Pink Fire Pointer May 2011

Space Cowboys ► 3.5 / 5 (Eastwood's Hollywood)

.. the not so right stuff
[your rating for the movie]

  It is fate, I guess, that first led me to see the marvelous 'The Right Stuff', before this Eastwood's idea of what may have become of those brash, uber-confident, womanizing, cowboy-pilots. This movie takes off right where The Right Stuff lets go. The latter was an 'experimental-epic'. A newness in the genre of science, drama and even humor. Semi-sadly, Eastwood's venture is a semi-experimental, non-epic. There is much of a muchness and the same of a sameness. Much of it is the lack of scientific verity and content. The context, though, is intriguing. Factually, the United States sent a chimp to space before men. There must been some incredulity and frustration for those pilots dreaming to be the first American in space. This movie starts with a fiction behind the incident, based on some history.

Feelin' lucky punk?
  The fiction is that the boss, Bob Gerson (James Cromwell) doesn't like the attitude and bravura of the pilots, Hawk Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) and Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood). He heads a team Daedalus, which has these two and a couple more, Tank Sullivan (James Garner) and Jerry O'Neill (Donald Sutherland). He upstages their space-career by ending all military/air-force involvement with space-race and closing the Daedalus. In reality, this was handed over to a 'civilian' agency - NASA, and many military personnel, esp. pilots, went on to work there as engineers, administrators and astronauts. We later see Bob in an administrative capacity. No such luck for these guys as they finish their career entirely in the corps (think Chuck Yeager).

Toby ~ the young Clint
  This lays the setup for another one. Now, we find these cow-boys have become cow-grandads and Clint is wanted by NASA to help them fix a satellite, a Russian one to boot. There's a logical macguffin as to why only he can do that job. Conveniently for him, it requires space-walk and astronaut-ing. He demands from his ex-boss Bob, who is now managing this affair, that the good ol' Daedalus must be brought in. Ofcourse, he agrees or else the setup for the setup would have no purpose in the movie. The good ol' team is back in place and training at NASA to be astronauts, which leads to some humorous situations and then some. Launched into space they find more details about the weird nature of the macguffin job and the Russian satellite. It's a sinister twist and, well, anyone who loved Bond's Golden Eye could have made quite a good guess here, I suppose.

  I want to specially mention Toby Stephens (Die Another Day, Mangal Pandey) as the young Clint Eastwood, who not only looks uncannily like his younger version but gets his mannerisms and expressions to a T. Would have loved to see a bit more of him. Ingeniously, for his voice, Clint dubs as his younger self, and so do the other three, which completes the illusion.

    Coming back to the problem I have with the film - the spacewalking and shuttle sequences, esp. the latter. There is a beautiful sequence whence, whilst space-walking, the astronauts 'fall' over the continents in orbit and the shot captures them to be seemingly hovering over the earth. Otherwise, the magic of the space journey is destroyed for anyone who's even a little familiar with how they work, esp. after viewing a landmark movie like the Apollo 13.

Imagine me up there..
  There is an especially painful scene wherein we see the old geezers extinguishing a fire inside the shuttle with a good ol' extinguisher as if in a barbecue. Fire is at it's worst in a zero-gravity space environment. It spreads over all surfaces, as a 360 degree spherical burst, since it cannot burn 'up' when there's no 'down' in space. The geriatric subjects also potter about as if in a barn with apparently no regard to a zero-gravity environment. The only way I, personally, was able to sit through them all were due to the good and expected performances by these seasoned actors. A high school student can tear those space sequences to pieces with the science he learns. There are some NASA consultants mentioned in the credits at the end and I wonder if they cringed seeing these. They have sinned by omission. Nevertheless, it's not all a lost cause, and I can only wonder what a beaut this movie could have turned out to be if they got those effects or science right considering the good acting and plot, which is usually the casualty in most movies.

