Sunday, July 27, 2008

Its about time !

As many might have been wondering already (with lots of hopes of course!), that this space is not getting updated at all for quite some time now and it is time for some explanation and a possible sleep mode till I get space to view some movies. Most of my friends might know and the readers of the review “The Dark Knight” might have noticed that I am in India right now under the wings of mom, dad, brother, his wife and mainly the king of all, my nephew. He is about to complete his 6 months in becoming and advancing the realm of cutest baby as it would run for any one who see a baby in their family. Hence you can understand it is not the matter of being hands full but the slightest sensation of disturbance for regular naps of the little emperor. But even beyond that are the soap operas at critical time of 9:30 PM to align my brother to view films I have brought on, it is more of family time too.

But that should not stop me from posting or even writing something, yet there are some conditions laid upon to open this laptop too (and a fairly deteriorating one). I believe to have surpassed jet lag but a tooth extraction yesterday has done craziness to the routine which I thought have mastered in 5 days and that makes this post to be typed around 5:02 AM Indian Standard Time.

Anyways, while I strongly feel lot of guilt in not quenching the film spree and writing about it, I eat amazing foods home made with unexplainable taste quality like Remy does in “Ratatouille”. My mom does it with such simplicity and consistency that it simply blows the senses out of this world. Truly an enthralling treats for the demised taste buds eating the great cuisines of subway, early morning break fast restaurants, drunk foods (sparsely), taco bell (Instant guilty pleasure and punishment by the time reach my home) and finally the deadliest of all, my own.

Of course, I still get complaints on not considerably dedicating “family” time which I sadly have to admit that I need to put effort upon in the midst of uneven sleeping and going outside to meet a friend and with my brother too. Week One is already over and it is running great and at the same time fast. In the meantime, I managed to make my brother sit and watch “Once” which he liked. Hopefully I am able to sneak him out along with Mathi to view “The Dark Knight”.

In the couple of days, I have been thinking a lot about films and how they make such a mark on many of us and especially it ignites a passion in me. Clearly I have transferred on to a level of taste, tolerance and appreciation for any kind of films. And more than that is the obsession I have created in the past one and half years. In fact I have kind of become a “film viewing Nazi” in “Seinfeld” term. I have come to get annoyed by any small interruption, whoever it might be. Of course it goes inside as frustration than anger; I still wish and love to watch films with the people who I want to discuss that with. It is contradictory as it seems but it is the pure pleasure of appreciating films as such. I have been planning to do that with my brother Barath and of course Mathi which seems to appear bleaker and bleaker. Yet, hope is there and wish I could capture those discussions in this space and relish with you all.

Again, I am terribly sorry if some of you have visited/is visiting this space with the expectation I have set in frequency of postings (I cannot be desperate than this). I will try to make up after returning. It is going to be a special agenda which would trump many other important appointments (actually there are none). I would obviously try to post one or two reviews by the time of return to keep this blog alive. Till then, keep your fingers crossed because I might just surprise you with sporadic postings.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"The Dark Knight" (2008) - Movie Review

I am sitting at my home waiting for a friend to pick me up and drop to the airport in Chicago. Yes, I am leaving to India for a month vacation and I booked ticket July 19th than a convenient Friday July 18th just to see “The Dark Knight”. Such has the personal attachment to this film’s predecessor “Batman Begins” that amongst the dubious looks and curses from fellow colleagues, I watched it in a busy Saturday morning. While I was already biased, the early reviews made it even more one sided praising the film far beyond than the hype it produced. Instead of going on a Friday, I went today morning easing down the expectations but still the fairness disturbed. And I would say it is more complex than I thought and definitely good but is it a great movie or does it surpasses its origin “Batman Begins”? As the film’s content, the stand on this is complex too. When I finish, I should have a fair answer.

This is as serious a batman or for that case a super hero film gets but that is the feeling I had for “Batman Begins” and hence who knows what would be the next installment get into. It has multilayered storylines with multifaceted characters running deeper than the darkness and as we are entering the sick minded personality of The Joker (Heath Ledger) and into the tired millionaire and a vigilante Bruce Wayne with his Batman (Christian Bale) seeking passion for his righteousness, we are in a state of stalemate to take sides. The mind game and the perspective of these two individuals clashes on many philosophical, ethical and moral levels of social existence that disturbs the realm of right and tips us to look the demons in us. It starts off a year after the first one finishes and begins with the machinations by this scarred face freak to loot a bank carried out with easy betrayals and pleasure killings. In the meanwhile people did get inspired by the iconic status of Batman through his goodness but it has only produced copycats than real do-gooders. Along with Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman), Batman is fighting crime and their new figure of hope is Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) who is dating the lady love of Wayne, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes).

