Black Swan review : so what was the hype all about again?

So it was one of those Saturday nights when I had nowhere to go and decided I’d watch “Black Swan”.

There was me, Irish housemate, single English housemate with ballet/dancing background dying to watch “Black Swan”, English couple, one half of which is the woman with the PhD and is published, the other half of which is the cook and overall houseperson.

See there was much hype about Black Swan, and well, I hate hype and wouldn’t have watched it for that. I did hear about the girl-on-girl scenes so I’d watch it for that.

In a nutshell: mentally stable, repressed, possibly virginal, ballerina (Natalie Portman) gets lead in “Swan Lake”and proceeds to have a very disturbing, gory breakdown which includes hallucinations, fears of splintering fingers and feet, fears of being followed by strangers, fears of losing lead role to hot, sexy alternate (Mila Kunis) with whom she may or may not have a night of drunken, brazen sex with, and imagining herself sprouting wings and what-not.

Let me just say – this is a load of unbelievably pretentious crap that is accidentally funny, unbearably tedious and torturous and overall, a waste of two hours of my life I can never get back. I’m still wondering what Portman won the Oscar for.

Darren Aronofsky – you owe me!

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127 Hours – a study in existential transformation in the most unlikely of places

So, a former housemate of mine introduced me to “127 Hours” with the idea that it is about a guy who cuts off his arm when he is trapped in a boulder in a canyon for five days.

I didn’t think much of it, but I did copy his copy of it. I had heard it nominated for the Oscars (as of press time it had lost out to “The King’s Speech”) and that made my interest a bit more piqued. But not sufficiently piqued as to actually watch it. The thought of another film, much like “Castaway”(can you actually bear tw hours of Tom Hanks? I didn’t think so) and “Ladder 49” where someone is trapped somewhere and you watch two hours of the person struggling, just seems unbearably boring for me. So I held out on it til yesterday, when I was at home, having watched all of my movies and now ready for “127 Hours”.

After finally watching it, though, I had to kick myself for not having watched it sooner. The difference between this film and the ones that came before it, was director Danny Boyle’s trademark filmmaking style and James Franco’s gritty performance as Aron Ralston.

Boyle’s frenetic, kinetic, filmmaking style, fraught with MTV-saturated images, backed by an upbeat soundtrack that pushes rather than constrains the scenes and breathtaking cinematography of the Utah canyons, does not interfere at all with Franco’s intense depiction of a solitary, secretive man who is more at home in the wilderness than in the office, and who, moment-by-moment, manages to infuse this character with more life even without dialogue or other characters. The script is fast-paced and clean, and clocking in at one hour, 30 minutes, and proves that the age-old adage, less is more, is true in this case.

There is no Wilson in this movie, no elaborate flashbacks to stretch the drama. In fact, flashbacks are not treated as such, and are actually both memory and introspection and imagination for Franco’s Ralston, who imagines his treatment of past lovers, family and friends with casual indifference at first, but gradually, as the days progress, with much regret. But the most fascinating thing about this movie is the age-old theme of literatures past, man vs. nature and man vs. himself, when, stripped of all the trappings of everyday urban life, Franco’s Ralston comes to appreciate the daily routine only a man trapped in a boulder can appreciate: 15 minutes of sun on his toes, a bird flying overhead for eight seconds, water, camera, the luxury of memories, and also comes to appreciate the devastating realization that he was responsible for where he was in now and no other, and thus, being responsible for himself and his actions, his destiny and his future, Ralston is able to break free from his predicament by doing the one unimaginably harrowing thing anyone can do: cut off his arm with a cheap, dull, China-made knife. I think that was the most compelling part of this film – the idea of accountability and of personal responsibility, an amazing existential moment that seems unusual in post-millenium cinema.

I like this so much I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a great film to watch this year. If you are going to watch anything, watch “127 hours”.

What’s your comfort film?

So last night, whilst talking to my housemates (a Chinese Canadian guy and a new British Chinese guy – yep, it’s two guys, a gay person and a house) we were talking about homesickness and what whether we have comfort films (like comfort food) that help get us through those dark times.

