Sunday, October 16, 2011

"The Disappearance of Alice Creed" (2009) - Movie Review

When has ever been a clean kidnapping in films? In “The Disappearance of Alice Creed”, it begins with its perpetrators doing the chores of kidnapping, shopping for it, working for it and doing it in a fashion that can only be called creepy perfection. They do not speak to each other but then again what would they say? “Hey man, this is going to be so cool when we finish it that Ms. Alice Creed is going to love it!” Exactly!

Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston are the two kidnappers arranging the set up with such care and professionalism that if they could only put this thought on something else. Then again if you want to become millionaire overnight and are devious enough, you are stuck with few options. They get to it right away and the command Eddie’s character has on over Martin’s is not new but only Eddie Marsan can do that with a conviction. They indeed kidnap a young girl whom we do not see her face until they strip her naked and lay down in the bed they spread out to take pictures. They know what would cause not alone response but instantaneous one from her family to provide the ransom. This is Alice Creed played by Gemma Arterton.

Debutant director J Blakeson is a confident man and that is stompingly evident in each shot of this tightly packed film. We learn Eddie Marsan’s character is Vic and Martin Compston’s Danny. Danny is lean but not mean while Vic has those deadly eyes that is nothing short of pure killing. Then again Vic has an exact path of where this is going. He analyses each of these with great precision and executes them mercilessly. He is the professional in this business and Danny is new to this. He slaps around Danny to get some sense to him as he should. When you are knee deep in shit, you better keep going to cross it or you would die in it and it would be a stinking one.

The film of course reveals details as it goes along and in the event of accidental spoilers, please do not read further if you have not seen the film. Chances of holding a hostage situation under control deteriorates as the time expands. When a human factor is involved and you are not all the way in as Vic is, then you are eventually going to give in to the involvement with the victim and thereby exposing for failure in the merciless kidnapping. Such is the game and how easily J Blakeson makes us think and associate with the kidnappers is the first step of draw in he pulls on his audience.

In this game is Gemma Arterton, a terrific actress who as Charlotte Gainsburg in “Antichrist”, goes all through for the exercise. She lays there chained on hands and legs, laying naked and being humiliated. She has the toughest role in the film and she makes it all look easy. We are provided these snippets of details of the history these characters have. Almost next to nothing but strong enough to pursue the story forward thrillingly. And the beauty of it is as we are so caught up in the events and tension that happens in the apartment is that we are wide eyed only when Blakeson wants us to be on those details. Rest of the time, there are these small things that will not disappear that would get one of the characters in trouble. That damn bullet casing!

“The Disappearance of Alice Creed” is the kind of film that when it sparks the bombs one by one you are humoured and shocked by it. You circle around taking sides in between these characters and finally you have no idea where conscience took vacation in this 100 minutes. It sucks you in to the minds of these deadly people and you certainly know that Vic is the character who would not hesitate to kill Alice. But if you think Danny is the only man with iota of conscience in that apartment, think again.

I was constantly in anticipation of what is going to happen next as any thriller should be and it delivers those anticipation, not with bang but with exact measurements. In between doing so, it has these props and places that are accompanied with Marc Canham’s eerie score to exemplify that J Blakeson is the director to watch for who does not mess around when the screen play he has provides the punches that would knock you out, wake you up and knock you out again.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

"The Ides of March" (2011) - Movie Review

Idealism is an irony for politics. It attracts its idealist and then paints a thick reality concocted with cynicism and disgust. Perfectionism is unachievable as human and yet we look for one. We look for a bigger version than us and we see in the people who would like to govern us. Riding against plethora of miniscule subjectivities and proclivities of the wide spread country of US, the campaign personnel shed day in and day out drenched in moves, plots and strategy to make their candidate look great and the opposition bad without saying so, it is where the execution happens bloodless. Such is so in George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” which has his men and women labouring hard to get a bigger version of themselves govern them.

George Clooney is Mike Morris and who else other than Clooney play someone so charming and idealistic with the shred of doubt and mysticism in them. He has Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) the campaign manager with a vibrant and astute young fellow in the name of Steven Myers (Ryan Gosling) running the show. Myers truly believes in his man and he stands for it. While the elephant of a doubt lurks on whether happens at all but there is always that hope and the confidence that the firm believers of ideals and prospect have that they ingest the idea of having found someone. They are not alone to look up to but clean and perfect to be the leader for every one else. While the imminent soul breaker does come, “The Ides of March” plays its card right with right calculated surprises that makes, breaks and changes its characters.

Ryan Gosling’s Steven Myers is dynamic, energetic, smart and knows his game. With his eyes reflecting several sleepless nights as the primaries for Democratic candidate is week’s away, he wanders carrying Morris on his sleeves and being the perfect right hand man for Paul. Gosling here miles away from his role from “Drive” is a talker and a thorough one. His eyes are threatening in the fear, angst, shock and disappointment when the time comes. He hardly smiles and when he does it takes effort in doing so unlike his unnamed driver in “Drive” that spills smiles when he is in love. Shouldering with Hoffman, Clooney and Paul Giamatti, he is the man for the job and he does so effortlessly.