We can hardly run and dammit if you strap us on rocket..
  I researched a bit after the movie and found that Clint didn't want to use the 'vomit comet' that was offered by NASA to shoot zero-gravity sequences. He, thoughtfully, feared the ol' cowboys kicking the bucket before he could film a bucket full of rolls. Nevertheless, it shows in those scenes and it disappointed me greatly. When I saw as a young kid, I imagined the 'Apollo 13' crew to either have gone to a space station to film those amazing scenes inside the spacecraft or perhaps all brilliantly computer-generated. It was an immense surprise, although logical, that these were filmed inside an airplane that free-falls towards the earth from a high altitude. Clint could have tried the vfx route at the least. This was well before his now Spielberg-ian days and the Dreamworks backing, and maybe there were some budgetary constraints. One only has to see the beginning of 'Hereafter' and fully understand the technical quality Steven brings to Clint's films.

Sara Holland: I have never met a kid who didn't dream of being an astronaut when he grew up.
Col. William 'Hawk' Hawkins: Did you ever meet a kid who didn't grow up?
  Anyhow, this movie isn't about the vfx or the brilliant space journeys but all about the heart. It's a salute to the magnificent 'The Right Stuff'. We see a paper headline in the mid of the film teasing the team Daedalus as the 'Ripe stuff'. Being ripe as it may be, it's strength lies in the fact that this is a Clint's creation and it's his team. They get the job done and in style. The script doesn't turn manipulative despite it's contrived and feel-good ending. The whole film reaches out with kindness and humor as only our grandpas can provide. It's a compliment, which this endeavor deserves fairly. Maybe this would've been better on the big screen than catching it on the dvd.

Cowboyz Forever (|| -|

ID4 : The Ultimate Popcorn Fest

Independence Day (aka. ID4) 1996                 ►                          4 / 5
[your rating for the movie]
  Popcorn Fest. definition: A Movie (usually a blockbuster) that aims to find the middle ground between audiences of various tastes and generally caters to the popular opinions and imaginative will.
                        equiv. terms: A similar concept in Indian films are termed 'Masala'. Hindi Cinema(bollywood) ~ bollywood masala/masala fillim & Tamil Cinema(kollywood) ~ masala padam. differences: unlike popcorn, masala isn't served to the audience per se, but denotes the one seen in the story/film on screen. Also, Hollywood prefers to make the genre an art and not compromise on the overall quality. eg., Jaws, Star Wars, The Fugitive, Die Hard, E.T., Indiana Jones etc.
[The above definitions are entirely my own and I hold full responsibility  for the same.. ;)]

  You are alone/with friends and want to spend a mindless evening consuming popcorn/chicken bucket/soda watching a flick that is a visual feast, which doesn't require much focus or intelligent thought. In the event you missed this Roland Emmerich's blockbuster offering, then do rent it/buy it/steal it, and have a roller-coaster ride with antagonistic aliens, marvelous explosions, and some wonderful performances. There's a reason why I believe ID4 (as in Independence Day-July 4) is the ultimate popcorn fest. That's the reason for the review now. Moreover, I managed to spend such a time as I've described, last weekend, which brought back nostalgic memories for the zillionth moment.

Roland with his 'E.T' inside it's 'bio-mechanical suit'
  "What if you woke up tomorrow and found a huge saucer looming in the skies?", was Roland's retort to the reporter who was pestering him if he believed in Alien intelligence or not, after the release and success of Stargate. Wondering about his own question, he found an answer in this movie, along with his producer friend Dean Devlin. Ever since then, Roland has never looked back in his spew of blockbusting, popcorn-toting, disaster-fests (except his one-odd project 'The Patriot'). It seems he may have run out of disaster plots after finally having got to destroy the Earth in 2012, and is now directing an Elizabethan political thriller 'Anonymous'. I am quite curious to see if he will manage to make it without a single explosion.

One fine Manhattan morning..

