Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Snow Angels" (2008) - Movie Review

In a couple of street away running parallel to the house you live and a ditch flowing in common would live some one. They would have been the little sister or the big brother from the neighbourhood whom you looked upon or may be would have had a crush too as Arthur (Michael Angarano) had over Annie (Kate Beckinsale). Then time melts away and they grow up and you grow up along with them and regardless of their current state of affairs, they will not be the same and mostly would be a let down because the expectation at that age is stamped on our minds and it never is achieved. It is a tendency of staying things and being used to the things as we have seen in those trapped moments of remembrance of personality, things and emotions. We would have even heard the sad story of their demise or their character assassination by our mothers but the face remains the same and the pity that they have withered in the test of life haunts us in glimpses of shadowy evening. “Snow Angels” are about those people.

David Gordon Green directs this tale of a small town having the rolling dice of marriages in shambles and high school lovers in arms. It is a melancholy but does it make to care for its characters? Annie tries to put her past behind but caught up by it with the regular interruption of Glenn (Sam Rockwell). They have a little girl Tara (Gracie Hudson) and she is a little girl caught in those mix of visiting father and single mom. Glenn is an emotional extremist and after his first suicide attempt has found god. His zealot scares Annie and he aspires to be a good man so that he can get back with Annie and have his family back. At this is another couple breaking off and that would be Arthur’s dad Don (Griffin Dunne) leaving his wife Louise (Jeanetta Arnette). And Arthur hangs out with his new school mate Lila (Olivia Thirlby).

It is the town with dreaded cold and people wants to be inside with trouble asking them to come outside. It is a film of mood than characters. And that distances us in emotion and the action of the people in it. Annie sleeps with her best friend Barb’s (Amy Sedaris) husband Nate (Nicky Katt). The cold in the weather gets to our heart and we are pretty much numb through out the film. We stay still on the tragic happenings and the clockwork of the small town on these people. Watching the people in “Snow Angels” is staying lazy on a Sunday. They know they are not being productive and they got to do something but are too lazy to do it or their half hearted attempt ends in further misery. So is Glenn whose constant abundance of zealous love threatens Annie. He is the man truly lost and the last thing would be to show that to his separated wife. He needs hard evidence of his goodness which becomes his façade through his faith.

Films like “Snow Angels” put reviewers in tight spot. It has collected its accolade among critics and I can say to have seen a good film. It is a good film but not good enough. It is may be to the nature of the town and the people it carries around. There is a lack of real love among the saddest people. There is tint of hope in love on the nice people who have their time of collecting their droplets of making memories. The people in trouble are Annie and Glenn who we see together in a shred of happiness when Glenn asks Annie out. It can be seen why they were together and also why they are apart now. I can take a wild judgment of them being the high school sweet hearts getting married and now in their thirtish life change does not able to swallow the reality of it.

I hate to give a good review for a moderate film. And I hate to steal the goodness of a moderate film to discourage people from seeing it. I hate to be in this situation of indifference. Sometimes films like people are kind hearted and desperately tries to be helpful only to be all up our faces. “Snow Angels” is not up our faces but a little far away from our vision.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Cool Hand Luke" (1967) - Movie Review

“Cool Hand Luke” is a statement on the social system and the frustration developing for free spirits. Here it is Lucas (Paul Newman) a man with no care in the world and light as a feather takes life as it comes. We see him drunk taking off the parking meters from its stand and later when the Captain (Strother Martin) asks him why he did that, he tells “Small town, not much to do in the evenin’”. A man in his own world and not beating himself to find answers because he has no questions, no worries and literally suits the line from U2’s song “Stuck in a moment” which is “There is nothing you can throw at me that I haven’t really heard.”

The famous line of “What we have is a failure to communicate” comes from the most wrongful man to talk about that, the Captain. When the prison is shown, it is not even the psychopathic jails I have seen in the films. It has a routine and the guards who make sure the work is done and the order is kept. Yet Luke sees that system which he had lived in the outer society of freedom per se has been trimmed off to fit. Not much does he see the variance in it but it is more to do about him than the sociology of his surrounding. He does not expect any one to understand or does he expects friendship. He just is Luke, simply put.

He throws swings on the air tired and broken in a fight match with his fellow prisoner Drag (George Kennedy) who later would admire and idolize Luke along with all the other inmates. He gives the tiny bit of last thing in him to whatever is in front of him. He is an epitome of endurance. He is diligent in his work and the most annoying thing about him for the Captain and guards would be his smile. He slips of that carefree smile which hurts and ridicules them. What does this man possess that makes him accept this prison which no one wants to be in? But Luke has a plan of his own and why he escapes would be the same thing of why he unscrewed the parking meters. It is a part of his instincts and that is all there to it.

The film is a test of endurance, tolerance and hopes. Adding to the numerous references to the Christian symbolisms, it can be looked upon both as theistic and atheistic arguments. Luke does not believe in god which becomes one of the agenda for his guards to teach a lesson to. He does not advocate his philosophy to others rather he takes one minute at a time and relishes it. He is the man who has everything in heart’s content and nothing when shook hard enough for evidence of society and its existence of norm.

But he would break off to an insurmountable pain of physical labour and humiliation in the later part of the movie. His inmates would disown him when their super hero dissolves into dirt and submits to the system. The behavioral pattern of them is another representation of the living world looking up and creating an expectation out of the heroes they barely know. It explains the quest for belief in their god personality to prove that he/she can do it and it is real. It makes them feel real and it feeds them the hope to look for a better tomorrow.

“Cool Hand Luke” in its first run appeals the social commentary it has but I did not fall in love with Luke. I guess I saw him what he would have wished to see from others. Let him be. Let him be for what he is. Nothing to be ashamed and nothing to be proud of. Nothing to expect and nothing to hope. Nothing at all and as he says “Sometimes nothing can be a pretty cool hand” from where he gets his nick. How positively does Luke make it sound of all these statements of dropping off everything including the hope?

You got to have the smile of Paul Newman to pass Luke. He dictates Luke as any one would wish for to have that fact of life. I have seen young Newman only in this film while a mid thirty fellow in “The Verdict”. In that he was an alcoholic given up on everything and gathers up for a shot on himself and the long dusted justice he had been fighting for. Here he is the film and he makes it his.

As Randale McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, Luke becomes that angelic person to provide the hope and crush it too. Director Stuart Rosenberg takes the costly aerial shots when the magnanimous land holding these people needs to be shown for the vastness it has and which it has been denied for these people. In times of late sixties to give a classic indie styled picture would have been a taboo. Let us not get fooled by the brilliant photography to gauge its estimate because the filming perimeter is limited as it concentrates on the small camp. Majority of the film runs in the closed sets of prison dorm.

“Cool Hand Luke” might not touch for some and might move immensely for others. For me, I fell in the former surprisingly but only because of the detachment Luke itself creates around himself. We are put as an inmate in grabbing his attention and become a buddy of him as Drag desperately becomes and in fact campaigns for his dare devil stunts. I remember couple of friends like Luke who were not popular but simply there for a lightness very much needed in a system. Those people move along and as the system swallows them, they become one of us and soon they are devoid of that charm. The thing is they do not care about it either because deep inside they are relishing their nothingness in manner we can only hope to see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Ammuvagiya Naan..."(Language - Tamil) (2007) - Movie Review

I questioned on the remaining viewing of “Ammuvagiya Naan” after a clichéd introductory ten minutes. A call from a friend and a small word that it is not great but “different” extended the survival of the film. The “different” is a prostitute having an outlook towards her life in a perspective some one would have never thought of and rest is Vikraman directorial disasters of lugubrious surplus supply of intolerable emotions.

If a film begins in a court room, then it would pave way for a flash back. Here it is Gowri Shankar (Parthiban) and Ammu (Bharathi) confessing for the same murder. For a quick understanding of the situation on what has brought these two here for both the judge and us, we need the film which emerges from the book written by Gowri Shankar taking the same name of the film. From it we learn that Ammu as a new born is sold for money to a prostitute where she grows up seeing men come for their sexual satiation. In tamil cinema, a girl hitting puberty pretty much makes her eligible for cinematic sexual activity. After that with a horrendous song, Ammu is bid out for starting her life as prostitute. The bidding winner is one creepy-old-devious-perverted man Nathan (Mahadevan) who not surprisingly goes for a rape and gets beaten and embarrassed by the women out there. If some one like Mahadevan plays the role, it is destiny that he will be coming in the end to finish off the story.

Gowri Shankar a controversial writer goes willingly by his friend Mohan’s (Thennavan) regular to the brothel and he backs off after seeing a thaali (sacred wedding neckwear) in one of the women out there but he is attracted by young Ammu and he wants to talk. Thankfully the saving mentality of the average person does not become a dialogue and he continues going and pays for sex. He of course writes a story of her and begins to like her. How and what makes him love her is something never explained and a discordant song does not help either. He proposes to marry Ammu and the reply she gives is the only convincing and truthful dialogue, scene, acting and everything which made it critically acclaimed I believe. The envelope of taking the life of a prostitute and the pity that goes with it have been pushed beyond its limit and also been made terribly repetitive and in a sense made numb to the whole exercise. It is an easy emotional vantage point which would dip the viewers into the sadness with little effort and zero reasons. Hence when Ammu openly advocates her pleasure in being a prostitute and does not want to be tied to some one like Gowri, it is fresh and obviously original. Those lines are short lived fantasy of a good film.

