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Category Archives: hollywood

Runaway Jury & US Gun Culture

The dozens of shootings that have taken place in last few years, and the number of shootings that take place ever-so-often, begs the question “Do we need a gun rights?”. The latest shootings that took place in a place of worship, a Gurudwara in Wisconsin, and before that in a movie hall in Colorado, is a tragedy of huge proportions. But the failure to act, on the part of the Govt, speaks of a deeper sickness at the willingness to neglect and sideline it in the name of preserving gun rights.

How does a 24 year old PhD student legally buy an assault rifle, a 12 gauge shot gun and two pistols? What justification is there for a young man with no military or police academy training to access weapons whose only purpose is to fight in war? And inspite of such incidents, no one is willing to talk about gun control.

This movie, ‘Runaway Jury’ based on John Grisham’s work, addresses the issue of the gun lobbyists and how easy availability of firearms is making life altering changes to the society. A depressed and psychologically traumatized person with a gun in his hand can take away so many innocent lives. And along with those lives goes the peace and happiness of the families of the victims. How can the victims’ families ever be compensated?

The movie talks of one such shoot-out, but more importantly it was about how a jury can be manipulated to get the desired verdict, for or against. The movie begins with a failed stock trader of a brokerage firm who shows up at his workplace and suddenly opens fire at his colleagues.  The shooting leaves quite a few people dead and others injured. Celeste, the widow of Jacob Wood who died in the shooting, is one such victim; and she takes the Dicksburg Firearms to court on charges of gross negligence. Her attorney Wendell, played by Dustin Hoffman, is fighting for gun control while the defence attorney Durwood is being helped by jury consultant Fitch, played by Gene Hackman. Fitch tries his best to subvert the process so the jury can give a verdict in favor of Dicksburg.

Among the jury memebers is Nicholas[John Cusack], a man who works at an electronics store. His girlfriend Marlee [Rachel Weisz] manipulates things outside the court-room, while Nicholas plays his cards inside the court-room as part of the jury. They both collude to fight Fitch and bring him to his knees while Wendell guides them as the defence lawyer. Both Nicholas & Marlee have a hidden agenda in rigging the jury verdict and that is revealed towards the end of the movie. The wonderful thing is that, even after the movie gets over after a whole lot of action and thrill, the message is not lost; it stays with you.

All the actors did well in the movie, but Gene Hackman as the desperate jury consultant who wanted the jury to be on his side, stood out. His aggression and the recklessness of going to any length, even if it meant wiring 15 million dollars, totally justified the character sketch that Grisham had crafted out. Dustin Hoffman played the helpless lawyer pretty well. Cusack and Weisz went about their work nicely, but nothing extraordinary.

But I must say one thing here, the book was so different from the movie. Actually its the other way round, the movie was so different from the book. While the book ‘Runaway Jury’ concentrated on anti-tobacco brigade, the movie was against the gun culture. The change of theme was probably keeping in mind the prevelant gun rights issue, and it added more drama to the movie.

The number of homicide cases are staggering, and 52% of the suicides in US are executed using a gun. If a student is depressed, he takes his parents’ gun to school and starts firing randomly, if a teenager has been bullied then he picks up a gun to silence the aggressors, sometimes a kid just misfires while toying around with a gun. Gun is the cause of many major incidents and minor accidents.

Its amazing how so many of Grisham’s novels were actually about fighting the system, the corporates and plugging the loopholes in the legal system which were being exploited and how it went against the welfare of the common man.

His indictment of the system and the veiled attack on the flaws of the criminal justice and litigation process was very well highlighted in his works. Grisham continues to write, but off-late his works haven’t made it onscreen. Nevertheless, they are wonderful to read.

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in books, hollywood, movies

 

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Amitabh Bachchan’s look in Great Gatsby

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in hollywood, movies

 

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The Ghost Writer : Polanski’s Political Thriller

I have always wondered how a blogger or a lyricist or a screenwriter feels, when their work is out in the public, but they get no credit for it. No, I am not talking about their work being plagiarised. I was referring tho the fact that, there are many anonymous artists who sell their work to better known artists; those works get publicised and win accoldaes. But the original artist only gets his renumeration, maybe paid by the hour, and manages to keep the kitchen fire burning. How does it feel to be a ghost-painter or a ghost-lyricist or a ghost writer, in this case!

