The Cove - An Insightful, Disturbing Documentary

                                 Movie-makers aren't spurring activism anymore, because they are activists themselves. I exactly thought that, when i saw the James Bond like, environmental documentary, 'The Cove.' National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos and his crew are players in this activist thriller documentary. It is a guerrilla mission to show us the brutal and systematic slaughter of dolphins in a hidden corner along the rugged coast of Taiji, Japan.

                                 It is said that, Dolphins are the most social creatures on the planet. They have a larger brain than humans, and a highly developed sense of hearing. We might have seen them leaping out of the water, in a incredible playful fashion, and though that these are mammals, who make most of their freedom. But, we are being proven wrong, because over the years they are trained to perform in shows and live the rest of their lives confined in small areas and cut off from their pods. Richard O'Barry, trainer of dolphins for the popular 1960s television series Flipper came to understand that it's torture for the sociable, intelligent mammals forcibly separated from their fellows and habitat. Then, he transformed himself into becoming the most vocal advocate for dolphins in the world.

                              Taiji is a lovely fishing village in Japan. They have tour boats in the shape of whales and dolphins, that cruise the harbor. The village has a national park, which is decorated with colorful murals of the sea mammals. They also have a wonderful aquatic parks and dolphin shows. Every year dolphin trainers from seaquarims and marine parks around the world gather to select animals, paying as much as $150,000 each. Those not chosen are killed for their meat. According to the docu, the slaughter of dolphins amounts to 23,000 per year.

                              In 2005, Ric O'Barry accompanied veteran National Geographic photographer Psihoyos to Taiji in an intent to capture the images of the clandestine slaughter. In the 60's, O'Barry lived a comfortable life as the trainer of the five dolphins, who played the titular charmer in the TV series 'Flipper.' After becoming a ardent campaigner to expose the grim events inside Taiji's cove, he says,"I was as ignorant as i could be for as long as i could be.," "I spent ten years building this industry, and the next 35 trying to tear down." But, the whole-sale butchery of dolphins is only half the story.

                             The Cove also brings out other guilty parties in this staggering cover-up. The International Whaling Commission, enables the dolphin massacres to happen. The Japanese government, not only looks the other way when the subject comes up but goes along when dolphin meat is sold on the market as "whale." It also has carried out a media-blackout on this subject, so, when Japanese citizens are interviewed on the street and asked about eating dolphin meat, they are shocked at the idea. With the DNA scientist Scott Baker, the documentary argues about the mercury-tainted dolphin meat finding its way into the food supply. The meat even winds up in the mandated lunches of Taiji school children.

                            Louie Psihoyos, photographer and co-founder of the Oceanic Preservation Society directs "The Cove," like a Hollywood nail-biter. He has recruited a a crew of divers, tech experts, cameramen, and others in a heroic attempt to catch on video the actual slaughter of the dolphins. Along the process, it generates a fair amount of investigative suspense and horror. In a breathtaking sequence, the team along with its thermal-imaging cameras race to the cove under the cover of darkness, avoiding the local fisherman, and police, to plant film cameras stowed in fake rocks around the bay.

                         'The Cove' is topnotch journalism, putting the dolphin trade in political, economic, and historical perspective. This is not a documentary trying to scare you with straight facts, statistics, advises, and talking heads. This is one of the most effective in a class of non-fiction films, and also prepare yourselves for the frantic, brutal climax sequence, a massacre that turns the cove into a bloodstained slaughterhouse. It's a very tough sequence, but its just a afterthought in a treatise on government corruption, and the ineffectual international Whaling commission.

                   "The Cove" insist us to think about the ethical relationship we wish to forge on globe's other species. It is properly enchanting, horrifying, and never overshadows its message or activist credentials.


The Cove - IMDb   Dolphin Drive Hunting - Wikipedia 

The Road Home - A Simple, Eternal Love Story

                                   Few faces have the power to carry an entire movie. I am not talking about the faces with star values. I just intend to say that some faces deserve to have long, lingering close-ups because so much can be seen, heard and felt just by watching simple movements of the eyes and lips. A face like that belongs to Zhang Ziyi, the Chinese actress best known as the young warrior of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." "The Road Home" was her first film, where she smiles a lot, and embraces love. 

                                    Renowned Chinese director Zhang Yimou's, The Road Home, is a poignant, sensitive, and emotionally-satisfying love story. There are so many layers of truth, emotion and devotion in Zhang's eyes throughout this movie that she single-handedly makes it deeply romantic -- even though there's not a single kiss, not even an embrace, in the entire picture.

        The movie is set in two different eras. The first fifteen and final fifteen minutes, which serves as the framing story is presented in stark black-and-white and takes place in a modern-day village in north China. The majority of the film occurs in the same village forty years ago, and is photographed in color. 

