Under The Skin poster

As I mentioned in my post Holidaying in Australia, comes to an end, I ended up buying 26 films from Australia. I reached SL on the 15th of November, 2014, and started watching the DVD’s on the 16th, the very next day, itself.

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Art House Horror – Under The Skin

On Sunday afternoon, the 16th of November, 2014, I watched Under The Skin (2013). The film is about an Alien is human clothing, who drives around Scotland, UK, seducing horny men and devouring them. But when she suddenly sympathises with an inexperienced man suffering from facial neurofibromatosis (Adam Pearson, a man actually suffering from this rare disease was taken for the part), she lets him go. She tries to enter the human world, and be one of them, rather than use them to her benefit. Yet the more human she becomes, the more vulnerable she becomes to animalistic humans.

One of best Science-fiction/Art House/Horror films I’ve come across. It’s an unrealistic film, yet filmed so excellently realistic in style, like a documentary documenting this Aliens hungry escapades, involving the male flesh. To the extent of reality, the scenes filmed with Scarlett Johansson (who plays the Alien seductress) picking up men, were actual conversations with non-actors, men on the streets, filmed with many a hidden cameras in her van. That’s why those scenes were so naturalistic, because they weren’t acting, nor did they recognize Scarlett Johansson. Again the scene where she is walking on the street and suddenly falls down, walking into a shopping mall, et al, were all filmed with passers by unaware. Of course the men she’s seen with, where they are submerged into an abyss of liquid, leaving their skin behind, were obviously unknown actors.

Under The Skin (2013)

Under The Skin (2013)

The movie’s got beautiful cinematography, brilliantly filmed, capturing the Scottish Highlands, as well as in a surrealistic sense of the story, where the naked young men are dissolved inside the black space of the extraterrestrial world. There’ve been so many films about Aliens visiting/falling to/residing on earth, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Superman (1978), E.T. (1982), Starman (1984), Independence Day (1996), Men in Black (1997), The Faculty (1998), War of the Worlds (2005), I am Number 4 (2011) and The Darkest Hour (2011) to name some (and most of the films, especially the latter lot, mentioned, are pretty crap; in fact E.T. is the only excellent film mentioned above, Superman was very good, Men in Black was pretty good, and the rest range from OK to pretty bad to some of the worse films ever made). But the movie which, Under The Skin, is closest to, and reminds me of, is, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), with one of the legends of the pop music scene, David Bowie. The artistic, realistic, style, with an extraterrestrial walking through Earth, all are similarly in sync with the Bowie classic. Especially the slow, convincingly simulated realism, with an alien’s perspective of the human world, that takes it’s time to tell a story. Slow doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be boring, and Under The Skin, is far from boring, and much better than the pretty good B-movie classic, The Man Who Fell to Earth.

The scene where the alien starts to peel off her human skin, and reveals her inner Alien self, is a touching sequence. One can’t help but feel sorry for her more humanistic alien character in this inhumanly human world. The beauty sheds her skin to reveal the beast inside, which ends up being a more beautiful character than many indifferent beautiful people on Earth. One sympathises with her, despite what her alien personality lead her to do in the beginning of the film, before she saved one of her victims, letting out the naked man, suffering facial neurofibromatosis, run free.

The British director of, the near excellent gangster movie, Sexy Beast (2000) and, the pretty good film analysing re-birth, Birth (2004), Jonathan Glazer, has brought out a near excellent artistic venture with Under The Skin. Among the next best in science fiction and horror films. 9/10!!!!

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Lost in Space – Gravity

On 19th November, 2014, watched the excellent science fiction flick set in space, Gravity (2013).

An Exceptional movie of one woman’s lone struggle, whilst lost in space, of resilience and survival. Being all alone floating in the darkness of outer space, without any human contact, nor any visible plant or animal life, could be a formidable experience. Speaking of suffering from loss and loneliness on planet Earth, it’s hard to even conceive what it must be like for Dr. Ryan Stone (the character played by Sandra Bullock), out there in the inhabitable eternal blackness, circumnavigating afloat, with our habitable planet afar, in sight. Gravity is both a psychological and visual treat, by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón. The only other movie of his I’ve seen till date is, the near excellent Mexican film, Y Tu Mamá También (2001), starring, my favourite Mexican actor, Gael García Bernal, along with his real life best buddy, Diego Luna. I watched Y Tu Mamá También a decade ago, whilst residing in Portsmouth, UK, in mid 2004.

On the sets of GRAVITY, Alfonso Cuarón directing Sandra Bullock & George Clooney

On the sets of GRAVITY, Alfonso Cuarón directing Sandra Bullock & George Clooney

Gravity is among the best movies set in space, coming fourth in line, after 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which no doubt is the best Space-age film ever, Interstellar (2014), the next best, another visually stunning intellectual experience, and of course the animated movie, WALL·E (2008), comes a close third. Says a lot about how great WALL·E is, considering the fact, am not that crazy about animated movies.

One of the best sequences in the film happens to be Dr. Ryan Stone trying to contact the human world, and ends us speaking to Aningaaq, an Eskimo residing in a Fjord in Greenland. Of course Aningaaq isn’t showcased in this movie, but I also watched, the 7 minute short film, Aningaaq (2013), which was on the DVD as well, directed by Jonás Cuarón, son of Alfonso Cuarón. An excellent prequel/sequel to Gravity. Aningaaq, shows us the Eskimo’s side of the communication, during radio contact with Dr. Ryan Stone. They speak two different languages, thus don’t understand one another. The DVD also contained the insightful documentary of how man’s been polluting the space around Earth, narrated by Ed Harris, Collision Point: The Race to Clean up Space (2014).

