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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans (2009)

Nicolas Cage. He is the only reason you should? No,could watch "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans". Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Matchstick men and Lord of War. That was Cage at his best. This one, however, is something you couldn't have imagined. In a role that demands eccentricity to the extent of inexplicability, he is fearless. As fearless as his character, Terrence McDonagh, the bad lieutenant. A character that requires more of acting out a lot. He gives his all. Not once will you feel him overdoing it. That is simply because he isn't playing the character but IS the character.

The story? Nonsense.

Eva Mendes? Wasted. With a reputation as a seductress, we don't expect much of acting from her. Of what we expect from her on screen, we get nothing. Oh, by the way, she emotes Frankie Donnenfeld, a prostitute.

A disarrayed clutter of well cinematographed scenes that works okay as a black comedy. Just okay.

Rating- 6/10

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Hurt Locker (2009)

We've seen so many war movies right from The Bridge on the River Kwai to Letters from Iwo Jima. Why should we see another one? They always have the same things- gun firing, missile launching, explosions, airplane crashes, men crying and then dying. Why should we see this one? Proceed, and you'll find out.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and Screenwriter Mark Boal are the foundations of "The Hurt Locker." The screenplay is a director's bible. It gives him, her in this case, a story with which he can form a vision and then translate that vision onto the screen. Without such a strong screenplay, it would've been easy to term any war movie at this point of time, a cliche. Especially with Inglourious Basterds being the center of attraction this year. Mark Boal will be honoured with an Academy Award nomination for Writing Original Screenplay.

Kathryn Bigelow is simply brilliant, original and has directed this film with utmost care. She employs Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd's evergreen technique, the shaky camera technique. This, being the main reward of the film, gives the film a documentary feel which makes us wonder if what we're seeing is being displayed on the news. Background score is of low importance to her, its the sound effects that are sharp and pronounced, not of the explosions but things to which we pay minor importance, adding to its realistic nature. She uses big actors for cameos and blows them up when you're still glad to see them. Having won most of the precursor awards, its safe to say that she has already won the Best Director Oscar.

Although the film has no plot, it has an intelligible beginning and a pleasant ending. Its primary focus is on a bomb squad in Iraq that go around dismantling bombs. But we don't hear any bombs ticking, except the ones within us.

Sergeant First Class William James(Jeremy Renner) is the real man on the job who goes face to face with the bombs and defuses them. He is a reckless, carefree and free spirited bohemian. Renner embodies the character without the slightest noticeable effort. He is already a lock for the Oscar. This isn't the Sean penn, Daniel Day-Lewis or Russel Crowe kind of Oscar worthy performance. More like that of Richard Jenkins. There is no getting into character. He doesn't bring to screen something that'll make you go "Wow! Method Acting!." You'll see what you're supposed to see, what kind of a person Seargant William James is. And you'll believe it. This man isn't here to win oscars or steal the show, but to do his job with total sincerity.

Anthonie Mackie plays Sergeant JT Sanborn who communicates with William James, most of the time via radio during hazardous moments and gets treated as an unwanted accessory rather than as an accomplice. He doesn't like Sergeant James and holds a disapproving glare throughout the first half of the movie. Its intensity increases and ebbs away, but that is subtle acting at its finest. Towards the end he gets weak and breaks down, and that too, is subtle.

The Hurt Locker is an epic war film. One of the best films of 2009 and will get a Best Picture Nod from the Academy not just because its individual elements distinguish themselves independently but primarily because they all stand together, stronger.

Rating- 9/10

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


After the success of Borat, I was really looking forward to Bruno. But as it turns out, it is a disappointment. Bruno is the kind of guy who can easily make you get irascible, so unlike Borat who looked funny and was funny right from the very first second on screen. Bruno's entrance is silly, a guy(you might not guess) dressed in the most outrageous outfit exposing his hairy thighs(too loud for adults to laugh at)who laughs that reminds me of a horse neighing. It just keeps getting MORE and MORE stupid from here. Using guys for chairs and plates... Had it been an animated movie for the kids then yes, it would've worked.

Despite the movie being just an hour and seventeen minutes I was consciously aware that it was really slow, except for the last thirty minutes which was hilarious in the most ridiculous way. It drove me nuts. Only when the movie got over, did I realize that I was looking for more. Had they interchanged the first thirty minutes with the last, maybe this would've been a positive review. It doesn't make sense as a whole anyway.

Sacha baron Cohen may or may not suit such a role but my imagination doesn't stretch beyond him being anything other than Borat. "Bruno" is to blame for that.

3 stars for evoking a few laughs and another 2 stars for the effort.

Rating- 5/10

Public Enemies(2009)

The director of Public Enemies had directed Heat and The Insider? Unbelievable. Oh wait, on second thought there were quite a few similarities between public enemies and heat. So perhaps, Michael Mann is an auteur? No. I don't think so. Similarities are merely- attractive costumes,guns and cars. Visually, the movie is inviting. But it stops with that. A few good shots do exist but the rest of them simply increase the rate at which your eyes blink.

A grand opening and a memorable ending indicates that the writer had only them in mind and just wrote bullshit in between to finish the script.

