Friday, May 30, 2008

"Blink" (1994) - Movie Review

“Blink” is the serial killer thriller which came around the 90s and can safely be assumed that the genre has been written so often as to solve the murder and see the killer in the supporting characters. But directed by Michael Apted this is a film which works for major part of it surviving by a script smartly written with a supporting cast utilizing it in the myriads of opportunities given to them. The almost part of its success is how these films end, as if the only way to end is putting the traumatic struggling character in the game of a familiar situation (as in this case will be the central character’s strongest, operating in dark) and conquer the fears. But it is a terrific film and I liked it. I would have liked to write I loved it.

Emma (Madeleine Stowe) made blind by her mother gets a donor after twenty years. She gets her vision and it is not the spectacular five second blurry to lucid sight but a partial amoebic two dimensional view. Apted has worked very hard to make this a visual a mix of staying high sober. In the mean time a killer is on the loose and Emma happens to accidentally wake up middle of the night and may have got a sight of him. She goes to the cops and meets Detective Hallstrom (Aidan Quinn) who at the starting scene of the film strips naked drunk to get an attention from the then blind Emma playing violin with her band. The cops hear and for once it makes complete sense on them backing off on this suspicious occurrence by a person who is learning to see. Added to that she has hallucinations and delayed correlation. This adds to the riddle.

But this is about Emma more than the killer. She has not seen her face or her friends and her only definition of beauty is in her music. Appearance does not make sense and her scale of reference for it needs to be learned or need to give a definition on it. It is a strange feeling and Apted plays with the psychological imbalance in this new world of vision. She struggles to identify the reality. Stowe’s Emma is tomboyish who has been on her own, in control and mainly institutionalized to darkness. This is a drastic change and more than guidance it becomes a hindrance in creating the doubt which never found its place in the blackness. She is puzzled and dissipates her confidence. And she for a small part blames herself for the new eyes as she could have been more alert and saved her neighbour a floor above.

The film toys with these feelings and then inserts the clues as a slice of cheese while Emma has this sexual tension with Halstrom. Halstrom at first is a mechanical and clinical detective over his victims. When he analyzes his first victim, he mercilessly jokes talking to her and if that would have been left out there, the chance of seeing this character have a better side would have been obsolete. But watch what his colleague Ridgely (James Remar) has to say and that completes the scene. He acknowledges our reaction towards this insensitive cop but the expression on it says that his friend has sensible side and asks us to wait for it. The scenes with his colleague and his lieutenant (Bruce A. Young) especially are on the edge, funny and smirk and tell that writing is everything in this screenplay.

The electricity in between Quinn and Stowe is sensual and seductive. And when there is a spark to develop into an erotic experience, Halstrom stops and unbelievably it is real and makes complete sense of his action. It does not last long as Stowe’s character says that it is matter of time before he surrenders. A cop falling for key witness is not unusual but the attitude of these two individuals who are the replica of each other is bound to happen. Emma has always been in control of her relationship with men while Halstrom is some one who knows when some one does that over him. And the situation circling them to fall for each other is customary detail but true to their character. Quinn and Stowe see eye to eye and have the control their character carry on.

“Blink” is an ordinary thriller with classic writing and an unavoidable ending to put us off. It is as if there was no choice than to succumb to the acts of the film making seasoned forever in this genre. I felt that this is the only ending they would have met with and forgive them for it. But I got thinking, the whole film is a regular fair of events in a thriller and they managed to make it crisp and clean and it made me rethink the position of mine towards the ending. It could have been done a lot better for their capability. Regardless, Apted and writer Dana Stevens work around fastidious details on the character and move away the focus from the killer to the characters. It is simply beautiful to see that happening and it is saddening when they slip off a bit over the end.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Deliver Us from Evil" (Documentary) (2006) - Movie Review

When I watch a film which talks for/against/about/around religion I hesitate to pen the words. It is in hesitation of being offensive or taking a more subjective stands on this reviewer’s belief in the topic. The cessation in the flow of sentences does occur in the diurnal writing of any film but the magnitude of this cult, sect, followers of this thing called as religion is immeasurable and the human psychological inhabitance, acceptance and offense is far fetched than the least of one would be able to comprehend in his/her term of life. “Deliver Us from Evil” is not about religion but about governance which delegates it and how it has failed and failed again in administrating it through deception, negligence and victimization.

A priest in his term of being one, Oliver O’Grady in the varied places of various churches sexually abused hundreds of children. But the passing days of that memory and an injustice which happened to them being aided in the concealment of the people, institution and in turn their belief is an equally incomparable pain to the victims. The soft spoken and a man in complete control of his senses and action during the interview, Oliver O’Grady tells us how much of an instant attraction he was among many Catholic families. He says he needs closure in so many sweet terms and his hold towards reality and his actions are articulated with an openness and acceptance in the interviews that the sanity of him comes to question in the lucidity of his crimes and opinions. At the end of the film, we learn him as an ardent follower of religion which he considerably negated when he was exploiting the children under the same roof he shamelessly resided for shelter, comfort, care, respect and belief.

It is a dictation from him who has served his seven years sentence in an US prison and currently is in Ireland free to roam. The film originates taking him as the one case study of a much wider and bigger problem the organization of Catholic administration faces and its dealing of it. It tells how the victims were preyed by the confidence he gained as a representative of a much revered doctrine the parents wanted their children to grow up with. The film’s director Amy Berg takes on the bigger picture pretty well from the start. The origination of such event if would have been dealt in the correct manner would have stopped potential victims been not encountered with his person. Instead the head clergies of Bishops orchestrated a scandalous settlement of relocating the trouble than to solve it. He is jumped from places to places when accusations emerged eventually bursting into the final conviction of him to be sentenced for seven years.

Seeing him objectively as a person taking much strain to not bring the image of the victims, it is a disorder which should have been taken care of by him as a person seeking personal help but a person whose urges take precedence over a well being of an innocent and bare to even speak up child is an expectation in perils. This is a failure of an administration over which a much number of people have their hopes, life, character and belief upon. Is this a greater good the powers of it is shielding the infamy so that to appeal to the existing and an attraction to the fresher people on this religion? It is an act of saving one’s own life and the collective representation of it is in the administration.

In this documentary we see a seeker and a fighter for truth Father Tom Doyle who tries to condone and appeal to the system which he is bound to. There is a doubt of not hearing the other side of this chronicles of the concealment from the people of the Vatican itself only to learn later that no one wanted to provide an interview. Even the victims are stopped in submitting or an approach to meet the pope for their grievance.

The religious view of the film is considerably lesser than the inhuman nature of the powerful people in practicing it. It is not an anti-religion film even though one of the victims and another of victim’s father have lost the faith, but it is as some one might take a magnifying glass over a government betraying its people takes on a similar establishment. But this one is a betrayal of unfathomable magnitude in content. It is a betrayal of a belief nurtured right from as a child and how it fails every time when there is no reasonable account or evidence for solving the problem than to hide it under the rugs. There is a statement from a victim about the religion stating that the deviation of it long ago in eons would have taken place by humans which has basically removed the principles and goodness it was built upon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Dark City" (1998) - Movie Classics

Protagonist waking up in a badly lit rest room with no memory. Reading that line is an aversion some can generate over a clichéd movie and no doubt I began watching “Dark City” with that notion, a film highly praised by critic Roger Ebert which terribly failed in terms of box office collection. It as it staged is about a young man named John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awaking from an unclear memory been plotted by bald headed clan of creature/people and of course is the object of a frame up of being a serial killer, the city much is hunting for.

And if that premise appears monotonous, do not believe it, for it may be a fragment of a memory. Confused? You should be. Want answers? You will not be provided straight forward. Reason is not the idea of cheating or looking down on the audience rather it is to give the first hand experience of the city which reflects a comic book caricatured characters and redundant as such to tell, dark. Directing and writing the story, Alex Proyas is a daring film maker to theme almost every scene with darkness. We stumble for explanation among those unexplained gutters, dimmed street lights and terraces of emptiness.

There is a voice over which explains much of the suspense, as wiki says. Despite that I found thrown back by the suspense but quite true what wiki says some people mute the few minutes because it would be the ultimate thrill and shock without listening it. Regardless, the pay off is either way an inventive shock and a revelation one would be made to seriously think about the species of our uniqueness. It is a spark to discuss about the greatest mysteries of our operation, development, destroying capability and the foundation of caring and hating each other under the realm of complex psychological phenomena. Books does not get exhausted in investigating one brain cell at a time while films grow up in grasses every year to possibly give a replica of the emotional ambiguity and give a sense of confide and confidence in us. Yet we are in the living block of constant surprises, confusion and depression with occasional joy of living. What are we? We define powers beyond our imagination as a representational symbol, then in the quest of wanting more out of it, we zest on it and be consumed by it. We are indeed capable of everything and we are puzzled by the existence of other planetary living things and how it will alter the life of ours. We have a lot to explore in ourselves. This paragraph is the out come of the plethora of concepts and existence “Dark City” teases to.

