Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"The Prestige" (2006) - Movie Review

“Every great magic trick consists of three acts”, says Mr. Cutter at the start of the movie and explains the three of those, which are “The Pledge”, “The Turn” and “The Prestige”. The viewer expecting the intricacies of performing a magic trick does not realize that the whole movie is the demonstration of those acts. “The Prestige” directed by Christopher Nolan stars Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Scarless Johannson and David Bowie. The movie is loosely adapted from the novel with the same name written by Christopher Priest.

The film is about the rivalry between two famous magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Chrisitan Bale) which happens during the late nineteenth century. They develop the enmity during the process of working under another magician early in their career. One of the tricks fails and the result is the death of Angier’s wife. Angier along with the viewers doubt that Borden is the cause of it. Both take different routes after that but starts sabotaging each other every now and then. As time flies by, vengeance becomes an obsession for both of them to know each other’s secrets behind their tricks. The rest of the film tells how their lives turn out due to this dangerous obsession.

Nolan is a master storyteller juggling effortlessly with a spectacular screenplay and an amazing editing. Lee Smith who laid out the terrific entertainer “Batman Begins” joins hands with Nolan again for this movie. Their charm works with an interestingly knitted film. The movie shifts in between the first note narration of both the magicians reading the diary of each others. The film may seem scrambled with the frame change from one time zone to other, but the feeding structure never lets the viewer get confused in those. Magic, is to show what needs to be shown and when it needs to be shown and editing does the same. This skill of editing is the art of feeding the right essence of the deviation to cultivate necessary doubts and finally clear it off with the master act.

This film while viewed as a commercial entertainer reeks out the art work and the dedication spent on picturizing the narration of the film. The movie constantly alarms the viewer to “watch closely” and try to find out the truth, if there is one. The art of performing a trick is to convince the audience what they are seeing is not true yet make it astonishingly believable. The audience knows that this is “magic” and it is not real. As the film says, “they want to be fooled”. But do the viewers of the movie feel the same? From the very first screen shot, the audience expects a stumping suspense. So Nolan attempts something different. He took the concept of those acts of magic and fits it in the screen. The viewers may see a very normal suspense movie, but it is not which is the first act “The Pledge”. The audience investigates as much as possible sub consciously to eliminate the deceiving factor. The movie circles around these two magicians and the start of the movie flips out the “The Turn” act when Angier dies. The third act, “The Prestige” is where all the twists and turns happen.

Christian Bale is a talented actor. He did it in “American Psycho”, “The Machinist” and “Batman Begins”. As the confident and dedicated magician, he takes the character which always looms with secret eyes and devious smiles. He makes the audience never trust that character. Hugh Jackman on the other side as Angier is the surprise package for me. He comes out of the “X-Men” cartoonish character into the real world. Angier is the character the viewer starts sympathizing initially. But in a lethargic manner he injects the cunningness of the character. The transformation from a sympathizing husband to an obsessive magician who extends his wrongful mind to the darkest nature of a human is classic. This is the Hugh Jackman, everyone would like to see in the future. Michael Caine who had a similar role of a wise old man as Alfred in “Batman Begins” comes up with the right toned business minded pragmatic mentor, Mr. Cutter. He knows the darkness of the trade and hence remains backstage. The movie does not show the inner character of him, but in depth the war of doing a trick and the pain of causing it, is evident in his small talks. Scarlett Johansson acts as the bait for both the magicians. Along with them, the viewers doubt her as well. Even when there is a genuine concern or truthfulness in the character, everyone doubts it. She enacts the role of her nicely as well.

Christopher Nolan who impressed the cinematic world with the stunning execution of “Memento” has sweetly made one more presence after “Batman Begins” with “The Prestige”. The audiences are extremely cautious and always looking for clues in suspense movies now a day. Movies like “The Usual Suspects”, “The Sixth Sense” and “Fight Club” have made them wary of the unknown loose knots and encourage them to outwit the director. It’s a tight rope to walk on. “The Prestige” is not great for its ending. The ending is not the real magic; it is the narration of the story which makes it an extremely entertaining and artful movie. Watch “The Prestige” for its magical charm wherein the audiences are happy to be fooled.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"Ten" (Language - Persian) (2002) - Movie Review

A boy gets in a car. The viewers get the dash board view of him. The quality of the movie looks like it was made with a home video camera. The boy starts talking with the driver which the viewers do not see at this point. By the voice of the driver, the viewers identify her as a lady who is the mother of the kid. The boy converses with her and accuses her of being selfish. When I was watching this, my room mate happens to slip by and watched it for a while. After sometime, he told me with annoyance and sarcasm that I should take a home video camera and start shooting the conversation between us and maybe it would be a great film. I thought, “Why not?” “Ten” directed by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami is the ten sequence of experience of a female cab driver in Tehran. As my thought, it would definitely inspire many upcoming film makers to shoot with minimal equipments and yet come up with an impressive movie.

As expected, there are no particular plots in this movie. This is pure experiment with respect to film making. The movie focuses more on the natural expressions and conversations which may not go well with all the audiences. It takes some immense patience at certain point of the movies to get the viewers concentration on to the film. This may seem frustrating but there lies more depth and detail in this movie. The film portrays the various issues prevalent in a society through the day to day life of a female cab driver in Tehran. This does not make it to take sides but rather brings out the contemplation and dilemma in everyone regarding the existence and relationships. Through the characters there comes out lot of problems which exists in the society regardless of cultural and geographical factors. The film takes the philosophical discussion of existentialism and counter culture which may astonish the viewers. If the viewers open their mind there lays the real truth of humanity. The unwritten rules defined either by the government or parents or dictators or the normalcy as followed for centuries and centuries are teared apart into pieces during some intense discussions.

This film definitely is not for a movie seeker who looks for entertainment and glossy factors. This film is for the viewers who are ready to stretch them out and work hard to the screen to grab some substance out of it. This is the weakpoint of the movie that it is not easily approachable. The intense conversations are interesting and astonishing. The film starts with kick out conversation between Amin and his mother. The content and maturity expressed by that kid is scandalizing and indulging. While one can wonder how a kid of age seven can brilliantly shed his opinions so clearly, it is partly due to the fact that the society treats him as one too, except her mother at times. The film shows the contrast of how the mother reacts to confrontation of facts. While there is no proof other than the kid’s words for the viewers, there is this natural tendency of believing a kid not able to lie when he is emotional and frustrated is what Kiarostami takes advantage of and puts the mother on the guilty counts. The viewers witness the same woman being very gentle, helping and understanding with other characters. Maybe she gave up on his son or maybe as she says, she wants to live her life for herself. The problem is that there is this human being she gave birth to which automatically becomes her shared responsibility with her husband. She wants his son to understand but Amin wants the same with her too. While he expresses his opinions clear and in detailed manner, the mother is not able to digest the harsh fact. Amin is caught up between the blame games of his parents and goes for the minimal destruction, his grandma and father. As a kid, his fragile mind works onto different clock work and is not able to comprehend the fact of his Mother being “irresponsible” as he states.

Kiarostami experiments this style of film making because he mentions during an interview that a video camera brings out the real emotion in a person which the 35mm camera sometime fails to. There are no background scores except for the real time traffic sounds and silences in the streets and highways of Tehran. The actors/actresses were guided on what to be enacted and Kiarostami left them with the dash board camera. Kiarostami would have given a detailed clear picture of what he wanted which is evident in the performances. Two main artists excel in this dry and complex movie. They are Mani Akbari, the female driver, the mother of Amin and Amin Maher as Amin. Both of them have the chemistry of getting on each others nerves as Mother and kid on the screen. It is strange that, even though I do not know the language, the timing and delivery of the dialogues are immaculate and terrific, which appeals at the right spots.

“Ten” needs patience and of all open mindedness. The discussion of the driver with the prostitute is the most philosophical and honest truth about the existence of humans as different sexes.

