Friday, April 27, 2007


RUNTIME: 182 min.

ALEXANDER might just be what I would say the best worst movie ever. I always believe that the best way to judge a work is not what you think it should be but what its creator wanted it to be. ALEXANDER could have been a sweeping war movie about a complex king who was not just a shrewd war strategist but also had a unique vision about the world much in the mould of a LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or a PATTON. But Stone, I guess, goes for the hard way and fails miserably. His ALEXANDER is one of the most ambitious movies I have ever come across. It intends to encompass every thing about the great leader and it achieves nothing.
ALEXANDER is the story of the great king told from the viewpoint of Ptolemy (Sir Anthony Hopkins). In fact much of the story is told by means of a voice-over by Sir Hopkins. It starts off with young Alexander watching the turmoil between his father Philip (Val Kilmer) and his mother Olympia (Angelina Jolie). Olympia maintains that Alexander is actually the son of Zeus and is actually a descendant of the mythical Greek war hero Achilles. Young Alexander’s favorite hero is in fact Achilles. When Philip plans to marry the young princess of Macedonia and have a son of his own. There happens to be a standoff between father and son and Alexander and his mother are banished from the kingdom. We learn from Ptolemy that Philip was murdered and young Alexander was crowned king. The movie is then all about the eight years during which Alexander went on his great ambition to conquer and free the people of the known world.
The biggest problem with ALEXANDER is its lack of clarity and vision. The only thing I understood from the movie about this great man was that he had a unique vision not shared by many during his time. And it was his unique vision that took him to great heights as well as brought his downfall. Rest of everything is a big blur to me. Stone tries to do so much in so little a time that he leaves everything in a mess. That is what ALEXANDER is, a big pile of mess. Strangely, for a Stone film, there is no real conviction in the movie. I don’t think so that ALEXANDER is a movie that Stone made from his heart.
What is the whole point of making a biopic? Isn’t it to understand the person in question? The problem with ALEXANDER is that it itself never understands its protagonist. Everything, every single thing about him is ambiguous.
Look at another biopic that has been released this year- Martin Scorsese’s THE AVIATOR. It was too about this complex character with his own set of problems. But Martin Scorsese so brilliantly portrays how Hughes overcame those problems to become the great aviator he was. The movie has a vision and it follows it.
I couldn’t understand half of the elements that were present in the movie. For instance, I just didn’t get the point behind the whole angle of Olympia being a sorceress and her influence on him. And why were there snakes all over the place.
ALEXANDER unfortunately is a big bore. I mean there are sequences where you would ask yourself, why the hell am I still sitting through this. After all what do we look for in a movie? It is connection. The movie on some level has to connect with us so that we understand what it is trying to say. But ALEXANDER never does that. It is so much engulfed in its own set of problems that we as audiences are left out of the game. Normally I am a very patient viewer and often tend to pay attention even in bad movies. I never like talking during a movie. But here I couldn’t help myself from doing that. I had to will myself to pay attention what it was trying to say. And every time I managed to put my concentration together, one of those court scenes would come and blast all of that to pieces.
The dialogues in the movie are so plastic and clichéd. And the screenplay should have paid more attention to Alexander the person rather than what happened around Alexander. I guess what Stone was trying to make was something more on the lines of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. If it is true then he couldn’t have failed more miserably.
The direction by Stone is surprisingly inert during most of the movie. His are movies are the ones with which we associate a lot of energy. Anyone who has seen NATURAL BORN KILLERS, PLATOON, WALLSTREET and JFK will know what to expect. There were a couple of incidents in Alexander’s life which brought goose bumps in me as a kid. I used to read them again and again because secretly I wanted to be like him- as every kid my age did. His conquering the wild horse is one that has been imprinted in our minds forever. But that was one of the most disappointing moments during the film. There was absolutely no inspiration during that.
And what was the whole point behind showing Alexander’s sexual life? I mean does it really matter as whether he was a homosexual or a heterosexual or as the movies portrays him as a bi. It would have been good if there was just a slight reference on that. But if you make a whole movie centered on inconsequential topics like that and Olympia it would be talking beside the point. If I ask even a 2nd grade kid as to who was Alexander pat would come the reply-“He was this great leader who fought many wars and won the known world.” If I ask a more learnt person he would say that Alexander was this brilliant war strategist who was a fantastically inspirational king as well, a king loved dearly by his subjects.
The movie gives absolutely no credit to Alexander the war strategist. His brilliant tactical brain is shown just during a war sequence involving the one against Babylon. In fact I felt greatly offended by the movie’s depiction of Alexander who is in his own self doubt and needs the help of an eagle to guide him through. The movie is trying to tell us that he was a king who was driven by magical powers rather than by his own inner abilities.
Again I didn’t get the point behind showing the troubled relationship between Alexander and his Babylonian wife.
One thing, why did the Babylonian stutter before Alexander? Alexander never spoke English. And Babylonians never spoke Greek. So for all my money there would have been no way but by means of an interpreter and that would have been just too cumbersome. So why did he show her stutter?
I was expecting the movie to show Alexander’s role in developing the tax systems and other form of government systems. He gave the known world more than just war. But the movie does none of that. Instead it decided to show the great king in a light he of all people doesn’t deserve to be shown.
One of the weakest scenes in the movie is where Philip is murdered and Alexander is pronounced king. I am not at all convinced
It is not that the movie is without its strengths. The war sequences, albeit only a couple of them, are dynamite. The bird’s eye view is a fantastically creative touch from Stone. The movie very brilliantly shows the gradual demoralization of Alexander’s troops. One of the few things I liked about ALEXANDER is the way the speech before the war technique is used. The thing started with BRAVEHEART and has been used innumerable number of times in the movies since then. But here it isn’t just for the purpose of showing how inspirational a leader Alexander was. In a brilliant scene later in the movie, before the war against Indians, Alexander again tries to inspire his troops to war. But his troops are going to have none of it.
The performances are pathetic. I couldn’t help but question as to what was he thinking when he cast Angelina Jolie as Olympia. Her inconsistent accent made me squirm in my seat. I mean I have no words for how bad that performance from Jolie is.
I am no great director but I wish to advice Oliver Stone that for a character like this the last person you would choose is Colin Farrell. I would have gone forward with Christian Bale. Colin Farrell has this urban chip about him that doesn’t seem fit in here. His performance is not as worse as most people are saying. But the whole movie is so confused by its central character that Farrell himself can do nothing about it. He is not a great actor by any stretch of the imagination. He is one of those actors who are only as good as the movie is. And here he does nothing to justify Stone’s selection. He appears confused throughout the movie, except for some battle sequences. This movie here is one of the major disappointments of recent times, a serious misfire. Although Stone might have reasons for his approach, the movie never justifies them. If this was supposed to be a factually correct, there’s no way in this world that Alexander was capable of conquering the world, for ALEXANDER shows him as weak, indecisive and consumed by self doubt. ALEXANDER THE GREAT deserves a great deal more than this.


