Sunday, September 03, 2006

Summer Sightings

I apologize for have been insanely lazy about posting reviews. Summer weekends are always packed plus work has been picking up too. So here are my mini reviews of some of the movies I have seen over the summer.

Superman Returns

Probably the most awaited flick of this summer. Everyone was curious to see how newcomer Brandon Routh would fill the big ol' shoes left behind by Christopher Reeve. Add to that we had the director who had given us the delightful first two episodes of the X-Men trilogy at the helm - Brian Singer. So the anticipation was high, to put it mildly. The former aspect worried folks than the latter. But surprisingly the latter was teh one which lost the movie. Brandon Routh did most things right. But that didn't make up for the flaws in the movie.

Superman has never been one of the dark superheroes (like Batman) so the treatment of the movie really failed the franchise. Superman had never been much about emotional intenisity. To put it simply, it was about flying around in a red cape and saving the world. Singer unfortunately overlooked it and there came the free fall without a parachute. Not even the always brilliant Kevin Spacey could break the fall.

My rating : 2/5

An Inconvenient Truth

Probably the most important movie to come out this year. If the blazing summers and the raging hurricanes aren't the cue for the world to wake up to the reality of global warming, here was yet another nudge.

Based on the presentation Al Gore has been giving around the globe, the movie awakens us to the stark reality of global warming. Even most of us who are aware of the dangers of global warming are not quite cognizant about how imminent the danger is.

Now only if we could get the mainstream media to dedicate some time to reporting on this rather than on John Mark Carr or Baby Suri.

My rating : 4/5

United 93

This was the first of the 9/11 centric movies to come out this year and my favorite among the two. More so because of the raw nature of how this movie has been made. The use of a near anonymous cast, including people actually involved with the incidents made it feel so immediate.

Paul Greengrass's measured approach to depicting the events of one of the darkest days in history, was simply brilliant. Trying to stay true to the information at hand, Greengrass has created a movie which almost feels like a documentary - and I mean that as a compliment.

My rating : 5/5

The Devil wears Prada

As if we needed any second affirmation to the fact that Meryl Streep is probably the greatest actress alive, she carries the movie all through and elevates it from a flick-based-on-chick-lit to a delightful movie. She brings the icy Miranda Priestly to life only like she can.

The mannerisms, the low voice, the icy glances etc combine to create a character on screen which is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

My rating : 3/5

World Trade Center

Probably it is the sheer gravitas of the events surrounding that dark day that tempered a fiery film maker like Oliver Stone into churning out such a restrained movie. And this subdued version of Stone works well.

Based on the accounts of two Port Authority police officers rescued from the rubble of the twin towers, WTC shows us the other face of tragedy. One which stands up to be counted when it really matters, the one which does its duty even at the risk of personal danger, the one which does the right thing because it IS the right thing to do.

It is tough not to be inspired by the bravery of the firefighters, police officers and all the others who were willing to rush into the burning buildings or step through the rubble even it meant saving just one life. They are truly America's finest !

My rating : 3.5/5

Little Miss Sunshine

A girl from Albequerque wearing geeky-glasses and a tummy, seems an unlikely candidate for a kid's beauty pageant. But throw in a coke snorting Grandpa, Neitzsche loving brother who is on a vow of silence, a gay cousin with a failed suicide attempt, a Dad scraping for his career as a motivational speaker, a mom trying to hold it all together and a VW bus. You have more than enough ingredients to make a delightful indie comedy.

The movie tracks this family's journey from Albequerque to Redondo Beach so that Olive can participate in the Little Miss Sunshine contest. The cast is simply outstanding and aptly cast - Alan Arkin, Steve Carrell, Greg Kinnear, Toni Colette are all exceptional. But the movie belongs to Abigail Breslin who brings Olive to life.

And hey, how can you not love a movie which ends with dancing to Superfreak :)

My rating : 4/5

Half Nelson

The plotline is simple - a friendship between a teacher with a coke addiction and his student. Sounds like made-for-Lifetime, right? Wrong. Unlike the usual student-teacher movies, it doesn't try to preach. There are no life altering changes which happen suddenly in the movie. Nor is there a montage depicting the budding friendship.

Ryan Gosling plays Dan Dunne, a history teacher in a junior high. For the most part Mr. Dunne is a good teacher. He tries to inspire his students to see value in learning history and tries to make it interesting. He also coaches the basketball team with enough conviction. But he also likes to spend his evenings snorting coke.

One of his students finds him passed out in the bathroom and from there gradually starts a friendship of sorts. How the friendship affects both of them is the true plot of the movie.

The movie absolutely belongs to Ryan Gosling. In an Oscar-worthy performance Gosling portrays the various dimensions of this character to a T. Whether it is the coke/alcohol induced rant about present-day politics or the patient approach to explaining history or the slacked out mode of a cokehead, Gosling does all of it in an effortless manner.

My Rating - 4/5

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