Saturday, March 27, 2010

"The Last Station" (2009) - Movie Review

I can only say than to state that marriage is the war between two things, love and values. The passion is peak in finding the love while the clash with it begins when the human feet touch the ground. Tiffs get itself accumulated as petty pennies to broken piggy banks. Seeing the relationship Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his wife Sofia Tolstoy (Helen Mirren) in “The Last Station”, it seduces you to indulge in this infinite love and warns you on this unforgiving marriage.

Not having read the works of the novelist but I have about the importance of his presence in the history of literature and the system of living. A believer in passive resistance he was against private property. Being married to a Countess is not helping that and there comes the genesis of a life long battle of being the better halves to each other. At the age to write will, Tolstoy is among the woods in a giant house. The ideological differences are the tiffs I was talking but the real problem is the man Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti). Chertkov is the most trusted and the most loyal friend the novelist could get. Their belief gave birth to the Tolstoyan movement, a form of a spiritual clan they formed. Concerns grew from Chertkov that the writings of the man might not reach the Russians if Sofia acquires copyrights which prompts him to send Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy).

Valentin is sent as the innocent spy for Chertkov soon finds him the trusted person for both Tolstoy and Sofia. Being the disciple of the teachings of Tolstoy, he is trembling in happiness and overwhelm. He himself being the essayist arrives at the village like setting with the Tolstoyan philosophy. He strictly abides to the living of the preaching. Celibate and unquestioning of the values he has acquired, he sees a reasoning through Masha (Kerry Condon) an inhabitant in the movement.

Valentin meets the couple and is dazzled by the relationship they share. On one side he is baffled to work with his icon and idol while on the other side it is the shock of seeing the common man in Tolstoy. When I say common man, it is more about seeing him in the insignificant daily activities and mainly to share his love and toil with the pain of it with Sofia. They have led a wonderful love between each other. When they are in the brink breaking apart, Valentin discovers the love he has with Masha.

Michael Hoffman directs brilliant actors. With the three characters in the battle for affection are Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren and Paul Giamatti. Giamatti is that man never hesitating to grab any devious character by throat and provide a study does that with more balance than ever in Chertkov. Plummer as this messiah for his admirers and uncalled followers throws himself behind bushy beard and is in the predicament of disappointing someone or other. Helen Mirren was fantastic as the Queen and turned around her audience from disliking the character to feel sympathy and in this film as being the wife to fight for her attention and wondering what she has become provides another imbalance in the minds of her audience. But Paul Giamatti as this vicious fervent believer of Tolstoy would do anything to get the word spread. He has blinded himself to such a degree to begin making decisions for his idol and friend.

Amongst these giants of acting is James McAvoy, the young man put as this balanced perspective of this mess these people have created. His position goes from being naive to be aware of what it is to have an independent and individual thought. The notion of a person’s idol, prophet and god figure is a trap for danger. Valentin is conflicted when he learns that truth and begins to form opinions of his own. McAvoy is a peculiar actor whom I can see as the best man for many actors. But at the same time I am curious to see him stand on his own in a film.

“The Last Station” is a cautionary tale on marriage, love and friendship with the dash of philosophy. The people in this film care about their hero immensely but have their way to show it. While Chertkov comes off as this cold hearted intolerable and cruelly twisted idealistic person, he acts on the idea of doing damage for higher purpose than to deal with a drama queen. Sofia on the other hand is of course the drama queen but she used to be a great part in the literature of her husband and being secondary to that is a rejection of her love. As for the man himself, he is in the trickiest of situations every man has been in one way or other. Here instead of a parent, it is a friend of stern values. And the values are of course the first thing which got them together. These three are all lovely people showing their darkness of emotions in the film which as I said invites and scares simultaneously on this mad and sad little beautiful things called as love, marriage and values.

"Hot Tub Time Machine" (2010) - Movie Review

There are natural born faces which beg to be punched and there are human made movie titles which begs to be not watched. I went against the latter rule. It was not a mistake but a slight blunder. I should have known that John Cusack has crossed over and departed his picky films and off beat comedies. “Hot Tub Time Machine” is a faint hope to ride the destiny of “The Hangover” and it ropes on those momentum failing to create a chain of character we like or love to hate.

To boost up the morale of their friend Lou (Rob Corddry), a raging alcoholic, jerk and registered mad man, his friends Adam (John Cusack) and Nick (Craig Robinson) take him to their high school favourite place, Kodiek, a ski resort. Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) a member of the clan of basement video game junkies tags along for the fun. A town now deserted, lost and depressing surprises them. They had glorious days in their high school and there is only a grunted one arm hotel employee Phil (Crispin Glover). After boozing nonstop in the titular tub, these four are transported to the year of 86.

The catch is that they see each other as they are in 2010 but are trapped in their high school bodies. Jacob though is the same except jittering like hologram now and then. He is not yet in the production. Some goofy old man (Chevy Chase) supposed to be the fixer of this hot tub advises them to not change anything and they painfully undertake this mindless routine.

“Hot Tub Time Machine” is a cry to stand along with the “The Hangover”. That film in my opinion is a very good film playing with the same mindless chores in the best possible action. Then why it does not fly up in this film? May be because there was not much sense to like these guys. Even the adorable John Cusack is clueless in his typical clueless role. As the recent divorced individual, he wanders around and as everyone wondering the path not taken. And as his friends put forth, he is a narcissistic fellow only that it does not become something we would like to cheer for.

The annoying factor comes through Lou, a dangerous character. He was left aloof when he needed his friends and this is an opportunity to make amends or may be not, as they have to follow the advice of the freaky old man Chevy Chase. While Adam will be stabbed with a fork by his then girl friend and Lou will be pummeled by a crazy tough guy syndrome kid, Nick is the only individual ready to be sexually attacked by a beauty. He considers that cheating and cries while love making. He is the one reason we might like this guy and the film but he becomes a caricature of writer’s bad jokes.

Steve Pink is the director of this film having high hopes in roping these good combination. The idea of time machine comedy is unoriginal in first place but to demolish the reminiscence of the eighties is another thing. Many of the references which are potential dish for nostalgic humour goes uncooked and distasteful.

Learning the curse words as a kid, saying it several times were funny, but then we grow up and then learn that they are just words with hate or bad humour or good humour attached to it. Some of them do not learn that and lives in those past. Saying those several times does not constitute humour in films too. And having scenes about penis, vagina and puke does not automatically add up to great humour either. Unfortunately “Hot Tub Time Machine” does not think so and hence we do the same thing what we would do to the people keep living in that immature past, we grow apart.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (2010) - Movie Review

The kids grow faster as the years pass by and the generation gap defined becomes wider and wider along with it. When I went to school, class 9 was the transformation class. For boys, girls become apparently the eventual sex object and then they grow ego as this unnecessary bonus with it. But how can I remember class 6? What marked the significance of that part of my childhood? “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” paints a picture for an average kid ( and a little below average kids like me) and it draws it bold and honest. This might be the first time since the few classics as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Breakfast Club”, I have seen a kid’s film with a maturity to give it the right treatment many abuse of.