Still director Padmamagan stretches that fantasy for another half hour. Ammu’s adopted mother convinces us in convincing Ammu to marry Gowri which is to get a normal life. In that whole scenario, with some subtle male chauvinism by the character of Gowri, I doubted that would be the bone of contention. Instead he is open-minded and gladly provides and surprises Ammu in unfamiliar ways. He lets her sleep alone as a gift for their first night after marriage and does not get shocked when she wanders without a saree inside the house. And then soon examples of Gowri’s great action of marrying her and Ammu beginning to dress traditionally and starts to visit temple are some of the very many unknown symbols of her adherence to the society norm irks. While being a home maker is a good thing depending on personal perspective, for some one who has only seen the four walls of quenching the sexual appetite of strangers, a life of a home maker would understandably be a great thing. But the transformation is instantaneous. Rather it defies the character of outspoken and outlawed Ammu.

And please let me not start about the Award Gowri craves upon. Every time when Gowri talks about it, right from the terrible TV interview till the final moments of Vikraman styled stage acceptance, it cannot be more awkward than the killing of a good core dialogue of a life unseen. It has may be three to four good moments of originality and rest is house of cards and a known one.

In the end despite her liking and loving of being the wife of Gowri, Ammu seems to be taken from a cage into a different one. The first at least had a greater range for her freedom while in the second she is made into this typecast traditional woman. The honesty and unflinching look at the reality of Ammu as a prostitute disappears and becomes a phony depiction of a character that we no longer recognize.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Pride and Glory" (2008) - Movie Review

“Pride and Glory” has excess of characters and less of screen time of main cast which makes it what could have been a good cop drama and thriller. It tries to carry the righteousness and the hesitation to execute it of what “Gone, Baby, Gone” and “Mystic River” had but does not capitalize it. It garners with star cast of Edward Norton, Colin Farrell and Noah Emmerich along with a splendid supporting role by Jon Voight. It stayed on the radar of good movie until the bar fight scene that took it off immediately from the turf.

Tierney’s are a family of cops. Francis Sr. (Jon Voight) with his sons Francis Jr. (Noah Emmerich), Ray (Edward Norton) and son in law Jimmy (Colin Farrell) have given themselves to the department all through the years. A bad shoot out takes the lives of four cops under the wings of Francis Jr. who were fellow men of Jimmy. Ray is asked to come in for the investigation after a two year hiatus from the field assignments by request of daddy and he finds something more as expected on his brother in law Jimmy. This should have been the plot alone for satiating their appetite for the whole film. Instead the focus shifts from one to another randomly enough to see the side stories, sub plots and characters we come not to care about.

There is a Christmas lunch sequence when Voight in his Francis Sr. is little bit drunk and prides on his family. That tells what pulled every one into this film. It gave the same amazed and wondered effect over me by the performance of Voight as he did in “Runaway Train”. That is the actor and the character to be there in flesh and blood to this story giving himself everything he has to it. At the same time it is marvelous to see how the others let in that performance sink in to the screen. There is the plot and there is the drama and there is the film. The moment gets lost and it is a shame to lose it.

Slated actually to be released early 2008 I believe for reasons of market strategy by New Line this late. To be fair to the review, I have been expecting this film for a while and when it got pushed back I was little disappointed. And by the time I went in to the theatre I have come to loosen those expectations and see a clean slated film. I begin to like it when started and in fact the way the camera is always kept as looking over one’s shoulder keeps us attentive on the minimal face time we are allowed upon. Norton as usual takes in the character as seriously as Voight does and so is every one. But that is the sadness of it when the actors are bamboozled by the screenplay. I can see how individually every scene would have been greatly directed by Gavin O’Connor but when putting it together by a screenplay, it got to know the heart of it. It is a family of breathing cops in line of the right thing to do. It had been done but there will be novel way to do it again and again with freshness and originality.

The side stories felt unnecessary and the actors doing it obviously take the emotional level quite serious which makes us become confused. Does the director want us to sympathize with these cops who get hooked to this dealing of criminals for money? The character of Jimmy we see when separated from the family circumstances portrays a psychopath who can stoop to horrendous level for getting him protected. When he gives himself up in the end, is that his atonement? There is no doubt that in this routine cop film there lies a good film but it does not gets it foot on right place to stand tall.

One of the greatest cop drama ever made would be “Serpico”. The morality grays out when the risk each cop puts up in front of him/her to guard the city. That morality is also used when one bad cop gets his hand dirty with the criminals to wipe it off at the cost of collateral damages. Amongst these deadly crimes and unfathomable acts of inhumanity, the protector of the law is the one who is put under magnifying glass of each steps as her/his side stepping would be fatal to the entire system. “Serpico” and many other cop films did that and the family intertwining has been dealt too in this ordeal. “Pride and Glory” should have had more focus on those back stories concentrating what those classic films did than on the accomplices of Jimmy.

"The Secret Life of Bees" (2008) - Movie Review

It is a breath of fresh air to see Dakota Fanning as a teenage girl rather than an over matured emotionally stale young girl which she was slowly getting type casted into. But the film is not such. Like driving in a country road, having some neatly put smoothening spots to believe the characteristics to continue only to be merged back again into the bumps and pot holes. It has the themes of racism at the dawn of the Civil Rights Act in the 60s, the beauty of hot summer in the country, blossoming love for a young teenage girl towards an African American boy and the quest for finding the past of her mother are to be seen as a display of goody images of emotions if not deep and real.

As a four year old girl Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) accidentally pulls the trigger to cause her mother’s death when she is to pack her things up and quarrelling with Lily’s father T. Ray (Paul Bettany). Ray apart from showing no affection punishes Lily now fourteen unreasonably. The blurred images of her mother have put thoughts and doubts over the affection she never got. Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) an African American takes care of Lily and who is also proud to go and register for voting. In a spite caused by the racist town men, Rosaleen is wrongfully arrested and having not to put up with her father’s lies about her mother, Lily gathers Rosaleen to flee to the town pointed by the left behinds of her mother. There they find residence in a house of three sisters August (Queen Latifah), June (Alicia Keys) and May (Sophie Okonedo) who are the owners of a “Black Madonna Honey”.

For reasons not said in the beginning, August trusts the obviously flawed story of Lily to admit both of them to stay and help in their house; it becomes an exhibition of harmony. It is all flowery and fogs and bright sunshine lighting up the faces of these young women to celebrate this sudden entry of these two people. I firmly believe in those moments of happiness and in fact those are the moment which makes a life of togetherness a life to work hard for. But what is displayed in the film is a boasting of it slightly over the top. It is more than a fairy tale in a film trying to project a reality of the life. In simple words it was not genuine.

But “The Secret Life of Bees” has casts which take it out from the slumps and makes it to sail through. Fanning would be one who happen to have taken the right transition suiting her age and bring a controlled maturity much needed for the Lily. In films I have seen after “I am Sam”, she in her many brilliant roles as child star laughed differently. There was a hint of falsified performance which has completely disappeared in this film. It would only be a matter of time before there will be challenging roles done by her with ease and perfection.

It is painful to see the theatres been guarded and attacked the mingling of white and black people. While it is not painful to see the emotionally fragile May who has developed a wailing wall for herself to go and vent out her sorrow to the fullest in chits and tears. The tragedy should not be disgraced but her character of absorbing the sorrow of every individual in pain to cry her hearts out did not appeal me.

I can see the togetherness achieved through the solace developed through the Black Madonna. I can also see the pride of being the community hard fought and emerged out of the segregation and the tortures of the society. But I could not understand is the emotional extremities of the film. One moment every body is bathing in the wells of joy and in the next moment it is the sorrow sister mourning on.

Queen Latifah’s August showed different faces with and without Fanning around. The scenes with her and Fanning are the best in the film. She became this person of August being that guardian angel and explaining the life and love as it would sink in for a teenage girl looking out for both of those. I would have also liked to have seen Bettany’s Ray develop into something more. I guess I wanted a little more of reality and a little less of the hallmark moments to get the actual gist of the film.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Black and White" (Language - Hindi) (2008) - Movie Review

The loud message of unity in the country of India is another free pass taken on poor film making. Subhash Ghai gives a film rosy and overly dramatic and utterly unconvincing story of a terrorist infiltrating a locality in New Delhi to get into the August 15th Red Fort celebration of Independence Day to of course blow it up. The message, it is always about the message and the great intention of the director which would woo the audience. I would admire the intention but not the film making of “Black and White”.

