Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Chéri" (2009) - Movie Review

The connection of age and love, the exterior deteriorating and the inability of the perception of personality over beauty is inescapable. The survival for that affection has more to fight than the usual quibbles in a relationship. In “Cheri”, the titular young man acted by Rupert Friend gives up his relationship of six years with a courtesan Lea de Lonval (Michelle Pfeiffer). Lea trying to be the woman treating the practicality of this continuance and her profession of seeing everything clinical adding pressure to such vulnerability causes her the pain. She has gone through it but this time around it is sharper than those. And the young man becoming a person of some quality because of her is equally afflicted by this departure. He succumbs to the pressure of his mother Madame Peloux (Kathy Bates) and goes through his way of grief. This is a film about their failed method to cope up in breaking the love they nourished.

In the 1900s Paris lives these gold diggers and they have made a career out of it. Being socially ostracized, Lea has very little friends and terming them friends is not right. Madame Peloux is the sneaky and malicious spiteful old lady and Lea goes to her house for socializing. She hate to go there but she would go mad if she does not get out of her luxurious house built up by her lovers. There she picks up Cheri, the nineteen year old son of Peloux being disgusted by the wealthy debauchery he is living through. His childhood appears to gawk at empty rooms while his mother was busy making her clients happy. And the time she would have spent with him can be imagined to be viciously boring. He grew up seeing Lea and that meeting ignites for Lea to take Cheri along with her. What was supposed to be few weeks becomes six years. We are given a quick look at their initial phase of falling in love but we really see their affection once they are separated.

Madame Peloux is an outsider looking for some completion in her life in all the wrong ways. She chooses the old method of getting grandchildren would make her happy. While she happily let Cheri to be with Lea who of course paid for his service, she now wants him back so that he can be properly married. Lea wants to show a tough face and will not give up breaking out especially to Peloux. Cheri seems to be unaware of the consequence. He knows it is a turn in his life but believes to have his way. Lea knows it and cuts him off. She suffers good and really good for that. Cheri is equally miserable. His marriage goes bodily and his wife Edmee (Felicity Jones) is a daughter of another courtesan who is so bogged up in her profession that she has to leave right after the marriage. Edmee knows everything about Cheri and that is tough to confront. Since everyone is aware of the situation and the possibilities, it is not stealthy but hurtful.

It is a love story and as any serious love story, it is tragic. Its characters live in a world developed by their lifestyle and try to exist out of the norm. Lea have had many lovers in her past and more than once had fallen for them. She has a trusted and friendly maid with whom she confides and talks about the time she was hurt like this. Not like this. Kathy Bates especially makes her character to be bloated with a reptilian characteristic. Lea knows her venom and every scene they are together it is a fencing match.

“Cheri” is a tough film to be made. It does not show the six years of their greatest time of love between Lea and Cheri. It follows through the cutting of that chord. Both of them very much and truly in love are caught up in the defined obligations and the assumption that they can get over it. Cheri tries it with his wife while Lea goes on traveling and finding a replacement for Cheri. It does not work. What is the end to it? Stephen Frears, the brilliant director of “The Queen” as the voice of the narrator tells the after math which is moving and in a sense helpless of the nature of this emotion called love.

"The Ugly Truth" (2009) - Movie Review

The few people reading this part of the web would have noticed that I have been skipping certain new releases. I decided to do that in the view of waiting for other reviews to give a moderate to better reviews. I did not wanted to take any more chances and waste of course the cash in these tough times. I got fooled before and it happens again. These things happen and I apologize to myself for that. “The Ugly Truth” makes Katherine Heigl one more time a desperate woman hard to find love. Where are these women in my town, I do not know but looks like Sacramento has Heigl’s Abby, a news producer soon settling in for anything for better TV ratings. She meets the obnoxiously alpha male Mike Chadway(Gerard Butler) brought as the talent to salvage their sinking ship. And you get the gist.

I sometimes wonder how many times I have the material to write horrible reviews for horrible films. It seem to be outgrowing the limitations of the vocabulary I manage to learn as the day goes by. Relationships are complex and human behaviour is even more so. That complexity, variety is what makes the industry of art coming up with great works without seeming to exhaust. Yet in that subject matter, there is a standard. Take that factor of desperation and insufficiency in the people we would have hard time believing to be trouble with to follow the line. The end is the same, a public display of affection with the music that seems more manipulative than a reality show.

In this film comes Gerard Butler using his uncontrolled flow of words to the little box. He simply puts forth that heterosexual men’s brain cells are nothing but moving images of opposite sexes naked. That indeed is the ugly truth and yet there is this concept of hurt and love. Mike himself seems to be a product of the bad relationships for which the obvious reaction is to denigrate women and have some pleasure in it. He has made his life such way. Now director Robert Luketic do not want to make him a complete jerk and men like these are not. He has a sister and nephew to show his “other” side. And of course Abby has to see that and we could tick that “it” will one reason for them being a happy couple.

In the end Butler’s Chadway summates that desperate women are there but with a checklist. So what about men? Oh Wait. We are always desperate and settle for anything. Now, as I have repeated myself numerous times, this is a film much like the mindless summer block buster and looking for meaning is an idiotic thing. And again, I repeat that any commonly ran films can be interesting, intelligent and may be a little profound. The expectation of shallowness in a film does not excuse its ludicrous formula sentimentality.

As there are stereotypic men are stereotypic women. It turns out the check list guy Colin (Eric Winter) whom Abby dates with the help of Chadway is one of them. He says how much of a pleasure to have someone not demanding little things and be particular as Abby does. And well, Mike falls for her and rightly said it beats the sh*t of him. Abby has issues, serious ones and as much as bad is Chadway a representation of men, so is Abby. In that sense the movie resolves as it should, settling for low cheap shot they are content with.

The writer for this borefest are not one but three people. Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith and Nicole Eastman. I wonder what immense effort it took for them to weave this procedure of monotony. If they are out there for names and money, which most of them are, they are in the right track. If they settled for this complacency, it is heart breaking. I would prefer a screenwriter who went for a complete different play and failed miserably in the making than successful businessperson recycling garbages.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964) - Movie Review

“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is the second film I watched of Stanley Kubrick. It is a satire marginalizing the possibility of this reality. Still Kubrick does not attenuate the possibility. The fear of who strikes whom first and the long threatened suspicion between two powerful countries in that cold war is a violence mentality at its best. Neither of the party never willed to settle and always wondering whether any soft reaction is a sneaky stab in the back. But that is on the surface of this film. The deeper issues are the ramped up characterization and a cartoon mannerisms in its actors makes it a strange ride if not completely enjoyable.

Peter Sellers in three roles which I could not figure till I read it in wiki tells the variety and the talent he brought in to this film. He plays a calm but awkwardly diplomatic President of the US Merkin Muffley, a feared and trapped Group Captain Lionel Mandrake and the titular character unable to control his right arm to hail the fuhrer. The film has three major settings. One is in the army base camp where the eccentric General Ripper (Sterling Hayden) has given orders to drop nuclear bombs on the Russia to the thirty odd planes circling over the country, the second is the war room where the President with his generals, General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) amongst the notable to tackle this colossal mistake and the third is the sincere and patriotic soldiers in one of the war planes giving everything they have to complete their mission. In these three circumstances, Kubrick gives a humour dry yet razor sharp, ridiculous but pondering and sometimes laughing not alone at the nonsensical situations of the characters but the possibility of these trivial day to day activities of these leaders.

