Monday, August 31, 2009

"Barry Lyndon" (1975) - Movie Review

Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” is a film about the rise and fall of an 18th century adventurer which is empty of emotions and an overzealous obsession for the details on the image. The stillness and the liking for the minutiae in “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a required trait for a film like that but for running through the life story of a man taken in to the path of his choices, “Barry Lyndon” should have been more personal than methodical and clinical.

Ryan O’Neal is Redmond Barry, a young man whose mind work in single line. Stanley Kubrick invites to view his narrow minded thoughts channeled well into opportunities and fiascos. His life is nothing but a sputter small successes in sword fights, gamble and the usage of his good looks. Beyond that he is a nobody. What makes him special to invest a three hour film baffles any one but well that is the specialty of Kubrick. The film takes this 18th century period to its advantage and feeds the technical aspect of the material a good chunk of splendid pictures. The camera work of John Alcott goes through the candle lit rooms, the blooming nature, the palaces that never end into the wide frames.

Young Redmond Barry being fled from the law of his Irish homeland falls upon the paths his life takes him through. He is looted, recruited, fled again, seduced, gambled and culminating his known trade of seducing a rich Countess Lady Lyndon (Marissa Berenson) for wealth and prosperity. It is the decline like no other as the film itself. The movie’s major emotional provider is the narrator (Michael Hordern), who follows up a no sense behaviour trying to make some sense which is unfathomable. It is his cold and hard voice which has some form of reform in a story much needed a face and expression.

It is of course the visual and style of Kubrick most of them rely upon. Such are finesse directors. Paul Thomas Anderson does that for me while many admire the greatness of Coen Brothers which I can see but not embrace as much as their fans do. Nevertheless they tell their obsession for details in any of their films and so is Stanley Kubrick. All his films I have seen so far despite not appealing to the personal taste of mine, have always managed to gain the respect. “Barry Lyndon” fails to be in that category. It becomes a painful exercise putting me through sleep two times in a row. The classical music does not help either.

In a biographical film, the story telling depends on how much we like or hate the character in person. Either way it brings upon a reaction from its audience. Indifference is rarely the case. Here Redmond Barry is a youth tumbling into the ordinary life in a no effort zone. What is his goal apart from money? Does he feed himself of the grandeur nature or what makes him angry, sad or happy? In most of the film, he either begs, cries or shamelessly dominates and machinates to acquire wealth. Even in those wrongdoings there seems to be no passion or a zest to get those. He is situated as this doll in the fancy decorations and glowing candle lights. For so much about a story of a person, we never get to know Barry Lyndon.

The actors in the film can take no responsibility for the failure as Stanley Kubrick is the orchestrator and the puppet master of this entire show. He makes them uptight and inaccessible. We dislike almost all the characters and yet there is not an evident of their motivation and needs. Redmond Barry follows the wealth for obvious reasons with nonchalant face while his step son Lord Bullingdon (Leon Vitali) hates Barry for reasons of the same stature but what is surprising is that their behaviour and emotions does not reveal any kind of happiness in doing such or even the anger is stale and tasteless.

“Barry Lyndon” is hailed as this underrated classic and I do not know what is there to appreciate on a story about a man whose sole purpose is following a line drawn upon with disinterest. What is it there to detest or admire this man of his qualities or charm or cruelty? The only thing which are alive enough are the palaces, nature and the horses running around. There is nothing to know about Barry Lyndon other than he is a failed person in a time where war, money, gambling and power were the prime entertainments.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Taking Woodstock" (2009) - Movie Review

The Michael Lang who is the main orchestrator in producing the Woodstock 69 is played by Jonathan Groff with the charm that can make people happily convince themselves that he can deliver the deadliest poison as a nectar for happiness. So are the generation of the 60s arriving at the dairy farm of the Bethel New York for the concert of a life time, Woodstock. Directed by Ang Lee surprising with the selection of movies he takes up (“Hulk”, “Brokeback Mountain” and “Lust, Caution”) and now he brings in a Demetri Martin, about whom I practically knew nothing until a few weeks back at “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”, he appeared and Conan telling that he used to be in the writing section of his late night show. How did Ang hook up with him? It should be interesting on its own. But in this 110 minutes film, what we see is being out there. In that ambience where everything was surreal and everything contained the level above the ground aura to it.

Elliot Tiechberg (Demetri Martin) is a young man who seem to be obliged and stays for the summer at his mom (Imelda Staunton) and dad’s (Henry Goodman) motel which is situated in Upstate New York. Momma Tiechberg is bitter, paranoid and trusts only the money she owns. Dad Tiechberg is the sublime personality explaining the calmness and the buried agony due to living with this woman. Elliot’s mom still lives in the fear of being hunted by Nazis as she came through that journey and nice is the word she cannot find at all. The motel is falling apart and Elliot leaving his interior designing life in Brooklyn, dresses up to visit the bank for getting more time and money for the upcoming summer. There is no indication that the resort attracts tourist for a dead town like Bethel. Here is where the experience is going to happen.

The story gets inspired from the true events which led to the Woodstock arriving at the Dairy farms of one Max Yasgur played here by Eugene Levy. The original Elliot, Elliot Tiber saw the opportunity of the Woodstock event getting ousted in their first desired location and called up Michael Lang to come in use his place. The location shifts to Max Yasgur’s place and the whole three day which brings more than half a million people marked a historic significance in music and the generation which gives a feeling to have lived it all.

Ang Lee’s version of this experience uses Elliot to roam around this scenery of people flooded all around the green acre. Every one is in trance and everything is a source of hallucinating light and it is out there. In this we see characters which could have existed in that part and in that time to give a glimpse of that experience. Elliot who much seemed to be a shelled existence gets exposed into the plethora of extremities. Those three days in the film is the progression towards the point wherein there is an eruption of life into the insignificant stale of monotony in the town of Bethel. Characters like Liev Schreiber’s Vilma, Emile Hirsch’s Billy gets a place where they are not spotted and accepted for their personality.

Demetri Martin’s Elliot is given as a shy but someone ready to be get the teachings of the world beyond or the world he has seen and is missing to live up to a parent who never admires it. Henry Goodman as the dad of Elliot is notable along with the most disliked character of Elliot’s mother by Imelda Staunton. In both of their presence there is rarely a communication in between them. Staunton takes the tough role of being hated by the audience and the sweetest person in the film above of Elliot is his dad. These opposites are tied in a marriage which does not seem to make sense a single bit.

Ang Lee says a story inspired by the true events in the history of rock and roll and an era nobody can forget. The facts might of course gets distorted when travels from voices and in pages to the screen. But it is a film which takes that opportunity to give that feel of being there in this waves of people. The harmony is both rejoicing and suffocating. Every one is impulsive and the flow along with it are too good to be true but it existed. Where the possibility of ultimate peace did not seem like a far reach. But I always think whether it is a pure effects of the cocktails of drugs each induced upon or that the concept of holding hands indeed was accepted as the best solution to the cruel world? Whichever it is, that tenure of small gap the people lived entirely for the moment. And Ang Lee takes us into it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) - Movie Review

The price of the excitement is the high life on the high wire with casualty falling around and the final demise being the person who took that path. “Bonnie and Clyde” gives those two people deciphering each other in a second of their eye to eye meet and run with towards the road robbing banks and eventually killing people along their job prospects. Considered as a daring trendsetter in the American movie making, Arthur Penn along with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway gives a violent and merciless portrait of these two people.

When Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) spots Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) considering robbing her mom’s car, that is the best part in her mundane ritual of sufficing the role in a stale town. Clyde does not run away after Bonnie calls him to stay right there. He eludes his thievery by flirtation but he continues the walk with her to the town. Apart from Bonnie being deadly beautiful, Clyde sees her inside out. She is exactly the girl he is been waiting for. Bonnie teases him to push the extend of his truth that he served prison for armed robbery. He pulls up the gun and she gentle caresses the tip of it which is sexy and erotic on so many levels. She further instigates him to prove himself and he does so not on manipulation but he knows the thrill of it and the same he is going to provide her. They are madly made for each other.

After that they go on every other state to rob banks and live a running life. Initially Clyde is cautious about not hurting someone but Bonnie does not care that much. She is more on the terms than Clyde who got her for the ride. It becomes a matter of time before Clyde shoots the first man to be killed. From there on, there is no stopping. Arthur Penn tells about these two people who become perfect by practice, passionate together in performing it and goes on forever knowing the consequences.

They meet up with Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and Buck’s wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons). Buck has his head well balanced over his shoulder while Blanche is an emotional volcano. It is funny that we perceive her annoying as that of Bonnie does. She is but she is freaked out like any regular individual. And there we see what Penn has put the perspective on his audience.

