The Random Movie Review: Man On Wire

I’ve always thought what tightrope walkers do for a living. Now, I know they live to walk on those tightropes, because it is a passion to stand on that one line between buildings. It’s a thin line between life and death, and if you’re a good walker, you always cheat death every single time. And in those moments when then stand in space, they are walking with the clouds. That is Phillippe Petit’s passion, and he nurtured it. This passion fruited into an obsession for him, but that is understandable. This passion led him to walk between the World Trade Centers in 1974. The documentary Man On Wire is about Petit’s passion and the events that led to the walk and the actual walk itself. It won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature of 2008.

The story cuts between the actual plan of walking between the Twin Towers and Petit’s life, or rather his fascination with the Towers before they were built and what happened before the plan was put into action. The second merges into the first near the end of the movie. The fact that walking between buildings is actually illegal makes the movie seem all the more suspenseful and thrilling. You’re going along for this ride, and it’s going at breakneck speed. Every small detail is narrated by the people who made the walk happen, that is Petit and his crew. The way in which Petit narrates the story is a joy to watch. All the footage has been taken for this movie, and it’s all real, except for the dramatizations in a few parts. It doesn’t feel like a documentary…it’s a movie. Anyone who thinks that this movie is boring doesn’t have a pulse. The obstacles and emotions are all real, at least they feel that way. And you will be amazed at the walks Petit conducts on the rope. It’s like he walks in the sky. Truly amazing. There is also a good deal of humor in this movie like when Petit talks about him and the guard circling each other or when he laughs about what the police did with him after the walk. This is an experience you won’t forget.

Man On Wire is the perfect documentary, with all the elements for an astounding movie. This is one walk you will never forget.

5/5.

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The Random Movie Review: Pulp Fiction

In 1994, Quentin Tarantino etched his name in history because of this work. Although he has made only six films in his career, this is his best. It took as late as 1994 to come up with this concept of integrating non-linear narrative into the crime genre. This movie won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and won Best Screenplay at the Oscars. It rebooted John Travolta’s career. It’s soundtrack will never be forgotten, with classic pop culture songs. I’m just crazy about this movie. It’s Pulp Fiction.

Pulp Fiction is divided into three main stories, like how Tarantino usually does things. These stories are divided very cleverly in a non-linear narrative so that one story connects to the next in one or two scenes. This becomes an entanglement that weaves a web around its characters. The first story is about Vincent Vega (John Travolta) taking his boss’s (Ving Rhames) wife, Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) to dinner and what happens that night. The second story is about Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis), going to retrieve his prized gold watch after beating the odds at a prizefighting match and what happens after. The third story is about Vincent and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) getting a case in the morning and a crazy situation that occurs after. The third story happens on the same day as the first and the second. The second continues into the next day.

Tarantino uses the non-linear narrative to introduce us to unknown characters (Pumpkin and Honey Bunny) and he brings them back in one of the stories. It’s novel and works because you get two sides of the same story. All the three stories are different, with different themes shown i.e. forgiveness, determination in the second, revelation and confusion in the third etc. These make the stories all the more powerful in this fantasy land of crime. The characters are extremely colorful like Jules, who believes in divine intervention, Winston Wolf, who is a businessman who can clean any mess, Vincent, who reads a lot and makes costly accidents. I won’t review each story, only the movie as a whole.

In the movie, dialog is a major factor. There are mostly bubble head scenes, with the camera at weird places (the back of Ving Rhames’ head for example). The dialog ranges from eating in France to walking the earth with a lot of explicits. We understand the characters, even though there are three stories, because of the dialog. Editing plays a really important part of the movie, what with the non-linear narrative and all, and with quick cuts, the movie moves at a pace that’s not too fast, but certainly not slow either. The soundtrack of this movie isn’t ordinary. It’s filled with pop culture songs of the 50’s, the 70’s but certainly not contemporary stuff.

This piece of noir is certainly watchable many times, and it’s a ride that’s so fun, you’ll never vomit. Kudos to Quentin Tarantino, the ex-video store clerk with a lot of imagination.

5/5.

The Random Movie Review: RocknRolla

London has a lot of people, a couple of million. Guy Ritchie has taken probably twenty people for his next slick movie: RocknRolla. And we all know how he deals with a large crowd: he makes one group win, the other die, another go back to normal and some others change their lifestyles. And here, style equals RocknRolla.

RocknRolla is about three intertwined threads: The Wild Bunch, consisting of One-Two, Mumbles etc (Gerard Butler leads this group). The second is the head of London’s underworld, Lenny Cole (a bald Tom Wilkinson) and his right hand man, Archie, who narrates the tale, who are finalizing a deal with the Russian boss, Uri. The Wild Bunch collide with this tale head on. The third thread is that of Johnny Quid, whom the world thinks is dead, but has Lenny’s valuable painting and is doing a RocknRolla. Nice title. Stella (Thandie Newton) is the link between the first two stories while Johnny Quid links his own story to Lenny Cole. But with all these full circle twists, the screenplay doesn’t match up to Snatch and Lock, Stock. But from the very first frame, it is style and slickness. Confusing plot.