The photography is immaculate. It provides the wideness of the air these planes are flying through while geographically giving a sense of the calamity they can induce. It then in the war room scenes slants on the corner of the table when Turgidson speaks and backs out to give the big round table of the discussion. And when President Muffley talks with the Russian Premier Dmitri Kissoff as the others listen through the phone throws the roof of the laughing nerve. Dmitri is little bit drunk says the Ambassador (Peter Bull) but with Muffley’s discussion over the phone, Dmitri seems to be a kid on sugar high.

It is a sensation like no other watching Kubrick’s style of film making. It is perfect in the picture it gives but odd in its character. Then again it is real in the situation. This is the same kind of reaction I got watching “A Clockwork Orange” which has immense violence, sex and a wicked outlook. Yet there is a numbing agent in the emotional frontier it provides to its audience. It makes us a culprit without our awareness. Hence as the audience I was entertained but not necessarily moved. I could see the audacity in the material and the perfection in its execution but felt empty.

It is a comedy like none at all. It is a satire like none at all. The air force personnel in the flight are proud people giving everything they have been asked to. To them they are doing the best damn job they were trained for. The Texas pilot (Slim Pickens) is especially committed, heroic and sticks with his men. If the other circumstances are removed from the picture, their segment will be a thrilling ride in their heroism with a tragedy. But Kubrick makes us realize how much of the moving coins they become in the big picture than the actuality of the m being the mercenaries. The cash out here is the patriotism of feeling spectacular.

George C. Scott’s ultra right wing warmonger presentation of Turgidson would look over the top but there are people reeking with the pride of being the soldier of the country. They are clouded by their staunching values that the actual effects are secondary and execution becomes primary, however idiotic and lethal that would be. He constantly bullies and sheds slurs over the Russian Ambassador. But when they were able to successfully bring back the situation to normal in war room, he changes a tone after calling Russians as peons, saying “And that’s not meant as an insult, Mr. Ambassador” which is a change in the momentum of his thinking. He has denied to know them but when he begins to acclimate with one, he is apologizing to himself on that means. With that line, Kubrick gives the animated character a weird sense of humanism.

My high praise for the film does not mean I liked it. There are films which I could see people loving and admiring when I could not. Such a feat is when a director accomplishes more than a passionate director. Film making and the art of movies is about entertainment and thought provoking. But if someone could succeed in making a film wherein despite one’s dislike towards it can understand its greatness, then it is success of different level.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"The Last Picture Show" (1971) - Movie Classics

Monotony comes in different platter, sizes and tastes. You can swivel it flavours but the steps can never be altered. Such is the southern town in Texas which waits for the kids to grow up to repeat their parents. It is a town where one man owns the major hangout, kids expected to win the sports and suck in their studies and the people proving the life as it is. Peter Bogdanovich directed this film, adapted from the novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry has every bit of life of the little town, its people and shows that this town is the social behaviour pattern resembling the trend of suburbia boredom.

The boys of this town Sonny (Timothy Bottoms), Duane (Jeff Bridges) will become the men we see Sam (Ben Johnson) and Abilene (Clu Gulager) because that is the social atmosphere they grow up seeing and the women would like to keep them that way. It is an addiction to this feeling to be wanted and then once the goal is attained, it is back to square one. Most of the women in “The Last Picture Show” have a destiny to be unhappy.

It is not that nothing happens in this town, it only appears so to a passerby. The dusty windy downtown if you may call it has the hot spots Sam owns. A pool house, a cafe and a picture hall. Drink, eat and see. Having that covered, rest is all under the carpet. Most of the story, we see through the young boy in his final year of high school, Sonny. He is the likable kid inches away to embrace the institutionalized future he has for him. But he is not alone in this and his buddy Duane tags on to that.

There are seven to nine characters we get exposed to in detail. Each has their agenda and they form this cocoon of circle of life, this family hut where no one talks about nothing to outsider but everybody knows it even before it happens. Every one has the same opinion about the previous night’s game. We see people ridiculing and seriously advising on how much of a lack of tackling the football team of Sonny and Duane had.

In this little land happens people. The high school sex goddess Jacy (Cybill Shepherd) hangs out with Duane. A rough hard boy dedicating the precious beauty he had been offered by the town of not much options. She is at the stage of the early youth where she realizes her beauty if worth more than Duane. She is made to think so by her mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn). Lois is not the traditional witch mother but knows the hormonal reaction in her daughter and the big jaw of the homemaker encounter Jacy will be having in the oncoming future. Lois is dauntless in expressing her lifestyle. She openly kisses and dances with her husband’s employee Abilene she is sleeping with. Abilene behaves as he is to be with her as if it is a natural selection for him.

Sonny and Duane make some insignificant attempts to get off the town. That will be going to Mexico to party. When nothing is supposed to happen in this town, that time a tragic happens. Not that it will change the mood of this place. Sonny is asked to be the driver by the Coach for his wife Ruth (Cloris Leachman). When she neatly dresses and waits for her husband to come along, there comes Sonny and she laments this loneliness and how much of disappointment her husband has become. It becomes almost a sign for her to sleep with Sonny. Peter Bogdanovich makes this the reasonable love story in this picture. While both are attracted by the sexual voidness, soon they become fond of each other, genuinely. And when Sonny becomes the kid and well, the man the town nurtures him to be, he ignores and avoids Ruth.

Cybill Shepherd as the girl almost rolling on the floor to get attention is deadly in using her sexuality. She does not make it appear as a plan in attracting and humiliating men but makes it as a nature to be like that. She toys with Duane and Duane follows the line she draws on. She skips Duane for a skinny dip party and then falls for another man in the crowd. She makes it a mission to lose her virginity as the man expects him to be. One after another she goes for the men in the town.

Watching this film made in 1971 detailing the story happening in 1950s gives a picture of immense interest in comparison of the current trend in the suburbs. Much has changed but the social behaviour to go about the sameness in different forms remains untouched in its origin. Sam the generous resident is filled with regrets and memories. He reminisces the days of youth he left behind. He cherishes those by seeing it in among the boys Billy (Sam Bottoms), Sonny and Duane. There is Genevieve (Eileen Brennan) who can see right through the people especially Jacy and knows warning about them to others is a vain. Her years in the cafe has taught that because she seems to have not listened those from other people too. These are real people living, breathing and telling a lot about themselves.

Jeff Bridges as Duane is the only person out there to do something outrageous, like go to next city. But beyond that he is been caught up by the first love he had. He tries hard only to be beaten by the stain of the native he lived. People are nice, friendly and cozy but beyond the closed doors are the lonely crying and unheard whimpering. “The Last Picture Show” is filled with soul and honesty in its tale and moves us immensely in the characters. We love them, hate them, sympathize them and empathize them in their cornered place for existence.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"My Dinner with Andre" (1981) - Movie Review

“My Dinner with Andre” is the conversation between two friends. One of them is a struggling playwright Wally (Wallace Shawn) and the other is a disappeared man coming back from various world wide trips and who used to be a successful in theater, Andre (Andre Gregory). Wally is the typical surviving man in the 1970s New York for his play to stage up and an acting job to live up. He mentions about his girl friend Debby whom we never meet and how they are managing their tough life together. This is the dinner he would not forget.

