Tuesday, June 30, 2009

THE HANGOVER: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham
Director: Todd Phillips
Runtime: 100 min.
Rating: **1/2
Genre: Comedy

        I think McLovin is one of the great comic characters of our times, and maybe The Hangover, a frat comedy drenched in self awareness and not-so-subtle references (Rainman, Three Men and a Baby) is one of the first movies to acknowledge that idea. Amongst its many in-jokes is one of those clichéd dorky characters, a dentist named Stu played by Mr. Helms, who bears a striking resemblance to the adult version of Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Right down the spectacles. It could be a coincidence, but then Superbad is a pretty hilarious film and the Apatow factory do churn out some real warm and super-funny movies. This film isn’t one. Not one bit.
        The Hangover, which is the umpteenth movie based on the age-old predicament of an adult male indulging in adolescent excursions and churning out silly adventures, is not exactly a raunch-fest but is suitably raunchy to arouse your curiosity. It is based on a rather interesting premise. Doug’s (Mr. Bartha, the wisecracker laugh-bomber from those awfully unfunny National Treasure movies) is about to get married. He and his friends, Stu and Phil (Mr. Cooper), and a mini-retard Alan, played by Comedy Central stand-up Mr. Galifianakis, decide to go to Vegas to celebrate the bachelor party. They book a suite at the Caesar’s Palace, manage their way to the roof, have a shot of alcohol (was it lager, ale, I don’t remember?) and night passes over to welcome the dawn. And morning. And sunlight. And the grand suite is now a place where furniture has been ramshackled, there’s a tiger in the bathroom, there’s a couch on smoke, there’s cock and the group is minus Doug. And the guys were so stoned the night before they don’t remember a thing. Absolutely nothing. Not even how Stu, the dentist, is minus an incisor. Not even how they are now in possession of a baby.
        This is the setup for you, and it provides The Hangover the perfect ruse to unleash a lazily structured set of episodes that loosely resemble an adventure. Every person they meet quite conveniently redirects them to the next piece of the puzzle, and I know, I’m not analyzing Memento here. So let us just say the plot is is merely an obligation, and cut to chase and say the film is far from a riot. I mean, there’s a whole lot of two places where I could actually muster a laugh, and a couple of others, give or take one, where I felt the need to smile. Oh, if a retard holding a baby’s hand and miming him to masturbate is the kind of humor that you find funny, this might in fact turn out to be a riot for you. I’m not sure it is my thing, and even if it is a retard, I’m not sure it cuts with me. It used to, when I was in high school, but not any longer. Maybe it would have if I would have cared for the retard, but I couldn’t. The thing is that these bunch of guys are a bunch of losers, and the film fails to make them likeable in any which way. Outside of Mr. Galifianakis, who provided for the only two laughs for which I’m immensely grateful, the actors are seriously challenged when it comes to comic timing. They yell a lot, and that’s about it. There’s a cameo by Mike Tyson, and it’s embarrassing. The guy can’t act and he feels lost, and the film yells around him. There’s an Oriental gangster thrown into the mix too, and let us just say I wouldn’t mind if the parts involving him were somehow unwatched in my mind. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t necessarily mind unwinding it all, and by some miracle I forget it all. It is a tiresome film, and at 100 minutes, it is probably a full twenty minutes too long. This is a comedy that is overflowing with sitcom-ish situations, and a series of jokes that just don’t stick. In its clichéd female characters, , who’re either bitches or bimbos, it reeks of the same unimaginative gender-generalization that flows through films like Sex and the City. I’m not sure there’s much I want to say about this utterly mediocre film other than the suggestion of a little training at the Apatow factory on how it ought to be done. Oh yeah, and that half the films out there handing out the so-called clever references are mere pretenders.

Friday, June 26, 2009

TERMINATOR SALVATION: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anton Yelchin
Director: McG
Runtime: 115 min.
Rating: ****
Genre: Action, Sci-fi

