Saturday, September 26, 2009

"My One and Only" (2009) - Movie Review

During my days in graduate school, I have never seen a girl from my country who was neither not engaged (nor not married) nor did not land with a boy friend within their first six months from the day they landed. I have to state here that in the Indian community, dating officially was not in the slates though performed in varying modes. One of my good roommates had a theory on it which borderlines on sexist yet it seems to be true in most cases. His theory was that girls especially moving far away from their home needed a man figure; a consolation of being secure despite the fact that the guy is simply in the same state as them, homesick, lonely and on their own. I used to think that is how the gene is conditioned that it needs to be put in Darwin’s natural selection theory. Renée Zellweger as Anne Devraux is one such in “My One and Only” as the 1950’s woman finding to lead a life away from her husband Dan Devraux (Kevin Bacon).

Of course the dependency is due to the history of the conditioning beginning from the birth of a human being as long as any one could remember. This film circumspect the life of any without the monotony and fill it with adventure. Anne leaves her womanizing and popular husband of hers Dan with her kids, George (Logan Lerman) and Robbie (Mark Randall). For Anne leaving Dan means leaving the city. Dan knows that she cannot survive on her own. She never had a job or never wanted one. Always been in the nicety of men and being the pretty blonde, she had her life changed around them. She is depending on it, only that she is a mother of two young boys in their late teenage years. Both are smart mouthed and mainly work well together.

It begins as a mediocre film with the promise of not so much achievability in its mark. It gives the presumption that it is going to settle for something nominal and feasible. We begin to chuckle at the blind confident Anne has in finding a home and secure their existence. With enough cash to find her the man, they begin with Boston. She bumps into old loves and denied offers of marriage. Either the youth and charm are gone in them or they want to sleep with her right away without any strings or her target is too young. Through this her sons take it with bitter sarcasm, George especially who is the son of Dan wants to go back and continue living with his dad in New York. But Anne has decided it this time, to take it as far as she could.

For a fight about a woman’s survival in men dominated era, “My One and Only” is soft and merciful. The emotional distress and the financial hurt over these three are lessened by the glow of the costumes, how much ever true it reflects their state. Anne leaves the town as soon as the prospect of a good husband falters. And seeing his mother being constantly destroyed in humiliation disgusts George and he shows it in small bullets in tone and attitude. It soon becomes a powerful confrontation and a scene in the later part of the film.

The movie runs parallel to the classic of Martin Scorsese “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”. In that Ellen Burstyn as a single mother goes from city to city in the pursuit of a career and a good childhood for her son. She though wants to find a job and a man too, only in that order. Anne out here learns the concept in a hard way. She gets the lesson from her son. Zellweger gives one of her best performances as this woman relying on her looks and mushiness to get through the reality. And when she is broken down, it is sad to see even through her materialistic outlook. She does enough to laugh at her but as audience we still feel for her when she crumbles due to being stood up or ignored miserably or even arrested due to misunderstanding.

But every small role is a work of precision, very easily might go by unnoticed. As the annoyed and sarcastic kid, Logan Lerman is sharp and in control. As his half brother Robbie, Mark Rendall is the pet character for the audience. Between their chemistry, their work on the commentary towards their mother’s hunt and the men she meets up with is hilarious and forms camaraderie in their kinship. And as Anne’s jealous and piercing sister Hope, Robin Weigert is the aunt every one should have seen in their family.

Anne is not even close in fulfilling the basic attributes of a mother and George is getting fed up with this game of hers. Anne learns that the dependency in her needs an adjustment as there are two fully aware sons who need her to stop doing this. “My One and Only” is a film which has characters in their bests and worst. They are irresponsible, honest in their feelings and see the path they destroyed with regrets and relief. We learn their history through the smallest encounters. Every situation though known gets played with a human plausibility to it. There is the scene when George knowing that the dad he knows would not take him back to New York goes to meet him but Kevin Bacon’s Dan tells a truth which is not perfect yet sees him as this helpless failed father. We see why Dan and Anne are completely unfit for themselves and as parents. The difference is both begin to realize and start trying in their own ways. Only one of them succeeds and other is broken. “My One and Only” is a film not widely known and did not get good distribution, but when I begin to look back for the best films of 2009, it would most possibly get my nod.

"Surrogates" (2009) - Movie Review

Substitute for our bodies is the motivation for the scientists to translate the electrical brain signals into physical action and for Hollywood studio to produce more scripts on the ripened and executed future technology of it so that they can milk money. Many have worked greatly and in fact philosophically suggested a journey into the invisible souls of ours. Here in “Surrogates”, it is a marriage losing its charm as there needed a reality check in the concept of getting it screened for the material it carries.

We no longer need to worry about danger or to run amok for losing weights. The VSI technology in the film has come up with the robots from “Terminators” to wander the streets and deal with the outside world. The controlling person can relax in their chair without a reason to get up or dress up. No more care to be hit by a car or to be fearful of taking that skydiving or to talk with their spouses. If they feel threatened, they take off their instruments at home which puts the robot to a standby mode. No way to talk to a doll and hence the opponent walks back leaving the person who is unwilling to talk and takes a shell to hide.

I can see so much of use from these surrogates but there is lot of unanswered questions. Most of the human beings are operating their substitute 24/7 but nature calls and hunger does not seem to be fit in. Or may be it is not a great visual to have a commode attached in the chair. Anyway, so these vagabond robots can be pummeled to pieces with their master lying comfy only getting pissed off about the replacement costs. Recently released “Gamer” proposed the same idea, only that there is no robot but a real person taking hits for his player. It surprised me and here “Surrogates” the surprises are minimal though it stays aboard in the. Too bad it does not make an impression despite a fast action and interesting twists.

It is the future and the surrogates are omnipresent. Two surrogates get fried and the FBI gets called. They say that the crime rates have gone next to nothing and yet the department seems to exist and mainly war seems to exist. Huge misspoke from the introductory description to the world this movie lives in. Does not matter, let me move on. This case is different for two reasons. One is that the person back in the seat is killed too and second is that one of the victims is the son of the scientist, Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell), the inventor of surrogates.

The cops involved are Agent Greer (Bruce Willis) and Agent Peters (Radha Mitchell) whose partnership exists in silences. The reason though can be assumed to the dead marriage Greer has with his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike). They lost their son to an accident which has made Maggie to hide under the machine and ignore the confrontation of the grief. Greer thus despises this luxury while being in it. They have forgotten the feeling of being touched and to touch a live human being.

The drama in this is minimal and the plot twists are sufficient. The reach for the “Surrogates” is noticeably low. It has a material to investigate the human replacements in body and questionable soul and a good plot rarely found in science fiction commercial entertainer. The look of the film is too usual. Director Jonathan Mostow keeps the future world real but adds the plastic faced impostors, yet there is a need for darkness. What is the real loss of using this luxury or what is the greatest gain of losing it?

We have come to live with machines and this as preposterous it appears has a good plausibility in its arrival. I feel disarmed losing the two precious items of mine in daily life, Mac and iPod for servicing. Those luxuries have become a necessity in this generation. The ethical nature of this dependency does not have an end but the application is immaculate. Especially the technology talked in the film. Currently there is a working technology wherein the brain signals are translated into actions in computer software. And as much as the film’s central character has a dislike to this concept, why to have a mode of destroying than reconditioning? Not explained as Willis’ character does not have time to chew for questioning those. “Surrogates” needed a deeper perspective which is not negated but lulled down. In that it comes half baked in its stand. But for once there is no guilt trip or logic drop in the hero running through the people in the platform of a busy street.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Son of Rambow" (2007) - Movie Review


“First Blood” is a mark in the era of the childhood of mine morphed by the action violence hiding the realistic horror of Sylvester Stallone’s disturbed and lethal character. It produced a super hero out of that individual and the franchise which took off eliminated the psychological trouble the man went through and absorbed the mindless action like a sponge. As a kid, like Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) the action fantasized the notion of doing extraordinary and powerful. The mind did not consume or tried to digest the bloodshed in it, no kid does. But more than “First Blood” it was Jackie Chan’s “Revenge” which made quite an impression. Anyway “Son of Rambow” took me to the flag I marked in the lanes of memories.

Directed by Garth Jennings, it is innovative on uniting two kids, the aforementioned Will and the troublesome Lee Carter (Will Poulter) to do something I drooled for in the childhood days. They film the sequel to the Stallone’s career maker only not the “Rambo II” but a love to the material and the joy they seem to achieve out of this deadly stunts. Will belongs to a family been in the religious sect of Plymouth Brethren of whom I was not aware of (thankfully). Her widow mother Mary (Jessica Hynes) follows with the reason of belonging and to get a support for the role of man of the family Joshua (Neil Dudgeon) in this sect resembling the Amish practices. Will is asked to step outside in a class not as punishment but his religion does not permit to be affected by these creative culprits as they would say.