RUNTIME: 99 min.

600 years before APOCALYPTO, there was, as legend goes, an even more stinking rubbish of a movie made by a director who just couldn’t realize what was the premise of the movie he was making nor he could find something called a script. It was called PATHFINDER and as the legend continues, was the most potent remedy for insomnia. Travis Bickle, try this legend. You would find more sleep and be less of a threat to Presidential candidates.
OFELAS/VEIVISEREN, the most famous of all Norwegian movies, nominated for the Academy Awards in 1988 under the best foreign language film is the victim here. After watching THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake in 2003, I would have never imagined that the director of that rubbish there would ever get his hands on the remake of a battle movie. But he obviously seems to have impressed someone because he managed to get the reins of this nonsense. For starters, what was wrong with the camera? I could see a couple of sequences directly lifted from LORD OF THE RINGS or was it the same sequences taken from a pirated DVD. For some inane artistic reason beyond my comprehension, he chose to go all grainy and murky. I had trouble recognizing who was who, all the time wondering if this is a pirated disc that is being shown. Believe me, the quality is that bad. On top of it, the visuals are so tacky even the Mila Jovovich starrer ULTRAVIOLET would feel proud of itself. There is an avalanche sequence right at the climax and audience members who were still awake managed more than a chuckle or two. Nispel is best suited to make horrible remakes of slasher movies; he feels absolutely out of place here. Why would anyone make a horror out of a battle movie, I would never know? And yes, just like his remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, this isn’t scary at all. Only blood flows everywhere and body parts fly, of course you would have trouble finding which part exactly was the object of attention here.
The movie is set in a time when America was yet to be discovered. I guess the makers have taken the time period too seriously because it seems even that thing we all know now as a script was yet to be discovered at that time. The central character is a Norwegian boy left by the Vikings on the shores of Americas and brought by the locals. But for some reason he’s called Ghost, I have no idea why. Fast-forward to 15 years and Ghost is consumed with revenge, again I have no idea why. Vikings come again to settle down in his new home and want to slaughter every local. Ghost wants to slaughter every Viking. Slaughter, growl, slaughter and everybody wants to slaughter. Why didn’t they kill each other at the end and slaughter the plans of sequel. I sincerely hope if ever there’s a sequel it goes straight to the Gaming Zone. Back to the story, if there’s one, Vikings want to slaughter. They find Village. Slaughter, slaughter, growl and more slaughter. Ghost sees them, stupid boy comes to them and fights, takes an eyeball. Then runs, there’s more running, running and more running punctuated with slaughter, slaughter and more slaughter. Then improvised intermission. Again slaughter. Somehow they grab hold of him and an elder who’s called the Pathfinder (Russell Means who seems to have found his path here from THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS). Now they have got hold of the Ghost, they change and want him to lead them to the next village, of course for more slaughter. Poor Vikings found their way to Americas but have trouble locating the next village. Again, walking, slaughtering, growling. Climax, avalanche and the end. I guess this here was more or less the script used by the filmmakers here. And the script is laced with dialogues like "There are two wolves fighting in every man's heart. One is love." No prizes for guessing which is the second. And yes my favorite, “Your daughter has become a woman.” Phew. Yeah amidst all that slaughter and all the growling, I forgot to mention one interesting thing. The locals speak in perfect English but the Vikings speak their local dialect, what was that I wouldn’t know.
Well the biggest name here is Karl Urban (THE BOURNE SUPREMACY) and he isn’t exactly Tom Cruise. And with script as above, even the best actors will have trouble finding their bearings. As was the case with KING ARTHUR, the supporting actors, the Vikings especially growl a lot, did somebody mention that growling is good. PATHFINDER is being compared to APOLCAYPTO, well watching this piece of junk here I could have been more forgiving on the latter. At least I knew what problems I had with it. With PATHFINDER, I have absolutely no problem apart from the singular one; please give me my money back. This movie is recommended for only one reason, if you have sleeping problems. Otherwise I find no reason for you venturing any place near it. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the best part of the movie, the only party where you could gleefully munch your popcorn. They showed the trailers of SPIDERMAN 3, PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: AT WORLD’S END and DIE HARD 4.0. Almost worth the price of the ticket.
Believe me, these pictures here are infinitely clearer than the actual one.