The film iterates the first year of the middle school for Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), our wimpy kid, who is super wimpy. His agenda is set clear from the opening day of the school, to become one among the favourites. The burning agony to be that something special one is evergreen and remains undefeated as a little soul. We realize the harsh truth in the adulthood but in that era everything is possible and your own idea is never a stupid idea. It glows with success and the fame which follows it. Such is the fantasy world Greg lives in as we might have all lived through.

Greg has a trustful friend Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron), a pudgy kid with positivity and cheer bubbling out uncontrollably. That is red alert for bad popularity and embarrassment for Greg. Greg resembles us because we have been that kid in our life. Despite achieving popularity or being dethroned from that, the average Joe’s of the century has to survive the test of fittest in the school days. We discover control through the nicer kids ready to be our friends. We discover weakness and humiliation when bigger representation ourselves put a leash on us, cruelly. We discover real friendship and how to lie. We discover guilt, fear and trouble. While the whole life awaits to be discovered, we discover the tools to navigate it.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” uses the stick figure animation to narrate its protagonist's whining. The film takes a bold step towards some strong characterization of the kids. Not many movies take the risk on presenting Greg, a snobby kid. Greg can be likable but he is on the agenda to be disliked. He is ready to cut lose his Rowley, manipulate him and conveniently hide away for his selfishness. But he is growing and learning and so were we.

Thor Freudenthal directed this film adapting from the series by Jeff Kinney and what a courageous move to do that. It is indeed a movie for kids with everything toned down but it is truthful living in its environment. It behaves as it supposed to and does not cheat itself to please audience. It arrives at the pay off and the culmination of sentimental set ups but it keeps Greg who he is all the way through.

While the film goes much to the credit of the structure, flow and characters, the film succeeds on the braveness of the young actor Zachary Gordon. At this age, he took the boldest move most well settled professional actors would not. That is to take up a role that might do the worst thing possible to cut off his career even before it began. To play a little devilish moderate boy and not come off as cute. That takes guts and this guy has it or to be precise his parents did the right choice and he is a natural in grabbing the opportunity.

It avoids every cheap shots the bored up school films have taken and treats itself with a respect. And it keeps the story about Greg and the people he affects, cares and understands in this little world of middle school. What a beautiful true friendship these two create out of Greg and Rowley. Rowley played by Robert Capron is another capable young actor making the boy into sweetly innocent and not completely stupid. Living the life to fullest applies to most of the kids but at that tender age to break the shell, Rowley still lives it to the fullest.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” have more colourful characters and real life situations. The deadly cheese on the basketball ground, the hunt for good candies during Halloween and the scary woods, the disgusting kid Fregley (Grayson Russell), the annoying brother (Devon Bostick) and the nice sweet parents (Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris) make this kids film into something more of an able classic for the coming years. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is the long awaited matured and grown up films for adults in kids and the kids in adults.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"La Moustache" (Language - French) (2005) - Movie Review

“La Moustache” has one of the very interesting premise lately I have been intrigued. Its protagonist decides to do something drastic with his facial appearance. Not a plastic surgery or to become grotesque to prove a point. He simply removes the moustache he had for most of his adult life. This happens in the first scene of the film and then as him we are curious to see his wife’s reaction. That is where the movie causes the insecurity and the underlying problem of the lives we lead and the approval we beg.

How many times we look into a mirror in a single day? How many times we men contemplate on choosing to remove the facial hair? What will friends comment? Will I be mocked upon or is it asking for racial profiling to have a beard while traveling? Whether parents will abhor it or wife will be angry at it? So much goes upon the way we look and this is more important as the hair growth is natural. It does not involve the prosthetics of the make up or the addition of a layer.

I remember the first time I shaved the patches of spots on my face and I remember the first time I kept a goatee. I also remember how weird it was to remove it several months later to get an out of body experience of seeing yourself as someone else. But “La Moustache” derives those experience into symbolism and then into a troublesome result for the central character Marc (Vincent Lindon).

Marc and Agnes (Emmanuelle Devos) appear to be the happy couple. Agnes leaves mentioning how much she will have trouble recognizing Marc if he removes his thick stache. Marc shaves it off and then waits for the moment to reveal. Unfortunately Agnes does not even comment about it. They go to a friend’s place and they do not say a word about it either. Marc thinks it is a joke taken far enough and outbursts on their way back in the car. Agnes is confused and claims he never had a moustache forever. Marc cannot believe this. From this on begins the riddle of what is real and what is not.

Emmanuel Carrere, the director of the film takes the banal thing of a men’s regularity into something more. When Marc is put into this mode of confusion and in a worrisome state of being merged into this fixed version of himself in his wife’s memory, the real strains on the relationship crack up. Soon both of them begin to wonder on what is real and who is going crazy. Though Marc is the primary candidate for insanity according to Agnes.

“La Moustache” begins to play this game and soon enough we understand that there is no common sense coming out of this picture. It is more towards the dissection of what an identity becomes in the long run and in a long term relationship. Life becomes stale and faces become a photograph than an actual emotional machine. The film apart from making its generality statements on the existing lives of the people, is specifically about this couple. As we meet, they are the right couple and the story begins with the moustache issue. We are made to believe that they have a perfect marriage and yet a simple confusion begins to dig up the actual insecurities in them. Soon they question their relationship more than the sanity.

I was curious on the premise as mentioned earlier and then was fascinated by the emotional disappointment Marc endures on the hands of the indifferent people around him on his change of look. Then it takes a deeper turn of which the sanity and matrimonial crisis it took upon. And finally enters into the bizarre world of realism, hallucination and literal symbolism. It might lose some audience when it takes the last dip.

This film would make most men hesitate a little before keeping the razor below their nose. The idea of becoming lost in the sameness brings a sense of being acknowledged and noticed. We human beings how much ever secluded, lonely and self centered we become are always in the lookout for some approval highs. That makes us truly the social animal we have been structured as upon. “La Moustache” reminds that in its own French way.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"The Vanishing" (Language - French/Dutch) (1988) - Movie Classics

“The Vanishing” is a cruel film and not in the sadistic grotesque visual, these days the movies opt for. It is cruel to its audience in giving a detailed methodical effort that took place behind the abduction of a Dutch girl in this film. But it frightens the simplicity and the person’s obsession to find out something of a limitation to his capability. When the reasoning behind that is explained, he is indeed a man of his own. Until the final moments, we are not scared of him, rather like him in several instances with his family. This is a nice man and he does the unthinkable.

A young man Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and his girl friend Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) are on a road trip into France. Rex and Saskia fight before she vanishes in a gas station. Before that, their vehicle gets dried up in a tunnel with blackness and deadly fast cars passing along. Saskia warned Rex to fill up the gas but he was too egoistic of listening to her. Now she erupts and then him in an unusual reaction leaves her alone in the car. We are petrified as Saskia. That might be the stupidest and dangerous thing to inflict on a girl who not long ago explained her nightmare of being stuck in a golden egg and horrified by the loneliness. Director George Sluizer teases with that scene.

The story is structured differently on the arrival to that point to the gas station of the couple and the intriguing lethal man Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). Raymond a chemistry professor lives in a secluded house covered by dense woods with his family. A lovely wife (Bernadette Le Sache) and two daughters. They are the perfect happy family and Raymond is caring adorable father. He is been though making several trips to a new house he is building and perfecting. Is Saskia there?

