Sunday, March 18, 2007

"The Station Agent" (2003) - Movie Review

“Loneliness is much better when you have got someone to share it with”. This is the tag line for the movie “The Station Agent”, directed by Thomas McCarthy. I have never seen a movie whose story or movie making goes well with the tag line they derived or so to say it has not impressed me, as much as “The Station Agent” does. The movie stars Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale.

Independent movies most of the times go with the suburbs rather than the city. So does this movie. It is my opinion that it brings out lot of introspection to oneself or it seems that one would have lot of time to think things over. Independent movies bring out those times to think. Watching movies like this creates an environment around the audience, which has those moments of happiness, still with some underlying sadness. There will be instances of silences with the images staying still or with some uninteresting actions as it may look like. But after time pass by, those still images of uninteresting actions brings peace and meanings, so much more than dozens of dialogues. Take the character of Fin (Peter Dinklage), a man of very few words. There is definitely the anger and pain in his eyes of appearing different, but still keeps it entirely within him. He has given up with people and he does not want any more opportunity to get hurt. He keeps everything straight and never tries to strike a conversation. Still, he is a good listener. In those silent nodding and the looks, he invites the other person to flow everything and they do not expect an answer from him. They want him to listen and that’s exactly what he does. To explain that character by dialogues is absurd and those images and actions aid in understanding Fin.

When Fin is occupied in his whole world of trains, there is Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), who has her own grievance, maybe an unknown guilt of losing her son couple of years ago. The pain of looked upon and pitied is not been tolerated by her which drives her to the suburbs of no one. She meets Fin and able to identify the pain with him. Fin who is a good listener of course gets those and connects in the most silent way possible. There is a sequence wherein Olivia trying to break away the awkward silence tells that they can eat without talking. And Fin says yes to it. This is the strangest agreement in between two people dining together. That moment defines their connection. Those are the moments, any one can who is watching this film can expect.

When there is this two characters of this kind, there needs another one to counter those. Enters Joe (Bobby Cannavale), a talkative and strangely interesting guy, who has a mobile hot dog vending van. He is full of life. He extracts the essence of happiness with almost everyone. He looks forward in knowing everyone and especially a reserved person like Fin. He is the person whom will not like him for being very talkative, but given a chance of letting him in their zone, will create those joyous moments for them. Joe believes in forming the bridge of party in between these two. His action of taking something granted is vividly cute and funny.

These three find something common in between them. They do not much know about it, but they do enjoy each other’s company. They do not openly convey it but they do it in their actions. While Fin and Olivia have their own form of entertaining themselves, Joe gets joy in participating in those with them.

The movie tangos with the emotions, but performs it as a silent recital. It is refreshing to see the greeneries and the deserted train depot. It brings in the warmth in the air which some time gets missed in these three characters. The train forming the theme and backdrop for this unique movie is another interesting factor. Watching trains go by is interesting and even though I knew it, this movie brought out and made me think of my days in those tracks, when I was a high school kid. Walking in it and playing around when the train comes are some sick fun, I used to have. It is quite thoughtful and magnificent that the movie focuses to bring in that novelty in to it.

“The Station Agent”, is a view on solitude. In the middle of these three characters, they do share their loneliness. It is unbelievable to bring in the element of solitude in a movie with three characters, who become friends. The movie ends with the note of their blossoming of friendship to one more level. “The Station Agent” is where all the members of the audience, take time away from their friends and families to enjoy the solitude with the company of Fin, Olivia and Joe.

"Find Me Guilty" (2006) - Movie Review

Coming as an extreme stunt junkie and also a quick witted guy in “XXX”, Vin Diesel brings in a stellar performance as Jackie DeNorscio in “Find Me Guilty”, directed by Sidney Lumet. The film is about the real life trial which indicted all the organized crime members is the longest trial in the US History.

Jackie DeNorscio (Vin Diesel) already been convicted for other charges, is doing his 30 years time in prison. In the process of nailing down the family of organized crimes, the US government brings all the members in it through RICO Act. Having been almost rejected by the boss of the family, Jackie wants to show his “love” as he says. He fires his lawyer and takes the responsibility on his own for defending him. There are rests of other lawyers who are defending other members and the main anchor of all, Ben Klandis (Peter Dinklage), who believes the unusual style of Jackie, may very well bring some good to their case. The film mainly projects on the court scene happenings.

The film is sensitive in bringing in an unusual sympathy for the defendants. While it may appear clear that everyone is guilty of what they did with “lot of Scorcese movies” as witness, the benefit of doubt clouds surfaces over the air. In the midst of thinking about it, it can be realized that director is not trying to take sides out here, but to give the character state of Jackie. His life is his family and friends. Jackie considers this trial as for him to reconnect with the missing element lying for so many years with the other members in his family. As he says, “I love you all guys”, he tries to bridge in with them. The story is about how regardless of all the elements of breaking the law, Jackie still respects the family and his will to not give them up. The film portrays on his character on defining loyalty beyond any reason of doubt. Even though he gets insulted and demeaned by his boss, he does not take it as a chance to play it against the case.

Sidney Lumet is good in bringing the best out of any actor. His intention of letting the actor take the center stage with scenes revolving around him to work the character as well as the story has once again not let him down. The narration style is straight forward and right to the point. Since the movie focuses essentially on the trial, there gets little time to know the “real” Jackie or the one who has been accused of breaking the law on many levels. In fact, they do not show it for the reason for not taking away the empathy of the audience. They place the camera in various unconventional positions to encompass the whole court room and make the audience to be present in the place. The utilization of Jazz music for the film adds up the mood of comic and old times.

Vin Diesel is the surprise package for sure. People who have witnessed him in all action films may have also noticed his touch of delivering the comic sarcasm with amazing timing. Jackie is filled with that and he moulds in the character with nice clarity and execution style. Before I sat for the movie, I had hard time believing Vin Diesel doing a performance of slightly older guy with no “action” sequences. He delivers one of his best performances and I am hoping to see him give a lot like this in future. There are two other performances which support Vin Diesel. Peter Dinklage as Ben Klandis and Linus Roache as Sean Kirney, the public prosecutor. Linus nails the sequence of enacting his frustration and agony in which, when his assistant informs that one juror thinks Jackie is cute, proves his presence in the movie. Peter as Ben continuously supporting Jackie in a under toned way and also toning him down when it is needed, also brings in the performance very much needed for the film.

