Tuesday, August 21, 2007

..And justice for all (1979)

Director:Norman Jewison
Writers:Valerie Curtin (written by) & Barry Levinson (written by)
Al Pacino ... Arthur Kirkland
Jack Warden ... Judge Francis Rayford

John Forsythe ... Judge Henry T. Fleming

Lee Strasberg ... Sam Kirkland

Jeffrey Tambor ... Jay Porter

Christine Lahti ... Gail Packer

Pacino screaming, "You're out of order! This whole trial is out of order!”, will resonate in you long after you stop thinking about this film. A powerhouse performance by Al Pacino and you were so much expecting it. This film shows how much Al Pacino loves acting and as one trivia on this film goes, the last courtroom scene which seems to be more like a self-contained scene in the film was taken 21 times, until al pacino was convinced there was no better way to do that scene. This clearly shows the passion and that he will stop unto nothing.

Now, talking about the film, looks like it was a bit too early a film for the times it was made in. Infact, even today it is difficult to make such a moving and fearless rebel movie. If you are angry with the judicial system and have a lot of stories and statements to make, this movie has it all and all these without losing the prime story in the film.

The character set is interesting, the camera peeks, snipes and hides under the bench and can be seen across the courthouse picking up various threads to the whole story of a shame of the prevailing judicial system. Al pacino's immediate inspiration is a judge named Fleming (John Forsythe) who rather unexpectedly becomes his client. Forsythe looks marvelously like a judge. He has the razor-cut grey hair and the tired, thoughtful eyes and the gentleman's vague sneer when addressing a lawyer in his courtroom.

Pacino has a client who has been in jail for months because of Forsythe. The client, as it happens, is innocent but sentenced to over a year jail term as he was found in the wrong time and at the wrong place. A victim of the system, and is not able to come out until Pacino and Forsythe can agree on several meaningless technicalities.

They cannot. Forsythe seems to take a quiet sadistic pleasure in frustrating Pacino while his client goes through a crack-up in jail. But that is not the only thing that makes Al Pacino's life easy. There is a girl friend, and a neurotic law partner, and another nutty client, and a stark raving mad senior judge (Jack Warden) who indulges his suicidal impulses by eating his lunch on a fifth-floor window ledge and seeing if his helicopter will fly without gasoline

All these are thrown into the main plot, finally Al Pacino is left to decide to choose between humanity or the technicality of the case given under his preview. A final choice which mightthrow him out of the profession but standing for it, will upheld his faith in justice and truth. Are we ultimately given to choose as well, or will you leave your faith in the hands of Al pacino.

As far as the ending is concerned, it reflects Norman Jewison's real intention with the film, he ends the film with a joke. Simply because, he made a joke out of the system, and we have no choice but to laugh with him. Can you please drop this DVD to our desi rebel director Madhur Bhandarkar, perhaps a better inspiration, please!!

My Rating: 8/10

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Written by: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan
Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, David Bowie, Scarlet Johansson

Genres: Drama, Thriller and Adaptation
Rating: PG-13 for violence and disturbing images.
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Running Time: 135 minutes

Of all the magic films you might have seen, this film will make you sit up and start taking magic seriously. And yes, Christian Bale's acting will surprise you; completely non-methodical and he fits his role like a glove. Scarlet Johnson is more like a distraction and fails to add anything to the film. But this is not what we should be talking about, we should be talking about the world created by the magical duo of Christopher and Jonathan Nolan. And if you have read the novel on which the film has been based on, you will not take long in realizing this duo's potential. Not only did they add more details to the plot but created a cinematically intriguing screenplay.

"Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called The Pledge: the magician shows you something ordinary, but of course... it probably isn't."

Perhaps you may find it very whimsical, but the narrative of the film is like the above quoted text, the film is itself like magic; you won’t know the secret until the end, the film makers take a pledge, and as the film wraps up, you still are left with hardly the rightful answers. Did they trick you!! Deny you the truth and made you believe, may be you were on the wrong track from the very beginning.

