Honestly

Jay Dwivedi's personal page.  His business blog is here. Also visit my daily blog.

Doubt movie review


Poster of movie doubtDespite being an agnostic, I spent major part of my school years at a Catholic high school. While I came across some wonderful nuns but felt sorry for them that they were wasting their lives for an imaginary God. Sadly, some of these nuns were apparently so sexually frustrated that they took their frustrations out on students. The best way to describe is to simply call it torture of kids in the name of discipline.

That is why the behavior Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) did not surprise me at all. Either she is just sick of her life or hates the Catholic Church for mistreating its female staff that she decides to bring down parish priest Father Flynn (who had a very high coolness factor and played by Philip Seymour Hoffman).

I guess she engages in everything that I would expect the Bible to not allow but she is so enraged at her circumstances that she does it anyway. Sister James (played by Amy Adams) as a young nun watches in horror what really should not be happening in a religious institution.

A great movie for anyone who enjoys fine acting and wants to appreciate how #@#^& up religious institutions really are and how they manage to take people for a ride.

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The Pink Panther movie review


Photo of Steve Martin in Pink PantherOver the years I have learned that it is perfectly safe to watch a Steve Martin movie for good laughs. Yep, I am talking about falling off the couch laughs and this film provides them in plenty. Actually, Steve Martin is as his very best as Inspector Jacques Clouseau who has been asked to investigate the death of French soccer team coach and disappearance of the Pink Panther diamond.

In his quest for the killers with the help of Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno and you might recall him from The Da Vinci Code), he must make a fool of himself at every point (after all he has been set up to fail by police chief Dreyfus played by Kevin Kline), including making a complete mess on his first trip to New York City, where he gets arrested at the JFK Airport. In the process of his investigations, he must also try to get information out of Beyonce (who plays Xania, a pop singer who was dating the coach).

Strongly recommended for Steve Martin fans and comedy lovers.

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Milk movie review


Photo of Sean Penn as Harvey MilkMany people are reluctant to admit it, but religions are simply great businesses. As we have seen, religions have used principles of business more effectively than corporations do and they do a much better job of keeping their customer base loyal. To do that, they need an issue, and religions have learned that hatred is a better business model than love. No surprise then that homophobia has been a winning strategy for a long time.

Milk follows the life of Harvey Milk, first openly elected gay official in the United States. Undoubtedly gays and lesbians have made remarkable progress in gaining some rights since the 70s, when Milk was campaigning for equal rights for them, but what has not changed is the message of hate coming from homophobes. The logic for discrimination is unchanged and watching this movie is like watching the fight in California today in which Mormons and Evangelicals are making the same arguments for bigotry as they did 30 years ago.

Strongly recommended if you want to understand what is happening in America today.

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Yes Man movie review


Photo of Jim Carey and Zoey Deschnel on a scooterWhat I have learned over the years is that if you are looking for pure entertainment and laughs, Jim Carrey is a pretty good bet (movies that I recommend are The Truman Show, Fun With Dick and Jane, Bruce Almighty, Me, Myself and Irene, Dumb & Dumber, Ace Ventura: The Pet Detective, The Mask, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Earth Girls Are Easy). That is exactly how it turns out with Yes Man.

Most of us have the problem that we can't say No when we really need to and keep getting into trouble trying to be civil, polite, and pleasant. Carl Allen (played by Carrey) has the other problem: not being able to say yes, until a friend convinces him to attend a talk by a motivational speaker Terrence Bundley (played by Terence Stamp) who helps people to discover the possibilities in life by saying Yes more often. Carl gets the message a bit jumbled up and says yes to everything. Disaster is bound to happen as probably Gandhi realized when he tried to experiment with truth.

As always, the very pretty (and with some of the most beautiful eyes) Allison (Zooey Deschanel) is charming as Carl's girlfriend.

The plot of the movie is not the most coherent but it is a movie that you can enjoy when you are in a mood to entertain yourself.

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Australia movie review


Photo of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman kissing I chose to watch Australia because I consider Nicole Kidman to be a very fine actress, I love the Wolverine and the X-men franchise with Hugh Jackman, and I know so little about Australia. It is a great movie and I truly enjoyed it but I can understand why some people may not like it so much.

It is set against the background of Second World War and the movie runs at an extremely slow pace chronicling the adventures of an English lady on a ranch in the middle of nowhere in Australia. Contrary to what one would expect, Lady Sarah Ashley not only runs the ranch effectively but chooses to live permanently in the country.

I must mention some remarkable acting by Brandon Walters as the young Aboriginal boy Nullah who keeps the whole story together. In summary, if you like a movie with a plot involving a war, romance, group rivalry, and race relations, you will love it.

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Kung Fu Panda movie review


Kungfu pandaI love to watch animation films and it took me a while to get to "Kung Fu Panda" but I am glad I did. It is an excellent movie that you can watch with your family.

The plot is intriguing and the visual effects are remarkable. Obviously, there is a powerful underlying message that is important to kids as well as adults.

What I got from the movie is that there really is no magical power or secret to success (I am obviously excluding being born to rich and/or powerful parents) other than believing in yourself and doing the hard work.

Po (Jack Black) is a panda who leads a mundane life as a family owned restaurant worker but making noodles is definitely not what he wants to do his whole life. What he really wants to do is to be kungfu master. By a stroke of good luck, he is selected to be the Dragon Warrior (the best in kung fu) who must fight Tai Lung (Dustin Hoffman) to protect the people of the Valley of Peace. For a food-addicted, overweight panda, the journey is a tough one but he realizes that when he realized that he had power, he had enough to defeat the evil snow leopard warrior. He is then accepted as the supreme master by the people.

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Chocolat movie review


Dwivedi blog Johnny Depp Juliete BinochHere are some simple rules for life:
  1. Never join a religion that denies you chocolate, or for that matter, simple pleasures like food, unless you eat so much that you end with a health emergency.
  2. Never support the integration of church and state. It is always a dangerous mix regardless of how politicians and church leaders may want to help each other out to screw the people.
  3. Always enjoy what you have. On your death bed, you will not regret what you did, but would surely regret all those places that you did not visit or the time that you did not spend with your family or the things that you did not try.
Chocolat is a great movie for anyone who likes chocolate or enjoyed "Like Water For Chocolate." Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) show up in a tiny French village, where the main square appears to be literally just as big as my backyard (it is important to understand this because it shows how small the minds of the residents were). Vianne does not go to church, does not have a male companion, wears red shoes (rather than black as all other women did), and opens a chocolaterie at a time with Catholics are supposed to resist temptations.

Thus begins the mother of all battles with the mayor Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina) who is literally in bed with the Catholic church and even edits the priest's sermons till they say what he wants to say.

Contrary to his expectations and disappointment, the chocolaterie not only thrives but also becomes a place for all the outcasts (Judy Dench as Armande who wants to enjoy her final years rather than go on a diet to fight her diabetes or Johnny Depp as Roux who as an Irish gypsy is not welcome and battered wife Lena Olin). In the end the whole town is literally licking chocolate off their fingers.

A beautiful family movie with something for people of all ages.

