Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me

As a child I always thought Adam Sandler films were a work of comedy genius. Watching films like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Mr Deeds or even 50 First Dates these to me as a child and still today makes me laugh. With these types of films people always see him as the funny actor. Watching so many of his films no matter how awful they can be there was one film that I really thought that would change his career as a funny guy actor to a somewhat mediocre actor. Just like how Jim Carrey wanted to show the world that he can be a serious actor. By doing films like; The Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind these two timeless films are a perfect example of when funny actors go serious. Reign Over Me directed by Mike Binder staring Adam Sandler as the 911 widow Charlie Finemen and his old college roommate Don Cheadle as Alan Johnson. The film tells the story men who lost his entire family in 911 run into each other and befriend each other once again after many years. Their old found friendship help each other deal with one and others problems. What makes this films so great its not your typical 911 film. Some people don’t even realize that Reign Over Me is a 911 film, even though the film doesn't dwell on the actual events of the day. The film focuses on the people that lost their loved of that tragic day and Charlie being one of those victims. Reign Over me is a wonderful story of two friends finding each other and being there.

Adam Sandler (Charlie Finemen)
Charlie’s character is the perfect example of someone with post dramatic stress. Continuously playing video games and losing himself in this world. Playing “Shadow of Colossus” is his way of escaping the real world. The constant redoing of his kitchen is the never letting go faze between him and his wife. He promised his wife he would finish the kitchen but they never did.  Usually when someone loses someone dear to them they can never let go and in this case the only thing holding Charlie’s character to his wife is the kitchen. By finishing the kitchen he psychologically acknowledges her death. The soundtrack of the film is whatever Charlie listened to in his headphones. I can see that Mike Binder wanted the audience to listen to the same music that Charlie was listening to. To hide the outside world Charlie would put on his headphones and listen to what’s on his iPod. This is a fantastic way of making the audience connect with Charlie because by hiding the outside world and being in Charlie’s music we are subconsciously entering in “Charlie World”

Charlie Finemen & Alan Johnson
Charlie’s and Alan’s friendship is seen as if their college days have never passed even though Charlie has become a withdrawn shadow of his former self. Be that as it may they both have their moments of; Riding double on a scooters, late night jamming sessions, walking late on the streets of New York and video games. The core of their friendship is simply just hanging out even though Charlie is a very emotionally destroyed person and that’s what I really do admire about Reign Over Me. The very soul of the film it’s just about two guys who don’t have anyone to talk apart from each other.  As the film carries on and we see more and more of Charlie breaking down but their relationship is always the same. Alan doesn’t talk about Charlie’s problem but instead just have their typical guy talk. For me those scenes when it’s just Charlie and Alan are the most connecting scenes to the two characters. In one scene we see Charlie have a total break down and the next scene is Alan and Charlie having Chinese together and Alan changes the subject and talk about how his wife doesn’t give him his space. What’s so great about the two characters is that Alan who is seen as a successful dentist and family man who has no friends and no hobby when Charlie who has nothing apart from his hobbies. The relationship between both characters is seen as a life line for each other. This film really just show the importance of a good friend and to be a good friend you don’t have to be there to hold them but just hang out and keep each other company.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tim Porter’s Juggling

Juggling is a perfect insight into the deep and emotional level of anxiety, panic disorder and coping with the day to day lives that we take granted of. This semi-autobiographical film written and directed by Tim Porter takes us on a dark psychological journey of one’s self trying to cope in a normal life but suffering with a darkly condition, taking the viewers to a voyage into the human mind. 

A 23 year old businessman Andrew Watson who suffers from anxiety and panic disorder lived a life of fear and inner chaos of coping with the condition. His disabled mother and life of work prevents him from living his own life but a night out with a friend Andrew finds himself love struck between   a woman he met in a club and his mother. After trying to make the move he finds himself in an inner psychological battle. Anxiety winning Andrew runs away from his desire back home to his mother. His fellow co-worker however wishing the best for him offers him a proposition of total independence with the girl and a new life that awaits him.  Accepting the offer Andrew now must cope with the stress of trying to be “normal”. However this juggling of lives soon takes Andrew’s anxiety to a much darker side of his mind frame.

