Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Where the Truth Lies" (2005) - Movie Review

“Where the Truth Lies” has the ingredients for being the film noir, but a film noir sometimes do not get me either. Mainly because there will be characters whom I would not particularly like and expect the desire for them to be on the right side (now this term is questionable which I would leave it up for interpretation). Now that will actually be considered as the success of the genre since it makes me feel that. Yet at the end of it, I would be like, yeah it was good but does not seem to side with me a lot on the opinions. It is unlike me where I tend to me more objective though it is quite impossible. Still some noir get me. “Where the Truth Lies” did a pendulum and finally sufficed to make me like it.

And the character that oscillated in being thought clever, dumb and dubious was Karen played by Alison Lohman as the journalist trying to be involved through a book about narrated by one of the two great hosts and entertainers Vince (Colin Forth) and Lanny (Kevin Bacon). She talks to Vince but researches and may be a little more than that towards Lanny. The burning question is that how the dead girl Maureen (Rachel Blanchard) end up in their hotel suite immersed in the tub filled with water.

Lohman’s Karen grew up being the fans of these two men in fifties. She and her friend whose name she later uses when she is coincidentally has to ride the plane with Lanny even raised money of their own with the names. She actually met them when she was a little girl who came out of polio and has then been obsessed by this mystery of their god feature being questioned after the girl wounded up dead in their suite. And hence when the opportunity to get an inside look on that from Vince arises, she gets right on it through the publisher.

Vince and Lanny are the best buddies on and off the screen. Both led the high life and we get to know them through some of the excerpts Lanny sends to Karen in order to threaten the book she is writing. But the story really takes off once Karen meets Lanny. And the date they go is nothing short of knowing the man behind that mask of glamour, fun and the whole nine yards of showbiz. Karen posed as Bonnie asks questions in a curious manner which does not make Lanny to suspect more than he should. But he does not care about it as he knows his agenda with a sex pot like Karen.

Fame can be as alive as anything. It is a package whose pros and cons are with heavy artillery in cases it submits. The freedom to have whatever and whenever against the nakedness in letting the strangers inside their life are fearsome but the former is an eye candy. The control gets in to the head and to lay low after a point is something one cannot afford to. And when they really get low, they are out of the game. That becomes scary. We feel the insecurity of it in both Vince and Lanny. Lanny calls Karen in the hopes of her seeing the Today show he made an appearance to have a go at her. She forgets and the break in the voice of Lanny and the scare he gets of his disappearing notability are worth to be noted on this way of living many love but not really know the deep end of it.

Karen through which we are supposed to know the truth is a last person we would like more than after hearing sexual debaucheries of Vince and Lanny. Her naive eyes combined with the bomb shell looks deceives not these two men alone but us. She is devious in becoming some one to acquire information. We do not really know what she wants when she lies to Lanny and begins to get close with him. Knowing who he is through his own words in the manuscripts and the player he has been, she is surprised by his behaviour. As though she is there to rescue him from the guilt he has been going through with the dead girl. But later when we come to know that Karen was the little kid in their polio show and her more than admiration towards Lanny, it is understandable but not sympathetic. She does dumb things but when the time comes to safe guard, she turns the table on Vince. That is a surprise characteristic in her. In the end we neither like nor hate her.

When actually the “truth” comes out, it does not come as a cheap shot and the tracing back of the queues the story leaves fits good. The queues were carefully placed and more importantly put forth which gives a meaning of suspicion but something that would wither away and deflect on the character’s behaviour than actual event of truth. Atom Egoyan weaves an interesting noir film which I would accept with some of the reviewers comment of why do we even care for the truth. Yet he makes it a ride as a good short story. We do not empathize with any of them but makes a good show to sit through as a suspense and marginal character study of the glamour world.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Lymelife" (2008) - Movie Review

Most of the troublesome issues to deal with one’s parents is the denial that they are creatures of imperfection and more so like any one of us, has issues and can do big mistakes. That is predominantly the resultant in the suburban kids which is now major and in “Lymelife”, it goes to the origin in the 1970s dawn of early suburbia multiplying swiftly. The idea to make the story in that time period has nothing related other than the early Lyme disease being the talk in the times. It is another suburban dysfunctional family tale as the reviewers might call it. But all the families are dysfunctional in some way or other. That is what makes the few good times making the better the best of the worst. This is not cynical but a process in which happiness is weighed. “Lymelife” weights it too, nice and well.

Is the life of suburbia a curse or a gift of luxury? It has sure become an organism of justifying the existence into the cocoon of being the norm with heightened safety and security. What it has done so is putting the people in place of their responsibility, sacrifices and mistakes. The way to the problem seem to be diversely different but the arrival to it is no different. The mind of a human is a mind of its own. Young Scott (Rory Culkin) working his personality to project in front of his mirror is seeing the real world penetrating to unravel the realities of the future ahead of him in growing up. Most often back home, the kids do the school and nothing else runs through in a perfectly set family. Dad works and mom takes care of the home and kids like a clockwork. General complaints goes along with the forgotten furniture in the attic. Now the movement forward has opened doors of possibilities and problems in wide range and surplus. Where that is going to lead next is the interest which keeps the people marching to their next day.

Scott is a dad’s boy and his dad is sure a catch. When you look like Alec Baldwin and sharpen the sight of the eyes towards women day by day, boy like Scott idolizes seeing them at works. But he does not know that the sharpened eyes go beyond the sight alone. He does not like his mother Brenda (Jill Hennessy). She is protective and has resided the homemaker role with indifference. Scott is the next door kid falling slowly and surely with his dad’s employee and affair mate Melissa’s (Cynthia Nixon) daughter Adrianna (Emma Roberts). Is it so stereotypical? We are stereotypical when it comes to mistakes. Melissa’s husband Charlie (Timothy Hutton) is affected by Lyme disease and he loses the grip of the house. He hunts wildly the deer he seems to notice every now and then or is the weed giving him more than getting high. He knows he has passed on long ago as the husband in the eyes of Melissa. When Scott’s brother Jimmy (Kieran Culkin) comes home, Scott gets a feel of his family and a sanity check for himself.

The people in the film get tangled up in the feelings for each other that the resolving is a perpetual process. May be resolving is a delusional word. It gets postponed for the next outbreak and how long one can withstand becomes the test of the relationship. It is tough any relationship. Be close, be far and be whatever, you deal with it in the decisions. But suburbia has become the dissection of the set values. The desperation to attain the perfection in finance and family drives nothing but facade of building a strong future. We are in the generation where the cocoon mentioned earlier is the problem of becoming numb. Feeling becomes an absent thing and that results in whatever a person can gain. Rage and pain are easy picks. Adultery and guilt already is fed in the religion one follows as the forbidden fruit but that is a tool for higher feel for things. Thus begins the blunders and shambles of a family remaining in the burned down ashes of memories.

What “Lymelife” does has been done before. But to do it right and not be running in loops of mediocrity is this film’s strength. It has correct and measured performance from the Culkins, Kieran especially being the tough brother and some one who stands by seeing his sibling go through the phase of life he did. Baldwin and Hutton has a terrific scene in the bar where Charlie confronts him with a slow indirect innuendoes to the calling at him to expose the sham he is conducting.

End of it all, it is a cross section of the creation the modern person has developed to go through the ideal existence. The problems though is a continuing hassle without which there would be a birth of another suburbia life. The thing is simple and complex in dealing the reality. The simple thing is that life is supposed to be in circles with illogical behaviours and the goal to achieve the chiseled model of exemplified existence. The complex is in going through those rationally knowing it and realistically not able to accept it. This war within becomes the endless days and blossoms into a charming film in “Lymelife”.

"Up" (2009) - Movie Review

When was the last time we were easily moved by a series of scenes depicting two kids growing up to be happily married? And that happens within the first ten minutes of the “Up”. Carl Fredricksen (voice of Edward Asner) as a kid watched his adventure hero Charles Muntz (voice of Christopher Plummer) as the man circling the skies to find the rare breed of animals and wilderness. That fan status gets him to be in young Ellie’s (voice of Elie Docter) club in an old and abandoned house which would become their life home. As a boy, Carl does not talk much, not much at all and as he grows old childless and later a widower, he has successfully attained the status of grumpy old man. As skyscrapers arise by his houses, he holds strong to guard the memory of his late wife and begins to head the destiny of crawling to the doors of death.

Who would imagine an old man taking off his whole house with bunch of helium balloons? The same people who would make the tidiest rat the best chef in “Ratatouille” will be those. The picturesque of an old house cruising in the beds of clouds might be a chores in a day amongst an animation film but an animation film beginning to move the adults where a rare drama would do is unusual. But it is not surprising as Disney Pixar have consistently produced films such as this to find the best talents to propose an entertaining PG film with immense priority to the emotion in their films.

