Posts Tagged ‘drama’

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Director: Bahman Ghobadi

The first film to be made in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the devastating Turtles Can Fly is set in a Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border just before the US invasion in 2003. Director Bahman Ghobadi concentrates on a handful of orphaned children and their efforts to survive the appalling conditions. It is a powerful cry on behalf of children caught up in war and tyranny.

Ghobadi immerses the viewer in the nightmarish realities of daily existence in this makeshift community that’s located within a forbidding natural landscape. There’s no running water or electricity, the fear of gas attacks is palpable, and kids use their bare-hands to defuse land mines in the surrounding fields, which they then trade for machine guns at a market.

One of the central characters we meet is a young boy named Sorano, who goes by the nickname ‘Satellite’, being the only one at the camp who knows how to install TV-satellites. A leader of sorts amongst children, he helps everyone. One day a girl named Agrin arrives at the camp, together with her brother (who has lost both his arms to land-mines) and a little baby. During the first days, Sorano and the other children don’t  care about the newly arrived strange family. But after a while, Sorano wants to help them, especially after he is smitten by Agrin and finds out her brother foresees the future.

Using an entirely non-professional cast, Ghobadi doesn’t ignore the gestures of tenderness and humanity displayed by his brutalised characters. There is no overt political message in the film, yet the hundreds of parent-less children in the film, many with broken limbs from exploding land mines, tell a story of war that transcends politics. This is a powerful, disturbing, yet ultimately beautiful film that deserves everyone’s close attention.

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, and Ayelet Zurer

After a rather tasteless adaptation of Dan Brown’s bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, director Ron Howard reunites with Tom Hanks for more international intrigue. This time around with a lot more action and less boredom. Some bizarre plot points aside, Angels & Demons is a decent thrilling ride through the breathtaking Rome.

The movie begins with the death of the Pope and the gathering of the College of Cardinals to select the next Pontiff. However, before this happens, four of the most revered Cardinals are kidnapped and message left in their place. This leads the Church to turn to Langdon, a man with the knowledge of symbology that could help them track down those responsible. It turns out to be the return of the Illuminati, a scientific sect following Galileo that were hunted and killed by the Catholic Church. The Illuminati says that a cardinal will die every hour, and then at midnight Vatican City will be destroyed from an explosion from ‘antimatter’ stolen from CERN, a Swiss scientific facility. With the help of camerlengo Patrick McKenna (McGregor), acting church leader until there’s a new Pope, and particle physicist Vittoria Vetra (Zurer), Langdon must race against time to save the Catholic Church.

With a cast of award winning actors, Ron Howard does a good job of directing a story that was easier to follow than The Da Vinci Code. Though not quite as expressionless as his first attempt as Robert Langdon, the considerable talents of Tom Hanks largely go to waste once again in this film, as his role is not fleshed out. Zurer’s character does little more than follow Hanks around from scene to scene and translate Latin and Italian for him. Ewan McGregor delivers a convincing performance as the quiet but knowledgeable Camerlengo.

Very talkative in the first half, the film picks up as we get into the latter stages. The plot thickens as our hero deduces the clues that no one else can see. The funny scene where Vittoria tears a page out of Galileo’s book in the Vatican Archives will make you yelp. Even notable is when after a description of Pius IX’s “Great Castration” of Vatican City male statues; Langdon is asked if he is anti-Catholic. Slyly, he retorts, “No. I’m anti-vandalism.”

Overall, Angels & Demons is an entertainer. The interesting blend of facts and fiction makes the plot engaging. While the direction may not stand out, the cinematography is extraordinary as we travel through the picture perfect Vatican and Rome. A piece of advice: Go without expectations and you will be thoroughly entertained.

Director: David Fincher

David Fincher, in my opinion is a movie-making genius. He hasn’t made, what one would call, a LOT of movies, but each and every one he has made has stood out. I’ve seen all his full-length features to date. From Se7en to Fight Club. Now, I know many people will disagree with what I’m saying, but, in my opinion, Zodiac is his best.

