Saturday, September 29, 2007

"In the Valley of Elah" (2007) - Movie Review

Roger Ebert in his review for the movie “Platoon” wrote “It was Francois Truffaut who said that it's not possible to make an anti-war movie, because all war movies, with their energy and sense of adventure, end up making combat look like fun. If Truffaut had lived to see "Platoon," the best film of 1986, he might have wanted to modify his opinion.” It would suit perfect for “In the Valley of Elah”. Granted there is no full fledged combat shown as that in “Platoon” but the intensity and the arrival to the point of the tragedy is threatening enough not to go through or still many going through to the horrific war zones of Iraq.

The film is inspired by the true events of the murder of soldier Richard Davis. His father Lanny Davis jumped in to suit up and find the real truth behind his son’s demise. While Paul Haggis adds some fictional characters, in its core it sticks to the incident. World Wars paved way to show the atrocities and the possible redemption for humans in films and then came the Vietnam War to repeat the cycle. Now it is Iraq. Still there is so much material to be learned upon to not go through war again which have seen in “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”. Looking back and now, with every attempt to make an anti-war movie there still comes up one more to produce another one of the same. Ironically tragic.

Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) is meticulous, systematic, immaculate and a war veteran. He is a father too. Look how closely and carefully he makes his bed, shines his shoes, shaves in the morning, dresses up quickly when women comes up and a face with suppressed and controlled emotions. Jones plays Hank as some one who cannot be made to be confided or to confide. The detachment he creates and the enormity of being the “man” with the traditional previous generation Army guy is going to line him for the nomination for numerous awards. But you see age has moulded him into another dimension which can only been seen by him, alone in a room. It is his way anywhere he goes, even in a remote motel. Even persuading some army young kid to speak up, he pulls him to his zone. Then he moves the coins and gets the answer. He looks for things and looks hard enough to outsmart any police detective.

As perfect and seasoned he behaves and appears as the tough straight army veteran, there are things untold about him. We then know that is how he reacts. He kind of questions the belief of war happening now. Is the sanity maintained in the massacre in World War and Vietnam in his times? Definitely not. May be he would have heard the stories and seen the movies but I guess he believed in the greater good or the percentage of right soldiers in the team. A war where they abided the code and ethics, as he explains the story of David and Goliath in the valley of Elah to the son David (Devin Brochu) of Detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron). The code gets broken or not but the men and women turn into insane human beings. Or may be they had the skill as Hank, and had a way of maintaining themselves when they returned home. Unfortunately even Hank questions it. When the ammunitions are in place, does it really matter to have the concept of conscience out there? Is there any psychological consolation out of it when the process of ethics and code are followed? May be there is, but it is a band aid for an amputated leg.

As spotless in correlating and linking the chains of cause and action in the film, it is Tommy Lee Jones who provides that leverage for the script so dependent on his enactment. The supporting role by Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon as Hank’s wife Joan is adequate and precise. Sarandon has now can easily sleep walk through any role like this and able to knock us down fair and square. Charlize Theron’s Emily Sanders fights in and outside the walls of the police station. With couple of sexists and drooling envies around the colleagues, she finds the openness and acknowledges the pain of Hank. The only real close conversation Sanders is able to make up with Hank is a final “Thank you”. Every other thing pertains to his son’s case and every movement is for a terse signal of communication. The chemistry is odd and they along with understanding it begin to behave according to it.

There are those tiny things in various sequences which tell a lot about how much of the knack and cleverness they brought into the movie with the correct whiff of emotions it would have demanded. After Joan is shown from top camera view taking the news of her son’s death through the phone from Hank, there is the phone table down with candies scattered probably from her collapsing. They do not show that. We see the scene starting from Joan asking questions to Hank sitting down. We understand what happened.

With Haggis scripting and directing, the high and soaring flag of message is the one every anti-war movie cries. Movies keep on coming on about the balanced terror created all around the world. As any one would watch it over the TV or read it in news, we see the bunch of the people who in the name of country, religion or any other thing we can come up with to face and give death. We do not know them and hence while there is this empathy, the world goes on and the time we dedicate dies along with it. Of course there is no avenue for the factor sitting with every one and may be have a chance to speak to their disturbed and damaged soul. It is movies like “In the Valley of Elah” which may not deliver that one on one conversation but encourage enough to hunt ourselves to relieve the devil inside.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Courage Under Fire" (1996) - Movie Review

Matt Damon shed 40 pounds in order to appear for the present day specialist Illario in this movie. During his interview in the show “Inside the Actor’s Studio”, he mentioned that he was terribly disappointed when no one noticed his performance in it. Thankfully after “Good Will Hunting” Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Copolla got him to do “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Rainmaker” respectively. When the story circles on the events even the central character of Lieutenant Colonel Serling’s (Denzel Washington) gets missed sometimes. And missing Matt Damon is something which did not surprise me. He did his supporting role to perfection but the film moves beyond performance. The style of narration and the importance of key facts out of war becomes the priority.

The film takes the old school “Rashomon” technique. The difference though is that the event depicted happens in a 1991 Gulf War. We get three versions. The investigation by Serling is to award the Medal of Honor (posthumously) for Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan) who will be the first woman to get it.

Serling is trying to recover from his own guilt. He cannot live upon a normal life with his family after the terrible incident he encountered in the War. More than that, it is the cover up by the Army to protect its reputation tortures and haunts him. Having lost his friend and a good soldier, he not only lied to the parents but to himself. He sees the investigation as an opportunity to revive the truth he has hidden. He drinks too much and does not open up to his wife Meredith (Regina Taylor). She understands him though mentions that she cannot wait too long. Added to that is the pressure from the White House and his command officer Brigadier General Hershberg (Michael Moriarty) to finish up this as soon as possible and in anyways possible. They rush to give people some thing to see the Army’s success and recognition.

Director Edward Zwick takes the technique used by Kurosawa and puts in some more elements. Elements of conscience, truth and bravery. Bravery – how does it look on paper and in reality? War is a calamity and lives are lost. The way it is lost in bravery is the only good thing the loved ones hopes to hear. They want to know that their son or daughter died bravely. When lives are lost in hundreds and thousands, the details are mishandled and fudged to make it easy to digest and move on. Zwick with the underplayed performances of every actor takes the narration and story telling as essential ingredient.

When the initial investigation is dictated to Serling by the other chopper who were down, everything seems straight forward. Serling thinks so too but the inconsistencies in the minor detail of two people involved in the incident ticks him to dig more. Quite contrastingly in this investigation, even we do not want further perusal of information. With the stories heard, we make up our mind to give some hope to the daughter of the deceased and make her proud. Serling burned consistently by his conscience stands by his ground to know the truth. He does not want one another foul play by the army. His life is army and his wife reminds him that his family is his life too.

There is an offhand tendency when war happens. It is not unusual for the loss of lives as many would see it. Is it negligible the way they die since it is war? The post war situational executives look upon good colourful dramatic results as that of truth. The movie essentially brings in doubts and questions over the plausibility of accidents turning into incidents. But is it worth while to explain that one soldier’s life went in misfortunate accident than in enemy hands? May be not, but how does one feel when the truth leaks out from the fissures of lies? When Serling meets the parents of his friend Boylar (Tim Ransom), the closure is in finding terms through the living. There will be moving on not forgetting the deceased soul but through it.

With every possibility to have this script been mishandled into an overdone emotional drama, Zwick peppers the detective noir curiosity with the inner struggle and politics in the Army. We see different dimensions and perspectives on the personalities of Captain Walden. In one she is a brave Captain in control and in command. In another, she is completely lost and wants to be alive even thinking about an option to surrender. And finally we see another face too showing veracity of the happenings. This is the technique of Kurosawa. Human’s inability to enact the most truthful event even to them.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Eastern Promises" (2007) - Movie Review

After “The Godfather” many following movies tried to venture upon the organized crime in styles of its own. Scorcese is the king in it. Still if one thing that I would like to be taken upon from that movie, it’s the code system, the men who in every kind of judgment of them declare that they are the most honorable one among others. And the cold and vicious crimes undergone unexpectedly in the most fearful fashion. I was not a big fan of David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence”. I have seen many movies in my native language with similar storyline and the style was not particularly impressive. Slick but not impressive. In “Eastern Promises” he has won over me right from the very beginning of the movie.

The film is visceral in the crime and bloody in nature. The film is the look on the organized Russian crime family vory v zakone and a plot running on Anna (Naomi Watts) who tries finding a home for the baby. A baby born to a fourteen year old girl and from her diary unravels the rape and torture done upon her in order to maintain the secrecy. I read from and they have in detail given the codes and laws of the vory v zakone or thieves in law. I was astonished, surprised and stunned to see the codes in it and the details said on the movie in a subtle manner.

Viggo Mortenses as Nikolai Luzhin impresses as he dresses impeccably and the stature he maintains. He is calm and we know he can be deadly. He sees and understands a little more than you and how your next action is going to be. His loyalty to his boss Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and more than that to Semyon’s son Kirill (Vincent Cassel) is the way he crosses his arms and stands in front of the restaurant. “I am just a driver” he says to Anna when she questions about the girl. He is the man with a heart in the terrible world of heartless men. Men who translate women to whore and have a testosterone scale to measure their manliness. The control more than in life is that they need over sex. They judge and accept one who believes in it, literally.

