Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Hot Fuzz" (2007) - Movie Review

I still remember my child hood days when I was crazy for toy guns. The toy guns especially due to the action movies both in my native language Tamil and Hollywood flicks. Even the weirdest illogical movies inspired not only me but lot of the kids during that time to get into the game of “gun fighting”. Whenever our six cousins get together, it will be the game of “gun fight”. Of course it is the fun of being cool and having a strange sensation of heroism and definitely not the fun of killing some one. I have outgrown those movies but still enjoy if it is made with niceties and logics. And I cannot imagine some one coming up with the same concept in a movie in a funny/serious way.

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the man of perfection. He adheres to the law and its procedures with dedication and nobility. “In the name of law” is what he yells when he needs to break glasses of a shop to catch a killer. He is been put in a totally remote and peaceful village of Sandford. He is suited up with partner Danny (Nick Frost) who is a great fan of action movies. Nothing happens in this village and thus the story goes on. This is not new but the fast cut editing style makes it funny and entertaining. The technique of fast cut shots could have been fatal of overdoing it often, but Edgar Wright knows it and his editor Chris Dickens knows it as well. They use it at right moments. They use it when the story looks to fade into slow mode of normal clichéd movies tend to.

Many people feel that comedy films are easy to make. While it is getting off their mind now a day, creating a comedy movie is as tough as dealing an emotional movie. There can be lot of liberty which can be taken in these but the same is the limitation. A sequence has wafer thin line of being stupidly not funny and ridiculously funny. It is the biggest challenge of any movie maker of comedy films. Edgar Wright had the same kind of it in his previous films “Shaun of the Dead” (which by the way has the funniest scenes in the first half of the film) and he started to falter in the end. He did not know where to take it from an astounding start. In the end he aims for a serious plot to it which does not work the way it supposed to. Now in “Hot Fuzz”, the movie slowly gets into the very same mode of it but came out with brilliant concept.

This movie is the homage to the action films every kid has grown up for. Wright uses the two main movies for this, “Point Break” and “Bad Boys”. The style and usage of action sequences are well in it, but for me it is the “Broken Arrow” and “Face/Off”. I may sound silly but those are the two movies for me which defined the style of the action sequences. I guess for Wright it was those two. Everyone wants to enact the same if given in real life with no loss of blood and do it for the fun of it. Wright brings their dream on to the screen. It is fun to watch the final thirty minutes of the film. Nicholas gearing up his bullet proof vest and loading him up with the weapons and the cooler shades he wears and slightly lifts up his head just enough for light source to reflect on it. Amazing and an enthralling enactment! I need to mention about an actor at this point of time. Rajinikanth is considered literally a god in the southern Indian Cinema. His movie has lot of ridiculousness but people go crazy for him because of his style. He brought in the flavour of the onscreen charisma with respect to how “style” can make a big difference. I am sure whoever has seen those can definitely identify his style with this movie.

So does it mean that “Hot Fuzz” has lot of ridiculous stupid scenes? Yes, of course, but the beauty in it is the honesty of it. While lot of movies say that they are different and try to say that these are classically made to have emotions attached to it, “Hot Fuzz” says that it is stupid and have fun along with it. It is this honesty to the script which makes the movie one hell of an entertaining ride.

The movie added to it has solid characters, so to say. Nicholas character is one such which is another best part about it. He is good in his job and they present it in terrific scene sequences. They do not make him a clown boy as in other comedy movies like “The Naked Gun” wherein the main character is stupid but ends up as the praised one in the service. There is no compromise in his character for the sake of the comedy. Even till the end, he remains faithful to his values and principles. Similarly they do not give silly explanation of strange happenings in the events of the story. They narrate it to much perfection that it becomes a dramatically serious movie for certain moments. But they pull the carpet from the audiences’ feet when it is about to get intense. That is a sheer joy to be enjoyed.

This is the film which can be watched over and over and over again. And every time it is been watched, the funny sequences are expected and will be laughed out with the same zeal and enthusiasm. Wright proves that it is not necessary to make the characters and story stupid to bring out an action spoof/homage comedy. Nor does it need lot of blood and gore (even though it has couple of bloody sequences which could have been avoided) as that of “Planet Terror” to pay homage to the genre of movies it reflects. It does not also need the ridiculing the audience in the end by the strange explanation of strange sequences. All it needs is the right creativity and honesty to the script. It will never be the same again when I put on my cool shades. It may be silly but my internal film is running 24/7 and the audience is only me.

"Holes" (2003) - Movie Review (Screened EbertFest 2007)

There is a block in most of the people’s mind when opting to go for any movies. Some may not like the actors/actresses in it. Some may not like the directors in it. Some for some reason may not like the name of the movie itself. And some will not even know the reason for avoiding it. “Holes” has been marketed as children’s movie. That is the block it placed in movie goers. After seeing it, overall the film is meant for all audiences. It has a multi dimensional plot and racing screenplay. It is not the fairyland most of the kid’s movie would constantly provide. The movie runs deeper and for that, this one clearly is an overlooked common genre movie. Roger Ebert caught it and screened it in his film festival.

Having realized that, the movie is a decently well made material which loses the grip on the common audiences at the end. I guess its aim as the kid’s movie needed a finish like that. When I say that, it is not the ending of “everyone lived happily ever after” routine, but the way it got presented. There is a clear indication of the transformation from its tight dialogues to a complete fairyland place. The commanding villains lose the control. The control out here means the control in their character. It takes a hard time for some one getting out of a harsh and ego centric character. Here they do not change into good ones but they lay help less and pathetic which is fine tuned principled ending of kid’s movie, a kid’s movie with a cheesy ending.

The film excelled in collaging the multiple stories in a smooth fast ness. If all that the movie or the story would have shown the struggles and hard ship of the boys digging holes in harsh dry conditions, it would have been one another young boy’s tough life in prison movie. But this film is about fantasy, adventure, friendship and hopes. The idea of combining those in the right way is the positive element of this film. Jon Voight as Marion “Mr. Sir” Sevillo is the funniest and interesting comic character played by him. I have either seen him as the high ranked administrative guy with evil plans or just an old guy with evil plans. Here he brings out the comical nature with the same demoniac eyes and the serious ness too. I enjoyed him walking fancifully and stretching his face unimaginably and frightening the boys more than the lizard which comes in the film.

The ending as I said stands outside of tone, presentation and dialogues from the rest of the movie, in a bad way. This did not stop me from enjoying how all the puzzle comes finished convincingly. This is a movie wherein on a fresh morning, any one with his/her kids and also their parents can relax and watch it with curiousness. Another part I had fun was the soundtrack. Very light and catchy. It is the dessert special. It removes the hot and humid conditions which emanates from the screen. The film sheds out those weather conditions out of the picture frame into the audience. The songs makes the audience gives the pleasure of enjoying the hot cold environment. Brilliant song selections appealing to all audiences.

The film talks about patience, friendship, love and family. These are the right ingredients for any movie and it is surprising that it has been labeled in a different way. The movie is definitely not an extra ordinary material. It had its flaws as any other entertaining movie. Some times there need an adjustment from various departments. The adjustment of course needs to be carefully analyzed and weighed against all other options. In “Holes” it had its adjustment when it finishes. Andrew Davis, the director took the movie as serious as his “The Fugitive” but also provided the fun necessary for it too. This is definitely an overlooked film. Watch it for the fun “hole” digging.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"La Dolce Vita" (Language - Italian / English / French / German) (1960) - Movie Classics (Screened EbertFest 2007)

What can you say about a movie filled with internal poetry and external strong dialogues through out the tenure of its screen time? It is sheer pleasure to watch a movie which is antique in its authenticity and far ahead in its content. To start a movie with an amazing helicopter shot carrying Jesus Statue is the instant message all the viewers would get the grandiose and the effort the material is going to contain in the next nearly three hours.

This is the movie which takes immense patience to sit through for sure. The initial 30 minutes feels like an hour to sit through. But the true fact is that the characterization takes those thirty minutes. That is when there are subtleties in the personality of Marcello (Marcello Mastrainni) which is getting sketched. It does not mean that there is a detailed example of how he behaves, but it explains his job nature. The job of being a reporter, which involves invading and exploring the privacy of famous and interesting people with the advantage of intimacy. The characters which surrounds him is consistently educating on what life is and of all what he is and how needs to get himself into the reality of his originality. Every one knows he is in a continuous process of finding his true identity including himself. It is weird that the earlier movie I watched in this Ebert Film Festival, “Come Early Morning” deals with the same. I guess most of the identity search movies will have the influence of this master piece.

