Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I realize it has been a long time since I last posted on this blog. Blame it on a hectic life and a long holiday! It was actually during a long flight to my holiday destination that I watched The BestExotic Marigold Hotel, released in 2011. The film was directed by John Madden and features a stellar cast: Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), the excellent Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith (the Harry Potter films), Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup. This movie is a little gem. 

Story is fairly predictable: a group of British retirees, who don’t know each other, lured by the magnificent brochure and promises of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, decide to basically outsource their retirement to Jaipur in India. Of course nothing is as it seems and, although the hotel, managed by Sonny (Dev Patel), does not live up to it promise, their lives are altered forever.

This is a feel-good movie, so do not expect a true depiction of India – I found Slumdog Millionaire to be much more accurate. Here you see India very much from the eyes of the tourist, in a sea of colour, music and smiles. Not that it is not enjoyable! It is actually a hugee contrast, to be frank England at the beginning of the film is described as a sad and rainy rat hole. Having been to both countries, the truth lies somewhere in the middle :).

If you like British humour, as I do, then this film will be a delight. Each character has its own story, its own specificity, and although the focus is primarily on Judi Dench (I found), each character is equally likeable. Of course here stereotypes are layed up, big time, but for your greatest pleasure. All actors are magnificent, but Maggie Smith steals the show as the bitter, racist old woman.But to be frank I loved all characters, each of them brought something to the story, each of them made me laugh. Even for more difficult, sad scenes, I could not feel sad.

What can I say? Most scenes, most lines are full of humor. Acerb humour, as the British know how to do with perfection. Dev Patel as Sonny adds colour and optimism. I remember so many scenes that I love that I cannot recount them all for you, it would take a lot of space and you would have no incentive to see it!

Some of my favourite lines:
Sonny: [trying to reach a fallen Norman] Let me through, my brother is a doctor.

Graham Dashwood: I'm gay - although nowadays more in theory than in practice.

Jean Ainslie: It's our 40th anniversary, we haven't decided quite how to mark it.
Madge Hardcastle: Perhaps a minute of silence.
Overall, don’t try to look too much for hidden meanings, hidden messages, you get what you see: pure entertainment, subtle humor, all in all, I loved it, and I have not loved a movie in a long long time.

The last word goes to Sonny:
Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not the end.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Yes, I know, it has been an extremely long time. As I love musicals, and teenage movies such as the John Hughes movies, I decided to watch Fame, released in 1980 and directed by Alan Parker, wich stars Irene Cara (unforgettable interpreter of the movie song Fame) and Paul McCrane as Montgomery McNeil (and incidentally, Dr Romano in ER !), among others. 

Basically, the movie follow the stories of various students in New York, trying to make it to the art scene: dancing, acting, singing, the whole range’s here. The students we follow are ambitious Coco Hernandez, shy Doris Finsecker, sensitive Montgomery MacNeil, “mad at the world” Leroy Johnson, and abrasive Raul Garcia.

Overall, I would say the movie has not aged well, compared to others, and is a reflexion on how much you have to fight to make it into show business. There are some good moments with cool dance scenes, nice performances, however overall the plot is predictable, so are the characters (see description above!), which I found globally extremely disappointing. And I was expecting so much!

Some of the good scenes, which also create expectations for the rest of the film, happen at the audition at the beginning of the movie. I like that Raul goes around to every art department saying that his father was great at every one.  I like the dance scene with Leroy Johnson completely outshining his partner, and oh my God the outfits were just ridiculous. Granted, at the time it may have been “in”, but that is also why I think this movie did not age well.

One good thing about the movie is off course the music. Irene Cara has a great voice.
No quote for this one, I really tried but could not find anything memorable. Overall, maybe not a waste of time because I think this s one of those movies you need to see, but don’t expect too much.