The assumptions and the grasps the director wants his audience to make becomes deviating but more so about the uncertainty, the repeating word Raymond explains later in the film. The film begins with the couple on how they came to the ill fated gas station and then follows the procedure Raymond takes on to get his victim in to the car. He tests the amount of time a person will be unconscious for a calculated amount of chloroform. He puts himself to that test. Then he rehearses how he will invite someone to his car and then carefully conceal the last minute mixture of chloroform to his handkerchief. He practices on his pulse to be cool on the adrenaline when the victim is so close to be trapped. He is meticulous in his technics and the worst is we are wondered by this exercise.

George Sluizer intents for his audience to feel a little sick unaware to even themselves on appreciating these hardships Raymond takes on to get his innocent victims. Then we are put into something else, the curiosity of Rex. The man being right there and even would have caught a glimpse of Raymond on that day. It has been three years and despite giving up hope on Saskia’s survival, he wants to know what happened. That haunts him. He has made peace with himself on not punishing the person responsible for this but the unknown information of Saskia’s fate drives him mad and to a definite insanity. Raymond invites Rex through an anonymous post card for third time to the cafe near his place saying he will let know of what happened. Rex comes by and sits in the cafe while Raymond watches him as a stranger. This time Rex has brought his new girl friend Lieneke (Gwen Eckhaus). She is nearing the threshold to play second fiddle to the disappeared girl friend.

“The Vanishing” then takes the ultimate surprise of Raymond offering the explanation to Rex. Their journey becomes more curious and so much more suspenseful and wonderment that leads to a devious tragedy. A clear vision on the presentation and a frightening cool act by Raymond redefines this trend about the hunt for the truth. The truth here is not one sided. As much as Rex wants to know the truth, Raymond’s quest is the same or at least was the intention when he abducted Saskia.

We get closer and closer to the end and Rex is surprisingly patient. He has waited enough for this moment and do not want to spoil it. The punishment is futile and the only freeing up of his troubled soul is to get a closure on his girl’s fate. We feel the agony, pain and insurmountable frustration Rex goes through and we weep for him. That has been achieved in several movies but this is something else, we are deeply bothered by this psychological cruelty of Raymond. The problem is, we have a teeny tiny idea of why and we understand it. As much unreasonable and psychopathic it is, we understand and that is troublesome. It smears the psychological terror in our hearts and we guilt ourselves for the limitless doomed and devious mind we have.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Ghost Writer" (2010) - Movie Review

It does appear that best of the lot conspiracy thrillers have disappeared along with the 70s and 80s. Though I have not seen the trend in the frequency of such great films as “Three Days of Condor” and “The Marathon Man”, the rhythm and having that keen eye to identify the curiosity of the audience is missing in the so called wannabe films in that genre. “The Ghost Writer” by Roman Polanski brings those memories back and splashes with the modernity of the era, place and the similarity of his film’s people resembling or rather getting inspired from certain historical characters.

A British writer (Ewan McGregor) known for ghosting famous personalities on their autobiographies is offered to get his service for former British Prime Minister named Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Living in an island of US territories, Adam is hot from the oven for an alleging information by his fellow cabinet Minister of illegally doing renditions through CIA on suspects of terrorism. The writer arrives knowing the fact that his predecessor died and the completed manuscript needs major correction. Time is limited and the conspiracies are high. Polanski runs the clouds of suspicion through some very interesting characters. All speak a lot but with a concealment buttery and mildly condescending.

The location adds to the mystery of this informal investigation McGregor’s character begins to pursue. A young lad and blatant on what he wants to put forth, he is good rather best at ghosting. He gets the deal and we agree with the selection of Lang’s attorney played by Timothy Hutton. He comes to the island through ferry and is posted in an Inn which is rather too lonely and haunting. The time I did my lonely drive during the winter to the East coast islands of Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke Island, the cottages were empty and the hotels were desolated. The idea of human existence unavailable in the constructions they build especially on an island is unsettling and Polanski takes that attribute to “The Ghost Writer”.

The residence of Adam Lang is a partial glass house exposing left beaches and the waves going unattended. There is a glass wall on each of the room and becomes a symbolism of the exposure this new man for the job is going to find out. It is blatant but not fool proof. There is theory and speculation but no evidence. There is a link between the CIA and the government Lang conducted but is it him shouting the orders, moving the coins?

The writer unaware and uninterested in the politics is pulled into this scheme of things. Adam Lang’s wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) has much awareness of the politics than the Prime Minister himself but he cites her as the reason for his involvement in the game of people governing. Ruth is an unhappy wife reasonably upset on the level of intrusion and control Lang’s close aide Amelia (Kim Cattrall) has. In between these women the writer gets caught.

Polanski in adapting the novel “The Ghost” by Robert Harris as this film is a story teller. There are directors, the best ones in telling a story are more involved in their view than the customer for their films. That is quintessential for an art work. Polanski on the other hand knows his customers and brings them in to his passion of story telling. This could have been a brainless exercise for a film materializing on the commercial capability. It does not settle for that because of the director and the actors.

McGregor is the labelled second grade writer wanting to be more than this. He is also invited by the curiosity these allegations and the people he sees on this man. Pierce Brosnan borderlines on authority and puppetry with a control. And the women in this film, Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall are perfect for this dangerous temptations yet sympathetic. These two always keep the men and audience on their toes. This gets even better when Tom Wilkinson arrives. “The Ghost Writer” is a professional and thrilling film by Roman Polanski.

"Repo Men" (2010) - Movie Review

The recent economy crash has presented the proof of the irresponsibility the system has harnessed. There is healthcare debate and capitalism cataclysm, put them together and it is “Repo Men”. A bloody, violent and a grotesque poetry which turns around at the tip of its presentation to rethink the whole film. The film began as the regular thriller. That means a very early prediction from my side on why the final job of the seasoned repo man Remy (Jude Law) back fired. It reclined further into another cruise control of a familiar plot line of the bad man hesitating to be on the opposite side of his job. Finally it became the gore fest it very much wanted to be and left me disgusted and at the same time empathizing the objective of it. And then, it offers a piece of information which put me in disarray, not confusion.

Jude Law lives in this more corrupted society where people are offered the choice of their life time with their entire life to pay for. Frank (Liev Schrieber) is a methodical sales man and a boss man for this team of mercenary. Remy and his childhood buddy Jake (Forest Whitaker) are a great team and have enormous fun doing this reclamation when the buyers skip bills. Soon there are more repossessions than actual sale. Remy’s wife (Carice van Houten) has had enough of this sickening job and has been bugging Remy forever for him to move into a docile department. He decides finally with lot of opposition from his friend Frank. One last job puts him in the position to get an artificial heart and now he is in the system. He cannot see his job of retrieving property the same as he conveniently used to.

There is essentially not even a speck of originality in this transformation. The transformation though has been the single most driving factor for understanding cultures in “Dances in the Wolves” and the CGI aliens in the not so impressive “Avatar”. The protagonist generally is in the dark side and makes a shift by literally been put in his/her victim’s shoes. The denial dims as the regret and guilt swallows themselves up. All is left is to fight the system back. Many of these steps have been a flow chart process. Still great directors get it. They not alone makes their lead character take the place but make the audience take it along with them. “Repo Men” is not much about that process . It has a different agenda which we realize in the end.

