Archive for November, 2014

Nightcrawler

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Nightcrawler
Release date: November 7, 2014 (India)
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Cast:

Night crawler (noun) [North American]

  • 1. an earthworm that comes to the surface at night and is used as fishing bait.
  • 2. informal
    a person who is socially active at night.
    “the bar and nightclub are hot items with chic night crawlers”

 

Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is also a worm like figure that comes to the surface at night, except he isn’t the bait. The titular creature here is Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in his rusty car.

Bloom is an unemployed loner who makes his living off stealing, but wants to ‘create a career’ and starts looking for jobs. On his way back home, he comes across a road accident and sees two independent cameramen record the footage. He begins chasing them and has a new inspiration to live. He learns by shadowing other freelancers and soon his camera never stops rolling, just like his eyes never blink.

He lands a deal with Nina (Rene Russo) at a news channel with low ratings; Nina tells him that her channel is like a screaming woman running down the street with her head cut. She mouths words into her anchors’ ears, totally in control of her sensationalist news coverage. Louis becomes incessantly ruthless with his competition and manipulates the crime scenes into picture perfect news materials.

His urge to succeed, while belting out management jargon learned over his hours of study of the internet puts him in positions where he willingly lets go of his integrity, or even humanity. Nina pushes him further, cutting out resistance from her own juniors. Louis is a sociopath, and we don’t know why. His conversations with his assistant, are a cracker and even his incredibly creepy proposal to Nina sounds hilarious, once you’re in the Louis-zone.

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Jake Gyllenhaal in his reduced frame with his already gaping eyes is the impeccable embodiment of a slimy footage collector, who keeps shooting no matter what happens. His character could very well be a metaphor for the modern news outlets which keep recording, be it a shooting or a public sexual offense, and just aim at selling it as a piece of story for ratings. The impassionate performances of Riz Ahmed as Rick, the clueless young intern under Bloom and Rene Russo as the vulnerable news director further elevate Gyllenhaal’s presence.

Nightcrawler with its graphic description of the excesses of the media isn’t a thorough commentary, nor it is a lesson in profound character study; even though the film is expansively only character-driven. The shocks in the plot are cold-blooded, yet not surprising. You never get to know how vain exactly the protagonist is, as there aren’t any moments where his intentions or ideas are manifested, except in the situations the screenplay creates. The film limits itself at just that, like the news on TV, it chills you but doesn’t tug at you with a stronger gravitational pull.

My rating: *** (3 out of 5)

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Interstellar

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Interstellar
Release date: November 7, 2014 (India)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Matthew McConaughey, John Lithgow, Mackenzie Foy, Timothée Chalamet, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart

Christopher Nolan takes his love for intricate human interactions and his inquisition about the space-time continuum and presents a film so big it’s impossible to not be awed by it all. The story is being told via an older Murphy Cooper (Ellen Burstyn) and more senior inhabitants of a futuristic township.

In an agricultural town in the countryside, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a widowed father of two who lives with his father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow); Cooper and Donald both agree how the mankind has come down to only sustaining itself by any means possible and how it was different earlier when some invention came out every day. But their local college wants more farmers, and not engineers.

Cooper’s ten year old daughter Murphy (Timothée Chalamet) shares his love for science. Professor Brand (Michael Caine) convinces Cooper into joining a space mission to trace some of their other already intergalactic researchers and also search for more planets where humans can possibly migrate to. To survive, to die or even just suffocate. Cooper is accompanied by Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) along with TARS, a talking robot (voiced by Bill Irwin)

The Nolan brothers take the often raised complaint of being anti-humorous and present us with a robot that has an inherent humor setting of 75 per cent. Yet, humor is not what they aim for. Interstellar is magnanimous in its scale of emotions, breathtaking visuals, and some over-simplified moments of scientific walls being broken.  The dialogues aren’t as remarkable or memorable as most of Nolan’s other creations. The only one without an overbearing sense of existentialism that has stayed with me so far is, “Parents are the ghosts of their children’s futures.”

You don’t have to be a major in science to understand everything that goes on in the space shuttle, and on alien planets, as the characters spell out most of the technical mumbo-jumbo for you. To a point that it becomes irritating by the end. Without a doubt, the sight of space scientists watching videos from their loved ones, sent over the years, will make you weep. I wept! From there on, the makers take the liberty of neglecting such strong exchanges and prefer to stay focused on the juxtaposing stories of general struggle to live on earth and on new planets.

