Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"In the Shadow of the Moon" (Documentary) (2007) - Movie Review

How did you feel? This is the eternal question which every time some one does different, I mean totally different and out of the world, any one would ask. How did they feel? How did you felt? And honestly how does any one remember the way they felt when that wondrous occasion happened? Even when the surviving members of the NASA team of the Apollo series of mission to moon tell that, it is feeling so small to be negligent but something for once in the history of humans shared equally all over the world when they went through and set their foot on another world.

This is a documentary which would be a treasure for the science enthusiasts. We get to see the rare and unimaginable clips of the pictures and motion pictures taken by the astronauts and by the NASA during the missions. It is an experience to view those and get the feeling to see hanging desolated and serene particle is our earth suspended as a light in the darkness of space. The dashing blue of the ocean, white clouds of heaven shying the brown rugged beauty of land are seen from a distance only very few encountered in this era of humans. For that, David Sington directed “In the Shadow of the Moon” is something to be vaulted into the everlasting journey of humans. As a documentary film, it just might tip your patience around the mid and the final ten minutes regains control to unite us as it supposed to into the interesting and moving reminder of our existence.

The up close shots of those men seeps pleasantly their emotions through their wrinkled expressions to straighten up in delight, passion and nostalgic. The film is a good thing for once to sit back and look at those times. The precious times when for political drive and scientific thirst, lot of people sat for their own and for others, country and earth to build umpteen rockets, lost people and still kept on going to do something which marked humans as one for once. Technology as our lives and body has taken to be granted now a day. There is a sense of those when we see the documentary and especially when Alan Bean tells that it is good that we have weather. It is good to breathe, it is good to see people, it is good to buy an ice cream and enjoy it while melts. It is good to be alive and write this.

Despite brining the feeling they anticipated, the documentary loses the grip in the midst of the details of the step by step journey of the first ever landing on the moon. The men who patiently, modestly and quite openly admitting what they went through and what they did not as many would assume, is a clean feel of air in a documentary where there are possibilities of making it a reality drama. But it should not have elongated more than seventy five minutes. I wonder why even after giving me the satisfaction of something invisibly appealing, it fell short. May be I have started to take technology for granted more than I supposed to. The feel of instantly reaching any one anywhere in this world has mesmerized me in to the sweet curvature of fantasy land where to get amused by these things go flat and steady after a while. But this is a movie to be cherished for the epic voyage it gives us and to take the times of those moments when the whole world watching the TV for those steps in to the foreign body indeed brings goose pumps.

They did address what I wanted more of. The feeling out there of being one and alone and appreciate the stillness of that unknown surface, the entire population can only imagine while those few felt it for real. They tangentially touch it but not dig deep into it. I would have also loved to see how much their life changed. I did not ask for a dramatic movie but to finally conclude that they are humans and they did something no one could ever do. Quite true, but every one could not do everything and punctuating that along with their post Apollo 11 experience in further would have given another dimension. But I will not complain much as I generally will for most other movies which gave some sluggishness, for the fact that I am alive and breathing and will cherish it as Alan Bean says.

Monday, October 29, 2007

"The Marriage of Maria Braun" (Language - German/English) (1979) - Movie Review

Even if bad acting and untold emotional rattling is forgiven, “The Marriage of Maria Braun” the first in the BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland, official name of West Germany) trilogy of director Rainer Werner Fassbinder does not fill in good memories of a good cinema. In Germany, a nation surviving the war and a country to be rebuilt from scratch, one woman desperately tries to build a life for her so determined that she goes cold and numb which becomes a self destructive exercise in forgetting the real intended purpose for her survival, love. The film let down by some bad acting and a screenplay of dullness, negativity and no soul is dead in most of its frames.

Maria Braun (Hanna Schygulla) amidst the bombs and bullets marries Hermann Braun (Klaus Löwitsch). The marriage lasts for half a day and a full night which still lasts forever for Maria. She hopefully goes to train station every day to get a word from Hermann posted in war front. The currency is just a paper now and things which are remotely useful or for pleasure becomes the money. But we do not feel the real intensity of it since the protagonist is emotionless. She remains rigid to the happenings around and which does not mean she is happy. She wants to live a wealthy life along with her husband. Even upon learning that he is dead from Hermann’s friend, Willi (Gottfried John) who returns and rejoins with Maria’s friend Betti (Elisabeth Trissenaar). This is a crucial scene when it happens. While she is happy for her friend, she is broken down to nothing by the loss of a reason for her living. Hanna Schygulla an unusual beauty falls flat which marks the start of a suicidal script with a bad casting.

An obsessed person over a life of future of herself and her husband, she pursues with an African American army official Bill (George Eagles) and in fact gets pregnant with his baby. If in 2001 disaster “Pearl Harbor”, the dead character of Ben Affleck can return with asinine predictability, then the 1979 German movie has all the right in the world to have it. Hermann returns and that’s when things goes bad to worse when Maria kills Bill (may be she wanted to hurt him to make Bill leave the grip over Hermann). Schygulla again does not capitalize the anchoring point of the film with confidence and emotion.

It is not that she cannot act because the film uplifts specifically during her encounter with Mr. Oswald (Ivan Desny), a French Businessman she meets in train and advances her career through him. We get that she is straight as an arrow in affairs and blunt to bludgeon him with unexpected rude truths. She knows what she wants in per se of sexuality and her love belongs to only person, Hermann. She surprises with giving Maria a definition of whom really is she. We come to know her blind love for her husband and while she does not tell to Oswald, she makes it clear of the so called relationship they have. The twenty minutes of it is the only true honest moment the director spends the film with us and more than that is the tenure when Schygulla is convincing and good in her Maria.

It is a dreadful position to be in a place torn down with a non-existent economy or future to rely upon. To have a dream like Maria had is an honest ambition. It is also sad that to survive and to achieve it, she needs to pass on through the men but what I do not understand is the missing face of Hermann. He does show her love by taking the blame for Bill’s murder but even through the bad acting of Schygulla we see the relentless and desperate love she has for Hermann but we don’t even see the slightest hint of it in Hermann. A failed chemistry glaringly shows the bland screenplay further to its crawling demise. There are good things to say about the film too. Camera work and the angles of the placement along with its movement with the characters are catchy and try to enhance the positions of each personality in that scene. The only supporting role which remains true to its character and performance is Ivan Desny as Oswald. A man trying hard to find his last days to be filled in peace and pleasure from a woman filled with bitter and pain.

This film and the next two movies in the trilogy are supposed to be iconic in the play of women in the building up of West Germany as it is said. I sympathized with Maria and all of them to live through the post war trauma of finding hard for a social life and coming to an existence of importance in a shattered world. I was able to do that after the movie was over and when I read about the scenarios of the situations they were in. I did not sympathize for the route Maria took and fall into the depths of lost personality. Unfortunately reading about it does not invoke the same feeling. The film’s failure bodes up high and clear for that.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Dan in Real Life" (2007) - Movie Review

I had some doubts on how Steve Carell is going to differentiate himself from his previous films and also from TV series, “The Office”. His mannerisms and face comics especially in situations of embarrassments or awkward scenes were the reasons behind it. He makes “Dan in Real Life” more worth watching till the end which loses its tracks and falls for the stereotype ending the Hollywood now has materialized and seasoned the audiences to expect and relish upon. Anything new is good and new for considerable amount of repetition loses its shine and interest.

Director Peter Hedges gets us to know Dan (Steve Carell) so fast that we sympathize without much knowing about him. He is a widower with two teenage daughters Jane (Alison Pill) and Cara (Brittany Robertson) and their baby sister Lilly (Marlene Lawtson). Dealing with kids is as such a painful complexity of parenting and with teenagers it just gets more tangled. And they are girls and as a father and mainly as a man, he knows other men of their age. I can assume may be not literally of not being a parent but on some level the empathy of a single father and his horror imagination of his daughter with another boy. He knows the boy and his thoughts, because he was him at one point of time. But what he does not know is that the girls are growing and it is life. You can be watchful but being over protective is going to move the kids away. As soon as they think they are adult, handling them as an adult is not feasible but making them understand the traits of adult hood as they get to see the world is something Dan need to learn on. The kids in their school days as generally think that their father is completely devoid of love; Dan’s daughters are no different, especially Cara who strongly believes she has found her true love in his school mate, Marty (Felipe Dieppa).

He works as an advice columnist moving on grieving for his lost love, his wife. And at the edge of his career advancement, the last thing is his daughters not liking him. They go for their regular yearly get together with his parents, brothers and sisters in Rhode Island. With everyone in the tender care of their loved ones, Dan is confined and located in a laundry room with the washing machines rambling. Left alone, disliked by his kids, he is tired and sad. He goes to get newspapers and bumps into Marie (Juliette Binoche) who flows herself up so fast to Dan (thinking he is the book store guy) but lets him speak once they sit for coffee. Dan desolated by every one not intentionally but seeing people happy remind him of how much he misses it finds love. He does not believe it as we would not either. He gets her number knowing she is in a relationship but hopes to know more about her some day. He is revived and mainly being wanted. He is happy to have a conversation where one listens. May be his brothers, sisters and parents do not want to rekindle the trauma and with Marie as a stranger, he feels fine. To twist the tale and really understand him, situation cracks up Marie turning out to be the girl friend of Dan’s brother, Mitch (Dane Cook). Whether it is true love for both of them within this small span of time is explored and confirmed only to make the situation awkward, broken and finally ending it in a silly formulaic fashion.

