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Old 12-23-2019, 06:08 PM   #2461
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Default First Man (2018) is mostly an emotional dramatic film at its heart.


first-man-blu-ray-cover.jpg

First Man sees the re teaming of director Damien Chazelle and his La La Land star Ryan Gosling to give us a visceral, first person’s account of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on the years 1961–1969 and on Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who became the first man to set foot on the moon. The film explores the many sacrifices and the cost on Armstrong and on the United States, of one of the most dangerous missions in history.

This film is not a film about space exploration nor a thriller as Apollo 13 and Gravity were. In those first five minutes, Director manages to get from you with a ridiculous amount of easiness, a sense of immersion during the flight scene you would rarely feel in other films. It doesn’t focus on a romantic, warm imagery of a Man reaching the stars: it conveys first and foremost this sense of ominous danger, the overwhelming fear every time you dare to go beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The majority of the film occurs in one of two places - the cockpit of a plane or spacecraft, or the Armstrong’s kitchen - which was entirely the plan that Chazelle had in order to show the two ends of the radically different spectrum of Neil’s day to day life. Adapted from James R. Hansen’s novel, each detail is as close as possible to fact. Chazelle’s choice in having a first person perspective throughout the film allows the audience to really get into Neil’s head space connecting them on an unprecedented emotional level.

The movie takes the ‘personal story’ thing pretty seriously. Almost all the scenes involving Armstrong’s work, from his time as an X-15 test pilot at Edwards, the near disaster that was the Gemini 8 mission, to his narrow escape while flying the LLTV in preparation for piloting the Lunar Module, all are shown with heavy use of first person POV. For someone who is used to third person perspective it can get a little annoying. But the choice was a good one thematically.

There are some solid movements like NASA has Urgency to beat the Soviets in Space Race so there is too much pressure on Gemini 8 crew or is it justifiable to invest so much money to put Americans on the moon? - (protest song - with Whitey on the moon) or Emotional toll on the spouses and family of the astronauts or His one-year old daughter Karen had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor in 1961, and had been fighting a losing battle.

Excellent performance by Gosling, who introduces us to an obsessive, bright, pragmatic Neil, with no ability to deal with emotions, and full of ambition. Claire Foy does most of the emotional heavy lifting portraying Neil's wife Janet Armstrong as vulnerable yet steely, and as driven in her own way as her husband.

Overall, First Man is harsh, emotional, gut-wrenching and try to most realistic take in space movie genre.
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Old 12-25-2019, 05:26 AM   #2462
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Last night I watched Jean-Pierre Melville's film Bob Le Flambeur aka Bob the Gambler (on Kino's blu). BLF has shades of Jules Dassin's Rififi in its plot of an old former crook coming up with a scheme for an ambitious last job. Of course Bob is a little better off than Jean Servais' washed-up character in Rififi, only down to his last few hundred thousand, and still able to be the man about Pigalle Street. Bob's an inveterate punter who spends all night visiting club backrooms for cards or dice - heck, he even has a slot machine in his flat. His grand scheme is to clean out the safe of a casino for several hundred million (one suspects even if he had, his share would be soon squandered in a similar joint). But as always happens in crime/noir cinema, the heist doesn't go quite the way he imagines.

Melville freely indulges in his love affair with the Hollywood criminal archetype, mixing in his patented sensibilities. While Bob may gamble and steal, he is an honorable old-world crook that detests pimps and chastely rescues young coquettes. He is surrounded by friends that admire his attitude and his generosity (his favorite bartender says her bar was built with loans from Bob). Not quite in the brilliantly constructed league of Rififi or Kubrick's The Killing, or as sleek as Melville's later crime flick Red Circle, BLF feels a little sloppy towards the end, depending on some eye-rolling plot contrivances not sufficiently masked by the direction. But it does have a good amount of class, in no small measure thanks to cinematographer Henri Decae's evocative depiction of Melville's stylized crimeland.

Kino's blu-ray carries an impressive 4K restored transfer with excellent grayscale and detail. The audio shows its age, but is never distorted or unclear. Extras include a 25-min documentary on the history of the film and its lead star Roger Duchesne (who apparently also got into trouble over gambling debts) and a commentary track.

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Old 12-26-2019, 03:44 AM   #2463
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More one-act play than a movie, Oththa Seruppu (Single Slipper), conceived, crafted and performed by Parthiban (with voice-actors for other characters) is the back and forth journey in time of a suspect interrogated by the police to get him to confess for a murder...or is it more than one? A single actor, a single set, with mainly changes in lighting and perspective of the camera to indicate passage of time or change in POV.

This one won't stand up to strict logical scrutiny, runs longer than ideal and some moments are "kunjam over-a (OTT)" but it's a bold and interesting idea that sustains a good deal of its momentum. Worth your Netflix time.

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Old 01-03-2020, 11:35 AM   #2464
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As 2019 was approaching its inevitable closure, several good and not-so-good Malayalam flicks had already come on the OTT platforms… but none with the cult value of a shapeshifting Nivin Pauly playing a vigilante doc accompanied by the weirdest theme music heard in recent times. And boy, how wrong I was… for there was an even bigger beast lurking in the shadows and waiting for the X’mas season to pounce onto Amazon Prime.



