Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"In Good Company" (2004) - Movie Review

It is pleasure to be surprised. “In Good Company” which in poster and trailer addressed as a hopelessly romantic comedy with a formula whose second guess is an insult to explain it. As it says, a young rapid to the rise executive, Carter (Topher Grace) gets to replace Dan (Dennis Quaid) due to a company acquisition. Not only is that but Carter also is the new boss of Dan. And yes, he becomes the boy friend of Dan’s daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson). Now that still looks like the romantic comedy I was talking about with “Sentiments for Dummies” written as a preface.

The co-director of the much witty, funny and dramatic “About a Boy”, Paul Weitz takes the leadership. Yes the above plot points happen in that series. But you see, this is not about the plot. It is a marketing strategy which appears to be from studio to promote the film. Essentially this is a character study of two men. One even though at the edge of this career, an old school ad salesman believes in what he does and the other who starts his career and already has tasted enormous success. This does not make him a smug, misdirected may be. It does put Dan in a position both financially and personally in dire situation with a baby on his way. He is bitter about knowing the fact how fast his life is changing and how old his daughters are getting. And he is getting old too.

Dan is the complete guy. He is happily married and has wonderful daughters. He is good in balancing his personal and professional life. You see it when Alex comes for tennis in his office on the day of re-organization; he is stressed but goes with her. When Carter ramps up ideas in their first conference meeting about combining with sister companies to promote the magazine, Dan asks whether it is not cheating. He is irritated but there is a truth in that. He sums it up in an end complimenting the belief he is been doing for 23 years. Both the personalities have personal and career challenge to tackle. Dan coping up with his daughter moving away while Carter with his divorce. The editing work by Myron I. Kerstein puts those changes side by side. There is not much difference happening out here but how each deal with it develops the story. Dan as the seasoned but yet pulling the weights more than he is supposed to keeps on going. Carter is filled with adrenaline and we come to know that he never really has been personal with any one. His life is fast paced and in the middle of it, forgets to see his life out of office go unnoticed.

Both are terrific salesman but Dan leaves his work at his office. The corporate culture created in the new world is dog eating dog strategy. Vocabulary of high phonetic word reeking positive energy is the trend. “Changing the world”, “Revolutionizing the human technology” or “Restructuring a better world”. Are these slogans for independence? Is this a rights movement? Nope, it is all for money. And Dan puts it straight on to shatter the spell cast on every one, mostly Carter. “Love your job, not your company” are the words said by CEO of Infosys, Mr. Narayan Moorthy.

This is the significance of the film. It never moves in haste nor is in the hunt for melodramatic twists to end sweetly. The other persons in these two people’s life are the key to fully see this whole chain of events in between them. Things we know are left unsaid. Director gauges his audience as intelligent personal and concentrates on points which a routine film might miss. The third act hinted on the oncoming “hence the theorem is proved” ending. It had the events which were perfect as rest of the movie but in reality they would have been scenes of burying the film in other motion pictures. The film finishes staying honest to it.

The small roles in particular scenes help the movie to come out from the mould. When Alex and Carter (un)expectedly meet before the end, there is another character Morty (David Paymer) who Carter enquires before seeing Alex. Morty does not know about the relationship of these two and learns as they talk. Now see there is this awkwardness being created in between these three. He immediately intervenes with a dialogue which not only breaks that but we get to know a little about Morty too. That is how the script is inured up to precision.

Topher Grace to the surprise sheds out his Eric from “That 70s Show” sitcom comfortably. He brings in the boyish charm he had over for Eric but loyally gives Carter, a reputed sales executive and a successful energetic young man. His body language is professional but his emotional incapability of Carter is what the film ponders upon. On the other hand, Dennis Quaid is such a fit for a happy family man. Part of the reason in “Frequency” that we really want nothing to happen to his family is the stature, boldness and fragility Quaid brings upon. Now here is another of the same kind but Dan Foreman is different from Frank Sullivan. We know why Dennis Quaid is cast but he makes Paul Weitz realize why he is the perfect man for the job.

Sometimes it is hurtful when films like this are missed due to its advertisements. I miss those because of my judgments but the trailer is designed such a way to lure audience. I am sure it worked and may be lot of people would have been disappointed too. It is interesting to know that the film which puts current marketing in question of its moral, the trailer shows that. Universal Pictures is a company too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"The Good Shepherd" (2006) - Movie Review

“The Good Shepherd” is a victim and at the same time artistic saviour of its style. To tell a real story about a man whose life is nothing but secret is an irony. You need to portray it to factual detail of the emotional stabilization and unmoving soul of Edward Wilson and at the same time try to explain the genesis of CIA. Adding to that to bring out the difficulties, confusion and the regret of the character of his actions makes it a dead lock situations. Hence at the end of the film, we believe to have witnessed everything but so shallow and an in depth investigation on the surface to call it the origin, development and an untold story about the birth of CIA seems far fetched.

The movie moves back and forth in the 1961 after the Bay of Pigs invasion was lost in one of the US funded inside attack to overthrow Castro from Cuba and the flash back. It looks through following Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), a CIA officer. Then Edward is taken back when he is right out of Yale University which essentially starts the journey from 1939. He is getting recruited by a secret society called Skull and Bones which is a buffer tunnel to secretive operation of the country.

The tint of the film for most part in both the flash back and the current sequence has darkish layer. Shadows are used over the face of Edward to represent his half exposed and half hidden agendas. Then it shifts to confuse that nothing is as it looks. Everybody talks in cryptic language and deciphering it is waste of time for audience. I can see what director Robert De Niro is trying to do. He wants us to experience, I mean the true experience of following a spy who cannot even with himself be open and honest which would compromise sensitive information. Now this brings us to the term of information. The myth which as one of the character later tells being created to actually provide job security for the CIA. Comical but pragmatically makes a lot of sense.

The film is a patient process in building up the bricks one by one in a neat and clean manner. But this is the funny part, we see lot of images and left with nothing explanatory. The film laboriously takes 167 minutes to rest its case and we feel exhausted but an empty floor at the top. De Niro in the process of giving a character who spent all his life guarding the truth, lies and deception fails in the screen to bring it forward. Artistically it can be nothing more than spectacular to be brave enough to audaciously display this man full of hidden information. But the goal out here in this movie is to address the historic and biographic nature of an organization. Hence it needs to be laid out in detail on what exactly is happening out here. This conflict of interest ends the film with the same on what to conclude.

It is a well crafted professional movie. Matt Damon on an honest note needs to keep a straight face almost the entire time of the movie. He is in every frame and that makes him important. May be we get used, bored and unnoticed by seeing him emotionless for such a long time that he disappears as a character. He does not love his wife, Margaret Clover (Angleina Jolie) but loves his son, Edward Jr. (Eddie Redmayne) due to which he married Clover. His real love got lost with Laura (Tammy Blanchard) but he never gets time or his nature of job does not allow him to get closer to his son. While it is acceptable to have an older son when Edward is not much of an old age, Matt Damon does not look mature enough to make us believe to be the father. And being Angelina Jolie just made him even younger. Nothing wrong with acting but looks like Damon is not the right cast for the role. But he suits perfectly for initial upbringings. When he looks inexperienced yet has a professional outlook is remarkable. Particularly circled by experienced actors like John Turturo (Watch out for the scene when he joins duty under Matt Damon, spectacular!), William Hurt and Robert De Niro, the Matt Damon character from real life as such suited the young Edward Wilson. The cast is out of norm when the scenes of him being around the age of forty pops up.

