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The Dark Knight Rises

Bane Rises
Christopher Nolan's Batman films have both surprised & disappointed me. On one-hand, Nolan has strived to ground the mythos into as realistic and relatable setting as possible. Given the suspension of disbelief needed for most of these comic book adaptations, the change was risky and admirable. However, along the way, specifically with the second film 'The Dark Knight', Nolan's realistic setting is at odds with increasingly implausible and fantastical happenings. This sense of imbalance carries over to the bloated & meandering final film.

'Rises' spends the greater part of its nearly three-hour runtime in escalation, introducing plot lines & characters that serve too embellish a sense of importance & complexity too the proceedings. The main issue with the film is that the majority of the multiple plot lines are poorly executed and unnecessary. For example, while the character played by Anne Hathaway adds a touch of much needed sarcasm & sensuality to the overtly serious proceedings, her motivations & actions are never explained.

On the other hand, the characters of Bane & John Blake were well-etched and save the film from outright mediocrity. Bane is equal parts fascinating & menacing, with a convincingly crafted back story that forms the emotional core of the film. Whereas the Joker is the titular villain in the Batman mythos, he is ultimately an absurd character that lacked development & conviction in the previous film. While I never viewed Joker as a legitimate threat in the previous film, Bane's actions are well-plotted & he challenges Batman accordingly. However, both characters actions are ultimately unrealistic, resulting in a film that is neither crime drama nor superhero fantasy.

John Blake is the only other character in the film that is well-etched. Unlike Lt. Gordon, Lucius Fox, & Alfred, Blake rises above being mere plot device & garners genuine emotion through a well-developed back story, realistic staging, & strong motivations/actions. As it stands, I found Gordon-Levitt's Blake a far more convincing & interesting character than anything Nolan has written for Bruce Wayne since the end of the first film.

Thus lies the main problem with 'Rises', Bruce Wayne & his Batman alter-ego come off as emotionally stilted & reactionary rather than mature & intelligent. This is most likely based on the poor narrative in the previous film, where I had trouble buying into Wayne's relationships & Batman's fall from grace. The character has simply failed to develop since the first film.

It's not helping that the films script & technical aspects are also poorly manipulated. While Nolan's script for Begins was generally competent, it's still hard to digest moments of thought-provoking dialog intermixed with sophomoric dramatization, & cheesy one-liners.

While a few scenes stood out in this film, particularly in the beginning sequence & Bane's prison, the cinematography on display lacked any sort of flourish, reveling in gritty skylines & explosions over any sort of interesting composition. The action sequences are admirable, if not poorly shot. Sound editing & mixing are first-rate. The score by Hans Zimmer is abysmal.

Overall, The Dark Knight Rises is a film that falters due to a weak foundation. 'Rises' ambition & scope are grand, however, it's setting and characters lack development and conviction, ultimately rendering much of the proceedings hollow & self-important. As summer entertainment, Dark Knight rises is the best of the bunch, a gem amongst a sea of nameless sequels, testosterone driven action films, regressive family fare, & tasteless comedies. As a film, however, 'Rises' has no reason to exist, it stands tall amongst such relevant masterworks as 'Avatar' & 'The Matrix'.

Stay for the taut & thrilling opening sequence that introduces Bane's character, than fast-forward through the rest.

7 Khoon Maaf

Daring & Innovative, yet ultimately unfulfilling
Saat Khoon Maaf is a daringly different film that falters under the weight of its own ambition. Bhardawaj has taken great care in crafting the aesthetics; every frame is splendid, from staging to cinematography and costume/sound design. From the panoramic vistas of Pondicherry, Kashmir, and Moscow, to the hushed, dark tones used for the grittier portions of the tale, the film is dripping with ambiance and style. In Bhardawaj style, this is a dark, brooding work in lieu of other genre favorites such as Sympathy for Lady Vengeance & Kill Bill. Though not as hyper-stylized as those films, 7 Khoon Maaf has a far more engaging, drawn out plot that is involving and emotionally fulfilling, yet ultimately disappointing due to a few of the stories being half-baked. At times, it seems that Susanna's (Priyanka Chopra) faults with each husband she eventually murders is of her own vocation, stemming from rushing into one affair after another. For the majority of the film, however, the outcome of these relationships is rightfully on the masquerading male, each with a fatal flaw that is hidden until the knot is tied. The ultimate problem with the narrative is not with the flaws, but the majority of her husbands are not fully developed, for the most part their personalities and actions seem archetypal and single-minded. To Bhardawaj's credit, the majority of the supporting characters are three-dimensional, especially Susanna's adopted son Arun & her servants. Moreover, Susanna's emotional plight resonates and the conclusion is affecting and satisfying. Priyanka Chopra owns every frame of the film. Susanna's character is one that is rarely seen in Hindi cinema, her ability to display the complexity and various shades of Susanna across a period of sixty-years cements her position as an actress of great depth. While this is by far her best role, this is not Bhardawaj's most accomplished film. As daring and innovative as the theme and treatment of the film are, the lack of depth afforded to Susanna's husbands ultimately affects the films narrative and emotional quotient. Even so, the screenplay is engaging, the film looks decadent, and Ms. Chopra's brilliant performance is worth a watch and a few accolades.

