Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Where the Wild Things Are" (2009) - Movie Review

Spike Jonze’s adapts a children’s book which I was not aware of and develops that into more than something else. Just a little more which causes it to be a little too long. But Jonze creates a world and creatures with a uniqueness showing that he is the man who made the modern classics as “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.”, of course with the screenplay guru Charlie Kauffman. This time it is the co-writer of “Away We Go” Dave Eggers lending hands with Jonze to help him generate this film.

There is young Max (Max Records) living with his mom (Catherine Keener) and sister (Pepita Emmerichs). He is missing his dad and seeks attention. His stubbornness lands him in a night where he becomes much trouble and flees home. He runs away to find a boat and begin to sail. And he lands in an island with creatures speaking perfect English. In that weird bunch is a lonely one Carol (voice of James Gandolfini) and Max becomes friends with him. Soon many tight corners and new place makes him to build a story wherein he is the King.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is a PG rated film but it is not frothing rosy pictures and merry characters. It takes a route what “Coraline” took but not as dark as that. Max is a kid looking to be sympathized and feel special. Every kid goes that phase, especially with Max missing his father. While he is initially afraid of these things, he acts on his emotion to support Carol who is a replica of Max’s emotional state. In this island these beings live for nothing other than to crash and destroy things and then sleep in a pile. I would like to believe that it is all a manifestation of Max’s imagination but it does not really matter. The reason is that it is not about Max’s return to his home but to sort out himself amongst these huge beings.

There is little to no history of these creatures except that Carol has a thing for another supposedly “female” creature KW (voice of Lauren Ambrose). The idea is to spread the carpet of Jonze’s creative ability and that is the cornerstone of this film. Max and Carol takes long walks in the amicable desert, the cold and silent woods and the overlooking sea lying comfortably by those. When Carol shows a miniature town he constructed, Max decides that to be their objective before which we do not know what their purpose were. That floors up to the structures so high up and surreal appear to made out of sticks. All these are so greatly typical of Jonze’s previous works and it takes as much as it could.

What happens in this journey is that, the objective is unknown. This is a kid’s film we are talking and the movie as much it would stay away from the traditional moves, it does put the expectation of an end and closure with the creatures than the known ending of Max returning home. What is this island represent to him and what is the lesson he learns from this? He seem to be fine staying away from home and when Carol loses it, he is afraid but he does not look like a kid eager to go back home.

“Where the Wild Things Are” begins as a solid film. It gets the troubled kid to behave into the extremities a single mom do not want. Catherine Keener in that two scenes brings such a sorrow, love and intensity being there raising two kids on her own with troubles all around. The same begins to loom as Max heads to the island but does not go beyond certain time. I liked “Where the Wild Things Are” and in fact would have admired a lot more but it loses its sprit as the purpose of the beings dissipates into the region of unclear.

"Amelia" (2009) - Movie Review

Mira Nair’s “Amelia” gets the habit of showing its audience exactly the time when the emotion and relationship breaks or takes off. How they arrive to that destination are distributed amongst the scenes which may or may not have happened when they hide the screen with newspaper headlines the film does not need of. Hilary Swank has all into it, no doubt. Her love for the character is sometimes little too much to hide in the naivety of this person who is an iconic woman sadly succumbing to a record breaking journey in the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

With short hair and wide smiles, Amelia Earhart sees flying as her extension to the great freedom the women of those times were shunned. In the film Swank’s Amelia recites lines which have been stolen and had its miles for many years expecting for the souls to be touched. The fascination of riding the clouds and swimming through it as much as sounds poetic and drawing, it is scary. When there is nothing but emptiness and you in the sky, what makes her to forget that fear and enjoy the moment? All masked by the gleeful face of Swank.

Amelia meets George Putnam played by Richard Gere, as Richard Gere. He is definitely not the man from the 1930s and his insecurity, anger and sadness are scissored from his other soap-operatic romantic films. Putnam asks Amelia who has learned flying, fought against the odds of the society inflicts upon women, of being a passenger in a journey of crossing Atlantic. Nair appear to have been mesmerized by the celebrity image Amelia bore, that she begins to race for that part like a mom running to get her child into the departing school bus. Hence it is a story the world already knew, of course I was not even born that time and Amelia in this film did not make a mark on me.

