A Passage to India

A Passage to India is a grand and lavish epic, produced handsomely, and is based on the E.M. Forster novel, published in 1924 during the days of colonial England.

The values of East and West meet romantically, but also comes with a hefty dose of realism where East and West clash. British daughter-in-law and mother-in-law travel to India to with be with her fiancé and explore this exotic country. But she is caught up in a scandal and claims an Indian doctor, who was her escort on a day trip, violated her. Controversy erupts and the locals stand by the doctor, saying he is innocent and the British are unjust.

The larger meaning is the relationship between England and colonial India. The human meaning is prejudice and fear of the unknown.

Beautifully filmed, wonderfully acted, it is also a personal story of life-like characters engaged vividly and vitally.

A Passage to India, Director: David Lean, Genre: Drama, Year: 1984, Rating: 10/10

Revenge of the Sith

In Revenge of the Sith, the interest really lies for this reviewer in the telling of the story of young Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace.

Everyone knows the ending. Interestingly, audiences are watching how a good human being turns into becoming a wicked, mean-spirited and mechanized dictator (see The Empire Strikes Back for ample evidence of unleashing Darth Vader).

In Star Wars creator George Lucas’ finale of the prequel trilogy the result is effective in portraying a conflicted individual who concedes to the dark side because of personal ambition and quest for significance.

Your sympathies may be potentially touched in feeling for the like-able Anakin who said as an idealistic ten-year-old in The Phantom Menace that what is wrong with the universe is that no one cares for one another.

In this episode, Anakin’s trainer, a matured Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), tries to keep the reigns on his apprentice, but unsuccessfully.

This is one Hollywood movie where the conflict primarily fixates on the internal character rather than just the external obstacles. It’s saying that Anakin missed out on acquiring knowledge in his situation which would have given him wisdom and foresight.

Despite the darkness going on, there are good messages in the movie – adoption of children for those that cannot have them, faithfulness, loyalty, and friendship are all interwoven.

Despite the movie’s faults and depending on your level of commitment to the saga the viewing process may be emotionally strong and symbolically rich.

Come to visualize the Star Wars series, it all comes together fluidly as a whole now.

Revenge of the Sith cohesively sits between the other movies of the series–though won’t be as popular because it’s darker and morose and we don’t really want to go there too often. But just enough to know the darkness is to be avoided.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Director: George Lucas, Genre: Science Fiction, Year: 2005, Rating: 8/10

Star Wars Episode III Revenge Of The Sith (1)
Anakin in a darker mood

 

 

Attack of the Clones

In Star Wars episode II, Jedi Anakin is buckling under the pressure to succumb to the ways of manipulative Senator Plapatine and in episode III Anakin buckles.

Both episodes II and III take on the crumbling mantle of a grown-up Anakin, who is strong and accomplished, but also ambitious and selfish, which is his downfall. His desires of ambition and selfishness are manipulated for Palpatine’s purposes.

Here was my review of episode II:

:

Forget Star Wars. I’m looking to George Lucas’ collaboration with director Steven Spielberg to make the next Indiana Jones adventure. Let’s hope that magic doesn’t get lost in the new century, as it has with Attack of the Clones. It is not all bad news, though.

Attack of the Clones is hugely entertaining mainly because of its visual experience to be only fully felt at the cinema. State-of-the-art computer effects are eye blowing and conceptual design is highly imaginative.

But the storytelling is a tad deflated and nowhere in Attack of the Clones is there a smooth operator like Han Solo, a feisty princess, an intimidating Wookie, a fear inducing dark villain and a great actor named Alec Guinness who brought a lot of expression to his character Obi-Wan Kenobi more so than his “padawan learner” Ewan McGregor who plays a younger version of Kenobi in Attack of the Clones.

Anakin Skywalker, now accomplished Jedi, falls in love with the former Queen of Naboo. He is assigned to look after her as her life is under threat from those dividing the Republic into Separatist states. The Republic is slowly crumbling and war is imminent.

Anakin also has recurring nightmares over his mother and his separation from her which has an after effect. These nightmares foreshadow Anakin’s fall from grace to become Darth Vader. Yet, we will need to wait until the third installment for it to reveal the pseudo-religious or spiritual significance to this fall from grace.

This prequel has a high sense of soap opera, especially evident in eloquent and melodramatic conversations between characters. The decisions political figures, a Jedi’s contemplation followed by wise action and the consequences of these are dished out with Days of Our Lives self-importance as if this is the story of the century.

There is pleasing development of action, if looking closer. Unlike the rudimentary action set piece that stands out because it is wham-bam, Attack of the Clones seamlessly weaves action scenes within the fabric of plot.