Alice in Wonderland

Not Enough Nonsense
Alice In Wonderland is quite ordinary, lacking the whimsicality of Carrol's books, and the zaniness of Disney's original 1951 production. Much like last week's Prince Of Persia, in place of an enchanting story, we get a soulless retread of the original, with an overabundance of CGI and little heart. Burton's Wonderland is more akin to an amusement park ride, jaunting from one green screen to the next, setting up one conflict after another. Skipping characterization in favor of nostalgia, Disney takes the blockbuster route, assuming that vague flashbacks and lazy alterations of the original work serve as a plot. The acting is toned down all-around, with Carrol's characters losing their carefree madness in favor of innocence. Depp's Hatter disappoints the most. He comes off as weak and sullen, when he should be as his name suggests, mad. The 'futterwacken' scene is an abomination. Bonhan-Carter fares the best, but her character comes off as foolish rather than conniving. Alice is a disappointment, suffering amnesia throughout the film to avert from her lack of characterization. We never get to spend too much time with Carroll's memorable side-characters, as Alice is reduced to simply being a tool that propagates our nostalgia, not interests our curiosity. On a positive note, The Cheshire Cat and Caterpillar were very well done. Overall, in interpreting this work to a new-generation, Burton has emphasized visual splendor, but lacks the storytelling prowess and imagination of Carrol's books. I don't blame Burton, as I am sure Disney had a hand in dumbing-down this film. Taking steps to make it appealing to the widest-audience possible, throwing creativity out for safety of profits, and advancement of 3D-gimmicktry. Much unlike the 1951 film.


Avatar certainly succeeds in being entertaining, but theirs precious little more here than being well-made 'escapist' fare. While the visual effects are absolutely fantastic, the film lacks an innovative story. From the beginning to end, Avatar is a predictable fare that only sustains on the back of its spectacle. Even encouraging performances by Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana can't cover the films cringe-worthy dialogue, one-dimensional characters, and safe, clichéd narrative. So while Cameron spent 10 years waiting for technology to improve, and an additional 5 years developing Avatar's effects, what the hell happened to the script? He should have realized that the visual splendor of Pandora could only hide Avatar's lack of heart so long.

Shi gan

Disturbingly Relevant
"I was scared of time…time that makes everything change". Who are we? We all possess multiple identities in today's society, as sons/daughters, friends, employees, mother/father, etc. As time evolves and our roles change, societies perception of who we are also changes. This also holds true with love, can it hold through the passage of time, especially in today's superficial, instantly gratified society? Ki-Duk Kim addresses this question in Time, a disturbingly beautiful reflection on love in today's skin-deep world. Certain that her boyfriend, Ji-Woo, is growing tired of her physically, See-hee leaves him, only to re-appear six- months later with a new face. As she makes Ji-Woo fall in love with her all over again, the film raises many psychological and physiological points about our collective traits as human beings. As the vessel that holds our soul begins to decay, it's realized that we cannot stop the hands of time. Thus, we become fixated upon physical beauty…the insecurity that drives us to achieve our own perfection, while also seeking physical perfection in another, keeping us searching for the personality traits we desire wrapped in a beautiful shell. In the end, we are never truly gratified, it's our confusion between lust and love, and the obsession with physical beauty that makes Time a relevant film. Disturbing, yet seemingly rooted in reality, both characters underlying paranoia is certainly a reflection on our insecurity of being rejected, used, or replaced by another, and society as a whole. In the end, it should be the baring of our soul that should attract us to one another, not our bare body.

