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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Argo (2012)

Argo opens with news channel excerpts that lead up to a revolution outside an American Embassy in Iran. The people of Iran are outraged. The Shah that they had overthrown is currently reaping the benefits of giving the country’s oil to America by spending his final years in the comfort of American soil. The people want America to send the dictator back to be tried, and hanged. On that demand, they are uncompromising. And they've had enough waiting.

The rioters jump over the gate, storm into the embassy, capture the Americans and take them hostage. Six of the superiors escape through an emergency fire exit and take refuge at the Canadian ambassador’s house. Back in America, the CIA is busy figuring out a way to smuggle these escaped hostages out of the country and their primary concern is how things appear to the media. They joke about it, throw ideas and then scorn at them. There’s a lot of biting sarcasm at the table. One man, however, has a crazy idea he actually intends to take through. CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) plans on going to Iran pretending to be an associate producer and get these six escaped hostages back as part of his film crew. These six people have parts to play- screen-writer, director, location manager, cinematographer, production designer. They need to convince inspection officers and security that they are the people they claim to be. Tony Mendez gets the green signal from the CIA and a word of advice from his supervisor (Bryan Cranston)- “Good luck. The whole world is watching you.”

Arbitrage (2012)

Nicholas Jarecki's Arbitrage revolves around a problematic life phase of a billionaire named Robert Miller (Richard Gere). It’s his sixtieth birthday and he’s celebrating it at home. You see him as a family man who intends to spend the rest of his life with them even if it means selling off his company. This is just the version of himself that he’s selling to his family.

He heads back to his office. But instead, lands up at the mansion of a young lady who ignores him to build the sexual tension before they pounce on each other with a strong sense of urgency. Cut to Miller walking through his multi-storey office, straight-faced and satisfied. He no longer looks like the family man he sold to you at the table. He looks like the alpha male of the wolf pack that was out to rip apart Liam Neeson in The Grey.

Chronicle (2012)

28 year-old Josh Trank employs the omnipresent found footage gimmick, brought to new light by The Blair witch Project and popularized by Paranormal Activity, in his directorial debut Chronicle. Not only is he keen on using it uniquely, going for a superhero film (as opposed to horror), he uses it wisely. The outcome of his efforts is the most realistic Superhero movie to date.

Premium Rush (2012)

Even the uncharismatic Joseph Gordon Levitt, with the constantly sullen look on his face, can be infused with a hint of excitement as he rides through streets and races past cars in Premium Rush. Considering that both of the film’s main actors, the other being Michael Shannon (playing a maniacal degenerate gambler with a badge), are at risk of being typecast, it is safe to say that the bike is the unique selling proposition of David Koepp’s new film. It’s just what gives JGL the never-say-die attitude he lacks.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Killing them Softly (2012)

Andrew Dominik, who sent Brad Pitt to the peak of his career with The Assasination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford, one of my favourite films of 2007, reteams with the actor in Killing Them Softly. He’s also managed to rope in James Gandolfini of The Sopranos, Richard Jenkins of The Visitor, Ray Liotta of Goodfellas and cast them in what appears to be a crime thriller. Tell me it’s not an irresistible combination. Take into account that the film, not only screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival but was even nominated for a Palme d’Or. It has just everything going for it. And I was going to be seeing it two months before the Rottentomatoes consensus was up. I was excited at this rare opportunity.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Wes Anderson is one of the few directors whose style of film-making I absolutely loathe. I took a liking for Rushmore but other than that, I found all his films either plain lazy or too subtle for their own good. I just couldn’t decide which. I never managed to find the motivating factor behind his characters and their actions. It echoed the experience of watching a foreign film without subtitles. But what’s worse is the distant way with which he treats his characters. Anderson writes damaged characters and weighs them down with heavy baggage from the past while he rolls on the floor laughing with his finger pointed at them. I don’t believe Kubrick or even The Old Mallick saw their characters with such iciness. While those two auteurs saw their characters through alien eyes, Anderson sees his through those of a heartless little prankster. Even crueller is the bright-and-sunny exterior; a clear indication that the film-maker takes pleasure in torturing his characters. To make a long story short, I rarely get Anderson’s films but when I do, I’m mostly appalled.

When Terence Mallick returned after a twenty-year hiatus with The Thin red line, I can only imagine how people must’ve felt. This was a different Mallick. He wasn’t just seeing his characters, he was feeling them. This particular trait was predominant in The New World and more so in The Tree of Life. As feeling became more and more abstract, Mallick’s films became more and more amorphous. Wes Anderson takes a similar turn with Moonrise Kingdom.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The Cabin in the Woods is a heartless, hilarious, campy self-satire. It criticizes the very techniques it employs. Owing to a few extended pauses, the sound of your heart beating becomes too loud for you to bear. And then, you’re hit with jump scares that will give you convulsions. It’s a shallow and ridiculously loud piece of work. But it’s also brilliant. I was completely caught off guard.

We have two perspectives on a certain event that’s about to occur, shown in parallel. One shows us the event live- a gang of youths are heading for a cabin in the woods, where they intend to spend their weekend. They’re a generic bunch characterized by archetypes, revealed by the film-maker himself. As the emphasized title obviously suggests, there’s going to be mayhem. In all likelihood, it’ll have supernatural forces at the helm. The other point of view is from a setting similar to Eric Byer’s office in The Bourne Legacy. There’s a huge screen, an array of computers and everyone’s pleasantly buzzing around like worker bees. The cabin and the woods are controlled by a large corporation that consists of scientists and technicians. Now, don’t take all of this at face value.

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