Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Thumbsucker" (2005) - Movie Review

I remember me thumb sucking till when I was eighth standard (or grade) in school. It was quite an embarrassment as it can be easily picked on by the cousins of the same age or school mates. I do not remember how I got rid of it and also how much it bothered me in getting rid of it. It is a strange addiction and aggravates the teenage kid at the age of 17 to frustrate him more. Justin (Lou Pucci) is the kid who desperately wants to quit the habit. The film takes on the journey of him in exploring some of the dynamics of a family, life, questions, concerns and love.

It starts of as a tale of a kid out of the crowd having the habit which is an easy target for humiliation. I read about thumb sucking in and as a kid it is common reflexes of comfort while it deteriorates the dental development if it goes above the age of 6 to 8. Justin goes through that and hence visits his dentist Perry (Keanu Reeves). Perry has something to say about philosophy every time Justin encounters him. He helps him in quitting it through hypnosis. It takes a wide turn of withdrawal effect. He becomes restless and frustrated. He behaves randomly and there on it is a procedure of falling and picking him up.

The movie could have migrated into the tedious pressurized high school scenario. And the insecure gloomy Justin with a habit being looked upon and teased upon would have been a typical story. Instead we rarely see him in the school sequences. He does participate in the debate team with Mr. Geary (Vince Vaughn), a teacher vacillating and procedural in operating the club. He is demanding but also observing. It shows how the kids who seem to have the potential are boosted up for recognition of the school in some scary manner as we find out.

Justin also finds his teenage love interest Rebecca (Kelli Garner). She is an environmentalist and Justin’s interest in debate team is somewhat influenced by her. They converse but Justin’s insecurity again pops up which Rebecca seem to be not “open”. But more importantly Justin’s journey is the revelation of something essential in a society of existence. The parenthood and the dynamics in bringing up a 17 year old kid are beautifully presented. Audrey (Tilda Swinton) longs for the days of going out and having fun. She fantasizes on winning a date with a soap opera star Matt Schramm (Benjamin Bratt). Justin is the young vibrant kid who is the connectivity to her with the world of fun and silly fantasies. Or maybe she needs more from her life. Mike (Vincent D’Onoforio) is the regular father. He of course does not like his son sucking his thumb and also seem to channel his deep void of thinking he is a failure of not making it up big in the sports towards Justin. The relation between Mike and Audrey is friendly yet distant. They are in the state of married life of judging and weighing their decisions and options they made and had in their life respectively. But that’s how a marriage works I guess. You miss those times and regret the bond of commitment and strong infatuation towards thinking things backward, but those are momentary with adverse effects. It is good to fantasize but the aftermaths never works. Audrey knows it even though we judge her along with Justin.

It is not alone about the insecurities and self confidence of a 17 year old kid, but the adults surrounding him living through the same questioning of life as he is. There is the urge to find the existential reasons and the solutions to the involuntary actions. The best thing some one could learn in life is identifying who they are and accepting it. The building blocks in shaping ourselves become the existential reasons. The solutions are the acceptance. The acceptance to yourself of the identity, even if it is ugly but unless you identify it things are brushed under the carpet. Justin brushes himself under the carpet. He looks for various avenues but astonished to see the adults deal with the same curiosity. And he has just started peeking into his very own adulthood.

End of it, the movie turns into moment of letting their kid go. I assume that watching an entity grow under their wings of shelter brings in the authority of love. They know the skin and blood of theirs. The intelligence moulds up in the kid by them. They are proud about the executions and application of it on others. Yet it burns when it sparks them. This moment of acceptance to them marks their culmination of parenthood but a lot of work to be done as human beings. Both Audrey and Mike completely understand their actions and its growth when Justin decides to leave.

There is a strong flavour of truth being neglected at the end of the movie. Justin writes to the university stating that his parents are mentally ill and his way of fighting through it did not get his expected grades. They do not expose this truth. I do not know the reason of it. It is something Justin might regret and suffer later in his life. It is true that his actions are random but the moment he gets the admission, he is sane enough to judge the fruit of opportunity through the seed of deviousness. To fathom the intentions did not give answers to me. But at least Justin overcomes the insecurity on his own which some day will help in accepting this mistake too. As Perry says, “That’s all we humans can do. Guess. Try. Hope. “

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Hard Candy" (2005) - Movie Review

I am not a big fan of horror movies which I have said in some other review of mine too. The idea of seeing gruesome disturbing material takes time to recede away and I feel it is not worth it. Still, now and then I tend to risk myself to go through that. Curiosity, I guess. “Final Destination” is one such movie and I do not resent watching it. It is cleverly and brilliantly made thriller with a horror inexplicable. And similarly Ram Gopal Varma’s “Kaun” (Who) (Language – Hindi) with a diabolical comic effect enthralled me. After that I never got a chance to see a thriller/horror movie which made an impact. “Hard Candy” is one of the best thriller/horror movies I have seen.

We see naïve but smart looking kid Hayley (Ellen Page) meeting with a well grown up man Jeff (Patrick Wilson) after an internet chat. She is 14 years old but looks old enough to pass for 18. She marvelously speaks up with a material knowledge far for her age. This obviously seems to impress Jeff who knows what he is dealing. Hayley want to get into Jeff’s place and even though Jeff knows that is a bad idea, seem to fall for it or may be he wants it. There Hayley is a young girl curious enough to know about things. She likes Jeff and looks and appears jealous over the photos he has over the walls. Jeff is a photographer and he says that he shoots photographs of quite younger kids than Hayley. Hayley with her innocent charm and clever eyes beckons to be photographed. He hesitates but he wants to. He lets her mix his drink’s up and suddenly he falls unconscious. Then we see a Hayley so different and devilish to imagine. Things are not so naïve any more and this is going to be bloody, scary and painful.

The camera handling and the colour tone is the first and foremost thing any one gets attached upon. It is bright and colourful. It is dark and creepy. The colour complexion used in gives a modern look. It is attractive and mystical. Something very similar to the theme and as such the character of Hayley. She is smart and calculative, not because of her careful execution of exactly performing the tasks in a well known way to Jeff but even before that when she is talking at the coffee shop. She correctly borders herself into the lines of being mature for her age and also childish. And Ellen Page is innocent, smart and deviously vicious to give that character. She moves and surfs around the house as a normal teenage kid curiously looking for something, but out here she is not looking out for curiosity. Here she is with a plan and we never know the depth of her. We know that what she is doing is sick and evil.

At the same time, Jeff is a complex layered character as well. He is fishy but the instances and pictures just reveal he is sexually and emotionally lonely. And with a profession to photograph the models, it is matter of time to tick upon reminding the loneliness he is going through. Every one will be wondering with the performance of Ellen Page that they might easily miss this guy. In all credit to her, his character is extremely tough to play. He needs to be a victim and totally helpless. He needs to express the humiliation and the pain. His job is monstrous and he excels it.

There are gruesome scenes. It did trouble me very badly. But there is something very significant about this. It is totally shocking to see director David Slade make me sit through one of the brutal scenes in the movie. They do not show blood but we know what it is. We do not want Hayley doing that to Jeff but a movie like this, it is bound to happen. Jeff tries to fight his way out, talk his way out, pleads but at one point he lay still with a smile on his face. And we see Hayley without any regards of it, continues. At that moment we are in the state of Jeff. We are as helpless as him in stopping it. We are with him. We sit through it, not enjoying it but we are made immovable. It is scary as hell and yet we face it.

The movie while constantly closes up with Hayley and Jeff has a purpose. There is something deeper running through out here. It is not just some torture fest Hayley is enjoying. The plot adds more to that. It might not shock many people as some would expect. The director removes the moral factor in the actions of both the characters. The doubt of who is right and wrong runs all along it. We are pathetic of Jeff but he is not the decent matured guy he looks or acts. We constantly fear what might happen because of the genre. We expect to see blood and flesh. The director initially comforts us that there is not going to be any but increases the pulse consistently to keep us fearful. “Hard Candy” is the best thriller and horror movie I have seen in recent times. It is gory but not the way you will expect. In most of the horror movies even though there runs a blood rampage which is sickening, the curiosity and something running on screen makes some of them to not flinch their face. But immediately in a while quite involuntarily we do it. Here our mind says to flinch all the time but we never do it. It is the cushion factor the director gives as a tease. We trust him that he might not do it, but you never know, like Hayley.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Talk to Me" (2007) - Movie Review

It is welcoming to see a movie dealing with materials of rising star in a fashion of no glossy melodrama but with simple plain scenes. When some one identifies or acquires a talent in arts especially which leads to the show business, what is the aim out there? I mean what exactly is the height one might want to reach? A constant question in every one’s mind is what if they earn in doing what they love? I get that now and then. Every one aims for the stars and that is the drive to be there. True, but is some one really ready to handle the stardom? It is a nice place with attachments coming in overdoses of fame. This is the frame of mind Ralph Waldo ‘Petey’ Greene (Don Cheadle) meets at one point of the movie. “Talk to Me” is loosely based upon the life of Petey Green who was one of the most popular media person in Washington D.C during the 60s and 70s.

