Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Samotari" (Language - Czech) (2000) - Movie Review

Nothing more is detrimental for a film wherein the characters are so self aware of their presence in a film. Here is my first Czech film that has quite a varied dysfunctional characters from the every day lives and all of them begin, wander and jump on a conversation with no connection whatsoever to each of those dialogues. Directed by David Ondricek, it has all the characteristics and ambition of being the kind of film that oozes with urban dysfunctional property to provide an insight into the human emptiness and illogical emotions only to fall flat without making a mark.

The film begins with a couple Petr (Sasa Rasilov) and Hanka (Jitka Schneidrova) beginning the first incoherent exchange of the movie. Both appear to be happy but as soon as they head out, Petr meets up with his friend Robert (Mikulas Kren) who is going to introduce Petr with a new girl. Soon we find out how Robert cruelly plotted the facade of the breaking relationship between Petr and Hanka. This leads to the break up and then we go onto meet Jakub (Jiri Machacek), a pot head who is the only person that has a legitimate reason to utter meaningless lines. Then there is Ondrej (Ivan Trojan) the brain surgeon who seem to be sane at start only to learn the crazy obsessive stalker within him. These characters are all connected as expected and that does not make much to the film either.

“Samotari” translates to “Loners”, an apt title on these people who despite their status in any form of relationship are destined to wander in the their lonely soul in this cute vibrant city. Petr is a radio jockey playing tunes and running life commentaries that are purely heard by few of the characters. Hanka does not really have a job but she is moving back to her parent’s house. Her mom is a typical mom with an extra shot of craziness. Hanka talks and behaves normal but she takes a turn for the worse in the middle of the film as she falls for the pothead. Then there is Robert, the most obnoxious and psychopathic character in the film who enjoys filming emotional destruction. He appear to take pleasure in it not because he enjoys it but has proof of his extensive nature to get cruelly dirty. He takes pride in those.

The film carries some really cool tunes with bass and charm. It does aid some of the bland scenes but then again, a film has to have more than an impressive sound track. “Samotari” does not have a plot nor has an agenda. It wants to take a cross section of this city through these people and say that human mind and emotions acts on random movements of unexplained instincts. People fall in love, get out of love, stalk, taunt and hurt people with ease and move on with their life. That indeed is a deep concept but it requires some immaculate screenplay and terrific acting. The film suffers from the absence of both of those.

I forgot to mention Vesna (Labina Mitsevka) the out of towner (or even country) a bartender who falls for the machinating and scheming Robert. Robert goes out of the way to hurt her but they barely know each other and Vesna takes much hurt in this than one would expect. What is the deal with Robert anyway? He has a sick mother he clearly loves but seem to have utter disregard for his friends or their emotions. And then there is the utterly chaotic Ondrej who made a better life for himself after he went obsessive over Hanka during his school days. He is married to Lenka (Dana Sedlekova) and has two daughters. An accident brings the name of Hanka into his attention and he throws everything he has to spiral into his old methods of obsession. What drives him to be that way despite the constant rejection of Hanka? He got over her once from young and restless mind and why would he give up all of those? “Samotari” appears to follow a haywire of a pattern on its character’s behaviour that are driven with instincts which has no logic. And I am not saying that because I cannot agree more on the illogical nature of human emotions but here it does the erratic route of jumping around purely to be boasting about how hip it is.

In any film, you should be able to relate or be attracted or impressed by at least one character. You come to care for them regardless of their behaviour that would go against your nature. “Samotari” sadly had none of those for this reviewer. This does not mean that the film is completely devoid of merits. It has some obvious talents that is keen on looking on the human impulsiveness and at the same time aiming for a new presentation in a film. Unfortunately there appears no investment to flesh out more detail and interest in the dialogues these people speak. Because of this we are left bland and emotionless despite the continuous broken hearts and dying feelings.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie" (Documentary) (1995) - Movie Review

One would think that after approximately twenty explosion of several bombs of unfathomable scale would bore us down. Wrong! Every time you see the mushroom cloud, there is display of absolute power. Every time you see the thick smog of high intense of hellish temperature rain the skies, there is fear waving through the air making it thick and thin as it devastates. Every time you see the sheer intensity arc of this human made catastrophe and wondering the repercussions it made and the future it holds, you still cannot take the eyes of it. This is “Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie”.

If you think the title of the film is laughable, you should see the scientists, soldiers and workers clothed up in their shorts and goggles (do not forget the goggles!) staring at this destruction festival. This compilation of declassified archived footage by Peter Kuran provides something where mixed feelings is the least of the expression one would normally use. Yet that is the case because there is indeed a sense of beauty and care but at the same time the fear it invokes would sting you in the most sensitive manner.

