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The Paper (1994)
Implausible storyline, but well acted film on inner workings of a tabloid paper
'The Paper' is solid entertainment. The film shows the high tension jobs of reporters working in a big city tabloid paper. The plot is rather implausible, but the film has a cracking pace and good performances all round. Michael Keaton is dynamite as the workaholic editor of the paper who's immersed in his job and neglecting his pregnant wife Marisa Tomei. Robert Duvall, Glenn Close and Jason Robards all do well in supporting roles. The ending is full of loop-holes but somehow manages to work. Worth watching for it's energy and fine acting.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Good Robin Williams in reasonable comedy-drama
'Mrs. Doubtfire' is a reasonable comedy-drama with Robin Williams disguising himself as an elderly female housekeeper so that he can spend some time with his children who are currently living with estranged wife Sally Field. The film belongs completely to Williams who is very believable as an old lady. He is quite restrained in the film and we rarely see his manic persona. There are some laughs but the film also has many dramatic moments. The climax (MINOR SPOILERS) is rather poignant. The children act well and Pierce Brosnan has a brief role. The film is good family entertainment.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
memorable Javier Bardem in intriguing film, masterfully directed
This is an intriguing film with cracking dialog directed masterfully by the Coen Brothers. The plot line is ambiguous and the ending very anticlimactic, but all that is expected from the Coens. Javier Bardem is memorable as a menacing killer Anton Chigurh who's after Josh Brolin (also great). The third main character is sheriff Tommy Lee Jones, who can't understand the brutality of an ever-changing world. The film is at times dense, with many issues subtly raised. There's an impressive cat and mouse sequence in the mid-section that's thrilling to watch. Highly recommended and deserves multiple viewings.
One Fine Day (1996)
Pleasant romantic comedy, charming Clooney and Pfeiffer
'One fine Day' is a breezy romantic comedy with winning performances by Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney. The plot is standard Hollywood fluff as both of them keep running into each other while trying to get their respective kids to a school field trip. Both Clooney and Pfeiffer are charming and share good chemistry with each other. If there's a fault, it's that the two remain apart for most of the running time. It would have been nice to see them sharing more screen time together. Still, the film is pleasant fun and well worth watching, specially as a date movie.
Intense Russell Crowe and visceral action scenes in period epic
'Gladiator' is a period epic with an amazingly intense performance by Russell Crowe. He almost singlehandedly raises the movie and makes it a must watch film. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film's pacing is slow and the story is essentially a revenge drama. Joaquin Phoenix is very effective playing the malevolent but tortured Commodus. Richard Harris adds a touch of class as Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Derek Jacobi is good in a brief role. The opening battle scene is brilliant. The rest of the action is visceral and bloody. Some of the CGI-aided Special Effects look a bit dated but the film remains impressive.
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Miscast Orlando and flawed screenplay but good action scenes
Ridley Scott period epic is watchable but never comes close to his 'Gladiator'. The fault is partially in the screen-play. It shows most of the protagonists having extremely secular views on religion which feels too modern for a film about the crusades. The acting is generally good with Jeremy Irons, Ghassan Massoud and specially Edward Norton doing well. However, Orlando Bloom is simply miscast in the film. He tries hard but lacks the charisma to pull off the role of Balian. The film remains a grand spectacle and the action scenes are worth watching. See it at home, preferably the superior directer's cut.
A Good Year (2006)
Watchable romantic comedy but miscast Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe is miscast in the lead of 'A Good Year'. While he is believable as a tough stock-broker, he looks totally out of place in rural France. Slapstick comedy is clearly not his forte and the role needed someone with a lighter touch. In fact, Tom Hollander, who plays Crowe's buddy in the film, would probably have made a better lead. Still, its not all bad. The scenery is gorgeous, and Albert Finney turns in an assured supporting performance. Marion Cotillard looks beautiful but has little chemistry with Crowe. The film is watchable preferably at home on TV/DVD.
Simplistic storyline but rousing battles and good Gibson
This film is extremely one-sided in its depiction of history but it remains watchable. The story is simplistic showing the simple-minded, oppressed Scots rising up against the blood-thirsty English. Patrick McGoohan is virtually a caricature of pure evil as Edward I. However, the film has rousing and extremely bloody battle scenes. The action is visceral and very effective. Mel Gibson is good in the lead. His charisma makes (MINOR SPOILERS) his final death scene very difficult to watch. The film is well photographed and Scotland has never looked better. Watchable epic.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
Watchable sequel but weaker than the first film
This sequel to 'Elizabeth' is really two movies in one. The first focuses on court intrigue and assassination plots against Queen Elizabeth. The second is the Spanish Armada and how England faces up to the challenge.While the first segment is reasonably engrossing despite being convoluted, the second feels rushed. The Spanish invasion probably deserved a movie of its own. Cate Blanchett is decent in the lead but doesn't come close to her nuanced performance in 'Elizabeth'. Her emotional entanglements occasionally annoy. Samantha Morton is excellent in a brief appearance. Geoffrey Rush and Clive Owen are adequate. Watchable but weaker than the first film.