Carl Fredricksen will be the new “kid” in the town in the streets of favourite characters. A shy and nerdy kid, he found his love at very small age in Ellie. As the aforementioned series of scenes of their happy marriage, lot of things can be deduced about Carl. Having found his partner, he would have had no need for many friends and would have begun to shield out of the exteriority of the life beyond Ellie and the house. He would have loved her to the deepest and she of course would have done the same. As the perfect geek and lovable patient woman, she would have taken the role of home maker without a problem and begun to take care of Carl. She loved that life and as she cried too every day on their loss of not able to have a child, the bond between them becomes more and more. And as the responsibility of sustaining in the social existence of norm, the savings to take a trip to their dream destination, the “Paradise Falls” in the South America get broken more so often. The time has passed and the woman has gone. Carl is left with the house of nugget memories in nook and corner on the regret of not achieving and fulfilling his wife’s dream. Thus when the time comes to settle for the retirement home, he does a crazy thing and that is to sky up.

You wonder what is the exact idea he had in mind when he does that. It is possibly a way to kick the bucket and be happy in taking an effort towards the dream. But no, this is Disney Pixar and they twist off with a character to steer our man towards a purpose. A little reminder of his own child hood is Russell (voice of Jordan Nagai), a kid with the hopes of completing the circle of “wildnerness” badges to feel great about himself. Accidentally caught up in the lifted house, he becomes the uninvited burden for Carl’s journey.

Directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson should make a real drama film. They would make a film which would definitely be a tear jerker but a valid and genuine story. Of course they use the old sweet guy card along with the chubby little cute boy and a talking dog Dug (voice of Bob Peterson). Those cards are the tools in our pausing (yes pausing) life to remember the age we are. Cheesy as it may look, in “Up” it touches us immensely.

The visual extravaganza in films like this have long disappeared to be mentioned as a separate point in the reviews of the critics. It is now a medium as that of the other genres. It is a part which becomes a stage of subtlety than importance. And in “Up” it rightly does so with now and then giving the best image, an emotional image in its best clarity. The voyage to the world along the travelers leads them to discovering each other as any two characters of differences come to find. That is a routine but “Up” is not.

Friday, May 29, 2009

"Kinsey" (2004) - Movie Classics

Is sex a plain and simple methodology to prove our existence that is procreation? This question would be idiotic to ask in a much sustained and prevalent educative environment the world has become, subtracting the area in which the morality is a way to live. That does not mean city life is a melting pot for free love. Rather the collective group of humans has been given up. But it is not about group of people. As Alfred Kinsey in real life looked at the uniqueness of each gall wasps of the million he collected, the humans in their isolation and privacy dictate that form of biological act defining them. And more often than the regularity of the hearings and stories, it ends in a guilt and then a useless nature of how dirty something has happened. Welcome to the world of morality and sexual validity.

Alfred Kinsey an entomologist in the late forties and early fifties shocked the American culture by the explicitness in his book about the male specimen in their sexual performance, habits, perspective and what not. Writer/Director Bill Condon in “Kinsey” chronicles this man’s life, in an unusual form. He does not depict the times and let the costumes and customs define and tell us about it. The reason being the validity of that taboo in the current culture between the humans. In a strong and stringent childhood of Christian discipline, Kinsey (Liam Neeson) is hardly to be jailed by his father (John Lithgow). Love for the nature and the science of it makes the field of study an obvious choice for Kinsey.

The film begins with Kinsey guiding his research associates on how to conduct an interview. An interview of the sexual history with a total stranger. I recently discovered how much closed and concealed I was in mentioning about the women I talk to with my friend and I was thinking how did Kinsey manage to put people at ease to blurt out the most intimate and possibly the most unexpected shocking details without judgment, impartiality and unbelievably clinical. See, for him the species in the form of flesh and blood amuse him. It invites curiosity and the empathy for the billions and billions of people in this world unknowing about their behaviour. The behaviour understood in the closed corners as being nothing but feeling guilt and deviant about themselves. Kinsey wants to help all of them, through his statistically exhaustive study of sexual history.

What a courageous, industrious, open, knowledgeable and passionate man he was. Before venturing out to any one else, he goes through the experiments himself. He as a person of the same specimen form needs inspection, tests and observations. Liam Neeson utters the dialogues meaning every word of it. The belief in this man’s perspective towards the inability of the human to embrace the idea of such an act with clear mind is nothing short of an astounding portrait of that figure.

The boundaries defined by the norm of the society are shattered. Once the word is out on the regular observed deviance is learned more as a phenomenon so detailed, distributed and unique, it attracts people. Not that it is accepted with great arms of understanding but a weird sense of questioning the activity behind closed doors a little more objectively. This is the dialogue the man brought in between the people. The branded and defamed acts were merely a form of human pattern of liking and disliking as eating.

But does this enlightenment through the study wakes up the sleeping mind in the taboo of sex? Enlightenment is a threatening word for many. It would then make them to be the surrendered soul of wronged words against the crystalline clarity of the people’s behavioural patterns. We become aware of the rationality existing in that arena and a miniscule amount of fear is withered off for more open discussion. And to do through in a life’s existence and billions of collecting histories in the restrained society of fifties is something more than a great feat. It is an invention.

If so much can be learnt from the man, the art of putting forth such a content with the similar love for the human physicality as Kinsey did in the material is nothing other than integral and honest. We not alone see Kinsey as the passionate scientist but also as a father angered by the inability of his son to be more talkative about penis, vagina, hymen and masturbation as a dinner conversation as his daughters and a man encountering the most disturbing and extreme stories for the society’s trained beings with an invisible sterilized gloves to his unprejudiced mind. While he is awed by the individualities of gall wasps and thus the same with humans, he is frustrated of being labelled wrongly and been taken as some one tilting the ordinance in the society to chaos and uncultured.

And he meets a wife who is not alone passionate as him but a person of immense patience and vigorous enthusiasm to learn anything and everything. That is his wife Clara McMillen (Laura Linney). When Kinsey gets friends with a male student Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsagaard) so fast, the suspicion and look on Clara is obvious to suggest the eventual. Kinsey thrives for perfection in perfecting his life in terms of conducting his project to the utmost purity. The instinct to own the companion member close is an accepted regular human behaviour. The mind processing it in terms of the physical intimacy is beyond fascination. The eagerness to learn the reasoning or solving the puzzle is also fascinating and becomes a chicken and egg thing. Some end as a mad person, some end as being enthralled by the steps of discovery and accept their limitation and some other invent belief system to satisfy the same mind which has allowed them to be free. Kinsey began in the claws of strict conservative father as a man to be forced to abide a belief system he detested and flown out of the nest to be enthralled by the discovery he made in the insects and then into humans and finally drove himself to the edges of madness in obsessing his work. And with Liam Neeson in a great directorial presentation by Bill Condon, “Kinsey” is an educative and an experience very much suggested and recommended, strongly.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"The Tenants" (2005) - Movie Review

Danny Green casting Snoop Dogg for the African American writer Willie Spearmint would on the first go seem dangerously weird but seeing “The Tenants” gives out the reasons. First of all, the image of Snoop Dogg of this hip hop persona does not make us to see him as a writer which is how the writer Harry Lesser played by Dylan McDermott feels initially. Then as he buds into this role of aspirant but intimidating ideological man, there is a fear and unpredictability on this character’s reaction on Lesser. This tension makes “The Tenants” a film of constant subtle interest from its viewers.

Wiki states that after the abysmal first screening to the critics, this film hit straight to the DVD release. This is the line which is intriguing about the film written on Wiki “the film received harsh criticism due to what some critics discerned as anachronistic depictions of the racial tension between the principal characters and a lack of multidimensionality”. I would like to focus on the word anachronistic. The film happens in Brooklyn 1972 which is fresh off the civil rights movement. Having an angry black man and a subdued white man in Brooklyn would still apply. In terms of multidimensionality, well, the characters do not need different dimensions to tell this story effectively. That period of time also puts Lesser with many horrid racial slurs from Willie and that is how in fact learn that he is a Jewish American. The film based on the novel of the same name by Bernard Malamud tells a drawing story between two men obsessed with their passion to tell their story has rhythm of odd chemistry. With different back ground each come close but still are distanced by the vigour in which Willie conducts himself.

Willie is the scary and fanatic black freedom seeker. His rage and hate towards his race has made him the self declared righteous man. He is the personality who brings jitters in a slight statement of anger. There is no say on their stability of a conversation being controlled. One second they are messing and joking around and as soon as there comes a casual comfort level from other party to do the same, the air melts into sweats of fragile melting pot of irreparable break outs. This was not the case when Lesser was the only one in the run down apartment listening to his tapping of the type writer to finish his third novel. He set up a high bar in his first novel followed by the second bombing miserably. This is his chance for redemption as he says to set things straight in the literary world for himself. His land lord Levenspiel (Seymour Cassel) begs him to clear out and offers a buy out of 400$ which at the end of the film would have gone up to 10000$. Think about how he would be making selling that place then.

