The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de motocicleta)

US Presidential hopefuls take RVs, Che went on a motorcycle. The point is you need to go on a road trip to become a successful leader of the people

Ee Adutha Kalathu (Recently)

Strange and familiar make an appearance together for the first time in Malayalam cinema and the pair is a hit

Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl

Four feisty ladies, upbeat music and a handsome conman. Anushka gets Ranveer. Bollywood gets Parineeti

Das Boot (The Boat)

Best WWII film ever, in fact the best war film ever. In true German fashion, restraint is applied by shooting the entire movie inside a U-boat

Neelathamara (Blue Lotus)

Blue lotus shares the same stature of blue moon in Malayalam, so do good remakes. This one bucks the trend.

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Aug 27, 2009

Velutha Katrina (Velutha Kathreena)

Velutha Katrina is a heroine centric movie from 1968 starring Sheela in the title role, directed by Sasi Kumar. Katrina's character is an odd-woman out in her untouchable caste(Pulaya) and the film depicts the atrocities she had to endure due to her skin color. An exceptionally beautiful and fair lady belonging to a down-trodden caste. Velutha Katrina was made into an award-winning mega serial telecast by Kairali channel in 2006, where Sheela returned to play the title character of Katrina. The serial is not a spin-off of the movie. It just utilized name of Sheela's memorable character in the movie and was also the veteran actress's debut vehicle into Malayalam soaps.

Prem Nazir and Satyan are the male leads in the movie. Adoor Bhasi, Bahadur, a very young Kaviyoor Ponnamma playing the character of the mother probably four times her age, Muthaiyya and Meena forms the supporting cast.

Aug 26, 2009


Minnaminnikkoottam is director Kamal's 2008 offering to Malayalam cinema. Having seen a few of his previous works like Goal, Perumazhakkaalam, Gramaphone, Nammal, Niram etc I don't expect cinematic gems from Kamal but bearable movies that click well at the box-office. Most of his movies have a young theme, which means struggling youngsters(struggling against the titans of Malluwood - Mohanlal and Mammootty, who thanks to their physical and 'political' clout wouldn't budge an inch) will get some much needed screen time.
Whenever Kamal strayed from the 'new-blood' subject, he invariably landed with Mammootty or Mohanlal like all the other Malayalam directors. Karuthapakshikal and Ayal Katha Aezhuthukayaanu comes to mind. What impresses me about Minnaminnikkoottam is that Malayalam finally seems to have gotten a grasp of modernity and stylistic sophistication, that Tamil movies display with effortless ease. The film opens in Singapore, with the lead actress Meera Jasmine playing the role of Charulatha, a software employee ruminating about her past friendships. Meera's Singapore wardrobe and the picturization of the scenes are elegant.

 I am totally bowled over by the browser Charulatha uses - Firefox! Agreed the subjects of the film are some 'just-arrived-in-the-scenes' IT workers - hot, hep and in tune with the times. But even in situations like these since the movies are produced and directed by people twice the age of their subjects and therefore totally out of tune with the current times, there is always some pretty serious botch-ups. Not with this one. They use Firefox, IMs, order take-out fastfood and live in stylistically furnished apartments in Cochin - which thankfully are not furnished with polychromatic curtains whisked away from a Priyadarshan set. Set, art direction and costumes of Minnaminnikkoottam justify the money spent on this film.

The story and the actors are not path breakers in any sense, but I can live with that for it is not over the top chocolatey like Lollipop (West Side Story gone bad.) It is filled with young faces to my heart's content - Indrajith, Samvruta Sunil, Jayasurya, Roma, Meera Jasmine, Naren, Radhika and Anoop, in addition to tried and tested old-timers like Sai Kumar, T.G.Ravi, Mammukkoya, Janardhanan etc. Review - ***/5

Aug 24, 2009

In the Heat of the Night

Before Barack there was Sidney - America's most eligible and tolerable black men representing two generations. The kid from Bahamas who spent his teens in Miami, slept in New York city bus stations, became fluent in Russian(!) acts like a force of nature in one of his finest Hollywood performances in this film. Virgil Tibbs, the character Poitier plays in 'In the Heat of the Night' is ranked as one of the top 50 greatest performances by any actor.

