Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The Town" (2010) - Movie Review

“The Town” is a no nonsense story. It falls for the victim of trailer spoilers but there is nothing much to hide either. The genre of crime films based on Boston is more than a genre. As New York or Paris, Boston the city has these neighbourhood and the community becoming a breathing element in these films. What attracts them is the way they differentiate from the set of generalization US gets looked upon. Every one knows the colour, festival and the vibrant culture when one talks about India but the same does not apply to US or the perspective of a unique culture becomes absent. But there is immense amount of it, not in the same sense of magnitude and widespread yet in its own way, it shows out. The coast bears history and it resonates in the close knit community living in it.

We are given in opening information from the magazine quotations about the notorious nature of Charlestown. Nexus for the bank robbers and a place where brotherhood runs like a tattoo. They are good in what they do as this is the business carried on by generation with central operators like Fergie (Pete Postletwaite). Fergie has been running the crew of Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), James Couglin (Jeremy Renner), Magloan (Slaine) and Desmond (Owen Burke). They are no Ocean’s Eleven but they get the job done. In the opening scene, we see them in action. Blunt, focussed, dangerous and successful. This is the film wherein the central characters being bank robbers are made to be afraid instead of glorifying their knack in the profession. We are feared of them because they show their capability.

They take a hostage, bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) and leave her on a beach. James is the sicko in the group of thieves. Doug is the smart one and a man struggling to leave the town and the profession, unsuccessfully. In the duty of following Claire to make sure they did not leave anything behind, as expected Doug gets involved. Doug is soft on guns too as he has not killed anyone, lest forget his shaky past of fighting and getting into trouble. While he knows what James is capable, he cannot leave behind the buddy who has been with him in thick and thin and the fact that he had a long time relationship with his drug addict sister Krista (Blake Lively).

Ben Affleck is a capable director which he proved in his debut “Gone, Baby, Gone”. Here he appears to like the script because it carries his hometown on the backdrop. There is no doubt that aids the film but at the same time I would love to see him direct outside of his comfort zone. As much as his lead man Doug is trying to leave the town, Affleck appears to not share that opinion with his films. Despite, “The Town” is a good film if not great.

The strong suit of “The Town” are the robberies. They are shot with some raw gritty atmosphere to really let the audience feel the heat of the robbery. It is not adrenaline but blunt force in the way of its execution. While James uses bullets whenever he breathes, the people and the surrounding in the Boston becomes of something more than a usual robbery scene. I believe this is the first time I have felt the energy in those actions without any sides and see it objectively. Not in the view of morality but purely as a spectator.

The film is not with suspenses. The rituals of the slightly better thief gets an opportunity to taste a relationship outside of his community are done with good support from Rebecca Hall and some clever writing from Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard and Ben Affleck. Jeremy Renner as the trigger happy friend with an appetite for temper and violence is the holding chamber for Doug.

I liked “The Town” for not fooling around with what it has. Affleck knows that what he has is a story with angles seen several times on several perspectives. He knows that his perspective has to be personal and thus his Boston background to the rescue. It works well and provides a story wherein good and bad are very clear and yet we root for the redeeming criminal doing his redemption in all wrong ways. And Affleck does not apologize for that in his film. He gives an ending which would have been poorly contrived out of necessity in other films while it has some strength to this one.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Red" (2010) - Movie Review

When a hit team to eliminate retired CIA black op Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) shatters his house without an iota of smartness in their attack plan, you know what you are in for. Bullets do not rain but flood. So does the cast. If you get the top talent in the business of serious film making and put them in a comedy action piece, you realize they want to do this film for fun. There is a dire need for unwinding film but still it has to live up. “Red” has veteran actors sleepwalking the roles and it is not that they are best at it but the film is an easy exercise and the fun gets a little routine and we see past the cast. It falls apart.