        Terminator: Salvation opens to a resistance raid on the machine territory. McG has gone on record claiming this film is his Aliens. He flew all the way to London to get Mr. Bale sign this film, and he even rewrote the whole thing, to the actor’s complete satisfaction. One would get the feeling he intends to pull out all the stops in making this film a capable enough homage to the Cameron films, but also to make some kind of an ultimate action movie. He opens this action scene from the point of view of a missile, striking the machine base. One might be reminded of countless movies where we follow a missile following its course. Goldeneye comes to mind. But McG places his camera inside the missile, and follows it all the way, right down to the eventual explosion. This isn’t the money shot, or something to be applauded. But it certainly is something that sets the tone just right, and you get a sense that here’s a man who, in this age of incomprehensible grinder-produced action sequences, knows what he is doing, and has a clear visual strategy in mind. Not much later you learn your sense was not wrong. Not one bit.
        John Connor (Mr. Bale) is surveying the site, after the carnage at the territory, double-checking for those malevolent machines crouched in the debris. Seeing a Hunter Killer fly away, he decides to chase it in a chopper. And here is a virtuoso shot. Connor flies the chopper, and just about the moment he gains control of it, the camera which lay hitherto in a firmly third person vantage point viewing the movements from outside, zooms right into the cabin. An explosion blankets the entire area, and the chopper swirls and swirls, with dust surrounding it from every which where. Connor has lost control, and the chopper has lost its bearings. And it hits the ground. Connor strapped to the seat, wouldn’t really have his sense of balance upto scratch, and I guess he wouldn’t really know how the thud came about, and how the chopper lay oriented with respect to the ground. Instincts driving him, he lets go of the belt and falls onto the roof. We realize, along with Connor, how the chopper lay. And all of this is done in a single shot, with no edits whatsoever, and it left me kinda breathless and amazed, for action scenes of today are conceived not on paper or on the ground, but in the editing room.
        Terminator: Salvation is a superior action movie to all its peers, and in ways more than one, it seems to be a distant cousin of The Road Warrior. It is a gritty monster, unleashing chase after chase, and if its pulses were checked and its exterior ripped open to look what’s underneath, chances are it might come across as some kind of a machine. Its two illustrious predecessors were species firmly from the action genre of a different era, especially The Judgment Day, which fed upon the aesthetic sensibilities of the 80s partially owing their existence to the visual style of Michael Mann (Miami Vice) that both represented its time and contributed to it. If one would summarize the tone of those times into a pretty little theme, it basically boiled down to capturing scenes of action, often violent action, within frames of exquisite beauty and color composition. One could see those action movies and not feel any sense of disgust.
        Terminator: Salvation is something of a mutant, some of its genes belong to today’s movies – gritty grainy stuff shot in digital and constructed to rein a sense of the carnage at hand. There’s a distinct feel of the post-apocalyptic, both via the texture and the setting, and one’s immediately reminded of The Road Warrior. One could very well infer it as the influence of Saving Private Ryan. But it doesn’t believe in hand-held cameras, and it doesn’t believe in crazy slaughterhouse editing either. It respects clarity, it respects the importance of the master shot, and just about every moment of every action scene seems to have been shot from the right distance. I have complained how the new Star Trek movie seems to have been made for the television, shot from all the wrong angles and distances, and that quite a lot of it is either lazy, or needless or just plain incomprehensible. This one is a lean-mean action juggernaut, but one that doesn’t just hurl action scenes and frames randomly at us. Rather, one gets the feeling that the action sequences were actually conceived in the script, and were well designed for us viewers to neatly put the visual storytelling to together with no need for some character laying it all down for us. Many films employ a secondary character only to newsread and guide us through the action by means of such stock lines as – Hey, look there or Watch out or Look, its coming – and more of their ilk. This one lays it neatly, respecting and acknowledging the visual narration that is the sole disposal of cinema, and we feel it all the more.
        Enough said about the action. Till now I have spoken of the film in terms of only its visual sense, most of which is spectacular. At least it feels that way for outside of that magnificent Korean extravaganza The Good The Bad The Weird, I’m not I remember an action film I would recommend purely on visual terms. This one does earn that recommendation, but one ought to take the relativity of these times into account too, I believe.
        But there’s a story in there too, and some really compelling characters. Here is where that masterful touch eludes McG, and Terminator Salvation leaves us mostly unsatisfied. Oh no, not because the plot is perfunctory. Rather, as I said, the plot is probably more compelling and more fascinating than, and here I might be burnt for heresy, any of the previous movies. But there’re a whole lot of different themes and conflicted characters battling it all out with each other, and one believes this plot needed someone with the narrative skills of Christopher Nolan. And more importantly, the film could have done brilliantly by beefing up itself. As it is, the film pays attention only to the narrative of the plot, but it could have enhanced its effectiveness by paying more attention to the dramatic arcs of the plot. The fact of the matter is most movie going audiences do not get every theme unless laid it all out in a platter, much like as it happened in Watchmen. A well written scene, like the magnificently intense Batman-Joker interaction in the interrogation room from The Dark Knight, might have done Terminator: Salvation a world of good.
        Oh, I shall share not one detail of the plot with you, for speaking in strictly narrative terms, Mr. Cameron had pretty much exhausted everything there was to the Terminator-universe, and even a minor kind of detail shall act as a spoiler. Dear reader, you’re walking into a Terminator movie and I believe you’re aware what to expect.
        But what is commendable about the script – first written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris, both of whom first worked on Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and later rewritten and polished by high profile names as Jonathan Nolan and Paul Haggis – is its courage to let go of the trodden path and head on in a new direction. It does respect the framework of its predecessors, but in ways more than one, this could also be looked upon as some kind of an adventure along the lines of The Lord of the Rings. For the first time in the entire series, and this I believe is something to be applauded, McG and his writers show the willingness to raise the stakes, and expand the equation. The earlier films merely provided the excuse of a larger-than-life epic-war between man and machines, all the while concealing for what they truly were – one hero one villain films borrowing from the action and the horror genre. Terminator: Salvation is a war film masquerading as an action film, its script for the first time actually structures itself to brace with the real enemy – Skynet. And although that is a magnificent ambition, it also is one of the film’s prime failings. As in, the lack of a villain, or a principal antagonist. As in, a villain with a face. Even Sauron had an eye. Here, we do not find anything tangible to hold on to. Skynet is everywhere, and the film should’ve done either of two things. Doctor the script and enhance the running time so that we know Skynet is everywhere. Or give Skynet a face. I know it is dumb, I know I’m asking the film to dumb itself down, I’m ashamed too, but then even HAL was a red light. I guess that is one of the principal failings of a narrative we with our limited sensibilities and stunted intellect can never overcome. A tale needs to have a tangible villain. The success of any tale lay not in the austerity of its protagonist but the menace of its antagonist.
        The performances are all intense, much as in a war film. You expect from Mr. Bale what he delivers here, and I’m beginning to suspect he is an actor a little bit too subtle for a summer blockbuster. There’re modulations in voice, in eyes that I am not sure would be acknowledged by escapist audiences. In films as this, I believe, he could take a cue from Johnny Depp, and act a bit less and perform a bit more. Again I realize, I am asking someone to dumb himself down and forego his art. I’m doubly ashamed. There’s Mr. Worthington, who is the heart and soul of the film with Mr. Yelchin, who plays somebody from the previous films. Okay, since you have access to IMDb, I concede. He plays Kyle Reese, and it is a heartfelt performance. Mr. Worthington though seems like someone destined to stardom. He is someone with a commanding screen presence, and just about the perfect combination between acting and performing. I wish he would grow into the soul of this rebooted franchise, much like the present California Governor was to the earlier three.
        It is bewildering to me now, how this good a film was shredded to pieces. A film that has a very healthy sense of cinema. Yet, I’m a movie-goer, who for the most part, has supreme faith in his tastes. I might sound pompous and maybe even self-righteous, but I guess in order to write and analyze movies one has got to be a bit of both. In some cases, a whole lot of both. I’m not sure of the present status of the present culture of film criticism. Then again never mind, that is just me. But then again, when I see a film that in the middle of a chase sequence involving a truck and a bike, has the good wit to wink at us audience and pay a nod to the great Terminator 2: The Judgment Day by subtly and brilliantly turning the tables and have the bike chase the truck, and even have the bike jump off a bridge, I know I’m watching a rather intelligent and well-made movie. Only that this one had a lot more potential, with several themes that begged to be highlighted. Terminator: Salvation is the first evidence that the series has the potential to grow into an epic the size of the Lord of the Rings movies. If only we allowed it to. As it says, there’s no fate but what we make.

