortably between Middle-Eastern music and Spanish music. Most of the songs are not in English, and the one that is, is sung by a native. The cinematography is decent, never letting one take ones eyes off the screen. The sequences of the kite-flying tournament are particularly well done. The film is never raw in it's depictions of certain political situations. It is frank. Precise.
Marc Foster, better known for directing Monster's Ball and Finding Neverland, captures moments very efficiently. The actors are all very good, which makes the film all the more fun to watch. Khalid Abdalia, who has previously starred in United 93, is of special mention here. He plays the role of Amir as an adult. The Kite Runner is worth a watch. By the time it ends, a soft smile is guaranteed.
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