Written and directed by S L Puram Jayasurya who had shamelessly “adapted” Rain Main almost a decade ago into the Mohanlal-starrer disaster Angel John, Jack & Daniel (formerly titled Jack Daniel, seemingly inviting the ire of the whiskey-lovin’ folks out there) is another shameless “adaptation” of the Tolly/Bollywood hit “Kick” and stars Dileep and Arjun (yep, the original “Gentleman”) as the respective eponymous leads. Jack is a successful businessman moonlighting as a thief, and Daniel is a Tamil CBI officer – with a Keralite mom, so “I can understand Malayalam” – brought in to nab him. There is a zoned-out airheaded photographer – who’s actually a zoned-out airheaded cop working undercover - filling in the space for Jack’s romantic interest as well. While an underutilized Arjun scores way better than the main lead whenever he's on screen, Saiju Kurup a.k.a Kerala’s own Rowan Atkinson – playing a buffoonish cop - delivers what may be the only truly comedic performance amidst a sea of very lame jokes, most of them delivered by our hero Jack himself. Oh, and there is that cameo by the film's chief stunt guy Peter Hein, which… eh… never mind.

A colossal dud at the BO, J&D does have a lot of "redeeming" qualities which should serve as reference material for all future directors aspiring to make their own cult classics:

- The "Kick" films had the heroes turn to robberies for the sake of charity. Corny as it may sound, these do not stand a chance to hold a candle against the J&D flashback, as Jack here is an ex-NSG-commando - complete with the Abhinandan-moustache during his NSG days - who robs **only** black money in order to provide for the families of slain army men. And thus came yet another film that resorts to exploiting nationalism and army sentiments for reaping rich dividends (which it didn't).

- Gopi Sundar, guys!!! Even though you do not get to see the whole film (owing to, may be, a much needed loo break, perhaps?), he will make sure that you know Jack has beaten Daniel yet again (and again and again and again), thanks to those "NAAAANAAANAANA" wails in his unmistakable growl. The songs are not even half as memorable, though.

- Even with as many as four stunt coordinators - chief being Peter Hein, of course - the stunts are quite a mixed bag here. Arjun, of course, fights like the "action king" that he is. However, Dileep, however hard he tries, can't come even close. In fact the climactic chase ends up much funnier than all of Saiju's scenes put together, thanks to a combination of Dileep running as if he's badly in need of relieving himself and some laughably bad VFX showing him surfing a stairwell on a plank of wood and doing a mid-air break-in a la Die Hard. Even more absurd is the fact that he manages to outrun the far more athletic Arjun by a huge margin... Oh well, he's the hero, eh?

- The first major set piece has Jack fighting a set of goons in Goa - complete with fast cuts, smash zooms, slo-mo and the ubiquitous three point landing - in order to defend his airheaded GF. And then it's revealed that Saiju's cop character has been filming it in his cellphone all along. In the next scene, we see Daniel and all the cops watching the said cellphone video on a projector screen, complete with all those fast cuts, smash zooms and slo-mo!!! Can I get one of dem phones please??!!!

- While Saiju manages to make his stuff funnier than it's supposed to be, our leading man manages to do just the opposite. In fact, this is one of those films where the hero is the only one who gets to dish out all the crude, kinky, misogynistic and generally trashy jokes to the viewer. Sample this: "Goa is the only place where you can't help but go back once you leave... because Goa... GO-VAA (Go-Come)" !!! Oh, and there is that scene where he swipes cash off a biggie in the guise of his wife. That scene alone warrants an 'A', and the film's a 'U' !!!

And at the end of all this, we do get a hint that a sequel might be underway. Oh, yes, please! After all, happiness alone does not suffice for anyone.

.

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Old 01-09-2020, 07:14 AM   #2465
kaykaysud kaykaysud is offline
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As his comedic characters in countless films had started becoming increasingly stale and cringe-worthy – thanks to the writers and his own signature elements – one day, a shocker of an announcement appeared on the telly: Suraj Venjaramoodu wins the National Award for the Best Actor. The surprise didn’t last long though, as his big win was quickly dismissed by public – and the Government, which awarded him with the “Best Comedian” award for that year – and written off as a one-off affair. And then came Action Hero Biju. Though Nivin Pauly played the titular cop, it was Suraj’s cameo appearance that won laurels from all around, and since then, the man has been on a winning streak with his selection of roles, both character and comedic - most notable being Thondimuthalum Drikshakshiyum , Kammattippadam and Theevandi. And 2019 had been very eventful for the actor, with him scoring a hattrick of critically acclaimed roles by the end of the year. I had already posted my thoughts on Driving Licence, and interestingly, the other two basically deal with how technology changes our lives for the better or worse… and yet, both are as different as chalk and cheese in terms of plot and milieu. Oh, and both films star Suraj and that other guy – Soubin Shahir a.k.a Saji from Kumbalangi Nights – in the leading roles. Here are my thoughts on the first of them, Android Kunjappan Version 5.25, available on Prime.



