Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Paul" (2011) - Movie Review

An alien who has become more of cool human in the process of living in the Earth for some time now combines forces with two nerds for a ride back home. How does that sound for a premise? “Paul” is exactly that and Seth Rogen voices this CGI generated space dude. I think if they put up some funny looking alien make up on the actor itself and eliminated the CGI it would have been more energetic. Nevertheless CGI helps in lot of fast motions and invisibility stuff he pulls off making it a compromise for this hilarious road trip buddy film.

Greg Mottola the director of “Superbad” and “Adventureland” recruits the best in business of comedy. He gets Nick Frost and Simon Pegg penned script for starters and then get them to star in it. Then comes Jason Bateman, Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader to finish off this flick which has nothing but promises for great laughs. It takes a strong leftist opinion given the subject but does not take itself seriously enough to stamp it as an agenda.

Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are two Englishmen taking a road trip through the Area 51 after completing their dream destination at Comic-Con convention in San Diego. Their travel is interrupted by a road crashing incident revealing the egoistic wise ass alien Paul. Clive faints while Graeme acts as if everything is fine and this is not unusual to see an alien talking fluent cursing English. That does not matter as this character will be the central play for so many laugh riots through the cross country adventure to make him catch his flight back to his home planet.

It is one of those road films where random chaos makes a fun ride but lately it has become a tore down routine. Films that could have made a real connection or real fun never comes itself on understanding what it wants. “Due Date” is one such example which despite its moments becomes mundane in providing too good to be true settlement in the end. “Paul” never takes itself seriously and almost resembles a marijuana drug trip than anything else.

It meddles around with Darwinism against crazy Christians and guess who wins and who is made fun of? Of course when there is an alien coming from a distant planet, you do not have much of an argument out there. And if you have the power to heal, become invisible by holding breath and transform the knowledge through the palm of your hand, you definitely know the winner of this great debate. Paul voiced by Seth Rogen is a hoot providing some unusual gigs. With Simon Pegg and Nick Frost the best buddies continuing their reign from “Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” through this one have no issues being the nerds and flair their bromance for each other.

Jason Bateman is such a cool actor. Any role he takes he fits in like a glove. Take it the blood sucking heartless boss in “Up in the Air” or the cool dude in “Juno”, he truly is the next door neighbour to be friended for good times even when he is a Federal Agent chasing the alien down. He is the MIB and is rightfully accompanied by two aspiring side kicks Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio. Hader and Truglio have been the best men to rely on these comedies wherein their support is as much as crucial as the main elements of the film and I am waiting for their main venture to employ their skills on central stage than being backstage characters.

Kristin Wiig does yet another SNL kind of parody on the Christian fundamentalists and then transforms into cursing free spirit to become the love interest for Graeme. As similar to being in SNL, she can go full on and willing to jump in the wagon and take us till we laugh crazily at her antics. Here she invents some awesome combo cuss words which requires to have a great imagination in itself to pull off.

“Paul” is convincingly hilarious because the fun is real. This is a fantasy world for the geeks and they are not alone heroes because of the script making them so but also because they make it on their own terms. Riding always on the wings of some goofy lines of Seth Rogen’s Paul, the film never suffers of a dull moment and even in the cliched sequences adds its touch of comedic bliss. While the film will not be taken serious like many under appreciated comedy films, “Paul” is very capable of becoming a cult film gaining DVD and Blu Ray popularity to be living like a legend.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Sucker Punch" (2011) - Movie Review

Zack Snyder should be a video game designer than making “Sucker Punch” a hollow non-emotional film existing under the false pretenses of fantasy that fails to connect miserably with its audience. It has the glorious visual design of Snyder who won my heart despite the cliched and senseless violence in “300” and mistimed a miniseries to be a long film in “Watchmen” and now comes very short in settling for a low blow. He goes with the whole free the mind and invite imagination to the nook and corner of our brain and expects miracles as that he did from his special effects.

