Monday, May 28, 2007

"Waitress" (2007) - Movie Review

The defining moment of the movie lies some where in the middle of it. That happens when Jenna (Keri Russell) asks his always complaining boss Cal (Lew Temple), “Are you happy Cal?” and the reply of his. While in any other movie it would have been the sudden refreshing moment for the central character whose life is miserable and intertwined in life full of complications and mistakes. That does not happen here. In fact there are various such moments in the movie which might have been those shaking up the character to mould her life. The reason for this movie differing and good is due to that. It stayed true to the character.

Every one knows that Jenna is going to give a punching statement to her controlling and annoyingly irritating husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto) at some point of time in the movie. So it is a sure thing to happen and there are lot other things which can be guessed. The thing this movie giving those surpasses the element of surprise is by strategically placing them. Jenna is genius in the making of pies. The pies are expressed as her emotions at that moment. She “invents” those as she says on a daily basis. So eventually all those emotions are sad, depressing and hateful. Surprisingly it nourishes her pies to a decree of perfection. The movie is a run of the mill story. Extremely differentiated psychotic husband pushes her wife to an affair. She convolutes herself in to the hands of guilt and adding to it is the financial pressure. Interestingly the affair is with Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) who is attending her for pregnancy.

The film is very entertaining and still artfully appealing due to the presence of some interesting characters. The continuously talking and picky old aged owner of the Joe’s Pies, Joe (Andy Griffith). Jenna’s adventurous over conscious about her appearance friend Becky (Cheryl Hines). A totally out of confidence waitress Dawn (Adrienne Shelly, the late director of the movie) who wants a life of being a wife and a mother. Then the clumsy and nice Dr. Pomatter. And the bitter spice for the recipe of this film, Earl. The film does not over use them and ruin the moments of Jenna. They facilitate the advance of screenplay underplaying their characters. When all this is happening, Jenna played Keri Russell picks up those nice touches of them to make it an interesting dining experience for the audience.

Coming to the core of the story is the relationship problems and of all dealing it by a woman. A woman who has become so financially dependent and also fearing over her husband. She is totally weak and defeated. Her happiness is gone and rests in the making of her pies. She acts on her instincts outside the yard circle of her husband. She expresses her passion so violently and in an impulsive manner. She is caught up in between the betrayal and suffering. She passes the day by expecting to meet her lover while wipe those by telling herself that her husband deserves this. And the movie cleverly justifies it in a way so smooth and in clandestine way. Earl is a person any one cannot survive around. For him Jenna is his Barbie Doll. He is psychotic and jealous over the doll. He denies the emotional outlet for her. This suppression and insensitive behaviour is taken as a justification for Jenna’s affair. But it does not answer the same for Dr. Pomatter’s affair with Jenna. And they use the same to stop it in the end. Nicely done.

In the end of course everything resolves as it supposed to. Happy and convincing. Every one deserves what they are getting. And we feel satisfied. It is an easy feeling for any moviegoer for a film like this. But here it is earned well enough. It does not pull the cheap stunts. While they use the rude behaviour of Earl for Jenna’s affair, they do not use the routine of him having an affair and call it even. The only thing which is haunting is the sudden change of Jenna once her baby is born. I guess women understand it well than men. It is a life changing experience which would reveal the true colours of life. It is haunting for me because I am still a young man. And they say that it takes years of experience to understand it for men, through the character of Joe.

"Bug" (2007) - Movie Review

“What !!!??? Are you kidding me?? !!!” was an expression from a teenage girl in the theater once the credits rolled up. I kind of felt it too. I had a smile on my face for a weird reason. The reason is I knew what the teenage group expected out of the movie and I cannot stop thinking that feeling of being disappointed. Call me sadist but it is kind of not good to expect out of a movie. Alright, now I am feeling guilty. Anyways, this is a movie which will definitely disappoint lot of the audience. Not a lot, everyone.

I remembered “Being John Malkovich” and I am sure people would have had the same disappointment but for not understanding. Out here it is a feeling of vagueness and absence of concrete ending. The reason most people would have been cheated in “Being John Malkovich” is that they would have wanted a way to find how this portal exists. They would have concentrated behind the science of the portal. But the fun is not that and it is the ride of being in another mind and the complex clear screenplay of Kaufman. So I decided may be I am beckoning too much of an explanation from this film. So I started thinking and realized the film does not intend the viewers to do that. It is the experience and a set up of play. The fear, loneliness and lost love are the movie. So does it make this an entertaining one? Tough question to answer.

The movie mostly happens in Room Number 7 of Rustic Motel. Agnes White (Ashley Judd) lives there alone. She gets blank calls and she suspects it is by her ex-husband who got released from prison. In the meanwhile situation pushes Peter (Michael Shannon) to stay with Agnes. Agnes meets him only that night through her friend R.C (Lynn Collins). This is the part I liked the most. Very interesting and mystical conversation goes between Peter and Agnes. The way Judd and Shannon take their characters is what makes most of the movie to sit and been absorbed into a genuine insanity.

I cannot say I was entertained nor I was stunned by the way it is taken. One thing is it kept me busy. This constant question of what is the “Bug” which may be real or not makes it running. Almost nothing happens in terms of thriller/horror in the first half of the movie. It is purely a drama till the mid point of it. Then it takes a strange turn towards paranoid and schizophrenic world which very well might be true. They make the viewers get claustrophobic. It is uncomfortable and icky during that course of time. And suddenly it gets graphic. And graphic leads to insanity. Then to weird theories and finally an end.

I hate to say that I did not like the movie, because I feel I let myself get into the depths of expectations. I expected a thriller which it is. I expected a suspense, which it is. I expected a tension filled climax, which it is. But still it is unsatisfying. I guess director William Fredkin marginally failed to put in the concept of going through the “emotions” and “experience” rather than a deus ex machina. The initial one hour of sequences only elevated the curious level for untying the knot rather than a dark emotional parody.

The reason for me to expect a deus ex machina is that the way the character behaves seems to be in between the world of realism and dream. Some times the dreams become real to the skin. The film has been adapted from the play of the same name by Tracy Letts. So its original roots would have been a short story. And in a short story, the ending is unsubstantiated and left as it is, with questions and no answers. To enjoy it is to not expect answers. I expected it.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"Pirates of the Caribbean : At World's End" (2007) - Movie Review

When I saw the “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, even though it was not the newest way of a giving the world of strange characters and creatures, it had its charm of interesting screenplay. The second part, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” wandered aimlessly arriving at an end which marks the new beginning of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”. The third consignment has so many plots with further sub plots branching into sub sub plots, the screenplay would have been an enormous task. It needs to be appreciated for spinning itself into it but also sad to see it becoming a victim of itself. Director Gore Verbinski tries so hard to bring it intertwined and grandiose. It has its moments and the ratio of it is compromised by the length of the movie.

As expected, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is brought back to the real world; other wise there will be no third part. The trust and mistrust flows all over in between Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom). The ship Dutchman, commanded by Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and he in turn is commanded by the Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander). And he does it by holding the heart of the Jones. And Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) who is been brought back from the dead by Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) , aids in whatever the story writers want him to do. And if you think I have given away most of the plots, you are wrong.

So does it mean that the film is boring for the two hours and forty five minutes? No it is definitely not boring. The director has kept the appeal of the visuals and the adventures associated with it intact. It is engaging but the problem of making it too engaging tires us. It forgets the territory of what it supposed to be. At the end of it and when the war is at loose, we really forget why every one is fighting. And for sure we do not know whose side is every one on. It may be the way of the story working out itself, but it does not complete it. It brings down the energy level of the viewers and there seems to be no conviction in the end.

Johnny Depp as usual comes with his charismatic presence. His moments in the previous two parts continue perfectly out here. And if there is one blatant and embarrassingly cheesy encounter in the movie, it will be the marriage of Elizabeth and Will. First of all, it steals away the momentum of the whole tension on the screen, second of all, it is not comic at that situation and finally it is inserted for the purpose of getting them united. There is no proper justification or even if there is, it gets lost in the cob webs of sub plots. And I forgot where the character of Elizabeth became an amazing swords woman? If some one knows please let me know.

The film does its job. It entertains. It is massive. Its visuals are stunning and come at the apt place. There are only very few moments in the movie which makes some uneasiness. Jack’s hallucinations may be one of those. It is so because something tells me that they need to elevate and amplify the character of Jack Sparrow. The people need more of him and it can be done by multiples of them is the view opted by the makers. It does work if the character is a serious one and the imaginary characters provide the element of comic. Or the imaginary should be comically making fun of the real one for what he is famous for. The technique employed out here does not opt both of those and gives exact replica of him. Hence it becomes too much of Jack to take.