Roger Ebert, the famous film critic and whom I admire the most, said in his review as, “Anyone could make a movie like “Ten” Two digital cameras, a car and your actors, and off you go. Of course much would depend on the actors, what they said, and who they were playing (the little actor playing Amin is awesomely self-confident and articulate on the screen, and effortlessly obnoxious). But if this approach were used for a film shot in Europe or America, would it be accepted as an entry at Cannes? I argue that it would not.” While it is arguable about the selection, I was able to definitely admire most of the sequences and the conversations. It was not due to the fact that is experimental but it was interesting and thought provoking. The same concept if it would have been made in different country with right substance is still watchable and can be appreciated for its achievements. There are at times the movie gets on the viewers’ nerves for couple of segments. The main reason is that the emotions are real and to some extent it hurts the viewers. It hurts in an unknown way and makes them uncomfortable. This may seem as the success of the movie but sadly it drags away the curiosity and intent of seeing it further.

With couple of segments going over the head, “Ten” is the path breaking experiment which clearly conveys the points of women in the society as general. It discusses the various perspectives of needs and wants in a relationship. It explains the betrayal of men and liberation of women taken too much at different focal points. “Ten” is the tour into the raw and dark minds of the society in the most natural way. A bit too raw and natural that makes most of the movie goers shun away in the middle of it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Letters from Iwo Jima" (2006) - Movie Review

In “American History X”, at the end of the movie, the essay written by Danny Vinyard paints the dark picture of the root where the hatred all started; during their discussion with their parents. There his dad in a much mellowed manner plants the aversion and dislike towards a group of people in Derek Vinyard’s mind. But he encounters his catharsis inside the prison with another inmate from the same background, Derek hated. He realizes when he allows the chance to know someone he hated almost his life. The opportunity to allow another human being to respect and be respected is the message out there. “Letter from Iwo Jima” is definitely a different movie than “American History X” but the commonality of supporting the religion of human beings is what makes this review start with the totally different movie.

The movie is shot displaying the emotional tangles and opinion about war on the side of a camp at Japanese Island. They are getting ready to defend and attack the Americans when they land in the Iwo Jima. The film while explores various characters, concentrates mainly on three - General Tadamachi Kuribayashi played by Ken Watanabe, Saigo portrayed by Kazunari Ninomiya and Shimuzu played by Ryo Kase. Their letters is what makes the movie searching for the last touch of emotions for soldiers. The island stands no chance in front of the monumental American troop. Everyone in the troop is aware they are not going see their wife or mother or new born baby. Yet they are there for their country willingly or by pressure. The film portrays the internal politics inside the camp and how human factor gets attached to each of their actions. The whole film is about the exploration of human value and their convictions with them for something they have been told to fight.

The performance of Ken Watanabe is phenomenal. It is quite surprising not him to be seen in the nominees for Best Supporting Role for the Oscars. His portrayal of the General who has an internal battle of compassion with his duties to his country is touching and moving. While on the other, Saigo portrayed by Kazunari who is afraid of unable to see his baby and wife with the nice touch of survival instincts with right respect towards a man of a character is brilliant as well. Ryo rightly fits the character of Shimuzu, with his anger of getting rejected from a group for having the compassion. Of all one of the impressive character who brings out the right moment for the movie is the character of Baron Nishi played by Tsuyoshi Nara. The best sequence in the movie is performed by him when he asks his soldiers to head away and staying alone in the cave.

Cinematography is an obvious praise for a movie like this. But the implication of using the black and white with the bright red colours is spectacular creativity. The musical score which weaves the oriental flavour with the orchestration will be haunting the viewers after the movie was over, permanently in their minds. Screenplay and Editing support each other in harmonious manner.

This is one of the great attempts by Clint Eastwood. An attempt to explore the other side with respect to being in America. Even though everyone is aware there lays a family and innocent souls all over the world, the situation of a war puts the people in a complex scenario. This has been dealt straight forward when General has his farewell party with his American friends. They pose the same question and he answers as a “true soldier” as his American General says. But it is not his choice but his chance to show the country he loves the most and the passion, even though it is against his “convictions”. There are many brilliant scenes which would linger in the minds of the viewers. The act of treating an American soldier by Nishi, the General’s concern over his soldiers, the emotional trauma surrounding the soldiers is few to name which would make the mark in the hearts of viewers for a long time.

There have been tons of war movies made and many have deeply touched the viewers. “Letters from Iwo Jima” is another war movie but it is one of the most emotional movies in the recent days in this genre. The slow movement in the story which is the initial one hour makes the viewer get used to the location totally strange to them. Once it is done, the film takes the moving tour into the hearts which threw the bullets on the American soldiers. The hearts which are in every manner the same as theirs and yet for the mere reason of being born in a different country, they need to do their “duties”. The movie is the depiction of humans fighting among themselves by the choices they opted for right or wrong reasons.

“Letters from Iwo Jima” has been nominated for the 2007 Academy Awards for the Best Picture. My brother called me up and asked how the movie is and I replied that it is wonderful. He questioned me, which movie I would give the award even though I feel all the movies deserve the place of equality in appreciation. I said that “Babel” will be the one but “Letters from Iwo Jima” comes second best to it. With Oscar to be announced in a few minutes, it does not matter whether the film wins an award or not, it clearly invokes the emotion in the members of the audience. The emotion of being a human.

"Amazing Grace" (2006) - Movie Review

Warriors are praised as the brave and courageous. They return home with that pride and sleep with the nightmares of the killings they performed in the name of bravery. A peaceful person accomplishes the task of impossible with the same bravery and inspires millions to follow the same path. The path of non-violence aimed towards continuous improvement of making a better world. “Amazing Grace” directed by Michael Apted is the true story of one such person, William Wilberforce who marked the passing of bill to abolish the slave trade in Britain, forever. Michael Gambon as Lord Charles Fox delivers the first few lines with some nice dialogue deliveries in the film.

William Wilberforce (Ioan Grufudd) is not able to sleep peacefully. He has been consistently haunted by the failure of an agenda, for which he dedicated his youth and health. Broken in his attempts, he is residing and ailing from health at his cousin’s place. There he is pushed to meet Barbara (Romola Garai) who in turn pushes him to tell his fight against the injustice of slavery. The film goes back in his life and explores the path he lead and the voices he raised for abolishing the slave trade. The movie moves on with his continual efforts of those and the process of finally achieving it.

The viewers are well aware of the ending. The bill is of course going to be passed. William is going to be the hero of the much awaited victory of justice. With everything aware, what makes this movie still interesting and inspiring? The film moves on as the most regulated steady conveyor belt routine. That does not mean it bores the members of the audience, but gives a constant steady movement towards the well known end. The minimal discussions and subtle points are well enacted. In the current era, everyone is well aware of the fact of slavery. It is cruel and it is inhuman to perform it. Audience being so clear about something and the protagonist is fighting against it, makes it difficult for the director to introduce something novel. Michael Apted does it his own style. The occurrence of events consecutively one after another over a period of fifteen years is a nice employment of traditional technique. While William is the center of attention, the inspiration and support from the people surrounding him makes him run the race without any tiredness. Without good people, it is quite a strenuous process to change something; the whole society has been drenched in it for years and years. The film projects that it is a fact that there are good people everywhere and there requires the right leader and the support to trigger major change in a society of injustice. Gandhi was able to do it with perfection. He had good people and so does William. His consistent group of Lord Charles Fox (Michael Gambon), Thomas Clarkson (Rufus Sewell), James Stephen (Stephen Campbell Moore), Oloudaqh Equiano (Yousou N’Dour), his best friend William Pitt (Benedict Cumberbatch), his wife Barbara and of all his mentor and guide John Newton (Albert Finney) lift him when William is down and move him forward.