The movie, of course, is not about that. Far from it, the movie is a fantastic political thriller. The protagonist, Ewan McGregor, agrees to ghost-write an autobiography of the ex-PM of UK. Adam Lang, the ex-PM played by Pierce Brosnan, is in the process of getting his autobiography published. But his manuscript needs some work to be done, to make it presentable and interesting.

Adam Lang did have a ghost-writer, Mike McAra, but he was found dead, one fine morning. Lang has led an interesting life and his political career has been marked by some very unusual decisions taken during office. And that’s what needs to be captured before people lose interest in him; and so the novel has to be out within 4 weeks. Its more of a financial gain that we are talking about. What gives McGreggor an edge is the fact that he is not politically active, so he can unravel a few facts about Lang whoch could interest the readers. Step-in, McGreggor, who agrees to ghost-write it in 4 weeks for an amount of 10 million dollars, not knowing that his predecessor was actually killed.

McGreggor reaches the secluded whereabouts of Langs residence, somewhere on east coast on USA, and is shown around by his beautiful secretary Amelia with whom Lang shares a special camaraderie of over 8 years. So, Ewan begins the homework by interviewing Lang and asking him about his passion and how he landed into politics. It was a well known fact that Lang was a Cambridge student and much intersted in dramatics. Then, how did politics happen to him!

These questions are too uncomfortable for Lang, as he does not want to discuss that. All he wants his ghost-writer to capture is Lang – the politician, and not Lang – the dramatist. Anyways, McGreggor’s curiosity gets the better of him. He starts snooping around the house and even tries to take the manuscript out of the tightly secured room so he can write in leisure.

But his efforts all go in vain. And as McGreggor finishes reading the manuscript, he realises that there is way too much work to be done in 4 weeks. And Lang’s mood swings and his strained relationship with his wife was not helping McGreggor. He was not sure why Lang and his wife, Ruth, could not get along with each other, but he was too scared to ask Lang.

He slowly gets to know Mrs.Lang, who makes him feel really comfortable. She is more of a reluctant speaker and less of an outgoing person. But what strikes McGreggor about her, is the insecurities that she faces. It almost seems like they are a normal couple where the wife complains about the hubby’s beautiful secretary always being by his side. And she isn’t getting much attention or the love and affection that she deserves.

Things start moving quickly as McGreggor moves into the room where his predecessor was put-up. And here he finds some very incriminating photographs and artifacts that paint a totally different picture of Lang. It becomes more important than ever, to disclose Lang’s past even as he is accused of siding with America on the handover of suspected terrorists to USA; while he was in office. The pressure from the human rights activists mount over Lang as they want him to be tried in the court for war crimes. Lang decides to fly across the Pacific to douse the fire.

This gives McGreggor the right opportunity to do some investigation/research. But he is caught in a spot of bother as he goes about his detection work and the timelines press on. Its a movie that keeps you on the edge of the seat as he takes the SUV to interview some of the people mentioned in Lang’s manuscript. He endangers his own life knowing very well that if and when the book is out, he would get no credit for it. Maybe a small footnote or a mention somewhere, but not the credit of co-writing it.

Any movie on politics is fraught with danger of getting too boring or too involved in people rather than events. But this movie is evenly balanced as it discusses people and events together. It takes us through Lang’s life without getting stuck on details or over-emphasizing on minor issues. The writers have done a wonderful job to keep the screenplay tight and the dialogues crisp. The movie does slow down a bit, in the middle portion, but soon picks up pace again.

The director of the movie, Roman Polanski, has handled the movie with very firm grip. He does not let it slip even for a moment. The emotional moments and the sobbing is not overdone, and the suspense is maintained throughout. We are always with the ghost-writer and never lose track of the purpose of the movie. Its to the director’s credit that he has extracted excellent performances from everyone.

Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGreggor are mature actors, nevertheless, they need to be told what is to be done. And that, they do very well. Brosnan’s outrage as well his romanticsim is very natural. Lang’s affection for his secretary and ignorance of his wife, comes across a fine character sketch of the man that Brosnan portrays. So, is Ewan’s fear of the unknown and his sense of urgency. We feel it for every moment, how his life is in danger.

The book does get published finally, but at what cost is to be seen. And wait to see how McGreggor is rewarded for his work. He leads an existence of no consequence, and the movie shows what happens when people try to unveil what’s behind the curtains. A ghost writer lives in anonymity, forever.