The cast here is ideal for a film that begins with disaster written over it. Jude Law as this English man living in the futuristic US is deeply devilish with a vigour and becomes a sympathetic man when we leave the theatre. Forest Whitaker is active, animated and makes Jake a lovable troublesome friend. He makes Jake not completely evil but with a touch of human and a possessive child in an adult body. And what can we say about Liev Schrieber, an equivalent charismatic man as Aaron Eckhart in “Thank you for Smoking” and to act out a deservingly hatable Frank.

The film sinks as it sails along to reach the inevitable destination of poor film making. At least it appeared so and it also takes the trouble of giving more reasons to flinch and wonder how much farther they are going to take this blood fountain. In the final act of Remy and his new love Beth (Alice Braga), similar to the “Old Boy” styled stunt with slice, chop, cut, stomp with distasteful sharp objects, they enter this server room (there is always a server room) to delete their accounts. Alas, they do not have a keyboard but a scanner. Director Miguel Sapochnik then goes into the darkest poetry you fathomed and begins love, flesh (literal) and organs being dug into the live body.

Then the unthinkable happens, a twist which always was in patches escaping by me makes to rethink major part of the film in a different perspective. In that, everything makes sense and not as a plot filler but a genuine utilization of the twist. It is not a huge surprise of revelation because you know it coming for most part in your subconscious mind. The reevaluation is the whole presentation of the film. Suddenly you see the reasoning for the detail in which Sapochnik went on to paint a flinching para of distasteful poem. The characters that did not make it out of a paper cut from a poster gets a make over.

I am definitely divided in coming up with a solid verdict for “Repo Men”. On one end it is this commercial R-rated entertainer being there to satiate these video game fans and follows the plot structure like several other failed blockbusters. Then there is the ingenuity of the ending and this is definitely me (as much as every review is the subjective opinion of myself). Now I cannot recommend for the unimpressive presentation and at the same time I want to recommend because the director makes an artistic blunder to prove his point. It is as Remy tells in an unexplainable no sense story about a cat being put in a box with a poisonous gas, being in the state of living and dead. “Repo Men” is exactly that.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"District B13" (Language - French) (2004) - Movie Review

“District B13” is not a film but a show. It features the art of Parkour, a particular kind of discipline in which the person uses the obstacles as a form of springboard to evade and glide through from point A to B by doing some impossible landings, escapes, slides and anything that begs a safety net. This directorial venture of Pierre Morel will keep you tightly gripped in its vital characters’ spectacular ability to springboard and you would expect them to break their legs but they do not, not the way Pierre shows it us.

Made in the year 2004, the film happens in Paris 2010 and what “District 9” took as an alien segregation, this film uses poverty and crime as the demarcation and hence the government has erected a wall and called it District B13. The future the film is set in has nothing to do with the thoughtful science fiction the movies set in future generally happen on. This is clean and well bred action thriller shot with spectacular stunt persons doing incredible feats.

The story involves a villain and his thugs ruling this badlands and then there is a good man caught in his hands and left astray by the government finally ending up in jail. Another police officer in the passion of the boasted duty takes up a mission to defuse bomb in B13 making him to combine forces with our good man. Fill in a sister to be saved, you get one of the old, dusted, blown, spit and downtrodden films any one would have watched growing up in the blockbuster 60s, 70s, 80s of any regional and international feature. And still I cannot rest free. It is action and action and ridiculous action that denies to stop in its short 85 minutes.

The good man is the Frenchman Leito played by David Belle, the founder of Parkour discipline and the cop is stunted by Cyril Raffaelli. What these two putforth in this feature along with others is beautiful. A different kind of stunt which is a fun to watch since we see only successes. Seeing this film for this adrenaline action of certain attribute of elegance in the rough environment they claw and jump on, I was reminded of none other than Jackie Chan. That man invented a style of his own in the martial art. He made his fights look clumsy but it involved such an immaculate timing. He hurt himself worse in every film and would do anything to get a fight choreographed right. It has always been how he is going to escape and what he is going to do next.

Jackie Chan made his fighting accessible. He made it look simple by using the surroundings in complex manner and hilarious in his pains. “District B13” does not make it funny and it is more serious, but there is novel in this action. It is more ground level in denying the computer graphics as Jackie did and then makes it real. The camera work gets it that perfect of placing those in the best spotted angles and capturing those efforts right at the vantage points.

The kinetic force of the film makes it go fast and faster. The dialogues are sparse as it should be and it drags when these people speak when they have to rest to calm their nerves. Pierre Morel is a hot shot to immediately take the next venture to “Taken” which I wrote that it arrived a little too late for the era. Now he has already made “From Paris with Love” with John Travolta and the sequel for this film is already out. He is busy and the reason is obvious. He can keep the momentum going.

I had pure fun watching “District B13” and in the style of those, I got hooked. Sure there are guns blazing all over the place and our heroes walk by without a scratch. Despite the discipline of this Parkour, there is no way in eternity they could pull off such an impulsive and instinctive perfection in escaping their targets and making it out alive without broken bones. Yet as much as it aspires to be real in its stunts, it warns those movie cliches and blunders by openly keeping the story to nothing. This is a mindless action but with lot of hard work and heart in making these stunts. For that, “District B13” kicks some phenomenal butts.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"The Messenger" (2009) - Movie Review

The psychology of a soldier returning from war gets one more treatment and it has a maturity to it. The young man Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) shows a level headed man in trouble. He has done his duty well and gloriously as he is hailed as a hero by his head. He is recovering from an injury which might have permanently damaged his eye sight. He can see but he clears it off with an eye drop, reminding him the deadly incident he will confess in the film. He is paired up under Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) to serve the Casualty Notification Service of the Army. They are messengers of the worst news possible for the deceased’s loved ones.

Ben Foster expressed his confidence in clearing a character out of the park in “3:10 to Yuma” along able actors Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. He is the wounded man and recuperating from the incident back in the war. He lives alone and his childhood sweetheart has moved on with another man, though she offers an obligatory welcome sex. This is Kelly (Jena Malone) and as much as Will knows the reality of these circumstances, the ritual of being nice stops him from the burning agony and loss.

Oren Moverman co-wrote this script with Alessandro Camon and directs it with acting as the punch line. Woody Harrelson is the tough and arrogant Captain resembling the stereotype of hard army man but then he twists him off as someone with being human. The old school army tactics of rough men going numb on emotions are there but this is a modern world which acknowledges the sensitivity of any men. He is perfect on this job. Go knock the door, read the script, stand there and never offer human contact with the NOK (Next of Kin) is his mantra.

When these men knock the doors, the day, the time and the circumstances are not usual. There is a father erupting on this unfair war played subtly and aptly by Steve Buscemi and another father realizing her daughter is married through the death. The anger transforms into consoling and everything changes. This is unpredictability in changing lanes of reactions and then there is Olivia (Samantha Morton). She knows why they are here and shakes the hand. She is dangerously calm and treats the men with some unusual empathy on the nature of their job. This gets the fragile mind of Will.

“The Messenger” is not a film taking situations easily for the screenplay. The attraction of Will towards Olivia is not something new but these are two actors behaving as the real people and a debut director with a more sense on the people’s ability to be tempted and not act. Will begins to get himself acquainted with Olivia and they both obviously are very close in kissing each other and swap their losses. And there is the moment when things are bound to happen and these two actors as the people deliver a thrill in drama of what they will or will not do before the scene gets over.

