The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


Why Watch It: Because it’s brilliant. And it’s filled with magical and touching moments. And its twist and turns are actually  filled with a lot of meaning. And its end is sweet and ties in everything really well.

Warning: Plot spoilers ahead! Jump ship before you learn too much  🙂

Review: This is a movie that is fun to watch, nice to think about, and cool to discuss. At least, if you share my tastes.

The flick revolves around the real and the imagined lives of Walter Mitty. He is attracted to a particular woman in his office who is also on a relationship/date website. But he hasn’t found the nerve to ask her out. Actually, he hasn’t had the nerve to do a lot of things — at least not the adventurous kind of things. So he keeps zoning out and enacting cute/bizarre action sequences in his daydreams.

Meanwhile Life magazine, where Walter works, begins to see some admin changes and pink  slips being handed out. At   this point of time, the magazine is gearing up for a special anniv issue. However, the negative print of the cover page photo seems to be missing. Walter must now trace the incommunicado photographer and get the missing print. Walter must step out of his office and grab hold of the shutterbug. The journeys Walter undertakes to get the missing print, as well  his experiences during his travels, keep you engaged as a viewer and kinda inspire you to go on your own adventures.

Rating: 5 Out of 5. Watch it and get inspired.


Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

Why Watch It: For Jennifer Lawrance. For the novel-to-film adaptation of the Hunger Games trilogy. For the interesting struggle of the character Katniss, and her relationship with Peeta and others.

Warning: Plot spoilers ahead

Story: The Capital which rules over the subordinate districts is upset that Katniss has become a symbol of great hope and rebellion for the Districts. Katniss along with Peeta had decided at the finale of the 74th Hunger Games that both would consume poisonous berries instead of one killing the other to win the Games. Seneca, the official in charge of the Games program had decided to announce that the teenagers from District 12, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark would be declared as joint winners.

SDCC13 - Hunger Games: Catching Fire panel

SDCC13 – Hunger Games: Catching Fire panel (Photo credit: W10002)

Because the Katniss-Peeta act was seen as an act of rebellion, it is inspiring the insurgents in various District to take up arms against the Capital’s rulers. But because it is regarded as an act of love, the TV audience watching Hunger Games loves Katniss and Peeta making it difficult for the authorities to execute them.When Gale Hawthorne, the real boyfriend of Katniss, is about to be shot dead by the Capitol’s guards, Katniss and Peeta intervene successfully. This unfuriates the Capital and sets off a chain reaction. The game makers announce that the contestants for the 75th Hunger Games would be chosen from the pool of previous winners of the Games.

For District 12, the pool of contestants includes Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch Abernathy. Katniss and Haymitch’s names are announced and Peeta steps forward to volunteer in place of Haymitch. Thereafter, Katniss and Peeta fight to stay alive during the 75th Hunger Games. The film concludes with Katniss sabotaging some of the infrastructure of the games, and falling unconscious during this. On awakening Katniss realizes that some officials involved in the game were helping her, and that widescale rebellion has broken out. Peeta has been taken captive and now Katniss must take the Capital head on.

Rating: 5 Stars of 5 for entertainment value, pace of story, special FX, and general watchability


Why watch it: Interesting direction Director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Some fine acting by Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt and others. Cool story by Guillermo Arriaga— that of a tourist woman greviously injured by a bullet while travelling in Morocco, North Africa and the linkage between a particular item, a gun, and a variety of people playing their part well/badly in the drama of life.

Rating: 7.5 Out of 10.

Disclaimer: The review/details given below include plot spoiler(s)…only for those who would not be watching the film, or don’t mind knowing the details.

Babel (film)

Babel (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Story: This is the third flick in the trilogy of non-linear films by Director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Like other of Alejandro’s flicks, this film too deals with death/accidents and coincidences wherein the lives of strangers intersect each other. A tourist {Cate Blanchett} gets shot while travelling in Morocco, North Africa. Her husband {Bradd Pitt} is around her during this hour of need, and we find them going through emotional turmoil. We learn that the shooter is a local kid who was given a high-powered rifle to fend off jackals and that the kid was testing the rifle while accompanied by his brother. Meanwhile, in the US, a babysitter takes her employer’s children for a wedding in Mexico, while in Japan a verbally-challenged young schoolgirl tries to satiate certain urges taking hold of her. Just as when we are feeling lost about where the movie is headed, we learn the deep connection between the people in the various narratives, and understand that fate somehow speaks a common language connecting people in different countries.


