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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rocky (1976)

This movie was a surprise, a total million-to-one hit when it was released in 1976. Imagine a struggling Italian-American wannabe star by the name of Sylvestor Stallone, who gets inspired by a boxing match that he saw in 1975 between the super boxing champion Mohammed Ali and a challengerChuck Wepner (whose major claim to fame is battling through a full 15 rounds with Ali and knocking him down once). Stallone writes a script and gets a studio to take a look at the script. Well, wonders of wonders, the studio and a pair of producers like the script and offer to buy it from him. And then Stallone springs the surprise, he wants to play the lead role. Imagine an unknown actor who had also starred in a soft-porn movie earlier wanting to play a role that the studio was wanting to offer to one of the macho stars. However, Stallone held out and got the chance of his life, although with a low-budget movie (the movie was so low budget that some of Stallone's family members including his dad and wife played cameo roles in the movie); The movie cost only around $2.1 million to make, and was an incredible hit, making more than $100 million and making the Italian-American a superstar. And then the Oscars came in. The movie won 3 Oscars (including the most prestigious ones of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing; it received a total of 10 Oscar nominations).

Rocky (1976)

The movie was the embodiment of the American dream; work hard, have pride in yourself, catch all the chances you can, put your heart into it, and you will make good. If you watch the movie and see the slow transformation, the scenes of training and the extra-ordinary hard work needed to be able to reach a stage where the challenge to the world boxing champion can seem realistic, then you will realize how appealing the movie actually is. In addition, the shy romance in the movie seems so natural. The music (by Bill Conti) is a perfect accompaniment to the movie, given how it matches the tone of the movie, hitting the emotional chords when required, and matching the hard physical training scenes in the movie. Further, to illustrate how realistic the fight was supposed to be, both Stallone and Weathers suffered injuries during the shooting of the fight scenes from the actual punches thrown. Together, all these factors seemed to come together and made the movie a big hit.
The movie is all about the sudden chance offered to a young man (Rocky Balboa) who is doing a routine job as a loan-collector for a loan shark and also a boxer, and the offer of a chance against the reigning boxing champion is the chance that seems to come once in a lifetime. He grabs the chance, rationalizing that even though the champion is the better boxer and will almost certainly win, it will be a victory for Rocky if he can stay with the champion till the end and not be knocked out early enough. This is his ambition, his driving force in the boxing match. In other ways, he is a normal young man, in love with the sister Adrian (Talia Shire) of his friend Paulie (Burt Young), and the blossoming of the romance is another strong point of the movie, treated by the director with a soft note compared to the hard physical tone of the movie.
The reigning boxing champion of the world, Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers, who played a part in all the Rocky movies till Rocky IV) has an important fight coming up, with the fight scheduled for the New Year's Day of 1976, celebrating 200 years of the American Revolution. (If you know about the boxing world, you will realize the amount of money and prestige staked on these major clashes). However, his opponent has to drop out due to injury, and after looking around, Creed picks up Rocky Balboa to be his match. As in the real life match, everybody decrees that this is a terribly mismatched fight, except for Rocky who sees this as the path out of his current life. In real life, the boxer Chuck Wepner is always known as the boxer who managed to make Muhammed Ali go the full round, and so it was in the movie. Rocky is coached by a crusty old trainer Burgess Meredith (who is a former boxer himself, and sees in Rocky the chance to live his own dream). The selection of Meredith for this character was a very good choice, and you can only watch and wonder as this hard-nosed trainer transforms the rough Rocky into a gem, capable of standing against the world champion, and even knock him down. For what happens in the final fight, you really should watch it yourself. You won't regret it.

