Friday, May 23, 2008
Let me tell you a secret.
Sometimes, things aren't as bad as they seem.
Sometimes, those same things, end up being pretty damned awesome.
Friday Night Lights is one of those things.
Forget the dismal reviews, forget the criticisms, forget NBC's own comments about the show. This television show is nothing short of pure inspirational genius.
Chances are I've already ranted to you about it, and it's even more likely that you still haven't seen it. "Football?! Drama?! Hah, that's a joke." Don't deny it, I can hear you thinking it. But it's true, this show is classified under drama, but not in the way you'd think. Sure, it's a lot of teenagers with a lot of problems: physical, psychological, emotional; you name it, FNL's got it. But its not portrayed in a typical soap opera style, it brings you into the minds of the characters. It brings you into the field as they play. It brings you the spirit you've always wanted to find.
Centered around a football coach returning to coach a year of high school football, only to have his star player, the reason for his return, paralyzed in the first game of the season. A shocking blow to the hopes of the town of Dillon Texas, where this show is set. And in a town like Dillon, where football is viewed on the same level as religion, there isn't much hope to go around.
All this is good and well, but the thing about Friday Night Lights that sets it apart from others, in my opinion, is its visual brilliance. There are criticisms about the style its shot in, a documentary style, the notorious "shaky-cam". Distracting, some call it. Annoying, say some others. I call it being real. Somehow, the aspect of the show that reminds you its being recorded, immerses you into it even more. Then, from how it's shot, we move on to what. From scenes filmed with the characters face filling up half the screen, to the grandeur of two lone teenage boys sitting alone in an empty stadium on the eve of an important game. It's all there. And it's all done right.
But the best part of the show? It'll make you feel good about life. It portrays human vulnerability and the strength to come back from that, built on the foundation of nothing more than hope. The soundtrack helps, with pieces from "Explosions in the Sky" placed so wonderfully that you might find yourself wanting more, to keep listening to the music instead of having to watch a heart wrenching speech about the fragility of human spirit, until you become so immersed in the words to the point of wanting to find someone to smile at and hug.
Please, give it a chance, keep an open mind, and watch the first episode. If you don't like it, then leave it, find something else. Whatever melts your cheese, or so the saying goes.
But if you do like it, then i implore you to keep watching. You'll be a better person for it.
It's just that good.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Iron Man! - I needed to get there before Cube did.
Okay, so I wasn't actually looking forward to this film. I actually voiced my loud opinion of: IT LOOKS REALLY LAME, GUYS, WHY DO YOU WANT TO SEE THIS -- IT LOOKS LAME to a lot of people (i.e. everyone who brought it up). Boy, was I proved wrong. I guess I'll have to eat my hat now.
To be fair, I had a reason to be so negative without actually seeing it. My cynicism is due to, well -- I'm sure I don't need to say nothin', but the superhero movie genre has, over the past few years, been unfortunately devoid of goodness. The Batman films started off well, admittedly, but Batman Returns (? is that the one? With the Penguin and Catwoman?) ruined everything for me (save Batman Begins, of course), the less said about Spiderman/Daredevil/Fantastic Four/take your pick the better -- the only other really good superhero film franchise that jumps out at me is the X-Men films, but after Bryan Singer jumped ship to do Superman Returns (which I haven't seen, admittedly) that whole thing sunk like a lead balloon and anyway I'm still sore about James Marsden getting no screen time in those films so yeah, I don't talk about them any more. I will admit there have been other decent one-offs -- I'm pretty partial to Hellboy myself, and then of course there's V for Vendetta -- but overall the superhero scene has been as dismal as a damsel in distress.
Iron Man is one of those Pretty Awesome one-offs, I think (unless they're making a sequel). It's a breath of fresh air, really. Fabulous!
I'm going to try and keep this not-spoilery and just very very rambly, but just in case:
POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW
Let's see, now. The acting was good, all-round, even though I have trouble keeping a straight face whenever the onscreen villains speak Urdu. I don't know, do people find Indian accents threatening? Because I kind of can't take them seriously (being, you know, Indian and all).