It begins as an eventless film. Then it assimilates the characters and we do not like or dislike them. When they kill people, we see it as their job than a crime. When Bonnie begins to fall for emotional ties in her mom, Dunaway comes as a woman with odd feelings and biting the realism of running on a crime life. Clyde whole heartedly loves Bonnie. Bonnie wants to complete it with sex and Clyde’s impotence comes in the way. “I ain’t a lover boy” he keeps saying. That does not put their relationship on jeopardy.

The film hits its audience in the exact middle ground. Bonnie goes crazy on not seeing her mother and they have a family reunion. Her mother (Mabel Cavitt) has understandably transformed into a person Bonnie can no longer communicate affectionately. Her care for Bonnie comes out of natural instinct than genuine love. She has given up hopes on her daughter coming back that even when Bonnie fantasize of living within the three miles of her mom’s residence, she hits her hard with the reality of that never happening. She says it as a parent and a realist. This bitter truth is not something Bonnie did not know but wanted a caring moment on the expense of crazy fantasy. She comes back to the motel and confides with Clyde which I believe is the best part of the film.

“Bonnie and Clyde” is a film which has a cult status of its gory violence for that time. Not being there for that attitude cripples the viewer of current times to not acknowledge the boldness in the making of it. Yet the film is a one of a kind for the times when Hollywood clouded with the positive protagonists. Here Warrent Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the titular characters appear friendly when they are not shooting people for their defense. They pickup a couple (Gene Wilder and Evans Evans) after stealing their car, chatting them up and having a ball with them. Penn of course does not mull over their values or conscience of taking lives. “Bonnie and Clyde” has a status for its courageous film making but to truly appreciate, one should have been living in the times of it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) - Movie Review

“A Streetcar Named Desire” is a sorry tale about a woman unable to cope up with the age getting a better of her and rides on the sympathy which is never there. This is the delusion of this two hours of proclaimed classic. Vivian Leigh structures the woman in discussion, Blanche and does successfully so in annoying the audience. We could not stand this woman right from the start, building in status, appearance and facade of unknown future.

There is terrific acting in this film which does not help much though in making this a complete emotional circle. This Elia Kazan film is not badly made. On the contrary, it is fully developed in characters and the conclusions they arrive. The problem is with the whole story heading for a slow train wreck. It begins with Blanche coming to New Orleans and takes the streetcar drive (the name of it is Desire) to her sister Stella’s (Kim Hunter) place. She has left her town as their old country home has unable to keep up with the mortgage payments. She is there and going to stay indefinitely. She does not say it but begins to live at Stella along with Stella’s arrogant, tough and mean husband Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando).

The movie is about how Blanche is full blown suffocating woman fading into the shadows of dying youth and in constant effort for compliments about her looks. She needs attention and being left to take care of the property by Stella early in the life has made her grumpy. Stella is a woman of different kind. She is soft and caring and loves Stanley adorably. Stanley is an egomaniacal tough fellow whose way of showing love is by utterly disregarding the opinions of Stella and get into fights. This is a turn on for Stella and that is the trait which attracted her to Stanley.

Adapted from the play by Tennessee Williams, most of the scenes happen inside this house with a window overlooking the streets where floods of people walk in all the time. This is the place where Stanley and his friends play poker and have altercation with Stella and Blanche. Stanley hates the presence of Blanche. First is the burden of her and the second is that the property share belongs to Stella too which would be of great help as they are expecting a baby.

Blanche is not a swindler but a drama queen. She arrives and is petrified by the living her sister leads. Stranded household and noisy neighbours were the least in the list of things Blanche had her brains tuned on for. When confronted directly by any one on her behaviour or past, she simply flutters with a smile which is not attractive or distracting and comes out cheap, weak and frustrating. A nice gentleman Mitch (Karl Malden) likes Blanche. Blanche seem to like the idea of a man being nice to her than the man himself. She withdraws from physical intimacy while lets a complete stranger, a young man to let her kiss. This woman is an emotional basket case.

By successfully delivering their given part and putting them in the right place for the story undertaken by Elia Kazan, I had no interest in where this characters are heading. I did not expect redemption nor a feel good ending, rather a level to recognize their action. Not reasons but a sense of their emotions to equate ourselves. We see Stanley, a dangerous bully and a walking time bomb of violence sensing the right attitude of Blanche. His way of retaliation is to be a mean pig and then finally summate his emotional negligence by humiliating and butchering Blanche. The only possible man of interest was Mitch who understandably gets frustrated by Blanche and then stoops to Stanley’s level.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” is supposed to a fable of the bad characters resulting in bad things happening to them. Brando and Leigh are nothing short of brilliant in their despicable characters. Stella played by Kim Hunter is a silent inert object and her solution to a problem is to present bunch of lies to boost the attention level of her sister. Why am I concerned about these people of unexplainable stubbornness? I have enough of them meeting up in my life and except for the performance, I was thoroughly irritated by “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Post Grad" (2009) - Movie Review

The phase of job search after graduation is the worst especially when the job market is hitting down underground and the hopes of a great life after stricken of cautious about spending in the student years. The bad phase happened to me twice. Once back home and other out here in the land of the States. The first time though it was only guilt of living of parent’s money and the second time it was guilt with stringent money supply. Although my dear cousin in California generously tolerated me to stay at his place and supported me big time for which I owe him lot of drunken night calls, I was uber conscious to not trouble him. Thanks my man Sai ! Today second time in a row, a film which I did not like made me relate the experience I had. This film though it is not alone something I disliked but as it went on the suicidal cruise control, it irritated to the depths of cliches.

Ryden (Alexis Bidel) is the over aspirant college graduate. She has figured out here life perfectly well. The dream job lined up for her to be interviewed, a very good friend Adam (Zach Gilford) she has successfully managed to keep away from relationship, a typical father (Michael Keaton) and mother (Jane Lynch) molded for Hollywood feel good films and everything to go wrong so that the film can happen.

But before I bludgeon this, there needs a mention of how much of the little Michael Keaton gets and how much he makes of it. He comes as the middle class family man trying to be the best he can be for his family. He is neurotic and has this great ideas for business which only gets him in trouble. He is also the wannabe mechanic dad jumping ahead to repair Ryden’s damaged card while we know it will be a slow and painful death for it. Keaton is not alone the only character real enough in this film but he makes his time the better part in the film. While Jane Lynch and Zach Gilford fulfill their part as requested, they are the victims of the script by Kelly Fremon.

“Post Grad” has the best setting for a comedy, drama and may be the first to step its foot on the doors of the modern day job decline wherein a graduate degree is no more an assurance for a secure career. Instead it becomes an uncontrollable slightly matured teenage girl soap opera story. Its attempt on the dysfunctional family staying together and the young girl getting courses on her life ahead invites nothing but very much convincing yawns.

There is the mid thirties next door neighbour David (Rodrigo Santaro), supposed to be the catalyst to this story. Through him Ryden would take a quasi romance trip and a quick wrap up to get an advice on the importance of her family. Another yawn out here. The poor nice guy will be Adam having his hopes high up for his girl to turn around and the process is boring than an attested corporate process control in the current industry.

“Post Grad” directed by Vicky Jenson is not the worst film but it is on the lines of the films made zillion times before. Which makes it the most unoriginal and a bad formulaic film in those lines. These emotional exploitation is too much of a soul selling in the industry manufacturing as a bad selling product. The truth though is that it sells. It sells good with the customers who knows it is bad. Thus the people along with me in the theater sure did enjoy because this entertainment is the stress reliever. But I am doubting whether it is a killer of brain cells in the most unhealthy psychological way.

"Julie and Julia" (2009) - Movie Review

If there is one thing I could relate to Julie Powell (Amy Adams), thinking back make it two, that would be blogging and cooking. This film is supposed to be the first one to find its birth in the blogosphere. In the August of 2002, Powell decided to revamp her life by writing about her cooking adventures through the 524 recipes of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 365 days. The curious character skin of Julia Child is worn by Meryl Streep in this film. Given that I have no clue of the TV show Julia Child did and her success in cooking, Streep’s Child is an annoying entertainment. Adapted by the blog turned book of Julia Powell and the part of Child’s life from Julia Child’s “My Life in France”, Nora Ephron writes and directs a film which after point forgot that there is an end to a film.

Ephron appears to be a specialist in faceless people meeting over the lines of human invented communication. She also has a liking for chances, coincidences and through that a relationship coming through in a cliche guising as novel idea. She is good at that and did good in writing “When Harry Met Sally”. Here there is a good film, a better film and it stays so until we realize that the time spent out here is more than enough. It is getting a little bit overwhelming and that even for a second put an otherwise nice film into jeopardy.