The film is simply two friends discussing mainly about existentialism and the spell under which we the people live in. The reach out to feel things. Lets face it that if one thing we from childhood learned, that would be to shun the darkness and embrace the comforting brightness, even if it is chillingly monotonous. Yet this confusion is a running question when the debate among friends takes into something else. What happens in the film is the deep peeling of the skin we have but not exactly a solution, because there isn’t.

Louis Malle directed film has two out of the restaurant scenes. One with Wally narrating his current state of his life and walking through the busy evening of the city and the other when he is traveling back in a taxi been infected by this mysterious feeling of seeing things differently, at the least for one night or just the cab ride back. As they place themselves opposite to each other by the waiter (Jean Lenauer), for most of the initial half an hour Andre goes on this loop of his past few years in different parts of the world. Wally absorbs these.

Andre mentions that he felt dead inside and the habituation of the theater made him to go away for unplanned life turns. He seem to have led a group in the forest of Poland where his friend Gretowski, an experimental theater artist arranges it. Before we meet Andre we know that he is going through an emotional crisis as voiced over by Wally. But Andre is a perfectly articulating person and stable in his thoughts. When Wally mentions to his audience in the start that one of their common friends saw Andre crying in a dark alley after seeing Ingmar Bergman’s film, we see the material in hand. We think he is on his mid life crisis which he did go through but after hearing Andre talk, we can see the outburst of him in that alley.

The screenplay written by these performing actors does give the feeling they are playing themselves which they denied in an interview with film critic Roger Ebert. But they are and not playing themselves. It is the extraction of their talk in some of the bars, restaurants and the theater they would have worked together. The fascinating thing about Andre talking about the stale acceptance the current generation and city life has embraced is relatable but Wally jumps in saying that may be that is what people want. They want to be masked under this blanket of comfort and be cozy and end the life. Ignorance is bliss as I always say is a great feeling and I am definitely not condescending. It is an art when it is needed. Completely ignorant is fatal.

This is a film which goes on multiple direction. It appear as babbles of a desperate man and at critical points pinches the flow chart life we have come to lead and the for-loop we have been destined to do. It becomes overwhelming at times but surprised how well both of them were engaged in portraying these ideas without being mistaken for an elevated step towards its audience. They know the audience for this film and talk to them. And we have questions and importantly countering points which are fed by the character of Wally. Hence we become participants and are thrilled to be getting a feel of something out of ordinary through this film.

“My Dinner with Andre” is not a wordplay. It deals with meaningful perception of the living existence through two different minds. One has gone through this journey of several years leaving his family and friends in search of finding something more with his life. The process is inevitable. Every one of the beings go through it. There is not concrete division into this ultimate designer and the sheer nothingness but the wandering in between. But people want definite because then it is a completion, the need for lead on without worrying about it. Many find in the religion but it becomes a being of its own and then there is the another end to that line which brings out Andre. “My Dinner with Andre” is the discussion we would have had with the people and become the best friends. We would have gained friendship in those open forum and learned something. There cannot be a solution and rather no one talks out there for solution but to simply enjoy that cloud of various angles of thinking. Each of the points are complimented even in disagreeing. It stops somewhere and we go back to the path we have been talking. It is a milestone in the ages we spent and are about to spend. “My Dinner with Andre” is one such for its viewers.

"The Limits of Control" (2009) - Movie Review

Leaving a film as a mystery of nothing sometimes mesmerizes and leaves the audience to be fulfilled with the experience of mysticism. Jim Jarmusch’s “The Limits of Control” is not one of those. It in its sporadical spring bounces rarely gets the attention from its viewer. Jarmusch is an uncompromising film maker and he shoots films purely on the journey of his mind. His “Dead Man” is what came in front of watching this film with a careful meditation in monotony, boredom and a practiced silence.

We follow a man (Isaach De Bankolé) and the thumb rule is that when he is socially detached and has a disciplined day, he should be an assassin. With that assumption we see him collect details for an assignment. He flies to Madrid and settles in a hotel wherein no one seem to live. He is asked to visit a cafe and there he orders two espresso in separate cups. A mystery person with violin (Luis Tosar) arrives in the second day visit and talks about music and the instrument. The cryptical dialogues which becomes poetry when the mood sets in or the nonsensical pseudo philosophical garbage, which mostly is when the film loses us.

After that it is the cycle of this procedure. The man goes to places, situates himself in a hotel and visit a cafe or travels in trains and cars. Whenever he treats himself with a set of espresso, Jarmusch destined person arrives with the sort of a strangeness and exchanges matchbox with a boxer symbol in different colours. Most of it has a bit of paper with codes and our silent man swallows with his drink after reading it. There is a helicopter, a naked lady (Paz de la Huerta), many espressos, different locations, hotels and disconnected scenes.

Jarmusch playing with the melody of the mood than the plot is not something unexpected, which is exactly the treat I go in for. In this, he is way over the top and there is nothing but stories of nothingness. The dialogues are the expressions blabbered in the rest room by someone trying to be high up. It does not become an experience of the environment and becomes a slow and painful lethal injection putting us to sleep we do not want to be.

Is this a hallucination or an imagination of the lonely man dying in the life of his solitude? The string of conversation of these messengers carrying information for the man, each talk about a particular subject. Music, films, science, art, paintings and even near the end one of them played by Gael García Bernal asks whether the man had hallucinations. Hello !!! The audience feel like having one and not a pleasant journey either.

Many actors come as a cameo and becomes bland whiff of the invisible scent. John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Hiam Abbass and Bill Murray are there for reasons of the confidence they have over the director than the scene they were shooting. It is the confidence they put on every film but have a vague clue of the scenes they were doing. I can only imagine them going crazy on what the heck they are asked to do in this disjointed opaque set of acts Jarmusch requested.

I am a great fan towards some of the films Jarmusch made. “Broken Flowers”, “Ghost Dog” and “Down by Law” would be those where in he has his signature but also characters we could remember. There is a feel of empathy and exist in the world of him but with pure flesh and blood. Even if it is screenplay pages on screen, they were there. Here the lone man is an inanimate object. He smiles at the beauty of music and dance but the curiosity to know his other side does not quest in the viewer.

I have told my friend who adores Andrei Tarkvosky that my body and mind goes involuntarily to sleep mode (literally) by the array of the images in his films. For long time I believed it is the day before devoid of sleep hours but entering “The Limits of Control” fresh and pumped, the instincts of boredom kicked in. I began to feel am in a class of unknown science formulas and I have to wake myself up to finish this. I admire Jim Jarmusch but this time around he indeed pushes the limits of his control and pushing us out in the process.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"L.A. Story" (1991) - Movie Review

A pride does not need a reason for characteristic when the judgment is by majority. The rudest people, the craziest traffic and the vanity of the city as such becomes a part to be proud of, insane it might sound. But the proud is not the behaviour rather their survival into it and becoming a person they could be fine with and around. It varies but Harris K. Telemacher (Steve Martin) fits the character. He hates the city of Los Angeles but does the randomness as a clockwork. Nothing remiss in the life he leads. It just is devoid of actual sensitivity in the little tiny place called soul.

There is this melodramatic, soap operatic and formulaic love story in Steve Martin’s screenplay and there is also the satire born out of the love for the city which becomes the character he anticipated. Nothing is normal in this city. For a date the young girl (Sarah Jessica Parker) Harris meets takes him to a place where they provide enema services. Liberating and frees the mind, she says. When people go beyond to be out of normal and the city does it together, there is nothing more monotonous than that. In a desperate attempt to differentiate themselves, they become the stereotype. Such is this young girl who needs a commonly given name Sandi to be spelled as SanDae*. Yes there is a star in the end.