Housemate number 1 (Canadian) says his comfort films were Se7en, 12 Monkeys and  Fight Club (“Do you have a thing about Brad Pitt?” housemate number 2 asks.).

I remember the first time I was overseas, I was spending a disturbingly inordinate amount of time watching movies and television series (hence the birth of this blog), and I remember watching “Hairspray”and “Stardust”over and over again at the time. I also remember watching a few Filipino films (say that fast, 10 times) as well.

When I was in Canada, for some strange, inexplicable reason, I used to watch D.E.B.S over and over again.

Alright, it's probably the short, plaid skirts, the legs attached to them, and the hotness of two girls making out that probably made this a comfort film for me. 🙂

When I went back home to the Philippines, I used to watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”over and over again, as well as “Battlestar Galactica”, “True Blood” and “Glee”.

When I’m feeling down, I usually turn to light, romantic, usually teen films or comedies. I refuse to watch horror now because they’ll just depress me more.

Right now, it’s “Zoolander” that I love watching over and over again, along with “How to Train a Dragon”. If I could snag “The Producers” and “Team America”, I’m all set.

What about you, what’s your comfort film?

Retro-review: All Over Me

Back from a long absence!

So I’ve been just reading (speculative fiction anthology edited by Ursula K. Le Guin, book by Terry Pratchett), or hunting for books to read (Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – which was already sold at the bookshop where I normally go to for good bargains. I have book two, but what’s the point of that if I don’t have book one, dammit?!?), or watching (All Over Me, Mulholland Drive, Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Part 1, I Love You Philip Morris, etc.) or looking for ways to get movies without actually spending atrocious amounts of money. Well, I’ve come across a nice friend with a massive external hard drive who’s been kind enough to let me watch the movies in her  drive.

So I’m going to talk about, “All Over Me“.

File:AllOverMeIndieFilm.jpg“All Over Me” (1997) (directed by Alex Sichel, produced by  Dolly Hall and written by Sylvia Sichel)  is a movie about coming out, coming-of-age and coming to terms with the changes without imploding or disintegrating. The movie is less like the big, clean, polished, Hollywood studio produced films about coming out as of late, and more like the hardcore underground indie films where the coming out process is painful, and sometimes downright traumatic, like a bandage being ripped from a wound that hasn’t completely healed yet. Set to the riffs (and sometimes pluckings) of music by Leisha Hailey (The L-Word) and Miki Navazio, the movie effectively captures what’s it like to be 16 and to come out through the eyes of Claude (Alison Folland). Claude has an intensely close, almost unhealthy and increasingly codepedent friendship with bestfriend Ellen (Tara Subkoff), with whom she hopes to start a band with. But Ellen is in love with the abusive, macho Mark (Cole Hauser) and this makes Claude jealous and confused, and eventually realizes that she’s in love with her bestfriend. Ellen’s new relationship with Mark, and with the drugs he supplies her, makes her drift away from Claude and their plans for a rock band, ocassionally appearing only to have Claude make her feel better when she and Mark have fights. Claude meets pink-haired guitarist Lucy (Leisha Hailey), first in a music shop, then in a gay bar, and they start making out after. Claude freaks out though and realizes that she is hopelessly, irrevocably in love with her bestfriend. This is a heartbreaking realization for her, and even more heartbreaking when we see her casually confessing her love to Ellen and having Ellen angrily tell her never to tell her that ever again. Claude struggles to accept  her budding homosexuality, her separation from her bestfriend and a budding relationship with Lucy.

The film feels a bit raw and would have benefitted from a bit more tweaking, but there is an honesty and accuracy to the film’s depiction of coming out that I liked. Coming out has never been easy, even though Hollywood likes to think it is. In truth, it’s messy, it’s painful, it’s heartwrenching, but as Dan Savage et.al. have said, it gets better. It really does.

12 things I’ve learned from watching lesbian films

So I came across this blog post “17 Things I’ve learned about life from watching movies and TV“(good post, check it out). The blog post inspired me so much I’d like to do my own, except it’s the top things I’ve learned from watching lesbian movies.

