Wednesday, August 27, 2008

3:10 TO YUMA

3:10 TO YUMA
Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Logan Lerman

"Time waits for one man"

Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a rancher who has fallen on hard times. His land is about to be repossessed, he has huge debts and his son has lost faith in him. For a fee of US$ 200, he decides to be part of a group who will escort a recently captured outlaw (Ben Wade) to Contention (a town). A fair amount that will 'solve' all his problems.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is the head of a robbery gang who has victimized several towns. He is a ruthless, psalms quoting murderer without any moral conviction. He is wily, charming in a menacing way and can easily outwit and outgun any of his rivals. He doesn't resist being captured and is now being escorted to a town where he will be put on the 3:10pm train to Yuma.

As the journey progresses through rough terrain, the two main characters engage in a repartee of wits. The beguiling Ben Wade always managing to draw out the silent type Dan Evans. Their exchange is compelling to watch. You are given a glimpse into their very core being without feeling the need to take sides. You are always aware of the fact that Evans is the 'good' guy and Wade is the villain. To further complicate matters, Dan's oldest son William took it upon himself to join the escorting party. The 'road trip' also serves as an eye opener for the young lad who begins to see his father in a completely different light.

The point of contention unfolds in Contention (the town) where all hell breaks loose in more ways than one. The script/plot suddenly implodes to an unbelievable stance. You can't help but pose a lot of questions as the last few minutes of the film explodes before your very eyes. The sudden change of heart in Ben Wade is questionable. The whole 'escape' sequences although thrilling to watch is reduced to a case of moments. The heroic ending is just too sappy for a film which extolled all along a never say die attitude. But nevertheless the good casting feat sort of salvages this Western.

Russell Crowe as usual delivers on the spot. And thank God for subtitles or else I won't be able to understand his lines. I never did, actually in any of his films. Ha! It is a bit odd to see Christian Bale in a father role but he essayed it with aplomb. His subtle way of acting best suits his character. His chemistry with Crowe was very good. Both of them were able to bring out the depth of their characters' soul even for a few minutes. Ben Foster as the relentless Charlie Prince one of Ben Wade's posse members was a revelation. He gave a solid believable performance. A good supporting part.

So give or take a few highly implausible scenes, this movie was on the average a good study of human behaviour of two well developed characters. Two contrasting figures who embark on a journey neither of them is compelled to take. An adventure fraught with tense dramatic moments, intrigue, psyching up each other's character as well as a period (however brief) of self discovery. This Western has its fair share of dialogue driven scenes as well as powerful gunpowder exchanges between the good and the bad guys, all the key ingredients to make it watchable enough.

Thursday, August 21, 2008



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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trade Show Displays

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, eric Roberts

"Why so serious?"

Cinema 7, Robinson's Galleria

I was probably among the very few people who had not seen the winged crusader in action. But hey I've been busy. You know being a newly wed and adjusting to my new status. So after postponing it several times, I finally watched it this afternoon. I was quite impressed with the film.

The superior quality film making techniques, the strong character(s) development, coherent plot, some kick ass graphics coupled with incredible action scenes and may I add a few moral lessons tucked in between, the latest Batman movies ("Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight") really have up the ante with regards to superhero films. They also made us totally forget the first few Batman movies with their amateurish, cartoon like almost comical plots saddled by caricature villains and distracting graphics.

In "The Dark Knight", Batman has on more than one occasion questioned his 'superhero' status. He has basically withdrawn into his reclusive mansion fully equipped with the best tools of his trade. Gotham City is back to its chaotic self with copycat Batmen acting as vigilantes in the name of justice. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is still as wealthy as ever yet his personal life is pretty much an empty shell. His long lost love, Rachel (this time played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) has hooked up with the district attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). A no nonsense tough lawyer who is the current toast of the town for strictly implementing the rule of the law. The ever stable and reliable Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) has his hands full trying to police the state. Cue in a soulless, demented anarchist! A villain who goes by the name of Joker (Heath Ledger). Then you pretty much have all the key ingredients to make this superhero film stand out in the grand scheme of all movie adaptations of comic books.

