Friday, April 30, 2010

"Bubble" (2005) - Movie Review

Steven Soderbergh can be stylishly classy as “Ocean’s Eleven”, stylishly real as in “The Girlfriend Experience”. Here he is painfully real in “Bubble”. It has non-professional actors almost playing themselves in a way and it goes through the lives of these people in a span of a week. In this town of blankness, nothing gets dramatized even though there is so much of it happening.

In a small town is Martha (Debbie Doebereiner), a forty-ish single woman with no kids taking care of her elderly dad. She appears to have no life in this town but she is not aware of it. She works in a factory which manufactures dolls. What a strange place is this factory. To see the bald, hairless and eyeless model is more than eerie and creepy. But this is the oddity in this otherwise checkered town.

Martha provides ride to her neighbour and her only friend, a young man Kyle (Dustin James Ashley). Kyle works at the factory too. The conversations between them are unbelievably realistic and the humour in the film is how much we see those lifeless talks we carry through in a day. Lifeless but those are the starters for a good one yet Soderbergh does not let his characters speak those. Not because he did not want to rather because it does not happen.

In between them comes Rose (Misty Dawn Wilkins), a young single mother. She immediately takes notice of Kyle and Kyle her and Martha on both of them. Martha is the old woman obligated to be nice while Kyle is the single most outstanding candidate for Rose. They are bound to happen, for better, worse and for the heck of it. In all these sequences, things happen without a fuss. No evidential mention by Martha that she is teeny tiny jealous of Rose and teeny tiny possessive about Kyle.

Soderbergh can be unique and adamant in his storytelling and flagrantly grandiose in some other stories. He chooses this setting because the story out here has either been dramatized or never been told for what it is. As much as the life of these three appear to be boring, this is the real life of the daily happenings in any of ours. This is not sad but these are the people, the talks that goes and emotions that are unspoken and deeply hidden. These happen without the need of Meryl Streep or Al Pacino.

The music of Robert Pollard cannot carry anymore on the tone what the film is about. It has guitar strumming of several chord in an unpredictable order. It is not out of tune or irritating but not pleasant enough to embrace it. It is enough to have a curiosity on the music and the scene which it plays for and it is the grey area between annoying and entertaining. It never settles out or yearns its audience. It is as Soderbergh’s presentation, unique.

The film is said to have been shot with no script. There was an outline laid out by Coleman Hough and they worked the rest on improvisation. It is how it gets the ambience of stinging non-fiction. The people talk to fill out the time they are obligated to be surrounded by others. Martha and Kyle have been conveniently living in those moments. It does not take a great cheerful and colourful personality to shudder the balance. All it takes is a young girl of Kyle’s age to respect her hormonal instincts.

“Bubble” is a statement on the lives. Not on this uneventful town rather a part of ourselves in our daily existence. There are no “Hi, how are you doing?” to a stranger in India but there are plenty in the US. That is the best quality which soon becomes a meaningless exercise. Such is the people in “Bubble”. They have become their life’s meaningless exercise and they have basked in the boring comfortableness of it. Even the slightest alteration can craze up the sublime.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"In the Line of Fire" (1993) - Movie Review

The romantic obligation in a potentially great film is the worst punishment a film lover could run into. You have a deadly character, another deadly character and much fist fight running through psychological games and conversations. Then there is a cushion in between these tough moments posed as a tough agent and an equal to smoothen the tension which not alone becomes sexist but denigrates the notion of the audience wanting to be satiated of such cheap pleasure. This is “In the Line of Fire”, a victim to a worst crime, though common in the Hollywood called compromise and it is painful to see a talented director who gave “Das Boot” and this almost perfect film. It is Wolfgang Petersen.

This is the last film Clint Eastwood acted under a different director than himself and he brings his roughed out persona with the eyes so menacing begging to surrender his opponents. He is Secret Service Agent Frank, one of the guards close to JFK during his assassination. He is old, spent his time, worked out his reputation as the lonely lion and his body is getting too tired up for his job. He is haunted by messed up individual calling himself Booth mouthing around his plan to assassinate the fictitious President in the film. He does so through phone conversation and as any lonely assassin, chooses to fraternize with his opponent. Frank is chosen specifically for the reason of being the one letting the bullet to be taken by the JFK but more than that it is a compassion by Booth. Booth empathizes, sympathizes and closely associates himself to Frank.

Initially we suspect Booth to be a simple freak knowing to press the right buttons to get Frank go nuts about guilt and cowardice. When John Malkovich becomes this man from the voice, the simple freak is real and more so, dead cold serious about his mission. Even beyond that is the affirmation he brings upon his audience. This man is going to complete his work and he is perfectly capable of it. Not because of his advanced gun he is building at his workshop and not because of his technical craft of scrambling his phone signal to be untraceable by the nerds in the department but plainly talking over the phone with the scary Clint Eastwood’s Frank. Malkovich is more than a villain.

The story is only and should have been only about Frank and Booth. It should not have even rested a minute on the shoulders of the flirtation between Frank and the only female Agent in the film, Lilly (Rene Russo). It should not have even shown the face of the President. It should not have settled for a redemption of its old hero. This is not about what the character deserves and gets but should have been about the manner in which he gets it.

The most crucial scenes in the film are the phone conversations between Frank and Booth. In those scenes John Malkovich reigns and Eastwood sublimely rules in his own way of letting the character take it. These two are men given themselves to the job and have undressed themselves of any social skills. They have either chosen to or been chosen by the job to lead a life like that. In Frank’s case, the job sucked him out of the longevity he could sustain a relationship with another human being and in Booth who we learn is a killing machine for the government has a mind created by the job and himself.

