Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Antwone Fisher" (2002) - Movie Review

“Antwone Fisher” at the first go can be easily overlooked on why exactly a film got made to go inside this character. I have subconsciously have harboured this opinion on how films need to be made on extraordinarily successful people in extravagance or deep human emotional conflicts in art films. A young navy man and a psychiatrist is more than enough to conclude that the person need to achieve something successful or amount to noticeable work of achievement. At the end of it, it cannot be more guilt and pathetic to think like that a feat of polished extravagance of self discovery is an unimaginable hurdle to be filmed upon on.

Story based on true events written by the person itself, Antwone Fisher played by Derek Luke is a man struggling with the boy he had been guarding inside. Born in a correctional facility and never to be claimed, he goes through hell at his foster home. Little we know about Antwone as we meet him amongst his beating up of a fellow navy man over nothing. Properly punished, he is asked to meet the Navy psychiatrist to have a word about his anger issues. Adamant as always on accepting the wounds of emotion, he rebels against Dr. Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington). After regular tussle, Fisher speaks up and slits a light. Davenport quite good at his job leaves Fisher as a job after three sessions. Fisher comes back to rip apart leaving stranded in the middle of something he does not know but wants to.

We have seen “Good Will Hunting” and “Finding Forrester” (both directed by Gus Van Sant) which stands to be on the mind while watching the film. The mentoring schemes and the discovery on both the sides are been seen, delightfully if I may add. The nicety and the tinge of actual reality is seen when Fisher seeks out for help from Davenport. As Davenport assists him to be trusted and peeks through the horrible past, Fisher needs guidance. For first time in his life, he has some one to look up and to trust upon. He is shy but being in the Navy, the unwritten rule is to shed off the smoothness and be tough. Opening up under those circumstances may be marked as a sign of incompetence and being fragile but it is the internal barrier being put upon by the people on themselves is the real reason. For Fisher though, the wounds are not from the Navy but from his old life. This would make him bottle up his feelings even more stressful and unable to vent out, he tempers out.

Making his directorial debut, Denzel Washigton has to have got an honest screenplay from Fisher. Even though it has its fair share of fiction as Fisher has disclosed, the words are real, the grooming caressing Fisher needed at that time were provided by many people who are put together in Davenport and his lady love Cheryl (Joy Bryant). The film has only one sub plot which is handled with subtle finesse. The unknown void between Davenport and his wife Berta (Salli Richardson) happens in silence that the awkwardness spreads across the viewers.

Any one’s problem is gargantuan into their minds of chaos and hopelessness. And Fisher’s were clearly huge one in any one’s mind. In fact the story knives up the judgment of comparing the problems and the priority of solving it. Often we console or brush off our emotional instabilities thinking about the more detrimental problems other people have in this world of uncertainties. The film while shamefully pointed the opinioned view I had towards about films of certain nature, it opens up the real issues any one might have and the attention it might need more than usual.

The charm of the dialogues and the energy it shifts has those lighter moments and the more disturbing emotional distress it carries on immediately. But with much narrative matching close to the reality, the final family get together seems a little too animated. It might have happened but certainly has the over abundance of sweetness not blending in with the actual portrait of the film. For a little time, we leave the land created perfectly by Washington to another land sometimes demanded by unforeseen force in the form of studio or expected fan twisting the screenplay. It stutters but gains back its control when Fisher meets Davenport in the final scene. It is a good story of a struggled young man in finding forgiveness and hope of holding onto new relationships. And you certainly need not be a scientist or a prodigy to be having those problems.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Stranger Than Fiction" (2006) - Movie Review

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) counts his brush strokes in his morning routines, ties single knot for saving 43 seconds of his daily time and catches the 8:17 bus and he is an IRS agent. Methodical in his blood, Crick suddenly hears voices narrated with better vocabulary as he says and initially believing he is crazy wounds up realizing it might be his life been written in some book. The narrator is Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) desperately trying to kill her lead character in her future book. This is “Stranger than Fiction”, funny, peppy and delightful comedy with nothing but pure treats and cherishing vignettes of honest story written by Zach Helm.

And if some one said Will Ferrell would possibly able to hold up his vagrant bright smile (for many annoying) to pull up Harold Crick, who has been living the same day of his life for twelve years, I would have been looking them with strange eyes. He never winks or brings any of those over the top cranky gestures but he does what Jim Carrey did in “The Truman Show”. Quite astonishingly similar in story lines are these movies too, a predetermined life lead by both the protagonists. But Harold Crick does not want to explore or runaway from this. He does each and every single designed element of routine subconsciously accurate enough. A robot might do something different out of malfunction but Crick follows rigorously his time saving and precise manner of existence without fail.

Marc Forster, the director has to own a wide array of film distribution to be taken under his wings. He did an emotional drama in “Monster’s Ball”, a caring tender story in “Finding Neverland” and out here a comedy of our existence and the humanity of it in lovable way. Harold comes to the aid of a literary professor, Dr. Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) who becomes interested by the phrase “Little did he know” which the voice narrated over to take it as a way of satiating his needs of words. The comedy does not lie in Harold but that surrounding him. As with any film which makes a character realize his death to live the life to full, Harold instinctively flirts with Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a baker who he audits for she only paid 78% of tax as she does not want to finance the 22% being spent over defense. How cute and adorable is Maggie Gyllenhaal that even in her stubborn nature of being a rebel, she makes us fall in love with her when she offers cookie and milk to Harold. She did a role of a gold digger in “Happy Endings” with a character change and out here she has the flavour of the same but a truly lovable soul and no wonder Harold begins to fall for her.

The film surmounts for an ending which we are curious for and may be ready to be cheated. With parallel scenes of Karen imagining the mishaps of a perfect death for Harold, at various times I felt something on the lines of story within the story popping it up with artificial sweetness to this interesting original material. The screenplay by Zach Helm keeps the story in mind and does not want to act clever or use props to resolve the plot. Marc Forster with the apt use of graphical pictorial representation in a rather different creative way is fresh. I laughed out crazily on the day when Harold is asked to do nothing in his apartment and the Television program mouthing its painful ways an animal goes to its death. It is plainly hilarious.

Though I have not seen any of Ferrell’s films all the way, his reputation is known for a physical and loud comedian. Many despise his nature of comedy but he has his fan base. Here especially the scenes wherein he would have needed to imagine or someone voicing the narration to emote what he is going through and the problem is that it concerns the character he plays who needs to react, subtle but immediate. And little do we know about Harold itself as we get insight to his mundane life through the narration. He makes the character as the average man whom like many of us does the same thing over and over again. Ferrell manufactures that trait with simplicity and all the time never let his reputation over come the character. And with supporting roles from Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Queen Latifah as Karen’s assistant, it is a calculated perfect casting.

It is a feel good movie as any one would guess with the colour tone, dialogues, the peppy soundtrack and the characters as such. It bodes the character of light heartedness but it has and reminds us the heavy sense of sweet simplicities we miss in our life. The film works because the protagonist attempts his best to solve the issue in a normal way which is also very mundane, true to his character. Nothing extraordinary is attempted but he simply follows the guidance of Professor Hilbert. Yet his mind unsheathes a part which he never dared to experiment even if it means flirting with a cute girl and which may be the most daring thing he ever has done at all.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Rambo" (2008) - Movie Review

Growing up seeing “First Blood”, “Rambo – II” and “Rambo – III”, you can tell that I am one among the affected kid who thought war was fun and a film without any action sequences are not worth watching. Confessing that sounds bad than having that feeling. The point is that now I look “First Blood” as an original film with character development and the following franchises as the action entertainer, the reason we all watch the Bond and Bourne series. In “Rambo” we are often confused on whether we are watching a film trying to make a point or a blind action thriller.

Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) lives in Thailand, catching snakes and riding the boat for living. With Burma in the turmoil of violence, missionaries consisting Michael (Paul Schulze) and Sarah (Julie Benz) wants to go inside the villages of Burma for humanitarian mission. Rambo denies then obviously gets convinced, they go, get caught, prison then saving etc. Blood splatters and body parts fly as flock of birds.

The drill is known and it is pure kinetic energy as for any action movies, but taking the violence up and off the notch hangs on a big dilemma on to viewing it for which genre. Stallone is of course built up and made his career out of Rambo and Rocky (which I have not seen at all). He still is in the game, no doubt with the silent rage across his face, he is menacing as always as in the previous installments. The disturbing part of the film is the set up and a remote or may be even a living truth of the incidents.

It would have been fair and responsible enough to show the characters far end in the belief as of Rambo and the missionaries. The human psychology to defend and react would be the choice of the story development per se. It does seem out of place to discuss such topics for an action thriller franchise. The film has scenes of it which surface now and then which in my opinion could have been a concept to delve. In a situation wherein Rambo acts on to save the horror appears right but how much a situation lies in a human rage? If this gets answered there would be a strict regiment of unambiguous judgment in the law or practicing existence.