Trailer:


Predominantly set in a village in Kannur district with occasional detours to Russia, this sci-fi film lies on the less-explored side of the genre – a grounded, humane and plausible look at whether AI has the potential to replace/be a loved one. Suraj plays Bhaskaran, a grumpy, conservative, tech-averse octogenarian who never gets along with anyone, his own son included, and is not above tricking his son into quitting his many hard-earned jobs just to have him by his side all the time. Soubin plays the disillusioned, yet loving son Subramanian alias Chuppan, torn between his duty as a son and his aspiration. The film begins showing the rather strained relationship between the father and son and subtly changes gears once the latter gets employed in a Russian tech firm and brings home the titular Android during a brief vacation, after many a caretaker calls it quits trying hard to deal with the old man. Naturally, Bhaskaran - who doesn't have even a TV - resents the robot at the first sight, but then gradually warms up to it, thanks to its unconditional loyalty and care. His conservative worldview too starts giving way to rationality, thanks to the machine's consistent learning and supply of wisdom. The bot becomes a favorite among the village folks too, and they start calling it Kunjappan, due to it looking similar in stature to a deceased man with the same name...
[Show spoiler]who was a notorious serial killer and whose son is now hellbent on erasing his father's legacy.
Things start going out of hand as Bhaskaran stops caring about his son - to the point that he declares "Kunjappan" as his own son to Chuppan - and starts pursuing an old flame... on Facebook with a fake ID. And there is the fact that
[Show spoiler]"Kunjappan" happens to be one of the four prototype models made by the aforementioned Russian firm and has to be returned ASAP, as the remaining three had already turned on their owners and killed them
. Though the plot primarily revolves around the father-son-android relationship dynamics, there are many other characters the film touches upon - like Chuppan's Mallu-Jap girlfriend Hitomi (Kendy Zirdo), his hilariously naïve cousin Prasannan (Saiju Kurup) and an eclectic bevy of villagers who keep commenting on the goings-on. However, the film goes a bit off track whenever Bhaskaran is on his online pursuit for Saudamini, his ex-flame,
[Show spoiler]and the final moments do feel a bit rushed, as if the director felt that a tragic climax is the only way to conclude his story. But then again, Suraj shines brightest during those very same moments
.

Marked only by a few duds like the Hulk-ripoff Athisayan, the sci-fi genre has never been quite a prolific one in Malayalam cinema. It's in this space, that director Ratheesh Poduval has arrived with his debut feature. Along with exploring the key man-bot relationship, the film is also interested in providing sociopolitical commentary, mainly in the form of the robot's innocent, yet witty and sharp statements (the one about Prasannan's "existence" is a riot). It's also heartening that the film's focus is mainly on the emotional aspects and the humor that arises from having a very advanced robot placed in a very rural atmosphere. Coming to the performances, Suraj reigns over the whole show in his career-best role, making even his co-lead Soubin look like an extended cameo. Not even once would one get the feeling that Bhaskaran is actually being played by an actor in his early forties. That said, Soubin is excellent as Subramanian, the intelligent son who is desperate to make his mark and later, the accomplished son, now desperate to bring his dad back to the real world. His numerous emotional breakdowns are relatable and key to the story being told. The Anurachal-based actress Kendy Zirdo is lovable as Hitomi, who stays by Chuppan's side and provides him emotional support throughout. And yes, the film employs sync sound, so all the her Malayalam lines are the ones painstakingly learnt and admirably delivered by herself. The Mr. Bean of Mollywood, Saiju is both funny and endearing as Prasannan, as are the village folks who are always ready with a one-liner for any situation. The lady who plays one of Bhaskaran's caretakers - post Chuppan's departure to Russia - is a hoot, with her addiction to TV serials (which she watches on her phone) and her banter with the old man. And last but not the least, the Android itself is a fascinating character - realized with the aid of animatronics and the short-statured actor Sooraj with VFX only used for the displays - that wins the audience's hearts too, along with Bhaskaran's over the course of the film. The cinematography and editing are deliberately slow-paced, and songs and score gel well with the narrative without sticking out even once.

All said, Android Kunjappan Ver. 5.25 has definitely made an impact in the industry in terms of quality and BO performance, and more importantly, the benchmark has been set for the often dormant sci-fi genre here.

.

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Old 01-10-2020, 05:05 PM   #2466
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^Good show. I was thinking the movie might be a little too schmaltzy, but I guess I could give it a shot. Currently started on the new Dracula series on Netflix.
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Old 01-11-2020, 01:26 PM   #2467
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When it comes to Dracula, you could say I'm something of a fan. I first read Bram Stoker's soaring horror adventure novel as a kid and have returned several times to enjoy at least the best bits. Then there were the many movie and TV adaptations, of which I have seen:




There's also the Orson Welles radio drama adaptation, the interesting BBC pastiche Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula and that's not including the various sequels and spinoffs, and any vampire movies not specifically based on the Stoker book. With so much Drac-Koolaid consumed, it would take something out of the ordinary for another Dracula adaptation to make an impression. I was at the outset somewhat skeptical about the new mini-series from Messrs Gatiss and Moffat. I had grown disillusioned with their contemporary Sherlock series after the first season, preferring instead to watch Elementary, even though that one grew stale by repetition. But the sumptuous period production values, and the promise of Dracula as a ruthless monster rather than a wimpy lover made me give in.