This short independent film really does reflect the lives between living among the “norm” and coping with anxiety. Tim Porter really does show the juggling between what the audience take granted for their day to day lives of; chatting up girls or boys in the bars, dealing with family stress and our inner demons. Porter really takes Juggling to somewhat of an awareness film of people, who suffer from anxiety, panic disorder. The close up and extreme close ups of the protagonist really makes the audience feel somewhat uneasy being so close to Andrew. That’s what Porter intended to do. The constant feeling of everyone around is too uncomfortably close. The emotionally gripping and charged music really does create a feeling of disarray and chaos. All these minor features that Porter uses create such an atmosphere. The continuous feeling of chaos in the mind frame is most seen when Andrew is out in the world but with his mother a feeling of peace fills the room. But Andrews’s mother being disabled there’s always a sensation of helplessness. Juggling was very much a gripping short film and this being a semi-autobiographical by Tim Porter. There’s very much an emotional human level connection between Porter, the film and the audience. Juggling makes you think how we take granted of our level of coping when there’s people out there that suffer from anxiety and panic disorder. It makes you wonder. And that’s what makes this such a fantastic awareness film. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Mark Of Cain Documentary

The Mark of Cain is a Russian documentary based on the secret language of the criminal underworld Russian mafia’s tattoo “The Code of Thieves”.  Alix Lamber focuses on the fading art form and language which has always been a forbidden topic of Russia. The documentary is set in a Stalinist Gulag a prison with the entire documentary shot in different Former Soviet Prisons interviewing prisoners, prison guards and criminologists. Alix films in various locations in the prison including the infamous and most feared prison ward “The White Swan”. To help understand the meaning of the tattoos and their symbols, the documentary examines both the actual expects of the tattoo and determining who a person is right away with their tattoos. As the documentary reveals the meaning of all the symbols of hundreds of tattoos, Alix takes the documentary to a skin deep emotional level when interviewing the prisoners. We are shown the harsh and brutal life of the Russian Penitentiary System with prison cells that can only hold 16 inmates but hold 40 to 45 inmates and so cramped that inmates take turns to sleep and stand.

"You get your first impression of the Zone while in the first holding cell. Its a terrifying
room with people just staring at you and sizing you up" - Alexander Slavin, former inmate 
The prisoners explain that as soon as they walk into a cell their shirt must come off so everyone can know what crime the prisoners committed, how long he/she has been in prison and everything you need to know about the inmate.  Alix interviews each prisoner with their shirt off so we the audience can have the feeling of knowing what this prisoner has done before he/she say anything. I love how Alix makes us the viewer’s somewhat part of the documentary so we become more connected with the prisoners and the documentary. The inmates tell the story of why they are in prison; murder and armed robbery are among the most common. As the Inmates explain their tattoos and their meanings it somewhat feels that the tattoos are not just symbols of identifying what he/she has been convicted of. Amongst the criminal underworld these tattoos are an emblem of a rank. Just like the military and their ranks these criminals have their superiors to look up to. There are many symbols and each of them have their meanings; stars on the shoulders declare the rank as a Thief and on the kneecaps mean “I won’t stand on my knees before the authorities”, dagger is a calling card of the killer for hire, military style epaulette on the shoulder represents individuals high ranking profile in the crime world and outside, cupolas on churches shows the number years the convicts has served in prison.

Yuri Mashkin serving eight years for Grave Bodily Injury.
 Notice the military epaulette on his shoulder

Alix Lambert
This documentary is a thrilling insight of the life in Russian prison but what I admire most of this documentary is how Alix first starts the documentary explaining the secret language of “The Code of Thieves” but then takes the documentary to a whole new level. We first see these inmates as ruthless killers and thieves who live by an unholy code who pledged their lives for a life of crime. The documentary slowly turns to an emotional human level of sadness; tuberculosis runs wild through the cells, prison cells are way overfilled, prison guard brutality is day to day norm and the meals are a watery sloppy soup and stale bread. Inmates write and sing songs about their mothers and how life in the Gulag has changed them forever. We are never shown “The White Swan” but you can see in the convict’s eyes its place of pain. In the interviews you can see that the prison has well and truly broken them and a life of pestilence, violence and inhumane living conditions have destroyed their spirits. This documentary is beautifully constructed, heartbreakingly and yet thrilling insight of the Russian criminal underworld and their tattoos.  This is why this documentary is one of my top favourites and I only found out about it when David Cronenberg made “Eastern Promises” and said he used “The Mark Of Cain” as a source material to grasp the life of Russian Mafia and their tattoos.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later