In many of the films, where the protagonist is threatened, challenged and often compared with the deadly antagonist of devilish nature, antagonist assumes a friendship with his adversary and in the lapse of doubt and some sprinkled guilt, the protagonist assumes that too. Sometimes it is apt and cannot be more right as in “Heat” and other films miss it (and for weird reason I could not come up with a specific one. May be it is my mind). Frank even at the very end does not share that assumption as Booth does. May be the denial runs so high but these are two different people.

“In the Line of Fire” breathes its genre as a thriller in every step of it. If they could have removed the character of Lilly or at least treat it as an equal as the character says so, there is more thickness in its people’s persona to clash and chew on between Frank and Booth. Even Dylan McDermott’s Agent Al as Frank’s partner is routine and mainly predictable. It has two great actors doing the best roles and it loses itself in not understanding the capability it holds.

As much as I loved the film for the most part, some of the known settlements bothers me to great detail. There is nothing more worse than a great film doing silly blunders for the supposed wider audience. (spoiler ahead) Think about “In the Line of Fire” I had in my mind. The story follows everything except Lilly is there only as a good agent and Al remains as a good partner without being sacrificed. And think about the final part of the film wherein Frank comes home with Lilly though in my version he comes alone after the press hoopla of him being the hero. He is tired and sees the empty house. He plays his phone messages to hear Booth talk about the possible outcome of the assassination. Frank hears it with cold face when Booth says as in the film, “What is there to move on with your life? We are meant to be alone” That is a downer but has a real character to it and a goddamn respect it deserves.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Night Moves" (1975) - Movie Review

Movies are about reactions. Love, hate, pain, nostalgia, anything resembles the human gets lighted up. Sometimes it is nothing, I mean not even dislike or hate but a simple plain nothing. You did not mind the film but did not devote yourself to it either. “Night Moves” might fit that bill. May be it is the mood I was in or may the tone of the film, it fell right on that spot. As the credits rolled up with a boat circling drowning plane and a murdered girl, it is poetic and cold.

From the mid seventies, this picture is nostalgic in the costumes and attires of that period. That includes a twisty music by Michael Small. The bass guitar funks out the melody when there is an expectation in the plot twist. The story begins with Private Investigator Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman). He works in Los Angeles which means he would end up with a film celebrity somehow or other. Here it is Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward). A moderate celebrity to be precise, passed over her prime period has called in Harry to find her sixteen year old daughter. Apart from drowning herself in alcohol and looking a lay in the men she meets, Arlene has little motherhood left to find her daughter. Harry does not mind as this has been the soul which has running his engine of life.

Harry has a personal life which has departed its emotion from what we witness with him. His lovely wife Ellen (Susan Clark) is having an affair with Marty (Harris Yulin) and he goes directly to Marty than to ask Ellen. Their marriage appears to be hardly functional because there is a deadness in the space between them. Harry does confront Ellen but only delays and avoids the barren truth that it might be over for these two. His case takes him to Florida Keys and there he meets his assignment Delly (Melanie Griffith) her step father Tom Iverson (John Crawford) and the voluptuous Paula (Jennifer Warren).

The major part of the film is the set up for the final twenty minutes of helplessness for Harry. Harry’s past life is a professional foot ball player and he has jumped to a complete different domain. What made him drive to this occupation is unknown but he likes clues and tracking them. He is not great at it but he is good at it. He has muscle and maturity that he can wait the waiting out. He takes as it comes and when the free spirited and tempting Delly runs around naked and inviting danger, he simply stays put. There is a kindness in his presence and that takes the time for any one to reach out for him.

Delly does reach out after a dreadful experience underwater which would become the turn of events the rest of the film. “Night Moves” though deprived of any real sense of feeling for me, is a film out of sorts for the times when the change in the film tone were either extreme like European films or dumbed down in the silly action films. This film directed by Arthur Penn lies in between and produces a rhythm of caution in its execution. It is patient and things happen so fast in the final twenty minutes that you wonder whether we are missing something.

Gene Hackman carries the weight for a character haunted by some unsettled memories and dealing with a marriage break up through his job. Hackman provides a common man doing a job which has only been glorified or animated by the Hollywood. Here his job appears simple, lot of travel, meeting new people and let things fall than to chase. Yet the hollowness in the work is not because of the extending time but the people he crosses.

It is one of a kind film. It does not say much and it does not move fast. It paces through as a normal day and moves crazy as an episode of “24” though with more sense than the TV series. Strangely it does not invite an emotion from me and it ends with a haunting note which weird might it sound, is not haunting enough. Its dark territory need more time to get a feel for it but may be I am cold hearted. Still the problem I see in “Night Moves” is that it places its tragedy without an empathy but wants it though.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"The Losers" (2010) - Movie Review

“The Losers” is everything that indicates of summer blockbuster around the corner. It also indicates that how hard it is going to be for me. Another adaptation from the comic world, Sylvian White directs this explosive, sexy, grungy, sleek and predictable film. Why they are called the title is unknown, may be they would eventually lose everything in their life? Too philosophical for a bang-bang film.

Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Jensen (Chris Evans), Roque (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short) and Cougar (Oscar Jaeneda) are indeed “The Losers”. Team working for CIA, they make sure bad people are killed and they are done with pure fun. In that opening sequence for showing their talents, they jump in among fifty men with AK-47 and take every one of them with pleasure. Then they rescue a group of children used as a mule for drugs and in the chopper they were supposed to leave, they let the kids go. The helicopter is targeted and trashed completely. They fake their death in the process with no choice and vanish. These are the good guys.