So what does Joker want? Does he want money or his zealous for chaos? Heath Ledger is a brilliant actor for which his “Brokeback Mountain” solely brought upon and while many speculate his posthumous Oscar award for the psychopathic Joker, I am indifferent to it. But it is a performance which has evidence of the character extracting a lot of emotional energy unlike the character itself void of any empathy. In Joker he gives a man suffered so much from a society through the formulation of family which has failed to act according igniting his mind in menace. His pleasure of violence is disturbing for its meticulous planning even though he claims he does as he goes by. It is the step by step approach in moving people as his puppet and booby traps in the most unexpected manner. He talks with the mob boss and in his creepy facial make up; he brings the scare of their life time in people doing business of crime as their back yard dart game. This is a performance to remember of this late actor.

In “Batman Begins” there were cartoonish elements in certain stunts and in philosophical front but this shows a year matured Bruce Wayne struggling to find what he stands for and how much he needs to endure to sustain that passion. He is crossed in the love for Rachel and his hope of Gotham City no more in need of Batman for him to return to his regular life seems dreamy and delusional. His denial becomes a false hope and that drives him mad. In this madness comes the pundit of chaos and anarchy. As Bruce thrives to stand for his principles which is to make Gotham a crime free city, Joker would torture his life for the principles too which are destructive anarchy and to be the reigning king of that society, strangely ironical.

“The Dark Knight” is no more about Batman alone but the characters which moulds him and get painted by the actions of him in a society mimicking a behaviour pattern predicted close to perfection. And in Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Morgan Freeman it has a cast which has not alone belief in this comic man but a dedication in absorbing the realism out of it. Christopher Nolan in bringing them together and putting them in places unpredictable yet immaculate with an approach only other super hero movies surfaced is a class of its own.

When I was watching, the affection I have created was in the air enjoying this sight of those nuances in the costume details, history, and complexity of the characters and the outlook of the life emerging out of this comic book hero. And the movie where it gives the illusion of the ending comes up further more not boring or for demanding action but a completion much more in sculpting this story.

I started writing the review at my home in Peoria and now finishing it in Airport waiting to board. When I came out of the movie hall, I was damn sure having seen a good movie but the cloud of doubts and bias mounted because I wanted to love this film. It sure was supposed to be good is how I entered the cinema hall. In the intensity of the film going webs and webs and layers and layers of story and character details, I was blasted with a seriousness surplus in abundance than expected. Hence the process of digesting began as I came out. In these past four to five hours, thinking and rethinking about Batman, Joker, Harvey Dent and Gordon, I have come to love it. As I would be in Bangalore, I am sure to revisit the film again and a lot in coming days. When I first watched “Batman Begins”, I liked it but I came to love it more in multiple viewings. “The Dark Knight” is truly a film which very much brings the comic hero to the society of people behaviour, social aberrance and this puzzled hive of sanity and insanity co-existing rubbing shoulders.

P.S: I am posting this from India and will continue to provide reviews based on my viewing out there which should be good enough with time to chew. But more regional might be in this time.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"The Yakuza" (1974) - Movie Review

I got educated that Robert Mitchum is the life line of film-noir when I read about the film “The Yakuza”. He is apathetic and hardly sweats expression of some kind. Whether it is a style aptly in place for this film is one question. Or whether the culture and the code the Japanese tradition dictates anesthetize the characters is another question though. Either way “The Yakuza” is good but the placidity of it is little bit too long for me to love it despite a violent climax shot with affection for the martial art and the adrenaline.

We are told that the “Yakuza” are the gangsters or clan having originated as old as Samurai code of bushido and in fact is followed with rigorous devotion as that of it. For those who are not aware, I adore and get fascinated by the code of Samurai. For a person not believing in religion or particular rule book, this is a contrast. Samurai code does the acts with an acceptance so pure and clean that it makes the insane ritual bliss of art. It is not driven by rage, money or carnal pleasures but an honour as I would rarely use that term becomes the surviving factor. My thoughts are reflected through the character of Dusty (Richard Jordan) an American body guard getting attracted by the code and the lovely face of Hanako (Christina Kokubo) but not quite able to understand or attach much reason to it.