The film has multiple layers of abstraction bonded with realism and poetry in it. The particular sequence which marks the movie’s high point is the party with Marcello’s friend Mr. Steiner (Alain Cuny). That is where most of the truth of life is being clearly explained with clarity. It gets the clarity due to the lucidity of Mr. Steiner. It seems as if he has lived his life for full and it is the matter of time to pass it on to some one else who is struggling from the same trauma as him. It seems that he is the perfectly stable character in the movie but the audiences are struck with his demise. When the moment passes, even though there is this sense of shock in them, the shock is overcome by the reasonability that this character definitely showed those characteristics. It is at that point of time that the viewers realize that this is what he meant, quite a while ago to Marcello. In fact this is one more frustration and agony adds upon on Marcello on not able to notice those at the right moments. This is one sequence which needs so much observation and concentration to entirely get what the director Federico Fellini is portraying. The whole movie is filled in with these tons of instance which needs enormous energy and work any one needs to spend to completely grasp those. I guess that is the reason I felt the exhaustion in myself around the end of the movie. It is of no surprise.

I have been constantly enthralled by the technicality of Akira Kurosawa’s movies. This is my first Fellini movie and I am dumbfounded by the technology which has been employed in this. The initial helicopter shot, which marks the definition of the enormity of this film, is the perfect example. The screenplay and editing is another achievement in the same department. The film is the different fragments of Marcello’s life and the characters he meets. It is sometimes disjoint and sometimes intimately connected. This connection of disjoints has been mingled with delicacy of art and costume to provide the flagrance in this black and white piece. Thinking about it, I guess Fellini would have opted for black and white even if he would have shot this movie in 2007. The reason is that the colourful energy it brings out of this binary toned picture consistently reeks out so much of it which may have been an overload in real colour toned images.

The film discusses right from sex to the superstitious beliefs of people. One moment we see the beauty of the women and next moment is the dissection of religion in subtle sequences. The diversity of the contents in this movie is beyond words. The technicality of concentrating on the surrounding characters of the protagonist and thereby explaining his reality is something even the directors of this age could not possibly depict it with accuracy. We meet the father, friends, lovers and unexplained enemies of Marcello in different segments. Each segment is an encounter of Marcello with his strange and distantly intimate acquaintance. At the end of every segment, he gets closer to reality and far from his personality. His search for his soul is endless. The film is the various phases of his incidents and accidents which try to mould him to be the person every one wants him to be and him as a person want to be too. The movie of course does not lead him to that destiny. This is perplexed Marcello and this is the unique film making of Fellini.

“La Dolce Vita” definitely tests the patience but with intelligence. I did not feel the pinch of it until the final party scene. I felt there were some easy five minutes which could have been eliminated. But I guess during some point in my life, when I watch it again, there may be a birth of another philosophy out of that five minutes sequence. The ending cannot be better than poetry. Connecting the first and final scene with signs and sounds of nature and leaving it to the perception of the viewers is the moment I will be cherishing for a long time. Since it is the perception, I will finish this review with mine. In the initial sequence when Marcello talks from the helicopter to the women on the top of the building, the women understand what he says but he does not get what they are trying to say to him. In the final sequence, the same happens in different situation and this time Marcello is still not able to understand the sign language of the opposite sex. It is a direct depiction of how he never gets the opposite sex. He mesmerizes them with his charisma but never quite understands or translates it into a long lasting relationship.

"Come Early Morning" (2006) - Movie Review (Screened EbertFest 2007)

Roger Ebert said about the movie “Black Snake Moan” as “Such movies defy all categories.” “Come Early Morning” falls slightly into the category of such. The film is about the identity crisis the lead female Lucy Fowler (Ashley Judd) is going through. We see her escaping from the bed with a stranger in a hotel. Usually it is the other way around. There is a lot of definition of her character in that sequence where there seems to be an unknown issue with this female.

Lucy living with her room mate Kim (Laura Prepon) is the financially independent and emotionally lost person. As with most of the movies with deals with emotions, she does not know what she wants. Or to be precise, she does know what she wants but substitutes with short term escapes. The film is about herself being identified and accepting it. There is nice portrayal of her character. There has been a thorough study in it which is going around lively in the back ground. If it can be noticed, most of the men she knows are very good people. They care for her and they appreciate her. Of course the main person which needs to provide those are her father (Scott Wilson) who for some reason does not let her inside his place, literally. Having no place to turn and losing all the balls in the juggling of what she is and what needs to be sacrificed.

She meets Cal (Jeffrey Donovan) who can be the most adjustable and appreciating guy any female could find. But she as usual goes to her usual routine. The movie surmounts slowly into the rising point. The poetic intimate scene in between Cal and Lucy. In most of the movies, the scene in which the couples get intimate props the uncomfortable ness, but this is the pinnacle of the movie. Here there is the sense of Lucy finding herself shy and emotional in front of a man, maybe first time in her life. Cal knows it and brings it in beautifully in her.

As it reached the pinnacle, Lucy sobers up but the film kinds of dulls down. I will not say that the scenes are put forward wrong, but the flavour and magnetism in the mid thirty minutes does not sustain till the end. People like Lucy are slightly predictable when it comes to her confrontation with her relative or trying to reach out to her dad. But still those are laid out well. I guess some where the reality took some turn in to the emotional highway in Los Angeles.

There are two performances which needs special mention out here. Ashley Judd of course as the protagonist who has given her best till date. The other performance by Jeffrey Donovan is the one which stands out clearly in front of Judd. His gentle ness with the right amount of emotional gestures makes the Cal, a character. While Scott Wilson is known for his subtle performances, I guess Donovan supports the character of Lucy very well.

The back drop of Arkansas does add a lot to bring the feel of small town. The regular bar, the trailer constructional site and cramped cute neighbourhood is etched out well. After the movie was shown, the discussion with Adams and Wilson took place. The interviewers brought out some interesting points. The first one is that the emotional wake up of Lucy and second one is not showing the Christianity preaching “Cartoonish”. I would agree with the both and it comes in the mid part of the movie. I guess that was the high point of it and slightly went in a slope after that.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Half Nelson" (2006) - Movie Review

It is quite tough to bring in the feeling of dizziness under the influence through out a movie. In the sense, the process of the movie going forward can bring in the same feeling of being crappy and not able to continue the day to day routine. Any one having too much drink and got swallowed by the influence of alcohol can relate to that feeling of being rest less. In a much simpler term, having the worst hangover. The whole day would be ruined and when the clouds clear, the exhilarating feeling is refreshing. It is a “MasterCard” priceless moment. But can you make the hangover enjoyable? “Half Nelson” is the answer.

The film is simple enough to state. A teacher is finding it hard to separate his drug habits from his school. Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is the history teacher the kids love to learn under. He is witty, influential and rightly knowledgeable. As a kid, any one would like to get to know him. He is the teacher who knows the boundaries and speaks the voice of the students. He does not draw the line in between him and the students. At the same time, he maintains the aura of the authority not through rigid ness but through his ease of transferring knowledge in the most effective and interesting way possible. There would have been an influential teacher in every one’s life or at least an enjoyable funny teacher who may not know the subject, but knows the mentality of the kids. Dan Dunne is the best of those both. This is the positive energetic side he shares with the students. This is where he is strong and confident. From there on it’s down hill for him. He is under the control of drugs. His sleep is bothered and his energy is tightened up. When a person knows a lot, the obvious tendency is to share it a lot. He needs the like minded people to discuss and have the dialogue of the knowledge. His students are too young to do it and the few adults he knows does not grasp those. Topping that he is in his dream world most of the times. This is the dissipation of a knowledge radiating to nothing and destroying itself.

Comes Drey (Shareeka Epps), Dan’s student and also a basket ball player. And of course Dan is the coach of her losing team. Witnessing the eloquent and confident teacher of hers who is laying help less in the rest room, she is puzzled. May be that is one of the reasons she starts to connect with him effectively. Dan is puzzled too. He is writing a book about change and it’s an irony. He gives up hope and wants to find it in another let down being. He feels obliged to make the life of this young kid fine. He does not know how to do it, but he knows he has to do something. The film may not explicitly state these things, but conveys it effectively through expressions and that is the film making one would not witness regularly in this industry.

The jittery camera, blurred faces, terse replies, subtle expressions are some of the very few differential features of this movie. The film is the exploration of a person who does not have the hope, believes the hope in other person. There is no surprise that Drey is instantly gets close to Dan. What surprises is how Dan gets himself in the right frequency with Drey? In any other motion picture, this would have been given some bad identity putting some artificial emotions, but it is not even in question. The character definition is written in bold and underlined letters that it is purely an ethereal connection of finding the right ness in their messed up lives.