It is an engrossing movie. There is the racial tension that flare up when a colored cop from a more liberal Northern state ventures into Sparta, Mississippi - a conservative white dominated Southern town in the fifties and sixties. Then there is the whole thriller part about who is the real murderer which the smart black cop, Virgil Tibbs tries to solve racing against time and luck. A must watch classic.

Aug 18, 2009

The Good Earth

Cinematic recreation of Pearl S.Buck's classic novel set in China before and after the Revolution, which made China a Republic. Only actors who are not Chinese in this Hollywood reproduction are the main characters Wang Lu(played by Paul Muni)and O-Lan(Luise Rainer.)This ambitious venture hit Hollywood gold by winning Academy Award for Best Actress and Best Cinematography (Karl Freund.) It was also nominated for Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture.

Aug 13, 2009

Dark Matter

If you are a grad student in a US university or any university for that matter, this is a must-watch. Dark Matter is an adaptation of a real life incident that took place at the University of Iowa in the early nineties. It deviates from the real incident in some aspects, but the crux of the story, the message it conveys is the same.(In 1991, Gang Lu, a Chinese physics student, disappointed by failure to win a prestigious prize, shot and killed his guide, the award winning student and some other members of the faculty and then shot himself.)

A powerful debut from Chinese opera director Chen Shi-Zheng and written by Billy Shebar, the movie tells the story a brilliant grad student from China whose intellectual flame was quashed by an egotistic academic set-up. Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, an award given to films featuring scientific themes, Dark Matter follows Liu Xing (Liu Ye) as he gets the opportunity to do research at an American university under the patronage of his scientific idol, Prof Reiser(a convincing Aidan Quinn.) Meryl Streep has a superfluous part. It does give her decent screen time. But it'd not have made much difference to the film if her character was deleted out of the film except that, it adds a big name screen persona on the film's posters.

I have always held the opinion(opinions don't cost a thing) that those who can't do, teach. Like in any case there are exceptions. We are not dealing with those here. Professors in universities reminds me of exiled kings singing their past glories and sitting on an imaginary throne in their own virtual worlds where they still remain kings. The rarefied realm of academics provide endless fodder of willing subjects in the form of grad students that these kings torture to no end to nurture their fragile egos which in the world outside their academia wouldn't stand the test of reality. As the film has correctly depicted Asian students make the best 'subjects' for these 'kings' of academic world. They are servile, dutiful and will go on working hard without raising unnecessary questions.

As a member of an Asian community which supplies the largest number of students to US universities I think the portrayal of university life, esp. of a student aiming for a PhD in science, this film has hit the spot. When it came out there were some accusations of the film being racial. Come on, take off your yellow glasses, you are missing the real color.

Aug 11, 2009

The Boy in Striped Pajamas

Mark Herman's "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is based on John Boyne's novel of the same name. It is a good film about the Holocaust, although some parts of it made me doubt whether it was a made for TV movie. Maybe the fact that it was an indie I should not have expected the grandeur of Hollywood as in The Schindler's List.

Literature has had notable contributions from the children of the Holocaust - like Diaries of Anne Frank and Night by Elie Wiesel. This is a similar fictional account from the other side of the fence - by a German kid named Bruno played by Asa Butterfield who happens to be the son of a high ranking Nazi military officer. He strikes up a friendship with a boy in striped pajamas(Shmuel played by Jack Scanlon) who sits behind an electric fence.

It is a wonderful story about the loss of innocence, although the loss strikes at the last minute and is deadly for all those involved. The actors have all given this movie their best shot. A memorable movie about the Holocaust.

Aug 10, 2009

The Life Before Her Eyes

A psychological thriller or a metaphysical journey triggered by a school shooting - The Life Before Her Eyes is whatever you make it out to be. An adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s novel, the heroine Diana is played in two stages of her life by Uma Thurman(adult) and Evan Rachael Wood (as teenager.) Eva Amurri as Maureen, Diana's high school best friend and confidante is a discovery.

It is a delicately taken film, the treatment of the scenes by director Vadim Perelman reminds me of the director creating it like a tender blossom. The almost poetic movie leaves the viewer to derive meaning out of the story. Interesting - 3.5 stars.