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Get Smart movie review


Honestly blog photo of Ann Hathway and Steve Carrell in Get Smart filmI always enjoyed Steve Carell on The Daily Show but when I watched him for the first time in "The 40 Year Old Virgin," I was disappointed. The humor was lame and the plot was weak despite some good acting by Carell. Then I had a chance to watch "Little Miss Sunshine" and I realized that if the plot was right, Carell could be at his best.

I have been a big fan of Anne Hathaway since I saw her in "The Devil Wears Prada."

In "Get Smart" movie, Carell and Hathaway are both agents (Maxwell Smart and Agent 99) for a fictitious intelligence agency. The two go on a mission together to Russia to find out how KAOS, a terrorist organization, was getting nuclear weapons. There is a lot of action-filled comedy and eventually Smart is suspected to be a double-agent. He proves that he is not a double agent by preventing the explosion of a bomb at a concert in Los Angeles attended by the president.

If you are looking for spy-thriller, this is not the movie for you, but if you like satire and comedy, it is a good one. I was also pleasantly surprised that there is a lot more action in the movie than I would have expected from demure Hathaway and least likely spy Carell.

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Borat movie review


Photo of BoratIf you want to role off your chair because you are laughing so hard then this film is for review. Obviously, as I suggested while reviewing The Da Vinci Code, you should have a sense of humor and be able to distinguish fact from fiction. You should also not be offended by toilet humor or jokes that are simply not appropriate for anyone other than a fictional character called Borat.

The film (the full name is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) is in some ways a satire of American life (it is hard to say if any of the things about Kazakhstan are true) but in many other ways just a great way to laugh on ourselves.

The movie proceeds as the adventures in the United States of Borat (supposedly a journalist, but in reality those of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who in real life speaks with a perfect British accent) who along with a colleague is exploring America and is recording the adventure for a documentary.

The movie is essentially about Borat Sagdiyev but Pamela Anderson has an important role playing herself -- she was the inspiration (he saw her in a Baywatch photo book) for him to drive all the way to California so that he could marry her and bring her back to Kazakhstan.

Strongly recommended for comedy fans. Most people loved the movie but people who lack a sense of humor were apparently outraged.

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The Da Vinci Code movie review


Photo of Tom Hanks and Audrey TautouWarning: If you are one of those morons who have a hard time distinguishing fact from fiction, do not read this review and definitely movies are not for you -- go pull some weeds in your backyard.

And if you are still reading, you are probably a smart person who has the knowledge and intelligence to enjoy fiction while continuing to use facts in your life for their useful purpose.

If you know Dan Brown (I like his books to read on the beach or on a long flight), you will know that he is a master of fiction writing. He uses real institutions (like NASA or the National Security Agency) and combines real and imaginary events to create a book that is very engaging.

That is exactly what happens in The Da Vinci Code. While I am no Catholic or even Christian, I do have enormous respect for Jesus Christ and The Pope, and as even a 4-year old will tell you, there is nothing real about a movie other than moving images and background sounds.

The Plot is very complicated and will give you great insights into Christianity and its many stories (the Holy Grail, Opus Dei, Templar Knights, Mary Magdalene, etc.). In summary, Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) try to track down several mysterious people who are all trying to hide many secrets. It is one story that will keep you glued to your seat till the end. Strongly recommended for anyone who enjoys mysteries.

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Jumanji movie review


Photo of Robin Williams on the cover of JumanjiWe love the idea of watching movies as a family but it is rather sad that so many family movies have way too much violence. I wonder if these movies can actually be made in two versions: one for adults and then an edited version for the kids. While this is a great movie, we thought that parts of the movie could be scary for young kids - so I suggest that the parents watch it first and then decide how to prepare their kids for it and how to watch with them. They will love it but some of the horror is rather unexpected.

Alan Parrish (played by Robin Williams) finds a board game (Jumanji) and decides to play it with a friend Sarah Whittle without really knowing what it was. Very soon unexpected things happen and without warning Alan disappears into thin air and Sarah is chased out of the house by scary looking bats. 26 years later, two other kids in the same house (Judy Shepherd played by Kirsten Dunst and her brother Peter played by Bradley Pierce) play the same game after they find it in the attic while their aunt is not home (their parents died in an accident).

They are able to return Alan Parrish to a normal life after he disappeared into the game and in order to finish the game, they also track down Sarah Whittle but in order for everything to return to normal, they must play till the end. It ain't easy on anyone, including people not playing the game. Life in this tiny town is turned upside down and wild animals are roaming on Main Street.

It is an excellent fantasy/action moview and perfect for not only kids but even adults who like fantasy and action - for example, Pirate of the Caribbean Dead Men's Chest. Unfortunately parts of it border on horror (in a fun way, though, and nothing like the violence and horror you see in video games) but still strongly recommended.

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Boca a Boca movie review


Photo of Aitana Sanchez Gijon and Javier BardemI became a fan of Aitana Sanchez Gijon after watching her in Femme de Chambre du Titanic and that was the sole reason I chose to watch Boca a Boca (Mouth to Mouth). It stars Javier Bardem (who plays the role of Victor Ventura, a struggling actor) who takes a job as a phone sex operator to pay his bills before he appears for a casting call for a Hollywood movie. He ends up answering a phone call from a plastic surgeon (Bill or Ricardo played by Josep Maria Flotats) who is a down-low man (people like Ted Haggard who are supposedly happily married to a woman but are secretly gay) and in his desperate attempt to make as much money as possible, he makes Bill think that they are in love. But Victor is actually in love with Bill's wife Amanda (played by Aitana Sanchez Gijon) who sleeps with him to take revenge on her husband.

The plot gets complicated after that and I will not give you any more details but you have to wait till the end to figure out who was trying to kill who for what reason. All I can say is that it is not what you think. Despite what I have described above, the movie is fairly clean, but be warned that it is rated R due to the nature of the theme. In my opinion it is a beautiful comedy that would remind you of movies like Beverly Hills Cops. Strongly recommended.

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December Boys review



It seems it is time for Daniel Radcliffe to move beyond Harry Potter and December Boys is a beautiful movie for him to show his talent as an actor. It is the story for children in an Australian orphan who are not lucky enough to be adopted. Then they get a chance to make a trip to the ocean and a lot more happens than they ever imagined.

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Sydney White review



Life is good for Sydney White; I mean Amanda Bynes. After launching her clothing line Dear, she now stars in Sydney White, along with Matthew Long and Sara Paxton, to give a rip roaring performance. You will traces of Gossip Girl, a little bit of drama like any other teenage movie, and it all ends on a happy note.

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Angels in the Dust movie


It seems that there is so much to do in Africa. And we have to do it. Even if it is something small. Many of these people in Africa need help. It isn't always money that they need. Sometimes just what you know and share can help them get out of their misery. Here is the story of one family that left behind everything to make life better in a remote part of South Africa.

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The Bourne Ultimatum Review


We live in a world in which it seems that the war with terrorists will never end. It is understandable why governments all over the world will keep fighting the bad guys and sometimes they will need to kill them. Of course, specialists are needed who can kill the troublemakers but also have the skill and patience needed to fight with those who are merciless, fanatics, and do no appreciate the value of life.

Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon) is a US government killer chasing the bad guys and is supported by Julia Stiles. Here is a video about the film which includes clips from the movie and interview with both Matt Damon and co-star Julia Stiles.

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The Simpsons movie review


A movie is a great way to tell a long, complicated story in a brief period of time. There is a downside, though. If the viewer already knows the story too well (Harry Potter is a classic example) and is really familiar with the characters, it may be difficult to keep the viewer engaged unless there is something really new. Indeed, there are hardcore fans of anime, manga, and comics, but despite the racial jokes controversy, "The Simpsons" doesn't appear to be as funny as the television episodes are (and they are free to watch). Here is a review by Christy Lemire.

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Live Free Or Die Hard Movie


I did a review of the movie Live Free or Die Hard but if you want to get a second opinion, here is an excellent review by Greg Moody of CBS. Overall, he likes it as I do, though he does make more fun of Bruce Willis for his mature age and the fact that someone that old should not be in an action flick. Aha. In my opinion, age shouldn't matter. Young people can be bad actors and old people can be great actors. The review also includes some action packed clips from the film.

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Goldfinger movie review


iProceed cover of Gold finger movieSeveral months ago I had watched a documentary on the The United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. By interviewing a few ex-employees and with the use of very limited publicly available information, the producers had tried to put together a story about the operations and the security there. However, I am sure that like the movie Air Force One, they must have gotten it only partly right. No visitors are permitted in the building. The documentary said that only once did a few members of Congress and media personnel were allowed to go in. No one from this movie team ever stepped inside Fort Knox or even its vicinity (actually that part of the film was not even shot in the US).

Of course, one of the things that I remember from the documentary was the narrator saying that apart from being part of the plots in books and movies, the most remarkable movie that was based on penetrating the Fort Knox security was the "Goldfinger." So when the opportunity came to watch the movie - of course I am a 007 fan (Casino Royale) - I grabbed it. The movie is old and you can see all the attributes of a retro movie.

The plot is simple. The Chinese Government wants to destabilize the American economy by destroying the gold that is stored there (according to US Mint, some 150 million ounces of gold is held there and is valued at $6 billion). The person they use for their plot - Operation Grand Slam - is Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe). He is a gold smuggler and surmises that when the US will not be able to use its gold, the value of his gold will skyrocket. Of course, in typical James Bond (played by Sean Connery) fashion, the plot is foiled. Very entertaining movie. Strongly recommended. You may also enjoy the soundtrack - it has been a big hit.

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Ginger and Cinnamon movie review


iProceed photo of Ginger and Cinnamon movie posterIf you are a parent of a teenager, please do watch "Dillo con parole mie" (marketed as "Ginger and Cinnamon" to English speakers). We know that virginity pledge or not, most Americans will lose their virginity in their teens. We might as well help them do it responsibly and safely. But no, the movie is not just about a teenager's desperate attempts to do it just for the heck of it. There is a more complex plot involving her aunt Stefania.

Stefania (played by Stefania Montorsi) has just broken up with her boyfriend Andrea (played by Giampaolo Morelli) when her teenager niece Megghy (Martina Merlino) shows up after lying to her classmates and family about where she was going. She suggests that they both take a trip to the "Isle of Love" in Greece. Among all the cute boys crawling on the planet looking for the same thing, Megghy ends up with Andrea, who also is taking a trip after the breakup to concentrate on his hobby of drawing.

Megghy gets some good lessons in relationships and romance and so does Stefania, who discovers that her real persona is hiding somewhere and must come out.

It ain't a very profound movie (we loved it for its pure entertainment value) but if you love foreign language films and want to learn more about what goes on at the beautiful Greek island of Ios in summer, you will like it. Plus there is some great music on the soundtrack too.

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Heaven movie review


Photo of Cate BlanchettWhen I watched Wisdom (Starring Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore, it is the story of a modern-day Robin Hood who robs banks to help poor Americans), I remember how the two main characters are being chased by cops as they are about to cross into Canada. While you know that they are criminals and broke the law, you also know that they helped a lot of people. You almost wish that they will not be caught. Sadly enough, they do get caught and killed.

In "Heaven" though, the two actors are not caught and do manage to escape. The movie "Heaven" reminds one of "Spanglish" in some ways because the characters speak two languages (English and Italian), which to me is a far better alternative than the ridiculous manner in which the characters in "Memoirs of Geisha" speak.

The movie begins with Philippa Paccard (played by the always-brilliant Cate Blanchett), an English teacher in Italy, who plants a bomb to kill a drug lord. Unfortunately, four innocent people (including two kids) are killed instead. She is arrested and interrogated by the police under the suspicion that she is part of a terrorist group.

One of the cops, who is acting as an interpreter, Filippo (played by Giovanni Ribisi) is instantly attracted to her, particularly when he finds out that she is also the teacher of his kid brother, who always spoke very highly of her. Putting himself at considerable risk, he helps her escape from police custody and they both arrive in Tuscany. For those of us who remember the scenes from "Under The Tuscan Sun," the visuals are memorable.

I was not convinced of the plot in the sense that the two fell in love almost instantly and while she is genuinely sorrow for her act, she does not get any punishment for it. Other than that, it is a beautifully done film with some excellent acting by Blanchett.

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Reconstruction movie review


iProceed photo of movie Reconstruction starring Maria Bonnevie and Nikolah Lie KaasI had never seen a Danish movie before and it took me a while to figure out where the movie was based since the characters talk (in Danish and Swedish) so much about going to Rome. But that was just a small thing. The whole movie is even more intriguing and incomprehensible at times.

"Reconstruction" is a psychological drama involving a mature woman, adultery, and mind-bending events. The plot is simple: A married woman (Aimee, played by Maria Bonnevie) in a sexless marriage to an always-busy writer August (played Krister Henriksson) gets attracted to a younger, passionate man (Alex, played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who sees great chemistry in her and has no hesitation in leaving her girlfriend (Simone, also played by Maria Bonnevie). But not everything is so simple and straightforward.

Director Christoffer Boe has made a movie in which if you feel dizzy, consider that normal. It is hard to figure out what is real and what is just the imagination of the characters. For all we know, even some of the charactes may exist only in the mind of the others (August, who is an author, may very well be creating a plot for his new book). The movie is painfully slow and if you don't have the patience of watching the whole thing, better stop sooner rather than later (though if that happens you will probably watch it till the end).

You might even wonder what is the whole point of the movie, but that is not what the director had in mind. In and by itself, almost every minute of the movie is beautifully done and that itself is enough reason to watch. Many reviewers on the web recommend that you watch the movie several times to appreciate all the complexities, but I think if you realize that imaginative people can create a parallel universe and live in it, you will get it. As one reviewer says, "If you like artsy films or films with deep meanings then this may be a good film for you. If you don't really like vague and confusing endings (at first) and are more of a person to watch happy-ending films then this definitely isn't the film for you. And if you aren't open-minded artistically you probably won't like this film either as you will spend most of your time trying to analyze the theme of love in the film while it covers much deeper issues than that."

