Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"The Spirit" (2008) - Movie Review

“The Spirit” is a glossy waste. It as its protagonist Spirit (Gabriel Macht) dresses neat and tidy but creates unwanted mess. It operates on the premise that cool costumes, shady poses and voluptuous women would make a good film. Obviously if it relies on it alone the fun in making never would carry it across the screen. Written and directed by comic writer Frank Miller with his earlier “Sin City” and my favourite “300”, “The Spirit” has no soul in it.

In “Sin City” my only complaint was the relentless blood bath but the rest was something unique and eclectic in its source. “300” fit perfectly. As much seriousness it bore on the muscular and chiseled bodied warriors screaming and blood thirsty, it was fun. In “The Spirit” it is all dead. The lead man’s only interesting and edgy quality being a womanizer. He wanders the roof tops to jump on the baddies especially his nemesis Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson). Apparently his body can withstand wounds like Claire in “Heroes” series. Add law and justice to it to get a superhero for this fictional Central City.

Many times Spirit talks to the audience (with great mesmerizing voice of Macht) reminiscing his child hood sweet heart days and giving clues of his law abiding job of being cop in his previous life. We discover his ability on the questions he goes unanswered from a woman of “What are you?”. Octopus holds the keys to those and the obsession to get that drives the Spirit. He has the old man Commissioner Dolan (Dan Lauria) to advise him on his stupidity while also depending on his saving capabilities with of course tons of collateral damage. Then the ever loving repair doctor of his body, Ellen (Sarah Poulson) as with rest of the city girls to be crazily attracted to this man.

Let us get over with the style. We have seen it well and it has worked incredibly from the same man. It standing alone away from the script is a visual to crave for. It is an eye candy to simply glare at it and spend time amazed. Sadly it is not the single element to judge the film. When Samuel L. Jackson showed up, I thought it would be one hell of a ride with his loose mouthed snap comments and the fluctuating addictive commanding voice of his to oomph the film. But it is a successive show of his dismal attempt in doing that, badly.

What is the deal with the costumes of Octopus? While his sidekick Floss (Scarlett Johansson) understandably suits those, it goes from bizarre to unexplainable symbolism in each shots. If the megalomaniacal attitude of Hitler and the Samurai costume (if I am not wrong) to denote the death is what it is, this is not the place for it. It deviates, distracts and becomes painfully boasting of its intellectual stand. And the multiple cloned henchmen of Octopus played by Louis Bambardi is another sad story to waste a page, but I am not going to.

“The Spirit” has been marketed well and that might add for its box office accumulation but why am I talking about it. Box office is a business which throws the content out of the door instantaneously. While in the review of “Sin City” I would have blasted a bit more than necessary, it is truly a great work in path breaking film presentation. It had a peculiar chord which sat well despite my unlike towards it. “The Spirit” is an overrated and over marketed undeserving production failing in all avenues except the graphics which of course has become a regular fair.

The over the top acting is deliberate and that does not help. In the immediate ten minutes three characters emerge from dirty water for style in men while sexiness for women. The characters have life sucked out of them to become plainly exist in paper which they were in the original Will Eisner comic series. I have not read it but I am damn sure they were good and had characters breathing life without being cool alone.

"Valkyrie" (2008) - Movie Review

A fiery discussion came up with a friend of mine past week regarding actor Tom Cruise’s acting. He said that the actor is a sell out, I defended Cruise. True that he does not portray a great actor’s capabilities of sticking to the skin of the character. True that he cannot be hailed as an example of great skills but one thing is certain that the man works hard and bends over backward to show his liking on films. Here he becomes a German Military Officer Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a major key player in the assassination plot against Adolf Hitler called as 20th July plot.

Directed by Bryan Singer, a man knowing the pulse on how to move a screenplay swift and effective, “Valkyrie” works as a great thriller. It maneuvers as a natural flow of water in a beautiful stream of rocks and pebbles deceiving at many times on doubting the plot or the effectiveness of the filming itself. As the promos for the films came by, I had terrible trouble on digesting the fact of Cruise with a great American accented English saying “Operation Valkyrie is in effect”. But as the film begins transcending from German narration to English, it set right in. It respected the authenticity but wanted to take control of the material in its own terms.

Now I would not go ahead and stamp itself as this “true story” as no one might have known the actual scenarios which is the trouble the filming takes on generally on true stories. As with any of these films, the glasses of molding and morphing takes its toll to give a fictionalized version of it. But so much did happen that the plot was indeed planned and executed almost successfully. The story manipulates on our knowing that the assassination was a failure. Hence we look for the points where it would screw up rather than the tension of whether it would succeed.

The movie is an entertainer and no one should doubt that. It relentlessly drives the screen in closed doors with short sentences to execute the plan. The plan with considerations and the charisma of Cruise to believe in him completely. As to every one’s concern Cruise gives Cruise behind an eye patch. Yet the major factor for the film to be crucially winning over us is the screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander. They have completely eliminated the fact of bringing the unnecessary dose of melodrama Hollywood inserts into a story for movements than sappiness.

The plot is astounding for the man to put on the mask of machination against the universally declared representation of evil in Hitler here played by David Bamber. The very first question in fact I had is whether killing him is the ultimate solution for the cruelty as such? Or in better terms does cutting the top command is going to immediately relieve the charm put on the rest of the chain? And in the very first secretive meeting Stauffenberg is invited he asks it. Citing that as his reasons for doubts he comes up with the plan of emergency situation army movement in reserve named as “Operation Valkyrie”.

And in this are the team of people placed at key positions to pull the trigger to make the puzzle of the plot work. A man inside, a man by side and a leader in hesitation and like this are numerous small but influential factors playing roles in this screenplay. And every time the plan is set in motion, we are on high alert for its screw ups. In the last moment they steal it away from us.

The tragedy of the true story is known but the fact that Singer and his team worked it out perfectly beckons appreciation for its genre. It does not blink away from the central axis of its story setting straight and clean in its execution. With good actors such as Bill Nighy and who else to play the sleazy personality as a man of opportunity General Friedrich Fromm by Tom Wilkinson, the supporting cast of Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp, Jamie Parker and Christian Berkel do their timing precisely. “Valkyrie” does the best what thriller films does, which is to proclaim as one in all honesty. It does not masquerade as something else and for any true film that is the essential part.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Rachel Getting Married" (2008) - Movie Review

The family of bride side in “Rachel Getting Married” would be instantly decided as the exemplified family members epitomizing neurotic chaos. If there is a thought going on while watching to step out of the screen and place yourself in the most recent family get together of an event such as marriage, then every one of us in one form or other have seen similar chaos in their own family. This is “Rachel Getting Married”, the most thoroughly honest documentary styled film directed by Jonathan Demme with a powerful script by Jenny Lumet.

Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is visited by the sobering addict sister Kym (Anne Hathaway) for the Indian themed wedding. A similar themed story propped up last year with Noah Baumbach directing “Margot at the Wedding”. In a parallel way the sisters love and hate each other to death. The environment though is considerably different with more colourful and merry Rachel than in dull and dreary Margot’s sister in Baumbach’s film. Here Kym is the outcast, attention seeking, adamant and unbearably childish sister of Rachel. She is loud and up the face of Rachel and every other who comes by. She wants to be the maid of honour but not to be thrown as a mercy chip, yet takes it with an unexplainable right. She believes that to be the holding rope of sisterhood between her and Rachel. Put a mix of an over affectionate and too much caring father (Bill Irwin) and an estranged mother (Debra Winger), you get a sour and putrid recipe for a family. But that is not all in a family, isn't it? The other side is not the facade rather their best times and characteristic. “Rachel Getting Married” never attains that in unison from all the members of the family but in spots and patches they do it to compliment each other.

Kym has been the centre of madness in her rebellious teenage years. Been a junkie and as a junkie owing ton of people money and annoyance to be atoned and the mistake which costed a life, we see her taking a time out from the Rehab centre. She is invited by the ever loving father who has forgiven and forgotten the things she did. He is in the aggressive mode of turning things around for her with a fierce force of overabundant love. Kym wants it when she needs to be in the womb of care and attention while sees it as her being wrapped on as a mummy when the feeling to be cared erodes away. Rachel on the other hand is happy in things going as planned and freaks out when hell breaks loose in the underlying thorn speeches by Kym. She has lost the hope in her and she could not stand the sight of her day being sucked in by the mess and cry Kym is making and signaling their dad to embrace. As love is shared and dispersed, the fairness is measured and calculated by each of them. It is a tangle of pain and ridiculousness.

Director Jonathan Demme follows the characters around with the shaky camera but stands still when the emotions are in place. Each of them are in their terms of being there in the wedding with their part to play. The old subtle enmity in people taking places left by the others and the return of the ex or in this case sister to be found distanced by her family pushes to her craziness a little more than usual. Among these personal wars comes and goes are the friends and relatives in their celebration of the love in marriage while leaving the room when the family breaks down.

