Live Free or Die Hard

The following morons need to be shown the door, and fast. 1) Tom Cruise. For torturing us with his sissy Ethan Hunt in the positively lousy MI movies. 2) Jason Statham. Somebody shoot him, please. And the list goes on. You can go ahead and add to it. This was what I was thinking when I saw Bruce Willis in action as John McLane in the fourth installment of the Die Hard series, probably the best action franchise ever. It has brilliant action sequences with ample real stunts and craftily used CGI work, never overdone. And most importantly, it has a sense of humor! A thoroughly enjoyable all-out action flick which has got to be experienced in a theatre.

Willis is as always great, playing the guy who really doesn’t wanna do what he’s doing, but has no choice. He plays McLane to perfection. The bad guys are cyber-terrorists, and its great to see the contrast between the old-school McLane and these new age nerdies with their computers and big claims. McLane vows to come down to where they are and kick their ass, and gets it done. Perfect! 🙂

 One other good action franchise has been the Bourne movies. I thought Bourne Supremacy was very well done, much better than Identity. Am looking forward to Ultimatum, which comes out in August! 

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“You’re Never Alone.”

So goes the caption of ‘Following’. Ah.. another Nolan movie. I was salivating with anticipation as the DVD loaded up, and I wasn’t disappointed.. no surprise there! Another taste of modern cinematic genius. This man stands out amongst the crowd, like Hitchcock did, and still does. The Hitchcock comparisons will never cease… they’re movies are similar at a very base level… both brainier than anything else you’ve watched, and almost always with a dark twist at the end that leaves you shocked, and astonished.

Following is pristine Nolan. It’s got the raw freshness of anyone’s first work. I would view Memento as a much more refined, stylized and loaded follow-up to it. This doesn’t mean Following reminded me of Memento while I watched it.. it didn’t, not a bit. Following is in a different league, much simpler, much old-world in its style. The black and white imagery is very effective… lends it a starkness that heightens the intended mood of the movie. The non-linear screenplay(but of course) is pretty straightforward, but makes the movie interesting as always. It had me wondering if Nolan had done that to me.. after figuring out The Prestige and Memento, this seemed almost linear in contrast!

Jerry Bruckheimers of the world, take note: the man made this with $6000. But then, there is only one Christopher Nolan, isn’t it.

 P.S. Interestingly, I noticed the Batman sticker on an apartment door in ‘Following’.. looks like Nolan was always a big fan! A movie trivia lover’s prize catch. 🙂    

Dirty Pretty Things

A unique film, with a peculiar name. This movie starts like a thriller, and starts very well. A night porter at a London hotel finds a human heart in a room’s toilet when he goes to unblock it. From this point, we see the shady activities of the hotel unfold slowly, as Okwe, the porter, finds out for himself. But, Dirty Pretty Things is not just a thriller. And it is so delightfully conventional in style, I love it. No unnecessary tricks for shock value, no tragic/dramatic end for Oscar value, none of that.

It is the story of a group of immigrants, some illegal, people around Okwe like the hotel’s doorman, a hooker, and the beautiful Audrey Tautou as Senay, who cleans the rooms. There is a line in Dirty Pretty Things, which I think is the heart of the film.  When an Englishman asks these immigrants, “How come I’ve never seen you people before?”, Okwe replies, “Because we are the people you do not see. We are the ones who drive your cabs. We clean your rooms. And suck your cocks.”

Both a shocking thriller and a moving tale of illegal immigrants and their plight at the same time, DPT is an intelligent movie. And it has some fabulous acting in it. Now and then a movie with a heart comes along, a Crash, or a Hotel Rwanda. Movies which are a testament to cinema that can move you with good protagonists, without being glossy-flossy about it. I’m gonna watch every movie that this man Stephen Frears has made now!