On one such occasion he meets the dangerous, mischievous and outrageous Lee Carter. Lee Carter is a kid attracting trouble and gnashing in the exuberance of being the causer. And with the naivety of Will, there is no trouble for Lee to make this poor little boy as his chores boy. Lee bootlegs (which is how we are introduced as he shoots “First Blood”), shoplifts, bullies and anything which results in chaos. But he is a softie when he sees his elder brother Lawrence (Ed Westwick). Lawrence and Lee live in a big house behind an elderly run by their absent parents. Will sees the film Stallone’s film when Lee is making copies of it and is pumped. He runs across the field and gets attacked by a scarecrow. With a natural talent for art and drawing, Will soon formulates the story which brings Lee closer. Thus forms a movie making experience like no other but, yes, but it falters with a lose grip.

And what a curious little actor we find in the young Will Poulter. He is rambunctious and melts without a drop of cheesy or corny expression. While his talented counterpart Bill Milner as Will flutter with the cuteness and the loyalty and kind hearted nature towards the lovable ruffian, Poulter comes with a maturity in the acting even the seasoned veterans tend to forget and lose balance. He is some one to watch out for and hope the age adds to a promising potential talent.

So I said that the story stumbles as it ends and I say so because the established care for this friendship does not last long enough to have fun with their little ventures. The knowing and bonding lies there waiting for the third act to finish it rightfully, the disciplined screenplay becomes a predictable foiled plan. It will be untrue of me to say that the whole film is something new but it worked with the formula in its own inventive talents. And the French exchange student (or stud) Didier Ravol (Jules Sitruk) does add the popular foreign kid every one wants to be friends with in a nice angle but becomes a regular display of jealousy, envy, fight and a known end. Given that “Son of Rambow” plays the short film in the big screen with the pure entertainment they had fun during the making. Just a little more extra mile Garth Jennings, but I thank you for the nostalgia.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Departures" (Language - Japanese) (2008) - Movie Review

“Departures” will be the second film after “The Barbarian Invasions” to give the death a certain awe and affection. This Japanese film which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Films in 2008 has tragedy happening at five minute intervals because the lead man Daigo Kobayashi’s (Masahiro Motoki) new job involves funerals. And there are many of those, each of them moving us to tears and an appreciation for the art of their job whenever Daigo and his master Shōei Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) work on the dead souls.

Fortunately I have only witnessed few funerals so far but the visceral emotional response I had when a relative of mine was washed with her daughters crying would never go away. There was tragedy incomparable when a loved one departs. In a deadly cold winter is Daigo driving the car narrating that it has been two months since he moved away from Tokyo. They arrive where the body remains of a young girl. Pleasant and beautiful and it is a suicide. All this beauty dissolved by itself and Sasaki allows his subordinate to do this job. More than the intricate nuance in which Daigo undresses the body in front of the loved ones without an inch of the skin exposed, the hand movements in performing those tasks carries a gentleness which comes from a care for the deceased and a respect for the audience in that room.

Daigo was not a born encoffinement expert rather he had no linkage of such a career change from what he was doing. Not that there is a code and sign for an individual to be destined as the profession of encoffinement but Daigo handled the beauty of an instrument, Cello. He has been playing the instrument from very early age but his orchestra in Tokyo gets shutdown. He has hit a point wherein the music he dreamt and passionate about does not appeal any more in the sadness of the defeat. With no other means to fund the loan on the expensive Cello he bought, he tells the only option is to move back to his native Yamagata where his mother’s inheritance of a house will at least provide them shelter. His wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) cheerfully supports despite her having a job in Tokyo. This change will bring Daigo closer to death, well not for him but for the process and develop a strange affection as he continues in the work.

Yōjirō Takita, the director leans on the beauty of this skill. The actor Motoki plays the Cello and performs the art of dressing up the dead with a finesse he mastered specifically for the film. His interview consists of a single question whether he will work hard. And then an advance for simply showing up leaves him to see where this leads. His first assignment unfortunately becomes too much. The first job does not involve the awkwardness of being speechless in a room full of grieving, but an old lonely woman decomposed for a sufficiently long time. The stench of the room is nauseating and the master Sasaki who was tender and soft spoken suddenly commands in the worst harshest way possible. But that is the only way Daigo is going to get through it. And he comes home to feel the living in his wife. He smells and literally tries paint her body all over his to remind that the skin and flesh retain the sense he has known for. She does not know why he is behaving like that because Daigo did not tell her about the job.

“Departures” marginally appears to be the sappy tragic story which begs to feel for the funerals they visit and it is no surprise that at some point Daigo has to do the ritual to a close person to him. Yet whenever he is done with the dead making them into who were they when they were breathing, we empathize with the sudden emotional surge in the loved ones. They resurrect that temporary appearance one last time for the people surrounding to remember.

The death which has an impact people could never get over can be used in films as a last attempt on sympathy. That sympathy is for the film which would bludgeon from the audience of its last resort. But in “Departures” it is the film which shows as it is. It beautifies how much ever external it is and how it transpires Daigo into a liking for his another art, music. Suddenly he begins to enjoy playing the instrument as he used to. The movie deals how the taboo of dealing with the death does to Daigo making his wife to leave a friend to looked down upon. And when both of those realize their mistake, it is not communicated but purely felt by each other. “Departures” does that with its audience when the film gets over. We feel a great deal of everything in death, in music, in art and in human acceptance of the inevitability.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"What Just Happened?" (2008) - Movie Review

The reason “What Just Happened?” feels to not have the intensity of a dark satire is because the “Wag the Dog” producer Stanley Motss is not out here. It is Robert De Niro playing the role he is given of a producer Ben. Ben might be the living depiction of an existing originality in the industry but the rarity in the opportunity of his entertaining display when he is ticked off is the place the film is expected to be. Despite that, “What Just Happened?” has the suspenseful comic timing in the artistic adamance and the scene behind the scenes which not just lift the screens but provides pain and the comic out of it simultaneously.

Written by producer Art Linson and directed by Barry Levinson, as I was writing this line watching the interviews, Levinson mentions that it is not a satire and is only a little tweak of the chaotic world of Hollywood. I agree upon the state of the nature and it has become natural to expect that genre when a film about film gets made. It would be curious to see a serious eye to this field of maximum attention which I am not aware of any film trying it out. Even Francuois Truffaut’s “Day for Night” has the movie making set as a backdrop than its actual subject. Here the take is real, the situations are funny because the Ben’s suffering arises from trivial aspects for a person who is not in this field from an audience standpoint. Bruce Willis with a full grown beard is a movie kill for a studio, a director who cries over the ending being told to change and an agent living in the most luxurious home does not have time to check out his stomach problem and then some. You get the gist.

This is neither an affection nor a cynical temperament of Art Linson’s view of the movie industry. In a week of producer Ben’s life he has to tackle three threatening issues on his plate. One is the test screening of his new movie “Fiercely” with Sean Penn in the lead cast being killed brutally in end and a dog shot along with him, second is to get Bruce Willis to shave off his beard which otherwise would shut down an entire movie project before it sees the light of the production and third is to deal with his personal crisis in his feelings for his ex-wife (Robin Wright Penn) and in that order he prioritizes his week.

This is in all perspective a very good film and what is more important is that it is an honest film. It does not boost off the existing eccentricity in the business. The English director of Ben’s film “Fiercely” is Jeremy Brunell (Michael Wincott) trying to control his sobriety only to meltdown in front of the studio Boss Lou (Catherine Keener). Lou is unmoved and merciless in delivering the kill blow her job loves to have. She is having to get the movie see the opening screening at Cannes in few days. She is holding Ben responsible for this end. Then Ben is trying to get hold of Dick Bell (John Turturo) the agent of bearded Bruce Willis. Ben tried telling the actor of this problem only with few inches away from angry and furious Bruce. Dick does not have the guts to take that chance. Ben is shuffling these problems everyday and dealing with his feelings for his ex-wife he is been divorced for year and half. Ben’s mediator position is not the best to be in. It comes at a price of everything including family.

An actor as much as popular and known they can be gives up their freedom of their real them for a sufficient period of their life. While Bruce’s twisted version of himself is obstinate about his facial hair, in a way we empathize why he is so precious about it. He is giving up his life for of course a huge sum of money but be careful what you wish for. And there are two crucial comic suspenses which brings out the best moments in the film. Both are priceless.