Recently, I have been watching the TV series “Dexter” which takes a sociopath been trained to target the “evil” doers and thereby continue his sanity of survival along his quench to kill. It is disturbing, riveting, entertaining and sometimes shocking to be even watching with convincing emotions. That is a series which shifts the line of violence, defense and punishment as to the character. Rambo could have been handled like that thereby we could have either got a character developed and a man who lost faith in the living world dealing through calamity and strong survival among the dangers. Or totally disregard the concept of that as the two previous installments did and get on with the action with lot less of blood and flesh. Instead, a film combining tragic reality horror and pose it as an action entertainment is rather contradictory.

If not for gory violence and insane killing spree, “Rambo” could have been one another mindless action flick which is a proper unemotional draining of our dark side into an appreciable entertaining outlet. It appears as Stallone had a doubt on this content of what he has portrayed in second and third parts. This doubt and the studio demand along with fan expectation have proven to give a muddled feature film not falling in any of the category and offers guilt and blood.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Untraceable" (2008) - Movie Review

Gregory Hobilt points us the net surfers onto the face and the curiousness of seeing a video, even if it contains an unspeakable act towards any one. People might flinch after seeing but the edgy feeling to look into it is what “Untraceable” uses and there are characters in this time period who would like to watch it as a pleasure or a mere human instinct. Either sociopaths are developing fast or we are getting to know the ugly side of it through the best and worst of this technology.

A killer live streaming the killings of his victims over a website and based on the hits, the progress of the death is accelerated. So now you know the curious itch. Two agents in cyber crimes division Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) and Griffin (Colin Hanks) fail to trace the killer. There is sloppy work in the screenplay especially to demonstrate the capability of these two computer whiz, which is a wild guess and to send cops to break in to a house over to a hunch is a haphazard work. But the film works afterwards, well again for most parts with further sloppy work. Then why am I going to tell it as a decent film? The premise and how the director never tries to come up with a big sub plot makes “Untraceable” what it stands for.

In fact, the serial killer out here cannot be technically called killer as he sets up the stage but the hits are the ones which kills the victim. As merciless this killer is, the people become the primary hammers to nail down the coffin. It can be regarded as the pop corn thriller and sure it is but the reality in which the possibility of such a website and there do exist in my belief are those sites containing gruesome images. People forward this and many unaware open it up, some delete while some forward it again. I never was able to understand why a gory picture needs to be circulated when they exactly know the receiving person will very well be disturbed, offended and may be even sick. I remember getting a horrible image from some one I knew whom I forgot. I was petrified by the number of people been forwarded in CC list.

So as you see, the film uses this feeling of us soaked in the web of malicious environment floating around. The movie works on this paranoia and some one would have even accidentally gone to a site they never wanted; this would perfectly give the jitters. The film gets the attention when they reveal the face of killer which draws us forward. The purpose of the film gets solved by the further plot revelations.

“Untraceable” by no way stands out in the league of the high chilling thriller film we have seen over the years. But as his previous “Fracture”, Hoblit’s fast paced move over from one scene to another with no soggy moments to take a breath makes the going and even overlook the blunders and silliness some of the characters does. And an ending at where it should be and a message to pop us out of this unknown digital data crawling in the midst of instinct reactions to cause the unthinkable. It may sound too paranoid, but that’s exactly the film poses upon on the viewers and escape with some of the mishaps.

"There Will Be Blood" (2007) - Movie Review

I have to say that I almost loved the film and as I was left in shock with the ending of “Magnolia” another masterpiece from P.T. Anderson, “There will be blood” end felt like a Déjà vu. It is a truly classic piece of artwork as P.T. Anderson always does with any of his screenplay. But to get an actor, who can change every bit of his nerve to portray the hard and tough Daniel Plainview by Daniel Day-Lewis, is something P.T. Anderson will be proud of more than the film.

The movie runs from 1898 till 1927 with the hard working laborious Daniel Plainview and his obsession over winning, being a success. Roughly 20 minutes of initial movie goes without any dialogue at all. Simply with the ambience and the dangerous determined chiseled faced Plainview working alone in the initial silver claims is what Anderson uses for this piece. He beats the rocks and extracts the metal; he sharpens it and then beats again. He goes up and rests a while but comes back and starts banging. He dynamites the place and when he is not able to pull up his tools and the eventual explosion urges him to go inside the well faster, drops in and breaks his leg. He pulls his weight up out of the hole and drags across and we see a hill, the next we see him resting while his workers are working. That’s what we know to Mr. Plainview, one son of a gun who never is tired and who can scratch the rocks with his nails to find gold even if it’s going to take one hundred years. An SOB with a steel heart and mind you it is cold. This is the signature film work Anderson does. Calculative and immaculate in the presentation wherein the picture speaks and expressions substitute successfully over the dialogues.

There is lot of untold relationships and easily can audience be taken what they want, the obvious human psychology to assume those in clock work manner. We see a baby been taken care by his co-worker. We do not know whether it is his baby but that is the obvious assumption. He might be taking care in place of success freak Plainview digging the dungeon of wealth. Either way, his caretaker or father is killed during one of many accidents in the oil well which leaves the untied and unattached Plainview to take care of the baby himself. We see he prospers and takes the grown up boy called H.W (Dillon Freasier) as his partner and son. A mystical man comes into the office of Plainview, calls himself Paul (Paul Dano) and bargains a deal to come up to his place, Little Boston where oil is inches away spread across like ocean, he says. Plainview along with H.W comes to the ranch under the shadow of quail hunting and ultimately discovers the abundance of oil. They meet Eli Sunday (Paul Dano again, which aids the ending to be in the same resonant tone finish “Magnolia” had over me) and demands 10000$ for his Church. As a strong businessman Plainview offers 5000$ and promises the remaining when he flourishes the place with the oil.

Daniel flourishes with H.W losing his hearing ability as the bursting side effect of oil explosion while Eli builds his Church practicing hardcore religion and prophecies. Daniel does not actually like Eli, for he sees Eli for who he is. Charismatic and thoughtful cunning speeches of Eli eat Daniel but he is too small for him to deal with importance. The story digs deeper into the fleshes of Daniel who now is frustrated by the communication breakdown with H.W. He is visited by a man claiming to be his brother, Henry (Kevin J. O’Connor) and suddenly the uptight and straight cut Daniel opens up with him. We know a little bit more about him, as he speaks than we observe.

The film is about the story and more about the making of it. Here is the director who is carefully builds the movie image by image of absolute confidence and an aesthetic sense of ability to place it for its pure originality wherein we are in the luxury of brilliant movie making. And with a performance such as like Daniel Day-Lewis, it could not get better. The ending seems off but witness the two hours and thirty minutes of pure artistic talents in action than the final eighteen minutes raising questions. The eighteen minutes can be interpreted in million ways as with any film of abstract finale.

The score of the film as like “Punch Drunk Love” has the restless sense of rushing us when people are running, throwing words of hatred around which elates into the mood of the subject they are talking about. The camera made to soft into one character as the other speaks but without our notice comes to speaking member swiftly which keeps us in loop of all the party in the frame engaging into the situation.

What does “There Will Be Blood” focuses upon? Once again religion been employed as the tool for success? Or the greed and zest Plainview carries along? As skillful and talented in work, he sincerely believes in the misanthropic outlook on to the world. But soon do we realize how he is eaten by the guilt and the humiliation he suffers through it. He spends his final days in loneliness, drunkenness and ultimate negation of people as such. He completes his journey of hating people with one final act.

I said that I almost loved the film. I recant it. I loved the film. I was disappointed for “Into the Wild” not making the Oscar pick either in Best Picture or Best Director or Best Actor. “There Will Be Blood” has eight nominations and despite my love for “Into the Wild”, I would love to see P.T. Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis walk with the awards. Roger Ebert praised the movie “Fargo” which I like but not love in his review of it as “Films like "Fargo" are why I love the movies.” After reading that, I have been waiting all along to use it in my review and for myself to say. With a humble forgiveness I expect out of Mr. Ebert for taking his sentence, I say, Films like “There Will Be Blood” are why I love the movies.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Ran" (Language - Japanese) (1985) - Movie Review

Kurosawa simply brandishes us with the grandeur sets, glossy golden coating of each scene, contradicting behaviour and the whole Kurosawa’s package seen in many other excellent movies of his. Yet, it does not beat me over “Yojimbo” and “Sanjuro” which are the two best samurai movies I have ever seen, especially “Sanjuro”. Nevertheless this is a patiently built and constructed film about betrayal, power, hatred, vengeance and irony of justice.