*SPOILER ALEART for those who has not seen 28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later”

I still remember till this day when my older brother went to blockbuster and rented 28 Days Later and told me “This is meant to be an ssssick zombie film” after watching the starting scene I never did think monkeys was cute anymore. I remember sitting back thinking if there was a zombie attack I could easily survive! Zombies are very slow and dumb so I was pretty sure of myself . . . . Till I watched the scene when Jim first encountered and was chased by deranged insane raged infected. I remember everyone in the room screaming! Words cannot explain how flabbergasted everyone in the room was. I remember the film finished how much I just wanted Danny Boyle to make squeal. But as years when on and I got much older and watched many more films and many more squeals.  Usually with squeals they never do live up to the first film. It’s sadly the usual case of never living up to the expectation. With the first film being such a success box office and reviews it’s never a surprise that they would continue the film. But the squeal to 28 Days Later to 28 Weeks Later had such a large gap in between them it’s no surprise that the expectation to for the second one would be really high. I remember when I watched the first one I dreamt of Danny Boyle making another but he never did. Years later 28 Weeks Later was surprised to see that Danny Boyle would only produce it and the film would have a much higher budget from the first release. Counting the days and reading any article writing on the progress of 28 Weeks Later. I remember reading there would be more infected, more action and much more gore I just couldn’t wait to watch it.

What I loved about Danny Boyles 28 Days Later was the constant feeling of knowing the infected could attack at any random moment e.g. bedroom room scene, first encounter with the infected at the church, running up the stairs of the apartment complex. The tunnel scene when the taxi cab had a flat tire in the Blackwall Tunnel and they had to replace it with another while the infected got closer. Till this day when I drive through the tunnel I wonder what the hell I would have done. There were literally no other characters in the film so the audience really did have a connection with the four survivors and why the scene with the farther becoming infected was so heart breaking. Running up the stairs scene was the most intense moment for me personally in any film. The feeling of running up countless stairs with a heavy bag and already tired when there’s an fast running infected chasing you. The violence and gore in 28 days later was so intense it really did feel like reality and not a horror film. Not many people liked the idea of the soldiers being rapist but I feel that it is a realistic view of what would happen. It really was a real insight into what would really happen if infected did over run England. The world government would quarantine the country and the remaining survivors would go insane. Soldiers would do rebel against their superior officers and take control for themselves. The killing of the last soldier even today much older and seen many gory gilms still makes me look away.

The opening scene of the first encounter with the infected really did give so much promise to the film and really felt like it did justice to the first film being in a huge mansion with the infected breaking through, running around and not many places to hide. The chase scene again was so tense and terrifying with unless amount of infected running downhill chasing the coward farther leaving his wife for dead. Personally I felt like after the opening first scenes nothing happed! It was so boring and slow I remember moving a lot and even going to the toilet once in the cinema WITCH I NEVER DO! 28 Weeks Later did become original 28 self when Don became infected and the mother was not only locked in the film with him but tied down and again being a 28 film the gore and violence was so terrifyingly fantastic. The beating and smashing of the face and the classic 28 Days thumbs in the eye and horrifying screaming pain really makes the skin crawl.

"28 Weeks Later"
Chase scene after Don leaves his wife for dead
"28 Days Later"
Blackwall Tunnel scene
Both films have fantastic terrifying tense moment and for me this is what makes the 28 films so thrilling to watch. 28 Days Later being the stairs scene; imagine walking up endless amount of stairs with a heavy bag, tired and all of a sudden the very fast infected chase you and you still got another hundred stairs to go. The end mansion scene when both the soldiers and survivors are being chased in a dark empty mansion by the infected and as each solider becoming infected one by one and with the gruesome killing of the last solider with the thumbs in the eyes. the Blackwall Tuunnel scene sits makes me sit on the edge of my seat. 28 Weeks Later did really lack story and was really painfully slow and the how the outbreak happened again till this day I say “I can’t believe the US military gave a janitor all access to the base!” and it’s sad to say it didn’t live up to what I wanted but it did have some amazing scenes which personally I feel did make the film a 28 worthy film. I can only imagine in my nightmares how terrifying it must have been locked in a car park full of people in the dark with infected running around. 28 Weeks Later really did pay homage to its previous 28 Days Later with again terrifying tense moments; the opening house scene, Don becoming infected and beating his wife to death and the car park scene when hundreds of survivors was being infected. To me personally its these scenes and gut ranching moments of being beating to death really do make a 28 film and I hope that the third release will shadow the other two and live up to its hype but we will have many more years for 28 Hours??? or Months Later???