Willie as the angry young man snubs and sprays the hatred when Lesser approaches him. Willie chooses this run down place to write as the reason why Lesser is there. No one to bother and the only thing to do is sit and write till the walls vibrate with the tapping of the keys. Soon due to the nature of Willie being Willie, he requests Lesser to read his story. This is his first novel and seem to be getting out of the line. Since Lesser mentioned his experience in writing, Lesser requests suggestion. Lesser is the man of diplomacy and knows what Willie would not want to hear criticism especially from some one of a different race. After Willie bullies to spit out the truth, Lesser does. And the world between them erupts into this race card. For that Lesser replies rightly and precisely. Willie with time and after cooling off does see the truth. Thus they become moderately amicable.

Willie strangely dates a white girl Irene (Rose Byrne) whom Lesser no wonder gets attracted to. Soon as any one might predict, Lesser gets involved with her. But “The Tenants” is not about the predictability but about this connection between Lesser and Willie. With a great passion to their work, they threaten their surrounding. Willie with his crazy mouth does not hesitate to pour out racial slurs and terrifyingly ambitious about writing a story on a souther black mother and son going on a killing rampage towards the white people. And he conveniently makes Lesser a fellow black man or a hating white man as he wishes.

Danny Green finds the perfect location with right reasons for that place being abandoned. As their shambled life of destroyed relations these two men have, they are caught in this place of emptiness and frightening hollowness. “The Tenants” for the racial material it has got is very light on the subject. It does not bite deep into the issues because that is not the story but a part of its characters being afraid, envious, friendly and connected due to that. It has an unrealistic ending but an odd sensibility in terms of the literary value it seeks. The film succeeds for two reasons. One is that it has a consistent somber but an effectively restless screenplay. Second is the surprising sense of chemistry between Dylan McDermott and Snoop Dogg as these writers swallowed in their quest to finish their respective books.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Sling Blade" (1996) - Movie Review

I got a very strong feeling that Billy Bob Thornton never did approach any of the other directors with his script nor did he think twice about playing Karl Childers in “Sling Blade”. Some one in the deepest love for the movies and the writing they have who not only worked hard but considerably empathized with the letters in it would know some decisions are obvious that there is no need for any more considerations of options. Seeing “Sling Blade” more than the character study of the mentally challenged Karl is about Thornton. It is his film through out with his sweat and grains of clarity. This is “Sling Blade”.

Southern tales beckons an eerie quality. Silence conquers the best of the dialogues and the stillness of a dry after noon morphs to the moods of the people living in it. The air around these people carries a tension. Every Southern story has that quality that seeps in and feels home. Take it the documentary of “Searching for the Wrong Eyes Jesus” or David Gordon Green’s “Undertow”. The elements of that culture is haunting, soothing, scary and bluntly transparent. “Sling Blade” embarks through that quality as it should and have set up that in those mentioned two films which came later.

There is no secrecy in the past about Karl. In the dark and misty morning of the State hospital is him ready to be set free after several decades. He summarizes his life to the journalist and tells it with a force of clear understanding to the receiver. “I like the way he talks” says young Frank (Lucas Black) when he befriends Karl. Karl as his characteristics goes about his way to doing things. The disconnect from him to the rest of the world becomes obvious as we get to know him. Yet there is a part which has been silenced in the atrocity of the actions he did. He killed a boy whom he thought was raping his mother only to be later found that it was her lover. That drove him to kill her too. This fact he never keeps to himself and communicates to the people he meet. Strangely enough every one in a toned up manner to these kind of happenings accept him. Even the vicious boy friend of Frank’s Mom (Natalie Canerday) Doyle (Dwight Yoakam) does not mind the killings but he carries a hate for his appearance and behaviour.

This unsettling environment Doyle sets in for the Karl’s new friend Frank becomes to reflect his past. Billy Bob Thornton does one of the most incredible acting. He does not overdo the act of being Karl. He does not make him to come out of the character to be more communicative. His control in guarding that territory of letting his character go and come to the brittle situations he is put through are test of the acting. It never becomes a joke and the greatest of the things to not make it awkward. In the scenes upcoming the first, we become to embrace this character without any prejudice or presumptions. Keeping as to think like that is where the actor and the writer/director Thornton wins completely.

For all this effort and presentation, “Sling Blade” still is not a great work personally. Its nature of the story makes it that way. It is of course predictable in where it is going but the journey is crucial and in it while the movie has many touching moments still needs a little more ounce of energy to carry it through in a grand fashion. And when I say grand, not in the flowery desecration but in a more subtlety in the obvious resultant of where the story is going.

The supporting characters especially from Dwight Yoakam is threatening and wonder to think how it is such an ease in the showing of a character to bring down the situation to ticking time bomb. Whenever Doyle is around, trouble is bound to happen and we expect Karl to snap at him, but of course he does not. That is the scare the director keeps us in the leash.

It is a story about human qualities of being the utmost good and the utmost evil at the same time. Our animal part is always at the loose and tempts in the pleasure of letting it out. The never ending thoughts of unspeakable acts and emotions are battled across in us keeping the cruelty at the bay. The breakage of that is easy but maintaining is what makes us human. Karl got out of it at an age when violence is just a word and in that he becomes the silent observer of scrutinizing his action in tiny measure. The next calculated let out of that animal will be a clear and consequential act. That becomes the story of Karl and the people he comes to love.

"Game 6" (2005) - Movie Review

Teams the fans fixate on is a threatening and passionate emotion. Coming from a country where the game of cricket is tattooed when the babies come out, it does not take much to empathize with the baseball, football and basketball addiction in US. Especially the height of superstitious fun of Boston Red Sox not winning the world series from 1918, of course ending it in 2004. The film “Game 6” happens in October 25, 1986, the day of the Game 6 where Red Sox were playing Mets to be on the edge of pulling off the series leading 3-2. But that is a back drop or a metaphor of the central character in the film, Nicky (Michael Keaton).

Nicky has to stage up his play that night while anxiously waiting for the Red Sox to not win but lose. This idea of his explanation towards his team right from child hood not losing but losing with an effect of shattering hope with incredible wound to its devoted member is where you could understand the outcry of a true fan. During one of the team previews of the Cricket World Cup, I remember the veteran Indian cricketeer Sunil Gavaskar summarizing team India. He said when they are good, they are brilliant but when they are bad, they are pathetic. That remembrance of their superiority and pulling off the win from nowhere develops the hope. And when it is broken, it is a torture. Nicky’s life while busy and important is a life built up on expected failures. He has an affair which his wife now knows to make her talk to “prominent” divorce lawyer. And a young daughter in college whom he has time only to meet amongst the traffic jams than a casual lunch. He has missed out and this day of his play which will be tested by the unmerciful critic Stephen Schwimmer is building up to the pinnacle of the base ball game.

He goes in taxi cabs and always mentions his days of driving taxi in New York to his driver. All the taxi cab drivers are immigrants which is a cultural note of what the city entered in the late eighties. And without any surprise it halts in the traffic. When Nicky is going through the minutiae of driving the day to the night, there is an outcast moving his day in chanting Budhist hymns. In a loft which seemed to be abandoned in the shabby part of the town resides the much feared and hunted critic of the broadway play Stephen Schwimmer played here with the mastered corkiness and mannerisms by Robert Downey Jr..

There are characters Nicky meets which are brought on in an interesting perspective of regularity in which the protagonist meet them in his daily life. His fellow old time writer Elliott (Griffin Dunne) living an existence of homeless nature wondering where his creativity got shot. Oh, he knows the precise time it died. By the words in the reviews of Schwimmer. Schwimmer hides in the dark without electricity and toilet. This we know through an out of work actress (Shalom Harlow) when she begs him to write a little more gently. He is surprised why people are angry for the truth he writes.

“Game 6” is not a regular film with an agenda. It carries along the streets with the things Keaton as Nicky encounters before he confronts his failures in life. The failures are not extraordinary debacles of shambling him apart. He has a led a comfortable and considerably posh living. The thing is the comfort which has institutionalized him to be the man not believing in his self. His friend Elliott is a nightmarish reflection of his future after his possible electrocution by the reviews of Schwimmer. In the midst, his personal life going in drains and his favourite team, a representation of his success seem to swallow once again the pain of losing.

It may sound like a film of despair but it is a soothing film of a single day New York moment from start to finish. In a shiny day of sun and shadow from the tall buildings with cars kissing each other on the dreaded road of honks and shouts, “Game 6” is a film of passing lighter times pausing for its audience to see the film making in works with subtle emotions. It is all happening in that day and it is surrounding every member in the city directly and indirectly of their forthcoming expectations. For their team and against their team. They focus the spirit to that game and believe that winning would mean something to their otherwise scheduled fiascos every day. For Nicky, it has been easy to not hope but his team manages to titillate it when the time comes. “Game 6” is such a feeling but it does not disappoint as the team, rather gives its audience a smooth comforting experience in film and emotion.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Skills Like This" (2009) - Movie Review

“Skills Like This” is promoted as an offbeat comedy. That it is offbeat is sure but not quite sure on the comedy part. It begins as the protagonist’s play bombing which it should and the rest of the film elongates as an extended sensible part of that horrendous play. But the sensible part is not good enough to project a professional film making. Rather it is an abysmal display of incoherent moments with one thing in mind, act cool. Max is the protagonist played by Spencer Berger who wrote the screenplay for the film. “Skills Like This” auras no comedy rather than the self awareness of its production value of being independent which is uninvited in a debut venture or for that matter any venture at all.