Everything we want to know about the four characters is in the dining session after the hunting. The great Lord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai) of the Ichimonji clan is being pecked by his two subordinates Lord Ayabe (Jun Tazaki) and Lord Fujimaki (Hitoshi Ueki) asking Hidetora’s son to be married to their respective daughter. As the question looms the jester Kyoami (Peter) is asked to entertain the crowd in which he makes the comment about a hare. The son Saburo (Daisuke Ryu) who is the target of the two lords makes a sarcastic statement on them opportunistically looking for a chance to be bound to the great lord. For this statement we see Fujimaki smiling but Ayabe insulted. Saburo’s elder brothers Taro (Akira Terao) and Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu) resent him for that and even assumes or modifies the sleeping of Hidetora as a pretension to avoid the awkward situation Saburo has posed. As they leave, Saburo goes cuts off two branches of a plant and places it as a shade for his sleeping father. Taro and Jiro are the sweet talking impostors, Saburo with a blunt talk but a devoted heart and both lords, the opportunists. But mainly Hidetora, the sleeping and aged monster whom we know as the story unfolds is the walking zombie carrying his past painted with blood. Every one remains to their character till the end, no remorse but pure violence, hatred everything taking place in the name of loyalty and enmity.

The men are ruthless and brought up as so, and the difference in many is the honesty and integrity to speak up among the heads. Saburo whose words are taunting and the reason for his opinions crumbled and stamped upon is to hurt the ego of his father. He is ruthless in that too. A little reasonable talk and great listening skills for Hidetora would have avoided loss of lives, time and peace. Hidetora retires after years of killing to acquire and maintain the kingdom over the plains to his elder son Taro. Taro’s wife Lady Kaede (Mieke Harada) is a dangerous dame who has her reason to operate the mindless Taro to go against his father. Hidetora in his glory years of bloodshed and conquest in achieving the castles burned and banished Kaede’s family. This is the day she has been waiting for to avenge her family. She never gives up and becomes a lady of no empathy and filled with hatred willing to roll up heads and cross boundaries into the laps of her brother in law for vengeance. But at the same time we see Lady Sué (Yoshiko Miyazaki) a devoted second daughter in law to Hidetora who truly can make him go into his knees and despise himself to bring to face her. She is another victim of the sins of power Hidetora accumulated over the years.

Hidetora pays for those and lives the life in exile, witness his sons he trusted come after him, shamefully lays helpless even not able to find a sword to commit royal suicide and goes mad. His ego strong as the wall guards him from his regrets to break open. Even the sarcastic and pricking speeches of his jester does not wake him up from the doom he has jailed in his mind. This is his way of punishment but little does he know hell waits in his last minute in this earth.

The attack of the castle and the terror of lives being lost is a shot to be remembered for the excellence in cinema but more than that a snapshot of our continuing history towards the bleak future. A family and a kingdom kill each other in the name of wealth, power and hatred who never take the time to analyze the situation for once. As the plots and subplots sprout up, there is always one character in each of those voicing his/her heart without any shame or fear and he/she is ignored or killed to shove away the possibility of it even in the mouths of them.

A camera work even the coming generation would envy or dare to recreate the vast green plains, the monumental mountain encompassing the little soldiers and the wide angle shots of the hundreds and thousands of humans coloured in red, orange and blue running wildly in the midst of it. They are all embodied in the natural realms of this earth yet fail to notice its existence for pleasure than to shed blood. It is great work of art and it is a living proof of how Akira Kurosawa revolutionized, innovated and invented the films and his love for it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"The Killers" (1946) - Movie Review

“The Killers” would technically be the first American film noir I have seen. Before that I have only got the taste of it through the “Whose line is it anyway?” mock up of that era of film making. And it is truly an interesting experience which made me to look back the old movies of my native language. The story telling, flash backs, the lightings with shadows been used as the primary contrast mark up for a scene are nostalgic and also keeps up with the film in its style of narration and suspense.

Adapted from Ernest Hemingway’s short story, the first sequence in the café is witty, cold, dark and somewhat unbelievable too. Two strange man (Charles McGraw and William Conrad) come to a small town named Brentwood and enter a café. Their names we come to know through their conversation which each other. We know they are there for a job to hurt some one but they seem to enjoy the game with the people in Café. Even though they are pretty sloppy in showing their faces and leaving the people there unharmed, the whole sequence is funny and shrilling fear to the people out there. They are there to kill a man named Pete or Swede (Burt Lancaster). They leave unhopeful of him coming to the Café and one of the customers out there Nick (Phil Brown) runs to tell Pete who is his colleague to save himself, but Pete tired and given up on life says, he is done running. The men come and fire bullets on Pete who lays there to face it. In come the insurance investigator Mr. Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) and a visit to a strange beneficiary of Pete, Mary (Queenie Smith) in an Atlantic City Motel opens doors and curiosity on the killing.

As the flash back goes back and forth from different people who knew Pete who now we learn is actually a boxing fighter Ole Anderson, the faces are taken in the assumption of showing the actual players. Most of the people who tell the stories are taken as not liars. Some do not tell the whole story but everything points to the voluptuous beauty existing in the stories as Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner). This is a film which has the qualities of suspense suiting the time period and the evolution the film industry had at that time. But the focus while is on the suspense is more to the revealing of details through the eyes of Mr. Reardon. We know the players on hearsays and hunches, and it is not the main responsibility of Mr. Reardon too who pursues more for his cognitive interest than a company gain.

The suspense is nothing and the story telling is everything. Pete is the only character with faces and behaviour taken from the words of the people he met, befriended and fought upon. Questions pop up every single frame and get answered immediately. This makes the screenplay run without the notice of time period. The film while centers on Pete, Mr. Reardon and Kitty, the killers are the treat to watch. It would have been a great sequence to extend their involvement and dialogues which is a classic inspiration for Tarantino or any other director who came up with funny dialogues but the characters are so dangerous as the other people surrounding them hesitate a while before they laugh and possibly get killed too.

It is not a classic in the aspect of drama or novelty or grandeur as I have seen in “Rashomon” or “Citizen Kane”. It has its technique of screenplay and camera work finesse in style and presentation quite ahead of its time. The acting is subtle but animated when needed which amps up the high energy level for the script. Directed by Robert Siodmak, this is one entertaining, dark and witty film noir of its time. “The Killers” is a nostalgic reminder of the past and its influences on the present.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Venus" (2006) - Movie Review

He is a dirty old man who is hopelessly in love with the ethereal evanescence of women in this world, even if it is a young girl. It is perverse in the realm of moral boundaries. The limitations of the age and attitude towards sexuality acts inversely proportional, it is an automatic presumption that the reproductive organs and the sensitivity of human grow smaller and smaller, that the link from it to their brain cuts off. It is wrong. “Venus” a cutely erotic tale of two people one at the freshness of young age, Jessie (Jodie Whitaker) and other, a tattered old man, Maurice (Peter O’Toole) is aesthetic, guilty pleasure on rules of conservative society and more than that a relationship which constantly varies its name but we find in the end that it does not need one.

Maurice a long time theatre artist along with his friend Ian (Leslie Phillips) runs through spreading their pills on the table to choose their choice of delicacy of temporary ambrosia of extending their days. They discuss on how much of lines they would get on newspaper following their death. Any day, any moment, they are awaiting their end. Maurice does not want to waste it, even if it means checking out early after his prostate operation. Ian’s niece’s daughter Jessie comes to take care of him but she is far too mean and unknown, but Maurice knows women too well, or to be precise to say, does not mind constant insults from them.

Jessie is the rebel without a purpose. As forward and approaching Maurice is, Jessie or Venus as Maurice would call her is the same in retaliating physically without any mercy. Soon we see sexual advancements taking place which cannot be more subtle, erotic and emotional to say the least. It is not crass but the final statement of a man who spent his life for his pleasure. But he treats her well, listens and even the lewdest request he makes, he asks with the request which can be rightly termed gentlemanly. He says “Venus, I will die soon. Can I hold your hand?” Is he exploiting her? It looks like it but soon we realize how it goes the other way. We at times ask this old man, what happened to self esteem and insults, mainly embarrassment at this age. It does not matter at all, when it involves two people and both of them exactly know the deserving prize and punishment of it.

I have not seen Peter O’Toole’s films (if the magnetic voice of Anton Ego in “Ratatouille” counts as his acting, then I have seen one) but what a man of such a precision he brings into the Maurice. It is a representation of his career but does he brings O’Toole into Maurice? I would say he might have which is why we associate so well with these two characters blend into one. To this gentlemanly but far too forwarded sexual character is countered by Jodie Whitaker who is mean, in control with Maurice but naked in resistance with others. May be that is the reason she is controlling and arrogant with the old men, who cannot speak back or does not know the modernizing tackling techniques.