The film may definitely bring in sympathy for Jackie. The question to be asked of course is this, is the movie anywhere trying to prove that he is not guilty? And the answer is No. The film never mentions about it and the verdict stands for itself. This film as said earlier is not about whether Jackie and rest of the others are guilty or not. Rather this movie is about Jackie’s last chance to show his fellow men and family that he deserves to be loved by them. This movie rides on the concept of “love”, as he says in the most unusual way at the unusual circumstances. It brings the subtle truth of humans, that who ever it maybe, they need to be loved. Rejection is not an easy thing to digest and the desperation of Jackie is what the movie is about. It is surprising that how come such a character of will and loyalty able to break the law. Humans are complicated as Jackie and his wits and “gagster” techniques definitely came handy for this trial.

“Find Me Guilty” as a movie is an interesting display of trial and gangster flicks. It gives the affection of man who lost almost everything, but not ready to lose his loyalty and the fact of being still accepted in a group he has spent his entire lives with. “Find Me Guilty” title meant as if Jackie is challenging the government of finding him guilty when I was about to watch the movie and came out with a totally different meaning at the end of it. Watch it to know it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Serpico" (1973) - Movie Classics

A Gun shop owner asks Serpico, “That gun takes a 14 shot clip. You expecting an army?”, and Serpico replies, “No. Just a division.” In reality, he was truly expecting an army. An army of corrupt police officers who were ready to eliminate him for being a “cop”. I did not mention “an honest cop” for the reason that being a cop that gets attached automatically. “Serpico” directed by Sidney Lumet, stars Al Pacino as Frank Serpico who as a single man was against the corrupt system of police in the city of New York.

A police car carrying a shot Serpico and the policemen informs the necessary people over intercom that they are heading to the hospital. A police officer in a precinct receives a phone and says to other fellow men that Serpico got shot. The other officer asks whether the cops shot him and the reply is that he knows seven to eight of them who wanted to. This is the message which resonates in rest of the movie. Frank Serpico gets out of academy in sole intention of serving the city. He gets in the middle of politics of who is getting the “collar” and the jurisdiction. He gets out of the initial posting to finger print division where he is getting accused of performing sexual activities with another colleague wherein reality they were just gazing out the window. He gets frustrated and gets transfer to another division. First day, he gets a cover with money inside. From there on, he fights till the end to pass it on to the superiors and make it clean. Everyone makes big promises at the start and shows up with invisible words in a few days.

In the meanwhile, he gets anxious and tension mounts in him. He is wandering among the individuals whom he is informing about. One day or other, they are going to realize it, and then, he knows that things are going to turn ugly. He is frustrated inside out and gets beyond control. He is not able to have a solid personal life due to these incidents of dishonesty. He finds solace among animals who does not know the meaning of all these. The film is the time compression bringing the slice of a cop’s life who got aimed by hundreds of guns from his fellow men, got rooted out of his personal life and living with the frustration of helpless ness. This is Serpico.

It was a time when “Godfather” got out with guns blaring and Al Pacino wanted to come out as an individual character from the shadows of those. He wanted a character. Frank Serpico would have felt proud about Pacino’s performance. Every movie Pacino comes along, he makes sure to nail down one particular scene. Be it the final speech in “Scent of a Woman” or the confronting his colleague and breaking the windshield of a car in “….And Justice For All”. All of those were just the followers of the sequence of locking up the character of Corsaro and the viewers realize that it all started in “Serpcio”. This is Pacino, young and vibrant. He comes with the strange costumes and it is sheer presence of magnetism. I cannot imagine anyone ever even trying to play Serpico again in this life. That character belongs to Pacino and it would rest with him forever.

Sidney Lumet in his intereview says that they were running on a deadline of December and they started shooting around July. Hence, they needed to do most of the post production simultaneously which was the only way to meet the deadline. While it would have been one hell of five months, it brought out the best in all of them. It is a period of five years and bringing it in a matter of two hours becomes critical. It is critical due to the amount of substance it lights on. There needs to be so many events which need to be encompassed in this battle of honesty. Bringing in the mean streets of New York with punching dialogues is what this film offers.

This film is the presence of honesty in this world. This movie shows the ordeal went through by a cop who was never letting his character get in the dirt. When his girl friend breaks up with him in a café, she says that he will be fine “unattached” so that he can fight his cause. Al Pacino as Serpico gives a reaction saying, “My Cause” and that means a lot. The whole movie gets concentrated in those two words. It is not a cause of him but this is how the system should work. It is not a cause of going brave and getting shields. It is about doing a job with righteousness and conscience. These two does not get defined by one’s cause but it gets defined in the actions of the people in a job involving responsibility of guarding the people in its city. I am not sure how much “takes” that particular sequence of two words took, but it is where the focal point of movie lies and it is brilliant.

“Serpico” got its recognition of being real and true to its facts. Sidney Lumet definitely does justice to the character which I guess the real “Serpico” would have acknowledged too. The film maybe looked upon on two angles. Firstly is, being honest is all suffering and the second is, being honest is how to live. Both are right, but what can be defined as “suffering”. The following conversation brought to attention by my friend Nagesh from the book, “To Kill a Mocking Bird” would help in explaining it. Here it goes,

Scout: Well, most folks seem to think they're right and you're wrong.... Atticus: They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.

