Saturday, January 31, 2009

"The Uninvited" (2009) - Movie Review

I want to shout like Kevin Spacey how he did in “Glengary Glenn Ross” at Alan Arkin to go for lunch in a tense office room. It would be directed against the horror movie makers and the yelling would be “Will you fix all the doors creaking in the entire freaking house? Will you fix the door creaks? Will you?” The Guard Brothers’ “The Uninvited” has a beautiful house by the beach which only the hollywood films have. The problem is it has badly placed doors which creak every time Anna (Emily Browning) opens. Creaks ! Creaks ! Creaks ! I am tearing my hairs apart and that feels good than the sound of the suspense the film poses. As many of you might know that horror genre are not my cup of tea, I still went to “The Uninvited”. And I will say the cliched, expected line which would possibly appear in the reviews for this film which is “The film is uninviting”. Sorry, could not help it.

In the crowded halls of my darkened living room amongst the cousins and relatives, I watched a horror film supposedly a cult in India when it released. It is called “Evil Dead” and I managed to watch it with a blanket over the head and a conveniently made hole to see. I was young and terrified. It can be said to be fair that it contributed to where I stand in terms of not watching that genre. But in my defense, I loved “The Mist” and enjoyed “1408”. Many others come to mind but these are the recent films which readers will be able to associate where I stand. Anyways, the irritating sounds in “The Uninvited” I talked upon in previous para horrified me during “Evil Dead”. That genre has not changed much it seems. Trying to scare the poor kids and now a day that is hard to do too.

Anna comes out from the psychiatric facility making good efforts to forget that past of her sick mother dying in a fire accident in their out house. She has an elder sister Alex (Arielle Kebel) who hates the girlfriend of their father (David Straitharn). Rachel Summers (Elizabeth Banks) is that who arrived as the nanny for their mother and she will be the blonde we will be punched by the directors to doubt throughout the film. Alex and Anna will be teaming to dismantle the supposed machinations of Rachel. And Rachel will be giving that cunning eyed look to convict herself but oh, also means being nice.

For growing up as a frightened kid, I was not scared. Surprised by their cheap tricks, yes. Why does a ghost always wants to frighten every one? If the intent of them is to convey messages and be nice to their lovable kids and others, why not come simply as good easy way to communicate? Why the after dead has to be scary? Anyways that is questioning the fundamentals of scary films which is fine until it is getting abused by films like “The Uninvited”.

Actually the ghosts come in the dreams and possible hallucinations of Anna. Anna is fed information by Alex to believe that Rachel is after every one related to Steve in order to be that obsessed crazy lady. Banks tries hard to give that dangerous girl look and appearing as a vicious woman but she is too nice for a role like this. All I could imagine was how she is delivering the dialogues to appear as to be seen in two ways. And I read in wiki that it is what exactly she intended to be in the film. It should not be visible that she is trying hard for it.

While I would not boast that I completely found out the ending, I pretty much knew who are the characters to look for and who are the ones protecting Anna. I also knew what it was on the other side of the door and in the winds flowing through the curtains. I always knew what to expect and the stupid moves and intentions of these sisters trying to make sense of the woman in their house.

See there needs to be something called characters. The characters can make a film work, sometimes even in the most loosely founded script. The ties with the other beings or with the loneliness they are living can be made in to a more scarier film than usual. Where is daddy Steve hiding in all these chaos? Under the crushed papers in a trash can of the writer’s office room. I am tired of films likes this. At least in the next film I hope they fix the house and a little bit of their characters too.

"Taken" (2008) - Movie Review

Let me examine a film of similar plot and screenplay what Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) takes on “Taken”. Written by an impressive writer and film maker David Mamet is “Spartan”. In Mamet’s film, Val Kilmer plays the merciless special operative with precision in his eye to find the daughter of an important government lead. He is methodical, knows his enemy and always, always has a plan. He is fast as the screenplay makes him and never takes hands on combat unless necessary. It is all about information and when the time comes, it is a stunt like no other with a smooth clean cut. “Taken” with Liam Neeson gives hope of that but curves out of that realm once Bryan begins to accumulate bodies.

Secret operatives have no personal lives and if they have one it should be a disaster, at least in the films we see. It does make sense and forgiving the cliche, Bryan is all in love for her seventeen year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and as a Hollywood father begging sympathy from audience we see him cornering out in the birthday party of Kim. Of course his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) gives him hard time and he takes it as a grown adult in his own sense of pun and maturity to it. Kim goes on a trip to Europe and immediately things take turns when she is kidnapped. It happens right when she is on phone with Bryan who knows more than any one that the perpetrators are going to take her (“The next part is very important. They are going to take you”). He gets a moment with the abductor over the phone which forms the hunt.

Liam Neeson demands respect in characters he has played so far. Take “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Kinsey” or “Batman Begins” and he would immediately make you crave for his acknowledgment and be a pet student or follower of him. Even merely loaning his voice to the “The Chronicles of Narnia” and its sequel, he earns it. So when he says “I will find you and I will kill you”, he is going to bring hell. He does bring hell to the traffic in Paris and the surrounding suburbs. He slaps and punches, plays word and spy games with his old friend Jean-Claude () to get the information.

Bryan Mills does brings the effect of Jason Bourne grown old but mind it, he is in no way could be Bourne. Bourne gets personal but logic comes first. He is programmed to be that way by the screenplay writers and by his directors. Bryan Mills sets his foot in any place where there is a possibility of his daughter being held captive with anger and revenge. He would drip every ounce of blood from the person who took his daughter just to get started. The wrath becomes a weakness for the character and the film movement. His sloppiness is not met with emotional empathy but a messy work from a proclaimed clean operative.

Forgive my insensitive but “Taken” should have been playing as a thriller without the agenda of overflowing emotion. The phone conversation with his daughter when she is seconds away from the people who wants her is a prime example for that. Bryan knows what is going to happen and beyond the wimps of her daughter advices in a very nice authoritative but comforting voice to do exactly what he says. He becomes emotional but with a scale to weigh close to perfection. That composure, cool and his training of being pragmatically cold makes us fear for his act. Some how he loses that once he bangs the doors of the enemies. Still watch out when he goes into the fortress and finds the man who spoke over phone. That is how the entire film should have been.

I have provided excellent two films in this review executing the art of thrill with entertainment and film making in tandem. “Taken” could have been one with writer like Luc Besson who gave the cult classic “The Professional”. Along with his co-writer Robert Mark Kamen, he designs a great character very much required for the story. The director Pierre Morel also casts the right man for the job who very much does it with his command and stature. But Liam Neeson can only go so much on a path laid down by the writers and his orchestrator.

Friday, January 30, 2009

"Chaplin" (1992) - Movie Review

“Chaplin” is an uninteresting film about a very interesting man in the history of films. It is the man who along with me every kid would have laughed hysterically. Rolled out in pain on the guffaw never ending on seeing this little man doing the the extreme stunts. Stunts which would have taken ridiculous physical fall and toll on his lean and rubbery body. This is Charlie Chaplin, the creator of “The Little Tramp” who became the cherishing character in majority of his silent films.

Here Robert Downey Jr. pours his energy in details, every droplets of it to recreate the legend in a film which hardly gets a theme in its hold. With a fictional writer George (Anthony Hopkins) questioning Chaplin for his book, Chaplin begins to rekindle his entire life for his biography. George poses questions, judgments in the most diplomatic manner to Charlie on things being vague. Charlie does not want to talk about it but wants his biography written. The movie is like that, vague and unfamiliar on what it is dealing with.

As a child young Charles had his entertaining skills put into action when his mother Hannah (Geraldine Chaplin) gets booed off the stage. He does not have fear of the ruffian crowd but goes on his instincts and performs his charms. His mom begins to descend in the insanity and Charlie grows up on his own to join his half brother Syd (Paul Rhys) in to the troupe who circles the country performing their shows. Charlie does the inventive and creative drunken old man entering a clueless crowd. We are listening till this moment. Then it takes a dive into chaotic story telling.

May be I am expecting too much of a story and melodrama in this life of the great performer. May be it is all but a steps of uneventful and pointless actions in his real life. Or is it that Richard Attenborough’s film seem to be lost in the hope of a forgotten theme in a man’s real life? As the film progresses, Chaplin’s weakness to young women and his constant hope of getting back with his first love Hetty (Moira Kelly) sounds dramatic and points to the decline of a famous figure but we do not sympathize, empathize or appreciate along with him.

Chaplin embraced the country of America despite being an Englishman. He left his home and ramped up his career in the early budding of film industry sky high. He accomplished a lot both socially and financially without inhibitions before the age of 30. In doing so, he also brought great films to the globe and much wider audience any one could imagine in current times. Yet his passion for making films are entirely skipped. He becomes toiled with the work and spends days and days in studio composing music and editing his film but despite Downey Jr.’s great acting rarely do we see the man’s craving for true cinema.