“The Ides of March” focusses on the background we have to be there to believe it. Talk about fast paced environment which are thrown like boring uncreative lines for a company’s hiring advertisements and here you feel it in your nerve. Papers flying, people around and you assessing every word you speak and hear is a chilling plays for a young people with hopes high and prosperous. Such is Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) an intern working at Morris’ campaign who decides to make a move on Myers who of course obliges. She eases and understands in few words and drinks. Then there is the loving Marisa Tomei as the journalist Ida Horowicz knowing how to game information with the boys and play cold when she needs to.

I did mention about Paul Giamatti who is the opposition campaign manager and kindly make a note of glances and obligatory smile Hoffman’s Paul and Giamatti’s Tom sweat which explains everything the casting did right on picking those for those roles. Jeffrey Wright is Senator Thompson who will put an end to this primary by endorsing either of the candidates and both of them are fighting hard to get him. That is part of the plot in the film but the real thing comes down little bit later than that. Things unravel in twists that bring all the people who are made note in the setting filled with people to act and do things that becomes like a Mafia.

The people in the film curse as they please like a well placed word in a poem and you realize that in a day filled with careful statements and land mine conversations, when they are in closed doors, they go ballistics as to take a dip freely in the fresh waters of profanity. Clooney’s Morris is believable and shares a personal moment with his wife Cindy Morris (Jennifer Ehle) where we understand that the man respects and trusts his guts and values. Everything happens in the “The Ides of March” are not a plot placement for pulling the foundation at the end. While that happens, it happens as a strategy well placed and played making the game of politics an ugly one and a generation that are tired of cynicism but are in process of being imbibed with it. Yet they will not take no for an answer and they would go beyond their values to go for a better leader. That is exactly younger Paul Zara and Tom Duffy would have thought when they were thirty.

"Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) - Movie Review

“Rebel without a Cause” is truly a film that belonged to the 50s and looses its current audience for being so. Film critic often repeats “movies do not change, people do” and it cannot be more clear on this one. The characters, actions and the interpretations vary widely enough to see a complete different film than what Nicholas Ray intended and what James Dean performed. Yet it has its core intact which tells about a generation on the cusp of having to want, feel and realize more than the previous generation who had so many worries financially and being mum that they were happy to be alive. It only has gotten further and further into generation and generation on pondering on their existence and the purpose of doing things and understanding the right thing and actually doing it.

James Dean is a teenager named Jim Stark though he looks like a college student. When we meet him as the credits are shown, he is drunk and laying on the ground playing with a disregarded doll. He is taken into juvenile police station where we also meet two other teenagers. One is Judy (Natalie Wood), clearly beseeching for dad’s affection. Then there is Plato played by Sal Mineo and man I would love to hear what the original viewers of this film thought about him. Each of them get to talk with Ray Fremick (Edward Platt) and we get where these kids are in their lives. When you hear “Why did you shoot the puppies” from Ray towards Plato, you know what you are getting into.

The introduction to these three characters at the juvenile division in the police provides a setting that you expect more of these troubled nights but Nicholas Ray has plans of things unfurling in next couple of days to learn lessons in hard way and wondering what is the teenage angst would result in. That we are still witnessing tells more about our evolving humans having a core that is beautiful and scary.

James Dean who was killed in an auto accident before the release of this film achieved iconic status through this film which has survived half a century and continues to keep going. He is throughly an actor of presence and that explains the status he achieved with very few films. He is dramatic and nowhere near as a great actor but there was the potential that would have matured to be as Marlon Brandon. Dying young is a terrible thing and we would never know what would have come off him as the times passed and films evolved.

Having the power of presence like Dean, one would not be surprised on why Plato is instantly in awe of his character Jim Stark. Jim is a kind teenager offering help, smile and snappy remarks. He offers his coat to Plato at the start which the disturbed kid does not accept but that act sticks to his soul. Soon we learn that Plato’s parents are nowhere to be there and it is his house keeper to take care of him. It is not the case for Jim who has as the norm states, loving parents. He has a car, stylish clothes to impress Judy and more but he wants his loving father to stand up for himself and then for Jim against a mother who is controlling and dismissive. This becomes the spur to the actions Jim makes in the rest of the film.

Jim’s father is played by Jim Backus with a borderline comic undertone. He is a weak man unable to maintain the heroic status Jim grew up with from his actions and dialogues. And Judy is a troubled young girl expecting the same kind of intimate affection from his father though she is becoming a woman now. Unable to express that part to his mother, she becomes a trouble of her own. She gangs up with fellow school bullies Buzz (Corey Allen) and others. The next day when Jim enters his first school day, the events lead to a tragedy.

“Rebel Without a Cause” while provides an insight into the times and the budding teenagers wanting more out of their life, it is stuck by the disconnect in the film making with the current audience. The moods and emotions shift randomly. One minute there is a loss of a life in a silly game and the other minute the couple are in love in an abandoned mansion. The greatest of all is the character of Plato. Plato played by Sal Mineo with a creepiness is disturbing and travels into the zones of derangement. While the interpretation of Plato wanting to be in a family seeing Jim and Judy as his parents, it cannot be denied that Plato is a homosexual having infatuations towards Jim. Whether this is the untold undertone Nicholas Ray went for is unknown but it cannot be more obvious. The film while does not hold up to the time is a landmark on the controversial nature of its material for that time and a life that was not fully lived in James Dean.

