Sunday, April 27, 2008

INTO THE WILD

INTO THE WILD

Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Hayden, William Hurt, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Hal Holbrook


"Your great adventure on Alaska"



A poignant docu-drama directed by the Sean Penn. It is based on the true story of Christopher McCandless. A drifter who abandoned all the comforts of his life to go off to his great adventure in Alaska. Only to realize way too late that 'happiness is real when shared'.

There are several school of thoughts saying that he was selfish and stupid, too caught up in his ideals, shunning away human relationships and materialistic possessions to live up his dream. While others say he was brave in pursuing his dreams by abandoning his comfort zone. I'd say it was a combination of both. He was an idealist with lofty thoughts about what drives a man to live his life. Influenced in part with having a dysfunctional family (in his eyes), he rebelled against society by taking off on his grand adventure. On the other hand, I figure it was rather foolish and too ambitious of him to venture off into the wilderness, ill prepared against the pitfalls of nature itself. A massive force to reckon with let alone try to conquer it without the necessary tools needed to survive.

The film came across as both an autobiographical about McCandless adventure as well as an ambitious propaganda glorifying one man's idea about the wilderness and life in general. Buoyed by an extensive soundtrack of songs written and sang by Eddie Vedder exclusively for the film, it has its poignant moments. It is a solid character study of a young man's quest for answers. Answers to questions which sometimes we, ordinary folks don't dare to examine lest we end up justifying our very existence.

Emile Hirsch physical deterioration is heart breaking. He projects well on screen and has an expressive face which conveys all sorts of emotions that his character went through during his adventure. He basically carries the entire film on his emancipated shoulders and true enough, he delivers it well.

Filmed in a non linear manner, the movie skips from his stint in the wild to his numerous encounters with people he meets along the way. A bit difficult to trace the exact time frame but it's pretty simple - the scenes where he is in the wilderness comes after all those personal encounters. Except for certain scenes where it appears as though the Super tramp is hallucinating on dope, the film is well made and well presented. Ably directed by the actor Sean Penn, it is an emotional and poignant film about a story that deserves to be told! But hopefully not to give people silly existential ideas about life but more as a reminder that sometimes we don't really need to venture too far off to realize that what really matters is right within our reach. Enough said!

Friday, April 25, 2008

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, Abbie Cornish, Samantha Morton, Rhys Ifans


"Woman. Warrior. Queen."




9 years later after the first Elizabeth film with the same actors (Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush) and the same director (Shekhar Kapur), I am still trying to categorize this film. One welcome added attraction was the presence of Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh. He registers well on screen (as always) and delivers his dialogue with clear eloquence. Yet we don't really get an in depth development of his character. He is portrayed as a pirate whose charms beguile the Virgin Queen. Yet he is unworthy of her since he doesn't have royal lineage nor would the alliance contribute to the well being of England. How tragic, ha!

The plot was scattered because it ambitiously tried to sneak in several events to make it more historically accurate. A film filled with several (too many, I'd say) intriguing side plots, authentic dialogue depicting the era, some flirtatious romantic connections, garish costumes, interesting characters and throw in some war scenes set in the high seas - it all contributes to a pleasant visual feast.

Having said all that, I felt somehow indifferent towards this film. I got the impression I didn't gain much knowledge about the true nature of the Virgin Queen. It basically progressed along on the same premise as the previous movie - An assassination plot against the Queen, her search for a suitable consort, the continuing threat from her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots and an unworthy love interest (Sir Walter Raleigh). Since it had the phrase "The Golden Age" in the title, I assumed they would showcase the events during that period. It was only towards the end of the film when they mentioned that after she had vanquished the numerous threats to her reign that England experience a period of lasting peace under her rule. If I remember correctly the first film ended on that same note. So I am still trying to figure out if this film was a remake, a rehash or a sequel to the previous film.