  What I love about the screenplay is that it divides the film distinctly into three clear acts.
Act 1. July 2 > U.f.o enters the earth's atmosphere. Blasts all major cities by nightfall.
Act 2.July 3 > Survivors on the run. Area 51 exists. Various sub-plots converge.
Act 3.July 4 > American/World Independence day as the world unites in it's fight for survival.
  Somewhere in all of this, you've got a career making role for Will Smith, an awesome & a cool one for Jeff Goldblum (a favorite actor of mine), a revelation of Bill Pullman as the President (one of the best in movies), Judd Hirsch as a quirky but dignified dad, and several other able supporting casts.

  There's no way I can spoil this movie for you - it's all about the experience. You know the humans/protagonists will survive at the end (fundamental rule of all popcorn fests). Conversely, aliens will get their butt-kicked. Capt. Steven Hiller (Will) actually has a line in the movie where he tells he can't wait to whoop E.T.'s ass. Another Spielberg classic is poked at when he punches 'E.T.' square on the face and remarks, a cigar clenched, "Now, that's what I'll call a Close Encounter..".

Our Liberty at stake ..
  One is a fool if one tries to bring Boolean/Newtonian logic to bear upon such a construct as the 'Popcorn fest'. Armed with that axiom, I find countless fools on and off line, debating the merits of the devices and ideas used in the movie, esp. that which helps mankind conquer the alienkind. I use, what I call as, 'popcorn logic'. It implies the artistic license that works within the movie's framework, and within a reasonable degree, in the real world.

  Take for instance, people running away from the wall of fire, blazing towards the camera. Yes, the fire has been filmed in super-slow motion. People on the other hand run in real time. It is evidently a conscious choice on the part of film-makers, and it works. Firstly, the fire that engulfs the cities, almost consistently, spread at the same speed as a jet-plane taking off from the run way (lol). It is definitely fun to watch. Also, the explosion from the ray of death or whatever, is alien in nature. Maybe it isn't as effective as our Nuclear bomb. A point further enforced in the movie's final moments. So do you now see how the popcorn logic works? Hence, the contrivances of the film-makers clearly dished out for fun, serves it's purpose to the story without annoying one or make one laugh to death (see Indy escape a nuclear blast in his latest movie venture.. sic. That's poop-corn logic!)

   If Will drives the action part of the film (mostly), then Jeff as David Levinson commands the performance bit. There are several unique and beautiful moments, as much as can be provided, between his dad (Judd Hirsch) and himself. Fondness for his dad comes off effortlessly, from Jeff's eyes, as much as his love for his estranged wife. Jeff, as an actor, commands an intelligent aura about him and makes his characters immune to any bad plots. He first commanded my attention as the 'Chaotician' in Jurassic Park. Spielberg, infact, rewrote the Lost World around his character. Sadly though, it didn't do him nor the story any justice. It is sadder realizing that, until now, only this blockbuster has come close to giving him the kind of opportunity and role that enables him to be more. His David is etched with a finesse and subtlety that instantly elevates the human drama of the film, the moment we encounter him. Notice how deftly he plays the pivotal scene of the movie - demonstrating his plan to defeat the space goons.

Empire State - a wonder of destruction
  This is a movie made for the 'Big Screen' (another requisite of a popcorn fest). One doesn't experience the same on a dvd. The action, explosions and cinematography come alive in a cinema and I was fortunate as a kid to have had this seminal experience of a good popcorn fest. This is a movie, seeing which, Spielberg decided to stop making any further alien flicks (broke the oath though with 'war of the world', and no, the latest Indy with crystal skulls doesn't have aliens - they're supposedly inter-dimensional beings). This is the mother of all disaster movies and the father of alien invasion plots. Yes, there are several plots seen before and many cliches in the film, but in no other, does it come together that effectively and make a popcorn hoggin' audience root for more. Honestly, one of those few sci-fi blockbusters, that I wished for a sequel and the film-makers have wisely not made one.
David Levinson:  A toast, to the end of the world.

The Right Stuff (1983) 4.6 / 5

'The Stuff of the Right Spirit'
[your rating for the movie]
  There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate..
  The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier..