Jaws: Fearful of the sea

(This review will contain the story of the film, so if you feel that your surprise of the movie is being spoiled, feel free to stop reading at any point of time)
For thousands of years now, humans have been traveling on the vast waters of the seas and oceans. And just like there are massive predators on land such as tigers, lions and others such, there are massive creatures in the sea. The shark is one such predator, it is the pinnacle of evolution in the water, and has been there for millions of years now. The shark is one of the true rulers of the water, being a very accomplished killing machine in terms of razor-sharp teeth, sensors that can sense animals in the water, and so on. It is only man with his superior technology who has managed to start decimating the shark, and given the fearful reputation of the shark, there are not that many people signed up to save the shark (as opposed to more lovable creatures such as whales, dolphins, and so on). With more research, it has been found that most of the initial theories regarding sharks are more misplaced, they are not natural man-eaters who will sneak upto you when are in water and attack you. A lot of shark-attacks happen because the shark mistakes a swimmer from underneath as a seal.
And then there was this movie. It single-handedly exploited the fear of humans about the unknown in the water; you can imagine the fear when you are going into the water not knowing that there is a shark nearby, and this movie was actually about a great white shark, the largest of the sharks. Shark attacks have happened before, making the story all the more believable, and people did not know enough not to be spooked by the movie.


The movie was directed by Steven Spielberg as a young aspiring director who had just directed 2 movies before this (one of them was a made-for-TV movie). The movie was based on a novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, with the general consensus being that the movie was better than the book. The movie was shot in Martha's Vineyard, and had a number of problems during shooting. However, the movie was splendidly made, with the right amount of menace, suspense and horror and was an incredible success (the movie grossed more than $400 million in its release and is still earning from the DVD market; in comparison the total cost of production was only around $12 million). The movie essentially revolves around 3 people, Roy Scheider (as the local sheriff Chief Martin Brody), Richard Dreyfuss (as a shark specialist, Matt Hopper), and Robert Shaw (as the old fisherman who offers to hunt the shark down, Quint).
Imagine the start of a movie that did not have too many movies of the same genre, and suddenly you see a young girl who has gone into the water in some amount of drunkenness, suddenly being attacked by a massive creature, and you don't even see the full size of the creature. And this is how Jaws started. This is a small town 'Amity', dependent on the tourist season for a fair amount of business. A mention of a shark in the water, and you will see tourists voting with their feet and the collapse of the business. On the other hand, if you don't do anything, then any more shark attacks will anyhow be public knowledge, and you risk the lives of innocent people. This is the choice facing newly arrived Sheriff, Martin Brody. He is helped in this decision by the cold nature of the town mayor who can't see the business lost, and constantly over-rules the sheriff.
While the first victim is being evaluated to see whether this is a shark attack, eventually it is business as usual. And then a second attack, where a young boy is killed in a busy tourist beach session almost in front of her mother. It is now open season on the shark, with many shark-hunters going out in all sorts of boats. It also sees the arrival of the know-it-all expert Matt Hopper and Quint (nursing a grudge against sharks when his ship was downed in the Second World War and sharks killed a number of his fellow sailors). In all this, the shark claims one of the hunters; while a different tiger shark is killed and proclaimed as the killer shark, and hence the people are safe now (an illusion that will claim more lives).
These scenes lead onto the final confrontation where the true size of the Great White Shark is revealed to these 3 hunters who are out on a small boat to get the shark. In a cat-and-mouse game with the shark, including a terrifying sequence where the shark actually tears into a metal cage, their boat is almost destroyed by the shark. How do they save themselves and get the shark ?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Apocalypse Now: A very dark movie

(This review will contain the story of the film, so if you feel that your surprise of the movie is being spoiled, feel free to stop reading at any point of time)
There have been many movies made on the Vietnam War, covering a wide spectrum from comedies to gritty to outright patriotic, and many of them cover the angst and the horror of war; however, if you want to see a movie that does not cover the war as much as takes a look into what the horror of war can do to the human mind and spirit, Apocalypse Now is the movie to watch.
This movie is a movie that almost made the director, Francis Ford Coppola (director of the Godfather series), into a mad person. In fact, there is a documentary by his wife, Eleanor Coppola, called Heart of Darknessthat describes the struggles in shooting this movie on location in the Philippines, and makes for a good companion to the movie DVD.