Live with yourself is what “Serpico” is. At the end of the film, maybe “Serpico” got shot and left with a future outside of his country where he lived in for most of his life, but he is a man who lives with himself without any problems. He has no one to fear. That is the freedom one cannot imagine, unless they decide to live, with themselves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Merry Christmas" (Language - French/German/English/Latin) (2005) - Movie Review

There have been tons of war movies with messages. It is also evident that violence is taken as the prime medium to even boost up the preaching of anti-war. There is definitely nothing wrong in it, but bringing out a message stronger than the movies with gore in it by unconventional yet truthful harmony of humanity is an unusual welcome for the movie industry. Here comes, “Merry Christmas” directed by Christian Carion which accomplishes it without any problems. Before I even get into the details of the movie, I would like to say that this is one of the best (anti) war movies I have ever seen in my entire life till date (I believe that I may get lost in praising the movie and forget to tell this).

The film is set during the World War – I. There is focus on four to five characters even though the film is on broader range than those few. The Scottish, the Germans and the French are lined up to fire upon each other. It is December and it is Christmas. All the soldiers get reminded of their life before the war. Then there is the famous singer who comes all the way to the front line to visit her singing husband. This is where all the magical things start to happen. I would not want to spoil the unimaginable joyful thing happening in the movie and I leave it to the viewers to watch it. Having said that, I will focus on the performances and a few of the various important contents conveyed by the movie.

Diane Kruger plays as Anna Sorensen who comes all the way to get that one night with her husband who is a singer as like her in the front line. She is convincing as the opera singer passionate for her art and love. Benno Fürmann as Sprink, husband of Anna is inspiring and bold. He is there against his conviction and does not shy to show it to the authorities. He forms the genesis of the magical moment in that “Silent Night”. Guillaume Canet as Lieutenant Audebert, Gary Lewis as Palmer, Daniel Brühl as Horstmayer and the actor playing the Scottish Captain honour their roles.

The technical department of the film underplays on purpose for the importance of the content. They do not try anything fancy but at the same time support the situations and sequences in a mellowed fashion. In a trend of complex screenplays, non-linear editing and breath taking visuals, these technicians appreciate the content of the movie and decide to tone it down to brighten the concepts.

There lies this beauty to this art which makes most of the people to forget their origins, beliefs and cause in a particular place. It is no surprise that this film embraced this technique. The surprising news is that it all happens in the most unusual place, the war zone. It can be argued that there will not be a better place to forget all the pains and fears through art in any situation, but is it possible for it to eradicate the hatred ness and of all the bullet fires all together for a few moments? The film gives the answer and it is based on the true events which happened all around the war zone during those times. Films like these not only give hope on the movie industry but also the factor of having those creators in this world. “Merry Christmas” is a movie which is profound and touching. It reminds us of our emotions. “Letters from Iwo Jima” gave a different perspective on war with respect to the oppositions and the feeling of humanity in everyone. “Merry Christmas” came in 2005 and it does the same but in the most heart warming fashion any one could imagine. In a world wherein there is not a day goes by without the news channel informing about the brutal calamity caused by the hatred of war and this film could not have come at any better time than ever. This film reminds all that regardless of time and advanced technology, the situation and the butchering of humanity still remains the same. Regardless of that, there is an emotion being attached among us which needs to be tapped to show our feelings for fellow men and women. “Merry Christmas” is a movie which cannot be engulfed in any reviews or awards. This movie while more than deserves its appreciation should be a mandatory watch for all the people in this world. “Merry Christmas” is the time for the celebration to embark on a journey filled with love and art to remind us our reason to live, which is “to live”.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

"Breach" (2007) - Movie Review

He goes to church almost daily. He does not drink. He is terse and aware of his surroundings more than anyone in a place. This is the Robert Hanssen, Chris Cooper is portraying for the movie “Breach” directed by Billy Ray, which is based on the true events of the secretive operation of Eric O’ Neill of FBI to nail him down for his compromise of classified materials and human lives against US Government.

Billy Ray is very good at bringing out the official environments of peculiar places. He was able to bring out the press ambience in “Shattered Glass”. He does it here with a different touch of thriller with psychological chess game in between two equally skilled agents. The viewers see the then US Attorney General, John Ashcroft addressing the press revealing the security breach which had been going on. He also announces that the person in the FBI, Robert Hanssen has been arrested for the same. The movie then goes back two months and shows ambitious Eric O’ Neill (Ryan Phillipe) getting briefed by Agent Burroughs to collect details and evidence against Robert Hanssen for being a “sexual deviant” which would cause embarrassment for the bureau. Of course Eric questions back after a while, on what exactly they are investigating Robert for. The remaining movie deals with how Robert and Eric play this unknown game of suspicion, betrayal and courage.

The film races on with consistent fall of events. Chris Cooper nails the character and brings in the untold doubting radar in Robert. He has eyes in back of his head. He is under constant wariness and alert. He never gives out any piece of slightest doubt to Eric. He behaves as a regular retiring FBI agent who complains that he never got the appreciation he deserves. He is phenomenally religious and unbelievably creepy. He likes Eric due to his technical skills and also that he is “Catholic”. Eric on the other hand is the young aspirant who is waiting for his promotion as an Agent in the bureau. He agrees the assignment with some concerns but hopes that obeying the superiors would bring some good to his career. Once he gets to know what he is really into, he plays all his cards. He profiled Robert better and deceives him in his own style. At any point of time, he does now let loose of his anxiety or pressure inside him to show up. The film never slows down at all. There is always this air of thousand eyes in the screen which makes the viewer to be on watch always. As the movie involves the game of deception, they made sure it is played with right mix of entertainment reality.

Chris Cooper is brilliant as usual. He is able to fit in the suit of agency employee with convenience. At the initial sequence, the viewers may get the tone of him being a tight guy with no liking for anyone. Immediately after some couple of sequences, he amazingly gives the character this outline of unknowingly trusting the character of Eric. Chris Cooper comes out with great emphatic colours to fill in the screen with the unusual liking for this demoniac secretive character. After the movie, the viewers realize that they did not like the character but the man who gave the best performance of his acting skills. Ryan Phillipe comes with an impressive role play of Eric O’ Neill who is mounting the pressure both in his professional and personal life. Somewhere in the middle of the movie, his eyes tone down. That represents the internal war of the character to hide the most crucial factor which hangs his marriage on the edge. Laura Linney as Agent Burroughs adds the authority trust to character of Eric similar to what Martin Sheen does in “The Departed”. Support cast did well with Dennis Haybert, Caroline Dhavernas and Kathleen Quinlan.

