Monday, December 31, 2007

Thank you......and some more

Hello All,

Yes! I am talking to you all. The people who regularly read, the people who accidentally been directed upon and the people who I have annoyed so much to go through it. I have made this blog to contain only movie reviews and I guess it is time to get out of it and talk to you, tell something more than the usual reviews. This is the review of me in the past year and in this long post will make an attempt to bring some of the films I liked a bit and far more than the other hundreds I have watched.

There will be times when you look upon yourself and feel a bit complacent, a bit proud and a bit satisfied. The time is now, the end of a magnificent year of 2007. A year wherein I regulated in penning something very close to my heart. A year I found myself of what I enjoy doing and what I cannot compromise anything at all for it. A year of seeing some movies to be affected by and some movies to be reckoned watching and a lot of great movie classics from the shelves of great years. This is the year I will mark upon in me as the year of a foundation, a genesis in self realization and self revelation. 250 reviews – worst, better and best in films and the reviews in its characteristic growth.

At this point of time, I need to thank you all, every one of you who read a word, a line, a paragraph, a review and whole bunch of those. I recently subscribed to Google Analytics and it blew me to see the people wide around the world stepped into this small place for a while and several times. I am happy to see that it has extended and traveled from a room of four walls to many others whom I have never known. Thank you all! There are some people who need special mention from my front who not alone read the scribbling of mine regularly but took their time to suggest or discuss or recommend improving the clarity, content and the overall feel of the reviews. The review posted in January and now will mark quite a difference in quality and mainly in myself of how it has turned out.

Mathi Ezhil - My dear friend Mathi Ezhil, who with his zeal for the language and with the frustration of various blunders in my reviews patiently and amicably, advised, guided and influenced me to continue writing. A man of such a passion towards the language (and I am expecting his writing to make places in future), I sincerely thank you my friend.

Brad Burke – At the time he was working in Peoria Journal Star and I happen to get his acquaintance through mail to ask for working part time in his office. Unfortunately things did not work out for various other reasons but due to constant pestering in many to ask their opinion, feedbacks and suggestion did the same to Brad. Brad did not brush me off, he asked for time and he took time. And when he came back with his feedback, they altered the whole course of the flow, writing and the observation of the films as such. While Mathi corrected the language, Brad enlightened and made me visualize a totally radical path of presenting the films. I truly thank Brad for that which will forever be attached to the writings of mine.

Nagesh – The time I worked in India with Nagesh as my lead, a colleague and a great friend, there were tons of discussion, Movies Versus Books. I constantly vouched for movies as informative, creative, influencing and phenomenal as a book and he disagreed on labeling it as an entertainment value. Regardless we agreed to disagree. I am sure his opinions have changed but he is the man who greatly helped me identify things in my random life. The time we spent in India and the thoughts and ideas we shared are the building blocks of this blog. His systematic approach and the self discipline he brings in any of his work are the catalyst for keeping me obsessed with writing. When I started the newsletter in India office, he marked a main encouragement and support to bring in his material but provided something more than that, an inspiration. While we still will be arguing and discussing about our differences in very many things, we lie on the same grounds on disagreeing and having mutual respect for it. It has been a great honour to work under you and to be inspired by you. Thanks Nagesh for those interesting and irritating times of arguments and discussions. We came through good.

I also need to thank cousin Aravind, Aaron, K. Karthik of blog - http://woohhaa.blogspot.com/, Danielle Hatch of Peoria Journal Star, Mathangi, Prasanna (Saqli), Keith Demko of the blog Reel fanatic and with the very limited time he gets in his new role of family man is my brother Barath. I from my deepest heart thank every one of you and if I missed some one (this is turning out to be an Oscar acceptance speech) it is the only reason that I am overwhelmed by this year end, an end of a great year for me and an another embarkment for the year of 2008 with great expectations and hope!

With an eventful 2008 waiting, I try to compile some of the films I enjoyed and admired a lot than many others. There still to be many other movies which have released in 2007 which are yet to hit the theatres in the small town of mine to be viewed. I will mention it in the end and might add in before the Academy Awards.

“Into the Wild” – This is the film without any look up into the list of my reviews comes up as the story which stands out for its soul. Sean Penn with his magnetic directorial approach casting a surprisingly vibrant and charismatic Emile Hirsch lights a great deal of character in to this mystical, influential and a tragic character from real life, Christopher McCandless. With Hal Holbrook, Catherine Keener and Vince Vaughn, this truly is one of the memorable and a film very affecting, depressing and encouraging for me in the year of 2007.

“Once” – A film which gave a new definition to a musical and a story so heart warming and staying honest to the characters (which by the way never have their names, the leads played by Glen Hansard as Guy and Markéta Irglová as Girl) to have ending to be cherished. The music is simple but memorable, not glossy but mellow and director John Carney aptly said that it is a video album. It is visually strong enough to get us into that zone of peace, love, depression, despair and honesty all in “Once”.

“Michael Clayton” – George Clooney used his charismatic presence into something opposite. He is tired, stressed and constantly questions his choice of career and decisions in this film of brilliant editing and dubious circle of life. Director Tony Gilroy gives a man in a situation than a situation itself. A personality who is best at his job and his foundation of life stumbles when his mentor and colleague played with conviction by Tom Wilkinson put this question in every reviewer and audience – “Who is Michael Clayton?”

“The Lookout” – This is a sleeper and did not even make it in many lists I believe. Debutant director Scott Frank extended his job from screenplay writing and makes a ride which is so out of ordinary in any heist movie. In reality though, the heist is a simple third act twist but the real focus is on this brain damaged Chris Pratt played by the promising and talented actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It has the cosmetic value but also a deep look into this classically usual but randomly unable to carry on his daily activities personality with the pitch perfect support from Jeff Daniels as his blind companion and a stylish suitable back ground score by James Newton Howard.

“In the Valley of Elah” – Tommy Lee Jones clearly has made a genre of characters only for himself. Old, dryly sarcastic and some one to be aware of every single move of a fugitive as his back of the hand gave a completely altering role in this film which is sad and helpless in the end. As a father, a husband and a retired army officer, he gives a performance composed but deeply hurt inside in losing his son becomes the corner stone for this film. Director Paul Haggis never plays a wrong note and the end by many claimed to be melodramatic are in my opinion simply shows the integrity of the film being continued.

“Eastern Promises” – This been compared to the “The Godfather” tells how much it is systematic and dangerous in giving a gangster family of Russian descent in the London. Viggo Mortensen at his best, this film by director David Cronenberg walks on the high wire of violence so brutal that we are kept scared throughout the course of it. One of the best choreographed stunt sequence in the history of the film making, it is a sharp turn for my perspective towards the director since I was not moved or impressed by his previous venture with Mortensen, “A History of Violence”.

“Ratatouille” – An animated film for adults and kids, matured, witty and inspirational that it made me feel guilty of being judgmental on this genre. Director Brad Bird and co-director Jan Pinkava had the audacity to make a film for adult audience and still maintain the fun and creativity the animated films famous for. And the final speech of Anton Ego voiced by Peter O’Toole is so true and would have been close to many critics.

“Hot Fuzz” – A movie I loved every single moment of it. Fun shooting, one liners and the awesome English accent is great enough to coming out guns blazing for making the list of mine for the year of 2007. As for my dislike on bloody gory horror slasher movies, director Edgar Wright and his team of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost while impressed me in their first half of “Shaun of the Dead” lost me in the second half. They hit right on target and won me fair and square in this film. Apart from being funny and spoofing the action movies it remains inventive in its own plot which tells a lot about the potential of this team from UK.

“Knocked Up” – Judd Apatow’s venture after his terrific “The 40 year Old Virgin” is just about next to perfect. A perennial stoner Ben honestly given by Seth Rogen scores his out of league in appearance Alison played nicely by Katherine Heigl in that one drunken night only to be in the situation of dealing with unexpected pregnancy is comic but also has the soul and stays dauntless to analyze these funny characters a bit more. With Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as Alison’s brother in law and sister who remain as her only comparison for a marriage which sadly is in jeopardy. Apatow is masterful and made himself a genre in the field of comedy.

“Zodiac” – Many would have forgot about this movie as that of the killer itself, this is from the versatile director David Fincher with his cult “Fight Club” and terrific “Seven” to give a detailed and broad analysis of the people who shed their life and family for finding this serial killer mysteriously naming himself “Zodiac”. While couple of other movies was made focusing on the killer before, Fincher brings out the silent players who dedicated their whole life in the hunt. With Jake Gyllenhaal as the curious cartoonist Robert Graysmith and his alcoholic colleague Paul Avery played with ease and carelessness of Robert Downey Jr., this film shows a new side of Fincher and his execution.