Quite recently while I was piling up the reviews as usual, I was thinking what if there is an opportunity for me to get into doing this full time? Sure it will be hell a lot of fun to be paid for, but is it exactly what I want? Making a movie is one such ambition too but is it the ultimate path of mine? All questions with answers as life of introspection. The reason is that seeing Petey going through that and his wants, answers and also mirrors some of the issues in it. Here is a man who was leading a life in prison and was noble enough to come out of it. And he also finds his passion and drives himself into it. With the help Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who works in the station, he also climbs into the world of Washington D.C media. Then when the time comes for the big step, the point of questions I mentioned earlier comes up. Some of them may think it as an action of a man who does not see the big picture, but for me it meant a lot. He is ready to listen to himself. His introspection is true and in the fast paced career it is the time to re-calculate the odds and seriously look into mirror to accept it.

Don Cheadle is such a nice actor that I wonder how effortlessly he moulds up in to this funny personality of truth reeking out from his mouth 24/7. The tone and the make over he has done for this role at any moment does not make it look fake. The transformation is original and the enactment is on target. Supporting him equally and quite charismatically is Chiwetel Ejiofor who cleanly strikes the chemistry with Cheadle. Especially in the scene where he plays billiards with Petey is when the tables turn over. We see the real and confident personality, Dewey. In between these two is the sleeper performance by Taraji P. Henson who comes as the lady love of Petey all along the times in despair and celebrations.

“Talk to Me” is a performance oriented movie. It involves technical details and facts to lay it but the factors to elevate it are the performances. In the industry directors are looked upon and categorized on various factors. Style and narration are the two essential things which quickly identify one. Tarantino stands for style while Scorcese is narration. Sure both have the other characteristics but they are identified for these. So when you see a good movie, the mind asks to categorize it and put a stamp on the director. And it cannot be done out here. Even Fincher came up with the “Zodiac” in a much uniformed different style of his we have seen in “Seven” or “Fight Club”. Sarah Polley’s “Away from her” gets appreciated for her directorial abilities but there is no trademark out there. Those are all very carefully and properly laid out movies with no symbols attached. True emotions and a narration so common are the elements in it that one cannot identify the director without seeing the credits. “Talk to Me” falls into it and the credit goes director Kasi Lemmons.

The above conclusion essentially means that the notice has gone far too deep into the soul of a movie in the recent days. Out here we see a man who at his cross roads in his early life took the wrong turn, Petey. He talks a lot but the experience has built him into a conscience person with the courage to talk the truth. He knows who he is and the introspection does not need education. He also knows what he wants and how much he needs the life of it. Most of the times, less is better. On the other hand, we see a well educated and experienced man who took the right turns in his early life, Dewey. He aims sky high. He seems to have been busy in preset life of the society that he forgot to take some time to find his identity. His dreams of achieving it big in show business get transformed on Petey. He does not realize what Petey wants and slowly injects himself in to the minds of him. He wants to live his life through Petey. Petey knows that and the movie shows how it gives introspection to Dewey. It might be sour but the end is good.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"War" (2007) - Movie Review

“War” is the kind of movie wherein you wonder how much a film can be messed up in all departments from one scene to another and how fast it deteriorates so rapidly. In the process the thought goes on to the credit card swiped to get the ticket. If only there is a time travel machine.

The movie is advertised for its two heavy weight star cast for action written all over it. They are Jet Li as we know for his agility and mobility for rapid fast martial arts and Jason Statham for his raw knuckle power and for some reason, his English accent. And I admired the way it was advertised, all action and no talk. Honesty in all forms needs to be appreciated. And then there are nonsensical dialogues, plot and Alas! Uninteresting action sequences. This is one movie for which I went in for sheer entertainment (not I generally expect) and got shot all over my face. I had to search for my eyes and ears under the seats of theatres. Horrendous display of motion picture is the least I can say about it.

Anyways, coming to the so called plot, we see Federal Agents, Tom Lone (Terry Chen) and Jack Crawford (Jason Statham) hunt into a typical zone of extreme violence, gang war. Jack notices the titanium bullet cartridge which is the killer trademark of the mysterious assassin whom Jack calls “Rogue”. Tom manages to shoot the assassin and save his partner Jack. Of course no one finds the body of the assassin (duh!). Immediately after that, Tom, his wife and kid daughter are killed by the masked assassin. Jack comes to the crime scene and of course he finds the titanium bullet (duh! Again). Three years goes by and what can you predict of Jack? Divorced, lonely and of course still for the hunt of the assassin, “Rogue”(I am tired of so many duhs). Then we get some crash course of “Yakuza” clan and the Chinese triad. Then enters “Rogue” (Jet Li) and starts shooting everybody. He double crosses with both the gangs. It is a direct lift of “Yojimbo” but let me not desecrate the holy film making of Kurosawa with this.

There are no solid action sequences. A chase worth not mentioning both in car and in person. Dialogues are the least you expect out of these movies but punching one liner here and there like Will Smith does in “I Robot” helps to keep us smirking. One plain word for all the “so called” “attempted” “missed” “stupid” one liners in this movie. Sucks!

Jet Li’s martial arts have been wasted thoroughly because he is busy loading his guns. And the final show down does not redeem the damages already been done. And if Jason Statham is going to continue what he disappointed in”Crank”, he needs to start thinking about the good old days of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch”.

I am up for mindless action movies. While I gave extreme negative reviews for “Live Free or Die Hard” and “Transformers”, there were bits and pieces of stand alone scenes to be appreciated in them. In “War”, there is nothing and nothing at all.

"Resurrecting the Champ" (2007) - Movie Review

“Resurrecting the Champ” is based on the article written on the same title in LA Times during 1997 by J. R. Moehringer. The movie is supposed to take some spin on it to make it a film material, I guess. Before going further, Samuel L. Jackson tops himself with his previous role in “Black Snake Moan”. He looks different and we do not hear his usual commanding and controlling voice. Instead he is an old homeless guy speaking in husky voice and terrifically giving a character which is true to every bit and elevating his performance to class level throughout the movie.

The film gives Samuel L. Jackson as “Champ” who says that he is Bob Satterfield, a great boxing champ during the 50s to an aspiring sports journalist Eric Kernan (Josh Hartnett) and every one else he meets. Eric is fighting his way through the newspaper. With his wife Joyce (Kathryn Morris) as one of highly posted and respected journalist in the office, it is time for his launch to success. Making things worse is that they are separated and he visits her place to play himself in to the memory of his loving kid, Teddy (Dakota Gayo). Trying to find a place in the lime light and to be a hero for his son, he sweats on the story of “Champ”.

Eric is haunted by the thin and flimsy memory of his father. His father was a great Radio figure but desolated Eric and his mother. His memory of his father does not want to be replicated to Teddy on him. He wants him to think that he is friends with celebrities and making big in the world. While exploring the depths of “Champ”, Eric seems to realize his dream of doing that one time opportunity to hit high and soar there forever. Eric is the guy who has a family in front and he does not want to lose control of it. He wants to gel in it with his son and also given a chance with his separated wife. On the other hand, “Champ” more than losing his fame and glory, has nothing to live upon. His survival mainly deals with filling his stomach and trying to talk about his glory days to some of the people who have time to spare. He regrets him losing his son not by death but by misunderstanding and his own mistakes. These two persons are in the same levels. “Champ” sees Eric’s reality and kind of want to make up for his mistakes through him, but not quite actually.

The film has that moment of surprise which worked quite well. When Eric is done with his story and earning all credits for it, we know that things are going to fall apart. It does but not in the way every one expects it to be. “Champ” does not disappear in thin air. More than that it is time for Eric to face the realities and seriously re-evaluate his actions to not end up like his father to him for Teddy.