Kirill is the mad son every crime family movie has. But he too believes in brotherhood. He follows the code and gets beaten by Semyon. Kirill loves Nikolai but proudly shows his tattoo of star over his chest to say he is the “Captain”. They have the King Semyon and the “Captains”, the “Slaves”. They have a Kingdom of their own and we afraid and may be even feel pathetic for these people who still believe in the system of power and control. Kirill is conditioned and raised by Semyon. Sadly enough he expects the love of his father openly. The scene where he expresses the jealousy over Nikolai to get attention from his father and trying to stay true to the affection of brotherhood is a moment to watch out for both for Mortensen and Cassel.

Semyon on the other hand is noble and understanding in appearance. It ends there, appearance. The face he quietly puts up to hide his acts but does not hesitate to use it as a threatening device to get things done in the manner he wants. He is in power and he is in control. He is the man for whom love even to his son is unspoken of and in a sense he does not understand it himself. He protects his son we do not know whether he does it for the code he follows or some slight traces of love? But it is not much of use either. The crime he commits does not have absolution and more importantly forgiveness. But the funny part is, he does not realize it as crime either. He hides from the law because they will not understand the “code”. Cronenberg never utters these because these men are taught things to dug deep inside and bury them in the heart. Follow it but bringing it out is as horrible is bringing out the ghost.

The fear Cronenberg manifests throughout the movie is nerve breaking experience. He uses the sharp objects to tear upon the skin and blood oozing out as to not shock us but to constantly intimidate us on when they are going to come up. We do not want to see those and that’s exactly how he plays with our fear. Every moment we see the wrong body language and the sense of fear elevates.

Among these cruel and shocking males are the miserable girls who from their small villages and towns of their country come with their dreams. May be not dream but some small life they try to make up for and miserably succumb to these men. We do not see those females but hear one of them confiding through their words. Nikolai is some one who has some evidence of that conscience to extend their life, a bit more and save them from themselves. We understand why later in the movie.

“Eastern Promises” is as gripping and enthralling as “The Godfather”. It tends to lose its track but it holds it fort strong in the end. Cronenberg got very good actors like Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel and Armin Mueller-Stahl to give these men who live by their ruthless laws and unforgiving codes. This is a movie which can very well be called the new godfather, having every bit of those untold movements and hand gestures to really get these people.

"Death at a Funeral" (2007) - Movie Review

Frank Oz’s “Death at a Funeral” does not generate instant laughs. It takes its time to build up on the setting and in the last quarter of a movie they strike well. Still I would not rank as a great comic relief or something to be owned upon DVD to watch it again and again. And that is exactly these kind of movies should be generated as. When things are serious around Sunday evening, the comedy movie is the one which sets up any one getting briskly ready for Monday blues. In that cadre, this may not be there but may be on Sunday morning to expect the evening movie.

The setting is the funeral of Daniel’s (Matthew MacFayden) father. The title shows map view of a coffin marked by cross driving through its way on a “google map” kind of graphic. It drove following its path and finally making a stop. I was not able to concentrate on the credits but was eagerly seeing whether there will be something funny in that animation. Nothing happened. The scene immediately after that makes it funny due to the wait we took for the animation to show something funny but it is a base for the next scene, not the content but the curiosity it built. Off to good start, I was expecting riot of smirks and darkish comedy following instantly but it did not. And it did not bore either. Just it builds up the characters as a drama movie would do and then present the final sequences which are really good. Is it worth that wait? I would say yes. Not a positive solid yes, but ok kind of yes.

Daniel is the better in the lot of people who seem to care more about themselves than the sad situation. Daniel’s elder brother Robert (Rupert Graves) complaining about the first class flight journey and makes faces about the expense on the funeral, Daniel’s wife Jane (Keeley Hawes) finding hard to deal with her mother-in-law Sandra (Jane Asher) who seem to have formed a dislike over her, Daniel’s friend Howard (Andy Nyman) who worries too much about a patch of discolouration in his hand, his friend Justin (Ewen Bremner) who is there to see his one night fling Martha (Daisy Donovan) who in turn is anxious about his accidentally drugged fiancé Simon (Alan Tudyk) meeting her father to say their news about engagement are in some kind of itty bitty agenda of their own. If this is too much of members I forgot Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan) and Martha’s brother Troy (Kris Marshall) and the Valium Bottle (An Acid mixed with Mescaline and Ketamine – A Hallucinogenic Drug). And you can take a guess of the mess in the funeral. Oh! I forgot to mention Peter (Peter Dinklage) who expects a monetary payment for something Daniel or Robert does not want any one to know about their father, at least not in his funeral.

If some one could have had fun in a funeral it should be the whole crew making this movie. And if some one had fun and also a nice bit of acting that should be the freaked out high fiancé Simon by Alan Tudyk and it is a meaty part to be that guy in this movie. No one can understand what exactly the influence is but the crazy thing he does still keeping touch with the ambience is devilishly sweet and funny.

I liked the time spent on each character which were evenly spaced and finely bordered. We know the small objective each have and some of them are inconsiderate enough. It is also been given back to them in an inconsiderate deadly manner. Funerals in my country or to be precise in my “culture” are the fake sadness in every bit of air mixed with the genuine loss of love the people who really loved them show. The loss of their loved ones is understandable for the family but I have seen unknown relative female pulling all her energy from the stomach to cry out loud. Faking something like that cannot be done worse than that. It is their way of “showing” their emotion or otherwise they will be judged for being so mean, ruthless and heartless to not cry in a funeral. In US or UK, no, no, no….the movies which show the funeral happening in US or UK, I like that being a nice gentle way of sending them off clean and with dignity which is the best thing to do. Frank Oz adds a touch of evil comedy to it which ends well to be good.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"Tape" (2001) - Movie Review

Think about worst possible terrible thing you did quite a long time ago. The horrendous act which there is no way any one might even know it at all, even your best friend. May be people had the suspicion but they discard it immediately thinking about the posture you have developed in present. This particular incident should be something which does not bother you daily but comes up and whenever it does, you think being the one and only evil person alive. Now to whomever the resultant pain, anger or horror caused, can you go and apologize for it? Or may be accept it to your best friend? “Tape” is the chance to be confessed and may be forgiven or pay the price.

How many times we thought have said and did things which at that moment did not feel a big deal. Of course we had fun but except for a sociopath and if there exists conscience, we feel wrong. But brain has a perfect functionality of getting on with life. Times roll by and we make a living for us. As every one says, we change into a complete different person. We say that the person who did that mistake is some one else. We aloof ourselves from that and I thought of it as something to brush upon the edges. Past goes on but it still remains. People move on, but the stain exists. Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is in motel room trying to invoke that from his good old friend John (Robert Sean Leonard). As any high school memories Vincent has took the incident to heart wherein John slept with his then ex-girl friend, Amy (Uma Thurman). But is that the only thing? It is just the tip of the ice berg. Things unravel and the play opens up to interesting plots in this livened performance of these three actors.

Richard Linklater has consistently directed movies with philosophy, high school dizzy fun, romance, and music and rocked it on target. We see him adapt very well to the script he is been presented. He maintains his creativity and eases up the actors to do what they do the best. The movie could have faltered even if one of the characters slightly slipped into a different approach of not being true to their behaviour. Hawke’s Vincent stays true to the skin of being the pot dealing jerk till the end. Leonard’s John is a different person from the high school kid he was and faces the music. And Thurman’s Amy is the riddle of all and she remains like that till the last second she gets out of the motel room. These are some fine performances with very close monitoring of their slightest movements and reactions to other actors. As much as the plot, dialogues and screenplay makes it a knocker of a movie, the performance earns up to it.

Linklater in his “Before Sunrise” brought the conversational movie which gets into the circuitous one without any resolve of its own. As John, it is pompous and bombastic. John does it to cover up that person he thought have left in the high school but lives with it, sub consciously. Vincent is in every way opposite of John or may be they both were same till high school and just that Vincent remained an interesting jerk all his life time. Initially we think of Vincent pinning continuously on John to let the incident out on something to get back on him. John wants him to be better but in a way being complacent about his betterment than Vincent. The discussion of perspective is philosophical and also intriguing. It comes down to what each one accepts and owns to themselves. But Vincent’s is good argument but not the right one in a perspective.

I was stunned when the film took a “Rashomon” oriented turn. The perspective again takes its form. If you realize that the horrible thing you did, throughout this years did not affect any one at all or is only been in your head, then perplexing mind is left. The film knocks us down, then lifts up and again knocks us down. When everything is over, we feel relieved but also enjoyed the kick out of it.