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Spanglish movie review


Photo of Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, and Paz VegaIf you have always "hated" Adam Sandler, I would have called you a friend prior to watching "Spanglish." Any time I got to watch him, I found him so juvenile, almost someone acting like an imbecile. This movie may not make you fall in love with him, but you will agree that a good actor becomes what the story and director wants him to be. In this movie, I have seen him act like an adult for the first time. I just hope that he gets to act in a few more good movies.

"Spanglish" has a special meaning for me because, despite being with Lorena for over 10 years, my Spanish langauge abilities are dismal. While I do get by with my Spanglish, to have a meaningful conversation, I need someone to translate for me.

In this film, however, Adam Sandler (John) and his wife Tea Leoni (Deborah) do pretty good managing a maid Flor Moreno (played by Paz Vega, who for some reasons, kept reminding me of Penelope Cruz), who does not speak English at all.

In no time, she and her charming daughter Cristina become part of a very WASP family. Of course, that means they also become too integrated into the family, something that is not always good to do, because not only the two belong to two different cultures, their social classes are so far apart. It is a great movie to watch as a family, especially if you have language issues within the family.

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Memoirs of a Geisha movie review


Photo of a geishaI have never understood the rationale for paying someone to chitchat with you. If I feel like talking to new people, there are so many avenues for doing so without spending a penny (except maybe paying for a drink or meal). My experience living in Japan, however, tells me that it is the norm in Japan. I have visited so many bars in Tokyo and Osaka with my ex-colleagues and friends where not only did you pay for your drinks, you also spent a fortune on a companion who does nothing more than pour drinks, giggle at your stupid jokes, and try to make you feel important. While geisha is supposedly an artist (neither a hostess nor a prostitute, though she can become a mistress in some cases), her more important role is to make a man feel what he aspires to be and what his wife may not find credible.

For these reasons and to understand the world of geishas in Japan, the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha" is a must watch. It might seem like a documentary on the life of a geisha, but as you watch the movie, you will find that it is actually a beautiful love story - that of Sayuri (childhood name: Chiyo Sakamoto played by Zhang Ziyi) and the Chairman (played by Ken Watanabe). There are twists and turns in the story, including the backdrop of the Second World War, but what starts off as a very tragic tale of a little girl sold by her parents, actually ends on a very happy note.

What we didn't like?

You might be disappointed to know that most of the movie was not shot in Kyoto, but in a studio in California. We also did not like how all the Japanese characters spoke English - it is heavily accented English (neither now nor during the time of the movie do Japanese people speak to each other in any other language than Japanese) and simply difficult to understand, despite the fact that almost all of my Japanese friends talk like that. In my opinion, the characters should have simply spoken plain American English, or even better, in Japanese (subtitles would have worked just fine).

Otherwise, strongly recommended, especially if you are a Japan lover like me.

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Ladder 49 movie review


Photo of Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta in Ladder 49So often we take what others do for us for granted. While impolite, it is not so bad. What is really bad when we take for granted even when others risk their lives for us. Yes, police officers, firefighters, and women and men in the armed forces, risk their lives every day so that we can be safe. If you are one of those people who just think of firemen when there is a fire in your house, we strongly suggest that you watch Ladder 49.

This is a very depressing movie; so don't plan on being entertained. In fact if it were not for its movie stars, it could very well be categorized as a documentary about the life of Jack Morrison (played by Joaquin Phoenix) as a firefighter. After starting his career as a firefighter, Morrison takes on the job of search rescue because he wants it, despite being warned about its dangers by his boss and mentor Mike Kennedy (John Travolta) and his wife, Linda (Jacinda Barrett).

The film traces Morrison's life in flashbacks as he lies unconscious after being trapped insided a building while performing a rescue. When his colleagues go to rescue him, he radios back to Kennedy telling him to pull them out since his case is hopeless and he does not want anyone else hurt.

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Scent of a Woman movie review


Photo of Al Pacino in Scent of a WomanCan you imagine a movie called "Scent of a Woman" with no women? Indeed, there is a pivotal sequence in the movie in which Al Pacino takes beautiful Gabrielle Anwar to the dance floor at the Waldorf Astoria for an impromptu tango performance, but other than that it is a movie about men. I enjoyed watching this movie even more because it reminded me so much of my days at the Birla Public School in Pilani.

Retired (and blind) Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (played by Al Pacino for which he got the Oscar) is a man with a very complex and powerful personality. When his daughter hires Charlie Simms (played by Chris O'Donnell, who is a student from a poor family at a prep school in New Hampshire) to take care of him over the Thanksgiving weekend, he is in for a roller-coaster ride. Within moments of the daughter leaving for a family reunion, Slade and Simms are on a plane to New York City. Slade's plan: stay at the Waldorf Astoria, eat at the Oak Room, dance and make love to a beautiful woman, and then kill himself. Simms has to simply help Slade do all of this.

Simms is facing some of his own challenges at school. He has been asked to attend a disciplinary hearing in which he is expected to confirm the identity of three pranksters.

The duo has a lot of adventures in the City and Slade does not kill himself. In fact, he comes back and defends Simms at the discliplinary hearing. His powerful speech was instrumental in Simms being acquitted.

It is indeed a beautiful movie and Al Pacino is at his very best. If you like good acting, or have attended a boarding school, this is one movie you shouldn't miss.

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Marcus movie review


Photo of MarcusHorror is a genre that I tend to explore occasionally (and mostly alone) and I have enjoyed some good movies during recent months (Vampyros Lesbos, Night of the Living Dead, etc.). But when I received the press kit for Marcus, I had no idea what the movie was about. It didn't take me long to find out. Within seconds, it was obvious that it was a horror film.

In my opinion, there are two types of horror movies. The first category includes movies with monsters and ghosts - these don't scare me because I know that they are unreal and more often than not include just computer-generated characters. The second category includes sick human beings (or animals) - these do manage to scare me because they are depictions of real people and without our knowing it, they might be around us.

Marcus belongs to the second category. You would not dream of any monsters or imagine that there are ghosts in your bedroom, but the image of this heartless killer will stay in your mind.

Here is the plot in brief. Brooke has invited her brother Roger for a Christmas meal and he has decided to bring along his fiancee Gwen to surprise his sister that he hasn't seen in several years. When they arrive at her door, they first meet his estranged friend Charles, who is now dating Roger's ex-girlfriend Kate. Not a great start. When they walk into the house, Brooke is nowhere to be found but Marcus, a man that no one knows, shows up claiming to be the man Brooke is dating. While the guests are not aware of this, but we see that Brooke is counting her last moments in the bathtub.

No one in the movie is comfortable with each other and they are all waiting for Brooke to come back home (Marcus informs them that she had a minor car accident and is on her way home). It turns out that Marcus is a scary psycho and pretty much kills everyone by the end of the movie without losing the mean smile on his face. You are left wondering that how a man who looks like a professional can be so brutal!

What makes this movie interesting and powerful is that with just a $35,000 budget, it manages to elicit superb acting from Ross Kurt, Marc Rose, Frankie Ingrassia, Jade Dornfeld, and Samantha Shelton, and has some excellent music that provides a contrast to Christmas carols that also play throughout the movie.

Strongly recommended.