Many have tried and failed in providing the modern black and white outlook with tints of colour in the current cinema. Even the talented Steven Soderbergh could not invoke a life in “The Good German” and Snyder begins the film in this mode. Emily Browning plays Baby Doll that young actor from one of my favourite films “Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events” is still a young girl with naive looks and bleached blonde hair. She steps wrong again in this role after “The Uninvited”. She is sent wrongfully to an insane asylum by her step father after her mother’s death to be lobotomized so that the bad man could have all the wealth.

In comes the asylum creeping with neatly dressed orderlies and crazy girls lurking around to attack. In that is Carlo Gugino in another thankless role with a distracting and annoying accent as Dr. Gorski. And poof - Baby Doll is in the midst of a brothel run by the creepy orderly now manifested as the cruel and deadly boss of this place. The crazy girls are still crazy in a way and are gearing up for their dance numbers under their show coach with the stupid accent, yes, Gorski again. When she is asked to dance she stands still and as the formula of second attempts awing the crowd suddenly everyone glares in surprise and we never get to see Baby Doll’s dance because poof! she is transformed into this digital world of feudal Japan, World War - II battle zone and a train destined to destroy Gotham City, or something like that. If you think this is about the confusion, it isn’t. It is more about the denial to the audience in learning anything at all about Baby Doll and her crew.

“Sucker Punch” as Snyder’s previous films is made to be watched in a theater. I appreciate the man for that who uses the medium and recommends people to watch it in the way it is supposed to be seen. “300” or “Watchmen” in a TV screen as a first viewing would have been cruel and disgrace to the makers of those films. Snyder’s this film is the same but the charm and mind blowing experience of visual extravaganza is shoddy, unclear, loud and soon becomes obnoxious as we are not driven for these girls to complete their “goals”.

Baby Doll is deeply disturbed by the life’s events that has led her to end up in this particular place Snyder has created. Her mother’s death followed by the accidental death of her sister are good enough to get caving sympathy for this young girl. The world’s Baby Doll transforms does not reflect her character. That is one of my many attempts to read her mind. The threatening world she escapes from which most of the tenure of the film is the brothel does not pose a grave danger as the girls talk. Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung are attractive girls running around sexy and that is all Snyder shows about them. The scary boss Blue (Oscar Isaac) is not scary enough nor charming enough for these girls or Gorski to follow his regime’s orders.

Baby Doll through her mystic dance transforming technique to dissolve into this magical fantasy world gets some bullshit one liners from actor Scott Glenn who always has this one last thing to say (sigh) and horrible will be a light word to describe every one of those mistimed, misfired and moronic dialogues. If a teenage girl’s imagination is so bad than it is an insult to the upcoming and wonderful talents in the current generation.

The end which opens up the twists that should create immense amount of sympathy towards Baby Doll would have worked tremendously if we would have known her a little bit in the dangling minds she takes us through. Instead we have a distant misplaced feeling of a girl trapped in this film unable to get out and facing lobotomy as her only choice. Zack Snyder not alone misses this grandeur film but also has convinced himself of the complacency in running digital world over emotional reality as a killer strike.

"Mother and Child" (2010) - Movie Review

Rodrigo Garcia’s “Mother and Child” has women who are difficult, annoying, selfish and unarguably aggressive inside and out. And then they blossom and transform through the life they gave out and how it makes them into completely different beings by the that role and the responsibilities that comes along with it. The great fear, happiness and joy of a being growing inside of you and how it becomes something of their own cannot be even imagined. Garcia’s perspective is more on how flawed they can be and how reviving and redeeming that relationship provides for opportunities missed and grabbed by the pits and bumps of accidental life.

Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington synchronize this relationship on angles that gets vandalized effortlessly by cliches and emotional cheesecakes in conventional films. Not here and not in the beautiful direction of Rodrigo Garcia who not alone provided excellent nine vignettes on women in “Nine Lives” but adapting the Israeli television series “Be Tipul” to American “In Treatment” with finesse detail on the human conditions up close, personal and threatening to yourself. Here he stretches out a bit from his short story approach and goes for a full length feature. He recruits best talents in the business to do that and cannot be more successful that this. You would also realize that Garcia purposefully makes this a mother and daughter bond than a mother and son as there cannot be more fitting full circle of life without the cycle of motherhood being passed on.

