Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sherlock (2010)

If the commercialism, crudity and the generally botched up characters in Hollywood's latest Sherlock Holmes movies is putting you off, look no further than 2010's 3-episode BBC series, aptly titled Sherlock. In an astute mix of the original stories and new writing, the series takes liberties but adheres to the main characters' details making them easily identifiable and even respectable. Made with the elegance required of its lead character, the series exudes the crew’s love for the character, and the actors’ understanding of theirs. With Season 2 ready for broadcast on 1st Jan 2012 (only 3 episodes again), this is as good a time as any to indulge in this well-made series if you have not watched it already.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DIFF 8 – Day 7 Roundup

14th December 2011 (Day #7)

The last day of the film festival featured a gem from a debutante director and an average documentary by a master film-maker. It certainly could not have been more unpredictable than this!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DIFF 8 – Day 6 Roundup

13th December 2011 (Day #6)

The stats in favor of good movies over not-so-good ones was not looking too good after the first four days of DIFF. But two days have changed that. Including the last two movies I watched on Day#5, I have now seen five movies consecutively that have won me over. Read on for my report on the three I watched today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DIFF 8 – Day 5 Roundup

12th December 2011 (Day #5)

Day 5 peaked in a way I could not have expected. It featured not one, but two stellar movies, one of which is easily the best movie I have seen all year as well as one of the most profound I have ever seen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

DIFF 8 – Day 4 Roundup

11th December 2011 (Day #4)

A day at DIFF when not one movie turned out to be bad is a successful day. Although Day# 4 featured just 3 movies, each of them was by a seasoned director which translated to quality on-screen. Here’s the rundown of the movies I saw:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

DIFF 8 – Day 3 Roundup

10th December 2011 (Day #3)

Five scheduled movies cut to four (I was late for the first), that ended with only three (the last screening was cancelled, more later). Here's what I managed to watch:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

DIFF 8 – Day 2 Roundup

9th December 2011 (Day #2)

In a bizarre coincidence, three of the four movies I watched today were from Japan. The fourth was an Iranian movie. While none of these were gems that I can highly recommend, each had some wondrous qualities to ensure this wasn’t less than an average film festival day. But average it was.

Friday, December 9, 2011

DIFF 8 – Day 1 Roundup

8th December 2011 (Day #1)

The waiting period ends with the start of the 8th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival. This year, a total of 171 movies are being screened during the festival week. It is humanely impossible to see all, yet my schedule for these seven days is as jam-packed as can be. This brings the grand total of the number of movies covered in these daily updates to 25 (more or less, as I include and remove movies from my schedule based on word-of-mouth recommendations). The “In-Focus” program of this year’s festival is on Germany, hence it is most befitting that the first movie I saw was a German movie.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

IMDb link

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Voices of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, others.
Release date: November 03, 2011 (UAE)

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a marvelous movie. It perfectly embodies the beauty of Hergé's unique visuals with modern animation and motion capture technology, all unfurled on screen with producer/director Steven Spielberg's master story-telling and child-like energy. Combining their creative genius, Spielberg and co-producer Peter Jackson (whose studio Weta Digital is behind the visuals) make the dream of Tintin fans everywhere come true by presenting the much loved character and his adventures in the best possible way. While the movie does become overbearing at times, owing to its manic pace, it revels in the wonders and freedom of animation, uninhibited by the constraints a live-action adaptation would have imposed.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Real Steel (2011)

IMDb link

Directed by: Shawn Levy
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Hope Davis, others.
Release date: October 06, 2011 (UAE)

Shawn Levy, director of Real Steel, makes an admirable transition from comedy to mainstream-drama. I say mainstream-drama because, even though the movie is set in the near future, it isn't really much of a Sci-Fi. This future world features fighting robots, but the focus of the movie is on a father-son relationship. Despite the familiarity of many of the scenes, Levy makes it work mainly due to the charismatic lead actor that Hugh Jackman is and the novelty of the backdrop that the story is set against.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

IMDb link

Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, others.
Release date: July 14, 2011 (UAE)

A decade long series comes to an end with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, a grand finale of emotions and explosions as the real and reel worlds witness the final face-off between arch-enemies Harry Potter and Voldemort. As Deathly Hallows: Part 1 suggested, director David Yates pulls out all the stops, giving the audience everything they had hoped for from this franchise climax, and even making up for much that many of the previous movies lacked. Amidst the magnitude of the setting and the action that takes place, Yates never loses focus of the emotional core of the plot, doing justice to the many characters that populate its wizarding world.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Game of Thrones (2011)

Medieval-fantasy has a flag-bearer in television with Game Of Thrones, an excellent first season of what is likely to be a recurring series (other seasons are yet to air and are currently under development). Based on the first book of George R R Martin's Song of Fire & Ice series (4 of the planeed 7 books have been published so far), this is epic story-telling of the highest quality. Much of the credit goes to the author for the rich prose the series is derived from, but equal credit must be given to the show's creators in adapting the book. The performances (down to and especially of the child actors), production value (costumes, locations, sets, effects) and the technical aspects (directing, editing, score) are top-notch.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hollywood 2011 - Part II

In grand Hollywood tradition, here is the sequel to my list from the beginning of the year. The first half of 2011 has whooshed past us, and we stare at the approaching second half. The mixed bag of the past six months couldn’t have been predictable, considering some of the most anticipated movies turned out to be total duds (Hangover 2, Cars 2) while others that seemed not too exciting blew us away (Thor, Fast5). Studios have shuffled their release schedules, upped the marketing on some movies and relegated some to the placid opening months of the next year. All this may be difficult to keep track of, so here’s an *updated* easy-to-follow list for the movies to look forward to for the rest of 2011. The list has pictures too – to easily identify what movies I’m talking about.