I almost forgot to mention the husband to be Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe) slipping from the scene when his fiancé's family begins to throw blames, pain and disgrace at each other. He comes by when the storm recedes and picks up the pieces in a cue to us saying “I am marrying only the girl and not the family”.

What a performance does Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt and Bill Irwin provides. How do they stand each other and smile at the edge in the end? Is there a point to confide, confess and continue leaving the past behind? Is that a longest stretch of possibility in a family? In deep respect to the marital and social system generated, the solution never arrives and in an effort to find ends only in a unstoppable reaction. Most of the times it is the settling nature of the relationship itself. Sometimes solving is not the solution rather to let it go and in another round may be let it go with a word or two.

There is a music being played on by the guests which turns into a soothing and annoying effect based on how interrupting and accompanying it becomes for a scene. When Kym shouts asking when they would take a break, we wish they do. Family members are nuts and that includes every one. The past of Kym might not be regular affair for many but the affection been let down and driving into this teenage childishness would be an expected drama. In this the immediate incision of characters females becomes the prime suspect which they are but we men sometimes need that jolt to react a bit. It is a beautiful film about the wild randomness of sorrow, pain, love and marriage.

"I've Loved You So Long" (Language - French) (2008) - Movie Review

I talk lot about judgments and prejudice in my reviews and it is a day to day affair in life and thus in films too. In a rationale to see things fairly is it a possibility to discard the instincts we have developed for a person, in fear of bad things happening? The fear which circumspect us in those event on seeing the person as the potential candidate for the worse things as an eventuality, we avoid, snub, doubt and ride the guilt after ward and comfort us on the practicality of life. Philippe Claudel directed “I’ve Loved You So Long” introduces a person most would be afraid and in fact be disgusted to have around on the actions claimed to have done by them in the past. That is Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas).

Her sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) joyous and expectant receives her from the airport. Juliette drops a formal smile and gives a cheek for a speck of kiss from Lea. Juliette is cold and distant from every one understandably once we learn from the later point in the film that she is out of prison after 15 years. Her parents have disowned her, husband divorced and the only sane touch to the reality she has is Lea. Lea grew up along with her big sister looking and idolizing her. Despite the stain of crime which is the worst, Lea loves her sister and gives her hope. In her haunting question of why her sister did the horrendous act, she pushes the day inch by inch hoping to close nearer to Juliette of knowing it.

Juliette, placid and taciturn clearly does not like to be around amongst a crowd. She enters the family of Lea with her two adopted sweet little daughters. Lea’s husband Luc (Serge Hazanavicius) not liking a bit of Juliette’s stay showing in his way of discontent now and then with pauses and frowns on his kids. What is the crime Juliette did to be sent to prison is brought out in one of her interviews for a job. She killed her own son. That is it and we crown our justice and conclusions towards her. She does not pity herself and she does not hate every one. She has plainly given up on the life she knew.

She meets men, two of them. One is her reporting officer (Frédéric Pierrot) drawn in his own world of perplexity, sorrow and misery behind his little desk fancying his chance of visiting a lake he is ambitious of swimming. They relate well. Other is a more eclectic admirer of art, literature and emotions, Michel (Laurent Grévill). Michel is a colleague of Lea in the university she works. Both men look Juliette as a lady not to be considered a cheap shot for their lost youth but a beckoning of a woman been and want to be loved and not vocal in telling it. Juliette has this tiny eruptions signifying her bottled up emotions lost forever. Those sprouting small angers remind her of the crime.

French films I have seen makes wonders on taking a subject of gloom and purely shower it up with positivity. In those positivity they do not hide the reality. It has the artistry to pick the correct moments in everyone’s life. They grasp those moments tightly and wound it with the the pragmatic happiness. But they do not compromise the sorrow of it. It is mellow and poetic. It is a bittersweet as life we lead. In the complexity of understanding it, we are surely wondering what makes this mix of misery and height of joy in waves of lessons. Some times the waves of despair lasts longer and goes on forever but we fear joy more than the sadness as its nature of being short lived. Here it is an approach of seeing those in balance but in life it is not.

Kristin Scott Thomas does Juliette one of the toughest role to carry on. In the knowledge of films projecting this out of prison personalities to be obviously socially incapable of being surrounded with people with insinuating questions, Thomas gradually develops Juliette taking it in step by step and giving into the atmosphere of family. She is not trusted by Lea’s husband but later he suggests her for babysitting their kids. And Lea as an angel of hope loves her sister despite everything. She dances around the subject of prison and the awkwardness. She thinks of guarding her sister from those moments and to sidle those away to remind the deadly times. Yet it cannot be erased and in reality Lea wants to guard herself from the incapability of handling and being in that situation.

“I’ve Loved You So Long” is a chain of clinging periods of the glassed ornaments of numb sadness in a person. She in her withheld of pain and anger gives into the world she forgot. In the process sees her as this lady of nicety and deserving happiness. And the people interacting with her are truly the best people in their best times. Will it be a easy ride in real life? It would not be but that marks how much the film shells us from it and pins the niceties of it. We as the happiness know the short living capability but that is what makes it to beckon for more even if it is full of sorrow and hurt.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Seven Pounds" (2008) - Movie Review

At the end “Seven Pounds” you might very well be crying because director Gabriele Muccino desperately tries it and you sympathize him. The film’s protagonist Bill Thomas (Will Smith) rides with guilt, so much of it. He stares at the mirror several times and do not start with staring at the empty places. He has done some thing really really bad because his meticulous acts of kindness begs so in the current cruel world. It is a polished sappy tear jerker providing a solution which makes us hardly to empathize with Bill.

As with the screenplay works in recent days the story starts revealing an eventual possibility and traces back the roots of it which has brought where it is. Out here Bill calls the emergency service declaring that he is the victim of a suicide. Keeping the good works of Smith with the director previously in “The Pursuit of the Happyness” , I began to grasp as the loved ones of the suicide persons being the real victim. How presumptuous of me to think so. Anyways, in the cryptic scenes of who Bill is and what he is doing, we meet his beneficiaries here and there. But the beautiful Rosario Dawson as Emily Posa become the love chemistry of this sad soul.

What it poses as a soul searching turns out to be a guilt journey to unimaginable level. The picturesque applied in Muccino’s previous film is followed here too which gives the film the suave feel but it only emerges more deceptive than necessary. In the flashes of memory we learn that Bill used to be a well off person or it is self evident from the beach house he owns. He harasses a blind telemarketer Ezra (Woody Harrelson) over the phone to test his “goodness” and deserving of his kindness, enters as a stranger guardian to mother of two afraid of her boyfriend, Connie Tepos (Elpidia Carillo) and a little bit more than a help to Emily Posa. All of them are in the depth of sorrow and trouble but too proud to ask for help as Bill puts it to Holly (Judyann Elder) to find one of his candidates.

By not revealing the tragedy of Bill’s previous life, the sympathy relied on us to feel becomes ambiguous. While the chemistry between Smith and Dawson works in favour of their characters, the immediacy in which Dawson’s Emily falls for Smith’s Thomas is unconvincing. She is dying and he comes to her life posing as this IRS office worker to provide a friendly and creepy stalker in her sleeps and wakes. But women are complex and the mystery generally draws them in or at least the films projects it so. The conversation they have are made up in every possible sense meaning to stick in the screenplay sheet than on the screen.

When the time is running out and the time is known, the conditions stopping us in breaking free vanishes. The tomorrow disappears and the bounding factors go out the door. We seek for comfort and do things what we feel without a thought. And in Emily it might be so but Ben already flooded with complexity and pain hardly seem the candidate for it. He does good things, no actually he does great things. His friend Dan (Barry Pepper) knows what he is up to and he is being shut off too. Revealing not much, I feel that the fatal mistake of Ben could have been redeemed in much many more ways than toying with the lives of others. At the end I thought the good deeds of Bill in the attempt of making us feel as selfless becomes more emotionally quenching his thirst in his final act.

The film in its richness of colour and polishing structure had hopes at the start. Then it branches as a sappy love story. Slowly it creeps on the pain and the controlling aspect of Ben in the relentless good nature of him. It pinches and asks us to see the stretches of effort and ordeal he goes through for getting his candidates above and beyond any human would do and go for. If we are not moved by that it slaps to further witness sappiness in developing this love story between Emily and Ben. If still a muscle did not beat up a little, Muccino grabs us with our clothes shaking hard and stares straight with a self righteous attitude questioning our senses of feeling anything at all for not empathizing with his protagonist. I felt a slow motion of never ending artificial manipulative drama.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Nothing Like the Holidays" (2008) - Movie Review

Festival get together are filled with unsettling awkwardness and unique happiness identifiable only with their respective families. The tensions of whether this particular topic will emerge to put the concerned people in the spot light with a public show of their private characteristics runs around when these reunions happen. You cannot avoid as in the coming eventuality of meeting them up would further give materials for the confrontation and the enjoyment for the holidays does not necessarily have that in the people. Then why do we have the event of reminding ourselves of how unsatisfied and angry at each other? Amongst those are the true love when the time comes by for the right help. Rest of the time you might hate them to their guts but the perfect timing of a soft words and kind look in the time of a situation cannot be poured out to any one and happens easily in that time with the family members. That makes the craziness worth it. But truth be told with a side note that this might not be a general case when it comes to extended family.