What can be done when the person owns up to the mistake and completely feels sorry? Do you still turn him in? If the people affected by it are ready to forgive, can the law take a back seat? After all, law is formed for the good of the people and everything got resolved smoothly, what is the need of it, right? Or may be not. What happens to the balance and equality in treatment? See now I am going circuitous again with my statements. You may not get a conclusion but it’s worth the discussion. May be at the end of it, you will call that old school mate to apologize.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Volver" (Language - Spanish) (2006) - Movie Review

Pedro Almodóvar is a master in telling an act of guilt with innocence. In this film though it is not alone the only thing to be on center stage but also is a colourful show of women dealing with their pasts. In that one tries to build a life for herself and mainly for her daughter. It may not be the touching emotional outburst as that of “Talk to her” but locates itself in a league of its own. Once the movie is finished, the paleness in my reaction is an example of how much of it stayed in the mind and also pushed me to analyze. It has the memory for the duration of the film. We feel of gaining some things out of it, but still left with feeling of nothingness surmising us.

There is an ease in the bond and empathy these women share among them. Every female in the movie are wonderfully cheering and elegantly understanding. And also the superstition and the belief are in their blood. May be they have outgrown in it in the exterior coming to the city but deep within when they are encountered by it, the surprise reactions are not surprise at all. They see it as if it is not new. That is the reaction you get from Sole (Lola Dueñas) when she sees her dead mother Irene (Carmen Maura) coming out from her car’s trunk. She is petrified but it lasts for couple of seconds. May be it is the reality Irene poses standing there flesh and blood. Or may be the way she talks with out any care or hesitation on how surprised or shocked her daughter is seeing her dead mother. Or it is the fact that the subconscious signals in both of them realize the moment and takes it ahead. There appears no purpose in her to come back but it will be revealed later when she meets Raimonda (Penélope Cruz), her other daughter.

Raimonda is some one who is hanging between the past and the present but worries more about the future, her daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo). Her instant reactions learning Paco (Antonio de la Torre) killed by Paula when he tried to sexually abuse her is tough to enact. Pedro uses the start of the movie to his advantage. We are unaware of what kind of woman Raimonda is. All we are let known is that she is a mother who works hard to make ends meet. And she is not fond of her mother. We also learn that she is not in good terms with Paco. She is a desperate woman trying to safeguard her child and Paco appears as there to be the “man” of the household than any other in those few minutes of sequence he appears. Raimonda begins to live her life and respect her instincts to do it. She starts to make nice surroundings of her own. She stores the body in the freezer of the restaurant nearby provided by her neighbour. Instead of letting it to be leased, she takes over it. She appears to be finally free of something. May be she wanted to get rid of Paco too but did not do it. We realize how she consoles Paula from the terror and why she is good in coaxing her too.

As much as the screenplay takes us through a journey of colourful incidents and animated talks, we can neither attach nor detach from the film. The personalities hang on from air with no strings attached except to their minds of their own. Irene does not hesitate to reveal herself in front of Sole but constantly hides herself from Raimonda. Sole does not questions this but involuntarily she goes along with it. We are too vouching for it. Not too long once the dark past comes to the light, we understand why Irene had her own guilt stopping to face Raimonda.

Both in “Talk to her” and “Volver”, the music plays a pivotal role in transpiring the pace and to give a colourful ambience for sorrowful souls. The lamentation takes the form of humour, crooked but the characters seek those with the same humour too. Cruz handles Raimonda with the sensitivity of a blue collar woman and also some one longing for real love both in men and the women she meets. With men she seems to attract and like being attracted but it stops there. Even her way of dressing comes to understanding. She dresses attractive and teasing but you know from the way of her talk, it is just teasing and nothing more.

The movie as such during the run time does not reveal its identity of characters doing what they do and the reason for it. An expectation of deus ex machina is unavoidable but it is there and not there too. It makes us to look back through the film. In movies having those, till the time of exposure, everything is riddle and things fall in place once the climax helps us in putting those correctly. Here the movie is a gentle ride on simple people living through their guilt quite normally. Paco’s death might be an accident. His intentions are treacherous and wicked. They solidly say that and yet Raimonda hides the body. The ending might not explain those but there are lot other explanations. We understand Raimonda.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Minority Report" (2002) - Movie Review

Psychic is the power to be proved wrong by the every one who believes in the science. Every one who sees science as a form of explaining the phenomenon clear enough with physical proof looks for the unknown evidence to approve the psychic abilities or to prove it as the greatest hoax. In “Minority Report”, psychic and scientist join hands for the premise in this futuristic film set in Washington D.C and the year is 2054. They capture the image of those person called Precogs immersed in some form of watery nutrient preservative to keep them focused as they say to stop the crime which is about to happen.

Of course the images are not a clear video and hence need to have active intelligent individuals like Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) to extract background information to make intelligence out of it. Being there from the start to work along with one of the chief architects of the precrime experimental program is Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow). It is been employed successfully for many years that they want to make it national. But as any skeptic, Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) comes to represent the Attorney General of the US hunts for flaws. As per Lamar’s request, John keeps a close and respective watch over him Danny. John is dealing with his own pain. Losing his son and being divorced from his wife, he opts for drugs during night time. He attains some sort of cajole doing the work of stopping the crime which very well might have saved his boy. Things get thrilling when the saviour of the system sees him in the act in one of the images supplied by the precogs. It shows that John will be killing a person who he has never met or known in next 36 hours. Like he says, “Everybody Runs”, he runs and in the meanwhile tries to find out whether it is a setup.

The idea of extracting the thought from a human mind is something has been subject of interest taken upon by many writers. The thought of killing some one making it as an act is considered as the main discussion over the film. Director Steven Spielberg immediately impresses us with the system of precrime and of course the experiment has proven successful. Crime rate came down considerably with no murder recorded at all. But if the thought accounts for the act, how many of us will be spending rest of our lives in the halo shown in the movie? The discussion is mild in the movie with Danny questioning it and John quite cleverly counter argues it with ordinary actions. The simplicities of the prediction are used as it is but also the exemplary use of it. When John goes along with the precog Agatha (Samantha Morton) while the cops are trying to find them, of that tense moment she asks to get an umbrella. And the scene ends with the use of it when it starts to rain outside but the actual use of it as a device of disappearance and camouflage makes those small moments to smirk for it.

Spielberg uses the image of Cruise to perfection for this. Cruise in most of the movies has formed the image of coming good even when he is down is known. So along with the character of John, we refuse to believe that the murder cannot be committed by him due to that image. This frame of mind exactly puts us in John’s place. He never hesitated to believe in the system but he doubts it when it hits him. Cruise has proved me wrong on couple of occasions when I doubt his acting abilities in “A Few Good Men” and the unforgettable “Magnolia”. He has used his charismatic presence for the character and story as such. But that is only half job done and reverting on the character to behave opposite to those assumptions is the tough part. He does it convincingly.

Spielberg amalgamates the ride of thrill, the fantasy of future and the doubts of philosophy in dough of entertainment and food for thought. And when John meets the person he is about to kill in that room, we are tempted on both possibilities to bring the ambiguity, quite like the way the system in the movie. The movie should have ended right there and right on. It accomplished its purpose in that act of solving everything. But Spielberg as much as a brilliant director has to make everything end and I mean “end”. He needs a period symbol of entertainment to the audience. The same image of Cruise which gave the movie its advantage has some how caught up Spielberg it seems. He wants to perfectly prove that everything should have an ending to be guessed precisely and yet provide it for the heck of glamour value expected by the audience. For me the movie ended in that room and I believe for Spielberg too. He had the option of extending it for the typical Hollywood formula or be true to the movie. He chose formula. I can see people saying this is how a movie needs to address all the audience and the showbiz being business end of day put him with no choice. But as the precogs say, “He had choice”.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Elizabeth" (1998) - Movie Review

Let me start this review by letting myself out that I was not impressed by “Elizabeth”. It just did not do it for me. Despite some mystical performance by Geoffrey Rush which is the only one stood apart, the movie lacked soul and content. Cate Blanchett is animated and does shine in couple of scenes but does not make up the movie for its lethargic and dull screenplay.

The movie is the emergence of Elizabeth – I (Cate Blanchett) from a very early age as a queen. During 1558, with Catholic and Protestant forming the matrix of religious chaos, Elizabeth as Protestant takes upon the throne from her half sister. With many sour tongues, she believes in her conscience. Things are not going England’s way and she need to have a marriage of convenience for saving the Kingdom. But her love is for Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) and at the ripe age of enjoying life, she is dumbfounded by the responsibility of the Queen. And also she needs to survive the dangers her very own men pose upon her. The political drama along with her advisor Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) takes its final stage going through the tour of betrayal, jealousy and maturity.

As such the movie can be compared to the gangster emergence of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather”. The problem of course is that there is no proper guidance or she does not utilize and realize her actual power to govern things differing from the authoritative and clever Michael. The mood and style of the movie did not impress me at all. Director Shekar Kapur’s choice of going with the dull but exhibitory display of the saga amplified the dullness than the decoration. Elizabeth is caught in between the age and the responsibility. Her little to no experience among the men of commanding voices and degrading eyes are not something a very seasoned person can handle. The film does not capitalize on it. She wanders aimlessly with emotions animated but not hard hitting.

