If you can't see graphics on the right sidebar, do the big switch, Firefox Flicks!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Chicken Little (2005)

When the world has gone too big, sometimes it helps to be 'little'.

Have you ever waken up to a day when nothing you ever did was right? Like totally screwing the tiny little ordinary things of everyday life? Now consider Chicken Little's woes. He has a father who was his school, nay, his town's athletic sensation during his school days. Chicken Little was not only born "teeny-weeny" but he also lacks the physical prowess his dad has and growing up in a small and closely-knit community of Oakey Oaks, doesn't help at all. He has become the butt of jokes of his classmates and friends ever since his fiasco with "a piece of sky has fallen" incident. And since then, he has not done any good deed to make his father proud of him.

To make the matters worse, Chicken Little has teamed up with a bunch of losers for friends. But whatever Chicken Little lacks in stature, he more than compensates for magnanimity of heart and dauntless courage. Eventhough his own father has given up on him, Chicken Little dreams big and hopes high, often against all odds and against all expectations.

A year after the humiliating experience of the waking the whole town to a "false" emergency case, Chicken Little resolves to make one day of his life just right and win back the town's respect and restore his father's belief in him. He was given that chance one day only to lose it again the next. But there is really no stopping this littlest but incurably optimist little fellow when he and his friends try to rescue their town, and the whole planet from planetary takeover of ferocious aliens.

A very touching scene in the film is the one involving a confrontation between Chicken Little and his father. It's amazing how a cartoon can make one cry and resonate with the reality that we need our loved ones to believe in us in order for us to do extraordinary things. This film restores our trust to that deep, intimate and divine love we feel towards people who make us BIG, especially when we feel very small.

Chicken Little: They say that having no closure can lead to molting, and? and I'm already small enough as it is and I don't think I can handle being bald!

Directed by Mark Dindal.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

I broke two personal moviefanatic creeds I made a long time ago: 1) not to watch any horror movies again after I spent four sleepless nights over Sixth Sense and The Exorcist 2) and not to review horror films in this blog. My friends convinced me to watch this movie because it was not at all "scary." I have a terribly active imagination, especially at night, after watching a horror flick. I "see" things I don't see before. I guess late night horror radio program before I went to bed when I was six must have really paid off. OK, Cut the dramatics!

Scott Derrickson's The Exorcism of Emily Rose, is a controversial film. A Catholic website posted a prayer by one parishioner saying that the movie "is anti-Catholic and should not be watched by church-going people." Stories about the failed Exorcism circulated around the internet and some made it into the papers claiming facts about the incident. Whatever is the truth about Emily Rose, sure boosted the film's theatrical sales.

The plot is simple enough to follow: a devout Catholic college girl was attacked by what she called "evil spirit" when she was alone in her dormitory one night. Since then the devil or devils as we later learned has not left her in peace. Emily (Jennifer Carpenter) was described by people who knew her as sweet, happy and intelligent girl. She attended advance cathechism and was into ancient languages to help her understand the Bible better. She was the last person, everyone expected to have demonic possessions.

When the doctor's prescription proved inutile to remedy Emily's condition, her parish priest, Fr.Richard Moore (Tom Wilkinson) prescibed spiritual healing. Emily and her family consented to the ritual of exorcism but Emily died in the process. A charge of homicide out of negligence was pressed against Fr. Richard and a brilliant God-fearing Methodist lawyer (Campbell Scott) was called in to prosecute him. On the other side, an equally gifted but agnostic female lawyer was hired by the archdiocese to settle the case in the Catholic church's favor.

Atty. Erin Bruner (Laura Linney) was only interested in winning the case so she could climb a step higher up the corporate ladder. She had none to lose except, when extraordinary circumstances happen to her and her star witness, lose her unbelief. The trial becomes a test of faith versus the cold facts of science. Bruner saw a courtroom battle that could be won by razor-sharp logic and sweet-tongue persuasion, Fr. Richard saw a war between the forces of evil with the forces of good.

The scariest part of the movie is not in the film itself. It is in leaving the theater, when one is in one's own room and alone in one's own thoughts. And whether one believes in God or not, makes an awful lot of difference.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Rear Window (1954)

Alfred Hitchcock's critically acclaimed and commercially successful thriller Rear Window defies singular categorization. It is at once a Film Noir, Black Comedy, Suspense and Drama. Starring the hunk of the fifties (who was I think in his fifties at that time, which makes him over a hundred by now!!!) James Stewart and the ever-alluring Grace Kelly. Stewart also starred in Vertigo and The Man who Shot Liberty Valance while Kelly lent her stellar presence in To Catch a Thief and Dial M for Murder.