Some may flinch and despise Maurice for the exploitation he makes. Yet there is something so genuine about his approach towards Jessie. What we might not get is the definition of right and wrong does not apply in the circumstances of a dying man’s zeal and vibrant sexual woman’s unrecognized soul whom empathize each other in their own way of emotions. And how few scenes do they take with those and strike us comfortably and forget the advancements to accept the moment of it.

Roger Michell’s direction on the writings of Hanif Kureishi is a collage of comedy, depression, life, death, sexuality and acceptance. The scenes involving Leslie Smith and Maurice showing their friendship are something which touches your heart on so many levels more than the love shared between Ennis and Jack in “Brokeback Mountain”. Similarly the failed marriage and the eventual regret of Maurice with Valerie (Vanessa Redgrave) in a short flair is one another piece of selection they take to represent the emotions over editing.

Most of men grow old, some of us die young and every one has regrets and one beautiful body of that woman we were intimate in skin or in brain cells to their grave. Some get bored with their sexuality; others bound by the perceptions of their loved ones remain closed and caged. Maurice is the third one, who lives every moment of his numbered days till the end by the smells of those women and sleeps along with their memories.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"27 Dresses" (2008) - Movie Review

It is good to be a judgmental and condescending bastard once in a while, pardon the language. I am saying it so that I can miss movies like “27 Dresses”. I have read Roger Ebert saying that he does not go to certain movies because there are too many good movies to be reviewed than waste time over films which raise flags. He is right as he is most of the times. “27 Dresses” has the stages of romantic comedy in movies which forever was made in that category. It goes in these stages, (1) sympathy and unknown goodwill (2) denial (3) confrontation (4) outburst and (5) resolve (6) further resolve, as that to match the animals, plants, mosquitoes too. I almost made it sound important and worthwhile. Because with the same formula, there are movies made with good sense. This film is plainly horrible.

Jane (Katherine Heigl, cannot believe she jumped from thumping “Knocked Up” to this routine) is the no “No” person. She is a push over and people walk over her. She loves weddings and her boss George (Edward Burns) and as we need to cry for Jane, he falls for her sister Tess (Malin Akerman) who we need to be made feel does not deserve George. Then she organizes the tragedy of her life, planning the wedding for her sister. There is a cynical journalist Kevin (James Marsden) who by the tradition should use Jane for his story but eventually, Oh! God, I cannot believe I am explaining all this.

It’s a matching game which we know the results. Jane stands up for her silliness of growing up because of the glowing Kevin whose only job is to woo confidently and controlling Jane to the deaths. And I hate that back ground score of orchestra when people dip their eyes and disappear to tell what they “feel”. Is it a take off from text book lessons of acting 101? I also hate the piano tunes when there is an altercation, suddenly the characters shift gears out of no where telling what they want and miracle! Everything is settled.

Jane is made even more miserable and Tess is made even crueler and has to wear dresses to reveal who she is. Why cannot there be a lady be as sexy and foxy and then be sensible too? Cannot it be a great invention in the character development in Hollywood? First of all the formula for romantic comedies have expired and the funny part is director Anne Fletcher rips it off from dozen other bad movies to make hers.

I am pushing myself to the fifth paragraph. That’s an achievement to tell you the truth. And “27 Dresses” is just that bad.

"The Savages" (2007) - Movie Review

Phillip Seymour Hoffman needs to pin up this year as the best year for him so far. With “Before the Devil knows you’re Dead”, “Charlie Wilson’s War” and now with “The Savages”, this may be even better than his previous Oscar winning year. While “The Savages” is more about Wendy (Laura Linney), sister of Hoffman’s Jon and their dying father Lenny (Philip Bosco), Hoffman has started to be in full command in walking of the role which by now has become a branded signature of him both artistically and uniquely from one film to another.

This in no way shadows Linney who in her own trade is top in her performance. Her Wendy who is fighting the life of finding something to do on her own, a trophy for her toughness she has gone through the life is theatric for being real. A distance call from the caretakers of Lenny Savages’ girl friend from Sun City, Arizona summons the East Coast residents Wendy Savage and Jon Savage to bring in their dad. Wendy panics; Jon is calm calculative guy who knows that does not help. Both lands in the midst of taking care of their dad and we get to know from the conversations and play writing of Wendy that Lenny is not particularly a best parent. Still they feel the responsibility and guilt of Wendy’s to bring him in Buffalo where Jon works as Professor in Theatres. Both are in the age of things going not well in personal frontier and Wendy in particular is longing for recognition and lot of swing in her life.

Director Tamara Jenkins coats the screen with the shades of independent picture tone and how does it never seem clichéd. I love the style of calm disposal viewings of the atmosphere surrounding these characters. Jon in his personal hardship of saving his relationship with his Polish girl friend, Kasia (Cara Seymour) looks things for what it is. He is blunt and treats the life for its true nature. He knows they have abandoned their father and so did he. Lenny threw the towel long ago only to leave his kids with a childhood of sadness to be written a play upon. Jon has the eye for it and sees that this is the end, the last customary responsibility of being a flesh and blood kin. He is more successful in career than his sister but equally troublesome in relationship. Hoffman and Linney get these scenes of sharing a mild laugh, bantering over the situation and their own envies to deal with. In the midst of everything, Lenny, the person who is the reason for this sudden reunion, sits back and accepts in losing himself to the final surrender.

Jenkins has these scenes to place her character of whom they are and what they are dealing through in nuances of behaviour. Wendy is picky about how her dad is going to look with her during the travel from Arizona to New York and she removes the suspenders when he is in wheel chair. In the middle of flight, Lenny jumps in his usual dementia arrogance to go for the rest room. Wendy gets up and guides him holding his hand towards the rest room. Both are looking at each other and that is the first time they have real eye contact after they have met. It is followed by an event which cannot be more pricking for Wendy and Lenny with anger and helplessness everything going around in circles, everything is defined in that one scene.

While the independent tone is used which I mentioned does not look repetitive is still beautiful for its style does not take a fall on unexplained confide of these people or coming to terms with their father. The situation is used as the magnifying glass for Jon and Wendy into their crumbling shreds of happiness. They discover how to pick it up and pick themselves up. And it is not another dysfunctional family been patented for the independent movies. But why does this dysfunctional term commonly used in films? Dysfunctional as in socially destabilizing or socially not acceptable, socially unacknowledged but those are the films filled with emotions which are void in the social world. It is sad and surprising for the study of termed dysfunctional behaviour is with the system of perception. Every one is different and when different people get to start family, it is one another specific classification in their system of uniqueness. Then why do we label them with a name? Every one knows their family drives them crazy but they love them to the death. It is the craziness which is the see-saw of enjoyment in to this dysfunctional universe. “The Savages” can be called dysfunctional in those terms but a true depiction of the life we all lead.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Cloverfield" (2008) - Movie Review

Never have I felt the motion sickness from a film, even when many people complained about the jittery camera in “The Bourne Ultimatum”. It is good for one part as we feel the real intense of such a situation disaster/attacks. The bad part is, of course you feel sick. One thing haunted me and answered itself many moments is that, some one should freaking say to put the damn camera down and run for your life and it answered that there will not be a movie if that happened. Irritating but that’s the movie.

As by now every one would be aware that the film is shot in a style of home video, the video is handled obsessively by Hud (T.J. Miller) who cannot be more creepy and it all starts over the send off party for his friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David). It also has rehashes of a date which happened between Rob and Beth (Odetta Yustman) some days back. Attack happens and every one goes nuts, Rob wants to save his girl and obviously she is located in the deadly zone, an infestation of danger, yada yada yada, you get the picture.

If the style of making is eliminated, then it is one big Michael Bay movie. But director Matt Reeves does not take it to top. It is just that his tiny focus on the cheesy scene happens in every wrong moment and down goes the impressive scary and realistic shots in to the drain. When the film is about the style and the effects, it would have been better to let off any scenes of romance at all. With its itty bitty presence, it is at wrong place and wrong time. The scenes of shock are real especially the journey through tunnel is shot well thought. You feel the creepiness and the possibility of things jumping out in a dark place but Reeves pulls it off with such finesse for the material. The same goes for the helicopter scene near the end.

As said, it works on all those moments but the constant questioning of an annoying and determined “documenting” character with Michael Bay scenes eliminates the whole purpose of this execution. The concept of focusing on one group with no idea what is happening around them is a good premise. Chaos happens and when weird things are seen, survival is primary but the inquisitive curiosity drives the people mad too. They operate on this and build around it. When Rob decides to go back and rescue Beth which we have seen many times in all disaster movies, “Cloverfield” puts the viewers out there and think it through.

The special effects are simply superb. In today’s world of cinema, computer graphics are taken for granted. The designers work strenuously to bring the image out to live picture is now another process which people seem to expect and does not go awe about it. Graphics becomes a part more appropriate and assisting when it really find its place. It is not used as leverage but a necessary factor, unavoidable for a film like this. At that time, it becomes critical and in this film, it is amazing.