Dracula (2020) begins at a place where you think you know where you are, with Jonathan Harker recalling the harrowing events of his time with the sanguinary count, but soon shows that it is happy to jigger around and throw in new elements to surprise even the jaded Dracula fan. Such revision is of course a two-edged sword, but at least across two of the three episodes, the writing provides a brave and fun re-working of Stoker's novel. Sister Agatha who is but a bit player in the book is now a major character that takes on Dracula himself in a war of wit and tactics. Other major characters are modified, truncated or eliminated as per the script's demands. The iconic chapter of Dracula's preying on the Demeter ship is rendered like a tense variation on Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

The third and final episode is probably what will divide most die-hard fans. It involves a major transition that may or may not work. While I feel it could have been done better, I was certainly not put off by the shift. The conclusion draws inspiration from both Murnau's 1922 Nosferatu and Terence Fisher's 1958 Dracula and even in its not-quite-satisfactory way, manages to pull off a different spin on the typical "destruction of the vampire" climax.

I have spoken of boldness of the writing, but of equal importance is the excellent lead acting talent, mainly Claes Bang as Dracula and Dolly Wells as Sister Agatha. There is a constant stream of trendy quipping and dark humor, but Dracula is almost never trivialized as a threat, which is crucial to the lasting power of the original work. The scenes depicting period Europe look excellent in the way that a high-budget series does, with sweeping vistas, moodily lit interiors and gorgeous dream sequences. Dracula doesn't skimp on the blood, but doesn't overdo it either, concentrating on being a character-driven adventure saga than a gore-fest. Given the way they ended this I doubt there's any real scope for a second season, but this was worth my while, and possibly even a re-visit. Pass me some more of that red stuff.

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Old 01-12-2020, 07:59 AM   #2468
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ravenus View Post
^Good show. I was thinking the movie might be a little too schmaltzy, but I guess I could give it a shot.
It could've gone that way, but doesn't. But that FB romance does become a bit of a drag.
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Old 01-12-2020, 05:50 PM   #2469
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The Czech seem to have a way of making understated human dramas from genre tropes. Jerzy Kawalerowicz's Night Train was about the search for a murderer hidden somewhere on a packed train. Jiri Weiss' 90 Degrees in the Shade is a petty crime noir. In both cases, the suspense element is tamped down in favor of being a stark character study.

Weiss' film begins with a documentary coverage of people spending their afternoon break. One of them is Alena (Anne Heywood), who we see sunbathing. She is stared at by a fruit-eating youth and later a chubby middle-aged bespectacled man who seems out of place in the sunny outdoors in his buttoned up suit. We see this man again later - he is Kurka (Rudolf Hrusínský, famous as Juraj Herz's The Cremator), a supplies auditor come to take inventory at the shop where Alena works as an assistant. Kurka is an archetype bureaucrat, a stickler for rules, devoid of humor or affability; he has an almost slug-like persona. Kurka leads a suppressed life, estranged from wife and son. Flustered by even casual personal connect, his interaction with the world seems to be primarily a form of stock-taking, be it people or goods.

Alena on the other hand is a bundle of emotions. She is a good worker but has been involved in a serious affair with the store manager Vorel (James Booth), and in consequence shielded his pilfering of a dozen liquor bottles from the store, which could come to light during Kurka's inventory. In the film's most forthright noir sequence, she and Vorel hurriedly work to replace the missing bottles during off-hours, borrowing money to buy the liquor and making their way through a hidden back entrance (this is tellingly juxtaposed with the scene of Kurka lying sleepless in bed, reflecting on the sterility of his existence).In their scenes together, Alena and Kurka are an excellent study in contrasts. He is embarrassed by her attractiveness and she is inhibited by his dour nature. Early on they are placed in the cubbyhole storeroom, checking stock as they stifle in the titular heat. There is an atmosphere of sexual tension, especially when Alena accidentally spills coffee over Kurka's trousers and insists on wiping off the stains, kneeling by Kurka as he stands abashed in the closed silence.

Vorel is the third pivot of the script. He is seeing Alena but he is also married with children (in artfully inserted flashbacks of their private moments, he repeatedly talks of divorcing his wife, but seems unable to actually do it, and Alena is also unwilling for the arrangement). In an accident during the inventory, it is revealed that his sleight-of-hand is not restricted to the surreptitiously replaced bottles; he has been playing a more systematic swindle game. When suspicion falls on Alena for the theft, he is happy to let her take the blame, arguing that his punishment would be more severe and would affect his family. When she later meets an unhappy fate it is suggested that he has discarded her like an old doll. But he must now contend with Kurka who suffers the guilt of having indicted her for another's crime. While some of the symbolism is on-the-nose, 90 Degrees... does not descend into soapy melodrama, remaining an incisive observational play.

The film was made, unusually, as a British-Czech co-production with actors from both countries. Separate versions were made for each language (the final edit of the Czech version was supervised by Weiss himself and is about 10 min shorter than the British cut). Unlike most native Czech films, this one was shot in 2:35:1 Cinemascope, although I didn't find its use of widescreen particularly striking.

Indicator's blu-ray includes both English and Czech versions of the film as separate encodes. I have only seen the English version, and it looks alright, though not as good as the top-tier B&W releases. The image is soft and shows some dirt and damage, and on many occasions appears vertically squeezed (Cinemascope mumps?). In the extras (which I haven't as yet checked), Michael Brooke provides both a feature-length audio commentary and a video comparison of the two versions, and a number of Jiri Weiss short films are included.

