Inside Man : First Best Film of 2006

It's been awhile since I reviewed something. It's also been awhile since I had a chance to watch anything (..except of course for TV, and yes Zack, your 'chicken little' has been voted out..hehe). So I need a little time-out outside the house, the lecture room and the office. I need my movie feed and I need it bad! So last Saturday, my partner-in-crime and I went to watch Inside Man, and let me tell you this; I came out of the cinema feeling relaxed, relieved, recharged, satisfied and entertained. I guess that's what a good movie does to you.

I first saw the trailer for Inside Man on TV and was interested because it boast a great cast. Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer and (Nazim Masnawi's favourite) Chiwetel Ejiofor. But then I realized that this movie was directed by Spike Lee, and I'm like, okay... I NEED to see this one.

For those of you who is not familiar with Spike Lee's work, his movies are not always the kind of movies that you would see in Malaysian cinemas. A typical Spike Lee Joint (..that's what he calls his movies) is fueled with heavy dose of political, racial and social issues that are sometimes downright controversial. His last mainstream movie for example, She Hate Me is a farce about a yuppie and the lesbians he was paid to impregnate. His 19 feature films encompass no-budget indies (She's Gotta Have It), an epic biopic (Malcolm X) and even a musical (School Daze), and he remains one of the most audacious, ferociously independent filmmakers in the business. And because of his love for New York locations and iconclastic personality, Lee has often been compared to Woody Allen.

The storyline is as follows : Four people dressed in painters outfits march into the busy lobby of Manhattan Trust, a cornerstone Wall Street Branch of a worldwide financial institution. Within seconds, the costumed robbers place the bank under a surgically planned siege, and the 50 patrons and staff become unwitting pawns in an airtight heist. NYPD hostage negotiators Detectives Keith Frazier (Washington) and Bill Mitchell (Ejiofor) are dispatched to the scene with orders to establish contact with the heist's ringleader, Dalton Russell (Owen), and ensure safe release of the hostages. The robbers appear to consistently be one step ahead of the police, outwitting Frazier and Mitchell at every turn. Frazier's suspicions that more is at work than anyone perceives are justified with the entry of Madeline White (Foster), a power player with shadowy objectives, who requests a private meeting with Russell. The chairman of the bank's board of directors, controlling entrepreneur Arthur Case (Plummer), is also uniquely interested in the moment-to-moment happenings inside the branch. But just what are the robbers after? Why has nothing worked to alleviate the standoff, which stretches on hour after hour? Frazier is convinced that invisible strings are being pulled and secret negotiations are taking place as the powder keg situation grows more unstable by the moment. (Yahoo Movies)

So what's the verdict? I can honestly say that Inside Man is the first best film of 2006. Working with someone else's script and a story outside the mainstream of his work, Spike Lee delivers laughs, puzzles, tension, thrills and the powers of fine actors at their delicious best. First thing first, the script, by first-time screenwriter Russell Gewirtz, is very smart, tight and stylish with a hint of a French crime classic. Lee does the script justice by filming it in a very calm, laid-back style that you almost don't realize that it was a Spike Lee movie. Russell Gewirtz's script outthinks the audience as well. Gewirtz takes the conventional format of a heist flick and does something completely unorthodox with it. Not until the ending (..and ending that I defy anyone to predict) does it even become clear what the Dalton gang came to steal. Brilliant stuff.

Spike Lee directing is marvellous. If Inside Man isn't the best movie Lee has done, it's probably the most purely exciting and enjoyable. Even though this is a cops and robbers, cat and mouse story, he never loses his touch and love for New York and its social and racial issues. Set and shot just a stone's throw from where the World Trade Center once stood, it is, in part, like Lee's earlier work 25th Hour, a kind of symphony of post-9/11 New York, about people of all creeds and colors soldiering on, no matter that what they're getting up to.

One unforgettable scene involves a Sikh whom the robbers release early with a message tied around his neck. The NYPD officers on the scene assume he's Arab and that the message is a bomb. They rough him up, then swipe his turban. When he's being interrogated later, the Sikh man refuses to discuss the heist until his turban is returned, then condemns his harassment. When he's done, Washington says, "But I bet you can still get a cab." And the Sikh man replied, "That is one of it's perks, man." In this single moment, which is more vivid than almost all of Crash we see the sad modern hierarchy of American bigotry.