Harris is a weatherman. Funnily the most easiest conversation starter with a stranger is the most boring part in the television programs. Still it is an unspoken mandate to have those and the nature of LA makes the man to be this jumpy and high wired presenter. He ends his report with a tidbit of Mercedes price fluctuations and uninterrupted car telephone service updates. His current girl friend Trudi (Marilu Henner) is an obligation to the community he lives in and she does the obligation herself by sleeping with the agent (Kevin Pollak). Harris is consumed by this nerve wracking style of existence and he meets the English lady, Sara (Victoria Tennant).

The film is full of parody, spoof and the satire we can compare to any city life. Along with director Mick Jackson, Steve Martin tries hard to sway away from the romantic comedy genre but it is tough. He breaks the chain and in the small moments of true love, he inserts sudden wackiness. And the people of LA are oblivious about it. That is the comedic element. Without that it would be a regular comedy much predictable but that extended indifference to the situation is the niche this film targets on and of course get its darn right.

Beyond the arrogance I hold up against romantic comedies, the map direction this couple takes to find out is detective curiosity knowing who the killer is. The film goes for the unusualness the city has to bear with. The ride is set as early as Harris steps out of his house and into the car. He takes the deadliest routes (but may be safer than the regular highway of the city) and gets to the destination promptly. He talks about the ambition of his classy news presentation to turn down walking in a parade and does the flamboyant, over the top weatherman. This set up is very important for the film because it should not be in the middle. That is part of the reason we do not mind when the sign post begins to communicate to Harris through its screen wordings.

“L.A. Story” provides a perspective of being a city person and viewing the skewed society he/she lives in. The residents knows the strangeness of their chores but the survival chances are possible adhering to it. The gain is the access to the best places many cannot even fathom. Unfairness is gloating itself and wearing fluorescent pink outfit in this town.

Steve Martin especially is loving in the role of Harris. He is the jerk but a jerk we like. He is the citizen thinking that he is leading a mundane life in this place of glamour and phony. What he does not know is that the next person is thinking the same. Both do not have the drive to push forward and expect a miracle to get something impromptu in their life. I believe the frustration of that unknown miracle is the signpost crying out aloud to move out of the cars and walk outside.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Things You Can Tell by Just Looking at Her" (2000) - Movie Review

Rodrigo Garcia’s debut film becomes the starter for the kind of films he was about to make. He followed this with “Ten Tiny Love Stories” and the spectacular “Nine Lives”. He likes women for their beauty, the similarity, the differences and webs and webs of entanglement and complexity. Women is his inspiration and his films says how much of them shape the men around them. They seem to think otherwise but the control is within them and losing it to gain the love is thought as their part of the pain but they are wrong.

Five women and they have problems, as every one. Garcia loves those about these beauties. In a polished wooden floored house is Dr. Keener (Glenn Close) taking care of her mother (Irma St. Paule). She is awaiting a phone call from a fellow doctor, she likes. She is only met with the calls she is indifferent too. The loneliness in her is reeking out of these cozy house. There comes Christine (Calista Flockhart), a tarot card reader. A sophisticated doctor looking for answers in a fortune teller. This itself is a great cue for Christine to do a close called prediction about Dr. Keener. In my college years there was a junior girl whom I came to know as an expert in reading personalities through their handwriting. More than what she said about, it is the authority and confidence in reciting those that put me in amazement. She was in control and that was the most amazing thing more than her reading me well. Christine is not authoritative but confident. We know that her reading is not swaying away but cornering down Dr. Keener.

From a lonely self made woman, we go to Rebecca (Holly Hunter) another powerful self made woman. She has a boy cut and a slim tender body which we see her lying in bed while her lover (Gregory Hines) kisses her body. She comes across a homeless woman (Penelope Allen) outside her workplace where she works as a manager. Both smoke and in this case instead of Keener’s tarot card reader, Rebecca gets a lesson in judgment through honesty of this woman who calls her Nancy. In four of the five segments we see women getting old and in fear of the youth passed and the chances burned away. Here Rebecca learns she is pregnant, does not hesitate a bit to go for abortion. “Do you need to consult this with someone” asks the doctor (Roma Maffie) and her friend and she responds that the wife of him would not like that with a smile. Her sarcastic humour is the end to that contemplation.

Garcia likes this method of separating the prime characters and thereby providing enough detail about them completely. He is not fond of plot. He loves the people’s small gestures and the big letdowns. And the relationships with men are not the formulae. There is game but not the one we are aware of. Rebecca walks through the city and sees her employee Walter (Matt Craven) get in a bar. She goes and the immediate nature of their conversation suggests where the night is leading to. Earlier that day, the homeless woman calls her whore twice for which she reacts being hurt but continues being friendly with her. Next day after the night, the woman begins to assault her with words of judgment and Rebecca asks for more. She wants someone to look through her and see the flaws and infuriate inside on those sentences of whiplash.

While four of the segments were extremely affecting, the saddest of the four is the odd pick. May be the premise is a known depressant of an effect as such that it becomes a cliche even before it ventures. Christine the woman from the first segment is the caregiver for her lover Lilly (Valeria Galino). They talk about canaries and the first time they met as Lilly is on the verge of dying of cancer I presume. We are lost in these heard tragedies and deviate in the minds of thinking about the other women.

There is a heartwarming story of a mother (Kathy Baker) and a son (Noah Fleiss) and the dwarf neighbour Albert (Danny Woodburn) that moves across the street. The final story is about sisters Kathy (Amy Brenneman) and Carol (Cameron Diaz). Carol is blind and the dynamics of her getting a date (Walter coming again as the man jumping off his ladies after the first few dates) and how it affects Kathy is dealt with confusion of mixed feelings. Carol brings down Walter and Kathy sees naked Walter been playfully locked out by her sister. Carol tells a merciless comment “Go to my sister, you will do her a favor”. That pierces her. The next day Carol is stood up but Kathy gets a date but she does not tell Carol. What is this reactions? We do it all the time and hardly notice those small sacrifices, niceties and the sharpening unmerciful acts. Garcia finds those, collects and presents in segments.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Tyson" (Documentary) (2009) - Movie Review

The ferocious sharpness in the kid Mike Tyson’s eyes are gone in his last fight against Kevin McBride in June 11 2005. His physicality on the appearance does not look not even a bit different when he started his career but there is a change, the time did a work on him. Those are his mistakes and regrets inside those gloves of steel. This is “Tyson” one of the best documentaries I have seen and is directed by James Toback. It is fierce and honest and a man deciding to come out of the sheath of misery after forty years of a life he reckon been behaved and executed better. He is making amends, to those around him but especially to himself and James Toback gives that in the best way.

The ninety minutes of the film contains no silence from the fighter. The narration is nonstop. He recites the childhood in the Bronx to the regular visits to the Juvenile detention center and as he grows up to enter the rings, the fights have commentary are combined with Tyson’s experience. I did not realize that the entire film consists of his narration. Toback combines the interviews without a pause. The film is a one single line of narration by the man to avoid any sort of judgments, because there already have been many. This is his story and entirely, completely and purely his version but with nothing between him and us.

