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 30, 2011

Definitely, Maybe

An urban love story. New york and the interesting political climate of the 90s form the backdrop of an otherwise ordinary story. The creators have tried to inject a sense of mystery by hiding the identity of her mother from a child so that the whole movie could be passed of as a child's cryptic bedtime story. Somehow unlike the child the viewers never get drawn into the mystery. Fail.Then again love stories are always a fail with me. Meh.

Aug 29, 2011

Gaddama (Khaddama)

Women in flight (no, not Amelia Earhart), escaping their wretched existence make good movie material. If they are fleeing Middle-East, the place already has a shady reputation when it comes to women’s rights, it is even more convincing. Or ask Betty Mahmoody. Hollywood took a stab at this subject with Mahmoody’s real life escape from Iran with her little daughter in the film "Not Without My Daughter" adapted from her book of the same name.

Kerala, the Indian state which sends the largest number of workers to the Gulf countries in the Middle East should definitely have some stories, right? But who cares about the stories of maids and ayahs, drivers and construction workers unless there was a Cinderella factor at the end.

Looks like Malayalam director Kamal does. He knows a sellable story when he sees one.  He chanced upon the harrowing real life story of a maid named Subaida from a Malayali journalist in the Middle East, K.U.Iqbal . It had the makings of a best-seller, no doubt. If it was in the US a paperback would have been out first. To Kamal’s credit he put Subaida’s story on fast track, skipping the book stores and direct to the big screen.

Kavya Madhavan gets to play the role of Aswathy, the Khaddama(Gaddama or the house maid), the lead character. Since it is a story of escape, the captors(or the employers) are not shown in a flattering light. Suck it up, one family does not make a country, the director is not here to make generalization he is presenting a story, of which he does a commendable job. He is aided by a set of talented actors including Kavya, Sreenivasan, Suraj Venjaramood and Murali Gopi. Kavya as always, has acted well, she is such a seasoned actress. Then again this is like "the" default role for a Malayalam actress – defenseless, teary eyed, at the mercy of man- her protector, speaking volumes with huge helpless eyes rather than using real dialogue.

It was interesting to get a peek into the social fabric of Middle East composed of two distinct layers (maybe more if you count the Western expats, but I am not going there)– one, of the rich natives and a nether world of their coterie of servants and aids, two streams running parallel but never polluting each other by crossing. Khaddama is a window in to this sub strata of Middle Eastern society, made up of foreigners, whose survival in the desert is at the mercy of their rich Arab employers. Definitely worth a watch.

Aug 24, 2011

My Top Ten Hollywood Movie Recommendations of 2000s or A Movie 101 for N00bs

If someone who is new to this whole Hollywood business(any takers? aliens, you guys listening, maybe they are already watching our movies before they have their earthly releases, anyway), wants to know what are the best movies to watch to get an intro about the 'stuff' that goes on in Beverly Hills, then this list will be useful. And oh yes, the requester has also put in a conditional clause - only the movies made in the last decade or so. This eliminates some movies I desperately want to include like Office Space, Happy Accidents, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, American History X etc, but I can always have a list for each decade, right?

Unlike me, I hope all the readers (if there are any) will be more considerate and won't blame me if this list includes more English movies made outside Hollywood than the native-born and bred ones. So here is my list of top 10 Hollywood / English movies of the noughties which defies any sort of sorting.

In Bruges: Con men in Belgium. Comedy dunked in powerful script.

Hot Fuzz: Action + Comedy, no one does comedy better than the Brits, they are learning to do low-cost action that looks good.

Inception: Brain crackling entertainment, a mega movie Hollywood style.


Kick-ass: Comic book lovers and those waiting for second comings and super heroes, this one's for you.


Idiocracy: The closest you can get to time travel in the US, brilliant low budget caper.

Babel: Multiple narratives racing against time, Inarritu directs for a global audience.

Avatar: If you missed Dances with the Wolves, this one's even better, it is set in a different planet!

Blood Diamond: Ladies, this is the one about your engagement / wedding rings.


Source Code: Included because I watched it recently and it is fresh in my mind.

White Chicks: I love black(oops, politically incorrect, shame on me) comedy with white titles.

