Saturday, February 28, 2009

BECOMING JANE

BECOMING JANE
Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Maggie Smith, Ian Richardson, Laurence Fox

"A woman especially if she has the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can." - Jane Austen

Star Movies





This period piece is based on the life of literary writer, Jane Austen. It specifically focuses on an episode in her colorful life which reveals her real-life romance which sad to say didn't have a happy ending. Drawing parallels with the characters in her famous classic novels, the film presents Jane (Anne Hathaway) like many of her heroines as a bright, strong-willed female. Growing up in an era where women had to marry merely for money and not for affection yet Jane wants something more than just to conform to society's rules. She meets her 'match' in the Irish lawyer, Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) But since they come from different spectrum of society, their romance is doomed.

At times, while watching "Becoming Jane" you get the impression you are watching a Merchant Ivory narrative based on a literary classic novel. Until you realize it is a biography of the author herself and not merely the film adaptation of one of her well loved novels. Then you start to recognize the themes and characters from her novels were drawn from her own life experiences. There's the devoted father, the nagging mother, loving sister, and, of course, the charming young man with whom the protagonist initially clashes but later falls for. They all seemed familiar that watching it unfold was like an eye opener, quite a revelation moment for the audience.

The cast led by Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy gave credible performances as the lead characters. As Jane Austen, Hathaway exudes intelligence and energy, playing exactly the sort of woman who appeared in the writer's work. James McAvoy is the perfect choice for Tom Lefroy, the good combination of rugged good looks with the glib tongue and dare I say the 'bad influence' to the prim and proper Jane. His charming presence was really worthy of a romantic leading man. The rest of the cast are ably represented by good British actors like Julie Walters, James Cromwell and Dame Maggie Smith.

"Becoming Jane" is an engaging look at the writer's life and her exciting love life. It ends with tiny snippets (which you can barely read, by the way) about the author's years after that brief romantic interlude. I was a bit saddened to learn that she never married simply because the 'love of her life' wasn't financially suitable for her status. But then I do applaud her feisty nature (using irony as the underlying themes of her novels) and her avant garde ways of being a woman ahead of her times and not letting society dictate the desires of her heart and her whole existence. And of course for her literary contribution through her well loved novels which remain quite popular even in this age of facebook, twitter and plurk!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC

CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC
Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Joan Cusack, John Goodman, John Lithgow, Kristin Scott Tomas, Krysten Ritter


"All she ever wanted was a little credit"


Cinema 6, SM Megamall



Here are my random thoughts on this movie:
* I thought that Amy Adams was in the lead role. Isla Fisher,("Wedding Crashers") aka as the better half of Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) bears a striking resemblance to the "Enchanted" and "Doubt" star, don't you think so?

* Hugh Dancy is such a dear fellow in a Brit way. That is a good thing, I'd say. His role here reminded me of Anderson Cooper from CNN for some strange reason. Probably the heir of a rich family working for pittance vibe.

* I loved Kristin Scott Tomas as Alette the editor/owner of that chic fashion magazine. Her being French added some much needed edge and personality to her diva/mogul editor role. Not just a caricature of the stereotypical editor whom everybody loathes personification.

* On the other hand, I couldn't stand Suze, Rebecca's (Isla Fisher) best friend. I don't know how it is in the book (I never read it sorry I ain't into chick lit) but as far as the movie goes I thought her role was just so inconsequential to the whole plot.

* Good supporting actors like John Lithgow, Joan Cusack and John Goodman gave credible performances. They were not overbearing and provided the feel good vibe to the central character.

* The movie was fun to watch. No major problem to solve except perhaps how Rebecca would pay her credit card bills. Designer brands, luxurious boutiques make up most of the cinematography. I like how the mannequins in the display windows would turn into animated characters. That was a nice touch.

* Although the romantic angle was sort of predictable. I did cheer when they hooked up because they have pleasantly nice chemistry going on between them.

* Lastly, the whole point of the movie is to focus on how addicting shopping (beyond your limits) can be and how Rebecca Bloomwood managed to extricate herself from her addiction. But the entire time I was cringing at how much her credit card bill amounted to. While she was hyperventilating because she was being hounded by a 'stalker', I was hyperventilating at the thought of spending that much on wardrobe, shoes and what.have.yous! I kept thinking my God how materialistic! You are willing to be in debt forever, even go bankrupt just to have the latest Gucci bag or that branded scarf. So that part certainly didn't sit well with me the i.hate.to.shop person.