In the late 1960’s through till the late 1970’s a notorious serial killer who called himself The Zodiac haunted the San Francisco Bay Area. It is not known exactly how many murders he committed. For the purpose of publicity, he used to mail letters and zodiac codes to famous newspapers in the city giving them information which only he could know, taunting the Police to carry out a mass investigation. Till date, the case remains one of the greatest unsolved crimes of San Francisco. The movie is based on actual case files, and adapted from Robert Graysmith’s Zodiac account books.
I saw Zodiac, in the dark confines of my room. It is a two hour thirty-seven minute movie. It felt no more than ninety minutes. I hold the background music as, perhaps, the most important factor in getting the viewers into the basic feel of the movie. Zodiac has got a blend of 60’s Jazz, Pop and Rock music. Even the closing credits have got music enough to make you remain seated and hear it out. It has a gripping background score. The film starts, and ends, with the same song. The song: Hurdy Gurdy Man. It is stylized, almost scary, along with a nod-your-head vibe to it.

The movie has an ensemble cast. With the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Brian Cox, the acting is stellar. Ruffalo’s portrayal of Inspector David Toschi is the pick of the lot. Gyllenhaal, playing the role of Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle whose obsession with The Zodiac leads to the most striking amount of evidence in the case, carries on the express that he started with Brokeback Mountain. I have never seen Chloe Sevigny’s other avatar, but her coldness shines in every scene we see her. The whole 1960’s/70’s setting merely adds to the excellent screenplay. The film has a black imagery. The only clear amount of brightness we get is in the first five minutes, coming from a flashlight.

The dialogue is gripping. The delivery is perfect. The screenplay is sublime. Everything is just right. The cinematography, the setting, the direction, just fits right in. There was not a moment during its length that I looked at my watch or thought that it was long. It is edge of the seat stuff. The movie is perfect. I didn’t know much about the Zodiac killings till I saw this movie. It interested me enough to spend a day reading whatever I could find on the net. When a movie gets you to do that, it says something. For all that its worth, I cannot find a single reason why this movie was overlooked at the Oscars. If this isn’t Oscar material, I’m not sure what is.

By the time the movie ended, Zodiac left me stranded with a million random thoughts jumping in my head. It’s a thriller of amazing proportions. It just gets you. Whether it is Downey Jr.’s stylized portrayal of an engaged reporter, shifting to a drunkard who doesn’t really give a damn, or the very voice of the Zodiac over the phone. The opening sequence, 5 minutes long, only sets you up for a treat of a movie.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Watch out for the opening sequence. It rocked me to my core. Highly recommended to anyone who loves watching movies. Thumbs up!

Director: Quentin Tarantino

I watched Reservoir Dogs again two days ago and to this day, it is still one of the most stylish & amazing films of all time for me. This film has it all. It has immense style, it has cleverly planned violence and it has a wonderful script.

Background isn’t given on most of the characters, and that’s the point. The anonymity of the characters (hence the code names) is important to the movie’s plot. These people are mostly all strangers to each other. We know as much as they know, for the most part. Part of Tarantino’s genius is his ability to give you only what you need, and nothing extra.

The dialogue is extremely well written, it contains lots of humor, especially sarcasm that is very hard to achieve. The opening scene and the debate about the aliases are priceless. The acting is flawless. Buscemi, Madsen, Roth and Keitel are all equally outstanding. Tierny and Penn team up perfectly. The smaller parts played by Tarantino, Jackson and Bunker are all very colorful.

The direction may not be anything special, but even though there are a few incoherences, it’s rather solid. The (in) famous ear-cutting scene has some smart direction as the camera moves away from the mutilation and shows us a door with “WATCH YOUR HEAD” written over it. Many interesting themes are brought up throughout the film. Loyalty and reliability seem to be the main one, Mr. Blonde stuck up for Joe, Mr. Orange tells Mr. White the truth, all the robbers go to the meeting place despite the fiasco.

