Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Small Piece Of My Cinematic Mind!

A Little Vitriol For My Detractors

My last post on “From Dusk Till Dawn” received a lot of nasty flak. One intimidating fan who was obviously livid with my review threatened me on email, flooded my Facebook blog page with hostile commentary and then reported it for illegal content! What the heck!

Anyway, to get down to the movie review business, my celluloid critiques are my personal babbles and private insights about the movies I see – I don’t get paid to do it nor do I have a hidden agenda when I rubbish a seemingly great piece of film making!

For those angry, stupid fans – here’s a little piece of advice: Some of you may discover that you've overlooked a great film and maybe, (just maybe), you might just read about it in my blog. You may then perhaps rush out, rent it, stream it or download it and possibly have a fulfilling movie-watching experience, and I'll have the satisfaction of given a little direction to your sad, aimless everyday lives.

Those of you who have already seen everything on my list (an impossibility) can still follow along and see how your bijou opinions compare to mine. You might also find it enlightening to print out my review and make notes in the margins. Next to each review, you could write an A for "I strongly agree" a B for "I partially agree" or a C for "This dumb fuck can’t write shit”.

When you get to the end of the column, total up your score. If you have more A's than anything else, it means you are a amazingly intelligent, perceptive student of the cinematic arts, and I would be glad to have you over anytime to view something from my super secret collection of the world’s most awesomest movies ever made.

If you wrote a lot of B's, you probably believe that Tom Green, Chuck Norris and Carmen Electra are underrated/undervalued actors but still you are not entirely beyond help. Keep reading my column and you should do fine but if you wrote mostly C's, you most likely love all the movies of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the terrible duo behind unfunny spoof flops like the Disaster Movie, Date Movie, Meet The Spartans and other mindless miseries. In that case, you are living proof of humanity’s mental decline and what's known to medical science as a "dim-witted idiot," and I will be sure to alert you if ever I write a critical retrospective of “The Biggest Movie of All Time 3D” – the duo’s upcoming send-up on Avatar to be released in 2012!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Pulpy Hyper Violent Vampire Splatter, Tarantino/Rodriguez Style

The hidden plus point of a drained laptop on a long haul flight is that you get to do something different beyond your usual mundane office work. On a recent trip, I had the pleasure of watching “From Dusk Till Dawn”, the 1996 vampire actioner from that maverick 2 man team of filmmakers called Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Tarantino wrote it while his mexicano pal Rodriguez directed. Now that was a teaming of future titans.

In case, you didn’t know, Rodriguez was the wonder boy who made the tongue-in-cheek independent spaghetti western ‘El Mariachi' (1992) in Mexico for $7000 and then used it as a calling card to land a contract in Hollywood. And what was his first movie after joining the majors? 'Desperado'(1995) - a campy, outlandish rehash of El Mariachi. It starred babe-magnet Spaniard Antonio Banderas as a two-pistol gunfighter who, when he isn't shooting up drug thugs, spends most of the movie glaring idiotically through the long stringy hair that hangs in his face. At least, there was a beautiful Salma Hayek for company! Next, I saw him in Richard Donner's 'Assassins'(1995), opposite Stallone, where he played a two-pistol hitman with long stringy hair (again) hanging in his face. Well, he gets my vote as the least-welcome new sex star in the movies. (Fifty million women CAN be wrong.) Never was there an actor so desperately in need of a comb.

So anyway, Rodriguez then links up with Quentin Tarantino, Hollywood's man of the hour post his transnational success of Pulp Fiction, and this momentous mating of Desperado gives the world...From Dusk Till Dawn.

Beginning in the familiar Tarantino territory of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction - the universe of comically exaggerated film noir - the plot concerns two bank-robbing brothers murdering and kidnapping their way across the border into Mexico. Then, the Mexican truck stop they think represents a safe haven turns out to be a retreat for blood thirsty vampires (with a seductive Salma Hayek as Satánico Pandemonium). And suddenly we're in midst of a tongue-in-cheek bloody splatter film like Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead or Peter Jackson's Braindead - as its unlikable cast of characters sets about dismembering a rampaging horde of wild vampires. And then it flaccidly ends.

While it does have its moments – some genuinely funny and some brilliantly gory, it bugs me to think that two hot young filmmakers, who, for the moment, had complete freedom to make whatever the heck kind of movie they want, could squander the talents of George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and Fred Williamson on this no-brainer. To me, it felt like a couple of 10-year-old boys thought it up one night in their tree house over a bag of Lays chips and Oreos.