Overall I liked the movie. The thing is the confused identity of being in a specific list it tries to be. The battle becomes the perplexing content and hence loses itself. It is dangerous to think about the cold war game of two individuals eventually affecting two nation’s fate. Even when the leaders of the two countries discuss their relationship either in amicable nature or animosity, the ground level players are the coin movers. There are four characters to be compared and analyzed for this spy game. We meet Dr. Fredericks (Michael Gambon), a man without any emotional ties, who has seen all and being a mentor tries to warn Edward before his demise of a sweet exit right away. Edward in a state of effacing his father’s disgrace and approval drives him beyond the warning of Dr. Fredericks. The other is the British Intelligence official, Arch Cummings (Bill Crudup) who we get to know a little is aware of his actions but he too appear to be without family. Ulysses the adversary of Edward in the Soviet front knows more about everything and estimates Edward better than Edward does on Ulysses. This does not mean Edward is not a good player; it is just that the weakness for Edward is more than the Ulysses’ weakness of not like being in a cold weather. Edward who seems devoid of emotion and attachment indeed has the weakness and also his strength which is his last touch to reality, his son.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Bottle Rocket" (1996) - Movie Review

The front running characters in “Bottle Rocket” are so aimless, stupid, crazy and irresponsible that we ourselves take a vacation from us in getting in an adventure these guys aim, especially Dignan (Owen C. Wilson). After seeing “Rushmore”, “The Royal Tennenbaums” and the impressive “The Darjeeling Limited” of Wes Anderson and his partner Owen C. Wilson, I wanted to see where it all started. And it is interesting to investigate on how it developed. How these two along with Luke Wilson formed a fraternity for themselves in a novel deadpan serious comedy and drama of invention into the screens of Hollywood.

There are no deep analysis of the back ground of Dignan and Anthony Adams (Luke Wilson). We just know that they are friends and Anthony checks himself out from “nut house” as they describe it. Dignan does not understand that Anthony is checking himself out and enthusiastically waits at the gates for his friend to do the escape. He is like a kid inspired by chase/action/heist movies and instead of playing with his fellow friends (which actually would have been even weirder), he plans and believes to do it meticulously in some uncommon places (like a bookstore). He lays out seventy five year plan for him and Anthony. Then they burgle a house which we later realize is Anthony’s family house. Dignan recruits Bob (Robert Musgrave). So you can think how Bob is. But we get a slight back ground of who is, in terms of family and house. He is a rich kid bullied big time by his brother John (Andrew Wilson). He is jobless which goes without saying. While he wants to jump in the adventure Dignan promises, he is also caught up by the sense of real life.

Anthony explains to one character that one fine day he decided to not see any of the people again and hence checked voluntarily in to mental hospital. He says he was exhausted to his sister Grace (Shea Fowler). She says that he never worked in his whole life. Quite right. Anthony is caught up with the ring of Dignan’s fantasy plans and also manages to blindly fall in love with the pleasant and friendly house keeper of the motel they stay, Inez (Lumi Cavazos). The film can be as bland as it can be and yet there is something going on the screen especially with the blind confidence of Dignan showed by Owen. He is so mixed up and his dedication is insane that we have a slight fear of this character’s next step. They play with guns and still we know they are harmless.

The film does not offer any concrete plot but I know what to expect of Anderson’s movie. He develops the world as I have defined in “The Darjeeling Limited” and plays it around and within that. It was surprising to see couple of police cars which looked out of place in the movie. That is the extremity of strange universe Anderson creates. There is nothing to plot upon or discuss on the dead pan emotions of almost every character.

But in a way I was glad it was aimless and stupid. There might be an empathy for these characters who quite honestly does not know where they are headed. Dignan despite being the formulating leader of the 75 year plan for them is the clueless person of all. Anthony actually seems to be sane but in reality he is in battle with the reality and commitment towards his friendship with Dignan. Otherwise you do not see some one getting out of mental asylum sought an adventure game devised by his friend.

Anderson’s slow motion is scarcely used as it is the first movie while the songs say their selection of thematic elements to the film. The film did not fare well in the box office which is of no surprise. It is a clear cut independent movie and quite evident that couple of talented artists trying to find their right frequency.

“Bottle Rocket” does its job for the first timers Anderson and the Wilson brothers. It is bland, flat and it turns out the final parody/homage of heist scene into a hysterical eruption of laughter. And when the out of place Kumar (Kumar Pallan) says “I blew it man”, that is the high point of comedy. That is where the film takes it tuning on. In a way we do not expect them to perform the big heist, as we might know the result. Even after we know that they are going to screw up, the way they screw up is orchestrated with randomness. It is a thrilling and entertaining moments of failure beating itself in stupidity and idiocy.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"The Mist" (2007) - Movie Review

Good news of “The Mist” is that there are no zombies. But yes, there are creatures mainly aiming at human flesh for apparent reason of quenching their hunger I guess. This might be the only unexplained thing the film might have. Rest of it makes this one terrific thriller in the horror genre. As regular readers of this blog might know the dislike I have for horror genre due to the reason of unnecessary gruesome and gore. “1408” encouraged me to go for the film and mainly the team of the great movie, “The Shawshank Redemption” come together once again, Director Frank Darabont and famous writer Stephen King; it is two good reasons to watch “The Mist”. Sure it is not the category of “The Shawshank Redemption” but it resembles the human emotions, mentality and their act of unexpectedness when put in a situation threatening their life consisting of beliefs.

An artist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) in a remote village decides to take his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) and a bitter neighbour Brent (Andre Braugher) to the super market after a storm hit them the day before. A mist soon covers and Dan (Jeffrey DeMunn) comes screaming into super market and says the person along with him was grabbed on by something ferocious. No one understands the phenomenon including us but we know it is the setting for the mysterious creatures to attack. Soon it happens and the first thing is that some people do not believe about the existence of the creatures as David says who personally witnesses one along with Ollie (Toby Jones) one of the store employee, Jim (William Sadler) and Myron (David Jensen). Basically more than creatures it slowly turns out to be people taking sides. The things falls apart when a over religious lady Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Ray Garden) whose non-stop ramblings attracts the people who are in a situation to believe in anything to be saved upon, even if it is the ridiculous preaching of Mrs. Carmody.

It is a film about human horror. The decisions and the resultants of those decisions cannot be weighed. It is a closed environment with the fear of death. It is the kind of death which scares every one. While the hopes of getting out appear bleak, things start to boil with the egos and stupidity swinging by in front of David. And David automatically sanctions to be a leader in to the group of people who think the same or rather think that David makes lot of sense gives his son to a new resident of the town, Amanda (Laurie Holden). The mob mentality is dealt with such a precision of human behaviour that many people might not notice how well it happens in a world of no creatures, pressure or insanity. This is pure manipulation of making others to follow the thing the only person thinks is right and even if it means of killing some one. In the name of god, anything can be done. It is easy to blame and act on some one who might not come into your face and even if that happens, the firm believer of that will not believe. That is the weirdness of the religion and the principles. It gives what you want on how you see it. Goodness or evil is in the definition of one’s own perspective and not in the religion or god.

What Stephen King and Frank Darabont give is an extra ordinary psychoanalysis of humans. The decision, the conflicting values and thoughts, the stubborn nature of even forgetting the grave circumstance of existence and mainly hope. The film gives creepy sense of feeling because of its hopelessness. Along the journey, we ourselves have restrained into going out. That’s not a choice but the people inside are even more dangerous than the creatures outside. It is certain death and it becomes a choice of how and when. But still people fight. Our fight of survival is unbelievable even when the future is a certain dark. And yes, some people decide to give up. I am talking about the majority of the people who gets bored of waiting and curiosity does the unthinkable even if it’s certainty of bringing doom.

What David or any one does in the film can be analyzed but the rightness and wrongful nature of it cannot be easily dissected to get a meaning or lesson out of it. There are lessons but some one who has been put through such a kind of treatment to extract sense out of it is tough. The end is a disturbing one. Quite fantastically it adheres to the nature of the film but after all my lines about judgments of right and wrong in a situation, this seems implausible for a character so strong and hopeful to behave in that manner.

In the process of watching the film, we shed the fear of death as certain character does by the encounters. I realized after couple of scary scenes that this is not the main plot. It is a background and the main horror is within the super market. Marcia Ray Garden performs Mrs. Carmody with the belief of the character over god and religion as with the person itself. She spits venom and pushes every wrong buttons in the audience. Her character is the one which questions the system of our society as such.

My judgments over horror genre got shattered. I am lining up my queue with some good ones of these kinds. This film is a roller coaster ride of thriller but an emotional analysis of who we really are. How we would behave in a pressurized closed situation threatening our existence? Is a belief a sin or a gift? Does values and principles aid or mislead us? Every one will get different answer and that’s exactly we all are. Conflicting individuals desperately trying to make ours the superior one. Some might not try and some might give their life. Earth is a big super market in “The Mist”. We are all there and we are doing the unthinkable.

