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Information about Movies

Published on January 29, 2008

Author: Carmela


Bend It Like Beckham:  Bend It Like Beckham Director: Gurinder Chadha Writer: Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra Stars: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kulvinder Ghir, Shaznay Lewis, Juliet Stevenson Genre: Comedy, Drama Running time: 112 minutes Releasing time: 12 April 2002 Country: UK Rating: Four (out of five) – BBC Movie review – brief review :  brief review A wedding. Cross-cultural clashes. A young woman getting a makeover and finding herself. But there's no Windex and this isn't My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In fact, it's not My Big Fat Indian Wedding, either. However, it is a feel-good comedy that traverses similar territory, if not exactly the same road. Marketing will probably have a lot to do with whether Bend It Like Beckham finds its audience in North America (it's already an unqualified success overseas), but I would venture a guess that most people who were entertained by My Big Fat Unexpected Box Office Hit will leave this movie with the same kind of warm, fuzzy feeling deep inside. Jess (Parminder Nagra) is the British-born daughter of Sikh parents. She is also a fairly typical teenager, and, as is true of nearly every teenager across the globe, feels the need to rebel. Her source of rebellion is to play soccer/football, and she dreams of one day being on the field with her hero, David Beckham, and kicking the ball in for the winning goal. However, although her parents tolerated her sports passion when she was young, they now believe she should become serious about her life and prepare for the future. That means giving up "children's games" for cooking lessons, marriage, and university studies. The edict to stop playing soccer comes just as Jess has been offered the opportunity to play for a semi-pro, all girls team. One of the players, Juliette (Keira Knightley), has seen Jess play and invites her to audition for the coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), who thinks she's brilliant. So, what's a teenager to do? Sneak out of the house and lie about her whereabouts, of course. Bend It Like Beckham touches on some serious issues like cultural assimilation, but doesn't go into any great depth. Like East Is East, which deals with a Pakistani family coping with the East/West tug-of-war, Gurinder Chadha's movie acknowledges that this is a divisive issue that creates inter-generational conflicts, but chooses to go for a more uplifting resolution. This is, after all, intended to be more light entertainment than a "message movie." In addition to the main storyline – Jess trying to break free of her family's restrictions and find herself without irretrievably damaging her relationship with her parents – there are some subplots. One finds Jess falling for Joe, whose affection is also coveted by Juliette. Thus, we have a time-honored romantic triangle. Jess' best friend, Tony (Ameet Chana), has a secret he's afraid to tell his mother. Then there's the question of whether Jess can lead her team to the championship and get the chance to fly to America and be paid to play. (Since when was the United States such a hotbed of soccer mania?) So, of course, we get the big sports movie moment. The leads are energetic and likable, especially Parminder Nagra and Kiera Knightley, both of whom bring a lot of spirit to their instantly likable characters. Irish actor Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, whose career is on the upswing, exudes charisma and may be on his way to sex-symbol status. Anupam Kher brings a sense of humanity to a role that could easily have been a caricature – that of the strict father who is torn between his own beliefs and his desire to please his daughter. Juliet Stevenson, as Juliette's mother, embraces the caricature label and turns in a scene-stealing comic performance. She's strictly two-dimensional, but she's funny in a cartoonish sort of way. Bend It Like Beckham delivers a positive message that doesn't tax viewers in the delivery. It's frothy and undemanding, and proud of it. For director Chadha, this is a decided improvement over her previous feature, 2000's What's Cooking? It unashamedly wears the crowd-pleaser tag, and it's likely that some critics will gripe that it's too eager to enrapture the masses. Bend It Like Beckham is enjoyable enough that the sprinkles of artificial sweetness in the mix don't do lasting or irreparable damage. Mr. Holland’s Opus :  Mr. Holland’s Opus Director:Stephen Herek, Patrick Sheane Duncan Writer:  Patrick Sheane Duncan Stars: Richard Dreyfuss  Glenne Headly Jay Thomas  Olympia Dukakis William H. Macy  Alicia Witt Beth Maitland   Genres: Drama and Musical/Performing Arts Running Time: 2 hrs. 25 min. Releasing time: 1995 Country: USA Rating: 7.1( out of 10) –www. – Brief review:  Brief review When The American President was released, many knowledgeable movie-goers commented how the sentimentality of its "feel good" storyline recalled the work of director Frank Capra. Now, with Mr. Holland's Opus, another Capra-esque motion picture has reached today's theaters. Similar in theme and content to Dead Poets' Society and It's a Wonderful Life, this movie persuades its audience that no life spent in a worthy pursuit is ever wasted. Unlike The American President, however, it doesn't stoop to heavy-handed proselytizing. And, while no one will accuse Mr. Holland's Opus of getting its message across subtly, it's a more dramatically secure picture than Rob Reiner's -- when it manipulates, it does so skillfully. Mr. Holland's Opus spans thirty-one years in the life of a high school music teacher. When Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) first comes to the newly-dedicated JFK High School in 1964, he has a dream of spending a few years teaching to accumulate a nest egg, then returning to his true passion: composing. His loving wife, Iris (Glenne Headly) is completely