Public Enemies

Ultimately Underwhelming
On one end of the spectrum, Public Enemies is embellished with great performances by its cast, especially Johnny Depp and Billy Crudup. It's also immensely mounted, with an extremely well designed 1930's era Chicago. The clothing, cars, weapons, and accents are all very accurate, as is to be expected with a big-budget period film. The narrative is also captivatingly woven, showing Dillinger's latter crime career, including his relationship with Billie Frechette, and eventual downfall including his eventual capture by the FBI.

So, while the film certainly had an adequate cast, budget, and script at hand, in the end a lot of it felt underdeveloped. Dillinger and Billie's relationship could have been fleshed out a bit more, and there should have been a few more scenes between Dillinger and Purvis. Both of these were needed in order to create more emotional depth for these characters, particularly to rationalize the actions of both Dillinger and Purvis, in order to make them viable for the audience to care about. As it stands, Public Enemies wasn't lacking in depth for Dillinger, as the majority of the film focuses on him, but Purvis was seriously under-written. His character was under-developed to such an extent that Bale's performance appeared to flounder in comparison to Depp, as Purvis wasn't lended a personality that made the audience empathize with his intentions. Puvis's lack of character development also left much suspense out the picture, an aspect that worked to nerve-wracking results in Mann's Heat, as both DeNiro and Pacino were very well-developed, and possessed far more dialogue exchange than the solitary scene Depp and Bale share in this film. Other faults that hurt the film was the uneven editing and the use of digital cameras instead of traditional 35mm film. The editing for Public Enemies disrupted the flow of the film, as certain scenes were either extended too long or cut so suddenly that pacing felt awkward at some points. Moreover, the use of digital film was not a good choice in shooting a period film. A few scenes, the shootouts especially, are 'cheap' looking, meaning that the realistic shooting style made much of this big-budget film look like it was shot for television or as a documentary, removing much of the scale it would have had on 35mm.

In the end, Public Enemies is a well-acted, stylishly mounted, enjoyable biopic that falters a little due to its underdeveloped characters, uneven editing, and awkward shooting style. But, in essence, its positives far outweigh its negatives, with some outstanding sequences, especially the climax, well-written dialogue, strong performances, and authentic art direction.


Good Adaption...Brilliant Film
An adaptation of a highly influential graphic novel, touted as the best of all time, certainly has a lofty set of expectations to meet when being adapted into a film. Whether it is an inferior product to the novel is debatable, in any case, Zack Snyder mostly succeeds in adapting Watchmen into an incredibly daring, thought-provoking, entertaining film. Turning the traditional superhero story on its head, it's one of those rare comic-book translations that diverts from merely an entertaining action movie into a real piece of cinema. The acting, dialogue, and cinematography are outstanding. The dialogue, especially, hits all the right notes. While the best are certainly reserved for Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan, the rest of the cast get their bits with some hard-hitting dialogue of their own. The exceptional acting, especially by Walter Kovacs (Rorschach), Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan), and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian) create the believability the exceptional dialogue needs to make an impact on the audience. When the backstories of the main characters were developed, and the main plot of the film finally began to take it's course, Watchmen had already succeeded in having the depth and resonance of a dozen other films. While it's not an all-time masterpiece, not a moment of its nearly 3-hour runtime is wasted. Every scene serves a purpose to advance the plot, and nearly every dialogue has substantial meaning. The flashbacks with the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach's backstories, the Mars scenes, and Rorschach's monologues are the most resonating. Even the opening credits are exceptionally crafted, summarizing 50 years of an 'altered' American history. In the end, it's hard to describe how well-made this film is, you can tell that every frame was a labor of love. At some points, however, you could also tell where studio execs tampered with the film to make it more appealing to the masses. Nevertheless, that risky, meaningful big-budget films such as The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Watchmen exist at all show that mainstream cinema has the ability to be the best of both worlds, pieces of entertainment that also stimulate us to think and question. Those are the real blockbusters.