                Luo Yusheng (Sun Honglei) is a successful businessman from the city, who drives to Sanhetun, the town where he was born. The reason for his return is a sad one, to bury his father, a long time teacher who died suddenly. Yusheng's tough elderly mother Zhao Di (Zhao Yuelin) declares that her husband will be brought home properly from the place he died. She insists, no cars, no tractors. He has to be carried by a group of men, "so he won't forget his way home." 

                The flashback details the courtship of 18-year old Di (Zhang Ziyi) and 20-year old Luo Changyu (Zheng Hao), who broke with tradition and married for love rather than based on an arrangement. For Luo, his mother's fixation on an old custom, one that hasn't been followed since the Cultural Revolution, is pure superstition, but he gradually, learns the value of tradition and of placing family honor above everything. 

                Zhang Ziyi embodies and sustains both her character's absolute certainty about love and her childlike innocence. She just becomes that girl, soul and body. Glances and prolonged gazes play a big part in The Road Home's love story, and Zhang has no trouble captivating the camera. Zheng Hao is effortlessly fascinating, gentlemanly and sincere as the teacher. 

                When compared to some of the great works of Yimou's, like Raise The Red Lantern, To Live, 'The Road Home' must be considered a lesser effort. However, he and screenwriter Bao Shi has taken a small tale – we're talking about a burial and an old story, not much more – and made it transcendental. Yimou often employs a lingering camera and silence to make his points about love, family, culture, and change. Cinematographer Huo Yang's sun-drenched and snow-soaked colors are in their natural, lifelike form. 

                 There are some unique, genuine moments in 'Road Home,' including Di waiting patiently by the road for the first sight of her husband and, at the end, mother and son sobbing quietly. It is these nonverbal realities, and rich silences makes it a unforgettable experience. By the time the movie is over, we can see why the old woman feels as she does. 

                   "The Road Home" is a work of emotional purity and depicts the fable of true love with the beauty of the winter snowstorms and golden autumns that are almost as beautiful as Zhang Ziyi herself. Movie-lovers, who like a simple, well-developed romance, will appreciate this movie. 


The Road Home - IMDb 

Feel Good Movies From My Blog

                                  I have written, reviewed, or analyzed nearly 150 movies. Here, I have compiled a list of feel good movies, i have written from the start. And, what is a feel good movie ?

                                  That's hard to answer, because it differs from each person. For me, they are something we can hang out with. They should motivate you, inspire you, teach you a life lesson, and make you feel good. Movies, I think is the greatest art, and for many serves it serves as a form of high quality entertainment. But, how many times can we watch movies with exploding helicopters, slap-stick comedies, and gory super-natural forces. These 'Feel Good Movies' are altogether different, even magical. If you watch these films, you might punch the air and get right back to living your life in the best ways you can imagine.

The Way Home 
               The simple, but moving Korean drama 'The Way Home,' is the story of a spoiled young city boy sent to live in a tiny rural village with his peasant grandmother. The movie isn't about Korean culture in particular. The grandmother in this movie represents a generation, which stands completely in contrast to our modern cellphone generation, that is bombarded with consumer-friendly luxury.

The Way Home - Review

Children of Heaven
                Another powerful family drama from Iran, about two children, who invent an intricate plan to conceal the loss of a pair of shoes. A world of deep humanism is explored in this movie, as we take a trip to the poor sector of Tehran, to watch desperate attempts of soulful children. 

Children of Heaven - Review

Dead Poets Society
                This American drama tells the story of a new English teacher, who awakens a traditional, conservative prep school for boys by daring to teach the lessons that can't be found in textbooks, and by inspiring to be themselves. Robin Williams delivers, one of his best performances as the English teacher.

Dead Poets Society - Review

It's A Wonderful Life
                 In this infinitely watchable movie, George Bailey (James Stewart) has his darkening worldview adjusted by an angel called Clarence. It is about the cosmic importance of one person's life and dreams. 

It's A Wonderful Life - Review

Groundhog Day
              A crabby, egocentric Weatherman lives the same dull day, in the same dull place, over and over until his cynicism becomes boring, and leads a way to the path of enlightenment.

Groundhog Day - Review

Good Will Hunting 
               This movie is a redemption story, a story about growing up and growing comfortable with oneself. It tells the story of a 20 year old rebellious, yet incredibly brilliant young man, Will Hunting (Matt Damon).Love, friendship, acceptance, and perseverance are the main themes in this movie.


Forrest Gump
           This cinematic sensation tells Forrest  Gump's (Tom Hanks) epic journey through life, meeting historical figures, influencing popular culture, and experiencing first-hand historical incidents while largely unaware of their significance. It highlights goodness and integrity.


Little Miss Sunshine 
             This American comedy-drama road film is about a dysfunctional family going to a childrens' beauty pageant for one of the children, Olive. Traveling together in a mini-van each of them discover certain aspects of their lives that they could not see beforehand and how to relate to one another.


