Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P Jackson . . .

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Scorp's favorites - 3 - The Shining

Here is a film which is hailed as one of the scariest horror movies in English. This is a widely acclaimed film throughout the world, and is still being liked by many true fans. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, who is deemed as a perfectionist, ‘The Shining’ was released in 1980. The movie has been adapted from a Stephen King novel.

Imagine you are left inside a very large house with only your wife and your son. You have to stay there at least for another five months. Nobody is around - not even a single house nearby. Mostly the house will be surrounded by snow, all through the months. How will your reactions be, in such an environment? Will you come out successful at the end of the five month stint, or will you perish?

The answer to this question forms the bottom-line of ‘The Shining’.

Before reading the review, see this Youtube video of a famous shot from this movie which was used in the trailer – at this link.

The movie begins with a series of fantastic helicopter shots of a car moving on a hill-road. We see Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) coming to a Hotel named ‘Overlook’ for an interview. The job is to look after the hotel for five months in the winter, when the hotel is closed. Jack seems delighted that he has got an offer, and despite the manager’s warning that the previous caretaker chopped his family and two daughters in to pieces, stacked them and ultimately shot himself, Jack accepts the offer. He says the loneliness is very well needed as he is right now on a writing assignment.

At the same time, in Jack’s home, his little son Danny seems to be agitated. He has the power of precognition, and is aided by ‘Tony’, some kind of supernatural power which warns him of the future happenings. He says Jack has got the offer. Exactly at the same moment, Jack rings home to tell his wife Wendy about his new offer.

The family goes to the hotel, and the manager Stuart shows them all the rooms. The chef Hallorann takes Wendy and Danny inside the store room and the kitchen, and while conversing with Danny, Hallorann reveals to Danny that he is aware of Danny’s supernatural power, as he himself uses the power at certain times, and that he learnt it from his granny. Danny enquires him about the room no 237, and what has happened over there. Hallorann answers Danny that there are certain incidents which are not pleasant, and it will be good if Danny stays away from the room.

The next day, jack and his family are the only inhabitants of the Hotel. A month goes by. Jack gets busy in typing his material while Wendy takes care of the daily activities. Danny moves around the long corridors of the Hotel in his small cycle. Once, Danny sees the ghosts of the two girls of the previous caretaker. The phone lines are cut due to the snowfall outside, and one day Danny goes in to the room 237 which is open, at the exact moment when jack dreams about chopping his wife and child. After a while, Danny returns, with a dazed look. There are strains on his neck, and Wendy thinks it was Jack who tried to beat the child. Jack doesn’t reply, and he goes in to the ‘Gold Room’ in the hotel, and talks to a creepy man named Lloyd who appears to be the bartender. We hear Wendy shouting Jack’s name, and she comes to Jack, apologizing to him for having accused him for the son’s bruises. She tells him that Danny told her he was attacked by a lady bathing in the room 237.

Jack goes in to the room, and he sees a nude lady in the bathtub. She comes near him, hugs him and kisses. Suddenly she turns in to an old lady, with decayed skin. Jack runs away from the room.

He goes to his wife, telling her that there is nothing suspicious about the room. They both argue about shifting Danny outside the hotel. Jack now returns again to the ‘Gold Room’ which is filled with guests now. He meets a person named Delbert Grady in the room. Jack recognizes him as the previous caretaker who murdered his family, but Grady denies it, tells Jack that Jack has ‘always’ been at the overlook Hotel and JACK is the caretaker! He further tells Jack to set right his wife and the child, as his child is trying to bring in a nigger from outside in to the hotel.

We see Danny sitting in the bed, doing some kind of a queer action, and we see Hallorann at Florida, miles apart, doing the same action as that of Danny. They both communicate mentally and Danny sends the message to Hallorann that something is queer in the hotel. Hallorann calls the telephone department and requests them to call the wireless of the Hotel frequently as the phone lines have been destroyed, just to make sure everything is alright and he starts to the hotel.

