No One Killed Jessica

No One Killed Jessica (NOKJ) is quite a good film that opened internationally last month on January 7th. As the story begins it is 1999. An aspiring model actress, Jessica Lal, is working as a bartender/waitress at a private party in one of Delhi’s most fashionable and trendy clubs. She is shot at point-blank range for refusing to serve a customer a drink after the bar had closed.

There were multiple eye witnesses to the shooting. The victim died in the ambulance en-route to the hospital. The shooter was the son of a MLA or a Member of the Legislative Assembly which is akin to our House of Representatives.

The police begin to collect evidence, and soon enough they have their man. They are also bribed to not beat a confession out of him.

Only the Delhi courts have an extreme backlog. By the time the trial begins, six years later, the ballistic evidence has been tampered with, the eye witnesses have been intimidated or bought off or both. The rest of the 300 folks who attended the party, who might have seen the gunmen leaving the club, all swore they weren’t sure, or that they hadn’t seen anything, or that they had already left the club at that time, or were in the bathrooms.

In short, the entire case went down the tubes. Insufficient evidence. Case dismissed. The shooter walked out of the courtroom a free man. The Delhi newspapers and the Indian national media outlets screamed their outrage in huge headlines: No One Killed Jessica!

The two main characters of this film, were the victim’s sister Sabrina played by Vidya Balan, and a tough-minded TV news anchor, Meera Gaity,  played by Rani Mukherjee.

Not only was Sabrina dismayed at the result, but her mother passed away shortly after the trial concluded, and her father then suffered a stroke. The rest of the country was shocked and outraged at the miscarriage of  justice.

But India may have been used to such things as police on the take, corrupt politicians, influence peddling, and the intimidation of judges, prosecutors, and witnesses.

Enter Meera Gaity, who had originally stated years back that she had no interest in doing a story on this case, because it was so open and shut. Everyone knew he was guilty. He’d be convicted, and that would be that.

Only he wasn’t convicted. He got away with the crime.

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The Secret In Their Eyes

I really enjoyed the film. But I feel that it might be too late to bring a fresh perspective or opinion to the film. I mean IMDB lists over 200 external reviews not to mention the User Reviews. After reading a great many of these reviews – it’s like where to start – what to say – does any one care?

Nevertheless, I have decided to go forth with my review for The Secret In Their Eyes. It’s not going to be easy to be creative but let me try something.  I’ve  got some notes about the film that I was going to send  in an email to the person who suggested that I have a look at the film for the purposes of a) enjoying it, and b) reviewing it. Looking over my notes, I think that will probably work.

At minimum it is worth a shot – there are enough notes to make it at least readable.

The film was quite complex in that Director Juan Jose Campanella balanced a number of different story lines within the context of the past and the present – as the brutal rape/murder, which is the root of the story occurred twenty five years ago.

  • The aging and unsettled, now retired, homicide investigator still haunted by the case twenty five years later –
  • His never stated affection for the judge – and how he missed the obvious signals she sent him even within the framework of their professional relationship –
  • Solving the murder case – or at least coming up with a theory based on the victim’s family photos –
  • His friendship with the other detective – the drunkard – and the dismaying cost of their friendship –
  • Writing the novel – and intercutting scenes from the novel into scenes in the film –
  • Figuring out what the murdered wife’s husband did or didn’t do –
  • And all of this within the context of Argentina’s evolving political atmosphere which changed drastically at that time from the Peron era to an ultra right wing country, where justice existed only to satisfy, and at the whim of the powerful –

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That  seems as good a word as any to describe the brand new thriller, Unknown, that opened in your local cineplex today. The title is catchy, if you like single word titles like Salt or Taken, or Frenzy or Frantic, or if you like to think in series terms like Bourne, or Bond.

Once more, we, as the audience, have to align ourselves with a man alone in a strange city with a huge problem on his hands. Liam Neeson stars as Dr. Martin Harris, who has just arrived in Berlin for a Bio-tech conference. Unfortunately, he leaves his briefcase at the curbside at the airport. So his wife checks in without him as he heads back to the airport in a different taxi. Only there’s an auto accident, and his taxi crashes and then plunges into the river.

This is the first 3 or 4 minutes of the film, and while it succeeds in its task of hooking us – none of this is new. Bourne plunges off the bridge in Goa, India in the early moments of the second Bourne film. Harrison Ford’s wife played by Betty Buckley was kidnapped from their hotel suite within minutes after they arrived in Paris in Roman Polanski’s Frantic.

