Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

In a time where cinema is dominated with heavy action scenes, huge blasts, car chases, big conspiracies, etc there are films like Safety Not Guaranteed which still remind us what is it that entertains us. At the end a movie is nothing without a good story, without a simple idea that catches your mind.

Safety Not Guaranteed has been directed by Colin Trevorrow and is written by Derek Connolly. Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake M. Johnson, Karan Soni, are the main characters of the story. Its a sci-fi comedy-drama which is a complete fun and happy adventure.

The story centers around Darius (Aubrey Plaza), a college graduate who is working as an intern at a magazine. A writer, Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) who works at the magazine has an idea to investigate and write a article about the man who has posted a strange advertisement in a newspaper classified which reads as : 

"Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed."

Jeff chooses Darius and Arnau (Karan Soni), who is a geeky Biology student working as an intern in the magazine just to diversify his resume. And the three set out to Ocean View, Washington to find this person who has posted the advertisement. After working for a while they find out that it has been posted by Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass) who works at a grocery store. Jeff tries to make a contact but Kenneth who appears paranoid sents him away after getting bad vibes about him. Its left for Darius to go and make a contact and pose as a partner for him in his travel. 

Jeff who is also on this trip for his own personal agenda of meeting back his high school love sets out to meet her. Meanwhile Darius makes a good impression on Kenneth and he agrees upon taking her. But this is not concrete or final. She needs to undergo some training and learning and earn his trust. She does it well. Slowly she starts developing a bond with him.

When Kenneth asks her motive to go back she replies back with that she lost her mother due to her mistake and wants to go back and her prevent her death. When she asks Kenneth about his motives he replies back with the death of his love, Belinda.

But Kenneth's intentions don't seem such straight. Its altogether a different story of Belinda, from what he has told. Also some government agents are following him on suspicion. The movies progresses ahead in a brilliant way. 

Is Kenneth claim of his invention true? What is in store for Darius? Why are the government agents following Kenneth? What happens with Jeff and his ex girlfriend? How does Arnau enjoy his being? All these questions have been answered beautifully. And the end - is a class act. A smile on face along with a feeling of content of watching a good film is guaranteed.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa

I am not a big fan of love stories but if asked about the ones that I like, then Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa will surely be in top on my list. The title means 'Will you cross the skies and come?' 

It was written and directed by Gautham Menon. Silambarasan T Rajender and Trisha Krishnan starred in it. The music was composed by A R Rehman. The film's score can be said to be as one of the best scores in Rehman's career.

The movie tells the story of a guy, Karthik (Silambarasan) who wants to be a film maker. Due to some renovation work in his house, his family rents a place for sometime in Jessie's (Trisha Krishnan) house. 

As for most of Indian films, Karthik falls for Jessie at the moment he sees her. The story goes ahead in a way which is very usual and predictable for Indian audience but the style of the director in showing the story is magical. It at once makes us glued to it. The parts of Karthik following Jessie or disclosing his feelings to her or even traveling across the state to see her are very shown very beautifully and with the right emotion. The credit for this goes completely to Silambarasan who has done a superb job in portraying Karthik.

Its not hard to guess the main obstacle in Indian love stories - the girl's father. Also Karthik and Jessie belong to different religions but Karthik does everything he can or any human could ever do to get his love. Somehow fate doesn't shine on him and when it does, its very short lived.

With this he gets an idea to bring out his story on screen. He starts to work on a script and just alters the ending as if he has got his love. Also the reappearance of Jessie in his life again, her story and the different turn of the events amazes the viewer.

The basic story although not new has its moments. There are many scenes which make you laugh or cry, happy or sad. Gautham Menon knows exactly how to show a simple story perfectly, which has been seen previously with his works - Vaaranam Aayiram, Minnale, Kaakha Kaakha,Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu.