The film runs like straight line. It does not falter any where or at any point of time, even for a moment. At the same time it does not pulls you off the floor or give those punching moments of drama and emotions. While looking back at the movie, it stuck to its task so solid and original but also rigid that it did not compromise itself for the element of fiction. It reminded me of “Zodiac”. Apart from the journalistic investigation coming in both the movies, the detail and facts seem to be similar. I am not saying that “Resurrecting the Champ” does justice to the facts as that of “Zodiac”. “Zodiac” as such is an altogether different set of story, agenda and purpose. The mood in this movie and the faith to its material strikes similarity but still original as “Zodiac”. This gives the feel of dryness as a whole. It is so real and true to the content that the drama any one expects might not be there. The points of revelation and redemption may not suffice lot of the people not because of its lack of it but being true to the events and how it would have been scenarios.

“Resurrecting the Champ” may not be the moving, dramatic piece of fast lane person taking brakes within himself. As the film gets over, there may be moments cherished for that instant but not beyond that. It is the style employed by director Rod Lurie of attempting the fiction being to be non-fiction. And I liked it, but some times it gives the placid feeling of monotone mood all through the film. Regardless of that, Samuel L. Jackson giving killer performance while Josh Hartnett letting that to happen to clearly underplay his to perfection with stellar supporting role from Alan Alda makes this a very well made film.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"Happy Endings" (2005) - Movie Review

“Happy Endings” starts off as a clichéd stereo typed deviance with a nice slicy touch of originality. Then it deviates further into seemingly diverse characters of confused state of realisms. And then they write summary side by side wherein we spend considerable time reading than to know the characters. But thankfully enough when it goes apart and we wait for its slow death, it revives so merrily and energetically to mould into a beautiful drifting emotions of vagueness, opinions, confusions, forgiveness and moving on.

It is supposed to be the trend to pick up the most dysfunctional and morally twisted characters as can be seemed in a society which makes to feel that way to make an emotional journey out of it. True that it works. It helps in identifying lot of unknown explanations and mixed feelings everyone has about Taboo and how to deal with it. It makes situations weird mainly due to the society structure and the way to be brought upon. More than that, it merely becomes a defense mechanism and an aversion technique to separate from others and in fact from themselves to face the truth. The film is an extension of those in a style of giving notes on the screen about the characters state, some history and may be some more. It was good at the start but began to feel that the director just wanted to do something different than achieve a creativity using that. I am not against it but the application of it gets over used and totally misplaced. There are moments where those makes good projection of the lot of events but director Don Roos could have toned it down.

The film revolves around various characters trying to live their regular life which totally appears bizarre. Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) is the one such who has completely lost herself during her nineteen years after an incident which made her to be so. Mamie sleeps with her step brother Charley (Steve Coogan) and got pregnant. There are situations and mistakes which are tough to be seen as something to be forgot upon. Some are so sharp and morally indigestible which might seem so perverted and ill fated. Even one with an open mind will hesitate and react befuddled. This is something I really liked about the movie is that we totally forget it along. The rest of the movie carefully frames itself away from Mamie and Charley that it becomes a small incident with some unknown foolishness attached to it. It becomes a foot note rather than the movie taking a toll on “how” they felt and their dealing with it. Mamie and Charley move on as they should and they realize the consequences of it. Some things are unexplainable but definitely resolvable with the help of our very good old friend called time.

Then what does the movie deal about? Well, there are lots of other characters whose intentions seem to be diabolical but lots of truths come out of it. It is either about the maker of those machinations or the victim itself. Victim might not be the word to describe them properly. There are no victims but lessons learned are high. It is process of acceptance, discovery and guilt. Maggie Gyllenhaal gives the best of all performances which is unique and convincing as Jude who takes advantage of single rich men and her “lessons learned”.

Frankly I started thinking about writing the review during the initial half an hour on how bad is this movie dealing with out of usual boring and uninteresting confused characters. They came up so well which may not make it the best movie but a very nice original attempt. There are conclusions and “happy endings” as they say. They seem to analyze deep inside everyone but they do not to tell the truth. There are unknown make ups and easily typed in sentences to make us feel good. It may not be as easy as they type it in on the screen. They do not try it to show it though. Yet they achieve their intentions of bringing some relief of content smiles in a movie which had all the elements of tragedy. At the same time the movie is out right serious from start to finish. The style seems comical but there is nothing funny. And the irony is that the emotions are crypts which are graced on top with no way of knowing the depth of it. The movie cleverly plays those to have them left cryptic. There is no open interpretation. But they achieve some plain level conviction towards opinions and judgments. “Happy Endings” does not have the soul but does justice to its title posing as an independent serious movie.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Superbad" (2007) - Movie Review

Laughing at some activities appearing on screen against law and doing wrong almost makes me feel guilty. And “Superbad” has tons of those. The difference is that the characters that do those have some kind of weird attracting force which pulls us in. It is almost a fantasy still very realistic. But it is not a movie to think about the technicality of those which they bring in at the right moment though.

Evan (Michael Cera) and Seth (Jonah Hill) are those two goofy friends who can be seen always hanging out in the high school. They are inseparable. They talk about girls and every little vulgarity associated with it. As these kinds of movies have, Evan is the better one with some conscience while Seth is in denial and defense mechanism of talking out loud and crude. Anyways, this is not the place to discuss their characterization. Same old story of high school is getting over, time to be a “man” and hence comes the good old “wild night” filled with adventures. With that tag, “Superbad” convincingly and quite memorably fills the screen with laugh filled moments laid out nicely.

Judd Apatow who directed “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” produces this film with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg penning the screenplay and Greg Mottola directing it. The two characters Seth and Evan are based on the writers themselves and their high school years. There is some sense of sincerity on these characters. This sincerity in fooling around makes it funnier. The dialogues are highly explicit which immediately makes us laugh but does not make us feel guilty for unknown reasons. Mottola very nicely borders it so that the fun ride has its moments to make us feel good. Suddenly there is a pause in the screenplay. The moment is snapped with good intensity and right away sweeps it from the shelf to bring the comedy back.

The peer pressure, teenage curiosity and also the feel of being known and insecurity makes these two kids take insane steps. Or at least Seth is up for anything so long it gives a drunken sex with his crush, Jules (Emma Stone). But he is vehemently against Evan’s crush Becca (Martha Maclsaac). We of course realize more than hating Becca it is the fear of Evan being taken away from him. Every one would have had a buddy with whom the dependency has been created so much to oppose anything and everything which poses a threat for separation. Mottola handles this too in this comic flick with nice touches.

No one can ever forget “McLovin” ever. Fogell (Christopher Mintz Plasse) along with the cops Officer Slater (Bill Hader) and Officer Michaels (Seth Rogen) are the riot of comic moments in the movie. The chemistry of these three sinks in perfectly. The cops are not any one ever want to run into who twist, tweak, stamp on and totally misuse the law in all way possible. Still they befriend Fogell convinced with his fake id (which poses him as “McLovin”), so to speak with a surprise then and later. This is the fantasy ride. There would have been worst nights for many and when there is a very solid chance of meeting the law for wrong reasons but what would have happened if the cop becomes the buddy and provides you the time of any one’s life? It might happen but still there will be an ending of sour taste. The movie carefully takes it as funny as possible and provides those with nice conviction too. Even though I would not approve of any wrong doing, the film made me to enjoy the ride with guilt free entertainment.

There is nothing unique in the story. The plot is still the same and the wild adventure is still there. The difference is that the movie does not concentrate on how much of “losers” the characters are. They do not create sympathy in a fashion the teenage movies tend to take upon and fail miserably. Here we see two dearly friends who just cannot deal with their step in to the big world individually. With that background, the humour of fantasy realism is good enough to stamp on the movie as a “bonafide Superbad” in all good and fun way possible.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"The Believer" (2001) - Movie Review

To live is to believe in something. Well known thing is religion. People right from their small age either abide it by the way it’s been taught or hate it because of its limitations on their freedom. Some may even compromise to see some happiness in their loved one’s face. At certain age when the society calls them adults and they realize the power of it, things start to slowly strip off. A time to face what one really believes in. It might be cruelly truthful that many reject it. They start living in denial. What Daniel Balint (Ryan Gosling) does is that he accepts it, for the most part.

