Saturday, August 26, 2006

"THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING"


Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin, Derek de Lint

"A Lovers Story"

Karenin


This film adaptation of the novel by Czech author, Milan Kundera is difficult to describe. I recently read the novel and I loved it. So I bought the film to see if they did justice to this story of very complex literary characters.
A novel by a Czech author, this film was directed by an American Philip Kaufman. It stars actors of various nationalities. Irish Daniel Day Lewis, French Juliette Binoche and Swede Lena Olin. The locale is 1968 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Eastern Europe. A significant period in history. Communist Russia had invaded its neighbor and undertook a complete overhaul of the entire political, cultural and intellectual system.

The 4 main characters of the film have such strong personalities. They tried their best to adapt in their own ways to their new life in a country fraught by a different ideology. Tomas is a brilliant brain surgeon and an incorrigible womanizer. Sabina is his free spirited mistress with a fascination for bowler hats. Tereza, a comely waitress who eventually becomes Tomas' wife. Franz, the married Swiss who falls in love with Sabina. Together, their lives interwine even as they move from their besieged country to escape to Switzerland.
Complicated issues of commitment, the true meaning of sex, their different interpretations of love and their intellectual views on the political system are some of the main topics which occupy their minds.

The film showcases a good glimpse into the troubled times as the Eastern block of Europe falls under the reign of Communism. Black and white shots of the numerous street protests add authenticity. Loud classical music accompany some crucial scenes. This gives the film a very European feel. It is like watching those old black and white French movies where lyrical/dramatic music convey a wide range of emotions. Cinematography is crispy clear with scenes of the Czech countryside. There are also scenes where there is no dialogue and the director just pans across the cobblestoned streets or the sheets of a bed where the lovers had a tryst. These all contribute to turn the film into an arts house production. Running at 171 minutes, you must have an abundant supply of patience to sit through it.

Juliette Binoche is such a refreshing presence on screen, she made Teresa more humane and likeable. Lena Olin is sultry as Sabina. Her accent was great and she sizzles everytime she was in a scene. Of course, Daniel Day Lewis as Tomas is very effectual in his typical subdued acting style. Yet I somehow expected him to have some sort of Eastern European accent. I was disappointed they didn't focus too much on Franz. He was my favorite character in the book. But I guess Kaufman felt it was more important to focus on Tomas and Tereza.

The book was difficult to read. I had to condition my mind to really focus on the different issues Milan Kundera pushed upon his readers. His different explanations of why life is an unbearable lightness made me ponder endlessly way after I had turned the last page of the novel.
Milan Kundera would explain certain aspects of the characters lives then go back and forth in the chapters of the book. He had flashback scenes within a flashback scene itself. In the film, it was a lot more fluid and flowy. Philip Kaufman did not resort to any flashback scenes so it was easier to follow. He fortunately didn't follow the sequencing of the book. The ending although quite sad somehow for me had this surreal tinge of happiness attached to it.

It is a very good adaptation of the novel. I recommend you read the book first before watching the film. It is important you know where the characters are coming from to better understand their somewhat deviant behaviors. But even if you didn't read the novel, the superb acting of the lead stars will entrance you.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"THE WEATHER MAN"

Nicholas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Nicholas Hoult, Gemmenne de la Pena, Gil Bellows

"In life, accuracy counts."

Dave Spritz



David Spritz is the weather guy in a small local TV station in Chicago. He is separated from his wife and they have two kids. He is also the devoted son of a Pulitzer Prize novelist who is dealing with a medical condition. He earns a fairly decent salary for his routine job. Its main pitfall being he has to occasionally deal with stupid people throwing food at him. In short, he could be any ordinary peron living the American dream.

Yet he is always craving for something. Attention from his wife who has moved on. A certain form of respect from the public who see him as nothing but a lousy weather man who forecasts something totally unpredictable. He also yearns for the constant approval of his more accomplished father. His kids connect with him albeit in a distant way. He does his best to provide for them even enrolling his daughter in archery lessons and paying for the rehab of his son. Deep inside, he also has this insecurity complex. He doesn't even have a degree in meteorology. He feels he isn't living up to what he expected himself to be. Case in point, he changed his name from David Spritzel to simply Dave Spritz to make him sound more 'showbizy'. Yet, he persists in pursuing a lifelong dream. His goal is to be the weather man in the national morning TV show "Hello America" hosted by Bryant Gumbel. So you see he is not entirely hopeless. He has this desire to branch out and be a somebody.