Anyhow -- Robert Downey Jr was excellent and completely believable as Tony Stark. I am really digging the idea of a superhero physicist. In fact, it's always been one of my life dreams, being a superhero physicist*. And the fact that he's a playboy oldperson is pretty awesome too. I kind of have a soft spot for old people who act as though they're young'uns and Tony Stark totally fit the bill. I also have a soft spot for superheroes who don't have superpowers -- Batman's my favourite -- and Tony falls in there too, his superpower being a dicky removable heart, although he totally makes up for it with his physics-defying suit (it was physics-defying, right? I mean, it couldn't have flown that way really, could it... ?) so Batman is still on top with least superpowers ever, really. You can see how Downey's prior experience with alcoholism helped him here -- k so Tony's not an alcoholic yet but he does drink a lot which does play in.
* since now
Gwyn Paltrow was fantastic too, although I wonder what Angry!Chris Martin (as I am now referring to him post-'Violet Hill') had to say about her being the lovestruck apprentice of a weapons manufacturer. I'd have liked if she wasn't so lovestruck, although she made up for that with her name being 'Pepper Potts' hahahaha please don't tell me I'm the only one who found that absolutely hilarious (really 'Virginia' apparently -- but c'mon, Pepper Potts). But it was great how the sexual tension was never really resolved but not in a bad way. Jeff Bridges as the Evil White Guy was good, I guess, if a bit stereotypically, er, Evil White Guy. Everyone else was similarly good (although I must say Terrence Howard was at first kind of irritating as Army Man Rhodesy even if he pulled through in the end). And Paul Bettany is the best electronic butler ever, okay? Okay. (I'm not biased there. Really.)
The script -- well, the script was snappy, in a good way. There were lots of great one-liners. I'm a huuuuuuuge fan when it comes to funny throwaway lines -- I can chortle for days over one or two that particularly strike my fancy, and there were a few of those in this film. Sarcastic heroes > emo ones any day (Spidey, I'm lookin' at you) -- I guess this has more to do with the fact that mature heroes > whiny teenagers as well, but hey, I'll take snark whenever I can get it. But seriously, the dialogue was all completely natural, probably because a lot of it was improvised. Miraculously, Tony went from being the most loathsome person on the planet to someone terribly likable. Seriously, guys, freakin' miracle. However, I felt the pacing of the film was a bit off -- Iron Man only does like one Good Deed before having to face off the bad guy, and the majority of it is spent on Tony becoming Iron Man (which was definitely the most enjoyable part, don't get me wrong). Still, it would've been nice if the second half was as well-paced as the first -- it just seemed kind of rushed, though I guess if they'd taken it slow they'd have ended up with a six-hour-long film which I'm guessing is not very practical. But the pace is my only concern, really, the only really gaping flaw I could see. The other thing that annoyed me slightly was the number of really overt nods to Things to Come -- I like my plot twists like I like my shark attacks: out of the blue.
I was actually kind of shocked by the opening scene -- by now I'm just completely sick of OH AMERICA, AMERICA IS GREAT, EVERYBODY EAST OF AMERICA IS A TERRORIST-ism in movies, but thankfully that aspect sort of played out alright (i.e. it never got as bad as oh, I don't know, pretty much everything else ever). I find it actually pretty intriguing that the only time Robert Downey Jr saved civilians it was in that made-up Eastern village thing (even if the Poor Wife was distinctly white, hm..) .
There isn't much else I can say -- the politics were pretty ambiguous which I suppose is a way to get people in. There was lots of business jargon and I love evil businessmen so that was a definite plus. The whole thing was pretty rife with stereotypes but that's what comic books are about, right? At least it was enjoyable -- more enjoyable than anything I've seen this year so far.
It's so great when Hollywood gets things right. I'm actually looking forward to The Incredible Hulk now.
Iron Man (2008)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard (and Paul Bettany)
Director: Jon Favreau *
Genre: Action/Adventure/SUPERHERO MOVIE
Screenplay: apparently: Mark Fergus, Matt Holloway, Art Marcum and Hawk Ostby
* director of Elf, as I later found out, which is great!
I rate it: 8/10 i.e. pretty damn good.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Love 'em or hate 'em, Coldplay are a force to be reckoned with. Their first three studio albums, Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head and X&Y sold millions -- they've topped the charts for weeks on end, and they sound bloody good too (even if Chris Martin is, let's face it, a little girly).