Annette Bening plays Karen a middle aged woman haunted by her teenage experience. She got pregnant at 14 and gave up her baby for adoption. Now on the road to be a spinster Karen is taking care of her mother. Their relationship has a tone and you would see why Karen is so bitter and downright rude. Karen’s baby girl is Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) a very successful lawyer laughing at the face of the society composed of family bonds. She is cut throat, exactly knows what she wants and makes all necessary nuances in discarding meaningful human relationship. You would also see why she is bitter and rude. Then there is Lucy (Kerry Washington) unable to bear a child with her husband Joseph (David Ramsey) goes for adoption and is brutally interviewed by a 20 year old Ray (Shareeka Epps). Lucy’s mother is Ada (S. Epatha Merkerson) who provides her touch of her own in giving that look and sighs to her daughter’s decisions and dilemmas.

You will see how they are connected beyond the obvious. You will also see how Rodrigo Garcia has a purpose for every actors. Each one of them even in their sparse screen presence is there to provide a view point on these women. Karen meets a very kind man Paco (Jimmy S mits) and she manages to stupendously piss off even him. And then Karen’s silence in her house goes one step down when her mother dies. Her mother was closer to her caretaker Sofia (Elpidio Carrillo) and her kid (Simone Lopez) whom Karen dislikes due to the ugly reminder of her loss. Annette Bening plays this woman and boy do we dislike her with a passion. Despite her struggle and pain we could not come to embrace her soul and we slowly begin to respect her when she admits to Paco how difficult she is. Then she blooms into a different person under the care of this noble and respecting man Paco. When the dusts settle in her dry life to spring happiness, she is reminded in one of many wonderful scenes that may be she has to look for her kid.

Naomi Watts is deadly in this role. We are introduced to her Elizabeth as she interviews with Paul (Samuel L. Jackson) and she is an open book with definite paper cuts to slash your hearts. Paul likes her and Elizabeth likes him in her own bossy distant manner. Both begin an affair and even in her seduction she conducts it like an exercise with a goal in her mind. Her neighbours are a lovely couple Tracy (Carla Gallo) and Steven (Marc Blucas). Tracy wants to befriend her neighbour which only results in Elizabeth seducing Steven. She is unabashedly cruel towards this system of family and the disappointments it presents. She becomes a tool to prove her point even if it means destroying a family. Paul surprises her in an unexpected way but the real surprise comes when she learns she is pregnant. She visits the doctor’s office where there is a tense and bitter scene with Amy Brenneman as her doctor.

Lucy played by Kerry Washington is the one which stands out of this story but soon finds its way. Lucy desperately wants to be a mother and is constantly challenged by her mother. She sticks to the goal and goes through with her hesitant husband. There is an opportunity for them in this 20 year old Ray so sharp and cuts through the crap for such a young age. She might grow up to be Elizabeth unless her mother Leticia (Lisa Gay Hamilton) has a say in it. Lucy’s adoption guide is Sister Joanne (Cherry Jones) who is also involved in helping Karen find her daughter Elizabeth. She becomes a witness to this whole story which has its crazy ups and downs. I feel sorry for her.

Garcia is a master of studying women or he makes us think so presenting them in such flawed and blatant manner. They are full of complications and full of surprises but are undeniably the single most force that can bring every one together in the most unexpected situations. That makes them the gold mine for dramatic subjects Garcia undertakes though Garcia is the only one who seems to have the knack and precision to give them unrelentingly in their honest form. “Mother and Child” is full of great performances and you would not notice it as they blend like a smooth ice cream in this perfectly put together film. There are several other small performances which makes up this beautiful film. You can always read or learn about the emotional bond between a mother and child but “Mother and Child” lets you absorb it revealing their mistakes and moments of greatness.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Monsters" (2010) - Movie Review

What can “Monsters” be called? What kind of film does it bode to be and promises to be? Why is the premise of sci-fi aliens needed for a film like this? None of these can be answered because we have been attuned to a judgment before seeing a film. We have dissected the art in genres and the expectations are made and in good director that is handled well enough to provide a better film than one hoped for. But films like “Monsters” emerge out of nowhere, unheard and then makes you wonder about the process of filmgoing. Except for the title there is not much to be known about this gem and soon as the film ends there blossoms a lovable romantic film amidst this crazy science fiction.