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Old 01-18-2020, 06:32 AM   #2470
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Loosely based on an actual event - because, from what I understand, the details were never revealed, and the writers were actually forced by law authorities to change certain scenes because the guesses they made came uncomfortably close to the real deal - 1967's Robbery is a classic clockwork caper movie about a small battalion of thieves working under a mastermind (Stanley Baker) to rob a night mail train during a bank holiday, when it would be transporting a few million pounds in cash. They don't have to tackle elaborate security measures, but split second timing is critical. The film especially works because from scene one it pushes the pedal to the metal (like literally, it begins with a car chase, one that put director Peter Yates at the helm of Steve McQueen's Bullitt) and doesn't bother to give backstories and emotional cores to the people pulling off the crime. They're (mostly) a bunch of calculative greedy bastards and we're actually ambivalent about whether we want them to win. Robbery is an enjoyable companion to Michael Crichton's rollicking 1978 film of his own book The Great Train Robbery (about a similar caper set in the Victorian era), and Baker makes for a strong low-rent Sean Connery.

Network's blu-ray, which I got for about 9 quid, gives a decent A/V presentation of the film. It is nicely restored, although as this site review says, the image seems slightly more filtered than ideal. Audio is generally clear, source limitations aside. There's a bunch of extras on the disc and a 30 page booklet, making it one of Network's more stacked releases. Looking forward to visiting those.

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Old 01-21-2020, 01:02 PM   #2471
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Saw Black Christmas (1974) on the Shout Factory blu-ray.


Black Christmas (BC) is credited as one of the early American slashers, made some years before John Carpenter's Halloween kickstarted a small-scale industry in the genre. I was primarily interested because the cast, including John Saxon, Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea etc suggested that this could be more than the "dumb teens getting bumped off while they're making out" stereotype.

BC is set in a girls' sorority house around (surprise!) Christmas. In the midst of preparing for the holidays (and dealing with their individual issues - Olivia is pregnant and wants to abort despite boyfriend Dullea's threats, Margot is the vulgar townie forever taunting the "good girls"), the inmates receive a series of anonymous phone calls with heavy breathing weird conversations and screaming. But they don't take it seriously enough until one of the girls disappears (we know where she is and she ain't coming back). Her father, who came to pick her up, is desperately worried, but it takes still more time for the local police to take notice thanks to the bumbling sergeant. Once the whole machinery is activated, which swallows a considerable part of the movie and is preceded by another couple of disappearances, there remains the matter of tracing the mysterious caller and finding out if he/she is responsible for the doings in the house.

BC set some trends for the genre, and has its effective moments (the kill sequences are good, especially one with a glass unicorn), but it's not what I would call a tight movie. There's an awkward insertion of slapstick humor (mainly with the house matron's fondness for sherry, which she hides in some strange places), and the attitude of the characters towards the disappearances seems lackadaisical for a long time, as though they were too stoned to care (it was the 70's, so that's probably believable). Whether you can accept the climax of the film or not depends on your POV, I found it unsatisfying.

Shout's blu announces beforehand that the transfer is soft and grainy, and they have avoided and heavy-handed digital manipulation. This is borne out by the film's look. It's colorful and looks like a vintage print, but is not a demo reel. I tried the original mono track and it's mostly fine. This is a 2-blu release with a stack of extras on the 2nd disc including archival making ofs and new interviews. I am yet to go through those.


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Old 01-27-2020, 10:06 AM   #2472
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Here's some of the stuff I've been recently watching on streaming:

Aquaman on Amazon Prime
This standalone venture in the schizophrenic DCEU is a lot like Bahubali under water...and it's a lot better than Bahubali on land. Aquaman (I can't recollect his alter ego. Oh well, it's not like he bothers to have a secret identity) is the son of an Atlantean queen and a human fisherman, and like the vampire hybrid Blade, has all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses. Going by this movie the Atlanteans seem a militant White Supremacist Society down below, since they apparently sentence AM's mum to death for having mated outside her race and get their jollies from live displays of armed combat. Aquaman's plot is a hurried mess of cobbled together sequences, many of them outright dumb, but the visuals and action are superb. The large scale underwater battles are a riot of vibrant color, the attack of the deep-dwelling trench will bring a smile to HP Lovecraft fans, and the Sicilian seaside town assault is beautifully choreographed. After his bland introduction in the Conan movie Jason Momoa seems to have found a niche as the aquatic brawler. His performance does seem to borrow a lot of its nuance from Chris Hemsworth's Thor but I'm not complaining. While I had a good time at home with the bright visuals and beefy surround audio, I now wish I had seen this movie on an IMAX cinema screen with Atmos sound.

