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Knowing July 10, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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A time capsule containing illustrations about the future imagined by school children is buried into the ground in 1959 only to be taken out 50 years later. This whole idea is the brainchild of a certain kid called Lucinda (Lara Robinson) who also contributes to the capsule by rambling a continuous series of numbers on a piece of paper until the paper runs out. It doesn’t matter that her paper and pen are taken away for she finds an alternative to complete her series of numbers. Now Lucinda seems to be a pretty disturbed child and the more disturbing thing for the viewer is that she creepily resembles Rose Byrne (who she grows up to be). Until I looked up for the actress’ name who played young Lucinda, I thought it was some kind of a CGI trick.

Coming back to our story, when the time capsule is finally taken out that piece of paper ends up with John’s (Nicholas Cage) son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury). Now John somehow figures out that those numbers are a list of disasters (along with the number of casualties and geographic coordinates of the location) which have occurred in the past 50 years and as well predict some in the future. Meanwhile his son is also having some “Whisper People” as visitors at regular intervals. Who are these “Whisper People”?, What happens when the numbers end?, Why am I even watching this film? – are a few questions which you expect to be answered when the film ends.

The nice thing about “Knowing” is that it doesn’t wait till the end to deliver a crappy twist which is supposed to answer all your questions. In the first half of the movie itself you do get to know in which direction this film is heading. Like in every bad Sci-Fi movie when things tend to become too intriguing and inexplicable – Hollywood writers invariably bring certain entities (you know who) into the picture; “Knowing” isn’t any different and by now you should be able to guess who those “Whisper People” could be.

Even if you had no clue about where the film is going, watching Nicholas Cage in yet another of those “sleepwalk with an earnestly puzzled look” roles gives a hint of what you should expect. Rose Byrne is surprisingly quite irritating. The visual effects – especially the two major “disaster” scenes are quite nicely done. Alex Proyas’ last film “I, Robot” was one of the most interesting Sci-Fi films in recent times – which makes “Knowing” an even bigger disappointment. Like any good or bad film in this genre it is nevertheless interesting to watch though the payoff at the end is a downer.

The Day The Earth Stood Still December 22, 2008

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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If you ever wanted to find out how it would be if the Earth stood still, then step right into the nearest theater where this film is playing. And mind you, it is not the doomed earthlings in the film for who the earth stands still but the viewers who paid to sit through this. Honestly, prior to its release no one seemed to have great expectations from this flick and I ventured only with the hope of catching a mindless VFX filled saga. Alas, that wasn’t to be. In fact, it kept reminding me a lot about another awful disaster movie 10,000 B.C which came out at the beginning of the year.

Supposed to be a remake of an old 1951 film, TDTESS is about some alien race who sends their representative Klaatu in human form (Keanu Reeves) to Earth in order to set in motion a series of events which will save the Earth from destruction by humans. He lands on Earth in a giant sphere shaped UFO guarded by a huge Iron Man lookalike. Initially Klaatu wants to address the United Nations but once his request is denied he is quite pissed off. A few more belligerent actions by earthlings convince Klaatu of his mission. There’s one biologist Helen (Jennifer Connelly) who seems sympathetic to him and tries to help but on realizing his intentions she now tries to convince him – with the help of a Noble Prize winning Professor (John Cleese) that humans always change in favorable ways whenever they are on the “brink of disaster”. Klaatu isn’t convinced and meanwhile some mechanical locusts begin their saga of destruction. What is it that finally makes Klaatu change his mind?

To find out the mindblowing answer either watch the movie or if you have been unlucky enough to have seen this film, you should be able to take a correct guess (Clue: Helen has a stepson). TDTESS is such a hopeless film that you don’t even feel like hating it. It does such a wonderful job of not offering a single inspiring moment that you never really make the mistake of expecting something from it. The CGI work also isn’t impressive – especially the UFO and giant robot look quite tacky.

If you’ve noticed, the number of reviews for this film appearing on the web have been less than the number of articles about Keanu Reaves’ limited facial expressions (some Bollywood producer should take a cue and remake this with John Abraham). The other prominent cast including Jennifer Connelly, John Cleese and Kathy Bates are no better either. Bates – used as a stand in for the usual “US President in a Disaster Movie” role looks especially embarrassed being a part of this venture. Watch this only if you are having problems falling asleep.

Southland Tales October 22, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Bizzare? Ludicrous? Atrocious? Insane?

I don’t know what sort of adjectives might adequately describe this film. At the very least, it was a very strange and confusing film. But that is a humongous understatement. I’d really want to call it an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions and it should easily fit into a list of the worst movie experiences of my life.

Since I can’t be sure that I even understood the film, there is no point in trying to describe the plot. It starts off looking like someone’s imagination of a distressing future. At one point I felt like the film was trying to be a statement on the current state of the world but maybe not. This long (145 minutes) film has far too many eccentric characters and undecipherable subplots. At the end, I had only questions and no answers. Is this film about terrorism? Is it about mad scientists? Or is it about the time-space continuum/4th dimension or whatever?

There is a scene in the film where an amnesiac Boxer Santaros describes the plot of the screenplay he has written along with his porn star girlfriend. You are almost certain that it is meant to be funny but it isn’t and it actually ends up being the plot of the film that you are watching and it isn’t funny anymore.

Like the aforementioned situation, there are some scenes in this film where you think that the makers are attempting to make you laugh. But you aren’t really sure if that is their intent or even that the scene in question is funny. So, you sit still and wait for a confirmation that never comes.

The most laughable piece of dialogue comes when one character tries explaining what is happening or might happen and talks about the “entire 4th dimension collapsing on itself”. I was laughing all right but I was really feeling bad for myself at the same time.

Enough about me. I wonder what the actors were directed to do and what was going through their minds. Did they understand the script when they signed the film?

The Rock has a bewildered look for the most part. Maybe his expressions were accurate representations of how he felt while acting in this film. He is better off sticking to his action films or comedies. And Sean William Scott gets to paste the same expression of gravitas through both his roles. Justin Timberlake is pretty much trying to look cool and deliver lines in that manner throughout and I couldn’t really figure out how his character featured into the script. For a film that is as befuddling, it has a sizable amount of narration by Timberlake and it doesn’t clarify anything at all.

I couldn’t find anything even remotely interesting in this film. And that makes me wonder who greenlighted this film. Even more perplexing is the fact that it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

My ire should really be directed at writer-director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) but since I don’t understand his vision, I don’t know what to say really. Southland Tales is a disaster not only due to its incomprehensibility but also due to its numerous subplots, confusing tone, its length, lack of cohesion, and more. I’d really like to forget that I ever saw this film but before I embark on that task, I would love to hear from someone who could explain at least parts of this film to me.