Saturday, 24 June 2017

''American Beauty'' (1999 film)- Review

Directed by: Sam Mendes
Released: 1999
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

Very few films can portray the hollowness of existence as eloquently as ''American Beauty'' does. The protagonist, Lester Burnham (played by Kevin Spacey) is a frustrated advertising executive. He finds no pleasure, no reason to live for. His wife, Carolyn (played by Annette Bening) is a real estate broker. Carolyn is very ambitious and career-oriented and becomes extremely devastated whenever things don't go according to her plans in her career.  Their daughter, Jane (played by Thora Birch), doesn't have a close bond with either of her parents. She, as it appears, is frustrated too. When Lester meets Jane's best friend Angela (played by Mena Suvari), he becomes infatuated with her, with Jane finding it creepy, causing it to develop more aversion on her part towards her father. A family moves in next door- the family consists of the homophobic Colonel Frank Fitts (played by Chris Cooper), his wife Barbara (played by Allison Janney) and their son Ricky (played by Wes Bentley). Ricky carries his video camera around and Jane discovers that he has been recording her.

All these people suffer from emptiness, hollowness and despair. Even the characters who initially seem happy are devastated inside, as several secrets are revealed over the course of the film.

''American Beauty'' has a sophisticated melody of its own. The way Kevin Spacey narrates the film, the excellent screenplay and the gorgeous cinematography give it a strange beauty. The film is about people who are unhappy, people who aren't satisfied with their lives at all and the frustration of the characters whose lives become interlinked eventually results in tragedy. 

There is opportunity for happiness is all around but people fail to realize it over and over again. Some aren't happy with what they get, some aren't happy with the kind of lives they are leading. The thing that matters the most in life is happiness and one has to search for that happiness instead of giving in to frustration. Emptiness is such a horrible thing and one has to find ways to get rid of that emptiness.

The characters we meet in ''American Beauty'' aren't exactly the kind of characters you can get to love. But at the same time they are characters you feel sympathy for, because of their visible frustration. It is an extremely thought-provoking film. 

 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

''Insomnia'' (2002 film)- Review

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Released: 2002
Country: United States

Genre: Psychological thriller

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review

Two detectives, Will Dormer (played by Al Pacino) and Hap Eckhart (played by Martin Donovan) arrive in a town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. They are assisted by the young Detective Ellie Burr (played by Hilary Swank). While investigating the murder, however, a sudden accident changes the course of everything and Will is terribly haunted by what happens and things get even more complicated when he manages to guess who might have killed the girl.

The sun never sets in the town. Daylight remains even when it is midnight. The strange daylight terribly haunts Will after the sudden accident.

The entire film is very atmospheric, very well executed. The atmosphere is perfect for a great psychological thriller. Psychologically, the film is pretty intense and I really appreciated that.

However, what bothered me about the film was that the great atmosphere keeps promising a twist or just something much more than meets the eye. Perhaps a connection between the murder and the accident. Or a sudden revelation. I kept waiting for that moment and it never came. That is something that really bothered me. A film as atmospheric and psychologically intense deserves a way better ending.

That said, ''Insomnia'' is a good psychological thriller and it is definitely well-acted (excellent performances by Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank), well-directed and well-written. I expected more from it and was not entirely satisfied with it but it is a good film anyway.


Sunday, 18 June 2017

''Miracle on 34th Street'' (1947 film)- Review

Directed by: George Seaton
Released: 1947
Country: United States

Genre: Comedy-drama, Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''Miracle on 34th Street'' is such a lovely, cute little film! It is a film that is bound to bring a smile to anybody's face.

Doris Walker (played by Maureen O'Hara) is a single mother. She has always taught her daughter, Susan (played by Natalie Wood) to be practical and realistic. As such, Susan does not believe in fairytales. She does not believe in Santa Clause. When an elderly man calling himself Kris Kringle (played by Edmund Gwenn)- hired by the company Doris works for to pose as Santa Clause- claims to be the actual Santa Clause, many people think that he is either lying or he is slightly unstable mentally. While Kris- who moves in with Fred (played by John Payne), a neighbor of Doris'- tries to introduce Susan to fairytales and fantasies (with some help from Fred, who has apparently fallen in love with Doris and also wants to introduce Susan to the colorful world of fantasies and fairytales- several people are skeptical about Kris' identity. What does it eventually lead to?

''Miracle on 34th Street'' is a charming and heartwarming film. It definitely is. I loved it! Kris is so cute! Edmund Gwenn delivers a splendid performance and so do Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and Natalie Wood. Such a lovely film it is!   

Saturday, 17 June 2017

''Memento'' (2000 film)- Review

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Released: 2000
Country: United States

Genre: Psychological thriller, Mystery, Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

Christopher Nolan's ''Memento'' blew my mind. It is such an intelligent thriller, so twisted, so very layered and brilliantly presented.

The protagonist, Leonard (played by Guy Pearce), has anteograde amnesia, which means his mind cannot store recent memories. He, however, does remember everything up to the point of his wife's death. His wife was raped and murdered and he was terribly injured while trying to save his wife, resulting in his anterograde amnesia. Now he is looking for the person who was involved in the assault. Over the course of the film we keep on getting puzzled and surprised, as the film unfolds itself and reveals its secrets. Who exactly is Teddy (played by Joe Pantiliano), the person who claims to be his friend? What is the intention of Natalie (played by Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who offers to help him?