Monday, May 28, 2012


This is one of those DVDs that’s been sitting at my home for ages, yet I had never watched it. And of course, now I cannot understand why! Out of Africa is a movie released in 1985, based on the novel of the same name by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blxen), which recounts her story. Directed by Sydney Pollack, the movie stars Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, and won 7 Oscars.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Karen (Streep) is a young, wealthy woman from Denmark who enters into a marriage of convenience with Baron Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) – he gets the money, she gets the title. They move to Kenya where they plan on running a coffee farm. Karen meets Denys Finch Hatton, a free-spirited game hunter. Rapidly, Karen and Bror break up, due to its excessive extra-marital activities, and Karen and Denys start an affair.
Ok, so this is a short version of the story…. I did not read the book so I cannot really say whether the adaptation is accurate. I’ll focus on the choices of actors. Brandauer, who won an Oscar for his supporting role, is simply brilliant. And, to some extent, handsome, although not with the same charisma as Redford. His character is perfectly portrayed, and to an extent he, as opposed to Karen, meets his end of the bargain: je marries her out of convenience but never promised love:
Baron Bror Blixen: You're not going to fall in love are you?
Karen Blixen: Not with someone who's always leaving.
Later, when Karen has started her affair with Denys, the exchange between Redford and Brandenauer perfectly paints the two characters:

Baron Bror Blixen: You could have asked, Denys.
Denys: I did. She said yes.
Redford, on an other hand, is not just a moderately handsome man with nothing really extraordinary like Bror, he is a free spirit, that nothing can tie to a home. He loves Karen but still needs to feel free, as their argument about marriage highlights. His character can be summarized by what his friend says to Karen:
Berkeley Cole: He likes giving gifts... but not at Christmas.
As for Karen, well, she was obviously an extraordinary woman – of course, remember that the movie is adapted from a book written by her J… She obviously has more guts than Bror, who must probably feel inadequate, has a lot of dignity, and turns out to be a match for Denys, who is brave and fearless, and is quite impressed by her – together they form a fantastic team – the scene where they shoot one charging lion each (she first!) is simply incredible. She is a very strong woman who got through terrible times. Together with Redford, they show an incredible chemistry.
Her story is sometimes interrupted by her voice over, repeating over and over again “I had a farm in Africa” which, from the start, suggests to the viewer that whatever happened did not last…. But that’s all I’ll tell you!
Overall, a great moment, highly recommended.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


 I’ll start with this: Marlon Brando looked good in A Streetcar Named Desire, but years later he was a wreck. Last Tango inParis, released in 1972 and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, stars Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider.

Jeanne, 20-year old and about to get married, meets Paul, a 45-year old widower, while visiting a flat in Paris. No word is exchanged and the two of them have a sexual encounter where he practically rapes her, that leads to an affair where the rule of the game is: “no names”. The sordid relationship evolves to the point of no return.

So I had heard the movie was pornographic, give or take a couple of scenes, it is not. For me it is mostly about psychological domination, borderline torture. However, it leaves the viewer feeling uneasy, as the dominance of Paul over Jeanne is borderline overwhelming and clearly sordid. I could not get attached to the characters: Brando plays a sick pervert, and looks the part, too. To be frank, I found he, in this movie, bears a striking resemblance to Dominique Strauss-Kahn…. Not really a positive point.
Paul: You know in 15 years, you're going to be playing soccer with your tits. What do you think of that?
Schneider is very pretty, no argument about that, but screams most of the time and her character has limited depth, apart from the very end. Is she attracted to Paul? I found it difficult to figure out what was in it for her, what she could possibly get out of that relationship. She is degraded, humiliated, but still keeps going back to him. To understand Paul is a bit easier, he is a widower trying to find release and some form of peace after his wife has killed herself.

Note the evolution of characters though. In spite of the “no names” rule, Jeanne wants to know as much as possible about Paul, and he rejects her. In the end Paul ends up falling in love with Jeanne, in a sort of twisted, sick way, whereas Jeanne loses all (pretense of) innocence, with the last scene leaving the viewer fairly terrified that the “monster” with her has been released. Doesn’t bode well for the life she has ahead of her, with Tom, a young man with limited interest.
Paul: You ran through Africa and Asia and Indonesia, and now I found you... and I love you. I want to know your name.
Some elements in the scenario are interesting: Jeanne confesses her first love was her cousin Paul, oblivious of the fact it is her lover’s name. Jeanne’s fiancé want to have a daughter and name her Rosa, the name of Paul’s deceased wife. Other than that, the atmosphere is heavy, burdensome, and, although I can see why the scenes would have appeared shocking in 1972, seriously I do not understand how someone could make a whole film about such a story. I read somewhere that Maria Schneider’s career really suffered after this movie, and that she had extreme difficulties getting over it. All in all, I’d say it was a youth’s mistake, and sadly it was not worth it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dirty Harry

 I thought the story would be about a rogue cop. Boy, was I wrong. Dirty Harry, released in 1971 and directed by Don Siegel, stars Clint Eastwood and Andrew Robinson as the main characters.