Trailer — The Wolverine

Reasons I’m excited about catching the Wolverine:

  1. He’s played by one of my fave action stars — Hugh Jackman
  2. Its an absolutely new location for the super-hero
  3. Samurai swords vs Wolverine blades are a marvelous idea
  4. Wolverine=Badass. Vulnerable Wolverine = Angrier Badass
  5. I want to see what tricks Wolverine has up his sleeve to compensate for his loss of superhealing

Taxi Driver: Politicians and Pimps

Cover of "Taxi Driver [Blu-ray]"

Cover of Taxi Driver [Blu-ray]

Taxi Driver (1976) is a cult movie dealing with enraged armed-and-dangerous taxi driver on a mission to rid the system of its grime. Please note that the  story and the ending are disclosed in the paragraphs below.So if you want to watch the flick and not know what to except then stop reading here.

War veteran Travis Bickle {Robert De Niro} can’t sleep. He reckons that he could use the extra waking hours and gets hired as a cabbie driving in rough areas at night. He notes the rain batter the streets and wishes they could wash away certain criminals from there as well.

He gets strongly attracted to Betsy {Cybill Shepherd} a woman canvassing for Presidential Candidate Charles Palantine {Leonard Harris}. After some hesitation he decides to offer to volunteer for the campaign and ask her out.

Meanwhile, he gets shaken up with an incident where a 12-year-old runaway girl Iris {Jodie Foster} gets into his taxi and asks for his help but is then pulled away by a pimp. Travis decides he wants the streets to be emptied of the pimps and dealers.  When Candidate Palentine rides in his cab, Travis tells him his concern but candidate politely tells him that it’s a problem that will be difficult to handle. Meanwhile, the early promise of a good romantic relation with Betsy ends when she is extremely put off by a movie he takes her. Betsy is unwilling to consider giving him another chance. Upset at all these events, Travis theorizes that society is cold-hearted and calculated and that no-one is doing anything to make the necessary changes.

He decides to be unlike others and be the man “who stood up” against all that was wrong. With this in mind, he arms himself and stakes out the Presidential candidate Palantine who gave him a lackadaisal response. His attention is once again drawn towards Iris whom he recognizes when he sees her again — this time on the street and also encounters the pimp Sport {Harvey Keitel} who is exploiting Iris.  Travis is mentally disturbed, his emotions are heightened, his sleep is compromised, his energy is peaking and he wants to shake up the system. He wants to get eliminate not only the criminal underbelly but also society’s passivity towards the thugs. As such, he is on two missions. After some explosive action Travis completes at least one to his satisfaction — luckily it’s the one which the law approves off, i.e. the rescue of the child prostitute.

Rating: 7/10 for De Niro’s and Foster’s acting, some tense moments, the conclusion of the story, and “You talking to me?” mirror scene. Also a big thumbs up for comparing the crimes of commission done by thugs with the sins of omission by authorities who avoid tackling crime and helping the victims.


Bravo Two Zero: Torture and Survival in Saddam’s Iraq (20 Years Ago)

It’s been 20 solid years since the printing of Bravo Two Zero. And it’s in the news cause its author Andy McNab was/is in Iraq visiting the location where he was tortured. It is reported that he still wants to “slot” the fellas who tortured him {a sentiment he shared in the book itself}.

If you want to know what kind of s#!t McNab had to put up through when he was captured that makes him feels this way toward his jail handlers, you gotta read this book. Actually, a better reason to read it is if you want to know how people can perservere through pain and refuse to be cowed down by adversity. There’s a Bravo Two Zero movie based on the book but I haven’t watched it, yet.

B-2-0 is all about McNab’s assignment in Iraq hunting down Scuds in the First Saddam-versus-Allies War. The book is written in a nice hey-lad-let-me-tell-you-a-tale style. You can picture him recounting everything as if both of you were best pals or army veterans who met in a bar.