The movie was inspired by a true event in the sixties when a guy who was in the American Nazi Party was a Jew. It was printed on the New York Times and not able to digest it, he committed suicide. The movie of course touches the mother of all sensitivity. It is surrounded by the beliefs and the hatred towards it. Daniel Balint in the movie is one of the orthodox Jew to say the least. He uses them to say how well he studies the enemy. Yes, he calls them enemies. The film initially shows his hatred for the Jews and the way his power towers him up. In the first chain of scenes wherein he slowly follows, disturbs and finally beats up a Jew reveals what he is. And the way he acts in showing his hatred is more of young kid trying to be powerful and believes to be more right in his thoughts. He is the kid who is at the age I was talking about when reality kicks in a very bad way.

He attends a fascist movement meeting. He voices the opinion of killing Jews which of course triggers many. One of the head Lina (Theresa Russell) likes his way of spitting out things with nice touch of convinced feeling of hatred. There he meets Carla (Summer Phoenix) and the attraction is expected. Lina asks Daniel to come to another retreat in a distant place away from New York. At the retreat he asks Carla when he can see her. She refuses but he insists. She asks him to come through the window to make him witness her act which in turn will make generally make any man create hate towards her. He is surprised at what he sees but immediately sees her in the eye with an understanding and sorrow. Daniel is a man confused but lucid in his expressions.

After the first meeting with Lina, Curtis (Billy Zane), the main head shows concerns Daniel’s inclusion and Lina says that he is a good thinker and Curtis replies, “He speaks well”. Daniel is the master of articulating the dreadful into more dreadful with better conviction to make it believe. Of course he has made himself believe that right from when he was a kid. Daniel is a man of different stature. He is a man with independent thoughts when he was kid; it gets the treatment to stir his hatred. The film while contains the in depth details of analyzing the religion and how it’s been followed, it is in reality a story of this one single mind. It is more appalling and grabs the attention because it touches something which people hesitate to talk about loud in a group. The belief could have been anything and the emotions would be the same.

Still religion is something which has the power of invisibility and things made out of thin air. There is no problem in one following a particular religion, belief and values. The problem comes when the other member of different religion, belief and values starts to desecrate and tries to ridicule it. I am in actuality trying to have the thought of no religion and accept the existence of being a human. But it does not give me the right to ask other people to do the same. It becomes an individual choice and it needs to be respected. Daniel thinks it in a total different perspective. The belief and hatred has converted him to question it to ridicule and it builds upon to opt eradicating them totally. He feels they always pose weak and they will feel nothing if they are not hated. But deep inside him, he loves the prayers or the rituals of it. And when he sees it, as director Henry Bean said in the interview, his integrity and purity makes him to accept it. The belief he had for most of his life starts to fight with it. This turmoil inside makes him to feel the powerful and painful agony. At this juncture Ryan Gosling’s performance is a compulsive mention. This movie marks his status of being the best in the current generation of actors. I can go on and on about his terrific presence but I will leave it to the viewers to watch it.

“The Believer” will offend many people very brutally. Apart from profanity and also group of people being profaned upon, it does something crueler. It identifies the truth in many which will offend to push in denial. It might scare a lot of people and also attract many. Both of them need to look it as the point for identifying and learning. The movie helps in identifying but learning lies with us.

It does not have a statement. At the end of it, there cannot be much concluded. As said by director Henry Bean in his interview that a Rabbi who watched the movie seems to say that it did not have any redemption. It has it in the ending in a mystical cryptic way. The search of existence is continued with nothing above. It is for and against religion. It is for and against love. And sadly and quite believably argues the point of hate in a convincing manner to identify it within us. It says that it is a feeling. It feels good. It gives reasons for the inability of people who hates and also who wants to be hated. When it is expressed and acknowledged it gives power and excuses. The belief in it is mightier and makes some one bold enough to do anything and hide from the truth. And when they do that, they are lost in their own soul witnessing hell in the form of guilt. They are left with hating themselves when there is no one out there to be hated. “The Believer” asks to not believe on anything but be open for everything.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"Infernal Affairs II" (Language - Cantonese / English / Mandarin / Thai) (2003) - Movie Review

The extremely hit “Infernal Affairs” which loaned itself to the Hollywood piece of Martin Scorcese’s “The Departed” bring its second installment as a prequel. The story goes back when both Ming (Edison Chen) and Yan (Shawn Yue) were still budding moles in cop world and underworld respectively. The first one is a rapid pace entertainer with substance forming a thin layer. There existed emotions but those were basically overshadowed by the consistent cat and mouse game with thrills, chills and twists. Once I watched the first one, I actually saw the “Infernal Affairs – III”. It is the sequel to the first one and moves very slow, careful and detailed. It lacked the pace but went in depth into the guilty filled Ming. And the mood of the third installment gets from this movie.

Directors Andy Lau (who plays grown up Ming in first and third part) and Alan Mak imply the plot twists from the first and dig one more layer in to the convoluted world of Cops and Criminals. The very first scene is the casual friendly conversation between Inspector Wong (Anthony Wong) and Sam (Liu Kai Chi). And we come to know that actually these two were good friends from opposite worlds. Also Sam is not the king of the drug business. The story goes back ten years from the original. We learn that the Triad leader Kwun is killed by Ming who is assigned by wife of Sam, Mary (Carina Lau). Sam is not informed about this. In the meanwhile Yan is dismissed from the academy for lying in the application. He is the half brother of Hau (Francis Ng) who is the successor of Kwun. Wong assigns Yan to infiltrate the gang, his only chance of being a cop.

For the first half an hour we are totally riddled by the new characters. The problem is the instinct to tie up the knots ourselves. And directors pat us softly to say that they will do it perfectly and asks to sit and enjoy the ride. Directors took time off these two characters that we seen considerable amount in the first part and concentrate on the rest. The dirty game of politics and the negligence of the means to achieve the goal which is surprisingly convincing and that moment we realize that the game is never going to end. Couple of characters says that they have crossed the point of no return. We know what they are saying. They have been sucked into this world of outsmarting others. Loyalty means nothing and it is all survival game. They know that there is no redemption and the only way to be peaceful is to die.

Many highly anticipated this movie due to its predecessor’s success. Lot of people would have been disappointed expecting a riveting thunder speed film. For me it shows that both the directors matured. They knew that they could never recreate the same motion of screenplay with no stops but constant logical interesting twists. If this movie would have followed the same style of first one, it would have been a debacle. There are definite “Godfather” moments and you know what, all Gangster movies are impossible to take without the shadows of it. They do not take it for granted and apply it properly.

The story is an organized chaos. Everything looks planned and yet goes berserk. And it flourishes the reasons and joins the plot. When the movie ends, we are convinced and the easing up by the directors in the start makes sense. Because after a while it is no more about how they arrive to the start of the “Infernal Affairs”. It branches and again connects. It deviates but with a sense for plausibility and reasonability. As I said, the chaotic organization is how in reality would have worked. When a bunch of people break the trust and plays with bullets, it is all unpredictability. And when it takes one more layer of taking it personal, there is the infinite loop of vengeance.

At the end when Sam says to shoot him to Hau, we know he means it. He wants to die because he knows he is addicted into this wretched game. He cannot survive seeing the loved ones executed as currency exchange of powers. Especially the friendship between Wong and Sam is complex and the only trustworthy in the movie. Both know their worlds and yet respect each other. They remain friends because they do not take it or use it for their advantage. They cross it in a very indirect manner and that is the end of their relationship. For the time they meet and have chats, we see Sam as an individual with Wong as another individual. They share their pains but without uniforms and guns. What they did not understand is those conversations were temporary and they remember where they come from. When Wong takes on the uniform, Sam has to take his gun. Yes it is an organized chaos.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Rush Hour 3" (2007) - Movie Review

I grew up with Jackie Chan movies. Not the Hollywood ones but the dear old and authentic classy sweetly cleverish stunts of his more than a dozen Chinese movies. We never cared for the plot and I do not remember any of it either. Generally it will be an avenging story or finding some or whatever. It is enough to say that I like Jackie Chan. And this is the first movie of his to be reviewed by me and it kills me to give a negative review.

This is the third installment from the “Rush Hour” franchise. The first one was fun when the character got introduced and the routine buddy cop movie was well executed. For those who missed the two movies, Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) and Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) are who kicks, rushes and continuously enters the accidental and risky scenario with a foolishness just enough to entertain and to escape. In “Rush Hour 3” all the things go away with only “foolishness” standing alone failing every sequence possible.