In the 1070s, San Francisco is under terror as a maniac who calls himself Scorpio sniped at random victims and requires ransom money. Inspector Harry Callahan (nicknamed Dirty Harry) is assigned to the case.

The plot is straightforward and requires no thinking whatsoever. It’s the performances that make this movie unforgettable. Andrew Robinson as Scorpio is the perfect psycho, sadistic and frightening, the kind of person you certainly would not want to meet. My view is that his character is inspired by the Zodiac Killer, who operated in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 
Clint Eastwood is more than perfect as Harry, who'll take any job that comes along in order to restore peace and lock up the criminals. Dirty Harry is a cop with the type of charisma you rarely see, who pulls no punches and is proud of that. Clint Eastwood set a standard with his exceptional macho portrayal of Harry. 

No elaborate camera angles, no special effects, no sunshine, no flowers, only dark. Everything is sordid and there is no humor or romance. The locations where the scenes are played are chilling, and the final scene is amazing. There are also so many classic lines in this movie it is hard to keep track. My favourite line of the movie (and a perfect summary of Harry’s character):
Harry Callahan: I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
Clint Eastwood creates one of the most memorable characters in cinema history, he just oozes cool.
Bottom line, Dirty Harry is an absolute must.

But why do they call him Dirty Harry, might you wonder?
Harry Callahan: Now you know why they call me Dirty Harry: every dirty job that comes along.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Schindler's List

That DVD has been at my home for a long time, yet I waited a long time to watch it. After all, more than three hours of WW II black and white scenes can potentially put you off. Man, was I wrong. Schindler’s List (1993) was directed was Steven Spielberg, based on novel Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, and stars Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley.
The film got many Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Score, and is number 8 as AFI’s 100 best films of all times.

The story is about Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, and how he saved thousands of Jews from a certain death by employing them in his factory.

At first, Oskar (Neeson) is trying to do business. Employing Jews costs less than employing Poles, so that’s what he does. Gradually though, he begins to see them not as inter-exchangeable resources but as people. People that eventually he saves. I’m thinking the growing friendship (or what could be interpreted as friendship) with his accountant Itzahk Stern (Ben Kingsley) plays an important role in his evolution, but for me the turning point is meeting Amon Göth (Ralph Fiennes), a cruel soldier who kills as he pleases.

Ralph Fiennes is a great cast for this role, and makes a perfect credible villain, torn between his convictions and inner cruel nature, and the fact that he is actually falling for Helen, a Jewish woman he has hired as a maid. Although I got to say, I am not entirely sure his German accent was entirely credible. Nevertheless, he is terrifying.

Liam Neeson is plain incredible and provides compelling and inspiring emotion. He is torn between what is taught by its party and what’s “right”. At first it is all about business but in the end it’s not about business at all – he spends money to save everyone, literally buying their freedom and even life, he spends money to keep his factory going even though what it produces is worthless. He is an illustration of person, like all of us, torn between what he is told to do, politics, reason. Nothing’s ever black and white – the man is guilty of adhering to a very very questionable philosophy, yet he sees the light and puts himself in danger to correct the situation and do what’s right.

Oskar Schindler: Stern, if this factory ever produces a shell that can actually be fired, I'll be very unhappy.

Itzhak Stern: This list... is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.

Oskar Schindler: Look, All you have to do is tell me what it's worth to you. What's a person worth to you?
Amon Goeth: No, no, no, No. What's one worth to you!

This is a difficult film to review. Compared to other movies about the Holocaust I may have seen, the scenes were much more graphic and at times, I felt, unnecessary – too much. However, for the people who lived it, it was not just three hours, it was years so maybe not unnecessary: this reminds us of the value of life, and of never letting this happen again. The movie is sincere and, more than a story, I would almost see it as a documentary and encourage everyone to see this, if only to be reminded that no matter what, there is still some good in human nature. Those three hours will fly by.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Time to get scared…. Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott, is a good film for a bit of horror without losing too much sleep afterwards. Cast is limited: Sigourney Weaver, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto.
Indeed, story is what I’d call ‘behind closed doors’. A crew of seven people on a spaceship sent out there to mine and process ore receives a signal and lands on an unfriendly planet, where they stumble across eggs. Chaos ensues and by the time the crew is ready to resume their journey back to Earth, they don’t know an eighth passenger has made its way onto the ship…. No other character and the only contacts the crew have with their employer is actually by talking to the ship computer, an entity of its own nicknamed 'Mother'.