Monday, April 23, 2007


RUNTIME: 96 min.

It was just last week I was discussing the Academy award syndrome and the frequency with which it seems to strike the actresses’ fraternity. Well, we have the latest entry here, and unfortunately one of my favorite actresses, Hillary Swank. Forget that she did BOYS DON’T CRY, forget she moved us all with the amazing MILLION DOLLAR BABY, the biggest achievement yet of her career could well be going through this amazingly wretched movie, that too with a straight face. And that too seems to be a habit she’s cultivating with awful movies like THE CORE to her credit, still she has won two Academy awards. People are lucky. I understand some bad choices, some that seem good on paper but turn out the way they do. But it is for no reason that this ridiculous ting that I have just witnessed was lying on the shelf for more than a year. They tried to do a lot of things, with even Hillary Swank in it, but this movie is unreleasable. Right from the word go, I mean with the screenplay, there is absolutely no reason to think that this movie could have worked. This should have gone straight to DVD and that would have been the most fortunate thing to happen to this “horror flick”.
Katherine Winter (Hillary Swank) is a professor who in her spare time debunks miracles; of course she as lost her faith. She used to be minister but since has lost her faith, thanks to her daughter’s death. She is called upon a local town where bizarre events are happening. It is strange though why the news channels aren’t swarming the place instead of the locusts. The locusts and these bizarre events are supposed to be one of Moses’ ten biblical plagues. And yeah there’s a la The Architect’s monologue about some explanations about all the plagues. Now, I love Manoj Night Shyamalan, but I’ll always curse him for bringing me one of my favorite movies of all time, THE SIXTH SENSE. Thanks to that, every horror screenplay is supposed to have a creepy child. I don’t know but have the financers put some regulation in place. It is no different here with the person in the center of it all being a 12-year old kid Loren McConnell (AnnaSophia Robb). She looks quite young in comparison to BRIDGE TO TERBHITHIA, something that speaks about the time this rubbish has been on the shelves.
The screenplay here is a killer, a true plague. It is no wonder that Carey and Chad Hayes wrote the 2005 horror stinker HOUSE OF WAX. The duo take copious amounts of materials from THE WICKER MAN (oh no, not the new one of course), ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE OMEN and then give it a wicked spin of their own. Nothing, I mean nothing happens for 75 minutes of the movie. Only hallucinations flashbacks and more of red rivers and biblical plague talk. Suddenly, when it feels like about time and the makers feel that it is time to wake the audience who until now are in deep slumber, things move at breakneck pace, of course you wouldn’t give a hoot about it all. When the screenplay is from a team as this and it involves locusts, creepy kid, town and bible I would beg actors with any deal of self-respect to look for the door, immediately. Stephen Hopkins (UNDER SUSPICION, THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS) seems to have been…well let us just leave him at that.
Stephen Rea is in there somewhere, enjoying screen time whenever the men behind seem to run out of ideas. He usually was calling Katherine and saying,” You’re in danger.” I am sure it wasn’t intentional but Rea here gives a metaphorical performance in that he’s phoning his part, literally. David Morrissey, well he isn’t going to be forgotten so easily for BASIC INSTINCT 2 if that is what his intention was.
Swank has been screwing her career big time. I hope she doesn’t do a too stellar job at that. And yeah, the now expected twist ending, what a damn paradox. Well, when a stupid character speaks of first-borns and Doug (Morrissey) speaks that he’s from a long line of only children you need to guess it and listen to Ben (Idris Elba) when he says, “"Forget about it. Let's just get out of here before the final two plagues!" forget about it, better to keep away from this rubbish, where the climax turns out to be the most laughed sequence, unintentionally though.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


RUNTIME: 93 min.