Back in the hotel, Wendy learns about what Jack is actually writing in his book, and with a baseball bat in hand, she comes to jack. She asks him to go away, and while jack tries to stop her, she injures him. She locks him up in the store room, and Jack tells Wendy that he has destroyed the wireless and their car so that no one can get out.

After a while, Jack hears a sound near the door, and it’s Grady. We hear Grady’s voice from outside that Jack has failed to do his duty. Jack tells him to give him one more opportunity, and after getting Jack’s word that he will do his duty, the door suddenly opens.

Danny is awake in the bed, and he repeatedly utters the word ‘Redrum’ – the reverse of murder and writes it on the door. Wendy wakes up, and at the exact moment, Jack starts hitting the door with his axe. Wendy and Danny run away inside the Hotel, and after a chase, they hide. Meanwhile, Hallorann too arrives at the hotel.

What happened at the Hotel? Was Jack the ‘perennial’ caretaker? What happens to Wendy and Danny? What’s the mystery about Grady telling Jack that Jack has ‘always’ been the caretaker at the hotel? What happened to Hallorann? Rent the DVD and see it yourselves.

Now, Stanley Kubrick – the world knows how methodical he was. He has directed award winning movies like ‘Spartacus’, ‘Lolita’, ‘2001: a space odyssey’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (the review will soon follow), ‘Full metal jacket’ etc.. He was an innovative director par excellence, and he used a creative tool which was discovered during his days with great efficiency in this movie – the Steadycam It is said that ‘The Shining’ was only the second movie to make use of the various nuances of the Steadycam. ‘The Shining’ has a lot of things to vividly talk about, and which have been discussed a lot by the movie fans. The camerawork is exceptional in the film, with smooth, clear and perfect shots giving the audience the satisfaction of watching a great film.

Jack Nicholson as ‘Jack’ has done a great role. It is to be noted that Kubrick considered Robert De Nero and Robin Williams for the role of Jack, but finally picked Jack Nicholson, as De Nero was considered not psychotic enough for the role and Robin Williams was considered too psychotic for the role. Jack Nicholson’s role demands an eerie sort of acting, and he has mastered the role. We get psyched out when we see him with an axe at the end.

The best thing about the movie is the way Kubrick has placed his shots. Both the magnanimity and the creepiness of the hotel are well portrayed, with the long shots and the low angle Steadycam shots. When Danny goes around with his cycle and when the Steadycam follows him, the music and the camera give a creepy feeling to the audience that anything might happen anytime.

This is the kind of the movie which doesn’t show ghosts but frightens the audience. The mastery of Kubrick is evident all over the film.

Overall, me and my friend, while watching the film yesterday night, were pretty sure that someone is gonna open the door anytime with an axe in hand. Njoy the film, friends, and post your feedback.

PS:- This movie might attract a few while some viewers might also get confused. Some might dislike it totally. Don’t come to any sort of a decision by reading this post, but rent it and try seeing it yourselves without any judgment.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Scorp's Favorites - 2 - Bridges of Madison County

During my school days, there was a tabloid in Tamil – the first ever – called ‘Junior Post’ from the Vikatan group of magazines. It was a very interesting magazine with a lot of entertainment news – about English movies and many other things. Every week, a new English movie will be reviewed. Once, cartoonist Madan wrote a column for 3-4 weeks about a movie he saw. The article was so wonderful and romantic that I remembered the story all through the years (but I forgot the name of the film) till 3 years ago when I was casually browsing through Clint Eastwood’s movies in IMDB, accidentally found out the movie name! Yes. It was ‘Bridges of Madison County’.

As soon as I found about the movie, the story started to flow through my mind and I instantly remembered about the tabloid and the time when I read the story. I immediately told about the movie to my friend Balu and we started to search for the film. Those days, we use to visit Win videos in Thadagam road (near milk society) to rent movies. We used to see 3 to 4 movies a week. So we informed the shop owner about the movie and after a while found it out in Music gallery and the owner bought the movie. We rented it.

I was exited like hell just to see the movie wrapper. That night, while watching the movie, the feel was like what we experience after a romantic walk with the girl of our life in a long road with fir trees on both sides. The aroma of the movie still lingers inside my mind and whenever I think about it, it gives me such an immense pleasure.