  One of the very first lines heard in the film, that set the tone for the odyssey ahead. The film essays the real lives, joys and heroism of the men who braved death, to break the 'sound barrier' at the Andrews air force base, and then, the beginnings of the American Space program in the Mercury missions (the precursor to the Apollo). This movie is right there with all those classics of the 80's such as the Raging Bull, E.T., Platoon, Mississippi Burning etc., and possible inspiration for equally good space tales such as the Apollo 13. Viewing this movie on DVD, I crave to see this on a bigger screen. Nevertheless, the film doesn't indulge in grand moments or glamorous shots as often as such stories tend to. It does the more difficult task of showing the poignant, personal stories of the bravura pilots and the eager astronauts.
The astro-nuts (actors) before the mercury capsule
Directed by Philip Kaufman (The unbearable lightness of Being, Henry & June), the movie has the career-making performances of the then several new-comers and present stars.
Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager,
Scott Glenn as Alan Shepherd,
Ed Harris as John Glenn,
Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper,
Fred Ward as Gus Grissom,
Scott Paulin as Deke Slayton,
Charles Frank as Scott Carpenter,
Lance Henriksen as Wally Schirra - the astronauts / pilots;
other such as
Barbara Hershey as Glennis Yeager,
Kim Stanley as Pancho Barnes, etc. make up other wonderful supporting roles.
Jeff Goldblum leaves his mark in the few scenes he appears and ofcourse, is quite a young chap here.
Sam Shepard & Chuck Yeager
  The unique tell of the movie is the 'spirit' in which the tale unfolds. There is the unusual undercurrent of the humorous along with the macho manner in which these good fellows tackle the embarrassment of challenges. You read right, embarrassments. These pilots do not have a personality to see events as failures. Only embarrassed to have met it. They know only one way to live - to win.

  It is an engrossing experience to see people who are essentially farm-hands and cowboys take the mantle of the Space Program. One of the pivotal scenes occur at the beginning when Chuck Yeager sees the test of the X1 Bell series experimental airplane, riding on his horse about the base. The shot contrasts the earthiness of the man who will tame the beast that will soar the sky to be the first in history to break the sound barrier.  

  These fellows are all charmers and heroes in their own right but I would single out a couple who come across best. Sam Shepard has the screen persona like the inimitable Blondie played by Clint Eastwood. Chuck in his interview, I read, while speaking about Sam's performance, said that he (Sam) acts like he(Chuck) flies.
Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper
My favorite of the lot though is Gordon Cooper played by Dennis. The first man to have slept soundly in the vastness of the space alone in his Mercury capsule, exhibits a rustic charm with unassuming brashness. Think Johnny Bravo meets G.I. Joe. Easily, the best role of Dennis' career I've come across yet. He admires Chuck and infact many pilots, then and now, considered him the best. Strangely, he(Chuck) never got chosen by NASA, for stupid, bureaucratic reasons. Hence, his story runs parallel to the lucky ones who get chosen to be blown up sky high on a rocket.

  Kaufman in this movie creates a unique genre that could be termed 'Experimental Epic',
The Real Nuts
as suggested by Ebert. It is engrossing yet laid back. Wholesome yet has several characters jostling in the screen to give you their story. An epic yet a personal tale of human lives and a heroic dedication of a group, that borders on the naiveté. No doubt a unique and refreshing film, I had no qualms with the some little contrivances such as the semi-comical German scientists of the Space program (I wonder if the chief scientist who has a comic interlude with Sen. Lyndon Johnson about Spe-ci-men/Spa-ce-men, represents Von Braun, creator of Saturn V and other gigantor rocket engines).

  Evidently, a movie I highly recommend to all film buffs and is the only one so far to have equaled the rating received by The Dark Knight in this blog.

'No Bucks, No Buck Rogers'

Pi Paroxysm ~ an Aronofsky assimilation..

Pi (1998)         3.5  /  5
[your rating for the movie]
  I am most tempted to rate this film 3.14 / 5 ..  3.14 can be considered close to 3.5, can it not? However, the film isn't that bad. I cannot in my good conscience, skew my rating meter for a number-play with the title. I am most tempted though! :) Pi, notably, has nothing to do with the almighty Pi. That numerical constant which either bugged or baited our minds when we first learnt about dividing the circumference and diameter of a circle, exists as just a title. It's a novelty. So, let's get over it.