This is isn’t BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and it doesn’t intend to be either. This is a charmingly goofy, silly and shamelessly entertaining movie with two wonderful actresses having a jolly good time with each other. Penelope Cruz is Maria, an innocent farm girl with no apparent talent other than being a fantastic markswoman and the better of the two, talking to horses. And of course, the horses listen to her as well. Salma Hayek is Sara, the pampered European-educated daughter of an aristocratic family who besides being educated is quite a hand with knives and is fantastic with horses. When a tyrant by the name of Jackson (Dwight Yoakam) starts robbing people of their land and in the process kills Sara’s father, both these women get on the road and start robbing banks. Their aim, to bring back wealth to their townspeople and to get rid of the villains.
Not much of a plot, of course, this has Luc Besson’s name on it, the man who has given us LEON and quite a few guilty pleasures (TRANSPORTER, TRANSPORTER 2). I wasn’t expecting the movie to be much good and the main reason for me to watch the movie was of course the leads. And they don’t disappoint you to either. The most remarkable thing about Hayek and Cruz is that they aren’t just incredibly beautiful women, they are remarkably wonderful actresses. Give them a good enough role, and they’ll deliver big time. The characters here in the hands of lesser actresses would have been corny and zero fun. But both Penelope and Salma ooze so much charm that it is a real pleasure to watch. Penelope is so gracefully sweet, she is cute when she talks to her horses and of course when she says she has never kissed a man. And the minor tussles between her and Hayek, though corny when you think about it, are quite funny. Then there’s Sam Shepard who barely stays five minutes on the screen but is quite fantastic. In fact the movie is predictable but funny all the way. It hits all the right cords. Steve Zahn is bumbling all along and he sure is fun to watch.
Directors Roenning and Sandberg have done a fantastic job making a western that is essentially a comedy. The locales are fantastic, the Ennio Morriconesque background score all add up to a fantastic experience. The shoot sequence at the end deserves special mention for it is beautifully innovative.
The movie so much loves BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID; it has the “I can’t swim” sequence thrown in. Make Cruz the Kid and Salma Butch Cassidy. Of course, both of them aren’t Newman or Redford, but then who has been. The Paul Newman-Robert Redford masterpiece is and it seems will be the greatest buddy movie of all time. Of course, Clooney and Pitt seem to be a touch closer but Hayek and Cruz here are quite fantastic with each other. When actors like these are having fun, it more often than not radiates on to the screen. This movie here isn’t one to make the top-10 lists but to provide unadulterated, unabashed fun. And after watching some real garbage for the last few days, this movie just seems that touch nicer. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s sequel awaiting us in the future and I am more than ready to lap it up.


RUNTIME: 109 min.

Part of the problem with these ridiculous thrillers is that they think they are smart. In fact the problem is that they think. I’m still looking for a reason how this awful movie about web abuse with incredibly stupid characters with a supremely dumb sense of investigation get to rope in A-list actors as Bruce Willis and Halle Berry. Throw in some more sex scenes and this movie would be fit enough to grace the porn movie market. And you have a director like James Foley (GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, CONFIDENCE) to helm it, who by the way has not fulfilled the initial promise he showed. God I’m going crazy. Are these people serious to play it all intense, as if they are making some sort of socially relevant movie? To hell with relevance, this is a pure exploitation movie that isn’t even good at exploiting. And yeah, there is something at the end that is supposed to be a twist ending. Twist endings be damned, this one is more of a cheat. It is like going through a Sherlock Holmes story with many suspects only to find at the end that it was Holmes itself who did it. PERFECT STRANGER is this year’s first contender for next year’s Razzies. But it isn’t going to win that one either because no one will even remember that such garbage was even served.
PERFECT STRANGER is on the perils of Internet abuse. Rowena Price (Halle Berry) is an investigative journalist and together with her partner Miles Hailey (Giovanni Ribisi) is the moral police catching big guys- senators, businessman and bringing them to justice. She learns that the murder of her childhood friend may be linked to a powerful businessman Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis) and the internet. And she goes to mete out justice, of course minus the cape. Only that she’s stupid enough not to know that the monitors too can be switched off, thanks to the manufacturers. And the switch for the power isn’t on the floor.
The screenplay is the prime villain. Todd Komarnicki has come up with one helluva stinker here. Everything is a mess and I just get who was sleeping with whom. I mean, everybody was sleeping with everybody. Then we have a lot of chatting with the computer monitor a very prime character, and hands down the best actor. We’ve these highly learnt individuals uttering each and every line of their chatting, since we’re illiterate. And then we have characters uttering expletives just like kids do when they just discover them. It is really, really pathetic.
The acting, one word, awful. Better word would be the “German” one used by Tom Hanks and his men in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN- fubar. Halle Berry is perfectly irritating. I guess she was trying to be Erin Brockovich, but the end results, if you want to put it diplomatically, couldn’t be far from the target. Bruce Willis, I guess, is waiting for DIE HARD 4.0 and this is just an outing to earn some fats bucks. I don’t know why he was carrying the stupid grin throughout the movie though. Maybe he too is confused, what am I doing in here. And Giovanni Ribisi, well, this isn’t the first time he has played a whacko, is it? But he was very likable as Phoebe’s brother; here he was crushing my nerves.
PERFECT STRANGER is the sort of movie where you’re confused about what is bad in the movie- is it the screenplay or the acting or the direction or the super-sloppy editing. Oh, there sure are more options for you, that I assure.
And the ending, well it sure is a surprise. It has to be because it is arbitrary. What if at the end of THE SIXTH SENSE, we come to know that Cole Sear is blind. Or say, Bruce Willis is hallucinating. In fact, my twist endings here seem better than the one here. The people behind this BASIC INSTINCT wannabe should be punished. And guess what the best way is. 3 back-to-back screenings of PERFECT STRANGER with these people tied up like Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Horrible movie.