Personnally I found the plot a bit thin. But what makes the film good is that the viewer feels uneasy from beginning to end. The entire environment is hostile: the ship, the planet they land on, the crew don’t have any particular warm feelings toward one another. The characters are a bit underdeveloped, however the tension is felt all the time. The setting of the big impersonal ship makes it feel more like a prison, and one also feels at some points that it is both the alien and the ship against the humans.
There is little gory scenes, particularly compared to today’s standards, but I can imagine, putting this back into perspective, that at the time of release the movie came a great shock, and clearly ahead of its time. Special effects match those of Star Wars original trilogy, it is actually quite impressive. As opposed to Star Wars however, aliens are not cute little teddy bears but hostile entities with no feelings, adaptable to any environment and without mercy. The creature has the vague shape of humans, but that's the only similarity. Trying to find what motivates it would be a waste of time, since we assume it is without passions or rationality.
Also an interesting aspect of the film is the heroine Ellen Ripley, played perfectly by Sigourney Weaver. What makes her great is that she is a scared woman but doesn’t go into tears, screams and all the non-sense, and in the end, terrified not, she has no choice but to fight. The cat gives her more humanity -- after all, who on earth goes back for a cat when threatened by a blood thirsty monster?!

Finally, a little 'food for thought' dimension is given to the film after my favorite scene, when it turns out Ash is a robot (and a pretty good one!), where the crew learn they’re expendable and the corporation that hired them has pretty much turned its back on them. Big, bad, corporation, focused on power and money at the price of human life. That made me feel sorry for the poor girl returning to Earth where she’ll have to give detailed accounts of the events that took place, but anyway that might be pushing the thinking part a bit too far. All in all I found the whole thing a bit predictable, I felt the tension but I was not terrified, however I am perfectly happy to recognize the film’s intellectual significance as well as the excellent direction by Ridley Scott.
Ripley: Ash, can you hear me? Ash?
Ash: [in an electronic, distorted voice] Yes, I can hear you.
Ripley: What was your special order?
Ash: You read it. I thought it was clear.
Ripley: What was it?
Ash: Bring back life form. Priority One. All other priorities rescinded.
Parker: The damn company. What about our lives, you son of a bitch?
Ash: I repeat, all other priorities are rescinded.
Ripley: How do we kill it Ash? There's gotta be a way of killing it. How? How do we do it?
Ash: You can't.
Parker: That's bullshit.
Ash: You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
Lambert: You admire it.
Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
Parker: Look, I am... I've heard enough of this, and I'm asking you to pull the plug.
Ash: [Ripley goes to disconnect Ash, who interrupts] Last word.
Ripley: What?
Ash: I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Man, I love the 1980s. I really do. Which is why I cannot understand why I had never heard of Footloose before a month or so ago. Film was released in 1984, directed by Herbert Ross, and stars Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Plot is easy and fairly predictable: Ren (Kevin Bacon) is a teenager who comes from Chicago and arrives with his mother in a small town where dancing and music are illegal. There he meets Ariel, the Reverend’s daughter. Gradually the town divides between the old conservative generation, led by the reverend, and the younger rebellious crowd, led by Ren.
So, yeah, this is a bit far-fetched and unlikely. While the characters are not super developed, this is still a movie along the lines of more famous Dirty Dancing and Flashdance, to only cite a few. This is not exactly the film of the century, however if you are looking for entertainment, humour, drama, great dance scenes and especially a great soundtrack, go, go, go!
Ren: [to Willard] Hey, I like that hat, man. They sell men's clothes where you got that?

Reverend Moore: If our Lord wasn't testing us, how would you account for the proliferation, these days, of this obscene rock and roll music, with its gospel of easy sexuality and relaxed morality?

Ren: You like Men At Work?
Willard: what men?
Ren: Men at work.
Willard: well where do they work?
Ren: No, they're a music group.
Willard: well what do they call themselves?
Ren: Oh no! What about the Police?
Willard: What about 'em?
Ren: You ever heard them?
Willard: No, but I seen them.
Ren: Where, in concert?
Willard: No, behind you.
Yes, this is a short review, but honestly pictures and videos speak a thousand words…: