Movie Review – 28 Weeks Later


Directed by: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Cast: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner

My Rating: 3/5

This review was originally written on 30th August 2009.

When I saw the first part of this movie 28 Days Later, I never thought that the director would win an Oscar for a non-horror movie. For me he was a revolutionary horror movie director. But lo! He did won an Oscar and that too this year itself! And who would that guy be? Danny Boyle. Yes I am right. I never thought Danny Boyle, the director of 28 Days Later could ever make a film like Slumdog Millionaire in future. With 28 Days Later he had reinvented the art of scaring the audience. This series contains blood thirsty and surreal zombies spreading unrealistic terror and blood throughout Britain. This is not like any other run of the mill horror movie. It has a really interesting story line and a not-so-crazy screenplay unlike every other horror movie which are just made to scare your ass off! 28 Weeks Later continues from where 28 Days Later had left, except for the fact that it has some more gore and intensity.

After the rage virus destroys the whole of mainland Britain, a US led troops takes control of Britain. It begins reconstructing everything and tries to make the things normal again. All the things are going as planned. The infected people have died of starvation. But still something goes wrong and the whole situation blows out of control. Left with no other options, the commander orders the execution of “code-red” which literary means killing every civilian in order to prevent the spreading of the virus at a larger scale. But how did the chaos begin? What happens next? Go, find it out yourself!

If after watching the movie you were thinking why the hell didn’t the virus wreak havoc in other parts of the world here’s my take: Britain is surrounded by water on all 4 sides, infected human beings and animals can’t reach mainland Europe from that way. Though I suspect whether migratory birds can carry the virus?

28 Weeks Later creates a whole new dimension, when the zombies travels across the English channel in the Channel Tunnel (Wow what brains!!) and reach France (Eiffel Tower can be seen clearly). With this we might be able to see the consequences of virus infecting people across the globe in the next installment 28 Months Later rumored to be directed by Danny Boyle.

What differentiates this flick with it’s predecessor is that it is more violent and disturbing. The scenes of killing are painful to watch especially the massacre scene. The gore content in this movie surpasses that of Saving Private Ryan on my list. This movie is definitely not for people below the ages of 18 years (though they would be itching to watch!) and weak hearted adults.

Rose Byrne & Jeremy Renner were awesome. Robert Carlyle was quite good. But the child artiste’s Mackintosh Muggleton & Imogen Poots as siblings were simply flawless and natural. The background score by John Murphy was as frightening & chilling as the movie itself. I would give 5/5 to the sound department. A special mention must be given to the cinematography and the way the camera work was edited using the latest technology. The movie makes use of computer generated darkness at many scenes which is pretty cool. This is another factor which makes the movie very realistic!

Watch this movie only if you are into horror stuff. This movie might ruin the day for serious movie watchers because of it’s content. I would have given it a 4/5. But I was kinda frustrated by the over the top violent scenes.

Movie Review – Blood Diamond


Directed by: Edward Zwick

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connely, Djimon Hounsou

My Rating: 5/5

This review was originally written on 30th August 2009.

Overview:

Blood Diamond is an over the top violent action-thriller film. It is set against the civil war in Sierra Leone. It describes how the diamond smugglers based in countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe etc to name a few take advantage of the situation in Sierra Leone and sell the diamonds off to European countries at a huge margin. A part of the money they earn is used to fuel more tensions between the rival ethnic groups in the country. One American journalist (Jennifer Connelly) together with a young diamond smuggler (Leonardo Di Caprio) and a local Mende tribesman (Djimon Hounsou) set out together with different objectives. They end up helping each other in their needs and ultimately cracking down on the illegal diamond business.

Was it any good?:

Blood Diamond is an awesome movie! Flawless direction backed by an outstanding screenplay and acting and an excellent background score, Blood Diamond won’t let you settle down for a minute. I liked the way how every part of the smuggling racket was documented in the movie. Leonardo Di Caprio delivered an Oscar worthy performance. It’s about time he grabbed an award at the Oscars. Jennifer Connelly did a fine job as a journalist too. Film’s music is really worth checking out. It added the necessary emotions to this bloody thriller.

Verdict:

Set aside 2 ½ hours of your life, free your mind and enjoy this vintage thriller.