I will however, say one thing very good about Robert Rodriguez. His film Desperado introduced me to Salma Hayek. And I fell for her! And I still very much do!

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Avi Video Link: VeeHD

Monday, October 17, 2011

Independence Day (1996)

1996's Helluva Summer Blockbuster!

Last night, I watched (probably for the 10nth time or so) 1996’s biggest summer hit – Independence Day. Apparently, it’s the 31st highest grosser of all time in Hollywood history with total mammoth box-office figures in the tune of $816969000 or more. So this movie was destined to end up among the most lucrative films of all time, in company with the likes of Spielberg's E.T. and Jurassic Park.

I remember rushing to see this in theaters in the first week of its release, and as someone who grew up on a staple of science-fiction and horror flicks as a kid, I found it to be good, old-fashioned fun (in spite of its shortcomings). Besides, there's something charming and pre-Watergate in the mentality of a film that portrays a U.S. president as an inspiring strong leader that the country could rally behind in a grave crisis.

One especially satisfying aspect of this film was the brilliant casting: A great lead in Will Smith and trustworthy supporting actors in the vein of Bill Pullman, Robert Loggia, Vivica Fox and Jeff Goldblum who provide the right support.

I'm guessing the producers wanted to put as much of the budget as possible into the special effects and let the spectacle be the film's big draw, so they chose not to divert $30 million or so just to get Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise above the title. In those days when star salaries spiraled out of control (they still do) and stars gained way too much power, it was great to see someone relatively new like Roland Emmerich to buck the system and score a big hit using nothing but a good idea and a script, the way Spielberg did with E.T.

Independence Day is a real crowd pleaser. And there-in lies my only serious reservation. It was carefully contrived to be a crowd pleaser, full of stock characters, clichéd scenarios, cheap comic relief (think of Randy Quaid's boozy crop-duster), despicable ‘out of this planet’ villains and jingoistic speeches.

As I watched, I couldn't help but imagine what a tougher filmmaker like James Cameron would have brought to it. Avatar was a colossal disappointment for me but in his best work, Cameron goes to great lengths to establish characters with some depth and a realistic milieu for them – think Abyss; as a consequence, when they suffer, you really feel for them. When I saw Independence Day in the theater, my deepest concern during the film's second half was not whether Will Smith and Co would save the world from the marauding alien invasion but whether I should blow more money on a refill of my popcorn and coke.

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Avi Video Link: VeeHD

Friday, October 14, 2011

Phenomenon (1996)

Sugary, Syrupy Romantic Tearjerker!

Phenomenon is an mood upsetting fantasy that exemplifies much of what I adore and what I detest about Hollywood cinema. This movie gets so many things right that it could have been a magnificent little romantic drama, but instead it opts for cheap melodrama and unwanted sci-fi overtones (Maybe Travolta wanted to showcase his Scientology connections!)

First off, it places us in an tempting background - California farm country (Northern California to be specific)- with carefully selected images of rolling hills, morning sun on a barn, the sway of treetops above a farmhouse, the call of coyotes at night…those kind of scenic imagery. Then, we meet George, an friendly auto mechanic and farmer who lives alone, but who has a good friend named Nate who also lives alone with his ham radio and his Diana Ross albums. George has another good friend in the affable country doctor, named Doc of course, who wants to teach George to play chess. More than anything, George wants to get to know an detached woman named Lace who has moved to town with her two children to start a new life following a bad marriage.

Such a sweet and poignant movie seemed poised to emerge from this premise, this superb setting, these pleasant characters. I wanted to see George slowly break down Lace's resistance with his charisma, his graciousness, his handy familiarity with trucks, and the support of his friends.

This movie could have worked on that simple and honest level. But, alas, this is Hollywood we're talking about - the great Lego Fun Factory, where real life is something to make people forget about for two hours rather than embrace, and where John Travolta gets several millions for a movie so by God it better be fabulous. So soon we're off on a silly scheme about George having a celestial karmic experience that expands his mind, makes him brilliant and thirsty for knowledge, gives him amazing telekinetic powers, makes him a pariah in the town, and in an especially inept set-up, brings the FBI down on him. Such a plot is, if you'll pardon my French, merde de taureau (bullshit for those who don’t know French!)