The score did not excel out of the ordinary but stuck to the old book of not mingling with the film in depth. Editing is traditional and provides the steady flow of screenplay very well. The rest of the technical team let the content do its part and modestly paved its way of normalcy over extraordinary. It is evident that the technical departments were advised to do the basic formula and not to experiment. I guess that elevates the content in depth and wide.

“Amazing Grace” vibrates the fact that impossible is a word which needs to be negated. It shows that good people makes great results. Even the greatest of great leaders have their moments of frustration. Those frustrations may push them to the edge of giving up. The people who support him make the difference of saving or making them fall into the hands of weakness. This film is the story of William and the people who made the cruelest trade disappear once and for all.

Having discussed all that, what prompted Michael Apted to pick up a story to reveal to a society well aware about it. Slavery got abolished but indirectly and in the most political way it still happens in the name of hatred. He wants the people to look at William and his army of peace. He wants the viewers to get inspired and change their attitude towards instinctive hatred ness. He wants to invoke the William in the leaders and also the people to support the Williams and keep them running. “Amazing Grace” may not be a path breaking extraordinary film, but it sings the song loud and clear.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Bridge to Terabithia" (2007) - Movie Review

When I entered to view “Bridge to Terabithia”, I was expecting one another fantasy movie about attaining the impossible and a feel good factor at the end. While it starts as a typical children’s movie, “Bridge to Terabithia”, directed by Gabor Csupo is far from the normal fantasy film. The lead casts are mostly children with Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Bailee Madison and Robert Patrick as Jesse’s Dad, Jack Aarons. The movie is adapted from the acclaimed novel By Katherine Paterson.

Jesse Aarons is the only son in a family with four sisters. Jack Aarons and his wife are finding it just enough to have a decent living, financially. Jesse and his younger sister May Belle finds it hard to cope up with the tough kids in the school. Leslie Burke enters, who is vibrant, enthusiastic and full of imagination into Jesse’s life. Immediately she befriends Jesse and May Belle. She takes him to the woods nearby their house and forms a kingdom. A Kingdom of imagination, wherein they free themselves from the stressful outer world. Together they bend the ambience surrounding them and delve into their heroism in their imaginary world. They name their empire, Terabithia.

From there on, the viewers encounter how they balance the both worlds and get the best out of it. The handling of imagination as the escape from the tough and stressed environment is brilliant. When the film enters the school sequences, the tendency to have stereo typed bullies bodes darkness in the uniqueness of the story, but the change of heart in one of the characters in the further part of the story is convincing and real. Leslie is full of energy and positive attitude. She sees the beauty in even the slightest hint of it. She never shrugs of for competition yet very amicable. Of all, she forms the living core of individualism. This may seem too mature for a kid but the way it has been given is entertaining and possible. When the viewers see all energy reeking out of Leslie, there is Jesse who is shy and longing for dad’s love. He is full of imagination too as Leslie but never discloses it. He lives in his blanket covered nights of art. He has a crush on his music teacher but develops an emotion for Leslie. They are shown as the best of friends. Personality separates them but imagination unites them. With them in place, the cutest character in the movie is May Belle. She is the typical younger sister every family has. She supports her brother and hangs on to him all the time. She is fine when both Leslie and Jesse hide in the secret world, leaving her to carry Jesse’s schoolbag. She never questions his brother and loves him next to her dad. All these three characters done by Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb and Bailee Madison takes the characters out of the paper and bring it to real on the screen. Robert Patrick as the stern but loving dad is impressive as well.

Editing is crisp and in a definitive style. The musical score brings out the smiles in the faces of the viewers. Watch out for the scores in the initial scene of racing in the school and the exploration of woods by Jesse and Leslie. The background score is mesmerizing in those two sequences. Dialogues are simple yet profound. Bringing out deep meaning from a kid’s mouth is a challenging task and they have conquered it. Screenplay flows like an undisturbed stream at an enjoyable pace.

The film is about the kids who may “supposedly” have a normal childhood, are still in fight for their identity and desire. It places the standpoint of woman liberation in the most interesting way through Leslie. The conversation in between Jesse and Leslie are the real issues in our society. Taking the trade/job of parents seems the best choice for many people while Leslie argues otherwise. She wants a world of talent and happiness. She inspires Jesse and Jesse inspires her in a calm fashion. The chemistry in between them is so romantic yet there is no sequence to substantiate those. Leaving that very open ended is creative. The chemistry is so intense; the last half an hour of the movie is very emotional due to that.

“Bridge to Terabithia” is advertised as a fantasy movie but it is definitely more than that. It is not the typical children’s movie. It is not alone a children’s movie. It is a film for all age group. It provides the windows of imagination which may help everyone in their tough times. It delegates the opportunity of self recognition and individualism. It facilitates the concept of unique creativity and the handling the love. It is the poetic portrayal of the love shared in between various characters so subtle yet powerful.

During the first one hour of the film, I was saying to myself, “This is one of the cutest films for the year of 2007”. At the end of the movie, I was saying to myself, “This is one of the cutest and best films to provide the nice start for 2007”.

"The Number 23" (2007) - Movie Review

“The Number 23”, directed by Joel Schumacher is about a man who accidentally stumbles upon a book, makes him go obsessed with the number 23. The film stars Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen. Joel Schumacher known to handle all genres very well, has chosen Mystery and Thriller.

Walter Sparrow played by Jim Carrey, who works at the Animal Control, narrates his story of events which made him to read the ill fated book. The book drives him to the edge when the number and the story in the book connect very much to him. His wife Agatha portrayed by Virginia Madsen, gets concerned over this obsession and goes for help. While Walter still continues his search towards a mystery of all these unimaginable coincidences. He starts getting nightmares and gets terribly worried whether he would hurt anyone. Does Walter find the solution for his questions or does he hurt someone due to a mere number? The rest is the story of how all comes to a place wherein audience should get the exclamation they got in “The Sixth Sense” as Joel Schumacher expects to happen.

The same execution of plot has been witnessed umpteen times and still great directors get the idea of portraying a little bit better than the best. The film definitely dives right into the plot without any unnecessary introduction. It is a nice employment of jumping into the story which does not comfortably irritate the audience. The nice aspect of the film is that it does not give the viewers the luxury of knowing the characters well. When I say that, it makes the events open for surprises. The characters can behave in an extremely haphazard way while the director can escape with the calculated avoidance of characterization. It is quite a brilliance to apply that with great actor like Jim Carrey in hand. “The Number 23” moves briskly as it supposed to. It invokes the questions and doubts of both Walter are having while what Agatha doubts. The viewers know that there is a big suspense ahead and it should be so shocking that it all makes a definite sense. This makes it tough for the director to explain the smallest information necessary to make it fool proof.

The film of course accounts for all the coincidences and mysteries surrounding it. It keeps the audience guessing and never under estimates them. But the major let down in the movie is about 30 minutes before the ending. Joel Schumacher should have brought the connection of dots well before it. Honestly, the viewer gets tired of the number 23. While initially the viewers put themselves to fill the screen with 23 in their mind, it becomes an ordeal before the film puts down its explanations.

And the biggest let down is the silliness of committing the mistake of letting a woman alone in a building in a sequence. It is dark and deserted. She goes without any protection. There is a “red” light. Now why a deserted old psychiatric hospital will have that? The answer is that it would form a nice trailer sequence. Coming back to the sequence, why would she want to go alone? This is a blunder and there the viewer loses all the enthusiasm to know about the secret.

In spite of all that, the ending is quite nice and convincing. The film had a purpose. It had a nice story and suspense. It also had the fifteen minutes of unwanted blatant sequence of “thrill” factor attached to it. A movie like this demands the momentum to keep the audience riveted to their seats. “The Number 23” definitely had it. It had for the first one hour and lost it. When it again regained, the moment was over and so was the patience with the audience.

Jim Carrey as the inquisitive and perplexed common man and also as the dark character in the book as Fingerling, does have the diversity of emotions well jolted by the screenplay. After “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, he carries the seriousness of the role with right mimic and comic touch required for it. Virginia Madsen as a caring housewife, Agatha and a sex vixen, Fabrizia does not have that solidity of the roles demanded. There was not enough scope for her but she does well for the time she gets in the screen.