There is lot of strong sequences in the movie which captures the dialogues exhibiting the stand of characters. The film says that nothing is as it seems. Along with Eric, the viewers initially doubt on whether the FBI is trying to remove Robert. Knowing that he is the “bad guy”, the viewers know and Eric is given the idea of, the movie seeds those doubts even with the truth out of the bag. The film conveniently hides some nice value related concepts here and there. Close watch would bring the concept of purpose of life, the art of quitting and the action-consequences of one person. The “Why”, most of the times do not make sense in a situation especially like this. The movie is not a search of “Why” but “How”. It is “how” Robert fell for his own actions. It is the truth that everyone needs to pay their dues for their actions of betrayal. The “Why” may bring in the answers for picking oneself up from the ditches of sins but there is always limits.

“Breach” is not only entertaining but gives the horrific truth about on how one can easily exchange lives for a silent war fare. It warns that it is not always what it looks like on the common actions of a person.

"The Astronaut Farmer" (2007) - Movie Review

When someone says that they want to launch a rocket in their backyard and the person seems to be around the age of 40, there goes all alarms. It is a nice fantasy filled dare of Charlie Farmer in the movie, “The Astronaut Farmer” that he wants to launch a rocket in his barn. Billy Bob Thornton plays Charlie Farmer, Virginia Madsen as his wife Audie and there are all the regular people who play the “head” of any government agency.

Charlie Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) who had all the trainings to be an astronaut is not in military. He is looking after his ranch and leading a happy family life. He nurtures the family with his dream of traveling in space and quite literally builds the dream in his property. The movie starts off when Charlie is trying to purchase a sufficient amount of fuel. This rings up bells for the US government. Then they come to discourage and everyone discourages but his family supports, he gives up and gets encouragement and….That’s it. The viewers are smart enough to get all the details which are not spread out here.

Some call it “October Sky – Part – II” but it does not even come near to the movie starring Jake Gyllenhall as the young kid who fights his life of flying rockets in the middle of a nowhere coal mines. Granted that this movie surges itself to promote aspirations, dreams and hope. Everyone knows it and aware of it, and also seen tons of other movie projecting those brilliantly. The film fails not due to the fact of improper movie making but it is an ordinary film making. It is extremely ordinary. In fact, with sufficient movie watching experience, some regular movie goers could easily guess the next line coming out of some character. Predictability is enjoyed when it is welcomed for some relief in a tight intense circle of events. The movie fails to create that at various instances. In the middle of it, there was a very nice surprise but it lasted for ten minutes and faded off.

Billy Bob Thornton as Charlie Farmer is very good as the loving and inspiring father but not able to bring out the Astronaut in him. For some reason, the viewers always gets the feeling that this guy does not know what he is doing, but the whole movie gives proof that he has sufficient knowledge in all of it. It is quite a strange sensation to have that even after so much substantiation. Virginia Madsen fits the character picture perfect. Right combination of beautiful and charming wife, who is also a loving mother, provides nice opportunity for her to perform. She does well. I did not know that Hollywood too has some “surprise actor” formula attached to its movie now a day. Bruce Willis is the winner for the guest star and there is no proper reason for him to be in this movie.

Editing – Ordinary, Music – Ordinary, Screenplay – Predictably Ordinary.

“The Astronaut Farmer” could have been an inspiring and goose pump invoking film as that of “October Sky”. Even with all the ordinary features, it could have sailed on to reach far beyond the skies if the director of the movie Michael Polish would have employed some novel methods. The movie is not bad but it is bland. Bland to the core.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"300" (2006) - Movie Review

It is strange how blood shown at different circumstances brings out entirely different meaning to a presentation. I was constantly pestered with the spillage of meaningless blood in “Sin City”, from Frank Miller’s graphic novel and now the same shedding of blood from the very same creator in his other creation “300” taking the screens, brings in “glory” as it says. “300” directed by Zack Snyder is a close match presentation of the graphic novel by Frank Miller and his visuals on Battle of Thermopylae. It stars Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Vincent Regan and various other casts.

The film is how 300 Spartans led by their King Leonidas blocked the entry of the Persians into the Greek city states. It appears simply enough to explain the film in one sentence, but it is not. The film is how it has been presented. The adaptation of the comic which I can imagine would have given the exact idea of what needs to be put on the screen. The film kicks in with the narration of how Leonidas and rest of the other Spartan are brought up. They fight. Period. They are how the history has defined them as “Warriors”. The film is in the B.C and hence there is all chaos to acquire the world. It is time for acquiring land and wealth. It is the time when men were measured mostly by their sharpness of the sword along with their stable mind to execute it at the right moment. Leonidas is sent a messenger who appears more than a threaten by the Xerxes who informs Leonidas to surrender to him. Leonidas with calculated thought dismisses him, in a fashion anyone will dare to imagine that would happen to a messenger. With open invitation for war, he has some hesitations and his queen clarifies his definition of responsibility through freedom. Despite “bad omen”, he gathers 300 of his finest soldiers to block the entry of the Persians which leads to his city. The film then details and picturizes the battle of those 300 soldiers through out of the world graphics and visuals, the film world has experienced in recent days.

There needs to be no more appreciation than the trailers setting the standard on what to expect and the way they deliver it. “Sin City” exactly brought the comic book effect on to the screen but bringing something like that for this creation would have been more of erasing the significance of the content. It needs to be a nice blend of reality with some imaginative details and also within its limit. Since the viewers enter the movie hall expecting gore, they have stretched it a little bit more. It is agreeable since it is what it was. The difference between “Sin City” and “300” is that the situation plays a significant role in bringing out the red ness on screen. Moreover, there seem to be amazing justice done in showing those graphic details to pump the adrenaline in viewers when it is down. It assists them in imagining how it would have been for those brave soldiers to be in the midst of that shower of arrows. The entire technical department gets their attention in this film and I bow for their creative diligence to make this movie an experience.