Does it mean that it is a technical mumbo jumbo of “The Matrix Reloaded” final intellectual gibberish of abysmal explanation? Going back to how the film builds upon the character and keeps us in the hide and then as the screenplay unveils, everything blows up and the big picture is unfathomable yet clear as sparkling water. The city which represents the current world of our living can be an ethereal dot in a lost memory. I would love to discuss the plot of the film and invoke a conversation which would go beyond as a film. It is the riddle of thoughts as a kid one might dwell upon the science classes and the spiritual classes. I would want any one to see the film with an idea of science fiction but also give in to the noir styled version of the murder mystery the film takes us. As it is the key to the plot in turn the behaviour and the existence of these super powered beings that stop the clock and the city to reprogram it for their experiment.

The production is collective creation of a comic book styled, futuristic, classic, nostalgic, and irritatingly dark presentation with a story conjoined into it keeping us on our toes. The film depends on the performance of Rufus Sewell, Keifer Sutherland as Dr. Schreber, William Hurt as the doubtful Inspector Bumstead and Jennifer Connelly as John’s wife Emma. I only remember Richard O’ Brien from the game of a different kind “The Crystal Maze”, one of the inventive puzzle shows (a game show of a kind) but here as one of the “beings”, he is more than terrorizing. He is a mix of a scary but curious being. He is suspicious but not immediately scary. That makes most of the characters to acknowledge his/its presence as that of a human being.

“Dark City” indeed is a science fiction which should have accumulated far better recognition than it has gained later. It is the rare kind of film which in its story and execution accomplishes excellence in the aesthetic sense of its material, a plot to make us occupied and constantly question the reality of the scene and a pay off which is not a prop but a deep revelation combining the possibility of everything, yet being human under the act of superior power.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"The Mask" (1994) - Movie Review

“The Mask” holds a special place in my heart. It is a time capsule for the love of the Hollywood fun time my native’s people thrived for. The complex Mappillai Vinayagar and Manicka Vinayagar are the theatres which were the only ones who strangely stressed and were adamant in viewing English films in a tamil film crazy town. Still the love for those block busters traveled long distance from the city of Los Angeles to the down south city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India. The opening of “Independence Day”, “Jurassic Park”, “Titanic” and even a conversational drama “Platoon” drew the audience in the similar level as it would for a mega hit tamil film.

More than Jim Carrey doing the impossibly funny elastic clown, it was Cameroon Diaz as Tina Carlyle entering the Edge City bank and swirling her hair half drenched in rain which is the defining moment of glamour in my teen years. It is the sexiest introduction one would have missed from the 40s films and since I have not seen anything at that period of time, it was the single most sensual magnetism Diaz gave. Mentioning of 40s films, this film has props, car, colours and buildings resembling something been ripped from those times. The Coco Bongo Club, the Landfill Park, the flamboyant display to energize the rods and cons gives a sense of watching an old movie with new digital charismas.

And talking about digital effects, this might the origin of implementing the use of the technology for all the right reason one could think of. With Carrey’s twisty mannerisms and elongated facial flexibility, the effects belonged to its element. And the effects department had the tough job of putting the make up on Carrey’s green faced goofy man but should not block his comfort level in expressions through the tough leathery surface. Hence they came up with a thin and flimsy material to embody the face of him such that his expressions accentuated spectacularly with it.

For people who are not aware of the film, it is a fun ride I would strongly recommend to be watched. Of course it is not a classic drama but a classic in genre of digital effect and writing in tandem for a pitch perfect film of goofiness, silliness, production design and comic timing of Carrey in his talents taking every step in the Mask. These are the cadre of films which in the name of block buster cloud goes unnoticed of its real art work and the success of it in the genre it competed. Watching it now, while the plot contrives to the predictability, it is the performance, digital magic and the sets which uses that plot to progress it in the correct blend of entertainment.

It has the dialogues fast and silly, timing of physicality and the props and boy how they use it. The classic moment of Carrey’s mask running a parody on him and the old movie hits, the writings on the props (“Squeeze me gently” on the small air horn to blare out the hell of an irate car driver) and the inventive choreography of stunts and dance. The one liner delivered with an audacious display of confidence in his character and the funniness of it, Carrey is the only one who could have ever pulled this one. Knowing the lines he is going to say, I anticipated more and he never does get boring. (“Smokin it”, “P,A, R,T…. Y? Cos I gotta”, “Somebody stop me” and my brother’s favourite “I think he wants to communicate”).

Carrey after his “Ace Venture” got a great break in “The Mask” making it big in the film world and mainly proving that his crazy physical comedy has more layers than people would brush off. And Diaz went on to take more serious roles and kind of escaped the glamour role she would have been typecast forever. Director Chuck Russell in the documentaries of the making explains how the film got its origins from the comic book. In the book it is extremely graphic with horror and fun served together. It is intriguing story to learn about the process of something from another plate of entertainment jumped across shape shifting into a comedy. It tells a lot about the tremendous zeal of effort and passion one takes on making films which many might simply discard and disgrace with couple of words judging on the silliness of the jokes.

“The Mask” is the funniest film I ever seen purely on the whimsicality of an omnipotent character. While the actual laughs and excitement comes from the Carrey’s Green Man “The Mask”, the pulsing encouragement to root for this personality comes from the nice guy Ipkiss in the unforgiving world of Edge City. People purposefully or subconsciously prey on these personalities and many of us show certain aspects of nicety which is visible in him. This brought him and his night friend closer to ourselves and makes us have fun and cheer at the same time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008) - Movie Review

Harrison Ford joins the gang of oldies of Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, hooding up for their third or fourth venture but this one is unique among those fair. It has a genre created which is revisited by the men, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. First time was magnificent, second sucked, third rejuvenated and now the fourth, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull”. Ford in his elegance and sincerity is the old Indy and lined up are numerous talents with Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf and the lady from the “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, Karen Allen reprising the role of Marion Ravenwood. Jim Broadbent does a guest role of Dean Charles Stanforth.

We waste no time to see Indy bruised and dusted among the barren lands of Nevada to be forcefully finding a box in the warehouse of US secrecies. The year is 1957 with cold war and the villains are Russians under the leadership of Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett). Yada Yada Yada, fights and stunts, Indy betrayed by his mate Mac (Ray Winstone), whips, jumps, drives, crashes and survives a nuclear blast. The box of course has the omnipotent power of domination or it should lead to the destiny.

Do not you get the feeling what is going to happen to a character or know the relation of them to each other by mere look of them in the first shot? We get a lot of it and Spielberg does not hide it or even attempts to be a surprise that is going to pull your rugs off. He knows that we know but Indy is about the adventure, wit, sets and reviving nostalgic moments. Add some young blood in the form of Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) to get a parboiled entertainment. We think a lot. May be Ford is old, may be the Franchise has started too late, may be the kid is not up to the challenge, and may be we have seen it all. Crawling through these maybe’s the journey goes to South America and there we meet every one. And that’s it; we are transported into the world of Indy and now with group of compatriots. It is wild, fast, chaotic and of all fun.

The doubts are imminent at the start. Because we are in the clouds of high expectations and the reality is something else. Hence we take some time and we understand what it used to be and what we were given. The movie in the meantime shares similar perspective and finds its groove on. After that there is no stopping with old fears and relations along with new adventures and rivals are the ride one would normally anticipate. The CGI and the stunts in the second half are spectacular, pure brilliance in the sets and execution. And man I have been so impressed with Karen Allen in the first film that she is absolutely amazing in this. She has and brings the much needed feminine energy which was missing the past two installments. She is the character which belongs to this franchise, always.

Let’s face it, there is a wall to face and say “this is the end” as Jim Morrison said and travel back for some long story. And in the Indy franchise, it is the path walked several times with uncountable and unimaginable stunts and surprises. We watched as Kings and Queens coronated not once or twice but thrice by sitting at the top and looking at the center ground of all the games and gargantuan remains and antiques of this franchise. Spielberg and his team invite us one more time and while they do not try for matching the magic of the first one brings back those memories of Jones being Jones retracing his old steps with new people.

The endurance in character Ford brings still topples us. He is an old chap under the Fedora but with the stubbornness and charm he always had. We can see him struggle running but never does his sincerity wobbles. He is able to polish the old character with the scratches and scathes not as laceration in the hero but giving us the pleasure of viewing an antique worth a lot.

For the plot, I merely paid attention. It has cool stuffs and the geeks in Lucas and Spielberg emerge as saying may be, the past is the future and we just have not put down that ego of the advanced technological era beside to see that. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull” is not the question of living up to the expectation of the viewers but is the viewer ready to bend the expectation on how the film takes on them. The franchise is an amusement park. They have new rides but the place pretty much remains unchanged. It is still lot of fun, if we visit it once in a while.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Bad Education" (Language - Spanish/Latin) (2004) - Movie Review

Pedro Almodóvar’s “Bad Education” is a modern film noir with a passion for a colour and flamboyance with eroticism, murder mystery and sexual abuse. The mystery movies have a potent fall of getting in to the reasoning for the murder or crime and thereby the part which deals with the emotions becomes a restless portion to move on with the film. But “Bad Education” does not begin with the notion of a mystery plot (despite the noir toned titles).