He was harassed and targeted by J. Edgar Hoover’s (Kevin Dunn) spies and also in the list to be nailed down any opportunity given which of course happens later part of this life. He begins to like this battle of kindling the system. He has the power too and toys with it. For a man bringing humour to the screen and as much truth it is in real life that a comic has a sad story, Chaplin becomes an example of it. He chooses wrong women and falls for emotional break outs which by the way rarely takes place in the film. There is a void of details in the film.

In a very truthful and ironic part of the film is when the film arrives its end. Chaplin explains his unfulfilled feeling of not being good enough in the work he did to George. George never really understands this man as us throughout the film. Chaplin explains in a philosophical tone that to understand him George has to simply watch his movies. Rightfully said so Mr. Chaplin, Rightfully said. A complete and honest statement in a film of nothing but stoic moments of a great film maker.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Y tu mamá también" (Language - Spanish) (2002) - Movie Review

Alfonso Cuarón’s “Y Tu mamá también” is as much as sexually stimulative as it would expand the horizons in the nature of it. It follows two teenagers Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) who understandably in their ages are going nuts on drugs and sex. They had their sexual appetite being satiated by their respective girlfriends when the film starts. And the girls go off to vacation which makes these two try to go wild hunting in getting laid, unsuccessfully. In the meanwhile we understand their friendship filled with decadence and we indeed wonder whether they hide their actual sexuality towards each other. But that is a fragment in the big puzzle of theirs.

In between these two boys comes a fairly elder woman Luisa (Maribel Verdú). She is related to Tenoch through her husband. In a wedding she meets the mischievous duos who obviously tries to lure her into an imaginary beach and bring their fantasy to reality of sleeping with her. She obviously knows that except she believes in this beach. After learning her husband cheat by his drunken confession over phone from him, she decides to join the boys to a trip as sort of freeing herself from always having the feeling of being obligated to some one all through her life. The boys are enthralled and thus begins a journey further into the exploration of sexuality but more than that is the friendship, betrayal and life at the brink of everything.

The film stops its sound once in a while when the narrator brings up the minutes shredded as disposable immaterial thing of a surrounding, characters and completely irrelevant details too. He also tells characters which were there whom we hear as stories. It provides tidbits of information which we can relate because we sparsely mention those amongst our conversation. The rituals we might have in a routine in our rest room or the OCD we hide or the simple details in a whole story we tell every other friends. It begins as a boasting form of storytelling which then transpires into an element we come to identify and in that appreciate.

More surprisingly are these three performances and the boldness in engaging in the sexual scenes not as erotic but in a manner relating to their characters. Rarely does that happen when in the intimate private moment projected with cameras and people to have a performing moment in bringing a character in to it. See how Tenoch and Julio rush into things with their partners and become vulnerable when they finish up even before they would start. And how Luisa trying to guide them comforts them as she knows and have seen that in men through her teenage years. Sexuality as a character happens or is been carefully shown in very few films. Ang Lee did that quite emotionally and comfortably in two of his films, “Brokeback Mountain” and “Lust, Caution”.

Here in this film while sex becomes a greater part, it is more about how each character relate it to each other. When Tenoch and Julio begin the journey with Luisa, each knows they wanted her but no one really knew who would go at it or whether the other person would be fine with the priority. As that happens with one of them, the secrets come out in a blurting effort to hurt the other and only ending up driving more and more past coming into light. In between them comes Luisa and begins to make sense of their acts and how they got to accept life and its consequences of course erotically and amognst the beauty of nature in the beach they created coming into existence.

The taboo of so many explicit scenes would shock some. It did for me not because of the scenes but the characters of Tenoch and Julio who dictate their life as carefree as one can and pushing it as far as they can. They hawk with an eye for possible encounter openly in their body language and smiles which means only one thing. Yet when they are blared by the imbalance brought in by Luisa, it blossoms into a tale of something beyond carnal pleasure. The intimacy becomes a form of explanation of their secrets and put it outside in the open for a night.

When one of the characters is invited by Luisa, the other one looks at it and we laugh. Because we know that he did not think his buddy would beat him to this. It would have been the same if the other person was in the doors. Moments like that are strangely comical because we see how they feel and smile at them beaten in their own game. And other times we laugh at the truth coming uninhibited as everything is out. But we do not get sad by the end how each of them go their paths and to learn what happened to them which they never saw it coming. Because they have already lived most of the happiness in the trip and that overshadows their pursuit of the mundane life.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Heaven" (2002) - Movie Review

Despite the lyrical beauty of “Heaven”, the detachment of the reality and mingling of coincidence and an unrealistic actions of characters makes it hard to reach. A film which clearly is an experiment in mesmerizing the audience by the splendid cinematography of Frank Griebe with a script from Krzysztof Kieślowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, the two men who wrote the Three Colours trilogy and the young director Tom Tykwer making it can only be sighed as tough luck from the view of this small mind.

An English woman Philippa (Cate Blanchett) wants to a kill a corporate owner (Stefano Santospago) of an Electronics company who is also a drug trafficker. Her bomb goes haywire killing four innocent people leaving the actual target flutter free. This happens in the beautiful Italy and she is immediately arrested by the police. There an young man Fillippo (Giovanni Ribisi) becomes an interpreter for Philippa who adamants on confessing in English to the Italian Policemen. There she is realized with her plan gone wrong in worst way possible and she collapses when in the faint moment holds the hand of Filippo who becomes drawn in to this woman and strangely falls in love unconditionally with no reason.

The following events makes no sense other than an immaculately planned act of escape and assisting in revenge for Philippa from Filippo followed by a cross country travel to the place Philippa grew up. What makes sense though is Philippa’s wave of understanding towards this young boy who helps her. She does not question him but I guess whoever willing to help in a locked up situation are not questioned much from the people. Still Philippa never asks Filippo why he is doing all this even after the escape. She some how begins to empathize Filippo whose age and eyes reflect nothing but an infatuation or the film calls it love.

Yet for any other film which attempts on this suicidal script would have encountered the wrath of fury from me even if it had the visual as “Heaven” has but I was kept in a place where the confusion and clarity interlaced. As with the characters acting in a clear sought of thinking on this delusional script, the film appealed in that dimension of the space and time in the mind I could not explain. I liked it but my rationality constantly pinched me from this stubborn dream. It is a tedious process.

Tom Tykwer’s later film “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” carries the similar sense of photography (of course from Frank Giebe again) and interweaves the poetry and insanity of a man obsessed and passionate which could only been seen over that thin line of dangerous attachments to one’s instincts. That annoyed many of the film goers which is a great poetical film for me. It had the folk, fairy dark tale with a metaphor of the life forgotten in smell. “Heaven” appeals in those manner but the reality of the story snatches it away not allowing us to step inside the story book.

While Filippo is projected as a young man with a plan and action, his reasoning never comes out even to his father (Remo Girone). His father while visiting both the fugitives seem to understand his action and does not even react with anger, sadness or pain. He simply tries to get him to come along with him knowing the answer very well. He cries uncontrollably while hugging him of separation but still confuses me how does Filippo get by without a slap from him whereas Philippa’s friend (Stefania Roca) does a fair justice to her friend’s acts.

If the story happened in times when helicopter and guns and trains were not invented then there would have been a greater concentration on the subtleties of the people in it even if their actions are far from reality. It would have made out in to a film of fantasy with an emotion applying only to the face of the cinema than any other medium. The pictures would have become the punctuation for the strange lyrics of two people understanding in terms of what director and script wants without the audience complaining about it. In that we would have admired it while here they become empty puppets.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Frost/Nixon" (2008) - Movie Review

The interviews which happened in real life when it is combined with the drama behind it along with a documentary interview style together in “Frost/Nixon”, it appears to be a boxing match. Then when the moment of truth comes out, it becomes into this slit through the darkened object splashing light out. The emotion of truth is unbelievable in the expressions of Frank Langella as Richard Nixon, the disgraced former President of the United States.

A colourful UK TV talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen) draws resurgence in his career as that of Nixon who is looking for a come back in reputation. Frost goes beyond measures to get Nixon to the chair opposite to him. He pays nearly six hundred thousand dollars to the man with the hopes of getting time from the prime networks which gets rejected by the presumption towards the inability of Frost in bringing the right justice to the people who got humiliated by the betrayal from their President. That puts him to syndicate his own enterprise. He recruits along with his producer John Birt (Mathew Macfadyen) two people on his team, one being Bob Zelnik (Oliver Platt) and the other a passionate James Reston Jr. (Sam Rockwell) angry like every other American for Nixon going unapologetically. Frost goes all in with his finance and image for a swoop in to the mix as Nixon wants too. But in a passion of success comes the truth from a man who firmly believed in the rightness in his wrongdoings.

With glee and an inch of make up Frost is a walking exemplified version of media persona as the power of Television was cutting through the society in politics and glamour. He is seen as a good entertainer with flashy topics taking him out of the crowd of general politics and the debate of the intellectuals as they say. To be put in a crude language is that Frost entering the arena of this political mind game looks like a failing amateur. He lets the man who commands his terms on long speeches and winding addiction for stories going beyond times roll Frost’s dices and laugh at the chances. He gets crumbled as the interviews begin.