supportive -- until she becomes pregnant. After that unexpected event, teaching is no longer just Glenn's "fall back position". It has become his means to provide for his family. Yet Glenn finds that instructing students in music appreciation has its rewards. When lectures and text assignments don't fire his pupils' passion for the subject, Glenn tries unique ways of encouraging an understanding that "playing music is supposed to be fun -- it's about heart... not notes on a page." Repeatedly during his three decades of teaching, Glenn chooses boys and girls with special skills to nurture and encourage. In the process, he creates a deep loyalty among JFK's student body while straining the harmony of his home life. His wife and son wonder if Glenn cares more about his pupils than about them. The musical metaphors in Mr. Holland's Opus are rather obvious, and the soundtrack is an effective mix of pop tunes, classical compositions, and Michael Kamen's score. While no film this decade has equaled the accomplishment of Krzysztof Kieslowski and Zbigniew Preisner in wedding music and visuals for 1993's Blue, Mr. Holland's Opus has moments when it comes close. Like It's a Wonderful Life, this movie is about appreciating the value of every person's effort to better the lives of others irrespective of the individual cost. Dead Poets' Society told a similar story in a similar setting with similar themes, but Mr. Holland's Opus has enough singular material to preserve its unique identity. Those who prize the message and tone of those other pictures, however, will almost certainly enjoy this one. Most of the time, when Hollywood wants to show changes to a character over a significant span of time, a relatively young actor is used, and the aging process is accomplished via (usually fake-looking) makeup. For Mr. Holland's Opus, the film makers tried the opposite, choosing a performer whose actual age closely matches the final age of the main character, then using makeup to rejuvenate him for the film's early sequences. Surprisingly, the result doesn't excessively stretch credibility, although Richard Dreyfuss never looks thirty (possibly forty). As always, the actor turns in a strong performance, regardless of how old Mr. Holland is supposed to be. Supporting players like Glenne Headly, Jay Thomas (as one of Glenn's teaching buddies), Olympia Dukakis (as a crusty principal), Alicia Witt (as Glenn's first "project"), and Jean Louisa Kelly (as a student with a crush on her music teacher) keep Mr. Holland's Opus in tune. In recent years, it has become common practice for movie studios to release at least one emotionally stirring drama around the holiday season. In 1992, it was Scent of a Woman. In 1993, Shadowlands. Last year, Nobody's Fool. Flaws aside, one common element in these films is that each focuses on the triumph of the human spirit, using a story that seeks to touch the heart. Mr. Holland's Opus deserves a place in their ranks. It's a symphony of solid storytelling and good feeling that pays tribute to Hollywood's rarely-seen, gentler side. BARAKA:  BARAKA Director: Ron Fricke Genres: Documentary Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min Releasing time: 1993 Country: USA Rating: 7.9 (out of 10) –– Brief Review :  Brief Review "Baraka" is a stunning visual essay on the relationship between Man and the Earth, set to haunting music from around the world. Without the use of dialogue and merely relying on a series of hypnotic images, this film has a quiet eloquence about it, following in the footsteps of its predecessors, "Koyaanisquatsi" and "Powaqqatsi". The film opens up on a snow-covered mountaintop in Japan, the natural habitat of the snow monkeys. This opening scene is perhaps the most powerful image in the whole film and a prelude to the stirring visceral delights that the viewer can look forward to. In the middle of a hot spring, a lone snow monkey sits. In an intriguing example of anthropomorphism, we watch the snow monkey bide its time in the hot spring, with a facial expression of deep meditation on its face. We do not know what the snow monkey is thinking, if it is thinking at all, but its facial expression betrays a deep reflective process. At one point, it closes its eyes, shutting its senses off from its surroundings, as though it were dissociating itself from some painful memory. It is an unnerving experience that is difficult to describe-- one must view this scene to fully appreciate the power of this cinematic construct. From here, the camera seamlessly glides across continents, capturing moments in both the natural world and the world of Man. The first stop is a survey of worship, with scenes from a Buddhist temple in China, to the wailing wall in Jerusalem, and the whirling Dervishes spinning elegantly in a rapturous trance. Industrialization is highlighted by two juxtapositional sequences. In the first, a Shinto priest shuffles slowly down a busy Tokyo street, ringing a bell and uttering a prayer with each step, as the cosmopolitan inhabitants race by him. The second is almost comedic: the camera intercuts between chicks being tumbled through a conveyer belt system (being sorted out, tagged, and having their beaks clipped) and busy commuters being shuffled through the turnstiles of a Tokyo subway station and being packed into trains. For poverty, the viewer is transported to New Delhi where the poorer denizens pick through a garbage landfill, to the graffiti-scarred sidewalks of New York, and finally to the somber expressions of young prostitutes standing outside a Bangkok brothel. For war, scenes from the burning oil fields of Kuwait, the 'showers' at Auschwitz, and the killing fields of Cambodia are seamlessly integrated. All filmmaking techniques are used to great effect in "Baraka", from the judicious use of slow-motion to time-lapse photography that captures the beauty in nature that occurs too slowly to be appreciated by the human eye. The subtle camera movements used are elegant, adding to the mesmerizing quality of the images