“Away from Her” – Sarah Polley matures herself from the cadre of sweet cherubic actress and steps in to the shoes of a director. Her first film and she gives a film filled with so much emotions and characters to be cared upon and is so careful in not making it a melodramatic tragedy movie. With Julie Christie in a performance worthy of very many awards as Fiona, diagnosed by Alzheimer’s disease slowly forgetting her past and her husband Grant by Gordon Pinsent who relives his guilt of not being faithful in their marriage is one of the most emotional movies for the year of 2007.

“300” – Well, many might look at me with disdain for naming this as one of the films I selected for this year. True is that it is not a great story or does not go profound in its characters. It is a bloody war film and we have seen many with more substance. But director Zack Snyder adapting from the graphic novel of Frank Miller gives us a new experience. An experience so unique that having visuals totally created by the animation department when the actors were piercing their warrior instruments in the back ground of green screen. While “Sin City” another adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphical comic by director Robert Rodriguez, which I did not like but admired its unique style of making, “300” brings another facet of the same graphical comics with the touch of cinematic invention. For that it makes into the list.

“Rescue Dawn” – My first movie of Werner Herzog and the always brilliant Christian Bale as Lt. Deiter Dengler with a strong supporting performances by Steve Zahn as Duane Martin and Jeremy Davies as Gene gives the struggle, torture and psychological pains of being a captive during the initial covert attacks on Vietnam. With acquisitions from the family of real life Gene over Herzog for not being faithful to the true happenings, it still is one of the best films of the year, seeing for its positive representation as it is only based upon and not a match on match representation of real life.

“The Mist” – An odd choice but this is the film which has made me to see the horror movies for something to be more than blood spatter or visceral anatomical treatments. Adapted from Stephen King’s novel and directed by the “The Shawshank Redemption” Frank Darabont gives the human horror in the society where in here it is the society formed in the super market grocery store of small town. Here the group of people is trapped due to the fear of the mysterious mist which has covered the town. With Thomas Jane as a level headed matured artist and a father with his son against the diabolique venom spitting Marcia Ray Garden in the name of religion and god, horror movie works at its best even with an unconvinced ending.


“Black Friday” – Many might despise me for naming the only Indian movie to be on my list. I still stand guilty as charged for not viewing much of Indian movies (comprising mainly of Hindi and my native language Tamil). Yet I managed to get my hands on this film directed by Anurag Kashyap who actually made this film in 2004 but was not able to release it till this year due to the legal complications surrounding the Mumbai blasts in 1993 which the film details upon. Kashyap gives a detailed analysis of the reality which happened post those blasts and the people involved in it with some good acting from Kay Kay Menon, Pavan Malhotra and Aditya Srivastava.

“No End in Sight” – A documentary stands being the definition of its nature of the genre. First time director Charles Ferguson systematically lines up with people who were involved in the Post Iraq invasion by the US. How it was terribly planned of not having a plan and how people were jumped upon is told by the people itself who are haunted by their helplessness in creating a country rotting down and heading towards utter wretched demise. It stays so true to the material and does not go for pro or anti war but a failure of a government in doing a job cover by carelessness and arrogance, only to leave the innocent affected people to look for the wrong direction for closure and the ill fated revenge and hatred.

“SiCKO” – Michael Moore stays behind the camera for most of the time, unlike him and puts the problem bright and as usual digging to build up controversy sky high. While some times it does feel like a paradise in UK, France and Canada which appears a bit wager, Moore gives the flawed Health Care system designed in the US as an obvious fact. His usual acts of tapping on the nerve buttons of the government officials continue when he takes the 9/11 rescue workers to US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay.

Many might be surprised not to see the “No Country for Old Men”, “Juno”, “Before the Devil Knows you are Dead” or “American Gangster”. Even though those are good movies, it did not do it for me to make it in my list.

I yet need to see lot other films which might fall either in the below paragraph or the above list of mine or may be in to the films I despised, time needs to determine that. The films are “Atonement”, “The Kite Runner”, “The Assasination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford”, “Romance & Cigarettes”, “I’m Not There”, “Starting Out in the Evening”, “The Savages”, “Redacted”, “There will be blood” some foreign movies – “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”, “Vanaja”, “Persepolis” and Tamil Movies – “Paruthi Veeran”, “Mozhi”, “Katrathu Tamizh”, “Chennai 600028”, “Sivaji”, “Evano Oruvan” and Hindi Movies – “Guru”, “Chak De India”, “Tare Zameen Par” and “No Smoking”.

Other films I enjoyed and missed the list – “Juno”, “No Country for Old Men”, “Rendition”, “Before the Devil Knows you are Dead”, “The Great Debaters”, “Charlie Wilson’s War”, “Lust, Caution”, “Lions for Lambs”, “American Gangster”, “The Darjeeling Limited”, “Gone Baby Gone”, “The Kingdom”, “Talk to me”, “Superbad”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”, “1408”, “A Mighty Heart”, “Waitress”, “Fracture”, “Breach” and “Bridge to Terabithia”.

"P.S I Love You" (2007) - Movie Review

Is it tragic or ironic to see the worst film of the year so far on the final day of the year? “P.S I Love You” cannot get more cheap, exploitative, manipulative and sadly casting completely bad on the role of Holly played by Hilary Swank. This is the film I have always avoided through out the year and here I am finally caught by it writing about it. There are some miniscule parts to pin point for some consolation but it is so due to the remaining material of horrific execution.

The film is how a dead husband Gerry (Gerard Butler) helps his widow wife to coax and pick up her life to move ahead. He does so by sending letters, buying vacation tickets and then giving it to some one to deliver it at the end of the film, a final departure. Sounds sweet doesn’t it? I should say the premise does entertain expectation but director Richard LaGravenese decided to go for countless cheap shots invented in the film history. He struggles so hard to give a film which can be trashed for its value.

Now this is the film when you see Kathy Bates in the titles to seriously expect a final pep talk to the main character and guess what, they do it, in the worst possible unimpressive and forgetful manner of no meaning what she says. And then we have the friends of Holly, Sharon (Gina Gershon) and Denise (Lisa Kudrow) who we never get to know apart from that Sharon wants to get Holly laid and Denise wants herself to be laid. These two are the members who are the appointed person to console this character whose life has been shattered.

So to have a character to be influencing enough to substantiate the intimacy and love to live through the entire movie tenure, you need an opening sequence of such a strong presence of it to last and understand the pain Holly goes through. I should say that Gerard Butler makes a great charismatic appearance and the character of Gerry whom every one loves. Even if he is having an axe in one hand and a head in another giving a smile and an Irish drinking joke then every one will be laughing and you can expect the most of the female members in the audience to go “Oh!” in their typical toned manner (Please forgive me for stereotyping ladies, but I heard around 4 “Oh!” from approximately 6 female members in the audience when Butler appears smiling through the screen). Not so sweet when that sequence is badly executed and we see nothing more than a couple resolving a fight with a nasty make up sex as they say.

The consoling part as I said is the character of Daniel (Harry Connick Jr.) who provides some form of raw humour and the approach out here in his scenes are enjoyable. I would have loved to see their relation develop and resolve in to the end they try to promote. And when did Hilary Swank became so horrible? I have always admired for her audacious role in “Boys Don’t Cry” which won her the Academy Award but to see her deteriorate into films like these cannot be more pathetic. At least that makes me feel sorry for Hilary than Holly.

P.S: Please tell me how these characters have this sweet uncle who has complete access to the sports stadium in so many romantic comedy films to give a fine tour to their love interest?

"The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep" (2007) - Movie Review

The adaptation of the children’s novel “The Water Horse” by Dick King-Smith could have been more of an adult oriented movie under the hands of director Jay Russell. Russell does try to make it a movie for adults some time near the end when the legendary “water horse” turns into, well a monster. But when it is destined to be for kids, there is significant tone down in the screenplay to see the compromise the director made; at least that’s what my observation stands.

The movie works as a very good kid’s entertainment and does not over touch many subjects as the “Pan’s Labyrinth” (which obviously is not for children) and “Bridge to Terabithia” does. The thing I liked in the film is that the monster named cutely as “Crusoe” by the young Angus McMarow (Alex Etel) behaves as one and does not become a pet that develop cognizance as that of humans. This makes the film a reasonable movie gauging the audience even the young ones to be intelligent and at certain level provides a fundamental good time for the parents who will be accommodating them.

