2012 – the Hitlist

This is an entry for the Blogathon hosted by Murtaza Ali


It is that time of the year again, when I sit back and look at the movies, which I had the pleasure of watching and those movies, which I endured for the sheer sake of letting others know – ‘don’t waste your hard-earned money on these movies.’

With priorities at work changing and my mother’s health taking a turn for the worse  I did not get to see as many movies as I would have loved to and the list of independent and foreign language movies finding a release in India remains as pathetic as ever. My friends who download movies Ravi Kiran and Lijoy and the trusted shops at Burma bazaar ensured that the supply of movies would not end!

Numero Uno Movie:

Undoubtedly Moonrise Kingdom, for bringing back the innocence of puppy love, for putting a bunch of unknown child-actors who stole the thunder from seasoned performers like Edward Norton, Bruce Willis and Frances Mac Dormand – take a bow Mr. Wes Anderson!

Paan Singh Tomar:

Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia this movie is based on the true-life exploits of a an army-man athlete who ended up as a dacoit. A remarkable portrayal by Irrfan Khan and his effort and transformation into a long-distance runner is seen to be believed. How cruel Indian administration is as some of our greatest sports-persons end up in penury and ignominy!


This Tamil movie stands apart for its innovative script and takes the cake for delivering chills and thrills. How a pizza-delivery turns traumatic forms the crux of the story. But then don’t believe everything that you see! Vijay Sethupati does a fantastic role here! A rollicking sound-track and taut direction by Karthik Subbaraj deserves special praise.


After watching Kahaani there were a number of questions about how dumb could an intelligence network and the cruel terrorists be? But all was forgotten in Vidya Balan’s masterly performance as the lady searching for her her husband and Nawazuddin Siddiqui announced himself with a bang and went on to deliver brilliant performances in the Gangs of Wasseypur and Talaash!

No.22 Female Kottayam:

Directed by Aashiq Abu and starring Rima Kallingal, Fahaad Faasil and Prathap Pothen this is a no holds barred revenge saga, of a nurse who has been brutally raped. How Tessa the lead character played by Rima avenges the injustice meted to her and a brilliant music-score make this a memorable movie.

The Pirates:

Charles Darwin, a bunch of motley pirates, a dodo, the Queen of England and a monkey make this a thoroughly enjoyable ride of laughs with an immensely funny script. There is a sequence when the pirate captain mistakes a baboon’s kidney to be a gold doubloon, that left me laughing like mad! Don’t miss this movie!

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo:

Masterly adaptation by David Fincher and a superb performance by Naomi Rapace. Sadly graphic content of the movie prevented a theatrical release in India!


Big-budget Marvel pot-boiler that brings all our childhood comic heroes and heroine together on-screen; the Avengers rocked the screen with the Hulk played by mark Ruffalo pipping Robert Downey Junior for the maximum applause in the theatre.

The Diamond Necklace:

This Malayalam movie directed by Lal Jose and starring Fahaad Faasil, Samvrutha Sunil, Gauthami Nair and a host of others is a convincing tale of love and tribulations faced by a young doctor in the UAE and the complications of his affairs with three women and how he comes to terms with his love for each of his ladies.

The Dark Knight Rises:

Christopher Nolan gave a fitting finale to his Batman trilogy and Tom Hardy had the tough task of matching Heath Ledger’s Joker from the previous installment. Tom Hardy accquited himself remarkably well and the climax hints at Joseph Gordon Levitt starting a new franchise of caped-crusader movies!


There was an agonising wait for 007 to be back after the turkey called Quantum of Solace. Thankfully the wait was worth it and a fantastic villain who deserved a better death made Skyfall special!


A loud-mouthed bus-driver, a newbie bus-conductor and a host of villagers in a remote hill-village. A strange premise and a rollicking comic chemistry between Kunchako Boban and Biju Menon made Ordinary a surprise Malayalam hit of 2012.

Ishaqzaade and Shanghai:

Ishaqzaade for its rollicking soundtrack and redoing the Romeo and Juliet saga in a UP mileu!  Shanghai for banging my head for quite some time figuring out who the real culprit was and what were the motives!

At the time of writing this, I am yet to see Life of Pi, Lincoln, Frankenweenie, Cloud Atlas and a bunch of other movies! Hoping 2013 provides enjoyable cinema and there are lesser turkeys unleashed upon the unsuspecting public!

Moonrise Kingdom

Can a movie be described as delicious?

Well I found ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ by Wes Anderson to be simply delicious. It is a quaint little tale with a stellar star cast – Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances Mc Dormand, Bill Murray and a bunch of lovable kids.

Set in the 1960s – The story is based in a scout camp managed by Edward Norton and starts with the disappearance of a scout Sam. In the town where the camp is set a girl Suzy goes missing as well. Bruce Willis is the town cop who starts a kid-hunt for both the missing kids.