I am not going to say anything about the chronology of the film. I am not. If I have to sum up the film in one word the word that will come to my mind is 'brilliant'. It is so very intelligent and the way the film unfolds itself is truly amazing. The final twist left me very impressed, very much so. This is the kind of film which demands a second watch. I watched it for the second time right after I finished watching it for the first time. Knowing the twists and revelations I admired the film even more than I did during my first watch. It is such a very layered, perfectly presented, excellently directed, beautifully directed, excellently-acted, BRILLIANT film.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

''Rebel Without a Cause'' (1955 film)- Review

Directed by: Nicholas Ray
Released: 1955
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''Rebel Without a Cause'' reminded me of everything I love about films. It is such a very powerful and riveting film that I found myself loving it and it has surely become one of my all-time favorite films.

Jim Starks (played by James Dean) has recently moved to a new town with his parents. Jim is frustrated and feels that his parents don't understand him. We are introduced to two other teenagers, Judy (played by Natalie Wood) and Plato (played by Sal Mineo). Judy feels slighted by her father. Her father never pays her the attention that she wants from him. She feels that her father does not care for her anymore. Plato is extremely lonely and longs for friends, which leads to frustration that often causes him to become violent. On Jim's first at school, he is bullied by a boy called Buzz (played by Corey Allen).  Jim is humiliated when he is called a chicken (signifying a coward) and then gets into trouble with Buzz, something that results in a severe tragedy. Traumatized and feeling guilty about the tragedy and also deeply affected by the frustration they have to go through everyday, Jim, Judy and Plato form a close bond over the course of a single evening, while the outside world that has never understood them keeps haunting them, something that ultimately results in a tragedy.

Here are three characters who want to belong somewhere, to somebody. They have never felt that sense of belonging anywhere. Finally, the three of them find one another. Perhaps, they think, this is what they have been looking for? This kind of friendship and emotional bond had been missing in their lives, and when they finally find one another they discover that they can finally expect to let go of the loneliness that has been haunting them.

How can a film possibly be this much emotionally overpowering? I have seen films about loneliness and frustration and the discovery of someone who fully understands you, but very few of them were as powerful as ''Rebel Without a Cause''. The film knows just how to explore the subject. And when it comes to the characters, the success of character development depends on whether you can feel emotionally attached to them and want to spend more, much more time with them. ''Rebel Without a Cause'' fully succeeds in that. James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo are excellent in their roles. The film makes us want to spend more time with Jim, Judy and Plato. It makes us desperately want a happy ending for the three characters we get to love. We anticipate a tragedy of some kind or other but we just don't want it to strike, we just want our characters to be happy.

These are universal themes- frustration, loneliness, communication gap and the eager desire to belong somewhere. The world is a complicated and lonely place and we are all looking for acceptance. It is tragic if teenagers- at an age when they are at the peak of the emotional development- find that there is now a distance between themselves and their parents, that they don't know just who they are, what their identity is, where they belong, who their friends are.

Teenagers often ''get into trouble'' when they find acceptance nowhere. It is the duty of others- particularly parents- to be compassionate and understanding towards teenagers. At the same time, we- whether we are children, teenagers or adults- go on looking for belonging and acceptance and once we find it, we feel a sort of fulfillment we have never felt before. ''Rebel Without a Cause'' thus explores several themes that are identifiable and understandable. It is one of the best films I have ever seen. 


 

Friday, 9 June 2017

''The Devil's Backbone'' (2001 film)- Review

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Released: 2001
Country: Spain, Mexico

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Drama, Fantasy

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review

''The Devil's Backbone'' is set during the Spanish Civil War. The story takes place in an orphanage run by Caseras (played by Federico Luppi) and Carmen (played by Marisa Paredes). The authorities and the teachers try their best to protect the children from the horrors of the outside world. When a new boy, Carlos (played by Fernando Tielve) comes to the orphanage, he eventually comes to realize that there are secrets and an unsolved mystery in the orphanage.

''The Devil's Backbone'' had a Gothic, dark atmosphere and since I love anything Gothic, I really admired this film. I admired the atmosphere. I found the gradual revelations fascinating. While I did not love, love, love the film, there was a sort of haunting poetry running throughout the film. There were atmospherically tense moments but ultimately, the film culminated in a rather sentimental ending. The atmospheric horror film turns out to be an extremely touching and emotionally powerful film. It still haunts me when I think of it.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

''Aparajito'' (1956 film)- Review

Directed by: Satyajit Ray
Released: 1956
Country: India

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''Aparajito'', Satyajit Ray's second film, is a sequel to his first, ''Pather Panchali''.

Harihar (Kanu Banerjee) and Sarbajaya (Karuna Banerjee) and their son, Apu (Pinaki Sen Gupta) have moved to Varanasi. Although there is poverty and a lot of troubles, they are initially happy but then, suddenly, Harihar dies. Sarbajaya is left to fend for herself and her son. They move to Sarbajaya's hometown, a remote village. The film follows the difficult lives of Sarbajaya and Apu (the adolescent Apu is played by Smaran Ghoshal) and how Sarbajaya has to come into terms with the painful changes once Apu moves to Kolkata for his education.

