Sunday, 6 August 2006

Movie - Riding The Bullet

Hey, a great movie after a long time. Not everyday that you come across quality stuff. This is definitely a better Stephen King book to movie version than Dreamcatcher. Dark and thoughtful. Which brings me to Dreamcatcher. What were they thinking about when they made that movie. It's definitely one of the worst I've seen. If you're a ClixFlix member, please petition them to stop its distribution right away. And make sure you rent Riding the Bullet.

Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Movie Review - Big Fish

I've seen this movie quite a few times. A young man visits his dying father, Edward Bloom, during his last days and tries to reconcile the stories his father told him as a child with the true events that took place.

The movie is replete with flashbacks that delve into the fathers stories with Ewan McGregor playing a young Edward Bloom. The movie follows the parallels of the young Edward living out his adventures while also following the story of the older dying Edward and his family. Each story as shown to the viewer is complete with lessons learnt by the young Bloom which he shares with his family and friends and this only causes his son to investigate these exaggerations and get to the truth. What he finds creates a deep sense of respect in him for his father.

What the movie does is, it shows us a fairytale like story with the young Bloom apparently leading a perfect life meeting lots of interesting people and it also ends on a high note by showing us his son finally reconcilling differences he has with his father before he passes away.The movie is immensely enjoyable and the characters that appear during the fathers early life like Helena Bonham Carter, Steve Buscemi, Mathew McGrogy and Danny De Vito are extremely watchable. The movie has a lot of silent tributes and pointers to past movies and is one of the best I've seen.

Movie Review - 11:14

The movie proves to be quite 'different' though not one of my best movies I've seen. It starts of with a young man driving along a deserted road when a body falls on his car at precisely 11:14 P.M. He thinks he hit and killed the victim himself and so tries to hide the body. This, believe it or not is actually the end of the story and everything in the movie that happens from here on is a flashback consisting of different activities carried out by different people connected to the victim which all amount to a really bizarre series of coincidences.

A number of people in the little town where the accident takes place have all embarked on their own little adventure that same night and in the minutes preceding the fatal accident manage to crisscross each others lives in more ways than one.The whole movie is shown from the perspectives of all the characters present in the story and so each perspective lasts only a few minutes.

The entire movie has a depressing feel to it as well. I really could have done well by missing it entirely. The DVD which is available at Clixflix also has an interesting feature where you can change your screen mode and actually view two characters perspectives simultaneously.

Thursday, 30 March 2006

ClixFlix - An Analysis

I think it's great that we have a Clixflix outlet here in my colony. I mean, this is a good DVD rental chain (with a wide variety of movies and membership plans I've not seen anywhere else). And they're the only ones who let you register and pay for movies online. You can even create a shopping cart of movies you'd like to see and they get delivered to your home and picked up when you're done without any late fees for upto a week.

ClixFlix outlet is located strategically at the junction of the main road and Holy Cross road. This means that apart from the online members the company has, they also get a steady stream of customers walking in and out of the store renting DVD'S and VCD'S. Real good for business, I guess. ClixFlix now has outlets at Malad(opposite Inorbit Mall), at Marol and at Churchgate(opposite K.C College).

Now I've been thinking and observing this branch, being in my neighbourhood and all. I'm starting to think the
ClixFlix outlet out here can actually make an impression on the colony. I'm talking sociology here. It might, in my view, actually begin to modify the socio-cultural fabric of this colony, if it hasn't already. We might begin to see the formation of relationships and sub groups forged through mutual tastes in movies or other interests all because one outlet brings people with similar likes and dislikes together. There are a number of points I'd like to share that might support the above theory :-

1. More and more people are making
ClixFlix a meeting place where they can meet their friends. A large number of people have been meeting at this rendezvous point now or in it's immediate vicinity and the number keeps growing. And what kind of people are these? Residents of I.C Colony. We're talking about the largest parish in Mumbai. So we have an especially large number of catholics and different personalities meeting here. With a liquor store opposite and ClixFlix on a major junction, even people uninterested in cinema are guaranteed to pass by the store at least once. And passing by means noticing the people already in and outside the store, their mannerisms, habits and the way they're dressed, all of which leave an impact on the mind of the viewer(whether he's interested in films or not). Does it tell him something about the way people should dress or behave there? Does it influence his own movie rental choices?