KNOWING: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn
Director: Alex Proyas
Runtime: 121 min.
Rating: ***
Genre: Sci-fi, Action, Thriller

        Now, there’s a reason why Signs worked. It was a complete synecdoche. In every which way. Manoj Night Shyamalan, inspired by the wisdom in Hitchcock’s The Birds, never, not even for a moment, betrays the original scope of his narrative. It starts as the story of a family, and it ends there. Too often we see filmmakers, even brilliant filmmakers, trying to accomplish this juggling act – between a more personal narrative and one given to events more global or larger-than-life in nature. One might be reminded of Mr. Spielberg and The War of the Worlds and the perfunctory nature of the human drama at its core. A film ought to know its scope, and it ought to stick to it. Mr. Spielberg’s film should have been epic, not centered for its entire length around the fate of a family, but instead expand itself to the scope of an Independence Day. Oh yes, Independence Day is a terrible film, but it sure gets the scope right on the money for the mindless material it delivers. If indeed Mr. Spielberg wanted to explore the human condition, he should have invested more into the nature of his characters. And that is precisely what Mr. Shyamalan did – a moving story around the family, use the conventions of the horror genre to some splendid effect, and pose some simplistic interpretations to profound issues.
        The filmmaker behind Knowing is Mr. Alex Proyas, a master of atmosphere himself, and often inspired by the Expressionist tone of Lang’s Metropolis. He has created Dark City, one of the greatest of all films. The scope and the tone there were perfect for the material at hand. Not so much here. This is an ambitious film, mind you, with no less than cosmic questions in its mind. Like, the nature of God? Like, the existence of God? Like, are we creatures of free will? Like, is it all preordained? I respect that, respect the sincerity of it. But what I do not respect is when a film ends up all about a bunch of ideas with emotions only serving an importance of a secondary nature. Ideas do not make a film, emotions do. A success of a sci-fi film that proposes to debate something as philosophical as Randomness versus Determinism ought to do so not by teaching it to us, but by means of actions, by means of lives, by means of a narrative. I always say, that cinema is relatively ineffective as an intellectual medium, and is the strongest of all art forms when eliciting an emotional response out of us. A great film doesn’t outright pose its dilemmas; it constructs carefully a series of events that affect us emotionally in a way so as to ponder within ourselves the very nature of these dilemmas. But if the movie during its running time ponders us on our behalf, it turns out into something a little but silly. Knowing, though an extremely engaging motion picture, is silly. And it has a baffling little story with an utterly perfunctory father-son relationship at its center. I say baffling because it is often self-contradictory in nature, and often betrays the presence of some unanswered questions, commonly referred to as Plot Holes.
        It is 1959, and a little school in Boston decides to celebrate its annual day by burying a time capsule that shall have interesting little artifacts from all of its students. The time capsule is to be buried for fifty years. For the most part it has only drawings. But there’s a strange little girl by the name of Lucinda (Lara Robinson) who keeps hearing strange whispers, and when her class is asked to draw whatever they imagine the future would be, she starts scribbling random numbers on a piece of paper. The paper goes in the capsule. Fifty years pass. A boy, by the name of Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), gets the paper. He is the son of a MIT astrophysics professor, John Koestler (Mr. Cage), and being a bright kid he brings the strange paper home in the hope it is some kind of math puzzle. John gets a hand to it, and after a series of events that have been designed (and I assure you this movie isn’t voluntarily deterministic but only because it can’t help the obligatory nature of the plot), he comes to the conclusion that these numbers represent the date and the death toll of every major accident in the world. I know, the odds are heavily against it for a single page to layout every major mishap in the last fifty years, but the film seems to give it a shot, with priority given to ones that have occurred with the United States.
        I assure you, the script that was giving directional cues to Mr. Proyas was filled with utter nonsense. Utterly simplistic nonsense. Consider an early scene where the film doesn’t appreciate our intelligence (and believe me, not many of us are intelligent, but we try and often even pretend) and hands out to us on a platter what the top-billed theme of the movie is. John actually has a sequence where he asks them about Randomness and Determinism, so that the film is sure we’re fine with our basics. That, right there, is a red herring this film is not going to present any meaningful or thoughtful view on the subject. What the class speaks, and what John speaks is downright blather. Reader, I shall not divulge anymore of the plot, but whenever it is you see this film, and I believe you should, do watch the final sequence. And wonder, if whosoever put those giant monoliths in our path of evolution in 2001 was relentless enough to present us another monolith only when we were worthy of them, what stopped the guys here who whisper in Lucinda’s ears to maintain the same. And if not, why wait for fifty years. I find this kind of middle ground, which serves no other purpose but the existence of the premise, most disappointing.
        Yet I maintain this is a good film, despite its script. There’s a genuine sense of mystery, a sense of intrigue to the proceedings, and a sense of dread to it all too. Mr. Proyas choreographs some of his scenes with breathtaking finesse and vision. Like the scene of an Air crash, which is all done in a single take, and as a result heightens the horror of the accident and the emotional toll it has on the John character. The scene is supposed to be the basis of some motivation, and Mr. Proyas achieves the right tone and right visual style and the perfect editing to make us feel that motivation. We believe this is a compassionate film that is not just about explosions, but instead wants to rein in the tragedy of such a disaster. It is a commendable intention for a film to have in these times. And for that very reason I believe the film shouldn’t have used another disaster merely to advance the plot. Yet it uses and dilutes the entire experience.
        For all his brilliance though, a Proyas image can always mean one thing and one thing only. It can never allude to hidden ambiguities. It is an image that has its meaning explicitly stated within the frame, and the way the film ends with its biblical allusions is most adolescent and unimaginative. Such things are a natural result of ideas driving a film, and I say again, ideas and symbols dilute cinema. Great movies are about interpretations, about emotions, about leaving it out for us to figure it out. But to level a criticism of this nature itself is a proof that Knowing is right on some levels. Basic levels. On others, it is silly. But entertaining every which way you look at it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Vera Farmiga, Matt Dillon, Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, Noah Wyle
Director: Rod Lurie
Runtime: 108 min.
Rating: ****1/2
Genre: Thriller, Drama