Cinema Paradiso
              A must watch movie for all movie-lovers. This Italian film, told in flashback, tells the story of the return of native Sicilian village, successful film director "Salvatore" for the funeral of his old friend "Alfredo", who was the projectionist at the local "Cinema Paradiso". Alfredo serves as a father figure to his young friend who only wishes the best to see him succeed, even if it means breaking his heart in the process.


The Straight Story
                 David Lynch's movies mostly resembles a nightmare, but this semi-true story about an old guy riding cross-country on a lawnmower has the slow, awesome power and says wise things about age, time and brotherly love.


The Shawshank Redemption
                    Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's novella tells a story about a banker who is accused of double murder in the 1940s and begins a life sentence at the fictional Shawshank prison, where he's befriended by an older inmate named Red. The movie transmits a powerfully pure and simple belief in hope and transcendence. 


                   Millions is a film about young kids learning lessons about life through fantastical experiences. Films like this one should be seen to remind us of a more innocent and peaceful time that is gone, but not forgotten.


                 This charming movie tells the story of Amelie, an innocent in Paris, with her own sense of justice, decides to help those around her and along the way, discovers love. 


The World's Fastest Indian
                 This movie tells the real-life story of New Zealander Burt Munro, who spent years re-building a 1920 Indian motorcycle, a bike which helped him set the land-speed world record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967. It exudes affection and goodwill.


October Sky
                  This inspirational true story based on the memoir Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, Jr. is about growing up in a mining town and pursuing an interest in amateur rocketry.


Big Fish
                   This is a movie full of vision, feeling, innocence, and magic. It tells the story about Will Bloom who goes home to be with his family as his ailing father, Edward Bloom, passes away. During his time there, he recalls the outlandish tales that his father told about his own life, always swearing they were true.


Cast Away
                      This is a inspirational tale of human survival. In this movie, Tom Hanks plays a fictional FedEx employee who is stranded on an island after his plane crashes on a flight over the South Pacific. It depicts his attempts to survive on the island using remnants of his plane's cargo, as well as his eventual escape and return to society.


The White Balloon
                          This highly acclaimed Iranian movie tells the story of a seven-year-old girl, who encounters a cross-section of Tehran's citizens as she finds and loses the money for a lucky New Year goldfish.


Being There
                        This American satirical comedy is about a simple-minded, middle-aged gardener who, after a lifetime of seclusion and safety in a Washington, D.C. townhouse, gets his first exposure to reality beyond the walls of his sheltered existence. His only reference to the world is television, and when a chance encounter brings him into the inner fold of a dying billionaire, he suddenly finds himself the toast of Washington's political elite. His simple phrases about gardening are misinterpreted as anything from economic predictions to sage political advice. 


Stand By Me
                        This is a American teen drama, which tells the writer's recounting of a boyhood journey to find a body of a missing boy, after the death of a local boy. Based on the novella 'The Body' by 'Stephen King.'


The Kid
                       This classic silent movie was the first of Chaplin's feature films, and perhaps his most memorable. The heartwarming affection shared by Chaplin and the 'kid,' Coogan leaves a lasting warmth even in the coldest heart.


                     This inspirational true story about love, friendship, and survival tells the experiences of a 27-year-old guy, who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.


Finding Neverland
                        This semi-biographical, feel-good movie is about the experiences of Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie that led him to write the children's classic. He befriends a young widow - and more importantly, her four sons - and their experiences together give him the ideas for a story about boys who do not want to grow up. 



Hunger - Witness The Strength of Human Spirit

                                 In 1981, Irish Republican Army (IRA) men behind bars seek identification as political prisoners. As a protest, they won't wear prison clothes (the uniform of common criminals) but demand their own. They decorated their walls with great caveman swirls of their own waste. In this protestation against Margaret Thatcher and the British government, Bobby Sands, an Irish republican, locked up in Belfast prison, began starving himself. Sands died after starving himself for 66 days, at the age of 27. Nine other inmates followed him to death. 

                              The movie "Hunger" tells the devastatingly powerful story of Bobby Sands. Artist Steve McQueen's debut feature, Hunger might be the bleaker movie you have ever seen. It is uncompromisingly bold and commands our attention for its elaborate mise-en-scene and shockingly beautiful imagery. The movie advances more by images than dialogues, and most of its sounds being unintelligible moans and screams. 
                          Even though it is a Bobby Sands story, we don't even see Sands until 30 minutes into the movie. First, we follow a taciturn prison guard Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), from his home (he checks under his car for bombs) to his job "interrogating" inmates at The Maze. His knuckles bleed red from beatings and enforced bathings on prisoners, but his face betrays a keen sense of regret. He is constantly under threat because the IRA exacts revenge. Then we dwell in prsion with two imprisoned Irish Republican Army members, Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) and Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon), watching them smuggle tiny messages to headquarters and paint the walls with their own excrement.