''Aparajito'' is quiet and unpretentious but the characters go through and display a wide variety of emotions. The most powerful performance is delivered by Karuna Banerjee, who plays Sarbajaya. You can feel the pain she feels when her son- the person she is still, after all the troubles she has been through (including the death of her daughter and husband), bravely facing life for- goes away to Kolkata. We can feel her longing for her son, the loneliness she goes through. Apu, too, is a character with depth. There is a scene- right after Sarbajaya and Apu move to the village- when Apu can hear the sirens from a train and rushes to see it passing by. Emotions are reflected on his face. What is he thinking of? Perhaps the time- depicted in ''Pather Panchali''- in which he and his elder sister had run to see the train passing by? When he decides to move to Kolkata, little can he imagine the loneliness his mother will go through. Being a teenager with little experience with human emotions, he can hardly comprehend his mother's emotions- something that he eventually comes to regret.

''Aparajito'' is a deeply moving and powerful film. 

 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

''Brokeback Mountain'' (2005 film)- Review

Directed by: Ang Lee
Released: 2005
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic drama, Western

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

Ennis Del Mar (played by Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) first meet in the 1950s, when they take jobs as shepherds in the mountains of Wyoming. Eventually, they find themselves falling in love with each other and begin a relationship. However, they have to part once the summer is over. Ennis marries Alma (played by Michelle Williams) while Jack marries Lureen (played by Anne Hathaway), the daughter of a well-off businessman. Several years pass, Ennis and Jack both are settled in their lives and then they decide to reconnect. In an era when social attitude to homosexuality is mostly negative- and also because they both have families- they try their best to keep their relationship a secret, but this relationship goes on to impact the lives of themselves and those of the people around them.

''Brokeback Mountain'' is such a breathtakingly beautiful film. The chemistry between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal is perfect and extremely touching. The film explores the various complexities of human relationship and human nature. Ennis and Jack love each other but they cannot reveal that to anybody- partly because of the society's attitude to homosexuality, partly because they have families. Alma- Ennis' wife- has no fault but she feels emotionally shaken when she comes to know that her husband is carrying on a relationship with another man- and it is natural for her; she cannot be blamed in this case. Nor can Ennis be blamed. This is where life has brought them to. This is just how complicated human nature is. Or perhaps it is not the people involved who are wrong- but it is the society that is to be blamed here? Would Jack and Ennis have to go through so much trouble in the first place had the society not been so intolerant?  Couldn't they continue their relationship, instead of getting married? They would have been so much happier had it not been for the society. Ultimately, their relationship- and repressed feelings- made them suffer and made their families suffer- because nobody can ever be happy leading a double life.
 
The screenplay is excellent, the performances (particularly those of Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Williams and Hathaway) are great and the cinematography is beautiful. ''Brokeback Mountain'' is a heartbreaking, emotionally overwhelming and deeply beautiful film.





Saturday, 3 June 2017

''All About Eve'' (1950 film)- Review

Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz 
Released: 1950
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''All About Eve'' starts in an awards show- the Sarah Siddons Award- that recognizes the best in theater. The young Eve Harrington (played by Anne Baxter), a rising actress, wins an award. Several people present in the ceremony recall how Eve made her way up the ladder- and the story is told in flashback.

Just a few months before, Karen Richards (played by Celeste Holm)- the wife of a famous playwright- had seen Eve waiting outside a theater. A play starring the famous theater actress Margo Channing (played by Bette Davis) had been taking place there. Karen had seen Eve waiting outside the theater before and Eve told her that she had seen every show of the play so far. When Eve expressed her admiration for Margo, Karen was impressed and took her to Margo. Margo was impressed by Eve, felt pity for her (as she said that she had lost a husband in the war and had evidently not had a very smooth life) and took her under her wing. Although initially very fond of Eve, Margo eventually started to feel insecure. Margo had been feeling insecure about her age and career lately (now being in her forties) and Eve's beauty, charm and youth seemed threatening to her. Although others around her thought that Margo had no reason to feel this way, Margo's insecurity grew over the passage of time and it also became evident that had certain plans up her sleeve.

Oh, how I loved ''All About Eve''! I loved the way the story eventually unfolded. I loved the way the characters were developed. I loved everything about it: the story, the screenplay, the way the film is narrated, the performances, everything. This was the second time I watched the film- I had first watched it back in 2013- and this time I loved it way more than the first time! 

The performances, the characters. I have a great deal to say them about them. The performances of the women, in particular, really impressed me. Bette Davis is simply great as Margo Channing. You can understand her, you can understand the reasons for her insecurity and fears. I loved the way Anne Baxter played her character. We eventually get to know the true nature of Eve and when we do, we cannot help being shocked. Celeste Holm, as Karen, is wonderful as well. Thelma Ritter shines in her small supporting role as Birdie, Margo's protective maid.

Gary Merrill plays Margo's boyfriend Bill, Hugh Marlowe plays playwright Lloyd Richards and George Sanders plays theater critic Addison Dewitt. All of them- particularly Sanders- are excellent in their roles.

I am glad that I decided to rewatch ''All About Eve''. I loved and appreciated it way more than I did during my first watch. It is a great film.

 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

''The Martian'' (2015 film)- Review

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Released: 2015
Country: United States

Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Review

Due to natural calamity, astronaut Mark Whatney (played by Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars. The other members of the mission, believing him to be dead, leave Mars. Mark is, in fact, alive and survives in Mars by managing to grow food and make water there. When scientists come to know that Mark is still alive, they must find a way to bring him back to the earth.

