Holiday movie watching (10 films during 40 hours of flight time): Part 1

THIS IS REALLY EMBARRASSING. I HAD WRITTEN THIS POST TWO WEEKS AGO AND LEFT IT IN MY DRAFT FOLDER. I THEN PUBLISHED THE FOLLOW-UP POST A FEW DAYS LATER TITLED ‘HOLIDAY MOVIE WATCHING: PART 2″ WITHOUT REALIZING THAT THE FIRST PART WAS STILL UNPUBLISHED. SO HERE’S PART 1, BETTER LATE THAN NEVER:-

I’ve just returned from a 3 week holiday with the family. While the timing of the vacation meant that I have not yet watched a number of high profile holiday films, I did get to watch 10 movies during a combined 40-odd hours of flight time. Here are the first 4 that I watched on the outgoing flights from KL:-

Lawless: I had been waiting for a chance to watch this adaptation of the Depression-era novel The Wettest Country in the World, about the bootlegging Bondurant brothers. This is John Hillcoat’s follow-up to the heartbreaking father-son post-apocalyptic drama The Road, which he released in 2009 and I was really keen to see how he would handle yet another book adaptation. While the settings are very different, Hillcoat continues with the spare, washed out look he used in The Road to depict the Virginia countryside of the 1930s. After watching this movie, I was reminded of The Godfather, where we had the Corleone brothers with their different personalities operating their family-run crime business. Similarly, the 3 Bondurant brothers are shown to be deeply loyal to each other, in spite of being very different in their behavior and motivation. We have the taciturn leader Forrest, played by Tom Hardy, who we saw earlier in 2012 as the super-terrorist Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Jason Clarke, who first came to my attention playing the prison warden in the remake of Death Race 2000, plays the 2nd brother Howard, who is fiercely loyal to his siblings and is the strong-man in the team. And lastly, Shia LeBeouf plays the wide-eyed, idealistic youngest brother, who joins the bootlegging trade when Forrest is temporarily put out of commission in a night time attack. Other strong characters are played by a stellar supporting cast including Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce, Dane DeHaan and Jessica Chastain (surely, the hardest working young actress in showbiz today – 10 movies in 2 years!). This is definitely a movie worth watching, with a good mix of drama, action/ violence and romance.

Pommes Essen: After the violence of Lawless, I needed to watch something lighter and I picked this German children’s dramedy. Coincidentally, this story too was about a trio of siblings, this time sisters, who band together to save their mother’s hot dog stand from closing down. This is a formulaic film, which I enjoyed precisely for that reason – its predictable ups and downs, the likeable actors and the eventual happy ending.

Robot & Frank: I then watched a very different kind of movie, the debut feature film from music video and commercials director Jake Schreier. This indie film picked up a prize at Sundance early in 2012 and since then has received a number of positive reviews from film critics, although it ran in very limited release in theatres. The film is officially labeled a scifi-comedy, but is also a sly commentary on how children deal with the ageing parents. Frank Langella, who once played Count Dracula in the 1979 film adaptation, has had some fantastic roles in the twilight of his career, both on stage and in small, offbeat films like Frost/Nixon, The Box and Starting Out in the Evening. Set in the near future, the film depicts the relationship between an elderly man and the robot caretaker purchased for him by his son. Langella is well supported by a big name cast including Susan Sarandon, James Marsden and Liv Tyler. Definitely worth seeing if you can get hold of a DVD…it’s certainly not going to come to a theater near you.

Driving Miss Daisy: I had seen this award winning film in 1990 soon after it won the Best Picture, Screenplay and Actress Oscars, but didn’t have a very clear memory of my feelings for the movie…in fact I seemed to recall that I had found it a bit boring at that time. As we were almost at the end of our 14 hour flight, I thought I would switch to something I had already seen, so that I could ‘take it easy’ and doze off if I wanted to. Well, quite the opposite happened. I felt like I was watching this film for the first time and was completely engrossed and quite emotional by the end. Truly, one of the all-time great dramas of the last 3 decades and a film that Academy members would not regret voting to the top spot…it beat out Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot and Born of the Fourth of July to win Best Picture; what a field!

Also, in the midst of watching these 4 movies, I managed to re-watch some scenes from Ratatouille, one of my all-time favourite animation films. I was even busier on the flight back to KL, watching a total of 6 movies and once again catching some scenes from Ratatouille. I’ll cover those films later this week.

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