Sunday, 20 January 2008

Out of Africa

Movie Review: Out of Africa

Year of Release: 1985
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Sydney Pollack
Cast: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford

Plot outline: Poetic memoirs of the life of Danish aristocrat and storyteller Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), from her marriage and departure for Kenya in 1913 until her return to Denmark in 1931 (IMDb).

"I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills, ..." Sydney Pollack perfectly adapts the poetic rhythm of the memoirs into a moving - without being too sentimental, picturesque cinematic experience. He perfectly captures the heart of the story and presents it in a fascinating blend of African geography, its people, its wildlife, Mozart, the love story and the tragedy that comes with it. John Barry then completes it with his divine musical scores. It's one of my personal favourites.

My judgement: ***1/2 out of 4 stars

Out of Africa's musical scores

Saturday, 19 January 2008

North by Northwest

Movie Review: North by Northwest

Year of Release: 1959
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason

Plot outline: A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive (IMDb).

This Hitchcock's super-thriller is the ultimate exhilarating roller-coaster ride. He shows us how a perfect dose of plots and characters can make a perfect blend that is not only fast-pacing on the surface, but also carrying some weight on the inside. Meanwhile, Bernard Herrmann composes marvelous musical scores that perfectly match the spirit of the story. The dramatic scenes of Cary Grant in the middle of nowhere fleeing a swooping crop-duster and the cliff-hanging ending at Mount Rushmore have become classics. What a masterpiece!

My judgement: **** out of 4 stars

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The Shop Around the Corner

Movie Review: The Shop Around the Corner

Year of Release: 1940
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Cast: James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan

Plot outline: Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand one another, without realizing that they're falling in love through the post as each other's anonymous pen pal (IMDb).

Is imagination better than reality? This is the movie that inspires You've Got Mail (itself inspired by Parfumerie, a Hungarian play written by Miklós László). While the romantic-comedy side of the story charmingly seeks the answer to that question, it is the major subplot of the shop's owner that notably gives the movie its depth. Without it the movie would have been less profound.

My judgement: *** out of 4 stars

Monday, 14 January 2008


Movie Review: Rififi (Du rififi chez les hommes)

Year or Release: 1955
Country of Origin: France
Director: Jules Dassin
Cast: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Jules Dassin

Plot outline: Four men plan a technically perfect crime, but the human element intervenes (IMDb).

Even though this movie is not the first film noir of a heist story, Rififi has certainly placed itself as a classic in which many heist movies later got the inspiration from, e.g. Ocean's Eleven (original and remake), the Italian Job (original and remake), etc. Rififi is more than just a plot-driven heist story - the crime and the consequences, it's a character-driven story about those who are involved in it. The musical score is superbly brilliant. The most riveting scenes - when the crime takes place, approximately 30 minutes long, are performed unpretentiously in silence - no dialogue, no background music, adding the tension to a boiling point. What a classic!

My judgement: ***1/2 out of 4 stars.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Last Time I Saw Paris

Movie Review: The Last Time I Saw Paris

Year of Release: 1954
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Richard Brooks
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Van Johnson, Walter Pidgeon, Donna Reed

Plot ouline: Charles returns to Paris to reminisce about the life he led in Paris after it was liberated. After his discharge he met Marion and Helen. He would marry, be happy staying in Paris and working for a news organization. He would try to write his great novel and that would come between him, his wife and his daughter (IMDb).

Except for the beauty and elegance of Elizabeth Taylor, this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story spills out too much romance, wine and Paris that spoil the broth. If you like sentimental romantic drama, you might like this movie. Despite the tediousness of the storyline, it's good to see that the movie ends on high notes with scenes that tie up all the remaining loose knots.

My judgement: ** out of 4 stars.

Friday, 11 January 2008

The Passenger

Movie Review: The Passenger (Proffesione: reporter)

Year of Release: 1975
Country of Origin: Italy, Spain, France
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider

Plot outline: A journalist researching a documentary in the Sahara Desert meets a total stranger who dies suddenly. When the journalist notices that they have a similar appearance, he assumes the recently deceased's identity and accepts the consequences that it brings (IMDb).

The first 25 minutes into the movie Michelangelo Antonioni shows us that a story can be told splendidly virtually without any dialogue. In fact, throughout the movie he maintains the use of dialogue to a minimum level. This becomes the most noticeable attribute to this work. The story unfolds slowly, naturally, without any haste or unnecessary surprises, but surely to an increased level of complexity. He then ends the movie with an unruffled climax - silent, no dialogue - with the camera facing away from the subject of importance. What an outstanding piece of work!

My judgement: ***1/2 out of 4 stars.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

I Am Legend

Movie Review: I Am Legend

Year of Release: 2007
Country of Origin: USA
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Will Smith, Alice Braga

Plot outline: Years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the sole survivor in New York City struggles valiantly to find a cure

The idea of the story is bigger than the story itself. At the beginning the idea seems promising, but as the movie progresses the story doesn't evolve to deeper or greater things. It's stuck with a thin storyline of plague victims turned mutants hounding Will Smith. The idea offers great potential for a race against time scientific thriller but poor expansion of it turned this movie into just another zombie flick.

My judgement: *1/2 out of 4 stars.