The movie was shot and released simultaneously along with its Telgu version Ye Maaya Chesave, which starred Naga Chaitanya and Samantha Ruth Prabhu in the roles of Karthik and Jessie. It was quite successful too. The movie was re made in Hindi as Ekk Deewana Tha, starring Prateik Babbar and Amy Jackson by Gautham Menon but somehow the Hindi version failed to strike the chords with the audience.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

The Beat That My Heart Skipped, original French title De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté, is a French crime-drama film released in 2005. It was directed by Jacques Audiard, a man who knows well how to bring out the internal conflicts within a person on screen. It was a remake of Fingers (1978) but it differed in some ways from the original.

The movie follows the story of Thomas Seyr, played by Romain Duris. Thomas is a real estate broker on the surface but in reality he is a criminal who adopts crooked ways and uses force to make illegal deals in his business. Fabrice (
Jonathan Zaccaï) and Sami (Gilles Cohen) are his business partners. Even his father (Niels Arestrup) is involved in a similar line of works and occasionally asks Thomas for his help. Although Thomas cares and tries to protect his father, his father does not exactly has the same approach towards Thomas.

Thomas on the other hand is also a very talented musician. He plays piano very well just like his mother who was a
concert pianist. Once he meets his mother's manager who remembers Thomas playing well in earlier years and asks him to audition. Thomas accepts immediately and finds a teacher in Miao Lin, who has just arrived in the country and speaks nothing except Chinese and some broken English.

The story goes ahead in a linear narrative with the day-to day events in the life of Thomas. His criminal activities, piano lessons, preparing for audition, affair with the wife of his business partner, caring about his father who has fallen in danger because of some trouble with the Russian Mafia. And towards the end we see a gradual change in Thomas. Thomas is torn between his two lives - crime and music. The ending is good too. Its very real and amazing.

Overall the movie is a good watch. Musically the film hits its goal perfectly in bringing out the emotions with the right kind of music played by the character in the right moods.

The movie was received well. It won a lot of awards and praise, it received Silver Bear at Berlin Film Festival, Best Film in not English language at BAFTA Awards, Best Film at The French Syndicate of Cinema Critics and a lot of César Awards.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Frankenstein : Two Centuries Of Terror

Mary Shelly
Published in 1818, Frankenstein can be considered to be a milestone in the history of English Literature. Written by Mary Shelly, who started writing it when she was just 18 and published at the age of 21, makes it a matter of huge astonishment.

An early step in science fiction, the book made its mark, making people realize the terrors in the way of pursuing the unknown.

The story starts with Thomas Walton, a sailer who has taken a dangerous voyage to the North Pole. Walton comes across two beings, a huge giant like creature who passes from a distance and later a weak man. Walton saves the man, Victor Frankenstein. The two of them bond really well since they both share a passion of pursuing the unknown. But Frankenstein is very skeptical about this passion, he tells his tale to Walton in order to make him aware of the dangers of wandering out in the unknown.

Victor Frankenstein, born in Geneva, has been extraordinarily genius and very curious from his birth. He is fascinated by the works of ancient philosophers and alchemists. When he goes to the university, some people mock him for having wasted time in that 'useless' knowledge and urge him to sing praises of modern sciences. Still Victor holds his stand and starts to work on his dream project of creating 'life'. Victor works for days and nights, he works like a madman. Leaving no stone unturned, not caring about his health, forgetting everything else except his goal, Victor Frankenstein finally succeeds. He creates a  creature, a living organism. But his happiness is short lived. It turns out to be a disaster. Victor falls ill and takes months to recuperate. The creature runs out from Victor's room at its birth.

After many months Victor is finally cured and he returns home when a bad news grips him - his kid brother has been murdered brutally. On returning he sees his 'creation' appearing before him to show him - that its responsible.