Apocalypse Now
For Francis Ford Coppola, this movie was a mission for him, to the extent that when the financing for this movie dried up, he used the money he made from the Godfather movies as well as a loan in order to complete the movie. The movie was derived from Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness (1899), as well as drawing elements from Herr's "Dispatches" (1977). The movie starred 3 people in great roles along with a number of upcoming actors, with Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall. Coppola had to struggle with both Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, with Martin being out of shape, and Marlon not even reading the novel that Coppola wanted him to read.
The movie went way over budget, with a cost of $ 31 million vs a budget of $13 million (and overcoming a typhoon and a near-fatal heart attack for Martin Sheen). The movie finally made good for Coppola, earning over $100 million, and earning respect at the Oscars as well. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Film Editing, but the film won only two awards: Best Cinematography (Vittorio Storaro) and Best Sound.
Enough about the circumstances. What was the movie about ? The movie took a army officer, smart, witty, decorated and a war hero, and now a deranged renegade Colonel named Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). In an shock to his system, he had administered vaccination to the children of a village, and then got called back when he was told that the VietCong had cut off the arm of every such child (that war was this brutal). This incident pushed him over the edge, and he moved out of the normal military chain, believing that the war has to be fought at this level. He sets up a small compound in a temple in the jungle, and sets up his own army that treats him like a god, and kills VietCong intelligence agents without mercy. It is decided that he needs to be taken out, executed, and the man who is selected to do it is also decided.
It is Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen), a man who has been inactive for several weeks now in Saigon, whiling away the time and at the starting point of a depression. He is informed by intelligence operatives that he will have to cross the border into Cambodia, and take Kurtz out. He is given a boat to go upstream into the river (representing the actual Mekong) and armed with a squad of 4 ill-fated soldiers, by-the-book Chief Phillips, a Navy boat commander; GM3 Lance B. Johnson, a tanned all-American California surfer, the Cajun Engineman, Jay "Chef" Hicks, and GM3 Bubba Tyrone, also known as "Mr. Clean", a 17-year-old from "some South Bronx shithole".
The PBR (Patrol Boat, River) has a landing zone from where they have to start, and it is here that they meet the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry (Aerial Reconnaissance) commanded by the eccentric Lt. Colonel William Kilgore (Robert Duvall was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor role). The Cavalry has just completed a mission over a target, and when they meet, Kilgore realizes that the starting point has a great beach with 6 foot waves ideal for surfing. It is estimated that they need to make the zone more friendly for starting the mission as well, and hence the Cavalry decides to attack the village located over there.
In an incredible scene, the helicopters attack with advance broadcasting of Wagner's 'Ride of the Valkyries' in order to weaken the villagers and the VC over there. The helicopters defeat the village causing mass mayhem, and then a giant napalm strike is used to destroy a forest just for greater safety. At this point, Kilgore goes from the scene, but not before uttering these dialogues, very famous indeed:

"Smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know one time we had a hill bombed...for twelve hours. And when it was all over I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em. Not one stinkin' dink body. The smell. You know that gasoline smell. The whole hill. It smelled like...victory. Some day this war's gonna end."

And the boat starts upriver, with a number of incidents including a stop where there are 3 Playboy Playmates, an incident with a tiger, and on. The crew also loses 2 of their men as they approach the compound, and see sights of people who had attempted to get close to Kurtz. As they approach the compound, one of the crew stays back and is eventually killed, another mingles with the natives and Willard is caught and imprisoned. Kurtz lectures Willard (you get a feeling of the horror that must have been witnessed to hear him speak); Willard watches what happens over a number of days, essentially free.
In the final scene (somewhat controversial since a water buffalo was killed for this scene), Willard kills Kurtz with a machete and walks away. Kurtz utters his final words, "The horror... the horror," as he lies dying and these are the words that are repeated as the screen turns black. Coppola so wanted to make this film a black description of the brutalities of war that even the credits of the film are not scrolled.

North by Northwest: A gripping thriller

(This review will contain the story of the film, so if you feel that your surprise of the movie is being spoiled, feel free to stop reading at any point of time)
North by Northeast, released in 1959, is a gripping thriller, one of the most famous and successful of Alfred Hitchcock's music. It was the 4th collaboration of Cary Grant with Alfred Hitchcock (previous ones being Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), and To Catch a Thief (1955)). The movie also stars Oscar Winner Eva Marie Saint as a blonde woman who is apparently one of the villains and instead is one of the helpful ones, a true love life partner for the hero.
The movie has some great elements, with the notion of a go-getter advertising man wrongly suspected of being a spy and being chased throughout the movie (to his utter bewilderment in the beginning and shocked acceptance as the movies moves on). There are 2 scenes in the movie which are acknowledged as true masterpieces, with the scene of the hero being harassed by a crop-duster in a wide open field being a much popular one, and the other being the scene on Mount Rushmore.