“The Yakuza” plays like a stage drama and decorates the back drop with Japan and this group of men who are strange soldiers having a principle in an illegitimate business. Harry played by Mitchum knows about this culture and has a failed love out there in the deeps for twenty years. He knows about the pattern of the men because he was an enemy and a grateful person for Tanaka Ken (Ken Takakura), the brother of Eiko (Keiko Kishi) whom Harry rescued. The complex perspective of Ken being grateful and has an enmity because he is an American in war time makes him to order Eiko to stay away from him but promises an obligation to Harry for life time. Harry’s friend George Tanner (Brian Keith) is in trouble with another Yakuza Tono (Eiji Okada) for which Harry along with Tanner’s body guard Dusty goes to Japan to ask Ken’s help.

Harry, Ken and Eiko are caught up in this whirl wind of tradition and giri which means debt for Harry while Ken says it as a burden. But Harry tells “debt” and explains in it such that he understands the behaviour and also ridiculed by the force of it. Ken saying it as “burden” in negative expression actually gives an optimist feeling of how repaying it is the only way for unloading it. In these two answers Dusty draws one conclusion is that one can take the word of a Yakuza even if it is a nemesis swearing to kill you.

The phlegmatic nature of Mitchum is the pathway to an otherwise cold proceeding for a noir styled film. But learning about the history of the three people and an unexpected suspense revealed, that would break down any one who has been terribly hurt and waited so much. Director Sydney Pollack with screenplay by Paul Schrader (later went on to write “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull”), Leonard Schrader and Robert Towne want that character to be a man of few muscle movement over his face and terse words addressing the job and problems in hand than talking it out in sentences. This in staying true to the personality is a stretch and made it indifferent for me.

In spite of the vague flow, “The Yakuza” has a passion for this tradition and equally perplexed by it. In trying to understand and find reasons for this culture, they are come to be aware of its endless ocean of ambiguity in a principles of serene, lethal and immaculate conduct. And it directly is screened in the movie through characters in balance and truthful to what they are in achieving their goal of living true to themselves.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Three Days of the Condor" (1975) - Movie Classics

Read the following conversation,

Man on Phone: The package got delivered?
The Assassin: I am waiting for the delivery confirmation receipt.
Man on Phone: You should have delivered it yourself.
The Assassin: I know but I concentrated on other package.

The above laughable discussion about a hit is the only thing I could find fault on this thriller classic “Three Days of the Condor”. I quoted that portion of a fantastic film because I could not stop myself laughing when they were talking with a stern voice. But the1975 Sydney Pollack’s movie is far ahead of its time adapted from a novel titled “Six Days of the Condor” by James Grady. It is a truly mysterious piece working through the screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel which would have been an inspiration for David Mamet.

Under the banner of American Literary and Historical Society operates a small group of book readers for “The Company”. Turner (Robert Redford) a talented man in this clan comes to office as usual, discusses some report with his old boss, chews and spits up offhand information to colleagues to exemplify his presence of mind and goes to get lunch through a security back way. Comes back only to find all his colleagues killed. He panics and calls up the headquarters he never dreamt of says his code name, Condor. He is not a field agent and he is scared. The man (Max von Sydow) who wiped up Turner’s office knows precisely the state of mind of Turner and that is he is lost and unpredictable.

This forms a riveting ploy for a film tightened with a screenplay of ingenuity and precision. Even though with the CIA department, Turner is a mere book keeper in the stand point of combat and field action. We in fact have little knowledge about what he does and hence we are more befuddled than Turner. In a time of macho action, this is a thriller which has simple use of tactics to perform the operations of intelligence gathering. Turner once threatened comes aware of his career of dealing with unknown faces high up in the ladder. When he is asked to meet up personnel by his New York head Higgins (Cliff Robertson), he says he does not know the personnel and also says he does not know Higgins either. It is a dark office he has been working along only that he opened his eyes right now. But he learns quickly and formulates quick plans for quick results. His usage of telephone lines, forming a group to escape a sniper shot and many other things looks readily available but life saving.

Now we have seen Matt Damon with super human abilities in Bourne series employing his training skills in action but Turner is nothing like that. He wanders and goes against the orders. In the way how the plot works upon, I gave in to the film. I gave up while I gave in on the plot because I knew that they are not going to reveal anything. It is not about the reason or the truth but the survival of this Ronin kind of young man and the deceiving world of CIA. But the film trumps us and seeing it now after thirty three years, every single explanation in the end has come up true in the real world. I was astonished by the clarity in which it was delivered. “It is economics” Higgins says about the “games” he explains in the end for which Turner had to suffer three days of fear and hidings and mainly losing all his friends and colleagues.