1. Character. The leads will always be extreme opposites. One of them will usually be a) some repressed, conservative girl who gets attracted to the b) rebel without a cause who likes to drink, smoke and generally be her exact opposite.

Examples:

  • Lost and Delirious. Tory (Jessica Pare) is the nice girl-next-door who falls for orphan rebel smoker Paulie (Piper Perabo).
  • The Secrets (Ha Sodot) – The repressed Israeli student falls in love with the girl who just came from Paris.
  • The World Unseen – Lisa Ray’s repressed Indian wife  falls in love with the feisty (aren’t they always?) cafe-owning, liberal Amina (Sheetal Sheth).
  • I Can’t Think Straight – Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth reverse roles.
  • But I’m a Cheerleader – Natasha Lyonne plays the All-American cheerleader who falls in love with the goth-ish rebel without a cause trust-fund hottie, Clea Duvall.
  • When Night is Falling – Repressed Christian professor falls in love with the free-wheelin’ circus hottie.
  • DEBS – Hot, repressed, uptight top, perfect scoring DEBS spy falls in love with equally hot, uninhibited, liberal, very gay Jordana Brewster character.
  • Show Me Love (Sweden) – Promiscuous, rebellious teenage girl who’s slept with most of the teenaged male population of the town falls for geeky, mousy, teenage girl.-

2. The more “butch” lead will almost always be smoking.

3. The “femme” lead will almost always love Walt Whitman, opera and walks under the moonlight or in wide, open spaces.

4. The repressed latent homosexual will almost always be attracted to the outsider/rebel/sexually ambiguous and/or lesbian in the school because said repressed homosexual is sick and tired of boyfriend/fiance/husband or has slept with the whole male populace of the town or city.

5. The would-be lesbian lovers will have a series of meetings that may either begin with a) hostility or b) bonding but will almost always end with c) them hitting it off and then having trips to some exhilirating place where they realize they are meant for each other: the soccer stadium (Imagine Me and You), the gaming room (Imagine Me and You), the bar/pub, the circus, hang gliding, Oxford, some god-forsaken wide open space in the middle of nowhere where the two leads will then proceed to

6. Have a montage of talking, listening to music, reading, looking at each other with those longing looks that can either look like either or both are a) really into each other or b) constipated.

7. This montage will eventually lead to a mounting sexual tension which will then lead to a lot of vigorous making-out or a really contrived but inexplicably hot love scene featuring really dark lighting, red sheets, stock footage of the moon and stars, and some music by a band known only to the producer and director.This scene will end with both characters professing undying love to each other until

8. The  love struck lesbian  leads are discovered by any of the following: a) family, b) friends and/or c) complete strangers buck naked in bed which lead to the climax of the movie.

9. The  love struck lesbian  leads will almost always forget to lock the door whilst making love even though both are not out to their family, friends and/or complete strangers.

10. The inevitable tension mounts when family, friends and sometimes even complete strangers express disapproval over the lesbian relationship. Said family, friends and complete strangers will try to break said  love struck lesbian  leads.

11. Either leads will try to be straight.

12. One of them will almost always go crazy, end up in a mental asylum, or be married, or dead. And sometimes, they come back as ghosts and haunt the living daylights out of the ex-lover (Memento Mori).

Movies! in 3 lines or less!

This is escapism I know, but one needs something to cope with all the madness and chaos that is the Philippines. So here are the movies I’ve watched in three lines or less:

1. 17 AGAIN:

Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry) – or as we like to call him, Chandler: I want to be 17 again.

Mike O’Donnell (Zac Efron) – or as we like to call him, that guy Troy Bolton from High School Musical: I want to be a high school jock again!

Fans: Trying to suspend disbelief – how can somebody who looks like Zac Efron grow up to look like Chandler?!?

2. ANGELS and DEMONS

Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor): The pope is dead! Long live the Illuminati!

Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks):  The pope is dead! Long live symbology!

Fans: Screw this! We’re just watching it for Ewan McGregor!