Note: All release dates mentioned are for the USA, for the sake of order. They are also, owing to their feminine nature, subject to change.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Green Lantern (2011)

IMDb link

Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Mark Strong, others.
Release Date: June 16, 2011 (UAE)

In a year that has seen two excellent superhero movies from Marvel already with another promising one on the way, rival super-hero publisher DC’s only outing this year is Green Lantern, and what an embarrassing movie it is. While fans of the comic-book hero are bound to be disappointed, the movie does not hold much for those new to the Green Lantern lore either. There is enough of the good-looking lead pair and by-the-numbers action and special-effects to keep the summer-movie audience engaged during its runtime, but it has little to call it a good movie. In an era when the standard for superhero movies has been set by The Dark Knight (the same studio behind Green Lantern as well) this film is a comparatively dismal effort.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Hangover: Part II (2011)

IMDb link

Director: Todd Phillips
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, others.
Release Date: May 26, 2011 (UAE)

The Hangover (2009) was perhaps the most potent comedy of the last decade, putting an excellent mix of characters in an extraordinary situation that lent itself to all the fun. One way of making a good sequel to it would be to take those eccentric characters and put them in a new situation. Another way would be to get a new bunch of characters and put them in the same situation. Unfortunately, The Hangover: Part II does neither, and instead takes the same characters and puts them in the same situation, proving what it exactly is: a sequel made to milk the success of the first. If it was released a few years later, it could just as well have been called a reboot.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Scream 4 (2011)

IMDb link

Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin, others.
Release Date: May 5, 2011 (UAE)

In 1996, Scream smashed the box-office by redefining the concept of horror-slasher movies. Scream 4 attempts to re-redefine the genre, but unfortunately falls into a trap that the original so smartly avoided. While the movie starts off with a cheeky sequence of winks at the audience that promises a good time, it regresses into a standard uninspired sequel complete with exploitation of cheap thrills. In fact, Scream (the original), still serves as the perfect foil for Scream 4, the latter being the kind of movie that the former ridiculed in the first place.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dum Maaro Dum (2011)

IMDb Link

Director: Rohan Sippy
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Bipasha Basu, Aditya Pancholi, Prateik Babbar, Rana Daggubati, others.
Release Date: April 21, 2011 (UAE)

Six years after his sophomore feature, Rohan Sippy brings us Dum Maaro Dum – a movie that has all the right intentions, but fails on a few key points that are too evident to ignore. Its single biggest flaw is the “look”. Sippy has washed the entire movie in a stale yellow palette, giving it the putrefied look of a decades-old film that has not been preserved well. This garish misjudgment becomes a distraction and, worse, deterrent from enjoying the movie for what it should be worth.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)


Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, others.
Release Date: March 10, 2011 (UAE)

Battle: Los Angeles is not, by any measure, an original movie, yet it manages to be engaging. Movies about alien invasions have been done often enough and better. In Battle: Los Angeles, director Jonathan Liebesman does it a little differently: he takes the Cloverfield approach. Instead of presenting the big picture, the focus stays on a small battalion of soldiers and their fight for survival.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Unknown (2011)


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, others.
Release Date: February 17, 2011 (UAE)

Unknown, a thriller set in Germany, starts with an interesting premise but quickly spirals downwards to B-movie shoddiness. Predictable and far-fetched, it also makes convenient use of force majeure to set up and resolve situations that the writers were not creative enough to tackle. Liam Neeson though commands a formidable screen presence and is one of the main reasons the movie does not completely fail.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Black Swan (2010)


Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, others.
Release Date: December 3, 2010 (USA)

Darren Aronofsky again explores his pet theme in his latest film Black Swan – obsession. And again proves his brilliance at exploring the dark depths of this singular emotion. Featuring a superlative performance from Natalie Portman, the movie fortifies Aronofsky’s mastery of the subject and his reputation as an actor’s director.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hollywood 2011

2011 beckons! The New Year is upon us and brings with it a new slate of films that Hollywood plans to unleash upon us. If we are to be willing victims to Hollywood’s need of mass-producing movies and numbing us with their huge marketing machinery, why not take a crash-course on what’s to come our way. Superheroes, aliens, robots, monsters, pirates, secret agents, serial killers, talking cars and even a big fat talking fighting awesome panda are part of the mix. So fear not the unknown of the New Year. Embrace it with the knowledge of the movies it brings us! (Or just print out this list for regular reference).

Note: All release dates mentioned are for the USA, for the sake of some order. They are also, owing to their organic nature, subject to change.