The subtleties vary from culture to culture. Sometimes it gets submerged for the settlement of being classy and suave or it gets bombastic and loud. The Puerto Rican family in “Nothing Like the Holidays” tend to fall in the latter. They do not dust the expectation being disappointed under the carpet. Like Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and his American wife Sarah (Debra Messing) being directly asked numerous times of why they are delaying for their baby by Mauricio’s mother Anna (Elizabeth Peña). Anna’s husband Edy (Alfred Molina) have three kids Mauricio a successful yuppie kid living in New York, Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) a soldier returning from Iraq and Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito) a struggling aspiring actress from Los Angeles. They all come for the Christmas holidays to their parents living in Chicago. And the drama happens.

The culture is a main part in the dynamics of this family. Edy has a store business and deeply expects this holidays to be a memorable one. Anna is fed up with Edy cheating behind her back answering suspicious phone calls. Jesse has the guilt of being escaped from the death his friend succumbed to. Vanessa is struggling for years when the house hold has an idea of her glamorous life style and then there is loud mouthed family friend Johnny (Luis Guzmán) and a young wild kid working at the store Ozzy (Jay Hernandez). Every body has problems and every one of them is addressed. Is it exhausting and methodical? Yes but a family life is as such and it got to be like that. I liked how the culture plays a role in running the house. Outside in different city, they would be living a life different from this with different behavioural aspects. That instinct being the kid you were growing up comes back in a flash as soon as you step into the house of yours.

It is a colloquial film. Colloquial in its representation of the people from Puerto Rico and easily reminding how it translates in our family of brothers and sisters. Director Alfredo De Villa while does not give something new also does not repeat the formula. The place of Chicago is not expressed but in their reminiscence of the old days giving hints how they like the place.

There is a flagrance in the drama of this film. Even the most crucial breakdown of a family moment is with a taste for colours. The movie breaks out greatly at the first dinner table as a family along with friends. In an opportune to toast comes the declaration of Anna to leave Edy and watch how each of them react to it. Mauricio is terribly affected while Jesse and Roxanna seem to accept them as grown up independent people making their decisions.

Seeing “Nothing Like the Holidays” tells that the problems in a family never changes. It revolves around lost love, missed attention, secrets, favourite kid, cooking and things falling apart shaking the concept of the family itself. Most of the time it resolves down in the films as the end comes by. In previous history of this genre, the ending ties the knot perfectly and in recent times the story tellers have embraced the fact of life being a lot different and broken. And then the third version came in with an acceptance of the worst situation and the real concept of moving on as a simple sign of cinematic ending but also a taste of reality. “Nothing Like the Holidays” follows that trend. It is a pleasant film with not so much extraordinary aspects. The truth is it does not tries to be and that makes it a likable watch.

"The Edge" (1997) - Movie Review

Despite having evolved from cave people, the guards of the luxury in the circumstances we live in has made the nature look in a stature of greatness in fear and respect and more than that is the incapacity to survive in it in today’s weak immunity in us both physically and mentally. Put into the isolation and as they say the real characters come out. The test of the woods in the presence of an unforeseen culture for the city boys was dealt in the creepy cold “Deliverance” and in David Mamet’s script it is something else. It has the factor of Mamet’s writing with people constantly challenging the doubts on the other characters even in desperate situations.

For a photo shoot arrives billionaire and fact fanatic Charles (Anthony Hopkins) with his model wife Mickey (Elle Macpherson) and the photographer Bob (Alec Baldwin) with his crew to the wilderness. Charles has an extreme capability of knowing everything. He is a walking fact book absorbing the words and letters of the books he peruses. Charles at his step on old age looks his beautiful wife Mickey and Bob work with each other. He believes with certainty that something more than photo shoot is happening in between them or may be it is his early symptoms of going senile. Typical Mamet’s work in action with characters doubting each other and showing different colours of them as the story proceeds.

Charles is a strong man in his mannerisms of terse speech and handling any situation at his leisure of coolness. Take for example the surprise party they pull off for him with a fright of a dummy bear, where he gets panicky and in a split second shaves it off and fits back in to the mode of his casualness without any one even noticing it. He gets a lovely gift from his wife and also a pocket knife from Bob. The film sets up this tension between these two men and they start off on an impromptu trip to a nearby location for finding Bob’s photo model. With flocks of birds hitting the plane, they crash land in to the water leaving Bob, Charles and Bob’s assistant Steve (Harold Perrinneau) to survive.

Charles as a man of power becomes the man of action in this situation. He knows the facts, theoretical of course but they would take anything at that point. And then the journey for survival begins with the weather, wild and the man eating bear making their death imminent. They walk and walk with Charles keeping them upbeat with his facts. He distracts their pain and agony with sayings and tidbits of information. He says that most people lost in the woods die because of shame. Shame of putting themselves and the others to the misery they got in. He asks to learn from it. No use in repenting which you cannot alter.

There are head of a company grown from the ground up as a white collar job and there are those who scratched the surface and rose up in tiny steps starting from menial work. Charles is the latter. He is humble in his accomplishment, in fact he is little bit ashamed of it. He also thinks of him as a freak to know so many things. And in a particular instant says a truthful thing about his character that he has no imagination. He doubts Bob but changes the mind when he is convinced by the fact of Bob saving his life in one instance. Bob is humoured by the knowledge that Charles suspects him of fooling around with his wife. There is a subtle emotional boxing happening in between these two men. Keeping them alive and in the process having their antennas for sudden behaviour.

Lee Tamahori directs the film in intense wilderness with rigorous physical strain on the actors and I bet would have been tougher for his crew. And the Bart the Bear playing the man eating animal has to be mentioned for giving the terror feel when it appears charging at the people. It is no surprise that Anthony Hopkins is convincing in this billionaire of exquisite knowledge of everything because he is a much human form of Hannibal Lecter. Without ferociousness and calm in his approach in keeping his spirit consistently high, Hopkins as usual does his thing. Alec Baldwin blew me away with his chameleonic nature and constantly asking what to do as he is completely dependent on Charles. Still he knows him too well and senses his anticipation as he have to be for the things he did.

“The Edge” is a play technique Mamet gives under circumstances eliminating the world we know. In the absence of people to impress and be loved and the urge to be some one else and hide, they begin to operate more openly and loosen up especially Charles. Yet even in that remote situation, the mind of one person to another is a guessing game. It never can be sensed when the doubts are the rising element in each other. They get together to save each other but in the back of their mind, there is a constant satellite alert for discrepancy. This nature is what makes us human in best and worst situations.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (2005) - Movie Review

Many might miss the clever and complexity involved in the “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” which get goes from the minute it opens on. And quite easily it can also be put in the common basket of slick, style and cool film. Its writing eloquence is top notch with a screenplay that would be a work as if David Mamet wrote a Guy Ritchie film. It has the ping pong type conversation and characters popping in wrong place, wrong time. It narrows a margin of comedy and in that it appears to be serious but it actually is not. It plays like a comedy film but has an edge of a thriller and when action comes down, it is fast and sweet with a stress on sweet. It is a fantasy in the shooting and even in its realistic portrayal, they erase the guilt with instant one liner by one liner. And you have Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer swing dancing their roles with fun and flair.

The film is narrated as some one pitching the story for a studio executive only with a self aware cockiness and admittance. The narrator is the protagonist of the film, Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.), a petty thief who gets into the show biz accidentally. For a part he got pulled in, the producer Dabney (Larry Miller) hires his PI “Gay” Perry (Val Kilmer) and yes he is gay. Harry meets his high school secret sweetheart and best friend Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) at the party and the film follows a topsy turvy trip in to the Los Angeles hotels, lakes, bars and left out houses.

Playing like film noir it mocks itself, stops the frame and reverses with the narrator admitting his inability to tell a story straight. In those where it could have been seen as a film trying too hard to be cool, it brings out laughs. Downey Jr.’s Harry is a man of chance rumbling down with the reality but never gets a hold of it. What can you say, he is a writer and he puts his coins where he wants to. Especially the violence is cartoonish and gives a feel of fantasy. We do not get marketed by it but those are like a plot elements which needs to happen so that we can get a noir film. It is filmed like a half baked screenplay and yet it is so well written and the hastiness of the things which unravels are interesting enough that we laugh about it. The best part it is when in the end the story mocks itself. It could have been fatal but it is about that right to make us giggle.

