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Archive for February, 2008

Apocalypse now – Tracking down evil

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Francis Ford Coppola presents us this dark but glowing crystal ball made from the magic script written by himself along with John Milius and Michael Herr which is produced once again by him. The movie travels through the dense forests of Vietnam [shot in Philippines] and the Vietnam War is the backdrop of the movie. But this one is more of a horror movie than a war movie. The plot structure of the movie influenced largely by the novella, “Heart of Darkness” written by Joseph Conrad. The movie takes the audience by a number of surprises. First if one thinks the story is all about A, its really about Z. Secondly if he assumes it to be a triumph of an Epic hero, it turns out to be a tale of blood and butchery. Above all if one takes this for a weird and wicked movie, he is wrong because this movie very subtly parodies the restlessness and the concept of morality in our society. So whither away all your prejudices before you enter the heart of Darkness.

Captain Benjamin L. Willard{Martin Sheen} who dormantly stays in Saigon with a drowsy numbness is dusted off by the intelligence officers to be sent into the Cambodian jungle to assassinate Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who entered the forest as an authoritative officer but stayed there as a ruthless demon after losing his sanity and abandoning his morality in the process. Willard starts his mission with a patrol boat crew which comprises Chief Phillips{Albert Hall} a navy commander, Lance Johnson{Sam Bottoms} an American Surfer, Chef Hicks{Frederic Forrest} and Mr.Clean{Laurence Fishburne} a 17 year old boy. Captain Willard starts his sail in clear water, encounters perplexing mist and a lot of stuff out of the blue. Is he a sound man at all? Will he withstand the pressure of this ‘bloody’ mission? Will he assassinate his target? Will ‘Will’s” will succeed? To know watch ‘Will’ closely through the dark in “Apocalypse Now”

First of all the movie should be acclaimed for the way the scenes are mounted. Every scene contains the seed of its succeeding one, every incident and narration foreshadows the soul of the movie and at the end of the day, technically the plot structure is almost flawless. Also Coppola takes a free hand in making a serious spoof of the media and entertainment world of that age. He repeatedly attacks the manner in which the butter paper covered cameras reproduced the war as a result of which for some people war and violence became the fashion of that age. The characterisation, particularly of that of Captain Willard, is brought out 3 dimensionally. At the start we get to see a dimension of his mind and attitude and later on the other. While our mind willy-nilly confounds with his two dimensions, the third one is paraded to us solving the jigsaw puzzle. Hats off to the script writers and the Director. The movie alongside the journey through a river takes us into the river like consciousness of the human psyche. Every character is immaculately presented close to the reality. Among the actors Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando rock this whole ship, while every other actor such as Albert Hall, Frederick Forrest, Laurence Fishburne and Dennis who come as a photojournalist do their part. So this movie is an highly artistic sculpture made with blood and flesh enlivened up by the morality versus horror concept.

The movie’s biggest forte i.e. its length becomes its biggest folly as well. Certain scenes trundle in the middle, meddling with our pertinacity. Also the reason for which Captain Willard is freed for a while in the den of Kurtz{ Though the director tries to present a concrete reason} is vague and abstract. Adding to this one needs to be intellectually shrewd enough to understand the state of mind of Colonel Kurtz, which the director employs as a gizmo to attack the civilization and the concept of morality. Other than these distractions, Apocalypse now hits the Bull’s eye.

Among the technical aspects the Music rules the roost. Apart from the apt soundtracks, the songs and music which are played side by side in radios and tapes add verisimilitude to the situation. Two thumbs up for the Carmine Coppola and Francis Ford Coppola duo’s music. Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography almost takes us deep into the jungles of Philippines where the movie was shot. While trying to make a comment on the editor, our mind stands in the middle like a coin due to the length of the movie. But ultimately Gerald B. Greenberg and Walter Murch have done their job. Taking all the aspects into consideration, this one is a must watch movie. Apocalypse Now says ” We walk in the same direction, share the same escapades but the final judgement is different, totally different”

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Rounders(1998)-Movie review

Rounders – A card, two lads and a few thousand dollars!