Creative, unique, engrossing...and somewhat disappointing
While I didn't find this nearly as impressive as Ratatouille or Wall-E, Up was still a quality Pixar product, and a creative, if slightly pandering animated film. The animation, as to be expected, was stunning. The character design and ballooning portions of the film were exceptionally crafted. The story, however, was lacking. The first 30 minutes were perfect, exuding a level of maturity I didn't expect from a Pixar film. With minimal dialogue, the expressive cinematography was emotionally effective, reminiscent of the best moments in the nearly silent Wall E. The summation of Carl's life with his wife was absolutely beautiful. It is truly one of Pixar's finest moments, and one of the best scenes of 2009 thus far. Once Carl's journey got underway, however, the film took on a far younger sophistication, with cutesy side-characters and inane slapstick moments thrown in to keep younger audiences awake. Kevin the bird was especially annoying. On the other hand, the dogs were hilarious and creatively crafted, garnering some of the best moments in the film. Overall, I thought UP was an enjoyable, if somewhat underwhelming film that could have been so much more if it didn't noticeably pander to younger audiences. Even so, Pixar's heart is always in the right place.


Certainly A Departure
A meditation on death that's startlingly different from a plethora of similar films on the subject. Daigo, a cellist in an orchestra, loses his job after its dissimilation. Fate forces him to move back to his hometown and eventually take a job as a mortician. As Daigo grows to respect the noble work that so many shun, he is forced to confront the past in the form of his father, who abandoned him as a child, and the growing disdain of his wife on the job he has taken up. Everything about this film is masterfully done. From the taut script, which allows the camera to convey much of the dialogue, to the remarkable understated performances by the cast, and Joe Hiasishi's silently swelling score…every element falls into place perfectly. The subject matter is handled with the utmost care, careful to be tasteful and not too serious or light. Even so, Departures managed to make me smile, think, and cry at relative intervals. At its core, it's a film with a universal message, that says: Mistakes, human differences, and even death should be embraced rather than scowled upon. Because really, aren't we all hurtling towards the same ultimate destiny? Memories are easily altered or forgotten…it's the moments that are precious, in every lifetime, from this one to the next.

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Lacks Soul
Aside from some jaw-dropping visual effects and production design (sound, robots), T4 felt like it lacked any real significance, meandering from one action sequence to the next in-between lines of clichéd dialogue. Regardless, the acting was quite good, with Bale coming off as the only real disappointment. Usually an outstanding character actor, his character here really didn't have any development beyond being John Connor, leader of the resistance. As such, he was in 'Batman' mode throughout the the entire film, with dialogue mainly consisting of screaming, often incoherently. On the other hand, Sam Worthington was a real surprise, delivering an incredible performance as Marcus Wright. He saved the film, adding the only real touch of depth and emotion to an otherwise hollow, unengaging plot. Overall, while I can't fault McG's direction, if T4 had spent some more time in the scripting department, maybe we would have gotten something beyond a drearier version of The Matrix Reloaded. Disappointing.


Expect The Expected
An 'Indianised' Memento, Ghajini is a masala pot-boiler revenge film that is low on distinctiveness, instead relying on vibrant cinematography, over-the-top action sequences, and superlative performances by Aamir Khan and Asin to deliver the goods. Not surprisingly, Ghajini is another tour-de-force turn by Aamir Khan, as he effectively takes to the skin of his character, exuding the laundry list of human emotion, and even bordering on animal-like in his revenge-driven state. Elsewhere, Asin infuses the right-amount of over-the-top histrionics, charm, and girl-power to make her character appealing and ultimately the emotional center-point of the film. The rest of the cast is barely adequate, with the so-called medical student, police inspector, and the main villain verging on the comedic with their clichéd, wooden performances. But, it didn't really matter. The main characters were crafted with such integrity and likability that by the end, I can honestly admit I was on the verge of tears. In the end, Ghajini was a somewhat unremarkable film that was lifted by its high-emotional quotient and some outstanding compositions by A.R. Rahman (Guzarish, Kaise Mujhe), the screeching background score aside. Worth watching once.

Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain

A simple, yet unique, quirky, and spontaneous film full of hilariously flawed 'human' characters, clever dialogue, dazzling cinematography, and a poignant story that encourages one to bask in life's simple pleasures, not taking a moment for granted, and above all…taking chances. It's with the latter that we all seem to have some learned societal trait to avoid taking said risks, in being different, rather pushed to assimilate, masquerading our idiosyncrasies and seeing being unique or 'weird' as a flaw. In this respect, Amelie is an unusual fairytale that uses its oddly charming story and cast of quirky characters to deliver a charming and ultimately uplifting film brimming with a child-like splendor, full of an unmitigated aspiration to view the world through a technicolor lens, one of pure enchantment. A definite re-watch.