Having missed the regular childhood many of us get, Tyson’s consisted of petty thieving and explains how most of his friends are either dead or in prison for life. He tells in the film that he lived this extravagant and over the top life style because he thought he would never live the next day. He is amazed to see the age of forty. The greatest emotional times of his life came during his training under the late Cus D’Amato. As he is found by Bobby Steward in the detention center, he is directed rightly to the man outside for something advanced in the skill he found.

Tyson as a kid was bullied and as he explains how he was picked on, he never fought back. He began to find solace in pigeons and he reacted when that part of him was disturbed by a bully. He won the fight as he says and he never stopped after it. He wanted to escape being hurt and humiliated. That escape guided him in the paths to help and destruction. He made the choices for most of it but sometime the nature took its own.

A film of sufficient detail and it rings to its audience because of this multiple cameras bringing together the man. Toback wants portray the different sides and the narration of the boxer. Tyson as any of the individual is a man of extremes. The difference is he acted on some and did not when he needed to. He got a great conditioning in discipline and self reform from D’Amato but as he died and eventually the stardom of his success made him the god, he fell for it. It is not that fame alone got to him but the distrust he acquired long ago made it feasible to do it perfectly good and screw up in a spectacular fashion.

The analogy might be unusual but Tyson reminded me of the protagonist of the film “The Weatherman”, played with absolute perfection by Nicolas Cage. In that we learn about a man choosing the best worst decisions in his life and wondering why he did it. He tells his audience what someone should not do in a relationship or human social behaviour and does it. Of course he advices when he is doing it and that flash of thought does not help him. Tyson would have had the inner voice through those moments and this film might be the first time he got the right person to do it some justice. All those interviews and outbursts are captured and with the voice of Tyson, we learn of the state and frame of mind he was.

The film is stunning since a person confiding to his audience without inhibitions. Being who he was and who he is right now, this is a study of a human. It gives the psychology of the extremes and the differences of lives each of us lead. Tyson talks blatantly about the days of nothing but sex and the days of nothing but hatred. He admits the mistakes he did which is what makes it a step above the regularity of a biographical documentary. It is not about a success in the end happening in a ring. It is about an effort of person to explain himself to him. Tyson tells how he feels before a fight. How when he walks closer and closer to the ring, he is wary of his opponent and the fear he is building. He explains the fear and the confidence are accumulating and the psychology of defeating his opponent way before the fight. I was amazed by that tactic, simple as it seems, unbelievable as it sounds, that is startling. And we see how that never got translated into the life he led.

It is a film I could not sway a bit. It is a packed up fast moving and brilliantly told documentary. Its editing by Aaron Yanes is uncanny in bringing the frames and arranging the interviews, fights and footage. But mostly it is the narration by Tyson which would have placed the slides easily into a display of life in ninety minutes encompassing the details of destruction and the prospects for a better life. What we learn most importantly from James Toback’s “Tyson” is that it is never too late for anything.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Brüno" (2009) - Movie Review

With the knowledge of the reputation of Sacha Baron Cohen’s and not watched any of his characters, TV show or films, I went in and the preparation is still useless. “Brüno” is a film heavily surviving on the reaction of its audience and it succeeds. Larry Charles directing this mockumentary has the committed actor and performer Cohen. Many people forget that his performance carries lot of potential risk wherein he does not work around actors but real people with real beliefs, moral code and who can bludgeon him to pulp of the antics he puts up. Whether he is intruding into the privacy and disturbance of the public is debatable but the camera out there tells some obvious presumptions. I began as a kid entering his first roller coaster and scared. I am not joking but Cohen brings the real person in people. He takes it far and deliberately exemplifies the possibility of a character amongst us which would reevaluate certain behavioural tolerance. He does not expect his audience to like Brüno, he wants to laugh, hate and then in a spur of that heightened hilariousness shows the morality and the conflicting guilty pleasures.

The gayer than gayer Brüno is an Austrian and a TV show host losing his celebrity status. The film is the venture of reclaiming that fame in the nation of United States along with other countries becoming stops for laughs. Cohen makes the stereotype and then thinks the freakish obscene activities no one wants to see or even think about to make the character perform those. Many of the people he meets while are spooked does not gets suspicious of the gag. In the living media world of tabloids and reality television, anything is possible and anything passes. In this mode he has lowered himself beyond imagination and the people crack in unbelieving honesty.

There is a plot which guides the path of explicit nudity. Rarely have I seen people walkout of the theater and this after noon show had a few not able to withstand the penis dance. Films while depend on the reactions, shows what we are made of. We conveniently avoid those confrontations in the regular life and Sacha Baron Cohen attracts his audience with a premise and burst the images right in the face of the people (literally).

He comes to the epitome of celebrity chaos, Los Angeles. There he finds a famous agent and beyond the ludicrous display of acting, the agent manages to get him as an extra in a television series “Medium” and even persuades CBS to have a focus group in seeing the pitch of his TV show. A TV show which I might not be surprised to inspire someone to get into VH1 or MTV. Cohen mocks the situation of the media stooping to the worst possible sensationalism.

There is a loyal assistant Lutz played with a sincerity close to Cohen by Gustaf Hammarsten. He follows Brüno like a puppy and does his chores. Brüno goes on being himself and not alone ruins but creates a giant black hole to suck in the normalcy. The steps he gets into for becoming famous are nothing but satirical, spoof and a little bit of homage. With no tiring, Brüno tries again and again in achieving his status of fame. He tries a TV show, fails gloriously, pursuits for a sex tape and he lures Ron Paul, the presidential candidate into an interview and then a private moment in another side room, and decides to adopt a baby when he makes a stop in Africa. He auditions for kids and reveals a deadly scenario of how parents are desperate to get their kids on to the path of fame. More than Brüno’s shocking images, it is the real people in an unheard honesty reveal details of scary thoughts. Finally he realizes what he is missing and decides to go straight which becomes the best part of the film.

Brüno is not sensationalism but an idea taken to the extreme seriousness. The people doing it are dead serious about their agenda. They pick the people and while at any time expects the people to flip out. The people like psychics, gay converters, “strong” men and the macho outlook of the National Guard are both made to look normal by Brüno and freaks their audience with their confessions. It is a satire which takes a method many will not like or cannot stand.

Brüno is destined to be offensive and painfully funny. Many times I was not sure whether I really need to laugh at this. But the mind reacts to those and laughing becomes an involuntary action. Whether I acknowledge the acts or what is it? While Cohen wants his audience to laugh out loud, he creaks in another level of human mind into it. He brings the side we do not really acknowledge and in that we confront ourselves. “Brüno” is daring, offensive, explicit, beyond explicit, satirical and unbelievably funny.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

"Duane Hopwood" (2005) - Movie Review

Often people forget the real actors behind their typecast TV sitcom stars. It takes a breathtaking change to get over that and see them as a different personalities. Take them a little more serious. “Friends” success bit the back of the stars in it as they wanted to further their career elsewhere. Some did few bits and the most successful would be Jennifer Aniston. If someone that got really shadowed by that sitcom, that would be David Schwimmer and “Duane Hopwood” is a film which tells that he is a terrific actor.

Here as the titular character he embodies a man spiraling towards the rock bottom. Duane Hopwood is a great guy, a great husband and a great father. He drinks, and he hates to be called “drunk”. He works as one of the casino managers and his shift is from 3 to 12. When the sun hits the top, it is a leisurely evening for him when the rest of the city lunches. It is time to shoot a couple. That has got him divorced. When the movie begins, we see him driving drunk. He is stopped by a cop he knows. The cop knows Hopwood as a person than a drunk and offers a ride back. Duane is not able to stand still and he reaches back seat. There is his daughter sleeping and that is his ticket to fall.