Robert De Niro takes up an independent role in a string of not so great choices (“Righteous Kill” to be precise). Here he does not let himself go on with this man battling others and within himself on the problems he has to chew. De Niro restrains considerably as he did in “Wag the Dog” depending on expressions and gestures. The failure of the film will be its realistic approach of a content known for more oomph in dark comedy and satire. That is not the fault of the movie makers but the seasoning of the industry towards the audience. “What Just Happened?” surprises but not in the jumping way one wants to be.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Jennifer's Body" (2009) - Movie Review

Diablo Cody’s much expected second venture has the high school slang and the adding “o”s to the regular words but is not as suave and funny as “Juno”. The comparison is inevitable but for the record, I am not a great fan of “Juno” as many others worship it. “Jennifer’s Body” carries the tone of Cody’s debut script but more indulgent than the previous. It is a fantasy fulfillment for her as it displays itself on letting Megan Fox loiter around with enough sex appeal to go in to state of shock for men and enough blood to drool for the horror fans. It becomes a dumb mindless and non-entertaining show with parents literally deaf when someone in their kid’s room barges in through the shattering window.

This story told as a narrative from Needy (Amanda Seyfried) rebellious in a psychiatric hospital about her high school final days turning out to be the freakiest and bloodiest that no one had a clue. Her childhood friend is Jennifer (Megan Fox), the sex pot for the high school. She feels special to have such a friend. Jennifer and Needy smear (and later cross) the boundaries of lesbian crush. Needy though has a boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons), the ritual nice guy. Jennifer takes Needy to this crazy tavern with a crazy band whose lead singer (Adam Brody) is the only redeem to this upcoming meltdown of a screenplay.

Jennifer as surprised as Kanye West behaviour follows through the strangers in a band van and returns as a flesh eating, wait.....yes the deadly word which is a recurring theme everywhere “vampire”. She comes and has little to try for getting boys to follow her through the dark woods. As the town of Devil Kettle drowns in the sorrow of the tavern fire these friends were in and witnessed the demise of their fellow residents, Jennifer even convinces a grieving high school football player (Josh Emerson) to make her feast. As she feeds on the carnage, she glows more and becomes further voluptuous. As if that is needed for Fox.

Director Karyn Kusama appear to have gifted the writer with the material which was given. The film neither runs as a spoof/homage as “Shaun of the Dead” did nor does it take it seriously to get into the background of it. It has couple of things strongly forted which is to make utmost sincere attempt in presenting Megan Fox oozing eroticism and an up close kiss with Amanda Seyfried. Now men are yelling “What else you need?” and my fellow males, if there is a film exercising the customs of horror flick, it better do it some justice. Apart from feeding the titillating senses of the brain, it becomes sad to say routine and uninteresting.

The door creaks, the stair creaks and all the other creaks are there. People jumping from the sides of the camera and people often taking lonely ventures into the dark rooms and while I am typing this, even the sentence is cliched. It all becomes one giant of an expensive and a personal baby project which is purely made for the Diablo Cody. It is the right approach for a good movie which is to make a film the creators would like to see but out here the taste is lame and mainly losing creativity.

The origins of Jennifer’s vampirism does not go much and the supposed comedy is hiding somewhere which never gets the light of it. Adam Brody in his five minute dialogue is more impressive than Fox’s titular character. He represents the genre the movie is publicized for, dark comedy/horror. “Jennifer’s Body” is as shallow it can get and it does not try to give something better in it. It is one another horror slasher film with big names and hollow story.

"The Informant!" (2009) - Movie Review

You do not know what to make where Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!” goes about. Is it trying to make the whistleblower Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) a hero, a buffoon or an unusual biochemist with a conscience? In Decatur Illinois at the wake of the 90s, Whitacre as the Vice President of Bio Products in Archer Daniels Midland is having a good life. With loving wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey) and three kids. Whitacre is advancing in the company too but something is bothering him and Ginger. There is a price fixing deal going in the market of selling Lysine and ADM meets up with its competitors to do the deeds best. But there is more to Mark Whitacre than a whistleblower and good Samaritan.

Soderbergh adopts the style of the oldish seventies presentation with the yellow titles and the maple brown tint the alma mater of the era of cheesed up movies. The man in the picture Matt Damon does may be the unusual characters he has done previously. He has been a handsome young man quick and organized in the people he chose to play in the films. Here the mere appearance is disheveled. He is a mustache which should not be there, not like that, a wig which we suspect is something wrong but only come to conclusion on the case in the end and the mouth of his going uncontrollably unpredictable and slimy in the naive talks.

Mark Whitacre as we see him checking the numbers and telling his thoughts and questions to us is a smart man. He has been the geek behind the glasses and now he is onboard with the big guns in the business league. The problem with the white collar cube residents is that the distant in the dark happens the shady work which makes them to comfortably work without guilt. That has become the prime reason of the middle class increase in the financial status. The middle class has been redefined both in financials and conscience. Whitacre was in the wake of it.

Soderbergh enjoys the process of letting the audience in the story. As Whitacre begins to cooperate with the FBI agents Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) and Bob Herndon (Joel McHale), he initially sweats the details as the good man. He is a little hesitant to come forward and his wife Ginger literally makes him, he then begins to hide and avoid them. Soon we realize the first made up story of him which of course becomes insignificant as the price fixing deal is real. Or is it? As the story of this crumbles in the way one cannot even fathom to foresee, the instinct of this man is complex. He spaces out in the middle of the conversation and thinks the random questions and the weirdness in the world. He has visited so many countries and known many languages and met many people, the information gets processed in the brains of his. He is constantly journeying into that gathered room of facts and coincidences when the real life in front of him takes a path with no destination.

This is a slow builder when the main story hits the screen. Soon Whitacre forms a trusting friendship with Agent Shepard and Herndon. When they finally get the ultimate evidence to nail the ADM officials, the attorney office asks them what is the agenda of Whitacre in this scheme and both the agents present a family picture of Whitacre they carry around to remind them of the person who is helping the job to be completed. The story of “The Informant!” leaves anyone bewildered on seeing this man ramping up the mind of his to produce lies, truth and what not. That is both sad and funny.

Matt Damon while has done many other roles which have been substantial and exemplified, this might be his best performance of all. He portrays a tough and multifaceted persona who we are amused, appreciated and hate him too. He has so much in his mind that he is not ready to give everything all at once. He disperses at his will and the situation he is in. In between those he manifests some of his own. Not that he wants to show he is smart and capable but to escape the current predicament or more precisely to post pone it. But what he does not realize that he makes it worse as the time goes on. And with a supportive role by Melanie Lynskey as his loyal and lovable wife Ginger and a friend in the Agent form Scott Bakula, Matt Damon dazzles the audience with a complete intertwined character. And Steven Soderbergh gives the same kind of characteristic to the film which has his eye for uniqueness.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (2009) - Movie Review

You generally do not get much expectation for a movie with a title “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, you just don’t. Being in the dark of a children’s book existence which the film goes to origins (yes indeed), this film has lot to offer (no pun intended). What would be if it rains burgers, pan cakes, a steak and the place is filled with smashing food with maximum velocity? Disgusting, ugly and unnecessary? Wrong, wrong and wrong. Surprising fun is what the film provides with some smart homage to the disaster films and Bill Hader with Anna Faris lending some much needed cool voices.

In the small dots in the atlas exists Swallow falls. In there grows up the nerdy kid Flint Lockwood coming up with inventions not only weird but its purpose of invention does not look people would want. A laceless shoe by the spray of a can. What a cool idea but one kid yells, “How are you going to get it off?” and as a deer caught in the headlights is Flint. As he hits the age ladder, he has successfully invented a monkey translator, a walking TV and Ratbirds. Why would Flint wants to give wings to rats explains everything about Flint. He is a goofy kid and he does the biggest invention of all, turning water into food. Food in the sense cooked junk food. From hotdogs to steak and from celery to ice creams, this freakish machine gets shoot in the clouds where it floats and begins to rain these items of appetite quenchers.

One after another, the film overtakes itself in over the top scenarios. Flint Lockwood as this young man has a command center in his yard. He still lives with a dad Tim (voice of James Caan) hiding his bright eyes behind a thick eyebrow watching his son indulge in these inventions of chaos than solving a cause. Flint as the animated hero is trouble maker, curious and always a destined failure. The story does not wait for his invention to kick off in the middle of the film and right away as the weather girl Sam (voice of Anna Faris) arrives for a Sardine land opening by the Mayor (voice of Bruce Campbell), the machine is shot in the cloud accidentally and gets the burger rain coming.

What to expect out of a film like this? Nothing but humungous chunks of dreadful junk food falling from the sky straight to the hands and faces of the townspeople. A tough cop (voice of Mr. T) who has always been nothing but strict and mean to Flint requests a birthday present for his young kid, the greedy Mayor getting obese by the minute of consuming these free falling foods and Steve the monkey (voice of Neil Patrick Harris) with his master’s translator equipment are the bunch topping the character lists required to fulfill this formulaic film.