"Zardoz" (1974) - Movie Review

“Zardoz” was played as the B-movie in my film group but it is definitely not one. It does not fit the profile of B-movie which is it is so bad it is good but it is so bad that it is Bad. Directed by John Boorman after his success in “Deliverance”, he makes Sean Connery half naked for the entire film that has no purpose other than to provide a legendary ridiculous image results in google. It is a futuristic science fiction with no science and a fantasy film with soulless imagination. Its destination from the get go was nothing other than imminent doom and it achieves that slowly and painstakingly to its demise.

There is a huge stone head that flies and there is no mechanics behind it. It simply does. It has a loud speaker voice that no one should obey but humans have become insanely stupid and beastly that they would take anything. These are mainly men who are clothed with a thoroughly flashing red cloth to cover their genitals and two lines on their torso. Now why would they dress like that? Is it efficient and how did they get their clothes because from what we come to learn they are nothing but executors of remaining souls in this world? Well I am getting ahead of myself.

Anyhow, Sean Connery is Zed one of the executors who manages to get inside this stone head which takes him into another world. In the midst of the journey he also finds a man inside this head whom he kills for the purpose of killing. He lands in this world amongst the beautiful mountains and on the shores of a scenic serene lake. There he meets the people who talks cryptic, stoic and are boring as hell. Charlotte Rampling who is savagely beautiful in “The Verdict” is dressed exposing herself but in no way attractive. Boorman stylizes his cast to bare minimum in the most unsexiest manner possible. His intention to make this world uninteresting and indifferent succeeds though boring his audience.

The idea of Boorman though is unique and has so much opportunity for exploration dies in the minds of the creator. It becomes annoying and impatient through scenes that goes into the mindless and uncreative philosophies. What is Boorman trying out here? The imagination and recreation of this world is only beautiful in its scenery than the people. These souls live an uneventful life and they act bizarre. No explanation is given in the form one would understand or even remotely entertained.

As Zed enters this world he incorporates what is called a Tabernacle which is like a super computer advising on things and keeping these people immortals. They have psychic powers because Boorman makes them so. They can control Zed and bring him to his knees and make him do menial work that again is of no interest. So Charlotte Rampling is Consuella who is vehemently against in keeping Zed and wants him destroyed while his fellow immortals May (Sara Kestelman) and Friend (John Alderton) wants him for further study. Personally I did not give a damn.

There are films that explores into the arena of unexplainable and treats its viewers to the pleasures of strange world and bigger philosophies. That makes you forget and forgive the insanity and illogical actions. Boorman made a personal movie and it should have remained with himself alone. There is nothing but money and talent wasted. Nothing is funny nor sad nor anything. It is a film devoid of emotion and you create no sort of empathy or relation to the characters nor the environment.

“Zardoz” offers explanation in the end for Zed’s travel to this weird world through the stone head and the happenings on the current state of affairs which only becomes an exercise as if Boorman decided to put things in perspective for his audience. And as said earlier I did not give a damn. Bland as hell and pestering like a crazy girl friend, “Zardoz” goes into one of the top films I despise.

"50/50" (2011) - Movie Review

“50/50” is one of those films that has several moments of good film but fails to lift itself beyond what it set forth for. Not because of bad direction or unconvincing performance but it is just what it is. Some films are like that and sometimes you wonder why it did not become a better film than the goodness it already attained. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has risen to take varied roles and go with the flow. He has been noticed, picked up and has established himself as an actor having an eye for better film makers including his very own website that collages several creative minds. Here he plays as the protagonist diagnosed with cancer and waiting for the time to wrap up his time.

Levitt is Adam, a young man budding into the life of regular events of having a needy girl friend (Bryce Dallas Howard) and an annoying but best friend (Seth Rogen). He has morning runs, drive, coffee and work. A pain in his back sends him for tests where he is delivered the news with coldness and detachment from his doctor. The gravity of this situation does not translate well to me. May be due to the awareness of the plot, I was more interested in what he is going to do next than the news itself but it is director’s responsibility to not make that assumption and make it a moment the audience have not seen. May be this is where it dented the rest of the film.

Adam’s girl friend Rachael is nothing but unlikable. She is given an out by Adam after the news but who would get out when they are in that situation? Rachael begins to drive him to the clinic and distance him at the same time. While Adam and Rachael did not really have a good thing going before the news, the film goes towards the change in moods but gives up quite easily as Adam’s best buddy played by Seth Rogen as Kyle finds her cheating. Though we know that is exactly was going to happen as soon as you see Anna Kendrick as the novice therapist Katie for Adam. They are supposed to be together as per the screenplay right from the get go.

“50/50” suffers from emotional predictability despite its genuineness on the screen. Every one is trying around Adam to adjust to his situation in the awkward way and Adam is trying to accept his reality. What can you tell when a person is a walking funeral? Despite their success in the treatment, whenever someone hears cancer, that is that. Dying becomes so close and extremely real. Especially when a life fully not lived. Here is Adam a late twenties guy finding the things that might question or un-question his meaning of existence and he does not even get a chance to see those.