Ephron does a good thing of slicing the screen time between Julie and Julia. One moving in to a new place above a Pizzeria in Queens, New York while the other moving to a different country. Julie is on her brink of an early life crisis while Julia hunts for the passion which exist right in front of her, food. Both women have the two most sweetest, patient and lovable spouses. Paul Child (Stanley Tucci) works in the US Embassy and completely is in support and love for Julia Child. She is sweet and nice too, a little too much if you get the drift.

In the current modern world where this reviewers scribbling getting a chance to float around in the space of bytes, Julie Powell is having a day job hearing angry, sad and frustrating phone calls. Her friends who exist solely to have a lunch to talk over their cell phones and careers reeking the thoughts of Powell, a small apartment in Queens does not help. Eric Powell (Chris Messina) tries to cheer up his wife and that helps but Powell needs more. The meaning of the time left in this world and hence to make something of it. Thus begins this venture and time and again we see how both Powell and Child learning, mastering and finally finding success in the business of her cooking.

All merry and fine stories to be filmed and make the feel good film of the dawning fall of this year. Julia Child through the books becomes the mentor, friend and guide for Powell. She begins to write about it. To keep her writing career afloat, this seems to be an effective outlet which I have no choice than to agree. I know that many people whom I have never met or will never meet read or may be not. The joy of writing these reviews are immeasurable. It keeps my other side of the life sane and most of all something to be passionate about. Yet when I got that first comment, it made an odd tingling sensation. It is a rejoice to know that someone took time not alone to read but to write something. That is not alone encouraging but the psychological need to be fulfilled of being known and given a physical presence in this diminishing life. Even if it is hateful and critical, the notice and approval is paramount. In that sense, I could relate with Julie Powell when she begins to write. And Amy Adams with Nora Ephron gives that not in knife out of the sheath treatment but good enough to be honest.

“Julie and Julia” tells the ever smiling, ever bubbly and a fight to cook attitude in Julia Child. It also tells how lives of people affects other in manner they would not imagine. Admiring and idolizing someone to make your life is constructive but once the point is reached to be self sustaining, the idea of that person becomes an obsession and longing for approval. While I suffered from that through Roger Ebert, I learned that the idea of him in keeping me writing was myself and of course my friend Mathi. The inspiration of the man cannot be denied but growing out of it is important enough to be not consumed by it. “Julie and Julia” is not a deep tale about it but it reminded me of that and it does not deal it with the profoundness. Of course it is not expected in a film like this either. I cannot really say that I liked it as much as I could not say I did not like it. It is a true middle ground. I revisited the origins of this blog and the joy of seeing the first comment which I described with such closeness and I forgot to say what was in it. It was a woman because the name sounded like it which I do not remember and she wanted to sell me something, mostly an erotic magazine. For some reason she never responded to the reply comment I posted (not to mention that she never did send those e-magazines either). Do you know why? I am kidding. I do not even remember the first comment posted in my blog. (Do you know why?)

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Inglourious Basterds" (2009) - Movie Review

When the Chapter One of “Inglourious Basterds” starts, there is a farmer (Denis Menochet) chopping woods with his axe and one of his daughters sees an SS vehicle approaching their way. There is going to be blood bath but when is it going to happen and how atrociously gruesome Quentin Tarantino is going to give the introductory chapter to us? This is the tension he dances upon. We see an extremely kind and it is genuine or the act he puts cannot be more convincing in a middle aged officer. He is polite, respectful and there is a thin line of sinister which we begin to love more than Brad Pitt’s Lt. Eldo Raine, which is Christopher Waltz playing Colonel Hans Landa.

This five chapter film is a complete Tarantino experience, nothing short of it. It is not a glorification of the indulgence he overstepped in “Death Proof”. It has the intensity and the passion the director carries around in his films. Even when he utterly disappointed in “Kill Bill: Vol.1”, he did it with style and when he gave redeemed and came above the thrill seeking bloody picture to a matured film in “Kill Bill: Vol.2”, he is like no other in the realms of his film making. And in “Inglourious Basterds”, we see the passion and the admiration for the material he has personally written over the span of ten years.

This is a World War II and we see Hitler (Martin Wuttke) and as the director said in many interviews, it is a backdrop. This is not a film about revelation and the atrocity of the holocaust. This is a Tarantino film and it stays so till the end. The characters such as Eldo Raine, an old and lovable but ruthlessly deadly American from the state of Tennessee along with his Basterds are like the Seven Samurai, only more bloody and brutal. They wander around the land of France spotting the Nazis and delivering the scalps to their Lieutenant. Eldo has a long scar running all through his neck. We are not told what caused it but we know he survived it. Now Brad Pitt does the Southern accent which I cannot be a great endorser but it damn well suits Eldo. Weird, outlandish and comic in the way only Tarantino could do.

When the film has tables and chairs filled with unpredictable characters, that is when it is a spectacle to watch. The plots and the twists in the end serves the term “end”. It merely becomes something the audience could leave without a problem. How it could have been made great is unthinkable because in a film like this where any one can get their lives taken by the virtue of the scene can never have an alternate course. But Waltz gives a villain we could all remember. In fact he is a Basterd of a different kind. His Nazi uniform makes him differ from the heroic attribute of Eldo and his crew into an antagonist. Yet there is more to it. Eldo is a naked wrench coming at you with all its mighty force and you are completely aware of it and not enough time to react. Hans Landa is sweet just the amount to not distinguish between his devilishness and considerate part of his act of being the gentleman.

The obvious evidence when watching this film is that Tarantino got me into it right from the start. And it kept on building seeing what he can do after more than a decade and half of successful reign and becoming the cult and hall of fame director of this generation. Even when the title comes up, it is a sneak attack on the casts he consolidated. When you see Mike Myers name in a Tarantino war flick, you got to give it to the man, he spends time to shape his credits. And I am sure he would have been laughing like a child wondering the reaction of the crowd when they see that credits.

“Inglourious Basterds” carries the weight of the expectation and no wonder the show was filled and packed. Every one of them were sold even before the film began. The nature of the stage is such that the good and evil, so clearly been established by history and Hollywood have so far been played as the glorification, sympathetic and tragic. Tarantino’s film goes for glorification but it also sickens when it is needed. He sees the comedy in the unseen circumstances and suspense in the smallest things.

Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, B. J. Novak, Melanie Laurent and Michael Fassbender do their varying length of roles in to characters made by them provided by Tarantino with the love he brings to the film. I do not have to say that “Inglourious Basterds” is a thoroughly enjoyable film but I do have to say that when high billed actors let their character killed unexpectedly handing their trust on the director’s material, there you have the ultimate freedom for the creativity that rarely gets hoisted. Brad Pitt has been in interesting projects for the past few years. In this his screen time compared to the award winning performance of Christopher Waltz is very less but he makes lot of fans along the way. In any of those, the fans are for his characters than his image. There you see the success of both an actor and a director.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"The King of Comedy" (1982) - Movie Review

“The King of Comedy” evolves into a film of uneven tragicomedy. Its central character Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) is a pain in the neck for a talk show celebrity Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Rupert is an aspiring stand up comedian idolizing Langford. He manages to get in car with the man and begins to talk out of something he would have rehearsed numerous times in his basement that he is ready to get on showbiz. Jerry Langford who is annoyed, cornered and knows that the only way to get rid of Pupkin is to give some advice and ask him to call up his office. But the naive Pupkin has developed this idea that he has got a break in to the business of media.

Martin Scorsese in his noted delivery of any material shapes up this film of a man in constant tone of living a fantasy. He knows that it is a fantasy and at the same time believes in it to take control over the territory he has no claim of. One such is his going into the summer house of Jerry Langford with his love interest Rita (Diahnne Abbott). He wages untiring battle towards Langford’s office and waits restlessly. De Niro brings out the mockery and humiliation this character has endured through the life time and is ready to go beyond moronic imagination to do the unthinkable.

The film has possible violence lurking around the script. Anytime anywhere it is about to crack up and pour out the breaking point of Pupkin. Pupkin appears to be in his thirties, dressed in a gaudy blue suit with a shoe out of place to his body. He has awkwardly combed hair and a mustache not belonging to the face. He is a walking deflector of people. He is too flashy to be friendly. But this man admires, aspires and annoys only one he considers friend, Jerry Langford.

Jerry Langford played here by Jerry Lewis lives alone, eats alone with a dog by his side. He has fans all over the city of New York throwing themselves at him. He needs loneliness and Pupkin is not ready to give that. Pupkin has a compadre in this crazy trip. That is Masha (Sandra Bernhard), a wealthy and neurotic young woman obsessed with Jerry. Both these are naive and stupid in tandem. If Pupkin is delusional enough to believe that a talk with Jerry is going to get him to be in his show, Masha is crazier than that to believe Pupkin will deliver one of her many love letters to Jerry. These two pair up for something which is jump start for an otherwise slow sinking film.