Apart from a radio voice, Max is the man who wrote their script to be killed and hence Clay the moral compass of this gang cannot get over the dead children. In comes Aisha (Zoe Saldana) the sex pot with a fetish for violence, offering them ride back home and an opportunity to kidnap Max. Everything is funded and she is in for something else, if you have not figured that out already. Thereon it is shoot first and ask for grenades immediately.

So it is becoming a procedure for the apologies from my side to the unknown readers. The readers looking for a good time absenting them from themselves and bedraggle in this action ride. I am with them and would like to switch off myself if a movie lets me do so and have fun with it. “The Losers” did that a few times with Chris Evans and Columbus Short making their characters work on buddy comedy. It also invited me in for a cool experience with some grunge rock music. But in this short hour and half film, it was elsewhere with me.

For a movie goer looking for that moderate entertainment to barely get good value, the film meets just what they need. While I did like these guys beyond the shooting game, they are not the buddies who I would think it to be cool to have drinks with. They are fun among themselves and does not strike a level of empathy with their audience. In action films with random comedies, that becomes the make or break deal.

Take “Midnight Run”, one of the best action comedy films I have ever seen. Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin bring two spectacular characters. An ex-cop turned bounty hunter and an accountant who embezzled his mob boss on the run. Both of them live among the undergrounds of low character in some level or other and yet at the end of the film, we absolutely love them. Robert De Niro’s character is foul mouthed, bad tempered and would not be a good man to hangout with but we get him and that gets a special point. “The Losers” can be left in the comic books with fancy faces and graphic presentations instead of a full blown film.

Sylvian White like many directors up and growing has worked out the stylish factor for a macho film. Every one of the directors with good financial back up gets that right. May be it is the music video trend that has brought the muse in them, they do a damn good job of mixing action, sex and music in precise fashion. White needs to work out his story and characters now.

Aisha’s character should have been more than a bad girl ready to get rough. She is brought in to play around with the sexual tension among these men and as though cracking a joke, she ends up with Clay with no questions asked. There is not even an attempt to make it a little more important to keep on our toes. “The Losers” will dethrone the existing box office number one and many people will look at me crazy for taking a high pedestal but I did not have the fun I thought would have.

"This Film Is Not Yet Rated" (2006) - Movie Review

When the Deepa Mehta’s “Fire” got it release in India, spur should be putting it lightly among the public. There were threatening demonstration and demolition of theatres screening the film. Now that is something to be scared and you want the members of the censor board allowed it for viewing maintain secrecy, but they are not in India. In India, the majority of the audience are ultra super conservative crowd when it comes to films. Here in the United States, the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) is the sole owners of an unofficial censor board but official rating systems in the film industry. Here is this body of unknown people and they declare them as the representation of American parents rating the movies you and me go to theatres and rent in DVDs. Ever wondered on what basis they give these ratings? No one knows.

Kirby Dick the director of “This Film is Not Yet Rated” takes the war on MPAA. He is not as dramatic as Michael Moore but borderlines on invading privacy. He hires a Private Investigator to finally reveal the MPAA raters. This organization formed when silent films were the main stream to be this supposed guardian to channel the creative works and deem the right audience. Sounds good to me. We do need a guideline and especially when you do not want your kids to see what they are not ready for. Kids do what they want to do eventually though but you do not want to open the door. There is a conscience of responsibility. But if that guideline is more of a standard for box office numbers to be high, what happens to the independent film makers?

The documentary interview film makers Kimberly Pierce who made the daunting “Boy’s Don’t Cry” and was slapped with NC-17. She did not mind as the content indeed needs an age limit but the studio was backing off. Promotions go away and it is like the sick kid no one wants to play with. It is tainted. Several independent film makers go through this and the MPAA cuts off their chances for any kind of marketing or box office return. The creators only ask for transparency which is completely absent in this organization.

Movies are the artwork of a team spirit. It involves directly and indirectly several people. It is an organism and the birth of it comes through many people. When the hard work is done, correcting, criticizing, worrying and spending immense amount of their time, a group of invisible people comes to a closed building with a guideline to rate not even present to judge and decide the miniscule chance of returns for a film. But beyond that is the unfair criticism and it personally offends the author of the work.

Kirby Dick lays out the discrepancy and the no sense strategy in branding NC-17 and R-ratings unevenly on films. There is a funny way in understanding the few opinions which come out of these MPPA. You cannot show too long of an orgasm is one such. We saw a glimpse of pubic hair and that is NC-17 is another argument. And the icing on this whole thing is that there are two religious representations involved in the appeals. What is so secretive about these raters?

Dick links the tie ups of this corporate studio giants to have a strong recommendation on this organization. The head of this corporation Jack Valenti has been proud and righteous about what he has established. Policing might be wrong to say but dictating with unknown rules behind closed doors calls for more severe term than that. There needs a body to provide a guideline for the audience and I will not dispute that. I use it as a guideline for my choices of viewing a film or at least makes me prepared on what to expect out of it rather than shocked. But when it directly affects the income of some and them having to be in the dark of not knowing why they are deemed such rating as they would not expect is hurting.

Any organization of deciding authority runs into the bludgeons of criticisms and unfairness. MPAA initially appears to be running on to that but the simple democratic action of being transparent is denied and that goes far out of line in the country which boasts itself of the system it governs. No one questions that there are films for grown ups, kids and the in between but to not have a method to at least have a semblance of fairness sickens the way MPAA operates.