Seth Rogen plays Adam’s friend with fine nuance I would not have expected from the comedian. He is caring but he wants what he thinks is best for his buddy than Adam himself. Soon enough he becomes to use this sickness to get girls to date. You wonder throughout the film why Adam is even friends with Kyle but you also realize they are best friends despite what you see on the screen. People are like that and we see those in Kyle and Adam.

Then there is Angelica Houston as Adam’s mom taking care of her husband who has Alzheimer’s disease. She is hysterical and frantic but which mother would not be when they know their kid has days to live? Houston’s character is typical mom and annoying but we also see her side as Kendrick’s Katie points out the obvious to Adam. Talking Katie and Adam, their moments are nice, genuine and unusually comfortable given their awkward situation. Yet in the end when things fall in place, it loses it.

I think too many things fall in place too quickly in “50/50”. There are lovely characters and easeful moments. Take it through the chemo sessions with Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer or the emotional moments with Angelica Houston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the film has heart and soul. It carries itself through but this reviewer while liked the film did not go all way in pouring his heart.

In Indian films, cancer was always used as this haphazard tool for bringing sympathy from the audience to the central character. No one can be cold seeing a good looking person puke blood. Over the years I have seen personally and heard about the cold brutality of this disease, it does not let its victims continue the conscious life the films portray and also the nature of its brutal painful treatments and unimaginably hurt to watch someone go through it. Most films do not have that part except occasional chemotherapy effects of puking and weight loss but the physical pain of it is sparsely dealt as it would affect the flow of the story line. Yes that is one of those details in this scenario to be negated for the ease of moving on the film. “50/50” deals those with soft hands as needed as the pain is known and the loss is felt. I wish it had something more and if it means anything to you, do tell me.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

"Moneyball" (2011) - Movie Review

Almost all the time I have the regret of not having a perfect reply or a conversation or the right scenario set up for a likable outcome in decisions and results in my day to day events as it does in film scripts. Before you say the obvious and what you think, I am aware of that and despite that you wish as you always wish for the impossible. A transition, transformation or epiphany comes through a process of accumulation and assimilation of events and thoughts in actual life. Decisions made, mistakes redeemed and simply moving on happens like that and when a film reminds that and provides that in the end, you feel part of the movie and the merging of it with your life makes the experience, an experience. “Moneyball” provides that with a scene in the end when Billy Beane played by Brad Pitt has to make a decision.

I know the skeletal of the baseball game. I have the faintest idea of the teams, players, lingoes and everything that makes that game like any other sport to have a passionate, fanatic and entertaining fans. That might amplify the experience of “Moneyball” but it does not diminish the core fundamental of the film. Oakland Athletics are small team playing in a sport that is dictated by cash like any other sports. Billy Beane is the GM of the team begging like any other person in that situation would want, more money to spend and get some star players he just lost. He sits at the table with old boys putting forth their replacements providing their own projections than a facilitation for better players. Along with Billy we realize that he is sitting in a prehistoric era. Now we know but Billy amongst the crowd realizes it when he sees the game in the eye and extracts the brutality of it. Money wins, the game is unfair in coming to terms of having a fair advantage of building a team with others. He has to go back to the cave and come back with a computer to make miracle.

Brad Pitt is an actor who consistently surprises and has thoroughly branded himself. A brand of high expectations when he chooses a film to participate. He has consistently delivered and here he does it again. This is the kind of actor the film industry needs. You see these similar characteristic in Edward Norton, Christian Bale and now Ryan Gosling. Pitt out here was in the danger being mummified like Tom Cruise but he tore through it to create an identity beyond his looks. He goes for roles that clearly has an opportunity to see more sides of him. Here he is Billy Beane, subdued, calculated and as normal as you and me. His spur of anger is even methodical wherein it is unlike the character but you can empathize with the man.

Directed by Bennett Miller, it is a film I would greatly like for to be done for the game of cricket. I hope some aspiring film maker reads this and dig this gold mine of a territory for plethora of films to be made. The behind the scene of cricket would be nothing short of a crazy drama to riveting entertainment to a bloody thriller as the game is such that. Miller out here is out for a serene experience of a film in the most nerve wracking position the main players were in for. Beane is desperate for out of the box thinking and mainly seeing through it successfully. He reflects on his life where he got recruited right out of high school by the New York Mets to jump over education at Stanford on full scholarship. We understand that he as every one of us needs a win but Miller is not for the win as Beane.

There is something more than a game or a trophy or a record. Every avenue in the existence of the world needs an invention and a revolution. Here it is through the statistical analysis of putting a team together. It seems so simple and obvious that it surprises me that they never resorted to this idea in first place. The post game analysis for any sport goes into great detail on minute dissection and they do not use the same for selecting players? I think the politics goes deeper than the numbers.