Robert James Waller – the man who wrote the novel. Waller is a photographer too, and he has quoted that the main character of the novel holds strong similarities with himself.

Bridges of Madison County was released in 1992 in the form of a novel and it got an overwhelming response that it became one of the best selling books of the twentieth century – over 50 million copies sold worldwide – clearly a novel which has captured the hearts of all the romantic lovers worldwide.

Now, before moving in to the review, close your eyes. Switch off the computer. Switch off all the lights. Pick the romantic songs which you love the most, and play them in sequence in your cell phone or the iPod. Think about the one man or a woman in your life who means a lot to you – any woman or a man you would’ve loved. It might be your husband or your wife, and might be someone else too - the person whom you loved with all your heart. Experience the fragrance of the sweet memories of the days which you both were flying along in the sky of everlasting romance.

Okay. How did it feel like? Heaven, isn’t it? Now, grab the DVD and play it. Watch it with the same mood, and I am sure you will again experience the same kinda emotion.

It’s 1965. Francesca, a middle aged housewife, living alone in her house as her husband and her two children have gone to the state fair, is casually hearing music and cooking while she hears the horn of a car. She comes out, and there comes a car to her door. We see Robert Kincaid, a photographer from National Geographic, searching for a particular bridge to take a few photographs of it. He had apparently lost his way, and he enquires about the route, to Francesca. Somehow, she is attracted to this guy, and she feels like being herself when this guy is around. She says she will show him the route and he gives her a lift.

While on the way, they learn about each other. Kincaid tells her the name of an Italian village which he loved the most while photographing, and Francesca is astonished – it’s her native village which mostly no one has heard of including her husband. Kincaid shows interest in listening to Francesca unlike her husband, and she feels livelier. She feels young, and is much happier. She tells in her diary which she wrote after the incident - “And in that moment, everything I knew to be true about myself up until then was gone. I was acting like another woman, yet I was more myself than ever before”

They reach the bridge, and Kincaid begins photographing it, while Francesca casually strolls around. Kincaid takes a few snaps of Francesca. They both return to Francesca’s home. They both talk about various things like the places Kincaid has visited, his divorced marriage life, Francesca’s interests and many more things. Slowly, they both realize that it is for this moment that they have lived all these years of their lives – to meet at this place and to fall in love.

They spend four days together in the Madison County. While at the end, Kincaid asks Francesca to come with him, so that she can live her own life, like an free bird.

But Francesca denies the offer. She tells 

Francesca: ‘Robert, please. You don't understand, no-one does. When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you're expected move again only you don't remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself. You never in your life think that love like this can happen to you’

Robert Kincaid: ‘But now that you have it... ‘

Francesca: ‘I want to keep it forever. I want to love you the way I do now the rest of my life. Don't you understand... we'll lose it if we leave. I can't make an entire life disappear to start a new one. All I can do is try to hold onto to both. Help me. Help me not lose loving you’

Kincaid understands that she has no other options except to stay with her family. So, he leaves Francesca. Her husband and kids come home. The next day, Francesca and her husband go shopping, and while they return to their car, in pouring rain, Francesca sees Kincaid walking towards their car. But Kincaid stops suddenly and returns to his car. Francesca sees Kincaid’s car just ahead of their car, and Kincaid hangs the locket Francesca gave to him on his mirror. Tears flow down her cheeks, and Francesca knows that it’s the last ever time she is gonna see Kincaid. She even pushes hard on the door knob, but understands the reality and stays inside. The cars stop at a traffic signal, and even when the lights are green, Kincaid’s car refuses to move. He is looking at Francesca from his mirror. Francesca silently is crying, and her husband thinks it’s some sort of a headache. He honks his horn repeatedly, and slowly, we see Kincaid’s car moving forward. Suddenly, with a jerk, the car speeds away in the road, and with it, Francesca’s lively heart moves away from her.