This Scorsese film is unlike his regular fair. Its primary character lives in between the reality and fantasy. He imagines to be lunching with Jerry and Langford is begging for him to take over the show for a while. He is also get praised and lauded by the man after he submits the tape containing his stand up material to Jerry’s assistant Cathy Long (Shelly Hack). And the fantasy is not labelled fantasy. It is very real but the over the top reaction gives it out. Even we do not believe that Rupert has got into the business. We do not know his talent because we are never shown of it till the end.

Scorsese does not allow Pupkin’s standup to be seen for a reason. When Pupkin finally gets his stage in the most peculiar fashion, we see that his jokes are not that bad but we know the seriousness behind those jokes. In one of his fantasy with Jerry, he says how he took the tragedies and toughness in his upbringing into the jokes. All comedians do that as it becomes a tool for releasing the sadness, frustration and anger in them. But when Pupkin tells his joke one after another we laugh and feel sorry for the man. He had a tough life and now this is his only way to complete his existence. De Niro puts himself out of the hard people he played and comes out as a pester factory towards his other characters and the audience.

“The King of Comedy” is funny when we see the idiots in Rupert and Masha bring Jerry into their chambers and perform the most clunky and disorganized crime ever. It is realistic when we are not asked to sympathize but directly put under the annoyance test of Pupkin. The awkwardness reeks out the screen and it is not humiliating but uncomfortable to see this man getting on the nerves of every one. “The King of Comedy” is not a typical fair of Scorsese but projects a certain aspect of loneliness and the world of self fulfilling fantasy the people put through to dream their dreams.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Ponyo" (2008) - Movie Review

It is official. I am a cold hearted bastard. When the crowd in the theatre, giggled, cheered and were in complete amusement of this animation by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, I was regretting the decision to enter this cinema hall. I thought the kids in the film Ponyo and Sosuke were cute but I did not see the reason to be brightened up their excessively cheerful acts when the city is immersed under ocean water (which by the way caused by Ponyo’s little accident under water releasing the magical well of her father). This film aimed at the kids tries to be an anesthetic for the unrevealed calamity by using two cute faces and that seems so wrong.

I will be vilified for saying such a harsh statement on a film about kids but all I could think of during the tenure of this animation was this. When Ponyo modified herself as human runs on the high waves while Lisa, Sosuke’s mom is riding hard in her car to escape the waves and we got to cheer for it is not something I expected. Lisa is that lovable cartoon mother getting hailed even when she puts her kid and herself in high risk driving through passageway filled with sea water and then leaving Sosuke alone in the house with Ponyo to “help” the elderly on the other side of the town. These are some of the issues I had when it came with the nice characters the film drew. Others are countless.

Before I venture further into the flaws of this picture, there is one thing which is a pleasure view. That would be the hand drawn animation and the imagination of the Miyazaki. He provides the under water in a surreal sense and a wide range of weird sea animals which is a great work of creativity. The shore land is beautiful and the house of Sosuke is a place emanating holiday atmosphere.

“Ponyo” tells a story about a little fish girl living under water with her father, a guardian of the sea. Ponyo gets out to venture the world above and gets into contact with Sosuke, a little boy. Sosuke as the little boy loves the fish but soon loses to the father. The father here is not evil or villain. He simply knows about human and Sosuke while innocent now will become the wary human and become a jerk, like me. Ponyo equally has created interest over this little boy and through her magical powers becomes a human. The rest is how this story takes its course of total chaos and then asks us to say, “How cute” along with it.

Granted it is a kids film and it depends on these dialogues and instances where it makes the kid laugh but it depends on the innocence of these little children too much. Every one are not awed by the realization that there is an “underwater” supernatural and it controls the nature. There is a sweet scene wherein Lisa is upset on Sosuke’s dad a captain cannot come home that night. The house has a light which can be seen clearly from the ship Sosuke’s dad is. They communicate through which forms the best and legible reasonable sequence in the film.

“Ponyo” is not alone boring but goes on the path of incorrectness too many times. Its adults are foolish, reckless and obey the laws of screen writer making them to abide it. Throughout the film while Ponyo and Sosuke are treated as children, they are painted with words of love and then Ponyo is given the option to be human for good by what seems to be an union of the two kids. It is a child marriage glorified at its best and the worst is the film begs for the audience to be mesmerized by this act of love.

I am surprised by the popularity and the acclaim of this film. Apart from the spectacular visuals and inventive creativity in cartooning, this film is a fantasy in all the wrong places and completely out of place for a kid’s film. I am a great admirer for animation but this seem out of bounds. The only thing the film made me crave for is not the affection, love or nature but the need for hot noodles on a rainy day. Today it rained, I am going for noodles now.

"Food, Inc." (Documentary) (2009) - Movie Review

What is provided is what is consumed in the livelihood of the food industries we live in. When I entered the theater “Food, Inc.”, the titles were already up and the credits ran as the labels on the products available in the super market. The first credit I saw was “Photography by Richard Pearce” which prompted something that we buy the photography of the label and design than the content inside the vessel. If anything the corporations the film accuses have succeeded, it is to understand the psychology of laziness in us and working round the clock to keep us that way. “Food, Inc.” has its share of controversies and “fairness” but it shakes the bushes and the next visit to the super market will not be easy and will be a tough time finding something without corn or soybean.

A material of similar nature sprung in the “Fast Food Nation” directed by Richard Linklater from the book of the same name by Eric Schlosser who with no surprise is one of the narrators of this film. It is quite tough to be oblivious about the pretty picture of the slaughter houses. In “Food, Inc.”, the big corporations are the culprits again and how they are bigger, better and badder to do what they want. Is there a standard uniform for these corporations which comes with a tail and two horns?

Another know secret is that the fast foods are delicious, cheap and of course insanely unhealthy to the human body. It is no different from smoking a cigarette and the choice and responsibility lies in hands of the people. But the deal out here is the basic necessity than the luxury of smoking. Director Robert Kenner tells that a hard working low income family are lured by this choice. They work close to fourteen hours a day and the time they get to sleep and eat, corners their option to easy food (tasty too) available cheaply.

The condition in which chicken is manufactured would question any one who is a glutton for the meat. All the farmers have the chicken houses sheathed to not let any light. All of them are asked by the Tyson, the leading chicken product provider to keep it on the dark. One of them comes out and reveals and how systematically these beings are changed to have extra flesh takes you a step back. But if you are still not moved, then see how they move around their own craps and are thrown around. Now the sympathy for the chicken is not the intention out here but for how it goes into the bellies of the consumers causing outbreaks and even death. A two and half year old Kevin who succumbed to a bad hamburger from “Jack in the Box” is one such.

“Food, Inc.” takes to the root of this mass production, corn. Corn Syrup and Soy Bean oil have become the predominant in all the products for the humans and a main product to the cattle. Cows’ natural source of food have been altered and as the low income family get into their fast food short life span mode, these four legged creatures are forced to eat corn. The result is a fatter and more modified version. Their conditions of breeding is sickening. Clogged together and inverted to be hanged upon a conveyor belt taking them to their destiny is the convenient avoidance by most of the meat eaters.

It is not “Food, Inc.” advocates vegetarianism or vegan but says how unhealthily the food on the table are manufactured in the aim of getting profits. While it could have been a documentary cribbing and complaining than showing signs of improvements, this film takes on interesting subjects. One such is a farmer who has opted to produce naturally and has no desire to expand. He is the man understanding the philosophy of the current capitalism and corporation. He explains how his ventilated and open system of chicken farming was questioned for sanitation but ranked way beyond the regular product from the super market.

Another is Stonyfield Farms owner Gary Hirshberg and he is the one the current food industry needs. Stonyfield Farms produces organic yogurts. He looks like the man from the 60s being present in the trend of peace, love and hope. His product is available in major super markets and I am consumer of it even before seeing this film. He explains how his radical friends are terrified of his collaboration with mega corporation like Walmart. He explains how people demand the product and how marrying the system effectively is better than cornering in to a place where small difference though quintessential does not propagate. He is the man working the system but does integrity sustains with that? Time has the answer but he has so far been successful which is a hopeful sign for better future.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"THX 1138" (1971) - Movie Review

“THX 1138” is a film mastering in indifference, blankness and a black hole of emotions. That it projects those is what director George Lucas loved to do but it works against it most of the times. With Robert Duvall taking a role which is to pose an equilibrium in maintaining a face of stillness with subtle signs of compassion, this is a film as “2001: A Space Odyssey” depends on its visual and ambience than a plot. Though this film has an outcome than that, Kubrick’s science fiction classic gives a shape that is undeniable.

Somewhere long and far in the future is a place wherein people are walking like white zombies doing mechanical work. The intentions of the controlling voices and other android like people are not explained but if cubicle bee life is routine, see this and one would realize the four walled personal jail is bed of roses. Duvall is the titular character and has a room mate LUH (Maggie McOmie). And we see her replacing the pills aimed at nullifying the emotional muscles. Soon THX and LUH realize their existence has been diminished to void and begin to plan their escape. All this run silently.