The film chronicles the titular project of nuclear bomb testing from the 1940s through the series of further tests till the early 60s. With eerie grandeur score by Moscow Symphony Orchestra, the film weaves these footages along with few of the scientists who provide facts even in the way they describe the situation this arose. Add William Shatner’s narration to this, it is the perfect blend of perplexed comedy, a profound insight on to the existence and the unrelenting power of the nuclear bomb.

As these explosions unfurl one after another, you get into the deep sense of existence. Here is the most powerful destructive weapon humans have ever created and this happened half century back. The immense and intense advancements in the field cannot be even imagined. The film begins with group of workers arranging piles of TNT with of course shorts and bare chested. As the sun shines, they accumulate these boxes of TNT with almost great ease and hammering to tighten it! I do not want that job, ever. This is to measure the power of what would Trinity, the first atomic bomb tested would generate. This was 108 tons of TNT. The actual Trinity produced explosive power of 20 Kiloton of TNT.

From there on there is no stopping. As the World War II broke out the brilliants minds in the country came together to design something that was way beyond their expectation and kept growing without any limits. They exploded on the ground, under ground, mid air, on water, in water, deep water and finally through the space! They did this to prove that they can do this and they did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The opponents knew better and the only way to counter this threat is to test their own stuff. So started this game of eye balling and displaying the capability than actually doing it. We thank them for just eye balling.

The film has lighter moments in unexpected places. There are the members of this team seating themselves on the supposed safe zone with chairs and goggles witnessing a film of definite death. Then there is folks working on these bombs smoking without a care in the world. And finally the most funniest scene in the film where an army officer providing an introduction to the first Hydrogen bomb while taking a moment to light up his pipe in the middle of it. Remember that these were the 40s and 50s where smoking was considered healthy. We do not though get insight into their minds as we only see them working. I learned that there is another documentary called “The Day After Trinity” on how they erected a small city in Los Alamos to develop this bomb and the life of these scientists on this crucial point in history. I would love to see that and learn the minds and their moral dilemmas.

Peter Kuran’s film might bore some on the continuous explosion with dramatic blaring orchestration but I can see what led to Kuran’s passion to put together this piece. The fascination on this is real and at the same time I cannot wonder thinking what a waste of time and money. Of course the real result of damaging lives and Earth goes without saying but as I said to a friend, this is one giant unimaginable and surplus amount of financial backing for the history’s biggest Mythbusters. Here we are witnessing these and I cannot help that I live in the same planet where ultimate mass death is so out there and I am attracted to that with terror and fear.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"The Square" (2008) - Movie Review

“The Square” is the sort of film wherein right from the beginning you know that there is nothing good coming out in the end. Betrayal, lust, love, money, blood, double crossing and paranoia are some of the few topics that are touched, soaked and bedraggled in this tremendous Australian film. It is the kind of film that Coen brothers made it their own and began a trend that no one could even dare aspire of, until now. That in no way means “The Square” is a wannabe rather a truly original masterpiece by director Nash Edgerton who believed in his brother’s original story this is based upon. His brother Joel Edgerton stars in this stellar work of art as well.

Ray (David Roberts) and Carla (Claire van der Boom) are involved in a scandalous affair. Both married and are in the stage of affair where they know the place to meet, the motel to sleep around and phone calls to read. Ray is foreseeing a construction that needs to meet schedule and he deals in shady trades to accumulate money to leave and run along with Carla. Carla’s husband is Greg (Anthony Hayes), a ruthless thug who is the wrong man to mess with. You know where this is going? and no it is not a rhetorical question. It is a genuine one and you would be astonished to find the twists and turns this film takes on.

Joel Edgerton apparently wrote this and shelved it considering it to be weak in the script until his brother read and persuaded him to make a film out of it. Nash truly is a visionary director to read those words and picture this noir that spirals into destruction like no other. Ray is a common man and dangerously circles around the idea of messing with the dark side. He is convinced by a woman he is deeply in love with and has a stale marriage even we could associate with in very few scenes with his wife. Look at the way the script conveniently and confidently persuades us on this boring marriage and how effectively do we agree with it. It is the intelligence of the director and the editing Luke Doolan and director Nash that the audience are engrossed towards the plot.

The plan of course is always simple. Carla notices Greg hiding bundles of cash he apparently got through illegal means. She gets the ball rolling by stealing and arranging through Ray for another petty criminal to burn the house. Money is stolen and Greg believes it gets burnt and things are peace, calm, serene and happily ever after. How naive these two are that they are completely unaware that they are the characters in one of the deviously and devilishly plotted script of Edgerton’s. Things fall apart. How and what is up to you to see it.