And how a man in such tight corners able to find a woman such beautiful as Faye Dunaway’s Kathy and she is readily gives her to this unknown “kidnapper” obviously after some doubts and clashes. Of course he is Robert Redford will be the answer. He takes her in as a hostage to escape from his pursuers and we know they are going to end up in bed but how classily does it come to that point. Simple observations and weird eye connections not alone manages but easily sweeps all the doubts and possibilities over this impulsive relationship. Their relationship does not become a sexual toy for the film but an extended ease of relief for the character who has hard time understanding what is happening in his life.

It is a terrific thriller classic which we see as puzzles, deceptions and a clandestine world of any one working for any one and nobody is working either. Among are the interim politics, ruthless killings and Sydow as a man as comfortable and peaceful he can be in doing his job of killing develops an unexplainable clinical connection not alone with Turner in the end but with the audience. We see him as the executioner and the nemesis of Turner but we learn on the go as the coin movers and men with suits calling the shots are the real players.

Thriller is a genre which is a region for film enthusiasts and audience claiming that their money needs its worth in the form of “entertainment” coming in peace together. It has taken and given the appearance of striking a balance for these two different kinds of viewers. Indeed it is but “Three Days of the Condor” is not a thriller aimed upon or targeted on wide variety of audiences. It is a film making careful and precise in giving this classy underworld run by government which in the name of protecting country and resource supplier has comfortably cuddled itself under the blankets of do gooders and patriotic citizens. “Three Days of the Condor” with an end very much true and leaving Turner loose end achieves a classic status of spectacular film making.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"The Secret Life of Words" (2005) - Movie Review

In the deep surface of tragedy over the air, “The Secret Life of Words” begins to follow the cliché independent movies have acquired. Yet the sorrow in the poetry of it touches some where. Mostly because of Sarah Polley in her childish faces with pain beyond those soft and tender layers of hidden skins. And supported always ever in an effortless but a character in presence is Tim Robbins. It has voiceovers, calmness, and serenity with obvious but artful silences which in its subtle indulgence creates an emotional suspense when unraveled comes out as the sentences under the lips unuttered and swallowed within.

Like a branded drama film we see Sarah Polley’s Hanna does a clock work in a factory. Her deafness is understood when she is the only employee not taking a noise reducing headphones. Her solitude and adherence to routine is through her sitting alone in cafeteria eating rice and chicken for lunch while the same as dinner aloof in her house. So much have the films of drama fell through the paths of stereotypic that the character of Hanna are seen as a character seen sufficient number of occasions. She is asked to take a month vacation by her boss in order to give a break to her and to other workers who seem to think of her as non-social person. Of course she is and the reason for her state will obviously be revealed by the end of the film.

There is a child’s voice narrating about her or Hanna through broken sentences cryptic and remotely having a dying feeling in it. She overhears an employee (Eddie Marson) while lunching in a restaurant that a person injured in an oil rig fire needs a nurse. She volunteers and along with several other men she takes care of a funny, flirty and deeply talkative Josef (Tim Robbins). He has temporarily lost his sight and Hanna is joked around, flirted around and some times deeply touched to see a life out of the ordinary through Josef.

There are long talks and awkward discussions ending without an end. The location and the origin of the each character remains a mystery and as Hanna keep her identity a shade for Josef. Director Isabel Coixet chooses an odd location with people we can guess about. Simon (Javier Cámara) the chef with high connoisseur for cuisine, a lonely old man Dimitri (Sverre Ousdal), a young oceanographer Martin (Daniel Mays), Liam (Dean Lennox Kelly), Scott (Danny Cunningham) and a goose. All of these men except the goose (which has a deepening surreal sensation) but including Josef are tilted in their balance with a female entity in the isolated place engulfed by the enormous sea water. But they are subtle with shyness and possess withdrawing symptoms. Even before these men she temporarily meets the Doctor (Steven Mackintosh) who attends Josef. He too wants to leave an impression over this recluse woman only to be gloomed by her reply of calm rage.

