Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Once" (2006) - Movie Review

Ideas in art are contagious. A total stranger can instantly connect and slowly get into the groove because the ideas of art might sink so perfect and brilliant that it is love at first sight. The musical ignite in between a Guy (Glen Hansard) a Girl (Markéta Irglová) is magical and instantaneous. They both share those few days wherein they do not discover intimate connections in between them in emotional level but on a musical level. When some one gets so synced up with the same art in a manner other one can easily tangled and mesmerized there blossoms love without any saying. “Once” directed by John Carney unravels those as a back ground with music taking the center stage.

Art is an expression of emotions. Mainly it originates when some one is in real pain. Here the guy tells the girl that most of his songs are towards his cheated love. He says he does not love here anymore but beautifully inspires himself to write songs seeing the videos of her when they were together. The girl pretty much keeps everything to herself. She is the better one in handling the emotion against the reality. She already has been fooled by it when it ended in a child pushing the father for their marriage. We do not get to know whether she really loves her husband who is not living with them.

The charm and connection of each other definitely makes him to make the move but more than emotion it is the void created by being lonely. She gets offended and he feels stupid. The movie does not go in analyzing the situation rather it is drawn on the pieces of music. My immediate feeling after watching the movie is that it is a music video with few dialogues in between and then I came to know from wikipedia.org that the director calls this movie as “video album”. Yes it is.

Making a music video has its difficulty of conveying the contents in very short period. Here the movie places it as scene of transcending emotions. Of course we have seen similar movie structure in “Hustle & Flow”. Out there more than the music, it is the fight by a single man from a background which brings him down every moment possible. Here the guy is singing in streets mourning for his lost love. He works with his father and lives above the shop. His financial status is not good but there is no hindrance from his social status.

He decides to record some songs before he can go and win his girl friend from London. He asks the new friend to join in it. They hire a band that plays in the streets as well. The recording goes perfectly well. Quite honestly a musical recording session does not go as a single smooth first flow as they show in the movie. The sound engineer does not believe as they show immediate signs of inexperience. But the energy and synchronization with the connectivity of these two makes the scene a musical flamboyance with tingling tunes of tangerine sensation. The sound engineer does not jump around to say how good it is. He asks whether he wrote the song and when he says yes, he says it is nice. Yes, it is nice. It is not extraordinary musical work as that of pertaining to excellence. The songs are small liquid chocolates melting its way through the milk and dissolving slowly and happily. They are no Mozart pieces or colourful display of dances but simple, emotional and merry music. Along with that when some one brings in the frames of ease, mellow and laid back connections, it is different and is like a carriage ride into the cities of lights on a perfectly set night of celebrations.

The idea of home video style cinematography might not give the professional look but suits the scenario quite well. When the movie starts and these two characters meet sweetly to discover each others passion for music, it seems to be headed on a way of melodramatic emotions. The movie is not about that. Both of them know the limitations and the future ahead of them. More than the guy it is the girl who thinks well and way ahead. She knows that and consciously spaces herself. Yet she befriends him and assists and encourages him in subtle and explicit way. There seem to be flirtation on the margins of responsibility. We do not know each other’s intense love for their broken relationship. Both are fragile and the music while develops the crack even more but also builds it in a very new unknown level where both instantly dwelve, “Once”.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"In the Company of Men" (1997) - Movie Review

How can evil be defined? Sure that many can name tons of real life people who are two faced and as such doing demonic things which are so unforgivable. But when was the last time in the movies you really saw some one and thought that you never want to be associated with a person like this in this life time? Here it is Chad (Aaron Eckhart) whose vicious nature not only specializes in devising plan to hurt some one but also take a company along with him, Howard (Matt Maloy).

These two are big time corporate executives going on business project. They are scheduled to stay there for six weeks. Both know each other right from the school but Howard is the new boss. Chad is a terrific smart person who is right on target in completing the job. Both start of their journey discussing how each other has been terribly hurt by their current relationship. Both come to know each other’s break up and Chad the master of evil plans devise something to bring some closure to their self proclaimed dignity. He says that both of them to go on an emotionally fragile, actively looking and desperate woman. Swinging with her by both these people, the plan is to break up instantly at the end of their business. Howard who is the better of these two in character is convinced easily by Chad. Now if this is insensitive, Chad picks up their woman from the office they are posted, Christine (Stacy Edwards) who is deaf. As the weeks go by, the unthinkable happens and we see Chad slowly falling for her and so is Howard. How this story goes and the twists in the end is something to be watched.

The film also gives the corporate culture which seems verbally profane. The person who is not in the room gets his character smashed and his private parts and its performances questioned. They are crass, competitive and completely characterless. If this is the office I need to work, then it will take five minutes to quit. But wait, may be I am running too fast on this. The movie portrays the dark side of it and hence it need not be generalized as a whole. Yet the devilish side of the so called ergonomics is given as a shot of tequila. It goes easy but hits you hard.

Howard is the new boss and yes he can easily be manipulated too. Chad does not show any signs of envy even though he mentions that he was passed by for the position. Howard is submissive and thinks of being the nicest guy. He is the normal guy who believes to be super nice. The problem is when some one starts thinking that; they expect good things to happen. They see unfairness when bad things happen. And it shows the ugly face of hypocrisy when the denial gets faced with the reality. Howard goes through the phase in this movie. He has got all the bad influence and nice support from Chad. I can see Howard falling for Christine any day.

The film is dark and devilish. The ending is cruel. As for the substance like this, there is a strong disapproval from me which is evident from the reviews of “Beijing Bicycle” and “Swimming with Sharks”. What I liked about this movie is the end which gives the option of thinking good things happening after that. If there is even a slightest hint of hope in a convincing manner then it deserves its piece of cake.

I can see how come Aaron Eckhart cracked the role of Nick Naylor in “Thank You for Smoking” and also got selected for the role of Harvey Dent in the “The Dark Knight” which is the sequel for the “Batman Begins”. He delivers the crass with the class every one can easily digest. He brings in the evil with freshness that he makes it to be entertaining. Every one has the dark side and the super nice side to expect in return. The conscience to choose in between those two to do the right thing without any expectations marks the personality and character of any one. Chad and Howard are the two completely different faces but still attached. Howard is equally corruptive as Chad but he has the conscience. He is the instantly emotional person who can attach and detach with the same zeal. He brings in the same love and fury to both the cases. And here he plays chess with his emotions. It is a check mate any time in his life.

Neil LaBute successfully makes us witness the happening of evil in all way possible. True that there is no loss of life and it’s all only pure emotions getting played. For some reason at the end of the movie, we are stunned by Chad rather than wishing him death. I guess it is no surprise from a character like him. While we watch him with our mouths wide open with surprise, Howard cannot believe the depth of machinations this unforgivable soul has in him. I am sure that I can identify Chad any day in real life beneath the impressive smooth talking face but will the women be able to?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Living in Oblivion" (1995) - Movie Review

Behind the camera of making a movie goes dreams of lot many people. Right from the smallest part in the unit who still marks the importance in the making till to the director, it is a great deal of managing, negotiating, pleading and begging yourself to go through the ordeal of taking one scene. There is always the dark portrayal of how the aspiration to get into showbiz going horribly wrong. In “Living in Oblivion” they show the dark part of it but in a very funny way and also retaining the intensity on the whole process as such.

Independent cinema has widely opened every one who aspires to become a part of movie making in an approachable way. The concept of DVD rentals and the importance of content as such in a movie have elevated the creativity with minimal budget. Nick (Steve Buscemi) is an independent director working with his crew to put forth a scene. The film comprises of three segments with an interesting connection which I will not reveal. Not that it is a great suspense but watching it without knowing it elevates the fun of enjoying it further more. The three segments involve shooting three different scenes. The pain, interruption, ego, logistics, simplicity and hell breaking loose all at once make this movie one fun ride to watch.

Any one who would want to step in the direction or just be a part in a movie in any genre should watch this. While some may perceive it as a discouragement, it is the reality. But if some one thinks going to the set right away and think that getting a five second shot is a cake walk, they have not even started to think about scratching the surface. Of course I would like to make a movie some point in my life. I know when the time comes there will be extreme obstacles and agony which is how the making or working on anything will go. The thing I was not aware though was the kind of problem that will come through in regular part of shooting. Here they show it and make us accept with laughter to expect those.

What I liked about this movie is that they did not entirely mock upon the field of movie making as such. There exists success in all the segments. The darkish comedy in process of it is what makes the film an entertaining and educating experience. This movie hits the spot due to the engaging and dedicating performance of all the actors/actresses. Especially in the segment involving Chad Palomino (James LeGros) and the opposite chemistry he has with the camera man Wolf (Dermot Mulroney) is a treat. The delivery of the dialogue is spectacular and is funny all through the way.