Enrique (Fele Martínez) is a film director in perusal of strange but strong imageries of tragedy in newspaper. He gets a visit from his school friend Ignacio (Gael García Bernal) in the zest of pursuing his acting career through Enrique. He says he has stopped writing but have a story written couple of years ago. He also informs that one half is inspired from their childhood experience.

Enrique reads the story titled “The Visit” and inside it has the story of transsexual Zahar (played again by Gael García Bernal), who really is Ignacio. In developing circumstances Zahar gives a visit to their literature teacher, Father Manolo (Daniel Giménez Cacho) and hands a story telling that his brother Ignacio wrote it and blackmails him. That story tells the child hood of Ignacio (Nacho Pérez) and Enrique (Raúl García Forneiro). The screenplay within a film and in that screenplay is a story shuffles on further challenging us to remember the characters but is not a boasting from Pedro. It is homage and acts the noir part planned on into it.

Most of the story is narrated by some one else. And one part is a film being made by it. Pedro wants to deceive us on having a suspicion on what to believe. But believing the stories is the only way to put the film together. On the other hand the emotional turmoil is different. The multiple portrayal of Ignacio resonates that. And how rich are the colours that it is the image the character of Enrique the passionate director pictures about the horrific weird deaths he reads in the paper. And the shots of agile movements are silhouetted with the elegance of bright colour over a sunny day.

Pedro makes us to grasp the child sex abuse and the murder in such a light tone. There is no question about the sympathy in the child being threatened and blackmailed from a teacher and a religious priest but when the real murder is revealed and the story amounting to that is told, we are in a state of indifference. The film is poetry of indifference and it slips through the narrow gaps of film noir, eroticism and emotional imbalance by the society on being harsh on these men.

Bernal is the star in the film enacting three or more characters. He is comfortable and convincing in each role and we forget the real him at the end of it. The screenplay is the collage of various parts of a person’s life shaped by the injustice and cruelty in childhood spiraling into multiple paths with the person and the surrounding people. Pedro’s “Talk to her” talks about men finding friendship through the women they love. This film circles in the intermingling homoeroticism and emotional crisis of men.

More than the non-acceptance and phobic pressure of the system, the internal problems causes rifts among them. Everything stems from the pedophilic priest and its ill effect on a child’s growth. But that is a layer below the main plot of these different men observing and using each other to get what they want. The result though is untrusting relationship with a love postponed to be only destroyed before its conception.

Pedro’s film “Volver” and this one has the chemistry of similar film narration. It has a casualness to handle the gravest act into a simple element but has the calamity of its gravity and emotion intact. In “Talk to Her” it had the same but its characters cannot be taken as that light hearted and casual. Here though the men in the film are all a victim some how or other at various points in the film. The film is interesting, grasping and flamboyant. “Bad Education” is a clever murder mystery with subject matters of sexual abuse, mystical identities and the passion for writing screenplay.

"No Smoking" (Language - Hindi) (2007) - Movie Review

“No Smoking” is the epitome of an ambitious kid’s project with the self proclaimed cinematic intellectualism and the result of a suppressed ego vomited out. It is a mess because it is from the depths of a creative mind aspiring to recreate the glory days of those immense film watching. The passing period of a film geek witnessing the greatness in this art and swallowing that concoction of brilliance, chaos and aesthetics from those artists of genius. It grows inside and writes pages and pages of scripting obvious homage and unintended plagiarism. Usually it evaporates when it is played back in the memories stating the relentless scale one imposes on himself/herself but for a person like Anurag Kashyap with a stupendous “Black Friday” in his achievement list, he has succumbed to that dangerous fantasy. We see a horrible film.

One cannot avoid the comparison between “Revolver” a same pile of fiasco from the stylish cult director Guy Ritchie because in the frames of John Abraham as K wandering in filthy slums and blue tinted glasses circling the ring of smoke with shades in darkness comes out Tarantino, Ritchie and Fincher. I empathize with Kashyap because the psychosis of those illusions is bungled in this reviewer’s mind too. I can believe those illusions are most of the occasions comes as a powerful script but the seeds of those beginning tale of film addiction realizing that he/she has found the keys to unlock the mystic creativity in complex, somber and disjointed classics remains forever. The trick is to assemble them and provide his/her taste of treatment. Kashyap in the midst of emulating the style forgets that.

We see vast snow plain with a bath tub in the middle of nowhere and soldiers of different country (most probably Russians) and K wakes up among those to a phone ring in a confined place. That is clue number one for dream sequence. Second the place is unfamiliar. Wooden walls and an open glass with a feeling of watching a big LCD screen is clue number two. Then Kashyap’s indulgence comes in the form of thoughts coming off as cartoon bubbles. That is clue number three. K with unresponsive soldiers through a hole from a door and bullet to be fired near him drives K to break the glass using a chair and desperately sprints to the bath tub. A soldier shoots and he falls to grab the cigarette pack lying. If some one cannot figure out that it is a dream, then his fingers can be cut off as the film characters go through for relapsing in quitting smoking.

This is K, a narcissistic and egoistic chain smoking alpha male. K has mouthful with cigarettes filling them up tirelessly. Now talking with a cigarette on their mouth might give a swindling picture of sleek and style but it is not. And adding to that one cannot enjoy the cigarette in that fashion. Trust me. K’s wife Anjali (Ayisha Takia) has issues with that and K treats her like dirt. Clearly more than smoking it is the attitude of K which is ruining their marriage. Circle of events, Anjali leaves K and K agrees to go to a mysterious “ashram” or “laboratory” or simply rehabilitation center. This is not regular soothing modern age music in ambience center we fathom of. In the deep dense slums with dirty walls adding the ambiguity of the reality resides a guruji (Paresh Rawal) explaining the game or rules of the process of quitting.

Arriving to that takes great strains to sit through and it is labyrinth of stupidity and unmerciful web of unknown rituals Kashyap takes us along. It is quite obvious from the expressionless face of Abraham that he has no idea what he is doing in this maze. Paresh Rawal is the dubious looking philosopher explaining the concept of soul and body. If that would have taken place in a spicy Bollywood film, it would have been appropriate because that is something I will avoid but Kashyap deceived in making me sit through this.

Attempting to explain the plot to any one and mainly yourself is an exercise I do not wish to perform. Most of the times a viewer seeing a confused film sometimes meaning nothing and everything are enjoyed for the journey, the endless possibilities of the interpretation. The journey in “No Smoking” is excruciating mundane masqueraded rubbish. All these harshness is the pain to endure it but I with full heart understand what Kashyap did because the dancing devils of fantasy resides in me too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989) - Movie Review

“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is funnier, sensible and heartier than the failed second venture of “doom”. It has the classical James Bond, Sean Connery coming up with a surprising wit, humour and a much needed naked naive ness to counteract the virile son of his, Indiana Jones played again with much faithfulness by Harrison Ford. With adventures matching near to the ingenuity of its origin, it is a smart and deals Indy as a kid missing his father.

With a short but thrilling train full of circus animals and prop materials opens the young Indy (River Phoenix) crusading his sworn sincerity in protecting the artifacts which some of the wealthy money seekers trying to loot. The history of his terrible fear for snakes and the whip which saved him from being eaten from a lion takes us closer to this adventure hero. Back to the present for Indy movies, which is 1938 one year after the “Ark of Covenant” was dug out; Indy gets back what he lost as a young boy.

Now is the time to grip your chairs as we crawl through rats, ride along a motor bike, fly a zeppelin and in a midway jump on a plane, chased and shot by a plane while riding a car, hunted by a giant bomb spitting tank, gallop over a horse and escape near death booby traps along with Indy. And I forgot the boat scene saving his woman, Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody). The action scenes are not long rather leaves us begging for more only to be fed a bunch more. We breathe up only to end the credits with gasping horses taking towards the sunset.

The film rather being a quest for the search of Holy Grail becomes a buddy action comedy with Connery and Ford plainly reacting to each other’s natural dialogues. Connery gives a round about turn of Bond in Dr. Henry Jones and he twists the wit and sarcasm from a condescending Bond to an over enthusiastic and childish father of Indy. He has lost his son’s approval and attention due to obsession with burying himself in cryptically coded clues, pictures and everything towards the faith of finding the Grail. He is a medieval literature professor and his expression of his son pulling off near death escapes astonishes him. Yet he collects himself up with a quirky comment to complete it. That is the trump card in their chemistry.

The locations are vast and the set designs take its shiny brown colour from the desert sands which washed the screens in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. The funny thing about Indy is that he has witnessed the super natural forces in the previous two films and yet he still cannot comprehend the fact of its existence when some one tells a fable of old stories. His teaching of follow the facts is not abided since he cannot disobey his ego. In the little breathing time for conversation among father and son, Ford and Connery are in their roles not taking the pass on the reasoning of plain entertainment. The thing is many do not realize that those tiny scenes and itty bitty information between them comprises the reactive instincts among each other and appreciate the humour better.

