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The Happening June 16, 2008

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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“One film wonder”, “Last nail on Shyamalan’s coffin”, “new material to make Scary Movie 5”, “Someday someone will stop bankrolling Shyamalan’s dumb dreams and keep this kind of tripe from happening”, “If Shyamalan wanted to commit career suicide he couldn’t have chosen a more likely vehicle than this laugh inducing thriller”. Those were just some of the “critical” reactions I picked up from Rottten Tomatoes for M. Night Shyamalan’s latest offering “The Happening”. If you think these comments are probably true and the same can rightfully be applied to his previous flicks post “The Sixth Sense” then my advice to you – Kindly stay away as this won’t change your opinion either. Stay away too if this is is going to be your first Shyamalan film.

The rest actually are advised to actually watch the film than reading further – not because I am giving away spoilers (there aren’t any actually) but becacuse I feel it might take away some of the fun watching this one. Concept-wise this happens to be the simplest of Shyamalan’s films. One fine day, in New York City something extraordinary happens. People start committing suicide in droves. Medics claim that something in the air has caused flipped the “survival instinct” switch of humans. People are evacuating to safer places and among them are Elliot (Mark Wahlberg), his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and his friend’s daughter. Can they figure out what this plague is and will they be saved from it?

What I loved about this movie are the scares. The ones featuring dead people or people killing themselves are no doubt creepy but it really takes some imagination to spook you out with images of trees swaying in the breeze that too in broad daylight. There are so many little details which enhance the creepiness to great effect. Okay, I admit now that it’s not all that rosy. The characters seem straight out of a horror film – which does bring in some humor in those tense moments…though it looks like it was intentionally meant to be that way. Also, the content of this flick can probably fill out just over an hour. So, the last 20 mins especially the episode with the old lady looks a bit forced into the narrative.

Nothing to write home about the acting except that the star presence of Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel helps. James Newton Howard yet again is in top form with Shyamalan and it would not be an understatement to say that this film would have been almost nothing if it weren’t for his score. I actually felt that Shyamalan was paying a hidden tribute to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” here. There are quite a few elements here which resonate with that film. “The Happening” is an extremely simple story effectively told – quite relevant if you think about it. All it demands of you is to sit back and watch and most importantly to stop waiting for some unexpected twist to happen.

P.S. If you were wondering where Shyamalan’s cameo was, read the end cast-credits. Also, in some of the scenes there is some tubelike contraption which keeps appearing on the top of the screen – which was always distracting the audience. I might not have observed before….but is it some deliberate blooper supposed to be Shyamalan’s trademark?

We Own The Night October 11, 2007

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Set in 1988, the film is about Bobby Green/Grusinsky (Joaquin Phoenix), who is the manager of a nightclub in New York. Born in a family of police officers, Bobby doesn’t follow in the footsteps of his father (Robert Duvall) or brother Joseph (Mark Wahlberg). He even changes his last name to hide his relationship with the family. A drug investigation brings Joseph to Bobby’s nightclub in search of Vadim Nezhinski (Alex Veadov). Soon Joseph and his father are targeted by the Russian mafia and it is up to Bobby to help his brother and father using his inside knowledge and connections.

The film has satisfying performances but this isn’t the film for outstanding work. When you watch the promos of this film, it seems like this would be a thrilling movie about the conflict between two brothers on opposite sides of the law. However, those promos are misleading. The film really revolves around Joaquin Phoenix’s character. Robert Duvall, Eva Mendes and Mark Wahlberg play convincing supporting parts. I was expecting the film to revolve around Wahlberg and Phoenix but Wahlberg gets very limited time and little scope for histrionics. This isn’t the right role for him after The Departed. Mendes’ character (Bobby’s girlfriend) doesn’t get a suitable sendoff but she does get some scope to perform.

Director James Gray (Little Odessa, The Yards) clearly knows how to create an atmosphere. He creates the right mood for the film and narrates the story at a leisurely pace. Despite a competent helmer, the film doesn’t make a great impression, mainly due to the writing. At the end of the screening, I had two words to describe this film: “nothing special”. The screenplay, also by Gray, seems too convenient at times. One big question that one asks at the beginning of the film is about how Bobby is able to hide his identity effectively from the gangsters despite still meeting his family every once in a while. Similar questions keep popping up. In spite of the logical flaws, the main drawback is that the film doesn’t offer any thrilling moments and avid filmgoers could easily predict the events that unfold.

Overall, this is a well made film that could appeal to those who enjoy crime dramas. However, it has nothing new to offer. Michael Clayton, which is also releasing this weekend, is receiving rave reviews from critics and might make a better watch.