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Not much to say about the film. Intelligent sci-fi is the last thing I expect from mainstream Hollywood these days and this pathetic excuse of a film is no exception. The 1951 version of this film was at least, original. Here we are loaded with stupid dialogues, utterly predictable plot twists and the regular dose of how self-destructive humans have superior family values than technologically advanced alien civilizations. And we have morals, people... that if you throw litter in the park and screw the environment a giant alien ball will come from the sky to kick your ass.
Keanu Reeves is so good at playing aliens, androids or the glum depressed mental. Here his Klaatu is very apt. Jennifer Connelly is a good versatile actress who deserves better lines and better roles. But what I understand is that she has to star in these movies once in a while to pay the bills. Jaden Smith and Kathy Bates are good as the cute kid and the tough defense minister respectively, but good performances only work well with good script, which sadly is missing. Even Gort, the giant robot, is so badly used in the film. The 1951 version at least had Gort as a very interesting element of the story.
Oh and the 4 stars are for special visual and sound effects. Hollywood's good at that.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
High adrenaline action trip
Being an ardent fan of the Bourne movies, my suspense was all built up before I sat down to watch this third installment. This is the film where all questions regarding Bourne's past are supposed to be answered. The screenwriters crafted a story compelling enough to keep the viewer occupied before coming down to where Bourne started. Director Paul Greengrass, like "Supremacy", again shows that he knows his job of directing an out-and-out action film very well. Although I'd comment that his trademark shaky hand-held camera technique is quite over-used here.I don't think all action sequences required that.
Matt Damon is once again his composed and physically super-fit Jason Bourne persona. Among the other actors David Strathairn steals the show as the CIA project chief Vosen. The role of Nicky Parsons is extended in this film and Julia Stiles does a good job at it.
The action sequences are phenomenal. What makes Bourne films tick is that they attempt to use more modern and different action styles other than simply car explosions, gunfights or chase sequences. The scene where Bourne runs through successive buildings and rooftops in Tangiers is just breathtaking. The use of Keysi fighting methods in the close combat sequences are impressive. Team these up with Greengrass' hand-held camera and sharp film editing and you get Bourne's adrenaline rush.
Read here in IMDb that they're making a fourth Bourne film. Now that Bourne knows his identity it would be difficult to find a suitable storyline as compelling as these were. But lets hope...
American Gangster (2007)
Scott shines again... along with two of the best actors of our time.
Ridley Scott loves his villains. He has always attempted to show the characters with questionable morality in a new light. His characters are never black or white... they just roam in different shades of grey.
Frank Lucas, the character on the other side of law, a drug lord in 70s New Jersey, is Scott's principal character in this film. But Scott would never paint him out-and-out dark with villainy. He needs someone who would play it just according to the right shade of grey. And here we got Denzel Washington. In the scene where Frank shows his newly-bought mansion to his mother and says - "Momma this is your house" ... and in the scene where he puts a bullet through someone's head in the middle of a crowded street - Washington is equally convincing, a delightful screen presence.
These stories particularly need a 'good cop'. High morals, troubled personal life, on the verge of career end, standing alone among his corrupted colleagues - you know the stereotype. This is Ritchie Roberts played by none other than Russell Crowe. Crowe is proved champion in playing such diligent, meticulous characters. Here his accent, attention and mannerisms are perfect. Josh Brolin is again awesome in his supporting role.
Based on a true story, the screenplay does a good job in curbing the need of first-person narrations in such a story. It is surprisingly low-key, but is able to deliver the required amount of tension and style. The action sequences are extremely well-balanced, ruthless but never seemed tiring. "American Gangster" is definitely one of the best movies of 2007... but it falls short of absolute greatness, for a reason somehow unknown.
Blade Runner (1982)
A pioneer in the genre of sci-fi.