There are movies which dive in instantly into the main section and with the light mood; it blossoms into an intriguing emotional journey. There are other movies which takes sufficient time to explain its characters and then formulate the actions of those characters to present its embarkment into the plot. This film does take its time to define the characters and at the same time rides on the main flesh of the material. Alright, it has been done previously but this is special and unique. The moments are patient and hidden. It runs on a tone which the previous movies with the same characteristics did not invent upon. I know I do not make much sense, but read this paragraph after you watch the movie. I am sure that you would definitely not understand it then too, but will get what I am trying to say. The Ethereal Connection.

I cannot end this review without quoting the performance of Ryan Gosling. He got nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Actor in Leading Role. Forest Whitaker won it for “The Last King of Scotland”. It is an unwinding debate on comparing the performances. Yet, the award missed Ryan Gosling.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Swimming with Sharks" (1994) - Movie Review

It is cruelly brutal to grasp the ending of “Swimming with Sharks”. Never have I felt so let down with respect to conscience in any movie. Or maybe I do not want to accept the reality. Or may be I am expecting a fairy tale ending. Whatever it might be, there seems paper thin layer of explanation for an action unspeakable in this movie. Not being in the industry and also reading that the rumours about the character of Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey) based on some real life bosses in Hollywood, may be the ending is very much possible.

The film is the story of an assistant fighting finger to the bones in satisfying his boss’s needs. The assistant is Guy (Frank Whaley), who has high ambition and one having some promise of doing the right thing. Buddy is the worst nightmare any one working under might see. He is mean, cruel, sadistic and cunning. Guy on the other hand believes that a proper communication in between the employer and boss flourishes the work. He says this and gets literally thrown stuffs at him. This is not calm environment with nice people. Ethics do not play out here. This is a jungle. A jungle wherein there is only one king and it is Buddy.

It is unbelievable and “dismay” to say the least about the environment George Huang shows. The movie is told in bits and pieces of old happenings when Guy is at Buddy’s house for pay back. The movie never sleeps around and is always in business. The screenplay is so tight and dark. This never lets any one to turn their head away from the screen. There is no doubt that the film is gripping and interesting.

But there is something outright wrong out here. There are lots of character gaps and most of all doubts. The film gives a heavy feeling due to the fact that it seems very much possible and who knows would have happened already. May be this appears a more shocking, since I wrongly expected some clean cut way out of the mess, Guy has put himself. One can imagine the competition and manipulating people in this business, but is it really about getting what you want with blood in your hands? Is it really that much worth in getting something and doubting the entire concept of conscience and good will? Frankly, the movie made it so believable; it seems people in the business are obsessed with something which is momentary and with ghostly characters. When I think about the characters in the film, is it showing the bad seeds in Hollywood? But Guy comes filled in with conscience and good ness. He in fact shows all the signs of it, even in the end. Then what is missing out in this puzzle? And also why Buddy buries his sad story of his ex-wife which is the only empathy left in him for himself? Is this his way of dealing his sorrow? But why does he pass this curse on to his assistant? The curse and the selfish lesson of minding their own interests and no one else. I am left with these open ended questions with no answers. I do not empathize for any of the characters except the one who lose their lives. There cannot be any justification for a soul ripped off which may have been for a sin or a pure misunderstanding.

A movie can be dark and have disturbing ending. “Requiem for a Dream” is the darkest of all movies I have ever seen and the ending could not have been any more disturbing. Yet out of that there is a strong message and conscience coming out of it. “Swimming with Sharks” does not give those. I do also accept that the characters do exist, but why does some one want to make a film about those? Is it necessary that a character of good will turn the complete opposite to make the best over dead bodies?

The talent in this movie is great. I have no doubts about it. Music by Tom Heil, editing by Ed Marx, screenplay and direction every thing strikes the right chords for a wicked tune. May be Huang wanted to deliver that there are people like this too who are ready to do anything for an opportunity. Doesn’t every one know about that?

It is too bad that an interesting movie like this causes uneasiness in the most unimaginable manner. Huang definitely shows that there need not be much blood or carnage to make you uncomfortable, but leaving a soul without conviction, that is crueler than that. I need to give him that for sure. I don’t know what Huang is trying to tell through this movie, but I do definitely appreciate his talent in this film. With all guilt, I do need to say that the movie kept me interesting, of course apart from the end.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Being Cyrus" (2005) - Movie Review

Frankly speaking, the movie did not strike me very interesting until the end. Once the end came through, it projected light on lot of intricate details discarded as irritatingly comical. Those scenes which did not make much of a sense made itself meaning either as a direct connection to the plot or as a distraction necessary for the film. The music, art and particularly the Indian actors/actresses speaking English projected it as a movie of complicated dramas and unusual relationships. Indeed, “Being Cyrus” is about that too but it has some bigger agenda apart from it.

The movie sketches the “funny” little characters of a Parsi family. The family is separated by location but share their bit of strained and doped relationships. The connecting factor in between these two is done by a character named, Cyrus (Saif Ali Khan) who comes out of thin air. He gets hired by a retired sculptor Dinshaw (Naseeruddin Shah) who hardly has any sense in his day filled with hallucinating himself with illegal smokes. Dinshaw’s talkative wife Katy (Dimple Kapadia) instantly strikes intimacy with Cyrus. The film is how this dangerous intimacy moulds into and how it sets itself for a nice convincing finish.

This is a style of film noir with sleek and necessary editing. The movie took its path through characters which were not given enough depth. Their actions and speeches are totally disconnected and some times seems absurd. But director Homi Adajania definitely gives out the reason for those very interestingly. This is one of the very few movies which appeared disappointing, ended with fine and satisfactory conclusion.

It is always edgy to show a character with dark images. In the arena of art, movies are considered one of the prominent entertainments. Due to its wider popularity among all varieties of people, it is expected good thing to happen in the screen. Good winning the evil. Even the people who appreciate those arts would like those happening in it. It is human to think like that. Sketching out a bad character taking the centre stage even though can be appreciated artfully would still linger into the hearts of people giving uncomfortable ness. This film does that too. It makes the audience feel guilty for slightly feeling happy for a bad person. The story telling does its job right out there. Another reason for the acceptance of it is due to the honesty of the protagonist character. The honesty in not hiding of what he did and how does he looks life ahead to the audience. Albeit his conversations with the audience being one way, his candid ness makes him friendly and acceptable.

I did think that it was unnecessary to have the movie in English. I felt that the authenticity and originality got lost in it. Sometimes it gave the feeling of small kids doing an English play in their school stage. But I guess that’s how any Indian with a back ground of the characters shown will speak. In that case, why do they converse in English which is kind of rarity to use it in their day to day life? I do not know what made the director to opt for English. When I say this, I am looking back the movie in my mind. And due to how it’s been projected, it feels not bad and not good either. But what felt really wrong now feels fine. Maybe this is the reaction; the director wanted the audience to feel.

The movie is a like a child trying to arrange a huge Jig Saw puzzle. The joy is not in getting the puzzle right but it is the child’s weird way of thinking to keep those in different places. Because the joy is watching the child play crazily, most of us will miss how the child finishes the puzzle perfectly. Only in the end, it gets realized. “Being Cyrus” is how Adajania arranged his Jig saw puzzle. While it appeared dark and gauzy, it came interestingly distilled and cleans in the end.

The film poses itself as an independent styled drama movie. The score is also set in such a way which plays it as a comical and funny drama. Salim-Sulaiman needs to be credited for this style of music which also forms the deception for the real picture happening inside the movie.

It is really encouraging and happy to see an independent drama thriller movie emerging out of India. It is also heart warming to see great actors and actresses accepting to do these characters for a project like this. I am not appreciating the movie stamping it as a great movie and have never been made before. It is been appreciated for its honesty on sticking to the concept and in the same time forming a nice convincing film noir thriller.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"Bowling for Columbine" (Documentary) (2002) - Movie Review

There is a very valid point made by this film which discusses the ambience of fear over the US. Even though there are parts of it which does not dig part of the certain tragic events which occurred, this film definitely takes those to essentially bring out the state of an average American. It projects that he/she is afraid of some x or y threaten the life of theirs and their family. It also shows some light on the business opportunity taken by the media which seems true even today.