2. Now, we have a very crowded
ClixFlix on a typical evening. Crowded because the store with it's attractive interiors is just large enough to accommodate it's various titles; and the number of movie lovers who have the time to browse through the store in the evening is at an all time high, even on weekdays. So we have different people from different backgrounds rubbing shoulders with each other and overhearing each others conversations and getting an idea of what kinds of movies every other person likes to watch, leading each person to become aware of every other persons taste in movies at that particular time. So ClixFlix in a way affects each persons awareness and consciousness. But does each persons choice affect every other persons choice as well? In any case, with more people learning more about each other, various relationships are bound to be formed. Relationships between people are formed and cemented when they find out they go to the same school, like the same moral in the movie, etc. Suddenly people who share diverse interests and didn't have a platform to discuss them get an outlet to share their likes with a similar person. This affects the fabric of the colony as people with similar likes are now closer than ever before.

ClixFlix has quite a few online members. Some of them may prefer the solitude of their homes but I'm guessing most of them actually like to come down to the outlet and browse the racks for themselves. The advantage ClixFlix has over it's local competitors is its collection of international cinema and offbeat Hollywood films, the kind that you don't hear about until you happen upon them on T.V two years after they've been released in the U.S. So my point is, because of this unique selection of offbeat films, ClixFlix will always have a niche clientèle to match, right? So this niche clientèle comes to the store, they mingle with the rest of the crowd on a crowded Saturday evening, renting movies no one else would watch and asking questions about them no one else would care about. All this has an effect on the rest of the people present. It makes them aware that people who rent out international or foreign language movies actually exist in their midst. It's common human nature to perceive the majority of the world as being similar in taste, in a number of fields(movies, music, etc), to you. So, a person comes in to take the latest action adventure flick, is forced to wait in line for the guy in front to get his Japanese movie, trying so hard at the same time not to appear like he's listening to the conversation two people are having inches away from him about the black and white Hollywood classic they saw yesterday and noticing at the same time the two teens who're asking for a 1980's war movie; and these collective experiences affect this person and every other respective customer when they visit ClixFlix and this is what increases their awareness of their colony and neighbourhood. They begin to realise that the people who pay for films they wouldn't normally watch and which they didn't think twice about except to curiously glance at their covers are as normal as they are and live amongst them. Suddenly it's like the boundary of the universe of their mind has been expanded somewhat. Mind you, this happens quite a lot in daily life as well, only we don't give it much thought. Imagine seeing a woman cab driver. It's kind of like the same effect.

4. Let's look at some other factors. More and more people in Mumbai are buying more and more DVD players. Just a few years ago, I was more than happy catching a movie on T.V(Star Movies, H.B.O, Zee MGM, etc) and rented V.C.D's from local parlours of movies I really cared about or everyone made a big deal about. You see, if I miss a 'good' movie at the theatre and don't want to wait two years for it to come to T.V, and I have friends over at my place who want to watch something exciting, I guess I've got no choice but to get the VCD, right? But in this respect my choices are limited and
ClixFlix is on equal terms with all other local VCD stores. Why? Because you can get Mission Impossible anywhere. So you might as well get it from the nearest parlour since they all charge the same. So if everyone's equal then the status quo is maintained, right? Wrong! ClixFlix has an advantage over other parlours seeing as how it's conveniently located(closer to proper I.C than the other two VCD stores that are near the I.C church and stock only the main Hollywood and Bollywood hits) and it has great ambiance and the other factors I mentioned above. But that doesn't answer my main question. Why is everyone buying DVD players when they can continue watching VCD's like they did all these years? What's the big deal? No one except the niche clientèle I mentioned earlier would spend double the price to get the exact same movie, only with a few extra features. So why the DVD rush?