Many critics have raved about The Joker stealing Batman's thunder. Both in terms of acting technique as well as character development. But I maintain that he didn't. The Dark Knight is still no doubt a Batman movie. The Joker despite being in every scene of the film was merely the villain. He was certainly quite an influential character but it was a supporting role. An integral part of an ensemble cast. I figure the fact that Heath Ledger accidentally died after he made this film hyped up his portrayal. It didn't help that the media attributed the film as the cause of his distress. You know that he over internalized his role as the Joker. But based on interviews with his co stars who have praised his performance, they narrate how Heath was upbeat during the filming. He didn't show signs of depression. I figure he (Heath Ledger not the Joker) was dealing with some personal demons in his life. The dark nature of his character didn't contribute to his already troubled soul. Anyhow yes I admit he was fantastic as The Joker. He has always been a very credible actor in all of his past roles. He is eloquent, expressive, projects well and is 100 % believable. So plausible that you totally forget he is essaying a role, he simply becomes his character. In this case, he was this conniving, ruthless anarchist. You never quite find out who he really is, why he is bent on wrecking havoc, you don't get a sense of where all his wicked plan stems from. You simply absorb his mentally deranged persona in all its 'evil' glory as the scenes unfold.

Although Maggie Gyllenhaal is a fine actress in her own right. I believe as Rachel, she didn't have much chemistry going on both with Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne. Not that Kate Holmes with her girlish features and juvenile acting did justice to the role either. I just expected much more from Rachel, that's all I'm trying to say.

The part which piqued my interest in this film is the complete turnabout of Harvey Dent. From a well loved authoritative figure into a cynical, deranged Two Faced villain. I admit I didn't see that coming at all. I was pretty shocked. The interesting part is that now that I've had time to reflect on it, I realize that there were already several subtle hints surfacing to lead us on the true moral fiber of Harvey Dent's character. Whereas you knew from the start that The Joker was a bad person, the emergence of Two Face was quite a revelation. I think Aaron Eckhart was totally underrated in this film. He probably deserves as much accolade as the praises heaped upon the late Heath Ledger.

Now let's go back to Batman. I like movies where the main character embarks on an existential journey. He struggles to question his purpose in life. He is troubled with his current life and begins to doubt his faith and his fate as well. And in this movie, Batman is going through an identity crisis of sorts. He is thinking of fading into oblivion. He feels that the world would be better off without him. So many events happen in the film which trigger his torn feelings. I almost cried towards the end of the film when you see it in his eyes (despite wearing the mask) how he suddenly realizes his main purpose. How the pieces of the puzzle simply fitted and he knew what he had to do. It was like an Aha moment for Batman. That made me a bit sad. Yet at the same time, I am eager to see how the next installment (assuming there will be one!) will flesh him out of his bat cave, both literally and figuratively.

So yes I'm glad I finally made the time to see this film. And in my own small way contributed to the millions this blockbuster film has already earned at the box office. It was worth every single centavo!

Monday, August 11, 2008


Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes

"Two brothers on opposite sides of the law.
Beyond their differences lies loyalty"

A small movie that didn't cause much ripple in the waves of films churned out by Hollywood. Too bad because you would have missed out on watching a talented ensemble cast essaying a somewhat credible plot. The film is inspired by the motto ("We own the night") of the New York City police force. It is set in the late 80s when law enforcers battled the sudden influx of narcotics perpetrated by the Russians. A story of two brothers with opposite priorities in their respective lives. It made for an interesting character study of two contrasting individuals. Both driven by filial piety and lofty yet ambitious ideals of what makes the world a better place.