“This Film Is Not Yet Rated” is a film to be watched by every parent and of course due to the images they show it is not surprising that it gets rated NC-17. Kirby Dick includes that process too in the documentary and revealing the raters he found using his PI. The public declaration of Jack Valenti is that all the raters only work for 5-7 years and they are the representation of the American parents. The raters here are not those and that explains everything that is wrong about the system.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"The Puffy Chair" (2005) - Movie Review

Certainty in many things is a demand but in relationship it is not. It scares the men and in the days of the liberated women, it scares them too. In this era we have discovered and confused on the phenomenon on selfishness while it morphs and reveals as freedom. When it feels right to tie the knot? When it feels she/he is the one? Is it the reason for our life or is it the security we want with the person forever with whom we are at the height of our happiness? Several Hollywood films say those and many of them cheesy and disgusting. Few come through in the independent stream. This is the Duplass brother’s “The Puffy Chair”.

Josh (Mark Duplass) and Emily (Kathryn Aselton) are having dinner. It is a special dinner as Josh is about to venture out for a trip early next morning. She wants the night to be hers and he is glad to hers but there buzzes the phone. A dear friend has called him to hook him up with someone he knows. He is downright rude by completely ignoring Emily and plainly insensitive along the way. She wonders whether she really is dating this person. She rips out the table cloth and walks out. Josh slowly gets out to see where she went and comes back home. Next day Emily wakes up to a soothing music coming through her bedroom window. She peeks to see Josh playing her song in the boom box as the beautiful “Say Anything” have gifted the men to placate a rift with their girl friends. She smiles and he invites her to the road trip. This is Josh and Emily, the couple on the cusp of a proposal or a break up.

Written by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass, “The Puffy Chair” does not dissect the whacky out of the ordinary characters. Josh is a sweet guy with a sweet tooth for the misery stupid jerk we have seen in our friends, and a little bit in ourselves. He can be super sensitive in hunting down a replica of a puffy recliner chair his father used as a gift but cannot spend extra 10$ for one more person in a motel. Emily knows this and the good outweighs the bad side for her in this young man. She puts up with this.

So the trip is the plan of Josh to say hello to his brother Rhett (Rhett Wilkins), pick up the chair from the seller and drive to Atlanta for his dad’s birthday. Rhett has a bushy beard and brown eye. He has a smile which would comfort any one at pain. He is the easy going hippie of the suburbia. When Josh and Emily visit him, he is hiding in the bushes and comes out with a video camera. In his apartment, he shows the video he shot which is a lizard carefully moving along and providing a strange sense of aestheticism and organic feeling. He is so involved in the surroundings that he does not even remember his dad’s birthday. He decides to tag on and the way he puts it is not intrusive but a smooth blackmail. He gets on the van.

Duplass brothers carry a drama with the similar treatment of natural flavour as Rhett carries himself though they are more responsible than him in their task. In this road trip, people get married, people get disappointed and people get thoroughly confused of themselves, situations and relationships much like our day to day life. We are around the characters and swing by them in conversations. “The Puffy Chair” might be the perfect exemplary of the trend of modern young men and women in this phase of their relationship forced to go beyond it. Josh and Emily from the tell of their body language mention us that their boyfriend-girlfriend tenure has sustained some great mileage. What is next?

And with the young free soul brother finding love in a night and decide to tie the knot , the pressure only gets higher. This does not help Josh in escaping the decision. For Emily this is new to see Rhett being spontaneous but Josh knows better. He does not oppose what Rhett is up for. He rides along and enjoys his brother’s impulsive actions. He warns Emily for not getting her hopes up on a great happy ending for Rhett but at the same time he administers the impromptu wedding on the wee hours under the influence of alcohol with beautiful vows and love. Josh is the complex miser we would never understand the reason for his snobby behaviour.

When everything is pointing fingers towards the commitment phobia Josh, we are stumped by the drive for Emily to push for a permanent fix. It is almost a David Mamet moment when Josh catches that off Emily. These are simple couple with the most common problems of any two people in a relationship. It amuses me that after all these years of so many people in relationship and researches, one would expect that someone would have figured out an answer for these problems. “The Puffy Chair” is one another great inspection of this simple complex thing called relationship and it in its tiny independent way takes bold steps, twists and settles on an ending which is again, so typical of the today’s generation but not so typical for a film about a couple.

"Brother's Keeper" (1992) (Documentary) - Movie Review

“Brother’s Keeper” is an honest documentary. It has a fair eye on its primary people and shows a real life court case without drama, because the reality of that is confusing. Watching this film exposing to a society and people rarely seen in the US. It follows the Ward boys as the people of Munnsville, New York call these old man in their sixties. Delbert Ward, Lyman Ward, Roscoe Ward and Bill Ward were brother living together in a torn down two room shack for all their years. The documentary is the trial of Bill Ward’s death and his brother Delbert Ward being charged with murder in the second degree.

This is not a drama, well it is but not the kind we are used to. These are people oblivious to the world outside of them, rather do not care about it or think about it. All of them can sparsely read and they cover themselves with beards and wrinkled skin. These are not the ordinary men we would like to converse on our way through a lonely road with nothing but their shackled house. But these are the ones we will be seeing and may be get a taste of their living existence.

Directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky are interested in the Wards and more interested in this battle of supposedly hick people and the city slicks. Before this murder trial, even the townspeople of Munnsville did not care much about the brothers. Yet they do not care because that was not their business. The time though has come to stand for them and they stand well for them.

Bill Ward was said to be suffering from excruciating pain. One of the brothers say that he cut himself with a chainsaw. Delbert Ward says he found his brother dead and they called up the neighbours and few friends for help. They go through procedure and for odd reasons, they suspect it to be a murder. A mercy kill by Delbert by suffocating his brother to relieve of his pain. Took into custody, he was questioned with the people he can barely able to understand and vice versa. They needed a confession and they get it without him having no clue of what he was signing.

“Brother’s Keeper” will not affect you in emotional level. It does not portray the love these brothers have for each other. In fact I am not even sure how they relate to that fact. They have lived together all their life and prison might provide them with clean health and surroundings than their house. It is shabby, unclean and gets a super definition for the term mess. They are farmers and that appears to be their passion, though not much is said.

The reason we do not get an in depth exploration of the Wards is that they have grown with the disability of expressing or exploring themselves and the surroundings. They are of course happy in their land and they mind their business as other farmers do. The film documents the sudden burst of the media interest into their story and this changes the Wards too. Not again in the significant fashion we would expect it to be. The change though is significant to the townspeople. Delbert has never came out to a party and danced.

“Brother’s Keeper” is a film which merely tells that there are wide varied people in this far and wide land. They have their life designed and their lifestyle how much ever different from the modern world has, had defined them in certain way. The prejudice we have over these farmers have made the system to come for a strange conclusion than an investigation.

The film did not affect me. Neither did it attempt to. It simply puts forth these happenings in this town and this shift in the attitude of the people around these loners. Suddenly the community unites and stands by Delbert. More than the Wards, this is a story about how sociologically different and similar we humans are. “Brother’s Keeper” is a bland documentary and it is designed to be so because the life of the Wards has the colour we modern freak are far away from.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Death at a Funeral" (2010) - Movie Review

Why would someone want to remake a UK not so bright comedy “Death at a Funeral? Why would they make it scene by scene without any more additional touch or tone to the original which in itself needed more flair? More than these two why’s is the biggest why of all would be director Neil LaBute, the complex storyteller of “In the Company of Men” and “Lakeview Terrace” take up this venture. Well, learning the answer will only more painful than the questions itself.

“Death at a Funeral” as mentioned is a scene by scene remake of Frank Oz’s UK film of the same title. In this version it focuses on an African American family and their friends, siblings, cousins and uncles. When I reviewed the original film, I mentioned that this is a comedy which builds up to the final half an hour punch lines but worth the wait. When you know the punch lines already, the wait is not worth it. But not every one would have seen the original and I am assuming they will find this comedy fresh. Yet the original and this one has the same problem of not the greatest laugh out comedy and for that fact not the passing time one either.

Lot is on the mind of Aaron (Chris Rock) apart from his dad’s death. A stolen attention by his younger brother Ryan (Martin Lawrence), his wife Michelle (Regina Hall) wanting to impregnate her so that her pregnancy could shut her grieving mother-in-law (Loretta Devine) and the several other things which on a plot line and trailer would invite a hoot for fun. It does in these small moments and does it in bad taste deliberately and celebrates while doing it. All is good for a great laugh. True, but there are no great laughs. Small smiles and you watch it with indifference.

There are several potential supporting roles apart from the lead of Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence. In the original Alan Tudyk did an admiring job of being the accidentally drugged Simon and here James Marsden rises up to the occasion being the single grace trying everything and putting himself out here literally to get the guffaws and he gets it. Tracy Morgan, Luke Wilson, Danny Glover and Zoe Saldana try to revive a failing patient.

And what a good actor Peter Dinklage is and here he redoes the role again in vain. Here comes another why, why would Dinklage undertake this role when he would have known what the original fizzled out to be? “Death at a Funeral” is many these questions which goes on and on for an hour and thirty minutes. May be it affected me doubly to revisit the film.

The thing is I did like the original a little bit and have a positive review and I am surprised to find myself disappointed with this remake. May be when someone decides to give a different flavour of a splendid plot in the screenplay for the American audience, you want to explore the originality in places. Especially if that someone is a talented director having a care for dark territories with a comedy merciless yet realistic.

I do not have much else to say about this film as I did most of it for the original film. I almost did not write this review as to wondering what is different about this to have a say about this. Then I began to sketch out the questions and the expectations it automatically came with and here Iam crossing the one page mark in my review. “Death at a Funeral” is a little fun if you have not seen the original but if you have then it would be painfully repetitive and disappointing in every step of its way.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Kick-Ass" (2010) - Movie Review

Before going into “Kick-Ass”, I need to analyze these supposed waves over the fact that 11 year old Chloe Moretz uttering the C word in the film. But more than that would be the bloodshed she creates. There is a sociopathic smile she drops after she massacres a roomful of supposed criminals but that is how she gets brought up by her Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), a man for vengeance in a super hero costume. My take on this is that if Quentin Tarantino did a similar portrait (which he did through cartoons in “Kill Bill” series for Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Isii) and he would be praised for the novelty which he should be. Here when director Matthew Vaughn does something out of a comic book, the world comes in barging with judgments. Did it disturb me? Yes, but that is the nature of the Hit Girl and this is how it will go down when someone grows up by a revenge seeking man.