The problem advances from the second part to here. The first part seems immortally entertaining when I see it in DVD now. The second part will end with the note of no satisfaction both visually and mentally. The third never bores any one and constantly runs with a pace. The problem of it is too much of everything. The third part will entertain but goes without any soul in it. And every soul beckons this one be the end of this chain of “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Tickets" (Language - English/Albanian/Italian) (2005) - Movie Review

There are three segments happening in a train. Directors Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach and Ermanno Olmi direct those. The whole movie is been credited to all the three directors and hence it does not seem each segment is created by each one. Stories in train are an interesting and happening place. It appears claustrophobic but still gives a view of the outer world. All the places are instantaneous. Nothing is certain. It happens in a bus too but there is a sense of detachment and attachment with the train. Maybe it is the ambience of providing an environment of outer world yet confined in a boundary. It is world shrunken in to it. I guess that’s the reason these three directors chose this concept as a theme.

The first one is the most detached one or as a personal opinion did not appeal to me very much. It is a professor (Carlo Delle Piane) who is lost in his imagination or may be real. He returns from an assignment on a train. In his journey he thinks back the few moments he spent with a younger lady than him. Even though as a whole it did not appeal to me as rest of the two, the sequence in which the professor explains his feeling to her over dinner is astounding and true. Or may be he is just day dreaming as he says. That’s where he has the courage to say what he feels. Age does not apply out there as he says. It is a poetic way of conveying that point, but some where it gets predictable and uncorrelated. It is not boring but does not fit with the rest of the scenes in it. But it has the way of arranging the jig saw not for completing it, but for the experience of it.

The second segment is the most intriguing and intuitive piece of all. We see an old lady (Silvana De Santis) whose face appearance and the way she emote her in the public is so annoying and irritating. It is this prejudice concept we form and the director(s) cleverly tricks us. It is these small little terrific surprises which makes this to stand out from the rest. Perceptions are shattered in this segment. How fast we form opinions and how well it may not hold for a situation is explained in detail in this small segment. It says that situations differ and finding a sequence of pattern will only lead to embarrassment. At the same time, the resultant of those dominations and nagging can very well put some one in the most miserable and pathetic position. The character of the young guy Filippo (Filippo Trojano) is amazing. We are surprised by how easily he is allowing this old lady to walk over him. The truth is revealed in few moments. And when the end comes with the old lady realizes her mistakes, it is too late. And she asks nicely to the next man to help her rather than frowning. A lesson learned hard. Silvana De Santis sparkles and makes us irritate that character so much and at the same time sense some sort of empathy towards her. We realize that she still expects the attention she got when she was young and it is amazingly shown when she ogles at the beautiful women. She wants to be the centre of attention and does not even recognize the service Filippo is offering her. Truly a master piece of a segment.

The final segment is entertaining and tragic in its own way. Here too the director(s) plays with our judgments and perceptions. Three Scottish boys (Martin Compston, William Ruane, Gary Maitland) are going for a game to Rome. They become friendly with an Albanian boy. They learn that he is traveling with his family and going to meet his father. The family comes in rest of the segments. In rest though they are not the main characters while they play a major part in this piece of the movie. This segment is funny, sad and emotional. I am sure most of us would have been in the miserable position of losing a ticket. Here it happens and they suspect the boy. The rest is an amazing battle of emotions and prejudice. They bring in the pattern out here too. And again say that there is no consistency in characters of human. It depends on the situation and of all conscience. May be we might be fooled and lost, but end of day we answer ourselves to sleep well. Here the moment is for these three boys. The end of course is cheesy but at that point of time, we want the boys to escape and enjoy the moment with them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Yojimbo" (Language - Japanese) (1961) - Movie Classics

When I watched “Red Beard”, “Rashomon” and “Seven Samurai” of Akira Kurosawa, the emotional point and philosophical conclusions were predominant and in almost all there were explanatory. “Yojimbo” is a clever thriller. It is a terrific entertainer. But does it hold the same kind of intense values and principles as the three movies mentioned? It is told through some supporting characters and not explanatory. But it is not fair to have a made up expectation for any movie and especially of this genre. So let us come to real movie making and how entertainment is cooked properly. This is one of the best thriller/action movies made in the history of movie industry.

The story is how a nameless Samurai manages to eradicate two gangs in a small village. The movie is short and plot twists occurring every five minutes. The bait made by the Samurai to the leaders and the way it turns out is unpredictable. After the initial thirty minutes of proper explanation of the situation existing in the town, there is no stop for this fast paced thriller. Toshirô Mifune has a charisma which he can easily and conveniently change with respect to the character. His humour is interestingly animated in “Rashomon” and “Seven Samurai”. In “Red Beard” he is the stern and rigid Doctor. Here is it the combination of a man with few words and also the right wit. This movie even though is solidly supported by screenplay is made fun and clever due to the acting of Toshirô.

Films of this type has been made and remade numerous times and ways till now and keep on going in future. The days when heroism takes precedence over realism are around the time of this movie. A movie will be severely hit when the protagonist gets hurt or loses. The Samurai in this film suffers injuries and encounters a perfect match. Any movie like this is interesting because the hero is matched by a villain equally and may be better than him. The brother of one of the gang leader, Unosoke played by Tatsuay Nakadai fulfills that. At the same time he becomes the victim of the various forms of games laid by the Samurai. So everything goes planned as the Samurai moves the coin? No. While he does the half of the job, the remaining is a stroke of luck. And some times it can be called fate. The film does not fall in those categories of cheap tricks. The genuine effort is still authentic and original. And this is the reason for the non-stop entertainment of “Yojimbo”.

As with any Kurosawa’s movies, the technical aspect takes a special mention. But in rest of the movies I have watched, the camera work and the application of colour-contrast is enjoyable and highly sophisticated, here it goes for the make up, fights, special effects and long camera shots. All of the mentioned points are implied in different scenes. But they are used once. They use it for the demand of it and not for the fancy. This made me thinking. If there is a new technology been applied now a day in a movie, some of the creators tend to push those in a place where it is totally unintended. They fall for the novelty. In this film though, with that sophistication in those departments, they have controlled it for one sequence or even one shot. Truly loyal to the script.

And another important factor is that the missing of romance sequence. I cannot imagine some one sacrificing those because it would have brought down the momentum of the story. May be I appreciate it a lot more than supposed to due to the current trend in various film industries, wherein they question the script if it missed the “important” ingredient for entertainment. This is a simple story of all. It is evident that it is made for a nice thriller. Audience entertainment is the centre piece for a production of this kind. Beyond that they manage to stick to the originality of it. It is so sad that I have been seasoned to have an opinion like this. An opinion of bending the art with respect to the demand of the audience and the business. I guess Kurosawa would have given a questioned ridicule look on me for praising these factors. This is cinema and this is how it should be.

This might be termed as one of the easy weighed film made by Kurosawa. But I am sure there have been lot of social issues and values addressed very subtle. The government officials behaving for their profit. The financial advantage paving the way for the main war of reign. Also the desire to attain a woman and in a very mild toned manner, the consequences of gambling. It may seem I am reading too much from the movie, but those are the simple sub-conscious facts ingrained into the viewers’ when they watch this film. I cannot wait to watch the sequel, “Sanjuro”.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"The Painted Veil" (2006) - Movie Review

There is a film named “Mouna Raagam” (1986) meaning “Silent symphony” (source: directed by Maniratnam. The movie is in my native language Tamil and is considered to be one of the best movies of the director. It is a story of a woman who marries some one against her will. She suffers from coming out of her past love while her husband is portrayed as the most understandable and composed man. “The Painted Veil” directed by John Curran is based on the novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham. These two movies run very similar to each other. I am not sure whether the same novel inspired Maniratnam. In my very humble opinion though, Maniratnam is extremely versatile in stylistic presentation but graces the grass rather digging deep. While it is no doubt that “Mouna Raagam” is a wonderful movie, this film takes some time to dig deep in to the source of the relationship problems than that.

It is tough to understand the real Dr. Walter Fane (Edward Norton), a bacteriologist who hides behind the “veil”. He is the man of very few words. And uses those words quite frankly and vehemently as needed. He seems shy but is far from it when the situation demands. He does not hesitate to ask Kitty (Naomi Watts) to marry her the next day he meets her. I guess those days are marked with instant attraction as authentication of one’s love and I am speaking 1920s. Kitty believes it is not the world wherein a woman marries any one without any feelings for him. Kitty falls for against her own philosophy. And she rides over it to move away from her mother. Without any love for Walter she travels with him to China. Their strains and tensions in their relationship with the back drop of Cholera in a remote village of China forms the remaining part of the movie.

It is no surprise except in couple of sequences about what to happen next. But there lies a nice and clean way of bringing those to screen. The spectacular nature of China interiors independently and abundantly supplies the flavour of Oriental theme. This film definitely is on the insight on relation ships and the struggles. While in “Mouna Raagam”, the character of husband is shown with no form of mistake from his side. In fact it is quite amazing that there is not much of explanation given from his side on justifying his actions. It is an instinct of him to accept the proposal. He did not think the other side of it even after the refusal from the woman. Here it is dealt properly with respect to Dr. Walter. In fact at every instance of it, there seems to be a justification of his actions and acceptance of his mistakes. He does not bother about digging it deep and spoiling it. He works to arrive on a solution. But still he is a human being. He has the anger and the betrayal wounding him constantly.