3. NEW MOON

(Ok this hasn’t come out yet, but I’ve read the book, so)

Edward: I can’t be with you. I’ll go to Italy and kill myself.

Jacob: I’m a werewolf and while Edward is away, I’ll make my move on Bella.

Bella: I will remain completely self-absorbed. Like I did in the last movie.

4. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT

Family: We will vacation in the woods, somewhere away from civilization where of course, a group of psycho criminals will find us and wreak havoc on our picture perfect family.

Criminals: We will take your daughter, rape, torture and kill her.

Family: You missed. Now we torture and kill you.

5. DARK KNIGHT

Bruce Wayne: I am a rich playboy with a lot of issues who has a penchant for bats and for wearing costumes.Oh, I have the hots for the district attorney’s girlfriend.

Joker: I am a crazy man with a lot of issues with a penchant for bats and waring costumes and lipstick.

District Attorney Harvey Dent: You killed my girlfriend! Now I have a lot of issues as well! Oh, and I’m going to kill you both!

6. THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS

German boy: I am a lonely young boy with no playmates whose father is the commander of the Auschwitz camp.

Jewish boy: I am a lonely young boy with no playmates and I am about to die in the camp.

German boy: Let’s be friends! And I’ll sneak into the camp and die in the gas chamber with you and end the movie.

7. FREEDOM WRITERS

Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank): I am young, privileged, naive, white teacher with an insecure (but really hot!) husband, intent on making a difference in my poor high school students’ lives.

Students: What the f*ck do you know about being poor?!?

Erin Gruwell: Let me tell you about Anne Frank.

8. CLOVERFIELD

Lily (Jessica Lucas): My boyfriend’s brother has been promoted to VP and is moving to Japan. I will throw a party, have my boyfriend video it, invite my boyfriend’s brother’s bestfriend who had a one-night stand with him and complicate things.

Lily’s boyfriend, Jason: I will ask my friend Hud to video it instead because I can’t be bothered with all this.

Hud the Cameraman: I am in love with one of the guests and will video her instead.

Lily’s boyfriend’s brother, Rob: A disaster just struck and I will drag you all over New York trying to rescue the love of my life.

Monster: I don’t care about your stupid storyline. I’ll eat you all and end the movie.

9. THE SPIRIT

The Spirit: I don’t know what I am, but I like saving people.

The Octopus: I hate The Spirit and I hate people. I’ll just make life a living hell for The Spirit and the people.

Moviegoer: I cannot believe this crappy movie ever got made.

10. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE:

Jude: I am a working class lad from Liverpool in search of my father who I believe works in Yale, save up to go to the US, find out my father is a janitor in Yale, befriend a Yalie drop out, meet his pretty (and really hot!) sister, Lucy, move to New York, get deported and try to win his sister back.

Lucy: I will just be the object of Jude’s affection. Oh, and get involved in anti-Vietnam protests.

Prudence: I am the token closeted Asian-American lesbian in love with the New York landlady with a promising storyline that suddenly quietly disappears.

Director: I’ll throw in some other characters and compress all the issues of the 60s into this one movie, plus add in the coolest Beatles music sung with psychedelic backdrop.

Moviegoer: Awesome! (at least for me it was. Who can resist a Beatles’ musical?!?)

11. MAMMA MIA

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried): I don’t know who my father is! I need to know who it is before my big wedding! I’ll steal my mom’s diary, find out my mom slept with three men, invite them all to the wedding and figure out who my father is.All the tune of Abba songs!

Donna (Meryl Streep): I don’t know who my daughter’s father is. I see all three of them before the big wedding and start singing Abba songs!

Three possible fathers: We don’t know which one of us is Sophie’s father. But who cares?!? We’ll just have a ball singing and dancing (rather excruciatingly) to Abba songs!

Moviegoer (mostly me): Awesome!

12. MADE OF HONOR

Tom Bailey (Patrick Dempsey): I am in love with my bestfriend and of course it will take me the whole movie to realize this.

Hannah (Michelle Monaghan): I am in love with my bestfriend and of course it will take me the whole movie to realize this.