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in hollywood, movie review, movies

 

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Kungfu Panda 2 : Or Was It Zanjeer Redux!

Last night I was watching Kungfu Panda-2, again. This time in 2D and in the comfort of my house. I had first seen the movie on the big screen in 3D, more than 6 months ago. But the movie is so much fun that I didn’t get bored even in the second watch, I did miss the 3D effects though. Jack Black is so good with his voice modulation, and the many expressions that his dialogue delivery can convey is amazing.

Kungfu Panda was one of the few movies that was worthy of a sequel. And the sequel was as good as, if not better than, the original. There was a definite story backed by a good narrative and fine dialogues. Even the comic quotient was very well done, it wasn’t forced into the story.
 
The story has a Harry Potter like prophecy, where a ‘warrior of black & white’ is supposed to end Shen’s rule. Shen, the peacock, was disbanded by his father for having evil aspirations. But he was not going to give up so easily. He took the path of destruction and anyone who would come in his way would be knocked off. Po, the dragon warrior, was out there protecting the valley from Shen. All was going well, when suddenly the flares and the fire around Po brought back old memories to me.

What was unfolding before my eyes was Zanjeer! I am not sure why this did not strike me while watching the movie first time around. I was a little surprised that both movies had so much in common.

A very long time ago, our beloved inspector Vijay was in the lookout for Teja to end his criminal activities. Teja was a cause of concern for the police and a threat to civillian life. Similarly, Shen’s ambitions were big and his actions went uncontrolled.

Po and Vijay, both, are haunted by a nightmare. A bad dream kept waking them up from sweet sleep to harsh awakening; and they kept fighting it off. Both these souls were searching for inner peace. As master Shifu says very early in the movie, some attain inner peace by meditating while others get it by going through pain in their hearts. They both had to come to terms with their past, the hard way.

Inner peace is something we all look for. Its the stimulus that helps us cope with vagaries of life. Unkept promises, unfulfilled dreams, unachieved targets and many such unresolved issues can take away our peace. So, inspite of the clear sky we are unable to see due to mist in our eyes and cloud-cover on our minds. And then there is a moment when all these things come back to bite us. That’s when we need inner peace the most.

Yes, it was a fiery night. The lights of Diwali and the surrounding fireworks had burnt the pages of Vijay’s childhood and left him an orphan. Similarly, Po was adopted by Zeng, the goose, when a night of fire and fury had left him homeless. Both burned in the same flame and carried the pain of separation.

Po and Vijay grew up to be brave fighters and big hearted protectors. When Po and Vijay were out there, fighting their enemy, both did not know that they also had a personal score to settle. But the audience did. Unbeknownst to them, they walked into the lion’s den and challeneged the king of the jungle. Po was ably helped by Famous Five and Khan was protecting Vijay. But in the moment of truth, it was just them against their adversary.

And in one sudden moment of flash, when they find replies to those unanswered questions and when all those mysteries become clear, they attain inner peace; just like that. Once that happens, they become unstoppable!

How much of Zanjeer did I see in Kungfu Panda-2? Apparently a lot! Not sure if you agree with me, but if someone were to remake Zanjeer sometime in the future, then this would be an ideal blue-print for it. In fact, this qualifies as a good enough remake for me. It neither tarnishes the original visuals of BigB nor makes me cringe; in fact I can happily have both in my movie collection without having to swear under my breath as we do after watching most remakes these days.

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in bollywood, hollywood, movies

 

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Academy Awards : Oscar Winners For 2011

Best Picture: “The King’s Speech”

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech”

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Natalie Portman for “Black Swan”

Best Director: Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale for “The Fighter”

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo for “The Fighter”

Best Art Direction: “Alice”

Best Cinematography: ‘Inception’

Best Animated Short: ‘The Lost Thing’

Best Animated Feature: ‘Toy Story 3′

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin for “The Social Network.”

Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler “The King’s Speech.”