Darren-right; Sean(Max)-left; Matthew-with cam.
    Made by Darren Aronofsky, with  most of his friends and family supporting this, his first feature film endeavor, it does reek of an amateur indie movie. It isn't bad, per se, as such movies are the cornerstone and fountain of original talent and creativity in the movie industry. Yet, the problems I find in the movie have nothing to do with the budget or expensive resources. We'll get to them in a minute.The story is simple. Max (Sean Guilette) is an obsessed Math whiz, who also seems to tune and integrate computer circuitry on his own, and is working to create a model for the stock market. He has a mentor and a sounding-board in Sol (Mark Margolis), who was once such an obsessed Math whiz himself. He now passes his time playing Go, feeding his fish, and dishing philosophy and unsolicited advice to Max whenever he visits.

  All is well as much as it can be in this cloistered and cluttered world of Max. We notice that he suffers from some form of mental illness and related migraines, at regular intervals. He is currently on medication for it and has tried every possible alternative in the past, from grass to needles. One day, his calculation using a weird setup of computers (more for visual imagery than utilitarian, I suppose) spits out a set of numbers 216 digits long. I know what you're thinking - no, it isn't any part of the infinite decimal sequence of the Pi constant. Infact, there's no Pi involved in any of his calculations.

Max making some spiral(golden?) on stock firm listing (bemused!)
  He does do a lot of doodles that are supposed to come across as the brilliant rough work of a genius. Maybe it works for the layman. I found many laughable. Somehow, his work starts to involve golden spirals, golden ratios (look them up if you aren't aware), and he has some interested parties interested in his theories and results. There is a Jewish cult who believe the name of God is 216 digits and hence the numerical display on his computers may be that name!

  Then there is a stock broking firm who wants to invest in his work as he seems to have correctly predicted certain trends. Inevitably, he is caught between these two and most oppressively, his own mind. This conflict and the resolution, which seems weird but in line with the story, make up the rest.

  The image on the left conveys the kind of texture that envelops every frame of the film (incidentally has a spiral on it, which I thought went well with the illustration). So the grainy black and white frames in high contrast shots, make you rub your eyes aplenty. The impression Darren wanted to convey was to see through the mad genius' mind, which I felt was a bit overdone. The cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, has made a career in the tinsel town on the strength of this film as much as Darren.

  The primary reason I intended to review this movie now is due to the glowing tributes I find aplenty on the web concerning the math and the genii of the movie. Darren is simply using the math and it's genius as a blank canvas to portray the mind's irrationality and obsession - which seem to be his favorite theme. Taking a look at his brief career, all his movies are punctuated with dramatic dark protagonists, culminating in Natalie Portman winning the Oscar for 'Black Swan'. This movie launched him and was awarded the best in Sundance film fest.

  What the movie may succeed in giving us though, is the feel for Max's dark world. His visions and delusions are aplenty. It's further fueled when a rabbi from the cult passes on his number theories from the Torah (illustrated well in the diagrams above and to the left). The stock firm gives him a classified chip which would provide his computing system some electronic steroids. He ingests the illusions of grandeur and attempting to find all pattern in the universe with his 216 random digits, that 'somehow' appear from his calculations on the computer.

   This movie is about paranoia, delusions, metal instability, and irrationality (ironic, considering Math is a rational endeavor.. or is it?). I would love to see Darren's take on Dr. Nash of the famous, 'A Beautiful Mind'. It is a strange thing that historically, mathematicians seem more prone than most physicists, scientists or inventors/engineers to have a splintered mind or a delusional tendency.Perhaps it's a pursuit that is divorced from the world of the outside to that of the inside. The more 'pure' a mathematician's work is, the more he dwells within his mind's framework and constructs. Maybe that is it's greatest asset and liability. As the Joker would love to harp,"All it takes, is a little..  Push!".