Impressive performances in gritty political thriller
'Elizabeth' features some impressive performances all round, including a star-making turn by Cate Blanchett in the lead. Her performance alone makes the film well worth watching. The film is essentially a political thriller and there's lots of intrigue and double-crosses. The tone of the film is rather gritty and it is consistently absorbing, even if events seem a bit murky at times. Geoffrey Rush and Christopher Eccleston both excel. Joseph Fiennes is effective as Robert Dudley and his romance with Elizabeth is touching. The film is violent, and the conclusion feels a little rushed. Recommended.
Phone Booth (2002)
Tense film, good Colin Farrell but implausible plot
'Phone Booth' has a simple plot. A smarmy publicist is trapped inside a phone booth by an unseen sniper. This film would have been terrific as a short but can't really sustain itself over it's admittedly modest running time. You are constantly aware of how implausible the situation is, and the sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) seems to have superhuman abilities. Colin Farrell is quite good though and successfully brings out the complexities of his character. Forest Whitaker plays a sympathetic cop but is hamstrung by the script. The film is tense but unbelievable. It's best seen at home on television or DVD.
Panic Room (2002)
Well acted action-thriller, weak conclusion
David Fincher directs this cleverly conceived thriller about a mother and daughter trapped inside a panic room by three criminals. The film is well-paced and the camera work is slick. The film does well in exploring the confines of the house. Jodie Foster is effective and maintains a high intensity throughout. Kristen Stewart is decent as her daughter. Forest Whitaker plays a slightly sympathetic criminal and does well. Unfortunately, after an engrossing game of cat and mouse, the conclusion is weak. Staple clichés crop up and the film goes for a crowd-pleasing finale that doesn't quite feel right. Still watchable.
Without Limits (1998)
Engrossing biopic with an extremely physical performance from Billy Crudup
'Without Limits' is an engrossing biopic on famous long distance athlete Steve Prefontaine. Billy Crudup is completely believable in the lead and captures Prefontaine's energy and his passionate desire to never give up. The role is an extremely physical one as Crudup shows us the gut-wrenching trauma Prefontaine went through. The film is straightforward and there are no subplots to detract from the storyline. Donald Sutherland is effective as his coach Bill Bowerman. The role may be clichéd but Sutherland is refreshing and has some great dialog as well. A solid entertainer and a must for sports buffs.
Overlong and predictable, but good Shahrukh and lovely songs
Pardes is very long and a touch predictable. Still, it's not a bad watch and could have been a good film with better editing. Shahrukh gives an uncharacteristically restrained performance, although he does go over the top towards the end. Mahima is charming but overdoes the cuteness. Amrish Puri is solid as usual. Apoorva Agnihotri is weak. The songs are great. I specially liked the gentle "Do Dil Mil Rahen Hain". The film goes overboard in its depiction of NRIs and I can understand why some reviewers hate it. The patriotism on display could have been toned down. Still watchable on TV/DVD.
Hey Ram (2000)
Great Kamal Hasan in challenging film
This is one of the few Hindi films to take head on issues related with India's partition and succeed. 'Hey Ram' features an impressive performance by Kamal Hasan. His role is complex and its hard to see how anyone else could have done better. There are lots of religious metaphors subtly woven into the script. Naseeruddin Shah is a memorable eccentric Gandhi. Shahrukh Khan has a small role but impresses. The film is very violent and some parts are quite difficult to watch, so beware. The period detail is effective. Ultimately, the film makes a strong plea for tolerance but does so without strident moralizing. Highly recommended.
Great Mohanlal in engrossing and slickly directed gangster flick
This is yet another entertaining gangster flick by Ram Gopal Verma that comes close but falls a bit short of 'Satya'. The plot of Company is engrossing but Vivek's character isn't as interesting as JD Chakravarti in Satya. The film is slickly directed but remains gritty. The first hour and a half is brilliantly paced. However, the last forty minutes or so sees the plot slowing down and the film ends a touch predictably. Ajay Devgun, Vivek Oberoi and Manisha Koirala are all very good, but Mohanlal effortlessly steals the show with his understated performance. Worth watching.
Terrific Sridevi in standard Bollywood love triangle
Chandni is probably Sridevi's most popular film and it's easy to see why. Sridevi is positively luminescent and makes you want to fall in love with her. Her co-stars Rish Kapoor and Vinod Khanna pale in comparison. The songs composed by Shiv-Hari are quite good and there's some terrific dancing by Sridevi, specially in the number "Mere Haathon Mein". The plot is a standard Bollywood love triangle but Yash Chopra manages to make it feel fresh. The second half tends to drag though. The film is very long and could have been better edited. 'Chandni' is worth watching for lovers of Hindi film romances and specially for fans of Sridevi.