The entire film has a dark theme/tone to it. Shots of a frozen lake, a tree lined park where he practices his archery skills, the bone chilling cold weather of Chicago and New York - all images that convey bleak moments. Nicholas Cage also peppers the film with some narration every now and then. It's like he is talking to himself out loud. I like movies with narration. It is an engaging concept. It feels like the character wants to interact with us directly. As if we are in cahoots with them or we are on to something. The plot in this film is well connected and seemingly tight in nature. In the acting department, Michael Caine and Nicholas Cage take center stage. Their scenes together as father and son are well versed in a subdued manner and they have a good repartee. I did recognize the actor who portrays his David's son, Mike as the young kid who starred in "About a Boy" with Hugh Grant. He still has that empty forlorn look in his eyes and it contributed well to his role here.


I've always been a Nic Cage fan. I basically like the idea that he portrays guys who are a bit flawed but only up to a certain extent. They are not downtrodden losers, per se. That somehow, somewhere along the film, the guys he portrays do redeem themselves out of the holes they themselves dug. Then, they go out with a bang (in short, they get killed). Or sometimes they just end up with a wide grin pasted on their face with a faint hope in their heart to move on and live life in yet another day in filmdom history. In "The Weather Man" Nicholas Cage salvaged himself, just fine. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"FREEDOMLAND"

Julianne Moore, Samuel L. Jackson, Edie Falco, Ron Eldard

"The Truth Is Hiding Where No One Dares To Look."

Cinema 3, Greenbelt 3

Freedomland


The opening sequence of this movie grabs you by the throat and won't loosen its tight grip until the very end. A mother covered with blood bolts hysterically into a hospital. She is totally incoherent, in a state of shock. She claims she was the victim of a violent carjacking incident. Then while you try to come to terms with what she just revealed, she drops the bombshell. Her four year old son was also in the car. She has no idea what happened to him. The whole incident triggers a lockdown in a crime infested black community, the so called scene of the crime. The entire police department swoops down upon it complete with blaring sirens and barricades.

From the get go, this gritty film keeps you on the edge of your seat. The director chose to feed us bits and pieces of the actual crime. He fleshes out the diffent characters in such unflattering lighting imagery, you know right away you will be dealing with intense dramatics from every possible angle. You have the African American police detective who is torn between solving the crime and risking his good moral standing within his own community. The civic minded group of people (mostly mothers of missing children) who help in combing the area for the abducted child. The entire police department who try their darnest best to keep the situation from escalating into a racial prolifing incident. The whole community protesting their innocence. The volatile situation threatening to explode in violent riots. Yet amidst the various complex issues, we naturally focus our attention on Brenda Martin played superbly by Julianne Moore. Her portrayal of an unstable woman desperately looking for her son is mind boggling. There are times you sympathize with her agony. Then in the same breath you get frustrated with her inconsistency in providing sketchy details of the incident. She is calm and composed one minute then in a span of a few seconds transforms into this grief stricken mother wracking with sobs. A scruffy looking Julianne Moore is excellent in this role although she tends to overact in some scenes. Samuel L. Jackson who normally portrays charming detectives with witty one liners is clearly much subdued here. Yet he is very effective in drawing out Lorenzo Council, as the conflicted and sympathetic police officer.

"Freedomland" is based on a novel by Richard Price who also wrote the screenplay for the film. It is a gripping whodunit tale that develops at a slow yet steady pace, set in a small suburban New Jersey black community in the year 1999. It ventures boldly into controversial issues like racism, racial stereotyping, child abduction. Mostly it delves into the festering mind of an unstable woman who may or may be telling the truth about the carjacking. I have to admit, the only reason you might be compelled to hold on till the very end is to know the truth. What on earth happened to the young boy. Then it hits you in the face like a train wreck. You leave the cinema wondering, speculating, trying to justify the action and its ensuing consequences. Or maybe not. I know maybe it's just me. I tend to overanalyze everything in my life. Even a small film which didn't create much impact judging from all the empty seats in the cinema when I watched it. Oh well.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"16 BLOCKS"
Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse

"For a New York cop and his witness, the distance between life and death just got very short"

Eddie and Jack



One thing you will 'learn' from this movie is that if for whatsoever reason there may be, you find yourself a witness to a crime perpetuated by the police itself, you would want Jack Mosley to be the cop that protects and escorts you to the courtroom in one piece. Give or take, you will suffer a few bloody bruises on your body, at least you are still alive to testify.

In this movie, the unfortunate witness is Eddie Bunker, a dude who talks non stop in a strange high pitched voice with an accent only subtitles can help you comprehend. The New York cop in question is Jack Mosley, a cop who spends his days drinking, drinking and drinking some more to hide his inner demons from floating to the surface of his sad existence. Of course, there is no hiding who exactly are hell bent on exterminating said witness, they only happen to be a bunch of rogue cops/detectives in the New York police department whom even the Police Commissioner is chumy with. Well ... boohoo.
Car chases, chases through buildings, hiding in decrepit Chinatown apartments, chases through the crowded street of New York even hijacking an entire bus complete with hostages - are some if not all of the obstacles Eddie and Jack must endure with lung busting energy.