You are told about his early life and then…yeah, you do get to know a little about his entry into the Special Forces. He grips us with the story of his entry into the infantry after which he tried, failed, then tried again and got into the SAS. 

But thereafter, the action unfolds quickly. The Special Forces team land in Saddam’s Iraq, operate behind enemy lines, get discovered by some Iraqi military men and duke it killing a large number of the enemy. Good guns and daring on the part of McNab and team lead to an unexpected victory. But soon things go hairy. While practising evasive maneuvers, part of the team members gets separated and some rural Iraqis spot them. The army is upon their tail and one of McNab’s mates becomes critically ill from hypothermia. Fighting ensues… some of them get captured.  

At first, they are beaten up. Then the indignities start — the stress position, the cells filled with sewage, the terrible tortures. McNab and others are literally broken down. It’s so bad you’ll get angry reading it. Finally, the Iraqi interogators play a ruse that the life of a team member would depend on McNab giving them info on their mission. So McNab gives the  pre-prepared false data.

At the end of it all, McNab is handed back to the Allies but he’s physically damaged and can’t serve in his earlier capacity. Read it if you dare!

Rating: 10/10 in the genre of first-account war stories. Apparently, part of the story overlaps with The One That Got Away. However, some part runs contrary to what is mentioned in The Real Bravo Two Zero. I haven’t checked these two books but those interested in the controversy may want to take a look.


World War Z: Simple Cure to the Zombie Apocalypse

World War Z, directed by Marc Forster, is based on the cult comic book/graphic novel of the same name by Max Brooks. It’s a fascinating movie, where special effects are used with great effect to bring out the horror. After briefly introducing some of the main characters and hinting at what is about to follow, the film moves from calm dread to full-scale apocalypse in a rapid rate. No corner of the earth seems safe. Anarchy rules and the American Dream is now about keeping yourself and your family safe.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) goes back to his job as a researcher for the United Nations. He traverses the world, with military backup, in search of the source of the zombie plague, and for chinks in the fast spreading epidemic. He is motivated by the knowledge that the military is helping his family only because he is “essential staff”. His family will be sent away from a particular safe location if he refuses to do his job, or is unable to complete his assignment or is killed.

No country on any continent is too far to travel to. Running and fighting are part of his assignment. But as Gerry learns, in engagement after engagement the humans are losing ground to the undead. The enemy is aggressive, difficult to kill, and has superior numbers.

Finally, Pitt who has observed them all around the globe finds a pattern that others have missed. Together with a soldier and some scientists, he takes on a group of zombies, and gets hold of a solution. And finally the world’s militaries are able to turn the tide.

Rating: The cure seems to be too simplistic. I was like, really? really? But if you ignore the ending it’s an 8/10, mostly for the special effects.


Parker (2013)

Parker is an action film based on the novel Flashfire (Parker #19) by Richard Stark (pen name of Donald E. Westlake). It features Jason Statham as tough-as-nails skilled robber Parker.

English: Jason Statham at the Toronto Internat...

English: Jason Statham at the Toronto International Film Festival 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on the advice of his mentor Hurley (Nick Nolte), Parker teams up with a gang for a big job. The gang is headed by Melander {Michael Chiklis who did some great acting as Vic Mackey in The Shield tv series} and includes wheeler-dealer August Hardwicke {Micah A. Hauptman}, driver and lookout Carlson {Wendell Pierce} and gun-wielder Ross{Clifton Collins Jr}. Together, Parker and the gang pull off a heist at the Ohio State Fair. The group grabs $1 million but Parker is upset with an diversionary fire set during the robbery. His instruction was ignored by Hardwicke and Parker thinks it will create further problems down the road. 

While making the getaway, Melander shares the idea of plan of a much larger robbery with  Parker. This time Melander’s gang and Parker would target jewels worth millions. However, Parker wants to take his share, have nothing more to do with the gang, and does not consider the idea of illegally selling jewels to be a good idea. Melander does not like the idea of Parker knowing about the plan and not participating in it. Tension explodes between Parker and Melander’s gang and there is a fight in the getaway vehicle. Ross misses with his shotgun but Melander and Hardwicke shoot Parker and leave him on the road for dead.