Director: Let’s throw in every other cliche into this movie and hope for the best! Oh, and throw in Patrick Dempsey in a really short, short tartan skirt!

Moviegoer (thinking): Wow…crap…but the leads are hot, so I guess I can forgive him/her!

Thursday: Discovering “Martyrs” with two more days to go in London…

6:00 pm – Watching “Valley of Flowers” and “Martyrs” simultaneously.

Common denominator: Mylene Jampanoi. 🙂

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Mylene Jampanoi

Though liked “The Chinese Botanist’s Daughter”, did not really like it enough to keep watching it again, but did like Mylene Jampanoi and Xiao Ran Li.

8:00 pm – “Valley of Flowers” looks like a classic Asian B-movie film,but I will go through it for her. What tipped me off that it might be B-movie? Lead Miland Soman showing his ass (or possibly his butt double) only a few minutes into the film.  “Martyrs” though seems intense. Not “Drag me to Hell” intense. More like “Saw” meets “Blair Witch Project” meets “Hostel” intense. I am bummed that the movie is dubbed in English, so I cannot hear her speak in French. I would happily read subtitles if it means I can hear her speak in French. She makes French sound even hotter.

8:30 pm – I just noticed that at certain angles, Mylene Jampanoi looks French, then at other angles, looks Chinese, then a combination of the two. Her eyes remind me of Milla Jovovich’s. She kind of reminds me of a younger version of Sophie Marceau (and at times, Emanuelle Beart).

8:45 pm- Monumentally crushed that Mylene Jampanoi is married. To a Bollywood actor, no less (that should provide an interesting gene pool for their offspring). Why? Why? Why? 🙂

9:00 pm – Cannot seem to finish either movie, though “Martyrs” seem the more compelling of the two. I keep getting distracted. This is a message to you, filmmakers – if your movie sucks, or is only marginally interesting, we, your viewers, can always go online and find something else more entertaining.

I feel like watching “I love you Beth Cooper” now.

9:52 pm – “Martyr” has more blood and gore in it than a weekend “Red Cross” blood donation drive. Mylene dies after 45 minutes. Might go downhill from here. Morjana Alaoui and the character she plays, Anna,  are interesting though. Her character is supremely devoted to Mylene Jampanoi’s tortured, demented character (I don’t know why – I just think girls like them demented or tortured). I mean, hell, she gets rid of the bodies Jampanoi’s character murdered! If that isn’t devotion (with a hint of some subtle sapphic undertones) I don’t know what is.

I wish I could watch more of her movies though. Damn Hollywood imperialism! It forces me to watch such blockbuster drivel as “Transformers 2” but keeps me from watching better non-Hollywood films.

10:09 pm – Still have not finished “Martyrs”. Gave up on “Valley of Flowers” already. Tried to watch Japanese movie “Machine Girl” but it is crappy as well. I still want to watch “Martyrs” – I just do not know if I want to go where it wants me to go.

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Kick-ass movie poster don't you think?

Two more days to go…sigh…

Read a Jessica Zafra review on the film “Adventureland“, which she ends by writing, “True, maybe I love this movie because it reminds me of Say Anything, another movie with a Replacements song. And because I was an unemployed comparative lit major who had long planned to get out of here.”  That stops me on my tracks. What does that mean? She wants to get out of Manila? Of her life? What?

And what about me? I had succeeded in getting out of Baguio – at least for 14 months.  The sinking, depressing realization though is that when you get out, you realize that the other place isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. And then you spend your time trying to get out of that place that you planned to go to in the first place. I think to get out of anywhere does not mean to get out physically – but just to escape in other ways.

I guess this is why “Martyrs” is so unwatcheable: we are all planning to get out somewhere, of the “here”, but never really quite escaping it. You’re trapped. In your past, by your demons, by your own concepts and constructs.

11:00 pm – Saw the ending of “Martyrs”. Morjana Alaoui’s Anna is caught and tortured repeatedly, and….you have to watch the film to know what happens next.