The confrontation of the creature or Frankenstein's monster with Frankenstein is the most interesting part, where the monster tells him how he survived after running away on his night of birth/creation. How did he learn to speak & read and many other things. The monster asks Frankenstein to create a female companion for him because he is alone in the world and no one wants to come near him. He assures Victor Frankenstein that he won't cause any more trouble if he would be given a companion. Victor earlier agrees but later starts having second thoughts on again creating another monster. Thus Frankenstein's monster vows a revenge and a bloody feud begins.

There have many movie adaptations of this great novel. Although not many of them are completely based on the novel, they drew many inspirations and took many cinematic liberties. Here I would like to mention about two such movies.

Frankenstein (1931) is a movie, which is much different then the novel. But it has the same core idea. In this movie even the first names of the lead character in the novel (Victor) has been interchanged with his friend (Henry).
It shapes the story into a simple linear narrative eliminating many inter-stories and characters from the novel.
The role of Frankenstein's monster was played by Boris Karloff, who went on to reprise this role for two sequels later - Bride OF Frankenstein (1935) and Son Of Frankenstein (1939).
The movie took many cinematic liberties to adapt the story into the screen in a time when attempting to make such a movie was very difficult. But still it was fruitful and the audiences then and even now experience the same wonder watching it.

Another movie, Frankenstein (also known as Mary Shelly's Frankenstein) released in 1994 is worth a watch. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also played the lead character - Victor Frankenstein. The role of Frankenstein's monster was played by Robert De Niro.
Proper justice was done to the sets and settings, wardrobe, etc to make the flow of the story smooth and understandable.
The film stuck to the novel in many ways but it took some liberties to make the story more interesting and appealing. It followed the structure of the novel and had almost all the characters and settings except for a few eliminations.
Although the critical reviews were mixed, Robert De Niro's portrayal of Frankenstein's monster was appreciated.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Bronx Tale

A Bronx Tale, released in 1993, marks the directorial debut of the great actor Robert De Niro. It was written by Chazz Palminteri,  based on his one-man-show of the same name. Palminteri had written this one man show which was inspired from his own experiences in childhood. The show was quite succesful and had attracted many studios and producers but Palminteri had a condition before selling out the rights - that he would play the role of Sonny LoSpecchio.

Its the story of a young Italian-American boy, Calogero 'C' Anello who has two important but very much opposite sided father figures in his life. Out of which one is his father, Lorenzo Anello played by Robert De Niro and other, Sonny LoSpecchio played by Chazz Palminteri. The story is set in 1960s in the The Bronx, New York. Lorenzo, the father of Calogero is a simple and honest man who works hard for a living and wants to give his son a better life. On the other hand, Sonny LoSpecchio is the local mafia boss.

Calogero with his father
The story starts with a murder Calogero witnesses, when he is nine years old. It is Sonny who has done it in the broad day light. When the police question Calogero, he keeps quiet. Sonny starts to like the kid with every passing day and hangs out with him. Sonny even offers Lorenzo a better job offering more money which Lorenzo declines. Lorenzo, an honest and law abiding man, wants a peaceful and lawful life and tries to keep his son away from criminals.

Years pass on, Calogerro now a young seventeen year old is still under the influence of Sonny by meeting him secretly without the knowledge of his father. Sonny acts like a father figure to Calogero and brings him up well. Soon, Calogero falls for an African-American girl. They go out on a date, inspite of knowing the tensions between Italians and the Blacks in their area. For the date, Calogero asks for advice from both his father as well as Sonny. Sonny even lets Calogero take his car.  
Grown up Calogero with Sonny

Ahead are some events and turns to the story which make it worth a watch. The end is well executed. A perfect father-son story and a movie which shows the importance of father figures in life.

Robert De Niro showed some impressive skills inspite of this film being his first directorial venture.  The film holds 96% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, calling it "a very funny movie sometimes, and very touching at other times. It is filled with life and colorful characters and great lines of dialogue, and De Niro, in his debut as a director, finds the right notes as he moves from laughter to anger to tears. What's important about the film is that it's about values."