                       After half-an hour of the movie, the sudden arrival of Sands (Michael Fassbender) as a kicking and screaming new inmate jolts the film into a whole other realm. He is the IRA leader who reached international headlines when he starved himself to death over a two-month period. 

                      Director McQueen is a famed British artist who has, before, focused his film-making on non-narrative, meta-cinematic art installations, many of which use multiple cameras and simultaneous projections in enclosed spaces. With 'Hunger,' he realigns his visual artistry by changing enclosed spaces into a claustrophobic visual vocabulary that dominates his frame. The script by McQueen and Irish playwright Enda Walsh, is insistent on seeing all the characters as humans, torn by their competing desires,obligations and impulses. 

                    Cinematographer Sean Bobitt, uses long-takes to depict mundane routines of prison-life, on both sides of the spectrum, such as a masked guard cleaning up the urine in hallway, cell by cell, are most impressive. In the last moments of Booby Sands, the camera focuses intimately on his shrinking frame and bedsores. This scene inter-cuts with brief images of Sands' self-vision as a child sitting in the room. Bobitt creates some of these haunting images, which have a disturbing painterly quality. 

                    There is a brilliant scene mid-way through the film. In this 22-minute extra-ordianry scene, Sands and his priest (Liam Cunnigham) battle over moral and practical issues of protest, personal and collective responsibility, micro and macro politics, and the sacredness of life and death. In this audaciously compelling sequence, McQueen's camera just hangs back and watches it build. The priest demands "I want to know whether your intent is just to purely commit suicide here." After a long pause, the prisoner replies, "What you call suicide, I call murder." That one sequence makes "Hunger" what it is: a force of acting, writing and riveting moral complexity. 

The Monologue :

                      Michael Fassbender gives a astounding performance as the heroic and humble Bobby Sands. He went on a medically supervised crash diet and lost over 50 pounds. He was blessed with a clear elocution and eloquent voice. Even though his transformation to skin-and-bones is shocking, it is not sensationalized.                                                                                                                                                                                                        We might not agree with the political stance of Sands, but his obstinacy and the willingness to use his own body as a canvas of protest, is a excruciating experience, and deserves our great respect. Through "Hunger" we learn about human spirit and the strength of human resolve. The unflinchingly realistic "Hunger" leaves an indelible impression on us. 
Hunger - IMDb 

The Expendables 2 - A Hollow-Point Amusement

                                   Hollywood and other film industries has never been kind to its old actors or players, as was clear from the careers of so many stars, even during the studio system. But, Expendables, the movie formed by Sylvester Stallone, is a throwback to the righteous-kill, action movies and stars of the 80s. It features several generations of action film icons pounding against each other.  

                       “The Expendables 2”  mostly serves as the working opportunity for many of Hollywood’s former action stars. It is also a self-referential tale, that pays serious homage to the stars better and more glorious days in the past. There’s really a great interest in seeing old-school action icons tossed together in the same movie, but imagine what a blast it could be if the films gave them genuinely inspired material. Instead, we have male population of a Third World nation being evaporated into red by a superior firepower. In short, it has no surprises and no twists. 

      After an initial sequence in Nepal that finds them slaughtering thousands of bad guys, and rescuing a Chinese diplomat, the band of ruthless mercenaries -- Barney (Sylvester Stallone), Christmas (Jason Statham), Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and Bill the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) -- are about to take rest, when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) drafts them to take on a seemingly simple job.

                  Church dispatches Barney and company to Albania, to track down a downed airplane, and retrieve the mysterious contents to a safe. To retrieve the safe and for negating its technological complexities, he sends along a young woman, Maggie (Yu Nan). But, the the group is ambushed by Jean Vilain (Van Damme), and he kills Bill. Vilain has found a stash of weapons-grade plutonium deep in a mine and trying to get it out by using slave labor. The mysterious content is a blue-print of the mines.  

                   The Expendables team is helped by Mr.Church and Trench (Arnold), a rival. Then, the movie travels for that big-climax, even though, the character building moments throughout the movie are mostly painful and mundane. 

              Stallone and his Expendables has leathery skin, but they're still at it, and they’re not trying very hard to hide it. Since the block-buster success of their first film proved the enduring popularity of action heroes in their 50s and 60s, we have more muscles crammed into this movie. The excited pack has a couple of noteworthy additions (Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris) and subtraction (Mickey Rourke), plus enlarged cameos (Schwarzenegger and Willis).

              Simon West takes over the direction from Stallone this time, but his efforts are as pedestrian as can be, and lacks the style, grace of his movies like "Con Air." The action sequences, are a major drawback in a film like this, because its completely formulaic. Fans of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Norris and Van Damme will have a great treat in watching these movie icons together, and twist their still-taut muscles, even though their stunts looks more of a workout for their stuntmen.