CIA agents especially the kind “Red” has are the best of the best as they survived the job and are alive. Frank as it turns out is alone and tears up his retirement cheque repeatedly to talk with a customer service agent Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). Joe (Morgan Freeman) is spending his last days ogling young nurse’s back as he waits for the succumbing to liver cancer. John Malkovich as Marvin is the edgy paranoid freak constantly on vigilance to survive. Then the young chap from the CIA Cooper (Karl Urban) hunts for Frank. You get Helen Mirren at her most sexiest form with weapons and lipsticks. There will not be much blood as PG-13 made sure of it while there will be countless rounds of fires shot without thought or indecision all over the place.

“Red” is the film for my lazy Sunday evenings but I would feel terrible about it once I am done. It is like eating junk food till we choke and bleed our brains for that horrible mistake. Well, it is not quite as horrible though. “Red” does carry a charm because of its cast and especially to see Malkovich giving out a funny version of his devilishly twisted Mitch Leary from “In the line of Fire”. Freeman, Willis, Mirren and even the poor Brian Cox have nothing more to offer than their presence but then again that is all they have been asked.

I thought that the insanity of the bullet shooting has died. I am not saying the regular not shooting at a character but everywhere else. I am talking about the army of mannequins with guns shooting straight and sweeping on the object that obstructs them from their target. It is what makes major part of “Red”. It is not parody or homage or comedic. It is to set a tone and that I can take but to use it throughout the film is cheap.

Having good time at “Red” is the cloud of illusion. If you are looking to unwind and not care for the film, why do you want to go for a bad one? Why do not make a reasonable decision and pick something wherein there is a responsibility in film making rather than throwing away money in the assumption of enjoyment of their own? I think many will point out that I do this day in and day out while people go for “entertainment” but please do some justice to that taste of yours and give more credit to yourself. You owe it yourself.

I like fun, frolic and nonsense which takes itself seriously as a film. A film can be a chaotic circus show but it should see itself with something more than a business and accommodate its audience’s brain for some accomplishment of a film well done with full effort. “Red” has characters who speak of love and emotion which is hard to imagine. Take Marvin for example who appears not much is happening in his life other than consistently looking for helicopters and satellite trying to kill him. He has lost his mind and he comes ack to real world when violence requires him. The need for Frank to have a normal life purely becomes old age other than a reason for his connection to Sarah more than a group of romance trashy novels read.

Director Robert Schwentke got a cast that no one could ask for and it is not an obligating to provide a serious drama but use them of their full capability. The concept is the best part in this film wherein the killing machines have evolved into a phase of life that has termed them to rest and wait till they hit the ground. There are funny grandpa references (they dare not call Helen Mirren grandma!) but “Red” does not go beyond that in terms of character or comic relief.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Hereafter" (2010) - Movie Review

It is funny to read that Matt Damon described “Hereafter” as Clint Eastwood’s French film because that is exactly what I thought of it. This is not due to the fact that one part of the story happens in Paris to a character who is from France. This is a film which takes predictability, tearjerker, obvious plot conclusions into a relatable and comforting enjoyable experience. It does not toy around with your emotions in great deal but at the same time leaves with you a heavy heart. Clint Eastwood is an inspiring man and he keeps on pushing the envelope. After his mediocre “Invictus”, “Hereafter” is the film that could set up for a great next venture.

The film sees death and the small window of doubt and possibilities with great seriousness without religious blanket. It sees it as the experience of coming close to the white light and attain a sense of an emotional completeness. Death, even in the thought of me makes me want to cry, not the death of mine but of my near and dear. The thought of permanent departure is scarily sad and Eastwood instead of exploiting honours it in his film.

There are three stories connected by the phenomenon of death and the after effects of it. Cécile de France is the French journalist Marie Lelay, a Tsunami survivor. In her state of tipping the doors of death, she had a strange suspension out of reality. It meant something to her and she wants to pursue the meaning of it. There is Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) tightly wound twin brothers handling difficult situations to get out of from the claws of social service as her drunk mother (Lyndsey Marshal) is hardly in control to take care of them. Yet they all love each other happily in sober mornings.

Then there is George Lonegan (Matt Damon) a genuine psychic who is leading a life of simple man. We can only imagine the strain and problems his ability comes along with. He touches people’s hands and a sharp jolt similar to what Marie experienced provides a capability to listen to the dead. Now if that sounds artificial and skeptical, Eastwood makes it best. Coming from someone who does have much faith on the whole afterlife concept, you might want to go with an open mind. You will sure be delighted.