Synecdoche, New York

A brave, interesting, yet flawed film
A brave, interesting, even scary film that I found slightly faltered underneath the weight of its grandiose ideas. While Kauffmans pondering on love, death, loneliness, and the overarching purpose of life were at times startlingly raw and beautiful in their presentation, the films often cryptic main storyline dragged throughout. While I found every scene was necessary, some were not fully developed or prolonged considerably, affecting the overall impact of the film. Not to say that there aren't many many truly brilliant, almost jaw-dropping moments of celluloid here. Hoffman and the entire supporting cast are wonderful in their roles, and the bulk of the dialogue, especially the last monologue, was affecting in how deeply it cuts into our basic human needs and desires. It was fascinating seeing the faux New York grow throughout the film, eventually becoming a truly alternative reality for the protagonist was surreal. In summary, though, I found it to be a challenging film that really wants to get at the core of how we all strive to find/create something truly meaningful out of life that defines our short time here, yet most never find it. In the end, we should live in every moment, and not have any regrets at the end. Its a challenging, mind-bending love/hate film that portrays the joyful, lonely, bleak, and uplifting moments of human existence in all its complex simplicity.

Låt den rätte komma in

Brooding and Emotional Vampire Tale
A very different mediation on the standard coming-of-age story. Oskar, tormented by his peers, is veering for companionship in a snowy small-town outside of Stockholm, Sweden. One snowy night, he meets Eli, the new girl who has moved in next-door. While the two unabashedly grow fond of each-other, Oskar knows that theirs something curiously odd about her. She seems to only be out at night, her body is deathly cold, and she craves human blood. Let the Right One In is a strangely sweet and captivating tale of the trials of adolescence and a love that knows no bounds, really. But this isn't Twilight by any means. The film does not rely on melodrama and special effects to hold your attention. It almost indiscernibly places its vampire mythos into our world, making Eli feel far more 'human' than most of her other fang-baring brethren. That she has the physical and mental capacity of a 12-year old, yet has lived for hundreds of years, also makes us feel for her innocence and emotional plight, yet fear her for the bloodthirst she possesses. Its methodically slow pace allows the films lingering cinematography and haunting musical score to craft a suspenseful, brooding atmosphere effectively. The two child-actors who play Oskar and Eli respectively, are excellent in their very under-stated roles, allowing their facial gestures to do most of the talking. In summary, this was a very enjoyable, affecting drama/horror film that served as a refreshing take on adolescence and the vampire folklore. Highly recommended!

Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom

Simply Wonderful
A simple, yet poignant film about the relationship between a Monk and his protégé. It is a quiet film that is reserved in its pace and narrative, yet fiery in its understated emotional intensity and gorgeous, lingering cinematography. With minimal story, dialogue, and a lethargic pace, more restless viewers may find the film lacking in narrative and pace. For the patient viewer, however, this film may prove to be a heart-wrenching introspective experience on the simplicities of existence, and the feelings that complicate it. On top of its beautiful cinematography and score, the acting and skimp narrative are good compliments, lending the film much emotional depth. Overall, this is simply a wonderful film that's carefully plotted, mesmerizingly shot, and superbly acted. Highly recommended.


Stylishly Vapid
Fluff held together by overblown action sequences. Though it started out interestingly enough, as it progressed the plot became too far fetched for its own good. Once McAvoy steps into the Fraternity, the film throws all logic out the window and relies on action to advance the narrative. That the script is half-baked only emphasized that the somewhat creative action sequences are the only positive this film has to offer. The acting was a bit better, with Freeman, Jolie, and McAvoy delivering competent yet unimpressive performances. In summary, Wanted was another disappointing summer flick that follows the trend of relying on effects over plot.

