Sunday, 30 June 2013

''City Lights'' (1931 movie)- Review

Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Released: 1931
Country: United States

Genres: Romantic comedy, Drama

Rating: 5 out of 5


A story can be full of fun throughout. Again, a story can be a mixture of laughs and emotions, a balanced mixture of both of them. City Lights is an example of such a film. Charlie Chaplin brings to screen a sweet love story, with the addition of situations that keep us laughing throughout.

The protagonist of this film is Chaplin's most memorable character, the Tramp. One day, he meets a blind girl who sells flowers. Slowly, he becomes close to the blind girl. For some reasons, the blind girl thinks that the tramp is a wealthy man. The girl lives in poverty with her grandmother. To give the girl some financial support, the tramp finds a job. But very soon he is fired for being late on his job. 

But the girl is now in a situation of extreme difficulty--- she needs to pay the rent of the house she lives in. The Tramp starts doing all he can to help the girl, which he succeeds in doing, but for which he needs to sacrifice a lot.

The film has an important subplot. One day, the tramp convinces a drunk wealthy man not to commit suicide. After this incident, the man starts thinking the tramp as a friend, even inviting him to stay with him at his house. However, as soon as the man becomes sober, he does not seem even to recognize the tramp. From that time, whenever the man is drunk, he suddenly recognizes the tramp as a friend. This recurring friendship will ultimately bring the tramp both the solution to his problem, as well as misery.

Almost every scenes of this film is filled with humor that made me laugh out loud! The very first scene shows the unveiling of a statue, but when the statue is unveiled, the tramp is sitting on the statue! Again, the scene where the tramp saves the wealthy man, the scene where the blind girl mistakenly pours water on him (intending to water her flowers), and so many other scenes!

The sweet romance and the Tramp's will to help her, despite himself being a, umm, tramp, is extremely touching. Later in the film, the misery the Tramp has to go through is very emotionally intense. Chaplin crafts the entire film so well, with such talent, with his great direction, screenplay and acting. The antics of the Tramp are extremely funny, and Chaplin, with his great skill, brings that to screen brilliantly. Virginia Cherrill as the blind girl gives an excellent performance as well. The ending is very touching and beautiful.

Overall, this is a masterpiece. City Lights extremely funny sweet, touching, wonderful romantic comedy that I'd recommend to everybody!

5 out of 5!

Friday, 14 June 2013

''ParaNorman'' and ''The 39 Steps''

ParaNorman (2012 movie)

Directed by: Sam Fell, Chris Butler
Released: 2012
Country: United States

Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jodelle Micah Ferland, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch

Genres: Comedy horror, Adventure, Fantasy, Family

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Norman is a boy with an unusual quality: he can communicate with dead people, including his late grandmother. His parents don't appreciate this quality. He is bullied at school, being called a ''freak''.  He learns in school about a person who was accused of being a witch, three centuries ago. The ''witch'' gave a terrible curse to the seven people who had accused her, causing them to become living deads (zombies).

One day, Norman comes across his elderly and strange uncle Prerderghast, who tells him that since he can communicate with dead people, only he can save the town from the zombies by keeping the curse under control. Norman is puzzled, but after the sudden death of Prenderghast, his (Prenderghast's) ghost visits him, giving him instruction about how to keep the curse under control.

How can Norman control such a terrible curse, all by himself? There follows twists, perils, revelations, and humor.

ParaNorman was a fun watch. I liked the overwhelming humor, the comedic horror elements, the twist, and the truth. The voice actors do a great job. The visuals are also great. The scene I loved most was the final confrontation between the ''witch'' and Norman. It was superbly designed, and the scene following this, the scene at the forest, was also beautiful. Overall, it was a light and refreshing film.