The film dips in the comic tone with the touch on reality and a slight grace on the cinematic humour. Also the way the editing was done in each segment is impressive. Just when we feel uncomfortable with the happenings in the segment, they end it perfectly. And in the last segment which forms the ending extends the connection in between all the segments to give a convincing ending the movie deserves.

It is been a while I watched a comedy movie all the way since “Hot Fuzz”. It is also artistically ironic to make a funny movie on the sets of movie making. In Wikipedia, they say that director Tom DiCillo got the inspiration while making his earlier movie “Johnny Suede”. This movie was rejected by every producer when the actors and his friends of DiCillo decided to fund it. Any work involves all the pain they show in this movie as that of movie making. The difference is that the fantasy world the cinema projects for the people makes them believe it is all merry land behind it too. The sad part is that many aspiring creators believe it too. In that sense, the movie is aptly titled. Kiss the actor’s ass and the actresses’ lips, negotiate with the camera man, co-ordinate the crew, go nuts, swear a million times and improvise – All in a day’s work.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"Beijing Bicycle" (Language - Mandarin) (2001) - Movie Review

It is absolutely remarkable to develop a short story per se movie out of a bicycle which for most of the people an easy commodity. At the same time it is incomplete and unsatisfying to finish the story with no conviction or conscience on its own. While I was constantly thrilled, amazed and sympathized with tragic emotion for Guei (Cui Lin), the movie generates pessimistic view towards being a hard working noble young man.

Guei comes from country side to the big city for making a living. He gets job at the courier company which provides bicycle to him for faster delivery. The management policy says that once the earning pays off the bicycle, it will be Guei’s. With hard work, Guei is 70 yuan short from achieving his goal. With fate playing against him, the bicycle gets stolen. Apart from that he gets fired for not delivering the envelope during that time. With will in himself, he gets the word from the manager that if he gets the bike, he should be taken back. We then see a young school kid Jian (Li Bin) who is riding Guei’s bicycle. We suspect him of stealing the bike. How the bicycle plays an integral part in these two people’s life forms the remaining story.

There is so much cinematic depth to the way of story telling in the movie. And the performance of Cui Lin as the stubborn, hard working and emotional Guei is surprising and moves us when he holds bike so hard that the people who try to get it from him cannot able to separate him. He cries out of frustration, agony and misery. And we melt with him instantly. There are similar tight points which tells how uncivilized the kids in the film are and how violence becomes the first option to settle anything. Director Xiaoshuai Wang creates so much anger and negativity towards Jian who is emotionless, ruthless and of all dominating and irritating. But when he is confronted by his father for stealing the bike, he shows his side of story. We feel so wrong with ourselves for coming to a judgment on this kid, who is still a kid. This is where I expected the movie to take the positive note and substantiate the ill treatment Guei receives in the first half. Instead Jian does the action of a man who seems to have anger as his only choice of expression.

There is so much anger in this kid that there seems to be no more sympathy towards him. His father understands and he readily accepts when he is confronted back by Jian for concentrating too much on his sister. And he believes Jian. Jian on the other hand does not even confide with his little sister who comes supporting. It is tough for a kid in a family who has a living based on financial constraints but with an understanding father and a lovable sister, what is the justification for the actions of Jian? Even if the circumstances are plausible, what is the need to show a negative character? And they do not stop with that, all the action of Jian leads to cruel torture of innocence in poor Guei. Guei gets beaten, called a thief and finally the only thing he loved the most gets brutally savaged. And when he chooses violence to stop it, there lays the failure of being a hard working nice fellow. Why does some one need to say that? So basically the story suggests that even though you do all hard work and good ness in life, end of day you will be crucified and be a victim of injustice? What sort of message does this imply? What is even scarier is that they do it convincingly. The end is very much possible and true. While I am not against showing the truth and reality of life, it should achieve some purpose and here it creates negativity and injustice all over the end.

If we remove the ending, this is one master piece of short story telling. The last thirty minutes hardly has any dialogue. It is all actions. How humans as such fight for a woman is dealt with beauty. And the appearance forming the deception is told with the subplot of Guei in subtle manner.

It is so sad to see such a beautiful movie propagate something so depressing without any conviction of characters. If creating sympathy towards Guei is the ultimate aim, they easily do it after his struggle for getting his bike back. Jian’s character even though started with so much darkness redeemed in one scene but directly went back to the immoral mode within minutes. A movie can fail in any aspect possible, story telling, editing, characterization and direction, but a movie without any redemption and conviction is even merciless. After “Swimming with Sharks” this is the second movie which made me feel sick and depressing. Sick due to the moral in the end of the movie and depressing that such a good movie carried that moral.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

"The Terrorist" (Language - Tamil) (1999) - Movie Review

When we are in a particular environment for a long time and sudden exposure to the world of different possibilities gives a knee jerk reaction. And if the environment we are prone to is devoid of lot of things and singularly focused on more tough, rigid and emotionally numb actions, then it is sweeping the carpets from our feet. Malli (Ayesha Darkar) goes through this when she spends her last four days in an environment which gives her the sense of socialized peacefulness.

The movie directed by well acclaimed cinematographer in Tamil Cinema, Santosh Sivan has created a unique picture amongst the run of the mill Tamil movies. It has the finesse quality of art work to appeal to the world wide audiences. There is no question about the technical application in the movie. One of the best photography I have seen in all kinds of cinemas. Placing the camera in the most peculiar places to bring out the natural element with the touch of unusual artificialness marks the stamp of Santosh Sivan’s brand.

The film is the story of a suicide bomb terrorist, Malli. She is nineteen years old and behind the stern and emotionless face lies more depth of feeling any one could imagine. She is been properly implied as a stone cold killer without any kind of guilt or regret. The political standpoint is not discussed. This is the story of a female at a tender age pushed to the limits of violence to do the unthinkable. Due to her remarkable achievement in her Camp, the leader selects her to carry out assassinating an important person who is said to be blocking their paths towards freedom. The movie is inspired by the terrible horrific event of the Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Malli gets dropped at the middle of the forest to be assisted by a kid named Lotus alias Surya (Vishwas). The kid develops immediate attachment towards Malli. Malli as usual provides grim face with no response. The kid says that he has safely assisted 26 people to reach the place where she can be boarded of to the destination. He says every one tells him that they will come back but no one ever returns. Every one did not want to disappoint the kid and destroy his hope. Malli says “Yes” when she is asked the same question. The attachment with him is minimal needs to be understood in a more different perspective. All the people in the camp very rarely get a chance to see the face of innocence. Surya even though is assisting the organization is still a kid who cannot see the blood and flesh shattering. While the film shows lot other children handling the gun, Lotus is not. His face of innocence is the instant connection to Malli.

When she arrives at a place to stay in the house of Vasu (Parameshwaran), things seem different. She sees lot of photographs in the room where she stays. She also gets reminded of the sweet encounter in the most dangerous places. She rescues one of the terrorist when his camp is gets attacked. They spend the night together. And that is where she realizes that the woman in her is looking out.

The film definitely is very well made and strikes the emotional chord properly. Some where in that there seems to be a lack of cohesiveness and ease of flow. It promises a lot but the hesitations and complications in Malli could have been brought more. It is true that she rarely speaks or emotionally lets out, but the soliloquy in her could have been brought up for that.

I am not sure whether it is the sound system I had, but the back ground score marred the clarity of dialogues spoken. In fact I was forced to go for the subtitle since I was not able to listen to the dialogues clearly. Assuming that my sound system is bad, the back ground score still brings down the movie a lot. The repetitiveness in the mood and playing the same piece again and again and again steals away the silence needed at lot of brilliant scenes.

The movie marks a special place of Tamil movies in the arena of international recognition. I liked the originality and the visual appeal it had. The performances were slightly off the mark at couple of places though. It is not a great film but a very nice unique film from a brilliant cinematographer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Dances with Wolves" (1990) - Movie Review

We hate some persons because we do not know them; and we will not know them because we hate them. - Charles Caleb Colton

Incidentally after watching this movie, when I opened the personalized “iGoogle” of mine, the above quote popped up. It is something most of us have fine tuned. It is either against a religion or a group of people or just a person. Hearing third hand information of the people is to believe blindly and fear or embrace the people when they are encountered in person. Here is Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) who is among the Sioux tribe people. He does have the fear on seeing them. All he has heard is that they are thieves and beggars. And he discovers them and himself in the course of the movie.