While on the other side of this relationship is Kitty. She is unsure of herself. Being in the comforts of her dad, it is all different in China. She has been used to life of novelty and parties. She expects the same from Walter. Her idea of man is her father. She believes that a man should provide those things, even without love. Her definition of love is mixed with attraction and passion over emotions. She falls for it. She realizes the consequences of it. But it is too late and is too ugly. Yet to have a man like Walter, she is given a chance or may be it is his way of punishment. She manages to explore it by pressure. She takes that extra step to reach for it.

China as the back drop during the British rule over it, there are very minor yet solid discussion of those. The supporting roles form a core substance since they are the driving factors in the change of personalities and character of the main elements in the movie. Toby Jones as Waddington, Diana Rigg as Mother Superior and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang provide those admirably along with some splendid support from the original back ground scores of Alexandre Displat. Norton has always a way of himself in giving the character its originality. He calculates his performance and does not over do it. While there have been the aggression and emotional characters of him in “American History – X” and “25th Hour”, in the recent times his choice of role is soft and subtle. He did a calm and charming magician in “The Illusionist” and now this. He brings the magnetism and the stand necessary for the role. As his counterpart, Naomi Watts has more challenge. Because the character of her spoiled and confused lady turning into a responsible and loving wife is not easy. Their working in the screen is exemplary in the scenes wherein they confront and accept their mistakes.

All said this is not a remarkable and astonishing movie. This is a very ordinary and well known story line of all. It does bring some surprises but it is plain and simple. But simplicity is beautiful in its own way. It has the power of encompassing the genre all across still carrying the same intensity and art in it. This excels in those territories. There are some movies which need to be complex and riddled. There is fun in solving the puzzle. There are some movies which are adorably sweet and at the same time tragic. “The Painted Veil” falls in the latter and I liked it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

"The Thin Red Line" (1998) - Movie Review

I remember going “The Thin Red Line” in my native Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It was the times of “Saving Private Ryan” claiming heights in achievements. It was the age of innocence too, if I may say for me and my friends. I was living with my uncle and aunt. Their son was always been the left out since he was the youngest. Hence when I and my friends decided to go this movie, we tagged him along. He was going to high school. I am sure he felt a little up the stage since “seniors” like us took him to a war movie. And those days in my native, war movies means action and combat. And boy we were disappointed. I felt so bad for my cousin. Apart from various self inflicted editing by the theatre operators, the movie seem to be too morbid for us. So I decided to revisit it. I realized we were all too young to be patient and also to grasp the enormity of the film.

The movie shows the encounters of a US Army Unit in the Battle of Guadalcanal. The film though focuses on couple of characters. The movie spines around Private Witt (James Caviezel) with his strange powerful smile and sparkling eyes. He is in desertion when the movie starts. He is in the company of the natives of the Melanesian. He paddles lonely in his boats greeting the other native in another boat. He plays around with the kids. He is in a world which cannot be even thought upon in a situation of World War – II. He is spotted by his group and Sergeant Welsh (Sean Penn) tries to shook him off this spell. Witt is still as a rock. Then the characters unfurls with Colonel Tall (Nick Nolte). This is his final chance of getting recognized for all his years in the army. This is his one shot and a golden one. He is heavily surmounted with responsibility by his commanding officer, Brigadier General Quintard (John Travolta). The same falls on the field officer Captain Staros (Elias Koteas). They land on the island of Guedalcanal and they are determined to defeat the Japanese and claim the land. I took the strain of laying out the details because this is what the back drop is set. To further this review, this foundation is essential.

So did I reveal the whole movie? Not even close. The movie is not about the intricate heroic battles of all of them who want to prove something to the world and themselves. This is a film which is the analysis of the questions and conscience in the idea of this war. There are voice-overs all over the movie with very little idea of who is talking. Some of those are associated with the reflections on their memories which give some clues on who is talking. It does not matter to know whose voice is it. The whole narration contains questions. It is full of questions with answers untold. This is not a war movie. This is a movie on the people who went against their will and their conscience of all. They did what they never wanted to do. To destroy another human being. So does it mean that there is no patriotism or bravery in them? How can it be defined? As Captain Welsh says in one of the outbursts, it is “property”. Nothing more. Whatever might grow out of it is different but it all comes down to that. And every one is an entity in it. The questions popped up by those soldiers are every one’s. But what can be done in those situations? It becomes more of defending yourself rather than doing it for some unknown non living thing.

This movie directed by Terence Mallick and is an adaptation from the novel of the same name by James Jones. Malick returned to make a film after 20 years of absence. I have not seen his earlier movies but the style of this presentation is melancholic. The amount of time spent to detail out the nature surrounding the vicious war is an irony of the situation. The movie as such does not have running dialogues. It does not have the voice-overs always too. The movement of the characters is this movie. Their slightest emotions are captured. Their internal distress and the killing of their soul is the film. The motion of the film is gradual. It does not rush in to the screen and takes one frame at a time. It slowly gets the audience. It does not irritate but creates the uneasiness. It is humid and sultry, physically and emotionally. The sadness in this film is a kind which cannot be categorized. Its question marks every where.

The action of being in a war and what becomes of doing the right thing becomes a laugh. Captain Staros wants to do the right thing for his men. While apart from the recognition, Colonel Tall is more of the result than saving lives. In a way Colonel Tall is right person for a war. It is about result and not about being a nice man. But on the other hand, character is every where. Captain Staros even though in the face of killing enemies wanted to save his men at any cost. He knows that the sin of killing is already accumulated so much; it is the least any one can do to save his fellow men. In a same way are the actions and beliefs of Private Witt. He believes in the world of peace. His beliefs are in helping the people. Still he fulfills the responsibility of a soldier. And he does it with only one loss in both the sides.

A particular chain of sequence can be made heroic or sad by a score. The handling of it is delicate. It might turn out to be mockery too. There is the sequence wherein the jungle the Army attacks the Japanese Airfield. Those scenes in any other film would have been made a heroic clash and victorious US Army. Here the way it is shown with the most depressing music of Hans Zimmer. Those events remain the evidence of what violence has made us.

At the end of it, there seems to be an answer for all the questions of the soldiers. But it comes with the cost of lives. It still is costing us. Nothing is more painful than the execution of souls. The wars are the executions of those souls. It is the choice made by individuals to serve their country. But the world has become a place of existence wherein bravery is termed as physical strength than character. There is the thin red line in everything. Out here it is between co-existence and calamity.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Coffee and Cigarettes" (2003) - Movie Review

What more can any one ask for a title? The two conversational catalysts which can make the most uneventful dry topic last for eternity. The movie having the right tones and talented performers does appeal in couple of segments. The film has eleven segments each of which goes over of course, with Coffee and Cigarettes which are directed by Jim Jarmusch. The film does not have plot. It is a casual talk and strange incidents surrounding couple of people over the table. Hence it may be sullen some time where in totally neurotic in the other. As a whole the movie does not appeal as the title promises but there are certainly good segments.

The top class segment of all the eleven would be Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan conversation. It is amazing how in those ten to fifteen minutes, they got a small teeny winy plot. Then they had the twist in the end of that segment. But the whole of it is so extremely funny and interesting is due to the performance of Molina and Coogan. The funny and darkish thing about it is the way the frankness and uncomfortable nature has been shown. They play themselves and with the ego and current trend of their competitiveness it is something unusual in their behaviour. I do not know how I would react if some totally strange person from work comes and says that we are related. I will be surprised but would I seriously want to consider his relationship based on that? I guess in one of the episodes of “Seinfeld”, the character Elaine says that there are too many people in her life to involve and she does not need one more. The conversation is in a funny way though. But would it go out here? I don’t know but majority of us are strange to strangeness. A sudden attention out of the blues from a person and what would go through any one’s mind. Is he trying to sell me something? Or is he in need of money? Some times true offering of friendship is always the most suspected one. This particular segment really brings those in total comical manner. A definite winner of the eleven.

The next close thing is the segment of Cate Blanchett having her conversation with her cousin which again is played by Blanchett herself. So there is one is herself and the other her cousin who is envious about her movie star cousin’s life. There is a sense of connection between the segments of Molina and Coogan with Cate’s. Apart from the commonality of the two characters being related, there is the “suspicion” having the bridge. Cate is brilliant as her cousin. While she acknowledges the fact of the movie star seeing her but at the same time does not believe in it. She believes that her cousin is rubbing salt over her wounded wretched failed life. The whole conversation with her becomes an argument of whose better in the silliest things. Enviously Funny.