“Cloverfield” is one of those films where recommendation becomes a tough procedure. While independent decisions hang out there, this kind of movie lies in the same league of expectation, “300” generated. “300” of course turned out to be a very good film for that experience. Does this one succeed in that? It did for the way they intended to be told and the effect they expected to happen. There were at least three to four opportunities which could have been a better ending, yet they failed to wrap the show. As a very short movie of 84 minutes, near the end it kept going on and on and on. There are talks about a sequel with Reeves mentioning about there may be other group of people who would have taped the events too. If that happens, I would like that to have a guy who knows a better judgment in between saving his life and holding a camera to give a movie. How cool it would have been, if the camera navigates its way to different people and it becomes a collection of that documentation. When they decided to make an out of the box style film, why not throw away the regular sentimental Hollywood routine? In between motion sickness, unwanted romance and irritating Hud,“Cloverfield” gets on your nerves after a while.

"Mad Money" (2008) - Movie Review

The failure of “Mad Money” is that the one of the ladies, Bridget (Diane Keaton) is seriously flawed in character and credibility. I am not dismissing based on moral issues but her as such in the character pulling off an incredible long term heist which she is not capable of. All her life she appears to have been good at very few things, raising kids and spending money. Her drive is dire financial needs but she turns out to be a wicked greedy witch than a skillful artful stealer or a normal person caught up in the cobwebs of conscience and morality.

The reason we like the con artists or heist key players in films is their honesty in accepting their trade. They know the play and they know every single bit of consequences, they register them in us where we are in a point in the film to trust everything they would have done, not because of feasibility but due to the sheer joy of them winning over. While we vouch for the Ocean’s crew in the “Ocean’s Eleven”, how come a regular three people who are in the shoes of stealers wants us to get them caught?

Bridget doomed into near bankruptcy situation with her husband Don (Ted Danson) laid off, she goes for a janitor job in the Federal Reserve. She sees the worn out money destroyed and decides to steal it. And I liked the whole pull off, very simple, neat and clean even though one wonders the locks are easily available for them to replace in a local store. But we are still in the mode of liking these characters and hence we shove it off our brain. She chooses two other ladies, Jackie (Katie Holmes) and a single mother Nina (Queen Latifah).

Jackie is the trump card of uncertainty for the film and they do not bring her to full potential. Nina of course will be the one to swing by the correct decision to not be involved but a simple brochure by Bridget about sophisticated school education for her kids is good enough to be in the plan. Everything goes perfect and I was thinking they have something here. It’s a shame while the film never bores it feels wrong every nick of time Bridget opens her mouth. We want her to be caught and suffer even though every one else is to be blamed too. The problem is that she is given as this clumsy and comic aged woman who has some crazy reason to take it on even after their needs are solved.

I tend to take a moral stand in many movies and I have managed to take it out of the equation for a film which fondles it for the reason of moving forward the script. Otherwise I guess we would not watch heist movies and want them to succeed. The film nearly had me for good part of it even when there will be an every opportunity of proper judgment one out of many characters in this act. Bridget does it so easy that we seriously doubt her how she managed to survive in this world without a criminal record. Because at a point when every one wants out, she wants it to be going on and on, where we are confused on her behaviour based on greed or passion? “Do you know to do anything at all?” asks one of the characters to Bridget at the start of the film. She has been spoon fed into a luxurious environment where when it is taken, she realize that her brain has been in freezer for quite a long time. And we never get to see her reasoning at all till the end.

It could have been taken as one hell of a serious drama/thriller if the appropriate part of the screenplay had a run through. Almost every one Bridget making her accomplice are easily convinced and we know Bridget is not a good marketing specialist.

Director Callie Khouri had a good premise and a story too. I expected nothing solid out of this movie as it is sheer entertainment but when they are out there talking the senses of practicality and at times taking it seriously, we are in for some explanation which we never get. Money is tempting, no doubt and the obsession is what drives Bridget ad there is no indication of it. There is a reason we love Daniel Ocean and hate Bridget. Both trade souls with their own devils but Ocean does not pretend to be an angel.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Andrei Rublev" (Language - Russian / Italian / Tatar ) (1969) - Movie Review

Let me be called ignorant and aesthetically blind for I am going to call the work of Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Andrei Ruble” a slow death with nothingness and all the synonyms to it. I like things being abstract and the mind doing its work of absorbing like a sponge to do contain it even if it’s not clear. In this work, nothing is clear and is not intended it to be. It is an excruciatingly painful sparks of agony into the viewers of seeing many things and getting nothing out of it. I hereby state that Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Andrei Rublev” and the one more film of him I watched, “The Sacrifice” as not my cup of poison.

The movie separated in parts jumps off with an unrelated and weird sequence of a guy flying on a balloon and crashes eventually. The camera work from there on till end is outstanding and the production value is enormous. The film takes on the life journey of the 15th century painter Andrei Rublev (Anatoli Solonitsyn) who goes places, questions his faith, conscience and everything with no solid dialogues and no proper route to say those to make it introspection into our lives or admire/pity the life of Andrei.

The film while actually did not make the release years after its make have been praised for its cinematic value which in my very humble opinion was next to nada. I would like to put a puzzle together or read the hidden meaning and open to natural pace of any film maker who wants to bring the raw reality, but to play it without any purpose other than the political and religious situation of that time period with uninteresting screenplay is plainly unacceptable. The violence is quite gruesome considering the time period of the film’s making but for an outsider, how does it open up? It is a strange approach of giving an artist without his art till the last minute, but his questions of talent, life and everything around him as a dialogue which originates from a thin air keeps our air of frustration filled with blandness and pointless visuals.

The supporting characters are another fiasco. I was in close of not writing a review because of the confusion and frustration the film caused. I do not know what exactly I saw and what I grasped and what can I write, even saying that the film is bad. I had nothing to be grasped upon or to be imbibed in my memory to point out the inability of the film to make a statement. After a very long time, I seriously doubted on whether to write anything at all about a movie. I do not know what to criticize upon being bad. Everything was shot according to the highly technical potential of those times but the substance is without soul. We cannot connect or make even a remote attachment to this character that sees all brutalities and yet when he takes a life altering decision of negating his talent and giving up his choice to speak, we neither sympathize nor empathize with him. Not alone with him but with any character at all.

I am wondered by the very many people who managed to like this film. Watching a film and having an opinion as I have said on numerous occasions is subjective. The films I hated would have been loved by many and vice versa. I respect that and understand the tastes of various other film goers. I have been questioned about that belief through this movie. With a snail slow running length of 205 minutes, this is one big void of big bucks cashed in during tough times. I was made impatient, angry and deep down inside even cursing the film maker. I began to feel guilty for these emotions rather than getting out of it, meaning emotionally attached to the scenes in the film.

I finished the review of the film “The Sacrifice” like this, “Maybe someday when I watch it after several years, maybe, just maybe I would be able to appreciate it for what everyone is saying. But right now, I am waiting for the next Tarkovsky movie to see and hope I can read it properly and understand the greatness of this legend.” I seriously doubt that I will ever understand both these movies and yet, I am not giving up hope. I still await the next film of this much lauded director. While this film broke my patience, let me see how many does it take for Tarkovsky to break my patience altogether in watching his movies.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"The History Boys" (2006) - Movie Review

I caught on to the word “conveyor belt routine” when one of the then boys in the The Up Series (14Up) says about the industrial process of educational system from high school to Oxford and then to the popularized careers in the then London. It makes you think about it when the boys in this film bend over backwards for getting into Oxford or Cambridge. “The History Boys” is adapted from the Tony Award winning play of the same name written by Alan Bennett and the directed by Nicholas Hytner. I did not know that when I was watching the film and it made sense why there is this bouncing words and literature play around in a visibly choreographed manner yet suitable enough.

The history boys as termed are the promising young talents in the grammar school of Shefferfield in 1983. Eight students with two old teachers with their techniques of inspiration are Mr. Hector (Richard Griffiths) and Mrs. Lintott (Frances de la Tour). Hector of course is the more inspiring one and has sessions of doing what really need to be learned for the purpose of knowledge than to excel in the man made exams of success. The boys know their possibilities but they are flamboyant and outspoken in nature, thanks again to the way of Hector’s teaching. Headmaster (Clive Merrison) is worried about the manners they show and hence bring a young and pragmatic, guide to your life changing exams, Mr. Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore). Seen as a potential competitor and obviously the breach in the territory of his arena and also viewed egoistically on the facet of subtle incompetence over him, the fights are subtle too in between Hector and Irwin.

