Death on the Nile (1978)

Death on the Nile is a murder mystery adapted from the fiction of the same name written by none other than Agatha Christie. Horrific murders take place on a boat on the Nile with travellers each with their own crooked intentions aboard. Modus operandi as well as suspects galore and that’s the problem in this case solved brilliantly by the well-known sleuth Hercule Poirot. The film has an intelligent blend of humour, dark comedy and drama. The story is gripping and the last half an hour when the mystery unfolds is fascinating. And there’s the huge bonus of enjoying Egypt as the original story develops on a trip to the Land of the Pharaohs. You get to enjoy a lot of Egypt in the first hour of the film. I’ve never seen an Agatha Cristie fiction on film and Death on the Nile was a classic start. Peter Ustinov is brilliant and it’s a delight watching him play the world-famous detective’s role. My rating would be 8/10.

August: Osage County (2013)

After watching the film I couldn’t believe that Meryl Streep didn’t receive the Best Actress (in a leading role) Academy award for her performance! I have watched Blue Jasmine too. Kate Blanchett is good but nowhere near the hell of a performance that Meryl Streep delivers in August: Osage County. However, this is not the first time the Oscar went into the wrong hands. August: Osage County is a twisted story taken out of the lives of some regular people. It questions many aspects of the idea of family as we understand it today – distances widening as we go more and more nuclear, monumental hardships of parents going unnoticed and unthanked for and the ensuing bitterness, loneliness and despair setting in with age, kids misusing liberty as license and catastrophic secrets. It revels in cinematic drama and black comedy. The cast is star-studded and keeps up to the expectation. I guess many may discard August: Osage County as the old-age movie but I assure you if you enjoy drama, you won’t regret watching it for a single second. It will make you ponder afterwards on the significance of family and home. My rating would be 7.5/10. Strictly for adults because of the language.

The Great Beauty (2013)

I was unsure whether I should continue watching a movie that starts too slowly and suddenly dives into a rave night party in Rome for more than 10 minutes. It was unsettling. Throughout the first half I was gloom that I am watching a mix of Midnight In Paris, The Great Gatsby and Baraka. And The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) is lengthy too. However, the beauty of Rome kept me watching as I didn’t want to miss it. The film took me for a surprise in the second half. Things those seemed whimsical in the first half made absolute sense in the second. The Great Beauty is all about contrasts – between life and death, cons and real art, beautiful Rome and the empty lives of a section of its elite, pretension and true feelings, physical appearance and mental maturity, material and spiritual life… Toni Servillo keeps observing the life he is living and we keep watching in awe from the time we realize it. And finally life doesn’t seem pointless or empty to him anymore, it just redeems his trust in life once again… in spite of losing everyone who were near to him once. The music (sometimes haunting, brutal and sometimes sizzling) and the camera work constructs the necessary ambiance. The reflective dialogues are remarkable but you need quality subtitles if you do not understand Italian. Whatever the reviews might say, the film is not at all about watching Rome, that’s complimentary. It’s an example of world-class cinematography with a theme that wanders among the contradictions in life. Strictly for adults because of graphic nudity and profanity. My rating would be 8/10.

In the Mood for Love (2000)

I wish Kar Wai Wong doesn’t continue making cheap movies like The Grandmaster and concentrates on directing what he is good at – poetic films with stunning cinematography and sublime storyline. In the Mood for Love is probably his masterpiece till date. It has everything that characterizes Kar Wai Wong’s films: romance seen from a unique angle, background music that mesmerizes, relationships scrutinized in microscopic detail, few major characters developed with extreme care, drama of international standard and finally, the beauty in minimalism. Every aspect of the movie is meticulously measured, from dialogues to duration of the shots. The film is a captivating mix of vivid colours throughout. The experience is like being in dreamspace. Tony Chiu Wai Leung is at his best in this movie with an equally strong performance from Maggie Cheung. Watching In the Mood For Love the first time was a refreshing experience as it opened up a new dimension in film-making. And I felt the same way when I watched it once again after a few years. My rating is 9.5/10.

Montage (2013)

One of my friends suggested Montage [Mong-ta-joo] to me. Though the rating seemed average I decided to watch it and I am glad that I did. Montage is a thriller from South Korea which I believe did not get enough coverage. To be fair the movie starts rolling in the second half and the first half follows a quite familiar storyline. You may have to push your patience a bit to carry on through the first half. For example, a grieving mother trying to solve the mystery behind her child’s kidnapping, a frustrated detective… who hasn’t seen this before? However, I did not foresee the twists waiting in the second half. The director has concluded the film well with a humane touch to it. The movie is quite underrated in IMDB and the number of voters is also very less. My guess is the movie did not get strong publicity before release. Montage is not a shining movie like the Hollywood thrillers but watching it with quality subtitles is worth the time. My rating will be a 7.5/10.

