Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may have been an insightful, deeply meaningful and entertaining short story by James Thurber. When remade (oh yes! there has been another movie based on the short story long long ago), it may not have any resemblance to what James Thurber has written. The only resemblance to the short story would be the day dreaming Walter Mitty played by Ben Stiller. It is Ben Stiller playing Walter Mitty onscreen and Ben Stiller directing the movie behind the scenes make this a perfect one for the holidays.

Walter Mitty works for Life Magazine and handles the negatives department. He is good at what he does and have served the company for the past 16 years. Being good at his work is not enough to get him open up to the girl he is smitten with ie Cheryl Melhoff(Kristen Wiig) either online or offline. To make things complicated, Walter zones out according to his parlance which means he daydreams. In fact, he dreams about all the things he doesn't have the courage to do. When Life decides to shut down their operations to concentrate on the online edition, Walter searches for the missing negative 25 taken by Sean O'Connell(Sean Penn). This frantic search for the negative makes him overcome his fears and do things which he would normally have not done.

Ben Stiller bases his drama in New York and moves to many other part of the world in search of the negative. His movie stands for three reasons. First, it is the Ben Stiller the actor. Forget all the silly movies of which you have seen so far. The only thing he brings to this movie from his past repertoire is trying to make the humor stick out by underplaying the reactions. In this movie, he is still underplaying the role. But at the same time, he gives genuine expression on his face that makes you feel the guy who has given up a lot to provide his family after his dad's demise. One of the best scenes to watch out for him is when he gets on to the helicopter in Greenland. He has done it but he neither believe he has done it nor has any idea where the courage came from! You can see it all in Ben Stiller's face.

The second thing which makes this movie interesting is the imagery. The photography makes it clear Walter Mitty is lonely. The composition is done in order to highlight this factor. Walter is boring, in the traditional sense, and hence he is pitted against a lonely backdrop always. But this composition turns out to be so eye-pleasing and attention-capturing that you end up wishing to have visited these places. The third is the enjoyable sound track. The movie has so many songs coming up at the right junctures in the movie which makes you feel the emotions of Walter Mitty. 

This movie is sans the regular gang of Ben Stiller. The rest of the cast like Shirley MacLaine as Walter's mother, Adam Scott as the obnoxious managing director of the transition and Sean Penn play their parts well but is overshadowed by Ben Stiller.

This is the perfect movie for the holidays. After the movie, wait for the credit to finish if you love photographs. There are some amazing photographs during the end credits.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pappettan goes dancing

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.


I was out with Pappettan for the Christmas party. Within no time, Pappettan started heating up the dance floor with a lot of woman wanting to dance with him. A lot of staring across the dance floor at what kind of magic he was weaving was getting me anywhere. So I decided to navigate the dance floor to his side in order to have a closer look and also to eavesdrop on the conversation. When I reached his side of events, the music stopped. A bit of efforts from my side, I was able to follow the conversation.

Woman: *in a cheerful tone* ...And you told me you don't know to dance?

Me: *with a smirk and whispering to myself* Isn't that a known fact?

Pappettan: *as a matter of fact* I don't know to dance the western way.

Me: *trying hard to suppress the laughter*

Woman: *inquisitive* Really?

Pappettan: I have been practicing dance for 8 years.

Me: *shocked at this revelation*

Woman: *surprised* 8 years is a long time. So you have learnt one of the traditional dance forms of India?

Pappettan: Actually, no. It is one of the new forms of dance. It is called Bollywood contemporary.

Woman: *impressed*

Me: *head reeling*

At this point of time, the woman moved away and I couldn't contain it anymore. So I grabbed Pappettan.

Me: *agitated* Why are you fooling her with your lies?

Pappettan: *in an accusing tone* Your habit of snooping is going to get you into trouble one of these days!

Me: *more agitated with his response now* That is not an answer. Bollywood contemporary! 8 years!

Pappettan: *with a smile* Yes, I have practiced Bollywood contemporary for many years. So have you... Every one of us.

Me: *confused*

Pappettan: *victorious smile on his lips* Dappan Kuthu. Don't we know it? Isn't that we do in all parties?




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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oh!!! I can't speak English!

Fluency. This was the subject appearing in two conversations on the same day with a few hours in between. The first was a seven year old telling me the difficulties of moving into a new country. Visiting is fine, but going to school might be a problem as she will not able to speak like a native speaker. The second was a grown up telling me he is not fluent in English.

The surprising factor in both the conversations was the same. The speakers were talking to me in English and telling me they are not fluent in English. If you ask me, they are able to communicate very well. They might not be using award winning prose but it was well constructed English barring a few misgivings. Then why do people think they are not fluent?

My take on this matter is simple. As long as you can communicate to the other person effectively, there is nothing to worry. If you still consider this being insufficient, you might want to check out others have to say about fluency. By others, I mean, wikipedia.... 

Tags: Musings,Fluent,English

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Movie Review: Love Crime

How come French movies while targeted for non-French speaking audience get their titles changed to a boring one? This movie was released in France as Crime d'amour but it became Love Crime" for rest of the world. Is there a phrase called "Love Crime"? "Crime of love" sounds better than Love Crime. It is what the movie is all about. At the same time, it is not all that simple as the title thanks to the masterstroke by the director Alain Corneau. What kind of love is being referred here? We are made to wonder about this all through the movie.

