Sunday, 22 September 2013

Breaking News

Breaking News (2004), is an action thriller from Hong Kong which was released in 2004. It was directed by one of the most celebrated directors in Hong Kong, Johnnie To. Chang Hing-Kai and Yip Tin Shing wrote the screenplay. It stars Nick Cheung as Inspector Cheung, Richie Jen as Yuen, Kelly Chen as Superintendent Rebecca Fong and Simon Yam as Asst. Commissioner Wong.  

The movie deals with the opinion molding power of media in today's world. It shows how media can corrupt some person or an organization's image and at the same time be effective in instilling hope and goodwill among the people too.

It is one of those few action films which successfully manage to blend action and sensible content together in order to give the viewer something to be amazed by and think upon.

The way in which the start of the movie has been shot is amazing. It starts with a shootout and a failed attempt by the Hong Kong police department in capturing Yuen and his gang. The police officers who operate this mission are badly defeated. While Yuen is running away, he encounters a police officer whom he overpowers. The timid police officer joins his hands and begs for his life. To the police department's bad luck, the media is present at that moment and the photographs of a police officer kneeling and begging before the criminal are circulated. This tarnishes the image of the police department. People start to lose their faith in the department.

The Police Department takes various measures to cover up for this embarrassing defeat. Superintendent Rebecca Fong, suggests that since their image was tarnished by the media, it should be through the media only that they improve it again. The department agrees. We are also introduced to Inspector Cheung and his crew who have been assigned to capture Yuen and his gang. After the police are able to track down the location of Yuen, the real action starts.  

Rebecca ensures that the media is present to shoot the whole event live, the event as in the capture of Yuen by the police department. Since it was Yuen who forced a cop down on his knees in that infamous embarrassing photograph, it is hoped that by arresting him on camera, the police can improve their image. And thus a 'bloody' reality show starts. 

Yuen gets a hold of this and he too plays it smartly. Various events are ensured by both the parties, the cops outside the building and criminals inside holding hostages, to somehow use and manipulate the media present on site. And for the media people its a day in heaven with so much of action and scoop around.

The movie progresses ahead with a pace that is sure to blow you off completely. The action, dialogues, etc are very well executed. The story itself is so heavy and good.

The movie currently holds a fresh rating of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. This movie was remade in Russia titled Goryachie Novosti (international title: Newsmakers). Talks of its remake in the United States are up with the possibility of Joel Schumacher directing it.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Shotgun Stories

I recently happened to check out the works of Jeff Nichols. He has made three films so far – Shotgun Stories (2007), Take Shelter (2011) and Mud (2012) and I loved all of them. It seems that he is here to make his mark and stay for a long time.

Here in this post I would like to cover Shotgun Stories (2007) which was written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Shotgun Stories stars
Michael Shannon, Douglas Ligon, Barlow Jacobs and others. Its the story of feud between two sets of half brothers after the demise of their father. 

The background of the story can be described through the angle of Mr. Hayes (the father, whom we never see in the film). Mr. Hayes had married twice. He had three kids from his first wife. He never cared about his first wife and his children through her. 

Meanwhile he had also married another woman and had four children through her. Over the course of time he abandoned his first wife and three children. The three children by the first wife - Son, Boy and Kid are the ones around whom the film centers.

Son Hayes is married to Annie and has a child Carter. He is a normal man except for his addiction to gambling. Because of this his wife leaves along with their son and now Son is alone. He asks his brothers, Boy Hayes, a basketball coach and Kid Hayes to move in his house.

One night they are visited by their mother who tells them that their father is dead. Son Hayes and his brothers go to attend the funeral. Present at the funeral is the second family of Mr. Hayes - his second wife and the other four children - Michael, Mark, Stephen and John.  

At the funeral, Son Hayes can't control himself when everyone around is praising the late Mr. Hayes while completely neglecting the fact that he had abandoned and left his first family on streets. So Son speaks some very harsh words and spits on the grave. Mark Hayes, the more violent in the second family retorts to physical measures. Although the dispute is broken by others, it is clear that a war has started.

From left to right : Son, Kid and Boy Hayes.
The film goes ahead with the war. It also deals with the costs that each of the family has to pay for their actions. 

Jeff's Nichols' direction is amazing. It is hard to accept that this is his first feature film. You see his brilliance in almost every frame and with every dialogue that he has written . Along with that one has to applaud the makers for their perfect casting. Everyone on screen does a perfect job and leaves you no space to complain or get bored.

It feels good to know that the film had got its due appreciation. Late film critic Roger Ebert named it as one of the best films of the year 2008. Bill White of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer named it as the best film of the year 2008. Philip Martin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and  David Edelstein of New York magazine named it 3rd and the 8th best film of 2008 respectively. The film currently holds 91% fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Hunt

The Hunt (Orignal Danish title: Jagten), which was released early this year has been receiving showers of praise from almost everyone who has seen it. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg , one of the founding brothers of the Dogme 95 film movement in Danish Cinema, this film has all that it takes to present a simple yet powerful picture in front of the viewer. Thomas Vinterberg co-wrote it with Tobias Lindholm.

The Hunt follows the story of a man named Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) who works in a kindergarten school. He is divorcee and has been struggling to maintain a stable relationship with his son who stays with his ex-wife.

The story is set in a small town where everyone knows everyone. At the beginning of the film we are introduced to Lucas and his group. Lucas has a best friend in Theo. Theo is married and has a kid daughter, Klara. Along with Klara, Theo also has a teenage son. Lucas is very close to Theo's family. He often walks Klara from her home to kindergarten and back.

All the things go on as usual until Klara sees some pornographic images on her brother's iPad. It doesn't make a proper sense in her innocent mind. What's worse is that she imagines and makes up a story which involves Lucas doing certain acts (sexually abusing, although nothing shown or even mildly suggested visually) with her.

When Lucas returns back the gift she had made for him, it triggers her emotionally and she confides her story to Martha, the head of kindergarten. Certain actions are taken according to the protocol. Slowly the whole town knows about it. And what starts as an innocent lie by a small kid turns out into a mass hysteria of the whole town against Lucas.

Everyone starts to shun Lucas. He is fired, his current girlfriend leaves him. His friends don't want to see him any more, the shop keeper won't allow him in his shop, etc. Lucas' son who believes in his father's innocence, comes for his help. That is the only relief for Lucas. Slowly the resentment of the people turns into voilence and Lucas has to deal with the dreadful mass hysteria against him.


The film currently holds a fresh rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. Thomas Vinterberg and his team deserve to be honored for taking such a subject and showing it in an effective way. Mads Mikkelsen gives some of the best performances we as a movie audience will ever see. The little girl, Annika Wedderkopp is adorable and shocks us with a performance that's way too ahead for someone of her age. Editing, music, cinematography and everything else about the movie is just so good. Overall the film turns out to be winner.