North by Northwest

The movie was distributed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer and at a budget of $ 4 million. It was nominated for 3 Oscars (Film Editing (George Tomasini), Art Direction, and Original Screenplay (Ernest Lehman)); even though the film did not win any awards, it has been acknowledged to be amongst Hitchcock's best works and among the top 100 movies of all time.
The movie stars Cary Grant as a go-getter Madison Avenue advertising man, and one who in a coincidence, gets marked to be a non-existent CIA agent and who is then pursued by agents of a mysterious organization who believe that he is interfering in their plans to smuggle out a microfilm from the United States and want to find out what exactly what he knows.
George Kaplan is a man created (a false identity) by a US intelligence agency and with a story that he is going to stop the work of the mysterious foreign organization. One day, Roget Townhill, who is accustomed to creating all sorts of stories to sell products, gets up in a restaurant at the same time when the name of George Kaplan is taken and from that time, he is a caught up in a game of chase that he is not prepared for. However, he really does not have a choice: He is first caught and interrogated by the agents, and forced to have a large quantity of bourbon forced down his throat.
He manages to escape after a police chase, and when caught by the police, is seemingly drunk; imagine telling the police and judge that you are drunk because you were being chased by foreign agents who forced you to drink liquor, and imagine how easily you will be believed. This happens in the house of a diplomat, and when Townhill goes to confront him, he is escaped to find a different man. At this point, he is he well and truly in trouble, when a knife hits the diplomat and in a move from so many movies, Townhill removes the knife and it now seems that he is the killer.
He escapes and gets onto a train to Chicago, and finding that a train is a good way to get away from the police, and he meets the blonde Eva Kendall. She saves him from the police, and they have a real interesting loaded conversation.
After getting off the train, he reaches a pre-arranged stop, but which is actually a trap. In a wide open place, he is attacked by the crop-dusting plane firing bullets at him. Eventually, after a series of adventures, he meets a Professor from the intelligence agencies who tells him about the true nature of George Kaplan, a fictional identity to save Eva. (The motif of the Professor is styled on the head of the actual intelligence agency).
Eventually, Townhill, chasing Eva to save her, is chased by the opposite agents across the face of Mount Rushmore; and in a final confrontation, they are saved by a police marksman who shoots the villain dead.

Movies from the Amazon store

North by NorthWest

Alfred Hitchcock Collection

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Great Movie: The Shawshank Redemption

Sometimes you come across a movie that is really good, slow, but good. This movie is an adaption of the novel 'Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption' by Stephen King. The movie was an excellent example of story-telling, and was a movie that delineated that hope never dies. It had great performances by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, and the interactions between them was made the storyline such an elegant one. The movie did not set the box office on fire, but over the years, the direction and the storytelling has developed a cult following for this movie that has only made it grow in popularity and a strong following in the DVD market. One criticism of this movie has been the length of the movie (142 minutes), but even for that, the pace at which the story has been developed and presented seems just right. Many critics have nominated this movie to be among the list of top best movies of all time.