From Afghanistan with name and profile change starts Numair Qazi (Anurag Sinha), a zealot and idiotically religious fanatic who keeps a stern face and is the hope of the terrorist organization to do their mission. He does not hesitate to shoot any member of his team for not being truly religious. He has issues and his seem to be more of misanthropic than an obsession over religion. And then there is Professor Rajan Mathur (Anil Kapoor) and his overly vocal wife Roma Mathur (Shefali Chhaya), the flag bearers of relentless harmony in the area of Chandini Chouk. Numair will get into the good books of the family which would be the 130th unconvincing moments in a film of countless plot holes and it has gone only half the way.

The film begins at the date of August 1st and has fourteen days for Numair to orchestrate the cruel act. The film in the scenes and running time made me feel like three months. Apart from the dragging screenplay, the time line of events definitely goes unsynchronized to extend beyond those fourteen days. In those fourteen days, a young woman Shagufta (Aditi Sharma) would fall in love with this guy for no other reason than he is tall, handsome and kind of unattainable, Rajan and Roma would pull strings to get Numair a pass and yes, in between that the intelligence department will get the right information at the nick of time. I forgot to mention many concerts, album releases, and arrest of the spearhead Naeem Sheikh (Arun Bakshi). A small advice to the cinema intelligence officers, if some criminal says to wait for five minutes for his/her prayer, it is suggested to send a guard with her/him.

Among these stupidities lie some performances unused and necessary characters wasted. There is no forum for discussion and all we get is a lecture from the professor. He is the cheerful and naïve guy who believes the goodness in every one. I accept that personality but how far the film makes him alive in such a serious issue which depends on the culpability of the screenplay. Rajan Mathur is some one is projected as god like character who seem to exist in this plane wherein he crosses the line of believability when he acts so unaware of this dubious personality he hardly knows for less than fifteen days (as the movie claims). Even despite the film’s great effort to time warp it, the connection never makes sense. Also why does a character after finishing a dialogue and turns away to go always has something to say as though the director acted it out to be that way? Despicable!

As one character says, money is the key and nothing else matters. Human survival becomes the end and that is the true dialogue in an unnecessarily dramatic and goofy film marching with the agenda of sugary unity. It just does not add up and it never worked at all. The real problem never gets addressed. The real motivation for this young man is more than religion and more than the childhood experience. The purpose in the film is his realization of learning the good people in a country he has brought up to hate. He sees the faces behind those flamed skins and that makes him human. That is the screenplay’s intentions which are indeed good but the face of Anurag Sinha needs less beard and more acting to do that.

Subhash Ghai has produced and directed this film gathering many praises from critics for the opting of simplicity over his grand gala revelries of emotions. Ghai definitely goes out of his path in trying to make some thing unusual for him but with an approved confidence on the concept than on the screenplay. I found no difference between our tamizh hero “Captain” Vijaykanth slapping a terrorist and advising him on the equality and Rajan Mathur explaining his reasons to Shagufta in the end. Both are unbelievable, cheesy and give a sugar pill with no effect whatsoever.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Johnny Gaddar" (Language - Hindi) (2007) - Movie Review

“Ek Haseena Thi” by Sriram Raghavan was the kind of debut one would hope to get and more importantly the freedom of placing the passion for the genre of crime noir in to action. Ram Gopal Varma provided that and “Johnny Gaddar” would have been an erotic dream for the director to shoot. It is the film noir which in its dark tones, sharp screenplay and characters being their characters enable it rightly and with a loyalty very rarely found.

It follows five characters and couple of them around them. Some are single, couple of them is married and there runs an affair and it is all happening. But the affair is a motivation for the character than a sleazy addition for the noir. The protagonist of this film is Vikram (debutant Neil Nitin Mukesh), young handsome aspirant operating along with four other partners. The matured aged man and the unofficial head of the clan is Seshadri (Dharmendra), whom every one respects gets a call from a police officer Kalyan (Goving Namdeo) providing an opportunity of smuggling goods acquired during his raid. Seshadri gathers the others along with Vikram who are Shiva (Daya Shetty) for the muscle and two rivalry money men Shardul (Zakir Hussein) and Prakash (Vinay Pathak). Seshadri plans the transaction with share from each and Shiva carrying the money to Bangalore for the exchange. One decides to take it out all and of course everything begins to happen unexpectedly to be greatly fortunate for this Johnny G(addar).

Hindi films are not dry for sleek and style. In fact in recent times it is only about sleek and style. Young actors with cool shades singing towards the camera with skinny model actresses have become a fodder for cheap gimmicky music videos. And this film uses for once the sleekness for its genre. It smears the colours merging with the living room of a cozy apartment or a back room of flashy club.

The black sheep is no suspense. The traitor is the likeable and unknown face Vikram played by Neil Nitin Mukesh. The casting does most of the character convincing for us. Choosing veteran actor Dharmendra to be the old wise man of likeable nature by all is one proof of its smartness and having a young new face for a character that we believe in every form of his innocence and betrayal is another. Vikram is the happy go lucky kid when it comes to romancing with his partner’s wife Minni (Rimi) while a son of opportunist when there is chance for quick money. But mainly are his adapting and improvising skills when the fortune and chances pave way for him and eliminates one after another hurdle smoothly, swiftly without any suspicion. While the coincidence masquerades his mistakes, he twists and turns it for his next plan of action.

“Johnny Gaddar” is a work of a writer who has enjoyed that genre of noir with a sort of drooling passion. Sriram Raghavan not alone writes a script with happenings a sort of characters anticipation and preconceived notions into this game of assumption and conspicuous catches of the protagonist’s mistakes but edits it to give the vicious circle of chances and identities. It has suspense and we laugh at the fate working the equations out with many cancellations to achieve the result. Yet it is not a mathematical exercise of step by step derivation but a beautiful presentation of a screenplay with a precision and delivery as David Mamet.

We have been mesmerized by the crime solving detective stories from the old black and white films (Sriram Raghavan actually resisted the temptation to make the whole film in black and white). It has the setup and situation with one central character of balanced stature stands in the middle to find out the culprit and we get a thriller noir out of it. The darkness of the crime as such has rarely been made with results of its own derivative of justice. I can only remember such a daring attempt in tamil called “Sollaathe Yaarum Kettal” with Prathap Bothan as a bank teller who steals money from his bank and that eats his thoughts day in and day out. Similarly the old classic “Saathu Mirandaal” is another noir with much thrilling and some times scary film. Both those films are out of the ordinary effort in times people rarely acknowledging those but the theme of noir has never been captured with richness and ripeness as “Johnny Gaddar” does.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"L. A. Confidential" (1997) - Movie Review

“L. A. Confidential” is considered a classic when I watched it first in pieces during graduate school. I wondered what is special about this when it only involved a regular murder mystery with that unexpected villain. To see Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), Bud White (Russell Crowe) and Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) battle with their take on being a cop and losing themselves to its nature of swimming with criminals unseen in gutters and shambled buildings, it places the film a step aside from the thriller of the crime noir.

The film narrates as a noir but the visuals suggest otherwise. Set in the 50s, it has the Hollywood glamour for nostalgic antique poster but with the decadence unperceivable compared to the current trend of celebrity sugar factory. It has beautiful ladies demising their hopes for becoming the glamour lady into prostitution as the resort for survival. One such is Veronica Lake look-a-like Lynn Braken (Kim Bassinger). She is attracted to the tough guy Bud White coming in for investigation and both have a conversation which marginalize unrealism into realism in a way only a director knows and in a way only the actors know.

Bud is always on the edge of disintegrating into rage and enjoys submitting himself to that trait. He dislikes his young colleague Ed, a man with a boasting self righteousness who is more of a chess player in advancing his career. Yet he follows the book and becomes instrumental in testifying against Bud’s partner Stensland (Graham Deckel) for beating arrested Mexicans in the station. This immediate disdain develops into a burning fire for Bud telling that unfairness to Lynn but the fact is both differ extensively on dictating their jobs.

Yes there is plot which of course involves gruesome murders, drugs and betrayal of regular nature. That is not the point and in casting Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce fairly unknown Australian actors at that time for the roles tells a lot. The period adds a beauty to the fair of the juicy magazine editor Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), the glittering lights of the Hollywood streets and in the rooms the cops invade with TVs running the old b&w films. The film uses those props as a reminder of the glamour world and publicity rather than the authenticity of that period.

In all honesty I could not understand the stature this film gets of its classiness. I could not grasp its place in being a classic. I can see a very good film with characters made for the actors and the actors making it made for them in their performances. I can see the plot direction going with suspense in a hurried thriller manner but not obscuring its path in giving ambiguity to the viewer. It is a perfect film but the charisma of the critics and the information on it in wiki does take it to a pedestal guarded only for great classic films. My enjoyment of the film should not be doubted here at all but the question lingers or I am more concerned what I missed. I believe the timing of the film would have marked a different trend altogether. The thrillers of 70s and 80s were succumbing to the graphic gala and rapidity of the actions burying the characterization in main stream films in the 90s would have carved this film a mind blowing experience.