We see Hanna as a deeply disconnected and hurt person. Her connectivity has become invisible and hopeless. There is a cessation and repression of the anger, hatred and unbearable sorrow beneath her sunken face. And not much does it take her to mingle with the crew. The socializing capabilities look magnified and slightly exaggerated without any reason and it appeals to us so because when we met Hanna, she was a hard nut not to break but to have a microscopic pore to breathe some life.

Whom she ends up is rhetorical question but how she ends up is “The Secret Life of Words”. Julie Christie in a guest role of one who explains the actual tragic beyond Hanna’s and many others appeared secluded from the film. While the tragic and truth of it is not questioned, it was disjointed and in a sad way emotionless about the tragedy she explains.

Tim Robbins in his casual and smooth voice handles Josef as the man who could get into a bar and make friends in no time. The sexual remarks and the flirtation he makes are not crass or sugary rather an unguarded personality with chances as his life and impulse as his tool to access people. And the very much of those is needed for Polley’s Hanna. In “Go” Polley was an active young girl letting the night take control of her and in the blasé “The Weight of Water”, she was a house wife of deepest secrets and agony. And the later very much coincides with Hanna, may be because both are depressed and living in a life they do not want to lead on. One gets into the endless beauty of Sarah Polley which is unusual, inviting and has a mysticism of giving everything and in a silent rejection there is a pleasure but it is the performance which gives those.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

"Deliverance" (1972) - Movie Review

Any trip to dense woods has a mark of silence hidden in shadows of the trees and whiteness of a waterfall. The danger for getting in trouble with the nature is as high to the peace which is gotten out of it. The risk grows exponentially because the reason for escape from the civilization becomes the killing factor of not having it. But along being challenged by nature if there is adverse attack from personalities ravishing for their barbarism it is hell being helpless and dying alone. Four city personalities go through that ordeal in “Deliverance”, a chilling exploration on a human’s limit and capacity.

Lewis (Burt Reynolds), Ed (Jon Voight), Bobby (Ned Beaty) and Drew (Ronny Cox) get to the south on a river which is going to be demolished into a stagnant lake by dam construction. Lewis is strong and a commanding personality leads his mates which has his good friend Ed. Ed is a level headed calm one who enjoy and get scare by these daring drags of Lewis. Clearly Bobby and Drew are new to this party. Drew a guitar player appreciates the nature and communicates with music and rhythm.

They land in a small settlement where people see them as aliens. They get terse answers with dislike in its tone. That does not stop Lewis to be hard man with them on asking them to drive their cars to a place Aintry where they would come by in their canoe through the river. Paddling begins as in two canoe these four city men find their limits on nature. The rush is good when Lewis drives them into rapids and come out unharmed. But the real terror happens during a stop by the shore for Bobby and Ed. Two mountain men (Bill McKinney and Herbert 'Cowboy' Coward) tie Ed up while one of them rapes Bobby. From that moment on, “Deliverance” tests the limits of these people having to question their strength, endurance, trust, death and conscience.

There are no overpowering back ground score. The score is the sound of the woods. “Deliverance” is not scary but psychologically impacts on what if scenarios put on to us in the character’s shoes. Where is law or what is right on a ground present of soil, leaves and insects but absent of human existence and the one who are have devious plans. Predicting the consequence slides the scale enough to change any views and judgments to put in to ashes. The film though has the undeniable fear of sourly things happening to them putting scare on us; it needed more of the past from these people. While Reynolds, Voight, Beaty and Coxx do an incredible job on letting their character represent for what they are, the view on what exactly is on stake would have been able to empathize with them more thoroughly. Maybe director John Boorman did not want that to be revealed to deviate from the point of thought but an emotional attachment does not ring out on them as individuals.

Despite that, “Deliverance” is a terror flick putting shame on to the horror sick fest produced with high budget and human carnage now a day. We are on this trip and how wonderful the places they go on. It is filled with solitude and thrill of diving into a momentary death are the adrenaline forces city people would not have even dreamt of. In city life every one is shelled in and the immune system has been weakened and acquainted to the surroundings of comfort and essentially safety. Nature as such has lost its presence in that where the beauty and fierceness of it is unknown. Human dangers dominate the urban life than the nature. Here we get both of the bad side to put these men in excruciating physical and psychological strain.

The crew and the actors take immense risk while producing this film since they were not able to get insurance. Hence not alone their lives were in danger; financially they would have been in dire situations. The commitments of these four actors are unimaginable and as one would judge an extreme sports junkie on the looks, some times gives a feeling of whether they are stupid. But no, they have taken this journey seriously and carefully for a dedicated effort from their side. I had been informed of the infamous rape scene when I said “Deliverance” is the queue. Did it steal the horror of that scene? It definitely did downplay it as I was expecting it any moment to get it over with.