And what about those two, Downey Jr. and Kilmer. They are literally glee inside when they spit out those dialogues of insult and comic. They should have had fun or atleast they make us feel they had tons of it. In a true judgmental manner, Kilmer’s Perry is an embodiment of the Hollywood persona being a consultant for the films of crime, which is like every other movie. He is neatly dressed and appears clean and trim. He does not pose a macho look but bites the words towards Harry as this small time crook stumbling over mud and laughs sitting in the middle of it.

Monaghan joins this two and sizzles with a love - break tug of war with Harry. It is an investigative story of two murders. One involving Harmony’s little sister and Harry in the liking for Harmony declares himself as detective which makes her believe as both grew up going head over heels for crime novels. Apart from the fact of finding who the killer is, they want to suit as the novel characters and get into the action. Do not we all have that cornered stupid fantasy of growing up to be this detective and become that million dollar smile hero? Harry and Harmony have not grown up from that and they clinch this opportunity at every chance.

Shane Black’s screenplay is a great work. It is not alone written with the cliched smartness but a genuine liking for film noir. At the same time, he does not want to lose the reality of it. Hence he combines both and jokes how the noir gives an happy ending or fiction of good and bad clearly separated but reminding that life is not like that. He builds a screenplay inside this film and gets the good works of the performers.

“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is also a sad reminding factor that films which becomes a public appeal loses its charm of critical value. It has descended to the fact that great films rarely are acknowledged by the public or more worse is the genre itself. When I say genre, the idea of comedy does not appear to be a serious contender for great films. I have advocated this attitude many times and it happened in me quite subconsciously watching this film. I never cared to mention the creativeness in the screenplay as I begin to treat it as a blockbuster entertainment of newly found charm of cool films. In couple of moments I realized how much the system has got into me. Throw the system away and not alone enjoy the film but think back the work went on with the writing. It will blow your mind.

"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (2008) - Movie Review

Scott Derickson’s remake of the classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” behaves as the film’s administrative personnel who does not give a chance for dialogue with Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), Derickson does not provide the same to the script. The theme is fitting for the current times but poorly executed. It never made a deal with what it wanted to say and what would the people expect. Obviously the effects would have been the predominant factor but we as a audience have now in terms with the Hollywood studio production house that anything is possible. And there is no need for a greater proof by amping the X factor in this modern day “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. What missed was how Klaatu who comes as a distant emotional alien in human form come to see the better part of the humans.

Except for the fact that alien space ship arriving with a humanoid Klaatu and his guard Gort, this sparsely goes along with the original. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) is no more a secretary but an astrobiologist. She is one of the film scientists who get their midnight unexpected, unanticipated and classified calls and always followed with the pawn picking them up with answers “I do not have the privilege to say that” or plainly “I do not know”. She has a stubborn and unresponsive step son Jacob (Jaden Smith) replacing Bobby from the original. He does not like Klaatu right from the start and he does not like Helen as she is not her mother and believes to be stuck with him rather than really loving him.

The fear in the people exists and the attack on the unknown is the motto taken by the military in both the films. I know many see Reeves as a bad actor but here he produces Klaatu in a reasonable form for the film. In the original, Michael Rennie played him more closer to human which fitted it and Reeves distances him from those emotions in this film for the script keeping to see him as an alien till the end. He does not form a bond with any one and even with Benson it is a more cold approach in maintaining her at a territory. The screenplay makes him the judge on the human’s unmerciful treatment of the planet. He has concluded from his fellow alien Wu (James Hong) report who has resided here in Earth for seventy years that humans are incorrigible and destructive but at the same time Wu decides to stay as it is his home now and there is an unexplainable other side to the same humans as well. We are emotional in loving and caring in excruciating circumstances but we truly fail to learn from those as the situation changes.

Kathy Bates as Secretary of Defense is the stupid and adamant typical Hollywood US politician. Why cannot there be a sensible politician in the Hollywood block buster who has reasons to behave as the arrogant slimy diplomacy and still maintain the character. And the military in the film are passionate to blow up things. They want to shoot missiles, fly down the space ship and bomb it till smokes engulfs the world and they fire at will till the bullets run out. They do this after being outplayed and the attacks left indestructible space ship, Gort or Klaatu without a speck of dust. Why one of the military general step back and think for a while instead of wasting bullets. I do not feel this is the correct portrayal if you are thriving for reality.

The film has some strong points when it lets the discussion role. As in when Klaatu meets Professor Barhardt (John Cleese) and the consistent attempt of Helen in convincing Klaatu that we humans have the capability to change. When there is wobble in concept of what needs to be said with what nature, then it is a half baked result. Here it is not an “Independence Day” but tries to for soothing the crows seeking those and it also wants to pay the respect to the original. Nothing wrong in mixing those if the quality is good. Instead it is patches of good work in a script full of mad characters and unconvincing change of mind in others.

We are in the age of technology which appears to have no limits. In films there is nothing that cannot be done if the right backing of studio is there in giving the CGI effects of nearly everything. It has developed into an omnipotent tool accessible to the better and the worst of the creative minds. The original leapt the time where it was made into the realm of effects and possibility. It did something that particular generation could not have imagined but at the same time staying honest to the script. Now a day we are not awed by the graphics unless films like “300” comes out with something more. We go inside this film knowing to see the cities being turned into ash and powers of impossibility in the palm of Klaatu’s hands. Hence it is the story which should take precedence and it avoids in giving Klaatu the time to talk to others. While they show the people panic and media drooling for material covering it, there is never a third eye view on the state of it. When the top personnel choose to bombard with attack rather than reason which goes on till the end and if I was Klaatu, I would have no hope of these people changing. Klaatu looks at the relationship of Benson and Jake which starts as placid and grows with hope in the end. This is the other side his fellow alien was talking about. But what Klaatu does not understand is when the situation goes back to normal and when desperation is not there, will we change? The answer is tough as billion different minds work in billion different ways but definitely not a factor for a mind change to an alien in ceasing the attack on us.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Maria Full of Grace" (Language - Spanish) (2004) - Movie Review

Choosing to live and beginning to appreciate the life ahead with a hope is a wonderful feeling. The moment where you exactly feel why you do what you do and what is that which runs your life and through which runs the others you love is an enlightening thing. It might happen one day and not other but when it happens, you know it. The stroke of that is the same when you watch a film. A film might go uneventful even in its smoothly moving script but that particular stroke makes it ethereal, the frame you craved for. That is the one which makes “Maria Full of Grace” a magical charm in the end.

Joshua Marston directed film follows a young beautiful Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a seventeen year old girl working laboriously in a sweat shop in Columbia making flower bouquets. She has a boy friend Juan (Wilson Guerrero) whom she has lost interest and he has lost in her too. She has a busy house with her sister Diana (Johanna Andrea Mora) a single mother and their dedicated diligent mother. Maria and her mother runs the family. Maria though is frustrated by the life of penniless after sweating so much to give for her unemployed sister. She also learns her pregnancy while feels numb to see Juan asking as something of a said exercise to marry her. Disappointed she breaks up and gets the attention of another young man Franklin (Jhon Alex Toro). Looking for a kick start of her life as I observed, a young girl in a search for excitement signs up stupidly to be a mule for drugs.

The assignment though is not simple but the boss Javier (Jaime Osorio Gomez) makes it sound realistic and as the more marketable. In a tightly packed drugs as a pellet, it needs to be swallowed and then needs to be travelled to New York. She meets an experienced carrier Lucy (Guilied Lopez) who has done it twice and long waits to visit her sister out there but feels ashamed to face her with the job which has brought her to New York. In between there is Maria’s friend Blanca (Yenny Paola Vega) who signs up for it too as she idolizes Maria but with a stern way to express it.

I have to accept that the whole procedure though is stomach churning to do was not something I was able to sympathize. The females every one of them are very clear on the task they are taking and in fact considering every single consequences to be met. Yet there is a drive to do it in the form of money but for Maria it is an aspiration on her way to feel more to life. Moreno as a sparkling teenager acts out Maria with some one so confident about her action in the teenage dumbness and in fact head strong about it. She makes up something and lies right through the teeth when the situation demands it. We do not really like Maria and her choices but come to like the way of her realizing what she wants out of the life.

The other similar effect I had is for Blanca. Blanca has the same attitude as that of Maria which is not surprising as she follows her every where. She does not have the guts to take any decision while blames Maria for her stupidity in her actions. Yenny Paola Vega gets on the nerves of Maria and us. But she understands Maria than any one else in the film. She provides the other half of that rejuvenating energy for Maria’s new born zeal for life in that last scene at the airport. In fact we exactly know what the decision is going to be but the difference is the untold waves of that moment in it. That makes the film worth watching all through the end expecting some sort of miracle is going to jolt this screenplay with a twist.