Written, photographed and directed by Gareth Edwards this film begins with the information that a NASA space probe collecting alien life forms gets broken and spread across the US-Mexican border. The controversial border is now declared infected zone and US has built an enormous wall to protect against the creatures that manifested out of this. The film begins with a night vision footage of an army vehicle getting attacked and exploded while we see this enormous creature looming upon for attack followed by launching of an air strike. Off we go to Mexico where photographer Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is getting ordered by his boss to escort his daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) to US.

So what starts as a story of extreme action in between these threatening creatures becomes into concentrating on the relationship on these two people. Both completely different in their background and situation. Sam is engaged and for reasons unknown she is having trouble talking with her fiance. Kaulder we learn only later that he is a single ambitious photographer and has a story of his own personal fiasco. They travel together through the roads that are less taken and forbidden but monopolized and capitalized by people who can milk more money playing dirty games and high risks. They make it to the coast without any issues as Sam can catch her ferry to US and Kaulder can return to his work of taking tragic pictures. They party up the night before the departure. Things happen that leads to miss the ferry and take the dangerous route of penetrating right through the infected zone.

Gareth Edwards takes a foreign approach to this not so foreign backdrop. The focus so much so is on these unknown creatures is about these two odd couple. Both well aware and complete. Their silent quarrels are so realistic and in a way adorable. Their romance untold in a way I have not seen in films before. They do not hold hands or enact those premeditated and molded Hollywood yearning faces. Kaulder and Sam are there at that place, in this fictitious backdrop with a not so fictitious Mexico. The people whom accompany them are nice, helping and desperate while the business running managers do their talking to extract the maximum out of the foreigners on their no option situation.

“Monsters” is not a horror film but has thrills. It is not a romantic film though it has love. There are no obligations to the audience. We are left along with these couple and the knowledge of the creatures or their behaviour is not explained to us purposefully as it is not so much useful in the current scenario. The scenario is to see these two people reach US and nothing else matters.

Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able were real life couple (now married) and I am sure that helped in modulating those untold chemistry in unforeseen places effectively. Whitney Able is the cute blond and shows a character of a strong woman struggling to contend with difficulties up with this reality and the future that awaits her in the country. McNairy portrays Kaulder as a pragmatic photojournalist and knows Sam’s hesitation in both her future life and in between them. Their communications both silent and spoken forms the basis of this film.

The closest that I can picture to people about this film is “Cloverfield” but in that film they tried to manufacture a love story out of this beautifully original formed technique into painfully overdone and executed exercise. Here the link between these two has a beautiful tone of a melody in this scary journey. There are panic moments which are very real and tragic. But the best about “Monsters” are the locations and the scenery of this foreign existence making its way through the daily affairs. There is a pain to it and the darkness of it brings up so many emotions of this possible reality.

Majority of this film was shot guerilla style with seven people crew traveling in a van and getting the locals to act and improvise. That adds the authenticity Gareth Edwards was going for. The monsters are kept at bay when it comes to projecting details of their appearance and Edwards saves it for the last. As Sam and Kaulder witness those creatures up close and personal in a perspective I am sure many would have forgotten to even perceive when these attacks happened, it opens up the audience into an unimaginable experience. With able hands in special effects from Edwards himself and a mesmerizing emotional score by Jon Hopkins we realize what Edwards was going for in it and how he combines that great feeling with a hidden tragedy to leave us smiling with sadness. After all this I still bring up the question but with admiration - What can “Monsters” be called?