The eventual resurrection of Frost’s fiasco in the interview which spanned 12 days from the hands of Nixon is the phone call the President makes in an odd time over a Friday night to Frost. There both men comes out candidly, especially Nixon. They understand the line they stand with their character on the boards. And at that conversation they are after the same thing but Frost realizes that he has come to the strata of Nixon and that brings him out of the clouds of being second rating himself. That phone call becomes the last calling for Frost while Nixon in buzz loses his emotion which only unfolds further in the final section of the interview.

Director Ron Howard does an interesting thing with the film. He recreates the interviews and also gives us this documentary styled interviews from the people involved in the time. Of course the actors do the role again adding the sense of reality for the script by Peter Morgan springing from the actual events. That tool shaves the layer of dramatization away which would mostly be the downfall for a film depicting the real life instances.

“Frost/Nixon” cinematize the drama behind the scenes while carefully constructs the reality happened as that of the interview. It focuses on the men who at the end of it becomes good sportsman despite a lose so humungous, humiliating and self loathing. When Frost meets Nixon one last time after the interview, there is a state of appreciation and funnily a camaraderie in between these two.

Howard has a sense of the entertainment and also the greater sense of giving the right material its right treatment but beyond that has the sense of cinema as the medium of giving something more than what reality sometime diminishes itself. It is the state of that instance where the mood beckons something more from the sounds which mauls the poeticism in the air of reality. That is given through the technical ability the art provides from the cinematography of Salvadore Totino, music by Hans Zimmer and the beauty of the performances from Frank Langella and Michael Sheen.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Revolutionary Road" (2008) - Movie Review

Every year there is a group of film in the top ten list for many critics but there is only one film which would be close to them, for each movie goer or at least me. A film not alone is greatly made but appeals personally to her or him. It reflects the ideas and questions the hypocrisy in the inability to embrace those actions. The chances never taken and as cliched it would sound, the road never travelled. “Revolutionary Road”, the work from one of my favourite directors, Sam Mendes does that and does so good and it devastates you. It is not deeply disturbing as a characteristic but it disturbs you without mercy and this would very well be the film I have been waiting all along 2008. I might still have some films down the list to watch and proclaim the title but this is it, a beautiful film about a disturbing trend of life we are consuming.

Adapted to screen from Richard Yates novel by Justin Haythe it is a tale about the perfect sub urban couple in the 50s who met by their curiosity and passion while they see their lives jailed in what was defined for them after marriage and kids. They are the Wheelers, Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet). Kate once found the mystery in Frank to be the adventure she wanted to take on. Frank plainly fell flat by the beauty of April and in a curiosity wanted to see how far April could take her studies in acting to the real world. Now with two kids, a big house and a stable job in a company sounding much like early IBM is Knox Business Machines forming the definition of their sub urban yuppie couple.

Frank is in the audience getting up knowing the debacle of a stage play April was part in. She is upset by the failure of the play and Frank particularly is not a good person in consoling but he tries and fails, obviously. They breakout in a fight where we get to know where they are and their disappointments. The night goes out and Frank catches his train with hundred other commuters next morning and gets out along with them. As a perfectly orchestrated olympic inaugural performance they go to their office in the New York City. When the morning starts out from his house to his work place is when Thomas Newman rings in his music. How well can one encapsulate the mood of the entire film in that piece of music which gets replayed in different fashion never getting boring to vibrate the feelings of ours to the screen. Mendes works so great with Newman that his films carry music as an integral part in making you remember and also the times it was used for the scene it was meant to, aptly and immaculately.

While Frank in his 30th birthday wants to feel needed by sleeping with a new secretary (Zoe Kazan) in his office, April thinks through the life she once saw. When he comes back with the guilt, she surprises him with a birthday party with their kids. While he curses himself for the act in front of the bath room mirror, she further surprises him with a plan. A plan to powder the shackles from the existence in their street named ironically named Revolutionary Road. See, Frank admired the living in Paris during his early youth and that has always captivated April. April thinking back decides to move and live in Paris. She will get a job. She says in Europe secretaries are paid enormously and Frank would really will have time and ability to figure what he wants do with his life. Frank who is in the cusp of digging deep into the system he hates initially refuses but begins to wonder his times seven years back. He was unpredictable and some where he has lost it. He says why not.

As their announcements travel through the office and lawns to Frank’s colleagues and April’s friends and neighbours, every body is shocked and see this as an irresponsible act but being nice says good luck. One such is their neighbours Shep Campbell (David Harbour) and Milly Campbell (Kathryn Hahn). That night after they hear their neighbour’s plans share a talk. That explains how much Milly at least idolizes the Wheelers. But Shep goes beyond that in infatuating on April.

Of course Milly idolizes the couple, why shall she not. Wheelers are the example of the sub urban family who are two good looking people and two cute little kids with a big house and the man of the house with a job that would not shiver their stability. That is the reason when their friend and the woman who was the agent for their house Helen Givings (Kathy Bates) says about her son John Givings (Michael Shannon), a Ph.D in Mathematics is coming out of Psychiatric facility feels privileged when April invites her and John. Because Helen thinks they are the special couple in the streets of structured normalcy. John sees the couple inside and out in a rather cinematic vocal way, yet stands flesh and blood. He of course is not happy with his mother but admires her favourite clients when Frank puts it as escaping from “hopeless emptiness”. And is it me or is Shannon’s John Givings appears to be Heath Ledger’s Joker when confronts the pair later in the film? It works though as he does it well and great.

As the plan sounds exciting and it is exciting, the couple have their best time since their early marriage days as they pack things and count the months. But the audience know that it is a road to disaster. You know why? Because we are the elements these people are running away from. We are the system of normal. And it is known how tough it is to crack the shell, but the truth is that we do not want them to crack it. In a way their success would be our failure and a mirror to our cowardice. That is how the neighbours see it. I for one who talks so much about system felt the same. It is in that time I felt it cannot be more obvious on the face of my hypocrisy in writing a review about the film. “Revolutionary Road” is a picture frame of how social being works up on his or her comfortable laziness and begins to wonder the numerous decades gone by him or her. What is more disturbing about the film which spears you in its story is how the story was made on the origins of computers sprouting out in the market to create those white collar jobs Frank is an early member of. It had grown beyond imagination where the cubicles were filled with much immediacy on the awe of the technology and how fast it got emptied by the bubble burst and now the current economic surge. And out of all this is that like Frank Connor many crib and constantly bile it out on the monotony of jobs while bask in the warmth of its monetary benefits for a luxurious life. The more funny part in this sadness is that people worry on this job being taken off from them. I while gave up on the least control I would have over that decision of course has now and then troubled on what would I do if I was in that position. It is scary but is also exciting. As much exciting how the idea of Paris sounded to the Wheelers.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"The Wrestler" (2008) - Movie Review

“The Wrestler” could have been the sappiest film ever made but Darren Aronofsky makes his own by smearing his style, not the one we have seen in his previous three films. Purely working on the indie nature, you see a man going down and down and down till there is no hope. But he goes with a style, he goes doing what he does giving up the life beyond the wrestling ground. This is the story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) a professional wrestler in a film which does fictional biopic the justice it deserves.

He buys a bunch of different drugs for his joint pains and muscle power from a guy in a gym locker room who can be Bacon from “Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrels” with a friendly face unlike the rough Jason Statham. Then he visits a hair salon and enquires the Asian hair dresser about her family. Then he steps into a tanning saloon saying hi to the receptionist and picks up the key. He shines the body and then brutalizes in all manner possible with an opponent in the ring. They come back with cuts, bruises, blood, stapled, punched and forked. We get up close with his body he sculptured in the morning. This is his life and he has been reigning champion in the 80s but old age is catching up on him.

All the wrestlers gather in their dressing room before the game and the promoter comes in to tell who will be fighting whom. Then they pair and discuss their moves. How they would twist their hands, come back with a punch, a slap on the face and to give the crowd what they want which is the reality and bravery they drool upon, a self induced cut is just about perfect for a fight to get its end. When the WWF came to India on the premier cable channel, it was entertainment like nothing else. It had the classic choreographed stunts from the films but only more real than it and they get one chance when they get on stage. Soon though I identified the plot and the game giving up on its facade as if reality of violence is what a teenager wants. After seeing “The Wrestler” I have a new respect for them. They would hurt themselves so much for the audience. Fame does not seem to be the thing but they see the pleasing of crowd both hate and love with selfless happiness.

While wrestling is primary in the film’s focus, it is about Randy and his body giving up on him both by the pain inflicted and drug injected. He gets a rude awakening through a heart attack after a bloody battle in the ring. Doctor tells him his days are over in the ring and as any one he learns the truth after a normal jog in the morning. He begins to see him as the lonely man he is. There is a heart breaking scene when he goes for fan signing event and looks the other veterans and himself. This is truly the end of his life and he looks for the family he has forgotten.