Aug 12, 2011

Paul

Paul, the movie is more English than American. Paul, the alien, is well…an alien who wears shorts and talks street-smart English in the voice of Seth Rogen.  This is going to be a biased review because I am awed by the creative aura of Simon Pegg – Nick Frost duo. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People are all nerdy movies I recommend to other people.

Greg Mottola – the director of Paul has a very different take on films, his movies Superbad and Adventureland were as American as it gets, but nerdy nevertheless. Paul therefore had to be an interesting product, a fusion of British humor and American nerdiness.

Paul does not disappoint. The British lads (Simon Pegg & Nick Frost) land at Comic Con in San Diego and take off on a road-trip through the sci-fi ridden landscape of America’s Areas 51 through 100 and all that comes after that. On the way they give lifts to a friendly alien and a bible quoting All American Girl (Kirsten Wiig.) Their interesting social encounters provide insights into differences between things American and non-American. Paul is not Hot Fuzz, but it is definitely a good entertainer.

Aug 10, 2011

Source Code

In another world this movie might be called 8 Minutes. Somehow that reminds me of Eminem and 8 Mile which is totally irrelevant to this movie because in this world it is called Source Code. Computer geeks amongst us might think the story may have something to do with hacking, computer programs or how the mighty can be brought down to its knees by changing a few lines of code here and there. Others might have visions of neon green 1s, 0s and other related jumble scrolling down their giant flat screens. This movie is not about that either.

Although the core of Source Code is a scientific break-through which facilitates a short rewind of time in the minds of those involved, the story asserts again and again through its characters that it is not dealing with time travel. What it is about is, the human longing to outlast beyond our times, to poke a finger into the great beyond and feel what it is like, even if it is for a tiny fraction of time. Jake Gylenhall gets to push the envelope on life as Captain Colter Stevens in Source Code where he is supported by Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan and Jeffrey Wright.

This must be what a romantic sci-fi story should be like, we are not talking about the boy-meets-girl kind of romance, though shades of that is there in this film. It is romantic as in the yearning for life, being so overwhelmed by the beauty of it that brainy scientists develop source code for life (in terms incomprehensible to most viewers including myself but that’s beside the point.) It is a starry eyed what-if of alternate worlds and thwarted disasters thrown on the face of the audience by director Duncan Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley. It is the soothed ache of soldiers who get to say their last words to the people they intended to deliver it to. In short Source Code is pure desire for life and all that is beyond, a sci-fi romance at its best.

Aug 5, 2011

Traffic - Malayalam Movie Review

Is this the first multi-narrative movie in Malayalam? I do not remember watching any other good one. (Good being the operative word – I am thinking of The Metro which was released a month before Traffic and was a letdown on all fronts.) It is an easy formula for success, provided you have a fast-paced story to back it up. Alejandro Inarritu's Death Trilogy - Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel employ this narrative style to keep audience at the edge of their seats while raking in awards and box office bucks. Even the Hollywood namesake of this movie, Traffic(2000) is also a multi-narrative movie. It looks like Malayalam Traffic also fared predictably as its illustrious predecessors and gave back the producer - Listin Stephen, his dues and more.

Bobby and Sanjay, the writers of Traffic get the credit of bringing a new wave of stories and narration to Malayalam cinema. Remember Notebook, a boarding school drama with a touch of seriousness, just like a Malayali would like to have his movie with his parippu vada and chaya and a topical issue with some gravitas – a teen pregnancy in Notebook. Unlike Notebook, Traffic does not really allow the viewer to relax before introducing a somber twist. Traffic is intense in the story department with a frantic build up within a fixed time frame which is a pre-requisite for multi-narrative story lines.

One of the benefits of having intertwining plots is the variety of acting talent viewers will get to see representing equally important characters. Traffic has Vineeth Sreenivasan, Asif Ali, Rehman, Sreenivasan, Sai Kumar, Kunchako Boban, Sandhya, Lena, Anoop Menon and others sharing screen time. Except for the Namitha Prasad, the actress who played Rehman’s 13 year old daughter, who looks too old for 13(and we know the movie is not about 13 going on 30) everyone fits well into their roles.

Traffic is interesting because it is the first successful movie of its kind in Malayalam. The inevitable fate of this kind of success is a deluge of movies made in the same mold for a foreseeable future. In such a case, Bobby, Sanjay and director Rajesh Pillai can be held responsible, in the mean time - enjoy the movie while the theme is still fresh.

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