Not that this film is a complete waste of time. As many will agree, on its own terms, it's certainly enjoyable. On the plus side, it has a dependable director - John Turtletaub (National Treasure,The Sorcerer's Apprentice); an appealing cast: John Travolta as George, Kyra Sedgwick as Lace, the always reliable Forest Whitaker as Nate, and Robert Duvall especially as Doc, lending the potency and natural charm of his screen presence to a small role.

The locations are naturally beautiful, nicely chosen and evocative, and the orchestral support comes from Thomas Newman, one of the best film-music composers working right now (son of Hollywood great Alfred Newman). He excels at poignant Americana, as he demonstrated in Fried Green Tomatoes and Little Women, among his many others. Unfortunately, and this is so typical of Hollywood, too, Newman's score is bumped aside repeatedly to make room for the less subtle but commercially more viable pop tunes like Eric Clapton's "Change the World", Sheryl Crow's "Everyday is a Winding Road", Peter Gabriel's "I Have The Touch" and many more.

The film has many effectual moments. There is this one fleeting scene I was struck by: George and Lace are alone, and she asks him what he's feeling. He feels happy and in love, and he tells her to remember back to when she rocked her children to sleep as babies, and she closes her eyes and we see the feeling pass through her and joy spread over her face. A touching flash of solo acting from Kyra Sedgwick, a quick brushstroke of Thomas Newman music, and the filmmakers give us a quiet moment of great beauty.

How I would have loved it if this movie had relied on moments like that - if it had taken the road less travelled and earned my tears with a story I could relate to instead of jerking them with flight of schmaltzy fantasy. That would be a movie I could return to. If only they would forgo the daydream once in a while. Real life is so much more sad, heartbreaking and beautiful.

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Avi Video Link: VeeHD

Monday, October 10, 2011

Smells Like No Teen Spirit

Its still Cool to be Depressed!

I just had a harrowing talk with an overambitious ‘depressed’ kid – the 3rd unhappy soul in a row this week (as part of my mentoring gig). I dont mean to be unsympathetic but they’re all young, go to good schools and colleges, come from good families, are well fed, have the latest gadgets, bikes, cars…well, they've got no ‘real’ worries, actually, most of them have no problems at all, but it is supposedly "cool" to act all depressed and sad. What’s up with all these teenagers being depressed? Teen Angst? I don't think so.

Maybe Depression is still a global trend or perhaps people (not just adolescent teens) are drawn to this trend because there really is reason to be depressed in today's world. Generation gaps are indeed widening, we are stuck with fixing a lot of problems the spoiled baby-boomers put off. Divorce is at record highs. The youth tend to be socialists, or at least more liberal... but the world is capitalist, and more conservative than that. The News doesn't exactly have anything nice to tell us about the world (not that we'd watch if they did).

But let’s face it - in the 60's people got off their asses and voiced their opinions. They did something about it. They were active. Now we sit around and look miserable. At least 90% don’t care. Have we lost hope in fixing the problems that are inevitably going to be here?

By not being depressed, I don't mean "just have fun". You can do many other things. Being not depressed doesn't mean you're happy go lucky all the time and unaffected by any catastrophe. It just means that you aren't constantly miserable and self absorbed in your own misery. It means you can look pass whatever miniscule or gargantuan difficulties you have and still find something that's worth living for.

In 25-30 years or so, the kids I know will be all grown up, probably stuck in dead end jobs, in huge debts, with no time to actually have fun. And they'll ACTUALLY be depressed. And perhaps, then they'll look back at their youth, remember my advice and say "god, I wish I didn't act depressed all the time back then, cause I could've had a lot of fun instead. Only if they realize!!

Note: This blogpost was originally titled "Misery Incorporated"!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Agree to Disagree

Living in a Sarcastic World!

I meet a whole dozen of people every week and half of ‘em are just plain sarcastic. Sarcasm it seems is a way to avoid serious discussion and conflict. It humors difficult topics and troubled relationships. I wonder if we are living in a culture oversaturated with scorn. Can’t we even converse with true sincerity anymore? What happened to directness and candor?

Sarcasm, cynicism, whatever you call it - is often highly irrational. It is inherently full of erroneous beliefs, yet the masses tend to be highly influenced by it. We have the penchant to feel that disdain is convincing. Apparently even in ancient Greece, the Sophists were popular teachers of oratory, charging people to learn how to speak convincingly. But what appears persuasive is really just dishonesty, as Socrates often tried to point out. And yes, ancient Greece was also a form of democracy something like our own corrupt democracies.