''The Martian'' is in many ways very innovative and interesting. Matt Damon's performance is great and the film is in many ways a really good survival film. I loved the way Mark manages to find ways to grow food and make water. I would definitely recommend the film to those who like sci-fi and even adventure and survival films.

 There is one thing, though, that I really disapproved of. There is a scene in which Mark is treating a wound and this is shown pretty graphically. It could have simply been implied instead of being portrayed so explicitly. The film is supposed to be watched by both teenagers and adults and not everybody can endure such graphic scenes. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

''Stagecoach'' (1939 film)- Review

Directed by: John Ford
Released: 1939
Country: United States

Genre: Western, Drama, Adventure

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

I started watching ''Stagecoach'' without knowing what to expect from it as I have only watched a few western movies. This film, however, left me impressed and deeply moved.

Several people start a journey to Lordsburgh on a stagecoach. They continue their journey even after they come to know that there is trouble ahead, that Apaches might attack them on their way. The people on the stagecoach are Dallas (played by Claire Trevor)- who happens to be a prostitute, Lucy Mallory (played by Louise Platt)- who is expecting to meet her husband on the way (her husband is in the army), Doctor Boone (played by Thomas Mitchell)- a doctor who often drinks, Mr Hatfield (played by John Carradine)- a gambler, Mr Peacock (played by Donald Meek)- a whiskey salesman, and Mr. Gatewood (played by Berton Churchill)- a banker. The stagecoach is being driven by Buck (played by Andy Devine), who is accompanied by Marshal Curly Wilcox (played by George Bancroft). Curly is accompanying the stagecoach because a fugitive, Ringo Kid (played by John Wayne), has escaped from penitentiary and is traveling to Lordsburgh to have his revenge on the person who killed his family members. Curly is searching for Ringo. They come across Ringo on the way and Curly arrests him. They continue their journey, knowing that there is danger ahead, that Apaches can attack any time, and on their way they slowly get to know more about each other and learn to leave their prejudices behind and accept one another.

''Stagecoach'' is a deeply moving film with great character development. My favorite characters were Dallas and Ringo. I felt so sad and infuriated when I saw the other passengers of the stagecoach initially treating Dallas with prejudice and hatred. Although she is extremely goodhearted, her fellow passengers initially neglect and ignore her just because of her occupation. Nobody bothers to ask her opinion. When Dallas sees that Mrs. Mallory (who happens to be pregnant) is feeling unwell, she offers to sit beside her so that she (Mrs Mallory) can put her head on her (Dallas') shoulder. Mrs. Mallory, influenced by her social prejudice, refuses. I felt so overwhelmed when I saw Ringo caring for Dallas. ''What about the other lady?''- he demands when nobody bothers to ask Dallas' opinion. Eventually, a deep bond develops between the two of them. The other passengers of the stagecoach eventually manage to leave their prejudices behind as well.

The performances were great, the characters were deeply developed, and the most special thing about the film was the presence of Ringo and Dallas. Such wonderful characters they were! Dallas, particularly, was the most beautifully developed character. I loved this film.


 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

''Ida' (2013 film)- Review

Directed by: PaweĊ‚ Pawlikowski
Released: 2013
Country: Poland

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''Ida'' is a beautiful and thought-provoking film. It is only an hour and twenty minutes long, but within that duration it manages to move us deeply.

The film is set in the 1960s, in Poland. The protagonist is Anna, played by Agata Trzebuchowska. Anna is a novice nun about to take her vows but is then informed that before taking her vows, she has to meet her only living relative, Wanda Gruz (played by Agata Kulesza), who happens to be her maternal aunt. Anna has never seen Wanda before, and when they meet, Wanda reveals that Anna's parents were actually Jews who were murdered during the World War II. She also reveals that Anna's actual name is Ida. Anna/Ida wants to know where her parents are  buried. Together, Wanda and Ida make a journey that takes them back to the place where her (Ida's) parents used to stay, with the intention of knowing what happened to them. In this journey, Wanda and Ida go through realizations, self-discoveries and emotional upheavals. 

Both actresses are brilliant in their roles. The film kept me intrigued from the time Ida and Wanda first met. But I had no idea about the direction the film was heading to. The journey the women go on turns out to be a journey of self-discovery and revelations. The revelations they come across leave a deep impact in both of them. They both have questions about their identities, their lives. The film also explores how the tragedies of the Holocaust left impacts in the minds- and lives- of people. Moving and hauntingly beautiful, ''Ida'' is a brilliant film.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

''Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte'' (1964 film)- Review

Directed by: Robert Aldrich
Released: 1964
Country: United States

Genre: Psychological thriller, Mystery, Psychological horror

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review

The first season of the TV series 'Feud' chronicled the rivalry and feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and that was what made me interested in ''Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte''. The early days of the production of the film has been depicted in the series, of how this film was planned as another film to star Crawford and Davis after the enormously successful ''What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?'', also directed by Robert Aldrich. However, the tension between the two stars kept increasing. Crawford, feeling that Davis controlled Aldrich and was trying to humiliate her, apparently feigned sickness and was replaced by Olivia de Havilland. I did not actually want to watch the film right now as, before watching it, I wanted to make myself fully familiar with the earlier works of the great stars starring in this film- besides Davis and de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Mary Astor, Agnes Moorehead and Cecil Kellaway also appear in this film. However, my curiosity got the better of me and I ended up watching the film and admiring it.

