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Monday, July 29, 2013

Film - Face Off (starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage) - Action thriller - Released in 1997

“There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.”
Face /Off is an out and out thriller, throw in sentiment for good measure, a few teary eyed moments and voila - a full thriller where you don’t have to think too much. The cops and robbers routine is taken to the next level when FBI Special Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) loses his son to Castor Troy’s (Nicholas Cage) bullet - one which was meant for him.
Castor’s Achilles’ Heel is his brother Pollux Troy (Alessandro Nivola); they are both planning a bomb blast in LA -  whilst Castor is severely wounded in the gun battle that ensues, Pollux, the only guy who knows the location of the bomb, is taken captive.
Meanwhile, the vegetated state of Castor ensures there’s no way he’s disclosing the whereabouts of the bomb, so it’s now left to Archer to step up to the moment.
In a bizarre proposal, doctors tell Archer he can take on Castor’s identity – by way of a ‘Face/Off’. He has so much at stake but mainly the memory of Michael, his son, needs to be laid to rest. And so agrees to get a new face, a new identity. After the operation, Archer (as Troy) is incarcerated in the same prison as Pollux, and manages to get the location of where the bomb is planted. The tricky part now is getting out unscathed from Erewhon prison.
Castor Troy, now faceless, arises like phoenix from the ashes, and manages to get a face for himself - that of his rival Archer. And along with the new identity he has certain perks – a lovely wife, a beautiful home and a whole lot of ways to make sure that he uses the FBI to get rid of Archer once and for all. In order to earn the trust and praise of the department, Castor defuses the bomb - and becomes a hero. He takes to his new role like a fish to water, while the actual Archer faces near death in a prison riot, but manages to escape; once out, his aim is to get in touch with all of Castor’s network - his buddies and girlfriend, included.
Déjà vu when Castor (actually Archer) sees Adam, Sasha’s son (Castor’s ex) - and memories of Michael come flooding back. On the other hand Archer (actually Troy) is making inroads with Jamie - the daughter, who says she can never bring herself to forgive her father for what happened to her brother Michael. Having climbed the upper echelons of the Department ladder, Archer now takes matters into his own hands after he kills an FBI big gun and is himself promoted to Assistant Director In charge - virtually untouchable AND hopping mad because Cage killed his brother Pollux.

Meanwhile the actual Archer (in guise of Troy, played by Cage) approaches Eve, his wife and convinces her that the man in her home is the impostor Castor Troy; she tells him that Troy will be attending the funeral of the official he’d killed. But Castor, a veteran to cat and mouse games, is a step ahead, and he takes Eve hostage. In the gun fu that ensues Castor manages to escape in a speed boat, only to be brought down by Archer, who wins back his family and self respect, with a second chance at caring for the child Adam, whose mother Sasha was killed in the crossfire.
John Woo is known for bringing the Asian character to his films - they may be a little over the top, however, audiences love them. Both Travolta and Cage were two actors he had worked with earlier in Broken Arrow and Windtalkers. An excellent play is conducted by Woo on the words and names in the Film. For instance, Castor and Troy, according to ancient Greek Mythology - are brothers who make up the constellation Gemini, the prison Erewhon is the word “nowhere” written backwards.
With a rousing musical score by Hans Zimmer, the Movie was well received by audiences and critics alike - it was nominated for the Academy Award for Sound Editing (70th Academy Awards, 1998), losing to the Titanic. It won the Best Action Scene in the MTV Movie Awards and the Best Directing and Writing in the Saturn Awards.

Film - Face Off (starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage) - Action thriller - Released in 1997

Crazy Stupid Love - A romantic comedy - released in 2011

Starring- Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. (Released in 2011)

What can you expect from Glen Ficarra and John Requa - the same guys who gave you Bad Santa, Cats & Dogs, The Bad News Bears (with legendary Walter Matthau)? Well, great comedy, for starters with an envious ensemble cast! We love a triangle, especially when the exes meet, throwing the ‘other’ off the marital bandwagon…the movie does a great job of  taking a clichéd plot and sprucing it up with “how to”- tips (good for the goose, great for the gander).
“Twenty-five years of marriage and you have nothing to say…” well more than half the married population on Earth doesn’t find that surprising! But what comes next, the bit about having slept with someone and that this wondrous revelation comes from Emily (the wife, played by Julianne Moore, 9 Months, Hannibal) - does prompt Cal (the husband, played by Steve Carell, Evan Almighty) to throw himself off  the moving car-that makes the requisite statement! And while Emily seeks solace in the arms of David (the suave lover, Kevin Bacon, Foot Loose, A Few Good Men) because of ‘ how broken we are’, Carl weeps in the washroom at the news of the divorce, and chooses to deal with the heartbreak by downing a few.
Enter Jacob Palmer (Casanova extraordinaire, Ryan Gosling, Remember the Titans, The Notebook) who decides to take Cal under his wing, gives him  lessons in footwear, (although he does wonder whether he should help him or euthanize him) and actually gets lands him his first success-Kate (Marisa Tomei, What Women Want).