        At the five minute mark, the critics inside me made a mental note that, if put together inside a comprehensible little sentence, would’ve read – This is an amateurish little script that is inspired more by newspaper events than by actual human beings. At the end of the film, I made another mental note, and this one for the general good was burned for the long run – Listen to, but never believe that stupid little smug critic over-eager to make judgments.
        You might wonder, with talent as solid as Ms. Beckinsale, Mr. Alda, Ms. Farmiga, and Mr. Dillon, and a theatrical release (December 19th, ’09) during the awards season, why the film didn’t make more of a splash. The truth is that Yari Film Group (Crash, The Illusionist), the production house behind it, went bankrupt and could only find a limited theatrical run in the city of New York, and from thereon this was a case of “straight to DVD”. It is unfortunate that the economic downturn has affected us in ways more than we are aware of, for I daresay Mr. Lurie’s film is far more provoking than any of the political thrillers that have found some luck with the awards, including the abysmal Frost/Nixon. Never mind. Let bygones be bygones.
        And let us stick to the facts, the primary of which is that Nothing But The Truth is a powerful film. As a thriller it is smart unraveling the narrative with great clarity. But its strength and impact are felt through the human drama at its centre, which is unusually poignant, and often devastatingly poetic. The success of the script lay in its ability to let its unfolding events evoke a more dramatic reaction, and even some of its more surprising moments, including the identity of the original source, register more of an emotional note. I believe the credit for that ought to rest fairly and squarely on the actors, who provide some of the most incredible performances of the year gone, and it is a shame most of them went unnoticed.
        Mr. Lurie bases the premise of his film on the Valerie Plame leak-out. I say bases because I intend to credit him with the way his script only uses the general outlines of that intelligence-fiasco, involving top government officials, some top names from the New York Times, and arguably the most infamous war this side of World War II. Making his film deal with that historical event head-on would have been too much of an ambition, would have raised lot many questions, and would have unduly convoluted the whole purpose Mr. Lurie attaches to its human drama. It is wise, not at all a case of aim small and miss small, but rather a case of sidestepping unnecessary terrain to look at the bigger picture, and raise questions regarding the true nature of the loss at hand.
        The President of the United States barely survives an assassination attempt, and resulting injuries to his shoulder. Three weeks later Venezuela is served with heavy air-bombardment. Rachel Armstrong (Ms. Beckinsale), a weekly editorial columnist at the Capital Sun-Times, gets hold of a piece of red-hot information, which if let out would expose the government’s conniving handling of the whole affair. Drawing a parallel to the Bush administration’s apparent lies that led to the war (Nigeria-Iraq uranium deal) and the resulting Joseph Wilson opinion editorials disclaiming the administration’s reasons, Rachel learns that one of her neighbors, Erica Van Doren (Ms. Farmiga) is a CIA spook and that she was in Venezuela to explore the country’s involvement in the assassination attempt and in her report she rubbished the theory. The government still launches the attack, and her husband writes the article. Rachel, finding great support from her editors, prints this startling revelation, and everything changes. Changes neither Rachel nor Erica could ever imagine.
        It is fascinating how Mr. Lurie balances the act between Rachel and Erica, two soccer moms whose kids go to the same school. Rachel, she is a wonderful specimen of writing, created with great observation and compassion. She isn’t a paragon of idealism, not a social or a political activist (read Arundhati Roy), but only a journalist who wants to make a career for herself. She believes in the power of the First Amendment, and probably never doubted that her rights would amount to zilch if she tried to threaten the government.
        Special Federal Prosecutor Patton Dubois (Mr. Dillon) is given the case and unending power, for the revealing of the identity of a CIA field agent is a matter of National Security, and his job is to find out who was Rachel’s source who’s leaking valuable information in the out. Rachel is ignorant what’s going to hit her. She’s legally innocent, but is bound by the law to reveal her source. She doesn’t, not even before the court, citing journalistic principles, and she is jailed for contempt of court. Even when the Sun-times hires big-shot lawyer Alan Burnside (Mr. Alda) to fight for her.
        It is a terrific performance from Ms. Beckinsale, her face a roadmap of astonishment and fear. Those who seek to compare her character vis-à-vis Judith Miller (the New York Times journalist who was jailed for 84 days) are missing the point. Her Rachel isn’t supposed to be somebody, she is somebody. She feels real, her fears feel real, and yet we’re amazed at her resolve to keep her mouth shut. Had she played it with a degree of idealism, we would’ve found it a little bit difficult to believe her. And she avoids that pitfall, accomplishing something truly difficult, moving us with her vulnerabilities, sinking deeper and deeper into a quagmire and making us believe in her stance all the way. Mr. Alda’s character has an invigorating speech at the end, something written just about as brilliantly as the Jim Garrison speech from JFK, and a big part of its effectiveness is due to Ms. Beckinsale.
        And then there’s Ms. Farmiga, who plays a woman whose career might have been made out of acting strong in the face of the toughest situations. She does, but how much can she endure. She is a mom too. It is remarkable how she puts on an amicable façade when dealing with strangers, and how she transforms into the lioness she is at the drop of a hat. As much as about anything, Nothing But The Truth is about two women caught in something that is quite out of their comprehension.
        The one commendable aspect of Mr. Lurie’s film is its readiness to give everybody a chance, and he is ably supported by his actors. And he supports them in return. He seeks to understand them, and convey to us their apprehensions. For almost the entirety, all his characters are framed in exquisite close-ups, giving us more than a fair chance to observe them. Often he blackens the rest of the screen so that we’re not distracted by anything else. Mr. Alda is remarkable as he so usually is, and Mr. Dillon reins in a nonchalance of a most empathizing kind. Yet, Mr. Lurie betrays himself, betrays his film, and betrays us in those final moments, when he quite needlessly paints the Dillon character as a villain. It is a betrayal to Mr. Dillon’s magnificently layered character and a well thought out performance. Was it needed? We completely understood that he was doing a job. We completely understood that the argument between principles of journalism and the National Security isn’t something that is a fight between principles, isn’t an ideological battle, but one that is given to matters of simple practical sense. Without the principles of journalism there would be no Deep Throat and there would be no Watergate. Yet National security is of utmost importance too. This is an ambiguous little scenario, and there’s probably no solution to it. Yet Mr. Lurie paints the arm of the establishment in black, which I find, for some reason, infuriating. Maybe because this is a good film, and I expect more from a good film. Nothing But The Truth moved me, and it makes me sad such a wonderful film doesn’t get the recognition it so thoroughly deserves. Maybe time shall bestow upon it some good fortune.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE: MOVIE REVIEW



Cast: Sasha Grey, Chris Santos
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Runtime: 78 min.
Rating: ****
Genre: Drama, Experimental