“Maria Full of Grace” begins as a journey into this character of emptiness and ends with a high note of cinematic beauty and convincing life possibilities. It does not aim in soothing us with the beautiful Maria. It aims in the moment I was talking about. Even after some of the worst days in your regular life, there comes a day, a particular freezing image of your life and a smile spreads across our face. It can be after a long phone talk with a family, a friend or watching something truly transpiring off the screen towards you reminiscing those.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) - Movie Review

I had to see the classic before watching the newly CGI enhanced remake coming this friday to the theatres. Generally the criticism of a film does not fly out of the radar under the posing of excuses in budget deficiency and minimal access to the technology. But the genre of science fiction would seem to have it and that is due to the constant evolution and exponential growth of the technology every minute. Yet that is only an element in the film rather than the whole of it. Hence “The Day the Earth Stood Still” would have its fair share of analysis in every department. I had the film almost make me to put as “Movie Classics” but a little dissatisfaction in the end proved it to be a film of extraordinary significance in the times of film making yet as a film would not deem the status of classics in my list. But please do not take that as a sign of a bad film because it is a must see regardless of its categorization in my dictionary of good, better and best for films.

In a rush of army noticing a large unidentified object flying, the film kicks off with the landing of the UFO directly on to the Washington DC. Supposedly well informed, the UFO of course has to land in the nation’s capital. Two aliens come out, one being a robot Gort played by Lock Martin under those spectacularly designed costumes while the other is an alien humanoid Klaatu (Michael Rennie) who has learned English very well monitoring the radio broadcasts. As the guns are pointed and even after a hopeful message of coming in peace, Klaatu gets shot when he tries to offer a gift. He is transported to the hospital with wounds healing rapidly by some advanced medication he brought along for the journey. He is visited by President’s Secretary Mr. Harley (Frank Conroy) and Klaatu asks for an immediate address to all the nation in the world regarding a warning to the people of Earth.

The first hour is when the film is at its best. With Michael Rennie playing Klaatu in a rare sense of understanding of an alien. He speaks with a superiority and says the things in a tone of confidence and affirmation. He is not arrogant but a nobility and humility an elderly would have. He is perplexed by the stupidity of different nations not coming to meet at one place in the name of cold war and suspicion. He is of course old, aged 78 but looks 38. He informs that the life expectancy is 120 to the doctors treating him. It breaks their heart as they have working throughout their life with next to nothing results in many diseases affecting the lives of the human.

When a situation of imminent danger arrives regardless of what country or classification the people affected will be, suddenly every other thing which concerned them huge a minute before dissolves in the sands of gravity. Klaatu impatient in the politics of international conflicts ventures out on his own by escaping from the hospital. He mingles with a family by renting a room. He befriends a boy Bobby (Billy Gray), son of Helen Benson (Patricia Neal). The sharp quality of being terse and perfect in his speech with neatly dressed and trimmed personality unwarrantedly makes Helen to trust him. Klaatu begins to go around places in DC and wonders who will be right one to talk with the grave situation the Earth has got itself into. Bobby suggests Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe).

In the time of 50s, the film is like “Independence Day” in terms of graphics but not an entertainment blockbuster rather a very serious film on the world after two World Wars. In the attitudes of military, government, nations and people, director Robert Wise with the story by Harry Bates gives each of the cross-section in terms of fear and curiosity. Panic is the mode every one wants to be in. It is unbelievable that even the media at those times wants the same. When Klaatu visits his space ship as a spectator along with Bobby, a TV interviewer asks Klaatu whether he is afraid and Klaatu begins to reason out explaining another point of view and the interviewer cuts short as he knows that is not interesting. Fear is interesting. Panic sells.

The special effects and the costume design of the film made the place where it is in the history of the Hollywood. It has a great shot of UFO landing when people are running. The robot Gort’s metal simulation is an amalgamation of the lifelessness of the machine and the contemporary art not belonging to the era of 50s. And with the famous screechy and disturbing haunting score of Bernard Herrmann, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” would have been a phenomenon when it was released.

The screenplay of Edmund H. North does not reveal nothing much at all about the planet Klaatu comes from. In a very given way it is presumed that aliens are always much more powerful and far more unbelievably advanced than us. I guess some one travelling light years through black holes and asteroids and unknown objects in the space has to be scientifically meteoric in their advancements. When Klaatu being resurrected for unknown time by a device in the space ship after he is been shot Helen asks whether they know to avoid death. Klaatu replies that permanent back to life is only possible by Almighty and that is a cacophony in an almost perfect science fiction film. Apart from the bias I have, it is the out of sync placement in the film. It is bending over backwards to answer that part of that question springing out in the audience and to pacify them of their beliefs. Why not leave it open as they did for the planets and every single details with it? More than philosophical discrepancy it is a cinematic aberrance. Still I would recommend this classic be viewed for the first of its kind and a next to perfect sincerity in its theme.

Monday, December 08, 2008

"God Grew Tired of Us" (Documentary) (2006) - Movie Review

“The Lost Boys” are the group of 27000 boys who fled from the Southern Sudan to escape the killing spree of civil war. They walked for years to cross the border to Ethiopia and when the government toppled there, they walked back to Kakuma, Kenya. In the Kakuma Camp provided by the UN, they have formed a family of their own. The documentary by Christopher Dillon Quinn follows three boys John Dau, Daniel Abul Pach and Panther Bior who in the rescue program are now been placed in United States to have a better life. Ten years they have been with the clan in the most horrible days of their lives. They are setting out for a better tomorrow.

From the 27000, half of them succumbed to the severe environment of the desert and its habitat. And some of them were rampaged further by war. Thanks to the many hard working volunteers that they got the basic education in the camp. They have learned what death is by seeing their family killed and not waking up from the sleep. They have learned hunger from the pain of surviving without food and water for days while laboriously walking for their survival. They have not experienced electricity nor they have encountered any of the today’s regular amenities available to common people in the world. With those they embark to America.

They are sad to leave but they have to leave for doing something good tomorrow. They land in United States and their helper in the US gives a quick tutorial on how to turn on the lights and how the potatoes are ready to eat as chips. From a surrounding of living together with 30-40 people any given time, they are put with four other boys. The boys are placed all over in US. Each are provided an opportunity to work and they work hard. They do three jobs and hope to do their school some day. In their meager living, they send money back to the camp and some to their family they have discovered after seventeen years.

In them everything is lost but there is still the sign of innocence and naiveness of seeing the wide world. The surprise in their face to see the modern amenities taking form in the palm of their hand bring the smiles but they are shocked by the detachment created in the community. I have felt it too. When I travel in India, you can always ask people around who would assist in some form or other. In US too there are people assisting but the difference is though that the widespread nature of the location have totally isolated in knowing one street from another. And more than that is the mistrust which has emerged in the current ambience of flooding of information. We are constantly aware of our surroundings. If some one comes and talk to us kindly the immediate opinion is what he or she has to gain from us. And this is perplexing to the kids who grew up living among their brothers to depend and be depended upon.

“God Grew Tired of Us” is a hopeful but also a sad documentary of these kids finding hard to live in the US and always have a guilty complex of being the fortunate ones to get out of the misery. And they push themselves beyond their body and mind to work consistently to do something about their brothers and the situation in Sudan. In one of the cities, the community has complained that they are threatened by them since they always go in groups. But they have always been in group most of their lives and they feel four is less.

The truth is that in the modern world we are distancing far away from each other emotionally in the complacence that technology brings us closer. Seeing in person is the ultimate communication and I miss that. I guess that is the give and take in the comfort I have got but to these kids they are wondering how it has changed for them. “God Grew Tired of Us” apart from making us aware of the atrocities in the Sudan uncovers the loosing bond and trust in the society of today.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

"Subramaniapuram" (Language - Tamil) (2008) - Movie Review

In the vicinity of the native I grew up Madurai, it is tough love. Tough love written with the knives and sickles. It does not cross the paths of the middle class family and when it does they are the collateral damage of a wrongly guided life of the poor and the desperate. But it does not start with money, not always. It is fed by the unconditional love shown between men to every one’s astonishment. The word and the acquaintance is gargantuan in some one not alone giving their life but taking one too, just as Azhagar (Jai) and Paraman (A. Sasikumar) do for Kanugu (Samutharakani), a family politically driven.

Azhagar, Paraman and their clan comprising of Kasi (“Ganja” Karuppu), Toppa (actor unknown) and a crippled Dumku (actor unknown) hang out at the rental sound system shop of their friend Sithan (actor unknown). The film begins with a man being stabbed when he gets out of the prison and admitted in the present day while the story goes in the 1980s Madurai. Azhagar and Paraman are thick friends and do nothings wailing time through smokes, liquor and what we Madurai people call “toppu” meaning chatting.