* But I take good heed that it is merely a book turned into a movie. Although I know there are shopaholics out there, there is something quite relevant and current in this movie. The concept of consumerism and commercialism which is now being blamed for the economic crisis the whole world is beset with. The global financial crisis though is best 'solved' by encouraging the public to spend, spend and spend so I figure this movie just plays its role in broadcasting that message across the screen and into our pockets.

Monday, February 23, 2009

81st Academy Awards

I woke up early to catch the 81st Academy Awards (The Oscars) live. Well apparently not that early to see the red carpet entrance of the stars who unfortunately end up being ambushed by petty entertainment show hosts.

It was the first time for People's Magazine's sexiest man alive Hugh Jackman to host the show. He gave the show some much needed flair with a musical vibe. His opening song and dance number with the help of a refreshing Anne Hathaway kicked the show off to a good start. That guy has all the right moves, he is versatile, he can sing, he can dance, he delivers and gives it his best. He is awesome and very yummy adorable!

Ok let me stop gushing and get on with my review of the awards show!

I like how they 'personalized' the awards with presenters composed of past winners paying 'tribute' to the nominees. It was a poignant and emotional moment for the nominees who kept trying not to shed tears to ruin their make up.

The 'technical' sections were accompanied by great graphics and edgy production numbers to highlight each category. The presenters were equipped with crisp and sometimes funny banter to the amusement of the audience.

But most of all, I watch the awards shows for the speeches (yes sure also for the fashion!) the winners spew out trying their best not to lose their composure. So whether it is written in advance on a crumpled piece of paper or delivered extemporaneously on the lectern, it always gives the audience a front seat glimpse into their overwhelmed reaction upon winning the much coveted award.
It is especially great to watch the people behind the scenes offering their gratitude while holding their Oscar. After all without them, films won't get made.

Penelope Cruz wanted to faint. She was excellent as the tempestuous ex wife of Javier Bardem, Maria Elena in the Woody Allen manned "Vicky Cristina Barcelona". Heath Ledger's family delivered a poignant response and accepted the best supporting award on behalf of his daughter, Matilda. Kate Winslet in a gorgeous YSL gown was eloquent with a bit of Brit humor as she finally got herself a best actress Oscar for her role in "The Reader". While Sean Penn well will always be Sean Penn. You know the one with the political jab sniping at every single issue rocking the US of A, at the moment. This time, he mentioned the anti gay protesters and the critics of same sex marriages.

As expected, Slumdog Millionaire got the major haul of the oscars. It got 8 including best picture, best song (the bouncy Jai Ho) and best director for Danny Boyle. In his speech, he calls himself an idiot since he forgot to give due credit to the guy who choreographed the dance sequence during the end credits of the film.

The Full List of Winners are as follows:
Best Picture - Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director - Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Actor - Sean Penn (Milk)
Best Actress - Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Best Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Best Original Screenplay - Dustin Lance Black (Milk)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Animated Feature - WALL-E
Best Animated Short - Presto
Best Foreign Language Film - Departures
Best Art Direction - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Cinematography - Slumdog Millionaire
Best Costume Design - The Duchess
Best Documentary Feature - Man on Wire
Best Documentary Short - Smile Pinki
Best Editing - Slumdog Millionaire
Best Live Action Short - Spielzeugland (Toyland)
Best Makeup - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Original Score - A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Original Song - "Jai Ho," A.R. Rahman and Gulzar (Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Sound Editing - The Dark Knight
Best Sound Mixing - Slumdog Millionaire
Best Visual Effects - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

So yes the Academy awards show was a blast to watch due largely to Hugh Jackman! Yes, I know I like to repeat myself to emphasize a point. So although I've seen just a few of the nominated films, I love watching award shows (with or without Hugh Jackman as its host) But I've managed to get copies of the other movies so I'm psyched! Now if only I could find the time to simply relax on the couch with microwave popcorn to view them (Milk, Doubt, The Reader, Changeling, Revolutionary Road) I'd be very happy!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

GRAN TORINO

GRAN TORINO
Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carley




I have to say that for someone who grew up basically ignoring Clint Eastwood's earlier films i.e his Dirty Harry phase, I have now grown to admire his latest body of work where his films (The Changeling, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima) explore the human psyche right to its core.

Here he portrays a reclusive Korean War veteran who 'saves' his neighbor, a Hmong teenager from the bullying tactics of a gang. Thereafter, his whole 'isolated' life becomes enmeshed with the strange cultural antics of the Hmong race. In the process, both the teenager and the war veteran make life altering decisions which affect their lives, for the better. Even though they are from different cultural backgrounds, they develop a bond which transcends race, culture and generation gap.