"Enchanted" (2007) - Movie Review

I wrote in my review of “August Rush” that it is a cheesy hallmark card. And I say it once again for “Enchanted”; the difference being I gladly accepted and enjoyed it in the process. It is no wonder when Robert (Patrick Dempsey) tells Giselle (Amy Adams) that she talks like some one jumping out of a Hallmark card. Well she is from the fairy tale fantasy world which we believe to reside only in books and films. The film happily takes us in its merry celebration due to the belief the actors/actresses put in. That makes this one sweet film for wide audiences.

Giselle living in her happy cartoon/fairy tale world meets her prince charming, Prince Edward (James Marsden) and loyal to their surroundings, get ready to marry after one day or may be one kiss which they define “True Love Kiss”. It cannot get cheesier than this. But wait, the plot gets interesting with known predictability of this “true love” would pour water in the idea of the evil queen and step mother of Prince Edward, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon). Hence she curses upon Giselle and pushes her to a well which directly connects into middle of scary New York City. There she manages to stumble upon Robert, a lawyer and a single father trying hard to look in through the actual love. He gifts his kid daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey) a book about famous people. He does not want to raise her giving fairy tale hopes since his life has been unpleasant pot holes.

Giselle played with much sincerity by Amy Adams who we know gave the bubbling energetic Ashley in “Junebug’ recreates some one of the same energy but with a twist of fantasy character. I am sure she would have got pain in her mouth due to the time and wideness she smiles about, almost all the time in the movie. But it is not annoying rather inviting and refreshing. Apart from her, whoever comes from the world of fantasy believes in their character so much that some times they would have felt awkward playing one in the reality in front of a camera to uplift further fakeness of it. But we want to believe as we did as kids on these wonderful characters who have a charm even in the wicked characters, the animals who abides happily to their kind orders of princess.

I have thought about the concept of Indian Cinema’s songs taken properly into the Hollywood would bring in a genre of its own. Director Kevin Lima manages to squeeze in couple of songs which moods in the perfectly situational circumstances and very well lovable as any rhymes we have memorized out of likeability than a duty. Accompanying visuals oozes its energy and emotions to tag along the song as necessary.

The main tactics is the use of the fairy tales as a bow of self parody and homage at the same time. I noticed number of it and realized through Wiki that there are so many more than I picked out. Those references does not come as an unnecessary addition but plot points, humour and fun as any fantasy film would like to have. Apart from Amy Adams, James Marsden and Patrick Dempsey has the art of getting to the level of their character to a seasoned and perfected tone. It is not catchy enough to notice them but interesting at very crucial points to the character of Giselle. Without them the story would have been a mere “Alice in New York City” with nothing but boring adventures.

It is curious and entertaining to watch a character from the happy faced ambience learns to identify its true love and the dull faced earthly character finding it’s through this encounter of a young woman who radiates tireless consistent energy. It was slightly disturbing to see cockroaches dancing and cleaning (yeah, cleaning!!) a house in a uniformed sequence. Many got more than slightly disturbed of the hanging ceilings of insane colonies of rats in “Ratatouille”. If they think so, see this and they will faint. It was not particularly a cherishing moment but tell you what, it is highly unlikely for that vision to witness without worrying about our kitchen being conquered by those fiery little creatures.

“Enchanted” targets all the audience and it has something to offer for every one. If some one seriously is going to resist smiling or denies not having fun with a straight face quoting being that the movie is not for mature audience in their condescending tone, then they are not “mature” enough to truly appreciate the beauty and charm the film has to offer. I loved the Hall Mark cheesy card as a film and I sincerely acknowledge it. (Alright. Now is the time for a representative of Hall Mark to send me a cheque for my publicity of them)

Friday, November 23, 2007

"Hitman" (2007) - Movie Review

When action block busters are made, they are made within the confined world the film maker designs. The director needs to find the skill to make that world to engulf the viewers too, so that the ordinary logical laws surrounding the real one gets erased, for the time of the movie. The video game inspired “Hitman” manages to find that and survives till the end. With Timothy Elephant as Agent 47 who gives a cool take on this solid killer who does not quite seem to be the killing breed of “Soldier” and the active clever one of The Bourne Series. He is not Ethan hunt and he is not that skillful either. Yet, something intriguing about him finds us in the midst of going through the film.

It might be stupid to discuss the plot. Mainly that it does not need much of it and secondly, I did not really care or even understand some of it. But it does not really matter for a movie that makes bald men with bar code tattoo on their back wandering in the streets with the guns, knives, bug devices, poison and god knows everything which needs to put a person to rest, temporarily and permanently.

Yes, we know the Agent 47 will be set up. He needs to run for his life. And along with a seductive vixen, Nika (Olga Kurylenko) but a soft natured woman inside who has dreams of having vineyards and how our killing machine grasps it to have an end, every one knows except her. But the Nika is not irritable as most character in that skin will be. Apart from her sensual appearance, the character seems to understand the nature of the killer and brushes the limits as necessary. Hence we do not mind her and also some times like her too.

As for the good cop for a film of this kind, Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) does the same what Nika does. Even though no one believes him as he does on this invisible existence of the killer, he manages to run the plot as fast as he can. And surprisingly his subordinate Jenkins (Michael Offei) is not just there but does something. Hence every character does its part to keep the story moving and not allowing the viewers to think much. Allowing them to think is the suicidal risk, the movie of this nature cannot afford to.

The music keeps the flow coming while being dedicated to the gaming environment too. There is certain camera angles purposely framed to be homage and to give a feeling of the game. Similarly having the kids Agent 47 breaks in while he escapes playing the “Hitman” game itself is quite charming. The concept of bringing the game to the screen takes me back to my gaming days. Hence I decided to share during this opportunity of a movie based on a game.

I remember playing the game “Prince of Persia: Sands of time” during graduate school. Having seen the original first time graphic “Prince of Persia” when PCs got their way into the regular lives, the advanced graphic natured form invited to play irresistibly. I and another friend of mine took turns and completed the whole big game. The game as such a huge one and the numerous tries we took extended it for more than two months in the middle of mid terms and home works. The story line was incredible and the ending blew us. I never realized a game can be as plot intriguing as this. After that I never really played. I eyed over “Prince of Persia: Warrior Within” but never took off. It is amazing to see games getting its form adding to the regular short stories and novels. Gaming is one of the biggest industries and rarely do people believe in the extraction of intellectual value out of it. But I do not think so as there are umpteen different genres in it and it somehow or other reaches the audience who are just as passionate about any other thing. I know comic book fans are one such and their passion is taking its screen time too. It is quite interesting to see how different forms of art in the modern world technology not only provides story line but altering, changing and inventing new form of film making. It is definitely healthy. May be “Hitman” or “Tomb Raider” is not the ultimate definition of movie making but it took lot of time to get a experiencing “300” and acclaimed by many of its predecessor in this kind, “Sin City”. It is just a matter of time when strategic and emotional gaming might take its form. May be the much addictive “Age of Empires” or the “World of Warcraft” would come alive in the big white flag of cinema.

"August Rush" (2007) - Movie Review

“August Rush” is a hallmark cheesy card. We acknowledge when some one gives on the nature of the gesture rather than the card itself. I was not able acknowledge because I was in the paying end and I deserve better for my 7$. I remember seeing “I am David” and how much I was trying to like it and its fiasco of letting me down till the last screen shot of it. “August Rush” starts with a very promising note of how the two people Lyla (Keri Russell) and Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) blend in their music by kind of telepathic feeling through their music. Then it carries on with people staring at the skies, closing up the kid’s eyes and some very badly written clichéd dialogues to make this sporadic musical film into a very ordinary and a boring one in the end.

Evin (Freddie Highmore) believes he can hear music in anything and everything around him. When he composes the grasses over the corn field and it dances around his waving of small hands depicts on what he believes. His voice over tells what he feels and how he connects with his long last parents whom he had never seen or seem to know. In their one night discovery of true love (duh!), Lyla a classical Cellist and Louis a rock band singer gets separated by a stubborn father of Lyla (a big duh!). It would have been 1995 but cell phone, internet seem to be non-existent and Louis never tries to meet the “love of his life” until after 11 years and some months and some days, sorry “I did not count”.