Azhagar has a love interest Tulasi (Swathi), niece of Kanugu. Kanugu whose brothers are an ex-counsellor of the district and an another brother a typical executive of government. They are the one of many breeding circle of political recognition and the zeal for power. A. Sasikumar is also the director of the film who brings the nativity of the area much truthfully as “Paruthiveeran” did. The vicinity of Madurai is now the fodder for the film makers but Sasikumar does so with a first hand encounter of the place Subramaniapuram and if he is not from that place, then his research is terrific.

“Subramaniapuram” is a birth of a clan becoming hire for kill. After their debut kill for Kanugu when they are in the prison, a notable inmate Ravi asks why they did it and they reply “Pazhakkuthuthukku pannom” meaning “for acquaintance”. That is the reality of the place. It still runs in the streets of those places. As mentioned, the extremity of love and hate are scary. They would know you for a second and they will shower their love meaning every single action of it. And at the same time when betrayal happens, the wrath of their anger would never see the chance of redemption. The people there when dissected to their basic character have hard time controlling their animal instincts as the emotions are fondled (I corrected the previous sentence from "They are the people in a raw sense live with animal instincts." as when I read meant something different than I intended - Thanks to Mathi for pointing it out). Their care cannot be matched and so does their anger.

What is good about “Subramaniapuram” also becomes something of an uncomfortable factor. The intentions of Sasikumar is how the uneducated and misguided people in the parts become a victim of the politics which again has been executed very many times despite been done good, poses doubts on whether his target audience will look at it as a chance for seeing themselves on their extremes or glorify. The hard bound truth of the young and the adamant are easily moulded in the places like those. In the end though the tragedy is not lesson but an instigation of never ending vengeance. Whether the target audience in the end of it realize what Sasikumar intends to say is doubtful.

Dismissing the responsibility of the film, it is a true depiction of the slang, props and the society structure existing in that part of the country. Madurai has always been a nexus for the blend of the middle class who run the fulcrum of the educated society while the workers running the culture, tradition and mainly the survival of the humans, the agricultural business. When the festival of Lord Azhagar happens in the city and rests on the river Vaigai, you can see both of those society mingling with a visual rarely a city has. And Sasikumar exactly brings that. Not all the middle class are of the political mid section as the Kanugu family and not all the youngsters are the wrongly driven individuals like Azhagar and Paraman. But the situation crops in different scenarios involving politics, finance and illiteracy churning these young people in to a life of blood and violence.

While I liked the film very much, I completed it with an unfulfilling nature how the story did not resolve itself. From a film which starts out to be systematic about the minds of people being manipulated, it ends as a fictional short story of some kind strangely being real all the time in its characters. With most of the technicians and actors as debutants, it is a mark of a very professional worksmanship. James Vasanthan especially in his music has a good theme music to combine the dark, haunting and a sad piece to the film.

It is a sect of the state which is looked down upon on its violence while also been praised upon for its cultural heritage. But many forget the people in the place who have been brought up with the emotions blurting out in unexplainable acts. That is something a resident will be able to empathize. For every one the place they grew up marks a pride as Patrick Kensie would say in “Gone Baby Gone”. Madurai is a great pride among its residents for the people’s respect, affection and honesty. At the same time the violence and the bloodshed has also been considered as a day to day affair. Many speak about it as a part of life and in that there is no pride. One of the sad fact about “Subramaniapuram” is that and it slightly oversteps in glorifying it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"Transporter 3" (2008) - Movie Review

It is immaterial to see “Transporter” and “Transporter 2” to see “Transporter 3”. I really feel that films which are like this can be called action porn. I cannot morally justify it but trust me you know what I mean. Hence seeing a film like this, the dialogues and story are insignificant because all which needs to be got right are the actions (pun intended). “Transporter 3” in couple of sensual scenes is not alone a bad action porn but also not qualify for a good porn.

Environmental disaster is the current equivalent of the nuclear bomb threat in the films. Here there are greedy industrialists hiring a dude Johnson (Robert Knepper) who hires couple of other dudes to hire a transporter dude Frank Martin (Jason Statham) who refuses the offer and suggests another dude (David Atrakachi) to be hired. This dude fails the operation and the dude of the dudes who got their butts kicked by Frank forces a bracelet which would blow off when he goes 75 feet away from his car to transport the goods along with a femme Valentina (Natalya Rudakova). In the meanwhile a minister is threatened by Johnson to sign a contract with the industrialists for sanctioning their disposal of garbage into the sea. As I said, story and dialogues are irrelevant.

Valentina is the European accented girl with blue rouge and devil in the eyes. She talks dark and in fact the compadre of Frank, Tarconi (François Berléand) says so too. There are many instances wherein I thought the film is spoofing on itself but no, they talk serious. Bravo to Statham and Rudakova for acting out those stupid lines attaching such a gravity to it. The kinetic energy in the film is not so upbeat too. The action scenes comes with long intervals in between and except for the cycle stunt and car drowning, rest of it is a routine for the routine actions.

Statham works hard in making his Frank work and he succeeds with his muscled body and cleanly worn black suit. He is fit and fine. Rudakova as the female attractive object for the film acting as this dreary and cynical hostage explaining the dishes in a connoisseurastic tone which pushed me to almost faint on the preposterous setting of the film. The villain Johnson do not exactly know what he is doing. He is a bad hire by these company directors. He does not have special skills and he is so boring even as the stupid villain shooting his henchmen for his bad mood.

The fillers of course does not need to make sense as defined in the beginning verses. It should not be a stretch too and “Transporter 3” has many. It fails and fails and makes you impatient. It reminded of another Statham flick horribly made called “Crank” which is going to have its sequel. Mindless entertainment is good when that requires a lot of skill and precision to be made well. This film abuses those privileges and runs off the grounds sinking deeper and deeper beneath the layers of stupidness.

And then Frank romances with Valentina and the film achieves new low in it. With some pills and alcohol, Valentina becomes horny and takes away the keys. Now for a good stunt man like Frank it should not be a big deal to twist her arm and get it. But that would not aid the sensual scenes in between them. I tolerated it and when the end came for the transporter to kiss good bye to his lady love where he would be shelled by the enemies, she cries and asks “They so many men, you one and I worry” and I wanted to dub the voice of Statham with “Do not be foolish crazy sexy European Lady, I got to come by for Transporter 4”.

"Happy-Go-Lucky" (2008) - Movie Review

Can you be really happy for all your life time? Will you work relentlessly in achieving it? It would be no and yes. Poppy (Sally Hawkins) sincerely works on the latter question not with a seriousness but with a ray of unobstructed sunshine and it should be noted that the intensity of it is consistent. Does not weigh a bit less or more in promoting that energy to the people surrounding her. Merry, cheering and not a single thing could sway her from the shine of happiness. She can be the most happiest person alive.

Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” is not a version of happiness that is painted in bright red and flowery caricatures of Hollywood film emotions. It in the character of Poppy is the single most convincing and most realistic happiness seen in the films in recent times. Poppy is thirty, single and lives with a best/flat mate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman). Both work hard during the week as primary school teachers while party hard in the weekends. Poppy has two younger sisters, Suzy (Kate O’Flynn) hanging out young and free with Poppy and a pregnant typical well settled house wife Helen (Caroline Martin) we see later in the film. As Leigh does in his films when the sisters meet, all it takes is a couple of minutes to understand each other and their relationships in a jiffy.

Poppy’s unstoppable optimism annoys people. Helen would the one to start with. When a stranger laughs for something else during our bad day, we think they laugh at us. But we actually are annoyed at them on the unfairness the life has put us, at that moment. How can when I am in the downtrodden roads of misery can another simple human have a cheery day. Or in the case of Poppy, it is a perennial exercise of bubbling moments. One such is her driving instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan), an angry man who takes driving as a soldier would take his military code. “En-ra-ha” he says repeatedly for remembering the mirrors in a car and I learnt now that it is named after fallen angels and it is his technique to get his “pupil” to remember. He complains, cribs and takes the job very very seriously while Poppy is like a bumble bee trying to get out of a glassed door only that she does to induce laugh out of this poor guy.

Scott in his rule of driving sputters some philosophical view of his on the educational system, multiculturalism in the current world and his other pupils not respecting him or the sanctity of driving. Eddie Marsan plays Scott with an unflinching ability to downplay the positive charisma of Poppy. He spits with an anger subdued, explosive, irritating and in many fashion with a compliment by Poppy deflecting and returning it with the same fervour of laugh, smirks, smiles and guffaws. I remember how my brother taught me to release the clutch in the very first lesson to ride a bike. I sucked from my part but made it worse by the shout from the big man. Unlike my brother who calmed down to teach me properly, Scott is angered consistently and as him we realize he is drawn into Poppy.