Crowe and Pearce undertake the cops who are looking their own way of justice. One abiding the law but also takes it as a choice of career and hence making sure of his advancements while the other taking it personally from his child hood experience unleashing those rage over the criminals. In between these two is Spacey’s Jack, a man enjoying the limelight of Hollywood and the publicity of it. For him money is the key but he has a limited soul to sell and when it crosses he admonishes his actions. He is the funny cop who knows his way out in this disintegrating city of crime and glamour.

“L. A. Confidential” would now be looked upon a cliché or a lesson in predictability. Yet it survives through the characters. It is contemporary in the cops it displays but goes back to its period of 50s in the absence of technical hands on. The deception, corruption and scandal have not changed but have exponentially grown seeing the news reports and papers. The sleazy magazine has promoted to the moving mirage of faked realism in television and super market side stand magazines. You know it is cheap but it is almost impossible to not read the cover.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Max Payne" (2008) - Movie Review

The film’s best work is deceiving the viewers through the style and tone of “Max Payne”. It is sleek no doubt and dark much to the credit of the cinematographer of the film Jonathan Sela. The game of the same name (which I have not played) is a buzz in the gaming community. The transition at the beginning opens hopeful soon dying to the screenplay and dialogue becoming from neo-noir to a insipid speech delivery reminding David Caruso from “CSI: Miami”, a show which I purely watch to laugh out loud on the actors making a fool out of themselves. “Max Payne” does not go that far but shoots itself all over the place missing the big target to shoot the tiny test tube filled with blue drug (it directly relates to a “cool” shot when a supposedly army druggie with a kill shot angle from the top misses Payne by a feet to shoot the blue tubes).

Grieving in pain and despair is Detective Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) working clerical cold case files as day job while hunting for his family’s killer in the night. It leads to an underground club with hot women flying like vultures to hit on guys like Wahlberg. Oh, it is dark, very dark and Wahlberg’s Payne is dark with a permanent shadow over his face. Now for some reasons he follows behind a girl named Natasha (Olga Kurylenko) who throws at him in his apartment to be thrown out. She sees big flying creatures in shadows to be soon killed into pieces along with Payne’s Wallet. Conspiracy, pin up, setup, graphics and slow mo shots makes up for the rest of the film.

I admire the maturity in which the noir style is handled but it should have been notched a bit in the terms of “Sin City”. New York City does make a good Sin City and when Payne goes under the streets of streaming unclean liquids and scary garbage scattered, it would have been the perfect transition for a game rated Mature. It has Mila Kunis trying to shatter her school girl image from “That 70’s show” with some eye lining and black dress. It works if only to make her a character a little more deep than an unknown underground business lead with no declaration of the nature of her business.

When Payne enters his dead wife’s company and meets the boss lady (Kate Burton) with that consoling voice, I was telling myself let me be wrong of guessing her to be the seed of this conspiracy. But no, there were more obvious arrow marks on top of the character to say their vicious deal under the table. “Max Payne” should have stayed in the gaming environment and played the action very early. It got the enough scenes to state its shady surroundings of NYC and extending it out as suspense dissolves it.

Soon millions of bullets fly with many many and I mean many dead bodies killed by our hero laying every where. When adapting a game, both the theme and style should be concentrated or go a little bit more in deep about the expressionless graphics characters into a real human being. Mixing both is good when the balance is mastered. Director John Moore with a much more capable Mark Wahlberg goes for everything in berserk manner possible. At the end what Payne wants is unclear and why the conspirators blow up their building and begin to shoot is purely irritatingly illogical.

Very early in the film is a scene so powerful and touching that it gave me goose pumps hoping for more like those. Payne visits his ex-partner’s funeral at his house confronted by the widow played surprisingly by the pop singer Nelly Furtado. She is right on with those couple of lines because it places scalpel to Payne’s grievance. When the film starts we hear him say on his belief on death, fear and despair. Carrying that tone and his pain of mourning and agony of not able to find his family’s killer cannot be addressed more appropriately and sharply in that scene. That would be the best part in the whole film which fails again and again into actions to ignite some interest and becomes noise pollution in very little time.

"Sex Drive" (2008) - Movie Review

What is really different in “Sex Drive” from its previous parent clones of the same? Teenage drive towards conquering the summit of virginity, a friend with a character and the girl who will be his friend and only friend with feelings mutually buried and come on we can go on and on about the clichés in these films. But the run on the road has become a cult epidemic to put up wide spectrum of people to make fun of, extract comedy out of them. “Harold and Kumar…” series, “Road Trip”, “Euro Trip” every other thing succeeded and failed miserably and “Sex Drive” moderately passes on fine.

It has Ian (Josh Zuckerman) the virgin kid with two friends, one being the coolest kid in the area Lance (Clark Duke) and the other will be his roaming “girlfriend” Felicia (Amanda Crew) he would end up with or may be not. Ian has a bully sociopathic brother Rex (James Marsden) who would kick, embarrass, and tease along with everything in his macho power he could grab on towards him. He doubts Ian being gay due to him being without a girlfriend till eighteen. Ian fancies his ideas of impressing a woman through online and gets an invitation for a one night stand from one “Ms_Tasty” as her nick name prompting for a drive of nine hours to Knoxville strongly encouraged by Lance. You need the girl to tag on and hop on Felicia too and then take on the road.

Initially meddling with some not so catchy moments, “Sex Drive” begins its journey right away before it through this odd two always seen together friends Andy (Charlie McDermott) and Randy (Mark L. Young). They are the greatest openers but not the closers say Lance. They hit on every single female passing through them and without dropping a moment of awkwardness or lowering self esteem (only for them). What prompts their courage wonders Ian. I remember a friend while ogling in the bar said something like this, “Hit every women in the bar. There should be some one for sure”. I guess Andy and Randy could be related to that. It is truthfully funny to say the least.

The chemistry of attracting the attention of girls is a muddled technique. Lance tells to play it hard but not hard enough to drive them away. Felicia says girls are not like that but she likes Lance for that. But “Sex Drive” is not about the viewpoint of girls or boys towards each other but a display of characters we would not want to meet but can laugh at. Every psychopathic person would be turned good and reasoned out well in films like this and doing it without stating the obvious does the charm for this film.

It is not raunchy considering the bar set by other films. It penetrates (pun intended) the gross humour with a sense of letting the viewers to imagine it (frankly you do not want to but you will. Damn it, I did.). This makes it a classy touch of the grotesque nature of comic pushes this comedy a more approachable without flinching too much category. In the end these films are gauged on the minimal number of restless moments than anything else. It should not be the kind which bores some one to look into the ceiling and side walls of theater of the stoic flat comedy. In those attributes “Sex Drive” succeeds not stomping marching but with a mediocre walk.

In passing a rude or black humour a character should not be looked out for what seriously they are which may be sociopathic, bigot or sexual perversion. “Sex Drive” has Rex for the first two and a creepy character later in the film for the third. We do not plainly like Rex. And the tortures he puts on his brother are not funny but painful. He demeans and is a complete homophobic and shows a threatening hatred for them in a frightening manner. If at all I was concerned about the film in the end was the uneasiness I had for Rex who comes out straight scary which I guess is not they would have intended. Just before the end I was writing in my mind about having some one like that unfunny and bullying. It is as though they cared for that thought they put a nice tie knot end in a gift wrap of the “post” happenings after the crazy road trip. Sure it was a patch up job but it worked for me.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"W." (2008) - Movie Review

After getting into the habit of reviewing films one thing has commonly occurred into my mind which is judgment. The judgment of not the films but more about the characters in it and about the unintended/intended notions of that particular people projected by the director. In real life I would like to and have been trying in exercising to be a person not to come to conclusion by immediacy and always give the benefit of doubt to every person. Sounding like a politician it is a tough perspective and it is especially true when it comes to distant personalities and the news you see and hear coming in distorted and diluted. In a way I have channeled those judgments for the fictitious films or only to what the film shows us. “W.” is not alone can be said as a judgment of the character but to judge a living man based on the facts claimed by the film. I got to come around doing it fairly but Stone had made it easy. I will tell you why.

I have not had a good opinion of George W. Bush and at this moment no one is in favour of the president. Anything and everything has been blamed upon him and with a limited knowledge of the happenings it is fair for me to say that being pissed off at him is justified at this juncture. So when Oliver Stone declared his project of portraying the life and journey of Bush to presidency, it is a beating fantasy for a liberal, democrat and hell a lot of republicans too. What Stone gives is a character and a person stripped off the caricature animated goofy personality into a man constantly been challenged of his capabilities due to his upbringing as the rich kid in town. With Josh Brolin as the man himself, it can be very gladly considered a look of a public figure in closed doors. The veracity of the material will always be questionable but as a film of a persona “W.” is good if not best.

With the key personalities lurking around this man, it tells the story in flash backs and revert backs to the start of the “War on Terror” and the subsequent failure to end the thing and becoming the vortex of never ending complications. As a college boy, he is the outlaw in the town with prominent personality as his dad (James Cromwell). He parties all time and gets into fights. In a run for many jobs, he does not like or succeed as the set expectation by his dad or in his terms “poppy”. He has to compete within the family itself with his brother Jeb and perennially is in the state of needing attention from his father. This is the axis in which the film revolves with a son growing up wanting to be praised by his father and when it fails he assists his father to succeed and when it fails wants to be his father and when it fails, he opts for god. This is a story of relationship so unspoken of that the two men without words take actions resulting in a country’s misdirection.