RUNTIME: 104 min.

The novel on which the movie is based was written by a teenager, a 19-year old Christopher Paolini. I haven’t read the book but it shows that this is written by one. And the movie script seems to have been made by 10-year olds. Unless you are absolutely alien to STAR WARS and the LORD OF THE RINGS, this work is so derivative; I am amazed how its makers didn’t face a plagiarism suit. Worse, every element is so bad, I can’t think of one good point in this movie. George Lucas must be a great man to forgive the men behind this awful piece, but I bet J.R.R. Tolkien must be turning in his grave.
Eragon (Edward Speleers) is a young farm boy who by chance happens to find a dragon egg (read Young Luke Skywalker happens to meet a droid). An evil emperor by the name Galbatorix (Sauron) rules the land of Alagaesia and is hell bent on catching the dragon (ring). He sends his dreadful assassins behind him to catch the dragon and kill the boy. But all they end up doing is burning the farmhouse and killing his uncle. Eragon meets an old man Brom (Jeremy Irons) who is the last of an order; the Dragon riders (read Obi-Wan-Kenobi and Jedi Knights). Together they go to the place of the rebels, the Vardens (read Rebel Alliance). In the process, they manage to save a princess named Arya (read Leia) with the help of Murtagh (read Han Solo) and in the end they square off in a climactic battle with the master sorcerer Durza (Robert Carlyle) and destroy him (Death Star). And yeah, there’s Djimon Hounsou in there somewhere as well. I can’t tell you where and how he fits in because I too was lost for the last half an hour in this maze of ridiculous editing.
No, none of the above is a coincidence, this is blatant plagiarism. I have heard that Paolini has ripped of an entire passage from one of David Eddings’ books. And that is not all, there seems to be the case where the second book in the series, Eldest is EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. In fact, you do a little bit of searching on the net and forums, everybody has the same opinion. Hell, it even isn’t opinion, it is a fact. It is like stating that this is a movie.
Forget about all the controversy, the movie is so bad you would do best to keep your children away from this torture, unless you want to punish them for not doing their homework. Take your 12-year old to this atrocious fare and he might never ever trust your recommendations. The screenplay is ridiculous at best. And the actors too key in their efforts to make the experience the worst possible. There are lines like “Take care of Saphira. Without her. You’ll find that life is hardly worth living.” Periods are thrown randomly. Near the end of the movie, when everything has been explained about the relation between a rider and his dragon, Eragon asks Saphira “Are you with me?” “Always” comes the reply”. Grand statement that. And there are at least a couple of times where Eragon says to the dragon “Take care.” Pat comes the reply “No, you take care.” What sentiments.
And yeah, while watching the movie you might scratch your head and wonder whether a couple of reels are missing. I wondered too, but watching the consistency, it is pretty apparent that some subplots are meant to be revealed in the sequel. No god, no. don’t ever give them the monetary resources to make one again. ERAGON can be best summed as scenes thrown here and there all made at a whopping budget of $110 million. Even Geoff Boycott’s mum could make a movie infinitely better than this one, oh forget Boycott’s mum, even my mother would be more than up to the task.
Don’t even get me started on the acting department. Jeremy Irons is one of my favorite actors and I thought DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS will be the one odd choice he will regret. I was wrong. I don’t even want to think what made him do this movie. Then there’s John Malkovich who overacts whenever he gets the chance. Here is absolutely unbearable, he isn’t scary and he isn’t funny either. He is bad, just very, very bad. I have never seen this Edward Speleers guy, the man playing the title character but I hope to never see him again. But with this performance, I’m sure there’ll be a change of guard for the worst teenage actor. Hayden Christensen (as Anakin Skywalker) will no longer hold the unenviable position. Speleers knows next to nothing about acting. Well Rachel Weisz barely manages a screen presence whenever she is on screen, but here she gets to be the voice of Saphira. Needless to say, hers is the best performance only because she isn’t on screen. Anyways she isn’t Sean Connery, and I bet actresses of her limited caliber can hardly do voice-overs. Since you had that much money, you could have had Nicole Kidman or Cate Blanchett, but alas they don’t do this bad movies.
This is Stefan Fangmeier first movie as a director. He is a special effects whiz with movies like TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and MASTER AND COMMANDER to his credit. Well I wouldn’t comment anything on him apart from saying that he should stick to special effects and you should not even venture near ERAGON. Not the worst movie ever but a serious contender. BATTLEFIELD EARTH, beware.