The film circles around the main issue of the access of guns to every one and it has become a necessity in a world circling of violence. The winning factor of the film is the way it lays around the facts and problems in an engaging way. The movie brings out solid issues around a country clouded by a fear nested by media and also by the people themselves. Seeing should not lead to believing and in the fast lane of this mechanical life, there seems to be a convenient negligence in terms of not researching a potential issue. When a media projects the whole world as a place of evil residing 24/7, people believing in it without any questioning, is really sad. Instead of getting a weapon to protect him/her and family, it becomes the responsibility of them to have some outward thoughts on those issues. A community or society becomes one when each other have care and not enmity against each other. The film documents that it is a fear being invested unnecessarily and need clearance.

It made some bold and clear problems sorted out rather than complaining. The director tried to show light on how the “welfare work” defeats the purpose of it. This movie may be projected as one against gun culture but it is more of an awakening needed in the people. It addresses the fact that there is lot more issues than killing people in different countries. It says that the issues inside the country need to be the first priority of care than bombing some other place in a world. The manifestation of hatred towards people needs to be addressed and the film brings them with clarity and helps realize the real picture.

There appears to be lot of questions left unanswered. The reason it felt unanswered is that the film does not commit itself, in a good way. That is a subtle beauty in this documentary. Letting the audience ask those questions and determine what they want to do. They did not want to thrust in their suggestion which very well might have turned into propaganda. If they would have had those in the film, then it would have shadowed some cloud of doubts on dealing the issue with equanimity. That is the success of this documentary. It does not super impose with speeches but with the incidents and the resultant of it. With those, it pushes the audience in their emotional spot and asks them to think. They ask to think the responsibilities of them. It asks them to think and decide on what to believe and what not to. It assists in those thinking by the interviews, facts and situations prevailing inside the country.

There is no doubt that the culture of having a gun prevails. There is no doubt that the system of fear is in the back of every one’s mind. There is also no doubt that the media replays the worst violence and not the real issue of pollution and poverty. The movie clears all the doubts and says it is time for the people to filter those. There are problems in the film as to having contradictory factor coming out too. For example, Michael Moore, the director compares the statistics of the crimes in other countries and how they have the same scenario as that of US. So it essentially is the problem with the people’s state of mind. And the people constitute business men, lawyers, doctors, bus drivers, and software engineers, any one and every one in it. But there seems to be more agitation shown on the then owner of NRA (National Rifle’s Association), Charles Heston alone instead of making all the people stand up for it. I am not arguing that the insensitive behaviour of him is right, but circling him as the main issue seems slightly going away from the main problem. It could have been avoided.

There is a sequence in which Moore interviews the brother of Terry Nichols. Terry Nichols is one of the guys who were found responsible for the Oklahoma Bombing of a Federal building. His brother John Nichols says that guns are the way to defend ourselves and Moore asks; “Why not use Gandhi's way? He didn't have guns, and he beat the British Empire.” And the reply comes after a confused pause as “I'm not... familiar with that.” There is clear indication of comfortable ignorance in it. The film shakes it out in every one and pushes them wisely to take responsibility.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Fracture" (2007) - Movie Review

It is pleasant to see a good thriller with interesting plot and suspense to make the audience feel satisfied. There are lots of pitfalls in the upcoming movies now a day, since there are numerous talents consistently creating plots, suspense, and tricks in it. That brings in the notion of whether those creativeness is exhausted. Added to that, the audiences are educated and start to solve the plot. They do not want to sit and be ignorant about what is happening and blindly believing. They sit along with the primary characters and try to find out the details before the director reveals. They achieve the pleasure of attaining success over the creator, so to say.

All the people watching this movie would try to find out the little “weak spot” of the immaculate planner and clever Ted Crawford who after shooting his wife, confesses and still able to challenge the people’s prosecutor Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling). The attempt most of the films do is they dive in to outcome the audience’s guess work. Hence they lose control of the story and screenplay, and the material gets lost in this useless competition. Gregory Hoblit does not get into that pitfall. He knows that the audience knows that there is a small piece in the puzzle missing, which would be cracked definitely by the prosecutor. So he puts forward a film which deals with slight adjustments in spicing the ambience surrounding this prosecutor. Make him push over the edge and see how things go. And it works.

Willy is in his last days at the DA office and is about to launch the career of his life. He has got an offer from the well known private corporation. This is the situation which messes up his head. Every one does it. When some one is leaving for vacation, they take things easy and rest of the colleagues understands it too, even though it is not right. It is the people’s perspective that the damage is never one unless it happens for real. The film does not project him as a winner. They project him as a winner of opportunities. He knows how to play around to get things done properly and still legally. He underestimates his last case and his submerged conscience gets the treatment to re-evaluate his own advancement in his life.

Ted on the other hand is already a successful career man owning an Aircraft Corporation. He is brilliant and super confident. This makes him stronger and smarter. He has planned this whole play very carefully and with enjoyment. He starts moving his coins properly right from the moment he comes to know about his wife’s affair. He is wicked in every sense and does not hide it to Willy. His overestimation does bring him down.

The film covers all the base in the plot, not for the record but the screenplay is structured demanding those properly. Whenever the audience think of an act by a character is stupid, the film clarifies and confirms it as stupid. This runs smoothly and without notice for all kind of actions and consequences of those. Couple of these instances places the audience in the right frame of mind on what exactly the movie is going about. Nicely done.

While the trailers suggest it as court room drama, very minimal sequences happen inside that place. The movie is more about the question of choices and finding justice irrespective of the situations and personal preferences. It does not fancy itself into digging and research the character of Ted. He is a man who wants revenge over his wife’s affair. His revenge is cold and planned to precision. It is wrong. Willy wants a career of his own to settle his financial constraints and his conscience mixed with his ego wants him to pursue this case. The film outlines that; every margin of conscience runs along as picking the right choices and sticking up to it. Whether Willy makes those choices right? Yes and No. The film justifies that.

It is definitely an entertainer and in that genre, it works. Most of the films work well in those but a real entertainer comes when it is done right. It is executed right so that at the end of the movie, when the audiences leave the theatre, they can leave with satisfaction of getting a right entertainment and not guilty pleasure. The only letdown is an unnecessary intimacy between Willy and Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike) without which the film could have done all the same. Apart from that, “Fracture” plays nice with a screenplay intact and interesting to produce the entertainment in the right way.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Disturbia" (2007) - Movie Review

There is a beauty in giving a clichéd expected series of frames interesting enough. There is a terrible mistake if the audience started predicting who is and not going to come out of the door in a thriller movie. In all the frames wherein the main character Kale (Shia LaBeouf) opens the door of his home, one thing is sure that the one he expects will not be there. And every one knows it. Which makes it, what do they say as “boringly predictable”.

Teenage kid Kale is still not able to get out of the tragic accident which resulted in his father’s death out of his mind, even though the character does not show any kind of depressed condition. He causes trouble in his school by punching his teacher who brought his memories of father in a bad way. He is been put to house arrest with a beeper which informs the cops if he goes out of the border of his yard. He enjoys it like a vacation and also spies on his entire neighbour. Enters Ashley (Sarah Roemer) who moves next to Kale and expected, he falls for her. The dumbest dialogue happens as the “supposedly” romantic lines he passes to her when she questions his stupid “ruining her party” act. And yes, before I forget, Kale also suspects one of his neighbours Mr. Turner (David Morse) to be a serial killer. When this point comes it is already one hour and thirty minutes.

The trend of “no one believes” the guy who sees the real thing does not work here. The film tries to bring in all the element of entertainment but they do everything in the worst way possible. The screenplay goes aimlessly on what to concentrate. Kale looks very ordinary and fine. He does show moments of tragic in his face whenever he enters his dead father’s room. There need not be any kind of extreme emotional stress in his face, but there are no evidence shown of inability to handle the situation. He manages only to punch his Spanish teacher since he asked a reasonable question. If he is suffering from domestic handling of situation, why do they need to put him in solitude? Does not he want some one to talk out his inner depression and unnecessary guilt? Well, it would have been tough if a reasonable judge did that and shot the dreams of this movie project.

Ashley is another unexplained character introduced so that Kale can deviously spy on her. Also it adds the “glamour” factor to this partial teen movie. As expected, she has her father and mother not “caring” enough or whatever she supposedly says to Kale to spend some time spying along with him. And the most confusing character is Mr. Turner who is very reasonable at every point of time. I was surprised that the movie made me to feel that way because it might be surprising when the truth comes out. But interestingly I never felt any kind of surprise at all. In fact, director D.J. Caruso believed that making the audience doubt Kale would be interesting, but the movie side tracks the main plot (the plot trailer shows which is the serial killing neighbour), I started hoping the movie to end soon. As the end slowly started to come, I was hoping to get a base ball bat myself and beat the crap out of Kale and get this over with.