The main and only draw would be the flawless performance of Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth. Her ability to express the different emotions of the persona behind the monarch and the monarch itself was inspiring to watch. Given that she had some tendency to overact and was prone to hysterics, it was still a convincing portrayal of a fascinating character. It was a good mature role for Cate Blanchett, a great actress who can reinvent herself through different roles. You see her as the character not as an actress merely acting our her part.

I conclude by saying that I expected a lot more from this film. But nevertheless I recognize and I was entertained even for a few hours by the sheer effort the filmmakers and the whole cast put into making this ambitious movie.

Friday, April 18, 2008

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kate McDonald, Tess Harper


"There are no clean getaways."


Key words that immediately enter my mind when I think of this Coen brothers film are violence, mighty bad ass villain, arid desert, bad hairstyle, cowboy hats, quirky dialogue, strange syntax of sentences and no background music.


The plot is simple enough to follow. Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon a large stash of cash left behind in the desert after a drug deal results in a bloodbath. A crazy assassin named Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) chases after Moss leaving a trail of brutal murders in his path. While Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) tries in vain to catch up with both of them. He has to save Moss's doomed life and arrest the elusive sociopath from wrecking more havoc to an otherwise tranquil Texan town.

The cat and mouse chase is gripping to watch. You silently cheer on Moss yet at the same time you fully know there is no way he is going to get out of this messy scenario, alive. But in some effect you can't help but admire his staying power. His ability to successfully elude Chigurh up to a certain point. You say to yourself, well he has some guts too this Moss fellow. He manages to exude this heroic vibe so there is a part of you which starts to believe that maybe just maybe he can escape from Chigurh's clutches. Josh Brolin held his own against the formidable Javier Bardem. People tend to forget the fact that if it weren't for Llewelyn Moss being the primary target then Chigurh wouldn't get all this exposure for being an evil, sadistic killer who has this quirky streak of character to his otherwise tough, never say die exterior.

Javier Bardem certainly deserved to win the Best Supporting Actor award. His bad hair notwithstanding, his soulful rendition of this very creepy character would certainly make it in the list of unforgettable movie villains. His Anton Chigurh although quite a fearful character wasn't entirely pure evil, I'd say. He did have this fascination with making his victims call the coin toss and would spare them if they predicted it right. Not that it necessarily gives him some redeeming value, it certainly doesn't, it simply makes him less despicable. He remains to his very core, a ruthless heartless killer.

The most intriguing character for me in this film was Sheriff Ed Tom Bell portrayed by the ever reliable Tommy Lee Jones. The movie starts with his narration - a lament on the way society has gone to the dogs. He grieves for the lost of the good old days when sheriffs hardly carried guns. His character seems to be caught up in a time warped zone. A sort of in denial attitude that lawlessness is taking over society yet he also seems powerless to do something about it. Despite being in the law enforcement business, he feels unmatched against the protagonists who have invaded his peaceful existence. His fear stemmed mostly from the unknown, he didn't want to face something he couldn't understand. For instance, he couldn't really make out this Chigurh character. A powerful rival beyond his realm of comprehension yet he kept at it, a relentless pursuit of the unknown. The movie ends with the Sheriff narrating a weird dream to his wife. A dream open to all sorts of interpretations but somehow you run out of time to analyze it because the film has ended. The end credits scroll up or down, either way you are left wondering for a few minutes, then you realize alright so that's it ... that's the end.

I believe the reason this movie won the Best Picture award at the Oscars lies in its story telling narrative. Its ability to tell a story direct to the point sans distracting soundtrack. In fact there was no music at all except for a short scene where some mariachi band starts singing. It had no disjointed side plots - just one main story which was the relentless pursuit of Chigurh after poor Llewelyn Moss with Sheriff Ed Bell Tom trailing shortly there after. No non essential characters to murk the plot. Clear crisp cinematography, long angle shots of arid desert, small Texan towns and interior close up scenes mostly of ultimate bad ass villain.

