The Godfather

[ Trailer ]

I finally got around to watching The Godfather (I’ve not yet read the book by Mario Puzo). Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, it follows the decade long saga of a Mafia family in NYC. Don Vito (Marlon Brando) known as The Godfather runs 1 of the 5 Mafia businesses in NYC. When a lucrative offer to support the drug business comes along he turns it down. The repercussions lead to an attempt to murder him by the other Mafia. He is mortally wounded but survives. A full scale war breaks out between the Mafia as Don recuperates and his eldest son Sonny tries to run the business. In the end, Don’s last son Michael (who disliked his dad’s Mafia business at the start) comes back, finishes off all the Mafia heads in a clever plot and takes helm as the new Godfather.

The Godfather is the #1 movie on most lists (rated by critics and public alike). Excellent direction, a tense and paced story with multiple shades and superb acting grace this movie. Al Pacino stands out with his metamorphosis from a decorated WWII captain to a Mafia leader. However, I found Marlon Brando’s marbles-stuck-in-mouth dialogue delivery quite comical. There are several scenes which are memorable. The one which stood out for me is the evening conversation between Don and Michael. Don tells his youngest son that he never wanted him to take up Mafia activities, he had wished a bigger cleaner future for him, which sadly never came to bear. Frankly, I wouldn’t rate this as the best movie evar, but it clearly is a great movie experience.

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Quotes from the movie:

“Each man has his own destiny.”

“Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”

“Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people.”

“Never hate your enemies. It clouds your judgement.”

“Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured the bandleader, that either his signature or his brains would be on the contract.”

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Dark City

[ Trailer ]

“How do we know that the world wasn’t created five minutes ago complete with memories?” — Bertrand Russell

A man wakes up in a hotel bathtub. He seems to have lost all his memory. He doesn’t remember his own name or why he’s there. He discovers a murdered female near his bed. What happened here? The phone in the hotel room rings. The person at the other end asks him to run out immediately, there are strangers out to kill him. He runs out into the city only to discover that he is a serial killer named John Murdoch. The police and the strangers are after him. Welcome to the Dark City.

John soon discovers that his memories aren’t what they seem to be. There’s always something amiss about the city and its residents. He has a recurring memory of a place by the ocean known as Shell Beach, but no one seems to know how to get there. He soon finds out his mysterious caller Dr. Schreber and learns some of the reality. The Earth has now been taken over by the Strangers, an alien parasitic race with psychokinetic power who had to leave their planet and chose our planet to stay. They can create any physical artifact(s) by sheer concentration, a technique they call tuning. The Strangers have a collective memory but no individual memory. It is for this reason they’ve not been able to live inside humans comfortably. The Strangers have been experimenting with humans and their memories. Murdoch discovers he is the only known human who seems to be unaffected by their tuning. In fact he has a feeble power of tuning himself. What is this world he’s been living in? How does he break out (if there is an outside)? Is John for real or just another memory?

I first heard about Dark City after I watched The Matrix. Lots of folks have called it as a big inspiration for Matrix (it was released a year before Matrix). As I discovered, sadly this is true. The Matrix isn’t as original as it seems to be. There are entire ideas, concepts, dialogues and shot sequences that have been copied from here. Since this movie is older than the Matrix, I’m all the more impressed by the vision in the story and direction. Hats off! The Dark City has a never-heard-before cast (all except Jennifer Connelly as Murdoch’s wife), but they’ve done well. The noir-esque style and B-grade sci-fi look of the movie doubles its coolness. No Matrix/pop-sci-fi fan should miss this one!

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Here are some ideas that Matrix and Dark City share:

  1. A world whose reality is not real and whose residents aren’t real either.
  2. The world is controlled by more powerful beings.
  3. The protagonist is the one who discovers he has the power to defeat his aggressors.
  4. The Stranger Mr. Hand is in pursuit of John. Agent Smith in pursuit of Neo. They speak the same way too: “Missster Murdoch” vs. “Missster Anderson”.
  5. Dark City has Dr. Schreber, Matrix has Morpheus.
  6. After Murdoch discovers his tuning power, he makes a knife thrown at him freeze near his face and fall down. Neo does the same with bullets fired at him.
  7. Strangers levitate and float around in Dark City. Neo and Smith can fly around.
  8. Dark City has The Artist, Matrix has The Architect.

The Prestige

[ Trailer ]

Two Victorian age magicians steal each others’ tricks and try to outdo each other in the movie The Prestige. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the story is based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. Two friendly magicians Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Borden (Christian Bale) have a falling out after Borden pushes a trick too far and kills Angier’s wife. Angier hires a beautiful assistant named Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) and starts working on some new tricks. Meanwhile, Borden surprises the magic world with a new trick named The Transported Man where he teleports himself across the stage. Angier drives himself crazy trying to understand how Borden is doing this trick. Finally, Angier manages to force Borden to reveal his secret: Tesla. Realizing that Nikola Tesla has built a teleportation device for Borden, Angier travels to the USA and funds Tesla to build such a machine for him. After many failed attempts, Tesla manages to deliver such a machine, but it has a disconcertingly dark side effect which will eventually trouble Angier. Using the machine Angier manages to earn back his fame and send Borden to jail. But, the real secret behind Borden’s The Transported Man trick (no, he wasn’t teleporting) comes back to haunt Angier.

Coming from the director of Memento, a non-linear narration is to be expected in The Prestige. With his flashbacks and flashforwards, Nolan manages to bring interest into the story. He is joined in this venture by Christian Bale and Michael Caine, both of whom acted in his last movie Batman Begins. Bale and Jackman give spirited performances as the 2 main protagonists. Scarlett is um eye-catching. David Bowie gives a (literally) electrifying performance in his brief appearance as the electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla. There are several scenes involving Tesla coils which look uber cool. The famous Tesla-Edison rivalry also makes an appearance. The movie has many neat twists and gotchas. Yet, the big letdown is the story itself, which ends up running out of magic.

The Departed

[ Trailer ]

Saw Martin Scorcese’s new sizzler The Departed last weekend. The movie is a remake of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs. The movie is about the double game played between an Irish mafia head Costello (Jack Nicholson) and the Boston State Police. Costello infiltrates the Special Investigation Unit of the police with his own man Colin (Matt Damon). The police also do the same to Costello’s mob by injecting their seed Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio). When each side comes to know that they have a mole in them, they try to flush it out before the other does.

The movie is packed with an all star cast — Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen. I was especially impressed with the powerful performances by DiCaprio and Wahlberg (he has made a superb comeback!). Jack Nicholson is at his usual best, he cakewalks through his role. Vera Farmiga is beautiful and plays the police psychologist who’s in love with Colin and is also treating Billy. The story is edge-of-the-seat, slick, engaging and moves extremely fast. The 2½ hour movie whizzed by like it was an hour long. This is a good movie, I want to watch its original Infernal Affairs (trailer) too sometime.