In spite of the film doing everything perfect, I was not extremely affected or moved. That is basically the detachment with the characters. The real friend never forms or at least not known to us. Lewis and Ed have some conversations on their friendship and the game Lewis thinks of it in for survival but what is the chemistry in terms of relationship bounds does not get exposed. They are neither strangers nor friends. Does it get altered in the pains they go through? Again they remain as they were. In fact Bobby says to Ed in the end that he would not be seeing him for a while, quite understandably. May be those are not the worrisome issues in a film stomping on minds of respecting the comfort and the nature have on us. Either way, watching “Deliverance” is a peek on how would one behave when they are in the wrong side of Mother Nature with devils to torture?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

"Runaway Train" (1985) - Movie Classics

Films like “Runaway Train” have the title say everything. It of course has the train and the rule of thumb is high speed action by driving it on ridiculous speed unstoppable in its pursuit. Icing on the top, make the Engineer get heart attack and jump of the train just before he throttles to full speed. That is high tension action pounding time on our hearts skipping beats. “Runaway Train” is all of that and a lot more than that. It has the legendary adaptation from the screenplay written by Akira Kurosawa, director Andrei Konchalovsky and Jon Voight in a performance hard to get a grip on as an amicable person but shades of those in patches of creepy smiles.

Manny (Jon Voight) barely is out from welded prison for three years breathing fresh air not out in the free society but in prison yard. His nemesis Warden Ranken (John P.Ryan) on hate and passion to keep Manny on leash did that lock down and Manny now has to flee out of the prison which more importantly associates to beating Ranken than the freedom. Buck (Eric Roberts) idolizing Manny is a boxer and takes a last minute decision on tagging with Manny to break out of the prison.

As most of the films tell that escaping the prison is easier because making it out from the natural fences is merciless and mean slow killer. The prison is situated in Alaska and it is not a good idea to be wandering outside below thirty Fahrenheit. Manny and Buck survive the cold walk to the train station and Manny picks the train to ride. As told before, the driver is out and these two riders have no idea that the train they are thinking as the messenger to freedom is hitting high hell.

Voight’s Manny is the mover and he is a tough man. In a prison boxing match Buck wins his opponent and looks up to Manny for acknowledgment. In that time, a man from behind attacks Manny stabbing in his arm and a hole straight through the palm of his hand. Manny stands fearless picks up the chair and hits his attacker hard. He knows that the man is now terrified and he gives out the Warden’s name who is watching from the top. Voight looks up and asks to shoot him and that scene is the differentiation of physical toughness of Buck and the actual fearless toughness of Manny. No wonder Buck considers him as his hero.

Then the usual happens where the kid talks too much and Manny does not like it but their relation is on and off bound in rubbing shoulders and smiling in content. Manny neither does love nor hate the kid because he is a loner and in all these rough years has made him to be individual undisturbed man as to train for him alone. He speaks what he feels not because he is mean but it is the crystal truth of undeniable factor. He is as solid as a rock and physical pain does not bother him on putting brakes on achieving his mission. Manny and Buck obviously are convicts and rooting for them is not in place but we begin to see the human in them. In these men of declared aggression and violence, the brotherhood is begged for in silence and shouts. Buck is like a puppy running around the legs of Manny. Yet he wants to be treated with respect and Manny gives a fierce stare. Buck realizes not alone does Manny care but his chance of getting it is by proving he would bend backwards.

“Runaway Train” unveils its supporting characters in Jonah (Edward Bunker) in initial scenes of prison and then the control station of the train system with the office environment going berserk through Barstow (Kyle T. Hefner), MacDonald (Kenneth McMillan) and Dave (T.K. Carter) banging heads for stopping the train. The technology is challenged and challenges the human judgment on these people on sudden chaos. And Ranken desperately begs god to not kill these convicts since he wants the pleasure. Then comes the woman on board (Rebecca De Mornay) out of nowhere in the train. Everything is happening for Buck and Manny and it is not the better things.