As narrated by Brian Cox as some one you can guess and an obvious answer to couple of young tourists (Nathan Christopher Haase and Megan Katharine) about the legend of the Monster in the lakes. In his story young Angus misses his father who has gone to World War – II and his mom Anne (Emily Watson) knows that is not going to return. Angus spends his time in the work shop his dad spent during their small conversations. As a dull kid, he finds an egg shell from the lake shores of Loch Ness (I assume since the film happens in Scotland). He is curious and finds a small creature hatching out of it, a hybrid of the body of a seal with a face of a Diplodocus. Now he blindly does not go about making friends with him. He is curious and goes to refer the encyclopedia but does not find much information about the creature.

The kid finds comfort in talking to this cute animal which multiplies in its size to the proportion of food and water in take in very limited time. As the Scottish war troops camp outside under the command of Captain Hamilton (David Morrisey) who fights for the love of Anne along with the newly appointed house keeper Lewis Mowbray (Ben Chaplin).

Alex Etel who is famous in his “Millions” carries on his angelic face of naivety and innocence very well in to the Angus. Among many kid’s noise, I watched the film and it managed to keep me staring at the screen than a kid spilling his popcorn all over the place and then a kind assistance from his grandmother (well looks like I did get all the details in it). But there were some scary scenes in the sense of kid’s point of view but I guess that’s where Parental Guidance comes in.

The graphics of the animal is instrumental in the chemistry between Angus and it. It especially works a great deal when the eyes of Crusoe are used as depiction of its state of mind. The demise of a children’s movie is that a kid with a out of place character as a secrecy is the behaviour of that character in this case the water horse to be easily friendly and expressing human natured accommodation with no difficulty. In this Crusoe remains as the creature that is unpredictable till the end with of course the attachment to Angus being developed.

Director Jay Russell does not loose around on many occasions. He does not use the war front or Anne’s eagerness for a new man in her life in much deal since the focus always remains on Angus to explore his frontier along with Crusoe. His sister Kirstie (Priyanka Xi) also stands as a character than a bigger part of interaction in it and is rightly to be like that when the film moves on Angus. With again everything in very minimal but right proportion of comedy by the cook and a form of villain in Captain Hamilton and one of his soldiers, “The Water Horse” is a perfect movie for kids and a mild entertainment for adults.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (2007) - Movie Review

John C. Reily plays the leading role Dewey Cox with so much seriousness and sincerity that at the final moments of the movie, we actually have developed sympathy for this fictional musical legend created by director Jake Kasdan and writer Judd Apatow. It runs parody of many musical legend life story based films but I have not seen half of it and still enjoyed it. There were of course some times when I felt lost but the performances of many with belief in their character as such of no existence other than to mock makes it a fun ride.

It is definitely on the lines of “Scary Movie” or “Hot Shots” franchises and it works far better than those two. It has quirky dead pan comedy and the running gag throughout. The best of those are from the Dewey’s band drummer Sam (Tim Meadows) and it is utter pleasure to watch his first act of explaining the “ill effects” of marijuana. It felt initially though that the actors and director were having fun than the audiences. It later takes its comedy more seriously and notches it up to insanity which we know they mock every single musical legend epic made.

Discussing the story of this movie would steal half the fun and hence will not get into it much. That much is that it of course is a story of this fictional musical prodigy who plays guitar with no learning and at age 14 (played still by Reily) goes about making it big in the business. It mimics even some of the “The Doors” and some times it is comedic to see how estranged and insane those comedies are, the real life people did go through a phase something like that. It is surprising to see a serious pathetic situation of those drug addicted legends can be made into a spoof.

Without being much raunchy (but they manage to boost up the raunchiness in physical exposure), it while stutters at some places wherein we really do not know whether to take the things seriously because it appears for the director to make the scene so but at the same time funny to see the spoof of it and takes some time to adjust to that new tone of that comedy. I would not have expected Reily to get a solo front role in a comedy like this than a versatile drama film, but it is happy to see him finally get his recognition after much many years. After being a side kick for many times and boding very impressive character performances in movies like “Magnolia” and “Sydney”, Reily comes methodically original in this funny flick.

And to have music for a film like this would have been tough to compose. What they did is clever. The music is suited with much care for the era and style but they add the humour in the lyrics. Hence while it is believable to see this weird character playing music brilliantly is so dumb down in lyrics to provide the laughter the film needed. It shows how Kasdan has managed to work around the film as it stands for as a serious comedy.

It is great to see Judd Apatow aiding in setting up a style and standard for a genre in a comedy. For once many might realize that making a comedy is as tough or may be even tougher than making a drama and I hope some day Academy Awards or any film awards take care in recognizing these in a normal motion picture category. “Walk Hard” has been nominated for John C. Reily in the category of performance in a musical or comedy. We do not have a “Best Blockbuster Movie” or “Best Action Movie” because when it comes to award which even though I do not believe much in it, is some form of encouragement to the creative think tank of any film. Hence to completely classify a genre for not being dramatic or does not have any serious intent, seems partial and flawed. “Walk Hard” may not be as funny as “Hot Fuzz” or “Knocked Up” or “Super bad” but it is as best a spoof can get real and funny. And Reiley’s performance and the other actors with a screenplay short and simple to cover a fictional biopic and still address many parody features just tell how Jake Kasdan is able to design according to the writing.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"The Great Debaters" (2007) - Movie Review

“The Great Debaters” does not work as the regular formula sports/competition oriented film. Instead it addresses the condition set in a society evolving on its own through many personalities who were ready to step up, voice and revolutionize the people. Set in 1935 as the racial discrimination and hatred crime still going unnoticed and some place even legal enough to burn an African American in a cross, the debate team of Wiley College coached by Mr. Tolson (Denzel Washington) comprising of James Farmer Jr. (Denzel Whitaker), Samantha Booke (Jurnee Smollett), Henry Lowe (Nate Parker) and Hamilton Burgess (Jermaine Williams) excelled in the midst of those cruelty and opposition.

The film mainly sets forth through the eyes of a remarkable boy at the age fourteen that through his fast academic excellence is in college and in Mr. Tolson’s debate team, James Farmer Jr. Son of James Farmer Sr. (Forest Whitaker); he then became to be a key figure in civil rights movement. The film plays down growing up on a stratified society of two, whites and blacks. Denzel Washington in his second venture as one another community oriented in pre Second World War – II, focuses on educational privileged class of it but still not got to see the light at the end of the tunnel far away from it. That is more humiliating wherein being educated, enlightened and being aware of this division. It drives them and sees how to tackle a whole set of people who not only have been grown to hate but also grown and learn to be hated as well. They begin to accept this impartial brutality and fight with their accord of problems within the family.

Washington takes his time to set forth the striking point of the story at perfect opportunity. The film is not in inspiring the kids to go that extra mile. The kids in the film already know their talent, difficulties and mainly the confidence in them. Washington marks those in fluctuations when the situation arises and we realize that people have to do the right thing and act on their instincts, the right one. Everybody knows the drill in a movie like this. It is a tough job but the hard coach and the students desperate to prove themselves eventually succeed or lose and succeed morally. The path towards that is essential in proving the points and do not overdose the sentimentality or boost up the racial problem in an urge to leverage the script. It is based on a true story but it has the additional dramatic effects required to give the feel and sense of the situation placed upon those students and also the people surrounding them.

Washington does not need to stretch himself to play the character of Mr. Tulson. It feels coded in him and even in his similar mannerisms in many other movies, he is able to differentiate and bring in the character of his own. Forest Whitaker as a father who measures the words to be spoken to his son and earn the respect, but feels down in front of him to be degraded in unfortunate circumstances. With his small time over the screen, we see him as an ever thinking eloquent literary man, a respectful husband and a father learning to learn his son. Among these two gargantuan figures are the three main characters who are the debaters playing down when needed and loud when the adrenaline needs to be pumped. But it all goes to the brainy and liberated portrayal of Farmer Jr. by Denzel Whitaker to win amongst all.

Knowing how Washington is going to work up on us, it becomes predictable but never uninteresting. In knowing the way it is going to make through, the film is an exploration of the characteristics of being in lime light and responding to the responsibilities. It authors the principles which lay as the foundation for the civil rights movement to conduct in values of non-violence and resistance of no blood shed. “Remember the Titans”, “Akeelah and the Bee” and some more have had the same theme and the characters rising up for them in exploring it have all succeeded well enough. It is amazing to see all of these manage to work so well and every time with the same content glorifies into something of its very own and makes the mark on the audience. “The Great Debaters” joins that list.

Friday, December 28, 2007

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007) - Movie Review

It is one another proof that I am not a big musical fan unless it is exceedingly good to suit and please my taste of music and has some characterization to fill in the gaps properly. “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a musical with dark comedy and lots of blood to be bled upon. It is the film adaptation of the Broadway Musical by Stephen Sondeim and Hugh Wheeler. It had me some where some time and then lost me completely. Then it again came back but there is not a single bit of curiosity on how this going to turn out. I stand in the middle of whether it is the taste of not liking a musical or the film itself did not please me enough to overcome the genre and accept it as the least than appreciate it.