It is a horrid, harrowing, terrifying film. And it is not even because of the profusion of blood and gore. It is more the suspense, the anticipation. It is a very unusual, surprising film (very French, in that). I do not think I will watch it ever again. Even if it has Mylene Jampanoi in it. It is also an existential film. Yeah, you heard me. Existentialism in a horror film! Who knew?

But one thing this film does succeed at is its promise that it will make “Saw” and “Hostel” seem like “Sesame Street”. In all aspects it is true. I dare you to watch it.

12:45 am – I just found out Mylene Jampanoi or as I like to call her hot French actor crush, or simply The Crush) may have separated from her Bollywood hubby. Hope springs eternal…err…I can dream can’t I?

Martyrs Trailer (it’s actually pretty neat):

Retro-mad film review: Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (US, 2006)

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Sheetal Sheth: The apotheosis of Hotness 🙂

I have a confession to make: I watched this film only because it had Sheetal Sheth in it. And the reason I watched it was because I was wilfing on the ‘net and I saw her interviews and I was struck with how articulate and passionate she was about things (which was in contrast to Lisa Ray’s mild, laidback, neutral interviews). She is actually much more fun in interviews than Lisa Ray (although Lisa Ray uses words like “existential” correctly, and any actor who can use that word in a sentence is hot to me!). If you want to check out Sheetal Sheth’s interviews, click here, here and here. By the way, I have discovered that Shamim Sarif has a blog which is hilarious and entertaining, so I guess I can forgive her for her films, haha! Click here for her blog.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I watch this film and realize how funny it is! And how very underrated it is.

But I think it is because this subject matter of this film is very controversial and people and critics do not really know what to make of it. Is it making fun of Muslims? Is it poking fun at something else? Is it some kind of propaganda? Well, the best way to approach this film is to watch it first and to assume that it is a political satire – which it effectively is.

Albert Brooks plays a much more exaggerated, egoistic, spoiled bratty version of himself who cannot find jobs and is thus recruited by the government to do a research on what makes Muslims laugh, the end result of which is a 500-page report and a medal from the government. Preposterous, yes, but that is the whole point of the film – how some ideas sound brilliant on paper, but just sound preposterous when you start implementing it. Thus he goes to India fully expecting an entourage, a welcome party, everyone pandering to his every want and need but finds that nobody knows him and nobody cares. After being safely ensconced in his hotel, having two American agents with him, and a young, earnest Indian woman as his secretary (Sheetal Sheth) he sets out to find out what makes Muslims laugh, interviewing Indians on the streets, in clubs, in mosques, even stages a hilarious stand-up comedy show and finding out that he has no clue whatsoever about how to find out what makes Muslims laugh, much less how to connect with them. Finally, he goes to Pakistan illegally and finds an audience in a group of fledging stand-up comedians who does find his routine funny and he starts to get it, except he inadvertently starts World War III when India and Pakistan get wind of his research and mistake it for another meddlesome tactic from the American government designed to disturb the already fragile peace between the two countries.

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Sheetal Sheth & Albert Brooks looking for comedy in India

I liked this film. It is smart, understated, subtle and what shines through is the filmmaker’s recognition of the audience as intelligent beings capable of gleaning meaning from a seemingly innocuous film about comedy and Islam and then ending up as a hilarious satire and analogy of America’s seemingly well-intentioned but ultimately ridiculous, pretentious idea that it can call itself the world’s protector of Western democracy and freedom.  The fact that the analogy is so specific – Pakistan and India, for example (replace that with Iran and Iraq, or Iraq and Kuwait or Iraq and Afghanistan, or Palestine and Israel), or the looking for comedy in a Muslim world in a spiritually diverse India (replace that with looking for weapons of mass destruction in the wrong places) and this film makes even more sense! In both situations, the protagonist (Brooks/America) look for something which does not exist,since they are looking for it in their own socio-cultural and politically incorrect context.  Hence Brooks could not find the comedy, because he looks at it from a his perspective, not fully realizing that of course, comedy comes in different forms, and different people from different cultures find different things funny. Hence a joke about Gandhi and halloween in the same sentence to a largely Indian audience for whom Ghandi is much revered will not be a hit, but the same joke would be a hit in Pakistan, for example. Brooks’ realization that he is not the almighty god of comedy or the big celebrity that he is, is a humbling experience for him, and it reflects the kind of experience America probably has when, almost a decade after 9/11, there are still no weapons of mass destruction, nor Osama Bin Laden, anywhere near the countries from which they claimed both were. This is, by the way, effectively conveyed in the film with scenes of Pakistani and Indian diplomats and politicians drawing their own hasty conclusions from inadequate intel. Dodgy intelligence, suspicious distrustful leaders, recipe for disaster – oh,wait, that’s why we  had the Iraq war!