I am going to be crucified for telling this but I cannot believe how Blanchett won an Academy Award for Best Actress. Not that she is miserable in the role but the strength of her stand is not justified enough. Her play of innocence and realization in the start fits well. Especially I admired the scene she practices with herself before appearing for the discussion of the policy of having a single church. She is captivating in bringing that moment of fear, responsibility and authority nicely with precise innocence. And immediately it slowly starts to fail one by one. There is no real emotion coming after that. In fact the character sketch is flawed that her reaction to the knowing of Dudley being married can be quoted as an example.

At any point of time, I was not with the movie. It did not generate any empathy over the character. Say if I read the history of Elizabeth, it will be the monotone recital of the events. There may be sympathy and respect imagined by us over the situation. But even after the watching the whole unfolding of events as a film, I was not able to sense that even remotely. I do not deny the hardship, danger and sacrifice she went through but the film is a slow dragging piece to consume energy from the audience in a way which also consumes the dry emotions out of them.

There is a sense of detachment in every person. When Dudley says he loves Elizabeth in entire true sense, I was not able to believe it. I was not able to believe that she believes it too. Even though Geoffrey Rush nails the shadowy character of Francis Walsingham, there is no attachment in his actions too. So I thought this is how following orders and acting on the good of country means but that is not proven good enough.

Overall as Elizabeth, we are constantly left to search the answers and feelings out of our own in a movie devoid of those. The second installment arrives this year from the same team showing the reign of golden age of Elizabeth. While every one expects it with eagerness and assured class of art, I will be expecting it too. My expectations are to see the Elizabeth with unanimated and convincing character trapped in the midst of religion, people and country.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Tokyo Story" (Language - Japanese) (1953) - Movie Classics

Urbanization in movies discusses the situation when the city lures everyone to make it the happening place of its own. The process has become rapid and still seems to be accumulating more than it supposed to. Director Yasujiro Ozu in this 1953 story makes it as a back drop and how much it has affected and sucked the energy along with the emotions. But more than the concept of that comes out something which will be a time capsule. It serves as one now and will do it ever for the times to come.

Two old couple (Chishu Riyu and Chieko Higashiyama) from a village head out to meet their son and daughter in Tokyo. Without much details and in fact relationship, things happen over the screen. It takes some twenty minutes to understand who their son, their daughter and daughter-in-law is. It may be a symbolic hint to the viewers that they have become some one else and it takes the same amount of time for the parents to get used to like us. The mother is the softest natured human being you can ever find. She does not speak much against her husband. When they are packing for their trip, she asks her husband where the air pillow is and he says that it was given to her. She again asks him in a while and he says the same. Couple of minutes later, he finds it among his clothes and says here it is. She says that’s good. I mean this is the perfect opportunity for every couple to get into fight or as for her when it is realized that the mistake is on the husband’s side, there will be a sarcastic comment from her, but here nothing happens. And the husband does not apologize either. That two minute scene is their relationship; they are the typical old couple. Two things are that either they perfectly understanding or it is not a big deal to apologize or start a fight for a small issue. Both shows their maturity, they have seen the life and they know it better. This is the detailing the movie takes to.

The style appears to be dragged upon and nothing happening. But that’s how the situation is, nothing seem to happen. When they get there things are nice and the usual greetings are painted upon. The formal enquiries which including them and the viewers know is going to change dramatically. But it does not. It changes like it happens in real life. A small frustration or feeling of being burden brings down their emotions, still in a very small quantity. The son is extremely busy that he cannot spare a Sunday with his parents. They understand it but does not able to digest the fact that life has taken every one so fast that they seem to be left behind. Being a parent and seeing their kids have their own life brings happiness, but also a melancholic shadow in their face. The shadow of them being dependent and the kids being independent. But they know the reality and travel along with it. Still in the midst of this, there is a character which simply goes that extra mile and spends that extra minute for them. Their dead son’s wife Noriko (Setsuko Hara). She lives alone and does not hesitate to take a day off to spend with them and also take them around Tokyo.

Their elder daughter is vocal and believes in exterior emotions in everything. And it is another brilliance of her running a beauty parlour. She tells everything she did in a manner which can irritate any one. She decides for her parents and feels irritated if they did not feel the same. Her affections towards them are with some intentions. She with her brother sends them to an inexpensive vacation. Not being able to spend time with them, this is the best way she realizes. And when they return without notice, she gets even more frustrated. But there seem to be reason for her distress too. The father comes back drunk that night with his buddies. Not a good act but he gets carried away meeting his old friends. And when she hears the news that her mother is ill, she asks his brother whether to take mourning dress. Immediately she says that she will be happy not to use it. And when Kyoko (Kyôko Kagawa), the youngest daughter asks Noriko why they are selfish, we seem to get an honest answer from Noriko. While it is true what she says, she just seems to be nice in covering up for the other daughter.

Either you are in the busiest city or a calm village, during work day there is an unexplainable loneliness and void of silence. Both in the times of the movie and now, it remains the same. The chirping of birds with sunshine so bright to blind the eyes and the shadow of trees, building or hut and being inside the home brings in the peace. At the same time, it also reminds that the world is acting busy and crazy that we are all being left out of it. The television has only increased the loneliness and frustration than to subside it. This feeling is brought in the movie by showing the outside environment in between the calm scenes. Take it the smoke filled industrial outlook of Tokyo, the exotic beach with mountains and the train station in the small village of Onomichi, director uses that technique of solitude in an essence of frustration. You know it is uncomfortable but it is life.

This movie is a drama with no melodramatic moments and yet carries the heavy feeling. We hate some and love some. We don’t know the details. We don’t know the time frame. We also don’t know how good of father and mother they were. We only know that old age is something to be dealt upon and it takes a hard old mind to deal with it. Like Noriko, we want to help them but there is a life developed for everyone and the act of being selfish becomes eventuality.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"The Kingdom" (2007) - Movie Review

Middle Eastern based movies involving terror plot has been avoided for sentimental reasons. Not especially for general kind of action movies it used to be, considered now a day. “Syriana” gave how circle of life literally played down involving politics, religion and greed. “The Kingdom” is a tightly paced and gripped film with the elements of instant anger, hatred, prejudice and redemption. It is a very nice attempt which also takes the action element into consideration and ends it with the message of hope and also hatred mingled.

The FBI evidence team is sent across to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to investigate the bombings which happened in the compound where American Civilians reside. The team led by Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx), Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) and Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper) lands with a notion of finding the killer. Their placement out there further jeopardizes the position of the government over there. Their safety takes precedence over the actual investigation. They are guided and told rules by the Saudi Police Captain Col. Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom). In a strange land with everything been looked upon wrong from either side, finding the man behind this deadly thing becomes a more difficult task for both FBI team and the local police.

The way the movie started impressed me. They give the time line from 1930s in an animation model which is a crash course on the oil wealth and the connectivity of USA with Middle East. And the actual attack was shot with bitter reality of preciseness that even aware of the terrible disaster, we are forced to be curious in a manner of fear, helplessness and adrenaline. The action scenes are shot with the regular shoddy camera technique but it suits the purpose. The shoddy camera work properly when employed for the scenes involving foreign land. It worked for “Black Hawk Down”, “The Bourne Ultimatum” and it does work here too.

The film surfaces on the line of action genre with the real deep issues of being looked upon over the Middle East, or to hit it straight, religion and the people as such. Numerous movies come and go terrifically give the punch in the face of the issue of prejudice and religion. Still the fear lays the same. The anger remains the same. The hatred very well remains the same. The movie does materialize on those to the full extent on how “Syriana” does. It materializes in a manner which aids the movement of the screenplay and the actions speaks louder than words. The characters of the two sincere police officers played by Ashraf Barhom and as Sergeant Hatham, Ali Suliman. While Ali Suliman as one of the suicide bombers in the movie “Paradise Now” proved his presence, this movie is Ashraf’s play. He with Jamie Foxx is situated in the places possibly with best small dialogues building up to their friendship in a very minimal time.

The movies strong point is the way they surface the reality in a fast action manner. The entire series of events are gripping and horrifying face of violence, customs and old beliefs are torn upon. The manner the women are looked down and how it still exists. A police man gets totally angry over Mayes for touching the hand of dead man. He for a moment is able to forget the seniority and also that the person is some one unaware of their beliefs is a nutshell of how some people are. They reside every where and in India too. But the very same policeman is getting stopped by another policeman, Sgt. Haytham to suggest it to her. Finally while boarding the plane, she shakes hands with Haytham and says goodbye.

The only flaw I can think of is the constant display of names of characters and their positions which takes away the time from the characters and becomes irritating after a while. It is important to show those details in a movie based upon true events, but within twenty minutes we see fifteen names and their designations. A little too much of detail. The movie is a perfect material to be learned upon on the revenge and running that extra mile to understand the people. Despite the fact that the movie is powerful for its action genre, it is the content and the proceedings with substance which makes it closer to a brilliant piece.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"The Brave One" (2007) - Movie Review

A death as such is not a thing which would get any one back to their routine life. The loved ones affected by it go through the period wherein they question everything in their life. And a death which is not natural is a permanent damage one cannot get over by. As Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) says, you become some one else. Will you become to be a killer or as the media in the movie says a “vigilante”?