As any musical most of the conversation happens in songs with rhythmic and comedic tones which needs close attention to completely understand it. The remaining part which has some dialogues is enriched with thick English accent which again needs very close attention to grasp. May be my problem of English as the second language might have keyed down the listening skills, but it did not completely baffle the plot. The musical is the vengeance embarkment of Benjamin Parker, a barber (Johnny Depp) now disguised as Sweeney Todd towards Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) who towards the lust for Parker’s wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) wrongfully convicts and sentence him to hard labour in prison. With the help of Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower) he comes back to London to find his daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener) been taken away under the guardianship of Turpin with his only known person which Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), a former friend of his wife.

The visuals of course are stunning. The darkened and poorly constructed neighbourhood of London suffices the theme for the film. What never got me were the songs which were not soothing enough and not catchy too. Now the film could have been a bad album work for me. But then it got worse when the killing rampage of Mr. Todd started happening. Throats slithered by the sharp parts of Todd’s razor blade and bloods spattering as a high pressured leaking pipe, then we cringe but more throats are marked and then we cringe more. By the time the razor blade has made its work deeper than the skin, we are left with nothing more than an appealing film with good sincere acting, uninteresting songs and no character to remember.

Now I know that the film has been widely received and praised for its great adaptation. I can very well realize when I am really really bored and agonized for not able to see the time since I do not have a glowing watch. We see vicious personalities and love at first sight, a mark for a fairy tale venture only now with a dark twist. We can understand Todd’s vengeance but it gets deviated into an unknown disgusting trade of doing something in his life than revenge. It is easy to see the love attraction and dream of Mrs. Lovett but never could understand the bloody meat pies she ventures upon. Everything appears so deep but yet so shallow when the songs go on and bodies fall off.

As with any subjective movie opinion, the musical genre is something which falls for me uninteresting along with the unnecessary gory horror slasher film. But that’s how taste differs and hence even with the a cosmetic and creative recreation of director Tim Burton and casual devilish acting of Johnny Depp, it never moves or brings a wicked comedy to be remembered or emotions of understanding the tragedy. As expected and every one would be aware of the countless victims of Todd, it ends as it should. There is a feel good of the sweet couple of teenage romance between Johanna and Anthony but now I am looking for some factor of consolation from the film.

"Juno" (2007) - Movie Review

When it requires a five minute scene in between the couple Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) in choosing the colour of their soon to be kid’s room to completely let us know about everything which is not right in between them, that is where “Juno” gets us. And Bateman and Garner give the perfect cool Mark and devoted woman for being a mother over the screen that we get them for who they are as a couple in those very minimal scenes of them together. The soon to be kid or baby to be precise is to be given by Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) who wants to deal with her unplanned teenage pregnancy and finds Vanessa and Mark sweetly posed in a penny saver magazine presented by her friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby). She is from the hard working economically middle class and mainly has not even started looking at life, while Vanessa and Mark are the well to do high class with Vanessa feels the void in their marriage is the absence of a baby.

The story of course is about the central character Juno who unlike other characters is different. She is the character whose existence in the film as over boosted caricature but also is the nourishment for the story to build. Essentially the film is the development or rather terming the awaiting of the delivery as that is nothing but people being people. Every one is unbelievably true to life. Mark with his casual but straight forward conversation with Juno, Vanessa with her over abundance affection for mothering a baby, the baby’s biological father Paulie Bleaker (Michael Cera) the shy high school love interest of Juno but has the guts to say his thoughts and the father-daughter talk of Mac (J.K. Simmons) to Juno are some mentions of the many scenes of natural happenings.

It is good and running it back over the thoughts feels really funny and profound in various instances. The reason it just does not elevate itself into that extra ordinarily affecting zone is some more scenes of the caliber of the five minute scene between Vanessa and Mark in other characters as such. But to find the balance in overly independent dramatic and mellowed version of it is tough to achieve. Jason Reitman did that in “Thank you for Smoking” which in its satiric comedy has the original intent of independent thought. The platform of course is widely different but we know what Reitman can do.

On seeing Juno played with a command as the character itself by Ellen Page who did creep out as in “Hard Candy” reminds me of Dakota Fanning. Fanning as her has brilliant capability of a child artist when I saw “I am Sam”. Then in the further movies, I started seeing Fanning than the character. Her style started to come out as herself. Ellen Page sure does a great job in this movie and sure is different from “Hard Candy” but I hope not see that “herself” coming out as it did for Fanning in upcoming movies. And for the record I still like Dakota Fanning despite that factor. I hope the notice of that change turns into monotonous acting value.

But let us talk about what the film handles about. Unplanned teenage pregnancy and dealing with as she says “problems beyond her maturity level”. Juno appears to have figured out things for it. As soon as she finds herself pregnant, she decides for abortion and at that point does not inform her parents. Then as she gets in, her school mate Su-Chin (Valeria Tian) while picketing against abortion drops by the teeny little information of fetus having developed finger nails. That is good enough to get Juno out of that place. She then figures out to adopt it out. She does not expect anything and fascinated to see the couple perfect and right of her choice, especially Mark. She does not quite fit the regular senior in high school but actually she is. Mark is the grown version of her and while she does not either love or hate Vanessa, she believes her problems have been figured out. But she still feels something for Paulie and may be a quite a bit of Mark too, which has its moments. And the hormones level in her is just making harder to come on solution for it. Some where in us when we think we are maturing well enough to handle problems and see things way more clearly, these funny little things called emotions involuntarily ticks us so bad that we act on it out of desperation. Juno realizes it and when things come back to square one on what this experience is doing to her and then we realize it is no more a comedy of errors, but the gravity of the situations in our life.

Roger Ebert named it the best film of the year 2007 and could not wait to put on his review to show his affection and love for the film. The movie received high appreciation in very many film festivals. I did not fall in love with the movie as Ebert did. It is an original, funny and lightly emotional material with no hiccups or unwanted scene and also with a cheery soundtrack. That makes it a good movie. I loved Jason Reitman for “Thank you for Smoking” and Ellen Page in “Hard Candy”. I did like them both in this film too but does it make it the best film of the year for me? It is one of the good films of the year for sure.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"Charlie Wilson's War" (2007) - Movie Review

Here is another film which is much needed for the resultants of mistakes which happened many years ago. This is the tale of how a Democratic Texas Congressman orchestrated the covert war aiding to the Afghan mujahideen in the Soviet War in Afghanistan. And that is Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) who never was shy from having a great time and made it continue serving the job he took out. The film is mainly the tactical alliances and the successful operative behaviour of those alliances Wilson made to make that war favourable to the Afghans in turn to US. They do have an intent of saying something of how it all turned out in the current scenario, but since it is more of the back ground operation rather than a preaching, it does take a back seat sometimes.

There is no possible solution as it is for the films focusing on the deadlock situations of war. We get to see the personalities who were so good at their job in almost savage rugged method of operation, the characters flower up flamboyantly into a political comedy drama. It is how “Thank you for Smoking” worked. This while quite does not live up to that, it has the brilliant work of Hanks as the charismatic and free going Charlie Wilson and once again impressively performing Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, the ruthless CIA officer with a conscience of his own. It does have Julia Roberts in a character which did not impressively appeal. She plays the anti-communist Joanne Herring who pays more attention of the Christianity and marking the Soviets as the evil nemesis of that faith. Her casting for the role is good but not great. She does her job but does not impress us.

As it opens up into this congressman having the thoughts of pulling the strings on the situation in the Afghanistan, it becomes sort of condescending towards the viewers. We do not really get Charlie Wilson or others in that scenario. The meeting of Charlie Wilson with the Pakistan President Zia (Om Puri) and his political advisors is when the movie makes its presence. The reason we do not quite thrilled about meeting Wilson in the start of fifteen minutes is the way he carries himself. But that is how it is supposed to and then we get to see the real man who was not traditional is more honest in very many ways with his compatriots. In very essential meaning, the film named aptly of course is Wilson’s war. It is his instinct on looking at the helpless children, women and families in the refugee camp makes him to take the next step. As covert the term implies things you do not want to reveal as it very well crosses the territories of conscience and truth, there is no judgments we can make about it. But the real answer never comes out. What exactly did Wilson or any other wanted out of this war? They wanted the Soviets defeated but as with the post war, there was never a shed of idea was thought through (“No End in Sight”, the documentary movie elaborately and precisely tells the fiasco in the much recent Iraq War).