Two weeks pondering over his delusional journey of being a writer, Max has an epiphany amongst his friends Dave (Gabriel Tigerman) and Tommy (Brian D. Phelan). As the pompous and irritating Tommy leaves his mouth to fart off nonsensical ideas, Max picks up one from it. He decides to rob the bank opposite to their hangout spot, a mexican restaurant. Max impulses and in a very convincing manner robs the bank by grabbing the gun from the security guard and pointing it right at his head than the bystanders. The teller (Kerry Knuppe) holds her calm and of course cute to hand over the money. This jolts an excitement which Max wrongly takes for some passion and drive he had been missing. He also deludes himself that he is good at it. He is not. He does things fast and messy. He is successful at it momentarily. But he knows that he is going to face the consequences for which he strangely gives a smiling face. He is on the influence of body produced drug, adrenaline.

Max is supposed to be the breaker of the monotony. His friend Dave the representation of cubicle culture is woken up. Tommy as such is a questionable being who idolizes Max after his robbery stint. Tommy desperately wants to cuddle in the shadow of being in the part of this whole shame Max is going through. Max meets the teller and while she is enthralled by meeting the robber in regular situation is confused on what to do next. Well, bad boys attract beautiful women seems to be the formula and hence with nothing romantic or sweet happening between, happens sex. And both in this weird spin of events begin to like each other under a magic spell. Lucy is the teller’s name and of course she will snap out of it as this cannot keep on going with Max robbing toy stores and 24 hour convenience stores.

More than the amateurish acting from some of the actors, the characters act being completely aware that they are in a movie. Hence they begin to be cautious of the way they move or act out. The character of Tommy especially is not annoying because of his character but how Brian D. Phelan presents it to the audience. He has the face to be the jerk in the party or makes it look like that by biting his tongue every now and then. He takes along the push over Dave on a hangover day to his dismal interview attempts. Dave is supposed to be enlightened by this experience of his friends following their instincts, which are flawed beyond doubt.

There are couple of cool shots in slo-mo which amounts for style than substance. The reason there is little of empathy in Max is that we meet him at his rock bottom. And in that he wavers along with what he feels. In films not giving a tour into the past of a character is a tool. Most of the times, the current period the film takes place has enough to portray that character and other times it is a device to unfold the secrecy and surprise elements. In “Skill Likes This” it should have been used to get his previous life. What are his relationship with his family and why he is not feeling anything for his parents with his grand father in the hospital.

One of the meaningful insight is provided by Lucy when Max steals a statue from the restaurant they dined. She tells that this hallucination Max is in sure does sounds good but is not the art form he considers himself at. He is good at it is merely an excuse to pump his life forward. The film could have either used that as a running comedy and we could have vicariously lived through him on the things we would not be impulsive about. Instead it begins to fantasize and becomes conscious of its existence. It is divided in itself in the views of this protagonist’s act. This revelation is constantly vacillated for its righteousness and never gets to the real problem of Max. Or they could have forgotten his inner trouble and went on with the hilarious situation he puts himself in robbing places and getting out of it because of his random act than his thought of being good at. “Skills Like This” needs to realize that it is a film but it characters should be real in emotions and the behaviours they pose to possess.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Terminator Salvation" (2009) - Movie Review

What is the notion that directors and writers undermine the intelligence of the audience? Especially with a franchise so strongly been established as not alone an entertainer but a trend in the graphic landmark applied reasonably and effectively with the demand of the story rather than as a gimmick. Christian Bale and Sam Worthington are so serious in the delusion that their director McG is taking a film they have imagined. In their cold performance they seem to be fooled by the script they signed and what they really are. There is a noticeable detachment in the actors and the film that it breaks down in the miniscule part in which they speak. Otherwise it is a wet dream for explosive enthusiasts and may be Adam and Jamie from Mythbusters would like to replicate it. Of course theirs would be more fun, logical and educative to watch than “Terminator Salvation” which does not even sparsely pass the entertainment criteria it weighs itself on.

As with the songs impregnating thoughts and memories to it, films are greater impression of visual manifestation of the passed on ages. When Arnold Schwarzenegger scarred the bejesus out of me in “Terminator”, it was a horror film with a thriller rarely matched in those days. But when James Cameroon hit the doors to kick it out of the space, it was “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”. One of the most vicious, deadly and likable villain in Robert Patrick came forth. He did not talk much but a slender and calm eye blocking the deadly nature of that being was impeccable. And with Arnold who can proudly say as his perfect role rocked the franchise. Of course by the third film, every one sang “Its all been done” and finished munching their popcorns. So when an actor like Christian Bale signs on, it is serious. They are taking this franchise a bit more seriously than it took itself in past years. While the concept of logic does not rings up to inform the ludicrous premise, the attempt to make it tally was important.

Here comes Bale preparing very well to look as the worn down and desperate John Connor, the saviour of the future and the past. He is not the ultimate leader yet while he follows orders from the guy we all hate enough to be doomed in the end. As he sees the underground facility of Skynet in 2013, the clever machine has researched into building better killers and for some reason will be choosing the face of Schwarzenegger. Anyways, as our compassionate hero requests for that “more” time to rescue prisoners, things are blown and the naked Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright comes out waking up after he has been put to dead twelve years back for a crime he still feels guilty. He does not know his purpose of being in this state and with nothing in mind begins to walk in the destroyed and mutilated Los Angeles. In between of course the constant and deadly attacks of the machines.

There is no doubt that the technical department of the film has worked way beyond than expected. There is a terrific scene where the camera follows Connor getting on helicopter from outside and then goes inside to crash along with him. That is incredible but chaotic to really make any sense out of the event. Similar kind of feat was done in the much under appreciated and under rated “Knowing” of the plane crash. That was terrorizing in its chaos making you freeze like its central character seeing the ultimate brutality in front. In this we do not need sense but some real purpose of such a shot. It is a tough shot and nothing valuable gets added to the film.
The plot is preposterous as its predecessors. But that is imminent when the void of the past and present are torn apart like a simple door to alter whatever the script wants it to be. Connor is on the hunt to rescue Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) who was actually the time traveller knocking up Sarah Connor in the first part. So if Skynet kills him, what would happen to the current existing John Connor. In fact how did the current John Connor exist? Or for that fact in the first part how did he exist to send back Reese? As much it is silly in the mind to ask these, the film’s job is to calculatedly forgive those and immerse in character depths and even in entertainment a serious effort of doing clever and occupied.

Marcus and the lady pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) have a night to spare and out of nowhere comes “bad” people to molest Blair. Marcus beats the crap to be the saviour and thus will formulate his key to be released from Bale’s Connor when he is chained in the dungeon. The film uses the famous tag lines nicely and reminding the franchise’s glorious tenure in pleasing its audience. In between blowing up huge amounts of crashed/burned and charred cars, “Terminator Salvation” does not suffer in finding its soul but does not even take efforts to find it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Falling Down" (1993) - Movie Review

The scariest part about the rampage of shooting down is that the people who do that are in the emotional peak of outburst which many of us go through. Losing it as we term has a reason to be called that. Civilized is a misspoken word. It is a made up word that translates into pumping the pillow of our mind with anger and rage. It pops out and most of us just cause a mess to clean up but some people are not stack of cotton. It becomes a starved person wanting to eat as much as possible. That rage is actually a desire to be quenched of that thirst. Thirst caused by the frustration, denial, agony and the expectation of being the society’s school boy not treated as he/she thinks deserves to be. That is with every one. William “D-Fens” Foster (Michael Douglas) is a grown up Travis Bickle. And he loses it on a hot and humid Los Angeles day.

The sweat is dripping through the eye lids when Foster is breaking apart. He stares at the long line of cars in a road block for street repair or so they say. Every thing pops out of the shell to annoy him in this day. Or the cumulative disappointments in his past no longer has a place to stay inside him and that causes him to abandon his car and run to the nearest neighbourhood. He begins his day of violence with an effective assault. A Korean shop owner (Michael Paul Chan) charging Eighty Seven cents with his accent for an ice cold Coca Cola. Foster needs 50 cents to call his ex-wife (Barbara Hershey) who has a restraint order against him and tell her he will be coming for his kid’s birthday. After being told to buy something in a demeaning tone to get change, Foster begins to let out himself. He massacres the aisles with a base ball bat he took from the shop owner. And he pays what he thinks to be paid for the drink, 50 cents and heads to the hood where trouble is imminent for him. He begins to descent in to his mind and digs out the buried anger without inhibition. This will be a bad day for every body around him.