When the world and Hollywood has ended itself from the unstoppable river of super hero films, here comes “Kick-Ass”. It happens in a very real world and the high school kid Dave (Aaron Johnson) is not doing so bad. He is not the loser kid but not the popular kid. He is the average kid, as many of us are. But we need cravings, itches and then the possibility of being someone to be liked, loved and cared. Dave is no different and as he narrates that the every one at some point or other in their life had this fantasy, he wants to do it. He wants to be the super hero.

Apart from the violence from kids, “Kick-Ass” has lot more to offer than many might ignore. It has Nicolas Cage for starters as this lovable and scary father training his eleven year old girl to create an appetite for violence. She does everything daddy asks which includes sustaining multiple rounds of short distance shots from her dear father himself. She obliges and later they have ice cream together. Underneath this bubbling relationship is a hurt father gone wrong all over his life. We get a snapshot of the tragedy and we are not convinced but good enough for his bloody idea to get even, with the drug kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).

On the trend of “Watchmen”, “Kick-Ass” gives a rude shock to the fantasizing crowd to be their childhood super heroes. Dave dresses up in mask and his first effort results in to get steel bones than bringing crime down. One good thing is that his nerves for feeling pain are jacked and he can withstand several beatings though his fighting skills needs more than training. It needs to give up.

Vaughn gets serious, then funny, serious again and poetic and finally an old fashioned Hollywood ending. The dialogues are calculatedly subtle and amplified. It is like programming software, you do not sweat and write a lengthy code to finish your job or sweat a lot and finish it in few lines. Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman do not sweat and yet write one line to finish their job in style. It is evident when Dave compares his jump from fantasy to real action as that to serial killers.

If someone few years ago said that Nicolas Cage as the tied up hostage super hero burning would yell and guide his kid daughter to kill several men in the dark, I would have called you crazy. Who else than Cage can pull out a scene like that to work without embarrassing the film or himself? And who would have thought that the director of “Layer Cake” would make it with style, dark poetry and sentiments?
“Kick-Ass” alters between fantasy and reality that sometimes it takes the former to show the possibility and the later to show how bloody it could get. Though the film does not take the conscience stand of right and wrong, it sees its characters as right and wrong. As any super hero film would do, Mark Strong becomes the unquestionable villain while his aspiring sleazy son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) surprisingly becomes a partner in crime.

Chloe Moretz has proved herself a worthy child actor in “(500) Days of Summer” and the recent “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”. Here she pulls the toughest stunt literally in both acting and action. Mindy is a marginally experimental product of her dad and she moderates that with care. We weep for her and are ridiculously worried and scared. She can slice a throat without hesitation and enjoy a hot chocolate simultaneously. What happens to her after the film might not be a pretty picture in the real world, but we are shooed off before that. “Kick-Ass” is violent, disturbing, funny and beyond that, is unique. You might have a problem with kids swearing and spilling blood but that should not be a reason to dismiss this film.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Conversations with Other Women" (2005) - Movie Review

Aspiring and being is two different thing and “Conversations with Other Women” lives rather comfortably in the former. It is about two people, a man and a woman in their post mid life crisis stage but living in the past. We do not know they have a past till the split screens annoy the hell out of us. Then it assumes to be comfortable with itself and wrongs me in collating multiple screens. They are so distant and so apart. It is rather unbelievable to think these two had a past and they were madly in love.

Thin and sharp Aaron Eckhart is the man while the soft woman with a devilish spray is Helena Bonham-Carter as the woman. They are in a wedding and he notices her, she notices him with her peripherals. She is searching for a place to smoke, he smiles at her restlessness and wants to say Hi to the cuteness. He gets two drinks and swings by to offer. She says she does not drink but he says she smokes. They drop an empty laugh. This reads well and plays mediocre. Thus becomes a film full of mediocre moments.

Hans Canosa, the director has worked hard to provide multiple angles of the same conversation in hidings. This technique is spot on when the couple takes the elevator and a nosy Bridesmaid (Olivia Wilde) is in the middle. There it blossoms. The awkwardness splits and partitions. Canosa’s film has a never say die attitude though. Every time I was in the verge of this split screen ending soon, it goes into further ADD of flashbacks and possible behaviours of other characters these two mention to be with.

Whether two people once had this magical relationship for short time run off due to insecurity and age come back in their late thirties to talk as strangers? Yes, definitely. It was done so beautifully in “Before Sunset” the sequel at its best for its predecessor “Before Sunrise”. There happened two people, strangers to be precise and fall in love hopelessly. They take the audience along with their hearts. Then they split and meet back in the sequel. This film is an experimentation in merging those two beautiful films and showing it badly in two screens.

May be if the story was said without these search for focus, it would have given an opportunity to learn about these two. Both of them are with someone else and this ache carried on by each other for all these time is clear. They want to sleep and then what? The film moves on with no surprises and as the characters are destined to be unfinished and vacant inside.

The film fails because there was no spark or chemistry or connection or whatever the today’s online dating scene suggests to have. The ambiguity of them as strangers and simultaneously in the complex way Canosa puts across to indicate their connection in the past seems more than subtle and less than interesting. But these are two talented actors working quite ambitiously to give their best. The sound of the idea would have deceived them.