“Moneyball” has Jonah Hill as Peter Brand, the key man Beane hires to believe in this methodology. The methodology of having objectivity over subjectivity. Hill unlike his all other roles comes off clean, shy but regardless charming. This pudgy guy with an economics degree from Yale adores the mathematics of the game than the game itself. His scenes with Brad Pitt are constructed with a chemistry that does not undermine his performance nor does boast Pitt’s. Seeing “Moneyball” I was reminded by another terrific backstage sports film “The Damned United” which eyes on a man blinded by his ego and there again is another pudgy man as his right hand man helping him to see come out of the fiasco in the end. Beane is though has his way of dealing things. He sees this as a business of play and the players are investments that will be cut off as the need arises. He stays away from them to make the firing process painless but it never is.

You can tell a film is being done with great professionalism and care when the supporting characters, every one of them get their screen time with great importance and precision. Philip Seymour Hoffman has nothing to prove but he does dutifully the role of Art Lowe as the coach unwilling to believe in Beane’s method and suggestion. Then is Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg wondering what this second chance is all about and is in fear of failing it. The small roles in one scene is all enough. Robin Wright as Beane’s ex-wife Sharon, Casey played with maturity and adorability by Kerris Dorsey and several others which you have to see. The writing is by Steve Zailian followed by Aaron Sorkin while the original story was formulated by Stan Chervin based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis. It is not uncommon to see several re-writes of a script and here the conversations and actions are casual in the seriousness. It is a director’s film and the writers sees through that it stays that way.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

"North by Northwest" (1959) - Movie Classic

What a smooth classic “North by Northwest” is? And to watch in my backyard projecting over a giant screen along with several people blanketed to survive the fall cold is something of an experience. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic drapes Cary Grant as the dashing advertising executive going for a spin into the old yet classic mistaken identity and web of conspiracies. Opening with titles shown with animation at its earliest and forming an iconic status to have those as one of its kind, the film assembles from a slow suspense into full fledged grandiose spectacle of ridiculously amazing stunts, locations and a finale that keeps you wondering how the heck they shot and how much the studio flooded their money on this venture.

Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill is a man of sleek, style and sarcasm. He is the man from that time where know Don Draper in Mad Men TV series drew inspiration to be Cary Grant. Men like Thornhill just need to be there for the women to fall all over him in a flash. What turns to be a regular business meeting, goes as it is until he gets up to telegram his mother and we learn why he wanted to make sure to keep her posted once we meet her. It is bad timing of him to get up at the same time when someone else is paged. Result, he gets kidnapped by two characters at gun point to Long Island. There he meets a classy but sneaky dude (James Mason) addressing our front man by the name of George Kaplan. Denying it does not help and they are going to get what they want out of Thornhill.

What comes after that is a series of adventure Thornhill did not sign up for. He gets forced drunk, drive drunk while escaping, enter UN, dodge people by wearing shades, catch train, board a bus, duck from a plane and finally cling onto faces of former Presidents of USA in Mount Rushmore. All this and I have not even mentioned about the ravishing and elegant Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendell who helps Thornhill in his train travel to escape authorities. And the intriguing dining scene where Eve invites him blatantly through dialogues that are outlandishly open but unusually subtle. They spend the night as we learn slowly the game Eve plays. Who is George Kaplan? Why is James Mason’s Phillip Vandamm wants him dead? This and more gets answered as expected in the classy way.

When you watch a Coen brothers’ film, you can see that every scene has been defined, well defined and has that stamp which is not distracting but adds value to it. Here is Hitchcock several decades before going through that exercise with precision on each of the camera angles and shots. Either it is the transitioning shot from outside of train focusing on the snaky curve of this locomotive to the inside of the vessel or the aerial shot in the middle of nowhere in Illinois as Thornhill waits for to be attacked in open ground, there is a definition and an explanation that brings the appreciation in its viewer of effort being put out there for their enjoyment and for the artistic fulfillment.

Cary Grant and his suit are with us for almost every short of the film and advices men to get better suits. And his delivery that borders on being stoic is where it should be when he is comfortable even in the most uncomfortable places and side steps into animated when a man being chased by planes would react and yet he is the coolest cucumber I have seen in few of the classics I have seen. He is devilishly handsome and when Eva Maria Saint’s Eve Kendell seduces him, while we doubt her intentions, there is no doubt for a woman to fall for this man. Their chemistry which is purely sexual somehow transforms in to genuine love out of nowhere when the end approaches.

The film blows money through the noses of the statues of Mount Rushmore and sprays currency out of the biplane that dust crops. The studio immensely trusted on the name of Hitchcock and he gave them what they wanted. The writing by Ernest Lehman is the main character despite the charm of Grant and sexy Saint. Wit and sarcasm from its characters in desperate situations are home to the films of that era and especially to the genre of film noir but here it slides in with a smoothness of butter and cream through Grant and others. The plot and set up that is so overblown in many cases somehow makes it out thoroughly entertaining. How did they think this would please audience and not poke holes onto their logic? It almost wants me to say that this is the birth of huge block busters though it had characters too unlike the metal clashing stupidity that is being spit out every other year.

“North by Northwest” has one of the coolest switch from an edge of seat literal cliffhanger to an immediate happy ending. Hitchcock seems to have had all the fun he could have till that point and after that it does not seem to matter to elongate on obligations. He goes for the kill in the danger of breaking traditions and ends it even before people could digest the crazy set they pulled for the finale. I think I enjoyed more than I expected mainly due to the fact it was seen in an environment it was meant to be seen. Big screen, open air theatre and surroundings of people who were enthralled by this time capsule of a film. What more one could ask for from a classic?