Slumdog Millionaire

Boyle Triumphs
The power of education, money, and technology pales in comparison to the strength that an individual can attain through the force of love. An eye-opening, heart-wrenching, pulse-pounding film on so many levels, Danny Boyles Slumdog Millionaire is a brave and novel attempt that both entertains and informs. The film is very novel in the fact that its main story centers around a poverty-stricken boy who ends up on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. As he escalates closer and closer to the top prize of Rs. 20,000,000, the producers think hes a cheat and he cant believe whats happening either as every question somehow relates to an incident in his life. Though the plot initially sounded far-fetched, it unraveled in such a fast-paced and carefully crafted manner that by the end I was on the edge of my seat rooting for Jamal to win that prize, and realize his dreams. Presented in a series of flashbacks, most of the narrative is spend chasing our protagonist throughout India, from the slums of Mumbai to the steps of the Taj Mahal, as he struggles to live in a world that is seemingly against him at every turn. The only shimmering light in this boys life, and the reason he is on the show, is to find the love of his life, a girl named Latika. Though how he manages to find and lose her throughout his life was absolutely heartbreaking, it also helped shape the subsequent events that help him answer the questions on the show. Therefore the film informs through the exploration of three subjects: Depicting the harsh reality of poverty in modern-day India, the ethereal force of love that rings with total purity and absolute selflessness, and the role destiny plays in ones life. Its a very harsh, realistic film while also having elements of a fairytale, ala having an underdog rise to the top. Its very well acted, with the child actors who play the young versions of Jamal, Salim, and Latika leaving the largest impression. Even their adult counterparts and the supporting players including Bollywood stars Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan lend natural, engaging performances. Moreover, its gorgeously shot, edited with aplomb, and has a score thats both haunting and irresistibly catchy. In summary, walking out of this one, I felt absolutely floored at the power and beauty of Slumdog Millionaire. This is definitely one that cannot be missed.

The Fall

Visual Spectacle
The Fall is truly poetry on celluloid. The most visually arresting film I've seen since The Fountain is also one of the best films I've seen this year. Take the child-like fantasy of The Princess Bride, add a dollop of the more macabre Pans Labyrinth, and the otherworldly gorgeousness of films like Lord Of The Rings, What Dreams May Come, and Tarsem's own The Cell and you get The Fall. An interesting plot? Definitely. But what really kept my interest was the visual storytelling on display throughout this film. Every frame of The Fall is composed and shot with aplomb. It will literally send your rods and cones into overload with the plethora of colors on display in its opulently designed land and dreamscapes. The acting, tight editing, and moving score also compliment the film tremendously. In summary, this is film is an absolute marvel that screams to be seen on a big screen. Its visual splendor alone is worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, seeing that it fell beneath the radar during the distribution process with a very limited release, its not a well known commodity outside the art-house circle. Strangely, thats a blessing in disguise, as films of this nature rarely receive the type of promotional push required to be a commercial success. I say more power to brave, independent filmmakers who are willing to let financial success elude them so the creative expression of their art isn't altered to suit what studio giants believe will sell to mainstream audiences. This is an epic, engaging, visually astounding film that should be seen by all.

Tonari no Totoro

Essential Viewing
I was initially skeptical on the quality of this one, but surprisingly this film was both engaging and beautiful from start to finish. Loosely based on Miyazakis own childhood, My Neighbor Totoro is a simplistic story with a kind of charm, depth, and broad appeal that makes it irresistible. When two girls move to a new farmhouse to be closer to their ailing mother, they have to deal with some of life's more eccentric experiences, that of impending death and incredible magic. At its heart, its about the uninhibited curiosity of childhood, and the innocence in accepting everything without question, to such an extent that magic is a very real reality. The otherworldly in this film, comes in the form of Totoro, an animal spirit who is the guardian of the forest near the girls home. Overall, this film is absolutely spectacular. Kids will love it, though some of the deeper meaning will be lost on them. Adults will also love it, as a nostalgic ride through childhood and for some of the more profound themes running throughout the film. Technically, though made in 1988, the animation in this film looks every bit as stunning today. Totoros forest and the many quiet landscape shots are absolutely gorgeous. Disney, eat your heart out. The film is paced slow, letting the film unfurl at a relaxing pace through its scant 86 minute runtime. The lethargic pace, along with Miyazakis expressive camera pans and attention to detail lend the girls discovery of their home/the forest, the famous cat bus scene, and every moment with Totoro a very 360 degree, hypnotic feel. The new English dub is well done without losing much in translation, retaining the witty and lighthearted exchanges from the original. Overall, this films serves as a great introduction into the world of Miyazaki, and remains a timeless classic in its own right. Miyazakis most lighthearted venture also remains his most introspective and grounded work. Even without the whimsicality of Spirited Away and Kikis Delivery Service, this is by far his most engaging and charming film. Essential viewing.