It is a successful film both as the faithful trail follower of its franchise and advancing its characters and contents. And this time around, Dr. Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) gets a better light on this clan of zealous grown up kids. They have most of their life given to this madness of finding the buried, hidden and stolen antiquities. But the madness is the only escape out from the mediocre regular life. The measure of their existence is in this sport of grabbing the materials left behind by the ancient histories and stories from the religious books and fables.

Having completed the trilogy, the fourth one can be an easy guess on its unbelievable feat of adventures. But a fan has to understand that the mere adventures and extravagant stunt alone does not make this franchise pick up and whip the bag of crisp film making. Many should remember that second installment too had the magnificent sets and non-stop action but it crawled in its content.

A character closely attached to Indy who knows more than we do is the key to a better film. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, since we were not much aware of this hero, it was a great fun to see the adventure alone and in this film, Sean Connery holds the character key of Indy. Second had none (I do not consider the sidekick Shorty) and the good news is that “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull” has Shia LaBeouf who in my opinion can be a good sidekick and mainly is the return of the original lady of Indy, Marion played by Karen Allen. I just have to wait and see whether it works coming Thursday (May 22nd 2008).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984) - Movie Review

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones an archaeological macho savvy falls off the sky with an accidental adventurer female singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and a Chinese boy Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) in the middle of Northern India. The film is a prequel to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and it is lengthy, tires you and crashes sense in very many scenes which were one of strong hold in the first installment.

The villagers are deserted and the fields die causing food to be scarce in the village they reach on. Indy is believed to be sent by Lord Siva himself to rescue them for which he got to enter Pankot palace and retrieve the Shiva Linga stones along with slaved childrens of the villagers. And I do not think the members in the palace of those times were connoisseurs of snakes, bugs and monkey brains. The faint memories of that disgusting scenes still reside somewhere in me and seeing it again brought the film down in terms of shallow research of such possible existence.

Whether it shows India in bad light? I felt it glorified the superstition which would still have its foot in not well known small villages in current days. There are barely moments to see Indy speak as he constantly is fighting to survive from gunshots, heart ripping hands of Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), being bathed with creepy tons of insects, underground rail chases and what not. Action scenes run this film which is what would have been the expectation for this second work of Stephen Spielberg. Yet, it dragged on a little more in every stunt that it should actually had. It disinterested the point of those crucial escapes and despite the awareness of Indy is going to come out fine, the fraction of second thoughts that he might not is the thrill run. And the stupid boyish grin is missing a lot from Ford.

This time the travel plan for numerous countries is cut off and concentrates only in India. All the gallant features are not of India but shot in Sri Lanka. The rivalry taunting of Jones on Scott has chuckles in sparse and the side kick Shorty contends with Willie for who is more annoying. Given that the film is darker (literally) and filled with doom (again literally), it is a horror factor which too has flimsy base of stories. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” had adventurous interesting nugget information all along the journey while this one opens the dam of it well before to may even grasp some. And what happened to Indy’s ingenuity on unraveling certain mystical puzzles? The old trick of being mesmerized by a human blood potion and been getting out of it by lighting Indy on fire! It is a decline of great deal in content and logic per se.

This is the film in the trilogy which I do not remember seeing it completely as a kid. I thought may be it is too horrific in certain scenes and may be quite addressing the adult audience. It is true that some scenes are disgusting and scary for a kid but the second part is not true though. Ford and Capshaw are more animated than they should and supply surplus cheesiness slipping to grip the story. I guess the accidental involvement of the Capshaw character removed the authenticity of Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood.

But it is an action film doing exactly what it opens up the scene with. From start till finish, it is a charade of stunts choreographed complexly among the sets of vivid imagination. It is racy with an outcome well within our realms of understanding. The action scenes awestruck us but does not hold the suspense. May be I demanded more out of this venture but with high possibilities for seeing Indy become Indy in a prequel, I would have liked some more back story which tells a little more about this funny, daring and sometimes foolish adventurer.

It did swamp itself with ridiculous amount of money in the opening which would follow its third brother in its franchise and may very well for the fourth one. The exploration of one character in a film expected to provide dubious stunts in plausible mode is a futile one but that happening in the second installment is way too short of an effort to succumb. Let me see whether refreshing the third one has something in this rugged historian.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" (2008) - Movie Review

“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” is a much much better film than its predecessor. It digs deeper and has layers of plots along with varied type of characters. The Pevensies in this version believe in their characters and give a matured performance. The disappointment in the first one did not overshadow this well made film having a spectrum of avenues to be dealt in its third venture in future.

The Pevensies Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) are called on by the horn from the world of Narnia, by Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). The reason is that he is chased by his uncle Miraz (Sergio Castellitto) and they are the Telmarines, a long time enemies of the Narnians.The Narnians now live in low profile. Telmarines believe that Narnians are extinct. And this is due to the invasion of Telmarines over them in the past fourteen hundred years with the Pevensies and Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson) leaving them. The Pevensies along with Prince Caspian got to fight Miraz to win his empire back and also to strike a peaceful existence between Telmarines and Narnians.

It all resembled similar as the first one with the target set on the “evil” King Miraz and now the return of these four kids to go through the whole nine boring yards of assemble, prepare and destroy him did not hold a good promise. Gladly the film takes much of the struggles the kids have accumulated in the past one year finding it hard to survive in the human world of London in the film. They have been adults in Narnia before they accidentally returned and Peter desperately wants to grow and he misses the respect, action and command of being a King in Narnia. Edmund a snob in first has accepted the fact trusting and loving his siblings. Susan is traveling towards being a young girl while Lucy is still the very same kid believing in her instincts and imagination as she was before. All these personalities take form and they understand it along this struggle for uniting to fight for the people in the land.

There are mistakes made and lives are lost. The prime character of Caspian adds to this young blood being fast and hasty adding to the already pumping testosterones of Peter. He has seen the only land of Telmarines but his tutor Doctor Cornelius (Vincent Grass) educated him on the far world been destroyed with the stories of super natural powers and prophecies. The story also tells about the reach for new land and the people making a difference in the perceptions and maturity to a boy.

This time, Narnians does not comprise of Aslan and couple of badgers but more comic, delightful and much developed characters. It has the Reepicheep (voice of Eddie Izzard) a courageous comical mouse and constantly gets annoyed of people think of him less. Izzard in his minimal scenes makes us to take this mouse seriously as it wants to simultaneously providing the laughs. But it takes Peter Dinklage’s Trumpkin, a dwarf exhausted by the constant hiding and is grumpy about the leaders abandoning the soil of home to something extra. Dinklage and Liam Neeson performing the characters tells how much good actors can make a simple prop persona for plot into something real and sensational.

The graphics are ample and the stunts are spectacularly choreographed. It has more wide sense of the creatures and people in the arena. More importantly there is a strategy and a plan. The fight for kingdom this time has layered reasons. The fight for freedom and the hindrance of a peace much long should have been achieved is discussed. The Narnians themselves had and gets into a difference of approach and opinions in the governance of their land. This takes the attention off the usual predictability into characters lured for opportunity. It tells the temptation on the young men to make a deal with the devil not realizing the consequences. Mainly this film takes its contents quite seriously than the previous.

Andrew Adamson directed both the films and it is astonishing to note such a vast difference. The film has a fresh outlook on the complexity of the world it has created. And he has treated the characters with respect and does not plainly brand them as evil. There is a desire for a throne and as a family man, Miraz wants to secure his place and relish his generation further. And the enmity and judgments of Telmarines and Narnians are still to be seen in the next film. I told in the review of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” that “It is a formulaic fantasy film which I generally stay away from and hope the sequel proves me wrong.” Adamson sure did prove me wrong.

"Young@Heart" (2008) - Movie Review

Practicing for a stage performance is a fun filled adventure with dips in morale, ducking some egos and daring candidness, at least mine was like that during the recitations of that process towards one goal of standing on the stage to get the audience entertained in college days but will it be the same at the age of 92? Yes it does is what we see in Eileen Hall one of the singers in the chorus band jump starting the film in a stage performance. This is a band from Massachusetts calling and meaning it in every word, “Young@Heart”.

The documentary follows this band formed by a tough but encouraging manager Bob Cilman. The average age of the band members is 80 as the narration informs and the energy level does not reflect that. They cheer through their turtle step and shout with their heart’s content. Singing songs from “Coldplay” and “Sonic Youth”, they do not like some but are up for the challenge of adopting it as their own song. In a diminishing voice stumbling for timing and tune, it is aged for perfection in soul and thumping joy.

In a film with tragic elements expected out of their health conditions at their age, it does not commit the brutality of using those as exploitation into melodramatic. Documentary makers in the zeal of enumerating their subject strongly go for thrusting it and forget the purity of the reality the medium aids them to do. Director Stephen Walker attends each rehearsal and compresses the grueling hours of practice in five to ten minutes. Behind those are laborious frustrating moments of getting it right in bare vision, voice and hear which are grasped in those snippets of scenes in the film. Bob is the symbol of that strenuous process of singing it like it is meant to be.