The contrast usage of different colour complexion for the imaginary story in the book and the normal course of the movie are thoughtful. The score of the movie does not come out of the screen but it satisfies the basic requirement for a thriller movie. Very normal screenplay and editing when compared to all other complex ending stories the viewers have encountered in recent days.

“The Number 23” would have been a definite emotional movie when the viewer gets aware of the suspense but it was too late for that. Unfortunately as the protagonist gets obsessed with the number and loses his life, the movie does the same with itself. A film which jumped into the plot right away and had the viewer guessing ruined itself by the clichéd sequences and number obsession. Alas! The last sentence has 23 words! Is this a coincidence? No, I broke my head for five minutes to come up with it. Not good right? So is the movie.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Me and You and Everyone We Know" (2005) - Movie Review

“Magnolia” is one of the movies which brought the purest form of art in a movie. It took the forum of reaching all genre audiences to feel the poetic depth in a motion picture. After “Magnolia”, “Me and You and Everyone We Know” directed by Miranda July who has also acted in the movie brings the purest form of art subconsciously attaching the attraction to all genre audience.

Richard (John Hawkes) is a shoe salesman, handling his separation while coping up with his kids. Christine (Miranda July) is fighting to find her place in the contemporary art arena while drives elderly people as her job. The motion picture flows in and around these two characters along with the people they know. Richard’s kids Peter (Miles Thompson) and Robby (Brandon Ratcliff) are in their strange childhood and the inquisition of the physical unexplained behaviour is haunting them. They handle it in their own strange way. Richard’s neighbour has a daughter, Sylvie (Carlie Westerman) who connects with one of the kids. There is Richard’s colleague, Andrew (Brad Wiliam Henke) who still is confused about what he wants. Christine’s friend and customer Michael (Hector Elias) is falling in love for first time in his seventy years with a female who is in her final stage of life. There are so many characters but there is no such instance wherein the viewer is overwhelmed by those. Rather it is a treat to encounter a wide varied people with respect to age, attitude, needs and fantasy.

The characters can be dissected and analyzed with brilliant precision to give the sweet moments of life. The movie is made up with amazing art style. “Broken Flowers” had the theme of pink colour which gave a fresh yet gloomy outlook while Miranda has used it only at very fine moments to get the appeal necessary for that frame. Richard is the complex and interesting character of all. He is clear and imaginative. He sees life as a straight plane with geometric angles of emotions, measured and calculated. It is perfect at times but shuns itself away from the risk which needs to be taken for attaining the love. He does not want to commit the mistake again of falling for instance attraction. He wants to take time to heal the wound. The blatant yet subtle sweetness of showing Richard’s burned hand healing when he realizes his option of driving himself towards what he wants is simply poetic.

The movie contains poetry in numerous occasions. It gives the thrills with simplest and most moving scenes. The initial sequence involving Gold Fish is the best example of all. Playing with the human emotions of caring and the frustration of helplessness is dealt with amazing movie making. The intense moments with the play of words in between Richard and Christine are the best romantic sequences which are impressive after “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”. It sets its foot into the hall of fame where those movie lie in top. The film carries around with all the emotions of sadness, desperation, love, death, confusion, caring and art in all elegant way.

John Hawkes identifies himself with one of the best performances I have ever seen in recent days with respect to portraying an imaginative and submissive character. There is no doubt that he is going to deliver some more amazing performances like this if handled well. Miranda July participating in the movie as an actress is one more feather in her cap of cinematic talent. All the performances are top notch and especially from the kids since the content are very emotional and tough to express.

Three things I generally analyze individually and also which determines the film’s technical appeal. They are the soundtrack/back ground score, editing and cinematography. Excellence is the right word for all of those employed in this film. Direction and Screenplay are the captains of the ship which cruises without any problem.

This film is about the art. It is about the art of making mistakes. It is the art of second chances and the will to take something forward without hesitation. It is about being in a community wherein everyone is interrelated. Being unified by emotions of strangeness is something viewers cannot expect in a cine screen apart from their own life. The movie is the best example of how an art movie can be executed with wide range of different characters.

“Me and You and Everyone We Know” shoulders the art in a way how it should be. It is encouraging for movie goers to enjoy such a motion picture with subtlety written all over it. Subtlety is one of the best ways to communicate art. It is a movie of excellence in the field of contemporary modern classics. It is an art of an art.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"An Inconvenient Truth" (Documentary) (2006) - Movie Review

Images speak so much to wide variety of people where the words may find it difficult to reach. When it comes to motion pictures, the power of media can be so gargantuan that it can shake up the entire world and bring them to the real horrific situation they are residing in. “An Inconvenient Truth” rightly taps the medium of film sticking honestly to the facts. “An Inconvenient Truth” is a documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim which shows the slideshow the former Vice President of United States, Al Gore has been touring around the world explaining that the limit of tolerance has crossed in human civilization with respect to Global Warming and its effect on climate, to get up and act accordingly. The movie edits and connects the slide presentation of Al Gore along with the mode of documentary to bring out the truth of drastic climate changes and its effects.

Mostly the documentary films have a common data laid and the viewers decide on their observations and actions on their own. The ethical and social boundaries of a documentary film is so fragile and contemplative in between portraying and requesting action from the audience that it may sometimes distort the purpose of the film altogether. Al Gore along with Davis Guggenheim walks on the thin line of facts and actions and they come out as torch bearers on this burning out world of ours.

There needs no more further explanation and the common effects of Global Warming on the atmosphere. It has been discussed so many times by so many people and the viewers may tend to think that the movie is overkill. It is true that so many people have discussed this and it is also true that the common effects publicized has also been well aware among the people, but how many of the people have taken it forward into actions? How many really put those things into their day to day life on accomplishing the reduction of releasing less Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? Very minimal.

The movie rattles the brains of the viewers into that lethargic irresponsible behaviour of us. The way it has been presented clearly indicates the sincerity and the honesty in the outcome of it by the film makers. They do not dwell upon on the political issues but unravel the individual negligence of the truth. The responsibilities brushed up under the carpet of every house placing the immediate good results favouring over the slow and steady death of our planet Earth.

The film uses the right frames to punctuate the emotional and social responsibility of Al Gore being driven for his campaign on saving the Earth. It accelerates as a film while elaborating the in depth details and conclusions drawn upon by the scientists. It plays with the numbers and brings out the harsh reality of the conditional ignorance of the well educated people. The musical score of the film peels off the sensitive layers of human values and principles being butchered submissively and postponing the death of the Earth to our children.

It clearly puts out two definite and brutal reality of human nature; being Selfish and Irresponsible. Selfish with respect to willfully ignoring the facts to sustain our current lifetime while forgetting what we are leaving our children. Irresponsible, with respect to not shouldering the consequences of their actions on damaging the climate due to our sedation and loss of touch with the ambience surrounding us.

“An Inconvenient Truth” uncovers the traces of people’s continuous attitude towards taking things for granted. It shows how most of us take the things lightly as the feel of “single man cannot change the world” effect to cushion into the luxury of ignoring the reality. The movie is an experience and educational while it blatantly shoots our irresponsibility on avoiding the obvious and “An Inconvenient Truth”.