This film as much as it tried to put me to sleep is a passionate work. The future is bright but cannot be more bleaker than this. The inmates of this big prison have their voices straightened and the necessities seem to be none at all. The robots are more livelier than the people. Soon THX and LUH are in love and all those are watched by the monitoring personnel. THX and LUH are then separated by this. THX is now condemned in what looks like a prison. Its inmates have no desire to leave except SEN (Donald Pleasance). SEN was turned in by THX and now they begin to venture an escape. Again, all this run silently.

The achievement out here is that Lucas projects a society of inescapability. There is no torture or hard fast rules. The commanding voices always say they are there to help and no reason to be afraid of. They have conditioning sticks which are very specifically used on the body parts. And every one is a number and every part is a number and every communication involves number. I guess the reason to use that would have been to specify there is no speciality given out and second, no exhaustion in using up every possibility.

Now I am not sure whether the version I viewed is an altered and upped up effects version of the original but if not, it truly is futuristic. Long tunnels with super fast cars and lights reflecting the white surface of the walls is the most action one could get out of this world. THX and SEN makes an escape along with a hologram out of its realm SRT (Don Pedro Colley) and that leads to the final car chase. We want THX to escape. What he is escaping is hard to imagine. What is wrong in the world of George Lucas’ imagination cannot be argued as a case. They provide food, shelter and most importantly safety and very importantly painless state of mind. The death is a number, skill is an outcome than an appreciation and there is no sense of touch. The controlling people have implemented a system of blinding the people emotionally.

“THX 1138” is easily a classic science fiction and the fact that George Lucas made it before the cheesy caravans of Star Wars makes it have a greater respect for him. The jump from this film which depends on the visuals and the characters blending in their ambience to the most cheesy and downright insensible pot pourri of entertainment in science fiction troubles me a lot.

“THX 1138” just like Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction is a work of a visionary film maker. While Kubrick relied completely on the media and nothing else, Lucas wants a rebellion in the mix. The titular character who has been weakened by a society realizing his state and then going forward with his fight. The world of this white walls has sucked so much of excitement that even when Duvall’s THX gets into running, driving fast car and climbing high tunnels, there is a slowness in the action. The celebration in the end is calm but affecting.

"The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" (2009) - Movie Review

Ever wonder how visible are the set of rules for a character in a film. I have read a little about screenwriting and one of the exercise is to write about each character, their behaviour, goals, mannerisms etcetera etcetera. It helps to build the story and the actions. It is in my personal opinion is that the scenes use those to react while not make chiseled examples of the defined traits. “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” not only makes it inconspicuous but makes it a point to behave thinking as a good selling point.

In this film Jeremy Piven is Don Ready, a man’s sole purpose is to sell cars and nothing else. Piven acts out Ready as a man hooked on to this process of sales. He travels with his crew on the road and hitting the dead lot of a car dealer ship in to making it empty. The boss of Selleck Motors Ben Selleck (James Brolin) hires Ready and his team as a last resort to save his business. Ready’s stay of three days at this place will have everything happening to try and make this film a laugh riot. What you get is one riot in it and you do not find it funny.

There is a blond beauty Ivy Selleck (Jordana Spiro) engaged to an obnoxious traditional comedy flick fiance who we would want to get hurt and we would die in giggle seeing it. Ed Helms is that poor soul as Paxton having high ambition to get his over thirty boy band to success. There is a DJ (Craig Robinson) having an ego if someone request a song (and you would wonder what the heck a DJ do in car sales, you would be surprised). A middle aged hotty Babs (Kathryn Hahn, whom I could not believe is the same woman playing Wheeler’s neighbour Milly) having a horny erotic crush on Ben’s ten year old son (Rob Riggle) who looks forty. Add some more character m&m’s Brent (David Koechner) and Jibby (Ving Rhames), there is a recipe for a comedy not so comic enough film.

Being a car salesperson is a legal conning. It is a psych game and make a decision for the customer. A “good” salesperson is a good con and a good psychologist. And this is not something the crowd does not know. The two times I have bought a car, whenever the salesperson said he would go back and ask the manager, there was an emergency alarm blazing all around me saying “Danger Danger ! Conning in Progress”. The man could have been Gandhi and I would still think. Of course thinking only make it worse. It is a funny game and Piven as Don Ready makes one great car sale in the end which I believe should have been the whole trend of the film. What makes Don Ready the artist for used car sales. He preps up to pump up the cheer in the sales people in the dealership but the actual act is the fun. You play the game and it is entertaining when the game is on others than you. May be you would have been had and laugh at it through this. Instead there is plot, a love interest no one cares and a careless cameo by Will Ferrell which the movie could have lived without.

Jeremy Piven is a good sleaze for a sharply dressed man. He is also good in playing the person who is up on the face. Never backs down, loud noises and spells out his lines using his total energy. He is a likable persona in this movie but not a funny man. He projects as a good man yet not enough to care for an end to forgive the flaws of the film.

Directed by Neal Brennan, “The Goods: Live Hard Sell Hard” begins promisingly. It might be a little strange to say but cuss words are a great tool if used properly. It should be used as it should be used. It has a weight to a line, a twist to the character and yes an affection to the uttering specimen. That with dialogues of power, drama or comedy becomes the catalyst to make it something more than a mere line of communication. Piven does those while successfully turning the plane into a dope salon and parties like a mad man in the first few minutes. After that it heads down and the cuss words follow through now and then. All those time, I was indifferent as I would be watching golf.

"District 9" (2009) - Movie Review

“District 9” is a very well executed three act film. It wins the audience because of its unusual characters especially Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), the human getting more than he signed up during serving the eviction notice to the aliens. He is cocky, insecure and is a nerd we would not generally aspire to become the protagonist. The fact of him becoming the pivotal character in this film is some of the battle but he remains as this day to day regular guy and his underlying nature maintained till the end.

Unlike the alien spaceships in movies landing perfectly in nations capital or place of prominence only in the land of United States, this huge industrial looking monstrous machine looms on top of the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. When it landed it showed no signs of activity but stayed afloat, inert. With millions of malnourished alien found in this big iron, they are brought to the ground and set up a camp which has turned into a messy slum. That is District 9. All this we learn from the document styled interview while cutting to the nervous and mumblingly boasting Wikus giving a tour and being a guide to the procedure of moving this 20 years of slum into another contained facility by the privately contracted MNU. So we enter the plot with a crash course of the ordinance disturbed by these alien creatures.

Neil Blomkamp directs this giving out an alien arrival and settlement into a more socialistic eventuality. Thinking about an incapacitated crew of “non-humans”, they behave as a social being and soon find no use in this land they arrived out of accident or a plan gone wrong. They are segregated and their habits does not sit well with the residents of the planet. While the language of theirs seem to have been deciphered which the MNU personnel understand, we do not learn much about them. That happens when Wikus serves the alien’s eviction notice and then get sprayed by a fluid that would become the story’s turning point of plot mover.

The aliens are a standing upright big insect and thus make the derogatory term of “prawn” becomes prevalent in the film. Their purpose is to survive as any living creatures and the twenty years has only turned them into a disgusted group. Now the plan is to separate far away from the vicinity of the city. Wikus is the key to this story who by this fluid gets sick and soon we realize his metamorphosis to be an alien. Christopher the alien is the one who might have some remedy.

Blomkamp moves the story fast. He does not shed details on insane chase scenes in the city of Johannesburg. Rather he blows up the war in the slums. The slum is like any other in the third world country only here the occupants are little different. Some of the humans take direct brutal advantage of these beings by trading Cat food (yes cat food which becomes their primary attractive nourishment) for their ultra modern weapons. The key is this, the weapons is a biometric device which works only on the hands of the aliens. Nice isn’t it? Illogical and cheesy? May be, but Blomkomp sells it through a grim portrayal of reality that we buy in to it.

Soon “District 9” which began as a film focusing on the social alteration the humans have endeavored and that is to segregate, it turns into the objective of Wikus trying to find a cure and Christopher trying to get back to the home. We do not know about the life span, biology, intention or anything at all about aliens. No other country interferes, may be because they do not want the hassle of what the South Africa is going through with them. When we enter the main plot, we know enough to get the ride going.