The movie is about the consequences of rivalry between two executives, Christine(Kristin Scott Thomas) and Isabelle(Ludivine Sagnier). Christine has been mentoring Isabelle and is also reaping the benefits of all the good work done by Isabelle. Christine cares for the younger woman. On the other hand, Isabelle has a lot of respect for her mentor. But what is the basis of their dependency on each other? This is the question the film makes us ask ourselves. You can see Christine giving authoritative opinions to Isabelle from lipstick to shawls. You can also see Isabelle getting involved with Christine's lover trying to mimic what her mentor does even in bed.

When things go sour, you see a timid Isabelle react in a violent way. It makes you wonder how a sudden change of character ispossible. At the same time, this is crucial to make the movie a thriller. So a little bit of suspension of disbelief helps. Barring this, Alain Corneau successfully keeps us engrossed in the movie. This could have been made into a sleazy movie easily. Instead of taking the easy way, Alain Corneau decides to play with our minds.

If you love thrillers, then go for it.

Language: French

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie Review: The Raid: Redemption

An elite force comprising of 20 members storm into an apartment block situated in Jakarta's slums. The apartment houses a crime lord and the elite force intends to apprehend him. They are able to get inside the apartment successfully. While they are working their way upwards from the ground floor to the 15th floor where the crime lord has set up his base, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, most of the residents turn against the elite force and are out to kill them. To make matters complex, there are two in the elite force with different motives.

We have seen similar themes in the past. It is about the hunter becoming the hunted. It is about best laid plans going awry. So what makes this Indonesian movie directed by Gareth Evans special? There are many factors that contribute to making this special. We have not seen both the director and the lead actor Iko Uwais before. Then, they have used a martial arts forms from Indonesia which is called pencak silat. This form of martial arts has not been featured in any of the movies from Hollywood. This fighting style along with pushing us into action from the start of the movie ensures there are no dull moments.

The fighting style used is bloody which makes us cringe. Bodies are flung in all directions. There isn't an inch in the screen where bodies aren't flung during combat sequences. There are mutilations and killings which will make us close our eyes. Towards the end, it is two good guys fighting against a lone bad guy. There is no heroism here. And they fight like animals that you end up wondering is this what we all might end up doing to survive in such a situation! But if you don't take the action sequences seriously, then it is a beautifully choreographed sequence. Not only the final one, all the action sequences are brilliantly choreographed. 

This is strictly for action junkies. If you are afraid of graphic details on the scene, I advise you to stay away.

Language: Indonesian

Genre: Action

Rating: ***

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movie Review: District B13

Also known as Banlieue 13, this film is from Luc Besson's stable. Luc Besson is not the director but the producer. The movie is directed by Pierre Morel. It isn't a recent movie. It comes long before Luc Besson started dishing out trashy action movies in a regular interval of times. Featuring two unknown faces, at least unknown to someone who isn't French or do not know anything about French movies, the movie is watchable one. It has a ridiculous plot but fantastic action sequences.

The movie opens up in the future. The year is 2010. Don't panic. You read it right. The movie was released in 2004. So it is opening in the future. As it is tough to control crime in Banlieue 13(B13) , the authorities have build a wall around it. Leito(David Belle) tries hard to keep his part of the B13 clean, resulting in frequent clashes the local druglord Taha. Thanks to Taha's influence, Leito ends up in prison and Leito's sister Lola(Dany Verissimo) is under Taha's custody. When a nuclear device goes missing, Captain Damien(Cyril Raffaelli) partners up with Leito to retrieve the nuke.

Before you start groaning, hear me out. David Belle is the founder of Parkour. Do I have your attention now? So, the movie has some amazing action sequences without any wires or choppy editing. There are chases over the high rises which is purely a pleasure to watch. Cyril Raffaelli may not match up with David Belle in agility during Parkour scenes. But he makes it up for the martial arts action sequences. When these factors combine together, we are not looking for a great plot. The action sequences are enough.

A must for action junkies.

Language: French

Genre: Action

Rating: ***

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Movie Review: Headhunters

Morten Tyldum adapts Jo Nesbø's novel for the big screen which is story of a headhunter who leads a double life. Roger Brown(Aksel Hennie) is a headhunter who has expensive tastes beyond his means even though he has a successful career and also a beautiful wife. In order to keep the extravagant lifestyle in fear of everything he holds dear especially his stunning wife, he steals art with the help of his friend and sells them. When Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) shows up in his life, everything turns upside down.

When the subject is a crime thriller, there is nothing to beat Scandinavian noir. Even the movies coming out of this region in this genre are graphic and realistic which ends up as an entertaining fare. The actors are better than their counterparts in Hollywood. If you have any doubt, check out the Millennium trilogy. The original Millennium trilogy and not the watered-down, disappointing Fincher-Craig version. Headhunters is a Norwegian movie. The protagonist and the antagonist are not familiar faces for us. But they are refreshing since we do not know what to expect as we have no preconceived notions about the movie.

Morten Tyldum leisurely builds the premise at the same time not boring us to death. When the ambitious Roger Brown gets the first hint of his life falling apart, the movie picks up momentum. Then it keeps us on our toes where we are trying to outguess the plot. It is over here the director and his team make us squirm in our seats by taking the unconventional routes. The loose ends are all neatly tied in the end. The picturesque locations of Norway are beautifully captured giving us something we have not seen in the past. As for the performance, Aksel Hennie stands out as he has a difficult job to perform as a confident guy who ends up as pawn in someone's plan where his life spirals out of control.

If you love thrillers, then this is for you. If you are a fan of Scandinavian noir, don't think further. Go for it.

You can watch the trailer here.

Language: Norwegian

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ****

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Photos: Deep in thought

Deep in thought!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran
Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos

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