Soon the machine gets out of hand and the flow chart routine follows of the central nerd character teaming up to shut down this food ball. There is ofcourse staple supply of Wayans brothers taking up the spoof films in to unknown doom which they did for the disaster films in their definite fiasco that I wisely skipped called (duh!) “Disaster Movie”. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller does a proper justice to that category of spoof/homage. Generally there needs to be an affection for those cheesy depictions of disaster pattern occurring over the globe in those films. Here in the nowhere land of Swallow falls the storm begins and specifically chooses the landmark destinations on the world to drop its giant menus.

For what it is, this animated feature gets the kids and adults in its strings. It sways amongst its finding of spaghetti tornado and meatballs flying around the town but it gets the crew right along for the final ride into the giant food enemies on the sky. One cannot wonder when every one is ready to lend a hand and there are unknown heroes springing up from places hidden (With the voice of Benjamin Bratt as Manny as the news camera operator is a pilot, particle physicist and a doctor).

Mainly the operation of Flint is hilarious. As he steps into the shoes of inventor, he narrates his action with cut shots and I went back to the childhood days where we played the war games saying explaining ourselves the cinematic effect of an invisible camera looming somewhere in our living rooms. “Cloudy with the Chance of Meatballs” is one hell of a stupid name for a film but it sure does justice to that in giving a food ride to cherish, gross out and laugh at.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"The Quiet American" (2002) - Movie Review

Phillip Noyce likes to take the backdrop of a political scenario and pull in the people who appear to be small in that backdrop. There is in the eye of the day to day regular human in a community either its a city or a country does not necessarily contribute to or for the huge enormous momentum in their clan. Noyce takes the lives of few people and the bigger than life movement causing them to act and affecting the regularity of the complications in love, struggle and idealism. Such was the story set in Australia of the aboriginal girls in the “Rabbit-Proof Fence”, then a simple family man turning into a force of violence in the film “Catch a Fire” set in the apartheid-era South Africa and here in “The Quiet American”, we see Thomas Fowler (Michael Caine), Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) and Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen) in the 1952 Saigon, Vietnam in the midst of the fight between the French colonial powers and Vietnamese communists.

This film is the second adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel of the same name which was published in 1955. The 1958 version as the Wiki informs did not follow the novel faithfully while Noyce’s adaptation does. The nature of the controversy would only make me reveal the suspense which I will not go in detail. The film is about a British journalist Fowler and Quiet American Pyle fighting for the Vietnamese girl Phuong unlike the traditional love triangle. Pyle meets Fowler who is with Phuong. Phuong loves Fowler but the reality of the protection to live a secure life draws more to the old man. She has a sister (Pham Thi Mai Hoa) who is looking for a better alternative and Pyle is the man.

“The Quiet American” cannot be more comfortable with its manner in treating the political climate with its characters. Each time its people meet, there is an agenda for each of those. Fowler is asked by his magazine to return and he goes to north Vietnam for a story. Pyle meets Fowler when he tells why he is there. A scene where Pyle confides to Fowler of having fallen in love with Phuong. Fowler is not surprised and does not show any reaction. He knows he is old and not suitable, he know that Pyle is crossing the line but also knows that he is no one to judge as he is married a woman back in England who denies his divorce. He is conflicted inside but wants to be the mature wise old man out here.

Pyle is a man who is zealous of his philosophies. He comes as the aid worker. Bound by the gentleman he is, his approach towards this situation, however untraditional, awkward and out of line it is, makes it amicable and composed in his expression of his feelings. Both men does the crooked way to achieve the doll they play around in this Vietnamese girl. And behind their shadow happens the real story and when the outcome arrives, the dialogues spoken are reevaluated and gives out a meaning of hidden literary work.

Christopher Doyle as the cinematographer carries the whiff of the smell the character of Fowler talks about this country. As the dusk basks in the golden sun and the classy Europeans and Americans dine in the copacetic settings of the restaurant, there is a silence and suspense in the serenity of the picture collected by the cinematographer for this film. Doyle in his backdrop does stand out but not as a distraction.

The men in this story are firm believers of their own justice. Their conscience and their values are tested both for personal gains and political adherence. They like to be gentleman but they want more than being the nice men they are asked to be. Michael Caine as the balanced and mature man outbursts once to confront Fraser’s Pyle. He walks around with the cane wounded by the defeat he got to accept and cries behind the doors of rest room. At the same time he is fast in accepting those defeats but the concealed marginal machinations run all the time. While Caine does that, one would forget that Brendan Fraser creates a different version of the same traits in Pyle. Both are driven by this girl and their view points on what is happening in this country.

“The Quiet American” touches intensely on couple of occasions. A film which projects as a love triangle takes on more than that. Then it mingles the social concern and subjective actions to create a film containing images and conversations which is soothing and lacerating. The love for that woman by these men and their patient appreciation for that beauty brings smile and evokes a sense of brotherhood in this tabooed affection for the same girl. There is an unusual touching scene in the watch tower with Pyle expressing his love and how he wonders what she does right now to the man whom she is with now and Fowler describes her day. That is when an emotion rarely treated surfaces, respect. What each holds afterward in the film does not matter because in that instant they are connected by the respect and love they have for the same woman and more than that is their acknowledgement of the other’s feeling toward her.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Whiteout" (2009) - Movie Review

A female cop having trouble with trust issue (if my long time colleague turn a freaking gun against me, hell yeah I would not trust any one at all) is in the middle of a murder investigation when time, weather and people are against her. In the white land of Antarctica exists the research centre and Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is out there for couple of years. We see bunch of mad Russians going insane mid air in 1957 guarding the “box” to the known destiny, deadly icy land and get buried there. Never double cross over the air with loaded weapons and lot of vodka crates. Even the people who do not want to double cross would kill each other for the liquor.

It is cold out there, really cold, very very cold because they makes sure to provide exhibit of how freezing it is. Apparently displaying the ambience temperature of negative 65 degree C over the screen does not let the audience know how much of the effect this weather has for the human body. With the storm approaching, there is a sign of a body in the middle of nowhere. Carrie and her friend and guide Doc (Tom Skerritt) go there and examine, identify and drag the body in the middle of a party.

The dead guy is a geologist from another post and when they call in the post, the contact person out there cannot say the details over the phone for some reason. How hard it will be to tell “There is a crazy killer out here for the “box” and I am the only one left. May be I will die by the time you reach but the dude you are looking is.....”. See very easy but Carrie has to go and get a one on one session with the killer who is the only one properly attired covering his face in the icy winter. But to be fair, the heart began to pump fast when the killer begins to chase Carrie, very well shot Dominic Sena.

Whiteout is the term when the storm in Antarctica happens, quite harshly to say the least. Ridiculously powerful and fast winds with the temperature and snow would blind, disable and kill any one in no time. To have a fight in the middle of it would be the best worst possible scenario. In a room with the studio people, that scene would have been the best pitch (pardon my inexperience though, this is only an assumption) but when the scene happens, no clue who hit whom (even when throughout the film every one have the face exposed to the deadly cold except the killer) and what is the strategy Carrie does to outsmart the killer.

“Whiteout” is not a terrible disaster but a creeping slow crash. The paranoia Carrie goes through with trusting no one is played in the audience. We begin to doubt the sudden and nice UN investigator Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht) and the friendly Delfy (Columbus Short). I picked the right one and I was dead on both the times. If you believe they have stopped with one confrontation of the killer without a branch off or relapse, then you are just born in this world.

The movie had a good thing going which is to move around the places wherein it seemed claustrophobic serial killer plot would have been an approved blockbuster garbage. It goes from one location to another and in between buildings, because with the omnipresent killer as nature wanders around, each structure separated is isolated as islands. Hence there is a constant attempt to not fall in the cliche but the script does not hold together.

The puzzle gets simpler as the end is near. The film works as the progress bar in software installation and as the percentage increases, we solve the puzzle a bit more. The idea is to find out the answer together with the film but we are well aware about twenty minutes before the actual killer is revealed. “Whiteout” compared to its colleagues in the same genre is much better because the slasher films either gives out the suspense way out early or the suspense is as ridiculous as the victims in the film. “Whiteout” appears to have some work put in but cannot soar long enough to make the cold a little bit more of an entertainment.