When Foster is ploughing the hood with his freely let emotions, at the downtown is a cop retiring. That is Sergeant Martin Prendergast (Robert Duvall). He is getting mocked all around for taking early retirement while his hysterical mood-swinging wife (Tuesday Weld) calls him to add the spice to the last day at his job. This will be that day for him where everything what Foster does beckons him to tie the knot. He puts together the array of incidents mapping out the final parade of Foster and stands in the end pointing the gun at the man. Can there be a different end to this known consequences at all?

Joel Schumacher takes the script of Ebbe Roe Smith and attaches Douglas into a form we do not know of. With a closely cut hair, half sleeves shirt and a tie, every body is in the mood to aggravate him. He goes to stretch out in a territory of hispanic gangs and every time he starts out nicely. He reasons with a sarcasm of knowing how exactly the response is going to be. He wants every one to mess with him because he is grinning to jump on it. But is there a sad story behind this office worker? Of course there is. For that fact, every one has and the measure of its deep end varies. But for the moment in their life, it is the problem like never before.

Douglas is nothing but perfect. Never does he make Foster a man of immense love for violence. Just a man whose tool seems to be effective when he has a gun. He places him as the product of the things every one has become patient of and more worryingly indifferent. He is ready for a good breakfast at 11:35 when the fast food store closes their service of breakfast at 11:30. He is wondering where did the tradition of bending backwards for customer went? Isn’t that what built this nation ? He is a racist like every other person wherein he seem to notice unfavourably wrong on letting the people from diverse countries. The marking of territory and the belonging of protecting it has made him wonder whether this place is not his any more. These are the quibbles residing in every one all over the world which are magnified in his encounters.

Robert Duvall lets us discover Martin from a toned down police officer to a man who used to be a cop loving his job in the end. This series of events Foster generates makes him to roll back the days. He goes for the action and gets one. He has lost his daughter and sees through Foster but knows guys like him. He exactly lays down what Foster was planning to do. He tries to do his job and in that he sees his element of truth. He does not empathize or know Foster because he is a cop. He knows the man tipping over the edge because he lives in a city and leads a life.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"The Great Buck Howard" (2008) - Movie Review

People like Buck Howard (John Malkovich) have their shift of moments from minute to minute. They annoy you and their face and nuances of expressions invites thousand punches in a get go but there is their best side. The best side of that particular skill. Not the “effects” Buck puts forth in his shows but in their subtle goodness. There is an appreciation of that and their preposterous requests and the little trivial insignificant demands vanishes to see them in their eyes and smile. This is “The Great Buck Howard” an unpretentious film telling a simple story about a young man in the midst of finding his cornerstone of a dream in this existence of life. Of course he does it serving as the Road Manager for the man himself, Buck Howard.

Buck has mannerisms, very unique to him. It is not the cool mannerisms inspiring copy cats but ones you want to escape from. He shakes hands like pumping water from the mechanical handle, uses disappeared similes and unusual comparisons for his state of mind and expression (“You are an embryo” he says to the fill in PR Valeria (Emily Blunt)) and puts on a great show to the itsy bitsy small town hiding in the great states. He hates to be called a magician. He is not one. He is a mind reader for the most part, a hypnotist and is also doubted of using an unknown assistant in the crowd for his signature act. This is the last act in his show wherein he asks two members of the audience to hide his show money amongst them while he is watched in his green room with other two audience member to authenticate his presence. He always finds the money. He has never missed in his 40 years of his career. Every single time he does, we expect the unstoppable failure and he pulls back. In one such which comes in the last, we surely stop for a moment and think back on whether he wants to succeed or not with utmost tension and curiosity.

Here comes Troy (Colin Hanks), a young man studying law because his father (Tom Hanks) told him to. One fine day he closes his laptop and sets off what he really wants to do. And discovers that he wants to do something related to writing. He writes the story I believe because he narrates. That is not going to pay, not now. Hence he answers one of those weirdly placed newspaper ads where it is suspicious and interesting to pursue. He meets the flamboyant, well not so flamboyant Buck Howard. He glows with his smile and of course is nit picky. He is ultra suave but unexpectedly cheap and unpredictable.

Troy is the replica representing a generation waking up in the middle of their busy but monotonous life to discover that they have become a mechanical duplication of the next person to them. Many bundled in the safety bubble fearing of the insecurity has denied their instincts and has led to venture where the money leads them. That is the fact of life which has found its way amongst us sticking to our cell phones and wondering what the heck free time means. Troy wants a new life and mainly sees that there is something he can do which he would actually feel good at the end of the day. But existence needs currency. While he does the job of setting up things for Buck, he sees Buck as a man following his passion for the work.

He sees the show and writes or narrates to us with a striking honesty. He says the show is cheesy and corny which is the way it should be because the audience expect that. But it is not all talk and no show. It is a classic with impressive mind skills and impossible guessing games from this aging man in his trait. John Malkovich would be the last in the list if some body asks me who will be casted for a flashy, demanding, boasting and feeling of grandeur natured Buck Howard. Malkovich pours his demeaning smile on his face at me. He makes Buck the likeable douche bag and a respectable skills-person. He also features a conflicting personality within himself.

Colin Hanks cannot be more easy and casual. He is our eyes and ears making us to vision this goofball of a personality. And there are truly interesting characters and performances from Steve Zahn as the Limo Driver with his sister being proactive and enthused and overworked about Buck’s introduction. As Buck’s PR Emily Blunt does the showy publicist persona while keeping a nice face for the client.

Writer/Director Sean McGinly based Buck Howard on The Amazing Kreskin who found his check at the end of the show precisely. Sean McGinly worked shortly for him as a road manager. McGinly makes us believe that this character is loved for his show in the small towns Troy ventures along. Buck always says “I love this town” and seem to be fake and make the small time theater owners feel better about themselves. But as the film is over, we realize he really means it. McGinly makes a smart and an insensitive man out of Howard while a wise and pragmatic personality out of Troy. Out of them comes a honest story telling with simple emotions and big life lessons in embracing the beginning and end.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Gomorra" (Language - Italian) (2008) - Movie Review

The style and emotion of a film sometime becomes its own victim. Most of the time it is the emotion of indifference to its story and its characters. That is something the director would have intended it to be to forcefully make the viewers become the member of the society or situation that is getting portrayed. At the end of the film, we walk guiltless as we do not break the characteristic of being a careless neighbour feared for our life or a part in that stage carrying the objective staleness of the film. But as the chores of our life begins to continue, we get reminded as being the spectator and the actual reaction sink in. Sometimes it is an indecision and most of the times it is the incomprehensible digestion of a casual atrocity. “Gomorra” will take that route in couple of days with me but this is a film about the documenting of five lives in a gang infested hood in Naples, Italy.

This is a mafia film but not the kind we have witnessed. There are no shining lights and costly suits. Not the flashy cash (always fresh from print in films) and not the sudden shot. The flurry of random firing at unexpected moments happen but in a stunning realism. It does not undertone the documenting characteristic of the film. It is a crude and realistic presentation of the clan operating and actually alive to feed in and feed off the people in and around it.

We see five lives in these congested and closely segregated flats. It is not maintained, shabby and dirty. It would echo like a mother when some one calls from a house. In this we see an aging middle man and distributor of the gang money, Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato). He has been the trustful member of one gang. He looks like a government employee working as an accountant. Which in this case he is and distributes the meager amount to the ground level workers. He visits their houses. Some of them are in jail and their families are taken care of. This is not the care Scorsese portrayed but a mere duty as if to maintain that portrayal. There is an old man complaining that the money is not enough to keep the living going. The heads of the gang are often shirtless and wander in their mediocre looking houses. Welcome to the actual state of mafia.

While the film carries a great semblance to the “City of Men”, in this the existence of this rivalry is a living organism. At no point in the film we are informed of what the gangs are and what is the reasoning for the killings. Director Matteo Garrone knows that it is of no relevance. In this families, regardless of the scenario and reality of seeing the danger in the streets, the kids fall into the same line again and again. Mothers try their best but to exist in this world, you got to take sides. And the sides have already decided through their husbands or fathers or mothers. For them, it is theirs respectively. The chain never stops and in the current day we see members shifting sides. Why they do, there is no reason. May be the kids might get a new bike. It just happens.

The influence of the films over this reality is surreal and scary. Two kids Marco (Marco Macor) and Ciro (Ciro Petrone) are introduced playing a scene from “Scarface” in a partly constructed apartments shouting back to their voices of echoes. They are cocky and thirsty for the replication of that film in their life. They steal weapons from gangs and coke from the dealers. The shoot it with burning desire and rage with their undergarment in an isolated back waters. Soon they become eventual targets and we see them dissolving their life without a care.

In the ring of kids into this pit, Totò (Nicoló Manta) a thirteen year old boy helping his mother in running a grocery store gets attracted to the routine. Himself and his friend fall in the gang and soon his friend moves to the opposite gang. He says they cannot be friends anymore as he has crossed sides. This is no code or honour but the functioning into this island in a city.