Apart from the two, there are nine other which are either slow or unnecessarily boring. It does not bring out the required importance of the factor of using the amazing feature of Coffee and Cigarettes. Take the example of the segment “Renée”, there is not much of events happening apart from a waiter trying to shyly hit on his customer. It does not seem funny and it is truly ordinary. Similarly some of the segments seem artificial and not properly orchestrated. “Those Things'll Kill Ya” is one of them. The characters say lot of “f” word and that does not induce comic or for that matter any nature of interest at all. The movie’s starting episode is another strange abstract sequence. There is no existence to create a sense of attachment of each segment to the other. The theme is the only thing which connects each of them. A strange connection of people’s behaviour is in between the “Cousins” and “Cousins?”, but it rarely gets replicated in others. This connection sort of failed even the good ones in it. “Somewhere in California” is something like that.

The movie state in most of the segments as how unhealthy it is to have coffee and cigarettes and also finds answers over it too. That seems clever. But the problem with the film as a whole is the ride is an uneven road. And unfortunately there are lots of bumps than nice clean one.

The style is interesting though. Black and white photography with most of the characters playing themselves is different. The movie since taking the form of having segments should have dwelled in to the discussion of arranging it. It is like compiling for an album. The way of putting the songs in order is critical. This movie is a compilation too. The compilation has couple of good songs but as a whole, a mediocre album/movie.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Adaptation" (2002) - Movie Review

I can only imagine fathoming to express the true sensation of “Adaptation”. It made more sense to watch it right after “Being John Malkovich”. It is right due to the fact that the reference of it and appreciating Kauffman for it made possible to associate with this more closer which is another step towards perfection and beyond. I can say that any one has the same thought as Charlie Kauffman. They have the same thought of self conscious getting them every minute, their physical stature and the way of carrying them. They are aware every now and then. They get the thoughts of sleeping with some one, being a pervert and condescending. But what every one cannot do is the way to put it as a screenplay. It is the skill mastered by Charlie and his fictitious brother Donald Kauffman to come up with a screenplay like this.

The film starts off with Charlie (Nicolas Cage) is in the middle of crisis about his existence. He is circled by the Hollywood celebrities who cannot identify him. It is because he is shy and introvert. He is lost in the world where he stepped into. He is respected for his brilliance. This brilliance is not getting transformed as a self appreciating content human. He is constantly getting reminded by his mind. Yes, it is his mind and he as a separate one, I would say. It is my interpretation of his detachment from himself. When one is so detached from being him, there is no surprise he is detached from every one else. The only one of course he could walk over is his brother, Donald (Nicolas Cage). He feels unusually big in front of him. He constantly criticizes his idea. He feels he is a sell out. Charlie sees him as the typical Hollywood screen writer who is ready to bend the realism for entertainment.

Charlie wants to move away from the shadows of his previous movie, “Being John Malkovich”. He wants to write a simple and straightforward screenplay. Nothing circling around but a clean linear progression of an unusual concept. He decides to adapt the book of Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). The book is about her experience with John Laroche (Chris Cooper) who is a passionate person. He is passionate about Orchids, for time being. Charlie wants to adapt it to screen. The problem is how to adapt a story on flowers on to screen? It is tough to do that. The movie is the process of this adaptation. Truly the title getting justified.

I have not mentioned much or none at all about the director Spike Jonze in my review of his film, “Being John Malkovich”. Charlie engulfed the whole movie with his brilliance in it. He does the same here but screening it, is another form of brilliance. Exactly bringing out the frank imagination of one’s mind is complex. Jonze stays loyal to the script. I can say this, because the movie is the script being narrated line by line. It is an authentication of it. How it would be, if some one reads out their screenplay as their life in a movie. It gives weird sensation of seeing oneself in a mirror. But the mirror is real and imaginative at the same time. The movie is real and the imagination of it being written is the mirror of life. The life of Charlie Kauffman and his brother Donald who simultaneously working on their project ending up mingling their work into one form of adaptation. The film does not say it explicitly, but we feel it.

The film is not in depth about how character is or how it behaves. It is about the challenge of a screenwriter. When I think about writing a story/screenplay, I wanted to take the real events of my life. But the difference will be that I will make some one else speak those lines. I think I can take a general stand point on this and say that most of the writers tend to do that. Some might indulge them, but some one as a side kick. They will not openly declare them as a character with constantly thinking and losing them. Even if they do that, the self indulgence would shadow the creativity. Balancing it in between the calculated indulgence and showcasing the other characters is impossible. Kauffman’s does that in “Adaptation”.

The movie as I said earlier does not dwell too much in to understanding the character till the near end. It approaches that point in latter stage in a blatant way. At that point, we know it is the influence of Donald’s Hollywood ending. That is sheer execution of beauty in it. Allowing the story to be influenced by some one else. And the some one else is fictitious in real world. Wow !

When the screenplay is something like this and the casting aligns the best performers in this art form, all I can say is it could not get any better. Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox and of all Nicolas Cage. Nicolas Cage is a surprising actor. He dazzles in movie like this and also ready to give cheesy routine Hollywood flicks too. Cage is an actor if rightly used can be the best performer any creator would get.

I did not write a review out here in a common nature I tend to. It is tough to write a review for this movie. I guess it is due to the fact of its purity and originality of a genius screen writer. It is tough to withstand the frank disclosure of a human mind to an unimaginable extent.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Being John Malkovich" (1999) - Movie Review

Ok. I need to be honest. I need to go to to completely understand certain happenings in this movie. But as my friend Mathi has made me realize that art needs hard work to understand with respect to its true content and obscure meanings, it is worth it. I felt enthralled after reading and understanding some of the facts about it. It is not that the substance got lost in not understanding but some of the holes which I thought were in the movie got cleared. It is kind of relieving and fulfilled when we associate the realized factor with the sequences in the movie.

Craig (John Cusack) is puppeteer finding it hard to live with his wife Lotte (Cameroon Diaz). Their marriage is uninteresting. Still bound by the commitment, Craig finds a job in a strange office which is situated in 7 ½ floor in a building. It has very low ceiling. There he meets Maxine (Catherine Keener) and he is instantly attracted. She becomes a strange weird obsession for him. He comes out of his marriage bound mind and asks her out. She is not attracted to him. When this is happening, Craig discovers a portal in his strange floor. Curiously he gets into it and gets suck in to some one’s mind. From the people talking to him or the person inside who he is in that it is the actor John Malkovich. In exactly fifteen minutes he is thrown out of the mind and lands some where outside the city. So when he tells something like this strange phenomenon to Maxine, she should freak out right? No. Instead, she proposes a business offer of charging people to be John Malkovich. This is the world of writer Charlie Kaufman.

The movie does not try to dwell in to this weird fantasy or super natural force. Instead it uses it as an opportunity to narrate a love story inter twined unimaginably. Being some one else is human instinct right from the child hood. When I was a kid in my school, I wanted to be a high school boy. When I was a high school boy, I wanted to be a college guy. But there comes a point wherein there is a confusion of who any one really wants to be. For Craig he wants to be a puppeteer but does not know the means of achieving it successfully. This frustration and confusion is amplified by the experience of being Malkovich. At that moment he is in love with Maxine for no apparent reason. And the experience kind of gets him hypnotized for her. The obsession is powered up enormously. And the jealousy creeps up when he learns that his wife is having a strange affair with Maxine through being Malkovich. For Maxine it is impulsive and controlling. Opportunity is everything and she is experimental. She feels an amazing unusual experience of making love with Malkovich knowing Lotte is inside. But she is also put into confusion when without realization learns Craig took over of Malkovich. Now she does not know what to opt for. These three characters are disassociated and connected through the world of Malkovich.

Kaufman’s imagination is impetus. It is overwhelming to see the originality in the screen. And his imagination is filled with obsession over the mechanics of human mind. While analyzing it so scientifically and methodically, emotions and senses are the catalyst for this strange experiment. What would it be to be some one else? Well, it is common in Hollywood about that. But how about being yourself in some one else’s body when they are being themselves? I guess it is tough to explain. The movie does give an idea of it. It is definitely a unique experience. The appeal is more out here since the mind dealt out here is a celebrity. It would not have been enough to handle a screenplay with a person who is a clerk. But it cannot be said for sure on how interesting it would have been. Whatever it is, the idea of projecting the identity into a different mould with a life for itself is an experience.

It is often referred human body as a “vessel” for soul. The movie is based on that. It elevates the immorality purely on the level of one’s own thought process. It enlightens on the issue of how physical the nature has been in to the life of humans under the skin. The representation of the 7 ½ floor is an indication of how small we are and how compressed in between the ground below by the nature and the above by our self. There are clues of existentialism and presence of metaphysical attractions. Craig is obsessed with Maxine purely on her physical aspects. There is no solid evidence in their connectivity. Yet Craig cannot stop thinking about her. He becomes a person so cruel and monstrous with minuscule sense of being human. Even after achieving what he wants in life, he is begging for the sole attention from her. The experience into John Malkovich got him stuck in that. His instance attraction towards her becomes this permanently disguised form of love.