As for the content, it is blood and rampage. The main point of freedom which has been presented in zillions of war movies takes its place out here too. It is another depiction of how “Freedom” inspires and values the human. This art work while may not preach the honour and values, the viewers will experience the meaning of sacrifice and courage. While it is pinching to learn that our ancestors were fighting for land and the war is still going on, the film peeks into the hearts of those men with spears.

Gerard Butler as Leonidas has knocked out the role. He brings in the frame and stature of a King. His smile and sharp eyes speaks louder than words. He is calm when he needs to and punches the screen when he needs to. He is a definite actor to watch for. The rest of the cast support him in all levels. There are some memorable performances for sure but Gerard takes the center stage and has cling to the character strongly.

The first one hour is gripping and chilling. The sequence of their first stand of 300 towards their enemies is brilliant and pumps the viewers’ blood. The film brought all the ingredients well for an entertainment in a total creative and new style in that one hour. After that, the viewers are over fed. Somewhere down the line the viewers gets used to the novel factor. Once the film reaches that point, there seems to be some uneasiness in the members of the audience. They want the movie to end and it is visible that the director wanted it too and got mildly out of the way. It is not the argument of having a different ending, since it is history and facts. It is the handling of it. The opening created so much display of treat; the film misses to capture the same momentum by a nano second. The urgency of the viewers is quite evident when I witnessed most of them got out of seat pretty fast. There was a difference in their reaction as I have seen for other movies.

Apart from that small glitch during the end, “300” is a must see. It is not recommended for its so-called preaching of courage or zest for war. It is suggested for its different movie making with respect to visual style and presentation. It is strongly recommended as it is an experience rather than a story.

"Black Snake Moan" (2006) - Movie Review

Bringing up two entirely different people of different age and back ground to gel to form a bond has been in the field of movie for many years. The directors are able to bring the flavour and profound ness in it now and then with success. There was “Good Will Hunting” with a psychologist who connects with a tough and brilliant kid. There was “Finding Forrester” in which another young brilliant boy helps and gets help to and from an old famous writer. It is strange that Gus Van Sant was able to produce those films very successfully. While in both the movies all the characters wanted to help each other there always had this internal self achievement to themselves and “Black Snake Moan” is different in that. The characters in the movie do not act on what they need in life, rather they believe the life is like this and it should happen in a certain right manner. Some of them give up and others try to keep the “given ups” running. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci and Justin Timberlake, “Black Snake Moan” is directed by Craig Bewer.

Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) feels he has hit dead end when his wife leaves him for his brother. Rae (Christina Ricci) is hit back with her child hood sexual abuse when her boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) goes to army and she is alone. Both of them are a mess. Rae could not control her urges to suffice her unknown sexual tendencies while Lazarus is trying to get back to the peace which has been swept off. These extreme far end characters in a different plane get to meet and rest is the movie.

Laz is a god fearing blues guitarist who feels pressure and confusion due to some continuous preaching from Reveren R.L (John Cothran Jr.). When Laz meets the injured and disturbed Rae, he wants to change her. There is good will in doing it, but it is mainly to bring his life to normal too. Laz thinks that changing her will in turn bring some good things in his life. He feels he can find some answers to the questions which are not there at all. He just reacts to the situation and hence helps her. Rae on the other hand is confused and got so deep in to the ditch that there is no remorse. She got so injured with the guilt surrounding her further that she could not even see herself in the mirror. Both of them have nothing in common. The viewers constantly expect the worst to happen for some reason. Maybe the Hollywood movies have tuned movies like this so hard in viewers’ mind that all they need is a bad to worse situation. The movie needs to be appreciated for not letting it into further miserable situations. On the other hand it does not give the contention of everything is fine scenario too.

The film starts off with a slow note and rides on it very fine. There are no intense moments or startling twists. It is plain and simple hot atmosphere in which the viewers wait for these two characters to meet. The movie progresses at a pace wherein nothing is comfortable yet sub consciously likeable. The film is bland for definite but there is a reason for it. The character back ground and their knowledge makes them low toned and submissive. The movie circles in between the reality and the cinematic boosted sentiments in very close range. This makes it a little bit touchy and rest less during the sequences of start and then somewhere in the middle of it.

There are two things in movie which bring out the best. First is Samuel L. Jackson as a man in a confused state of mind after his wife leaves him and he showcases his talent for acting. He demonstrates that he can ride on both worlds of illogical high entertainment and high caliber character movies. Second is the usage of Blues as the theme for the movie. I have not listened to Blues but the movie made sure that I will be exploring the unusual tone of it, after watching it. Dead on soundtrack and do watch out when Samuel L. Jackson loosens himself on the stage in the club. Christina Ricci as Rae is wickedly cute. She is able to bring in the disturbed kid into this messed up young girl Rae. She brings the broken bridge, Rae is walking on. Playing Rae as a kid who knows what she is doing with the guilt eating her inside is not an easy walk and Christina is able to handle it nicely. The weakest link and a man out of place in this movie is Justin Timberlake as Ronnie. There is a prejudiced opinion that he is not able to act but the problems for him go beyond that. There are some evidences of improvement in him but he needs to work hard and it means “real” hard. The character of Ronnie may not have the essential substance but it definitely compliments the character of Rae. Justin was not able to compliment that well.

The viewers neither love the film nor hate it. The film’s atmosphere is hot and humid while the content is humid all the way. The director did not want to concentrate on the child hood tortures of Rae but points out that a couple of days of listening ears would do a lot of good for her. As a movie, “Black Snake Moan” rides on the shoulders of Samuel L. Jackson and he took the responsibility well. But the film falls short as one which would not give the feeling of lingering in the viewers mind after they come out of the movie hall. There is couple of sequences which balances those factors, but those couple does not elevate the movie as it would have been. The film is a good attempt but not a great one.