Woody Harrelson has been these offbeat actor coming on the lines of comedy and goofiness. He was delightful in “Zombieland” but he is capable of going full on as he did in “People Vs. Larry Flint”. The Tony Stone he portrays is a slipper slope in terms of redoing things set by the Hollywood war dramas. Still he invents something new out of this man. He is not a complete jerk realizing the social inhibition but a genuine man whose mannerisms and characteristics are such so. He is considerate when he needs to be and thus forms a n understandable and noble friendship with his much younger but wiser Will. In terms of Ben Foster, it is getting more and more clear of his capability being the promising actor he has been.

“The Messenger” might come off as the usual war drama but do not put that off in the enthusiasm to see it. There are performances tactful and precise to keep you on the toes of what the reaction they might pull. There are some thoughtful lines and characters who do not come as emotional basket cases but as some common people behaving out of their experience in their pure instinct. This is good acting and a great screenplay.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Green Zone" (2010) - Movie Review

Maybe it is a little too late in the arrival, because “Green Zone” is not a surprise. But again the knowledge I gained about these revelations were through several documentaries and keeping that in mind, may be for the regular audience this might come as a daring expose of behind the scenes events of the infamous ongoing Iraq War began by George W. Bush. Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon get their heads together again for this film.

It is a film with more shaky cams than the Bourne films and it gets irritating as we go by. The reason for this kind of film making is to take the audience into the action and making them a close participant thus bloodlessly visceral. Here it becomes a duty and sort of a resort to provide no detail whatsoever. And in the final chases scenes and the gun fights in the dark streets, it goes all over the screen and we are clueless of this technic.

Matt Damon is Chief Roy Miller leading the team in the damaged Baghdad for weapons of mass destruction. They are turning empty handed every new location they have been given. The intelligence comes from an unknown code named resource called Magellan as said by the Pentagon Special Intelligence officer Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinear). Amy Ryan is Washington Post journalist Lawrie Dayne getting little worried of publishing articles without any solid checking of the story she received from Clark regarding WMDs. Add Brendan Gleeson as the first ever known good CIA chief in the history of war prone Hollywood films, you get where “Green Zone” is going with.

Greengrass knows the direction of the script. In his previous films the actions are so well thought, choreographed that it made the audience not alone give an adrenaline rush but a little bit intelligent on figuring out the tactics Bourne came up with. Roy Miller is not Jason Bourne and rightfully so but the clarity of him in action is spoiled by Greengrass’ overdoing of queasy cams.

Regardless of the complaints, “Green Zone” is the full throttle ride the audience might seek for. It has very strong political stands in regards of the ridicule some of the warmongers in Pentagon resulted in. But if someone is not aware of those then there is some problem in the awareness. When the people are talking in the film, it draws attention, especially the one where we question how come no one verified the story. Trust runs too deep when the hunt is for reason to do the thing they planned.

One hour into the film, I sensed it is high wire film which targets on the genre and creates an action film with the Iraq war back ground as “Body of Lies” did. But as the same film, it fails when it begins to take a stands as though it appears there is crossing the line. The action it uses to falsely entertain its audience, begins to up on the face when suddenly people talking seriously about the issue of the war.

Khalid Abdalla as the local Iraqi man nicknaming himself Freddy is the side of the local person the films might miss. Not portraying much of the stereotype and not much as a strong anti-American soldier, Greengrass places him right where he wanted to. It is though too bad that we determine what he will be doing with a gun when Damon’s Miller chases the common target for truth General Al-Rawi (Yigal Naor). Matt Damon does not regenerate Jason Bourne and provides a character of a soldier in very much need of truth and the personal responsibility to himself and others.

“Green Zone” will satiate its purpose of existence though it shoots itself when it comes to taking a tone to the politics. Not that it is wrong but it does not unravel something we have not seen. The dark stories of lies and deceit to get the country to war is nothing new and several films have made their points and arguments against it. The only film which stood that test was “The Hurt Locker” which again did not take a stand of right or wrong and just invested itself on the character of James. “Green Zone” will succeed in box office but its final act tilts it to a mediocre films in my books.

"Creation" (2009) - Movie Review

Walking the thin line of bias and admiration, “Creation” is nothing so whatsoever of a campaign or taking a high pedestal as the elite atheist. This fictionalized version of Charles Darwin’s struggle to deal with the death of his eldest daughter Annie and the pressure, trouble and dilemma in finishing his work of “The Origin of Species” forms a film that is much overlooked and had few distribution for the year of 2009. A moving drama and a war within and with the marriage, “Creation” cannot be more powerful and yet remain so emotional simultaneously.

Jon Amiel does not want to focus on the child hood of this historic man, nor does he want to educate on his findings and self taught beliefs on the nature against the much pressured and closed community of 1800s. It does not run as a parade of scrutiny against the atrocities of being led to follow than to listen to oneself. It rather becomes a lovely story of a father, a husband and finally the man to formulate this book. The book that I need to read. It was the very first thing I decided after watching the film.

Vaguely in the high school memories lives theory of evolution for me. With the face of Darwin and the various species aligned, the experiment of a dirty cloth (or something) kept in a glass jar closed and opened is something permanently matched along with the man for me. I hope that is the experiment he did. The concept was far fetched and unattainable to grasp for this feeble mind. But realizing the existence and the nature of the surroundings was the way it was supposed to be learnt. Now the augmentation of such a great thought would be the right way to complete it.

Paul Bettany provides the Charles Darwin in “Creation” the necessary authenticity an average movie goer can relate and the emotional weight with the balance every actor hopes for. Here as the cheerful father, he talks with Annie (Martha West) seeing much and more of himself. He tells her true stories than fancy fairy tales. She absorbs them. Darwin cannot have asked more than her. There are three other children living in the shadows of their elder sister. Life would have been tougher for them but Darwin comes around finally.

“Creation” has so much in essence of Darwin’s spear edged theory not to conclusively kill god but to say that the possibility of these laws have something clear to the beings on the Earth, which is to live without the burden of purpose and like the nature of us than to cause a path to eternity. Yet it is not the film in itself. It does not have long and boorish argument of science versus religion. It is more about the state of mind of this man and more about his family. His wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly) is religious as any one would be in the era and the loss of a child will drive even a stone hearted stubborn person for a power beyond the skies. They both have not talked properly after that tragedy. Darwin is going sick and torturing himself while hallucination Annie. He has forgotten the family and does not know whether to go ahead with the book and destroy Emma’s final hope or to live with a buried conscience and cheating himself.

His nightmares are the over the time events of nature and his haunting are the flashbacks of those sweet innocent and caring moments with Annie. The Annie of his hallucination is merciless and speaks for his mind wars. Bettany in this role of a broken father and a scientist brings out the inner trouble through physical pain and constant thoughts. He gives Darwin as the best father and a troubled husband. But he is also a regular man.