"Drive" (2011) - Movie Review

Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” is the lone assassin film disguised as an action flick. While in real life we would negate and discard them as the creeps with little to no communication, the film’s unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling) is filled with mysticism that invites interest and intrigue in its viewers. He is not good but resembles one, he is not bad but again resembles one. He is tacit, clear and precise. The film brilliantly features the first scene to set his philosophy and skill. He is not a rash Hollywood infected driver rather the smartest one. He is damn good at his job and he is dutifully modest except when he is driving.

Having seen Refn’s debut “Pusher”, I can say that he is a director of characters moulding the film into their life. “Pusher” might be the film wherein you can feel the central character’s predicament with no escape whatsoever and see how he wanders outside of that in the every day life trying to fix it with deliberate awareness of the end. “Drive” is nothing like “Pusher” especially when it comes to the organization of the simplest story. It exploits to the fullest extent on the medium it is on and only takes the necessary reality or provides a guise of reality in the car stunts which we have been numbed by the CGI injection.

The Driver in the film knows the cars, knows LA and knows the ins and outs and everything in between. He part times as a getaway driver and gives five minutes to his clients a.k.a robbers, that is all he can give and they can be assured he would evade any cops, on the ground, up the air and through the darkness. He also part times as a stunt man for movies and works full time for his employer Shannon (Bryan Cranston) at his garage. Movies of lone expertsmen focusses on a life of nothingness devoid of emotions, friends and social semblance. Movies of that nature makes it a point to be very pertinent of that part of their life. “Drive” has it as a background as we know that this man lives in a zone within himself.

Yet every man is as human as the next one when the heart stops a beat for a beauty and an opportunity for a social life. Such comes as his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), mother of an adorable young boy Benicio (Kaden Leos). The establishment of their relation assumes the knowledge of the viewer of seeing several films. They cross path sharing an elevator. He is spectacularly handsome and she is an angel fallen from the sky. He sees her in the super market and chooses to skip the aisle away from her. He comes outside and hesitates, goes to help her smoking engine. Next scene he is carrying her groceries in the elevator with Benicio staring at him curiously. The viewers fill in the gap. That is the simplicity and the terseness of “Drive” which does not sweat on the details and at the same time does not disregard the emotional bond that develops between these two.

Look the font and design of the title - pink in colour reeking Los Angeles out of it with a 70ish outlook. It is a rare mix of glamour with stillness. Tension is in the background score of Cliff Martinez constantly reminding of the imminent violence that is going to be splattered across our face. The Driver is methodical and has a purpose in every action. Each action needs completion to the highest degree of perfection. His anger, sadness, agony, love, pain and acceptance are marked with an acknowledgment on his face. Ryan Gosling’s mystical character has a total of not more than 15-20 lines in the overall film but he uses his charm as a presence to his character. His voice appears as a monotone but has subtlety of emotions waving through it. He exactly knows what he is doing and the others don’t. That makes him deadly.

“Drive” is like the last year’s assassin film “The American” that laboriously goes through the slow ordeal of wait and patience in George Clooney’s silent killer. Both men are sad lonely people looking for love though the Driver in “Drive” has better trust over his love than the killer in “The American”. I think when you are an assassin like Clooney in that film, it comes with the package. Refn’s film is a meditation in completion and executes that philosophy of accepting life’s events for what it is and begin working through it that is imbibed by the central character.

As the story progresses into the eventual heist going wrong putting our man in the centre of blood, gore and utter violence, we are introduced to two mob bosses Bernie (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Pearlman). Bernie is suave, classy with the sneakiness but also is violent when he wants to be. He shares emotions and his job comes with that territory as well. He kills with anger most of the times and sometimes with an empathy. Albert Brooks provides the strong villain the film needs for the Driver to challenge upon and we know that Bernie is capable of being successful over the protagonist effortlessly.

“Drive” might disappoint someone going in with the expectation of R-rated action with car chases through one way rash driving and blowing up of unnecessary random vehicles. But if they open their mind to this film that very well knows that it is a film than anything else, they get exposed to the R-rated violence that is out there to present the characters and the extension of their behaviour into the ugliness of the inhumane. Refn gives an unusual flick that exemplifies the possibility for an artsy presentation of a genre known for being dumb and lacking creativity be prolific and inventive.

"Antichrist" (2009) - Movie Review

When “Antichrist” premiered in 2009 Cannes film festival and stirred controversy, I was crazy psyched to see the film mainly for the buzz. Then I learned the ordeal it put the audience through and heard what Willem Dafoe’s character gets brutal violence from Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character and what she puts herself through. I decided I am not going to see it and that was that. Couple of years later I start this film group and my fellow film aficionados suggest this for viewing for which I say no and they confront me of my unfairness. I succumb to the argument. And here it goes.