Some of the funniest scenes from this consist of Brooks just having quick verbal exchanges with the people around him. The random interviews with people on the streets, in clubs, in mosques and the hilarious exchanges between him and earnest, eager, secretary Maya (Sheetal Sheth) as he teaches her the virtues of sarcasm are comedy gem. Another funny scene is the one where he stages a comedy show in an auditorium. The conversation with the auditorium keepers (when he asks them to kill the house lights, and since the switches are not working – the person in charge kills the power for the whole auditorium, effectively engulfing them in darkness) is fun as well as the other bits in that scene. Since he is a proper diva, he demands a dressing room, and he instead gets a teepee outside the auditorium, he introduces himself as himself as one of the greatest comedians in the world, and of course, hubris being what it is, proceeds to have his ego dashed onstage when nobody laughs at him. In desperation, he turns to improv, which was an even worse idea, because nobody still gets it, which effectively tells us – he has no idea what he is doing. The improv, by the way, ends up being a bit of  a funny treatise on political correctness.

Brooks’ character is properly belligerent and clueless and this works for the film, and makes it even more hilarious. Sheetal Sheth as the secretary is a great addition to the cast, and watching her match Brooks’ performance is a joy and a revelation: she is actually a good actor, in fact an even better one than “The World Unseen” and “I Can’t Think Straight” will lead me to believe. I like her more now – she seems to have more range (yay!). She also speaks in a passable Indian accent which  made me miss my Indian co-workers and classmates more (one thing I will miss about London – the Indians and Africans I made friends with). In interviews, she actually sounds very New York-ish and comes off as more confident and enthusiastic as well. I officially have  a crush on her now. Elaine Cassidy is so last month! 🙂

Anyway, I am encouraging everyone to watch this little gem, if you like comedies that are subtle and more intellectual. Plus it did not make money the first time it came out (a budget of $10M, which is not bad, considering how much money was needed to make crap like “Transformers 2”. “Looking for Comedy” made about half a million only on its opening weekend. For shame!), so I would like to promote it. 🙂

The trailer (the trailer alone should make you watch it. On the strength of the trailer alone I watched it):

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Newsweek’s Summer Blockbusters 2009 stakeout: You do the math

Came across this very succinct evaluation of 2009’s summer blockbusters on newsweek.com entitled “How much are the summer movies really worth? We do the math” (enticingly sub-titled “The real recession begins”). Funniest most useful movie review soundbite I’ve ever come across, that dissects how much a movie really costs. List includes:

1. Wolverine – valued at $11 ($10 for Hugh Jackman’s bum, less $3 because you can already see a bootleg of it online, plus $4 because you can see Wolverine’s origins). Have watched it. Feel bad about watching it. But that’s alright – because I watched the bootleg version. This is one of those cases when piracy actually works!

2. Angels and Demons  – priced at $7 (because Tom Hanks has that hideous hair, but it does have Ewan MacGregor to draw in the crowds). Read the book, was actually entertaining, although you need to suspend disbelief and logic first, so what is the point of watching the movie?

3.Terminator Salvation – $13 (thanks to Christian’s Bale’s psychotic tirades leaked on youtube and explosions). My loyalties lie with James Cameron.

4. The Hangover – $14 (because it has Heather Graham). Although I’d probably price this at $5 – because even Heather Graham can’t save this movie. Unless you’re the target audience. Then by all means, watch it!