Parker is discovered and taken to the hospital by some do-gooders. He escapes from the hospital upon waking up and starts tracking down the gang. Melander discovers that Parker is looking out for the gang and gets Hardwicke to contract an assassin named Kroll {Daniel Bernhardt} through his contacts. Meanwhile Parker reaches Palm Beach, where he uses the local knowledge of down-on-luck estate agent Leslie Rodgers {Jennifer Lopez} to trace the house used by Melander and the gang. The movie ends predictably, with Parker killing the assassin, bumping off Melander and other gang members {with some help from Leslie}, shooting dead the original boss and his guards in Chicago, and splitting the proceeds with Leslie and the samaritans who saved him.

I understood the idea of taking Jennifer Lopez for the movie, {I guess it would’ve peaked interest among her fans like me} but frankly the role did not seem so great. Jason Statham does well in the action scenes particularly in the fight with Bernhardt. The Flashfire story is one of several Donald E. Westlake contributions to film, including several Parker-novel based films {Point Blank, Pillaged/ Mise a Sac, The Split, The Outfit, Slayground and Payback}. I found the idea, of other robbers shooting Parker, slightly similar to The Hunter {Parker #1} which was adapted twice as Point Blank and Payback.


Trailer of The Wolf of Wall Street


Leonardo Di Caprio rocks it in the trailer of Paramount Pictures The Wolf of Wall Street by director Martin Scorsese. Looks like unadulterated debauchery out there what with tossing dwarves onto dart boards, taping women with notes, oddball dancing, and crumpling notes and shooting them into trash cans. Only Leo could’ve pulled it off so cooly.


Man of Steel: Welcome Altruistic Alien

With release time comes great responsibility…of watching superhero movies.
— Yours truly 😉

The new superflick flick  from Warner Brothers called Man of Steel begins with Jor El {Russel Crowe} and  Lara Von-Vor {Ayelet Zurer} realizing that the planet Krypton’s core has become unstable and will lead to impending doom. They decide to save the Kryptonian race by sending  their baby son Kal El to Earth in a spacecraft. This spacecraft lands in rural Kansas. The infant is discovered by Martha{Diane Lane} and Jonathan Kent {Kevin Costner}, a farming couple with no child of their own, and named as Clark Kent. Clark (Henry Cavill) is advised to keep his superpowers a secret by his adoptive father Jonathan but as anyone who has watched any trailer knows, Superman finally decides to don the cap and get on with the superhero act.

I think anyone will enjoy Man of Steel as long as they don’t mind the twists in the original Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for DC-National/DC Comics. It will also help if they don’t expect co-writer Christopher Nolan {writer-director of Batman BeginsThe Dark KnightThe Dark Knight Rises} to make this into a Batman-like movie as Superman as protagonist is very different from Batman {mainly because Batman is a human with gadgets and Superman is an alien with superpowers}. Of course, there are disappointments. Even though Nolan and David S. Goyer {story and screenplay writer} make Superman suffer anguish during his childhood it somehow doesn’t create that much of an emotional impact. Storywise, the effect would’ve been stronger if Superman was younger when his most painful memory was formed and if his acclimatization, self-training,  and  fighting were filmed as harsher mettle-forging experiences. Also Superman’s grief, dilemma, and thought process could’ve been more gripping. 

Despite all this I still rate the movie highly {a 8.5 out of 10}. I feel that director Zac Snyder (famous as the director of 300), and the writers were limited to a large extent with Superman’s persona as given in the comics. The movie does show the progression of the Superman’s character  after he crosses paths with Daily Planet newspaper reporter Lois Lane (great job by Amy Adams). And I loved Lois Lane’s character and the pivotal role she plays. I think the film set the tone for the next Superman and the role that various characters, including Superman, Lois Lane, General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) and Perry White (Lawrence Fishbourne) will play in it.

The movie has definitely capitalized on Kal El’s super-strength and flying ability during the second half of the movie. The fisticuffs  especially on the ground and in the air were visual delights. That alone makes it the trip to the cinema worth it.