        The title of the film implies what it implies, just as a flight simulator will give you the experience of a flight simulator. When it comes to movies, most guys I know wouldn’t really want to discuss about You’ve got mail with their girlfriends. That they do is a different matter altogether. What they secretly desire is to discuss There Will Be Blood. I hope you realize what I am getting at. They desire to discuss sports, they desire to discuss headlines of newspapers, they desire to discuss political events that are unfolding in here and outside. Her name is Chelsea, who provides for this elitist little service. Often this service doesn’t even include sex at the end of the night. What is rather expected is someone who can indulge in a bit of interesting, intelligent and maybe even an intellectual conversation. Conversation, you see, is a dying art. What is expected is someone who can listen and gradually bring out the real inner self of the client. The client, whose married life probably seems like a compromise. What they call the mid-life crisis. What they need is a pretty woman providing a flattering company.
        Chelsea, who’s played by top flight porn actress Sasha Grey, is probably good at this. The film employs her voiceover at several instances where she describes her interaction with her clientele. I was reminded of that great Mike Figgis film Leaving Las Vegas. Now, one might wonder why Mr. Soderbergh sought someone who’s only 21 and whose filmography (here at IMDb) is self-descriptive of its extreme nature over a more established talent. Say someone with the acting chops of Ms. Elisabeth Shue. That would be because someone like Ms. Shue would come across as too personal. Chelsea, on the other hand, is a professional. She knows that. Her clients know that too. We all, in our various lines of jobs, do realize that at the end of the day it is all business. We share a laugh with our grocery guy, gripe over the abysmal Indian batting display against harmless spin, but at the end of it we got to pay for the shaving cream. Chelsea, through the detached exterior of Ms. Grey, embodies that professionalism.
        That doesn’t cut the complete picture though, and if anything neither is the title complete. There’s another experience, somewhat contrasting, and one that doesn’t come under the scanner of billability. It is provided by Chris (Mr. Santos), but involuntarily. Chris is Chelsea’s boyfriend, and they have been in a committed relationship for the past one and a one-half year. He works at a high-facility gymnasium as a physical trainer catering to the same class of clientele as Chelsea’s. His extremely good rapport with them has given that professional relationship a more personal edge. They’re so smitten by him that all of them are willing to pay for his company to a weekend trip to Las Vegas.
        That is contrasting, because the experiences sought – from Chelsea and from Chris – actually satisfy two of the most personal of all emotional needs. One, that of a girlfriend, within the vicinity of whom a guy can open up into his vulnerable self, which could be also termed the feminine and weaker self. And second, that of a guy, who sparks up a group, where a bunch of guys can sit together and make merry and open into the different aspect of the self, the masculine side that doesn’t really bother much with the vulnerabilities, some of which are even joked about and evaporated. With Chelsea, her clients do not want a hooker. They require a time that is spent alone. With Chris, the bunch of businessmen are probably making merry with their loneliness, throwing it out on the table in between and spreading it around. And that loneliness is the key to both the services. Interesting is the remark the guys make on the plane to Vegas, where they let out their utter contempt for the very idea of a girl being paid to provide company. Their argument – There’s no way the girl would be into me if I have to pay her to be with me. At some level somebody’s paying for Chris’ company too, I guess.
        Now mind you, this line of thought ought not to be considered cynical, and neither is the general tone of The Girlfriend Experience. What we ought to learn in times as these – of joblessness, of pink slips, of recession – is that any such kind of service does come at a premium. This is a professional world, where that popular movie-adage goes – Everything’s business, nothing’s personal. Rather, the tone is practical and maybe even nonchalant, so much so that it could even lead some to interpret it as detached.
        Is it really that, I wonder, for I myself struggled, albeit all too briefly, with the notion that Mr. Soderbergh’s brilliant formalist self took precedence over the explorative one. And I’m not sure, though my views tend towards the negative. Mr. Soderbergh’s film is an exercise in voyeurism (all cinema is) that actually seems to realize the boundaries of what it could possibly unearth from its protagonist. Is Mr. Soderbergh, or the film, or Chelsea absolutely sure that every emotion that is displayed in the presence of her clients is one hundred percent professional? Is there something personal in there too? What if the predator becomes the prey? Chelsea’s job asks of her to be a provider of warmth, a kind of blanket where her client let it all out. What if one of her client’s real self is so interesting Chelsea finds her professional defenses breached, and her real self taking over?
        Mr. Soderbergh, for almost the entirety of the picture, focuses primarily on Chelsea’s face. Her eyes, and her smile, and her reactions. For most of the time we see her in control. But along comes a client whose wit seems to sweep off her feet, and we see her letting out a genuine laugh. What’s happening there? On another occasion, she sees another one of her regular clients with another escort. She is jealous, let there be no doubt. Is it rivalry of a professional kind, or a personal kind? More importantly, in her line of work, can the two be really distinguished? And does the distinguishing really matter? Especially in times as troubled as these, where every which body is taking a financial hit. Even someone who is providing as invaluable and timeless a service as that of a female companion.
        And The Girlfriend Experience, in its capacity, does try its level best to know Chelsea. And while it is at it, it doesn’t really wear any colored glasses, be it pink or grey. Mr. Soderbergh, the liberal filmmaker he is, doesn’t intend to adulterate Chelsea, nor does he want to gawk all over her. And whatever he is trying to do, he can do only so much considering the outsider he is and considering Chelsea’s iron clad exterior.
        There’s a brilliant sequence that displays the success of Mr. Soderbergh’s attempts, which aren’t merely jabs at experimental filmmaking, but efforts to try and juxtapose Chelsea against a tumbling economy. She is sitting in a bar with her boyfriend, after a bad day at the office, letting it all out. Most cameras would have the two in focus, with the people in background out of it. Mr. Soderbergh brilliantly reverses this, informing us that a bad day (one of her clients cited with another escort) isn’t something that is entirely personal but rather a bad day at the office just as we all face once in a while. Her boyfriend leaves to pick up another round of drinks and in a breathtaking display of subtly radical usage of formalism, the camera brings into focus Chelsea, as she mulls over. Over a drink, we speak out over a bad day. But reflect, we do in private.
        He has always been one of our most fascinating filmmaking talents, and his technical choices are often interesting if not always. I still believe his attempt at black and white with The Good German was pretty lame. Look how he chooses the lighting of the rooms. A golden hum spreads over a rather homely setting. The places aren’t expansive, and sterile, like in American Psycho (a jab at the financial state of a much different era). Instead they feel precious. Through them, he wants to convey the desperation of these bad times. And he isn’t being cynical here, and certainly not detached. He is merely being, well, professional.
        Parting thought. Chelsea is often seen wearing sunglasses. Dear reader, Mickey Rourke would always wear sunglasses for he never wanted to risk what his eyes might reveal. Looking at the film there might be a day when Chelsea wouldn’t need to wear those sunglasses no more.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