It is inspiring immediately to see these old stallions galloping slowly with pain and passion but seeing it in news and an hour forty seven minutes documentary shift far end of the scales in engaging the audience. Hence the goal which is set for these people to drive upon becomes the drive for the film too. Despite that the band has been performing for long time, the journey to the destination this time involves new songs in countable weeks for a show. Most of the prominent singers in the group are conservative music listeners, liking more of opera and classical soothers. And they got to hear rock, pop and what not and regardless they like it or not, need to by heart with heart to it, be in the rhythm and moderate to make it their song.

Bob Cilman is tough and some might interpret him being a jerk on these poor people on the edge of their life. I saw the reality in it. He is not being a jerk but a person knowing his people and giving them the equal consideration they would expect. He pushes them a little bit every time and heartily and honestly appreciates and irritates. And every one though not happy when he is upset deals it like they should. They come back with better performance and dedicate their best.

Many of them have already toured the lips of death with loved ones preparing their loss but through will of miracle stand tall for a little bit more to be warriors against boredom. But some of the performers do pass away during the preparation and while it is tragic, the tone of the band stands the same. In mourning they perform and perform well to respect the demised. We move on as they do respecting them.

It is a film of true emotion and happy ending in a literal way. The power of documentary to give a shortened version of their hard work does not squeeze off it but flourishes on it. Some of the songs I have heard casually and some I have not and the film acclimatizes us with those in rehearsals.

They have a performance for prisoners before the main show. We see the prisoners smile and delve in their thoughts in silence when “Forever Young” is dedicated to one of their friend and performer whose death they come to know an hour before their performance. And in the main show, an auditorium full of crowd is moved to tears when another dedication is given by his duet partner to do a solo of “Fix You” by Coldplay. It is moving and we mourn for the lost ones but we admire them in that melancholy.

“Young@Heart” is a drive, a kick starter to get up and do something and whips us to not dare blame it on age or any other factors. It is a hope for the people laid down by the any factor at all. And director Stephen Walker has a faithful job of putting it together with music videos with fun and comedy, interviews with members on life and death. We in that get to know how to be stubborn passionate person to keep doing what we enjoy. We see them winking death to dare stop them from doing it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Redacted" (2007) - Movie Review

“Redacted” may be a film which really does not want us to see it again. Many had a consumption of a vague idea of the horrors happening in the midst of a war but amongst the angst and patience being burnt out in a dry land of death surrounding them, a soldier has the wary situation of everybody holding a ticket to death. The group of US soldiers in “Redacted” has been psychologically injured and become non-reactive walking heads and if that is troubled, there are seriously sick young men taking a just in their sociopath acts of rape and killing.

Brian De Palma’s film shows what the war would call the “collateral damages”. It is filmed as a series of compilation from multiple sources on the part of Samarra in Iraq. It is based upon a true incident with fictionalized characters (Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi is the 14 year old Iraqi girl was the victim the film is based upon.) and can be counted their behaviour as the psychological imbalance of a soldier out there. It states the deadlock situation in the war with consistent guarding of a check point constantly wary of insurgents as they put it.

Most of the US soldiers do not speak or understand Arabic and a narration from an Iraqi lady informs that half the Iraqis are illiterate, meaning the signs and boards asking to slow down and stop the car through the checkpoint are futile for half the people. The soldiers wait daily looking at the kids playing soccer, seeing the routine they are missing in their life. What they also see is that the routine can be a transformation or a plan to attack them anytime. The suspicion, frustration and the passive agitation in due time becomes the seed to monster some one they are not.

But not all the soldiers lose their senses. There is the soldier Lawyer McCoy (Rob Devaney) who gets threatened at gun point by his fellow soldier Flake (Patrick Corooll) to stay away from his and his buddy Rush’s (Daniel Stewart Sherman) business of rape and butchering of innocent Iraqi civilians. The film is essentially comprised of the video diary of soldier Angel Salazar (Izzy Diaz), a youth hoping to get a film school admission in making a film of his experiences in war.

“Redacted” is a social statement by Palma to be known of the brutalities and the effect it has caused. It does show couple of soldiers in very bad light but it is an incident to be informed about. His is not blaming President Bush for the insane and cruel act of these men but the situation they have been put into wherein it can be considerably ignored and wipe off their remorse in the name of war.

Palma does not want to make a visual spectacle of an emotionally charged swinging door on a soldier’s mind in the regular score of patriotism and duties. He wanted it to be raw and a truth simultaneously making it not blurry or not shaky as it would have been taken using a handy cam. It is edited with the content retrieved from a handy cam with clear picture along with security camera styled footages and internet video postings. It has given the feeling of documented truth it portrays.

Amongst one conversation with a friend, the discussion of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings popped up. He said that it was war and what can one expect and it would have been US if it was not Japan. Preemptive striking has turned everything into an air of suspicion into direct hell hole. How the concept has creep into our systems of ignoring or taken for granted on the human lives is too confronting to even think about. The ancient history of open war strategy has migrated into clandestine and deceptive method of attack has screwed up the minds. Not that the old wars did not have those but the game of waiting and the boring frustrating chores of the war players have grown unimaginably. It burns the senses of any one for such a long time devoid of simple necessities.

There is on the face statement from a woman in a video posting format about the thought of American lives been glorified more than the others. Palma’s film faced obvious controversies on the name of patriotism. And the film gives a near to truth chilling documentation of the reality out there. No one is a hero and it is a place of hatred from both the sides. And it eventually has become a tense zone not for the purpose they have been to. With guns surrounded and communication barely happening with heat, irritation and frustration, it is just a matter of time either side goes through the regularity to avenge on each other. This is the side of US which would never get a wide public picture. Palma has given it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe"

C.S. Lewis children’s fantasy book on “The Chronicles of Narnia” kicks off with the story of where it all began “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. Written in 50s, this novel while it would have livened up a new imagination in the book is a redundant fantasy land and the battle of good and evil staging up for graphics and gargantuan sets. The new world discovered through a Wardrobe in their asylum home at one Professor Kirke’s house (Jim Broadbent), the four kids Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) blend along with the creatures and fight against the evil Witch (Tilda Swinton).

Fantasy land films exist in a universe of lucidly explained evil and goodness. It is an escape for a writer to have an opportunity for demarcated line for character as it would be an exercise of hard labour and contemplation in the realistic world of despair. The hardship exists in their world too but the identification of altruism and nobility does not masquerade. Andrew Samson’s directorial debut hops at leisure on the innocent kids and the naivety is triggered for the battle against the badness of that world.

There was “The Golden Compass” which came after this of course and has adventure of a young girl in a similar fantasy land but authority, power, freedom questioned and muddled in it. There is a villain but they have a very different point of view and they firmly believe in it even to destroy some one. It is authority against free thinking making an extended approach to both kids and adults. This film I may not know would have sincerely followed the classic book and in that per se, the writer and director can decorate it but cannot destroy its core content. And the core content is a plain simple old story of Witches and Guardians.

The film has a beginning of the sweet girl Lucy stepping on her own into this land and meets up with a faun named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy). They fear each other initially but become instant mates. Now the innocence of Lucy is used in her embracement of this half creature half human Tumnus and the behaviour of Tumnus suggests that his radar for suspicion is next to nothing. Their moment of knowing each other and the simple betrayal of him and an effort to atone it hoped up for more on characters. But this film is more about the evil being more evil and goodness being more intelligent and feeds the ripened fruit of wisdom and passive teaching of the war of good.

I would have liked to know why the Witch has a desire to be cold (represented in her trait and sword of ice) and destroy the happiness of the people in the region of Narnia. Now did she have insolent rules and improper governance? May be but a frozen gloomy winter is more than something to be made to believe of queen’s reign. The battle for the quest for saving their brother Edmund seems to be the only reason for the kids to get involved. The opposing rebel of the Witch is a lion named Aslan which in the wise voice of Liam Neeson echoes that “We are right”. The film while done well seem to be narrowed down.

In a children’s film, one expect a story like this but the film’s target widens beyond that and looking through an adult version, this is a little bit lengthy film which does not explain everything. As the “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” comes out tomorrow (May 16th 2008), it might have more of the back story on when Narnia was formed and the laws and rules spoken by the Witch and the Lion might get some meaning. This film though with a decent first and second act, not alone states the obvious in the third act but stretches it with no choice.

What caused the agitation against the Witch or what caused her to be the ruler in first place or why Aslan comes and accumulates army and how the prophecy works? Lot of questions is asked with little or no answers. And as distraught and tired Santa Claus giving swords and arrows to the kids is mildly disturbing beyond the “right use” he advocates. It is a formulaic fantasy film which I generally stay away from and hope the sequel proves me wrong.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"I'm Not There" (2007) - Movie Review

Making a viewer understand the failure of a movie by the film itself is the ironic success of “I’m Not There”, a biopic about the American singer/writer Bob Dylan. One might need to be aware that this is not a conventional biopic, as Dylan himself is not a conventional musician as the film suggests. I am not Dylan fan but have heard few songs. I have not known about his controversial influence in his fame and fiascos but the conscious remembrance that the film is about Dylan is good enough to see it.