Not ready to lose his leg, Dunbar flees from the hospital during American Civil War. The hospital looks more like a carpenter’s work place. In the process of performing his suicide by riding the horse directly in the war zone opening up to the enemies, he dodges all the bullets miraculously. This makes him a hero and he is awarded the horse Cisco. Also he is placed in posting where he wants to, the Frontier. He travels a long journey and sees a desolated Post. With the supplies, he lives alone guarding and enjoying the nature. Things get interesting when he encounters the tribe people. And he takes initiative on finding whether they are going to kill him. With no language as a bridge, the contact takes place. Then he gets into their day to day activities and becomes one of them.

The transformation of soldier to tribe member takes the period it needs to. And the discovery of lot of the assumptions about the people is not based on major events. Rather it is how he blends in with them day in and day out. Dunbar is tacit and bold. He speaks his mind when he needs to. He keeps the journal through which we get to know his thoughts about the happenings around him. Dunbar is not a bad person but definitely infected with the gossips and judgments the people made him believe. He slowly learns how it does not matter to be in either side of any war or fight. The survival remains the soul goal. What if we all lead a life style of tribes? Also eliminate the concept of currency, land and basically to eliminate the materialistic creation of humans. Whether there will be harmony? I guess not, but definitely a better state of mind and peace than the modern world of chaos and hatred. Dunbar has those questions but answers it within himself and does not let us know about it. The film puts those questions to see where we are and what is it we are living for.

Kevin Costner who is also the director provides a spectacle of roaring nature with the beauty of its own. Now a day every other movie comes up with a funding so big that it is no more important. This movie seems to have got the funding of such big dollars and it is properly used. I can see where all the money went. Not on the grandeur sets but the magnanimity in showing the wild country with abundance of nature. The buffalo hunting scene is shot with so much energy and clarity that the elevation of those frames is beyond comparison. Over 300 buffaloes running all around with its megaton stature and some twenty to thirty people in their horses chasing and targeting it is pure technical niche.

Sure there have been so many movies about a character on his own with no one around making them to open up his/her mind to try out daring new things. Also here have been movies which promote a person from totally different culture and background to enter the opposite world to learn new things. Most of the movies while forming the bond in between those opposite poles, some times forget to say that given a chance to know them, they are all humans. In the sense, the concept of humanism does not get its light as it supposed to. “Dances with Wolves” does not preach about it but makes you realize that some where in the corner of your mind, it is there. The life of those tribe people are no different than any one else. They have a colony against our big cities and they have families and work to do. And there exists enemies but looking at it in big picture, it seems reasonable. But with proper care and learn even the enemies inside them could be made to strike goodness with each other. The film is about how the other side of the coin really is the same as the one exposed. It is to turn the coin and make an effort to see it.

"Punch-Drunk Love" (2002) - Movie Review

I saw this movie when I was doing my Masters. That was the time I experimented in trying out new genre movies. When I finished watching during that time, I sure liked it, but as a movie goer I was not able to pick something and say this is what I loved about it. Now I bought the DVD and decided to watch again to see what exactly made me to like the movie. While I watched before, I had “Magnolia” in mind, another movie Paul Thomas Anderson directed. Hence I had the notion of expecting the whole movie as such as explanatory piece with some art work chipped inside it. But as I noticed this time, the whole movie as such is a complex modern art with simple colours.

Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) has some problems. He has seven sisters and most of them call him individually at his business place to ask whether he will go to the party. He has shaken up soda bottle waiting to burst open. He is made to feel like crap by his sisters. He does not want to be rude and at the same time, the tightened emotions make him do crazy things. He is constantly thinking on what to say. Sandler is perfect and he delivers the perfection. The movie appears to be out of normal. People might question the actions and happenings in it. Why some one does leaves a harmonium in the middle of a street? And why Barry is more intrigued by it than a live accident happening in front of him? May be Anderson wanted to us to see how his sisters see Barry. But he also makes us see through the kind, gentle and caring eyes of Lena (Emily Watson).

There is something insanely beautiful inside the face of Barry. This is what Lena thinks. Around her Barry seem to slowly shed his skin of hopeless liar. Barry tries to be extremely nice. He tries to lie too, but he is not good at it. The reason he likes Lena though is that she does not make him the “weirdo” his sisters have branded. She does think his actions are insane but her honesty in it is clear. She says what she thinks. And the intentions are not to hurt but to hint. Barry understands it. This connection makes him to face the worst fears not alone for him but for any one. He gets the courage to question the people who attack him since they got the details of him during his call to phone-sex line. He wants some one to talk and calls them. They in return do all possible threats to pay him. The guy who runs it is Mattress Man, Dean Trumbell (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). His reasoning apart from making money is that pervert people deserve to pay. But what Barry does not understand is that he paid for the service. The confrontation is amazing and so funny yet so emotional for Barry.

On the above two paragraphs, I guess many would have got the question is that the events are not so interesting to deliver something I praise. The way of making it is an unusual piece of art. The colour combinations, the lightings, the movement of the camera, the small scenes of unidentified love and the way it is getting recognized makes this an experience of enjoyment.
And the back ground score sets up the pace rather than the mood for a movie like this. The scene in which Lena comes along with Barry’s sister Elizabeth (Mary Lynn Rajskub) to meet Barry is truly hurried up and chaotic. Barry is trying to tackle the phone threats from the phone-sex company while his sister is asking too much question. And at the same time he likes Lena and wants not to have a bad idea about him. The score for that might appear quite rambling to interfere in the conversation but that’s exactly what it’s needed. For that time period, they make us feel what Barry feels. He is nervous, tensed and extremely fragile breaking inside slowly and hurtfully.

It is a Sandler’s career best portrayal of a character. He has played the insanely crude violent comical guy in his regular run of the mill comedy movies, but here the anger seems real and scary. The Barry we see looks like an unusual guy but he is the full form made of various pieces of frustration in every one. Every time we meet some one we do not particularly like but end up because of socialized pressure to be nice, we are Barry. And when we get mocked up and beat up to be speechless, we do want to break the window shield. Most of us do not because we believe it is not nice and control it. Barry thinks those too but he gone beyond his control and now instinctive. And the film is how he completely surrenders to a lady who he can be himself without breaking the windows.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" (2001) - Movie Review

We ask many times about what exactly the act of doing good things to others mean? In the sense, what is the cause and effect of it? Is the most trivial and casual thing we do form a ripple of miseries to others? So basically it asks how humans as such are connected in this modern world of advanced technology. Patricia (Amy Irving) says that some study shows that all the humans expect eighteen inches of personal space around them. And you cannot be more overwhelmed by the fact, because it is true. We do not want some one under our radar for some strange reasons we are not aware of. Of course as the other lady in the room with Patricia says that people may look out for themselves, but it is an emotional detachment represented in physical space.

The film collages various scenes following four main characters and things surrounding them. It is non-linear and the time line is pretty much realized by the scenes before and after it is over immediately or may be some few scenes back. Is it a trend to give movies in a fashion like this for some independent look or to explicitly say that it is not a conventional movie? Out here at least it attaches perfectly with the type and content, director Jill Spreecher is trying to say. When I came to America, the first thing I noticed in the behaviour of people is that they greet even a stranger. They nod and smile. They say “Good Morning”. And some times you can even see how fast the formal smile move to stern face within fractions of seconds as soon as you pass by. While that gives some fake behaviour to it, I like the intentions. It has become more of a routine but I have seen some one really feel and mean when they wish or greet. It makes your day, or may be at that instance. It gives some one reassurance that there is peace and relationship existent in this world of fast clocks and slow deaths. The film picks for that reason a totally different setting where things like this does not happen. Wherein if some one stops and start to wish every one they pass by, either they will not reach the place they want to or get mugged. This is New York. And here people live fast life. Very nice ideal spot to deliver or to say the simple complexities in our life.

How much do we walk the talk? Here comes Troy (Mathew McConaughey) who seems to believe that law and order exists because of lawyers like him working in the District Attorney’s office. He wears the glass which shows black and while. Right and Wrong. He knows the clear demarcation in between the two. With a statement he gives to his sub ordinate while dropping him off, we realize that. And he encounters the real terror himself. He believes to have hit some one by his car. He panics. And he takes off. Quite unbelievable isn’t it? How quick we judged him to be the guardian of law? It takes a while for us to digest his actions. He is totally engulfed with guilt. He does not turn himself in. I guess the ego in him and the hard work he put forward to get there shuts the system of his belief. Every time he thinks about it, he sees the dark future in his life. He decides to punish himself in private and slowly move in to the depth of doom in real world. The reason I went far ahead with this story is that I explored the expression and pain he goes through. Some where the questioning of values and beliefs makes me question myself. What I would have done? Comfortably sitting in my couch, instantaneously I would say that I will call the cops immediately. But I cannot tell it for a fact since I am not in it and hope will not be at all. This feeling ran close to my heart and hence more stopping on this segment.