Lee also rolls out his tricky trademark dolly shots, especially the scene where Washington 'flies' to the bank entrance instead of just walking. Every scene in the movie is alert and lit up with vibrant details. There's a shot of Washington and Foster standing in front of a 'We Will Never Forget: 9/11' poster and two separate shots of Exchange Place and Hanover Street just as someone was about to negotiate with the robbers (geddit..?). Spike Lee also never fails to show his love for hip-hop and gangsta rap in his movies. There is a scene involving a gangsta crime video game just like his previous movie Clockers and one very funny yet violent scene involving a phone and Kanye West's hit 'Golddigger'. Now that, is pure Spike Lee.

Lee has considered everything, and his first contingency is a staggeringly classy ensemble cast. With a cast like this it's difficult to go wrong. Potraying why he is one of the greatest actor of all time, Denzel Washington oozes charisma and class. He feels and looks like he's having a good time but when he feels like it he can be the most charismatic star in the movies. This is Washington and Lee fourth collaboration by the way. The good thing about a Spike Lee and Denzel Washington collaboration is that, they're OK on their own, but mix them together and you have a chemistry that is a joy to watch. They brought out the best in each other just like Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Chiwetel Ejiofor, meanwhile, offers fine support as his partner. Watching he and Washington riffing together in a series of sepia-toned flashforwards, as they grill potential suspects, is a particular treat and includes some of the movie funniest moments.

Clive Owen once again exhibits that trademark steely control, achieving an air of calculation and potential menace even when he's behind dark glasses and a mask. Owen is mesmerizing breaking through the fourth wall to enumerate for the audience the who, what and why of the crime he's about to commit As for Jodie Foster, well, she's having a field day as one of the best unscrupulous bitches we've seen on the big screen since Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction. Foster's Madeliene White is an interesting new take on the shady, backroom dealmaker. She seems very happy not to have to roll up her sleeves, bruise people or run and shout hysterically in movies. She and Washington have a pair of crackling scenes together in which they really seem to be studying each other like two great writers. Christopher Plummer and Willem Dafoe are also excellent in playing their characters and Defoe for once is very believable in a role that doesn't require him to be the villain or the bad guy. It's no doubt that all of these actors performances are the soul of the movie and the reason why the story is such a treat to watch.

The heist at the heart of Inside Man is brilliant, and so is the movie. It's one of the most diabolically clever of all bank-robbery pictures, not just because it keeps us pinned to the edges of our seats wondering what's going to happen next, but because it's about something more sinister than whether the bandit manages to make off with the loot. It is about greed in which all of the major characters are looking for the short road to success and where the real thieves may just as soon be those negotiating with the bank robbers as the robbers themselves. As a compliment, I would say that Inside Man just dwells underneath the brilliance of Dog Day Afternoon and The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three. But nevertheless, Inside Man is a masterful take on a well-worn genre of heist movie. Must watch.

**I have to tell you this, in the first minute of the movie, right when the opening song starts to play, 2 things will play on your mind :- 1) Am I in the right cinema hall? 2) Shah Rukh Khan dancing on top of a train. You have to go see it to understand what I'm talking about. It's excellent!

Mentally Disturbed and A New Guilty Pleasure..

Aku baru perasan bulan ni waktu punch out dekat punch card aku, paling awal aku balik pukul 8.12 malam.. Shiiit.

So many things going on in my life right now. My studies, yang dah masuk final semester (..bulan 6 ni aku grad. Yeahh!). But as u all know, bila final semester kena la buat thesis, final project. So that just took a LOT of your time and energy. And being a part-time student lagi la susah nak membahagikan masa. And there's also a 4 hour classes on weekends, never-ending assignments etc. Plus there is SHITLOAD of TONS OF PURE SHIT work in the office. I kinda' have a deadline next week so everything is a race against time.