I loved the first forty five minutes. And Sondre Lerche’s songs are fitting and the café mood for a holiday feel the film has. Here is the guy who is trying to do his best for his kids and after a long time really wanted to be loved. We sincerely and truly sympathize for Dan. His brothers and sisters are busy with their lives and Marie in front of him teases not sexually which would have been the immediate option for any story like this but her gelling up with the family. It is a strange thing how an advice columnist in the middle of desperation is lost but every one is human. Dan is in tight position and no one to talk to which is why he wants to remind himself of his kids, but they are at the stage of opting for Marie or any others than Dan. Tangled in between he turns out to his niece and nephews who are 4-6 years old and talks his feelings in a general context which even his fourth grade daughter understands and asks him whether he is ok. He is not.

It is understandable for the eccentric outbursts of Dan not able to see his love going away with his brother and fitting with the family. It should have been him than his brother. He deserves that and the audience knows that. Things go in an auto pilot mode when Marie acts strange too. There could have been different methods for her to react on Dan’s connection but she opts to be jealous in a strange fashion not fitting her character. The problem is that we know Dan but we know very little about Marie who misses those targets of silliness and childishness which was perfect on Dan.

Another let down is both him and his kids end up not making truce with each other in a way it supposed to. Here is their father drained and drenched in misery of loneliness and affectionless scenario in his worst part of life of dealing with his daughters’ growing up, they just do not tie the knot. It is a story of Dan finding his love and facing the fact of his daughters’ plane of growing up along with them. It leads us to that but only addresses his love but finishes it in hurried fashion compromising the honesty of the first forty five minutes.

Why does films need to pair up every one and make feel some one deserve or not deserve something instantaneously? Mitch seems to find his true soul mate with Marie as much as Dan. The film does not want him either to be sad face or deserving. They finish him with an unwanted pairing up. When for Dan, we feel he deserves the love, we still know it is not the right way and the film says it and with Mitch it is a customary wrapping up of things. “Dan in Real Life” holds up for Steve Carell and for the first hour, but tumbles upon for formula in the end. People will not face a disappointed ending but leave with an unsatisfied smile.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"We Own the Night" (2007) - Movie Review

I was cleanly stumped by how much the plot thickened and surprised me as the movie progressed. It is good to see a film daring to market something else and contains a package of different substance in it. I was expecting a tug of war in between two brothers separated by the law which have been played brilliantly in lot of Indian movies mainly the Bollywood’s “Diwar” and the remake of it in Tamil, “Thee”. It is quite co-incidental that I was talking about these movies with a friend of mine, Karthik. Well it is nothing like that while I would have wanted but it has other factors to make it a good movie.

It takes a veteran actor like Robert Duvall as Burt Grusinsky and two well matured actors like Joaquin Phoenix as Bobby Green and Mark Wahlberg as Joseph Grusinsky to generate the heat in between them without any foundation of these three characters’ history. Bobby does not want to be linked with a cop family to climb up the ladder of profits and running a club for his boss, Marat Buzhuyev (Moni Moshonov). He takes his Mother’s last name to separate as much as possible from his family. The movie is set during 1988 at Brooklyn, New York which apart from cars and the drug flow does not need much of period or location. Bobby with his girl friend Amada (Eva Mendes) is setting up a foundation for a family as his own. With Joseph as his cop brother and dad Burt being so proud of Joe following his foot steps, he is an outsider. One cannot blame Burt when his son and his girl friend inhaling pot before entering the honorary function for Joseph. But it runs more than that when Bobby is warned and asked about the information of a Russian gangster Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov) visiting his club. Already being looked down and humiliated, he discards them and goes on his own. Bobby and Joseph clearly strike each other for attention of their father and it gets the height when Bobby is busted and erupts. This is the part where the story could have been taken anywhere and especially as advertised. They surprise us.

Phoenix has acquired this talent over the period of time to make himself comfortable in Bobby. He knows that he has been in the wrong foots with his family and takes responsibility for the happenings. He starts as an underdog and ends as some one else. His transformation from a coke snorting club manager into a different personality is more of his performance than a screenplay. Wahlberg with his punching foul mouthed Dignam in “The Departed” shows a different cop Joseph. He gets less screen time but it is the steam he generates with Phoenix which makes us to build up their history by ourselves. We believe that Joseph had everything right with his father. In the span of getting his attention he might have overstepped his brother. We do not know but we can feel it. Two things got missed though. Eva Mendes as Amada was only used as an intimacy for Bobby than support and mainly I would have liked few more scenes of Joseph and Bobby confiding and facing the history which has led them out there.

There are two terrific scenes which brought me closer in anxiety and tension. The drug bust and the rainy car scene which nailed and broke the traditional handling of those sequences which are gripping and tense in every moment of it. The film sustains by the performance and may be that is the reason at the end of it, we feel a little void. The plot which thickened so hard and engrossing failed to capitalize on the bond in between these brothers who had their way different but need to come in terms for a common goal. Robert Duvall at his class forming the bridge in between the two has his moments with Phoenix of comfort and care which explains a lot about the mood of change he shows. He does not believe in Bobby and when he sees it in him, we see the difference.

Director James Gray is good in materializing his talent in the right manner but does not quite finish it as punching and polishing. The terror the character of Vadim should have been propelled even more. Bobby fears as hell and we know why for the reputation Vadim has created but we miss it at the crucial moment. The suspense as the Hollywood has come up with now is no more of suspense than a guessing game. Out here they do not at least play open games of that sort but use it as a nice finish for a full circle of events. I would have loved to see Phoenix and Wahlberg crack, curse and produce that the love they shared for their father is mutual. It ends in that way but not the way it moves you. It brings the regular ritualistic smile for a movie like this.

"The Darjeeling Limited" (2007) - Movie Review

Wes Anderson finds his rhythm in “The Darjeeling Limited”. The reaction for “Rushmore” was confusing on accepting that I got entertainment but not able to completely accept it. In “The Royal Tennenbaums”, it got extended further more and yet Wes Anderson along with Owen Wilson perplexed me. If a character is mean, how can you gift wrap it and provide as a syllable for a film as a word? These guys have the answer and “Rushmore”, “The Royal Tennenbaums” has seasoned me on what to see in their films. Entering with that premise, I was thinking whether a first timer of this experience would have the same fun I had. I am positive about their enjoyment.

With the short film opening of “Hotel Chevalier” which is marked as Part 1 for the main feature, the feel of the horizontal camera movement boosted to look forward a cool, funny yet substantial film of a kind. In “Hotel Chevalier” we meet Jack (Jason Schwartzman) having himself to hanging on to his ex-girlfriend (Natalie Portman) and we come to know it is vice-versa. Still these two know their relationship is in a non-survival stage. The zing of the break-up and the nostalgia of it are visible in both of them. It does not make it difficult to understand the main feature if the small film is missed but the information and picture of knowing what happened to Jack amplifies the joy and how different it is going to be for him in the end of the film.

Francis (Owen Wilson) has a control issue which we come to know he inherited from his mother (Angelica Houston). He calls on his brother Jack and Peter (Adrien Brody) to go on a spiritual cum personal explorative journey in India. As soon as they meet and greet each other, we do wonder why they need to invent their connection and revive their lost brotherhood. They look fine and appreciate each other. Soon we come to know the reality over their smoke and drink session. No one trusts each other. Jack and Peter have some kind of trust but they break it in the journey. They sure need a reconnection and more than that they need to grow up from age 15. They are competitive in such a high school kid fashion. The way they discuss their “being raised” and the gauging of their attachment towards their father tells us how lost they are. But more importantly than that is we get to know how much they have been disconnected from each other in these years.

As much as we get to know their personal relationship in question for Jack and Peter, we never know Francis. May be he got into this lock hold of loneliness and wanted to bond to the only two people in the world who can understand him and of all unconsciously like to be controlled. Wes Anderson’s character are a touch of fantasy of dysfunctional nature but the human value they emote in the unpredicted circumstances make them come to earth with the possibilities of their existence. Francis has bigger agenda than the spiritual reconnection. That is to meet their mother who has shredded off the relationship and hard enough to not come for the funeral of her husband and these three kid’s fatherhood hero. Brendan (Wallace Wolodarsky) who is the personal assistant in the depths of other part of train for Francis wonders why Francis asks again and again whether she knows and is aware of their arrival. Francis says, “What if she does not wants to see us?” and Brendan still wondering, “She is your mother”. This is the believability Anderson creates. While it is astonishing to have an assistant being as controlled for the lonely man in an alien land in a train, he gives these lines to promote the inner enigma of doubts in his characters which are facts for many.

The merchandise which identifies a character is another inventive and independent piece of his film making Anderson brings in. This is not a “Lost in Translation” and the Indian back ground just provides a background of its taste and blend of classical and cultural spiciness reflecting this strange and interesting personalities. As Roger Ebert mentions about the character of Rita (Amara Karan, who by the way gives a short and impressive performance) in his review about how the screenwriters managed remove the stereotypic samples of Indian people, I got reminded of my view as such being an Indian. Indeed I was surprised and kind of doubted the possibility of a character that can have a boy friend. And also instinctive and “non-Indian” enough to be intimate with an American in a train rest room. You know what, I have said to my American friends that sex seem to be a matter of taboo in India especially pre-marital is looked upon as a crime but it happens without notice and now a day seeing the story of the movies coming out in India, it is surfacing. Rita is real and I believe it.