                There's no need to write a lot about 'Expendables 2,' because if you have a firm understanding, in what they're getting at, it is unlikely to disappoint. It has knife fights, big guns, blood and witty one-liner nods to the assembled actors’ filmographies. This is generic, basic action film-making, like the ones in 80s, no more, no less. 'The Expendables 2' is a movie fast food of lower level, but it does have a certain charm to it, no matter how slight it may be.


Badlands - A Meditative View of Love And Death

                                    Badlands is a simple, PG rated film, which makes a much more eloquent and enduring statement about American culture's glorification of violence. The movie presents us a man who kills for neither joy nor pain. He rather kills for the sheer convenience of the act, thinking of neither the repercussions that might eventually come down on him, or of  the suffering of his victim. To be brief, he is apathetic. Even though the theme here is 'alienation of youth,' it finds a rigorous poetic voice in 'Badlands.'  The movie also marks the feature-film debut of visionary director  'Terrence Malick.'

                                     Terrence Malick is a rare kind of a film-maker. In the four decades as film-maker, he has only directed five films. After 'Days of Heaven' in 1978, he he literally took off and didn't touch a camera for 20 years, then returned triumphantly with "The Thin Red Line" as the same brilliant artist. Terrence Malick's films doesn't have an exceptional story, but the images you see in his movies are very unique, so different from anything you usually see that it takes a while or even a second viewing to truly appreciate them. Like all his films, 'Badlands,' at first seems disorienting, because it doesn't follow the genre conventions. But this, fictionalized account of Starkweather's 1950s killing spree, is a cult classic--mixing together murder, banality, pop culture, love, romance, and alienation.  

        'Badlands' is a fictionalized account of real-life exploits of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in 1958. Kit (Martin Sheen) is working as a garbage collector because he doesn't have anything better to do. He is a vagrant with no particular place to go and nothing to do. Holly (Sissy Spacek) is a 15 year old girl, with long beautiful hair. Kit meets Holly, immediately falls for her, and they begin a courtship. Holly isn't pretty or doesn't have a great personality. Yet she looks strangely mature for a 15-year old. 

              In their courtship, they're not having raucous fun, they don't have long conversations about anything, or they don't rebel flamboyantly against authority figures. Both Holly and kit seem incapable of showing emotions toward each other. Holly's domineering father (Warren Oates) doesn't want Kit around his house, so Kit shoots him and burns the house down. Holly eerily not minding that her father is dead, runs off with Kit. 

               Thus begin long cross country crime spree, as the excitement and paranoia of the possible arrival of the outlaw Kit Carruthers spreads through the Great Plains. At first, Kit has his excuses for killing people, such as when he guns down three bounty hunters searching for him and Holly in the woods where they are hiding. Throughout the plot, Malick sneakily builds a biting commentary on the American infatuation with violent crimes and criminals.

                 The searing central performances by Sheen and Spacek are amazing. Martin Sheen is by turns terrifying and infectiously likable, one of his best next to Apocalypse Now. His character, Kit is full of contradictions. He is not counter-cultural, does not defy institutional authority per se, and he also shows respect for Holly's education, insisting that she takes her books with her so that she won't “fall behind.” Sissy Spacek as Holly, showing innocence in the face of Kit's violence is scary in itself. Spacek plays Holly with such offhanded withdrawal -- as if the gum she's chewing is the dream she's pondering over -- that only glances suggest that her heart might be racing. 

                 Director Terrence Malick doesn't romanticize the runaways or judge them, but just tells their story as it is and allows the viewer to fill in all the missing pieces. The evil portrayed in this movie is unique, in that it carries no emotional baggage. When the incidents are over in the movie, there is little to say because only his murderous acts remain, with no true aftermath to speak of. He also makes sure, that we never confuse Kit and Holly with Bonnie and Clyde. A lack of passion differentiates them from the gaudy outlaws of the thirties.

                 The most important reason to watch 'Badlands' is Malick's choices in camera placement, and the powerfully photographed harsh bleakness of the South Dakota lands by cinematographers Brian Probyn, Tak Fujimoto, and Steven Larner. This movie is also among the best examples I have ever seen of the perfect use of music. The music by George Tipton didn't sounded out of place, and I couldn't imagine the scenes without their musical accompaniment. 

                 Badlands depicts moral emptiness as an inevitable by-product of mass society and its vulgar culture. The dysfunctional role of the media and its thirst for sensationalism confers status on small-time criminals, turning them into instant celebrities. The characters are a product of its materialistic times, where television and movies colors everyone's actions. The protagonist's actions, though never explained, tell much more than if they were attempted to be explained. This movie is a convincing case-study of people headed for hell and looking, talking and acting pretty much like any of us.