After the release of X&Y, fans got really really worried when news hit that they were taking a 'break' as 'break's usually mean 'sorry guys, we're not going to do another album for years and years because we're off rediscovering ourselves in the depths of Latin America/splitting up for 'a while' to 'do new things'/keen on spending time with things like, y'know, our wives and funny-named kids' or something of the sort (Franz Ferdinand, I'm lookin' at you), and many of us poor sods resigned ourselves to actually giving X&Y a proper listen or five (even though it was no patch on A Rush of Blood and certainly not a match for "Yellow" or "Trouble" or any other of their confusingly similarly-titled one-word songs) while we contemplated the next decade without Coldplay to be spiritual and new age-y to.
So when the band decided to release their newest single,"Violet Hill", fans all over the world (or I, at least -- and I will freely admit I'm not their number one fan or anything of the sort) were surprised and shocked and tentatively checked the date to make sure it wasn't, like, 2030 or something like that (because it doesn't feel like decades) before rejoicing, getting themselves their fancy free MP3 of Coldplay's new surprisingly dark-looking site and setting in for a good listen as they waited for Chris Martin's waily girly but surprisingly touching vocals to, er, touch them.
Well, I can't speak for the rest of the Coldplay fanbase, but I was touched.
If you haven't listened to it yet, let me tell you: it's different.
I'm not the most musically literate person ever, but I'm going to try my hardest to explain the schematics of this song to you. It starts off quiet, gradually getting louder and louder -- not music, as such, but a sort of hum, anticipatory. Chris starts singing before the music starts, really -- strong piano notes before being joined by a surprisingly heavy guitar. His voice is low, hard -- kind of jaded. I could totally see him sitting on a stool with a hat shading his eyes in some anonymous bar, baring his soul to a crowd of captive, er, bar patrons. Chris doesn't sound like a girl (for the majority of it at least). By the time the chorus hits you're sitting there, suddenly sad and bitter and angry in the best way possible -- you're in that bar, nursing that drink, listening to this stranger tell you about his strife, so roused you don't even care that Chris suddenly sounds like a girl again. And so on, until suddenly it gets quiet again -- and you kind of want to cry, because he sounds so jaded and by now you're totally intoxicated and life isn't fair and hey maybe you should like, call that girl who you cruelly dumped in that backwater town some time ago and tell her it's not her fault you're a callous bastard who has commitment issues.
Okay, so that was a crap description. Cut me some slack. But seriously, this is no "Trouble", guys. This is no "Clocks" or "Yellow" or "Speed of Sound" or, well, anything you've ever really heard from Coldplay before. This is dark, genuinely dark, and they've had dark songs before but this is seriously jaded. You're left wondering what exactly those guys found in Latin America, whether their family lives are really as peachy as they're making out to be, whether those totally fabricated rumours that Chris and co. are getting group therapy are really as ridiculous as they sounded back when they were going around*.
* which was never, incidentally, as I made them up just now to illustrate a point.
I have to admit I didn't like it when I first heard it. Well, alright, I didn't not like it -- I guess I didn't know what to think. It's just so different, like somebody broke Coldplay. It reminds me of war, and that book I read when I was eleven that made me bawl because everyone was dying, and mortality and death and destruction and ruin and corruption of good things and the shattering of lives -- no, Coldplay's not broken, Coldplay's matured. This isn't the idealistic "Politik" or "A Rush of Blood to the Head", this is what happens after you draft philanthropist Chris Martin into the army and make him watch millions of people die due to stupidity and then laugh in his face before discharging him with naught but the boots on his feet. It's critical -- "when the future's architectured/by a carnival of idiots on show/you'd better lie low" -- it's poignant -- "bury me in honour/when I'm dead and hit the ground" -- it's just so bitter I want to give Chris a hug and tell him to go listen to "Don't Panic" and that things will be alright again.
Really, my only complaint is that it's too short. I want more!
Honestly, guys, it's made me terribly excited about the new album -- Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends (isn't that the most depressingly awesome title ever?). I think it's going to be epic. And once it's released and whoever the Roger Ebert of music says it's also epic, I'm going to point you back to this post and say, hey, I told you first.