Every body in the film are eloquent, grammatically immaculate and intellectually locked, loaded and ready to fire up. The history is defined in their terms of perspective and the knowledge shared. In between these are the real lessons happening and to be learned from. The morality, the tension and the ethics, but it is more about what the society wants than the independent choice. It is reflected in a rather hypocritical manner through the character of Rudge (Russell Tovey). Hector is huge, old and has the habit of giving lift to his students in his bike. The habit goes further on groping them inappropriately. When Dakin (Dominic Cooper), a charmer and an opportunist says that to Posner (Samuel Barnett), it is of disbelief to us due to the manner he says in such a funny tone and Hector does not fit the profile. We learn he does and are constantly questioned by the action and as every one else who would see that easily mar the influence he has made on the student and on us too. The film proves its points on morality handles it with the man who is looked upon for that wisdom of thoughts; irony, thoughtful and enlightening.

There is a sexual tension in between Dakin and the new teacher Irwin. Dakin claims to be straight but he is man who wants to be loved even if it involves altering his sexuality a bit. But as in the film they say, it is a phase just that it seems to be more than that. Posner is in love with Dakin and quite frank about it too. With history been in the dissecting table, the physiological attention of these coming of age kids and the grown ups are remarkably handled. Quotations, poetries, songs are given in surplus and in the myriad details of it; sometimes we get lost of ignorance and pace.

Irwin is the right man for the job but wrong man for the real intention of teaching, even though he is capable of it. The same goes for Hector only that it is in opposite way. There are punctuations in this essay of these characters of emotional cavity as when Hector and Posner share a poem depicting them after Hector being confronted and the after hour calls up by head master to put Mrs. Lintott, Irwin and Hector in pairs to see their missed life, the missing moments and the actual product of this exercise.

The art of wonderful dialogues is not to be clever. It is how when any one is not able to put something in words for the feeling unexplained and to come up with rightly punching it in the minds to explain it in very few beautiful words is what makes dialogues or any sentence an art of literature. And the character which speaks those should be appropriate enough to be taken seriously or it would not only be shamefully laughable but miss its sanctity of its words. When you see it been matched so perfectly for numerous characters which would have fitted, Hector and Posner resonate the thought in unison.

The twelfth standard (or twelfth grade) exam in India by the time I was studying typically designs your path of success as many said and the one I believed too. The margin of error is unforgivable and the slightest deviation from the path of getting into a well known Engineering college basically can be assumed as the end of your life. Everything spins around it and as these guys go through the short cuts of education, it is even shorter in my case. A number changed in math problem considered out of syllabus, such a crooked chiseling of the brain. While I did not flourish as expected, it landed me in a so-so college and here I am. All these years I always believed the defining moments of that period of time. One question, 10 marks and my life would have changed forever. “The History Boys” reminded it is all history.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"The Bucket List" (2007) - Movie Review

“The Bucket List” is not a surgical analysis of the death or the philosophies of lives of two elderly men Carter (Morgan Freeman) and Edward (Jack Nicholson) but a shallow pleasure ride which is what the film markets itself. The intentions are not curdled and as director Rob Reiner is famous for, it is a feel good film about the death. Quite recently I witnessed a miraculous film “The Barbarian Invasions” about the known demise of a life and there is an emotional truce which happens during it. “The Bucket List” is no “The Barbarian Invasions” and some may curse me for comparing but it wins through for what it is and we get to see two stunning actors who would sleep walk the characters of Carter and Edward.

Edward a millionaire falls for his own hospital design to share a room with blue collar hard working mechanic Carter. Nicholson who needs no lessons to be an arrogant egoistic prick makes Edward acknowledge the presence of Freeman’s Carter who needs no lessons too on being a wise man and quiz whiz. Both come to know their limited time and prepare a list to finish upon before they meet the inevitable. Carter points some altruistic actions but Ed opts for daring adventures and a world tour where we get to see them do their magic.

Nicholson and Freeman had a good time playing characters care free. Their characters are facing death but the tragedy is not focused. It is the places they see and the small talk they make. They discuss their lives which went fast as for many, the regrets, the family and the loss. Carter has compromised his ambition in the light of his family circumstances and tells he does not see his wife, Virginia (Beverly Todd) as he used to due to the Empty Nest syndrome. This emptiness and the life expecting an end makes him stay away from her. He is a family man but wants some time for himself. Edward is a product of being arrogant and has failed four marriages. The film skims the surface of their beliefs which we can see how both actors play it so carelessly and effectively.

The feeling many fans or may be critics would be disappointed is that there is no need for two extra ordinary actors to do light weighted roles like this. The expectations these two create are immeasurable, but why cannot they have a good time and take a freely relaxed work if they have to? It needs to be slammed if it is too low for their potential. They have played the same guys many times and the pleasure of them still able to recreate it with different tinge even if it’s little makes the film a good joyful cruise.

And it is pretty clear that Freeman needs to narrate even when his character is not alive and we know why. The tour they go through does not do a convincing emotional catharsis to Edward. He still is in denial and does not want to accept the truce he needs to make. They are of course strangers and get to know only few months to bond. The truce he makes with his daughter is a scene to leverage his change. The action of it tells his friendship getting recognized but it could have been more out there. There are not strong supporting scenes for their change in life especially for Edward but Nicholson delivers the eulogy which makes us believe the character.

People will like it for its casual ness and how the condescending character of Nicholson as he always does in many many movies. It might not be a profound thought of life’s end and does not has the heavy feeling you might get in a tragic film. It is light hearted on a heavy subject and what you see is what you get and that’s it. And some one need to tell the way Edward is attired during a business meeting during his introduction. It looked out of place and unreasonably pushed in. Apart from that the opportunities were there though to make it a little more peek in to them but it felt like they decided to not dig around and have it keyed down. Strange to call it that way but it truly is a subtle exploitation of emotions. It is a good package of easy emotions and the Sean Hayes as Thomas (as Ed would like to call him) provides a nice support role for Ed character. It might strike down the expectation and it might enlighten feebly but for me it is sort of a guilty pleasure.

"The Orphanage" (Language - Spanish) (2007) - Movie Review

The doubts flagged high up in the air for a clichéd horror movie when Laura (Belén Rueda) sends her son Simón (Roger Príncep) alone into a cave and then she herself ventures in a dense dark outside again alone into an out house storage place. It also pinched the credibility of the story when both Laura and Carlos (Fernando Cayo) does not care much about the imaginary friends Simón creates. They have concerns but do not address it professionally, but after those it comes clean and scares us unintentionally and also makes us go through what Laura does.

Produced by Guillermo Del Toro and directed by Juan Antonio Bayona right away hints the expectation and in fact a bit of story line of Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”. Laura returns to the orphanage where she spent her child hood before adoption. Only that she makes it her home and wants to start the service of taking care of special children. Simón her son starts talking about his imaginary friends and he says to meet one more Tomás, and may be more. Laura sees things too only that it is too late her son disappear in the midst of house party. Rest is the hunt for Simón through the callings of the orphanage/house and the emotional trauma Laura goes through.

Unusual for a horror genre the screenplay works on the story rather than scaring us. A film which in the process of laying out its story happens to be in need of the scary moments than the deliberate forcing into it and this comforts us to promise a bloodless fantasy film. There is a pay off for sure and while we doubt the existence of the ghosts, they never say that word. They say another world or another time running parallel to our existence. This shoves away the cloud of using them as a prop and builds up over it. It is careful in assuming the audience to get in along with Laura. At one time, when the psychic experts set their cameras and Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin) who claims to see the other world, we believe through the eyes of Laura while doubt it when Carlos is shown.

At the end of the film when Laura is no more afraid of the house and the alleged ghost children, we are fearless. We want to put an end to this for a solution. We know something was shown right in front of our eyes when the plot turns but we are not able to pinpoint it properly. The thin layer which separates the imagination and reality is due to the psychological definition and the unknown existence. This layer is where the film runs as it did in “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

We all know one thing about the ghosts in the film is that they have unfinished business but does any one dies with out regrets? Out here though the scenario is horrific which makes them not to be puzzled and we give in to the director. I would still question the director for the mentioned scenes in the first paragraph regarding the typical horror scene build up. Why did he reside when he had a screenplay spotless after the disappearance of the Simón?

I don’t want to add it as a horror film because I would see it to be a drama and suspense. Bayona is much confident in understanding the audience. He shifts the time rapidly as needed and relies on Belén Rueda to give the expression of the hope disappearing away but she pulls herself back to believe in the unknown. She denies the psychological explanation and the experience she goes through as in many central character in horror film is more real. It touches the boundaries of the plot holes associated commonly with films like this. If I unscrew the “smart” audience tag of putting everything together, I can understand that it is a riddle they conceal for the fact of nice ending than an emotional comfort. They put the subtle ideas into our head to do the imagination in solving the confusion and yet it anchorages the plot than to deviate us and one such would be the illness of Simón.