The lameness starts out there and beats us cutting every shot to these three characters that desperately need to look into the “lost & found” section in the three cities they jump around, New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Fresh are some of the scenes and some are enjoyable too. I vehemently oppose using a sweet kid’s face as an emotional spectacle and leveraging the though of cinematic punch points. I wishfully want a non-sweet kid and more of terrific acting. Freddie Highmore does the job director Kirsten Sheridan has wanted to, be sympathetic, pale and smile as the cherubic kid every one wants to look at. But Sheridan uses that as the only corner stone even more than the music at times which they movie preaches.

I give in to the belief of people having that extra telepathic perception. In recent days, I have started to vaguely understand the nature of unexplainable force and bond connecting every one in the world. Quite cheesy but appears to have some feeble sense in reality. The power of consoling, comforting and even completely blowing away the art of manipulating has something more to do than the way some one looks, talk or acts. Having try to be in the Zen zone, there is only very little effort to convince some one like me and if they can fail in that, then I would say that the film lacks a lot as a natural musical representation.

Composer Marc Mancina seems to have been working on the score for the past one and half years. It is that which makes the routine scenes liven up to the fanciness it boasts. The songs faded away though. The first one was the best which I can very well be in my iTunes buying list of songs. And the dialogues, some thing like this, “What are you looking at?” and the reply of “You”. “You look crazy” and the reply of “I am Crazy” makes you think that the director read “Good dialogues beaten to death” by “Always thinking it will work directors”.

Music on the screen is a tricky subject and having seen this movie and couple of others, I can appreciate how much the movies in my native language have those challenges in front of them. When you see the trailer and poster of “August Rush” and the kid’s face, you go in with the full notion of liking the film. You know the steps and just sit back and enjoy it. When some one during that process laughs at my spending of ticket money and call me a loser, you know what, that hurts. More than the kid’s pain in the film of not finding his parents.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"No Country for Old Men" (2007) - Movie Review

When I watched Coen brothers’ “Miller’s Crossing” and the greatly acclaimed “Fargo”, both had the similar reaction in me. It did not bore me but it did not strike me either. The trend of their film making and its impact on me continues through “No Country for Old Men”, an adaptation of the novel of same name by Cormac McCarthy. This film actually has some better moments which I enjoyed more than the other two though. Still bland, just to be clear enough.

Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is a terror. If he is on the screen, then it is the fear of his merciless execution. If he is not on the screen, then it is the fear of him coming and continues his blood spree. The Coen brothers use this fear to make us be in constant awareness and to be attentive. We do not want to see it, but yet you cannot help it. And Javier Bardem cannot be scarier and cold than this performance. I would very well classify the movie to be a horror, with psychopathic creature of strange principles. It is symbolic to represent him in black dress because that is the only mourning he does to the numerous killings. He is not a person who is after for money. Because one would wonder his spending choices will be, mainly there is no evidence of enjoying anything at all. Even the killings, being a psychopath, works hurrying but systematically, yet does not look like a passion. For some reason, he is after the money and I would guess his “principles”. Quite a follower.

Then comes the matched opposite to tackle him, or may be lucky too. That is Llewyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who on regular hunting day finds bodies, drugs and of course, a lot of money. He has a flexible conscience as any average human being tend to have. He goes back to the spot for offering a chance of life for a man he deserted during his first visit. Too late and too wrong to be in that place. He is a man perfectly acting and knowing his consequences. He knows wrong and does it. He is smart, calculative but just that the risk factors he calculated does not load his future in the correct direction. He runs and looks back. Chigurh is coming. That sets his life till the end.

The other interesting and often mysterious character even though he is the one who has good amount of dialogues is Sheriff Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones). He is at the end of his career. He wants to help the local guy Moss and promises the safeguard to his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald). He has had it with the violence and to be a witness to the conscienceless acts of very many in his daily life starting from the days of his war. He believes this is his last case to solve and rightly leave to call it even with his sins.

Now these three characters are much well supported by many good casts. Which technically makes every scene of some interest or other. Now the part I had no interest are the final takes along with Bell. The accent swallowed some meaning and the rest meant something, but the blunt end leaves you with a vagueness of incompletion. It is not customary for any film for a period end and I am the sort of person who enjoys those kinds of endings which leaves a sense of continuing imagination. The lurching end out here opened the gates of void.

There is a style for the Coen brothers’ films. The dryness is what I would call it. We have seen dry comedy but the drama of that flavour is special. Making it interesting enough with that property is even more challenging. Their films have a plot of total insignificance. Any other movie maker would have opted on concentrating the racy nature and may be even make it the summer blockbuster. These guys completely go into the opposite direction of taking the elemental characters and give them something which does not shine but mildly glows. So when there are collective efforts from every one, we get their film. Sadly, this category while entertains me does not strike me as a master piece.

"Lust, Caution" (Language - Mandarin/Japanese) (2007) - Movie Review

Preparing for the character(s) in the movie for Tang Wei would have been more emotionally challenging and excruciating than the character in the film itself. It would have been the same for actor Tony Leung but the central role taken by Wei seem to take off the burden imposed on him. In the end, these two people handle one of the delicate, tough, erotic and equally disturbing scenes in the films we have seen. Going undercover and falling for the target has been come out as novels and as films too. The back ground setting of World War – II era of Shangai and Hong Kong is to make these two people into a dangerous journey into themselves.

The sexual contents of course are explicit but I have never seen an erotic story takes its form of love from the instances of intimacy alone. Posing as Mrs. Mak, Wong Chai Chi (Tang Wei) and entering into the dark corners of her target Mr. Yee (Tony Leung) considered as traitor due to his affiliation with the Collaborationist Government at that time, is an erotic romantic story. These two people for their reason of existence which they have defined take a weird form of commonality. Chai Chi been left alone by her father is struck by the zeal and passion her fellow student Kuang Yu Min (Wang Leehom) radiates enthusiastically. Her involvement in the patriotic play he invites her takes one step closer to him. Next she knows they are devising plan of his to assassinate the tightly secured and terribly cautious Mr. Yee. The bait for Mr. Yee is an obvious choice since Chai Chi moves every one with her performance over the stage. Her outlet of her frustrations of being lonely and being some one stage becomes her next step in doing the same in real life. But as for unexpected consequences, it twists into undesirable moments and desirable moments to be regretted upon in her later life.

Director Ang Lee who beautifully presented “Brokeback Mountain” is not some one to shy away from materials like this. We know about the school girl who becomes a young woman and how her life gets complicated. So when she enters into the sexual participation with Mr. Yee, we know her stand and vaguely enough understand her mild pain of submission to him. But as the film enters into that crucial moment of second time when they lay in each others hands is when we totally understand how Mr. Yee, so lonely falls for her and blindly for lust which at that instance blossoms into love. Rarely are the raw sexual encounters of film convinces into love. Because once the bodily fragrance dissolves and quenches the desires of each other, it unravels or illuminates the real person who was dressed up by his/her skin. And ironically enough, Chai Chi who actually is under the skin of Mrs. Mak does not get exposed to Mr. Yee even after that. When it is run second time, we understand even the existence of Chai Chi does not defines her but the inner left alone soul of her gets attracted, beaten and comforted by Mr. Yee’s very same inner nature of his character.

Chai Chi’s disintegration within herself cannot be more terrifically acted by Tang Wei. Tony Leung’s supporting role to her makes them the pair who is wandering in an island of conflicting images of personality. Mr. Yee is the most cautious person ever landed. But while depicting cautious it should not be looked like a coward. The anger, courage, battle within and yes, fear in him are shown through Tony Leung’s body language, terse dialogues and threatening eye contact he makes with the other characters. He is a gentleman of a mystery in him. Of course being an official of thrusting the resistance to the grounds and slicing their physical tolerance into pieces gives any one a numb face. At the end of the film, we might never know the real nature of him. Out of his political stand, he is disregarded from a philosophy widely followed at that time and Ang Lee carefully plays his bitter part of other person except with Chai Chi low. His aggression and violence over Chai Chi is his vent out and Chai Chi who starts it as a duty begins to acknowledge it, but suffers of deception and betrayal on either side.

