Thursday, June 28, 2007

"The Corporation" (Documentary) (2003) - Movie Review

After watching this documentary, honestly I did not know what to do. The sudden gush of guilt and confusion engulfed me on what I need to do. Something is terribly wrong all over the world and I am out here watching every movie a day and then posting my reviews. I work as a contract for a “corporation”. I felt so small and panicked miserably. I was so up on my toes that I did not know how am I going to write a review for a movie, which puts me as a culprit too? I slowed down for a while and loosened up. I started to think back and steadily see what this movie has done to me. It is highly informative and educational but in the process heavily panics and leaves people clueless. As it says, there should be actions, but how are we going about it? This is what “An Inconvenient Truth” did with perfection. It showed or at least asked to explore the ways in various directions. While many might not believe in those, they at minimal will go for other options and read to perform it. “The Corporation” directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, helps in identifying the human conscience getting crucified but does not clearly give a picture on the next step. It is an awakening though, vehemently.

The film takes on the big corporations which has grown so enormously and out of proportion that the conditioning of it seems like a mere marketing word of short lived identity. They go on the roots way back in the century. It goes through the details of how the entity identified itself as “person” under the 14th amendment. There is no doubt about thriving to profit and being first in the race to make behave as a dog eat dog situation. The competition runs high and the disregard for anything not exploding in their hands is true. The concept of “greater good” is posed as an excuse for minting money. It has formed some kind of ecosystem that the corporations have assumed themselves as the predator and the consumption forming the cycle. The facts and the points laid down as that of getting onto a book and flipping the chapters is a nice approach. It is always good to show the text on what exactly you are trying to tell the audience, especially in a documentary film. And it is even more important in this film, because of the terms which are being used and its remote connectivity attaching the huge weight it is imposing on the world.

It is a heavy shaking at the end of the movie. Thanks to the astounding and compelling ending point, Michael Moore makes, it hits you hard and flat. The underlying point of the film though is the individual responsibility. Most of the documentaries addressing social problems come down to this, because it is truth every one knows but does not apply. While elaborately concentrating on the big time capitalists, I felt it is more of an approach of the individual encircling them into a boundary. The boundary which only runs to the fences of their home and does not runs in to their minds or hearts. The moral and social responsibility has become a politician’s word. The utilization of those is applied by them and the movies which try to invoke those. The system designed in most of the countries is the dependency and reactions of others on the action of others. The constant judgmental and prejudiced system of ours is a funny one. When one takes extreme care and pain to get a perception from an outsider, the very same person does not care about the negligence and convenient ignorance of the harm he is causing to others through various identifiable means. The documentary high lights and blames mostly on the corporation rather than the people.

In a manipulated media world, it is indeed extremely tough to come out of the circle and see the real picture. The enigma and fairy tales are all over pointing out the flaws but still the average person does not want to connect those to the reality. Thinking about it, the average person forms the corporation too. It is also said in the documentary that while CEO can be a great nice person, his personal convictions does not necessarily translate into the arena of the corporate world. It is truly depressing to hear that. When one’s personal values and conviction gets brutalized by the manipulation of unethical and harmful behaviour of a firm or company or corporation he/she is working in, how can they live with that? But yes, life goes on and the habit of dealing with it gets accustomed to them. It is reflective in couple of their points said.

The documentary is hard hitting and highly original. It is a definite must watch to understand the dynamics of a corporation. To understand how it has dangerously evolved out of a loop hole in the law and is questioning the existence of co-ordination and helping each other. The privatization and the fear of having something as an “asset” is revealing in the manner every one can realize. And also exposing the life of living within the fence of our home is brought out threateningly. They do it with lot of explanations, stories and people. There were many of them with their view and analysis over this world of corporation, but one struck me really hard. It is Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, Inc, the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet. His total admission of being in the list of the heads wanting to “plunder” the Earth and coming out of it is the exemplary action of learning from mistakes and the attitude of “it is never late”. His actions and words are the ones which should ring upon the ears of the individuals high up on the ladder to work ethically and responsibly. The film is the words to every other human being in this planet to have the awareness. I am an individual with social responsibility not being executed to my fullest conscience and actions which this movie identified it stunningly and blunt. I am trying to do my level best but there is always room for improvement. The movie does not guide or ask on what to do but definitely pushes your buttons to explore and act on it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Live Free or Die Hard" (2007) - Movie Review

Movies like this comes with forgiveness to the logic and rate a high fuel pumping actions. It is basically assumed by the director and also the audience that there will be no questioning of the physics and the relativity of the dumbness associated with the story and the events forming it. It is a universal law and it applies to most of the movie industries. It is raw action power and nothing else. The director should properly cover his tracks for the story, only for a closure. Given all this, while the eyes made it believe those action sequences, it never did lay there believable within seconds after it.

Let us take the example of this particular scenario of destroying the helicopter using a car which by now every one is aware (it comes in trailer). So the helicopter is in fairly sufficient height. And hence to hit it, the speed of the car needs to achieve velocity. It does. The stunt of course is amazingly shot and is totally believable. The only part is Detective John McLane (Bruce Willis) is able to have consciousness. Ok let me not be too naïve. He is a rock solid hero portrayed in the previous three films. Hence let us forget that. Now, he jumps out of the car and does not travel scraping the road but stops by hitting immediately on back of a vehicle. So it is basically getting hit by a vehicle at that speed which is needed to elevate the car to the helicopter. Alright, this is too much detail. Let me believe he survives and is conscious. They had some mercy on the intelligence of the audience that he limps. But only for a while and then drives a car, swings on, kicks people, kills people and run furiously for a sufficient amount of time. I forgot to mention the jumping from a high elevation and sliding on. While it is not right to dig deep on these details into a movie like this, I feel the privilege gets insulted and abused.

The first “Die Hard” was a success and an action film with believable stunts. McLane is a lonely hero fighting his way out in a tower. The action sequences were choreographed in a manner which was not only engaging but also convincing. In “Die Hard – 2”, they returned with open air out of the closed tower. They blew up some of the things but still convincing and thrilling. While there is no remote possibility that McLane will die due to the stunt, the way it was choreographed made it feel for a second that this might be his last luck. “Die Hard with a Vengeance” did not have that but just managed to cross the criteria. They push their luck with this. And they have solid back up from the team of stunt co-ordination but it is not about that single factor but the aftermath of it. Bruce Willis did an earlier film called “16 Blocks”. In that he is old too, not strong and is a cop. He thinks slow and need to deliver a guy to the witness stand. He is been hunted by the cops, the witness is going to expose. I would opt for that as the fourth installment of this enterprise. May be he is not smart mouthed and toughened up McLane out here, but definitely thrilling and worth while believing those.

Anyways, as by now most of you would have guessed, there is no point for a story. Surprisingly, it is interesting and creates a slight fear on this digital data floating around. No one any more sees cash. It is all numbers on a screen which is believed to be ours. Those seem totally a ghost every one takes for granted. It is a paranoid which is plausible. Coming to the plot, the project manager, sorry, the leader of the bad guy is a nerd taking over the digital data for a ride. He and his crew with the help of the world renowned hackers without their knowledge get hands on access to the data existing throughout America. They get the transportation, finance and finally the utilities to shut down, thereby creating chaos over the nation. While having a not so good moment with his daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), McLane is ordered to pick up the kid, Matt Farrell (Justin Long) who is a hacker and he “unknowingly” aided the bad guys with his skills of breaking a security code. The bad nerd villain’s people try to get him at the same time McLane knocks on his door. And then bullets rain and explosions all over the place.

I need to give the movie a credit for making “bad” people “killing” only “good” people, and “good” people killing only “bad people” (meaning McLane is given a free road to crash as much car as possible without any one inside it). Even after so many bullets fired and blowing up of everything McLane gets his eyes on, they manage to achieve that. A true challenge to be accomplished. Now, the “bad” guy played by Timothy Olyphant gets the access to the data which has all the information possible. The security for it might be the highest of all. But he plays with it to prove a point which sounds extremely stupid for an intelligent cyber whiz like him or at least as the movie claims him to be. The same work force and brilliance could easily land him tons of money in a perfectly planned manner in the most silent and less destructible way possible. A guy like him will be the last one to lift the weapon.

Movies like this while being honest about in placing themselves in the genre should also follow a golden rule. It should not let the audience think, at least till it is over. If they allow it to happen, every single stupidest thing they made to believe pops up and spoils the fun of the ride. It can be achieved only by the thrilling moments triggered by intelligence and not nonsense. They made me think (pun intended).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998) - Movie Review

Terry Gilliam’s central character speaks in a weird manner wherein you can easily guess it is his movie. It seems the character of Brad Pitt in “12 Monkeys” jumped out of it and traveled through into the character of Duke (Johnny Depp). The difference though is the former is on a motto of freeing the animals in zoo and the later drenches in the unnamed drugs invented in this planet. This is an ambitious movie based upon the novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream” by Hunter S. Thompson.