Erica Bain, a radio talk show host is set to marry her boy friend David (Naveen Andrews). They take a walk in the Central Park of New York City. Three men start to mess with them and turn into a blood rampage. David dies while Erica survives. She is not able to go outside her home. When she does, to get back to the life the city leads seem to be fearful. Everything stops and does not look right at all. Is she dealing with the fear or loss or revenge? She does not know either. Fear is the first thing takes on her. She buys a gun illegally since she realizes to get a gun, there needs a license. With injustice prying her, it follows her to a grocery shop. She witnesses an angry man killing the clerk working there and realizes he is not alone. She makes her first kill. After that she continues to walk in the nights looking for the “wrong” people to be hunted.

As a movie, it is well made and acted. Terrence Howard as Detective Mercer is good but not good enough to convince the actions in the end. Foster does her part really well and convincingly which is why it is scarier. No one can associate with the pains of Erica Bain. No one can console her or words which will have no meaning. Dealing with it is easier said than done. Surprisingly her dearest friend does not come to her house to talk with her. Nor does David’s mother who is in the same pain as hers, in fact more than Erica. The screenplay conveniently negates them. It also conveniently places the victims to be certain of the most assuring wrong doing which would not put Erica or the audience in guilt. With this pathway, what are they trying to convey is frightening me.

The battle within Erica is the subject out here. She does not have any one to talk which is hard to believe. She befriends the cop who is investigating the murders she does which is a formula. But the way it happens is almost accidental and very mature. Erica looks at him as a guy who can be a very good judge of her actions. In fact she subconsciously hopes that he authenticates those killings. She does become a different person but is this how to deal it? The crimes are there and the justice does not take place as it should every where. But does it good enough to take another human life? And let us say even for a hypothetical sense that all her killings are against the “bad” person who in their life would have gone and killed many more lives, this instinct of her to see the wrongdoings and kill can go wrong any moment. What if this instinct kills an innocent person? Is there any vigilante justice over that? Or can we take that system always does mistakes? It is not worth to risk one innocent life over many other supposedly bad actions. I am not sure whether this is what they intended. May be they thought on focusing over the dramatic variations of values, system and philosophies to bring an ambiguity over those concepts.

Detective Mercer is the one who has the same heart and view towards the injustice as that of Erica. He is the good cop who constantly tries to do his job in the best way possible. Erica is quite evidentially confused with right and wrong. Mercer does not. His impulsiveness is overcome by his composed thinking. He reacts but brings back the positive momentum towards that immediately. And the final action does not look like him at all.

A film over the crimes so vicious and evil which has been done to Erica brings discussion. The dilemma over the right and wrong, conscience and forgiveness makes and does not makes sense at all. Human mind varies every moment and traumatic incidents change any one to some one. If the film projects itself as a short story, then you see it as one separate incident. You talk about it but not necessarily do the same thing as the character does. A film which takes a route of arriving on something looks for its conviction. With violence around the globe, is it a movie with a confused intention of a vigilante necessary?

The movie tag line is “How many wrongs to make it right?” and that’s what made me to watch the movie. “The Brave One” directed by Neil Jordan is convincing by the performance of Jodie Foster but leaves without being convicted for a message which very well might make the wrongs rights.

"Flags of Our Fathers" (2006) - Movie Review

Before going to “Letters of Iwo Jima”, I was thinking that there will be no more war movies as good as many acclaimed classics. Clint Eastwood proved me wrong. After that I decided to watch the twin release which came before that directed by him too. “Flags of Our Fathers” can be more said as a Post War movie than a war movie. Many people rarely try theirs hands on that. Eastwood always moves us with any of his stories and this time he does it again.

The flag raising photograph which is famous and brought lot of hope to American people is taken back to its roots. The people involved in it are brought back from the war zone to help the US government to collect money for the war. In one of the most deadly battles in the World War – II, three survivors of those six men are called back. John “Doc” Bradley (Ryan Phillipe), Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) are those. Rene is excited about this because as he says in the platoon, he joined marines because the uniform makes him look like hero. He sees this as a great opportunity. Ira on the other hand wants to stay. He wants to stay for his fellow men. Truth is told that every one wants to leave the place of certain death any moment but no one will be ready to come out of there. It is the feeling of being there for their men more than country. It is hard cold enlightening truth every one should know about.

The film is said as much as in narration and interviews carried on by James Bradley (Tom McCarthy), son of Doc. The movie is based upon the book by the real life James Bradley. Every thing I would love to discuss over this review has been spoken in true right words in the movie. What exactly War boils down to? What does it mean to be “patriotic”? Is patriotism something marketed to lure in to the drains of war? The men who sacrificed their lives from all over the world regardless of Americans or Japanese or any other region did not fight for the country. May be they thought they did but what exactly did they fight on for? A point in which some one can place the finger and say that and it will be family or children. But the immediate thought when the act in the war is to save themselves and also more importantly to save the man near them. In “Black Hawk Down” the character of Hoot played by Eric Bana says that precisely. In that movie it is a dialogue of a side kick factor with true intensity though. Here it runs throughout the movie wide and profound.

It is a brave story of the men who died inside when people call them heroes. In fact the real men do not want them to be called heroes. A hero is a made up word. It is human to look out for examples. People immediately blame others for all bad things. And when they are hopeless, they need heroes on the positive side. It is a positive blaming which turns out to be a different sort of game as time flies by. An opportunistic word is what the movie migrates the incident of the flag being raised. It sure did profit in collecting money for the war. It sure did help the men in the island of dead. End of day, the means of it is something people do not want to remember. The sacrifice is honoured but not the war.

The island of Iwo Jima looks black. The sulfur in the sand is the reason. And if we are able to see blood out of that black sand, then imagine the reality of it. I cannot comprehend the fact of being in the war zone. It is something I do not want to comprehend. War is a man made attempt to feel good as a whole. It is a collective effort of vengeance taken in the form of government. So does defending is wrong too? Where can the line been drawn? The line should never be there at all in first place meaning the concept of war should never be in that place. Eastwood sure does not talk about it but spreads it across the movie.

Ira goes through the trauma. More than the war, it is how he been called upon. The horrid reality striking back when he is made as an exhibition. Being used as a show piece is the last thing any soldier would want. He is troubled. He is perplexed on the reaction he needs to give. He is put in a spot light where he never wanted it to be. But Doc is the one who really had the composure to maintain the balance. Seeing soldiers die in the Warfield is horrible enough but trying to save them and failing on it is even worse and unimaginable. Doc does that and has witnessed numerous of those. How did he manage to live a calm life, do daily work and bring up a family? Am sure he practiced forgetting those. He practiced to accept who he really is. He is a good man who took the responsibility, to raise a family.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Mean Streets" (1973) - Movie Review

One of the earliest movies of Martin Scorcese and we notice where it all started. A character which puts up with the persons who react before thinking. The central character hangs out with them even though the other character becomes totally out of control and no sense of consequences at all. The attachment in between them is unexplainable but it is immaturity in the name of honour, trust and friendship. School kids know better about the realities of life than these souls. Poor Charlie does not understand it.

Charlie (Harvey Keitel) works as a trusted man for his Uncle Giovanni (Cesare Danova). It is all about reputation in Little Italy of New York. Giovanni has a good reputation which needs to be maintained by Charlie. Charlie hangs out with Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro). His other friends include Tony (David Proval) who runs the bar and Michael (Richard Romanus). It is tough to define “friends” out here. They fight for small things and forget it the next moment. Then immediately bounce back in fighting again. Watching those is watching small kids fighting over who is powerful or who got hurt by words or who did not return the pen. Of course Michael loaned more than a pen to Johnny which he demands the pay back. Kids do not think before they act. Conscience is developed once they think about their act. Here everything is momentary. They live for the next minute. For a moment if he can hide from the loan sharks is what Johnny thinks, for a moment if he can wash away the dirty work he is doing is what Charlie thinks, for a moment if Johnny can give some money to assure him that he is not screwing him off is what Michael thinks and for a moment Tony thinks if he can run things around in his club like the way he wants. But everyone develops a temporary memory issue. They do not of course forget the big issues and deal with it when it comes. The way they deal is something no one is aware of including themselves. These are the shambled deck of cards of the mean streets.

Charlie is among these people and he clearly understands his actions. He talks to himself, goes to church in search of absolving his sins he is committing in his daily life. He realizes that it is not much of help. As he says, confession to priest are just words. He wants to do the absolving in his way. His way is to protect Johnny. Johnny is the guy to whom every one would have loaned money. Because he looks charming and acts accordingly when work needs to be done and does not hesitate to lie and earn the trust. Every one suggests Charlie to stay away from him and this in turn actually becomes a project for Charlie. Charlie thinks he is the saviour for the lost wretched soul of Johnny. He believes that by properly covering up and talking some sense to Johnny he might just escape hell. What Charlie does not understand is that he is trying the clean the ditch in a city of ditch. He does not realize that he needs to become clean by coming out of it before thinking about the real problem. He takes up the righteous position and tries to strike truce in between Michael and Johnny. Truly lost one here is Charlie.

