Thank you for Smoking

March 25, 2007

Thank you for Smoking

 Directed by: 

Jason Reitman 

Writing credits: 

Jason Reitman

 Based on the novel by Christopher Buckley

 Starring:  

Aaron Eckhart
Maria Bello
Cameron Bright
Adam Brody
Sam Elliott
Katie Holmes
David Koechner
William H. Macy
J.K. Simmons
Robert Duvall
Kim Dickens
Rob Lowe
Todd Louiso
Dennis Miller
and Joan Lunden
 

‘Thank you for smoking’ is a movie, that sets out to accomplish something, and gives up three-fourths of the way. It starts of as a satire on the American tobacco racket, poking fun on both sides, pointing out political incorrectness, and the Americans’ ever-endearing love for freedom. Add to it a dash of family drama, in the form of an impressionable son, looking for inspiration from his dad, an ex-wife, who is still concerned, and something like a conscience, and there you have it: Hollywood’s desperate struggle between marketability and concept. 

The movie explores the character of Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart)  the Vice President of and the chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, a tobacco lobby whose stated purpose is to research the links between smoking cigarettes and health. It is funded by ‘Big Tobbacco’ a conglomeration of tobacco bigwigs. His primary function to spin any anti-tobbacco stories that may arise in any media, and defend the ordinary american’s right to smoke. When senator Finistirre, proposes to put ‘a skull and cross bones’ as the traditional image of poison on cigarette cartons, it is upto Nick Naylor to defend the defenceless, the money-minting tobacco companies, which have been turned against by their own customers.

The beauty of the movie, is perhaps the way it remains neutral, not pro-smoking or anti-smoking. It simply states that everyone has a right to their own choice, to make their own educated decisions, whether to injure their bodies or not, fully aware of the side effects. It pokes fun at both sides of the issue, at political authorities who are more concerned about vote banks, rather than the good of the common man, and tobacco barons who keep insiting that ‘there is no direct evidence..’ 

In the end it comes to this, will no rational man know that dragging smoke into his lungs is going to take its toll on one’s body? And is anyone who has already bought a packet of cigarettes not going to smoke because of the warning?   

Another interesting angle, is Naylor’s character itself. The movie, lets you wander inside his head, see how he looks at himself in the mirror. Given his odious profession and his apparent lack of morals of any sort,  that makes an interesting study in itself. Whether Naylor himself believes the ‘filtered’ truth he spews, is a speculation. His gift is to talk, and he is in the business, because he is the best at what he does. Added, a large number of the other characters are caricatures easily recognizable in the present political scenario.    

An interesting movie, about an interesting field… but not just quite there.

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Serendipity

March 24, 2007

Serendipity

Director:

Peter Chelsom

Screenplay:

Marc Klein

Starring: 
 

John Cusack
 Kate Beckinsale
 Jeremy Piven
 Bridget Moynahan
 John Corbett
 Molly Shannon
 Eugene Levy

There is something about romantic comedies, or in less dignified terms, chick flicks, that lets you willingly suspend reason, and revel in the whole soft fluff of it. Of these romantic comedies, some cross an invisible line and become too stupid, beyond what the mind is capable to accept, suspended reason and all. A few others are so brilliantly directed and acted, that they gently lead you through the ride, laughing hard, warming your heart. Serendipity is one of the movies that fall into the latter category.

Jonathon Tragger (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) meet in a fortunate co-incidence in Bloomingdale’s battling over the same pair of black gloves, on New Year’s Eve, amidst the masses of humanity at NYC struggling with last minute Christmas shopping.  What starts of as a spark, leads to steady attraction between the two. Sara believes in fate, that all our actions are a part of a master plan… a brilliant tapestry interwoven with other lives for a particular purpose. She writes her name and phone number in a book, and promises to sell it the next day to a used book-store. He writes his on a five-dollar bill, and she passes it on to a newspaperman. If fate wills them to be together, the book will come to his hands, and the bill will reach hers. Thus entrusting their lives to destiny, she vanishes from his life.

Years later, they end up living on opposite coasts, leading separate lives, committed to different people. Fate comes into play again, and drops deliberate signs that they were meant for each other. With their respective best friends (Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon) they leave in search of each other having no better than those distant few hours’ memory to guide them.   The movie is hilariously funny, pepered with one liners, and circumstances that bring the duo so close, but not quite there. Each of the characters all have their great moments, and supporting actors Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon, as best man of Jonathon and best friend of Sara, do a brilliant job.

‘Serendipity’ is a great big, fluffy movie that exists in a world, where people can leave three days before a wedding, to chase down their soul mates, bribing Bloomingdale’s sales-clerks on the way. It lives in that beautiful soap bubble, where people can fall in love, in a couple of hours that is deep enough to last for several years. It believes in a world, where the universe can conspire to bring two people together. If you can swallow that, and take it for the laughs it gives, a very sweet movie to watch.  