While there may still be skeptics and doubtful personalities questioning the “exaggeration” of the issue, the movie applies universally to all the inhuman things, ironically enough, a human may do to Earth. This movie is appealing not due to the issue it handles but it is the general misconceptions and mistakes the people takes upon to convince them that everything is fine and sane. It is the time for every human being to recognize themselves as the one who does those mistakes. It is time to take responsibility for those and act accordingly. It is time for us to “Wake Up”. If there is a movie which needs to be put as course requirement and take actions to live on this Earth, it should be “An Inconvenient Truth”.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Lost Highway" (1997) - Movie Review

"Dick Laurent is dead", a voice tells over Fred Madison's home intercom. He looks out and no one is there. Fred suspects his wife Renee to be cheating on him. The couple gets a video cassette on their door which shows someone picturing their home. It gets even worse when the subsequent video cassette deliveries shoots them sleeping inside their home. They call the police while the tension in between them grows more. Fred gets freak encounter with a strange weird guy in a party and next thing; police interrogate him for murdering his wife Renee. He is sentenced to death and spends headache filled sleepless life in his cell. One fine day, the guard checking his cell freaks out to see Fred transformed into a totally different person physically and mentally as well, named Pete. Welcome to the movie making of David Lynch.

I tend to not reveal the story details for any movie in a review, since it spoils the movie going experience and puts unnecessary thoughts and expectations on viewers. The above synopsis may seem out of my league in revealing the story plots but trust me, there would be nothing short of full of surprises the viewers can expect. “Lost Highway” stars Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette and Balthazar Getty taking the crucial roles. I was not impressed by “Mullholland Drive”, due to some simple reasons. There should not be complexity and whirlwind screenplay thrusted onto a movie to squeeze the juice of it for no specific aesthetic or cinematic value. I was perplexed and confused by the ending in “Mullholland Drive” and the same continued in “Lost Highway”. While the frustration of not understanding the ending constituted some percentage of it, there was no satisfaction with respect to style of movie making or spell bounding dialogues or breathtaking visuals. I generally tend to have an open mind when trying to watch any movie and I have got deceived and felt foolish for not able to understand a movie. I give it couple of tries and then research it. If there comes out a special value and meaning to the piece, I blame myself and watch it again to get the complete satisfaction. “Magnolia” is a movie whose ending totally stumped me but after doing my research, that became the best movie I have ever seen. Sadly, “Lost Highway” did not suffice those criteria.

While there is lot of questionable and unexplained scenes in the movie, making it totally ridiculous at the end, there is no doubt that David Lynch is a good director. “The Straight Story” is an excellent example of how a true and moving story can be made with perfection and clarity. It is weirdly pathetic to see a great director trying to give a meaning out of a blank wall hiding a picture. The director suggests breaking the wall hard. And adding to it, the wall is made with bricks of non-conformities and blandness.

There are very rare moments in the movie which makes the viewer enjoy a bit. The movie could have been made where in the viewers are given the option to identify or sympathize or hate Fred, but the script did not have enough meat to drive the audience to achieve it.

Of all the factors, editing would have had the toughest job imaging what David Lynch would have demanded. Whatever Lynch demanded has been achieved. The soundtrack never made it any more soothing or appealing than the already faltered direction. Bill Pullman as the cold suspicious Fred does the role very pleasantly while Patricia Arquette gets the most screen time wherein she did what she was supposed to. The mystique nature of fear, lust, greed and viciously cunning has been portrayed well by her.

“Lost Highway” is said to be supposedly adapting the concept of Psychogenic Fugue with respect to the transformation of Fred to Pete, but the fantasy world did not have enough intriguing factors to make it interesting.

As everyone would expect a reviewer to say, “Lost Highway” completely gets lost in its way of movie making. Being lost, it stumbles and makes a bad crash into a desert of nothing but confused characters.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Little Miss Sunshine" (2006) - Movie Review

There are six out of normal characters and they are packed in a same bus. They are honest and true to their values that they make each other go crazy. Despite their differences, they all unite to support their sweet little kid in their family for a beauty pageant. “Little Miss Sunshine”, directed by the couple Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris is a story of the members of an unusual family who take on a road trip from New Mexico to California in order to make her family kid, Olive to participate in a beauty pageant. The movie has been nominated for four Academy Awards including “Best Picture” category.

Sheryl Hoover (Toni Collette) goes to hospital to get his brother, Frank (Steve Carell) who just managed to survive of a suicide attempt. Sheryl’s husband, Richard (Greg Kinear) is desperately hoping for his motivational step-by-step to success implementing in his own day to day life with rigorous solemn tortures. Dwayne (Paul Dano) is son of Sheryl, who has taken the “vow of silence” in order to achieve his dream of becoming the test pilot. Richard’s dad, Edwin (Alan Arkin) finds peace in training his grand daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) for beauty pageant and taking heroin. Their journey from New Mexico to California opens up the spectrum of emotions in everyone with minuscule incidents to the final grandeur of the pageant itself.

The movie while maybe mistaken for a wedding of “Midnight Run” with “American Beauty” does have the subtle relationship getting build up on abnormal quarrels. With a proper small introduction of the characters, the movie jumps in the bus to make the viewer explore their way of handling things in an entertaining and emotional manner. When all the chaos happens, they try to contribute their two cents of unselfish human side for the girl they love. The interesting part about the movie is how the misery of characters somehow tickles us and makes the viewer feel guilty about it in a second. When Frank is so shy to show his failure and bizarre purchases at the gas station when his lost love comes past him, while the viewer gets tickled, his emotions being shattered and rambled upon over a feeling he is been looked down for judgmental reasons.

Greg Kinear’s portray of Richard as the irritatingly go-getter sometimes walks on the line of clay model character and being natural. Yet he comes out clean and cool as a cucumber in the end. As for Alan Arkin as the bad mouthing grandpa with transparent layers of words of wisdom is truthfully entertaining. Steve Carell and Paul Dano maintain the chemistry in between the characters that it takes a brief two minute conversation for them to convey what they have to. Toni Collette and Abigail Breslin cuddle each other with their love in a typical mother-daughter relationship.

The movie projecting itself as a comedy is more of soul search among the viewers themselves. The story while acupunctures with strong needles at the most untouched and fragile places, it continuously drive the factor of comedy all along the way. The viewer may aimlessly look for a sharp twist in the movie even though aware of the nature of it; the blandness does interestingly bring out its own form of flavour in to this piece. The rash decisions may be strange but the family is known for their strangeness and nevertheless there lays their own way of reasoning with each other. End of the day, there will always be people judging everyone for the very brief time they see, but is it really worth to change it for them? Is it really worth to alter the whole notion of anyone’s thought for that matter? “Little Miss Sunshine” is not about a small kid trying to get some winner title in a beauty contest, rather it is the way world works around. When there are millions of third persons’ trying to prejudice themselves into shutting themselves up into knowing a blossoming learning character, there will always be the family of one without any of those to accept for their originality. The movie brings out the untold and the silent communication shared in between Dwayne and his step sister Olive. While he sheds away everyone, her simple presence makes his frustration take a back seat and make her happy.

The husband-wife combination brought out the best in themselves with bright yellow painted art, “Little Miss Sunshine”. The direction is intact and never falters its way out of the theme of interesting blandness. While the editing helps the theme hold on to it, it is the music which adds on its right tingly tunes to set the emotions straight and moody. “Little Miss Sunshine” is the movie which needs to be taken for its very subtle and hard content of prejudices and judgments, success and failure, life and death and to identify the “winner” out of the “loser” in themselves.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Once Upon A Time In America" (1984) - Movie Classics

“Once Upon A Time In America” is the last film directed by the famous director Sergio Leone. It revolves around the main character David Aaronson who is known better as “Noodles”. The movie stars Robert De Niro, James Woods and Elizabeth McGovern giving their best performances. As the viewers sit down to expect a usual stylized mafia movie, they get it with a different tinge of artwork iced all over it. Noodles’ life is given in three pieces with his child hood, his youth and in his old age. The transition happens along the movie in a nicely weaved manner.

Robert De Niro as Noodles is hunted by some of the men at the start of the movie. The viewers come to know that he ratted out his gang to the cops. They witness him leave the place and he comes back as old. From there on, there is the editing playing the hide and seek with the current Old Noodles with the kid and the young same person. The movie runs on for nearly four hours. The film does not depend on strong and profane dialogues. It entirely builds upon the slow and steady motion of frames. It concentrates on the facial expressions. It swings upon the actions of the characters. The film focuses on the way everyone carry themselves with respect to explicitly expressing their anger or views towards certain decisions. It is very much evident that Sergio Leone decided to play the viewers with their thoughts. He basically jig sawed the three different time division of the same character in nicely diced fashion.