The film here does not take a plunge in to the atonements of an untied aloof man. He takes one step forward and begins to surface on the days of bright lights under the sun. He begins to pursue a stripper Casidy (Marisa Tomei) more than a private dance and visits her daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) who does not give a damn about him which we come to know he deserves. He understands his mistakes and begin to make amends but what a manner Aronofsky does it.

Mickey Rourke gives everything he has got as his character in the film. He did his own stunts and physically we see Randy. Because Randy is a physical character. His charms are beautiful tanned body and a blond hair representing his American tradition. He is beat and worn and tears are dropped uncontrollably from his eyes. It finds its way because the sorrows have no where to go. Rourke sweats and it is a deserving nomination for his acting ability. Of course Marisa Tomei is like his perfect match and Aronofsky runs her character as an analogy of Randy’s profession. Both depend on the physical appearance and trying to tighten it up to deny their wrinkles.

Aronosky surprises. The last thing I would have expected after a completely independent debut in an unusual sci-fi feature “Pi” followed by a dark, dreary and disturbing tale about addiction in “Requiem for a Dream” and then a visual exhibition on the concept of death in “The Fountain” to come up with a film like “The Wrestler”. He follows the characters from the back almost all the time. He sidles them and I could never explain why he does that but it helps the film in subtle ways. It is as if there is an entrance opening towards the floods of audience roaring their support inviting him to the ring he loves banging his opponent and himself.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Career Girls" (1997) - Movie Review

It takes enormous time for a film maker to give a character to its completeness in the required slot of time. In Mike Leigh’s “Career Girls”, we get to know two women who were room mates six years earlier in their college days and we can deduce their reactions and suppressed feelings within this hour and half film. They are Annie (Lynda Steadman) and Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge). In the college years Annie replied for a wanted room mate ad and meets a vocal, loud and strong Hannah. She is already living with a room mate Claire (Kate Byers). Look at how they play a game around Claire to get rid of her as time goes by. If any of you do not go chuckle at those times of little machinations around room mates and friends, you would be lying to yourself.

The film goes back and forth between the present day were Annie is visiting Hannah in London and their days of living together as students. Both have grown up to be a much neat looking women. In their dingy apartment, they do not care about how they maintain their room or how they dress up. Now they look for views in the house and appreciate the neatness of the home. Annie who used to be insecure, low self confidence and never meeting eyes with anyone and jittering with an asthma allergy and a skin condition over her face is now more confident and has control over what she wants to say. Hannah has toned down her loudness while retains the metal gear of toughness and bold face under all the situations. She looks men low and beats every one of their encounters with putting them down with her jokes.

While “Career Girls” never achieves its height as Leigh’s other films does especially with too much coincidence creeping up and pulling off something unusual, it is a look on the pale life of regular person. Stable job, decent living and the quest for right partner never settling in makes it not a miserable but bland style of living. Both have changed a lot from the college with the core qualities remaining the same. Hannah is still tough while Annie is still naive. But both are in the scenario to acknowledge it and live with it.

Hannah and Annie initially reserve themselves. Quibbles of petty things bother them. Both feel the waters of each other’s current characteristics. They meet a new person after so many years. A long forgotten friend is a stranger with the swallowed time. But not so much when the gates are open and the guard is released to get into the swings of rhythms which kept them together during their golden days.

Annie and Hannah are strange combination. Both are different in their experiences and behaviour but they sensed that from each other which began their friend ship. In their short time, Hannah decides to look for a flat to buy and begins a surreal experience but mainly long last people they knew in college years cropping up in a single day. One such is Adrian (Joe Tucker), a smart player who sleeps with Hannah but gains the love of Annie only to stomp on it. He is now a clean and neatly attired estate agent. Then is Ricky (Mark Benton) a chubby and clumsy person who rarely opens his eyes while talking. He likes Annie but Annie thinks she deserves better looking men than Ricky. They meet him now which is shady region in the film but tells more about the regret and guilt we would never able to give up for the mistakes done in those maturing times of youth.

It is a film which would see ourself visiting the friends we hated as room mates but still loved them having around. Or may be we really all had nice times. Whatever the relation would have been, time wipes away the ego and mostly with no one to see after in that situation, it is an insight into the person we once were. It is bitter sweet. Sighs, laughs, nostalgia and everything. Everything that would rekindle the times best and worst.

Leigh extracts the best of all the actors and pulls off comedy in unseen circumstances. It does not have a plot to follow nor there is a change in the characters at the end of the film. Both identify each other as the person they were in many aspects. They begin to wonder all it takes is a couple of days talk and weird coincidences to see their friendship. “Career Girls” may not be the best of Mike Leigh but certainly is a very good film to visit up the old buddies of us in a nice flat with same capability to irritate and humour us.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Man on Wire" (Documentary) (2008) - Movie Review

What is the aspiration to climb mountains or to do the activity whiskers away from the death for a person? There is a nameless passion living inside them to be in a place where they have imagined so many times in their every night’s sleep. That imagination need to be felt. They strongly express that human right to feel it and chase it with everything they have got. Nothing could discourage them and the consequences are immaterial. It is the moment they would wait for, the time were explanation is futile and the experience comes into the umbrella of one thing nurtured all through their life, soul of the mind. This is James Marsh directed documentary “Man on Wire” and one such person is a French man named Philippe Petit.

The film basically would vividly tell how Petit and his friends planned this operation to barge secretively on to the roofs of World Trade Center and tie a wire in between these two gargantuan structures and then Petit’s walk of death would be performed. We do not learn about how they got funded or how Philippe’s passion grew and whether there was failure after failure and the performance itself. What we see is one instance of his passion explained a little bit in his young age. That is when young Philippe tore the news article about the construction of the twin tower and ran across the streets to find his destiny and he was nineteen by that time. He walked the wires between tall structures and be in the moment. All through the film we never question his reasoning however absurd and dangerous it sounds. Of course we are convenient by the members being present today but beyond that we have displaced those questions when we see him walk over the tight wire.

With the eerie and deeply affecting music of Michael Nyman, the members who helped him do this magical act explain as in a heist film. They had all covered with insiders and other helpers to get Philippe to the roof. His friends Jean-Louis, Jean François, Jim Moore, Alan and his then girl friend Annie along with many other key players see something in this man as we see, they are pulled in by the adventure. But more to the fact there is a person who wants to do what he wants to do and in many ways they are dissatisfied with their inability to dare the life which drove them to take extraordinary steps to help him.

Philippe and his accomplice rode up as workers on to the roof top while dodging largely easy notices from the guards. On the other tower the crew experiences the same thing. The film works as a thriller and we hold the thoughts whether they would be caught or not. James Marsh makes us even forget their agenda on the roof. For a serious time we do think of them escaping rather than Philippe’s walking. And in reality they would have thought the same.

Philippe in the film giving interview runs around, hides behind the curtain, gestures with hand and speaks animated on the ordeal to get his act performed. The camera in one moment follows along his hand gesture from top describing so detailed that the cinematographer Igor Martinovic truly wants the audience to be pulled in his explanation as he did. And it is a great story to tell. How many of us can tell that we broke in to the then tallest towers in New York City and have assisted a man to walk from one roof to other over a rope with no strings attached for safety.

What is moving about this film is something without title. Something in the reviews I talk and talk about which are the moments. The passing time of the stillness we miss to appreciate. There is a profound image in that. As Philippe says even if it would result in death, what a beautiful way to die doing what he was passionate about. We do not grasp it entirely and we honestly could not. In the current event of life we pass up those opportunities to break free and follow what it would be the gut says. When a person does that over the screen which is clearly a sign of madness in the regularity of one’s life, it transpires into a feeling unknown inside of us.

Many people and I would presume the audience would ask what the journalists in New York in 1974 August 7th asked Philippe, which is “Why”. There is this burning desire for reasons. Reasons to pursue life, reasons to wake up, reasons to the stages of life set by the standards of the society. We have been bred into a life of such to hunt for reasons and most of the times that helps in getting the knowledge we seek for. But there are these frames in the day when reasoning seems absurder than the act of complete bizarreness. When the images of Philippe between the towers springs up, you will realize there is no why out there. There is nothing in the world which could describe that feeling. Of course there needs an existence of space and time where the languages can suffer in scarcity of its words to describe those. It is perfectly alright to be like that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Defiance" (2008) - Movie Review

Edward Zwick’s “Defiance” repeats the problem what his very early film “Glory” had, devoid of life in its characters. “Defiance” tells about the survival and fight of a group of Jews which of course is a display of bravery, courage and hope unfortunately misses the idea of screenplay breathing energy into those people. It neither represents a true account nor goes for the action pack (of course not) material. It does the first blunder of proclaiming the film to be a “A True Story”. Yes the story is true but the film cannot be the actual portrayal of the events. This obviously has attracted hell of a lot controversies which is a regular complaint when films are made from real life. Here though the film intends to claim of being accurate by saying “A True Story”.