This is one of the five timeless classics that literally shaped the genre of science fiction in modern cinema. 'Blade Runner' is shockingly original in its concept, with considerable depth in its theme and vision. Much has been written in the other user comments about the story and its philosophical implications, the acting, the screenplay etc. I just want to focus on two major aspects of the film.
The film brilliantly captures PKD's vision about the future. PKD has always outlined a rather dystopic society, with paranoia screaming out of its every corner. The film's use of dark sets, smoke, faded light, night-time rain, broken buildings, exotic people has effectively set the right mood for what PKD had dreamt of - a society on the verge of breakdown, living on the edge with crime, corruption and misused technology. All credits must go to the art/set directors, the cinematographers and of course to Mr. Scott himself.
The original music is just breathtaking. Vangelis created the right sound for every mood, mostly dominated by paranoia and fear of the unknown. The use of foreign music in many scenes only add to the vision of cultural complexity.
The director's cut is vastly superior than the original release not only because it excludes the voice-over, but because of the brilliant extra footage and altered ending. It designs a more perfect way to throw out the question whether Deckerd himself was a replicant or not.
Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)
Another little comedy to show off Jim Carrey's talents... still it never became boring or felt like recycled stuff. In every comedy he's in, he brings something new in his mannerisms and approach to the character. In addition, Tea Leoni pulls of a nice Jane... a rather plain one who's continuously updating her character. Her performance is a real starrer in the film.
There are a number of actually funny humor sequences in the film. Some of them are quite innovative. The first robbery scene in the departmental store is just totally hilarious. I have seen the 1977 version starring Jane Fonda, and somehow this remake suited for me better. That's partly because of the script and the casting of course.
The Departed (2006)
Entertaining and well-acted... but definitely over-rated.
First of all, best Scorsese film? Please, forget "Taxi Driver", "Raging Bull" or "Goodfellas"... even "Gangs of New York" had more passion, class and originality. Scorsese just used all of his old violence shots and visual tricks once again and somehow the Academy suddenly rubbed their eyes and said "Oh we've overlooked the guy for so long. Come child, here's candy!"
I'm not actually dissing the movie though. It's got a smart plot, although that's influenced by the classic Hong Kong film. It's got thrilling action sequences, moments of sheer suspense and a very entertaining ending with well-crafted plot twists. The original score is just plain awesome. The allover acting is top-notch... Leo DiCaprio does a very convincing job while Matt Damon's performance is somehow a bit flat. Jack Nicholson is damn charismatic as usual. Among the supporting roles by Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg, it's Mark who steals the show with his impulsive and ever-sarcastic persona.
Then why is the film so far from being perfect? The storycrafting and the screenplay of course. The characters are, well, pretty one-dimensional, shown in black or white... especially Colin Sullivan. Even Dicaprio's character just whines about his job, but that's all. The supporting characters, except Dignam in the end, fail to add enough substantiality to the story. The story itself moves unrealistically fast... thereby leaving the audience completely fooled by its occasional flashes of action sequences. The dialogues, oh god, what can I say? Using the word 'fuck' in every line more than once neither makes the screenplay a classic, nor makes it realistic.
To summarise, "The Departed" is violent, smart, well-acted and also a well-directed thriller. But it's definitely not more Oscar-worthy than Scorsese's other classic works for one simple reason - it's not quite original. It offers nothing new.
And that's that.
Extremely original and thought-provoking.
Babel is one those few movies which is made from the beginning to the very last scene with the one thing - excellence. Its extremely eccentric choice of plot and its execution make it another modern-day classic. The four seeming different stories in four very different cultural backgrounds are beautifully shown to convey similar messages to provoke our thoughts and indulge into discussions.
Four different story lines continuing in three different locations... and not in the same time frame either. It was really the director's challenge to keep us equally interested in each story while having a deliberately weak link among themselves. The story set in Japan might seem entirely disconnected from the beginning, but frankly, who cares? It was extremely well-written and well-acted, and conveys the similar central theme about family importance or how we take wrong decisions. The two stories set up in Morrocco are indeed excellent. Besides the film's central themes, they also portray the still-existing cultural prejudices between the developed and the third-world countries with a bitter ironic twist about the importance of death in these two cultures. One could say that it's somehow a slap in the faces of those of us who talk big words about terrorism from our easy chairs.