Movie Review – Catch Me If You Can


Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Tom Hanks, Leonardo Di Caprio, Christopher Walken, Amy Adams, Martin Sheen

My Rating: 4/5

This review was originally written on 30th August 2009.

The Steven Spielberg-Tom Hanks pair are known for making one of the most entertaining movies on Earth. Their movies are generally long in duration, very narrative, simple and most importantly very entertaining. Some of the great examples of their movies are: Saving Private Ryan, The Terminal and now Catch Me If You Can. Steven Spielberg’s unpredictable story idea together with Tom Hanks raw talent make an Oscar worthy combination.

I wanted to watch this flick ever since I read about it back in 2002. I never came across any of it’s television broadcast. So, finally out of frustration I bought the DVD. Catch Me If You Can is about a character called Frank Abagnale Jr played by Leonardo Di Caprio, who starts cheating on people and in the course of time becomes the biggest conman of USA. Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) is an FBI detective who is determined to put an end to Abagnale’s activities. After being duped by Abagnale at a hotel, Carl gets an idea about the perfection of Abagnale in duping people.

Every actor in this movie is flawless. I was really impressed by Leonardo’s performance first as a troubled young student and later as a full blown conman. Tom Hanks together with Christopher Walken adds spice to the movie. Tom’s presence in any movie sets the mood of the audience. Martin Sheen is good too but his screen time is very less. Amy Adams was very natural in her acting. Spielberg really picks up the right actor for the right role.

Catch Me If You Can is a great light popcorn flick with heavy emotions. It sets the tempo right from the beginning.

Movie Review – No Country for Old Men

Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen

Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin

My Rating: 5/5

This review was originally written on 30th August 2009.

Overview:

No Country for Old Men is a movie based on a novel written by Cormac McCarthy with the same name. The story describes how a cop discovers a bag full of million dollars at a site where a drug deal went awry. The cop takes all the money and runs away with it. Chigurh, a professional hit-man, wants to retrieve the satchel of money (which contains a hidden radio transponder to which Chigurh has the corresponding receiver). With the help of the transponder Chigurh tracks the cop. What happens next is ought to be seen in the movie !

Was it any good?

No Country for Old Men will blow your mind off with the sizzling performances from all of its actors. Javier Barden is the show stealer in the movie. His portrayal of the character Anton Chigurh is very realistic and is worth every penny of your movie ticket! He won an Oscar for his work in this movie. Josh Brolin as the cop comes second in the department. I don’t think any other actor has the guts to portray the character played by him. The role of a tough cop always suits him (see American Gangster). The movie has a 1980’s touch to it. The barren lands of Texas sharing borders with Mexico adds a cow-boy-movies like backdrop to the film. I give it a 5/5 for the beautiful cinematography. One of the distinctive features of move is that there’s hardly any background music in it. You just get to listen to a bit at the starting and a full length(er) at the end. This makes the viewing experience very different compared to other movies.

Verdict:

No Country for Old Men is a solid movie. Very realistic movie with some of the finest performances of the decade. It won 4 awards at the Oscars. If you have missed this film at the theaters, go grab a DVD.

Movie Review – Slumdog Millionaire


Directed by: Danny Boyle

Cast: Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan

My Rating: 4.5/5

This review was originally written on 23rd January 2009.

Slumdog Millionaire opens the rotten face of India, does it? Does it show the so called “dirty underbelly” of India? Slumdog word is racist as alleged by a chap from Bihar. But really?? If I had one word to describe these comments it would have been a *beep*!!

By no means this movie is aimed at showing the chronic poverty of our nation. Many reviewers have criticized this movie for showing only the dirty reality of the country instead of displaying all those swanky buildings, glittering malls etc.

Slumdog Millionaire narrates a story of 2 siblings & a girl, who rise from the dirty slum life and move into different directions of life. The older brother (“Salim”-played by Madhur Mittal) ends up working for a gangster, the girl (“Latika”-played by Frieda Pinto) ends up as a show girl with the same gangsters and the hero of the movie the younger brother (“Jamal”-played by Dev Patel) ends up living a rather straight life as a tea server in a call center. Jamal reaches the “hot seat” of Kaun Banega Crorepati hosted by an arrogant quiz master Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) who doesn’t want him to win the game. He calls the police to get Jamal Malik arrested on the charges of fraud at the end of day 1 of the show. At the police station Jamal is tortured. He gets a sound thrashing from Constable Srinivas (Saurabh Shukla) and then is subjected to electric shock, to make him speak about how a tea serving slum dweller can give the correct answers.

