the_ladykillers coen brothers
Comedy, English Movies

Ladykillers directed Ethan and Joel Coen

Ladykillers Except for a few unnecessary gags, this is one hell of an enjoyable comic movie. I understand that people compare it to the original and don't like it  as much for the same reason.

But hell, I have only seen this one and would then, fortunately, be able to judge it personally on its own merits…

The star of the show is undoubtedly Tom Hanks. He literally carries the whole movie on his shoulders. Playing a dandy professor with an overdeveloped sense of the literature (especially of Poe), Hanks (as Prof Dorr) is actually the head of a criminal crew who aim to rob a casino in a sleepy town in Mississippi. And the whole crew is uniformly and wonderfully eccentric especially Gawain(Marlon Wayans).

The gang is pitted against the landlady of the house from which the tunnel is to be dug (where Dorr has taken up tenancy as a cover),a pious black elderly widow (who is fat in the nice stereotypical black landlady way!!). A band of criminals against her…nice contest, wont you agree?!!!

The ups and downs of the gang through a series of mishaps makes this one seriously funny movie. There wont be any gags pulled nor any special action sequences. It would be just in words and facial expressions that you would get you giggling…and yes, watch out for Hanks. It was one of his best performances I have seen, in a role thatladykillers2 seems to be cut out for him. He is verbose, speaks in a eighteenth century tongue, is a wonderful orator and is also equally ruthless. Excellent combination!!!

Of course, beware – this is not a thorough light-hearted comedy. If you don't like darkness in your comedy, you may not enjoy it that much (and if you like it, you would enjoy this). I mean, this is not Mr Bean or Friends. This movie would fall into a dark-comedy-thriller genre if there is such a genre. It actually feels like a movie made in another era. Maybe because its a remake of the 1955 original. That feel only adds to the appeal that of this movie…

Though a few gags could have been done away with, this is a movie that you can watch many more times than once…if for no other reason, for the sight of Hanks' (or Dorr's) quotes and oratory especially his rendering of Poe’s “To Helen”…

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English Movies, Thriller

Anti-trust directed by Peter Howitt

antitrust The movie started well.

Ryan Phillips (Milo) is a software programmer who along with his very geeky friends dream of doing something on their own – being young and idealistic, they believe in everything open-source and a belief that knowledge is for all humankind and should of course be free

All that changes when Milo is given a personal offer by a CEO of a company which for all practical reasons is Microsoft by another name. Tim Robbins as Gary Winston not only looks eerily like Bill Gates but also walks and talks like him and pretty much espouses the similar principles. Milo sees dollar signs all over the sky and chooses the practical route to life.

This is about 15 mins of the movie…

As I said, the movie started well. Which is about 15 mins…

The next hour and a half or so of the movie descends into  an almost half-baked thriller, when Milo realizes that Gary has a secret side to him, which includes stealing data by acting as eye in the sky and even acting as a mafia boss in ordering executions. Finally Milo wins the118-antitrust-lg battle by making a video (which by the way was really terrible) and making it public and making Gary’s most expensive investment open-source.

The movie’s foundation is different – being technical, so the hero is more of the brainy hero rather than the brawny hero. But at the end of it, the movie makes a complete hash of it. The plot, the premise, the strategies, the final coup all seem semi-finished. The story seems to grip and then slips away the very next instant….

And the thinly veiled attack on Microsoft and its market policies makes it worse because it seems at times like the mouthpiece of the open-source movement, which, in my opinion is given a disservice by the makers of this movie…

A movie that can be seen if you have absolutely nothing else to do…

 

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The_Lost_Symbol
Book Review, Fiction, Thriller

The lost symbol written by Dan Brown

the-lost-symbol If a writer reaches his apogee  with a book that creates unimaginable fame for him, he or she is perhaps compelled to forever write in the same vein, in the same style unless he is bold or iconoclastic enough to change direction. Some like Rowling can manage it, both because she was writing a series and also because she had the courage to finish off something that has already made her the modern Enid Blyton (and much more than that).

However for some like Dan Brown, who ploughed magnificently  into the need for people to believe in mysteries and controversies with his ‘Da Vinci code’, the end of the road may have already been a few years back. Telling the same story by a different name may seem an easy way to continue sales but the lack of freshness may well trigger the literary equivalent of diminishing marginal utility. Which is something I felt strongly with his latest book “The Last symbol”

After you finish the book, you realize that the author still has a very potent touch when it comes to marrying action on the pages with deep mysteries and conspiracies that the characters are trying to solve before the time runs out. Which is what made Da Vinci code so engrossingly addictive. This book too is a furious page turner right from the first page.

But we soon run into problems. You get a powerful sense of Déjà-vu. The same sense of Langdon rushing headlong into a conspiracy that only he can decipher before everything goes awry. There is an intelligent good looking woman neck deep into everything who he has to accompany and occasionally save,  (you wonder what happened to the other two!!!). There is a powerful secret organization (in this case the Freemasons) whose secret is about to be unveiled for the better or worse. And there are clues strewn around (in this case in Washington DC) that Langdon has to put together, while being on the run from, well, virtually everyone!!! and there is the villain, some twisted, misunderstood, self mutilating outcaste who believes in miracles – rings a bell anyone?