Karuppu Durai (KD) on Netflix
This Tamil film is an unlikely buddy movie, in which the buddies are an old man near death's door and a small boy. Karuppu Durai aka KD is the geriatric that has run away from home after recovering from a coma and realizing that his family is arranging for him to "pass away in time" so that his uncertain lifespan does not interfere with any of their plans. In the midst of aimless wandering he meets up with Kutty, a street smart child with whom he forms a bond. In the Hrishikesh Mukherjee type narrative, young Kutty teaches KD to enjoy life again, helping him to get through a bucket list of unfulfilled desires. There is also the subplot of KDs's family hiring an investigator (the typecast Yog Japee) to find their father. The script scores in its humorous scenes, and the bond between KD and Kutty is a palpable one. The scene where KD gets to meet a childhood sweetheart, now a grandmother herself, is especially delightful. It does get schmaltzy in the later portions and runs on longer than it should have. But it's worth watching as a film which is "all about loving your family".

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Old 02-04-2020, 08:04 AM   #2473
kaykaysud kaykaysud is offline
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Watched a so-called magnum opus, that is the Malayalam historical fiction Mamangam: History of the Brave, on Amazon Prime.



Based on the legends of Chavers and the eponymous trade fest, the film revolves around the last of those kamikaze warriors, but is ultimately about the futility of blood feuds. And yes, the core story is very good and provides immense scope for a great film too, but then, the newly instated writer and director do not seem to be content with that alone, and opts to blend genres and throw some extra fizz – cough**Rashomon**cough - into the proceedings, thereby derailing the overall flow of the narrative. Infamous for the ugly spats that happened between the producer and the original writer-director Sajeev Pillai, thanks to the former unceremoniously having the latter ousted due to “creative differences”, the film - now having M Padmakumar (the usual stand-in director for such troubled productions) and Shankar Ramakrishnan (notorious for writing undecipherable shit in the name of creativity) credited as the director and writer respectively - is, quite understandably, a hot mess.

The film begins with a lengthy voiceover explaining the significance of the titular festival in Kerala’s history, followed by a (somewhat) young Chandroth Valiya Panickar (a visibly de-aged Mammootty) coming this close to striking the fatal blow on the Zamorin during a Mamangam fest. And then, the narrative does an abrupt 24-year jump, and here it’s revealed that Panicker had failed to carry out the suicide mission and fled, bringing disgrace to the clan. The next Mamangam is approaching, and this time, the ones destined to kill or be killed are Chandroth Cheriya Panicker (Unni Mukundan) and his nephew, the 12-year old Chanthunni (Master Achyut, the star of the show and the film’s only saving grace). Also coming into the picture are a slew of hilariously bizarre and/or wasted characters, tacky cinematography, even tackier VFX, men hanging on wires under the guise of fighting, patchy cuts and last, but not the least: a truckload of pretentiousness. Oh, and the background score successfully manages to stick out like a sore thumb, thanks to Sanchit & Ankit Balahara who - when not doing a Hans Zimmer - seem to have recycled the leftovers from their collabs with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. However, the songs by M Jayachandran are more period-appropriate and easy to listen, though the picturization and placement pull them down by quite a few notches.

Needless to say, nothing much happens in the film in terms of character development, and each character is essentially reduced to a period film archetype, thanks to the sloppy writing and aimless direction. While the original director’s vision of the film had Mammootty’s Valiya Panicker going through multiple phases of life post his self-imposed exile, the finished product has the actor essay what ultimately amounts to an extended cameo. Though it doesn’t help that the character’s massive losses are just verbally grazed by, the actor quietly lends weight to those brief moments. Being the only actor retained post the drastic changes in the film’s cast and crew, he does look dissatisfied, and seems to be there just for the sake of the project’s completion. In the end, however, he, along with the co-leads Unni Mukundan and Achyut, manages to emerge with his dignity intact. On the other hand, acclaimed character actor Siddhique, burdened with one of the most baffling characters ever created – Thalachennor, Zamorin’s right hand man who investigates the sudden death of an Arab associate at a brothel – hams it up to hilt with the help of the aforementioned undecipherable shit. The interrogative exchanges between Sherlock Thalachennor Holmes and the dancers in the brothel are "so-bad-it's-good" kinda funny, and yes, the new writer-director combo dwells on the Rashomon-esque subplot far too long before getting back on the road to Mamangam. However, the “leading” ladies here are not as fortunate, since none gets ample scope or time to even act, let alone ham it up.

Originally envisioned to be a sprawling two-parter shot in 3D, the film’s shooting script went through numerous shake-ups and omissions before ending up being thrown into different – and wrong – hands. The final film clocks around two hours and a half, and technically, it’s an incoherent mishmash. And even more disheartening is the fact that a similar-themed film – also starring Mammootty - released more than three decades ago, boasts of much better production values when compared to this so-called opus that allegedly cost 50+ crores to make. The attention to detail and absolute devotion to authenticity seen in every frame of that film is nowhere to be seen here. The interior lighting is noticeably artificial, the sets look as if they were built yesterday and the kalari-fighting heroes are as high on rope, as the writer was on dope. Also on display are the replacement editor’s frequent and pathetic attempts at speed-ramping with material shot at normal speed.

And finally, the Amazon Prime release, like the film itself, is screwed up. While the video looks fine, the audio is… LPCM 2.0. The film was released in cinemas with a Dolby Atmos mix, and it seems the film’s omniscient producer has decided to shortchange the home viewers as well, maybe as an act of retaliation for not making his bastardized product a hit.