“District 9” wins of its looks and Sharlto Copley. We do not like Wikus and yet we begin to root for him. When he gets into the battle with the MNU which planned to extract the necessity of parts from him as he goes through this uncontrollable and unstoppable transformation, he understands the nature of survival of the aliens as he has no other choice than to defend. Copley is very sure of Wikus and manages to shine a light on the personal transition in the final thirty minutes of blowing up every moving thing. “District 9” is new, different, good but not great.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Freedom Writers" (2007) - Movie Review

“Freedom Writers” hopes to wish the place it tries to be but never does. It summarizes the success story of a teacher Erin Gruwell (Hillary Swank) with a diverse set of students living in the struggled, toughened and dangerous livelihood. It is high on morale but low in adding details to it. For starters will be the antagonists through the unsupportive senior members in the school through Ms. Campbell (Imelda Staunton) and a jerk of a teacher Brian (John Benjamin Hickey). Both of those are made simple crooks than a slave for the system they have failed to try. Then comes the systematic convenience where things happen without any stepping stones.

Erin’s husband played here by Patrick Dempsey is another such whom should have seen more screen because when the dedication of Erin gets too far to the students, the advancement towards the bleakness in their relationship are brushed under. They do have a very nice wine conversation which is the only convincing factor in their relationship. This is though is more about the students and the teacher than her personal life. But making it real depends on the surrounding friends and family to those. Let alone Erin but there are no notable parents around even the worst of the kind to have some change in the progress of the students.

It is indeed a great story of hope and fight. Erin comes as the aspiring and bubbling teacher to this school having a special class for the students labelled as low calibre. There is a territorial war inside and outside with Asians, Blacks and Latinos taking their sides. They are forced to sit in the class than to ignite genuine interests. With death in their guns and street corners, education is not first in their mind. At freshman none of know about holocaust. That becomes the source to invite the same kind of chosen death to them which is rightly taken as the study material by Erin.

As a fragments of fairly put together film, “Freedom Writers” has notable sequences. One such will be when Erin conducts the line game where she asks question of survey to ask to stand near the line from the sides. She starts with who got the new Snoop Dogg album and every one comes to the line. Slowly she shows how not much of different each other are and how dangerously they have seen deaths among their family and friends. They are confronted of those tragedies and see those their destined territorial enemies have the same.

The drawback of the story is the numerous characters to focus upon. Their sufferings are read through the personal journal idea Erin ask them to do. The kids who show no signs of discipline throw the blame game and how Erin tackles them are hidden in the school lockers with no keys. Soon they begin to listen to Erin because of the line game which as much powerful does not persuade a great deal to break the wall out there. May be it happened in real life but when it takes the screen, it does not pass on.

Richard LaGravenese could have had some reality check on this positive story. The disconnect is very visible with compromising for more sudden end and embrace of the obvious. The declared villains of this story as mentioned earlier come as Ms. Campbell and Brian who have given up on their methods. When Brian explodes towards Erin for asking help to get some support for the decision to get more funding for the class, the argument seems more valid and Erin is speechless. I see a man who went the path and disappointed than an unfair teacher. Same goes for Ms. Campbell and hence when Erin does succeed, they are further made into the bad seeds who are desperate to get Erin blocked. That is out of place.

“Freedom Writers” is a good story and a story need to be told. What LaGravenese tried is a noble effort which gets muddled in getting it rosy and clean. There is an outright denial of the gravity of the struggle Erin went through. She is shown to work three jobs to fund her students and in the process losing her personal life. And all seem to sit nicely without any empathy from the audience. We are sympathetic of the resultant without any association. It loses us out there.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

"A Perfect Getaway" (2009) - Movie Review

Do a favour for me right now? Do not read this review further. Nope. Did not you see I am asking not to read? As Kramer says in “Seinfeld”, you are one tenacious little monkey, aren’t you? Anyway, enough of the game but the reason I said that is because to suggest watching “A Perfect Getaway” without having much of a clue. The so called marketing promotion for any film ruins the best for a movie goer which is entering the halls of the theatre and seeing everything for first time. In that aspect “A Perfect Getaway” would serve really good. To be fair, I did predicted the suspense but that is due to the subconsciously trained ninja fighting seasoned movie goer (yes my mind works in mysterious ways) could not watch it silently.

In the film a character mentions how easily we say things to the people we just met in a vacation. May be it is due to the comfort factor that the people who can afford and sane enough to get in the same situation as them would be good people. Not essentially in this film wherein the perfectly settled newly married couple Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milo Jovovich) are constantly in fear of two other couples they meet in their honeymoon trip to Hawaii. One is the outright rough and creepy couple Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton) and the other is Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez). Of which Nick and Gina seem to be better of the worst, only for time being. The fear is due to the news that a newly wed couple got killed in Honolulu where Cliff and Cydney along with other couples were a day before and the suspects are also a couple. Lets leave it at that and I will talk about the film without going much further into the plot.

Written and directed by David Twohy, this film for once places characters and gives time to behave and understand in a thriller/suspense/slasher category. Cliff and Cydney for example are newlyweds having a prospective life ahead. They are as such is the audience’s mind. Both come from a secure place of livelihood and the comfort of that existence has shunned from the danger of the common placed nature. Nick and Gina on the other hand are rough and tough. The conversation between Nick and Cliff is not alone fearful but funny. Nick after learning Cliff a screenwriter begins to brag about his covert op in armed forces to a possible movie deal.

Timothy Olyphant has a gifted face wherein he can pass both as a roughed up nice guy and a freaked out bully simultaneously. Here he rattles the cages of this couple. Instead of setting to have jitters of scary situations, the story has conversations. Gina and Cydney are women being women. As Cliff and Cydney tag along with this couple and slowly do they crank up the creep-o-meter. At one instance Cliff tells Cydney that Gina and Nick could be killers and they have absolutely no idea about them. Cydney details about the life history of Gina and tells girls talk. In any other film of this nature, I could not possibly see a serious doubt turn into a casual fact.

“A Perfect Getway” is mainly keeps it head straight to the characters. The idea of a vacation turned bad is not an Einstein’s invention but welcoming it with some really good dialogues and characters who are not talking heads makes it a film of some validity. And when the revealing suspense arrives, the targets are actual plausible targets with some fight built up to them. They are scary victims and rather convincing fighters.

The location is gorgeous and the bystanders in this film for once are intelligent and sensible. Though their fate is not good, this might those rare film which respects its side characters with some detail and credibility. I almost missed “A Perfect Getaway” but couple of good reviews and with Steve Zahn who takes good (and odd) scripts, I checked this out and I am glad I did. In strange places we try to be friendly and still stay with ourselves most of the time. The friends we make are cautious but unavoidable. You do not want a bad moment and thus try to keep the mood upbeat. That fear is always there and in this film they play it to their advantage and give a believable thriller.

"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" (2009) - Movie Review

G.I. Joe’s tentacles of this action glorification spread through the globe that did not miss to reach through the graveled roads in the streets of the native in the southern India. I never followed that but the toys were kid’s magnet for the fantasy of action. The cartoons came sporadically in the television. What the film gives is exactly a fan would love to see. Gadgets that is well across the Lord of the Rings supernatural tricks and the constant booms and bangs. But it is sad spectacle for the ensemble casts sputtering ruthless and lazy words by the screenwriters Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett.

Not knowing the characters, I was not eager for the paper images to draw out of it over the film. The deal with the bases put me to investigate on the process of its building. The head base of G.I. Joe team is this gigantic underground facility in a desert covered with mountains of sand. When the soon to be recruits Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) get through the elevator seeing the water fights and the play ground for combat and hundreds of soldiers, I was thinking how did they manage to bring the raw materials to build these? Wasteful exercise yet funny to thing about. When they took the entry point which they rightfully call “Iris” part in the desert amongst the Egyptian pyramids, the tourists would have wondered, “Wow they are going to build a theme park by this side”. So much for secret organization.

“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” shows how much embarrassment and the catharsis the actors would never get when we see Dennis Quaid as General Hawk orders and pumps the fist when his team is making a killing in the field. With rest of the young actors, they have a long way to go and this is the en route towards further films for their career but for Quaid, it is humiliation. He should have thought twice or may be every day at the set of this film to reevaluate his decision. It is too late now. There is no undoing of this abysmal performance.

So many ardent fans with their hands on the hips with anger on their face would question me, “So? What would you do knuckle headed self righteous brat?”. For starters, I would have made it a high octane comedy action, over the top “Shoot em Up” kind of action. It should have been a series of so badly orchestrated fun and the style should have been cooler than gadgets. Finally, some committed performance which I could very much understand in the actors as they have to shoot through the air and spray across the courageous dialogues of insignificance.

Stephen Sommers though knows how to earn the profit out of this and go towards another destined fiascos through sequels. They rummage through the city of Paris and make a mess out of it. If the Cobras are bad enough in destroying the cars and everything that comes their way, the Joes are another level to adding up the mess. Duke and Ripcord are happy as a cow getting into the omnipotent suit to do super human acrobatic stunts with no shed of energy as it appears.