“The Square” might come off as those predictable affair that survives on the shrieks and fear of blank phone calls, suspicious looks from the person they betrayed and ending contrived and unconvincing. I dare you to think that and watch this film and you will be left with awe on the circles it takes and the characters it places. Accidents begin to happen around Ray in ways no one could imagine yet utterly believable. His life destructs and deteriorates in slow motion and he seems to dig himself deeper and deeper. There is urgency, chaos and he tries to keep himself under control only to be paving way for more blood sheds.

When was the last time you saw a car chase that not alone was superbly shot but genuinely believable with a first class camera work? This time it is indeed a rhetorical question. “The Square” is blessed with the cinematography of Brad Shield who places his camera inside the car which I highly suspect to have been an inspiration to my favourite film of 2011 “Drive”. It swirls inside this closed space and circles around when it chases another or being chased by a motorcycle. It is so real that it brings chills in you just by witnessing this closeness of two iron on the road with lives inside. Every scene has an importance and every character has a part to play. The direction is immaculate placing details with a poetry of course dark. Even the dogs cannot have a peaceful meeting.

What is so beautiful about the destruction of human lives? What is attracting in the way they swindle and betray each other and are permanently damaged by those day in and day out? The film is like a maze taking us through one corner after another where we are hoping an opening but only to be amazed by the beauty of the design. And when we are at the gates of end, we cannot help but laud the greatness of a thorough film presentation without a speck of error or dirt. The chaos of human incidents, accidents and machinations sometimes how much ever evil, cruel and disgusting it would be brings a fascination in our existence and survival. “The Square” has good characters who seem good and are driven by their instincts. They commit terrible crimes and involve in unanticipated results. It is spellbinding in its construction towards the deconstruction of human condition in its abysmal randomness.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Rabbit Hole" (2010) - Movie Review

Calling “Rabbit Hole” a sad film might be undermining it. It is heart wrenchingly tragic. The cruel truth about the post life of a tragedy is that it goes on. That might be the optimistic view of it too but I am talking about the routine of life. Families, friends and everyone surrounding goes on with their lives as they should and so does the affected members though carrying the burden of that tragedy every moment. The routine helps but this is more deeper than to be discarded under the carpets of mundane life. This is confronting it day after day or the denial of it.

Coming from the man who tackled, or more so embraced the concept of sex and sexuality in its bare form (pun intended) comes the most difficult subject to portray. John Cameron Mitchell dissects the decaying life of Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) who lost their 4 year old son Danny to a car accident. The film focuses on their existence 8 months after theirs ended on the streets in front of their house in which they still live.

In all my reviews I rigorously and annoyingly try to state the fact of any feeling of this reviewer towards a person or situation with absolute honesty but I do so not to be righteous. I have this intense sense of pouring out those to my best ability and in the process be very clear to not have any sort of guilt in not acknowledging or presenting the emotions and empathy of mine to its fullest extent. Such that is the obligation I bring forth to cleanse my soul. Now to present the situation of Becca and Howie would not even come near to reflecting the state of their deepest sorrow. I do not have words to put forth sentences to address that.

Becca has quit work to be stay at home mom from what we learn and she is left with staring the walls, corners, doors and floors of this place that are imprinted with Danny’s presence so pristine and fresh. Howie is focusing so hard in directing their tragedy towards some sort of reboot in fresh start that he forgets to address his own grief. Each of them do not talk about the real pain each go through or by this time they have gone through it enough to not even mention about it. Yet we see that they are not ready to talk about whatever it is they can talk about. And at the same time they address it in casual references as if they are eligible and ok to mention it so. “Rabbit Hole” does those moments with a finesse. Unless one has not gone through it and I sincerely wish no one has to go through it, there is no way they can even imagine the pain but the presentation some how makes us to relate.

I am not good at consoling nor at carrying myself when offering condolences but the truth is no one does. No one wants to be out there in that situation. For such a regular occurrence in our lives one would imagine that people would have figured out that part of the equation but it is tragic every time and it is inconsolable. Here is Becca and Howie going through the worst tragedy and we see them as normal human beings. We see how it has changed them and the people around them. Becca has a younger sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) who still likes to get in fights and get arrested. She is also pregnant and now Becca deals with that. The undertones of that between them is excruciatingly difficult to watch. Such is between Becca and her mother (Dianne West) who tries to offer advise and help. And aren’t we all troopers to listen when our moms advise? Not. This does not particularly help when Becca’s mom tries to draw similarities between her loss of Becca’s brother. You would see why this upsets Becca.