I have seen Voight play the old man roles in the current movies. The classic period of his reign is on the queue to be viewed. Most of the times, he comes as a clean white teeth villain with wise touches or plainly as a wise man. In Manny the balance is not alone perfected but is so unpredictable. Or to be precise more human than the stereotypes I expect out of in coming films. He is a rugged wrong doer who robbed banks and may have killed too and would not decide to that again if it beckons his win over Ranken. Being at a cell for three years has made him depend only one soul in this planet and that would be him. Seeing the kid tag along and also annoying him awakens his anger for ruining plans and in letting Buck near him for a good time uncovers a tiny bit of emotion too. Voight grins and grinds shouts and talks taciturn logics behind his Fu-Manchu moustache.

“Runaway Train” is alarmingly cold and has a metal sheath for its killer sword screenplay rubbing and sharpening it with constant usage written by Edward Bunker, Djordje Milicevic and Paul Zindel. Alan Hume’s camera hangs on around the train and an aerial shot zooming into this monster of devastating force. It has the wind chill on faces and window shots from the train on looking up for a realistic view from the train. The stunts are daring with nail biting cling on for a purpose and slip ups to stop a fraction of second in hearts. It is a film getting right just about on everything. That would have obviously made a good film but Jon Voight’s performance takes it to a classic.

Friday, July 04, 2008

"Marathon Man" (1976) - Movie Review

I gave up in early years of attempt on book reading due to the monumental word play the novel piled up in tasteless pages which I survied for sufficient number of it. Why do I want to bother on the curly curve of a dress in a murder mystery? What significance of suspense does it add to know that the man about to be killed had a chiseled body? Patience is an impatience to master for books on those days and sometimes now too. After pages running like decades, stars align for that part when everything makes sense and the true pleasure of the reading is awarded. Such happened in the very first book I managed to gain the patience for nearly hundred and fifty pages called “Honour Among Thieves” by Jeffrey Archer. I say this because “Marathon Man” adapted from the novel of same name by William Goldman is in heart and soul a novel over the screen. Chapters in pages of no relation to one another are the scenes of characters in the film. Clueless and in a mild distress “Marathon Man” is a suspense and a thriller assimilating in fragments when that part of reward in book comes undead and chilling.

Dustin Hoffman as Thomas “Babe” Levy is a history student living with his father’s suicide ashes over chapters in thesis dissertations. And for all the mighty title, he runs and runs and runs and when his gasps of breath are a long awaited gush of releasing tiredness, it is truly deserved. In another clunk of scene we see a spy or a government agent in suits and shrewdness is Doc (Roy Scheider). Hoffman’s character is in New York and when Doc lands in hotel we are led to believe he is in the city. But in subtle touches sloping up with obviousness director John Schleslinger reveals the place is actually in France. He is carrying a box of mints which of course does not have mints and we would not know what is in it till the third act. He is strong and sarcastic, full of energy and suspicion but mainly knowing the readings of a person he communicates, friend or foe or a stranger. Even before all this, an old man walks in a bank and gets the box of mint from his safe to be later handled to Doc gets into an accident. We cannot connect any of this except the box in two stories which adds up to nothing.

But there is a meandering presence of detail when the part of jolting pain and chase happens. When Hoffman and Scheider meet, their connection is by watching their body language and the words they choose to communicate. Often in films materials are written in order for the clarification and detailing to say these are the people and they are related. And too often we forget the fact the mannerisms are the unsung and invisible being to believe in that. Scheider and Hoffman tip toes each other in the familiarity and the reaction of Scheider on his student single place and hence forth by Hoffman teaches to aspiring actors. And Scheider repeats it with the deadly villain Szell (Laurence Oliver).

Oliver’s Szell is a restless old man with his clock running fast to grab his fortune. He is suspicious, threatened which brings out the worst in him. The most celebrated and shocking scenes of those times is the torture he orchestrates on Babe later in the film. In current so called horror films eyes are popped out, mutilation and invention of torture methods are performed with a dedication for disgust. It indeed is a sick fest but the idea of putting forth such an event is the pain and suffering felt in a psychological trauma. Instead of that, the coming films have used it as the Viagra for a pleasure of gore with emotional barfing before going onto the screen. When Szell inflicts his dental acupunctural skills on Babe, the pain pricks in gums and deeper than that on the watching people. The terror does not stick with the screen afterwards. And we want Babe to run as he did healthy and peaceful in central park except health and peace are substituted with pain and fear.