What the screen writers Clayton Frohman and Zwick stepped on the novel “Defiance: the Beilski Partisans” by Nechama Tec would have been a gold mine as film makers would see and honestly speaking the film does display many evidence of a great film, but suffers from lack of character development. The acts and paths of the brothers Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) and his immediate brother Zus Bielski (Liev Schreiber) towards the predicament they were in are their conscience and decisions but the film does not make them a character we could associate ourselves into the story.

At the break out of the Nazi’s capture and jailing of the Jews in the ghettos, the Bielski brothers Tuvia, Zus, Asael (Jamie Bell) and youngest of them Aron (George MacKay) flee into the woods. With their families killed, the brothers begin to meet various other Jews coming in flocks from the villages and ghettos. Soon they become caretakers and begin to form a community around these people. They begin to form a small town amongst the woods. Of course vengeance and conscience cross paths between Tuvia a diplomatic man for the most parts after he gets his blood for his parents while Zus looks for immediate action. Both divide on the matter of war or to stay human for most of their lives. They separate in the middle of it.

Edward Zwick’s “Defiance” tries to be a detailed story yet misses its counts on the characters it starts to focus. The professor Shamon (Allan Corduner) and the philosopher or “intellectual” as he calls himself, Isaac (Mark Feuerstein) develop the cliched comrades in this suffering by having hard debates which dies off after one scene. Similarly is the bad apple in the group Arkady (Sam Spruell) who has a sleazy smile and two dialogues to impose himself as the villain in the clan. Along with it are the ladies who come and go as the story wishes for their male partners.

There is a very intense scene when a German soldier is captured. Every one surrounds him and the German says he has a wife and got kids. But no one is ready to listen. Of course not because they have rage in their heads but also fear of letting him go as he would guide the troops right in to them. At that moment Tuvia looks at the situation and his younger brother Aron leaves the scene. Every one begins to butcher the soldier while Tuvia does not know what to do. He becomes a calm accomplice because he has no choice. That is a powerful scene which got to be ended on what Tuvia’s perception or his words of wisdom to his younger brother. Instead there is an emptiness which should be there as an element not as incompletion.

No doubt that the act of the brothers in real life is something unimaginable and the history which has not collected those which is surfacing now is surprising but the film does not capture that. The work of resurrecting these people and their acts are given as an illusion of erecting facts without souls. But in actuality the facts can hardly get right and I mean to say the details of the emotion. The emotion divided among on to live as community and whether to defend or fight with the definite end of dying. What went on their minds is impossible to reproduce and that is where the film should have taken its stand. It assumes to know their characters but it hardly does.

The actors do their part with the material they are given. Craig and Schreiber especially make believe their brotherhood and their views diverging in opposite directions. The film plays strangely as a routine we have seen which actually should not be. It merely goes into the concept of living as a community but does not sink its teeth in how they maintained peace, law and ordinance in a small country they have formed. Zwick has all the good scenes and all the right casts and in fact a great story but does not breathe the necessary element of fresh air of characters in it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"The Reader" (2008) - Movie Review

A person draws a picture of her or him to the people they meet. It gets mingled with the thoughts and perceptions to each of them they meet and their understanding. The truth strangely as it can be has a version of itself in different form for each of those people about one particular character. Even the closest of the friends might be some one who might not expect anything nearly to the one they have drawn. Under exigence circumstances or simply in the events of daily activities they can be some one else. Is there a complete calligraphy of a person on a definite paper of living? Quite honestly not. Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) is a woman with a dominance and develops an affair beginning to see the face of love towards a much younger boy, Michael Berg (David Kross). Her picture of who she is when the past runs in the minds of grown up Michael (Ralph Fiennes) is not a question with a simple answer.

Michael gets his teenage crossed with a much older Hanna. It obviously begins strictly as a passionate physicality and then after the regularity of their love making leaves the gap to fill, Hanna asks what is Michael learning in school. She is drawn into the literature and wants to be read the books Michael studies. Michael with shyness as time goes becomes a great reader which prompts him to the career of being a lawyer. No talking comes between them. It is reading and passionate sex.

That part was a beauty of eroticism and sensual literature. And Hanna makes her to be affected by the books Michael reads. But little does Michael knows about Hanna who is opaque. She is a statue with firmness and nothing but her command and wishes. Not stern but she reads the mind of Michael and says it with firm voice which he obliges to do. Both in this web of unknown outcome begins to fall for each other. Michael more so as he is the young boy hitting the barriers of sexual exploration. For Hanna, well no one can really understand. She till the end becomes a woman who cannot be understood.

Hanna steps out of Michael’s life and comes back in a court room. She was in SS and has worked as a guard seeing the death sentence of hundreds and hundreds of victims in the ill fated camp. What happens then and how Michael’s fellow students perceive it and how he perceives it becomes the element of debate and ambiguity in the “The Reader. Hanna’s stale clinical explanation of doing her job only makes it worse for Michael. He feels to be a part of the guilt she is been charged of.

Watch how Kate Winslet walks Hanna Schmitz. How she has attended to the detail of a woman in an authoritative character and an attachment of masculinity to the manner in which she speaks shows her liking to perform this role. What I liked most is the young actor David Kross. He is this kid as Hanna always calls him who in his fantasy begins to like the woman. He goes beyond the sex and wonders about the love and the nature of it changing his life. And when the knowledge of Hanna in court room unfolds he is confused and do not know what to think. That perplex and the eventual seclusion of his emotional side are well enacted by him.

“The Reader” tells three parts of the story. One being the affair, the second is the crucial part of Hanna being tried while the later part of grown Michael trying to see terms with the acts of Hanna and himself towards her. It in its second part brings a long lasting unnoticed question of what were the people thinking. How naive, coward and evil of them to not react and ignore the staging of ultimate evil. And at the same time places Michael as the man who knows this person and the haunting past of the very same lady. Where does justice stand? Where does morality stand? Is there even a conclusion? When things happen and unforgivable acts are done, what is the solution? Forgiveness, revenge or peace? All open questions and the answers guessed are not helpful because it only brings fear for those moments where we could not forgive ourselves.

“The Reader” is a complex film with story taking courses abruptly. It has the beauty of the literature and the poetry of eroticism. And it has the cruelty of not providing solutions because there are always no reasons and no end. It lasts in the souls and in the conscience fighting the bitter battle within itself. As “Doubt” we are frustrated with a state of unsettlement. It does not blows your mind but confuses you on the stand of rightness. “Doubt” was a success in the dissatisfaction but “The Reader” is a little bit more than that. It has compassion in its story telling and leaves us with questions. And we have a whole life time to wonder about it and compare it with our shapes of realities.

"Last Chance Harvey" (2008) - Movie Review

If life’s mistakes can be writ off by a single toast speech then it would be a happy world. Of course you have to be Dustin Hoffman to do it in man walking over a high wire and as his character Harvey Shine who has been notorious for embarrassing himself and others as said by his ex-wife Jean (Kathy Baker), he comes very close in doing it. He does it by interrupting his daughter’s step father Brian (James Brolin) making a toast on the wedding. “Last Chance Harvey” is something you learn how great actors can salvage a cliched story telling with a good help from the writer and director Joel Hopkins.

Harvey is getting too old for the hip job of jingles and he is coming to London for attending his daughter Susan’s (Liane Balaban) wedding. Kate Walker (Emma Thompson) works in the Heathrow airport asking the tired and grumpy passengers for that two minute survey. As expected Harvey avoids her quite rudely and settles in a wedding he is seen not alone as an outsider but some one to be aware of sudden awkwardness. He is bombarded with bad news one after another culminating in missing his flight back. He hits the airport bar and there is Kate reading a novel and drinking a white wine.

Harvey and Kate talk and it all comes together not in a intelligent conversation as “Before Sunset” but that back ground score and mild laughing and casual comfortableness the couple find each other to say that “Yes, they are having a good time”. What saves that preposterous routine is Hoffman and Thompson. From one stage after another they make sure that they are the couple who have come to enjoy each other’s company. In that the film does not sink to the low of romantic formula comedy and absolution happens over the screen.

With Harvey citing work reasons to skip reception it becomes clear of why his daughter Susan decides to opt for Brian to give her away at the wedding. The reaction in a regular film would have been to ride on the sympathy wave over Harvey. We do because the nice feature in seeing a film is that you can make a complete jerk into a charming personality for that couple of hours. We do need to know how much of a pain Harvey was and we would not care about it. He is the main man and the audience root him to succeed in this chain of debacles. Dustin Hoffman does not think so. He carries that nature of the audience but adds the history of Harvey being the scene maker. And as the eventuality of that happens, it is walked by an actor in control but letting loose of his character for the obvious embarrassment but keeps him on the leash to have that toast speech happen. I would not see it happening in the real life but in “Last Chance Harvey” it is a wonderland of a reality.

The other part of the Hoffman is through Thompson whose character is constantly pestered by a five minute phone call from her mother (Eileen Atkins) she loves. When Kate is been set up for a date at the early moments of the film by her friend she detaches herself from the possibility of an effort towards a possible relationship. I can understand her mind going in circles seeing the man opposite her advancing towards boyfriend, move in and marriage but at every single step of breaking up in those stages. Stepping into the race of love, it has to end some where and the hurt is imminent. But there is a mind within mind grinding those lovely moments which comes along with it. Emma Thompson in that makes us see the insecurity and fear of risk without much of commotion in everyone.

