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Sunday, September 04, 2005

September -- Festival Time

Well the festival time has started and the fall movie line-up is on the verge of being ushered out. Venice
kicked things off this past weekend with a distinct Asian movie line-up. Up next are TIFF, CIFF, Edmonton and VIFF. So in order to prepare for the festivals, I need to finish some commercial viewings before that.

1) Paycheck (2003 movie directed by John Woo): Rating 7/10

I had never seen this movie earlier because I was warned off it by a number of people. It turns out not to be that bad of a movie as I was led to believe. Sure it is a pointless action movie but atleast it has a good idea. Since it is based on another Philip K.Dick story, the movie was sure to have an interesting story line. But as with other sci-fi movies, Hollywood just runs them into the ground. This year, The Island was another example of a good sci-fi idea gone bad. In Paycheck, Ben Affleck plays a reverse engineer who works for different companies and at the end of each contract, has his memory turfed to protect his employer's intellectual property. And then sure enough, something goes wrong. Or it appears to. Our hero has to work backwards with a handful of clues to determine what really happenned in his 3 year long contract?
The puzzle like nature of the clues are interesting enough but the movie has quite a number of boring action scenes which don't add anything to the movie and end up slowing the movie down.

None the less, a neat germ of an idea hidden here. If a country pre-emptively attacks another country thinking that country will one day attack them, then the attacking country in turn creates a situation where the defending country is forced to attack back. In reality, if things were left as is, then the defending country would never have attacked. Hmmm...

2) Sehar (2005 Bollywood movie directed by
Kabeer Kaushik): Rating 9/10

An honest cop taking on the local ganster is a favorite topic in Bolly movies. But if it is done well, like in Sehar's case, then the movie watching is an enriching experience. As it turns out like in the case of movies such as Hasil, Kurushetra, Shool, the directors do have a story to tell. And they tell it well. Backed by a well written script and amazing acting, Sehar is easily one of the best Indian movies of 2005. Arshad Warsi is perfect in his role as is Pankaj Kupar. The only weakpoint might be Sushant Singh as the young gang leader who wants to run things his own way. The movie shows the difficulty the police have in tracking down the illegal activities and highlights how the Lucknow branches had to be trained on how to deal with emerging technologies such as cellphones to deal with organized crime. The movie is set in 1998, at a time when cell phones were just hitting the Lucknow scene.

3) Dus (misdirected by Anubhav Sinha): Rating 6/10

As usual Anubhav Sinha has his weak directing skills stamped over an otherwise enjoyable movie. The poor script can't make up for the flashy setup up though. An international terrorist is hiding in Canada. And the Anti-terrorist branch of India has to track this man down and find out what big event is being planned for May 10. They had intercepted of a big plan to take place on the 10th from Algiers (in reality, Calgary is being passed off as Algiers, stupidity #1). Fair enough. But what takes place after that seems contrived and well just poorly scripted. None the less, I didn't mind all the fluff as much as I thought I would. The ending sequence is so poorly done that words can't describe. A crowd in a Calgary stadium is spliced with an European scene spliced with England's soccer game spliced with a fake computer generated background and on and on...Argh. The fact that I sat through the movie without wanting to fast forward it is a sign that it was better than average.

4) The Cooler (2003 movie directed by Wayne Kramer): Rating 7.5/10

Las Vegas movies neatly fall into various groups -- gangster and or/robberies, drunk + drug overdose or maybe quick fling + marriage. The Cooler does take a different approach by combining a Leaving Las Vegas story with a cultural generation gap theme. The end result feels that it is trying to hard to win the critics over. That was my gut instinct, movies like this are trying to hard to over-dramatize situations. Anyway, the love story between two opposites involves a 'cooler', Bernie, (William H.Macy) and a run-away-from-home-waitress, Natalie (Maria Bello). A 'cooler' is someone with a negative presence (it can be his touch or mere appearance) that he turns people's winning streakes into losing ones. Or so goes the superstition. Shelley (Alec Baldwin) believes in such techniques and forces his cooler to stick around. But when the cooler falls in love with Natalie and his luck changes, well, then Shelley has a problem. He bullies Natalie into leaving Bernie. At the same time, Shelley has to deal with keeping his casino running according to the pure old ways. He is being forced to go with the times and make the casino more family friendly for package tours. The acting is good all over, which is to be expected with the three main actors. But somehow I was not too overly in love with this movie partly because of all the Las Vegas run down themes being flashed around -- hollowness, depression, the town's greed aura, etc.

5) Cube 2: Hypercube (2002 directed by Andrzej Sekula): Rating 8/10

1997's Cube was an amazingly well directed and written movie by Canadian Vincenzo Natali. The movie had such a cult following that well, a sequel was deemed necessary. But the director from the original movie was not involved, so this was a first sign that somethign was wrong. Now ofcourse, a third Cube movie has been released. Will it stop here? I hope so. Anyway time to tackle Cube 2:

Despite all my preconceived notions, Cube 2 is not just a dumb sequel. It is a well thought-out script which stands on its own from the first movie. The director, Sekula, is also the DOP for the movie and that in this case turns out to be a good thing. He is responsible for some of the innovative camera shots, and the entire computer effects time has done a stellar job. I did notice a glitch in the sets near the end of the movie which kinda dampned things. You notice a person walking on the other side of the cube which breaks from the tension of the situation.
Just like the first movie, different people wake up in different rooms in a cube. They have no idea why they are there. So they try to find the pattern among all the cubes and try to escape. Unlike the first one, the performances in this movie are not that great. It could have to do with the fact that the actors were working against a green screen for a lot of the shots.

And for a change, there is a proper resolution in this one. In the ending we do get to set what the cube is all about and who created it. 60659!

2 comments:

joe said...
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BETO LEÃO said...
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