“Marathon Man” created the buzz obviously for its grim portrayal of a thriller in a pace and tone that was not tried before. The state of mind and the more importantly the handling of a history student and a son trying hard to make sense of his father’s end to the dangerous situation are real. After the suffering when the tables are turned which is bound to happen, Babe is level headed and the moral dilemma with anger and action is truthful. It is a kind of its own thriller in noir form which some might not agree. The uniqueness has of course been roughed up by time but it is a class apart for it started off and revolutionized the genre of thriller. And it said that it could be detailed, slow and painful to culminate marvelously.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Hancock" (2008) - Movie Review

“Hancock” which is advertised as comedy superhero film and even Wiki saying so are misspoken both by the film makers and the site. Having Jason Bateman and Will Smith with a comedy action they have often portrayed, that notion deceives and in fact proves fatal to the film. It is obviously a super hero film but the hilarious scale is not a ruling theme. This is a very serious look on a self loathing and underappreciated power man for most part of the movie. He sighs and appears without any empathy well before and after his publicity aider Ray (Jason Bateman) comes.

Unlike fictional cities, Hancock (Will Smith) resides in Los Angeles. He sleeps on street benches drunk and hung over being waken by a small boy to stop crime. His crime stopping is a damage invention without any strain. He destructs highway road signs and buildings like a regular human being would permeate through a cardboard box. He is clumsy and it can be mostly associated to his unstoppable alcohol intake. In another costly save of a civil man, Ray the publicist gets acquainted and sees beyond the stern faced and careless super hero. He invites him to his house where he is disdained and doubted by Ray’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron) and it appears that she might have more than an opinion created by his action and media.

Ray in his big “hearted” attempt on changing the world takes up Hancock as his personal marketing campaign and comes up with a better strategy. Generally in grumpy mode, Hancock is pulled back by Mary’s untold tension to take up this offer. Theron and Smith embody this unseen power of attraction inhibited in between them to make us think stuffs as an outsider would look at. And Bateman’s Ray in his naïve loyalty and happiness does not see through. What happens in the next half hour is not important rather the history which unravels after that between Mary and Hancock is the subject which tries hard to stand out in this flurry of super hero movies.

Summer action super hero movies are dime a dozen. While “Iron Man” did its charm, “The Incredible Hulk” is a show to forget. The biggest awaiting film of the year personally would be “The Dark Knight”. But in this crowd also comes “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” whose foundation I have not seen jumps and peeks out its head. Clearly the viewers are divided in two, one relishing this overabundance and other getting tired of it. It is the trend as one would put it to dig the gold and collect it as much as possible. But in it dies the uniqueness and left is the stereotypic caricatures fading further and further with every film. “Hancock” while is a step above in terms of material and attempt is the first victim of boredom.

Hancock is one of his kinds and he abuses that power. Once the history is revealed out of the couple, I was wondering what drove Hancock to alcoholism. Bateman’s Ray initially gives single line advice points as a shrink on as an attention seeker failed in his attempts. The coming high actions are then substituted and used for amnesiac blanket over the audience. Coming out of the theater it would be discovered that nothing greatly explains his recklessness. The idea is to give a feel on untold psychological troubles in a man mighty to do anything he wants. It germinates into something else which is also equally intriguing but the film pulls the screen down before that.

The predominant idea in a film of concentrating ultra powerful personalities is the discovery, application, misuse, recovery, near death and set up for sequel. And Hancock mixes it up with lost for identity, self pity, unknown forces, and discovery but obviously cannot escape from set up for a sequel. The best thing about “Hancock” is the absence of alter ego. He is a known man secluded by the society not of his powers but behaviour. It is a wonder on that what would be the purpose of living in a situation like that. He has omnipotent ability to take what he wants and be what he wants. He can roam around the world visiting all the incredible tough places. He can start a space travel and check out what is there beyond the last known planet and the space-time continuum. But Hancock got to be sober to do all that.

It is a strange feeling to be indifferent. And it is challenging to express that with lot of words. Peter Berg with jittery camera movements he employed in his previous action film “The Kingdom” and which we have seen in The Bourne series uses in “Hancock” too and it is out of place on occasions. It is a film with good ideas undernourished in screenplay. If there is a “Hancock – 2” in development, I would not be surprised, in fact it would do lot of justice on creativity basis to this character. It is contradiction in the statement made couple of paragraphs before on the countless invincible heroes but Hancock deserves one and may be he might be able to tell us the regularity of being a super hero without any job (eliminating the people saving business) and challenge. Do not jump on with a hat of condescend to say “boring”, you will never know!