What do we exactly want from a film about a real person? Do we enjoy the chronicles of one’s continuous events or the character we observe through it? The person is the material in these movies and her/his behaviours towards society, family and surroundings make his/her story for what it is. Information and details can be acquired from the newspaper or internet with minimal trust but he/she went to this place or smoked this cigarette is not the coverage of a film. The person’s quality either good or bad with examples of one particular scenario handled and butchered by conscious and subconscious mishaps eventually distracts the truth. So why not create a screenplay with multitude of actors depicting the multifaceted personality of this music icon. Todd Haynes as the musician himself has the obligation of satiating his artistic desire in spreading the story of this man. It wins and loses.

Diversified in age, sex and names Dylan is performed by Cate Blanchett, Ben Whishaw, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin and late Heath Ledger. All adapt a faithful representation in mannerisms and casual dialogue deliveries resembling the man and believe in this experiment. Every one has a tough job in giving a man in real life but a fictional commentary and a veracity of the character. Blanchett is been praised by many for her commendable portrayal near to perfection on this character and I mainly credit that for her segment. The film in her segment really speaks out about him and in turn the film. Till that time, it is a slow and irritating wandering of a posed up intellectualism in art and its complexity easily annoys us. Once we see the opinions more clearly and sound through the mists of tobacco by Blanchett’s Jude Quinn, we are on and boarded from the village of unknown and puzzlement towards a chance and I repeat a chance to explore Dylan. Taking the chance and its fruition entirely depends on the distance a viewer would like to go.

Fame and influential charisma earns and costs. When a man/woman becomes a central part of a society be it any trade, the people take an interest in the spaces and silences they make. If it does not recite their thoughts or the thoughts he/she sounded which is their cause to be for what they are today, the angst grows. The ownership taken on a public figure is irrational. People instantly idolize them and that trumps the purpose of individual thought. Dylan’s songs revolutionized and protested the establishment as the film says and people cheered. They shared the idea and made him famous. He did not want to. He did not expect anything from them, not even to change the world. He wanted to but did not put the weight on them and anticipated the same from them. That did not happen. Director Todd Haynes in this multifaceted screenplay concentrates on this in a more focused manner.

It deals the separate characteristics of a one person as roles. The roles one has to take varies biologically and mentally to survive the life. We see those individually and collaged as one. Similar method was successfully given on a character of seductive and sensual woman played by two actresses in the French film “That Object of Desire”.

So why am I rooting for a film which barely took off on its energy level in its perspective and mainly I did not like it as a whole? The pivotal sequence of Blanchett is one and how that basically paints on the juice of the film, a meaning of nothingness. I cannot even start to explain its ambiguity and inaccessibility. The film as intended is like one of Dylan’s song mystic, cautionary, sometimes clear, sometimes nothing but there is an experience at the end of it. You hate it or like it or bored of it, the stand of the singer and him being taken and interpreted are one too many. And the film might be the greatest if you are a Dylan fan and if you are not, it might work out as well too. For me it did not appeal but it did the impossible, it helped to make peace with it and admire it in a remote sense of attachment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Derailed" (2005) - Movie Review

When rooting for the good guy, a film got to work its sweat out to justify his crookedness in the mode of defense. The protagonist out in “Derailed” is a loving husband, cheering father and a hard working man in Chicago suburbs, Charles (Clive Owen). His daughter Amy’s (Addison Timlin) life is dangling on medication and that takes him and his wife Deanna (Melissa George) emotionally. He cannot make love to his wife because she reminds the misery and sorrow they are in. Life is not going well for Charles.

On a long hour train journey from suburbs to city, events happen to meet another married woman Lucinda (Jennifer Anniston) and they have the smart and tennis ball game talk which seem to happen only in films. They like it, we like it, so why bother. Anyways, for a depressed and down Charles, this is a welcome change. Lucinda is a career driven and loving mother and for Charles she is a stranger, a friend and some one who can be confided but also offers a cheery face and a possible opportunity for a lusty affair. And that is how much I can go with the plot. The rest has to be figured out by the viewers.

It is a smart film. A racy but a mellow reminder of the gloomy situation Charles is in and in Clive Owen it is on able shoulders. He yells and reacts like the average Joe, us. He is macho, athletic and magnetic but he is in the role of Charles. He is not a bare knuckle fighter. He is the yuppie with a huge problem in his family and an uninvited one to threaten it. Director Mikael Håfström knows the screenplay very well that he pops and answers the doubts and action we would think of putting ourselves in Charles. He accomplishes two things, engaging us closely in to the character and keeping us updated regularly in our guessing game.

We do not want to solve the puzzle because there is not one. It is too scary and useless to solve it when Charles is worried about his life as a rope is dipping him from high building slowly and in one mistake he would lose it all. The circumstances in “Derailed” are possible but how it unknots itself is more than coincidence and reality. There are well defined evil in the form of La Roche (Vincent Cassel) chaining on the fear and brute force on the family men bent for that one mistake. Mikael psychologically circles on the struggling character of Charles.

At the end of the film, it manages to evade the conscience because it has target of globally declared devil to be pounded upon. How much a viewer can bent down on those level of play is up to how much he/she wants to be played. The film is a more real portrayal of a regular man drawn upon into the world he does not even want to be whiskered upon. He lives in the suburbs for that reason to minimize his time of stay in a city of wandering crime in dark alleys. And when a person like that is dragged into that, he panics and does everything he is been asked to and obeys without a choice. When you are convinced with that, you desperately want him to come up and conquer his opposition because Mikael makes you sympathize with Charles, one among every one. An average chump tempted and does not deserve a wretched punishment like he goes through. Can he come clean?

Does “Derailed” is a better film than most thrillers? Yes. Surprisingly it managed to swindle its predictability and deceive me in the conscience it very narrowly walks upon. It in the final moment morphs into a regular thriller one would have accustomed to and at that point of time, we want it to be and hence it promotes from a realistic thriller drama into an entertaining action selling our soul honestly for the greater good. When you look back you may not like it or even feel a little guilty, but “Derailed” is not a film to be thought about deeply as the director itself does not want to.

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Hollywoodland" (2006) - Movie Review

I would have liked to either see a non-fictional biopic of George Reeves (Ben Affleck) or a fictional film on failed investigative operative Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) in “Hollywoodland” which is unable to get a grip on juggling both of that in same film. George Reeves put on the suit in 1950’s TV serial “Adventures of Superman” and the film in attempt of spicing it up with the controversial theories about his death misses the man being typecasted as this comic hero for rest of his life and his lonely fight towards an acting career he longed.

Affleck has taken the role in an unexpected candidness. This character falls for an older woman Toni Mannix (Diane Lane) for career prospects and regrets his decision later been put into something he got paid but never really want to be stuck in forever. Allen Coulter, the director should have stuck with the factual biopic of this charismatic and yet been disregarded failures in unusual forms. It is an area unexplored by many who would like to see their favourite characters and in turn take it to the real life star to be punched in as their toy in democratic arrogance through ratings. It is no wonder Hollywood is tough but a fame getting hated in period of time is a sad fact on this persona who had a passion for making films.

Louis Simo is the typical emotionally and financially broke down PI people would find in noir movies. Brody represents a guy with lean stature and unknown history with his past family of ex-wife Laurie (Molly Parker) and their kid Evan (Zach Mills). He barely has strong relationship with both of them and it is draining away in Laurie’s shift in companionship. Simo’s drive towards getting into the investigation of declared suicide of Reeves is money from George’s mother Helen (Lois Smith). The movie then takes the career and personal life been intertwined in George’s story in flash back. And the film made entirely of it would have made more sense than analyzing the death.

The film taken very well has good pitch on its story frame. It has a controversial scenario with a detective outline. It is multi-segmented material in the aim of covering both the suspense and the story behind the suited man. Initially it did work well combining the present and past but later does one realize that the present does not make sense on this PI character of Brody. His skill in job is a shady obtainment of information unrevealed and the edge of getting closer to the truth or the driving factor is always unknown.

In terms of performance I liked Ben Affleck for a quite dedicated and even a daring attempt to take up this role. While the world in 50s saw a courageous icon in Reeves as superman, he was a regular man losing his identity for the character. His personal life looming and burying his quest for real acting is just a spark and there is an intense scene when a kid points a loaded gun on Reeves dressed as superman wanting to see the bullet bounce. Such is the impact of this comic character on TV towards kids that the glory became a career obstruction. Affleck gives that in a downy and sympathetic role. Especially the sample film he makes for his final option to wrestle is touching and sad.