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This time John Dahl comes home with a script on the hush-hush world of underground poker written by David Levien & Brian Koppelman while Ted Demme & Joel Stillerman provide him pecuniary support. Before getting into the description of the sneaky realm of poker, one is expected to be cognizant of the word, Rounder, which means a guy who earns his living out of playing Poker. Though this is not a kind of movie which one can cherish in his memory for a long period of time, this is also not a kind of movie which would fail to fill a page in your good books. The poker cards, poker chips, round tables, few rogues and two smart men do a lot of unputdownable tricks to keep you entertained. In other words the movie is like an ordinary bun dipped in a tasty chocolate that which is the screenplay. The director and the script writers snatch their medals of honour for this reason.

When the diegesis unfurls, we see Mike McDermott (Matt Damon), a law school student, pooling in all his money without the knowledge of his sweetheart Jo{Gretchen Mol} to pull a seat against Teddy KGB (John Malkovich), the Don of clandestine Poker. He bravely confronts the notorious fox, only to add weight to the latter’s purse. As a result of this he gives up playing Poker but only for nine months. After this short span of thrice three months, we get to see a Mike who along with his studies, taking up part time jobs to earn a few extra bucks. The sun again shines over his land of Poker, when he refreshes his comradeship with his old buddy Murphy @ Worm{Edmund Norton} who is a dodgy rounder, known for the tricks under his sleeves. Due to a premonition that Mike is once again roped into the poker arena, Jo walks away from his life, which facilitates Worm to sink Mike deep into the sea of Poker. Both of them showcase a multitude of stratagems to fill up their cauldron of money. But a while later Mike realises that his friend has landed him up in a strange and messy conglomerate of debts and rogues and to save his skin, he has to do something really big. To know what the result of this rush is, watch Mike closely, in the table of ‘Rounders’.

The plot naturally and necessarily revolves around the two characters Mike and Worm. Both Matt Damon and Edmund Norton perfectly pull the strings to call the shots till the very end. Edmund Norton as per his character worm brings out the actions of a nasty and naughty poker player realistically, while Matt Damon blows the horn as a jocund winner and kisses the sand like an aghast loser marvellously. Though the movie has a proper plot, it is propelled only by the characters. Apart from these two levers there are other screws which enable this gadget to function properly, such as John Turturro who appears as an omniscient Joey Knish, Michael Rispoli who wears the motley of Grama, the badmash and John Malkovich, who in the character of Teddy KGB sets the pulse of the protagonist as well as the audience’s on fire with his nasty Russian tongue on the poker table. Adding to these screws we have Martin Landau as Abe Petrovsky, the power switch of this machine. So evidently there are a lot of elements in this movie good enough to make it a trendsetter

Among the flaws, the narrative technique collapses a bit in the middle before coming back to the right track again. From an ordinary theatre goer’s point of view there is no real action at all in the movie, since most of the action go round the Poker table. Also the director takes for granted that every spectator knows the basic rules of Poker, as a result of which one has to pay a great deal of attention to understand the movie better. Taking the scene composition and juxtaposition, a few scenes vanish off the screen before even producing the required effect,dictating the movie as a very light one, without making any long lasting impression, which otherwise the movie could produce. Ultimately the movie would have tasted better, if it had been spiced up a bit, instead of being so bland.

Delving deep into the technical aspects, The cinematographer Jean-Yves Escoffier walks tall with the candle-light tone he has applied to the movie, which blends so perfectly with the Jazzy tunes of Christopher Young. The classic cinematography interwoven with apt music becomes one of the biggest thew of the movie. Scott Chestnut’s editing makes us feel at times that his scissors need a repair, on the same time, the pace with which the movie moves in the latter half makes us to contradict our own previous statement. So this is a kind of movie which you can enjoy leisurely over a hot cup of coffee and some snacks. So Rounders say, “Rule number 1: Things can ameliorate quickly, Jacks can become asses and asses can turn Jacks, Watch out!”

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