RUNTIME: 124 min.
RATING: *1/2

I was under the naïve impression that the Academy award syndrome acts only in the case of actresses, Halle Berry (MONSTER’S BALL) and CATWOMAN, Marisa Tomei (MY COUSIN VINNY, IN THE BEDROOM) and her obscure choices continuing with this year’s WILD HOGS. But Mark Wahlberg, nominated last year for his scene stealing performance in THE DEPARTED, has just showed me that the syndrome is pretty much universal. How else could you explain an actor’s choice of a super dumb, dull actioner after being finally recognized for his acting abilities?
SHOOTER is based on Stephen Hunter’s novel Point of Impact. The tone is a bit grim in all the three Bob Swagger novels as against the witty reviews one gets to read by Hunter at The Washington Post. Mark Wahlberg plays retired US Army sniper who has grown disillusioned after a botched mission somewhere in the Horn of Africa. The shadowy government officials finally get to him, somewhere in the hills with his dog (reminding me of Schwarzenegger’s COMMANDO) and persuade him to help them stop a marksman in taking out the US President. It all turns out to be a conspiracy and Swagger realizes that he has been used as a patsy. Being the object of a nationwide manhunt, Swagger decides to take the battle back to the doorstep that started it all. The most horrible thing with SHOOTER isn’t that it is dumb. THE MARINE was dumb, COMMANDO was dumb, Steven Seagal’s movies are dumb but they know they are dumb and do not try to tread the high road. They instead go for the guilty pleasure which we all enjoy. But SHOOTER, which so desperately wants to be a thinking man’s action movie, asks us to ponder over its political talk. And when we do that, it turns out to be a heap load of gibberish, all the while being a dull action movie with a few thrills thrown in there. If you aren’t one of those who have just discovered the world of action movies, you would second guess the entire plot the minute Danny Glover’s Colonel Isaac Johnson puts the outlines of the mission before Swagger. The whole movie is so by-the-numbers, it renders soap operas and WWE fights bristling with unpredictability.
There sure is a lot of sniper-talk, humidity affecting the target and all that garbage, stuff a 12-year old fed on Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. But there’s too less of the actual sniping, the calmness, the concentration surrounding the sniper before the kill. Anyone who has read Gerald Seymour’s action novel HOLDING THE ZERO would exactly know what I mean. There is supposed to be a difference between a sniper and a machine gun carrying John J Rambo. That is what makes snipers so cool, apart from the big guns. SHOOTER disappointingly has too less of that and too much of brainless political mumbo-jumbo. Hollywood hasn’t been too kind to snipers and the best movie to come on them has to be ENEMY AT THE GATES, which by the way was way below par. For me, the finest moment for snipers in Hollywood has to be Barry Pepper’s turn as Pvt. Jackson and his fantastic shot at the scope of the rival marksman. SHOOTER here is nowhere near the top, although it aspires to be. It rather could be slotted right below Tom Berenger’s SNIPER and SNIPER 2.
Mark Wahlberg barely manages to break par here. The fast-talking idiosyncrasy of THE DEPARTED is gone; all that remains is a monotone. Wahlberg speaks very fast, trying to show attitude when all he comes up with is a dull, tired performance. He’s a fantastic actor; BOOGIE NIGHTS, THE BIG HIT and THE DEPARTED prove more than that. Rather his last military movie, the hugely underrated masterpiece THREE KINGS had such a fantastic performance from him. But here, he’s way below average and is one of the movie’s prime weaknesses. If at all Wahlberg wanted to mix coolness and attitude with this oddly gullible character, he should have taken a leaf out of Matt Damon’s performance in the Jason Bourne movies. Damon’s performance although impossible to match by an actor of Wahlberg’s caliber, surely is a study in how to act in a thinking man’s action movie.
Antoine Fuqua proves yet again that TRAINING DAY was a flash in the pan, and the flash was because of Denzel Washington. I bet there’s not a director who has scaled new heights, rather jumped to new depths in pretentious stupid action movies. Can anybody beat TEARS OF THE SUN and KING ARTHUR? Nope, not unless you are Antoine Fuqua and the movie is SHOOTER. KING ARTHUR wanted to be the next GLADIATOR, for me it is one of the worst movies ever. I don’t even want to speak of TEARS OF THE SUN and SHOOTER here is all political. It is not Fuqua alone but screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin (RED PLANET) who has adapted a perfectly intelligent plot into a dumb movie. I mean the bad guys are a costume away from attaining comic book villain status. And all this when the movie is supposed to be embedded in reality. I watched THE MARINE a couple of weeks back and let me tell you, I enjoyed that a zillion times more than this ridiculous pretentious piece of junk. SHOOTER just doesn’t get the point that it is a sort of exploitation flick that should be fun to watch and not attempt to be brainy when it actually isn’t. No half measures please. SHOOTER misses the bull’s eye by a country mile.