The real Amelia Earhart is a woman liberated by the air up above. From the grasp of mine, she had the want to be ruling the winds and forget about the oppression against her coming to in little quantities in day to day life to put her down. The Amelia in the film is a character supposedly talking and behaving like the real one with an absent emotion. Her love for the flight seem to be assumed. What makes it the best? Why not ice hockey? Nair takes the route of going with the idea that the audience would have read about Amelia when they came or the trailer and tagline is good enough. But what a biography needs is not the person and their name in headlines and commercials, rather a complete person who found passion and drive to do those great things and the compromise they made and did not make to achieve what they wanted to.

Amelia obviously gets hooked up with George Putnam not due to any specific reason nor there is enough scenes to establish that, but purely for the fact that it is Richard Gere. And of course Swank is the central character. Do the math. Never in the moment there seem to be a feeling that this is a real person who lived a life of her own and did everything to protect in times not being her friend. Then there comes Ewan McGregor as Gene Vidal in a party and Amelia falls for him, because well he is Ewan McGregor. Amelia and Putnam depart which we are not shown and reunite when a phone call with an old poem recital of Amelia by Putnam does it.

And there is the background score which has the notion of keeping company all the times when the mood shifts for emotional confession. The reason more than to associate the film is to get a PG rating. Let me explain a little bit out here. For kids who wants a reminder that the characters are not alone, the music comforts. This for no other particular reason becomes the forte for “Amelia” to continue the story telling.

In these flagrant journey of characters, there comes Fred Noonan played by Christopher Eccleston, an alcoholic known better for his navigational skills. He becomes Amelia’s partner in her final journey. In the final ascent from Lae, Fred begins to drink against the rules while having an open and confronting conversation with Amelia. May be she went through that kind of questioning all the time but Noonan gets to her. There lies the right movie for a character whose ambition needed fuel as finance through her promotion and celebrity status. That should have been the film.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"The Proposition" (2005) - Movie Review

There is a melancholy to the darkest tales. There can be men with hearts of lead but their devil has a song to sing. This is the tale of those men, “The Proposition.” Directed by John Hillcoat, the morality does not have a place, conscience has no place to hide than to bury itself into this far outback of the old Australia. There is no good and bad out in this story. There are men whose hands are anointed with blood and they take no pride in it but they do not regret it either. These are people finding no place and staying no where. It is a dark poetry and the sadness is such an element that it becomes beautiful.

In the far barren lands of the ancient Australia with aboriginals hunted and laboured menially, comes a proposition from an English police officer Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) to a man Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) seeking unattainable peace with his young brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) tied, hurt and helpless. Stanley offers a deal, kill Charlie’s elder brother Arthur Burns (Danny Huston) and he and his kid brother Mikey will be pardoned. Stanley is the only balance of sanity and morality this film’s characters have. He is seen as weak but he wants a specific justice of his own. The brothers are accused of a rape and murder of one Eliza Hopkins. Stanley assured that the real culprit is Arthur wants the justice to be clever, swift and precise.

So goes lean and desperate Charlie, rethinking his regretful relationship with his elder brother to find him unaware of what he is going to do with him. Before he knows, he is hunted by the frightened aboriginal rebels and rescued brutally by Arthur’s crew comprising of a sneaky and dangerous Samuel (Tom Budge). “The Proposition” is a dark tale, visceral enough to be distasteful in an elegant way. The love for this picture is immense from Hillcoat who sought Nick Cave, the composer for the story. The settling sun waiting to be ogled by this beast of a men is threatening. The photography which cannot get more eyes from the dried sands of outback in Australia swallows whatever it could observe.

Preceding the story of men in the “The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford”, this is unique to its own clan of people. In this story of men lies a beautiful, calm and vengeful woman. That is Captain Stanley’s wife Martha (Emily Watson) whose friend was the murdered Eliza Hopkins. She demands justice from her husband who has made a deal angering the locals and her too. Revenge in a conscience person is misleading. It attracts them seductively of anger but punishes immediately at the sight of the result. Thus happens when young tender Mikey gets a punishment which gets brutal and tilts the balance of justice on the eyes of Martha.