The major dilemma I faced while watching the film, is whose side should I be taking - Hugh Jackman (Robert Angier) a born showman and consummate entertainer or Christian Bale (Alfred Borden) a creative genius who lacks panache. Particularly Christian Bale is his usual mix of deep emotion and explosiveness. The audience can really feel his mind at work, giving his
character a unique amount of depth. All this aside, Michael Caine is the anchor, providing the air of wisdom and neutrality needed from a mentor-like character in a film like this. On a whole, the cast works very well, especially together.

"The second act is called The Turn. The magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary."

The narrative is complex and hardly the mastery of it can be ignored when you have duo at work. I would assure you; however, that what follows the film’s unusual setup is as vividly performed, compelling and surprising as any screen narrative in recent memory. Nolan mixes period detail about the performing of illusions with intriguing ideas about the frontiers of science and the complexities of human relationships; the film is as intoxicating in its depiction of trickery as it is evocative in its examination of loneliness and deceit.

"Now, if you're looking for the secret... You won't find it. That's why there's a third act called, The Prestige. "

This is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance and you see something shocking you've never seen before.

The end will shock you but like any magic, when the secret is revealed, you will laugh it off saying: "I knew it all from the very beginning"

Don't fool yourself in believing that.
There will never be a greater movie about the art of magic.

My rating: 8.5/10

Quicksand (2001)

Director: John Mackenzi
Writers: Desmond Lowden (book)
Timothy Prager (story)

Michael Keaton ... Martin Raikes

Michael Caine ... Jake Mellows

Judith Godrèche ... Lela Forin (as Judith Godreche)

Rade Serbedzija ... Oleg Butraskaya (as Rade Sherbedgia)

Plot Summary: The workaholic head of the compliance section of a New York bank flies to Monaco to investigate unusual deposits from an offshore bank and gets embroidered as a murder suspect including money laundering.

Review: Sometimes it's just fun to see the run of the mill stuff and does make you realise, there are after all films just made for plain entertainment. Where you get what you expect, last I heard that was why we started the Genre system after all. A man who has the least interesting life lands in the middle of a land mine and soon he is dodging bullets with a sultry siren following him around.

I had never doubts that Michael Keaton can pull it off, and am sure, he would still fight his way to make this film more interesting no matter how mundane the writer or director has come up with while putting their little heads together. Of course, Michael Caine can just about act anybody and still come out unscathed, whereas the action sequences I must say were just too bland. The Russian ruffians plot with low budget explosions just made it enough unbearable but there was something quite interesting. Apparently, the preferred method of execution in Monaco is shooting people in the eye. Just a little nugget I picked up from the movie.

If you bored on a weekend and don't really want any movie to tickle your mind, but just something which give
you company when you making an omlette to go with your boring food. You can step out into the kitchen, complete your dinner with no sweat and still be in loop with this movie. Wiping your hand in the towel and walking in to the living room from your kitchen and still be sure, you are not at all lost.

Isn't it great!! No surprises and a plain healthy dinner too. Just pass me on that salt will

My Rating: 4/10


Director: Joel Schumacher
Writer: Ebbe Roe Smith

Stars: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey, Frederic Forrest

Genre: Drama
Length: 112 minutes
Cinema: 1993

Plot: On his way to work, Bill Foster gets stuck in a traffic jam so decides to abandon his car and walk home. But when a Korean convenience store owner overcharges him for a can of Coke, the mild-mannered Foster erupts into violence. Picking up a bag of assault weapons dropped in a drive-by shooting, Foster walks across the city violently venting his frustrations with the petty rule-makers and the lazily self-interested who make his life a misery.

The opening sequence is a lesson in film editing. Parallel editing with elegant use of sound and deft camera work. The first shot starts with wide angle shot continuing to Medium shot of Michael Douglas to a macro shot of a fly on this neck and finally ends with a Long shot behind his car revealing the claustrophobic traffic jam he finds himself. The relentless cross cutting continues until he jumps out of his car and runs away from the traffic. A man calls out to him

"Where the hell are you going mister?"