Nicole Kidman brings two individual films before this to merge in the character of Becca. She was the grieving widow in “Birth” beginning to dangerously get close with a boy claiming to be her husband and then in “Margot at the wedding” as the annoying and judgmental sister. Kidman brings forth these two into a perfect amalgamation wherein we as her friends and family are pricked by her subtle cruelties while at the same time understand where it is coming from. Aaron Eckhart while struggles when he has to emote tears or maybe his character is not so good at it provides a moving performance when his Howie is struggling the same pain as Becca though in different manner. He tries to take control of the situation only to find completely helpless and clueless.

The film does not have a single scene that seemed unprecedented or overbearing. It is true to its element and sticks to its guts in providing one of the saddest film I have ever seen. Not because of the situation we are aware of but because of the lives it has altered. The death is not so much for the dead as someone said it is more for the living. “Rabbit Hole” is wonderfully acted, brilliantly shot and precisely directed. This is not alone a slap on the face to the terribly overblown tear jerkers that are coming out but a baseball hit on their head to not insult the tragedies of human emotions.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

"Chronicle" (2012) - Movie Review

“Chronicle” clearly is a refreshing approach to the super hero genre. Yeah, that genre which has been beaten to death, buried, cremated and the ashes have been spread and found to be assimilated and put together again. This whole process continues forever. Director Josh Trank’s footage found dealing of this genre succeeds for most parts not alone for the new presentation but more towards the fun these young upcoming talents have in it.

Apart from Alex Russell, you would know Michael B. Jordan from TV series The Wire and Friday Night Lights and if you are an In Treatment fan like me, you cannot forget the memorable annoying character Dane DeHaan created. These three are the reason the film works for main and important first half. Granted that the screenplay by Max Landis and to create the story along with Josh Trank is the key reason but without these three vital performances it would have lost the reality they try to emote. We believe in these three high school kids who in their character find this extraordinary powers to fly, crush and do whatever the heck they can with conviction.

Dane DeHaan is Andrew, the high school teenager with a troubling home of an abusive alcoholic father and a dying mom. He begins to record his every day event which begins as an evidence collector for the abuse he gets at home, but we realize that his high school bullies and street thugs continue that outside of his home. His cousin Matt (Alex Russell) gives him ride to the school and Matt is internally torn between being a good cousin he grew up with and the ambition to be the popular dude in the school. Andrew of course knows it. He is shrinking internally unable to fight back and going through this suffering day by day. Sadly this is a typical case that happens in several house holds. At least you would remember one such friend in your high school life regardless where you are from.

Then there is Steve, the star man of the school. He is popular, quite a nice guy when we get to know him and all destined to be the next big thing once he gets out of the school. These three find a spot of this mystical cave that has no place to be there and the exploration if provides these kids some phenomenal powers. This is the best part about the film. The discovery and mastering of these new found powers. The things they do with that. The pranks they pull and the fun they begin to have. How many times we would have fantasized this happening to us? How many times we would have discussed about flying wherever you want and do whatever you can? These three live it up with much association with every one of our imagination during those times.

I especially liked how these three are in this metamorphosis of becoming another person through this high school phase. What would have happened to Andrew if he continued his life without these powers? He would have ended up tormenting himself because ultimately that is the thing he can hurt and control or may be found out that high school is a phase and after the eventual tragedies in his family, he would have moved on. But that did not happen. He not alone acquires these powers but becomes an expert at it. He picks up the powers easily at first strike and multitasks effortlessly. This seems to be his calling.

More than that Andrew acquires the best of all powers, being friends with two cool guys. Steve is not the stereotypical jock, well he is sort of but he opens up in to this nice guy who begins to understand the loneliness and struggle Andrew goes through. He truly wants to help him. And then there is Matt who is beginning to be drawn to the academia of philosophy and psychology initially as a desperate show of eclectic visualization towards life but soon the recent events make him embrace that with whole heart. He begins to relate to the uniqueness of pain Andrew goes through.

Beyond these character studies, “Chronicle” which firmly holds up its fort begins to crumble as Andrew’s misery takes a turn. His emotional seclusion and the persistent and pestering shutting off people takes him to dark territories. While those dark territories are where the crux of the third act, it falls for the regular good versus evil in the end. It begins to deteriorate the solid characters these three actors developed into CGI fun display. Right after the stardom of Andrew and the party fiasco, the film tanks and lost interest in me as it took Andrew’s rage into something else. While we do see the consistent tragedies of teenagers picking up weapons to quench their anger, “Chronicle” takes these powers as weapon and makes Andrew to wage a full scale war in the city of Seattle. This does not mean I am not a sucker for some good entertaining fight but “Chronicle” had higher hopes. This is some first class work from fresh faces and talents and as much as it did float away itself into mediocrity in the end, this is a great evidence that there is nothing in creativity that gets exhausted.