Davis plays Charlotte. In 1927, she falls fallen in love with a married man, John (played by Bruce Dern) although she does not know that he is married. After being confronted by Charlotte's father (Victor Buono), the man, John, tells Charlotte that he is married. Charlotte is heartbroken. A party is going on in the house at that time and Charlotte appears with blood smeared on her white dress and when it is discovered that John is dead, all the people in the town starts suspecting that it was Charlotte who killed John.

Years pass. Charlotte's father has died. Charlotte is now a recluse, living all alone in the big house, tended by a housekeeper (played by Agnes Moorehead) who comes to clean the house everyday. The local doctor, Dr. Drew Bayliss (played by Joseph Cotten), occasionally visits her. People rarely go near that house as they are afraid of Charlotte. To this day, she clings to the memory of John. Threatened with the demolition of the house, Charlotte asks her cousin, Miriam (played by Olivia de Havilland), to come. Miriam comes and there is a reunion between the cousins after years. However, very soon, unexpected, startling things start happening and Charlotte keeps feeling the presence of John in the house at nights.

There is a Gothic atmosphere in some of the scenes and the film works as a perfect psychological horror. There are scenes in which Charlotte feels the presence of John and the atmosphere in those scenes are simply great. There are several twists and turns throughout the film, making the story a perfect mystery.

As for the performances, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten Mary Astor (playing John's widow) and Cecil Kellaway (who plays an investigator interested to know the real facts behind John's mysterious murder) are all great. Bette looks so very cute with her hair in those braids! Charlotte is so childlike and innocent! 

The thing about the film that keeps haunting me the most is the lovely song by Patti Page- ''Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte''. Those lyrics keep playing in my mind: ''Hush, hush sweet charlotte/ Charlotte, don't you cry/ Hush, hush, sweet Charlotte/ He'll love you till he dies/... You weep because you had a dream last night/ You dreamed that he said goodbye...'' John had written this lullaby for Charlotte all those years ago and she clings on to this lullaby just like clings on to John's memories.

''Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte'' is a layered, twisted and atmospheric film. I liked it very much and really admired the atmosphere.

 

Monday, 15 May 2017

''Hacksaw Ridge'' (2016 film)- Review

Directed by: Mel Gibson
Released: 2016
Country: United States

Genre: Biographical, War, Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

''Hacksaw Ridge'' is a biographical film that tells the story of Desmond Doss. Doss (played by Andrew Garfield) strictly believes that no matter what the situations are a person should never be killed. Socially awkward and meek, Desmond is only in his early twenties when the World War II starts. Believing that he should not be sitting home when the rest of his countrymen were off to the war, Desmond enlists, intending to be a combat medic. However, he absolutely refuses to carry a gun. Even when his superiors try to talk him into it, he refuses. He does not want to be connected to something that is used for killing people. The other soldiers think that Desmond is a coward and that he will not last long in the war, but Desmond proves them wrong by showing great heroism when they try to defeat the Japanese army at Hacksaw Ridge in the Battle of Okinawa. His heroism saves a lot of lives and he manages to do this without even carrying a weapon for self defense.

The war scenes are brutal, well-made and extremely realistic and I found myself looking away from those scenes for seconds because of moments of extreme violence, horror and brutality. The film does a great job portraying the bravery and heroism of Desmond Doss. It is impossible not to love Desmond. The character maintains his innocence and firm determination throughout the film and I cheered for him during the scenes in which he proves his heroism and everybody acknowledges it.. Glimpses into his relationship with his family members and how it has shaped his life and his views further develop the character.  Andrew Garfield does a great job and Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey,  Huge Weaving (as Desmond's father; his experiences in the World War I left him emotionally unstable but he eventually goes on to play a great role in Desmond's life) and Teresa Palmer (as Dorothy, a nurse with whom Desmond falls in love) provide great support.

In short, ''Hacksaw Ridge'' is a very well-made war film that depicts the brutality and horror of wars and the heroism of its protagonist, Desmond Doss, with perfection.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

''Wuthering Heights'' (1939 film)- Review

Directed by: William Wyler
Released: 1939
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

''Wuthering Heights'' has been one of my favorite novels ever since I first read it back in 2010. I was indeed aware of the fact that the 1939 film adaptation omits a lot of things from the book- it excludes the entire second half of the book, for example- I loved this film. It was so hauntingly poetic and atmospheric. It retained the Gothic atmosphere of the book perfectly and although not entirely faithful to the novel, it is a great film in its own right. 

When Mr. Lockwood (Miles Mander) has to spend a stormy night in the house of his landlord, Mr. Heathcliff (Lawrence Olivier), he encounters strange, eerie things, such as the voice of a woman coming from the moors. Mr. Lockwood is perplexed. The elderly housekeeper, Ellen Dean (Flora Robson) explains to him the mysteries of the house, Wuthering Heights.