“Last Chance Harvey” is no great romantic story and has no great conversations or liners to remember for. It is a simple story we have seen much younger couple over the screen zillion times. This time around it is the veterans but gladly it has the veteran actors who can juggle it blindfolded and might even perform upside down without any issue. The audience of “Last Chance Harvey” sat one row beside of me, laughing and completely getting in between these two people. They are teenagers, but wait, I saw couples leaving happily too and there you go. The people will be happy and it is a good reason to be happy for.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"The Third Man" (1949) - Movie Review

The music in “The Third Man” is supposed to be considered a great piece of work. A dusted art from the dark corners in a wine bar in Vienna was brought out when director Carol Reed and actor Trevor Howard fell in love with the Zither music by Anton Karas in there. If I had to listen to it as a music and not along with the film, I might have liked it but when it is forcefully gelled with the film, I could not stand the music. I tried to embrace it but it irritated the hell out of me when the spectacular eerie shots of Robert Krasker were followed by a comical and unsuitable score of Karas. That would be a major factor in me not able to fall in love with an otherwise good film noir.

Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) comes to post World War - II Vienna with the four powers still having their zone of control and dominance. In that emerges the black market and racketeering. Martins a novella writer has arrived to meet his long time friend Harry Lime. He is received by the shocking news of his accident. He attends the funeral where there are the suspicious personalities and a lady to charm him. The lady would be Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli). As his pulpy novels, Martins begins to investigate after an out of chord stories from couple of people who were there during the accident and his friend being said as a racketeer. That puts him into the rough and high attitude Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and his smart and sharp soldier Sergeant Paine (Bernard Lee). Also to give in to the eventuality is Holly falling for Anna becomes another factor in this riddle. Now you should know that Anna was Lime’s woman.

While the set up seems easy to be predicted, “The Third Man” has a lot more than that in store. For starters would be the beautiful Vienna and the cinematography in gripping the stone roads and broken buildings. The tilted angles of the camera to view from atop and up close to the faces and the shoulder looks where the characters are confused and are in a dark. But the chase in sewer is where the man is given his freedom to get the lighting, darkness and shadow mix and give us a flurry of sleek shots. The silhouette of Martins going into the tunnel and the culprit to be caught turning with a pose to perfectly mark the thrill of noir.

The film which takes its time to move through mazes of paranoid and air of doubt gets a jolt and charm from the entry of Orson Welles. Without revealing much of the plot Welles comes as this curt and daring personality. A devious man who explains to Holly on the expendable nature of people to earn profits and have a livelihood of enormous value. He sees himself as the soldier of fortune with a few small heads to stomp and have his life of wealth. But how much do we love that man. For all the time Holly took to even get a stare from Anna, Welles’ character without any scene with her make us understand how much he can command the attraction from the same lady in a jiffy.

Looking close at “The Third Man” there would be flaws in plots and the untied knots which would go unnoticed. It is an experiment for the days of strange nature of cynicism evolving in the climate of post war. The settling dust does not recede the tension and cloud of international upheaval existing through miniscule events fearing to form a chain reaction. That is the atmosphere the story happens with Russians, British, Americans and French in a constant hold for their part of their property and how it plays down to the life of the people living out there.

I have heard bad music for a bad film but I have never experienced a bad music for a good film. The casual Zither tone sucks away the enormous gravity of the noir darkness, seriousness and of all even the sharpest sarcasm done in a wicked comic play. It plays comical almost the entire part of the film and it is not funny. The only part which it did good is the final sequence when the hopes are risen and snubbed with a mellowness and the protagonist’s reaction to it fitting it nicely. “The Third Man” is a film I almost loved to be driven off by its score.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"About Schmidt" (2002) - Movie Review

How would be the day after your final day at work? Will it be just another day with the bright sunny morning or is the sun not going to rise up for you anymore? As the clock passes the time to kick off and get out from the house, you would be in the warmth of the cozy blanket of nothing to get up for. This is not the Sunday or the holiday but a day after the routine kept up for years, almost the entire part of your life keeping it busy and paid you for it. This is the day Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) begins to think of his life. What it has meant and it is not looking good.

Warren has finished his last day as the Assistant Vice President of a very large insurance firm in Omaha, Nebraska. He has nothing left to do other than stare as the clock hits five to check out from this room of escapist life he had forever. He has to go back to his wife Helen (June Squibb) whom he does not know anymore. She does not know him either but knows what she wants out of him. Keep him in check when his wandering mind steps him off the standards they have been living. Not big and not drastic. Just a little itsy-bitsy things which cannot be screamed or yelled but it is put to be nice which cannot be retaliated other than agonize the hell out of Schmidt.

Warren is an old school conservative office worker and a meticulous statistician. He knows numbers well enough and he is cheap. Cheap not because he opts to but it has become his skin and flesh. He has convinced himself to be rightful of his actions and lie himself to live with it. You can see it when he is dearly lovely daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) asks him why he chose such a cheap casket for the funeral of his wife, Helen. Helen’s death makes him go crazy as a magnetic needle disturbed by external forces. He misses his wife he hated and immediately hates her again when he finds out her affair with his best friend Ray (Len Cariou). He dislikes every existence of his future son in law Randall (Dermot Mulroney) and he has a good reason though he has sufficiently ignored his daughter’s life for a while to have some weight on his words on his advise to rethink her marriage. In this chaos he pours out his heart and breath to a foster child Ndugu in Tanzania through a charity service. He needs that much stranger to make his inner anger heard.

Warren is not perfect. And his life has not been perfect and being a man of numbers, he wants it to be one. And the old age is carving him up nice with empty times. He takes a road trip on the RV his wife made him buy before her death. He decides to do something what he thinks. He takes trips down old places he grew up and roads never taken, very safely though. Nicholson plays a subdued and average guy without flamboyance with all the energy and interest sucked out of this personality dangling in the middle of the road looking for attention and passion. He is too lazy and too adamant. He has lived a life and “About Schmidt” is an acknowledgement of his mistakes, choices and plain simple existence.

Alexander Payne never goes far away with the indie nature of the film. He is too calculative and I mean it as a great compliment. When the emergence of indie was seen as hip, he adopted it for the nature of the story than a style of it. He shapes up Schmidt through the brilliance of Nicholson to get into this awkwardness, selfishness and subtle foolishness with the aid of Kathy Bates as Roberta a two time divorcee and the mother of the groom.

I have seen “About Schmidt” a while back and for some reason the comedy in it did not roll me laughing at that time. Regardless of it, I was moved by the film. Now watching it again, it is a film of comedy. Complete comedy surrounded by the uncomfortable characteristic of Schmidt and the annoyance of not able to do anything to make a difference in his life especially in his daughter’s life. While it is true that Randall is the guy every one would stay away from due to his up to the face nature and jumping from one idea to other as picking pebbles on a lake shore but Schmidt sees a little character of himself in it. He also sees a lot of himself in his daughter and does not want her to be like him marrying the wrong person.

“About Scmidt” is about Schmidt. Old age is a character associated with it and not becomes the talking subject. Retirement is a tough thing. Being idle is the toughest thing possible. The greatest danger about it is the addiction towards it. While at the edge of your life if that is something one wants to do, it is an enjoyment but if some one repents it every day, it has issues. People generally at that time get involved with their future generation to keep them occupied. Schmidt is concerned of his very immediate generation, but the problem is he has to be concerned about himself before that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"The General" (1998) - Movie Review

“The General” is a slow but a nice construction of a criminal consumed by a pride of being poor and tough been driven to paranoid and ultimately only gets a moment of the life he once had before he gets shot. The person is Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson) the infamous Irish thief who pulled off daring heists with simple technique with a crew loyal to him of course until the end one by one get in the mix either by the Garda the Dublin police or by carelessness to leave Cahill stranded on his own with his family.

With respect and authority as called “The General” Martin is a man grows up in slums and takes immense pride in being so. He is so attached to the place he ran after stealing groceries that he stays put in a tent until he literally gets begged by the authority to leave for an upscale apartment. He hates authority and repeatedly says “Us against them”. The “them” is never clear apart from the rich and government. But he owns a luxurious house cleverly put on his sister in law Tina’s (Angleine Ball) name who would become his second wife which will be gladly suggested and welcomed by his wife Frances (Maria Doyle Kennedy).

In this mix is his counter part who is police Inspector Ned Kenny (Jon Voight). I am not sure what attracts a sympathy in the police man way from Kenny towards Cahill because he advises him constantly on giving up on this trade. Martin is a stubborn man and if I can say an irritating personality, at least for the police and watching him I would have been too. He insults them with disregard and mere smugness. Every time he pulls a heist he faithfully makes his alibi by visiting Inspector Ned Kenny.