“We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, laughers, screamers... Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.” Says Duke. Some of those I do not even know what exactly they are talking about. All I can say is that they are the most potent drugs you can have the hands on. And some one having it is not in a state of saying those because they do not have the clue of what they see is what it is. This illusion and influence of the drugs makes Duke and Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) break every single law existent in 1971 and till date. In fact they break and insult the existence of order even if there is an anarchical society. They are venturing into Las Vegas to cover a bike racing event which seems have no concentration or relation of any kind.

As I have not read the book, may be the delusional and hallucinogenic explanation in words coming to picture did not excite me. In a mode of film making and a style of those nonsensical ramblings with inner meaning seem to appeal on very countable occasions. Those points of course have the strength and the power of truth. But I had to doubt myself on it since the real touch of it is either due to its quality content of it or the effect of being occupied so uneasily by the chain of events which go through on the screen. The era of Vietnam War and other symbolic apprehension towards it are shown in back ground in TVs and some methodical representation as an encounter to Duke. The book and film consider implicating the fact of bold and daring statements. The statements are hidden in the midst of obnoxious behaviour of these two people. It is not subtle but are symbolic and some straight on points too. I did not notice those. I came to know that the movie had those after I read about it in internet. Now thinking about it, there seems no recollection of those. The reason is mainly due to the focus on the delusional encounters of Duke and Dr. Gonzo. While it is seen as a technique to pick out those original thoughts of the author, it gets consumed by its own addiction of portraying the drug effect.

I am taking a wild guess that the Duke in the book does not talk the way Johnny Depp does in the movie. The style is typical Terry Gilliam’s characteristics of his protagonist in his movies. Gilliam takes his level further more in testing how much the audience can tolerate this unusual film making of unusual characters. Comparing “Brazil”, “12 Monkeys” and this movie, the way all the characters behave in these three movies are noticeably same. If it is the manner of Gilliam’s film making, it is neither interesting nor intuitive. But there is the touch of class in couple of scenes which keeps me wondering on where these shots takes it breaks in rest of the story.

Depp and Del Toro are the duo matching each other well in the sense of who is in touch with sanity and migrate to the madness in how much time. The balance is kept with a subconscious effort from both the characters when one remains sane (I mean not plunging into drugs as the other party does) and lets the other one immerse him into nightmares and insanity. Their tight screen presence and tension makes them one of the most hated and dreadful characters.

What come out of this movie are the nightmare incidence and a city on which madness as its core is met by the exponential factor of it to destroy and explode. This movie took me back to “Trainspotting”, another disgusting but intense story on drug addiction and its effects. That movie took the level of crass and riots the drug causes a bit more. Still it brought back everything to a state of acceptance when the effect of those sheds away into a plot of believable redemption which might not convince every one but had a closure of its own. “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” while popularly be termed as a cult classic does not come to any conclusion rather continuously beats us with the excruciating madness of Duke and Dr. Gonzo.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Dor" (Language - Hindi) (2006) - Movie Review

She slowly walks in the desolated streets of a village in Rajasthan. Her face is covered with the traditional outfit. Her eyes reflect the sorrow surmounting due to loss of her husband couple of months back. She hears a song and remembers that she used to entertain her husband by dancing for it. She does not weep in sorrow of the remembrance but dances the same steps what she did for her husband. The only difference though is that she is doing it for herself. This is Meera (Ayisha Takia) who immediately feels the tinge of guilt for expressing herself. And Zeenat (Gul Panag) enlightens her with the point of living for yourself and not worrying about what the minds of other people rant about. Director Nagesh Kukunoor brings in his flavour of right dialogues into a story involving misery of one woman and another woman fighting to avoid it. The story is inspired by a Malayalam movie “Perumazhakkalam”, directed by Kamal.

Zeenat and Meera are from different parts of India. Zeenat is a courageous and principled young woman and Meera is the victim of conservative and strict sociological environment. Both have sacrificed their pleasure by letting their husbands go to Saudi for good jobs. Tragedy strikes when Meera’s husband Shankar (Anirudh Jaykar) is said to be murdered by Amir (Rushad Rana), Zeenat’s husband. Through the government executive it is learnt that if Meera can sign on a paper forgiving Amir, his life will be spared from capital punishment. The executive says that Amir informed him that it was an accident. The film is not about the investigation of the incident but the “String” (Dor) attaching these two women. Zeenat decides to find Meera but unfortunately has nothing but a photo of Amir and Shankar in a room. She gets the help of a conman (Shreyas Talpade) and they go hunting for Meera. Meera is in the remote village being kept literally as a prisoner since there are still lots of places who treat widows as someone who should mourn for rest of their lives.

The initial part of the movie slowly moves ahead with the expectation of something definitely bad is going to happen. The plot of one’s life struck up on the forgiveness on the other seems very promising. But this is not something about it. They discuss it very short and in a very strong manner in the end. Yet this is about the life of Meera. It is not like she had all the freedom before the death of her husband. She still was covering her face and taking orders from people. The grandmother of her husband who is a widow too frowns upon her when she gets a chance (and of course asks for forgiveness when Meera is in the same position). Still Meera had the world of opportunity of being herself with her husband. The calm and dipped face is for the world of prejudiced and prisoner of their own system. She was able to live up her very small life in one minute’s conversation over the cell phone when Shankar stays away from her. This is been eliminated from her. Along with her sorrow for husband’s death goes her that small freedom she had. She believes this is the end of everything. Zeenat coming on intent to get the impossible shows her that this is no where near the end.

With those said, this is no movie of individuality or subtle film making. This is a dialogue of originality with flavours of sweet sentiments. There were all possibilities of the screenplay getting into the exploration of the misery and the loss. It is a true horror and it cannot be even remotely thought about in understanding, but it is enriching and happy to see to rescue some one through the peace and boldness of life. And there are comic scenes involving the conman. He would seem a bit cinematic and may be even extremely doubtful in his helping. They do not hide it by saying about a “friendship” in between them. Sure there is the opportune of knowing some one as strong and courageous as Zeenat, but he is a man and some times unknown control of love does not see those clearly. And nothing can be more heart warming and encouraging seeing the scene of him expressing his emotions to Zeenat and her reactions to it.

I will not deny that there were moments of predictability and even some cheap tricks in the film. There is a sequence of the very same Grandmother who picked on Meera helping her, which is quite evident. And also Meera’s mother in law still trying to blame some one for the unfortunate event of her son. But what makes the difference is the honesty of the dialogues spoken by those characters. The words are convincing and powerful enough to give those images of cheap tricks something different.

Finally and most importantly, how can we decide someone’s fate with the truth unknown? Meera does not know whether her husband succumbed in an accident. Zeenat does not know either but trusts her husband. But it is not about the question of whether it happened or not. It could go on as an individual bone of contention. Kukunoor conveniently makes us believe it as an accident. But at the same time we do not take sides on whether Meera to or not to sign the document. We get under the skin of Zeenat who knows and understands the outcome of it. Zeenat stands speechless when Meera confronts. More than the denial it is the guilt of misusing the trust. At that point, we are in the state of letting Meera do whatever she wants even if it involves taking a life due to her actions. The film just made us realize the vengeance in her. Do they leave it out there? Of course not and vengeance is overcome by forgiveness. And yes, I enjoyed the predictability in it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"A Mighty Heart" (2007) - Movie Review

“United 93” hit me really hard due to raw natural effect on the screen. Paul Greengrass made the viewers sit in along with the passengers, the air traffic employees and the army center. Director Michael Winterbottom’s, “A Mighty Heart”, we sit and curiously wait for some happy news along with Mariane Pearl (Angelina Jolie) and her friends; hunt with the CID of Pakistan, the Captain. In both “United 93” and this movie, the ending is known and is tragic. In January 23rd 2002, Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal’s journalist was kidnapped and murdered February 1st 2002. The movie focuses on his pregnant wife Mariane Pearl and the people who did their best to save the life of Daniel Pearl. Dan Futterman plays Daniel Pearl.

There is no doubt that this movie is emotionally moving and questions the inhumanity in some of the people and also tells the humanity existing in lot of other people. There will be statements claiming the authenticity or the portrayal of the situations and the comments. There will be also accusations of certain depictions and hyped up emotions too. And there will be the mentioning of the fact that while there are numerous kidnapping and killing of innocent people, what is the need for this attention on this particular incident? The film is not about any of those. This is a story wherein even after so much cruelty in this world, there are good people. And to portray the good people this is the movie to be watched.

When there is the life of a human being dragged with no clue, every other thing surrounding us becomes immaterial and also very much material. Politics goes everywhere and it is also thrown right out of the window. The question of integrity and the value system is oscillated. “What if ?” is every one constantly ask themselves. This is a movie with skin and blood in it. There are simple and small things which make it real and in fact those are the moments putting us in the middle of that house among those people. This film does not attempt to justify some of the decisions or indecisions made during that course of time. This is an attempt to bring out those important people who were there with the courageous yet broken Mariane Pearl. Bussey (Denis O’Hare) is concerned about the health of her and discusses it with his colleague Steve (Gary Wilmes). In the next scene, we see a chef is being brought upon from the consulate by Randall Bennett (Will Patton). And they have a nice dinner. This is the moment. Every one knows the uncomfortable comfort out of it. But it is life and it needs to continue to look for the next better day. Similarly the characters present and their small actions and frighten nature are the one which places those emotions carefully and truthfully. The small kid of the maid servant and their family, the security guard outside and their reactions to the busy and tense people are the ones which makes this come out of the movie. It happened and this is how it was and this is how they were horribly and tragically affected.