Amidst all the adults trying to find their bearings is Robbie (son, John Bobo, Choke, Disconnect) who wants nothing more than for his parents to get back together, drops not-so subtle hints to David with regard to how he feels about him dating Robbie’s Mom.
No matter whether you’re separated or divorced- PTAs are a family thing, boring, made interesting if one of the parents is sleeping with the teacher- in this case, Kate (from the  bar, to the bedroom, to the school) confesses to Emily that Cal and she have had an affair. Now that bit of news hits Emily hard, throwing her in David’s arms, in earnest.
Muddled marriages aren’t the only thing on offer- even our singles are part of ‘tangled web’. Jacob, despite his debonair ways had earlier faced rejection from Hannah (pretty law school graduate, Emma Stone, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) but now the lady has  herself been left high & dry- she channels all her energy and throws it into a passionate kiss –at the receiving end of which is Jacob, and despite sex on the cards- all they do is talk the night away.
The prospect of love seems to be cruising around celluloid and at some point is bandied about a bit much….that is the crazy, stupid part of the movie. We finally get to the bit when Cal does chose to be in sight of the man he is, and woo Emily, happily supported by Robbie, their son. But stranger things have been known to happen- the plot thickens, when Hannah, it turns out to be- is Cal and Emily’s firstborn! And the fact that she is dating Jacob, gets the ‘dad’ in Cal all riled up!
As Cal turns his ire into a punch- David arrives and now the 3 men have a punch out- joined in by the irate parent of a 17 year old babysitter, whose naked pics were in Cal’s drawer -and it takes the police to end things. A year later, as Robbie expresses doubts about love on the day of his graduation, Cal reaffirms his own contentment with having known Emily and the years of happiness they shared, despite the fragility of such divine moments in the light of life’s ups and downs. And even though he firmly believes that Jacob does not deserve Jessica, there are no hard feelings there- just a sense of admiration on the part of Jacob, for Cal being a great dad.
Movie is typically a ‘romcom’- a genre that’s existed for eternity, but has only now been tagged under a silly nomenclature. Despite the apparent simplicity of the plot, it has its moments of “huh, what?” Which perhaps explains the B+ ratings, like the LA Times put it beautifully (the movie)"…conjures up the bittersweet magic of first loves, lasting loves, lost loves and all the loves in between".

Monday, July 1, 2013

Film - The Rock - Starring Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery, and Ed Harris (released in 1996)

Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer are famous in the film making world, known for the action and fast paced movies that they make. This post is about a movie that they made a fairly long time back, a movie that is still popular on its re-runs, and which made a fairly large amount of money. Nowadays, movies can make upwards of a billion dollars, and Michael Bay has directed the Transformer series, the return of which exceed 2 billion dollars, but this was in 1996, and for a movie to make the $335 million that The Rock made was a big amount. The movie also won praise from critics, something that Bay's later movies have not got.
The movie had some interesting moments, with there being disputes regarding the credits for writing the movie, and even some tension between Michael Bay and the studio executives (Walt Disney Studio). And for an interesting moment, when there is a scene in the film where the character played by Sean Connery throws off the FBI Director from the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, and he dangles from the edge of the hotel; the shooting led to calls to the hotel from concerned bystanders who could see a person hanging from the edge of the building. The movie shows a lot of the Alcatraz Island, located in San Francisco Bay area, close to the Golden Gate Bridge, almost like an advertisement for people to come and visit it.

The movie takes the line of a crisis situation, where the experts are not available, and suddenly, you have to depend on somebody else to help resolve the situation. In the movie, a group of rogue marines (Recon Marines) led by a disenchanted leader, Brigadier General Frank Hummel (Ed Harris), plan a situation where they will force the Government into a crisis situation. He is very disenchanted with the Government ignoring the marines and other soldiers who have done so much for the country, but have been ignored, and in their deaths, their families have been ignored. So, he plans to force the situation. He and his men capture a very dangerous weapon, multiple sets of VX gas–armed M55 rockets, force their way into Alcatraz Island, and capture the tourists visiting that place. They set up the rockets, and then threaten the Government that unless the Government pays them $100 million (which will be distributed to his men and to others who died in situations which the Government will not acknowledge). This sets up a crisis situation, pulling in the military and the FBI.
The first rush of any Government in such a situation is to send in forces to end this kind of situation, but there is some complexity. They need somebody who is an expert in such weapons, which pushes in Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), who did not expect that he would need to go with them, but is informed that he will also be going in with the team. The bigger problem is about getting inside the island undetected, which has to be an underwater mission, utilizing the inner network of the island. There is only such person, a high security prisoner who once broke out of the Alcatraz jail, John Mason (Sean Connery). Mason is in prison for a long time, without any record of his detention, his main crime being that he learnt too many secrets that the Government will not want to disclose. But he is important for the mission, and hence he needs to be let out of the jail, showing an interesting chase sequence through the hilly roads of San Francisco, with Stanley chasing after Mason.
So they finally enter the former prison, and Mason is able to guide them inside. However, there are preventive measures that the FBI and military did not know about, and the skilled squad is detected and forced into a fire-fight, where they are all killed at the hands of the rogue soldiers. Who is left ? Mason and Stanley. Mason has not interest in all this, and wants to leave, with Stanley urging him to stay on and help to complete the mission. There is an alternative mechanism also being put in place, by bombing the entire island with special explosives that will destroy the chemical weapon but also kill all the tourists who have been detailed on the island. It's a fast paced movie, and well worth watching.

Film - The Rock - Starring Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery, and Ed Harris (released in 1996)