Saturday, 27 June 2009

New York

A terrorist film lacking spark...

With the advent of 9/11 forcing the American government to clamp down on terrorism, innocent Muslims live in fear that they may be suspected of terrorist attacks when in reality they do not even condone the act itself. Omar (Neil Nitin Mukuesh) is arrested by the FBI but not because he is a terrorist suspect, but rather so that he can be used to spy upon the leader of a terrorist group working within New York. Omar soon discovers that he has to spy upon his best friend from college, Sam (John Abraham), but does so in order to prove his friends innocence.

The 9/11 wave of films have more or less past and New York happens to be one of the first Bollywood films to tackle the subject. This becomes a slight problem as the film's core theme lacks the contemporary nature to truly challenge political alignments. Though, the film still uses its narrative to good effect by highlighting the jadedness of Omar's current predicament with the lightheartedness of his college years. It is a well formed juxtaposition of Omar's life and highlights just how different the world has become for him. But beyond this the narrative is fairly simple while Omar attempts to become accustomed with Sam's life in order to aid the FBI with their investigation. There are no musical and dance sequences, which would have detracted from the experience, but the cued music in certain scenes do not work to full effect. There is a track in the first half which losses vibrancy a good few minutes before the scene ends, and another track in the latter half of the film which does not suit the mood at all. Though the film never becomes a tight thriller, these oversights lessen the chances the film does have. Finally the film suffers from an overload of political views: first America is seen in a negative light for torturing Muslims and then the films moves to Muslims standing up against terrorism to make a better life for Muslims in America, to name but a few of the issues. These two core messages keep playing until the conclusion and whenever the film appears to be pro Muslim it undercuts this peaceful tone with America hate before Obama as president. The film's themes are muddled, but worse yet they are themes that have already been debated: New York offers nothing new for audiences to engage with.

The ensemble of actors in New York is good but the skill rarely exceeds expectations, but rather all are merely competent enough to see the film through. Abraham is more believable with his fun-loving college self then he is as a man who could be running a terrorist group. However praise must be given to him with his scenes involving him locked up for being a suspected terrorist: the anguish and pain he expresses feels real, but it is just a pity this sort of emotion is not carried throughout the film. Mukesh has a similar transition feeling more believable when defending himself and trying to fix everything then he is in other scenes. Kaif's role, while prominent compared to other films, is still lesser compared to her two male counterparts. Though she does feel more comfortable in this role then she has in previous where it feels like she is wasting any talent she may have. Rounding off the cast is Irrfan Khan as FBI investigator Roshan: he is not the lead but you sort of wish he was. He is a far more the more capable actor and he brings a pedigree to a film which deserves to better then it ends up being.

Considering its subject matter New York is not quite as violent as expected. There is no sex or nudity and language is virtually unnoticed.

New York is an interesting film or should be: its subject matter and political messages all seem rather unnecessary these days. It is great to see a Bollywood film dealing with post 9/11 experiences but it is geared in the wrong way and even confused at the ideology it wishes to have. The narrative shows signs of artistic nature but is too linear in its approach. The actors work with their respective roles but besides Kahn they are not consistent in delivering at their best. New York is a competent film but it is just not refreshing.


Screen date: 26 June 2009
Release date: 26 June 2009

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Drag Me To Hell

Horror returns in fine form ...

With a promotion on the line for the role of Assistant Manager, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is hoping to fill the position; however she has some competition for the role and decides to prove to her boss that she is capable of handling any situation with falls her way. One such situation arrives when Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver), an elderly woman, arrives to appeal for a third extension for a mortgage on her house. Christine ultimately decides to decline the woman’s request resulting in the old woman cursing Christine to damnation.