3.5 out of 5

The 39 Steps (1935 movie)

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Released: 1935
Country: United Kingdom

Genres: Mystery, Thriller

Main cast: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim, Godfrey Tearle, Peggy Ashcroft, John Laurie, Helen Haye, Wylie Watson

Rating: 4 out of 5


Before he moved to Hollywood in 1939, Alfred Hitchcock, one of my favorite directors of all time, made many films in Britain, almost none of which are particularly remembered as his great movies. However, two of his British films, The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, are often considered among his great films. The 39 Steps is often considered to be one of the first movies where Hitchcock showed his common elements: the excellent suspense mixed with humor, the man struggling to prove his innocence, and one of the very memorable features of his films, the blonde heroine. This is the film where Hitchcock introduced a blonde heroine who is found in many of Hitchcock films.

In the midst of the chaos that suddenly start in a music hall,  a man named Richard Hannay meets a strange and mysterious woman who looks very afraid and requ
ests Hannay to take her to his home. Hannay, though puzzled at the woman's attitude, does so. There, the woman introduces herself  as Annabella Smith demands absolute security and solitude, and tells Hannay that she is working to unravel spies who are going to smuggle a secret very valuable to the country. But because of her work, the spies are wanting to kill her. Hannay doesn't know whether to believe her or not, but nevertheless shelters her. Late at night, when he is sound asleep, Annabella rushes to him, apparently having been stabbed by the spies, and soon dies. Hannay, confused what to do, decides to go to Scotland, where Annabella was supposed to meet somebody important. Meanwhile, word gets around that it was Hannay who killed Annabella. Now Hannay can prove his innocence in only a single way: he has to expose the spies who are planning to smuggle the secret out of the country.

Alfred Hitchcock's excellently directed film really fascinated me. I hadn't watched a Hitchcock movie for a while (the last I'd watched was Notorious, back in April), so it was great to return to his movies! I liked the depth of the situation and the characters. Madeleine Carrol, who played the first ever blonde heroine in Hitchcock films, gives a very remarkable performance. Overall, it is an enjoyable, suspenseful film and one of the earliest marks of the greatness that Hitchcock would be showing in future with such great films as Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, and Shadow of a Doubt.

4 out of 5

Monday, 10 June 2013

''The Lost Weekend'' (1945 movie)- Review

Directed by: Billy Wilder
Released: 1945
Country: United States

Main cast: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling, Frank Faylen, Mary Young

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


The Lost Weekend  intensely explores the horrors of addictions- the psychological and financial horrors that can result because of addiction, and also how such obsessions can affects and may even ruin lives. The film tells the story of such a person who is addicted with alcohol; it presents a painful, intense, and disturbing story of the life of a alcohol-addicted person over a weekend, the reflections, memories, pains, hopelessness and fake resolutions of such a person.

Don Birnam (Ray Milland) is a recovering alcoholic ''writer'', apparently suffering from writer's block. In the very beginning of the movie, we see Don and his brother Wick (Phillip Terry) in their small apartment. They are planning to spend the weekend in the countryside. But Don has a secret. He is trying to put a bottle of whiskey in the suitcase, without his brother noticing it. Apparently, Wick is trying hard, extremely hard, to get his brother out of this alcohol obsession. However, Don gets the opportunity when his girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) arrives and tells him that she will be attending a concert, and has an additional ticket. Don persuades Wick to attend the concert with Helen. However, circumstances cause Wick to discover the hidden bottle of whiskey. Wick empties the bottle... and then Wick and Helen leaves, trusting that Dick won't do anything wrong, as there is no money in the house with which he can buy a drink. However, Don discovers the house cleaner's salary hidden in a sugar pot, steals it, and goes to buy drinks.

After returning from the concert, Wick and Helen understand in an instant what has happened. Wick is furious, and leaves for the country without Don. Helen waits for Don for a while, then sticks a note to his door and leaves.

For Don, this becomes the most nightmarish weekend ever, perhaps. He goes through so many incidences within this single weekend, he goes through a lot: depression, want of money, false resolutions, memories, and starting to have a distaste at life. He decides to start writing but he can't find the words! He needs alcohol! He steals. His heart breaks. He becomes depressed. What will happen?