There are holes in the film which passes by noticed enough to be forgiven but not forgotten. But it might reside in me due to the classiness of rest of the play. Even though Mr. Yee is a man of caution and clever ness, it is amusing when he does not track out the details of Chai Chi as Mrs. Mak. And the final disclosure to him by his subordinate does not convince, rather shows as cover up tried by Ang Lee. The importance of these two people might focus it away from those, but the bar sets by the rest swallows and spits it mildly on us. But “Lust, Caution” might be the best erotic and romantic film I have seen till date.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"No End in Sight" (Documentary) (2007) - Movie Review

“No End in Sight” title cannot be more appropriate and descriptive of the situation in Iraq and the film has in it too as per its conclusive element. As it says, it does not promise a solution but an iterative step wise presentation of things done perfectly and ill mannerly wrong are structurally given. The documentary sketches its first dot on its screen from the day Saddam Hussein’s regime got overthrown. The Iraqi civilians welcoming and thanking the US forces and then the procedural exercise of post war debacles are explained in detail from the people who were part of it. The film is neither pro-war nor anti-war but a calculated study of how tasks were set upon the post war Iraq and how bad it got done.

Charles H. Ferguson had interest in films for over 20 years and learning upon no film being taken upon the policy fiascos in Iraq by the US, he made this movie as Wiki says. That explains a lot about the systematic approach of the documentary. There is never a screen moment which goes in circles or mainly uninteresting. It is points and points of terse things taken in a route which still poses detrimental results in a country which is pretty much in a state of anarchy. So is it a blame game? Perceiving on that fact it might give an opinion of that sort but these are the people who served and are been in that state of affairs in it and in Iraq. Some of the people curse themselves for not speaking out loud and make the situation better. The agenda out here does not have a conclusion or solution. If there would have been a solution or solution been heard, it would not have resulted in this documentary.

Brushing aside those doubts over the neutrality of this exercise, it candidly shows the current status of shambled, desolated and rubble filled streets of Baghdad. People afraid to have a social life and get locked up in their houses for a country of prison only that prison wars are more and takes up lives of innocence. It is a focus on the leaders who failed to pierce through the long vision of settling up a government of peace and purpose. It is a provision for the key players who were disregarded or excluded from the key decisions without any consultation or discussion of any sort. The film does not beat around the widely debated and vehemently criticized act of getting into war but how the next step was not even brought into the attention of the architects of it.

“Lions for Lambs” could have shown this movie as its preview. A documentary precisely is to document the events. True to its nature the film shows us the detailed nature of the people who witnessed the inability and improperly planned stay in the country. Every one who tell their stories of how bad things got worse, bring their frustration not alone for their outlet but for a purpose to be seen upon. And the only person who literally showed an inconsistency of information and not looking eye to eye with the screen is Walter Slocombe, a senior advisor for Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad. The only member in the documentary who struggles to clear out the names and is not able to give a concrete answer like others does.

There is no fancy game or sarcastic tone. It is failure to listen and mainly understand the ground reality of how people are involved in mistakes which now cruelly facilitating the chaos in Iraq and providing a source of hatred, mainly being helpless of seeing a country going into grounds. The music of Peter Nashel echoes the concept of what the film emits. A series of mistakes and the tragedies are rightly backed by his score which is not promoting to be sympathetic but a feeling of hopelessness of the situation.

What can be done? The film does not answer as I said previously. Then what is the real nature in producing the documentary? Does a documentary need to provide answer? Yes but not in the open clean way but as any film dealing with a dead lock situation. It ignites strong discussion and inspires action in people. “No End in Sight” chronicles the disasters and unfortunately which still goes on in floor level basis. It gives us how an average civilian life of an Iraqi gets butchered out of the misleading techniques and thoroughly messed up process of post war stabilization.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"A Scanner Darkly" (2006) - Movie Review

Richard Linklater’s “Waking Life” is one of the most creative daring explorations of film making and philosophical aspects perfected. I was not aware that “A Scanner Darkly” is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Phillip K. Dick only after I read about it in Wiki. Both “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly” is an animated version wherein they shoot the real sequence with actual actors and then animate it. This gave “Waking Life” the much needed dreaming visuals and also the reality of motion picture. They applied the gooey amoebic restructuring of the animation as and when it is necessary. They do not use it out here and rightly for a reason. To be upfront about this film, this is one of the best films with equivalence of “Being John Malkovich” creativity and the humour Tarantino’s dialogue would beg to comply and the tragic nature of the characters itself. It is a “Requiem for a Dream” mating with the Gilliam making a “good” version of the much boring “Brazil”. Result is a Linklater originality and flamboyance of imagination adapted well onto the screen. And for some one who has not read the novel of this nature to give a taste of it is an exemplary art of adaptation.

It is an identity crisis of Fred (Keanu Reeves) who works as a narcotics undercover agent in a futuristic world of consistent surveillance. The future seven years from now as the film says is consumed by a large percentage of drug addicted junkies. Fred infiltrates as Bob Arctor into the world of a group of drug addicts James Barris (Robert Downey Jr.), Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder), Ernie (Woody Harrelson) and Freck (Rory Cochrane). Bob resembles Danny Parker of “The Salton Sea” but the agenda is different. The associates are equally crazy of coming up with their own “Kujo’s Heist” and there are lots of its comedy and weirdness they sincerely act out. Their endless diverse diving into the littlest insipid conversation confuses Bob and us ridiculously, yet highly addictive and interesting. The drug which is of potent effect is what they call “Substance D”. It obviously catches on like a leech and showers its dreadful hallucinations, paranoid and differential psychological reaction to the consumed person. Fred/Bob digs a feet a day into that and due to the nature of the animation and dialogues, we are in for a pay off which might or might not make sense. It is cobwebs of questions and answers clear as mud.

But what makes the film stand out and stay true to the nature of the book is the animation. The lucidity of the script and characters would have been terribly lost if it would have taken its form of usual real life film making. The feeling of us being drugged is the crucial part of the story as such for us to believe in the line of plots and its turns. But in contrary the drug is more of psychological alterative effect than the weird animated feature of dreaming and being lost in imaginary illusions. We are annoyed with the mixed identity of Bob/Fred. Who really is this person? Why is he the head of the drug house and also the covert operating cop? What are his intentions? Linklater does not disappoint us and points to research on his material. That said, it is not deceiving or trying to be clever. It needs to be understood as the novel. Having not read it, the film hinted how authentic it was taken to the pictures and how well the creative construction of the world Phillip K. Dick produced in his book gets the shape it deserves once our exploration of real answers end in Internet hunt.

Downey Jr. and Harrelson are somewhat underrated actors for their real talents. Harrelson especially goes unnoticed in thin air in many films. Their arch rivalry of characters and the humour they bring on to this rather sad tale of addiction and paranoid delusions is immeasurable. There is nothing new in this form of dark comic nature two characters bring out of their cat and mouse fight. Where a Tom and Jerry takes an adult stand among the disturbing drug influence is a tough nut to crack and mainly make people laugh out of a misery in quite a cruel form. They do it guiltless and inflict us with a moral of sadness after our sudden guffaw. Keanu Reeves’ sunken face has never fit so perfect apart from “The Matrix” for a character which dissolves into multiple persons. Strangely the same face fits for that different personality. The reason may be is that Bob or Fred or all the other person has been built upon a genetic generic quality of nobility.

Linklater is my favourite director who has no problem in morphing and adapting himself to any genre with ease and a touch of his own. While we have seen a character turning out to be some one else and the real intentions of him alive in “The Salton Sea”, Linklater’s version of it in futuristic setting with some limited magical equipments and surveillance of immense nature of course gives an experience to be watched again to fully grasp of its creativity and complexity.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Bella" (2006) - Movie Review

I do not know whether it’s me or the movies, but in the past two weeks, lot of these I cannot really connect with it. I was impressed with “Lions with Lambs” and “American Gangster” but not moved by it. That means am I losing touch with the sense of artistic eye I have for the movies? “Bella” appealed but did not reach out for the inner soul of mine. It had its time of momentous success and it even had me before the last couple of minutes. Then I realized, it is not me but are the films. I felt relieved and “Bella” by its end of failure brought me back to where I am. Too bad for the movie, good for me.