THE HUNT FOR GOLLUM: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Adrian Webster, Patrick O’Connor, Christopher Dingli, Gareth Brough, Rita Ramnani
Director: Chris Bouchard
Runtime: 38 min.
Rating: ****1/2
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Action, Short

        Imitation, they say, is the best form of flattery. I wonder how true it might hold for Peter Jackson, that visionary of CGI moviemaking of the grandest order, for no amount of praise and adulation for his magnificent visual sense would spill over into the region of the excess. That great awe-filled kid of the movies, Steven Spielberg, sure has an heir in this man from down under, let there be no doubt to it. Mr. Spielberg once caused three boys from Mississippi – Eric Zala, Jayson Lamb and Chris Strompolos – so inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark that they replicated the film frame by frame, and made a little fanboy wonder called Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. Mr. Jackson, whenever he sits over a bottle of beer as he discusses with Mr. Spielberg the post production details of their Tintin movie, can now proudly claim one of his own, made more expertly and to some fantastic entertainment, and it is called The Hunt for Gollum.
        This is an awesome reproduction, one which doesn’t reduce itself to mere imitation, but one which actually imbibes the very feel of Mr. Jackson’s epic renditions. You can find much about the film here, and you could very well watch it too, for this is one of those little attempts that is by us for us and of us. It has been made for little over £3000, and I suggest you have a look at the making of documentary available on the site for free viewing. This here is an example that a downpour of big budgets doesn’t necessarily confirm the presence of good production values or even as much as serviceable visual sense. It has been shot on HD camera, and I suspect a reproduction on the big screen might betray the source. But not on your computers where you shall be viewing it right through the internet.
        I shall not disclose any of the plot, except for what is revealed by the title. And maybe the timeline, which Tolkien aficionados would guess outright that it lay roughly between the time Bilbo Baggins leaves shire and Gandalf walks into Frodo little hut and asks him to run off to Rivendell. All for the better, for the pleasure here lay not in convoluted plot details, but the atmosphere of a fantastical place surrounding you. Mr. Bouchard and his crew know fully well how a viewer is arrested by the visuals, and their edits are just about the right pace. Not a single shot feels hurried, and often the woods provide for an intensely thrilling place. Aragorn walks through them, as the ranger Strider, and we feel the need to look around, for any trouble might just be round the corner.
        There’s a magnificently conceived sword fight too, not uncluttered in any way. It is not merely metal randomly clanging against metal, and one feels there’s a definite strategy in place. I might go on and on, but the fact of the matter is that The Hunt for Gollum is an extremely competent film, in terms of its performances (Mr. Webster’s eyes have a kind of tired look that say so much about Aragorn), in terms of its technical aspects and in every other way. There’re sweeping shots of mountains punctuated by a rousing score, and you might feel you’re back in the Jackson’s Tolkien universe. You could watch the trailer here, and get a sense of what I’m hinting at.
        The film though doesn’t stand on its own. Any attempt to analyze it ought to invoke Mr. Jackson’s films too. There’re certain aspects, certain moments that do not bring anything to the film, but we do appreciate them simply because we’re looking it through a certain frame of reference. One might label it a satellite-film, like this little achievement here from Miguel Mesas. And in that capacity The Hunt for Gollum so superbly demonstrates what a genius Mr. Jackson is.

Note: The film can be viewed here - http://www.thehuntforgollum.com/. More about the film can be learnt on this site.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

STAR TREK: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban
Director: J.J. Abrams
Runtime: 127 min.
Rating: **
Genre: Action, Sci-fi