The Shawshank Redemption

The movie essentially has 2 strong characters, with Tim Robbins playing the role of 'Andy Dufresne' and Morgan Freeman as 'Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding'. Tim Robbins plays the role of a banker whose wife and lover was killed and he is convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence even while professing his innocence. He is sentenced to 2 consecutive life sentences in the notorious (and harsh) Shawshank prison in Maine. His introduction to prison life is unsettling, with getting a de-lousing and strong speeches from the Warden Samuel Norton and Chief Prison Guard Captain Byron Hadley. He also witnesses a prisoner breaking down and causing a major disturbance, leading to Captain Hadley beating the prisoner brutally (and the prisoner dying from these wounds later).
In the meantime, Red has been denied parole by the parole board, and in the prison yard, watches the arrival of new prisoners including Tim. Andy slowly develops friends in the prison and eventually becomes friends with Red himself, and Red has a reputation for being able to get things inside the prison. Andy asks for and gets a rock hammer, to be able to pursue him hobby of rock collecting. Andy is assigned to the prison laundry, and in one of the seamier sides of the prison, he is continually harassed by a group of inmates known as 'The Sisters'. They regularly harass and rape him.
And then Andy's luck changes, with Captain Hadley getting to know about his financial skills, and he wants Andy to setup a tax shelter for him. He starts to get some preferential treatment and gets assigned to a lighter service of the prison library. Andy's fame as a financial help spreads and he is now advising a number of other prisoners, guards and even the Warden. He is also allowed to setup his own team, and he selects Red to be on the team. In a reminder of the painful life of a ex-con, an old prisoner who has been granted parole (but has been in jail for so long that he no longer recognizes life outside the prison) has major difficulties in adjusting to life outside the prison, and eventually commits suicide.
The changed fortune of Andy is much clearer now when he is again assaulted by 'The Sisters', but now the others beat up these leader of this group so badly that Andy is never threatened again. Things keep on progressing, and the Warden now has Andy to setup a new identity so that the Warden can benefit from the work that he is making the prisoners do. Things change when a new prisoner, Tommy joins and mentions that he knows of facts that would prove that Andy was innocent. The Warden is fearful of Andy getting out and revealing his financial planning, and shows his truly evil nature. He gets Captain Hadley to kill Tommy and pushes Andy into solitary confinement for 2 months, at the end of which Andy emerges a seemingly broken man.
And this is where the story finally gets revealed. Andy vanishes, having escaped from the prison after digging a tunnel for 19 years. He takes the identity of the man he had created for the warden, and gets the Warden and Captain implicated for their scam He eventually goes to Mexico where Red joins him once he is freed on parole.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Unforgiven: A movie that changes the image of Western movies

Westerns in the American movie world have typically of the sphagetti western type popularized by Clint Eastwood, and for those who remember, by John Wayne earlier. After all, how many would not remember 'For a fistfull of dollars', 'High Noon', 'Once upon a time in the West', and so on. The westerns in movies portray a picture that is vastly different from the one portrayed in Unforgiven in many respects.
Traditional westerns have mostly portrayed the west as a desolate place, with the gunslinger as a loner, treading along on his trusty steed; sometimes fighting the villain, sometimes fighting Indians, or it can be the cowboy working on a ranch or trying to setup something on his own in a big ranch. The hero is typically a good man from the heart, shooting from the hip, and wearing a certain set of clothes including a Stetson hat (large), spurs, bandanna (many of them), buckskins, a rifle or maybe a revolver. Many times the setting happen in a location that can be mountainous and arid at the same time, or in a desert like situation with sage rolling on the ground. A saloon forms a distinct part of the landscape, and a sheriff is an important part of the locality, with people being deputized when required. Here also you will hear the term 'posse'.