If Mr. Turner is shown as a smooth operator, he is a bad serial killer. Oops, did I just say that? Sorry, but I guess I spare most of the audience the pain of wasting nearly 104 minutes. Anyways, let me see why he is a bad serial killer. First, living in a very closely packed neighbour hood wherein a teenage kid can easily spot him taking someone and making dolls out of them. Also chasing Kale in the middle of the street with a knife in his hand. His character is micro thin.

There was not even a single moment in the movie which I can pin point to say that this movie is worth watching for it. It becomes an ordeal to sit through the movie. Finally, to conclude, since I do not want to sound harsh, I choose my words carefully to summarize the movie, “This Movie Sucks”.

"The Lives of Others" (Language - German) (2006) - Movie Review

How often does any one see a movie which appreciates art in an artful way? There have been many direct appreciation of art in a movie, but how to go about a person who spent his life believing in one system tends to shift to the other side of spectrum? This film which starts as a revolutionary story takes a turn in appreciating art in an unusual environment by an unusual audience member. In the process of presenting it, they share the emotions, betrayal, trust and the love around their life of art through the three interesting characters.

It is 1984 in East Germany and the Stasi are monitoring potential candidates for expressing Western leanings. The department assigns the best man in force who walks talks and express without any emotions straight as an arrow, Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe). He is introduced when he addresses a class of interrogation officer aspirants about the nuances of the skill to extract information without any physical abuse. There is a shadow of doubts towards the popular and successful writer Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch). He lives along with his girl friend, Christa-Maria Seiland (Martina Gedeck) who also performs in his play. The Stasi in suspicion over the writer allocates Wiesler to have surveillance on Georg’s house.

What starts as a career upgrade mission for Wiesler turns into a life changing expose to art and love he has never seen. His suppressed emotions are unlocked by the words and love of Georg. His surveillance turns into a do-gooder for these two people. His life of loneliness is the complete opposite of the characteristics of Georg. Georg is a man of people. He wants continuous contact with another human being. When he is not getting it, he writes about those memorable gatherings and the unspoken love. Christa on the other hand is an ambitious career actress and one who dies inside every time she cheats her love. She goes of a sexual affair with the Minister who very well allocated Wiesler through his superior to watch Georg. This troubles Wiesler and wants to do something. What triggers him is not explained but maybe his empathy for a cheated soul. But he is amazed to see the reaction of Georg about this and his understanding of the love and reasoning of Christa. Wiesler gets touched emotionally and from there on; he takes the extreme dangerous risks to make these people’s lives better.

The movie does not act on scenes fast enough for a script which poses as a cat and mouse game in most of the parts of it. It puzzled me and kind of a slight frustration on why to show case such a thriller as an emotional ride. But when the near ended and the members of the audience know that this is crossing the stage of a normal struggle of revolutionizing a nation, it all started make sense. The movie is not alone about the struggles of a writer finding it hard to put a two face to sneak his creativity to his audience. It is also the unspoken and unknown bond of these three characters. In a way, no one ever characteristically sees each other clearly. Wiesler of course is the clear physical absence in front of these troubled yet loving couple. Georg is not able to grasp the instincts and the inner confusion of career vs love vs life of Christa. Christa knows this but does not want to open up clearly about this to Georg. Some where she is not able to create the trust in him. Georg on the other hand believes in trust bringing his love back which is true but it needs more words from his mouth than on his paper. In these three characters that are connected by their love towards art, forms this to be an interesting piece of presentation.

There may be definite doubt over the change of course on Wiesler. He is shown as a person who has technically kept his emotions out of the equation over any kind of his actions. He some how has spent so much time in interrogating people and understanding their deepest secrets, he lost his own sense of character in it. Till the date he witnesses an art performance his life is devoid of any feeling. Or his feelings were either shatter by a failed love or demand of character by the job. He gets a slight gentle shake to wake those emotions up. He wants the same kind of love shared in between Christa and Georg for him. He does not envy their life but appreciates it. He wants the same to be his life. He tries it with a prostitute who as expected becomes methodical and numb. He realizes that his life has gone and does not want the existing relations to shatter by his reporting to his authorities about the real plan of Georg.

The film renders the emotional wave of frames for the final twenty minutes. The previous two hours forms the base in which the audiences are comfortable and expects shaking hands and hugging with tears to happen in between these characters. What happens is a poetic and artistic expression of one’s love and enormous indebt to the other. There is a sensation of comfortable drunkenness in a help getting recognized and also leading the life in an unappreciated way. Whatever it is, sacrifice does have its content and enjoyment. Wiesler is in the state of that sacrifice with the sensation of it. Every one will have a theory on why Georg does not want to go and shake hands with the man who saved his life. That’s the perceptive conception left intentionally by the director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. What becomes essentially the movie’s cornerstone is the final two minutes of Wiesler’s honest expression of his emotions. That one line to the book store guy is, “The Lives of Others”.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Bommarillu" (Language - Telugu) (2006) - Movie Review

The movie making varies widely from country to country. And in India, it even varies from one state to another. This is the diversity in the language and in fact lot of sects and different form of inter societies within a big society. Love marriage is still considered a rift between parents and their sons/daughters, but people do get used to the fact now a day. So after marriage the couple lives with the family and hence the family needs to like the girl as much as the boy does. Having said that, “Bommarillu” deals with that and is no different from any other movie which has addressed the same previously. Still, there is something more to this than the usual.

Sidhu (Siddharth) is a frustrated kid due to his possessive/protective father, Arvind (Prakash Raj). He believes what ever he does is what his son likes. What he does not understand is that Sidhu brings in good smile in his face even if he does not like what Arvind gets him. He sheds off his frustration with his friends and booze. Choosing his life partner is done by Arvind too and Sidhu is being pushed to the edge. He does not talk out here too. As expected he falls in love with innocent and talkative Hasini (Genelia). If you think, I have exposed the plot; I have not, because every one almost knows the first half. It is become more of how to bring it with fun and flavour the very same scenario in different movies. Hence there are nice fun moments and unnecessary songs to complete it. Different approach is attempted in the second half of the movie.

There are lots of unanswered emotions through out the movie. The problem with movies like this is that they want to cover the entire genre of audience. More than genre, they want to address the whole different age group. They do it nicely. Definitely and very wisely put in different wonderful places. It does not work when they put tons of emotions in whole some junks at different places. When there is happiness, there is tons of it, every one gets enough of it, but the very same time, when there is sad ness, it is given in tons. A film achieves its striking point by the ensemble of these varied emotions in different scattered manner, subtle if needed and some times recommended too. It does not happen that way out here.

Every one knows that Arvind is dominative, the man of the house and the “control” guy. Every one may see their own father out there, but may see for all wrong reasons. Similarly some may identify their son with the character of Sidhu and for all the wrong reasons. They do try to come clean in the end. They do it very well and they drop it at the next moment too. As I said earlier, kilos of same emotions within a compressed time emanates those tight moments in thin air.

I did enjoy the movie during lot of moments. Genelia as the cute and innocent Hasini is a definite winner. They made sure that her character is all flowery and colourful. There was a doubt whether she will be able to transform the same flagrance into a tense moment and she did very well. The second half of the movie entirely depends on her and she shoulders it in the most likeable manner possible.

I guess when they shot, it got realized that two hours and thirty minutes already got used up and hence need to tell whatever the original idea they wanted to. Everything expressed are truthful and honest. There is nothing bitter and scary than a silent warfare from anyone’s mother towards her son. There is nothing more horrific than any one’s father speaking unspeakable things and still not understanding his son. There is nothing more painful than any one’s love being rejected for acting the way they really are not. The film emote all kind of messages within 15 minutes. This elevates and dumps it within that time period.

While the above takes away the amazing moments shown in it, the songs and score takes away the remaining. Or rather the placement of songs in the most unnecessary situations when the movie is tight and gripping. Devi Sri Prasad needs to come out of the monotonous sentimental back ground score and rap songs. A movie’s back ground score defines any sequence to next level and here, it does takes it to next level, couple of steps down below.

The factor to be taken is that director Bhaskar faces a community and society wherein movie making is not only a big political business but also the people respecting film still only as an entertainment and not as an art. Still, there are movies which are box office hits and critically acclaimed. It is a good start for Bhaskar and it depends on where he is going to take off from here. Whether it’s going to be one another lollipop story or a bold attempt of what he thinks. The question is will he leave the money aiding hands and stand up on his own leg of creativity.