The other sections wander and explore the bitter sweet simplicities and complexities in life. Things which are good for some turns into bad fortune for others and the cycle keep on going. It seems that every one tries so hard and pressures themselves to be dissolved in the sweat of selfishness. Some think it is predictable, some think it is not ideal, some think it is not fair, some think it is not real but it takes enormous audacity to face it and bent with the life as it comes. Regrets are the sweet poison of excuses one gives for themselves to feel good. People are afraid of change and mainly of other people. We immerse ourselves in the chores of making money that the real feeling of considering other people appears strange. While every one fights hard to be accepted in a system forgets the fact to respect the each other in it to run it harmoniously.

Someone like Jean (Alan Arkin) who forgot to smile due to his failure in personal life. And his exact opposite happy go lucky Wade Bowman (William Wise). Bowman bubbles with happiness every day and every minute. Jean cannot believe it and in fact quite cruelly puts money on its authenticity. We see Beatrice (Clea DuVall) losing her vision of positivism once she is questioned of her behaviour. In the middle of his life, Walker (John Turturo) who is versatile in understanding the law of physics is still not able to understand the mechanics of life.

It is not all these people go through their worst nightmares. They are simple usual people every one encounters and hence it feels it happens to us in a remote close way. This feeling of being among them with a subtle disdain, misery and frown makes us fear for the same. Similarly as some characters look upon, we lift our heads up to the positive and self belief characters in it. The movie is like a poetry written on a paper. And it gets torn into pieces by the people who see life as an extensive tenure of misery and by the others who see it as a life of fulfillment at the give moment, as an ordeal. In the film, both these people try to paste the torn pieces together and form the sweet simple poetry of life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Legends of the Fall" (1994) - Movie Review

Lot of story tellers think that if a movie is narrated by a voice sullen and unattached, then it would be good catch to bring in the mood of neutrality in it. There will be no bias in telling the way it is. “The Legends of the Fall” is mostly narrated by the Native American One Stab (Gordon Tootoosis) or let us say if he speaks English his voice will be that which narrates the story. And providing neutrality to this story is no way important or relevant because the characters as such are so shallow and unreasonable. And it happens with all the characters in it and hence the neutrality is maintained to say how much it failed in every aspect and actions of it.
Edward Zwick, the director tries to tell an “epic” story of a family during the 1900’s. It is about Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) and his three sons. Alfred (Aidan Quinn) followed by Tristan (Brad Pitt) and the youngest safe guarded Samuel (Henry Thomas). Every one loves Tristan starting from Colonel, One Stab, Decker (Paul Desmond), his wife Pet (Tantoo Cardinal) and the young thirteen year old Isabel Two (Christina Pickles). And the reason is unknown, although certain of it are clear. Tristan is the son of the wild. He is handsome and terrifically brave. So it gives out the reason for the ladies to be attracted instantaneously. His father may like him because he is a “man”. He has a hobby of his own, to abandon every one whenever he wants to and especially when the family needs him the most. When everything is over with all his loved ones losing hope on him coming back, he comes by as heroic as possible. He gives no explanation and finds some one or other to blossom his romantic life.

The story instantly ignites with plot when Samuel brings in his fiancée Susannah (Julia Ormond). Both Alfred and Tristan restrain themselves from approaching her since it would of course be truly wicked and insensitive to Samuel. For some strange reason Samuel is willing to go for war and hence the brothers go for it. Tristan goes to protect him. And when he fails in it, we can understand the fury, guilt and loss of his kid brother. I also understood his option of choosing solitude. Susannah in the mean while coping with the loss of Samuel is approached by Alfred. And she says yes instead of fleeing the home to not cause any more broken heart. So returns Tristan and without any hesitation she falls for him. There are no possible convictions of the characters at all. They do what they do without any hint of considering what will be the consequences of it.

So while accepting this complexity of them, we navigate into the story. Alfred does a good thing of leaving the town and hence we think all will be solved. But alas, Tristan goes crazy. The loneliness after his brother’s death does not help him. Without much of any explanation he flees. By this time, everyone is used to him fleeing without any clue of returning back. And when he comes back, they do not show why he comes back. There is no proper justification of his change of state. He aimlessly travels the remote parts of world and hunts. One more thing is that he never gets old. I cannot believe how come they did not even think about making Brad Pitt look aged. It is as if they need to convince themselves when he decides to marry the young Isabel all grown as twenty (Karina Lombard), it should not be awkward, but with nice sequences of chemistry in between the characters, age will be negated. So it entirely depends on how they portray it. They fail. And they do not explain why he falls in love with her either. She loves him, well as I said earlier - wild and of course he is Brad Pitt. At twenty that is good enough reason to marry I guess. Tristan should be around thirty or some thing, but he does not care about what he is doing exactly. I can accept all his actions if the screenplay paved some kind of possible explanation even in subtle manner to justify it.

The only guess I can take is somehow they wanted Tristan, aah no, by this time it is Brad Pitt and we do not think him as the character at all. Anyways Brad Pitt needs to get love in all possible manners and with that in mind, they started killing all of them. At the end of it, they realized that there is no reason and half the cast is dead. So they went back and found the commonality in all of the people who succumbed. They for no particular reason loved him, blindly. But there should be some kind of reasoning, so they make Susannah say to him that she wished Samuel and Isabel dead. How convenient? Now, I thought that a person with no explanation, conviction and consideration for others was being loved insanely and why? Alfred says the same that he followed man’s and god’s words which I doubt and Tristan did not and yet everybody loved him. And? He stops there and Tristan stares. Realizing their gap in the explanations, after finishing the screenplay, they went back and added whatever they thought is missing in one liner with further incompletion. Finally it is been said that Tristan lived to see other die. Yes, of course he did and he made sure that to witness all the poor soul of the viewers getting executed as well.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"Big Fish" (2003) - Movie Review

When we encounter an interesting event, even though as a first person experience we had all the details and juice to it, transferring it to other people does not carry the same content and substance. Edward Bloom as an old guy (Albert Finney) and as a young aspirant one (Ewan McGregor) has the ability and flair to recreate it, but with his own alteration from the real happenings. This is very interesting for his kid when he was a kid but not any more. Will (Billy Crudup) has heard the same story a thousand times and that bed time entertainment seems to bother and embarrass him as a young man. He thinks he got himself lost in the stories of his father at his very own wedding. This puts sour taste in his mouth and only returns to see his dying father after three years.

This adventurous film of fantasy and colourful spectacle spit out all the celebration and fairy tales possible in its 125 minutes. All the fathers try to impress their kid. They want them believe that they are their son’s hero. And indeed they are. Some of them keep them as lifelong while some names it as reality and with the same respect they go with the version of reality. Most of them will yet remember the colourful animated story said by them. For Will he has dried up in the repetitive centralized Edward in each and every story he said. He wants to know the real dad of his. Edward as such is a man of adventure and a new experience every now and then. He is shown as that when he passes on the heavenly town of Spectre. While he admits that this is the best any one could ask for, world is more than that. Experiencing everything even if it requires tenuous hard labour and enormous tasks is the true way to live a life. And he believes that’s how success and happiness to be tasted too.

What Will misses in these twisted stories of unbelievable magic is that the way Edward tells it is to give the flavour. While people get fascinated by the magical aspect of it, there lies moral in each and everything. Metaphor in all the letters directly relating the reality. Even the pain and enduring ordeal of his seem interesting and fun. He preaches that the hard and tough life is as such the way to live. People miss the fun of attaining success when they complain about the hardship they put through. What most of them do not understand is that the path to it is the interesting and enriching adventure of all. Will seem to be in that mentality. But as a son it is understandable when it is painful to end the relationship of the sacred father-son bond without knowing the “real” Edward.

There are pot holes in the plot. Definitely Ewan McGregor does not look eighteen as they portray him. Also when Will tries to tell the final journey of Edward, the visual is striking but the voice and the stand of him in this story telling does not look convincing. Regardless of that, the send off is memorable. Death is made sweeter and merrier as Edward who always was that cheerful positive person.

The film as a whole is a metaphor of our life. The balance of truth and the fantasy covering it has been marred and disfigured. The same kind of character was developed in an Italian movie called “Life is Beautiful”. There the father creates a competitive fantasy world for his son with an unusual and cruel atmosphere. Where evil is sprouted in every face, he shows them as the stepping stones for bigger success. Both in that and in Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” the father remains the touching figure for everyone. We fall for his intelligent naivety and comic description of the mundane things in life. The difference of course is a lot with respect to performance and situations. But it is quite unusually striking to find a character migrating in different movies with unusual circumstances.