almost famous

the year is 1973. we are on the road with stillwater,in the words of lester bangs (philip seymour hoffman), a mid level rock band in constant struggle with their own limitations. william miller (patrick fugit) is a 15 year old journalist who’s just made it big with rolling stone and is sent on the road to interview the band. william’s journey with the band and his futile attempts to interview russell hammond (billy crudup) is what the movie is all about. pause. is that what is the movie is all about? is it about the life of a rock band seen through the eyes of a young journalist, their togetherness in spite of their differences, their egos that have to compromised in the face of dawning popularity as a band? or is it about the sex-drugs-rock-n-roll culture, the free sex, flower power generation of the old? or, on a more generalist outlook on things, about the most basic of human emotions-love, love amongst people, love of music, free love. ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you the finest in the rock n roll film genre (well, if there’s one)- cameron crowe’s almost famous.

this aptly titled movie weaves all of the above facets into well knit, silken fabric and in such finesse that the individual is lost in the conspicuousness of the whole. take eric clapton’s ‘tears in heaven’ or ‘layla’ or axl rose’s ‘estranged’ or in the film domain, roman polanski’s ‘the pianist’. these are masterpieces and what makes them so is that personal touch, that personal experience of having been there and felt that. almost famous will easily fall into that esteemed list. based mostly on crowe’s travails as an on the road rock journalist, it totally brings to life the  america of the late sixties and early seventies where music shaped one’s future ,defined one’s life (——as william’s sister, when leaving home to follow her dream of becoming an air hostess, leaves under his bed her music collection and whispers to william, ‘look under the bed, it will set you free’ or soon after, ‘listen to tommy with the candle burning and you will see your future’).

kate hudson as penny lane (based on the original penny lane, a famous groupie, no, band aid) is a central thread who brings together the primary characters of  the self centred, proud guitarist and the vulnerable, celeb-dizzy young rock journalist. she needn’t have done anything but be there with those looks of hers but she gives a lovely portrayal and plays a very significant role in bringing the groupie-fan culture to life. a very vibrant portrayal which will remain with you.
frances mc dormand shines as the overprotective mother who cannot fathom how she lost one child and might lose another in return for her love. the scene where she screams to her son with concern,’dont take drugs’ and the stoned teenagers in the crowd shout back, ‘yes mother!’ is hilarious and touching at the same time. she stands out in her telephonic conversation with russell where it all starts as a joke and russell actually comes of age post-conversation.
jason lee gives the performance of his lifetime as the insecure, jealous, loud mouthed lead singer of the band who is constantly suspicious of william and is opposed to the band taking william into the fold. a scene that comes to mind here is jason shouting, ‘go on, leave me…im easy to forget, im just the fucking lead singer’ when the bus makes off without him. the movie is filled with such good natured, witty comedy all the way.
any analysis/review of almost famous would be incomplete without a mention of philip seymour hoffman as the ‘uncool’ rock critic who mentors william and gives him free advice and tutors him on writing. ‘dont make friends with rockstars’, he says and william ends up doing just that. some of his dialogue, on the death of rock n roll, for instance, will remain with you imprinted on the lines of your heart. overall, tremendous, effective casting.

for the music afficianados: comrades, you have just stepped into a gold mine. with peter frampton as technical consultant and advisor, it is sort of to be expected, huh.led zeppelin, the who, lynyrd skynyrd, stevie wonder, peter frampton come together to blow your mind away. the fascinating soundtrack gels so well with the moments in the movie. it is truly amazing that they dont just come off as hits of the old put together for their sheer presence but actually blend into the storyline so well. elton john’s tiny dancer singalong actually plays a crucial role in russell’s reuniting with the band after a personality conflict.
for the next degree fanatics, watch out for rock n roll trivia strewn all over. you will observe a rainbow in the tinted car glass windows. need i mention what it stands for? watch out for one of the band aids shouting, ‘do you remember laughter’ and russell shouting, ‘i am a golden god’. and it is bob dylan and joan baez that the pair at the riot house are representative of.

but i am getting carried away here (as only one would). this is not cinema. it’s a celebration. as russell would say, this is a circus and nobody wants to go home. those of you who have seen it, wake up to the harsh reality. its over. it is not 1973. it’s 2007. go back to your guns and saw-hostel-cannibal-holocaust manic plots. feel good cinema has no place here. for those of you who haven’t seen it, don’t bother. borrowing from lester bangs, you are uncool.