"Waiting for Guffman" (1996) - Movie Review

Comedy is best when the particular party generates by doing the material of dumb ness with sincerity and loyalty to it. The best humour is generated when it is not thought as a joke by that particular character. “Waiting for Guffman” is a mockumentary evoking those humour if at least for while. The promise it generates during the initial parts of the movie are of course great and impressive. The ways the characters and definitely the “characters” are introduced are extremely funny. This definitely brings up the expectation of further parts and fizzes out very early for this 84 minutes movie.

The whole fictionalized Blaine community in Missouri State gathers to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the town. They hail the great “talented” Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest) who is going to give them the show about the Blaine history. The film deals comically on the audition and the journey to the final staging. The film equally concentrates on all the characters. The strength of the movie is the loyalty to which the actors/actresses stick to the concept of it. I am sure they would have had round of laughs after doing every serious enactment of the characters.

The problem with the film is that the loyalty of the mockumentary presentation in the plot was not followed in the later part of the movies. The camera work and the style remained with respect to the satirical filming but some where in the middle they really wanted a “plot”. The film expected to produce the eagerness and the disappointment of the characters to be humour. Unfortunately it becomes a dazzle on whether to take it as a serious dramatic scene or a humour frame. The politics in between the music teacher (Bob Balaban) and Corky could have been developed with serious “talent intricacies”, that the characters often expresses. It seemed they hurried up the later part to arrive to the main theme of the show (By the way, the show is enjoyable and in fact not funny at all).

The performances of Eugene Levy, Fred Whillard and Catherine O’Hara are enjoyable. Keeping aside the concept of satire over these people, there is some interesting serious factor with respect to the making. The environment of bringing the small town scenario is authentic and original. Having studied in a university town myself, I guess there is every chance that this would have happened out in the next small town nearby. The sincerity and faith in each people including the Mayor of the Blaine town showing towards this show are interesting funny. Also at some point of time bringing the close ness to the reality crosses its limit and makes this as a comedy tending to drama material, which threw the fun apart.

“Waiting for Guffman” is inventive and funny at times. It is even interesting at various initial frames but tends into a serious bland dramatic “trying to be funny” movie at the end.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Harsh Times" (2005) - Movie Review

Some one said “Idle mind is devil’s workshop” and I have seen it happening. Trying to convince the loved ones that they are doing the best they could to get a life in this life. Managing to avoid the eye contact with them and once the foot is set on the streets; it belongs to the other people. The mind gets easily manipulated and hypnotized for the time period out of the house. Conscience kills and everything comes back the minute the foot stepping back in to the house. “Harsh Times” brings back those haunting memories for everyone. May be they would not have cruised in the most horrible and dangerous streets of L.A, but the mood of slacking off would have definitely been there. It brings back those dark memories of many people’s days when they were on the streets with some people who did not know what they were doing.

The theme of course runs deeper than that and it attempts to. Jim (Christian Bale) is an ex-army ranger who still gets the nightmares of some of the brutal incidents which happened to him in the war zone. He wakes up shivering in a small Mexican village home with his girl friend Martha (Tammy Tull). He packs up and gives a good bye any girl will remember. And the next frame there it is, Jim all wicked and dark. Getting the suspicious hate look from Sylvia (Eva Longoria), he grabs her boy friend Mike (Freddy Rodriguez) who is his best friend on to the streets. Mike is job less and busy boozing with Jim. His intentions are over shadowed by the manipulations of Jim. He goes behind Sylvia’s back and roams around the city’s crooked places.

It is tough to understand Jim and in fact it is not even remotely possible to grasp his actions. His devil always lies on the surface and Mike does sense it, but does not want to believe it. Both have high hopes in life. The sad fact is for some reason as long as Jim gets his career right on course, he consciously or sub consciously brings down Mike with him. It is the feeling everyone goes through when they do not want to be the only one labeled loser. Jim exactly knows what he wants in his life. Of course Jim wants to be a cop so that he can bring Martha into US. He is a character been messed up by the environment he was and is in. He plays close with those dangerous emotions of seeing blood in his hands. His buddy does not know that for real until it emerges out of him in a shocking manner.

Mike might appear in the same league of Jim, but knows his limitations. He knows to say “No”. But the sad part is he does not say it to his buddy Jim. Jim drags him every way possible with the tag of friend ship even though he means it. Mike is the typical “good” street guy who does think good intentions but does not have the authority or the “male ego stupid action” destroys those completely. He is the “idle mind” and the “workshop” too but Jim brings in the factor of devil.

The movie gives the feeling of walking over a land mine. It gives the feeling of these stupidly dangerous characters going around the craziest nook and corner. It is stupid because when the same time they are talking about their careers and life, they play with a gun and smoke illegal substances in the main places. The reality is the ambience they grew got into them so deep; it becomes a daily routine for them to mix it both. There is an uncomfortable wary ness in the audience whenever they have a happy laugh. It rides on the edges of the bridge when they play with their guns. The movie symbolizes the culture of owning a weapon and the control over it clearly. The environment through out the movie is scary and constantly reminding the dangers which might any time engulf them. There does lie a peaceful moment. Moments not sub consciously placing the fear in to the viewer’s mind as they do all along the movie, but the pure relaxation of those personalities with their beers in the perfectly natural setting of Mexico. That place and the talk seem right, not only to the audience but also to the characters. And the film takes the wide spin of the devil waking up in Jim’s brain. All hell breaks loose and the viewers pretty much expect the happenings. This is the frame of let down in the film. I guess the director; David Ayer was not able to conclude on a right note. Sure that Jim is all good and has been terribly affected and mentally deformed his character during the war, but apart from being not left alone in the trashes of “job less” why does he wants his best friend to go through all the risks along with him from the start. His panic attack may explain his act of aggression and violence but not the act of deception on his buddy. His dark ness spins off in a different mood when he is around and I am not able to understand his actions towards his friend on this.

Apart from the improper signoff, the film is a battle ground for Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez and they fight off every single frame with amazing smooth ness and down right execution. The film brings in the nativity and authenticity of L.A mean streets to the screen. It also brings in the haunting wounds of violence promoting violence and how it murk the mind of a person. It shows these are the times when a man is in the wrong place and amongst the wrong time with brilliant mind crooked out all wrong. It is the story which gets the right treatment but slightly confuses itself in the end. This confusion inhibits the clean right out message it may have had. While there seem the signs of it and also the gripping screenplay to keep the audience engaged all through the movie, it never struck the right ending note which it should have. Or may be it is this murky feeling a viewer might get is the sullen voice of it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Monster's Ball" (2001) - Movie Review

The phase of a person molding up depends on the surroundings and mainly the actions of their parents. It is human instinct to make the loved ones happy, even sometimes hating some one. Packing all the emotions of good ness inside him is been Hank’s (Billy Bob Thornton) life. Act of showing some kind ness to the people is considered the sign of weak to the family of Grotowski and that is how Buck (Peter Boyle) has brought up his son, Hank. Sonny (Heath Ledger) is different kind or rather one who is not afraid of his emotions not as of Hank. The introduction of Sonny is good enough on what he is missing of in his life. Sex and Love. Hank on the other hand demonstrates his state of doing the right thing through his job. A job which would drain out the last bit of hatred from any one; orchestrating the execution in the department of corrections. Ironically, in a way Hank gets clean whenever he is inside the death house. He does not let out the animal of ferociousness inside this place. He understands the strong and fragile moments in an occasion like this. As soon as his job gets done, his internal engine of hatred and anger fuelled by his upbringing triggers him. This leads in confronting brutally his son for a mistake Sonny commits during the execution procedure of an inmate Lawrence (Sean ‘P.Diddy’ Combs).

Lawrence is spending his last few moments with his son, Tyrell (Coronji Colhoun) and his wife, Leticia (Halle Berry). Tyrell as Lawrence says is the best of him. Lawrence spends his Monster’s Ball (The fare well feast given to the prisoner before their execution) with Hank and Sonny. With financial squeezing in, Leticia with her son who as his father relaxes by drawing realizes they need to get on with their life.

I guess if I understood it right, the night of Monster’s Ball connects these two different frames of character and hence comes the title. Unknowingly these linked in people meet by fate and find something soulful to make their life a little better for the while they are together. The film polishes with the style of sleek camera work by Roberto Schaefer. It is nice to see films such moody and independent as this gets a stylish look. It seems it would seem awkward when it is written out here but it really strikes the combination at right notes.