This film makes an interesting specimen for Film students and those who have had indigestion of Hollywood special effects-driven films recently (me included!). For one, it is an allegory of the experience of cinema and the voyeuristic attraction of movies to cinephiles (you and me). The plot is deceptively simple: a wheelchair bound photojournalist, J. L. Jeffries, could not get out of his apartment and was reduced to watching his neighboors from his flat's rear window. He thought he witnessed a murder so he watched more closely.

Meanwhile his insurance firm nurse, Stella, told him to get a life and marry Lisa who was a perfect woman. But that was Jeffries problem, he found Lisa too perfect for his disorderly and unpredictable life. He did not want to complicate things. Until the suspicion of the murder brought them closer to one another in their desire to uncover the truth about the mysterious disappearance of Mrs. Thorwalds and the erratic behavior of Lars Thorwalds.

The film is a rare treat for a fifties film and the narrative is densely packed with suspense and intrigue. Hitchcock will not be called the Master of Suspense for nothing. But this films brings in more than entertainment value, it puts the classic question that artists and nationalists have struggled and debated to answer: is art for art's sake or is it a social institution as well? How do we differentiate commercial from art films? Who decides which is which?

For the meantime, while watching the movie, we are asked, was there really a murder? What is the role of the director, the actor, the cameramen and the audience in determining the action happening in the film? Can be we passive observers or active participants in the whole cinema experience? This film is available on DVD!

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Island (2005)

If you were rich and famous wouldn't you want to live forever?

This was the central question that the movie directed by Michael Bay tried to answer.

The year was 2022 and Americans had perfected the technology of cloning. A multi-billion dollar corporation, Merrick Incorporated, was raking in a lot of profit after it had built an underground facility to clone humans and harvest their internal organs. The filthy rich and powerful people had availed of Merrick's promise of eternal life and the CEO, Merrick (Sean Bean) and his board of directors, were willing to deliver exactly that promise to them.

Under the Sector Four section, the clones were ignorant of the scheme. They were made to believe that a viral contamination wiped out the entire human population. Down below, they were safe from infection. They lived like zombies and automatons who ate, drank, played, worked, went to school but forbidden to get too close to one another. Under this set up everything seemed peaceful and orderly, except for people like Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor), who was bothered by frequent nightmares and irregularities in the facility.

People at the facility lived normal yet surreal lives. Theirs was a life of boring routine. So to keep their spirits up, a lottery was devised to "choose" "special" people to live and populate The Island, Earth's last remaining frontier. Lincoln's friend Jordan (Scarlett Johannson), was chosen to be onThe Island. However, Lincoln discovered the ruse and secret of Merrick and how people were disposed off after their organs were harvested. He convinced Jordan to escape from imminent death. Together the two, with the help of a mechanic, McCord (Steve Buscemi), planned to look for their sponsors and spill Merrick's dark secrets to the public.

Merrick on the other hand wanted Jordan to be back in the lab because her sponsor, the one who commissioned cloning her, needed Jordan's internal organs within 48 hours or she'll be forever in coma. Merrick hired the service of agent Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) to track Lincoln and Jordan down and to prevent disaster from happening.

What the two fugitives found at the real world was more shocking that what they had expected to find in the facility.

Verdict: Watch it and talk about it!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Flightplan (2005)

Fasten your seatbelts. Put your trays in upright position. Turbulence ahead.

Jodie Foster reprises her role as woman/mother-in-distress in this Robert Schwenke film, Flightplan. With the same adrenaline-pumping, edge-of-your seat action thriller that she gave us in Panic Room, Jodie never fails to excite but also makes us empathize with the character she is playing. And in this movie, with taut story line and believable plot, Jodie brings us to a 37,000 ft high psycho-emotional thrill.

Kyle had just been through a traumatic episode. Her husband died of a freak accident, falling off a building in Germany. Kyle decided to bring their daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) to New York so they can both recover from the tragedy and bury her husband. On board the 747 aircraft that Kyle designed something freaky happened: Julia went missing and nobody wanted to admit that she was on board.

The frantic search began. Passengers' manifesto was checked. Boarding passes examined. Every cabin and crook and cranny of the jumbo jet was inspected and every Tom, Dick and Harry questioned as to the possible whereabouts of Julia but no one knew where she was. Everybody, including the plane head pilot, Capt. Rich (Sean Bean) believed that Kyle was insane and was becoming dangerous to the 450 passengers on board so he ordered air marshall Carson (Peter Sarsgaard) to keep an eye on her.

Towards the end, Kyle was becoming convinced that she was hallucinating and that her daughter died a few days ago with her dad. However, a tiny but vital piece of the puzzle told Kyle that her daughter was still alive and she was going to find her at all cost. Kyle then understood that something very irregular and malicious was being played on her and she would not be taken in for a bumpy, turbulent ride.

Director and cast deserve full credit for this wonderful film. It's truly amazing how a very simple plot can give a fantastic story line. Jodie once again has proven how effective an actress she is.

Two thumbs up!!!