      3.5 is a neutral verdict. If you wish to have a challenging experience of diving into the mind of an obsessed whiz-kid, go for it. Do not though, for it's science or math. You may at best get numerology. Good for Darren - it was bought for a million by the Artisan. Good work for a first feature length psycho-thriller.

Hereafter ► 4.5 / 5 (Eastwood's Hollywood)

[your rating for the movie]

  A light at the end of a tunnel.. or a tunnel /staircase into the light.. people dressed in white.. being weightless, a sense of the omniscient or omnipotence, sensing the purpose of life.. or more dramatically, seeing your life in flashbacks..  are some of the common metaphors, idioms or beliefs about death that exist in our culture and they are as old as humanity itself. It is quite cliché to delve into those questions again, esp. through a film. However, Clint Eastwood, knowing all the tricks of the game, changes only the rules.

  I hate myself for having missed it on the big screen and chose to see the wretched 'Drive Angry (3D sic!)' last month. I was in mood for an action-entertainer while purchasing the tickets for it, despite the guilty feeling for missing the latest offering by Eastwood and Matt Damon to boot! Their previous venture being the insurmountable 'Invictus', I surely must have lost my senses to have done what I did. I now pay for it. There are many glorious scenes and beautiful shots that would have held me enthralled on a big screen. I know because I savored them on the simple DVD, and only kept kicking myself for how much more could they have been.

  I have to tip-toe around this movie plot because every moment and scene unfolds gently, but unexpectedly. 'Hereafter' starts wonderfully and devastatingly, with a french couple, Didier (Thierry Neuvic) and Marie Lelay (Cécile De France) in a vacation at an island resort. It moves onto the central character of the plot, George Lonegan (Matt Damon), in his simple life as a blue-collar worker and his brother Billy (Jay Mohr).

  Billy believes George is gifted. He can connect telepathically or so it seems, with people's beloved but dead ones. George respectfully disagrees and feels himself a freak, and the gift a curse. In his quest for a normal life and relationships, George does things as normally as he could. He doesn't do "readings" to anyone anymore. He shuts down his psychic website and other paraphernalia associated with his psychic ability - we come to know all this through conversations he has with the few people around him. Notably, one wonderful beauty enters his life in Melanie, played as ethereally and wonderfully as always by Bryce Dallas Howard.

  They cook some Italian cuisine and romance as partners in the cooking class. All of it is, ofcourse, handled in Eastwood style, so you get neither an overdose of sentimentality nor the flightiness of a chick-flick. He adds just the right ingredients. Simultaneously, there runs a story of two wonderful and spunky little twins in London. Jason, the older one by 12 mins (he tells anyone who cares to know), and Marcus the younger. These kids (Frankie & George McLaren) are fatherless, with a mother who is addicted to opiates and other stuff.

 They keep order at home and the wolf, among other things the child-services, literally, at the door. An awful incident occurs in this semi-dysfunctional home which sustains the thread and the idea of what this film is about. George despite his reservations, succumbs to pressures from his loved ones to "read" or connect with the loved ones of a few people. Melanie from his cooking class among them.

  The plot steadily evolves and weaves, these three relationships and people involved, into a space-time event. Along the way, the movie raises questions about George's ability. Is it super-natural or a medical illness (encephalomyelitis)? Is he able to read the sub-conscious signals off a person sub-consciously? What is the true nature of death or the near-death experience NDE? Do not expect this movie to answer them, and that is the wonder of it. Eastwood knows he is telling the story of people encountering the super-natural and the undefinable. To try defining it would belittle the experiences these people undergo in their lives. When a movie gives us a satisfactory answer, it entertains us. When it gives us an unsatisfactory question, it enthralls. Roger Ebert, a critic I admire most, says he envies Eastwood as he ages and would wish to be him as he gets older. Concurred Mr.Ebert. Clint is a fine wine indeed.

Death : a transition or a shut-down?