But oddly enough Maxine appears to be the “witch” character. She controls Craig as he does with his puppets. It appears that she is controlling Lotte but we witness her transformation of falling for her. She is not ready accepting her sexuality. She considers it to be experimental but later in her life comes to realize it. Realizing and not deciding on it. She understands the stature of body and soul. I mean as “body” and as “soul”. She opts for the soul. It is multifaceted character depiction of her. For example the film delivers the irony in her not entering the portal that a character who is open for experimenting. May be it is her fear of knowing the truth.

Lotte is another funny little character of distraught. In a calculated way she is not sure on where her life leads or at least on where it is being taken by Craig. She is definitely sure of something terribly wrong with their marriage but does not confess it. As Craig, she is caught into the experience. And her experience is unique of all. Her deepest denial becomes her. And readily accepts it as opposed to Maxine. One character ready to be herself.

If it is noticed that I missed the main character in the movie, John Malkovich. I guess this is exactly the movie delivers. While we are shown on every one being him, his identity is lost in it. He knows he is being controlled and it turns him nuts. While every one experience being him, he never does it with himself. And when he does that by externally inserting him in to his mind, it is chaos. May be he is upset by the fact of being with himself. It is creativity at its best on depicting that sequence. This is a movie about imagination as it poses. But it has so much more to offer than that. It offers humanity. It offers the truth of being you. It offers John Malkovich.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"High Fidelity" (2000) - Movie Review

Coming from a totally different culture and upbringing, the male and female relationships have a fixed definition for me. When some one starts going out, it is under the assumption that they will be getting married. That is the intention. That is my understanding even though it sounds rigid and stupid. Hence out here in US it sounds different. So I used to ask my friend Aaron who is American or rather pester him with how the opposite sex view about relationship out here in US. In the sense, “Will the woman want to get married with whom they go out?” or “Does every woman expect a serious relationship?” and at one point he said, “Your questions are silly.” Some what offended, I asked him why and he said, “You are trying to find a pattern out here and it does not work that way. It depends on the person”. And it hit the nail on the head, I am trying to get a pattern out of it and now I see “High Fidelity”. Rob (John Cussack) tries to find a pattern for his failed relationships. And it is silly. Relationships does not have pattern but entirely depends on each person.

Rob finds it hardly difficult to grasp his one another relationship shattered. He denies it although to us that this one does not come in his top five “most hurtful” break ups. This is Rob obsessed with music. He demands perfection in the quality of it and he wants the same in his life. Rather in his relationships. Everything needs to be pure as he terms. He invites Laura with whom he breaks up at the start of the movie. And asks whether she slept with the guy with whom she is now. The most prejudiced and shallow question any one would ask and it explains everything about him. As their common friend Liz (Joan Cussack) tells that “That’s Shocking” when she hears the reason for break up from Laura, we are shocked too. Because the Rob we have seen up till that point is a sympathetic guy who is confused in his life. We feel sorry for him but once the true things come out we go into the mode of whatever happens to him so be it. We no longer associate with him even when he talks to us through the screen all the time. But Rob does not deny it and explains his confusion further more. While looking at it, every male can relate to it. Or to be precise, every male who is in their stage of “what-does-it-all-meaning” phase as Charlie (Catherine Zeta-Jones) says in the movie.

Life is like a top five list for Rob and his record store employees Barry (Jack Black) and Dick (Todd Louiso). Barry is the outward condescending audiophile but Rob is the nice guy judging but not letting the others know what he thinks about them. I guess that’s the reason Rob does not like Barry’s actions. He is the worst of his form speaking out aloud and it is irritating. And that’s also the reason they work together well. There are movies which deal with the fear of commitment in both the sexes in a traditional sweet cake formula. This movie as might appear to deal with the issues of male commitment alone goes to other side as well. Laura is equally perplexed as that of Rob but the difference is she knows why. She knows the party is over and time to move on for big things. The confusion for her though is that she cannot leave Rob. This ambiguous tension between them pulls them and rips them on and off throughout the film.

John Cussack is the guy who could pull of the sweet irritating nag. He is strangely stereotypic but in a totally likeable way. His enactments seem to be familiar but still far away from it. His different sort of disturbance in every movie takes one more form out here. Since the movie has him talking to the audience and treats them as a character, there is lot of responsibility on him. And a character which needs to be hated and questioned, it almost would have been suicidal to attempt something like this. It is a binary result and it comes out winning.

This is a strange feeling of being committed. Or for that matter being in a relationship. This attraction and mystery in the opposite sex is compulsive especially for men. It is almost universal that a person alone is considered to have lost some thing but for all the more he/she may be happy. But this is not a movie about solitude. This is something about how Rob, who does not want to be alone, suffering from his depravity. The character of it remains in everyone but the way to handle it is what makes each of us the good or bad. Here all through the film Rob does not even consider it. Because perfection matters and it is not surprising from a person who is so accurate in data in music and exactly knows what he likes. Unfortunately he likes every inch of the details in music and fails to identify in his life. Director Stephen Frears adapts the novel of the same name by Nick Hornby to reflect those to Rob through his Records.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"The Majestic" (2001) - Movie Review

The term of “cheesy” scenes are prominent in movies. Basically my understanding goes in the sense wherein the emotions are over done to make it really sweet and explicitly try to make instant connection, but as the time progresses it is realized is all artificial. So does “The Majestic” have those cheesy scenes? The creators have used so much of those scenes previously in Hollywood productions which might get confused with the real emotions shown in this movie. The usage of dramatic emotions is right and in fact more than right, it seems perfect. When I say perfect, it is the perfection to make it sure that it is in a movie and still associates it with a smile on our face. It seems fantasy but real with respect to the events.

Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is a coming up writer who is waiting for his big break in to the A movies in Hollywood. His life is good with a nice actress as a girl friend and his write up very close to production. He has compromised a lot of his creations to achieve it. The first scene is amazing with respect to that. Everyone talk about the ending and decide it. Then they decide to ask the writer itself on it. Show business seems to be the same regardless of which era it is in. The film does not circle exactly on a year but it seems to happen around 1955 or so. Thunders fall on the dreams of Peter Appleton who is now being accused of being a communist. He gets summoned by the committee to explain himself. Depressed and distressed, and also drunk he gets into an accident. He gets washed away in to the shores of a beautiful but sullen town of Lawson. People are kind and are still grieving their loss of their sons in the war. How they greet Peter and how his life gets a totally different plane of existence is the rest of this likeable cute film.

There are clichés and there are sentiments. Director Frank Darabont has his way of providing those in a manner it does not seem to be thrusted upon. The emotions are calm and kind. It does not ride away totally into the melodramatic scenario nor does it contain itself to be a subtle experience. When the town is happy, we really feel the happiness. It is not cheap trick but really there is happiness. We know that everything is going to end happily and there will be a slight moderation near the end to bring everything onto clear. Still there is something mystical that the customary scenes are made to enjoy for what it is. Some where we realize this is how the scenes of “cheesiness” need to be handled to bring in the real thing out of it.

The film while bringing in the natural entertainment drama in it manages the enactment of a message too. It connects the romantic part of it but there is something to be learned upon. The revelation of a character and conviction emerging out of it nails the third act of the film. I am not exactly sure why this movie is set in the era of 1950’s. Maybe it is to bring in the situation of creativity getting hammered by the politics. Maybe it is also to provide those movie classics and remind us that those made the history of cinema. But I guess the town of Lawson is the main reason for it. While there may exist a small town like that but the acute emotions of losing their loved ones as a whole is something that era can only bring in. It is a town lost their future generation for a country. And Peter seems to lighten their hopes up for the time being to remind them that there is still life. That the souls lost remain depressed as the life they left for their loved ones is not being enjoyed. The film brings in those along with the medium of theatres which are diminishing very slowly. I am now able to get how much important Roger Ebert feels that the movies in his festival played upon in the Virginia Theatre, Champaign. It is congested but there is the history been attached to it for the people who watched and got inspired from the classics in those theatres.

Darabont manages to give something to everyone. A movie lover may admire the beauty of the classics and the theatre phenomenon. A war veteran and some one who lost their loved ones in war might associate their emotions with the town people. A relationship renewed for a one which remained hopeless which is in between Harry and his son Luke. This movie is not an epic or an extraordinary way of story telling. It is simply entertainment. An entertainment rightly termed as for movies. And this movie is in lot of way reminds the classic as well. Darabont pays homage to those classics through a different way of giving the used up emotions in a sweet way.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Bloody Sunday" (2002) - Movie Review

There are movies which need to be regarded as a respect for the true events it portrays. It becomes difficult and extremely emotional to view it as a stand point of a critic and also as a regular movie goer. The content and concentration of the subject matter crosses those barriers and for the period of running turn ourselves in no more than shedding tears and sorry for the innocent souls lost, and also realize that it is the least we can do. The roots in the film making of “United 93” originates from “Bloody Sunday” both directed by Paul Greengrass. It is the empathizing loyal nature to the gravity of the event given by him which makes this movie powerful to make us believe it is not a movie. It is life and it beats up to the reactions of the people. This life is what makes this a movie more than a matter of substance.