Although this film contains a diverse range of techniques, I would have to say that the most original aspects of the film were: The camera angles and the music. Despite the plot being superb, every word out of the character’s mouths interesting and unusual, the casting brilliant, and the acting gripping and totally realistic, it is the camera angles and the music which really give Reservoir Dogs its atmosphere, which in this movie is everything.

The shots in this film add much to the suspense and are at times uniquely directed. Many times throughout the movie the shot is so far away that it is impossible to ascertain which character is actually speaking and therefore it almost seems that the characters play a secondary role to their dark and miserable surroundings.

Although the camerawork effectively creates the mood, it is the music, which truly plays the most vital role in Reservoir Dogs. Everyone is stylish in Tarantino’s world and this is reflected through the use of music. The recurring theme of the radio show `K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend’ plays an extremely important role in the music element of this movie. Nearly all the music present in the film is actually heard from radios in cars or bars and is always K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend. The gangsters talk about their identification with the Radio show, and have a kind of shared memory with each other through the songs.

As for all Tarantino movies, the soundtrack is excellent. In Reservoir Dogs it has something more than in Tarantino’s other films as the heist takes place at the same time as a special retro 70’s music radio show. Tunes from the 70’s are scattered all over the story as characters turn the radio on and off. I think that that was a very good idea and a nice little touch. All the more because the songs are often used to illustrate what’s happening on the screen. As Mr. Blonde tortures Nash, ‘Stuck in the Middle with you’ highlights the two cops’ situation who are stuck in the warehouse with a few panicked criminals. The last song ‘Coconut’ brings us back to reality, if you listen to the lyrics, it’s just a silly song about a guy who wants to get rid of his bellyache. This is very ironic, as one of the characters has just spent the last 90 minutes with a bullet in his gut. Tarantino is basically saying that this was just a film, not real life.

Although Pulp Fiction is probably the better of the two, Reservoir Dogs is my favorite Tarantino film. I’m not too sure why, I think the experimental side tips it for me. Having the whole story happen in the warehouse with just a few flashbacks to tell us everything was clever and hard to pull off, but here it’s done with panache.

Coming back to Tarantino who also wrote the script, he has cleanly and charismatically shown the precision of gangster dialogue. This movie is an in your face version of psychopathic violence, killing and bad language. But please! Don’t take it in the literal sense…these are just backdrops. Focus more on the long takes, like Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde) going out of a warehouse to grab a can of petrol from the car and then going back and splashing it on a cop. The careful viewer will notice lapses in direction, such as the orangeness / redness of hours old blood, instead of the reddish brown that it becomes. Occasionally, the scenes seem a little loose, but all the ingredients of a good film are there. The acting is not bad at all, and one shall not be disappointed there.

But I have to give special notice to the chilling Michael Madsen. For those who have only seen him in “Free Willy” or “Thelma and Louise”, be prepared to be terrified and blown away. Madsen is better than perfect as the showstopper Mr. Blonde. His look, his acting, everything about his performance is flawless and I have to admit, that Madsen’s Mr. Blonde was my favorite character in the piece. He has unforgettable lines “Are you Gonna Bark all day, Little Doggy, or are you Gonna Bite?” And he has the best and most chilling scene in the movie, the “Ear Torture Sequence”. Wait until you see him dance to “Stuck in the Middle with You.” you will be revolted and want to turn away, but you won’t be able to. Cool and terrifying, Madsen’s performance, at least in my opinion, is the best in the film. Because even though he’s terrifying, the audience has to admit that he’s cool.

This movie is extremely violent, gory and filled with expletives. Reservoir Dogs, like many Tarantino flicks, is not organized chronologically, and can sometimes confuse the viewers as to what is going on. You have to keep your eyes wide open at all times to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It is not only Tarantino’s best, but also one of the masterpieces of Hollywood. Watch this film once and you will enjoy it, watch this film more than once and you will see things you didn’t see before.