Ebert that, bitch.
Song: Violet Hill
Album: Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends
* for being too short.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Last night I got to watch one of the most praised movies : No Country for Old Men. The movie plot and ending were already known to me as someone just blabbered it out in his anger. (He really hated the movie, and it kept me from watching it for a while). Fortunately, this did not hamper the experience in watching the movie.
The movie deals with 3 different characters who are involved in a drug deal gone wrong: Llewelyn (Josh Brolin), who first comes across the carnage of the drug deal, where he finds two million dollars and runs off with it. Anton (Javier Bardem), a psychopathic cold killer who is hunting down Llewelyn for the money(Anton's gun adds to his scariness) . And then there's Ed (Tommy Lee Jones), the local sheriff who tries to figure out what is happening . The plot is brilliant, but the execution of the plot is even more brilliant. The movie is a thriller at its best, keeping you on your edges at all times, and the eerie silences of Anton which dominate the movie is just worth watching. The Coen brothers have done a wonderful job in directing this movie. (They completely deserve the Oscar)
Javier Bardem also deserved his Oscar since it was his acting that gave the movie its thrill. He marvelously portrayed the frightening Anton (who made it as the second scariest guy ever for me). Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones didn't do a bad job either though it was Javier who made the movie what it was.
And that is why I give this movie a 4.5/5! (I recommend this movie at all costs)
(P.S: You understand the meaning of the title right at the end of the movie)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Cast: Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones
Director: Ethal Coen, Joel Coen
Screenplay : Ethal Coen, Joel Coen
Friday, March 21, 2008
Strangers shouldn't talk to little girls.
Ellen Page, best known for her work in "Juno" (2007), acts as a 14 year old girl who meets a much older photographer (Patrick Wilson) on the internet. Suspecting him to be a pedophile, she invites herself to his house, in an attempt to expose him.
Hard Candy (internet slang for an underage girl) is an intense psychological thriller, exceeding in both storyline and cinematography: a rare occasion where both acting and film making compliment each other in a low budget (so low, the producer had once planned on filming in his own house) independent film. The low budget also shows itself with only 9 minutes of music in the entire film, with ambient noises the majority of the soundtrack.
Hard Candy is a fast-paced, thought provoking, and completely exceeded all expectation. I would recommend it to anybody in need of a good psychological thriller, or even just a damned good movie, for that's exactly what Hard Candy is.
Just in case you get disappointed, thinking this was Madonna's new album:
Screw you, screw her, screw that, this movie deserves more, the name deserves more!
Eurgh. Freaking Madonna...
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Whoever told me that No Reservations was a chick flick was definitely wrong. I normally don't watch chick flicks unless they have Jessica Alba or tremendously talented actresses like Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada. I initially wanted to watch No Reservations because for some reason, I thought that Sandra Bullock (who is awesome) was in the movie except she wasn't. Anyways, apart from all this I gave the movie a shot. Initially, it did seem like a chick flick but then the movie turned into a drama dealing with death and family at the same time with dedication and happiness.
The movie takes you through a roller coaster of emotions starting of funny but then going to sad, and back to happy and so on. Catherine Zeta Jones did a good job on playing Kate, a top head chef at a classy restaurant praised for her quails, but woman of high maintenance restricting herself with a lot of rules. Abigail who plays Zoe, has delivered an excellent performance as Kate's orphaned niece .
Though the movie mainly centers around those two, Nick (Aaron) also plays a supporting role in the movie as an executive chef. Aaron, who was amazing in Thank You For Smoking, let me down because he seemed liked one of those actors who don't do many movies but yet they shine in each on they do.
All in all, the movie wasn't bad at all, and ended up enjoying but this movie is a movie which you need to have a certain mood to watch it otherwise it may just seem plainly mediocre. Hence, I give this movie a 3.7 / 5
No Reservations (2007)
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, Patricia Clarkson, Jenny Wade
Director: Scott Hicks
Screenplay : Carol Fuchs, Sandra Nettelbeck
My rating: 3.7/5 (if you have nothing better to watch, then go for No Reservations)