Aug 9, 2009

A Wednesday

A powerful understatement of a movie just like its main character played by Naseeruddin Shah, A Wednesday is one of the new crop of intelligent movies to come out of Bollywood. Repeated terrorist attacks in Mumbai have provided sufficient fodder to new-age films of late. Mumbai Meri Jaan and Black Friday comes to mind. A Wednesday is another film that joins the ranks, yet it is unique and different from the other two.

A common man's take on terrorism, film has two stalwarts of current Indian filmdom - Shah and Anupam Kher in compelling roles. It is a restrained film, which tries not to get on to the blood, bomb and gore bandwagon which usually accompanies films with a plot related to terrorism, although the possibility of all three hangs heavily through out the movie. A good one from Neeraj Pandey. Review: ***/5

Aug 8, 2009

Krishna Gopalakrishna

2002 offering from all-in-one Menon aka Balachandra Menon, Krishna Gopalakrishna tells the story of Gopalakrishnan(played by Balachandra Menon) as narrated to Gayathri(Geetu Mohandas.) Gopalakrishnan is confined to bed thanks to a terminal illness. As in most Balachandra Menon films this film also deals with dilemmas and tribulations of married life. I am not much of a Menon fan. Except for his exception performance in Samantharangal, none of his directorial ventures held any charm for me, including this one. He is talented in his own right, but not my cup of tea.

Aug 6, 2009

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

A made for TV movie based on Kim Edwards book of the same name, The Memory Keeper's Daughter is slightly better than the book because it gets over in two hours. I tried listening to the audio book sometime back, but quit after reaching maybe 1/4 the way through because of the way it was dragging on.

A passable movie. Dermot Mulroney and Emily Watson play the main characters. There is not much to act for either of these actors because character development is not a strong point of this movie.

Aug 5, 2009

Books Read: July 2009

A new series of entries with which I intend to catalog the books I read. No reviews, for starters it'll be just cut n paste one line description of each book.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Bea
h :-A former Sierra Leonean child soldier, Ishmael Beah writes about his lost teenage, when he was forced to flee his home. His family killed and village destroyed, Beah was captured by the army and turned into a child soldier. From the burning jungles of Africa running scared and later seeking revenge to the skyscraper city of New York, this is the first-hand account from the front line thru' the eyes of a child who got involved in a grown-up's war, like thousands of other kids like him.

It is in the same lines as another book I read a while back, which was translated from French called Allah is not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma which didn't garner much international fame as Beah's book but is as much descriptive. While Beah fought on the side of the Sierra Leonian army, the protagonist in Kourouma's book Birahima fought on RUF side.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell:- From Publisher's Weekly, "The premise of this facile piece of pop sociology has built-in appeal: little changes can have big effects; when small numbers of people start behaving differently, that behavior can ripple outward until a critical mass or "tipping point" is reached, changing the world. Gladwell's thesis that ideas, products, messages and behaviors "spread just like viruses do" remains a metaphor as he follows the growth of "word-of-mouth epidemics" triggered with the help of three pivotal types. These are Connectors, sociable personalities who bring people together; Mavens, who like to pass along knowledge; and Salesmen, adept at persuading the unenlightened." A very interesting book on pop sociology.

Tokyo Cancelled by Rana Dasgupta
:- A baker's dozen of 'organic' tales set in different parts of the world. Contemporary fantasy?

Aug 4, 2009

Working Girl

These days I am getting re-educated watching old movies from eighties counting back to the sixties. Working Girl came as part of the 'essential eighties' package. What did I come back with, after watching this film? BIG HAIR! Eighties was all about big hair. Melanie Griffith, Joan Cusack and all the working girls in New York city flaunt it.

The movie has Harrison Ford(the irresistible cutie of the era) juggling with two career women. There is the brunette Sigourney Weaver who shows her dark side as the movie progresses and the blond Melanie Griffith who supposedly has all the brains but is relegated to a secretary job. Griffith's voice, a stereo-typical blond voice makes me want to question her intelligence, but she is the good girl who is wronged by the bad dark haired mean character played by Ms.Weaver.

The movie also has a very eighties sound track. It won the Oscar for the Best Original Song for Carly Simon(how much more 'eightier' can you get than that)'s song, "Let the River Run." Another time pass entertainer.