Sam and Suzy are twelve year old kids who have fallen in love and have run away. Sam is orphaned after the death of his parents while Suzy is living in a dysfunctional family of a lawyer couple – Murray and Frances. Frances has an on and off affair with Bruce, which does not help matters either.

The story is how Sam and Suzy are found separated and then reunited again!

I am not going to reveal anything further except that this is a must-watch movie for everyone. Intelligent scripting, lovely music, top-notch cinematography and sound-recording and flawless performances from even the most minor actor.

Do not miss this movie it’s one of those rare movies that puts a smile on your face and shows the perspective of love from an adolescent’s point of view.

Skyfall – The Reboot’s Done!

Watch the Skyfall trailer here.

With ‘Quantum of Solace’ bringing down the chips on 007 – MGM’s huge financial mess, buy-back and take-over issue and a hundred other problems one kept wondering if Bond-23 would ever see the light of day.

The wait was worth it – Daniel Craig is back in form as 007 chasing a group which is in possession of a disk-drive which has the identities of secret-agents embedded in terrorist organiations all over the world.

An adrenaline-rush inducing start sequence in Istanbul funnily similar to an animated Tintin on his motorbike earlier this year and a fight atop a train and a shot – that plunges 007 down into a river in Jason Bourne style.

007 is presumed dead, MI-6 is rocked by bomb-explosions and agents are killed. M played by Judi Dench is called for an enquiry and we have Ralph Fiennes making in an entry as the next head of MI-6.

The bomb-attack brings 007 back to London – a bitter man waiting to find justice and to know why he was shot – “If you had trusted me I would have had the disk-drive for you”.

After a new Q – who looks suspiciously like Rajendra Kumar’s son Kumar Gaurav – training and reassesmment of fitness – 007 is back in the hunt landing in Shanghai attempting to discover the mastermind behind the attacks.

The trail thickens as an assassin falls to his death – a gambling chip takes 007 to Macau where more intriguing stuff happens as we meet a seductive lady who loks like a cross between Sophie Marceau and Lucy Liu.

Finally we are introduced to the villain – an ex MI-6 operative Silva – played with aplomb by Javier Bardem. The parallels with Heath Ledger in ‘The Dark Knight’ do not do justice to Bardem’s portrayal.

There is a moment when we almost expect Silva to grab 007 and kiss him but the moment is diffused when 007 states nonchalantly – ‘What makes you think it’s my first time?’

Silva expertly gets arrested – hacks into the MI-6 system creates chaos as he escapes from his high-security cell and sets up an explosion and crash in the London Metro.

All this to avenge the injustice meted out by M and the ‘spy-masters’ on him – when he was betrayed many years ago and left to his Chinese captors.

007 foils the plan and then starts the final chapter.

007 taking M to safety in the classic silver Aston Martin and driving to Bond’s family-abode – Skyfall in Scotland. Here we meet the caretaker Albert Finney who steals the show with a classic line – “Son I was ready even before you were born”.

The three wait with limited ammunition, innovate and come up with traps and wait for Silva and his goons to land. Shoot-outs and explosions and a final climax in the chapel as Silva, M and 007 come to terms with their inner demons.

Watch the movie for Sam Mendes does a reboot in style – ticks all the right boxes, fights, Bond-babes, intrigue, stunning music and cinematography and Adele’s lovely rendition, crackling humour. There’s even a quotation from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Watch the movie to witness a Bond who is the truest to what Ian Fleming envisaged in his novels.

Will Judi Dench get a nomination for the BAFTAs?

My only grouse – a villain of Silva’s stature deserves a better death!

Three and a half stars!

Twixt Review

This was written by my friend Murtaza Ali who is an amazing cine-blogger. He has published this post on his website as well. Do read it when you get time!


Twixt (2011): American filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola’s bizarre yet commendable exercise in pretence

Twixt is the latest film by renowned American filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011. The movie stars Val Kilmer in the lead role of Hall Baltimore—an alcoholic writer on the verge of a creative breakdown. Set in an unknown small town, Twixt’s narrative begins with the mention of a heptahedron clock tower with seven clocks, each of which always shows a different time. Some kind of devilish influence is accounted for this strange phenomenon—of which the tower itself is said to be the centre—by the town residents. Hall Baltimore, who is on a visit to the town as part of his book tour, gets involved in a series of bizarre incidents involving a young girl named Virginia. The event eventually helps him overcome his creative void and hence avoid an incipient marital turmoil.