"I am going home..."

"Going home" is that what the film is all about, you will ask yourself. But the next sequence with the Korean shop-keeper will prove to you, it is not after all just about going home. Although this film received a lot of flake from various minority groups particularly and quite understandably from Asian-American communities, and was decried everywhere as a wholly irresponsible pandering to the redneck element of audiences.

But what it seems to me that critics and film goers were just scratching the surface because at no time of the film, I could distance myself from the main character. Michael Douglas manages to reveal such an inane character of the ordinary that, you would empathize with him even after he takes out the bazooka and fires at the construction site.
This film doesn't only speaks out the urban reality, it takes snipes at homo-sexuality, freedom of expression, mass consumerism and of course justice. The relationship he shares with his wife and daughter will reveal the unnerving side of Michael Douglas and only then, you will start realizing that he is not ultimately the average guy you were identifying yourself with for so long, he is actually a nut case pretending to be an average guy who snaps.
He is not under any cathartic attack whose duty today is to show you the real state of a average hard working guy who is meted out puffed hamburger when the menu shows a fat over sized one or how America used to be a free society allowing various communities across hundreds of different nationalities giving them equal opportunity. But then, what is this film all about?

These are questions that Michael Douglas character 'D-FENS' manages to raise? On the other hand, we have Michael Duvall at his very best, trying to wade thought his last day of premature retirement. The film is harsh and unforgiving, if the filmmaker wants a take a snipe at "equal opportunity" given to the blacks, it does so without any grimace, while it shows an Indian selling a gift to 'D-FENS' in that very street. The climax is believable and understandably so, as the past of D-FENS is revealed to us in stages, we don’t feel remorse at the end, as it a character we identified in the beginning and disowned towards the end. So, you betray D-FENS in the end and do feel guilty about it too. That is the mastery of the script and not to mention Michael Douglas.

He is brilliant
and "FallingDown' is a film, I guess every filmmaker wants to make, make a passing statement on everything you hate, even if you looking through a cheap telescope and very sure that the stars might be in the wrong constellation.

Make a note...and let the believers in you feel the guilt at the end.
Absolutely marvelous pretense of a great movie...still it managed quite well in doing that

My Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Shop Girl (2005)

Director:Anand Tucker
Writers (WGA): Steve Martin (novel)
Steve Martin (screenplay)
Cast:Steve Martin ... Ray Porter
Claire Danes ... Mirabelle Buttersfield
Jason Schwartzman ... Jeremy Kraft
Bridgette Wilson ... Lisa Cramer (as Bridgette Wilson-Sampras)
PRODUCER: Ashok Armitraj, Jon J. Jashni, Steve Martin
EDITOR: David Gamble
MUSIC: Barrington Pheloung

She stands behind the gloves counter of Saks Avenue, after a glamorous entry of the camera floating over the paraphernalia of the Saks Avenue Shop skipping over a lot other shop girl finally resting on one. what is so special about this shop girl? She is lonely, she is an artist trapped behind the non activity of that counter, she is waiting for her better half?Who will it be - will he be able to provide her security and be a perfect companion? Will he be a wealthy old gentlemen, who is ready to trade love for love or a innocent struggling dreamer who keeps all the pizza boxes in the front seat of his car so that he can finally make out a table of them. will the shop girl be practical and prudent and opt for a non-committal relationship.

Shop girl based on a novella by Steve Martin is being made into a thoughtful film. A film which will make you see different shades of love and a never before seen Steve martin. There are no usual Steve martin histrionics. For a good no. of shots, the camera tracks back on Steve Martin, while he is staring at the camera, and he seems to be impregnable of the stare he is giving you back. Steve martin plays this character, which seems to convince him of not falling in love with Claire Danes, the shop girl and that their present engagement is only arrangement of convenience, where he believes she is fine with it.