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America's Sweethearts movie review


Photo of John Cusack, Catherine Zeta Jones, Julia Roberts, and Billy CrystalLorena was disappointed from the get-go that "America's Sweethearts" was not the movie she expected - that there was no humor so typical of Billy Crystal. On the contrary, this is a very light comedy that reminded so much of what Woody Allen (Shadows and Fog, Casino Royale) comes up with. There are some comic moments, but at no point are you falling off the couch, or as is typical of Woody Allen movies, smiling at the cleverness of the joke or the subtlety of the dialogue.

The plot is essentially a satire on Hollywood relationships. Estranged couple Gwen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eddie (John Cusack) have no choice but to come together to promote their latest movie (which is otherwise and may not do much to lift the sagging career of Gwen), and only some drama at the press junket at a luxury resort in the Nevada desert can get good reviews from the media.

Billy Crystal, who is an experienced publicist, takes charge and produces situations that will delight fans of Shakespeare's plays. Like all of us, the press too is obessed with the drama of relationships of Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston, Britney Spears-Kevin Federline, or Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes. That is exactly what Billy Crystal is able to do and the critics lap it all up.

Overall, a movie that you won't rememember the rest of your life, but is worth watching over a glass of wine after dinner. And by the way, Julia Roberts has a small, but impressive part, as Gwen's assistant/sister "Kiki."

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I, Robot movie review


Photo of Will SmithWhether it is Pinky or androids or Stepford Wives or robonauts, we will soon see robots the way we look at pets: friendly, helpful, and part of the family. Will that be in 2035? That is the premise of the movie I, Robot, which like The Day After Tomorrow is a visual masterpiece full of special effects.

In Chicago of the future, robots are everywhere and definitely that is good news for US Robotics, the company that manufactures them. If the robots were simply to follow our orders and make life easy for us, everything would be great, but what if robots could evolve or even have emotions? Even worse, what if robots could also try to protect us from ourselves, which is not inconceivable considering that by not fighting global warming, we are deliberately destroying the chances for survival of the human race?

If you are a fan of science fiction movies and get excited by robotics, this is an excellent movie to watch. Will Smith delivers a remarkable performance but we thought that Sonny (the robot) was even better. Like ET, it is easy to fall in love with Sonny. While some of the issues raised in the movie are somewhat premature, but considering that we all spend more time with machines than humans now, it is not a bad idea to ponder some of the ethical and social implications of bringing robots into our daily lives.

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The Day After Tomorrow movie review


Photo of the Statue of Liberty in New YorkGlobal warming is a hot topic and there are a whole bunch of movies that use it in various forms. Some that I have seen and reviewed are Ice Age The Meltdown and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. If you are still in denial about global warming (How to fight global warming), we recommend that you watch The Day After Tomorow, especially if you work for a polluter.

The movie is very dramatic and is only meant to highlight what is possible, not necessarily what will really happen (unless a catastrophic event like a nuclear war or an asteroid hitting the planet raises the temperatures quickly). Even a fifth grader now knows that climate changes slowly, not within a matter of days, as the movie shows, but the point is made.

The Day After Tomorrow tells the story through the eyes of Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) and friend Laura Chapman (played by Emmy Rossum). While New Delhi gets it first snowstorm ever and grapefruit sized hailstones drop in Tokyo, the United States is not prepared for the unpredictable weather that causes flooding and massive snowstorms within a matter of days completely paralyzing the northern half of the country, specifically New York City. Bad weather is seen in other parts, particularly Hollywood.

The film has excellent special effects and while it clearly looks impressive, it is also incredible (see the photo above of how the Statue of Liberty first gets flooded and then covered in snow towards the end of the movie). We were also not impressed with a part of the plot in which Jack literally walks all the way from Washington DC to New York Public library to (successfully) rescue his son while hundreds of thousands of people simply froze to death in the extreme weather. Nevertheless the movie is entertaining (grossed over half a billion dollars) and drives home the message that we must act to save the planet during the coming years. Strongly recommended to fans of science fiction.

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Ice Age The Meltdown movie review


Photo of Ice Age meltdownGlobal warming was the last thing on our minds when we watched "Ice Age The Meltdown," but the message was loud and clear: we have to fight global warming, even more because so many idiots are in denial about global warming.

If you enjoyed the original movie "Ice Age," you should find the familiar characters (Scrat, Sid, Manny, Diego, etc.) even more adventurous and funny. Again, I wish this movie was rated G since it is a beautiful movie to watch with your family. And while we were not particularly impressed with the sequel "Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest," this sequel is a good one.

Like so many people who refuse to believe that climate change is for real, the movie starts off with many animals who just can't seem to accept the reality that what they had known their whole lives would change right before their eyes. Fortunately, there are no dead-enders and almost everyone listens to the warning and decides to escape. After a lot of adventure trying to escape from the rising water level - and with a lot of emotion on the way - most animals survive, even the mammoths. Strongly recommended as family entertainement.

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Over The Hedge movie review


Photo of the cover of Over The HedgeSince we enjoy watching animated movies (Grave of the fireflies, Nausicaa, Finding Nemo, Shrek, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, etc.) and that is what brought "Over The Hedge" to our family room. Insofar as technical aspects are concerned, the movie is extremely well done - DreamWorks does a good job at that.

As we debate whether global warming is even happening, I wonder if they also argue if suburban sprawl is happening. That is the heart of this movie. As we make room for bigger and bigger homes, strip malls, and restaurants, we are also making it difficult for animals to live (I know that for sure that I get more deer in my backyard than I want). So when a group of animals rise from their winter hybernation, they realize that almost all the land that they "owned" is now behind a hedge with a huge development. Their biggest problem is how to find food. The movie then shows the stuggle of animals versus men.

The movie starts off really well and has what we appreciate about family movies - pure fun that both adults and children can enjoy with some messages that everyone can take away. In "Over The Hedge," however, within 15 minutes or so you find out that it is a great movie for the kids but offers nothing substantive to adults. We still finished the movie because we want to appreciate the creativity of animation but unless you need to give company to your kids, don't bother with this one.

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29th Street movie review


A couple of years ago the Powerball lottery reached a gazillion dollars and all our friends were going nuts about it. Lorena and I drove across the border to Rhode Island and marched into a convenience store. We had never ordered a lottery ticket before and the guy looked at us as if we had come on a space ship. He did take pity on us, took our money, Photo of Anthony LaPaglia and Danny Aiello in 29th Street movieand handed us a bunch of tickets. Like millions of other people, we won nothing.

That does not happen to everyone, though. Someone does win big time once in a while. A guy called Frank Pesce (played by Anthony LaPaglia) did in 1970s New York. A "loser" son in a working-class Italian family (another similar movie that I like is West Side Story), he bought the ticket when he was forced to spend money at a convenience store to cash his check. The only problem is that he "gave" his winning ticket to the Italian mafia boss (while a "loser," Frank was also a lucky guy so much so that the mafia boss thought he was going to win the lottery), so that he won't harass his family for the debt they owed him. There are interesting twists and turns, and in the end, the family gets the money.