Friday, March 09, 2007

"Crank" (2006) - Movie Review

When I watched the trailer of “Crank” a few months ago, I was all pumped up to watch it. I was not able to view it in the theatres and hence immediately put it in my queue of DVD list. It was Friday and I had the DVD. I removed the logical part of my brain to view the fast paced non-stop action thriller, “Crank”. And then it happened. I got fooled by the trailer. “Crank” directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor stars Jason Statham and Amy Smart.

Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) gets injected by a potent and weird Chinese medicine. As usual, the people who wants him dead, need some fun and provide a nice opportunity to make a professional hitman go crazy. Hence instead of shooting him in the head while he is sleeping, they inject him with some crazy drug. The drug “supposedly” slows down his heart and the only way for him to stay alive is to keep the adrenaline rush consistent. The simplest of all things to achieve it is to “Run” but Chev has other plans. He wants to get vengeance and make “love” to his girl friend in front of some 200 people.

“Crank” is the typical example of how a nice plot can be butchered by worst possible direction and screenplay. Adding to it, they mix it up with out of place soundtrack. The story plot definitely had the three main ingredients to keep the viewers glued to the seats – Action, fast pace and some kick ass dark comedy. They had all the right intentions of delivering those but the translation of plot into a screenplay failed. It is not failure as is in “failure”. It is a failure as in “FAILURE”. Something went horribly wrong and the viewers are puzzled on what exactly they want to achieve.

The viewers may not need to understand what kind of person Chev is, but at least there needs to be some justification for his actions. He kicks off the TV screen after seeing he was poisoned. Typical. The antagonist laughs with suppressing his anger seeing his brother’s hand. Typical. Trying to have a dark comedy to pep up the pace. Typical. Of all the ways to pump adrenaline, Chev blows up things, stands on a bike and falls, get shot in his butt and wage a fight against a group of armed men in a club – Not Typical, but horrible.

Jason Statham wanted to maintain his “Transporter” image and tries to incorporate it with some crazy screeching shouts and stern responses. It is either that the characterization was not proposed to him in a proper manner or he did not want to shed his hard and fast character of “Transporter”. Amy Smart as Eve has nothing to do but aimlessly satisfy her boyfriend. “Paper thin characters” are said when the characters have no explanation or conviction for their actions, but the characters in “Crank” roam around like a headless duck.

I do not know who made the trailer for this but they did an amazing job. If it was shot by the directors, then they have the right solid intentions to give a solid entertainer but everything went wrong during the process of “Crank”. If it is shot by some one else, then the movie should have been directed by them. “Crank” is a disappointment.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" (Language - German) (2005) - Movie Review

I mentioned in my review for the movie “Amazing Grace”, that a character says that when people talk about bravery, peaceful person is rarely mentioned and Sophie Scholl is one such person. “Sophie Scholl : The Final Days” directed by Marc Rothemund is the encounters of Sophie Scholl during her last days, who along with her brother Hans Scholl and friend Christopher Probst were convicted of high treason by the then “People’s Court” of Hitler. Julia Jenstch portrays Sophie Scholl while Fabien Hinrichs plays as her brother Hans Scholl.

The viewers see Sophie singing with her friend happily for a song. The year is 1943 and it is the war at its peak. She then realizes its getting late and heads to a studio wherein along with her brother and some friends they post leaflets carrying contents opposing the war conducted by Hitler. They plan to distribute them in the university they are attending. They believe that would open the eyes of the youth and would join hands with them and also with their organization “White Rose” to end the war. The remaining movie is what happens to them when they distribute those leaflets and the consequences of it.

While the film has brilliant sequences of taking the viewers to edge of their seats during their distribution of leaflets in the university, then in the interrogation of Sophie with the inspector Sophie marked with pace and pulse, the real movie hits everyone hard during the final thirty minutes. The words and expressions of Sophie along with her brother and friend is the most moving emotion expressed. Sophie is not afraid and her intelligence is compelling when she handles Inspector Mohr. She does not panic or neither does she gets into the edge of disturbance. She knows what she is doing. They have calculated everything. They knew the consequences and the worst is nothing but living in a society of wrong conscience and disrespect for fellow human beings. There is the charm in her eyes and submerged confident smile in the corner of her lips. Even when she is ripped of the lies she tried to cover things up, she comes out firing with calm expositions of ideas. She does not argue or accuse strongly. She states the mental states of a human in a dominated narrow minded society. The argument of “Law and Order” against conscience is the one of high points in the movie. The film is the expert handling of how freedom was and how it was tortured and ripped away from a twenty one year old girl along with most of the other people in the country. The movie shows that the difference among all the people is the courage and conscience it took for her and her organization to wake up the people. The power of conscience with simple words but strong thoughts. The concept of peace and the proceedings of performing it in the same way.

Julia Jenstch brings out the Sophie Scholl in herself. There is no way one can bring out the ideas and courage in words as her unless she wore those concepts in her mind. The act of handling the character in a tender age and yet the bravery to face the terror is magnificent. The restrained sorrow and fear are enacted with calculated precision by her. The second in the list is the Gerald Alexander Held playing the Inspector Mohr. He pities Sophie but cannot able to come out of the blinding mask of convictions imposed by the society developed by Hitler. He wants to prove her wrong and save herself and in turn convince himself. The untold psychological war between him and Sophie is the scenes to watch for his enigmatic and thoughtful portrayal of the character.

What does “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days” offers to the viewers? What does it offer apart from brilliantly occupying the viewers by their seats? It is plain and simple; Freedom. The idea of freedom which had been mishandled and shattered by the mindless molded people. It is the display of nerves been altered to believe the unbelievable. The film is the example of peace. It is the solution not only to the war but to the process of stopping it. Sophie Scholl was young and influenced. It is not that she was made to believe in peace, but it was her experience and by it her own independent decision. She knew how it is and she wanted the people of Germany to feel the same. The film exactly brings out that in heart shaking dialogues and excellent acting.