But the formula works and full credits goes to the Coen Brothers who are the only ones brave enough in the film industry to get away with this type of film.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Lifestyle Diet

Weight Loss Program
I'm positive that everyone at some point in their lives have been on some sort of diet or all sorts of diet just to lose weight.

The New Lifestyle Diet though is not just about dieting it is about a completely new lifestyle program which would help you lose pounds and keep them off for the rest of your life.

It consists of choosing a diet regimen either by program (for both men and women) or by food category. A variety of liquid diets are also available in their wide range of weight loss programs. They also have a colorful comparative chart which shows the benefits of the new lifestyle diet with other dieting programs like Medifast, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig. The New Lifestyle diet is not only the best choice from a nutrition, price, and ingredient perspective, but also in taste and service.

So why not try it out? Who knows? Your "before" and "after" pictures just might be featured on the website. Those big smiles on their faces is enough proof they made the best choice in pursuing a reliable weight loss program.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL
Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Kristin Scott Tomas, David Morrissey, Ana Torrent


"The only thing that could come between these sisters ... is a kingdom"


Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex



I never read the book by Philippa Gregory but actually liked the movie! It is filled with drama, intrigue, romantic dalliances, great costumes and enough pageantry to keep you entertained for almost 2 hours.

Eric Bana's brooding, forceful yet subtle role as Henry VIII was believable. For such a hated or rather controversial historical figure, he was almost likable (in certain scenes) in this film. Well I meant King Henry the 8th not Eric Bana himself. Although what is there NOT to like about Eric Bana, right? I've always had the impression that King Henry the 8th was this rotund, balding figure. So to watch Eric Bana portray him as an multi-faceted King, dressed to the nines in loud gaudy costumes was refreshing. The wardrobe people geared him in heavy fabric with stuffy sleeves to give the thin lean actor a more meaty appearance. In some scenes, it worked but basically you could still notice how slim he really was. Stuffy costumes aside, Eric Bana was convincing enough as the King desperate to produce a male heir. His mad obsession to get Anne Boleyn despite her reluctance gave me chills. He was deceptive, cruel and menacing in some scenes then charmingly tender in the next frame. It all contributed to the dramatic effect of the film.

Scarlett Johansson who for some reason has never struck me as a good actress impressed me with her 'mousy' portrayal of the 'weaker' Boleyn sister. Even in the manner of her attire, she was clearly the more subdued sister, preferring to wear clothes which didn't draw too much attention. All Mary wanted was a simple life in the country with her husband. But once the King was besotted with her unassuming presence, she willingly did what was expected of her for the sake of her family's advancement in society. So although we sense a certain hesitation in her part, once she assumed her task, she did it with conviction. Eventually she did have *it* in her after all. Her slow transformation from a dormant sister to a woman who would do anything to protect her child and her sister was poignant.

On the other hand, Anne Boleyn from the get go was the more flamboyant, more educated and clearly more ambitious one. Her fiery personality was manifested in her colorful attires of loud colors like green and red. Her piercing tongue could beguile any man with her command of poetry. Yet at the same time, her educated persona worked against her because during that era, women were supposed to be seen and not heard like some decorative item on a Christmas tree. Natalie Portman gave a very good performance as the ill fated Queen. Her eloquence in delivering her sometimes tongue twisting dialogue was commendable. Despite being sandaled down with too many layers of clothing for her tiny frame, she still stood out and gave it her all. She has always been one of my fave actresses and she didn't disappoint me in this film.

The film has been maligned by some sectors for not being historically accurate. It didn't offer much explanation behind the events which helped shaped an entire nation. Such as the establishment of the Church of England, what happened to other significant characters like William Carey and the former Queen Catherine of Aragon. Instead it concentrated on the sibling rivalry of the two Boleyn sisters for the affection of one man, the King. But it was well executed with gripping dramatic moments, great costumes, good cinematography and clear dialogue. It was a story worth telling from the perspective of two sisters who although quite different in their personalities still managed to bring down an entire nation to its knees with both awe and contempt. Both of them ambitious in their own right but choosing different methods to attain their goals.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

RBC Store

Anti Aging Products
It is inevitable when we reach a certain age for us to notice certain visible signs of aging. But with modern technology and of course the right price, we can delay these signs. The Royal Bodycare Store sells anti aging products, online.