The casting and performances becomes highly important in a project like this than any other. These are real people and hence the emotions at that point were theirs during the tragedy. Archie Panjabi as Asra Q. Nomani, Denis O’ Hare as Busey, Gary Wilmes as Steve, Will Patton as Randall Benett and finally Irfan Khan as Captain. When Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl is in this unbearable trauma, they need to react to not react. This is the challenge of portraying those brutal moments to screen.

One may ask the necessity of revisiting this tragedy through a movie. The way Daniel Pearl left this should be remembered for fighting the violence in each of us. Some horrible things need to be forgotten as well. True but the struggle to confront those resides in accepting the outcome of it. This emotional turmoil did not happen to Mariane Pearl alone but it happened and till date happening to many people around the world. The struggle is with a wife/husband, a son/daughter, a father/mother, a brother/sister and a friend to understand the loss of their love and humanity should not make them to stop believing in their value system and philosophy of life. When some one perishes brutally, they should be remembered of their good memories. They should be remembered for the good actions and the beliefs of truth they stood for. Or may be even getting the positive factors out of their negative behaviour in uncomfortable situations. A loss makes us realize lot of things. And a loss like this plants the seed of blind vengeance too. And the movie says it should not be. If something needs to be taken from this, then it is the people who played their part and provided the support to Mariane. In them lies humanity as that of the film.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"The Minus Man" (1999) - Movie Review

“Some people die in less than a minute, others it takes ten. I guess it's what they call metabolic. If it wasn't closed, I'd go to the library and get clear on this.” says Vann Siegert. There are various other “thoughts” or voice-over he shares with us apart from the above. The character of Robert McKee in the film “Adaptation.” says this, “...and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.” I do not believe in it. Every movie depends on the content and style. If voice-over is going to make it better, there is nothing wrong about employing it. Here in this movie it is neither idiotic nor explains the murders committed by Vann Siegert. In fact it does not explain any of his actions, be it good or bad.

Vann Siegert (Owen Wilson) is a stranger who rides on his truck without any destination. He is the nice sensible guy living next door. He is extremely reasonable but also has the detachment from people. People mainly clear of their doubts of the detachment as privacy. He does not bother people and live his life. His life of course involves killing people. He is a serial killer to be specific. But he does not cause pain to the people, or at least that’s what he claims. While it seems the victims are sleeping after taking the sweet drink he calls as booze, no one will ever know whether they suffered internally or not. But that is not a matter as they appear peaceful and Vann Siegert is fine with that. He lands in a small town wherein he moves into a house as a tenant. The house has the couple Doug Durwin (Brian Cox) and Jane Durwin (Mercedes Ruehl). He stays in the room where their daughter Karen used to stay. They say she is in college but does not even come for the holidays. Doug instantly likes Vann. He even puts a nice word in post office for him. Soon Vann is working in the post office where he meets Ferrin (Janeane Garofalo). She is very much in interest with Vann. Among these events, Vann now and then kill people in the soft and calm manner he does without any emotions or guilt.

While the film cruised through these, I was thinking to myself that this movie could have been a lot better if Vann is not a serial killer. He seems to be the most content person possible in this planet. He does not complain or show anger or frustration. He is extremely happy with what he has got and does not expect much from life. So I thought why did they make him a serial killer? I thought may be there is an explanation for it in the end. But it ends in what I feared. It is not necessary that there should be a solid explanation for his weird killings. If as the movie line says that he kills people who complain about life, then Doug should have been instant. For that Jane too comes in the list. May be he did not want to make it complicated and get caught, but he does not hesitate to kill the young football player? And Vann is not afraid of getting caught. He seems to be pretty much expecting it at any point of time. For him it is just another happening. This mystery over him is good and that is exactly the reason the movie keeps going with out any stops. But making him a killer is unreasonable and totally not called for. And his “imaginary” or may be his previously victimized detectives does not help in anyway either.

The small talks with no meaning attached to it which happens between Vann and Ferrin are sweet and goes along with the mood of Vann. Owen Wilson does a clean straight job of the content Vann and Janeane’s Ferrin is likeable and cute. As I said earlier, showing Vann coming to a new town and starting a new life without any back ground on him would have been a great story and a film. Director Hampton Fancher adaptation of the novel of the same name by Lew McCreary drinks the same sweet drink Vann gives to every one. It is sweet and makes you sleep quite happily, but kills the purpose in a painless manner.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"On the Waterfront" (1954) - Movie Classics

I have never really seen a whole Marlon Brando movie till now. I have seen him in “The Godfather” but I was at the time impressed by Al Pacino. Sure it was a subtle and strong performance by Brando, but I always wanted to see the real legend he is been talked about. I did not have the patience or to come off the “old movie” attitude. So here it is, one of the most praised classics of all time, “On the Waterfront”. I did not even read the synopsis of the story before I watched and when I saw the first sequence, it immediately rang many bells. Seemed familiar and I have seen the same in a different way in my country. The film name is “Ghulam” meaning slave. Aamir Khan took the role of Sidharth Marathe which is Terry Malloy in this movie. It struck two strikingly depressing factor about “Ghulam”. First one is the trend of the Indian Cinema conveniently plagiarizing the movie and not even crediting the story. It is been happening for years but not crediting a classic movie made in 1954 in 1998 is cruel. Secondly is the difference in the ending, which I will discuss later in the review.

Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) as every one says is leading a life of “Bum”. He is with his brother Charley (Rod Steiger) and his boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). Johnny moves the coin in the union of the harbour. He cuts a lot of money in the movement of shipments and also from the workers. This injustice is questioned by Joey Doyle who gets pushed off the building in the very first sequence. Terry is the one who calls him to the roof without knowing the consequences. That plants the seed of guilt in him. Even though he did not push him off, he feels responsible for luring him to the trap. But he gets a crash course hard lesson from Johnny and his brother. Terry meets Joey’s sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) and is attracted to her. In the meanwhile, Father Barry (Karl Maden) arranges a meeting in the church trying to pull some muscle against this injustice. Terry goes in as an informer for Johnny but ends up with Edie alone when the group gets attacked. He starts to see the scorching power of truth from Edie’s eyes hunting down his guilt. He cannot face it and this continuously bogs him down to confront himself. The remaining part is his various obstructions, loss and courage being tested till the end is the story.

The film does not have any high technical soundness keeping in mind the time of it too. But this movie is about the performances. The powerful eyes sinking down when is confronted by Edie and Father Barry, the same eyes staring at the opposite characters to convey the casual nature, frustration, anger and courage; Marlon Brando ladies and gentlemen. I am guessing in those days image of an actor means a lot. Taking a role where he is depicted as a useless loiterer, helping the bad people and of all sinking every moment in search of redemption would have been thought as a career suicide. With those constraints, taking the role and bringing it impeccably can only show how much true identity the legend attached him into. This film is not about the performance of Brando alone but there are supporting cast emanating brilliance all the time. Karl Maden’s Father Barry is the reformer with a twist of calculated anger and the idealism essential for the character. Rod Steiger’s Charely is the protective brother and yet feels help less in front of Johnny is another addition to the stellar cast. But the real terror is the Lee J. Cobb’s Johnny Friendly. His enactment of mindless anger is quite evident in the “12 Angry Men” but this tough crack Johnny is anger with the cunning nature of affection.

The film is a social awakening. It is the call for the people against injustice, corruption and their inner conscience. The film’s ending as I said in earlier is of character. Terry is a fighter and at last he fights Johnny but gets beaten so badly that he is not able to stand. As a fighter the film could have made him stand up and beat Johnny or may be even tackle all the men who beat him. Or may be all the people seeing this cruelty done to him could have started attacking Johnny and his crew. They do not go for it. They remain the same but some thing does ignite out of this whole scenario. They want it the right way as Father Barry explains Terry when he decides to kill Johnny. This is not about attaining justice through violence. It is the whole definition of the law. The means to the end is very important. And there this film is class.

And now for my depressing factors about the movie “Ghulam” is that the very same ending being twisted upon. The character of Sidharth gets beaten badly by the mob boss. But Sidharth gets up and beats the mob boss to pulp. And then they make the same kind of ending through a disabled old man opening his shop against the wishes of the boss. While they try to finish it in the right way, the point is lost as soon as the character that gets hunted by his conscience taking the path he got lesson not to do it. In that he just becomes as guilty as the mob boss. And it is even sadder that this ending is coming from a country which got its independence out of non-violence. It is not wrong in making a movie violent provided it proclaims its category and philosophy. It is truly wrong when the original screenplay concentrated on the ending and its purpose is getting butchered for the purpose of commerciality and cultivating the “feel good” in the audience of violence.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Glory" (1989) - Movie Review

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Mathew Broderick) writes letters to his mother over the happenings around him and his experience during the American Civil War. He gets in to the battle field only to be survived upon laying unconscious. This sequence is to mark the brutality and severity of the war and it does not create it in first place. Considering the movie was made in 1989, the war sequences still do not make the impression as it supposed to. But the movie itself is not about war. It is the exploration of slaves finding their purpose, officers reviving their courage and a team fighting for recognition. While everything seems to be the right content essential for a film of historical drama, it does not make the scar of tragedy and honour it is supposed to. This does not mean that it is a bad movie. It is well made and there it ends with amnesia of emotions once it is over.