Decades ago, Wuthering Heights used to be a happy house. It was owned by the Earnshaws. The family consisted of the loving Mr. Earnshaw and his two children, Hindley and Catherine (Cathy). On a trip to Liverpool, Mr. Earnshaw came across an abandoned boy and brought him to Wuthering Heights. He was named Heathcliff and Mr. Earnshaw started raising him as a son. Cathy and Heathcliff soon became great friends. However, Hindley was greatly jealous of Heathcliff. After Mr. Earnshaw's death, Hindley- now the owner of Wuthering Heights- turned Heathcliff into a stable boy, neglecting and humiliating him. Several years passed, Heathcliff (played by Laurence Olivier) and Cathy (played by Merle Oberon) were still very close and love each other deeply. However, when Cathy came across the handsome, wealthy Edgar Linton (played by David Niven), she decided to marry him, primarily for his wealth and social status. She wanted the best for Heathcliff, but also knew that she would never be able to acquire the social life and wealth she wanted for herself if she married Heathcliff. Hearing this, Heathcliff left Wuthering Heights, and although Cathy initially was heartbroken, she moved on and married Edgar, but some years later, Heathcliff returned. Now a wealthy man, he had other intentions in his mind as well. 

There is no doubt in the fact that the film is not very faithful to the novel. While the novel has a lot of focus on Heathcliff's vengeful attitude and how it destroys everyone around him, the film focuses more on the relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy and I was completely fine with that. After all, I cannot possibly have an opinion about a film on the basis of how faithful it is to its source material. I am supposed to have an opinion based on how perfectly the film works. When it comes to that, this film is simply great.

I loved the atmosphere. Consider the scenes in which Heathcliff and Cathy meet on the Penistone Crags. They are just so beautiful, so very poetic. I really fell in love with those scenes. I loved their conversations. Or consider the scene in which Cathy expresses to Ellen how much she loves Heathcliff and utters the famous line- ''I am Heathcliff''. There is a storm outside and as Cathy is standing beside a window, a lightning flashes on her face. There are so many poetically atmospheric scenes throughout the film that it was just impossible on my part not to love it. The film is made more poetic by the beautiful black-and-white cinematography: I don't think color cinematography could ever be this poetic.

When it comes to the performances, they are great. Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon are great in their roles. David Niven, Geraldine Fitzgerald (playing Edgar's sister, Isabella), Flora Robson and Hugh Williams (playing the adult Hindley) are excellent as well. (I just noticed something: the physician, Dr. Kenneth, is played by Donald Crisp, the same man who played the villain in ''Broken Blossoms''!). 

''Wuthering Heights'' is a hauntingly beautiful and atmospheric film. It will be injustice if it is compared to the original novel because, while the novel is one of the greatest works in English literature, the 1939 film adaptation is a great film in its own right, no matter how different it is from its source material. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

''The Seven Year Itch'' (1955 film)- Review

Directed by: Billy Wilder
Released: 1955
Country: United States

Genre: Romantic comedy

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review

Billy Wilder's ''The Seven Year Itch'' starts with the narrator describing a practice among the native Americans living in Manhattan centuries ago. When summer came, they would send their wives and children to colder and comfortable places, while they would stay behind for their work. However, once their wives would go away, many of the men would become smitten by beautiful women. The narrator then tells us that the film has nothing to do with native Americans, but that the story would be set in the modern day Manhattan. 

The narrator implies that nothing much has changed in men in the present day Manhattan. Our narrator, Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) is a middle-aged man working for a publishing company. As it is summer, he sends his wife and son to Maine, but stays behind for his work. He tries his best not to feel attracted to women and not to smoke, but when a beautiful young woman (Marilyn Monroe) moves to an apartment in the same building, his determination is tested and he must now try his best not to become attracted to her.

''The Seven Year Itch'' is a very funny film. Richard is pretty paranoid and often expects the worst. His imaginations and fantasies are hilarious. There are scenes in which he imagines his attraction to his neighbor will be publicly revealed and he imagines hilarious consequences. The kind of background music heard in those scenes are music you would expect in a serious drama film or even, at times, in a thriller film. However, the film is not even close to being a serious drama: the film is very lighthearted. The background music reflects Richard's paranoia and it makes everything way more hilarious.

Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe are both wonderful in their roles. Monroe is charming and cute as the innocent neighbor Ewell is great in his role and the scenes in which his character talks to himself, imagining the consequences that can come if his attraction to his neighbor is publicly revealed, are hilarious. 

''The Seven Year Itch'' is a very entertaining and amusing film. A Billy Wilder film has, till now, never disappointed me. 
 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

''Nebraska'' (2013 film)- Review

Directed by: Alexander Payne
Released: 2013
Country: United States

Genre: Comedy-drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

I have watched Alexander Payne's ''The Descendants'' several times. I love it so very much. I love the character development, the humor and the moments which are emotionally overwhelming.

The difference between ''The Descendants'' and ''Nebraska'' is in the types of family the two films deal with. The family we saw in ''The Descendants'' was a dysfunctional one, while the family in ''Nebraska''- the Grant family- is a loving one. The Grant family consists of Woody Grant (played by Bruce Dern) and his wife Kate (played by June Squibb) and their grown-up sons, David (played by Will Forte) and Ross (played by Bob Odenkirk). Woody and Kate are in their seventies. Age has caught up with Woody. He has always been simple and kind, helping others and believing everything that people told him. They live in Montana. When Woody gets a letter stating  he should travel to Nebraska to collect a million dollars that he has won, he wants to go to Nebraska by any means possible. Kate, David and Ross know that it is just a scam, but Woody is adamant and wants to collect the money, even wanting to walk to Nebraska to collect the prize money. David decides to drive his father to Nebraska. He knows that it is just a scam, but he wants his father to be happy and he knows that driving to Nebraska might make him happy even though it does turn out to be scam. As they start their drive to Nebraska- they are soon joined, on their way, by Kate and Ross- they have a good time together, sharing little adventures. David also comes to know little things about his father that he had never known before.