** Spoilers ahead ** (strictly for those who've seen the movie)

  Written by Peter Morgan ( story/screenplay for Frost/Nixon, The Queen, Last King of Scotland etc. ), the movie is a brilliant story-telling on a simple premise. Unlike Crash, the film doesn't weave a sophisticated web to weave the characters into each other. Things occur as a matter of fact. Everyone suits and does their role well. What is common to all of them is the loss, as they all encounter death. For George- his loss of normalcy, Melanie- her loss of pretense, Marie- her loss of cynicism, Marcus- loss of an indecision and a guardian. 

  The reason I would like to discuss the finalé of the film is due to the various opinions about, that the movie doesn't have any view-point. Although, it doesn't provide answers, it stays pretty clear on what happens to these characters. There can be no doubt as to what George does lies outside the purview of  today's Science. Marie begins to doubt her doubtfulness after encountering the 'Hereafter' . Her belief, fueled by her research into NDE, she even demands others to begin believing the phenomenon. I was slightly dissatisfied with how she gets away with that. There could have been a deeper conflict shown, she being the cynical and famous journalist et al. 

  The strength of the movie lies with George's portrayal and Marcus' search for a way to connect with his guardian brother. The climactic moment of George getting a psychic vision of the Life with Marie, in contrast to only the dead ones he'd connected with thus far, is the Genius of the film. She is the one, meant for  him, and they could sense it the moment they lie eyes on each other. What had been a curse so far, turns into a gift with her. That is the perfect ending to a beautiful story. It doesn't matter to either Marie or George that they'd had NDE or psychic experiences in the past but the present and the future holds a wonderful promise. If there's any message, it is this : death may trouble and haunt, but love of the living is what this life is all about and makes it bearable.

Highly Recommended 4.5 / 5  (catch it on a big screen if you're lucky to have one playing nearby)

a down to earth superman ( pun intended )

from the imdb archivez ..

3.5 / 5

[your rating for the movie]

*** This review may contain spoilers ***  (it's been 5 yrs since the movie.. guess you should go ahead & just read it :))

well guys ... i hear all this stuff about superman being BOOOORING , SLOOOOOOOW, and zzzzzzzzzz.. it's pure crap. Even a 6 yr old , by now , knows the plot : that our hero has not given attendance to planet earth for 5 yrs... humanity has learned to live without one. Pulitzer prizes are given to such ideas.. but, ONLY A 6 yr old would expect the movie to take off as soon as the man of steel returns.

The film-makers have really tried to put things in perspective. Superman comes down to earth after a long, long time, and so does the story. The pace is casual, drama-like, witty at times and makes us sit back and relish each frame at a time - something not many movies allow us these days.

If there is a black-mark, it's with the plot. At the end, when the U.S of A realises that a new land mass is growin near them they just stand and stare at it? Singer loses the reality he'd so far had... won't the coast guard/pentagon/nsa at least make any moves. Is it all upto the superman to do the whole part??

Maybe Singer is trying to tell - with superman around, the not so super men fail to do their duties... maybe Lois is right about why the world doesn't need a superman. Apart from that glaring and monstrous plot hole the movie is worth watchin once. Vfx rocks!

18 July 2006

Limiting Limitless ..

Limitless    3.2 / 5

[your rating for the movie]

   'Limiting' in the titular phrase is adverbial and not a verb. The movie seems to be self-limiting, not in the sense of a course correction but that of a restriction. The movie shows you a delicious dessert but will let you take only 20% of it. Call me obsessed but Nolan would have had a field day with this plot and kept us at the edge of our seats, breathless. It's just his kind of a story.

Burger (left) & Bradley (the other left)
  Maybe I'm not too far off the mark. Neil Burger is evidently a good film-maker and he seems to have often chosen Nolan-ish stories in his very brief career yet. Illusionist (which was beautiful) was released the same year as 'The Prestige' in 2006, directed by him. Both are about magicians and the relation of science/logic to it and the love of a woman. I'm over-simplifying ofcourse, but it's just like a Hollywood conspiracy of releasing competing films in every genre; eg. Dante's Peak &  Volcano, Deep Impact & Armageddon, Knowing & 2012 etc., etc. Thankfully both (Prestige and Illusionist) were excellent.