Duane is a reasonable man pushed to the emotional cliff. What hurts most to him is that the distress spot he is in has nothing but himself to blame. He cannot get his arms around that fact. Not that he does not know but he cannot get it sinked in. Rationality is long sedated by his emotions, self pity and booze, of course. He loves his kids and this irresponsible act revokes his license and in the dawn of a cold winter in November, he is put to ride a bike to work. He gets all the more reason to hate his position.

Writer and Director Matt Mulhern gets the man right and his friends and family more perfect. His ex-wife Linda (Janeane Garofalo) does not want to do this to him but she needs to act as a mother too. Here the civilized conversations are not customary but out of concern. Duane loves her and she is battling her emotions inside. It is while painful for Duane to watch her go out with another man, she cannot bear the sight of the man she once loved to witness that.

Films such as this takes sides and even in the unreasonable reactions of its main personality, there is an unexpected characteristics of justifying it. In “Duane Hopwood”, we see both sides. He is run over by the tragedies of life continuously and in it he begins to become this flight risk of violent behaviour. He is frustrated by the falling relationships and he flips out. It causes further turmoil.

It is not a story of self pity. It is a story of one man’s journey persistently being sucked in to the underneaths of the isolation and holding of life. It is sad because the bond which gets broken is not a natural process but a self inflicted pain. We see him in his rough ride. The film opens with him being the happy husband and dad. We also see him going to the bars and coming back with the SUV cross parked. This side of a person is unpredictable and the addictive behaviour only makes him even more on the edge.

His friends and neighbours care for him and know the good man inside. His colleague Anthony (Judah Friedlander) is loud and persists to be Duane’s room mate. He wants to be an actor but steps up for a stand up comic. He likes Duane and does not sympathize but understands. Even when Duane loses the patience with the man, he is forgiving in his own way. There is Fred (Dick Cavett) and Wally (Bill Buell) his old neighbours inviting him for the thanksgiving dinner and try to do what they can. There is Duane’s regular bar waitress (Susan Lynch) knowing the man. All these people including Linda suffers a lot more than Duane because they know the best in him. Duane is angry at himself but his expression of it only results in further incidents.

When the film started and the first time we hear Duane speak is when he is stumbling for complete words. And we do not see the sorry faced sitcom hero, we see an irresponsible adult. Then we see how he can be, good and likable. A very good husband and an affectionate father wondering where the life he once had. In his sitcom role, Schwimmer has been the sympathetic geek (becoming a little too boring though as the seasons began to pile) and never needed any kind of extra work to get that from his audience. Here he portrays something simple as it sounds in a layer of practicality and understanding of this person. I am not comparing the roles, but amazed by the shift this actor can do and little sad on how he cannot been seen more often in character roles.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"Absence of Malice" (1981) - Movie Review

The democracy of journalism is a free pass used right, wrong and whatever between with a righteous stamp to it. The right to know as the reporters use is not the right for the privacy. It is a cruel standard and the remedy is beyond a point of little too late. An innocent person can wander scorned with a tattooed prejudiced opinion on the streets. Association with people makes the public sketch the characters of others, easy to do and free of charge and nothing wrong in speculating is the liberty to have a guilt free gossip. When it ends up in a paper, it is catastrophe to the involved people and it is irreparable. In “Absence of Malice”, Sydney Pollack gives Michael Gallagher’s (Paul Newman) peaceful life being brought to the troubled sea by a rugged and ruthless officer of the law Elliott Rosen (Bob Balaban) along with a shabby journalism by an aspiring young reporter Megan (Sally Field).

Pollack’s introduction to Paul Newman’s Michael is reflective of the film. He is shown walking in stooped grief of his bootlegger dad’s funeral watched as a taped film in the office of the Strike Force run by Elliott. Then he comes in a simple jeans and a checkered shirt into the office of Miami Standard. He has simple question for Megan, who is the “knowledgeable source” she is talking about in the article saying Gallagher is the key suspect in a murder investigation. Megan was left in the office of Elliott with the investigation file of Gallagher like a hungry dog and bowl of food. Elliott purposely leaks the story to tighten the grips over Gallagher for some information of a dried homicide case of the local union member. Michael at the day of the murder was with his lady-friend Teresa Perrone (Melinda Dilon) and reasons he cannot reveal.

Pollack shows the insides of the newspaper office with Megan preparing the material. We learn the nuances of wording it and the covering their butts discussion with the lawyer. Gallagher summarizes Megan’s seek of truth, she simply eaves drop. Anything talked to a reporter becomes a story. As long as there is a source and per se reference to the speaking person, everything is fine. The story is made and the opinions are left with the people. While the freedom of press is paramount, the responsibility that comes with it is often sparsely considered. With the current news coming out in the days, it is sensationalism and the idealistic aspirations of true media workmanship diminishing day by day.

A film with very simplistic politics following the people running across to get the job performed by any means possible. Elliott thinks he is doing the best to solve the case, Megan is driven by her reporter instincts and the district attorney (Don Hood) has his own. The actions of these result in a tragedy. Pollack narrates with Newman’s calm performance. He has learned to go for a simple life. He made the bootleg into a legitimate business and works hard. This is a person knowing his association will haunt his life. That has been the case in his past. We know from the casual manner he comes to Megan’s office and tosses the newspaper. He wants to know the person to deal it immediately. He is not surprised by the accusations but is deeply worried by it.

This is not an edge of a seat thriller or smartly dialogued screenplay. It follows the day to day aspect of the media and underlines the implications of the lines printed on a paper. The ripple effect can be a deadly device in triggering people to their edges. The film’s retaliation act by the protagonist appears too smart when it comes to the room with a short and powerful performance by Wilford Brimley as Assistant US Attorney James Wells. He is smart in terms of estimating people’s reaction. He plays the people involved in troubling him. He is not proud but has to do something for this continuous blame.

Pollack relies on the bitterness of the reality and the common sense in the political scenario and then overturns the same in his protagonist’s cleverness. He did so in “Three Days of the Condor”, a man trapped by the job he thought to be safe making him prime target overnight to the company he works, CIA. Here Gallagher is a simpleton getting dragged by his family’s reputation and acts to the bother. He succeeds but with a sorrow face and joyless relief. For Megan, she gets her lesson quite hardly, twice and seeks forgiveness within herself.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

"House of Games" (1987) - Movie Review

The 1987 “House of Games” winged in is a directorial debut by the twisty sharp writer David Mamet. It has the deception and betrayal smeared in its people and rather the con I unravelled well ahead does not dim the fact that it is more than a show piece for a con film. It is a study of the shadowed characters and the resident of immeasurable caliber act in the people we meet waiting for the spark to kick in. That is the film of Mamet’s skill and it succeeds along with Joe Mantegna as Mike.

Wiki in its description says repetitively that the viewer should watch the film with next to nothing idea about it. I watched it with nothing but the personal awareness that Mamet’s films are twists and deception. That did not help me in identifying the ongoing but kept me alert. Whether it is essentially true? Whether I am complacent in discovering this plot? Does this make me better over the writer? The above are the things the film wants to get its viewers think. But I wanted more challenge as I began to be a little arrogant of the discovery I found in the film, which is not the way to be watched and Mamet does not beckon that from his audience either. Finding it might be the idea but not challenging it to prove something to themselves.