There are two other stories where a skilled tailor smuggles himself at nights into the neighbouring chinese factory to earn extra money and in the other story we follow a scheming and clever boss Franco (Toni Servillo) taking his new assistant Roberto (Carmine Paternoster) in his illegal waste dumping in the lands of the veteran gang members.

The ugliness of this whole situation is passed as a casual event. We see the film as if we are in a safe neutral zone and the life out here is a common occurrence of kids wanting to be gangsters, betrayal not carrying a meaning, drug trafficked money not seem to come out in the materialistic possessions and the bodies in pool of blood. We are disconnected emotionally in to this mess and we see it as an eventuality of a life in this hood. This mode of presentation as said earlier makes it a film I can admire but not love. But “Gomorra” does not want you to love it. It makes us to see ourselves numbed by the cruelties in that world.

(The post film information of the Camorra gang which the story is based on seem to have piled up bodies, toxic waste, money and drugs rapidly in normal moments for us.)

"Angels & Demons" (2009) - Movie Review

Why do lead characters in films like this do not get their heads popped up by the trained perfect assassin? And when the villain needs to be apprehended, why do they stare to give the character the signal to go lose and perform instant suicide? These are questions which would laugh back at me on the naivety to view a pot boiling mixture of block buster. In “Angels & Demons” we try to stay awake quite hard when they swirl the swift car out of the way not hitting single tourists on their desperate attempt to dismantle the plans of a secret society in destroying the Vatican City. If the church go through their day in their daily prayers and other persistent approach in getting to god, the secret society is equally vehement in plotting to prove theirs. Thus it is a battle of ego paving a comfortable platform for the novel of Dan Brown taking the screen time laboriously for two hours and twenty minutes of our time. Sad part is, we pay for that wastage of lost moments.

Our professor friend Robert Langdon gets the face of Tom Hanks once again in this feature. In “The Da Vinci Code”, one of the most preposterous and ridiculous exemplifying work of carelessness, Langdon’s thought process in solving the symbols were drawn out as graphics of signs coming out of the paper or stone to reveal what the heck is the professor decoding. In this, it is all the squinting of an eye and kaboom! we have unlocked the mystery without a single detail of the history mumbled through the actions. So this time around he gets assistance from a female scientist Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer) who helped in the creation of “antimatter” which is going to do a big bang theory into reality when it becomes unstable. Thus the greatest symbolic detonating device for the villains in “Angels & Demons”.

There is no need for a customary scenes of sparkling smile and a calm touch to a kid (for that microsecond scene) to prove his angelic presence of Ewan McGregor as Camerlango Patrick McKenna. A soft voice and being the pet for the deceased pope is good enough to firm his characterization. For the rest of it, well Ewan just walks with that spotless face and making sure Langdon gets his deal in unlocking the puzzles so that he can save the four cardinals who are the favourite to be the next pope and finally to save the city from being swallowed by the ironically named “God’s Particle”. Uffff! Lot of work. Lot of time, subtracted from our lives.

So begins the hunt for the clues and hopefully get them to the place just in time to see the old dudes die in different forms with “Illuminati” symbol. There are the paper card character doing their duties. First is the Vatican Security chief Commander Richter (Skellan Skarsgård). He would be the doubtful guy ready to block the proceedings and blindly following the rules of the book. Then would be the suspicious looking people within. That would be Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who has claimed the fame to take the characters shady and good at the same time. His assistant Father Simeon (Cosimo Fusco) to further make sure the “doubts” are strong. And the aiding guards for Langdon and Vittoria are Inspector Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino) and his subordinate.

And for the sake of it they bring the topic of science and religion constantly battling with of course neither a resolve nor to instigate a good discussion. But you did not come here for the argument and not a clear winner to be strong about your belief. We came here for the Langdon taking us through the tour of Vatican and along with the history and unbelievable puzzles. Which Hanks does when he smirks at the ignorance of the Vatican guards not knowing their history. And carefully gets into the archives with Vittoria and then sheepishly cops out when she rips of a historic page from the publications of Galileo. Once that is done, the film puts itself comfortably in to default path of predictable outcomes.

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks surprise me with their unrelenting effort to resurrect Dan Brown’s novels on to the big screen. What do they see in these stories which makes them to recreate it? Clearly there is not a single serious take on the divided opinion of science and religion. And the thrill ride and adventure are worse than Nicolas Cage’s “National Treasure”. It is long and .......loooong. I almost fell asleep and put aside my own belief and prayed the non-existent power to let these underdog heroes find the antimatter and then tell them who is the mastermind behind these whole thing so that we can worry about the money spent driving back to our home.

!!!!!Spoiler Alert !!!!!!
Hollywood Secrecy Code # 11910 - If a mere supporting character is casted by a genuinely cherubic known face such as Ewan McGregor, then the possibility of him being the culprit is imminent.

Of course I did not know what are the intentions of Ewan’s character were but I knew he was the man not at the very moment the film introduces the character but the very first time I saw the trailer of “Angels & Demons” few months back.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Eight Below" (2006) - Movie Review

“Eight Below” is a good story about bravery, persistence and the love for dogs but skids whenever it begins to take off. As the known account of what is going to happen begins in the cold south most part of the planet. The dogs, eight of them is owned near and dear by the expedition guide Jerry (Paul Walker). When the scientist Dr. McClaren (Bruce Greenwood) arrives without notice and demands a trek to the worst part of the vicinity, danger is imminent and the bravery of dogs goes without saying. That drill catches our attention and while I was thinking that the whole part of that expedition is going to be the film, the movie spins a surprise. As the two survives and endures the deadly travel by the dogs digging forward with their infinite energy, a hard weather leaves the expedition team to abandon those. Jerry badly hurt wakes up to find that there is no going back to the field base in Antarctica with the winter hitting the worst in twenty five years. Thus becomes “Eight Below” in the barren and deadly icy cold weather of Antarctica, not for Jerry but for the canines.

Jerry becomes dejected and is consumed by guilt and helplessness as he ventures from DC to his home base Astoria, Portland to find some one to take him back. When this is happening the film shifts to the dogs who now have broken down the tightened collars except an aging dog Old Jack and begins to start the survival instinct where food does not exist in the never ending white sheets of ice. This is where the film begins to lose its connection with its audience. While the film is intended for the kids, the cheesiness of making the dogs react becomes too much. The dogs cleverly hunt the birds and also accumulates to its leader to distribute. Then there is the problem of young Max to be accepted in their clan of seasoned players. All these while sounds cute and cuddly does not translate the right emotions.

When we meet Jerry introducing the eight lovely rugged pets of his, the idea is to make us fall in love with those creatures. Their appearance and shrewdness is enough to do that but to sustain it, there needs more work in further scenes to ensure and that does not gets materialized as director Frank Marshall would have liked. The other reason becomes actor Paul Walker as he seem to not lose the character of “Fast and Furious”. Well for that, he never changes himself to the character he is playing. But more so it is the similar young tough emotionally tightened fellow roles is what he gets and accepts I believe.

Jerry has an on and off thing going on with his crew member, a pilot Katie (Moon Bloodgood). Their romance is one such which changes climates as the screenplay likes to and comes together when the crisis ends. The same goes for the funny guy stereotype for another crew buddy Cooper (Jason Biggs). He is the guy getting picked on constantly by Jerry and licked all over the face by Buck, the dog. That routine which begins in the film, as the romance should end the note. The fear of flying and his technical expertise of cartography coming to help the script fold fast becomes too much of a haphazard approach towards the story.

“Eight Below” as said earlier has a very good story. While the survival of the dogs are crucial to the film, the unwanted emotional overcoating shines annoyingly the brand name of “Disney”. Thus it suddenly plummets into the territory of a film which takes the tag of “for kids” for granted. I am sure the kids will have a great time seeing the dogs fight its way through and of course the film clown Cooper (but I was little taken back when the fight with leopard seal over the carcass of a whale comes through which is completely not suitable for young kids). It seems to be a cop out from seriously taking a mature path out of this.

The funny thing about the film is that I was desperately trying to like the movie and especially Jerry’s love for his dogs. While I loved the effort of showing the dogs guarding their kind from weather and natural killers, the emotions should have been avoided. For whatever it is, while I would not debate on the ability of an animal emoting human feelings, it does not get translated well over the screen. But I should not generalize. “Eight Below” does not give out and does not get the right part of the act from these otherwise energetic and astute dogs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Beaufort" (Language - Hebrew) (2007) - Movie Review

From the films having the time to peruse the detailed intricacies of a war, one thing is the critical and the most essential part of that cruel process, waiting. That characteristic to listen to the crackled voice on a radio and a machine hitting its head like a screwed up drum toy of the destiny of the soldiers in a station seem to be the scariest, frustrating and agonizing procedure in serving the army. When the distant sounds of the mortars echoes into the far and vast mountains in the Beaufort, it is the fear and the growing up of these young kids becoming the story of this film. This Israeli film based upon the novel of same name by Ron Leshem narrates the final days of the IDF soldiers stationed out there before withdrawing.

