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Friday, April 22, 2011

THE KITE

A NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

By D.E.Levine

Uttarayan is the largest kite festival in India. A three-day festival held in the city of Ahmedaabad that attracts people from all over the country.

While not a typical Bollywood film with costumed dance numbers erupting throughout, this film the story of a man who returns home for the festival, with his daughter.

The film is crowded with characters, just as India is crowded with people. While allowing the audience to see and experience the flavor of the city and the excitement of the festival.

However, the film drags and seems much longer than necessary. There seem to be too many characters within the main character's family and friends. Perhaps because this film concentrates on relationships rather than building to a major climax, there is a slackening off well before the end.

To those viewer who have been to India, they will relate to the realism off the real life scenes. To viewers who have never been to India, they will enjoy the realistic slice of life of the streets and family.

Monday, April 18, 2011

THE GUARD

A TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

By D.E.Levine

This is a very interesting Irish film that pairs Brendan Gleason with Don Cheadle. It starts out as a mystery-thriller-drama, but is filled with humorous jokes.

When we meet Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Gleason) is anything but an alert law enforcement agent. In fact, he's sleeping on the job and only wakes up when a speeding car crashes killing the driver Arriving at the scene he promptly steals and drops the corpse's acid.

While the scenery in County Galway is scenic and peaceful, the area is actually ripe with murder and drug smuggling. Boyle is anything but a typical policeman, since he lives his life as he pleases and that includes hiring prostitutes for his recreational activities.

Off-duty Boyle wears bright almost dandyish outfits and lives and frequents places decorated with bold colors.

When FBI agent Wendell Pierce (Cheadle) arrives with hopes of intercepting a large drug shipment, Boyle makes racist remarks that are offensive t, o the black agent.

Despite the blunders and offensiveness, the two agents manage to form a team and go after the drug smugglers and even solve a murder, retrieving a missing corpse.

It's an interesting combination to see the rogue Boyle and the strait-laced Pierce play off against each other while juggling their crime-solving duties. How they accomplish their goals is hilariously funny and while this may be a small film it's one well worth seeing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

JANIE JONES

A TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION

By D.E.Levine

Abagail Breslin, who was the adorable star of Little Miss Sunshine, is a 15-year old teenager now and starring in a sweet film about a teenage girl and her dad going in the indie-rock world.

While the story may have been told before, Janie Jones (Abagail Breslin) appears to be perfectly cast. When Janie's mother Mary Anne Jones (Elizabeth Shue, a drug addict, takes her 13-year old daughter to see singer-songwriter Ethan Brand (Alessandro Nivola), she announces that Brand is the girl's father.

Brand doesn't remember Ms. Jones and disputes parenting the girl, but Mary Ann disappears leaving a message she'll return for her daughter after she "gets clean" and leaves the teenager behind.

It's obvious that Brand's ego is bigger than his fame and that his career is declining. Mr. Nivola is a fairly decent singer and carries the part reasonably well.

After discovering that his girlfriend Iris (Brittany Snow) who's also his backup singer has cheated on him with the lead guitarist, Brand gets into a brawl that winds up on YouTube. His band deserts him and Brand decides to continue touring as a solo act.

The club circuit is sleazy. The father-daughter duo don't really click until Janie demonstrates musical ability and her father incorporates her into his act.

When Brand lands in jail, the underage Janie illegally drives his car into town and pawns his guitar for bail money.

Overall this is a sweet film that showcases Ms. Breslin and Mr. Nivola well. It loses momentum towards the second half, but is enjoyable along the way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

CONTAGION

By D.E.Levine

Contagion is a highly controlled film about a frightening out-of-control pandemic event.

Beth Emhoff, in Hong Kong on business, has a delicious dinner at a prestigious restaurant and then during a layover in Chicago, sleeps with an old boyfriend. Beth returns home to her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) in Minneapolis, becomes ill suddenly, and dies.

However,while in Hong Kong, Beth came into contact with business associates, restaurant patrons and staff, other guests at her hotel and in a casino, and of course on the plane. Naturally, since she doesn't know she's contagious and hasn't experienced any symptoms yet, she infects everyone with whom she comes into contact.

Beth's death is only the beginning. A flu-like epidemic spreads with unbelievable rapidity although we don't learn how Beth became infected until the end of the film.

As the plague spreads rapidly, so does the drama and tension. The Deputy Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne), takes charge of tracking and fighting the spread of the disease.

Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), a medical intelligence specialist, is sent to the Minneapolis hot spot to uncover the cause while back in a CDC lab Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) struggles to isolate the virus and develop a serum/antidote.

Audiences can relate to the shock and panic since the country and world lived through the HIV, Ebola and swine-flu epidemics. We see that as panic spreads, civil society disappears and riots and looting take place.

Under Steven Soderbergh's direction and Stephen Mirrione's editing, things filmed physical conviction but without exaggeration.

There's a wild card in all of this, a Julian Assange type blogger named Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) who insists that the government is ignoring a homeopathic cure colluding with a large pharmaceutical company on a pseudo drug. As Krumwiede blogs about his distrust he contributes to spreading the panic and unrest, which can almost be categorized as part of the illness.

There are some other interesting characters such as a doctor working for the World Health Organization (Marion Cotillard) and a renegade epidemiologist (Elliot Gould), but generally, the main characters and the world's "saviors" are government employees.

There is obviously a message in this post 911 anniversary film regarding that the people entrusted with the ability and know how to solve the problem are all government scientists that rely on facts, not religious beliefs.