        In a way it all depends upon how much you enjoy much of the ridiculously contrived sentimentality that is put on television, in the form of sitcoms and in the form of over-stretched series. If we seek to drill further ahead, it all depends upon how much of your movie-going pleasure is sought from aesthetics of the medium, the artistic usage of its formal elements in the truthful observational and insightful exploration of a plot and a film, and how much of it is derived from plain plot-following. If you enjoy the easy trappings of the latter, then you would very much enjoy Star Trek, which is nothing more than television on big screen. Mr. Abrams is barely a filmmaker, with dare I say, no sense of how to make a movie, or how to frame a scene, or how to pace it. All he seems to delight in his slavish indulgences to recreate what he feels is the magic of television, with characters having memory span of five to ten minutes, tops, after which they seem to metamorphose conveniently and completely into what the plot deems fit enough to register as a dramatic development worth the audience’s applause, and also fit enough to advance itself further.
        Star Trek is a ridiculous movie. Not that it isn’t involving, but then anything with a whole lot of story with a whole lot of events inside of it is. Does it make it good cinema? Nope. Mr. Abrams film is 127 minutes of melodrama shared by a whole battalion of stereotyped characters, uneasily blended with a whole lot of barely comprehensible slam bang explosions. Mr. Abrams doesn’t know how to shoot an action sequence, or even as much as an action moment, and not even a frame of the film is memorable, even though there’re visual influences taken from as noteworthy a sources as Arthur C Clarke’s imaginations in Rendezvous with Rama, and Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey, which instead betray Mr. Abrams’ total incompetence with their usage. These are moments when I mocked loudly at the amateurishness at hand, and I believe I under-reacted. Reader, there are good movies, there’re mediocre movies and there’re bad movies. And then there are those for which life is too short to waste time upon. I say, your life and mine are too short to lend it in service of Mr. Abrams.
        Now, I’m not a Trekkie, and if you seek such a viewpoint I advice you look elsewhere. I believe that space is a rather inappropriate place to have an opera, and no amount of lightsabers and cheesy dialog could cut the deal for me. Operas, you could have them in regular households, and show them on television and stunt the imagination. But space, much like cinema, is a place to fire our imagination, to stimulate the prospect of an awesome spectacle and flights of wondrous thoughts. Not multi colored lasers zipping by and giving you the faux sense of narration. Space, much like cinema, is an altar for the grand. Not for petty little family disputes fashioned in a ridiculously mawkish manner and filmed with a skill set that could at best be described as crude. I laughed, I mocked and I cringed. Star Trek is such kind of a film.
        What’s it about? On an outer level, it might seem about a group of people, presumably from Earth, who experienced rapid and some rather inconsistent strides in science, travel into space far and wide and what they term as warp speed, and discover other worlds. I say inconsistent, because they seem to know how to carry black holes within their pockets, like little hand grenades, but they haven’t yet given upon sword fighting. This is a rather curious time too, because although the worlds are now a federation, they still seem to have a special place for the United States and that is why their space ships have USS prefixing their christened names, which I believe is one of those cute disguises an inclination to television so easily comes up with. Two things – nations still exist, and Christianity still seems to be the dominant religion. Or maybe not, because they seem to have in place some kind of an utopian settlement in place, and it is just that the whole enterprise is cheesy and campy enough not to look beyond it.
        You see, Russians and Japanese all work together for the common goal of exploration. Everybody with their varied dialects and accents, which the film considers as humor, and constantly falls back upon. There’s Anton Yelchin playing Pavel Checkov, and his end of the bargain is to pronounce every statement of his in as excruciating a manner as possible, and our end of the bargain is to somehow find it in us to consider this wit, and laugh. I chose to rather let it pass by, though there’s too much of it. There’re other such stabs at portraying a multi-cultural earth too, wherein a Oriental crew member good at fencing conveniently finds enemies with swords, though the film never uses that weapon later on instead resorting to the standard issue little laser beamers.
        There’re other planets and other races in the mix too, like the Vulcans, whose difference from us Earthlings is that they are logical than emotional. And the film considers it worthwhile that every line of dialog involving them has to somehow harp over the tussle between the emotional and the logical. Needless to say, we earthlings with out emotions are the winners. Heart always wins over mind you see. It is a classic television message the film wraps and lays on our laps.
        Now, these Vulcans and Earthlings together fly something called as the USS Enterprise. And the setting of the cockpit, or the cabin, is a dead giveaway what it is supposed to represent, and why Star Trek is such a cultural phenomenon. What this cabin, circular in shape, has is the chief pilot seated smack in the middle of the room, on a higher platform, in something of a couch with zany buttons, and the rest of the crew sit around him monitoring various tasks on their little computer monitors. What the chief is looking at, and everybody too, is the big screen in front of them. If you watch the film, reader, do pay attention to what it reminds you of. A warm and cozy room with a television set in between and all in the family seated in front of it. Star Trek, the way it might have been envisaged, was for the television. Bringing it on to the big screen might require imaginations that seem way out of the reach of blue collar workers like the team of the director and scriptwriters here.
        Consider what they offer to us in the name of wit. I want to kick some Romulan arse. Watch your Vulcan language. These are the snappy dialogs the film seems to prize its many laughs upon. Consider what they give us for actors. Mr. Pine, who plays the character of Kirk, feels like another Tom Cruise wannabe, and his manners seem like those aped from Top Gun, itself a trivial film. He is the rebel, and Mr. Pine, not a terrible actor but not a particularly good one either, plays it with the straight from the manual. Consider what it offers for a plot, some sci-fi hokum wrapped in time travel, and how it uses convenience and garble to fast forward itself. Consider the action scenes, which are unclear at best. Mr. Abrams has a penchant for hand held camera, as he exhibited in the god awful Mission Impossible III, and I suspect three years haven’t exactly enhanced its skills. Everything here, from the spatial arrangements to the plotting, reminds you of the silliness and camp of television, consciously aiming for which isn’t exactly a noble ambition. I repeat, not a single shot in the film is memorable. They are so mediocre Michael Bay feels like Spielberg. He cuts between an explosion and a mother giving birth to a child, and it is all so hopeless one might sink deep within the recesses of his chair.
        But then, I believe, I do not want to analyze this film any further, and rather, I want to dismiss it from my memory in haste. This is a film, if you plan to watch, that is fairly brisk and shall keep you engaged. What one ought to learn though, and this is a serious lesson I believe, is the serious dearth of incisive film criticism. I do not mind fanboy frivolities, I myself have been known to indulge in some on occasions more than one, but there is a way to channel them, and there is a need to set them aside to objectively analyze the film at hand. Not just how it stands vis-à-vis the source, wherever it is from, but how it stands on its own. I might love Batman, but I understand that Tim Burton wanted to replicate, in his own imaginative way, the look and feel and tone of a comic book. Doesn’t work that way. Just like when we smile when the Coyote falls from a mountain or Tom slams his head to the wall, but when it happens to something real, it doesn’t exactly feel funny.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

CROSSING OVER: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Harrison Ford, Ashley Judd, Cliff Curtis, Ray Liotta, Alice Eve, Summer Bishil
Director: Wayne Kramer
Runtime: 113 min.
Rating: *
Genre: Drama