The movie revolves around the dingy slums of Dharavi. The heaps and heaps of garbage, dogs with flees, young Jamal jumping in a pit full of *beep* (*sic*), Hindu-Muslim riots, pimps, gangsters, rough language is some of the few characteristics of the film which together with the superb cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle makes it an ultra realistic movie. Kudos to the director Danny Boyle and co-director Loveleen Tandon for the impressive direction and superb camera takes which shows the minutest of the details of the dirty slum life. The screenplay was outstanding.

Acting: If I had to rate the performance of the characters I would surely give a high five to the child artists of the movie. Almost half of the movie shows them and their acting was very natural and realistic. Dev Patel was fine too. Frieda Pinto didn’t had too much of screen time but she delivered a good performance. Anil Kapoor was cool. Irrfan Khan as the deadly cop together with Saurabh Shukla gave the top performances together with the child artists. Mahesh Manjrekar looked like a real gangster. He was rough, bad and whatever you may call to describe a gangster. Madhur Mittal as the older brother Salim was quite good.

Sound/Music: Well the music has so many nominations for the Oscars what more can I write!!??!! The sound effects were superb. The background score was creepy good. “Jai Ho” track comes at the end of the movie. The song is classic but I doubt whether it would take away the Oscar. Let’s hope for the best. A.R Rahman proves that he is the best in this field!

Overall the movie shows a detailed insight into the murky life of slum dwellers. Slumdog Millionaire is one of those movies which has a happy ending. It is a perfect edge of the seat thriller wrapped in the ghostly realities of slums. Hightly recommended.

Movie Review – Sunshine


Directed by: Danny Boyle

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Cliff Curtis

My Rating: 2.5/5

This review was originally written on 30th August 2009.

Overview: Icarus II is the second crew sent to the sun with a payload equivalent to an energy recharger for the dying sun. Icarus I was sent on the mission for the same purpose but it disappeared under some mysterious circumstances. While on their journey Icarus II receives some distress signals near Mercury which they think seems to be coming from Icarus I. The crew decides to alter their plans and head towards the signals despite being low on oxygen. When they dock with Icarus I, some of the crew member head inside the spacecraft to search for any survivor. Things are going smooth. They are able to restart the spaceship’s computer. But something happens to them and they are now in deep trouble.

Was it any good?: Yeah, the plot seems to be a really thrilling one. The movie indeed has an interesting storyline. The first half was really a nail biting one. But the problem lies in the second half. It’s very disheartening to watch an astronaut making a serious mistake which puts the life of the entire crew on stake. Characters are killed without any concrete reason. The main problem lies in the fact that despite having a fresh and interesting concept the film suddenly starts intersecting with the plots of some already made sci-fi thriller. If you have watched The Core then you will understand my point. The story writer was probably clueless about how to end this ordeal. He kills the concept with its ending. Danny Boyle tries very hard at making the movie seem to be new affair. But thanks to the holes in the storyline even he fails to provide a satisfactory last 35 minutes or so.

Verdict: When you start feeling that you are watching the best sci-fi flick of the millennium you are hit with a stone. That’s what I felt while watching the movie. The whole viewing experience was marred by the sudden disastrous end to the movie. Not bad but disappointing.

Movie Review – Taken


Directed by: Pierre Morel

Cast: Liam Neeson

My Rating: 4.5/5

This review was originally written on 25th March 2009.

When I started watching this flick, I didn’t knew what was in store for me. The initial 15 minutes of this movie deceived me into a family drama with the kid mad about going on a trip to France and her dad as usual reluctant about her lone travel with her friend. But this dad ain’t a commoner nor is the dark secrets of the dangers lurking out there for the young woman being alone.