Anderson’s execution of his style is pitch-perfect and addresses many colours which were present in his previous films but missed the soul. Here he collects the roots of his creativity and blends in properly with this performance by three estranged and aloof characters of his previous films. They remind those fanciful mean fantasy people existing in a world Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson created for them. The dynamics and the properties of emotional gravity varied on the control of their screenplay. In “The Darjeeling Limited”, Anderson with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman bring them to the real world and mix them in there where those laws do no longer exist. The characters does not know it and behave to their honesty which is what makes this movie come out of the screen and speak with us jovially, mean and sometimes enlightening as well.

"Red Beard" (Language - Japanese) (1965) - Movie Classics

It has been nine months I watched “Red Beard” one another classic master piece of Akira Kurosawa. And during these nine months, I have tried writing a review for it and never got it completed. Not that it failed to grip me but the enormity of the film’s numerous stories and facets of changing faces has often left me looking for words. I write this on my fourth sitting and still not sure whether I will be able to complete it. Let me make an attempt to cover the entirety of the film.

Films extracting the tough and delicate environment of a hospital have the arduous task of assembling the life sufferings, pain and the joy of coming out of terrible physical and mental conditions. There are movies dealing with doctors solving complex conditions, cracking up a tough patient and the tragedy. “Red Beard” involves those but it directly relates to the social conditions and the cruelty done to the society. Innocent beings getting tortured and mutilated for the materialistic profits are liberated in this film. And I am not talking about the patients but the young doctor who learns life and knowledge is more than reputation and materials.

Dr. Noboru Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama) is a youth with the zeal but the absence of patience. He enters the hospital run by Dr. Kyojio Niide (Toshirô Mifune) known popularly as Red Beard. Dr. Niide is a strict and disciplined person. He is bold and at any point of time not hesitant to tell what he thinks. He knows the process of how a new person gets indicted in an environment of this kind. Dr. Yasumoto is immediately dejected and frustrated by the actions of Dr. Niide. He refuses to function and opts for being stubborn. In between the time he is about to settle, the doctor who Dr. Yasumoto replaces bad mouths about Dr. Niide. This propels the uneasiness and the tough environment the hospital poses over him. Dr. Yasumoto is head strong due to his knowledge over the material of medical treatments. But he gets the real tinge of how realistically brutal is the line of physical treatment. He goes unconscious when Dr. Niide and his associate try to operate a female without anesthesia.

This is the initial hour and half of battle between Dr. Niide and Dr. Yasumoto. The remaining part of the movie deals with how slowly the young doctor understands the passion and commitment Dr. Niide has over his job which ignites the same in him. He feels inferior to have opted to run out of the hospital to be the personal physician of Shogunate. While it seems that this movie is only about the issue of a young doctor discovering his ability and application of it, the film focuses on social and philosophical issues in depth. The emotions and the world of uncertainty are exposed. The story of love and dedication is stamped in various sequences. Kurosawa even deals with the delicate subject of infatuation. Dr. Yasumoto rescues a girl, Otoyo (Terumi Niki) from the streets and saves her from the miserable position of being in a brothel by a crude old lady. In a movie when we think a character is in love, hate with subtlety of expressions, we look for other characters to tell those. Here Kurosawa uses the nurses and people who work in the hospital. They taunt among them on the girl’s jealousy when the doctor looks for other female of his own age.

Kurosawa does not waste any of these people laying, wandering the center of hopes, desolation and death. There is person facing his death and has earned the respect of the other entire patient when he is taken to his home for his last breath. He painfully confides on the loss and desperation he had in the minimal life he spent. Similarly the small kid who comes stealing and falls in friendship of the Otoyo and how he is lacerated and wounded by the depths of poverty of society through those two innocent eyes but has seen the worst scenario.

This obsession towards nature of Kurosawa is an exhibition of his characteristic. The season and rain are the elements he uses with an acquired and born mix of skill and implementation. As per the story and the narration the weather alters itself not in a sense of awareness the audience might create but fitting in a perfect sensible anchor for the scene. And the conviction and reasoning for the actions of characters he gives completes them. Dr. Yasumoto learning the complete person of Dr. Niide, we have this knowledge well ahead than him. Not because we are given the details of Dr. Niide, in fact we get to know completely along with Yasumoto but it is the situation of the hospital. One who would opt to stay in the heart of illness and sorrow with small to no hope towards amenities and survival of a patient, it is the will, courage and humanism in this steel bodied acerbic character. We make judgments but positive view towards the characters which has those. The closure is full circle and it is not formulaic but justified.

Every Kurosawa’s movie is punctuated by the performance of Toshirô Mifune and here it is accentuated by the entire cast. The supporting roles have their time of independence to have their screen and they improvise it well. After nine months, I do not exactly remember every detail of the film but the trembling tragic moment of the kid with a face inscribed into the viewer’s heart is still visible clear. My attempt may not have covered the spectrum of omnipresent emotions in film running over three hours but managed to retain one solid image to give the readers a gist of the presentation which is the kid’s face of defeated and melancholic tragedy. Kurosawa produces one or more images of this sort in his every film.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"The Tin Drum" (Language - Hebrew / Italian / German / Polish / Russian)(1979) - Movie Review

Now I stand here to bluntly and quite harshly I have ever been to a movie and it is been adapted from a literary legacy of post war scenario of the same name, “The Tin Drum” by Günter Grass. While the infamous scene of the actor David Bennent who was 11 years old at the time the movie was made playing Oskar involving in oral sex and an intercourse scene which of course shocked me and left me as sick as possible, I was sincerely hoping that he is a grown up dwarf and as expected I was disappointed and angry too. But the problem started way before that.

Narrated in a shrill and creepy voice, the film starts with Oskar’s Grandmother Anna (played young Anna by Tina Engel and elderly by Berta Drews) protecting their grandfather while hiding in her four skirts from the police impregnates her too. If that is bizarre, then we see Anna’s daughter and Oskar’s mother Agnes (Angela Winkler) married to an older man than her, Alfred (Mario Adarf) without any difficulty sleeping with her cousin Jan (Daniel Olbrychski) who is polish. When Oskar pushes himself out of the womb not ready to face the world, the only thing which keeps him growing is his mother’s promise of getting him a tin drum on his third birthday. He becomes three and gets his tin drum which he plays irritatingly at times when peace is necessary. He sees the ugly world of his mother and how the noisy and corrupted world is. He decides not to grow and remain three. This is the magical realism style of the book and the movie adapts along with it. The film then takes on to boringly, disgustingly and shockingly explains the life of Oskar and his life of being of no growth, physically.

I had lots of problems with the film. For starters it is how insensitive and boorish the entire characters in it are. No one shows signs of love, affection or care at any moment. It in fact looked as a misanthropic movie. It is not that sociopaths wander but how cold and dark the characters are. They smile but it is not real. They cheer but it frightens us. There is no level of comfort whatsoever in any of the characters. Even Agnes’ and the sixteen year old Maria’s (Katharina Thalbach, who actually was twenty four when the movie was made) slight affection towards Oskar do not appear altruistic. The movie well before the shocking sexual scenes easily becomes creepy and sick. I am not being judgmental about looks but David Bennent’s expression and the character of Oskar scared me to hell. The evil eyes and the scream he shouts with his face and voice is so sinister, nightmarish and threatening. While it might be an accolade for the actor, it freaked me out for the entire film time. He rarely talks and when he does, we hope he remains calm and threaten us instead. The mood is dark and downing. In its mellow form of crawling pace of characters, it sickens us mainly due to the characters being insolent and cold. We see the toy shop owner Markus (Charles Aznavour) with an untold desire for Agnes during her Thursday visits leaving Oskar to him and passionately pursue her sexual desires with Jan. And when Agnes decides to eat tons of fish which she disgusts to punish herself of the sin, I lost it. Actually before that when the eel scene comes up and the cooking method after that, I wanted to throw up and switch off the DVD. I felt it is not right to write a review without seeing the whole movie. I even thought of opting for switching it off and not writing a review. I pulled myself back in very minimal hopes of redemption in the remaining film. It only got worse and I regretted watching the full movie.

Oskar remains three at fourteen and forthcoming ages. They do not answer whether his brain growth stays at age three too but his sexual tendencies aggravate to his age. I have no issues in portraying Taboo in the film. It is a happening and as long as the actors involved know about what they are getting into, it is fine. At the age of sixteen tendering to sexuality, no one is spared of it and I sincerely accept it. While they had the courtesy of involving the female counterpart Katharina Thalbach in this scene who was actually twenty four, knowledgeable to make her own decision and aware of it, how the parents or the director did not think of eleven year old Bennent? I got reminded of the character Elliot Stabler in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit saying this, “I think sex should be one of the best experiences in life, not one of the worst.” I cannot be a judge on worst or best in this case but I feel that as a kid, there are very high chances he was not aware of what exactly is happening out there and it is wrong. There is a reason for legal age.