Analyzing in the end, the coalition by very many countries who were publicly termed enemies conveniently bended their moral fibre as can be defined, to do something for their personal and public interest. It is where the hypocrisy of being religionist and the sides of good and evil takes roller coaster rides and role plays for profit than belief. The film does not take the pain to go more into it but it does not commit on it either at the start. While jokingly we witness those clandestine efforts of Wilson to put through the thoughts and multiply the funding from 5 million to 500 million, it irks on how it is that everything can be turned right and wrong based on how you present it.

The film gives what it promises, the constructive proceedings of this chess game in achieving something and give the people of defeating the enemies and also save the helpless. The latter never got completed which was the elemental goal in the concept of winning the war. The film shows Wilson’s appeal for funding a school getting rejected but did he go into the same ordeal of playing games to make this sanction? I do not know but the attitude in the people not to approve it is pretty much evidential.

It is a good fun film but also gives the creeps. We are seeing the resultants of those funny pictured strategies coming back hard and flat. Whether at that time non-violence could have helped wherein we would not have seen the effects? It is a defense biological reaction of humans to protect themselves and mainly quench the anger and the want to be liberated in their homeland. The job left undone became the outcome of many more tragedies and coming on in this century. It is a one man’s war and the war was done immaculately but the purpose of it never got attained.

"National Treasure: Book of Secrets" (2007) - Movie Review

Proving a mathematical theorem in high school is similar to finding treasure in this movie. It has been pre proven and when the problem is given to the student, the series of steps to be followed becomes a routine of placid uninteresting method than to understand it. It is the nature of educational system I was in and the film “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” cannot be more obvious relation to that. It is an adventure formula film only that it assumes to be in the path of rapid adventures but misguides itself into random acts of easy key findings. The probable tough part would be the travel for Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) and Co. Rest seems to be handed to them without any difficulty as their “knowledge”.

Ben with his successful first treasure hunt is haunted by the allegations of Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) who claims to have the piece of a paper implying Ben’s great great grandfather being the master mind behind the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. And then to clear his name the movie happens. The expectation is simpler and straightforward for this and that is to be adventured with brilliance along with some funny characterization. The first venture “National Treasure” had the running going with some amusing information slightly twisting the urban legends to reality. It ran for its value because of the codes and puzzles as complex and the lengths Ben and Riley (Justin Bartha) go about was exciting too. The sequel has puzzle or code questions one too many and answers it quite immediately because they want to advance the location from one place to another for pace rather than substance. The result is a series of a student attending an exam with a key right by his side. The difference out here being we do not want to know the answer right by our side and the success lies in the disclosure of those with tidbit curious information being it either myth or fact.

The motive in the first part villain was clear, obvious and that’s what we need in a film like that. Mitch Wilkinson is supposed to be a man obsessed to create a name for his family in the history and he does not seem to be an adventurous person too. He suits more of a mercenary than esteem seeking adventurer. If instigating Ben is the way to drive him, he has wasted his time. With respect to the characterization of Ben, he is a seeker of new treasure for thrill and the fun. Hence, if he would have simply contacted and had an amiable discussion with him, things would have been easier. Rather than that he ends up as a foot note in the discovery of the “city of gold”. And if Mitch wants Ben to do most of his job, why does he try to kill Ben in London?

Now I do not want to start on the comedic tense string in between Ben’s father Patrick Gates (Jon Voight) and his mother Emily (Helen Mirren) whom he divorced. It is made up, awkward and does not even entertain a slightest bit. The same goes for the character of Riley who is neither funny nor pathetic. It is some what distressful to see renowned actors like Cage, Harris, Voight, Mirren and Keitel doing something predictable, bland and wasteful in nature.

It is a lazy holiday movie. These are the movies when watching in TV channels seems interesting to sit on during the lethargic day of nothingness. You know what to expect and you have the time to flip channels during the commercial breaks. You can come back and still watch not for its entertainment but it just is an easy movie for the brain and you are in one of those days when you do not mind abusing it for a while.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"The Doors" (1991) - Movie Review

As Jim Morrison mesmerized millions during his tenure as the lead front man of the influential and talented “The Doors”, the book “No One Here Gets Out Alive” by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman interested me to peruse through it, so there can be a light on this mystical character. It is the first biography of Morrison with “touches” alleged to be added with exaggerated information to sensationalize and it is a painful book. Not because it did not open up the real Morrison, not because it was not well written but it is a sheer remorseless chaotic acts of him and insight on it is a horror than enlightenment. I did not complete the book and closed when another twenty pages were remaining. Suddenly the icon which influenced every one appeared nothing more than a kid experimenting beyond horizons and stepping on people in that journey. While I love the music of “The Doors”, the book did not answer the puzzle of this young star of the 60s and kind of even felt that I did not want to know about this. So when I watched “The Doors” the film, I knew what I was expecting.

Even the book is blamed for its inconsistencies of giving Morrison to his true nature and hence movie can be less of a fact. One thing is true in both the medium is that Morrison did drugs which were invented 24/7 and he did it like a chain smoker (which he did it with other substances and tobacco). In between that he drank and drank and drank. He is the most self destructive persona you can find and the culture which in some form accepted it. The 60s culture is the time of weird love, immersing in drugs and no one knows what else. It is fun and no one cared about a thing. Oliver Stone does a fantastic job along with some accurate details (as said) of the controversial stage gimmicks Morrison did. Morrison is played by Val Kilmer who not only resurrects him in appearance and mannerisms but in his voice which magnetized the world. Kilmer is unbelievably in to the role. And at times his enactment of this character of disaster is perfect that we feel Kilmer is deteriorating as an actor in this skin of Morrison.

What do we get out of the movie? It is a full fledged “The Doors” experience with Jim Morrison at his best and worst. Do we really need a movie about this destructive character? It is the curiosity of knowing this mystery of a man who never seems to have been sober for a day. But even in that he managed to collaborate with his band mates to produce path breaking songs and sensitive enough to get angry when their song is sold for commercial without his awareness. Who was he? What was it that was going through in his mind during those meditations of chaos? Stone tries to give broken images of something which might have represented his path to death.

Many have the opinion that he was not able to stand the sky high stardom and that emotionally stressed him, quite severely. But for me, he was lucky. Forget the fame and forget the millions who eagerly waited for his arrival on stage. There was Pam played loyally by Meg Ryan who showered nothing but love and tolerated his sporadic outbursts and uneven persona till his death. There was Patricia Kennealy strongly given by Kathleen Quinlan who seem to have control over him but only gets absorbed like every one else in to his den of unknown. And finally was his band members and friends Ray Manzarek (Kyle MacLachlan), Robby Krieger (Frank Whaley) and John Densmore (Kevin Dillon). All these people wanted him not to quit drugs or drinks but to slow it down. Does Morrison owe a lot to them? A lot may be but he never seem to ask anything and does not deny it either.

For me, he is a man with multiple souls. And those multiple souls are the results of experimentation in reaching a world he hallucinated. The walls are not real in those places and he never get to touch and feel it either. No one can exactly know what he wanted or dreamed about. His frustration is what haunts every one, as controversy and chaos. The film does justice to it and gives the man spoiled and rotten in his own quest; it leaves the same feeling for the movie.

The scenes with some conversation are the scenes I would have liked to see more. Even if it is chaotic and cryptic, that is what we want. I never have seen the stage show in video but I do not need a recreation of it, in multiple locations over here. It should have been the layers of his unknown universe as the fan or any one even who hated him never got to see. And the film has those scenes but gets buried into the over abundance music. It is a pleasure to hear the music I admire and love, but the film is an exploration into the psychedelic craziness of Jim Morrison, not a musical. It is expected to hear them but is not the only thing.

Morrison did what he wanted to without any rules or conditions. He believed that is how you can stretch the limits, even if it involves hurting a lot of people. After all this, I would ask fans to watch it. To see a man who had the equal caliber of creating art through his music and destroying it in him. And finally to look into the performance of Val Kilmer, an actor who for every reason would have been emotionally pushed over the balance while preparing for this character.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) - Movie Review

The punishment Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) gets for his crimes are more deserving of losing his love and on the same thoughts, causes jitters of unsettling feeling is at the cost of innocent lives. In this elusive person, director Anthony Minghella creates sympathy in us. Ripley has the talent of impersonating any one and it goes beyond that. While kids of his age were studying and partying, he is a hard worker and tries to make some form of living. It takes one scene when he removes the lint from the suits of rich people in men’s room. Life has been hard on him.

Minghella likes his location play out a major part in his films. In “English Patient”, the desert brought its dryness, colour and charm to the soap operatic story and here the Italy in 50’s is vibrant and suspicious reflecting Ripley. He is the good guy whom the women will admire but never date. He plays piano well. He is appreciated by Mr. Greenleaf (James Rebhorn) and by Ripley’s loaned Princeton coat assumes him to know his son Dickie (Jude Law). Rather than denying, he wants to be identified and the fakeness origins to exponentially follow him till the end. It keeps piling on and on when we as the audience expect him to be caught but subconsciously want him to escape. We do not wish him for good life, but at that present moment when he is circling around for his imagination to kick in and get him out of the miserable trap, we want him to come clean.