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Old 02-05-2020, 05:56 AM   #2474
ravenus ravenus is offline
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Like with Chiranjeevi's Narasimha Reddy, the trailer looked very chutiya, like a poor man's Bahubali, which is why I gave it a miss at the cinema. Good decision, it appears on hindsight. Pazhassi Raja was another bore. I would really love to see OVV, is it available anywhere in any condition?

Wait, Prime gives lossless audio? I usually get DD+ or Pro-Logic, same for Netflix (Std HD subscription). What superuser power do you wield?!
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Old 02-05-2020, 06:41 AM   #2475
kaykaysud kaykaysud is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ravenus View Post
Wait, Prime gives lossless audio? I usually get DD+ or Pro-Logic, same for Netflix (Std HD subscription). What superuser power do you wield?!
Nah... Prime doesn't provide lossless surround, it's DD+ for 5.1 and above. But I could see in my HT info that the audio stream for this was indeed PCM 2.0. Not sure whether it was the lossless variant (struck the L in LPCM off the review), but if it were, it'd have taken much more time to stream than even the surround track. Anyways, this dumbed down track was a pain to listen to, lossless or not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ravenus View Post
Like with Chiranjeevi's Narasimha Reddy, the trailer looked very chutiya, like a poor man's Bahubali, which is why I gave it a miss at the cinema. Good decision, it appears on hindsight. Pazhassi Raja was another bore. I would really love to see OVV, is it available anywhere in any condition?
At least, Reddy had a steady pace when it comes to the narrative, and a few "massy" sequences were deftly executed. That hyperjingoistic ending -
[Show spoiler]complete with the headless hero offing a couple of villains before going off
- totally blows, though.

As for Mamangam, the producer - in his attempts to save his own ass and disgrace the original crew - had been incessantly claiming that the final film was a realistic take on the legend, unlike the Bahubali-like approach allegedly adapted in the original. Of course, the final product has everyone "realistically" dangling from ropes and struggling to land a blow, and the dramatic portions are, more or less, of the soap opera kind. The struggle to match up to the source material (a product of decade-long research and pre-production work by the original director, seized by the producer by means of contractual loopholes) is very evident in every scene. Heck, after watching this film, I'm damn sure that the 150+ crore collection report is way beyond inflated.

Oh yeah, Pazhassi Raja came to the cinemas after setting very lofty expectations, thanks to the legendary MT-Hariharan collab (who created OVV as well) and all that hype about the colossal (at the time) budget. Fortunately, I had missed out on the theatrical viewing, and caught it much later when the DVD was out. Epic score and sound design aside, the film had me wondering whether Hariharan got a bit too carried away by the lack of budgetary constraints, so as to have talkie scenes go on (and on and on) without an end in sight, and to let wire-fu tricks creep into the fight choreography. Who knows, may be this was the film that paved way for the likes of Peter Hein to completely dominate the action landscape of Mollywood.

And OVV has indeed been remastered by a cable channel called Flowers TV, but there is a lot of pink thrown in. Not recommended. As of now, it seems Youtube is the only source.

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Old 02-06-2020, 03:30 PM   #2476
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Default Avane Srimannaryana (ASN) an a love - able adventure.

mcms.jpg

Watch Avane Srimannaryana (ASN) on Prime. Some thoughts.

Avane Srimannaryana (ASN) is Spaghetti-Western-meets-anna-saaru, a genre mashup that hasn’t been attempted in the Kannada industry.

ASN is cinema at its finest. Cinematography, BGM and narration of the film are good. we can clearly see the amount of hardwork of 3 years that has been put in each and every frame. It's a perfect fantasy movie and the best part is that there's no overdose of the fantasy.

Rakshit Shetty as Narayana was flawless and Achyutanna was top notch!Abhira Brothers were firing all the cylinders with their acting,Shanvi did her part well!. RK reminds us of Jack Sparrow and is a treat to watch.

Songs are situational and no unnecessary running around the tree ones.


BUT Length of the movie: there is very less content in the first half of the movie. You will get bored before plot thickens.

STILL It really requires guts do to such an experimental movie, unlike sticking to the same old pattern and safe movies . Rakshit Shetty stands apart from other heroes, he just nailed it, Kudos to the entire ASN team.
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Old 02-10-2020, 08:16 AM   #2477
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Last night me and mum sat with the Eros DVD of the Bollywood classic Teesri Manzil (TM). TM is my favorite film starring Shammi Kapoor, indeed one of the few Shammi films, along with Evening in Paris that I can re-watch. In general the 60's were for me one of the worst decades for Hindi films, in which the soundtrack wholly dominated over everything else. This was the era of the 'lipstick' hero who existed solely to lip-sync soppy Mohd Rafi songs (Sorry to the fans of these songs) - Rajendra Kumar, Biswajeet, Joy Mukherjee - In comparison Punjab da puttar Shammi was more macho, but his machismo expressed itself in repulsive chauvinistic behaviour where he relentlessly eve-teases and manhandles the leading lady. In fact the only difference in these films between what Shammi does and the villain played by Pran / KN Singh does is that he has a song on his lips during his lecherous pawings.