It was a very intense and heartbreaking movie, and very engrossing yet painful to watch. Perhaps  most people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, etc., go through these painful incidences. There are certainly cure for addictions, and people around the addicted person try to convince him that there is a way, there is a cure, there is no need to lose hope. But the addicted people are only thinking about the incidences, the heartbreaks that they had to go through because of this obsession. They have lost hope. Yet certainly, if people don't hate them, rather tell that there is a light of hope, that they can be cured, then certainly, the addicted people can have faith in themselves, and work to cure themselves. I loved the character Helen, played by Jane Wyman, because of this. She could get out of her relationship with Don, but she didn't. Why? Because she loves him, she wants him to be alright. So she keeps giving him hope that he can be cured with proper treatment and firm resolution.

Ray Milland portrays Don excellently, and absolutely deserved the Academy Award for Best Actor which he won for this film. The screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder was amazing and vivid as well. The background score, which sometimes resembled those of horror movies, is very memorable as well. 

Mostly the film centers around the tragic weekend of the protagonist, and there are supporting characters as well, who despite of their small screen presence, give excellent performances as well. Overall, the film deals with a realistic and disturbing subject matter and is presented excellently. The protagonist, Don, represents the tragic lives of the people who are addicted with alcohol or drugs. The film is painful yet very powerful.

4.5 out of 5!

Friday, 7 June 2013

''A Beautiful Mind'' (2001 movie)- Review

Directed by: Ron Howard
Released: 2001
Country: United States

Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, Josh Lucas, Christopher Plummer, Vivien Cardone, Anthony Rapp, Adam Goldberg

Genres: Biographical drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Ron Howard's ''A Beautiful Mind'' is based on the life of John Forbes Nash Jr., an American mathematician and Nobel Laureate in Economics. The film vividly explores Nash's experience with schizophrenia, his struggle against the delusions he experiences as a result of the condition, his doubt about what is true and what is not, and we see how he fights against the disorder and though the disorder remains, he eventually has faith in himself. Ultimately, the film leaves us both teary eyed and smiley. A Beautiful Mind is beautiful like it's name, deep and touching.

The first part of the film explores the young Nash's (Russell Crowe) life in university. He befriends his roommate, Charles (Paul Bettany). Some years later, he falls in love and marries Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). Eventually, a man named William Parcher (Ed Harris) gives him the responsibility of cryptography; he has to unravel secret codes and plots of the Soviets. He finds the meaning of the encryption, and eventually, he gets very absorbed in this very secret task. Eventually, he becomes extremely panic stricken that his work may bring him extreme danger. He starts acting very strangely, and is sent to a psychiatric facility. There, his wife wife Alicia comes to know from Dr Rosen (Christopher Plummer) that John has schizophrenia. And then Alicia comes across shocking truths: John's best friend, his old friend, Charles, had been only his delusion. Not only that, Nash's extremely secret work of cryptography and the man named William Parcher had also been simple delusions. Alicia is shocked, but is determined to convince John of the fact. John cannot accept the fact that his best friend was just his delusion. Charles, his niece Marcee, and William Parcher continue to haunt him. But eventually, he works hard to make himself believe that they are his delusions, to make himself become aware of his disorder.

From the very first, the three delusional characters, Charles, Marcee and Parcher, seemed so very realistic both to John, and also to the audiences. When we come to know that these three characters are nothing but delusions, we are shocked as well. We see these delusional characters both from John's point of view and the point of view of the world. John comes to know that these characters are delusional, but the three characters are themselves so strong and demanding that at first he finds it hard to ignore them completely, but later, of course, he starts regaining his mental strength to finally overcome the serious disorder.

The film was so well scripted and acted! Russell Crowe's performance is m0re than excellent. As Nash, a brilliant mathematician suffering from schizophrenia who eventually is successful in overcoming his disorder, Crowe is just excellent. Jennifer Connelly as the very supportive wife Alicia is great. The screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, adapted from Nash's biography of the same name by Sylvia Nasar, is very vivid and touching as well.