On the request of Mr. Greenleaf, Ripley comes to Italy to fetch back Dickie a guy who plays people like dolls. He is a player and a kid. He has privileges what Ripley would not have even thought of. Dickie in his luxurious life of having fun with his fiancée Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow) fascinates Ripley. It is odd for some one of Dickie’s stature of spoiled high class kid to get acquainted towards a “nobody” like Ripley. But there are reasons, first being Ripley an American in Italy which immediately brings some untold closeness and secondly, he follows Dickie like a puppy.

The development of the obsession of this life Dickie is having for Ripley is where Minghella paints his story telling he used for “The English Patient”. Patiently and colourfully we love for the daily events Dickie does. He flirts with girls, has a beautiful lady who loves him, great friends and the energy he carries around. He is the guy who everyone aspires to be and Ripley falling for him is no surprise. These two characters that are miles apart in various aspects represent very strong similarity under the table. Dickie is rich Ripley in lot many ways, in fact more spoiled and ruthless. He plays every one of his control and fakes his own love. Ripley’s confrontation of the truth just brings the ugly side of this charming character.

When Ripley takes up the identity of Dickie and how he cleverly connives every person possible to play accordingly, the story turns into a noir thriller. The real “talented” Ripley shows up and jujitsu the people’s questions in ease and comfort. Generally in identity stealing, the films transpires them into the fake person and slowly forget the real him/her from them. In this, Ripley is still Ripley and we know he is faking and while he might be a good impersonator, he still is himself. Because he is the rich Ripley, how Dickie was.

Who is Mr. Ripley? Why does he risks to the extreme when this ability is of a good hand to get a respectable job of financial relief? It is the want and the desire, then the ease to be a free loader. Dickie is his trump card both personally and financially. But the problem is he cannot keep up with the real competition when Freddie (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) comes in. It is when we truly see him, threatened, clueless and petrified. How ever talented he is Freddie knows people like Ripley because he knows he does not fit the bill. The bill of classy, charismatic, cold and unpredictable. And in Matt Damon’s Ripley, we see him consistently trying to be that. This might be the best performance Damon has ever put till date. While he fits the job in the Bourne series and Ocean’s team, this is where he builds up the character down from the scratch, then changes in the screen and tells us he is wearing this mask in some tight lipped weary looks and wide mouthed creepy smiles. We really doubt whether the life he is faking gives some happiness to him at all. It is more of eluding people every time and living in paranoid.

Frank Abagnale of “Catch Me If you Can” was an impostor too but he was a confused kid with unknown consequences. Thankfully his crimes did not lead him to bloodsheds. Ripley is a confused kid but not enough to be a kid to not know his consequences. It is the urge and fear of losing everything drives him mad and does things out of blunder instincts. Minghella brings a tight thriller with a complicated character. He never understands who he is till the end and that may be the reason he wants to know from his lover.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Clerks II" (2006) - Movie Review

There are some really uproarious funny scenes in “Clerks II” and really boring scenes too. The latter did not compliment to make it an even nice film but twists and splatter into a known clichéd flick we have seen many times as in many romantic comedy failures. In 1994, Kevin Smith came out with “Clerks” which was so raw, corky with no compromise whatsoever in terms of commerciality. Here there are significant scenes which bore the creative tampering Smith himself created, because we see the best of him too in various other scenes.

Dante (Brian O’ Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are working at Mooby’s fast food since “Quick Stop Groceries” met with disaster fire incident by Randal leaving the coffee pot on. Dante is leaving New Jersey for good with his fiancée Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith) to Florida. The manager of Mooby’s is Becky (Rosario Dawson) and this is that day where everything happens for Clerks. Randal is still the foul mouthed attitude loser while Dante is still the loser getting manipulated and sabotaged by him easily. Clearly their friendship should take a peak of its anger and then settle down, expected but in Smith’s way. And it is disappointing for having it commercialized, cheesy and totally ritualistic.

The best part is the war between Randal, the fanatic of Star Wars Trilogy versus his Lord of the Rings geek co-worker Elias (Trevor Fehrman) along the Hobbit obsessed customer (Kevin Wiseman). The flow in which the scene eases itself into bouncing profanity with intelligent comedy tells why we expect more from Smith and why we expect more from this film. There is some pumping moments like this which cracks us up wisely but the dull boring scenes just make everything come down uncooked. The first part had its originality because Dante and Randal stayed Dante and Randal till the end. In “Clerks II”, they appear to be maturing for their age but not because of themselves. It turns out to be a cheeky shot of pairing the friends forever than staying true to the characters.

Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) does not add any pep either. They have one or two chances for their customary stature in the film and never get through in accelerating or aiding the story. Every thing is set up. Nothing is surprising. The set up thing has its surprise humour very rarely and the only other disgusting surprise is the “inter species erotica”. It starts with good laugh and it unnecessarily reeks out as the joke gets rotten and disgusting to the point that it just seem to shock us than humour us. In that note, the part when Randal says “Any minute now” about a hot babe coming out is very hilarious but instead of stopping it out there, taking it yards forward nullified a good obscene comedy.

When Dante and Randal have their clashes of truth in their life at the jail station, the points they make are true. The scene is totally perfect, for a film which in its first part and the first half hour of it has something else to offer and has successfully done too. The scene is good but the film and the characters which say those in a tone unrealistic and out of place for Clerks.

Smith of course is a talented director. His “Clerks”, “Dogma”, “Chasing Amy” and even the cheesy “Jersey Girl” are all good cinema handled by a man who knows what exactly he is doing and remaining uncompromised for its characters. We see him now and then in this movie but never establish him as he did along with the characters in the movies mentioned above. “Mallrats” may be the worst of his movies. And it had the people who remained as bad as they were always. There was maturity which came in ridiculous manner to irritate us. So I was able to vehemently come on mercilessly towards it without any issue. “Clerks II” has scenes which shows how good it is when Smith is at his best and how bad it is when the fall Smith took is unjustifiable. I have the hearts for the film at many places and the hate too in various instances. And hate just won.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Dogma" (1999) - Movie Review

“Dogma” is funny as hell and enlightening as heaven. This is daring, satiric, dark, comedic, and bold and a convincingly creative story written and directed by independent film maker Kevin Smith. It involves all the lines for controversy and right on target for it. The film has everything so perfect that as and when the strong obvious dialogues of controversy pops up, we laugh and think, “yeah that is true”. It is more than nice way of saying, it induces thoughts, discussions and of course “ideas”.

The film takes on toll on the Catholicism. It makes funny remarks on the system of it, the doctrines, rules which appear ridiculous but does make sense in the rules book of “God”. A clever writing which they use for both mocking and justifying the points, hence becoming neutral and also conveying what they intended. It is a weirdly intriguing story of how two renegade angels Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon) are condemned in to the misery (in Wisconsin, yes !) and after living by side with the humans and then to guard the gates of heaven for eternity. They are mysteriously hinted by some one to go into this Church in New Jersey where in the idea of inviting more believers in Catholicism, Cardinal Igantius Glick (George Carlin) spins off the crucifixion into “Buddy Christ” and also allowing entering the arch of the Church to wash off the sins. Hence they go on the journey and alas! They must be stopped because them getting back to paradise is proving god wrong. This task is assigned to Bethany (Linda Florentino) who in the recent past is questioning her faith.

I have never seen such a controversial open discussion handled with maturity, absurdity and intelligence. Smith breaks all rules which were posed off and crosses over which were not even invented. Truly while it has the crude joke, it is philosophical in every bit of its script. The film while running in the basis of theism argues about atheism. It debates over faith and jumps on beliefs and resolves over ideas. It mocks the humans and blames them for taking things granted and how god has been so soft cornered with them. And just to get the right taste of what we are going to enjoy is the brilliant argument of Loki to a nun in the airport in near start of the film. This is writing skills at its best. We have seen it in “Clerks” and while Smith failed in “Mallrats”, he came well in “Chasing Amy”. Now in this venture, this is a proof of how versatile and open he is. He might be loud but surely he has a point.

To make this fantasy of reality to happen, Damon and Affleck do their angels with such belief and authority that it is a treat to watch angels talk about the tabooed subject for them in profanity and audacity. It shows mainly when Bartleby blames god for being so partial and considerate to their secondary being, humans. As angels before us, he feels it as totally unfair for them to be treated totally unforgiving while the mass annihilation and calamity the humans does are redeemed so easily by him/her/it. Every one including Alan Rickman as Metatron (voice of god), Jay (Jason Mewes), Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), 13th Apostle (Chris Rock), Azrael (Jason Lee), Serendipity (Salma Hayek) say their lines with belief and in the midst of it, having fun to say the least.