The film is the events focusing right before and after the massacre by British troops over the people of Derry of Northern Ireland which painted the Sunday with blood. The movie is given mostly through Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt), who organized the civil rights march on 30th January 1972. He is people’s person who believes in non-violence. Even though the troop’s head makes it clear in the press conference for an arrest on whoever participates in the march, this is something expected out of a protest. Any protest expects strong upheaval from the opposition to suppress it. Hence Cooper believes in going on with the march since it is a peaceful one. He expects no riots and wants appeasement throughout the course of it. The young bloods are not so passionate about the movement of softness. They need results now and they sort aggression to be their best choice of protest. It is the age of innocence and also the ignorance. It is the age of learning and hence they get easily bogged down by the fact of causing commotion as one way of showing their emotion against them being dominated by the oppressors.

Cooper aware of it tries to soothe them. In the midst of it is the involvement of Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) but Cooper gets their word for not using violence. In the meanwhile, the paras are in the notion of the breakout. They expect the worst and they want a cessation. A cessation to shut off the whole movement and bring it to complete rest. They start planning on attacking and taking as much key players in. They see this opportunity to cease all the actions and bring some rest. The film is not about whose cause is wrong or right. While they travel through those in the eyes of Cooper, this is the concentration on the whole day which basically marked one more question in the co-existence of humans amongst them. The docudrama mode of shoot is the key in bringing those horrific incidents to the screen. Handling something of extreme disturbing content needs enormous ground work with respect to enacting the events without any biased view even sub-consciously. But thinking about it, whatever may be the real act happened out there, one thing is sure that it is not something to cost human lives to justify it. The film strongly states that in a manner which can only been seen. There could have been a great amount emotion being lost if there was any back ground score in a docudrama like this. It is real and Greengrass does not add any sort of extra elements to make it unrealistic. His loyalty to the incidents is the justification of undertaking the project.

Watching this movie brings out questions of humans not being their self. Many believe that non-violence does not apply to a world surmounted by nuclear warheads. They believe blinking for a second is something any one cannot afford against an enemy. The fear of being existing and being eliminated. The battle in between these two causes confusion and over look the most important details in any agreeable situation. What happened on that horrific Sunday seems more than that. While the initial gear up of the troops could be a normal routine before any major riot causing protest, it is that which triggers them wild. While the loss of innocent people cannot be forgotten in any life time which marked the dark days in human history, it is even more depressing and cruel to have non-convicted souls after it. This cycle of violence does not stop until the people who think violence is the right mode of survival change and decide to drop their guns down; else there will be no one for them to shoot one day.

"Thirteen Days" (2000) - Movie Review

Kenny O’Donnell (Kevin Costner) out of frustration says “Communicate with the Soviets? We can't even communicate with the Pentagon. And they're just across the goddamn river.” This is “Thirteen Days” wherein President Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) not alone was in dire situation to tackle the missile developments in Cuba by Soviet Union in the October of 1962 but also played a calm and composed leader in handling his Staff of Joint Chief. The movie focuses on those situations. The Staff of Joint Chief are in the mode to strike first before the Soviets make the first move. Their aggravation is the urgency to act fast and they believe that Kennedy is soft to handle a situation like this. The film is about those crucial days when not alone America feared the end of it but as the whole world would have entered the age of nuclear war.

As we all know that did not happen and hence the movie’s end is pretty much out. But what director Roger Donaldson shows is not about the end but how it came to that situation. While everyone know that the high authority tackling took place, the film shows how far it went in to play a vital role in bringing peace without any major destruction to the world. It convincingly gives the games of pressure and back door methods played to avoid any kind of act leading to war. It also shows how one needs to go against the values and morals to save the lives of millions. At that moment it seems right and even justified. The pace at which the movie takes place while may seem due to the screenplay, the events itself seem to have happened in complete randomness and chaos. Donaldson channels it in the right way to provide a thriller which is shockingly real and also the scrutiny of maintaining peace over war.

The movie is strong and appealing due to the fact of the three strong willed characters. President John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp) and the then special assistant to the President, Kenny O’Donnell. Their chemistry in real life was close and strong. The same has been maintained by the performers in this film. They do not compromise the characterization in order to bring in the drama. It is amazing to see how Kevin Costner lets him underplay which the role demanded. If at any point of time he enacted some kind of slightest authority as an actor, the momentum and the credibility would have been lost miserably. Instead he provides the fulcrum in between the brothers played brilliantly by other actors as well to anchor down the content of the battle in between having a war and a peace.

The film is the reminder of how easy it is to destruct than to create. If either party would have decided to go through with the attack, the result of destruction would have been equal and unimaginable. It would have been the crucifixion of innocence. Victory and courage are considered by the indication of the aggression and suppression. The world dominated most of the part by men believes in those rather than calmness and peace. This film is the example of victory and courage getting the recognition in terms of saving lives not in a battle field but in a real world embedded with energy of destruction rather than flourish.

The sequences of the nuclear missiles being built upon are given to provide the progress and also the intensity of the situation. The movie does not want to corner itself in four walls of constant argument of pressures but to expand itself outside it whenever it is necessary. At the same time, it does not cringe into the over emotional scenes of portraying each human beings’ fear to face the end. They draw the line where it is needed and play inside those territories. They do not fancy themselves with dialogues out of proportion but decorate it with substance and ingenuity. This is the movie which might seem as a perspective of US over the Soviet Union but it magnifies the problem inside the walls itself. The funny part is both parties disagreeing on the methods want the people to be safe but the approach is different. The difference is the movie of those tensed days when humans stood and for a second “blinked” inside the nightmares of destruction. Glad it was a blink.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"The Ex" (2007) - Movie Review

Naïve husband trying to be supportive and in the mean while being jealous towards an old ex of his wife who seems to go beyond weird imaginations to win her back. Adding to it, the husband does not get the respect and attention from his in laws either. Been there seen that. It is written all over the movie that director Jesse Peretz definitely want to give a casual and relaxed romantic comedy. He does not strain himself in bringing any new kind of elements to this clichéd story. Even with the entire repeated ness there seems to be some moments to laugh and get entertained a bit, I mean a bit.

Tom (Zach Braff) gets fired instead of a promotion on the day of his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) giving birth to their baby. With financial pressure mounting up and to make her happy Tom moves to Ohio and takes up the job of being an ad-man for his father-in-law Bob (Charles Grodin). He meets the physically challenged Chip (Jason Bateman) who seems to still have a thing for Sofia from his high school days. Chip is the man of the company. He stretches himself far beyond to be the achiever. More than that, he does not like competition from any one, especially from Tom. He is the friendly successful guy for Bob and his wife who are not satisfied by Tom’s achievement in his career. All set and the games begin. Sabotaging, lying and spying. Sprinkle some nice awkward moments of fun and there it is the casual comedy. But wait, we have seen tons of those. Nothing is new and once the few funny laughs get over, it is time for us to wait for the movie to end.

But Zach Braff manages to bring in the boyish charm to enlighten this piece for a while. Jason Bateman tries too but even though they seem to center around him, there is not proper connection of his actions. He is meticulous and careful and why does he makes an unnecessary show at the end? Yes, they need to end the movie. Does not seem to be the character they show. While he is suffering from those character flaws, Sofia’s character is another ambiguous handling. They show sequences of Sofia getting bored with the life at Ohio too, but it seems unbelievable for not to discuss this with Tom. What is surprising is that the creators think that the audience can be taken for granted in these unexplainable behaviour. But they do not realize that even though the audience cannot pin point on what is wrong, they can feel the small nudge in them while the inquisitive heart of theirs beckons the explanation.

As I said earlier, the director does not intend to make a novel story line and definitely not a new style of film making. He wants to provide a light hearted comedy. This is the same attitude when Jay Roach made “Meet the Parents”. But it is an interesting movie mainly due to the unspoken yet cold chemistry in between the characters of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. The sadistic and cunning Jason Bateman’s Chip does not produce the charm and irritation by over possessive and spy eyed Robert De Niro’s Jack. Zach Braff is an obvious choice since he has come up with the same emotions very nicely in his TV Sitcom “Scrubs”. He adds in the committed husband to it and Voilà!

There is nothing wrong in making a casual beaten up comedy. It has been proven that the most clichéd stories can be made with different style and approach successfully. Moreover the cast brings out the creative weirdness in movies like this. There are those in these movies but does not come out well. It is not being applied for its full potential either. Charles Grodin is the one whom I could point out in that aspect. No one can forget his character in “Midnight Run”. They do not employ him to his caliber. It came for a moment and vanished way quickly. This is the movie wherein we do not get bored but when the movie is over, we ask, “So?”