Both Wahlberg and Phoenix are good actors but clearly in this film, Joaquin Phoenix had the meatier role. He played it out effortlessly. Being a method actor, you have the tendency to believe that he is too serious when he acts but it makes for a good solid performance so I guess I shouldn't complain, huh? Interesting enough, things pick up after Mark Wahlberg's character suffers a setback so most of the film is carried on Joaquin Phoenix's broad shoulders. He lived up to the task. Eva Mendes had a significant but very brief role. I was always waiting for her character to be more 'involved' in the whole scheme of things. Robert Duvall is forceful in a non bearing way in any role and he doesn't disappoint in this film.

The plot/story line moves at a steady pace. Things pick up after a crisis occurs with thrilling and suspenseful scenes. Then it aptly settles down to a feel good, happy moment ending. It was filmed mostly in dark and bleak (it was always raining) environments but it was added to the overall gloomy atmosphere of the script. It focused on the internal conflict between the brothers. Their struggle to constantly live up to the expectations of their father as well as society in general.

For a movie that runs for 117 minutes, it wasn't dragging to watch. I guess that is mostly due to the presence of Joaquin Phoenix in every scene. Enough said.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub

"Fully Charged"

I admit I have never heard of Iron Man. I didn't even know there was an Iron Man. So for a non comics viewer like me, this film did well in presenting to its audience who he is. It presented vividly how this 'superhero' came into existence as well as focused on the man behind the hero, the multi-millionaire Tony Stark.

It helps that the role was essayed by the impeccable Robert Downey Jr. A man with enough conflicts in his own personal life that he would understand such a complex character as Tony Stark and his alter ego Iron Man. This film provides an interesting entry into the Marvel superhero's universe. Tony Stark definitely fits the profile of a superhero - a wealthy loner with limited social contacts. An orphan with merely one close friend. Living a hermit like existence and finding his bliss/passion with his expensive toys/gadgets. Fortunately Tony Stark doesn't have a sidekick nor some dark sordid past. He does have some father figure issues but then most superheroes share this 'dilemma'. Tony Stark has a pretty comfortable lifestyle filled with opulence and debauchery. He heads a multi billion company that develops weapons of mass destruction - how current and relevant!

The interesting twist is the events which take place after Tony Stark undergoes a traumatic experience. He is kidnapped, tortured and forced to live in a dark cave for three months. He has to build his own weapon, a missile known as "the Jericho" by a bunch of rogue terrorists who want to use it to rule the world. Stark suddenly realizes his own foibles, has a complete turn of heart, literally. The sheer genius that he is he turns this 'trial' to his advantage by building out of scrap metal - the Iron Man - a hideous contraption which is his key to escape. Upon his 'release' he is bent on making up for his past mistakes by destroying every single weapon he has developed and thereby closing down his company. Well easier said than done! Naturally you cannot just shut down a multi-billion company. It just isn't done. Thus arises more conflicts both for Iron Man and Tony Stark! The fireworks simply come out of the wood works via action riddled fight scenes. Explosive ear piercing scenes of metal doing battle against an equally menacing villain. But honestly I didn't like this segment of the film that much. It was too noisy, for want of a simpler term to define those scenes.

Overall, Iron Man was hugely entertaining with enough action scenes, funny one liners coupled with some good repartee among the cast. It was mostly fueled on by a much buffed up Robert Downey Jr. His snide wise cracking remarks were spot on. Especially when he was talking with his 'assistant'/server Jarvis. A device/gadget voiced by Paul Bettany who sounded very British, as usual. That was fun to watch. Robert Downey, Jr. was funny when he needed to be and serious when it was required.

His rapport with his secretary (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), Pepper Potts (what a name!) was good. Nice flirtatious chemistry going on. I actually didn't recognize Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Shane with his bald head and bearded face! I do believe that Terrence Howard as Colonel Rhodes could have used more exposure. Such a pity that a fine actor like him would have such a brief inconsequential role. Hopefully in the sequel he will be given a 'meatier' part as the close friend of Tony Stark.

The best part for me about this film is how Tony Stark admits at the end of the film that he is indeed the Iron Man. So there you go. No more secrecy. No hiding behind a suit. No false pretenses.

I eagerly await the sequel!

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