So does the movie hurt the religious sentimentality of the Catholics or any other religion? As it says, it depends on how you want to see it. While it stands in the middle of it, they preach their tone of openness and individuality. The free will, the freedom, the ideas and the concept of taking what it is and what it is not is up to each one. The film’s release was postponed and even after that, protestors were standing in front of the theatres picketing “Dogma is Sin”. I respect their sentimentality. But honestly, if they would have taken the time to see the film, may be they would have a different view. Sure it crosses lines but it is done for a reason to be far reached and saying, “Hey when the unknown can take any form, in my world, angels kill and swear, god can be any one or thing and the blessed souls can use profanity”. People forget the idea of it. Even if it looks “sinful”, it needs to be analyzed to see what exactly they are saying. Their effort did something; it increased the people to go for the curiosity ultimately defeating their purpose. The actions itself explains everything the film tells upon, what ever it is, what ever you do, people will do what they want to and have faith over what they need to. “Dogma” is a reminder of those.

"I Am Legend" (2007) - Movie Review

The premise makes “I Am Legend” work a great deal. Lonely characters work out of their boredom very well. Robert Neville (Will Smith) has his Sam the dog and a city for himself, well not all the time. Neville is the lone survivor from the deadly virus attack which infected humans into some kind of “dark seekers” a.k.a zombies for horror movies and it could have been more which never develops. The infected humans are sensitive to light (reference to “evil”) which gives Robert a nice outing but no night life. A hide away in his big house tub (which I think he could have made a better shelter than that in this long three years of loneliness) with complete lock down of all openings in his house is his live night mare.

It is an onus task for Smith. I have not seen his “The Pursuit of Happyness” or “Ali” and hence not seen his emotional performance till date. We have seen Will Smith in future and/or attacked by unexplainable creatures/robots (“Independence Day”, “I Robot”, “Men in Black”). It involved comic timing and sarcastic one-liners of Smith and we see the opposite side of it in here. When we see him in the first scene of hunting, his eyes have the hope draining slowly but fighting to stay alive. Three years in a city decaying and deserted, Robert needs to have a sanity check once in a while to have a reason to live. He is a virologist and hence feels it responsible to find a cure in his home city.

It is the thought of living in a once populated, busy city desolated and nothing but the symbols of materialism and economic blanket which helps us in stretching out of the lonely man concept alone. My friend Mathi always says, “Solitude is a place to visit not to stay”. Robert Neville is not by choice to be staying in there. He is constantly reminded by the loss of his family along with the billions which we get to know in flash back sequences. The part I liked and had a twist is that the terror factor was not used as a cheap substitute to run along the story. It aids it but never does it separates from the main avenue of the screenplay.

As I read about the original novel and its content which is Richard Matheson, I some how felt the film did not grasp the thought process of humans being outnumbered by a bigger species ultimately extinction. But beyond that is the concept of the “infected” or “still living” perceiving Neville as the monster. How it is the same on the other side and how it would have been to realize that. “Legend” mildly brings that thought but never dares to get in on the subject. We know the “dark seekers” feed on humans. They even exhibit protective and care when Neville captures one of theirs and a rescuer creature comes out in light (which is deadly for them) to save the captured. I would have loved to see it develop.

Music and Movies are the resort for comfort and solace which too has only dealt in parts than in depth. Art represents us the humans uniquely and may be a purpose too. The thought of when apocalypse happens to eradicate the major race over the earth to live one last of it, what will be the agenda of his/her pursuit in life? The concept of money, work and every other comfort dissipates into the absence of acknowledgment. Neville gets it from Sam and the dolls he has put in places. This is the area at least the film thought of taking us through but failed and did not dare to show us.

But it keeps you posted and updated constantly to not be bored. The thrills are there and the city as such wiped out of the chaos and no presence of fellow soul is the real chill and effect to be thought upon in our heads. When we are in that situation, the reason to get up becomes bleak. The reason for existence hangs on the cliff and suicide looks prospective. When the wealth, the ultimate desire of human is eliminated, the purpose of life is still unclear. It would have been nice to have situation wherein no enemies and just one man to be in the city. What will be his action? If Neville was there, with no work for him as virologist to find a cure, will he be hunting or driving around with no fear of danger? What will be the decision of the last man on earth in that case? Now this is the psychological drama, director Francis Lawrence looked to be concentrating upon, but it ultimately changes into a light at the end of the tunnel concept. “I Am Legend” works far more entertaining than a regular thriller but falls way short as serious conceptual film.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"The Fountain" (2006) - Movie Review

“The Fountain” starts mystically with an amnesiac effect and end with the same note in more glorious way to be left confused. But the film has more than confusion to offer. When I finished watching and the credits rolled, I was not answered or even remotely satisfied. I did not understand anything and yet something pinched me from the screen. It intrigued and motivated (as the lonely girl walks through a dark room in a horror movie) into go for the experience once again. Then I watched the final 20 minutes further two times and both the times, it enlightened in flagrant different angles, dimension, philosophy and one certain ending.

I can pity the audience who got to view it once in the theatre. Still as I got the instinct to look further, they would have been struck to rent the DVD and watch it again. The film has three time periods (or not) as a representation of the fight towards immortality. The reasoning for the details is not concentrated but the pathos and the yearning for a solution to the loss of a life is where detailing goes by. Darren Aronofsky and his crew worked on this project putting their life on it during 2002 but got shelved due to budget constraints and actor scheduling. With dejected heart but a hopeful mind Aronofsky worked on it again to bring down the budget and find Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz to ignite the project to live. The CGI is heavily used and the Mayan architectural bodies are monumental even in darkness. The futuristic space travel towards the dying star brings awe and gives the feel of reaching the infinite point.

The film can be interpreted as many puzzles with many answers. The present is the key or where the purpose of the film builds up. As we see High Jackman as Tomas makes his way up in to the pyramid facing a great Mayan and the next scene we see Hugh Jackman bald and clean shaven as a monk meditating in a big huge glass container traveling in space, it never lands its feet on the ground. When Tommy in the present depressed and hopeless shows up with Izzi (Rachel Weisz) who clearly seem to be expecting and accepting death is where we get some stability over the screen. Tommy an oncologist is trying to find a cure through a testing procedure by a piece of fragment from a Central America originated tree over a monkey, Donovan. The “tree of life” runs common in all the three stories. Whether the stories represent time period? At least two does in perspective of me. But that’s the beauty, you can assume it however you want it to be. This morphological property of the film is the reason for the riddle and the solution too.

In the three stories, the male lead character by Hugh Jackman strongly believes of curing death (“Death is a disease”). Along with him, due to the creative concurrence over the screen with the audience, we blindly believe that. But the story does not depend on the believability. It is the fight of us trying to understand what the hell is happening out here. It is normal and it is something Aronofsky wants to ask you. This curious itch makes us to ponder more into this beautiful visual complexity of life.

The film is a strong love story and a story of grief. I thought that the fight and struggle the characters of Hugh Jackman put through to rescue their beloved looked flimsy. In the “past” sequences, Tomas is a blind follower and fanatic of Spain and its Queen again played by Weisz. There the love is for the country but yes it mounts up to the queen. The hunger and desire for immortality on those times would have been far more vigorous. This explains his passion over the hunt. But of all, it is end of day a book written by Izzi before her final journey towards the inevitability. The part which might not convince on emotional front is the present, the love of Tommy. The grief might initially be considered immediate and lot many scenes does not build up to support it. And I realized that the whole movie is the support of that love. His painful workaholic nature, the denial of the obvious and the journey far away from time and magnitude regardless of whether it is real or imagination marks the dedication and the love Tommy has over Izzi.

The endless life now a day is not a big time significant subject. With inventions made, sciences explored and reasoning for everything, biological obvious failure is something every one got used to. Yet the loss of loved one is painful and the struggle to make them live a bit longer has been the ultimate war by humans over the nature of life. We know the end but still the grief is unavoidable. Arnosfsky extracts the religious philosophies for that to be implied in the movie. Is a film need to be of such complexity to have it viewed numerous times to get a meaning out of it? It is worth it when the film makes you to watch it again and rewards for the effort. The term “complex” is sometimes the characteristic what the director want to convey and out here the complexity of life becomes the essence.