This entire vision had been under revision for some time with facts, studies and movies trying to debunk the romance involved in this mission. And then came this movie, Unforgiven (1992) which cleared away the whole vision, instead portraying people as normal people. So a gunfighter is essentially a mercenary (who will kill women and children for money), a sheriff is a person who does not implement fairness and is not above implementing his beliefs for implementing law, where women do not have an equal role; essentially it is a sordid tale. You have an aspiring gunslinger who finds out that life is more sordid than he expected, and you have a journalist who will do anything for a story.
Unforgiven was such a stark movie and so impressed people that it won a variety of Academy Awards. It was nominated for 9 awards and won 4 of them:
1. Best Picture for Clint Eastwood
2. Best Director for Clint Eastwood
3. Best Editing for Joel Cox
4. Best Actor in a supporting role for Gene Hackman
Violence is not glorified in any way, and even the anti-hero (Clint Eastwood) is not portrayed as a heroic figure, instead he is a retired former gunslinger (who was reformed after marriage), and is now supporting 2 children (his wife has died) by running a pig farm and gets back to being an active gunslinger because he needs the money.
The movie starts with a prostitute being attacked by a cowboy when she makes fun of his under-developed organ, and he, in a rage, slashes her face with a knife. The sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), a former gunfighter himself, comes and dispenses justice; he fines the cowboy and his friend and then, pays the money to the saloon owner and the pimp since they suffered damage to their goods; the prostitute does not get anything and the cowboy is not punished in any way.
The women of the saloon are outraged at this display of injustice and collect $1000 for whoever bounty hunter will kill the 2 cowboys and spread this information far and wide. People respond to this, with a newbie gunfighter, The Kid recruiting William Munny (Eastwood) to try and collect this money. Munny is a retired gunslinger, mercenary, and bandit, so he does not have a very reputable past life. Munny also takes the help of Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to help in this mission, and they set off to kill the 2 cowboys.
Another person is also approaching for the sake of getting this money, English Bob (Richard Harris). He arrives with his own biographer to write a book about him called 'The Duke of Death'. However, the sheriff has not taken kindly to the thought of bounty hunters arriving in his town to kill the cowboys and beats up English Bob and jails him, whereupon the biographer switched sides. He is a fan of the Great Western, and the sheriff seems to be a good representative of the lot. Further, there is a local ordinance that prohibits guns, and hence the sheriff is empowered to arrest anybody who carries guns.
And then these 3 - the Kid, Munny and Logan arrive in town and enter the saloon where while Munny waits downstairs, the other 2 go up to enjoy the prostitutes. And then the sheriff, Little Bill discovers that Munny is carrying a gun; given the reason, he beats Munny pretty viciously in front of everybody in the saloon. However, he escapes with his life and The Kid and Logan take him out of town and nurse him to a recovery with the help of the prostitutes.
Once Munny is recovered, they start tracking the cowboys down, and kill one of them. The murder shakes Logan up and he wants to leave; so the Kid and Munny continue and kill the other cowboy where he had hidden. One of the points of the movie is that murder is not something that you can do and then be casual; it affects both Logan and the Kid, since both renounce killing after that. The Kid no longer wants to become a gunslinger.
Logan in the meantime has been caught by the sheriff who is beating him to get information, and in the process he kills Logan; his dead body in a sheriff is then put for display just outside the saloon as a reminder that wild west justice can be harsh. When Munny gets his reward money, he is also told about the death of Logan and that puts him in a fury. He had given up drinking, but now drinks whiskey again and prepared to confront the sheriff.
In the meantime, the sheriff has setup a posse in the saloon to pursue Munny and the Kid, but then Munny arrives. He holds up everybody with a shotgun and then shoots the saloon owner who is unarmed; when told that this was not a done thing (after all, the correct thing was to shoot somebody when they also had a weapon), he retaliates that this was bound to happen ever since Logan was killed and his body displayed outside the saloon. In the ensuing gun fight, he is more skilled, and kills 3 posse members, and wounds the sheriff. And then when he hears the sheriff re-loading, he disarms him and then kills him.
But the point is, there is no heroism in this scene; Munny kills people after disarming them, or when they don't have a gun as well. In addition, even when leaving, he threatens all sorts of threats against anybody who would come after him, including threatening to kill their families.
If you are a western fan, then you should watch this movie; it is a decidedly different sort of movie. Further, this movie is a classic, part of any good DVD collection.

Monday, September 3, 2007

E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial

How many people would there be who have not seen or hear about this movie ? This was one of the movies that made Steven Spielberg famous. Released in 1982, it was a financial super-success. At the time of its release, it was the most financially successful movie released; costing a bare $ 10.5 million, it made upwards of $ 790 million. The movie was such a great success, it was re-released in 1985 and again in 2002. The movie was to a large extent based on an imaginary alien companion that Spielberg invented when he was a young child, primarily to overcome the trauma of his parent's divorce.
The cast of the movie included Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Robert McNaughton, Drew Barrymore and Peter Coyote. Out of these, Drew Barrymore is the one who is the most famous now. But the one who got the most credit out of this movie is Steven Spielberg who became extremely famous after this movie, and he rightfully credits it as one of his best movies. The character of E.T in this movie was a delightful creation, every small child's dream, a very good companion. The movie touched the hearts of a whole generation of people and is still remembered as a eminently watchable movie.