The phenomenon is simply a material than the contending point in the film. Three of these lives are of course interconnected and there will be the juncture in the film (which you already know by now when) wherein Damon’s character has to connect for the little boy Marcus. Despite all these, Eastwood’s film takes Peter Morgan’s screenplay and makes people out of them and provides a French environment in a San Francisco setting.

The interesting of the three stories is without a doubt George’s not because of the ability he got but the difficulty he has going through with it. His life has gone all wrong with this as his brother (Jay Mohr) clearly has made it a business venture in the past and eager to bring George from the hiatus. But George wants someone with whom he can have pleasant dinner and connect with the living one. He takes up Italian cooking and meets a charming and attractive young woman Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard). Melanie is in there for a date and George is the eligible single man in the batch. We hope for an end to his solitude and have some companionship.

Marcus and Jason living in London are tough kids. Jason, the elder one is the smart and shrewd one while Marcus follows lovingly the decisions of his brother. In a tragic run of events Jason ends up dead and Marcus is set forth to foster parents. He is clearly alone and his look over brother has long gone. Death, they say provides little bit of peace when closure arrives. How can we explain closure to a kid like Marcus? Damon’s George provides that in the most astonishing and moving scene in the film.

“Hereafter” is not the greatest work of Eastwood but a unique and one of his best for sure. There is homage to the genre of French film making and as the genre itself, it is about the aura of the presentation and the simplicity of people’s character than the bigger agenda. What lies after death will be a doubt till you die and the film leaves it conveniently and deservingly so. This is the way I could tell a difference between a film falling for predictability and lethargic movie making from Clint Eastwood’s, when we hear the unabashedly used line “It is not a gift, it is a curse” in “Hereafter”, we relate and realize to the trouble and discomfort George Lonegan feels with a clarity shining through clear and clean.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" (2010) - Movie Review

Oliver Stone in his subtle loud manner stomps his chest on how he was right couple of decades back about the financial system. You do not need a movie for that though, yet he did and here we are. The novelty of “Wall Street” was about the danger in this system that has crime with victims not so direct and done without guilt going unnoticed . No one listened and the crash in 2008 happened. The lesson will not be learned as the world has a better tendency to be addicted to gambling than reform on a large scale. Though it did turn around lot of people. But the truth is when things go normal, people go their way. I am not cynical but realistic on the chances of people changing in this game and hope I am blatantly wrong. “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” sees the crash as a history lesson and in the meantime bring Michael Douglas to do Gordon Gekko. He does not shine in glory or cut through the cake but he is sleazier than he was the first time.

Gekko has served his time and is out selling books to make a living. His daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan) has never forgiven him for not being there when her brother slowly died of drug addiction. With a very odd ironic obviousness, she is in love with Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and he is a trader in investment bank. Jake’s boss Louis Zabel (Frank Langella) is nearing his end as his final bail out request gets rejected by the US treasury by a strong influence of a Hedge fund manager Bretton James (Josh Brolin). Jake as anyone is intrigued by the charisma and the flair of Gekko. He caves in against Winnie’s wishes and begins to work with the man to avenge the suicide of his mentor Zabel.

As simple it sounds, the film does not invest completely itself in both the main story and the backdrop it is set. This is more than a backdrop as it is a beast which talks through the numbers through the walls of the Manhattan skyline. There are side stories which connect the dots in the scheme of things. Jake’s mom is the slice of the real estate greedy agents unable to understand the eventuality. The global disease of gambling is much more legally polished is sad. I believe the crash of 2008 did teach a lesson or more to wake up the people under the coma of this drug. The rush is the motivation and greed indeed is not so good.

The story grabs the attention of any reader while it left me detached. Jake is not greedy but channeled wrong in his vengeance and his deal with the devil is not so convincing. Apart from his fiancé's dad, the speech Gekko gives for book sale is not burning enough to believe this young man is thoroughly attracted to this veteran killer shark in the trade. Though we play along and as Stone showers us with graphs and numbers, there is no intimacy in accusations on the people who participated in this breakdown.