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Hustle & Flow" (2005) - Movie Review

Working together as a team for any purpose gives a different kind of experience and satisfaction. Especially when it involves art and especially when it is making or playing music. It is always good to have a fight on whose instrument sounds better and fooling around without any clue during those strenuous and enthralling practices. I take some right on saying it because I used to be a part of my college band. We did not aspire as DJay (Terence Howard) but sure we had something to prove. Here DJay being a pimp asks the question to her girl Nola (Taryn Manning) what she wants to do with her life, but in a way he is asking himself.

There is always a borderline in all the movies with respect to showing the emotions. It is the balance which needs to strike upon being cheesy and being genuinely cheesy. “Hustle and Flow” is genuinely cheesy. This is of course a motivational movie about how a man so deep in a hole has a dream and begins to work towards it with all he has. While circumstances and his actions put him in a place he does not want to, he lives it as it becomes the addiction based comfort zone for him. He does not defend it. He realizes he is in a deep mess and it is high time to get his acts straight and do something.

DJay is the character no one can picture in a world of cities of niceties and comfort. He is caustic and yet he knows the way to talk something to be done clean and neat through any means. His work horse is Nola who does not have a clue on what it is but a girl at her position and state of mind, as she says “do not want to do this”. Its survival and they are used to it. They seem to conveniently put it back to get on with their life but it pricks every day and night. The same is with Shug (Taraji P. Henson) who is pregnant and is scared. She wants a life too and loves DJay. They think it is nothing but a dream of having a “normal” life and need to live with what they have to; DJay meets his old school mate Key (Anthony Anderson). Key digs the soul of DJay who gets his wake up call for his passion by the performance Key gives in Church. This is where everything seems right for DJay. He immediately follows his instincts and convinces Key. They believe that they can spin something phenomenal to make it to hip-hop music industry.

This is the momentum of the film. They utilize it right away and this is where they are genuine. They do not make it all happening picture perfect. It builds up slowly and steadily. The main part for a film like this is that to make the audience believe in the aspiring protagonist before even the film goes in telling their success story. Here they take their time. When Key hears DJay do some thing with the mini keyboard, it is not striking but the audience does not know how Key amplifies it as a solid recording. DJay puts in his effort in lyrics and Key gets how serious he is. The movie makes us believe that the effort is real. This is something which a movie like this might lose it. There are tons of motivational films especially in music. Where they fail is they spin the romance angle into deep that the real story gets lost. Here they have the romance come to tune right at the moment it is necessary and feels apt. And also the way they work in the session is a treat to watch. Sure they use lot of cheap trick here and there but it feels right. We do not mind those since at that point of time we want those good things to happen for DJay and his crew.

Another interesting aspect is the way they bring in the characters at the right moments. One of them is Shelby (DJ Qualls) who is this skinny white or “light skinned” guy. There always are these characters in any musical team. A hot headed but talented singer which is DJay, an extremely matured musician who wants everything perfect like Key and there is an anchor role which needs to be carried on by someone. That character is the one who takes on the responsibility of maintaining the truce and friendship in the band. And that is Shelby. It is not new either but here it is toned up properly.

There are results which are known. There are the emotions which are known. It has been done and done well too. “Hustle and Flow” does it well too. It is entertaining and realistic. It seems overly glossy but beats up the pragmatic side of it too. The situation and characters make this film for what it stands for. Theme upon music seems to be the passion for director Craig Bewer who uses Blues for his 2006 release “Black Snake Moan”. He employs those upbeat, soul bumping and energetic tunes to lift the spirit of DJay and his crew. It is tough to make a movie totally realistic and also tough to make it appealing to every different mentalities of the audience. Craig does it right with his cast giving an entertaining performance.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"The Edukators" (Language - German) (2004) - Movie Review

Social and financial divisions are often predominant and argued thing which essentially forms the bottom line for any issue. People take many forms to voice their opinion for and against it. Some take violence; some take non-violence while some take the path of what Jan (Daniel Brühl) and Peter (Stipe Erceg) do in this film. Jan lives and breathes against capitalism. Peter appears to be a casual guy who seems to be partially doing what they do for fun and also for the cause of it. Jule (Julie Jentsch) is Peter’s girl friend who has been directly affected by a rich person. The film is how these characters emotionally get involve while in the process of discovering their own philosophies through the opposite side of theirs.

This is a film which is thoroughly entertaining. Yet they do not plunge into the normal thrilling moments any movie of this kind would lead to. They do take the natural path of triangle love story as expected in the midst of all these clashes of opinions. But how they portray is something to be watched. I am mentioning this even before any other things due to the fact that this is a very thin line to walk upon and they do it admirably well. This is a movie for and against capitalism. It focuses on the whole structure of the world designed unfairly. It is true that most of the product is done in remote parts of a country wherein a child is working as a cheap labour fighting for a decent living. It is also true that there are capitalists who directly or indirectly involve in those. What these three youths forget to focus is the consumer seems to be everyone. Sometimes people take a path like this to escape their own misery. Or they want some one to be blamed and they feel content in these actions. But these are also triggered by their instincts too which is visible in how Jan finds every conversation to route back to this. He is the man of principles. He wants to protest but do not want it to be violence. But it should also be aggressive and chaotic. So they ride the lightning. They carefully analyze and select a villa. Then they break in, but they do not steal anything. They paint their chaotic protest. They leave their signature with trade mark phrases. Jan feels this is an action which would instigate the people who are glued to TV. What he does not understand is that there is enormous opportunity using the same media. He believes it is masked by the capitalists too. Jan is the youth of ambition but some where gets lost in his belief and actions.

Peter is the lightest character of all who speaks seriously when he needs to. He wants to have an average life style but still wants to contribute to the cause. Unlike Jan, he believes there needs to be some casual approach but still carry out the process. He wants to relax and hence has a girl friend while Jan does not. He trusts his friend more than anything and loves his girl friend the same. Among these two characters Jule is the one who becomes the cause for a more uproarious plot event. She is in deep debt due to an accident with a rich man whose car got totaled. She is paying the high priced car with her low priced income. While she deeply believes that the person is entitled the money, Jan argues that it is sheer petty cash for him who should consider it negligent and pardon her. In these casual serious talks emerges love. We think this is one another story which becomes stereotyped but it takes a deep dive. I will not reveal the exact happenings but it needs to be watched to experience the thrill they bring out of a normal camera work.

There is a deep agenda in the film. It seems to take sides at various instances but stays neutral. While the first half deals with the argument of Jan, the second half is dedicated on how it could totally be perceived in a different direction. The movie tends to bring in these two opposite social forces together over a dinner table conversation. It tries to sort out things in between them and accept the reality. The reality of course is what the viewers define. The definition depends on what we look as possible and convenient. This is something unique from a film. It makes us to take sides at different ends but when the movie is over, we are standing where we were. But as the film says, “The Best Ideas Survive”. The idea of seeing the both worlds of opposites and realizing that all it needs is a communication. The end maybe negative but entertaining. It might seem the movie did not finish on right conscience and note. But it never promised it. That is clever about this screenplay. Any film which discusses serious issues like this might not give answers but make us mould ourselves to believe in one part. Here they oscillate us in both the direction and leave the end for entertainment. They also leave something solidly stated as well. They say that the characters may change or not. They may change their beliefs or deceive each other but end of day it is what they are. But it does not stop us from changing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"The Pianist" (2002) - Movie Review

Survival. A word very commonly used in the wild life. It also gets used in the middle of nowhere with death any moment and nothing to do. In present world, many compare it as the struggle to survive in these tough and mean surroundings. Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) survives the holocaust. His means of his end and what does it reflect is the core substance of this film. This is a movie about the movements and happenings. This is the journey of the pianist who had the best of the worst to survive. He is not clever or smooth handed to get in the good books of German officials. He is the man at the right time in worst possible places but more importantly amongst some very good people.

This two and half hour movie has hardly any dialogue. It is all in the events and the people in their mode of running, hiding, suffering and hopelessly crying. It starts with the pleasant land of Warsaw slowly getting into the modes of destruction and tragedy. The movie translates from bad to worst possible conditions. Killings without mercy by the Germans and due to hunger are predominant. The Jews are collected and put into a confined society. The means for their earning is limited. Most of them make the best out of the ridiculous and tragic position they are in. Others succumb to hunger and thirst. It is sadness everywhere and people don’t know what to do. When Wladyslaw’s family gets separated from him and head towards the expected, he meets with his restaurant owner. He hides along with him and asks about Wladyslaw’s family and he tells the obvious and the response from his boss is “Perhaps they're lucky. The quicker the better.” And yes, he means it and in a way it is true.