Cinematography and artwork forms the spine of the movie for the following reasons. The movie transcends between three era of same town and hence the portrayal of each building, the clothes and the automobiles plays a significant role. The second technical department which bags the notice is the editing. It seems that they had around eight to nine hours of footage before editing. Nino Baragli edited it to shorten to six hours. Sergio Leone had plans of releasing it in two parts but due to commercial reasons settled for straight one cut. When the viewers see the movie, all of the frames seem so irremovable and essential for its gravity of the sequence while some represents classical representation of the art itself.

Robert De Niro playing as the young man and old Noodles calculatedly emote the necessary maturity and immaturity weighed for the character. The proper presentation of the confused and loyal friend, his work is really impressive. James Woods with his sharp eyes and stale face brings the diplomatic, cunning and “crazy” Max. Bringing in the mystique and subtlety to the young Deborah by Elizabeth McGovern is brilliant as the other two.

The movie juggles the dark world of ghetto gang with the stylish and mesmerizing artistic excellence. The characterization of Noodles has been presented in a very unconventional and true framework. While Noodles can respect the woman he loves with unbelievable suave and polished way, he can also be the devastatingly desperate man to shamble all those in a moment of brevity to earn her physically. It may shock the viewers to witness those but that is how Noodles is. He does not show much of resentment because he moves on with his life or at least pretends to. The same character maturing through experience is shown in end sequences with his final encounter of secrets. Max on the other side is very clear on what he wants. He wants to be a man of power and wealth. He has laid out his plans right from his childhood. With all those, his devotion to his friend is quite different and surprising. There never comes a moment one can doubt him for betraying. He is crazy but knows what he is doing. He respects his friend and his emotions.

Between these two characters there is this bond of friendship which forms the core of the movie. They have their moments every now and then. They laugh and swim together. Of the four, they are able to connect to their differences in character. Both are equally genuine and caring to each other. The strongest point of this film is that it makes the viewers trust in both the characters. It is no misunderstanding but plain and simple facts of different characters trying to do well to each other. The surprise at the end is the shocker and is well placed and executed.

Having said all about this, the debate of how the movie ends is inevitable. There will be discussions and representations of the demoniac and crooked smile of Noodles under Opium influence. I look it as the painting left unsigned with a traditional marking of the artist which cannot be easily noticed on it. The movie even though deals with the cruel and greedy gang; it is the substance of handling various emotions which makes this movie, an experience. While I was sometimes left impatient, the final thirty minutes shot the bullet right at the forehead in between the eye brows.

While it may be argued as the ending forming the cinematic conclusion of an art, all I was able to see was the betrayal and forgiveness. I was able to see the bond of two friends going beyond the normal way anyone would perceive. I was able to see the love of the life can be shredded into pieces by blinded lust and power. I was able to see the, “Once Upon A Time In America”, where Max and Noodles were able to live together and within themselves happily for a brief period of time.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"The Up Series - 49 Up" (Documentary) (2005) - Movie Review

In 1964, Paul Almond with his then research crew with Michael Apted in it, started out what is now the most compelling, truly realistic and invigorating life experience for the people in and outside of it, “The Up Series”. The series started with choosing 14 then age seven kids in UK, varied in different financial classes of society. The team interviewed them at the age seven and from then on re-visited all of them every seven years. The recent addition is the “49 Up” and the kids getting older and wiser, as they stand in front of a life seen almost yet expecting full of surprises.

After “7 Up”, Michael Apted took on the most excruciating and painful task of carrying this series and making it one of the most meaningful series ever witnessed in the film industry. In “49 Up”, the viewers see almost all of the people whom they would have been following for the past 42 years. Apted as usual does his technique of letting the person doing the raw and beeline details in a very light and impressive tone. I will not go through analyzing the fact of each and every person in the series and how they have developed. The movie does that strenuous task very skillfully and issuing the absolute justification of the purpose of the films.

This is one of the most influential series of documentary films, the industry has been seeing for quite a long time. The image which cuts through the screen is not the life of 14 people but the life of the viewers. Of course it may not be who they are and what they are, but it is the actions of the world and themselves reacting on their lives. As the chain of circumstances paves way in to all of their lives of eventuality of family and children, there is this undeniable fact of interesting and harsh realisms what the viewers learn from it. The movie does not talk about their internal turbulence of emotions in deep manner as the sometimes gruesome reality shows does. Rather it is something “what you see is what you get” factor which cuts out yet reaching the deep meanings reeking out from the participant’s mind.

Before stating the intensive meaning of the series, significant amount of appreciation goes to the people who made all this possible in over the span of 42 years. It is yet not complete and the next installment is supposedly to be out in 2012 or 2013. Editing is the defining element in documentaries, which fills up the cabinet of the film flow in an unambiguous way. These films shoulders the 14 personalities whose reflections and journey towards their life in the past seven years need to be laid out with total commitment which could not have been possible without a gleaming editing as this. The idea of sequencing each person in a particular order does bring the brightness and sullenness demanded by a documentary.

“The Up Series” as said earlier is the reflection of everyone’s life. As I watched all the films from “7 Up” till “49 Up” within a span of one week, I had the luxury of growing up till 49 within that short period of time. Even though if one can understand and grasp most of the important aspects what the film “49 Up” is providing, I would go ahead and strongly recommend to watch all the previous films before this. As it may give the viewers the impression of by far the most emotionally expressive “The Up Series” ever, this film would not have been possible without those previous six amazing films. There will be no doubt that “56 Up” will be even more emotional and touching as there unfolds lot of cruel truths in life and also their encounter into the unpredictable end of life.

While the movie can be flexed by how the viewers perceive it, Apted achieved something far from it from this real life interviews at various stages of life. The achievement is making the audience confront themselves and maybe coax a little bit into their past mistakes. The film opens the doors of discussions rather than pointless regrets and resentments. The start of the discussions with their loved ones and also towards the broken relationships of their life. This film is not a comparison of the personalities but the underlying common facts in all of their lives. The series propels the concept of how life turns around for each one of the people in the world. It accelerates and breaks the life into hope, destruction, loss, love, hate and the seeing themselves in their off springs. The film lightens up the dark places with muddy compositions in the viewers’ hearts with lucidity of how life of them is right and wrong when it is viewed as an outsider. It is not a documentary of those 14 courageous people who are letting millions of people to know their lives every seven years, but it is their candidness. The candidness, which identifies the stumbles in their journey and assist them on how to pick them up to keep on going.

“The Up Series” is not yet complete. It is one another giant and impressive step from its previous films. For first time, in this series, the viewers will be able to see how Apted has grown along with them. Apted’s chemistry with them which makes him ask the most sensitive questions for which anyone else would be shunned off easily. It is the trust and bond Apted shares with these people that make them open up without any concerns and touch the viewers.

The usage of the art to visualize the life kaleidoscope of various personalities to get a glimpse of them is innovative and creative. I am greatly honoured and obliged to Apted and the people participating with their loved ones in this series for providing the most enlightening and compelling documentary in this era of film making.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Smokin' Aces" (2007) - Movie Review

The movie with a surprising twist in the end, making the audience guessing all the time is one of the style, all the Hollywood directors have been constantly attempting and have succeeded sometimes. “Fight Club”, “Memento”, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” are some of the few to be named in that category which immaculately succeeded in making the viewers go crazy and just wonder how they missed it. The key for the success of those movies is not the twisted ending but the brilliant screenplay consistently occupying the audience’s mind to enjoy the substantive contents of the film. The clever ending just formed the bonus for the already enthralled viewers. The lesson to be learned is when some one attempts in that genre, they should keep in mind that the ninety nine percent to work on the story and style than on the mind boggling ending. “Smokin Aces” directed by Joe Carnahan fails consistently letting down while also trying to be too clever and assuming audience to be feeble minded.