In the last shot of the film, a soldier gets down from the artillery vehicle, strips out his one piece snow suit, the fleece and everything which has been guarding from cold and not the mortars, tells the tightened soul wrapped in layers for the war he just sat through. This film after “Jarhead” does the thing of being waited upon. Long before the media bathed itself in the information of these, bravery stood for being in the army and courage the second skin for the men. It was thought that gunning and fearlessly entering the territories of the enemies defined by the borders and politics defined those characteristics. The films and the media has shed light on the barren land of nothing but expecting the light to come through realigns these thoughts. But more than realigning is the realization of what meant as the courage and bravery begins to alleviate into the helplessness and the shattering of trust and belief on the cause.

A helicopter lands on a mountain when Liraz (Oshri Cohen) and another soldier gets a man from the machine amongst the raining mortars. They received an expert from bomb squad to clear the road for evacuation. He is Ziv (Ohad Knoller) and seeing the initial video of the device on the road, he says it is dangerous. Liraz a young kid says it is no news that it is dangerous and he does not need a man from the chopper to inform this. We see this arrogant kid with blood boiling for country when he yells this. We wonder why there is no wise commander interfering and softening the kid. Tell him that the bomb expert knows what he is talking. There is no one, because Liraz is the commander and the men under him are at average age of nineteen.

Through Ziv we see the coffin shaped tunnel passages in the bunker. In the wake of the night, Ziv is woken up by Liraz to investigate the road and a couple of minutes to stretch gets Ziv to be lost in this tunnel. He stops by the outpost called “Green”. The most sensitive zone in the station, that is the one which has been guarded by some how or other by the Israelis since 1982 when they captured the fort. Now it is a sitting duck position to be hit by the Hezbollah. The next day morning Ziv ventures upon the device and that event begins the humanization of the tough Liraz to visit what and who he is doing in this middle of bomb storms.

In the closed space of bunker, Liraz is a walking iron. Making sure he stands still and make his powerful brown eyes to get the things done by his soldiers. There is the inner war in him being dejected by the inertness of the government to stay put watching the enemies shell out the fear in the crew while at the same time sees his duty and his ideology of being patriotic stopping him to do the criticism. But one by one he sees his soldiers behind getting killed not in a mission or fight but in the act of guarding. Guarding knowing that the attacks are imminent and the government has folded hands watching it go down.

This film which sees the war and the place of history made of stone related by the claim made by people some years ago with a sad face. Thousand of years before the mistakes committed have been redone without a clear order allegedly said in the film. Now after eighteen years losing soldiers, this place has a final say in the minds of a rigid leader. While Liraz is the man been tested of his emotions in an environment which does not allow goes around hiding it, there is Koris (Itay Tiran) the medic advocating the pragmatism of the predicament they are in. No one gives a damn about their well being and they need to get the hell out of here. But more than the attachment to the duty, it is the automatic entitlement to safe guard his command and station coming in front of Liraz.

Written and Directed by Joseph Cedar, “Beaufort” has the photography by Ofer Inov to heights of precision in letting the ray of light pass through the gaps of the concrete blocks. Not phony but clearly a touch of gold in to the art of making. The music Yishai Adar constantly runs a buzz of the fragile situation of the place these people reside in. And in the soft and moving lyrics of musical soldier Shpitzer (Arthur Perzev) is the defining time the film moves us into tears on the loss these men witness in the immobility of their actions. “Beaufort” is said to be a war film and it indeed is with the back ground. But more than that is the process of hard men learning the fragility of their life given up so easily in the long and narrow tables of borders, orders and ideologies.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"Star Trek" (2009) - Movie Review

The memories of the Spock’s sharp grips are still there reminding the TV Series we watched in India without a clue of the story. It was about the graphical galaxies and the actions. Yet Captain Kirk played by William Shatner brought the hot seat of being the Captain as something of high on toes and seeing the safe existence of the USS Enterprise (I never remembered the name of the space ship before seeing this film though) cool. J.J. Abrams bottles those tension in the main cockpit of the ship intact along with a rejuvenation of the middle aged actors breathing refreshing youth to it. Result is astonishingly terrific chemistry and fun with a plot disturbing the debatable space-time continuum. This is “Star Trek” and it accomplishes its tasks considerably.

Abrams did something of a similar feat in “Mission Impossible: III”, a franchise declining after John Woo’s second of the franchise force feeding preposterous in sumptuous amounts. That film carried a strange sense of seriousness and paralleling the action part of it with not alone entertainment but with lot of sense and admiring cleverness. “Star Trek” follows that trend with actors believing in their roles as they believed watching the TV series growing up. In this film we see baby James Tiberius Kirk born as his father George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth) a young acting Captain as his predecessor assigned him before entering the suicidal caves of a giant highly technical space ship of one Captain Nero (Eric Bana in an unrecognizable face lift). As the attack is imminent and the auto pilot failing, George destined to die saves 800 lives and manages to do some damage to the gargantuan enemy ship.

Years multiply and as we see young Spock struggling to cope with his half Vulcan half human troubles, James Kirk grows to be stunningly handsome and cheeky spoken Chris Spine. As Kirk gets himself beaten to death in a bar fight with “Star Fleet” grads, the wise aged Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) talks some sense into altering his future of prosperous space adventures. Along with Kirk we meet the crew that begins in the earlier phase with physician McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and later part of the film Scotty (Simon Pegg). What comes to the table of discussion in terms of characters and smart comments is between Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk.

Where there have come a series of monotonous approach of several directors in bringing a block buster is by getting into a predetermined route, Abams lets his execution by balancing the factor of entertainment and the limitations of such in characters with a great skill. While we are constantly amazed by the witty conversations between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, the graphical choreography in giving the outer space experience is clear and comfortably shaky. Thus adding the much needed shudder of being in that situation without much annoyance.

The story also really involves on the capability of the each personnel on the ship. Not merely demonstrating a magical line but delivering those lines with a tone of experience and a hope of genuinely getting an appreciation from the superiors. When the space ships leave from earth to respond for a call from the Vulcan planet and one by one the ships go into light speed, the USS Enterprise stops. Sulu is the new pilot and how wisely and with cracking air of sarcasm does Spock asks whether the Park Brake is still on. It is in these few details we see that the characters have a reason to be who they are with not a script turned expertise in their skills but the dialogues and the actors saying it with a confidence to believe them of those capabilities.

But when the film gets into the future and alternate reality, there are flurries of questions with of course no answers. Leonard Nimoy as the Spock Prime coming from future reprises his TV Series role. And Chris Spine and Zachary Quinto working very well together to amazing surprise of mine. The film always rides on the edge without letting a time to get ourselves warped in the questions. It thus covers up the great blatant holes with considerable ease and also maintaining to admire the characters it creates.

“Star Trek” is no venture into seriously involving in the character study and the grey area of good and bad as the trend of cheesy old flicks and comics take in to screen. It is definitely a film very well aimed at the sector of entertainment than material. But it respects its general audience and adds the element of sense and plausibilities, again not in the physics but in the presentation. It does not bury itself into the grandeur nature of its material and begins to see these firmly placed TV characters into something more jolly real and fun. “Star Trek” is as entertaining it could get and is as mature it can get too.

"Next Day Air" (2009) - Movie Review

In the slim and thin ice of crime comedy is the danger of flipping into a story straightly said with no laughs, not even a smile. That is “Next Day Air”, a film which some how saw the light of being in front of the camera. There is not a character we become a favourite of and there is not a mannerism you just enjoy watching them do again and again. All that exists is a desperate try to achieve those. Result is that the people seem not to be either too stupid to be laughed nor too dangerous and high on the edge to be scared of. It is the blandest comedy one could get and come out with nothing but a near hour and half melting reminder of the time and not the characters.

Welcome to another film still in the shadows of Guy Ritchie’s cult flicks who then again resembled from the works of Quentin Tarantino. Brody (Mike Epps) and Guch (Wood Harris) are the small time crooks locking their miniscule brains in to the microwave of their house to rob a bank. Brody hardly listens to what Guch says which is supposed to be the running gag not in the present but in the flashing past of their series of mishandling they tried out. They get their hands on drugs delivered wrongly by a UPS kind of company Next Day Air. The lazy high employee is Leo (Donald Faison) supposed to be the innocent in this whole mess to be rewarded in the end. See how much of “supposed” I used, which tells the fiasco of this film.

I am having hard time to revisit the movie to fetch some of the glowing bits. The acting blatantly is far from professional. With Donald Faison in a different outfit than his scrubs from TV series, his character is an amped up R-rated Turk. There is a consistent hunt for a punch line in these crooks. Where the characters being the essence of the originality in films like these, the people in this film try to be some one from the film they saw growing up. Thus it is merely a show off and a constant awareness of them being cool, stupidly cool and dangerously stupid. We get a little bit of everything and whole lot of unoriginality as the film wraps up thankfully fast enough for a lagging film.