  Anywhoo..  Limitless opens 'scintillatingly'. It's not often that I get to use such a word speaking of either a movie or a shot. Burger (let's call him that - more fun that way) takes us on a brilliantly composed and yes, 'scintillating' roller-coaster of a shot that starts from the edge of a ledge of a high-rise that Eddie Morra (our hero Brad Cooper) is teetering upon. It has to be seen to be believed. 

  I am an immense fan of innovative camera techniques or visual effects that either serve the story or simply immerse us in an experience. The telescoping, zooming, virtual-tracking wonder of a shot dropping us from the high rise, through NY streets, cabs, people, human brain, the edge of atmosphere looking down upon the Manhattan, ending with an incredible finish, does both. I know what you're thinking - it's just an extended shot of a 'virtual motion control thing' that we've seen in various films since The Matrix or Panic Room. Oh no, it's so much more. It's the equivalent of the Hitchcockian 'Vertigo effect' or the contra-zoom.  Burger calls it the 'Fractal Zoom'. Love the name! He conceived and termed it.
(  curious like me? go >  )

   From thereon, the movie goes at a steady pace. Morra is a witless writer. His only achievements in life thus far are a successful divorce and a very sexy, cute, current girlfriend (who's breaking up with him even as she's being introduced). Sic! He bumps into his ex's younger brother (the guy can catch no breaks) and is pulled into a conversation at a bar in the middle of the day. He gets a Macguffin(google it) drug that will unlock the 80% of the brain that he or any other homosapien doesn't use yet. Seems to me Morra isn't using his available 20%.

  Against his better judgment, if any, he takes it. Else no movie. The story then moves like 'A Beautiful Mind' immersed in 'Wall Street', with the intensity of neither. His current-ex-girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) becomes current. Robert De Niro as 'The' venture capitalist, isn't developed much. An annoying mafia-loan-shark who's only purpose in the movie seems to be to show us why Morra ends up at the edge of the ledge in the opening shot. Something interesting develops in the transition between first and second acts. First - our hero on brain-steroids meets his ex and finds she's prematurely aged and brain damaged due to the usage of this Macguffin tablet. Now you know why Morra didn't even use 0.01% percent of his brain before accepting an untested, 'enhancement' drug from his ex-brother-in-law. There's a definite rich conflict here but the script-er Leslie Dixon makes poor use of this and takes the ex-bro-in-law out! Nor do we find out who took him out or why.

  Second - Brad Cooper gets on Hangover part-1.5 from the heavy usage of the drug and can't account for 18 hours. He may have committed a murder at a hotel. Something is cooking in the plot.. but no! The movie-makers totally skate around it. We never find out enough. Maybe Burger and co., were on the same brain-drug and forgot developing these two key conflicts in the script! 

  From then on, the movie scoots purely on Burger's good visual style, Jo Willems' cool photography and that's it. The eagerly anticipated De Niro's role is just a glorified cameo. Hmpf! Imagine the possibilities of the premise! If only Burger had 'dared' to go with the idea and the story's consequences and implications. I was doubly disappointed, later learning that Burger directed Illusionist. At the end, the story doesn't arrive at a logical point nor an intuitive one. Although, given the poor journey of the script it ends as well as it could.

  The performances are the second thing after good photography that make viewing bearable. Bradley is a handsome versatile actor, an upcoming star and does quite well with this 20%-plotted script. Abbie Cornish as the girlfriend, is a dream and the kind you want to let your parents meet (figuratively :P). In a word, does one take the effort to watch it in a Cinema? Yes, if you are a fan of photography or want to pass your time with an okay flick. To me, the two 'fractal zoom' sequences were worth the 120 Rs. I paid (parking extra). They burst upon my conscious like Micheal's first two moonwalks at Motown Record's Anniversary celebration. 
  Limitless, is sadly less.