The special effects though eye boggling don’t overcome the central story and instead assist it. But it could have been a better story.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Director: George Lucas, Genre: Science Fiction, Year: 2002, Rating: 6/10

The James Bond myth

The James Bond movies are based on the Ian Fleming spy novels, novels reportedly based on his experiences. The first Bond film arrived in theaters in 1962, with Dr. No.

The stories, if based on experiences, might be hyped up in the movie versions.

There’s one Bond film playing tonight that has a story that made me think twice. Of course there’s a point to a media mogul wanting to take over the media—this point is media monopolization—but getting your head around a megalomaniac media tycoon doesn’t ring true.

However, if you want to discuss the problems of a media company taking up too much market space, just leave any misappropriation to the authorities who know what to do.

Then there are the nuclear plots and snazzy sounding premises that are basically fantasies.

So we can’t trust a Bond story to ring true. If this is the case in a Bond film, it may really depend on the actors rather than the story and the action.

In terms of actors, the perennial and rather silly question is what Bond actor do you like? Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, or Daniel Craig? What about the Bond girls? What about the villains?

Some critics may praise the villains out of a sheer base instinct especially if the story is lacking, but then give the film three stars instead of two. Yet a Bond film should be about how well it’s done and if it engages on its own terms. Bond films are really unbelievable anyhow, so they’re redundant from the outset, Skyfall the only exception.

Like Bond is having too much fun with Bond girls with very little effort put into him redeeming his ways. There are the why’s of what makes Bond James Bond, but it ends in the arms of a woman rather than a serious treatment.

But we never did believe in the mythology of James Bond.

Ladies in Lavender

This UK film doesn’t sweep you up at first, but it picks up nicely.

In the 1930’s, a mysterious stranger washes ashore in Cornwall, England. Elderly sisters Ursula (Judi Dench) and Janet (Maggie Smith) take care of Andrea (Daniel Bruhl), a foreigner to the shores, and even bend over backwards for him, catering to his needs like good Samaritans and they discover his talent for playing violin. His talent becomes something of great interest to the locals.

Andrea’s appearance is unexplained. He is swept aside by the seas, but I don’t know how he got there. As Andrea is cared for, progression is low-key and uneventful but the movie picks up and becomes interesting.

Village life is potentially fertile material. Everyone knows everyone, has an opinion on everyone, but may prefer their own company best. It’s that kind of place where everyone is in everyone’s pocket.  The villagers are colorful and interesting with hints of depth and shades. Well-sketched characters shine through.

Such as Ursula’s loneliness unravels as a result of her attraction to Andrea. Janet is supportive and her character is strong. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith again show their class and pedigree as actors who make their roles natural and real.

Distinguished English actor Charles Dance wrote and directed this low-budget, independent British film, which is based on a short story. While the movie stalls in the beginning, nevertheless the developing story and sense of humanity draw you in and the two enigmatic sisters and the stranger garner empathy. The ending is uplifting.

Ladies in Lavender, Director: Charles Dance, Genre: Drama, Year: 2004, Rating: 8/10

Clash of the Titans

Of the Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans films—films about the myths of ancient Greece—the 1981 original, Clash of the Titans, is the better one.

In the 1981 original, the writer follows the mythology closely, but it is not overdone.

The story gets going when god Zeus (Laurence Olivier) gives his human son Perseus (Harry Hamlin) gifts worthy of a knight on a journey. Zeus then tells Perseus that the gifts are there to help him on a journey of executing his destiny.

In that vein, Perseus attempts to save Andromeda (Judi Bowker) from various forces such as the sea beast the Kraken, and a vengeful, spurned lover.

The gods are dramatized the more by British stalwarts Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith. Well-known actors that includes Clare Bloom play other gods and goddesses in their midst.

Formidable roles were not the usual for Olivier, but as Zeus there is a formidable streak, and at the end of his career was a departure from his earlier theatrical roles.

The gods’ inflamed passions and schemes, in the god’s home on Mount Olympus, is all a bit of a farce in essence. However, if you strip down the elements of the mythology, there’s a theme of taking up one’s courage. The Greeks didn’t know if there were gods, but they did know how to tell a story that has spiritual or universal application.

It is a telling which is not spectacular or fantastic as the marketing tells us is. The telling is straight forward, but it holds a steady pace, a tone of gravitas, and some excitement especially in Medusa’s lair as Perseus ventures out on his journey.

Clash of the Titans, Director: Desmond Davis, Genre: Fantasy, Year: 1981, Rating: 7/10

Rated PG (Contains fantasy action and brief nudity)