And never I have seen Danny Huston in a sociopathic snaky role as this and he is more than a typecast the Hollywood has made him of. Here he is mysterious as the non-existing devil may rise. Ray Winstone with such a nobility to his Stanley is the only person knowing the consequences of his actions and he is such a pleasure to watch being powerful yet helpless. Guy Pearce in his calm fashion is an aspiring man for redemption.

All these people’s history are reflected by other people through words and sorrows. They are defined by their behaviour in this unmerciful land. In this are characters staring at the empty air amused despite the bunch of flies covering their eyes. There are skins waiting to be ripped apart where the flies can sense within fraction of seconds. The sweat does not help either and the heat causing it paints photographic art to the film. At the same time the heat is not inviting to the audience.

“The Proposition” is supposed to be very accurate on the portrayal of aboriginals in the 1800s. Still they are background in this wild tale of a western soaked in poetry. Runs the poem of darkness by the music of Nick Cave and it adds another layer of dirt and you know what I mean. The sociopaths, the evil, the desperate, the devilish, the marginally right, the completely wronged and the shelled innocence are all wandering out here. Out here in the place of cold hearts, merciless men, scenic sun and its scorching rays and they are gnashing through the “The Proposition.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"The Girlfriend Experience" (2009) - Movie Review

Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” sanitizes the judgment of the prostitution. But out here it is not nearly prostitution or as the title suggests, it is the package without the strings. The girl (Sasha Grey) and the guy are in this classy restaurant talking about a movie. I know what the film they are talking about. It is a documentary I loved and they discuss how cleanly it was put forth, edited and when the phenomenon the people in that film talk about happens, it is ethereal. Before she journals her routine with the client, I knew they were talking about “Man on Wire”. This is Chelsea, the call girl Soderbergh focuses on his film.

Told in a nonlinear form, Soderbergh goes to the way he experimented in his earlier films as “sex, lies, and videotape.” The girl in the film carries conversation with her clients in a manner which makes them pour out their day to day life. She listens to the complaints of a man about his friend asking for money and asks suggestions of what to do in the current economic times. The film has a backdrop of the 2008 Presidential Election where the clients voice their opinion but we do not know about hers till the end. But may be she is saying she voted for this person to comfort the man she is going to provide the service.

She is being interviewed by a journalist who walks on the line with the skill of slicing a cut into this icy layer of woman. She is close to the journalist and she pretends with her clients. When we see her day, there is another young man working as a personal trainer in a gym. This is Chris (Chris Santos) and he is marketing in these tough times of scheduling more sessions with him. He is good at his job and one of his clients plans for Las Vegas trip. Of course the film collages back and forth of what happened, happens and is happening. It does not comes off as a show off on what they can do with this form of presentation rather it is the right way. Despite the style which also is a form of documentary into this young girl’s livelihood, it comes off with a story in between.

It is later learned that Chris is the boyfriend of Christine, the real name of Chelsea. The film goes on how clean the work she does. Nobody is a jerk and everybody is polite, respectful and in that time of her service, treats her something in the middle in between a girlfriend and a respectful talented employee. In this whole process of full package of her job, she competes, thrives to be the best and the business of the escort services as such.

She meets web designers to get her webpage properly designed and requests for techniques to get it come first in the search results. She narrates her experience which comes as more of an attempt to write a book. She sketches her outfit, the person she met and the things they talked. In between she mentions that they had sex which never happens on screen. She kisses her clients, passionately and with an intimate affection but a noticeable distance. Sasha Grey’s appearance marks a great deal to that character. She has a face cut which has a look shunning the real her behind it. The journalist tries hard to get that side out but as relentless he is, she does it day to day with her clients. Yet the interview catches her when she is dealing with a personal crisis, which is more surprising for an educated and informed girl as her.

Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” is a film of its own and lives in the kind he has defined himself for. Much has been said about the selection of the protagonist for the film, Sasha Grey a porn star but it is not for publicity and I would assume letting her project more on the mask she puts upon in front of the camera in her adult films. She fits the role and Chris Santos as her boyfriend has a parallel in his life style to hers.