Of course in movies like these, you the audience is caught in the crossfire. You simply wait to see if they make it to the courthouse. Sometimes even screaming for the hunted to haul their asses instead of strutting and talking about their goals and dreams in life.

Mos Def as Eddie is believable as the petty thief who still aims for a better life inspite of this ehem minor inconvenience. But his voice totally irritated me to no end and his accent pfft forget it. I kept pausing the DVD to ask my sister what he just said.
Who else but Bruce Willis would fit the role of a middle aged, jaded drunk cop. He even sports a bushy moustache to add to the gait of a paunchy detective. David Morse as the head of the rogue cops is one villain you won't want to meet in a dark alley. His steely gaze and impatient facial expression added some strong personality to his character. But to me he will always be the gentle Doctor Jack in "St. Elsewhere", that medical/doctors series in the 80s.

16 Blocks is a suspenseful enough thriller with a twist in the end directed by Richard Donner of the "Lethal Weapon" film franchise. It might not be in the same genre as the Lethal Weapon flicks but it is an ok film to rent one boring weekend. Either that or you can just watch a rerun episode of "NYPD Blue" or "Hill Street Blues", it's your choice.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

"LE JAGUAR"

Jean Reno, Patrick Bruel, Danny Trejo, Patricia Velasquez, Harrison Lowe

TV 5

the jaguar

The title of the film refers to Wanu, a shaman of an Amazon tribe. He is believed to have the special powers of the menacing feline. Wanu travels to Paris, France to raise awareness to the plight of the Amazon rain forests which are under threat. He is accompanied by a French anthropologist who has studied the tribe and wants to raise funds from the French government to help preserve the jungles of the Amazon as well as the tribe itself. Wanu is suddenly mesmerized by a French louse who amounts to nothing good in his sorry life, a guy who just happens to be in the same elevator at the hotel where Wanu is billeted. Wanu believes that Francois is the chosen one. The person who can find Wanu's soul which was 'taken' by one of the thugs that harass the tribe for his own vested interests. The adventure begins once Francois with the help of Jean Campana (the anthropologist) go back to the Amazon rain forest to accomplish his 'mission'.

It stars Jean Reno as the straight faced anthropologist and Patrick Bruel as Francois. Patricia Velasquez who portrayed Anck Su Namun in "The Mummy Returns" is also in this film. She does nothing much really but speak in Spanish/Portuguese to help them in their mission. It starts in Paris then it splices to the small village near the Amazon river then cuts to the actual tribal town in the Amazon rain forest.

It is one of those silly and zany films which qualify as mindless entertainment. I was laughing out loud, most of the time. The comedic parts come mostly from baby faced Patrick Bruel (a famous French singer) who is such a hoot to watch as he is totally transported out of his comfort zone into the wild jungles of the Amazon. He is in perfect contrast to the poker faced Jean Reno who does his best to keep Francois from getting into trouble with the local thugs. It is interesting to note that no matter what language was spoken, Jean Reno understood all of them and could act as a multilingual interpreter. Certainly, this is a far cry from the usual serious detective roles of Jean Reno. I was suprised though to see Patrick Bruel in a comic role. He sings mostly about love and heartaches in his ballads. But in this film, he was really hilarious! One glaring thing though is the way the film tend to mock the rituals of the tribe. A bit condescending, if you ask me.

But "Le Jaguar" is a wacky comedy, good for rip roaring laughs.
It should definitely not be taken seriously, at all.

Monday, August 7, 2006

"LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN"

Josh Harnett, Sir Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman, Lucy Liu, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci

"Wrong time. Wrong place. Wrong number."

Slevin not Seven


A case of mistaken identity turns nasty when a guy gets caught in a bitter rivalry between two crime families. He does have a hot Asian love interest for company, though. While a smooth slick assassin and a pesky detective are also hot on his tails. No doubt about it. He is in a darn mess.

Sure, it sounds simple enough but it gets complicated with some twists and turns, so better stay alert. The plot evolves quite slowly at first. It takes its own sweet time to develop the story line that bounces from present time to the 70s, of course shown in flashback mode. It has its dark moments coupled with some dry humor scenes. The trick is to listen to the dialogue and the repartee between the characters. It does have a film noire tone to it. In some ways it reminds me of the Oliver Stone flick "U-Turn", but not really as well crafted.

The cast is pretty impressive with Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci, Lucy Liu and of course Josh Harnett who all give subdued performances to flesh out some of the strangest bunch of characters ever developed in a movie. You have The Rabbi with a homosexual son, The Boss, an Asian mortician, GoodKat the assassin and a dude named Slevin. They sound like they can be characters in a Quentin Tarantino movie. But thank God, they aren't.