Lee arrive body guarding Consul Han (Tzi Ma) to the World Criminal Court in Los Angeles. Carter on the other hand gets introduced singing and dancing quite funnily in the middle of a busy traffic filled junction of LA. We realize he is assisting in trafficking listening to iPod. When this is happening, Consul Han comes to the open stage with nice view for any one to be targeted. It is in a high building with a direct bird’s eye view from another tower. They set the stage to ask some one to take a sniper shot. Hence you know the usual. Some one shoots Consul Han and then Lee chases. He corners him and the assassin seems to be known to Lee. It is his brother Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada). And he escapes (duh!). This is the first ten minutes and I already start to get the vibe of something missing out here. Jackie’s stunts are not impressive enough. It is not that he is old and not able to create the comical stunts he does usually. He does couple of extreme agile moves but the trademark Jackie improvising funny element is totally missing out.
And I forgot to mention that Consul Han “survives” since the bullet did not pass through the heart. So? First they make the assassin stupid enough to aim his chest than head. When do assassins in movie learn? I guess when director does not bend and break the content for mere star presence and some very bad crude race/sex humour. Brett Ratner is way off the mark on this one.

There are particularly two funny sequences I laughed. One of course the introduction of Carter dancing in the middle of a busy road and the second one is once they get beat up in the Kung Fu school, the conversation between the master and Carter is terrifically funny. Rest of it is mean, harsh, dry and crude. The scene involving interrogation of French speaking Chinese guy with the assistance of a Nun, the cab driver George (Yvan Attal) on Americans, Carter in the dressing room of performers in the club are all one badly written/acted/executed “comedy”.

When “Rush Hour” or “Rush Hour 2” comes over in some channel, I sit and watch it for a while. You know it is the kind of movie wherein you can kill time with decent entertainment. Both movies were funny. The chemistry work well in this movie for both the lead actors as it worked in the previous two installments. The problem emerges when we start to see Tucker and Chan instead of Carter and Lee. It is not that they had well defined in depth character roll in previous installments, but some of slightest signs of them are missing.

Looking back in the movie, everything is adjusted in screenplay for convenience. So adjusting lots of thing in a formula story with many plots, add further more plot holes. Plot is nothing out here. They wanted Chan and Tucker to be paired because it seems at the set they have lots of fun. They show the bloopers when the credits roll as they did for the previous movies. In the first and second, there will be lot of stunts which went wrong and hurt Jackie. And then it had some tongue twisting funny dialogue mishaps. In “Rush Hour 3”, even the bloopers are bad. There are one or two stunt mishaps because there were one or two stunts. Then the funny dialogue delivering mess ups are not funny. Two things should have happened; Jackie should have done couple of more decent authentic trademark stunts of his with humour than acrobatics. Second, stop making jokes which are not jokes any more when it starts to appear more serious. I know Jackie has it in him to do those stunts in his upcoming movies.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"The Bicycle Thief" (Language - Italian) (1948) - Movie Classics

I can now see where the inspiration and also core content for the movie “Beijing Bicycle” came from. While both deals with the bicycle forming the object of desire and desperation, there are considerable differences. Of course both the movie analyzes the social injustice and the realistic brutal world. There is fifty three years difference in the making of these two movies and yet the world seems to be same. Irony and tragedy I guess.

Now I severely criticized “Beijing Bicycle” that the movie shatters all the hopes of good will and the darkness so crude and cruel, which made me disapprove of the happenings towards the end. After that I had a long discussion with my friend Mathi. He was saying that the movie does not deserve so much sharp tongue of negativity from me. His point was there is nothing wrong in portraying an art with negativity. I said that I do not mind that but there should be a positive effect rather than a clueless reaction. We of course ended the conversation. Coming to “The Bicycle Thief”, there is not much deviance from “Beijing Bicycle”, but I still was happy with it. Director Vittorio De Sica materializes the father-son relationship out here which totally eclipses and moves away from the object, the bicycle. The characterization of the protagonist who is hard working as Gui in the Chinese movie but we get to know him better as a father. Gui rarely speaks and his only passion seem to be in possession of the bicycle. This is one of the major strength which is an old classic with a heart.

Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorini) lost his bicycle which he bought by the money his wife pawned using their wedding sheets. In post World War-II Italy, getting job is tough and the requirement is bicycle for him. He gets it and loses it on the first day of his job. Next day, the hunt for it begins initially with his friends and then with his son alone. He needs to support the family and losing the bicycle means, losing the job. With frustration, agony and desperation Antonio wanders all around the streets of Rome to find it.

What starts of as a hunt takes us through various social divisions, marketing of religion, superstitions, mob mentality and injustice. Vittorio De Sica strikes the first social backdrop when Antonio follows an old man whom he saw with the thief. The church is a place for people to give their prayers as an exchange for the food in Vittorio’s portrayal. Religion is used as a subtle desperation-exploitation of food and faith. From there the film takes off the pressure and blossoms this darling moment of father-son bond. Somewhere in this ordeal and total loss of hope, the momentum shifts into a lighter and profound emotion. Ricci’s son Bruno (Enzo Stailo) is the poor victim of his father’s anger. Ricci dejected diverts his rage on this sweet little kid. And young Bruno’s reaction and then the handling of Ricci are cherishing moments. Ricci realizes this is not the end. Life is more than a bicycle. He decides to live the moment, may be for a moment.

The social division is shown during the restaurant sequence. Bruno is all vocal, bold and interactive with his father till the point Ricci hits him. After that there is literally no dialogue for him. Everything is nodding, smiling, crying and lost emotion all over his face. Once Ricci is out of the moment and witnesses social injustice in front of a mad and angry crowd, he decides to do the unthinkable.

I do accept the ending is an execution of a soul, but a soul deviated towards the path of darkness. There seem to be a serious dark moment, but there is the illumination of untold hope in Bruno. Bruno does not look at his father as some one low in character, but understands him. The spur of the moment causes Ricci to cross the line and he cries for it. We realize he is begging to go back in time to erase it, yet he cannot. More than that he thinks his self esteem crumbled in front of his kid. But I guess Bruno understands and Ricci will get over it. Of course as Ricci says, “There's a cure for everything except death.”

Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Whisky" (Language - Portugese/Spanish) (2004) - Movie Review

There are certain people who pose a very calm, attentive and sincerity for a long time. When there is an encounter of people who lighten up the uptight in most of them, we see those rarely expressive jump in jubilant. Martha (Mirella Pascual) is one of those who find the rare joyous cheer Herman (Jorge Bolani) ignites in her. Jacobo (Andrés Pazos) on the other hand is severely rigid and emotionally monotone. The connections and detachments in between these three people form a subtle short story of art for this sweet matured movie.

We see the routine life both Martha and Jacobo go through. Both are in the age when loneliness seems to be too lonely or too independent. Jacobo seem to be the guy who was busy in taking care of his mother to miss his own personal life. Jacobo opens his socks factory early in the morning while Martha waits at the shutter entrance. She is the supervisor cum assistant for Jacobo. There are two other girls who come later who work under Martha. Jacobo is a lonely man. A year earlier his mother died. They are raising a grave stone a year later for which he calls his brother Herman from Brazil.

Jacobo asks the help of Martha to help him at home during Herman’s visit, reluctantly and she accepts. When we think it is for help, it turns out to act as Jacobo’s wife for the time period Herman comes in. How Martha understands it or is it been done previously by them is not known. Herman is the connecting chain in between these two. They are professionally related but Herman might just form a bridge in between these or may be some other weird thing might happen which the story calculatedly shows for open interpretations.

Directors Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll manufactures the routine Jacobo and Martha go through in series of repetitive scenes. It does not seem these are taken once and ran twice but genuinely shot twice. The routine is same but the small changes like Martha’s new hair style are noticeable. Martha is shy but showing signs of some attention to gain some. She respects Jacobo but seems to expect more from it. She eagerly waits the opportunity to be with this straight faced lonesome guy. Herman on the other hand is cheerful. He understands Jacobo and wants to entertain Martha. The entertainment is nothing but to talk nicely. Create conversations to make Martha comfortable.