While TM has its share of cringy moments and an overdose of song breaks, it does have an interesting mystery story at its core. Shammi plays drummer Rocky, who is associated with the apparent suicide of a woman fallen off the hotel with the title's Teesri Manzil. This lady's sister (Asha Parekh) has sworn revenge on Rocky, so Shammi pretends to be another person who will help with her quest. There are all manner of shady suspects in the supporting cast that includes Premnath, Helen and Iftekar. Crime thriller specialist Vijay Anand (Jewel Thief, Johnny Mera Naam, Bullet) directs and edits with flair, and the soundtrack from RD Burman is filled with chartbusters, my favorite being O Haseena Zulfon Wali. When I first saw TM as a kid the climactic reveal of the killer's identity gave me goosebumps, and it remains, flaws notwithstanding, a fine desi thriller. While a lot of TM's style comes from the 60s rock n' roll vibe, I do believe it might be possible to adapt it for a modern remake that could mitigate its weaker elements while retaining the good bits.

Eros's DVD is a shameful presentation. First off, the movie is cruelly shorn of nearly 20 min of material from its original length. This includes the introductory scene of a major character in the film. Conversely the needlessly large number of song breaks have been retained. Video quality varies from acceptable to terrible, thanks to a faded print and mediocre encoding. Audio provided is fake 5.1 Dolby which I forced as stereo. The songs appear to have been encoded at a higher decibel level so you may have to use adjust volume in between. I don't recall seeing a disc menu at the start of the film, and I assume no extras are included. Whenever people on this forum talk about 3D and 4K discs for Bollywood films, I always say, the home video labels can't get even a several decades old format right in its most basic requirements (decent faithful A/V presentation), I don't see the point of having any expectations for newer formats.
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Old 02-12-2020, 08:26 AM   #2478
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Last night I saw this lovely old Scottish teen romantic classic Gregory's Girl (1980) on the UK blu from Second Sight.

The title's Gregory is a gangly high-schooler who at the beginning of the film is kicked off from striker position in the football team, replaced by a promising girl, Dorothy. No, Gregory is not jealous about getting replaced, he falls hard in love with the confident, free-spirited Dorothy who is everything he isn't. Along with Gregory we get a look at the people around him, his boy chums who are constantly looking to hook up with or at least ogle at the female sex, and the girls have their own network which comes into major play later. Writer-Director Bill Forsyth's film is a quaint picture of burgeoning adolescence, naughty but not sleazy. A lot of the film is about whether Gregory is able to express his heart's desire to his object of adoration and find true love. There's a happy ending, but not necessarily the one you may expect.

Gregory's Girl is not tight or intricately plotted, but has a sweet easy-going charm that keeps it breezy throughout. Almost all the characters have likable elements to them, and it's no surprise the film has enjoyed enduring popularity.

The 1.85:1 video looks strong and filmic, especially considering the film's age and low-budget roots. The stereo audio is clear but I preferred to keep the subs on for some of the strong accents (the disc includes an alternate dub track with less strong accents, originally commissioned for its US release). There's a number of extras including director's commentary and a portrait of Forsyth, which I have to check out.


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Old 02-13-2020, 02:13 PM   #2479
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ravenus View Post
Eros's DVD is a shameful presentation. First off, the movie is cruelly shorn of nearly 20 min of material from its original length. This includes the introductory scene of a major character in the film. Conversely the needlessly large number of song breaks have been retained. Video quality varies from acceptable to terrible, thanks to a faded print and mediocre encoding. Audio provided is fake 5.1 Dolby which I forced as stereo. The songs appear to have been encoded at a higher decibel level so you may have to use adjust volume in between. I don't recall seeing a disc menu at the start of the film, and I assume no extras are included. Whenever people on this forum talk about 3D and 4K discs for Bollywood films, I always say, the home video labels can't get even a several decades old format right in its most basic requirements (decent faithful A/V presentation), I don't see the point of having any expectations for newer formats.
Teesri Manzil is one of my favourite films - I think there is a complete version on Zee5 (the run time for this is showing as 2 hours 46 mins) - not sure of the quality though.
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Old 02-17-2020, 08:26 AM   #2480
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In the weekend I watched Arrow's blu of Oldboy (this is from the 2-BD set, including the featuring length making of, Old Days, which was going for less than 8 quid some while back).

I'd first seen Park Chan Wook's international breakout film shortly after it made a splash at Cannes, and while I was impressed I wasn't wholly satisfied. I think critic Tony Rayns hits the nail on the head when he says that (loosely paraphrasing) one's first and last impressions of Oldboy are that it is a "cool" film. PCW brings in boatloads of graphic novel inspired style, and at the same time he knows when to hold back. Narrative and character-wise the film is less gripping for me (with some elements like hypnotic control taking an "anything goes" angle which lowers my level of interest). But in terms of the lead performances and the aforementioned directorial style (including the crucial elements of the script -
[Show spoiler]the incest angle
- brought in by the director) make it a worthwhile watch. The talked about scenes of the film - the seafood scene, the one-take brawl, the dental work - remain standouts.

The 4K sourced transfer looks good in general, although with some of the stylistic choices in the film it becomes hard to be objective about video quality. The Korean 5.1 audio is undoubtedly a winner, with robust low end and effective surround use. Of the extras, I've seen Tony Rayns' erudite video essay and some of the smaller "making of's" on the movie disc, and about a half hour's worth of Old Days. Will report back once I'm fully done.

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