The tan over the film is edgy and the soggy look of it represents both these male characters in shambles. Simo crawling through his life barely while Reeves in his desperate struggles to come out of the shadows of superman. This connecting persona of depression and dissatisfaction in life for these men is “Hollywoodland” which make more sense on words than the film. In the film it is a half baked presentation on those men failing to satiate and do justice to both of them.

“Based on true events/story” tag does not always means the perfect depiction of facts and it can never be recreated but an effort towards the purity of the events is a film’s beauty and giving a prism of true emotions glares past the masked secondary story telling. “The Last King of Scotland” failed in my perspective despite an Oscar winning role of Forest Whitaker. “Hollywoodland” while keeps you occupied giving theories and no conclusion as expected could have been a better movie than it presents itself by capitalizing more on Affleck’s performance.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) - Movie Review

Before any one is surprised and are asking/thinking how the hell I missed “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, please hold on. I have watched all the three but as blurry images of a kid’s sleepy eyes due to continuous film watching on a festival day (Diwali to be clearer). Not all the three was watched in that manner though but the memory has dissipated in these years and to gear up for the “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” which releases on May 22 2008, my colleague loaned the trilogy. And surely adventure has the name of Jones.

This is adventure marathon making us jump up and down in a heartbeat and be wondered how did Spielberg had the instincts and eyes to put himself among the audience. Sure I did not get upbeat for every stunt sequences but it carries the charm and passing time of wondrous novelty gifted by the crew. I did not know about Steven Spielberg when I was watching for the first time as a kid. Officially I was brought to the knowledge through “Jurassic Park” and then greatly by “Saving Private Ryan”. And going back tracing the evidence in “Jurassic Park”, Spielberg has the quality of empathizing the thrill, fun and fear to his advantage in the viewers.

And Harrison Ford as the witty, silly but daring and immediacy in putting things together in excruciating circumstances has developed a James Bond in rugged clothes. His gadget the whip supplies the first aid kit for impossible survival in the nail biting chasing, shooting and entering the unknown situations. Along with it the chiming score of John Williams rhyme the moods and beat and the echoing cheers from the audience on to the screen for this unusual super hero. Yes, he is a super hero and he lives in a comic world blending the universal events and self proclaiming goodness in him. He serves as the professor neatly attired, trimmed and shaven in the civilized society but in his reign only when his hat, whip and the everlasting bag of unrevealed items attach to him for a bumpy ride.

The silliness in some of the stunt is now more visible due to the resourceful plethora of visual effects the Hollywood has flooded on to the screen. The logical parts of it are more comical than silly though. Yet the special effects are beyond the times and have the same antiquity the film has. The stunts have been extremely risky and the locations they have shot were strenuous on the film crew and actors. Amongst much straining and labouring circumstances, Spielberg managed with an actor ready to do stunts and also providing one of the funniest sword reply to an Arab swordsman. Wiki says that scene was suggested by Ford saying “Why don’t we shoot that sucker?” and that is frustration pouring a creative obligation to get over things fast which has marked the best of the film.

Watching now, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” may not be the classical art or the dramatic theatre class; the old films are admired and attested for. Rather it created a classic in a genre much not known and much not been acclaimed too. Apart from minting money, this film is a landmark in the film history for inspiring that generation to have a zeal for an unknown profession. It lighted a history by showing a fictional one and by that it got into many hearts to make films and may have even take up the career of history and archeology (at least I had it when I was a kid but my laziness is no match for the conveyor belt the society ran).

With a beauty and toughness the years and experiences have moulded her; Karren Allen’s Marion Ravenwood punches Jones in a sort of unexpected comic timing. Ford has that kid’s stupid grin when his character feels proud about conquering something only to be short lived. And making it a period film of pre-World War – II, it dictates how much the world has been passing on the hidden treasures of our history.

This review is more of an article for the character Spielberg created. The film experience of it did not blow me away but it is the Sunday Afternoon movie. Sunday Afternoon movie is something I have defined which suits the mood of it. It is intermediate period of the day getting over by the darkness but still has a little of sullen life left in it. A film in that mood is something which need to be cheery, funny and may start a lively evening. Indiana Jones films are all Sunday Afternoon movie but it became more than that, it did give adventure a name.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Speed Racer" (2008) - Movie Review

When will the final race happen? Is this going to be the final showdown? Will some body please tell me when will the film end? I was shouting in to my little brain which of course replied back laughing at the stupidity of talking to me. I have issues but “Speed Racer” has a lot more. Emile Hirsch after a magnetic performance in “Into the Wild” and The Wachowski Brothers after their enthralling “V for Vendetta” direct this film for kids which do not even appeal to them. This is two hours and fifteen minutes film and boy it has made me to hate the favourite colour of mine, red and other possible colours you could think of.

It is a famous anime adapted for screen and I am not an anime fan at all but if this is how it is going to be, then the feeling of escaping the disaster makes me proud. Not that it weighs less in creativity but it is an experience paining your eyes very soon. There was “Sin City” and “300” which materialized and depended on the green screen capabilities. Despite disliking “Sin City”, I liked its style of making and “300” perfected it. Here comes “Speed Racer” on those leagues and disobeys the laws of movie making; you got to have a substance in the dialogue and characters.

The city of this whole thing of racing freaks is never explained and no body has any other business apart from deepening into the freaky and dangerous gaming. In this unexplained city of pulpy visions of lights lives Racer family. Pops (John Goodman) a hardcore racing car motors mechanic has his DNA coded for the sport of racing. He has three kids with wide age difference between each other. One of course is Speed (Emile Hirsch) and when he was a kid (Nicholas Elia), he looked up to his elder brother Rex (Scott Porter) since he is a race freak too. Some unexplained racing politics makes him to depart against his father and why am I even trying to explain this?

Races happen and the fake CGI drives you mad. The essence of race films is the metal of sweat pouring its strength through the burnt tires over the rough road. And we see a glossy lipstick been shined upon the Mach 5 and other cars in “Speed Racer” it sweeps of the energy of mechanical touch. Hence the skill of driving vanishes and it becomes a kid playing with different buttons. What makes Speed or Rex who they are? Where is the skill?

Speaking of plot, it wore me down in its failed exercise of endurance. The film rated PG (Parental Guidance) and if the main stream audiences are kids, this does not work on those levels either. And for the love of the humanity, some one should stop two characters in this film to seriously eliminate their role. That will be the machinations infested industrial owner of the Royalton Motors, Royalton played by Roger Alam and the irritating kid brother of Speed, Spritle (Paulie Litt). Save the chimpanzee Chim Chim, the pet of that kid in the process (Wiki says two chimpanzees played out the role namely Kenzie and Willy). Oh, I forgot to mention the various announcers/commentators to shut up too.

There is adrenaline rush due to our frustration but not because of the race sequences. What is this place of wonderland and how does the daily life go on? We do not need to be lectured on it but minutely placed hints of existence in such a land would have had some form of understanding of these fanatic racers. This is neither thrilling nor creatively entertaining. This is a spectacle of CGI effort gone waste on a poor characterization and the opportune fiascos to care for any one in the film at all.

"Redbelt" (2008) - Movie Review

At the finish of David Mamet’s “Redbelt”, there is strong semblance with the style, concept and visual with Kurosawa’s and I was duly confirmed in Wiki. Mamet has his stronghold on words bumping up from his members and crew in his film. “Redbelt” is a physical meditation of action than word battling of philosophical disposition. Chiwetel Ejiofor presents Mike Terry in a serenity and mind living the principles of the martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is a performance emitting capability of reflecting the director’s attitude and film’s composition.

As with Mamet’s film this has a strange collection and layers to it than it seems. It happens linearly and the action of one character bodes upon into a resultant of series of small events. Mike Terry is a man thriving on purity through his practice of his martial art. He runs an academy with his fashion designing wife Sondra (Alice Braga). Money is on low and Terry preaches his art as easy and calm one can imagine. The fight floor in his school begins with a traditional idea of plausible real life scenario.

Two white marbles along with a black is placed on a bowl and the fighters pick randomly one marble each. If it is a black one, the fighter has to be physically challenged based on another chart to make them fight with one hand or hands tied or legs tied etc. Like situations wherein combat involves injured person defending him, this replicates and in fact identifies the unknown territories of rhythm, action and impact. Mike operates among the fighters on constantly pesters them with the idea of suggesting the escape, attack and release. But he is the teacher and he knows what he is doing. As much as the fighters are in control or trying to be in control on one another, Mike has the ultimate control. He orchestrates and dances along with them. This is how Mamet introduces into the world of one man’s rigorous code of warrior.

This is an unusual film and it is not a film about fight or one’s involvement in it, rather it works both as a drama and inspirational. How principled a person can be and how much he can shred off the regular life of an ordinary and how far does it goes? Is there a breaking point in a lone warrior teaching the art of practicing it unemotionally and objectively? It is imbibed as instincts but can we master it? And the film does not answer but the feeling running on Mike is an interesting state of mind. It is not glittering through scenes but sprouts up and is scattered across in a supporting character or a situation or the body language.