Colonel Shaw is leading one of the first U.S Army in the Civil War with entire African American men volunteering for the cause. They are treated equally but are within their bar set to themselves. Some of them realize the importance and right intent of the Colonel but some of the others are in denial. Private Trip (Denzel Washington) is one such soldier who seems to be in more content in hatred and rebelling that he takes each and every action of any white men as a mark of racism and unfairness. Colonel Shaw on the other hand is been tested on friendship and responsibility of treating every men equal irrespective of their friendliness to him, like that of Corporal Thomas Searles (Andy Braugher). But he is doing his duty and preparing them for the ultimate fight. It is not about the volunteering but it is the purpose and performance of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment as a whole. He knows that and hence trains them hard. The film explains the nature and obstacles in developing the regiment and how they create a name in the history.

I feel strongly bad for saying the movie is not up to the mark. It is one of the crucial turn over in the history of slavery. More than the American Civil War, the times at which slavery is considered as a norm and in those circumstances the migration towards abolishment would have been considered immoral and the film deals those in a situation of high tension. And while the slaves are put to work on menial labour, this is the point in which they are at their heights of excitement to prove their worth. This does not run in the story. The seriousness of this regiment is blindly conveyed. It fails to get under us to start hoping for the best to these men who have only faced derogatory comments and crude behaviour from their country men. Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Mathew Broderick bring in the flavour necessary for this movie. It is their chemistry in between them, which makes this movie fly a little bit above the air.

This movie is regarded as one of the best American Civil War movie. I never felt the zeal, passion or the high energy in the entire movie time. In fact even when the James Horner’s famous back ground score of “Charging Fort Wagner” played in the final sequence, it did not create the goose pumps and the great tragedy on the regiment gets through. And I was in the hopes of the regiment winning successfully which did not happen in reality. Hence the level of tragic moments in me should have been high and it did not happen that way.

The film is a well made but lacks the life. It has all the flavour and substance required for a film exploring the tough and cruel hatred which lived among the men in a time of war. Still director Edward Zwick does not employ those to the elevation of emotions which it should have kindled quite easily.

Monday, June 18, 2007

"The Weight of Water" (2000) - Movie Review

A movie clearly aimed at the audience who are ready to sit and go that mile for meaning provides the luxury of obscurity. This obscurity while can make things treasury and fulfilling at times for interpretation might very well be the downfall of a movie. Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Weight of Water” based of the novel by the same name by Anita Shreve plays dangerous acrobats over the ropes of it and finally falls off. The acrobat play of screenplay does provide some clarity of emotions but does not rise up the level of the intensity it is supposed to.

The film shifts in the present and the past of events of totally different kind but same emotions. In 1873 two women in the isles of shoals which are off the coasts of New Hampshire were axed. A man is identified as the murderer by the third women, who survived the killings, Maren (Sarah Polley). As the film says, it is been long debated on the event as such on who did the murder even though the man Louis Wagner (Ciarán Hinds) was convicted and hanged to death. This curiosity also catches up the journalistic photographer Jean (Catherine McCormack) who along with her Pulitzer Prize winning husband Thomas (Sean Penn) comes to dig the secret, in the present time. They join Thomas’ brother Rich (Josh Lucas) and his girl friend Adaline(Elizabeth Hurley). In their boat they anchor near the islands. Adaline knows every poem Thomas wrote and recites him back. Thomas is strangely impressed by this discusses more about those in detail with her. Adaline apart from this is extremely sensuous sending all kinds of mixed signals any one can easily misinterpret or rightly interpret. Mean while the film goes back and forth in between the story happening in the present time and that around the murders. In the story of the 1873 killings, it goes back and comes to the point of trial conveniently without any loss of details and continuity.

Having to deal with the sexual identity along in being unidentified for love in times of 1870s is beyond words of explanation. Maren (Sarah Polley) deals with that. More than the sexual identity is her loneliness and the confused state of her situation. She is married to a man uninterested and performs sex in a mechanical nature. But the same is the case with Maren too. She is not in love with her husband and still need to deal with him. He works and serves him day in and day out making herself busy. In this fragile state of mind comes Louis Wagner staying with them with rheumatism. He tries to take advantage of the state Maren is in. Maren confused yet realizing herself denies him. Sarah Polley gives a performance so intact and pale. Her reaction less face adds to the misery as well as the numb ness of her inner sufferings of confusions. It is slowly coming to light of the frustrations Maren goes through. But still her naïve and inanimate face does not make us believe of these brutal murders by those soft hands. There is no suspense of whodunit but it is the question of “what” and “how”.

There is a constant tension and uneasiness in between Jean and Thomas. Adding to it is that Thomas is inaccessible and so is Jean. This gap of accessibility and a voluptuous fan on board in their boat is the recipe of the suspicion. The normal glances any man would look over a beautiful woman are taken meanings. Those casual stares are given serious weight. The imaginary artist in the minds of Jean draws the picture of jealousy and as she discovers the characteristics of Maren, instead of learning from it, she goes towards the same path of hers.

While the above scenarios seem to be a nice plot of drama and unknown signals of curiosity, the film does not amplify those properly. May be it is due to the two parallel stories with the story based on Maren taking too much of energy out of the material. The development of the characters in the present time is broken and does not have the human it needs. The character of Rich is completely negated. There seems to be nothing of deep conversation over the relationship between Jean and Thomas which is so obvious is shredded and cold strained. And also apart from the jealous eyes of Jean, there is no other indication of her frustrations or loneliness. There are scenes of uneasiness but it is just enough for the strain of their relationship and not the reasons of infidelity. And even if there is one, her character does not seem to get the in depth scope as that of Maren to make her believable. Also there are loose ends with respect to the character of Adaline who may or may not be involved with Thomas. The plot and performance of Sarah Polley has enough mass to lift this film to surface up but not enough to sail it through to the shores.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Black Hawk Down" (2001) - Movie Review

When the crew lines up and various soldiers gather up for a mission supposed to be a cake walk, it is indeed going to be a walk in a hell. “Black Hawk Down” is how several US soldiers were trapped in the middle of a city in Somalia. And how they kept themselves on hold and of all being there for each other is the film. This war of getting out of the hell hole happened in the October 3rd 1993. The mission was to capture the couple of main associates of the warlord in Somalia who seized the humanity support sent by the world. The Army Rangers, Delta Force Team and the air assistance of Black Hawk Helicopters with the Fly birds capture them. But the militia brings down the helicopters and this shifts the whole weight of the mission to another curvature. The teams advance towards the crash sites to rescue the wounded soldiers. This battle of survival and rescue forms the movie with stunning editing, photography and performances.

Most of the people can hardly put them up in the shoes of the soldiers. It is next to impossible. Thinking about it brings chills, but when it comes down to it, we face it. Maybe, just maybe the actors who play the characters can associate to this feeling. Having to play the parts which happened for real and grueling themselves for the period of time the movie was shot, should definitely make them feel what the soldiers felt. So transforming it into the people who see it is the knack of executing it. There have been umpteen films which hit those, so why this movie be any different? It is based on the true events for one and the second is the concentration of the brotherhood in the soldiers. While in any of the war movies this comes as an emotion rightly tapped for the moments, it is an entire movie on that. The certainty of not leaving any one is the mission inside the mission. The film got its name due to the black hawk, the chopper going down which totally alters the mission plan and state of mind of the team. This brother hood is the content solidified to speak out in perfection and true to the events.

There are rescue missions of blind action movies like “Rambo” and “Delta Force” series. And as said earlier, movies with real emotional content and the whole question of war per se movies. This movie of course does not combine those. Also it does not fall in either of the categories completely. It is an action movie but we feel the brutal blood spattering in our face is real. It is highly emotional but the feeling of it as said in it can only be completely understood by a soldier. When there is shower of bullets and some one getting themselves out there to give a hand to his next soldier without concern for his life, it is human in the midst of unknown political violence. As Hoot (Eric Bana) says, there is no politics out there and there seems to be no broad view of right or wrong. The only right is save lives at the cost of killing other lives. This is war. The movie makes us realize that instantaneously. The film does not argue about the politics or the stand point of war. It is the human affection in a territory where it is questioned every moment.