Antioxidants are defined as compounds which halt free radicals from damaging your cells. The key is prevention. Stopping this damage before it occurs so your cells are rejuvenated, giving you a healthy glow.

You would need a variety of these antioxidants to guarantee complete protection. Microhydrin Plus is the most electron-rich, research backed antioxidant in the world. It is also important to have proper dental hygiene. Microbrite Tooth Powder is a dental product which removes plaque like no other ordinary toothpaste. Most toothpastes available in the market today have high acidic content which do more harm to your teeth. The Microbrite Tooth powder has been developed with the antioxidant Microhydrin and an alkaline pH which protects the enamel of your teeth.

Royal BodyCare products come with a full 60 day money back guarantee. Entire order shipped for only $7.99. They ship within 24 hours of order being placed. Simply visit their website for more details on their wide range of anti aging products.

You owe it to yourself to slow the aging process so you can enjoy a vibrant life without looking your (real) age.

Friday, April 11, 2008

88 MINUTES

88 MINUTES

Al Pacino, Amy Brenneman, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, William Forsythe, Neal McDonough


"He has 88 minutes to solve a murder. His own."



The one thing that stuck in my mind after I viewed this film was how much running poor Al Pacino had to endure for almost 108 minutes. Alright so he wasn't running during the entire film!

The premise itself had potential. Jack Gramm (Al Pacino), a college professor is also a forensic psychiatrist for the FBI. He is consulted on a series of copycat murders. But as the case drags on, it appears he may be a suspect in these cases. To make matters worse, he has been receiving scrambled phone calls from someone who has issued a death threat against him. Thus the title "88 minutes" that's how long the caller has given him to live.

The film allegedly unfolds in the same time frame as the title. Although we don't really get the real sense of the time since it isn't flashed on screen. It is merely brought up in the dialogue. The beginning where we are introduced to all the key players moves at a steady pace. Towards the middle part, you are still drawn in. You try to keep a keen interest as the case unravels. You too get caught up in the game of pinpointing who is the culprit. Then it goes downhill from there. The plot gets scattered. There are too many subplots and dare I say characters all pieced together. You begin to lose focus. At this stage, you might already have figured things out. Or you may not. Or you simply stop figuring things out and just watch for the heck of it. It all builds up towards a rather flat ending which doesn't sink in too well with your senses. You shrug and go oh is that it?

The cast has some familiar faces with mostly actresses reigning. Well I mean in terms of numbers. You have Amy Brenneman, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski in supporting roles. I'm sure they were just so humbled to be working with the Al Pacino. They didn't mind that the script was mediocre. The other actor who deserves a mention is Neal McDonough as the killer behind bars who has an axe to grind with Jack Gramm. This brings us to the main star of the film. The indefatigable Al Pacino who does carry the entire film on his drooping shoulders. His role as the tough forensic expert with a past violent family history which makes him vulnerable both as a person and a cop is believable. The fact that he has to run most of the time might have taken its toll on his aging frame. But he has still has it in him to please the audience with his expressive acting skills in this film. He is the main or should I say the only draw to this lackluster film.

Web Hosting Pal

Web Hosting Pal
It is best to scout around before we buy anything, right? Well this also works when we plan to get our own domain name.