If there was some arc and soul of fun in the film, it has to be Marlon Wayans who manages to alter between comedy and seriousness with his crush Scarlett (Rachel Nichols). He seems to be more than he is known for. No one can forget his performance in “Requiem for a Dream” and it is ironic that the casting of this film recruited based on that performance. Here his comic relief is the only gap to get some fresh air out of this.

“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” will have equipments of implausible stretches of imagination which becomes a path for the predictable route for an action film. Money has been poured and it will be earned back in the box office but the non-existent intelligence in the story was neither invested nor produced. Sometimes watching films like this coming out and reaping the money irks the conscience. Not because it is a cheap fun but it is a very dishonest, lethargic and insincere film making to work on a business model than a faintest presence of art.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

"Moon" (2009) - Movie Review

Sam Rockwell is not someone I would expect to run a Lunar station. In most of his films he is shabby and uncoordinated. Here too he bodes that characteristic but he is more coordinated in one of the characters in the film or the same in different outlook. Confusing? Anyway, directed by debutant Duncan Jones, “Moon” is a science fiction on the lunar satellite with sensibility than effects.

Duncan Jones is working against the odds of audience’s intelligence due to previous ventures in this realm. When the voice of GERTY provided by Kevin Spacey arrives with the lonely crew in the base station of the moon, the decision of the culprit is like finding a person on the internet. Hallucinations, going crazy are phenomenon trained and exercised in finding out the deus ex machina. With that in background, what does “Moon” offer? It offers an intelligent entertainment in the science fiction genre which has become a playground for abundant effects garbage.

The man in the station is providing a global service to the humanity in the future. He has signed up a three year contract with a corporate energy provider Lunar Industries. The moon’s availability to give the Helium for energy production needs a one man team in the station and monitor the harvesters. Sam Bell has worked hard for three years and we are told that live transmission has been blocked due to satellite damage. Hence recorded transmission go back and forth. He is high on hopes of seeing his wife Tess (Dominique McElligott) and his young daughter Eve. He begins to see things and gets into an accident. He wakes up with GERTY monitoring him. What happened and how did he got back to the station follows up the rest of the film. I would advice to watch the film to read further but well, it is upto you. I think I did not give out much.

(spoilers)
Rockwell is in almost every frame of the film and that is lot of responsibility. As the 3 year worked up astronaut, his chores are exercising and watching classic TV series. He is dreaming about making love to Tess and this does not help. When the story develops wherein there are more than one Sam, he shows the difference in the same personality. One is tired and deteriorating and other is fresh, smart and novice. All his characteristic in good health but for some reason unable to unravel the mystery behind this station.

Duncan Jones formulated the story and was written for screen by Nathan Parker. Their script works immensely on closed quarters. The investigation of Sams on this lonely clay surface is mystic. GERTY does follow commands and has emotions but his machinations are not that of HAL 9000 or the “I, Robot” antagonist. His primary objective becomes the aiding for the residents in the station.

This on the surface appears to be a visual driven film but it is more plot driven. It has revelations which builds the blocks and set as a platform for the next. The secret is not shocker but blossoms into the dark possibilities. The evil nature of the corporation does not seem to change much in the future of Duncan Jones. Immediately we do realize the cloning coming to mind when the Sam hit by accident is discovered by Sam two we seen recovering in the station. But what happens in between these two could have turned into an ugly setting. Both are astonished by this, yet begin to form a weird bond to figure things out.

“Moon” never bores and never looks for opportunities to explain itself more than it supposed to. It does not become a riddle for the sake of it and uses the smartness of its characters and the script to wonder how the end is going to be. The picturing of the Moon’s surface is breathtaking. While Stanley Kubrick took everything away from all the future directors of the science fiction, Duncan Jones does his part to make it merge with his film.

The success of the film relies heavily upon Sam Rockwell who portrays multiple characters without any amazement to it. One dying slowly while the other becoming aware of the circumstance and beginning to empathize their situation. The music of Clint Mansell stands out. I have noticed in reviewing any film, the score takes a deep underneath existence. And repeatedly composers like Thomas Newman, James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer and Clint Mansell while have names does not get their recognition in the reviews. In “Moon” Clint Mansell follows up his liking for fantasy and science fiction film to independent makers with love and passion. “Moon” is effective, thrilling and astute.

"(500) Days of Summer" (2009) - Movie Review

“(500) Days of Summer” is like a softened version of Martin Scorcese’s outlook on goddess/whore syndrome he projected in his earlier films. “Mean Streets”, “Who’s that Knocking on my door?” and “Taxi Driver” were those which originates from a religion of guilt and sin while it is the psychology of men seeing women. Marc Webb’s portrayal appears to be sugarcoating but it is a reality check provided by a thoughtful friend. People like Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) represent major part of men and the reason to happen are populated by the childhood and the arts coming around them, good and bad.

This non-linear film does not compare the terrible last 250 days with the beautiful days of Tom and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanael). The comparison comes once which segues into a sweet time of IKEA shopping in their earlier cherishing days. There is a voice over narrating the darkness of the sad tenure Tom is going through. They warn several times that “This is not a love story” but we hope constantly for it. That is the trend of practice we have grown up around the art and entertainment. Thus when Tom summates the nature of his job as an additional lie, we hear him.

Tom works as in Hallmark greeting kind of company wherein he got to manufacture better lines since everyone cannot come up with it or they do not have the patience for it. The new assistant to his boss (Clark Gregg) is Summer and she is hot and cute. Now that does not happen in day to day life of Tom. He develops crush in a heartbeat and bugs the hell out of his office friend McKenzie (Geoffrey Arend) and room mate Paul (Mathew Gray Gubler). If these seems to be a formula, it is not.

All the romantic films, the best favourites of mine has an ending you leave with happiness. Revelation or logic does not happen because it is emotions. Here for the first time, you leave with a feeling of consoled that Tom is happy but also that there are things to be learned. Tom played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is walking fantasy machine. His mind forwards into this great lands of happily ever after. What happens between Tom and Summer is casual, easy and more convincing. She is a girl with impulse and he is a boy with a romantic high. She is clear and straight with him that she does not want a relationship and he knows it will change or he wants it to change.

The perspective is beautiful which is how he goes back revisiting the days of never ending walks, cute moments of perfection and the eternity of happiness inviting broad smiles in the face of Summer. This can be real is what he thinks. We always see Summer in the eyes of him and that I makes it a movie about Tom than her. She is a character of free bird having with the stern values of freedom as any one afraid of heartache. Her social smiling capability is dangerous and runs a little bit parallel to Poppy in “Happy-Go-Lucky”. Though she is not as high, animated and an over jubilant bordering annoyance like Poppy. She is the girl who the men would love to love but can easily categorize as tramp without a pause when their expectations are shattered. Her independent free nature is admirable but invites misconception on her feelings towards them.

It is a process of a guy going through with a girl. The end is meaningful and arrived with the approval of the write up than the convention of the audience. The visuals are inventive and the application just brings smiles and feel good without stretching a muscle. But more than that is the association of the slump ride Tom goes through recognizes with the inner feeling of people caught up in the trade of attraction, love and despair.

For a very sad film, “(500) Days of Summer” is full of cheery images. It splits the screen, jumps across from 10th day to random 205th day and then comes back again to 30th day and we do not lose the touch. The characters point of view have changed and their relationship has much altered and we change along with it. With soundtracks of right choices and constant freshness, this is one of the best films of this year. And the dance number is pure joy and loved every single step of it. The script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber is treated with respect and Webb gives a film of reality and fantasy mixed up well. There is one of the best scenes in the film where it could have been wrong in so many ways. Tom and Summer had a good time in a colleague wedding which they met after their break up. Summer invites him to her party and they split screen which any one would equate as thought and the actuality. That scene alone makes “(500) Days of Summer” apart. This is brilliant film making.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

"I Live in Fear" (Language - Japanese) (1955) - Movie Review

Feeling helpless in planet filled with bombs is an inescapable phenomenon. But ignoring the dangers of the world for a peaceful evening is a cruel gift to yearn. That is the insanity in the sanity and happiness of the accepted ignorance. The man in “I Live in Fear” is cursed with the worry of the Atom Bomb and Hydrogen Bomb. After World War II, in 1955 Japan, an aging business man Kiichi Nakajima (Toshiro Mifune) spends his days begging his family to evacuate the dreadful country for a safer place.

Akira Kurosawa’s post war picture is a strange but very necessary tale of that times. Now it is even more resonant. It does lose its fizz as we give up on this old man driving himself mad on the fear, it evokes the question. As in the end the psychiatrist is wondering whether the world is the psychiatric ward filled with people who run their day to day life in the midst of imminent threats and go by their way.

A dentist Dr. Harada (Takashi Shimura) is a domestic counselor for family court and there he has to sit through the dispute of this family. Nakajima’s sons and daughter decided that enough of their dad’s craziness. He has poured the money in building a bunker for shelter before he halted because the fallout has been predicted wrong on North/South indecision. He feels Brazil is the safest place in these tough times and begins venturing to shift his family. It is insane but the fear is real. He cannot fathom the fact that nobody is not worried about it.