Ron Howard presents a very excellent and memorable film with A Beautiful Mind, sweet and touching. I'd recommend it to everybody.

4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

''The Shining'' (1980 movie)- Review

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Released: 1980  
Country: United States   

 Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel, Anne Jackson     

Genres: Psychological horror, Thriller 

Rating: 4 out of 5    


Just think of it. Three people are in a hotel alone. There is no one else. Then suddenly, things happen to one of them, terrible things. He starts acting madly and violently- ready to kill the two other people. No, The Shining is not a haunting house film. Here, the thing to fear is not the presence of spirits, but the things to fear is one of the main characters. The ghosts just form a background that is very creepy as well.   

 Stanley Kubrick's ''The Shining'' is a terrifying film, first of all, and sort of ambiguous as well. The film is somewhat confusing, because we have no idea what exactly is going on, why certain things are happening to the characters, etc. But however, this is a pretty scary and one of the best psychological horror films I've seen. The atmosphere and situations are built up so well that it's impossible to deny the greatness of this film.     

Jack Torrence, a writer, takes the responsibility of the Overlook Hotel in winter. In winters, the hotel is closed because snow makes it difficult to move; Jack and his family will be the only people in the hotel. The hotel is located in an isolated area, with no houses or people around. Jack decides to use the isolation of the hotel as a chance to pay attention to his writing. Jack hears about a tragedy that took place in the hotel. Decades ago, a man working in the hotel had killed his wife and two daughters and then committed suicide. In spite of this history, Jack decides to work in the hotel    

The family moves to the hotel. Jack's son, Danny, is clairvoyant and telepathic. He can sometimes sense what is going to happen in future. And he has a mysterious imaginary friend named Tony.  

 Soon, Danny starts sensing unnatural and supernatural things in the hotel. Twin sisters. A flood of blood. A mysterious room at the hotel, Room 237.     

Jack slowly starts getting violent, extremely violent. His nature starts changing: from a gentle person, he starts getting violent and, in short, mad. He senses ghostly presences in the hotel, encounters men from the hotel's past, and then he gets eager to murder his wife and his son...    

 The film repeatedly reminded me of a word: isolated. Just think of this. The hotel is situated in an isolated area, with no houses, no neighbors around, but only mountains and snow. And in this hotel, the three members of the family live around. You can probably guess how well the situation is built up. The production design is pretty marvelous. The hotel is luxurious and vast, which amazes not only the characters but also the audience. The background music is suitable and creepy and ghostly all around.    

 Jack Nicholson is great in his role. The character slowly becoming crazy- Nicholson portrays that very well. His performance is very scary and effective. One of the few disappointments in this film is Shelley Duvall's performance. Shelley plays Jack's wife Wendy, a very important character in the film, but her performance is rather ineffective, I should. As the son, Danny Lloyd gives a satisfying performance.     

Overall, this is a splendid psychological horror film. This may not be one of my favorites of this genre, but however, I enjoyed and liked it a lot.    

 4 out of 5

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

''Paths of Glory'', ''The Children's Hour'' and ''50/50''

Paths of Glory (1957 movie)

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Released: 1957
 Country: United States

Genres: War drama 

Main cast: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Joe Turkel 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Short review: Paths of Glory takes place during the World War I. General Mireau takes the responsibility of taking the Anthill, a strong German position. Mireau gives the responsibility of the task to Colonel Dax's (the great Kirk Douglas) regiment. The attack, however, becomes unsuccessful. Mireau is furious, and decides to court martial 3 soldiers from each company. However, Colonel Dax tries to protest, saying that the soldiers must have had their reasons for not advancing towards the Anthill. Mireau doesn't pay attention. Despite Dax's attempts to protect them, the three soldiers are sentenced to death. Awaiting their death, the three soldiers lament that they had their reasons, the attack was unsuccessful because of the facts that so many soldiers were dying, there was gunfire and violence all around... So why have they been so unfairly sentenced to death?