The film is about how the upbringing and constant control of a person with an attitude of racism bring in. At some point of time in their life, every one hits the threshold of doing the wrong thing and fall down. Whether to lie there helplessly and die or to get up with being hit upon and start a new life is the question. Hank picks himself up and does the right thing. For once he listens to his inner cries which got numbed by his father’s improper preaching’s and also the job which put the added pressure on the battle inside him. His regret is unexplainable and that’s the reason he cannot articulate his emotions properly while confiding with Leticia. The action of his son shakes him up but he puts up a stern face to the public. The public which is his father. When he does the right thing of lending a helping hand to Leticia he gets struck by the kick of having a clean soul. This drives him further and tries to continue it.

When the resultant of these heavy feeling in Hank is expected, Leticia is not able to understand her state. She is a nice mother who wants her son to be happy. Her tiredness got bigger as the time went by waiting on what is to happen to her husband’s end. A sour unimaginable expectation of the hopeless eleven years and as expected, to see her husband’s execution. She does not have time to think about this because there is another life ahead. An innocent child getting to know the world and she needs to prepare him. Already in the deep hole of misery, she loses the final member in her life. She does not know how to react after the sad ness gets over by the loss of her son. The losses dries her inside and out and when Hank questions her on what she expects him to do, the confused emotions over come her.

The characters in the film are made to walk on a line and also twist and turn when the line takes its way erratically. Handling those sketchy and tightened up beings is brought up in strong sequences. Hank and Sonny, Hank and Buck, Hank and Leticia, Leticia and Tyrell, all of these have their strongest moments. In those moments, there is an unexpected result. The strongest moment of course forms in between Hank and Leticia and there by becomes the final frame of the film. The strongest becomes the most peaceful moment in the whole film. And the only peace which emerges out of it is from the butchered and tainted past forgotten for good.

There is a consistent mood of balanced dull emotions set in this film which is disturbing and restless, that the audience feels the moment of burst getting bigger and realize that the result is going to be extremely devastating. Elongating this tension throughout the course of this movie and making the audience numb to the deaths constitutes further more pressure. Adding to all this is the melancholic and somber element of music score which makes it even more chilling and gloomy. With all the character of an intense drama, bringing in the expected as unexpected is a skill and director Marc Forster plays it to perfection. And in “Monster’s Ball” he brings in the unusual peace in to these sad characters.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"Seven Samurai" (Language - Japanese) (1954) - Movie Classic

When a film is made at particular time period and the future generations get to watch it, there is lot of details and scenarios which goes away with the time passed by. If a movie not only retains it originality and novelty, but also transforms itself unintentionally along with the time passed, then there is a classic. Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” not only invents and show cases the techniques which are getting followed till date, but also stands tall with its concept and film making unique ness.

The villagers are going to get attacked by the bandits after the harvesting and they hire seven samurai to defend them. One line. That’s it. That’s all I took to summarize the story. It is extremely tough and I would go ahead and say almost impossible to generate an interesting and unique three and half hour movie out of it today. The film starts right off from the first frame with the bandits setting themselves the time to strike the village. One farmer overhears and then the village people get advice from the patriarch to hire Samurais to defend them. Four villagers set out to hire their defenders for their village.

The movie builds up so much on its foundation, detailing the process of defending a war is an ordeal and it brings the real feeling into the audience. Akira excels in the introduction of each character with finesse and precision. This is the strong point of Akira; making the character friendly and earn respect from the audience as the other elements in the film does. He did it in “Red Beard” with another totally different surroundings and situation. Here it is with respect to bravery and clever ness. The introduction of the central character, the one who will be recruiting the rest of the six, Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura) is the trend setter for an unusual out of the way situation. He asks to shave his head and pose as a priest to save a child who is been held as a hostage by a thief. That sequence is enough to draw out the personality of the character. He is bold, caring, clever and ready to give up his life for a stranger. In the very same manner, with the introduction of each character, there is this employment of showing the in depth characteristics of them and also using the same situation to the advancement in the screenplay as well.

While the movie goes along smoothly with all the six of them very composed and diligent, Akira introduces the funniest yet wild character of Kikuchiyo (Toshirô Mifune). He is animated and at times mad too. Even then he shows interest in assisting the most meager paid and dangerous assignment. An assignment where in death is almost certain and still he goes for it. At the right time, the character shows his agony and anger. A peek in to the madness of this unusual personality. Akira’s movies are by far technically advanced in those periods and still it is. The slow motion, contrast balance with most of the movie shot in natural light and the editing are top notch.

Apart from ahead of time technical improvisation in the film, there is tons of information embedded and explicitly available. For any film, the time taken to describe and emphasize the antagonists is enormous. Sometimes it becomes the revolving factor for many of the successful movies. In this film, the whole concentration is on the villagers and the Seven Samurais. The head of the bandits get two dialogues in this three and half hour movie. Still there is no gap felt. In fact this is another unique technique of story telling. With so much focus on this handful of characters, Akira gives romance, humour, action, thrill, philosophy and brilliant locations.

The film is a classic and there needs to be no more detailed explanation. The usage of natural elements has always been a trademark work in Akira’s and here Asakazu Nakai proves how it can be presented in black and white. The movie carries rain, wind, sun light, amazing water falls, dense forest and the hill side view of the village with clarity and amazement.

There is a particular sequence wherein one of the Samurai, Kikuchiyo tries to ride a mad horse. He some how gets on it and goes victoriously. All the villagers cheer him and he rides with pride. He goes through a series of huts and the audience does not see him as the villagers. After the hut passes by, the horse alone comes running while Kikuchiyo breaks his hip and walks humorously chasing the horse. This sequence is by far the most predictable part in the movie but this is where it was born. When I think about it, I cannot stop laughing and admiring the same time.

“Seven Samurai” as I said in my first paragraph show cases and transforms itself with respect to different generations. When the first viewers would have watched it, they would have been the optimist. They wanted all the Samurais to survive. They would have been hit by tragic and would have empathized with the rest of the characters. Now in this generation, every one is pragmatic and they know that there is going to be loss. And this time, the suspense of who is going to survive drives the viewers to get into watching the movie. But I guess both the generation came out with a slight smile mixed with tragic emotions, yet with some pride in watching the master film maker’s brilliant movie presentation.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"The Sacrifice" (Language - Swedish/French/English) (1986) - Movie Review

A film which may not answer all of your questions might still be intriguing and also may be some of the sequences, life changing philosophies coming out of it. Yet some times the very same will be extremely abstract which might not supposedly deliver what it is out there, if there is something in it. “The Sacrifice” is the last film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and the first film I am seeing directed by him. In that sense, this might be a big leap off the blues, but still there are some perplexing and riddled puzzles unsolved at the end of this movie. But on the other hand, there might not be anything to be solved at all and it is all in the perception of each viewer. While it is something which can be said for any movie, in this film it is intentional and draws the lines fair and straight from the audience.

It takes extreme patience for any viewer to sit through the whole movie. But it is the curiosity which drives the factor of insanity with the abstraction embedded into it. One of the extremely technical applications in the film is the use of the camera and its operations in the most slow and definitive way. The initial sequence of the movie goes continuous for more than 6-7 minutes and it is hard to notice it explicitly but it is felt. I guess this is the reason; the movie is been praised and applauded by most of the critics and fans of Tarkovsky.

The film supposedly mentions about the end of the world by a war which most of them assume as “World War – III” while I would term it as any war. It happens on the Birthday of the protagonist, Alexander, a journalist and philosopher. The happenings of it are depicted by loud thundering shrieking sound of an airplane or a bomb which shakes the whole building. Phones go out and electricity goes out too. These are the indications of a war which is supposedly going to destroy the humanity. To arrive this point in the movie, it takes an hour or so. Even those are in a pace set with Alexander voicing his opinion on this life and his actions till this birthday to his son referred as “Little Man” who is recovering from a surgery which temporarily does not allow him to speak. What can be derived about the character of Alexander? Before answering this question, I have not thought about it and the following is the flow of my thinking about the movie. Alexander is a man who has seen and studied it all. He tries everything once and does not hesitate to give it up, if it does not make sense. He is a man of lot of words and suffers to make a point solid enough to penetrate the other party which is the reason why his relationship with his wife is not so tight. At the same time, he is a man of intense affections towards his son. His appeal of appreciation towards art is high. He is good in making friends within a short period of time as that of his Postman Otto. Having said all this, is it the feeling that the film has delivered what it had? But sadly no or at least for me it did not suffice enough.