The movie starts off with the FBI agents Richard Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Donald Carruthers (Ray Liota) tracking that mob head Primo Sparazza wants the key witness Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven) against him to be dead and places a one million dollar for his heart. The stakes are high and hence there are bunch of people who gets the contract while the FBI tries to protect him. The audience gets to know a lot of characters during this whole situation. Even though the concept of flashing the name of the character when they appear was invented by Tarantino, it does not hurt to use the same technique for nice story telling. There needs to be a necessary though and there are at least fifteen character introduced in that fashion. I was not able to remember any one of their names and I got the story properly. There is no definition for anyone’s character using that technique. There are umpteen people going all around the place where Buddy Israel is and easily get access by all means. FBI even though have not fixed the deal with Buddy Israel does the flaky job of sending the agents just when they hear the hit, while they do not even have a surveillance over his place. The film pretty much gave away the suspense when both the agents discuss about Sporazza having so many facial surgeries. Revealing that, the director had the hope of giving a mind turning ending is truly sad.

This piece entirely depended on technical department and without a proper solid script even a top notch crew cannot salvage a movie. Editing is really good migrating in between the umpteen characters but is not extraordinary. Soundtrack is not good at all which crucially plays a part in this kind of movie genre. Cinematography is good enough to give in the sleek and slick look demanded by the story.

Andy Garcia, Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Piven and of all Ray Liota are entirely gnawed away by the hole full of script. No one really gets a chance to show their skills except for Ryan Reynolds. There is a lot of potential in him and expect some stunning performances in near future for sure.

I did enjoy one particular sequence in the movie which was simply great and entertaining. The bail bondsman Jack Dupree (Ben Affleck) and his crew meet the lawyer Rip Reed played brilliantly by Jason Bateman who has the information about Buddy Israel. The sequence was nailed with precision by Jason Bateman. That’s the only highpoint of this movie.

“Smokin Aces” is another example of how risky is to mimic the great movies, which has accomplished the job of satisfying the cinematic entertainment while still sticking to the innovative and substantive film making. There is nothing wrong in attempting it, but underestimating the audience is a blunder. “Smokin Aces” tries so hard in fooling the audience that they fool themselves which made its own destructive factor.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"The Last King of Scotland" (2006) - Movie Review

“The Last King of Scotland”, directed by Kevin Macdonald, is an adaptation of the novel by Giles Foden which weaves the fiction and facts of the seventies dictator of Uganda, Idi Amin. Forest Whitaker bears the role of the Idi Amin while James McAvoy plays Dr. Nicholas Garrigan who befriends him and pays the price in the end. Forest Whitaker has already won a 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role while waits for the results for the 2006 Academy Award for the same category.

The movie is about how Dr. Nicholas Garrigan gets himself into the riddled friendship of Idi Amin. The movie uses the dictatorship of Idi Amin as the backdrop and thickens the plot of Nicholas finding out the truth and the mistakes he made. Nicholas, graduating from the medical school is in an aid station in Uganda to further his skills. Nicholas helps Amin in a small accident and impresses him by killing a cow suffering from pain. Amin immediately calls him off and offers the position to be his personal physician, a round about way of gaining his friendship rather than his services. After initial hesitiation, Nicholas is equally amazed by the man and accepts the position. He tells the aid station of his choice and pursues his work with Idi Amin and serving in his city hospital. How this fictional character, Dr. Nicholas, finds out the mistake he made and lot he commits on his way towards being a friend to Amin is the remaining movie is about.

The movie starts off very interesting and right on track. The introduction of Amin and how Nicholas is totally engulfed by the animated and mesmerizing speech by him is nice. The art of the showing the bond forming in between these two strange characters is one of the fine points of the movie. Nicholas falling for one of Amin’s wives, the madness of Idi Amin and the very same likeable environment deteriorating has been witnessed in lot of other movies. The movie does redeem itself at the end for sure but it could have been more profound in various instances.

Forest Whitaker cracks the character of Idi Amin and gives his performance of his career. But does it earn a Best Actor for Oscar? Well, it will be answered on February 25th 2007. The way Whitaker carries the sane madman personality is a treat to watch. He can be the stand up comedian when he wants to while rip off the flesh when he wants to. The unpredictability of his character has been rightly grabbed by him and very well played. James McAvoy as Nicholas brings out the opportune young man who wants to extend the boundaries of his life. His depiction of young Nicholas who buries his innocence and conscience when it comes to comfortably avoiding the truth and also being honest and fearless in front of Amin shows his talent for acting.

The cinematography is rich in colour since it brings out the luscious forests of Africa and also the streets of Kampala, Uganda vibrantly. Editing is straight forward and the viewers do not lose their tempo as per the plot goes. The screenplay compliments the straight line editing in a normal way.

The movie definitely brings out the mad man and eccentricity of Idi Amin. The dreadful massacres and the insane decisions are not shown but felt by the viewers. The film while guiding the viewers into the story, tries to tell the humanity being negated during his regime. The screenplay slowly falters in the middle of the movie but definitely gains back at the last few moments. The movie sometimes fails to justify the actions of Nicholas like when it comes to his immediate contact of the British Council without any proper investigation of the suspicious Minister he hinted Amin to have a talk, missing. There were lot of possibilities of the emotional sufferings went through by Nicholas which were not accounted properly. The viewers will never get bored or slacked around during this movie. The handling of violence is very fragile and could have been pretty sore while taking a movie like this, but the director properly places it only in a couple of occasions with so much vitality which gets into the bones of the viewers. The viewers while closely expect anytime mad violence of capturing the Amin’s bloody massacre of estimated 300,000 lives but instead they are given the sharp and indigestible two gruesome styles of execution he adapts for betraying his loyalty marks how dehumanizing Amin was.

“The Last King Of Scotland”, definitely brings out the best out of Whitaker of playing an ultra negative role, who till now known only for soft and understanding characters. The viewers should expect a thriller rather than a biopic. It does not dwell much into inside dark emotions of his Idi Amin’s associates or himself but gives a thriller of how a normal physician gets a wrong acquaintance and finally gets out of it with blood in his hands. The director calculatedly placed the strongest dialogue of the movie in the last moments of the movie. Nicholas perplexedly asks Dr. Djonjo who helps him escape Nicholas Garrigan: Why are you doing this? Djonjo: Frankly, I don't know, you deserve to die. But I am tired of hatred. Watch “The Last King Of Scotland”, for Forest Whitaker and a decent thriller.

Monday, February 05, 2007

"Pan's Labyrinth" (2006) (Language - Spanish) - Movie Review

(This movie is Rated R for graphic violence and some language)

As a child, everyone will have the belief on some mysterious power which saves them from the evil and keeps them safe. These powers maybe super heroes; god or a lively person whom they believe can do those. While it is merely forms an entertainment for some of the kids, it forms a protective shell from the tough environment, Ofelia is going through in the “Pan’s Labyrinth” directed by Guillermo Del Toro. The English title with Pan represents the Greek God Pan who is similar to the faun appearing in the movie.

Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) arrives in the spot of post civil war in Northern Spain set in 1944. They come to a mill wherein Olefia’s stepfather and father of the baby, Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez) and his army are hunting down the anarchist militia. Ofelia who is fond of fairy tales is immediately taken by a small fairy to the Labyrinth beside the mill. From there on, Ofelia copes with her miserable life under the most ferocious and merciless Captain Vidal, at the same instance trying to complete the task assigned to her from the labyrinth world. Amongst these, the terrible and wicked Captain Vidal nails down the militia in the most atrocious way and the maid servant Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) along with the physician helping her brother in the militia are shown splendidly.