"Biutiful" (2010) - Movie Review

If anyone is crazy about the new movie of Alejandro González Iñárritu that would be me and as much as I can convince myself “Biutiful” has some courageous and moving performance by Javier Bardem and the beauty and poetry Alejandro’s films carry, it did not engulf and swept away my soul. When I saw “21 Grams” the experience blew away the notion that there are certain kind of filmmaking which are not alone different but can reach to your heart and squeeze it thoroughly with an emotion you cannot overcome. I witnessed the magic of “Babel” and it became the catalyst for the obsession of mine to begin writing movie reviews. So you can see why I set such a high standard for Alejandro and while “Biutiful” is an extremely well made film, its core does not come out as a nature of a human his previous film carried effortlessly. Nevertheless this is a film that lifts itself through the time and ends in a known tragedy with heavy heart.

Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is the middle man in a dirty business of cheap labour of illegal immigrants. He works with the Chinese for resource and trades with the local construction site heads. He also helps out illegal immigrants from Senegal in setting up illegal shops on the side walks. When you have so many different people working on numerous tasks and do not understand the effort this man is gelling together, it becomes a job under appreciated in this big scheme of criminality. Having prostate cancer does not help his situation either and having a bipolar wife with alcohol and drug problems definitely not help. Get a brother who is sleeping with his wife and the cops breathing down his neck, Uxbal’s life is not alone a mess but a well designed mess.

Alejandro again wants to underline the human nature spread across the globe acting in mysterious yet similar emotions. Uxbal is the connecting spindle through the axis of these people turning each other’s lives. There are no coincidence games as it is a familiar territory Alejandro has in all his films. Here it is simply the spiraling of a man who is dying very quickly. He wants to set things straight before he kicks out of this world. The only thing he wants to set things right are his children Ana (Hanaa Bouchaib) and Mateo (Guillermo Estrella). From the outlook they do not appear to have a great upbringing once Uxbal dies. He knows that and he has to act fast.

The film is not about him racing time but his inability to even sink in that fact that he is going to die. As someone hearing those words of doom from a doctor no one can believe it till it is happening. It is always the belief of one even in the dangerous world of Uxbal that the worst things in life are supposed to happen only for others and in films. The reality that anyone is vulnerable to this chaotic world takes more than one could think of to dial in their minds. Such is Uxbal’s case who continues his life knowing the disease and wandering clueless in his chores.

He has a gift too which is to talk with the dead if they cannot leave this world. He guides them in providing that peace which in film only takes marginal significance but pays a poetic end. Uxbal’s only options in leaving his kids in good hands are their mother Marambra (Maricel Alvarez). Marambra is a walking and talking disaster. Cheery, fun and unbelievably unpredictable Uxbal reunites with her as it appears as the only option. With this the few happiest things are nothing but momentary lapses in tiniest events in Uxbal’s daily life. This film takes hold of sadness, despair and hopelessness in this colourful town of Barcelona. We become desensitized to these perils within minutes as the world Uxbal survives is nothing but disappointments.

There are two other people apart from Uxbal finding abyss and slight hope as the film progresses. Uxbal’s good friend Senegalese Ekweme (Cheikh Ndiaye) gets caught by the police and gets deported. Ekweme is separated from his wife Ige (Diaryatou Daff) and his new born baby. Ige continues her life in Barcelona as Uxbal provides his rental apartment. Soon enough Uxbal will be back out there with his kids and hope for a peaceful death leaving his kids in safe hands. That is wishful thinking.

His Chinese client Hai (Taisheng Cheng) runs a sweat shop in horrific conditions. His secret lover and associate Liwei (Luo Jin) is authoritative and wants to run things in his terms. Uxbal also has another friend of the family in babysitter from the sweat shop Lili (Long Sofia Lin). All these little characters surrounding Uxbal tells something about this man. He is a nice man in this not so nice business of exploiting illegal immigrants. The sweat shop keeps the workers in a basement all sleeping alongside tight and closed woken up by their drill master sharply at 6:30 in the morning. The sight is inhuman and Uxbal is all aware of it but goes by the way the world he manages to get by. There comes another tragedy in that hell hole and soon we begin to believe that the only solace Uxbal is going to find is in his regretful death.