Knowing the extremity of this film, I have to say that I was constantly in anticipation of the horror than the actual flow of the film. That might have put a dent on viewing without reservations nevertheless Lars Von Trier's film is not for the faint hearted. It tells a story of a couple going through the mourning stages given in chapter form. In the "Prologue", we see their kid slowly walk up to the window and slip to his death while the couple are passionately making love. The film has immaculate cinematography with images capturing stillness in motion. Shot with high speed camera and an opera guiding that scene to its inevitable tragedy, you see a director wanting an art that is in between a timeless photograph and alive in motion. The current technology provides that for Lars Von Trier and he exploits it to great visuals like this.

The loss and the guilt haunts the "She" (Charlotte Gainsbourg) while her husband "He" (Willem Dafoe) sees it clinically, analyzing emotions and trying to deal it like a disease. Him being a therapist, he does the blunder of taking his wife as his patient and begins to "psychosoothe" her through exercises in accepting fear and letting her through the process of mourning. Sex that navigates through the life has pleasure, shame, guilt and love varying through it. It is complicated and complicates everything. Having lost the best part of your love while indulging in the act is an unimaginable terror. Both He and She are part of it and how can they overcome this terror? I think writing about it reveals the film’s finale of She putting He through that terror. May be that is her cleansing or an attempt in cleansing. She could have gone for suicide but she needs to feel the pain in the extreme nature and thereby arriving to the gory, visceral and unfathomable acts.

Segueing to the violent scenes, while they are what I described them, they are brief and saying it visceral might be putting it very mild. Violence with finest detail in films invigorate anger and disgust in me when is no sense for it to be out there. Especially when it is only out there to shock. And in “Antichrist” it "artistically" makes sense to have it but it is an excruciating exercise to prove a thought. Though that is how an artist goes through his/her work. Yet the process is not rewarding. I have to cite the example of seeing "The Holy Mountain" which with its bizarre and disturbing images was exhausting to sit through but the experience was unique in its wide sense and as mentioned earlier rewarding.

Von Trier initially specifies that the nature is evil and sinister. It is given through the couple’s visit to Eden, the ill cabin. As they go through talking about the process of grieving, we see Dafoe’s character transforms from being an understanding husband and an effective therapist to a righteous jerk and beginning to annoy the reeking logical conclusion he is anticipating of. Then comes the misogynistic ideas She did her research on her last visit with her son. A story in itself with characters having proper names would not have made this as controversial as it made it out to be. Assigning generic names to the character shows that Von Trier went above and beyond to say that they are representing their gender. “Antichrist” insinuates subtly and blatantly through the nature of being a man and being a woman.

I would not argue on the differences of nature between men and women. Clearly these two species despite being humans are so far apart biologically and psychologically. And in a world of men, women’s character gets dissected, analyzed and criticized to its nth miniscule sectors. Men are claimed to be simple, hollow and easy to understand it is the antonym for women. While we men are of course easy to unlock, I believe being human itself has its facets of complication and internal mechanics of mind bubbles out spurring surprises day in and day out. You can tell that from this creator itself who portrays a dark mind of his own onto the screen. To take a stand like that explicitly makes it outrageous to accept the concept of proclaiming women as inherently evil. Finally but not in the least bit less important, "Antichrist" gets daring performances by Willen Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg going through this ordeal and giving everything they have got. It is astounding and shocking to see their commitment to take up this project and journey through Von Trier's mad, twisted and dangerously dark mind.

Lady Vengeance (Language - Korean) (2005) - Movie Review

“Lady Vengeance” tells about the "kind hearted looking" girl Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young Ae) who did her time in prison for 13 years for a crime she did not commit. Obvious enough she is out there to find the person responsible and get even. While the story is said in one sentence, it is a film with visual melancholic poetry and in the end becomes an odd comic commentary on how people driven by anger, loss, love and of course revenge resort to patient and shocking brutal violence and become realistically selfish and insensitive immediately thereafter. In all this is Lee Geum-ja working through her vengeance for several years and accumulating favours for her final blow.

This is the finale of the Vengeance trilogy director Park Chan-wook delivers. His “Oldboy” is one of a kind story that kept the viewer wondering what is the next violent twist this is going to unravel into. When it did its final blow, this reviewer was not convinced of the validity of the character’s action. Regardless, that is a film with cruelty doing sweet dances and stomps on the hearts and groins. Having that effect, “Lady Vengeance” by me was welcomed with caution and sudden explosion of blood and sickness. Strangely enough it goes through like a gentle stream in a fiery forest.

Park Chan-wook goes for some odd notes in flash back and narration. We see Lee Geum-ja accept her crime of killing a kid and goes through the process of guilt in the prison. With angelic appearance, she resorts for religion and then we see her transform into something else when she gets out. While we are aware of her innocence, there is still that iota of doubt lingering around in her sweet face which tells that there is more to it than her innocence. For her it is a cleansing process and it begins by cutting her finger off in front of the kid’s parents. Soon she makes visit to her fellow cell mates outside and begins to collect her favours. Sometimes it is a simple job or stay and sometimes to a stylish symbolic gun that needs close distance to finish its target. Oh yeah she wants to be close to this man and see his eyes in his last moment of death.

Much of the poeticism comes form the music by Choi Seung-hyun that adds the necessary surreal characteristic and keeps the audience be reminded on the sense of loss Lee Geum-ja carries. Park Chan-wook indulges his camera through the scenic views of a snowy town and then to some dark and deeply disturbing abandoned classrooms to show case his finale.