On the other side of the story, is scruffy and gauche Jeremy, who does everything you should not be doing on your first date, but still there is something very innocent on the way he does it? Like begging for a kiss, borrowing two bucks for the split movie tickets on their first date. And picking up a mint instead of condom when Claire Danes call him over for it?? There are quite a few comic moments, but Steve stays away from it. There is a strange kind of truthfulness in the film, which drop every pretence to make the point finally at the end of the film?

The script is handled masterfully and small details makes this film a must see. You need to rest your guards and look for the minuscule details which makes the love come around at the end of the film. The sex scenes are made to seem a great deal in the film only to nullify them completely during the course of the narrative.

Filled with subtleties, this bittersweet love story is ideal for thinkers. Thinkers, lovers and dreamers who want to connect.

A beautiful film with no pretence, Claire Danes is brilliant as ever. Steve Martin is in a new avatar and Jason Schwartzman add a great charm to the film. It will affect you in a strange way and you will definitely love it.

My rating: 8/10

Legends of the Fall (1994)

Directed by Edward Zwick
Writing credits Jim Harrison (novella)
Susan Shilliday (screenplay) and William D. Wittliff
(screenplay) (as Bill Wittliff)
Cast (in credits order)
Brad Pitt ... Tristan Ludlow
Anthony Hopkins ... Col. William Ludlow
Aidan Quinn ... Alfred Ludlow
Julia Ormond ... Susannah Fincannon Ludlow
Original Music by James Horner
Cinematography by John Toll
Film Editing by Steven Rosenblum

The name is a grand one, the first few shots of the film are a precursor to the film that is going to follow: The American west! The wild frontier! Sprawling landscape, sky that stretches on forever and Indians who can talk only wisdom but wisdom over a bonn fire, while two unknown people gauge on whiskey and beef.

At the center of Susan Shilliday and Bill Wittliff's script are the three Ludlow brothers: Alfred (Aidan Quinn), the oldest and most straight-laced; Tristan (Brad Pitt), the middle child with a special affinity for nature; and Samuel (Henry Thomas), the youngest and most idealistic. The family's patriarch is Col. Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins), an officer who left the U.S. army when he disagreed with the treatment of the Indians. The four men, along with an assortment of friends, live in the Montana Rockies, away from the trappings -- if not the presence -- of civilization.
Towards the beginning of the film, two events happen which are destined to turn each of their lives upside down. The first is Samuel's arrival home with new fiancée Susannah (Julia Ormond). Susannah seems delighted with her new beau, until she spots Tristan: unshaven, sweating, caked in dirt, mullet billowing in the wind and almost certainly ponging a fair bit. What woman could resist? The second is the outbreak of the First World War, news of which stirs all three braves into joining the army and heading for Europe to help battle Gerry.

Legends of the fall has all the ingredients for a great film, the cast is excellent with the making of a great tragedy with three brothers falling for one girl. The acting although completely unnecessary is over melodramatic, with overly manly hugs, rolling around in the dirt. I particularly disliked the tasteless passage of time shown during Brad Pitt's search for the inner voice in the middle of nowhere where he becomes a "hunter" and in doing so, embarks upon an unknown continent coming back with mementos of an unknown world. This sequence could have been a little creative. The music reminds you of Dances with Wolves and cinematography looking pathetic especially during World War I sequences.

Brad Pitt and all the other are brilliant actors but wasted in this film. There are too many clichés' and the film just never seem to end. There are many stages in the film where it looked like it was going to end, but the Indian just went on with the story revolving around Brad Pitt and his search.

But after the over melodramatic death of Samuel and Tristan failure to get him back home safe, brings upon the burden of death and dealing with it, makes the film a bit more interesting. The burden of Samuel death plays heavy on both Tristan and Susannah. And this inner conflict is what I found an interesting aspect which pulls the script forward. Only if the disenchantment of Government policies which made their father leaves the army was highlighted more, but although that was not the focus of the film, still the film failed at various stages and the loose script made it worse.

My inner voice says, you should avoid the film...and I can see the Indian nodding in agreement with me.

My rating: 4/10

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