Herman did not come for the funeral when their mother died. This forms Jacobo’s resentment towards his brother. More than not lending a helping hand in dire situations, it is the loss of his personal life which marks the frustration. This cold tension between these two never lets to go down. Jacobo at the same time wants to show his brother he is as settled and having a family life that of his brother. Herman does not even show traces of jealousy or competition. While it is not justifiable to miss his mother’s funeral, he seems to understand the effects of it and want to make peace. He offers money which might seem crude but genuine. He knows the financial constraint Jacobo went through. He also offers to help him in the factory. Jacobo refuses as expected.

Martha likes Herman. There is flirtation but only to break the awkwardness and loosen up rather than intentions. Herman is a happy father. Martha is eager to get some kind of signs from Jacobo. There is a moment wherein Martha goes to Herman’s room. She enters while he is busily seemed to be talking with his wife over the phone. They do not show what happens. No one knows but there is an intelligent guess we can make understanding the characters. The story takes the audience for this assumptions and study they make to end the story as well. I can see various stories leaving the ending for interpretation but this does some thing different. If you want you can interpret but if you do not, it ends as a beautiful fragment of a short story. This characteristic of moulding as per the viewer’s choice is clever and subtle.

“Whisky” in Spanish or Portugese (not sure!) is to give the photographic smiling face as that of “cheese”. It symbolizes the fake relationship these two put in. It also marks that Jacobo smiles when there is no attachment and everyone knows it’s fake. Martha cherishes that moment even though it is fake but wants it to be true. Herman is the genuine person who really smiles for this reunion and welcoming a member in this family. I hope Jacobo starts smiling for real without saying “Whisky”.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"The Tenant" (1976) - Movie Review

Sometimes while seeing in a movie like this, we are wondered by the paranoia one goes through. It appears silly and preposterous. Well, what if paranoia ends up being true? The question might sound ridiculous if some one is reading this after they have watched the movie, but for a moment, this thought crosses my mind. May be not like Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski) but the concept of alien abduction or some one constantly watching. The film generates it to a believable level.

Trelkovsky is a Polish nationality who is now a French citizen. We see him polite and reasonable at the start of the movie. He strikes the reasonability with the owner of the building to rent an apartment. He comes to know about the suicide in it and visits the hospital where Simone, the one who committed suicide while living in the apartment is lying as that of mummy wrapped up completely. There he meets up with her friend Stella (Isabelle Adjani) and consoles her. In the meanwhile, he dines at the coffee shop and the owner out there says that Simone used to sit at the exact same place, drink chocolate and smoke a cigarette of different brand what Trelkovsky smokes. And in couple of days, Trelkovsky settles for coffee and cigarettes of same brand Simone used to. Something is happening here, there is a pattern.

Roman Polanski also directing the film has this way of focusing on the protagonist monologue sequence in a chilling manner. This is a horror but a genre of difference. We do not panic out of surprise. Witnessing Trelkovsky creating this world is scary. The film makes his paranoia a genuine one. The tenants are definitely strange. They may be insensitive and complaining but not Trelkovsky thinks. Continuously we are put in the place where nothing seems real. We have a definition of real, at least over the screen. Real is daylight. And Polanski does most of the sequence of in day light. We see the character is the most considerate and amicable person. So to turn him into a flight risk at some point of time is something to be worked upon on a steady manner. Polanski does not reveal the horror in a fashion we are known to. We live with Trelkovsky. The claustrophobic effect falls on us. While he is comfortable even with some strange happenings around him, Polanski creates the tiring dullness in this small apartment. The apartment is threatening. It appears normal but the way Polanski shows it is creepy. The stained walls behind the closet, the sink and the window of all are as alive as he wants it to be.

In the process we turn out to be going through the transformation along with Trelkovsky. We do not believe what he is seeing and still the feeling is transferred. And when his world is chaotic and uncontrollable, we go chaotic even knowing that his are paranoia. Knowing something is not real and yet you are afraid is chilling. We are scared what Trelkovsky might do to himself or others.

As the end approaches, knowing the paranoia the character goes through we are sure there is going to be a tragic suspense. We are petrified by that expected tragedy. We do not want such a nice person as Trelkovsky hurt himself. Polanski manages to sustain it till the end. And at the end of it, we feel relieved. Not because it is not a tragedy but something more than that. From a chilling horror story we see the movie migrating into a level of non-existence presence of mind. The end raises many questions of incomplete plots. It does not matter whether it is complete or incomplete. Polanski does what the movie genres itself, psychologically terrifying.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Moonlight Mile" (2002) - Movie Review

One of the awkwardness at its pinnacle is at attending a funeral. You do not know what to say, you know that what you are going to say does not really matter. You also know they know that. Apart from very close dear and near people of the lost loved ones, the rest of them are there for the requiem of formality. And one might wonder what these hearts that just had been ripped of this tragedy are going through which they are going to carry for the rest of their lives. “Moonlight Mile” starts off with that tone.

They enter the car for the funeral. The father Ben Floss (Dustin Hoffman) checks every one’s door. Then the mother JoJo Floss (Susan Sarandon) and the fiancé of the one who passed Joe (Jake Gyllenhaal) get in. Ben gets in the side of the front passenger seat. The driver turns on the engine and the radio music blares with a rock song. Feeling totally embarrassed after Ben gives a smile saying that all are set, he starts again with no music of course. JoJo leaps in front and turns it on. And Joe gives a smile. I remember my very close friend while then not so close lost his father. I and another friend of his reached there and saw him. He of course was tired but managed to give a smile. After a while of talking, there gathered a small group of friends and in fact slowly started making jokes. Feeling the awkwardness I asked him whether he is fine. He said, “Yes, I am tired of crying”. You see the mood director Brad Silberling brings in.

Having started at the right foot, the movie indulges in this loss and the bond of connection. Ben and JoJo have Joe. He is the remainder and the only solace in this tragedy. Joe is the greatest listener any one could ask for and especially in this occasion. He sits and stares with the smile he always has. He seems to understand everything. And with the chemistry in between these three, it is aware that they liked him for that. They had all plans set for their future son-in-law. And the loss is in the way where the one that looks so soft and tender turn on their side of revenge, and it is not to be seen at all. Ben and JoJo lost their daughter because some one came in the diner she was in; shot the waitress who we come to know is the killer’s wife and Diana, their daughter. Ben asks the District Attorney Mona Camp (Holly Hunter) what kind of method they use for death sentence. These are people who are acting on the loss. They really do not want to hurt any one but they need something to hold upon. The film allows them to let it go through Joe who lost not a fiancé but a friend.

So it seems there. It seems it has touched and also strikes the balance quite precisely dealing the sorrow with nuances of dark humour. And when there is something so out of place, as a lover of movie I want to edit the content to bring in the closure as a critic. The five minutes court room sequence is what I want to edit. I am sure many might find it the changing fulcrum of the movie, but it is out of focus. Joe tells, “… there's no way I'd be sitting here saying these things I can't believe are coming out of my mouth.” And it seems to me the explanation the writer gives it to himself. I can notice the slippage in confidence out there. I do not question the possibility of Joe expressing himself in a situation like that, but it is not the way the film finds it. There is another moment when Joe has dinner with the prospective business associate of Ben where he lets him off which is so darkly humorous and see how much he has been pushed through to contain himself. There it fits and in court room it loses its momentum.The movie does not disappoint after that. We see Hoffman and Sarandon finishing their characters with finesse. How are these actors able to do this? While Sarandon dances with verbal and vocal JoJo, Hoffman “lowers his shoulder” and makes us to perfectly visualize the regretful and yet positively oriented Ben. Gyllenhaal is the perfect match for a role like this. He listens and erupts when needed.

The movie is set in early 70s which marks only in the music and could have happened in any era. There are points in life which are punctuated for tragic reasons. It is unavoidable. Every one needs to meet it at some point of time. And every one knows it. Still it is there for what it is there. There is the change in the momentum. The realities, the meaning of existence and basically what next? The art of letting it go is what “Moonlight Mile” is all about. They hiccup but finish it fine.

Monday, August 06, 2007

"13 Tzameti" (Language - French) (2005) - Movie Review

How many people believe in luck? While I do not reason it out for excuse or blaming, some of the things remain unsaid in incidentally coincidental situations. I believe to have a word for to precisely describe the situation which is termed as “luck”. And once the movie is over there is luck and also the irony in it. There is closure of different kind which ends with an emptiness that we are perplexed on what luck are. The tale of this twenty two year old Georgian immigrant in France called Sébastien (George Babluani) undergoes a rollercoaster of a ride in this independent film making by Géla Babluani.