What “Creation” does is the awe of someone finding and writing these theories in a world believing completely opposite of it. More than people laughing and making fun of them, it is dangerous to have a thought process which questions the belief system. All this could have been done loudly in the film but Jon Amiel settles for self questioning. The things we worry about if we are in those situations are the people we love and that is exactly what Darwin does. In those Amiel creates the affection and beauty of it playing as a wounded father and mother dealing their grief and their personal beliefs. It is not alone touching but adds the human value in logical senses in these situations. In its fictionalized account of such, it creates truthful value.

The music of Christopher Young and the acting of Paul Bettany with Jennifer Connelly are the best Jon Amiel could have asked for on such an onus of a project to pursue. Instead of making it an exercise of childhood, adulthood, realization and all those metamorphosis and catharsis, he takes the paramount event that would have caused the man to think and toil himself on this pursuit of evolution. In that we see a beautiful story with people struggling with their sorrow and guilt with the surroundings present without being seen.

Note: “Creation” has been added in the best movies of 2009

Monday, March 08, 2010

"Roger Dodger" (2002) - Movie Review

Male ego has never felt better and has never felt so bad. That is “Roger Dodger”, a tutor, a jerk, a master, a Zen and a pathetic human being. Campbell Scott is Roger, an ad man with an expertise to word fence anyone, anytime, anywhere. He would take the pleasure in killing with his highly attuned verbal and social skills that he will make you appreciate while doing it. Men are scared of him, women are more scared of him though viciously attracted. He is the fantasy we want to be and the debacle we know it will be. He is THE man and he is damn good at it.

Writer/Director Dylan Kidd in his debut makes such a striking film that it is so sad this did not get the attention at its time of release. A character study which does not become this entertainment factor on the rather unflinching victory over the opposite sex comes to terms predictably but without bowing his head. He is among the smokes and liquids in a blue tinted bar and people to watch. He simply denigrates women and then does so beautifully that he makes it a fact. A fact in which the women become this subdued powerful beings and the male the high powered utility machine soon to be eliminated by the scientific advancement. This is fireworks.

Roger is living the city life and is sleeping with his boss Joyce (Isabella Rossellini). Joyce is done with her boy toy and Roger goes to office dejected yet high on cockiness. His way of dealing with this is ferocious, almost ready to be self destructing when his nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) shows up unannounced at his office to slow down this process. Nick, a sixteen year old high school kid has learned a lot about his uncle through his mother whom Roger never speaks. Nick is sexually frustrated, curious, angered and what not one would see in a teenage boy and asks help. If these sequence of events does not make sense, you know what, forget about it. Go with the flow and you will be left with a ride and a night that cannot be forgotten.

In the city that seems to be glowing and dooming, New York is in scenes and the presence is the mood to this film. Roger begins this lesson in seduction to his nephew from Friday evening 7’o clock. There is a complete day’s work of time left to rumble in the jungle and get the hunt and make a man out of Nick as Roger would think. Nick is the sweet kid but has the gene. Much can be judged about Roger’s dad and Nick’s impulse in coming up with stuffs when the situation demands. These three men are gifted by this impulse while Roger has mastered it and Nick is ready to be groomed.

Roger takes on right away with two beautiful young woman Andrea (Elizabeth Berkley) and Sophie (Jennifer Beals) in a bar. Both are lured in and want to be lured into this known game of games. Nick is the naive kid aspiring to grow up before he wants to. They discuss the very same game of men with sense of humour and the need for the motorcycle guys. Both of these men the women drool on with a different sense of respect. It is funny to watch the irony as it gets proven and performed.

“Roger Dodger” does not make it a happy ride as this adrenaline control freak of a man tips over the cliff and takes his nephew along with it. As this teachings begin to appear fruitful, memorable and entertaining, it takes a deep dive into this merciless man and the situation goes far enough to be cruel and ugly. That is the boldness Dylan Kidd who takes on something daring and honest which begins as this satiric comedy.

It is a film on male’s quest to get a pass through the gate keepers of the sex, females. They need to be tricked, bullied, humiliated, sweetened, cuddled, cared, caressed and kissed. All this are known to them as they keep the cards close to their hearts. Why is this have to be such a riddle? Why cannot that simple communication be plain, upfront and right to the point? The clubs, pubs and bars are filled with land mines where a misstep results in an embarrassing, humiliating and failing moment in front of this whole world, or at least that is how the brain makes it think. Nobody is watching except themselves and the unabashed ego. Roger knows it and he uses it as a weapon than to be the wise man. It is success at its best and makes him the ultimate controller but failure is not an option. He hits that and thus propels “Roger Dodger”, a movie studying the psychology of the men, women and the chemistry between them but more than it is the man himself. Dodging is not an option for him this time around.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

"Brooklyn's Finest" (2010) - Movie Review

David Ayer’s script of “Training Day” brought director Antoine Fuqua along with a Denzel Washington as the snaky detective giving a lesson about thing or two on the streets of LA to Ethan Hawke’s character. Ayer went onto to write and direct “Harsh Times” another cop drama which invited Christian Bale to another weird ex-Army Ranger wasting the time and putting his friend’s life in the same streets of LA. In both of these films there are disturbed cops and two actors getting attracted to those two people most feared and most confused personalities. There is a liking to these characters from the actors and so does “Brooklyn’s Finest” bringing Antoine Fuqua to direct a similar genre of his finer film and bring in some talented actors.

Three cops, different careers, different family back ground but the mental anxiety, stress and the nervousness of their next action are common. The film begins with that regulatory scene where a character begins talking about a thing or an incident which would have a sudden end and it is not good. The surviving character is Ethan Hawke as Sal, a religious detective on money crunch. Don Cheadle is the undercover cop Tango and he has been in the drug chain long enough that the first thing when a cop pulls over, he wants to pop them. He needs out. Finally is Richard Gere as Officer Eddie Dugan, seven days shy of retirement and cannot wait it to be over. He is alone and yes has a favourite prostitute (Shannon Kane) to confide. All three are put in breaking situations and the outcome leads on to the other to finally have three endings in the same location as one would have guessed.

There is a grit in the film and the actors sweating out with all possible they can bring it in. Ethan Hawke stands out as this frenzied detective leading a family life and has kids more than one could count of while his wife (Lili Taylor) is expecting. The house is old and he needs a new house. With the pay as a police, he can barely make it and now he has to move. The result is to lay the hands on the drug money making mistakes which are as obvious it can be. He is hooked on to it and is almost a junkie to the fact that he has long forgotten the need for the money. Hawke gives out his usual best and is great to watch him. His friend and colleague Ronny (Brian F.O’Byrne) knows his friend is up to something and their interactions are loomed with anytime shocking outcome.

Gere and Cheadle work in laid back mode. Cheadle especially has done a similar role in “Traitor” and cannot erase the similarities in the situations of those two. Wesley Snipes appears in his sporadic films and as Tango’s prison buddy Caz, their sequences have a certain professional outlook in their gangster dialogues. Richard Gere for a chance breaks off his sharpness and come as this “see no evil” cop, representing every ordinary citizen. He has kept his work straight and without events for twenty-two years. A rookie cop questions this attitude which puts the man at unrest.