Overall the film dials down the explicit violence from "Oldboy" but retains the gravity of moral imbalance from it. I always resort to this excuse of being desensitized by putting myself through these films but I do have to say I watched “Drive” and “Antichrist” after this which confirms that I am indeed in the process of being desensitized. “Lady Vengeance” while meditates on the melancholy is quite simple on one thing and that is its title, vengeance.

We see the evil man Mr. Baek played by none other than Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik. He is the sick minded, vile and disturbing teacher. As Lee gets closer and closer to her moment, we learn that Mr. Baek has been watching her too. Throw a mix of estranged daughter of Lee into this and we begin to expect something usual but we are in for a surprise. Park Chan-wook sees revenge and accepts it in a brutal manner for his films. There in itself is the debate but unlike “Oldboy” his target out here is from bones through flesh and skin is a man of nothing but pure evil. He gives a clean go ahead for a conscience free killing. We still think we are going to expect something usual and again he puts in a surprising social experiment. Here we see the ugliness of humans unperturbed by the outcry of the vile nature inside of them.

“Lady Vengeance” is a poetic film and ends bloodily. The violence in it was more of a caricature than seriousness. While I was thoroughly affected, disturbed and disgusted by the ending of “Oldboy”, this film that portrays the rawness of human extremity in clean sense of them strangely did not affect me. I think Park Chan-wook’s comic presentation of the clean up of a murder and not going through the torture fest most of the horror film directors resort now a day made me to see this detached and undisturbed on the decay of human souls.

"Contagion" (2011) - Movie Review

“Contagion” might be one of the few in the disaster pre-apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic film that deals it with a clinical approach and engrosses with fast moving events through characters than seeing it as a world wide event. It does not panic as the disaster films do over through media, national monuments and wonders of the world rather allows itself in key departments of interest and concentrates the drama and thriller in those corners. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, “Contagion” has wide array of casts playing simple to major roles each carrying their weight to put together this heavy mass of a film that ticks for a time that never seem to end.

Said with a grim outlook as it is and hopelessness, the film is Sodebergh’s seamless mixture of stylish presentation with a clinical perspective. The first target of this lethal virus is Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returning from her Hong Kong trip sick, coughing and ready to collapse. En route indulging in adultery too. Her husband Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) hurries up to the hospital with her dying instantaneously and then before he could even sense the shock, he gets back home to find his step son succumb to this virus. This is the beginning of a really bad day for the planet.

“Contagion” is interested in the reaction of the governing bodies around the world and the response to this pandemic. Who else other than the wise and controlled Laurence Fishburne could play Dr. Ellis Cheever as the head of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Here Fishburne brings the instant respect and trust from his stature beyond the undermining mustache. He panics inside his calmness and begins to work through his effective people. There is Kate Winslet as Dr. Erin Mears who begins to venture to the field for setting perimeters and planning a facility. These details are done with a simplicity and the immediacy these bodies will begin to assimilate their resources having the underlying scare of what are they up against.

Soon as we encounter several of the players in this whole arena of panic and anarchy looming over not because it is a zombie invasion rather the basic nature to survive. In the mix of this are some diligent scientist taking risk and working to solve this being into finding a vaccine. Everything fails and as the outbreak reaches out there are opportunist venturing with a subtle cruelty, desperate folks trying everything they can to save a few and there are idealist losing their balance and crawl for answers. Hell lies in the empty street and absolute silence. The virus takes the world out there with a speed of spreading exponentially.

Talking about the speed of its expansion, we are told about the things that are performed by humans in a day touching materials, things and what not and then touching their face innumerable times to cause this spread. Every touch is a weapon and the fear of it is more ammunition than a loaded gun. Soon people believe everything and nothing. There is Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede waiting for a moment like this to break his conspiracy ideas from journalism into something more. The idea of being right and influencing people is a power one cannot get enough of. Such is Alan who prophesied through tons of his conspiracies into this one and there is a cure he believes to have identified called forsythia and people began to hunt for this unverified drug other than Alan live telecasting his intake through his blog. There will be people to follow and minds to believe. He though asks the right questions to the Dr. Cheever and tears the facade into reality. The world is crumbling and the governing bodies have no clue on what they are doing.

Soderbergh is a master in presenting reality with a classiness. His darkest depressing setting have a powerful magnetism. Here there are so many characters spun in the daily life of this deadly disease and making progress from genuine sacrifices, fear, sadness and pain. Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) is one such and while we have seen so many films that has a character using them as a lab rat for their discovery, Soderbergh makes it a mellow chanting of bad idea and makes it a serene experience in the process.

“Contagion” is not your ordinary bloody post apocalyptic movie. It is not interested in the chaos that are displayed through the media or people running around in famous spots as the world is reduced into snippets of world monuments and the crushing of it. It is interested in the people who would be directly dealing with it and then the people we will forget in the midst of our busy lives and those are none other than ourselves. He is a man of details and here he gives a clinical approach. That might detach the sensitivity and humanity element but it is every bit effective and keeps you glued. You might not be relieved or rewarded a cinematic finale but it has a sweet finish that is more cinematic and more real.