I have not read the book and the film only made not to, but let me not conclude on it. The internal tangle of unknown trauma, emotion and the holocaust time period are sad and tragic. Director Volker Schlöndorff terrifies us in jarring fashion on kid rather on the situations that we along with those stern faced characters become rigid and numb being unmoved by the war crimes. I have said a movie bad, worse, sucked but I never have said that I hated one. I hated this movie and hope this be the first and last one to be so for me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Little Children" (2006) - Movie Review

Why is it so creepy when a film centers so much around the sexual urges and mistakes of a group of grown up adults? Sex has often and predominantly been branded for its depiction and knowledge as such. Even after so many books, films and topics, talking out openly has never accomplished the normalcy of gesture in manners or behaviour of it. It is the reason of flimsiness in its entirety and the shame we have acquired from the times of Adam and Eve as one of the concept of origins, its debate of a sin or sacred goes on. And when the sacred or sin takes a rough form of untold urges and dangerous turns, it is even scarier, uglier and totally buried amongst us. “Little Children” is about sex as a form of its own and how it projects and be as a part of every human. How it is also a part of character which explains about some one. Not in their way of doing it, but the need of wanting it. Wanting to be appreciated, recognized and loved.

I can very well sense the readers now branding the film in a derogatory tone. Is it something so wrong and devious to make a film about it? Many might not even interpret it as a feature of lust and see it as affairs of lost passion and invisibility among their family. Yes it is that but in terms of the physical endurance and wants. Such is how the personalities lost in their series of past steps in their life to meet upon in this swift and dull end of mid life crisis. Sarah (Kate Winslet) sees her kid Lucy (Sadie Goldstein) as a form of hindrance in her boring life of being judged upon by the team of home makers in the play ground. She cannot forget the kiss to Brad (Patrick Wilson) to ridicule the posse. Brad’s openness in accepting the failure of a successful career and staying home with his kid Aaron (Ty Simpkins) rejuvenates Sarah. She identifies the commonality of a failure in them. More than that, it is the sexual tension which arises due to that kiss. This is where I liked the movie than any other which handles subjects like this. They are of course constantly reminded by the moment of it but do not jump on each other when they next meet. In fact Brad tries hard to not gain attention during their second meeting. But they meet and start to become a regular visitor to the pool house. Their kids get along great and so are the adults. It is more than a passion of lust but a face to it. It blossoms in the undergrounds of Sarah’s home, a symbolic depiction of how their relation is going to be.

Equally important and disturbing story line is the life of Ronnie (Jackie Earle Haley) living with his mother May (Phyllis Somerville) who so unconditionally loves and believes in her son. Ronnie is out of the prison for indecent exposure to a minor. He is a pedophile and he knows it. A sin as the form of sex takes it face. The film’s sensuous affairs are sins and in that they discover the image of it being an expression. An expression which misses from each other and in case of Ronnie an uncontrollable instinct he desperately wants to stop. As much as any one would not be near this person, Larry (Noah Emmerich) an ex-cop gathers his maximum hate towards him. He consistently night hawks May’s place. He has a past which is how and why he is and who he is now. Angry, frustrated and again feeling lost in the clan of tough men and heroes. That’s the reason he single handedly tries to champion the abuse to Ronnie, hangs with cops to form a league and may be a liking of Brad for his physicality as a man.

Brad has lost of presence of being a man too. He no longer wants a career of choice as his wife Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) wants. His life is not busy and mainly fading and draining in his daily routines as a house dad. He loves his son but also loves the feel of being strong and present. He is cramped in between this and with Kathy denying the attention as a husband and man, he is more than happy when some one listens to and may be tell the suggestions he wants to hear.

With these characters of misdirected expression of love, sex and rage comes consummation in the final episode. While Sarah’s wants seem without any strings attached as such her husband Richard (Gregg Edelman) opting for pornography than his wife, Kathy is busy cutting costs and working as a documentary film maker for PBS. Sarah’s involvement and desire appears justified and it is in a way but the responsibility she carries along as a mother takes precedence.

The narration of Will Lyman adds to the dark cloud of strange and cold uncomfortable ness. An afternoon in a week day as I have said in other earlier reviews is boring. In this film it is dubious and frightening at times. Marriage is an eternal battle for togetherness. Children are the warriors and victims when the battle is lost. Their innocence becomes their curse and roots up as a case of scar for no wrong of theirs. Here amongst those they are played as alibis and later realized for the decisions that reflect on them.

It is daring film by Todd Field with strong support of acting. It does not tell the aftermath which would have been cold and disastrous. Facing the consequences is never a pleasure cruise. But there will be a freed soul to fight for their presence in the right way and not in some laundry room.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Across the Universe" (2007) - Movie Review

Indian movies have the standard of having five to six songs regardless of the nature of the film. Musical in other world is quite different. I did not see “Chicago” or “Moulin Rouge!” or “Dream Girls” but I watched “Once” which a different musical of its own is. “Across the Universe” is the first official branded musical I watched and it was not good. It had its colour and cheers but soon faded off into a lethargic motion of melodrama.

The time period the story set is the sixties and how the young and energetic Jude (Jim Sturgess) falls for Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). It is a Beatles mania with the twist of change in handling of vocals and in some case mood itself. Beatles songs are all easy going and relaxing. It does not take much of a discovery path in to the darkness. Which is the reason they attracted and pulled in much wide range of listeners. Even in the current trend of music lovers, their variety and diversity in handling the mood across it is a musical exuberance. I liked the initial introduction and how Max (Joe Anderson) and Jude get along, the thanksgiving dinner in Max’s family where Jude meets his sister Lucy, their travel to New York and those happy days. It worked nicely because it reflected the mood and style of the Beatles as such, as I explained before. It is a happy land with beauty and youth bubbling out.

The disaster creeps out in mellowed fashion when the attempt of paving loss and pain into this sweet tale of two lovers. The songs become dull and I agree on the reasoning behind it. When the expression of sadness is expected, it should hit the viewers. It should not make them think why there is a stagnant stale mate of events in the screen. In fact I was even able to bear when the group takes on the crazy bus ride where we get to hear and see Bono of U2 sing “I am the Walrus”. It takes its slow demise after that. I stopped feeling for the characters of Jude, Lucy, Max, and every other associated with them.

And the colour and energy did not liven up as it is aimed for. If for the take of war and its hatred causing the fall of humanity is the focus, the mentality of Max in some good songs would have elevated it. Max’s war sequences are used as a way of distraction and a common distress with other characters. And the fight which separates the lovers can be as childish, low and stupid to be possible to be precise. Or is the genre of musical is prone to have the clichés of these kinds as it is expected in blockbuster summer mindless action movies? Even then it is how the film sets the expectation as the minute goes by than a settled moviegoer.

Director Julie Taymour’s attempt in giving an ensemble display of colourful themes with the cheering quality of Beatles’ sweet snippets of relaxing simplicities is a good idea but fails to carry it all across the movie. Even for a Beatles fan it would be hard to embrace the whole film to relate with the scenes, emotions or colour. I would not give up on musical but “Across the Universe” is a bad start for me.

"Gone Baby Gone" (2007) - Movie Review

Every time I think about abiding the righteousness in life and small things which question those in day to day activities, it is an easy task to be performed. But when I put myself in the delicate and decisive situations possible in mind, I know the right thing, but is it worth of it is the question lingering and alarming in my brain. At those points of time, I cannot hold myself in admiration and disbelief on those great leaders who stood still and managed to stick it with their skin. Ben Affleck’s directorial debut holds to the same and comes up as a well presented movie with discussions to ignite.

In “Good Will Hunting”, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon brought so much of nativity to their homes in it. Boston as their hometown is a proud shield they wear whenever they get to pen a creation or appearance as such. Affleck’s selection for his first venture to adapt the Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same title is no surprise as the foundation is based on the neighbourhood near Boston. Lehane can be remembered for lending his story for Clint Eastwood and give us “Mystic River”. Seeing both of his creations transform into screens and walking images, the man has the knack of dissecting a slice of a human’s conscience.

Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) look as the perfect couple and when Kenzie mentions to others as “his girlfriend” on very few occasion is when realize they are not married. The chemistry in between them is well crafted that it is quite surprising that they are not married. This chemistry comes into test during one of the crucial scene in the film. As the story unfolds into this hunt for the missing kid Amanda (Madeline O’Brien), the projection reminds “Ransom” genre movie and within half an hour, we also realize it is the complete opposite of that.

The movie is framed with knowing people and dealing the talks. The talks Kenzie makes to get the information on acquaintance than the flashing of badges. This is where living in a neighbourhood and streaming into the holes and bricks of the street helps for him. With perfect associate by his side, he is involved with a hesitation from the Uncle and Aunt of the missing kid Amanda. They are invited with stern eyes and comments on the experience from Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and detectives Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick (John Ashton). And he proves his tips of knowing the right people instantly.

The film is about Patrick Kenzie than any one else. As in the final scene when he asks the mother Helene (Amy Ryan) “what about Amanda?” we are remembered how much we too along with everyone missed this kid in a dangling fate. The test of the values and principles is really defined when some one hits a fork road of life and death. And in a cruel joke of the situations, it is the life and death of some one else than theirs. Kenzie stands in between the people behind the actions and the result.