"9" (2009) - Movie Review

“9” is good animation film getting popularized and attracting attention on its opening through viral marketing. Its main characters are group of small creatures knit out of spare materials in a weaving shop. They have telescope resembling eyes constantly focussing and refocussing. They are unevenly shaped and has a curiosity except for this leader character 1 (Voice of Christopher Plummer). The animation and the story is not an invention but the setting is. The future as usual is the scattered shrapnel of apocalypse by the resultant of human arrogance. The visual, the design and the feel of the machines and the officially declared name Stichpunks of these creations are a free flow imagination of the creators, in this case director Shane Acker and his team.

The titular character 9 (Voice of Elijah Wood) awakes in a room with a dead scientist. He behaves as a human though his appearance is far from it. He picks up the pieces and stores it in his zip body. Soon as he ventures out of curiosity, he finds the clan of numbers. They have the stubborn and disliked leader along with disappeared rebels. Their purpose is unknown and what they do in this ended world is not something Acker bothers about. How long they have survived is irrelevant. The world is done, the stickpunks are here and we have a cool film is the director’s statement in his film.

The movie then goes about the talisman and the awakened “wicked” machine. There was only one cat shaped robot which was hunting before the big machine 9 woke up. What would robots do once they kill the stichpunks? Technically they have brain and can think. It shows anger and works laboriously. May be it would become Dragon-E, who knows and mainly the makers go with the assumption that who cares in this kind of film. I do a little. When there is a venture for future and the invention of brain, there is an artistic responsibility to explain it or hide it well. Both of them does not happen in “9”.

But this is a new wave of animation. It combines the darkness of other comic books and anime into the animation category. In “9”, it is gloom and struggle. There is a potential appetite for violence with iron objects clanging against each other for the sound of blood shed. It is not the world Acker projects which is fresh on the eyes but the characters and their movement. They walk half clumsy and operate with lying around objects to make tools to apply for the time to save themselves or others.

We later learn that the scientist (Voice of Alan Oppenheimer) in an attempt to rejuvenate the disappoint human race in to these tiny, little creatures. Each of them are shaped on their traits and behaviour. There is though a sense of repeatability and despite for the trailers and advertisement of how much “visionary” this film really is, it dies once the animation is sucked out of this venture. It becomes a skeletal used up formula film.

The true quality on how 9 comes about becoming the leader and the protagonist of the film is to question authority. That is the same which was done by the rebel warrior 7 (Voice of Jennifer Connelly). Oh and they have female stichpunks too. The idle mind in the in between conversations and altercations keeps propping the questions. But for what it is, “9” knows the adventure and finds its way through the rummages and setting up the steps to lead the film to a know unconvincing end.

"Wag the Dog" (1997) - Movie Review

Apart from being a satire to be entertained, “Wag the Dog” never overdoses the cinematic element in it as its own film because the actual sappiness of the media game the players behind the campaign of this presidential election does is more cheesy and corny. There is Mark Knopfler’s score oddly used which does not boast the craziness on the story but carries that it is a daily life, rotten work and pure success in making it happen. This is what Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) does with the right man for the job, producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman).

The fix it all man Conrad arrives to the underground to the underground in the White House. With two weeks before election and a campaign ad which is nothing but a horrible lousy work, there is a sex scandal on the current president running for second term. Conrad gets to the act, fast and not lethal. He is confident but not arrogant. He gets the ball rolling and buys time to get to the Hollywood produced Motss, who can believe what is been asked but still wants a confirmation. There is a press conference in the White House televised live on the screen when Motss asks Conrad “How close are you to this?” and Conrad replies, “What do you want the kid to say?” and he makes a phone call. And the man behind the podium says what Motss requested. This is real.

Made in 1997 and seeing it now “Wag the Dog” wrote the script of the future. In the far and outreached world, people rely on the information tunneled, morphed and contaminated through the cables. The news media is a business run on manipulating fear than truth. With that on the ropes, there is reporters, journalists on the edge to get the news that would turn the world and their career around. All you need is to feed them the information you want it to be. And that is exactly Conrad and Motss do with nothing short of success.

They are hindered by the unforeseen happenings but they spin it around to make it even more sensational than they anticipated. If the scandal arises, start a war. If the war is resolved by the opponent by making a deal with the CIA, then put a man behind enemy lines. Add the right song and cheesy drama to the scenario and the people rhyme the name of the catchy phrases, great images and memorabilia for their kids and themselves. A tiny bit of patriotism goes a long way.

The 2008 presidential race which I closely followed tells it all. The media wave is where the people fall. You do not need to stand for anything but to tell it aloud, tell it blaring and wear it in good suit and appearance. The outcome is futile hence at least get their time’s worth of saucy entertainment is the people’s perspective on this so called democratic process. “Wag the Dog” in often ways is a sad film with characters having no trouble at all in doing these things. Motss enjoys it as any one would. This is exciting on the ability to shift billions of people into what he wants them to think. He never gives up.

And in Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman there are not two actors but two characters passionate about the job however unethical and wrong it is. Watching them together is not a phenomenon or expectation but the art of honestly staying in the character acknowledging the other. De Niro’s Conrad relies on hand movements, facial discomfort and the occasional success laugh. He controls it and keeps it in leash because he has to. Hoffman’s Motss knows the deal but always tries to see whether he can get a pass to claim the credit for this production. There is no Oscars for producer but the producers get the Best Film award. Motss constantly speaks, repeats sentences in order to punctuate his feeling and apprehension or liking towards the happenings due to his set up of the stage and actors.

“Wag the Dog” is no doubt a funny film but mocks at the people and the process of this political arena. The media buying anything and everything and the people buying it. Everything is shift in the percentage of the support, to sustain the time till the election is over. This is smoothest crooked operation in the people’s choice of their leaders. True that it is Conrad and Motss doing what they do best but they are able to put it real because of the current state of the information technology where every one has a say however skewed and incorrect it is. “Wag the Dog” is more than a satire, comedy and brilliant acting, it is a film reflecting the image of the system and how broken and distorted it is.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Bad Lieutenant" (1992) - Movie Classics

The best films to be seen before one’s life is over is marked by the best performances in most of it. When the actor seizes it, the whole movie seem to be revolving around them. But when looking outside of it, the real picture emerges out. The camera twisted, turned and hidden to project the bleached face, the editing which cuts, recuts and attaches to give the effect of the drug or happiness or unexplained experiences in the audience and the direction to put those in the hopes that the viewers will see the things they enjoyed themselves. Any filmmaker will either have the whole movie as a personal experience or even if it is against their expectation should have one or two scenes to see how the audience react. That I believe is what made “Taxi Driver” for Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. “Bad Lieutenant” is for Abel Ferrara and Harvey Keitel.

Before “Requiem for a Dream”, existed “Bad Lieutenant”. Before the acid trips of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, there was Harvey Keitel’s unnamed Lieutenant immersing his brain in the pool of drugs, sex and alcohol. In this captured period of this really bad bad lieutenant, the morality is erased and the characters we would not personally like to meet are seen in a safe distance. Tomorrow you do not want this man to pull you over because what he would ask for exchange to let you go is unpredictable. Two girls without driving license gets that humiliating, scary and embarrassing treatment from this sick man.

The film which has one thing in its mind set forth and that is the straight down decline of this man. He cannot wait to drop his kids at school because he has remained awake without the influence of cocaine for more than half an hour. He snorts and drifts down the city to the crime scene where more than the blood and tragedy is how big of a chest the victim has got. Then he begins further destruction by gambling on the wrong horse in the baseball game series. This is his life and redemption is far from it or the redemption the norm has decided would have hard time forgiving him.

Throughout the film we can see the extent of Keitel’s performance going through this character. But everything that needs to be known about the lieutenant and Keitel’s performance comes in the parking lot argument with his fellow cops. The night before a nun was abused, tortured and raped by two kids in the church. They have put a fifty-thousand dollar reward for information and our man has a problem with it. A fellow cop asks, “Are you a Catholic?” and the response is “I am Catholic” in the tone and delivery only an actor understanding the nature of his character can give it out. I am very curious if there were any side notes on the script for that line. This is Keitel at his prime and this is more than a film to him.

I have not heard about Abel Ferrera and “Bad Lieutenant”. It caught my eye in cruising through the films coming up by director Werner Herzog. Supposedly a remake though denied by Herzog, he is making “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” which has invited lot of angry reaction from Abel Ferrera. That is digressing from the matter in discussion but I cannot wait for Herzog’s film. Ferrera obviously has made a classic out of this story. It is dark, depressing and its redemption can be empathized but not approved. He is not expecting it either.

The film parallels what Scorsese did in his earlier ventures which is the guilt of Catholicism. The nature of how it is mixed in the upbringing. How much deviated and crude and merciless person one is but the fear of god and the idea of sin and redemption goes a long way. Here the person is in constant definition of sin. Either he takes for granted the glorified Jesus as the sin bearer or the addiction has imbibed more than the religion itself that his last hold on to the miniscule facade of goodness is through it.