Iron Man

Iron Man Soars
A great superhero after a long long time. Up there with the Spiderman/X-Men series, and franchise reboot Batman Begins as the cream of the crop of superhero films. The story never drags, and Marvel's adjustments to the comics original story were sens...(read more) ible and well-done. Robert Downey Jr. makes an incredible comeback as a lead actor with this film, he is great as Tony Stark. The supporting cast is adequate. The effects are excellent, especially the suit itself. The flying sequences were amazing. Overall, a carefully woven, well-scripted, reality-based story helmed by a powerhouse cast and great effects propel Iron Man to the stratosphere.


Bollywood's Best Of 2008
Finally, something decent emerges from the Bollywood stable this year. As always, Actor/Director Rajat Kapoor brings audiences a challenging film that tears through conventional Bollywood film-making norm, and once again comes out a triumph. After the...(read more) impressive two-punch of Mixed Doubles and Raghu Romeo, Rajat tries his hand at a gangster film with Mithya. Publicized as a comedy to lure audiences in, for the most part the film is actually a drama with elements of dark comedy. Without giving it away, let me just say that Mithya's story is akin to taking Shahrukh Khan's Om Prakash Makhija character and dumping him into the world of another Shahrukh starrer, Don, without the masala. Moreover, Mithya is a much better product than the former films, sorry Shahrukh Khan. With that being said, the film is a clever mix of dark comedy and traditional drama, with some brilliant performances complimenting a wonderful 'different' script. Ranvir Shorey is excellent as a man striving to figure out who he is, and where he belongs. He effectively portrays the range of emotions needed for his character. The rest of the cast support Shorey effectively. This is a movie that will make you laugh, cry, and think. See It!


Take A Bow Mr. Bhansali
One of the most offbeat, and beautiful Bollywood films i've ever seen. Staged more akin to a Broadway musical than an actual film, the films simplistic storyline, 'set' setting, and loosely fleshed character are singularly both its greatest asset and...(read more) downfall. While these qualities lend the film its dreamlike, fantasy feel, it also leaves too much too interpretation. Too some that may be a bad thing...but this is a fantasy right? Right. So, while the film starts wonderfully with the introduction of characters and Raj stumbling upon Sakina on the bridge, the film does begin to drag towards the second half when Sakina tells her story, why? To the audience, her reason for loving Imaan so deeply is never really explained, it just happens, and that may put some off. Again, open too interpretation. But when has love ever been just happens. The boxing metaphor was also quite cheesy. Otherwise, the film was very well done. The set/atmosphere is the real star of the film. It has the look of Moulin Rouge with an exotic Indian twist. The films gorgeously choreographed and picturized songs only add to this effect. I wish Jaan E Jann was a bit longer though. The acting is first-rate...Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee, and Zora Sehgal all do very well in their supporting roles, with Zora Sehgal being the best of the three...playing the part of a very bitter, disillusioned but spunky loving old lady. She lends the movie quite a bit of life. Ranbir Kapoor is nearly perfect in his debut...his dialogue delivery and mannerisms are very akin to Raj Kapoor, his whole character is pretty much a homage, it looks like he'll be carrying his grandfathers legacy with much success. Moreover, apart from aping his grandfather...he does have great screen presence and can emote very well. One of the finest debuts this year. On the other hand, Sonam Kapoor is quite good, though she dose not carry or get the same amount of screen presence as Ranbir, though she does very well with what she gets. Direction was on par, SLB/Sony knew they were taking a risk with this one, and it looks like it didn't this I have too ask, when will Indian audiences learn to grow up? Sadly, it seems Indian audiences for the most part, cant handle thinking outside the 'box'...they want everything spoon-fed too them. So it perplexed me when they accept far more illogical films like say Om Shanti Om than this. Dumb. Anyways, Saawariya is one of my favorites this year...go see it and decide yourself.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