He is a sound man and prudent personality. He is totally in control of his behaviour and emotions. That makes Dr. Harada and the other members of the court introspecting on their view point of the post tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The numbness towards this stirs the shock and fear in them. The problem is they understand and empathize with both the parties of the case. A father desperate to save his family and the family desperate to stop this self destructing behaviour. Soon though as Nakajima elevates his actions and result of the court ruling against him, the sons, daughter and the mistresses begin to hunt for the property of the man.

There is no camera technique or angles of shot the director generally loves to do. This is very emotional to the concept of living in a country which went through the worst calamity in the history of the world and the effect of it in the people. Sadly the state of affair has only branched out exponentially to different parts of the globe. Back in India, it has become a day to day happening of bombs exploding in major cities and people begin to make it a part of their routine. In the borders, conflicts and the disturbing scenarios of these attacks have only implanted the nature of being callous. But what else can the ordinary people do? Worrying only makes it worse and hence it is comfortable to ignore and exist than worry and wither away.

That behaviour is human seasoning but Kurosawa constantly makes the character of Nakajima to live in this fear. He thinks good for his kin, yet he forgets the priority of their choices. They begin to get annoyed and forget to acknowledge that their father is trying to do good. Slowly the conflict spreads the rift into enormous gap and once the emotion is cleaned up, materialism is all its left. Along with that comes insensitiveness and hence the cruel end.
This is not the best of Kurosawa but a noteworthy for the material and the question it haunts upon its viewers. After fifty-four years, the threat is still there and the people who are yet to be affected go on with the fear buried underneath. It is not a story of right or wrong but the nature of this destruction exercise puts upon people. Kurosawa takes sides with the man because he empathizes and may be feel more like that. Every one of us does and the life of busy activities paint over partially to move on.

Mifune was thirty-five when he did this film and he presents an old man going through time and depression on his physicality. He growls and is irritated that his kids have dragged him to the court and humiliate him. Yet he goes out and brings them cold drinks during the muggy and hot afternoon in the court. This is a film birthed out of the fear in the creators. Many have moved on by that time but the incumbent hiding scare is within and Kurosawa points out that nature of being used to of the atrocity.

Monday, August 03, 2009

"2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) - Movie Classics

Seeing the trailers of some of the fantasy/science fiction films coming up with the term “visionary director” seems out of place. If there is one thing clearly about visionary, that should be Stanley Kubrick. For what he has made the greatest science fiction of all time, this is beyond the term of movie, this is beyond the experience and this is beyond something I could grasp too. I have never been haunted so much by any film and have never been closely come across to be spell bound by the visual and have never been so badly felt that I missed watching it in theatre (well I really could not blame this as I was -12 years old).

I was annoyed, irritated and made impatient but still mesmerized by the visual. What the point made is out there and very much an odyssey of itself. But Kubrick makes a presentation like no other. None of the films which made out so far have only failed to mimic the greatness of Kubrick’s achievement. The most wondrous feature of this venture is that I could possibly not sit through the film and yet cannot comprehend the plethora of magnificent resource and images of hallucinating reality of it.

We see four segments of significantly distanced period. The film opens with darkness and eerie music which repeats during intermission. Nothing is shown other than the music which continuously haunts and creeps. Then we see the extraordinarily untouched terrain and nature in the long and far past. There are apes forming a sociable and territorial environment for a pond. On a bright early morning, they see a perfectly structured black rectangular stone high up. They touch it and get stung or shocked. We see one of the member learning to find a weapon out of a dead animal, its bone. That gives them the upper power and marks the advancement of humans through the birth of violence, fear and power.

In the second segment is where some kind of verbal communication happens. As Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) arrives at a transit to travel to his destination a moon “Clavius”, we see what the future has turned out to be (or now the past). In other science fiction films, the precedence of appearance takes over the actual application of the prop. In Kubrick’s film it plays in tandem. Take the red bright chairs in the transit station, it is aesthetically contemporary and futuristic. At the same time it appears comfortable and Heywood places himself quite luxuriously on his conversation with some of the other scientists. The high and tall black stone occurs again in the mysterious lunar land which segues to the next segment, the Jupiter mission.

We meet the HAL - 9000, gravity been played around stupendously in and out of the space ship and the continuing spectacular photography of Geoffrey Unsworth. It is a documentary of the envisioned future of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanely Kubrick. They are not men interested in far away social structure but the things outside of the chores of boring humans. Beyond advancing themselves, they have managed to make the AI not alone possible but super effectively. The HAL (voice of Douglas Rain) has emotions. And it bores the enormous responsibility of the awake crew Dave (Keir Dullea) and Frank (Gary Lockwood) along with the sleeping three other members to Jupiter. What the actual mission is not on the outs but Dave and Frank come up with more life threatening problem than that. The logical and brilliant machine has emotions and with that comes illogical behaviour which becomes the greatest exchange of words and a spooky final “Daisy” song.

The insanely illogical thing about Kubrick’s film with me is that I could not enjoy it but at the same time cannot stop appreciating for the unique style. It is not an attempt but a success, an immense success and in that I could see the achievement clearly yet unable to embrace it. That I believe is a loss of mine. This is not the same as that of other highly praised directors like Andrei Tarkovsky whose film I possibly could not fathom getting it for its brilliance. Kubrick’s three films have made a mark on me. They are the films I did not completely like but cannot deny the excellence in it. Most of the times when I do not enjoy a film completely yet blown away by its effects are quoted as an “experience” than an actual pleasure ride. In Kubrick’s case, it is an experience and the pleasure is that I could see how the people love it would have been in awake dream of surrealism and exploration of a world beyond imagination. Today evening I posted a reply comment for “Dr. Strangelove....” to a friend who was disappointed for not naming it classic. I explained him that the films I loved get that status and while “Dr. Strangelove...” indeed is a great film did not really get me completely. I am changing the stance once for “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

"Funny People" (2009) - Movie Review

It is not a normal sight to see Adam Sandler as a prick and not yell as much as he does in his other fodder films. Here we begin the film “Funny People” with Sandler playing a successful comedian and star, learning that he is going to die soon. He is devastated and reacts to it. His projection of gloominess kills the funny bone of the audiences where aspiring stand up comedians Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) and Leo (Jonah Hill) try to make a name for themselves. He sees their act and calls up Ira to write jokes for him, of course he asks his friends to help too which Ira being fed up with his roommates says are not interested. This dying man’s fear of departing alone becomes an aiding process for his coming to terms in Apatow way.

As he hears the news, Simmons begins to recap his instances of doing a successful jerk to his friends, families and his one time girl friend Laura (Leslie Mann). “Funny People” is something more than the regular comedy fair what Apatow has brought before. He take it on a serious tone when the characters become likable. There is more than R-rated jokes happening out here. Those thing would come as a surprise for the fans looking out for a Sandler and Apatow fest of crazy comedies.

It could easily have become a more tragicomedy indie feature or a formula film of cuddly nature and it does not for a good reason. The people in it are desperate, lonely and good natured except of course George Simmons. He has become the estranged son to his parents and a brother a sister wanted to know more. Sandler contains his antics which he has done in the recent past and brings out this personality of riding in stars and yet we as the aspiring comedians and regular fans want to know him or take a picture.

But more than George Simmons is Ira Wright, a naive and enthusiastic man working from the holes of low income and a fighting morale for his success. He adores Simmons and loves to be his assistant cum writer for his dying jokes. He sees the hollowness Simmons has become and the effort he makes to make amends before he kicks the bucket. He is the one we come to root for as the twists of the story becomes to happen.

“Funny People” has a story for a comedy. I guess that is where Apatow has been able to separate himself from the situations evaporating into the sets of no interest for the comedians to act in other films. Here the people have shapes and character. They do not become the puppets for the lines to spurt out. There are supporting characters with whom we associate their reaction and laugh at it for being so. Such is Ira’s room mates Leo and the marginally successful sitcom star Mark (Jason Schwartzman).

The oscillations in the emotions are real while comic timing is immaculate as always in the pictures of gathering up his clans. Especially Seth Rogen has phenomenally impressive in being the guy we come to care about. His reign in his comedic role are pitch perfect and here we like him more than usual. He is hard working man trying to make a buck and name or two for himself. As he puts up with this ego starred jerk Simmons, he is the person we come to care about and as the film resolves, we are glad that he took someone along in bettering themselves.

For a comedy film, “Funny People” would appear a little long than usual but it is not a mere comedy. It is more than that where people transform as the situation puts them to and we understand their shifts. It is well written, originally played, properly put forth and a whole some movie than many would acclaim it to be.