The film is a unique experience where we see the profession of a regular activity in a more agreed upon manner than the darkness that environment has been portrayed. True that the bad experience Chelsea goes through are not put upon except for one though in the film. The film as much as realistic it begins and see Chelsea as a serious person more professional than any regular working class person decides something illogical in her personal life. It seems odd and does not go with the girl the audience see her with the clients but again, that is not Christine.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Law Abiding Citizen" (2009) - Movie Review

“Law Abiding Citizen” is in love with its product that it hurries into the plot like a zombie towards a fearful human. It likes to question the morality of the justice and takes shades in that though unlawfully. It has an ingenious protagonist smart enough to kill anyone from a closed prison cell and an ADA whose sole purpose is to witness those murders. The motivation for the smart man is that he would like to teach the system some justice but importantly to prove every one he can do that. His zest to give a slice of his skill to the city of Philadelphia overcomes his vengeance and his so called proclamation of giving justice the way it should be.

Gerard Butler is the smart man Clyde Shelton whom the District Attorney’s office should not have seen as conviction rate case and make a deal with the bad guy by lawyer Nick played by Jamie Foxx. Two men slaughter his wife and young kid leaving him to die. They did not do their job completely and now it is payback time. After ten years, Clyde has meticulously planned a killing scheme with the people involved in the case. He replaces one of the canisters for the killer in the death row and kidnaps the main man. He calculatedly tortures him and make sure his body gets dismembered with him alive and looking at the mirror of it. After this his victims gets scattered and he elevates from a revenger to a sociopath.

F. Gary Gray’s film fantasizes more than its central character. While Butler’s Clyde executes his victims one by one, Nick watches them as an audience. There are bodies of personnel around Nick to cut the dialogues or move them to their marks and locations. They would be Detective Dunnigan (Colm Meaney) and his partner Detective Garza (Michael Irby) promptly coming whenever Nick and his mentor Jonas (Bruce McGill) are in serious discussion to say, “Dudes, you need to move for the scene to happen in prison cell”.

So the justice is flawed and the moral question of the right and wrong oscillates. The complication and the injustice of the system has been and gets dealt in detail and analyzed in the famous “Law and Order” TV series but here there is no line for that. The killer comes with a cape and justification of his action which are not none. With the primary murderers out of the way, the screenplay has left with the option of eliminating every one till it comes down to Nick.

Ten years explains the laborious nature of the traps set by Clyde, but it does not explain his beyond the rage and closure one line speech he gives to Nick. How does killing all the government employees related to his case prove a point? Or may be when he decides to kill the whole higher officials in city hall including Viola Davis in a thankless role of Mayor. Beyond the flaws of morality, the screenplay by Kurt Wimmer wants to get complete the fantasy circle in the bad guys getting what they deserve.

Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx play this tango dance which is all wrong. Butler did a ferocious role of blood seeking warrior in “300” but here his dark side is not convincing nor there is a visible battle in his inner demons. What the film does though is bring up the question of whether a brutality makes a sociopath? It does not justify killings though but well we are not talking in depth analysis out here. It is a soft twist into the system and the remaining plot is a planned setup by the scriptwriter. It becomes an exercise than an intelligent entertainer. “Law Abiding Citizen” should have stopped being a narcissistic before it stepped into the film.

"Paranormal Activity" (2009) - Movie Review

Disclaimer: The author of this film review have not seen “The Blair Witch Project” and hence with that notion advices its readers to treat the below article. Note: I just did this to cheer with the mood of the film!

In the plethora of media advertisements and trailers up on the moviegoer’s face, rarely comes a film or two where someone walks in with no idea of the film whatsoever. While that does not make a film horrible or best, the pleasure of watching it without a single frame viewed before, everything is unpredictable, surprising and heightens the excitement. This mockumentary styled horror film is one of the creepiest, scariest and horrifying films I have seen, It is a perfect catalyst for paranoid moments after we walk out of the theater. “Paranormal Activity” have two main characters and we do not learn everything about them but we learn a lot about the invisible evil force in their house. In a horror film its victims disappear as falling targets while the terror material stays in the dark. Hence what we are left is a film of nothing, of course in today’s cinema the void is filled with grotesque and gory images. “Paranormal Activity” balances those two and gets on a realistic note that we would never see the home in the same way again.