Regardless of Mamet’s film has its materials based on cons, it does not gets boring because he finds the platform to present it in forms we often practiced to see as action, thriller or drama. Look at “Glengary Glenn Ross” wherein he puts these salespersons into the cage to bribe, beg and steal for another day of living. His characters carry a charm, cowardice, courage and comedy. But beyond that there is the unexpectedness in them. In Mamet’s film everybody is capable of everything or at least he would make his audience think so. Then how he handles “Spartan”, a CIA operative tracking down the one of the country’s important person. Nothing we know about Val Kilmer’s character but he can be violent, fast and reasonable.

In “House of Games”, Lindsay Crouse plays a psychiatrist Margaret Ford is a representation of general audience. Her life has been financially sumptuous with a work of hearing people retch out their dreams of misery and despair. She is getting consumed by this process and has a mentor and friend Dr. Maria (Lilia Skala) to provide her wisdom of dealing with it. She does not suffice the emotional completion Margaret wants. A compulsive gambler (Steven Goldstein) tells her that he owes twenty five grand to a man and he will be killed for not returning the money he never had. She offers to help him being put in a spot and makes her visit to the pub he said, House of Games. She goes inside and calls for Mike the man who can forget the debt. She demands a deal to forget the money and Mike shows that her patient only owes 800$ and then he counter offers something. She sees a room from where he came out which is a gambling table. He asks to watch out for a man’s particular mannerism which would help him win the bet when he goes to use the rest room. Now 800$ is nothing for her and she could have instantly paid it back, but she does not. She takes up the offer. We know why she does that and Mike knows it a lot well. Beyond this there is no need for summary. May be the remaining film would unfurl easily, may be not but watch Montegna in his deliveries of lines, mannerisms and telling the truth while concealing the best. He explains the idea of con to her in a scene, “It’s called confidence game. Why? Because you give me your confidence? No. Because I give you mine” We would do that to Mamet but we do that for not being conned rather want to be conned.

The doubt of this game goes on and we do not see the end of it. This might not be the great film as I expected it to be but it is always a fun for me to watch any film of Mamet. He recites Zen like philosophies in betrayal and trust. There is no effort in the screenplay to fool his audience. He sees it as a character study and an exploration of ourselves in the nature of the emotional calamities we are ready to perform. In that, it is more than a con film. We want to be smart and so does his characters. The films of his rarely has any character who is cinematically dumb. His characters are either practiced their skills to perfection or the personality we would associate with rather making it a generic representation of the people. Not stereotypic but smartly common sensed.

“House of Games” happens continuously without a break. Not fast and hurried but dropping cues for its audience to follow. We learn a lot more on this psychiatrist at the end of the film while Mike knowing that still cannot avoid it. While the film is about Mike’s marksmanship, it is more about the unforgiving vulnerability and capacity a being like Margaret cannot withstand. We can be a victim of anything but not a con game. No one will be happy about being had and “House of Games” tells that the extremity of that reaction as it closes. Not an end I liked but it gave Margaret a crooked completeness as character and film.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D" (2009) - Movie Review

This is the franchise reinventing back to the basics. It has the herd living the domestic life with Manny (voice of Ray Romano) and Ellie (voice of Queen Latifah), an old tiring Diego (voice of Denis Leary) (come on! These beings need to get old some point) and the annoying yet the clown of the crowd Sid (voice of John Leguizamo). The side kicks Eddie (voice of Josh Peck) and Crash (voice of Sean William Scott) are there too doing their thing but it is the show of Simon Pegg as the crazy and daring Buck which sizzles the film.

As the adventure in the animation, regardless of the patient and artistic effort put forth, anything can be brought alive. Here we see a lava river and a huge water fall of it too. And as Sid is floating on it over a rock, he tries to paddle and it catches fire. We feel the heat and I am not saying it because of the 3D. The effects sure are reproducible as the predecessors but this time they know that the disaster of second installment needs rectification. They do so with Buck and a colourful world lying right beneath the cold surface of theirs.

Sid has been the clown and the friend like a wife. His character is based such that he cannot exist on his own. Diego on the other hand can but with Manny expecting his first child, the feel of something more than the ordinary life of his, which is to hunt and make fun of Sid. Latter never is tough and never gets boring but hunting has been a bumpy ride with a ferocious chase ending with the deer making the most humiliating and funny dance mocking Diego. It is time to hone his skills back again and the family environment is not going to make it any better.

I almost feel a little too crazy to seriously psychoanalyze these extinct animated animals to a considerable of degree of humanism. It is not a surprise though as director Carlos Saldanha with co-director Mike Thurmeier are in the industry of creating something more out of a kids film. When Sid follows Diego’s path of finding his own family, he stumbles on huge eggs and Sid being Sid begins to nurture. Next day he gets up to find three cutest dinosaurs mimicking his moves and assumes him as their mama. That would end in the real mama dinosaur getting back and taking Sid along to the world underneath. Understandably the herd goes back to rescue the friend.

There comes Buck. A weasel on several Red Bull perform fast stunts with nifty cleverness. It is not choreographed but is a dance of super high octane acts. Simon Pegg does not become an accent alone but a rejuvenating experience for the franchise getting old. Suddenly everything is lightened up and when Manny and crew asks for help, Buck tells rules like Tyler Durden and means it seriously. Then again he erases it as he thinks through in the journey. If this film which is nothing but a formula-done-well becomes an exciting movie, it is because of Pegg’s Buck. As Eddie and Crash see him as this action hero idol, so do we and is no doubt will be the favourite character as their poster in the kid’s room. (It will be my desktop background for sure)

Kids are easy to please, atleast I was (on a more expensive level though in toys but in films, I did not care much as a kid) and in the coming films of animation, they want to make it fun for the parents accompanying them. In that there is the challenge of being within the line but stretch enough to entertain the adults and while the kids do not get much of it, still are giggling in the physical comedy of that scene. This film joins that list of other animation movies doing it right within the realm of those possibilities.

The 3D is not a distraction for once. I decided to not see “Up” in 3D because I knew that Pixar’s film would be more about the story than the screen cracking up into the objects of volume. Here the 3D is applied where it needs to be. Hence we fly through the snow filled mountains and coniferous trees with pleasure. We follow Buck through his flying acrobatic spectacles and walk alongside Manny and crew. The action in its creation gets more comic timing than the real stunt. The final showdown with the obvious Ellie giving birth with danger surrounding while Diego and Manny fighting strange creatures is put up but perfectly played. The extended finale of Buck battling the fearful and clandestine Rudy (for such a big dude, he sneaks up on people) is the right finish. “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” redeems the mistake of the second installment of this franchise.

Friday, July 03, 2009

"Public Enemies" (2009) - Movie Review

It all comes down to the Biograph theatre in “Public Enemies”. Dillinger (Johnny Depp) along with a mistress (Leelee Sobieski) and the pimp Anna Sage (Branka Katic) watches “Manhattan Melodrama” with Clark Gable as a gangster. He watches with a smile and a message syncing personally to him from the film. It is obvious that he sees Gable’s character to him but there is an odd bit of realization that this might be it. This is where the alley ends and there is nothing but garbage and sure death amongst it. Beyond the battle fights and shaking camera, Michael Mann’s film gets that across when we watch the film with John Dillinger.