Good VFX and Jodie in long, solemn Sci-fi
'Contact' is a long but watchable Sci-fi film with a fine performance by Jodie Foster. She dominates the film from start to end. While the film isn't as good as the novel by Carl Sagan, it is solid entertainment. The Special Effects are impressive and always in service of the story. The argument between religion and science is rather brief and doesn't do either side justice. Also, the solemn tone of the film isn't quite matched by the quality of the screenplay. Still James Woods is impressive in a brief appearance. Matthew McConaughey is alright but could have done more with his role. Watchable.
Home Alone (1990)
Moderately enjoyable with cute Culkin but too much cartoon violence
'Home Alone' is a moderately enjoyable film. Kids will love it. Adults won't be bored but they may be turned off by the cartoon violence which is sometimes excessive. Macaulay Culkin is cute as the young kid Kevin who gets left behind at home, and battles with some burglars. I thought Macaulay was way too smart and the adults all shown as shallow and dumb. Still, its a family movie and in that respect it works. Joe Pesci is an inspired choice and lifts the film with his energy. Most of the film's humor comes from him. The film is better than its sequels and best seen during the Christmas holidays.
Light-hearted episodic Western, sedately paced but fun
'Maverick' is gentle fun provided you are in the mood. The film is very episodic and feels like it has been edited from a long running TV series. The pacing is unhurried, there are no huge explosions and the energy level is a bit low. This film probably won't appeal to everyone. Mel Gibson is charming in the title role. His character is more comic than heroic however. Jodie Foster is good but comedy is not her forte. ALfred Molina is adequate as the villain and James Garner, the star of the original TV series, has a major supporting role. If you enjoy comedy westerns, than it's worth watching.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Good jokes in Simpsons movie but can't match up to the earlier episodes
This film version of the long running TV series 'The Simpsons' can't match up to the earlier classic episodes, but is funnier than anything in the last five years or so. The focus is on slapstick humor and gags. Satire generally takes a back seat. The voice work is good as usual. Sadly, many of the supporting characters like Apu and Monty Burns have very few lines. The plot manages to sustain itself over nearly ninety minutes and there are no dull patches. The film takes potshots at the government as well as environment activists. My favorite bit- Ahnold as the President!
The Ladykillers (2004)
Very profane but funny, lots of quirky characters
I disliked this film initially but came around to liking it on a second viewing. There are way too many swear words with Marlon Wayans the chief offender. The film doesn't come close to the 1955 classic but remains enjoyable thanks to the quirky cast of characters. Tom Hanks hams it up with an amusing southern accent. Irma P Hall is good but I found her strong character weakened the film somewhat. J.K. Simmons and Tzi Ma engage in some basic but funny comic routines. The film has lots of pleasing choir music. The ending is good and you will leave the film with a smile on your face.
The Notorious Bettie Page (2005)
Good Gretchen Mol but feels incomplete
This is a watchable biopic but it feels a bit incomplete. The film traces the story of Betty Page, a hugely successful fifties pin-up model who became one of America's earliest sex symbols. Gretchen Mol is fine in the title role and portrays Betty as a simple-minded person who doesn't believe there's any harm in what she's doing. She has a great body and flaunts it well. The film shows a Senate investigation on prurient material, but this part isn't well depicted. The final stages of her life feel incomplete, and perhaps this film would have worked better as a TV series.
Get Shorty (1995)
Razor-sharp dialog in sizzling spoof of Hollywood
The dialog in 'Get Shorty' is razor-sharp with John Travolta at the height of his powers. He seems to be having great fun playing Chili Palmer, an ultra-slick debt collector who travels to Hollywood and decides to make a movie. Gene Hackman is simply hilarious as a low budget producer who's forced into helping Chili. Rene Russo is good. Although basically a sizzling spoof, there are some violent scenes specially involving Dennis Farina. All the actors join in on the fun with Danny DeVito, James Gandolfini and Bette Midler having brief but great roles. Highly recommended.
Meet the Fockers (2004)
Watchable but mediocre follow up to 'Meet The Parents'
This is a mediocre follow up to 'Meet The Parents'. The jokes appear in fits and starts despite the presence of an all star cast. The script is weak. It feels like a retread of the first film. Several incidents are repeated and the energy level sags at times. It is fun though to see Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman playing a married couple. They clearly improvised many of their lines.The film milks some laughs from the liberal-conservative divide between the Focker and the Byrnes families. Robert De Niro isn't as funny this time round. The climax is weak and may put off some viewers.