It has to be talked about and must be mentioned on how carefully Brolin plays Bush. He does not condescend a bit on the character he is playing. For an actor I presume for the role he/she takes, he/she would have his/her judgment and opinions towards it. Fictional portrayal and non-fictional have their view points to carry it over. The struggle to embrace it keeping personal belief aside would be a part of the job description but in this character we see it. I can strongly say that Brolin did not have a nicer view of this character because pretty much the whole country thinks so but he sees beneath it as Stone does. He sees an ordinary man and a son doing things for an acknowledgment. Brolin while mimicking does not make it a joke. We are made to take the character seriously when it should be which is in most of the film.

Having said these things about “W.”, it being a good movie does not make it a better film. It is unique, no one would question that. If any one could ever come up with a fairly objective view of Bush, this would be it. It has the supporting cast getting their screen time as a matter of necessity than for satire. This is not the satire many were expecting and it reaches out beyond those things. It is not mockery but an analysis. It is a question for the public to think about that the president or a notably public figure is not the character looked on the media and debated about. It is about his behavioral characteristics of brain waves connecting high wires to work out his accomplishments, accolades and love from the expected persons. As my friend would say that despite all the philosophy and preaching, end of the day we are all sentimental bastards. Bush is one too as every one of us.

When he did not get the fatherly attention he would, the direction goes above and beyond. He adopts god as his father, an unquestionable and non-condescending authority to guide him, appreciate him and enlighten him personally through ego and many other things. He genuinely believes that god has elected him to lead the country and as any one strongly believes, he thinks him as the goodness moulded in inches of his skin to root out the evil from this world.

There are scenes which are synchronized with an astounding clarity in what would have happened in the conference rooms and there are scenes of absolute emotion cracking out of Senior Bush and a constantly questioning W. Yet the kill shot never happens. May be there never was one Stone wanted to have. He wanted to take a hard look on each of us to see what we are made of. What we are in our process of fulfilling life wanted out of each other. A son, a father, a daughter, a mother, a brother and a friend. It is all what it is for an ordinary person. An ordinary person working 40 hours per week, voting and wearing a Lance Armstrong hand band as a symbol of his effort towards humanity. In accomplishing the love and hate for each other, it becomes the driving force of events. But apart from these there are people who go far beyond than that. Leaders as Presidents and they are so because they travel beyond that ordinary person. They sacrifice that luxury of being that regular person and the sacrifice is to separate their feelings from the job of defining the course of millions of people.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"The Duchess" (2008) - Movie Review

Period films of the lavish British life of beauty, affairs and boredom annoys me. It is sad to see the women being given a high status in being secluded from the general crowd and later by themselves. “Elizabeth”, “Marie Antoinette” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” more than saddening carried an immense display of boredom. It is the period when these women have to go through that, the ordeal of being married to a powered male and spend their days with gambling, beauty and display of their vanishing elegance into the depth of marriage of debacle. Of the three I mentioned, “Marie Antoinette” despite its nature stood out for its contemporary making by Sophia Coppola. “The Duchess” would be the first for me to have faired well in keeping me occupied without being restless.

When we meet Georgiana (Keira Knightley), the soon to be duchess of Devonshire, she is in her teens of having fun and placing bets on men with immense power of running. She is as excited as her mother (Charlotte Rampling) to marry the Duke William (Ralph Fiennes). The purpose is simple, give birth to a son. The Duke comes to her bedroom, methodically dissembles the laborious construction of dress and complains on the complication of women’s dresses which Duchess misunderstands for a conversation he is trying to make. The baby making ritual is done clinically and mechanically. In between that Duke pretty much sleeps with maids and whoever wandering around his room. This is the life she has gotten into.

Adding to this is her several miscarriages and two daughters in succession. She gladly accepts Charlotte (Eva Hrela) daughter of demised maid whom William slept with even before her first pregnancy. Three daughters and heirless makes her a disappointment and in the words of Williams, not being a dutiful wife. That sums it up. She is attracted to a young politician she knew before her marriage Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper). In the meanwhile she makes friends with one Bess Foster (Hayley Atwell) who would betray her as expected but a mother in suffering of being restricted from seeing her children from her father. These are some of the turmoil of relationship which happens in this life of being a Duchess and fulfilling responsibilities.

Undoubtedly living in the male chauvinistic society, it is told from the point of view of Duchess played with painstaking effort from Keira Knightley. In the fogs of those effort comes some unsuitability for her being the Duchess. Not that it is glaringly obvious but surely some actress with age would have been able to add believability to this character. Having said that, it is evident of the discipline showed in lining this lead to the portrayal of her in to a newly wed, a mother, a friend, influencing personality and the biggest pain of all being the Duchess.

I have always wanted to see a film focusing on male lead which does not involve war and politics. And in this Ralph Fiennes in the shadows of this stoically stubborn and chauvinistic Duke gives a man facing many questions from the public of his misfortune of not being able to father a son. While he could not keep himself from throwing at every women in the palace, his dealing of that society is sensed when he tries to coax or request his plea to his Georgiana. He is snaky and sweaty in perfecting these characters that does not show explicit viciousness. Here he is indifferent and boring but vengefully active when it comes to guarding his name and status.

Saul Dibb’s direction is occupying if not engaging. It has a sense of understanding of the life lead by these people of financial abundance but complications of immense nature. It is irritating for the females who are respected to the equals of kings but been diminished of the freedom they would expect. That is the frustrating detail of being the princess. In these surpluses of wealth and beauty, it is invigoratingly hurtful to be reduced to a baby making machine than a human of some substance to be heard of her opinions and respected.

“The Duchess” is a film without complicated script but with complicated people of that period. It has the distinguished expression in between females and the males being the reigning beasts of that palace. As I said earlier a point of view from a man in say showing that snob, snitch and stupid male dominant attitude to the change of seeing things the way of contemporary nature would make a great film. May be there are films which I am not aware of. If not, this would be the time to make one.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Paruthiveeran" (Language - Tamil) (2007) - Movie Review

Ameer’s “Paruthiveeran” is the landmark what “16 Vayithinale” did for Bharathiraja. And the same goes for Karthik Sivakumar in a role which would be a dare for debutant to do it with a seasoned capability his brother Surya was able to achieve after many abysmal performances. For Surya it came through many chances as such and a major break of Bala taking him for “Nanda”. Karthik has been able to get into that right away through the same film maker only that it is through his student emerging from his school of direction which is Ameer.

Tamil cinema has a genre created for itself in the 80s and that was the village. Apart from being culturally rich and bound by the same, it also has sparsely educated or illiterate previous generation. A school teacher with big glasses usually played by a suave and sophisticated personality like Sarath Babu would come to that village of nowhere and either he will be extremely good or creepily devious. He will be that leverage in becoming that twisted mentality to make the lovers suffer in those or he will be the lover who will be suffering from the people from village seeking him blood thirsty to guard their “honour”. It died off and came up a little above the surface in “Kizhakku Cheemayile” from the mastery of that genre, Bharathiraja. A slight sporadic surprise hit in that genre came as the ever matured classic in Kamal’s “Devar Magan”. After that it pretty much played in utter failures or in mediocre attempts. It got saturated or so it was thought. And then comes this film and as though the gold pot has been discovered people are rounding up the region of my native Madurai in every inch from mega films to mega serials.

There were horrible films in that cadre. It showed a sort of immaturity in showing the people as fanatics of religions, honour and what not. Not that it is something which is not present, in fact it is all the more present but the films approached it with an absence of compassion. Rather it glorified the violence in it. Sure it was made for the people out there so that they can easily relate and see it as a validation. The pure sense of what the villages were rich was turned off and the negativity of it was praised in many ways. “Paruthiveeran” retains that nativity and says something more. It tells something about the blind emotions and ruggedness in showing and arduously believing in love. It has the characters caught by the past complications and the enmity migrating from one to another but it has also the consequences of it.

It follows an outlaw in the village Paruthiveeran (Karthik Sivakumar) stabbing people to show his testosterone levels and he does it with wicked fun through the help of his uncle Chevvaazhai (Saravanan). Immediately we forget the gravity of what they have done and Ameer shows how much they were aware of the consequences following that introductory scene to their lock up sequence. These are the people with an obsessive chore of marking their presence through acts of violence, drunkenness and debauchery. They live like cave man in their times with the zeal to maintain their regime of fear and respect. But a child hood story of Paruthiveeran shows as this kid with same attitude with his aunt’s daughter and then later saving her which wins her heart at that age. Mutthazhagu (Priya Mani) is the girl who promises him that she will be forever with him till she dies. She maintains it and despite Paruthi’s ruthless sociopathic behaviour and actions, she is madly in love and I might add boldly.