29th Street is a beautiful movie and shows the challenges of working class Americans in the seventies, though, things haven't changed much for low-income Americans. Some great acting by all, including Danny Aiello (who plays Frank's father), this true story (yes, the real Frank Pesce Jr. acts as the brother and is also the executive producer) comes to life in this excellent comedy.

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Delivering Milo movie review


Photo of Anton Yelchin on Delivering MiloWhile I am an optimist and hope that life will be great in the future, it won't be easy to convince a kid why she or he should come into this world. Wars (Read Grave Of The Fireflies movie review), global warming, and all the challenges that one has to go through just to survive makes it an unexciting place.

That is exactly the challenge an angel Elmore Dahl (played by Albert Finney) faces when he has to convince an unborn soul Milo (played by Anton Yelchin) to be born. The kid simply refuses to get himself into trouble. The solution is to send Milo and Elmore to New York City and let Milo enjoy all the wonderful things that the city has to offer, including a trip to Ellis Island or a visit to a toy store or even worse, a trip to Atlantic City. Elmore is less interested in the outcome but more important in hooking up with his old flames.

Like "Defending your life," the movie is not meant to answer any profound questions about life and death, but is a comic look at our life on the planet from the perspective of an outsider. While I recommend the movie, it is a fairly light and funny film. Don't expect to be wowed.

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Review of Asoka movie


When I wrote about bringing Mohandas Gandhi back, I was told to also watch a Bollywood movie Asoka, that documents the story of Emperon Asoka (spelled in some places as Ashoka or Ashok or Ashoke) that ruled parts of the Indian sucontinent in the 3rd century BC. Like Gandhi, he too helped spread the message of non-violence after he embraced Buddhism. Prior to that, though, it would not be a stretch to compare him to Saddam Hussein or Hitler. He was so hungry for power and land that all his life he fought battles and never paid attention to the horrors of war (Read more about the horrors of war in my review of the movie Grave of the Fireflies).

The movie, as I understand happens in all Bollywood films, delves way too much time early on about the romantic relationship of Prince Asoka (played by Shah Rukh Khan) and Princes Kaurwaki (played by Kareena Kapoor) of neighboring kingdom Kalinga. Asoka was asked by his mother to leave the capital so that he would not be killed by his brothers who were all engaged in a tough fight for the throne of the Kingdom of Magadha. Kaurwaki also was in hiding due to similar drama at her court, where her parents were killed by the chief of staff. Like typical Bollywood musicals, there is singing and dancing behind trees and the couple marry in a simple tribal ceremony. To me this was a meaningless diversion and I would suggest that you simply skip this part.

Photo of Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor in AsokaThe movie becomes more engaging when after a bloody battle in which Asoka kills his brothers and is crowned the emperor of Magadha. At that point, he becomes a monster and is commonly referred to as the "demon" for his merciless killing. In the meantime, he has been misinformed that his wife Kaurwaki is dead. He marries a Buddhist woman, who abandons him after watching the horrors of war perpetrated by her husband.

The mother of all battles happens with Kalinga and only towards the end he realizes that the Queen of Kalinga, who was leading the battle, was Kaurwaki.

We now know that at that point he not only stopped all wars but also was responsible for bringing the Buddhist message of love and non-violence to other countries in Asia.

The movie is well done with remarkably good sets depicting the grandeur of 3rd century India. If you can rush through the foolishness of the love story embedded in what is really a story of an emperor, it is a good introduction to the life of a king who learned from his mistakes and rectified them.

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Me Myself I movie review


If you or anyone you care about is growing through what is sometimes called as the "mid life crisis" (though many experts believe that there is no such thing), you might want to watch "Me Myself I" just to get a Photo of Rachel Griffiths in Me Myself I moviedifferent opinion.

Pamela Drury (played by Rachel Griffiths) is a homemaker but was an award-winning journalist. She has a good husband (but the spark in the marriage is gone) and three kids (who sure keep her busy). They also seem to have a good life. No surprise then that she feel there is something important missing in her life. She wants to be loved but her husband Robert (played by David Roberts) doesn't even notice her. The children demand so much from her but give rarely anything in return.

At that point she goes through a phase of introspection and reflection in which she contemplates what would have happened if she had not made the choice she made earlier in life. While the movie makes it somewhat dramatic, but in reality, she struggles with her own emotions. In the end she realizes that one can make the best of what you have and her life in beautiful any way.

Any woman who may feel stuck and ignored in a marriage, maybe having an extramarital affair is not the answer. Even a divorce is probably not the best alternative, even though it might seem like the easiest thing to do. Marriage is a long journey and one can complete it with a smile on one's face.

Strongly recommended. Watch it with your family if you can.

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Boyfriend School movie review


While I am yet to watch it, several of my Japanese friends filled me in on a remarkable tale from Japan: the story of the Train Man (Densha Otoko). This movie, supposedly based on a true story of a Japanese otaku (nerd or geek, especially if obsessed with anime, manga, or even computers/video games) who resembles our 40 Year Old Virgin. Knowing what the Internet is capable of, he gets enormous help from his online buddies on 2Channel, a bulletin board in Japan. These friends help him all the way from making the first contact with the woman he likes all the way to going on a date and making love. My friends tell me that they think that the guy is real because they know people like him (despite never-ending speculation in the country).

Photo of Steve Guttenberg and Jami Gertz in Boyfriend School movieThe "Boyfriend School" (also called "Don't tell her it's me") is a similar story. With no A-list stars, it is a romantic comedy that is fun to watch, even if you don't like Harlequin romance books. Gus Kubicek (Steve Guttenberg) is a nerd who has had extensive radiation therapy. He doesn't look or feel great but his sister Lizzie Potts (Shelley Long) wants him to date a journalist Emily Pear (Jami Gertz), who is really not interested in a guy with poor manners and no hair on his head.

Lizzie, who is writer of those trashy romance novels, is convinced that she could use her imagination to transform Gus into a stud. With The Swan type makeover, Gus is now Lobo, who has long hair (apparently he got hair extensions), rides a Harley Davidson, speaks with an Australian accent, and instead of pleading with women, has a huge attitude that makes Emily lose sleep over him. Like most chick-flicks, it has a happy ending.

Some think that the original book by Sarah Bird is so much better. I found the movie to be funny but there is nothing outstanding or remarkable about it.

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Little Black Book movie review


Photo of Brittany Murphy and Ron LivingstonIf you had seen only one movie of Holly Hunter - The Piano - you would have no idea how she talks and how she acts when she can use her voice too as part of her acting. That is why, while "Little Black Book" is all about Brittany Murphy, but you also get to see Hunter in a remarkable role.

We all know that reality television is actually not truly "real" and if my life is any indication, life often imitates art, or should I say, it isn't rare that I find that my life is no different than one of those reality television "actors."

Something similar happens in this movie in which an associate producer, Stacy Holt (played by Brittany Murphy) for a reality TV program, ends up learning a lot more about her boyfriend Derek (played by Ron Livingston) than she can handle, especially when she gets hold of his Palm Pilot. Hunter plays the role of Barb who then puts everything on daytime television.

The movie is meant to be a romantic comedy/chick flick so don't expect a whole lot of profound acting and/or drama. It is a very light movie that will give you a few laughs and some tips on how you should not put your life in an electronic device.