Here's my guess. More and more official parlours are springing up all over the city with a stock of both DVD's and VCD's. These are original prints, not pirated. Added to this is the fact that DVD players in Mumbai are being sold at dirt cheap rates now and VCD's are being phased out. Keeping this in mind, part of ClixFlix's success could be attributed to the fact that it was the first proper DVD/VCD outlet in I.C and the first one to distribute DVD's that are imported only from abroad. And ClixFlix has added another variable to the equation- it stores DVD's of most of the major hits and ALSO stores DVD's of offbeat films that no other parlour holds. This means customers who don't have DVD players but want to watch those type of movies feel like they're missing out on something. That forces people to get a DVD player just to rent those type of movies from
ClixFlix that they can't get on VCD, either at ClixFlix or anywhere else. That brings me to my most important argument. It could very well be that by actually displaying DVD's of various genres that no other parlour holds, ClixFlix has actually created a demand for them!

5. Finally, my last point regarding
ClixFlix and popular culture. If ClixFlix, through it's location, ambiance, unique collection, etc actually created a demand for it's own DVD's by just displaying them, does that mean that the customers who now rent these DVD's were all these past years just ignorant people who had only a fleeting idea what other choices they could have had? Did ClixFlix's very presence create it's own niche clientèle?(In my case the answer is yes) Or is it the other way round? Is the truth really that the population of the colony and it's surrounding colonies have experienced a greater self awareness these past few years with the changing face of Bollywood and increasing film festivals in India. Was the local population just waiting in silent agony for an establishment like ClixFlix to be set up so they could then proceed to enjoy its diverse merchandise as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Was ClixFlix a formality waiting to happen because everyone expected it to happen sooner or later?


In a way, I believe the answer is yes. I believe that there was a growing awareness among local moviegoers to experience diverse cinema and
ClixFlix filled that gap. But by filling it, it also offered an abundance of its own product which was lapped up and further fuelled its own demand. I also believe ClixFlix and other such organisations that push our boundaries, no matter how small, have the power to forge and mould relationships and ideas which, ultimately, are what change the world.

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Movie Review - Syriana

I finally got to see this movie Sunday afternoon. Two thumbs up to the flick makers.

The movie traces the paths of different characters- energy analyst Matt Damon is invited to pitch a deal to the Prince of an oil-rich Arab country regarding strategising the direction of the country's economy. George Clooney is a CIA operative who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then there's the lawyer hired by the newest amalgamated oil company in the U.S trying to probe the illegal sanctioning of an oil deal by a central Asian country to an American oil company and find out who's responsible. There's also the out of work Pakistani who gets recruited as a Jehadi. Quite a bunch of interesting characters.

A friend of mine says the movie was not at any time judgemental, even in the scenes with the Jehadis. I've also read about similarities with the movie 'Traffic'. I guess this movie doesn't offer any solutions either, it just says they're all guilty people. Interesting point- I read a piece in the Times Of India a couple of days before seeing the movie. It was about global power lines and alliances of the near future all revolving around oil fields.

The part about the movie I didn't like so much was the continuous rhetoric that the characters have to use just to 'explain' the underlying situations to the audience. But the movie was nice apart from that. Just around two hours long and thoroughly enjoyable.

Movie Review - Rashomon

This movie comes from Japan's acclaimed director Akira Kurusawa. This is the second film of his that I'm seeing(I saw it this Saturday) and although I didn't find it as good as the first (I live in Fear), I thought it was worth a mention.

It starts off with three men taking shelter from the rain. Two of them begin to tell the third one about the events of the past week, to be specific the one event that absolutely shattered them. These two men are a woodcutter and a holy man. The third man is a cynic who seems curious about their story. The woodcutter seems to be the most affected. He tells the story of how he came across the body of a man in the forest along with a woman's veil. Close by, he encounters and captures a famous bandit who, during his trial at which the holy man is also present, confesses killing the man that the woodcutter found.

According to the bandits story, a man and his wife were traveling through the forest. The bandit manages to separate them and tie up the husband. He then rapes the wife in front of her husband and prepares to leave when the wife tells him she can't live with the shame and either the bandit or her husband have to die. So the husband and bandit duel it out bravely and the husband is killed and the wife escapes.