Laws and something called as the greater good are lost children of the right. Thinking about taking up a crime to the justice and have a system convict it and the difference of personal justice is sometimes confusing. The criminal justice by the system end of day is by another bunch of people who are not related to the victim or the accused. If the same kind of relationship holds for a person declared fit, is it there no difference at all? But somewhere when the heinous act is reeked in to the faces of the person, he or she becomes related and loses the judgment. Kenzie’s continuous hunt for the truth brings him to that situation.

Hollywood is blessed with so many class actors who every time deliver more than what it is required and that makes them class. Ed Harris as a cop of his own choices of right and wrong challenges the presence of other actors in the screen harshly and friendly. Casey Affleck as Kenzie gives a convincing and strong character. It is quite tough to believe that a soft and child faced actor can carry the arrogance and harshness the character needs at times with vigour and zeal. In a way his mild mannered face helps in giving the person the stillness and lucidity required to take decisions affecting many at conscience level.

As I started with myself in the situation of Kenzie to see whether I am for the challenge of righteousness, I honestly do not know. The murky line we ourselves have generated to shadow the clarity of the truth and a lie gets riddled. One thing is clear that we cannot decide a life for any one but we can help it in the right way. Deciding lures as the right thing to do but what the burden it carries along till the death is something not to be carried upon and not right being held upon. Every one does the best and whether you do it the way it is supposed to is the question “Gone Baby Gone” asks.

"Into the Wild" (2007) - Movie Review

The purpose of life, the materialism and the outlook on the society is a bone of contention for the topic of spiritual, philanthropy and more than is the sustaining happiness. The story of “Into the Wild” is a story to be told and while puts a magnifying glass over those topics, it questions the inner self of humanity. It is a true story of Christopher McCandless who burned the materialistic invention like cash, social security card and any existence of his identification to grounds and started traveling. The film is based on the novel by Jon Krakuer to give those chronicles of McCandless.

Chris (Emile Hirsch) has been fighting the lies and hypocrisy of the world perpetrating into the expectations and settlement one is been pushed. It is a thought which goes in most of the people. The invention of economy and the structural societal formation is looked upon either as a cage of liberation or system of brilliance. What exactly the lives we live upon to be accomplished? Making a career, raising a family or devoting yourself to the spiritual world is some of the common agenda of every human being in the current system. The life of Chris may question it and answer it, if you are ready to explore it.

Chuck Noland in “Cast Away” never anticipated or wanted the lonely life of survival in the island for four years. But Chris thrives for it to be his life long ambition or more than a goal it is a dream. Ambition is a career word which is another thing Chris hates upon. While it is his dream, he wants to explore the life of nothingness. Nothingness of money, property and strings of relationship to be tying down and slowing him out. He has no goals as such but he knows it is time to escape from the toxic city of bricks, corridors, glass windows, traffic signals and mainly the people wearing masks.

On his travel, he meets people; he makes friends and touches their lives. He is the knowledge to the mystery of monotonous routine of boredom. While he wants to cut off all the contact with the possible human lives, he acquaints the people and immediately makes him likeable. May be it is the openness of accepting of whoever they are and lives for the person he is. Some one like that is Jan (Catherine Keener) who herself has been on the roads and asks Chris to be in touch with his mother, as she is missing her son. He works for Wayne (Vince Vaughn) who exposes him to the earning and living of hard labour. These are the people who are surprised and quite concerned for him and his adventure, and also respect it. This is this respect which adds one more layer of trust, belief and affection in their friendship. And Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook) wants to make more than that.

His journey of two years did take him to the Alaskan Adventure. He hitches and paddles, walks and climbs and catches on train to get a destination of limitless abyss. This mystery of unknown surprises and locks to be broke upon excited him I guess and took him one step closer to the real adventure of his life.

Sean Penn potentially gives an Oscar film of the year. It is a film which takes its pace, time, visual and destiny to strike on its points and vantages. It is not a monologue but a conversation of human existence and the relationships involved. Alvin Straight in “The Straight Story” embarked to repair and reinforce the lost relationship with his brother. That is a journey of new faces, places and experience. He sees good people and shares the thorns in the past. Chris meets lot of good people but the thorns he does not share, his introspection and inner analysis of existence and embracing it becomes the epicenter of this film. The fight and zeal of a man alone explored in “Cast Away”, “The Straight Story” and “Into the Wild” is the magnitude of how much humans can possibly stretch themselves which goes beyond the technology and the made up choice of routine.

To understand the nature of Chris is his sister Carine (Jena Malone) who narrates along with him in this film. Without that we would have seen the one side story of him but to acknowledge it and accept it is the difference the film makes out here. Referring to it as film kind of makes me sad as what happens in it, happened. The end is a beginning for many and may be to question one’s presence in this earth itself. The realization of this intersection of numerous points in us and others to make us operate in a condition called lifestyle and society.

Holbrook gives one of the finest supporting performances for this year and I hope to see him nominated for the Academy Award. Emile Hirsch should be proud of playing Chris and physically puts him into stringent and dying conditions of danger, passion and emotion. The cinematography of Eric Gautier plunges closes up and zooms out along with Chris to be next to him every next adventure he pursues upon. To anchor those moments are good original songs of Eddie Vedder.

While it looks like Chris runs away by the emotional tension and disappointments with his parents, it is more of him as such being an adventurer in his nature. If not then, it could have been later. The disappointment drove him fast enough but it is an eventuality as his quality is described by his sister. His life may be thought as an act of idiocy or liberation. Any one can pass judgments for which Chris will be the last person to care about. Some where in his loneliness, he found the relationship of existence. His survival unlocked the key and definition of happiness. It may not be lived upon for eternity but the fact of realizing it is worth living a moment. “Into the Wild” is the best movie of 2007 so far and one of the best of all time.

"Rendition" (2007) - Movie Review

The problems of interrogation and the means to attain the information may have benefited several thousands of lives but is it really solving the issue currently at hand? With a fragrance of evidence about Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), an Egyptian who is married to an American Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) is detained at the airport during his return from South Africa. He is interrogated without any presence of lawyers by the CIA and then he is sent to North Africa covertly for further interrogation.

“He passed the polygraph” says Lee Mayer (J.K. Simmons) and comes reply from his superior Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep) saying it is not a fool proof test. Mayer says that we think about it only when some one passes it. Honest to the story that is how convenient they turn them into this option of extracting the “truth”. Anwar is clean as a crystal but he cannot explain the calls he received from a guy he denies knowing calls from a man named Rashid who is responsible for the blasts which killed one American and several others. The terrible bomb blast which took the life of Douglas Freeman’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) colleague which puts the interim in charge for the CIA operations in North Africa i.e. to stand helpless to witness the interrogation.

Kelly Sane’s screenplay tempts to conclude on Anwar at various moments. In fact we strongly at very many instances doubt the veracity of his statements. He denies and accepts certain basic information. The film does not get us to resolve on the issue but to be a statement. Is the circle of torture really solving the issue or creating future suicide bombers? Do they pat themselves on making some one to give up information or create something just to escape of this brutal mechanism of visceral and psychological torture? The film does not offer solution but an announcement on what exactly this leads to. May be the fear the terror plots have manifested has taken the intelligence and the people too far to trust and believe any one. Also, how come the violence imposed upon them puts them in right when the people whom they are doing this are alleged upon murders and bloodiness. What is the baseline of morality or value gets detained out here?

Megan Gill’s editing renders itself in to these different characters entangled in the center of the bomb blast. I will not reveal much but the editing provides a path breaking resolve to this multiple story lines. Let me say that it has invented a new form of handling and playing with the time line for a story.

There is no definition of the cause or aim of the terrorist group which is being shown. They are Muslims as how much there has been a fear generated now a day. They show how the concept of religion and god, being manipulated over the young minds harbouring those for solace in “brave” fashion as opposed to let them out to cherish their liveliness. Any act of violence on the basis of anything at all comes as a selfish solution to quench their angst of feeling better. The realities disappear and the time and energy spent upon on to sharpen their rage could have been applied for a way out of the misery.

“Rendition” does not answer some of the questions but there is a right of privacy in those corners. Or may be it is the flimsiness of the intelligence being handled to base something on different hundred things of possibilities. With a multitude of cast members, it is a team performance as such in supporting or anchoring the role of others. But as a personal choice, Jake Gyllenhaal gives one another character of recognition. As Douglas, he has the worst day in his life. From an analyst of information he gets himself into the witness of torture mechanism implied by Abasi Fawal (Yigal Naor) mercilessly. He knows the job and the drill. He is still coping up with the trauma of the bomb blast. Gyllenhaal at any point does not let him loose and expose this character open wide. He carefully consoles himself in dissolving in the hookah or wandering clueless. He gets the call from Corrine and she asks whether he is new to the role. He says, “This is my first torture”. He says on the front of him as a person and for the circumstances he is in. Not every one takes a job of certain position to decide some one else’s life which might in turn affect many others. Here he doubts Anwar and he has the reason. But does it really bring for a method so cruel to get the information is what nudges him consistently?