Monday, April 09, 2007


RUNTIME: 93 min

PRIMEVAL is the worst movie I have had the misfortune of experiencing in the past one year, hell make it since HOSTEL. I normally am a very forgiving and patient viewer, I actually sat through Oliver Stone’s ALEXANDER and Coppola’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. But PRIMEVAL is something that is infinitely more sinister; this movie has the strength to torture you even after you go to it with absolutely no expectations whatsoever. In a way that was the problem with me. I was expecting a simple run-of-the-mill creature feature/horror. Just to bide my time, just to enjoy some cheap thrills. Little did I know that what was waiting for me in that theater was the mother of all dumb movies. The worst, the dumbest movies are not the ones that are apparently dumb, rather the movies that think they are smart when they are actually at the lowest point on the Intelligence Quotient scale are the movies one should run away from. PRIMEVAL is exactly that and to my horror much more.
I still cannot comprehend the logic behind making a political comment out of a stupid creature feature. Surprised, well I was shocked. Guess how would it look if HOTEL RWANDA and ANACONDA were one single movie? You must be tearing your hair, what garbage am I speaking? I sincerely wish the guys tearing their hair apart were the ones at Hollywood Pictures who gave the go-head to make this screenplay into a movie. You have incredibly dumb journalists, journalists that will make the press team in GODZILLA look like Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. So these dumb journalists venture into Burundi that is in the middle of some civil war where they have to catch a 20 feet long crocodile. Well, the plot seems good enough for some cheap thrills, but to my horror I was shown a freaking political drama, a stupid third grader history lesson where all of Africa is in a bloody civil war, everybody has nothing much to do but to kill each other, the rest being into all sorts of crazy rituals. And yeah there’s a stupid black journalist (Orlando Jones) who is making all sorts of cheap jokes, jokes befitting to be laughed at by no more than a fifth grader. What the black journalist comments is that Africa cannot be helped and that America is doing more than enough. And yeah, he shows the finger to some chap at the airport in Burundi by saying “From Brooklyn”. Now what sort of garbage is that? I will be honest with you, right now I’m so tempted to get my “expletive” side get the better of me. There is no way else can anybody describe PRIMEVAL, not with words from a gentlemanly lexicon. And it does go on and on. The actual beast does a very late entry and does have very little screen time. All the beasts you are going to see are “Beasts of War”. Isn’t that something? PRIMEVAL has no redeeming quality; it is a movie that should not be watched. I’m not sure how many worse movies I have seen but this would be right at the bottom of the pile.


RUNTIME: 130 min.
RATING: *****

THE PRESTIGE may well be called the audience-attention span tester. The movie starts of with –“Are you watching closely? ” And if you want to stand any chance of solving this latest labyrinth from the Nolan brothers, you better be. I might want to add, move over Manoj Night Shyamalan; Christopher Nolan is the master of story telling. And he never resorts to cheap last minute twist-endings; his movies are way too dignified for that. Christopher Nolan might just be our generation’s Alfred Hitchcock. He has created four films and in MEMENTO and BATMAN BEGINS he has at least two masterpieces. I would go as far as saying that by the look of it, Nolan looks somebody who cannot make a bad movie.
THE PRESTIGE is about two magicians- Alfred Borden and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and their professional rivalry that very much has it roots in a tragedy. I do not ant to disclose anything more so as to ruin your journey, journey through the Nolan brothers’ maze. A great deal of the fun in watching a movie like THE PRESTIGE, much like THE USUAL SUSPECTS and MEMENTO is the journey, the constant raking of your brains, watching every thing closely, coming up with some early theory only to see it smash away. THE PRESTIGE derives its title from the third act of any magic trick, the first being the Pledge where the magician shows the audience an ordinary object and asks them to inspect it. The second act is the turn where the magician takes something ordinary and turns it into something extraordinary say make something disappear. But that is not all, you need to have a third act where you make it appear again, return the object back to its original ordinary self and therein lies the third act- The Prestige. Much like a thriller, where the first act is The Introduction and the narrator introduces the characters. The second act, The Plot where something meaty happens to one or more of the characters. The third act is The Suspense where the narrator not only needs o thrill the audience but to do so it convincingly. Since THE SIXTH SENSE, we have been audience to a host of stupid last minute twist endings that needless to say have plot holes a truck can park in. Even Shyamalan has not been able to repeat his magic that drove audiences around the world crazy, partly due to his over reliance on the last minute twist ending and the audiences’ anticipation of it. But Nolan, the master behind the most ingenious MEMENTO, seems to be a dozen steps ahead of the audience. People might argue that Nolan is way too cerebral with his movies; he lacks a genuine emotional core. I guess he gets to the audience’s hearts through their brains because I still haven’t been able to shake off BATMAN BEGINS or MEMENTO. He’s a narrator’s delight and not only because of his mastery over fractured screenplay and “misdirection”, also because he knows how to use them according to the needs of the story. More so, his visual tastes re exactly in place. He knows how to create a mood, and as with MEMENTO and BATMAN BEGINS, THE PRESTIGE is something that will stay in your head not only because of its plot, but also its mood. With other directors like Fincher and SE7EN, Mendes and ROAD TO PERDITION, I can point out exactly what contributes to that mood. Their style is loud. But Nolan is so very subtle, I still have not been able to pin point what is it technically about MEMENTO that makes it so very special. Ditto with THE PRESTIGE, and I cannot pinpoint it. The cinematography, yes, it was nominated for the Academy award but it cannot be just that. All I can say is Nolan knows his medium and knows how to exactly gel the various elements. He’s never loud; he lets the narration be the cake, but adds in fantastic score and technical aspects that just put the icing on the cake. Brilliant is the word, genius is another. I believe it should have been his name instead of Paul Greengrass, in the list of nominations this year, no offence to Paul though. He did a wonderful job with UNITED 93 but Nolan was simply way better.
The performances, well we have the second biggest assembly of pure talent after THE DEPARTED last year. There is Christian Bale, who simply cannot act badly; he’s just perfect. He’s simply put, the greatest actor of this generation by a country mile and I might say well on his way to be one of the greatest actors of all time. He is pure joy to watch and I might add, I just cannot wait for next year when Nolan and Bale team for the third time for THE DARK KNIGHT.
Hugh Jackman is one of the best lead actors around already created a helluva fan following as Wolverine. His performance is quite fantastic as well. What more could be said of Sir Michael Caine, a name that brings respectability to any project. He ups his “aye” and nonchalantly pitches in with a nice effort. Scarlett Johansson is making a habit of starring in “the other girl” roles but she is decidedly breathtaking to look at. And she lends in her hand as well. David Bowie deserves special mention as Tesla and so does Andy Serkis as his assistant Alley.
THE PRESTIGE is one of the best and most original thrillers to come out of Hollywood. It is one of the best movies I have seen last year; it could well make my top five. Comparisons with the Yari brothers’ THE ILLUSIONIST are bound to occur but I’ve not yet watched it, though it released earlier. I guess we could draw a comparison when the latter is in my kitty.Watch THE PRESTIGE, watch it with everything you have got and I guess you would not be disappointed. But remember- “Are you watching closely?”