But I can see where other directors like David Lynch and Michael Haneke get their inspirations from. The style of making is something stands out for me. This is a movie which is totally dependent on individual perception. I did not expect any kind of surprise ending or even an explanation of unknown actions by characters. What I was expecting the least is a small amount of experience of getting something very mystical yet riveting as per the content per se. Unfortunately I did not read it close enough. Maybe someday when I watch it after several years, maybe, just maybe I would be able to appreciate it for what everyone is saying. But right now, I am waiting for the next Tarkovsky movie to see and hope I can read it properly and understand the greatness of this legend.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"The Weather Man" (2005) - Movie Review

Life is not easy and it is the nature of it to be hard. Other wise there would no taste of having happiness. Defining individualistic personality may be easy but accepting the fact that some one really messed up due to it, is unacceptable, at least to them. Dave Spritz (Nicolas Cage) is the weather man for local television channel in Chicago. He works two hours per day and gets paid an unimaginable huge amount per year. He does not live with his wife and people throw things at him. This is his life and it is not easy.

There is a pity in his lifestyle, but in reality, he is rich and as one person who identifies him says, “You are in TV, bro”. What else one could ask for? A person can be famous and rich, yet a screw up, a clichéd truth. There is a single line of difference between things going wrong and things you mess up due to own actions. Dave jumps on both the sides. His actions are sometimes irreparable and still he has the hopes. He thinks things can be worked out. He believes everything would fall in place and more money is the answer he arrives on. When he gets interest in Archery and becomes good at it, along with Dave, the viewers does hope that this is where he lacked his concentration. This is the focal point of his failure and it is the time to get it all back. It does not happen that way. Life is not easy. He knows he is wrong.

What is so interesting and mesmerizing about this film is that the presentation of a man who spends his time thinking about solving it while not exactly taking the right actions for it, in a manner everyone would do in their life. It is the beauty of the slick Chicago with his complacent ignorance of reality. Is it the combination of the place to the right people? It might seem I am kidding but the movie matches up so perfectly to believe so.

In the middle of all this hell breaking lose or as he thinks himself, Dave’s father Robert (Michael Caine) is the man of right words. His deliverance of sentences is meticulous. Of course he is a Pulitzer Prize Won Writer. But he is so definitive and clear, even when he curses. It is like he knows why he is saying this and what is the impact of each syllable will be on the other party. It is Michael Caine at his touch of versatility. He is a dying father who knows life better than his son. While Dave is continuously fighting for his recognition, he spits with truth on his face. Dave respects his father and so does Robert about Dave. The concern for each other is mountainous that they take so much time and energy to tell it in a subtle manner. Robert even though is clear about the happenings, stores it for his final hit. The film plays around with it all balanced. The audience expects it and they give it and they do not even realize it. After the credit rolls and do the thinking like what Dave or Robert says, they realize the facts. The film excels in this of the sudden enjoyment consecutively and the viewers get immersed into it. It takes time for them to wonder the actual events which happened in front of their eyes.

The film concentrates on the unusual bonds and the circling of the same knowledge passed on different generations. It is the mirage of life gets going without any effort, but in actuality it is all effort. It reflects the attitude of a person who is in a comfortable position financially, feels everything might just work. The style of the film takes the viewers in and for a while be a part in the everyday life of Dave. They are placed as the third person with respect to their convenience. Sometimes they do want to throw stuff at him and the film provides the opportunity. Sometimes they do want him to get his autograph and get snubbed by him. It also facilitates that. Strange and comfy feeling of being in a movie without their knowledge is the improvisation; a viewer might get from this film.

Gore Verbinski makes an impressive film in the arena of independent comedy drama genre very strongly. As the movie itself centers on a man of predicting weathers, the film happening in the middle of a cold winter is right utilization of the theme. This reminded me of “American Beauty”, not because of the character serialization of the primary element in the film losing the sense of touch with his family, but how different both movies depict something so similar in a totally different and brilliant way.

The film seems to have weighed and estimated the capability of viewers and feeds them with the right emotions at the right time. I am sure it is not intentional to do that but as moviegoer, there comes a tendency or putting it on a positive note as “knowledge” to predict subconsciously on what the story might provide. This might prove fatal to the experience and fortunately it has made me to identify the good and bad movies correctly. This film made me forget that fact during lot of moments. I guess with respect to that, “The Weather Man” did predict the right results. Do you think there is a variance? Let me know after watching the film.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Talk to Her" (Language - Spanish) (2002) - Movie Review

Marco Zuluaga (Darío Grandinetti) cries for an emotionally stunning dance performance but shies away when he was asked to express his feelings to his comatose girl friend Lydia (Rosario Flores) by Benigno (Javier Cámara). Benigno thinks they can hear and very well react to them even though scientifically they are in a state of sedation. In fact he has been doing that with his patient/love Alicia (Leonor Watling). “Talk to Her” is the film of how different people handle their loneliness, love, rejection and also their obsessive affection over other person.

With the above gist of a small situation, the film is good enough to be left unsaid. There are cob webs of inter related broken hearts in the story. The characterization is done with care and detail. Marco is finding it hard to get out of the relation he had been bearing for a long time. Something about Lydia strikes him during a television interview of her. He is puzzled by her that he takes up the assignment of interviewing her who is a bull fighter. He is a man of soft skills. He does not force or even show signs of aggression unnecessarily.

The movie shows different angles of loneliness. Each angle is through the viewing of the three main characters. Marco, Benigno and Alicia. Lydia is the only one constantly in touch with a partner but finds it tough to accommodate the softness of Marco and having her mind boggled in previous relation. Marco is the guy who gets absorbed by every one but lives inside his pain of losing the loved one to some one else. He does not share it with any one and that forms the strained relationship with Lydia which is not been shown but observed by me.

Benigno is the cheerful lonely man. He knows deep inside that he does not have a dialogue with any one and in a way does not want to. As the psychiatrist says, his “special” adolescence gets missed. He misses it because he took the responsibility of taking care of his mother at a very young age. His mother dies and his ogling love becomes his object of untold obsession. Alicia learns dancing opposite to his house and she gets into coma by an accident. It is the field of Benigno, to be honest. He enjoys the four years day in and day out taking care of her. It is the purity of love he shares with her and painting it in the screen is amazingly done. He is tormented by the unreciprocated soul of her but gets consoled himself. His character is full of energy and does not shy away as Marco to express himself.

Alicia partly in her bubbling dances and a two line scene impresses not only Benigno but the audiences too. Those two sentences are the life of Benigno. He lives the life for her. He finds enjoyment in it. The film does not shed unnecessary sympathy for Benigno rather depicts hope and joy through him. It is not mentioned whether he is the one who raped Alicia or not, and leaves it to the viewers. Either way it becomes obsolete since the character is so pure for the love towards Alicia. The feeling is not making the action right but it is neglected as it gets comfortably super imposed by the emotions of him. Marco does not question him of this and this is where the movie takes its time to beautifully lay out the love in between these two men. The final meeting in between these two is the best sequence of friend ship filled with love and sympathy.

The film’s impressive ness lies in the performance and artistic transformation of it. Performance in between Darío Grandinetti and Javier Cámara forms the crux of this movie. The way they carry their character’s emotion and empathy makes the piece a subtle love story of two men who are not gay. It is kind of getting mandatory in movies to explain a relation ship between two men if they are not sexually intimate. While it is sad, if the movie demands it, it becomes necessary. This movie has delivered it with such terse ness and intensity that nobody cares about it. There is no reason to explain the emotions of two human beings as that of shared by Benigno and Marco. Pedro Almodóvar has given the new definition of depicting those through this film.

As for the artistic transformation of the movie, it is the way the pace of the movie gets it agility and beauty. The screenplay and editing needs to be high credited, since it picks up as an independent movie and races as a thriller at the end. But the writer/editor did not get held up in negating the emotions and subtleties. They glorify it with this speeding story at the end and thereby accomplishing the impossible, an independent/fast paced thriller.

The film can be viewed with multiple tones of pain. A person insanely in love with another person loses his hope when it was the most crucial time he should have had it. Benigno losing himself for the love over Alicia. It is this pain which may affect a viewer. A person who is insanely in love with a person does an action of love which is so touching and tragic. Another angle of Benigno showing his affection over Alicia. This is another reason for the pain which may affect a viewer. A person who forms an unusual bond with another person who is his complete opposite in every aspect and he continuously loses his loved ones now and then. Marco losing his last contact of being loved, that is Benigno. This is another deliverance of pain by the film. But of all, it is also the hope which exists in between Marco and Alicia, whom after so many ordeal and torment have some thing in common and “Talk to Her” opens it up to the viewers.