presented. Fortunately, the videocassette has been recorded in the widescreen format, preserving the scope of the panoramic vistas. Hero:  Hero Director:  Zhang Yimou writer:  Zhang Yimou    Feng Li    Bin Wang Stars: Jet Li  Ziyi Zhang Tony Leung Chiu-Wai  Donnie Yen Maggie Cheung  Liu Zhong Yuan Zheng Tian Yong  Chen Dao Ming Genres: Action/Adventure and Art/Foreign Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min. Release Date:  August 27, 2004 (wide) Rating: 8.1 (out of 10) – – Brief review:  Brief review Hero is apparently the single most pirated film in history, and it's not hard to see why. Director Zhang Yimou aims to do Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon one better, and the results exceed even his sky-high expectations. The mythic tapestry of martial arts legends creates an atmosphere of bold visual beauty, drawn in simple strokes but evoking a sense of awe on par with anything seen this year. The story is easy to grasp, yet rich in detail and containing enough thrills, romance, and tragedy to fill a dozen summer blockbusters. And like so much of Zhang's other work, it is a superbly cinematic experience, achieving its full effect only when seen on the big screen. If this is the movie that closes the summer, we're definitely going out on a high note. Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger had the benefit of setting the bar -- Western audiences, at least, had never seen anything quite like it -- and the comparisons with Hero are easy to make. Zhang's effort lacks Lee's complexity and poetic symmetry, but so too does it avoid the clinical detachment that dogged Crouching Tiger's every frame. The characters here are briefly sketched, but much warmer than Lee's, full of passion and humanity where Crouching Tiger was all ciphers and archetypes. It keeps pace visually as well, too late to match Crouching Tiger's innovation but finding an original cinematic look that makes its identity unique. Indeed, the most direct influence is not Lee but Kurosawa, whose Japanese epics contained the same mixture of melancholy and grandeur. But while Kurosawa worked largely in black-and-white, Zhang goes the opposite route and embraces a wondrous color palette that takes the breath away. Hero actually uses it as a key element of its plot structure, which develops through a Rashomon-like series of flashbacks, memories, and shifting perceptions. Each new alternative is rendered in a different dominant color: white, red, blue, black, white, and a stunning shade of green. The characters' clothing, the landscapes they inhabit, the flapping banners, and bunting of the soldiers... everything is painted in the chosen tone for that sequence. The effect is overwhelming, both in the sheer power of the imagery, and in the way it highlights and separates the varying accounts of the action. The story itself is steeped in Chinese legend, as seven kingdoms war against each other in a futile struggle for dominance. The King of Qin (Chen Daoming) has visions of uniting them all under his rule, but his legions have perpetrated much suffering and bloodshed in pursuit of that goal. He now lives in fear of three master assassins -- Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung), and Sky (Donnie Yen) -- which has kept him permanently isolated and surrounded by an army of guards. But then a wandering official called Nameless (Jet Li) appears with the assassins' weapons, claiming to have killed them all in armed combat. Amazed, the king allows him to enter his presence and share the details. The truth of what happened -- and the implications of each new perspective -- forms the central question of Hero's narrative. Its meditations encompass the warrior-poet's philosophy, pondering such notions as duty, honor, and how far noble ends justify violent means. It also includes a heartbreaking love story (Broken Sword and Flying Snow are mates) as well as eliciting another wonderful performance from Crouching Tiger's Zhang Ziyi, as Broken Sword's servant Moon. And it's a return to form for Li, whose American efforts never reached the potential of his earlier Chinese films and who now finally has a project worthy of his talent. And Hero is never slowed by its loftier elements. The subtext is posited simply and cleanly, and the overall tone is light as a feather. Its martial arts sequences are as good as they come, even in this post-Matrix world of eye-popping wirework. Fight choreographer Tony Ching Siu Tung has crafted an extraordinary series of fight scenes, as noteworthy for their seeming effortlessness as they are for their imagination. Hollywood movies in the same vein have a sense of undue competitiveness about them; each new film tries to outdo the one before. But Hero's actionmeisters are too wise for such chest-beating, following their own path and reaping the rewards for it. Zhang adds an exquisite pacing to the mix -- you'd never know that this is his first real action picture -- which, when combined with the production design, creates a vision exceeding the most lovingly crafted special-effects landscape. Perhaps Hero's greatest strength comes in the coy way it plays with the title, and how the visceral excitement combines with the quieter undercurrents in the process. We're never entirely certain who the word "hero" applies to; it would appear to be Nameless, the fulcrum of the plot, but it touches all the other principle characters as well. Few American directors understand the willingness to maintain such an enigma without definitively answering it, or the benefits the film may gain by doing so. More than a glorious visual treat, Hero provides a brilliant new take on its director's native land, a swiftly drawn philosophical essay, and an engrossing adventure story that thrill-seekers and art-house devotees alike will devour whole. As summer slowly gives way to fall, Zhang Yimou has thrown down a gauntlet that few movies can hope to match. Shazaam. Review published 08.27.2004.

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