The family of the lieutenant has given up from his bare existence in their breakfast. His only respectable and moderately kind friends are drug dealers and he is challenging himself to get to the rotten end of it. Yet we in a remote manner pity this guy. There is no excuse or evidence of his behaviour but his whimpering moments invites sympathy. Some where along the line he has lost the way and ditched the hope. He has decided to go on a slow suicide and this is his methodology in doing it.

The idea of a hopeless central character is a gamble. It is a risky gamble as the character itself takes on. The acting is another part which could have been humiliating criticism on Keitel’s character crying in a manner waiting for butchering. And beyond that it comes out as this meditation in the darkness of a unlikeable character. While we would not want to see this man in our life, we are enthralled by this film taking that unpleasant man for a ride which becomes an art in the dreadful misery.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

"One Wonderful Sunday" (Language - Japanese) (1947) - Movie Review

This might be one of the few films where Kurosawa handles romance and this might be one of those few films he should have put a period to the movie well before its actual end. Kurosawa takes on a low income couple who meet once per week on a Sunday. This Sunday is going to be full of high and low, mostly low. With his usual care for characters, Kurosawa puts these two couples in to the post war city with bad economy and tough living conditions. What we get is a good film spoiled by an extended indulgence.

In a morning with crowds flowing outside the train station comes the Masako (Chieko Nakakita), the woman full of dreams and prospect. Her boyfriend Yuzo (Isao Numasaki) is not particularly lit up today. He has hit the wall. The money is low and he is getting impatient on their marriage being postponed due to their financial condition of not able to afford a place of their own. The day begins with Yuzo hesitating to pick up a half smoked cigarette, which he indeed picks up only to be stopped by Masako. Both have a job which pays them enough to feed each other but not to get a place. As their one day per week date begins, both totally have thirty five yens which I believe is next to nothing to conduct a happy date. But Masako has hopes while Yuzo has droopy face.

Together they begin to wander around the town. Masako is full of energy. If Yuzo says there is no use in seeing a cheap house, she goes in and makes him see the place. She fantasizes the interior decorations of this out of reach house. Yuzo sees with disdain and wonders why bother with these burdens of expectations. He has seen enough reality that dreams are only to strengthen the power of imminent disaster. Masako though wants to make the best of the little time they have got together. Yuzo tries his best to match up the spirits of his lover but one after another the surroundings and the nature of the coincidence plans with perfection to spoil it.

The film has these two characters whose love is tested on this day. Yuzo goes to the shell of self pity, agony and hopelessness. Still what makes this film almost a sweet ride is the petty adventures they spontaneously go after. When they go to enquire a place for rent, the attender of that place discourage the couple of not take it. But he does not know that they are ready for anything. They come out and assessing their income only gives the obvious result of their inability to even rent the worst place in the town. They sit and a ball comes along. Suddenly Yuzo ventures to join in the street baseball game with the kids. Then he tries to visit a well off war buddy who owns a Cabaret. There merely mentioning the name of his buddy gets him a strange treatment. By his attire, he is taken underground and is fed drinks and food. They do not let him to see his friend or his friend has arranged such thing for his old poor buddies to get a third class treatment. Kurosawa tells the social status of the time when the war left its stain in the economy.

“One Wonderful Sunday” appears to be the origin of the one day love stories. Though the funny moments are short lived and the failure in making their Sunday a worthwhile pleasurable time fades away with every instant. They decide to go for a concert and the black marketing people buy all the tickets to sell the ten yens for fifteen yens. A mere confrontation ruins the day further. This summates in an ugly fight between the couple where the reunion should put an end. Instead Kurosawa sees something beyond the common social romance. He begins to go deeper into the sappiness, awkwardness of the changed man in to an exhibition of cheesy sentiments. As the man desperately conducts an invisible orchestra and the woman trying her best to cheer him up and in fact asks us the audience to applaud becomes a pathetic display to punch the crowd to cry.

“One Wonderful Sunday” is a melody gone wrong in playing the cute love story with the social commentary into a desperate beseech for sympathy. The acting though surpasses despite the failure of the film. Both Isao Numasaki and Chieko Nakakita give their great performance even in the most dismal situation in the end. Their Yuzo and Masako are lovable lovers whom we would like to have dinner with. But when the final amphitheater scene comes along, we wipe out any idea about that dinner we planned on.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"Zero Effect" (1998) - Movie Review

The toughest riddle’s answer is the most easiest when it is revealed. Daryl Zero (Bill Pullman) reads that answer like a common sense and it is common sense to the audience once it sees the light and once it is spurted out by this peculiar private investigator as a fact of life. This is the man who we know will crack the case in hand, at ease, so what is the suspense in “Zero Effect”? The writing much reminding of David Mamet but not as copy cat but carrying the property of that skill is a sweet meal to relish. Then is the fluidity of the story, which follows a step but comes in quite surprises, not dangerous but curious. Written and directed by Jake Kasdan which marked his debut, this is the professionalism at its best in giving a story and being sharp in serving it.

Running inspiration from the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, this establishes in the five minutes into the scene describing the anatomy of Daryl Zero’s skill, character and aloofness through his associate Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller). Arlo is meeting a client in Portland, Gregory Stark (Ryan O’Neal) as Daryl does not come out of the four walls he lives in. This as unusual it sounds is the curse of the gifted. Many brainiacs personally I know of are a recluse. They are in their world of paranoid and detachment and so is Daryl Zero. He can tell the nature of the profession one is involved in with the whiff of the air near them but cannot keep himself together in the loneliness of his dark room. He sets up ridiculous rendezvous with Arlo to be not detected and makes him go back and forth Los Angeles and then he visits L.A the same night. He is unpredictable.

The case in hand is about a stressed up rich man who lost his key a year back. The thing about the key is that it has the key to a safety box which he cannot tell Arlo what is in it. After the lost key, he is getting black mailed by a highly talented and equally clever as that of Zero of making the drop of the money in a series of convoluted and clustered routine. Zero cracks it around midway into the story, we know the blackmailer. So what is the suspense in it? It is what happens and unfolds between the black mailer and Zero.

It treats the story and its characters with morality and then as the object of entertainment. Zero’s policy is to have the utmost objectivity and observation, the two obs as he calls it. The method he likes to keep record of in the fascination of his success in solving the puzzle, decoding the people and knowing before it happens. He is smart and knows it. He knows he is the best and demands the respect out of his only known audience, his associate Arlo. Arlo is patient of his employer’s behaviour. But he is losing it with his girl friend Jess (Angela Featherstone) because of Zero’s job nature.

Bill Pullman is a versatile actor whose roles and choices goes unnoticed. He seem to be repetitive but here he gets the character out of Zero. He is how much ever clandestine he aspires to be is vulnerable to human emotions in nakedness. He receives such a candid expose of that dose from Gloria Sullivan (Kim Dickens). He poses as an accountant and helps her get the tax returns filed (which he of course has no clue and gets a crash course education through phone from Arlo). Never forget the receipts, he says and they dine together when he opens up. We would expect him to get up and leave or lose himself out of his act when Gloria questions about his past and family. He stays and brings himself completely together to look into her eyes which he cannot keep on looking. He begins to recite the dreadful past and we know he is not making it up. He is genuine in his eyes and in the pain of being who he is. Pullman does a translation for his audience in the techniques he involves in cracking the case while at the same time stays under the radar to his client and the people he follows up to get information. This is the varied Pullman I have seen and he is great to watch as he begins to mount the steps to craziness making Arlo’s life a traveling mess.

“Zero Effect” is the sharpest and straight story I have seen lately. The clarity in its understanding of the people and the dialogues they speak can be seen written by the man thinking it over. And yet it is not awkward but a narrow dance in the art of presenting an intelligence over indulgence. Daryl Zero becomes a complete person at the end of the film rounding him up with the emotional fraction he was devoid of. That which happens is not imposed but happens. It seems right and the contrivance of that romance is as much clever and convincing as its titular character’s unraveling of the case.

Monday, September 07, 2009

"Kagemusha" (Language - Japanese) (1980) - Movie Review

However colourful, grandeur and larger than life images the film “Kagemusha” has, it is void of the values and wiseness of Akira Kurosawa’s trademark direction. It I believe is an attempt on the picturesque elite than a well rounded completion of a story. Kurosawa’s eye for the psychology in everything though is out there which forms the back bone of this story. A petty thief is put on with the greatest burden to erase his individuality and become the ruler of a country. In this Kurosawa shows the psychological toughness the background man has to possess to survive and be conspicuous under the skin of his own.

