Monday, September 1, 2014

Wrapping it up: August

Another month, another wrap-up post full of this month's viewings. For the first ever, neither have I written a Blind Spot entry for this month yet nor did I publish this post on last day of respective month after keeping that tradition for more than two and half years. But more on that later. Let me get to films I saw last month first...


L'enfant(2005): This month's Blind Spot. I was under impression that this would be my first Dardennes film. It was one of the reasons I added it to this year's list. I realised it later that I have seen The Kid with a Bike(2011) which is a Dardennes' film as well. First thing I realised after watching this is this film can be a check list for Dardennes. Hand held camera - check, lower class characters struggling to make ends meet - check, father-son relationship - check, no score - check. Made me even more excited for Two Days, One Night(2014).

The Immigrant(2014): It feels like we have been waiting for this film for like forever. In most cases, it would mean this film is doomed in one way or the other. You can say that for this film as well since it did not get much of a theater run and went to VOD pretty soon. I don't know numbers but distribution wise I don't think this is a good sign. At least, it wasn't doomed quality wise. It has a stellar cast and they have deliver stellar performances. You can say it's too serious but given the subject matter, I don't see any other way.

Ida(2014): For past few months, I haven't watched many foreign films. For some reason, I don't feel like watching them anymore. I am already in 2014 mode in the middle of the year, which I usually get into somewhere around end. I seriously hope this is just a passing phase because turning my back on so many great films would be an absolute shame. I am hoping films like this will help me get back on that horse. And better the quality of these films, more they help. Ida was a great help. Best thing about it was the quietness with which it presents even the most dramatic moments of film.

Un Coeur en Hiver(1992): Quick show of hands. How many people here know any such film exists. I don't care if you haven't seen it; raise your hand even if you know this film exists. If not for Josh, even I wouldn't. But it is one of those lesser known gems that I am so happy to have seen it. There are so many great films this one reminded me of but most of all - In the Mood for Love(2000) because of suppressed sexuality of leads, unforgettable music in the film and exquisite looking Emmanuelle Beart.

Dead Poets Society(1989): After the shitty news we all got this month, this was mandatory! Robin Williams was probably 1st Hollywood star I knew by name. Jumanji(1995) was one of my childhood favourites and I used to watch it over and over. This was one of his legendary roles I had not seen and I had to correct this. To tell you the truth, there is no reason why this film should work? It's sappy to the core. But it does! Perfectly. And given that everyone loves it, it is not just an emotional response to recent tragedy.

Edge of Tomorrow(2014): Now this is my kind of blockbuster! Lot of people loved a lot of different blockbusters released this summer. I was cold on most of them but this was totally my type of film. This was Groundhog Day(1993) with human existence at stake and I think they pulled it off very nicely. But I hate the fact that I need a film to remind me that Emily Blunt is a great, versatile actress. I really hope with Into the Woods(2014) later this year, she gets recognition she has been deserving off for years.

Mildred Pierce(1945): I can't be sure but I don't think I have seen a movie in which I've hated almost every single character like I did in this one. Don't get me wrong - I completely understand that's exactly what director was going for and I like it as a film, especially Joan Crawford, but first thing I will remember about this film in future will be I hated everyone in this film, not that I liked Crawford's performance. To be fair, I didn't actually hate Mildred but she definitely frustrated me.

Queen(2014)(Hindi): Bollywood is going through a female empowerment phase this year. I mean, there are many female centric films released this year and they are even doing quite well at box office. Queen released early this year was probably the first of this year's lot. Kangana Ranaut, lead of this film who is really good in it, is going through a reincarnation of her career and this role has helped her a lot. I liked the concept and most of its execution. If not for Amsterdam leg, which I thought dragged a lot and was very cliché; I would rate it even higher.

X-Men: Days of Future Past(2014): So I spend whole summer watching films people praise and rolling my eyes over how did they like this? And then I see two blockbusters in a month I like. I still won't call it a great film or anything but it delivered on everything I would expect from summer blockbuster. It is possible that since I have seen almost all X-Men movies before, I was into it but I didn't have any major problem with it. Plus, it has a great cast of new and old which certainly helps elevate it a notch up.

Don't Look Now(1973): This film bleeped on my radar since Talaash(2012). I would have called it one of the best horror films, since even though it did not genuinely scare me, it did create create a great environment and constantly kept me at the edge of my seat wondering what is going to happen next, if only I understood that ending. I am still not sure what really happen there - it just dropped suddenly, out of no where. But Julie Christie - I have only seen 4 or 5 of her performances but I love every single one of them. That's really something!