It is a strange storyline it must be said, but it works regardless of how ridiculous it may become. For many years American horror has gone the route of a serial killer or psychopath tormenting victims, but few rely on the plot device of the supernatural. The film starts on a note of suspense and continues to its end in this manner, and the fact that Christine is cursed to go to hell in a few days ensures that horror does not remain sporadic, but the norm. Plot development flows allowing for Christine to shuffle her curse with her personal life: she is virtually in every scene so the audience becomes caught up in her life. That said there are no subplots to distract from the main story arc: Christine is going to hell and she needs to stop that happening. This is slightly disappointing in regards to narrative depth but the film has clear indications into commentating about society at large. Christine has to struggle with her choice and whether self-gain is more important than the well being of others. Additionally a discussion is created about whether putting on a certain image to impress certain people, changes who you fundamentally are, or exposes your true self. There are fascinating levels of depth to the linear storyline if viewers so wish to engage with the text, but if not the audience will still be greeted with a favourably pleasant experience.

The acting front is workable in the film’s structure: it is never of a high level but it is commendable in giving the respective characters some life. No one actor cements their presence but it is Lohman’s character that rightly gains the most depth. At first it is difficult not to dismiss Christine’s predicament, but the story and Lohmans’ acting ability allows a new angle to be considered. Relating to Christine is never easy: while she is not an entirely virtuous person, she comes across often as too stuck up for her own good. This runs well with the films thematic factor which Raimi is able to explore but it does lessen Christine's overall charazizaton somewhat.

Cinematography is a fairly interesting facet for the film with many scenes being presented in a 1980’s horror manner. This could be easily frowned upon but Sam Raimi, who is clearly appealing to fans of his Evil Dead series, has a keen sense for direction making for sharp scene interaction and crazy imagery. This creates some great moments of horror and complementary sly humour: it is a unique blend but Raimi gets it spot on and the comedy does not go to dim the horror’s effectiveness. If there is a problem it is that some techniques are a little overdone, but ironically the horror scenes only keep getting better.

Horror films usually have certain expectations on regards to content, but Drag Me to Hell seems to disobey such notions. There is no sex or nudity, and language is almost non-existent. Violence is triggered through some suspenseful showcases and while they do have a factor of being grotesque, they are hardly close in realization to the all out gore and sadism of modern titles.

Simply put, Drag Me to Hell is one of the most enjoyable horror films of recent times. It has an interesting, supernatural storyline with interesting characters; reasonably good acting, though it could have been stronger; and intriguing cinematographic design, even if a little overused. There is even well formulated social commentary which really adds wonders in allowing the film to appeal on an intellectual level. Raimi’s grip on horror makes for a great deal of suspense and the added humour only makes the film all the more devious. All this is achieved with a minimal level of objectionable content, making the film less conformist to the horror genre as it stands and showcases Raimi at what he does best. Though the shining achievement of Drag Me to Hell is that it does what a horror should: not just simply gross out the audience but rather aim to scare and entertain them.


Screen date: 12 June 2009
Release date: 12 June 2009

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

E3 2009: Sony Conference Overview

Playstation 3:
Motion control - similar to Wii remote but requires eyetoy; true 1:1 tracking; first person shooter demoed; RTS demoed;

Agent - Rockstar PS3 exclusive; late 1970's espionage
Assassins Creed 2.
Final Fantasy 13.
Final Fantasy 14 - PS3 exclusive; online like FF11
God of War 3 - first public demo shown.
Gran Turismo 5 - rally, nascar, car damage.
The Last Guardian - Trico project.
LittleBigPlanet - new Disney costumes coming;
MAG - first public demo shown.
ModNation Racers - kart racer, LittleBigPlanet esque; PS3 exclusive
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.


Playstation Portable:
PSP Go - no UMD; does not replace PSP 3000 or UMD; 16gb internal flash memory, built-in wifi, bluetooth support; $250.
Hannah Montana PSP 3000 bundle - new lilac colour.
Rockband Unplugged PSP 3000 bundle

Assassins Creed: Bloodline.
Gran Turismo - full scale game, 60 frames per second, 800 cars, 35 tracks; many single player modes such as time trial and drifting; ad hoc for up o 4 players; trading of cars with other players
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker - 10 years after MGS3; Kojima deeply involved with script and producing; made by MGS4 team
Resident Evil Portable- new title.

Media Go - simpler way to connect the PSP to the PC in order to receive PSN content.
Sense Me - sense listening habit, recommend playlist.
Video PSN - native for PSP; includes new channels such as E!, Manga and Showtime.