5. Bruno – $25 (because what can go wrong with the guy who made Borat? I’d watch it. But probably when it comes out on DVD, if it’s on sale. Not going to queue for it, although I secretly liked Borat).

6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – $9 (Lord Voldemort, Dumbledore, the high drama, the works). Won’t queue to watch it either. Will wait for the DVD release. Because it’s much more fun with the extra features and the DVD commentary.

For full article click on the article above or go to the website. ^^

Indie film retro-review: Sunshine Cleaning (US, 2008)

Directed by Christine Jeffs, written by Megan Holley

The story:

http://bermudaonion.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/sunshinecleaningposter.jpgThe Lorkowski family is falling apart. Father Joe Lorkowski (Alan Arkin) is a fly-by-night businessman who sells things from shrimp to dodgy kids’ goodies. Daughter Norah (Emily Blunt) is living with him and has just gotten fired from her job. At the center of it all is eldest daughter Rose (Amy Adams) who is juggling her time with self-esteem busting cleaning jobs, a growing son, Oscar (Jason Spevack) that school officials deem a danger to the school and an even more self-esteem busting relationship with a married lover (Steve Zahn) with a spiteful wife who knows about their affair.

All these come to a head when the school officials catch Oscar licking everything, including his teacher’s leg, and the principal and his teacher inform Norah that they intend to provide specialized attention to him, with medications to put him under control. Norah resolves to pull her son from public school and into private school, prompting her to go into a job that pays more than her cleaning jobs: crime clean-ups. She pulls her sister into the business and as she begins to know the ropes about crime clean-ups, so also gains the confidence to leave her married lover and strike out on her own, whilst her sister also deals with the suicide of their mother.

The verdict:

Two words: Engaging  film.^^

If that were not enough, the fact that it has an impressive cast should give one pause: Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, My Summer Of Love), Amy Adams (Enchanted, Doubt) and Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine). Plus it has a strong supporting cast in dorky Steve Zahn as the married lover, Clifton Collins playing a one-armed, toy plane loving  shop owner and Mary Lynn Rajskub as the daughter of one of the dead victims that Emily Blunt’s Norah befriends and for a moment has an ambiguous friendship with (heh).

So what makes this engaging? Subtle, understated character development for one, the story that keeps you wanting to know what will happen next, and the acting that makes you emphatize with the characters.

Amy Adams is awesome as Rose. She perfectly combines vulnerability, determination and a sense of purpose and urgency into her character.  She shines most when she interacts with the people who make her feel less than herself – the school officials, her married lover, the uptight former high school friends who laugh at her clean-up business, and these scenes expose her vulnerability and that simplest of goals most people have: acceptance and respect.

She plays fairly well opposite Emily Blunt’s Norah, who projects a laidback, goth-inspired younger sister but who is, as revealed by later scenes to still be haunted by finding that their mother had committed suicide in their bathtub.

https://i1.wp.com/images.allmoviephoto.com/2009_Sunshine_Cleaning/2009_sunshine_cleaning_001.jpg

Emily Blunt (hotness!)

I like that the dynamic between Rose and Norah is perfectly captured (as anyone who’s had a sib will testify)- the bickering, the one-line put downs (you can be the coolest, most famous dude in the world, but your sib will always know how to pull you down a notch), and the fights. I also like that Norah is such a cool aunt as well, and whatever happens she will babysit and tell funny lobster-man stories that keep her nephew, Oscar awake, most nights.  Alan Arkin is of course, always fun to watch as the clueless washed-up patriarch who just gets on with it even though the world has already moved on and does not need his services anymore. Little Jason Spevack’s Oscar is also a quirky little character who has his heartbreaking moments – as when he talks to the heavens on existential questions via  a radio comm to see if his questions will answered.

Overall, it is a good, solid film. I’d watch it again if I could. ^^

Final thoughts:

Let me just pause and gush over the hotness that is Emily Blunt.

Now I am off to scour the ‘ net for Harper’s Island stuff. ^^