The Internet though is full of web hosting sites so it might be a bit difficult if you check each one of them, manually. At Web Hosting Pal they offer a user friendly guide of numerous Web Hosting Reviews. They discuss the different options available for each web hosting sites on the Internet. You are given a wide array of reviews to read about based on the features to suit your web hosting needs. You can either choose those under U$ 5, based on the monthly fees, the disk space available, a number of email hosting option and the bandwidth space. They also feature sites which offer e-commerce panel with Paypal for your online shopping business. They discuss each featured web hosting sites with detailed precision.

The beginners guide is a good place to start for first timers. The page is filled with important information about web hosting. They also have a top ten web hosting list where they compare the best hosting sites in a comprehensive graph. So whether you are planning to buy your own domain name or simply want more details about web hosting, drop by Web Hosting Pal for all your queries.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

L'ANNIVERSAIRE

L'ANNIVERSAIRE
(THE BIRTHDAY)


TV 5




It has been a while since I've actually parked in front of my telly and caught a full length French film on TV5, the French cable channel.

This 2005 film tells the story of a group of friends who are reunited in exotic Marrakech, Morocco courtesy of Raphael, a reality TV mogul. He was motivated to organize this reunion upon reading an autobiographical book released by his estranged brother, Alberto. He invites them to celebrate his 45th birthday in his luxurious villa deep within the Moroccan desert. A beautiful and tranquil setting where soon enough old rivalries are unearthed, shocking revelations are exposed and their bond of friendship is threatened.

I recognized only one actor in this film, Lambert Wilson. He portrayed the Merovingian in the Matrix trilogy. The film had an ensemble cast who blended well together. In the same tradition as "The Big Chill", a bunch of complex characters essay different roles with their own quirky personalities. So even though we don't really get an elaborate development of each character, their acting as a group made up for it.

The film moves at a wild and frenzy phase. Each scene is highlighted by some dramatic moment. A secret being revealed or some past indiscretion getting exposed. The funny part for me though is how they peppered the film with an 80s soundtrack of English songs from groups like Air Supply and that group that sang "Abracadabra" (sorry I forgot who!). These songs were the hits during their wild revelry days of protesting in the streets as well as the era when Europe was in the throes of fascism rule with some tinge of Socialist ideals. So if only for those silly inane 80s songs, the film was a hoot to watch.

The picturesque background of an exotic city like Marrakech also contributed to the airy touchy feely sensation I got from the film. It is entirely in French with English subtitles. It made for a pleasant walk down nostalgia lane for me. Both in the sense that I grew up listening to those songs as well as the familiar topics they discussed as a group. I grew up in that part of the world (Belgium) so I was more or less consciously aware of the pressing issues which marred that region during that fascinating era.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

WaMu

WaMu
It is wise in this day and age to have a little something tucked away for those retirement years. WaMu has several Savings Accounts suited for your savings goals. They offer the following savings account or certificate of deposit (CD):

Online Savings
Statement Savings
Traditional CD
Online CD
Liquid CD

You can simply open a savings account online through their secure online banking services. This option offers you online electronic statements.

WaMu Statement savings is their basic savings account which comes with numerous features. For example their high yield online savings account which you can incorporate with a WaMu Free checking account. You can choose to view your statements electronically online or on a single monthly statement.

The Traditional CD (Certificate of Deposit) account offers a high CD interest rate. You can also add funds to your certificate of deposit with the Add-On Feature, or adjust to a higher interest rate with the Bump Rate® feature. You can manage your certificate of deposit accounts through the personal online banking.

All of these savings accounts are neatly discussed on their comprehensive website. To discover if you are qualified for any of these savings options, simply select your area from the drop down menu located on their main website.

They have made online banking as easy as possible so start saving, saving and saving your money!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

ATONEMENT

ATONEMENT
Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan


"You can only imagine the truth"




There are films which makes you wish you read the book first to get a better grip on the characters. But having said that, if I came across this novel by Ian McEwan in the bookstore, I'd read the synopsis then pass on it. Generally, stories set in a certain era don't capture my fancy. So never having read the book but knowing of the story and the rave reviews its movie adaptation got, I was curious to see what the buzz was all about.