The stylistic slow motion shot when De Niro enters the bar with two girls while Keitel looks at him is a classic. I have seen dozen of those shots in the later movies and to see the holy grail of the original feels pure. The work of the camera is truly path breaking even for the times of high technical picturization in the current world of cinema. Watching Scorcese’s latest movie “The Departed” and this one shows the same employment of theme which is his presentation. The ambience is thick in substance and gloomy enough to creep out.

“Mean Streets” shows the start of a legend in movie making. Scorcese creates sympathy for Charlie not for his attempt in protecting Johnny going vain but for how lost he is. He wants to make up for his stained life but does not get the right guidance. The failure of him is due to the unknown nature of finding his conscience. We cannot blame him for that because he is too egoistic to ask for guidance apart from church and in fact got the sense of being the nice guy among the group which constantly generates enemies.

Charlie is also bothered about his lady love Teresa (Amy Robinson) which will spoil his reputation. What is this “reputation”? The respect earned by means of having a livelihood so aware of others and their words, it loses its meaning. When it is termed as “reputation” and been put on a podium to be earned, there is no “respect” to be earned. “Mean Streets” is the short pathetic story of two messed up individuals in a neighbourhood of no guidance. Johnny is too screwed up to look the unknown good will of Charlie while Charlie is too confused to look the screwed up devil in Johnny. In those live the lost souls.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"The 400 Blows" (Language - French/English) (1959) - Movie Review

As young Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) does mischief at the class room which grows in to greater extent of social mischief of crime in the latter part of the movie, I was taken back to my school days. I was a silent kid cornering myself to the last bench. Too afraid to do pranks and too confused to talk, a typical school kid but I have seen kids do the things what Antoine does in the movie. Ogling a semi nude picture and blaspheming the teacher is not unusual for a kid to do. Curiosity and too tight to be controlled drives those actions. As I suit myself to drench in those warm dried up memories of mine, “The 400 Blows” took me for a great surprise and left me rattled over the upbringing of a child. I thought I am going to witness a story telling of a troubled kid finding his way of life in a fairy tale story. I was left with astonishment at the end of it. The end of Antoine may teach a hard lesson of life.

The movie title does not actually properly translate the French title. The proper meaning of the title is “to raise hell” and what other can be so appropriate. They raise hell in and around the kid who is left to be confused. After a tough day at the school, he comes back home to be yelled and commanded by his mother constantly. His father is cheerful but he is inconsistent in his behaviour too. His house is cramped and sleeps in the corridor which starts and ends in the door. The family is a subtle torture emporium. It seems nothing much is happening here but the heat is felt. His mom definitely is being reminded by Antoine how much of a burden he is to her. She has cosmetics filled in her dressing table. Her youth is stopped by Antoine is her opinion. His father Julien Doinel (Albert Rémy) who gave the name to him appears as the asylum of fun and understanding father. But we see both the parents do not even looking for the kid when they receive a note left by Antoine saying he is leaving them. Even if it had happened previously, their reactions seem to be ordinary and in fact they are relaxed from the troubles Antoine usually creates by his mischief.

The movie takes us into the dark transforming world of Antoine. He lies, cheats and steals. There is no regret for his actions. At the same time he does not enjoy it too. He does enjoy roaming around the streets of Paris with his friend René (Patrick Auffay). When he does these wrong things in the course of the movie, he is numb as I observed. His instincts are conditioned in to his surroundings so much that the subtle nature of his actions amplifies day by day. He bunks the school as he was not able to complete his home work in the midst of consistent commands from his mother. While roaming in the streets he notices his mom in the middle of the road kissing some one who is not Julien. Both notice each other. We look forward for a dramatic exposure of the cheating of his mother as she is afraid of it too. It is clearly visible of her seeing Antoine as a baggage but also cannot tolerate when she learns that Antoine told his teacher the excuse for skipping school is the demise of her. She showers intended love. For Antoine, even that does not look genuine. His doubtful eyes and the sudden change in his mother’s behaviour riddle him.

Antoine actions are shocking. Even age does not stop us from thinking the unremorseful continuous lies of him. But we do not know his history and get a peek at it. All through his small tenure in his life, he had no one to care for. There were people at his home but invisible in front of him. His growth from a baby to a boy became a reminder for the adults of their responsibility which is least of their worries. When Antoine’s father takes him to the police, we are surprised but some where we feel this kid needs discipline desperately. For a moment, we take the side of the father without knowing the dreadful history of the Antoine. Things are not always as it seems.

The film during the times of 50s carries the message now too. The social structure has done one thing nice is to identify some ball park age for a kid to be declared on his own. Here the kid has a home with people bothered about his stay. They do not beat him. They do not yell at him. The judge during the session with Antoine’s mother says that her caring looks inconsistent. They were not there when the kid needed and when they had the ears; Antoine has grown impatient and hard to trust them. Director François Truffaut does a character study which shakes the parents. It wakes them up for the subtle lies and the inaccuracies their kid’s provide. What I liked about the movie is the concept of taking a mediocre family where simple problem for a kid becomes inattentiveness and subtle yelling to drive him to the wrong side of the equilibrium. It is even more troubling when we see the mother coming to the observation center where Antoine is put in to deliver her vengeance towards him. She does not scold but the same crooked subtle bitterness she spits on him is unsympathetic and cold.

I was not completely pulled in by the film but at the same time it affected me in a non-descriptive part of emotion. The content is far too ahead of time for the 50s. Not naming it as a classic by me does not lower it in any miniscule mass. Finally the symbolism of the boy running in the end is a nice touch of cinematic art. The camera work is unique during that near a minute run. The kid’s life got so messed up that his rest of the life is going to be a run. He can run till his energy and the age carries him. And when there is going to be an obstacle and the energy withered away, there is no one to turn or run. His life might be swept of by those waves or may be he turns inside his conscience to look into the brighter side of it. Maybe.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"Gridiron Gang" (2006) - Movie Review

Sports movies are a universal known formula in Hollywood. The fever of it even caught the Indian cinema to have made a movie on National game Hockey, called “Chak De”. The greatest disadvantage of handling a sports movie is the probability of predicting the outcome. It is losing or winning. With half the chance, it is easy to predict. “Gridiron Gang” is based upon a true story of Sean Porter (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) with the members in the Los Angeles County Probation Department Facility to motivate the kids and focus them on football. Before you predict, they play straight with different agenda.

They say that 75% of the kids who go out of the facility end up in jail or get killed. Sean Porter looks at it and does not know what to do. The gang fight is passed on from people to people that it becomes a religion. They do not know the origin of it or what all started it. It is easier to hate and they take the easy way out. Sean thinks football may be the answer. He believes that these anger and rage can be focused properly. And in the process they might realize who they are and how they ended up like this. Sean also gets an experience to realize him.

He convinces the authority to let him try this experiment. He tells them as experiment but deep within he knows it needs to be continued upon. With a friendly subordinate Malcolm (Xzibit), Sean picks the people. He identifies the personality and brings them on to the field. As a counselor he knows they will always have a way to escape. In football he lures them into the area he knows well upon and command upon. As a counselor when some one asks what the goal of kids is, and when he might answer it to be a good man, people can easily dismiss it as a cheesy line. In a game, there is a clear cut definition of what exactly the goal is. Winning. This is the key Sean identifies and tells them that they messed up their life to be a loser to get in out here and this is a chance to prove otherwise. It works. It is not easy but it works. Without their knowledge, they blend in and form a team.

Tons of sports movies have come and gone. One cannot believe how they undertook this project. I am sure any one who read the script first few pages would have dismissed it instantly. Every one is aware of the pitfalls. But when it comes to boosting the morale of the kids who in their very start of their life make mistakes is a subject to be touched upon. Defining them the character they ought to be and the meaning of being recognized for good things is an addictive taste to hang on.

We see Willie Weathers (Jade Yorker) Kelvin Owens (David Thomas) brought down every time by the feeling of being in a gang. We see Kenny Bates (Trever O’Brien) who is longing for his mother’s love. We see Junior (Setu Taase) as a young father to prove something to his kid. Every one has something to prove and to overcome. Things happen not to be for one second becoming a trump card for emotion. Willie and Kelvin do not dance around at the end but begin to understand each other, as humans. Kenny realizes that everything needs to be earned, including love. Junior sees himself as the motivator and a morale support to develop a character more than being a player. Everything is out there but not out of there.

The screenplay is materialized wherein as audience; we tend to not pressurize us about the final showdown. A speech becomes an obvious and they trick us in a nice way. Not in a punching, thumping usual style but in a good plausible manner. They bring the team to us. At that moment, they are a team. As for the performance, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson proves in couple of instances that he is capable of delivering a strong and subtle performance. I loved him playing down with calm and composed manner yet full of emotions overwhelming when the whole team wishes him to see his sick mother.