Best Foreign Film: ‘In a Better World’ from Denmark

Best Documentary Feature: “Inside Job”

Best Documentary Short: “Strangers No More”

Best Live Action Short: “God of Love”

Best Original Score: “The Social Network”

Best Original Song: Randy Newman – “We Belong Together” for Toy Story 3

Best Sound Mixing: “Inception”

Best Sound Editing: Richard King – “Inception”

Best Film Editing: “The Social Network”

Best Costume: “Alice”

Best Make-up: “The Wolfman”

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in AWARDS, hollywood

 

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Movie Review : The Tourist

The moment I popped a pain-killer half hour before the movie started, I knew it was a bad omen. We stepped out in the cold with snowflakes flying across our faces, I knew the signs were there : the temperature was a low 16F and no cars on the streets, few cars parked on the shoulder of the roads with blinking alarm lights. When  we were at the ticket window and the ticket cost was 70$ for 7 tickets, my credit card was declined; I had breached the credit limit. That was the last sign that we still had time to go home. But no, I paid in cash. We ignored all the signs that were screeching right in our faces to stay home, but Jolie and Depp kept calling us.

 This was an unusual combo, a suave Depp and a sexy Jolie. That actually is a weird duo and we did not know what actually to expect from the movie. The trailer was cut well enough to generate excitement, we thought it would turn out to be a thriller or an action packed movie. But when we stepped into the auditorium, it was a shock. Second day of the movie, 11th Dec, and there were just 15 people in all. A near empty theatre! Lara Croft and Jack Sparrow had failed to pull in the crowd.

 Anyways, we took our places and waited for the movie to start. Within the first 5 minutes we could see the heavy-handed direction of Florian Henckel. I wasn’t surprised at all, just disappointed that the director was still looming from the hangover of “The Lives Of Others” . The close capturing of Angelina’s face as Elise Ward, FBI spying on here, tracking all her activities; it was like watching TLOO. The initial enthusiasm of who was Alexander Pierce soon faded, as the chase got boring. The tracking mechanism, Elise dropping false hints to beguile, FBI placing men in every nook and corner; it was all so stale and boring.

 By the time Johnny appeared as a Maths teacher Frank Tupelo, my joy was divided, my brain was split and the pain had multiplied. He was not being his usual self; no wackiness, no style quotient, no eccentricity. I was still fine with all of this, until he suddenly started acting pink and rosy. He was falling in love with Elise! And I thought this was supposed to be a fast action thriller.

 The story writers were confused, I guess. They changed the mood and theme of the movie. It was turning out to be a mushy rom-com. A night spent in a fine Venetian hotel, best in its class, was making Frank’s heart beat for Elise. But Elise was secretly in love with Alexander Pierce, a person whom she hasn’t seen. This was just the right time for some gang-lords to  make an appearance so they can settle their scores with Alexander.

 After a lot of chases and gun firings and scampering Maths teacher dodging the bullets and Elise being held captive so Alexander can bow down to the gang-lord, the Maths teacher jumps in to save her life. And some more marshmallow sequence with Elise’s heart suddenly going out to Frank as she forgets about Alexander. Frank blurts out something what Arun had told to Seema in Mr.India … wo gayab hai mai haazir hoon … kya rakha aisa mr.Alexander mei

 Oh man, the movie was getting ridiculous by the minute. I was crying over $10 wasted on Pierce while the FBI were paying $700 mn to fund the mission of finding Pierce. Someone pierce me! The end credit rolls came as such a breather.

 We ran out of the auditorium and into the open, to catch a breath of fresh air. Snowflakes till flying across our faces and weather alert of a snowy night was ahead of us. My head had stopped aching, thanks to the pain-killer. I am glad I had taken it before the movie as I laughed at my friends who popped one after the movie.

This post was first published on PFC

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2010 in hollywood, movie review, movies

 

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John Grisham’s Work Onscreen

“I don’t feel stupid, just inadequate. After three years of studying the law, I’m very much aware of how little I know.” — John Grisham (The Rainmaker)

Its amazing how so many works of John Grisham have made it to the big screen. While reading his novels during my college days, I did feel that there was a whole lot of drama, passion and brilliant writing; and that it lent itself into movie format. But what I did not realize back then was the fact that so many of his novels were actually about fighting the system, the corporates and the loopholes in the legal system which were being exploited and how it went against the welfare of the common man. Unlike Perry Mason, Grisham’s novels were not merely about legal proceedings of a murder mystery or a court-room drama.
 
Last Sunday I was glued to the tv for most of the time, watching Grisham’s works. I guess the channel was running a “lawyer” special or something. I watched 3 movies back to back, all John Grisham.
 
Runaway Jury: The book was so different from the movie, actually its the other way round; the movie was so different from the book. While the book concentrated on anti-tobacco brigade, this movie addressed the issue of the gun lobbyists and how easy availability of fire arms is making life altering changes to the society. A depressed and psychologically traumatized person with a gun in his hand can take away so many innocent lives. And along with those lives goes the peace and happiness of the families of the victims. How can the victims’ families ever be compensated?
 