It's impossible not to admire these lovely characters. David is amazing. He knows that his father has won no such thing, that it is just a scam. He knows that his father has a lonely, uneventful life in Montana and that is why he drives his father to Nebraska to make him happy. Over the course of the film we get to spend a lot of time with David and it just makes his character more lovable.

Woody and Kate are really cute too. Bruce Dern and June Squibb are excellent in their roles. I admired Kate as much as I admired David. For her, the wellbeing of her family is the top priority. There is a scene in which she confronts some extended family members when they start claiming that Woody owes them money and that he should pay them back once he receives his prize money. Such a strong performance she delivered throughout the film and particularly in that scene.

Another thing that really touched me is the way the four members of the family have retained strong bonds. David and Ross might have lives of their own, but in a situation like this- driving to a different state together- they become childlike once again and their mother is once again the formidable yet sweet matriarch. No matter where our life takes us our bond with our family members always remain strong.

''Nebraska'' is lovely and gentle, sweet and beautiful, deeply moving and often funny. It is a very character-driven film and Woody, Kate and David are three lovely characters.  

Friday, 5 May 2017

'Jaws'' (1974 film)- Review

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Released: 1974
Country: United States

Genre: Thriller, Adventure

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''Jaws'' is a genuinely terrifying film. Like, really. It is so very suspenseful, tense and thrilling.

When a woman dies when swimming in the ocean on Amity Island, it is immediately assumed that the death was caused by a shark attack. While police chief Martin Brody (played by Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches, the authorities of the island are reluctant: it is the tourism season and tourism has a great impact in the economy of the island. The shark is lurking in the ocean and a few more devastating attacks follow. Wanting to rid the island of this vicious predator, Brody, oceanographer Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) and seafarer Quint (played by Robert Shaw) decide to catch the deadly shark, embarking on a dangerous and unpredictable mission.

''Jaws'' really scared me. From the very first scenes. The presence of the shark casts a sinister atmosphere throughout the film: it is so very suspenseful when we are fearing that the shark might appear anytime and that suspense is intense. Whenever the shark appears (and whenever we see its fin) it is terrifying, extremely terrifying. I found myself whispering 'get to the shore' over and over again to the vacationers when the shark was about to attack them.

''Jaws'' is suspenseful and intense, excellently-directed and acted. If you want a good scare then ''Jaws'' is definitely one of the films I would recommend the most! 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

'Inside Llewyn Davis'' (2013 film)- Review

Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Released: 2013
Country: United States

Genre: Dark comedy, Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

Set in the 1960s, ''Inside Llewyn Davis'' follows a few days in the life of folk singer Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac). Llewyn is a struggling singer, has no permanent job and his latest album hasn't been commercially successful.

''Inside Llewyn Davis'' takes us, well, inside Llewyn Davis. We see the world through his eyes. Several people around him consider him a loser; they think that he is messing his own life up. Are they right? Well, that depends on the perspective. But at the end of the day, the film does not ask us to judge Llewyn Davis but rather to spend a few moments with him and it does so successfully.

The song ''500 Miles'' is sung by two of Llewyn's friend and I thought this really reflected Llewyn. ''Not a shirt on my back/ Not a penny to my name/ Lord, I can't go back home this a-way''. Is Llewyn ashamed of himself? No. But he does look fed up with life anyway. In spite of that, however, he loves folk songs and although it might look that he has given up, but he does want to make something of himself in the world of folk music. But, nevertheless, he is frustrated. He feels alone and lost in a world where people have to race to survive. We feel for him.

Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman play important supporting roles. The cinematography is oh-so-beautiful, giving the film a very poetic aura. Oscar Isaac's performance is really very good and ultimately this great-looking, excellently-written film is really moving.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

''Life Is Sweet'' (1990 film)- Review

Directed by: Mike Leigh
Released: 1990
Country: United Kingdom

Genre: Comedy-drama

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review

''Life Is Sweet'' is a lovely little film written and directed by Mike Leigh. The film tells the story of a working class family consisting of a couple, Andy (played by Jim Broadbent) and Wendy (played by Alison Steadman) and their twin daughters Nicola (Jane Horrocks) and Natalie (Claire Skinner). Andy and Wendy are hardworking, happy and optimistic, and so is Natalie, who works as a plumber but loves her job. The only one who is different among them is Nicola. Nicola hardly leaves the house and she is hardly, if ever, happy. In spite of her rather bad behavior at times, the other three members of the family deal with her patiently and lovingly. The film takes place over the course of a few days and tells the story of the family.

I fell in love with Mike Leigh's films after I watched ''Secrets & Lies'' back in 2012. Even today, I consider ''Secrets & Lies'' one of my all-time favorite films. The best thing about his films is that they are very character-driven and the characters are developed with care and depth. ''Life Is Sweet'', Leigh's third feature film, tells the simple story of a simple family. At times, I wondered where the film was heading to. I got my answer in due time. The climax consists of an encounter between Nicola and her mother Wendy and this encounter results in a revelation that changed my perception of the film. This one revelation was powerful enough to make the entire film very memorable. 

