Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Talking Movies

humanitarian vampire couple is roaming around in Transylvania foraging for mushrooms since they have given up sucking human blood. They come across a crazy pilot who steals all their mushrooms thinking they are hallucinogenic. Undeterred, they keep looking for more since they also have to feed their half mortal and half immortal vampire baby who is secretly taking English classes to learn how to speak instead of communicating by slapping everyone wither baby slaps. While the vampire family searches for mushrooms, Transylvania is gripped by a complete revolution and all vampires are taken hostage by the Communists who demand free trade in mushrooms. Our vampire family has escaped this crisis since they were in the forest and actually, the crazy pilot is a secret agent who has come to rescue them. They dodge the Communists and manage to fly out of Transylvania only to crash land into in London since the pilot was too drugged. Everyone is killed except for the baby vampire girl. Luckily she took those secret English classes and, leads a respectable and adventurous life as a secret agent for the MI6, using time travel to go after the seven deadly psychopaths and Wall Street criminals

One of the great loves of my life is films. All kinds of films: action, romance, thriller, drama, epics, goofy comedies, clever comedies, horror (although I usually need to cover my eyes during the scary scenes) and, so-called "foreign films." 

The same idiots who came up with "foreign films" are the ones who say "world music" and "ethnic food."

Well anyway, now that I'm in Chicago for some time, I can watch movies to my heart's content and, blog about them! 

So, here are the movies and the cinemas I watched them at until now:

Now, Forager  
Gene Siskel Theatre, State Street              

This was a great way to start my film indulgence in Chicago. Haresh and I watched "Now, Forager" at the beautiful Gene Siskel theatre downtown. We actually stumbled on it by mistake and, decided to go for whatever was on. The theatre itself seems to only show arty farty things, a welcome change from the mainstream movies. 

The film was a fascinating foray into the world of mushrooms and those who forage for them to supply upscale New York restaurants. It was filmed in an almost documentary style, you know with the look and feel of real life and people instead of glossy, rose-tinted movies where everyone's hair and make-up and teeth are perfect. If you watch enough 'movies,' one can forget what 'films' are actually supposed to look like. 

So anyway, the film closely follows a highly talented and knowledgeable Basque couple who earn their bread and butter by foraging for all kinds of mushrooms and then try to sell them. They aren't exactly doing so well since most restaurants do not seem to be relying on individual sellers anymore. The fellow wants to keep at it while she is quite tired of living hand to mouth and, living a nomadic life. They branch off into separate directions, she trying her hand with working at a restaurant in New York and then as head chef at a Basque diner somewhere up state, and he goes off in search of more mushrooms. There's a scene in the forest where he gets mugged by the Russian mafia - they steal all his  carefully gathered fungi. Broke, he is forced to take a catering job for a highly snobby and arrogant lady who is about to host an elitist dinner. She constantly ignores his expert opinion and finally he caves in and just ditches the job. Our heroes never get back together but do mend their friendship. 

What was so engaging about the film and how did Haresh miraculously manage to stay awake? Besides being very informative about mushrooms, the struggle of the two main characters was very compelling: struggle to be together, to succeed in life and to achieve what they believe in. The husband especially did not want to compromise on his sense of principles and his heightened sense of ego affected his marriage and his 'career' prospects.

Hotel Transylvania
400 Theatre, Roger's Park

The less said about this nonsensical, cliché-ridden romp, the better. Even children would be offended by the cheap humour and the predictable formulaic story. 

AMC River East 21, East Illinois Street

I was really looking forward to watching "Looper" for so many reasons: futuristic action thriller, time travel, today's protagonist will meet his future self from the future, and our hero played by two amazing actors Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It started off pretty well and I more or less understood what was going on but well into it, it seemed to start experimenting with another genre altogether. When we learn that the young Rainmaker, the unseen villain who has killed the older hero's wife in the future and whom our hero has come back in time to kill, has quite fearsome supernatural powers, the film takes on a very different tone and direction. So, you start off with a pretty innovative time travel action flick but then are freaking out over a scary kid out of a horror movie.  I really didn't think the first part of the film connects with the latter part at all. I usually get movies and appreciate the most meandering plots, but I really did not understand "Looper." Maybe I need to watch it again to appreciate the fine details but it wasn't that I didn't understand what happened but that it was not very satisfying. Too bad since I love Bruce Willis. 

English Vinglish
AMC South Barrington

I absolutely loved this film. It still makes me smile thinking about what a charming and perfectly balanced movie it was. It was so endearing to see Sri Devi make such a thoughtful come back, to see her play such a vulnerable and yet adventurous character to such perfection, which reminded one of her amazing acting abilities all over again, not to mention how drop dead gorgeous she still is. Sri Devi plays a housewife who is constantly aware of her poor English speaking skills by her children and husband through their unconscious snide remarks. When she finds herself in the US for the first time to help her older sister wither niece's wedding, she decides to secretly take English classes. We see her blossom and gain confidence. The class and her class fellows are pretty hilarious themselves. And, as I am sure as it was with everyone else, it was also charming to see the French fellow fall in love with Sri Devi's character. The very electric romance was handled in a subtle manner and it was a cute side show. Too bad they did not get together but it would have steered the film in a completely different direction. 

I just loved the balance between humour and the very real struggle of Sri Devi's character to try to gain the respect of her husband and children who constantly make her feel small and inadequate.

And, I loved the music! 

Oh and Haresh and I decided our daughter would get married to an American like in the movie about 20-25 years from now. I don't know how I decided it but Haresh's excitement can be pretty infectious. 