RUNTIME: 109 min.

I committed a big blunder, something that I should have known and something I feel compelled to warn you against. The Yari brothers’ Edward Norton starrer, a film about magicians, was the first of the two films, the other being THE PRESTIGE, to have been released last year. Most people would have been to the former and then to the latter, for me it was the other way round. And the whole joy of it has been destroyed, because once you have been through Nolan brothers’ labyrinth, THE ILLUSIONIST would be a child’s play where you will second-guess every other move. Once you see the skeleton of the plot emerge, you wouldn’t take a minute to round up the entire plot, down to last details, I mean the very last detail. Not that you’re a genius or anything, it simply is because THE PRESTIGE is so breathtakingly brilliant and THE ILLUSIONIST is so simple, so naïve that its suspense and its twist-ending seems to be put together by a bunch of school kids.
THE ILLUSIONIST, based on the short story “Eisenheim the Illusionist” by Steven Millhauser, is about a young furniture maker Eduard Abramovicz (Edward Norton) who courtesy of a chance meeting with a magician develops a keen interest in the art. He happens to befriend a young Duchess Von Teschen/Sophie (Jessica Biel), in the city of Vienna. Their childhood relationship never matures and Eduard goes away into the then mysterious Orient to become a master of illusion, changing his name to Eisenheim. He returns after a long time only to find Vienna in the hands of Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), the archetypical bad man who is scheming to overthrow his father and marrying Sophie, uniting her father with him in the process.
The most remarkable thing about THE ILLUSIONIST is its production values. It looks breathtaking; something straight out of a LORD OF THE RINGS movie, despite the production cost being a mere $16 million. Technically the movie is brilliant, the feel, and the atmosphere of illusion just perfect. The same cannot be said of the performances though. Edward Norton is good, but his performance feels tired one, the twinkle his eyes had in PRIMAL FEAR, AMERICAN HISTORY X and FIGHT CLUB is missing. Sometimes I got the feeling he was just going through the motions, maybe watching the brilliant Bale yesterday might have to do something with it, but from Norton I expect more. Jessica Biel is just about all right. I heard that she desperately wanted to be in this production, to prove here mettle as an actress. She didn’t convince me too much. And the chemistry between her and Norton is sorely missing, a requirement since this movie is a love story at the core. The major disappointment for me though is Giamatti; I love this actor. He’s one of the natural character actors around, he was the only good thing about last year’s THE LADY IN THE WATER and that is something. But here he is way over the top, hamming. Sometimes he whispers, barely audible and others he is speaking in a constantly changing accent, apparently conscious of his moustache and beard. The charm that this actor possesses is nowhere and that is a shame.
Neil Burger, known for the quite wonderful INTERVIEW WITH THE ASSASSIN is the strength of the movie. He keeps the fun element of the movie going without ever getting heavily melodramatic, something that is quite fun since it is taken for granted that period movies are supposed to have substance in them.
I don’t know if my review should of THE ILLUSIONIST should be taken seriously, I don’t know if I would have liked it more or the same had I seen it before THE PRESTIGE. But one thing is certain, THE PRESTIGE is a far superior production in every which way possible and there is no denying the fact. THE PRESTIGE scores over THE ILLUSIONIST in every element of movie making.
Nevertheless, THE ILLUSIONIST is a solid piece of entertainment, and I would recommend it, and I would implore, do watch it before you watch THE PRESTIGE. Not because THE ILLUSIONIST is bad, but because THE PRESTIGE is so fantastically good.