There was a time when Francis Ford Coppola’s name was synonymous with American Cinema. His movies epitomized the 20th century America. His eccentric, cynical, larger-than-life characters became the embodiment of the modern American men for the whole world: be it Harry Caul [The Conversation, 1974], Colonel Walter E. Kurtz [Apocalypse Now, 1979], or Don Vito Corleone [The Godfather, 1972]. With as many as five Oscars (excluding the esteemed Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award that he received in 2010), two Palme d’Or and countless other prestigious awards under his belt, Francis Ford Coppola arguably is the most celebrated filmmaker of our time. 1970s saw Coppola going from strength to strength as he delivered one blockbuster after another. 80s turned out to be mixed affair for Coppola. But, his great reputation helped him endure the decade, for it is said: “Form is temporary, class is permanent.” However, 90s posed unprecedented challenges for Coppola as success became more farfetched than ever.

After directing Rainmaker in the year 1997, Coppola decided to take a break from active filmmaking so as to solely experiment with motifs that appealed to his deepest creative urges. The first product of Coppola’s self-indulgence was the enigmatic Youth Without Youth (2007)—a story of a timid professor metamorphosed by a cataclysmic event. Coppola backed it up with yet another ambitious venture: Tetro (2009). While these movies may not be significant from the entertainment point of view, their academic significance cannot be overlooked. The movies serve to be classic examples of unrestraint creativity in cinema—a formidable overture to the limitless scope of cinema. Twixt is no different in this regard. It’s essentially an experimental film with surrealistic undertones that concocts several motifs and transcends genres in a haphazard, unrefined, manner. Twixt is a horror thriller with a self-contradictory, unaccountable comical touch that one generally associates with the works of Franz Kafka. In fact, it wouldn’t be unfair to treat the movie as an exercise in pretence—something that even Coppola wouldn’t be reluctant to acknowledge.

Twixt can as well be looked upon as Coppola’s biographical attempt inasmuch as it tries to capture the story of a writer doing through a difficult phase in his life. While Hall Baltimore’s plight starts with the accidental death of his daughter during a boating adventure, Coppola’s decline as a filmmaker started with the death of his eldest son, back in 1987. In Twixt, Hall Baltimore leverages on the bizarre events and his own wild fantasies—in which he often seeks advice and guidance from his idol, the American literally genius, Edgar Allan Poe— to come out of his literary void. Similarly, Coppola’s decision to disassociate himself from commercial filmmaking can be interpreted as a deliberate attempt on his part to escape the expectations of his ever so demanding producers. Coppola’s hermitic descent into self-indulgence is characteristic of a perturbed artist desperately on the lookout for some divine source of inspiration.

Overall, Twixt is as an attempt of a lost artist, in great dilemma over the question of his own genius, desperate to prove his mastery over his art to the whole world. Twixt is a bizarre, beautiful, visually stunning, and deeply convoluted work of cinema that owing to a deliberate attempt on the part of its maker gets lost in translation. But, it’s this nebulosity that separates art from exact science, and that’s precisely where Coppola succeeds. Another factor that makes Twixt memorable is Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Hall Baltimore. Kilmer, who delivers his best performance in years, is well supported by the rest of the cast led by Ben Chaplin who effortlessly plays Edgar Allan Poe. Twixt by no means is in the same league as Coppola’s greatest works and in many ways is even inferior to Youth Without Youth and Tetro, but nonetheless it is an honest attempt on the part of an artist to discover his lost brilliance. While the conventional film enthusiasts can afford to give the film a miss, it’s a must watch for hardcore Coppola fans. 7/10

Dark Shadows

There was a time when a Tim Burton – Johnny Depp combo ensured sure box-office success. Somewhere down the line when Johnny Depp can no longer be differentiated from Jack Sparrow the Pirate.

Since the Pirates of the Caribbean became a global phenomenon – Johnny Depp has starred in box-office duds like The Tourist and The Rum Diary. He voiced the chameleon in the highly entertaining animation feature Rango as well.

Dark Shadows is based on a successful American TV series from the 60s.

The movie has an impressive star-cast – JD, Eva Green as beautiful as a fresh rose highlighted with dew drops in the early morning mist🙂, Michelle Pfieffer, Helena Bonham Carter and many others.

JD plays Barnabas the son of a fishing magnate who is cursed by a witch Eva Green playing Angelique to become a vampire because Barnabas spurned her love. He is cursed and put to sleep in a coffin which is laid to rest in the woods.

The years pass and the Collins family (JD’s descendants) are in dire financial straits with a business that has crumbled beyond repair and a mansion / castle that has gone to the ruins.

Construction work awakens JD from his slumber in the coffin and he returns bang with a vengeance to set things right and solve the issues plaguing the Collins family.

How he goes about his enterprise, warding off the charms of Angelique and her magic, finding true love again and interacting with the towns-folk and also getting his daily dose of fresh human blood is how the story progresses!

Definitely worth watching once🙂

Click here to view the Dark Shadows trailer