This low budget independent film was first shown at this year's Sundance Film Festival. It is directed by Paul McGuigan who also pegged "Wicker Park" - a film which was also laden with twists after twists and happens to be one of my favorite movies.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

"V FOR VENDETTA"

Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry

"Remember, remember the 5th of November"

Vengeance




I have been staring at this screen for a couple of hours now to come up with a review for this spectacular film. No, it isn't a sign that I didn't like the movie. On the contrary it totally blew me away, I loved it. Yet somehow I am having difficulty articulating my thoughts. So I will just talk out loud and you can eavesdrop while I talk to myself, ok?

Natalie Portman as Evey Hammond had a wickedly grand English accent plus she was willing to go bald for her role, whoa how bold of her!
The articulate masked crusader/champion of the masses known simply as "V" and his vast knowledge of the arts, literature and music makes him a fascinating character to flesh out. Hugo Weaving as "V" is excellent. Of course, he is never seen but his artistic talent to pull off such a demanding role in very evident. A role that needs him to be handy with knives. Chirp out tongue twisting lines. Quote prose and poetry with eloquence. Try to appear cool in an all black outfit with a silly grin permanently pasted on his Guy Fawkes mask and a cape to boot. He succeeded perfectly.
A megalomaniac leader holding the entire population captive to his idea of a controlled state is of course such a cliche but he does make a hell of a very bad guy.
Stephen Rea as chief Inspector Finch is plausible as a character torn between his duty to uphold the law and justice and his gnawing notion that the government he vowed to serve is the real culprit in the crimes.
I chuckled everytime the mighty US is continuously referred to as 'in the former USA' - a country shown as battling a civil war, a raging mayhem of total anarchy and chaos.
The statement that 'people shouldn't be afraid of its government, government should be afraid of its people' made me ponder and go hmm.
Oh and amidst the violence, the terror and the portrayal of a controlled nation whose populace is gripped by fear, paranoia and are desanitized to the real horrors that its government perpetuates on them, a subdued context of a love story blooms between the two central characters.

So this isn't entirely a film based on a comics book character who was obsessed with vengeance as the title implies. It conveys a reflection of what the world might develop into in the distant future. But unfortunately in some parts of the world right now, this reign of terror is a harsh reality. Now that's a scary thought, don't you think so? Eerie in the sense that art (in this case, a comics book) should imitate life not the other way around.

End of conversation.

Time to sleep.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

"SOMETIMES IN APRIL"

Idris Elba, Oris Erhuero, Debra Winger

HBO

Kigali, Rwanda



This is an original HBO film that tells us about the brutal genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. A period when the whole world just stood by and watched from the comfort of their homes. The media's coverage of a massacre of a million people in a faraway land in the African continent merely glanced through the real horror that happened there.

This film focuses on the fate of two brothers. Augustin Muganza, an ex soldier and Honore Muganza, a journalist who works at the local radio station. This gripping film of the painful ordeal of a family trying against all odds to escape from the jaws of an atrocious massacre is very compelling to watch.

The film starts with a teaser that gives us some background information on Rwanda. The audience learns about the different warring factions, the colonizers who conquered that country, as well as the reason why the genocide erupted.

Then the story of the two brothers unfolds. 10 years later (April 2004) both brothers are 'reunited' albeit in very different circumstances. The director, Raoul Peck splices the film with flashback scenes, some footage of the actual genocide are very graphic and gruesome. A few brief scenes of the US's involvement in trying to diffuse the situation would then pan to scenes of a war crimes tribunal in Tanzania where one of the brothers stand accused for his involvement in the massacre.

It is a very powerful film because it moves you terribly. So while the provocative film "Hotel Rwanda" concentrated on the events from the perspective of the people inside the Hotel Mille Colline, "Sometimes in April" is much more poignant. The range of the genocide is given a lot more scope in this film. We are shown the rebels enticed by their raw passion to annihilate the enemy, the anguished ordeal of Augustin and his family. His brother's trial for war crimes. The UN peacekeepers' desperate mission to save as many lives as possible. The US State Department's endless pursuit for a ceasefire. Present day (2004) focus on Augustin trying to give some closure to a very painful episode in his life. They are all very important pieces of a puzzle that all combined to provide this film the veracity it needed to make the world more aware of a sad period in history. All the actors are commendable in showing through their acting, various range of expressive emotions. Truly convincing in their roles.

This story really needed to be told. But most importantly it needs to be seen by everyone who is even remotely aware of events that happen in the world. Events that might not affect us directly yet in its own course does shape the way the world evolves.
I'm glad HBO explored and exhausted all means possible to make this film a poignantly gripping tale of hope and survival amidst such grief and tragedy.

 

Blog Template by YummyLolly.com - Header Image by Vector Jungle