The movie is devoid of distracting and sometimes unnecessary side plots. It is set in a little community filled with immigrants. A social reality that is enveloping small town America, nowadays. There are no fast paced action scenes, no noisy car chases, no inconsequential romantic angles. It uses the simplistic approach to tell a story.

The story of Walt Kowalski, the bigoted, bitter war veteran who has seen enough tragedies in his life. Circumstances which in turn made him develop a you and me against the world stance. As long as he is left alone in his little comfort zone, he doesn't really care much about anything else. His prized possession is his Gran Torino, a vintage car. But once his prize possession is under threat, he intervenes and in return his comfort zone doesn't seem that comfortable any more.

Clint Eastwood shines in this role. His usual underacting style works to his advantage. His dialogue is filled with funny, sarcastic lines. He delivers them eloquently. He is funny (in a sarcastic way) when he needs to be and he is dead serious in appropriate scenes. He has good chemistry with the actor who portrays the Hmong teenager.

A well directed, well acted simple story (with a slight twist in the ending which bestows the film its poignancy) about a man whose views about the outside world is ultimately changed when he learns to let go of his past demons. As a result in his own unique way, he contributes in making the community he lives in a much better place.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan


"Love and money ... You have mixed them both"



No wonder this delightful movie won all the major film awards (so far), it is a gem! A smorgasbord of all the emotions known to mankind all neatly manifest themselves within the film. It deals with grief, intrigue, happiness, envy, vengeance, personal triumphs and most of all love with a capital L.

It is the story of Jamal whose very interesting life unfolds on screen through his answers on the game show "Who wants to be a Millionaire?". Set in the chaotic slums of Mumbai, this vibrant city is vividly exposed in all its raw, poverty stricken elements.

The cast is composed of characters of all sizes and shapes - you have shady villains (corrupt policemen, syndicate members prying on innocent kids, envious game show host), innocent children growing up in very harsh conditions. But most of all, it is the two or I should say the three main characters - Jamal, Latika and Salim - whose various struggles and daring exploits contributed the necessary ingredients to make every single minute of this gripping human drama worth watching. The young actors (especially the toddlers) delivered very believable performances, their portrayal was very poignant and really heartwarming. A feat for first time actors.

The film is accompanied by a musical score that is filled with typical Indian melodic music/songs composed by A.R. Rahman, one of India's best musicians/composers. Most of the dialogue is in the Hindi dialect with English subtitles.

My formative years were spent growing up in New Delhi so I am quite familiar with the antics of the Indian populace. Their hero worship of Amitabh Bachchan (a local actor) is very well portrayed in the film. It simply cracked me up. Some of the Hindi words used in the dialogue made me nod with comprehension. The film is also a very realistic depiction of life in general in the Indian subcontinent. The huge gap between the haves and the have nots. The grim existence in the slums area. The corrupt public officials. Even the sweaty humid weather was clearly evident in the numerous scenes.

But inspite and despite the mayhem and the hardship, a pure love story blossoms. A romance that slowly yet definitely touch at your heartstrings. The kind of love story that is rarely depicted in films, nowadays. It was refreshing to watch it unfold.

I certainly won't be surprised if this film bags the best film honors at the upcoming Academy Awards this Sunday.

I'd have to say the film is worth watching several times if only to get some of that positive energy vibe to rub off on us during these tough economic times.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Money Making Ventures

During these financially difficult times, the Internet specifically the blogging medium is still a good place to earn some extra income. It is abound with websites which offer valid opportunities to make money. You can get paid to post reviews on your blog. Simply register with a valid username and password. They process your request within a few minutes. Then they will approve (or disapprove) your blog in a few days time. Once approved it will be included in their directory. Next step is for you to simply add their code in the html portion of your blog and then you are all set. Opportunities abound for blogs with high page rank. You can add up to 10 blogs and can reserve up to 3 opportunities per day/blog. You are paid through Paypal once your total unpaid earnings reaches US$50 on the first of every month. But if your total earnings is below the required amount, it will be carried over to the next month on an accumulative basis.

Their easy to navigate website with its simple dashboard is blogger friendly. They also have a blog section which provide interesting articles about earning through blog advertising.

So raise your hand and click in to be a part of a network that guarantees you some extra income to save for rainy days ahead!
 

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