But Washington is not Paris and the secret of the Freemasons does not exactly set your pulses racing as a secret about Jesus might. And a story twice told loses it zing. You feel you are watching a cover version of a book after some time. You know that something is going to be revealed at the end and its going to end happily. And well, it does…and though a good amount of research has gone into the book but the symbology jigsaw puzzle is not that exciting anymore as it was in Da Vinci.

Another problem is that I found the book to be exceedingly preachy. dan_brown You begin to feel that you are being told to believe than make up your own mind. The vision of noble founding fathers of America building the nation in the image of a utopian society, seeing themselves as helping humans attain god-like status by spreading knowledge begins to really jar on on you after a while. I mean hey, they kept slaves in the backyard and committed a few merry genocides on the way. If they were really following Masonic principles (Atom bomb dropping, Harry Truman was a mason, no less), the world would have had a few hours of quiet sleep today. The preaching becomes screechingly preachy towards the end when the characters talk of universal consciousness and Bible being a repository of deep knowledge (instead of being a political book). You almost feel you are in some New Age healing centre where you pay a small fortune to sit in groups to chant (and go back to the punishing work grind the next day!!)…

A book to read if you have nothing else to do and if you are immune to preachy writing that stops making too much real sense after a while. If you enjoyed Da Vinci code, give this a miss. It would be too painful to see an author trying to make money by piggybank on his fame by churning out a Xerox copy…

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Action, Classics, English Movies, Popular, Thriller

Heat directed by Michael Mann

heat The definitive robber-cop/crime thriller movie. I had heard a lot about it but only managed to watch it yesterday. And boy did it blow me away!!!

The first thing that you drool over is right in the first few seconds when the casting comes up – Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Ashley Judd, Tom Sizemore and more. That itself was a warning signal that I better wake up to what follows…

Then of course you realize that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are squared off against each other, the former being a career cop who hunts down career criminals like Niro. Then sets the thermometer even higher and if the name of the movie had to have a second meaning, it would have been the epic battle between two of the most stylish and talented actors in Hollywood.

The thing about this movie is that it never once goes down the road of cliched scenes or dialogues that other gangster movie go down so easily. There are no stereotypes. You understand and reach out to both sides – the cop whose life is unravelling and the robber who goes against his instincts to fall in love. The dialogues are taut and one piece of conversation between Pacino and Niro in the restaurant would surely rate as one of the most intensive conversations in the movies – it was so poetic and full of imagery. This conversation, more thanheat1 anything epitomised the movie.

The characterization is complex, the characters are multi-faceted and you constantly see new sides to every person. That makes this movie highly engrossing and makes you a part of each moment.

And one thing you realize while watching this movie is that reason why we are fascinated by movies populated by these kind of characters. They, the cops and the robbers, live amongst us but all we can ever do is cower when the firefight rages on. We may look upon them with awe and fear but its so difficult to get a glimpse into their lives (other than the idea that it must be exotic and dangerous), difficult for us to see them as normal people with different temperaments (as Niro and Pacino remarked, they cant do any other thing). We watch, fascinated, because we could never really understand them, even if told and shown. This, I believe, is the movie’s main triumph. Without stereotyping, without cliches, it told, amidst everything, a very human story.

heat-large-tm And what would an action movie be without the action? This movie could boast of one of the best action sequences (the bank robbery), with machine guns slugging it out in the middle of a street and all you hear is the ferocious rat-a-tat and the screams and the guttural commands. Rivetting!!!

So, anyway you look at it, this movie is perfect…the actors, the acting, the script, the dialogue and the dialogue delivery, the action, the suspense, the complex characters, the story behind the men and women. This is a movie that you can watch many times and find something new everytime. Just became one of my all-time favourites…

 

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English Movies, Satire

Capricorn one directed by Peter Hyams

capricorn-one Its truly a surprise that this is not more well known. Its one of the most exciting movie that I have seen – thought-provoking, good storyline, good narrative, great scenes, some superb action sequences. It might have been made in 1977 but what it portrays is even more relevant today than it was then.

The movie is about a mission to Mars sent by NASA, except that the crew does not actually go very far from the surface of the earth. In fact they are put in a movie-studio in a military base – as actors. And the whole Mars landing is faked. The reason for the plot and how its carried is captured well. However, a chink in the planning shows up in the form of a suspicious employee and he chances to be friends with an incorrigible reporter. Thus begins an investigation which the powerful ‘they’ try to thwart by any means necessary. A chain reaction starts which quickly becomes life-threatening.

The movie quickly moves into action mode near the last quarter when it becomes a horror story for the three astronauts. The flight and the chase (and capture) scenes are truly well done considering the cinematography technology available at that time. The story is well paced with the best bit saved for the last half hour. The story itself is taut and moves quickly.