In Ramji’s cinematography Ameer uses the tone what Bala used for all his films. The actors wear dark solid coloured dresses to carry the theme of the film. It has brightness but with a shadowy silhouette for the underlying darkness in the story. With Karthik and Saravanan as a pair anyone would never have imagined, they provide the black comedy in this movie. They do nothing but create chaos. While we enjoy them disturbing people and making their life miserable (especially the character of “Ganja” Karuppu), we would avoid the notion of them living in the region they would walk by. Yet Ameer wants us to like them and as the back story unravels of Paruthiveeran’s dad and Mutthazhagu’s dad being brother in law, we understand what will be at stake.

A village male’s arrogance is a given thing. People who have lived by the native would not be surprised by the daring nature the film’s female characters show. While Mutthazhagu would go the extent of kill Paruthiveeran if she will not be able to get him, her mom, Paruthiveeran’s grand mother and the lady boss in the flash back are all have the stubbornness and the power to dismiss these violent men into nothing. For showing that realism I salute Ameer.

But there is more than that I have for him to be appreciated. It is the ending which every one flinched and sure would have been affected for days after watching the film. I was warned by many and in fact knew what was going to happen. That might have reduced the effect of it but nevertheless it is a heart wrenching scene. But why would he do that is the question floating around? Even when the character of Mutthazhagu performed with such a zealous and emotionally painful effort by Priya Mani asks where his male chauvinism for bravery went when she lay there helpless, it does not answer many. I appreciated it for first of all making the culprits who were totally unrelated to that situation but have a relation to Paruthiveeran. I appreciated it because not to forget the act and the consequences of the life he chose. Why not give him a chance for forgiveness? Yes, precisely. But that is sure to be there and no one denies it. Yet for this film his realization of his love does not alone make him a good man. In that tenure of film, it got to be presented so that we crave for the good life the couple would have had. We should learn that opportunity of survival and understand how the acts of one affect the innocent loved ones.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Body of Lies" (2008) - Movie Review

The third act of “Body of Lies” cannot be more obvious to its adaptation from its novel though I cannot vouch whether novel actually is treated the same way. Despite its letdown in the third act, the film directed by Ridley Scott with uniting Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe is a fine espionage thriller with a fair share of looking at the techniques involved in this current state of handling terror. With a great deal of performance from DiCaprio and sumptuous support from Crowe, it concentrates on a CIA agent forming a bond not alone with the head operative of Jordan but also a nurse for his dried up romance.

Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) works from home and his work is to move the coins to enable operation and perform it if not perfect but cover up the CIA palm out of it. His errand boy is Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the Middle East running around hunting the nexus of the terrorist network Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul). While Ed provides the logistics support with hands free headset permanently attached to him, he does not operate with full transparency. Ferris is naïve not to understand working for a secret agency.

Ed talks during his daily chores. He is talking about the killings without any conscience to Roger in between his daughter’s soccer game and while assisting his other kid to use the rest room. He has that understanding of this work to which he has given him to not see it as a different thing from his personal life. Roger is on the field and works with a conscience which does not go well with the job description of his to be a spy. Still he believes to do his best in doing the good and in between trying to help the people who congest this disease of his acquaintance. Both men living in regions of different philosophies towards the work they do nullify each other. But the significant difference is Ed is about politics while Roger is about thriving for a harmonious existence.

In between these two are people helping, attacking and deceiving. Roger’s approach is more devious than Ed but he wants to make it right in the end. Ed knows it never can be right and he takes the plan for what it is, deceptive and effective. The satellite zoom shots are frugally used as to not play around like a kid with a new toy. It is a serious take as “Syriana” did only that it does not bite the bullet as it did when finishing the story. I found their motto to declare deception as the points of the film futile as in the current state it is redundant. The thing is the method Roger brings upon to capture the head of the group. How they make a nothing into something and how much a photo with people is enough to form a story.

The relationship of Roger with the nurse he meets, Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani) is handled with sophistication and just. The photograph shot clicks their walk and we know she will be used as the exchange deal but immediately that gets dismissed. I wish they would have left it that way. The concerning act does not seem to be placed there for a Hollywood ending but a genuine approach. It has come to the point in expecting what out of the film on its banner of publicity. The heroism as is expected out of movie like “Live Free or Die Hard” has now exists for a strong cast of actors and director lining up for a serious film to end realistically and the realism as we know is not good, not much of an obvious hope. Hence seeing the three quarters of “Body of Lies”, it is a serious film analyzing a sensitive issue in hand and when the result seems to be too good to be true, it is a letdown. It is because that we have lost hope in getting the Osama Bin Laden or any head of a terrorist group. Or more than that is the third hand information through media and every other thing has disturbed or may be cleared the idea of not believing everything.

“Body of Lies” is a Ridley Scott film and the gripe I have would be the failure of it to be a better film than it seems to. It gets everything from two serious actors in the past decade and a topic in spite of its exhausted discussion has something new to offer into that ugly world of shady activities falls off when it comes to perfection. It does not use preachy techniques nor does it exploit the violence. It is a person decided to be brutally honest while delivering his statement paused a minute for political correctness. Hence while the feel of getting the truth is out there, it does not seem to be fulfilled.

"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" (2008) - Movie Review

There is a gum, Yugo car and a band named Fluffy roaming around like a floating movie memorabilia in the “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” which does not add any comic, excitement or suspense but tries hard to be a simple romance indie flick. The best thing what the film does which becomes its downfall is their consistent inch of hope creation leaving it unfinished as they proceed to the next scene. It seems to bring smiles and puts those pebbles of love drops but it stays there and I mean it just stays there, never moves.

In that one long night in the glittering city of New York Nick (Michael Cera) with his gay band mates Dev (Rafi Gavron) and Thom (Aaron Yoo) meets Norah (Kat Dennings) with her best drunk friend Caroline (Ari Graynor). Nick has a “Sarah Marshall” as Peter had in that movie which out here would be Tris (Alexis Dziena) for whom he consistently provides mixed CD which has fallen in to the hands of Norah becoming great fan of it. Nick’s friends decides Norah to be his apt love interest and hence set them up taking care of drunken Caroline whirl winding in an endless night.

Let us predict the following in the film and I know you all could agree with me on the coming points as not something of a spoiler. Tris will be superficial witch having insane jealousy obsession with Nick when he goes with his accidental patch up girl Norah. Norah will similarly have a secret past which would lure the cloud of doubts for Nick. Nick cannot get over Tris and both have a choice to make and you know the drill. Every body knows that and director is aware of it too. Hence how it is reached becomes the deciding factor. You constantly smile at the film but you come out with nothing. Something happened but not complete. It is a good tale but nothing out of the normal and not definitely the funniest film we have seen lately.

Michael Cera is becoming the nerdy kid and in here he tries to step a little bit out of that yet he seems to be playing more of the same. Dennings does similar she did in “Charlie Bartlett” but she appears to get the beat of the role pretty good. Still it is not tough for her to get type casted in coming days if she is not going to be wary of it. For a title involving current trend in music and the whole gang going crazy for a band, the soundtrack is not as impressive. It is good but not great.

The sub plot with Caroline is a series of wannabe awkward comedy working otherwise. Ari Graynor while giving her best she could, cannot play more than the material has offered. With her gum going to unspoken and unknown places to be reverted back to her mouth and then jumps off to many other people does not nauseate us but feel indifferent and unmoved by the frantic actions.

Am I getting out of substance to discuss mediocre run of the mill films? Lately I have not seen any new films which have entirely made me move or made me feel in noticeable quantity. I remember the same time last year to have viewed some of the best films of 2007 and a contented heart to write about it. This year while I wait for those award winners hitting the theatres, I feel a little letdown by so far I have seen. Hence when you go with nothing to expect in films like “Nick and Norah’s..”, it is more disappointing where we have to settle down for a placid attempt. The trend from making an indie flick has become into aspiring to make it as an indie flick with a regular tone of romance is sad.

“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” would smoothen many and would also be called a pleasant film. It is indeed pleasant since it does not amplify its emotions rather underplays it purposefully. In the attempt of getting “sweet” films, the emotions are true and running high but in a much subtle and sophisticated presentation. There does not lay that sensation of making an effort to play it down. “Nick and Norah’s…” is a radio hit which withers right away when it is over.

"City of Ember" (2008) - Movie Review

“City of Ember” has a city which does not look to care for invention of stored energy or for that matter fire and many innumerable things. Still they enjoy the benefits of a big power station addressed as generator to light the entire underground region. There are no fables of things outside the realm of their city and no one really wants to know. The film pretty much diminishes humans into a chore seeking personalities unlike their curiosity to know things, learn those and always many pushing the envelope into the space of unknown. The story of course has rebels of its own learning later with banal information strange to be kept such a secret. It is about a city buried underground by “builders” with an information box passed onto Mayors containing detailed to safely (which would be funny when you watch) return to earth.