“Biutiful” is about people migrating and living in a strange world to make a simple life as their home country denied even that meager existence. But it is not alone about that as it is more about a father trying so hard to make his kids remember his face and not vanish in smokes of the time. I think “Biutiful” does not have a destination in emotional closure as one would expect from this film. This is simply the life condition of a human being in that situation and acts like one will and makes the realistic best of it in the worst case of the environment. There is a hollow feeling as the film ends and that may be what Alejandro aimed for. As much as this does not live up to the standards I set up for this director, this is a film performed with great determination by Javier Bardem to portray the state of humans in a not so human body shop.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Limitless" (2011) - Movie Review

Now I know what my mom was meaning when she kept on repeating to my brother and myself that we are not using our full potential. If only she knew that there will be a pill manufactured in “Limitless” that would enable us to access every tiny parts of our brain to the fullest extent then she would have had the sons she always wanted. I am kidding, it was only me. Neil Burger’s film takes a wild spin on this stellar premise and rides on top of it without any struggle. It is not here for glory but for thrills. And thrills it has.

When you do something that you never really thought you were capable of, you are in the midst of a fear of losing it. Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper) comes to that fear. The film begins him wandering in the city as a bum. Oddly enough Eddie accepts his failure and the blankness of his future. This they do effectively in the few scenes we get to know him when he is not at his best. A failed marriage, failing relationship, a writer’s block which surprises on how he got a contract in first place and finally he is broke too. All constitute to a finely prepared dish of destitute and despair. At the pinnacle of his misery comes in his ex-brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) and offers something to show his power and attitude than anything. It opens up the windows and doors inside Eddie’s brain and shatters the walls outside of it. He mesmerizes himself. This is pure knowledge ready to receive and retrieve pumping up unstoppably. He is hooked and I do not blame him.

The neatness in the technique on how they penetrate the audience’s mind with this effect makes all the difference in an otherwise very ordinary film. The camera work which begins right in the title credits zooms beyond boundaries and keeps on going. It rains words when Eddie sits for his write up and the simplest philosophy of how he is brilliant buys us into this myth. The pill does not provide super powers like telepathy or some extraordinary mind trick. It simply finds the routes to access information that has been read, seen or absorbed in his entire life. The things that are already known are readily available and it happens faster than he could even think.

Eddie obviously completes his book and attains his immediate goal. He gets out of his misery but now what? What would the smartest guy think of wanting more? Power, money? Eddie never expresses those as the motivation is obvious. He tells he wants things more than books and attacks the place where rapid soar of success is so believable and unquestionable, day trading. He is a super rock star and he steps up to meet the tycoon of the industry Robert De Niro’s Carl Van Loon. Robert De Niro convincingly, deservingly and powerfully provides a much and long awaited supporting role wherein his presence means a lot more than the character itself. This is not his greatest but this is how he rolls and it is great to see him kicking the screen.

People reading this review should not mistake it for a stamp of saying it as the best film so far. It is a seriously good thriller. It is smart enough to know its ground and play within the rules and snaps its finger to keep going on. Bradley Cooper though is not a splendid actor is a hard working one. Clearly I do not see the capacity I saw in Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling when they began their career in their earlier films. Cooper though works laboriously in building his character and for some reason I could see it without that hindering the performance. In his pre-pill Eddie Mora, he gets to the basics and goes shabby and makes us not even sympathize much for the guy because he seems to have come to acceptance with his poor destiny. Then he charms off as this intelligent power magnet going around and talking his way in and out.

In this mix is his girl friend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) who comes and goes as the script treats her to be. The film does not lose its way in romance or emotions as this is a thriller running high on highway and not stopping for refueling. It knows that their pill lasts less than two hours and hence take no risks. They conveniently leave off murder trails, put some power writing for explanation than actual reasoning but never goes of track. Neil Burger uses the fast screenplay by Leslie Dixon basing her writing off “The Dark Fields” by Alan Glynn. Burger also gets good supporting technicians in cinematographer Jo Willems and editors in Tracy Adams and Naomi Geraghty knotting this entertaining thriller.