Look at our Media now. Television, radio, etc. must constantly promote their vile products to its audiences and one of the easiest ways to get people to unreservedly agree with something is to get them to laugh or cry along with them. Thus, we seem to have the most over used device in modern culture - Sarcasm. Television is basically now a fast moving vehicle for mockery and irony. Just hear the news anchors? It is TV’s specialty to place things together so that what you see and what you hear does not jive.

And of course, this has its appalling effects - conversations are now increasingly concentrated with unneeded smart ass comments, people automatically dismiss anything halfway sincere as clichéd. Instead, you must hire someone who's adept at marketing to shield the original sincere idea with a wise-ass sarcastic joke in order for people to think it's not hackneyed.

May be I am over reacting; I'm not so sure if things are different now than they used to be. Obviously, this is primarily based on my own observations, not some global expert survey. Or perhaps, what we see in our culture is a real push for individuality.

Individualism is always the in style trend, and what has come from this is a false impression of what it means to be "open-minded". Often, since we prize individualism, we moralize that people should be tolerant of other people’s differences. Obviously individualism wouldn't do very well unless there was tolerance. But tolerance, at the same time, as been over-exaggerated and many people have caught onto the phrase "you just believe what you want to believe, and I will believe what I want to. We will agree to disagree." Eventually, we all just ignore each others points of view, or simply pretend to ignore.

Just thoughts.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mr Brooks (2007) Soundtrack - Ramin Djawadi

A Mesmeric Soundtrack Worthy of Any OST Collection

My favorite Kevin Costner film has to be undoubtedly 2007’s Mr. Brooks – a suave suspenseful thriller in an unusual Jekyll and Hyde setting that cleverly reinvents the serial killer genre.

Though blessed with an exceptionally creative script and top notch supporting show by the likes of Demi Moore, William Hurt, Lindsay Crouse and Dane Cook (in a superior negative role); what makes Mr. Brooks truly stand out is its enthralling hypnotic score by Ramin Djawadi, the award winning German composer of Prison Break (2005-09) and Ironman (2008), most recently heard on Colin Farrell’s horror comedy reboot Fright Night (2011) and Sam Worthington’s 2010 fantasy remake – Clash Of the Titans.

Mr. Brooks’ electronic textured score is a restrained kinetic tour de force with an eerie atmospheric undertone that blends perfectly with the movie's dark subject matter and intricate screenplay. A best seller, this soundtrack received rave reviews fetching Ramin Djawadi a ‘Discovery of the Year’ nomination at the World Soundtrack Awards in 2007.

Watch out for “Hallway Burial”. “Thumbprint Killer”, “Graveyard Standoff”, the mesmerizing “Mr. Brooks” and the magnetic surprise vocal track “Vicious Traditions” by the indie alternative NZ/UK band – The Veils. Mr. Brooks’ is an immensely satisfying soundtrack worth many listens. Download now and take the pleasure in!

16 tracks in playlist, average track length: 2:57
Playlist length: 47 minutes 19 seconds

1. Ramin Djawadi - One Last Question (0:43)
2. The Veils - Vicious Traditions (4:46)
3. Ramin Djawadi - Regrets Of An Artist (2:08)
4. Ramin Djawadi - The Thumbprint Killer (4:44)
5. Ramin Djawadi - Addiction (2:43)
6. Ramin Djawadi - Hallway Burial (2:03)
7. Ramin Djawadi - Detective Atwood (2:24)
8. Ramin Djawadi - Unwelcome Partner (3:16)
9. Ramin Djawadi - Suicide Note (3:05)
10. Ramin Djawadi - Decision (5:01)
11. Ramin Djawadi - Her Story (2:24)
12. Ramin Djawadi - Are We Alone (1:38)
13. Ramin Djawadi - Realization (1:42)
14. Ramin Djawadi - A Clue (3:35)
15. Ramin Djawadi - Mr. Brooks (3:31)
16. Ramin Djawadi - Graveyard Standoff (3:36)

Free Mp3 Download - 62.26 MB Single Zipped Folder –Megaupload Link

THIS IS A NON-COMMERCIAL DOWNLOAD. IF YOU LIKE RAMIN DJAWADI, PLEASE BUY HIS ORIGINAL MUSIC. You can buy original CDS/DVDs & Mp3s on his website, amazon, itunes, other online stores or your nearest music retailer.

If you have not seen Mr. Brooks yet - here's a free VEEHD movie download/streaming link!
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