And there will be kids who will be only curious ones in searching for the answers as opposed to solutions as the city mayor Cole (Bill Murray in an abysmal display for a role where unnecessary gets redefined) would later ridicule the crowd. These two high school grade kids (do not know what kind of school system the city has) Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) go for their graduation of some kind called “Assignment Day” where they get their jobs to do. Out of a chit bag their destiny is selected. So does it mean a path of finding and choosing your own destiny? No. Lina gets to be “Pipeworker” while Doon gets to be a “Messenger”. They exchange their jobs. Is that going to unravel their act into a discovery of higher purpose? No. I do not see any change in the script with Lina the Pipeworker and Doon being the Messenger. Still the story does it for no reason.

The generator is dying and the black outs are increasing. And people are merrily doing their work and shakes a bit for a 10 second shutdown. Then continue the routine. The film directed by Gil Kenan adapted from the book of the same name by Jeanne Duprau assumes that we know the people well before we meet them. The film begins with a box telling what to do for the people of the Ember after 200 years to see the earth. The city is basically an underground project set up by weird people in the fear of losing all the people on earth to lock them up from the dreary of higher ground. They appear to believe things will be fine 200 years later to pass on the directions to come up. Anyways, the box is not a big deal and anything is not a big deal in the film which is symphony (a boring one) on the key of nothingness.

If there needs to be a list of unnecessary characters, it goes beyond than this review would go. It has Bill Murray a lazy Mayor eating food at his locker room when the city is going down, it has Tim Robbins as Doon’s dad who spells out the life concepts to his son which seem more like a parody of Andy Dufresne in his classic “The Shawshank Redemption” and what is the deal with the little sister of Lina, Poppy (Amy Quinn)? The girl looks clue less in every sequence she is in which is nothing to blame her than to the people who put her there. She chews the paper and her sweet and cute look does not aid this fantasy film to survive upon.

I have given up on seeing extraordinary in the graphics department coming up in the films now a day. Not because they do not provide their excellence but it is now a criteria to be a standard and there is no element of surprise. I remember seeing “Jurassic Park” and the dinosaurs come which marked a moment for me in the heights of CGI. It brought jitters of awe engulfing me entirely into that spectacle. That kind of graphics was made nothing in the coming days. Creating fantasy land and creatures of detailed weirdness, creepiness and disgust is now put in screen easily and perfectly. Hence unless there is an appropriate use of it in films like “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Matrix” or any film which beckoned the excellence of that department got the attention and rest went on as ordinary despite the effort and ordeal the department put in. “City of Ember” has ordinary graphics and that will be the only refuge for some goodness in it.

It looks like all the genres are getting exhausted. Enough cities have been destructed and went through catastrophe in the Hollywood and still it flourishes with new ones. But never does it carries the same awe it had a decade back. Things made in abundant makes it mediocre. “City of Ember” goes below that. It does not have characters we could relate or create attachment, does not have a proper nemesis, and does not have a reason for the existence of the characters and the city itself. Never do we know the regular routine, system and functioning of the city at all. We often wonder how the heck these people survived 200 years when electricity is flowing through them and they did not get to invent fire. Bites me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" (2008) - Movie Review

If a director can grab that note in the monotonous ordeal of a comedy budding into romance, then it can be an easy deal forgiving the pretentiousness and the absurdity following through the end. What is that note is the curious question which is an ethereal circulation in the heads of the lead. Here it is director Robert B. Weide with Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst along with Jeff Bridges in the book by Toby Young of the same name as film rises up called “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”. Yes it is a mock up on Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” which I have not read but heard a lot from my friend and he still has not won my friend ship (No offense, naah who am I kidding).

It follows a British journalist Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) striking a discordant chord working in his charm when in a moment of old flair the head of New York’s magazine “Sharp”, Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) hires him. Young has a way with people and that is to not have a filter between his brain and mouth. He is being despised which he is aware of and does not think about much though in the midst of his screw ups. He immediately acquaints in a bad note with a colleague of him, Allison (Kirsten Dunst) and he takes on the world of celebrity journalism. His aspiration is to be inside the glamour fair of Hollywood and the prize would be to with this upcoming knock out Sophie Maes (Megan Foxx) with an influencing publicist Eleanor (Gillian Anderson).

In couple of minutes in Sidney’s entry into the New York office, it is puzzlement on his recruitment which gets answered in a manner of that careless but elegant delivery Bridges gives later in the film. The film which is bound to run into this swirl of romance accepts that fact. Hence it concentrates on Young’s candid awkwardness in any ways possible. He single handedly convinces that “Con-Air” is the best movie ever made against Allison’s favourite “La Dolce Vita”. That is a priceless moment. He walks with a target board and he points his finger on the bull’s eye.

If cliché’s need to be picked in the film, we can lose track of it. In spite of it, the film carries a casual light heartedness in an exhibition universe of superficiality at its best. With trademark English smirk and ego, Young tries to win through in the magazine and constantly gets sidelined by the declared evil charming nemesis Lawrence Maddox (Danny Huston). He will be the fall guy and you know it the first time we meet him. I have hated this predictability in many films and stomped on it mercilessly but Pegg cooks something unusual in this chore of mediocrity. And Dunst is a perfect likeable cutie who wants every one to take her seriously and becomes the sane part of the film’s loathsome character of Pegg.

The film takes a quick stop in a believable and impressive moment of Pegg with his writer dad (Bill Paterson). And in the same tempo blossoms the obvious romance between Allison and Sidney. Then it takes a racy pace to finish the knot. The deal with the devil will be there and the redemption in the crucial moment will also be there. The finale of that realization in the most crowded place possible has now become a ritual in the romantic comedy and here it is carried on with the loyal discipline. I was ticked off but some how able to give in to it by not extending.

I wonder at these films. It makes me question the double standards in me. What is it with the “27 Dresses” I hated and made me feel nauseating while this film very much carrying similar emotion managed to bring great laughs and acknowledge the routine in a forgivable manner? It is the invisible note in a brightly lit film is the only thing I could think of. It is a feel of getting that in the order they wanted and in places they wanted. It fits and the team knows some how that tune to perfect it.

These films are not made in the idea of classics but understanding their potential. That becomes the factor of differentiation. It determines their flow and the theme of the film. Out here Simon Pegg and Kirsten Dunst becomes that rightly choice. They are odd couple to prance around and they use that chemistry. English comedians seem to survive on the awkward moments and along with Ricky Gervais, Pegg has joined that league for this year. He is becoming to do lightly roles with a touch of valid seriousness with much conviction. But he is at his best with his buddy Nick Frost and Edgar Wright.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"Appaloosa" (2008) - Movie Review

It is not about the suspense, thriller or the action. It is about western and predominantly about Ed Harris doing the professional gun for hire Virgil Cole with a pleasure and relish of a life long dream of being that man. It is also about Viggo Moretensen with a structured face and sculptured beard with a look of a clean man with sweat as the evidence of hardship and eyes as the indication of his concentration and professionalism in his duty. Despite gun for hires, these two men show an exemplified abide to the law they propose and adhere. This is “Appaloosa”, a western film which begins as something of pet project of Ed Harris and becomes about the brotherhood and untold actions.

In the town of Appaloosa, town heads hire Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) to bring order to the place which has lost its Marshall to a rich land lord Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) outside the location. At first glance, Cole and Hitch presents an epitome of smirk and calm arrogance the men of those times would have possessed but soon we find out the cleanliness in their actions. Sure they kill but with a relentless presence of their law. The law out here is the one they have framed and declaring as that becomes their condition for their hire. Each one compliments, speaks straight and responds immaculately. Regardless of their terse communication both of them not alone understand each other but provide that space of appreciation, respect and regard.

In that place of nowhere comes a widow Allison Finch (Renée Zellweger), a piano teacher. From distance does Hitch identifies this stranger and follows her to the restaurant. There is Cole already sitting and he joins him. Both are aware of each other’s move towards her and at the same time provide the opportunity to each other. Cole asks to escort Ally to the hotel while Hitch understanding what Cole is doing lets it his way. Hitch teases him with the interest showed by Ally to Cole. Having spent no long time in various places and been a partner, Cole falls for her.

This while definitely shifts the momentum in between these two is not a conflict but a change for which Hitch while surprised by his partner’s action respects it. In between that comes the subtle suspense when Bragg is brought to the justice and things are revealed when they take him in train. It becomes from a western project into something else. The bond between men with guns is a usual fair but the untold communications, feelings and understanding of these men are not usual but a display of acting by these two. The agility and the grace Mortensen and Harris pour over these men can solely be a reason to visit the “Appaloosa”. And actually it has a lot more than that.

In between these two Zellweger comes as a woman with insecurity. She gives a woman who wants to be told that she will not be alone and some one whose life needs an attestation by presence of a man with power and charisma. It is her character which becomes and makes the relationship between these men a level above the norm of brotherhood. It cannot be better played by these three to make this film work enormously to its advantage.

“Appaloosa” is not a pictorial artsy display of cinematographically excelling in its tenure as “The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford” did. It does not have the frame work of unlimited lands with dangerous spaces to be covered. It has two men carrying out their definition of duty and their changes in life. They have the maturity which surprises us on the nakedness of it.