Veronica Mars(2014): I knew this wouldn't be 'One of the best of the year' type films but I quite liked series despite some of its flaws. So this was one of my most anticipated of the year films. I wouldn't say I am very disappointed because my expectations were in check from start but it still could have been better. My main problem was everyone looked rusty including Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas. Case involved was definitely best part about it but there were too many distractions from it which worked in series format but never really paid off here.

Suddenly, Last Summer(1959): I am very surprised that it took so long for me to know there is a movie featuring both Katherine Hepburn and Liz Taylor together. But as soon as I knew about it, I didn't waste any more time getting my hands on it. As much as I was excited to see two of the best actresses together, best thing I can say about this film is I am still trying to wrap my head around it. I literally have no idea what to make of this film, especially of that ending despite really great acting by both Taylor, Hepburn as well as Montgomery Clift.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier(2014): I feel like this movie is a complete fanboy material. I constantly felt like watching a typical high budget South Indian masala movie which needs, sorry, demands unequivocal suspension of any disbelief. Only good thing about it is because of high production value, it makes even the most ridiculous thing look damn good. Call it my chronic disability but I have never been able to enjoy that sort of thing. That is exactly why I can never watch those south Indian films, neither can I get into any Salman Khan movie. This was no better.

Happy Christmas(2014): I watched this film primarily for Anna Kendrick and while she isn't bad in it, my primary takeaway from it would be Joe Swanberg's son. If you have seen this film, you'd know how amazing that kid is. However, reason why I would rate it so low is screenplay. It never went anywhere. I don't feel like any of the characters went through any transformation or we learnt anything different about them that we didn't know in first 5 minutes of it. It just starts and ends without giving us pretty much anything. 

Draft Day(2014): I watch American football. I understand the game but even then I will not say that I understand process of their draft and that fascinates me. So this movie was quite interesting to me; you can even say I was target audience for it. But extremely predictable and over sentimental nature of it made it an opportunity lost. You always, always know where this is going to go and what any character going to do long before anyone in this film actually makes any decision. That makes it a boring watch after a while.

Total Count: 15. 15 First Time Watches and 0 Re-watch .

2014 YTD Count
Total Count: 132. 124 First Time Watches and 8 Re-watches.

So the reason I was only able to watch 15 films this month and couldn't do Blind Spot post and this post in time is new job I started today. Because of that, I spent my last month at old job doing KTs and transferring all other responsibilities. Plus, juggling all pre-joining requirements at this job turned out much more taxing than I thought it would. So, blogging took back step, though I do hope to have my blind spot entry up by this weekend. I have already seen the film.

Now good thing about this job is it will pay me hell lot more than previous one used to and, since I wouldn't be job searching anymore, would allow me to devote my free time to do things that I want to do - like watch more films. :). Bad thing is it will take almost 12 hours of my day straight up. Even worse is the fact that about 2 and half of those will be spent traveling. I need to find productive ways to utilize that time or else I am not going to get anything done! Lets see how this goes.

So, how was your month? Did you see anything interesting? What do you think of the movies I saw? Any favorites?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation Blogathon

So Chip Lary at Tips from Chip tagged me to participate in the Six Degrees of Separation Blogathon, another great blogathon started by Nostra at My Film Views. Basic aim is I will be given two actors who I have to connect in not more than six steps.

This is a list of those who have tried their hand at this thing before it was passed on to me:
Drew from A Fistful of Films (Charlie Chaplin to Jason Statham)
Sati from Cinematic Corner (Jason Statham to Michael Haneke)
Alex from And So It Begins (Michael Haneke to Stephen Dillane)
Steven from Surrender to the Void (Stephen Dillane to Ingmar Bergman)
Chris from Movies and Songs 365 (Ingmar Bergman to Toshiro Mifune)
Josh from Cinematic Spectacle (Toshiro Mifune to James Stewart)
Shane from Film Actually (James Stewart to Spike Lee)
Tom from At the Back (Spike Lee to Birth of a Nation)
Jay at Life vs. Film (Birth of a Nation to Daniel Bruhl)
Steve at 1001plus (Daniel Bruhl to Vinnie Jones)
And Chip at Tips from Chip (Vinnie Jones to Jean Gambin)

What Chip assigned to me is to connect Jean Gabin to none other than, Amitabh Bachchan. Well, probably not many people would know who that is but he is, in Chip's own words, the biggest ever star in Indian films. And he is absolutely right.