Plus, sebagai meneruskan tradisi kaum Nomad, aku sekali lagi, terpaksa pindah rumah by the end of the month! Now, if you're thinking, " macam pernah baca aja cerita pindah rumah ni", mmg betul pun korang ada baca kat sini, masa awal December bulan lepas. Aku taknak cerita panjang pasal betapa aku benci nak pindah rumah ni (..because I already mentioned it) dan aku taknak my alter-ego yang suka menyumpah seranah, maki tak tentu hala, tak kira dalam bahasa Melayu atau orang putih muncul. Let just say, aku TERPAKSA pindah. And the worst part is, aku still tak jumpa rumah sewa! Dekat kawasan Ampang, Pandan tu banyak rumah sewa.. tapi masalahnya aku sekarang dah tinggal berdua (..2 org lagi dh kahwin.. and don't start on that "..kahwin ajelah" remarks). So budget sewa rumah makin kurang. Can u believe how hard it is to find a RM400-450 a month rent houses/apartments in that area? Devastating..

Kadang-kadang masa tengah driving sengsorang, aku teringat watak D-Fens lakonan Michael Douglas dalam Falling Down. Aku ni nak jadi macam dia ke? Atau, aku teringat lagu Wishlist dari Pearl Jam, ".. I wish I was a neutron bomb, for once I could go off". Aku takut one of these days some lady chinese driver decided to cut me off while I'm driving and it pisses me off so bad that I might flip-out and roam the streets with a shotgun in my hand while wearing my office attire underneath my kevlar vest. You never know, I just might..

But I still I have my brain intact. Being a Muslim, we were thought to be patient. Patience is a virtue, they say. And Islam is all about peace. Plus I have my comfort zone, my sanity, my pillar of strength... in the form of my girlfriend. The only time aku tak rasa stress, or pikir any problem walau sedikit pun ialah bila dia ada dengan aku. Seriously.. thanks babe.

Bila balik lewat dari ofis, TV menjadi teman tapi mesra aku. Teman aku time makan and time hisap rokok. Entertainment by the idiot box. And aku terpaksa mengaku yg aku telah ter-hook secara tak sengaja, unwillingly of course, to this one particular show. Yup, I never cared before about this show tapi tak tahu kenapa aku rasa line-up tahun ni menarik. Korang pernah rasa tak bila korang tgk satu rancangan TV dari mula, lepas tu korang susah nak miss rancangan tu sbb nak tahu apa jadi..? That's what happen to me! And no, it's not Mya Zara.. but American Idol!! Yess , AI5 is my new guilty pleasure and maybe because I like music and singing, it appeal to me more than before. Damn.. what has happened to me? I'm going mental..!

That rock dude Chris is going to win this thing even though Ace is winning young girls heart. Taylor the white-haired soul man is pretty good too. Elliot had a magnificent voice but look like a ogre. Paris and Lisa is an amazing talent. I hate that blonde Kellie because she can't sing well plus she's playing this 'sweet dumb country blonde' thing way too far. Bucky looks like a pirate, or Datuk K with long blonde hair. And please eliminate that 'chicken little' lookalike, Kevin. I cringed everytime I hear him sing. But Katharine, in the picture below.. is class act. Beautiful, georgeous and can sing very,very well. Plus she's an actress too..

I just had to include her picture. My mental condition is unstable at the moment. And this is therapy...... :)

Oscar 2006: Americans don't want cowboys 2 b gay

So Oscar 2006 was over. Everybody knows the result. (...Rachel Weisz won! Yeahh!) There's a few suprises here and there, but overall it's OK. So why didn't Brokeback Mountain win?

There's a lot of answers to that question. But I like what BM screenwriter Larry McMurtry told reporters backstage after the Oscar ceremony.

"...I believe that Crash's setting in Los Angeles helped it because many of the 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences live in the city. Plus, Americans don't want cowboys to be gay,".

Nuff said.

You should also check out The Conservative Voice website to understand what America think.

The reason for the name of this blog..

The Date : May 2nd 2006. Mark your calendars Pearl Jam's fans because that is the date Eddie Vedder and Co will release their self-titled, 8th studio album. PJ has promised that this new album is going to be THE rock album of the year, so that's a very exciting news. Personally, I can't wait to add this album to my complete PJ studio and live album collection. We need some good PJ rockin' right now..!

..the coolest thing is, beginning March 8th, at 6:00 A.M. Eastern time, PJ fans can download the first single from Pearl Jam, World Wide Suicide on PJ official website. This MP3 version of the song contains no Digital Rights Management so it's legal. Yess..!

picture and source :