Here is the Youtube link of this fantastic scene -

They both never meet again. One day, after many years, Francesca receives a parcel. In that, there are the pics taken during Kincaid’s visit earlier, and the letter says Kincaid is dead. Francesca had written everything about the four days she shared with Kincaid in her journals, and after her death, her son and daughter read the journal and understand everything about her mother’s life. As per her wish, her body is cremated and the ashes thrown from the Bridge of Madison County, where she experienced the livelier part of herself, for the first and the last time, ever.

Bridges of Madison County is a film which flows like a silent river, and just by looking at it makes us to feel calm and peaceful. A movie which will rekindle the long lost memories of the people whom we loved.

To be frank, I didn’t expect such a film from Clint Eastwood. He is a talented film maker – accepted. But, for him to give such a romantic classic, it’s miraculous indeed. Client Eastwood has acted as Robert Kincaid himself, and Meryl Streep as the lovely Francesca. She was nominated for the best actress in the academy awards.

Life is full of emotional moments. We might want to forget about certain incidents, but those incidents remain for long in our minds. Try seeing Bridges of Madison County. Before seeing, read the novel.

Feels great to write about this movie – one of the films which I’d love to carry with me when I’m deserted in an island.

See the trailer here.

PS:- Most of the screenshots were taken from I thank the blogger for the superb work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Scorp's favorites - 1 - Before Sunset

Imagine you are meeting someone after a very long time – say nine years. You didn’t have any kind of details about the other person in these nine years, and you absolutely have no idea about the whereabouts. Suddenly, while you are casually looking at some point, if that person stands there looking and smiling at you, what will your reaction be? Especially if that person is of the opposite gender?

Before Sunset is a beautiful portrayal of emotions. It is the sequel of ‘After Sunset’ which was released in 1995. In the movie, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) has grown to be an acclaimed writer, and he writes a book about the girl he met nine years ago at Vienna. While talking at a book store in Paris which is incidentally the last leg of his promotional tour, he suddenly looks at Celine (Julie Delphy), the girl whom he met nine years ago for a few hours. He quickly finishes his talk, and even though he has very little time left to catch his flight, he goes to Celine and asks her to have a coffee with him.

Celine accepts and they both start to walk towards Celine’s favorite coffee shop, a few blocks away. They have very little time left before they separate again. They start talking about their plan to meet at Vienna after six months when they first met, and how Celine missed the meeting as her Grand ma passed away. She asks Jesse was he present at Vienna and was he disappointed since Celine didn’t turn up, and Jesse tells he too missed the meeting. As Celine asks Jesse to give a valid reason for his absence, she discovers that Jesse indeed was present at Vienna to meet Celine. This makes her sad, and Jesse convinces her that there is nothing to be done, as that was the way things went.

Slowly, their conversation turns personal, and Celine discovers that Jesse is married and has a kid. Celine too has a boyfriend who is a photojournalist. They talk about various topics – about Celine mostly and their interests. Gradually, Celine starts talking what’s hidden in her heart. She tells Jesse that since they separated after their first meeting, she is unable to be united with any male. She tells that every time she is with a male, she feels lonely inside, and only when she is lonely without anyone by her side, she feels comfortable. That’s the reason her boyfriend is a photojournalist, traveling across countries most times.

She expresses her anguish about not being with Jesse. They both know in their minds that after their first meeting, they have never been happier in their lives. In some way, every incident happened in their lives for the past nine years reminded them of each other.

Celine becomes emotional while they travel to her apartment in a hired car. She starts to cry, having had all her memories about their first meeting and the irony of life that they were never together after the first meet. Jesse gently tries to stroke her head, and pulls back. Jesse tells Celine about his married life, and how sour it is. Just for the sake of his son, he tells Celine, that they both are living together, and there is nothing similar between them both, and every day it’s like hell.

They both realize that they have created a vacuum in their minds since they first met, and only they can fill the vacuum in each other’s hearts. But, it’s impossible to get united after these years, as they both have their own lives to pursue. They both know about this bitter truth, but even then, they want to be with each other till the last possible second.
Jesse comes to Celine’s apartment, and asks Celine to sing a song, as she had earlier told Jesse about her Guitar classes. Celine starts to sing a wonderful song about their first meeting nine years ago.