Lord Shingen (Tatsuya Nakadai) is a successful and most feared war lord and his brother Nobukado (Tsutomu Yamazaki) has impersonated him to deceive the enemies. Nobukado gets a man out of crucifixion because he saw something in him, unique and that would be put his role to rest. The man is a look alike for Shingen and hence becomes the double Kagemusha (The Shadow Warrior) for Shingen. In their first meet which is where the movie opens, Shingen wins the heart of his double. The double obviously is played by Tatsuya Nakadai too and he is coarse and quick witted.

They have him as a back up and at the brink of winning over a castle, the unfortunate happens, Shingen gets shot and is badly wounded. His enemies are on the lookout for his demise so that Shingen’s clan Takeda can be annihilated. Two of them are young and clever Tokugawa (Masayuki Yui) and Nobunaga (Daisuke Ryu). They hardly could believe that the man got shot and is nearing death. They constantly sends spies to confirm the news as they do not want to enter an attack and be sorry for the action. This is well read by Shingen himself who advises his son and chiefs to make believe that he is alive for three years. He tells to guard the place they have and do not ever move away from it. Of course it does not go well with an over aspirant son Katsuyori (Kenichi Hagiwara). He wants to prove that he is an independent warrior.

Kurosawa does not cheat his audience in coming up with a well set plot. It is a departure from his style wherein he relies more on the ferocity and stillness of the images than his old school path of his characters learning their lessons and thus providing more to its audience along with the effects he is perfect at. Kurosawa in this film uses the costumes as bright reds with plethora of horses and soldiers running on the green field of death. As the soldiers go for their destiny, there is the pawn movers sitting behind to see their fate.

The story is how the impersonator becomes good at his technique in convincing every one around him to be the great Lord Shingen himself. He comes back home and his grandson Takemaru (Kota Yui) with one look says he is not his grandfather. Of course the chiefs and Nobukado laughs it off but the scare is real. The Kagemusha goes through such close calls but soon gets comfortable. He becomes really close to his grandson and effectively tackles a question from Katsuyori who knows about his identity. This transformation of a petty thief in to a confident and infact courageous persona is the film. He learns the history of Shingen’s motto of “immovable like mountain” and follows it in the face of the battlefield despite when his men by the sides get shot inspiring a great victory.

The failure of this film is the shift of style. I could perceive the change in the presentation which went for the details in the frame than any close up shots at all. We do not get any up close feel with the characters, especially Kagemusha as if to hide the differences from us well. In the final battle scene when the overconfident warmongering Katsuyori sends his troops for a suicide war, we do not see the killings but wait, there is the destruction alive and kicking which runs for several minutes with a background score annoying every brain cells. Similar are many other scenes where Kurosawa opted for a lethargic approach with a screen devoid of details to bring an effect to a niche film. Unfortunately it becomes deadly to the audience being lured into unknowingly taking some sleeping pills.

There is no question that Kurosawa is a legendary director, one I love, admire and wonder of such a greatness in the days of developing effects, styles and dialogues. Yet he has his bad moments and those were few which includes “Throne of Blood”, “Hidden Fortress” and in that joins “Kagemusha”. Though this film is a much better presentation than the two of those. Kurosawa with a great set up may have promised more than he could deliver in this three hour film.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

"Conversations with God" (2006) - Movie Review

I know, it is not funny but I told myself that I am going to keep an open mind watching this film as it is only “spiritual” than religious. And as a disclaimer I did not watch this film to blast it (which I will) and relish the process of it (which I will) but it just so happened that the movie killed itself by making a hollow portrayal of Neale Donald Walsch who wrote the series of books “Conversations with God”. This is an attempt on giving the origins of it. Boring it is not but empty and soulless in its characters, indeed it is.

The people who know me and read this blog faithfully (thank you by the way) are aware that I particularly do not believe in the idea of invisible friend and the organization of getting people in a big huge room to praise the invisible powers and endless life that idea has to provide. Still if there is another idea which praises the existence of ourselves as the gift and the natural process of going through it succumbing to the dirts of this planet, then we have something. As I always say, anything fanatical including being an atheist is a deadly religion of its own.

With that understanding, “Conversations with God” takes to see Neale Donald Walsch (Henry Czerny) at his bottom of the bottoms in the lowest of the lowest in his life. He has a broken neck, a wife (we never meet) and house he cannot go back to after he lost his job. He has no friends and his rents are due. No one is ready to hire a broken neck guy but is not there a law which can invite hell a lot of suing for discriminating based on being physically disabled? Walsch does not apply for construction worker job but mere administrative positions for which he is overqualified which is reasonable.

What he did previously is unknown until we learn something like he used to work in Radio. We miss his past life of who he was and what kind of person and the life he led before living for the park area where he can tent upon. Before he began to live a life of scavenging foods from dust bins and decided to not clean up. But wait we do not even know the friends he begins to make after that. There is an alcoholic Fitch (T. Bruce Page) who has the only convincing and thoughtful dialogue in the whole film when he apologizes in his way to Neale after an embarrassing moment he generated with Neale’s friend Leora (Vilma Silva). They become friends on the bond of being homeless and they do not discuss their pasts or we are not shown.

Then there is a bright sunshine old woman (Ingrid Boulting) in the park who without any question decides to let Neale in one fine day to clean him up for his interview. They never talk before that or we never see her converse with any one than to have a sole scene to stare at the people in the park. She then puts a hand on comfort and says everything will be fine. And we are supposed to be moved? Then there is Carly (Zillah Glory) hunting people in the commuting bus to talk and she talks to Neale. We do not know what she believes in or even react until Neale asks her to have a relationship for which she humiliates him of something unexpected coming from the poor man who have been lonely and penniless for the long time.

For all the talk about knowing yourself, Neale is a paper man. His believes before he begins to hear the supposed “God’s” voice is not mentioned. The film gets back and forth with the current book touring he goes on and the state of his low points till it meets the book which makes him wealthy and popular. In the very first presentation to a group of people, he is accused as hypocrite by an audience for him not leading the perfect committed life and divorcing his partners. He begins by accepting his mistakes and tells their privacy is theirs and cannot be breached for proving his points. That robs off an entire part of the life which would have given a before and after Neale.

After all the failures and mishaps in his life, Neale begins to hear a “voice” claiming itself to be god and tells of course reasonable simple things of leading life without expectation and embracing love. I know what Neale went through which is a breakthrough in his thought process of figuring out his falling life. He began to listen deep within we call conscience and took the best out of it. Life is made complicated by the living and the living is not the life. That is true but he goes a little cuckoo on giving the inner voice a name, “God”. Now by “God” I hope there is no religion springing out of this.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

"Gamer" (2009) - Movie Review

What a shocker from Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the two guys I hated for making not one but two worst movies in “Crank” and “Crank 2: High Voltage” to bring a worthy film. In “Gamer” a trailer filled with action and violence, the expected fare from these two men were not a secret. Gore, sex and colours of insanity to make a head spin and brain fry was the fodder they were destined to cater. Instead “Gamer” fits their profile and for once they make sense and a style of vigour in their presentation showing that they are not aspirant Hollywood sell outs or kids with amazing equipments and misplaced funding going crazy.

In this futuristic world, they have made the perfect entertainment for the blood thirsty emotionally empty audience over the globe which is to fuse the reeking reality television with the guiltless first person shooting video game. The man behind this real life game is Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) and he feeds on this control. He succeeded in providing a game resembling Sim City which is called Society. In this game people are paid to be controlled by players who of course pay for this freakiness. The success of that game and the downing prison funding gave birth to Slayers. If Society plays on the fantasy of sex, Slayer picks up the death row cell mates and put into setting where the objective is not much explained than to shoot every moving thing. Survive 30 battles to be free is the deal the inmates get. In this Kable (Gerard Butler) has survived 27 battles and he is been played by a seventeen year old Simon (Logan Lerman).

The film more than the thrill plot is about the setting and the style these directors employ. Food, sex and violence are spilling and overflowing out of the multidimensional television and the actual people volunteer to do this. Kable or his real name Jon Tilsman’s wife Angie (Amber Valetta) is the body controlled in Society by a dangerously obese and sick man (Ramsey Moore). Every frame contains either blood spattering on the camera, chunks of disgusting food been eaten disgracefully by people or the eye hurting colours, lighting providing the tent for orgies. It is not an exploitation but a reflection of how the exponential growth of the current trend of entertainment leads on to become. This world visualized by Neveldine/Taylor is titillating on the gadgets of the environment and terrorizing on the age of destruction and moral suicides.