As the stories come for a rendezvous within itself, the adrenaline director Gavin Hood pumps in us is fascinating. It is not a chase scene but there are lives at stake. But the camera work and the editing is enough to kick us off. At certain point in the film, we give up for a happy ending as there seem to be no end to this circle. The jobs CIA doing are as they say to save lives and the terrorist march on as an individual, Khalid (Mohammed Khouas) foolishly. What every one does not think is the surrounding lives they affect in the process. The right way seem to be not the current solution in the scenario they give, but after twenty to thirty years, when the next generation looks back to ask why they did not do the right thing, there might be lots of guilty faces.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Igby Goes Down" (2002) - Movie Review

If a film is distancing itself from making the viewers care nothing at all on the characters, it needs to have a thumping story line to support. “Igby Goes Down” does not live up to it at any given moment during this short ninety seven minutes longer than two and half hours. The film attempts on the darkness of this rebellious kid Igby (Kieran Culkin) alias Jason Slocumb Jr. What happens is a miserable attempt by him and director to have a funny portrayal of what life is a slow expectancy towards failure. And it is a thought to be pondered and the concept of life, happiness, family and aim are targets to be hit upon only to miss it way off the chart.

Igby decides to grace the presence of failure which eventually will happen in life to accept it early on. Instead to thrive on this constant social expectation, it is better to succumb to the fiasco the living span of him has left. He flunks and drops out. Why is he like that? A schizophrenic father (Bill Pullman) and his mother Mimi (Susan Sarandon) has no bit or trace of love for this kid looks like a reason. To top it is a narcissistic brother Oliver (Ryan Phillipe) to rub the ignorant screw up on him every possible opportunity. Every character is a failure in some way or other. Failure not defined by the financial or social status but as a human being itself.

He falls in love with a slightly older girl than him, Sookie (Claire Danes) and she really is the only one who shows some symptoms of sane human. But she falls right off too with Igby’s brother. Nothing but a sexual tension and an age factor is quoted for her decision. I am not here to point for her betrayal which in reality not necessarily seems to. She realizes it cannot go in long run and backs off. But to fall for his brother should have been given more explanation. Not a slight flirting and brushing himself on her to get seduced and eventually decide to take the serious step. When Sookie is with Igby she questions him of his insane activities and stand still future. In every way she seems to understand and wake Igby up. The evidence of that with Oliver is unimaginable to be honest. It is not the hate on Oliver along with Igby it generates. It is just a big hole in the torn screenplay.

If he is taking a run on his life, he should have been ridiculously adventurous or left in the streets. But he knows it is tough and opts for drugs, sex and of all a bum. There is no sympathy being generated for this spoiled and confused boy. He does not have friends and reaps every chance to run away from an already messed up family. Is being in a dysfunctional upbringing is good enough for an unreasonable outlook towards life? It might be but you have to back it up with dialogues, chemistry good and bad to be presented upon to support those.

The characters pops up for no reason and as Igby is full of pessimists and lazy junkies. They sleep around with no sun to rise for and do not live in fantasy. Every one especially Igby perfectly understands his way of living. There is nothing holding up for him. The acting is a stiff faced look and easy “f” word utterance acting as not realizing but wants it to be razor sharp on the person it aimed upon appeals at first and then fades away and then becomes boringly annoying.

So I was expecting something mildly darkly from vehemently dark to be seen as a positive which generally emerges from a movie like this. Igby may not suddenly take a big shift in his life but realize what he is throwing away. He does and yet it is not satisfying. By that time, we have given up on the film and the characters. The last hope of having quirky and interesting dialogues dies away with two chuckles in the whole film.

If one thing impresses in the film, it should be its song selections or soundtracks. I should appreciate director Burr Steers for the independent and different styles of music for the film. All are hits which many do not know. It is a perfect soundtrack to purchase. He has a very good sense of music and collecting it too. When some one has that sense and likes those songs, you make a CD compilation, not a movie.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Amistad" (1997) - Movie Review

In “Amistad” the gravity of the sickening and gruesome torture the slavery took its toll on the Africans happens some where in the middle. It is when one of the many slaves who rose upon to take control of the ship which were taking them to Spain in 1839, Cinque (Djimon Housou) the leader narrates their journey from their home to hells of the ship’s basement. When a true story is depicted, the enactment of the killings is not shown in detail, concerning to how much it would be inhuman even to watch those. Stephen Spielberg lets it to be exactly shown as it would have happened in the torment and tribulation inside those carrier ships where human values torn upon mercilessly. And that is something needs to be shown for the current world of hatred and inhumanity. It tells us the brutalities a human can do and can be made to do by the very act of them.

We are introduced to Cinque and his people to be the non-hesitant executioners of most of the crews in the ship, “La Amistad”. We are made to fear them as would any one at that times did when they are forced to be brought upon the lands of America. The slavery and its cruelty are well aware upon on us and the film making us to live through those is when we really are aware. The first fifteen minutes are entirely in one of the native language in Sierra Leone, Mende with no subtitles. We see the expressive, angry and toughly built Cinque orchestrating the mutiny and guiding the ship back home, as he hopes. Djimon Honsou’s needed to speak a language which most of the times did not have subtitled for. He uses his expressive face to widen more to reflect the pain and humiliation he is put upon. He does not understand the system of law in the new country playing its politics. He cannot understand when judgments are “almost” final and questions how one can live in a system like that to his lawyer Baldwin (Mathew McConaughey).

Baldwin has a change in his own taking up the case and proving it in every evidential and legal way possible. He is not defeated in the cases but challenged step by step by the non-stop pounding the politics poses upon. He starts off with an interest over the case than the people. He suggests being a real estate attorney advocated the easy winning with Cinque and his people as and not slaves. But he befriends the Cinque and with the guidance of Covey (Chiwetel Ejiofor), he listens and understands him.

The story marked one of the quintessential turning points which formed the American and African history. It witnessed that the same men who enslave another human can very well be brought down on their knees. Making one devoid of freedom can create ripples of reflux unimaginable which can amplify into enormous power and wrath. The real case as the movie too forgets the massacre made in that ship. It is quite ridiculous to question the mutiny performed by Cinque and his people. It is the nature of human existence exhibited out there. When a human decides to act on the basis of power, cruelty and disrespect of another and in the process claiming the single most important value and necessity, the freedom, and the resultant is a knife to his throat. Legal systems are into shambles as the very literal presences of human beings are thrown off the charts.

The problem with the ancient stories is the mannerism it needs to be assumed for playing the part. Things might be learned from books and people but the imagination is blocked and limited to that. Anthony Hopkins plays John Quincy Adams and the mannerism he exhibits in the court room punctuates the sounding speech he gives with audacity, will and courage. When he brittles the executive’s prejudices and views on slavery, he tells the nature of the man and knocks on the stand and it makes that statement come to live told by the person who said the same in that court. That body language and gesture is the wide angle he protracts into that limited boundary.

The star cast, the alarming scenes and the inspiring speech which are the ingredients of a history movie made by the talented Spielberg misses in liveliness seeping out in couple of instances. The momentous tone and weight of certain period of film and some chorus dominated sequences, distracts us from the center issue. As perfectly might it draw the past, the focus for a moment blurs out. The editing by Michael Kahn faltered and an easy twenty minutes could have been shrunk into a five minutes event.

The 19th century American life is magnanimously sculpted and captured by the cinematography of Janusz Kraminski. It thrives on the minute details to design the people of those times by the costume designer Ruth E. Cater. Noticeable fits are those of the abolitionist Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman) and the sets to recreate the buildings of the landmark political centers by Rick Carter’s production design.

It is a story to be made and lessons to be learned upon. It is also to understand that a few managed to rise upon to the occasion and define the understanding of human civilization and existence. But mainly how a legal system was reminded upon its formation and action to vindicate the righteousness and be the backbone of a peaceful society of equality and freedom.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Intermission" (2003) - Movie Review

Call me biased but I am totally psyched for a thick English or Irish accent. And it works particularly hysterical when it is dark comedy. And for umpteenth time, there are cross over layer of stories connected not necessarily in convinced fashion but for the heck of it some times and most of the times for fun. Director John Crowley’s “Intermission” is sickeningly funny and has a little bit soul of every genre for that matter.

With the setting of Dublin, Ireland, the film involves numerous characters as it is needed for a multi connected story of different day to day ordinary people mixed up with comedy of errors. And when I say me being biased about the accent, take this for example. Detective Jerry Lynch’s (Colm Meaney) car is toasted and he looks at it gravely. One of the colleagues comes and says, “Condolences, Man”. It is good enough for your chuckles but the next one is the banger when another colleague comes by and says, “Seriously” in that tight powered ridiculously sarcastic yet serious accent, you break out laughing. And if you think, explaining this spoiled the fun then you are wrong. You might enjoy it more now expecting it than when I did not expect it. Might sound untrue and it is for many movies, but not this one.

The film is filled in with constant interval of these moments of pure delivery of dialogue than anything else. But Crowley’s script does not primarily wander in the Tarantinized world (as Ebert might say) of insane dependency on style and cuts. It tries to make sense in the migration of screenplay from one sequence to another. Like the film “Go” or “11:14”, it relies heavily on music, movements and unexpected behavior of its characters, but they do not strain of being smart and stylistic than being them. The funny twists are funny ones and the serious twists are even funnier.

While cracking us up, the film takes a side step and gives some sweet simplicities of life as any movie of this genre would not attempt to. It does not hesitate to weigh down the macho factor to have some earthly substance as well. May be it does not offer the best of the drama but the necessary drama for a film concentrating on dry comic. And to see Colin Farrell and Cicilian Murphy eager and enthusiastic to be underplayed and bold, it is fun to watch.