The film directed by Oren Peli does not have credits other than Paramount Pictures thanking the San Diego Police department and the couple Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah). Micah is setting up a professional video camera joined by his girl friend who has just moved in, Katie. They joke around, appear happy and Micah documents the activities. He films their daily routine for particular reason where mentioning out here will insult the intelligence of the readers. Anyhow he follows his girlfriend around and sets it up in a tripod when they go to sleep to capture the unknown activities. For a while we are not even told whether the house is haunted, because that is the obvious assumption. New couple in a new home, what more one could ask for in a boring horror film. But no, this has a history. This is not something new. It is new for Micah but for Katie, she has been seeing figures and her house got burned down without any reason when she was eight.

But the devil is not in the details, it is not even on the screen for a long time. Micah as the brave and unbelieving boyfriend he can be does not become a stereotype. He reacts, behaves as the slightly egoistic boyfriend. He ventures the camera as a curious kid. In one half he wants things to happen and the other half, well, he discovers the other half in the film. He is reasonably arrogant and a loving boyfriend. Katie as any girlfriend have the same curiosity but there is more in stake for her than Micah. She has been going through this patches of times where she is haunted by this strangeness and now this might give some answers. She accompanies Micah with partial heart.

Oren Peli begins with the Night#1 with date and time. The first night we are awake when they are asleep. Hoping for things to happen. But “Paranormal Activity” depends on a storytelling which adds upon realism to the film and an intimidating anxiousness to its viewers. Night after night, when heavy vibration and thumping sounds accentuate, we long for the day. Peli teases with the room lights. Anytime the screen goes blank and comes back, we need daylight.

While the characters do some illogical things, that is the instinct. When someone is shaken up from their sleep, the least immediate thing is to reach for lights. They stick together all the time. And day by day the stress increases and for the question of why cannot they leave the home, they have answer. But honestly if something like this happen in miniscule incremental fashion, the expectation is that it would go away and the routine of us gets the fear out. It does not happen for Micah and Katie.

“Paranormal Activity” is threatening and leaves the stomach with full of continuing fear. It is intense, methodical but not obvious about it. Its actors work terrifically with each other. Micah and Katie are a team and a couple and in a relationship. Micah’s funny attitude change to curiosity, then to be frustrated and finally angry. Katie is fine for a while and then begs and we beg with her to Micah for turning off the camera, of course the movie would end without an end then. The ending is not surprising but goes with the mood of the film. If someone believes there is going to be merry happily ever after in a film thanking the police department and two people who come in the camera, you know the end. But you do not know how it is going to get there because “Paranormal Activity” infects you, with fear.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Couples Retreat" (2009) - Movie Review

The troubled couples in the “Couples Retreat” begin as someone to be laughed at, then with and the lines are murky on whether to feel sorry for them or plainly be ready for them to be the centre of laughter within the first twenty minutes into the film. Then they are turned as comedy instruments, ineffectively of course and after that there is no limitation on the stretches of the elliptical route in the name of comedy this film spirals down to. Peter Billingsley the director struggles a bit and a lot as his film cannot take a stand on this miserable pairs.

There is generally a level of spite when it comes to the film proclaiming proudly of its formulaic flow and stereotypic characters it assemble in the reviews. That they are and their inability to hide their shyness is an honesty I can appreciate while not acknowledge to the fullest. But if there is a film which got some characters who give a semblance of possibility into becoming faint images of dimensional flesh and blood while pouring it into the wastelands of compromise and succumbing to the formula, that achieves greater rage in me. “Couples Retreat” is one such.