“Conversations with Other Women” is not an experimentation in the story or the characters. In films like these where the sweet knife fights want the audience to love the couple depends on the dialogues and the film has some fortune cookie statements. It is not cocky but uninteresting in itself. While writing about the disappointment of the material, I was able to come to the right reason for its debacle. And it is its own killer. The couple are introduced as strangers and then there is hint of their past. The characters know what they are playing and that is the passion which reignites them. The joke is fun to play when the involved party are participants. Out here, audience are in the dark and we do not understand their inside joke and we do not appreciate the director’s rudeness in having a personal moment. “Conversation with Other Women” ignores its audience and does not become self absorbing enough to kindle the devious poetry in it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Anjaathe" (Language - Tamil) (2008) - Movie Review

There needs a sociopathic attitude to embrace darkness in depicting it in films. There cannot be any mercy in the name of compromise because when a director goes in, the cards are down. That is the reason “Sathya” or “Company” worked and that is why “Anjaathe” does not work. It has one of the most brilliantly operated camera works I have seen recently in Tamil cinema but it becomes confused in subplots, side stories and cannot keep its head together.

In the turn of events in two people’s life, each are directed into different paths. They eventually collide in the ugly battle of life left them with. Childhood friends and neighbours Kiruba (Ajmal Ameer) and Sathya (Narain) stick together for everything. Kiruba is the responsible kid with his ambitions set right on becoming Sub Inspector while Sathya exemplifies in being the ruffian of the hood. Sathya drinks and is the terrible rowdy we would not want to meet in real life. His territorial passion for violence and alcoholic outrage brings nothing but pain and shame to every one around him. His dad has had enough and in one of his public outbreaks humiliates Sathya. He uses Kiruba as his usual comparison and makes his son feel worse than a garbage. This drives Sathya to compete with Kiruba but only to take short cuts. He gets the help of his well connected uncle and whatever Kiruba worked all his young life to get, Sathya passes without effort overnight. Sathya is selected for training as Sub Inspector but alas Kiruba fails.

This is stellar material and the roles are reversed or not exactly reversed but it has a steering of its own to these two men. Sathya lived his life with utter disregard to himself and others. Kiruba has lived his with total respect for the goals he has set forth. “Anjaathe” takes some bold steps in these instances wherein it does not make Sathya an overnight saint. Being who he has been, he opts for the quick route possible and Kiruba loses himself as he should in seeing the atrocity of the system. His balance of right and wrong is tilted while Sathya is filled with guilt for first time in his life. He goes for training and returns to find his friend lost his path. Even till this, “Anjaathe” holds its ground.

In between these two people happens another man’s perverse and dangerous desires. That will be Daya (Prasanna with a ridiculous hair). Himself and his boss Logu (Pandiarajan in an interesting villain role) run a shady business which we are kept in dark till the plot goes sub sub plot as we get to know these people a little bit more up close. Director Mysskin’s film has thick plot lines which gets haywire in keeping its focus together. Add along compromises and inability to reach out for the ultimate grip on providing a vicious reality of the crime and its people, you get an ambitious film not quite making it out there.

Daya is a devious and incorrigible creature but he is not menacing as Prasanna tries him to portray. He is one thing which is driven. In that aspect we know he is capable of anything but there is no fear towards this man. I do have to thank Mysskin for not concentrating on the exploits in detail as it is unnecessary for establishing Daya. Yet there is a terrific sequence where the camera follows people’s legs in Kiruba’s room and Daya in his snaky attitude crawls on the floor to get a peek at a naked girl.
Despite some wonderful camera work and an eye for style and darkness, “Anjaathe” is lost. It takes its story too much for its own bad and gives a feeling that it would never end. Definitely Mysskin is not a director afraid of disappointing the crowd in not giving a feel good film. When a director gives that hope and then denies to take the high road, it is nothing but sloppy work. Here the end is inevitable and there is a sense of tragedy lurking around every step of the way. Mysskin rightly uses those to draw the darkness but by the time we are put in the midst of luscious sugar cane field, it is too late and too long.

“Anjaathe” belongs to cinematographer Mahesh Muthuswamy. There are some courageous scenes when Sathya as Sub Inspector stops a civilian on the road and the next scene we see them on the platform drinking and the freedom in allowing the camera to stare at the environment and let the actors come into it. It has a thorough chance for wonderful terse and succinct film. It lets itself down completely in becoming that landmark film.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Kicking and Screaming" (1995) - Movie Review

One of the objective of a two hour film is eliminating the mundane activities, conversations and boring motions out of the life and present with the director’s objective of his/her story. “Kicking and Screaming” appears to have its priorities mixed up but suddenly it comes and hit you with this whispering slow and soothing wind at the eleventh hour which blossoms the whole movie. This directorial debut of Noah Baumbach is a surprising material which keeps its card close to its chest till the right time. It works, quite magically in the end to leave us with nostalgia, romance, comfort and a little sadness.

The film explores four friends sticking together after graduation and staying nearby the vicinity they lived their most memorable times of the youth. The years of a student in a college is the most special thing that can happen to any individual. Post high school and beginning to realize the entry level role on this adulthood has its fun learning. For one to push the limits of irresponsibility and the second would be to not give a damn about the ambience. Friends are walking targets for sarcasms, revelries. The discovery of philosophical and psychological connection beyond the family. These are the doors to the phase of life that is going to suck in.

Grover (Josh Hamilton), Max (Chris Eigerman), Skippy (Jason Wiles) and Otis (Carlos Jacott) are the friends with their liberal thoughts and perspective. They have graduated. At the graduation party, Skippy asks the worst thing that would happen after college. Otis says living in Milwaukee as he is hesitant to pursue his graduate school and Grover tells what just happened which is that his lovely girl friend is off to Prague. That will be Jane (Olivia d’Abo) and this appears like a typical break up and it is. In other films we have seen this break up used as an emotional catalyst for the protagonist to go reach for something else, here it becomes a slow transition in to learning about Grover.