The lightings are used in such a way to have the screen oozing with the colour of gold. Aronosfsky used it for the symbolism of wealth and the enigma of materialism the humans have. It is glossy but I did not find it as relative as he says. As said earlier, I was confused in my first viewing. I would also say, I was disappointed and believe whoever watches it will be. I would ask them to go back and watch it again and again. I would not say that you will get the meaning, but every time it is been watched, one thing fills up the gap. The reasoning formulated by one will be different from other. Some might think, the three stories do exactly represent the time periods and in all three the realization of inevitability is learned the extreme way of arduous hardship. Another might be the partial specification of time which is my observation. The past is a fiction and the future is the imagination while the present is the real. The culmination of the past is completed in the present as Tommy finishes the final chapter in Izzi’s book and the imagination of future resolves itself due to that. Some might even think that all three does not exist at all. Everything runs by unreal but organic experience of a story to be confused. Either way, the end is certain. Arnofsky makes it sweeter and makes us accept it for what it is.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" (1999) - Movie Review

Apart from various codes and cultural significance in Jim Jarmusch’s “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”, it runs a parody of assassins movie and be one too. This adds the already supplied humour by the Mafia character, Sonny Valerio (Cliff Gorman). As always with his love for his way of movie making, Jarmusch ropes in Forest Whitaker as Ghost Dog, a clean cut hit man following rigorously the code of Samurai.

A professional assassin or a cold hearted killer in films should (a) have an animal or plant to be loved upon and even confide sometimes for no other reason (b) a little girl who he finds irritating but eventually likes (c) does not talk at all and when he does, it is less than or equal to two words like “Good Bye”. Ghost Dog does every one of those but still stands apart breaking that immediately. He nurtures pigeons and more than the love for it, uses them as messengers which keeps him in the hide. He does find a little girl Pearline (Camille Winbush) who is not irritating but extremely well read. He does not talk much but converses when necessary. He does it quite generously and each with precise value of wisdom and humility. Out of this Jarmusch creates a unique killer from the used up characters in various other films.

Many references can be linked (obviously) to Japanese ancient teachings and the films based upon it. The book of “Rashomon and Other Stories” wanders in the possession of many characters finding it way back to the source of it. Particular sections of philosophical wisdoms from the book “Hagakure” having comprised commentaries of 16th century Samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo are embedded in between scenes. It is noble and runs the theme the picture is built upon. As with any Jarmusch’s film, plot is a layer of hidden meaning and interpretations which can be read to complete its significance. Yet the film has its content which flows on for its artistic and comical sequences.

Ghost Dog as per the Bushidō code respects and serves his one time saviour Louie (John Tormey) who belongs to the Mafia family of Ray Vargo (Henry Silva). As the orders given to Louie in turn to Ghost Dog, the hit is on Handsome Frank (Richard Portnow), Vargo’s own member but pays the price of being intimate with Vargo’s daughter Louise (Tricia Vessey). Ghost Dog makes the kill but the daughter is not supposed to be there. More than their cover up, the Mafia needs to follow their rule book, vendetta for their lost man. Comedy of rules that they order the hit but want to tally it in their killing account to take off Ghost Dog, the killer. The war begins and Ghost Dog is caught up in between performing his duties to his “retainer” Louie and also paving way to make him perform the code of Mafia.

While it has the plot, it is about the making, the chemistries, the dialogues and the mannerisms which are the traits of an individual film maker. The love of art from him that Jarmusch sometimes makes movie with no concern for any one but his idea of representation. And that is not a bad thing but a characteristic of a true artist. And when you see Mafia, we get doubts of a director falling for the Hollywood luring of type cast movies, but he invents a new side of this aging trend. His ears for the music to pick out the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA are the icing for a film which blends Eastern Culture into African-American culture.

It is a contrast of both the traits, Samurai and Mafia. Both are loyal killers. The people differ but end of day they are cold blood killers. But Samurai seems to be pure and immaculate. The dedication he exhibits migrates beyond anything at all. In a world of even a good deed involving a selfish closure, his strict ethical adherence to the code is selfless as the word can only be used for him alone.

The film cannot be appreciated by all. I too was distracted by the banal scenes sometimes but the slice of characters the film gives at various instances cannot be replicated or reenacted by any other creator in other movies. The Mafia is getting old and outdated. They are in financial burdens and in the verge of falling flat in these modern times (I strongly suggest to look into “Out takes” in DVD which has the “Bankruptcy” sequence). But the people are not able to bend accordingly. And that is given in one of the best funny moments possible in even if a spoof is created. Cliff Gorman’s Sonny is irresistibly funny. Call me ridiculous but an old Italian Mafia King rapping to the songs of Flavor Flav from Public Enemy is a priceless moment.

It is a parallel analogy of two codes. One ancient and one formed later in the current trend. It is how both manage the test of times. The ancient one even though old school has its words written in the history transforming into life lessons for any one and does not need to be a Samurai. Strangely enough Mafia’s code encompasses the people in it and it is more of survival technique. It is self centered into one family and honour associated with it. One as a physical form survives in the film and demise marks the other but we know which stands the test of times once it is over.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Nobody Knows" (Language - Japanese) (2004) - Movie Review

When the film itself draws unimaginable pain and sympathy, it is far more shocking and intolerable to think there was an actual event, the film origins upon. In late 1980’s Japan, a mother abandoned her children to live with her new love and I will let you to see the film and then read about it. It is one of the most tragic films I have ever seen and the one which affected a lot on emotional level. While I certainly do not appreciate much of film which does not carry some sort of experience to be grasped upon, I feel this is a story to be told and to be heard by every one.

Akira (Yûya Yagira) is an automatic responsible 12 year old brother you would have seen in among the road side homeless children. Here he takes care of his siblings Kyoko (Ayu Kitauru), Shigeru (Hiei Kimura) and the young Yuki (Momoko Shimizu). They arrive with their mother Keiko (You) in to new apartment in Tokyo. Keiko introduces only him to the landlord and we do not even see the rest of the kids. Then once they move all their things, the suitcases open and kids come out laughing and giggling. The scene is cute, because we forget the gravity of how they transported over by their faces full of innocence and happiness. We see the immediate big brother caring Akira shows and his second in command Kyoto understanding him.

Keiko appears to be loved by the kids including the well aware Akira. It is an unexplained biological and spiritual explanation only the unknown can describe as this unconditional love between a kid and its parents. Both know nothing about each other and still the trust, belief and the affection takes enormous chronic betrayal to break that bond. Keiko does it without any effort and frowns at Akira when he confronts her of being selfish. Keiko while with the kids does not abuse them rather appear as honestly loving them. But we come to know that each kid has different father. These are not the responsibility she hoped for and more of mistakes. She does not reveal any of them except Akira so that they do not need to be sent to school.

Akira with the money Keiko left behaves as if nothing happened. Surprisingly the other kids are not surprised either. It is a usual happening for them. Only this time, her return is questionable. Akira knows it and even when he finds out where Keiko is working, he does not want to tell his siblings. He does not want one another disappointment. He wants to be done with these cheatings once and for all. Soon, the money evaporates and the bills pile up. In the midst of this, Akira in the desire of wanting to enjoy the boyhood life gets the friendship of rich kids who just use him as an easy prey for getting games and playing indefinitely at his house. The house maintained by him goes filthy and unmanaged.

If the film would have been melodramatic which for every reason it could have been, I could have blamed it for being so cheap and exploitive, then get on with it. Director Hirokazu Koreeda unmercifully gives the brutal natural feel which just gets too much as the film goes. It is not easy to digest a film like this and when it comes to review, it gets even tougher. When things happen with some one not directly to blame and innocence is shredded into pieces, it is heart breaking.

How did they manage to be unnoticed and unsuspicious for such a period of time? In this busy world with life confined within four walls, everything is unnoticeable. I live in an apartment complex and still do not know who lives above me. Where does the line lies in between respecting privacy and watching out for each other? I exactly do not know but that would have helped a lot for those children.

Koreeda uses props of natural progression to depict time. The long hair of the kids, the plants seeded by them in the ready made noodles cup (which is how their food necessity gets satisfied) growing and creeping on the rails, stains on the floor getting thicker and older are some of those subtle techniques employed. The dialogues are terse and astonishingly the kid’s unemotional sullen faces exactly bring out what would have been the scenario in real life. The score by the guitarist duo Gontiti provides the melancholic cuteness of these unguided angels. It would have been a monumental task to make these small actors express themselves. Yûya Yagira and his sibling actors’ chemistry is natural and just knocks us out on how grasping and talented are they.

I did not watch “Requiem for a Dream” for a long time due to its nature of content and the depressing tone it ends on. I managed to watch it and felt miserable. Here is “Nobody Knows” where we are tied to our materialistic comfort to watch a family of four kids dismantle slowly and in a hurting reality of life. Destitute and despair surround these kids who got conditioned to these desolation and hence it depresses even more when it keeps on getting worse.