And how can I express enough praise about the film's overall acting? From celebrated actors like Brad Pitt and Gael Garcia Bernal to the unknown faces who portrayed Youssef or Ahmed or Cheiko, somehow they all managed to be inspired by the film's inner elegance and let out their best efforts. And they were accompanied by the most brilliant screenplay and cinematography as well.
Babel is not a film to watch in a tired mind. Make sure you have the enough time and circumstances to just sit back and think, after you see this film.
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Whitaker's Amin had 'Oscar' written over his face...
"The Last King of Scotland" is definitely one of the best movies based on real events ever. Though the film is not entirely fact-based... it's told from a fictional character's point of view, but the audience, particularly those who were around in the time of Idi Amin's regime can breathe realism in its every minute.
The introduction of the storyteller, a young Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, was important to create subjective angles. Yet the character is not at all as inert as one would seem. He is perhaps the leading character in the film, not Idi Amin. And Garrigan's character is wonderfully designed... with his initial careless nature, his sexual (mis)adventures, his later concerns and helplessness etc. James McAvoy does a fantastic job playing this role. The essence of the character is beautifully captured by him.
But everybody knows if there's one reason to see this film that'd be Forest Whitaker's performance as the infamous dictator. Whitaker captures the character's brutality, insanity and his weaknesses in their most minute details. Whitaker seems to know what it takes to be a dictator. His work had 'Oscar' written over it.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Good enough... but tangled up too much.
Oh how we love those summer blockbusters... it's true we expect too much from them, especially when they're sequels to really quality films. And it's also true we pounce to criticize them with harsh cruelty when they fail to meet our expectations. 'Spiderman 3' is a perfect summer blockbuster at its own credit. But it has got two wonderful movies as its prequels... so, it faces a tough challenge.
Three villains... one of them my favorite - Venom. Where the movie really fails is its attempts to show the backgrounds of all three of them. OK, the goblin needs no background. But Venom gets the least screen time and I'm not satisfied. A good villain needs time to grow... See, all of the major Spidey villains have their brighter pasts from where they slowly transform to villains. In this film this transformation is hurried and shown abruptly, which quite kills the movie's mood. I believe the film wastes more time on Sandman than it needed.
Another major aspect of the film is Peter Parker's alter ego as the black spiderman after he's infected by the symbiote. I loved the sequence in the jazz club for sure, but I also think the character is shown overtly egomaniacal and unnecessarily irritating. Maguire tries hard to create the contrast between the real Peter and the infected Peter and thus in both cases, he over-acted. Along with his acting, several scenes are also written with excessive emotions and often they are laughable.
But, there are also numerous bright points in the film of course. I just loved the use of humor in this film... especially in scenes involving JK Simmons and Bruce Campbell. And the special visual and sound effects are awesome, you know, as they should be. The fighting sequences, though not very innovative, but always fun to watch. The overall acting is not bad... with James Franco and Topher Grace both stealing the show.
So, to wrap it up, one would definitely enjoy the film. But every time I think about Spidey2, I compare them... and this one somehow loses.
House of Wax (2005)
Typical... fun though.
Well, the usual Holloywood-style horror-thriller movie... with young protagonist group (that typically includes one black guy, one slutty girl, one sensible girl and one hero guy) and creepy psychopathic villains. Though here the villain kills people and makes wax figures out of them, this is basically another little slasher movie.
Some of the scenes are indeed violent and shocking, none actually scary though. Elisha Cuthbert looked very beautiful and became the major attraction to watch the film. The scenes involving the wax figures were fun to watch. And... I don't know, that sums it up perhaps.
Oh yes, we all cheered when Paris Hilton died.