‘Let me sing you a waltz
Out of nowhere, out of my thoughts
Let me sing you a waltz
About this one night stand

You were for me that night
Everything I always dreamt of in life
But now you're gone
You are far gone
All the way to your island of rain

It was for you just a one night thing
But you were much more to me
Just so you know

I hear rumors about you
About all the bad things you do
But when we were together alone
You didn't seem like a player at all

I don't care what they say
I know what you meant for me that day
I just wanted another try
I just wanted another night
Even if it doesn't seem quite right
You meant for me much more
Than anyone I've met before

One single night with you little Jesse
Is worth a thousand with anybody

I have no bitterness, my sweet
I'll never forget this one night thing
Even tomorrow, another arms
My heart will stay yours until I die

Let me sing you a waltz
Out of nowhere, out of my blues
Let me sing you a waltz
About this lovely one night'

Here is the Youtube link of the wonderful song written by Julie Delphy herself.

Once she finishes the song, Jesse plays the songs of Nina Simone in the CD player. Celine starts to dance for the songs, imitating Nina Simone.

She tells unhurriedly to Jesse ‘Baby.. You are gonna miss the plane…’

Jesse replies, “I know”…..

The movie ends with this shot.

Before Sunset is a fantastic film which rekindles the memories hidden inside the deepest trenches of our mind. The movie is directed by Richard Linklater, just like its prequel ‘After Sunset’, which is about their first meeting nine years ago. The movie is weaved with emotions, between two people who want to be united but can never be.

The movie’s screenplay was developed by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy themselves, along with the director Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan. The dialogues were not written in paper, and they were candid. They add to the emotion of the film.

It is to be noted that Ethan Hawke's character Jesse is in a failing marriage with a woman he married because she had become pregnant. Soon after the film's release, Hawke divorced his real-life wife Uma Thurman, whom he had married while she was pregnant with their first child (thanks IMDB for this trivia).

Overall, Before Sunset is a great tale about emotions and lost opportunities and many more. I don’t have the appropriate words to pen down the effect it created in my heart. One of my personal favorites, Before Sunset will remain to be one of Hollywood’s memorable sagas of Love.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Racist attacks in Australia - do we have any rights to raise our voice against it?

We have been hearing a lot of news recently about the racist attacks on Indian students in Australia. We have raised our concern too, about the issue. Overall, it clearly brings out the common consensus that racism is bad, and it must be curbed out. Okay. That’s good to hear. Now, are we qualified to raise the slogan of anti-racism? We meaning, we Indians. Do we have any rights?

Just take a look at the villages in India. How are the dalits treated? Is it not racism to make a fellow human being to eat shit (the real human shit)? Is it not racism to use separate glasses for the dalits to drink water in public shops and hotels? Is it not racism to massacre people just because they belong to a caste which has been idiotically declared as a lower class by some foolish racist pundits? Is it not racism to laugh at the woes of these poor people? Is it not racism to aviod even touching the 'so called' lower caste people and washing hte place where thay stood or sat criticizing them as untouchables?

This is happening all over India, in all its villages. More dangerously, the ‘so called’ higher class people practice this racism in their homes and surroundings even in metros like Chennai! It’s ironical to see the same people shout against the attacks of Indians in a foreign country for a cause they themselves are practicing - racism!

In every village, dalits are killed. And the reasons are justified. Take a look at t his link - There are hundred more links available in the net.

Not only dalits, but almost every ‘so called’ lower caste is oppressed and ill treated by the ‘so called’ higher castes. I oppose racism in any form. Let it happen in India or anywhere – I oppose racism. What I mean here in this post is that, racism is abundant all over India, and almost every single Indian has either practiced it or experienced the cruelty because of other people practicing racism. Now, what rights do we Indians hold in shouting against racism in a foreign country if we ourselves are practicing the same racism inside our country?

Be ashamed, Indians! Be ashamed to be born in such a stupid country which practices on idiotic communal rules given by some egoistic racist pundits. What else can we do?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Angels & Demons - Bond with brains !