                 Badlands, portraying the two lost violent souls, is a complex, morally ambiguous film and an indisputable masterpiece of American cinema.


Badlands - IMDb 

House of Sand And Fog - An Unforgettable, Excruciatingly Tragic Movie

                              What happens when a dream turns into a nightmare? The American dreams are built on the basis of financial independence and home ownership. For some it's a place of refuge and comfort, or it's some sort of investment. For others, it's a key to identity and a link to the past. "House of Sand and Fog," adapted from Andre Dubus 1999 novel tells the sad story of two people on two edges of the American Dream. Like Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" or Innaritu's "21 Grams," this is one of the movies that try to harvest the terror and grandeur of classical tragedy from the everyday sorrows of contemporary American life.

                               In the mainstream cinema, we always have the division between good and evil. It's rare to come across a movie, where you don't know which side is right, where it is terribly difficult to form an alliance on one side or the other. Vadim Perelman’s House of Sand and Fog goes against all by setting up a bleak conflict with two opposing sides and refusing to align with one or the other.

        Massoud Amir Behrani (Ben Kingsley) is a proud, honest, Iranian immigrant, is the sort of person the American dream was designed for. He has moved to the United States a number of years ago with his wife, Nadi (Shohreh Aghdashloo), and his son, Esmail (Jonathan Ahdout). He was once a air force colonel, but was forced to flee, when the ruler was deposed. Exhausted from his night job as a clerk in a convenience store, Behrani decides to buy a property at an auction. His idea was to make some improvements and re-sell  it at market value, so that he can raise the cash to buy another house and have enough left over to fund his son's college education.

              The house in question, belonged to Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly). Her husband had left her eight months ago and has spent most of her time in bed, depressed. She never cared about the mail, where she would have found letters from the county to take possession of the house and put it up for auction if she doesn't pay her tax bill. It's also partially the county’s fault too. The taxes imposed against her were a mistake, and they were for only $500, hardly enough to justify repossessing a house. When she finds out that her house was already purchased by Behrani, she realizes to her dismay that she has lost in a few months what her father took 30 years to pay off.

                 Kathy views Behrani as a thief and calls him that to his face. She also finds consolation in the person of a sympathetic and married police offer, Lester Burton (Ron Eldard), who chooses to help her by harassing Behrani and threatening his family. Instead of settling the matters, this deepens the tensions.

                 Ben Kingsley as Massoud Behrani is a perfect fit for the character: Kingsley's clean-cut physique and air of intense focus could not be better suited to Behrani's tightly wound sense of honor and his latent violence. Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo plays Nadi Behrani, with so much dignity and heart. Jonathan Ahdout gives a moving performance as a good-hearted, Americanized son. Connelly as Kathy is well suited to her role. She channels an inner despondency that is heartbreaking, and presents Kathy as a deeply wounded bird, but one who is still capable of fighting. 

                  Russian-born Vadim Perlman in his debut feature-film has executed "House of Sand and Fog" with admirable dexterity, infusing each event with almost unbearable tension and foreboding. He draws upon a vast source of human emotion, and brings out to our attention some of the more demanding themes, the meaning of home, the downward mobility of a woman, and the yearning for upward mobility of an immigrant who wants to escape the menial jobs. The film, shot by Roger Deakins, has a elegant, melancholic look and a style that might best be described as tactful. 

                 Each of the characters in the drama is flawed but capable of love, self-sacrifice, and kindness. We might find ourselves shifting allegiances between Behrani and Kathy as they try to cope with the conflict that draws them together in a circle of anger, love, loss, and recrimination. The story by author Andre Dubus III doesn't easily paint its characters, constantly making us reflect on exactly what shade of gray our eyes are actually seeing. Both Behrani's family and Kathy holds compassion and decency, and seem to concord that no house is worth a human life, which makes the heavily foreshadowed final tragedy especially painful and powerful. 

                House of Sand And Fog is a challenging motion for the viewers. It exacts much from the audience, and repays that investment with engrossing drama that does not offer insulting, eloquent answers. The movie says that, if the simplest of solutions can’t be agreed upon, then a pound of flesh may be the next step. House of Sand And Fog, with its excellent performances, is a heavy flick made for grown-ups to savor. 


The Cabinet of Dr Caligari - Monumental And Influential Movie of Silent Era

                            When the longer-stories came into existence in the early 1910s, Hollywood tried to hone its storytelling techniques by adding ts own brand of realism. But, In Germany a film movement raised, which influenced and genres like film noir, science fiction, horror. Expressionistic film movement's influence is tremendous on so many great directors that range from Fritz Lang to Tim Burton. Its prophetic story and unique set designs (by artists Walter Reimann, Walter Röhrig) made for a strangely effective visual experience. 

                           Robert Wiene's 1920 "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari"  is innovative work and pinnacle of German Expressionist film-making. It's also credited as the first film to introduce "twist ending." The long shadows, sets, and a iconic brand of surrealism was later influenced the designs of Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1927).