“Big Fish” has more subtle open interpretation of life and reality. It could have been said as a very normal routine based father-son relationship blooming in the end. It does try to do that but the story centralizes so much on Edward that it is lost as that of Will says he gets lost in his father’s stories. For some reason while the film teaches so much about seeing life in different interesting points of view, becomes a victim of its own. Edward taking the central stage somehow negates the relationship with Will. It is an irony that while Will has the same feeling towards Edward, it is strange that even when Will is shown to understand Edward, we are not satisfied. Yet it is a movie to be watched for colourful visual with childrens rhymes for adults.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"Black Friday" (Language - Hindi) (2004) - Movie Review

While the movie got made in 2004, it was never released in India until 2006. It seems that the alleged perpetrators mentioned in the film filed a stay order to not release as the film would form biased public opinion against them. True that subject of this matter needs a perfect neutral grounds and the verification of it depends on how much it generates the vibes in the right way. “Black Friday” directed by Anurag Kashyap tells in extreme detailed and focused manner of the ill fated bomb blasts on March 12th 1993 which devastated the city of then Bombay and the manner in which it is taken makes us believe in everything because the film does not even dare taking sides. The incident is more tragic as the city was just recovering from the communal riots due to another embarrassing incident of destruction of the Babri Masjid in December 6th 1992. The film try very hard on not taking any stands and puts on an attempt to explain in detail how every individual in the system failed and how every individual in the very same system managed to find the people responsible, almost.

When the busy streets with the usual morning routine suddenly spins on slow motion and the sound buzzes off moving towards the lower ground of the Stock Exchange office, we realize it is no ordinary movie. The intensity after so many years needs to be banged very moment at the start. We feel it and even with all the events known, it is shocking. As one of the bombs go off, every other point in the city of maximum exposure of innocent lives are punctured and blasted by the culprits. The bomb squad comes in and is able to disable couple of those but the damage has been already done. The investigation starts and with each link leading to another, it is all opening up of can of worms and how deep is the rabbit hole goes. Rakesh Maria (Kay Kay Menon) is the police official in charge of the case and he arranges the team. He provides them the actions, instructions and executions. He is the well balanced personal who dies inside every time he needs to use brutal methods to extract the truth. He does not participate because he cannot. He does not witness it because the shrieking sound of those people is good enough to make him stay awake with maddening guilty nightmares. We learn it from the subtle distress and simple emotionless connections he makes with the screen. And we get it that this is a job draining him off, physically and mentally. But he remains focused and uncovers everything possible which goes borders off the country.

Most of the films of such kind leave the details surrounding with the manipulated people on the name of religion who are end causal in the system. Here we travel along with Badshah Khan (Aditya Srivastava) who is one of the players in the bomb blast as well. He flees to Delhi and his main boss from Dubai, Tiger Memon (Pavan Malhotra), and the mastermind behind the bombings plays golfing with his schedule. He makes round about trip to whole Northern part of India and realizes he has had enough. At the point when police arrives at his door step in his remote village, along with him, we are glad that it is done. But Badshah sees the other side of the mirror. And how Tiger Memon managed to turn wherever possible to make both him and Badshah look good. Everything happens in the name of religion. Actually it is not about religion at all. Humans hold their anger and rage which feels good when some one is there to blame for suffers. They do not care about the aftermath. The instantaneous moment makes them do the most horrific acts no one can imagine. The job of people like Tiger Memon is to make these rage and anger sustain for a long time so that the people can be manipulated and taken advantage of.

The interrogation methods employed by the police are brutal and in fact results in one of the remotely connected person kill his family and commit suicide. Having witnessed the brutality in the station, he does not want to go through witnessing his family humiliated and tortured mercilessly. But what can the police do when they have very thin line in identifying the culprits and innocent? Is it fair to do an emotional and humiliation black mail to get what is needed? The problem out here is the “greater good” taking precedence over the means of achieving it. And they have to answer every one and also battle their inner demons on succumbing to the rage and anger. While it feels like the only way to get the truth, it is not right.

The film is in the intense episodic treatment of the details and information which went back these incidences. It chains up and tangles with so many people and minds. The film runs so much detail and tries to say neutral with true facts as that of the movie “JFK” doing to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There were all possibilities wherein this event could have been stopped. The customs officials, the police and the people who got recruited to do this who were all people with good intentions. Some where down the line, the system has created the culture of avenging. Revenge can only bring self satisfaction to the person. While they can paint all the picture of avenging their loved ones, end of day they feel good about it and that too for a fraction of a moment. It is a selfish act. But even more depressing fact is the slashing brutality is over innocent beings that are executed, tortured, raped and humiliated for a tag. A tag and a curse called religion.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"thirteen" (2003) - Movie Review

Being accepted in a system carves our way of behaving. Be it good or bad, rejected does not feel good and accepted does not feel bad. This starts early on the age and the perfect first environment which marks as a miniature structure of any system, the school. It is true that it may not reflect every small aspect of the world, but as such it has so many people growing up to be left in adding on to the system. It is good to teach good things as a mass but whatever it is been taught and preached, when the individual thinking comes in, it is an individual and it is entirely upon them. Does it holds true for two girls popping theirs heads out of the child hood and entering in to the world of teens? It is murky but wrong feels wrong and it is sound and clear. And all the things these two does adds on the paranoia to parents.

Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) is a seventh grade kid, living with her recovering alcoholic mother Mel (Holly Hunter) and her elder brother Mason (Brady Corbet). She is helping her mom in her hair dressing work while coping with her studies. In school, out of the blues she gets really broken up when she is been commented bad about her socks. In order to get back with them, she changes her way of dressing and shows off all glamorous and flashy. We expect a strange fight but to survive in this field, it is better to mingle along with an upcoming wannabe. Evie Zamora (Nikki Reed) is the popular girl and instantly accepts Tracy, because of her appearance. Evie is the toughened up spoiled kid in all way possible. She is a product of rejection. Tracy is so much in getting accepted that she steps right away in doing all the things which scares and frightens the audience. It is all trouble and slow deterioration of how the minimal awareness, peer pressure and being accepted makes one to take the path at a tender age.

The film gives the feel of sickening in every instance of it. More than being pathetic at the girls, we get angry. I guess the childish cute goes away when they behave as a wrong adult and that is how they will be treated as well. They do not know the depth of abyss they are getting into. They push the envelope a little more and after a while those little becomes a habit of competition. It is horrific to see some one consistently damaging and in the process hurting every people they love giving excruciating pain. But this is the age of innocence being packed up nicely in the suitcase and sent out for a long long vacation. It never returns unless they think for themselves or at the time of death. Tracy has kissed those right away when she yells at her mom for the socks she got teased for. This is where no one knows how to handle a teenage. Everything is coded because this is where everything is new and curious. Some where when the boys get to wear long pants and girls get to choose their shoes it makes them feel powerful. They do not see those as passing clouds. That appearance is a mask hiding the truth behind it.

Is this how a thirteen year old boy or girl gets on all wrong foot? Definitely one cannot generalize the effect of it, but it is in every way true that the paths of temptations go on a conveyor belt in front of those growing up kids. Mel as the mother does what she has to do but this is the age wherein freedom is tried out and risks are taken. She does not know whether one another small interrogation session will drive her Tracy further away from her. Or may be asking more questions about her friend Evie will make her do the worst possible things she can imagine? But at some point of time, when it is evident that it is getting out of her hand, she needs to do the unthinkable even if she appears to be the satan for Tracy.

The film is disturbing because the way it’s been presented is shocking. It is in all possible way looks real. What I liked about “thirteen” is that it knows the limit of exposure. It shows only the things we want to and leave some of the cruel stuffs to imagine (but even those are chilling to the bones). And it would have happen definitely the way it is thought and they keep it filming in our thoughts rather than screen. So does the movie resolves into an ending of redemption for Tracy and Evie? Evie is not sure because her actions run more than getting even with Tracy and is vicious. And the way she is being left upon and coming back at Tracy is scarier than ever. We hope Evie finds a new life and a nice caring mother she is longing in a new place. But this is the story about Tracy. And when Mel holds her, she says “Stop” but gets closer to Mel. What she says does not exactly mean whether she wants or not. Yes, she is thirteen.

"Saints and Soldiers" (2003) - Movie Review

This is the time wherein enough war movies have been shot. World War – I, World War – II, Vietnam War have been continuously used to properly and quite knowledgably share their views on war. So when I start to watch “Saints and Soldiers”, it is known that sacrifices will be made, excruciating pains will be tolerated, humanisms will be found and of course the brotherhood among the soldiers will be explored. And quit frankly, it comes out flourishing with ideas and concepts that in fact not being properly addressed in lot other World War – II movies.