It is evident so far in this review that the film is an actor’s arena and they take it. Though the editing keeps online and in those first line of simultaneous events for these three, they drag the audience towards the screen. “Brooklyn’s Finest” was well on the way to become one of the best flick for the beginning of 2010 (strangely the film was bought in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and got the light of tunnel now) and it does not stumble its way to doom but could not keep its created finesse till the end.
It is a better film, a well made movie deserves to earn those actors on the screen. It brings back the genre which takes a grim look and a tough stance to present and divide the screen, with and without prejudice. The heartbeat is consistent, uniform and takes the tempo as it can and always keeps us on hold intentionally. The characters every one of them come together at the scenario and gain attention if and only it is needed. There are not mistakes overall, just that the nature of the best raises the expectation.

Anotine Fuqua can be content with the outcome. And I did enjoy the film to a great detail. Watching actors do their best is a passion at work. When that is understood by an audience, the feeling is orgasmic. To be on that plane where those people putting up the film is an experience. It is too precious and personal that despite whatever the actor/director/writer did not intend becomes significant and however immaterial they would have treated becomes a treasure. There are several of those in “Brooklyn’s Finest” to make it a good film. Could have been the best though.

"Alice in Wonderland 3D" (2010) - Movie Review

Long I have forgotten the topsy turvy journey of Alice in the story books I read and Tim Burton is here to remind those in his likings for Depp’s theatrics and a tiny bit of vicious mood to assemble a kind of sequel in “Alice in Wonderland”. Another millionth thanks to CGI that the Wonderland is really wonderful with a sense of hiding a ghost underneath the bushes and the tree trunks. Alice goes where she is asked and naively believes that she is in a dream despite being in her final teens. Burton’s attempt is a self satiating exercise which goes predictable to more predictable and then to do not care attitude as the slaying sequence arrives.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is grown up and remembers her adventures as a dream than a doubting reality. She is a father’s child and as films would have those sentimental killing of the dad, she is left with her mother (Lindsay Duncan). In the Victorian era, girls follow their mother’s wishes and hence Alice is at the doorstep of being engaged to a not so pleasant Hamish (Leo Bill). Running away when she is popped with the question, she follows the fancy Rabbit (voice of Michael Sheen) ultimately ending in the adventure land.

The intention of Burton is clear which is to have a version for himself of this acclaimed and a dubious story for every child. Recollecting the distributed memories hidden somewhere, the childhood story brings a crazy world too crazy for the young mind. And Burton captures that mood in this film with obese twins (voice of Matt Lucas), Hookah smoking Absolum the wise Caterpillar (voice of Alan Rickman), talking Rabbit, talking Bloodhound (voice of Timothy Spall), talking mouse (voice of Barbara Windsor), talking and disappearing cat Cheshire (voice of Stephen Fry) and the dead heads on the canal outside of the castle of Red Queens (Helena Bonham Carter).

And as I was thinking of the nature in which these elements are a tad bit graphic for the young kids, there comes a plucking an eye of a creature to give any one a shiver by the mouse’s little sword. Thankfully no blood spilled and the creature lives by with one eye later to have it returned by Alice itself. There is a desperate attempt to make it PG rated and then Burton wanted his way. How certain scenes past the rating board is a question with no answers.

In this mad land with Depp again going for that crazy character Mad Hatter, it does not have that another layer the director plans it to be. The relationship between Hatter and Alice is a mild effort to have a certain understanding and analogy of the nature their lives are in each of their worlds. Yet it does not come as a profound imagery rather an addendum posed for an emotional connection to the screenplay.

There are typical Burton moments when the White Queen played by Anne Hathaway with a weird goodness. Her White Queen withholds her rage and anger by saying inside her “Serenity Now” by Frank Costanza in “Seinfeld”. And the despicable potion she manufactures in front of Alice to come to her normal size is devilishly witty too (another “Is it a PG movie?” moment).

I think if it did not have the constraint of produced by Walt Disney and more so to address to the younger audience, this would have been a dark fairy tale of strange kind. Instead it becomes a screenplay constantly aspiring to be that dark tale rather than being one providing a single note experience.

I have admired the performance of Mia Wasikowska in the brilliant HBO TV series “In Treatment” as the troubled teenage US gymnast aspirant and was even more surprised to learn that she is an Australian. After that I saw her in few smaller roles in the films I did not much like and this is her first assignment in a full feature performance. She faithfully adheres to the Alice but it does not stick to the reality this Wonderland tries to project.

Friday, March 05, 2010

"Wild Strawberries" (Language - Swedish) (1957) - Movie Classics

Into the steps and finally to the doors of Ingmar Bergman’s classics, I watched “Wild Strawberries”, a tale so sweet and so compassionate that it pushes you to tears and then brings back to calm jubilation. Having been well reserved into the films of Bergman’s, I think there will be flurries of his films to be reviewed by me. After Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman is the director with a film making me completely comfortable of how much I will be enjoying this one and many of his. I feel like a man finding a rare treasure and knowing that there exists many more like this. This cannot be more wonderful for a tough week to end in a beautiful Friday evening.

Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström) is a lonely old man. The film begins with what might be called the greatest sentence about a laziness of a man not ready to be social or can also be called as an adamant man adherent to his principles. The line goes like this, “In our relations with other people, we mainly discuss and evaluate their character and behavior. That is why I have withdrawn from nearly so-called relations.” An artistic epitaph for a lone and sad man. But I infer a man respecting principles over relationship. A poetry on a conflict and that is how the rest of the film unfolds to its viewers.

Bergman makes death more deadlier than we would think and than leaps us with some icy cold people to make death a better option. These people in the terms of socially interaction are not the violent or dangerous beings but their nature kills the surroundings. The definition of an unconditional love is almost non-existent when we meet them. Fortunately it is all palatable in Bergman’s presentation but the profoundness strikes as the scene is finished.

Isak has led a successful career as a medical professional and now he is being honored. The film is the day leading to it. He has a frightening dream. He dreams of his death in how the dreams will be. Chaotic but precise in its meaning are these dreams. He gets up earlier and decides to drive instead of taking a flight. His 40 years of house keeper Miss Agda (Julian Kindahl) knows the man more than a wife would know her husband. They have a tiff right in the morning but make up as a cute old couple. His daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin) comes down and decides to drive along with him to the destination where her husband and son of Isak will be waiting. Why she is with him will be answered and will provide the final nail in the coffin of this old man’s realization of the life he has led and left with.

Bergman like Kurosawa speaks as a wise old man in the most unexpected characters. As the journey begins, within couple of minutes Marianne mentions how much she dislikes Isak and Isak not surprised questions it, almost without interest. These characters speak the meanest things possible in the most sweetest way and the other characters receive it and give it right back at them. The clarity of meanness is entertaining but scares of knowing these people.

Isak is nice in the formal way and Marianne can see it like a transparent clean glass. She knows it because his son is a product of him. Due to the dream, Isak decides to stop at his childhood places. One being the summer house where his family of ten siblings along with other cousins spent their holidays. He flashes back to those days and he sees the people he vividly remembers.Sara (Bibi Andersson) is the love he lost to his brother. We learn that yearning and how it has caused the damage to the rest of his life.

These scenes where he goes as the old man and relives those are touch of genius. Isn’t most of our memories a first person experience than a young version of ourselves? How come none of the other film makers realize that? It is simple and obvious that it almost makes us idiotic to acknowledge those depictions. Bergman does not and he gives a realistic look on the memories we would see.