Another sequence is, soon after the radio contact, sole survivor, Dr. Ryan Stone’s hallucination, of fellow astronaut, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). It’s this hallucination that helps her not give up so easily. The ghost of Matt Kowalski guides her, giving her the necessary push, to somehow make it back home, to Mother Earth.

Alfonso Cuarón, deservedly won the Best director Oscar for Gravity, making him the first Hispanic and Mexican to win an Academy Award for ‘Best Director’. Gravity, won 7 Oscars, out of the 10 nominations, including for ‘Best Visual Effects’ and ‘Best Cinematography’. 10/10!!!!!   

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Romance & Revenge – Indiscreet

Watched the classic Rom-Com starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, Indiscreet (1958), on 20th November 2014.

Ingrid Bergman with Cary Grant in INDISCREET (1958)

Ingrid Bergman with Cary Grant in INDISCREET (1958)

Based on a play by Norman Krasna, Indiscreet, is about an actress of the British stage, who’s just entered her middle ages, and falls for a man who is unable to get a divorce from his wife, thus can never marry the woman he loves. Once she finds out he’s been lying to her all this time to avoid the subject of marriage, a bold a woman as she is, she concocts an excellent plan to take revenge, which ends up blowing up on her face, and his.

This is the second pairing of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, since their outstanding performance in the Hitchcock masterpiece of film noir, Notorious (1946). Contrasting to the nerve wrecking, psychologically disturbingly excellent noir piece, the Hitchcock classic was, here we see the two stars in a lighter vein, in a hilarious comedy. Might not be the greatest romantic comedy ever, but it’s really worth checking out, especially for fans of Bergman & Grant. They are superbly and eccentrically funny. 8/10!!!! 

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Gay Cancer of the 80’s – The Normal Heart

Based on real events, watched the television movie The Normal Heart (2014), on 21st November 2014.

One of the best gay-themed films to come out in recent times. Based on the life of gay activist, and playwright, Larry Kramer (based on his autobiographical play), The Normal Heart, is a superb insight into the early days of the HIV/AIDS virus. Back in the early 80’s, it was dubbed as a ‘Gay Cancer’, as the AIDS epidemic only seemed to be attacking homosexual men. The American government did nothing about it, as it didn’t seem to affect anyone who wasn’t engaged in sexual intercourse with the opposite sex. A very depressingly educational film, yet made beautifully, and worth really checking out.

Larry Kramer’s character, Ned Weeks (played by Mark Ruffalo), even goes on to accuse the American government of being involved in a conspiracy to kill off the entire homosexual community of the United States. Who could blame him for feeling that way back then. Julia Roberts plays Dr. Emma Brookner, a wheelchair bound doctor (due to polio), who happens to be the only doctor, who dares to do any research to help AIDS patients. Taylor Kitsch, in one of his rare great roles, plays Bruce Niles, a closeted activist, who’s less vocal and forward, unlike Ned Weeks. There are smaller, yet effective roles, by famous television stars, such as BD Wong, Jim Parsons, Jonathan Groff and Frank De Julio, to name a few. But the icing on the cake, is Matt Bomer’s deeply effective realistic performance, as newspaper reporter, for the New York Times, Felix Turner, the lover of Ned Weeks, who’s dying of AIDS. Bomer lost 40 pounds for his role, turning himself into a sickly looking individual, contrasting to the bewitchingly attractive character we see him as, earlier on, in the movie. The best performance of Bomer’s I’ve seen till date.
The Normal HeartOn this DVD, I also watched an insightful documentary called, How To Start A War (2014). A profound look at the true story behind The Normal Heart and the life of playwright Larry Kramer.

The Normal Heart, bagged the Emmy for ‘Outstanding Television Movie’ along with another win for ‘Outstanding (Non-Prosthetic) Makeup for a Television Miniseries or Movie’. From Mark Ruffalo to Alfred Molina to Matt Bomer, six cast members were nominated for Emmy Awards, including one for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Television Miniseries or Movie’, for Julia Roberts. Plus director Ryan Murphy and writer Larry Kramer, were nominated as well, along with a couple of nominations for cinematography and casting. Sadly none of these categories garnered a win at the Emmy’s. But the cast et al, did win some awards at various other award ceremonies.

The Normal Heart, is a really touching, emotional and educational film, that should be shown/taught in schools. 10/10 !!!!!   

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Advocated Entrapment  – The Firm

On Sunday night, the 23rd of November, 2014, watched The Firm (1993), a thriller based on a John Grisham novel.

Sydney Pollack’s slick thriller, based on the Grisham novel, is a very 1990’s flick. After a young lawyer, Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise), foolishly falls into an entrapment through advocacy, we see him hatch up an intriguing plan so that neither the Law Firm, nor the FBI, can screw up his life. It’s a very stylish, typical Grisham style thriller, though I haven’t read this particular book of his.

The Firm (1993)

The Firm (1993)

This was an era when Tom Cruise still had taste, when it comes to selecting a venture to work in. Cruise has worked in some exceptional projects back in the late 80’s and 90’s. It’s a pity his roles today aren’t that well selected. He’d rather make a load of money than prove himself as an actor, and he is a good actor, when he comes in good, worthwhile, movies. Movies that he’ll be remembered for in the future. It’s sad. Get back onto doing more challenging roles, like in Rain Man (1988), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), A Few Good Men (1992), Interview with the Vampire (1994), Jerry Maguire (1996),  Minority Report (2002), The Last Samurai (2003), and Valkyrie (2008), to name a few. These movies showcase his ascend as an actor.

With a great cast including Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter (who was nominated for the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Oscar for her role here); Jeanne Tripplehorn, Hal Holbrook, David Strathairn, Gary Busey and Wilford Brimley; The Firm, is really worth checking out. A very good adaptation. 8/10!!!!

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Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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