Sébastien works in construction and while working on a house, he overhears some conversation. The owner Godon (Olga Legrand) a drug addict has no aim in paying Sébastien. He himself is in financial constraints. We come to know that there is surveillance being done upon Godon and the postal service to him is tracked. The letter arrives which Sébastien accidentally gets his hands upon. The envelope contains one ticket to Paris and a hotel reservation. Godon dies of overdose and Sébastien decides to take up his place. With no idea on what he is getting into, he travels to Paris and then to unknown places. When he arrives at the destined location, the people come to know of Godon’s death. They have no choice but to involve Sébastien. I will leave the rest for the pleasure of viewers.

What starts as an independent drama gives a jolt to the seats. We immediately get up and laugh wickedly and also with great empathy at the situation Sébastien is in. We do sympathize with his intentions. He came for money but did not expect the worst. He did expect some sort of dangerous assignment. May be he thought a small drug deal or some heist. At the young age of twenty two and responsibility of family over his shoulder, he is ready for anything to get paid for the work done for Godon. I guess that is the only reason he takes up this journey of risky business.

The film is shot in black and white. I love most of the modern movies made in black and white. It brings out the appeal of uniqueness and placidity. It carries the raw detail of the ambience. It is crude and bland. The tense is at everyone’s nerve. Sébastien played by George Babluani, brother of the director enacts the character of the naïve ness and the curious dare he takes through.

The sequence of the game and the people’s reaction after it are realistic and scares everyone. One cannot imagine people with so much money opting for a pleasure of cruelty and greed. The film takes on slow and suddenly wraps us with tension. We know what is going to happen to Sébastien. Of course he is the protagonist and the sweet kid. We want him to win. And he needs to win with the story taking its turn. Yet the way it slowly opening up makes it one nerve biting thriller.

I have taken great pains to not reveal the main plot because when the viewers realize it while watching the movie, the sheer thrill, surprise and danger of it is unexplainable. The director manages a bland movie taking a complete turn of its own to bring a thriller of different kind. The movie is a symbolic representation of luck and fate forming irony in itself.

"Citizen Kane" (1941) - Movie Classics

A life of millionaire in the days of early century is the first and probably will be the learning curriculum for the all the film aspirants all time. “Citizen Kane” is an approach in taking a peek at this personality of astounding enormity in monetary aspects and how well it went ahead as that of principles and values he kept for himself. Ever since I started watching movies out here in US, one movie always popped up almost unanimously saying to view it if someone is a movie buff and still view it even if some one is not one. I never did research on it because I want to keep it for my opinion. When a movie is voted as an AFI’s (American Film Institute) all time number one movie in the top 100 list of US movies, there is a constraint of peer pressure to love it and in fact obsess over it. Having all this thoughts in, the film opened and at the end of it, I did like it. If I viewed it again to start noticing the technical nuances implied it is an eventuality to get obsessed over it, which is yet to be seen.

The movie starts off with showing the enormous structure of palace erected by Charlie Foster Kane (Orson Welles), the Xanadu. There is a light in the window and they focus towards it. The light goes off and the next frame carries the window as its backdrop from inside with outside light entering in to it. The transformation is almost unnoticeable. While we still think the window is being viewed, it takes a while to realize it is showing inside of it. Film Critic Roger Ebert’s commentary said it which struck me to notice it even more closely. I did not watch the movie again with the commentary but some day I will. The film carries editing something far fetched in those times. “Rashomon” consolidated the idea in a different perspective to symbolize the dishonesty humans have with themselves. Ten years earlier to it, “Citizen Kane” manufactures the concept of flash back for its own symbolization of everything and nothing. “Rosebud” is what Kane utters before he dies. Journalist Thompson (William Alland) on the advice of his producer starts to talk with the people Kane had personal and professional relationship with to understand the meaning out of it. The rest of the film is the chapters of his life starting right from him as a kid till the point of destruction which marks his final down fall in his personal life.

The film might carry the suspense of the word, Rosebud. But it is the dissection of his life as such to come on it. The classic shots, the grandiose sets or model structures fits as it should. The film carries the character of Kane. Kane as a millionaire did what he wanted as man of principles. Many view those as fascism and his spillage of exorbitant amount of money for non-essential concerns. The movie might be looked upon like that. Some of them might say that the sets and costs are put in attachments. The story of him could have been told in simpler terms. Exactly how the other characters understand Kane. For me it fits and it is necessary to show that a man capable of doing all this is also a man of respect and honesty.

There are four prime characters who narrate the chapters one by one of Kane’s life. The guardian of Kane, Mr. Thatcher (George Coulouris), his financial assistant, Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane), his long time friend, Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotton) and his second ex-wife, Susan Alexander Kane (Dorothy Comingore). These four chapters cover his life. For all the reason, the perspective of each might be different and far from truth. They might very well say that they are the victim of Kane’s actions. They do emerge in such way but something else transpires in every section. That is Kane is a man of principles and honesty. Every one agrees on that. Jedediah does not believe that. He sees Kane as a changed man from the promises he made. There seem to be not much of evidence rather than jealousy and negation over Kane. Yet, we get the character of Kane. Mr. Thatcher’s view is given on his journal with Thompson perusing it. Therein we see the small happy life of a kid in the loving hands of his mother. Not much is said out there than few words but we come to know how much he loved it in the end. Mr. Bernstein’s appear to be the truthful of the four chapters but he loves the man. And that may have added Mr. Bernstein’s manifestation of it. Still his is more neutral. But wait. Why am I checking the authenticity of each and every story? May be it is the influence of “Rashomon” but that’s how the movie has grown in these past sixty six years. I do not think Orson Welles and his crew would have thought something which gets in number one in all time movie lists. They made the movie which moulds and shifts itself with the time and people and keeps growing day by day. Even after so many years, the movie justifies itself regardless of its period and content. Applying all the physics of logic, movie making and application proves the equation perfectly with only remainder of content.

The four stories are the prime evidence of his existent life and hence we are made to believe it. Of course we take what we want to. This is the story of a man’s life that had everything from the start and yet spent a life of longing love till his death bed. I guess that is the reason he wanted the whole America to love him. He expects that in a remote way and not relies on it. The people he loved thought he changed and the truth is that they changed as well. Kane’s actions of principles never faltered. The only thing he takes for granted is his second wife who seems to be get the life he designed and wanted to. A man who had every conviction in his own could not claim the conviction from his personal life.

The technical aspect as said earlier is, has and will be followed in the movie making. Generally in the classic movies of all time, it is not the story telling alone which makes it one. The team work of the entire department having unison on the screen. The hard work and creativity getting realized by the viewer in every aspect of it is unmistakably true. My first viewing of this is definitely interesting and classy. The employment of the suspense in a search of a soul which continuously got crucified is something been tried upon all the time now in the movie making. It comes down to what “Rosebud” means for every one and when Thompson says those last before the final scene, we are withered out from the curiosity of knowing it. The next scene of course reveals something which may be nothing and everything authenticating Thompson’s statement.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

"Sunshine" (2007) - Movie Review

I remember watching “Event Horizon” wherein a team of highly trained astronauts embark a journey to find a ship which got lost. The ship contains something called “gravity drive” which does the space-time fold. So when they reach the ship, it is lifeless but the gravity drive seems to operate. Strange thing happens and eventually the crew goes insane in various possible way of exploring the hallucinations generated by the ship. In “Sunshine”, there is the same highly technically trained astronauts go to re-ignite the Sun since it is dying threatening the extinction of life. So when “Sunshine” slowly unfolds itself I was hoping that they do not enter the same situation of “Event Horizon”. And yet it did.

It is true that out in the unknown territory of the universe there are million different things to play around minds of a person. Director Danny Boyle says that through this movie as “Event Horizon” did. May be there are lot other movies which I have not seen running on same grounds. The plot of course is tempting to combine the awe of science fiction with the horror genre into the aura of psychological terror of fiction. The problem comes when the actions of the insanity generated by the ambience goes unexplained. The reasoning is hidden and the option of open interpretation does not work for science fiction, or at least in these two movies. When some one is watching a movie about science, there is immediate attention of detailed elaboration of every action happening over the screen. Hence bringing some another third party puts enormous baggage. The usual one line explanations do not deliver the real substance the creators intend.