True that there is not much to write in depth about the characters and while it surfaces on being honest about some of these people, it might not affect. I am kind of put in an area not so good in reviewing spot when I spent more time laughing and missing some of the materials too. Analyzing characters in this movie might be to steal even some of the remote soul in eccentricity left in this film. While I did hesitate to leak out a funny moment, because it is filled in abundance with it, I would not want to spill the beans on handsome amount of character traits left in the film.

Seeing the movie, the manner, tone and colour of it has developed and formed in to a genre than a trend. While Tarantino developed his authenticity in it, there are few directors who took the inspiration and created their own territory of making. The cult status of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” with minimal stars by Guy Ritchie, Troy Duffy’s “Boondock Saints”, again Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch” are some of those elements of inspiring dry but interesting Tarantinized genre. Thinking about it, one will be surprised how come no one ever was able to bring a path breaking form of movie making as that of Tarantino after him. I would not deny the existence of bold Robert Rodriguez’s pleasure of his colourful and enthusiastic movie making (even though I did not enjoy “Sin City” and “Planet Terror”, there is a mark of originality and novelty in the screen). There are directors who have their own take but they mainly depend on DVD distribution than on main stream release. Is it because of the Hollywood mess ups in identifying the right talents? Why do big giant producers blindly venture into a project with only reliance on the frame than substance like “Crank” or “Smokin’ Aces”? I hope people like Crowley are recognized and mainly encouraged for inventing a genre like what Tarantino did.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Boiler Room" (2000) - Movie Review

I like the honesty of “Boiler Room” not hesitating to quote itself of the classic “Glengarry Glen Ross” which I enjoyed and the one I have not yet watched “The Wall Street”. It could have concentrated more on how to be better than these two but it focuses on the script which keeps it safe and steady for the near two hours it runs. During the high school days, computer courses were hot in the market in India. Any one and every one was taking courses and the center which teaches them made a fortune out of those. Trust me; they were selling it like stocks as these guys do in the movies. It was legitimate but they were pushy. I was no different. So this lady as one of the center’s manager in fact gave me a kind deadline of tomorrow to get a discount of some amount for a course. As a kid, not knowing the business, I recited it to my father. And as a father and head of house hold, he does not like when some one tries to push him for any reason. It was pretty embarrassing and in a way felt bad for the lady who tried to dictate the terms with me and also my dad when she got a bad ear out of my father’s bitter taste of anger over the phone. How it would have been if one of Seth’s (Giovanni Ribisi) or Chris’s (Vin Diesel) or Greg’s (Nicky Katt) client came back with that? I bet they would have a rebuttal for it.

Some times sales highly question the ethic of any transaction. While hard coming marketing looks icky the same goes for the client’s bargaining. Which started first is an egg-chicken situation but the guys in the “Boiler Room” holds up and rather attacks them in a friendly way. They get a feel for their client by testing out couple of personal authoritative insulting jokes. The film bases on it and manages to squeeze in the personal front of Seth. Seth drops out of school to run a casino at his home. It is illegal but as he says, he runs it with control with a model of a business. He wishes his father Marty (Ron Rifkin), a judge could see it that way. Their relationship is turbulent and harsh. Marty is right but never opens the channel of open communication with his son. He is more humiliating than making a point and guiding his son. Trying to earn a respect, he joins the JT Marlin firm. They suit like typical Wall Street brokers and they are an hour away from it.

It is always entertaining when some one like successful salesman Jim (Ben Affleck) come up and give a raunchy talk like Alec Baldwin does in “Glengarry Glen Ross”. Affleck reminds the character but not being the character of Baldwin. He creates a clear confident and realistic Jim. He spits out the truth of being in this firm. Money is everything. If you can squeeze in extra one hour in a 24 hour day to make it 25 hour, then do it.

Huge money in short time brings in clouds of doubts and feels sleazy. For people like me who immediately skip a line which has “stock”, “shares” in television, newspaper or internet, they explain the sale and the profit the company makes, including its fraudulent. Never they take a lecture session as such alone but blend it in with situations.

One notable thing in the movie is the character of Abby (Nia Long). She works as the receptionist and is aware on some level on how the company works. She knows it and when Seth expresses concerns on the firm’s operational structure, she bluntly gives wise advice of to either leave the firm or accept it and work without a soul. And for once the love of the protagonist in a movie is more mature and treats the ground reality keeps it real.

The dialogues are not hard hitting but keep you tickling, laughing and admire the talents of these guys who are not alone articulate but also carry the situational intelligence. It might be quite strange when some one like Seth, who starts his career as an illegal Casino owner to find the things in the firm as wrong. It is real for him when he exactly sees the lives of people collapsing. He is a master in turning the conversations in to a closing sale but the foot note personal information he intrudes in is enough to keep their aspirations and disasters based on the sale he made, known to him. These are the movies which are not classic but good. An impressive debut feature by director Ben Younger with good talents gives a good film with confidence.

"Michael Clayton" (2007) - Movie Review

We have seen the story of “Michael Clayton” in couple of other movies like “Erin Brockovich” or even though I have not seen “The Firm” and “A Civil Action”, the plot lines and couple of scenes I have witnessed over surfing the channels deals with that too. We see here something more than that, wherein any one else would not have thought about the key players of the underplaying characters. Many concentrate on the trial lawyers and the case builders but here we take a spin on a silent whistle blower Arthur (Tom Wilkinson) who just had enough of the case he is disputing the deal for the company U-North. Under medication for depression, he stops taking it. But his actions of running across the table stripping off during the important settlement seem a cut loose person finding various ways for redemption. I guess self-humiliation is the punishment he imposes on the sins he has been committing for U-North through his law firm.

As the scenes of Michael Clayton (George Clooney) and Arthur, Clayton and Marty (Sydney Pollack) fall by, I wondered how classy the movie have been so far. We can see Clayton riding down the hill in the four long and tiring days. He is heading a deadline to meet up his financial debts with organized crime due to a failed bar of his then a man he looked up as a mentor going mad and puts the firm as a whole in jeopardy. All of those needs clean up by him. That’s his job though as he and Arthur calls it, “Janitors”. They are the men behind the curtains to make sure when it pulled off; there is a beautiful picture of harmony, an illusion though.

The screenplay by director Tony Gilroy is tight, inventive and has the mood. Its midnight in the law firm office and as the light is on; no one is at their desks. And with Wilkinson’s character Arthur explains his release out of the dirty hole to Clayton in background voice, the mood is set. It is dull not because of the winter but the bleak truth faded by walking lies. Added to that we see tired Clooney and if some one like that is shown tired, you can picture the rest. We have always seen Clooney in bright lights of freshness. He can be mean and ruthless and make it look elegant and appreciable. He in his other movies comes as a man of command, wit and cool. We see him in command but he is losing it too as Arthur. He is witless because any man in his situation will be sucked out of those. He makes humour but it is dark to be insulting and cut throat to make his point. He is cool to the others but as the audience we know his stomach is full of butterflies, worried and tensed. He reassures himself talking to his kid in the car and is simply his demonstration of acting on how much of the end in the arc he can go. Clooney pulls the opposite of him with the charisma he always has and brings it along with the traits of his trade mark mannerisms.

Why do giant companies easily negate the consequences of their actions and go in business with flood gates open? I guess relying on big law firms and the cleaning people like Arthur and Clayton. They are there who are for worst case scenarios. They fit the work and deal the deals. These are the soul sellers and executioners taking missions from the kings high above believing that an indirect action does not contribute to Karma. But sometimes the movies wake up some doubts in these characters. Michael Clayton is the fixer as he says and wipes out the mess and dirt doing it for several years. With that we can imagine the years of work Arthur has spent and how he is better than the best in his line of work. How come out of the blues there is a cry for emotional catharsis from them? It is good to say that almost any human has the idea of right and wrong. It pops up in us when the cross roads come. We die a little when we go against the known right decisions. May be that is one of the reasons, Arthur’s wrong turns has taken him closer and closer to the bitter deaths only that he cannot sleep in peace. For Clayton it gets attached from Arthur. Truth is contagious. When these two characters are at the end of the horizon for absolution, we see Karen (Tilda Swinton) planting hers into the league only that extending it far more beyond than these guys.

Gilroy’s movie makes us to forgive these two and mainly release Arthur from his pains and provide him the chance of making up his life a sum of good will. And Wilkinson’s edge of the life portrayal of Arthur makes us to sit with the guy and hear something out of him, or as Clayton try to make some sense out of it.

The credits rolled up with a simple close up scene of Clooney in the back of taxi and no one moved from their seats. They show his facial movements and we know what he is thinking. I was not seated to express a good gesture of not going out when others were sitting through it, but I wanted to read this person, looking afresh for once in the whole movie. It forms as a thoughtful and perfect way to finish the film. It is no wonder why the utmost dissection of truth links so close with the law firms and the big deal makers. It is the place where it gets thawed upon with ease and some times makes it look that there are bunch of neatly attired persons with money on their mouth than a heart to bite the bullet.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Catch a Fire" (2006) - Movie Review

Phillip Noyce does get to find the true story in various parts of the world dug deep for no one’s notice and then shoots a film. His “Rabbit-Proof Fence” told the journey of three young aboriginal kids in 1931 Australia walking 1500 miles to reach back their home from a government camp to “convert” and “train” to suit them in white society. And now he takes the life story of Patrick Chamusso during the period of Apartheid South Africa. As many might not now (and I came to know only after watching the movie) that Patrick Chamusso is a real life character and the film is based upon that.