Babel

March 23, 2007

babel

 Directed by:  

Alejandro González Iñárritu 

Produced by:  

Steve Golin

Jon Kilik 

Written by: 

Guillermo Arriaga 

Starring: 

Brad Pitt

Cate Blanchett

Gael Garcia Bernal

Kopi Yakusho

Adriana Barraza

Rinko Kikuchi

“Babel” is a movie that is at best raw… and at times disturbing. It spits back on us, what we are, unvarnished, riddled with our hopes and sorrows, our love and our loneliness, our stupidity and out courage. The raw emotions pull at your throat, forcing empathy, but to that is restricted the best part of the movie.

The plot intersects through four stories sparsely connected through a Winchester rifle. On one hand, you have Abdullah, a Moroccan goat herder, and his two sons, Yussef and Ahmed. On the other you have Richard and Susan Jones, American tourists, who come to Morocco, with their own marriage on the rocks. Then you have, Amelia, the nanny of the Jones’ children. And the weakest link is Chieko a Chinese deft-mute girl, emotionally distant from her father.

The movie true to its name is shot in four different languages, across different cultures, and in spite it all, the emotions are universal. The entire cast provides a brilliant performance. But this movie is not without it’s flaws. The 142 minutes run time, is a bit tiring, and the movie could have used crisper editing. The plot itself is weak, though transition between them is amazingly smooth, and the ending is disappointing. The story has several individual moments of brilliance (Chieko’s disco scene, where the contrast between her world and what she is missing is startlingly brought out), but together, as whole, it lacks in substance. Perhaps, it is not meant to have substance, but is merely a commentary, on life, on us. The movie asks us to climb into the artists’ head and make our own interpretation, instead of spoon-feeding us the ‘moral’ or ‘message’.

An interesting movie, that gives you a lot to chew on, but little to digest.

Strictly Ballroom

March 22, 2007

Strictly Ballroom

Directed by:

Baz Luhrmann

Written by:

Baz Luhrmann

Andrew Bovell

Craig Pearce

Starring:

Paul Mercurio

Tara Morice

Bill Hunter

Pat Thomson

“Strictly Ballroom” is one of those movies, that make you cheer, laugh, and go ‘awww’, so much that at the end it leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. It is a typical dance movie, filled with snazzy dance moves, upbeat music, delightfully predictable twists, hot guys, pretty girls and an ending that implies ‘they lived happily ever after’.

The movie is a typical romantic comedy, of an Australian ballroom dancer, Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) trained from the age of six to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix, but ruins it all, by stubbornly dancing to his own moves. After being ditched by his partner, Liz, he agrees to dance with Fran, (Tara Morice) a beginner in the studio. The duo fall in love, and Fran takes of her glasses, ties back her hair, and tada! You guessed it. They steadily dance their way into the Pan-pacific finals and into each other’s hearts.

The story is not only about individuality, and living life by your own rules. It is also about Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias. To live with fear, is a life half lived. It is all about taking your chances, to live without fear, to follow your heart, and off course [sigh] love.

The choreography is amazing, and Paul Mercurio [people like ripping of his shirt for obvious reasons] is a pleasure to watch. The costumes seem to be worthy of a separate study in themselves, filled with all the glamour of ballroom dancing. The characters are essentially two-dimensional and in cases exaggerated enough to be comical, poking fun at our own lives’ stereotypes.

On the whole, a fun movie to watch, in spite for the slight tinge of sentimentality that intrudes at the end. Can watch it simply for those moves!

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Hotel Rwanda

March 21, 2007

Hotel rwanda

Director:

Terry George

Writing credits:

Keir Pearson & Terry George

Starring:

Don Cheadle
Sophie Okonedo
Nick Nolte
Joaquin Phoenix

Hotel Rwanda starring Don Cheadle is one of those movies, that makes you sit up and think… and think some more.

The story revolves around Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), an african manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines, a man with a sensible head, and a warm heart. The country Rwanda is torn between the two tribes, the Hutus, and the Tutsi, the Hutus represented by the army, and the Tutsi, the rebels. In the course of saving his family, Rusesabagina becomes responsible for the lives of 1,268 refugees, both Hutus and Tutsis who take shelter in the hotel. The entire storyline is on a low-key, lacking any kind of melo-drama, like the man through whose eyes the massacre is narrated.

One of the things that makes this movie so realistic is that it is silent, presenting its facts, and resting its case. There are no preachy dialogues about how the world order should be, or what should be done, to save it from damnation. The images are there, cut vividly into your mind, to come up, uncalled for. The most gut wrenching part is that the massacre is part of history, and the story is about a real man, who had to make hard choices, and refuses to shut out the voice of his conscience.

The movie touches on bribery, corruption, racism, and black-marketing, though in a practical way, as part of life in Africa. ‘Hotel Rwanda’ smoothly moves between a man’s love for his wife and children, macabre images of slaughtered bodies, and good people who persist against all odds. Through all the blood, anger, and pain the beam of the human spirit shines through, letting hope make a more lasting impression above the gore.

It is a story of courage of an ordinary man, in extraordinary circumstances. it is also, a story of the unbelievable cruelty one mass of people are capable off against another.

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