“The General” is not your regular heist film. For that fact it is not a heist film. It is a study of this character who formulates a crew who are blindly loyal that they let him divide the money and hide it and circulate it when he wants to. He of course tests the loyalty cruelly and unmercifully when he suspects one of the crew stealing by nailing his hand to a snooker table.

I was not impressed by the film to tell you the truth even though it redeems to a little bit as the end nears. What Martin stood for or what he put the pride on for is a question mark. Since it is based on the real guy, you cannot argue much with a man’s character of who he was. But the film made on him cannot use that as an excuse because there is something which amazed the director by the character of this personality to drive a film. What was it never gets answered. Or this puzzle of his movement in not giving up to the authority does not become a good game. The Garda stoops to the level of cheap tactics and ultimately wants a dirt fight to make Martin give up. Not that I am defending the guy but stooping to his level does not make it right which he himself says to Kenny.

Martin is the smart person and he is not alone aware of it but develops this arrogance in intentionally playing dumb and insult his opponents. He always hides his face as though to tease the curiosity of the press and the public. He pulls off crazy stunts and delays any legal process getting down on the ground and taking it down by simple bare hands. He is a pain and he makes them feel it not in the way of extremity but sort of an irritability. Gleeson brings that in appearance and the funny way he brings out the words. He gets ruthless when he needs to and when he breaks down almost to the police, we only get a bit of hint of his humanity.

He loves his family and lives harmoniously with two wives. He poses as the Robin Hood but succumbs to the head strong he holds. The police deals the smirk on his face with the medicine of his own which is to annoy. They annoy and harass him and his family to an extent that leaving the house for a peaceful dinner alone with his family becomes a luxury. Except for the house he does not seem to hold much money from the robberies.

“The General” is a strange film. I was neither amused nor annoyed by it completely. I believe it is due to the subject they take on and the person they focus. He has principles which are only aware to him and he changes them as he wishes. We are in the dark of his intentions and he is not insane enough to disregard his actions as a pain of childhood. Director John Boorman got robbed by the real Martin and that stirred him to take up this story when Irish journalist Paul Williams wrote the book of the same name. He sure is a complex person but a film on him may be was not a good idea in my opinion.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"The Good German" (2006) - Movie Review

Can a film suck the energy out of you so that you hesitate so much to even write a review? Yes it can. Does not need to be a dramatically horrible film but just enough to push you off the edge of boredom and laziness to make you think like that? And it is little too troubling to see the talent pool of Steven Soderbergh with George Clooney and Cate Blanchett spoil the fun of watching a film. Especially if it also tries to reenact the black and white film noir experience in a particularly bad script. This is “The Good German”, a film with no interest drawing whatsoever from its audience.

With a faithful presentation in terms of colour, music and look, “The Good German” is on a murder mystery happening in the post World War - II Berlin. Jake Geismer (George Clooney), an American war correspondent comes to Berlin assigned to a boyish looking Tully (Tobey Maguire) as his driver. Tully is a snaky character having his slimy arms wrapped around a German woman Lena (Cate Blanchett) and earns his living in Black Marketing. There is an Emil Brandt missing in this picture for whom every one is looking for. That is the suspense out here which links these three and many others that when it is out you have no interest in knowing the truth as it seems.

The conversation in the film is supposed to be this shadowy things of mystic and suspicion. In the attempt to do that the character speak as if they were reading from a cue card. In the effort to bring back those acting days, it is a faltering presentation of a loose screenplay. Frankly we develop a stoic curiosity in knowing about Jake, Tully or the ever suspicious Lena. The film noir theme it poses does not stir any smart and quirky one liners or the looming investigation leading to strange lands in an already desolated and departed post war Berlin.

There is a passion to make this film in concentrating on the moods and elements of the old 40s films. The shadows are not glorified but are maintained of their ingenuity in putting its mark on a noir picture. The music by Thomas Newman is devoted to replicate the music of those times but Newman has his way of inserting his trademark tunes. Unfortunately though the talented work of his goes to the bland story of “The Good German”.

The film has patches of voice over narration. It is used as a prop put in heavily for the heck of it. It does not add any purpose or clarity to the film. It becomes the huge blame and incapability the voice over generally has on the opinion of coaches for screen writing which is that when the characters does not have real dimension to add an agenda or emotions, it is a cheap tool to convey those to the audience. Here Tobey Maguire’s Tully uses it to say his contention on dealing in Black Market while Lena and Jake have little to nothing to add a dimension to their hollow characters.

Lena is a neither a femme fatale nor the forbidden fruit every one goes nuts for. Honestly there is no attraction in Cate Blanchett to get that role kicking and craving. Nothing against her beauty but the mystical eagerness which generally pulls in the sane men to the madness does not seem to come out of her in this film. She stares in the light in wide angle or submerged in shadows with a constant absence of passion or deviousness. Her damsel in distress is another vacuum in the story of nothing but locations of broken buildings and sweaty uniforms.

“The Good German” is a perfectly formed boring film. There is nothing as a sense of direction or an effort to have a suspense we would care for. In the story telling we are distracted by the visual due to the lack of material in the characters and their deliveries of dialogues evaporating well before it is uttered. “The Good German” sucked the energy out of me and managed to evacuate the enthusiasm even to slam it in the review.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Forrest Gump" (1994) - Movie Classics

I read here and there on the net and came to note that most of the people who reviewed “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” could not able to skip mentioning its resemblance to the classic “Forrest Gump”. Apart from sharing the same writer Eric Roth, its semblance is nothing more than an epic story of a fictional man. It is true though that the writer had some kind of inclination in reminiscing the days of creating Forrest Gump in Tom Hanks through certain dialogues in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. It never crossed the quality of the film though.

“Forrest Gump” was in basket of many movies which passed right in front of me and missed its view when the whole world witnessed it as a phenomenon in 1994. Although there was another unnoticed classic being in its roots which unfortunately came along with this film but sure got its recognition later. That would be “The Shawshank Redemption”. Today through my regular lazy Sunday I skimmed through the DVD shelf of mine and in the list of films to be watched, I dug in to this. And how much more can be fitting to be viewed on a lazy Sunday afternoon to kick off the hazy mood I had.

Forrest Gump sits with his box of chocolates in one of the benches of Savannah and begins to narrate his life story to strangers. Out there when the feather from the far sky finds its way to his foot steps, it is a symbol for a fairy tale story. With the regular apt and artistic interruption from realities of life, the film happens in the land where people are not immediately pulled in back by the outspoken and a rather shifted style of speech by Gump. He is bullied and put down as a kid by his home town boys in the state of Alabama but he clings on to the words of his Mama (Sally Field) and his child hood sweet heart Jenny (Robin Wright) to run and take the road in his times. And when he grows up he begins to meet the people who steers his life through their friend ship in Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) and Lieutenant Dan which Gary Sinise makes an enlightening performance of it.

Forrest Gump is shown as a man of adventures as Sinbad or the stories we have heard as kids. He is of course not the regular kind of protagonist as kids would see as role model. He has the skills which comes natural and the key part in separating from the rest is that he as other people never sees it as a specialty. He never sees as some one away from the crowd. He sees it as a simple thing life has to offer him and he leads on the path where he is led on by his spontaneity. As his couple of years in long running along the country which he does for no particular reason, his days that are kept busy by the tasks he gets into are without reasons. They are the sands of time for the love he wants to learn, attain and live.

Tom Hanks in one another discussion with the friend who I had argument for Tom Cruise too mentioned his problems with Hanks. But not as bad as he had his spite for Cruise. I remember him saying Hanks bringing Hanks in his characters. I am not sure what his view on this film but if he has, our friendship is on line. There are filmmakers and critics who talk about commitment to a character. I have seen great performances and I am sure every one had them committed to their character but this is the film which shows it. Tom Hanks does not create Forrest Gump as man with monotonic voice over along with a slight modification in mood but he makes him a person of emotions. If on the face of Earth comes a man like Gump then he would cry like what Hanks’ Gump does and run like Hanks’ Gump.

Robert Zemeckis went ahead to collaborate with another classic favourite of mine with Tom Hanks, “Cast Away”. And in “Forrest Gump” the skill in the screenplay of Eric Roth does not get lost in the making over the white screen. It savours in showing this character because Zemeckis understands the character through the screenplay. He treats him as a person jumping from the worlds of a story book into the reality of this world for a period in this film.

The songs resonating the times, the historic footage of many rhyming the times and the props and people and moments are all sounds of the times passed by. It does not advocate values or way of life but a clear sense of story telling. It is a bed time stories for adults ready to sleep in the corporate world and wake up for their clock work or may be kick off a life they wish would have or find the hidden happiness existing right around the corner of their house. “Forrest Gump” in accumulating the times of the past several decades became a land mark of its own time.