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Rain Fall

I did a piece about Japanese actress Kyoko Hasegawa back in August of 2009. That’s when I became aware of the film Rain Fall. This is a political conspiracy and a thriller combined, and the setting is in Tokyo. Kippei Shiina stars in the role of John Rain, an America with a Japanese father. He’s an ex-CIA covert operative, a trainer of US Navy Seals, and an assassin. In short, he’s one bad dude that you won’t want to mess with.

Gary Oldman stars as the head of the CIA’s Tokyo office. He chews up the scenery in an over-the-top performance. Oldman’s character, William Holtzer, is mostly office-bound where he commands his men from a state-of-the-electronic-arts war room. When he’s not barking orders like ‘Take the shot, TAKE THE  SHOT!, he’s cussing up a storm or bemoaning (Jesus Christ!) yet another missed opportunity.

The gorgeous Kyoko Hasegawa is on hand portraying the daughter of a Japanese whistle-blower. It will be Rain’s job to protect her.

Also on hand are a few Japanese police detectives, and the Yakuza. The detective is a wise and savvy veteran who gets a good handle on the case, but he can’t prove squat. The Yakuza are a shadowy presence. We will see the head guy a few times, but will meet some of his street soldiers on more than a few occasions.

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The Eagle

In 120 A.D., Flavius Aquila led 5,000 elite Roman soldiers on a mission beyond the edge of the known world. They and their treasured Eagle standard were never seen again … 20 years later, the commander’s son set out to solve the mystery of their disappearance.

Like Star Wars, The Eagle begins with the word crawl (above) to set the time and place. While not quite as memorable as ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away‘, it served the purpose.

For the umpteenth time we get more of the togas, and sandals, and yes, the swords too, as the always insatiable, for more conquests and more land, ancient Roman Empire is once again revisited. It is hard to like the Romans because after all, they were imperialists. Their desire to rule all the lands that they could set their feet down on ultimately led to their demise – not as a people, but as a dominating global super-power, which is a bit of an oxymoron because in those days – global wasn’t a term that was in vogue, or more likely – even in use.

This story takes place far away from the bill-board free Appian Way, from the glitter of the patricians in their embroidered togas, and the masses in their home spun tunics, who dwelled in Rome, a place to which all roads led. In fact, we are so far out in the hinterlands  that the Roman troops who occupied the fort near the border called it a shit-hole, and even questioned their new commander’s sanity and wisdom for selecting this billet. We’ll be a bit more magnanimous and call it the boondocks. On the rudimentary maps of that time, the area in question was called Caledonia. Nowadays, you may know it as Scotland.

Back then, Hadrian’s Wall, which today is still standing in parts, marked the border, or as the crawl told us – the edge of the known world. To the south was Britannia otherwise known as England. To the North was Caledonia.

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15 Park Avenue

Every so often I watch a film and it creates a series of thoughts in my head and I don’t mean thoughts on how I shall review the film. The film called 15 Park Avenue is just such a film.

First this Park Avenue is not the one that immediately comes to mind in New York. While that Park Avenue is a real address, it is also a street of dreams signifying a world of achieved success. But even that thought might be considered wishful thinking. I mean is everyone with a Park Avenue address guaranteed happiness and well being? Of course not.

The Park Avenue of this film is not even a real street. It is where an adult woman believes she lives, with her husband, and their five children. Only she has no husband, or children, and the street doesn’t even exist – except in her mind.

Aparna Sen is the director of 15 Park Avenue. She has woven an exquisite  tapestry with this film. The subjects of the film are sisterly and family relationships, schizophrenia, and the absolute hardship of living in the real world, when your own life takes place in an imagined world.

The film is set in and around Calcutta (now Kolkata) with a lengthy interval in Bhutan.

Konkona Sen Sharma is Meethi who suffers from schizophrenia and epilepsy. While she has exhibited signs of difficulties in socialization since she was a child, she was able to graduate from school, get a job, and function in the world. She worked as a journalist and she had a fiancee. That was 11 years back. But in flashbacks we learn of a traumatic event that happened back then.

Konkona Sen Sharma as herself (l) and as Meethi (r)

She is now in her late twenties or early thirties. She lives with her elderly mother, a housekeeper, and her older sister and is dependent on them for her care. The older sister is 19 years older than Meethi. In fact they are only half sisters.

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