Seven Psychopaths
AMC River East 21, East Illinois Street

This film has a stellar cast: Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, and Christopher Walken. It  is a very think out loud, brainy, layered violent film. It has some funny scenes. There are some very wacko characters. It's almost like a patchwork of stories and characters, a bit disjointed. The film might even seem incoherent to some. Haresh for sure went to sleep and his loud snoring kept making the kids in front us of turn back to look at my friend snoring away to glory and bursting into teenage giggles. 

I wouldn't have minded watching it on TV, to be honest. It was good but not mind blowing. It was rather a self indulgent work. 

400 Theatre, Roger's Park

I rather dismissed "Argo" initially. After all, with all the anti-Iran rhetoric, why would I want to go see it? Well, I did go see it - it was the day Haresh left to go back to Liberia and since the theatre was so close by, I decided to see it after all. And, I'm so glad I did! 

I suppose the purpose of the film was less anti-Iranian propaganda and more to show the side story of a handful of Americans who were secretly rescued during the 1979 hostage crisis through a strange-but-true ploy which was to pretend those Americans were part of a film crew! The film crew was scouting locations for a sci-fi flick! And, they did manage to fool everyone. It felt like they were saved from the deadly jaws of a hyper-sensitive and bloody-thirstly Islamic Revolution. 

The opening of the film did try to lay a more balanced historical preface by alluding to American interference in Iran's history and I wonder whether that alone would pacify any Iranian/Persian viewer. 

Aside from that, it was a thrilling film and its pace was unrelenting. Right up to the last minute, I was at the edge of my seat. 

Ben Affleck has undoubtedly come into his own as an actor and much more importantly, as a film director! Imagine him now being able to make such a political film, far cry from his "Jersey Girl" or "Gigli" days. 

Century Centre Cinema, Diversey

Richard Gere is only getting better looking with age. It was a very entertaining film and probably more need to be made to reveal the murky financial world of Wall Street. 

Not only is Richard Gere's character embroiled in major fraud in order to sell his business, he is also involved in an affair with a younger woman. So, our friend is going around leading a complete double life. While he is struggling to make a successful sale, his mistress is killed in a car accident and he walks away from the scene. He decides to enlist the help of his former black chauffeur's son, of all people, to act as his accomplice. As the police investigates a very fishy accident scene, the arms of justice seem to get closer round his neck.  

But in the end, he gets away with all of it. The police officer who so desperately wants to for once catch the powerful rich guy is left desperate and frustrated since the black kid - acting on his own sense of no-snitching and emotionally tied to Gere's earlier help to his family - sells out by accepting a generous pay out for acting as our hero's accomplice. Even Gere's wife is in on the whole financial fraud and only makes a hue and cry when their daughter, the chief financial officer, is let in on everything by Gere. In fact, even the daughter gives in at the end as we see her introducing her illustrious philanthropic father slash businessman at an elitist benefit dinner. 

It was interesting to see Gere get away with everything, a sort of homage to the moral haze which resulted in saving the banks - who were responsible to begin with - in the 2008 financial crisis.

Century Cine Arts, Evanston

"Flight" was an amazing movie. Denzel Washington is such a pleasure to watch, especially when he plays a complex and flawed character, like he did in "Training Day."

Washington's character has a raging drug and alcohol problem whiche is completely in denial about. He brilliantly lands a flight which otherwise would have crashed and burned and, one almost forgets that our hero pilot landed it while heavily under the influence of drugs and alcohol. We are too distracted by his genius. 

But we realise that the situation is not tenable - despite everyone trying to save his career and the airplane manufacturer's face, and towards the end, Washington himself admits to having been drunk and drugged

One of the most nerve racking scenes was the night before the hearing for which Washington was being prepped for. He stumbles into the next door Hotel room where he finds a fridge full of alcohol and like a doomed flight crashing into the sea, he gives in and is found in a complete mess the next morning only to be saved by the hilarious John Goodman who is called in to revive our pilot with cocaine

In the end, it wasn't a typical airplane disaster movie and unraveling what happened but about Washington's character sorting himself out. 

Sky Fall 
IMAX Navy Pier

My Facebook status after watching this film was "Sky Fall. IMAX. What a thrill. What a James Bond thrill." 

This was one of the most entertaining Bond films to date. The action was fantastic. Daniel Craig's steely look was to die for. Judi Dench was her usual regal self. The new Q was cute and nerdy, a refreshing change from the previous older mad scientists. Ralph Fiennes' entry was fantastic (I love, love, love Ralph Fiennes). A new black agent played by Naomie Harris was great. But the actor who stole the show was Javier Bardem. Bardem simply stole the show. 

I was really reminded of Shah Rukh Khan's famous villains and I wonder whether Bardem is an SRK fan.

I was surprised to learn later on that Sam Mendes directed the film - I didn't know he even did action films! 

My friend Chipo pointed out some references which I missed during the movie - homage to Indiana Jones, Silence of the Lambs and some other iconic films. So much for me being a movie buff! 

Breaking Dawn
400 Theatre, Roger's Park

hate to admit but I have read the Twilight books and have been following the movies. I don't know what it is about this series but there is something addictive about it, despite the fact that Kristen Stewart really can't act, at least not in this series. She is too wooden and has funny mannerisms.

The film adaption was quite vivid and well done but it wasn't mind blowing. They have a colourful cast (for instance, it was nice to see the TV Series "Pushing Daisies" fellow appear in this movie as a 'good vampire') and, some interesting scenes but all in all, it was - yawwwn - nothing to write home about. The CGI baby Renesmee was especially weird. It seems there was no creativity in wrapping up the franchise and the book was followed entirely to the letter.

I was quite amused to see a very mixed crowd - young girls and boys, couples, and rather middle-aged viewers, too! Everyone was laughing and clapping throughout the film, they were really into it!

I think the first film from the series is my favourite since it shows this electric and kept-under-control chemistry between two unlikely characters that makes the feminine heart flutter so!

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