"28 Days Later"
First encounter with the infected

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Love Of Independent Films

I don’t know what it is but when it comes to Independent Films there’s nothing quite like it. You can’t compare Mainstream Films to Independent Films because there in totally different categories. It drives me utterly insane when someone says “Independent Films are pretentious films” that it truly and utterly senseless thing to say. There’s nothing pretentious about Independent Films at all, the only difference between Mainstream and Independent is mainly the cost, production, actors used. What I love about Independent Films you have to go out and find them unlike mainstream films they can afford; trailers, posters on busses and magazines and hear about it on the radio. Independent Films usually go straight to DVD and with the DVD sales it goes to selected cinemas and if it becomes successful the film gets distributed more. One can say that mainstream films use A list actors and actresses and Independent films uses B list but this is totally wrong! If looking at Independent films like The Nines staring Ryan Reynolds or Half Nelson Ryan Gosling. These two films are perfect exams of Independent Films. Apart from the story and production being totally different both films have an Independent Film feeling to it. Due to low budget Independent Films can’t afford to shoot in expensive locations so they seem to always shoot in conventional places that remind us of our day to day locations.

Ryan Reynolds The Nines
The Nines is a psychological thriller drama shows a three part story all connecting with same actors and actresses but as different people in different universes. We are always presented by the protagonist Ryan Reynolds with a different life in all three parts of the story; Actor, Writer and Game Designer. The Number 9 appears constantly in each life and slowly becomes an obsession. When nearly finding the answer the universe seems to end and a new universe is created with a different life. Half Nelson is an Inner city middle school troubled teacher Ryan Gosling takes us in a journey of engaging and elegant story of the relationship between student and teacher. Half Nelson at first was a 19minuet short called “Gowanus, Brooklyn”. The Short become so popular that it gained enough money to become an independent feature film. Half Nelson is a voyage of addiction and an emotional journey of self-destruction.

Ryan Gosling Half Nelson
My all-time favourite Independent Film is Factotum Matt Dillon’s performance as Henry Chinaski was so spectacularly astonishing. The awkward moments saying nothing in a room filled with people, making himself at home everywhere he goes a lifestyle of booze and no money. Watching the alter ego of one of my all-time American writer Charles Bukowski, the films plot is very humble at the same time a very dark comedy. We follow a womanizing alcoholic Chinaski a man who can’t seem to hold any job and have no ambition to live a conventional life apart from drinking and writing. Watching Facatum you have no idea where this film goes and one can say “doesn’t that make the film drag on?” Chinaski’s has so much character that the entire drive of the film is solely on Chinaski. The stories and poems Chinaski writes and voice overs in film are actually Charles Bukowski published shorts and poems. The voice overs are a remarkable visual description of Chinaski inner self, very similar to Bukowski writing Facatum is great insight into the semi-biographical life of Bukowski. With such a melancholic and miserable character it’s so bizarre that Chinaski makes it amusing story to watch; leaving work early to gamble at the horse track, never taking responsibility for his actions and only love in life is to write his thoughts on the world and the people he encounters.

Matt Dillon Factotum
What I love about Independent Films is feeling of discovering this film. You knew you would like this film before watching it because you went out your way to find it or a friend recommended to you. With Mainstream films everyone has seen Dark Knight or Inception. I’m not saying Mainstream films are crap I love them but if I had an option in life to choose a big time Hollywood director making films like Lord of The Rings or being an Independent Film maker like Beginners or The Beaver I honestly would choose Independent. Mainstream films is totally controlled by producers and the big time films companies so I would have no say and have to cater the audience needs. But that’s how you make money you can’t do what you want in Mainstream Films.