The movie is the perfect blend of fantasy, adventure, terror, love and art in a single frame. Ofelia initially getting the affection of her mother is deprived of it in latter stages. This makes her even more desperate and daring to complete tasks assigned to her from the faun of the Labyrinth. Ivana Baquero as the daring and a cute charming girl constantly fighting her way to achieve the destiny is an example of the how to handle a small girl in an unconventional story like this. The movie constantly changes itself into a fantasy and war film with amazing pace and clarity. At any point of time, the viewer does not question the existence of the fairy land but enjoy the moment in it. The members of the audience quite unbelievably become naïve as that of Ofelia to indulge them into exploring the unknowns to get in to the end. Making the viewers believe in the world beyond the existential place is where Guillermo Del Toro excels without any struggle.

When Ivana Baquero portraying the soft and innocent girl, Sergio Lopez is Captain Vidal is simply brilliant. The characterization of Captain Vidal is served in a neat plate after couple of sequences in the start. Brutalizing innocent lives is what Captain Vidal enjoys doing and Sergio Lopez gets under the skin of that character with amazing lucidity and coldness. Whenever the viewers see Captain Vidal in the screen, there is a constant urgency of fear in them on expecting the most cold and demoniac act by him. While feeding the fairytale, the movie shows the gruesome realism and bloody nature of the techniques applied by Captain Vidal. Maribel Verdu as the soft spoken maid and at the very next instance as the clever and dauntless furious woman gives a neat performance.

The other main characters in the movie are the special effects, make ups and artwork. Imagination hitting the arc of impossible reality is simply superb. The most brilliant and creative make up and artwork in recent days is presented in this film. Editing uses the continuous transformation in between different scenes in a new fashion. This style of editing engages the audience without any glitch in this film weaved with imagination at its pinnacle.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” exposes the fairy land inside the heart of the viewers. The summit of the movie is the ending which leaves the viewers open for interpretation is the cinematic imagination of the creator. The viewers can accept the existence of the fairy world what Ofelia believes in and digest a happy ending. Else, they can take the imagination of the fragile and beaten soul of Ofelia who has been pushed into the terror no child should go through, and appreciate her ultimate sacrifice to save her brother. Either way, the film is the master work of handling reality and imagination sharing the same screen.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Blood Diamond" (2006) - Movie Review

“Blood Diamond” directed by Edward Zwick gives a movie with full of substance and absolute entertainment from start till end. The movie focuses on the issue of the diamond forming the crux of all the calamities and the blood on people’s hands all over the world. The movie has been nominated in various categories for the 2006 Academy Awards, which mainly includes Leanardo DiCaprio in Best Actor in a Leading Role and Djimon Honsou in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Solomon Vandy (Djimon Honsou), a fisherman is been captured by the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) and separated from his family. The head of the RUF makes Solomon work in the mines when he discovers a sufficiently worthy stone. He hides in a place he alone knows before he gets arrested. In the meanwhile, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) gets arrested for smuggling diamonds from Sierra Leone to Liberia. In jail, he gets to know about the diamond Solomon found out and thereby makes the plan of making up for the diamonds lost during his arrest. He puts on a term with Solomon of finding his family while he in return gives the diamond. The journey for the two starts with the desperate and conscience oriented Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly), the journalist who assists Danny and Solomon in order get the story of Blood Diamonds.

The movie goes a long way above the plot out line. It discusses a nation lost in its own men. A continent deserted and looted for its sole purpose of wealth. It shows a country destroyed and crumbling in its own hands with the assistance of the outside wealthy worlds. The film gives out most of the reasons for each and every person in the screen. Danny struggling within him on the reasons he built upon to survive for his own and the distinction of exploitation and exposing the truth, by Maddy Bowen with herself are laid out properly. Solomon fighting finger to the bones to get his family at any cost is wonderfully presented.

Leonardo DiCaprio deserves his nomination for a performance so close but so far from the Billy Costigan of “The Departed”. He is more than convincing and real as the “soldier of fortune”. Working his way through the most violent and tense situation as Danny is very clever and entertaining. The supporting role as Solomon by Djimon Honsou shoulders the emotional context of the movie. Bringing out the anger in a father and the love and understanding as needed are delicately handled by Djimon. Jennifer Connelly as the journalist Maddy Bowen, who is ready to get into the most ferocious and landmine ambience for getting the truth is brilliant as well.

“Hotel Rwanda” was so touching and showed the horrible situation of the continent in a very shivering way. “Blood Diamond” does that with the naked truth of diamonds covered with Blood. It shows the land burying itself by all violence among them. When Solomon expresses his emotions on this issue to Danny, the movie summates its agenda. One cannot avoid getting goose pumps when Danny decides to do the right thing even though it is totally expected. The director all along the way gives away the hint that Danny is a product of his environment. It just took time to get the right people to bring the rightness in him. Justification for his actions is embedded within those action pieces in the movie.

Promoting a movie as an action flick and providing the harsh truth behind the merely non-living materialistic stone proves the success factor for “Blood Diamond”. A terrific entertainer and must watch for all genre movie goers.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

"The Up Series - Seven Up / 7 Plus Seven" (Documentary)

I was around the age of 14 and my botany class teacher was asking everyone what they want to do when they grow up, a clichéd question. At my turn, I answered without hesitations that I wanted grow up to be an archaeologist. The teacher was surprised since it is a standard answer of doctor or an engineer from any kid at that point of time and trend of the society in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. I was very much interested in adventure and I thought digging the past would give me amazing tons of fantastic roller coaster rides of heroism and thrills. I am almost 27 and a Software Engineer, clichéd is not it? The first two documentaries of “The Up Series” brought back that particular event from my childhood.

At the year 1964, Paul Almond with Michael Apted and other interested researchers decided to choose 14 different seven year old kids in England of different class and background, and see how the concept of money, discrimination, opposite sex, class and fight play in their mind. After the first documentary, they decided to visit the life of the fourteen every seven years. Michael Apted from then on visited and grabbed the progresses in them every seven years and gave them as “The Up Series”.

The “Seven Up” is entirely shot in black and white with bringing the innocent, sweet, mischievous kids. If I were to answer the questions of what I felt about money, opposite sex, fight and all other complicated yet necessary information at my age of seven, I would have had no clue on what to say. I will never be able to experience myself in that age again anytime in this lifetime and this film made me revisit the old and dusted brain cobwebs of mine. The “Seven Plus Seven Up” brings out their change in view of the very same question they asked and some of the their remember their answers and correct it. The interesting part about both the films are that the viewers will hardly remember four to five kids name but will never forget the faces of the fourteen, their views, their answers and their small talks.

The film is far away from the fake expressions since everyone is new to this concept and they are themselves. It will be very interesting to watch the further series since these two documentaries has roughly given everyone’s characterization at the surface level in a tender age. The viewers tend to form their own favourites and try to associate themselves with the fourteen of them. The truth is that any particular character in every one of them can be associated by anyone.

The usage of camera in both the films is very tactical and loyal to the style of documentary, capturing the behaviour of the children on and off the interview. While all of them are very open and bubbly in the first movie, the real exhibition of candid, honest and innocence, the second movie which has been shot at the middle of their teens express some of them understanding and forming opinions about life and couple of them extremely shy. The concept of improvisation during documentary making is evident when interviewing Suzy, one of the female participants. When she is interviewed in her yard, her dog hunts a Rabbit and without any hesitation, the camera focuses on that. They immediately ask her reaction on how she feels on the death of the Rabbit. This one particular instance promises lot more to come in the further series.

Rest of the series and the recent addition “49 Up” are in line in the queue of mine to watch. Even though there are not much of detailed observations per se in depth, the coming stages in life in all of them are the one which are extremely fragile at the same time powerful, deviant yet straightening the life, complex yet lucid destiny and journey to different places, people and themselves.

Addressing me myself a lot in this review is the clear mark of what “The Up Series” makes the viewer too. How was I when I was seven or fourteen? How were you?