The movie talks of one such shoot-out, but more importantly it was about how jury can be manipulated to get the desired verdict, for or against. While Marlee [Rachel Weisz] manipulates things outside the court-room, Nicholas [John Cusack] plays his cards inside the court-room as part of the jury. They both collude to fight Rankin [Gene Hackman] and bring him to his knees while Wendell [Dustin Hoffman] guides them as the defence lawyer.
All the actors did well in the movie, but Gene Hackman as the desperate lawyer who wanted the jury to be on his side and he could go to any length even if it meant wiring 15 mn dollars, stood out. His aggression totally justified the character sketch that Grisham had crafted out. The wonderful thing is that, even after the movie gets over after a whole lot of action and thrill, the message is not lost; it stays with you.
 
The Rainmaker: This was one of the earlier movies of Matt Damon, just before Goodwill Hunting. And may I say that Matt was fabulous in the movie. He shows the brilliant spark of a fine actor and he has gone onto justify his talent by choosing the right movies.
 
The movie dealt with the rejection of medical claim of Black family and the struggles of Ray Black suffering from leukemia. A bone marrow transplant could have saved his life but the insurance company declines the insurance amount eight times. That’s when Rudy, a jobless lawyer who has recently passed the bar exam, steps in. He takes up the cause and fights till the end, unearthing the dirt of the insurance scams. He exposes the deep set malice in the faulty claim processing system.
 
And while Rudy takes up the case on a professional front, on the personal side he is seen protecting a woman who is a victim of domestic violence. The movie reflects the times and the society that we live in, be it the corporate insurance scam or the wife-beating episode; all harsh realities of life. The only comic relief was the presence of Danny DeVito as the assisstant of Rudy.
 
It was an engrossing movie with fantastic performance by Matt Damon and Jon Voight, the lawyer representing the insurance company. The movie is a must watch for 3 good reasons: Francis Ford Coppola’s direction, Matt’s acting and Grisham’s writing in association with Coppola.
 
The Client: Mark and his younger brother are puffing a cigarette in the wilderness when a car just pulls in, and the
man behind the wheel attempts suicide by asphyxiation. This man, Romi, turns out to be a lawyer who has been defending a gang accused of murdering the senator. And Romi knows the ugly truth of the whereabouts of the senator’s dead body. Mark, an innocent kid, gets entrapped in a game of power, murder and deceit as he witnesses Romi commit suicide.
 
The rights of a child and witness protection program is the main theme here. Mark is hounded by FBI as well as the gang because they think Romi may have mentioned to him about the senator. In defence of the kid steps in Reggie Love, played by Susan Sarandon, an ex-alcoholic who has lost the custody of her kids. Mark played the wannabe ‘punk’ beautifully. He got under the skin of the character with perfect body language and acting skills.

Ultimately its Grisham’s character of Mark that really comes to the fore and makes this movie compelling. Reggie too wins the sympathy of the audience as she narrates her story to Mark. She seeks redemption by trying to protect Mark from the FBI as well as the gang. How she goes about doing this and the hostility with which Mark and Reggie treat each other has been very well captured.

Grisham’s treatment of the subject seemed more at a personal level than a professional one. The movie did not have any court-room scenes, but the tension was palpable. In fact, this along with The Pelican Brief are two most popular non-courtroom dramas of Grisham. While I am at this, let me quickly mention that his work ‘A Time To Kill’ was adapted into a Hindi movie titled ‘Pitaah’ directed by Mahesh Manjrekar.

Grisham popularised the ‘judicial system’ genre and many a tv series was born out of these works. His indictment of the system and the veiled attack on the flaws of the criminal justice and litigation process was very well highlighted in his works. Also, what is noticeable is the fact that all movies based on his work were made on large scale because the studios believed in the projects. Be it Tom Cruise in The Firm or Julia Roberts in The Pelican Brief who were ably supported by the likes of Denzel Washington, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman and many others. Grisham continues to write, but off-late his works haven’t made it onscreen. Nevertheless, they are wonderful to read. Wish someone could buy the rights of his stories/novels and make movies in our movieland.

“In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard.” – John Grisham, Commencement Address 2010, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill”

This post was first published on PFC

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in hollywood, movies

 

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