It is one of those days on the busy weekday of New York. Jose (Eduardo Verástegui), a man covering his face with beard and long hair is working at his brother Manny’s (Manny Perez) Mexican restaurant. Nina (Tammy Blanchard) finds herself fired by Manny for being late. Jose has a past which has pushed to coax Nina as he realizes that she is pregnant. And it turns out to be that day where nightmares are confessed and lost love is seen in bright light.

It is a surprise that I have not seen films which backgrounds the busy and chaotic New York City life for an emotional feature. For that director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde gets kudos from me. In fact when these two people suspended from their daily routines takes a ride to the outskirts of the city, it is even more rejuvenating. I have always mentioned in my reviews the dulled up week day afternoons and its melancholic boredom tailoring to the concept for a movie. In “Bella”, it carries that feeling but for a reason we are happy about it. Mainly due to the light hearted Jose who actually carries the heaviest burden day to day.

Jose is living the horrible nightmare every day in every little fractions of time. His life would have been a life of unimaginable riches, success and mainly without the pain of the memory haunting perennial and piercing its sharp pressure in him. One of the greatest suffering for a human being is the ability to not forgive him. Playing the event and looking at it differently and diversely to find some answers seems impossible for Jose who denies forgiving himself and would never go about that whole ordeal of convincing. Till that point we know there is a tragedy in his life and we know the details based on the assumption but Nina is a frustrated mystery woman. Having been fired by Jose’s brother and her dealing with the pregnancy burgles her mind of peace. Since we do not know much about the relationship between these two, the film spins on its own of trust and friendship to flex it as it wants to.

I liked “Bella” for the most part. There is a sweet scene when a blind man offering a paper frog to Nina asks in turn for a day description instead of money. She starts off blank and bland. She looks around and herself to turn out the frustration and how careless the city life not stopping for it. The blind man at the end of it gives the answer to her. Similarly the cheery scenes of family at Jose’s parent’s house are another example. And finally the truce of Manny and Jose is well shot too.

With pleasant and casual emotional drama how the end tipped me off from the charts of good film to a mediocre one? When the title name does not come in the character of the movie and there is a question of whether to have a child or not, anybody can take a guess of what is the end. I did not mind the predictability as the independent nature of it is mainly the emotions than plot. Plot is a background and the drama of things happening as chores are given in a platter which is real and moving too. This is the very heart of independent cinema. Hence there is no audience expecting a sweet end of everyone holding hands. Independent represents poetry on the screen. It does not need an end of converging points. In fact trying to tie the knot sometimes bluntly is a transgression in this form of films. “Bella” is warm, soothing and dramatic but also tries to answer itself more than the audience would really want.

"Beowulf" (3D) (2007) - Movie Review

The difference between “300” and “Beowulf” is that the humans in the latter take the aid of Computer generated animation too. In more explanatory terms it means that it is an animation based upon the computer imagery giving an illusion and reality of the actors/actresses in flesh and blood. It is a legendary story of hero and his deadly skill of slaying creatures of disgusting elements wrote as a poem with anonymous author. When I went to “300”, it is for the experience rather than the story and it appealed to its material. It did not alter much for “Beowulf” and with 3D it stressed more on the experience. It is truly entertaining and loyally flawed for its genre but miraculously survives by animation and screenplay.

Growing up around these legendary tales of great warrior as that of “Conan the Barbarian” and lot other movies, as the time goes by it is a skill to present the film in a different dimension. Director Robert Zemeckis who knows the mechanics of it, weaves the tale through the spectacular visuals of computer animation and the trump card beauty factor of Angelina Jolie. It is something unexplainable when the superficial element becomes a deception and seduction of believability which goes as mystical as the demoniac character of Grendel’s (voice of Crispin Glover) mother (voice of Angelina Jolie).

The 3D is breathtaking when the crispness of the minute strata of skin, complexion and the touch to the screen factor hits us as hard as a stormy wind but still feels as a breezy air. It cringes when the details of Grendel are navigated so close to our eyes and the yellow blood and saliva of the monster oozes onto us. And I think about the MPAA rating of PG-13 wherein it champions itself into the region of R-rating comfortably. It struck me quite surprising and some what threatening when the animation is used as a luring factor of PG-13 viewers in actuality goes far beyond it.

The known story gets over fast and as predicted. The turn occurs when Beowulf (voice of Ray Winstone) meets Grendel’s mother. A warrior tipped into the wells of lust and greed. As solid, structured and muscular, he looks, as she circles around to make him the prey of two deceiving mistakes in life. There is not much after that to see the long after his reign, he is tired and helpless. But wait, what am I talking? There is no analysis of the character but an observation and imaginative games of the audience in terms of their perception moulds the layers of them. This weird property of it borderlines into a film which skates on the shallowness of the characters and manages to do it successfully enough to make it disappear in the midst of grandeur.

True to its marketing, the picture will offer a good entertaining but looking within, it has more holes and tears than Beowulf making over the generations of demons. We never understand the real agenda of the demons. They acquire wealth and store it in the depths of a cave. What is the use of it? Mixing fantasy with the real world has its share of making us know more about the persons in it. As it goes for King Hrothgar (voice of Anthony Hopkins), who has a secret which gets passed on to Beowulf. Mentioned earlier, the demolishing beauty of computer generated Jolie does answers their instant fall in integrity and character, but it would have been better to stop with it. The film ends with a note of some reform in Beowulf but it does not nail strong enough with the screen. It wears out along with the animation which becomes nothing new after an hour and half in to the film.

With contradicting opinions of mine, I had a good time. I would not go about hailing high for its visuals and cast but it does not aim high either. I got irked by the brutality but it is required to hate a character merely for its appearance and its merciless visceral executions of its victims. We hardly know any of them and it should be for a movie focused to fit in the genre. The errors props up when they try to explain themselves for fulfilling their conscience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Colonel Redl" (Language - German) (1985) - Movie Review

Colonel Redl was a high ranked Austrian officer during the periods of Austria-Hungary but also a Russian spy. The film at the very beginning says that everything is fabricated but has the historical events attached to that correctly; otherwise it does not make sense. The film directed by István Szabó is a study of that character. We feel sorry but awfully nothing too of Redl (Klaus Maria Brandauer), since his idea of himself did not mean much to him. His life is a constant pretension of some one he never even comes close to. He believes in the Emperor because his mother said so at an age of innocence. Redl takes it most of his life.

I never dared to look for an answer to the person next to me in examination because of my mother’s words of “It is better to get a zero than to cheat in exam” when I was a kid. Those words nailed into me so hard that I stick to it blindly. While at that age it is merely a fear, as I grew up understanding the integrity attached to it. It went easy for continuing that practice from that young age till the point of realization and did not impose a pressure upon me. Redl’s realization is situation of conflicting and disastrous results. Something he has worked for many years. This denial of him mounts up the frustration, crisis and an end, an end he wants to but the same contemplation runs in it too.

He disconnects bonds with his family. He loves them but does not want to expose that he is Jewish. His abiding nature is some times irritatingly loyal. His adulthood makes him to see things what every one sees. The mistakes made by his godly Monarchy. But he convinces himself that these things happen and finally it is the individual responsible action which adds up to the success of a regiment, he believes that would excel. His reasoning is correct but the purpose of that action is opposite with that of rest of the people. But Redl needs to fight something more than political disbelief in him. He is gay. When a “Brokeback Mountain” still instigates whispers, strange looks and a stupid phobia in the current “modern” world, it is suicidal in every aspect during the times of early 1900s. And to top it off is the military designation. Consisting one hundred percent men in the unit who measure their virility of testosterone in blood and sweat as bravery and in bed with women.

The story of this man who lived a life of pretension and fake ignites an identity in us. He discards his trueness, distances his family and even ruins the friendship or his love with Kristof Kubinyi (Jan Niklas) for one thing of repaying the opportunity provided by the Emperor. As a poor peasant he gets to be educated and trained in privileged school. Training focused more on nourishing the faith over the ruling kingdom. The film does not take the main cover of sexual orientation per se which can either be to the period of limited acceptance of the concept or as such that being a part and not the whole itself. Either way it plays as an essential ingredient than an overcooked dish.