I have been following this blogathon on many other blogs I follow and I have even tried connecting two people before. So I was obviously excited when Chip tagged me. However, I was put into precarious position because of the connection given to me. The thing is, I had no idea who Jean Gabin is until Chip tagged me. Call me stupid but even after I looked him up on IMDb, only film I could recognize in his filmography was La Grande Illusion(1937) which I have never seen. That puts me in a disadvantageous position.

I also would have loved to follow rules Chip set forth like choosing films I have seen or choosing film where two actors involved at least share screen once. But since I have not seen any Gabin film, at least my first connection has to be a dart in blind. So I decided not to be too hard on myself and call it a link as long as two actors involved have a credit on IMDb. This is how I arrived from Gabin to Bachchan - 

1. Jean Gabin worked with Paul Mercey in Archimede, le clochard(1959)
Now this connection is a complete guess. I do not know either of the actors involved, nor do I know anything about the film and it was a complete happenstance that I got this link. But as I said due to my lack of knowledge about classic French actors, I have to do with it.

2. Paul Mercey worked with Eli Wallach in The Brain(1969)
Now this link was a real breakthrough for me and I was lucky to get this as well. But once I got Wallach, I got next connections in a matter of seconds.

3. Eli Wallach worked with Kate Winslet in The Holiday(2006)
Eli Wallach(May he rest in peace!) is best known for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly(1966) and rightly so. But first time I remember watching him in was in this one and I still associate him with it first than Good, Bad, Ugly.

4. Kate Winslet worked with Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road(2008) and Titanic(1997)
duh! Just look at them.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio worked with Amitabh Bachchan in The Great Gtasby(2013)
Now you will remember him, right? Yup, Wolfsheim. Gatsby's friend that supposedly rigged 1919 World series. That's him!

And I did it! I feel so accomplished, even though I had to get help from several sources. Now, who should I pass it next to? Ummm, why not go Down Under? I will pass it to Sam McCosh at An Online Universe. And since we are going there, I will task her to connect Mr. Bachchan with one of my personal favourite Australian actresses - beautiful and funny, Rose Byrne. Have fun, Sam!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wrapping it up: July

Another month, another wrap-up post full of this month's viewings. Lets not waste any time with pleasantries here. Let me get straight to what we are here for. To the movies of this month...


Memories of Murder(2003): Granted, I don't know a whole lot about Korean cinema but I must have seen about 15-20 films, most of them acclaimed at International stage for some or the other reason. Most of them are really good in their own fucked up way but I think this has to be the best one of them all. This is an extremely frustrating movie in a way Zodiac(2007) was but just like it, a really good one. I was feeling every up and down of their investigation in my gut. I am also glad that this was my 100th new to me movie of the year.

Touch of Evil(1958): I haven't seen many Orsen Welles films. Only 2 before this one but I like this one more than other two put together and that includes Citizen Kane(1941). I loved how it sets up the whole story in first 5 minutes and loved how it unfolds till the end and how despicable Hank Quinlan gets by the end even more. It is one of those films I needed a happy ending to because I hated Quinlan completely. I couldn't have bared a thought of him getting away with everything.  

Under the Skin(2014): I feel like I appreciated this one lot more than I actually liked it and that is despite me liking it well enough. I haven't seen most of Jonathan Glazer's work but looking at it from outside, they don't look easily accessible. Neither is this one. I would say that this was one of the best movie watching experiences I had. While it was quite different and still kept me interested till the end, there were many things in the film that I wasn't exactly sure of. Maybe that is the biggest allure of this film.

Nymphomaniac: Vol I(2014): With the notable exception of probably only Shame(2011), I usually can not see beyond sexually oriented films as anything but. Nymphomaniac was another exception. Like most of von Trier's films, it was slow and rather monotonous narratively but for once it felt like von Trier's extremism was put to good use here as it felt about so much more than just sex. It was about love, loss, loneliness and lust. And Stacy Martin gets naked A LOT but is absolute revelation.

Jalsaghar(1958): This month's Blind Spot and my re-introduction to Satyajit Ray's filmography after I saw Apu trilogy about two years ago. First two installments of Apu Trilogy were first two films Ray ever did and this one was third. It is really hard to believe that when you see how well thought, how well crafted all this movies are. Why wouldn't he make a film if he had such a clear vision of what he wanted? I am not sure if we will know answer to that question but we can only consider ourselves lucky that he did. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes(2014): I am actually very torn on this one and I fully expect this rating to drop as the year goes by. On one hand, I think this is a great blockbuster mainly for its technical achievement but at the same time, it also feels very stifled by being a mere blockbuster. It feels like it had chance at greatness, if they worked a bit on making screenplay a little less cliched. It looked great on screen to see them get there but I always knew where this was going.

Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani(2013)(Hindi)(Re-watch): Lets just take a moment to contemplate scarcity of the situation here. I have not only re-watched a film, it is a Hindi film. Last time that happened must have been back in... I don't even remember. But this film, for me, is a living proof of you don't have to be out of the box to make it good. This tells me that you can still take a same old story and make it worth audiences' time. All that matters is doing it well and Ayan Mukharjee proved once again that he certainly can.

Bad Neighbours(2014): I will freely admit that I was not much excited for this film. I am not the biggest fan of Seth Rogen, I really think that Rose Byrne is much better than comedies she keeps appearing in and neither Franco Jr. nor Zac Efron have any traction for me. I only saw this because a lot of people liked it and surprisingly, I quite enjoyed it. It was exactly what I expected it to be but thankfully, it never went overboard or even get corny, though I could have done without Jimmy and Paula's overacting. 

You're Next(2011): It was one of those films you randomly put on and keep on watching just because you feel like it. Even this is quite a rarity for me but not as rare as recent Bollywood film re-watch. I wasn't feeling much while the family stuff was happening around. It felt rather contrived. But once they got to killings, aka part where most films feel same old again, it became quite awesome. And now we know that Sharni Vinson can dance and fight. Hopefully, she will soon get to serious acting.

Batman(1989): This is first Batman film I have seen outside of Nolan trilogy. So I am sorry if I unfairly compare all Batman films to them but that's literally the only reference point I have. I wouldn't say I loved this film but there was almost nothing about this film that I didn't like. It is very '90s but I don't see there was any other way to it. It isn't great either but I blame Nolan for getting my expectations sky high. And I also see where Nolan got his inspiration for a lot of The Dark Knight(2008) Stuff. 

The Dirty Picture(2011)(Hindi): Like Dawn, I haven't really decided whether to like this one or hate it. It can go either way. There is some sort of rawness to this film which, if done purposely is a good thing but, I am not exactly sure is there consciously. My biggest problem is Emraan Hashmi's acting in this film is better than Nasseruddin Shah's. That would require an exceptionally incompetent director. Vidya Balan, on the other hand, was absolutely on fire, though she made me uncomfortable at various times.

Divergent(2014): In my opinion, biggest hurdle this movie had to face was to get out of it's identity as other The Hunger Games(2012) because as much as someone might want to deny it, it is obvious that this is an attempt to reap the fruits of recent YA craze. Frankly, I am sure book might have a lot more background to set up this dystopian world properly which would be crucial to get you interested and it is not a bad film but this doesn't offer much beyond usual. And ending feels really rushed.

The Amazing Spider Man 2(2014): Despite being a sequel of a franchise that didn't really need a revival so soon, I was down for this one from start for two reasons. One, I quite liked first one and more importantly, second, Emma Stone. I think biggest problem with this film is its mediocrity from start to end. It is not really bad but it is really not good either and sometimes that's worst thing you can do. There were aspects of it that I liked but most of it never went anywhere interesting. Plus that ending means I have no reason at all to look forward to third one.

The Double(2014): I can take weird movies. I can go on watching them even if I have no idea what's happening in it. I didn't know what was happening in Under the Skin most of the time but I not only kept watching it, I gave it 4 stars above. But it loses me when I get bored of it in between and in that sense Richard Ayoade's latest lost me completely around half way line. I was so out of it that when the climatic moment came, I didn't care for it at all. I don't even remember it less than 10 days after watching it.

The Raid 2: Barandal(2014): I really did not care for it. It had few decent fights but it was more gory, cringe worthy than exciting for my taste. I think first one worked much better because of it's hand fights that wowed me. What wowed me here was incompetence of all the actors involved. Gareth Evans goes way over the top way too often and while I can give him credit for finding disturbingly creative ways to hack people into pieces, all it really did was turn me off. Plus, first had at least believable presence of story. This one is wafer thin at best.

Total Count: 15. 14 First Time Watches and 1 Re-watch.

2014 YTD Count
Total Count: 117. 109 First Time Watches and 8 Re-watches.

For no apparent reason, I went on mini-binge of watching 2014 movies this month. It is mostly because some of them are late to get here and some released earlier this year are available otherwise. I am still surprised by how much I liked Nymphomaniac and I have only seen 18 so far but it is leading the pack currently. I want to part 2 as soon as I can, while part 1 is still fresh in my mind. Otherwise, it would be business as usual.

So, how was your month? Did you see anything interesting? What do you think of the movies I saw? Any favorites?
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