The film has minimal locations and within that confined piece of area, they rattle the camera work to apply the maximum use of it. They swing back and forth between the characters during interrogation with such ease that the viewers are placed in between them. The placement of lightings to get the best complexion of reactions and the editing to assist those come with unison. They struck so well and as the viewers are enjoying those, the screenplay with its impressive dialogues lifts it to further heights of mesmerizing tones.

“Sophie Scholl: The Final Days” is a film of exemplary employment of peace. It is the depiction of how age does not attach to wisdom and the idea of conscience. It is the functionality of how education should and be addressed. It is the power of strong and peaceful words. It is how Sophie Scholl with her minimal time in a world of suppressed ideas tore the sheets of hatred with peace and through her life.

Monday, March 05, 2007

"Sin City" (2005) - Movie Review

When “Kill Bill – Vol. 1” came with bright stars and strong direction of Quentin Tarantino, I was thrilled to see it. While I liked the way the movie was made, I did not like the blood it splattered all over the place. Then came, “Kill Bill – Vol. 2” and I loved it. The characters were developed and well made. It was a treat to watch the last 15 minutes in it. Here comes, “Sin City” and similar to “Kill Bill – Vol. 1”, I did like the way the movie was made, for its visuals and narration style, but the blood bath was unnecessary even with a “Graphic Novel” tagged attached to it.

Frank Miller’s graphic novel, “Sin City” takes the screen form with the assistance of Robert Rodriguez and special guest director Quentin Tarantino. There are four segments with common characters and lots of blood in between them. The movie kicks off with Josh Hartnett playing a hitman, followed by the rescue mission of Hartigan to save a little girl and then later goes on with the savage vengeance of Marv (Mickey Rourke) for his one night love Goldie (Jaime King). After those segments come how Dwight McCarthy (Clive Owen) joins hands with his ex-girlfriend Gail (Rosario Dawson) to save the truce which exists between the Police and the brave prostitutes. To its finale, the movie goes back to the start of finishing of the broken first segment. All these depict how the Basin City, nick named Sin City is flooded with corruption, murder and mayhem. There are tons of stars and bodies falling from all places in the movie.

The film is the presentation of how a new narration of a story can be done. The movie is the clear portrayal of how the current technology in film industry can be employed to give the novel and creative experience to the audience. “Sin City” opens the doors to the world of digital movie making on to a new level. The detailing of the screen, pixel by pixel to the finest shine possible, provides one of the best visual experiences anyone could have watched. The shady lights, the glossy skins, the selective colours to come out and excellent execution of the comic onto screen are the courses for getting the best out of the technology. The characters are shady and fearless. They show emotions in and out of them. There is solidity in those blood seeking paper thin characters. After a point of time, the viewers just sit back and watch. They get used to the mindless killings and colourless blood. The viewers somehow become numb to all the graphics after a point of time. Is this due to the fact of how well the movie has been executed? Maybe. Or is it due to the fact that there is no more to expect out of graphic novel onto the film screen? Maybe. Or is it just the fact that the film invokes so much violence; the viewers are caught by the characters itself? Bingo! Strangely is it the success of the movie or the downfall of it? Yes and No.

I have not read the comic book and the performers bring those in the screen. They give the portrayal of the characters and stay loyal to it (which I assume it is). The movie handles all the characters with equal depth and shallowness as well. Visual may bring out the clarity and experience but editing pieced it together like a perfect match. The score brings out the detective noir experiences which sometimes seem like a spoof.

Film is a medium of art which are used to convey what anyone wants in a most interesting and entertaining way. While it is an absolute freedom of every individual to show case the thoughts, there is a purpose to everything. “Sin City” has the purpose of show casing a city filled with the most atrocious crimes possible. Almost all the characters in the movie get a chance to hold a dead head. It may be compared to the current dark corners in the society but is it a solution or a mere pleasure of giving a graphic content? There are so many questions which need to be asked as regular movie goers.

“Sin City” is definitely a path breaking movie as far as movie making is concerned. It can be even said as the landmark in the execution of a stunning visual display. The harsh truth is that it gets covered in its own mud. There is too much blood and it is just too much. They try to paint it with different colours (quite literally) and yet it never dulls down. All the stories could have been said with little goriness as possible but they stuck loyal to the novel and hence the result.

“Sin City 2” is up next and I am hoping it to be more of characterization as “Kill Bill – Vol. 2” did. I am hoping that Robert Rodriguez with the same employment of skill in this movie brings out the human inside the characters who appear to be merciless blood thirsty beings. While there seems to be couple of characters showing signs of all those, there is so much happening that the viewers miss those essence in the midst of all those. “Sin City” clearly delivers the new style in the movie making as “Pulp Fiction” but sadly falls apart due to blood which comes in different colours with the same sick effect.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

"Brick" (2005) - Movie Review

There are some movies which definitely do not bore the audience but at the end of it, they get out with feeling nothing. Does it mean that the movie is not a good one? Is it bland? While it is arguable, “Brick” falls out in the hard line category of the above mentioned feeling of getting out from it with nothing but a stylishly different film. What makes this movie interesting is to never give the viewers the feeling of restless ness? The style of it is elegant and gauzy. The technicality and the screenplay makes the viewers sit throughout the movie without any problems.

The movie falls into the genre of film noir. The characters are strange and gloomy. They are a puzzle and also the clue forming the film style randomized and gritty. The movie starts of with a high school kid Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) staring at a girl lying motionless in front of a tunnel. The next shot takes the viewers two days back with the girl named Emily (Emile de Ravin) asking help from Brendan who is her ex-boyfriend. Brendan is curious on what is happening with her, since she looks and talks in the most depressing and concerned way. He starts his investigation of what is happening with her. With the sequence of events, the film comes back to the first shot. The movie then deals with how Brendan hunts down who is responsible for his loss.

The film does not offer the luxury of knowing the logic behind the actions. It is quite astonishing and depressing to see high school kids get into the most horrible places. The film is not a definitive messiah of solid contents but is a different kind of entertainer. The appreciation goes for the way the camera has been placed and garbled to get the best out of the little details. The images are crystal clear which is unusual since the chain of events is depressing and dubious. The way the movie takes its form through Brendan getting all geared up with his geeky yet resourceful friend Brain (Matt O’ Leary) is the first time I have witnessed a slow paced picture taking the seriousness on a totally weird and interesting manner.