''Life Is Sweet'' is a sweet little film, well-written and well-acted, but I thought it could have developed its characters more. I mean, the characters are very well-developed indeed, but had the film been a bit longer (and perhaps more focus on the interactions among the family members and less focus on the antics of the family friend), then perhaps I could really, really care for them. However, I enjoyed spending time with them and some of them were really sweet- particularly Andy and Wendy. Their optimism and cheerfulness really touched me. Broadbent, Steadman, Horrocks and Skinner are great in their roles, and Timothy Spall appears as a friend of the family, a funny character, and David Thewlis appears too, playing a small role.

Although not as great as Leigh's ''Secrets & Lies'' and ''Vera Drake'', it is a very good film, a moving film.

Friday, 28 April 2017

''Room'' (2015 film)- Review

Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Released: 2015
Country: Canada, Ireland, United Kingdom

Genre: Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review

''Room'' tells the story of Joy (played by Brie Larson) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Joy was kidnapped by a man known as 'Old Nick' (Sean Bridgers) seven years before the events of the film and since then, she has been kept locked inside a tiny garden shade. Old Nick impregnated her and Joy has raised her son in the garden shade. Jack is now five years old and knows the garden shades lives in as 'Room'. To Jack, Room is everything; the outside world is only something that he sees on the television. Even in these conditions, Joy tries to keep Jack as happy as possible. Now that Jack is five years old, Joy feels that he is old enough to know that there is such a thing as the outside world and hatches a dangerous and difficult plan to escape.

The first half of the film has great touches of thriller in it. I was often so concerned about Joy and Jack that I kept breathing hard as I wanted them to escape safely. 

The second half of the film, however, is very different in its tone and approach, although the basic theme is the same: a mother's love and concern for her son. In the second half, having escaped, Joy and Jack must adjust to the outside world after having been in confinement for seven years (five years for Jack). While Joy had known an outside world before being kidnapped, Jack grew up being entirely confined in 'Room'. As such, the outside world is very intimidating for both of them.

Paradoxically, though, Jack might take a long time to get used to the outside world, but being a child, after that certain time has passed, he will naturally be able to be adjust to the outside world. However, in spite of the fact that she was initially very happy to be back in the real world, it is Joy who eventually falls into the depths of depression. Seven years have been snatched away from her, her parents have divorced, her own father refuses to accept Jack as his grandson, and at one stage, she feels guilty for having raised Jack in confinement. She is worried not for herself but for her son. She is worried that her son might not be able to lead a normal life- not understanding that he is still a child and while it may take him some time to adjust to his new surroundings, he will eventually make it. Her maternal worries, though, are very realistic, and we see love for Jack reflected in everything she does. Brie Larson makes Joy a very realistic character. Jacob Tremblay is simply magnificent as Jack as well, while Joan Allen is great as Joy's mother.

''Room'' is an emotionally overwhelming film. What it reflects is maternal love. In her attempt to escape from Room, Joy makes sure that Jack has the opportunity to escape first and call for help. She does not know if her plan will succeed. She does not know if Jack will be able to escape and even if he escapes, if he will be able to summon help. She does not even know if she will ever be able to escape. But she wants Jack to have the best chances for escaping. Later, after they have escaped from Room, she worries for Jack. She wonders if he will be able to adjust to the real world. Among the several themes that ''Room'' explores, the power of love- maternal love and a child's love for his mother- is the most significant.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

''The Talented Mr. Ripley'' (1999 film)- Review

Directed by: Anthony Minghella
Released: 1999
Country: United States

Genre: Psychological thriller, Crime, Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review

The protagonist of ''The Talented Mr. Ripley'' is also the titular character. Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon, is hired by the wealthy Herbert Greenleaf (James Rebhorn), who asks him to travel to Italy and try to convince his son, Dickie Greenleaf (played by Jude Law) to come back to the United States. Dickie is spoiled and lives off his allowance, not interested to make anything of his life. Tom travels to Italy, where he meets Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (played by Gwyneth Paltrow). He becomes good friends with the two of them and Dickie comes up with a plan: they will use the money that Mr. Greenleaf sends Tom to indulge in more luxuries. Very soon, Tom gets very close to Dickie and Marge and over the course of time he becomes very obsessed with the privileged lifestyle led by Dickie and also with Dickie and his identity- something that eventually leads to disastrous consequences. 

Well, I could assume that Tom would cause something disastrous from the time he reaches Italy and runs into heiress Meredith Logue (played by Cate Blanchett). He tells Meredith that he is Dickie Greenleaf. I could assume that things will eventually go very wrong, which they indeed did.

''The Talented Mr. Ripley'' is very suspenseful, very thrilling. Tom's lies and crimes cause him to get involved in more crimes and lies. He makes a great villain indeed. Matt Damon is fascinating in his role, making Tom look creepier and creepier as the movies goes on, ultimately culminating in an unpredictable ending.

The entire cast is really good: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jack Davenport playing important supporting roles. They all deliver great performances. The film is very well-written and besides being intense and suspenseful, it is a very good-looking film with beautiful cinematography. In short, it is a brilliant.