The film is based on actual events. It starts with the bloody massacre of Malmedy. From that escapes four soldiers Corporal Nathan “Deacon” Greer (Corbin Allred) a sharp shooter, Steven Gould (Alexander Polinsky) who is a Medic, Private Shirl Kendrick (Lawrence Bagby) who is eager for action and also for a smoke, Sergeant Gunderson (Peter Holden) who immediately suits on the leadership role to guide these men. They are behind enemy lines, with one rifle and nothing as that of supporting equipments, gears or food to survive. While they are fighting hard to survive by stealth and secrecy, they encounter the Flight Sergeant Oberon Winley (Kirby Heyborne) who claims to have intelligence which would saves lives of lot many soldiers of alliance. So they get a mission to safely make him to the command post.

This is the typical plot point for a war movie. But this is not a war movie. This is movie with a back ground of war zone. The script is written as such to make us love these characters. The small tussle over a cigarette between Kendrick and Winley, the serious discussions and difference of opinion in between Gould and Deacon and finally the strong and supporting character of Gunderson who comes to rescue Deacon as his leader in every moment of time. Deacon is fighting his own war inside for forgiveness. Being the right guy is the hard thing, but living after doing a mistake out of his unawareness is even harder and consistently bitter. It is harder because they start to hate themselves. They feel their judgments and beliefs go out of the door as soon as they feel the foot has stepped in the dirt. Deacon while in the process of forgiving himself for his accidents is still responsible, alert and terrifically the proper idealist the crew could have. Gould on the other hand is the Medic with hatred towards the Germans. It seems normal to have an opinion like that in a war against them. It is more than normal; it is in every one’s blood. And seeing Deacon’s view towards describing them as the same men with different uniforms irritates him. This tension and arguments between these form the crux.

It might be looked upon as a pretty old concept which every movie has touched upon. In my opinion, anything which puts forward the concept of understanding other human beings to have harmony is a concept that needs to be touched upon several times. And with very conservative and closed environment on those days of World War – II, these kinds of thoughts would have been punished and kicked upon. To meet a man like Deacon on the front line is the rarest opportunity any one would get. Gould does not realize it or may be he is in denial. Apart from that, they discuss death and that scene marks the spark. There is a difference of opinion there when one says that there is nothing after death and the other saying there is something better after death, but both wish they believe the other with the events they describe happened to them. There both realize that there is a common point in between them which is sensitive. For some reason Gould and Deacon do not want to understand each other. Deacon tries in the given events, but Gould does not care. This similar situation can happen in real life with so much hatred flowing around in any one and every one.

Director Ryan Little handled the camera as well with the authentic parchment tone to give the feel of antiquity but the modern tinge of colour to settle for the right balance. The film was made under a million dollars which as many say is a surprising fact for making a war movie. But if it is been observed closer, the movie is not a war movie but more of a drama. This is the coverage of these men getting to know each other in an environment of death, injury and suffering. And yes, it is the best place to know each other well. You need some one right beside when things are horrific and terrifying. It is a drama movie and for that we can even say under million dollars is costly. Honestly, it does not matter, if it is a good movie, the crew is content and they get the result from the audience, then that’s all it matters.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"The Snow Walker" (2003) - Movie Review

What starts as a perfect setting of a right adventure drama picture turns into a desolated and unattached characters failing to make an impact on the viewers. When a man/woman meets nature and only nature with nothing but animals, it becomes survival instincts with new ears for cave man technologies. And Charlie Halliday (Barry Pepper) who supposedly seems to be an arrogant and selfish pilot learns very late in his journey along with a native Kanaalaq (Annabella Piugattak), those technologies and of all the strong character to maintain it.

Being a pilot who fought in World War and also living near the Arctic, it is tough to believe a character like Charlie. I guess the tough lesson the war teaches does not always gets inside all the soldiers developing a character out of them. That is the reason the movies rushes him off instantly towards a flight journey at the start of it. We do not get an entire picture of his personality. On his flight schedule to a remote place where no one generally resides, he encounters couple of natives who offers rare tusks to take a sick girl to his town. He accepts it and on a detour from his original flight plan, mechanical malfunction makes him to crash the plane in the middle of nowhere. With a company who does not even speak his language properly, all he is left with is frustration.

What is strange about him is that a tough hard nut Charlie who has faced near death in War withers in front of wilderness. I would have accepted his frustration after much of failed and wasted efforts. But instantaneously he breaks off, kicks, and screams with insanity. Breaking the only chance of survival and rescue equipment does not appear to be a wise and believable thing to be done by him. He has no intention of tagging along with his new passenger. The anchor of this film is the Kanaalaq. She does not ask questions and instantly gets out of the crashed plane and starts fishing. Charlie looks unbelievable but he does not care. As per his personality he leaves her telling that he will be back to rescue her. We hardly believe him and so does Kanaalaq. Not that he is willing to desert her but by the time he finds any help at all in this land of nothing; her sickness will kill her before that. As expected the nature gets the better of him and Kanaalaq comes for his rescue. This is the moment of capitalization. This is the point where in there should be unspoken emotions and striking events of bitter truth to be faced. Neither they nail it nor do they hopelessly screw up. And that puts the viewers with an emotional question mark.

Sure there develops slow and steady bond in between these two when they are fighting together for survival. Still there seems to be a void of emotion in between them. There are no strong points of events which make us really feel their desolation and the birth of friendship. We believe only due to the reasoning of ourselves being in a position like that. It is the place where even the worst enemies create a bond. All you have is lots of time to hunt, eat and think about the miserable helpless situation you are in. When some one does that, their entire ego sheds away and a new independent strong character gets born. Charlie does not spend with his enemy or a friend. Kanaalaq is some one who does not have grudge or affection towards. She is just a baggage initially. And slowly he learns from her techniques of patience and skill to survive in this wild.

The film does not bore but at the same time does not engage us either. It is something which goes entirely on its own frame of pace and dullness that we never make an attempt to connect with it. Neither does the movie to reach us and make the real search of soul in those characters. When Kanalaaq does the unthinkable and Charlie in a situation like that accepts the concept of no hope, we stare and feel nothing. Somewhere “The Snow Walker” never capitalizes those solid pieces of drama to navigate and survive along with him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (2005) - Movie Review

The mechanics of working on an independent cinema takes strenuous visual details of imagination. It takes lot of slow movements and still need to have the same gripping sense a conventional movie carries out in telling a story. The perfection in achieving those images relies heavily upon the performances and the editing. In a story of redemption, friendship and forgiveness, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” brings out the visual beauty and the strain of those values in a momentum of mellowed subtle and laid back scenes with striking ending. And with Tommy Lee Jones giving a performance of his career, it cannot come better than in his own direction.

With that said, there needs to be a warning for all those who are in the belief of expecting “The Fugitive” and “US Marshals”. In fact it took me a while to get toned in to what genre the film is taking itself into. May be it is due to the image of Tommy Lee Jones continuously putting himself in a good cop role which made to incline on it. The Pete he is suiting is a guy who is man’s man, as many would describe. He is the aged cowboy. And in his world, words are not spoken much to express himself. The film is segmented as four parts. It comprises three burials of his friend Melquiades Estrada (Julio César Cedillo) and the journey towards his third burial along with the guy who killed his friend, Mike Norton (Barry Pepper). It is a unique attribution to it. The first burial of course ends in the killing and dumping of him whiles the second and third is the actual burial.

With flash back scenes back and forth, we learn that the Mexican Melquiades joins along with Pete. Their friendship grows as time goes by. Similarly we are shown how Mike who is a US Border Patrolman moves into the city in Texas near the US Mexico border. He is totally detached and stern. There is no relationship as such in between himself and his wife Lou Ann (January Jones). For some unknown reason he keeps everything inside. From the very little of him shown as a character in first two parts, it is learnt that he has some serious aversion towards illegal immigrants and his insensitive reactions as such to any one. While he is patrolling alone, he hears gunshots. Without even realizing or properly investigating who is shooting and whether really he is being aimed, he takes up his rifle. Marks up the man at a very long distance and shoots him. He disposes the man he killed in a shallow grave which is not shown but learned. That is Melquiades who was shooting at a coyote for protecting his goats. Having learned that, Mike feels regret inside as he always does. But his hate and thick skinned nature overcomes the guilt, or it is the way he overcomes it.