The military personnel are not shown as typecast routine people most of the war movies portray. There is fear in every one of them, on and off the field. In fact the fear is extremely excruciating for the off the field people since they watch the killings and they can do nothing about it except making decisions. This is the suffering one cannot train or prepare for. General Garrison (Sam Shepard) along with his associates has the job of it. And even more painful for him is that he has been there and knows the exact state of mind over it. There are of course some modifications and creativity in between the real incident and the movie. And it pops up as the Delta Force soldier Hoot (Eric Bana). This is the character which represents the true state of all the soldiers. It is the amalgamation of right character creativity with reality. There is no time to think when the movie is compressed with continuous chaos surrounding every moment. And a character like Hoot at the end of the movie needs to say that to come close on what the entire exercise is about. And while doing that it should not cross the line of reality and it is intact.

Ridley Scott provides each of his film with the entertainment coated with reality. And it is the entertainment which might get the term misunderstood. Entertainment as such is a word of casual nature and without proper significance. And when it is attached with a serious movie, it some how seems inappropriate. Hence it needs the right explanation and justice done to the material as well as the word. This film entertains the idea of humanism. And in the process of it, we really entertain the idea of it. The sympathy of the nineteen soldiers goes to the same thousands of people in Somalia who lost their lives. Every one chooses their action but sadly some of them fail to identify the consequences of it. The director tells the story of something good coming out of it, individually to each soldier. It is the most crucial place to get that emotion, because there is no time to think and the US soldiers think those to save their brothers.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

"The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1988) - Movie Review

Sex and Love. The two combined and disassociated words make the former an entertainment and other the emotional attachment. But there is an unknown boundary separating those two. Riding along in the path of having actively involved in Sex without being falling in love is a practiced art for Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis). Tomas is versatile in performing the two toughest things in life, Brain Surgery and impressing women. While he is the protagonist, there are few other characters which make this story a heavy substance material. This film is adapted from the very famous novel of the same name by Milan Kundera.

In 1968, Tomas lives in Prague and his womanizing skills are depicted without much of dialogues. He talks and the music plays. That’s the end of it when women laugh and fall all over him. His perfect match on the opposite sex is Sabina (Lena Olin). They are friends and they know exactly what they are doing. Tomas meets Tereza (Juliette Binoche) in a small town when he visits for an operation. We expect him to be rejected and then he madly falls in love, but it does not happen. Tereza is lonely and does not have the right kind of people to talk with her. The attraction is instantaneous for her. They talk few words and Tomas realizing that he cannot stay over leaves. And in a few days, he sees her in his door step. They instantly react and quite surprising to see the calm and naïve Tereza jump in jubilation on attaining what she wanted. He lets her stay in until she finds herself a job. And they do not show how long Tereza stays there but with the way of behaviour of the characters it is assumed that she is there for a while. This puts Tomas in the position of falling for her. They get married. And then the troops of Russia get in and occupy the country. Sabina leaves to Geneva. She meets a married professor Franz (Derek de Lint). She finds herself falling for this man. These two characters of same anatomical view towards making love and their treatment of it are shown in the rest.

Apart from the various views towards the concept of sex and its association to emotion, this movie is also about the feeling of belonging nowhere. Feeling of being in a place and the consequences of disobeying the rules imposed by unknown authorities. The small nuances of irritation wherein freedom is getting stamped upon. It is also the depiction of conscience and the other side of it. I did not see the invasion by Russia really associated with the story in hand philosophically. The idea I thought was a situation wherein the relationship is further tested and maybe in a new location they discover a common point of complete agreement. But the invasion in itself is a scenario of co-existence and the reason upon living as a whole. It invokes the question of why do we attach so much weight to the expansion of land? What is this threat to each other in the same species of living? How much of an attachment can one associate to a place? I can still say that my place of heaven would be to stay in my native, Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India. But it has become a place of visit. There is still a lot of attachment towards it but the city itself changes in many ways. This of course in turn changes the point of view towards living there and visiting it. Tereza feels the same with Prague. She is attached and torn apart to see the same place go in shams.

If only the idea of Tomas is in every one’s mind, then we can all be having orgies every moment and forget the concept of loving one another. Tomas is the dream guy for every one but it stops there. He is a dream, but he is pretty clear on what he is doing and how much emotion he attaches to it. It is none. Like when Tereza confronts him says that how Tomas has explained himself that it is an “entertainment”. An entertainment which is watching a football for him is what she says. But can you totally eliminate the factor of love and have sex? Can you do it for a sufficiently long time which in fact becomes an addiction? Tomas is addicted too. He knows that and his instincts of acting on genitals are higher than the mastery of his own skill, “study of brain”. It is a sad irony. Sabina who has the same kind of distinction towards sex does fall in love. But for some reason does not identify her to be fit enough for Franz. She knows that the only person who can understand her way of life is Tomas. And when she realizes on where he stands, she leaves, which is what she always does. It is the avoidance of the complication. Or rather she is not willing to pay the price of having a loving life. She thinks of the results of emotional disappointments and the regrets.

And when these two strange characters beat them up to confusion, Tereza is the sweet naïve girl who gets caught in between them. Knowing Tomas and his way of life, she cannot see through that system of thinking. She pushes herself to the limits and yet she stands where she was. Franz is the other character who just cannot deal with the conscience of going over his wife. He clears it off but stands alone. He does not know that he dealt with a world of different understanding in a character, Sabina.

One thing I noticed in the movie is how characters react and observe. They send these signals which mean something but they are the only ones who decode it. We are not sure what exactly their actions are or what to take of the already made ones. But this ambiguity creates a curious sense of pleasure which is beautiful in an unknown way of weirdness. For example the scene in which Tereza takes nude pictures of Sabina. Her way of seeing her body is unknown. Whether she is attracted to her or does she is not able to hide the sense of jealousy in which her husband treats that? Or is it her strange dreams coming true in front of her eyes? And when Sabina takes picture of Tereza, it is the same signals from her. This encounter is encrypted in a language which totally means nothing and everything. Juliette Binoche and Sabina bring in their naivety and the emotional dilemmas required for that sequence. Danielle Day-Lewis has the right sharp eyes with that devilish yet erotic look the women crave for. He is rugged but a smooth operator when it comes to handling the opposite sex. He sculptures this character with immaculate adaptation.

The movie is 171 minutes long. I have not read the book but I am sure the details in this movie would have definitely been lost due to the constraints of time and other factors. It is said that Kundera feels that his novels are not suitable for movies. He believes that lot of details and qualities will be lost. I might read the book to see that, but Phillip Kaufman and his team provides a movie of all classic qualities and depth even if it had lost some of those details and qualities.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001) - Movie Review

Movie making style as such is diminishing day by day. While it is good to see some new things learned from the styles which were already invented, there seems to be no new technique of story telling which makes the viewer attentive. In that aspect, director Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums” is independent and has its tone of individuality. Whether this manner of film making enhances or destroys the story is something depends on varying perceptions. In my point of view, it is both enhancing and destroying the script’s substance.

The story is taken in a manner of narration which is a voice over. Rightly it gives the introduction of the highly gifted three siblings with separated parents. Their father Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) negates the children and pursues his own way of life. His wife Etheline Tenenbaum (Angelica Huston) raises the kids. Each kid is gifted with a talent of individuality. Chas (Ben Stiller), the eldest is a born business man; Richie (Luke Wilson) is a sports prodigy while the adopted daughter Margot(Gwyneth Paltrow) who is in the middle is a creative play writer. They grow to be miserably devastated in their personal life. Each does not know how to deal with it when Royal comes to know of a Henry Sherman (Danny Glover), accountant of Etheline proposing to marry her. This for some reason ignites the fuel to win his family back whom he desolated in the past for a considerable amount of time. He poses himself dying and with the aid of the house keeper Pagoda (Kumar Pallana), he gets back in to the house.

There is a definite sluggishness at the start of all these characters. This sluggishness predominantly transports throughout the screenplay until the final thirty minutes. This is the result of the style I was talking about. The colour tones and the photographical nature of narration are unique but the script wanders with no proper intention till the final sequences. The half an hour spells the magic to make the first hour and fifteen minutes likeable. The humour which is dry and mostly based on the misery of a character is bland but interesting. The mixed feeling is unavoidable. The same kind of movie making in “Rushmore” created the uneven balance of banal and intriguing. It travels to this one too. The difference though is that there are more than two characters in this movie than the “Rushmore” to make it interesting in a very dry manner.

Luke Wilson may have been slammed for portraying the emotional but unexpressive Richie. I felt totally opposite of it. The basis of the experience getting transferred gripping in the end is the performance of him. Some how he pulled it all together in a way I cannot imagine. Richie as a kid looks bubbly and all smiles. When he grows up, he is introduced in a ship some where in the middle of nowhere. With this scenario, he would have been wrongly assumed for an eccentric who is going to erupt any moment. He does have turned into this adult with suppressed feelings which push him into the eccentricity status. But he totally blows everyone apart for his affection towards his dad. For unknown reasons, Royal shows a special affection to him. It is getting returned as an adult. He seems aggravated but he hurts himself than any one else. And Luke Wilson definitely gives a performance which holds this otherwise unexplained reaction generated by the movie.

The second catapulting factor is the performance of Gene Hackman as the irresponsible Royal. Apart from abandoning his children at a young age (which is brutal), there seems to be hinting of his infidelity. Hence this screen factor is not solid enough to despise him from the point of viewers. Hackman and the characterization of Royal duly perform this. These two actors and also as characters makes this movie tough for anyone to come for a conclusion of whether it is totally banal or nice creative characters to induce some interest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"Under Suspicion" (2000) - Movie Review

Interrogation room and a possible suspect. A rough cop and a reasonable cop. This is something which has been witnessed and used astonishingly in lot of films and TV shows. “The Usual Suspects” broke many barriers with respect to the story telling. The fact of “telling or seeing is believing” fools everyone. It is also a firm fact put forth my Kurosawa in “Rashomon” and S. Balachander in tamil movie “Andha Naal”. So bearing everything from those great movies, it is a great deal of work to bring in the element of surprise and providing a satisfactory ending. “Under Suspicion” makes it out there, may be not the daring surprise but definitely a notable one.

The film is about the interrogation of a possible strong suspect for two murders happened separately in the island of Puerto Rico. Henry Hearst (Gene Hackman) is a tax attorney and a very rich one too. He is living along with his trophy wife Chantal (Monica Bellucci) who is young compared to him. The film introduces that Henry is getting ready to address a fund raising party when the Captain of the city, Victor (Morgan Freeman) calls him for clarifying to tie the loose ends. Across the street of the party is Victor’s office and hence Henry drops by. Victor knows Henry and seems to be a short routine for Henry, but Victor has some unanswered questions with him. Henry is the prime witness for a crime scene a day before. He found a young girl lying dead while he was jogging. As the questioning progresses, it is evident that Henry is hiding something. Henry seems to continuously alter his story and this is good enough to create more suspicion over Henry for Victor and the hot headed Detective Owens (Thomas Jane). Hence the further movie illustrates the deepest secrets of Henry and the relationship tangled with his wife.

The film marks some nice story telling. Having Victor present at the location Henry or Chantal narrating him along the way is guiding and novel. By this way they ensure that what Victor sees is what the audience sees too. A movie of this kind is run by the performance. It is Gene Hackman all the way. The character of Henry is suspicious, authoritative, weak, embarrassing and at times lovable too. This is the character that is sexually frustrated and does not want to be known that way. He has a reputation to keep and faces to smile. But beneath this pride seeking rich man is also a soul aging and realizing the fact of it. He wants to make much use of it. At the same time, he shows some of his sides which are clandestine, for a reason. And also good enough for him to commit those crimes. This oscillation between the guy who is a possible killer and one who has been terribly misunderstood makes the movie interesting enough till the end.

Morgan Freeman has done so many cop roles that I am getting tired of it. But the Victor here is not a great skilled person as he always does. He is a very ordinary and diligent cop who wants to catch the killer and get some sleep. He is not been shown neither as extremely clever nor as a hard and an uptight captain with some unexplained hunches. He is a good guiding leader to his Detective. He knows the guy out here over the tables. He knows to tap the right buttons to bring in the truth. His character is to assure everyone that this interrogation is going at the direction desired with proper respect of integrity and clarity. The story demands the authenticity of the interrogation to be true enough which can be sole factor of justification.

There are some presumed notions while watching a movie of this kind. We want to know the killer and everything sums up in the end with point detail explanation. Director Stephen Hopkins played it very well for and against to make the viewers guessing. The film does leave with unexplained answers but it is left to interpretations. Because it is not alone about a sick twisted killer but about a relationship put into enormous strain. It is also about sacrifice or may be betrayal. It is also about the fact of life on how assumptions and guess work fools every one. What Kurosawa said in “Rashomon” is re-iterated in a very convincing manner, that “It's human to lie. Most of the time we can't even be honest with ourselves.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Dead Man" (1995) - Movie Review

Films with no standard plot or a story ending to an uncertain conclusion need strong characters. “The Big Lebowski” is one such example of it. The beauty of the film like “The Big Lebowski” is the unique characterization and a plot which never converges. The film progresses and taken as sequence by sequence thereby providing a nice effect of multiple facet of the unique character navigating through further unique characters. “Dead Man” directed by Jim Jarmusch tries to follow those but provides a very plain and bland effect.

William Blake (Johnny Depp) arrives at the town of Machine to work as an Accountant. The travel is through a very long journey over the train and it is shown by people changing now and then when Blake wakes up from his sleep time to time. The train fireman (Crispin Glover) warns Blake of the unknown and desolated town of Machine. With that and some weird town people, Blake comes to know that his job is taken. The owner Mr. Dickinson (Robert Mitchum) drives him away from his office. Blake encounters with a beautiful woman Thel(Mili Avital) and stays with her over the night. A man enters her apartment and we come to know that he is the ex-lover of Thel. He is upset by the presence of Blake and having to hear that Thel never loved him, he tries to kill Blake. Blake is shielded by Thel and he kills the man. Passing through Thel, the bullet hurts Blake too. Wounded he vanishes into the woods. Later it is known that the man is Charlie Dickinson (Gabriel Byrne) and his father is Mr. Dickinson who hires three outlaws to hunt Blake. Blake meets a strange Native American (Gary Farmer) who helps him and mistakes him for the poet William Blake. Thereon goes the story to nowhere.

The above happens within first 30 minutes of the movie, hence there is not much I gave away. As I said in first paragraph, this movie is not about the plot but about the characters. The film is completely shot in Black and White. It stands out with respect to the clarity and uniqueness required for a movie like this nature. The woods, the sunshine and the outlaws remind Kurosawa’s way of film making. What the movie misses the essence of those impressive dry humour or conversation of attention. Sure the way the character of Gary Farmer talks is interesting. It is in fact rhythmically nice to see some one address one’s name so often. He uses the name of William Blake in every sentence addressing him. But the protagonist as such, William Blake’s character is vague and unknown. He is not a gunman and his transformation into a killer is solid enough. But the mystery his new friend is taking through is aimless and uninteresting. There is no self discovery or a story telling of mystical poetry is told.

The strangest character of all is the most brutal one. One of the outlaws hired by Dickinson is Cole Wilson (Lance Henriksen). He is the “silent” one and he kills some one if they pissed him for some very cheap reason. It is true that the time period it is shown makes it believable, but there is nothing out of it. The characters are usual and do not provide the interesting aberrations these movies demand. The film does not take the “spiritual” journey it is hinting till the end. As a short story too, there is not much of emotion or invented unusual friend ship out here. The friendship between William Blake and the Native American who calls himself “Nobody” may be symbolically taken as a man of solitude wandering in the woods of unknown path. Still the character is not ghostly rather it is more human and aids him in a manner of unknown belief. This does not mean that the movie is spiral and confusing. The film is very straight forward. There seems to be hidden meaning but not extensive enough to dwelve upon.

Adding to the strong cinematography by the use of Black and While picture, the soundtrack of Neil Young is the only another noticeable brilliance. The taunting sound of hollow guitar and the timely intrusion of the tuned jarred electric guitar paint the film with the demanded outlaw experience along with the mystical nature of the journey itself. This selection of Jarmusch to go for Neil Young seems to strike the right nature of sound.

“Dead Man” definitely keeps us occupied by that strange journey. But it fails to nail it solid enough into the minds of the viewers. There is no faltering in the screenplay or the direction and for that sake the acting is perfect. The problem is that it is not noticeably different or poetical as it says but a very bland straight lined story not knowing its final end.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

"Ocean's Thirteen" (2007) - Movie Review

I love the sound of the bass guitar of the Ocean’s theme. It is so refreshing to hear it back in different tune with more flavour. Ocean’s team get back together for the reason of avenging their team mate Reuben (Elliot Could). He gets to deal with the worst businessman in Las Vegas, Willy Banks (Al Pacino) who cuts him off loose with the deal they had. So it gets personal and it is one another heist plan or a heist plan with the touch of breaking the game of Banks, gambling.

The cast and the screen play was the key in “Ocean’s Eleven”. It played them good and it turned out to be an amazing piece of work. I have not seen the original of “Ocean’s Eleven” but heard that the remake was a well deserved ode to its original. So next came the “Ocean’s Twelve” which was disappointing in most of the parts. It lacked the quirky comedy and inexplicit way of explaining those comic strikes. “Ocean’s Thirteen” goes back to the first one with respect to playing those notes perfectly. Guess it is the luck of the location. Las Vegas is lucky for Ocean’s Enterprise. This film makes sure that the viewer gets the treatment all it is needed. The right mix of comedy and some clever work of plans. But there are some serious moments of haphazard and over indulgence of the characters.

Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta Jones do not reprise their characters of Tess and Isabel. Both Danny (George Clooney) and Rusty (Brad Pitt) discuss about their relationship though which are not in detail but quite enough to stir some smirks, in a good way. Linus (Matt Damon) is still over enthusiastic and zealous about his work. The rest of the cast get their part well and neat. The biggest thing in the first part was the amount of threat and fear the character of Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) creates. The amount of unspoken fierceness Garcia brought that character made it an extreme mission of danger and calamity. The Willy Banks unfortunately does not match up to that. The character is shown very strict but not immaculately calculated and devilishly precise Terry. There is no striking presence of Al Pacino to lift those either. This steals the whole thrilling moments of discovery. The Terry when cheated does not lose his authority. He says after he gets robbed, “Run and hide. If you should be picked up next week buying a hundred-thousand dollar sports car in Newport Beach, I am going to be supremely disappointed. Because I want my people to find you, and when they do, rest assured we are not going to hand you over to the police. So my advice to you again is this: run and hide. That is all that I ask.” This is the dialogue which creates the chillness to the bones of any one who crosses Terry in bad way. Banks can just sit and watch and may be say some strange dialogues of authority which means none. In fact the minimal screen Garcia’s Terry creates more fun than Willy Banks still maintaining his authority.

If Al Pacino’s Willy Banks is not working then the second addition to the list is the character of Abigail Splonder played by Ellen Barkin. The chemistry in between Banks and Splonder is not either deemed professional nor does run personal to trust each other. Bottom line is that the match for the Ocean’s personality does not create the vibe of a tension filled thrill. Another additional reprisal of character is the François Toulour has nothing to do than follow the team of Ocean. His end is another addition in the list of disaster.

So apart from the Willy Banks and Splonder fiasco, the film is the usual routine of Ocean’s highly picture perfect planning. There are slight surprises in the end but not anything that needs some rethinking to put all the pieces together. The style comes back and so does all the characters with their piece of the original characteristic charm.

This film entertains but does not satisfy. It has the flavour of the original but lacks the strength of the nemesis. It has the key elements doing their job right and well, but the additional cast disappoints. Over all the odds of getting even happens to get even – In between the characters of Danny Ocean and Willy Banks.

"Knocked Up" (2006) - Movie Review

Two drunken people and one night, results in a situation of heavy responsibility and conditional commitment. These kind of romantic comedies definitely are going to end with a happy note unless they advertise it as differently. Even after that “Knocked Up” manages to stand out of the crowd to give an engaging comical movie. The film walks the path of any movie of its genre with a style of its own. For example, they do not explain in detail on how both of them do not want a baby over a series of conversation or events.

The titles roll up with band of people playing a weird boxing or a tug of war over a pool in a broad day light. This is the life of Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) who spends his day playing these kinds of weird games and hunting unusual films with popular nudity. He takes those and proposes an idea to put it over internet so that people can find out those details instantly and effectively. On the other hand is the beautiful career oriented woman Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) living with her sister and her family. She is getting the promotion to be on camera in the Entertainment Network Television. These two are universally opposite and what I liked it is that Director Judd Apatow did not spend time on explaining that they are “universally opposite” in detail. They meet in a bar and get in to bed with lot of drinks. Six weeks later both are in a situation they did not think when they got on each other in bed. Alison is pregnant with Ben’s baby. They keep the baby as expected and they gel together as expected. They fight later as expected and finally get back at the moment of birth. As Expected. Do not scold for giving out the entire plot but trust me you knew this too. Jumping from one of those three things to the other and the characters they use to put that is funny to the core and sensible as well.

Ben is the character in everyone. The problem is the extreme character of everyone. It is not that he is not aware of responsibility but he chooses not to be. In fact that is the reason he never hooks up with any one afraid of getting into the responsible man. He smokes weed and gets high almost on daily… no on an hourly basis. His sanity is maintained by some nice guy in him. While he understands the situation he is in, he does not take things seriously. More than the baby it is the strangeness of getting into a relationship which makes him act goofy. He is patient and he respects the freaky nature of the situation. At the same time, he is clinging on to the routine. He keeps up with his buddies while visiting tons of gynecologists since Alison is picky. On a whole he is the nicest guy with no responsibility and he discovers welcoming a baby needs one.

Alison is another individual with her big sister trying to type cast her attitude. She is not judgmental and acts on her instincts. While she is bedazzled by the way Ben lives, she is ready to see the nice person in him. She understands too but in a frenzied situation and elevated hormones, she snaps too. The movie is funny and at the same time carrying the burden of relationship makes it one of kind in a beat up genre of romantic story telling. Seth Rogen proves that he can be the buddy who can terrifically and hyper supportive in a weird manner in “The 40 year old virgin” and now comes us the guy everyone dreams to be but dare not to. Ben is the character of reason to people taking vacation. They want to stand out of their office and take a relaxed deep breath. While Ben takes it 24/7 along with the smoke of weed, this film shows how some one of his nature is shaken up to see the reality.

More than the main characters, it is the supporting roles which make this film hysterical. The buddies of Ben (Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and Martin Starr) and Alison’s controlling and nagging sister, Debbie (Leslie Mann) with her husband Pete (Paul Rudd). Another couple with problems is Debbie and Pete. There is an encounter of Debbie confronting Pete and she says how mean Pete is. As men, we do not realize it and when she explains it, we feel it is true. Unspoken anger with worst body language is horrific than a continuous sound of nagging. These are the points of movie where the screenplay conveniently shifts up to those serious points. And with the same ease they rotate the wheel of comedy in an intelligent manner.

There is a catch though that we need to witness some expected retaliation from Ben against Debbie. Some of the supposedly reviving change in certain characters could have been avoided. But at the point of time, the movie needs to end. It ends in a common usual note since there is no other way to end it. Well, that cannot be the excuse some one can give when they just finished telling a routinely romantic comedy in a unique way. Forgetting that factor, “Knocked Up” is a definite comic entertainer.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) - Movie Classics

Having seen the movie for numerous times, it brings out different point of emotions in accord with one’s own battle with the life they have. In the year of 1994, this film seems to have lost all its recognition to rest of the other notable and great movies such as “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction”. This movie then picked up its recognition through word of mouth and created history in the Home Video market. It is a coincidence and also an irony that the success of this movie is similar to the content itself. If there is something which should not be missed in a life time, then it is “The Shawshank Redemption”. While it can be widely perceived as a movie of not great film making, it is actually the beauty of it. The beauty of letting the content taking the precedence and the rest of the other departments aiding it way up.

Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted for life for murdering his wife and her lover. He is put in the prison of The Shawshank and there he gets to know of Red (Morgan Freeman) and his friends. Red is the man who could get things which are not accessible in prison. Andy on the other hand is the guy one would rarely encounter in prison. He is not the average raging guy. He calculates the length of his conversation with the other party. He scales himself to such precision in exactly knowing the consequences. He also knows when to cross the line to get the things done. He is the man everyone wishes to be in exigencies but never wants to contain their emotions as him. It is as if he might explode any moment due to the cruelty been done to him. Some times we wish he cries, maybe for a moment. But he never does and we realize that he is more than a person. As Red defines him after their first conversation as, “He strolled. like a man in a park without a care or worry. Like he had on an invisible coat that would shield him from this place.” The movie runs on the narration of Red and hence for Red, Andy is the man who is totally out of place and yet remains so intact. Andy does not change his way of actions to be adaptable to the environment but tries to change the environment a bit and himself a bit. Along with Red, we see Andy as a super hero in the city of Shawshank. But his super hero functions in a totally different and clandestine way.

The movie plays the character as the Red and the audience wishes to see. We do not get the inner most emotions of Andy. On the outer layer of him stands this tall and calm eyed thinker. Red is the closest one but still is not close enough emotionally. They share a unique bond wherein they respect each others inner philosophies towards life. No one talks out loud on it. And it happens when Andy talks about hope, his way of seeing life. What Red says during these instances as “Hope as the dangerous thing” is most applicable to the place they are in. It seems to have real grit truth in it. It appears true for us mainly due to the reason that director Frank Darabont has made us feel the reality of it close to our heart and mind. And Andy comes close to this reality near the end or it appears so.

This film is close to what any one might see the real celebration as well as loss of hope. It plays the final tone with immaculate precision. The constitution which designs the law states that the means to the end is important. It is the way of telling that two wrongs do not make the right. Here there emerges the question of it. What Andy does is very questionable in all aspects of it. But by that time there is the comfortable conviction of his actions. The screenplay paves those actions to be rightly justified. The clever portrayal of the situation and ambience of all bad and coming out clean of it is the execution of perfection. He does try the right way and the screenplay plays it at the right time.

The film appeals in so many ways but there are very key notes to be mentioned. Life is similar to the prison of Shawshank. Everyone definitely identifies it. For everyone it is a struggle to survive. There is Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) and his associates. The world right now is a constant threat to the survival. The movie makes itself to identify those survival struggles to each and every one. But it does not overdo it to make everyone’s improper complaints to be recognized with it. Another factor is the bond in between Andy and Red. Living in a place like that, respect and privacy of opinions remain a laughing issue. And two male having those is also the analogy of love getting transpired without any intentions or return. These two key factors are something which I associate myself with this movie. It pops out numerous of this kind every time it is been watched.

“The Shawshank Redemption” is a reminder that there can be solution for anything and everything. It also gives the breaking point for some people and reviving for some other. Brooks (James Whitmore) is a character which will remain as a constant nag from the movie. Two ways of looking at his end, one being that he is finally in a place of peace. Second, as Andy says losing hope. But at his age of brink ness towards end, what can be really said about losing hope? And that’s exactly been answered by the end of the movie. There can be lot of negations made with age as consideration. It is really sad to see Brooks end but at the same instance, it could have been better for him. Red is the actual justification of the hope being retained more than Andy in the end. Granted that Andy forms the crux of it that lives it till the end, but learning from it is even more crucial. Red could have easily opted for what Brooks had, but finds the final piece of something which of course cannot be reached by any one as Andy defines music and hope as his.

Attaining the concepts of those in a 142 minutes movie is clearly a hard challenge. Giving it with the pace and intriguing movement of events for a long period of time is next to impossible. Generally movies which are long as termed in Hollywood trend concentrates on the details of a story. Details which involves various events to punch the enormity and vastness of it. Here they have the details been laid on the emotions. Emotions of being alone in a place filled with men. The feeling of being in prison is very well felt not due to the uniforms and guards but the absence of any female characters at all. The movie entirely amplifies upon those emotional nuances over the event details.

There are films which are identified as land marks in the history of cinema. Those landmarks are mainly been recognized by their artsy contribution along with its social awareness. Some portrayed the mind of a gangster, many portrayed the effects of war and some gave the human emotions of different individuals. Those movies while reached its audience do not come out of the screen to all the people. “The Shawshank Redemption” is a movie which is marked as the symbol of hope which for its inspiring moments drives the people watching it to believe in it even in their deepest dire situations in life.

"Rushmore" (1998) - Movie Review

It takes a while to realize what exactly the film offered at the end of it. The film expectedly had its moments of strange comic and also some drama into it. In the middle of the film, I slightly became restless on where exactly everything is going. It made some time to think the arena which the movie is trying to set foot on. With that said, “Rushmore”, directed by Wes Anderson is an independent genre funny movie in its own way. It is emotional at certain points but not that emotional and it is funny at certain points but not that funny too. This strange sense of feeling, believe it or not is what makes the movie running in weird manner of entertainment.

The story is about a young bright kid, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) who vents all his energy towards everything on the Rushmore School except for his studies. He is a president, vice- president and founder of various clubs and activities. He has a talent. Unfortunately to sustain in a school, the minimal academic criteria is not met by him. He is given probation. At that point of time, he gets his teenage loving crush over a first grade teacher, Miss Cross (Olivia Williams). He also meets another thinker like him but in a totally opposite way, Mr. Blume (Bill Murray). He befriends him and they both fall for Miss Cross.

The movie is the enormous responsibility over the performance of Jason Schwartzman. The Max he gives in the film is something makes it quite obvious for us that he met and understood the requirement of the character given to him. Max is a geek but does not fall in to the geek associated to academics. He is a geek towards the art of entertainment. His creativity lands and resides on plays with high budget and effects. Inside a movie they have a play and it needs a style for the character. The various glimpses of his play give the character outlining and specification spent on. He is calculative and understands the opponents. Yet he is at the young age of getting the real world experience. He understands the morality and possibility of the incoherent nature of his relationship with Miss Cross but as for any teenager it is overcome by the passion of knowing and loving a female for the first time. As an adult, Mr. Blume is the exact match for Max. The only difference in between them is the age. They have the expertise and skill necessary in doing what they want to do. Mr. Blume is hated by his own family. He does not understand the position he is in. He goes on falling for Miss Cross and of course knows to pull of the legs of Max too. Their battle against each other to claim her depicts the similarity of negativity in both of them.

Thinking back about the moments of intensity, they are intriguing. The discussion Miss Cross has with Max over their relationship in library, Max negotiating a budget for the aquarium with Mr. Blume and the confrontation of Miss Cross living in the past by Max are the ones which quite amazingly fits perfectly well in a movie of comical nature. The characters make it feel in real world and also a strange sensation of another world. Their sorrows are made bland. There are no extreme tragic or happiness. It is constant and stagnant, yet interesting.

Somewhere in the middle of this, there seems to be a gap of uncertainty in the script. I guess the movie at that point of time reminds everyone of its genre. It seems fantasy land but also real and emotional. This puts it in the awkward position either to identify it or lose it and start hating the movie. Those moments are flimsy without any strong hold. They walk fast on a hanging bridge unaware of their surroundings. But right after that, they pick themselves up and march towards the end with some slight touches of drama and comic relief.

There seems to be some heavy influence of European music as well as characters. It is well suited and elevates the mood of the film at right tones. This film is an outright independent movie with an aimless script. The script is aimless due to the character of Max and I mean it as a compliment. It is tough to write an aimless script and make it an interesting experience out of it. Max is aimlessly filled with the aim of doing what he wants to do. This way of unique presentation fits the film initially and during the end but doubts itself at some sequences. If some can avoid those or understand those to put it in a better way, this film would be a dry comical drama entertaining enough.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"The Last Kiss" (2006) - Movie Review

“Life is boring”. Many people say that to many others, who in turn join hands with them to dissect and analyze how boring it is. For Michael (Zach Braff), relationship with Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) for three years makes him feel boring. Everything is scheduled and it is just that there is no calendar set for his life; otherwise he could plan for the planned too. And adding to these are the responsibilities and pressure wherein Jenna is pregnant with his baby. He feels robotic. I am not a relationship expert or for that matter of fact, I have never been in a relationship. But nothing can be so clear and open on how wrong Michael is when he is ready to party with another college girl Kim (Rachel Bison).

Back in India, when I was still in my grade school I remember taking my newly wed cousin sister and her husband to a tamil movie. In that movie a couple separated misses in various instances close enough to seeing them each other. And I can still remember how attached my cousin sister and her husband that they started talking to the screen advising both the people on the screen to look at each other. That was a lousy movie and I was totally blown back by their reaction. But out here when Michael takes every step possibly wrong, we want to stop him and say, “Come on Man! Are you crazy?” I felt frightened whether they are going to give crash course on how relationships get ruined.

The institute of marriage is always considered the final entrance to burn everyone’s desire. I can see my friend Mathi chuckling on the previous sentence because the fear is within me and for that matter every one else. Looking on a various aspect, it is a submission for compromising. It is a pain to give up and consider another individual for anything and everything. Basically space is lost. But these are all tangential and definitely not a factor for Michael. He is already living with a woman and marriage is going to be just a procedural event. Yet close enough to becoming thirty, it scares him. He is afraid to grow up and recognizes the other attachments coming along with it. Accepted that age is not a happy phenomenon, but it is a fact and one has to accept it. Live along with it and look at the other side of the mirror to realize that it is more than that. He does the unthinkable and makes not alone Jenna mad but the viewers too. And he continuously and without any further hesitation keeps on doing it even after the worst possible thing. In fact the viewers might get terribly upset with his actions than Jenna. It hurts when you realize the mistake. It even more hurts because it was within your conscience to not do it and still ignore it. That is more painful. Jenna deals with a different pain of herself. She is the most understanding personality and the viewers feel the trust being shattered into pieces. We do not want to forgive Michael. But what is the end for it? Is there a time limit to punish them like the law does? Sadly emotions are not visible to law but time does a strange thing to it. There cannot be a rule book written for it and it all depends on the individual.

And when two people are hard enough to shatter into pieces, there seems to broken pieces around Michael and Jenna too. Chris (Casey Affleck) knows it is over with his wife but the idea of his kid’s life being hard is haunting him. Jenna’s parents have their long termed problem which gets its attention in another devastating way. The other two friends of Michael, Izzy (Michael Weston) is not able to get out of his previous relationship while Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen) believes it is time to see the outer world. All seems to be very cinematic on text but the intertwined interesting screenplay makes it a merry ride.

There are tough lessons and hard reality out of this movie. I cannot be amazed to think how scheduled life is for most of us when you think of Michael. It is no way justifiable for his actions but he seems to be questioning the eventualities in his life. And he is confused in getting the answer. Why to Marry and buy a home? Is it a pattern? If those do not happen, what is it? Yes, the questions are right but it is wrong time. He wanted something earlier in life which he is scared to take it in right now. He seems to learn it the worst and despicable way possible.

With the very little time over the screen, there is no way to take sides. And it is quite unintended artistic nature of the movie to say those, “There is no way to take sides”. And it is no use to analyze it either. It comes from both the individuals to take it further or not. It might come a lot from one of the individual because they want it more. And the opposite person is so covered with anger and frustration to think those through. Effort takes from both the individuals at the end. And some times, it is the time to see the truth and accept it. There should be an agreement in the disagreement. The film puts those through various characters involving all the emotions.

The film might be termed as ending in a melodramatic manner. It might be even slashed for having some moments of artificiality. It is not. I do not know how the original Italian movie “L'ultimo bacio” directed by Gabriele Muccino was but this film is convincing and emotional. It seems to fall in terms of emotionally satisfying and leaves with conviction but it does very reasonably. Director Tony Foldwyn portrays it as something very real and can well apply to every day sights. I can see any one talking to their loved ones over the door asking to try a bit more or may be telling it is all over. Asking to forgive the worst possible actions and also to try a little bit harder to work things out or to get the hell out of the door. And may be asking to forget their “Last Kiss” with some one else.