Two things mark well ahead of its time and those are performance by Klaus Maria Brandauer and the excellent cinematography by Lajos Koltai. Brandauer’s modulation, body language and physique represent the true self of the character and the performance of delivering the dialogues moulds the falsifying nature of Redl. He is clear and lucid in his eyes but in a room with himself or his only lady friend Katalin (Gudrun Landgrebe), he exposes the nature of his identity. It is ironical to be a counter intelligence officer for Austria and also a Russian Spy, he was never able to truthful to one side in it too.

The cinematography magically acquires the whiteness of snow and the buildings of the geographical location, but it is the application of light source in every scene which invents a style I have often seen in Indian Cinematographer P.C. Sriram. Sriram most of the times applies it for glossiness but Koltai blends in with the symbolic direction. The essence of the Redl and his life is symbolized in one scene. He is been called by his wife to come from balcony where he stands thinking. He looks, then comes back and carefully closes a shining light by three windows. Even then light shines on him and he finally brings the screen. But it still leaks out with same strength in the unclosed mid part of the screen. With all layers of shield, he is still illuminated by who he really is.

The film did not affect me as a great tragedy. It affected me in how living in a classified society puts some one to move away from them and honestly believe in the shade of unreal façade. The story is not about the right and wrong of Redl. It is the analysis, dissection and finally his discovery. It might shake up or fizzle out or be stagnant but the experience of understanding Redl should be a hard task to be missed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Lions for Lambs" (2007) - Movie Review

Why patriotism is considered the only avenue for doing something for the country or as such for the living foundation of human being? It is due to the dysfunctional and the corrupted politics which as its very nature has not only put the thought of not getting inside of it, but shuns most of us to taking the duties necessary to step forward. The idealistic, as the term itself brings some classification of impossibility, are set to make their start in army as courage or join the politics to succumb for the alterations in their beliefs, thoughts and desperation – better of the worst. Truly titled “Lions for Lambs” is a direct quote of a German officer during World War – I saying about the courage and bravery of the soldiers led by the inefficiency of their leaders (which they also enlighten us during the course of the movie).

As such the stretch of taking the multiple stories connected for convincing true nature throws light upon how the Americans and in fact looking the big picture of any country, we see how the information is been sold, misled or sits in distraught of non-action members of it which forms the underlining essence of director Robert Redford’s film. Lined are the stories of decisive and maximum force of action into the life of a human into this world. What is to survive, live, fear, breathe and fight for comes in the bouncing arguments of each sequences. Two of the sequences do much of the conversations and discussions, the movie beckons upon. The interview of Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) by Janine (Meryl Streep), which is more of a political execution of marketing strategies in the name of honesty and redemption. And how does this action of clinical catharsis happens and the answer Irving gives is fight fire with fire. In fact more fire with burning fire. If deploying the troops in Iraq is the mistake, then take it to the avenging deaths of the innocent people of 9/11, the real target in first place on September 12th 2001, Afghanistan. This is the preaching and slogan of terms, the Senator uses upon. In the intensive cross fires of questions and explanations comes the real thorn for Janine as a journalist. The media became an integral part of spreading the directive emotions the people needed. Hatred, vengeance and action. The three terms of culminating the hoisting of flag of freedom as it sounds and mainly to infest feel good factor into them. After six years, every one is confused about what exactly it is and given up what it requires to step back from the messed up situation. Is it the end? To shun away comfortably into our sweet luxury of disarrayed security and circled interest of immediate loves? Redford questions quite strongly and inventively through some thorough performances by himself, Meryl Streep and especially Tom Cruise.

But what exactly does Redford conclude upon? A constant question circled over the head to look for solutions but as it ends, there is a solution within us. Every time a discussion is evolved out of a movie, it means something for its making. A discussion worth having which may not change some one forever as it does in the movie for the kid, Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield) but something which might result in the small actions for any one. Its good to start some where.

With a nice approach and shift of momentum in every scene, I did find it odd when a class of students easily uses profanity. May be I can accept the happenings inside Professor Stephen Malley’s (Robert Redford) office, but during my Masters in University of Missouri-Rolla, I have never witnessed or heard of such easy talking. I did hear (and you know what “hear” means) about an angry student use an “f” word over a professor which (obviously) resulted in some consequences of its own. I will not forgive it for the strong agenda of the film. A director/actor good at building a short and thoughtful film should have rewired those properly.

A multilayered story line needs the immense aid of editing and acting which rightly leverages the film and unexpected slip down (and it does appear just before the end) now and then only formulates into a sensible cinema in the end. It is skin on fit role for Cruise but his charm is for deception and not to impress young voluptuous girls, his straight powerful eyes are not for seduction but for marketing him into the clean chair of power and acquisition. He had a similar scene in “Magnolia” with a reporter slowly bending him and breaking as it goes. Cruise over there showed complete destruction and unconvincing ego shredding slowly and out here he gives the same but twists the tale to frost it with eloquent swindling. Streep’s body language and expression lifts up the conversation into a room full of lies and blame.

It does seem like an endless circle of conversation. It appears more of throwing stones at each other rather than coming for a stop which reflects the act of engaging in the war. The lining of those infinite talks end again in an open gate but sparks something. And I seriously hope one not choosing violence (even it means against patriotism) to be the only way of doing something to this big giant structure of conflicting emotions of ego, belief and misinterpretations.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Lars and the Real Girl" (2007) - Movie Review

Chuck Noland of “Cast Away” starts speaking to volleyball in fear of his loneliness. In that no human’s island, he desperately tries to keep himself company. In a sense of avoiding going insane, he keeps him sane by talking to aptly named “Wilson” as the brand name. Anyone approaching him for the first time would look at it in an obvious sense of some one going out of his mind. Perceptions, plays a key part in both the cases. With Lars (Ryan Gosling), when he talks with a doll, he does not know it and others know he is going insane. Chuck Noland knew he was talking with volleyball while Lars believes his doll to be a lively girl.

Lars has lost touch with being around with people. He stays outside in a garage of his Brother Gus’ (Paul Schneider) house. So here is a man who for every possible opportunities of a community so willing to help (as we see them easily accommodating the change Lars brings upon) and a girl in his work Margo (Kelli Garner) interested him, he opts to stay out of it. Nothing much is explained about it. There are some more things the movie does not explain much which as a whole lacks and also what essentially is important for an independent movie, solemn emotion.

Gus’ wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) needs to stand in front of Lar’s car to invite him to their house for dinner. He stands in the door step of their house while conversing and does not let them inside his house either. He is a lonely man who prefers to be with himself. Lars one fine day knocks on their door and introduces them to his girl friend, Bianca. The problem is Bianca is a human sized doll. A more precisely, a sex doll his cube mate in his office comments early in the movie. “Anatomically correct” is what he says. He is deluding himself is the statement of their family doctor Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) says and advises to keep the show going until he does not need of it anymore.

The plot is well set. The start invites us quite anxiously. We want to know Lars. We want to understand him which sadly rest of the others in the movie does not want to. They care like the whole world is falling upon him, true. They do everything possible to make him feel not different. But no one really touches the base wherein they take a moment, sit and talk with him. Every one is so cheerful and accommodative, but the real thing of getting to speak directly with him or the attempt seems to be not shown. Even Dagmar graces around him and we only learn that he does not want to be touched. While it tells us how remotely one person has secluded himself from every one, it leaves with the same expression as any one in the town does, sympathy. But I do not think that’s the real emotion director Craig Gillespie would have aimed upon.

The movie works marginally appealing overall. It is nicer to see a lifeless doll gets its life with every one else and how it becomes a greater part in a community. It is believable to have a town with people like that. They are closed and look out for each other. At one moment while I was questioning why they are not explaining his delusions, I stopped and let me reminded of a thing. They never promised and the film never committed on giving something over it. Hence I put off that thought and went on. And as the end progressed, it brought out the question back into my mind. Gus and Lars have a talk on manhood which Gus takes a turn into his own apology of how he left Lars with their father to pursue his family life of his own. Lars never seems to mind about it and it rarely seems to be his present state of actions. What exactly did happen in between them? Was Lars always like this of being alone? And if he moved very recently into their house, how does it appear that every one acts as they know him for quite a long time?

