Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Movie No. 36 (2015): AMADEUS

Amadeus (1984)
Director: Milos Forman
Cast: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce

I remember seeing the movie in late 1990's on VHS. I remember the impression it left on me. On second viewing of this movie in full, I'm still impressed with its cinematic exploits.In fact, it's quite better this time. The movie itself is both artful and entertaining, probably one of the best movie ever made.

The film, based on a Broadway play, is a re-imagining the life, fame, and death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on the point of view of an aging royal composer Antonio Salieri who both admires and envies Mozart's God-given genius.

Both Abraham (as Salieri) and Hulce (as Mozart) did an excellent portrayal of their respective roles. However, it was Abraham's villainous take on Salieri that was favored by Academy voters. The film also won seven other Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for Milos Forman. The art direction and costume were grand, and the cinematography gave the feel of the period when the events supposedly happened. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: July 18, 2015

Movie No. 35 (2015): CINDERELLA

Cinderella (2015)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Imelda Stautorn, Lily James

Saw this film while aboard a flight to New York's JFK.

Of course everyone knows the tale of Cinderella. So, there's no need for a synopsis. What is so noticeable about the film is the grand production design, particularly the interiors of the palace. But Kenneth Branagh's treatment of the narrative is not to be ignored. The use of  'courage and kindness' as the centerpiece of the narrative works quite (magically) well. Cate Blanchett's excellent job as the scheming stepmother does not unnecessarily steal the show; her wonderful performance is complementary to the age-old tale. Lily James's Cinderella is charming, easily likeable.

It's a good thing the movie does not ride into the bandwagon of what seems to be norm for this kind of movie - the 3D craze. It's a traditional movie with necessary special effects. So, the main point of this version is not overshadowed by the technical craze. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: July 18, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Movie No. 34 (2015): THE MAZE RUNNER

The Maze Runner (2014)
Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Will Poulter, Ki Hong Lee

Movies that have setting in a dystopian realm don't impress me most of the time. The Maze Runner was one of the movies showing on board on my way to New York from Incheon. Most of the other movies to choose from were uninteresting. I was intrigued so I gave it a try. And it really made my long flight shorter by almost two hours.

The premise of the movie is interesting. The movie tells of a boy (Thomas) who wakes up in a strange place that seems to be isolated from the rest of the world by an enormous maze. A group of  boys his age have been trapped in that place. He has no memory of himself except for an organization called WIKD (or Wicked). There, he and the other boys agree to enter the maze, which opens and closes occasionally, despite violent disputes, to find clues that might help them escape from their 'prison.' 

This is not the best of the genre. However, it has all the cinematic elements of a decent film. It has no pretensions. It avoided the boy-girl romance, despite the presence of an only girl character, that may just unnecessary drag the narrative. The strong acting performances of practically every cast are conspicuous.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: July 18, 2015

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Movie No. 33 (2015): THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)
Director: John Madden
Cast: Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Richard Gere, Bill Nighy

The original movie concluded with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fully booked with long-term guests who have their own reasons and back stories that are interesting. In this sequel, the owner, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), dreams and working on an expansion - The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - as he steals time from his preparations for a wedding, his wedding with the love of his life. 

Watching this sequel, I don't feel the same excitement as I felt watching the original movie. It's not that bad at all. It's the kind that won't make you miss anything between catnaps. Probably, it's the ever-reliable and effortless performances of the veteran actors in the cast. The are lots of almost perfect shots that really capture the mysticism of India. The music is well placed. While the screenplay has some flaws, the movie's overall feel is positive.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: July 12, 2015