Brian Mills (Liam Neeson) is a former spy and knows the risk of sending her daughter to France. He do let her go after giving her a detailed advice i.e what to do and what not to do. But as expected her daughter runs into trouble and is kidnapped by Eastern European traffickers. But these goons aren’t a part of a small module. Their circle is much bigger and much stronger and yes their activities are under the guard of a secret services agent who happens to be Brian’s former colleague. Brian Mills just has 96 hours to protect his beloved before she is lost forever as a sex slave. Will he be able to find her? What are the clues he has in store with him?

Taken is packed to the core with mind blowing action sequences thoroughly mixed together with an equally gripping screenplay and storyline. It has everything that a thriller movie requires: car chases, fist-fights, shootouts, stabbing etc. And these elements often reminded me of the Bourne Series while on play. Perhaps Taken was the only movie that I have ever seen closest to the Jason Bourne series on it’s thrill meter.

The 93 minutes of this movie were very absorbing! Perhaps they were the fastest of my life! Taken is a total entertainer. It’s very thrilling to watch. But there was one niggling element in the movie. That was the background score. It was pretty bland and unimpressive. Perhaps it was the only flaw of the movie.

Liam Neeson is damn cool in his acting and dialogue delivery. It was his first movie for me and I was totally surprised by his incredible performance. Hats off to Liam !!

Overall, it was a kick-ass stuff. It’s a much watch for everybody. I am awaiting it’s theater release in India. And mind you, I would be the first person to book my tickets at the movie hall!

Movie Review – The Happening


Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel

My Rating: 1.5/5

This review was originally written on 30th August 2009.

M Night Shyamalan is known for making slow moving dark masterpieces like “The Sixth Sense”, “Signs” & “Unbreakable”. His movies “The Village” & “Lady in the Water” were pretty average ones. But with “The Happening” we are watching Shyamalan’s worst movie till date. I dunno whether he was on a tight budget or what, but he has completely messed up this time.

The first 30 minutes of this flick were pretty descent if not good. Things were moving in an orderly fashion. We could sense that the virus is spreading and is slowly and slowly becoming airborne. We could see the remaining residents running away from the infected zones. But what follows in the next 60 minutes is something very disappointing, something for which you wouldn’t have had a thought while paying for the tickets. The director completely loses his grip on the narration and starts to deviate towards various alternatives instead of concentrating on the way the things were being described before. The part in which the couple and the child reach the house of an old woman was completely out of context. It was put in an abrupt manner in the best part of the climax. The ending of the movie makes no sense at all.

If you are a hardcore Shyamalan fan don’t watch The Happening (even if you come across any positive review). You will go insane and bang your head at the credits “What the hell was that?” Let this film die in peace.

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0949731/reviews-1186

Movie Review – Wanted (Hollywood)


Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov

Cast: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Kretschmann, Morgan Freeman

My Rating: 4/5

This review was originally written on 1st April 2009.

Right from the onset I was enthralled by Wanted. It is one of the most explosive action movie I have ever seen.

Wanted is a story about a loser Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) who works with a firm as an accountant. His life is hell and nothing seems to be going right with him. He is on anti-anxiety pills and is also harassed by his grumpy boss who keeps irritating him with a stapler and loads of work. He is such a miserly person that together with his best friend his girl friend is cheating on him. But one day his life takes a new leaf when he is rescued by Fox (Angelina Jolie) who happens to be a member of ‘The Fraternity’ a secret society of trained assassins. She rescues him from a rogue assassin Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) who wants to kill him. Cross has also ‘allegedly’ killed Wesley’s father who was one of the assassins working at ‘The Fraternity’.

Wanted is a film with a lot of twists & turns. It’s thrilling narration will keep you absorbed in the movie.It is a suspense thriller with bloody action sequences.. The cinematographer of the movie uses a lot of computer generated effects to give the thrills to the movie.

The movie was also nominated for 2 Oscars for ‘Best Sound Editing’ & ‘Best Sound Mixing’. It’s a cruel irony that it lost out the awards to Slumdog Millionaire. In my view the guys at the sound department did a flawless job in delivering some of the best sounds ever made for a movie. The sound mixing was awesome & added the necessary juice required for an action movie. The heart pumping background score really sent shivers down my heart!

Performance wise going, James McAvoy was surely the show stealer of the movie. I have always been amazed by his expressions. Morgan Freeman’s role was small but important. I hope he gets some longer roles in future. His talent needs to be given more on-screen time in order to really get a feel of what he has in store with him. Angelina Jolie was awesome in her role. The rest of the cast did a fair job too.

Overall Wanted is a nice & sleek action movie. It will surely remind you of the Matrix series, although it’s much more violent. Go enjoy yourself out !

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493464/reviews-637

How my city turned into a battlefield 10 years ago

I remember on the evening of 27th Feb 2002 I was playing cricket with my friends. During drinks, one of my friends told me about this incident that took place in the morning, where a goods train carrying milk was burnt down in Godhra. My first reaction on listening to this was why the hell would someone want to burn down a milk train? That night I joined my dad to watch the daily news to confirm my friend’s story. The news was indeed showing images of a burnt train! It didn’t seem to me like a goods train though. It was a passenger train! Almost 58 people had lost their lives. I was shocked!

What followed next was a series of violent events across the state for the next 2-3 months which literally turned my city Ahmedabad into a battle zone. I was an 11 year old kid whose final exams were approaching. I remember reading one horrific story every day before going to school. The front page of our newspaper used to be splashed with images of vehicles & buildings burning, shops being looted and terms like ‘pitched battle between groups’, ‘stone pelting’, ‘arson’, ‘riots’, ‘police firing’, ‘tear gas, ‘mob’, ‘burning’ etc became very common.

In the first week following the Godhra burning when the riots were on full flow, a curfew was imposed barely 500 meters from my locality where I used to live back then. I remember almost around 50 men from my locality used to wake up all night and patrol with sticks. People had started stocking their homes with essentials like flour, sugar and salt to name a few. Schools and colleges were closed and so was my dad’s office for some time. There were days when the evening sky used to be thick with black smoke coming from a building being burnt somewhere in Vejalpur or Juhapura some kilometres away from our place. There were moments when gun shots were fired behind our house at night to scare the rioters away from the area. A picture of C.G Road, which is the most expensive street in the city, being looted by the rioters was splashed across the newspapers. The topic of gossip in my school turned from cricket or football to a Honda showroom being burnt to the ground on S.G Highway or a Muslim dry cleaner’s shop (whose clients included many of our students and teachers) burnt in Memnagar (the area where my school is located). The atmosphere in Ahmedabad was filled with fear. The only Muslim students (brother and sisters) in our school of 1200 students had to leave the school at the end of the academic year of 2002 as their families had to migrate to another city. Going to the eastern part of Ahmedabad used to be considered as very dangerous in those two months. It is the region having the densest population and it has a mixture of Hindus and Muslims in high numbers as compared to the western part of the city which is dominated by Hindus with the exception of areas like Juhapura (one of the largest Muslim ghetto in Asia) and Sarkhej. There was a riot every now and then in these regions. In 2003 when I was passing through Godhra on my way to my home city Chandigarh I saw the S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express which was burned down in the attack.

If you come to Ahmedabad in 2012 you won’t be able to believe whatever I’ve written above. If you’ve lived outside the state and have relied on the newspapers to create an image of the state in your mind based around the riots you’ll pleasantly surprised. The state of Gujarat is not new to witnessing riots. There used to incidents of violence every 4-5 yrs before 2002. However, since 2002 there hasn’t been a single case of rioting in the last 10 years. This shows that the focus of people has indeed shifted towards the development and the betterment of their society. Part of this shift should be attributed towards the efforts of the government for bringing in projects and investments from across the world. The results are showing. The city has transformed from the debris of the earthquake and the ashes of the riots to become the fastest growing city in the country and the third fastest in the world according to Forbes. Its probably one of the safest city to live in the country. The people are so friendly and are willing to go the extra mile to help you.

However, there is still a question mark upon the rehabilitation of the people affected by the riots. The local government is being repeatedly maligned by people across the country for its handling of the situation. They could’ve done much much more to control the situation. But they didn’t. How can you let such thing happen in your own state? The government’s efforts in the development of the state is often overshadowed by the violence of 2002.

The city had hardly recovered from the earthquake when the riots happened. It was pulled to the ground in 2001 earthquake and burned back to the same ground in the 2002 riots. The years 2001 and 2002 will go down in the history books as perhaps the worst ever in the 602 years of the city.