Wladyslaw known for his playing the piano is now on his own. He is left in the ghetto. He knows the end is near and it is time to act. He acts and the journey continues. While his feelings are for the sufferings, he is indifferent to the opinion against Germans. He does not know where he stands in first place. The fight is there but where does it lead to? The place he is in right now will be the German’s in future. What is the remedy for this? Is there any end of this cycle? But he is too scared to think about this. He is too tired and everything which is in his mind is to be alive. He does not kid himself on the ambition of his family members being alive. He knows the truth and accepts it. The sorrow is always within him. He is a man who keeps everything to himself. This comes into test when his survival depends on his capability to be invisible, unnoticeable and no sign of his presence. Silence becomes his company and music is the only solace in his mind. This is the very existence of human being. When everything is lost, there is art to hang upon. Wladyslaw already an art loving person has more reason to stay alive. And for him there are good intentions in all the people he encounters. These intentions are his survival.

This is a film which does not move around having moving dialogues. There is every possible opportunity in this, but this is not something about various people. This is about one man. A man who rarely spoke and rarely spent his days in silence and rarely was separated from his loved ones. He is put into ultimate test. When something like this happens to any person, there comes a point of time wherein there is a question of why to breathe. And why to undergo this ordeal wherein he does not have any identifiable purpose. When we think about all this, the passion of his music is the driving factor. And tragically he never gets a chance to play his instrument. He plays in thin air. And when he gets the chance, he explodes his emotions through it. While we reside with his comfort in a peaceful sleep or quenched hunger, this is where he keeps the moment to himself. May be we enjoy the music he plays and may be understand some of the emotions he brings out of it, but it is his ultimate peace and war. For so long he has kept himself contained. From the start of the movie, he is being portrayed as a calm and terse person both in behaviour and in playing the piano. He does not strike high sounds, rather he plays for some one or other. At the near end, he plays and it is for himself. There is one audience who very well might kill him. For all the time he was hiding, this is the moment he does care about dying. For those few moments, he is devoid of fear and other natural factors which would eat him alive. This striking point is the movie. An unusual audience, an unusual situation and an unusual pianist in an unusual place. But in these unusual elements, it is the humanism which is common and usual. The scarcity of it is the punching chord of this film.

Adrien Brody physically and mentally strains himself to play the character of Wladyslaw. It is his master acting and would be tough to recreate it. It is equivalent to the character of Chuck Noland in Cast Away. The only difference is Chuck is a free man in a prison island. There is a definition in his boundaries. Wladyslaw on the other hand is a prisoner in a land of unknown definitions. It still is.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"Mallrats" (1995) - Movie Review

I liked “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy”. I liked “Jersey Girl” too. I missed this second directorial venture of Kevin Smith. So what can I say about a movie which can be pointed out into numerous occasion that it does not fit to be on screen in first place? There were times when I was about to stop the movie and be done with it. I sat through the whole to write my opinion. I guess this is one of the toughest of being a reviewer is to sit through the worst of all movies. As much as I love watching and writing about it, some times there is regret sensed in all directions. The only redemption is to analyze about why it failed and what could have been done.

The film style is typical Kevin Smith movie making as that of “Clerks”. He combines the lively mockumentary style pictorial along with the comical nature of the characters to bring in his style of presentation. The start could not have been any worse. T.S (Jeremy London) getting dumped by his girl friend Brandi (Claire Forlani) decides to hang out with his another loser friend Brodie (Jason Lee) who got dumped by his girl friend Rene (Shannon Doherty). They feel “The Mall” will be the ultimate place to shed their sorrows away and relax. Having something so trivial is not surprising since Smith stunned with even more slimmer situation with his “Clerks”. Not letting my hopes down, I wait for something out of ordinary to happen. Disappointment grew in exponential terms. While there seem to be something builds upon the nothing, the dialogues appear to be built upon some casual dumb talks with nice sounding words. It appears to be clever and interesting, but it does not ignite the interesting conversations. In fact it appears seriously surprising how come Rene was even dating Brodie. There seems nothing motivating or even funny about what he says or acts.

The screenplay is so hung upon the style of the movie which is not sleek or new but the feel of it. The different repetitiveness of the same incident in numerous scenario (Silent Bob played by Kevin Smith himself breaking in accidentally into different dressing room where Gwen played by Joey Lauren Adams) is boring and predictable. The main key of this style of film making worked for Smith previously because the characters were not trying to comical but were being what they are. Here the character of Svenning (Michael Rooker) is blatantly made express weird funny emotions. It is evident in every sequence of him trying to be funny in actions since there are no funny dialogues for him. The irritating part is that his actions are not funny either. While this seems to be out of proportion, the characters of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob are even more pathetic. With all this happening and when I am thinking that there could not be any worse scene, there comes the sequence of “topless fortune teller” just put the icing on the worst possible cake ever made.

The buddy being the bad one infiltrating the good minds to do the unimaginable things is a beat up routine and also a best routine. A routine which forms the core concept of any comedic feature. It is a strange fact that in real life, we need a friend as we might call him to instigate things which one might not try out. The friend should be in such an impressive form of character to make his buddy do anything. This cleverness in a believable way makes it funny. Ferris Bueller in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, Kumar in “Harold and Kumar goto White Castle”, Stifler in “American Pie” and lot other movies. Brodie in “Mallrats” is not funny but pestering and annoying without any slightest sense of comic attached to it.

It is true that a director cannot be at his top notch in all his movies. It is also true that he can be in his bad days in some movies. It is also true that the technical and acting department might let him down too in some of those. But this is the movie where everything fails and when I mean everything, it is everything.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

"Spider-Man 3" (2007) - Movie Review

Seeing a third part of a movie automatically puts up lot more expectations for the viewers. I did not have any kind of expectations for “Spider-Man 3”. With that, it should have been easily entertaining and in depth view of Spider-Man’s dark side, but it fails. It is the phase of super hero again finding himself in the midst of all hell breaking loose including his relationship in turmoil. It is happy day in life of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) who is having fun balancing his two worlds with understanding girl friend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). So things starts to get bad and getting bad with lot of villains to tackle and sort out his relation ship problems.

Peter in his all elated mood forgets to associate the reality Mary Jane is going through with her career. He feels everything is fine and reacts with positive energy to her. Mary Jane on the other hand expects a relation ship wherein her other half reacts with reality. Adding to this, Peter is slowly gets into the celebrity mode. At this very bad moment come three villains to cause more trouble in his Spidey World. There is clear indication that there are lots and lots of sub plots. The film is not able to concentrate properly on one to bring in the necessary element it thought it brought. And with all that there are some very bad uncommitted performances which are horrific factor for some one to be so easy going on an important film the audience expects. It seems surprising how come they did not notice those in their editing or the first run of the picture. Or maybe they expected it to be fun and accommodate the humour scenes of Spidey. The sequences which goes bad (and there are many apart from this) is when Peter/Spidey gets the new suit of a black creature getting into him and turns into this negative character. Tobey Maguire is the perfect candidate for playing the young and innocent kid but being in the shoes of negativity is not his territory. It is totally weird and sad to see those sequences. It is the perfect opportunity for some one to live that deepest fantasy of being bad and nothing more than the super hero turning totally into a new outlook. Here it looks like a kid aspiring to be that character and supposedly exhibits “style” and “wicked humour” which looks like a funny game of stupidity.

Apart from that, there seems to be lot of confusion in the characters. The character of Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) has nothing to it. There is no proper justification of emotional change towards Spider-Man. He does not seem evil from the start and the “humiliation” he mentions is not been shown at all. If he is taking revenge on Peter for his career demise, then it does not fit the screen properly. And the character of Flint Marco/SandMan (Thomas Haden Church) seems to show some depth into him but comes unexplainable in the end. If all he needed is to talk with Peter, then why did he attack him with Eddie? The only clean and lucid performance as well as a character is from James Franco as Harry Osborn/New Goblin. He is the one which gives the right attitude for the movie.

While the characterization department failing miserably and which forms the crux of the movie, the screenplay and the content is disappointing in different angles. The plot required for this third part had lot of solid content to it, but as said earlier, there seems to be confusion in it. Peter still dealing with the event of his Uncle’s death is the key. This is the chance of his complete cleanse of his soul. And it comes in the character of Flint Marco. The vengeance he has for him is the same what Harry is having against him. This is the area the film should have concentrated or in right terms, produced interesting frames from this. It is understandable that the personality exploration and the shift of Peter to his next step in life need to be added with the action sequences. But it should not be a baggage bringing down the main plot. Here, the idea of bringing in the black material which brings in the dark side of Peter is to make him feel the opposite side of his values and principles. A chance to tell that every one gets to ride close with the evil and gets the proposition to join it, and yet decide to go the hardest path, the good ness. This is the bottom line the movie wanted to bring out but gets lost in the story telling and the unnecessary action sequences.

It is surprising how “Batman Begins” handled the vengeance clearly and how “Spider-Man 3” faltered in it. Bruce Wayne goes through the same phase of revenge and learns a valuable lesson. Spider-Man has a basic flaw in it. He does not get help at the right time in the screen. There should have been a solid incident or a character which should have directly connected his anger with Harry’s against him. With the heart of the story not getting the attention and with sloppy performances, this film suffers the consequence in the eyes of audiences. In the end, they wanted to put in all the speeches in to a window of ten minutes and at that moment I got bored already.