Still, “Sunshine” is good till the rendezvous happens with the space ship Icarus – I the predecessor of the current Icarus – II, the crew is traveling. Up till the moment things are tight and strangely engaging. It still gives the same kind of chills and thrills when the outer shield is damaged and couple of them has to go outside to repair it. Physicist Capa (Cicillian Murphy) and Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada) go out to do that job. And trust me; you definitely know who is going to die. The moment of operation is well taken though.

When a group of people are in a science mission or camp or in a happy environment, they are going to die. Please do not scold me for this spoiler, because it is not one. Similar kind of situation got handled well in the movie “Mind Hunters”. There too the individuals slowly die one by one but the star casts are all supporting in and off the screen. All the people bore the same status as stars. They were known for doing supporting roles. Hence there was constant guess and mystery involving on who will be next or who will be the killer. “Sunshine” need not have even gone to this scenario. The mere process to complete the mission of igniting the sun totally would have been enough to provide the satisfaction. Except for the last scene, they do not show earth at all which gives it a great plus of providing the claustrophobia. It is all within this crew who starts thinking on whom to kill to maintain the oxygen level. And indeed the means is not considered to attain the end of saving human kind. Sacrifices should be accidents and self made decision but not determined. These are the small scenes they should have capitalized well. There is no need for some external strange looking characters to kill these people. How many kiss good bye to their humanity and ready to do the unthinkable should have been the swinging pendulum out here.

I read in that Writer Alex Garland said, “"What interested me was the idea that it could get to a point when the entire planet's survival rests on the shoulders of one man, and what that would do to his head," and yes it is striking. But it did not transfer properly in the screen.

The movie syncs with the audience on various occasions but the problem is that it went out of the orbit in the end (sorry couldn’t resist it!). The trailer has the Physicist Capa saying this, “So if you wake up one morning and it's a particularly beautiful day, you'll know we made it.” Nope the story did not and it’s all darkness in the end with no closure whatsoever.

Friday, August 03, 2007

"The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007) - Movie Review

I try not to see trailers for some of the movies. I feel it steals lot of surprises and puts in the thought to expect that “catchy” scene you got impressed upon. I could not resist seeing the trailer for “The Bourne Ultimatum” since I was unmistakably impressed by the previous two installments. The amazing finishing shot of the camera jumping along with Bourne to the windows of a house is that “catchy” scene. I said “damn it” and now I will be expecting it every moment on the screen when the ambience depicts the possibility of that. But director Paul Greengrass never gives time for those. He races with the pace wherein you seriously lose breath with the energy of motion the sequences take through. The window jumping becomes the scene jelling with the whole movie and carries the content of “catchy” for the whole movie as such.

The movie starts off just before the ending of “The Bourne Supremacy” as we can guess Bourne (Matt Damon) makes his escape from Moscow after meeting the girl whose father he killed. The movie rejoins in a finish to fit everything on the basis of continuity. Well, seems Bourne is still not in the good books of CIA heads that he is been targeted. In the meanwhile a London reporter Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) gets to know the top secret special operation BlackBriar which makes him the immediate target for elimination. He is been tracking Bourne’s erratic wandering. Bourne makes contact with him and CIA notices. Then you know – run, run and run all along.

Paul Greengrass makes his movies with the touch of a realism which is so shoddy but still lucid. He brings in the reality he brought in for “Bloody Sunday” and “United 93” along with the standards of believable action. There are death defying stunts of sheer mechanics and we feel the force of it. When Bourne is tired, so are we and when he is refreshed and we gear up for the next chase, stunt or motion of fierceness he is going to make. At the same time, Greengrass weaves in the plot as nicely and swiftly as possible.

What makes Bourne interesting is the cleverness of him and as well as his counterparts. They do not make a dumb opposition but something so politically high and the reach anywhere possible. They have the resources that are as physically and mentally trained as Bourne. But Bourne knows them and their actions. He thinks the opposite and the instant deviation and bait he creates are simple but effective. The killer machines as of him are equipped with resources to eliminate their target but Bourne manufactures his with very little pieces of raw materials which appears useless. It takes the form of distraction or weapon in the hands of this never say die personality.

He is constantly tortured by the faces and questions he has. He knows one thing is that whatever he has been trained and the brutalities he did is against what he signed up for. He wants to meet eye to eye the creator and the maker of the various killing machines like him. And for that he takes extreme pains and energy. But the movie does not take much time to dig deep into him. Because we know Bourne or at least what he is capable of when he is under attack. And they give that with grit and movement so entertaining and exhaustive.

As such the plot thickens well. There is surprise and suspense but the movie really is not about that. It is the continuous chase and the art of choreographing it with realism of guiltless entertainment. Sure there are killings which seem to be brutal. In “The Bourne Identity”, he never hesitates in taking shot or smashing the vehicles of unknown civilians. In “The Bourne Supremacy” he gets pushed to do those but still does not hesitate. He realizes though in the end. Here he is constantly pecked by guilt. He of course kills in the process of saving another and his own. His eyes go down and the pain of him dying inside is evident. Somewhere in this killer the humanity is discovered.

The film stops now and then for moments of observation. The eye contacts and body languages tell what we want to see, hear and understand. The way some one holds the coffee or the small dialogue of “You really do not remember anything, do you?” explains a lot. There seem to have some interest and relation in between Bourne and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) but it is subtle. Both understand it but know the realities of it. There are very few scenes the film that takes in to touch the sensitivities and they are good enough to carry those with justifying the random behaviour of the characters.

“The Bourne Ultimatum” is a sure thriller with speed of light. There is no way any one can take some moment of relaxation. Some one is watching, chasing, targeting and it is on the run and is tiring. Greengrass gives exactly what he did with the “The Bourne Supremacy”. He gives Jason Bourne, raw killer with humanity and hell a lot of high energy action.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Blow-Up" (1966) - Movie Review

We see what we want to see and what we see may or may not exist. This is the core content of the film “Blow Up” directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. How the film arrives to that is an excruciating bizarre and unspoken symbolism of the so called life of a photographer. This is the first English movie made by the Italian director.

The film is an approximate twenty hour life of a photographer. He sees things and something appeals to him. He immediately grabs his device of capture and collects it as a time capsule. After a thorough orgasmic photo shot with a model and frustrating session with other few models, he sets out to the city. He enters an Antique shop where the shop keeper does not seem to like his presence. He then follows a couple sharing an intimate moment. He hides behind bushes and takes pictures. The lady notices it and demands the pictures. He refuses and flees away. Somehow she finds the residence of him and demands the pictures. He gives her some other film roll. Then he sees something strange in the pictures. He blows up and further blows up. Something emerges out of the bushes. It seems he just shot a murder.

There are classic art works in these 111 minutes of motion picture. The final scene marks the pinnacle of it. But the way it has been arrived is painful. The fragments of uneven and totally unrelated sequence are irritatingly slow. The characters wandering without any purpose or action seem uninteresting. I do get the fact in the end that everything is nothing and nothing may be everything, but the body of the picture should not necessarily be so boringly bizarre. The initial photo shot and the way of presenting the photographer is artistic and tells a lot about him. He is a man with a passion. His visual imagination of reality goes far away. He seems totally emotionless. Whatever the small reactions he gives seem to be real but still not validated. He is complex.

The symbolism and the form of how the screenplay navigates should have some purpose. The philosophy of existentialism and the perception of reality could have been given in more interesting manner. Even after properly receiving what the director tries to tell, there seem to be a vacuum. The life of the photographer with glamour in front and yet nothing attached emotionally is evident. The same kind of substance was handled brilliantly in “La Dolce Vita”. There the movie is exhaustive. It sucks the energy out and at the end of it; we feel totally tired and do not want the orgy the main character goes through. The concept of existentialism and the signs used were subtle and powerful. Even after draining the entire power from the viewers, there is the connection we make to the character. We do not know him any layer below but we fancy some of the things he does. The photographer in “Blow Up” seems to be shallow, rude and socially non-reactive. Somehow I was not able to believe that the perception of him by the viewers might be totally different as the movie says. Even if he is imaginary and non-existent, he still seems to be the same unknown guy with nothing inside him.

The film does not put a confusing end or something extremely complex. The final scene actually is brilliantly portrayed representing the art as well as the philosophy. The start and the end marked the movie’s artistic nature. The remaining part fails to connect and give out what should have been the ultimate journey towards the path of imaginative realism of perceptions. In the end when we realize that what we see is nothing and may be everything, I felt everything at that moment and in between it was nothing.