Despite my thorough enjoyment of the film, I was wondering what caught the attention of the audience world wide to really make a critically acclaimed film a box office hit. What do they see in it which made them to never forget the film and make memories surrounding it? Many would say a sense of principles reflecting the traditional American way of life or some would say the beauty of film making. It is of course a slice of an American life hidden in the towns and counties of the country. Yet it does not preach anything what is right or wrong. It is also a beauty of the film making in providing a pleasure time with an empathizing character. But most of all it is that time wherein we forget ourselves in listening to a story. The story we are so awed and absorbed by the adventures of some one fictional in a world so different from ours. We begin to believe in putting ourselves in that land of fiction and swim through it. As kids it was so real and posed as an inch away from the life we led on. The growing up withers the beauty and mounts the cynicism. I believe “Forrest Gump” took every one to that time when fiction was real and the possibilities were endless. For me it is the reason why I watch the films and why I love every single minute of it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Gran Torino" (2008) - Movie Review

Myself and my brother were dancing coming back from the school in the city bus heading our home. It was a Saturday afternoon and in our school they sometimes had half day on occasions. The jubilation is to watch a film that called itself “Dirty Harry” with a very mean and rough East Wood on the covers if I am not wrong. See in those days we do not watch a film if in the introducing titles there were not any “Stunt Co-ordinators”. And with the video guy boasting so much of the action in the film to our dad, we were singing literally of the name “Dirty Harry”. Little did we know that the action in Eastwood’s were something we could not embrace as kids. But I remember “Do I feel lucky?” which stitches in the heart without even aware of its appreciation you had. Someday I will watch it but you get to see “Gran Torino” for Eastwood in these days and seriously I can only describe it with some cursing attached to it and truly representing it, that he is one mean bad ass who will literally kick ass and take names.

Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is “the” American. Trimmed hair, polished shoes and that groan emitting at the site of the American tradition bullied, butchered and tainted which he sees in terms of the immigration in the current trend. He wonders what the kid in a priest suit Father Janovich (Christopher Carley) knows about life and death. He wants to get up and slap his grand kids who are caught up in the world of texting and trendy dressing and more importantly forgetting the respect for their elders. These are all happening at the Church for the funeral of his demised wife. He pretty much has lost the shield from his wife who would have buffered every one to him and vice versa. Man she would have had to put a lot with him but he is a sweet smooth guy when it comes to women which he advises later to the neighbour kid Thao (Bee Vang) and they obviously do not get started on a right note.

Walt is in this neighbourhood with Hmong predominant residence. He is a racist and bleeds when seeing his America been occupied as comes with every old traditional hard proud people of any nation. Being a Korean war veteran, he has two things which would be his panache of work and appreciate his skill at the art. One being his 1972 Gran Torino which he got himself once he got out of Ford manufacturing plant. Second would be his instinctive reach for gun and slurs. That makes him a tough man to reach. Valor is the language he would speak. Man is a religion and he thinks every single kid earns it when they grow up. Of course he lives in 50s as one of his sons say. They are the typical sons who never really got along with Walt not surprisingly but also produce offsprings who see them not respecting their father and hence comes easily for them to follow it towards their grandfather.

I have seen Eastwood as a director than as an actor. He gets this stories and builds them with a non-stylized original scenes. And when the picture culminates we would have been involved with him along with his building of this film. We would be in the sides of his film’s people and in a half awake dream would appreciate it in both sense of reality and imagination. That has been the only characteristic I could able to underline of his films. He makes good movies and often migrates into greatness as time goes by. In “Gran Torino” he depicts Walt Kowalski with dialogues which can only be said by him with his thorn filled voice and a face frightening the hell out of you.

Walt lives by racial epithets and he takes immense joy out of it. He belongs in a country and wears it in his shoulders. He has friends who knows his frequency of what he is. They fight over with racial remarks as a symbol of their closeness as his barber Martin (John Caroll Lynch) does. But more importantly is a person of rightness when the situation comes. That is how he gets involved when his neighbour girl Sue (Ahney Her) gets in trouble.

You work with people with racism in their heads. In fact it would shared amongst day in and day out and argue about it on its wrongness and prejudice of it while the others for it. They are the people when they meet other races and gets to know would become great friends too still sharing the same views only that they have an exception. The problem is they never give that chance to their perspective to see everything with openness than to leave for options to shrink. Walt is one such who does not lose his perspective but becomes a good friend with his neighbours who are not Americans. He still groans with resentment and irritation when his new doctor is an Asian. He never changes but it is about his peace in life. He is in constant denial of not having to confront his haunting war nightmares despite his wife’s last wish for him to confess.

“Gran Torino” is fun to watch of Eastwood giving punches on the screen with his point blank eye to eye straight arrowed dialogues and sometimes with bare knuckles. Never does his Walt flinch on how his people skills are hurting other. He stands by it and lives by it. Clint Eastwood is solid. And when some one says that there is an image of that in a character. Everything needs to be felt to see the real thing but you would know what I exactly mean when I say solid. “Gran Torino” is another film from this man who never takes rest.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"After Hours" (1985) - Movie Classics

Prologue - Paul Hackett wants to get laid. Epilogue - Paul Hackett wants to go home. Paul Hackett wants to get a second of a sleep. Paul Hackett wants this night to end, forever. Paul Hackett wants to return to his boring work of word processing. Paul Hackett wants to live out this reality of nightmare. Griffin Dunne is Paul Hackett and his nightmare is laugh riot in a sick way in the Martin Scorcese’s “After Hours”.

In the wake of evening, lights up a night for Paul. He visits a coffee shop and gets into a conversation with a bright and edgy woman (Rosanna Arquette). Not the spark but something to invite a call. He goes home and calls back immediately. The fantasy land of men works out the calculation to get laid in an hour with forty five minutes to travel and fifteen minutes to chat. The terror begins in a taxi cab ride swinging him like a roller coaster without a safety belt wherein he loses his last twenty dollars. Broke and left at the door step in a long and distant downtown of New York, Paul Hackett is stepping into the night of his life.

What a movie to watch and laugh every single frame of the trouble he goes through. How much twisted and a tone of dark comic does writer Joseph Minion has that he cracks down on this character like a psychological torture experiment over his enemy. Not gross, not creepy but just enough to walk the line to laugh on his stumbling pile of problems. In the wet streets of the city where the moon has disowned it by the crankiness airing out, Paul goes from one trouble after another with his curiosity and after a while his desperation for a place to say.

Everything is surreal. Extreme out of the reality coincidences but intertwines on the strangeness of a late night. The woman from the coffee shop is named Marcy and lives with her room mate Kiki Bridges (Linda Florentino) making sculptures out of old newspaper and plaster of paris. She teases him over for a massage when Marcy is out and when the time is about to tick in to make his move, she sleeps. Then comes Marcy and he gives the spooks for any one and wonder what made Paul to do such an impulsive action. He forces out only to be stuck in the place forever.

Have you gone through a day wherein there is no possibility for any right thing to happen at all? I am sure you would have or at least the anger and frustration in one pans in the other to cause a ripple effect. I went through in my trip. In an Island where winter is a bad season to be stuck in a mess, I got stuck in the Ocracoke Island. Missed the first ferry by two minutes and then fog loomed. Missing the second ferry and waiting for it, I steered in to the stupidness of driving over a beach. Got stuck in a fog filled beach with a car ready to pummel me if it had life, I was desolated for twenty minutes. Finally got help and came back to see the fog persisting not to let the ferry leave. I waited for three hours and it felt like I would never be let off this island. But I was having different kind of fun though. It is nothing like what Paul goes through but I could relate his struggle of been stuck in a place with a terrifying thought of no escape.

Michael Ballhus swings the camera from behind and brings in front while keeping the character in focus and then follow the corners of the desk in a congested office and shots down the key drop like a failed rocket on to the face and lifts it up. You are dizzied and enchanted by that and fall right into the theme of the film of topsy turvy land and space.

Apparently “After Hours” was a self motivating and much needed film for Scorcese since his first attempt on “The Last Temptation of Christ” got shut down. Depressed and desperate he landed on this script. This is an entertainer and the love for film is painted through out. Griffin Dunne as the guy in a mess gets invitation from all the women he meets only to be terrified in to further weirdness. He goes to a bar and the waitress (Teri Garr) leaves him a funny note and invites him to her apartment where her bed is surrounded by mouse traps. Another woman (Catherine O’Hare) who gets off a taxi accidentally hurts him and again, invites him for helping but in the meanwhile doing everything possible to forget a number he got from directory service. And she has a license to drive the Ice Cream truck. Finally is an old lady June (Verna Bloom) sitting in the corner of a surreal German Disco Club minding her business and she becomes Paul’s only hope for surviving the night. But no, she wraps him up as a sculpture in order him to go unnoticed by the vigilante gang mistaking him for a burglar. June leaves him out there stuck in it. This is one of his few mishaps in a night of bumps, beat and lots of running.

“After Hours” is the funniest and truly artistic film I have seen recently. It takes this character and spins him around like a dancing toy keyed on. Then they key him on and put near clearly defined paranoid circumstances. One instinct after another he seeks out and with enough beat knows that anything after this would only lead further mayhem. “Final” Epilogue - Paul Hackett wants the morning, if it comes.