“Gamer” as much preposterous its plot sounds and happens is a better and balanced film. The directors do not make it a game but an interlace of the first person shooting in a format which works both on guiltless action and thought provoking scenarios. The idea of controlling originates on the nanotechnology marrying the biometrics. They insert a living cell which replicates and becomes a receiver of commands thus pulling the strings. So even though Kable can see or sense the surroundings of his opponents, he cannot turn or pull the trigger as he desires. He depends on Simon who indeed is good for Kable but the other players get their icons killed.

As cheesy the idea sounds, the story moves fast and never stops for the emotional catering demanded by a formula action movie. Here the mass hysteria of this environment and entertainment becomes the film rather than the characters. The characters as the puppets in the games becomes so. And the styles of these two men are real and proper than completely misplaced exploitative images in their previous films.

“Gamer” has Michael C. Hall as over the top, comical and zealous villain in Ken Castle. He is a true entrepreneur and an egomaniac with love for his invention and the empire he has built. In the final confronting scene, Hall’s Castle does a dance number with his puppets who are inmates badly hurt. That tells a lot about Neveldine/Taylor whom I have only seen do things wrong with the same kind of presentation. Their imagination and affection for the blindingly and flashy colours with the gaming ambience did not work as the entertainment they thought is best for in those films. Here they breathe life into it. It takes a rightly made story, plot and very importantly a liking for its material.

I did think that they could have done something great with a material of this kind. The novelty of this science fiction conglomerating with the pulp presentation gets a teeny little boring as it saturates. Yet they take out Kable from the gaming world to the real world when that happens. I saw nothing but stupidity and raw embrace for the manipulative and cheap entertainment in Neveldine/Taylor in their Crank films but now I understand what they were trying to do and how miserably they did it. I also understand that they believe in their material and would give them chance, a darn better chance for their next venture.

"Extract" (2009) - Movie Review

Mike Judge’s “Extract” treats its people in the film to their roots of their misery and flowers funniness. We do not feel anything at all for the characters and Judge succeeds in making it remorseless too. The people in “Extract” are selfish, betraying, rude, careless and we do not absolutely hate them. We are puzzled how come the Reynold’s Extract run by Joel (Jason Bateman) made it so far.

Been kind of invented the idea retaining root beer extract and other flavours, Joel has built this company from scratch and he has some most possible and prickly employees. But in a production facility with programmed process machines getting guided by humans, they bound to get a little crazy. Such is Mary (Beth Grant) finding reasons why she should protest working and there is Step (Clifton Collins Jr.) bragging his casing skills of the extract bottles and getting authoritative on becoming the floor manager. Judge introduces many other characters and gives them their traits and props bringing his sense of comedy.

Joel’s sex life is going nowhere with his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) who has become the victim of house wife-reality tv-boredom-no attention syndrome. Joel’s solace is a bar in a hotel where his friend Dean (Ben Affleck) gives all the wrong advice. Joel has managed to sway away from that right from his high school days with him but with a little drug and right boost from Dean, he not alone kicks off his life replicating his factory process into haywire effect but puts the film in motion. And there Judge strikes gold.

Affleck is surprisingly novel. He in his cave man makeover is smooth and crass adjusting the moral scale in his friend. His ideas are out of the place and are definite destruction schemes but he is persistent and he gets success. There are people, very nice people whose traits are such that. Lighting up a mountain of dry grass, trying to short circuit an outlet in a midnight filled bar and doing an experiment for the heck of it (These are all done by two friends I know of in my life). The thrill is their reason to survive. It is their addiction and people of same category can promote to instigate emotional battle (though mine did not, thankfully). In real life they would get negated and in Judge’s film, they are the catalyst for the plots to unfurl. Such is Dean who accidentally gives a drug and when I say accidentally he gave a horse tranquilizer instead of Xanax to Joel.

To get Joel guilt free of flirting with his new temp Cindy (Mila Kunis) and of course confirming that Joel will not feel bad if Suzie has an affair, Dean hooks Joel up with a Gigolo Brad (Dustin Milligan) and boy is he the greatest moron. The actor playing that shows potential. His slowness in receiving information is not annoying but amuses on how worst he can do as the information to process gets a little deviant like in between is and was.

For a film with an agenda to be the indie funny, “Extract” does not get it all the way through. As the first act shows Cindy stealing with her devious sex appeal and Joel running through his chores of solving worker issues, getting updates from his second in command Brian (J.K. Simmons) who can only remember one nick name at a time and dodging the annoying neighbour (David Koechner) to make it to the eight at night deadline to get Suzie before changing to her sweat pants, it does not do much for us. But when Dean turns the wheels along with an accident doing the perfect funny injury to Step, “Extract” picks itself up.

Judge is the cult creator of the “Office Space” which possibly would have invented the word “spaced out”. He has the gift to read the nerves of the blue collar to white collar employees. This production process of anything gets on to the people and make them into person of something else. And he seriously can make his characters do unsympathetic acts and get away with no morality in his audience. His comedy has a style as Apatow has created. His comedies are crass with a classiness, an absence of emotion in the right parts of the comedy and most of all a balance in making the film which gives the feel of it being done without passion and casual production. But that is where Judge succeeds. “Extract” might not make you roll out of the chair and does not tries to. It simply puts the people and alternate their scale to feel physical and emotional pain to nothing.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

"Trouble the Water" (Documentary) (2009) - Movie Review

Kimberly Rivers strolls down the street on a calm and collected day in the Ninth Ward, New Orleans. There are few kids on the street and she asks them whether they are afraid of storm and one says it is just water while another kid challenges the blind audacity of the girl saying when the eight feet water come up, it washes down everything. Then down the road at the entrance of the house is another middle aged lean man dressed up being drugged up. Kimberly wakes him up and asks to go inside as the Hurricane Katrina is coming to hit. She is staying with her husband Scott Roberts as evacuation is a luxury they cannot afford as she says it. This is their story and the people they survived along in the merciless force of nature which amplified into a never ending destruction calamity by the government which failed to provide the people in need.

The documentary is not dependent on the flurry of vocal mistakes former President George W. Bush commits. It is on the recitation of a tough woman with her husband and friends seeing their government’s operation becoming useless. We are taken down through the attic in which Kimberly and others refuged for shelter. Holding their breaths, struggling through the food supply and looking for a rescue which never arrives. They survive the hurricane but the real damage is when it got over. With a street left untreated and Kimberly’s Uncle (the stoned out man in the start) died in the house decomposed for two weeks. No one has cleared out the area. The Ninth Ward becomes a sad stature of a died down streets.

The camcorder Kimberly handles could have been a cheap video alert the current youtube videos have become but it is a documentation. The documentation made by her believed that the things are going to go bad and possibly lose her life through it. She wanted that to be the sign off and in that she shows other people, trapped and terrified. Worried by the wait they had to make and see the bravery of heroes like Larry who worked consecutively in the water to bring the people from different buildings to the attic of higher ground.

Kimberly narrates along with the video making every word descriptive and collects the position the people of city are in. Through the film we learn she is an aspiring artist who has no home and music in town. While they knew the people in the street, the situation combines them with friends they had problems and began to form a bond through the disaster. One such is Brian Nobles and his FEMA application never gets through because of no proof that he lived in New Orleans. It is not a easy ride for the couple as their check never got through after applying before two weeks. (Finally they do get it in later time)

The film mingles the footage and their return to their homes after two weeks. Homes buried in the dirt and bodies hiding around, it is the post apocalyptic situation the Hollywood fantasized. There have been many other worst calamities happen in the other parts of the world which includes the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 and the devastation had been horrific than this but this is a film about the aftermath which went wrong and the people with no hope keep themselves pushing ahead for the next day.

“Trouble the Water” in its first forty-five minutes is the powerful at its most. The terrorizing thing to see the water hitting the window and giving the grinning unwelcome and the attic full of people trying to hold it together. Kimberly constantly invites people around and offers food and tough voice. And when they return, they revisit the places they went through. From attic to a naval base where they were literally aimed at gunpoint to leave the premise to safeguard the military orders and then to the school to lay some place. They have created a self awareness of the patriotism fed upon. The honest thing to do is join the army and the intent is good what it achieves is becoming a pawn for someone else’s mistake move. When the military needed domestically, they were asked to stay put and the people cry as the real war is in New Orleans.

Kimberly and Scott are the children of destitute and got pushed in to the world of drugs for survival. They make it out hard and the film does a fair portrayal. She even says to couple of grandma’s she rescued that they do not know the real Kim before the storm. So it may be but the good thing in the worst calamity is that they begin a start. A fresh and clean start. They swear to not return again as the picture of the city is sickening. Yet they come back as if they are tied down to the place by the people they acquainted. The tourist places are renovated but there is not plans for the other parts of this city. What brings the question is, was it ever been cared than the tourist place? “Trouble the Water” tells those through these people.