I loved this film. It was sentimental and sad. The subject matter was very emotional. Surely, one of Kubrick's best films.

4.5 out of 5

The Children's Hour (1961 movie)

Directed by: William Wyler
Released: 1961
 Country: United States


Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Audrey Hepburn, James Garner, Miriam Hopkins, Fay Bainter, Karen Balkin, Veronica Cartwright

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Short review: The Children's Hour is nothing short of a masterpiece. It's a very emotionally intense, sad and touching film. The plot centers around two young women who run a girls' school, Karen Wright (Audrey Hepburn) and Martha Dobey (Shirley
MacLaine). Among their students is Mary (Karen Balkin), whose misbehavior often causes the two teachers to punish her. Mary wants to get rid of this school. She thinks that the teachers hate her. Eventually, Mary runs away to her grandmother one day, and tells her that Miss Wright and Miss Dobey are lesbians, and describes to her such things which make her grandmother believe the lie. Mary's grandmother, Mrs Tilford (Fay Bainter) spreads the lie, causing the parents to take away their children from the school. The lives of Miss Wright and Miss Dobey turn upside down. This lie destroys their life. People point at them and laugh. They become miserable. Karen's fiance is forced leave her...

This is a very sad and touching movie. How a lie can change people's lives, is clearly portrayed in this film. The screenplay and dialogues are brilliant. I won't comment on the acting of MacLaine, Hepburn and Garner, because perfection can easily be expected from great stars like them; it is the acting of the two child actors, Karen Balkin and Veronica Cartwright, that impresses me. Balkin, as the little antagonist Mary, gives a splendid performance. Cartwright, who had played a supporting role in Hitchcock's ''The Birds'' and whose sister, Angela, starred in ''The Sound of Music'', gives a terrific performance as Rosalie. Mary strengthens the lie by blackmailing Rosalie. Rosalie had stolen a bracelet from one of their classmates, and Mary blackmails that if Rosalie won't support her in her lie, she (Mary) will reveal what Rosalie has done.

This is a great film, with a great subject matter and great direction from William Wyler, and great performances from both the lead and supporting cast.

4.5 out of 5

50/50 (2011 movie)

Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Released: 2011
Country: United States
Main cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Kendrick, Seth Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard, Angelica Huston

Genres: Comedy-drama

Rating: 4 out of 5

Short review: Here's a lovely, bittersweet comedy-drama. It's about Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old man, who discovers that he has a rare cancer, and that he has only 50/50 chance of survival. And there is a mother who worries too much, a father with Alzheimer's disease, a best friend whose behavior is not quite pleasant, a girlfriend who is cheating on him, and a very caring young therapist. The film lightheartedly explores the difficulties, thoughts, tensions, and fears that a cancer patient has to go through. Though dealing with a very realistic topic, the film presents it in a light manner. The film gives us a portrait of what cancer patients go through, their tensions, fears, longing; the tensions and fears that are always present, the fears about whether they are going to survive or not. 

The acting is top-notch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as Adam, is excellent. Anna Kendrick, whom you may know from the Twilight saga, is excellent as the therapist. The beautiful Bryce Dallas Howard is excellent as always (she plays the role of Rachel, the girlfriend who is cheating on Adam). Rachel, a young painter, after knowing that her boyfriend has cancer, does all she can. She doesn't leave him, rather takes care of him. But later when Adam comes to know that she is cheating on him, he breaks up and burns the painting that she made for him. It's sort of shocking, because though Rachel was cheating on him, she indeed cared for him, and though it's natural that Adam was furious, his response also wasn't totally fair, because, despite what she did, Rachel had tried her best to take care of Adam.

The film not only gives us laughs, but also smiles, tears, and tensions. The film talks about a very grim subject matter mostly lightheartedly and humorously, and presents to us a very realistic topic that rarely becomes disturbing; the film helps us to look in depth of the suffering of cancer patients, and along with it's light manner, the film also has an inner depth that is grim and thought-provoking.

4 out of 5