Captain Phillips (2013)

Despite the high rating in IMDB and 6 Oscar nominations, Captain Phillips seemed too predictable and an average movie to me. It’s the same old story of small pockets of simple yet needy people turning violent (because they think they are deprived), the great American Dream and finally a display of the intelligence and power of the American Navy. It’s all too simple except the performances of Barkhad Abdi and Tom Hanks. It could have been a real good movie if the director reduced the length of the movie by at least half an hour without the shallow melodrama and failed attempts at heightening tension. People still fall for those and that’s why blockbusters still earn but no one will remember this movie an hour after they leave the hall. You will definitely not regret seeing it but it is not half exciting as you think it would be. My rating would be a 7.2/10.

Jagten (2012)

 

“Once a suspect, always a criminal” is a natural instinct in any society throughout the world. Jagten (meaning “the hunt”) is a Danish film that revolves around this biased and yet perpetual notion. It shows an already troubled man’s life turned upside down by a false but grave allegation from a child. Adults make the situation worse and quickly pushes the protagonist and his near and dear ones into incremental ignominy. Though he successfully proves his innocence in the court of law it’s always too late in this case. He can’t erase the scar on his character in the eyes of the society and remains a criminal forever. The last couple of minutes make Jagten complete with perfect finesse. It also explains the significance of the name of the film. The film is highly acclaimed and rightly deserves all of it. Mads Mikkelsen delivers a tremendous performance. His skills are comparable to the likes of Viggo Mortensen and Javier Bardem who are artists in character roles. The film is suitable for adults only due to sexual content and profanity. My rating is 8.5/10.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008) [TV Series]

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animation series for kids first aired on Nickelodeon. Though the target audience is youngsters, Avatar is a treat to watch at all ages. The concept is ingenious – a world divided into 4 Nations (represented by the elements Water, Earth, Fire and Air) who once used to live harmoniously but got imbalanced when the Fire Nation attempted to conquer and control the other three. However, each Nation and its people have their unique strengths (their bending skills using which they can control the elements), characteristics and are essential for maintaining balance on Earth. The concepts are inspired by many religious and spiritual theories but the messages and lessons are educational and straightforward. It’s an exciting adventure of a few kids with supernatural skills through unknown lands, people, forests and animals from fairy tales. It’s by far my most favourite animation series and I would highly recommend watching it. The first few episodes may seem a little slow but Avatar will make it up to you manifold by the time you finish watching the last episode. My rating is a perfect 10!

Rush (2013)

Anyone fond of cars or car-racing is bound to like Rush for at least its adrenaline rushing effects. The dramatization is based on the true story of the professional rivalry between and feats of two Formula One legends – Niki Lauda and James Hunt. Though they were very different in their attitude towards life and racing (one very disciplined and one pretty much the definition of ‘cool’) they were both contemporary Formula One World Champions. The storyline remains true to the facts which is fascinating and thrilling as well. That and the live racing track effects are the real deals in the movie. The acting is pretty average and the dialogues (specially from Niki Lauda) may seem reciprocal at times. Though the movie attempts to highlight James Hunt I think Niki Lauda is the true champion both because of his records as well as the challenges in life he had to overcome (a comeback after being fried at 800°F for example). The movie is fast paced and will not fail to entertain. The IMDB rating (8.3) right now seems a little overrated to me. My rating would be a 7.5/10.

The Last Lions (2011)

For people who love watching wildlife in its absolute freedom, The Last Lions will be a treasured documentary. As it was a National Geographic initiative viewers get a near-live experience of enjoying nature at its best through the lens. The documentary was filmed and directed at Botswana, Africa by Dereck and Beverly Joubert who has decades of experience with the lions in the region. The film closely follows a lioness and her cubs – their way of life and their struggles with their natural adversaries. The Last Lions ironically shows the truth that danger creeps in very early in even the life of the future king of the jungle. The documentary is an attempt to raise concern about the steadily diminishing number of lions on earth – from 450,000 once to merely a 20,000 today and to spread awareness on the importance of their preservation. To my astonishment it does every single thing right! 88 minutes of natural surprise and shocks and compassion. The narration is extraordinary and Jeremy Irons’ voice is a delight to hear. I have watched The African Cats before but it stands no comparison to The Last Lions. If you love wildlife, you simply can’t miss this documentary. My rating – a perfect 10!

Like many other viewers (as I found out later), I was curious about what happened to the injured lion cub with a broken back. The directors have explained their decision with the cub in a lengthy post here and personally I realized that it was absolutely justified.