There is Dave (Vince Vaughn) and Ronnie (Malin Akerman), the husband and wife lost in the upbringing of kids and buried in the careers and house improvements. They are the early college kids who were in so love with each other to get married before they could see the calamities of their student loans. They are responsible of their acts and have sacrificed vacations and are in the stages of life where the acceptance of it has numbed the fun and love they planned and used to have. “We make it through in the end” says Ronnie to a psychiatrist when they land in this surprise island of vacation hiding under the sands. They are characters, not funny clay modeled molds in a dummy screenplay. They come through with a realization which is unfulfilled and hazy than to see the real sane couple they have been.

Another is Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) who are intensely preparing a presentation for their friends. They qualify as the Amway couple ready to sell and market the heck out of the stuff they are preparing. While we expect to be one such comedy piece to know what kind of personalities they are, we are stunned by their presentation. They begin by saying that they are planning a divorce and show the progress of their marriage in a bar chart and the progression of their post divorce mate finding in another chart. They psychoanalyze the procedure and the effort to be wasted and it all makes sense. We are in a generation of slide shows which are filled with pages of texts no one cares about. We need bullet points as they say but these couple want to give a final shot in their matrimony which brings them to the island with series of couples therapy. They are another fresh characters who become this display of obvious problems and in the end settle up for a drunken sex truce.

Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) are exhausted of each other but is wonderful as a team with their teenage daughter. Their high school pregnancy has resulted in a marriage robbing the party times. Now with the daughter ready to be out of the door, they are left with each other all set to hate. Both cannot wait to cheat on each other but has not crossed the bridge yet. This becomes their running gag and the film becomes their pathway for their disappointments and awkwardness been cheered on for some laughs we never want to. Finally is Shane (Faizon Love), a big man coming out of a divorce and tagging a young girl (Kali Hawk) with whom he cannot compete.

All these people are real and their problems appear to be serious but “Couples Retreat” does not see them with a consistent perspective. They shadow and shine on those with great uncertainty. And there is confidence leaking out when this steps in couples session going nowhere and the final place where every one meets and everything happens at once. “Couples Retreat” had some few good laughs and few good convincing scenes but more than that it had plausible people with very real problems. They are made jokers but we are not able to laugh at them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Tsotsi" (Language - Zulu/Xhosa/Afrikaans) (2005) - Movie Review

Gavin Hood’s “Tsotsi” has its titular character in a state of as it is. In the end when the man comes off his darkness, he is still the same person, the change does not disturb the fragments of good parts in the devil of a person. The catharsis he goes through is not in open nor there is an evidence of the work put on subtlety. He lives there as a man confused on the strangeness of the emotion of guilt and love. He begins unwrapping his conscience and he cannot stop it. He is a struggling soul and he swims hard to come through it. He begins to believe and at the end when tragedy is an inch closer, the film ends as it supposed to.

The young actor playing this merciless and unpredictable boy is Presley Chweneyagae. His face is sterile but it is a facade hiding the trueness of human lying beneath. When he walks in the centre with his small clan in the streets of the slum near Johannesburg, his cockiness is not convincing. The actor plays it so because the mismatch in his appearance and behaviour is a wannabe. Here their job is to steal and Tsotsi with his gang rounds up a helpless old man in a busy train. They surround him when another gang member Butcher (Zenzo Nggobe) punctures the chest of the old man for no reason at all. Tsotsi is disturbed but do not show it out. But another member Boston (Mothusi Magano) in the gang is disgusted and horrified. He constantly reflects the ugliness of the act they allowed on to the face of him in a local bar which only makes Tsotsi to pummel his friend and run away.

Gavin Hood deliberately seem to begin in a second act. Before even we get to know the characters in detail we are in the conflict of the story. Tsotsi is not his real name and has only put a shade on himself. The word means “thug”. In his desperation for satiating his remorse, he goes for another mugging resulting in a helpless woman getting shot and her car stolen. Before one could think it cannot get worse, there is a cry in the back seat. A baby looking at this boy’s face who is stepping on all the wrong places. He takes everything in the car and in the flurry of impulsive blunders, he does something else. He takes the baby along with him. We are still not sure whether he is going to dispose it or drop it in the first signs of trouble. For reasons unknown to him, he begins to nurture or takes an attempt in taking care of the baby, of course in the worst way possible.