There are minute sub-themes running under the plot to provide more insight into the possible future of the earth, the uncertain utilization of time as a dimension which could be turned back and similar tales of inebriated, vague discussions. For what it’s worth, for great lengths of the film, you will not remember that you’re watching just another movie. And that is what renders an epic feel to the entire endeavor. Hans Zimmer’s score is on point as usual, often creating more of a visual than extensive shots of objects revolving around planets. The wonders of extra-terrestrial bodies are subtle, some cliched and some marvelous. Look out for the giant wave!

McConaughey is sublime in his soon-to-be repetitive purring speech pattern. He displays relative longing and the bravado and survival skills of an explorer extremely well. Hathaway is understated with her anxious Amelia. While Jessica Chastain as the older Murphy is persistently passionate in her performance, no matter how limited her character’s screen space is.

Interstellar gives you hope, makes you ponder why aren’t we thinking of the stars, and why aren’t we looking beyond the usual. For that alone, the film becomes more important than it is.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

Gone Girl

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Gone Girl
Release date: October 31, 2014 (India)
Directed by: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Kim Dickens, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Emily Ratajkowski, Missi Pyle

Right in the middle of the first act of the film, Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) asks Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) if his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) is the Amazing Amy in her ‘private workspace’ in their house, adorned with pictures from the line of books her parents started to mirror the failures of her growing up years and reflect them as moments with tweaked outcomes. Amy in real life failed to get in the volleyball team, while the Amazing Amy got in. She passively resents this perfect universe, all through her life.

Gone Girl begins with two lines from Nick about his wife Amy, they start off cutely and the second line throws you off right then. It churns your stomach even before the opening titles roll. On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick heads to his own bar, where he talks to his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) how he still hasn’t figured out one of Amy’s gift clues for over two years. He returns home to find his wife missing.

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Detective Boney arrives on the scene to investigate her disappearance and takes Nick in for questioning. Over these questions, and through a media campaign kicked off to find Amy, it becomes a public fact that Nick is a sociopath who soon transcends into becoming suspect number one. The media vilifies him as the evil murderer of a poor, little, lonely housewife. His only respite is Margo and Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), the self-annointed savior of husbands-in-distress all over America.

The entire Nick-Amy love story is told from the entries in Amy’s diary. Sometimes with a blue pen, and on special occasions in red ink. These entries define the dynamic of their relationship, at least from her perspective. The initial setup of the film is that of an unaware Hitchcockian whodunnit. Slow, brooding, and unraveling, right until the reveal. If the film had gotten over at this point, I would be complaining. But it did not, and I am not complaining much. From this point on, the storytelling spotlights start focusing on Amy. Her apparent stalker ex-boyfriends, and their somewhat similar fates.

Gone Girl is many things at the same time. It’s Amy’s hatred for everything perfect, it’s the imperfect transgressional husband who’s enjoys reality TV, but doesn’t know how to react in reality TV situations. The cute couple that everyone envies, tearing apart secretly. A commentary on marriage and the easy manipulation of the media. It’s a place where you wouldn’t want to live, just linger on and guffaw and part amaze at.

There are more plot points that I could discuss, but kill me with a box cutter if I do. Honestly, I hadn’t even watched a trailer before watching the film. That’s how I like to preserve some mystique around movies these days. Gone Girl would prove to throw you off, even if you know what’s about to happen next. It’s the execution that’s so masterful, it appears infallible.

Ben Affleck wallows in self-righteousness in a character which is very close to that of a gullible, ordinary, out-of-job suburban husband. He drinks during the day, he walks around in the same shirt for a good chunk of the film and yet is pitiable. Rosamund Pike is psychotically in control of her disconnected, metaphorically levitating Amy. She is the Amazing Amy. Missi Pyle is on-the-mark as the shrieking Nancy Grace figure who’s out on a witch-hunt.

Tyler Perry lights up the screen right from his first appearance, providing the cool factor surprisingly with his outsider viewpoint on the entire situation. Should he venture out more? Nick’s stumbling and vulnerable voice of reason is his twin played by Carrie Coon, who represents how you as a spectator would feel at discovering the intricacies of Amy and Nick’s lives. And a bit subsided by the end, Kim Dickens as the hoarse-voiced Missourian fair detective keeps making you doubt who is guilty after all.

David Fincher’s creation of this universe is entertaining even after it stops being surprising and thrilling.

“When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with.” would keep me hooked and it should do that to you as well.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

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