Director: David Fincher / Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Tarajo Henson

‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ directed by David Fincher, takes its inspiration from one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories. Screenwriter Eric Roth takes only Fitzgerald’s central premise – a man is born old and gets younger as he advances through life – but he drops everything else, adopting a tone of sorrow and longing that’s actually much more in line with Fitzgerald’s other, better work. The story begins in 1918 and extends into present day, and, at every point, the art direction and clothing meticulously re-create the respective eras. The digital cinematography subtly evokes earlier photography.

The premise is clever. The film chronicles the life of Benjamin Button, played by Brad Pitt, whose mother dies during child birth, and whose father abandons him on the doorsteps of an old-folks home when he is born with the appearance of an elderly man. The home, run by a maid named Queenie, takes him in as a son, and people begin to see that he is in fact aging backwards, from old to young. We follow his story, set in New Orleans from the end of World War I in 1918 to the 21st century. It is primarily a love story between two individuals who are aging in opposite directions.

Being an ardent David Fincher fan, I walked into the film with high expectations. But I was let down. The film is good, but not great. I must concede though, this film has its strengths. Technologically, the make-up and height adjustments made to Brad Pitt are astonishing, and the way that he looks like an old man getting younger and younger progressively is extraordinary. Additionally, the performances, including Pitt and Blanchett, but also Tilda Swinton as a spy’s wife staying in the same motel Benjamin is, were good. The love story between Daisy and Benjamin interests one at first, but later in the movie it gets plain boring.

The first half was not bad. My interest was kept, I enjoyed the characters but when I started feeling lost and cheated, that I would never get any closer to the lives, feelings and deeper philosophies, the film lost me. Somewhere during the second half you realize that the film is too long and completely lacking any meaningful plot developments.

The ‘aging in reverse’ plot is more or less abandoned halfway through. When the movie returns to it, almost as an afterthought, near the end, there are no surprising twists to enliven the movie’s deadening pace. What you expect to happen does actually happen. All in all, is a tad too long and devoid of an engaging plot. If it is uncharacteristically radiant, it is also aloof and ordinary.

Director: Sam Mendes / Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet

Based on Richard Yates’ 1962 novel (selected by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923), director Sam Mendes brings ‘Revolutionary Road’ to the big screen and reunites its stars for the first time since they paired for the highest grossing film of all time, ‘Titanic’. The film opens boldly enough, spending just a few fleeting moments showing us how the Wheelers (DiCaprio and Winslet) met before throwing us head first into their disaster of a marriage.

It’s the 1950’s in Connecticut. Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) Wheeler are married with two kids – a bickering couple that can break into a screaming match of hateful words in an instant. Both April and Frank seem to hate their mundane existence. Frank commuting to his soul-sucking desk job every day and April attending to her two kids like what is expected of her. It is April who takes the initiative to find a solution and mend their marriage. She proposes to relocate to Paris and start a new life. The plans reinvigorate the couple and everything seems on the right track. Despite the shocked reactions of their friends, the Wheelers are resolute in their plans. But slowly events transpire which challenge the ability to keep their plans afloat and thus their marriage.

‘Revolutionary Road’ dissects a marriage, in two distinct and significant directions. The movie captures the timeless torment of an unhappy marriage, in the way the spouses know each other’s weak spots and go for them, and in the way arguments can explode the simplest of beginnings.

The acting is of the highest caliber, especially by the always-amazing Kate Winslet. Whether she is yelling at Frank or holding back her emotions, you always feel April’s pain and empathize with her desire to escape a life of mediocrity. DiCaprio is just as good, and you can’t help but feel for his affecting but flawed, character. Moreover, the set design and costumes are immaculate, and the cinematography is perfect. But as you are an hour into the film, you will realise, although DiCaprio enjoys the same screen time, it is Winslet’s film.

‘Revolutionary Road’ can be interpreted in many ways. You can watch it from Frank or April’s point of view. Mendes’ direction shines through the dim premise and while it’s unlikely to leave any audience member happy, simply due to its depressing nature, it may just enlighten some.