“Tsotsi” is a suave short story. Its glossiness does not feel original to the art house movie making. May be technical excellence never took a front seat in a film of substance or usually it merges than to stand out of the crowd. In this film, it seems as a distraction. The slum which is a rat hole of a place shines out in the despair. It reminded me of a director in Indian Cinema, Maniratnam. His obsession to glorify the frames with photography adding unnecessary and uncalled richness to a background which clearly is not a place to feel good about. “Tsotsi” unfortunately takes that route. Yet it does not forget its destination in this delusion.

What makes Tsotsi do the things he does? Survival instincts? But his victims are helpless individuals minding their own business. His stealing is lethal and he has never stopped his friend Butcher in going on a killing spree whenever he wanted to. Yet this time around there arises a gang member as Boston to take a mirror and put it in front of this boy who has only seen the world being tough to him. We are shown that his childhood marked with a violent father and a sick mother being the victim to HIV disease. He envies the baby but he also sees the innocence he believes to have lost.

Gavin Hood’s “Tsotsi” is a good film reasonably staying within its realm of keeping it simple. Its simplicity is not a hindrance to the character of the film. Its central character remains unpredictable till the end but who is not. His idea of seeing the things shifts out. He begins to care. The film not settling for cheap emotions keeps it real. We are touched when he witnesses another victim to his terrorizing methods, this time for good reasons, to force a young mother (Terry Pheto) feeding the baby and we begin to slowly sympathize for this wrongly turned boy when he stands knowing his destroyed future. He is changed man though.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"Zombieland" (2009) - Movie Review

What are zombies? What do they think? Are they just animals? Well, any reasonable question for psychoanalysis of these beings do not get in the “Zombieland” or do we get at all in any zombie films. But “Zombieland” has it work set out, which is to kill zombies in a fantasizing display of glorious violence. “Shaun of the Dead” did a spoof/homage of this beings contribution to the horror genre and “Zombieland” rightly uses them as target machines than real horror. It has four people and despite their despair and loneliness manages to survive in some sort of fun and hope.

By now in the films of lifeless blood suckers, the audience do not need a tutorial on how the world met with a pandemic disease but the narrator (Jesse Eisenberg) in this post apocalypse globe familiarizes with his rules, his surviving rules and they come as a three dimensional note on the screen. He is thin but has immense running strength to outrun the zombies. That is his first rule, rule#1 cardio he says and that keeps him breathing (no pun intended). A nerd whose dissociation skills to be friendless have assisted so far to be alone but it is getting to him. Now he is in desperate need for a face without blood and flesh dripping from the mouth. He is hoping to find his parents he has not been close with in Columbus, Ohio. He meets a bad ass cowboy (Woody Harrelson) heading to Tallahassee. Since making friends is dangerous if one of them gets bitten, the man suggests to be called each other by their place of birth. Hence Columbus and Tallahassee head out east.

Tallahassee and Columbus are the buddy movie the Hollywood loves to put upon. One a young, naïve and shy kid while the other an old man with a character and temper of his own. Not to mention in the weird obsession of Tallahassee to find the Twinkie to quench his sugar and fat thirst. But he tells the reason, what if that will be the last Twinkie to be had and he reminds that it indeed has its expiry date. The vending machine Twinkies I have seen never seem to be bought but also never seem to go gooey but it is getting there. They travel to have some destination where there is nothing but well zombies.

“Zombieland” is fun because it treats these cannibals as the dumb and brainless as they are. As much as frightening, gross and grotesque they are, they are not the brightest bulbs in this endangered humans. They run with their mouths open succumbing quite horribly to the blows of Tallahassee’s inventive tools to knock the heck out of them. Woody Harrelson is an actor does not bother himself with main roles unless or otherwise it is necessary. He comfortably can settle in any supporting characters and develop a place within any film. And in here he is not annoying giving hard time to his newfound friends but is cheered up to kill zombies, always have a mouth for advice and a compassion believable to invite sympathy for this tough guy.