Fear and loathing in Las Vegas

I have seen this movie already long time back. Thanks to my inebriated mind I ended up picking up the same thing again. An account of Hunter S.Thompson’s own journey in Las Vegas amidst the great drug culture of the 60’s and early 70’s epitomized by the likes of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix et al, chasing it as the American dream.

Journalist Raoul Duke is the narrator of the movie. Sometimes I am lost with his references and some dailogues due to obvious oblivion of that era. It is actually very difficult to talk about this movie saying whether it was good or bad or whatever because it is unique, crazy and weird, yea those are it. So, how is the movie? Weird and crazy. But I like it for that very fact, Depp and Del Toro act as just that flawlessly. The point in the movie is there is no point. If you have read 200 odd pages of the film as a book you would definitely understand. Nothing in it but still making it interesting is an achievement.

Virtual snapshots of some scenes in the film,

Two freaks riding in a desert see bats in baking sun.

Depp sees people around in a bar, everyone is a reptile.

Depp suddenly wakes up with raptor’s tail and a tape recorder taped around him.

Del Toro is in a bathtub and he wants the tape recorder plugged into a electric socket to be thrown inside the tub.

* Spoiler warning, full story and PLOT ahead *

Two people go to Las Vegas inducing and tasting all possible kind of drugs and go crazy.

Guru

Villager. Visionary. Winner.

Guru was fantastic. An experience by itself. I’ve seen every Mani movie till this one, and have loved them all. Guru stood out amongst them in quite a few ways, which I found refreshing. Firstly, it wasn’t a feel-good tale, which brought with it an exciting prospect that Mani was going back to his days of hard-hitting cinema. The golden Nayakan and Dalapathi days. Second, the acting is always great in his movies, but there’s not been a movie yet where the protagonist stole Mani’s thunder, so as to speak. Abhishek Bachchan does just that. Out of the blue, we have this guy, who has been consistently terrible in almost every film he’s graced, deliver an absolutely fabulous performance that defines the whole movie!

Guru’s debate is very stimulating. It lets us decide if it was really wrong for Gurukant to bend the old, rigid laws and systems of this country to grow his business. Haven’t we all seen how difficult it is to climb up ‘corporate ladders’ or whatever they call it in bureaucratic India? It’s not hard to imagine what it would take a villager like Gurukant to grow to the level he eventually gets to.

The way to watch Guru right is to not make a judgment about it too early on. Not react to its content prematurely. So hold on to your horses, and wait till the very end of the movie to decide whether you agree with it or not. I did, and I agreed.

OK now I’m going to stop reviewing and get to more interesting stuff. Aspects of Guru reminded me other movies. Firstly, other Mani movies itself. Guru and Nanaji’s deep friendship and eventual rivalry reminded me of Iruvar’s Anandan and Thamizhchelvan. Even the way the people under them further the animosity by taking things into their hands (like the factory supervisor who employs goons to attack Mithun’s car). We see a similar situation in Iruvar too. Second, Guru and his stop-at-nothing-to-succeed attitude were reminiscent of Velu Nayakar and his ‘Naalu perukku nalladhu seyyardhu naa edhuvum thappu illa’ ideology. Third, ‘The Aviator’… enough said. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.

‘Vanaja’

Vanaja

I somehow stumbled upon the official website for this film, God knows how. I was obviously attracted to the title, and hence the click. Things got very interesting as the homepage loaded up, filled with stunning photographs from the movie, or ‘stills’ as they’re usually called. Being the sucker I am for earthy hues and natural light, I was hooked. The trailer, though not very well done or anything, is impressive. The movie seems to have some content to it.

The director has a pretty neat background to him. An IITan, he’s worked in the Silicon Valley for a couple of decades, and then decided to pursue a degree in filmmaking in Columbia University, NY. And ‘Vanaja’ is his thesis. Cool, eh?

Looking forward to catching this on DVD, as I don’t think I can make it to the US premiere in Manhattan on the 31st of August. A lovely frame, the one above, don’t you think? For more of those and the trailer, visit the site.