We all should have seen the three cards having its face down shuffled by the street man to guess the desired card to win the gamble. Films like this work that way of course not the manipulating con effect in real life to be played. But played in the form of entertainment and coming out appreciating the way we were played. The fun of how the man kept shuffling at a speed and ambidexterity to make it worth for seeing him do that. And in “Next Day Air”, the cards simply stays there and we are staring at the man indifferently. In this case director Benny Boom’s eyes on wondering when will he make the move. He looks at us thinking that it is a cool posture he has and we walk away shaking our heads.

If the acting were a terrible display, then the screenplay should have had special botchy colours to impress the studio. Some how Blair Cobbs sold his story and how he did it is the curious question more than the drugs and money which gets handled in the film. The film is not a show of horrible attempts on jokes hitting the walls but the lethargic attitude of not even trying to. There is Mos Def as Eric, the fellow employee of Leo who has no business in the film. He is neither funny nor a catalyst in providing a twist. Then there is a guy sleeping and the third accomplice for Brody and Guch being there as a scare tactic and nothing else. We do not fear that guy rather forget his existence in the film.

The only scary act and a possible development was the drug lord Bodega (Emilio Rivera) and he is busy burning cigars at people’s faces. Writing is a tough process, that is something I could say without an air of attitude. Writing a short story or screenplay has a greatest enemy, that is the authors themselves. I would try to write and read it back to be horribly disappointed at the poor quality of being smart and trying hard. There is a block delete happening without fail after every attempt. To beat the self analytical criticality is half the battle to begin writing. But some times the writing itself is bad that it got to be deleted. Blair Cobbs should have let his self critic take control for “Next Day Air” and start afresh getting up out of the couch and running without rest.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

"Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi" (1983) - Movie Review

There is always nicer way to tell the worst of things. “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” beats that trend. How can I say this without being harsh? Yeah I can. It sucked big time. The charm of the first Star Wars dissipated in the second and is vanished beyond doubt in this. Nothing happening apart from a cycle of capture, rescue, capture, rescue and fill in dark side and emperor to get a film to be bored. It is a shame that a franchise which had some good direction but hazy execution in second gave in to this sham of giving in to the blockbuster criteria, a very bad one indeed.

Luke (Mark Hamill) and his crew comes to rescue the frozen Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the society of gooey creatures with Jabba the Hutt as the leader. 3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) captured. Boom, Luke saves. Luke and crew into the shady jungle where the “shield” for the new death star resides. A quick chase with the enemies and Leia captured. Then every one else is captured by a clan of fur ball creatures. Boom. 3PO becomes a god to them and an unnecessary bad joke to make them friends. Why? So that when the troops of the rebel decreases, these beings would do comic stunts (attempt). Luke leaves to confront his dad Vader. Get captured himself. Emperor boils the hate as it is the dark side of the force. Boom. Luke does not give in and dad Vader comes to the “good” side. And we are captured forever into this mess of bad film residing in galaxy so very much among us. This is bad.

Remember I said in the review of Episode V on how the film wisely allowed the character of Yoda to bring that maturity and insight much needed for the film. Well, Yoda dies after the script pours in two words into his mouth before he dies. There is another Skywalker. What is the necessity of that? Definitely not another episode because this is it where the emperor either get killed or turn into good man, which of course is highly unlikely. Not with the given frightening make up. What is the problem with the rebels with emperor? Did he torture the people? Did he raise taxes? Did he went to war with zillions of other planets which Lucas invents as he goes along? They played with the invisible force in the first, I did not mind. In second they used it for some enlightenment for Luke to get some life lessons, felt ok. Now with more dark side and good side, it becomes a prop for picking sides. Intolerable. Damn the Force !

There was an incredible opportunity landed on the laps of these creators to do anything they want and could have made anyways a box office hit. It is not like the Indiana Jones wherein we need a little bit of layered study into the crazy adventurer unless it aids a funny moment on the screen. May be that is what the Lucas and team deduced of the characters out of this film. If that has been the case, why the journey in to zen way strategy in the second? What we see is a spectacle of idiotic plot situations wherein the result was imminent escape. Not even a single bit of interest intrigued me to see what would be the end of any stunt.

Luke is more conflicted than Vader. Vader has pretty much accepted his master the emperor man and does his deeds faithfully. He is even ready to get his son straight to the master and get names. Luke is stirred rightly by the emperor of the hate but what brings him back to the ground of the deception planned on him? A simple Yoda speech does not suffice this greatest resistance to pass on blind rage. And what does emperor do all day? Foreseeing stuffs and then leaving the destiny take its path does not seem to be tough. He builds death star and destroy every living thing in this galaxy and rule who? When there is no one to control, what is the fun in that.

If these are the wrong questions to be asked for Star Wars, then the film gave me ample time to ask these which tells a lot. Generally films which go through the sequels and prequels get the time many films do not have the luxury of. They can make amends of the flaws in a character. Bring in the element of human imbalance and the way to solve it by their personality and situations. Star Wars definitely is not a dumb portrayal of cheesy stunts. It had something more than graphics in the Episode V which did not heighten to the skies but this film is tragic and very sad to witness such a failure done with laziness and compromises.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

"Dreamer" (2005) - Movie Review

“Dreamer” which began as a complete hopeless debacle picks up out of nowhere and never stops running. It is a formula film of course with a horse destined to win with zillion odds against it. In fact I postponed watching the film because I have been little bit fed up on the string of motivational cheesy line up of movies in the past few days. Hence when there is a dad Pop Crane (Kriss Kristofferson) who swears not to come for a race and a script made villain Palmer (David Morse) along with a cute little girl (Dakota Fanning) trying to as usual act as adult shouldering with her dad Ben Crane (Kurt Russell), there is no way in the invisible hell this is going to be a better film. Well, I guessed wrong.

When the poor little farm girl gazes at the stable which is empty, there is father Ben gearing up in an early morning towards the race ground. He works for Palmer when we meet him with his working men Manny (Freddy Rodriguez) and Balon (Luis Guzmán). The stubborn cute girl Cale convinces her dad to ride along to the grounds and instantly falls in love with a horse, Sonya. Against the advice of Ben, Palmer puts Sonya through the race with a suspicious leg for a known drown in the sand. The Sheikh arrived from Dubai is not happy and hence with an altercation Ben leaves with the horse and his men.

I was beating myself for watching this at that point of time. With the orchestration spoon feeding the emotions, the film was slipping and slipping by a lot. With the cherubic beauty we see Cale feeding Sonya with popsicles in her healing process. They have hopes of breeding it and then make money out of it which of course is not going to work out because we know she has to race. With being hit again and again, Ben loses it and blames Cale for this misfortune to his wife which the girl overhears. Being the kid she is, she decides to run along with her horse and the horse runs, runs hard. Thus this paves some hope for the family of putting this horse in a race.

What is beautiful about the film is the actors and the way they work the dialogue to their favour. Young Dakota Fanning who has been the child actor portraying most of the time as this cold distant kid emanating far too maturity for that age gets that part used well and good. Hence when the naivety of an offspring is beckoned by the story she is right off with the smile. The thing which works on the side of the film is when Cale confronts her dad to not treat her as kid. With Ben we realize she is not a kid at all, at least when it comes to horses and Sonya. Kurt Russell has been absent from the screen for a while and it is unfortunate because the scene when he says his awareness of Cale feeding Sonya the popsicle is a seasoned actor walking it with flair of his own. Casual as it seems, that is the point of elevation for an otherwise formula film. It soars high and high after that.

So the horse wins as expected and every body is happy. But it is done with heart and actors side stepping for Fanning and Russell. Elisabeth Shue as Mrs. Crane, Kriss Kristofferson along with Rodriguez and Guzmán give the subtle supporting roles. Generally an unsatisfying film leaves me with an unfulfilled day. I hate to have a day like that. “Dreamer” made it a good if not a great day. It is convincing these characters and writer/director John Gatins works within the motivational churn routine to give a winner.

This film basically placed back the possibility of a story with an underdog a chance to be worked out well if the actors and script were right. We are into a point wherein the predictability has been accepted and moved on. But here when the horse gallops towards the victory, the director does not try anything fancy. We see the run in may be few angles with the slow motion very expected and required. The beauty of that gallop is like a metal music played with mellow transformation and we are sold.

Recently I was talking with a colleague on how I gauge films. And I am quite sure I have written about it in some review or other. Anyways, I explained that a film has a total control over its audience. It can be the cheesiest film ever and still get away with it. It can be a portrayal of the most moving story on paper and still lose its audience in presenting it. The art of the film is to evade the pit falls with cleverness or emotion or however manner they could to woo the viewers into liking the film and finish it with a good feeling of watching a better or best film. “Dreamer” in its controlled cheesiness and forgiving predictability sculpts the rest with originality and uniqueness to make it a better film than most out there.