The process of Eddie going on high and low depending on the pill intake is something I will leave it up to you to see as that is the thrilling part. But I do have to tell the part when De Niro as Carl blasts Eddie with sheer truth and anger. It is not about his control over Eddie but about this nobody rocketing his way up within months as Carl worked his butt off to be where he is. If anyone could make that grinding look entertaining and place an offer and make his audience and Bradley Cooper see him in awe, that can only be De Niro.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"The Adjustment Bureau" (2011) - Movie Review

“The Adjustment Bureau” does what “Frequency” did or any film bringing unrealistic scenario as a tool to enable a better story does. It knows the capability of the innovative premise. This film adapted from the short story “The Adjustment Team” by Phillip K. Dick is a romantic thriller with the tint of lovable drama. Constructing with much awareness of the great questions the audience’s mind will bring upon, they answer it either instantaneously or it becomes insignificant seeing the lovely chemistry between this couple. It is a blissful experience to see a film taking romance with such a finesse touch and give an intelligent film in the process.

David Norris played by Matt Damon is a charmer and hence a great politician. With a million dollar smile and the attitude of youth bubbles in his presence. Yet he loses the senate election, thanks to his bad boy antics in a bar. He is devastated and practices his concession speech alone in the men’s room. Suddenly comes out Emily Blunt retaining her English accent and they strike a chemistry like no other. Close to what “Say Anything” and “Before Sunrise” did. It cannot be more obvious than this that this pair should be together. No questions asked. As usual in the hurried business movie pairs they do not exchange numbers in their first meeting and it becomes one of those moments the protagonist has to meet her again. They do. The very next day in the bus he takes for his work he sits next to the lovely and adorable Elise. The bureau has other plans though.

The premise of the film is that there are these handsome men in suit who follows a plan. Monitors their subjects and aligns the plans in the suggestion of “upstairs” to set things right in the world. Apparently we have been screwing up with the free will they have given us. In this comes David Norris the sunshine boy to step into senate and then to eventual Presidential run for a better world. As the movie rule suggests that US dictates things around the world. Anyway, this revelation is done with the capable and elegant Mad Men John Slattery as Richardson, the boss of Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie). Harry has been monitoring David and his family for a long time and who was supposed to not slip things by letting David and his dream girl meet up. Harry is the moral compass in this bureau and Anthony Mackie is the perfect man to do that. They do not have a choice as David witnessed the clean up crew of this bureau freezing his friend (Michael Kelly) to alter a bit of his mind to suit their plan. The band leaves David with this choice that he should never hook up with the mystery girl and continue his life not talking about their existence to anyone or lose his mind forever. Or as they call it “reset” his mind.

David asks what we want to know. Why they focus on these two people and what is the worst that could happen on being together with the love of their life? Slattery’s Richardson and Mackie’s Harry are truly unaware of that as they all are worker bees with great power to make simple moves in everyday life to change the course of life. I think this is what makes “The Adjustment Bureau” a very good sensible film as they make these bureau people a step above humans but not so much above them. They are frustrated in a more reasonable way and vent in a more usual manner. When Richardson says SOB, we can relate to his trouble and chuckle at it as our main man finds simple loopholes and emerge victorious. Terrence Stamp adds to this list of handsome men in coming as the best of the best in the bureau and he indeed is best.

What can I say about Emily Blunt and Matt Damon in working with very little time and splash their love convincingly over the audience that they are truly the perfect couple? They work literal magic as I have witnessed in few romantic films. The scenes of them sparkle with energy and attraction in its truest form. I was just talking with my brother on the splendid street walk scene in the overlooked independent arena of “Me and You and Everyone We Know” and while David and Elise do not reproduce that caliber of sweet romance in every scene of theirs, they are nothing short of spectacular in bringing out these two wonderful human beings who cannot be more comfortable in being with each other.