        The movie starts with Francis (Friedrich Feher), sitting on a bench, watching with concern as his fiancee walks him passed him like a zombie. He tells to a stranger sitting next to him of a maniacal doctor, who disrupted their lives years ago, when he came for a country fair to their town. 

                A magician named Dr Caligari (Werner Krauss) exhibits a somnambulist (sleepwalker) named Cesare (Conrad Veidt), who sleeps in the aforementioned cabinet, and he challenges his audience to ask anything about the future. Francis' friend Alan hastily inquires to Cesare, he was told that his death will come before dawn. At night, Alan becomes another victim of a serial-killer, who has stalking the town for quite some time. Francis suspects Caligari and sets out to prove his hunch. 

               The quest take us to the bizarre landscapes and comes to end with a great plot twist, which might shock first time viewers and it doesn't feel manipulative or forced. The subsequent viewings reveal just how well its creators have developed the themes of madness, with a multi-layered deceptive screenplay. 

                Director Robert Wiene rather than attempting to capture "realism," which was the general method of that time, he went the opposite route, spreading the screen with forced perspectives and all kinds of bizarre diagonals and slants; there is hardly a right angle to be found in this film. The result is a dreamlike logic. Wiene mesmerizes with angular Expressionistic sets and fantastic swirling. The way the German directors like Wiene, incorporated recognizable themes into their art movies was by far the most revolutionary development of any cinematic era.

                 The makers of this movie used various colored filters to create the effect of a color movie. Lightly colored shades of sepia tone, blue, and purple add narrative depth to queasy episodes of altered mental states. They accommodated extravagant mannerisms with heavy make-up and and dark costumes, which intensified the attitudes of the characters.

               "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari" is a artistically uninhibited silent horror film, with a ingenious plot. This movie can be enjoyed by anyone, who appreciates a well told story. 


The Cabinet of Dr Caligari - IMDb

The Cabin In The Woods - A Redefined Horror And Slasher Movie

                             A group of teenagers heads for a trip to a remote cabin in the woods, looking to have a good time. You might have heard this story line for all kinds of slasher thrillers. The Cabin In The Woods is a horror movie, a slasher movie, so we know exactly, what's going to happen, right? The answer is 'No,' because the basic horror movie foundation is filled here with tricks, twists, and surprises.

                           It has a working knowledge of all the nightmares, and the more you know about horror movies, the more rewarding you will find the film. But even if you hate horror movies, you are still in for a treat. Let's just say that if you like cleverly twisted spins and if you have a strong stomach for flying body parts, then this will be your funny, entertaining horror movie.

       The movie starts with a funny prelude, where two industrial office managers (Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins) in ties and short-sleeve shirts whine about work in a nameless corporate complex. As they annoy each other, the title of the film blasts on the screen. Then, it takes us to the conventional story about a group of young adults -- Curt (Chris Hemsworth), the stud, his hot girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison), Dana (Kristen Connolly), the good girl , Marty (Fran Kranz), the goofball stoner, and Holden (Jesse Williams), the brainy guy.

                Meanwhile, Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) work, along with Lin (Amy Acker) in what looks like a lab or warehouse, but it turns out to be a............well, can't really say what they are doing, or what happens in for the rest of story. The fun of watching this movie really starts there, slowly a bigger plan evolves, saying what it's all about. 

               Cabin In The Woods was delayed two years due to the financial trouble MGM. It was filmed in 2009. Usually when a film is shelved it's seen as a bad sign, but the brilliant deconstruction of the genre, shows what intelligence and invention can bring to the otherwise middling scary movie. It might look unconventional, once you think about the movie, but it's a rare kind of horror movie that surpasses the genre's requirement, and it destroys the cliches.

               Like Wes Craven's Scream (1996), the screenplay by Joss Whedon and Goddard, piles on craziness with gleeful wildness. They provide a set-piece that brings together every great franchise reference they can with enough blood to satisfy even the biggest gore-hound. Whedon and Goddard have also excelled in taking the old formulas and reconfiguring them for a post-modern generation. Goddard have really worked so hard to appease our base appetites for destruction. 

               In 'Cabin In The Woods,' the horror has a order, it's controlled. So, when true chaos arrives, in the last part of the film,  to scatter that order, horror fans everywhere will break into a wicked grin. The movie seeks out every possible source of fear the genre has to offer. It has few good scares, plenty of gore, and cleverness, although it sometimes falls on hackneyed conventions, like the last minute cameo to literally explain everything we’ve been seeing. 

              From the hilarious opening sequence to the breathtaking final image, 'Cabin In The Woods' gives us a new experience, a experience every horror movie fan will savor. 