So as much as I would like to compare or make a fair analysis of the movie based on how well it was adapted from the novel, I can't. In the same manner, I cannot write a fair review without revealing some spoilers from the film. Much to my chagrin since I am of the school of thought that movie reviews need to be spoiler free as much as possible.

This movie with its jumpy flashbacks had the tone of a theatrical play where the camera zooms into just one centralized scene. The interior scenes with its cardboard color gave this effect. Especially a specific sequence in the hospital where Briony, a nurse during the war consoles a dying French soldier. While its outside shots on the other hand had vast wide expanse of the lush English countryside and war devastated areas in focus. The sometimes bleak cinematography contributed to the general tone of a tragic ill fated romance. The musical score was a play on the various sounds of a tapping typewriter. It added some air of mystery to the convoluted plot. I can still hear that clanking sound in my head.

It is in the different versions of the plot where this ambitious film succeeds. The story line is a bit blurry between what really happened to the main characters as opposed to its fictional happy ending invented by the author, Briony as penance and atonement for her past mistakes.

The point of no return for me wasn't the tragic ill fated romance of Cee and Robbie. Neither was it the scene where you try to guess who really committed the 'crime' against Lola. Rather it was what really motivated Briony to accuse Robbie of perpetrating that act. It is that scene in the film where you put on your thinking cap and analyse it over and over. You are faced with numerous thoughts questioning Briony's real motive. Was she jealous of her sister's romance? Was she plotting against Robbie for spurning her? Was she merely an innocent child? Or did she imagine the whole situation? Did she misinterpret the act, irrationally? The fact remains that it is in these various line of questioning where the movie made its biggest impact for me, anyway. The best solution to these endless speculation would of course be to read the book. But as I mentioned earlier I have no plans of reading the book.

So based merely on the movie I'd say it was well made. You just have to pay close attention to the storyline as it evolves not necessarily in a linear manner. It is well cast with Keira Knightley in a good believably mature role. Her chemistry with James McAvoy was refreshing and genuine. Yet much as I admired James McAvoy in his role in "The Last King of Scotland". I found him rather rigid in some scenes in "Atonement". I don't know if it was some methodical acting technique on his part where he would pause and appear wooden in some scenes or it was really required of him from the director. I wasn't impressed with his acting in this film. The young girl Saoirse Ronan who portrays Briony Tallis was stoic and creepy. Her pale demeanor disguising a rather complex character. She was quite perfect for the role, no wonder she was nominated in the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the BAFTA (to name a few) in the Best Supporting Actress category.

The film based on a novel about a controversial book deserves to be seen more than once. If only to get a better understanding of what transpired for real and what was merely the figment of an active imagination of a desperate author. An author whose idea of atonement for her past sins was to write an autobiographical book based on her experiences. Inserting some fictional lines for a happily ever after ending for her characters. Don't you wish life was that easy that we can just write off our past indiscretions by writing ourself a happy ending?

Flame Tune

Flame Tune
Tell me if this scenario is familiar. You are watching a movie then a song plays out in a specific scene. You like it so much, you surf the Internet for the lyrics. Well there is a website where you can find them, Flame Tune. It is also a comprehensive site where you can browse for guitar chords, bass, drum and piano tabs of different bands which are added weekly.

So let's say you are a big Van Morrison fan, a simple click will take you to Van Morrison Lyrics. My sister just recently started learning how to play the guitar, well not professionally and only when she has some precious time to spare but surely sometime in the distant future she will find Van Morrison guitar tabs really useful. Probably some Van Morrison bass tabs will come in handy too at some point.

But Flame Tune isn't just about lyrics and tabs. It has an active community forum where members can interact with each other. You can also write reviews, submit and request for lyrics and tabs and create your own lyrics and tabs book. Their easy to navigate website also offers guitar lessons reviews, band posters and ring tones. All you need is a user name and a password. Signing up is free!
 

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