The movie is fast-paced, with no holds barred. There’s not a single scene that is not crucial to the story: everything is connected. Archie’s narration is good dialog, and there’s good humor in parts with Gerard Butler being funnyman. The performances complement the story, especially Tom Wilkinson. Editing is superb, as usual, and music and sound is all rock and roll. Ritchie employs a visual gimmick in the action sequences to accentualize jerks like in the action sequence where the thin war criminal chases One-Two through a tunnel. That’s just plain weird, not surreal. The climax was a surprise, it threw me completely off track, but it’s not a good as his other two movies.

Guy Ritchie is back in form with RocknRolla, and everything provides entertainment here. Movies like RocknRolla have everything, but not at a great level. It rocks, but falls short in characterization. When you handle too many characters, your emotional attachment to a single character is not as much as it would be with lesser characters. It also doesn’t work when something is at stake, so that connection is also broken. Its like a bunch of stoned people having a good time in the span of a week. It’s still entertainment.

RocknRolla, oh just sounds cool. Rated R.

3 1/2/5.

The Random Movie Review: The Usual Suspects

Who is Keyser Soze? Where is Keyser Soze? These are two questions that keep the audience guessing, and these questions form the core of The Usual Suspects, directed by Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie, who won the Oscar for his screenplay.

The Usual Suspects has a plot that twists and turns from one direction to the other. It starts with a gripping opening sequence on a pier, with a boat exploding in flames. We move to Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) interrogating one of the two survivors from the bombing, Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey in his Oscar winning role for Best Supporting Actor) about the bombing and Verbal’s part in it. Verbal’s story starts six weeks earlier. The other survivor is a Hungarian man who can describe this strange man called Keyser Soze. And so we follow the story through Verbal’s point of view. Verbal’s story is laden with crime, as five guys (including Kint) join together through a police lineup and the rest of the story kicks off to the climax at the boat and the subsequent revelation. This is a whirlwind of crime, rapid dialog and hairpin curves everywhere.

Bryan Singer and Chris McQuarrie, from the first frame, create an intriguing story that keeps you guessing. All the shots are carefully poised to give you clues, but you only find them at the last minute. All the actors in this movie are not heroes, and it’s a colorful cast: Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro and Kevin Pollack as the main characters and supporting cast does a fine job as well. These guys are criminals, but you actually like them. The score of this movie stays with you, and that’s the job of the score. All of Kevin Spacey’s dialog is great, especially all that dialog about Keyser Soze.

Why would I want to see this movie again? Because you will always find something new that you hadn’t seen before and then you add it to your findings. Every year in America, they have this Usual Suspects sitdown. And every time they find something new and note it down. This joins my plot-driven list of movie which include Pulp Fiction, The Big Lebowski and Fight Club…Cult films like these should be studied.

5/5.

The Random Movie Review: Twelve Monkeys

I always thought Terry Gilliam, who was a member of Monty Python, was imaginative, creative and amusingly organized. His animations that were MP’s trademark are the base of the body of work that started with Time Bandits and will be The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, or something like Parnassus. This body of work consists of Twelve Monkeys, a time traveling movie that has a much darker tone compared to Doc Brown’s adventures with Marty McFly. And we all know how Terry Gilliam loves twists in a tale.

Twelve Monkeys starts in the future (year not known) where “animals have reclaimed the Earth” and the humans live underground. The reason for this is the release of a deadly virus in 1996 that killed 5 million people, and then the survivors went underground. Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a prisoner who gets a chance for pardoning himself when he bites off more than he can chew: by going back in time to 1996 and obtaining information about the virus and how it was released. The scientists of the future believe that an organization called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys is responsible for the virus’ release and so with this information, Cole goes back in time.

Bruce Willis has always portrayed hard, cold criminals with their humanity gone. He embodies Cole as a person whose on a mission, mad at the beginning, confused towards the end, and ultimately goes full circle (spoiler!!!). There is no heroism surrounding Cole, who has nothing to lose. Brad Pitt plays a mad, mad, mad, mad lunatic, Jeffrey Goines, and Pitt deserves the Golden Globe because that is true acting. His existence starts a guessing game by Cole and the scientists. Madeline Stowe plays Dr. Kathryn Railly, who wants to decipher Cole and thinks she’s seen him somewhere before…

Twelve Monkeys’ plot is very confusing, where it takes time to realize which time period you’re in, be it the future, the past, or the present (if there is a present at all, which Cole classifies as the past), and the plot is fast, quickfire dialog, some nice visuals and an overall dark look at humanity in general. But with the sci-fi story under Gilliam’s direction, this is good material.

I didn’t have a problem with Twelve Monkeys, but it doesn’t fall into great movies. The movie doesn’t follow an actual straightforward story, and sudden twists leave the viewer stunned, one after the other. But overall, Terry Gilliam is a guy with a trove of creativity.

4/5.