All four of these are stuck up within themselves and to the life they lived for past four years. Things were great. Great conversations, wonderful girls and booze on day light. Now the show is off and the party is over. Baumbach movie does not exaggerate on those emotions. He do not let the characters put on a glum face. Rather each of them treat it with a certain pride and ego. Max a certified misanthrope is a snob and goes on staring at the ceiling to come up with some creativity. Each of these character’s major do not get highlighted because it does not pertain to this after shocks.

In between these is Chet (Eric Stolz) the bartender in a dingy bar. He has lived along the campus for more than ten years. He takes classes and involves in the discussion with his customers. He appears to be the ultimate version of these four individuals unable to cut his chords. Yet he seem to be more in peace and control. We also come to aware of the reasoning behind the peace later in the film which begins to question ourselves of the career, ambition and the created destinies out of the education.

While the undergraduate college days were the wildest of my life, the cluelessness of these four reminded me of how I was after my master’s graduation. Living in the university town I have seen my friends as myself failing day by day to get a job in the tough economic situation and then slowly getting used to the routines of being among friends and the unlimited resource. Then soon enough it becomes a stale situation of hating and liking it with similar passion. In “Kicking and Screaming”, each have their dilemmas to overcome.

The first one hour bothered a lot about the nature of these people and the film itself. Deliberately trying to be funny, elite and cool, these characters go through their lives in the idea of denial. Baumback focuses on the common actions omitted in films for good reasons but here he forces to open the eyelids and makes his audience sit through this. As the film moves from three months from graduation to fall semester to few months before Christmas vacation, it tightened its grip on the neck on the boredom and smugness these characters carried. In between these we see how what looked like a typical movie breakup of Grover and Jane began as wonderful love story. And as we are kept on track of this relation, the finality happens. Suddenly everything is beautiful and in the single most impressive scene in the film, Josh Hamilton as Grover delivers the best dialogue. Nothing has been more romantic but not cheesy. It achieves a certain level of precise delivery in which it is a realization of the love and his own idea of existence. Out there and how it ends makes those lined up regular activities Noah Baumbach made us see a nostalgic past.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Date Night" (2010) - Movie Review

Mind is a game of irony. It elaborately makes to believe on the fundamentals of stability, reliability, security and sprinkled ambition to it. Then before time springs itself like a clown out of the box, it creates the itch for unpredictability and on the edge rides. Phil Foster (Steve Carell) and Claire Foster (Tina Fey) are in the former part of the game when “Date Night” begins. They have two troublesome cute kids and the sleep walking weekday routines. The chore is such that the schedule date nights are becoming another exercise. Then the latter part of the game happens, more than they asked for.

These are the average suckers of suburbia. Phil is a tax consultant and Claire is the realtor. Something tells their kids will grow up to be a paper pusher. The concept of mistaken identity in films are like discovering wheels but they wheel it well. Especially due to their lead cast and flurries of cameos sprouting like congested chicken farm. Phil sits in the book club like a man not to be there but there for Claire. When you are a man circled by women, the last thing you want to be insensitive is about menstruation. Another identical couple are breaking up and they in their traditional sense have been happy for all the hangouts they have been. It is a rude awakening for the Fosters. May be their marriage is on a collision course too.

So both of them in their way decide to take the oncoming date night seriously. While Claire tidies up and dresses well, Phil decides to hit the city for a posh restaurant. A restaurant with one word is always expensive, trust me on this. When Phil desperately want this night to work, the snubbing attitude of the restaurant attendant invigorates their agony. At that point there is a table ready announcement for Mr. and Mrs. Triplehorn and it appears to be a no show. Phil grabs the opportunity and the bill appears to make them take a second mortgage, they finally see the light for their seemingly boring marriage. But no wait, the original Triplehorns are not simpletons and before the Fosters know it, they are at the gun point by two dangerous guys (Jimmi Simpson and Common). The fun begins.

“Date Night” never assumes nor is in denial of where it is standing. It is a shameless identity swap and the stale couple will find their love rejuvenated when the night is over. Still it comes out untarnished because it has some of the funniest conversations about marriage, the idea of counting to three and shirtless Mark Wahlberg. With James Franco and Mila Kunis as the trashy couple, the film makes it landmark whenever there is an iota of chance to become lull.

Phil and Claire appear to have the regular married life. They have a good job, great children and a nice house. Their normal date night have their part of fun. Each of them look around and begin to form stories of the other customers. They are in the perfect time of knowing each other’s flaws and gave up on correcting it. This is the life they are going to live for the rest of the years till they die. This gets established so fast and so persuading and relates to almost every other couple in the current trend. The idea of getting right to the point gets played with rush free hurriedness and it moves on with snap of a finger.

The master of uncomfortableness Steve Carell does his territorial skills but also comes off as this real sweet and genuine husband to Tina Fey’s Claire. Their problems which might be miniscule in the scheme of big things takes the spot light in a fast car pull over moment. In that both Carell and Fey reach their audience to be this lovely couple going through a dry path in their marriage.

But the film is not a lesson in marriage nor a drama in the relationship. It is the mindless, corny and predictable method which gets the right actors and the right screenplay. It keeps it simple and superbly short. In singlehandedly the best scene in the film, we see how Carell and Fey let James Franco and Mila Kunis take the centre stage and do their thing. “Date Night” is full of those wherein the actors let others do their thing. This much needed professional courtesy in this screenplay makes this adventure comedy action into well, an adventure comedy action.