“The Orphanage” has been chosen as Spain’s nominee for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. It sure makes us restless and has honest reaction we would get in seeing something out of ordinary and is there flesh and blood. I liked their integrity in showing the audience what Laura sees and do not bring up a newly found trump card to make us look stupid. While I liked the film why am I beating around the bush to hesitantly approve it? The ending which answers many questions is not fully convincing mainly that all the time we see Laura for her Simón but her nurturing character or her ties with the orphanage is not more than skin deep. It would not get my award but a recommendation for a good film.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"The Kite Runner" (2007) - Movie Review

I liked the novel “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini half good. The first half of the novel had the tangle of a child caught in the realm of begging to be recognized by his dad and also the inability to stand up for his friend or may be he does not think him as a friend at all. The second half became a typical run of the Hollywood material only the setting is Afghanistan. So when I heard that the novel was to be made as a film, it was not a surprise. The film left the same feeling as the book did each having its reasons. With a track record of “Monster’s Ball”, “Finding Neverland” and the successful “Stranger than Fiction” (which I have not seen), Marc Forster does the job what he was supposed to, be loyal to the book and satisfy the millions of readers.

Amir (Khalid Abdalla) a novelist gets a call from Pakistan to come back to his home for reasons later said. Amir dips into the memory lane as a kid in his home Kabul, Afghanistan. There along with his servant Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) he spends his time flying kites and Hassan faithfully running the kites. The scenes involving the kites are highly nerve biting and entertaining, even for a reader who already knows the results of it. Forster adapts almost everything page by page only for certain scenes. Of course we do not get an in depth analysis of Young Amir’s (Zekeria Ebrahimi) feelings towards his Baba (Homayoun Ershadi).

Rarely have I watched a film after reading the novel. “Sphere” was a disaster and I was a hardcore Michael Crichton fan at that point of time and worshipped “Sphere”, what I can tell you, I was one in many zillions who was enthralled by Science fiction (but I sucked in Physics). Here I knew everything and it did not become a hindrance. I believe Forster would have thought about it too, as every one in this planet would have read it. Still it is a treat to watch the images put on to the screen. The streets especially and the whole Afghan tradition is something to be seen for sure. But the first kite running scene when the cherubic Hassan runs to the place where he exactly knows it is going to land, is when I decided I am going to like this film. From there on it played really well till the same part the novel lost my interest. The rescue mission out here is even more mechanical than the novel. That does not stop it to be not riveting. Both the novel and the film never dare to analyze the feelings of the adult Amir. He is so hurried up in the act of saving, we rarely see him speak his feelings.

With that said, people who liked the novel would love the film. It is shot and to the point as the film squeezes in the book to a two hour picture. The music especially assists very well at various moments. I would have loved to see the interaction between Farid (Saïd Taghmaoui) and Amir who takes him to the Kabul which is lost. The screenplay by David Benioff who wrote “25th Hour” novel and the screenplay for the movie are good at laying it as the viewers would expect it too.

I was worried before the film as with any movie which involves a child in the midst of rape scene bothers me. As I have always said about something in the book and some one else to enact is not justifiable to put through the terrific trauma of it. Thankfully it is not graphical and they keep it neat. I hope the child Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada did not have to go through it but Wiki informs me that it did affect him, in the sense of social acceptance after some one watching the film. The children were transferred to UAE and were compensated for their living expense till they reach adulthood.

“The Kite Runner” is a satisfactory work of Forster in conveying the book as it is. Roger Ebert says it is the same impressive work as that of “Monster’s Ball” which I would not agree respectfully. The emotions are quite high in both the tales but “Monster’s Ball” had the audacity to explore certain areas with much confidence while out here it is conveniently brushed away, but the novel as such had those.

"Atonement" (2007) - Movie Review

Thing we do as a child has an untold license to do the unthinkable but escape with the angelic face of innocence. When we grow up carrying it within us and we have the nerve to confess, we use the age as a shield or an excuse as we grew up telling that to ourselves. It is of course an age of ignorance and innocence. True as it sounds the consequences of the thirteen year old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) mistakes rips apart the lovers Robbie (James McAvoy) and Cecilia (Keira Knightley). The film is the adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Ian McEwan.

The tale starts in 1935 London amongst the high class family of Tallis. Here we see a girl who is a shrewd creative writer but a girl who has been nurtured by the luxuriousness of her family, Briony runs out to show her written play to her mother. She sees her house keeper’s son Robbie and her sister Cecilia at the fountain from her window. Confusion starts and we do not know why but keep in mind it is a thirteen year old girl peeking out to see what is it in between the tension of a man and woman. But there is more than that for her confusion and distress. It is revealed later in the film but the technique of story telling is what wins “Atonement” over many other films on the same genre.

The writing style of the novel and the manner of story telling is what made it literarily and entertainingly popular as Wiki says. It appears that director Joe Wright has been faithful to the novel and took its style of its narration. The first part wherein all the characters are in place and what can it be noted is when there are more than two of them are standing, they are placed as though for the elegance of image to be presented upon. It looks choreographed and even appears to mock the 1930’s style of films. Yet it boosts up the gravity of that scene. In this part, we get two views on couple of scenes, one of course being the vision of Briony, which is blurry and unclear and the other the real events with close watch. The latter version still is ambiguous in terms of the relation between Cecilia and Robbie but it forms of to give clear picture as the movie goes on.

After the first part, the film concentrates on Robbie in one section and later with Briony who now is eighteen years old (played by Romola Garai) working as a nurse. There is an intense moment when she comforts a dying French soldier. We believe he knows her and she acts so too, but we know that it could not have been possible. It is the air of compassion which plays in that scene. James McAvoy as Robbie carries the composure it requires but destructing inside thinking of the undeserving torture he goes through. He has the charm and has the appearance of a person who is clear in perception. There is no need for any one to tell his “lewd” letter is not meant to be and how it needs to be taken. Cecilia takes it as he would have intended.

I would not name Keira Knightley giving an extraordinary performance but as Robbie’s lover, she shares the screen with him in a chemistry required for the pair. Romola Garai’s performance is the striking one and I was not surprised as the character is the wandering soul of guilt and typing to quench her thirst for redemption. For cinematic understanding Joe Wright opts for Briony’s hair style to be unchanged as she grows up. And I would not go about crucifying that but how we get to see these three characters form up once and live alone torn up in their thoughts. Still they are connected by the past suffering each moment through Robbie in war, Cecilia in loneliness and desperation while Briony living every single moment with guilt.

An impeccable camera work which is proven by a necessary continuous one shot when Robbie along with two other soldiers walks through the beach situated for evacuation. The music by Dario Marianelli is adaptively creative that he uses the objects of importance from the screen to his music. He takes the tapping of typewriter with the sounds of bouncing balls over the wall and mingles it with an emotional orchestration to represent the curiosity of Briony. Back ground score never has been applied so apt to the theme and it does not interrupt the content for its showing off but settles up in our thoughts.

As the trailer promotes, it poses as a usual love story torn by time and war. It is indeed that but as “Before the Devil Knows you’re Dead”, it is the technique of presentation which makes “Atonement” stand out. And the end is something which brings euphoria of an emotional outburst which simultaneously gives the sense of helplessness and satisfaction in tandem.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"The Barbarian Invasions" (Language - French) (2003) - Movie Classics

I want to die like Rémy (Rémy Girard) in the French Canadian film “The Barbarian Invasions”, one of the life altering films one should never miss. And when the people who say those lines in the film are called for dining (extra features of the DVD), I want to dine with them, I want to listen to them, I want to tell about myself openly without any fence insecurity and not be haunted by judgmental eyes, I want to be myself. When we are done with the film and I stress to watch the dining sessions with the actors/actresses, we remain ourselves with our confusions, beliefs, sins, happiness and serenity.

It’s the one another bitter returning son in a movie, which is Sébastien (Stéphane Rousseau) to visit his father dying of terminal cancer, Rémy. They do not talk much. He despises his father for abandoning him and his mother along with a sister. Rémy despises him for not being the bookish and philosophical son, he wanted. He is the person who worships women and from the peace love era of the 60s. The age of liberalism to its extreme stretch and the revelries in heaven which they thought goes on for eternity. Time, the gifted betrayer has news for them, old age. He is in the brink of his life and still egotistical, still womanizing and yet clueless. But clueless is not bad and coming to terms with relationships are the part to coming to terms with death, and more than that with themselves.

Sébastien is called by his mother Louise (Dorothée Berryman), Rémy‘s ex-wife. He comes flooded with cash from London. With eventual altercation with his dad, he wants to return back with his fiancé Gaëlle (Marina Hands), but Louise reminds him of the days of sleepless nights Rémy had for him. We have heard many actors saying those in very many lines in numerous movies and when Louise tells those, it is the simplicity of the obvious. He slaps money to every nook and corner to get the luxurious facility in a poorly systemized health care system in the hospital. He calls his dad’s friends, invites them over and reunites them for one last time, at least for Rémy. He buys heroine through Nathalie (Marie-Josée Croze) daughter of one of his dad’s friends/mistresses, Diane (Louise Portal). There appears a tension of an unknown past in between them, but she has turned into a junkie and he has turned into the defined human of the 21st century.