If some one can define a perfect family man’s life, that would be Patrick Chamusso’s (Derek Luke). He works in an oil refinery stepping his way up, sitting by side with his kids and helping them in Math, earning the jealousy of his wife when he dances with another lady and sweetly gets a tap in his head, coaching a local kid’s soccer team and staying away from politics. Noyce with the cool headed Luke makes no mistake in giving that. We know his life is going to be shambled into disaster. Whenever normalcy rises up and flows out of the brim it is a bad indication for the family in films. It is understood that a calamity waits and is going to break them apart. Many do it in cheap works of cinematic. Not here. We feel sorry for the Chamusso who will be facing the painful interrogation orchestrated by Colonel Nic Vos (Tim Robbins) working for the Anti-terrorist squad.

Chamusso completes the perfect family man by having another family. And at one point when he confesses it to Nic, even he does not believe. He is good to be a family man and a terrorist but not some one to have an affair. A man who does not even sing the anthem of the Freedom Fighters song when the whole factory workers are chorusing tells about Chamusso. He never, ever wants to be in trouble and put his family in jeopardy. How an innocent man can be tortured and changed to be some one else is “Catch a Fire”.

As Nic Vos, Tim Robbins comes up with yet another powerful performance. Even in the end it is hard to get this man. He never shows signs of anything at all. He is a family man too. He trains them to shoot and says to protect them when danger hits them. His way of interrogation is soft but deadly. He plays with the ties of blood. He stoops so low, it is sometimes hard to grasp him. He is ready to let Chamusso go when he realizes the truth but the damage he caused makes a terror out of an ordinary man. While he is in anti-terrorist squad, he creates a terrorist of a family man. He does not stop with that and quite cunningly manages to plant seeds of thoughts to Chamusso’s wife Precious (Bonnie Henna).

Noyce skillfully makes us to think about how we extract information or treat prisoners as such. Is it worth it to use the gruesome technique to get information? It might result in saving lives but does it end out there? If some one is fighting against some one, acting according to their expectations just proves their point of hating them. In the delusion of keeping a safe place, many forget the people who gets stamped and how the chain of war never ending up. In “Catch a Fire”, as the end approaches and we are looking for the confrontation of Chamusso and Nic, it takes a wild turn. I will not reveal it but it is how Noyce arranges the complex message to many in simpler terms from the horse’s mouth. It could have been the perfect opportunity for Noyce to employ his directorial skills. But we see him how much he is up for the message than the movie itself.

"Down by Law" (1986) - Movie Review

When you see Jim Jarmusch’s boring “Dead Man”, the funny artsy dramatic “Broken Flowers”, the intuitive and experimental “Coffee and Cigarettes” and now “Down by Law”, this is a man who makes movies for the fun of it, every second of film has the stamp of his precise thought process and ideas. In the Criterion DVD extra features of his voice under “Thoughts & Reflections”, he says that this is one movie made with American money and smiles saying that the rest of the movies are different because American money comes with many strings attached. I do not know how many “strings” attached, that statement is a reflection of how much he wants his way of doing things. And that is the reason that this movie even though with no big twists, plot is clinically drafted and yet able to give a new feel.

As Tom Waits voice in “Jockey Full of Bourbon” hits out with the streets dull and having an identity, we associate immediately to the mystical New Orleans (which I have heard a lot about for its cultural mixture and authenticity but never got a chance to visit). It is the regular approach of Jarmusch on characters. With black and white cinematography, it promotes into the flick every one should be patient about on expecting some dry comedy drama. We venture into the lives of Jack (John Lurie), a pimp and Zack (Tom Waits), a DJ finding it hard to settle in one place. We get to know about these numb thick skinned characters through their female counterparts Laurette (Ellen Barkin) for Zack and for Jack it is Bobbie (Billie Neal) one of the “merchandise” as he quotes. Both are setup and end up in prison. There they meet up with the bubbly and innocent Roberto (Roberto Benigni) but seems to be guilty of a crime or more of an accident.

The prison scenes wherein they gel without a choice is thoughtful and makes us to think about being there, I mean losing your freedom. Lot of films has already dealt in depth about being in prison and the Jarmusch’s way is novel and unique. The individual shots of Jack, Zack or Roberto wherein they simply stare or do nothing are those forming the simple cruelties in prison. With three sharing a place and time endless, you got to either become thick friends or kill each other. Jack and Zack cannot stand each other but have their moments of fun as well. To these opposite poles comes the proper link Roberto with his broken Italian English. They begin to co-ordinate and connect.

Robby Müller’s camera work can be dissected into three parts in the film. The first part being the streets and rooms of city life and a life where crimes are dealt on desolated gas stations and rooms with shut windows, always. The mood and light shines up to lighten the dark world. In the second part it appears pretty much simple to show a room but there too, the camera shift inside and outside the cell gives different perspectives towards the mood of a scene. The third part is the closely packed trees wherein the sunshine is not stopped though. The small streams, swamps and the bayou in night and day bring another tone of independence but a prison of its own.

The best part of the way the movie works is how Benigni is brought in. He is being himself than being the character lot of times which has brought the ethnicity and some one thriving to communicate. He has so many thoughts and so little words in English. He reads from “English book” as he calls the scratch pad. While Jack and Zack are grumpy and complaining, it is compromised by the cheerful and funny Roberto. Jack and Zack sit in dark unknown location in a dense forest thinking of what to do and Roberto comes back with a Rabbit. A small fight separates them. Each have their monologue and Benigni comes up with something very funny but also tells so much about the character and Benigni as a person (Jarmusch mentions in the DVD extra features saying it was improvised by Benigni somewhat based on his own child hood).

The film will not please many audiences. It is a short story with a sweet ending. The film needs to be praised and enjoyed for Jarmusch’s style, performances and the camera work. These are the movies which exist for the art of it. It does not attempt on big things or trying to be a great profound approach on delicate and controversial debates. It stays to itself and forms a territory of its own through creative and artistic instincts.

"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (2007) - Movie Review

And so I ended my review of the movie “Elizabeth” as “My expectations are to see the Elizabeth with unanimated and convincing character trapped in the midst of religion, people and country”. Little did the sequel “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” convince us with the character of lonely authoritative queen left dangling aimlessly to continue here too. The budget is increased and anchors it again. With that director Shekar Kapur laboriously strain us into this responsibility tying the feelings of the lonely queen and her ridiculous tantrums of her in unbelievable situations uninterestingly.

We see a confident and controlling Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) who in all means while enjoying the power tries to govern something (now and then she says “people” to remind us of her concern over her country) and apart from that her youth and loss of love and lust is dissected as they try. A charismatic sailor Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) strikes and interests her to bring back those days when she was a woman than a queen. And one more trusty (and we know she is going to fall for Raleigh too) Beth (Abbie Cornish) who provides little to no support in the solacing Elizabeth’s deprivation of true love. Well, shall we not see the same trust and betrayal in the previous venture too? It is not new and still not interesting.

In the first film, I was able to at least corner some ant sized empathy for the character Blanchett gives but in this, she is grown and controlling child than a responsible adult. The title suggested and made me to expect that her reform or the religious beliefs are show on how she managed to equip and season the people to survive but it is of no significance other than the plans of Philip of Spain (Jordi Mollà) to dethrone her. To this directionless script is couple of other talents wasted. The only impressive part in the first movie Geoffrey Rush as Francis Walsingham is denied some presence of wisdom and dark cunningness. Samantha Morton as Mary Stuart is another entry into the hall of wasted talents.

Including Elizabeth, rest of the characters has no sense of their goal, instinct or outcomes. We see Mary Stuart shred some lifeless bitterness towards the queen. She tells she prays for her cousin while no reason is explored in depth. While Elizabeth suffers from the conscience haunting her way on the execution, why does not she stop it? The law should be imposed but lawful killing is not right in her beliefs too. As the history speaks there might have been more enough reason for those actions but we do not see it a bit.

It’s quite evident that director Shekar Kapur got more funds to make this movie. More than dialogues there are scenes of posture and circling of camera in a frustrating lethargic manner to play for the back ground score. The composition of Craig Armstrong and A.R. Rahman is rich and skillful but they forgot the music is for the movie and not an individual album of theirs. I believe the grandeur humming, chimes and orchestration for a historical movie has long past gone. But these two are caught up with the old tradition and while you enjoy the music, it takes the screen and not the film.

Elizabeth’s frustrations and the chains of responsibility keeping her in leash are true. Her quest to explore the once lively sexuality and being loved for her true personality rather than her throne is understandable. And when she explodes on Beth for winning her love for Raleigh, we feel sorry for her. But these were dealt in some per se in the first film to death. With due respect to the lady, the movie gives us her exploring these instead of ruling the country. She comes up armoured to give a speech which in history is supposed to be inspirational and in the movie I was hoping to end before it started.

Many might suspect my judgment over the movie since the dislike of mine for the previous. True, I did have some kind of low inclination when I entered the theatre. But I was able to manage to overcome it and start afresh on a clean slate. Unfortunately the film filled it with emotionless and clueless characters like the first only to add more wasteful sketches to it.