The idea is to show how the people in and around the financial hub refused to believe the slide and kept on with their gamble hoping everything to be won. Jake’s pet project of his ambition to invest in the fusion project for research and better world only makes it draw short of the distance it hoped to cover. That would have been the story I would have liked to see wherein though the first film shows greed, the market was not going down and is indeed prosperous. As much as annoying and unreasonable the character of Jake’s mom played by Susan Sarandon is, that is the facade people would have been under to talk themselves into going in for more and losing heavily.

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” is not a bad film. It has a very good plot, aggressive players in performers but a situation not being used well enough. For financial ignorant like me, it is the intention to dumb it down but the fact of it is that there is no clue in anyone in that is working out to understand this monster of a mess. Stone who did it sufficiently well enough in the first film does not have the power but has the skill to put together a film to pass by.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

"The Social Network" (2010) - Movie Review

“The Social Network” is enthralling not alone due to its audience’s involvement in the Facebook but the character of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) unrelenting towards his success and taking anything, anyone and to anywhere. He is not cut throat but driven beyond control. He evaporates into thoughts and dreams and is making his baby Facebook as his personal war. A war towards his inability to claw the fact of being rejected. More so in being obsessively driven to the idea of being identified and belonging in an elite place in the Harvard University. The movie begins with it and setting up the story has not received such a precision on its character as it does out here.

David Fincher like Clint Eastwood is into respecting a story and screenplay rather than his style. They extract a style out of the words than to create and indicate their presence. It takes a magnanimity in them to do that. In “The Social Network” the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin dictates the terms and the editing Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall ties the knots. Linear narration can only make things uninteresting in this story. It is simple, Mark was already on to something with social networking and hijacked the idea of Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) to a level no one could imagine. The team of this film is not alone interested in the genesis of this movement but to read the man, men and the woman turned this thing around.

As it takes on the background on the legal stories and the origins of Facebook, we learn that Mark Zuckerberg is a creative programmer of great kind whose psyche revolves around source codes. He is unquestionably smart but consumed by the details of his own mind. One night of drinking marathon over an upsetting break up with his girl friend Erica (Rooney Mara) makes him vent out in his blog and then go on to post an online webpage to rate the hot girls. He does so by hacking the directories of the several residence houses in the campus and gets the photos of the female members. This particular scene is done like a chef cooking his best meal with a relish and spice to it. He does so with his best friend’s algorithm, with his permission. It crashes the network due to the traffic and then onto the notice of Cameron, Tyler and Divya Narendra (Max Minghella). The battle begins there.

This is a swift and profound story. Finding those two words in a sentence for describing a film does not come often and easy. Jesse Eisenberg is someone like Michael Cera always on the cards for becoming different forms of Eisenberg than the characters he plays. He plays a grown up version of Walk Berkman from “The Squid and the Whale” and it does not surprise me on how he nails it. He is not essentially a jerk but his motivation obstructs his right intentions of his character. He makes the deal with the devil within himself in the idea of achieving greater things or find a satiating experience in redeeming himself from the horrendous posting about his ex-girlfriend in his blog. His march towards making this phenomenon as a cleansing process in gaining acceptance only makes himself digs deeper and uglier.

This is not a film about making statements. Everything that we know about it are out there but it is the manner in which we see this college kids creating and playing with things bigger than anything this generation has seen. Being the power handlers in creating a participation linking everyone around the globe originates from simple human emotion. During that process, we are thoroughly entertained as well. There is emotional viewpoint and a fair one from the Zuckerberg’s lawyer’s junior (Rashida Jones) in seeing things as an outsider and insider. We see the flashy and impressive guy in Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) charismatic, suspicious and unreliable. And the other part of the suing personalities constantly being asked to adhere to the way they were brought up and the adamance in being gentleman by Cameron Winklevoss is naive, applaudable and in a strange way funny.