But who will not be drawn into her? Sure it would be an overplayed happiness of formality and being nice but we see her in time due that she means every word of it. She indeed loves life and she indeed loves the toughness it poses. She flourishes with love to every one. She finds jokes in every move as she does in the Flamenco dancing class when the teacher (Karina Fernandez) outbursts before a splendid tutorial of the elegance and style of the dance.

There is a scene in the film with a homeless man (Stanely Townsend). Poppy goes on a walk in the middle of the night to find this man who is no way related or of any knowing to her. She begins to talk with him. He blabbers with scrambled speech making no sense but Poppy acknowledges that she understands. She does which we see in her eyes and the comforting voice of her and the homeless man acknowledges through his face too. That scene would be a step away from the normal flow of the film. It is and the moment in between them is genuine. It in isolating away from the film still remains so much true to the character of Poppy. After couple of minutes the man goes away as though afraid to be addicted the infectious smile of Poppy even in her submerged fear in talking with him.

Sally Hawkins is wonderful. She is simply and purely wonderful. In her tiny physique, her Poppy dresses with full of colours, wears a boot which she loves and always carries two to three bags with her fluttering as a flag in her pole like body. In the infinite supply of aura, we wonder what would tick her off. How would a conflict affect her and Leigh gives that apart from the encounter with Scott. She sees a kid violent on his fellow students. What is she going to do? She does what the system of teacher and school does and it paves way to her love interest, Tim (Samuel Roukin) a social worker and also unfold a most tense moments with Scott in the film.

All the Leigh’s films I have seen so far have been on the down right despair or a subtle reference of hidden emotions of secrets, pasts and life. In “Happy-Go-Lucky” he gives the other end of the spectrum without the glossiness and with the authenticity of his touch. He gives characters taking life as it is and address their insecurities, behaviour and expectations as we do in the life of ours. This along with “Milk” would make my best films of 2008.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Taxi to the Dark Side" (2007) - Movie Review

Alex Gibney’s “Taxi to the Darkside” is a brilliant documentary which as a medium conveying its points across works as effectively as “No End in Sight” the movie I mentioned in the best films of the 2007. It in a depth of detail documentaries sometimes fails to grab in the zeal of its agenda is methodical and most importantly clear as crystal. By the end of the film there arises a conscience in the way one conducts any one by their side. It is truly phenomenal film which winning its Oscar has got a deserved wide spread attention.

Yes it focuses on the torture techniques employed so easily and in a swift fashion riding on legal fence from the President of the United States and the commandeers of his team. Yes it blasts the insignificance and brutal insensitivity showed by the administration on putting its stamp to not alone tip over the top but dance around with the term of interrogation using the vicious minds in the worst possible situation. Yet it never takes a stand of arrogance into its face of argument. It gets the information as first hand we could get from the soldiers, to the army defense personnel and to the major political movers in DC and to the memo architects of these unfathomable writs.

In a step by step method the origin of these atrocities and the navigation from a generation is an awareness very much required for this generation. The amusement of being the hero, the good person stopping at the end of the road with upright stands has become a symbol of righteous existence. And US has strongly taken the stage because of its action in the holocaust. That has translated into the citizens and from them the coming up of soldiers. It is important to be on the good side, to be the people of good values who cannot be obliterated by the face of evil doers is been a global tag line for representing their country. The founding fathers have made sure of it and the principles of their laws are sometimes so astoundingly honest. But what has become of it in the reigning years of war after 9/11? “Taxi to the Dark Side” is a mirror on what the war has made it to be and more so about us with a devil inside.

There is a shocking piece of scene from the series “24” in the film showing the hero Jack Bauer played sincerely by Kiefer Sutherland on torturing a terrorist to get an information on a ticking time bomb. It gets compared to the attitude of the people and the advocacy of such a mentality to the soldiers on the front to get information. I have never felt so bad about myself after that. Before dismissing the fact that it is only a series for entertainment let me remind the seriousness the show takes itself. But it could not be blamed rather we should look at ourself on what the demand has been put in a show. The film constructively criticizes on the morality been tilted in the most fanatical adherence to make believe the doing the right thing that it has manifested the despiteful and hateful product of this whole process.

By this time we have witnessed so many films on this war and heard enough about the Bush administration. I felt a little bit bored when “Standard Operating Procedure” extended a very tiny bit than expected. With “Taxi to the Dark Side” it was enlightening through its analysis of the sad state this war has put on it and the irresponsible leadership acting with nothing but hate and result by any means necessary. Very much so the film “Lions for Lambs” delivered, this film shows in its technique in reality.

The film begins with an Afghan driver named Dilawar taking his passengers and never returning home. He was arrested as suspected terrorist and was taken to Bagram Air Base where he was tortured and killed. Till date despite the trials punishing the soldiers on various other charges has never found a trial for the killing of that driver. He turned out to be a very simple family man trying to ride cabs and feed his family. The film ends on that not forgetting as the army did on how his trip to the Bagram Air Base really triggered the much more wide approved torture taking its full face in Abu Ghraib.

After 9/11 being tough has basically has shifted towards getting ugly. The fundamental laws in US have amazed me in certain aspects on how much it tries to protect the innocent despite being used badly in many cases and still innocents being crucified. Despite the working of it, through the “Law and Order” series I have come to respect the constitution framers on the principles they wrote it upon. And how much it got erased by these actions of extracting intelligence? As the Enron executives, the administration fed the actions on the air with unknown guidance or rules for the soldiers who barely aware of the land they are in and the language the people spoke. They had no idea other than to follow orders and exist among their comrades to live. They dismissed their own morality having their trust on their superiors and believing their stand for being good. “Taxi to the Dark Side” more than this war echoes its title so truthful and so scary of ourself and what can be made of us unless we stand for the conscience we bore.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"Midnight Express" (1978) - Movie Review

In the booklet came along with the DVD is the detailed jotting down of information of how “Midnight Express” came into the hands of Oliver Stone’s spectacular screenplay by director Alan Parker. It gives details of great honesty on the journey towards the completion of this film. In that Parker talks about the truthfulness of the real events to the film and that should be the disclaimer message for the films made out from the actual events. Truth as it stands has drifted so far away and the remaining piece of the ordeal are the emotions, the desperation and the smell of freedom. That cannot be drifted and that has no nationality.

In the light of that information, I treated the film as a work of fiction shaping a character who may or may not be the real Billy Hayes and the ambience may or may not be the country of any origin which in this case happens to be Turkey. Right from the opening scene when Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) packs his body with bars of Hashish and the inevitable capture in the airport, Parker holds us on our nerves. The feeling returns back at the end to not believe in this possibility. Every where we know the conclusion but doubt whether we are right and it aggravates the tension in monumental amounts.

Hayes eventually getting caught receives three and half years prison time in the worst possible conditions of a prison. Prisons need not be shown any more cruel than it already is. It is not a fact oblivious for any one that it robs the most basic thing we walk freely upon, the freedom. Hayes pays for his stupidity and there is a moving scene with his father (Mike Kellins) on his departure leaving his dear son to the hell hole. Hayes makes friends and may be a little more than friends. In prison to simulate the proximity of being held on and to not lose the sense of touch, sexual orientation little does matter when it is needed. Here he is tempted to the invitations of his jail mate Erich (Norbert Weisser).

Parker in 1978 denies the audience the rights of understanding the Turkish guards and prisoners conversing as Hayes would have went through. Hence we mimic his capability to make head and tail of the language with nothing positive other than to know the level of extremity the despair and pain is going to be. The jail warden (Paul Smith) provide the muscle torture with no mercy while the creepy diabolical smile of Rifki (Pauolo Bonacelli) the rat of the prison supply the terror factors for Hayes. Hayes forms friend ship with two characters at the brink of insanity in their degree of physicality. They is an Englishman Max (John Hurt) deep into the drug effects of codine for his gastro problems and Jimmy (Randy Quaid) a rage monger having had enough of this prison.

Hayes counts his days of punishment for three and half years only to be denied before 53 days of his supposed release by the high court to convert his possession into smuggling resulting in a life sentence. The enrage at his sentencing is one of many scenes Brad Davis stuns with his acting. His physical and mental pain in making the film seem to be equivalent of the ordeal Hayes went through in real life. He is half naked to full naked most of the times and humiliation becomes a irremovable cloth. He has given up on anything and when he meets his girl friend Susan (Irene Miracle) on the other side of the glass, it is unbearable to watch him. The visceral nature of that in those times would have been deeply haunting and disturbing for the audience.

The cinematography of Michael Seresin merges in the shadows of the dirty walls and immerses in the tunnels of doom. It captures the reeking environment of these prisoners and adds a shine to a scene. It is classy in the shambles of this chilling place. The music of Giorgio Moroder fiddles the cinematography and the actors on the screen. It is neither enthralling nor secretively meshed. It carries the complex emotion of happiness and the failure of this man living in a situation of hopelessness.