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Best men movie review


Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore starred in a movie called "Wisdom" in which the two embark on a cross-country bank robbing spree and turn themselves into a modern-day version of Robin Hood. The whole country loves them but the FBI is after them. Even as they rob banks, the bank employees applaud them. Emilio Estevez (playing the role of John Wisdom) is taking his frustrations out with the system - he wouldn't get another chance after a felony conviction. The movie ends in the death of both after a tragic turn of events in which the two are just miles away from the Canadian border and can't cross.

"Best Men" follows a similar plot. Jesse (played by Luke Wilson) is marrying Hope (played by Drew Barrymore) after serving time. On the day of the wedding, he and his friends are headed to the wedding when Billy (Sean Patrick Flanery) excuses himself for a moment. When others go looking for him, they realize that Billy is robbing the local bank. Now the rest, ex-Green-Beret Buzz (played by Dean Cain), ex-lawyer Sol (Mitchell Whitfield) and Teddy (Andy Dick) join them. They try to negotiate with the sheriff, who also happens to be Billy's (bad) father. Since Billy is on the FBI's most-wanted-list, they take over the operation. Photo of Drew Barrymore on the cover of Best MenAfter a lot of drama in which their hostages and the locals treat them like heroes, Jesse and Hope are able to escape to Mexico, the same way Salma Hayek and Pierce Brosnan escaped in After The Sunset (that's right; all the way from Independence,Iowa) on a chopper while the others are shot dead by the FBI.

The movie is entertaining and even funny at times but somewhat senseless. Why would anyone rob a bank to settle score with a dad who didn't love you? Is that the only way to get attention? The idea apparently is to show the frustrations of young people with the system which fails to understand their emotions and challenges. However, the approach definiely does not elicit the empathy of adults like us, though that's not how it plays out in the movie.

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Air Force One movie review


We know very little about the security procedures for the president of the United States and even less is known about all that goes into keeping Air Force One safe and that is the way it should be. But it also allows creative movie producers to come up with all kinds of interesting details and that is why this movie is so engaging.
Photo of Harrison Ford on Air Force One
US President James Marshall (played by Harrison Ford) is returning from a state visit to the (former) USSR but Air Force One is hijacked by Kazakhstan neo-nationalists who are demanding that the president use his influence to release Gen. Ivan Radek (the dictator who was earlier captured by US and USSR in a joint operation). While the Secret Service tries to use an escape capsule so that the president can sneak out, things don't work out that way and the president is the only one stuck in a corner of the plane with no one to protect him. Everyone on the plane has no idea that the president is still on board, while on the ground no one can find him either - until the president manages to find a satellite phone in his luggage and call the White House to let everyone know that he is alive, but not really safe.

In this movie, the president is not just the head of state, he is also an action hero, who outperforms his Secret Service staff on most occasions. Of course, in stunts that would thrill any lover of action movies (particularly the action mid-air), the first family and most staff members are eventually safe on the ground, the bad guys are dead, and Gen. Ivan Radek is not released and shot dead.

The movie is full of action and there is never a dull moment (compared to, say, The Piano) and as long as you can believe that what the president does in this film is not humanly possible, you will love this thriller.

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Playing God movie review


I used to like David Duchovny in X-Files though he never did so well in the movies. "Playing God" is one of his better movies despite the fact that there is way too much violence - well, what can you expect? It is Photo of David Duchovny and Timothy Hutton for Playing Godmovie about gangsters.

Due to his drug addiction (supposedly acquired because of his desire to do good by working as much as he could to "save lives"), Dr. Eugene Sands lost his surgeon's license. Since he is a good surgeon but unable to practice, he ends up working for counterfeiter Raymond Blossom (played by Timothy Hutton), operating on gang members who get hurt during all kinds of gang violence. As anyone knows, it is not easy to leave the criminal word but Dr. Sands does and gets the girl (Claire played by Angelina Jolie) too.

I wasn't impressed with the movie nor with Angelina Jolie or Timothy Hutton. David Duchovny is the only one who has acted extremely well and comes across as a powerful actor. So if you are his fan, you might like it. And if you are wondering about the origin of the name, well, it is not a religious movie (the way "Defending Your Life" is not); it's just that at some point in his life a surgeon starts to confuse his role in saving lives with that of God.

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Grave of the Fireflies movie review


Many, many years ago I was dating a woman and in one of those "get-to-know-you-better" moments, I asked her What was the worst thing in the world. Her answer surprised me. "War," she said. While it made perfect sense, it was not an answer I expected but as I learned more about her, I found out that her family's life (and her's as a little girl) had been torn apart by a war.

I have never experienced the trauma of war directly but this movie made me think of her words. Hotaru no Haka ("Grave of the Fireflies") is based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka and tells the story of two orphaned children in Kobe, Japan during World War II. No war movie is entertaining - think "Black Hawk Down" - but when told through the eyes of children, it is even more painful. The two kids experience hunger and illness, resulting in the death of four-year old Setsuko. Eventually, her brother Seita dies too due to starvation.

While the movie was marketed to children and is recommended for anyone 3 and up, I feel that it should be rated R. It is just a terribly sad and depressing movie and I do not think children need to be exposed to the horrors of war so early on in their lives (I recommend movies like Spirited Away or Kiki's Delivery Service or Shrek or Harry Potter). The movie was not successful at the box office and I can understand why. It literally makes you cry.

The movie also presents the Japanese version of the context of World War II and at some instances it almost seems like propaganda, but if we watch it merely as a movie that tells us how war affects children, this is a very emotional film.

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Sono pazzo di Iris Blond Review


I find the Italian movies extremely funny because just the gestures of the Italians make me laugh (and I am glad that they retained the original Italian dialogues, rather than dubbing it, which is so unnatural). After watching "Life is Beautiful," this is another beautiful Italian movie that I have watched and I strongly recommend it.

Sono pazzo di Iris Blond (also translated as "I'm Crazy About Iris Blond" and "Mad About Iris Blond") is the story of a Italian man, Romeo Spera (played by Carlo Verdone), going through mid life crisis. A tarot card reader tells him that he will meet women whose names will mean flowers and they will be creative. First, Photo of Claudia Gerini and Carlo Verdonehe ends up with a Marguerite, a Belgian singer, who loves her dog more than she does him. Frustrated, he falls in love with a much youngr waitress, Iris (played by Claudia Gerini, who also composes as a hobby and sings in a church choir). Seeing a lot of potential in her, Romeo, who is an excellent musician, trains her and eventually forms a band with her: Iris Blond and the Freezer. Their music is not only hip, they also choose to sing in English (Romeo thinks that English is more musical language and you can get away with racy lyrics in English).

The band is a big success but Iris gets an offer from a European music company. They want her but have no need for Romeo. He expects that Iris, who was a mere waitress before he turned her into a singer, will never take that offer, but she does.

It is a hilarious movie and Claudia Gerini is not only pretty, she is full of life in this romantic comedy. If you love foreign films, this is a good one to watch.