Along this ride, there are three young hitchhikers to Italy. A female coincidentally and rightfully named Sara rides along with two of his love interest of opposite beliefs. Viktor (Björn Bjelfvenstam) and Anders (Folke Sundquist) fight about god and science. They are full of life and are astonished by this great man. Isak looks at them with a smile. Along they see another couple whose broken marriage terrifies the others. But it brings back more nightmares to Isak in his dreams.

Bergman’s film will be desecrated to simply call it moving. It is a fable with flesh and blood. It is brutal in its people but gentle on its teachings. It feels for the people and treats them clinically. It gives history as a guiding lesson to their soul and finally lightens it up too with a touch of magic. Of all, “Wild Strawberries” is a classic to see and make amends, peace and happiness with the life we have, had and will end.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"The Damned United" (2009) - Movie Review

Having the decency of respecting the loathing of real Brian Clough’s family towards the novel this movie is based upon, I have to review this film as a pure work of fiction. In that regard what a brilliant film Tom Hooper made out of the wonderful script by Peter Morgan. A film much to the credit of the cast gets us hooked on this strong man Brian Clough played by a sincerity of immense calibration by Michael Sheen. Peter Morgan loves real life events taking up the screen while Michael Sheen loves being in his screenplay.

Told in back and forth period from the time in 1974 when Brian Clough replaces Don Revie (Colm Meaney) as the manager for the Leeds United football club and then to the origin of the drive Clough had to have to destroy Don Review happening in 1969. Working alongside his buddy and reliable friend Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall), Clough jumps around like a mad kid winning a candy about being picked for his team Derby County to battle against the all mighty Leeds United. He is the manager of this little known club living in Division 2 league which for an illiterate football follower like me means low in the category of being played in professional football in Europe. And in the present 1974, Clough cannot hold the win over Don Revie in replacing the man himself, though Revie took the job as the manager of England team. He skips the initial meet with the club members to give a boasting interview to the Yorkshire television. This is his time and he relishes every minute of it.

Clough is arrogant, self righteous and embodies a body language of being that someone who wants to be someone else. He has personally ran a column to all the media he could find to tell about the rampaging of a lovely game by Leeds United under the reigns of Don Revie of making it dirty and savagery. Here he is to correct it all. That is not the agenda though. He has achieved what he wanted but how he wants to do it is not even an after thought. He is a man of elation unknown for the next purpose in life or at least the next purpose does not seem close enough for him to be driven as who he always has been, a brilliant manager with his football better half Peter Taylor. We notice that man is absent out here and that is blatant in his attitude.

A man idolizing Don Revie during his tenure on Derby County feels snubbed and humiliated when Revie denies a handshake knowingly or unknowingly. Any idolization demands a serious opposite reaction of being ignored. This fire which ignites takes him to heights and brings him down like a rock, shattering into pieces. We have a drive in our passion and a person to admire and follow. It is human to elevate them to the highest but as it grows into an obsession, that becomes an act of aggressive narcism. “The Damned United” is a movie on that and the medium is the game of football.

Rarely do we see the actual game in the film, because this is not about the tension or soapy predictable win in the end sports flick. It is about the players behind the players and their ambitions or misguided one in this case. Michael Sheen has often proved that he can bode any real life character onto screen. Here without any iota of idea about Brian Clough, I could say that he does a perfect job of making a character out of him. Not mocking or mimicking but a true human being living, breathing and agonizing about the flame he has been preparing in himself.

Timothy Spall as his friend and standing aside as the wise man for this pit bull of a man can provide an effortless support. But his performance is the key to understanding Clough. If Clough and Taylor were made to be effective and honest together, so does Sheen and Spall as those people in bringing the audience to see what existed between those two.

“The Damned United” is an exercise in an execution of a screenplay that is more than perfect. A mastery in timing those scenes and bringing the works of these actors to put it at the right places depended upon the editing by Melanie Oliver and the direction of Tom Hooper. It tells a moral tale of how easy a force of aggression misfired might cause a fall of a leader and a good man. It comes close to real life and snatches away to make it the work of fiction without glamour and melodrama. Despite the complaints of deviating very far away from the real life, “The Damned United” is a perfect film and one of the best for the year of 2009.

Monday, March 01, 2010

"World's Greatest Dad" (2009) - Movie Review

How many times people fall for the idea of liking someone than to like someone? The craze of media and the human philosophy of filling the emotional appetite has become more of a sale than an actuality. “World’s Greatest Dad” begins as a usual story about a loser middle aged dad into a dark comedy and commentary on the social pattern in behaviour and how it can be disturbing. This is one of the best overlooked film of 2009.

Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is an English teacher offering a dried subject of interest, poetry. His son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) is an obnoxious teenage dirt bag. He hates everything and lives for nothing. His passions include disturbing liking for freaky porn. While teenage can be a tough age to see the things, Kyle’s destination seems firm which is to be the biggest burden to his dad and do nothing for the rest of his life. While the school Principal Anderson (Geoff Pierson) likes to expel him for his trouble and other kids bully him, Lance does not have a choice.

Lance is the boring middle aged English teacher in every high school. He is writing at home and his novels keep on getting rejected. His colleague Claire (Alexie Gilmore) likes and fools around with him but also eyes for a more eligible English teacher Mike (Henry Simmons). As expected nothing goes right for Lance and his son is someone no one can deal with, even his best friend Andrew (Evan Martin), calm and collected friend. Then something happens which you will never expect and that turns around the film into more than a routine loser uprising movie. This is not your regular comedy, not even your regular dark comedy.

Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait draws an arc which does not quite surely knows where it needs to be or goes about. The film is an exercise on continuously throwing us off the rails with the unusual events happening in Lance’s life. Never does at any point the film settles and provides a unique sense of perspective on things normally does not cross through.

Robin Williams chooses a screenplay wherein he mellows down and go in for a character role. At the second half of the film, his character makes a fortune of a dark misery and begins to take as long as it comes through. In other films this might be a formula routine of guilt trip and the meltdown in front of a national television show. Here it comes to the brink of that but ends in a massive honesty. Lance ends as a jerk but comes with a clean conscience.

A film which does not rely on the usual laughs and regular emotional subtle dramas, “World’s Greatest Dad” shows what people really are. It studies the emotional flow chart of each individual and sees what we are made of. The attraction of popularity, fame and money is subtle or the party who wants it tries to be subtle only to be obvious. Claire is a unique character in that subtle greediness and the status of playing these two guys depending on her mood. Nothing much is told about Claire and Mike, other than the fact that she has been using Mike too. Alexie Gilmore provides a character villain in this offbeat dramedy.

Goldthwait knows how the mass hysteria works and how people are swept by this idea of being that great flag bearer. It does not matter whether they knew the person or even respected when they were alive, all it matters is that they belong to that fanatic of a person in hoping for something to follow. This idea of being the sincere fan is a disease and a hindrance in any field one pursues.

Robin Williams comes as a dad with problems of a post mid life crisis. He cannot breakdown as it will be too cliched and too humiliating. Daryl Sabara as his intolerable son scares us with such a devious character. The son’s character is so skewed and misanthropic that we hope for no such son for any one we know. What I sat before the film was completely different from what I got. It is subtle, funny, profound, beautiful, dark and reflective of human condition in desperate situations.