The film is seemingly heroic and clichéd but the art of shaking things up, quite literally in the screen makes it watchable. The soundtrack brings the dark and disproportionate style of movie making as expected. As said earlier, editing is solid and stylishly shaky. It seems that most of the special effects shots were taken with real time camera shoots rather than computer graphics. It is quite surprising to see something like the editing style been done in the film without any computer edgy gimmicks. The movie screenplay is so dozed off and enjoyably lethargic. The viewers bite their nails in slow motion. The performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Matt O’ Leary stands out among rest of the cast. They are pale and unusually straight forward for the characters they have been given.

Apart from all these, “Brick” does not appeal as a solidly made movie with substance. It is a detective story set in a totally unexpected environment of high school. This is sometimes disturbing but yet the truth. The same story could have been said with any back drop but would have been normal. Hence director Rian Johnson chose the place where no one will try to take detective story, the high school. It is no denial that the movie did not bore me but at the same time it did not interest me in the end as well.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

"Zodiac" (2007) - Movie Review

Before I was about to watch, “Zodiac”, there was a little uncomfortable ness in me. The nudge in my heart was that whether a movie about a serial killer who shook the San Francisco really necessary? The brutal crimes which resulted in ripples of victims with their families suffering for so many years, is to be made at all? Since this is directed by David Fincher who gave cult hit “Fight Club” and nerve racking thrillers such as “Seven” and “The Game”, I had some confidence that my nudge will be cleared off. It did. “Zodiac” excels with terrific presentation and some rigorous extensive search for the souls inside a group of people who dedicated their lives trying to hunt down the killer.

The film starts off with the lovers getting shot by a man in dark in a remote town in 1969. Then the newspaper San Francisco Chronicle receives strange cryptic codes with the letters from the killer himself. In the subsequent further killings and letters to the newspaper, the killer gives himself the name “Zodiac”. Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the cartoonist in the newspaper and silently observes all these and gets himself close with the reporter who is covering it, Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.). Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Inspector William Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) gets assigned to the case when the killing hits the San Francisco main city. Rest of the movie deals with the internal strategies, the strenuous efforts and unusual soul search of Robert Graysmith. This movie is not about the killer. This movie is about the wide spectrum of people who dedicated their career and lives to find the truth.

This is the most truthful and unusual movie in this genre. While “Seven” dealt with the stress and strains of the police officers involved in a serial killer case, “Zodiac” goes beyond that. It brings down the public reaction and how the series of events alters the fulcrum of how a city operates. The story depicts the curiosity of the people who believe that the danger will never strike them and the people who take advantage of it. The political obstacles with respect to the co-ordination of all the killings in different regions, the time progress and the lead investigation, the obsession of one person to find the truth and the search of the conscience in oneself to go for a hunt like this are some of the very few main topics the film offers. The fear the killings brought and the disturbance in a day to day life and as time flies by, it becomes obsolete with being piled up as junk files in some cabinet in a deserted town. The film brings how a gruesome act looses its brutality in the public as the time goes on. How the citizens forget and get delved in their own lives. As it is said in widespread as “Truth is stranger than fiction”, this movie demonstrates it in the most extensive fashion anyone can imagine.

The depth and the labour of the information and extensiveness of the subject are evident throughout the screen. Covering the whole incidents ranging from 1969 till the 90s is an arduous task for any director and this film travels between those in a manner without any disturbance. That reminds anyone on how much work the editing and screenplay would have required. The elimination and addition of the scenes to extract the right contents and formulae to bring out the quality in this movie is simply brilliant.

There are at the least seven to eight main characters in this film and they take on it right in the spots required. Jake Gyllenhaal once again proves his presence. Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards working with each other as partners are unnoticeably interesting. The same chemistry works out in a very mild manner in between the characters of Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery and Jake’s portrayal of Robert Graysmith.

There are brilliant sequences which spits out the sad truth of the progress of the killings and the intense ness in various situations. The viewers are up for the most extensive and in depth investigation portrayed on screen. The viewers feel the tired ness in each character investigating for a long period of time. The viewers get restless as the police officers do. They want an answer for all this senseless crimes. They need to pin down so that they can go home and sleep peacefully. The cop’s sense of satisfaction for their sleep to be justified for making one more night safer for the city and its people. Robert Graysmith wants to know the truth still not being his job is another portrayal of how a conscience filled person reacts. He knows that his aware ness is a bit more than most of the common man in the city. He is shy and feels it’s not his place. He tries to contact with the people who do their job of this hunt. He wants to assist but does not get the motivation. His drive to do something comes from his minimal mentorship, Paul Avery’s drunken frustration.

The movie is the true depiction of how justice behaves in a strange way. While one may question the whole system of implicating a criminal, the foremost fundamental format of rights of a free man getting weighed against a one deviant in the system through a serial killer is untold but felt through the movie. “Zodiac” gives a chance to all the people to tap the inner questions and truth to know factor. This is the film which may be viewed as a serious commercial movie but has all the subtleties of harsh messages. The viewers get the same drive what Robert got driven to. When the cops get fed up, there lies the responsibility as a citizen to do the best anyone can do. Robert says that he needs to see in the eyes of killer and know the truth when his wife asks what he is aiming in this obsession of finding the killer and so does the viewer.

“Zodiac” is one of the most detailed and well researched movies since “JFK”. Clearly it molds out the purpose of it. I am saying it again, it is not about the killer but it is about the people who gave their souls and lives for finding him. David Fincher does not spend his time on the killings but on the people who wanted it to stop. Rather than so many complains and misuses in the name of the killer, “Zodiac” sheds the light on the unknown regions of the dark and dirty work of the cops and a cartoonist’s search for truth. While both of them arrive at the same place, the process and the reasoning defines who they are and how the world still is running on a safe land.