After the great success of ‘Da Vinci Code’, Robert Langdon has become a household name among world movie fans, and among high expectations, ‘Angels & Demons’ released last week in India. It features Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, Ewan Mcgregor and Ayelet Zurer among the leading roles. The screenplay is by David Koepp & Akiva Goldsman. Now, Koepp is a fantastic writer who can influence the audience with his writing style. Examples: Mission Impossible, Jurassic Park, Spiderman, Snake Eyes, Panic room, Indiana Jones and the kingdom of crystal skulls and many more. One of the most talented writers of Hollywood. Ron Howard has directed this one too, as like Da Vinci Code.

The novel Angels & Demons is a prequel to Da Vinci Code. This is the first ever Novel to feature Robert Langdon, the symbologist from the Harward University. Went to see this movie keeping in mind all these details. I have not read the novel, and hence was totally unaware about the story or the plot.

The movie begins in a laboratory (CERN – Geneva). Something called antimatter – which contains a powerful magnetic field, which, when the batteries run out, can destroy the surroundings like a nuclear bomb. Three vials of this antimatter are stored in the laboratory and one vial is stolen suddenly, when the chief scientist Vittoria Vetra ( Ayelet Zurer) finds her father dead and his eye pulled out to break in to the storage area.

We then cut to the Vatican where the Pope’s funeral is taking place. All the cardinals arrive to elect the next Pope and the everyday activities are taken care by Patrick Mckenna (Ewan Mcgregor), who holds the designation of a camerlengo – a cardinal under the Pope’s office to carry out the various religious ablutions.

We see Robert Langdon approached by a representative of the Vatican. He tells Langdon that four cardinals have been kidnapped along with one vial of antimatter, and they have received a threat that one cardinal will be killed an hour, starting at 8 PM. Also, they have a video which shows the antimatter placed in a secret location, with the battery power slowly running out. When the entire power runs out, Vatican will be destroyed completely.

Robert Langdon arrives at Vatican. After hearing the recorded telephone threat, he finds out that a secret organization called ‘the Illuminati’ – which is about 400 years old – is responsible for the threat and he also discovers that each cardinal will be executed at one altar in the Vatican – the location unknown. With such a clue in his hand, he begins his journey of moving around Vatican to find out the four altars and to stop the killing and to find out the antimatter. This is the synopsis of the movie.

Unlike Da Vinci Code, this movie is a bit lesser in pace and suspense, as it doesn’t have any startling revelations or any mysterious secrets being revealed. Having said that, the movie has its own touch of intricacies about Vatican and about the various churches and altars and about – yes – Galileo Galili’s book which contains the information about all the altars in his period.

Tom Hanks has done justice to the role of Robert Langdon, as we hold his image when we read or talk about the symbologist, just like we think about Brosnan or Connery when we refer Bond. Also, somehow he fits in to the role with ease and they both have many similarities – just think about having Will Smith or Stallone as Langdon – and you will know what I am talking about. Tom Hanks and Langdon, both are like refined gentlemen who believe brain rather than in the gun. They both appear like they will solve any mystery which relates to working out with the mind and the brain.

The new leading lady is Ayelet Zurer. She too has acted well, the type of female leads we see in action oriented movies – as a side kick to the protagonist who occasionally surprises him with her swift reactions and sudden deductions.

Ewan Mcgregor – well, I was unable to recognize him in the movie at first look. He absolutely looked like a cardinal of Vatican with a tight face which reflects the responsibility he has been awarded with – the power to run the Pope’s office until a new one is elected. Nice piece of acting. But, half way through, his character becomes very predictable.

Near the end of the movie, we know what’s going to happen finally. This reduces the pace to a certain extent. But, even then, this movie can be watched as a sheer entertainer we get to see usually in the summer.

Overall, my rating will be 6.5 out of ten. See Robert Langdon work like a highly educated, decent Bond - bond with a Ph.D, and enjoy the show, folks!

PS:- I was fascinated to read that Clint Eastwood expressed interest in directing this film! But eventually it had to be Ron Howard, as he did Da Vinci Code.

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