With only friend known in a country he is staying illegally Melquiades creates an attachment of his own with Pete. Pete acknowledges it properly and goes to the extent of digging up his friend’s grave to take it across the border and bury him as per his request. We do not see any emotional exchanges between these two. The intensity of the friendship they share is learned as the movie progresses. It is through Pete and his actions do we learn their small world of happiness. The film brings out some form of facet in the story only in the second part. We see certain things which appear to be a serious plot change of interest, but it does not use those. Rather it is been used up to lighten and show some light on the supporting casts. Lou Ann and Rachel (Melissa Leo) are estranged wives. Lou Ann meets Rachel who waits at her husband’s café. The regular visits create an opportunity to share each other’s emptiness. There are no tears or explanation. Their frustration towards detached husband is by a simple one minute scene. Lou Ann is looking at Rachel while she is mopping the floor. Rachel looks back and understands the loneliness in her eyes. Rachel asks her husband that how many years have passed since they got married. And he replies after some wild guesses in an uninteresting manner to convey that he does not care. Rachel smiles back at Lou Ann and she acknowledges it. In a while, we see both of them with Pete and Melquiades going to a Motel. And we do not ask for reasoning and that’s how the movie acts on us.

The journey with taking Mike tied up towards Mexico is where everyone expects lot of regrets about the mistakes of each other, the feeling of discovering themselves and finally a friendship with a redemption sought Mike to happen. All those happen but not in the Hollywood kind of way. They do not grow close. Nor does Mike confess with his own explanation of his mistake. Neither does Pete explains how much the friend ship meant to him. Nothing happens. It is all body language and the effort of Pete on taking his friend’s body to a place he is not sure of. The relationship of Pete and Melquiades is not shown because we as such learn along side of Mike seeing Pete. It is real when Pete says to the woman he believes to be his friend’s wife as, “Melquiades was a good friend” and it is Tommy Lee Jones at his top notch performance.

The movie is paced with nothing happening at all for more than an hour. But without that strong setting up of the stage, it does not provide the support for the remaining parts of the film. The film is a subtle presentation and ensemble of emotions inside the tough old Pete and the people he meets to express it, in his own way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"1408" (2007) - Movie Review

I am not a big fan of horror movies. Or to be precise the horror tag these days the movies carry along. Disgusting images with gory torturous schemes does not interest me or rather kind of question the sense of remaining human. Every one has a wicked crooked character inside, but the movies now a days instead of dealing with it, exposes it for guilty filled piece of hate. The trailer of “1408” and some good ratings in IMDB interested me. Added to that the “PG-13” rating encouraged and assured that may be it is different from the flicks I am talking about. After watching, I can gladly say that it did not contain any gory disgusting images. Thanks to the Swedish director Mikael Håfström for that. And also thanks to nice racy thriller from Stephen King who wrote this as a short story and the movie got developed from it. But of course as a movie it could have been a little more even though the whole period of 94 minutes is gripping.

Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a writer who does it as a job to stay at the most haunted places. He then writes books about it. He wants it in and out, instantly. A postcard with the Dolphin Hotel ad and printed line of “Don’t enter 1408” is more than enough for Mike to head New York from Los Angeles. After careful explanation and lot of glossy bribery articles from the Manager of the Dolphin Hotel Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) to not enter the room, Mike still goes for it, as expected. Then the room becomes alive. It sets a mark of sixty minutes in the old alarm clock counting down the stay of Mike. For Mike, all the time and in all the haunted places, he never encountered a “ghost”. When terror hits him in the room, initially he goes berserk. He does not know how to react. But slowly he comes to his senses and thinks very cautiously to get a real thing out of it. Even at that moment, he feels it seems the work of a set up. He believes the drink he took offered by Gerald has something to do with it. But when a real life instance of his shows up in television, involving his dead daughter Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony), it is more than hallucination.

What I liked about the movie is the way they took the time to settle up on how Mike is. The initial scene where he is so fast to enter the haunted room and the approach of his in a methodical way sets up on his belief and how ready he is for anything. Even the boldest one would flinch or jump out when there is sudden movement. Mike jumps and freaks out but at the same time he thinks. He realizes the possible genuine way to get out. It is not a lonely young extremely hot female entering alone with a pen knife towards the darkest room possible in dead black night. The room is normal but still there is breath of air filled with creepiness. Being normal in a movie like this is out of normal. This form of projection definitely adds up the nice scary moments expected and going away in a fraction of a second.

In most horror movies, when some one gets stuck in a room or may be in a situation, as a viewer we start to think of escaping methods. Like say, shouting out loud or banging the door or may be jump out of the window. I mean anything is everything in that instance. Still in those movies, the attempt will be terrible with known results. Mike tries to get away by all means possible. Even being a great hunter of ghosts even though he never encountered one, he is no more curious about the place. He does everything possible to get the “hell” out of the room. And in fact in everyone’s mind the question arises, when the room can do the most frantic and terrorizing thing possible, why cannot it just kill him? Mike asks that too and the response is funny and covers the base well enough for a thriller/horror movie. It is not clever but good.

John Cusack has this curious look and conceived likeability in all the characters he does. He is instantly friendly but creates an unknown distance from the viewers. Any character he does, it has been like that. Some where even when he is up close talking right at your face, you still do not know the character he is playing in depth. This has always helped in most of his movies with that likeable detachment. Mike in “1408” is a lonely but busy man trying to explain himself the tragedy he went through. He wants an end and does not want the pain to elongate further. So along with the terror outside, he consistently battles the hopeful or hopeless emotion inside.

For the flip side, this movie does not offer anything new or out of the “1408” (sorry could not help it) experience. Every end is not exactly the end in a movie like this. Hence we easily identify many of those. But it definitely keeps everyone riveted to the seats with nice little conversations of Cusack to the room and the phone voice conveying deadly messages with etiquette. Refreshing movie to watch for in this genre.

"SiCKO" (Documentary) (2007) - Movie Review

At an age wherein health comes as a secondary issue and also in a world running so fast and self centered, “SiCKO”, the documentary film from the director Michael Moore cannot be more appropriate and necessary at this point of time. It explores the system of health care employed in the United States. It exposes the devious nature of it wherein “taking care” comes next to “making profits” by the corporation. It says that there is an existence of philosophy in a work culture with the career ladder being based upon the denials to provide health care to the people. This is the work culture a particular health care company is said to have by a person who worked there. Along with this, Moore brings out solid issues with the addressing and editing technique of his to feel from terrifically entertaining to be in shock, because some of us may be the “soon to be victim” or some of us are already a victim of the system he says.

Michael Moore is known for his serious representation of hot issues in a manner of his own humour and sarcasms. He has the knack of arranging the frames which makes total sense. The truth seems to be clearer and shockingly horrifying in his way of film making. Documentaries always affect more on a movie per se since it is all live pictures. It is happening in front of you and it is known it is true. Regardless of whether there lie more unknown factors to it, the issue in hand gets it focus in right way. When lot of people in the movie talk about their health problems and how their entire life got spoiled by the bills coming from the hospital and their health insurance was rejecting it, we forget who they are as a person. We do not care about how they are deep inside. They are people and the layer of getting help when down is universal. This is a world with a system. This is a system of existence wherein coping up with each other and living together form the human kind. In a world today it does not seem to apply, or at least in United States as Michael Moore says. At one point of the movie he says, “Who are we?” Yes, who are we? What are we doing in a system like that? That’s the point it is realized that this movie is more than dethroning the health care system existing in the country of US. The film reminds us of the humanity being taken away in the process of living in a system which encourages and follows independence in every action. The Independence which has become more of a wall in between each of us than to care. The misconception of it to form an opinion of “me” rather than “we” as Moore says.

Moore has the voice of aggressiveness and clear to address the issue. It is so aggressive because his frustration is visible in it. His frustration is tightened and channeled right at the way in the movie as he wants it to. At the same time his personality of having the agreeable sarcastic sense of humour comes out necessary as well. His humour always aims at a purpose of achievement. It makes to strike the beat in rhythmic sensible fashion. And then the whole issue of him being allegedly said of violating the United States embargo against Cuba seems to elevate the movie further. That’s exactly what he wants. We realize that he means what he appeals for when he takes the 9/11 rescuers to Cuba for treatment. Yes, Cuba. The place every one has been said that is against US. Moore brightens the light over there. Hearing, seeing and reading does not forms the opinion. It is the personal encounter of each person with the other in the remote part of globe which stamps the notion of who or how he/she is.

Moore as his earlier movies compares the system with other countries. In “Bowling for Columbine” he went on to Canada. Out here he embarks to different various locations in the world. He goes to UK, France and Cuba and of course Canada. Everywhere the health system is so nourishing and serving the people 24/7. Sure he does not explore other system of it, but as he says, it is good to see the good and take the good than the bad. His effort is honest. As a person or his philosophy or behaviour does not come in the picture which generally tends to form as an opinion of single entity. While this film is an opinion of him, the scale at which he takes the analysis and presentation gives the proper recognition for it.