As the trial proceeds, the wife gives her testimony, which turns out to be quite different from the bandits. She says after the rape, the bandit left her with her husband, who kept staring at her with an expression of pure hatred. She couldn't handle his glare and fainted. When she awoke, he was gone. At this point of time, the cynic is reasonably interested in the woodcutters account of the trial.

But then comes the revelation that a shaman was brought to trial who spoke on behalf of the husband. His account was that after the rape, the bandit chases the wife. Hours later, he returns to free the husband and leaves. The husband then collapses out of exhaustion and dies.

On hearing this, the cynic does not know whom to believe but on seeing the woodcutters guilt ridden face, presses him on. The woodcutter reveals that he didn't tell the judge at the trial everything he saw. He then goes on to tell the cynic and holy man what really happened. The revelation shakes the holy mans faith in humanity and leaves the woodcutter in shame. But then the three are confronted with an abandoned baby and have a chance to redeem themselves.

It really wasn't the best Kurosawa movie I've seen, although it did have a nice moral at the end.


Movie Review - Elephant

I saw the movie Elephant this Sunday. I don't know why everyone goes on and on and on about it. It wasn't that good.

Based on the Columbine school shootings, the movie is supposed to show the series of events that happened one fine morning at a high school in the U.S when a couple of students decided to massacre their classmates and teachers. The movie traces one school morning in the lives of a number of high school students involved that day. The movie keeps backtracking to show the same scenes but from a different persons point of view. That is, it will show student A playing ball and then walking to school where he meets student B in the hall way. Let's say this entire shot takes five minutes. The camera will then pan to student B, but won't show him from after the meeting with student A. Instead, it will follow the same time graph that student A followed i.e we will see student B driving to school and then eventually meeting student A as in the first scene; only this time it's shown from student B's point of view. And it all starts from the exact same time that student A started out on; and it also takes exactly five minutes.

So that's how the movie goes on- just showing around five minutes of various different students- the photographer, the nerd, the girl gang, the son of the alcoholic father, etc. Finally it shows us the two famous school shooters-how they spent the morning preparing for the shootout that claimed so many lives. The DVD I saw had no additional information about the lives of the students or their classmates or what happened after the shootings or before. It's simply an account of what happened that day through the eyes of the students.

I found it a bit boring really. I'm not sure what Gus Van Sant(the director) was trying to do but he doesn't really open any doors for us in this movie if you know what I mean. I don't know why it won so many awards. I even felt like using the fast forward button a few times during the movie. There weren't even any special features on the DVD except a few background scenes from the making of the movie without any commentary which mostly show the actors fooling around.


Movie Review - Day Of the Jackal

The first of the four movies I saw this weekend(25th / 26th March). A pretty old movie, I'm guessing 1960's/1970's. An extremist French organisation plans to assassinate the President of France by hiring a professional killer. They settle on an Englishman who prefers the name the Jackal.

The rest of the movie is an account of the Jackal's activities as he prepares the how and when of his attack. The movie settings keep shifting between England and France as the intelligence agencies of these two countries try to track down a man whose face and name remains a mystery. The French government hires a famous policeman to handle the search for this invisible Jackal and he does them proud by starting of with a search for all prominent assassination attempts in the last few years. They then cross checks the names they get to existing passport holders in the top economies of the world. And so on and so forth. And so they close the gap between the killer and themselves by tracing his every move and getting closer at each successive step, despite having a mole in their search engine who's an informer to the extremists.

The movie is based on the book by Fredrick Forsythe and was also remade into the movie 'The Jackal' starring Sidney Poitier, Bruce Willis and Richard Gere in the 1990's, although the later movie had a slightly different storyline (Russian wants to assassinate American) and had a noticeable soundtrack as well. In fact, the original movie was quite drab in places and was marked by an almost absent soundtrack. I guess the original was more focused on the investigation into and search for the killer while the later movie was a suspense /action/thriller catering to a modern audience. Makes you wonder how audiences have changed so much in a matter of decades.