George Nolfi wrote and directed this film and it has the resemblance of Christopher Nolan’s structured dream world from “Inception” and yet carries great originality to the tone. I hear the background score of the film and instantly I identify that my favourite music composer is tuning this movie up. Thomas Newman not creates a signature piece to ring upon but evokes these yearning sensibilities of separation, pace and deep love in his tunes.

When I saw the trailers I cannot wonder why the men in this film are dressed up immaculately and are particularly handsome. Nolfi understands that human nature’s instant shallowness always associates angels with beauty and these people commanded by the “chairman” as they refer to has to look good in suits. But as Damon’s character points out in his inspiring and honest concession speech that altering miniscule things in the way one appears aids the chances of winning the audience. David Norris does not win the election while the “The Adjustment Bureau” wins its audience hands down.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Battle: Los Angeles" (2011) - Movie Review

It is funny when films like “Battle: Los Angeles” have the character’s name come up on the screen to introduce them thinking that they are adding some kind of reality. This is pure unadulterated Hollywood action and I mean it in a very bad way. This is worse than Roland Emmerich’s disaster films and does not even come close to the 30 pound cheese cake of “Independence Day”. This is timed wrong, done wrong and goes gloriously wrong.

Jonathan Liebesman directing this film is somewhat is the hangover of seeing “Cloverfield” which had better style and concept though lacking characters and story. In “Battle: Los Angeles” they do it almost right by not letting the audience think for most part of the film. Then suddenly they needed a closure to emotional vomit in these cheap flick and becomes an annoying crazy girl friend and the only way to get rid off her is that you have to vanish off the Earth completely.

Christopher Bertolini’s script steals all the horrible lines in the 80s war films and throws those amongst these marines. It is sad to see those said by these characters that draws so much sympathy towards them to go through with this ordeal even when you are aware that they got heftily paid. Somethings are not worth the money and to begin a career out of this film would be a suicide for any newcomers. And there are some and some more. But when you have seasoned and able actor like Aaron Eckhart take the bullet whilst escaping so many in the film, you cannot blame the kids.

If you thought Emmerich did not do justice in destroying the major cities in his films, then Jonathan Liebesman takes one city and lavishly makes it flaming and utterly destroys it just to get some personal giggles. We see the helicopter views, roof top views and personal views of dismembered and shambled Los Angeles. Despite these great feat of producing effects there is no sympathy for the city created in the film. Last year came “The Road” a beautiful darkly melancholic film treating two individuals in the post apocalyptic world and you cannot help yourself from drawing the sadness out of the environment they walk through. The Earth becomes a character that died tragically in that film and in “Battle: Los Angeles” it becomes a stale unnecessary object.

To summarize the whole film would be the following - explosion - mission - explosion - mission - sacrifice - sacrifice - mission - sacrifice - MISSION. Underline these with one of the worst cliched background war score by Brian Tyler you can save not alone money and time but the strain you would have had to endure throughout the film.

To the miniscule defense of the director I do have to say that despite the routine exercise of gun fights and humungous explosions, the movie kept it going. We do not much care for character or knowing their past but the action keeps coming unintelligently and as we have been programmed to be receptive of these signals, I went through without much opinion. Then Liebesman skips a beat to expose the sham I was witnessing and suddenly I broke out of the spell the Hollywood had us put under.

There are times when good actors lay their guards down and expose to blockbusters almost in an attempt to amuse themselves. Aaron Eckhart has done those a little early in his career before he found his touch. “The Core” would be the one I am talking about. He was a scientist and as any non-trained combat personnel in films he takes up the lead and gives it all up for the ending we know even before we entered the theater. And I wonder why he did not think that was enough? Why did not he choose some sensible sold out soul to make some reasonable film to make reasonably ridiculous money for the studio?

“Battle: Los Angeles” is not even a mindless action film rather it is an insult. I always shamelessly admit my love for the spectacularly flawed “Independence Day” mainly because it reminds me of the time I grew up watching Hollywood films in my hometown and wondering what kind of great quality films this industry churns out. Innocence at its best and may be that is the reason I like that film but I am all grown up with cynicism and bitterness and I cannot stand the sight of “Battle: Los Angeles”.