Jesse Eisenberg has a thing going for him with this nerdy but not so nerdy young man. He was dancing toe to toe with Jeff Daniels in “The Squid and the Whale” and turned it to the regular kid in “Adventureland”. In “Zombieland”, he maintains the character but not there yet to be nothing new as Michael Cera is turning out to be. Emma Stone after “Superbad” warms up to a caliber role wherein she not alone is available as the hot girl for Eisenberg’s Columbus but a con girl of a kind paired with the smart Abigail Breslin.

With Bill Murray playing himself in this land of desolation and zombie killing as an entertainment, director Rubin Fleischer matches up the “Shaun of the Dead” in his style. A film generally achieves a confidence and stays in the confidence with the success in its first act. And most of all is that its characters have a clear intention to survive than to fall as a prey to a badly plotted screenplay fiasco. Each of them has a genuine instinct to keep their head above the water. For a film aiming on fun entertainment it for the first time in the genre deals with survival than being killed and at certain level we become confident along with the characters of that ability. “Zombieland” is fun.

Monday, October 05, 2009

"The Invention of Lying" (2009) - Movie Review

Ricky Gervais can say anything with a humour undiscovered by many. He holds that cheeky English curve into it and leverages on the silences following the dismal showing of behaviour the character he poses. He keeps it to minimum in “The Invention of Lying” the film he co-directs with Matthew Robinson and acts the Mark Bellison, the loser in a land where the word “lie” has not yet come out.

The world without lies and deceit is a pipe line dream for a realist but I have not really thought about the pleasure we would be missing out. Fiction of most struck me with big surprise in this alternate reality Gervais brings upon. Here the biggest block buster film is a literary reading about the factual discovery of the centuries. And in this too, there are terrible screenplays and Mark writes those. It is told that Mark as his fellow citizens of this small town are impulsive to speak their mind.

“The Invention of Lying” has an intelligent premise. Today at work my colleague hearing about it told me that it is an opposite of “Liar Liar” which is true but as much formulaic Jim Carrey’s flick was, this defies those and yet not comes close to the perfection. In this town, women cannot control their shallowness and men cannot control their sexist mind (add shallow too). In between those we have a place where things are very clear and murky for middle aged single men like Mark.

Mark tries to date Anna (Jennifer Garner) clearly out of his reach and she says so. Despite these blunt truths, the people does not emote the feeling of being hurtful and being hurt. The average Joes in the film shows sadness and lonely despair they are left to face but arrogant and powerful person like Brad Kessler (Rob Lowe), the nemesis of Mark in the screenplay department are plainly merciless. So they are their characters but even the beautiful Anna seems to be not concerned rather being helpless about their daily life of blurting potent truths.

Mark’s days are getting worse with being fired from the job and a dying mother (Fionnula Flanagan). Adding to that is that his landlord giving him an ultimatum, either pay the rent or get evicted. When Mark is standing in front of the bank cashier to close his account, something strikes him and he cannot explain but he tells something which is not really there. He lies that he has 800$ in his account and the teller sees the computer mentioning 300$. And she believes the man than the machine. Those are the undercurrents of props pointing the technology belief this century has arrived to rely upon. In fact the word “lie” is not there and the phenomenon cannot be explained by Mark himself.

Mark does go on a flurry of fantasy using this power and comes soon to the realization that he cannot use it to bad cause. Something a formula film takes on the whole duration and Gervais decides to take this a different direction, an alternate theory of the existence of the invisible man, god. The human race in the film cannot speak about something they do not know and hence the unknown after the death remains that way without speculation until Mark does something. In her final breaths, his mother is terrified by the idea of unknown and Mark formulates the afterlife. The doctor and nurses around him are blown away by this knowledge and soon the word navigates to make him the messenger. You see where this is going and Gervais while making an atheist agenda also proposes a theory we could think and invoke our brains upon.

“The Invention of Lying” is funny in parts, philosophical overall and good as a whole. What it misses is the full time comic commitment from Gervais. While the movie as said has a premise and story which is more than an average comedy, the momentum keeps missing. The emotional bonding between Mark and Anna can be said something like that wherein there could have been more convincing conversation than the philosophy of prejudice Mark teaches upon. Ricky Gervais aims for high but falls a little short of perfection. Still “The Invention of Lying” is a good comedy with lot of thought to chew upon.