It is a feel good movie and it is not being misused. As the credits roll, we see footages of the real Sean Porter and the kids. We also see how close the dialogues were taken from the footage. It is a time to appreciate Sean but also the kids. They realized their chance and they fought for it. They shed their anger and also the hatred to know that there is a reason for existence in a harmonious way. More importantly, they realize that they need to earn everything in life hard and honest.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"The 11th Hour" (Documentary) (2007) - Movie Review

Global warming and climate change are quintessential issue of major calamity which needs to be tackled as soon as possible from every individual human being. There is no doubt about it that this is happening. Even let us say that the global warming termed as a “hoax”, it is the least we owe to our Earth and environment. “An Inconvenient Truth” sliced into the layers of this slow demise of humanity succumbing to the nature’s way of punishment on our continuous deterioration towards it by us. It sensed the place in our minds deep within called conscience to look into that and do something about it. My next car purchase became a hybrid and I constantly try at my home to use the electrical resources in frugal manner. “The 11th Hour” starts promisingly on the origins and perspective on the issue but after a while it forms into a heavy lecture with monotonous settings and themes. It loses the grip in the middle and elongates into a fact explained clearly and emotionally in “An Inconvenient Truth”.

The purpose is truthful but there cannot be forgiveness for the wrong approach. The movie starts with people explaining the nature and humans. They make us understand that we are in nature and not a separate entity apart from it. The human colonization has enlarged into a big hole of economic destruction than formation. Elaboration goes on corporations and industries focusing on growth rather than the underlying purpose of living of co-existence among themselves and with the nature. From there almost twenty to thirty people who are very much concerned and actively participating in revival of environment talk honestly and sincerely to us on the possibilities and plausibility of the system of nature and the redemption humans can have. While their sincerity is appreciated, it starts to bring down the whole momentum of the film.

Recently I had a particular discussion with my friend Mathi. We started off with the concept of religion and its impacts. Then it migrated towards issues of serious concern and I said that money or economy is more destructive and deadly than religion right now. Mathi said religion is the single most force which can control and dominate people in an organized and powerful way to destroy any one regardless of their character. I accept that point and religion is potent enough to do that but at least many of us identify it for what it is. They know its capability and fall for it but the identification is done. Whereas economy is something which has developed and seeped into our system to drive every living thing possible and still operates in an open clandestine manner. No one realizes the slow poison effect of it. People are hooked up onto it and the only survival motto is to earn and spend. And I am glad that this movie discussed it. In fact it points that out as the origin of all the issue of corporation fighting tooth and nail to mint money. This view towards it shed the light on the attitude of the people in the current world. The movie does not blame but takes the action on some instances which is needed for a documentary. While corporations are now being forced some of it, individuals as such need an attitude adjustment towards climate change issue. They do not name economy as the sole villain but point out the problems in it which can be formed as win-win situation for everyone.

“An Inconvenient Truth” did the major job for this movie, awareness was created. In this movie concentrating on various erudite comments is good but the subject of interest should have been the ways of small things to make a difference for climate effect. It is been discussed during the final fifteen minutes in fast forward motion. Further elaboration on screen would have greatly achieved the intention and purpose of what movie aimed for.

I appreciate the effort to show case but as a documentary it transforms from engrossing start to a dragging lengthy lecture of contents shown in a very straight line moments. I am for the green project and would seriously recommend everyone to do their best in saving the environment. I would suggest “An Inconvenient Truth” for realizing the start and what can be done. Directors Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen along with creator and narrator Leonardo DiCaprio need more concentration on the presentation structure and varying momentums to convey their contents in the best way possible.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

"Shoot 'Em Up" (2007) - Movie Review

Two things should be made clear for every one who is going to watch this movie. (a) Killing is bad (b) Babies are extremely sensitive and cannot sustain any kind of snatching, be in the midst of gun firings, heavy car collision and spinning fast in a merry go round.

“Shoot ‘Em Up” is so horrendous for most part that you might like it for being so. From the get go even before the movie came, it was marketed as a mad shooting with little to nothing towards plot. It became kind of prerequisite to have an expectation of shoot fest and nothing more. Even after all that the scenes migrate from ridiculous to extremely horrific. As you may all remember “Hot Fuzz” which did justice to the action flicks being a homage and spoof maintaining its creative original flavour. It is downright overwhelming effect of producing a stylish, slickest and dark comedic movie for director Michael Davis in this film.

The movie does not waste any single moment. Right from the get go, the killing fest starts in all gory fashion. We see a lone guy, Smith (Clive Owen) as he calls himself eating carrots, minding his own business when he sees a pregnant lady being followed by a violent guy. He goes in when he realizes that the guy is ready to kill her. Smith has total control over the situation and kills the guy. The opening shooting scene interested me. There were some thought put into the stunt to execute it in style and presence of mind. But it keeps going on and on and on and on and on…..and you just want to shoot yourself (Strike one for my sarcasm in using “shoot”).

I am always up for ridiculously entertaining movies. The first step to all movies like this is to place itself in that genre. They do it excellently. Within instances, everyone will realize how and where this is headed. They need to choose a location and can start firing bullets flagrantly. Secondly, they should not burn their fingers or in this case, shoot their foot (Strike two for my sarcasm in using “shoot” again). They should play it secure and safe. They should not overkill the advantage that’s been created. It’s been neglected, destroyed after the first 15 minutes.

The film gets the right music. Modern and grunge is the answer. And then we get to see the voluptuous Monica Belluci. Do not even start me on the shooting sequence at the end of their love making. Everyone knows where everyone is hiding. Conveniently when they do not want them to know, they do not know it. I totally forgot about Paul Giamatti as Mr. Hertz, the nemesis who in all way does not suit up the bad guy one-liners well. He has the evil crazy eyes but the dialogues do not help him. I am surprised how come talented brilliant actors like Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti take roles like this. Sure they want to have fun and deliver something different, but something with no scope for their talents questions me to ask their view on it.

I did enjoy parts of the movie. There is the material for an entertainer. There is couple of stunts which were good. I would not blame the stunt choreographer for the rest of shoot outs which sucked because a movie is a combination of everything and the shooting content alone shouldering everything in it does not help him. They had the right intention and the right view on giving it but faltered miserably in weaving it together. The good one-liners get submerged in the extreme noise of gun shots.

There would have been around three hundred killings, thousand bullets and tanks of blood out of this. The final reuniting scene is even more ridiculous. In my native language, there are heroes who do extremely stupid stunts which defy all the dynamics of gravity and elemental forces of earth. Things which were sent as a forwarded mail making fun of those by the author of that mail spoof of them in funny impossible nonsensical manner. With author unknown, the following is the spoof of one such shooting scene. Hero is behind the wall and he knows two shooters are on the other side. Hero has two guns and hence throws one gun up and shoots the trigger and kills the bad guys over the other side. Now let me tell you, there is a gun stunt which makes this one sane. I keep wondering whether Michael Davis got that mail to choreograph this stunt.

"3:10 to Yuma" (2007) - Movie Review

Western movies have its genre of entertainment in its own way. I have not watched much of it but “3:10 to Yuma” begs me to watch the original and all other western natured movies. With fine actors Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, the movie is intense, darkly comedic and rides on a pace of a determined cruise speed. There are serious discussions of discomfort for both the main characters in the movie. Being honest gets tested and takes a close shave to be on the other side of the plain. The firings miss here and there but overall, a movie worth watching.

The movie is a remake of 1957 popular flick of the same name. The story is the excruciating continuous attack of Ben Wade’s (Russell Crowe) gang members led by Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) to get him out of the custody of the people who wants him to be board to the train 3:10 to Yuma where he will be hanged to death. The people involves the Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda), Rail road head Mr. Butterfield (Dallas Roberts), Doc Potter (Alan Tudyk), and Dan Evans (Christian Bale).

Dan Evans is a veteran of Civil War. Having lost one leg in the battle he needs to find money so that he can save his house and survive to see the greeneries come and cattle prospering. His son William (Logan Lerman) does not think high of Dan. He respects but is slowly withering away due to poverty boding towards the family. He also believes that his dad is not brave enough to go ahead and shoot the people who do bad things to him. Dan is a man of honesty. He believes on the law and his frustration towards his incapability to bring his family good fortune goes high. He meets eye to eye with Ben Wade during an initial encounter and later helps him in making him stay for a while in the bar till the official gets to arrest him. Byron having a long history with Ben Wade definitely knows that his gang is going to come after them. He asks for volunteers and Dan uses this opportunity to bring nice money to the family. Then starts the intense psychological moments between Ben and Dan.

Director James Mangold’s visual of Western town is novel and authentic. The costumes especially of the characters stand out. Ben with the charm and decency with devilish inside, Charlie closed and tightened up with sharp caps and Dan with his simple nature adds in to the characters. What a wonderful actors are Russell Crowe and Christian Bale to have that chemistry of distress. Ben always trying to play with Dan’s mind while Dan knowing that keeping himself contained and also showing the correct treatment when needed is one thing which make this movie for its dark clever comedic piece.