The Cabin In The Woods - IMDb

Blood Diamond - An Intense, Powerful Movie About A Shocking Reality

                         Have you ever been morally caught up with movies? If yes, then 'Blood Diamond' is for you. The travelogue thriller is set in Sierra Leone in 1999. This movie will burn in your consciousness long after the edifying moments have faded.
                         In most of the African countries, embroiled in civil war, it's hard to determine which side is worse: the government or the rebels. As is often the case in this sort of civil war and bloodbaths, it is the innocent villagers and farmers caught between the two. The phrase T.I.A. was used in 'Blood Diamond.' It stands for 'This is Africa,' and it conveys a fatalism. Fatalism is some kind of philosophical thought or theory, which holds that all events are predetermined in advance and human beings are powerless to change them. The civil wars in Africa depicts this strange brand of fatalism. This phrase binds the rugged-beauty of a continent with the chaos that tears it to pieces. 

                       Before getting into the plot of the movie, let's see some shocking facts behind this story. In Sierra Leone, roughly 75,000 were killed, 20,000 innocent people suffered bodily mutilation, and 2 million fled the country altogether. National Geographic News reports that, these conflicts combined have displaced millions and resulted in the deaths of more than 4 million people. All these death happened for a commodity, Sierra Leone's largest exportable commodity, the Diamond. It was smuggled out and was purchased on the open market despite a international ban on purchase of so-called "Blood Diamonds." Although the three primary characters are fictional, the historical background behind the events are accurate.  

        Danny Archer (Leonardo Di Caprio), a native of Zimbawe, is a former Angolan mercenary, who smuggles Sierra Leone's diamonds into Liberia in return for guns and rocket-launchers, which go to the rebel army (the RUF). The RUF mows down children and the old, rapes women, sends men to work in their diamond fields, and trains young boys to be rapists and murderers. Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) is humble fisherman, but his family was torn apart and forced to mine diamonds for this brutal rebel group. Solomon, one day, at work, finds a gigantic pink diamond and tries it to hide nearby.

               A rebel stops him, but the government troops attacks the rebels, and Solomon gets a moment to bury his rock before being carted off to jail. In the Jail, Danny learns about Solomon's buried treasure, who is in there for smuggling gems to Liberia. Danny Archer makes a deal with Solomon: for the diamond, he will help the man find his family. To achieve this, Archer goes for help to American journalist Maddy Brown (Jennifer Connelly), whose cost for aid is a full expose from Archer about how "dirty" diamonds are laundered to appear clean to the world market, and how much state of guilt, the London diamond merchants have.

              The rest of the movie centers on the journey of these two very different Africans: the squalid white man desperate for a big score to settle his debts with a mercenary colonel (Arnold Vosloo) and the wise black man determined to find his teenage son (Caruso Kuypers) before the RUF turns him into a mindless killing machine. 

                 Leonardo Di Caprio as Danny Archer plays perfectly the role of an amoral rogue. He snatches this juicy antihero role and heads for the end zone, right down to an accent that, sounds thoroughly unaffected and consistent. Jennifer Connelly does her best and looks convincing in an cliched part of an idealistic journalist. Djimon Hounsou, with his volcanic temper is the best of all. His scenes with his son are particularly touching, and he evokes a father’s unrelenting determination and love. 

                   Director Edward Zwick known for movies like Glory, Legends of The Fall, The Last Samurai, is a fine craftsman and makes sure that the pace never slackens. Zwick's vision and messages about selfishness, the exploitation of the masses, the shame of child armies, the greed, and man's general inhumanity to man, keeps our attention throughout, even though the narrative is simple. Zwick and writer Leavitt add the right amount of horror, character development and political activism to make this movie as one of most important films of our time. 

                    The movie zeroes in on several important subjects that have not been dealt with in other films. The first is the violation of the children like Dia, who are taken from their families and put in training camps where they are brainwashed to become merciless killers, and held in check by drugs, liquor. At the end, Blood Diamond reports that there are an estimated 400,000 child soldiers in the world today. The movie also points out about the morally degraded, profit-minded, rich global diamond companies. They pillage on the natural resources of African countries, and uses the poor Africans for cheap labor, and finally turns their head when they know that the money from the sale of the diamonds is funding the arms used in African wars.

                      In the movie, Maddy says, "You might catch a minute of this on CNN, somewhere between the sports and weather." This line, might seem a little preachy, but it still rings true. Blood Diamond carries us to the ends of earth and exposes the brutal surroundings and atrocities. 

Memorable Quotes

"The people back home wouldn't buy a ring if they knew it cost someone else their hand."

"Here we say that the freedom is in your hands, so if you go against us, so go your hands."

"Sometimes I wonder... will God ever forgive us for what we've done to each other? Then I look around and I realize... God left this place a long time ago."

"Out here, people kill each other as a way of life. It's always been like that."


Blood Diamond - IMDb