Director/Writer Denys Arcand’s second venture in his trilogy (First being “The Decline of the American Empire” and third being “Days of Darkness”, both of which will be the next things to see), has a vision of his thoughts so lucid and eloquent to put in these people’s mouths. The film has its terms of irritability but those are the instruments of modernization, generation of economics and the absence of admiration over life. We do not know the real problems Rémy’s friends have, but they are the most accommodative and understanding people any one can be acquainted upon. They are believable because of the situation. Their friend is dying and more or less, it is the reflection of their lives ending too or at least the beginning of the end. Arcand does not use abundance of drama but the striking force of value system and liberation. He uses one’s own evaluation of life and it would be astonishing to see Rémy thinking about it as he is the character who has lived his life to fullest. But it is the grip of the unknown. “Embrace the mystery” says one character who believes in god to Rémy. How easy it would be if we practice that?

Existence, art and love were in limitless quantity during the times of 60s as they say. Philosophies explored, free love/sex and complete surrender to the hallucinations represents those three. It is a world of new revolutions as humans and it was embraced to unbelievable strengths, it exceeded and succumbed to its own uncontrollable growth. Now is the era of running towards perfect life. An era of straight lined path of money, power and the mirage word to be attained in life, settle. Rémy and Sébastien represent those two generations, and find truce. Not giving up their beliefs but respecting it.

Rémy has regrets. He believes himself as a failure not to leave behind a legacy as he describes. The fear of being unnoticed even when they are not going to be there is the power of death. What will become of us when something leaves from us and evaporates into the void of mystical questions? Will it be shine of light or wrath of darkness? Will it be nothing at all? The film is not the answers for those or not even questions it. It induces those questions. We live our life as we wish and become some one as we wish and control it. Rémy does that. He is no saint nor is he the evil sinner. He is the slice of the millions getting up in the morning to see the shine of light, called life.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"Fast Food Nation" (2006) - Movie Review

The ill effects of fast food are well known to any reasonable customer out of millions in the US market and yet we all visit again and again and again. It is a mass producing machine of common food to those millions. And when it involves cows mainly as the source material, no one wants to know the killing part of it, which by the way is in enormous amount. The meat packing machine is no pleasant trip to a chocolate factory or the beer lover’s paradise in brewery. While one need not exactly know the graphic detail of what is going on, any one can draw a picture of the process happening inside, nauseatingly disgusting and inhumane. And director Richard Linklater is never able to find the focus on the root cause or the other internal details he promise to open up in the start which leaves the end unfinished.

The film is about this fictional fast food franchise company Mickey’s with their popular and successful brand “The Big One”. The meat comes from a small town Cody, Denver. There are three stories which are supposedly tried to be connected by this Meat Packing Company Uniglobe (USP as they call it). There are Mexican immigrants Raul (Wilmer Valderrama), his wife Sylvia (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and her sister Coco (Ana Claudia Talancón) getting tangled by the supervisor of the plant Mike (Bobby Cannavale). Then the investigative story of Don (Greg Kinear), Vice President of Mickey’s who sees the real meat inside the patties they get, something which will bug in every burger eating people. Finally is the high school girl Amber (Ashley Johnson) who is working in one of the Mickey fast foods and working hard to make ends meet. There is no connectivity whatsoever in between these three stories. Finally nothing achieves anything out of it either.

There is a blatant blunder visible in this film, which is to give the polishing layer of independent movie with events turning sour in a stream line random play of scenes only with no conviction. There are scenes of no significance or to be precise no purpose. When we meet the mean Mike, we know the worst will happen for Raul and Sylvia especially when the meat packing machinery is unsafe and how Mike sleeps around with the confused and weak women under his supervision which includes Coco. Similarly the corporate ball game is known and when Don gets into the saddle of hunting the truth, it is predictable too. Nothing concentrates on the real ground breaking effects of this fast food other than that it is highly unhealthy with disgusting ingredients and the menial labour work put upon the people who are in desperate needs looking for desperate remedies.

When Amber’s uncle Pete (Ethan Hawke) comes for the ten minutes is when some enlightenment is visible. I would have been more interested to see the aspiring yet confused girl Amber getting the correct guidance from Pete. Even if the essentiality is over the deadly fast food, Linklater wobbles does not either concentrate on the direct linked problem or the drama which surrounds it with more audacity in his usual ways. There is a serious back step in every story which brings out the brutality of life but has been delicately, poetically and touchingly done in various other movies.

Characters which are put upon for no reason and it keep on coming up till the movie ends. One of the Mexican while trying to cross the border getting lost and eventually dies, Coco as such who serves no purpose than to see the manipulating nature of Mike but she likes it too and finally the friend of Raul who gets into an accident along with Raul are unnecessary and left as such without any aid to the screenplay. Don while unveiling the nature of the industry does not have substantiate reason to think on going about publicizing and solving the problem even though he talks about losing his job for which there is no real evidence over the screen for his shift in conscience.

It well would put gross thoughts into any meat eating member as would any video showing the killings of the cows and their extraction of meat. You do not need a film feature to propagate that message. The story appears to go nowhere but it is simply people making choices to make their living in their day to day life. I sure do sympathize for them but routing it back to a fast food phenomenon does not abide the concept the film preaches upon.

Monday, January 07, 2008

"King Kong" (2005) - Movie Review

Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) shares a silent moment after her accidental entertainment she provides to Mr. Kong in the jungle which is so touching and real. Now take the same two characters and place it in the midst of chaotic situation in New York City and they share the same moment in silence skating in the icy part of the town, and it cannot be more fake and horrendous. Director Peter Jackson might have sincerely followed the 1933 classic (which I have not seen) but the credibility of not only the situation crumbles but also the characters as such which were so fitting and gripping in the jungles.

Carl Denham (Jack Black) is adamant and extremely dangerous in his zeal and greed of capturing the film he wants that he lies, steals, cheats and finally even ready to sacrifice a fellow friend’s lives to earn it. Jack Black is unbelievably human and yet villainous in this venture which for major part kept me on toes, one of the best thrilling rides you can see in a block buster movie to say the least. The search of Skull Island with the ship and film crew puts in a jungle dense and dangerous. Every other creature has only one motive, kill the humans for food. The natives understanding the hunger of the big beast, which of course is Mr. Kong and they manage to kidnap the film’s accidental actress Ann from the returning crew who learns pretty fast from the first mishap they encountered with them. The rescue mission eventually leads the members into the hands of the pre-historic creatures.

Peter Jackson known for his visual effects and the creativity of the enormous locations once again presents a fantasy island with such a touch to its existence along with its ghostly values. But the real treat is when Kong rescues Ann from the hands of three Rexes. While it sometimes ticks the logic brain for the Rexes to desperately eat Ann while their lives are hanging over the edge, Jackson never gives the momentum for us to let it through our mind. We are with the mighty creature to tame it, without mercy. It is indeed an achievement to have a PG-13 with terror very real and lets us imagine the pains of those iron hands ripping the jaws of the Rex.

The period in which the film happens in the jungle is phenomenal. And it is not a foolish attempt of the crew to venture into the jungle to hunt for the unknown. Once they get the real treatment of what to expect, they leave and only they are forced to return for rescue. The betrayal seems to be very minimal for a film which is bound to have those and frame the screenplay for the events to happen than the natural procedure. When Ann communicates through her comedy act routine to Kong, there is no uncomfortable feeling of fake emotions putting us in awkwardness. Kong of course is a primate and does have a capability of understanding the signs of the humans and Jackson does not take it for granted. He plays it lull and appropriate for the story.

With everything so close to perfect, the film jumps off the cliff and meets an end to be forgotten. When the ships supplies are thrown out to depart away from the Island, how did they manage to transport the humungous animal to New York City? What exactly does Ann want from this animal? If she wants to help the animal, she would have at least guided it to the nearby jungle or may be even the sea, instead we see her climbing the ladder for zillion times at the top of the Empire State building and we are agonized to say, “Come on, and give up Ann for everyone’s sake”. At least Ann has a connection and I can remotely believe her attempt and helplessness to save the creature (which is not convincing), but what in the hell does her lover Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) think of doing by guiding and agitating Kong to some unknown broad way theatre? Let me also give the benefit of doubt to the director that he knew where Ann is staging and showed the map. Shouldn’t he be concerned of this beast hurting her? After all this, the thirty minutes of shooting up in the air pushes the unbelievably entertaining and convincing story into miserable and unnecessarily melodramatic tale.