The film correctly makes us see the US which is considered the land of opportunities in a way of feeling sorry for the people in it. But is it the reason of big corporations alone? How did this whole thing run without the participation of people? And Moore correctly says that people think about the “me” factor and hope for the best. The fight is individual in some cases but in a world of fast technologies and loose emotions, let alone the Health Care Company but this seem to be the perfect platform for any corporation to make profit. The concern for any thing other than the whole business as such is getting shelved over profits. Moore addresses more problems than Health Care but it is the single most essential issue for any one regardless of any factors – “To Live”.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"Kramer Vs. Kramer" (1979) - Movie Classics

The movie starts with the elevator shutting down in between Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) and Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) and ends in the same note. In the start they separate with Joanna leaving their boy, Billy (Justin Henry) and in the final going to meet him. This is an open symmetrical instance which is totally different in the sense of the people’s frame of mind. Similarly the morning next to the day Joanna leaves the house, Billy wakes up Ted. Ted for a moment is not aware what exactly he is into. Soon realizing without any hesitation gets into kitchen along with his kid to prepare breakfast. He is clumsy, disorganized and ends frustrated at the end of it. He kicks the stove due to his failure in preparing a breakfast is what it seems to Billy, but it is the situation Joanna put him to. And at the end the very same French toast is made to perfection with small but intense exchanges of expression between Billy and Ted. Here again the frame of mind is different with the layer of same actions in symmetry. Adapted from the novel by Avery Corman, Robert Benton wrote and directed this film which won various Oscars including Best Picture.

The first shot is the sunk but instantly likeable face of Meryl Streep as Joanna. She is kissing his son good night and that’s what Billy thinks. It is more than that; she is leaving him and her husband. She seems to emotionally disturb inside due to being neglected by Ted. Ted does not even have the slightest clue of the happenings. He is introduced telling a funny story to his manager. And rushes to the house and does not even listens to the gravest moment of his life. Joanna, his wife is leaving. This happens in five minutes. We do not know this couple. We do not know who screwed up. But it appears definitely and terribly wrong when Joanna walks away from their kid. We sense this and feel sorry for Ted. Ted’s life is turned upside down. He needs to trade in between important client meeting and attending a PTA meeting at his kid’s school. He loves his kid even though he is the crazy workaholic as he is introduced initially. In fact that is the reason Joanna leaves which is later revealed. He learns that he was not there for her. He also regrets the fact that he made Joanna the person he wants to be rather than her wish. This sudden shake in his life is confusing for him. His parenting skills are tested. In the process he insanely gets in love with his kid. While the general affection was always with him, this is the first time he spends time with him. Initially when he drops Billy at school, he asks him which grade he is in. That is the awareness he has over his own kid. With that he goes into listening to the story of his kid explaining crazy incidents. Life is unpredictable.

The shift changes and gets disturbed at the strike of parenting his kid for almost one and half year. Joanna returns and wants his son back. Things get ugly. People say things they do not want to. They feel the guilt and pain of hurting the person they loved or in love. They want to win their love for the kid. Billy is the haunted and punished soul in the process. For over six to eight years, he was with his mom. And one fine day she leaves and now he is so in sync with his dad, and he is in the verge of losing him. It may be a loss for Ted, but it is even greater loss for Billy. And as a kid, the innocence and ignorance adds up fuel to the already wounded heart. The film is cross sectional portion of these lives of three people. They are so madly in love and in a situation any one does not want to be in it.

People do mistakes. Ted did by ignoring and eclipsing the live of Joanna. Joanna did by leaving the kid. Some mistakes appear no repair or resurrection for it. It is done and will be there. It even cannot be dealt with. Analysis of it furthers ruining the situation to worse. The court room sequences are where every one is punished. And they are all good people. The most essential thing is confession and forgiveness for Ted and Joanna, but they confront each other. And the confrontation happens with them too. They realize their own mistakes and there is no surgery for that. They know it, but each of them feels their need for parenting Billy is better than the other. What can be done when two people fight for love so much that they are ready to hurt the person they loved?

Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Justin Henry. Their chemistry is something which makes the story telling so real and unique. At various points of time, they are not the characters. Some where we feel they are going through with them as a person. They are out there and experiencing this horrible circumstance. Sure it is a challenge to act but it is a pain which needs to be taken as a job. In the “Making of” documentary, Hoffman said that he was going through his own divorce when they were making the movie. May be this form as an outlet for him but it may also be the other side. Either way, this is a performance justifying the Oscar for Best Actor in Leading role. More than the powerful dialogues the film presents, it’s the body language and expression which pushes the viewers to the edge of emotional breakdown. In the final kitchen scene I said earlier, Billy and Ted do the French toast in a manner which is terribly sad. Both know the moment of the start of this recipe going bad one and half years ago. Ted is perfect and the smile from both sides keeps you shattered for a while. The ending may appear happy but still it is a loss for one party. Of course the story would have gone for all happy another ending, but it feels right where it is left. In the documentary, Hoffman said that the steno in the court room is a real one and she seems to be working for Divorce cases. And she said that she got out from sitting for Divorce cases and now she is extremely happy to work for the current sitting. Hoffman asked what it is and she said homicide. It is funny but so much truth attached to it in what she said. No one can watch two people fighting vehemently, desperately and quite pathetically for breaking the love they built upon knowing each other.

"Ratatouille" (2007) - Movie Review

Watching an animated movie is always without pressure and sheer enjoyment. But there is catch to it. Even the worst animation could run well for some time but to really take the distance, it comes under the normal curvature of any movie. So either the creator plays it regularly and gets away with it or takes a risk to do something different. “Ratatoulle” is a proper three act film structure. It is typical and usual routine in the first two acts. It sets up properly, the creatures may be a little different with different interests but it heads to the underlining plot known. The second act also is comic in a familiar way. We smile but we know we have seen it previously. It keeps us heading towards and when it is decided the third act is a climax of open secret, we get it in a recipe of its own. It succeeds in taking the distance it needed to move it towards a radical curvature.

The creator and director Brad Bird sees novel and interesting things in the most unusual places. How can one think of rat aspiring to be a chef? Well, in Bird’s movie Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt) is not the regular dirty little thieves of foods every one knows and as it called as “rat”. He is a connoisseur of food mainly by his smell. He explores his nasal skills and its improvisation through peeking into a house under his colony. As the old lady in the house sleeps watching the TV, he gets his inspiration from a great cook from Paris, Gusteau (voice of Brad Garett) demonstrating in it. When his other buddies are digging deep inside garbage, Remy manipulating his elder brother Emile (voice of Peter Sohn), with his little small foods tries to cook. His father Django (voice of Brian Dennehy) thinks Remy is making it a safe environment for them because of his skill of smell, he know whether the food from garbage is “clean” or not. He believes it is not worth it to trust the humans and accept what they are, the rats. This does stop Remy and while hunting inside the house for saffron to season his new dish, along with realizing that his hero Gusteau is dead, the old lady discovers the colony. An escape from it separates him from his other rats. Tired and desolated, he starts talking with the deceased Gusteau through his imagination. He learns and realizes he is underneath the restaurant left by Gusteau.

And then he meets Linguini (voice of Lou Romano) and his inability to do anything properly. After Linguini is assigned the job to kill the intruder, Remy, he realizes that the rat can understand him. And more than that, later they both realize that Remy can control the actions of Linguini by pulling, turning and twisting his hair. This forms proper hideout with remote control operability over Linguini. Then the plot unfolds with jealousy, being what you are and how anything is possible.

The last act is its corner stone. I felt some uneasiness just before the start of the final thirty minutes. It seemed to be clichéd. True that the funny moments made me smile but it never made me to awe for it. The end and the way it is achieved with the lot of characters exhibiting an unexpected change of their views and judgments, this completes the last lap of the race in record breaking time. The story itself does not preach the “morals” at the end. It lets itself be open to the viewers. It speaks through the actions. Some of those applies to all grown ups as well. They do not also repeat the words of the Gusteau’s “Anyone can cook” every now and then. It is aware to them that it is a magic wand which needs to be spelled upon in so that it makes the proper sense to the screenplay.

In animated movies there is tendency to pull in all the characters at the finale and give them the task which does not suit them or in which they are not skillful enough. It is something the viewers are tuned upon to accept and hence not many creators justify those. Something like that happens out here too when the whole colony helps the team of Remy and Linguini. More than sense, it feels right. The way the characters are brought upon fits it without any over doing of the melodrama. The bond in between Linguini and Remy as such does not concentrate in depth. It grows on us as the film progresses at its ease. The uneasiness is the time when it is time to wrap it up. They wrap it well and good to make it one interesting proper text book three course dining experience.