The problems with principled personas are their idealistic nature for everything to fall in place. It is a state of denial on seeing things way more clearly. Everything can be tackled and there is always a passage to escape in tighten grip on one’s throat is Mike’s belief. It is and it is not. World works on its own clock and it runs the errands through diverse minds of people. The drop of event with an accidental tense shooting involving Mike’s primary student and a cop Joe (Max Martini)’s gun by a lost and traumatized lawyer (Emily Mortimer) without any loss of life ripples apart into sequential events of distress. It does not ensemble together but journeys its way into the story on a fight match and the financial constraints.

“Redbelt” has a regular final fight but it is not a formulaic fight one would expect out of a film involving martial arts. It has everything a drama could have and it has a terrific two minute performance by Gini Collins as Joe’s wife. I have never seen or known her performance in any other film but she cracks the screen on that emotional vortex of showing angry grief of loss and pain towards Ejiofor’s character and blows him internally into zillion pieces of guilt and remorse.

Mamet’s films have the exact chiseled piece of scenes. It is a film edited to perfection with a screenplay penned picture perfect. It fits as a film and plays as a reality. The mood is uneven and slow but the rhythm it practices has an effect to lay it on us to have visual exercise of fine presentation. It is composed of elemental formulaic plots given in an unformulated and unconventional style of realism. “Redbelt” as it moves acts on its character for a traditional film of fight match is actually a story of one man’s principle and his code of enduring it in unknown set tough times.

Friday, May 09, 2008

"Stray Dog" (Language - Japanese) (1949) - Movie Classics

“Stray Dog” is a film noir with profound details of crime, psychology, guilt, duty and philosophy. It thrives on patience, heat and tiredness of one police officer Murakami (Toshirô Mifune), a man on edge losing his gun on a bus ride. It is loaded with seven bullets and by the end of the film all of those will be fired, most of them claiming innocent lives. Murakami is embarrassed and ready to be punished only to be directed by good superiors in solving the case than to accept defeat.

The heat fumes and sweat is dripping out and every one is drenched in irritation and gloominess. Murakami’s hunt from a petty pick pocket migrates in to a serial killing spree. He is relentless in going out on a stretch to find his gun and obviously the man who possesses it. The film which starts as a game of patience at the last part pulls us into one of the tensest, suspenseful and systematically choreographed sequence in film history.

This starts off as a regular investigative work which is supposed to be both adventurous and an easy digestive material for crime and punishment. But Kurosawa who is always profound even in his light weighed material packs up something holding true even for current times. It talks about gun culture and the responsibility it bores on the owner and how it can root up into something antagonistic about it. It is a strong lesson on a weapon behaving based on its handler.

There is a veteran cop Sato (Takashi Shimura), twenty five years in the service and he has his wisdom to share with the rookie Murakami. He works laboriously but taking it as easy it can be. He is cool as a cucumber in scorching heat. While both are from different times, Murakami still shows patience with a sign of irritation. His handling of it is different from Sato. Murakami is restless and cannot place himself in one place. In a baseball game they need to arrest an individual who holds the key piece to reach the killer a bit more. Murakami is continuously on watch over the guy but Sato is enjoying the game. But when the time comes, it is Sato’s perfect plan which isolates the armed men from a crowd of civilians.

When Murakami meets Sato, Sato appears to be the cool headed and arrogant cop at sight. Strangely Murakami does not judge rather follows the orders and has an ear for this experienced investigator. Sato is the person every one would love to work under. It does not necessarily be in the field of cop but any field of work; it is rare to find a mentor, friend and an acquired skilled worker as Sato. Sato knows how to treat a rookie. He treats him with respect and sheds the timely advice at timely manner. He rewards them by taking a beer at his house in leisure.

It is a cop movie and the perspective of a criminal. It shows the development of a criminal and how his/her mind works and his/her motivation to keep on continuing. The rage which happened in both the killer and Murakami has stemmed into opposite direction. One has accepted the unfairness of the world and tries to make a difference even if it is miniscule in tackling the evil. Another one amplifies the rage as a drug and feeds it through the desire for his lover, the show girl Harumi (Keiko Awaji).

It is silence and score playing it notes on the summer heat which has dried throats and sweats on our faces angling into the deepest moments of suspense and philosophy. Patience gets a definition on how to depict over in films. There is a long tailing of Murakami of his first clue, and then he throws himself on to the streets for days lying, eating and sleeping on it followed later by the baseball match; all those makes us impatient but the characters stay alert. We want them to give up for the scene to progress.

There are poetic shots of sweaty show girls lying in the humid basement of a stage, there is a wound dripping blood to water the flower and there is sun shining directly over Murakami and Sato. Sato between his questioning and observation wets his handkerchief with his sweat while Murakami is not even peaceful in wiping it off legibly. This film building up as a crime noir shifts the gear to enormous speed to keep us on our toes as they move closer to the killer.

Mifune young, fast and humble livens up those traits on Murakami. Takashi on the other hand forms a base for his anchor role in “Seven Samurai” later with Kurosawa. The dialogues are not artificial but well articulated. It is not a decoration but a righteous approach on to the characters and situations they are in. It through the first half tests us with the impatience it puts on the detectives and as it nears the end knocks us off with a look on the system of crime and philosophy.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

"Water" (Language - Hindi) (2005) - Movie Review

“Water” went through the turmoil of dealing with the conservative hinduists who protested even before the shooting was about to begin due to Deepa Mehta’s earlier film “Fire” which deals with lesbianism. After much struggle and a new cast and location in Sri Lanka, the film progressed and ultimately landed for the Academy Award nomination for foreign film from the land of Canada than from the country which rejected this effort of liberation. This is a moving story about widows in the 1938 pre-independence India and it will not be a surprise if the traditions and beliefs are still followed in main state and corners of the country (which is also authenticated by the information given at the end of the film).

A naïve girl Chuyia (Sarala Kariyawasam) not more than the age of seven is said that her husband is dead and she is a widow now. She asks “For how long”. Her head is shaved and with the white sari covering her, she is damned in to the house or ashram of widows. The concept of ill treating the widow is nothing new for me as there was countless number of films using it as an exploitative material than a real sense of its atrocity in Indian films. Deepa Mehta’s depiction is still, serene and that shocks us. The end cruelties are neither dramatized nor dismissed. And that holds us in deep pain and frustration.

Chuyia in the process being acclimatized to her new home meets up with two souls in their own hell. One is Kalyani (Lisa Ray), a trade in set by the head of the house Madhu (Manorama) to the rich clients shamelessly sleeps in the name of religion and manhood. Her head is not shaven as she needs to be attractive. The old holy book takes back seat on that occasion and many such. Convenience is the scale for practicing religious and social laws of any kind. As the little bird in a dense cage of obsolete desires, Chuyia hangs out a lot with Kalyani. Chuyia’s next acquaintance is Shakuntala (Seema Biswas) and she has accepted her reality in this place and puts her trust on faith. A blind faith on the very same religion and its principles which has put her into this state of misery. But a person in her position is in serious beckoning to clutch on something when conscience of oneself does not weigh in that society.

Mehta uses the girl as the unaffected face of truth and innocence. Either challenging the authority or getting perplexed by the unfairness posed by the male dominated society, she is the modern enlightened eyes of audience in the film. Kalyani is the rebel listening to her inner voice. She meets Narayan (John Abraham), a law graduate and an ardent follower of Gandhi. The romance which develops in between them happens with eyes and blushes which I have seen in many other films from India. But here we understand their attractions. Talking is prohibited with the widows as they are to be devoid of any pleasure whatsoever, even sharing of thoughts. With those constraints, a humble look of youth and kindness is enough for both the parties to be intertwined in love.

Narayan is the only man who in this religious chaos is liberal and daring too. He talks literature to Kalyani who does not know how to read. He is the hope in this film. And in the cinematography of Giles Nuttgens, the Sri Lankan Varanasi glitters, sulks and soothes through rivers, greeneries, moon and the dark rooms of the widow house. There is a tint of sadness in each of the beauty the nature poses as these doves with their wings tied spend their eternity in boredom, humiliation and sadness.

The fact that there are still places in India which adheres to this faith is scary and deeply disturbing. And it is reflected on not allowing the filming to proceed. It is clear that “Water” is a film is more emotionally attached and struggling for Mehta. But the emotions do not over take the film’s presentation in anyways at all. The reactions of each character and the behaviour of it is never been animated as the Bollywood and other films from India would have for the traditional movie making.

“Water” is the third film in the “Fire”, “Earth” and I have not yet seen latter. I have forgotten seeing “Fire” but it was a daring attempt. With “Water” Mehta has clearly cut the sentimentality of the deeply drenched society of religious rituals and insensitive codes of disgracing humans mainly women. This film is not alone about the sufferings of women but a break through into the path of truth and conscience advocated by the sequences of Gandhi and conversation of Shakuntala with the priest (Khulbushan Kharbananda). This is a socially conscious film deals with stillness of sheer brutality to the innocence which is both symbolically and cinematically given.