“Feelings get you killed” says Cole to Hitch at one point in the film when they go in search of Ally. And in that scene if there is a perfect marriage of dialogue, simplest photography and performance, it would exist in that sequence. It is carried out with a casual delivery of Harris with a doubting Mortensen to summarize the film. These men know the other better than themselves.

“Appaloosa” is a picture sustaining through its actors more than anything. It has plots and its deviations but it is not about it. It is the people whose actions sometime need to be left unsaid. Saying it aloud would erase its value and the justification of it into pieces of explanation scattered in a desert. Hitch does that in the end and Cole’s gratitude needs to be unsaid. It has to be and that’s what Hitch wants too.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Religulous" (Documentary) (2008) - Movie Review

Roger Ebert begins the review of “Religulous” by these sentences, “I'm going to try to review Bill Maher's "Religulous" without getting into religion. Is that OK with everybody? Good. I don't want to fan the flames of a holy war.” A man of such stature with a constant attempt and lot of success over being a fair critic and honest in his reviews with millions of fan following and taking his word for the films they see and he has to take a step of those lines to be safe within the region. Such is the power of religion which has become uncontrollable. It touches the softest part of people invoking the wrath of hate and defense in no time. Hence Bill Maher got to be applauded for openly coming on to the screen even with some unfairness to say aloud on the ridiculed nature of ardent organized religion.

Granted that it is a festival for atheists (“I do not know” mantra of Bill Maher seems a little too muddy for me), it is funny and I mean down right funny. Regardless of your religion when some of the condescending questions of interruptions are imposed by Maher to the people, it pricks and yet laugh on how seriously baseless is this concept of religion branching out and been passed on forever. Rarely does a discussion happen in the film because Maher is humoured and astonished by the people’s blind belief. But what did he expect out of them? Obviously those answers are to make the joke out of it, which of no surprise works and you will laugh, hands down.

Director Larry Charles crisply edits, places mock subtitles, clippings and the surprise reaction of absolute flat out illogical outburst in the people. Maher takes shots at every religion possible. It is too bad Hinduism, Buddhism and rest of other-ism gets missed but he takes the biggest and threatening predominant three religions to wrestle with. Those are Christianity, Judaism and Islam which is now the epicenter of the global terror in one form or other. Each religion proclaims its goodness and branding the enemy the evil which would work well in war and standing tall and stubborn on their ground.

Maher says these are the products of the long last belief. “It is all politics” says the rational believers or softly the moderately religious. As the review of mine for “The Clay Bird” had nice discussions, the film summarizes in its own tune. Religion said as a tool rather than an organism of killing each other wherein it is the tool for hope, forgiveness and love. Naivety at its best can be said in those circumstances. It is claimed as the hope for the poor and less fortunate people who are damned in despair is used in the favour for the sustenance and need for religion and honestly what has improved in their condition based on this belief? What kind of a hope built on falsified notions of miracles would save them? It is not a cure for a cold but a placebo treatment for a much horrible disease.

As a film, it is hilarious and uses the medium of placement of the frames in its maximized use in excellence. I am sure people of corresponding religion would cringe because of the way Maher bullies around and condescends and mainly be concerned on the outlook of how they will be perceived even if they are “moderately religious”. Yet they forget the fact that the faith is a ticking bomb in them waiting for that opportunity to explode. As open and daring the film is, Maher takes a jabbing approach on the concept of “doubt” and does not go for the atheism because his concern of that being a religion of its own is no wonder. The religious people asks the question “What if you are wrong?” many times when Maher takes on the irrationality and blindness over them as if a mode of threaten that burning hell is waiting. It has come down to it where grown people resort the idea of damning the non-believers as their approval of upper acceptance. Maher while adds his cynical, satirical and sarcastic tongue to it, the mere video is good enough for the situation being awkward and scary of rationality and conscience going out of the window.

The complaint I would have towards the film is the denial of taking it to more regular people or the “spiritual not religious” politically safe people. Talk amongst them on how much the fragments of the faith pricks them when something said against it would have enlightened a lot more subtle approaches of the religion in every day life of those. The same goes for country or sports team or music or anything which crosses the margin of admiration into fanaticism.

Religion has now spread its wings so deep and so farther into the world that removing it is not a near hope but an effort to try for. The greatest tragedy of this would be as Maher mentions of the rational and brilliant people saying things which on camera and on mirror would utterly show how deep the concept of it has gotten them. It is not easy to see that part clinically and it would take immense ripping of their long ingrained thoughts and open into the wide world. Maher’s funny attempt is an entertaining concept in field of documentary and also inspiring for some one to be vocal with a bold face on sensitive issue as religion which mostly takes a sacred free pass in escaping in the name of offending. “Religulous” pinches hard on the funny bone of religion which is not aware that it carries that property.

Monday, October 06, 2008

"Blindness" (2008) - Movie Review

José Saramago, the author of the book of the same name did not sell the rights of the book in the fear of the material getting into some one who cannot really grasp the concept of a slow death of a disoriented clan and would become a spectacle of something indigestible to the viewers. With the film in an aspiring director’s mind, I find it hard to imagine what it would have taken Fernando Meirelles to convince the author that he will make the filthiness, despair, rape, desperate survival and the decline of humanism a digestible story. I am not sure how he did that but it has worked and in disgust and pain we go through the film, we are also able to clinically analyze the sociological conclusion out of it.

Nameless characters identified by their daily work are the victims of an epidemic blindness. We go through the first prejudicial and judgmental view of blindness as darkness and goes unnoticed of it even when we see the blindness the people go through are the flash of milky white brightness. In the idea of quarantine these people are condemned into a facility with menial provide of food and luxury. A doctor (Mark Ruffalo) and his wife (Julianne Moore), a prostitute with dark shade glasses (Alice Braga), a man with the black eye patch (Danny Glover) are some of the inmates in a ward. Soon other wards fill up. Julianne Moore’s character is the only immune human to this epidemic and she without a choice becomes a guide and provider of the unavailable, vision.

With guns pointing at the people who try to escape, the place becomes too much for the crowd. And without sight, things go ugly. Filthiness spreads as the patience and ability to find a spot for their routine of excretion and urination becomes highly tough. Food trays fly away and the clothes become soggy and congested. With time and emptiness, every one begins to develop a frustration and hopelessness. Among the blinded is the only person to see this despair and desolation, the wife of the doctor is been separated and becomes the provider for everyone. But it is not about her. The trouble starts when in one of the wards, a spooky weirdo proclaiming himself as the head of the ward (Gael García Bernal) begins to gain control over the food supply. He demands valuables with no idea of what to do with it. He has the power through a weapon. When the valuables go out, the next quench becomes the need for sex.

Marco Antônio Guimarães’ score played different notes both on the film and in my opinions. In the most depressing, saddening and sickening moments of the film, it evoked a sense of comic nature to it. It did not creep it out or provide a dramatization. It indifferently did not sync up but he redeems completely in the later part of the film. If hope can be taken form in the spreading of hands to the showering rain in “The Shawshank Redemption” with Thomas Newman’s music, here without the picture the tunes could take the image of hope in a brisk and rejuvenating energy.

People would be disgusted and let down terribly as the downfall of humanism is staged. Having seen films of apocalyptic nature, the beckoning of heroism in simplest method possible becomes an expected behaviour. Why not the character of Julianne Moore did not escape out? Why not some one rough up to the scenario of pure evil being orchestrated by the other ward people? Hollywood has created a false hope of human miracles in these kinds of films. Unfortunately it does not work that way. That is the mechanics of a society and the mob mentality. Our minds dynamics of manifestation of fear and the weariness it creates are hard nut to be cracked. And in situations such as this, the shell is thickened to enormous density to shun away from the mildest possibility of trouble since one has accepted the cruelty of their current situation and does not want to get more trouble with a high chance of death.

Once we come to terms with the stage set, everything becomes clearer and we in the midst of utter chaos of violence, abuse, rape and bestiality see the plausibility of a social declination in this current civilized world. We feel ashamed of the capability of humans as such which are visible in dire places and situations. The association of the daily life of doctor, receptionist or any one enclosed in the cocoon of comfortableness scares the deepest fear of demeaning us to unknown limits. Dignity, embarrassment, shyness, ugliness and every thing pertaining to vision and its tentacles of observant are evaporated. All left is the naked emotions of human tolerance and cruelty.

As with any depressing films, it is not easy to watch but Meirelles gives a dignified nauseating feeling towards the worst situation in the wards. The brightness and contrast manipulation to give a feel of an unimaginable blindness supports the view of an indifferent morality we develop during the course of the film. It takes a plunge in to the territory of chaos inside every human and it is not a likeable image we would want to see. But sometimes we should see the capability of our inner demons to shift the scale in desperate situations to learn there is a possibility of civilized behaviour. It would always be a dog eat dog world but when there is an image of a friendly dog eating a dead human that is the mark of complete demise of humanity. “Blindness” would disgust people not because it is a bad film. It is a visitation into the realm anyone normally would not take or judge themselves of those actions.