Courageous And Underrated
One of the best of 2006 - I don't understand why everyone seemed to hate this...for once, a mature realistic love story that for some possibly is too much so. Everything about this film is nearly wonderful...the script is smart and witty (the best li...(read more) nes are reserved for SRK and Amitabh), the music is gorgeous, and the cinematography is beautiful and color-coordinated for moods in the film with hues of blue and red. The acting is first-rate: SRK pulls a career best with a double act: Part of his character harks back to his more aggressive/psycho roles in Darr and Baazigar, the other half is the candy floss Khan that we regularly see in 99% of his other movies. On one hand, you hate him for being such an egotistical bitter bastard, but than Khan's charm oozes through, and you cant help but love his matter how absurd his beliefs and intentions are. Amitabh manages to steal the show from all others with his presence alone...he could win accolades for not saying a damn thing. But he does...and the best lines are reserved for him. Like SRK, half his character is wacky and zany, and the other is serious and somber...he does incredible with both. His moving speech near the beginning of the film, the mix-up that occurs between the two families, the dinner scene, and his death scene were all incredible. He keeps this movie alive. The rest of the cast perform credibly and lend amble support: Abhi exudes confidence and is comfortable in his supporting role as the doting loving husband. His scenes with Amitabh are some of the best in the movie. Preity is the best of the females as SRK's wife, she is very good, as usual. The scene where SRK confesses to her about his cheating is very good. She exudes a more restrained mature performance in this film than the typical bubbly roles she is seen in. Kiron Kher is the second-best, her scenes with Amitabh are hilarious. Lastly, Rani is her typical annoying self...her performance doesn't call for much besides crying...but when she does speak, she still sounds whiny and like she has a coal stuck in her throat. She gets the best wardrobe...but her performance is strictly average. A far cry from Black. Arjun Rampal is good, as always, in a small supporting role. Overall, this large ensemble cast does very well...though besides the two superstars, the rest are left in the shadows. The only negatives in this film, as far as I can see, is the idiotic behavior and hurtful actions SRK and Rani partake in throughout the movie. Their is not much depth to their 'affair' story at all. When their spouses love them so much, they go about constantly degrading them. Why is SRK always mad...why the hell doesn't he get a job..its not like he lost his leg...go back to school dude. And Rani is depressed throughout the movie, about what? Very selfish/ignorant characters. Its only near the climax that the 'affair' story gains some credibility and these two characters feel more 'human' as they feel remorse for their actions. Overall, that and the funny, though unnecessary 'Black Beast' scene are the only negatives of this otherwise very good movie. Direction by Karan Johar is immaculate, his writing is also superb. This is his best work yet - far more interesting and mature than Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. See it.

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom

All Gloss, No Substance
By far, the worst film i've seen all year. The less said about this one the better. The storyline was interesting in concept but executed terribly. On top of that, the movie was mind-numbingly boring. The main characters are both shallow and illog...(read more) ical...words cannot describe how random and boring the background stories that occupy the first half of the film are. The whole Ticket To Hollywood sequence in Abhi's story was both pointless (ticket to Hollywood?) and crude (the Princess Diana bit). Preity Zinta's story was even more absurd (the whole superhero aspect) and insulting (india vs Pakistan, Indian's skin color). Overall, ridiculous and pointless can describe the majority of Jhoom's plot. Ditto for the 'dance off' sequence that occupies most of the second half. By the time the so called 'twist' shows up...the audience cannot sympathize with the characters since their is no reason given for their feelings...their really is no plot development to speak of...this movie just goes nowhere. The only reason to see this is for its beautifully staged songs. But even those get annoying...seeing Amitabh Bachchan (in a pointless cameo) and company repeat the title song 6 times throughout the movie is enough too drive a person insane. While the film is told in a very unconventional fantasy musical type cant pull it off. Unlike last years wonderful Jaan-E-Mann...Yash Raj didn't even try. The script and direction is absolutely abysmal. As far as acting...Abhishek was very annoying, and Preity Zinta sleepwalked through her role. On the other hand, Lara/Bobby gave credible performances as Abhi and Preity's love interests and lended some life to the film. They showed both sides of their characters excellently...along with some of the songs and cinematography, they were the saving grace of the movie. Overall, as of all Yash Raj productions of late...this film is all gloss no substance. Avoid.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indy is back and better than ever, now with a senior discount. Ford dons Dr. Jones hat once again as the swashbuckling archaeologist. The story is as out-there as any other Indy vehicle, but this one does not delve into the absurdity of prior adventu...(read more) res such as Temple Of Doom. The set-pieces are fantastic, the banter is as witty as usual, and most of the series familiar cast of supporting characters return as strong as ever, with Shia Le Beouf turning in another strong performance. Ford bounces back after the countless disasters hes starred in the last couple years. Having fun with the role, Ford encompasses Indy with the same amount of bravura and spirit as his earlier adventures. Spielberg is also in full form here, after directing several ho-hum vehicles over the past few years. All in all, this is an extremely enjoyable adventure film that rises above the typical summer popcorn flick. A worthy addition to the Indy series.

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