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Femme de chambre du Titanic review


I have spoken previously about Pedro Almodovar. Another director (and fellow Spanish) that is so much like him is Bigas Luna. If you can, please do watch this movie with someone you love. The sensuality, the seduction, the old-fashioned romance is incredible in Femme de chambre du Titanic (The Chambermaid on the Titanic). While the Titanic was made for the masses, this one is for the rest of us.

One of the things that I have "mastered" as a management consultant is to tell stories. That is what keeps the meetings on strategy and business model transformation interesting. Yes, that's right. Even the smartest people in the world, who run multi-billion dollar businesses, have the attention span of a 5-year old when it Photo of Olivier Martinez and Aitana Sanchez Gijoncomes to strategy. Only anecdotes and stories keep them interested.

That is exactly what Horty (played by Olivier Martinez) does to keep his audience coming back for more juicy details about his one night romance with Marie (played by Aitana Sanchez Gijon), a prostitute who is also a chambermaid on the Titanic. He had traveled to England to witness the sailing of the Titanic after winning a contest at his work in a foundry in the north of France. While much did not happen that night in his hotel, Horty has no choice but to embellish his story as his friends bug him (and offer him free drinks at a local watering hole) for more details after seeing a photo of beautiful Marie. Eventually he tells the story with so much conviction (and adds even more erotic details) that he starts believing it too - good for being an actor.

After being fired from his job at the foundry, he now starts telling his story as an actor in a small traveling theater and gains so much popularity that he starts to perform in a real theater. I am not sure if Martinez was as good as an actor as, say, Jack Lemmon but Aitana Sanchez Gijon is remarkable in her depiction, first as a passionate woman and then as a prostitute who wants her share of the pie after she finds out that Horty was making a living off their one night in Southampton.

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Kim Basinger is great in Nadine


Photo of Kim Basinger as NadineThere are movies that you can watch to explore more complicated aspects of life, for example, The Piano or Defending Your Life, but there are others you can watch just to entertain yourself. Movies like Shadows and Fog, or View From The Top or After The Sunset. Nadine belongs to the latter category. I also chose it because Kim Basinger is a beautiful woman to watch.

Kim Basinger plays the role of Nadine who is ready to get her divorce from Vernon Hightower (played by Jeff Bridges). In the midst of doing the paperwork and moving on, she wants to retrieve some of her photos (the kind that you don't want to see on the Internet) from photographer Raymond Escobar (played by Jerry Stiller). There is a mixup as they try to get the photos: they get drawings of a highway while real estate developer gets her sexy photos.

Looks like everyone wants to make a quick buck and they are all running from each other and the cops. Lots of funny moments and a whole bunch of laughs later, the couple realizes that they like each other more than they think they did. Recommended when you just want to be entertained.

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Review of The Piano


Photo of Holly Hunter on the poster of The PianoI have never been convinced of the meaning of arranged marriages but it seems that there was not much choice in 1800s (and I hear that in certain parts of the world, arranged marriages are still the norm). The Piano is set in the 1800s when a mute Scottish woman (Ada McGrath played by Holly Hunter) arrives in New Zealand to join her husband Alisdair Stewart (played by Sam Neill) along with Flora (played brilliantly by Anna Paquin), her daughter (we never see her father, but both mother and daughter talk about him a lot in private).

When Stewart comes to pick them up on the shore, he refuses to bring along Ada's most precious piece of luggage: a piano. Eventually, a neighbor George Baines (played by Harvey Keitel) rescues it and Stewart sells it to him. Naturally, Ada is disappointed but she can have it back if she comes to George's house to give him lessons. She does not like the arrangement, her relationship with Stewart is not going anywhere, she is generally unhappy living in a forest, but George and she develop an intimate bond.

The movie has a happy ending but with a lot of traumatic moments prior to that. Holly Hunter has done a remarkable job playing the mute Ada and deserved the Oscar she received. The movie was given the best picture award at Cannes. The movie is extremely slow-paced but definitely worth the wait.

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Defending Your Life movie review


Photo of Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks on the poster of Defending your life movieSo what happens when you die? The reality is that no one has a %#!@ clue. Our current body of scientific knowledge simply tells us that once we are dead, we turn into (biodegradable) junk. But it doesn't hurt to entertain ourselves with such ideas as afterlife or judgment or rewards/punishment or even more exotic concepts like hell/heaven.

In the movie Defending Your Life, almost all the action happens in the so-called Judgment City. It is supposedly a waiting area where the dead are put on "trial" and decisions are made regarding their future: back to earth or forward (no one knows what that is except that people tend to use more of their intellectual horsepower there than on earth where we use less brain power, deal with all kinds of idiotic fears, and worry too much). No wonder then that Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep actually fall in love there.

The Judgment City, which reminds me of a Florida on a beautiful day, is a place where you lose all your inhibitions and you can eat all you want without the fear of gaining weight (you are dead by the way).

Three things attracted my attention:
  1. We spend way too much of our time and energy on fears (jobs, money, family, etc.) and don't have enough fun.
  2. We can be at our best if we become fearless.
  3. It is painful to look at your past (at the trial in Judgment City, they play videos of your life to show you how you were such a fearful person and how little brain power you used).
It is meant to be a fairly entertaining and light romantic comedy but with a serious message: Discard your fears and you might live a better life.

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Review of After the Sunset movie


Salma Hayek and Pierce Brosnan on the poster of After the Sunset movieIt is a movie that looks like a James Bond movie but isn't. While Pierce Brosnan acts very much like 007 but the movie does not have all the juice. I watched it because Salma Hayek is a role model for Lorena.

Briefly, Pierce Brosnan (playing Max Burdett) and Salmay Hayek (playing Lola) are diamond thieves and have decided to "retire" in the Paradise Islands in the Bahamas. Lola wants them to enjoy their wealth and stay away from crime. An FBI agent (played by Woody Harrelson) still wants to catch them though and almost does. You can watch all the action-packed drama played out mostly on the beautiful tropical island and in the Atlantis Resort.

I would not call it a masterpiece but if you like action-packed movies and love watching curvaceous women, you will enjoy it.

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Review of Shadows and Fog movie


When a movie is not really retro but is made to look like one, what title should it get? I think that is the question I am asking about "The Good German" (starring Tobey Maguire, George Clooney and Cate Blanchett). Watching an interview of George Cover of the movie Shadows and Fog with Woody AllenClooney, I also learned that they also used some old lenses to get the right effect (watch the trailer below).

There is another movie that takes a similar approach: "Shadows and Fog." I can watch any movie starring Woody Allen and that is how ended up watching this one. While not very successful or popular, if you enjoy his acting, this is another movie that I recommend. The movie is based in the 20s in Europe and Woody Allen plays Max Kleinman, a timid clerk, who has no choice but to volunteer to find a killer on the loose in the town. Almost all the action happens in the course of one night.

If you are a fan of John Malkovich like me, you will like his small role in the movie as a circus clown whose core strength is being polyamorous. Mia Farrow plays the role of Irmy who works in the circus too but leaves her boyfriend Malkovich when he is caught cheating on her. Max and Irmy have their share of adventures through the night.

It is a light comedy with several important underlying messages about life delivered with a sense of humor characterized by Woody Allen.

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