It is based on the book by Ben Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires” and thanks to David Fincher for not beginning the film as “Based on true story”. A fact deviates so much away from the here-say and this taking a literary and media form only adds to the mix. The angle on this man’s mind and his actions affecting people around him is fascinating despite the nature of the back stabbing and the betrayal that keeps on flowing repeatedly through the deposition and the birth and adulthood of the company is an indication that we feel and hurt in any form of communication.

Mark loses his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and then universally announce him being the jerk in the process. In everything of these, money is not the factor but the identity is at stake. To be unique and exclusive are the keywords used in filtering friendship. This attitude has taken a shape and form in Facebook and is successful because we are all guilty of it. Now we are obligated to “confirm” a friend of random requests through glances or friend of a friend or the main driving factor of hooking up. The relationship between online friends is the depth of a mouse click and it keeps thinning.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Language - Swedish) (2010) - Movie Review

It is strange that we cared more for finding the killer of the supposed murder of a girl in 60s in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” than the primary lead Lisbeth Salander’s (Noomi Rapace) framer in the sequel “The Girl Who Played with Fire”. Lisbeth returns from her outing away from Sweden and she can still freaking kick some ass. Noomi Rapace plays her with the same vigour and persistent from the first film in this Millennium Trilogy with “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”.

Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) had a memorable case and encounter with Lisbeth that he is not mad or disappointed when Lisbeth disappears for a year. He knows her pain behind those eyes and knows her withdrawal from social scene. Lisbeth keeps track of her perverted and rapist guardian Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson) in tags. She hacks his mail and learns that he has ordered a tattoo removal service. Bad idea. She goes back to remind him the drill he remembered being recited with tied hands and gag on his mouth a year back from her. Things happen wherein not alone Nils meets a deadly end but a novice journalist Dag (Hans Christian Thulin) who was about to break a big story about sex trafficking gets killed along with his girlfriend. All three are done with the same gun with Salander’s fingerprint on it. She flees and Mikael tries to solve this frame job.

In most of these investigative films, there is a single source of view point towards these nail biting trail findings. The technique is to keep the screenplay focussed and not stray away and in these two films they digress from this method rather methodically. At least for major portion of these films, there are two people tracking the details and arriving at the same destination. There is no comparison of traditional methods though Mikael’s is something like that while Lisbeth’s is plays technology like a musical instrument.

Sometimes Hollywood submerge into the computer screens which does not look like any conventional Operating Systems but these films advertise and follow religiously the Macbook and its OS. How does Lisbeth hack other’s computers is a different deal but her process is clear and mainly believable as they take you to a screen you know and have seen. Despite these, “The Girl who Played with Fire” does not make you want Lisbeth to exonerate herself. Not that we do not care but we do not mind much about it.

The past of Lisbeth was slit open in the first film wherein she bathes a man in fire. Obvious guess of the man will be her dad. She had a rough life and not because of her Goth and antisocial behaviour but there is a wear in her face that are masked by a painted make up that do not belong. She smokes not with a style but with a despair. She has had it tough and the past does not leave her alone. She escaped from the claws of her cruel guardian but her childhood abuse has left her permanently damaged. That part of it is used as a tool to a plot than to characterize her for more examination.

Given all this, the film never stops to get breath. It keeps on moving and let us not settle ourselves with a cruise control plot. The information comes on without any problem and the fight for it keeps the clock ticking with justified duration. Another great part of this films is the supporting characters owning up to the task not in characterization but in physical endurance and kick ass abilities. Her lesbian lover Miriam Wu (Yasmine Garbi) and Paulo Roberto (playing himself) give their best to the blond giant Ronald Niedermann (Micke Spreitz). Ronald comes as the equivalent of James Bond villain Iron Jaw. The Iron Jaw would automatically bring my intestine to complete stop but this blond giant is merely reaction less and uninteresting villain.

I think I was left unsatisfied despite a reasonably well expedited and executed screenplay. In “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, I mentioned the unnecessary need for an explicit rape scene and hoped for a better justification in the sequels to invite and empathize in the dark world of Lisbeth. They do so but not for a character study rather a plot driving equipment. Nothing wrong with it but it fails to connect as the first film did. We are entertained but not moved.