E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial

The story is not very complicated. A group of aliens are collecting samples of vegetation in the forest when Government agents approach. In their haste to leave, they leave behind one of their own. He is discovered by a young boy Thomas Eliott, who tries to entice the cute looking alien to his room.
He manages to avoid going to school the next day to find out more about the alien and to play with him. He also gets his elder brother Michael and sister Gertie to meet the alien, but hides his from his mother. They get into a sort of conversation with the alien where it floats balls to represent its own solar system and also brings a dead plant back to life.
The two, Eliott and E.T develop a close bond, that also causes Eliott some trouble in school since he does some strange activities that get him sent to the Principal's office. E.T learns English by watching a television serial called 'Sesame Street' and takes Eliott's help for building a device so that he can call home. On Haloween, they dress E.T as a ghost and take him out of the house and into the forest where E.T successfully calls home.
The next day, both Eliott and E.T seem to be dying, at which time Government agents invade the house and set up a quarantine for Eliott and E.T. E.T suddenly dies, breaking the link between them, and then comes back to life and says his kind are returning to take him back. The kids decide to help E.T escape and stay a step ahead of Government agents in a chase. At this time, one of the most famous sequence of the movie happens where E.T lifts the bicycle in the air when they are trapped in a dead-end. And finally, E.T returns home.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

L.A Confidential: A very slick movie

This movie was made in 1997, and was a very slick movie. The movie was based on a 1990 book of the same name by James Ellroy, and was at one time considered very difficult to base a book on. But, finally the book was converted into a screenplay by Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland, and turned into this movie that won 2 Oscars (Best Supporting Acress for Kim Basinger and Best Adapted Screenplay (a vindication of the efforts by Curtis and Brian)). The movie is considered a good effect of a new-generation noir movie, with a great direction by Curtis.
The movie was acclaimed by most critics, although it earned only around $30 million profit in the US (costing 35 mil and making 65 mil), but it must have also been earning a lot more from the DVD market and from the international market. The movie primarily stars 5 characters (Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce as 3 cops in the LAPD; Kim Basigner in an award winning role; and James Cromwell in the pivotal role of Capt Dudley Smith as the Police Captain who wants to build the crime system lorded over by himself.

The movie is set in the 1950's Los Angeles, and for the people who did not know what the city was like at that time, it presented not a very clean picture. There was a lot of cop violence, corruption in the police force, sleaze in Hollywood, a lot of buzz about call girls who were styled to look like top movie actresses, drug addiction, tabloid journalism out to expose corruption and crime so as to sell more (although that does not seem to have changed). The movie focuses on the intersection of all these, and tries to end at a positive end with some of the forces of corruption reduced and the police administration wanting to make a clean sweep of the police force so that it can be a respected force.
The roles of these 3 cops is the most pivotal, since it is they who drive the various scenes and acts of the movie. The youngest and freshest to the Police Force is Detective Lieutenant Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce), the son of a legend from whom much is expected. He is a change from the brutality and corruption in the police force and is basically honest, although he is shown to be manipulative in the end. However, these attributes set him aside from the other policemen, especially when he testifies in a jailhouse brutality trial in which a long-serving member of the police force is implicated and has to retire.
The next is Officer Wendell "Bud" White (Russell Crowe), who is a man who uses force a lot, and is much feared. He has no love lost for Exley, especially when his partner is removed from the police force based on Exley's testimony. However, when his former police partner is killed in the 'Nite Owl' massacre, he becomes much more involved in the case. He does not take kindly to women beaters, and is tender to the victims. He is also being used by the Captain to take down rival mafia leaders.
The third cop is Sergeant Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), a very slick cop, who is in the limelight. He serves as the technical advisor to a crime television show, and also funnels a lot of information to Danny DeVito (who is connected with Hush-Hush magazine), including making arrests almost in front of the camera of the magazine.
The main event of the movie is the massacre of the patrons of an all-night diner, called the Nite Owl massacre. The investigation of this leads to a call-girl racket in which Kim Basinger is involved, and Russell Crowe starts having an affair with her. The others also get involved during investigation, and eventually the trail leads to a small cabin in the middle of nowhere where the actual person behind everything is revealed, and then Guy Pearce kills him, and then manipulates the police command by playing on their need to have a hero emerge from all this, this hero being Guy Pearce.
The movie had some casting difficulties, after all, there are 2 Australian stars in key points of the movie, but after seeing the movie, one can appreciate all the performances. If you want to admire the film art, and also appreciate a fast movie, then buy this movie.