As it can be summarized, the main intention of the film is to make us see through the world of people who want to be listened and responded of their way of liking and desires. But we never see it in action of importance or something to strike us comically or emotionally. When Lars spends a night with Margo, it appears more of her having a bowling fun than with Lars. But they try to turn it the other way round. These are the scenes which fail to strengthen the relationship they desperately want to build.

Ryan Gosling single handedly brings us strong, charismatic, sweet and lost Lars in many ways possible. It is his final tears of lost for real makes the film stands for its purpose. The choices of winter season, the pink colour representations are some nice touches to have the feel of happy but in a near end of losing some one, fits the bill. The film is a feeling of mirage. They make us feel hopeful of something but we never see it.

"American Gangster" (2007) - Movie Review

Ridley Scott’s “American Gangster” looks compressed even with the whopping two hours and forty minutes of finely detailed crafty crime/drama film. I would have liked some more climatic turmoil of emotions with Frank’s (Denzel Washington) personal life that is with his wife Eva (Lymari Nadal) as that of other side of the coin in the movie Detective Ritchie’s (Russell Crowe). Yet the film is as classy, closely arranged and quite meticulously constructed film for an epic art on gangster/cop movies.

Year around late sixties and Frank Lucas takes control of the Harlem by Manhattan from his late boss; he looks at an avenue for doing a business of his own. A business as a pyramid IBO says as his own, only difference is the Lucas’ material of distribution is heroin. The rise of the Lucas business is shown as any other gangster saga would do. The film’s balance lies in not giving the punching lines as one would expect to. With strong performers and stars as Washington and Crowe, they do not compromise on it. I guess that’s how a good actor plays their part. They stick to their channels and focus on the character they have been given.

Frank’s gesture of acute and sharp anger to rattle the members in a room encounters an unknown dimension of indifference when the same comes facing Ritchie across the table. He sees some one different from the people he has seen all his life. An honesty and lucidity rarely visible in his line of trade and mostly in cops at that point of time, where Frank Serpico took the stands in 1971. Hence Frank knows what he is dealing with. The two counter pointing characters come face to face in the final ten to twenty minutes but the screen split till that time makes them stand on the same scale. The editing works its charms when their lives are shown in parallels. Ritchie fighting for custody of his child and Frank dealing with his big family of brothers and cousins.

The film is not as detailed as “JFK” would go and not as violent or thematic as any gangster picture would lie on. Instead there is a combination of both in a nature of stealth and expose it aims upon for its content. I was not able to care for both the characters. Frank looks like pretty much content till the date he got into the hands of law while Ritchie is surviving on his acknowledgement of his honesty and well being. While he knows it cannot be expected much from his cop circle, he begins to expect the deserving nature in the ongoing case of custody. The punctuating significance of that is flashed in front of him when he hears something so terrible and so true from his wife Laurie (Carlo Gugino) to rethink who he really is. Self-righteous is a subconscious succumbing of admiring yourself too much to be lost in it, forever.

Frank is a mystical stature as Washington gives us. He is calm, calculative and viciously deadly when it comes to sitting on the wrong side of his table. He is a routine man. We know that even before the team of Ritchie narrates his daily time table. He is neatly dressed and lays low. He lies really low. He calls up his brother Huey (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who begins to mimic the flashy Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding Jr.) to say that loudness draws unnecessary attention, especially tricky for his business. He breaks his own rule not able to deny the flashy coat his wife gets him. He gets the attention. This is the one mistake he never wanted to commit.

There is something so peculiar and ironical about the lives of cops and gangster. In most of the gangster movies, the motivation for consistent progress in their field is to enrich their family. It also forms a weak point too. For cops portrayed over the screen, they have a bad marriage or relationship with their counterpart. Struggling hard to keep up with the “normal” family life they and their better halves seek. Still both of them fall short and hit hard on the floor. Their jobs defeat their purpose, I guess but without that they seem to have no purpose.

In the widespread movie of drama and crime, Scott chooses three to four acupuncture points to lift the material from the line of normalcy of goodness to greatness. To do that he needed the supporting characters as less stardom as possible and challenge the main characters with authoritative and convincing balance of expressions and confrontations. It comes through the role of Mama Lucas (Ruby Dee), Laurie and of course Washington and Crowe. But to assemble them into the order and place to create those moments, that took Ridley Scott to put it good. I was not able to care much for Frank or Ritchie, as they seem to want one another but I admired Ritchie for his honesty and Frank for accepting who he really is. “American Gangster” is not about two people learning about one another (which would have been great for the shortened three minute friendship between them to venture into a new film of itself) but two people learning about themselves that they pretty much ought to have expected as eventuality.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Bee Movie" (2007) - Movie Review

There is a high level of bar set for “Bee Movie”. A small creature interacting with the humans was top notched in an adult and yet funny and sweet manner by “Ratatouille” for all audiences. But Jerry Seinfeld’s stamp on this would have had team up for the challenge. There are strong one liners but does not add up to save a plot flimsy and sometimes uninteresting too. I being “Seinfeld” fan thought that couple of dry jokes could only be got by the series fan. I caught couple of those. The whole movie is a material of Jerry trying to insert in a plot with no care and seriousness it wanted to carry through the film.

As Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld), a bee is astonished to learn that his life is tuned for good; he begins to venture into the outside world along with the pollen jocks. And when a commander/trainer for pollen jocks says before the great adventure punctuating that “Remember, Bees cannot fly in rain” then there should be rain. We know that it is not exactly for bees but for us. Barry stumbles into the human world and yields to temptation of speaking to Vanessa (Renée Zellweger), in thanking her for saving his life. Then you can see why the story loses its control.

In “Ratatouille”, the surprise of the human knowing a rat moves fast but there is a sense of a shock and the character itself is so longing for some one to hear and mainly understand him. Vanessa clearly is dazed and confused when Barry speaks up. It moves on faster too but the way we get to know Barry in few but strong initial scenes did not carry the same for the character of Vanessa. Hence she is stuffed up in a script which desperately in need of female character to counter up Barry. They become friends but trying to take it up in to an infatuation/romance at the start is just oddly creative and even in the animation world it does not work out well.

Seinfeld in one of his interview said that people of course will identify him in the character and added that if he was born as a bee, it will be like Barry. It is absolutely true. We do see Barry “Seinfeld” Benson and it is the reason lots of jokes which would have lulled up if some one else voiced for it intrudes positively as a chuckle. The problem is that they did not work the surroundings around him sufficiently. They sure did build up a plot but it is tacky. Bees, the tiny fellas with fear of bitter sting also having their sweetness of charm are on their own territory of ironical characteristics. There could have been numerous plot and personality build up in the hive itself. And sure does reflect when the sequence involved out there.

We want more bee terminology, inside jokes and building up of their routines. When the movie started off, it was so promising. It perfectly identifies with humans in day to day routine of clock work in boring busy way. The enthusiasm rose up to see the society looks at itself in a way it has never looked up, of course in its animated funny manner. I do not need a human to learn that. Or even if it is, the comparison should have been an obvious manner of how ridiculously same both the architectural form up of both lifestyles are and there you have a laugh, creativity and a thought too. It started off with every thing of those and knotted into this mess of law suit, interaction with humans and a Hollywood cheesy finale to down it up further more.

Sure the film does not drain you (as any animation movie) and it has action comedy for kids and dry trade mark Seinfeld moments. But grouping together it as a film does not add up to its value. As for the animation, the buzz or the pace or the creativity goes very little when competing with the current giants of big time films.

I do need to say that I did expect something for the banner of Seinfeld. But as “Seinfeld” sitcom with grows on you as many episodes are watched and revisited, we do not have so much time in a movie theatre. Hence you can see directors Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith hurrying up the plot. While Vanessa was going nuts and unbelievable in hearing a bee speak, the rest of the human world automatically acknowledge it. Seinfeld does use it to his advantage with a one liner by jabbering up something when the world expects the bee to speak and then coming up with a casual kidding. Seinfeld strikes but movie does not.