        A little Yoruban girl is held up at the immigration center for 23 months because her mother is dying of AIDS in a hospice, and her father down in Nigeria is denying paternity. We meet her early on in the film, when Immigration Defense Attorney Denise Frankel (Ms. Judd) comes to pay her a visit, and the little girl, Alike her name (pronounced alee-kay), beams a wide smile and rushes into her arms. They might be sharing only a professional relationship, but young Alike’s is too little to know much about that. She is elated, and so is Denise, whose demeanor feels picked up from the standard operating procedures by one of them social workers. The scene has had a beginning, which is supposed to be cute, and maybe even warm. No music plays in the background. Denise gifts her a coloring book, and hands her a little doll. Meanwhile, from the moment they were done with the hugging and took their respective seating positions, Alike has grown somber. Denise promises Alike a new mother who shall never leave her. Both share a glance. The scene, within a matter of moments, has grown somber too. Alike seems to be searching for something in Denise’s eyes. And, soulful music plays behind. I hate that.
        I hate it when they play soulful music and hope we get on with the job of voluntarily triggering our emotions. This soulful music, its onset is supposed to act like a softener, like one of them fast vicious bouncers Dale Steyn hurls at unsuspecting batsmen. It is a manipulating device you see, one of the oldest tricks in the manual, to push us into a sentimental state of mind. The music is not the problem, but the incessant degree to which it is used certainly is. Often, it is a firm indicator about the quality of a film. Crossing Over has a few tracks of that order playing continuously in the background, as we cut from thread to thread, and it feels like somebody bludgeoning you with a hammer to bring out the tears from your eyes.
        This is, dear reader, the Crash-style of filmmaking, wherein traversing between the various threads of a film is done by striking a punchline and jumping across. Mind you, the Paul Haggis film didn’t actually invent, but it might be one of the more popular titles that is unimaginative enough to merit the status of an example. What happens in such films is, individual scenes have a little life cycle going for them. They start on a note left from the previous cut, and they end on a punchline. This punchline is used by many other outlets of media too, and often for trivial ends. This punchline, in the TV soap opera world, is referred to as a cliffhanger on which an episode ends. And I believe my responsibility is to condemn this kind of filmmaking. Vehemently.
        I don’t claim that a proper end to a scene is wrong. But vying to have every sequence ending on an emotionally somber tone, coupled with soulful music, and garnished with real clichéd human interaction surely is. You see, emotions in any form need to be earned by the film. There ought to be truth in his ways. There is no shorthand to it. An onset of soulful music in a way betrays the film’s inability to connect to the audience, and thus desperately seeking to push us into that state of mind. Of course, I often am generous to a film’s shortcomings of the above-mentioned nature, but not for films like Crash and Crossing Over. This here is an immoral film, which isn’t manipulative but exploitative in nature. A heavy-handed pretentious issue-based film. These are the kind of films that give liberals such a bad name. I daresay, 90% of the liberal-minded opinions you come across everyday, especially from those having something to do with art, is a whole lot of horse-dung, and their hollow and politically correct nature the reason behind the dismal and impure nature of most art.
        And Crossing Over ought to be dismissed. You might have gained a general idea of its structure. As in, it is a hyperlink film with multiple story threads, and this time around all them have been put in service of the Immigration issue. There are a whole lot of them, so many some of them might slip your mind. They slip even the film’s memory, and the general strategy is to serve us some kind of muddle. There’s little nuance in the way the film moves from one arc to the other. It is just random, often round-robin, often some other rule. I couldn’t figure the logic out.
        Reader, I wouldn’t want to put you through the grind of describing all the threads and what they’re concerned with, but I shall describe for you the immoral ones. Like the one involving an Immigrations Supervisory officer Cole Frankel (Mr. Liotta) and a small time actress from down under with ambitions of striking it big in la-la land. You know, like being the next Nicole Kidman, or the next Naomi Watts. Her name is Claire Shepard (Ms. Eve), and she is intended by the film to be somewhat of a blonde stunner. Claire and
Cole bump into each other, accidentally, outside of the immigrations office. As in, their cars kissing each other. Claire doesn’t have an insurance policy, and she desperately wants an extension on her visitor’s visa. The prospect of a lucrative role on a popular TV show depends on it. Cole realizes that, takes her to a café and puts forward a proposal – a green card for a cool two months in the bed with her.
        Now, this kind of plot development isn’t sleazy in itself. What is rather is how the film decides to portray these moments of utter vulnerability. One might be reminded of the desperation at the heart of Requiem for a Dream, which struck just about the right note. Reader, understand, a sex scene is never sleazy, and often it is important. What is rather is how the film goes about exhibiting the female body, and to what ends. Crossing Over doesn’t have any graphic sequences, but what it has is needless exposure of Ms. Eve’s anatomy. There’s nothing in these sequences that convey an intention to understand this strange situation. I say strange, because Cole, as we learn isn’t doing it just for the physical indulgence but is actually in love with her. Mind you, Claire was ready to marry any American businessman for the citizenship, yet she takes long showers at the end of her sex-sessions. It is contemptible that the film hands her character such an utterly trivial handling, and so is another character. I might be way on the conservative front here, but the display of a nude body without enough reason earns negative marks in my book. It puts me off. Completely. And I love and admire Last Tango in Paris.
        Another thread, which highlights the convenient politically correct stance. There’s young Taslima Jahangir (Summer Bishil), a high schooler, who has lived much of her life in the United States, but was born in Bangladesh. So were her parents, but not her brother and sister who were born here. Now Taslima, who walks around in a turban and visits Jihadi websites to gain greater understanding of various streams of her faith, writes a fiery essay empathizing with the 9/11 terrorists. She asks of her fellow students to consider the Jihadists as real people. Her students fire back with racial taunts. She leaves the classroom, crying. The principal sends the essay to the FBI. The FBI detains her on the grounds she is a threat to the nation, and are hell bent to deport her back to her native country. Denise Frankel pays the FBI officer a visit saying the preposterous nature of her allegations, and asks her to sympathize for such deportation shall break the family. Now here, the film colors the FBI as the evil system and liberal open minded Denise as the humanitarian. In defense of the FBI I only invoke a name – Timothy McVeigh – and all that he implies. Even Taslima is supposed to be only adhering to her right to freedom of speech, though she isn’t a citizen of the country.
        The film here is resorting to judging, but without any firm credibility. Are the FBI wrong in their approach? Not even in a million years. It is the film that is wrong, completely, because it has its answers and viewpoints all ready before even the opening credits show up. The film seems to have a number of overhead shots at the beginning of many of its scenes, and it feels it is looking at its characters from up above, like God and maybe judging very much like him, conveniently handing out report cards. Or maybe, it wanted to portray L.A. as an ocean filled with the problems of these people. Either way, these shots do not have any degree of mastery to them. They just feel obligatory.
        Now citing these contradictions in its plot as the film’s negatives might give an impression that it does work on a fundamental level, i.e. narrative, acting and what not. Not in the least. Some of the acting is terribly phony, especially from Ms. Judd. There’re a whole lot of the standard sore points. Dialogs are informatory in nature, whose primary purpose is to provide for backstories. Stories are terribly predictable. They feel laborious and fake too. The coincidental meetings which cause the intersection of the individual threads is, for the most part, lame. Some of the actions in the film, one of which is the ending amidst the US national anthem being played, are downright ridiculous, and cause it to score on sub-zero levels on the subtlety index. You see, this is a terrible film every which way. And its primary sin is its immoral exploitative nature. If you want proof, just have a look at how it prefers some of its threads over the other ones. Threads which promise a greater understanding of character, but are left in the cold only to be obligatorily touched and then left again.
        Of course, there’s Mr. Ford, and he lends the film whatever worth there is to it. Films like Crossing Over are the true bane of cinema. We complain over Michael Bay, over Rob Cohen, over McG. They at least aren’t pretentious. I told you once that Crash shall be looked down upon. Looked at what every major critic, from Manohla Dargis to Kenneth Turan, has to say about Crossing Over and the unfavorable invoking of the Oscar winner. I tell you, these pretentious films have a terribly low shelf life.
        And that soulful music trick, I shall one day carry a revolt against it.