Though compared to modern standards, it looks a bit unpolished but that is only when we compare it technologically. In terms of a story which is relevant and in terms of the kernel of truth that it puts out in the form of a fictional story, its bang in the league of ‘Wag the Dog’. Bothcapricornone1 in term of the bold concept as in the tautness of the script where you will find dark humour and grimness in equal measure.

The basic premise is this – Can a government pull of a huge hoax like this? The answer is in the movie itself – Yes. With the technology available even then and with a few clever manipulation by movie technicians, even the Moon landing could have been faked!!! In fact I found the reference to this movie from the Fox documentary on the fake moon landing theory. I must say, I was a believer after I saw the documentary. This movie just made it seem much more plausible.

A keeper for sure. And a movie that really ought to be much more well known.

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Action, English Movies, Popular

Avatar directed by James Cameron

20raeew Probably the most hyped movie of the first decade of this century. A film that boasted of elements that were deemed to be game-changers, be it the technology used or the story told.

Question is how did it pan out in actual experience? The opinion about the movie can be neatly divided into two parts – about the technology and about the story

The technology is truly path breaking. Seeing it in 3D makes for an unforgettable experience. Cameron has built an immersive alien world that you feel an intimate part of, a few minutes into the movie. Its as if the greatest creation of science fiction writers, which has hitherto been in the mind only, has been rendered in full colour detail on screen. And this is a movie that has been made keeping 3D in mind. And when the action begins, you feel the thudding of the ground, feel overhead the scream of the giant birds as they dive bomb into you. Movies after Avatar would have work and their dollar cut out to surpass the standard set. The bar for now seems pretty steep.

About the story. The core of the story is pretty standard. The underdogjames_cameron_avatar_videogame_image_03 fighting an impersonal military juggernaut. The ‘noble savage’, close to the soil, fighting wanton capitalists who only see the wealth under the ground and completely oblivious to the unity of spirit and energy that forms a life-system of these ‘savages’. Numerous stories, by science fiction or other fiction/non-fiction authors have been written on the same theme. Good over bad, nature over machines – Thoreau would have approved. It has themes that even half-baked activists of every hue would relate to – be it anti-militarists, environmentalists, anti-technologists, anti-imperialists, naturalists and many more

avatar_james_cameron_guy So, no, the story is nothing exciting. There are no stirring speeches either a la Braveheart (the one speech fell pretty flat!!) and the action sequence though brilliant was a tad short for the all the build-up prior to it.  And the story or characterization was pretty shallow. You don’t really get to ‘know’ the characters, though considering the epic scale of the movie, that would have been really asking too much.

But the saving grace (and which was a big one) was that this simple theme and story was candy-wrapped in the most gorgeous setting you would have ever seen on screen and that itself almost stops you from looking closely at the shallowness of the story.

So is it for keeps? For me, not really. Without the 3D gogs, I would not want to watch it – the scenery would be too flat. And once the novelty wears off, the story or the acting would not be something I would find enjoyment in.

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Documentary, English Movies

Conspiracy Theory – Did we land on moon? directed by John Moffet

did-we-land-on-the-moon One of the most enduring conspiracy theory that just refuses to go away..and after you watch this documentary and after you follow that up with an internet trawl, its easy to know why.

The unbelievers (calling them conspiracy theorists would be tainting them unnecessarily – especially when they could be very well true!!!) come up with come damning points. The believers refute these points hotly and the unbelievers counter-point. Its an intense back and forth that rivets you.

This documentary which was shown in 2001 on Fox Networks, is however biased towards the unbelievers, a fact that you realize when you look up the issue on the internet. A documentary which is biased has a serious flaw. Having conceded that point, it does build up a convincing case for side that believes that the moon landing took place in a studio on earth. The evidence is many sided (scientific, visual, sudden and strange deaths) and they all just make you stop and think.

When one has read about set-ups that governments have manufacturedConspiracy Theory - Did We Land On The Moon[(006329)15-06-50] around the world, many documented (and many naturally undocumented, which then become conspiracy theories) which leads me to believe, at any rate, that a hoax like this can be carried out if a powerful government is hell-bent on it. “Wag the Dog” and “Capricorn One” are just two movies which show how easily it can be done. Knowing all this and knowing that US Government needed to take a huge psychological leap forward to beat the Soviets (and also to distract from the Vietnam War), we suddenly have both the motives and the means and the capabilities (if a superpower cant pull this off, who can?)

It makes for a compelling story. And when you look at the internet forums and look at the other side of the argument, I realized that even with all the refutations made by the other side, some questions were not answered satisfactorily. Why didnt the Soviets do it? They were far ahead in terms of technology. Why are none of the astronauts allowed to live a public life? Sudden inexplicable deaths of a large number of american-flag-on-the-moon astronauts in the period of the moon landing. When you think of these and other things, you realize that there is truly no smoke without fire. Somebody is not telling the whole truth.

Which is why I too believe in being an unbeliever. However I am open to a clear refutation. But then that’s the beauty of conspiracy theories – they refuse to go away. They tend to excite our imagination, our sense of mystery and that is something we like to have. I guess, if they prove that we actually landed on moon, I would be a pretty disappointed believer!!!

 

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