There're so many parts in the movie that are preposterous and unacceptable. John Dillinger walking into the police headquarters made me want to hit "ALT+F4" but I decided to stay on considering that there were just a couple of minutes left to get done with it.

Johnny Depp and Christian Bale are both woody as wood. John Dilinger doesn't scare me one bit. Marion Cotillard actually does a little bit of observable acting.

A few things were left unexplained and had been poorly dealt with. The romance between John and Billie was rushed. I felt as though I had missed a prequel to the movie. What does John do with all the money he robs from similar looking banks? There is hardly any insight given into the character.

If there're any nominations it can possibly get in the coming awards season, it would be for the art direction. Yes, Michael Mann does triumphantly manage to simulate the prohibition era.

If your aim is to get entertained you might as well go ahead and watch it. It isn't the most entertaining movie but Well. If you're looking for some real art, please do me a favour and skip it.

Rating- 6/10

Down in the Valley(2006)

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" is a simmering film which centers itself on the subject of racism and subsequent violence that sprouts from it. With his dead on approach, the film can be easily misinterpreted as one that campaigns for racism. It could have appeared to have taken sides with any one particular ethnicity but Lee effectively keeps it from going astray.

Although very compelling, it bombards you with such dark, disturbing themes and facts without giving you enough time to digest them. It differentiates itself from other films which deal with the same subject, by concentrating on racism and its effects in a small neighbourhood rather than on a political front. It has no message, questions or answers on the subject but fiercly confronts it, displaying it boldly without diluting it with even a drop of humanity.

No plot exists, it doesn't entertain but it is the kind of movie that radiates with brilliance, purely on artistic grounds. This being the fifth Spike Lee film that I've seen after 25th hour, Inside man, He got game and Malcolm X, I realize that there exist genuine trademarks in his films which initially, I disregarded as references to his other films. He is one of the few directors of today with a truly distinctive voice as a film maker.

Lee had a clear-cut vision of the character, Sal and was insistent on casting Robert De Niro. This is evident when Danny Aiello flawlessly portrays Sal with mannerisms similar to De Niro's Jimmy Conway, Sam Rothstein and Nick Wells.

Definitely a great film, the best movie of 1989 and one of the best movies on racism on par with American History X.

Rating- 9/10

Paranormal Activity (2009)

Paranormal activity is not one of those typical horror movies that give you periodic jolts but instead one that keeps you rooted to the spot with your heart clenched. It is only the grasp that tightens when you aren't fully prepared, and loosens when you're at your breaking point, just so that you can sit through it without having a heart attack.

While it awakens memories of another horror movie, it can be interpreted as trying to glimmer in the shadow of "The Blair Witch Project". It was the director's intentions. Nevertheless, it is a shadow that exceedingly towers and then insolently looks down. For its meager budget of $15,000, I personally am glad that it grossed over $100,000,000 at the box office.

Straightforward as it may be, its principal characters are played so effortlessly in the most naturalistic way, subsequently making them comprehensible. Micah and Katie, despite their idiosyncrasies, are both pleasant, likeable people. Katie's enthusiasm from the day she moves into her boyfriend, Micah's house, gradually dies down like the hope of a cynic fading away with time. The movie keeps getting more and more "freaky", a term used endlessly to describe any kind of paranormal activity that occurs in the "haunted" house. Without exempting it of its nobility, there is one trivial question I'd like to ask. Why doesn't Katie move over to the other side of the bed? Wouldn't it keep her at a safer distance from the demon? Isn't Micah the adventurous daredevil? I cease to believe that it was a deliberate goof.

This movie isn't just a must watch but must be watched alone with headphones in a dark room. But beware, once you've finished watching it, you're going to be stared at by every inanimate object from every corner in the room including the corners themselves. No, it isn't just me.

Rating- 7/10

Precious: Based on the Novel PUSH by Sapphire (2009)

Precious is a powerful, audacious film. Although it has an affecting script and appears to have only one perspective, it is deep and insightful.

It is the story about a girl who is black,fat,lived an unhappy childhood and doesn't possess what we call self esteem. It might seem stimulated in the beginning but the entire crew cohesively pull off a good, if not great, movie in arguably the most overtly obvious premise.

Director Lee Daniels' style of direction might have been rather conventional, but what is really commendable is that he manages to hypnotize his cast thereby making them deliver outstanding performances. First timer Gabourey Sidibe might not have had to do much, taking into account her appearance which so perfectly suits her role, but she doesn't slack. A truly remarkable breakthrough performance is what she does give and will no doubt be recognized by The Academy. Comedian Mo'Nique as Precious' monstrous mother is terrifying and gives a solid performance which is far from subtle(or funny) as it should be. Yes,it will be nominated and is the front-runner in her category. Paula Patton on the other hand gives a warm ethereal performance as Precious' English teacher. In my opinion, this is the best and most difficult role of the three convincing performances which will bring about internal competition in the supporting actress category come awards season. The third one is from the pop star Mariah Carey who digs deep into her character as a social worker desperately trying to help Precious. Lee Daniels cast relatively unknown actors and has not only launched their acting careers, but with extravagance.

Rating - 8/10
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