Alan Parker’s “Midnight Express” is a carefully constructed epic scripted by Oliver Stone. It does not have any message nor a stand on the justice. It does not state a country’s corrupt system. The mess Hayes got himself into could have been in any country with an inhabitable state of affair in a prison located any region. While it is sad that Istanbul got a bad reputation, it does not intend that way. The film does not even try to take sides with Hayes. It follows him and never gives hope at any instance. We in the dismal shows of various attempts of Hayes and his crew going in air of debacle threatens to hope good as it would be broken badly. It in the work of fiction has become the test of human endurance and the morphing of the saneness in a locality completely detached of humanity. It is a clinical study of a person pushed on to his extremes by one stupid mistake.

Monday, December 01, 2008

"All or Nothing" (2002) - Movie Review

Where does the love and the spontaneity wither away when the long stretch of marriage seem to extend forever? Is there an hour glass of sand dripping its molecules of affection into the bottomless end of its other half oblivious of that fact? The great length of time which diminishes the stains of the pain also has the power to deposit the dusts in unforeseen corners in the houses of crooked walls and moulded doors. This is the vacuum of suffocation the middle aged couple Phil (Timothy Spall) and Penny (Lesley Manville) have in Mike Leigh’s “All or Nothing”.

In the silence of a household lies the inability to address the problem. Phil works as a taxi driver while Penny works in Safeway. They have an obese, rude and bum as a son named Rory (James Corden) doing nothing but also have a sweet big girl Rachel (Alison Garland) working in a nursing home. Penny has an aura of dislike towards her husband. She is cold and distant when he comes by and acknowledges with minute spells of frown which is not a yell nor a nicety. It is a speck of bitterness sprayed along with innuendoes that she could have done better than Phil.

Her unhappiness does not have to been inflicted by the inability of Phil to make her satisfied. Rather it is the responsibility of the monetary balance and maturity boding as a character of seriousness which has made her into this dim lit mother of this house. This does not spare Phil as he mumbles his despair of being lonely in a family to his customers giving us a taste of the characters he meets in a day.

In the meantime we see a cheery and optimistic colleague of Penny, Maureen (Ruth Sheen) with rebellious daughter Donna (Helen Coker). As Rory, Donna rains swear and despise towards her mother to leave her alone and let her be. Unlike Penny Maureen converts every one of those into a joke of her own. Donna has a ruffian boyfriend Jason (Daniel Mays) who freaks out when he learns Donna is pregnant. Maureen does not need much of an explanation after seeing a bruised Donna and figures out the rest. She protects her daughter with a swiftness and empathy only a mother could do.

There is another family Leigh focuses on which is Phil's fellow mate Ron (Paul Jesson) and his perennially inebriated wife Carol (Marion Bailey). They have a daughter Samantha (Sally Hawkins) again the do-nothing in the family. She teases Jason and a stalker Craig (Ben Crompton) as if to feel alive. She is constantly in hurt from her parents and her way out is to play the teasing of love and affection to the opposite sex.

Leigh mixes these three families with a bit more analyze on Phil and Penny. As with most of his films Leigh has a beat for the middle class of London. And every time he finds an apartment with a flavour of its own. In its closed space and too many people evolves a stress with no effort. People constantly escaping other's faces to look away while they live under the same roof.

The running of family in the reality of money and responsibility whitens in a mellow fashion the love which has united them. Paying the school fees, finding the right dresses and the constant fear of the future has cuffed the members of moderately financed family. The hard work develops a pride and expectation from every one around them to contribute above and beyond as they keep forgetting the bond which keeps them together. In "All or Nothing" it is that building up of pressure bursting into tears for Phil and Penny.

Timothy Spall is splendid as this soft spoken and sympathizing dad. He goes to his son and in a nice calm way asks to roll over the couch to look for the smashed up pound. Then he knocks on his daughter's door and asks her some money and look at him while he gets it. His inside little shame comes out in his body language. He then goes to Penny and how cheaply she looks down and treats him in giving the money. The money is for the rent to his boss. Phil has lost his interest and became a matter of indifference forgetting everything around him. He feels his family especially his wife is riding as a customer in his taxi waiting for her destination while he loves her to the deepest.

Leigh's film is a great skill of ambidexterity in handling reality of life and artistry of film making. He gives us the feel for the job these people do. He did the behavioral work of the customers coming for portrait in "Secrets and Lies" while we see the flurry characters of customers in "All or Nothing" coming to the backside seat of Phil's taxi. Each we identify, empathize and also resemble a lot like us in frustrations, murmur and silence. The love of Leigh's film is reaching the peak of mine as it goes for Paul Thomas Anderson and Sam Mendes. The strange thing is that Leigh has been directing great films from 1971 starting with his "Bleak Moments" while Mendes and Anderson are the product of the 90s. For me it is a little late but if I could do a bit in exposing this great director to the readers I would feel atoned for not knowing Leigh all this time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008) - Movie Review

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” adapted from the novel by John Boyne is a story of a childhood beginning to question the shades of reasoning by the adults. The indoctrination on definition of right and wrong, friends and enemies looms from what the parents ask them to be. When the exposure happens does it make the child go confused on who his or her father is and what really does the education he have been receiving mean begins to haunt the tender heart. In the Nazi regime of atrocities which by now have been taken in films which I am losing counts and many in the spirit of goodness has educated it beyond any reasonable doubt. Why would I then recommend this film once again about time in holocaust and why it should be any different? Beyond the cruelty of the killings is the generation born to these Nazi generals who were carrying out the orders and how did it affect them.

Eight year old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) is sad because his father (David Thewlis) informed that the family is moving to a different place. His sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) though is excited. Bruno has to find new friends to play with. His mother (Vera Farmiga) assures him that the place has garden to play which impresses little for Bruno. Bruno’s father is a Nazi soldier and the new place is a mile away from the camp. Bruno is curious when he sees a group of people from his window to be dressed similar with stripes. He tells this to his mother and she immediately bolts the window.

Bruno ventures on exploration behind his house which has been warned against by his mother. He finds a fence (which he learns later that is electrified) and a little boy of his same age is sitting dressed in striped uniform on the other side of it. The boy is Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) and he is in the camp. Bruno asks whether the uniform with the number is a game and Shmuel says it is not. Like this Bruno learns that he is a Jew and Bruno remembers that then Shmuel is supposed to be his enemy as his tutor Herr Liszt (Jim Norton) told him and his sister. He is confused than to blindly abide that. His sister unlike begins to fall for it which is more for her crush, a young Lieutenant Kotler (Rupert Friend).

As for many kids, for Bruno and Gretel their father is their hero. Bruno exposed to the camp and finding that Shmuel a Jewish kid is the same as he is desperately wants to believe that his dad is not mistreating the people in the camp. He sneaks in a façade film presentation of the camp watched by his dad and his superiors where the place is nice and well treated. He hugs his dad immediately for not letting him down. In the meanwhile Bruno’s mother smells the horrid odour as Bruno does and learns that people are burned in the camp. While she was aware of the camp, her “See No Evil” conveniently discarded the possibility of atrocities and as the kids she believes in her husband’s sanity in humanity. She is disappointed and soon she begins to dissolve in the guilt, madness and frustration of her being the silent witness to this evil.

The film never directly shows the inhumane conditions and lets the kids discuss their perspective of each side. Being untouched by the clutches of the hatred, Bruno without any education to tell him knows that what is happening is fishy. How clean is a kid’s mind that sometimes ignorance is in fact the bliss she/he needs to be in. The knowledge they are going to get growing is the knowledge to manufacture killing machines for bigot, hatred and inhumanity. The story of the film reminds what is fed into the kids now a day. What is that they grow and taught in the circle of society? Are they in the rational learning clinically absorb the concept of goodness as a study and discard it in the cynicism they witness and made believe? What is to believe of the government, country and worse their parents on recognizing the good and evil? The generation in the wake of technology and terror are both well informed and badly nurtured at the same time with the absorption for hatred in smears of sporadic emotions.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is not the story of the camp but a reminder what the kids are aware and taught of. It is a story how we are as an adult proclaim the wrongdoing as pragmatism for survival to the weak heart. And the minds gulp it in a sweet swallow in fear of being denied of the love from their parents. Gretel as Bruno knows the wrong doing but denies it over the credibility she has over the adults. But who decides the credibility and are we capable of advocating the right and wrong as clearly as possible? Is knowledge be a doctrine of wrong facts or a teaser for greater questions to be looked upon openly and with multitudes of possibility in this continuously growing diverse and wide world? When you come out of the film with soaked hearts think what you will be telling the kids about your frustration and complains against a community, a country, a religion or any one at all.