The film is going to make a very nice entertainment and performances. Yet I have something being missed out of it. Especially the finale wherein the eventuality of Ben and Dan understanding each other. They are in the opposite side in everything. Ben does show some nice sides of him but it all aims to his own safety and security. Dan is a person of truth, justice and honesty. It is not surprising if Ben is getting revived up due to him but there is not enough scenes to have them seal it. With solid two days along Dan, it is definitely believable for some one to develop a respect for him, even if its an outlaw like Ben but there is the void of emotion when it seem the respect is more and Ben does unthinkable as an outlaw. While the screenplay heightens the moment of 3:10 in to the audience, the expectation created by them is not met to have a deserving finish.

With that said, “3:10 to Yuma” has more positive factors to have it to be viewed. It has the brilliance wickedness of a character in Ben by Crowe and watch for the scene of Bale as Dan letting his emotions off with his wife Alice (Gretchen Mol) before they head out with Ben. Two top class performances in a movie for all opportunity in the midst of bullets rain. But there is one another character which was so interesting and mystical. That is Charlie Prince portrayed by Ben Foster. He showcases the perfect outlaw style and elegance. The way he holds the gun to keep in his holster is something to be remembered. And his acute angry eyes and the rare smile of cruelty promise a lot more of terrific performances from him in future.

“3:10 to Yuma” leaves you wanting more of intense conversation between Ben and Dan. The action sequences are ordinary. Some where in the middle, the director contemplated on whether to take it as an action or drama and mingled the both. It is a good technique. Something similar worked for “Midnight Run” which blended action, comedy and even drama. There when Jack played by Robert De Niro and Duke played by Charles Grodin share a moment in the end, it is genuine. Out here when Ben and Dan share a moment there is a moment being missed. When Ben respects Dan, we push us to act emotional on it. That is not due to the screenplay but the respect we ourselves have created towards Dan which acts on us. While Bale wins in that, Mangold for a moment lost the control.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"Finding Neverland" (2004) - Movie Review

Imagination is the reflection of the reality in its elemental way of displaying sorrow and happiness. We employ this kind of technique while attending a boring lecture. Kidding. Well no, of course I used this technique to pass on those terrible lectures. Imagination is the seed of the art in any form in this world of human defined “realities” and “practicalities”. The identification of adulthood is the murder of those creative powers in the kid’s mind. Many of us fall in to this trap and tie the string of denial to see the truth. Sir James Mathew Barrie (Johnny Depp) is a man who loosens that string and flies through his wings of passion and unhurt humour.

Barrie is the author of the famous play and creator of the character Peter Pan. I have not seen the play or the movie or read the story. Quite unimaginative myself I guess and another adult in the making. The movie is how the author fancied and grew closer to a widow Sylvia Llewyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four kids Jack (Joe Prospero), George (Nick Roud), Michael (Luke Spill) and of course the inspiration for his character Peter Pan, Peter (Freddie Highmore). His fun filled days with them structures into a play of identifying the child in every one of us.

Johnny Depp gives the Barrie who is funny, cheerful and always looks out for small subtleties of joy in the downtrodden society of routine. He watches his very own play with no confidence at the start. He looks out the reaction of audiences peeking through the door screen. He is out of confidence but full of freshness. Ironically he cannot transform that into his relationship. His wife Mary (Radha Mitchell) sleeps in her own room. They do not fight or Barrie is not interested in that. He prefers dullness over aggravation. He prefers to be an invisible ghost as imagination is all his. Both do not understand what missed in their marriage but slowly start to believe the eventualities.

When I watched the movie, there are those ensembles of events which cover everything in the story. It is a story of failing writer, a desolated single mother, unexplained emotion of power over her daughter in a mother, a miscommunication in a relationship and a key to the doors of imaginations. Everything falls into pieces in front and in the back ground. Nothing takes a single stage to shun the remaining stories to decline. Everything happens and happens in a mellowed and enjoyable manner. Even the grief, anger and sorrow are measured to closest precision without any spikes of melodrama.

The movie is colourful not in its visual but in the beauty of the realities Barrie defines. The definition which he manages to carry it along and also able to spread it to a family which are in dire needs of it. “Finding Neverland” is a movie which appears to be targeted towards particular set of audience. The truth is that it directs in every one and no one. It passes to every one in the sense of identifying the child in every one and also identifying adult in every one. It tells that being adult is advancement in imagining better in acknowledging the sense of it. Every one says that, “Aahh! I wish I was a kid now” and forget the kid in them. When we are kids we want to grow up faster and as an adult stay younger forever. Time flows and drags us into the wells of termed “reality”. The movie asks us flow along with it but you should not see it as “reality” but something more and cheerful as it is. It is a call to our inner self on unveiling the tightness in us and flies towards sky.

The writing is what makes this tale of social boredom into …a fairy tale. The screenplay and the dialogues take away the tension in every sequence as peaceful and are unusually funny too. Take this instance when Barrie meets Mary in his opening show of his play. He asks her, how is she and she says fine. She asks how he is and the reply Barrie gives as “I am sorry”. The scene with the uneasiness Mary expresses when Barrie comes in home to find her talking with a man at a late time is powerful and entertaining as well. Beyond that the performance of Depp is terrifically soft. He is consistent in his expressions and controlled in his demeanors. He seems to underplay and sizzles us with the positive energy of Barrie. Winslet supports him in all way possible to elevate the excellence in the screenplay.

Director Marc Forster is a man of powerful touch of adaptation. He mellowed and dangled with unusual emotions of unsettled lives in “Monster’s Ball” and here he rejuvenates the soul of every one with the same unsettled life. His mastery of story telling varies but maintains the essence of it quite flagrantly. I am yet to see his acclaimed “Stranger Than Fiction”. I was not that much impressed with his “Stay” but very much expect his couple of forthcoming ventures. “Bond 22” will be a breathtaking approach by him on our toughened up spy while “The Kite Runner” is the adaptation of the famous book by Khaled Hosseini.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"The Good Girl" (2002) - Movie Review

If clueless can take a form in a person, then it would be Justine (Jennifer Anniston) in “The Good Girl”. As a cosmetic sales girl in a retail shop of a remote town with nothing happening around it, she is some where in the mid life crisis at the age of thirty. Her husband Phil (John C. Reily) is a stoner at home and a house painter outside of it. I can imagine the town in the movie. Nothing happens with same people over and over again. It is peaceful but in boring known way. And before you know, there is the addiction created by it. You are trapped and institutionalized. You hate the town but still cannot leave it. With enough characters of routine written over them, one can drown into the path of continues mistakes with no redemption. Sounds like an ultimate recipe for an emotional dry independent movie and yes it is. They give a very nice well made movie with nothing coming out of it.

Justine is a character I would not want to run into. It is usual to be confused and do mistakes. The process of it gets ingrained in her that she does not realize what she is doing. She does not understand the consequence or rather denies it. The action on her instincts with confirmed results of damage constantly tempts and succeeds in doing it. Justine bored out of her life starts an affair with a young co-worker, Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he calls himself. He is lost and clueless too. With plastic parents at his house, he too is in a process of doing mistakes. This commonality brings them closer and some where both of them believe that it will be great. While Holden is living in his dreamland of nice endings, Justine is caught up in between her conscience and temptation. Anniston’s Justine is shockingly convincing. The character wanders with selfish motive. There is no redemption in this and yet she continues doing it. She is going to live with the wrong doings for rest of her life but the director does not think so though. It is not a happy ending but a totally unfair ending.

These are the movies which puzzles me at conscience level. As such the making and presentation of the movie is a job well done but the content out of it is not encouraging. Some times I wonder why would some one want to make a movie which only portrays all the negativity in a character and coming out clean with no redemption being extremely unfair and disturbing. Justine works sleeps and dreams over her lies. In fact her affair is a big lie as such. Her husband is some one who has placed and convinced himself as the happy guy properly settled. He does not understand her zeal for something out of ordinary, and it is true. But does he deserve this treatment from her? Not alone the affair but even after the revealing of it, she keeps on feeding him lies. And the only good thing coming out of this is benefiting Justine. What are they trying to tell out here?

My nook and corner analysis of conscience in a movie may appear overdone but as I have said in my various reviews, a movie can be negative which should kindle the opposite, meaning something good coming out of it. Justine and the surrounding characters invoke bland and boring contradictions in life with no solution and fake happiness. They preach that a person like Justine can be clueless and selfish enough to hurt everyone around her with getting out clean as well.

The movie runs some very nice funny moments. The supporting cast brings in some deep and intense moments. Especially the friend of Phil, Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson) who we realize has idolized Phil. Surprising what people make out of other people and it surprised me as it does to Justine. Jack (John Caroll Lynch), a manager with an unusual way of mourning his employee’s deaths, couple of other workers, Gwen (Deborah Rush), Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel) and Corny (Mike White) to scare Justine in different way possible forms the crux of the horror routine life she goes through.

“The Good Girl” is a finely made piece with no heart. It acts like it has a heart at times which is more towards hypocritical. We are confused on whether to sympathize, like or hate Justine. The emotion it kindles is a bland composure of mixed sickness. Director Miguel Arteta delivers a good movie with a story of no conscience posing as a bag full of empathizing guilt over Justine. Did I say before that the movie is hypocritical?