The fascination towards the personalities in the dexterity of crime from the public is voyeuristic and the yearning to vicariously live through them. Not the serial killers but especially someone who seem to hit the underbelly of the contempt of the public. In Dillinger’s case, it was the riches in the times of Great Depression. When the person on the streets crawled and begged to get a menial job to feed their family, the sight of the glamour gets to them. A man who could stick it to the “man” becomes an idol. Dillinger did the robbing of bank with style, swift and perfection. Mann’s man, here Depp does it like a well trained and perfected acrobat on the high swings.

The anit-hero sentiments were used in analogy of the cop and thief, often times. It was the same director who brought Al Pacino and Robert De Niro to what might be described as the film that was meant to be for those two versatile performers. That was “Heat. In that both the characters Pacino’s ruthless flawed cop and De Niro’s merciless but professional crook acknowledge the existence of them on understanding the others. Previous year film “American Gangster” brought Russell Crowe as the cop with a personal life crumbling while Denzel Washington’s drug lord prospers in family merriness. Then there is the film I loved in 2008, “The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford” gave the admiration and obsession of Casey Affleck’s Robert Ford towards the outlaw legend Jesse James played with an eerie sympathy by Brad Pitt. All the men breaking the law and living the life of death game sense the end. That realization is the success of the films I mentioned and importantly like and have a sympathy for the devil in them. John Dillinger in “Public Enemies” earns it, though after lot of ragged shots and ear breaking gunslinging in the literal war between Agent Melvin Purvis’ (Christian Bale) men and him.

Mann does not make it easy to sit through the near to two and half hour film. He makes the Dillinger a sensible criminal. He does not like bloodshed but does not hesitate to shoot when the bullet from the cops welcomes him. For him it is the daring thrill and what comes along is the price he is willing to take. His philosophy in such a dangerous hold up and life is not explained much. Him and his trusted man John “Red” Hamilton (Jason Clarke) share the wisdom of their mentor of how to stay away from desperate men and they become one as the nature of their crime brings bad name to big syndicate criminals.

Dillinger sees Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) and he madly is in love. He is demanding and decides this rough future for her. She is charmed and is curious enough to get her attracted to him. He says who he is and she laughs. She does not leave because of fear in their first meet but is upset for his attention going some where else for few minutes. He comes back later and asks to promise her to never leave her while beating a man for interfering the conversation. She is not petrified but as the public looking for that brilliance in his dare goes with him.

We know something of a little about Dillinger’s personal life but nothing about the cop Melvin Purvis. He is a dedicated young agent mocked by the personality of Dillinger. But Dillinger makes the law and order enforcement of the country a fool. He exasperates J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and brings a shadow of self doubt in the small time he talks with Melvin. The only emotional response going underneath the face of Purvis is seeing his men getting shot and left in pool of blood. We know nothing about Melvin Purvis other than that he is determined and dedicated to the job and sells his soul when he is desperate for information. But he cannot take Billie getting tortured by his fellow officer. That is his limit.

“Public Enemies” depends on that Biograph theatre scene, without which it would have been a mere display of shoddy camera and deafening loudness of the gun battles. It takes patience in the middle when the tiredness in hunting the man and Dillinger getting into the floors to get some action to make sense of his life gets on to us. The changes in the film is sudden. It is not a forced unexpected entry nor a smoothened transition. We do not know when the reputation brought the Dillinger to the paucity of robbery but it does. Michael Mann’s film is a visually unique despite its nauseating docudrama method. As much as the final sequence is the film’s cornerstone, to arrive there without the road Mann takes, it would have been worthless shots of a passionate director. That journey makes it the killer shot for the film and “Public Enemies” survives.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"Day for Night" (Language - French) (1973) - Movie Review

François Truffaut’s “Day for Night” finds time for the ant workers dedicated, laborious and loving to work for the film they are shooting. That involves François Truffaut himself playing as a director in this film and how surreal it would have been for him. His films are a desperate attempt to match the life. I have not seen many but of the two before this, I did not become a great fan of his. Yet “The 400 Blows” is a bothering movie having the biting force of reality into the character. He does not try to exaggerate that acerbic quality. If an act of violence, fury or accident happens, there is a reaction time in us to process that it is really happening and in that film it brought that. I could not stand “Fahrenheit 451”, may be because it is far fetched into the future and mundane is not something one would expect of science fiction. In this film, he makes a risky but perfect choice of making a movie about making a movie. Yes, that is exactly what I meant.

In a crowded central town of Paris a camera follows the people but ejects the people from that bush of people it wants to be followed. The props in it becomes a transportation to the next character in the mixed crowd. A bus takes a woman in to the subway stairs and a man comes out of it and he heads to the road when another car takes that to shift us to the final character. Then two of those people collide and out comes “Cut!” and the director wants to do this whole thing again. I did not see any problems with it but he summarizes the extras not coming out at the right time with the proper preference of acting they were asked to do. This is a movie set and we will live through this and many others amongst the crew. We learn a little and lot of every one. And when the shooting wraps, we would be as them mingled and departed.

There are personal problems and troubles, deteriorating confidence and self esteem and a summing cliched but admirable hush hush affairs in the set. One such couple is the young actor Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Leaud) and Liliane (Dani). Alphonse is jealous, possessive and adorably loves Lilianne. Lilianne loves him like a puppy. We do not see her blatantly accepting these jealousy as a turn on but it is the mileage which keeps their relationship running. Of course it has to empty and randomness is the answer to that for Lilianne. For Alphonse, he becomes recluse and learns a valuable lesson about women and a miniscule effort to grow up.

François Truffaut makes sure he covers at least five to six people in a shot individually having a line leading to the next person. Because that is how a movie set will be, questions, doubts, issues and many “logistics”. There is a big expectation and media attention to the arrival of Hollywood actor Julie (Jacqueline Bisset). She had a nervous breakdown and in the subsequent time married the person treating her. “Did you marry your doctor?” asks a journalist in a press conference and she replies “I married a person whom I love who is a doctor”. She is clear and stable.

There are no plots apart from finishing the film and there are twists in the personal disappointments of the people working. A man of comforting presence and understanding is veteran actor Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Aumont). He delightfully welcomes Severine (Valentina Cortese) with whom he has worked in younger years. He is perturbed by his aging while she is self conscious and loses her cool in a shot which is comedic and sad. He is not bothered by the retakes and the self pity his fellow actor is creating. He knows what she is going through and does his best to get the scene smooth. To get an actor like that would be the best thing for a director and François Truffaut shares through the character of Alexandre.

Julie is level headed and knows the life she is leading. When she sees Lilianne unmercifully decides to crush Alphonse, she goes and conveys it to him. And she is concerned when he is ready to leave the place. What happens next crumbles her and she begins to doubt the rejuvenation from the meltdown she had. Yet we are not bothered because we seem to accept this kind of casual arrangements in the arena of film making and the process. But it is so due to the fact of the audience being the peeping tom in their intermingled misery of life and film they see of these actors.

François Truffaut’s film is not for every one. It is not an art house venture either. It is a film for people admiring the movies and laughs knowing the chaos running behind. It is not a surprise but the development in the people it contains is the pleasure in watching this film. He brings voice over sparsely as though there is no time to think in between the crazy schedule and unforeseen issues. His character dreams of a kid walking through a street in the middle of the night. When we see the put together continuous string of that sequence, we know that it is a film made by someone loving the film.